John O'Groats to Land's End: Mission accomplished!
Woo hoo! After 10 weeks and 1,100 miles pounding the streets of Britain I am delighted to say that after reaching Lands End on Sunday Mr Happy has officially RUN Britain- a phrase I have been waiting to say ever since I first came up with the idea of attempting the challenge more than a year ago.
Crossing the finish line surrounded by friends and family was a fantastic moment that will live with me for the rest of my life and the culmination of a fantastic journey that has had almost everything and I am eternally grateful to everybody that has played a part in it no matter how small.
Special thanks must go to those who have come up and been part of the Mr Happy Runs Britain experience- you know who you are- but above all I’d like to thank my Dad without whom none of this would have been possible.
Dad has been with me from the outset and ensured that I reached Land’s End in one piece despite our occasional differences! He’s been an absolute star rock and I think that it’s only right that it was a picture of me and him together that made Monday morning’s copy of the Metro:
Thank you, Dad, for all your support- together we made it to Land’s End in one piece although only the Lord knows how!
Having four of the other five Mr Men was a fitting way to bring down the curtain on the run and I’d like to say a massive thank you to Alex and Bryn for taking the time out of their own lives to be part of my big day.
Lauren also deserves enormous credit for matching me stride for stride in the costume for the final 9 miles while everyone who had a go as Miss Naughty (Katy, Martin, Oly, Giles and George) also have my utmost respect. Thanks, too, to Laura for negotiating us there in one piece on the bike.
It isn’t easy in the costume at the best of times but to manage it running up those hills in some of the windiest conditions I’ve experienced on the entire trip is quite a feat. Here’s my favorite picture of Team Happy in all their glory (I think it was all a bit much for Little Miss Sunshine!):
We all celebrated hard afterwards with champagne, beer and even rockets (thanks Alex!) before everyone slowly ebbed away to make the long journey back from Penzance to get home in time for work the following day to leave me, Dad, Roy, Paddy, Katy and my Uncle and cousin Jenny to reflect on a job well done over an absolutely amazing curry.
Three days on, it all seems a bit strange now that it’s all over. Running everyday has become my life and I think it will be hard to get back to reality. My body has become so used to running that I actually had to stop myself from lacing up the trainers and heading out for a run earlier this morning!
All this does rather beg the question of what next for me and Mr Happy. In the short term it’s a well earned holiday in Cuba with Lauren for some much needed R&R but beyond that I’m not sure.
I need to get myself a job and begin on the career path, I guess, but at the same time I don’t think it will be long before I take on my next challenge. Running with a cause is strangely addictive and there is certainly a lot more to do before I can call it a day.
I’d like to end by saying a massive thank you to you all for all your support- you have been terrific and I wouldn’t have got through all of this without you. Thanks to you we’ve raised somewhere in the region of £45,000 though I’m hoping that that figure will continue to rise over the next few days as people see that I’ve now completed the run.
Your generosity will help give others the same second chance at life that I’ve given and for that you all deserve a huge pat on the back.
P.S. If you haven’t already done so, please, please sponsor me via the homepage and encourage all your friends and family to do the same. Together we can put a smile back on the faces of children with leukaemia. Thank you!
Plymouth to St Austell via Looe
With every day that passes we creep ever nearer to the end of what has been an extraordinary journey from JOG to LE.
After successfully negotiating our way from Plymouth through to Looe and then Looe on to St Austell, we are now just two runs and three days away from reaching Penzance, our final stop off before Lands End.
In the process we have officially broken the 1,000 mile mark for the trip- though I think we may have unofficially already broken it prior to today’s run after the extra miles of the Great West Run- and drummed up plenty of support locally.
Roy has been instrumental in this by shamelessly stopping anyone and everyone along the route to tell them about what we’re doing. Both Roy and Christine have been fantastic to have on board and have helped negotiate me through a difficult section of the route up and down country lanes and confusing cycle paths.
Although shorter than usual, the last couple of legs have been tough on the back of the 32 miles I ran on Sunday and the fact that Cornwall, based on the route we’ve taken, isn’t flat anywhere! We’ve been up hill and down dale from the moment we left Plymouth and I am massively relieved to have got through it all in one piece.
Bizarrely I actually feel pretty good physically, completing both legs quicker than usual, but mentally I think I’m ready to finish now.
It has been a long and tiring trip and in recent days Dad and I have begun to bicker a bit as being cooped up together for the best part of two and a half months begins to take its toll.
This is another area where having others around has really helped as the two of us haven’t really had enough time together as just the two of us to allow things to get out of hand.
It’s also given us both a bit of time away from time to time which on occasion has been very useful. Yesterday, for example, I was finding everything Dad was doing annoying and was particularly irritated after completing the run into Looe.
Thankfully, I had already arranged to meet up after the run for a drink in Liskeard with a good mate of mine, John Marsden, and his friend Ellie, and by the time I got back I was no longer feeling so annoyed.
We met up with John and Ellie again this morning for a quick coffee in Looe before today’s leg to St Austell. John is on holiday for the next few days and is going to run with me from Truro to Redruth on Thursday which I’m already looking forward to.
However, in the meantime I’m going to enjoy some well earned rest starting with a few beers tonight to celebrate passing the 1,000 mile mark!
Tomorrow should be fun, too, as we head up to Polseath to attempt a spot of surfing in the Mr Happy costume with George Hackforth-Jones who you may remember from helping out earlier in the trip in the arctic conditions of Dalwhinnie.
That’s all I think for today folks, other than to say that I’ve finally got round to putting up the video of me in action at the Great West Run. Here’s a link if you’re interested:
Thank you all so much for all your support- keep spreading the word!
Exeter Rest Day and Great West Run
What a 48 hours! First up was a superb rest day in Exeter where I took a trip down memory lane visiting all my old uni haunts and hangouts. Exeter has changed quite a lot since I graduated back in 2007 with a lot of new building work going on all over campus.
It felt weird walking round outside of term time as there was virtually no one there with the exception of a few more zealous students hanging outside the library- a place I should have visited more!
I have fond memories of uni and the city itself which is pretty in parts and famous, of course, for its beautiful cathedral:
Despite being the day after the Royal Wedding, Exeter town was in remarkably high spirits due to the visit of Plymouth Argyle for a massive local derby that is Devon’s equivalent of the Manchester or North London Derby. Janners (Plymouth fans) were all over town and there was a huge police presence in town for a game that has a history of getting rowdy.
Sadly we couldn’t get ourselves a ticket for the big match and had to settle for having a drink in my old local, the Vic, which is literally a stone’s throw from the ground (if you’re Freddie Flintoff that is!). Here’s a pic of me and the obligatory pint of Strongbow:
By the evening Dad and I were exhausted after a really tough day running up through the hills of Dartmoor on Friday, so we hit the hay relatively early after a nice meal in the pub just round the corner of Exeter YHA.
Exeter YHA were fantastic for the three days that we stayed with them and very kindly let us sleep in the van on site on Saturday evening despite having no availability in the hostel itself.
This was ideal for us as it put us just ten minutes away from Exeter Arena, the start point for yesterday’s Great West Run- an event I was strangely looking forward to despite it adding a further 13.1 miles to an already difficult looking day getting up and out of Dartmoor.
Setting off I felt in good spirits and soon settled in to a good rhythm which I was able to keep up for the duration of the race which I thoroughly enjoyed despite the ridiculous hills!
I ended up getting round in almost exactly 2 hours which I was absolutely delighted with as it put me only 4 minutes slower than my effort back in 2007 when I wasn’t wearing an 8 kilo Mr Happy costume on the back of almost 1000 miles of running.
Here’s a picture of me with the medal at the end of the race:
Demons well and truly put to rest I think!
However, there was no time to rest on my laurels as after the run there was the small matter of running the scheduled 20 miles from Two Bridges to Plymouth to negotiate!
I was joined for the run by my good friend Helen Aspinall, along with her Dad, Neil. Both were desperate to get involved in Team Happy despite being insanely busy with work and it was great to have them on board.
Helen was an absolute star and really helped to keep me going, especially in the last four or five miles when it really began to hurt.
Here’s a picture of me and Helen shortly before setting off from Two Bridges:
For the closing 9 miles down into Plymouth, Helen and I were also joined by two of my Dad’s oldest friends Christine and Roy. Christine and Roy used to be our next door neighbours and have boundless energy- I think Roy will drag me to Land’s End if necessary- and it’s a privilege to have them on board.
The run itself went remarkably well. In fact, I felt great and if Friday’s run was like running hell this was closer to running heaven. I saw the remainder of the Moors in a completely different light and actually liked running up the hills.
Without the Mr Happy costume I felt like I was flying and I had one of those days where it was a pleasure to run. I guess yesterday was a reward for all the hard work I put in during Friday’s run which on closer inspection was far more difficult than any of us had anticipated.
We climbed more than 1500 feet over the course of the run on Friday and actually ran closer to 28 miles! This would go a long way towards explaining why I was so tired by the end of it.
As it stands, I’m in high spirits ahead of the final stretch. We’ve probably covered 1000 miles now and are finally on the final two pages of the OS map which must mean that we are close.
I cannot quite believe that we’ve come this far and am beginning to get very excited about the prospect of finishing.
Today we’re running from Plymouth to Looe which is only 16 miles. After yesterday’s monster session this is probably for the best and I’m looking forward to being finished earlier to chill out a bit in Looe during the afternoon as it’s supposed to be a really nice place.
That’s all for now, don’t forget to keep spreading the word and if you can spare a few coppers please, please do so! I’m desperate to reach £50k before we reach Land’s End!
Day 62: Exeter to Two Bridges
Yesterday I ran from Exeter up in to the middle of Dartmoor on one of my toughest runs to date.
The terrain was incredibly hilly and after running along canal tow paths and relatively level roads over the past few weeks this came as a bit of a shock to the system.
I found the going really tough, especially after lunch, where I had to stop for a quick breather on a couple of occasions and I have never been more pleased to see Dad and the van.
I was surprised by how much the moors took out of me given the amount of hill running I’ve done already on the trip but I guess after nine weeks on the road fatigue was bound to come into play at some point.
Aside from being fiendishly difficult terrain, the run itself through the moors and rugged landscape of Dartmoor was absolutely beautiful and with every man and his dog watching the Royal Wedding, very, very quiet.
This was a good and a bad thing as part of me was pleased I didn’t have to worry about hopping up on to verges every five minutes to avoid on-coming traffic but another part of me was gutted that I was missing out on all the fun.
This feeling of disappointment was only increased by the sight of garden parties and packed beer gardens complete with Rule Britannia paraphernalia in every single town we passed along the way.
It took every ounce of will power I possess not to stop off and get involved and all I could think about trudging up the hills was finishing up and enjoying a pint or two to mark the occasion.
Thankfully Jack, Ollie and Dad were all of similar mind and so we stopped off at a beautiful little pub in the middle of Dartmoor for a couple of pints on the way back to Exeter to start making up for lost time.
In the evening we headed out in Exeter town centre for dinner and a few more beers in a bit of a trip down memory lane for me. After much umming and arghing we opted for a beer and a burger at Wetherspoons followed by a few jars in the Walkabout which is exactly as I remember it- cheap and cheerful!
Walkabout isn’t usually Dad’s cup of tea (he hates loud music and busy bars) but he got fully into the spirit of things by donning a Prince Phillip mask and matching the boys drink for drink!
It was good for us all to let our hair down after another very tough few days on the road and also served as a fitting send off for Ollie and Jack who make their way back to the real world today after an action-packed week with the team.
So today it’s just me and Dad for the rest day in Exeter which is no bad thing as I think we are both exhausted. It’s been a really tough 9 weeks and we’re both in need of a break to recharge the batteries for what’s bound to be a crazy final week.
Day 61: Tiverton Junction to Exeter
Yesterday I was super pumped for the run from Tiverton through to Exeter.
Exeter is my old university stomping ground so the body was already pumping with a little extra adrenalin than usual but the main reason was to banish a few demons from a terrible running experience I once had there.
In my finals year I entered the Great West Run; a half marathon that goes in and around town up and down a few moderately difficult hills and had an absolute shocker of a race, posting an embarrassing time of 2hrs and 2 minutes.
I remember feeling really, really down after a race and vowed one day to re-do the race and post a brilliant time to lay the demon to rest.
Yesterday’s run represented that opportunity and I ran many of the roads that I had run that day 4 years ago on my way down to Countess Wear, our finishing point for the day.
The feeling of satisfaction I got from gliding over the hills that I had struggled on so badly back in 2007 was good but not as fulfilling as I had imagined it would be. To fully banish the demon would be to run the race again and post a decent time. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that this year’s Great West Run is actually on Sunday!
By Sunday we’ll be in the middle of Dartmoor preparing to run through to Plymouth but this seemed like an opportunity to good to be missed and so we have signed up Mr Happy to have a go!
It’s a completely bonkers thing to be doing, I know, but it’s great publicity, will banish a few demons and hopefully will raise a bit more awareness for the charity. After the run, we’ll have lunch somewhere in Exeter and then do the scheduled run from the middle of Dartmoor to Plymouth as well.
Sunday’s going to be tough, no doubt, but the end is now in sight and I am feeling confident that I should get there in one piece.
The same cannot be said for one of the bikes which after breaking again yesterday has been consigned to the scrap heap.
With just one good bike Jack decided to join me to run in the morning with Ollie on the bike but sadly had to stop after his knee became too sore to continue. Not to be defeated, however, Barnesy, hopped on the bike after lunch to accompany me for the afternoon session.
Bike drama aside it was a pretty uneventful day in all other respects bar for a great round of pitch and putt on the way back to Exeter YHA.
For a short while (all of 5 holes) it was close but it soon became clear that Jack was going to win, leaving the race not to be last the more exciting contest. We all had our moments but Ollie and I did just enough to avoid last place, leaving Dad to pick up the wooden spoon and the tab for the first round of drinks.
I’ve had a really good time with Ollie and Jack who will be leaving us after tomorrow’s run. Saturday is a rest day before a now hectic Sunday.
Enjoy the Royal Wedding everyone and see you all again very soon- just 9 days to go until Land’s End!
Bridgewater to Tiverton and Taunton Rest Day
Compared to the madness of the Easter weekend the last couple of days have been relatively quiet which is no bad thing, believe me, as there is no way I could have continued going at the same pace as the weekend all the way down to Land’s End!
On Monday night we didn’t get to bed until gone midnight after staying up chatting with our hosts for the evening, John and Lizzie, who had very kindly agreed to put us all up after Pip, a colleague from the charity, had had to pull out due to problems with his roof!
John and Lizzie live in an absolutely gorgeous farm up in the Quantoc Hills above Taunton and Bridgewater, cut off completely from the rest of civilization which was absolutely perfect for a bit of rest and relaxation.
Being a rest day, we afforded ourselves a much needed lie-in and leisurely breakfast on Tuesday morning with Lizzie displaying amazing ingenuity to conjure up toast on the arguer after a power cut had left us without the services of the toaster.
After breakfast we headed down in to Taunton to find somewhere with internet access (and power) for me to update facebook and the website. The local Wetherspoons ticked both the boxes so I perched myself in a quiet corner in there with a pint of coke to get my stuff done while Dad and the boys went out in search of things to do in the afternoon.
Surprise, surprise top of the list of their suggestions was cider tasting at the nearby Sheppy’s brewery. Being in Somerset it was inevitable really and as a massive cider fan myself it was an opportunity not to be missed.
The brewery itself, Sheppy’s, was just down the A38 on the way out of Taunton, and housed in the beautiful surrounds of a proper working farm full of livestock. The tour was disappointing with none of us coming out any much the wiser about the cider making process but the ciders were good and we ended up coming away with a few crates to slowly plough through over the next 10 days or so on route to Land’s End.
Here’s a photo of Ollie, taking on the Black- Sheppy’s strongest cider:
After all the cider it was time to split the troops ahead of the United Champions League game. Ollie is a massive United fan and didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to see his beloved Reds in action despite the potential offer of a fine home cooked meal by Pip at another of his friend’s houses way up in the hills.
Dad and I, however, were far more tempted and so Team Happy split up temporarily with Jack and Ollie heading off in search of a decent pub to watch the game and Dad and I in search of a farm house located somewhere down a dirt track way up in the hills above Taunton.
On the way we stopped off to say hello and have a quick cup of tea with an old friend of the family’s that we haven’t seen in years since she moved down to Devon. We’ve known Carol ever since I was born and she baby sat me and my sister on and off for the best part of 10 years.
Carol was on cracking form and it was great to catch up with her again after all these years. Sadly we couldn’t stay as long as we ideally would have wanted (we stayed a little too long in the cider house to be honest) and so had to leave after the first cup but it was great to see her nonetheless.
Dinner was absolutely delicious and enjoyed by all. Pip rustled up moussaka followed by bread and butter pudding which went down very well with a glass of wine. Dad and I had a great evening which was made even better by our fantastic host for the evening, Penny.
