Running. What’s the point? Strava, of course.

Iain Whiteside was running. What was Whiteside thinking about when he was running? Strava, of course. ‘I realised I had spent the previous 30 minutes thinking about what I was going to name this run,’ he admitted. Whiteside stopped running. He was on Braid Hill in Edinburgh. Inspiration came to him: ‘At a standstill on Braid Hill,’ he would later write on his Strava feed. Literally.

For Whiteside, the Braid Hill moment was the second part of an epiphany. The first half came in a Keswick café after an attempt on a winter Bob Graham round had floundered in deep snow at the Back o’Skiddaw. Continue reading

Greenwich foot tunnel

London’s (satirical) answer to the Bob Graham Round: the Inner London borough summits – 41 miles, 12 summits, 6 hours

I looked down on London from The Shard recently. London – from some 300 metres up – is serene. It is also appallingly flat. Even the Crystal Palace ridge, away to the south and positively Ben Nevisian (to the Londoner) is smothered by perspective. It made my plan – a London equivalent of the great mountain rounds of the Highlands, the Lake District and Snowdonia – descend further into the realms of nonsense.

I was to run between the summits of the 12 Inner London boroughs, starting in Hammersmith and Fulham, travelling east to the Isle of Dogs, passing beneath the Thames to Greenwich, then turning west to gain Wimbledon Common. Together, these dozen summits add up to 957m – a slouching Scafell Pike. At no point would I venture higher than 134 metres above sea level. Utterly pointless. But then, is not that the point?

You will have heard of some. Hampstead Heath? Crystal Palace? Shooters Hill? Familiarity is likely to dry up there.

Down here in London, we are stuck with the capital’s vertically-challenged undulations, while our highest points have been built over, buried under concrete or adorned with telecommunications paraphernalia. The highest point within the M25 circle, far away from urban chaos in the North Downs, is 270-metre Botley Hill. They stuck a telecommunications mast there, naturally. I could hanker for the airy heights of the Lake District. Or I could make the most of what London has got.

There was no rationale. I had a free day. And having completed the Bob Graham Round in 2012, I liked the idea of satirising the iconic Lakeland loop in the streets of London, swapping mist-shrouded summits and knife-edge arêtes for iPad-touting tourists and cracks in the pavement.

I would travel solo, unsupported and Alpine-style with a budget of £15, a topped-up Oyster card and an iPhone. If and when I needed food and water, I would stop at a shop. You do not get that luxury on the Helvellyn range. While the Bob Graham Round commences in Keswick, beneath the imposing Skiddaw, I found myself in grey Harlesden on a Tuesday morning, feebly equipped with a wad of maps photocopied from a London A-Z. A yellow highlighted line indicated a proposed route, linked with red crosses that marked the dozen summits. Apart from a two-mile stretch around Streatham, I had not run a step of what I reckoned would be a 35-40 mile route.

Finding the summit of Hammersmith and Fulham – a roadside close to a Travis Perkins depot – and soon after Kensington and Chelsea – the exit to West London Crematorium – set the tone for the day. Great dollops of poetic licence cannot dress-up what was to come: lots of pavement-trudging, lots of head-scratching, lots of reflecting on the sense of all this. Even the highest point of the day, Camden’s Hampstead Heath, is located arbitrarily on the side of Spaniards Road, rather than the heath itself. Once around the heath, I was flying down Highgate Hill, past the summit of Islington and down into the recesses of London’s great smog-filled bowl. Dashing through Hackney and Tower Hamlets. Along the Regent’s Canal. Into the Isle of Dogs. Places I had never seen before, places I may never go again.

A school pupil on a trip jogged alongside me in the Greenwich foot tunnel. ‘Where are you going?’ he demanded. ‘Wimbledon Common,’ I said. ‘Coming?’ He stopped abruptly, laughing at the unfathomable notion.

