T-3 #256CHALLENGE kit check

Running is a pretty simple sport – just bung on your trainers and go. As is my wont, I thought I’d try and make that a little more complicated and have duly spent a reasonable amount of time obsessing over what kit I might need to employ, both for the actual running but also for the recovering bit, which I suspect will be almost as important as the time spent on two feet.

For the curious, or indeed those lacking a freshly painted wall to watch, here’s a run down of my approach to running and resting the #256CHALLENGE.



Most runs will be in Salomon S Lab Wings – it has a grippy trail sole,is very light but doesn’t have too minimal a drop and is quite well cushioned. I’ll be mixing up the terrain though so will use even lighter Salomon trail shoes for flatter canal runs, fell shoes for..fells and road shoes for… you get the drift. Mixing the terrain, gradients and surfaces that I run on will, I hope help break up the routine of running, reduce the impact of running one type of surface all the time and more importantly prevent too many niggles and avoid injuries.


I’ll mostly wear merino socks for soggy feet comfort, wicking baselayers for warmth, long tights to keep achy legs warm, a superlight windproof and a couple of thicker cold weather running tops including a lovely Inov8 Primaloft Alpha pullover for when it’s really baltic but I want to keep moving without overheating. The long range forecast for December is pretty good at the moment with cold but dry weather due from a stable high pressure system. However, it will rain at some point so full taped seam waterproofs will definitely get used. Buffs, hats and gloves of varying thickness (including neoprene gloves for rain) will help with the fine tuning  of keeping warm but not too warm.

Recovery and maintanence:

I know the science is inconclusive, but I swear by RockTape kinesio tape for supporting achy muscles, dealing with little niggles or generally just easing tired legs through their paces. Allied to Ibuprofen, plenty of foam rollering and stretching as well as Epsom salts baths, I should be fine if I take the time each day to look after myself. The purple spiky ball thing is a recent find – you can use it for pressure point self-massage on feet or anywhere else for that matter and it really works. Oh and eating well too will be crucial, especially on the back to back longer runs and within the 20 minute window post-run. I’ll take a race vest with water on longer runs to make sure I don’t dehydrate and can carry extra clothing and trail food.

Recording the runs:

A Garmin and heart rate strap will both record my runs and help restrict my heart rate to lower levels of effort (probably no more than 137bpm) – this will be a long haul effort not a flat out blast and I am very conscious of the need to keep my heart rate down so as not to build up unneccesary fatigue for the large number of consecutive days running. Allied with Strava, I can watch the total distance and climb build up over the month.


The kit is ready, I’m ready, and I’m looking forward to getting started.


For more information click here to take you to M3 Project’s dedicated #256CHALLENGE page

To donate click here

For further information on M3 Project click here

Thank you!

T-6 days for the #256CHALLENGE


Final training/obsessing/fretting for the #256 is in full swing with a week to go. How does one prepare to run ever greater distance for 16 days and then hang in there whilst it becomes more manageable? I’m not sure so I’ve just tried to run big blocks of days without rest throughout October and November. Not necessarily long days per se, as the actual distance even on the longest day isn’t too bad, it’s the cumulative fatigue that is worrying me. I’ve also done lots of climbing up and down the local moors. Why climbing? I’ve no idea – it just feels productive and has built some good leg strength that will hopefully be useful when plodding out the miles at a slower speed. Some gym work too at MT3 Fitness, hopefully that will pay dividends when things get tougher and fatigue sets in.


To put together the finishing touches, I have a tough weekend in store with a cross-country race on Saturday and a 4hr mini mountain marathon fell/navigation event on Sunday. Then a few days rest, get my recovery routines sorted in terms of nutrition, self-care, physio and get the Christmas shopping done online to save weary legs.

Bring it on.

Click here to take you to M3 Project’s dedicated #256CHALLENGE donations page

For further information on M3 Project click here

Thank you!



Throughout December 2016, I’m going to be undertaking/running the #256CHALLENGE to raise awareness and funds for M3 Project.

M3 is the homelessness project, working with young people and teenage parents, that I have been managing since 2003. Based in Rawtenstall, East Lancashire, the project supports single young homeless in a unique supported lodgings scheme, and homeless teenage families (single parents and couples) in an equally unique supported accommodation scheme.

In common with many vital services funded by local authorities across the country, austerity measures taken by central government are biting hard and, along with almost all  the other accommodation services for vulnerable people in Lancashire, the project is losing most if not all of its local authority funding in 2017. All is not lost, as we have been working hard to fund our services for vulnerable young people from a variety of new sources and are confident that we will maintain our provision into 2017 and beyond. However, fundraising activities will be a part of that new funding arrangement and this is where the #256CHALLENGE, forming the mainstay of M3’s Christmas 2016 Appeal fits in.



