Running America and Barefoot Britain

Running America by Jamie McDonald and Barefoot Britain by Anna McNuff are two books that will inspire you to push past your limits and chase your dreams. Both authors have previously written books that focus on their incredible journeys of endurance and perseverance and Running America and Barefoot Britain continue to showcase their remarkable feats of physical and mental strength.

Jamie McDonald’s previous book, Adventureman: Anyone Can be a Superhero (read my review here), chronicles his record-breaking run across Canada, where he ran 200 marathons in 275 days. This time, he takes on the challenge of running across the United States, from the west coast to the east coast. Running America is a raw and emotional account of his journey, from the gruelling physical demands to the mental and emotional toll it took on him. Jamie’s resilience and determination are truly inspiring, and his ability to stay positive and motivated despite the challenges he faced is a testament to his strength of character.

The last few chapters of the book are all about Jamie’s attempt on the 7-day treadmill world record. Jamie ran on a treadmill for seven days straight, covering a distance of 523 miles, breaking the previous record.

One of Anna McNuff’s previous books, Pants of Perspective: One Woman’s 3,000 Kilometer Running Adventure Through the Wilds of New Zealand, is a hilarious and heart-warming account of her journey running across New Zealand. In Barefoot Britain, Anna takes on the challenge of running the length of Great Britain, from the very top of Scotland to the very bottom of England, all while running barefoot and raising awareness for Girl Guides. This book is a beautifully written love letter to the United Kingdom, as Anna takes us on a journey through some of the country’s most stunning landscapes and introduces us to some of its most interesting and kind-hearted characters. Her wit and humour shine through in every page, and her descriptions of the challenges she faced are both honest and inspiring.

On top of all this, Jamie and Anna are a couple with two small children.

In Running America, Jamie faces numerous setbacks, from blisters, getting lost and sleep deprivation. He refuses to give up, and his unwavering positivity and gratitude for the support he receives from his team and from strangers he meets along the way are truly inspiring. His writing is both vulnerable and uplifting, and you can’t help but feel like you’re right there with him every step of the way.

Similarly, Anna’s writing in Barefoot Britain is so vivid and engaging that you feel like you’re running alongside her, feeling the grass between your toes and the wind in your hair, as well as the dangers of stepping in dog poo. She is refreshingly honest about the ups and downs of her journey; from the physical pain she experiences to the moments of doubt and fear that threaten to derail her.

In conclusion, Running America by Jamie McDonald and Barefoot Britain by Anna McNuff are two books that will leave you feeling inspired and uplifted. Both authors have previously written books that showcase their incredible journeys of endurance and perseverance, and these latest offerings are no exception. I gave both books five out of five.

City Strides Scotland

After an amazing week in Wigtown, walking and running all over the place, I was looking forward to analysing City Strides to see how many new streets I’d ticked off.

None. That’s how many new streets I ticked off. We had walked or ran in Newton Stewart, Whithorn, Portpatrick, Stranraer and of course most of Wigtown.

I zoomed in on the website and examined every town. Nothing. I followed the forum to a link which contained a spreadsheet for missing cities. There were dozens of missing towns in Scotland.

City Strides is a great Strava add on, and is the work of just one person. Hopefully, at some point in the future this beautiful area of Scotland will be recognised by City Strides.

Agnew Parkrun

Making the most of being on holiday by taking part in a tourist parkrun. The nearest event to Wigtown is Agnew parkrun in Stranraer, about 40 minutes drive away. And, because Scottish parkruns don’t start until 9.30, we didn’t need to set off too early.

Easy journey, found the free carpark, had a walk around and used the loos. Very pleasant little park with a miniature railway which was having new track being laid, a children’s play area and a small lake with a pirate ship on the island.

The course is three winding loops. Helen hadn’t run for a few weeks, so was taking it easy with old Nelly.

As we set off, four runners raced away from me. However, each lap I slowly reeled in two of them, managing to finish in 3rd place, over 4 minutes behind 1st and 2nd.

