Hello, I'm Stuart and I like to run a long way.
Welcome to my blog, here I'll try to keep you up to date with my challenges, adventures and training.

I competing in Ultra distance running, adventure racing, and a variety of other events. I hold a few records in the UK, and in 2012 ran 1100 miles over the Alps, from Vienna to Nice.

I am raising funds for Water for Kids, a small charity with the simple purpose of ensuring that the world's poorest communities have clean water.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Winter (most of) Edale Skyline

Yesterday a few of us set off to have a go at a snowy run round the Edale Skyline Route. Lucy was ill so Rhys, Wil and I set off from Edale. Wil cut off after a while and went to play with his cross country skis. Rhys and I got a Mam Nick and decided to head back  from there as the weather turned and the remaining route was mainly ridge running. The last time I ran the race it took 3:37, yesterday took us 3:43! Running is slower when there is snow.

But we had a great run around the first half... Ringing Roger, Jaggers Clough, Win Hill, down to Hope, back up to Lose Hill and along the ridge through Hollins Cross to Mam Tor then down to Mam Nick and back to Edale... About 13 miles and 2700ft climb in total.

The snow varied from about an inch to waist deep, sometimes from one footstep to the next!

Wil and Rhys mount Roger

Win Hill

Back into Edale
Rhys handles the pace... Rectified by Easy Rider and Chips

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Website

I have just sorted out a proper website. For now this just links through to this blog, but in time will hopefully host a map and some other info. It's here, so tell your friends:
http://www.bigalpsrun.eu/

Monday, 25 October 2010

End of the Ultra season...

Last weekend was the end of season party for the UK Ultrarunning championships, so we were all at the Traveller's Rest pub near Hope for some running, food and a few beers on saturday night and some mountain biking on sunday (for me, a lesson in what real mountain bikers look like from Karen and Andy)!

We also had a great talk from Stephen Pyke (Spyke) on his incredible Munro's record. This summer Spyke ran over Scotland's 283 3000ft peaks in just 39 days 9 hours and 6 minutes, beating the previous record by nearly ten days. The talk and slideshow Spyke gave us was brilliant, with lots of pictures of the less than ideal weather!

(Spyke here in the Munros, but on another trip)

Spyke's own blog from the trip has great descriptions from each day, and also the opportunity to sponsor him in his fundraising efforts for the John Muir Trust. The blog is here... http://munros2010.blogspot.com/

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Results of the 2010 Ultra Series

Ahead of our end of year party this weekend, the final results of the Runfurther UK Ultra series have been published. Congratulations to Jon Morgan of Dark Peak Fell Runners, who won three races and set at least one new course record on his way to overall victory.

I finished 13th, with 3402 points to Jon's 3985. My four "counters" were the Manx Mountain Marathon (33 miles - 10th), Pumlumon Challenge (26 miles - 9th), Calderdale Hike (37 miles - 6th) and the Lakeland 100 (102 miles - 10th).

I really enjoyed all the races, and I think the standard has jumped up this year. Really looking forward to next year - top ten here I come! (Hopefully)

Monday, 4 October 2010

WfK day and Planning

As I said, I gave a quick talk at Water for Kids (WfK) day in Manchester on Saturday. It was great to see the work that the charity does, and to see what the money donated from the British Isles Challenge was used for. One of the main things the charity does is to secure water sources in rural African communities, and for a village or around 1000 people this costs around the same amount I was able to donate.

Here's an example of the great work they do, showing a village water supply in Uganda before and after work of WfK.
I'm hoping to raise much more from the Big Alps Run, so hopefully WfK will be able to do loads more good work.

I've also done some route planning in the last few days, and pretty much sorted the section from Zermatt to Nice, the last quarter or so. From Zermatt to Chamonix I'll be roughly following the Haute Route, then from Chamonix south through Tignes, Modane and towards Nice on the GR5 route (a long distance walking route which I'll be using part of).

Thursday, 30 September 2010

T-shirts and Water for Kids Talk

This weekend I'm doing a short talk at Water for Kids Day in Manchester, talking about the British Isles Challenge for 5 minutes and the Big Alps Run for 5 minutes! It will be good to meet the guys who run Water for Kids, some trustees and other fundraisers. In celebration I've designed a T-shirt which has been made up by twentytwo. I'm quite proud of it!

