Winter is for Winners!

Most people targeting a Marathon will invariably be looking at doing a Spring Marathon and for many (I would reason a rather large majority), especially here in the UK, many will be focused on London....and rightly so. If your aim is to 'tick' THE Marathon off your Bucket List, it's definitely the one to aim for. Many will argue against me and rightly so, when you've done a few and in the various formats marathons are run nowadays, there is so much incredible choice out there. I would argue though when it comes to a standalone experience, the build up, course and the most incredible and wonderful support make it something so very special and you can't help but find that bit extra you might need during the latter stages of the event. The buzz at the start is electric and the finish is nothing but spectacular, if of course you're in any fit state to enjoy it and not in the midst of yet another attack of cramp or indeed crawling along The Mall to earn that most coveted of bling!

Finishing London 2017 (3:23:55)

Finishing London 2017 (3:23:55)

However, what that means is, you are going to be miserable for 6 months, especially if for you, this is the first and only time you contemplate the magical 26.2mi (or 42.195km). I don't mean miserable as in you're never going to smile again, I mean miserable because training during the Winter months is miserable. Cold wet dark mornings are followed by cold wet dark nights and that's how it goes from the moment the clocks go forward until they go back. If you accept this universal truth you're half way there to developing the mentality you need to win Winter! Winter is sh*t, don't be sh*t, be nails and get it done!

Winter is relentless, the answer is to be relentless in return!
— KR

Marathon programmes are generally 20 or 16 weeks long, which means you're really going to be kicking off your training at the most difficult of times to do so, around Christmas. In theory it's a good time to begin as in essence most of us get a bit of time off over the holiday period. The reality is though, we all end up being so busy that training generally doesn't begin 'properly' until the New Year and we're back at work. There are some though that have already put the base miles in when the 'nice' magazine (I've never had one of those so I don't know what it looks like) drops through the letter box in October. They already have a head start, and if they haven't pushed it too hard they're in great shape to hit the countdown and really make the best of the weeks to come.

Marathon training is all about phases. Many coaches (and programmes) will vary the configuration and intensity of the programme, based on your goals and running experience. Ultimately though, you'll be building the base, developing your race pace (with intervals, fartlek, Kenyan hills, hills, track work etc) and then ticking over (or as we like to refer to it, the dreaded taper), so you're in the best possible shape come race day!

Oh and I must not forget you need to get strength training in there too, you'll need that to develop all the leg muscle groups as well as the core, to neglect to do so, would lead to potential injury and worst case, having to defer your place. There is nothing more soul destroying than being in the midst of a marathon programme and picking up a major injury, when ultimately it could have been prevented. Injuries are par for the course, however if you want to keep them to a minimum and give yourself the best chance of getting to the start line, play the odds, get your arse in the gym, squat, deadlift, lunge and plank your little heart out!

Universal truth two, you will be fatigued and you will be tired! Accept that! On the cold wet mornings, your legs will try and tell you, you're so fatigued and tired, that you incapable of getting out of bed. Brain is King! Sure, sometimes miss a session, but don't let it become a habit, try and stick to the plan as much as possible. Fight the demons and crack on, marathon training is like an investment, you have to put a lot in, to get something worthwhile out! To give yourself the best possible chance of enjoying a marathon you need to work your arse off for 12 to 16 weeks. If your end game is just to get around, then maybe a regimented plan isn't for you, however, I would never advocate anyone taking on a marathon without sufficient training. You put your body under significant amounts of stress, you need to have the foundation of a good plan behind you to help you cope with that come race day.

Universal truth three, nutrition is a minefield! To make it round 26.2 miles you need to understand how to fuel your body, when to fuel your body and what with! You need to understand the implications of taking on too much fluid and conversely not enough. Nutrition to a certain degree is personal to the individual, however there is a lot of resources out there to get you started, ignore it at your peril! Also, this is where plans become even more effective, because it's during your long runs where you should be testing nutrition to find out what does and doesn't work for you.

For Joe average, water won't be enough to get you round, you will need some form of Carbohydrate and salts, and you will need to get that on board regularly (little and often) and long before your natural store of glycogen is depleted (typically around 90mins). You will lose body salts through sweat, so again you need to understand how much you're losing. You can do that by stepping on the scales before you go out and stepping back on when you return. Divide the difference by how long you're out and you'll know how much fluid you're losing in an hour and therefore develop an understanding of what you need to do as a strategy. 