  • What is the #256CHALLENGE?
    • The #256CHALLENGE is a running challenge where you run every day in December. But there’s a twist…


  • How far is it?
      • It totals 256 miles for the month but with the biggest mileage coming in the week 12-18th December at a whopping 99 miles!


  • How does it work?
      • For the first 16 days of December you run the miles that correspond to the day. 1 mile on the 1st, 2 on the 2nd, 3 on the 3rd and so on to the 16th with a chunky 16 miles…
      • On the 17th you go back down – 15, 14, 13, 12 and so on to a final 1 mile run on New Years Eve. And a well earned rest!


    Yes I’m a fairly fit runner, some might say a keen runner, but its a fairly chunky undertaking, especially in the middle of the month when the days are short, the weather probably bad and there’s 99 miles to run in one week…

    Through the month I’ll be blogging about homelessness and the issues facing young people who become homeless, as well as posting Strava proof that I’m out there running. So, if you want to point and laugh as I struggle, as well as learn about how homelessness affects young people, bookmark http://m3project256.tumblr.com/

    Alternatively, if you want to help or get involved..


    Come and run a mile (or more) with me. Just bring a £1 donation and run off those pre-Christmas mince pies. Look out for dates and times here, throughout December.

    Spread the word!

    Share the details of this challenge with your friends, family and social media contacts. We’re raising awareness about youth homelessness as well as about M3 Project so your support is vital.


Stirring custard. Or why I run like a cyclocross rider.

I went on a Fell/Offroad Leader in Running Fitness course last weekend. It was an absorbing and inspiring introduction into coaching for running, something I’ve been wanting to do for a bit since becoming involved with the Junior groups at Clayton Harriers, with whom my daughter trains.

We spent time on the course looking at uphill and downhill running technique, with the usual element of peer assessment to see how we could improve each others running style. I was described as ‘stirring custard’ with my left arm and hand whilst running. Not my right, just my left which apparently dangled out to the side, with a strong elbow bend and didn’t drive in the ‘pocket to socket’ forward plane that is conducive to efficient forward motion. Combine that with some fairly nasty twisting across my pelvis and core under effort, and you have an inefficient style with lots of energy wasted. And a bit of a bruised ego, for my part.

I’d gone away thinking about this, and how I might correct it with drills and excercises in the gym and begun to work on it. It was out on my cyclocross bike that I realised with a classic lightbulb moment why I was doing this, why I was stirring custard.

It was I deduced, as a result of carrying and running with a cross bike for years and years. A habit and an evolution of hours of training spent doing something inherently unbalanced and unhelpful. Watch this video of a professional cyclocross race in Belgium from a couple of years ago. These are the best riders in the world, and it features in particular, arguably the greatest ‘cross rider of the modern age, the recently retired Sven Nys (in Belgian Champ red, yellow and black).


When Sven and the other riders hit the long sand carrying section to run, they also seem to stir to varying degrees with their left arm, balancing and helping along forward motion with an unhelpful bike across their right shoulder.

Here’s further proof, this time with me (as second rider) training in 2012 for the 3 Peaks Cyclocross race with teammate Dave Haygarth. Hmm.


I seem to have learned to run like a cyclocross rider very well. Except I still do it when not carrying a bike. Food for thought, and for retraining myself to run like a runner a little better. Now to work on that pelvic/core twisting…

Entering the Lottery


Time was when I used to enter the 3 Peaks Cyclocross and not even think about whether I would be able to ride, or not. It just wasn’t that popular.

But that was 1991 (when I was MUCH faster, honest) and before social media, the growth of the cycling press and the rise of ‘challenge’ events and sportives. The Peaks back then was the preserve of (mostly) Northern cyclocross devotees who would meet in late September for a crazy canter round Yorkshire’s finest on their patently unsuitable bikes, before resuming the winter seasons 1 hour lapped ‘crosses in a Park the following week.

Fell runnners showed up first – and spectacularly and rightly made the event their own – before some curious mountainbikers and the odd ‘outdoor’ athlete joined in the fun. I didn’t ride after 1992 (DNF) until 2005 and it had already changed greatly by the time I came out of, ahem, retirement. The real change though has been in the last 3 or 4 years where its popularity has rocketed, to the extent where the event now attracts well over 1000 entries for its 600 or so places. And people are getting turned away in large numbers. Regular 3 Peakers, pit crew who have supported riders and the event for years but fancied a do themselves (incl my pit crew Mark), cyclocross devotees, newcomers, the curious and so on. The nature of the event, I believe, has changed. But that’s another discussion…

Nevertheless, following 2 years out after breaking my neck and back, I have thrown my lot in and submitted an entry. To pre-selection only mind – I’ll have to wait till July to find out if I am successful. And I’m not holding out hope, ironic given my level of public blogging/social media obsession in recent years, aided and abetted by ex team-mate Dave Haygarth who runs the current and excellent 3 Peaks Cyclocross Blog (go check it out).

I’ll let you know if I am successful. In the meantime, I shall commence training as if I am riding…