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Lakeland 100 video

I took a few phone videos on the L100, which I have joined together into a little 10 minute thingy...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kntrzjac8P4

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

The Lakeland 100

The weekend before last was my longest race of the year... The Lakeland 100. As the name suggests it's around the Lake District, and it's actually 103 miles long, with around 6300m climb.

As last year it was a fantastic race: The dramatic scenary from our campsite and starting point in Coniston only added to the aprehension, and I think everyone was relieved when after registation, safety talks, kit checks and last minute eating, we set off at 5:30 on Friday, started by none other than Joss Naylor.

I knew that last year we had taken the first 30 miles or so slowly as they are the hardest, but I felt we took them too slow and never got round to speeding up. Of the 7 who started together in 2009, only myself and Nigel Coates finished. We were both back again and looking to improve on our 39 hour time. This year the first 30 miles went quickly, and I was up on my schedule. The run past Burnamoor Tarn as it steamed in the late evening is one of my best memories of the race.

After the 30 mile mark, Dalemain was the next target. I arrived at the 57 mile point on Saturday morning, and unexpectedly met my Mum and Dad. It was great to see them and I met them a few more times before the end.  Feeling refreshed out of Dalemain I set off with a couple of serious legs to do before Ambleside and the relative niceness of the last few legs. At around 70 miles I had a bad patch - I was alone in about 15th place, the weather turned from good to bad, and I had a long climb with some trickly navigation to deal with. But as always with Ultras, it passed, the weather improved gradually and I eventually made it to Ambleside. Shortly before here the Lakeland50 runners started passing and I was able to stick with Sarah Rowell for a while which cheered me up.

At the LakesRunner checkpoint in Ambleside I said goodbye to Mum and Dad and carried on in the improved weather. After a couple of slower legs I was falling behind my schedule and in the words of Johnie Watson, would have to "pull it out of the bag to do it now". Sadly Johnie had to stop and sort out his wrecked feet, so I was alone again. Eventually I was running alongside the beck into Elterwater again, but feeling so much better than last year! I started to pass a few other runners and at the penultimate checkpoint in Chapel Stile I could just about do the schedule time, if I ran the last 10 miles or so well.

The leg to Tilberthwaite went to plan and although I was tired I thought I might now do it... Just one steep climb, one long descent and 3.5 miles to the finish. It was now dark again so with my headtorch on I slogged up the stone steps and across the top of that hill, then began the gradual descent. Suddenly there were runners everywhere, 50s who had caught us up and 100s who had come back to me. A group of us charged down the scree path towards the river and then down the paved path into Coniston there were four of us. These guys were going well so I stuck with them. They were the British Military Fitness team running the 50, and turned out to be the winning team.

Very quickly we seemed to go from the rocky track to civilisation, lights, pubs and people shouting, then round the corner and across the finish line at quarter past 11... 29 hours 44 mins, just inside the time I had hoped for and good enough for 10th! Afterwards I had some food, my first ever sports massage, and headed for my tent. When I woke up to the sound of people finishing on Sunday morning, as Nigel and I had done last year, I couldn't help but feel it had been easier this year. But it was not easy, the Lakeland 100 is a truly epic race, and probably the hardest I have ever done. Even in the relatively good weather this year half the field dropped out. But is it harder than the Bob Graham? I don't know.

Mark Gillett of Junglemoon Images took some great pictures of the race, here's one of me:
www.junglemoon.co.uk  www.flickr.com/photos/junglemoonimages

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

June

It's probably about 12 months till the start of the Big Alps run, which sounds like a very long time, but if the experience of last year's adventures are anything to go by it will pass very quickly! Preperations are progressing well if not earth-shatteringly fast, and Mark Beaumont's willingness to help and generous comments have been great. I've also spoken to Carey at Water for Kids who tells me the charity is still doing well despite all the financial goings-on, which is great news.

In the world of exercise, the summer seems to result in me doing lots of short fast races, which aren't generally what I go for. This is because they are horrible, when you're only racing 15 - 20 minutes every second counts so there can be no holding back. This means pain and gurning across the finish line. In the last month or so I've raced a couple of 5k time trials (current PB is 18:16), and a few great (painful) fell races... Beamsley Beacon, Danesfield Relay and the Cliffhanger fell race stand out. The latter because I should have won, but took a wrong turn around a building in the finish field and lost out by 4 seconds. Ah well.

