40 Before 40 Update…

A quick update on my progress with the 40 challenges I have set myself to complete before 4th March 2018 (which is sooner than it sounds!)

parkrun1 – parkrun in 40 different locations – Now up to 24 different parkruns and a proud member of the (un)official parkrun tourist club. I have a few more new venues lined up in the coming weeks before I have to start thinking about where to tour, and there are still 6 venues within 25 miles of home I haven’t been too, with more starting soon…

5 – Qualify as a running coach – The classroom work is done! I’m now coaching regularly and self-assessing all the time. The exam has been done with a 90% pass so I’m ready for my assessment day in October. Pass that, and I will officially be a UK Athletics running coach!


8 – Go vegetarian for a month – I was going to do this in February, as it’s only 28 days long! That feels like a bit of a cheat though so I have called on my veggie/vegan friends to share their best recipes for me to practice, and I’ll consider doing this in September/October.

kayak13 – Learn to canoe – I have completed a 6 week course with Cheltenham Canoe Club and done a river trip, but I’m far from capable! I’m still pretty terrified of going for a swim, and it’s highly likely as I have a tendency to swerve violently to the left which can be a bit worrying in fast water! More practice (and bravery) needed…

18 – Work with a life coach – The amazing Liz Goodchild deserves a post of her own, and it will happen, but suffice to say the 6 week group course I took with her was life changing.

21 – Interview 10 people for “Who James Met Running” – I have now met and questioned 5 “celebrity” runners, so it may be time to write them up and start that series! Always on the look out for new subjects to interview…

28 – Send 10 handwritten postcards/letters – I have ten addresses now (I couldn’t tell you a single one a few weeks ago, I didn’t even know what number my mum lived that!) and I will write things as and when it feels right. There’s still a chance to get added to the list so if you fancy receiving some post sometime in the future email your address to whatjamesdid@hotmail.com

35-39 – currently blank – I have a couple of ideas for activities to fill these slots, but I’m in no hurry to add them. If you have any suggestions though feel free to comment below!

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parkrun reports: Conkers & Richmond

Conkers ~ #92 ~ venue 23

On my third trip to Thunder Run I finally got to take in the local parkrun on the Saturday morning, which will give you some indication of how seriously I was taking the upcoming 24 hour race!

screenshot_2016-07-31-09-13-52_1.jpgIn previous years the influx of TR24 runners has seen a crowd of over 500, but I can only guess that all the Thunder Runners have ticked off this particular parkrun as a sociable 339 took to the course. Being a leisurely run with the afternoon’s exertions in mind I think I must have chatted to at least 300 of them!

CaptureThe course is a “lollipop” with a steady climb on hard-packed trails through the woods. Bursting out in to the open we followed a reclaimed canal teeming with fish and birds before dropping quickly back to the woods and a steady downhill to the finish.

We didn’t hang around after as we had to get back to Catton Park and await the team, but the Conkers volunteers seemed as wonderfully welcoming as I’ve come to expect from parkrun and the cafe was very tempting! Definitely worth a visit if you’re nearby.

Richmond ~ #93 ~ venue 24




I’ve wanted to run Richmond for a long time. I’ve seen many photos of the deer, the trails and the trees of Richmond, it looked a wonderful place to explore and a parkrun is as good a way as any to see some of the sights. Knowing I had a day in London coming, plans were made…

Unfortunately, following an infection from insect bites at Thunder Run, I really wasn’t supposed to run, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to visit Richmond while I was in town.

imag6335.jpgI was met by the brilliant Andrew Brown, a fellow cow cowl wearer, who was looking after first-timers and tourists. He was even more welcoming than most and gave me loads of information about the park and their parkrun. Every venue should have an Andrew!

I took to the course for a run/walk, quite content to be at the back and just take in the views. I’d heard much about the downs and ups, but the course is actually quite comfortable with a gentle roadside climb to begin, then a rolling descent to wide open grassland. I’d been hoping to get a sight of the majestic deer that roam freely in the park, which I did, but at quite a distance! I did see the Ride London police cavalcade rolling out though which was impressive. There is a climb towards the end of the route but it’s short and managable, and there was lots of support hanging around at the finish which was lovely.

Sadly I couldn’t do the course justice, but I still loved my Richmond experience. Again I didn’t stop for the cafe but the folks were lovely, so much so I could be tempted to head back one day…when I’ve ticked off all the other options in Central London!


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Have You Ever Learned How To Run?

