Around the end of November, we decided that it would be great to give a gift of photos to our parents this Christmas. I haven’t seen my dad all year and my mum only once. They have missed seeing what we have got up to this crazy year. We created a shared album and started adding our favourite images from each month. It was funny for me to go through the year and remind myself of what actually happened.

Over the past few weeks, I have been doing quite a bit of reflecting. As we enter a new kind of lockdown, I feel like I wanted my own record of how I felt and what made me happy each month of 2020. So here it is. 12 months of the crazy year that was 2020.

JANUARY

Stats: 230KM, 3,652m+

I started the year full of hope. In my work life I was about to begin a new job at a new company. That was scary and exciting. I had been made redundant from my last role after around 9 years. I had mixed feelings about this. Sad that they decided to let me go but also thankful for the opportunity for a change as tbh I needed it desperately. I would miss my colleagues and trying to find your way with a bunch of new people can be quite daunting! Also, I hadn’t really planned on getting a new job so quickly, in fact I joked about becoming a professional athlete for a couple of months. With hindsight though, I am very pleased I took the offer up as I might not have a job still right now! Still, I decided to just work part time the first month, as I had some things I wanted/needed to do.

Running wise, I was a month into my Hardmoors 55 training plan and this was how my calendar looked for the year.

MARCH: Hardmoors 55 (miles)

JUNE: South Downs Way 100 (miles)

AUGUST: CCC, failed at ballot for 2nd time. Opted for Wild Boar Ultra 100km in Bulgaria.

NOVEMBER: NYC Marathon. Last road marathon

I made the conscious choice to only do 4 main races per year, for 2 reasons. The body getting old and family.

I would try and put in a few smaller races in when I could though. And the first one of the year was a classic, the Maverick Original West Sussex. A race I had done in 2018 and loved! It’s on the South Downs, has some nice climbs and a whole bunch of mud to boot. This year was even muddier. The swamp section near the end was over my knees and went on for even longer than I remembered. It was a brilliant day out though as Gillian, Louise and the wild TR crew were there plus the usual gang of Yvette, Tom, Sarah, Paul, PC, Elyse etc. I took it nice and easy, enjoying my time out on the trails. At this time I wasn’t to know it would be one of only two organised races I would do in 2020!

Another Highlight of this month was taking my friend Jules and her mate Liz out on my 25km Shoreham loop. We had a super muddy day out, with all of us falling on our asses! With the events to come, I also wasn’t to know but this route would become the perfect local training run for me as the year progressed

As the month drew to a close, I went on a little trip up to North Yorkshire. Hardmoors was to be my first winterish Ultra and after learning from the race in the lakes, I really felt like some recce runs were needed and coincidently a good friend of mine lives up in Harrogate! Last minute, Yvette decided to join me too as she was also doing the race and it would be good to have some company out on the moors. We had the best weekend too. You can read more about this in the blog I did about recces here.

The runs were wet and wild to say the least but it was the perfect place to test gear and get a feel for what we would be in for come race day.

Oh and we got a cat through Cats Protection. His name is Blu and he took a little while to settle in and Poppy was scared of him too. Now she loves him…maybe a little too much lol

FEBRUARY

Stats: 339km, 7320m+

The Covid 19 pandemic was firmly taking route around the world but I think we were all living in a bubble of denial really. Life was just carrying on. I was now working full time, trying desperately to pick up as much info as possible from the two people leaving the company in my department.

Training was really picking up too. Lots of Hill reps, B2B runs a couple of nice adventures.

49km on the SDW in pretty dreadful weather with Louise was a highlight. We ran from Amberly to Falmer and it was brilliant. I had wanted to recce this part of the race route for a while. I had bought a new WP jacket from Montane, (after flappy hood gate in Yorkshire), and it worked perfectly. Louise kind of loved and hated that run but it was really helpful for me.

Then a week later I finally headed down to the south coast to run with Cajsa. We had been chatting quite a bit online and at a maverick race. So it was finally good to have a few hours (32km) on her local trails from Folkstone to Deal. We have so much in common. She has a boy a couple of years younger than Poppy, so we have all the parenting chat too lol! This woman is an awesome runner with so much experience, it was great to pick her brains on a few things trails/race wise.

