I get such incredible pleasure from writing, I have said it before…….. if just one person were to read any of my scribblings and gain even the tiniest bit of joy from them, then I would be a proud man.
Well, despite me claiming not to be egotistical, the blog host, WordPress, readily throws statistics and ‘performance’ analysis at me. Inevitably, I do get a bit of self-congratulatory pleasure from a ‘like’ or ‘share’. So, a massive THANK YOU to all of you who take the time to have a peruse of, and engage with, the blog.
I’ve noticed this week that quite a few viewers are from the United States of America. Well hello there on the other side of the Atlantic, I humbly thank you for spending your precious leisure time reading my words.
The running scene in America is every bit as fascinating as in the UK. Listening to the Talk Ultra podcast with Ian Corless and Karl Mezler is fascinating, the tales of those iconic US 100 milers and Fastest Known Time (FKT) attempts. This makes it all the more fun for us ultra fans when the quick US runners come to the big European ultras. The likes of Hayden Hawks, Jim Walmsley and Tim Toffleson lighting up the races in Europe’s mountains.
During the last episode, James revealed that he has a place in this years Barkley Marathons. He was able to reveal that much, but is sworn to secrecy as to the date, as this notoriously gruesome and secretive event had actual spectators turn up last year (which is frowned upon!). The race consists of 5 20 mile loops (which are always plenty more than 20 miles) has a history full of mystery and very few actual finishers. I implore anyone curious as to what this is all about to check out the extraordinary film The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young.
Since the last blog, I’ve managed to miss a few planned runs. As readers from the real world will know, sometimes life is just TOO DARNED TIRING! Although I’ve still been getting a sweat on at work…..
And today, as ever my beautiful wife inspired me to get out there as we did a proper hilly Dartmoor road run. “Road?” I hear you squeal……. Well, I guess it’s becoming less of a secret that on Easter Saturday we’re going to be having a crack at the Two Oceans Marathon. Gulp. Hopefully avoiding the gun!
So, today, starting in wet darkness and finishing in even wetter daylight, we pretty much did half the distance and half the climbing of Two Oceans. Apparently it won’t be hard driving freezing rain and wind on race day, blimey it was bleak up there today. A quick drive up to Princetown afterwards for our, now traditional, fry up at the Fox Tor Café.
This is my 77th blog post…… Collectively they have been read over 11,000 times and I’m really quite humbled by that fact.
I imagine all of us bloggers are doing our ‘…of the year’ thingy right now, but I’m not going to let that stop me. So if you’re rather full of these lists then maybe you should look away now……….
MOST POPULAR BLOG POST OF THE YEAR
Inspired by some of the naïve errors I made back in my first ever marathon, I wrote this tongue in cheek BLOG POST about ten rookie errors guaranteed to make your marathon experience miserable.
TOP TEN BLOG-VISITING COUNTRIES OF THE YEAR
Aside from the UK, my rather humble wittering has been perused in 70 different countries – most prolifically in The United States, Canada, Ireland, Jamaica, Germany, Finland, Australia, France, The Netherlands, Switzerland & India. There’s even been a visit from somebody in Cambodia.
My book reviews are the least ‘viewed’ posts, but as I’ve always maintained, I absolutely love writing them, therefore every single person that might get a moment’s pleasure from reading is an honour and a bonus.
On this note (and I know they’ll be reading), a big “Hi” to Pieter & Samira from The Hague. They made a point of finding us at the Reggae Marathon to let us know they loved the blog – Happy New Year to all in The Netherlands x
PROUDEST MOMENT OF THE YEAR
A close run thing here – finishing the (32 mile – black) R.A.T. in a fantastic time (blogged about HERE) was a truly magical ‘Team Bonfield’ moment. Successfully completing The Gower 50 Mile Ultra in a time I was chuffed with, despite the rabbit hole incident! Yes, I was so, SO proud to have completed my first ‘solo’ ultra and first 50 miler – read all about it HERE.
BUT – I reckon there hasn’t been a better moment than when Nicky and I pitched up in Snowdonia for the absolutely FABULOUS trail marathon nervous about the 19 mile cut -off. Well, we arrived at that check point, the gateway to the main climb of the day with about 3/4 hour to spare. I waxed lyrical about that fabulous day HERE.
PROUDEST HUSBAND MOMENT OF THE YEAR
The transition master
As ever, the year was jam packed with moments of inspiration, adventure and achievement, as my beautiful, amazing, truly inspirational lady wife, yet again amazed me over and over again. Every single day I feel more and more blessed to have this incredible lady in my life.
