Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Hills, Hills, Hills and More Bloody Hills

Next Exciting Instalment in the 50th Year Challenge
The last couple of weeks have had a lot of ups and downs, all in the name of this 2017 challenge.
When many people had a relaxing time over Easter, myself and Victoria booked a cottage in Ambleside and set about climbing as many Wainwright peaks as we could in one week. The lakes threw every sort of weather at us in 7 days. On day one we ended up buying after-sun, after getting burnt, on the final day we almost got blow off the top of Clough Head due to gale force windows. In the interim we had hail stones, rain, wind and sun. A typical week in the English lakes.
This is not Victoria doing a Donald Trump Impersonation, it was Very Windy, honest
We did however manage to “bag” 21 Wainwright peaks in a week, taking the total for 2017 to 25, so halfway through this part of the challenge. For the Fitbit geeks, we walked over 110 miles in the week and around 210,000 steps each. For the non Fitbit geeks 10,000 steps per day is considered an acceptable level, we averaged 3 times that, and our steps were 50% up hill. The Wainwrights conquered were: Hartsop Dodd, Stony Cove Pike, Thornthwaite Crag, Gray Crag, Nab Scar, Heron Pike, Great Rigg, Fairfield, Hart Crag, Dove Crag, High Pike, Low Pike, Tarn Crag, Sergeant Man, Sour Howes, Swallows, Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick, Troutbeck Tongue and Clough Head.
We did get joined by our kids and Alfie the dog, who suffered from mountain wind ears
So, after that week of hills we set off to visit Luxembourg to tick off another country and my 48th Half Marathon. The weekend actual involved two runs, the first was an impromptu run across Newcastle Airport. When I booked the flight to Brussels the confirmation confirmed the flight departure as 6pm, when we arrived at the airport at 4:20pm there was no 6pm Brussels flight on the board, several expletives followed when we noticed the 5pm Brussels flight. A very quick sprint across the airport only just got us to checkin before they closed. Within 40 minutes of arriving at the airport we were on board and taxiing down the runway. Victoria thinks this is a great way to travel, a sentiment I don’t agree with.

Half Marathon preparation wasn't brilliant with a couple great and late nights in Brussels. A night at Delirium Café which boasts over 2000 different beers apparently is the wrong type of carb loading, I have now discovered. After 2 nights in Brussels it was off to Luxembourg for the Semi Marathon Des 2 Luxembourg.

Finding a half marathon in Luxembourg had proved difficult as there only seems to be 3 in the year and due to prior commitments, I could only make this one. This event took place in the small town of Beckerich (population 635 according to Wikipedia). I had emailed the organisers to get a list of hotels in the area, the list was very short, there wasn't any, but one of the local farms had a B&B. We arrived Sunday afternoon at Four Oaks B&B, only to find it to be an American Ranch themed farm, with all things cowboy everywhere. We had cow hide lampshades, horseshoe towel rails and cowboy boot toilet roll holders? What we also discovered was Luxembourg shuts on a Sunday night, fortunately Mike, the Cowboy who ran the “Ranch” (he even drove an American Dodge Ram Pickup), had found one restaurant open, about five miles away, which turned out to be quite good, actually.

In my haste to book the Semi Marathon Des 2 Luxembourg, I had not bothered to look at the route, which most races post on line. I made the mistake two days before I ran of looking at this, the online description “hilly” should have set the warning bells away, (this may have explained the need to have a few beers in Brussels).
The very Hilly Profile of the Semi Marathon Des 2 Luxembourg
This race was unbelievably good value for money, the cost of entry was €5.50, which when you compare it to The Great North Run at £54, it is for nothing. The organiser, Michel, was extremely apologetic that as they had gone to chip timing they had had to put up the price from €3.50!! To make it even better value every runner got a €2 voucher to buy food or a drink at the end (I spent mine on a celebratory Diekirch beer, brewed in Luxembourg). No medal or T-shirt, but I think that would be too much to ask for.

So, the run, as well as the hills (1500ft of climbing) the race turned out to be a trail race (again never checked that out). For those who don’t know what a trail race is, think school cross country, but 13.1miles of it, almost all either uphill or downhill, they don't do flat in Luxembourg.