There was some confusion at the finish line as the volunteer handing out the barcodes didn’t seem to realise that he needed to hand out finishers barcodes. The barcode scanner was also confused about scanning both the finishing barcode and my barcode. I think it was sorted out a little later as the results were accurate.

Very pleasant and friendly event. Only 55 finishers, but they are hoping to attract 100 people for their 100th event in two weeks time.

Agnew parkrun was my 59th different event and my first one in Scotland. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area.

Heaton Park parkrun

Last week I ticked off my NENDY of Myrtle parkrun, which gave me a new NENDY of Heaton Park in Manchester. We needed some new garden furniture and the only sort we’d seen that we liked was only available at IKEA. Not my ideal day out, but it did mean that I could run at Heaton Park before battling IKEA hell.

I arrived at the very large car park nice and early, which allowed me time to take a few photos beforehand.

Apparently, Heaton Park is the largest park in the north west, covering an area of over 600 acres. The park includes Heaton Hall and a golf course. The whole park was sold to Manchester City Council in 1902.

It also has a disused tram line, as seen below.

I walked around and familiarised myself with where the start/finish was, as well as café corner and a large adventure play area.

I have no idea what this huge edifice is. For all I know it could be a disguised water tower.

Back at the start and I attended to tourist and new comers briefing. The course involved a small lap to begin with and then a larger lap. Not too difficult. The paths were nice and wide, and even though it was busy, there was plenty of room. The Manchester marathon was taking part the next day, hence why it was busier than usual.

I set off with the 22 minute pacer, but soon left him behind as I chased a man pushing a baby jogger, complete with small child, probably his.

There was one climb on each lap, nicknamed Angina Hill. It wasn’t as bad as the hill at Myrtle or at Lancaster. The route went past the front of the Hall before winding around on end of the golf course. It was then downhill all the way back to the lake.

I was incredibly pleased with my finishing time of 21:09, especially as I didn’t feel as if I was pushing it as hard as the previous week. I finished in 37th position overall, 25th male and 3rd in my age-group, out of a field of 768 finishers. I’m fairly sure that the only larger parkrun that I’ve done would be a trip to Bushy Park. It turned out that it was the fifth largest UK parkrun that week. My new 5k App (read about it here) also told me that I progressed three different challenges, Cowell Club, Freyne Club and Date Bingo.

My new NENDY is now Croxteth Hall parkrun on the outskirts of Liverpool.

As a bonus, the new garden furniture looks amazing. We now need a matching table!

Garmin Expeditions

I like challenges. I like Strava challenges and I like the ones contained within Garmin Connect. Very recently, Garmin have added Expeditions to their challenges. Each one is worth a different number of points, from one up to eight, depending on how tough the expedition is to complete. There are two types, hiking and climbing, both can be completed walking/hiking or running. No cycling ones yet.

So far I have managed to complete four of the shortest hiking challenges, but I am only 24% of the way through my first climbing challenge. However, I joined one of the tougher challenges with almost 7,000m of ascent required.

To note, you can only do two challenges at the same time, one hiking and one climbing. If you end a challenge before completing it, you lose everything you’ve done so far. However, if you complete a challenge and then start a new one the same day, anything that you’ve already done that day gets added to the new challenge, hence why I’ve managed to complete a few of the shorter ones so quickly.

Have you started any of the Garmin Expedition Challenges?

Fulham Palace Parkrun

Last weekend me and my lovely wife went to London for the weekend. It was Helen’s birthday so we went to the Royal Albert Hall to see the Cirque Du Soleil. Brilliant it was too. As we were in London for a weekend, it seemed a shame not to do a tourist parkrun.