The pavement radiated heat as I ran the first mile of the London Marathon en route to Shooters Hill, the distant summit of Greenwich. Then came an unremitting, sweltering slog to Crystal Palace and – as I climbed Sydenham Hill, the exertion of the day beginning to overwhelm my legs – I moved past the 30-mile mark. My left foot had felt uncomfortable for some time and as I ran along Crystal Palace Parade a mild niggling became a sharp, sudden pain. I sat on a wall on Westow Hill, the meeting point of four boroughs but the summit of just one, Lambeth, feeling sorry for myself – a feeling that intensified to Streatham Common. I thought of Tour de France riders who continue hopelessly with broken bones. They get back on their bicycles, nonetheless. I gulped the long-distance runner’s equivalent of a shot of EPO – a can of Coke – and vowed to get on with it and get it done.

I did. The last five miles through Tooting and Wimbledon were not pretty, but Putney Heath, the last of the dozen, was mine. The top was a prominent tump, a rare non-concrete summit among the Inner London boroughs. On closer inspection, a lump of concrete jutted from the summit. The irony was not lost on me. It had taken me a shade over six hours to get here, running 41 almost-exclusively pavement miles, powered only by a cheese sandwich and copious amounts of caffeinated liquid. My feet were pulsing. Still, I have had worse Tuesdays.

I recommend no-one to repeat this endeavour, not unless you happen to share the inexplicable desire to visit the summits of the Inner London boroughs in one continuous loop. I think of it now as a journey, not a run: a journey that brought me closer to this complicated capital city. I glimpsed the best and worst of London: from the genius of the Greenwich foot tunnel, the towering symbols of business that rise from the Isle of Dogs and the near-wildness of Hampstead Heath, to the sprawl and stench of London’s takeaway culture, the Eltham street on which Stephen Lawrence was murdered and unceasing groan of traffic.

A grand tour of Inner London. Going as high as geography will permit. Re-discovering a city. Sometimes the most pointless of exploits serve the greatest purpose.

The summits –

  • Hammersmith and Fulham – Harrow Road (45m) – the road-side opposite a block of flats
  • Kensington and Chelsea – Harrow Road (45m) – exit of West London Crematorium
  • City of Westminster – St John’s Wood Park Road (52m) – road junction of St John’s Wood Park Road and Boundary Road
  • Camden – Spaniards Road (134m) – the road-side above Hampstead Heath
  • Islington – Highgate Hill (100m) – road junction of Dartmouth Park Road and Highgate Hill, close to Lauderdale House
  • Hackney – Seven Sisters Road (39m) – the road-side overlooking Finsbury Park
  • Tower Hamlets – Bethnal Green (16m) – a road bridge over the Regent’s Canal in Bethnal Green
  • Greenwich – Shooters Hill (132m) – the highest point of Eaglesfield Recreation Ground
  • Lewisham and Southwark – both Sydenham Hill (112m) – road junction of Crescent Wood Road and Sydenham Hill, close to the Dulwich Wood House pub
  • Lambeth – Westow Hill (110m) – road junction of Anerley Hill and Church Road, in front of the Grape and Grain pub
  • Wandsworth – Putney Heath (60m) – a prominent tump at the northern end of Wimbledon Common

Regent's Canal

Regent's Canal and summit of Tower Hamlets

Isle of Dogs

Greenwich foot tunnel

Cutty Sark

Putney Heath

A version of this article featured on the Guardian running blog in July and the November issue of Men’s Running.



The unpredictable art of running blogging

I have been blogging for some years. I was a writer and journalist first. My original purpose was to support the publication of my first book, Heights of Madness, and my second and third books thereafter. Over time, graduated into a running blog – a blog that last week pleasingly surpassed 50,000 visits. Writing permits self-expression, reflection and can be a carthotic process, but writers also write to be read. As I tell my students, writing is meant to be read. Writing must have an audience. Writing must provoke a response.

What is always surprising, however, is what people want to read and what becomes popular. Every blogger will empathise with the time you spent hours crafting the apparently perfect blog, adorned with beautiful images and scrupulously edited, only for very few people to engage with your masterpiece. And then there is the blog that you knocked into shape in 10 minutes while on the bus or the train from somewhere to somewhere that racks up hundreds of visits.