Another highlight of this month was heading out with the Wild TR team on a group run. It was route I had done the previous year and now as a support leader I am officially responsible for looking after the runners who come and make sure they have an enjoyable time. This route is pretty muddy and spiky on the vert for 20km. everyone was warned of the need for trail shoes and spare shoes and socks! Alas a couple didn’t really come prepared and it meant for a very slippy slidy few hours in the countryside. It’s a really accessible route but again it does prove that there are some bits of gear you need to bring with you for these kinds of runs. Winter trail shoes are a must for safety and confidence really. Despite this everyone did have a nice day out.

MARCH

Stats: 317km, 5378m+

The month where Covid hit home. At the start for the month we were like when are we going to be in lockdown? What will it be? What can we do? Oh, our government really is full of idiots! I also started noticing people hating on runners on social media. There was a lot of fear starting to manifest itself. For me personally, at work we started planning for remote working, not knowing what it would be like. I started to worry about whether Hardmoors would happen. The thing about trail running though is I love the training , almost as much as race day. From the Hill sessions to tempo runs and of course the adventures with friends.

The month started early on this front. With another SDW recce. This time with Sarah and Krysia.I love running with these two as with most of the people I like to hang out with. There is no BS, it’s just straight talking fun. We had a glorious day out on the race route. Running from Queen Elizabeth Country park to Amberly (40km). Sarah’s husband, Tom kindly offered to be our bag drop and we got to run the first few KMs with him and Watson too! One thing I remember from that day is that the sun came out and we didn’t get drenched! Apparently I brought good weather and was invited to run with them again. 

The following weekend I hit the NDW with Ale, Jess and Paul S for another almost marathon (39km), lol. Guildford to Merstham. It’s a classic section, which I had run a few times but never in one go. This was to be my last long run before the race. Taper was about to kick in, I wanted to relish the time with friends. Jess was also now living in Leeds and I wouldn’t know when we would get to run with her again if Hardmoors got cancelled.

And low and behold, the world exploded. Well our world in the UK. Lockdown happened. Everything got cancelled, everything closed. A new word become a thing. Furlough!

The end of March was a weird time. No one really knew what was going on. We were working from home, Poppy was being home schooled. We were allowed out for 1 piece of exercise per day. We were not allowed to see anyone else. We could buy food but face masks were not a thing. Another phrase kept coming up “new normal” but it was anything but normal.

Hardmoors 55 was moved to October, I had NYC marathon at the beginning of November. At this point I had every belief it would go ahead, so I couldn’t risk myself getting injured on the Moors, so I postponed to 2021.

March was the month where 2020 become the year that looked very different.

APRIL

Stats: 270km, 3,867m+

From a work POV it was a weird one. Things seemed uncertain, with events shut down and offices closed most of our jobs had gone away. As a company we were told we needed to reign things in and some changes would have to be made. As a team though we all pulled together to look for opportunities, to pivot to be ready for when companies wanted to start streaming virtually. This was the first of the transition months, which was the same for my running and the running for those I was coaching.

Like most people I run for mental health, freedom, escape and the challenge. With the restrictions we were under being very new, having the 1 time a day outside was the only thing holding people together. My time was spent on walks with the family and runs up to about 20km. My home gym kit arrived; this would allow me to keep up the strength training so that my body would be ready when the distance increased again. I also decided to drag out some old race tees for a couple of week sessions to help me remember all the races I had the privilege of running.

A really cool thing that did happen was that Gillian and I had a lovely lockdown wedding anniversary meal. It wasn’t what we had originally planned, but hey, new normal right. We did home cooked Tapas in the garden on a glorious day and it was the best. Lockdown in spring was much better than lockdown in winter, but we all knew this would be the case.

By the end of the month I was 90% sure the SDW100 would be cancelled/postponed and prepared myself for that disappointment too.

