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Challenges that Changed my Life

Are we talking about running here? I hope so, otherwise this could get very messy.


Last summit (Yr Aran) on my Paddy Buckley Round, as part of the UK Big 3 Challenge in 2011 (OMG so young!)


Everyone face challenges in their life. And by definition they are HARD! The worst are those that are thrust upon us, for which we aren't ready. Those which are traumatic, which we would never wish to experience again. So why would anyone, ever, go in search of a challenging situation? - one which is painful, stressful or nerve-wracking. Why would we do this to ourselves by choice, in our leisure time! I know I do it because challenges (and the failures and successes that come with them) ultimately make us stronger, better, wiser or more experienced, in ways that we cannot predict are articulate. Running challenges are also officially 'type 2 fun' i.e. there will (probably) be pleasure, happiness and pride, but they will come much later!


Today marks the pre-order launch of my first book Running Challenges - 100 of the best runs in England Scotland and Wales. You can place a pre-order for the book today* and it'll be with you as soon the first print run is done!


*All customers who order a copy of Running Challenges before the publication date of 18 July 2024 will be automatically entered into a prize draw to win a pair of trail running shoes and a long-sleeve midlayer courtesy of inov-8. The winner will be selected at random on 18 July 2024 and notified by email.





If you love to challenge yourself through running or want to learn top tips about choosing and planning the right challenge for you, join our live pre-order launch event online (free on Zoom) by registering below. By joining us online you will be entered into our prizedraw to win a free copy of the book with a personalised message!


What follows, is a bit of background about my own journey into running challenges. Now that I take a step back and can see with benefit of hindsight, that the things I learned along the way were about myself or life in general, not only about running! Here are some of the challenges that have meant the most to me:


Three Peaks 24h Challenge 2004

Like many people, this popular challenge was my first time up a mountain! I unexpectedly ended up being involved with a mountain rescue call-out for another party we passed on the hill and had to give the casualty CPR. The experience taught me that I can take control in a tight spot and that life is short - it's never too late to learn new skills to be safe and competent. This challenge was the moment that actually kick-started my interest in mountains and was the beginning of a whole new direction in my life!


Welsh Three Peaks 24h Challenge 2005

This was first attempt at planning every aspect of a challenge, including travel, logistics, accommodation and leading friends on the hill. It was an epic fail and we never made it up Snowdon (it got too late in the day and the weather was closing in). Ultimately we made a sound decision to turn back - but it didn't matter. I had a brilliant and life-affirming adventure with friends that I will always cherish.


I later returned to the challenge and completed it in fabulous weather with my dad. More precious memories and our first mountains together (unsurprisngly more followed!)


Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon (LAMM) 2006

This race was my first hill race and looking back, I may have made an error of judgement! My racing partner and I did enter the easiest linear course but still got hopelessley lost and nearly missed the bus home. I learned that friendships are tested to their absolute limit in stressful situations and that I can be quite chipper (arguably too chipper) in tough situations! Maybe a sufferfest is the right kinds of challenge for me.


First mountain race, the Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon 2006, D course.


Jura Fell Race 2009

My first time at this classic fell race was marred by hail and poor visibility. Ther experience made me realise how tough technical terrain can be when you can't see the way. I also learned a ton about pacing. It was a brilliant all round experience and the weekend sparked a love for Scottish Hill Racing. My second time at this race, a few years later, ended up being my first ever DNF (due to sun stroke) and I learnt loads about myself then too, coming to terms with being escorted off the hill!


The year the weather was perfect for the Jura Fell Race (2013)


UK Big 3 Challenge 2011

This was my first go at creating my own, multi-day challenge. To raise money for the John Muir Trust and WaterAid, my idea was to traverse the UK BIG 3 mountain rounds in one BIG multi-day push - solo!! This included the Bob Graham Round (England), Paddy Buckley Round (Wales) and Ramsay Round (Scotland), and covers 187 miles, 113 mountain summits and 83,000ft of ascent (that's about 3 times Everest)! I tried to complete this challenge in ten days but in the end was thwarted by unseasonal levels of snow on the ground, poor visibility, high winds and blizzards! I ended up 'failing' by completing only 185 of the 187 mountains in the 10 days. Due to the terrible weather, I never managed to get up Carn Mor Dearg or Ben Nevis on that challenge and have spent many (many) years trying to reframe it as a success in my head! I learned to never underestimate the mountain weather but I also built confidence in my abilities and firmly pushed back my ideas about what is possible on two feet. It was this experience that ultimately sparked the idea of running my own business (punn intended!) But this took another 7 years to become a reality...


