Saturday, 24 September 2016

The man with no face!

I was wrapped in a double sleeping bag and just inches from the fire pit. I'd removed the top layer of the soaked and sweaty Morphsuit and kit and replaced it with a dry t shirt and my Team Bear fleece. I had my woolly hat on and hood up and I was completely wrapped in the the sleeping bag. I was sweating profusely but it was a cold dithery sweat. I could feel the heat from the fire pit but I couldn't get warm. I could hear voices around me. I thought I was talking but apparently I was just muttering in a half sleep state. Mich was concerned. She was making sure I was OK. She had seen in me at the end of 7 that things weren't right. I'd asked Ken to sign me off the course as he went out on a lap at 12:30am. My body had given up and whilst in my mind I knew that my race was over I instinctively had my feet raised. It relieved the pain in my ankles and it helped a little with the stomach cramps which were thick and fast. Realistically the #AllOrNothing challenge had failed by lap 5 bringing on a miserable mental state. I had done 5 and 6 but a bout of the shits on lap 7 and subsequent illness and failure to control my temperature (somewhere I had been in 2014) meant that my race was done. Drifting in and out of a half sleep, hearing conversations around me, dithering uncontrollably, I wrestled with my conscience. I hated myself and was overcome with the disappointment of letting everybody down. On the road to redemption, to becoming a better man this was a massive low. I curled up, hoped for sleep and a quick end to the remainder of the event.

It had started quite brightly some 12 hours earlier. The rain stopped just before kick off and after 12hrs sleep in The Dann's caravan I felt weirdly rested after so little sleep in the build up. I had dreaded putting the Morphsuit back on. First time since the Marathon Morph Tour 7 in 7. It was on, foot felt OK and everyone was being lovely at the briefing and as we waited for the start. Under the circumstances I had as good a chance as I was gonna have of running 100 miles. I knew I couldn't but I was prepared to give it everything over 24 hrs to try.

Mich was buzzing for the first lap in her team. She gave me a hug and a kiss before she moved into a faster start position. A squeeze of my hand as she went confirmed the belief, often blind belief, that she has in me. A belief I will probably never understand but always appreciate. Nick was gonna run with me, his first solo attempt, as I was to be his Morph Bitch according to his 'I'm with Sid' T shirt. A brief message from my mate Adrian O'Brien delivered by fellow soloist Iain Hindes brought a smile to my face, Jason grabbed a pic and wished me all the best and a hug off my old school pal Liz Roberts and we entered the start. Liz was in a team and as we agreed to run the first lap together the hooter went and the three of us set off at soloist 100 mile pace......slow!

Starting from the back is cool because you have time to get Pirate hugs, Outlaw hugs, Poppyfields hugs, Bear hugs, Equinox hugs, Ironman hugs and many more besides. Loads of people wished me well as we moved off. I can't see who it was but I will always give a thumbs up or say thank you as the support is hugely appreciated. Liz was running well as was Nick. Both commented on the level of support I was receiving and it was immense and humbling.

So lap one went well. A great catch up with Liz for the first half and then me and Nick settled into a rhythm for the second half. I don't remember too much about it but with an end of lap snack break we did 1hr 22mins. In the great scheme of things this was a perfect pace. Lap two went the same way also at 1hr 22mins with lap 3 & 4 slightly slower at 1hr 31mins and 1hr 38mins respectively. Every lap had been fun. Catching up with mates who stopped to say hello, encouraging other runners, getting hi 5's from supporters and runners, milking the fantastic support and encouragement both on course and round the field. Wilko was at his sledging best although this year I was up for the verbal joust with a smile. His much better half has been running long and passed me a couple of times with her crew and was making it look easy. Kirsty, last years winner, was metronome like in her constant progress and she always seemed cheerful. She was based opposite the Team Poppyfields camp and her other half was providing Harmonica support. Stewart Sale and Dutchy were smashing my arms with hi 5's and both seemed to be going really well. Colin Walker looked strong and Gary House was his usual rapid self. Solo Steve, Jason Clarke, Mel Glover, Chris Eyre, Billy and Lena, The Pirates, The Poppyfielders, the running clubs all whizzed by at various times and all found the time to encourage me or acknowledge my encouragement of them. I've said it every year that this event is special. Its special for many reasons but particularly because of the generosity of spirit of the fellow runners.