26.2 miles is a long way to be alone with your thoughts and during the recent Copenhagen Marathon it was just me and them for most of the course. I wanted to share with you one of the things that kept rolling around my mind though as I rolled through the streets of the Danish capital…

As part of my “40 before 40” I recently started a beginner’s canoe course. Let me talk you through how the first session played out…

  1. An introduction to canoeing and where we would be safe to do it once we’d finished the course
  2. A guide to kit, what we would need, what it might cost, why we use it and where to get it
  3. A tour of our canoes including details of how to adjust every last lever and clip to make it fit like a soggy glove
  4. An explanation of the paddle, how to hold it, how not to wave it around and hit people with it
  5. Advice on how to position weight and how to maintain as much contact with the canoe as possible
  6. Instruction on what to do in the event of a capsize
  7. Demonstration of how to empty a boat of water
  8. Demonstration and practice of how to lift and carry a canoe safely.
  9. Demonstration and practice on dry land of getting in to and out of a canoe once it is afloat. So that’s eight things, in depth, before we even got to the side of the training pool. Next…
  10. How to paddle slowly forwards, sometimes in a straight line
  11. How to make small adjustments to direction so you don’t go in to trees
  12. How to do huge great turns to avoid ramming whales
  13. How to go backwards…without looking…and without rear view mirrors (the assumption is that if you’re going backwards nothing behind you can be as dangerous as whatever you’re escaping from)
  14. How to go forwards fast
  15. How to stop going forwards fast, fast. (It involves lots of splashing)
  16. Capsize training
  17. How to get out of a boat which is afloat and back on to poolside, which inevitably became more capsize training.

All that in one hour, but it has set the standard for a lifetime of safe, efficient paddling which should improve my enjoyment of the sport and also keep me safe from injury and potential drowning.

Then I compared it to the first time I went running…

  1. Put on old Nikes
  2. Sprint up the road for 800 metres
  3. Be sick in an alleyway and cry/limp my way home

I thought about all the other sports I’ve ever played. I spent hours each week perfecting the art of scrummaging and throwing line outs in rugby, I faced 100 identical bowling machine deliveries to practice my forward defensive at the start of the cricket season (and another 20 to practice whacking the ball for 6 but that’s not the point). I’ve built my golf swing by paying attention to every minute movement it entails from the moment I approach the ball to long after it has left the club face and I even got some netball coaching involving how to jump and catch for a charity tournament many years ago. In all these sports I was taught how to do the actions needed to be the best I could be – at throwing, pushing, catching, jumping, hitting – and yet one thing was missing from all the coaching I ever received.


Running. No one ever told me how to run. No one told me the most efficient way to run around a rugby pitch, conserving energy for when it mattered. No one ever taught me the fastest way to run between the wickets on a cricket square. Certainly no one ever taught me to run over long distances – all the training advice I could find was on how far to run, how fast to run, whether it should be up hill or down dale – and I imagine that is true for the vast majority of us out there who are pounding the pavement every week.


So maybe now you can see part of the reason I am so excited to be qualifying as a running coach with England Athletics. All that untapped potential in every runner, who has been dashing around without ever knowing how good they could be purely because no one has ever explained to them how to run well.

I can’t wait to start coaching people and watching them succeed, pushing the boundaries of what they thought possible whether it’s more speed, greater distance or even just ease of running. It’s exciting to think I’ll soon be making people better runners, one step at a time…

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Who James Met: Steve Edwards – Marathon Man

At the time of writing, Steve had just completed his 726th marathon with an astonishing average finish time under 3hrs 16 minutes. His book “The Man Inside The Machine” is available now.

NAME: Steve Edwards – Marathon Man

LOCATION: Almost Athletes AGM

BEEN RUNNING FOR: Since school, but distance running for 35 years

HOW DID YOU START: Whilst running 400-800m on track as a teenager I saw a poster for the first Coventry Marathon and thought “why not?”. After that first one it was definitely “never again” but the feeling didn’t last!

FAVOURITE DISTANCE: Unsurprisingly, 26.2 marathons

FAVOURITE RUN/RACE: There’s lots, too many to pick one outright, but a few that come to mind…Stockholm, New York (for all the tourist hot-spots you pass), Tromso Sun Race – starts in the middle of the night and by 3am you’re in a bar celebrating in bright sun!, Chicago for the fantastic organisation and infrastructure and closer to home Windermere.

