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Friday, 19 June 2020

Feb/Mar/Apr Update

Well that was an interesting 3 months!

By now I should have Italy and Germany ticked off the list and be waiting for Croatia in October as my final race on the challenge.  But obviously Coronavirus had other plans and has shut down the challenge for the foreseeable future.  The most important thing at the moment is that none of my family, friends and every one of you reading this are suffering from this nasty disease.

Rome and Hamburg are pretty big street marathons and I'm really not sure either will be deemed safe to take place until we have a vaccine for Covid-19.  That could be more than a year away, so I'm mentally adjusting things to expect a 2022 finish, maybe.  It's going to be a real challenge to keep fitness and focus to get to the finish line but I've come too far to stop and whilst motivation isn't at it's highest, I will get this done. Unfortunately as you can expect, marathons are generally large gatherings of people in small spaces with people flying in from all over the world - probably the worst possible thing for suppressing a deadly pandemic.

I'm struggling a bit physically when running at the moment, everything is a bit achy and my movement feels a bit restricted.  I think a fair bit of it is down to having a few knotted muscles as I've not had a massage since October (700 miles ago). Dying to get Martin round to get me straight again but social distancing and lockdown makes that impossible for now.  He has diabetes too which must be making things very difficult for him as he'll most likely be in the 'shielded' most vulnerable category.

Mentally too it's been horrendous.  Training for a marathon that you know won't happen is very challenging.  My weekly mileage is very much reduced, I'm drinking and eating more and have lost a fair bit of focus in life generally.  I know how lucky I am to have my health and I don't want to bleat on given the seriousness of the pandemic, it's just how things are at the moment.  I'm working at home full-time which makes it difficult to make time to get out for a run when it feels like any spare moment I have should be spent trying to help save our business from going under.  I'm also conscious that I need to pull my weight with parenting too and now we have a very mobile toddler with a very set routine, there's not much flexibility. Tough, but hopefully things will improve if and when our hapless government gets the virus under control!

Till Forever Runs Out

I was really chuffed to be invited on to my good running buddy Mark Openshaw's new podcast chatting about our experiences running marathons around the EU.  We had a great chat about our favourite cities, funny stories and plans for running post-lockdown.  Looking forward to going back on in the future and wish him all the best with it.

You can check it out here

F.U Corona Marathon 

On April 4th I ran a solo marathon on the routes around my house to make use of the training and in dedication to people with ME in the two countries I was unable to visit; Italy and Germany.  At the time of having the idea we weren't in lockdown and I was to be joined by a couple of other Bristol runners left frustrated by the cancellation of their races.  But as the day approached it was clear that with 'social distancing' that wasn't going to be possible/sensible.  I felt in good running form and ready to attack my race PB of 3.55.

Amazing to have a finish line so close to my house for once!

I had originally planned to run on the gloomy, cool Saturday of the weekend.  Phil Murray, a recovered ME patient, advocate and keen runner himself was to come along for the final 13 miles to pace me and gee me along.  Having stretched, slept well, eaten right and got mentally in a good place, I was horrified to find that my Garmin watch was only on 14% battery power.  I got 3 miles into the run and felt good but it was clear my watch wasn't going to last the distance so I made a really tough decision to abort the run and jog home.

I wanted to make sure that I had proof of the run if I ended up doing a personal best and it would have been very difficult to pace myself without a watch.  A really annoying situation and I felt bad for cancelling on Phil as I know he'd have gone through the same prep as I did but I also know it wouldn't feel right not to have a proper record of the run.

So I went the next day and did a fairly steady first half before Phil joined me on Coronation Road and we swung by my house for me to grab some more water and head off towards Nailsea on the cycle path.  It was great to have Phil along, running a couple of metres ahead for the most part, dragging me along at a pace well inside my PB.  I felt strong until around 22 miles when my hips had started to seize up and the pace dropped.  We reached Bedminster again and trudged through the suburbs where I finished with a bit of a sprint(!) and collapsed on the pavement with a finishing time of 3 hrs 44 mins.  So happy to achieve what I knew I could and what I hadn't managed to since September 2017.  Getting better with age, maybe!

Incredible Donations 

Really only one of a handful of positives from 2020 so far has to be the incredible donations I've had. So huge thanks to Helen and Manon Oliver for yet another big donation to the cause and Paul Kayes for facilitating a £700 matched-donation from a facebook group he admins.

2000Euros was also donated by 2 M.E groups in Italy; CFS ME OdV Di Zugliano Vicenza and CFS/ME - Organizzazione Di Volontariato.  Incredibly kind and I know appreciated more than ever by the charity and who will be used for vital research activities.


