251 Mountains – the Zen post.

You wait for a post then two come along at the same time. So much has happened since I last wrote that I didnโ€™t know where to start or what to write about to update this highly neglected blog site so I decided here to put down some ‘keeping it real’ thoughts after yesterday passing the 250 mountain mark and 25% completion of the Running the Summits challenge. If this post sounds a bit too touchy feely and you prefer your yang to your yin check out the alternativeย 251 Mountains – The Wahoo post ๐Ÿ‘Š

Right now, the Brecon Beacons are just outside the window. I canโ€™t see them, lost as they are to the clouds, curtains of rain drifting across my view of only the very lowest of the lower slopes. Even the sheep are huddled close into a tree sheltered corner. Itโ€™s the third consecutive day of unfathomably and distinctly eclectic weather – one of deep snow and teeth chattering wind chill, one of warmth and clear sunny skies and today, one of wet, claggy cloud and sheets of rain. I was well overdue in taking some time out to get caught up on those real life chores – refilling water supplies, doing laundry, scraping all the farmland muck off the campervan and responding to weeks of emails. Yet, still, early this morning I peeled on my slightly damp, offensively smelly running gear, eager to be out, hauling my (as yet still not athletically-toned) bum up a mountain or two. I think it has become a mantra.

It is said about the Camino de Santiago – a favourite long distance escape of mine – that there are three stages to the endeavour. Firstly the physical, as our body aches and suffers at the sudden increased demands put upon it until it miraculously adapts and grows stronger.

Free from the physical distractions the second stage is the emotional as our minds gradually move from doubt, fear and questioning to perspective and acceptance. Finally, the third stage is that of the spiritual where, only because we have passed through the first two stages and shed the unnecessary can we now fully experience a total awareness, immersion and gained sense of freedom. While specifically aimed at the experience of the Camino I strongly believe that any adventure, large or small can be a great metaphor for life with many lessons to be learned.

Zen and the Art of Adventurous Living?

Now, I still think my body has some considerable ongoing work at Stage one (as mentioned, I had been expecting to, at least slightly, resemble the streamlined physique of an athlete by this point) and trying to run uphill just doesnโ€™t seem to be getting any easier. To be fair both of these issues could be explained by cake.


Possibly the reason I do NOT look like a finely honed machine!?

But even with a lingering toe or two in stage one I do feel I have made some small progress to the great blue orb of enlightenment. I have indeed discovered that this, as all adventures in life, can best be described using that oft spouted clichรฉd saying ‘It’s been a journeyโ€™ (and is going to continue to be a journey for some considerable time as I still have 749 summits to run). But as well as dipping my toes, usually unintentionally, into bog, rivers, bog and more bog I also feel I have been dipping them into stages 2 and 3 and learning a thing or two. (just not how to avoid bog!). As in life, we do not move cleanly from one stage to the next but there is a blurring of the edges and knock backs when new challenges fall out of a cupboard and smack us in the head (also metaphorical – if I have grasped the correct use of the concept!?)


Patch – The Enlightened One

Super-enthused adventurer Anna McNuff wrote a wonderful poem (1) along a similar vein telling of a journey that begins doing battle with nature – setting out to conquer, before becoming beaten down by nature’s far superior and ambivalent….well, nature! Eventually, this traveller no longer passes through or against but travels with and in this natural environment. This is the journey I have been really hoping and expecting to make and I am already becoming familiar with the elements (literal and metaphorical).

On the 251st Mountain summit, I sat for a long while (as long as was possible before extremities started to go numb) fully absorbing the views, the solitude, the peace, the simplicity and vastness of the landscape around me, calm and happy to be right where I was, unencumbered by concerns or stresses. As the terrain and climatic challenges grow greater it is liberating to gradually become confident and at ease in your surroundings as you learn and use new found skills and understanding. There is still an awful lot to learn but hopefully I am becoming willing and humble enough to listen and appreciate all that the mountains have yet to teach.

On a literal note I am throwing in a reminder that my Mountain Joggist Extravaganza is also in hopes of raising a few well needed squidlies for the amazing volunteers of Mountain Rescue England & Wales, Mountain Rescue Search Dogs(the doggy rescuers formally known as Search and Rescue Dog Association England!) and Fix the Fells.