Penny has led a very wide and varied life and was full of stories about her time in Vegas and beyond. I’d like to thank her (and Pip) for making us feel so welcome and their tremendous hospitality. Here’s a picture of Penny with Mr Happy outside her fantastic cottage:
Yesterday we were back on the road again from where we left off on Monday North Newton to Tiverton. Pip decided to join us as far as lunch and used his local knowledge expertly to guide us down the canal and through Taunton to the cycle path that would take us to our agreed spot for lunch. Here’s a photo of Team Happy shortly before setting off:
However, the run was by no means hassle free as Ollie and Jack both encountered problems. Jack had driven on ahead to drop off their car at Tiverton and got himself lost cycling back to come and join us at the start of the cycle path while Ollie’s bike spectacularly broke leaving Team Happy temporarily down to two before lunch.
Despite a sterling effort by Jack to fix it at lunch, the bike was condemned to the scrap heap leaving us with just the one bike for the afternoon after Pip’s departure. Ollie and Jack both wanted to be involved and so, in the absence of a second bike, opted to alternate running/cycling duties for a devilish afternoon stretch that incorporated plenty more hills than we’d bargained for.
We must have ended up running in excess of 26 miles yesterday which took it out of us all physically and also saw us break the 900 mile mark for the trip. We’ve now run 920 miles leaving us with less than 150 more to go before we reach Land’s End.
The end is really in sight now and I cannot wait to get there as I’m beginning to feel the strain.
Tomorrow we’re back on the road again to plod through Exeter- my old university stomping ground- where we’ll be staying at the Exeter YHA. While I’m pleased to be making steady progress towards Land’s End, I’ll be sad to be leaving John and Lizzie’s farm behind though- they were fantastic hosts and it was great to be in someone’s home for once as opposed to a random hostel bunk.
10 days to go now!
Honey Street, Bath, Bristol and beyond!
To say that it has been a while since my last blog update would be something of an understatement given that my last blog was on Wednesday of last week!
Team Happy have been busy little bees since then covering another 90 plus miles on the road, seen two new members of the support team come and go and enjoyed an action packed rest day in Bath and Bristol. I can only apologize for the delay which is down to little more than sheer laziness on my part and the fact that I am beginning to feel the strain a little after 900 miles on the road!
Last Thursday we welcomed James Berry to the team before the start of our leg from Honey Street to Bradford-upon-Avon which I think is where I last left you. James was following on in the foot steps of his twin brother, Richard, who joined us for the Carlisle to Manchester stretch earlier in the trip.
James lives in Bristol and his local knowledge proved invaluable when looking for a pub in Bath to chill out in after a tough day on the road. The Raven had a wide array of ciders on tap and I ended up having at least a cider too many before we got back to Bath YHA, our home for the night.
However, before all of that, of course, was the small matter of the run itself which went remarkably well considering how much I had struggled in the heat with Mr Tickle the day before.
Having James behind me on the bike for the morning and majority of the afternoon sections helped, as did the knowledge that I had a rest day to look forward to the following day. Here’s a picture of me and James in Honey Street just before we set off for the run into Bradford:
Thursday’s run ushered in another rest day in Bristol/Bath that I’d been looking forward to ever since we booked this trip. The North Somerset area is a beautiful area of the world that I have always wanted to get to know better since visiting when I was a kid.
It’s also bang in the middle of cider country although I didn’t get to sample many as surprise, surprise it was another action-packed ‘rest’ day.
First up was a trip to Bristol Temple Meads to pick up Lauren from the station for her second stint with Team Happy.
Lauren has been an absolute star throughout the trip by putting up with all my moaning on the phone and giving me the energy to carry on when I’ve felt like chucking in the towel. She’s also a great runner in her own right as she would go on to prove over the next few days.
After picking up Lauren, our first task of the day was to pop in at the Paul O’Gorman Centre to see how the children currently being treated for leukaemia there were getting on.
Mr Tickle accompanied me for the visit and went down an absolute storm with the kids who were so pleased to see us despite the fact that they were all so poorly. It really was heart-warming stuff and helped bring back in to focus why we’re doing what we’re doing. Sadly, we weren’t to take any photos inside (as is hospital policy), however the nurses were great sports and let us take a few shots of their station!
The hospital visit also brought back strange memories for me of my own time in hospital all those years ago when I was being treated for leukaemia. I had not really expected this to happen but am glad it did as it gave me another reminder of just how lucky I am to still be here today.
After the hospital, it was all aboard the Happy mobile to get to Bristol Zoo in time for a photo call with the Bristol Evening Post. As it happens we got there early, giving us plenty of time to have a look in and around Clifton beforehand. Again, James came into his own here, taking us to see the views from the spectacular Clifton suspension bridge and have a go on the stone slide outside Clifton Observatory.
The zoo itself was good fun and the photographer got some nice shots of Mr Happy and Mr Tickle running up and down the main stretch outside the lion enclosure. Thankfully we weren’t asked for a shot inside as I didn’t fancy our chances of Mr Happy outpacing the lioness!
Sadly the lions were also reluctant to pose for a photo while we were there so you’ll have to make do with a picture of me and Mr Tickle enjoying an ice cream instead!
The second part of one of the busiest rest day’s I can remember so far on this trip was spent walking round Bath with Lauren. We went absolutely everywhere and must have walked more than 5 miles by the time we met up with Dad and my aunty for a quick drink in a local pub. Bath is a stunning place and well, well worth a visit if you’re ever in this part of the country, especially in the sunshine!
Speaking of sunshine, Saturday’s leg from Bradford-upon-Avon to Bristol was the sunniest to date and Lauren, James and I found the going tough in the morning session.
Our cause wasn’t helped by the fact that we didn’t set off until well after midday after agreeing to meet up for a few photos beforehand with Philippa Forrester (of Tomorrow’s World and Robot Wars presenting fame), who, in true celebrity style was late due to child care issues.
Philippa is a bit of a runner herself and had originally been scheduled to run the first 5k or so with us but sadly had to dash off almost as quickly as she arrived to check on her little ones. However, she was a great sport with the pictures and seemed genuinely interested in the run and what we were up to and I’d like to thank her for taking the time out of her busy Easter schedule to fit us in. Here’s a picture of Mr Happy with Philippa down by the canal at Bradford-upon-Avon:
After a grueling morning session in which Lauren showed James and I up with her amazing running ability, we stopped for lunch in a pub just outside Bath for a well earned lunch and lie down in the St. George’s Day sunshine.
Team Happy then reluctantly said goodbye to James who had to get back to London to spend Easter with the rest of the Berry clan. James put in an absolutely stellar shift during his time with the team, running 13 miles, donning Mr Tickle for the rest day and even cooking and putting us up for the night on Friday evening. He will be sorely missed and is owed several beers when we catch up with him again in Land’s End.
James’s departure meant it was just me and Lauren on the road for the afternoon session which was an absolutely gorgeous cycle ride along the disused railway from Bath through to Bristol.
In the evening Lauren and I went for an amazing meal in the Thali Café (well worth a visit if you’re ever in Bristol) before checking in at the Bristol YHA which couldn’t be any more different to the Bath YHA.
We had a great night’s sleep and woke up fully charged and raring to go for Sunday’s run to Cheddar which was absolutely gorgeous in parts and much easier in the breeze after the stifling heat of Saturday.
It was weird running on Easter Sunday with everyone else out and about enjoying the sunshine but we made sure we entered in to the Easter spirit by consuming our weight in Easter eggs in and around an amazing stop for lunch in a little place called Wrington about 11 miles outside of Cheddar.
The more observant amongst you will probably be thinking why we decided to stop in Cheddar given that it is not on our scheduled route. A valid question indeed but we decided that the Cheddar gorge was a far better option than continuing down the main road to a random spot seven miles beyond Lower Langford.
Cheddar Gorge was well worth the visit, providing a welcome respite after a tough day on the road. Sadly, the caves were closed but Mr Happy and Mr Tickle were kept more than entertained by the incredible rock face although they did stop short of attempting to scale it!
Late in the day Ollie Morris and Jack Barnes met up with us at our hotel ahead of their stint of the trip and were chucked straight in at the deep end yesterday with a tough 22 miler through Bridgewater and beyond.
Jack took the brunt of the hard work by opting to run the 17 mile morning leg to Bridgewater. Jack is a keen sportsman but understandably found the going tough given that he isn’t used to running such a long distance. I feel your pain, Jack!
Setting off straight after having poached eggs on toast certainly didn’t help but we battled through and got to Bridgewater in good time to meet up with Lauren’s parents and aunt in nearby Burnham-on-sea for lunch.
Nigel and Mel were down for the day to show their support and make the most of what has been an extraordinary bank holiday in terms of the weather. It was fantastic to catch up with them again so soon after the marathon and very sweet of them to go to all the effort that they did just to see me run.
In true British fashion we made the most of the sunshine by having fish and chips in a beach front cafe before walking along the beach with the obligatory ‘99’ ice cream.
Burnham is by no means the best seaside town in the world but it was a really great way to spend a few hours and was much needed after such a long morning run.
The upside to all that of course was that the afternoon session along the canal at Bridgewater was considerably shorter! Lauren, Ollie and I ran with Nigel alongside on the bike taking some expert photos and some really nice video footage.
The pace was leisurely but this wasn’t really surprising after three long days on the road where Lauren has matched me stride for stride for four out of the six sessions- an incredible effort that she really doesn’t give herself enough credit for!
Lauren’s quite a girl and I’d like to end this blog by saying a big thank you to her and the entire Smith clan for all their support over the past couple of days. Mel and Nigel are like a second family to me and Team Happy had a really good time having dinner with them last night.
We have a rest day today in Taunton before getting back on the road again tomorrow. We’ve covered more than 900 miles now and I can’t quite believe that in less than two weeks all this will be over!
Day 53: Hungerford to Honey Street
Today we passed another couple of hugely significant mile stones and a very important ancient historical site as we battle our way towards Bristol for Easter weekend. At some point during the morning section of the run we passed the 800 mile point of the run and by the close of play had notched up 815 miles leaving us with less than 250 to go!
250 miles is, of course, still a hell of a long way to go but it means that we are now over three quarters of the way through the trip and Land’s End now seems within touching distance even though we’ve got the small matter of 12 running days, 245 miles and 4 counties to pass through!
Given that we’ve covered such a lot of ground I still feel remarkably good but all the running is starting to take slightly greater toll on my feet. My left foot started to hurt yesterday on the front side of the foot where the shin bone connects to the foot itself and one of my disgusting toenails (as seen on TV) has now fallen off.
I’m not complaining though- to have got this far and to have no more than a few minor aches and pains is incredibly fortunate. Perhaps I haven’t been running fast enough!
What I’ve actually found more difficult on this trip so far is all the other things you have to do around the running like ringing up the press, arranging PR opportunities and uploading videos. Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely loved doing all of this, but these things take time and it has meant that in amongst all this and the running I haven’t had an awful lot of time to relax.
In many ways though I think this is probably a good thing as it means I haven’t really had a chance to dwell on some of the more negative aspects of the trip like how tired I am or how far I’ve got left to go.
Today’s run itself was another beauty through the ever changing countryside in the glorious sunshine and Alex and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, especially when we passed through Hungerford town centre in the costumes:
Shortly before the end of today’s run we stopped to drop Alex off with a friend so he could get back to Heathrow in time for his flight back to Germany. Alex is an incredible man who has led an extraordinary life and kept me fully entertained during his time as part of Team Happy. Given his desire to wear the costume at every opportunity, I would have to say that he is also crazier than me!
Alex hopes to return to accompany us for the final hurrah down in Land’s End and has a few surprises in store if he can make it. All will be revealed in due course…
After the run Dad and I took the opportunity to visit Silbury Hill- an enigmatic man-made mound just outside Avebury that has has kept ancient historians guessing for hundreds and hundreds of years.
According to folklore some believe it is the last resting place of a certain King Sil while others believe that the mound is a failed attempt by the Devil to drop a bag of soil on the people of Marlborough.
Archaeologists, on the other hand, believe that it is in someway connected to the nearby stones of Avebury and used in some kind of ancient rituals. In reality, nobody knows its purpose but I rather like the idea that perhaps it serves absolutely no purpose at all and that pre-historic man all those thousands of years ago just decided to build a big mound for the sheer hell of it, as a challenge.
Regardless, it is an impressive mound and an incredible feat of engineering given that archaeologists believe that it was constructed more than 2000 years BC- the photo below really doesn’t do it justice!
Last night we also managed to catch a fantastic North London Derby in a pub in Devizes. Arsenal yet again blew a lead but I thought Tottenham were good value for their draw and were probably a tad unfortunate not to have won the game having outplayed Arsenal in the second half.
Tomorrow we’re back on the road again to Bradford-upon-Avon for our final leg of this section before our rest day on Friday in and around Bristol. Lauren will be up again and I cannot wait to see her.
That’s all from me for now,
Day 52: Reading to Hungerford (-4)
Yesterday I got back on the road from Reading to Hungerford where I was joined by a very special guest in the form of Mr Tickle who is quite possibly the maddest Mr Man I have ever met!
Despite also running the London Marathon on Sunday Alex could not wait to get the costume back on and we had to use all our powers of persuasion to prevent him from running the full day in the costume in favour of a quick photo:
No less surprising was his amazing ability to talk- I think I may have met my match! Normally I’m not much of a talker when I run. Running is the only me time I get on this trip and I tend to use it to switch off and think about things but with Alex it was impossible not to get swept up in conversation which actually made the run pass a lot, lot quicker.
Alex has led a pretty extraordinary life and it was an absolute pleasure to hear more about him, having had no more than a five minute chat after the marathon prior to today’s run.
In the morning we were also joined by Charlie who was completing his time with Team Happy after a very successful few days prior to the London Marathon. Charlie’s enthusiasm gave me a real boost on the way in to London and his decision to by the team Calippo’s for the Milton Keynes to Leighton Buzzard leg was absolutely inspired!
Yesterday was our 52nd day on the road and we’ve now covered well over 750 miles. I cannot really believe just how quickly it’s gone to be honest. By the weekend we’ll be in Bristol and by this time next week we’ll be well on our way to Devon. Time really has flown by and before you know it we’ll be in Land’s End and this whole adventure will be over.
However, we’ve still got 19 days to go and we need to use that time to drum up as much support and awareness for CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA as we possibly can. We’ve raised well in excess of £35,000 now, which is fantastic, but with a bit of a push could more than double that I reckon in the last three weeks.
To do that I need you to keep spreading the word about Mr Happy Runs Britain to anyone and everyone that is prepared to listen. Keep telling them about the website, keep telling them about text to give, keep telling them about twitter and facebook. Leukaemia is still a terrible disease and without the charity I wouldn’t still be here today.
That’s the sales pitch over. Time now for me to get ready for today’s run to Devizes (well just short) where I will again be accompanied by the enigma that is Mr Tickle.
Thanks so much for all your support- I couldn't do this without you.
London, London, London
What an absolutely ridiculous three or four days! So much has happened that I can genuinely say that I do not know where to begin.
The chaos started on Friday with the Guinness World Press Conference at the Tower Hotel. Turning up in the now standard April sunshine I was not sure what to expect.
Was it just me who was going to put under the microscope by the assembled press and paparazzi or were there others? Were there others competing for my category? Was I going to be interviewed or was it simply a photo call?
I had absolutely no idea but found out the answer to the first of my questions almost as soon as I entered the building as I was introduced to Tony, a 36 year old market trader from Rochester, who was attempting to become the fastest person to dribble a football to complete the marathon whilst dressed as Tinkerbell.
As if this wasn’t weird enough, I was then introduced to Uli Kilian or ‘Ruby’ as he became known, who was bidding to break the world record for solving the most Rubik’s cubes in a London Marathon.
Then there was Karl Twomey who was attempting to break the record for running the fastest marathon backwards, followed by Eleanor Franks who was bidding to become the world’s fastest bride.
One of the most intriguing was Guinness World Record press conference professional and all round legend, Susie Hewer who was bidding to break her own record for knitting the longest scarf while running a marathon.
Meeting all these people and hearing about all their own ridiculous record breaking attempts settled down any lingering nerves I had and I had a cracking time fielding questions from the assembled press and getting papped by the paparazzi.
In amongst all the frenzy, Dad managed to get a few good shots, including this one of me and the record breaking gang:
At the press conference I also bumped into a few celebs taking part in the marathon including Dwight Yorke and my personal favourite, Cheryl Baker who despite her Record Breakers glory days wasn’t going for a record herself!
After the press conference it was straight off to the London Marathon Expo to pick up my running number and say hello to the guys at CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA before our appearance on the One Show later that evening.
For those of you who haven’t run been to ExCel for the expo, it is difficult to describe the incredible atmosphere and buzz of nervous excitement and energy that engulfs the place. You have people representing marathons from all over the world coming up to you trying to get you to sign up as well as sales representatives of every sports food and drinks company you can possibly imagine offering you free samples and discounted products.
Normally I spend hours wondering round but sadly I didn’t have time this year as I had to make a dash to get to The One Show in time for rehearsals. However, I did manage to get in a quick couple of interviews with BBC London 94.9 and Virgin Money Giving:
The whole One Show experience is a bit of a blur and complete chaos to tell you the truth. Having been behind the scenes I think it is fascinating that the show manages to get put together as well as it does as I can assure you it is complete and utter chaos backstage.