So, she smashed her marathon PB at the North Dorset Villages Marathon (read all about it HERE), came so, so close to breaking 2 hours at the Bideford Half Marathon (chatted about HERE), yes it’s been a year of fizzing along. As I’ve said above, she achieved some amazing results in some epic trail events and combined an increasingly absorbing work life and a challenging, at times, domestic life with training for multiple endurance disciplines.
Yes, Nicky also completed her first triathlon and you can read all about that fabulous day HERE.
Also, there were some amazing proud moments as Alisa, Nicky’s eldest daughter completed her first events, alongside her Mum, as she continued her journey to fitness and on her health drive.
BUT, amongst this year of hectic, wonderful, adventurous and fun weekend challenges, my proudest coat-holding moment was the River Dart 10k swim. WOW – having completed this event last year, she set about attempting to break 3 hours this time. You’ll have guessed by now that yes, indeed, she did!
So amongst a forest of proud moments – read about my most bursting day – HERE.
MY FAVOURITE TEN EVENTS OF THE YEAR
Well, apologies to all the other event organisers but, for the best that trail running gives to me, it has to be the Roseland August Trail (R.A.T.) from Mudcrew. There are point to point 11 mile, 20 mile and 32 mile options. We have completed the 32 miles in each of the last three years. But – I can’t resist it any longer and the ‘out and back’ 64 miler is on my calendar for 2018! Check out the blog from this year’s event HERE.
For quirkiness, brilliant concept, route design, friendliness (I could go on), the Race The Tide from Pure Trail was also a fabulous trail event. (blog, naturally, HERE). As was the already discussed Snowdonia Trail Marathon.
We did some cracking half marathons (including a couple that were supposed to be marathons!), particularly enjoying the great atmosphere at The Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service Half down in Bodmin. My first race as a Vet 50 – scribblings HERE.
The previously discussed North Dorset Villages Marathon is probably my favourite road marathon and this was our second year there. Back on the trails, we also returned to The Larmer Tree from White Star Running for a second year. Yet another race with a superb atmosphere – varied and challenging off road route through the Dorset countryside. White Star offer something a little different to the trail running scene, and provide a lovely balance of true endurance challenges and hearty laughter. Guess what – there were words…. HERE.
Also from White Star, was the East Farm Frolic, it barely got a mention in the Blog as we were having a particularly ‘time poor’ period at home around that time. Basically, do as many laps (about 4.5 miles) of an undulating, rural, trail route, on a farm in Dorset, as you either can or want to, for 12 hours. A great, inclusive, fun event with a family atmosphere and camping
After managing to navigate my limping body around the 50 miles of The Gower Ultra – and what a gorgeous place it is – this was always going to feature in this list. With around 200 competitors and seemingly double that working on the fabulous checkpoints, it truly was a breakthrough for me, in so many ways.
So that’s 9 of my favourite events. We’ve done about 30 this year, so picking 10 (in no particular order) was hard. No ‘of the year’ list, though could possibly be complete without Mudcrew’s The Scrooge the ever popular trail running fancy dress romp through the Lost Gardens Of Heligan. See the blog HERE, Yet again, we took it VERY seriously…….
MY FAVOURITE RUNNING ‘THINGS’
My Karen ribbon. My sister was taken from us aged a mere 44 years and a week (9 years ago). On her last night, I ended up with an item of her clothing, which I cut into ribbons. My brother and I both tie them to our wrists for races and she’ll forever be at the side of the road yelling “arms, Kevin, ARMS!” as she expertly analysed my terrifying running style. Will be missed forever.
Fetcheveryone.comstill my favourite website. Brilliantly evolved under the loving gaze of founder and bloke-in-chief, Ian Williams, there still isn’t an online running community to match it. I would never have got anywhere near where I have with my own running without it.
To hear the man himself talk us through his world, check out his fabulous interview on another of my favourite running things Marathon Talk. This is a weekly podcast presented by Martin Yelling and Tom Williams, I’ve listened to every single one of the 400+ episodes and, as with Fetch, it very much has been part of my journey.
Other podcasts I heartily recommend….. Talk Ultra normally fortnightly, presented by the thoroughly engaging Ian Corless who really humanises the sport of Ultra running and manages to gather interviewees from every country, every distance and every ability.
Another podcast I’ve not missed an episode of is Running Commentary. On a weekly basis the two comedians and avid runners, Rob Deering and Paul Tonkinson don head-sets and record their quirky, irreverent, poignant, witty and downright entertaining banter as they run along. These three podcasts make my working week feel just that little bit shorter.