Please spare a pound to chuck in the bucket if you can HERE๐Ÿ˜ Thank You

It’s also really easy to donate by text too…. just text TOPS50 followed by an amount to 70070 . Thank Youโค

(1) PS. Anna McNuff’s poem is featured in the book Waymaking – an anthology of prose, poetry and artwork by women who are inspired by wild places, adventure and landscape.

Happy trails ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ‘ฃ๐Ÿพ

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251 Mountains – The “Wahoo” post

You wait soooo long for a new post, then two come along together! So much has happened since I last wrote that I didnโ€™t know where to start or what to write about to update this highly neglected blog site so I ended up with two posts – two sides of an adventure coin if you will – to fully celebrate passing the 250 mountain mark and 25% completion of the Running the Summits challenge. If too much wahoo’ing and air punching is not your bag check out 251 Mountains – The Zen post ๐ŸŒฑ- it also has cake๐Ÿ‘

Talking about bags there are now 251 in the proverbial summit bagging backpack. 749 mountains still seems like a very long way to go, and it is, but reaching another milestone is always a good time for a little pat on the back and check list run down –

  • Feet still attached? checkโœ”
  • Knees still operational? check’ishโœ”
  • Shoes still in one piece – gaffa tape assisted bandaging allowed? checkโœ”
  • Flapjack stores still brimming? checkโœ”…..hang on, might need to double check….back in a minute…๐Ÿฐ

Before this challenge grew into 1000 Mountains (i.e. after too much wine and chocolate was consumed in one sitting resulting in a state of falsely percieved super hero omnipotence sparking the ‘here’s a great idea’ moment!) it was set to be a challenge to run the mountains of England to prove to the doubters that ‘yes we do have mountains in England’! Using the initial criteria, that meant 180 Mountains. Sounded like a great adventure indeed. But then, after the aforementioned loss of absolute sense moment, it got A LOT BIGGER. Changing the criteria to include those lumpy places classified as Hewitts, Nuttalls, Marilyns and Wainwrights also doubled the number in England. If you want to ‘get your anorak on’ about how all these classifications work and the wonderfully lovely art of hill-bagging there’s a whole other post about it HERE (don’t forget to come back though๐Ÿ‘)

Still only part way through the English and Welsh Mountains there is still Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man’s single but lovely mountain yet to visit. Not to mention all the people who run, bike, hike, walk the dog, work and live in those majestic places yet to meet. I have already been lucky to meet so many extraordinary, kind and fascinating people simply because of my journey into the high places of Britain.

Physically so far, including my moment of madness ‘Virtual Everest’ by elevated treadmill and a brief ‘holiday’ to climb Mount Toubkal for New Years this challenge has had me climbing a vertical elevation gain of almost 70,000 metres , more than seven times the height of Everest,ย which makes it close to a miracle that my knees are even still attached to my body and haven’t fled in anger to a warmer, flatter place…….like Peterborough (if Peterborough was in southern Spain!)ย 

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Meeting inspiring everyday runners, adventurers, mountaineers and athletic legends

Tough at times, taking on this challenge has also given me a real “GET OUT OF BED“๐Ÿ“ฃ ๐Ÿ›Œ alarm every morning for those times when otherwise I probably would not have got up in the cold, pre dawn to spend the day in the pouring rain and wind squelching through boggy miles of bog drenched bog!…….and that’s a GOOD thing๐Ÿ˜, because those ‘type 2 fun’ days are some of the most memorable (though not always ‘wished to be repeated’) days.

Since I began this whole running adventure challenge shenanigans another world has opened up to me too which has resulted in me doing things I would never have imagined (aside from running, running up mountains and…..er, running!) . Meeting lots of adventurey folk like those above, being mesmerised by incredible stories of relative derring do, public speaking, writing for magazines, becoming nifty with crampons and ice axe ( there’s a whole dance routine video to prove it!), tasting 20 different flavours of flapjack, running with Joss Naylor for goodness sake! – all things I still can’t believe have happened. I can only share the notion to always be open to new opportunities….and GRAB THEM, because you never know where it might take you.

One of those ‘so glad I got out of bed early’ days!

I have also been lucky to meet and spend more time with some incredible Mountain Rescue Team members and witness Search Dogs trainees progress further through their training. They are now becoming so much more than adorably cute puppy faces as they advance through the various stages of training on their way to becoming qualified, registered Search Dogs fully skilled to work with their handlers to help the team save lives.

