Daily Blog

Day: T minus one 31st July 2020

Heading north to John O’Groats to get in place ready to begin. I drove from Suffolk to Prestwick and parked up and met mum and my sister who are very kindly supporting me for the first week.  They were coming across from N. Ireland and we rendez-vous’d at Preswick before heading north together. 

Arrived at my accommodation, Bonnieviews, near Latherton, run by the lovely Carol, at 10 pm. This is where we stayed in 2017 when I did the first of 10 in 10 days as part of the www.ten2london.co.uk challenge.

Day 1; August 1st: John O’Groats to Mid Clyth

Under starter’s orders…..and I’m off!  Just 820 miles to go!

Its a little overcast, with some sunny spells – and 14C….quite nice actually but thankfully no wind! Destination today is Mid Clyth, 10 miles south of Wick. The roads were soooo busy!  There are very few pavements and  spent all day running into the traffic…hundreds of campervans!  Very grateful to mum and sister for the support; drinks, snacks and morale support! 

Today took a total of 6 hours which included breaks and a leisurely lunch at Tesco at Wick!

Donations hit £1250 by the end of day 1, so thank you for all your support

Day 2: August 2nd: Mid Clyth to Portgower

Day 2 was good!  A reasonable amount of downhill…except one very steep uphill at Berridale! 13%. Downhill is harder on the thighs…and the feet…as I’ll find out tomorrow!

Weather pleasant enough after a little light rain to start….but got quite windy later! 

This was one of the lovely quieter roads….before having to return to the A9….and if I had £1 for every campervan that blasted past me…..I’d have raised £10,000 already!

Pretty Scottish scenery.

Day 3: August 3rd…an inland detour to Clashmore

A hard day!  I made the sentimental schoolboy error of wearing my “lucky socks” yesterday! …As it turns out my lucky socks are worn out!  All the downhill ‘braking’ yesterday resulted in my first ever blister when running….which slowed me down until I could get a Compeed patch on it!

Hence I took an inland detour to get some peace and quiet away from the A9…and spent most of my day with cattle and sheep…and the idea of cooling my feet at the end!

Said hi to Kenny at Rogart Vets on the way past! 🙂

Day 4: August 4th: Clashmore to Duncaston

A hard, hard day!!  The weather forecast predicted 12C and 100% chance of rain.  They were right…most of the day.  I got splashed all day by cars and lorries. 🙁

My blisters got worse in the rain and the wet.  So frustrating because my muscles and joints feel perfectly fine.

Also no reception on mobile and unable to listen to my Podcasts…so the day seemed longer.

So, I was emotionally low today when I finished…and in desperate need of some blister resolution!

The morning view!  Are those clouds heading my way!?

Yip!

So, I’ve fashioned a blister protecting device from my orthotic

….hope it works.

I will let you know tomorrow

Day 5: August 5th: Inverness to Tomatin

Today was about survival! The orthotic adaptation worked in the sense that I could walk without pain, but didn’t dare run!

Pretty tired by the end!  Look at those bags!

Took a little detour out of Inverness via the Culloden Battle site where Bonnie Prince Charlie, who led the last attempt to make the throne Catholic was defeated by the incumbent Protestant forces of George II.

….apparently this was the last “pitched battle” in the British Isles; a pitched battle being one where the time and location was pre-arranged…and the rules were that if one side didn’t feel like it that day, the battle ‘was off’.  Wish my blister had have given me some prior warning!

I slowed down for the Red Squirrels 🙂

Day 6: August 6th: Tomatin to Kingussie

A lovely day!! Perfect weather and my foot was without pain due to combination of my orthotic adaptation and Compeed.  If you ever have a blister the size of Wales, Compeed is amazing!

This path may look a bit boring but after the busyness of the roads, even the B roads, this was bliss!

Shout-out to the lovely cafe in Kincraig couldn’t be more helpful and cheerful. Thanks guys!

And I saw a red squirrel…after yesterday’s sign ! 🙂

Day 7: August 7th: Kingussie to Dalnacarnoch

Thank you all for your concerns about how I coped with the heatwave you were having in England….except I had wind in my face all morning and later rain! 🙁

Ran past this ‘monument’ professing to be the centre of Scotland.

Thank you also for our concerns about my blister….it improves by the hour and isnt agony with every step any more.  I ran quite well after lunch today.

An extra photo at my finish in the centre of Kingussie y/day.

<– Windy all day!

Cycle route 7 on day 7!

Only me and sheep for company!

Day 8; August 8th; Dalnacarnoch to Dunkeld

Beautiful views on awakening this morning with the promise of a lovely day – which it was.  Not as hot as south of England but hot enough to run in.   Today my support team of mum and sister Gillian, left for home.  Wonderful help and support to get me started.  So now I have to carry what I have.

Today I followed the river Tay south.  It was as if I was in the south of France with all the canoes and bathers in the river.  Very pretty.

Blister well recovered…until I turned my left ankle!

I know!!

Day 9: August 9th: Dunkeld to Glenfarg

Today was a nice day!  I walked most of it after turning on my ankle yesterday just to protect it, although it wasn’t sore.  My blister is about 90% better now!

The park in Perth was lovely.  The Bridge of Earn cafe was a welcome rest for a late lunch.

My route took me away from the main roads….I never knew that “Walking and Cycling Friendly” status existed and it was so welcome! 

I spent most of the day observing the livestock.  Did you know that Highland cattle also come in black?  Did you know that you can tell whether they are a bull or a cow by the angle the horns come out of their head?  The horns slope downwards in the bull (black pic) and horizontal/upwards in females (blonde)

To continue the theme I have included the picture of the incredibly muscled bull (Belgian Blue) I passed along the way! 

