The Ice Bucket Challenge ….

Bill Gates taking one for ALS

The Ice Bucket Challenge ….

Lately its all been about the ALS ice bucket challenge , a viral fund-raiser where  people are nominated by previous challengers, then after doing the challenge themselves they are able to nominate the next unlucky people and so on. Originally orchestrated to gain recognition of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) the American name for the condition we Brits usually call motor neurone disease (MND) .  Here in the UK the leading organisation is called the Motor Neurone Disease Association. It brought about good and bad press, stories of huge wages being drawn by the directors of ALS have abound but icy bucket after icy bucket has been poured over heads all across the world and well over $50 million dollars worth of donations have been made, Even Bill gates was seen online soaking himself for the cause  …. 

I’ve had a few Ice baths in my time as a kayaker ..

Eventually several nominations ended up in my lap from various people including  my sister who lives over in Qatar so I was forced to play the game … However given my history as an International White-water kayaker who has had his head, and occasionally whole body 😉 soaked in Icy water in more countries than I can remember, left me with no option but to make an extra effort …. So I rocked up to the local loch with the lads, which on the night sat at a “penis shrinking 12-13 degrees” and swam a 1 Kilometer lap in my swim shorts .. and I’m not afraid to say that half way I was afraid I had been a little ambitious but I kept going and made the challenge stick 🙂  bloody freezing man !!! BBRRRRRRRRRRRRRR…… 😉

I would like to note that I am making a small donation to MS Borders  and not ALS , it’s a charity that I support in any way I can , a local one where unpaid volunteers give their own spare time to care for MS sufferers here locally … no half million pound wages for these guys … just satisfaction 🙂  .  If you can find it in your heart to give a small donation to help them then you can do it RIGHT HERE

MS Borders .. a truly deserving charity ..

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Running the Waverley line …..

Beware of the Trains ….

Now I’m definitely no trainspotter but for a long time I have had an interest in the Waverley line. The one time rail link from Carlisle to Edinburgh was decommissioned in 1969 at the hands of DR Richard Beeching and his cut throat handling of the British rail restructure. A cut which subsequently left a whole region without any form of rail service despite having no adequate road links. Effectively cutting the Scottish Borders off from both Edinburgh and Carlisle…. The line has its place in history for this alone but it was also highly famed for its beautiful journey across Southern Scotland. Climbing steeply through hills , moorlands and past riversides it was renowned by many. It boasted the steepest rail track inclination of its kind in the UK. And right now its very topical due to the Government rebuilding it at the cost of ten million pounds a mile, yes you read that right, TEN MILLION! … From Edinburgh to Galashiels they are re-building it with the intnetion fo an early 2015 opening . Locally there is also a campaign to continue rebuilding it all the way to Carlisle again. If I am honest I really wish I had thought of running it way before the work had started on the Northern section, as to have ran the whole line from Edinburgh to Carlisle would have been mint, and quite the achievement 🙂

Shankend Viaduct …………..  gem of the Waverley line

I live barely 2 fields away from the what is now a long track-less causeway that carves its way through the Borders making its presence known with bridges , derelict old railway buildings and long overgrown embankments. Everyone from my area has walked, played or looked upon this railway line … it is just begging to be explored fully 🙂  I run along it a lot , in both directions, normally as a start or finish to a longer run, but I have never until recently ventured beyond my regular section on my Stobs camp run. I have recently found a bit of motivation in my running again and this trip beckoned , so after a little recce last week It had to be done while the momentum was there, so a plan was hatched. I would go from Central Hawick where the old Railway Station had been and run from there all the way along the Waverley line to Carlisle staying true to the track as best I could.

Hawick Station back in the day ..

  I plotted the course out on Map My Run and decided that I would leave late Friday night, running 13-14 miles and hit the bothy at Riccarton before sunset for a decent sleep before heading for Carlisle 30 odd miles away early the next morning. The weather looked to be on my side so it was on 🙂 The plan had been for a solo mission, however my mate Mark Watson rang me on Thursday afternoon wondering if I fancied a hill run in the evening, I told him I couldn’t and filled him in why. Secretly sewing the seed of interest nicely, an hour later he was back on the phone and he was coming 🙂 I expected this, the lad likes a challenge.  EXCELLENT !!

Mark and I high up on line …

As usual a last-minute deadline had me working late, rushing home, grabbing my kit and heading to meet Mark all in the space of 15 minutes. I parked the car right next to the bus stop. We would be getting off right there on our return. After all I certainly didn’t want to walk far after 45 miles of running 😉 We saddled up our packs and headed off !  Straight up an old railway embankment left from the long gone bridge and right away we were running down the old line .. The Waverley adventure had started. Soon we had left Hawick behind and had started to weave our way over old bridges and through the tree-lined avenues of the old line, at a steady pace we notched up the miles and soon we were approaching the Whitrope tunnel , the 4th longest in Scotland at 1200+ feet. We couldn’t run through it as it has been fenced off due to a cave in. Instead we followed a bridlepath up and over the hill , this was to be our highest point of the trip at 1406 foot.

After a long descent we found ourselves at the Border Railway Heritage site where a group of enthusiasts have rebuilt a section of the railway and now run it as an educational tourist attraction. It is quite amazing to come across this station in the middle of nowhere. From here we had just a couple more miles of running before we arrived at “Wills Bothy” , a stone shelter renovated and equipped to commemorate William Ramsbotham a mountaineer and fell runner who the day after breaking the Cader Iris fell race record , died climbing on the same mountain . an extraordinary fellow by all means.