Things then began to get a bit shitty. During lap 5 I slowed. I felt weak and tired. Nick was still bouncing and by this stage, after nagging everyone every lap, he was now getting cheers of 'Go on Nick', rather than hearing 'Go on Sid.......oh and Sid's mate'. As my spirit weakened I felt I was holding Nick back, slowing him down. I don't like that feeling and it weighed on me. It was the first lap I walked sections other than 'That Hill', 'Not That Hill' and the slope at the start of 'The Shitty Bit'. The lap time was reflective of my mood at 2hrs 1min! The biggest hit on this lap was the realisation that 100 was out of reach. It may never have been a realistic possibility but I have seen people achieve awesome things, I've often surprised myself, so up until this point I thought I could.

I don't really remember 6. It was the first night lap so I was in the night Morphsuit and had the head torch on. We had picked up the pace a little with 1hr 52mins but I think my mood had only worsened. I suggested to Nick a couple of times that he crack on and I would catch him up later but he was having none of that.

Lap 7 was where the wheels came off. As we reached the peak of the ridge on 'The Shitty Bit' I suddenly suffered stabbing stomach cramps. The type that if they hit you at home you jump straight on the bog and grit your teeth. Problem was I was in a white Morphsuit in a muddy field with runners whizzing by. I fought off the first bout but the second were too much. Team Poppyfields very own Neal Thacker took off his t shirt and ripped a few 'sheets' off. Nick and Jarvey stood guard as i went to join the Bears in the woods. Yes they do and yes I did. All I will say is that it was the most painful, thigh shredding squat I have ever endured. I shuffled the remaining 8km of the lap but my stomach was in bits and my temperature had dropped leaving me dithering and with chattery teeth!

It was a massive relief to get back to base at the bottom of the start/finish straight. Mich, Ellie and George were waiting for me. I gave Mich the look that says 'I'm done'. She looked concerned and after a few minutes the dithering had become uncontrollable and the urge to curl up was overwhelming. I don't even remember talking to Nick who had stuck with me throughout. I was selfishly looking after myself as us solo's have to but I was also losing the ability to think straight and keep things together. The failure of the #AllOrNothing challenge was all consuming. I think, at this point, I knew it was over, that I had failed, but I told everyone I was going to warm up and crack on later. My last shot of bravado.

Definition of fail: verb (used without object) 1. to fall short of success or achievement in something expected, attempted, desired, or approved:

That's where this blog began. Mentally and physically I was beaten. As I drifted off, Ellie and her mates voices and the crackle of the fire pit peppering the silence around camp, I'd accepted that this Equinox was not to be.

I was off course for 3 hours. It took that long for the cramps to stop and the body to warm up. I became aware of the world around me about 2:45am. Ellie and her mates still there. John Young waiting to go out on a lap. Mich had gone out on hers leaving Ellie to keep an eye on me. It took a little while to gather myself but the draw of #onemorelap was too great to not get one more done. I didn't know how it would go, whether I could complete it but I didn't feel at the point where i couldn't try. My legs felt surprisingly OK as I stood up. I got some layers on, Ellie made sure I was OK, I went back into the Morphsuit and set off for #onemorelap. As I passed the start/finish line I nipped into HQ to sign back on the course. Johnny stopped to check i was OK. I confirmed I was, explained what had happened but that I had warmed up sufficiently. I told him I was doing #onemorelap and off I went......running.

So this was lap 8 after a 5hr 29mins lap 7! This lap was mainly on my own. The course seemed quiet apart from every fresh relay runner whizzing by. I felt good physically. I ran more and better than I had for a while. Mentally I was trying to get it together. Trying to work out if I had time to beat last years 12? I realised that by doing this I was accepting that this wasn't the #onemorelap that would see me finish. This was #onemorelap along the way of however many it may be in 24 hours. The moon was full and bright, company was fleeting but a boost. The mind was getting together with tricks becoming less and less although on this lap, twice, my mind tricked me into believing I had company only for it to be that I was completely alone with no one around me. Twice someone was with me.

