Weekend 9: 21st May 2016 – 22nd May 2016

Day 1: Saturday 21st May – Gladestry to Newcastle (Shropshire) 25 miles

Leaving Gladestry on marathon leg 19, my morning wake-up call was the ascent onto Hergest Ridge at 426m. I was feeling good so moved fairly swiftly cross the terrain before descending down into the village of Kington (184m). I had agreed to meet Jackie for a coffee – she was surprised that I had arrived so quickly.

Rob Stretching before run 19

Post coffee, I skirted Bradnor Hill to the east (passing the golf club), then Herrock Hill before heading north in overcast weather and drizzly rain. I needed my navigation skills as I meandered mile after mile through “the marches” countryside, ascending then descending Offa’s Dyke path eventually arriving in Knighton, the home of the Offa’s Dyke walking centre. In the town, I took on-board a toasted sandwich (calories) and water (hydration).

I popped into the Offa’s Dyke centre before taking the very steep climb out of the town. I’m familiar with running up hills but one of my ground rules on the Moon Shadow Wales challenge http://www.moonshadow.wales/ is that where there are steep inclines I march rapidly up without stopping.

Alex Jungmayr had pre-warned me that I would see excellent evidence of the Dyke on this run and he was right, evidenced by some of the video clips. Whilst enjoying the sight of a Dyke created many decades ago, I have to admit that marathon 19 was a tough and long day. Traversing Llanfair Hill, it was good to know that for the remainder of the day I would be heading downwards towards the RV in the Shropshire village of Newcastle.

Newcastle Shropshire

I discovered today that there are very many “not spots” on this section of Offa’s Dyke and on the rare occasion when there had been a signal, I received an e-mail from Jackie to say that she and Lynne would meet me at the pub in Newcastle, meaning that I had to “go the extra mile” (literally) to get there at the end of marathon 19. I’m always relieved to finish a marathon, but today more so because I had the feeling that I was half way.

Looking back over Run 19

Day 2: Sunday 22nd May – Newcastle (Shropshire) to Pool Quay 23 miles

Start of Sunday - Marathon 20

Leaving Newcastle on Sunday morning, I was confronted straight away by Graig Hill. Good morning marathon 20!!!!!!!!! As I’ve come to realise this weekend, running along this stretch of Offa’s Dyke is challenging because of its undulating nature, made clear by the contour lines on my Harvey map (Offa’s Dyke Path North).

Welcome sign near to start of marathon 20 on 22nd May 2016

As I climbed the hill, it was good to see a sign signposting Prestatyn 88.5 miles and offering congratulations stating “you are half way along Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail”. Onward I ran into this rural remoteness, marching quickly up hills and running down the other side – an elevational difference of 150 metres. My knee caps became sore as the downward pressure began to bite again. Yesterday had been challenging as well.

Eventually, I arrived at Mellington Hall where by pure co-incidence Lynne John was staying. Offa’s Dyke passes right by this property so I was able to pop in for a quick coffee and chat with Lynne. Having reached this point of today’s run – apart from Leighton Hill – I knew I had broken the back of the weekend. The terrain across the valley to the east of Montgomery was fairly level until I reached Kingswood where I began to ascend into Leighton Woods. This is where the heavens opened! Thank goodness for being prepared and having my waterproofs. Woodland running is a unique experience but I quite enjoy it. Reaching the road at Pant y bwch (283m), I then pushed on to the Beacon Ring and mast at 408m. From here, it was downhill all the way to Buttington (I quite enjoyed the downward rush of air passing by as I moved swiftly to the River Severn). Crossing the bridge, I turned right running across a number of fields before joining the towpath adjacent to the Shropshire Union Canal. From here, early afternoon, it was a pleasant run to the finish of marathon 20 in Pool Quay…..and guess what……..the sun began to shine.

