Pembrokeshire Coastal Path

The holiday this year was a few days in Pembrokeshire.

Exciting for 2 reasons. I have only been once and loved it. Nick grew up there, so it was a great chance to visit places from her youth.

I know that holidays are a time for rest and relaxation, but I relax via the means of exercise. I’m useless at sitting around doing nothing. I get a bit annoying.

So, we get to St David’s. The capital of Pembrokeshire and the smallest city in the UK. It’s beautiful. As we were there outside the school holidays, there weren’t too many people around and most of them were at least 15 years older than us.

We managed to get 3 days out on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. It is amazing. As a runner and lover of the outdoors, if you get the chance to go, it is well worth the effort.

The 2 big expeditions that we did were from St David’s to Newgale via Solva and from St David’s to Porthgain in the opposite direction.

Although both of the big outings were run/walks, I’m pretty sure that we can count them as training, especially given the undulating, technical nature of the terrain and the fact that they were 10 and 19 miles each.

The beaches are fantastic.  Admittedly, it does help if you have nice weather, and we were certainly lucky on that front.

10431689_10152174335643870_2394711820125291007_n10414630_10152174335723870_7798688835942494082_nAt several points on the runs, the path was around 3 feet away from the edge of a 300 foot drop onto the rocks below.  As the path was rocky, you had to look down to keep your feet.  This is very disorientating when the sea is moving down below.  I did feel ‘a bit funny’ at times, it has to be said.

10432099_10152172860198870_1591105715007711226_n10410227_10152172861298870_2565348648544636150_n1623663_10152172862273870_8372042754215027211_n10273998_10152172862933870_7517763741795307881_n10330254_10152172862838870_3740015296897782081_n10447646_10152172861063870_2207089171871952125_n10417792_10152172861748870_6942762397191024353_nI think that Wales will now become a regular holiday destination and we will be looking out for an event to do there next year.

Everything is now geared towards the Downlink Ultra in October.  I entered the Lemmings Marathon this week.  It is 106 laps of a 400m track.  For a lot of people, this would seem like a nightmare race.  However, it seems like a good idea to me.  A perfect long run that fits into the training plan, flat (which is the same as the Downslink) and I can have my food there and I plan to eat at distances that replicate the aid stations on the Downslink.  Plus, the Sussex Trail Event people organise top races.

Anyway, that’s it for now.  Enjoy the weather.  Let’s hope it doesn’t get too hot.  There are a lot of miles to get through over the next few months and I don’t do hot very well.


Non-runner to Ultra Runner in 30 months

I’m trying to write something every week, but not if there is nothing to write about.

This week I haven’t been out much. I’m getting ready for the 3 Forts Challenge next weekend and my back and calf are a little sore, so I’ve been planting a few veg in the garden this weekend as well as spending a lot of time on the sofa watching football and cricket.

The same can’t be said for Nick though. In light of her exploits today, let’s recap the last couple of years for her.

When we lived in Brighton Nick dabbled with running. We spent some time on the prom jog/walking and she spent a little time with the Brighton and Hove Running Sisters. It never really took off for some reason and I was the only Dawson who really did any running.

The move north of the South Downs made a huge difference to our lives, I joined BHR and Nick decided to get fit while between jobs. The redundancy from Sussex Enterprise changed our lives in a very positive way.

Once she had overcome the fear of ‘does my bum look big in this?’ and ‘I don’t want to go out running in daylight as people will look at me’, she hasn’t looked back.

The last 30 months are testament to what you can do if you put your mind to it.

The first stage was the Downlands Dash, organised by BHR, but this was before Nick joined the running club and I remember it being a big deal at that stage.  5 miles is a long first race.

IMG_4002The first event that we did together was the Hellingly 10k in 2012.  It was a really hot day and I remember that there was a big hill in the middle.  I came home in around 56 minutes and was expecting to wait a while for Nick to arrive, but she came home in an hour and 2 minutes.  I think that this was very impressive and at that stage totally unexpected.

IMAG0386Things moved on and the next stage was to join the BHR, do a half marathon and enter the Brighton Marathon.

