So that was 2014.

I had really high hopes for 2014. My goal races were the South Downs Way 50, the North Downs Way 50 and the North Downs Way 100. I’d done the two fifties the year before as my first and second fifty, so I was going back to improve on the year before. They would be great training for my first hundred – the NDW100. At the end of 2013 I was in decent shape and really looking forward to 2014.

2014 ended up being the most memorable year of running I have ever had. I got myself into the best shape I have ever been in. I finished my first hundred. I even set a 5K PB. The slight issue was that I didn’t run any of the three goal races I had entered.

The reason for the major change of plan was our house. For a variety of reasons we ended up moving house and doing a substantial amount of work to our place so that we could put it on the market. It pretty much wrecked the first few months of the year and I did very little but go to work and then come home and work on the house. I hardly ran at all from January to March.

Finally, in April the house was done and I started running again. It was far too late to run the SDW50 at the beginning of April (I ended up volunteering instead) and it didn’t take me long to realise that there was no way I would be in good enough shape to run the NDW50 (May) and the NDW100 (August). I pulled out of both and entered the Winter 100 instead, figuring that October would be enough time to get myself ready for my first hundred. Before that I had another hundred to go to first.

South Downs Way 100 – June

I ran less than half of this race but it was one of the most enjoyable, memorable runs I have ever done. I paced my friend Alan Bennett from mile 54 to the end. Alan had run this race the year before but DNF’d at mile 67. This was his chance to go back and nail the bugger. I had offered to help and in the build up to the race we had recce’d the second half of the course together several times so we knew what we were up against. Or at least we thought we did.

We hadn’t quite prepared for being charged on two separate occasions by several tonnes of evil in bovine form. The first was during the night, when Alan exhibited a turn of speed that I didn’t believe him capable of. The second was at mile 95 in broad daylight by a herd of rather lively bullocks. Thankfully, we made it through the two cow incidents (and the race) in one piece as Alan finished in just over 28 hours.

My job was to encourage, sympathise, humour, cajole and kick up the arse as and when necessary. It was an amazing experience from start to finish and I am still in awe of Alan for finishing that race and gutting it out.

It takes a village!

It takes a village!

Mont Blanc Marathon and Vertical Kilometre – June

Two weeks after the SDW100 Natasha and I went to Chamonix on holiday and I ran the VK and the marathon – both of which were part of the world Skyrunning championships. The VK was brutal – ascending a kilometre in altitude over the 3.3K distance. My pacing strategy was horrible as I went off far too quickly then died on my arse very early in proceedings. At least I started early enough that I got to see Kilian Jornet run and show everyone else how it should be done.

The scenery didn't quite lessen the pain.

The scenery didn’t quite lessen the pain.

The marathon was great fun as I took it fairly easy throughout, except for one very long descent half way through that I absolutely hammered. The weather was filthy as it lashed it down for most of the race (it reminded me of growing up in Hull, although thankfully without the smell of fish) but it was a fabulous day out in the mountains.

Firle Half Marathon – September

My training for the hundred was going well. As part of that I ran the Firle half marathon, which starts and finishes in the grounds of Firle Place, near Lewes. The course is mostly on trails and is beautiful. It was a stunning day and a great, low-key race organised by Raw Energy Pursuits.

Winter 100 – October

There’s not much else I can say about this that I haven’t said already elsewhere ( Thank you again to everybody who helped me do this. It was an incredible, painful, fabulous, emotional rollercoaster and I loved it.


Eastbourne Parkrun – November

My first ever parkrun and a 5K PB in 20:43! Who said running ultras doesn’t help your speed?!

So that was 2014

2014 didn’t go to plan at all but ended up being far better than I could ever have expected. The first part of the year was a total write off but the second part of the year was fantastic, starting with the SDW100. Pacing Alan for 46 miles showed me first hand exactly what it would take for me to complete a hundred myself later in the year. It was an epic experience – one I will never forget.

The Mont Blanc marathon and VK definitely had the best atmosphere of any races I have ever done. I was never going to run either of them very well, coming so soon after the SDW100, but it wasn’t about that. It was about running in the mountains in my favourite place on earth, savouring the experience and just having fun.

The highlight of the year was without doubt the Winter 100. The sense of achievement after finishing was immense and even now, over two months later, it’s still there. It’s inspired me to push on and has whetted my appetite for more, so roll on 2015!

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