It was a surprisingly good 1hr 47mins lap. I don't remember getting back to base but I think the next lap was with Jarvey and Neal. I know this because i have seen the pic. Sun came up during this lap which meant for half the lap I could actually see the course and damn its pretty. I cant see it in the day because of the Morphsuit and i can't see it at night because its dark but as the sun rises and I finish the last lap in the night Morphsuit I get to see the course. It was a 2hr 22mins lap primarily due to changing out of the night Morphsuit and into the final Morphsuit to finish. I had seen Nick on Lap 8 I think. He was still charging along with his better half, Georgina. He had finished after 3 laps from when we split. He had nailed 10 and called it a day. I tip toed into their caravan to change suits. Wet one off, dry one on after a fresh smearing of Bepanthen. Georgina wished me luck....Nick was dead to the world.

Lap 10 with time running out. Bumped into Duane Roberts who ran the lap with me and Neil. Duane is a proper runner. By that I mean a T184 55hr third place finisher type runner. He learns every time he runs and his recount of T184 was a great distraction. He knew everybody running at Equinox having done the event last year and being all over the ultra running scene. Managed a 1hr 42mins lap, my fastest since lap 4! Where the strength was coming from I have no idea. The only real niggle was pain at the bottom of my shins just above the foot. I can only describe it as similar to when, as a kid, we had jagged metal pedals on a BMX and as your foot slipped off the pedal span round and smacked the shin. Remember that? Like being hit with a metal pole on the shin.

The time of day meant that the best i could hope for was 12 laps. Unless I ran a couple of laps at sub 1hr 20mins pace I wouldn't finish lap 12 before midday to start lap 13. I weirdly enjoyed the last two laps. I Hi 5'd anyone who would accept it. Veering left and right on the course to get to competitors and spectators. Adult Hi 5's give free power. A kiddie Hi 5 gives double. Kids on the right and left of the start/finish straight were there throughout the morning. Tumble Dryer mans nipper fist pumped me as i past. Hi 5's from the saucepan of sweets kids at the top of the straight, Poppyfields kids including my two were always encouraging me on. If there is any knock on effect to what we do I would like to think that the kids at Equinox come away inspired to do whatever it is they want to do. They inspire me throughout.

The veering added a few miles and slowed me down as Neil pointed out who kept with me for the last couple of laps. He blames me for inspiring him to start running in May and to be tackling his first half next month. I'll happily plead guilty to that. The last two laps both being 2hrs 8mins but they included time with Jordan Keeling with his full Bergan and kit, Phillip Box and his tumble dryer, Billy and Lena both smashing 100 miles and several Pirates including soloists Emma and Matt. Kirsty whizzed by on the way to the win with 18 laps, Emma to second and Lena to third. Billy finished 4th with Gary House winning. Solo Steve and I spoke at the water station on his 16th lap. He had time to do 17 but he was happy with his 16 for this year and was calling it a day.

I'd not seen Stewart and Dutchy for ages. Mich told me that they'd succumbed to injury. Both are massive inspirations to me and both will be back I'm sure to right this wrong.

My day finished not at 12am when my body and mind had given up. Heart kept me going until 1pm and 12 completed laps. #onemorelap turned into 5 more laps. Johnny and his crew have a habit of being key to us pushing our boundaries and reaching deep when it seems all is lost.

The event is special. It gets bigger every year but it remains personal, friendly, supportive and inspirational. That's due to all of you, everyone there, supporters shouting 'Sid' from the middle of nowhere, people coming along to run, Belinda and her pig tails for Poppyfields, support crews, organisers, marshals, food stalls, the guys in the buggy telling me to get a wriggle on, Glenn and his team of photographers, Johnny and Laura and their team, fellow runners - all of you, and the kids cheering on the Man with No Face. I'm lucky to be surrounded by inspiration and support daily. Mich shows me love and strength beyond my dreams. Equinox is horrifically, brutally brilliant. It will cause you to dredge your soul and weirdly you'll love it. It is as awesome a 24 hrs as you can imagine.

