This blog could either look at one side of the story or the other side, it could be a reflection on how unsuccessful this year has been, the illnesses, the injuries, the aches and pains that life brings. On the other hand it could be a reflection, a recollection of every success, friend, joyous moment and achievement that 2017 has brought. I’ve never been a negative man.

As a year for me it’s been an interesting one. In the beginning it was centred around one primary goal. Complete the Barnsley Boundary. I had other goals in mind, but the Boundary goal eclipsed all of them. Miles were put in, in the early part of the year. Hitting 170 mile in a week at stages. Running 33 mile in a day, just for training. It was all fun and games.

I came out of December 2016. Stronger than ever, hitting 150+ mile weeks. If there was a marathon around then. I was in form and in shape. But there wasn’t. Inskip Half came in early January. A super flat and fast Half Marathon. Completely eclipsed any other half marathon I had ever run. Blowing my PB out the water by 4 minutes with a 1:14:10. Mileage still remained high following, but the injuries began. Meltham 10k in late January, slipped and bruised my backside in the car park on some ice. Picked up a flu, as soon as I shook the bruised feeling. Left ankle swelled up after that. Then picked up the cough. Had to halt my mileage and hit a all time low of 50, I believe, for that week. Couldn’t breathe, couldn’t run. All of that though, was creating one thing, it was developing me. Making me stronger, running through it. Feeling absolutely low. But still having the strength inside to keep moving forward. Dewsbury 10k came the week after Meltham, a real target race for me.

Running with a bruise looking much blacker than that. The course measured long but I managed a 10k PB of 34:48. Some corker Barnsley Boundary runs with a great group of people made everything worth the while. The Wombwell 5, a local race followed. Another illness, sniffly nose and cough. Didn’t tear up any roads there. But don’t race 5 mile much, so it was a PB. Then I made a decision, after much deliberation, talking to people and looking around. I really felt my running had hit a level where joining a club would be the best thing for me. I made the jump and I don’t think I’d ever look back. I joined Penistone Footpath Runners in March 2017. First race as Penistoner, was the Hull 20. A terrible headwind in the second half made the race a slog. My target here was a sub 2. To ensure I was in shape for the marathons. But I came away with a 2:02:59. I wasn’t too disappointed, took a lot away from it and memory banked the wind. Managing to set a club record in my first race as a Penistoner. This race would be the race that saw the birth of Team Barnsley, after a conversation in the car with Melvin Wallace, in and around Mark Yates swearing due to his off pace run. Forgetting he himself had his battle with illness and motivation.

I came away from Hull 20. Set up a Facebook group and it grew from there. But more about that later!

The time of April came around really quick. At this point battling a injury to my left ankle and then recovered and then my right ankle. I went into Manchester Marathon with my feet on ice the night before. Not good. Shoe soles in perfect condition but uppers ripped. So had them held together with safety pins!

Nightmare scenario, target race. Feeling crap. I did PB. But in hindsight could’ve been much better. In hindsight, I was in the shape for a sub 2:35 before that. It wasn’t to be. But that 4:04 marathoner, has come a long way. He’s a long way to go. But he’ll get there. One step in front of the other. I came away from that and memory banked that experience as well.

On the back of Manchester’s achievement? Disappointment? Relief from ankle pain? I did what I know best and just carried on. Booked another marathon whilst I was still in peak cardiovascular fitness and hoped that I would do a little better. Choices were either the; Milton Keynes Marathon, the place my running journey began in 2013 or Edinburgh. But with bigger targets on the horizon line, I chose Milton Keynes. The 1st of May. Giving me roughly a month. I got my ankle right, plenty of Boundary runs and even did the notorious crags the day before with Bryan and Chris.

This set up as a photo of the year? Potentially?

I was feeling fresh and feeling really quite ok. Going into Milton Keynes marathon with zero taper and 13.5 miles of the glorious and very climby Barnsley Boundary in my legs. No ankle pain. I knew I’d run better in the back of my mind than I did at Manchester. But just how better I didn’t quite truly believe. Milton Keynes is a quieter course, advertised as flat, disregarding all the underpasses, roundabouts and gradual ascents around the boxed off streets. It has a stadium Finish but holds a special place in my heart. I set off steady and built up, picking people off as the run went on. Finding myself quite far back at the beginning. Legs however didn’t fade. I went through mile 20. Feeling strong. Feeling tough. Finding myself in 3rd position. Knowing there wasn’t much in the front three. However also knowing the leader is Adam Holland (do your research on him, machine) I approached the underpass and above saw him and the guy in 2nd place. I still wasn’t fading. Managed to catch them both rather quickly and passes them. To then find myself in 1st. It all still, to this day, seems a bit surreal. Back where the dream began. I entered the stadium, feeling fit, passed the lead bikers who I only followed for a few mile. To Finish across the line.