Mark warming up by the fire in Wills Bothy

Fourteen quality and continuously interesting trail miles full of beautiful hills, old railway buildings , Jacob sheep and highland cattle , not a bad nights work.  Satisfied we settled in to the bothy , shed our sweaty running kit and got the fire going .. Mark had a fantastic array of goodies hidden away in his pack and we ate like kings .. the highlight of my night was a little tin of beans and sausages , we know how to treat ourselves us lads 😉 😀

6 o clock start

the morning  and my alarm was buzzing .. brrrrrrrr,  it was a beautiful crisp morning , 3 degrees and sunny … I slipped my running kit on and found my hat .. gloves would have been nice but unfortunately no cigar …. we sorted out a little breakfast but our intention was to punch out the next ten miles to Newcastleton and have something substantial before embarking on the final 20 miles. The run from the bothy was fantastic , the views staggering in the early morning light as we ran along the track sat high up in the forest and took in the views of the valley far below us .. soon we were dropping down into Newcastleton, a beautiful little village not far from the English Border. Home alos to one the world famous 7 Stanes MTB venues .. Here we filled our boots with rolls and coffee , before heading along the line to Penton the next railway station on the track …

Mark Watson taking in a beautiful early morning view high above Newcastleton ….

Here however progressed was hard fought , we had found the first of what would be some epic bushwhacking .. up to this point the running had been on perfect trail , now we were up to our necks in jaggy bushes and nettles . There seemed to be a switch that tripped in our brains, maybe from tired legs, it was one that prevented us heading back over old ground to find a way round , we fought on regardless with dogged determination .. and for this we paid severely .. falling out of this Scottish jungle exhausted and severely stung by uber-virulent nettles from ankle to knee .. I had tan lines from the stings .. f**** I was sore.  if you intend to do this run , then seriously look to find a detour for this 2 mile section it just isn’t worth it 🙂 I am still paying for our battle today 😀

Mark catching a breather after the “I’m a runner get me out of here” battle with the Penton jungle

After this we had a good time , running great trail , following the river Esk all the way to Longtown with ease and found the High street stape, Spar . In hindsight we should have called it a day here and waited for the bus but we intended to get to Carlisle no matter what ! Our legs were still good and we only had 5 more miles to go  .. what could go wrong ?  😀  The trail from here gets pretty rough and very overgrown.  And Gypsies littered the last few miles , using the track as a scrapyard or small holding where ever there was a road access. One particular gypsy didn’t want us to cross his land and when he agreed his last words were watch out for the horse …

Gypsy attack Horse ..

looking back along the Esk …

I had to run and quickly jump a fence from that particular very aggressive sabre toothed  horse and f*** me with 40 mile in the legs that wasn’t easy ! It was nearly RIP when a herd of cows stampeded us , crashing through a fence in front of us , taking half it with them… then a Bull in the last field from home was just icing on the cake.. The mental image of Mark and I running/limping for that final gate still has me laughing … but we made it , we certainly did … the Southern section of the beautiful Waverley line made a fine running adventure indeed ..

The trip along this line was at times beautiful, the views up high were staggering especially on the cold brisk morning we encountered but that wasn’t what made the trip .. It was how continuously interesting this trip was ,throwing bothies, bridges, tunnels , the architecture of old stations and even the way mother-nature had grown around this disused line …. I dare you to try it sometime , have a change from pacing the roads or being in the mountains .. make an effort to find this Waverley line and enjoy something different, it will repay you a thousand time over … three cheers for the Waverley line !

I forgot my passport ..

notes:    Hawick to Newcastleton in my opinion is a very fine trail run worthy of 5 stars anywhere in this country , you will be rewarded with excellent running , fantastic views and continuous interest … after Newcastleton there are nice sections but nothing quite as continuous due to some parts being overgrown and the views not really comparable to the section before.

William Ramsbotham …

Wills Bothy …

Mark at the Heritage centre

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Running the Hawick Circular


Just follow these and you will finish … MAYBE !

.I was first introduced to this route by my friend and fellow outdoor sportsman Kenny Short , who in one of his first ventures into long distance hill-racing had used it in his training for the famous Lairig-Ghru race.    It is a superb adventure indeed whether ran in its entirety or in shorter sections. And with the recent upsurge of Hawick off-road runners I have been asked a lot about the running of this, so I will try to write it up in a rough running guide style.

The Hawick Circular

Hawick Circular ..

Distance: approx 25 miles;  Ascent: 2115′ by Garmin   Map: OS Landranger 79

Navigation: Straight forward, mostly sign-posted and never really gets to far from a road despite a nice feeling of remoteness on the off-road sections. I have added 2 downloadable maps at the bottom of the page.

Terrain: Rough fields, sheep trods, tarmac road and gravel path.

Start/finish:  There are many starting points. Really anywhere the circular crosses the road. Personally I like to run it anti-clockwise starting from Hornshole. Mainly so I have fresh legs for the biggest climb and on VERY tired legs a long descent to finish.

Time required:  depends on how fast you are 🙂  I am not a fast runner by any stretch of the imagination and I have always managed to finish this run between 4 1/2 and 5 hours when fit … but its been 5:36 and a dook under the bridge at Hornshole for my sore legs when I haven’t been 😀  Definitely plan for longer times if its your first time round given the need for navigation.