On arrival no one seemed to know quite what was happening and I was ushered into the Green Room with some of my fellow Guinness World Record attemptees where we met up with John an extraordinary man who was attempting to run his 47th marathon at the age of 86.
John was a top guy and didn’t get the air time or the respect from Chris Evans that he deserved. Come to think of it none of us really did as Evans seemed to be more interested in cracking jokes than listening to our stories. This was a shame I thought as we all had good stories to tell that were certainly more interesting than his cheap gag about a bear!
I think I handled myself ok with the brief segment I got despite Evans going completely off-script and I really enjoyed the whole live TV experience. I even managed to catch Evans off guard at the beginning of the interview which made a few people chuckle.
All that said Evans is a decent enough guy off camera and was very good at posing for pictures and things after the show. We made sure we took advantage of that one at least after not being able to take photography inside:
Saturday by comparison was relatively quiet and was all about carb loading and resting up before the big day itself. Dad came over to help make some last minute alterations to the costume and I then went for a picnic with Lauren and her friends which was great fun and the perfect way to unwind before the big day itself which was absolutely hectic.
It all started with a 6 am wake up call to be up and ready for an interview with 5live. I was so, so tired but think I came across ok. Either way, I didn’t really have much time to dwell on it as I had to get off to the marathon to pre-record an interview with Grandstand and register for my record attempt.
Despite it being so early the trains for Greenwich from London Bridge were already busy and full of people brimming with excitement and nervous energy. I absolutely love this pre-race time and chat and got talking to some really cool people on the train each with their own individual goal and target time.
On arrival at Greenwich I had to make my way over to the Red Start to meet up with a fellow CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA runner Noel Bresland for our pre-race interview with Jonathon Edwards.
Noel is the guy who a couple of weeks ago ran a marathon in the London Eye as part of a wider challenge of completing 223 different marathons in memory of each hour that his nephew, Ethan, lived.
I had never met Noel prior to Sunday but had heard so much about him and having met him can safely say he is one of the most extraordinary people I’ve ever met. He’s doing some actually extraordinary things for CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA and Bliss and is well, well worth supporting. Here’s a link to his website:
The interview itself with Jonathon Edwards went really, really well with Noel and I complimenting each other really well. I haven’t watched it back yet myself but here’s the link if you’re interested:
The marathon itself went really well but I was never in danger of breaking the record of 4hrs 01 minute. I was ten minutes off the pace after the first 8 miles and in that heat with another guy dressed as Dennis the Menace looking to get round in under 3 hrs 30 there seemed little point busting a boiler in that heat.
Instead I looked to enjoy myself in the sunshine and stay running the whole way which I managed to achieve. It was really, really tough in the heat but it was fantastic fun and I got a lot of support from the crowds including massive vocal encouragement from a whole host of friends and family that turned out in support.
Thank you so, so much to everyone who did make it along- you know who you are- your support throughout this trip has been absolutely immense and made the whole thing worthwhile.
I ended up finishing in 4hrs 54, which in that heat, in that costume after running the number of miles I’ve already run, I’m pretty happy with.
I celebrated hard afterwards and as a result was very appreciative of the day off yesterday despite the ridiculous early morning wake up call for an appearance on This Morning where they put my absolutely disgusting feet in a bowl of fish that suck off all the dry skin after deciding they were beyond any kind of treatment.
I’ve done a few crazy things over the last few days but putting my feet in a bowl of feeding fish in a Mr Happy costume on Live TV easily ranks as the weirdest thing I’ve done so far! Most of you will have been working so here’s a link to the show (if you can stomach it!).
After such a manic few days I am pleased to be getting back on the road and returning to something like normality. Today I’m off to Hungerford from Reading where I’ll be accompanied by a good friend of Mr Happy’s. You’ll have to stay tuned to find out who!
In three days time I will be taking up my place at the London Marathon. I cannot believe it has come round so quickly and I am really looking forward to getting under way after surviving the runs from Watford to Slough and Slough to Reading over the past couple of days.
Before all that, of course, I had a rest day at home in London where for the first time that I can remember on this trip that we have had the opportunity to put our feet up and do absolutely nothing!
Dad and I dutifully obliged using the day to catch up on some much needed sleep and sort out the van which, as you can imagine, after six weeks had got just a little bit messy!
In the evening I went out for dinner with my girlfriend, Lauren, who I haven’t seen since she joined me up in Perth towards the beginning of last month. It’s been a long, hard five weeks since Perth and it was absolutely fantastic to see her again.
Getting motivated to get up and get going again on Tuesday was tough but a cheque collection and complimentary breakfast at the Wetherspoon’s in Watford certainly helped drag me out of bed!
Tim Martin, the owner of the Wetherspoon’s, had very kindly made a personal donation of £500 towards the cause and wanted me to swing by at Wetherspoon’s HQ in Watford to pick it up. Sadly Tim couldn’t be there in person but the manager of the Moon Under Water in Watford was on hand to fill in.
Adam Binnie, a reporter from the Watford Observer, was also there to capture the moment and wrote a lovely piece for Tuesday’s edition that’s well worth a read:
After stuffing myself with the ridiculously large Full English, running proved slightly more than difficult during the early stages of the morning run but I soon settled into my stride and finished up in good time on Tuesday evening to get back home again in time to catch Lauren when she finished work.
The run itself along the Grand Union canal was one of my more enjoyable runs to date and to give Slough its due, by the canal at least, it really isn’t such a bad place; although we nearly didn’t get there after taking another wrong turning!
Fortunately, Charlie had his Iphone with him, and, not for the first time on this trip, the Google App successfully got us back on track which is just as well as the ultra-marathon runner we stopped to ask for directions had absolutely no idea where to go!
David was in training for his second attempt at the Grand Union canal race where competitors have to run the entire length of the canal- about 140 miles- in less than 48 hours. Sadly, David didn’t finish last year after taking a wrong turn on his approach to the Paddington Basin. Hopefully he gets his bearings right this year!
Yesterday’s run was far less inspiring as I saw the other side of Slough that is the concrete jungle and endless trading estates on the way into Reading. Uninspiring, sadly, just doesn’t cover it, though hopes of Ricky Gervais miraculously appearing from a nearby trading estate in a llama costume and replaying Office episodes in my head kept me smiling!
As did the news that I will be appearing on Friday’s episode of the One Show and Monday’s edition of This Morning! This is fantastic news for the charity as it will finally get the credit and exposure it deserves for all the hard work that it is doing in saving young lives from leukaemia.
I am over the moon and would like to thank Tina Price, our PR guru, for getting it all sorted. Tina has been an absolute star over the course of the run organizing all sorts of exciting PR opportunities and I am so pleased for her that all her hard work has finally paid off! Well done T!
Since reaching London media interest in Mr Happy Runs Britain has gone through the roof. In addition to The One Show and This Morning, we’ve been included as part of the Official London Marathon Press Conference tomorrow and will also feature on the Beeb’s Grandstand coverage on Sunday.
With a full page spread in Sunday’s News of the World and a possible interview with LBC radio to-boot you’ll be sick of the sight/sound of me by the end of the weekend!
It’s up to me now to keep my side of the bargain by representing the charity well and, more importantly, breaking that Guinness World record in the marathon on Sunday! After last couple of runs I feel good and will certainly give it my best shot come Sunday.
Before then relaxation and carbloading is the key. That means forcing down as many bowls of pasta as I can possibly stomach and trying not to do anything too exhausting!
That’s all for now,
Don’t forget to tune in to the One Show on Friday at 7pm!
Southam to Watford (via Towcester)
First things first, I would like to apologize for the lack of updates- it has been three days since I last put up a post and I can only put this down to the fact that, six weeks in, tiredness is finally catching up with me!
The last three days on the road have been tough for many reasons; none more so than the heat- a factor that I had not anticipated being a real problem until later in the month. Running in the sun really takes it out of you and my times have definitely slowed as a result.
However, it’s not all bad as running in the sunshine armed with a Calippo ice cream certainly beats going to work! It has also given me the opportunity to work up quite a tan. Well, I say that but I am actually more purple than I am brown at the moment but I’m hoping that that will change the more my body gets used to being out in the sun.
The glorious weather conditions have also coincided with the bikes running in to all sorts of problems with punctures. We’ve had punctures every day for the past three days much to the frustration of everyone on the support team.
This has caused a few headaches as much of our running from Southam through to Watford has been along canal towpaths in areas where it is difficult for Dad to get the van to. This has resulted in a few heroic efforts pushing the bike for two or three miles (Glenn) or even hitching a lift on a passing canal boat (Charlie).
It has also meant that I have been left, for long parts, without someone carrying water and isotonic drinks which is obviously less than ideal in this energy sapping heat.
However, we’ve managed to get through and by hook or by crook have now reached London for a well earned rest day.
In the interim a lot has happened.
Friday was Steve and Glenn’s last day as part of team Happy before they headed off for the Brighton Marathon and a chilled out weekend respectively.
Both were great fun to have on board and a fantastic help to the team. Glenn did some sterling work on the bike while Steve put in some good miles ahead of the Brighton Marathon which must have paid off as he flew round in an unbelievable time of 3 hours 17 minutes!
Steve is raising money for the RNLI which is a very worthy cause worth making a donation to. If you’ve got any money left after all those beers at the weekend, please consider making a donation via his fundraising page:
Friday also heralded a follow up interview with Three Counties Radio. The Drive Show had interviewed me way back in Helmsdale up in Scotland and were keen to do a follow up now that I was running through their patch. The interview went well, I think, and made me realize just how far we’ve come in a relatively short space of time. It is really weird to think that a month ago we were up in Northern Scotland.
On Saturday Deepta and Charlie arrived to plug the gaps left by Glenn and Steve’s departures. Deepta and Charlie are another two friends that date back to school days and it’s been fantastic to have them on board.
Poor old Deepta was chucked straight in at the deep end with an early morning trip to X-scape for a spot of indoor skydiving prior to the run from Towcester through to Leighton Buzzard. Deepta performed admirably and was a natural at the skydiving as all the pictures would attest. Here’s a photo from Deepta’s first ‘flight’:
Even Mr Happy gave it a go with hilarious consequences. Check out the video to see how he got on:
Saturday also marked the return of Mike Barron. Mike was originally with us back in Edinburgh and it was fantastic to see him again along with Monica and Stuart, Giles’s brother.
Stuart is a decent runner and matched me stride for stride on the first part of the run from Towcester through to Milton Keynes, despite the evidence suggested by the photo below!
On Saturday evening we had dinner back in Towcester at Deepta’s Aunt’s house which was a really nice change after meals seemingly ad infinitum in pubs and motorway service stations. Deepta’s aunt is a fantastic cook and the whole evening was great fun. Thanks are required all round to the Sen family for their fantastic hospitality.
I had home cooked dinner again last night at my own Aunty’s after driving back in to London after the run in to Watford.
It was great to see her again and it feels fantastic to be home, albeit, just for the next few days as we build up to the London Marathon but before then still have the matter of running another 40 miles from Watford through to Reading over the next couple of days.
It really is no rest for the wicked!
Day 40: Birmingham Rest Day
Today we were in Birmingham for our latest rest day which was well earned by all after the heat of yesterday. Not that we did much resting of course!
The day started with an early morning visit to Birmingham FC where we were given the grand tour of the ground by a very helpful member of the marketing team. As an Arsenal fan still smarting from our fully deserved defeat at the hands of Birmingham in the Carling Cup Final it was weird wondering round St. Andrews.
Fortunately I was spared the ultimate embarrassment of standing by the Carling Cup itself as it was being used elsewhere, however I did come across a trophy during my visit which I thought was worth a snap. Absolutely no idea what it is but realistically it’s probably the nearest an Arsenal fan is going to come to a trophy this season!
If you’re a Blue or just curious to see what St. Andrews is like, you can check out the photos in our album over on facebook: http://on.fb.me/eYyH97
After St. Andrew’s it was straight back in the car to nearby Sutton Coldfield to do a spot of collecting. Sutton Coldfield’s Mall is no Bull Ring (sadly another charity had already applied for the permit to collect there) but it did have a steady stream of shoppers coming in and out and we collected well in excess of £100 over the two hours or so that we stood outside the Mall.
We also saw off the clipboard press gang of Shelter who were haranguing the good people of Sutton Coldfield for card details and direct debit schemes and more importantly spread plenty of awareness about the charity and what we are doing.
Mr Happy went down a storm, too, especially with the kids who all wanted photos. Here’s a picture of Mr Happy with some of the gang from the local school:
Next up it was back to base in Stratford-upon-Avon to catch up with some emails and get some much needed rest ahead of another day on the road tomorrow. The miles are really clocking up now and it’s crazy to think that by this time next week I will have run the London Marathon!
Before London I’ve got the small matter of 5 more runs to do but I’m feeling more optimistic of my chances, especially now that I’ve got official confirmation through that I have been entered for the record. The race is on as they say!
To break the record I’m going to need all the support I can possibly get so if you are planning to come down for the race then please look out for me and give me a cheer!
Tomorrow marks the last day on tour for Glenn and Steve Rolfe who have both been fantastic over the last week. The sun is supposed to be out in force again tomorrow so it’s going to be a great day for them to end on.
Not much else to report today other than listen out for me on Heart FM over the next few days as they’re hoping to include an interview they have recorded with me in their schedule at some point over the next few days.
Day 39: Solihull to Southam
What a difference 24 hours makes! After all the doom and gloom and uninspiring scenery yesterday, we had glorious sunshine and stunning views of the Warwickshire countryside for the run into Solihull where we were joined by Steve Sidowski.
Steve is a twitter friend of mine who prior to today, I had never met and on the way into Solihull to meet him before setting off for the run scenes from the film Catfish flitted through my mind. What if he was nothing like what he claimed on twitter or worse what if he was really weird or obsessed or something?!
Thankfully Steve was none of these things and turned out to be a really top guy who is very passionate about fundraising. He is currently in training for the Edinburgh marathon where he is raising money for the Poppy Fields charity.
If you’re feeling generous please, please dig deep and make a donation at:
The run itself was one of the most enjoyable to date and I felt like I was flying for large parts. Sadly, the run wasn’t quite as straightforward for Glenn or Rolfey who both ran in to difficulties with punctures.
Rolfey’s was so bad that he was forced into an early retirement early doors in the afternoon session, while Glenn encountered problems about four miles from home and had to push the bike to the agreed finishing point which nearly killed him!
Steve had no such problems and completed the 22 miles in a very respectable 3 hours and 45 minutes. If he keeps up that sort of pace he’ll have no problems completing Edinburgh in his target of 4 and a half hours.
Prior to meeting up with Steve for the run we made an early morning trip to Edgbaston to catch up with the King of Spain himself, Ashley Giles. Ashley is a cricket legend who is now Director of cricket at Warwickshire.
Sadly Ashley was in a rush to get home after receiving a bit of bad news but still had time to pose for a couple of photos and make a short good luck video. Like I said, the guy’s a legend:
After the run it was on to Shakespeare’s own town, Stratford-upon-Avon, where we’re staying for the next couple of nights. All talk in the van on the way back was about the upcoming Chelsea-Man United Champions League game which I’d been looking forward to watching with a few beers all day.
The game itself was a little bit disappointing but I thought Chelsea were unlucky not to get a draw after hitting the post and being denied a clear penalty at the end after a clumsy challenge on Ramires by Evra.
Sadly I didn’t have a beer despite the rest day tomorrow as my stomach was giving me some serious jip. All ok now though and probably a good thing in the grander scheme of things as we’ve got a busy rest day tomorrow with a visit to Birmingham FC and a spot of collecting in Sutton Coldfield.
Day 38: Walsall to Solihull
The run today was absolutely hellish. Officially 24 miles I think it ended up being nearer to 26 plus after we got lost for the third run in succession running over ground that was surprisingly up and down for a canal. To make matters worse the scenery for the most part was grim, the wind was straight into our faces and there was nowhere sensible to meet up with Dad for lunch until we got the other side of Birmingham.
My time suffered as a result and for the first time in a while on this trip the run was a real struggle. You get days like this as a runner from time to time and hopefully I’ll be back up to speed again tomorrow when Team Happy will become 5 with the introduction of Steve ‘Sid’ Sidowski.
I have never met Steve before- he is someone who I have formed a friendship with on twitter- but he sounds a great guy on the phone and has been putting in some serious training of his own getting himself fit for the Edinburgh Marathon. Besides being a twitter legend, Steve is also a Birmingham boy so I’m hoping that his local knowledge will come into its own and stop us getting lost!
Nothing much else to report from today save an aborted school visit in the morning which saw Dad and I turn up at Woodfield School for 9 am only to find that the school had no idea we were coming having cancelled the assembly weeks ago.
This was a costly error on our part as it meant we had got up before 8 o’clock to get to Wolverhampton only to have to turn round and come straight back again, wasting time that we could otherwise have used to ring up the local press to tell them that we were running through the Birmingham area.
As it was, we had to call the local press when we got back and this meant that we didn’t end up getting underway until gone midday- the latest we’ve started to date.
After the run I was absolutely exhausted but managed to drag myself down to the local pub, the Church Tavern, to grab some food and catch the Spurs-Madrid game. If you’re ever in the Perry Barr area in need of somewhere to eat/have a beer I’d thoroughly recommend it.