Pic - Me looking grumpy in the hail on Glyder Fach, Eryri (Uk Big 3 Challenge 2011).


Transalpine Run 2018

This event was a biggie and represented lots of firsts for me. First race overseas, first stage race, first ultra (!) and first time racing with my husband since we had children (they were with my very capable parents; thanks folks!) With hindsight I can see that the pace was too fast for me, which ended up in me getting injured on day 3. What ensued was 4 more days of excrutiating pain and hobbling, to make the finish line out of sheer stubborness. We finished 11th mixed pair and 1st British pair, so were pretty chuffed. However, since racing a lot more ultras since 2018, i've learned that slow and steady 'wins the race' in my case (though not actually winning!!). Consistent steadier pace, results in a better overall experience and I think, finishing position. It was firmly a type-2 fun experience and now I look back fondly. This experience sparked a lot of important questions for me around the way I balance being a mum and a person with interests/a life! Also about how relationships change after children and the importance of shared goals.


The 260km and 16,000m of ascent wasn't the most challenging part of this challenge! Translpine Run 2018


*Racing to (and arguably beyond) with your life partner is TOUGH. You know each other too well and maybe overshare, but you learn a lot about your strengths and weaknesses as a combined force!


Ramsay Round - ongoing

Lets just say i've tried and failed at this a few times. I am firmly in the 'I can't do it' camp and nothing about my prior attempts suggests otherwise. I've learned that I really don't enjoy the pressure of big-scale supported rounds and don't like asking for help and inconveniencing others (even though this is very normal and sensible practice!) I am pretty clear on my weaknesses now and the limitations of my life/lifestyle in commiting to training for this one. Maybe it will always be on my bucket-list.


Lots still to learn here!


Glen Coe Classic Rock 2021

A response to the Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020-23 and a personalised, meaningful challenge for my husband and I, which played to our strengths as a couple. As parents it was good to have a local 24h challnege that needed zero support apart from 1 day of childcare (thanks mum!) It helped us revisit our passion of rock climbing together, as well as moving fast and light in the mountains. It was also a way of engrossing ourselves in our local area and the history of rock climbing in Scotland. This challenge wasn't technically difficult and didn't push our limits of endurance but it was 'ours' as well as being a logistical unknown, as it hadn't been done before. Interestingly, this is my most cherished challenge to date.


Sunrise on Aonach Dubh, Glen Coe Classic Rock link-up, 2021


Winter Tranter's Round 2023

This challenge became my nemesis. While it played to my strengths/skills as a person, it definitely did NOT play to the strengths of my lifestyle (i.e. being a mum of two kids with no family locally and a husband who works abroad in winter!) After I set my sights on the Winter Tranter's Round FKT, a frustrating battle ensued with me stubbornly trying to 'realise my potential' in the face of childcare, school, weather, snow conditions and seasonal restraints - all to tick this arbitrary (maybe pointless?) box.


By the end, this challenge was no longer about what I could do but about overcoming mental blocks and fretting about incoveniencing others. Accepting suport and changing my approach to help made this challenge possible and I learned that 'done' is better than 'done perfect'. Frankly, i'm glad it's over!


The way I approach training, racing and running challenges is very different these days. I focus much more on the journey to get to the 'start line' and I try to show-up for myself, no matter how many hurdles fall in my way - and when they do, I try to be more accepting of them - because as a working, running, invested parent, everything is a compromise.


A low point on first failed attempt on Winter Tranter's Round, 2019


Ultra Tour Monte Rosa (UTMR) 100, 2023

After 9 years of being an overwhelmed and overloaded mum, I finally made the changes and space in my life to enter a really big race; the UTMR. It was made possible by my husdand taking a week of annual leave to support my trip. I planned a week away in Switzerland with my oldest school friend, followed by a (very) long weekend of racing, where both my pal Sally and I would enter different courses. I had never visited Sally's home since she emmigrated several years before, and I had never travelled overseas all by myself, since having kids (and yes, even the long car journey and delayed flight with tons of luggage was wonderful by the way!)


Training during the school summer break was sub-optimal by any standards but I decided to show up regardless. The race turned out to be the hardest i'd ever set myself and I questioned my ability (and sanity) at various points! I experienced severe sleep deprivation (even worse than in my first year as a new mum) but I had the race of my life. It was an amazing course and I was proud to finish 5th F (2nd Vet 40). Looking back it was really a 'holiday' where I suffered for a chunk of time in the middle! I treated myself to a spa to recover afterwards and often ponder, even now, how this race had really felt like the 'sweet spot' in my bumpy running journey.


Sweet spot, UTMR 2023


Whatever next?


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