Moooooo… 😀

The Hawick circular is a riding route circumnavigating Hawick in the Scottish Borders and makes a fantastic off-road running route, primarily made up of four short sections and can easily be split up for a shorter run.  It is sign-posted for the most part with bright blue and white horse shoe signs that can be found on most if not every gate you go through when entering or leaving a field , so you shouldn’t ever get to far off track. An anticlockwise run with a start at Hornshole is my preference so I will describe it like that here.

The Start of a hard day out

Its a long climb up from Hornshole out to Clarilaw via Appletreehall or with local knowledge find an off-road alternative but once you reach Clarilaw take the little track heading up the hill and your finally off-road, follow this up and then cross Hassendean burn before a rough trail leads you to the old Drove road at Muirfield and turn left , a long slow climb ensues on a rough landrover track until you reach the junction with the A7 just north of Halywell Hill.

Heading for Drinkstane

Look across the road and to your left, you will see a small gate with the Blue sign on it , enter here and go right almost running straight up the field following a faint trail to the top resisting the urge to veer left . You will find a little gate through a dry-stone dyke. Enter here and run left over rough fields along the dyke , pass the pylons heading for a break in the dyke taking you through the woods.

High Point at Drinkstone 318m

From here follow the fields using great sheep trods , past a derelict Shepherds cottage at Drinkstone and a gradual but still undulating descent over beautiful countryside, until you descend onto the tarmac of the drove road near Calaburn , follow this down to the roman road and then up following Wilton Burn until you reach the stile … I personally do not run the road section , it’s probably faster but it’s a long way on tarmac for my liking so I either jump the wall and join the Langheugh trail run through the hills to the stile or I cut off and run up and over WiltonBurn hill, a look on the map should make this clearer.

Heading of Wiltonburn

From the stile you head over the field and pick up the trail heading right up and round the fields bringing you out on the Roberton road. From here another few miles of road takes you via “The Joogly” bridge and across the A7 to the start of a steep climb up Haysike. Here you cut right up a small road about a third of the way up heading for Fenwick common where you join a trail leading to the bottom of St Leonard’s Park race course , locally called The Mair or Mare ?  , scene of the finale to Hawicks famous or rather Infamous “Common Riding” .


From here you follow the trail up and out of the race course and head towards “The Flex” a long road section through a beautiful descending country road before entering a great off-road section over Colifort Hill.

Colifort Hill

Beware of the steep start , its a killer! but after this its a beautiful trip over the hills on a good trail, running past another old cottage and through some woods, enjoy the views over Adderstone Lee.

Adderston Lee

Soon you will join a long farm track slowly descending until you hit the road near Kirkton. Follow this for only a few 100 metres until you see the blue sign heading up past a little track right of a cottage.

Cavers Church

From here you run a rough track through a few fields and a forest, before joining a B road. From here keep and eye out for a little gate on the left running through an avenue of trees . Follow this before crossing a field and coming out at Cavers Knowes. follow the road for a short section before cutting right down a steep path bringing you out at Cavers Church and just right of it a stile and follow the signs down the field for the victory mile to reach the finish at Hornshole… 🙂




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Shout out to the Kayaker , a true king of adventure …

Sat here on holiday looking out the window at the rain, semi-consciously willing it to lay off just for a short while so I can chance a quick hill run to keep my training schedule in check. A 100% turn around from a few years ago when I would be up North with my kayak praying for more rain and the chance to dive off exploring hidden highland gorges full of pumping white water,  this got me thinking about…..


Sam Ellis and co … men with little boats looking for adventure at the famous put in for the Stikine Canyon in Northern BC

The Kayaker with his little plastic boat and paddle, dressed in his Helmet , buoyancy aid and dry-suit is amongst the most adventurous of explorers. Pitting against natures most unpredictable of elements. Fighting in the wind , the rain and often in dangerous almost inescapable places.  The kayaker travels hundreds of miles in a weekend searching for the hallowed white-water. The Kayaker is on the river as much as is humanly possible during the short daylight hours of winter. The Kayaker finishes a river in the dark with only the light of a head torch.

Leaving the Kinglass of Argyle in the dark … only 5 mile back to the car

The Kayaker goes to places that no one but fellow kayakers will ever be, literally flowing through the arteries and veins that feed the beauty of the surrounding Countryside.  The Kayaker sees the moody magnificence of rain-swept mountains, hears the rush of remote rivers and the surge of crashing waterfalls.The Kayaker feels the power of the river both under him and within him.  The Kayaker knows the fine line between the knife-edge of control and a beating..

 The Kayaker lives for adventure!


In the UK a kayak day is a precious one, it will have rained heavy through the night , the levels are right for a favourite river or a recce run of a new section. Often involving several miles of rough hiking over hills and through forests to the river. Arriving at the access , an abseil may be required to get the kayak and kit to the river’s edge . A good team of strong kayakers will be trained in white-water safety and rescue , have first aid knowledge and ALL will be equipped with safety equipment.  A trip into a flooded  gorge will require a sharp, forward thinking and very aware team. Team work will be the essence of a smooth and safe trip. Navigating a fast flowing and extremely powerful environment where one mistake can cause chaos, the team must be capable of minimising the risk to acceptable levels.

EasaChataidh , Glen Orchy

Abroad there are well-developed relatively safe areas like the more common rivers of the French and Austrian Alps to hone the skills of the less experienced but for the skilled adventure kayaker the world is waiting. Fabulous river trips abound in Norway, Canada , India , Pakistan, South America to name but a very few of the destinations that offer real adventure to the Expedition kayaker.