Weekend 8: 14th May 2016 – 15th May 2016

Day 1: Saturday 14th May – Bigsweir Bridge to Pandy (24 miles)

By way of preamble – it is difficult to explain really – but every Saturday (and Sunday……..and when it occurs Bank Holiday Monday) morning when I am being driven to the start location and dropped off by Jackie (prior to the forthcoming marathon run), I have a sense of dread. I know that sounds awful but let me explain. In the comfort of a warm, dry car listening to music {and feeling tired} do I have the mental strength to open the car door, get out of the car and start running “Forest Gump” like?!!!!!! It’s almost become a kind of ritual. Then, when I get moving I’m OK because I know that step-by-step I am eating away at the distance.

This weekend was no different. A quick photograph by Bigsweir Bridge and then I was on my way, up the hill by road before entering into a fine (but unnamed Woodland Trust wood). I enjoy woodland running and at this time of the year it has been great to see the woodland floor carpeted with bluebells and wild garlic. There was quite a bit of woodland running this morning but as I entered Highbury Wood I knew I was close to Lower Redbrook. As one the video clips shows, as I pause at a vantage point looking down the Wye Valley to Monmouth above Lower Redbrook, I was confronted by a stupendous vista. Yes, running is an integral part of the #MoonShadowWales challenge http://www.moonshadow.wales but it doesn’t stop me from lingering occasionally to enjoy what I am seeing and to enjoy the “moment”. Enjoyment may sound perverse for such a challenge when in the very same breath I know very well that it is an incredibly arduous challenge……….in the widest sense.

From Lower Redbrook I ascended Offa’s Dyke to the Naval Temple at The Kymin, a National Trust property where I was able to take-in panoramic views towards Monmouth and beyond. I moved swiftly down the hill from the Kymin and after a quick coffee stop in Monmouth (not far from the Monnow Bridge) moved swiftly on to King’s Wood. There’s a video clip of me running through part of this wood!

From here, Offa’s Dyke took me westwards, across country to Llantilio Crossenny, White Castle (I passed-by the remnants of the castle) and then onward to Llangattock Lingoed. Amusingly, as I came to the last style just before the village, I spotted a photograph of a pint of beer on the post. It stated: “not far to go now” to the local pub. Ha, it made me smile but there was no stopping for an ale because I wanted to crack on to the finish point of marathon 17 at Pandy.

End of marathon 17 in Pandy

Day 2: Sunday 15th May – Pandy to Gladestry (28 miles)

Start of marathon 18 - Pandy

Crossing the field(s) and railway line after leaving Pandy, I made the mistake of going left after crossing the railway line and not going straight ahead. I don’t know why? Was I on “automatic pilot”? Was my brain switched-off? Was I too tired to notice / react? Navigation or map-reading is part of this challenge. I’m pretty good normally but mistakes arise when one is tired. The upshot of this mistake led to extra mileage and a very steep climb up onto the ridge before moving towards to Hattervel Hill. When I arrived on top and started running across very uneven ground, I went over on my ankle. This was painful but I managed to run out the pain / strain. An ibuprofen tablet was already alleviating pain from my sore knee caps.

Even though the weather was fine and dry, it was still fairly cool on top as I ran into a headlong breeze. It’s quite a long ridge run above the Llanthony Abbey Valley as one runs towards Pen y Beacon / Hay Bluff. From here Offa’s Dyke path descends northwards towards Hay-on-Wye. This route was well defined. I arrived in this well-known book festival village around lunchtime, proceeding to take on board calories and fluids, before continuing my trail run. My Polar watch indicated 17 miles!

Cloud cover disappeared in the afternoon meaning that it was hotter and I was drinking more fluid. Why? Apart from the warmer weather, there was a seemingly, constant incline from Hay-on-Wye (88m) heading north across country to Newchurch before traversing Disgwylfa Hill (highest point 391m). The uphill work required more effort, or more energy and with 4 miles to go I ran out of water.

Descending from the hill, I made my second big mistake of the day heading north-east to Huntington when I should have been travelling due north to Gladestry. Having had my mistake confirmed, I ran quickly (and angrily) from Huntington to the finish of marathon 18 in Gladestry. It was good to RV with Jackie and take on board immediately my routine end of run pint of protein drink ………on Sunday after having run 30+ miles.

