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.

Weekend 5: 23rd and 24th April 2016

Day 1: Saturday 23rd April – Llanelli to Hill End (29 miles)

Starting where I left off the weekend before at the Discovery Centre (located right on the millennium coastal footpath), I enjoyed the view across the estuary to Whiteford Burrows, Gower where I was headed.

Cg5VK4qWkAMM0a0

As a carry-over from the “aggressive” coastline in Pembrokeshire (especially North Pembs) I still have sore knees (knee caps) so the morning run was accompanied by uncomfortable pain. It is also a pain when things do not go according to plan. Passing the Wales National Wetlands Centre, I must have missed a sign so spent an uncomfortable, wasted 40 minutes working my way through bramble and briars around the boundary of the Sewage Works as I headed for the coast to get back on track. This was compounded by over-running the road run in Lougher which took me on to Gowerton before I doubled back! Prior to the start of this “journey”, I was warned that things would go wrong and that I should expect the unexpected. Voila!!

I ran to Penclawdd before stopping for a hot chocolate. I always take the opportunity to leave Moon Shadow cards in such places, which I hope helps to spread the word for the “cause” http://www.moonshadow.wales/ . Onward then, rounding Crofty heading toward Llanrhidian, enjoying wonderful views across Llanrhidian Marshes, Llanrhidian Sands and the Lougher Estuary. My enjoyment was enhanced when I had my lunch on the go (protein balls, energy gel), including an ibuprofen tablet which took away the pain for the remainder of the afternoon.

As I rounded North Hill Tor (the sea was out), I took my “runners” and socks off and walked, ran and scrambled over the marsh and the squelching, mud-banked rivulets. Bizarrely, I enjoyed the experience (the beauty of trail running) eventually arriving at Whiteford National Nature Reserve. Coincidentally, between 1985 and the very beginning of 1990, I managed a portfolio of property for the National Trust…..including this one. The Reserve is covered in Pine woodland. I rounded Whiteford Point before doubling back along Whiteford Sands to the expanse of Broughton Bay: a wonderful experience. I reconnected with the coastal footpath at Broughton Burrows and ran out onto the small island of Burry Holms before turning south and running the final stretch of a 30.5 mile day (!) to Hill End, west of Llangennith.

Cg5Zu7QW0AAlpkW

Day 2: Hill End to Mumbles(26 miles)

It’s not often that one can wake up to the prospect of running along a glorious beach, with the receding waves lapping the shore. This was the case on Sunday morning 24th April, with blue skies and sunshine to-boot.

Cg5adohWsAIUCOJ

Rounding the medieval field system at Rhossili, I ran along the Gower Coast National Nature Reserve to Port Eynon, catching up briefly with Jackie and Lynne to have a hot chocolate. Crossing the beach, I re-joined the footpath at Horton, running forward to Oxwich Point. Passing through woods at Oxwich Point, the ascents and descents were “aggressive” and my knees (knee caps) knew it. It was warm on Sunday so I took on board more fluid in the form of a coke at an Oxwich cafe before traversing the beach (below Oxwich Burrows) to

Crossing the beach, I re-joined the footpath at Horton, running forward to Oxwich Point. Passing through woods at Oxwich Point, the ascents and descents were “aggressive” and my knees (knee caps) knew it. It was warm on Sunday so I took on board more fluid in the form of a coke at an Oxwich cafe before traversing the beach (below Oxwich Burrows) to Nicholston Burrows, and onward towards the iconic Three Cliffs Bay.

I scrambled up Shire Combe to the footpath prior to Southgate where I had a lunchtime sandwich, crisps…..and an ibuprofen tablet to take away the pain of my sore knee caps. Running was easier (pain-wise) from here as I passed Pwlldu Bay, Caswell and Langland. In the latter place, I had a ginger beer (good for energy) at the beach cafe, before running to Mumbles Head, Mumbles Pier and then ending the run outside Verdi’s, the completion of marathon 11.

This weekend marked another milestone: the completion of circa ONE-QUARTER of the entire distance of the perimeter of Wales.