For me, although I've trained significantly through the Winter months, I'm not overly focused on the Spring events and if I'm honest not quite feeling it yet. Whilst I have Chester Ultra in two weeks and Boston Marathon 6 weeks later, my focus is very much on The Race Across Scotland in August and Chicago Marathon in October.

Why?

The answer is simple! The Race Across Scotland is 214 miles, it demands focus and Chicago, because that Major gives me the perfect opportunity to try and qualify 'Good for Age' for New York. Don't get me wrong, come Chester and Boston I should be in pretty good shape for both and I'm hoping to run well, but after my injury in August, I've struggled with niggles (that I still have to manage) with the knee and the achilles and I haven't been as dedicated to the strength work as I should have been (practice what you preach Rushen). The focus has been very much on getting the strength back in the knee and building a solid base again through volume, almost like I did for The 100 Peaks, before I stepped things up in the last few months of prep. 

Running can be dangerous children! 

Running can be dangerous children! 

Between April and August once again I have those magic 16 weeks to really focus on my training to cope with trying to run 214 miles and in October trying to hit 3:05 for a marathon. So although I suggest my focus hasn't been on the Spring, I have still trained as if it were and whilst I'm not happy that I'm not where I want to be, I know I'm getting stronger with every session and I look forward to adding to the collection and adding to the World Marathon Majors in pursuit of the Six Star!

London 2014 (4:01:20) - London 2015 (3:41:34) - Berlin 2016 (3:46:13) - London 2017 (3:23:55) - Boston 2018 (0:00:00) - Chicago 2018 (0:00:00)

London 2014 (4:01:20) - London 2015 (3:41:34) - Berlin 2016 (3:46:13) - London 2017 (3:23:55) - Boston 2018 (0:00:00) - Chicago 2018 (0:00:00)

So anyway, by now you should be pretty much half way through your programmes and as I stated earlier, you will be fatigued, you will fell tired. However, the hard work is nearly done and in about 8 weeks time, you will reap every seed that you have sown. On the 25th March when the clocks go back, you can pat yourself on the back and know in a few short weeks after that, thousands of people will be cheering you along the course and down the finishing straight. Puff your chest out, be proud, finish strong and know you 'won Winter', enjoy it come race day you will have earnt it!

Good luck everyone, big love and enjoy the last few weeks of training and stay injury free! 

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I'm back baby.........

Around this time three years ago, I planted a seed. At the time it was nothing more than a sketch and musing of my thoughts about a potentially epic little adventure. Actually when I started to talk to people about, more specifically the Charities I was aiming to support, the response I got was........

...this is a big hairy ambitious goal, typical of you and worthy of Lloydy!
— Stephen Cooper - Plans Director (Support Our Paras)

At the time I'll be honest I couldn't work out if that was affirmation that I was indeed crazy for thinking about something like this or it was a compliment! Lloydy as most will know is my little brother, he was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2011 and losing him altered my perspective on life. It became imperative for me that my days wouldn't be wasted and that in the process I would try and ensure that my brothers light never goes out. 

The 'Plan' for The 100 Peaks Challenge quickly evolved and changed and evolved again. As will be obvious from the images, the original plan was to take the Challenge across to Ireland. However, it became politically sensitive due to the reasons for the Challenge in the first place and the Charities we were supporting. We were advised by the Home Office that 'we shouldn't go', which meant you're not going and if you do, you're on your own, if things go wrong. 

When that call came it was a huge disappointment, because the idea of taking on the ride around the west coast and being in the hills on that beautiful Isle were a massive draw for me. We all know though that no plan ever survives first contact, so back to the drawing board we went and the new evolution was hatched! 

18 months later that planning was executed (almost fully successfully), I'm not going to dwell on it here, I've already done that a million times over and there's a link to the 'basics' above, plus I've got to save some of it for the book

What the planning of the Challenge did do though was open a whole new world to me and it's world that has become a massive part of my life. In October 2015 I stumbled across the application from The Ordnance Survey to become a #GetOutside Champion. I'll admit I don't know what made me apply at the time other than I thought it sounded something great to be part of. I'll be honest I also thought I'd send my application, there would be some giggling, it would be rolled up in to a ball and drop kicked in to the Solent! 

To my astonishment it wasn't and I remember turning up on that first Champion Launch day back in 2016 and being completely awe struck and humbled. Two more launches since and I still feel the same way. The calibre of the Champions, the inspiration they emit and the energy from so many people who have a common goal, is nothing short of amazing. You see we're all just ordinary people, doing extraordinary things and that is something very special to be part of it, actually it's an honour and a privilege.