Joining BHR was a great thing for Nick.  It supplied her with the encouragement and the companionship to push her forward.  It’s great to have peope to do the long runs with you.

nick and leanneAnd below is the photo of the BHR tutu girls and Steve after the Beachy Head marathon.

554078_10151796781727655_1279464332_nThe 2 photos below are Nick and Caroline at the Poppy Half in November 2012, getting ready for the Brighton Marathon in 2013.

IMG_4141IMG_4112I remember during the training for the Brighton Marathon that Nick would go out in all weathers, even getting lost on one occasion in the sleet and freezing cold.

Anyway, so things moved on, a lot of hard work was put in and 2013 saw her complete the marathons and Brighton and at Beachy Head.

IMG_4615IMG_5196Having completed the Brighton Marathon again in 2014 and having crewed for me at the Dark Star Marathon, Nick soon started the mention the word ‘ultra’.  She meant it as well.  It didn’t happen as she’d expected though.

This Sunday, she completed the Long Distance Walkers Association 28 mile event over some ridiculous hills.  It was slightly sprung upon her, so she had little time to worry or get nervous and had the pleasure of running it with BHR long distance legend Jan Lavis.

10259319_10152169738139563_1146981078369282275_nAs you can see – some serious ups and downs (the hills are the green section at the bottom).

lwdaSo, there you go.  A very brief story of non-runner to ultra-runner in around 2 and a half years.

Why did I want to write about this?  Well, I have received huge amounts of support from many people over the past few years and so has Nick.  If writing about what Nick has done inspires and encourages someone else to give it a go, then it’s worth every second it took to write.

There’s a lot of people out there who think that they can’t.  They can and this proves it.

That’s it for this week.  Well done Nick, so incredibly proud of you.

I’m hoping my back feels better for next Sunday and the 3 Forts Challenge.

Have fun, Neil.

Fuelled by Plants

I was sent this link by a very good friend today who happens to be vegan. It’s an interview with Moby published yesterday about his journey to vegetarianism and onto veganism. It’s well worth a read. It’s not very long and his attitude towards eating meat echo mine in many ways.

I have been aware of Moby’s veganism for a long while and I remember seeing the notes on the inside cover of Everything Is Wrong when I bought it. One of the stats is actually quoted in the interview (the one about the amount of water needed to produce a kilo of beef).

In the interview Moby talks about his epiphany when has saved a cat left to die on a rubbish dump. Mine was totally different, but I do like to re-visit the time that it happened from time to time, so why not now?

Nick and I had the opportunity to go and work on a holistic retreat in 2007/8. It was on a chateau in the grounds of a nature reserve in a small village in the Limousin region of France. It was a bit of a leap of faith. I gave up my job, we bought a camper van, got pet passports for the cats and left, not really knowing what we were going to do.

IMG_1723We ended up setting up an organic vegetable plot and looking after the animals on the chateau (cats, dog, sheep, a horse and eventually an abandoned deer). This was such an amazing chance to learn new things and work outside on things that we were really passionate about.

1964_43331253869_8463_nI remember the day very clearly when things changed. We were looking after about 10 sheep. We fed the sheep every morning. I was very surprised by them. They all had characters, very distinct characters. For some reason, the owner of the chateau allowed the females to be fertilised by a male sheep from the neighbouring farmer. So the first lamb arrived. One of the local workers had to fight to get it out of the mother and it died. It was dead at birth. Apparently it was huge and the sheep was really too old to give birth. I understand that he did a great job to save the mother from dying. This was pretty distressing. I’ve never been in that situation before, but I guess that it’s something that happens all of the time. Farmers must just shrug their shoulders and move on.

So the next 2 lambs arrived. These were the 2 that were the final nail in my meat eating coffin. They were born on a very cold morning. We arrived in the field after they were born and they were laid out as if they were dead. The local worker said that we weren’t to bother with one of them as he was nearly dead and wouldn’t survive. We laid him out on the sunny side of one of the outbuildings to warm him up and make him a little more comfortable.

DSCF4840He showed a few signs of recovery so we took him inside, laid him out and put him in front of a halogen heater. The bizarre thing was that the room smelled of roast lamb, ironically.