The route was stunning, through woods, a 600m tunnel, over the border into the Belgium Province of Luxembourg (hence the race name), back into Luxembourg and home. All on a course of forest tracks that either climbed or descended (well almost all). The event was friendly, cheap, a great route and bloody hilly. It wasn't a quick run, but one of my favourite half marathons so far.
So now back in the UK, 48 half marathons completed, next stop for running is Denmark in September, which is the only Western European Country I have not completed a Half Marathon in. First priority is to blow the tyres up on my push bike, see if it will start and get cycle training, I now have 7 weeks until the coast to coast bike ride.
  • 48 Half Marathons Completed
  • 1 Country in Western Europe to Run in
  • 25 Wainwrights to Climb
  • 1 Coast to Coast Bike Ride to cycle
  • 1 fiftieth Half Marathon to Run in the Arctic Circle
  • 1 embarrising flashing incident in Wales
  • 1 nearly missed flight to Belgium
  • 1 expensive pair of compression socks purchased
So, the rest of the year will be fairly quiet… Thanks for all your support so far, the challenge continues……

The Justgiving Page can be found at

Monday, 3 April 2017

Injury, Hospital Admission and Support Stockings

Firstly thanks for the amazing support I have received since the last update. So far you have raised £2765 for Willow Burn Hospice, which is an amazing amount. It is really appreciated by both Willow Burn and myself. It makes this stupidity all worth while. The link to the Justgiving page is below.
The Berlin Half Marathon was nearly the Half Marathon that never happened. When I first set about this challenge I didn't think for one minute I would get injured. I had managed almost 7 years of running several Half marathons a year without any issue. The only time I came close to injury was after completing the London Marathon and then stupidly starting training 48 hours after finishing it, not a good idea. However this bravado proved to be ill founded, Wrexham injured me, not too seriously, but my right calf decided it didn't want to be part of the team anymore, and would do its own thing. A lot of rest and a small fortune spent on Sports Massages did help, but the subsequent lack of training due to prolonged rest meant I was both still a little injured and also not race fit. If I hadn't paid for flights and hotels in Berlin and told the world I was doing this event, I would have and should have pulled out. But I am too stupid to do that.
This dilemma over, my son Jack through a curve ball 2 days before we were due to fly, when he got himself admitted to hospital and put on an IV drip. What he initially thought was tonsillitis turned out to be glandular fever. So Wednesday night the choice was either cancel our travel plans totally and look for another half later in the year in Germany, I fly by myself leaving Victoria at home to look after Jack, or finally he gets discharged from hospital and is well enough for us to both travel. Fortunately by Thursday he was home, Victoria had spend a fortune on ice cream and other associated liquid foods and our daughter Ellen had agreed to make a rare visit home to keep an eye on her brother (rumour is she needed a sat nav to find our house, her visits are that rare). So the race was back on. He better not take ill before the Luxembourg half marathon, as there isn't an alternative to that one I can run this year.
So, support stockings, or in running speak - Compression socks. This is a product that they issue free to all patients in hospital (I discovered while visiting my son this week), you can also buy them in boots for £10 to stop you getting DVT on long hall flights. But buy them to both avoid injury and assist with injury recovery with a running logo on and your local sports shop will fleece you £30 for what is fundamentally the same product. I had bumped into a seriously good runner at a business lunch in London by the name of Rebekah Randell who I discussed the challenge with and mentioned my current injury issue. It was her advice that I buy compression socks, and I have to thank her as it got me around Berlin in one piece. The only issue is I also have to thank her for making me look like a dick every time I go running now. (before you ask the running shoes were in the sale!)
So the Berlin Half Marathon. Unlike Vienna, when I was one of two Brits in the race, Berlin was a very large event with runners from all over the Europe and beyond. The course was also very impressive traveling through both East and West Berlin, including running through the Brandenburg Gate at around 3 miles. This did mean I stopped on a few occasions and took photos of bits of the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie and Kaiser Wilhelm Cathedral. I stopped worrying about times a while ago, this was about enjoying the day. The atmosphere was great and Victoria was joined by our good friends Mark and Marie who flew out for the weekend, for my own personal support crew. They sometimes may not be the most motivational support crew however,  when I saw them at 10 miles, Mark did point out that there was a runner dressed as a beer bottle ahead of me, frustratingly I knew this already as he had just passed me.
If you haven't been to Berlin, I would certainly recommend it, I was really impressed with the city, it has a great vibe about it (Victoria’s words not mine). What I don’t recommend is running a half marathon, booking a flight back that gets into Manchester at 11pm that night, then having to drive 3 hours home for a couple of hours sleep before driving to Birmingham for 10:30am the next morning. I may be in logistics, but this was crap planning.
I now have a month before the next race in Luxembourg, but not one to sit still, we have booked a week in the Lakes at Easter to start getting as many Wainwrights bagged as we can. Whatever happened to lazy beach holidays?