What I have learnt about blogging, particularly in the overcrowded market of running blogging, is that if you don’t shout, no-one will listen. The most successful blog posts – and I certainly don’t mean the best written, most interesting or most entertaining – stem from exposure, be it on social media or the traditional media. The cream does not always rise to the top.

To mark 50,000 visits for and in the spirit of if-you-don’t-blow-your-own-trumpet-you-don’t-get-anywhere these are my most visited blog posts.

1. ‘I was there…’ Marking 125 years of Herne Hill Harriers


2. ‘Do you want beans with that?’ A tribute to Stan Allen

Stan Allen

3. Bob Graham Round – SUCCESS!


4. Overcoming adversity and adverse conditions at the Box Hill fell race

 Box Hill village

5. Mont Ventoux

The north side of Ventoux

6. Beachy Head Marathon 2011 – race report

Beachy Head

7. The Bob Graham Round as seen from the water-carrier’s corner


8. The madness of the ultra-distance runner


9. Isle of Jura Fell Race

The finish

10. Running with the horses: Man v Horse 2014



Running in London: where are the hills?

The run from Keswick town centre to the summit of Skiddaw sees the runner gain around 900 metres in altitude. The only time I have set my watch to this run was during my Bob Graham Round in 2012; Skiddaw was hill number one and not the place – or the time (1am) – for unnecessary heroism. I summited in 77 minutes – a quick time, given the circumstances. Incidentally, the record for the Skiddaw fell race, which climbs up and down the mountain, is Kenny Stuart’s breathtaking 62 minutes. I digress, however. Back to my run: 900 metres of height gain in 77 minutes (and about four miles).

Unless you commence an effort from the banks of the Thames, it is very difficult to find a single climb of 100 metres – a ninth of Skiddaw – in south London. This weekend, to gain a cumulative 900 metres in height, I had to run for nearly four hours (split over two runs) and cover 29 miles, ascending around 30 individual inclines that I would describe as significant (for London). Say what you will about the north/south divide when it comes to running, but with the comparison of 900 metres, four miles and one hill, to 900 metres, 29 miles, 30 hills, I know who has the better deal.




The night before the night before running an ultramarathon

Tonight is the night before the night before running 66 miles on the Vanguard Way. What happens on the night before the night before running 66 miles? Not a lot, really. Eat. Rest. Prevaricate. Half-heartedly stretch. Devise excuses. Think, ooh, my ankle/foot/calf/knee/hip hurts.

I have fielded a plethora of questions today. They have a common theme.

Are you ready?

All set?

How are the legs?

I suppose I am ready. I suppose I am set. And I suppose my legs feel okay, although the feeling in my legs deserves no better adjective than ‘okay’, I’m afraid.

What I want to say is that I am a little scared and a little daunted. I’ve run distances beyond 60 miles twice before and I remember what they did to me. I felt like I had been beaten up. I felt like giving up time and time again. I felt as miserable as I have ever felt.

Yet the intermittent moments of joy are unparalleled before, between or since those 60-milers.

It is very hard to explain to people who have not run a long distance that running 66 miles will hurt very much. And that at some point I will be in considerable pain. And at some point I will want to abandon the whole awful business.

More than anything, I do not want to mess up something that I have planning for six months.

However, I am reminded of words I wrote on the night before the night before the Bob Graham Round in June 2012: ‘It really is going to be fine.’ It was fine that day and it will be fine on Sunday.



The madness of the ultra distance runner

‘Busy weekend?’ the Friday conversation goes.

‘I’m going to Jurassic Encounter Adventure Golf at New Malden on Saturday, then, on Sunday, I’ll run…’

‘How far?’

Sharp intake of breath. ‘Forty…’



I’ve had this conversation many times over the years. Or certainly words to this effect, as this will be my first visit to Jurassic Encounter Adventure Golf, which, judging by a website that roars at me every 20 seconds or so, looks ridiculous in comparison to the notion of running 40 miles.