FAVE BIT OF KIT: I run in asics Gel Cumulus shoes and have done for years, besides that my rehab kit is probably most important; foam roller, tennis and cricket balls and a small rubber ball for rolling the soles of the feet.

DREAM RUN: A marathon in my home town, Moreton-In-Marsh

DREAM RUNNING PARTNER: Other than my wife Teresa who has been so supportive, in a few years when he’s old enough it would be my grandson Farren. He’s 8 at the moment so it may be another 10 years!

RUNNING ASPIRATIONS: Initially it was a marathon, then t was 100 marathons, then 500…the target now is to complete 1,000 marathons with an average finish time under 3hrs 20.

FAVOURITE INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE: Never underestimate your potential, follow your dreams.



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parkrun reports: Bicester, Gloucester North and Little Stoke

As part of my 40 Before 40 I’ve been on the road in recent weeks ticking off some parkrun tourism. Here’s a brief rundown (pun intended) of the last three…

Bicester parkrun – 16th April (inaugural)

A quick stop-off on the way to Brighton Marathon (involving a mad dash to Milton Keynes to get the first of three trains to Brighton…the things we do to fit in a parkrun!) the first week for Bicester was a very cold, very wet one!

Lots of tourists braved the foul weather to join the locals including my good friend Ian, who’s first parkrun experience hopefully hasn’t put him off for life! The start was a little muted as people froze waiting for the off, but once away the marshals on course were brilliant. A three-lapper it was ankle deep in either water or mud for most of the way. In the summer It will be a lovely, flat and fast course with enough turns to keep it interesting. Didn’t hang around at the finish, needed a hot shower and a cuppa before the travelling continued, and no one was brave enough to get a camera out so no photos but hopefully the runners of Bicester will turn out in their droves over the summer and enjoy a great venue.

Gloucester North – 23rd April

Pete, Mum, Me and the lovely RD

Pete, Mum, Me and the lovely RD

I took Mum over to Gloucester for her first go at ‘voluntouring’, and the team there were just wonderful. Really welcoming group, led by ED Pete who is very enthusiastic and a very friendly RD who’s name I didn’t catch. Glos North had an enforced change of course when the original became unusable thanks to flooding, but actual the alternate course is a lot of fun and more popular so I hope it stays. Weaving between and around school buildings interspersed with rounding football pitches it deserves its fame as the zombie apocalypse course! Another three-lapper but with enough corners and changes of scenery to keep it interesting and lots of encouraging marshals. There was also cake at the end, some of the best I’ve ever enjoyed at a parkrun, and as this one is on my doorstep I’m sure I’ll be back.

Little Stoke – 30th April

We all know the tale of Little Stoke and their sad situation, with the executioner’s axe hanging over them it was time to pay a visit before it was too late. (Unless something dramatic happens Saturday 28th May should be the last run at this venue)

The unexpected Cheltenham parkrunners on tour!

The unexpected Cheltenham parkrunners on tour!

We unexpectedly bumped in to several other Cheltenham tourists which was great, but the atmosphere was a little stilted. Knowing the run was ending and with all the media hype recently tourists seemed almost apologetic about being there; I guess there is an element of morbidity about getting it done before the final death knells, a bit like gatecrashing a funeral. The local team were all very nice though, and you can’t blame them for being a little less enthusiastic than usual. The start was a short walk from the briefing then off on the first of three laps, although you cover some parts of the course four times. Mostly flat or downhill this was a fast, simple course. The tarmac path was quite thin in places, and one section had a number of tree roots pushing through, but I couldn’t see any evidence of the damage being caused by parkrun that has so enraged the Parish Council. The route actually passes the Council’s offices so on each circuit I made sure to boo them, although they were closed it still made me feel a little better!

Little Stoke supports park running just not parkrunning!

Little Stoke supports park running just not parkrunning!

What was surprising was how running focused the park is! There is a big Run England board announcing the 3-2-1 route which shares the same paths as parkrun, and the statue of a runner in the photo above is opposite the doors of the Council office! It is very clear that running is welcomed here, just not parkrun, and this move by the councillors can only have been an attempt to extort money from what they incorrectly see as a wealthy organisation. I fear they will be too stubborn to accept defeat and allow the parkrun to continue, which is a real shame, and I just hope that in the next elections there is a large change of personnel and possibly parkrun are invited back to a wonderful location.

Next week Bushy Park, the home of parkrun, then staying in Cheltenham for a while before Copenhagen towards the end of the month, so my tourism days aren’t over just yet…!

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