It’s always hard to find words to describe how amazing these teams are

Talking of which…. ( aha – you say- here we go) – although I have reached 25% of my mountain challenge target we are still a long way from reaching 25% of the fundraising target ( nearly 20% short as it happens – facepalm emoji!)

So if you have a few shiny coins rattling around in your winter coat lining/ down the back of the sofa/ car door cup holder/ you get the idea,

dig ’em out and sling’em int’ bucket RIGHT HERE – GO ON!, GIVE IT A CLICK๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ‘ You know you are epic!

It’s also really easy to donate by text too…. just text TOPS50 followed by an amount to 70070 . Thank Youโค

Happy trails๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ‘ฃ๐Ÿพ

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First 100 Mountains in the Bag!

After just 18 days officially in the hills traildog Patch and I reached the first milestone (or summitstone) of 100 ‘bagged’ Mountains.

Yes, before you ask, my knees were killing me but after 20 VERTiCAL KILOMETRES (OK, just 19.98 vertical km) it’s hardly surprising! This is shaping up to be quite the adventure which has led me already to meet some amazing new people, run with far more talented runners than myself, spend a day in the fells with a lakeland legend, learn new skills, hang out with super cool Mountain Rescue folk, play chew toy tug of war with Search Dogs in training and really push myself outside my comfort zone. Whew…..what’ll the next 900 bring? Certainly plenty of flapjack!

I have definitely discovered that this challenge will make the 3PeAksRun seem like an absolute stroll in the park. There are many British mountains that are popular ‘honeypot’ summits but it is eye opening just how many others are so rarely visited.

This presents a variety of daily challenges on pathless terrain testing my navigation skills and even on open access land the odd fence or wall that needs to be negotiated without upsetting any farmers or causing any damage ( getting over a dry stone wall is not to be encouraged or even condoned and requires extremely deft movement and yogi master level flexibility in order to avoid tilting a single stone out of place – don’t tell anyone that this ever happened because obviously it didn’t!) And then, don’t even get me started on PEAT HAGS and the good old moorland BOG – two of my particular favourites. On drier, rockier ground there have been some hair raising scrambles and tentative descents which have tested my nerve and the grip of my trail shoes to their sticky limit.

I was very lucky to spend many of those days during the long summer high pressures scooting around over Lake District ridges. Hot enough to invite refreshing river dips at the end of a sweaty run which was such a treat for someone generally a bit wussy about leaping into chilly UK waters! Exceptional views and the navigational confidence of clear skies and miles of perfect visibility made for a uniquely precious time on those fells, the memories of which I am sure I will be channelling many times through the coming late autumn clag and winter chill.

It’s been wonderful to meet other trail runners in their respective back yards to share some summits and pick up some local trail lore and there was that great Kinder ‘downfall’ when the hours we spent picking our way across the Kinder plateau in search of the highest point, Kinder Scout, resulted in a no less impressive but relatively irrelevant discovery of Crowden Head instead. Ooops!

One of the most memorable days didn’t even involve a mountain summit but a fast crossing of the Lake District from Wasdale Head to Brathay, just outside Ambleside with the very nimble fell running legend, Joss Naylor MBE. Joss was tackling a 30 mile run/walk to raise money for the Brathay Trust and many other runners were along to support him. Though no summits were visited on this outing the cumulative elevation for the day was equivalent to climbing three mountains. Joss’ strength, speed and agility over rough terrain and at 82 years of age was truly inspirational. He looks as young, fit and strong now as he did when he ran his 60 lakeland summits at 60 years of age twenty two years ago to the day. To quote his own words, the day was absolutely “magic”.

After 43 consecutive days back at work I suspect it will be quite a different scene when I get back in the hills next week.

The long days and dry trails will be gone and I expect far more of the runs will be shrouded in low cloud, with plentiful drizzle at best. But the advantage of spending so much time in the hills is the increased opportunity of being out in those fleeting yet superlative moments – cloud inversions , crisp frosty mornings and the first dusting of snow under an azure winter’s sky….very poetic.ย  So, packing my toasty gore tex trail shoes and fleecy buff….bring on the winter season!

Happy trails..๐Ÿ‘ฃ๐Ÿพ