The challenge continues with only 3 half marathons, 1 Coast to coast bike ride and 46 wainwright peaks still to do.

The justgiving page link is if you would like to help support the wonderful Willow Burn Hospice.

Thanks for taking the time to read the update, will keep you updated through the year

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

What part of running 2 half marathons in 7 days did I think was a good idea? Definitely a tale of two cities and a broken man.

Half Marathon number 46 - Wrexham Half Marathon - 12/3/2017

This weekend involved ticking off Wales from the country list by completing the Wrexham Half Marathon. It was not my most enjoyable or best run. The excuses why I ran so badly are as follows:
  • 1) it was too close to the last race
  • 2) it was hilly (well slightly undulating)
  • 3) it was warm (yes Wrexham was warm in March)
  • 4) I am getting old, too heavy and probably not fit enough
  • 5) At 6 miles I got overtaken by a Gingerbread Man, who had started 1 hour before me and was running the marathon with the 3hr 30min Marathon Pacer
  • 6) My head was too focused on making excuses to run well.
Anyway over 10 minutes slower than Vienna and after dragging myself painfully through the last 3 miles I ticked off Half Marathon number 46 in Wrexham. A pleasant course through the town and surrounding country side.

To finish a bad day, i may be now banned from the Ramada Inn in Wrexham. Having stayed the night before, i had arranged to call back and have a shower in the Spa before returning home. What they didn't tell me was the only shower in the Spa was an open shower in the spa room which contained the Hot Tub and Sauna. Having checked there where no other guests a quick strip off and shower followed. It was only when leaving I noticed the Security Camera and the "This area is covered by CCTV sign". What made it worse was handing back my key to see the large CCTV monitor behind reception clearly showing the spa. May be a while before i go back!!

There is now a justgiving page, which will be open for the duration of the challenge

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Half Marathon number 45 - Vienna, Austria 5th Match 2017

45 half marathons done, now only 4 left to complete the first part of my challenge to run a half in every country in Western Europe.

The Laufen Hilft was a great fun event starting next to the Ernst-Happel Stadium. The race combined 3 events, a 5k, 10k and Half Marathon round a 5k lap. The first half of the lap took you down the main boulevard in the park, before turning off to run through the middle of the fair ground, before winding through the back streets back to the Stadium.

After lap 1 the 5k runners pealed off, after lap 2 the 10k runners finished, then with a little added the 1/2 marathon runners completed a 2 further laps. It really was a fun event with a great atmosphere with great weather. I set off to run 10 minute miles and ended up averaging 10:03 which was exactly what i wanted to achieve.

At the end all runners received a wooden carved medal, a first for me. This was followed by an evening enjoying the Austrian hospitality (to excess).
Next stop Wrexham this weekend

Sunday, 22 January 2017

First 4 Wainwrights to start off the 2017 challenge

A very icy walk taking in 4 Wainwrights - Ullock Pike, Long Side, Carl Side and Dodd. Only another 46 to complete this year

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Carlisle Resolution 10k

First race of 2017 in Carlisle on a wet Sunday morning. Great route, well organised and good fun. Pace wasn't too bad, but will need to be a lot fitter for the half marathons. Training must go on.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

The 2017 Challenge

So today is my 49th birthday, the start of my 50th year on the planet. So this is my challenge:

- To run 50 half marathons before my 50th birthday
- To have run a half matrathon in every Western Europe Country (Germany, Austria, Luxembourg, Denmark and Wales left to do)
- To cycle the coast to coast
- To climb 50 Wainwrigt Peaks
- To go to the Artic Circle in January 2018 and run the Polar Nights Half Marathon which takes place in the depths of winter, in the dark, on ice and in freezing conditions.
- Finaly and most importantly to raise as much money as possible for Willow Burn Hospice.

