A lot went wrong.

Firstly some backlog/admin to write up.

After the injury in August 2022* it's been a long slow road to recovery and all of the years races were in doubt, but after cautious exercises and stretching and much frustration I still attempted the Crawley 24 in mid April following my good run last year, I'd had high hopes to be able to have a good training block coming into this and had set myself a goal.... however, with the injury I kept the goal but added a couple of fallback goals, although I still had in the back of my mind I might not be able to run the 24 hours if my ankle flared up.

Goal A was 220km+ (i.e. a Spartathlon auto-qualify time - just to mentally have that although I do have a place this year), Goal B was to top 200km, and Goal C was at least cover the same distance as last year (191km).

*Although I realise I haven't written about the injury here or anywhere - in brief, at the end of August I was out run/hiking in the Chilterns, I jumped down off a stile, landed on a rock and my ankle went pop. Initial diagnosis was "just a sprain" but later follow up ultrasound and MRI showed there had been multiple torn tendons. These have taken months to recover from.


Since I'm writing this much later and it's not fresh in my mind (and I wrote about Crawley 2021 before) and there's not much different to describe really, I'll just mention how it went and a quick overview! 

Since Crawley isn't too far away from home it's nice and stress free to get everything ready and down to the start, we unpacked and setup our crew tent, Cara and Hugo both on 'crew' duties this time, we had a feed and pacing plan worked out - basically every half hour I would be handed something and my job was to take it and eat or drink it. and run. We were going for a "less is more approach" compared to last year, where we ran the crew tent more like an ultra 'aid station'. The pacing plan was straightforward too, run for 30 minutes and take a 60 second walk break (to coincide with taking on food) repeat, and try to hold that for as long as possible. Wendy Whearity my coach seemed confident and positive I'd be ok. 

There were some amazing runners on the track this year and again it was a great experience to share the track and chat to so many, one highlight for me was chatting to the lovely Dave Andrews as I was going through some of my tougher moments later on, his positivity and attitude were infections and helped me claw my way on when it was getting hard.

But it was great to chat with everyone there, these track races are so sociable.

The timing chip was an ankle mounted strap and I'd attached this to my left leg (my injured leg) without thinking, after 16 hours of squeezing, rubbing and cutting into my ankle this resulted in my tendon flaring up and it was now grating (and extremely painful to run on) by the time I'd realised it was too late, however, I was here now and I'd come this far, there was no way I wasn't going to finish this. We swapped the ankle it was on and planned on moving it down onto the shoe if it was still an issue.

Unfortunately, the pain now resulted in a battle to just keep moving and my pace had dropped away, but I dug in and shuffled forwards. I'd hoped that the new days dawn would perk me up, but it was only until the last 15 minutes or so that I finally decided I'd had enough run-walk-shuffling and I was going to finish this running in style, I blocked out the pain and started jogging... lap after lap went past and I was euphoric, smiling chatting and cheering everyone on the track. Before long I realised that 15 minutes is actually quite a long time and started doubting my life choices, again.

Finally the hooter went, I dropped my bean bag, then dropped to do my Bad Boy Running press ups to everyone's amusement.

Done. and totally physically broken. The end tally was 189.5km, just a whisker under last years so disappointing, but hardly unacceptable. I'll take that. and one year I'll come back and get it right.

My ankle is huge. This doesn't look good.


GUCR was next on the calendar at the end of May, just 6 weeks away and now I had serious doubts. My ankle was throbbing, painful and grating. again. Time for another physio review, lots of rest and plenty of hope. After a few weeks, it was "ok" again, and so it was just very light careful exercise for the few weeks until GURC.

I'd failed twice before at GUCR - reaching 100 miles, so the plan/target this year was simply "finish".

The course was reversed this year going from London to Birmingham and getting from home to the start for a 6am kick off was going to be challenging, I settled on a hotel in paddington and headed over after work in Canary Wharf on Friday night to  register, relax and wait.

I'd forgotten how bad sleep in a (non luxury) central london hotel was, and despite having ear plugs - got very little sleep with constant sirens, then delivery trucks also there was some sort of deep building infrastructure machine kicking into life with a low thrum every 15 minutes! 

Saturday morning and kitted up, porridge done and a short wake up jog and off to the start. As always so many familiar faces to chat to, caught up with Dave Stuart (a fellow Spartathlon entree), Chelle White and Kerry Cooper (on crewing duties) as we milled about Little Venice.

