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In Memoriam – St David’s Day 2014

January 8, 2015

8/1/15 one year on

Green man

Green Man 2014 – St David’s Day 2014

My story of finding myself at the start of the Green Man circumnavigation of Bristol is probably very similar to many others. I started running, ran a few half marathons, then a few marathons then realised that running around the countryside offers far more than physical health benefits and is actually, for me, the best way to clear my head or think or relax depending on what is required.

I entered the Green Man Ultra through the guys at Ultrarunning Ltd as a natural progression for me to see how much further I could go, but it ended up meaning a whole lot more. Through the winter months I had been on several recce’s as recommended by my local Woodwose, Neil Banwell, who offered me a great insight into what was required. My Dad had also been roped in to pick me up from various obscure locations surrounding Bristol as I abandoned my car to run off along the Community Forest Path – although as an avid rambler and lover of the outdoors he didn’t mind and was repaid with a pint of Bath Ale at our meeting points.

My Dad passed away on the 8th January 2014 quite unexpectedly.

I arrived at Redwood Lodge full of excitement edged with trepidation about what was to come and if I could complete the challenge. Event day was St David’s Day – 1st March – which would have been my Dad’s 73rd birthday, and although emotional, I was determined to channel this in order to keep me going.

After a quick chat with Ira Rainey, author of ‘Fat Man to Green Man,’ who I was keen to meet after reading his book through my training, we were off into Ashton Court in glorious sunshine. It was such a beautiful day, I did think to myself that someone was watching over me as I set off into the deer park feeling confident, if not a little overwhelmed.

Ashton Court and the Dovecote came and went but it wasn’t until the other side of the park and ride that the true extent of the previous weeks relentless rain became obvious – the ground was absolutely sodden and mud a good six inches deep at least in most areas. This made for hard progress and slipping and sliding around was unavoidable. It was a relief to reach the bottom of Dundry Hill and a change of terrain, a chance for a quick walk up the hill and to take in the views.

The mud relented somewhat on the passage through and Norton Malreward village hall was a welcome sight and a chance to refuel. Feeling good I continued on my way although the various runners I had been chatting with up to this point were now few and far between. I passed the Compton Inn where I had been with my father only a few months previously after my first recce, and continued on.

By the time I reached the Lock Keeper Inn I was in some discomfort as my trainers had started to rub on the tendons on the top of each foot, something I hadn’t had at all before, and a little worrying as there was still over a marathon distance to go. I put this down to the muddy conditions, gave them a rub, ate a couple of Jam sandwiches and kicked on.

The journey along the railway line and the Dramway proved to be a low point for me, and by the time I had reached Kendleshire golf course and Hambrook I was really flagging. Too much time to think about absent loved ones and the niggling tendons that had now turned to searing hot red pain had left me at a bit of a low but I was determined to continue and wasn’t considering stopping as option, not on that day of all days.

I was buoyed by the fact that I had now got less distance to go than I had covered, and used this together with the fact that I was expecting friends to see me over Spaniorum Hill and onwards to the Blaise Estate. It was a big boost to see my friend Robin (who will be running Green Man with me in 2015) and his family, we had a quick chat, some food and on I went on knowing the end was in sight.

Darkness fell as I reached Durdham Downs and it was a spectacular sight running over an illuminated Suspension Bridge with the fantastic views of the lights of Bristol unfolding. I reached Ashton Court and headed to the Green Man to pay my respects and reflect on the day. All that was left was the short distance back to Redwood Lodge where I was greeted by my mother, step dad, a sizeable bowl of delicious chilli and the knowledge that I had done myself and my Dad proud over a period of 10 hours and 47 minutes.

In memory of Barry Keith Hillier.

Woodwose ccxi

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Marcus and Kevin – unfinished business – NYE 2014

January 8, 2015

Kevin Caple & Marcus Kropacsy finish unfinished business – NYE 2014

Our journey to the Green Man really began on New Years Eve 2013. In 2013 Kevin was undertaking his own 365 adventure, running 5k every day, as a personal challenge and to raise as much money as possible for Macmillan Cancer Support.