The last few miles were up and up!  I remember cycling these when I cycled this cycle route from John O’Groats in 2012.

One of these male specimens is a heavily-muscled fine example of their species.

The other is attempting to run the length of the UK for charity.

Take a closer look…..

……and see if you can spot which is which 🙂

Day 10: August 10th: Glenfarg-ish to South Queensferry

10 days done!   Today everything worked!  Feet behaved! Ankles OK!  Calf muscles, hamstrings, buttocks, lower back!

Double feeling of achievement combining the ’round 10′ with the crossing of the Forth Road Bridge.

I stayed last night and again this evening with vets Tricia and Angus Macpherson of Lomond Hills Vets and their lovely family; Callum, Lewis and Niamh.  http://www.lomondhillsvets.co.uk 

Thanks for all the updates about how hot it is ‘down-south’ :-).  Today was 15C and overcast. Perfect for running.

This was my first sighting of the bridge as I approached….

I still had 6 miles to go until I reached the other side

Billy Connelly referred to the Forth Bridge as Scotland’s Eiffel Tower.  It first opened in 1890 providing an unbroken East Coast railway route from London to Aberdeen.

The overall length of the Forth Bridge is 2,467 metres. The highest point of the Forth Bridge stands 110 metres above high water and 137 metres above its foundations.  200 trains use the bridge every day, carrying 3 million passengers each year.   57 lives were lost during the construction of the Forth Bridge.

The railway bridge is referred to as The Forth Bridge. 

The road bridges are referred to as The Forth Road Bridges.

According to Undiscovered Scotland, Fife’s existence as an entity can be traced back to the Pictish Kingdom of Fib in the centuries after the departure of the Romans.

Day 11: August 11th: South Queensferry to Eddleston

Eddleston is in the Borders.  That sounds far-far away from the Forth Bridges…but only 26 miles as the crow flies or the vet runs.   Heavy rain was forecast….but they were wrong!  It was a beautiful day for running!

My day started with a conference call to Australia at 8 am – “soooo international!”…sooo Rock’n’Roll! (eye roll emoji!)

My route started at the busy area west of Edinburgh; a maze of cycle paths and pavements to be navigated around busy roads….the route-navigator sure does burn the iPhone battery

Eventually I hit the Pentland Hills, south west of Edinburgh.  I was actually ‘dreading’ today thinking it was going to be wet and windy crossing those misty hills that I saw so often when here as a student as we spent more and more time at the out of town vet campus as the course went on.  The entire vet School is now located out here.  Alas I did not make the extra 3+ mile round trip to visit it…

or to re-visit the Roslin Chapel of DaVinci Code fame nearby. (Georgia and I visited in 1995, long before The DaVinci Code when you could just turn up and go in!  (see below)

The famous Rosslyn Chapel dates from 1446 and has very strong connections to the Knights Templar.

It is believed to be a possible location for the Holy Grail and is still used as a place of worship today. The chapel is full of ornate carvings which tell different biblical and other stories.

It also featured prominently in the Dan Brown novel and Tom Hanks film, The Davinci Code.

Photo https://www.visitscotland.com)

I miss tumble dryers….and my wife who seems to mysteriously know how my dirty washing goes from the basket in our room back to the drawers all clean, dry and ironed   🙂      xx

Anyway…I was wrong; the Pentland Hills were glorious!

The only issue with such tranquility was the lack of reception on my iPhone. Indeed the only thing I could pick up was Celtic/Gallic Folk music!   I thought yesterday was ‘way-out’ when I listened to Radio Ulster Podcast of Country and Western…..I had to Google what a whippoorwill is (a bird!) as it seems to be a Country & Western favourite theme.

As it turned out, it couldn’t have been a better soundtrack for the scenery.  I’m nearly 50 after all!

Day 12; August 12th; Eddleston to Tushielaw

Apparently there were some spectacular thunder and lightning storms across Scotland last night….and some of the worst downpours in recent history.

I slept through the lot!   Here’s the Forth Bridges by night…

We’ve had lots of big bridges on this trip.  Today was the day for the little bridges as I seemed to cross the River Tweed several times as well as its New Ball Burn tributary at various points.   As sweet as little bridge crossing are, they always mean one thing; the road will start to go uphill again!

I had the same pretty view pretty much all day long!

Today’s point of historical interest: Traquair House, just outside Innerleithen, is Scotland’s oldest inhabited house. Originally a hunting lodge dating back to 1107, the house has been visited by 27 Scottish Kings and Queens.  The house has been lived in by the Stuart family since 1491.

The “Glorious” Twelfth!  Grouse shooting starts today.

Today was a sticky 24C…OK, I appreciate that’s nothing compared to the south and central England, but it was a change from what I’d been having.

Thankfully I was on minor roads all day…I ‘asked’ for a beautifully tarred road with no-one on it…and thankfully, that’s what I got!

The only issue (apart from the sweaty weather, the sore feet, the tender ankle…and the lack of iPhone reception) was the profile.  I spent a lot of today going uphill!  Especially in the second half.  Each of the last 5 miles seemed like 5 miles each…if that makes sense!   Going downhill with sweaty feet was every bit as tricky!

Day 13: Tushielaw to Langholm

Since today was more of the same hills, streams and sheep, I’ll not bore you with too much repetitive scenery shots.

Instead, I’ll share pictures of animals I met along the way!

The horse struggled to contain his indifference when I just wanted a chat with an animate object. 

The bull baww’d but wouldn’t look at me. 

But the wee bird virtually came onto my hand.  Is it a starling?  I dunno! 🙂 …I’m not a ….bird-ologist!