DSCF4859DSCF4849The dog that we were looking after actually came in and started licking the lamb. She wanted to help and mother the lamb in the same way that we were.


Anyway, the lamb went from strength to strength (as did his sister). We hand reared him. Nick fed him 4 times a day and throughout the night.


DSCF4846He really bonded with me. When I crouched down near him he tried to get milk from under my armpit. He would follow me around the place like a dog. When I went to their field he would run over to me.


There’s a lot more that I could say. I guess that my point is that in the same way that our family cats and dogs have characters and love for us, so do the animals that we eat, but we have no quarms with killing them for food. There’s a word for it. It’s called speciesism.

I looked these sheep in the eye, helped one of them to survive and he showed me love back. This is why I removed myself from the meat supply chain. I would challenge any meat eater to look a lamb/cow/pig in the eye, kill it then eat it. I would imagine that we would see a rather rapid increase in non-meat eaters if everyone had to kill their own food.

As one famous Beatle once said……..

maccaI have also stopped buying any clothes containing animal products. My shoes now come from Vegetarian Shoes. Next step is to get rid of the diary products from my diet.

Well I enjoyed going back to look at the photos and the videos of my time in France. It brought back great memories. I actually have a video of me saying goodbye to the sheep on the day we left France. I got pretty emotional looking at it again. It has been a while since I looked at it. Although that part of my life is definitely in the past, it has had a profound effect on my future.

Happy running folks.

BHR Awards Night

We had the Burgess Hill Runners award night last week, which was coupled with the AGM.

This is the first time that I have won anything for some time, probably around 15 years I would say.  I actually came home with 2 awards.

For actual running I won my age category (V2) for the club championship, which is really nice. I have never won an award for running, apart from finishing medals. It will probably be my last for a while as well.

The proudest moment that I have had for some time was receiving the club Social Award.  This is in recognition of the work that I have put into the launch of parkrun.  Nick and I have really put our heart and soul into parkrun over the past year.  We have put a lot of work into it and I must say that every minute has been well worth it.

I’m so proud to have received recognition from the club and the people that I respect.  I’m pictured below with Andrew (the standing down club chairman).


The awards night is great, as it gives recognition to the very talented runners, the not-so-talented and the really hard workers out there.

The biggest cheer of the night was definitely for the Improvers award.  That’s how BHR works. It really does work for people of all abilities.

It was great to see Bryony receive recognition for the tremendous amount of work that she has put into the BHR Junior Academy.  It is such an impressive acheivement to have established the academy in such a short period of time.  I guess that the academy has become a part of Bryony’s life in exactly the same way that parkrun has become part of ours.

The Chairman’s Award went to Sue Baillie, who has done so much work for the club over recent years, along with chairman Andrew, her husband.  She was instrumental in getting Clubmark for the club and I can’t even begin to imagine how much work must have gone into that.

It was really great that Kevin was recognised for the work that he puts into the pub runs.  During the summer we meet on Friday nights at random pubs in Sussex, run for 6 miles or so and then have some food.  It’s a great part of the social life with BHR and Kevin puts a huge amount of work into it.

All in all, a cracking night and looking forward to 2014/15 with BHR.

A sudden change of plan

There was a quick change of plan this week.  My mobile phone was constantly buzzing for about an hour on Friday night, which usually means that my name has been mentioned on social media and comments are flying in about it.

Next day when I read through, I found out that there was a spare place on the Dark Star Marathon (28 miles up and down the River Adur), and my name had been suggested as a possible candidate to take up the challenge.

This was not in the plan. I had only planned to do the Brighton Marathon.  The Steyning Stinger Marathon then got shoe horned in a few weeks before Brighton and now this carrot was dangling.  It was only a week away.

The idea of going further than marathon distance had always been attractive, so sod it, I said yes.

Sunday was supposed to be long slow run day.  It now turned into very long slow run day.  Nick and I ran over to Burgess Hill to meet up with the club group, we did about 11 miles with them and then I added another 5 miles onto that to make 20 miles.  I really wanted to prove to myself that I could make 28 miles by completing 20 mile the week before.  That was the confidence boost I needed and I did it.