We’ve got a big day again tomorrow as we meet up with the King of Spain himself, Ashley Giles. I want to be on good form for that so some shut eye now is absolutely vital. However before I go, I'd like to end by saying congratulations to Noel Bresland for becoming the first man to successfully complete an 'eyeathon.'
Noel has been raising money for CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA and will also be going for the Guinness World Record at the London Marathon as part of a series of madcap marathons he's doing to raise money for CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA and Bliss. If you get five minutes, please do check out his webpage- well worth a look:
Alton Towers, a school visit and Walsall FC!
It has been yet another crazy 48 hours for Mr Happy and the gang in which we have had pretty much everything from Travelodge lock outs to school visits and kick-abouts with the Walsall FC mascot. It all started yesterday with a visit to Alton Towers to let off some steam and have some fun after another long, hard stretch on the road which I had been really looking forward to despite having been before.
However, my enthusiasm for the theme park was nothing compared to that of Steve. Steve is a self-confessed adrenalin junkie who had never been to Alton Towers before, making him more excitable than the Lib Dems about the upcoming AV referendum. Not being fans of being hurled here there and everywhere in the name of fun, Glenn and Dad, were understandably less keen.
Despite our differing tastes, we all had a cracking time as Alton Towers which has has something to cater for everyone. Steve took on pretty much every thrill-seekers ride going from Oblivion to Rita while Glenn and I picked and chose the rides those that we fancied the look of. Dad preferred the more serene surroundings of the aquarium while we all had a bash at the Golf Challenge in a bid to win a car by hitting a ball into the whole on a small island and failed miserably!
Sadly, Mr Happy himself was too big for many of the big rides but he didn’t miss out on all the fun entirely as he was able to go on a few of the rides including the Rapids where he got absolutely drenched! Here’s a photo of Team Happy mid-ride enjoying the rapid action:
Another ride enjoyed by Team Happy in its entirety was the Runaway Mine Train, although judging by the picture below it seems like some enjoyed it a little more than others!
All in all, Alton Towers was a fantastic day out and I would like to thank Liz West and all the team that served us throughout the day for being absolutely fantastic hosts and great sports where Mr Happy was concerned. Thank you!
After Alton Towers it was straight back to the hotel for some food and a massage organized by the charity- my first of the trip. I’d never had a proper massage before but Graham, who volunteered his time free of charge, was absolutely fantastic and my body felt so much better afterwards.
If you’re ever up in the Stoke area and in need of a massage, I’d recommend Graham to anyone. On top of giving me a great massage he is a really top bloke who will also be helping out at the London Marathon. Here’s a link to his website in case any of you are interested:
I had hoped the massage to be the perfect end to a very relaxing rest day however sadly there was still a bit of drama to come as we couldn’t get back into our room after dinner. Gone 10 pm this wasn’t ideal and we ended up having to wait for almost an hour and a half to get in the room and get to bed. Disaster!
Today was no less hectic, starting with a visit to Doxey Primary School and ending with a visit to Walsall FC with a 24 mile run where we got lost twice sandwiched in-between.
Thankfully, the drama of Travelodge meant I wasn’t too tired in the morning but I was a little stressed out having fallen a bit behind with some of the social media stuff which meant that I arrived at Doxey Primary School feeling a little bit low.
This all changed, however, as soon as I got out of the van and saw all the kids who had got dressed up in yellow especially for my visit. This made me feel really happy within moments and the visit was a huge success that was made all the more worthwhile by the fact that Lily, a pupil at the school, had recently returned to class after making a full recovery from her own battle against leukaemia.
Helping children like Lily beat leukaemia is exactly why we’re doing what we’re doing and it makes me very happy indeed to know we are making that difference. Here’s a photo of me and Lily from the visit:
After hearing Lily’s story getting back on the road running was much easier than I expected and we made it to Walsall in remarkably good time despite managing to get lost twice. Steve Rolfe deserves a special mention for successfully completing the full day and spurring me on to run that little bit faster than I’d normally run- it’s all good training ahead of my Guinness World Record effort on Sunday week!
Last but by no means least, we also popped in on Walsall FC today for a quick tour of the ground and a kick-about with Swifty the club mascot. Sadly, the real Swifty wasn’t about so Steve did the honours of donning the costume for our photos which with a little luck will make the local papers. Here’s the best of the photos of me and Swifty:
All in all, it’s been a fantastic couple of days. We’ve got another early school visit tomorrow so I’d better get some shut eye. Videos will be up soon, I promise!
Cheers, Mr H
Day 35: Congleton to Stone
Today the pain in my knees returned with a vengeance causing me to stop temporarily during the afternoon session. Thankfully the pain is intermittent and after a breath pause I was able to complete the run fairly comfortably. With a rest day again tomorrow where I have no intention of doing any running of any kind I am hoping that normal service will be resumed. If not, there’s always ibuprofen!
Knee pain aside, I really enjoyed the run today and for the first time didn’t feel completely and utterly shattered at the end of a run on the final day before a rest day. I’m definitely getting fitter (although running along a flat canal in the sunshine as opposed to up hills in the pouring rain as I was in Scotland certainly helped!)
This is all very encouraging ahead of the London Marathon where the charity wants me to try and break the Guinness World Record for a fictional character which is currently held by Sherlock Holmes in a time of just over 4 hours. I’ll be hard pushed to break that time but I’ll certainly give it my best shot!
I was joined on the run today by Glenn Forsyth. Glenn is a good friend of mine from my university days at Exeter and will be with us for the week. Running isn’t really his forte but he’s a whiz with videos and did absolutely fine on the bike this afternoon even if he wasn’t properly dressed for it!
We arrived in Stone in good time to pick up Steve (another friend from Exeter) from the station ahead of the Arsenal-Blackburn game which had taken on even greater significance after Manchester United’s remarkable second half comeback against West Ham.
Sadly Arsenal failed to rise to the challenge, playing out a disappointing draw with Blackburn which more or less ends their title challenge for another year. Their season has imploded over the five weeks we’ve been away and their struggles have been the only real disappointments on an otherwise fantastic journey so far.
The other big disappointment, today at least, was the Red Lion pub we watched the game as it was blaring out the karaoke from start to finish making having the sound on for the game completely and utterly pointless.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got absolutely nothing against karaoke but since when has 5.30 pm been an appropriate time for middle aged men to belt out Meat Loaf? In the words of the big man himself I would have done anything to have been back at home in the comfort of my local for the game!
After the game we made the short trip up the hill to the local Wetherspoons to get ourselves some much needed food before heading on to Stafford to check in at the Travelodge. By this point it was gone 10 pm and we were all exhausted and decided to call it a night ahead of a potentially great day out at Alton Towers tomorrow.
Bolton to Stockport and Stockport to Congleton
Hello all! First things first, apologies for falling behind once again with my blog entries! It has been another hectic couple of days and I am finding it increasingly difficult to keep up as the miles rack up and tiredness kicks in. Speaking of miles, we are now officially over the half-way mark in terms of distance for the run! This occurred yesterday somewhere between Stockport and Congleton and I am hoping it will give me the same sort of morale boost that I experienced crossing the border into England.
Everything seems to be passing so quickly now. We’ll be in central Birmingham on Wednesday and more or less in London by this time next week. I have missed my friends and family there a lot and I cannot wait to get back to sleep (for a few nights at least) in the comfort of my own bed!
Back on the road things are still going really well. The knees have settled down again recently and I have begun to run ever so slightly quicker, especially on the day after the rest day.
This certainly proved the case during Thursday’s leg from Preston to Stockport where I felt like I was flying for much of the run. Richard kept up manfully for his five mile stretch during the morning run (yet another incredible effort given he is still recovering from his broken hip) and Oly did a sterling job on the bike during the afternoon session where we were once again ourselves lost.
In our defence, the signs for the cycle path were appalling. Route 6 became route 62 and then the Trans Pennine Trail without warning meaning that we never picked up the signs properly, getting ourselves completely lost.
God bless the i-phone and google maps is all I can say as without it we would have been absolutely stuffed. We ended up running about five miles out of the way (there and back) and so opted to end the run a couple of miles short of our original cut off point on the outskirts of Stockport.
In-between all that we had lunch with Nick, my girlfriend’s brother, in Manchester and dropped Richard off at Manchester Piccadilly as he completed his stint with Team Happy. Richard was great for morale and will be sorely missed by Dad as a bit of a boozing buddy whilst I’m off the booze.
Thursday was also all about getting some PR opportunities organized for the Birmingham stretch of the run next week. Oly really came into his own here and we’ve now got some fantastic things lined up in and around the Birmingham area including a trip round St. Andrews and a spot of cricket at Edgbaston.
By the evening we were all exhausted, and, after two big nights out on the town, opted for a much quieter night of pool and pasta at the Manchester YHA which has provided a fantastic base for the last three days.
Thanks to Sarah (pictured) and the rest of the gang for all their help and great restaurant suggestions! http://on.fb.me/ia8F5r
After the confusion of Thursday’s run, yesterday’s leg from Stockport through to Congleton was much more straight forward as we were able to follow the railway line and canal down through Macclesfield all the way into Congleton.
Being his last day, Oly was keen to run for the full day but had to revert to the bike in the afternoon as a combination of his knee, calf and lower back conspired to prevent him running the remaining 10 miles.
Yesterday was also another good day on the publicity trail as we got ourselves a photo with the Congleton Gazette and also appeared on Silk Breakfast with Andy Bailey- a radio show that covers the Silk and Greater Manchester area.
There is an audio clip that the team at Silk has sent through which I hope to post up later just as soon as I can figure out quite how we do that! Stay tuned to Facebook and twitter for further details as and when I figure it all out…
Oly has now also flown the nest after a great 5 day stint with the team in which he has racked up an impressive 25 miles plus on the road and helped invaluably with sorting us out for next week. Both he and Richard will be sorely missed…
Thankfully Team Happy weren’t down to two for long though as my boy Glenn arrived late last night and running mad Steve Rolfe is joining us at some point today.
Today we’re on the road again from Congleton to Stone before a much needed rest day at Alton Towers. We’ve been a little late setting off in the past few days but we have ourselves a 5 pm deadline tomorrow to ensure we are in place in a pub in time to watch the Arsenal-Blackburn game.
It’s been a terrible few weeks to be a Gooner but hopefully we will win handsomely tomorrow and United will drop points to allow us to close the gap as we head in to the home straight for the season.
Preston to Bolton and Manchester Rest Day
With school visits, press calls and a curry challenge on top of all the running it has been a busy couple of days for Team Happy. Most importantly we have now run more than 500 miles and passed the 30,000 pound mark for donations. Both are incredible achievements which we celebrated in style on Tuesday night with a couple of beers, England-Ghana and the largest curry I have ever eaten!
However, first there was the small matter of an early evening visit to some very excited Rainbows in Nelson. 2nd Nelson Rainbows are another group that have been raising money for the charity through the Children’s Marathon Challenge which involves pupils doing a series of challenges around the number 26.
The girls of 2nd Nelson decided to do 26 different games for their Challenge including sleeping lions and plenty of others that I can safely say that I have never heard of- what’s Little Laura?!! They raised well over £100 which is fantastic for a very set of Rainbows and most importantly the girls appear to have really enjoyed themselves doing it.
The only downside to the visit was that it was an hour’s drive away from the YHA in Manchester. Having not finished the run in Bolton until gone four we didn’t feel we had time to comfortably check in, have a shower to get their in time for the meeting so we went straight there and didn’t check in at Manchester YHA until gone 8 o’clock by which time we were all absolutely starving!
Up-step Akbar’s curry house- a curry emporium that is peerless in my eyes and will eternally be remembered for the chef’s challenge and naan bread’s bigger than the size of my head!
Caught up in the euphoria of a couple of beers and completing 500 miles Dad and I decided to take on the chef’s challenge- a massive bowl of steaming rice, curry and one of those ridiculous naan bread- thinking it would be pretty easy.
This was foolhardy and by half way through was a real struggle. We did manage it in the end (it took me more than an hour and a half) but it was by no means enjoyable and I was very thankful that we had a rest day yesterday as there was no way I would have been able to run anywhere having eaten over 2000 calories in one sitting!
Yesterday’s rest day was equally action packed. First up was a visit to Withington Girls’ School in Manchester, which purely by coincidence, is where Oly’s girlfriend, Emily, used to go to school.
Withington Girls’ is a private school with fantastic facilities and the girls were all incredibly polite and very, very intelligent. So intelligent, in fact, that they had me generally stumped for a couple of answers during our Q&A!
Next up was a trip to the Manchester Children’s Hospital to visit Dr Malcolm Taylor who is currently doing a research project backed by the charity that is looking to develop a vaccine to prevent leukaemia. The research is still very much in its infancy but if successful could herald a cure for leukaemia which is what we are all striving for.
Sadly we weren’t allowed to go on the wards to visit the children or have our picture taken with Malcolm inside or outside the hospital (such is the level of bureaucracy within the NHS these days) but we did get a few good shots with a photographer from the Manchester Evening News in the park nearby.
On the way back from the hospital we popped in to BBC Radio Manchester to see if they might be interested in covering our story. They seemed fairly keen but you never know with the press until the last minute. Fingers crossed they get back to us…
In the evening we met up with Nick, my girlfriend Lauren’s brother, for a quick drink and a really enjoyable Chinese in Manchester’s version of China town.
It was great to catch up and nice to have a break from all things run related even if only for a few hours and I feel fully recharged and ready to go ahead of restarting again tomorrow from Bolton.
Before I go a special mention is required for Richard for defying his doctor and his body by running for four miles up some ridiculous hills in less than 3 months after breaking his hip while skiing in Switzerland.
Day 30: Lancaster to Preston
I have decided that I am not the biggest fan of running canals for two reasons. 1. The scenery never changes 2. Canals never give you markers to tell you how far you have already run and are invariably always longer than they say they are. Certainly this was our experience today on the first part of the run from Lancaster to Preston where I was joined by Richard, Heather and our latest recruit, Oly, who arrived early this morning to begin his stint with Team Happy.
Canals may be boring to run along after the first few miles but one thing they do have going for them is the fact that they are, by necessity, incredibly flat which does make for a welcome relief from all the hills I’ve been running up and down ever since the start of the trip. The weather helped too along with my now tired i-plod playlist.
Oly and Heather ran the first 11 miles with me while Richard, who is recovering from a broken hip, accompanied alongside on the bike. In the afternoon Oly and Heather got on the PR trail ringing up all the press and local media in the Manchester area while Richard and I finished off the remaining 11 miles.
Having been late setting off in the morning for a number of reasons, it was all a little rushed once we finished the run in Preston as we had to get ourselves all the way over to Burnley (about an hour’s drive away) in time for me to go and speak to the cubs and Beavers of 2nd Rossendale pack.
But before that we had to drop Heather off at the station as she completed her stint with Team Happy. Heather has been an absolute star over the course of the 5 days she’s spent with us and will be sorely missed.
The Cub and Beaver visit itself went really well. The boys were very well behaved and asked some really great questions about the run and the charity. They also did incredibly well to raise £400 from doing 26 laps of the pitch at Rochdale FC. The costume went down well and everyone really entered into the spirit of it- the Akela even tried Mr Happy on for size at one point. Here’s the photos…
The only downside to the visit was getting there- Burnley is 40 or 50 miles from Preston, making it a two hour round trip just to get there. When you add in the hour and a half or so that you’re actually there you find that you’ve taken almost three hours out of your day, meaning that we didn’t actually check in at the Travelodge and have dinner until shortly after 9 pm!
Then you’ve got blogs, pictures and messages to reply to and before you know it it’s 8 o’clock the following morning and you have to do it all again!
Thankfully tomorrow is the final day of the latest set of three before our rest day in Manchester. It’s also another significant day in terms of miles completed as it will see us pass the 500 mile point for the run.
With all that in mind, it’s time to go and get some rest now.
Day 29: Kendal to Lancaster
Remember how I said that some days you are really up for running and some days you really cannot get going? Well, guess what? Today was one of those good days (for the morning run at least!) With Heather alongside me on the bike, I flew through the first 13 miles before the agreed stop off for lunch at a steady pace of 8 minute miles which I have not been doing for a while on this trip.
The fantastic scenery and the stunning sunshine certainly helped but I think more than anything I was helped by the fact that I’ve found a second burst of enthusiasm for the whole trip after crossing the border.
The afternoon run wasn’t quite as easy and felt so much longer than 9 miles! I was running for well over an hour and a half at a similar pace to the one I was running in the morning which means I must have completed more like 12 miles along the canals. Heather and I aren’t quite sure how this occurred but think that we probably wondered off route slightly at one point or another to lengthen the route- as if this trip wasn’t already tough enough eh?!
We’ve now been on the road over a month and have covered more than 450 miles which means we are rapidly approaching half way in terms of distance. We’ll be in Manchester by Wednesday and Birmingham by Wednesday of the following week.
The fundraising has also picked up recently and we are now well over the £30,000 mark. This is someway down on where we’d like to be to reach our £250,000 target but is still a fantastic achievement and we’re really hoping that things will pick up as we start to hit the more populated parts of the country.