I started early today as I had a 2.45 pm interview scheduled with BBC Radio London’s Barking Hour.

So I had a little time to kill in Langholm….did you know…..that Neil Armstrong visited Langholm in March 1972 …and was made the town’s first and only Honorary Freeman.  Why would you know that if you’re not from around here….but I wondered why as it does seem a big deal for a small town.

It was because (according to the commemorative plaque)  “Neil Armstrong’s mother traced the family roots to Northern Ireland and then to the Scottish Borders.”

I suspect the Scottish Borders was chosen as (unfortunately) it was a safer place to visit than Northern Ireland in 1972 🙁

Trivia question: What’s odd, but not incorrect, about this town clock?

The number 4 is displayed as IIII as opposed to IV.   The Roman numeral for the number 4 is displayed as IIII on clock faces.   Traditionally, it was common to use IIII to represent four, but IV was adopted as it represented the Roman god Jupiter, whose Latin name, IVPPITER, began with IV. (Apparently!).   However, IIII has remained as the ‘tradition’ on clocks – so check out how the number 4 looks on the next ‘grandfather’ clock you see.

Fake replicas apparently make the mistake of going with IV.

When Antiques Roadshow comes calling, I’ll be ready! 🙂

Day 14:  Langholm to Carlisle: Across the border today!

Today was fabulous!  Best day yet!  In part as I crossed the border (in spectacular fashion!) and everything in my body worked!

I am staying with the lovely Pauline Graham, practice manager and director at Capon Tree Vets.  Pauline decided to treat me to dinner on the terrace at the country estate belonging to her very good friends, the Ballyedmond family (formerly the late Lord Ballyedmond who founded Norbrook).  Have you ever felt under-dressed? It was a beautiful treat and to see inside the house – amazing!  No photos allowed as it is a private home

The border crossing

When I was planning today from my desk in Suffolk, I was desperate to avoid the A7. There were plenty of lovely B roads on the map….but avoiding one that ended up back at the A7 usually meant a detour….

…so when I planned today months ago, I said to myself….”I wonder if I could cross the border via the river Esk?!”

Well, I did and it was sooo fun! (as my daughter Freya would say!).

It came up to mid-thigh and I nearly went down twice with the current.  There was an angler downstream who just looked at me.  I’m sure he thought I was an escaped convict! (see pic)

Carlisle Cathedral

Thank you so much to Dominic, the butler, who looked after us splendidly. 

Always a pleasure to speak with a fellow Northern Irishman, who like myself who has left the ‘mainland’ to work in England 😉

Pauline and her dog Anna

Anna is very wary of me in the house and scoots off nervously when she sees me.   I’m convinced she must have been badly beaten by someone who has run the length of Scotland in 14 days and is terrified of all such likes 🙂 🙂

Carlisle Castle

Day 15, August 15th Carlisle to Shap

Beautiful Cumbria: The friendliest people so far!

Warm and sunny but fresh enough for running. 

Rolling hills and streams

Penrith town was pretty.

Managed to avoid the A6 for most of it….and passed through an incredibly congested and busy holiday park of static and mobile caravans and tents…deep in a forest I ran through.

The highlight of today was meeting Barbara, an 81 year old widow several miles from the end.   It was getting hotter and I ran past a sheep trough and wondered if I should fill my water bottles but by the time I had decided I needed a re-fill I was outside another house. I approached and rang the bell and stood back.  An older lady answered the door and I asked if she had an outside tap to re-fill my water bottles.

She handed me a pre-made little bag with drink and snacks which she says she has ready for delivery drivers!

So, I am almost half way.  The half-marathon point of tomorrow sees me complete the half way mark.

I am bearing up well.  My blister is 99.999% better but I still protect it with Compeed.  My ankles have surprised me.  They were very swollen after the 10th marathon in 2017…..I think the difference is that I have not worn compression socks and dealt with any swelling by massaging my calf muscles and use my ‘massage bolt’ (oscillating device) which I post several days ahead of me.  A-maz-ing!

I have listened to Podcasts more as I have better signal – I hope it lasts.  BBC Sounds Crime and Judgement (true crime investigative journalism) is a favourite.

Thank you for your contributions and messages of support as well.    It is sincerely appreciated. 

She didn’t want her picture taken, so I have substituted her hospitality instead.

An amazing woman!  Completed her engineering degree at a time when it was a particularly male-dominated discipline (still is), then masters and PhD whilst working.

Has run manufacturing companies all over the world; UK, USA, Japan and others in between.

Lived in Nepal for 14 years leading development and educational projects. 

A very impressive CV…but all modestly stated…and I am sure understated as well!

People are amazing!   And very kind

Day 16; August 16th; Shap to Burton-in-Kendal

Left Pauline this morning – thank you so much for your hospitality and taxi-service back and forth to start and end points. 🙂

Today saw me cross the half way point.  A nice psychological landmark….as long as I don’t think about the fact that I have to do it all over again!  I think the ‘real’ psychological ‘home-straight’ will be day 20….so not too long until then.  One day at a time!

After the lovely weather of the last few days, I was back to clouds and drizzle.  It was a coat-on -coat-off day.

So what seemed like a good idea at the time resulted in a bit of a slow-detour and having to go back the way I came for a while to get more passable roads! Arrggghh!!

In my desire to avoid the busy roads, I followed the most minor roads the map would give me.

The problem with the minor roads is that they flood!

And this was my ‘half-way’ selfie-piece to camera….

I have struggled to upload and insert any videos into this blog. 

A combination of poor signal ….and poor IT abilities!