He had planned a last day event, a lunchtime 5k in Ashton Court for friends, family and supporters. During the year we had both also met and become friends with Jim Plunkett-Cole and we were keen to support his last day event, the circumnavigation of Bristol.

As it was impossible to do both we decided to join Jim on his first leg, from the Dovecote up to Dundry. Having set off at 6am we ran up until the checkpoint where Jim completed his final 10k, at which point we had to head back to Bristol to prepare for Kevin’s very own last 5k at Ashton Court.

Completing this leg lit a fire within both of us, and without even saying it, I think we both knew that we would one day return to try and complete the full Green Man.

Fast forward to the second half of 2014 and we hear that Jim is planning to run the Green Man again for the last day of his 2014k tribe. Over a beer at our running club, Great Western Runners, we decide we will sign up and run together.

Through November and Early December we recce the entire route, using a combination of the Closer to the Countryside maps (which are excellent, especially when laminated!) and GPS. For some of the recces we’re joined by Dave Wintle from our club and his dog Poppy. For the last recce we decide to do a double from the Suspension Bridge to Keynsham, when we’re joined by Mike Karthauser, organiser of 2014k – The Last Day, as well as Dave and Poppy.

One thing I will mention at this point is that Kevin has not run further than this double (about 18 miles) in the past 2 years, and I have never run further than a
Marathon.

So, despite the fact that we are both fairly fit club runners, and the route is well known, it is with quite a lot of trepidation we set off into the unknown at 6.15am on New Years Eve.

It’s a cold morning, and unlike our recces which were extremely wet and muddy, the ground is pleasingly hard with frost and our feet stay dry. Before we know it we’re already back at Dundry and once again blown away by the view of the lights of Bristol in the dark. It’s an incredible feeling looking out knowing that most people are still fast asleep in bed and you have already done something remarkable. We have spent most of the this distance so far with Jim as company and we all reflect on his year and the challenge in front of us.

We push on towards Keynsham, stopping briefly at the first checkpoint, which is manned by Kevin’s daughter Jess, amongst others. At this point Niall Hoskin, a friend from parkrun, who’s decided he wants to run a leg, joins us. Although it’s still early on, it’s nice to have a new face to talk to, we know it’s going to be a long monotonous day. A couple of miles further on, just by the Church before the airfield we’re joined by another man whose name I never learnt. He had heard about the event on Facebook the day before, and just wanted to get involved. Again, we are struck by how special this is, especially grabbing a selfie in front of the Pensford aqueduct, with mist hanging in the valley.

At Keynsham we have a proper pit stop, taking on hot coffee kindly provided by Sara Marshall as well as food. There is a general regroup here, and by the time we set off, most of the group is together.

What now follows, and what I hadn’t realised during the recce, was that you now basically climb for several miles, albeit gradually, all the way to Shortwood Hill. Having felt pretty comfortable until this point, I really start to struggle.

I had been suffering from a heavy head cold in the preceding days, but now my chest starts to tighten up. As we finally climb out of the field at the next checkpoint I am seriously considering pulling out of the event altogether. Kevin has started to develop a blister on his foot and undertakes some running repairs. I use the time to catch my breath and eat the first half of my home cooked gammon and cheddar sandwich!

I also realise that we are about 20 miles in, my helpful brain points out that although I’ve already run 20 offroad miles, I could now be on the starting line of a Marathon – a daunting prospect in itself.

As we set off from the checkpoint, I tell Kevin that I am struggling and considering pulling out if my breathing gets any worse. He tells me to dig in and that we can run or walk at whatever pace, but that we will complete the task ahead. It’s also clear that he’s starting to struggle a bit with knee pain, so in a rather sorry state, and now joined by Mike Karthauser we struggle on towards Hambrook and the next checkpoint.

I spend most of those miles looking at my Garmin, looking at how slowly we are completing and wondering how on earth we are ever going to complete the whole circuit. With Mike’s continuous commentary to distract us, we somehow struggle through to Hambrook.