Weekend 4: 16th and 17th April 2016

Day 1: Saturday 16th April – Laugharne to Carmarthen (24 miles)

Saturday 16th April - Rob checking running poles before Laugharne to Carmarthen

Starting from the car park below the castle I ran passed Dylan Thomas’s boat house where he cogitated over so much fine poetry. And what an outlook from this vantage point. Today was very much an estuary-run across fields adjoining the estuary which at their edges were wet and muddy. Travelling north, I crossed the River Taf at St Clears and then traversed agricultural land as I headed south-east following the “path” as far as I was able to do so. At Pentowyn, I looked across the estuary back to Laugharne: a stone’s throw away compared with the distance I had just run! Onward then to Wharley Point (National Trust property) where I enjoyed spectacular views across to Worm’s Head, Gower before arriving at Scott’s Bay (and the beach) by St Anthony’s Cottage. This is where I ran along the beach to Llanstephan, stopping for a welcome hot chocolate.

The run from Llanstephan to Carmarthen was uninspiring simply because the “coastal footpath” was anything but as it traversed roads and fields some distance from the estuary.Rob arriving in Carmathen

Day 2: Sunday 17th April: Carmarthen to Llanelli (27 miles)

Jackie (team Clio) has been a “rock” in helping with logistics, food, clean kit (and sometimes the ‘moods’ of a runner under stress) etc while I have concentrated on the running. I stepped out of the car in Carmarthen and actually didn’t want to run today. It was one of those moments and I was “out of sorts” with myself. It didn’t help either that my ‘nano’ (music player) wasn’t working. And my knee caps were sore (still recovering from the undulating coastline in Pembrokeshire). I ran through Croesyceilog to Ferryside (circa 8+ miles) and wasn’t particularly in a good place. Some food, coffee and an ibuprofen tablet helped immensely because the pain eased away and I was able to focus on running again without pain. Ferryside, Llansaint (views across to Pembrey) and then Kidwelly where I had a welcome hot chocolate. Onward then, running through Pembrey Forest (Pembrey Nature Reserve), a run that seemed to go on forever before arriving at Cefn Sidan Sands. And what a moment. I was in a remote place with nothing but the most extraordinary and breath-taking views: one of those magic, uplifting moments especially after my malaise earlier in the day. I ran along the beach to Pembrey Country Park (the recreational area). Just before the coast path I bumped into Phil Cooper, a business acquaintance. What were the statistical chances of that happening! Onward to Burry Port where I bumped into Phil again. He took a photograph for his web site / Facebook page and congratulated me on my extraordinary challenge to raise research funds for MND (Motor Neurone Disease). At Burry Port, I had run out of water (my 1.5 litre platypus water holder was dry) so I popped into a local cafe for a Diet Coke. From here the way ahead was clear as I could see my destination in the distance: the Discovery Centre on the millennium coastal footpath. Yet again wonderful views across the Bay (and the River Loughor) to Gower: Llanrhidian Sands and Whiteford Burrows. I was greeted at the centre by the smiling faces of Jackie and Lynne who congratulated me on my 9th marathon run.

Final reflection: the weather had been kinder this weekend. My mentor Alex Jungmayr had thought that Saturday would be easier than Sunday. In fact, it was the converse especially as I had to overcome my Sunday morning lethargy. The challenge of doing something that paradoxically I wanted to do (as part of the Moon Shadow Wales Challenge) whereas my “being” didn’t want to. The ‘ups and downs’ of life!

Weekend 3: 9th & 10th April 2016

DAY 1: Angle to Manorbier (27 miles)

DAY 1 – decent weather – hooray – blue skies & sunshine, albeit a tad blustery. My initial attempt to start in Angle was defeated by the high-tide, which meant that I had to run circa 1.0 / 1.5 miles to get to the start! Then to Freshwater West (Cafe Mor http://www.beachfood.co.uk/cafemor.php – 10 minute stop – coffee & brownie, where I met Jackie & Alasdair); onward to CastleMartin and (because it was open at the weekend) the artillery range, through to Broad Haven (National Trust car park), where I had a sandwich lunch & soup. Then crossed glorious Broadhaven beach onward to the quiet and secluded Barafundle Bay (beach). Then Stackpole Quay, Freshwater East through to the carpark below Manorbier castle. The stretch from Stackpole Quay to Manorbier was undulating: up and down, up and down, but at least the weather had been kinder!

looking out towards Freshwater west Sat April 9th

DAY 2: Manorbier to Laugharne (26 miles)

I had spotted on the weather forecast the night before that forceful winds would be travelling south-north from the channel, through the South-West and up into South Wales. Little did I realise that I would be running into full-on, head-winds for the entire day.