But anyway, the gist was

  • I’m half-way
  • Thank you for you support
  • Thank you for your donations

….and please don’t say that its all downhill now 🙂

Day 17 Burton-in-Kendal to Galgate-ish!

Today I followed the canal all the way to Lancaster and beyond and onto Galgate. 

The canal tow-path made for very easy running.  Beautifully flat and generally wide for the most part….and no cars!

Loads of dog walkers, but it is the ideal place for it!

I was so impressed with the Lune aqueduct that crossed the river Lune, just north of Lancaster.  The Lune Aqueduct is a Grade 1 listed building that is navigable by barges that carries the Lancaster Canal over the River Lune, on the east side of the city of Lancaster. It was completed in 1797 at a total cost of £48,320 18s 10d. 

The green here is the canal.  The bridge part is 50-60 feet above the river below.

I was joined in the second half of today by Chantelle Brandwood, who also joined us on our 10 in 10 days in 2017 – although the Lancaster Canal was closer to her home in Greater Manchester this time than Lands End was last time!

It was great to have a running / walking / talking partner….in fact so much so that we took the wrong turn in the canal and did a slight detour….

Even walkers that we met on the way back were telling us “Your shirt says you’re going to Lands End…but you’re actually going west!”  There was one junction….and we missed it!  Oops!   Anyway, another 26 miles done…I’ll get back on track tomorrow.

Day 18: Garstang to Wigan

I left Cat and Stuart’s this morning who delivered me to the start point by the canal.  Thank you soooo much Cat and Stuart for your phenomenal hospitality, care and respite! 🙂

It is August, right?  As in August, summertime?   I only ask because it poured non-stop until I got to Wigan.

I keep hearing about how I wouldn’t want to be running in this heat wave down-south, but honestly, right now, I’d take it

I followed the Lancaster canal south towards Preston but then onto the pavements to take the direct line into Preston and got soaked and splashed by lorries and buses….

so, yes, today was the toughest day so far!

….so when running on the outskirts of Preston and totally soaked and cold….

…..I spot this mini….and think….”Hmmm.  I could buy that on the credit card, Freya could use it next year….and all this would stop….!” 🙂

Its nice to see a ‘positive’ mural….in Preston.  Captain Tom, certainly has had some year!

Eventually, I get to Wigan…and the rain stops…..and the sun came out … at least a little.  I made my way to tonight’s ‘safe-house’, c/o James Weston at Anrich Vets www.anrichvets.co.uk in Wigan….who donated their mornings’ consult takings to StreetVet!      A-maz-ing!

Day 19; Warrington to Cholmondeley

Thank you so much to James and Chrissie Weston and kids for such wonderful hospitality last night. 

Today was a tale of 2 halves; first half great; second half miserable.

I always seem to start well; the first 13-15 miles are comfortable and seem to fly by.  This was greatly aided today by perfect temperature and cloud cover ……

…..but the threat of rain was promised.

See that big rain on the map?  I was under that for the last couple of hours.  Miserable!

Tomorrow is going to be windy!!!!!!!    And its blowing right into my face!    But I will deal with that tomorrow.

Being picked up by former flat mate and vet colleague Ben Jones for dinner…..I have to say, I have so well looked after by many friends and colleagues thus far.  Very grateful.

Thank you also for all your texts and messages of encouragement.  Day 20 tomorrow…..that seems like a big milestone….and GCSE results….fingers crossed Freya 🙂

I was running past Tarporley just before the rain came on….and I caught this ‘sign’ just out of the side of my eye.  I had actually run past before my brain registered….so I went back to read it again.    500 mile-mark hit today.

Day 20; Bickely to Shewsbury

Yes, 20 days done!  I said at the half way stage that day 20 was my next milestone.  That seemed like a month ago….and just yesterday at the same time.

I got up really early this morning as I needed to do a half marathon by 10 am as I was scheduled to do an online conference for Petplan between 10 and 12.30 pm….given that Petplan are my main sponsor, I couldn’t refuse could I? 🙂

I was up to see the cows come in for milking and had to follow them a little way down the lane whilst chatting with the farmer.  Every herd has a lame one at the back.

The wind today wasn’t as bad as forecast or expected – and even though it was into my face all day, it was a mild wind.  I’d take it over the rain of the last 2 days all day long though!

My tactic was to use the many tall hedges around the fields in this part of the world.

One of the challenges I have faced all trip is the ‘disappearing footpath’ on the A roads.  I appreciate footpaths have to end somewhere – and that the town boundary makes sense …but I always wonder who they expect to use this path….that just suddenly…..stops 🙂

Saw this field of cows later on in the day and couldn’t believe how many there were …. I stopped counting at 200.

The big news today was GCSE results; we are delighted that our daughter Freya did really well; let’s just say she did better than her ‘old man’ and as well as her mum.    I got an ‘E’ in my English Language O level in 1987 and had to repeat!

Shrewsbury is a lovely little town.  I haven’t been here very long but its one of the places where I have stopped (that I haven’t been to before) where I would like to spend more time.

It is a medieval market town nestled into a perfect ox-bow of the Severn River.   

The town centre has a largely unspoilt medieval street plan and over 660 listed buildings, with plenty of timber framed buildings, some of which date back to the 15th and 16th centuries.

It has a castle and an Abbey which was a former Benedictine monastery, which were founded back in the 11th century when William the Conqueror was on the throne.

The town is also the birthplace of Charles Darwin in 1809 and is where he spent 27 years of his life.  

Day 21; Shrewsbury to Ludlow

A hard day!  Today’s weather was what I thought I was going to get yesterday; wet, very windy and just demoralising!

There were a lot of storms overnight and quite a bit of flooding.  Apparently this ford was a mere trickle last week.