The next year is going to be a challenge and most importantly a great year....

Watch this space

Nigel Cook aged 49 years and 0 days

Monday, 9 January 2017

2017 Serious Training has began

2017 is going to be a big year (details to follow), so i am having to take it very seriously with a Personal Trainer, a training program and a low carb diet (plus a dryish January).

Week one now complete and over 20 miles ran, with interval and hill sessions included. Finished the week off in style with a 10.5 miles run across the fells to take the decorations off a tree!

To explain Blackhill Bounders, my running club, decorate a single tree in the middle of the Pennine Fells each December and un-deck it in January.

Let the fun begin....

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Monza Half Marathon – 11th September 2016 – Half number 44

If Carlsberg did half marathon weekend (almost). A weekend in Italy, A Formula One Circuit, A Favourite band in an Outdoor Roman Amphitheatre and a Half Marathon, what possible could go wrong.

We arrived late Friday night in Milan, too late even for a drink in the hotel bar L. Saturday was spent exploring Monza and collecting my number. I ended up with number 36, worrying almost elite status. Then a 2-hour drive in the evening to Verona where we had arranged to see one of my favourite bands, Marillion play a gig in an ancient Roman amphitheatre. The Gig was one of the best we have seen, the only downside being the 2-hour drive back to Monza at 11pm at night. Arriving back at the hotel 1am, alarm was set for 7:30am for breakfast and the run.

At the Start of the Race 

Weather was brilliant for a beach holiday, but worst case scenario for a half marathon. 32 degrees, clear blue sky and no shade. Many of the Italians were complaining about the heat, which suggested it was the usual weather they expected at this time of the year.

The run started on the start line of the Monza Grand Prix Circuit. The route then follows the circuit for around three quarters of a lap before turning off into Monza Park, the large public space in which the Monza Circuit is located. There were 4 distance options 5k, 10k, 21k (the half) and 30k. All runners started together with the 5k completing a single full lap, the 10k taking in the inner banked circuit while the longer distances took to the paths of the park.
The First Chicane at Monza

The heat was intense after 5k I started to see what I would consider as “elite” athletes pulling out and walking back to the start. I took the decision to make sure I took on as much water as possible to try and keep hydrated. Over the 13.1 miles I drank 3 litres of water, but the heat still caused me to vomit on 4 or 5 occasions. This was a tough run.

The Final Corner

Eventually we turned 90 degrees and re-joined the main circuit with only the long last curve and finish straight to complete. What the week before took Lewis Hamilton a matter of seconds, took a very weary middle aged runner a significantly longer time, but I made it in around 2hr 35 minutes. One of my slowest half marathons, but in the toughest conditions I have ever ran.
The Finishing Straight

What was unusual in Monza was the lack of running tourists, I normally see a number of UK running club vests on my travels, but in Monza I didn’t come across a single other Brit.
Number 44 Half Marathon Finished

A lovely receptionist in the hotel who let us have late checkout after the race, a wonderful Italian Pizza alfresco in Monza on the Sunday afternoon all made for a great weekend. We certainly rejuvenated our love of Italy.

Now for a rest and start to prepare for 2017 and the final push to 50 Half Marathons. I have already booked flights to Luxembourg at the end of April, not I just need to arrange runs in Germany, Austria and Denmark, plus a wildcard race and then up to the Arctic Circle in January 2018 for the final run.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Suzuki Midsumer Sun Half Marathon 23/6/16

Preparation for this race was not good. A busy day prior driving over 300 miles to eventually get to Luton. Staying over night before a 4:30am alarm to fly to Iceland. A look round Reykjavik to while away the hours before the race start at 9:20pm (10:20pm UK). Completely shattered before I even started.


It wasn't a big race with only 3000 runners between 3 events; 5k, 10k and half marathon, there was however over 30 countries represented, including a lot of British runners. At the start I bumped into 5 lads from North East Front Runners who had done Blackhill parkrun the previous week.