Very few outside the sport of Kayaking will have heard of our top UK whitewater explorers , paddlers old and new like Mick Hopkinson , Dave Manby , Pete Knowles , Andy Jackson, latterly Sam Ellis , Daz Clarkson , Simon Tapley and many more unsung kayak explorers, the latter who in the past few years have travelled the globe . sought out and navigated some of the worlds biggest and most remote rivers including the mighty Stikine river in Canada yet even now get no more a whisper in the press ..

Second full descent of the grand canyon of the Stikine from SB Productions on Vimeo.

Adventure Kayakers due to the nature of the sport rarely get or want recognition. After all who without having spent time learning and fine tuning the skills to pilot a kayak in white water can truly appreciate just how difficult it is ?. Who can appreciate what a large Himalayan rapid looks like when sitting 3 foot high bobbing around in a little plastic boat. Who can appreciate the chaos in a maelström of fast moving heavy whitewater, the need to hit perfect lines in a long dangerous rapid. ..who can appreciate what the Kayaker sees and No-one but the kayaker can feel what he feels ……

A big shout out to The Kayaker !  King of Action Adventure !

Cheers to everyone in my pics , the makers of these amazing videos and good luck to all the Kayakers out there in the big water …

Posted in himalaya, Mojo, Motoviation, stories from the past, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Runners Own …. Short Videos to fire you up


Video Shorts made by runners for runners 

Following on from the brilliant little Vid of Finlay Wild Natural Obsession , I want to start this page as a collection of runners own short home-made videos that inspire you to lace up those shoes and no matter the weather get out and on those trails and hills.

The first two I’m adding are really nice little edits and capture a little of just what it means to “get out there” even in the worst of weather. They have been produced by the indomitable Paul Giblin one of Scotland’s elite Ultra runners and present record holder of the West Highland Way race.

Christmas on the Braes

Encapsulating the mood and atmosphere of a wild day out yet still managing to portray the fun

Isolation – reasons to run .  

You get up , you get ready , you get out .. you enjoy .. your on your own.

If you have a favourite get in touch and let me know about it but try to remember the page is not about professional edits or big projects , It’s about that raw, made at home edits that light us up inside.

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Natural Obsession

Natural Obsession ……


Every now and again you see something online that encapsulates just how you see the sport you do …. I saw this video and it set me on fire with fresh dreams

Natural Obsession starring the amazingly talented Finlay Wild .

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The Celtman 2013

The Celtman 2013 


I was pleasantly surprised when my good friend Kenny Short asked me to support him in the Celtman , an Iron distance extreme triathlon and part of the Xtreme race series which now includes the Norseman and Swissman . My surprise was not because I haven’t supported him before but because the Celtman requires a support runner to accompany the racer over 16 miles of mountain running. I’ve not exactly been training much this year , mainly due to a double shoulder operation and tendinitis in my knee. This has made it all but impossible to stay fit. And let’s be honest when it comes to racing Kenny can leave most in his dust!! Ricky Lightfoot would be a more fitting companion for him 🙂 and right now hes so fit that lately I have struggled to keep up with him even on his “easy” runs. But he was happy that after 2.4 miles of Sea swimming , 120 miles of torturous road biking around Torridon and 10+ miles of running over the Coulin pass I wouldn’t be holding him back any. So one weekend in late June we headed off to Torridon.


We arrived on the Thursday night after a long but very beautiful drive the length of Scotland. Upon arrival at our Hotel we met one of the race support crew. Rhoda from Innerleithen who presently between jobs was taking a little time out and had decided to cycle from her home in the Scottish Borders all the way to Torridon for the event , nice one !  We checked in and met the organisers who are mainly based in the Scottish Borders and Edinburgh.  Kenny was on good terms and we joined everyone for dinner later that night. I had already met Paul , pony tailed endurance warrior and the easy going main man of Durty events when I had joined Kenny and the Border triathlon club for a hilly night run up the 3 Brethren.  The rest of the group was just as charming and I was happily entertained by their stories of past events.


The swim Exit .. Brrrrrr….. 10degrees if your lucky

The next day after breakfast we headed to registration, did the necessary and headed out to recce the course . A short drive took us to Shieldaig where the swimmers would exit the water and transition to the bike . I popped down to the water’s edge and took a temperature reading ,10 degrees !! Now that’s gonna be a cold one. just then  Sean MacFarlane arrived , he’s an outstanding athlete and had taken second place the year before. I have previously written of his exploits here and here .. a top fella and always full of positivity for his races , he’s there to race hard but he also very much loves what he does and he has a glint in his eye he talks of his challenges and every time I’m impressed. Kenny and I headed off from the transition to follow the first part of the 120 mile bike section. It climbed steeply out of the bay and headed inland over for the most part winding and undulating roads through staggeringly beautiful if occasionally harsh countryside.

Gruinard Island , Beautiful yet deadly !

Gruinard Island , Beautiful yet deadly !

I have kayaked this area many times , the rivers are short , steep boulder strewn torrents when full , a testing area even for expert kayakers. Most will give a scary fight for your life before spitting you out into the sea . The famous Little Gruinard river throws you right out in front of the infamous Anthrax island , you will be amazed just how close that Anthrax testing was to the mainland.