Big shout-out to Jamie Crittall and his £1000 donation today.

The Shropshire Hills area is actually quite pretty…apparently.  Here’s a photo I nicked from the Guardian – but to understand how I saw it today, please try to view it through a shower curtain!

The A49 runs directly south through Shropshire.  It is the busiest ‘A’ road I have encountered so far and not one for even a short hop which I sometimes do when connecting to B roads.

This led to a few dramatic off-roads for a few hundred yards….walking trough this field of maize was a high-and-low light all at the same time!

Things I never knew about Ludlow

  1. That it exists!  I’d never heard of it before
  2. It has a castle

Among the famous residents of Ludlow Castle’s 900 year history was Edward IV whose infamous brother Richard of Gloucester, who was crowned Richard III after murdering Edward’s two sons in the Tower of London.   Also, Henry VII’s eldest son, Arthur Tudor, died at Ludlow Castle in 1502 to pave the way for his brother to become king (Henry VIII).

Day 22; Ludlow to Hereford

Today was much better; still a little windy but I missed the downpours that seemed to be loitering around.

I had visitors today!  Thank you so much to Alan and Vicky Robinson from VetDynamics who made the 1.5 hour journey to meet me at Hampton Court Castle just south of Leominster.

Hereford is a nice city.  Built on the river Wye, which flooded earlier this year.  Today this bridge clears the water by at least 20 feet.  Wye do these things happen?!  🙂

Hereford was also where the composer Elgar produced most of his classical pieces.

 

 

Day 23: Hereford to Tintern

A long day, but a good day.  I did this route as my practice-marathon 2 weeks before the full event.  What I learnt that day made me keen to avoid the south bound roads out of Hereford….even on a Sunday!

Last night and today I was once again brilliantly looked after by Emily and kids Esme and Jack.  We said goodbye at the Wales-England border as I headed across the rickety footbridge in the picture.

I bumped into a group of about 20 vets on the other side of the bridge that recognised my top and said hello; “You’re the Colourful Consultation guy, aren’t you?!”   So proud! 🙂

Today’s hosts are the lovely Will Marlow and his wife Aby (sic) and Sophie (2) and George (0.5) of Marlow Vets in Chepstow.

Will and I met in 2015 during a ‘Vets to Ventoux’ cycling trip and we bonded over our shared fascination with flags. 🙂

Tomorrow is a big milestone….in that I cross ‘the Severn bridge’ and leave Wales for the last time and turn the corner south for the final week.

I feel ok; there’s an area on my shin-calf muscle that is tender.  It doesn’t stop me from running but I am aware of it each step.  I hope it holds out for one more week.  Otherwise, I am perfectly comfortable.  The blister has completely gone although I protect it just in case.

Apparently I’ve lost weight!?  Maybe.  But I’ve stopped eating as much midday sugary rubbish as the fine cuisine I’ve enjoyed from all my hosts all trip has been more than adequate.

I did go ‘hypo’ the day that I ran from Shewsbury to Ludlow but that was because my B&B was just a ‘B’ and didn’t serve breakfast…. and because there weren’t any cafes open by the time I wanted to start, I ‘dined’ at Tesco Metro….but as it turns out 3 croissants and a pint of milk isn’t really marathon food!  (I know!…how many is it now!?

Anyway…..this ewe must have been a ‘pet-lamb’ as she allowed me to rub her head on the way past.  Nice to have a friend!

The second leg of today was from Monmouth to Tintern.  In order to avoid the really busy Monmouth to Tintern road I took the scenic route away from the river….which just kept going up-up-up with a variable path, most of which wasn’t designed for running.

But despite a few threats of rain, it was a really lovely walk amidst amazing and peaceful scenery along the banks of the river Wye.

Day 24: Tintern to Nailsea

Today was the day of visitors.   You know the phrase about buses….none come along for ages and then they all arrive at once!  In 24 days, Chantelle on day 17 had been my only ‘non-host’ visitor….and today I had 5!    Hence the late blog – apologies!   In 1 week’s time it’ll all be over…I will be on my way back home to Suffolk.

Visitor number 1 was family friend Nic Prince who accompanied me as far as the Severn Bridge…before she happened to dash all the way across country to see her parents right beside where we live in Suffolk.  Thanks for the pick-me-up Nic! 🙂

Wasn’t sure which of these photos of the Severn Bridge I liked the most, so I gave you all 3

Today I have been joined by our Colourful CPD and BVRA colleague, Sophie Lo Curto, who travelled from Surrey to support me for this week.

Our first stop was at the Backwell Hotel south of Bristol and I have to say we made a very good choice!   It is lovely; great setting and excellent service.

Sophie caught up with some emails whilst I completed the last 5 miles….she would like to point out that the beer was mine!

My next visitors 2 were the Taylor family; my veterinary colleagues who own and run the local practice in Yatton.  The last time I saw baby Leah in January she had just been born and is now virtually walking…and can say ‘cat’!

Shaun’s vocabulary is less extensive but we persevere with the animal flash-cards.  Thank you for your generous donation all the same! 🙂

And my final visitor was veterinary colleague Laura Sullivan who came to join us a drink and dessert. 🙂

Laura set up ‘All Scrubbed Up’ with the vision of bringing a bit of fun, positivity and glam to veterinary work by diversifying her surgical skills into creating quirky surgical hats and masks www.facebook.com/allscrubbedupscrubhats/

So thank you to all my visitors…however visitors are now being rationed to a strictly-one-per-day basis as part of my habituation back into society over the next week.

No, my next visitor wasn’t a Just Eat pizza delivery boy, but the highly experienced management consultant Iain Prince, husband of Nic above, who joined me after he had finished his day’s work.