The route was excellent, the first and last miles on closed roads, then the rest a giant loop through the countryside on Tarmac tracks. Although there were always houses in sight the path followed streams, went through parks and even crossed a golf course. The only issue was the hills, on one serious one, but there seemed to be a lot more ups than downs. As is becoming the norm, the first half of the race went well, then my lack of fitness and niggles from my calfs started to slow me down significantly. The last few hills were particularly tough, but I got to the end and ticked off half marathon number 43 and Iceland as a country.


Bad planning again, I eventually got back to my hotel after being awake for over 24 hours only to set my alarm for 3 ½ hours later to fly home, via Luton and Friday afternoon drive north.

Probably one of the cheapest entry fees I have come across recently, however Iceland as beautiful as it is, is very expensive. The one beer I had at the end of the races was £6 for bottle!
The Map is slowly turning Green

Next stop Monza in Italy in September

Monday, 6 June 2016

Great Brewery Marathon 25km Run – Half Marathon(ish) number 42

There must only be a small number of people in the UK who google beer and half marathons together, well actually there were 34, 2 of which were myself and Victoria.

Ready for the start

The route through the Countryside

There were actually 3 events taking place on the day, a Marathon, a 25km run and a 25km walk. I opted for the run, Victoria the walk. The race centred around 3 breweries just outside Brussels; Duval, Palm and Karmeleit. The race began next to Duval and then meandered through the beautiful countryside of Belgium on a mixture of single track roads and cross country tracks. It also incorporated running through 2 breweries, literally the track went through the beer hall!

Running through the beer hall (and a bit of truck spotting)

For the Walkers there was the opportunity to try various beers on the route, the runners unfortunately were restricted to water and energy drinks. Probably a good thing as it was 25 degrees, probably too hot to run comfortably. Victoria managed to be first female walker home although it wasn't a race or timed.

First lady walker home
I thoroughly enjoyed the route, just hated the heat. To compound it a little further, the route had to be changed slightly due to flooding and the 25km/15 mile route was almost 16 miles by the time I shuffled over the line.
Great route, well organised, nowhere near a PB but free beer for all at the end. If I hadn’t been driving it could have been a messy day. Every entrant got up to 3 free beers to sample at the end, plus 3 bottles to take home. The finisher’s medal even incorporated a bottle opener – a nice touch.

42 runs now completed and less than 3 weeks until the next run in Iceland (hopefully a little cooler than the last 2)

Monday, 9 May 2016

Geneva Half Marathon 8th May 2016

This has to be one the most picturesque half marathons I have done. First half is through the Swiss countryside past vineyards, fields and villages, all with a back drop of the Alps. Just after halfway there is a non Garmin friendly tunnel (a pain when you are trying to track your pace), then a downhill to the shore of Lake Geneva. After 3 or 4 miles along the shore the run goes through the streets of the city itself then turns for the last mile along the lake shore again. The finish is halfway across one of the bridges in the city.


The organisation was excellent (they even issued suntan cream) and the support on route equally as good. I had loads of runners talking to me about the 50 half marathon challenge which eases the journey. At the start I bumped into a celebrity runner, the lovely Julie who founded the website, and has the Twitter name @fattymustrun. Fortunately I had seen on Twitter she was running and had looked up her first name, although she did say often people just shout “fatty” to her anyway, she wasn't bothered.


The only negative was the heat, it reached 23c today which made it tough going. I managed the first 10k in just over an hour, but then the sun started to get hotter and my pace drastically slowed. I finished in about 1:18, which given the heat I am happy with.


The things I learned on this run:

  • Always bring your wife, she can enforce a curfew and control the number of beers you have the day before.
  • The cheapest hotel is not the best, paper thin walls and a neighbour who finally switched his telly off at 2am, my alarm was set for 6am
  • Uber is great, managed to get me to the start for not a lot of money
  • My branded black top is not the best colour for hot runs.


Next stop Brussells in 4 weeks

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Sunderland 10K

Not a half marathon, but a very memorable run as it was the first time i have ran a race with my wife Victoria. It was her first ever race and first time at that distance. For someone who didn't run until very recently she did amazing.

A great photo out of it as well

Next stop Geneva on Sunday