Book Review: How Not to Run 100 Marathons by Nicholas Turner

Anyone following this blog will know that I like to run. Another clue is in the name of my blog. Amazingly enough though, despite all of the events that I’ve done, I’ve only completed one marathon on it’s own. I have run marathons as part of triathlons, and I have run a couple of ultra runs. If I include Ironman distance races and ultra runs I’m up to 11 marathons.

The book in this blog by Nicholas is definitely NOT a guide or a ‘how to’ manual. This is one man’s obsession with completing 100 marathons and along the way trying to drink himself to oblivion. Did I mention that I have a new Kindle (read about it here)? This book was available for a few days for free. Happy days.


Everything that could possibly go wrong does go wrong at some point for our ‘hero’, unfortunately most of the mistakes are self inflicted. Getting drunk the night before a marathon, losing race info, losing timing chip or race number, not knowing where the race starts and most importantly, not learning from these mistakes.

Nick seems to suffer from chaffed nipples. Most of us have at some point. Instead of ensuring he has vaseline or plasters, he just continues to run without protecting them, often finishing races with a blood soaked running vest. Another time saw Nick buying the cheapest running shoes from Sports Direct because he had lost all of his kit, and lost his debit card and only had a limited amount of cash. He also doesn’t understand pacing. He likes to go off as hard and as fast as possible and then try to hang on. This can work for a 5km and maybe for a 10km, but not a marathon and especially not when trying to complete the 152 mile Spartathon.

The stories in this book are varied and very funny, but I couldn’t help but think by the time he was running his 80th marathon that maybe, possibly, he could manage the night before without a skinful. I also enjoyed reading about his exploits all over the world, as his job takes him to Australia for a couple of years, along with Dubai. Despite all of this, Nick is actually a half decent runner, generally finishing top ten in the smaller races, and often well under 3 and a half hours. The 100 marathons also includes a smattering of ultra races for good measure.

A laugh out loud book albeit slightly frustrating. How good could Nick be with the right training? As I snagged this book for free I wasn’t expecting too much, but I was pleasantly surprised. Unfortunately is does also appear that the book is no longer available for your Kindle, which is a shame.

Book Review: Walking Home and Walking Away by Simon Armitage

Back in November me and my lovely wife went away for a week to the north east. One of the many highlights of the week was visiting Barter Books, the largest second hand bookshop in the UK (read about it here). Of the books that I picked up, one was by Simon Armitage (read about it here) and because I enjoyed it so much I picked up another of his; Walking Home, subtitled Travels with a troubadour on the Pennine Way.


Simon was brought up in the small town of Marsden, which is on the Pennine Way, and if you were walking from the south to the north, it is the first town you would come to after setting off. One funny story is how one man asked if he could camp in their garden and then sent a Christmas card every year for over 20 years.

The premise of Walking Home is quite simple. Walk the Pennine Way from north to south, finishing in his home town, but do it without spending money. He would rely on the goodwill of strangers for food and lodgings, as well as transporting his luggage each day, and in return he would perform a poetry reading, passing round a sock at the end for donations. As expected, Simon has a way with words, what with him being a poet, but what makes the journey more memorable is the mishaps on the way; getting lost, inclement weather, blisters etc. The Pennine Way also passes through an area I know quite well, from Keld to Malham. I always find it interesting to read about places that I know from another person’s viewpoint.

One of the high points of the book was when he stumbled upon a trail hound race, which is something that we also stumbled upon on a walk around Haweswater Reservoir (read about it here).

As Walking Home was such a great success, Simon wrote a sequel; Walking Away, subtitled Further travels with a troubadour on England’s south west coast path. He doesn’t walk the whole thing, ‘only’ the 265 miles from Minehead to Land’s End. Once again can a travelling poet survive on his poems alone. Many years ago I spent two weeks walking some of the south coast path. Not being walking fit I found if quite tough, especially as I didn’t have anyone to ferry my large and heavy rucksack each day, but I did stay in the town of St. Ives for two nights, which Simon also passes through.