Most of the runners are there, and everyone is now looking knackered. I ask Neil Taylor (who ran 10k a day with Jim last year) how he’s doing – “felt better” is the brief, but telling response.

I can tell Kevin is quite concerned about his knee, as he starts to administer painkiller gel. Daughter Jess pipes us with “haven’t you got a knee support” which turns out to be a stroke of genius, as he does indeed. Once the support is on I can see an immediate improvement in both physical and mental wellbeing.

As we are about to leave the checkpoint we’re approached by a fellow runner, unknown to me at that point, but who I soon find out is Matthew (Matt) Larmour, asking if we are run/walking and whether he can join us. I can see he is limping, so as its a pre-requisite of joining our gang is to have an impediment, we welcome him into the group!

As we leave Hambrook, I start to feel a bit more positive, I know we have less than 20 miles to go, I’m hoping to meet my partner Natalie at the Traveller’s Rest in Patchway, and we’re due to be joined by a group of fellow GWR runners at Blaise.

We start chatting to Matt, and he tells us this is the longest run he’s ever undertaken, and almost more impressive, that he’s only been running for a very short period of time. He tells us that he lives in Patchway and the course will pass by his front door, at which point he’s going to pull out.

By this point, although the earlier low has passed, there is no real enjoyment, and we are just grinding out the miles, mentally and physically. Passing through Bradley Stoke I take a call from another parkrun friend, Alan Wilcox. He lives just off the route and comes out to say hello and run with us to Patchway. As we pull into the Traveller’s Rest I spot Natalie, camera in hand, and I actually manage to do a heel kick jump – more impressively she also captures this on film!

Seeing a loved one, and getting their encouragement is hugely motivational. I know that we have not much more than a half marathon to complete and nothing is now going to stop me from completing this.

At this point, Matt who had planned to drop out, and who, I don’t think it’s unkind to say is physically suffering the most announces that he is going to continue, run straight past his house, and try and make it to the finish. I am quite amazed, and I’m not sure I would have been able to do this. Just as we’re about to head off another car pulls up and Vicky Dickson and Jim Barron climb out. It turns out that they had got lost on the course and decided to pull out. However, when they see us, they decide to reinstate themselves and join us to the finish.

From Patchway we head to Easter Compton, where we are met by Kevin’s wife Tina and his other daughter Katie as well as the ever present Jess. We are also joined by Leo, a friend from work, before we carry on towards Blaise and the final checkpoint, where we are joined by Paul, Lucy, Michelle, John, Emma, Kelly and Joe from GWR.

From Blaise to the Suspension Bridge it is quite undulating, including Mariner’s Drive a long, seemingly never ending, climb from sea level to the top of the Downs. Although we are now on home turf, and I know we will finish, my body is now in the ‘I’m nearly at the end, so these are my last energy reserves I am giving up’ mode, and every step becomes an effort. I look across at Matt, hunched over at shuffling, Mike, still talking, and Kevin, stoically putting one foot in front of another and I am truly humbled by what we are achieving.

We say goodbye to Leo at the Observatory, and he films us, now in pitch black, crossing the suspension Bridge, once across the Bridge, and in an effort to stay true to the course, we agonisingly turn right into North Road, although if you go straight at this point, it is a much shorter route to the entrance to Ashton Court.

Once in Ashton Court we briefly stop at the Green Man, once I have called Kevin back as he barrelled past, although we are all too exhausted and cold to take a photo. We head on down past the Mansion and out of the bottom gate. Kevin and I now find ourselves alone, slightly ahead of Mike, Matt and the others. We can see some figures milling around in the dark at the entrance to the Park and Ride, and as our head torches are spotted, cheers and shouts ring out.

We run those final few metres, stop, embrace and congratulate ourselves on a truly remarkable achievement; I am almost overwhelmed by relief at having finished and take myself off for a quiet moment to myself. Kevin is surrounded by Tina, Jess and Katie, and having quickly regained composure, and having been congratulated by Jim, who has also finished just ahead of us, we then cheer in Mike, shortly followed by Matt.