Hamburg was cancelled in fairly good time and then pushed to Sept 13th and therefore becomes my next race.  Whether it takes place or not is very uncertain, Berlin was scheduled to take place 2 weeks later but was cancelled early so it makes me feel this one will be too.  It's a big race in Germany and I don't think they'd be able to cope with the crowds and international runners all arriving for it.  We'll see.  We've only been eligible for a flight voucher for that one and not a refund so we may well go that weekend anyway and spend some time with fellow EU marathon collector Tim Teege who has become a good friend.  He has 4 daughters(!) and we know Lucy would have a great time with them.

If Hamburg is cancelled then it's probable that I'll be back there in mid-April 2021 to run it as part of the German leg of the challenge.  The aim will still be to finish the challenge with London in late April but there's a lot of things that could go wrong with that plan!  Not least the fact that if London is cancelled again in it's revised plan for October this year, most people will keep their entries for the April date which will make it tough to get in!  We'll see!


It was totally the right thing for Rome to cancel back in early March.  Italy was hit incredibly hard at the start of the virus' entry to Europe and I wouldn't have felt safe going or taking the family.  Rather than re-schedule for 2020 they decided to announce a date in March for 2021 and keep entries valid.  I'm already looking forward to making it and meeting new friends although cautious as a 'second wave' of the virus over the Winter this year will threaten it once again from going ahead.

ME in Italy

Ahead of my intended trip to run Rome Marathon I was very privileged to hear from Giada, Chiara, Fabio and Rosa about their battles with M.E in Italy.  Some of the stories are really affecting and it's heartbreaking to read how much of their lives have been lost by this neglected illness.

Interviews can be found here.

Newport Half

It feels forever ago but back on March 1st I ran my fastest ever Half Marathon in Newport, South Wales.  I'd trained really hard for it so I guess it wasn't a complete surprise but it was one of those rare days when everything just seemed to click.  I got through the first 3 miles and felt good so just decided to really attack the course and see at what point I'd run out of puff.  But with lots of downhill and a cold day, it didn't really happen.

The course moved through the centre, residential suburbs, parks and wetlands on the outskirts and it wasn't too crowded.  I ended up coming in 290th out of a field of 1923 in a time of 1hr 37 mins, taking 3 minutes off Gloucester Half the year before.  It seems like perhaps the Half Marathon is more my game!  I managed to get finished just before a hailstorm too and jumped into the leisure centre for a cheeky free shower before grabbing a pint and a roast dinner nearby.

Newport Press

I hadn't managed to find any M.E patients to interview ahead of the race which was disappointing and decided not to publicise the run in the local paper as the primary charity was St David's Hospice Care which was a very noble cause I didn't want to dilute.  I was lurking around the start line an hour beforehand and got Cat to take a photo of me with my big flag and a local reporter asked me about it.  After a few minutes I was suddenly on their website and in the local paper!

Big thanks to South Wales Argus for supporting people with M.E by doing the feature.

Treadmill Training

Back in February it was threatening to snow and the forecast was pretty icy one weekend so I had to find a way of getting my 17 mile run done to keep to plan.  My friend Joe offered me a guest pass at David Lloyd gym in Westbury-on-Trym and I jumped onto the treadmill for the run.  It would be just my 2nd treadmill run on the challenge in 5 years and a big relief to survive it.

A few things to consider when long distance running indoors:
  • It's much warmer! Maybe as much as 15c even with air-con on.  
  • Definitely need a towel nearby to wipe the sweat off the screen of the treadmill and stop it from soaking the runners next to you!
  • You end up needing more water than you would outdoors, mainly down to the ambient temperature.
  • The machine cuts out after an hour (not sure why, probably as it's tired or maybe a safety thing).  This is extremely annoying as you have no choice but to wait 30 seconds to power it back up to the pace you were at.  And it can catch you by surprise as it's a pretty abrupt stop!
  • I saw the back of 28 runners, you look like a complete nutter running on a treadmill for 2 hours.
  • 6 tv screens in front of you is very distracting, sadly for me they were all showing total rubbish.  2 of them were showing cartoons which I find very strange for a premium gym.
  • You do feel a bit guilty for hogging the machine when it's busy.
  • It's not great for your knees and it's important to have a slight incline/gradient to protect them.
  • It's insanely boring, never have I missed the cycle path and all it's scenery more.
I was very lucky to have the option though and I'm grateful for being able to stick to the training plan and learn from the experience.  A timely reminder that gyms and treadmills aren't for me!

