My love for running is taking me to places around the world that I have dreamed of visiting. I love the challenge the races provides and the opportunity to visit somewhere new and beautiful, it is so rewarding and inspiring. While I do these challenges I also want to support The Gracias Foundation as a charity close to my heart, please feel free to support their many projects by donating on the link below.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Manaslu Trail Race – Part 1
Its 5am in the morning, it’s dark, cold, and I am not really sure where I am going.   I am following the headlights of the person in-front of me hoping they know where they are going and that they can see the path ahead.   My head is thumping, my stomach churning, I am cold, I feel nauseas and I am tired.  I haven’t had a good night’s sleep for the last 3 or 4 nights and I am dreaming of a soft bed with fluffy pillows and a big cosy duvet.

The trail just after the sun came up
I am slowly putting one foot in front of another, although not making much progress.  The air is thin at this altitude, making every step an effort.  The sun is about to rise but until it does the air remains cold. I’m thirsty but my water hose, from my camel back, is frozen so can’t get any water and I didn’t fill up my water bottle.  I feel weak and the landscape around the path is fairly barren with large rocks making the trail technical at times and doing little to motivate me to be positive and strong for the long trek and run ahead.  It’s one of those paths, where you can’t see the summit or the route that you are following.  Around every corner or summit reveals yet another summit to aim towards.  It seems, and is, never ending.
 Further up the trail, before the Larkya La pass 

Ahead and behind me, spread out over miles, are dozens of other runners making their way up to up to Larkya La at 5160m.    I am taking part in the inaugural 212km, 7 day Manaslu Trail race.  Its the final, the longest, and the highest day before we reach the end in Tilije which is some 36km , 760m ascent and then 2,860m descent away.   

10 days ago, before the race began, approximately 40 runners from around the world gathered at the Manaslu hotel in Lazimpat , Khatmandu.   This is where I first met the other racers who represented 13 different nationalities, with a wide range of experience.   As we got to know each other, stories of some iconic races such as Gobi,Badwater,  Tor des Geants and UTMB were shared.   These are big challenges and if the competitors had completed these I was beginning to question my ability and experience and was wondering if I would make the challenge.  

At the start in the grounds of the Manaslu Hotel
As I listened and got know the other racers I found out that there were some very experienced racers like:
·         Lizzy Hawker 5 time winner of The North Face Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB), world record holder for 24hrs (road), and  the 2006 100km (road) World Champion 
·         Holly Rush road marathoner, having represented England at the Commonwealth Games in Dehli and forming part of the bronze medal winning marathon team at the European Championships in 2010
·         local runner Upendra Sunuwar having finished top in many of Nepals mountain races  and eventual winner of the race
·         New Zealand ultra runner Lisa Tamati who has completed numerous races such as Marathon des Sables, Gobi, La Ultra-The High. 
The runners at the race briefing
On the other side of coin, there were many slower or less experienced racers, some of whom had only completed a marathon.   As we took it in turns to stand up and introduce our self these were the runners, who outwardly said that they were “shitting themselves”.  Their fear was not without warrant as we were planning on covering approx 212 km during our race days with thousands of metres ascent and descent.   The majority of the race route follows the Manaslu trekking trail which circumvents Manaslu, the world’s eighth highest mountain.   Lonely planet says the route should take 18 days and is ranked “medium to hard” and states that is harder than most in Nepal.    We were covering the trekking route and more over 7 race days.   This was going to be one tough race.  
The experience of the race started when I left Khatmandu and took the 7+ hour bus ride to the Arughat where the race starts.  This was my first time in Khatmandu and, while I have experienced 3rd world countries, I had not taken a bus and I was amazed as I experienced the journey.  The sudden stops, constantly falling forward, bright coloured trucks, goats atop of buses and this is the only the start of the experience, we haven’t even started racing yet.
Our buses to take us to the start
Driving along the roads here is a bumpy experience; it is almost like a fairground ride where you are thrown around.  Up, down and forwards I go with every the braking movement that are made to avoid collisions, while others overtake and pull back in just at the last minute.  I have a seat at the back where I see right the way through the bus to the road ahead and I am constantly braking hoping our bus will slow down and miss the oncoming traffic, the bike to the side of us or people going about their day.   In Switzerland I am a bad passenger, in Nepal I am almost screaming in fear but need to appear strong in front of my fellow racers.
As we slowly rumble up the road I love seeing how life is lived here,  2 girls sitting outside brushing their hair, the drying of grass and corn, colourful wares for sale at the roadside.  I am starting to adjust to the pace, after winding down from budget season at work.  This is something as the race progress you quickly get used to.  When a time is given for departure, this can mean that we will leave somewhere in approx. of 1or 2 hours.  Swiss time does not have a place here!  I have left that behind.  Now it's Nepalese time, which can mean anything.
In the days before the race we have been asking each other why we came to do this race.  I wasn't quite sure but I think it is so many reasons.  I guess I wanted to do something special on my birthday.  I like to celebrate my birthday and wanted to find an experience I could do while doing it.  I searched for a race in November and came across the Nepal trail running site.  From there the manaslu trail race.  It looked amazing I my interest was quirked.   The thought of taking part wouldn't go away.  I thought the aspect of being in the Himalayas, a place I always want to go, was amazing and that I could take part in a run at the same time was the cherry on the top.  If i am honest with myself I think from the first time I read about the race I knew I was going to do it.  The only problem was that it was in the middle our busiest time at work ...budgets! Somehow I managed to convince my boss that I would be able to make it work and got the time off to participate.  