My plan. Walk four minutes, run 56, eat, repeat, as long as possible.

We all snaked around to the start, Dick sounded the hooter and we were off, I decided to start off with the walk to not get caught up in the flow and let everything thin out before trotting on. On this run I was testing the latest iterations of my gps tracker and trying my "water flow monitor" - since historically I've been terrible at keeping on top of fluids.

After 6 miles or so, bumped into legend Spencer, out on the path supporting. I was busy checking out my map for potential toilet stops which can be challenging when you're running along a canal through a built up area! Spencer suggested a nearby McDonalds but I decided to press on.

11:30 - 5h30 - 30 miles

First proper full pit-stop, restocked with snacks and refilled water - 900ml in 5hrs, pretty good going for me.

Running under a painted bridge through Berkhampstead at 40 miles I stopped to take a picture as another runner joked about not running, he then said actually hold on that's not a bad idea, stopped took out his phone and also took a shot. We joked about doing these events and sometimes not having any record or pictures of what we saw along the way.

13:30 - 7h30 -  41 miles

Berkhamstead - Ate porridge, drank milk, topped up with snacks.

14:50  - 8h50 - 46 miles

Tring checkpoint - Ate a ham and cheese wrap, drank milk, drank tea, took snacks. We discussed that there was a bit of a hike now, 8 miles to meet again, but even though it was hot, I had enough food and water.....

Presumed missing

However, just after the first checkpoint at Tring I sailed on along the canal down the Aylesbury arm of the Grand Union Canal where I should have turned right. As I was running along I was getting frustrated at the poor quality of the surface and after a few miles was wondering what distance there was until the next crew point (we'd talked at Tring and decided it was 8 miles) when I checked it was. oh. I wasn't on the route. oh. I'd gone 2.5 miles the wrong way, I ran back along the terrible rutted undulating path annoyed, I slipped once and nearly ended in the canal, I got up quickly, charged on checking my feet... and ran my head into a tree. By now my mood was not 100%, but there was nothing I could do but put this behind me and get on with it.

Alternative route

16:00 - 10h - 52 miles

(all miles from this point will be out from "official" by ~5 miles)

2.5 miles later I was back at the point I'd missed, rather than running on the canal I should have crossed over a lock, run through a housing estate and then back onto the Grand Union canal. 

A few miles further up the canal I shared my tale of woe with another runner expecting some sympathy or empathy, I was slightly taken aback by the response that "well we always cross over the lock" ?? eh. we've never run this direction before? then "anyway there was a chap on the opposite side shouting 'this way' so you couldn't go wrong"??? er. yeah right. thanks mate. maybe he was there for you but he wasn't there an hour earlier when I went past. This similarly didn't improve my mood so I pushed on ahead.

I was struggling a bit in the heat now having run out of water - running 13+ miles rather than the expected 8, but I spotted someone being crewed up ahead so I gave a quick spurt as I saw his crew leaving. I caught up with them and another crew by their cars and asked if they had some water, I refilled and a lovely lady handed me a can of Irn Bru. Magic. Whilst it's great that all crews are always willing (and expected) to assist any runner, the logistics mean that you rarely see any, since most will get to the canal just as their runner arrives then leave immediately they go through.

16:45 - 10h45 -  54 miles

There's the weirdest vision in the field to the side... it's a huge multi-coloured village which appears to be made of straw, the scale is immense with large boards of colour-key blue and green, as I'm taking a picture a cyclist riding past stops to chat telling me this is the Wicked film set and this is the "Munchkin village"

Munchkin city

17:45 - 11h45 - 60 miles

Tesco Leighton Buzzard -  sat down for 5 minutes. regroup. feed. Rice pudding, tea, milk, load up snacks.

Wiped out

18:48 - 12h48  -  63 miles

I run past a pub. I stop. I step in. I chat. They ask what I'm doing, I tell them. I'm bought a beer. I must remember this technique in future. My mood is significantly improved.

Then some annoying sections here... I'm running on a poorly/not maintained rutted towpath... a few hundred metres to my right is a parallel perfectly serviceable tarmacced road. On the other side of the canal is a new beautifully surfaced cycle path.