I may have failed the #AllOrNothing challenge but I didn't fail Equinox! The Morph will be back next year. There are 100 miles with Sid written on them!

Thank you. Sincerely thank you.

Saturday, 6 August 2016


In Body?
A bit. Plantar fasciitis in my left foot has resulted in my 11 week plan in preparation for Equinox become a 6 week plan. Instead of running 65 miles this week I have run once. 2 miles. It didn't hurt during the run but it did after. I've no option now other than to ignore it and train through it. Resting is toss and hasn't worked. New trainers from the big bear himself of Team Bear are a much better fit and will hopefully help to overcome the problem.

There is another spanner in the works. I have yet to get myself a new full time job. Instead I have two manual part time jobs and a claims consultancy role. This is proving difficult to balance a 3am - 8am shift, a 9am - 5pm shift and constant claims service. I will adjust to the shifts but I cannot see where I will fit in any meaningful training. There is also an issue of tiredness!

The Equinox plan is #AllOrNothing. In essence I only get sponsored if I run 100 morph miles at Equinox. At this stage and from a base of 2 miles with only 6 weeks to go, I would say that your money is, sadly, safe. You can make a sponsorship pledge if you want. You don't have to pay anything at this stage. You only part with your cash if I hit 100 miles.

In Spirit?
A bit. I previously alluded to how the initial positivity, the 'chase your dreams' attitude post redundancy slowly ebbs away the longer it takes to find a job. Each 'thank you but no thank you' takes its toll. Each failed interview increases the self doubt. Its a kick in the nuts when jobs you can do standing on your head you don't get an interview for and its a spirit breaker when you interview for your ideal job and fuck it up! I've no problem with hard work or physical work or unsociable working hours. The stress is financial. How do you pay the bills? How can you provide? What happens if you can't? Why should your family suffer due to your own failings? The mental stress far outweighs the physical.

In heart?
I no longer know. I don't give up. I'm still trying to get things sorted while doing whatever it takes to keep things together. There is an element of self loathing and with that comes an element of withdrawal. Fortunately I have great people around me and no lack of support and help.

Broken? Not yet. Able to run 100 miles? No way! Ready to give up? No!

Monday, 4 July 2016


It's dawned on me that I have 11 weeks to get run fit enough to run 100 miles in 24 hours! I've run a couple of times a week during the 8 weeks or so since Marathon Morph Tour and nothing over 5/6 miles or so.

Stupidly (and true to form) I have gone public with the All Or Nothing plan. The idea is that you pledge a sponsorship amount that you consider worthy in the event I top 100 miles at Equinox in a Morphsuit. If I top 100 miles at Equinox you sponsor me the amount of your pledge. If I fall short then you don't sponsor me. Its #AllOrNothing.

To give you an indication of your risk keep in mind I managed 62 miles in 2014 and 75 in 2015. Those 25 miles shortfall are a massive improvement to make!
Having a plan is a start and something I should have had up and running 8 weeks ago but I've been a little distracted with trying to reverse my unemployment situation. I hoped today would be the day Birmingham Children's Hospital employed me as a Regional Fundraiser however, sadly, it wasn't to be. I am still not considered economically viable.

I am currently leaning heavily on Michelle who inspires me daily. She has just completed a 276 day runstreak which only ended through injury. Her strength to do this is pretty phenomenal. I've attempted a runstreak 3 times. Never got past 27 days!

Thank you to Martin Hookway for the basis of a plan which I have adapted to my needs. My next 11 weeks look something like this:


Week One
Monday: Run 10 However
Tuesday: Run 3 Fast
Wednesday: Bike
Thursday: Run 6 Normal 4 Equinox pace
Friday: Run 3 Equinox pace + Bike
Saturday: Run 6 Normal
Sunday: Run 10 Equinox pace

Week Two
Monday: Run 6 Normal 4 Fast
Tuesday: Run 4 Fast
Wednesday: Bike
Thursday: Run 6 Normal 6 Equinox pace
Friday: Run 3 Normal + Bike
Saturday: Run 6 Normal
Sunday: Run 12 Equinox pace