Another interviewee on Marathon Talk (he’s appeared on three separate occasions) is the infectious Colin McCourt. From an elite international 1500m runner to a rather portly, sedentary chap, he started this year with a challenge to return to his former speedy self. He charted this progress on his Instagram account and has become one of the best running stories of the year. He set out to lose a shed load of weight and attempt to break 16 minutes for 5km. Check out his Instagram and relive his incredible 2017. I won’t give any spoilers……
Oh, and although I’m not into plugging brands (check out my lack of sponsorship HERE) I can’t sum the year up without mentioning my Inov8 trail shoes – I bought them at the Coniston Marathon (BLOG HERE) after the shoe company lent us shoes to run the marathon in! They are, genuinely, gert lush (translation: very good indeed).
Obviously Faith’s (my energetic and LOUD grandaughter) Silver Wellies have stolen the show in any running shoe debate – she smashed her mile fun run at the Templar Ten in them – blogged about (naturally) HERE.
RUNNING BUDDY OF THE YEAR
Probably no surprises here……..
The most beautiful, amazing, inspirational, funny, charming, adventurous and DAMNED HOT person I’ve ever met – she truly is my world and as long as we’re together then “don’t worry, ’bout a thing, ’cause every little thing, gonna be alright”
Obviously, Charlie, the intrepid Border Terrier, is a close second!
Now, this being a happy place, there’s no room for negativity, bitterness, moaning, backstabbing or bitching. 2017 has been a challenging year, in many ways, for Nicky and myself, we’ve had to adapt and survive changes and developments in our world and work around the challenges. We’ve been (without bigging us up!) strong and determined, and ‘made it happen’ when ‘it’ didn’t look very likely on many occasions and we have those closest to us to thank for helping us absorb the impact of life.
Riddles, I know, but it’s hard to flamboyantly describe the slow down in the world of someone we love.
So, I’m proud of, and have loved, every minute of our journey together. Yet another year becomes ‘the best yet’ in this world I’ve been blessed to live in. And, yes, I’m proud of my achievements both in running and in life.
BUT, it’s Nicky that fills my heart and soul to bursting point with pride and more love than I could ever have imagined existed in the world……..
Yes, this lady has, in 2017, defied her crazy and demanding job, her crazy and demanding domestic life and her crazy and demanding, er, husband, and constantly, over and over again, pushed her boundaries, gone (literally) higher and faster, conquered new skills and generally been awesome in all of her fabulous endurance challenges…..
For example, she was (wo)man enough to admit that a half was enough at the Portland Coastal Marathon back in February, came back strong to complete cracking half marathons in Bodmin and Bideford, then matched our previous years time at The Larmer Tree Marathon. Another brilliant half at the Tavy 13 (blog HERE – I fell over!), the quirky and hilly Devonshire Dumpling Marathon (blog HERE)and then a blistering time at The Yeovil Easter Bunny 10k (HERE) before absolutely smashing her marathon PB at The North Dorset Villages Marathon (already talked about up there^^).
Then she beat challenging time limitations with (relative) ease at Race The Tide, Coniston Trail Marathon, Snowdonia Trail Marathon, The RAT etc etc……
Nicky blitzed her first ever triathlon, swam four tough open water events, The Swoosh, The Dart 5k, The Great North Swim and The River Dart 10k (breaking the 3 hour barrier).
This is a far from conclusive list, but I think I’ve explained just WHY, I think this lady is extraordinary in every way.
Apologies for this, but feel I need to include the one event that DOESN’T think Nicky is good enough. Think 5h30m time limit for a hilly trail marathon (12m35s per mile) yet has a cut off of 1h30m at 8 miles (11m15s per mile). Only it’s not ACTUALLY at 8 miles… etc etc. Yup THIS BLOG POST curled a few toes!
I try, in these ramblings, to avoid politics, religion, in fact controversy of any kind. Sometimes I may say something which makes the occasional reader bristle. In general though, this blog is a designated place of safety….
So, it is with some trepidation that I commence typing a little piece I scribbled on the overnight flight home. During which I repeatedly thought to myself, how DO people sleep on airplanes?!?
A (ficticious) character, who has moved into my head whilst I’m creating my ‘novel’ (yes, it IS happening…..slowly), is know to chant “god loves a trier, but does he trust the non-believers?”. My atheism forms part of my own belief system but certainly doesn’t intend to influence, nor comment on, anybody else’s. It just seemed something that this character would say.