Day 25: Backwell (nr Bristol Airport) to Bridgwater

Last week the Met office sent Storm Ellen from across the Irish Sea to test my resolve. Having seen off this ‘amateur’ storm they re-grouped, thought again and came back with Storm Francis.

Francis got an early psychological advantage when I looked out of my bedroom window – blowing a gale and smashing the rain against the glass.  The lovely bed at the Backwell Hotel never felt more appealing!

But up and out just after 8 am as I just had to get on with it.  The day turned out to be a mixture of blowing rain and spells of sunshine….but always windy!  There was one moment when I did a ‘slow-mo’ run….when I expected momentum and gravity to deliver my feet to the ground….but instead I hung in mid air like a video-slow-motion video

Some of you have reminded me that I only have to deal with inclement weather for a few days, whereas homeless people and their pets have to deal with it every day….and yes, I am aware that I “chose to do this”…as if I could forget.

I ran past the Thatchers Cider farm and factory today with rows of apple trees right beside the main plant…it was literally blowing a gale and sheets of rain at the time but I managed to get a quick snap…and tested said product later

s I have headed south, a couple of times I have seen disused railway lines that have been converted to cycle paths.

They have been so helpful when looking for a safe and peaceful route.  Possibly the best I have seen thus far was one that connected Yatton towards Axbridge

Lunch was in Highbridge when the sun came out for a while….before the last leg into Bridgwater.

Bridgwater is…..somewhere I passed through….forgive me if I’ve missed it, but it doesn’t seem famous for anything really….but maybe I didn’t give it a fair shot as the wind driving a castle spray of wet air into one’s face didn’t encourage much exploration.

Day 26; Bridgwater to Tiverton

A much better day today all round!   Weather was very pleasant and terrain not too hilly!  One day closer!

Early start – Sophie and I had breakfast at Bridgwater Moto service station (Costa versus Greggs!?) ….another symbol of why Bridgwater is…on the way to somewhere else 🙂

Whereas Taunton on the other hand is somewhere I’d come back to.  Maybe Bridgwater is the ugly sister to Taunton’s Cinderella with its castle, canal, big cathedral-like churches and home of Somerset Cricket.   So here’s a photo I nicked from Google… obviously I didn’t attend this cricket… match?… game?… horrah?…..because…. 1) I’m running marathons; 2) no crowds during COVID….. and 3) I’m Northern Irish…..and couldn’t care less about cricket!  (As they say; The best thing to come out of Australia? The Irish Cricket team!)

I had a 12 noon radio interview with Radio Devon….you know when someone has no-idea about what you’re doing and all their details are just a bit ‘off’!   He didn’t even ask me what charity I’m doing it for….so I took a leaf out of the politicians’ and footballers’ book and ignored the question “So, what is your diet / nutrition for this event?” and answered with “I’m doing this on behalf of a charity called StreetVet” …and then recanted Emily’s (who I stayed with last week) perfectly crafted statement “This weather highlights the pressing need for more money to go to StreetVet and it’s Accredited Hostel Scheme which means homeless dog owners do not have to choose between having a roof over their head and staying with their pet. 90% of hostels in this country do not accept dogs. The Accredited Hostel Scheme is a practical solution that contributes to ending rough sleeping.

…..”Ah, yes, of course!” says he, baffled!  I have another interview with them tomorrow at 8 am!…and ‘Radio Europe'(?)

Having run through thousands of villages and seen one thousand disused phone boxes, it has been interesting to see how they have been adapted; repositories for defibrillators, local tourist-information, cultural hotspots and libraries.

I was pleased to see that “The Colourful Consultation” must be out on loan 🙂

I have included these random photos during the last few miles from ‘home’ because they are significant to me ….I’ve eventually got out oy my long-sleeved Petplan-branded top! 

It was warm and dry enough to get into short sleeves! 

So…26 done!  5 more to go!  Starting to plan the route for the final leg, which I have neglected as it seemed a long way away!  I’m leaning towards a coastal route via Penzance…we will see as there’s a little work to be done yet….but maybe….just maybe!?

Day 27: Tiverton to Sampford Courtenay

An early night last night and slept like a log!  Awoke to dull…but dry….they predicted that there was an 80-90% of rain today.  They were wrong!  It was 100% chance and poured all day long…or at least as long as I was running.  Literally the moment I arrived at the B&B, the clouds parted like at the start of the Simpsons, the rain stopped and the sun came out, and now….it is a very pleasant afternoon here!  No wind and not particularly hot.   But seriously, the rain today was like nothing else I’ve seen thus far!  It was a blessing having Sophie as support today as navigation becomes so hard when the iPhone is wet…with no signal anyway….and so I just kept running…anywhere!  Miraculously, Sophie bumped into me at this crossroads….when a lovely little Cocker Spaniel started following me…and then did that roll-over-tummy-tickle posture in the pouring wet road.

Eventually I arrived at the Middletown Farmhouse B&B, Sampford Courtenay, EX20.  Lovely!  After a reviving shower, we were served ‘cream tea’, as one does in the afternoon.

Cornish and Devonshire cream teas are a scone with jam and cream. However, a Devon cream tea places the cream on the scone, with the jam on top of that. A Cornish cream tea, on the other hand, places the jam on the scone followed by the cream.   The people of Devon argue that since cream is of a similar consistency to butter, you wouldn’t serve butter on top of jam, so it should be on the bottom. They also believe it’s possible to serve more clotted cream if you apply it first, especially back in a time when jam was expensive.

This is disputed by the Cornish, who believe the only way to serve a cream tea is with the jam first, followed by a dollop of cream on top. They assert that it’s easier to spread the jam first and you can taste the cream better if it’s on top.