Millions Missing Italia support

I couldn't really not mention the amazing support I had from this group.  Not only did they do lots of features on my challenge ahead of the cancelled Rome race, they also made plans for my arrival which sadly didn't come to fruition.

I had so many nice messages from them and their supporters that any talk of doing another Italian race this/next year were soon dismissed.

Revised plan of attack

This comes with some pretty huge caveats but:

25. Hamburg - Sept 13th 2020
26. Zagreb - Oct 11th 2020
27. Rome - March 21st 2021
Finish - London - Mid April 2021

Thanks for all your support, if you're feeling generous please leave a donation to M.E research for a cure to my fundraising page below.... 

Total Sponsorship Raised: £25742
Social Media Followers: 2580
Miles Covered: 328
Average Temp: 14C
Lessons Learned: I need to train all year round, virus or no virus.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Nov/Dec/Jan Update

Winter time and a time to reflect on my biggest running year yet.  And what has unexpectedly become the penultimate year of the challenge.

Unexpected as the UK has officially left the EU and therefore my planned final race in London, April 2021 is now obsolete to the challenge of running in all member states. I can't begin to explain how disappointed I am that this adventure is now ending up in Croatia and not in my home country amongst friends and with maximum media coverage for our cause.  Anyway, I can't wallow there's still a lot of running to be done and below is a quick update on what has been happening over the last 3 months.

Porto Marathon (no.24!)

On November 3rd I managed to clock up marathon 6 of the year in Porto.  It rained pretty much for the entire trip apart from the 4.5 hours of the race(!).  The race was very well organised and had some fantastic views and an uphill tunnel with screens showing Chariots Of Fire which was brilliant.

Trotting the many bridges of Porto

For full race report please click here.

£3500 in 6 weeks, £7K Year

2019 haul (Gloucs Half, Cyprus, Bratislava, Riga, Budapest, Bucharest, Porto)

I honestly didn't know if my injured hip flexor and tired legs could get through 3 marathons in 6 weekends.  Budapest was a real test and the first one I've done where I genuinely didn't know if I was going to be able to finish.  Getting through that and then a really hot race in Bucharest left me with Porto to finish the year.  I was hoping for a cold wet race as there has been in previous years there but again it didn't really materialise.  I was a bit faster in this one (not much) but overjoyed to have got through the hardest physical period of my short running career.

6 more crossed off

Seeing the messages flood through on Twitter, Facebook and my website kept me going and the many JustGiving email alerts of donations coming in was incredibly motivating.  I couldn't quite believe that £3.5K came in for the 3 races, I was so happy with that.  To get to £7K for the year and £21K for the entire challenge with just £5K to go was really such a boost.

Invest in ME £500K pledge

In December, Invest In ME put out a press release pledging £500K for research activities at the Quadrum Institute in Norwich.
UK Charity Invest in ME Research is pledging £500,000 for continued research into the disease myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME or ME/CFS) in Norwich Research Park, UK (NRP).
In a press release issued 2nd December 2019 the charity confirms a renewed commitment from the charity to developing a UK/European hub for high-quality biomedical research into ME.

This major investment builds on the foundations already made for a UK/European Centre of Excellence for ME research hub in Norwich Research Park.  The pledge covers joint funding of a PhD position in partnership with University of East Anglia and over 70% of the required funding for a clinical trial of Faecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT) being performed alongside other high-quality biomedical research at the Quadram Institute (QI).

Invest in ME Research will now have funded or part funded five PhDs performing research into ME and working in partnership with researchers to initiate a foundation of high-quality research in one of the largest and most prestigious research parks in Europe.

I'm delighted to see the money I've raised go towards such promising research and the FMT trial and look forward to seeing what they come up with over the next few months.

There's more information through clicking this link

Xmas runs

We had Christmas in Haywards Heath this year with my sister Suz and family which was great fun for everyone, especially Lucy. 

                    Icy start to Xmas Day                                                             Usual baby mayhem

I got out on Christmas Day morning before the kids woke up to their presents.  I had to be careful not to disturb Santa's footprints and I got out for a casual 6 miles which I found a bit tough after a lot of beer and cake the night before!

Christmas cracker 

Once in Jan I really got going and my times and weight started to drop. I had a 74 mile December and a 128 mile January, bigger is to come for February where I'll be running 35-40 miles per week.