If you enjoy travel books with a good dollop of humour then you’ll love both of these, and you don’t need to have read the first one to enjoy the second. Additionally, the only poems in the books are ones that he wrote on his walk, so don’t let that put you off.

There are plenty of walking books out there, but another book about the south west coast path that you should read is The Salt Path by Raynor Winn (read about it here).

Haweswater Reservoir

After our little day adventure around Ullswater (read about it here), me and my beautiful wife just knew we had to make the most of the last Sunday of the year, especially as Helen is back at work tomorrow. Where to this time? How about a walk from Mardale Head, the small carpark at the top end of Haweswater? It was proper windy, with fog and mist hiding the fells, so my wife suggested a ten mile walk around the whole reservoir.


Building of the Haweswater Reservoir was started in 1929, although the decision caused a public outcry because the farming villages of Measand and Mardale Green would be flooded and the valley altered forever. The Haweswater Hotel was built to replace the pub in the village (the Dun Bull Inn), the stones from the church were used in the damn and the bodies from the churchyard were moved to Shap. The reservoir now supplies about 25% of the North West’s water.

The path around the reservoir is also part of the famous Lakeland 100 mile route, as can be seen in the photo below.


We decided to go clockwise leaving the road section for when our legs and feet would be more tired. The path was good quality and our unruly Pointer was even allowed off the lead occasionally. She looks worried in the photo below, and I’m not trying to strangle her I promise.


There were plenty of other people walking on the north side of the reservoir, even though the path undulated the whole way round. We stopped for a snack once we had reached the damn end of the reservoir, although the path takes you quite a bit further as it’s not possible to walk across the damn.

Onto the road and a cyclist with his dog passed us mentioning that there was a fox hunt in one of the villages. On the road we started to see plenty of farm type 4x4s, along with people looking through binoculars. Helen being braver than me asked what they were looking at. It turns out that there was a trail hound race on the fells. Hound trailing is a race between hounds along an artificially laid scent trail. The hounds follow a man-laid scent, the scent trail being usually laid by dragging a piece of fabric, slightly soaked with a combination of aniseed and paraffin, along the course.

Trail hounds over a year old race in adult races, whilst those under 1 year of age race in puppy races. Adult races are approximately 10 miles (16 km) long and the hounds in the adult races typically take 30 minutes to finish. When racing, the hounds’ coats are closely shaved to prevent them from overheating during the race. Unlike in other forms of hunting, humans do not follow the hounds, instead the hounds conduct the course unassisted and spectators can observe parts of the race from vantage points through binoculars. Trail hounds are similar to fox hounds, but have been bred for strength, stamina and speed with other breeds mixed in, including Pointer.

Unfortunately we never got to see any of the hounds as we were too far away, but hopefully we’ll hunt out a race next summer. We’re both pretty sure that Nelly would have excelled in this sport when she was younger.

The road back to the carpark by this point felt never ending, so all three of us fell into the car, exhausted. It was a tough little walk, just over ten miles, but with a surprising amount of climbing. Another great day out with my beautiful wife Helen and our silly Pointer Nelly.

Ullswater Run

A couple of weeks ago a few friends had uploaded a run onto Strava which me and my beautiful wife thought looked brilliant. It involved catching the Ullswater Steamer from Pooley Bridge to Glenridding and then running back.

The day after Boxing day we grabbed our kit and Nelly, and headed off to the lakes. The Bridge in Pooley Bridge is currently being rebuilt after it was washed away during storm Desmond four years ago, but you can still cross the temporary bridge on foot.

There were a few of us waiting for the steamer that we chatted to, including a couple who were planning on walking back from Aira Force along the Ullswater Way.


Obligatory selfie on the steamer 🙂


It was a bit cold on deck, so after taking a few photos of Nelly we remained below deck until the boat arrived in Glenridding. Nelly wasn’t too sure what to make of the boat, and her nervousness was released in the form of a few sprout smelling pumps.