MAY

Stats: 3243km, 5,670m

At some point during this month SDW100, was indeed postponed. The new date was set for Mid November. 1 week after NYC marathon. So again, I made the decision that I’d move the race to 2021. Sadly, this was becoming a familiar story for so many people in our little community. The race directors were really suffering at this point. When you are a company like Centurion Running, that has many 50 and 100 mile events spread out over an 8 month period, it’s really hard to change things and have plans A,B & C, that might also need rethinking at the drop of a hat to reflect the constantly changing situation. I have been really impressed with how they have handled themselves this year.

Running wise, a couple of cool things happened this month. With Covid cases on the decrease (apparently), we were allowed to meet another person outside for exercise. Later in the month I had two glorious runs with Louise and my neighbour Paul on my now “famous” Shoreham 25km loop. I remember it being so nice to be able to chat away to them for a few hours. Such a difference to the previous 8 weeks.

It was also the month that as a family we ventured a little further afield for some walks. Only 20mins drive but the change of scenery made such a difference. Although the big family hike did break Poppy, which I still feel a little bit guilty about, 13km was a touch too far!

JUNE

Stats: 288.9km, 5,532m+

Virtual challenges had always been a thing in the running community but with the lockdown, more companies had pivoted towards them to help the NHS and charities at a time when they were losing income from all the events being cancelled. I was tempted by the Centurion One Community event at the end of May but tbh I was still a little sad at not being able to race my 1st 100 miler this year that I said no, not this time. It was amazing seeing everyone come together that week though and smashing out some amazing efforts. From Ged’s treadmill 100 miler in 1 go to Dai and Paul completing the capital Ring, just to name two I can remember.

When Maverick race decided to do a virtual 50K at the end June, I decided this I could do. I’d basically run my 25KM loop twice using my car as an aid station. I upped my long runs early in the month to 30km and then did a proper taper week too. Even though it was a virtual event, I treated the distance with the respect it deserved. There was not a real time goal but I wanted to run strong. Lou even agreed to cycle out and run the 2nd leg with me, which was brilliant and made it way more fun.

Medal number 2 of the year!

Work during June, started to pick up massively though. In May some new clients brought light to us all. With the Highlight being that we did the Bocceli stream from Milan to billions of people! Then more and more clients started seeing the value of virtual events and we even did a virtual graduation for a University, which meant working a 32 hour shift, ironically on the same weekend as SDW100 had been scheduled for. I know which I would have preferred doing, wink wink!

JULY

Stats: 131km, 2655m+

The month Lockdown eased off. We were allowed to meet people in our gardens and then inside but not big groups. I can’t remember the exact rules but I know that I finally got to see my Mum and step dad this month for a BBQ. One of the best days of the year!

This was also the month where Poppy was doing the couch to 5K and I got to do a run with her for part of it  It was nice to see her doing some kind of sport apart from jumping around the living room to dance TV shows.

With the rules relaxing a bit more we could travel now. I took this opportunity to go for a nice long run with Ally. She plotted a 42km route on the South Downs, which would take in some new paths and a whole load of steep hills. We had the best day out. It’s such a pleasure to run with this woman. 

Just a few days after this run, I felt something go in my calf and knee on an easy run back from dropping the car at the garage. I stopped running straight away, like you should and hobbled home. I contacted our health insurance company and they set me up with some online physio appointments. Was diagnosed as a calf strain/small tear and given some rehab exercises to do every day, which I duly did. When given the go ahead I did try some short runs but something wasn’t quite right. Losing running at this time made me sad.

With the race in Bulgaria fast approaching, I had to make the decision that I wouldn’t be able to go. It was a two-fold choice really. Obviously the not being able to run /train was a major thing when it’s a 100km race with 5000m+ that goes through the night. But also the travel situation would have meant quarantining on my return. That is just not fair when you are in a family and 2/3 are not traveling. Flights were moved and hotels cancelled as all the people I was traveling with gradually pulled out.

A month of hope and of pain really. Showing me who I missed and what I was missing.