Steep walk up Lydstep cliffs in very blustery weather. Sunday April 10th Manorbier to Laugharne

At Lydstep point I was literally being blown backwards! It was good to get to Tenby and have some respite from the constant, constant forceful winds. This meant getting into Jackie’s “team Clio” car for 15 minutes to have some soup, whilst the car itself was being buffeted. The coastal footpath terrain out of Tenby was pretty aggressive. It was poignant, pausing for a moment on the coastal footpath and looking out towards Monkstone Point. Lynne had mentioned the night before that this was one of Tony’s (TJ) favourite spots for fishing.

Because of the constant battering of the wind, I grabbed a coffee in Saundersfoot. A lady in the coffee shop noticed the #MoonShadowWales yellow cover and asked (via her daughter) what I was doing. I explained that I was running around the entire perimeter of Wales (circa 1,030 miles) to raise money for #MND research. Purely accidentally, she commented that her late mother had succumbed to MND and subsequently texted a donation – thank you so much. Post coffee, I ran on to Amroth via Wiseman’s Bridge. My son Alasdair reminded me that Amroth is the official end of the  #Pembrokeshirecoastalfootpath – some 186 miles – and congratulated me on reaching this milestone after 6.5 weekend days running (in all weathers!).

end of the Pembrokeshire Coastal path from Poppit Sands to Amroth.

To the east of Amroth, I ran across the wind swept beach of Marros Sands. Such was the ferocity of the wind passing my ears that I could not hear the music I was playing on my nano. I had one idle thought that the ferocity of the winds hour after hour might cause deafness because it was so loud and thunderous. Anyway, onward rounding Ragwen Point & Gilman Point to Pendine. I had to go indoors into the shelter for a moment to read my map, out of the wind. The footpath then moved inland to bypass the coastal MOD land (Pendine Sands & Laugharne Burrows), passing through Llanmiloe & Plashett to Laugharne. I cannot tell you what a joy it was to arrive in Laugharne carpark adjacent to the castle, greeted by Jackie, Alasdair and Lynne. The attritional nature of the windy weather today had got to me so I was pleased & relieved & glad to finish.

 

Weekend 2: 1st, 2nd, 3rd April 2016

DAY 1: Little Haven to (east of) Monk Haven (22 miles)

Starting in Little Haven, Pembrokeshire on Saturday 3rd April, I was confronted with another wet, windy, rainy start – evidenced by some of the video clips – which continued more-or-less throughout the day. Here are some other memories: sight of the castle from the coastline, near St Brides Cross; the flooded footpath trail for large parts of the path leading to Martin’s Haven; passing through Martin’s Haven (and the ‘old deer park’) reminded me of my time as a Managing Agent for The National Trust; sight of Gateholm Island from the coastal footpath; Marloes Sands, and just inland, remnants of the Second World War airfield.

If the coastal footpath from Little Haven to Martin’s Haven was wet and windy, the section from Martin’s Haven was incredibly exposed evidenced once again by forceful winds, rain and cold: I decided that too many such clips would be boring, but they reflect the reality of the conditions on the day.

I arrived at St Anne’s Head. Stupidly, I thought there might be a place to shelter…..and have a hot drink. I must have been dreaming!! I was wet through and very cold at this point. All that I could do was shelter behind one of the buildings adjoining the cottages. Thank goodness Jackie (my wife and essential supporter) had given me a flask of hot tomato soup. That really made the difference, as well as the sandwiches.

Onward then to Dale along the indented coastline. At the yacht club, I had a hot chocolate and sent Jackie an e-mail (the club has wifi and it’s a good ‘stopping place’) to say that I was not far now from the meeting point in St Ismaels. Leaving the club, despite the suggestion that I should take the high tide route, I took the low tide route and crossed the boarded walk without any bother. What I’ve discovered on this journey so far is that I need to follow my own instincts, including my own powers of observation.

I passed through the small beach of Monk Haven, having agreed to run to Longberry Point on the coastal footpath and then take the footpath inland to St Ismaels (east-side). Subsequently heard on BBC weather news that Pembrokeshire had had 30mm of rain on Saturday 2nd April – and didn’t I know it!!