Week Three
Monday: Run 6 Normal 4 Fast
Tuesday: Run 5 Fast
Wednesday: Bike
Thursday: Run 8 Normal 6 Equinox pace
Friday: Run 5 Normal
Saturday: Run 8 Normal
Sunday: Run 15 Equinox pace

Week Four
Monday: Run 3
Tuesday: Bike
Wednesday: Run 10 Equinox pace
Thursday: Run 5 Normal
Friday: Run 5 Equinox pace
Saturday: Run 7 Normal
Sunday: Bike

Week Five
Monday: Run 8 Normal 4 Fast
Tuesday: Run 5 Normal
Wednesday: Bike
Thursday: Run 10 Equinox pace 6 Normal
Friday: Run 6 Normal
Saturday: Run 10 Normal
Sunday: Run 15 Equinox pace

Week Six
Monday: Run 5 Normal 5 Fast
Tuesday: Run 10 Normal
Wednesday: Run 3 Normal + Bike
Thursday: Run 10 Equinox pace
Friday: Run 4 Normal + Bike
Saturday: Run 15 Normal
Sunday: Run 18 Equinox pace

Week Seven
Monday: Run 3
Tuesday: Bike
Wednesday: Run 10 Equinox pace
Thursday: Run 5 Normal
Friday: Run 5 Equinox pace
Saturday: Run 7 Normal
Sunday: Bike

Week Eight
Monday: Run 5 Normal 5 Fast
Tuesday: Run 10 Normal
Wednesday: Run 3 Normal + Bike
Thursday: Run 10 Equinox pace
Friday: Run 4 Normal + Bike
Saturday: Run 15 Normal
Sunday: Run 18 Equinox pace

Week Nine
Monday: Run 5 Normal 5 Fast
Tuesday: Run 10 Normal
Wednesday: Run 3 Normal + Bike
Thursday: Run 10 Equinox pace
Friday: Run 4 Normal + Bike
Saturday: Run 15 Normal
Sunday: Run 18 Equinox pace

Week Ten
Monday: Run 3
Tuesday: Bike
Wednesday: Run 10 Equinox pace
Thursday: Run 5 Normal
Friday: Run 5 Equinox pace
Saturday: Run 7 Normal
Sunday: Bike

Week Eleven
Monday: Run 6 Normal
Tuesday: Bike
Wednesday: Run 5 Equinox pace
Thursday: Bike
Friday: Run 3 Normal
Saturday: EQUINOX

Thank you for all the support, patience and assistance recently. Please stick with me folks as the only guarantee is that there will be ups and downs, moody swings, current low and hopeful highs.

I will give it my all #EquinoxMorph #100miles #AllOrNothing for Birmingham Children's Hospital.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

It Stung A Bit

The concept was to run 7 marathons in 7 days in a Morphsuit in various locations across the country.

The opportunity was born out of an enforced time advantage after I was made redundant.

The aim was to raise some money for Birmingham Children's Hospital.

The hope was to hit £2000.

The preparation was 20 days.

The vision was of tough days but that tough can always be pushed through.

The reality? Well the reality was an awesome week of peoples kindness of heart, generosity of spirit and iron will to help make a difference.

I was going to blog about each marathon. How day one went surprisingly well and how much I enjoyed popping Bear's stand alone marathon cherry on the harsh exposed concrete surrounds of the Humber Bridge, meeting new people and my very own HOTH.

The joy I felt on the morning of day two when my legs could support my weight when I got out of bed and even propel me in a forward motion. The slightly overwhelming feeling of running with proper actual runners, 1500+ runstreaker, top drawer Ironman lady folk and being supported by a mate who was determined to ride as much of it with me as he could and who's little girl, Moo, supported me in the rain at Outlaw helping us raise money while she battles a brain tumour herself!

There were the contrasting emotions of day three with an ace start with my Mich before she went to work and Bob who worked in the first 11 miles around his 'working from home' schedule to the loneliness and miserable self absorbed whingyness of running the next 11 miles of my home town marathon on my own as pains and niggles are magnified by a wondering mind to the positive ending with Bob returning after finally winning a 7 mile game of hide and seek to cycle alongside me for the last few miles.