Mad is the typical, thoughtless adjective my listener selects. You shouldn’t have asked the question then, I think; you know I run. One such conversation led to a colleague insisting I cease running because of my ‘knees’. Every time she sees me in my shorts, I sense her inwardly tutting at my imminent knee destruction. MY KNEES ARE FINE, I want to shout; in fact, apart from a drinking accident at university, my knees have remained injury-free in close to 20 years of running.

I’m not mad.

As I write, competitors in the Grand Union Canal Race are shuffling 145 miles from Birmingham to London. One of their number, Mimi Anderson, has already run the race route in reverse to get to the start line. Should she get back to London (on foot and in one piece), she’ll have run 290 miles. The numbers are mind-boggling. There are 89 poor souls out there.

As I write, racers in the Hardmoors 110 event have been running for more than 12 hours through the night, following the Cleveland Way in Northumberland. The cut-off time limit is 36 hours and to be an ‘unsupported’ runner you must have completed a race of the ilk of the Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc, the Lakeland 100 or the West Highland Way.

As I write, 1000 athletes (an incredible number if that’s the case) are leaving Richmond as they begin the 60-mile London to Brighton Challenge. It’s not the Cleveland Way, but the North and South Downs stand between them and the sea.

As I write, there are runners in the Lake District attempting to crack the 24-hour, 42-summit, 66-mile Bob Graham Round. They started at 1am and I imagine they are somewhere high on the Helvellyn range, perhaps gliding along in the glory of a Lakeland morning, perhaps struggling and cursing their own ambition. They literally have Everest to climb.

As I write, runners will be emerging from their tents on the Hebridean island of Jura. I wish them no midges. They will look skyward at the three glorious Paps – if the weather allows – over which they will later run as part of a 16-mile loop from the island capital.

GUCR, Hardmoors 110, London to Brighton, Jura. And people say I am mad. Madness – and I don’t mean this in the genuinely mentally unhinged way – is relative, of course. There is always someone madder. One person’s madness is another person’s mundane. Step forward Mimi Anderson. Step forward the Bob Graham runner who isn’t happy with 42 peaks in 24 hours; he must claim 50 or 60. Step forward the Jura mentalists who will today seek to gallop up and down thousands of feet of loose, ankle-jarring scree in three hours. It’s not an exaggeration to say they all risk their lives in their particular pursuits. But then isn’t that a prerequisite of madness?

I sought to explain this obsessional need in Heights of Madness, my first book about cycling and walking 5000 miles between the UK’s 92 traditional county tops. I tried to explain how failing to meet arbitrary daily targets, set by myself, for no-one else and for no deadline, such as climbing a Munro, cycling 60 miles, camping, eating, reading a map, being warm, being safe, simply surviving, must be achieved or I would be reduced to a depressed wreck guzzling chocolate biscuits in my tent. I still struggle to fathom that level of obsession, despite having been the obsessive. I do not know what drives Mimi Anderson. Does she know herself? Perhaps, like me, when she woke up, she thought: My legs really hurt, but I said I was going to run to London today, so that is what I am going to do. I will stop when I get there.

Tomorrow, I will run a seventh of the distance Mimi Anderson will cover this weekend: 40 miles (or thereabouts) from Newhaven to East Grinstead, following the Vanguard Way, as I prepare for my own piece of madness in three weeks time. If this makes me mad, then several hundred ultra-runners will have to be sectioned on Monday morning.

You know who is really mad? To use a playground taunt: what you say is what you are. Those are the people who are mad. Those who haven’t felt the wind grip them on Helvellyn. Those who haven’t seen dawn rise across the North York Moors. Those who haven’t snatched a breathless view from the summit of a Jura Pap.

Those who haven’t dared to dream about where madness could take them.