DAY 2: Monk Haven to Angle (31 miles)

I will remember Sunday 3rd April for some time to come. This was the day that running over aggressive coastline caught up with me. My knees were in great pain. In particular my knee caps (patellas). I am sure there is a more technical explanation but I was running in pain for 5 hours today. No sympathy required, just a fact.

I crossed the stepping stones at Sandy Haven (low tide mark), moved around South Hook oil refinery Gellawick Bay…….and then had my first experience (following the acorns) of running through urban landscape via Hakin to Milford Haven, over the bridge, marina on my right, Main Street, Pill to Black Bridge, up the river mouth for a while and round to Venn Farm and then to the coast to the left of the oil refinery. Passing through Hazelbeach, Llanstadwell, Neyland to Great Honeyborough over the bridge and then over the second bridge into Pembroke Dock. I was glad to catch up with Jackie and Lynne John (my supporters for the weekend) for hot drinks and something to eat. Lynne was able to give me 2 ibuprofen tablets. Within minutes, the constant pain was gone and I was able to move easier for the rest of the afternoon. Jackie reminded me that you have to be careful taking such tablets. A fair point….and I took them having ‘refuelled’ with food.

Leaving Lynne and Jackie, I passed through the urban landscape of Pembroke Dock to Pembroke taking time to enjoy the castle and moat. Then, along the coastline south of Hundleton, passing the Power Station, following the path south of the oil refinery to the beach directly west of Rhoscrowther. Took 5 mins at this point. Sunshine and blue skies – the FIRST time for the entire weekend!! Enjoyed just watching the vista before me whilst having a sip of hot soup. Finally, onward to Angle. Enjoying running WITHOUT PAIN whilst enjoying the first sunshine of the entire weekend ANOTHER BIG WEEKEND.

WEEKEND 1 – Moon Shadow Wales Challenge


 

Well, what a weekend!!! How was I to know that it would coincide with storm Katie. Saturday and Sunday were particularly challenging in the face of a full-on gale.

Good Friday 25th March – travelled down to Cardigan mid-afternoon, staying with Alex Jungmayr & family (Plas-y-Wern Cottages, Tresaith) http://www.plasywern.co.uk/

DAY 1 (27m): Started 26th March – Poppit Sands (Cardigan), Cemaes Head, Ynys Fach, Newport – tried to cross the river but quickly up to my waist and fast flowing, so went round (managed to get a hot chocolate in the local pub {Golden Lion} on the estuary), Dinas Head (Dinas Island), called into The Old Sailors, Dinas Cross (wet through and cold, it was good to have some lamb cawl on the house http://tinyurl.com/jqaudsv – thank you, it was excellent); Fishguard, Goodwich (finish of day 1).

DAY 2 (29m): 27th March – Goodwich, Strumble Head, Pwll Deri (YHA), Tregwynt, Abercastle (was offered tea & ham sandwich from Paul & family {from Stratford Upon Avon, Warwickshire} who were staying in a holiday cottage adjacent to the slipway to the beach – thank you), Porthgain (coffee at The Shed), Abereiddy, St David’s Head, Whitesands. I was literally spent when I arrived at Whitesands beach: a very long day which started at 8.30am and ended at 7.00pm at night. Good to be met by Lynne John, and my wife Jackie with a warm blanket and chocolate protein drink. Then whisked away to stay with a friend in the St David’s area – Andy Middleton.

DAY 3 (24m): An altogether different day. Yes, still windy but blue skies and sunshine. Whitesands, St Justinian’s Lifeboat station, Lower Treginnis, Portclais, Solva (hot chocolate and sandwich at cafe 35, Solva), Newgale (met Jackie & Lynne and had a coke), Nolton Haven, Druidston (passing the hotel), Broad Haven, Little Haven…….. then ‘long’ drive home back to Cardiff.

This was a ‘big weekend’. Glad to have started……..the end of the beginning. One weekend down, 19 (or thereabouts) to go! People have heard me say that this run is a metaphor. I am eating away at the distance, just as MND http://tinyurl.com/gr3ujq4 in devastating fashion eats away at human beings when diagnosed.