After agreeing on a manageable support plan for the bike stage we headed to the finish of the Coulin pass and start of the mountain run stage . This is where I would be expected to join Kenny and accompany him over Bhein Eighe . A serious mountain stage with a steep ascent to the ridge and summits then an even steeper descent to a half way lochan before a fast run out to the finish. There was a cut off time for this stage and it would favour only the fastest competitors for safety. A plan was drawn and times were agreed . I looked at the mountain and secretly hoped Kenny’s legs were trashed when he arrived at my stage .. well a man can hope 😉

Briefing ...

Briefing …

It was now time for the scheduled pre-race briefing, so off we headed to the Torridon centre.  We arrived to a hall full of very fit people !  Triathletes have a more muscular build than ultra runners and more often than not are a lot more methodical in their training and diet . It shows . although I like the fact that ultra runners are the dark horses of the fitness world . A rag-tag bunch capable of running for 20 hours at a time yet most wouldn’t even get a second glance in the gym with their skinny legs and the occasional pot belly , compared to the ripped triathlete with quads of steel making all the girls weak at the knees 😀 😀      The briefing was funny and light-hearted yet thorough in its need to impress the seriousness of the races nature. Some times these briefings are a little overboard to keep everyone in line. Lets be honest, these types of races may be physically tough but they are ultimately fun races, not an expedition into uncharted danger , everyone is an adult after all and everything takes place in a relatively safe and risk controlled environment so there really is no need to go overboard.  Soon we headed back to the hotel for food and a good nights sleep ..

heres the big fish !

here’s the big fish now !

The alarm went off at 3am , we were to be at the bike transition for 4am , Kenny would then be bussed to the start line out of sight at the other side of the bay. The weather was clear but a growing wind had stirred over night making for a choppy sea. I waited at the transition with my Binoculars watching for the swimmers to round the bay.  Sure enough the sight of the safety kayakers guided me to the little yellow swim caps struggling to be seen over the chop. Slowly more and more heads appeared round the bend .. Finally the first of the swimmers reached  the exit wobbling their way up the causeway. Gradually more and more swimmers wobbled their way up  , they were now coming out thick and fast.

Kenny cruising

Kenny cruising

My eyes strained to find Kenny amongst the swarm of black wetsuits exiting the water in the morning gloom ,suddenly he was there,  I sprung into action and waited or him to exit the causeway  .. we ran to his bike and I helped him exit his wetsuit .. His hands and feet were freezing !! He is a tough as nails competitor so a few cold fingers wouldn’t discourage him but it made stripping off awkward. I got involved like no man ever should and I tried not to pull at anything I shouldn’t 😉  soon I was helping him into his bike gear and he was off .  That steep climb out the bay will soon warm him up I thought.

leaving Transition 1

leaving Transition 1

I headed off to find a support point 30 miles away as agreed .. Not on a climb , not heading down a hill and not on the run out of a hill were my tactics for a support stop . I was trying to keep it easy on Kenny . He arrived at the first stop in good spirits and I handed him his bottle refills .. I slowly moved from stop to stop becoming part of what was to become the Celtman convoy . At about 100 miles in a few ibuprofen were required and Kenny was off on his last push before his run …  I sped off to the run transition and prepared for his arrival .


Head down …. only 120 miles .. lets do it !!

In he came smiling and so glad to be off the bike. A brief rest and refuel before he headed over the Coulin pass , the first of the run stages , 12 miles of low level trail through beautiful scenery although no time to hang around as the cut off still had to be made if we were to run the high level route on the mountain . He was making good time though so I knew he would push on over the pass in good time.

Coulin Pass ..

Coulin Pass ..

I loaded the kit and bike , then headed to the mountain staging point , parked up in the rough , good job I drive a landy.  It was howling with wind and lashing down with rain. A stout storm had blown in from the coast and was threatening the race. The top competitors had made it before the worst of the storm and were enduring some harsh conditions up top. As a mountaineer with a fair winter experience I’ve been out in some heavy weather , but I was trained, well practiced and geared up for it . Racers on the other hand are trying to move fast and have the minimal of gear, this shrinks the safety zone quite considerably. I’ve no doubt that there were plenty people in the race who would have taken it in their stride , but I’ll also say there were far more who would have been very uncomfortable up on that mountain top. So it was no surprise to me that long before the cut off time and I’m sure taking the racers experience as a whole. And most probably under mountain rescue team advisement the organisers made the decision to close the high level route for safety reasons.  At this point all racers were told to follow the lower level route so as to avoid the exposure of the ridge in this the worst of weather.. Do not confuse “lower level” with “low level” as at around 2000 feet and in that weather it was still to be a tough mountain run  through some fantastic scenery including passing the famous triple buttress.  Additionally it was about to add a few extra miles to the already LONG day Kenny was having. I waited patiently  for Kenny exiting the Coulin pass. The weather was filthy and demoralising but bang on plan he arrived at the final checkpoint and having worked very hard to make the cut off he arrived with plenty time to spare. I knew he desperately wanted to run the summit route so sadly I relayed the news , he stared up through the driving rain at the storm clouds now hiding the top Half of the mountain and although disappointed , he knew he couldn’t  argue . In the wind and rain we set off on the final 15 miles .