I've also done a bit more of a slightly less frantic (some of the time at least) sport, sailing with Paul on Wild Spirit (www.wildspirit.biz). I raced Round the Island on one of 1754 boats in the world's biggest yacht race, which was fantastic. It's a really bizarre experience to go up onto the deck and see literally 100s of boats around you, some within a few metres! The week after that I was back on the boat for a race to Weymouth. Sadly this didn't quite go as planned as the wind faded and we were left in a strange perfectly calm area of water, surrounded by fog. It was like skiing in a whiteout, it felt like we were floating through the air. So we went back home and to the pub.


So after all these short races I now need to get ready for the Lakeland 100 in a couple of weeks' time. This has come around very quickly, I thought I had longer. Hmm...

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Support from Mark Beaumont

In 2008 Mark Beaumont broke the world record for cycling around the world, covering 18,000 miles in 195 days. Earlier this year he completed a ride the length of the Americas from Alaska to Argentina, climbing Mount Mckinley and Aconcagua along the way. During these trips he has also raised around £20,000 for charity.

I went to see one of Mark's inspirational talks about these adventures earlier this year, and afterwards spoke to him about the Big Alps Run. He was interested in the challenge and is now supporting me, and had this to say...

'The Big Alps Run is an inspired and quite incredible ambition - my very best wishes for what will be a gruelling mental and physical feat. Congratulations also Stuart for your fund raising for Water for Kids. Such great missions don't happen without the help of others so congratulations goes to your backers as well.'

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

A Birthday Treat

For anyone who isn't familiar with the Bob Graham Round, it starts in Keswick and is a circuit of 42 peaks around the Lake District, covering anywhere between 65 and 72 miles, the aim being to finish back in Keswick within 24 hours. The route is split into five legs, finishing at Threlkeld, Dunmail Raise, Wasdale Head and Honister Pass. At these points most people have a support team to help feed and water them, as well as a few pacers to run each leg with them and assist with navigation.

Spot the odd one out

Pudsey is only a small town but we have two running clubs. I run for Pudsey Pacers, but we also have Pudsey and Bramley. As it is P&B's centenery this year the club wanted to have a mass Bob Graham attempt, and get as many runners around in a group as possible. So after being interested for a long time and a few disastrous half-attempts in the past, I found myself a lone Pacer outside Moot Hall with a large group of Pudsey and Bramley runners, at 7pm on my 25th birthday.

From Keswick we set off on leg 1, over the first three long climbs and down into Threlkeld. The first climb up Skiddaw is one of the longest legs of the whole round, everyone felt good and we didn't want to push it too early, especially as it was still very warm. We reached the summits of Skiddaw, Great Calva and Blencathra and had great views down to Keswick and over to leg 5, where we hoped to be the next evening. The schedule was quite generous on this leg and we got to Threlkeld about half an hour up.

Climbing Skiddaw with Derwent Water and Keswick in the background

After the easy pace of leg 1, the climb up Clough Head at the start of leg 2 was tough. We all went a bit quiet and realised that this was not going to be easy, still with so far to go! We had managed without torches to Threlkeld, but we now all had them on as we struggled up to join the Helvellyn range. At about midnight the climb got easier and we reached the summit. From the top of Clough Head leg 2 is an undulating ridge run for a while, over the Dodds, Raise and White Side, and onto Helvellyn Little man and Helvellyn itself. Here we were met by a couple of Bingley lads who gave us some water and cake, which we repayed by tripping over their friends who were asleep next to the summit trig - sorry!

The weather was still really warm and we were still in vests and shorts as we dropped our bags at the bottom of Fairfield for the out-and-back climb. This was a short steep rocky one, but after not long we were reunited with our kit and off up Seat Sandal, the last climb before the descent to Dunmail. This leg had been hard, the schedule has no slack and we had had to push ourselves to keep to it. When we reached Dunmail we still had about 20 minutes in hand, but quite a few runners called it a day here.