Cold, tired but undoubtedly elated we all then trudge up to the Angel pub to be greeted by the rest of the finishers for a well-earned pint and some food.

Although the time taken became somewhat of an irrelevance against the overall challenge, Kevin and I completed every single mile together in a time of 11hrs 26 Minutes.

Woodwose CCLXXXII and Woodwose CCLXXIII
Wednesday 31st December 2014

GM Report 31/12/14

January 6, 2015

Tim Culshaw and Tom Brookes circumnavigate Bristol, New Years Eve 2014

I arrived at the Angel pub in Long Ashton along with TACH runner Lucy Newall; friends Alice Wilson and Tim Culshaw both visiting from Manchester; and Matt Bisto a certified Woodwose. It was a cold and dark 5.45am and there were disappointingly few other runners there. Anxieties heightened as we realised we were all in the wrong place. A dash to the Park and Ride and we found at least 50 other Lycra clad, torch toting, wanna be Woodwoses.

By 6.15am we were under way. Tim, who was visiting from Manchester, explained that he had a theory that a successful Ultra-Marathoner should not be able to hear themselves breath until at least two thirds of the way in. Needless to say this was not taken seriously on the accent to Dundry.

After an encounter with a friendly horse in the dark, involving my shoe in its face (sorry), we popped out on the top of Dundry hill, to a wonderful vista of the Bristol lights. We peeled a Satsuma and tightened our laces before starting the descent to the Chew. As dawn came we realised what a great day it was for our attempt. The mud was stiff and frozen and the frost made for splendid views. I had talked up the Pucklechurch dump rather a lot prior to starting so Tim and Alice were pleasantly surprised by the scenery thus far.

At Keynsham we were met by our fans (my parents) with Stollen cake and tea, which was very welcome. Regretfully our merry band reduced to just Tim and I at this point. The others made a planned retreat back for breakfast and showers.

The pace upped from Keynsham, a prior recce and the light of day, made for an efficient schlep northwards, joined for the first mile or so by my Mother. It wasn’t long before we hit the afore mentioned dump and the first of many Motorway crossings, Tim started feeling a bit weird at this point, perhaps it was the dump.

Across the Golf course we got a few funny looks, before triumphantly finding the snack van at Frampton Cottrell was in place. A sit down with a cuppa and a Bacon Butty got Tim back in gear and gave me indigestion.

At Parkway socks were switched out, more Satsumas peeled, and we collectively took a deep breath before the long stretch on Tarmac. Joined by a pair of runners who were recceing the route from Hambrook we were going just a little too fast and somewhere in the Three Brooks Park I started to feel weird.

Tim and I stopped talking much and there was a silent acknowledgment of mutual suffering through Aztec West.

Once over the Banana Bridge things seemed to start feeling a little more positive.

The map was consulted over bottles of fizzy pop at the Fox in Easter Compton, setting off again; burping occasionally, we were feeling rejuvenated realising that the back of the route was broken.

Passing a two walkers that had started at 10pm the previous night we had a chat and the pushed on, temporarily getting a bit muddled around an Aldi store, where I had taken my eye off the map.

At Blaise we were met by more fans (Tim’s parents, Alice and his three year old niece Erin), after mince pies and more satsumas, Erin set off leading the way before becoming distracted 400metres later and sensibly saving her powder for another day.

Vanessa a Bitton RC member who had started in Keynsham and another runner joined us. We struggled to do much more than nod and smile, but it didn’t matter. The climb from sea Mills to the Downs felt longer than one might have anticipated and I had to walk every minute or two across the Downs, the last bit however as Tim pointed out was free.

A quick snap of us at the Greenman statue, a creaking descent through Ashton Court and we made it back to the pub just before dark. A total time of 10 hours and 10 minutes.

Tim was driven back to Manchester fantasising about fast food and I made hasty retreat to bed in order to attend celebrations at midnight. An enjoyable experience we agreed all round.