Aside from the running there isn’t really much more news to bring you from today other than the fact that this morning I shaved my feeble attempt at growing a beard off. It was beginning to itch terribly and to be honest looked absolutely ridiculous! Here’s a picture of the new, cleanly shaven, Mr Happy:
Fortunately shaving the beard hasn’t had the same effect as losing all his hair had on Samson (at the moment at least!) but I am beginning to have a few problems with what Heather calls ‘irritated nerves’ in the thigh on my left leg which is beginning to feel numb when I run and occasionally sends sharp tinges of pain all down my leg.
It’s not serious enough to stop me running but it is bothering me. Hopefully it will clear up soon or I might have to visit the doctors at some point in the near future just to get checked out.
Team Happy were also restored to four once more today with the arrival of Richard Berry. Richard is another great friend from school and he’ll be joining us for the next four days as we head down to Manchester and beyond.
That’s all for tonight folks. I’ll leave you with this video from yesterday’s rest day in Blackpool. Enjoy!
Day 28: Blackpool Rest Day
Today we rewarded ourselves for negotiating a tricky section of the run with a trip to Blackpool. This was just what the doctor ordered as we were able to completely forget about all things run related for the first time since before the beginning of the trip. First up was a photo call at Blackpool Pleasure Beach with the editor of the Blackpool Gazette, Dave Helliwell. Dave is also running the London Marathon for CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA where he hopes to get round in around 4 hours- exactly the same time I’m hoping to run to break the Guinness World Record for a fictional character.
After that we were given the free reign of the Pleasure Beach to grab some photos for facebook and website. Sadly we weren’t allowed to go on any of the rides in the costume because of health and safety but we were able to have a go on the Pleasure Beach’s steam railway which Dad absolutely loved.
We were also able to have a go on some of the games including the classic throw a ball in the bucket to win £20 or a cuddly toy. We plumped for the £20 to put straight in the charity pot but sadly failed with all three of our attempts- it isn’t as easy as it looks, honest!
Next up was a walk down the Golden Mile towards the Pier which is wall-to-wall pubs, chip shops, arcades and… crazy golf!
I absolutely love crazy golf and have played at quite a few different venues all over the world- including a cracking course on Koh Samet out in Thailand which involves a whole that requires you to hit through the jaws of a crocodile that open and close at random- but I can safely say that this particular course was the toughest I have ever played.
The suit certainly made things a bit more difficult but there’s never a place for a five on the card which I scored on a couple of the holes. Despite a couple of shocking holes I managed to finish joint-first with Heather with a +10 score of 46. Dad came next with Matt safely bringing up the rear with a slightly less respectable 55+
On arrival at the pier for reasons only known to the owner, we weren’t allowed to take pictures of us having a go on the arcades so we walked straight through the games to the pier itself where we stopped to take on the Football Challenge in the vain hope of winning some money for the cause.
Just like chucking the ball in the bucket the concept of the Football Challenge was very simple enough- all we had to do was hit over three out of a possible six football dummies in our 10 attempts. However, in practice it was actually remarkably difficult. To find out how we got on you’ll have to watch the video on facebook later; however, it’s safe to say that we did considerably worse than England in the real football against Wales!
After the pier it was a quick to the Blackpool Tower before heading back to Lancaster to grab something to eat and drop Matt off at the station to catch his train back to Carlisle.
Along the way we stopped off at the Rock Shop to pick up some rock for the lady in the Travelodge who had very generously let us wash all our running kit free of charge. I was also keen to find a rock that said Happy on it but had to leave empty handed as they didn’t have one as this picture proves:
However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Mr Happy as the people in the Rock Shop very kindly made a donation as did several others who bumped into us on the street.
In fact it was a great day for publicity today as earlier in the morning we also appeared on BBC Radio Cumbria. It’s always hard to tell how you did when you’re doing an interview in the back of a camper van in a service station on the way to Blackpool but by all accounts it went down ok.
Tomorrow we’re back on the road to Lancaster as we begin our march down to London in time for the London Marathon on 17 April.
It’s been a fantastic few days thanks in no small part to Matt who provided no end of entertainment during his four day stint with Team Happy. Thank you.
That’s all for tonight folks,
Keep it happy!
Day 27: Shap to Kendal
Yesterday the plan was to run from Shap to Kendal but ended up with us doing a glorious run through the Lake District after Dad had voiced concerns about the safety of parts of the A6 which was the only sensible road we could sensibly take. This actually suited us much better as it allowed us to run towards Seaton Academy School where we were scheduled to pick up another cheque and talk to the kids about CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA.
It also gave us the opportunity to run in the absolutely beautiful surroundings of the Lake District. Sadly we all foolishly left our cameras behind so you’ll just have to take our words for it and visit for yourselves.
After the drama of Mattgate yesterday Matt was left in the van for the morning part of today’s run for his own safety which meant that Dad was free to make his cycling debut:
Heather opted to run the first 10 miles before our lunch time appearance at Seaton Academy and ran so well that she decided to run again in the afternoon session. This was great for me as having someone running with you really keeps you going- especially when you’re muscles are aching after three long, hard days on the road.
Sandwiched between the two runs, of course, was our school visit to Seaton Academy near Workington and just down the road from Cockermouth. The school had been taking part in the Children’s Marathon Challenge and raised £230 for CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA and wanted me to come in to accept the cheque and talk a little about the charity.
I’ve really enjoyed the school and Brownie visits I’ve had so far and yesterday’s run was no exception. The kids had all dressed up in yellow and made hats ahead of my visit. Some had even made special Mr Happy cards wishing me good luck which really, really touched me.
The assembly went well and, as it turns out, was all in aid of one of the pupils, Elliot, who had finished his own treatment for leukaemia and just been given the all clear. Elliot seemed remarkably well given what he’s just been through and is exactly the reason why we’re doing all this. Here’s a photo of Elliot handing me the cheque at the assembly:
Driving back to the Travelodge where we would have ended up had we run the prescribed route we were all hit by a massive wave of tiredness and all the morning talk of going for a few beers was replaced by chat of an early night and a DVD.
Anchorman and a tin of Strongbow fitted the bill perfectly and it was great to just sit back and unwind.
We’ve got another action packed day today as we head to Blackpool Pleasure Beach on our day off. I’ve never been before and am really looking forward to it. Mr Happy will of course be making an outing and hopefully we’ll be able to spread the awareness a little more during our interview later this morning with BBC Radio Cumbria- I think we’re on at ten past ten if you want to listen.
That’s all for now folks- there’ll be plenty more to come on Blackpool later!
Day 26: Mattgate
On Facebook yesterday I half-jokingly said that I hoped today would be less hectic. Well guess what? It was actually more hectic as we lost Matt somewhere between Penrith and Shap and had to go on a crazy manhunt to try and find him! Matt had been on the support bike for the afternoon section of the run and was supposed to be coming back and forth to check that Heather and I were ok. However, neither Heather nor I saw him during the afternoon session and when we reached Shap there was absolutely no sign of him.
Our initial thoughts were that Matt had met up with Dad and were at the far end of Shap or perhaps a little bit beyond but when we called Dad he had not seen or heard from him either.
To complicate things further Matt didn’t have his mobile phone with him either and we doubted highly that he knew any of our numbers off by heart. We spent the next ten minutes speculating where he might be.
Initially we thought he might have cycled a bit beyond Shap as Dad had not gone ahead of us and parked up to mark the stopping point for the day as he usually does. So the first thing we did was hop in the van and drive four or five miles beyond Shap but still there was no sign of him.
So we then drove back to the nearside of Shap where we would have come into at the beginning to see if we’d somehow missed him on our way in. Still there was no sign of him.
This was when we started to get worried as if he wasn’t ahead of us and he wasn’t at the beginning of Shap, where on earth was he?! It seemed unfeasible he could have got lost and taken a wrong turning as it was pretty much a straight road the whole way from Penrith and Matt knew the area well.
It also seemed highly unlikely that he could have cycled back towards Penrith in search of me and Heather as we would surely have passed each other at some point along the road.
By this time it was about 6 o’clock- a full hour after Heather and I had arrived in Shap- and the light was beginning to fade rapidly. Matt had no lights on the bike and no helmet and we were beginning to fear the worst.
It was getting towards the time that we would have to make the dreaded phone call to the local hospital to see if they had had anybody in matching Matt’s description, but first we touched base with the Travelodge back in Penrith in case he had miraculously turned up there. Again, they had not heard from him so we left a message with the receptionist for him to call me on my mobile if he did turn up.
We then made the dreaded phone calls- first to the hospital and then to the police. Thankfully, the local hospital had not had anyone under the name of Matt Burrell admitted to the hospital while the police had not seen anybody matching Matt’s description.
This was good news of course but it didn’t find Matt. The police advised us to leave messages like the one at the Travelodge with all the pubs in Shap before heading back to the Travelodge where they would send an officer to compile a missing person’s report.
By this point it was dark and the jokes had all dried up as we began to seriously worry for his welfare. And then we got a phone call. It was Matt. He had managed to get himself back to the Travelodge. Thank God.
Panic over, we rang the police to tell them the manhunt was over and we got straight back on the road to go and meet him at the Travelodge.
On the way back we speculated as to what could possibly have happened. Maybe we’d simply missed him? Maybe he’d got lost and thought rather than try and battle on to Shap, he’d cut his losses and decided to go straight to the Travelodge? Dad even suggested he had never gone to Shap in the first place and had gone straight to the Travelodge for a nap!
When we met up with Matt, it turns out that he had been to Shap but couldn’t see us anywhere, and, having not seen Dad’s van anywhere had decided that we must have already gone back to the Travelodge.
This was a perfectly logical explanation but given that we were always behind him, how had we not seen him cycling back the other way?!!! The answer to that I don’t think we’ll ever know but it certainly made for interesting conversation in the pub afterwards!
The pub was good fun actually and some welcome light relief after all the drama of Mattgate. The barman, Ian, was really interested in our run and very generously donated £20. Complete with pool table, darts board and more local ales than you could shake a stick at, I’d recommend the Sportsman to anybody travelling through the Penrith area.
The run itself today was, thankfully, uneventful but incredibly hilly- especially the first 15 miles from Carlisle through to Penrith. The off-set of this was that the weather and the scenery were absolutely beautiful.
Tomorrow’s run from Shap on to Kendal along the A6 might be a little less straightforward as the A6 narrows considerably with no verge meaning that there’s now way of getting out of the way of oncoming traffic if they come a bit too quick. We also have a lunch time school visit 30 or so miles to the west so it may well be that we run in that direction instead.
Day 25: Eccelfechan to Carlisle
Today we made it over the Scotland-England border at long last after three long weeks on the road- the feeling of achievement was immense, and, as we stopped for a few pictures by the border sign, I was hit by a sudden realization of the scale of what we have already accomplished on the trip.
During our time in Scotland we have run over 350 miles up mountains and through valleys in pretty much every weather condition you could possibly imagine from glorious sunshine to snow storms and torrential rain.
Along the way we’ve also met some fantastic people and done some great things like playing the bagpipes with Jamie in Helmsdale, skiing in Aviemore and curling at the World Championships at Perth.
We’ve raised more than £22,000 towards our fundraising target in the process and in many ways I’ll be sad to leave Scotland behind. However, it’s onwards and downwards for me and there’s still so much more on this trip to look forward to!
Before I leave Scotland behind I’d like to say a big thank you to Jim and the team at Gretna Green for being such good sports in showing us round one of the world’s most famous eloping spots where weddings are more common than buses!
According to Jim, there are, on average, more than 800 weddings a year at Gretna Green- that’s more than 2 a day- and that they once had 17 ceremonies in a single day. People come from all over the world to get married here and dress in all sorts of weird and wonderful costumes to mark the occasion from Viking outfits to full Tudor dress- ruffs and all!
I know what you’re all thinking and the answer is no, Mr Happy did not get married! However, we were invited to be part of one married couple’s wedding photos:
On arriving in Carlisle there was no let up in what was, in truth, an exhausting day. First up, we had to run to BBC Cumbria’s studios to have an on the run interview with their drive time show to discuss Mr Happy’s views, amongst other things, on today’s budget announcements.
Having been on the road all day, I wasn’t all that clued up on exactly what was in the budget but I was as pleased as anyone else to see there had been a freeze on drink duty and a penny reduction on fuel tax. Hopefully the savings will encourage people to be even more generous with their donations!
After my interview we had to hot foot it over to Carlisle Castle for more photos with the photographer from Cumberland News who are hopefully going to put us in tomorrow’s paper.
Then it was a case of grabbing a quick shower before getting back on the road to visit the Bringham and Broughton Brownies in Cockermouth to collect some cheques, talk about the charity and join in with all their songs and games.
I really, really enjoyed myself and would like to thank the girls for their fantastic fundraising efforts- they’ve managed to raise £1,700 for CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA already! Maybe I should get some tips?!!!
In-between the media commitments and the Brownie visit we dropped off Kate at Carlisle station so that she could get back to organizing a concert for the charity. Kate breathed a lot of life back into the trip and was great to have on board as has everyone else that has helped me to get this far. Thank you everyone!
Last and by no means least, we welcomed Heather as the latest recruit to Team Happy. Heather is going to be with us until Monday and as well as being a good runner and great person to have around is a qualified physio to boot which is great news for my knees.
That’s all today folks,
Day 24: Carlisle Rest Day
I had been looking forward to this rest day ever since we agreed that Carlisle would be part of the trip. My Grandfather was born here and his father, my Great Grandfather, was stationed here as the Army Sergeant Major of the Kings Own Royal Border Regiment many, many moons ago and is on display in the Cumbria military museum within Carlisle Castle. I have vague memories of visiting the display as a young lad but I was too young really to fully appreciate what it all meant. So this was my first real opportunity to connect a bit more with my past and find out more about where my Mum and my Grandfather came from.
Or at least that was the plan when we arrived at the castle. However there was no sign of my Great Grandfather in either the castle or the military museum. The lady in the shop had never heard of him and I started to think that I might have imagined the whole thing all those years ago.
Thankfully, the lady in the military museum was much more helpful and it turns out that I wasn’t imagining it after all. My Great Grandfather has been temporarily taken off display for vital reparation works after more than 30 years service.
I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little bit disappointed as this was the main reason that I had been looking forward to coming to Carlisle but I was glad that I hadn’t made it up and was pleased that he had not been taken off display forever.
Despite not being on display, we did find a trace of my Great Grandfather in one of the Regiment’s photos:
The museum itself was really interesting and included all sorts of artifacts from over the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment’s proud and long history including a helmet and bible that saved the lives of regimental soldiers. It certainly kept us entertained for a good couple of hours.
The museum is also doing a spot of fundraising of its own in order to re-house the collection to a bigger location that is more user-friendly. We did our bit by putting a couple of pounds in the collection pot. Here’s a link to their website if you’re interested in making a donation:
We also visited the Cathedral which is absolutely beautiful and has a fantastic history in its own right. It is the home of a replica of one of the sword’s used to murder Thomas Beckett, houses one of the largest organs in the UK and was even once used as a prison for the retreating armies of Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Aside from all the sight-seeing we were also busy trying to organize a bit of local press coverage for our crossing over the border tomorrow. Initially we were unsuccessful- apparently running over the border in a giant Mr Happy costume isn’t newsworthy enough. However, thanks to my local connections we did end up getting some interest from the local rags, BBC Cumbria and even ITV Borders TV.
There’ll hopefully be much more to follow about all this tomorrow on what’s shaping up to be a really busy and exciting day involving Brownie visits, lunch at Hadrian’s Wall, my friend, Heather’s, arrival and Gretna Green!
Speaking of arrivals, another good friend of mine, Matt Burrell, arrived last night to do his bit for Mr Happy Runs Britain. Matt is not much of a runner but is keen to get stuck in and give it a go whether that be helping Dad with the driving or cycling alongside me on the bike.
Moffat to Ecclefechan (+2)
Scotland is a beautiful country with some absolutely stunning scenery but I can safely say after the run today that this does not apply to the stretch from Moffat to Ecclefechan! The road was long and tedious and the towns I passed through along the way, including Locerbie, were bleak and I resorted to taking photos of random road signs like this one:
In defense of Moffat and the surrounding area I was running alongside the motorway and having a bit of a low day so I certainly wasn’t seeing it in it’s nest light.
I have been on the road for 23 days now, running 18 of them, and the novelty has worn off a little bit. This was always going to happen sooner or later and you always have good and bad days. The key is to dig in and keep going and remember that the next good day is never too far away. That’s what I’ve been telling myself anyway and it certainly helped get me through today.
Meeting up with my sister, Katy, also helped enormously. I haven’t seen Katy for well over a month and she always puts a smile on my face. Katy’s arrival also cheered Dad up no end- I forget sometimes that it is tough being the support driver, especially when you’re on your own for the day (bar the dog’s company of course!).
Here’s a picture of my running partner for the next few days:
With Katy’s train delayed until 3.30 pm we had to wait around in Lockerbie for an extra hour which meant that I finished the run a couple of miles beyond Ecclefechan a little later than usual.