Take the picture Sophie!   It wasn’t so much the gradient that held me back today, as the tide coming down the uphills.

…of course one has to decide whether to eat one’s scone as a Devon or a Cornish Cream tea.  Do you know the difference?

I noticed this plaque and wondered what this was.    Well….Henry VIII died in 1547 as the reformation was in progress.  But the Cornish, particularly the purer Cornish-speaking Roman-Celts of the west, resisted the new-fangled religion that the distant London government was foisting on them.   Tension increased when in 1548, orders were issued that festivals were no longer to be celebrated with Popish paraphernalia as candles, ashes and palms, there was to be no making of holy bread and holy water, and all images were to be removed. But when parliament passed the Act of Uniformity in Jan 1549, enforcing the use of the Book of Common Prayer in English instead of the Latin Mass to which the people had been accustomed for centuries, it all kicked off.  The Prayer Book was first used on Whitsunday. But the people of Stanford Courtney in Devon made their priest put on his vestments and say Mass.  Protestant landowners, who had taken lands from the church were attacked, the crown responded, and a siege ensued, eventually to be quashed where I’m staying tonight.

Religious customs eh!?   Speaking of which, here’s what I was doing this time last year in Romania….where I had to wear a sarong as bare knees were forbidden in the monastery.

Very Beckham-esk…..but the belly has gone a year later! 🙂

Day 28: Sampford Courtenay to Launceston

I awoke with exactly 100 miles to go…well…if you take the A30…which you don’t want to do on foot! …so with the inevitable detours and route changes, it’d come out at around 110 miles.

Many of you have asked about my ‘route’ and perhaps where you could join me or cheer me on the way past…and then have been disappointed when I have been vague and uncertain.  The reason is because the exact route sometimes changes by the junction!

My preference cascade is as follows

  • Cycle / pedestrian path
  • ‘A’ road with decent footpath (noisy but direct)
  • ‘B’ road without footpath
  • ‘A’ road without footpath

So I crossed the final county-border today as I entered Cornwall.  Technically the border is the river Tamar. The name is said to be derived from a prehistoric river word meaning “dark flowing” which it shares with the River Thames It certainly was ‘dark-flowing’ today with this week’s rain. 

Eventually I got to my accommodation at Trethorne golf club, south of Launceston (pronounced Lawn-ston)….just in case you suffer a similar fate of sniggering-locals.

Indeed Launceston is a misnomer; it should be called Launceston-on-the-hill!  It’s a long way up to the top from that Tamar river crossing.  I have to admit the legs are feeling very heavy right now….but another day closer.  🙂

Just a wee party political broadcast on behalf of pedestrians everywhere….if you see someone walking on the road, the Highway code recommends giving them a berth of at least a full car width.  I have waved at every single motorist who does.  But I would estimate that 10% of drivers neither move over or slow down when passing…. I am sure they can lip read my opinion about that.

According to my reckoning I have visited 23 counties…..

  1. Caithness
  2. Sutherland
  3. Ross-shire and Cromartyshire
  4. Inverness-shire
  5. Perthshire
  6. Kinross-shire
  7. Fife
  8. Lothian
  9. Midlothian
  10. Peeblesshire
  11. Selkirkshire
  12. Dumfriesshire
  13. Cumberland
  14. West Morland
  15. Lancashire
  16. Cheshire
  17. Shropshire
  18. Herefordshire
  19. Monmouthshire
  20. Gloucestershire
  21. Somerset
  22. Devon
  23. Cornwall

Day 29: Launceston to Bugle

Today started with a Radio Cornwall interview…the media events and interviews are becoming more frequent and I have one every day now….ie 2 more…but it sounds much more showbiz the way I said it…  🙂

Out and at it; no rain, a little wind and although chilly, it was on my back.  Beautiful scenery across Bodmin Moor.

The terrain was variable today.  In my desire to avoid the mad-Cornish Bank holiday weekend traffic, I tried to stay on the smaller roads and tracks….but they are either very rugged…or very steep!

The one below went on at 10% gradient for 2 miles! 

…and then there were only 2 left!  Tomorrow is JOGLE2020 Eve; you know that day….when its not really a public holiday but the anticipation towards the ‘big day’ is building.   Tomorrow just has to be ‘got through’. (ps Thank you to StreetVet volunteer Ros for getting my bag from Launceston and bringing it to Bugle where I am staying today!  …gotta run. Meeting some local vet folks

Now then…let’s see if you remember your Highland cattle-gender lesson from day 8:  Male or female?  And why?

Female of course….

the horns head ‘upwards’ in the female where they exit the skull….and downwards in the bull.

The roads around here are busy though…even the wee ones!  I guess it is the end of summer bank holiday and I am in Cornwall….but I’ve had my fill of BMW’s with 10 bikes on the roof blasting past me on minor roads.    Everyone seems….a little angry at the moment.  I think COVID plus the weather is straining a few nerves.  The attitudes within Britain’s shops, pubs and restaurants to COVID have been so variable.  Some places are acting like its never happened or happening.  They put up ‘masks must be worn’ and then no-one is wearing masks inside.  I even got mocked for having a mask on in Lancashire…whereas others are hyper-cautious!

Day 30: Bugle to Redruth

I met up with the vet folks I referred to above; me, Renay Rickard (with whom I danced the tango at Celtic Manor when we were both Presidents of our respective societies in 2018!), Danny Chambers, Adrian Pratt, Nicky Paul and Ed Paul….they offered to act as pacemakers today but as it turns out all of them had prior engagements – phew…that Renay sets a mean half-marathon pace!