Having been given this opportunity, I now can't imagine this not being part of my life. Whilst I might not be an OS #GetOutside Champion for the rest of my life, I will always be championing a love for the outdoors and adventure and a healthy way of life. It's also important I feel to be an example to those around you and try to be the best version of you, that you can be, for you and for them! We're not here for long and we need to make the days count and fill our lives with as many memories as possible. The best version of you, starts with a happy you and it's very difficult to argue that being outdoors doesn't make you happy!

In the last two years I've learnt something incredible and that is with the humblest of ideas you can create something truly special. The #GetOutside programme and The 100 Peaks Challenge having certainly been that, and both have completely changed my life in so much as they've helped me grow massively, I've stepped so far out of my comfort zone I'm now in Narnia. For me this is the beginning of the journey, not the end, my love of and desire to get people outdoors isn't going to stop. It's part of me now! I think I have so much more to give and with Charlie growing up and with The 100 Peaks Challenge now done, I have so many projects I want to start and get involved with and again being part of this incredible programme will give me even more impetus that the pride of being associated with it brings.

I urge you all, find your passion, fuel it and Get Outside!

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Ordnance Survey

GetOutside Champion 2018/19


Ordnance Survey GetOutside Champions 2018/19

Ordnance Survey GetOutside Champions 2018/19

Lloydy

LLOYDY, SOLDIER, BEST FRIEND, LITTLE BROTHER.

It seems wholly fitting, that the first Blog Post for the revised site, should be what was written about Lloydy, when the original site first went live and the reason why The 100 Peaks Challenge and the Legacy with 100 Black Sheep was created in the first place.

The Challenge and everything we hoped to achieve was attempted as a tribute to him (and the other 455 Forces Personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan for their Queen and Country), to create a legacy for his memory.

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WHY?

Perhaps the 'Why?' hasn't been truly answered yet, I'll try to do that using my own words, words borrowed from those who knew and served with him and words from Lloydy himself….

I was fortunate to watch him grow, see him become a man and become the man I am and will always be so very proud of. He was the best of men and certainly the best I've ever known. He achieved everything a soldier could, taking the direction he did. He passed the toughest selection courses the British Army offers and at the time of his passing, he was on his third operational tour of Afghanistan, a tour which only lasted 25 days, 23rd May to 16th June 2011.

Lloydy had an extra-ordinary military career, in his 13 years in the Army, he accumulated four cap badges. He was a very well qualified soldier, having served with the Royal Signals (Airborne) and Royal Engineers (EOD) before transferring to the Parachute Regiment, after passing Pathfinder selection, before joining his fourth and final regiment 22 SAS. He was qualified in Bomb Disposal, as a Sniper, as a Forward Air Controller, and as a Military Freefaller, not to mention his signalling and combat engineering skills. He was also a Bisley Shot and won his place as an 'Army 100' shot. He was also a keen skydiver; a more professional, keen, natural and talented soldier would be hard to find anywhere. He loved his work and the military lifestyle.

He personified the great British Paratrooper – selfless, humble, cheerful and utterly reliable, he was a man of integrity and principle. His vitality was palpable, his dignity natural, his humour refreshing. He did his duty, relishing discomfort as a personal test, and always acting in the greater interests of the team. He attracted friends easily and cared deeply for those around him. His friendship was cherished by all; he also sported sideburns that would give the average RSM a heart attack!

For me his qualities were endless, not least and to never be forgotten his infectious smile.

Proud, is too nondescript a word for the way I feel about him. He gave his life doing what he was best at, what he was born to do and what he believed in. The world is a safer place because of what he did, and what our Forces do.

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Lloydy said in his final wishes......

Please do not mourn me, celebrate me and the life that I led. I’m sorry that I’ve had to leave you all, but unfortunately this is the danger that the job brings. Please do not have any remorse or find someone to blame, I knew what I was doing and I served my Queen and Country to the best of my ability and enjoyed every moment of it and certainly wouldn’t change this for the world.
— Forever a Pilgim

My reply to that in his eulogy was "I like to think that although he has left us, this is not the end, this is just the beginning. Through us all, Lloydy lives on, His life, is a life worth celebrating and immortalising. My friends, I ask you to celebrate my brother, my best friend, my hero, for ever more."

So that's why 100 Black Sheep has been created and become a focus for continuing what we achieved with The 100 Peaks Challenge. It's our chance to really make a difference, celebrate true heroes (like my little brother), and give hope to those that need it through the charities we are supporting.

This is Lloydy’s legacy, please help us make it a reality.