I actually really enjoyed this down time as there’s rarely been a moment on this trip to simply sit back and relax. Dad and I exploited this rare opportunity to the max by deliberately turning our phones off and turning on a ‘chill out’ CD Dad had bought for a £1 from a Lockerbie charity shop. Not really my cup of tea usually but it did the job on this occasion.
We don’t officially cross the border until mid-way through Wednesday’s run from Ecclefechan to Carlisle (we have a rest day there tomorrow) but we’re staying in the Carlisle Central Travelodge for the next three nights (there isn’t a lot in Ecclefechan) so have already made the crossing.
My Granddad was born in Carlisle and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow’s rest day there. I’ve been once before, actually, when I was 8 or 9 and I have vague memories of seeing a statue of my Great Grandfather, Sandy, in the Carlisle Museum. It will be interesting to see if he’s still there!
That’s all for tonight folks,
Tune in tomorrow to find out what I get up to on my day off in Carlisle.
Day 22: Crawford to Moffat (+2)
Today was another one of those days where I really did not fancy running. Giles, who has been running sections of the run everyday since arriving on Thursday, opted out in favour of watching In the Thick of It on his i-pad and there was a large part of me that craved to do the same.
However after an awful lot of faffing around getting going, I got into my stride relatively quickly and made steady progress to churn out 15 of the 21 miles before lunch. This was great as it gave us the opportunity to drop Giles and Mike off at the station in Lockerbie in good time.
Again, it was sad to see them go but more troops are arriving next week to bolster the team Happy ranks starting with my sister, Katy, on Monday. Katy’s a great girl with a lot of get up and go and her energy will breathe more life into proceedings as we inch ever closer to the Scotland-England border.
The rest of the run to Moffat and beyond was pretty uneventful save for a near miss for a hare as he tried to scamper across the road into oncoming traffic.
The hare’s near miss got me thinking about how lucky I have been so far on this trip to have had no such incidents so far. I’ve had the occasional car that’s made no attempt to slow down forcing me to stop and climb up on to the bank by the side of the road and a couple of drenchings by cars that have been unable to avoid puddles but have never felt in any serious danger.
I’ve also been incredibly lucky to have got three weeks into the trip with no more than a couple of sore knees and a couple of pretty gruesome looking toe nails as the photo in the link below testifies!
We’ve been on the road three weeks now and done so much already, getting some great press coverage along the way. The latest offing is an honorable mention in a Scotland on Sunday article about the meaning of life: http://bit.ly/fusVcw.
At times this journey really has flown but there has also been the odd occasion where it felt like time couldn’t pass any slower (this has been mainly on days where I have struggled on the run!).
The fundraising has gone really well, too. We've raised more than £20,000 so far but this has slowed quite a bit in recent weeks and is in need of a bit of boost. Making a donation is easy; simply text the word HAPPY to 70003 to donate £3 or visit my virgin money giving page http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/mrhappyrunsbritain to make a more sizeable donation.
Right that’s the sell over, there’s nothing much else to tell you other than the Jewel in the Crown curry house in Dumfries is well worth a visit if you’re ever in the area.
Day 21: Dolphington to Crawford
We set off from Dolphington earlier than usual today to make sure we made it to Crawford in good time to find somewhere decent to watch the rugby. However, our planning, like the rugby itself, did not go according to plan as I took a wrong turn on the way out of Biggar and ended up running more than 5 miles in the wrong direction!
How I managed to achieve this when I was armed with a map and had a support team behind me, I am not entirely sure. However, I was given a bit of a bum steer in terms of directions by my Dad and once I was on the wrong road there was no way of telling I was going the wrong way as there weren’t any road signs for miles meaning that it was miles before I realized I’d gone wrong.
By that time I had gone off the map making it impossible to pinpoint where I’d gone wrong. Phoneless, I had no choice other than to continue running blindly in the wrong direction until I found a village or town where I could ask someone the way to Symington where I had agreed to meet up with Dad and the boys for lunch.
That village turned out to be a place called Thackerton about 3 miles outside Lanark. I have never been more pleased to find civilization and it was a huge relief when I finally found someone who actually knew the way to Symington!
Fortunately Dad and the boys were still in Symington when I got there more than an hour later than originally scheduled.
The rest of the run was far less dramatic with the only ‘drama’ being whether we’d make it to our hotel in time for the rugby which we did with plenty of time to spare- not that it was worth rushing back for in hindsight!
I’ve rarely been more disappointed by an England performance than the one they delivered tonight although I thought Ireland were also superb.
Other than that there isn’t an awful lot to report from today save from the fact that the hotel we’re in tonight, the Abington Inn, was once stayed in by none other than Napoleon Bonaparte back in 1839. Not quite sure what he was doing here as there isn’t an awful lot to do but it’s pretty cool none the less.
Tomorrow we’re on the road again to Moffat as we inch our way slowly but surely towards Carlisle and the borders. Hopefully I won’t get lost!
Day 20: Edinburgh Rest Day
Today we took full advantage of our rest day to explore Edinburgh in all its glory. Our first port of call was Edinburgh Castle where we had arranged to meet up with a photographer from the Edinburgh Evening News for a few photos. This went seamlessly with the photographer, Neil, turning up within minutes of our arrival at the castle and taking some great pictures in the sunshine. Hopefully one of them will make the grade and get us a bit more press coverage.
Just down the Royal Mile we bumped into William Wallace who thankfully was taking some time out of wanting to rouse troops and talk about freedom to do a bit of fundraising of his own for the Anthony Nolan Trust.
Anthony Nolan is a fantastic charity in its own right and I wish Wallace (real name Adam Watters) all the best in his bid to raise money for the charity. Here’s a picture of Adam in action:
For more information on Adam and his work, check out Adam’s website: http://www.adamthebraveheart.co.uk/
Less than 300 yards further down the Royal Mile we bumped in to a journalist from Scotland on Sunday who was writing an article on the meaning of life. She was very keen to find out what Mr Happy thought of it all so we took five minutes out on the wall outside the front of St. Giles’s Cathedral. We chatted for a good five minutes while a photographer took a few photos. Absolutely no idea whether we’ll make it in to the paper but it was fun none the less. Here’s a picture of us mid-flow:
The rest of the morning was spent in the glorious sunshine simply walking around the streets of Edinburgh where we bumped in to lots of people curious about what we were up to including a guy who was getting married in his tartan finest and a group of girls who were doing a spot of fundraising of their own for Comic Relief.
Sadly Dad wasn’t with us for much of the morning as he was having terrible problems trying to find a parking space big enough to park a campervan with two bikes on the back!
However he did join us in the afternoon for our second press commitment of the day- an interview with a lovely lady who writes for the Edinburgh Reporter called Phyllis Stephen. We chatted for a good ten minutes or so and I’m really happy with the resulting article:
The press coverage and general awareness drive is going really well so far- hopefully this will spur a new wave of donations which have slowed a bit lately.
After a great day walking around Edinburgh, we were all a little bit tired by the time we got back to our hotel in Abington about 40 miles south of town. Ahead of tomorrow’s Six Nations finale Dad, Giles and Mike re-watched the Rugby World Cup 2003 while I caught up with some work on uploading videos which I’d fallen behind with a bit recently.
There are plenty of new ones up on the happyrunsbritain youTube channel now including one of me reading a story to the kids of Blackness Primary School:
Back on the road again tomorrow to a little town called Cromarty which we hope to reach in good time to settle down in a pub somewhere to enjoy the rugby. Fingers crossed England will be Grand Slam winners by this time tomorrow!
Day 19: Edinburgh to Dolphington
Today was one of the most enjoyable days of the trip so far thanks mainly to the pupils and teachers of Blackness Primary School- the first of 11 schools we are scheduled to visit during the course of the run.
Their excitement and enthusiasm was contagious and the smiles on all the kids faces as I turned up in the Mr Happy costume have made all the hard work and miles run so far worth it.
It was also great escapism after a tough 10 miles on the road up hill and down dale on the way out of Edinburgh. For an hour or so I completely forgot about the run, my sore knees and the miles I’ve still got ahead of me.
We played hide and seek, had a sprinting contest (which I lost fairly comprehensively) and had a few photos taken with the local photographer before I gave a quick talk about the charity and handed out some certificates during their lunch time assembly which included one for me for ‘running’ which took me completely by surprise and made my day!
We ended the visit with Mr Happy reading them a story (a Mr Happy book of course!) which seemed to go down well before a general Q&A session about the run. The kids were incredibly well behaved and a genuine credit to their parents and their teachers and I wish them all the best in their fundraising attempts for CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA next week.
To check out the assembly in full and see pictures from the visit, check out the links below:
It was with a genuinely heavy heart that I left them to grab some lunch and take in Blackness Castle before getting back on the road to run the remaining 11 miles to complete my running for the day.
The run itself wasn’t particularly eventful or inspiring bar for me getting completely drenched by an oncoming lorry careering through a puddle and a near wrong turning within the first five minutes of the run for the day but it was significant.
At some point during the run we passed the 300 mile mark for the trip meaning that we are now more than a quarter of the way there which feels fantastic.
I’m also beginning to see signs for Carlisle and the borders which can only mean that our time in Scotland is almost at an end. I’ll actually be sad to leave Scotland (weather aside) as the people have been fantastic.
To celebrate breaking the 300 miles barrier and St. Patrick’s Day, we headed in to nearby Biggar for a couple of pints of Guinness which were absolutely glorious.
It’s a rest day in Edinburgh tomorrow which I’m thoroughly looking forward too. I’m going to don the suit and be a proper tourist going round all the classic tourist spots. Hopefully we’ll get some donations and spread a bit of awareness at the same time.
Good night all and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Day 18: Kelty to Edinburgh
What a difference 24 hours makes! After all the doom and gloom of yesterday, I felt great today and had a new found enthusiasm for the run. The sunshine certainly helped but it was the arrival of Giles and Mike that made the key difference. Giles is a great friend, who I have run with before and it was great to have him running aside me for the first 12 miles many of which were uphill and quite a challenge.
I was also buoyed by the fact that by running into Edinburgh- a significant milestone in itself- we would be finishing the first quarter of the mileage for the run.
The run itself was tough in places and largely unspectacular bar for running over the Forth Bridge in the fog. At the time I was a bit disappointed as I had envisaged crossing the bridge in the glorious sunshine with Edinburgh looming in the background but in hindsight I think I enjoyed the experience all the more.
After the bridge Giles bowed out for the day after a noble effort of 12 miles, leaving me to run the remaining 9 or so miles into Edinburgh itself on my own. Again these miles weren’t quite what I was expecting (I certainly hadn’t realized Edinburgh proper was 8 or 9 miles after the bridge) but I actually quite enjoyed them.
With the ibuprofen doing the trick with the knees, the body seems to be bearing up ok at the moment although I did have to stop to put on another blister plaster for an unwelcome return of a blister shortly after lunch.
At the end I did feel like I could have kept on running, too, which is a very good sign but at the same time I am more than looking forward to my rest day on Friday after tomorrow’s run!!!
With a big night planned out in Edinburgh for St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow, it was more of a chilled out affair after the run- ice packs, TV and a nice Chinese as opposed to beers, pubs and exploring Edinburgh in all its glory. Like I said, we’ll have time for all that tomorrow which is turning into a bit of a busy day as we’ve also got to try and cram a school visit into the schedule- no rest for the wicked eh?
That’s all for today, folks. More tomorrow…
Day 17: Perth to Kelty
As a runner there are some days where you really do not want to be running. Today was one of those days for me for a number of reasons. First and foremost the weather was absolutely atrocious. It rained incessantly from before we started until after we finished, soaking right through my flimsy triple sock defence system to leave me with soggy feet and squelching toes.
Secondly, having dropped Lauren off at the station earlier this morning and waved goodbye to Jack and George yesterday, I had no support team for the first time in the trip.
Running on a road alongside the M90 through some pretty non-descript landscape with only my I-pod for company, I cut a pretty lonely figure and for the first time on the trip so far I felt a bit like chucking in the towel.
However, I powered through despite a tough climb about five miles outside Perth, making it to the Travel Lodge in good time to grab a shower and have a bite to eat before our reward for a tough day on the road- a visit to Stark’s Park to watch Raith Rovers take on Cowdenbeath.
Ratih are currently top of the Scottish First Division and Cowdenbeath are their fierce local rivals so it had all the necessary ingredients for a decent game.
Before kick-off I was invited on to the pitch and interviewed by the Raith Rovers announcer, Gordon.
I’m not much of a public speaker but I think the speech went down ok with the crowd though I’ll let you be the judge of that yourselves!
The game itself lived up to expectations and fairly contested. Raith had much of the ball for the first thirty minutes but Cowdenbeath came back into it in the last ten minutes and should’ve scored after a defensive mix up left their striker clean through on goal. However, he left his shot too near to Raith’s keeper who did well to divert the ball round the post.
Instead it was Raith who capitalised on a defensive mix up to go into the break with a lead they probably just about deserved.
In the second half Cowdenbeath took control and deservedly equalised to set up a barn-storming last half an hour where Raith fortunately got a winner to extend my winning streak to two matches and put people in a more generous mood to make a donation at the final whistle.
We’ve yet to count up the money but reckon that we raised somewhere in the region of £250-400 which is absolutely fantastic. I’d like to thank Bob Mullen and everyone at Raith for their hospitality and incredible half time pies!
Tomorrow we’re running in to Edinburgh which I’m very excited about as it will be the first major city we’ve passed through on the trip so far. One of my best friend’s from school, Giles, and his Dad, Mike, will be joining us for the leg and I cannot wait to get underway.
Hopefully the weather will pick up a bit, too, which will increase our opportunities to wear the Mr Happy costume and spread the word about CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA.
Castles, curling and a whole lot of snow!
To say I have been busy over the last few days would be an understatement! Since my last blog on Wednessday Mr Happy and the gang have visited Blair Castle, been curling with the Junior World Champions in Perth, taken a putt at Gleneagles and run more than 45 miles through wind, rain, snow, blizzards and virtually every weather condition in between.
The bad weather started during our rest day on Thursday with 12 inches of snow falling in less than 24 hours which put the run from Dalwhinnie to Calvine on Friday into serious jeopardy.
At breakfast amid forecasts of high winds and heavy snow fall, various alternatives were discussed from making up the miles on the treadmill to coming back to run the leg when the weather was better.
In the end we decided to give the run a go despite it seeming to fly in the face against all common sense.
The run was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do and had pretty much everything weather wise from glorious sunshine and breathtaking mountain views to snow and rainstorms and full on gales.
At times I was running up hills straight into the wind and driving rain through a foot or more of snow and I could barely see more than three or more meters ahead of me but I got there eventually and was so, so proud of myself afterwards.
The only downside to an otherwise outstanding day was that I had to walk the last mile as my left knee was in absolute agony.
Fortunately, an ice pack, two knee supports, ibuprofen and 12 hours sleep later the knees felt good enough on Saturday morning for the run from Calvine to Dunkeld which was preceded by a trip to Blair Castle.
Blair Castle was great fun and a welcome distraction from the running. All the staff were fantastic and the displays were really, really well done. I particularly liked the entrance hall which was wall-to-wall with various guns and weapons that had been used over the years. The dining room full of stag head’s and the portrait staircase were also superb.
Saturday’s run itself was another tough one up and down hills straight into the wind (I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to run any other way!) but knowing that Lauren, my girlfriend, was coming later that day really helped keep me going.
Meeting up with Lauren was fantastic and gave me a real boost ahead of yesterday’s run. We had a really nice curry on Saturday night with Dad and the boys and I was in really good spirits setting off for yesterday’s run in to Perth.
The original plan was for Lauren to join me for the first 9 miles before we had our break for Team Happy to have a go at curling at the Junior World Championships but she ended up joining me for the full 21 miles which was an incredible achievement given that she has done almost no training!
Curling was great fun but nowhere near as easy as it looks despite the tips of the victorious Swedish national team! You can check out the photos here:
The post-curling afternoon run was tough as we had to put our foot down and run a little faster than normal to make sure we made it to Perth in time to watch the England – Scotland game. We made it in good time in the end but I was so, so tired afterwards and went to bed pretty early last night.
Today has been very chilled save this morning’s photo shoot at Gleneagles which went well after we got over the initial disappointment of it being covered in snow.
As a keen golfer I had hoped that I’d be able to have a go on the first tee (normally £155 a round) but there was absolutely no chance given the state of the course. In the end we made the best of a bad situation by fooling around on the driving range. Mr Happy had a go and didn’t do too badly though won’t be giving Tiger Woods a run for his money any time soon (even on his current form!)
All roads now point to Edinburgh which we should, all going well, reach on Thursday in time for St. Patrick’s Day. Before then it’s three hard days on the starting with tomorrow’s 22 miler to Kelty.
I’d like to end by apologizing for the gap in blogs- it’s been a hectic few days but hopefully we’re now back on track.
Day 12: Rest Day in Newtonmore
Never have I more enjoyed a day of doing very little more. After three really tough days on the road we had planned absolutely nothing bar a tour of Dalwhinnie distillery which is just as well as the weather was atrocious and again there was absolutely nothing to do. Or at least that was what we thought when we got up for breakfast in the morning!