Running the Bob Graham

Ultrarunning: eliminating the ‘poison’ of doubt

Not a day has elapsed since June 3, 2012, when I haven’t reflected on the events of those 24 hours: a successful Bob Graham Round, all 42 peaks, 66 miles and some 27,000ft of it. I am continually inspired by what happened that day, imbuing a (so far) life-long sense of if-I-can-do-the-Bob-Graham, I can do anything. But, as time passes, my reflections seek clarity and depth on not just what happened, but how, and therefore, why, it happened. The necessary physical preparation is a given. What had continued to puzzle me is how I had felt wretched for the first 10 hours of my attempt, but wonderful for the next nine-and-a-half. I think I’ve finally found the solution, courtesy of Matthew Syed’s Bounce, a book which has long been on shelves but is a new personal discovery. Ruthless self-belief and the eradication of doubt are the intrinsic ingredients for success, he argues.

The biggest transition on my round was mental, not physical. Three weeks before my effort, a niggle developed on an ankle. I stopped running. Doubt emerged. I obsessed about the injury. Doubt grew. I decided to attempt nonetheless. I paced up Skiddaw in the dark doubtfully. I descended Blencathra in pain. Doubt magnified horribly. I was utterly miserable as I ran across the Helvellyn range. I wanted to give up on Fairfield. I told my pacer so: ‘I don’t know how I’m going to do this.’ I felt no better on Steel Fell. The same thought: I can’t do this.

Then, something happened: a surge of positivity. I had suddenly gone too far not to succeed. A switch had been flicked. The change was purely emotional. After all, how can the physical state improve after 10 hours of punishment? I realise now that I had choices: to be doubtful or not. I didn’t give myself that choice in the first half of the attempt; nor did I give myself a choice in the second. Once I’d make that choice, the effect was dramatic: I was happier, more awake, more alert. The result? Running simply hurt less. I never realised the mind could be so powerful. For hours – as Syed notes – doubt had been my ‘poison’. ‘No man indulges his inner scepticism. That is the logic of sports psychology,’ Syed explains. I had indulged my inner scepticism to a three-course meal. Perhaps I should have read Bounce last spring? I don’t think it would have helped. I had to work it out for myself.

Syed goes on: ‘Progress is made by ignoring the evidence: it is about creating a mindset that is immune to doubt and uncertainty.’ My progress once doubt had been expelled was stunning. I ran with an assurance that I long to re-capture. I was utterly convinced in my own personal success. Maybe I’m stating the obvious? Of course, achievement is linked to the elimination of basic human doubts and insecurities. Understanding such a concept is the tip of the iceberg, however; putting this into practice is the challenge. That is the greatest lesson I could have learned from running 66 miles.

Dunmail Raise



I am the 1739th member of the Bob Graham Club

It is official. I am a member of the Bob Graham Club. Member number 1739, sandwiched between Martin Spooner (1738) and Andrew Kirkup (1740). This is a reward (one of many) for 19 hours and 33 minutes of toil on an endless June day when possibilities seemed limitless. Happily, the updated list, including those who successfully completed the Bob Graham Round in 2012, has been published. The 2012 statistics are also out: 72 successes (compared to 93 in 2011) with only ‘a small number of sub-2o hour rounds’. There are now 1781 names on the list. Incidentally, about 4000 people have successfully climbed Mount Everest.

Bob Graham 2012 list


2013: so far, so underwhelming

I have been underwhelmed by 2013. Isn’t a new year meant to herald inspiration? Where’s mine? Blogs, Facebook and Twitter were bursting with positivity on New Year’s Day: people embarking on their first exercise of 2013, people announcing goals: marathons, ultra-marathons, Ironmans and the like. The peer pressure to do something, anything, was overwhelming. After all, if you can’t start the year on a positive note, what example are you setting for the following 364 days? This time last year I was the goal-setter: running the Fellsman, becoming a member of the Bob Graham Club, rowing the English Channel. I managed them all. The fortune of doing so isn’t lost on me. So what now? I’m not doing the Fellsman this year; I can’t do the Bob Graham again; I’m never rowing ever again. I’ve committed to nothing. Run short and fast, or run long and slower? Head to the hills, or stay on the flat? Don’t run at all? I just can’t decide. A bolt of inspiration-charged lightning will strike, I just know it.
Leaving Dover harbour

What is Alan Hinkes up to at the moment? … and other questions

Traffic – is that the right way to describe people? – to this blog arrives via a plethora of web searches. Handily, WordPress lists these terms. Many are questions: some are perfectly logical, others make me question the sanity of the human race. However, according to the web search questions, people do not want much. Generally, they care about three things.