Bucket list achieved, still doesn’t seem real? Is that me?

But one issue, 2:40:06.

What’s all that about? Narrowly missing out on 2:40. Marathons on hold for now. Big target in mind.

You can’t go onto to conquer the world if you don’t conquer your home town first? The Barnsley Boundary. Is this the highlight of my year, yes! Of course! Why? It’s because of the people. The people who joined in, Robin and Phil who did it all with me, the people who just supported out on route. It made it unbelievably special. It made it memorable, all the recce runs, the headtorch nights, the cold experiences. The people who are close, the new friends made, the large and tight running family that has developed has the year has gone one. And Barnsley, of course. It’s a beautiful place really! June the 4th, 2017. I don’t think I’d ever get a feeling or an experience that will trump that again, an overwhelming feeling that everything was left out there. An adventure around the borough, from setting off at 6.15 in the morning, seeing swans and their cygnets on the starting leg and then getting chased by horses on the crags leg. The long drag and pacey run, getting carried away and rained in by Phil on leg 7 on the old disused path leading to Langsett. Getting lost on leg 8, as you leave Langsett, then being swore at by Bryan. Eventually making it to Dunford after an adventure over to Woodhead. Loosing two of my core at the beginning of Leg 9 in Jonathan and Bryan. Nearly dying at the end of leg 9 and loosing the will to live. Lifted massively by the large contingent at the George Pub. Trudging down to Cannon Hall, with the massive pack around us. Easy bit? Ask Mark Yates or Lee Nash. Massive climb out of Cannon Hall, the fields I’d previously been chased by cows in the dark. Quick wee at the bottom of Bretton before climbing out up to Staincross, encouraged by the arrival of Jill Carlton and Andrew Heppenstall. Taking the route through the woods instead of through the field, that I’d seen recently seen Bryan Harrod, have the time of his life gliding through there on a recce run. Craig Allen joining in for a bit of fun after he got back to Barnsley. Tagging on for what seemed like forever. Brierley now to Thurnscoe, nearly home and dry. Following Gavin Beardshall, Katie Sharman and Daniel Hayward. So glad they know the way, cause I’m too far gone at this point. Hitting Thurnscoe determined to make the last leg worthwhile. Just wanting to make it before it gets dark. Walking through the boggy field slowed me a little, but knocked out an 8 minute mile in this 73 mile slog. Leaving a sign which way to go on the path for Robin and Phil, who spent a little longer refuelling. About a mile from the end near Old Moor tripping and belly sliding, getting up eventually making it to the end. To even dip for a finish line made out of toilet roll. Standing now, leaning against the barrier, drifting in and out, desperate for sugar. Sending our James back to the car, as he slowly made his way. He returned with me laid out on the banking. With lucozade, sweets and sugar frothing at the mouth. An image that will always resonate in my mind from that day, was after all, walking back to the car. I was pinned up, by my brother with one arm, then my Dad at the other arm. Carrying me back. But it had been done, I had set out and achieved all I wanted to this year. In one day.

I’ve plenty more where they came from!

I’ve tried to make a list of names, but it has been difficult to remember all of them. This is what I’ve got so far.

Bryan Harrod, Jonathan Batty, Lee Nash, Mark Yates, Martin Ball, Paul Altree, Andrew Heppenstall, Jill Carlton, Gavin Beardshall, Katie Sharman, Charlie Skipper, Damian Kilpin, Damien Briscoe, Andrew Chalkley, Craig Allen, Henry Skipper, Ian Neville, Daniel Hayward, Rick Sunman, Katie Roberts, Marie Hemingway, Sheila O’Carroll, Tracy Hyland, Tom Shelton, Lisa Hinchliffe, Sarah Clough, Gary Cooke, Elaine Cooke, David Lee, Katie Lee, Jane Martin, Mark Ruse, Craig Alwash, Kevin Wood, Rachel Fox, Tom Randall, Matthew Coldwell, James Cooke, Vikki Skipper, Shaun Walker, Lorraine Gandy, Andy Shelbourne, Nick Powell, Harry Shelbourne, Sam Shaw, Matt Robinson.

Did the idea of Team Barnsley help in the success of the Boundary? I can answer that! Of course it did, it was Team Barnsley at its finest! With Damien Briscoe at the helm, with his communication and coordination of where we’ll be on the day. Keeping runners informed as to where we’ll be at each particular time. That is what Team Barnsley is all about, helping each other out, being a collective force. A united group of individuals with individual goals, but a like minded focus. For a long time, I went out running with a small click of people, we didn’t share with anyone else and probably felt a bit of invite only. But Team Barnsley, has opened that to everyone. A forum base where runs can be posted and someone might just tag along. So you’ll never be alone. Am I proud of what it’s become, yes I am. I may have pressed the create a group button, but it’s the 529 current members that have made it a success, so far! It’s a gift, a talisman of the Barnsley Community, showcasing the welcoming and homely attitude of every individual involved in it. Absolutely spectacularly fantastic!!