Never have I more enjoyed a day of doing very little more. After three really tough days on the road we had planned absolutely nothing bar a tour of Dalwhinnie distillery which is just as well as the weather was atrocious and again there was absolutely nothing to do. Or at least that was what we thought when we got up for breakfast in the morning!
It all started with one of only two activities we had previously arranged- the whisky tour. This was great fun and besides the tasting (which went down well with all of us) we learnt an awful lot about the production of whisky that none of us had known before.
We stuck about a bit afterwards and got chatting to the lady who did the tour who then gave us a free bottle of Dalwhinnie by way of donation to the Mr Happy Runs Britain cause. No idea quite what we’re going to do with it yet but we’ll make sure that the charity benefits from it.
Our only other commitment was to pick up the two latest recruits to the tour- George Hackforth-Jones and Jack Schennum who agreed to meet up with us at Dalwhinnie.
Their planned ETA was around 3 pm but they reached us more like 4 pm after an epic cycle journey up from Perth in some of the worst conditions you could possibly imagine.
Over the course of 9 long, long hours and 60 miles poor Jack and George had to battle their way through gale force winds, two blizzards and an average temperature of -4 to reach us. Here’s a picture of the moment they finally made it to Dalwhinnie:
The boys were, understandably, exhausted by the time we got back to the hotel and George went for a nap. However, Jack, Paddy and I decided to take advantage of the hotel’s snooker table in the bad weather but somehow only managed to squeeze one frame into our allotted hour.
Wearing the Mr Happy suit didn’t help my cause but I did manage to beat Paddy in the end on the black after he missed an absolute sitter on the black to leave me with a straightforward tap in to complete an unlikely comeback.
After snooker we headed over to the pub to watch the football and waste a few pounds on the quiz machine before dinner which was ironic as after dinner we then spent a few pounds losing a real quiz in the pub we stopped at for dinner.
In fairness, we did win the picture round and finish second (which got us T-shirts and £10 respectively) which will both go straight into the charity pot along with half the winnings of ‘haven’t got a clue’ which was fantastic and was a great end to a great evening.
People have been so kind up in the Highlands so it will be a real shame to say goodbye as we make our way on to Perth over the next set of 3 days which started with today’s leg to four miles beyond Calvine.
I’d like to end this blog by saying a big thank you to Paddy for all his hard work and support over the last week. Paddy leaves us to get back with British Sugar tomorrow and will be sorely missed.
Day 11: Kincraig to Dalwhinnie
Things did not go quite the way we planned today. We had hoped to complete the run from Kincraig to Dalwhinnie in one hit after doing the extra miles to shorten the run yesterday but were scuppered by road works on the A9 about four miles outside of Dalwhinnie.
Rather than risk trying to battle our way through we opted to turn back on ourselves and make up the four miles by running back to Newtonmore where we were staying for the night anyway.
Whilst disappointed, I certainly was not going to complain as running back meant that I was no longer running straight into another howling gale. My knees were sore, too, and for the first time since starting this crazy challenge I did feel like walking. I got through in the end though and Paddy joined me on foot for the last mile on his last day which helped keep me going.
It’s been a long, hard three days and the running is certainly getting more difficult as the constant pounding of the pavements begins to impact upon my body. However, I’m sure some of the tiredness was down to the fact that I had spent the entire morning on the slopes of Aviemore attempting my latest Mr Happy Challenge… skiing!
The skiing actually went remarkably well. I didn’t tumble, we got some fantastic weather and Colin and the team at Cairngorms were absolutely fantastic from start to finish. The press got some lovely shots, too, so hopefully we might get a bit more media coverage for CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA at the same time.
Here’s what it looked like via Paddy who got some fantastic footage of Mr Happy action with our little Flip camera on the back of a scudoo.
Tomorrow we have another rest day in Dalwhinnie (if we ever manage to battle our way through the road works) which I’m really, really looking forward to.
We haven’t got a lot planned but Paddy, on his last day, has his heart set on the Whiskey Distillery, so that looks a distinct possibility.
Other than that I think it’s going to be a case of putting our feet up, organising the week ahead and doing some of the more boring logistical things like washing and re-stocking the van. Oh and I need a haircut as I’m beginning to resemble a bit of a hobo!
Tomorrow also sees us welcome another two additions to the team in Jack Schennum and George Hackforth-Jones (provided they survive the ordeal of the sleeper train and 60 mile bike ride from Perth!).
It’ll be great to have them on board but at the same time it will be sad to say goodbye to Paddy who has been fantastic this week- a bottle of Dalwhinnie’s finest is in order I feel to say thank you!
That’s all I’ve got for you today folks other than the news that Dad and I have decided to give up shaving and grow beards for Lent. Mine won’t probably amount to much but Dad’s has certainly got potential!
Day 10: Tomatin to Kincraig
Howling winds and torrential rain made the run this morning one of the hardest and least pleasant things I’ve ever had to do. Running into the wind is not easy at the best of times but when it is pouring with rain and you are running up hill and down dale along a busy road into oncoming traffic at the same time it really is hellish.
However the prospect of Pancakes and Arsenal-Barcelona got me through the morning session and it cleared up after lunch making the afternoon session much more enjoyable. My legs felt good again so we ran on past Kincraig to within 3 miles of Kingussie or Kinooosie as they pronounce it up here.
My knees are beginning to give me a bit of jip and were very sore after the extra 6 or 7 miles but I’m glad I’ve done it as it will give me a much easier run tomorrow on the final day before the rest day.
After the run it was all about getting ready for the pancakes. I’d been thinking about them all day and when it finally arrived the first pancake barely touched the sides!
Tossing the pancake in a Mr Happy costume had FAIL written all over it from the moment we came up with the idea but had to be done. Unsurprisingly the first one hit the deck and was enjoyed by the dog but the second one was a resounding success. Here’s the video:
After pancakes we made our way to the pub to settle down for the football which ended up being painful watching for an avid Arsenal fan. Barcelona were fantastic and fully deserved their victory despite the referees terrible decision to send Van Persie off.
Tomorrow I’ve got a different kind of challenge before my run which involves mountains, goggles and potential avalanches. Do you know what it is yet? Skiing of course!
Tune in tomorrow to see how I get on. Until then it’s over and out from a tired Mr H.
Day 9: Inverness to Tomatin
Today was one of those days where everything felt good on the run and you feel like you can run forever. You get these kind of days occasionally as a runner and when you do you need to take full advantage of them to make up for the opposite days where every stride is painful and running is a real chore.
The rest day yesterday certainly helped, too, and so I ended up running today right up to the hostel we are staying in tonight, 5 miles further along the road to Perth. This involved climbing up an additional 250 metres up and beyond Shlochd Summit which is the highest point we’ve reached so far on this trip. Here’s a video of the moment I reached the top:
For all the talk about feeling good running, I was exhausted afterwards but the upside is that today’s run starts downhill and will be considerably shorter as a result. Depending upon how I’m feeling though we may well choose to run beyond tomorrow’s end point in Kincraig to reduce the miles on the road on Wednesday when I’m likely to be at my most tired before the next rest day.
Beyond the running we didn’t have anything planned today so for the first time on the trip so far after running we got the opportunity to chill out and do absolutely nothing which was absolutely glorious.
To be honest there really isn’t much to do in Shlochd anyway. In fact, there really isn’t anything to do in Shlochd at all! Fortunately the hostel we’re staying, Shlochd Mhor Manor, has plenty of games and a TV with decent reception (not everywhere we’ve stayed so far has!) so it isn’t all that bad. It is a funny old place though which is very, very big on the environment.
There are signs telling you to turn the lights off everywhere while there is a notice in the shower telling you to have a quick shower which wasn’t difficult, believe me, as the lights operate on a 30 second timer system and kept turning off while I was showering! So did the shower itself like the ones at the swimming pool except recommencing cold every time!
The owners are nice though and have a very dour sense of humour that takes a little getting used to- that’s what I’m telling myself anyway after Ian, who is also a ski instructor, told me ‘I’d never make it to Land’s End!’
They’re quite hard to describe as a couple but an even more deadpan Jack Dee coupled with Jo Brand on an off day wouldn’t be far off.
In other news, Sunday’s interview with the Press and Journal has now been published and made page 7. Hopefully, that’ll continue to spread the word about the run and land us a few more donations. It also made the website, here’s the link:
Tomorrow we’re back on the road to Kincraig which is more or less flat or downhill all the way which will be a nice reward after today’s long slog. However, as I said before, we hope to push on beyond Kincraig to leave me with as few miles as possible for Wednesday. I’m hoping that the added motivation of pancakes and Barcelona-Arsenal will get me through- Mr Happy will be super Happy if Arsenal pull off a victory in the Nou Camp!
Rest Day 2: Inverness
Today we enjoyed our second rest day in Inverness which was much needed after back-to-back 24 milers and 3 tough days on the road. First up was a lie in and leisurely breakfast before a quick interview down by the bridges with Mel from the Press and Journal. The interview went well enough I think and the photographer was happy enough with his pictures. Hopefully the interview will make the grade for the paper and go down well with the locals!
Ultimately the hunt for Nessie was unsuccessful but we had great fun looking for her even if Mr Happy did end up spending more time in the adventure playground!
Check out the video link below to find out how we got on:
After our failed attempt to solve one of Scotland’s most famous mysteries, it was a case of getting back to the hotel and relaxing ahead of another very busy week next week. The body is holding up ok so far- I’ve got a couple of blisters and blueberry coloured toenails but otherwise everything’s ok.
Hopefully I’ll still be saying the same after tomorrow’s run to Tomatin which on paper looks one of the most difficult to date as it’s almost exclusively uphill. Wish me luck,
Day 7: Nigg to Inverness
The run today from Nigg to Inverness brought down the curtain on a memorable first week which has, the odd mishap aside (including nearly leaving Mr Happy outside a pub before even getting to John O Groats!), been a huge success. We have covered more than 110 miles on the road, played the bagpipes, fooled around with Staggie at Ross County, had an interview on BBC Radio Three Counties and today ran a lap of honour at Inverness Caledonian Thistle before the their SPL match against Motherwell!
Bar a couple of black toe-nails and ugly looking blisters on my feet, the body seems to be bearing up all right so far although I am very thankful for my second rest day tomorrow, especially after another hectic day on the road today!
Nigg to Inverness is a little over 24 miles over some pretty tough hills so in order to get to Inverness Caledonian Thistle in good time for kick-off we were on the road earlier than normal and my body took a little while to get going.
The first four miles were more or less straight up hill and a bit of a shock to they system though I think they hurt Paddy more than they hurt me. Paddy hasn’t ridden a bike in more than 5 years and at time of writing this is out like a light!
Four hours and a further 20 miles later we made it to the stadium and were actually in plenty of time to get Mr Happy ready for his SPL bow.
The Tulloch Caledonian Stadium isn’t huge and there were only 3,500 people there but waiting in the tunnel to come out for my lap of honour I actually felt pretty nervous. In hindsight I’m not really sure why as everyone at Inverness were fantastic.
The lap round the pitch itself was great fun and people were incredibly generous. Over the course of the afternoon we raised something like £800 for the charity which we were delighted with. Inverness won 3-0 to boot so it was a fantastic day all round and I’d like to thank everyone at Inverness for making it happen.
Added to the money raised over the course of the last few weeks, we’re raised almost £20,000 already for CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA and to celebrate Paddy and I went for a couple of drinks in Inverness.
Next week is another big week starting with a solid 20 miler out of Inverness that looks more or less uphill all the way so things aren’t exactly going to get any easier! We’ll get there though especially knowing that we’ve got your support behind me.
Special thanks to Lim and John for all their support- they’ve both been rocks and will be sorely missed.
Day 6: Golspie to Nigg
Today I ran 24 miles, welcomed a new member to the team and met up with Staggie the Ross County mascot for a quick kickabout and tour of the stadium. Not a bad day really all things considered. I am paying for it now though as I hurt absolutely everywhere and have a serious case of chaffing in a rather delicate area.
The day started with us saying goodbye to Deb our fantastic host at the Ben Bragghie in Golspie. We then got on the road to get back to where we finished yesterdays run to start todays leg from Golspie to Nigg.
The plan was to run from Golspie to Tain, stop for lunch and then run on to Nigg in time for us to get to Ross County in plenty of time to have a stadium tour with ‘Staggie’ the team’s mascot.
Sadly the plan didn’t quite turn out the way we’d hoped as Dad had miscalculated the distance from Golspie to Tain by 7 miles. 7 miles might not seem a lot but when you’re running 8/9 minute miles and have run more the best part of 80 miles in the last 5 days it’s a huge difference.
We didn’t arrive in Tain until gone two o’clock and with 10 miles, lunch and a 30 minute car journey to cram in, making it to Ross County for our kickabout before 5pm when they all go home was in serious doubt.
As a result I had to wolf down dinner and in my haste to get back on the road forgot to reapply Vaseline to an important area and am now paying the price! Hopefully I won’t be too sore in the morning!
Despite making good time during the afternoon leg I didn’t get to Nigg until twenty past four and there was no way we were going to make it to Ross County before ‘Staggie’ went home for the day.
Thankfully, our latest member of the team and good friend, Paddy, arrived earlier than expected and managed to get to Ross County in time to save the day and we got our photo shoot, donning the ‘Staggie’ costume to boot. Check out the photos on facebook to see how he got on:
Tomorrow we say goodbye to John and Lim who are heading back to Aberdeen and London respectively. Both have been a fantastic and will be sorely missed as we head on on our journey through Inverness and beyond.
Tomorrow will also see Mr Happy make his debut at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium as he leads out Inverness Caledonian Thistle for their SPL match against Motherwell in the absence of their normal mascot who is away on holiday. Really, really excited about it all as it should be a great opportunity to spread the word about childhood leukaemia and the run.
That’s all for tonight folks as it really is time for me to get some sleep ahead of another very busy day tomorrow.
Thanks for all your support as always,
Day 5: Helmsdale to Golspie
We were back on the road today for my longest leg yet- 22 miles from Helmsdale to about 3 miles out the other side of Golspie. Having had a day off yesterday, getting up was difficult but thankfully I had a friend of mine, Joe, and his Dad coming up from the other side of Inverness to join me for the leg and this gave me all the motivation I needed to get myself going.
Before setting off we stopped for a couple of quick photo with our hostess for the last three nights, Sheelagh, and Chris Darmon the chairman of YHA England who we bumped into in the pub at dinner last night.
YHA have very kindly agreed to help us out with discounted accommodation at various YHAs along the route once we cross the border so it was great (and incredibly fortuitous) to be able to thank the chairman personally! It really is funny how things work out some times isn't it?
Once we finally got underway I found the first few miles tough. Fortunately, Joe is an experienced runner and he helped get me through and settle me in to a good rhythm. Such a good rhythm, in fact, that we made it to our planned stop off point in Brora well ahead of time.
We had been hoping to meet up with a lad that is currently undergoing treatment for leukaemia. However, unfortunately he was too poorly to see us so after a quick Mars Bar and a swig of water we got straight back on the road and ran all the way to the outskirts of Golspie before finally stopping for lunch.
After lunch it was a simple case of running the remaining three or four miles beyond Golspie to our stop off point for the day which leaves us with another 21 mile hit for tomorrow’s leg to Nigg as we home in on Inverness where we’ll be accompanied by John Anfield, one of my Dad’s old school friends.
I’d like to end today’s blog by saying a couple of thank yous. Firstly, I’d like to thank Sheelagh for putting up with us for three nights during our time in Helmsdale. Sheelagh really was an outstanding hostess and I’d recommend her B&B, Kerlogh, to anyone planning a stop off in Helmsdale on their way up to John O’Groats from Land’s End or vice versa.
Secondly, I’d like to thank Joe and his Dad for being such good sports during today’s leg into Golspie- Joe even donned Mr Happy for a stretch through Brora to give me a bit of a break. Check out the video below to see how he got on:
That’s all for tonight folks, stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog which could even feature a tour of Ross County FC!
Day 4: Helmsdale Rest Day
Today we took a much needed break from pounding the pavements of the A9 to regroup and recharge the batteries after a gruelling opening three days to Mr Happy Runs Britain. Helmsdale is not the biggest of places and as we discovered today there is not that much to do bar take a look at the harbour or go for a walk which was not high on my list of things to do for obvious reasons!
Not having much to do though suited us down to the ground as it gave us the opportunity to sort out some of the less glamorous (but vital) logistical and every day things like stocking up on pasta and washing smelly running kit!
However, it wasn’t all work and no play for Mr Happy and the team today! We also had the opportunity to check out Helmsdale harbour in all its glory, play chess, catch up on what’s happening in the world (still Libya in the main by the looks of it) and try out the bagpipes in the first of our Mr Happy Challenges!
To find out how I got on in the challenge you’ll need to watch the video by clicking on the link below; however I think it’s safe to say that I won’t be packing up the day job any time soon to play the pipes in a travelling band like our very talented teacher, Jamie!
Tomorrow we’re back on the road to Golspie as we begin our second stretch of the run through to Inverness. It’s going to be tough to get back into the swing of things early on after a day off but we’re boosted by the arrival of another volunteer in the shape of my good friend Joe Gosden who we’ll introduce properly tomorrow.
Thank you all for all your support- it really makes a big difference and will be massively important in getting me through the tough times which surely lie ahead.