Therein lies a problem. We were staying near to the Royal Albert Hall, and there are no parkruns in the centre of London. There are plenty of parks large enough for a parkrun, but they are all owned and run by The Royal Parks charity, who for some reason don’t like parkruns. Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Green Park, St James’s Park and Regent’s Park could all easily accommodate a parkrun, but they don’t. Maybe it would take an edict from King Charles. I should write to him.

Anyway, the closest parkrun to where we were staying was Fulham Palace, just over three miles away. Sensibly, Helen opted not to come with me, seeing as were going to walking around the V & A museum later. I created a route on my Garmin and found the park without any trouble. Fulham Palace park is a narrow park sandwiched between the River Thames and a large allotment site. The run consists of three and a bit laps on fairly narrow paths.

I lined up in the appropriate box and we were off. As expected, I spent most of the first lap overtaking people who had started way too close to the front for the speed they were running at. Also, I had to dodge a number of runners who were not doing parkrun but had decided to run the route in the opposite direction. I’ve never come across that before.

Anyway, three and a bit laps later I crossed the finish line in a time of 22:13. I was 78th overall and 2nd in my age group. There were also 443 finishers, which for a small park is quite amazing. Another reason why it would be great if the Royal Parks allowed parkrun. After barcode scanning I ran the same route back for a total of ten miles and my longest run so far this year. It was good training as I’ve entered a half marathon in May. I had a quick shower and we headed out to forage for breakfast and to spend a very enjoyable couple of hours in the V & A.

This was my second parkrun in the big smoke, and it was fun, friendly and very well organised. A big thank you to all of the volunteers. Sorry about the lack of photos, I didn’t have a pocket large enough to take my phone with me to parkrun, and I can’t see anything online from last weekend. Instead, there is a photo from the entrance hall inside the V & A.

Crosby Parkrun

The last two months have been a bit hit and miss with parkrun. Me and my lovely wife did Stretford parkrun in early January and then I missed three weeks. One of those weeks was due to icy conditions at both Morecambe and Lancaster, and then we both came down with Covid. As a result, once I was feeling up to running again, I’ve stayed local.

However, yesterday I feeling in the mood for a tourist parkrun, and as my Nearest Event Not Done Yet (NENDY) was Crosby, that was where I went.

As always, I set off far too early, but it did mean that I managed to nab a parking spot in the busy little car park. I also went for a short run along the prom. I should have taken more photos as Crosby is the location of the Anthony Gormley sculpture piece entitled “Another Place”. The installation consists of 100 life size cast iron figures, based on the artists own body. Each sculpture weighs 650 kg. They are dotted across the whole beach and draw tourists to see them from all over the country/world.

Back to the parkrun, and with ten minutes before the start there still didn’t appear to be anyone around. I then spotted a man walking onto the beach carrying a “start” sign. I followed him. Within a few more minutes dozens more people arrived.

The course started on the beach, with a couple of the iron figures donning hi-vis vests. The beach section of the run was a little slower, even though the sand was firm, there were still ripples from the tides and a short section in deep sand as the route climbed onto the prom. Roughly, the run was one mile on the beach, one mile on the prom and one mile along the grassy bank which divides the sea from the town.

I tried not to push too hard, but surprised myself to finish in 13th place overall and 2nd in my age group.

I hadn’t known that the iron figures were located on the beach at Crosby, and if I had known, I would have insisted that Helen came with me, as well as our silly pooch, who even at the grand old age of 12, still loves to run up and down a beach.

Definitely a parkrun I would recommend.

Undead Ultra by Camille Picott

What could be better than a series of books about running and zombies. Obviously, the zombies don’t do the running, unlike in the George Romero remake where they did. Everyone knows that zombies can’t run!

There are four books in the main series, with a short prequel with different characters, although the main character is still an ultra runner. The prequel is similar to the start of the main series, in that an ultra runner is out on a long training run when he comes across zombies. He only survives because he’s a runner. The he bumps into a father and son out hunting, who are not runners, but between them they make it back to safety.