Off the boat and the first mile is flat along the road to Patterdale before crossing Goldrill Beck towards Side Farm. We camped at Side Farm almost four years ago, made memorable for how cold it was. From here to Howtown the trail undulates, with some good running sections and some very tricky sections where we walked.

At Howtown, one of the stops for the steamer, we followed the signs for the Ullswater Way. However, we opted to take the lower footpath which went through someone’s front garden, and a very nice front garden it was too. A couple of fields later and the signs ended, so we tramped up a hill to an abandoned cottage, shared a bar of chocolate, and continued along the more obvious trail.


A bit further on and the trail split, with one route heading up Barton Fell and the other going along the lakeside. The top of Barton Fell was covered in mist so we picked the low route, which dumped us onto the road. Fortunately the road on this side of the lake has very little traffic and after a mile we were on the lakeside footpath heading through a campsite and back into Pooley Bridge.


We were surprised during our run by how many people were also out walking. I’m guessing that Howtown back to Glenridding is very popular. Just as we were almost at our car we met the couple from the steamer returning from Aira Force. They looked fresher than we did.

Our route was just over 18km (11.4 miles), and while we didn’t push it, all three of us were tired when we returned to the car.


At some point next year we’re looking at running the Ullswater Way from Pooley Bridge to Aira Force on the northern side of the lake, catching the steamer to Howtown and then running back to Pooley Bridge over Barton Fell. There is also an organised walk around the lake using the whole of the Ullswater Way each year, which is about marathon distance. Alternatively you could take the steamer and follow our route, which I will be honest was an absolutely brilliant day out.

Christmas Day Parkrun

There’s nothing like a short run on Christmas morning before the day’s excesses begin, and for the last few years parkrun has been the obvious choice. The last three years me and my beautiful wife have done Lancaster parkrun, one year with Helen’s eldest son Tom joining us.


With the new parkrun in Morecambe, Lancaster parkrun decided to take a well earned year off. I’m guessing that the two local parkruns will alternate each Christmas. Helen had to work Christmas morning (cooking duties left to me) so it was just me Nelly and once again Tom who headed off to Morecambe Prom parkrun.

The atmosphere was brilliant and with over 300 people it made for a memorable little run, with lots of friends to greet. Me and Tom started off gently while Nelly tried to pull us along, gradually speeding up. We crossed the finish line in the top 100, sneaking under 23 minutes, while Nelly was third dog.

It’s amazing when you think about it, over 300 people turning up for a 5km run on Christmas morning in Morecambe, with thousands running all over the world. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we really love parkun.

Salisbury Parkrun

Three years ago my parents moved to Salisbury, and my beautiful wife and I (along with Nelly) have visited at least half a dozen times. Apparently Phil Harding, one of the archeologists from the TV program Time Team, hosted by Tony Robinson lives on the same street. I digress. All those times and I’ve only managed Salisbury parkrun twice, and Helen has never managed it. This was for a variety of reasons. One time we were off to London to see The Lion King musical, and most recently I was just getting over an illness and wasn’t in any way shape or form up to a parkrun.

This weekend though I was ready. It would also take my parkrun p-index up to three. The p-index is the number of parkruns that you’ve done p times. Salsibury would be the third parkrun that I’ve run three times.

Salisbury parkrun is held in Churchill Gardens, which isn’t a particularly large park. This means that in the summer there are three laps, and in the winter four laps, to stay on the paved areas. It’s also quite busy with on average 375 runners every week. With narrow paths if you want a quick time you have to push your way to the front. In the summer I managed to finish in 18th place in a time of 20:30, my fastest time this year.


Having been caught out once, I (we) always check the parkrun cancellations webpage the night before, and then again in the morning, just in case. Alas, Salisbury parkrun was one of dozens called off. The River Avon runs through Salisbury as well as the Nadder. With the heavy rain in the last week all of the flood plains upstream and downstream were full of water. One of these flood plains is adjacent to Churchill Gardens, with one path almost completely under water.