End of marathon 18 - actually circa 32 miles - downing pint of protein drink

Moonshadow Wales ‘Nutrition’ Challenge

We are not experts in nutrition but we have read books, taken advice from our mentor Alex Jungmayr, learnt what does work and what does not, but most importantly of all have added in foods that lift Rob’s mood!!!

We are aware though that the most common cause of ‘hitting the wall’ as they say is muscle glycogen depletion. So the diet includes ‘Carbs’ because muscles are fuelled primarily on Carbs. Sweet potatoes an antioxidant, made into nutritious soups with carrots (as they promote a strong immune system) plus hot soup was very welcome on cold, windy and wet runs. Yes, pasta meals are included in the diet but healthy ones with lots of roasted vegetables, chicken and all home cooked – no processed foods.

Breakfast after trial and error (we started with porridge) was scrambled eggs (1 egg gives 10% of daily protein needs, plus essential amino acids which help muscle repair and recovery) and mashed avocado.

We used cheese for sandwiches for the calcium and as I am told it works with magnesium to maintain muscle function. Nuts were also integral to the snacks taken on the runs especially almonds as they are high in antioxidants, vitamin E and protein. Rob also ate salted nuts as the salt was useful when he was overhydrating or sweating too much (plus salt tablets). Bananas also, as they contain potassium which is also lost through sweating.

During the run, Rob ate ‘protein balls’ which contained dates, coconut, peanut-butter, covered in dark chocolate. Also, during runs it was important for Rob to have foods that he liked to raise his morale, for example, Snicker bars! If there was a cafe stop then hot chocolate, brownies etc were taken on board – all good for the mental pick me up.

Post-run, Rob has adapted to drinking a pint of Pharma whey protein complex drink. Whey protein aids muscle growth, so 2 scoops of this mixed with water after every run. Hydration is very important, normally measured by the good old pee colour test. He drinks circa 1.5 litres of hydrolysed water per run, taking on board additional drinks as and when appropriate.

In the days between runs, food was home cooked and nutritious with Salmon, lots of Garlic as this strengthens the CVS system, chicken for protein, fresh vegetables and fruit for vitamins.  Alcohol was not forbidden and in fact Rob enjoyed a real Ale after each run and hey it does give calories!!!

So the above is not wholly scientific but seems to work for us (at least so far). Rob also takes power gels, trek bars and sport beans on every run.

Jackie M Chapman


Weekend 7: 7th May 2016 – 8th May 2016

Day 1: Saturday 7th May – Tredelerch Park, Cardiff to Redwick (25 miles)

Today was marathon 15. Starting where I left off last weekend, I ran down Lamby Way, the industrial area on the east side of Cardiff before heading south-east to the coast. It was raining, but not heavily. The first stretch was level and straight comprising Rumney Great Wharf and Peterstone Great Wharf, with an outward vista to the Mouth of the Severn. Before I knew it, I was on the stretch of coast path south-east from St Brides, Wentloog heading towards the “mouth” of Newport and the River Usk. The coastal path took me inland towards the Pillgwenlly area of Newport. I’d had a decent run this morning so I felt it was appropriate to grab a hot drink at “Fanny’s Rest Stop”, opposite the Waterloo Hotel and on the leeward side of the landmark Transporter Bridge. A text to my wife at this point brought forward a degree of mirth!!

The weather changed for the better from here (blue skies and sunshine) as I crossed the Pillgwenlly Bridge, running through and around the industrial areas before passing through green fields in the vicinity of Pye Corner and Nash. The Newport Wetlands National Nature Reserve was a real surprise. I didn’t know it, but following the coastal path gave me a useful insight into its scale and character. A “must” visit for another time.

From here, the path led me to the small hamlet of Goodcliff. Just before it, looking seaward, one can see the remains of a Benedictine Priory on Gold Cliff point. The path from here was fairly straight and level. Just before Portland Grounds (on the seaward side of the path), a path pointed inland towards Redwick. As I arrived in the village near the church, the church bells rang out……..seemingly announcing my arrival (ha, ha)……..but actually announcing a newly wedded couple. Marathon 15 DONE.