AUGUST

Stats: 177km, 5,202m+

I might not have been able to run at the start of the month but it didn’t stop us as family visiting one of my fav places, The Seven Sisters. We had a lovely walk along from Birling Gap and back. Then a little ramble on the beach as the tide was now out. It was a joy to be able to share these views with Gillian and Poppy that day. I’ll never forget the first time running them at the Beachy Head marathon in 2017 but this day was really special. Poppy even ran some of them 

With some restrictions lifted, some races were about to go ahead, and my friend Dai had found himself entered into the North Downs way 100. Having experience of racing the first half and pacing most of the 2nd half in 2019 I had offered my help along with Nick to crew and pace him. This was before my injury, so in the lead up we kept it a little fluid as to what I could do. With the worst-case scenario being I drive and crew, while Nick does some pacing in the night section. In the couple of days leading up to the race I managed to get some walk/runs in along with Stair machine session with no pain. So I agreed to do 10 miles and Nick would do the last 20. Come race day though, it was super hot, in fact the hottest day of the year I think, at 35c! Not ideal for anyone, let alone someone running 100 miles. We decided to meet Dai in Otford with Calipos and some moral support to see how he was. When we saw him hiking up the station road, he didn’t look in a great way, so we introduced him to “the chair” and the icy pops! This made him very happy, then after some encouragement sent him on his way. It was at this point I said to Nick that I would run the first 20 miles of the remaining 40, then he could do the run in with him. We both agreed this would be a good idea. I was worried about my calf a little but hey, you got to do these things for your friends right. I also really enjoy the night running now and definitely think it help him.. I wont go into all the details of this race as you can read about it in Dai’s blog here. We had quite a fun night and he finished the race mid morning, which is amazing as it had really high DNF numbers. Also, my calf played ball, which was perfect timing for the next adventure.

NYC marathon had now been cancelled, I moved my place to 2021. Fingers crossed for that one. But now with no running race weekends in 2020 looking likely I decided that a little adventure was needed. After racing in the Brecon Beacons in 2018, I had always wanted to go back and see some more of it. I then hatched a plan to go with my friend Jules as she was also longing for an escape from her flat. We soon persuaded Lou and Dai to join us, found a B&B and booked it all. I planned 3 runs over the 3 days. The weather messed up some of the plans but we adapted and had the best time. Yes it rained a lot but we got to walk behind a waterfall, climb 4 peaks in one go, play games in a pub, eat car snacks and generally have an almost normal time. I feel so lucky to have had this adventure looking back. I won’t ever take trips like this for granted. Also, my calf was starting to feel like I could train properly again. Whoop whoop!

With races now happening again, I also found myself signed up for the Maverick Peaks 50k in September and the Montane Chevoit Goat in December. More on that one later! These gave a glimmer of hope to some kind of normalcy.

August ended with a week down in Devon with the family and Poppy’s friend Amelie. The weather wasn’t really on our side but we got in a beach day, A walk on the moors, a couple meals out and even some Go Ape. The girls had fun, which is all that counts really and Gillian really needed to get out of our house too. I had planned some exciting runs but really just enjoyed chilling out.

SEPTEMBER

Stats: 281km, 5,939m+

My birthday month, so of course it’s my favourite. I also love it because it’s when you start to feel the season changing. You get beautiful sunny days but also a little chill too. With the Covid situation still lingering, everyone was starting to worry about what would happen come winter as we all knew it was the usual Flu season too. But at this point life was ticking along in it’s slightly bizarre way. Gillian and I had managed to rebook our anniversary meal at the Michelin starred Le Gavroche, run by Michel Roux Jr. who is one of my all time favourite chefs. We had the best meal out, it felt like a real luxury and the food was pretty good too.

With my calf now playing ball, training was ramped up. The 50km race was at the end of the month. Lou and Elisa who I coach were running it as part for the training for the SDW50, which was happening at the end of October. I thought it would be a good idea for them to run the 2nd half of the course with me. Get a feel for the hills, where aid stations would be etc. If you can recce the route for a race then you most certainly should IMO. Jules and Nick joined us 7km into the 35km route and we had the best day. Also, I hadn’t run the Jevington split of the SDW going west to east before, this would be useful for me come 2021.

Training went pretty well the rest of the month and before I knew it, race day was upon us.