The sun rising over the fells – somewhere on leg 3

At Dunmail we had pasties, pasta, sweets, rice pudding, tinned fruit, drank as much as possible and refilled water bottles. We set off again around 15 minutes up on the 23 hour schedule, but knew that leg 3 would be hard. This is probably the crux of the round, the longest leg and most climb (16 miles and 6500 ft) and expected to take over 6 hours. Again there was a hard climb to start the leg, this time up Steel Fell. On this leg we had four supporters / pacers and were again guided perfectly. Of the 15 starters there were now eight left. I was happy to be well into the round, certainly not feeling fresh, but ready to tackle the 15 peaks of this leg. Atfer a few hours it started to get light and we were treated to a fantastic sunrise on the fells. We had all found the night section difficult, the heat and the feeling that we should be asleep made it difficult to eat and I felt pretty sick over High Raise and Thunacar Knott. Unfortunately one of the support team fell onto a rusty metal fencepost and opened up his leg early on, but being a hardy Sheffield University chap he continued and by Rosset Gill where were met by more P&B supporters he had decided to carry on to Wasdale.

Now came another hard bit, after Bowfell, Esk Pike and a few others we were at the top of Scafell Pike. The weather felt really hot, as it had done since 5am, but we could see for miles and miles and felt very lucky to be where we were! Between Scafell Pike and Scafell there are three options - Broad Stand is pretty much a rock climb, generally the quickest but not with this many people, Lord's Rake is a short steep scramble but is currently full of snow and ice, so we went for the third option - Foxes Tarn. This involves a slippery scree descent then a climb up and around the side of Scafell. On the rocky climb back up I felt rubbish and dropped back a bit. This was the worst I had felt so far, and tried to eat as much sugar as I could and concentrate my way to the top. Near the top the sugar finally kicked in and my legs came back. I caught the rest of the group just before we reached the top at about 8:30 in the morning. From there we made our way down towards the campsite at Wasdale Head. We had a great time down a steep scree run followed by a long bumslide on the wet grass. Unfortunately running down the final track to the campsite with shoes full of scree I tripped myself up so had a bloody ankle coming into Wasdale, but I was very pleased to be there, and we started to think we would now do it.

Near the top of Scafell

As we left Wasdale we were still around 30 minutes up all felt positive, more than half the distance, climb and time were out of the way. No more night, bright sunshine and only one more serious leg, then three climbs and a flat run in... Easy! Then we set of up Yewbarrow and I changed my mind. I knew this would be a tough one but after filling up on carbohydrates and with a refilled rucksack (including the headtorch I accidentally carried all day) there was nothing in my legs. A few of us dropped back again, but eventually we were at the top and the pain stopped. I never thought "11 mountains to go" would sound good but it did, and we set off over Red Pike, Steeple and Pillar, then the long climb up Kirkfell and the view towards Great Gable. Gable seems to stand out on its own, so is a long climb wherever you start from. The round felt achievable now and we were ok for time, the pacers said this was the last major climb so we tried to dig in and scramble up the rocks on all fours. Not elegant and the walkers looked confused, but we made it to the top. Now even the smallish climbs of Green Gable, Brandreth and Grey Knotts were hard, but the feeling that we were going to do it was getting stronger and before too long we reached the car park at Honister.

Coming into Honister

At Honister we had great support, loads of people were there in cars, Lorna had walked up from Keswick and all the supporters and guys who had run earlier legs were there to run the last leg with us. We quickly had some food, dumped our bags, gave our water bottles to these kind people and set off up Dale Head. Honister is quite high so this climb was not too bad, although the legs felt dead we knew all we had to do now was keep going. Up Dale Head in about half an hour then on with the last two climbs in sight. Forty minutes later we reached the top of Robinson, the last climb done. We waited for everyone to reach the top then set off down the steepish grassy descent - not great on the quads but it didn't matter anymore, Keswick was in sight and we were going to do it. We reached the bottom and the path leveled out, along the road for a bit where we met the supporters for the final time.

The last climb up Robinson

I had one last gel to make sure and we set off through the woods, four miles to go. As we got towards the edge of Keswick those of us who had done the whole thing were moved to the front and a pacer even stopped the traffic for us! The triumphant sprint up the high street didn't quite work as the market was in the way, but we found Moot Hall and seven of us banged on the door. Richard, Nick, Shane, Ed, Brian, Ste and me finished in 22:19, Chi had run the last leg a little behind us with a few pacers and picked up the pace towards the end to come in about 15 minutes later.


I had a fantastic time on the Bob Graham, the weather was a little hot but overall a big help, the supporters and pacers were great and the group of runners all kept each other going when it was tough. Thanks to chief organisers and supporters Boff and Jonny, and Jim for introducing me.