The 3 Buttresses of Beinne Eighe

The triple Buttresses of Beinne Eighe

Slowly we climbed up the tight rock strewn path leading to the col below the summit ridge, there are many highs and lows that you will encounter in a long endurance race and I could tell by the relatively slow pace and Kenny’s somber tone of voice that he was battling through a low. I kept chatting and joking , trying to lift the mood but ultimately it’s the individual who has to pick himself up in the end.  Slowly we were gaining ground on a group of four runners who were sticking together for safety in the horrendous weather. We picked up our pace to climb a little faster and pass them .  This seemed to be the lift Kenny needed and suddenly he was off ,  bouncing up the hill like we were just out the car on a training run, here we go I thought. We could see another pair of runners not far ahead, let’s have them said Kenny smiling. The terrain was tough , technical and right up our street … We leapt and bound, floated over rocks and streams and it wasn’t long before we had left several groups of runners behind, we had run through some fantastic mountain scenery over a very challenging technical track and neither of us were feeling short-changed by the route change .

working hard in the windy , wet and wild !!

working hard in the windy , wet and wild !!


Soon we were dropping height and had hit the beginnings of a rough descent path. The pace upped again and I checked my watch , over 10 miles were behind us and I was now struggling to keep up with Kenny , my watch read sub 7 minute miles …best pace for me and amazing that Kenny was now dragging me down the mountain behind him after over 140 miles and 14 hours of excersion. Eventually we slid out the exit from the descent path onto a small B-road and my legs suddenly were jelly , I had given it everything I had and more on that mountain and there was still a few more miles of hilly road running left … I ran behind Kenny but he’s one fast road machine so I was just holding him back , I looked back to see two of the runners we had left on the hill gaining on us,  I told Kenny to kick on without me , after all I had done my part , he said no but I didn’t want him to lose a place in this , the last couple of miles , so I told him to plug it or I wouldn’t be happy  … Off he went , finishing in what was probably a 6 minute mile , bloody machine !!   we had picked up several places on the run and he finished in an amazing 28th place overall . And I think 11th for age … Given the strength of that field , top athletes from all around the globe and awesome home-grown talent that was a brilliant result. The man is a rock !

Team Hawick !

Team Hawick !

XTRI Series

XTRI Series


Posted in Events, Mojo, Motoviation, mountain running, Race Update, Training | 3 Comments

Running the Borders Abbey Way ….

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The last half of 2012 has seen me suffer badly from tendonitis deep within my knee and my fitness was waning  as quickly as my tummy was swelling 😉 but all is not lost as finally during the 6 weeks prior to Christmas I made it back to some form of pain-free consistent training, happy days. And as I am about to go under the surgeon’s knife on the 18th of January I decide on a final burst of effort and set myself a special little Xmas Holiday Challenge , to run the Borders Abbey Way over a long weekend.

Borders Abbey Way

Borders Abbey Way

The Borders Abbey Way is a 65 mile long trail that circumnavigates the best of the Scottish Borders, taking you on your way between 4 ancient Abbeys. It’s a trail that I have used in part but never really followed it in its entirety so I thought why not give it a go and it’s always good to put a goal down while looking for a new adventure 🙂


the Borders Abbey Way …. follow the post 😉

There is nothing extreme about this trail as it travels over hills and through forests . then across farmland and by riverside path for the rest. It is however exceptionally beautiful and constantly varied in its journey. Never was I bored, at every turn there was always something different appearing on the Horizon. In fact I was actually buzzing for the next stage to see what was there , and I live here !! Yes , it is THAT good.

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heading away from Kelso …

For the most part the hills come between Jedburgh ,Hawick through Selkirk and on to Melrose , with the famous Eildon hills popping into view at every high point , getting tantalizingly closer as you travel east …. the Borders Schiehallion I thought. From Melrose to Kelso and on to Jedburgh the trail is relatively flat riverside path, this makes for great running through. Over the length of your journey which ever sections you do , I guarantee you will see some of the most beautiful scenery the Borders has to offer and you will view it from all different perspectives and angles.


Ruberslaw ..

Running it over a long weekend the daily mileage was reasonably comfortable , and the climbing shallow and easy-going, so even without loads of training I was able to enjoy it all. A hill runner would run this route in its entirety , a cautious trail runner might on occasion walk the odd hill but still enjoy the trail either side. I recommend this to everyone from walker to Ultra runner. It is a fantastic journey from start to finish and one that I will return . I will have to be patient though as I have an operation and a fair bit of training to do before then , but at least now I know the “Way” 🙂


Melrose Abbey ..


Border Views …. Floors Castle


The Woll Golf Course Ashkirk

this way !

this way !


Posted in hill racing, Mojo, mountain running, Training, Ultrathon | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Men of Porage … hardened biking !!

Men of Porage ….

There is a race that is a myth to many , one that most are never likely to see , it’s a mystery held deep within the European mountain bike community. A race where invitation is the only means of entry, a race purely for fun yet there is a winner, one  who is elevated to god like status yet is openly mocked for winning . It is a race of endurance, hard trail and brutal climbing. Add to that tricky navigation , remote night stages and a sprinkling of crazy challenges ….. It is everything yet it is nothing !! it is “Men of Porage”


My friend and adventure racer extra-ordinaire Kenny Short rang me up last week , the conversation went like this …

Kenny: Hey Mark fancy a mountain bike race on Saturday”

Mark: ah Kenny I’m no racer on the bike mate.

Kenny: Dont worry Mark its an endurance event you wont need to go fast .

Mark: Fuck it then Kenny I’ll come along ….. what is it ?

Kenny: it’s the Men of Porage and this time its set near Innerleithen.

Mark: THE Men of Porage race Kenny ?

Kenny: yes !! THE Men of Porage

Mark: fuck !!

a Porageer …..