– How hard things are.

– Ben Nevis.

– What Alan Hinkes is up to.

Here are my Christmas top-20 (and some helpful answers). The hard stuff first –

1. Is it hard to row the English Channel solo? Probably, yes.

2. How hard is the Inaccessible Pinnacle? It’s tricky, rather than hard. Take a climber with you.

3. What is the hardest Corbett to climb? I really don’t know. For the hardest Munro, see above.

4. How hard is the Beachy Head Marathon? Not as hard as the Ben Nevis Race.

5. How hard is the Ben Nevis Race. Harder than the Beachy Head Marathon.

6. Is the Highland Cross harder than a marathon? If it’s the Beachy Head Marathon, yes.

7. What is the weather like on Ben Nevis in September? Wind, rain, fog, sleet, snow, mist, and probably all at the same time.

8. Which Munro should I climb in preparation for walking Ben Nevis? Why are people obsessed with this mountain?

On to the information seekers-

9. How do I prepare for cycling Mont Ventoux? Cycle. Lots.

10. Where is there a half-marathon tomorrow in UK? Tomorrow? Nowhere.

11. When are midges worst on Rum? All summer long. But don’t let it put you off, though.

12. How high is Worcestershire Beacon? 425 metres.

13. Is Catbells on the Bob Graham Round? No – unless you’ve had a navigational catastrophe.

14. What speed do you need to run for a Bob Graham Round under 24 hours? Three miles per hour-ish. Sounds slow, doesn’t it?

15. Why is Twmpa called Lord Hereford’s Knob? I’m still not sure. Something to do with Lord Hereford? And his…

Now for the ridiculous –

16. What’s going on in the Cotswolds? You’re in the wrong place.

17. How long will it take for my blood blister to go away? Umm…

And the utterly ridiculous, the bang-your-head-against-a-table level of ridiculousness.

18. Is Marble Arch the same as the Arc de Triomphe. NO!

19. What country is the south of England? Country?

And one that only Alan Hinkes can answer –

20. What is Alan Hinkes up to at the moment?

Ben Nevis pony track

Ben Nevis: very hard

Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon 2012

Having given mountain marathons a wide berth for years, I finally ran my first – the Saunders Lakeland – over the weekend. My running partner, Marc, and I, ran for 11 hours, 18 minutes, covered at least 28 miles and ascended and descended some 2500 metres. In those 11-plus hours we crossed a mere two Wainwright summits: Whin Rigg and Buckbarrow (and these were only visited due to unnecessary diversions).

This is why I had never accomplished a mountain marathon before the weekend. To run in the mountains, to me, is to run over the mountains, to strive for a top, then another, and so on. Organisers of mountain marathons – a masochistic breed of folk, no doubt – dismiss such logic. After selecting a location – Wasdale this year – organisers are blindfolded and spun around until they are dizzy and wobbling, before sticking a stack of pins into a map.

Those pinpoints mark the sites of numerous, awkwardly-placed checkpoints that demand competitors flog themselves over terrain that they would never choose to visit (and will probably never return to again). Running in a straight line is impossible. The route between checkpoints will include a plethora of ordeals: long periods of contouring, rolling scree, tussocks, sopping bog, very steep climbs, precipitous descents, river crossings, featureless moorland. Falling over is guaranteed (and, surprisingly, light relief).

To give a snapshot of the task we – as competitors in the Bowfell category – endured, the longest single time between any two checkpoints was a one hour, 45 minutes stint on day 2. Starting from the third checkpoint on the sodden western reaches of Caw Fell we trudged over tussock-covered rising ground to the ridge of Hause, before contouring east and eventually down again to a valley floor. Full of tussocks, naturally. The col between Seatallan and Haycock loomed above us, a steep grassy pull on top of which was Pots of Ashness.