Day 2: Sunday 8th May – Redwick to Bigsweir Bridge (25 miles)

Traversing the fields from Redwick to join the coast, the uneven nature of the terrain “grated” on my knees (knee-caps), a forewarning of an uncomfortable morning ahead. Joining the coastal footpath, I ran passed the Sewage Works to Caldicot Moor, crossing the M4 for the first time today, edging Caldicot before crossing the M4 again. The path from here gave me an oblique view of the impressive “new” Severn Bridge before crossing underneath it on route to Sudbrook.

From here the route ahead led to Chepstow. My knee-caps were causing me a lot of pain so I was running on automatic pilot at this point. Running around the industrial estate (Newhouse Farm), the Bulwark area led me to the end of the coast path by what I believe is known as the Welsh bridge……at the end of Bridge Street. From here, I doubled back to cross the road bridge where I joined the Offa’s Dyke footpath. The transition from the coast path to Offa’s Dyke also meant that I reverted to a different map. The Natural Resources Wales (Wales Coast Path) maps were swopped for the Harvey’s “Offa’s Dyke Path South” map. I meandered out of Chepstow, enjoying some fine views of the River Wye before entering into woodland at Dennel Hill.

This woodland running led me to the Devil’s Pulpit where I was able to enjoy a fantastic view down towards Tintern Abbey. Running on from here, I discovered that I had already drank 1.5 litres of water in my platypus so I stopped at the pub in Brocksweir, downed a pint of squash in one, before running on …….taking the lower path adjoining the river. As I ran parallel to Llandogo, I knew that I was within touching distance of the finish. So, I kicked on for the final mile running until I touched Bigsweir Bridge which signalled the end of marathon 16: a tough day.

Weekend 6: 30th April 2016 – 2nd May 2016

Day 1: Saturday 30 April – Mumbles to Rest Bay, Porthcawl (27 miles)

I was joined by Rebecca John (TJ’s third eldest daughter) for the run from Mumbles to Porthcawl. I must admit to being a bit apprehensive about the run. Rebecca is a fit and regular runner, and I had visions of her disappearing off into the distance whilst I “stuck to my ground rules”, hammered home to me by Alex Jungmayr. As it turned out, we had a really good day’s running and I really enjoyed it. Apparently, we completed 26.9 miles in 4 hours 17 minutes.

It was great to have Rebecca’s (respectful) company (the running rules), tinged though with poignancy that she was joining me on the #MoonShadowWales run in memory of her father who succumbed to the insidious Motor Neurone Disease (MND) last year.

We set off from Mumbles and before we knew it we had unwittingly joined the Swansea Parkrun. Was this our attempt at a “gorilla run”??!! Ha, ha. On we ran to a pre-arranged meeting with Dr Ruth Williams @ruthrwltd at Marine Walk. I am most grateful to Ruth for her promotion of what I am doing http://www.moonshadow.wales Before taking our ‘cordial’ drink, Ruth captured a magic moment of me running with Rebecca and her son Llewellyn, with Lynne John in the background: a wonderful moment for the John family in memory of Tony John (TJ).

We circumvented the Prince of Wales Dock, with the coastal path taking us across a bridge over Fabian Way towards Crymlyn Bog National Nature Reserve. Up until this point, I had been talking quite a lot: the novelty of having a companion, but also the opportunity to explain to Rebecca why I was doing what I was doing. We crossed the old bridge over the river at Britton Ferry, and then took the “low-tide” route towards Baglan Bay. It was a glorious moment when we came through Baglan Burrows onto Baglan beach, turning left to run along Aberavon Sands before meeting with Lynne, Llewellyn & Jackie for a hot chocolate at the seaside cafe.Aberavon Sands

At the end of Aberavon Sands (Port Talbot), we turned left, passing through the urban landscape of Sandfields Docks, onward through the residential area of Margam before turning right at J38 of the M4, heading west towards Margam Moors, Margam Burrows and thence Kenfig Pool & Dunes. The coastal footpath at this point was slightly inland of Kenfig Sands beach so it was a nice change to reunite with the coast again, near Sker Point, before running the final stretch to Porthcawl, overlooking Rest Bay. An enjoyable day’s running: great weather, great coastal landscapes and great company.