Salisbury parkrun is to the left on the photo above, but this section of the River Avon is usually narrow and quite tame. There used to be a dearth of parkruns where we live until just under four years ago when Lancaster parkrun started, and then last Easter Morecambe Prom parkrun started up. On occasions one or other has been cancelled, but it’s easy enough to get to the other. Salisbury is also in an area with very few parkruns, with the nearest being Moors Valley near Ringwood and Mountbatten School near Romsey, both 15 miles away (if the crow was to fly in a straight line). Without a car it was to be a weekend without a parkrun. Instead I went for a bit of a random run through the suburb of Laverstock before cutting along a cyclepath onto London Road and back to base. Not quite parkrun, but the next one is on Wednesday at Morecambe Prom. Say ‘hi’ if you see me.

Book Review: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Many years ago I would avidly read every book that Stephen King wrote, but after a few overlong books in need of a good editing, I stopped. It was a tad harsh on my part, because he is a great writer. Recently I blogged about The Outsider (read about it here) and how I had also picked up Doctor Sleep.


I finished Doctor Sleep a few weeks ago, but I was waiting to blog about it until we’d been to see the film version at the cinema. Dan Torrance, the young boy from The Shining, has grown up, he’s a drunk and a druggie, and hits rock bottom. In a small town he meets a man who has faith in him and turns him from around. He also starts communicating via writing on a blackboard with a young girl, Abra, who also has ‘the shining’.

In the midst of all this is Rose the Hat and her followers called the True Knot, an unusual bunch who all have different shining abilities. They are not a good bunch of people as they feed off people who have the shining, known to then as ‘steam’. Children have the best shining, and the more pain inflicted as they are murdered the better the ‘steam’ is. They discover Abra and it’s up to Dan to save her, and hopefully himself in the process.

It has been many years since I read The Shining and I’m always wary of sequels, but this follows on nicely and has just the right amount of intrigue and suspense, while the new characters fit in nicely.

Now onto the films. I wasn’t a big fan of film version of The Shining, mainly because Dan’s mentor, the chef from the Overlook Hotel, died in the film, but lived in the book. This creates a problem for the film of Doctor Sleep, which they nicely overcome. I won’t give too much away as you might want to watch the film or read the book. Another problem for the film is that Shelley Duvall is such an iconic actress, that whoever has to play her character is never going to look or feel like her. Ewan McGregor however, is absolutely fantastic as a grown up Dan. In the ending of the film Doctor Sleep they bring back Jack Torrance, and again no one can look or act like Jack Nicholson, and it actually feels wrong, as if the director is trying too hard to link back to the original film. In the end, the film did work well, although my beautiful wife left early as there was a particularly nasty scene where the True Knot killed a young boy. The film had a 15 rating, which I’m not sure about. The reviews have also been very mixed.

To recap, I really enjoyed the book, and the film was definitely better than expected.

City Strides Revisited

A few months ago I blogged about a Stava linked website called City Strides, which keeps track of how many roads and streets you have run in a particular city (read about it here). I thought it was now about time to revisit my blog and give you an update on my progress.

City Strides

The above photo is the same one from when I first started using the site. I had a look at my most recent Lancaster map, but it is very difficult to see any changes due to the scale. The size of the Lancaster ‘City’ according to the site was one of the issues that I flagged up first time round, along with how long it can sometimes take for new runs to be visible. Back in September I was in 2nd place for Lancaster with 15% of the streets run; I’m now up to 19% and in first place. However, the guy that was in first place with over 20% disappeared after a substantial software update. It turned out he had been temporarily relocated to a city in America. This also happened to a friend who I recommended the site to.

Each street is made up of ‘nodes’, which have to be large enough to register your GPS route from either side of the road. This however means that occasionally you register as completing a node when you haven’t. What can also happen is when there is a very short terraced road, of which there are many in the area, it can register as having been run when you’ve actually just run past either end of the road. One road that I thought I had completed but hadn’t was because there were two roads with the same name within Lancaster. That was just unlucky.