We paused at the bottom of the slope as Marc submerged the most sensitive parts of his anatomy in a beck. (Mountain running is hard; chafing one’s manhood provides an additonal, awful dimension of suffering; anyone on the hills on Sunday who witnessed a man groping his nether regions as he ran will have recognised my running partner). One hand on his delicates, one hand clawing at the ground, Marc followed me to Pots of Ashness, with our destination upon reaching the col still obscured by crags and still a long way off.

Down we plunged again, then up again – very steeply again, through bracken again – to the slopes of Blackbeck Knotts. We were in the wrong place. The checkpoint was positioned on the tip of a tarn some 800 metres to our right. I scarcely had the strength to run downhill to that infuriating tarn. It was about this point that I imagined a cackling, Hunger Games-style organiser mocking our unfortunate navigation. Right now he or she was planning what else they could throw at us. A few lightning bolts, perhaps? A herd of killer stags? A bog monster?

All this makes it sound like I hated the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon. I didn’t. In fact, I quite enjoyed some it. Like running off Whin Rigg. Or resting in the sun at the end of day one. Or eating food that should be horrible but was heavenly. Or hurtling down the path from Wind Gap. And, finally, bathing in the beck at Wasdale Head.

I also discovered that my potential for moaning had not been fulfilled; I gave a fine performance on my Bob Graham Round five weeks previously, but these two days enabled me to raise the bar to an unprecedented level. Everything bugged me: the weight of my bag as I climbed Black Sail Pass, sore feet as I ran round the back of Kirk Fell, an achy left hip, post-Bob Graham lethargy, being hungry on day two, the mist on Scoat Fell. Then, after missing the short cut around Black Crag, I had a sweary strop. If I wasn’t verbally moaning, I was doing it mentally. It was ironic then that as we sat in the beck, cold water streaming over our legs, Marc said: ‘I hope I didn’t moan too much.’

‘Moan?’ I spluttered. ‘It was your bloody positivity that annoyed me.’

It was then that I understood what I would take away and remember from the 34th edition of the SLMM: not the joy of seeing familiar mountains from an utterly different viewpoint; not the exuberation of completion (in 9th place out of 34 teams); nor the gentle camaraderie of the mid-camp. No, what I’ll always recall is the sight of a red-shirted man stoically running downhill, releasing the occasional groan as tender skin became trapped, but – always – with one hand desperately grasping his crotch. He will never forget Vaseline again.

Bob Graham blues?

Bob Graham blues? Is there such a thing? If there is, I think I have developed a bout. I feel rather empty; my Bob Graham Round, successfully completed a fortnight ago, has left a mental and physical void yet to be filled by other distractions. I am running my first mountain marathon, the Saunders, in July, and I’m rowing the English Channel as part of a team of four in August, but neither has captured my imagination in the way the solo hardiness of the Bob Graham did.

Once home from work today, I decided on the antidote to this low: go for a run. This was despite a promise I’d made to myself during my round. While trotting over the Helvellyn range, I said aloud that after ‘this’ was over, I would rest – for a month. No running for a month. Rest, recover, enjoy the memories of success. Feeling as desperate as I was at this particular point in my Bob Graham, I was pretty happy with my decision.

A month? I lasted 12 days – until today. And I discovered something concerning today: in these 12 days it seems certain my legs have been stolen and replaced with another, alien pair. The initial steps I took felt like the first I had ever run. My legs creaked into action with extraordinary reluctance. Within a minute of what was impossibly slow jogging, my right shin started to throb, then the troublesome left ankle, then – in sympathetic symmetry – the right ankle.

I thought carefully: left ankle – pain or discomfort? Pain, I conceded. At the end of the road (I didn’t even get round the block), I turned round and ran home. I was out for about seven minutes. So that’s the extent of my mileage this week: less than one. How long does it take to recover from a Bob Graham Round, from almost 20 hours of continuous running? Who knows? For me, not 12 days. Patience is what I need now; impatience will not get the better of me again. Maybe now I will keep that promise made on Helvellyn.