Originating in the Czech Republic , home of some real hardcore nutters when it comes to sport so you just know it is going to be tough. I’m not sure of the UK history but to quote Lawrence Tring : “About 8 year’s ago a British Porage event was launched with élite riders from mountain bike endurance and orienteering/trail-quest events invited” , obviously 8 years later they were scraping the bottom of the barrel if I was getting an invite . 😉 it’s a race that travels to a different venue every outing and is a slightly different incarnation every time. This year it was set close to me in Innerleithen, so not to far to for me to travel either. Gary Tompsett of Rat Race fame was in charge of this Porage so it was sure to be a good one.

Traquair house and the Maze ….

Kenny picked me up at 11am Saturday morning. Andrew Tullie would also be accompanying us , good news as Andrew is part of the greatest Orienteering / hill running family EVER !! he would be the man to count on when things got tough. We were to be at the Corner House Hotel Innerleithen and be ready to race for 12 noon , here we would be escorted as a peloton to the starting point which was unknown to all. About 50 riders from all over the UK were in the hotel car park excited and nervous in equal doses. Suddenly a rider appeared and after a short briefing we were off , a 50 strong mountain bike peloton heading for Traquair house. As we arrived we were told to position our bikes against a long wall as if preparing for a mass start. We were then ushered to the top of the garden by the old Gates and given a briefing on what to expect , 50 miles at least , 20 checkpoints to reach , probably 3000m of climbing all in …. WOW !! I knew I was screwed right here 😉 We would be given 4 maps , but only 1 at a time , once we had hit the CPs we would be “rewarded” with our next section of challenges before moving on to the next area of the the Peeblesshire hills. Gary then told us there was a  twist to the starting of the race. We had to race the 400 metres to the huge maze situated at the back of the house , find the centre to get our first CP then head back to the bikes before disappearing into the Forests and hills of Traquair , amazing !! but before all this the Porage oath had to be taken ….

It was now tiem to go , all of a sudden we were running down the length of the Traquair gardens to the maze at the back of this grand old house. In we went, 50 adventure racers fleeting like mice in a laboratory puzzle, all trying to find the centre of this ancient maze . After 5 minutes we realised that it was harder than we thought , hmm let’s think … here! shouted Kenny seeing a hole in the maze leading to the centre , as we squeezed through the short-cut the event photographer caught Kenny with his camera .. ha-ha red-handed !!!

Kenny caught red handed !!

We noted the CP number and found our way out , running quickly to the bikes and trying at the same time to decide the best route to CP2 …. for this checkpoint we headed into the forest trails and used a logging road to gain height before heading out and over the moors to come round onto the next hill, man !! what a slog !! My legs were on fire after nearly one hour of solid energy sapping climbing !! eventually we left the forest and headed over the high ground , the inclement weather had left the paths soft , muddy and very wet , hard going indeed. At times I wished I had been running , it would definitely have been easier .. yet I was enjoying being out there so much , really buzzing that after my injury , I was finally back racing in the hills , albeit on wheels.


Eventually we made our way up and over the amazingly beautiful Gypsy Glen and down over the hills to Peebles where we had to find a checkpoint deep in the countryside to the North . It was dark now and we were relying on good judgement and luck, actually just luck 😉 We made it back to Peebles and I looked at my watch , 4 hours on the bike already and we still had to find a railway tunnel before we could head on to the next map. A stroke of genius happened , the organiser had made one of the CPs next to a good old SPAR !!! yassssssss !! in we went and grabbed the goodies , stuffed ourself full of Bounty bars and wine gums .. Next we headed North east to a trail that took us to a point above the railway tunnel , or so we thought. We found a sweet descent trail and dropped height , and more height until we ended up on the banks of the Tweed !! aaaaarrghhh SHIT !! we had over shot the tunnel and dropped way more height than we had meant to. 30 minutes of hauling bikes around a steep and over grown banking ensued and eventually we had found the tunnel , 200 metres long and pitch black we scanned its walls looking for a CP number , eventually finding it in a small bay full of nasty nasty things ,the unmentionable. We sent the bold Kenny in first 😉

Andrew enters the Nasty !!!

Finally we shot out the tunnel and headed for the final checkpoint to receive our next map , this took us to Cardrona Village and a pump track where we had to complete the challenge of pumping our way round with out a pedal stoke , easy and we were off heading down the country lanes towards Traquair house again for another crazy checkpoint , every hill now felt like a serious mission to my very tired legs .

Hardened Vets singing for their supper

We arrived to a moon lit Traquair house and a checkpoint full of Beer !! we gave our names to the official so he could check us in, at night things get a little more serious and a cold night like we were having takes no prisoners to anyone stuck in the hills . Kenny gave his name and all of a sudden the official picked up a tin of cat food , eat he said to Kenny. Kenny looked up , why ? you must eat or you forfeit your race due to cheating in the maze …. hahah Andrew and I laughed , Kenny picked up the cat food and ate it .. eeuurgh ! Kenny turned round and said “Tuna and jelly isn’t my favourite , I much prefer chicken and gravy” 😛 this cheered me up no end. We headed out of traquair and the back roads to the final CP at Innerleithen downhill car-park We met Gary who offered us an extra loop to spice up our adventure … we accepted it and headed down to Walkerburn to climb to the the reservoir high above , the trail is reputed to be a tasty local secret , this would be fun at night. Unfortunately our powerful bike lights were now dropping like flys and we were down to Zipka head torches . No good for technical trails , Tullie was also on a promise !! you can’t keep these young lads from their Shnazzzms 😉 so we bit the bullet and headed back to Innerleithen to call it a night … 8 hours in the saddle , thousands of metres of tough technical ascents and descents … lost many times , cold and exhausted !! and lets not mention my arse !!! Never had such a good time for ages 😛 😛

Men of Porage

Posted in Marathon des Sables | 3 Comments

Alan Watts ….