On my birthday near to the end of September I completed a sprint triathlon in Kendal. However the run section never appeared on the City Strides map for that area. Another issue is cities that aren’t included. My mother lives in Salisbury and I generally go for a run or two every time I visit, but Salisbury isn’t a city on City Strides. This isn’t the only missing city. On a recent holiday in the north east, nothing appeared for Alnmouth or Alnwick. The same happened in Belfast.

Overall then, what is my opinion of City Strides. I really like the concept, and it is a bit of fun running down roads that I’ve never run down before, even if you do look a bit odd running down deadends. There are a number of issues, and if I flagged up missing cities on the forum I’m sure they might be added in the future. I will keep on logging new roads, but it doesn’t really excite me as much as the maximum cluster feature on Veloviewer.

Book Review: Repairman Jack Mash-ups

It’s probably over 30 years since I read The Tomb by F. Paul Wilson, the first book in the Repairman Jack series, and I still look forward to each and every new book (read about them all here). A couple of weeks ago I reviewed the latest book, The Last Christmas (read about it here), where I mentioned that there was a character and an item that seemed to have been mentioned before. After some searching online I found the missing short story, along with another, both mash-ups, and ordered them (0.99p each) for my new Kindle (read about it here).

Whats a mash-up? A premise is quite simple. Two characters from different authors meet up in one story, they don’t get along to begin with, possibly have a fight where neither of them comes out on top, and then they are forced to team up to defeat a common enemy.

The idea might be simple, but in both of these stories it was great fun. First off is Fix, co-written by J.A. Konrath and Ann Voss Peterson (along with Paul Wilson), in which their character, Codename Chandler, finds herself in New York and bumps into Jack. The book is set a few years earlier than The Tomb, when Michael Bloomberg is still the mayor. I loved it and finished it in a couple of hours. In fact I enjoyed it so much that I ordered the first Codename Chandler book in the series for my Kindle (again only 0.99p).

The second short story featured the character Michael Quinn, created by Heather Graham, and much like the previous story, it’s a character that I had never heard of before. In this story Jack is tricked into going to New Orleans to find an object, which turns out to be one of the seven Infernals. Once again he is forced to work with the other character to save themselves from their mutual foe.

I loved both stories, but if you’re not a fan of any of the three characters featured, them these are probably not the place to start. As I said, I enjoyed Fix and have purchased the first Codename Chandler book, and I might just have a look at a Michael Quinn book.

Book Review: There is no map in hell by Steve Birkinshaw

What a book, and what a run! There is no map in hell describes Steve Birkinshaw’s epic attempt to run all 214 Wainwrights in the Lake District in as fast a time as possible. Starting and finishing at Moot Hall in Keswick, as is standard for a Bob Graham Round, however Steve’s route was over 300 miles.


The record for running all of the Wainwrights was set by the fell running legend that is Joss Naylor, who completed his route in 1986 in 169 hours (just over 7 days). Steve’s target was to complete the whole thing in under 7 days.

While the second half of the book covers the actual attempt, the first half is equally entertaining, with Steve’s upbringing and orienteering events as a child, before finding his true calling on the fells. Obviously Steve didn’t just decide one day to ‘have a go’, it took years of training, gradually increasing the distances, with the Bob Graham, Ramsay and Paddy Buckley Rounds, along with the famous Lakeland 100 and Dragon’s Back Race.

I look at some of those races and wonder if I could finish any of them. I don’t do enough fell running to be a natural, and as such I always struggle on the descents (unlike my beautiful wife who descends with absolute joy). Recently we also watched a couple of short films on Youtube about Nicky Spinks, another fell running legend, who managed a double Bob Graham Round in less than 48 hours. Simply astonishing, as was Steve’s Wainwright route.

This book is full of running, so it was a perfect read for me, and if you’re not a running, there is still a lot to be had, motivation, dedication, pain, blood, sweat and tears, as well as 214 Wainwrights.