End of run from Mumbles to Portcawl

Day 2: Sunday 1st May – Rest Bay, Porthcawl to Rhoose (27 miles)

I can’t explain why but today I was “out of sorts”. I was tired. Running marathons at weekends after busy working weeks is not easy, but that smacks of being an excuse. Team Clio (Jackie) and I arrived at 8.30am. Lynne arrived shortly afterwards. A friend of Lynne’s with the early stages of Motor Neurone Disease (MND) had come down specifically to meet me and to say how much he appreciated what I was doing to raise awareness and to raise money for MND research. It is such “snippets” that reside in my brain and drive me on at low points during the #MoonShadow challenge. Yes, it is not all ‘plain-sailing’.

Leaving Porthcawl, I ran across the beach below Merthyr Mawr Warren heading towards Ogmore-by-Sea. My knees were sore and I could feel the pain. It also didn’t help that I had left my mobile in The Clio! Definitely “out of sorts.” Despite this, the exemplary support & good humour of “team Moon Shadow” meant that when I arrived in Ogmore I was greeted almost simultaneously by Lynne……..with my mobile in her hand……and her daughter Rebecca. Great communication, great teamwork. The coastline from Ogmore was much more undulating evidenced by the word “Cwm” on my map. There were several of these!!

Passing Dunraven, I ran on to Nash Point (near the Lighthouse) where I had a hot chocolate at a bijou cafe before continuing on Valeways Millennium Heritage Trail, running passed the castle at St Donat’s towards Col-Huw Point, Llantwit Major. I stopped for a coke at the beach front cafe. Today had been challenging with my patellas causing a degree of pain. However, having reached Llantwit, I knew that I was substantially on the way to completing the run. I guess you would call it psychological milestones. I ran towards, and round, Aberthaw Power Station on the coastal side. I knew that I had competed marathon 2 this weekend when I spotted an inland footpath towards Rhoose station. What a relief!!! Today had been difficult.


Day 3: Monday 2nd May – Rhoose to Tredelerch Park, Cardiff (26 miles)

This was marathon 3 of this Bank Holiday weekend, but marathon 14 in total so far. I felt different today. Jackie dropped me off at the same point where she had picked me up the day before. I was on my way by 8.30am, down to the footpath, and then running with intent and purpose towards Porthkerry. My knee caps were sore but the Ibuprofen tablet I took after eating my scrambled egg & avocado breakfast helped to lessen the pain. The sea was out so I was able to run along the “pebble beach” onto The Knap, and then onward towards Barry Island.

Returning from the Island, I stopped for a coffee at The Pump House (Academy Espresso Bar). I was introduced to the owner who revealed that her father’s father had succumbed to MND. It is interesting. What I have discovered is that MND http://www.mndassociation.org/ is not talked about (it’s devastating impact must traumatise people / families) but it remains just beneath the surface. Yes, I hope to raise £25,000 for research into this debilitating disease https://www.justgiving.com/Robert-Chapman12/ but equally important (as I am discovering) is awareness.

I don’t know what Academy Espresso Bar put in my coffee (ha,ha) but I really moved on after that pit stop, moving swiftly through the urban & industrial environment of Barry to the coast overlooking Sully Bay, with Sully Island in full view. I rounded Lavernock Point and was encouraged by the sight of Penarth Pier. Passing the Pier, I ran across the beach beneath the cliffs (the sea was out) aiming for Cardiff Bay Barrage. At this point, the drizzly rain combined with stronger winds became horizontal rain as I ran around the coastal path of Cardiff Bay. Thank goodness for my water-proofs. Running passed the landmark Millennium Centre towards Atlantic Wharf I knew that the remainder of the run would be mundane. More importantly, I knew that I was near to the end of my 3rd consecutive weekend marathon, with the mudflats at Lamby telling me that this run was over.

Marathons 12, 13 and 14 this weekend (30 April – 2 May) signify that I have now completed ONE THIRD of the #MoonShadowWales perimeter run. Whilst there is still a long way to go, I was glad to arrive in Cardiff (where I live and work) – achieving another milestone.