Whilst in the land of the birth of Rastafarianism, I saw a plaque with a fabulous saying carved into it. Think of those motivational or loving slogans found on pieces of home-art in The Range or Dunelm, but found in a beach market stall in Jamaica.
It simply read “God made Marijuana, man made alcohol……”
I don’t partake of any of the three nouns in that sentence, yet I found myself nodding.
After 14 days of these beach traders and their, let’s face it, stoned, dry humour and “no problem, reeespect” attitude to seemingly everything, it was quite emotional to be wheeling our suitcases alongside the beach ready to begin our epic journey back to (freezing cold) reality.
This disappointment was exaggerated by the particularly drunk pair making public fools of themselves (and potentially jeopardising the flight) on the way home to a Gatwick seemingly populated by the stressed, angry, jostling, selfish majority.
So, there you go, maybe, just maybe, those guys and girls on the Negril beach are on to something……
Anyway, approaching the end of the year, I found myself writing a festive, reflective piece for my regular column in the excellent online magazine Run Deep. Mulling over the years pictures, it struck me what an absolutely extraordinary year it has been.
Ahhh, regular readers (if you’re still out there after our little hiatus?) will be only too aware of Nicky and I regularly proclaiming to be ‘on it’. Well, we’ve really pushed the boat out this time.
In fact, and I do digress rather, always trust the advice of a local……
Having managed to get Nicky out on a little catamaran dinghy (we literally ‘pushed the boat out’) whilst in the Caribbean, we attempted to get a boat again on the penultimate day of our amazing stay. The wind was up. Consequently, unseen by us, so was the red flag. I thought it meant Jeremy Corbyn was in town…
We went to the desk…
“We’d like to go sailing, please”
“Not today…..” (pointing at the red flag)
“Tomorrow, then, our last day?”
“Nobody sailing tomorrow…..” with a knowing smile.
We awoke the following day to find all the resort’s and beach traders’ boats absent from the beach. In hiding apparently. The waves were seriously crashing. It’s almost like the locals knew….
Anyway, back to… er… where was I? Oh yes. ON IT!! We did run the hot Hot HOT Reggae Marathon (read all about it HERE) and a couple of beach jogs and a little bit of swimming. But mostly it was all about the four ‘R’s…
READING, RECLINING, (W)RITING and RAIDING the fabulous all inclusive food and tempting restaurants on offer.
Yes indeed, I came home 8lbs heavier than I went!
Not only this, but we’ve started to push the boat out with endurance targets and ambitions for the year ahead….. there’s talk of over night running adventures, long distance triathlons. There’s also talk of my rather beautiful, inspiring lady wife coming out of her Ultra Marathon retirement, watch this space.
So, yes, we’re ON IT!!
Oh and hopefully we’ll be stuffing an envelope with some of those shiny new folding notes in the hope of saving up for a return to the streets of Negril (and why would you go all that way and NOT run a marathon?)…….
We had a lot of shouts from spectators and fellow runners. Wearing Union Flag vests, it seems, attracts a lot of cheers and banter….
“God bless the Queen” “Ingerland” “Go Great Britain” “Do you guys speak English?” even “Go Canada”!
But “Brexit”!!! It appears our country’s decisions are the subject of much mirth even this far from home.
Here I am feeling like my heart has won the lottery, lying on the beach in paradise with the most beautiful astonishing lady in the whole wide world.
I’ve said it before, but every single day I feel truly blessed.
The Reggae Marathon. The pressure of representing Team GB lessened as we realised the number of British competitors milling around at the start was swelling.
Team GB discuss tactics
Gravitating towards each other, we exchanged greetings and soaked up the bubbling atmosphere. The sweet smell of weed drifting across the runners with the deep reggae bass.
With the 10k, Half Marathon & Marathon there were 2000 runners ready at 5am for the best running party.
All three races go off at 5.15, the torch lit road guiding the runners into Negril town where the bemused but encouraging locals lined the streets despite the early hour.
Apologies here….. We bumped into so many lovely people and even had shout outs for the blog at the pasta party. This was not just the UK runners either. The Dutch and French contingent it turned out are blog readers!
Some of Team GB
We cheered and high fived runners from Poland, Switzerland, Germany, France, Spain, Holland, The USA, Canada and, of course, the beautiful island of Jamaica.
So, “hi” to (and this is a far from exhaustive list) Darragh, Rachel, Sue, Gary, Elise, Cédric, Adele, Samira, Pieter, Don, Tracey and the boys from the resort shouting “GO BOSS” from the window of their bus to work.