The generosity of spirit from strangers running with me on The Wirral and the cleaner who let me have a pre run poo, the sheer stubborn strength of Adrian O'Brien to get me round, the background social media and radio campaign and the bloody big cuppa at the end. The will to battle the elements and the increasing lack of co-operation in the knee department. Celebrity stalkers too.

I was gonna blog about how it all nearly ended 7/8 miles in on day five in Bath. How my support kept me going when given the option of bailing or carrying on with what would be a very long day they gave me the look that said 'we're in it for the long haul' and, with 18 miles to go on a non working knee, we decided 'no one gets anywhere in life by being a [inaudible] ' - may have involved a swear - almost certainly involved the most obscene of profanities. I could tell you about the Pranic Healing that might have saved the day ( I don't believe it did but it could have ).

The awesomeness of day six around the canals of Birmingham is probably simply beyond words. The running, the company, the surprise, the jumps, the scares, the drunks, the weather, the banter and more surprises made for an exceptional day that 24 hrs earlier looked like would never happen.

Of course because day six did happen it meant that day seven was gonna happen no matter what. I could tell you about the emotion of taking it back to my school days in an attempt to capture a slither of days gone by that will always be beyond me, the failed plan to run with the masses, the Morph shuffle which saw me through the last 22 miles or so and the sheer love, patience and support of those that got me round, that got me through. No one believes me when I deflect praise or more accurately accept it on behalf of everyone else, but it cannot be overstated just how much of the challenge is done by the team around me. We can all run 7 marathons in 7 days, our bodies are capable of it, but the mind will be beaten into submission in the absence of the strength of those around us.

Instead of blogging it all, whittling on about the pains, the 20 days of training, the excruciating constant pains, the awesome support, Norseman, alcohol recovery the poor nutrition, inspiration, the text support, the tiredness, the claustrophobia, the bloody Morphsuits, the lenses, the eye, the ongoing pain, disrupted sleep, tiredness, pain, Batmans house, smelly WPC, burgers, bepanthan, chaffing, disappearing fluids, discomfort and pain, disruptive interviews, builders tea, prostate ops, Poppyfields, radio interviews, Whittington Barracks, the emotion, the ace phone calls, quiet Whittington, daughters daily texts and sons casual nightly enquiry 'how was today's marathon dad?',  job panic, kindness, celebs, pride, massage recovery, fear, loss, mourning, joy and freedom, instead I will leave you with the pics and the clips which say it so much better than I can.

Finally, I would like to thank you all, a most sincere thank you for all of you that made this challenge possible and raised over £5,000 for Birmingham Children's Hospital and their research and treatment of child brain tumours.

Just in case you want to sponsor just pop to or text 'MORF77 £10' to 70070.

Hull Crew: Bear, Neil, Andy, Ed & Rachel

Nearly done just gotta hit the post 2 more times.


Nottingham Crew: Kelli, Jane, Mike, Lee Ian, Alex, Wayne, Kelli's mate

Tamworth Crew: Mich & Bob

Wirral Crew: Tracey, Ultan, Adrian, Boardman, City Radio, Jayne, Dave, Sallie


Bath Crew: Hutch, Uncle Peter, Jono, Ewen, Tracey, Mark, Radio WM, Bob, Maria, Kelli

This clip is the closest I came to giving up!

Of course we didn't give up.

Brum Crew: Neil, Dave, Jayne, Steve, Stu, Chantel, David, Billy, Erin, Mich, Ken, Nick, Georgina, Ellie, George, Lisa, Poppy, Lily, Ella, Dom

Lichfield Crew: Mich, Neil, Alison, Clive, Georgina, Nick, Dutchy, Veronica, Jay, Karen, Richard, Lisa, Torrance, Gary, Kerry, Dean, Dave, Ellie, George, Lexi, Kirsten

The Finish and in my head I was running!

Sports Massage Therapists: Vanessa, Geraldine
Team Bear, PFI, Outlaw, Equinox

Next day stairs

Thank you Mich for the strength, love, patience and unwavering belief.