Alan Watts, philosopher, writer and public speaker .

Alan Watts ….

Since my youth I have had a strong interest in both the nature that surrounds me and who I am within it, not in a flaky way I might add ! 😉  I’m not dancing in the streets shaking my tambourine just yet 🙂  but I have been strongly drawn to looking deeper into life than most . Over the years I’ve read books, listened to philosophies and even tried to experience various belief’s and religions and have built a strong association with Buddhism. I have even immersed myself in some of its teachings through several retreats at the Samye Ling centre near my home, every time thoroughly enjoying my stay. Am I a Buddhist ? unfortunately not, I am in no way a person pure enough of soul to restrict myself to the practices of Buddhism no matter how much I respect it as a way of life. My drive for knowledge is not about religion , it’s about wonderment of nature and the why of me , it’s a big picture I know 🙂

Contemplating the Universe ..

I have asked the following question many times; Is it because I am an outdoor sportsman that I wonder about the world or is because I wonder about the word that  I am an outdoor sportsman ? chicken and egg ? 🙂  I remember my early days as a climber sitting on tiny ledges  looking out at the vast topography below me, taking it all in and wondering, this wonder is probably what sets me apart as one of the people who take notice and look deeper into what is spinning around me, many doubt, some mock and most just aren’t interested in anything apart from the confines of their daily life, but for those interested enough to look there are beliefs and teachings out there that when you take the time to read or listen to may actually make more sense than what you actually have believed to be true before. laughing yet ? ask yourself a question, do you use a mantra to help your running , if the answer is yes …. Ever wondered why you use it and why it helps ? 😉 read on …….


A video titled “What if money was no object” seems to have captured everyone’s imagination in the outdoor sports community right now, probably because it helps justify spending time on our own desires, many of us giving priority to our love of our sport over financial gain or family commitments, an explanation on “living the dream”  it eventually hit my inbox or twitter feed and a name came up from my past,  Alan Watts , a British philosopher and writer who I had a real interest in during the 90s. Back then his books and transcripts had been a huge force in giving me answers and questions about myself, he ignited a lot of little sparks that still burn within me all these years later. So it was with great interest that I watched this little video go “viral” all these years later .  I have spent the last few days looking back into Alan’s work and decided to post a few of  his interesting videos for all to enjoy …..


Below is an exert from his website

AW portrait


Alan Watts was born in London in 1915, at the start of the first World War. At a young age he became fascinated with the Far East, and at fourteen he began to write and was published in the Journal of the London Buddhist Lodge before writing his first booklet on Zen in 1932. He moved to New York in 1938 and then to Chicago, where he served as an Episcopal priest for six years before leaving the Church. In 1950, he moved to upstate New York before going on to San Francisco to teach at the Academy of Asian Studies. Among Alan Watts’ earliest influences were the novelist Sax Rohmer and Zen scholars D.T. Suzuki and Christmas Humpreys. In late 1950, he visited with Joseph Campbell and composer John Cage in NYC.


Alan Watts was profoundly influenced by the East Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Buddhism, and by Taoist thought, which is reflected in Zen poetry and the arts of China and Japan. After leaving the Church, he never became a member of another organized religion, and although he wrote and spoke extensively about Zen Buddhism, he was criticized by American Buddhist practitioners for not sitting regularly in zazen. Alan Watts responded simply by saying, “A cat sits until it is done sitting, and then gets up, stretches, and walks away.”

AW in library


1950’s and early ’60’s

After teaching at the Academy of Asian Studies in San Francisco, he became Dean and began to give regular radio talks on KPFA, the Berkeley free radio station. In 1957, he published his best-selling Way of Zen, and in 1958 returned to Europe where he met with C.G. Jung. He was an early subject in pioneering psychedelic trials, and, after recording two seasons of the public television series Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, travelled to Japan several times in the early sixties. By the late sixties, he had become a counter-culture celebrity, and travelled widely to speak at universities and growth centers across the US and Europe.

Later Years

By the early seventies, Alan Watts had become a foremost interpreter of Eastern thought for the West, and was widely published in periodicals including Earth, Elle, Playboy, and Redbook. He appeared on CBS television’s Camera Three in 1969, and in 1971 he recorded a pilot for a new show titled A Conversation with Myself for NET, the precursor to PBS. When the series was not produced, he recorded the shows with his son Mark and his long-time audio archivist Henry Jacobs in 1972. Overall, Alan Watts developed an extensive audio library of nearly 400 talks and wrote more than 25 books during his lifetime, including his final volume, Tao: The Watercourse Way. Alan Watts died in his sleep in November of 1973, after returning from an intensive international lecture tour.

Some of my favourite lectures .. 


The Art of Meditation ….  a great explanation and guide to meditation
Our Image of the World
The Nature of conciousness
The Web of Life
There are many many more great lectures available on the web and they are well worth spending the time listening to  “some may say rubbish , some may say good and some may change for ever ”  Marko 2012 😉

Reality …

Posted in Mojo, Motoviation, stories from the past | Tagged , , | 5 Comments