Day 3: Latheron to Helmsdale
The run today was undoubtedly the most difficult so far. We climbed more than 2000 metres (about two thirds the height of Snowdon) in total during the 21 miles including one stretch through Berriedale Beane that the locals affectionately call the Valley of Doom- a 550 foot drop, then climb in less than a mile and a half. Lim and I had been warned the night before in the pub about the difficulty of the run with a couple of the locals dismissive of our chances of making it through the Berriedale Beane section without walking.
‘You’ll walk- they all walk in the end!’ seemed to be the general verdict.
I can be lazy and have a tendency, at times, to give in if left to my own devices. However, one thing I never shirk is a challenge so being told I can’t do it was probably the only motivation I needed to get up that hill or die trying!
That said, it was one of the most difficult things I have ever, ever done in my life (bar have the transplant) and that last half mile up the hill was the longest half mile I’ve experienced to date in my time marathon running.
My reward for making it up the Valley of Doom was a glorious downhill stretch all the way into Helmsdale. Never has the old adage ‘What must come up, must go down’ ever seemed more appropriate- descending the hill was- dare I say it- almost enjoyable!
I’d like to end tonight by wishing you all a very Happy St. David’s Day. We’d love to be anywhere in Wales right now but have to make do with Helmsdale.
We did try to enter the spirit here in Scotland, though, by running today’s leg wearing a leek and a daffodil and stopping off at a couple of places that scream Wales from the top of their lungs in the form of Newport and Bridgend. The photos are all over facebook so do take a look if you get 5 minutes! www.facebook.com/mrhappyrunsbritain
It’s a rest day tomorrow which can’t come quick enough. I ache all over and am relishing the chance to recharge the batteries and catch up on some admin and logistics work. It’s not all work and no play though- I’ve got a date with the bagpipes in my first Mr Happy Challenge at 5pm! Stay tuned to find out how I get on!
Day Two: Wick to Latheron
Today's run took me from Wick to Latheron. It was only 17 miles but felt so much longer as I was running straight into a strong wind and had to climb more than 1,000 feet! On the plus side it was another glorious day weather-wise and the scenery was once again absolutely stunning which really, really helps once the tiredness begins to kick in. I'm actually really enjoying the remoteness of it all- the only downside is the lack of road signs which mean I've got no idea how far I've gone or how much further I've got to go!
Along the way we stopped off for at Mid Clyff (just over half way between Wick and Latheron) for a spot of lunch and to check out the Hill of Many Stanes (that's Hill of Many Stones just in case you couldn't work it out!). On first impression appears to be no more than a few rocks lined up in a series of rows. However, closer inspection revealed they are more than 4,000 years old and used to stand at more than a metre tall.
There were, as you'd expect from the name, many stones (perhaps as many as 200) now more than a 20 cms tall but in their pomp there were 600 assembled in rows of 20 spanning across the hillside overlooking the sea. Archaeologists are unclear as to their purpose but one of the many theories put forward is that they were used to chart the lunar cycle. Fascinating stuff and a welcome break from the monotony of all the running. Photos of the Hill of Many Stanes are up now on facebook (www.facebook.com/mrhappyrunsbritain) if you want to see them in all their glory.
Reaching Latheron was a bit of an anticlimax to be honest as bar a few houses and something resembling a shop there is absolutely nothing there. A quick google search earlier in the morning had revealed it was one of the least visited places in Scotland. Having been there, I can see why!
Fortunately, we're staying in a lovely little B&B in Helmsdale, our next stop along the route where there's a pub and a couple of restaurants. They even have a tourist information centre!
The other very exciting news today was that Mr Happy made his radio debut on BBC Three Counties Radio Drive time show. I've absolutely no idea where they picked the story up or why they want to cover me at this stage (Three Counties Radio cover Buckinghamshire, Befordshire and Hertfordshire) but it was all good fun and I think it went down well. You can listen to it again at: www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p00dyfz3/Drive_28_02_2011/
We restart again from Latheron again in the morning and having seen the route on the journey in, I'm not relishing the run. There are some monster hills along the way and we'll be covering twice the vertical climb we were today (2100 feet as opposed to 1000 feet!). To put that in some kind of perspective that's almost like running up two thirds of Mount Snowdon! Ouch!
Hopefully I'll make it up and over the mountain and in to Helmsdale in time for dinner which we're hoping to make as Welsh as possible in honour of St. David's Day. We'll also try and get some Welsh related icons on Mr Happy to boot!
Tune in tomorrow to find out how we got on.
Day One: John O'Groats to Wick
Phew, what a first day!!!! It all started with a 7am wake up call for breakfast to ensure we got up to John O'Groats in time for our photo call with the John O'Groats sign which we'd booked for 9am not because it was busy but because otherwise there wouldn't be a sign there at all! According to Peter Dymond, the guy that looks after the sign, that's because the sign is now kept under lock and key after a spate of thefts and wanton acts of vandalism.
The photo shoot went well (check out facebook for photos) with Peter insisting on Mr Happy doing an autograph and taking a photo for his 7 year old daughter, Victoria, who was going to talk to her whole primary school about Mr Happy and the run on Friday.
This was just the pick me up I needed ahead of the run as I was pretty apprehensive last night that my body wouldn't be up to it in it's current state.
After Peter packed up and headed off and several failed attempts to try and upload the pictures of us setting off to facebook and twitter it was time to get underway. There were no crowds of people or interested on-lookers to wish me off, as you might imagine, but this suited me to the ground as it meant that I could focus all my energy on preparing myself and calming my nerves.
The initial plan was to run no more than the first 200-300 metres with the suit on whilst we got a bit of footage to put up on youTube but it actually felt surprisingly good and before I knew it I'd run 2 or 3 miles in the costume befofe Lim and Dad told me it was time to take it off.
Free of Mr Happy the next 7 miles before lunch felt great and some of the views were out of this world. I was able to switch off completely, as I often do, and for the first time since we've started on this trip I felt relaxed.
During lunch Lim talked to us about Chinese cooking (another of his hidden talents) and promised to make us Chinese porridge- a speciality which is great for colds. On the way up we'd passed a Tesco just a mile outside Wick town centre and would make this the place to stop for the day.
After a bit of uploading thanks to Lim's ingenious idea of using the wi-fi on his iphone to act as a wi-fi network for the computer, it was back on the road for the final 9 miles of the day.
Again, we set off later than we'd hoped making it a bit more of a race against time than we'd anticipated to get to the hotel in time for the Carling Cup Final.
I found the second 9 miles tough. In to the wind and up what seemed a never ending slope with neither Wick nor anything else resembling civilisaiton in sight, my legs got heavy and my pace definitely dropped but I dug in and kept going, making it to Tesco in plenty of time to find somewhere showing the game.
However, what we hadn't factored in was 1 The hotel was almost impossiible to find (we drove passed it five times) and 2. No one in Scotland cares about English football. Dad and I traipsed round and round town to find somewhere showing the game to no avail and in the end we had to watch the game on the small TV in the van.
For the remaining twenty minutes of the first half this was in silence as the sound wasn't working but it came on just in the nick of time during the half time inverval for Hanson's slating of Arsenal for a lack of leadership. Great....
The game was a complete disaster with Koscielny and Szchnezy somehow conspiring to give Obafemi Martins a goal on a plate with just 2 minutes remaining to hand Birmingham the cup. Arsenal were better in the second half but overall deserved to win the game and after the disappointment had subsided I found I was beginning to agree with Hanson on the leadership front.
Tomorrow I'm running from Wick to Latheron- another 18 miler. A quick google search on Latheron earlier tells me there's not a lot to do there which is a good thing as we're actually booked to stay in a hostel in Helmsdale- our destination on Tuesday.
That's all for tonight folks. Thank you all for your messages of support on facebook and twitter and speak to you tomorrow. Lim's soup was lovely by the way- just in case you were wondering!
Happy to be here!
Woo hoo! After another pain day on the road we've finally made it to Wick and are within striking distance of John O'Groats. I am so, so excited now about starting in the morning but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't just a little bit nervous. The cold is still troubling me and having had a sneak preview of some of the hills on the way up in reverse on the way up, I'm that little bit more daunted abou the task ahead of me but that's all part of the fun, right?
Today was another mental day. We set off later than we hoped from the Perth Travelodge after faffing around a little too long in the room and getting petrol with Dad even losing his rag at one point but he soon calmed down as we got going as the scenery was absolutley stunning.
Our first task of the day was to pick up our first volunteer on the run, Lim, from Inverness airport. Lim is on the graduate scheme at Deloitte- one of CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA's partners- and has very kindly agreed to help out for the entire first week. Before today I'd only met him once but he's a pretty remarkable guy who's done a lot of interesting stuff which I'll let him explain himself when he does his personal video introduction to you all tomorrow!
Because we were an hour late in setting off we were late in picking Lim up but he didn't seem to mind in the slightest and was soon as transfixed as we were by the scenery. Scotland is a very beautiful country and looking out of the window at some of the places I'm going to be running through along the way really got me excited about what lies ahead. There was still plenty of snow on the top of Aviemore which bodes well for our intended visit to try out some skiing in a couple of weeks and some of the stretches up and over hills and down by lakes look simply breathtaking. More importantly, there appeared to be either a minor road or footpath for me to run in beside the road for the vast majority of the route.
We stopped for lunch at a lay by about 20 or 30 miles or so North of Inverness where we got to try out the caravan's stove for the first time. Dad and Lim played it safe with a couple of sandwiches while I kicked off my carb loading with a tomato pasta dish which won't win any awards for presentation or taste but filled a hole.
We also took advantage of the stop and the decent weather to add the Mr Happy logo and stickers to the van. Sticking them on proved more difficult than you might first imagine but we got there in the end and I'm pretty pleased with the results which also got the thumbs up from Mr Happy. Photos of the finished article are now up on the Mr Happy Runs Britain page on facebook so please feel free to log on and take a look for yourselves.
Our next task was to battle our way as far up the A9 as we could before the England-France game at Twickenham. Dad and I are both huge rugby fans and would probably have been there if we weren't doing the run. Golspie, it turns out, is as far as you can get in a five berth caravan in an hour and a half from Inverness just so you know.
Along the way, Lim and I successfully added my first video without the help of Realbuzz to youTube which you can now watch by clicking back to the homepage or visiting my youTube channel happyontherun. If you haven't seen it already, the video is a good luck message from the former England fly-half and commentary legend Stuart Barnes which obviously was great to receive. I'm a little dubious of the comparisons with Jonah Lomu though!!! More videos to follow in due course so keep an eye on the homepage.
We watched the rugby at a pub/cocktail bar/hotel called the Golspie Inn- the first pub we could find in Golspie but what a find! Wondering in in our CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA hoodies we got talking to a girl called Amy who had had leukaemia herself when she was younger and within half an hour we had Mr Happy out in the pub and were making plans for an impromptu collection night when we come back through Golspie on Thursday. Ruthie, the land lady, even promised to make CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA the benefiting charity from the next motorbike rally- result!
Three hours later we were back on the road, happy men after meeting some great people and seeing England beat the French. However, we were also very tired and the last slog up from Golspie to Wick (just over an hour's drive) seemed to take forever on the windy roads.
We got in to Wick in the end at just before 9 meaning that the only place still open for business on the food front was the local Wetherspoons who like McDonalds seem to be literally everywhere these days- God bless Tim Martin (JD himself) and all his Wetherspoons!
And there you have it, the story of our second day. I'm exhausted now but very, very happy to be here at long last. Tomorrow it starts for real and I'm looking forward to every minute of it. Bring it on!
On the way at last
Today we set off for John O'Groats after a frantic couple of days getting everything sorted ahead of the run. It was really great to finally get under way after months and months of planning and preparation. Loading up the caravan and posing for shots outside Dad's house it all started to feel real for the first time. Then, when we finally set off the fact that the run was actually happening hit me and the size of the challenge also properly began to sink in. We've been on the road for 13 hours today and we're still not at John O'Groats! That's a scary thought when you consider we've been travelling at 60 mph and are going to be running back at closer to 7 or 8 mph!
Six more hours tomorrow and Dad reckons we'll finally be up in John O'Groats and preparing for the biggest challenge of my life so far.
The Journey up was pretty straight forward really (God bless sat nav) and we were very fortunate on the roads save a bit of traffic around Birmingham and Manchester.
We stopped a couple of times along the way- once for lunch at Stafford services for a quick sarnie and bit of lunch and then in Moffat about 20 miles over the Scottish border for dinner at a pub called The Black Bull.
We didn't do a great deal of research- the Black Bull was the first pub on a google search but it turned out to be a cracking choice as the food was great and not overly priced and the staff were friendly. It was also decked out in railway memorabilia which kept Dad happy.
To eat, Dad had the Moffat lamb pie and I had a sizzling meat platter called 'Cock and Bull' (which we washed down with a pint of Strongbow- my last before I head off on the run I promise!).
During the meal we got chatting to a really nice couple called Brian & Helen who were up from Penrith to do a murder mystery weekend in Moffat. They were really interested in the run and were keen to help out when we come back over the border into Penrith in a month or so's time. We swapped numbers and I also gave them the details of the website. If Brian and Helen are typical of the sort of people that we're going to meet on this trip it's going to be a lot of fun.
Brian, Helen, if you're reading this all the best with your murder mystery trip and hopefully see you when we come back through Penrith!
We also made some great progress on the PR and sponsorship fronts today. BP confirmed that they are going to give us £1000 towards fuel costs for the trip and Martin George, my good friend from my Kingston Uni days, texted to say that Mr Happy was going to be on the front page of this week's Surrey Comet which is fantastic news! Another journalist from the Sunday Post -a Scottish red top based in Dundee - also called to ask a few pictures about the run. Fingers crossed we'll get some press coverage there too...
I'd like to end again by saying a couple more thank yous. Firstly to the London Marathon Store who were fantastic yesterday in helping me pick out £500 worth of kit (which, incidentally, was all free of charge). Secondly I'd like to thank everyone who's sponsored me so far - we broke the £10,000 mark on the virginmoneygiving page today which is absolutely fantastic! Well done all.
I'd better get off to bed now as there's a long day ahead of us again tomorrow (six more hours at least on the road). Super duper excited actually as tomorrow we pick up Lim who will be with us for the first 5 days as our first member of the support team. Just over a day before I'm underway now... Exciting times eh?
Blog 1: Welcome!
Welcome to the Mr Happy Runs Britain blog!
Over the next 9 weeks this is going to be the place to find out anything and everything that happens to me on my journey from John O'Groats to Land's End in my bid to raise money and awareness of CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA.
There'll be plenty of highs and lows along the way I'm sure and I'm going to need all the support and encouragement I can possibly get to get round in one piece.
It's been one hell of a journey to get this far and has required endless hours of planning and hardwork to get us in a position to set off on Sunday.
It's been one hell of a journey just to get this far.
Over the past four months, we've built a website, found and booked accommodation, organised a PR strategy and assembled a support and physio team and that's before you even begin to factor in some of the more mundane tasks like organising a day-to-day budget, dongles and medical supply kits!
A lot of people have put an awful lot of hard work in to getting us in a position to make this happen and deserve recognition.
In no particular order, I'd like to thank the following for their roles in making this all happen:
1. Chris at John Roberts Associates (www.johnrobertsassociates.co.uk/) for very kindly printing my Mr Happy running vests free of charge.
2. Jim Pimblett and the team at realbuzz.com for all their fantastic work designing this fabulous website.
3. All my friends and family that have agreed to take time out of their busy schedules to support me at various places along the route.
4. The creative team at B&Q for providing me with loads of ideas for the website several of which now feature on the website.
5. Each and every person that has already made a donation via my virginmoneygiving page: (http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/mrhappyrunsbritain)
6. Everyone at CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA for all their hard work and support- none of this would have been possible without them.
7. Chorion for allowing us to use the Mr Happy franchise for the run
8. XL & Mischcon de Reya for their very generous corporate donations. Hopefully they'll be the first of many!
9. The YHA for their very kind deal on accommodation at various stops along the way.
10. Dave and the team at Horizon Motor Homes for kindly sorting us out with the camper van at a heavily discounted rate.
11. My Dad for being a driving force behind the project and agreeing to accompany me for the entire duration of this trip- Mum would be very, very proud!
I'd also like to thank Tim Rogers and Christine Bailey for pointing me in the right direction in terms of my training and nutrition way back at the beginning of this process in September.
I've covered in excess of 1000 miles pounding pavements and taking on treadmills in a bid to get fit.
There were times during the training period where I felt like chucking in the towel. At one point when I was getting up at 6 in the morning in the dark to squeeze in a two hour run before work just to make sure I made my weekly target of 100 miles I got a serious case of the wobbles as I felt absolutely knackered.
However, by that stage the website had been set up and the donations had started coming in and this is what has kept me going over the last few weeks and will continue to keep me going when it gets tough during the run.
There are just 5 days to go now before I set off from John O'Groats on the first leg of this epic adventure and for the first time I'm getting just a little bit excited!
We've still got an awful lot to do before then including picking up running kit and general supplies from the London Marathon Store courtesy of realbuzz.
Tune in tomorrow to find out how I get on.