New Year’s Eve 2014

January 4, 2015

Another great event! 35 people completed the course, 22 of them new Woodwoses.Laura Darby-Jones (Hoddinott) seems to have been the fastest newbie finishing in 8 hours 45 mins with veteran Woodwose Bryan Stadden. A TACH contingent of 4 finished more or less together in about 10 hours 45 mins. Emma Welham looked strongest at the finish, which was just as well as she had to do a bar shift until 3 am afterwards. Sam Edwards was another newbie finishing off a great year. Graham Bazley and Jonathan Gledson, who finished with them are veteran Woodwoses.
6 Taylors finished the challenge – the Hayford-Taylor brothers Henry, Arthur and George, and Martin, Neil and Cath Taylor – not sure how or if these are related!
I am sure there are many epic stories i don’t know about. I was paericularly taken with the story of Vicky Dickson and Jim Barron who completed 42 miles, but didn’t actually finish the challenge. On the other hand the number 42 is the meaning of life and also the number of years the Buddha taught after his enlightenment – so it is probably “better!”
Cheers greeted Joanne Pitt and Lucien Campbell Kemp who started the previous night at 10 pm (ish) and walked through night and day to finish in 19 hours 18 mins – nearly as long as Emma Welham stayed on her feet!

Owls of Minerva

December 22, 2014

Ultra-runner Clare Prosser has created a new route around Bath called the Green Goddess Route after Sulis Minerva – the goddess of the hot spring that made Bath a Romano-British cult centre.

The inaugural Green Goddess Challenge took place on the Winter Solstice of 2014. Twenty runners copleted the 27.6 mile course to qualify as Owls of Minerva – the sacred birds of the Goddess.

The finishers were Clare Prosser, Liz Noakes, David Higenbottam, Laura Darby-Jones, Brian Robb, Paul Clark, John Reynolds, Tim Haysom, Laura Collacott, Lynette Porter, Ross Hale, Ross Parker, Antony Clark, Alex Foster, Bruce Martin, Cathy Fagg, Helen King, Sam Edwards and Courtney Gunn. In addition, Judith Chubb Whittle and Andy Fagg did half each. Another pair dropped out half way due to the Skerrid Fell Race on Saturday. This was not a race and the challengers ran as a group, splitting into about four groups finishing between 5 hours 40 and 6 hours 50.

The Boathouse next to Newbridge Park and Ride proved a welcoming finish with views of the bridge so we could see people in.

According to Hegel – the Owls of Minerva are philosophers – perhaps the opposite of Woodwoses, who are wild woodland creatures. However, over half of the Owls of Minerva are also Woodwoses, so we were wondering what that makes them!

A combined Green Man Green Goddess route was suggested. Hmmm>

Midnight Express

August 24, 2014

8 Woodwoses finished the Green Man Midnight Express on Saturday 23rd August. All the finishers were local runners who had already completed the challenge in daylight and many of them train on the course.

Running clockwise from Norton Malreward Village Hall, 10 set out, but two had to drop out.

The first to finish was Brian Robb in a time of of 7 hours 39 mins. Bill Graham and Martin Walker finished close together in 8 hours 32 mins and 8 hours 35 mins respectively. Guy Lucas and Claire Graham also finished close together an hour later (9 h 25 and 27 m) with Rob Dickson 6 mins later in (9 h 33 m). This was Rob Dickson’s eighth Green Man circuit this year! Another hour later author, Ira Rainey, led Jim White over the line at just over 10 h 30 m. Jim’s time was two hours quicker than h.is daylight attempt,