Grandson Ollie could have commentated here – one of his first words was “HOT” as he was warned clear of mugs of tea etc.
After turning in Negril and heading back past the start & finish area, the route headed out past our hotel. Which we did four times!
Our goals were simple: have fun and try to finish. The build up to this holiday has been rather demanding and family illnesses and caring issues, for a while, looked like jeopardising the trip.
So lining up at the start line felt like an achievement and a massive relief. Not as much of a relief as the timely positioning of a (already well used!) portaloo at about 5 miles…….
After the 1300 or so 10k runners had peeled off to turn for home, that left us running with the Half Marathoners heading back towards home.
You don’t like reggae?? Probably not the marathon for you, these guys were everywhere
The Half was won in 1h15 and a lovely chap staying at our hotel, Steve, came 5th in 1h25. Of course they were too quick to enjoy what we were going to be treated to……….. It was going to get really HOT!!!
We got to the half way point, where the field was packed with partying finishers from the shorter races, in just under 2h 30m. With the temperature rapidly rising and the sun getting higher in the sky……..
As the 2nd half started the frequency of seeing other runners diminished but that only made those of us still out there even more determined to high five and cajole each other, shouting determinedly our encouragement.
HOT!! the roads were lonely and exposed making the last hour quite brutal. Nicky was starting to wilt as I tried to help by running with my shadow cast over her.
We repeatedly crossed the road in search of shade and were more than ‘quite’ relieved to see the mile 26 sign and run in our traditional hand holding style!
I truly AM blessed.
2 years ago when we were here the finish area was pretty much packed up by the time we arrived. It was no different this year, the stage and p.a. had already been dismantled as had the bar etc. Luckily we had preempted this and frozen a couple of bottles of coke and put them in our drop bag.
This event gets listed by many in those ‘must do’ lists. It’s easy to see why….
Like Seaton on Grizzly day, the whole town chips in. The main road is closed all morning (apart from a free shuttle bus service which crawls up and down all day). The early morning, torch lit start is quite magical. The sounds, sights and colours (especially in the first half) are quite magnificent and the atmosphere amongst the runners is special and really heart warming.
The route is repetitive and tedious, especially noticeable as it gets hotter. BUT we just focussed on the amazing place we’re in and had (and are having) an absolute BALL!
So two years ago we completed the Reggae Marathon in 5h12m47s…. Competition time…… How long will we take on Saturday when hopefully it’s not quite as warm as today!!! A lovely 5k beach run this morning whilst Nicky swam. Were an active bunch here in the Athletes’ Village! So post in the comments a guess at how quickly we’ll go on Saturday – first (and only) prize us, er, er….. A MENTION IN THE BLOG!!! Guesses on here on on my Facebook page. Three Little Birds courtesy of these cool guysJogging in the early morning sunArt?“Ya Mon…. Boat trip today??”Nicky will be looking to gate crash international group photos this year too!
Oh, and the new glasses. Strutting around thinking I’m cool. Like Elvis Costello.
Secretly knowing I’m gorky. Like Mr Bean.
One of us has lost a toe nail!
Team GB arrived here in Negril after 20 hours of travel, happy to have landed in paradise but rather fatigued.
And never mind Elvis Costello and Mr Bean. The locals seem to think I’m Mr Spliffy…….
As the coach driver pulled my cases from the under belly of his vehicle, he leaned in to me and whispered “You smoke weed? It’s good!?”. Couldn’t he see I’m an elite athlete in town to represent my country?
We awoke this morning, on this lush and majestic island, to pouring rain. I mean tropically heaving down…..
Nicky using the hydrotherapy pool.
A hearty breakfast. Does EVERY international athlete give the all inclusive breakfast a 3 course kicking? Never mind carb loading, we’ve taken the science out of it…..
It’s now simply called LOADING!!
We left breakfast as the emptied heavens took a breather to reload and massaged our athletes’ feet in the warm Caribbean Sea.
“Smoke?” enquired a suitably languid beach trader. We politely declined.
We sauntered towards our chosen berth on the glorious sand, passing another trader, casually dragging his feet along the water’s edge.
“Ya man…..?” As his hands mimicked the action of partaking of the leaf on offer and his eyes demonstrated the effects …….
No thank you, old chap, but please accept our thanks for considering us in your plans.
Beach traders here – just a gentle “no thanks” and you get a Marley salute and a “respect” and left in peace.
Any way 5 days until we pull on the Team GB vests and tackle the Reggae Marathon.Reggae Marathon.