Anyway, it was tough after the Boundary, I ain’t going to sit on my high horse and say it wasn’t. I struggled on my run the day after, but still went out and conquered my day. A little bit anyway. Building my way back up for the fun run that is a marathon. Miles dropped though without the focus of the Boundary in mind and my legs didn’t feel perfect. The long runs and motivation faded but the ultimate goal still remains. It’s a simple one really, run every single day. Whatever I achieve is merely a bonus. It’s a lifestyle, a thing I must do to survive, part of my everyday life. Speed didn’t come quick though, despite running the Spencer’s Dash on the Wednesday, 3 days afterwards. I built and built again, trying to target Snowdonia Trail Marathon as the fun run. And Doncaster 5k as my faster thing. One extreme to the other. I’ve never raced a 5k before so it would be interesting to see what I could do. So I turned up at Doncaster, Wednesday night. See what I can do. It’s a lapped race, so quite easy to pace. But tough when you’re passing people or potentially being passed. Means you can catch onto other people’s paces, who might be much faster or slower than you. Anyway, quick sticks managed a 16:28. Beating Shaun Dimelows club record for the 5k in the Senior Category. Highly likely Scott Hinchliffe will have that in the future though.

Snowdonia Trail came around quick, with a course change making the first 6 mile through boggy fields hard work in comparison to the compacted trail in previous years. But an adventure up a mountain with a leaky water bag, made it the ultimate dream of a run. I had some hilly half marathons thrown in as well, for good measure.

I spent the most of August and September bringing myself down to earth with the longer races quietening down. Mainly seeing the end to the Spencer’s Dash series for 2017, a local series of Wednesday night 6k races. A race I’ve really grown to love, with a mix of trails, fast descents, unbearable climbs and friendly faces. I managed to finish 1st in the series this year. After narrowly missing out by 1 point in 2016. All the while still getting the all important base miles in for the autumn marathons. But with working hours on the gradual climb, I took a different approach to training. Little and often, switching to twice a day everyday. Targeting 16 mile for the day, spread over as many runs as I could fit in. Sometimes I’ve been out 3 times a day. Just to get the miles in. I approached the autumn marathon season, entering my last long run before target race. Hull Marathon being the long run, target race York. Previous year at Hull setting off steady and building up, this year. I set off at race pace and faded a little. But it gave me the confidence knowing that I could at least do the distance off the training I’d done. It didn’t however give me the confidence that I was in PB shape, having a cold at Hull hindered my hopes of a PB at York. I also didn’t think I had another fast Marathon left in me this year. So going into York. My plan from a far was to run quicker than PB or die trying. That was two weeks out. The day of the marathon, hope failed when I woke up again with a cold. So jacking up on Jakemans Honey and Lemon Menthol sweets I undertook a marathon. Hoping to at least do something here. Another highlight of my year coming up, but swallowed with a painful cloud too. My Uncle had been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, making life and home life not the best couple of months. In times of struggle and pain, he still had the will and fight to keep at it. I took that strength into York Marathon this year with me, and I’ll probably hold it close for the rest of my life. I hit mile 20 at York, hoping to feel like I did at Milton Keynes. Hoping to feel strong, I did, but my body wasn’t too fabulous. Pace slowed a little but still on target for sub 2:40. The lonely last 6 mile at York can go on forever. This day was I alone? I don’t think I was. Although my Uncle hadn’t left the earth at this point, I felt his presence around me. Willing me to move. I managed to make it to the finish line in a 2:37:49. 9th place. In the York Marathon. A PB. Finally achieving what I really wanted to achieve over the marathon distance in 2017. I’d been close twice before. Also managing to beat my own Penistone Club Record set at Manchester, beaten at Milton Keynes and then beaten again at York. That was that.

On the horizon line now. My favourite race, thanks to Bryan! The Snowdonia Marathon, the last weekend of October. I love the challenge here. The climbs, the descents, the feeling in your legs and the views. Its all wonderful. The buzz around Llanberis is great on the day of the marathon and in the build up to the start. The chat amongst familiar faces in a marathon always helps. My Uncle’s funeral was the week of the marathon, having died on the 18th of October, so fresh from that it was great to break out into the country and have some time battering my body to pieces. This year off the back of all the training and various other marathons, I managed a 2:54:13 and a 12th position. Was I happy? Yes! Its a truly grueling challenge that teaches you a lesson and makes you a different person afterwards.  But I bank on it, that with all those familiar faces; I might be even happier next year when the full contingent of Barnsley take on Snowdonia Marathon.