So, back to The Bugle Inn at 9.30 pm for an early night….so as it turns out my room was directly above the bar area…and guess what….they were having a Bank Holiday weekend karaoke jukebox evening…..either everyone in Bugle is an amazing singer or someone who could hogged the mic.   I put my head down…and awoke at 3 am to silence….wasn’t that bad!

“What ewe doing mister?!   Please feed us!”

A few things people say about running a marathon

Running will ruin your knees

I promise I have no knee pain at all and never have had.  I credit my orthotic insoles with that

You should stretch before you run.

I have not stretched a single time before or after a run.  I have warmed up (walking) and warmed down (walking) and flexed by joints though as advised by my personal trainer.  I have not had any serious stiffness.

Runners don’t walk.

Olympian Jeff Galloway created a whole training methodology that incorporates walking breaks. He believes that mixing regular walking breaks into your runs, will help reduce the incidence of injury and help you stay active longer.

You won’t be able to run if you’re not a natural runner

Distance, pace or previous performance doesn’t define who is and who isn’t a runner.  I had not run more than 10km before I started training for my first marathon in 2016.  You wouldn’t look at Eddie Izard and say, Eddie = athlete! 

You’re not a runner unless you have a certain body type.

People of all ages, shapes and sizes can be runners.   There is a marathon in everyone.  Check out Team Hoyt if you want some eye-watering inspiration

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64A_AJjj8M4

…..and so to tomorrow, the finale.

I awoke again at 6 with an early text…you know who you are!…and decided to get up and at it!  Breakfast wouldn’t be served until after 9 am….but by that time I wanted to be well on the way.  In part I wanted to avoid the manic Cornwall traffic and I also decided to take it easy today and wanted to walk most of today so needed extra time.  It was perfect conditions for a Sunday stroll, if not perhaps a little windy in places.

And so I made it to Redruth….I really don’t like ‘dissing’ other peoples’ home towns…but…it’s….ah…well, you remember I said Bridgwater was like one one of Cinderella’s Ugly Sisters….I might have found the other one.  I ordered food at a high street pub and I can safely say it was the worst meal I have ever been served….and only my phone was dead I would have added a photo.  It was like something out of Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares!   …so I decided to ‘eat-out’ and went with the supermarket Sushi.  Yum!

Your toenails will turn black and fallout!

I have heard this a lot but never had this.

You’re not a runner unless you race…or record your times

Not every runner likes to race or record their times.  I have never posted a single time here as it was all about getting the job done.   I love the saying “Winners forget they are in a race.  They just love to run”.

Runners don’t need to strength train.

Strength training is key to boosting sustainability and preventing injury.   I have used a personal trainer, Ali Thomas for 2 years now who has built my overall body strength and fitness…and inspired me to stop eating (as much) rubbish.

Runners can eat anything they want.

I didn’t eat a single biscuit or sweet or piece of chocolate for 2 years!  We’ve all heard the advice that you should carbo-load before a race….but that doesn’t mean that you have a license to eat everything.  I  have definitely felt worse when I have eaten ‘junk calories’ the night before

You won’t be able to walk the next day

This is the most common myth I hear. I am sure as my muscles get older they get less stiff. I remember as a 20-something being so stiff the day after hockey training…but I think my gristly-old muscles have lost their juice nowadays!

You need to keep running long distances for weeks after running so many marathons

I don’t know if this is true….but I’m not gonna! 🙂

Day 31: 31st August 2020. My 50th birthday

Apparently you only get a text from the Queen when you’re 50.   Anyway, I awoke to the perfect day for running.  Beginning at the north Cornwall coast ….

…as well as StreetVet-Cornwall.

I also want to thank you all for supporting me in so many ways; some big, some smaller, but all significant.

In particular, I want to mention all those that put me up as well as well as put up with me and / or transported me around.  They are; Mum and my sister Gillian for getting me started at John O’Groats; Tricia and Angus Macpherson ond family of Lomond Hills Vets, Pauline Graham of Capon Tree Vets, Cat and Stuart in Kirby Lonsdale, Chantelle for running with me on day 17, James and Chrissie Weston at Anrich Vets in Wigan, Emily and kids in Ludlow, Alan and Vicky Robinson for coming all the way to visit me, Will and Aby Marlow, Nic Prince for escorting me out of Wales as far as the Severn Bridge, my colleague Sophie at BVRA and Colourful CPD (expert providers of online non-clinical CPD :), Renay Rickard who took me to meet the Cornish vets and Maureen, Sean and Sarah Sutcliffe who came all the way to be at the finish.    And finally to my wife Georgia and kids Freya (who was 16 yesterday) and Seth who allowed me out to play, and so in the words of Forrest Gump….

…and headed to the south coast

St Michael’s Mount is one of 43 unbridged tidal islands that one can walk to from mainland Britain.

Historically, St Michael’s Mount was a Cornish counterpart of Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, France (with which it shares the same tidal island characteristics and the same conical shape, though it is much smaller, at 57 acres, than Mont St Michel which covers 247 acres), when it was given to the Benedictine religious order of Mont Saint-Michel by Edward the Confessor in the 11th century.

…and then, quite suddenly in the end, I was approaching Lands End to be greeted by my support team today, the Sutcliffe family who came all the way from Suffolk; Maureen, Sean who ran today with me and Sean’s wife Sarah.

…..and then it was over.  Just a few interviews to do, including Sky…and StreetVet FM (that should be a thing!)

The donations have shot up today and we are getting closer to the target by the minute…..but we’re not there yet.

I know StreetVet are very appreciative and I thank you all on their behalf.

Thank you!  Over and out…….

A big thank you to Petplan for sponsoring and supporting me with this challenge.

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