The main series starts off with Kate and her best friend Frederico out on a long run, when all hell breaks loose. Zombies are attacking people. Can you believe it, real zombies. Kate’s only thought is trying to get to her son at college 200 miles away. The zombies are blind but have really good hearing, which means driving is out of the question. The roads are also littered with car crashes and zombies. The pair of them start running, and on their route they meet a deranged drug kingpin, who uses zombies for protection. They also meet a soldier who lost his whole platoon, as well as hundreds of zombies.

The second book is all about setting up camp with Kate’s son and his friends at their college. However, there are rogue soldiers and a group of bloodthirsty students, along with hundreds of zombies. There isn’t very much running in book 2.

Books 3 and 4 involve lots of running, and lots of zombies, as Kate and her son’s friends try to rescue a camp which has been taken over by the same drug kingpin that we met in book 1. We’re also introduced to Alpha zombies who can communicate and lead hundreds of regular zombies.

Overall I gave the books either three or four stars, although they are definitely a niche series. If you don’t like books about zombies or running, then you won’t like this series. If you like zombie books, but not running, you’ll probably like this addition to the genre. However, if you enjoy books about ultra running, but don’t like zombies, then this series isn’t for you, even though the ultra running descriptions are fairly accurate. I would hazard a guess that Camille Picott is an ultra runner, or is very good friends with people who are.

The Slummer by Geoffrey Simpson

I am a sucker for a good dystopian futures book, and if it was combined with running, then even better. This is in essence what The Slummer is all about; a dystopian future where the main character likes to run. My lovely wife also knows my taste in books, which is why this was such a good Christmas present from her.

The book is set in 2083, and Benjamin, the main character, lives in one of the slums, hence the name Slummer. Anyone who lives in one of the slums is considered to be less than human and aren’t even allowed to vote. They are shunned by the rest of society, even though they make up a considerably percentage of the population.

Benjamin and his father and brother work in the local steel mill for slave wages. They currently have a flat, but their precarious existence means that they could lose it at any moment and end up in tent city, where only the strongest survive. Benjamin likes to run, much to the annoyance of his family as they feel it brings unwanted attention. Benjamin’s girlfriend also likes to run, and when a local five-mile race opens their entries to Slummers, they both sign up. Benjamin wins, even though he’s up against better trained athletes and runners who have had their genes altered at conception to make them better runners. A little later in the story, Benjamin meets an old man who also lives in the slums who used to be a coach, and between them they set up an audacious plan for Benjamin to race at the National 10,000m championship.

I gave this book four stars, and I very nearly gave it five, but the ending sort of petered out and I wasn’t sure about how people knew that they were Slummers, apart from if they were wearing old and tattered clothing. A couple of times in the book it is inferred that it is because they have brown skin, but this isn’t explored further. Are the slums a futuristic apartheid based on race, or is there more to it, because this premise changes the nature of the book. Additionally, if the slums are based solely on skin colour, then by the year 2083 the slums would consist of half of the population, based upon current trends.

Despite this, there are some really good descriptive passages all about running and training, including “Quarters Till Death”, which is the sub-heading of the book. This is basically the legendary Zatopek’s training regime, where you run 400m as many times as possible until you can’t run anymore.

Overall a good book, but possibly one for running fans.

49 Parkruns

My final tally of parkruns for 2022 was an amazing 49. One shy of the magical 50, but I’m happy. I ran my home parkrun of Lancaster 20 times, including three times over Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I also ran 23 parkruns that were new to me, along with Morecambe five times and Fleetwood once.

I missed one parkrun in August due to a small niggle, and then missed the following week as I was competing at the Triathlon Team Relays with the City of Lancaster Triathlon Club. In December I missed one parkrun again because of an injury, and then Lancaster and Morecambe parkruns were cancelled on the two following Saturdays due to snow and ice.

I’m not sure what 2023 will bring. I’m not going to set a target, either time or number of runs. Instead, I’m simply going to try and run when I can, preferably with my lovely wife.