What’s this, an actual race with an actual start line? Well I wasn’t racing it but more running with Lou and Elisa was only doing the marathon (inside joke), so she had a different start time. One of the best things about this event was that so many friends came. It was like a ridic group run! It made me realise, again how much I missed this community in person. Sharing texts or comments on posts is nice but seeing real humans in person (even though there were no hugs) was just brilliant. The race itself was really fun. I’ve run a couple of times in the peaks but one of my bucket list challenges is to do a race in every national park in the UK. Brecons, Lakes and now peaks ticked off. It wasn’t the most challenging of routes but one thing this course did teach me though is to look a little more closely at the profile as it had a massive runnable section in the middle and my legs just weren’t up to it. Love that every day really is a school day on the trails. Improvement and growth are key. 

OCTOBER

Stats 331km, 6171m+

Poppy’s birthday happens at the end of the month, we managed to get a small non sleep over party in for her and 3 friends. We escasped the sleep over due to covid, so that was one good thing that happened lol! Then she had to isolate during half term which really wasn’t nice. A birthday stuck at home. We had planned to take her shopping as it was the one thing she wanted to do all year. We did some online shopping but its just not the same for a little girl like her.

This was the start of a crazy couple of months at work. We had picked up a lot of big jobs which would lead on to the company having its best quarter ever, which in a pandemic was just crazy. I got approval to start looking for new staff as it wasn’t showing any sign of letting up.

One of the few weekends I wasn’t working though, I did manage to get out and crew, (with Dai), Lou and Elisa on the SWD50. Normally Centurion doesn’t allow crews on this race but with the Covid situation, they felt it would relieve pressure on the aid stations if people could just run through some of them. Dai and I had the best day out. Cheering the runners and seeing these two absolutely smash it was just brilliant. As a coach, seeing your athletes’ race is one of the best things ever. I really hope I can get out to do more of this in 2021.

My training also really needed to pick up too. The Goat is a 50ish mile race in the Cheviots, which is part of the Northumberland National Park. It’s a race that’s only been running for a few years but already built up quite some notoriety for how hard it is. Winter, Bogs, 1 aid station and a whole lot of self-navigation mean, this not a race to be taken lightly! From the stats you can see that I was back up to regular volume with extra elevation. I was also looking at kit with the group who I entered with. This race has the biggest mandatory list I have had to do so far but it’s for our own safety and I will never put myself in a situation where I am at risk because I scrimped. Imagine being out in -10 on an exposed hill waiting for rescue, this is serious stuff kids.

Karol (my friend who persuaded me to enter this crazy race), and I can talk kit for hours, we are a nightmare but it’s kind of fun geeking out on it. Comparing reviews, watching videos, searching for best prices etc, it’s what we live for lol! Gloves, coats, bags, everything.

My main concern was finding some shoes that had grip for the bogs but enough cushioning for the distance. Also socks, I had bought some water proof ones but felt these would make my feet sweat too much and probably cause some other issues. I had seen that Salomon had brough out a new shoe called the Wild Cross and read a couple of reviews but I like to talk to people I trust on the matter. I spoke to Tom Wake about them and he said that he ran in a demo pair during a lakes ultra the year before and loved them. My coach Mags also had just done her “Everesting” challenge in them and give 2 thumbs up too. Then I chatted to Sarah on a casual 35km SDW run we did early this month and she rated them highly as well.

I decided to take the plunge and ordered a pair. I also bought some inov8 merino socks to try. The warmth/wicking combo seemed like a good idea. After a couple of short runs to test them out, what I needed was a long wet run…

Right at the end of the month Wild Trail Runners did a group marathon distance run on the NDW, Guildford to Merstham and this turned out to be a pretty moist experience with added gales! The run was nice as I got to catch up with the gang while the shoe/sock comb worked a treat in the mud and puddles. Warm feet, good grip and they even drained nicely when we did hit the occasional dry spot. This was perfect for race day.