Excellent times all round – especially for a night run

4 new Woodwoses

April 8, 2014

This weblog is being neglected in favour of Facebook.
Consequently, the night run by David Higgenbottam and Matt Milkins on the 14th/15th March has not been written up. I suppose I should have chased them up for a write up! I think 11 hours 16 mins is an excellent time for a night run.
I particularly enjoyed Kes Aleknavicius run with Lee Francis, because I was able to keep them company from Dundry to their finish at Keynsham. I came across Kes during Jim Plunkett-Cole’s New Year’s Eve run, where he was helping out by keeping everybody on track through Keynsham. He then had to drop out of the Ultra race due to injury after 30 miles – hence the attempt on Sunday. Lee was just going to keep him company for a bit, but was still going strong at Dundry so decided to keep going to the finish. It is predominantly downhill after all! I am always impressed by people like Lee who do an ultra with no preparation at all on a whim (Woodwose II Mark Vogan was another.) And people like Kes who are prepared to help others.
On this occasion Woodwose Steve Cox stayed with Kes and Lee for a few miles from the start and Jamie Evans joined in for the last 10.5 miles from Dundry. Kes’ wife Carol supported him all the way round with Lee’s partner Alex Jolly. Deb Evans also supported from Dundry.

Green Man Ultra 2014

March 3, 2014

Another excellent event in beautiful weather – but still soggy underfoot. 

New Woodwoses entered in the Forestal Book (at least in the electronic version) up to 12 hours and a bit. I’ll enter the rest when Steve posts the final results.

The records page is now updated to the same point.

New Year’s Eve Run by JPC

January 3, 2014

Jim’s excellent account of his view of the Last Day of his, Neil’s and Alfie’s 10Kx365 challenge can now be seen under “Pages” on the right.
“Jim’s report” is an account of his first Green Man Challenge.
The latest run is titled “JPC, a few words on the Last Day.”

10Kx365 Last Day New Year’s Eve 2013

January 1, 2014

New Year’s Eve 2013 produced a tremendous turn out at six o’clock on a wet morning to support the achievements of Jim Plunkett Cole, Neil Taylor and Alfie, who were about to complete their challenge of running at least 10K every day for the 365 days of 2013. 

49 runners and three dogs headed off into the darkness and the threatening clouds looming over Dundry. Jim got off to an inauspicious start when he came down on his knee on a slippery wooden bridge beside the park and ride after a couple of hundred metres.

The runners headed out across the muddy fields soon to be marred by the construction of a high speed bus link towards the tunnel under the main railway line. Standing water and mud under the railway set the tone for the coming climb. Soon a line of head torches was strung out across three fields or more behind Rob Dickson and Sarah Sweeting who had taken on the responsibility of keeping the front runners on track. The climb up to Dundry is rarely easy but the filthy conditions underfoot made ascent particularly challenging, especially for those at the back with dogs to get over tall stiles.

The views from Dundry across Bristol did not disappoint as the lowering clouds over Dundry suggested they might – the lights of the bridges over to Wales being clearly visible. Queues at stiles and kissing gates demonstrated the difficulty involved in trying to keep so many runners together, which led to the front runners missing the climactic moment in a field between North Wick and Norton Hawkfield, when Jim, Neil and Alfie celebrated their achievement with a handshake.

So – job done – mission accomplished. Climbing over Dundry in the wet and the dark is not the easiest way to complete a 10K run, especially when carrying an injury. But Jim and Neil wanted to finish with a flourish. Forty extra miles is some flourish!

They are an inspiration. Sounds banal doesn’t it? The sort of thing people always say. But 10Kx365 provided a slow burning sort inspiration backed up by Jim’s highly personal and effective writing, so this was inspiration with teeth. People wanted to join in this final flourish. People like the Hayford Taylor brothers Arthur, Henry and George who had never run anything like this distance before and finished like young gods with their beards and blonde dreadlocks soaked by the rain – the perfect image of the Woodwoses most of us would like to be! People like Cathy Fagg and Liz Noakes and Helen King who had wanted to do the Green Man Challenge but never really believed they could do it until they arrived beaming back at the Dovecote. Helen had tears in her eyes when I called her a Woodwose. People like Rob Dickson who was completing the course for the fourth time and who was buzzing at the finish because he been able to help other people to finish.

These are examples only. Everyone who finished or failed to finish or joined in for a short section has a story to tell. Maybe some of them will tell their story to inspire more people.

BTW I waiting to see what Clare Prosser can do to the course record now she has found her way round. Watch this space!