Newport Half

Decent medal

Last year I ran Gloucester Half in the winter as part of training for Cyprus Marathon. I really enjoyed the chance to push myself over a shorter format in cold temperatures, raise more money and awareness for M.E research and also to meet the Gloucestershire ME Friendship Group.  To break up the brutal training plan and see if I can have the same success as last year with fundraising, I decided to enter Newport Half.

I'm not sure I can beat the PB of 1hr 40 mins from last year but it will be great to get another half marathon race under my belt to add to Bath, Devizes, Frome, Bridgwater and Gloucester.  The race is on Sunday March 1st and if anyone is in the area then you're more than welcome to come along.

Millions Missing Italy

Ahead of Rome Marathon in late March, I've had some amazing support from Italy from a variety of places.  I hope to have news of an incredibly generous donation to Invest In ME towards my target and I'm looking forward to having lunch with supporters the day before the race.

I've been interviewing patients over in Italy and will be featuring their take on what life is like there with M.E over the next few weeks.  Hopefully I'll be able to get some media coverage for them if we can get round the language barrier.

M.E Awareness Hour

It's great to see ME Awareness Hour back after a couple of years and it's been great to see it trending as high as #26 in the UK.  It feels like there's real momentum with this digital awareness advocacy and hopefully it'll soon get mainstream attention and the real-life stories that are featured are read by people who have misunderstood the illness.

Thanks for all your support, if you're feeling generous please leave a donation to M.E research for a cure to my fundraising page below.... 

Total Sponsorship Raised: £21389
Social Media Followers: 2483
Miles Covered: 228
Average Temp: 9C
Lessons Learned: A quick break and back to it works for me.

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Aug/Sept/Oct Update

Quick recap on an action-packed Summer meets Autumn where I ran 2 marathons and picked up a nasty injury where I had to pull of my homecoming Half (sob, sob).

Truro Half Press

Way back in August I was really happy to have some local press coverage in my home county of Cornwall.  The last time I was in the Cornish Guardian was when I ran London Marathon, aged 18 in 2001!  I wrote off to them with a bit of info on the challenge and telling the story of my friend Rebecca who lives in Penzance and her struggle with M.E.

Truro Half Marathon were kind enough to feature my challenge on their social media and website.  I was really looking forward to running the streets that I used to walk on as a teenager but an injury 2 weeks before meant that although I travelled down with the intention to run, it was just too painful to risk.

Booked Hamburg

I booked Hamburg as my German marathon for 2020 (number 26) after much deliberation.  I had been very keen to run Berlin as it is one of the Abbott Majors and the fastest course in the world.  But two failed ballot attempts and the risk of flight and hotels rocketing from when the ballot is drawn to when I would need to book made it difficult to justify.  I enjoy big races and the amazing support but sometimes it can feel a bit overwhelming and tough to concentrate with space at a premium.

Pretty sure this is the Fischmarkt, we ended up here at 6am drinking and dancing I think.

I probably wouldn't have opted for Hamburg as a back up had I not met fellow EU marathon collector Tim Teege.  Tim lives in Hamburg and runs the race each year and offered to have us to stay which was extremely generous of him.  He has 4 daughters and we thought it would be really fun for Lucy, maybe they can teach her some German!  I've been to Hamburg once before on a stag do!  It was a lot of fun but extremely boozy.  We went to watch Hamburg FC in a match they had to win to avoid relegation (and they did!) as well as running around the bars of the infamous Reeperbahn district.

Will be great to meet up with Tim again, here we are at Copenhagen Marathon, May 2018.

An added bonus of running in Hamburg for me is how far north it is and with it being in April there's a good chance it will be cold and/or wet.  Hamburg Marathon recently got voted as the best marathon in the world online too, so not too shabby a race for me to run!


Lovely views, very hot morning on the south coast

Over the crazy hot summer that we had in England, I decided to run along the coast from Portslade to Peacehaven when visiting family in Sussex.  It was a really hot morning and I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and views.  It was a nice break from the cycle paths of Bristol and even though it was really tough I would definitely do it again.

161 mile Aug

August has gone down as my biggest mileage month of the challenge so far.  161 miles in total which I was very happy with.  It clearly came at a cost though as I went down with a really painful hip flexor injury towards the end.

Wow, almost like a proper runner!

It was such a hot summer that I felt a bit disappointed that my times hadn't improved on previous years but the bigger issue was whether I would be fit in time for Budapest Marathon in late September.