Then lockdown 2.0 happened in England

NOVEMBER

Stats: 352km, 5287m+

Lockdown was supposed to finish a week before The Goat. I had planned on a trip to the lakes with Dai and Ale to get some vert and bog training in but that had already been cancelled due to the worsening Covid situation. We all knew it was coming but it didn’t make it any easier. I was pretty sure the race would also be cancelled and when it finally was, I was kind of relieved. Not because I wasn’t prepared but I just didn’t really fancy travelling all that way with what was going on, it just didn’t sit right. I had carried on training though. I found a nice 34km loop that started only 15mins drive from home and took in some new trails and a bit of the NDW in reverse, which is kind of fun too. 

I also went out on my Shoreham loop in ridiculous rain, where the paths turned to streams often knee deep. This was a good time to test out my Montane Fleet jacket. An awesome piece of kit! So glad I have that. Come to think of it, it seems like most of my runs this year have been in awful weather, sign of the times?

Feeling a little deflated with the chance of a final race in 2020 gone, I signed up for the Centurion One Community event. I decided to try the 100-mile week. I wanted to save 100 miles in 1 go for an actual race. I had never run 100 miles in a week, my previous biggest week was in September 2019 at 87 miles, with 75 of those being in a race! To add to the challenge, I signed up for the RERUN tee shirt challenge. Which basically meant that for a £10 donation this non-profit company would draw a random old Race tee shirt and I would have to think of something fun to add to the week. It could have been a vertical KM, Berlin marathon, rainbow run, anything really. I drew 50 parkruns! Now there was no way I was going to run 250km in 5km loops over a week. I still needed to fit this challenge around family and work. 

After much debating I decided upon the following as part of the week. 

50 loops of a local park. Each loop turned out to be about 1.3km. 

Some regular runs in the evenings.

Then at the weekend a 50km with Jules on the Hurtwood race route, dubbed FAKE HURTWOOD 

Finish up with a 5km on the actual local parkrun course.

It was a fun and interesting week to say the least. Once I got on top of my fuelling in the mornings the runs became a smidge easier. The 4.45 alarm calls were a little tiring though as 15mins make a lot of difference on my usual wake up. The 50km on that Saturday was super fun, we had Jules’ car as an aid station for two points as it does a loop on the end of the out and back. It was lovely to enjoy the route, as when I did the actual race, I raced it hard and barely saw anything. Jules even had us medals made which was amazing. Then by the time I finished the 5km on the Sunday, I was really pleased how it went. My legs felt pretty good tbh, I needed a few days rest but on the whole I was super happy. Good coaching and getting the sessions done along with doing my strength sessions made for fast recovery.

DECEMBER

Stats: 219km, 3148m+

Lockdown lifted but a new tier has made it more like an actual lockdown again.

I have eased off on my running, having a month off plan is great. Normally I would do that in November and in hindsight probably should have as soon as the race was cancelled but ho hum. 

I find myself finishing up the year reflecting on everything that has happened. Knowing I have been very lucky to have had a job, being with a brilliant and beautiful woman who took on 97% of the home schooling. Having an amazing and also beautiful daughter who makes me laugh and so proud at her resilience.

In 2020 I ran two actual races, 1 virtual race and a virtual challenge. It not the year I had planned but I still ran 3,119km (2000 miles) with 58,282m in election gain. I am pretty dam proud of that and looking at these photos again just makes me realise how lucky I have been.

To all my coaching clients old and new, thank you. It’s been so hard on you this year but you continue inspire and help me grow. I wish 2021 brings you some more races/challenges that we can work on together.

For me 2021 looks kind of like 2020 in terms of races, which is a really odd feeling, so come 4th Jan training starts again:

MARCH: Hardmoors 55 (miles)

JUNE: South Downs Way 100 (miles)

AUGUST: CCC maybe, if the ballot for guaranteed places goes my way, lol

NOVEMBER: NYC Marathon. Last road marathon

DECEMBER; The Cheviot Goat

I know maybe they won’t all happen and that’s ok because for me running isn’t just about races. It’s about the experience of getting out on the trails, the process of the training and improving as a person. 2020 has given me plenty of these, it’s not all bad x

2 thoughts on “2020 a year in reflection

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