This doesn't help my mood. but this is the course. so. suck it up.

about 15 hours, ~70 miles

On a stoney rough stretch of path I catch my toe and go down, I hit the side of my knee on as sharp rock and cut a wide 4 inch long gash on my leg. Blood gushes and covers my entire leg from knee to ankle.

I dig out my first aid kit clean up the patch and manage to get a large dressing on to hold it. Thankfully it seems to clot well and I run on.

I message Cara I'm going to need a clean up. She assumes I've crapped myself. Lovely.

When we meet, Cara's clearly impressed by the quantity of blood and suggests "cleaning it out" I'm not keen on it opening up now it's clotted, and point out it was washed clean by a lot of blood earlier. Cara also cleans all the blood from my leg, saying it would terrify the checkpoint if I turned up like that. I concede this is probably sensible albeit I was rather pleased with my red leg.

22:33 - 16h33 - 80miles

Proper cleanup at Cosgrove Hall. Redid dressing with steristrips. Sit down eat. chat. eat. drink. eat. Onwards!

06:00 - 24hr - 105 miles

Early in the morning and I'm not 100% with it having had major (explosive!) digestive issues overnight, I get to Drayton Reservoir and I can't figure out where I'm supposed to be going, I check the instructions but they don't make any sense describing "running over a bridge" if I'd been more awake I'd have stopped and worked out exactly what was going on... but I'm not, so I run back to the canal, then follow the instructions step by step.... only to end up in exactly the same place describing "a bridge". I use Google maps to work out what the descriptions mean and run on where I think I need to go.... and then, figure out "the bridge" does exist, it's underneath me, but you can't actually see it as you run towards it.

A bit more bonus distance.

08:00 - 26hr - 110miles

I meet Cara, get some Imodium. Have breakfast of coffee and croissant. The Imodium kicks in and there are no more exciting surprises.

Just the long slog into Birmingham now. Why am I doing this? Anyone?

The next stretches are some of the most annoying, miserable, annoying, tedious, annoying stretches of tow-path. The surface is constantly rutted and uneven, it's frequently not possible to actually run. Paths are overgrown and you're pushing through weeds, making it impossible to see where your footing is, which isn't ideal given in many places the path actually drops into the canal in places.


I swear constantly, colourfully and profusely. For miles.

At some point I'm seeing fields of yellow buses through the hedges, and a meercat sitting on the path.

14:40 - 32hr - 129 miles

The heat has been hammering me for hours and I'm suffering at the top of Hatton Locks. I lie down in the shade, curl up and put an ice pack on my neck, I feel myself cooling, drag myself together and trudge on. Apparently I look "green, shaky and unsteady". I on the other hand leave determined that this is it, I'm finishing this.

16:00 - 34hr - 136 miles

and I come into several groups of walkers, it's lovely to have some "non-GUCR" chat with a few of the groups to find out what they're up to, apparently they're on a 100 mile walk and after a while they turn off the canal, apparently they're heading to a rugby club for their finish food and drinks.

17:03 - 35hr - 138 miles

Knowle Locks - I walk up to truck for last big feed before the end. Tuck into a ham and cheese roll, tea, milk.

18:30 - 36hr30 - 148 miles

5  miles to the end Cara joins me to run into the finish -  we chat. Randomly, discussing architechture, old brick victorian buildings (there are a lot here), how everything could be "so much better if" etc.

The last 2 miles are never ending, up, up, up over locks and bridges, and finally turn the corner to see the GUCR finish banner and over to shake hands with Dick and get my chunky medal.

20:45 - 38hr45 - 153 miles


38 hours. Not what I'd hoped for, and some bonus miles done to know I can do that distance which is reassuring for Spartathlon, but grateful I can cross this off and never run down the canal ever again.

Technology outing/shakedown under those conditions were constructive - the fluid tracker worked with superb accuracy for 4 hours.... then stopped completely. Postmortem revealed that the battery was very dead holding less than 100mA, but also highlighting some possible power improvements to the code - for what it's doing 100mA should be enough really.

Tracker nearly got to the end.

Similarly the tracker worked like a charm... until the last 10k, unfortunately again, let down by an end-of-life battery which had a sudden power drop at 36hours, not hugely surprising since I use 'scavenged' old mobile phone batteries for these projects, should probably find and order a new one really.

Leg healing nicely

Strava activity link: 2023  
The previous attempts: 2022, 2018


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