M.E in Romania

I appealed to hear from M.E sufferers in Romania on Phoenix Rising and S4ME, after a while someone replied to my post.  It was the sister of a lady called Andreea who lived in a city called Iasi.  She suffers from severe M.E and I was extremely grateful to her and her sister for sharing her story.  I was able to introduce them to another Romanian with the illness a few weeks later which made me very happy, hopefully they can help each other somehow.

Click here to read Andreea's story.

Budapest Marathon

Gotta love the Danube

I managed to get around Budapest Marathon in one piece in a fairly cautious time of 4 hrs 43 mins.  It was a good temperature for running though got warm towards the end and came with fantastic views of the Danube pretty much throughout.  I was really pleased to get it done, I was genuinely relieved and hopeful I could recover in time for Bucharest Marathon 2 weeks later.

Click here for race report.

Booking no.25 - Rome, Italy.

Definitely one I'm looking forward to

I was very surprised to see Rome Marathon come back after 2 years of being cancelled.  It would appear that the council's issues with the organisers had finally been resolved so it was an easy decision to sign up.  The flight is from Bristol which is a massive bonus and it's a nice chance for Cat to see Rome for the first time.

2009 in Rome, great city, not so great result

The race starts at the iconic Collisseum and takes in a number of the sites there.  I've been once before with a friend over 10 years ago to watch Man Utd v Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League Final.  We were outplayed, attending the match was actually kind of scary but I enjoyed seeing all the sites.


2 weeks after Budapest Marathon I headed back to Luton airport to fly out to Romania.  Ben came along to run too and we finished the course in brilliant sunshine (27c) before heading out for a few beers.  It was a nice course and well organised, I got round in 4hrs 38 mins and without too much pain.

Ben Scott and I win our first race!

Race report here

Quick hi-5


I hit a big landmark just before Porto, £20K raised through the challenge for Invest In M.E's biomedical research projects.

Not far to go to hit my target of £26.2K (mirroring the 26.2 miles in a marathon).

M.E in Portugal

I was very fortunate to find 3 people to interview from Portugal, all with excellent English and also a Facebook support group who very supportive.

Beautiful Porto

Click here to read Andre, Elle and Ana's stories.

One of the people I connected with had a family contact at a prominent Portuguese sports website and was happy to feature my challenge on there which was great news.

Click here to view Amma Magazine article.


August 2013 on our honeymoon, it was 30C!

Croatia only seems to have one road marathon that I can find.  So a trip back to Zagreb was always on the cards for the last international race of the challenge.  I have been before when Cat and I stopped off for a night on our honeymoon towards the Croatian islands.  It seemed like a nice town, not an obvious tourist destination but we enjoyed the awesome roof of St Mark's Church and the old town.

Cool Runnings?

As you probably know by now, I struggle massively in races over 22C.  The challenge was always going to be tricky from that perspective as I live in a country in Northern Europe where there aren't many days to train in those kind of temperatures. When I read the advanced forecast for Porto and saw with joy that it was going to be 15C it was rather exciting.  Below explains why!

Prague - 15c - May 2015

Helsinki - 24c - Aug 2015

Dublin - 14c - Oct 2015
Thessaloniki - 19c - Apr 2016
Stockholm - 24c - June 2016
Gdansk - 27c - Aug 2016
Brussels - 15c - Oct 2016
Toulouse - 22c - Oct 2016
Barcelona - 22c - Mar 2017
Luxembourg - 33c - June 2017
Vilnius - 19c - Sept 2017
Amsterdam - 21c - Oct 2017
Ljubljana - 20c - Oct 2017
Malta - 22c - Feb 2018
Vienna - 29c - Apr 2018
Copenhagen - 23c - May 2018
Tallinn - 21c - Sept 2018
Sofia - 20c - Oct 2018
Paphos - 23c - Mar 2019
Bratislava - 20c - Apr 2019
Riga - 27c - May 2019
Budapest - 22c - Sept 2019
Bucharest - 26c - Oct 2019

Average - 22c

Pete Thompson 

In 2017 I enjoyed following the challenge undertaken by Pete Thompson from Dorset who ran a marathon in all 44 countries in Europe in 44 consecutive days.  He was kind enough to feature my challenge on his website and social media.  Cheers Pete!

That's a wrap for now, back soon where I will have finished Porto (no.24) and will be training for Rome Marathon.

Thanks for all your support, if you're feeling generous please leave a donation to M.E research for a cure to my fundraising page below.... 

Total Sponsorship Raised: £20,120
Social Media Followers: 2420
Miles Covered: 237
Average Temp: 19C
Lessons Learned: 3 marathons in 6 weekends on one working leg is possible, just.