Its always a comedown when October finishes, races become short and fast; rather than the long slog. With the Abbey Dash, Barnsley 10k, Percy Pud 10k being my main ones. Surrounded by the cross country leagues, Travellers 6, Ward Green 6 and the Ambles Revenge to finish the year as I started it. My 10k PB for 2017; sat at 34:28. Not quite where I want it to be, I’ll admit it. I’ve plenty to build on, when it comes to the shorter stuff. I was hoping it would come at the Abbey Dash but it wasn’t to be, legs still tight from the marathon. I got close though, 34:30. Then the colds started really, the winter had come for me. With working in schools I can talk about being poorly and get poorly; immune system is shocking! Barnsley 10k, poorly. Enjoyed it nonetheless, dropped my mileage some more and hoped to recover for the Percy Pud. Did, ish, 34:41. Fast 10k attempt done for the year. But I’ve learnt from it, I’ve banked the whole experience, listened people around me and grown from it. But I’ve still run, every single day now for 2 years, and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. Smaller scale races now, managed to get poorly again the week of the travelers 6, with a cough cold and sickness bug. At the same time. Dropped mileage, recovered. But Damien Briscoe still bet me there the first time in both of our running history. Its all fun and games. Gradually started to feel a bit better by the time the Ward Green 6 came around, the run on my doorstep! Christmas flew by, with issues with my car overshadowing my life. I’m a car man, you know?

Before I knew it, I was back where 2017 began, way back on the 2nd of January, 2017. The Ambles Revenge, here again on the 31st of December 2017. A lot has changed in a year. Metaphorically speaking (and literally), a bit lost at the last Ambles Revenge. But this time around, I knew my way. Ended up rocking up in a 1st place, but more importantly, 2 minutes quicker, to cap off what has been an excellent year of running.

Joining the Penistone Footpath Runners has been a great decision for me, a great move in order for my running to move forward. Taking me from the world of unattached to the world of club centred racing, allowing me this year to race relays for the club against much tougher competition, allowing me also to take part in the cross country, road leagues and track competitions. Opening me up to new experiences and new opportunities. I’ve enjoyed it all so much. I’ve felt the extra drive behind me when racing, whenever I pull on the vest, racing alongside other Penistone runners. I try to give it my all. It’s also been helped by the constant motivation and pocket of runners around me, pushing each other along and encouraging each other along the way. Regularly training with Scott Hinchcliffe, Shaun Dimelow, Damien Briscoe and Megan Button, lately has really brought me on. Extending to the Penistone Footpath Runners, the many others that I regularly go out and run with, chat with, there are too many to name them all. But it’s fantastic isn’t it!

In previous years, I’ve believed running is a simple sport, a sport of putting one foot in front of the other. An individualistic sport, a lonely time on your own. In truth it is, it can be lonely, it can be long, it’s a simple game to conquer. It’s a challenge against yourself every single day. This year though, it’s been different, it’s been more than that. Running is much more now, than sticking one foot in front of the other. It’s the strength you learn from your downfalls and defeats, it’s the memories you bank and experiences created along the way. It’s the things you learn from them, it’s what you do, to get over every single hurdle thrown at you. It’s the places the run can take you, the places it takes you from. In Barnsley you can go from moor land to town centre, to common high street, council estate and farm land. You can be chased by horses, swans, children, cars, motorbikes, cows, dogs and Mark Yates (and his bum bag). All in one run. It’s a beautiful world if you look up and explore. Running though is more than all of that too, it’s the people, the people who’ll empower you, support you, drive you. To go that extra step, the support and friendly cheers of encouragement when all else is failing, knowing that you aren’t truly alone. Take all that away? Would you succeed, probably. But I’ll bet you’ll be a much better runner with it, and I also bet you might even have a laugh whilst you’re at it too. Barnsley has made me this year. The people that are in it, the friendly people that are around it. All the people I’ve spoke to at races, all the guys I run with regularly, race against regularly. Barnsley has also made many more people this year.

Some boring stats for you. I’ve run:

  • 6,021.1 miles
  • 725 hours and 1 minute
  • 404,429ft of climb
  • 965 logged activities
  • 1 5k race
  • 53 parkruns
  • All 6 Spencer’s Dash
  • 5 5 miler’s
  • 2 6 miler’s
  • Cross countries
  • 3 club relays
  • Track competitions, 400, 800, 1500, 5000, relay and hurdles.
  • Thrown a javelin
  • 11 10k’s
  • 2 10 miler’s
  • 12 Half Marathons
  • 1 15 miler
  • 1 20 miler
  • 6 Marathons
  • And one full Barnsley Boundary with a great group of people.

That’s my 2017.

Just Keep Running.

Strava Heatmap: https://www.strava.com/athletes/7215046/heatmaps/2850fa75#9/53.54031/-1.75781

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