Post Two Oceans I have avoided pretty much all running and have turned my attention towards Hot Yoga and swimming. The short reason is that road racing offers very little to me at this point - I've been fortunate enough to tick off my bucket list races, and time goals don't appeal to me any more.

Back in January the idea of running the Tea Round was proposed to me and I (obviously) accepted. Little did I know that when the agreed upon date came around I would be still somewhat borked. Whilst I have an incredible physio my seeming insistence on not actually doing any of the strengthening exercises he gives me has meant that my recovery has not progressed as I would have liked.

Amusingly when accepting the offer I had already planned to get out and solo the Tea Round on the basis of my (at the time) supreme fitness. I got injured about two days later. A blessing in disguise as a solo attempt would have been a soul destroying experience.

Having taken 6 weeks off I went to a club run on the preceding Tuesday just to see if I could actually.. run. I could. I then dropped a message to George and Phil (in the interest of responsible transparency) noting that my knee was still off and that if they needed to drop me that was cool/if they didn't want me to come at all that was also cool. They OKd the disclosure and we set off on our way.

Runs in the Lakes are basically the only endurance activities that have given me pause for thought and made me stop and think. A few years ago a club runner proposed that I run the Bob Graham Round and whilst my initial reaction was 'absolutely, yes' my instinctive follow up was one of reticence - conceptually it seemed really quite serious. Significantly more so than fast marathons, ultras, or ironmans. I am openly quite reckless in my goal setting, but in practice 'reckless' is a hyperbolic expression of my tolerance for considered risk - I've never actually done anything reckless and just nipping to the Lakes and attempting the Bob Graham felt like it would actually be reckless. I put it on the back burner noting that were I ever to do it, I'd (obviously) need to do it properly.

Pretty nice weather

The Tea Round is less than half a Bob and I'd say it was probably the hardest thing I have ever done. Lack of fitness and knee constraints don't help but either way it was an incredibly serious undertaking. Much harder than I think (we all agreed) any of us had expected. The weather was glorious (albeit perhaps a little too hot), and individually no climb was particularly tough. When chained together however, and combined with some disgusting descents.. just.. eurgh.

What kind of hell monster created this descent?

We lost some time on High Stile due to some poor nav, and (especially for me) the descents were totally miserable. Steep slate descents off Robinson and High Stile, then a ridiculous traversal of a trod from the base of Causey Pike 5 miles from home. The latter set the scene for a particularly powerful moment for me..

By this point my knee was done and I was sidestepping down the fell mountain face lagging behind George and Phil who I'd told to go on ahead. I saw George sat on a mound and queried if he was alright to which I got the response "Yes. I'm having a tantrum". Nothing more needed to be said. It summed up the whole experience.

Phil noted that the second half of the exercise had been very quiet - it was heads down (both mentally and literally just focussing on your step) as we each fought our own mental battles. A significant part of our communication had been the words "You good" being exclaimed in response to hearing the shift of slate underfoot behind. The response was usually a grunt.

Ascending Robinson

I've been quite vocal about my belief that most endurance activities are at a minimum 50% mental. You can be as fit as a fiddle but still not have the right head game for these kinds of goals/challenges. What I enjoy about running with Phil and George is that not for a single second do you believe that either of them would give up and that is absolutely necessary for these kind of runs. A single seed of doubt and everything crumbles. We set off with the intention of getting back for the FA Cup final, and.. well.. we didn't. But being humbled by the hills is a thoroughly life affirming experience.

In the pub afterwards we queried if anyone had actually had any fun. It certainly wasn't a convincing yes. There were attempted justifications of the type of fun that had been had but realistically it sucked. Phil commented that three city boys had been humbled in the hills. I'm unsure how I can say the above but then also say I'm super glad that we did it and would absolutely do it again were I taken back in time. That said, I wouldn't rush to do it again..

At about mile 10 I commented how the three of us had done a big run in the hills each of the past two years and that perhaps next year we should do the Bob Graham. The response was silence. Phil and George were pretty clear on their lack of desire to do the Bob Graham. By the end of the experience I had joined them. It comes full circle back to my justifications for retiring from road racing - it's meant to be fun, and if its not.. why bother? External validation is stupid - really.. no-one cares. You have to be intrinsically motivated in your goal setting. With my road running, I was - I wanted to prove to myself that I could, and I wanted an excuse to travel to cool places. Now I know that I can, and I don't need excuses to travel. With the Bob Graham, I am sure that I could do it but I would derive no internal pleasure from doing so. I'd just lose a night of sleep and I really like sleep.

Dream team

But.. as is always the case, now that the trauma of the Tea Round has dissipated from the forefront of my mind I find myself thinking about the conditions under which the Bob Graham would have value to me. I previously wrote about the value of people in training for the Manchester marathon. It essentially amounted to an 'iron sharpens iron' kind of situation. The Bob Graham offers something different - an opportunity for the true team effort. The Bob Graham is split into 5 stages which runners usually do accompanied by pace setters/support crew. At the intersections of the stages crew provide crux support (nutrition, clothing, first aid). Whilst there is a community of passionate and generous locals to lean on for guidance, tips, and support it seems particularly wholesome to build a team of the best of the best people around you and give it a shot. That said, I'm still in no rush to get it done - my short term plan is to properly rehab the knee and then strengthen it whilst simultaneously honing the eight pack in the yoga studio and completing my autobiography 'Running makes you skinny fat'.


After the Tea Round I realised that my emotions were completely messed up. In the immediate aftermath I found everything absolutely hilarious for no apparent reason. After the giggles subsided I was ridiculously emotional about the whole experience. Part of that can surely be attributed to the fact that operating on the edge of your abilities releases endorphins and messes with hormones. But predominantly I think that these experiences truly are life affirming - moving your body, doing hard things with impressive people.. It really is what life is all about. At least for me it is.

I spend a lot of time thinking. Perhaps too much. I find myself falling back to the overused Latin trope 'Memento mori'.

'Enjoy the little things in life' seems like the wrong phrasing when referencing a 30 mile run with 12,000 ft of elevation gain but the point still stands - I've struggled with work life balance in the past and misplaced priorities. Doing impressive things with impressive people will be what I look back on and appreciate as I get older.