Stage 1 Arughat (600m) to Machha Khola (900m) – Distance : 25km   Time: 4:07

Nice clean shoes

 The start of the race was very unusual. It was Tihar,( also known as Diwali in India  and popularly known as the "festival of lights”) and the villagers wanted to bless us before we started.  A group of men from the village played music and all racers walked together behind them to the holy place.  Once there, each runner was blessed and given a scarf and a red dot or tika as it is called, which is a bright red mixture of rice, yoghurt and vermillion powder.   From there we walked back to start, one group photo and with a bang of the gong, we were off.  The run out of Arughat was relatively easy, flat runnable trail but it wasn't long before it turned more technical.   This was a shock to a number of people as they had not expected this type of terrain, for me it was very similar to the terrain of the Swiss Alps where I had done most of my training, so I felt at home and it was great to be running again after so many days travelling.

The trail goes through amazing landscape, following the Budhi Gandaki River.  Although relatively flat the trail does have some small steep ascents and descents, it passes forests, a few waterfalls, crosses many suspension Bridges and in the horizon the beautiful Mount Shirangi/Sringi Himal  (7187 m) appears.    I ran through beautiful little villages where the whole village would be outside to cheer us on and the little kids would run with us, some for a good 1km or so.  Very often the kids could speak some English and I remember having wonderful conversations with them as we ran along the trail.  These were special fun moments!
Another special moment was getting to wash.  After I finishing the run, of what I had initially thought would be 18km, but later learned it was at least 25km, I was lucky to go to the river by the village and have a wash.   Jumping  in the cold glacier river was amazing and washing off all the dirt and sweat of the day felt fantastic.  Little did I know that this would end up being only one of the 3 washes I would have on the entire trip! 

Friday, 9 November 2012

Dubai airport

I am sitting in Starbucks with an 8 hour layover in Dubai before getting to Kathmandu. It is one of the terminals which is the very basic terminal and has nothing here. What do you do in airport while waiting?

I like to people watch or people listen! In front of me is an Irish guy chatting to 2 Indian fellows. The Irish guy hasn't stopped talking!! The others don't have a chance to talk, or maybe the don't understand him. Who does understand the Irish when they are talking away. I'm sure they are harder to understand than the scots!

Where I am sitting doesn't provide many people watching opportunities, it's still early or people don't come to Starbucks. Gives me time to think about the week again and every time I do I get little butterflies in my stomach.

I met one of the other competitors at the airport in Zurich. Sheer coincidence, he stood behind me in the queue and with my running shoes and gear i was easy to recognize. We had the same flight to Dubai but he managed to get a better connection than me and will be jetting of to Kathmandu now. Lucky him, I'm jealous.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Fitting it all in !!!!
I often wonder how I manage to fit it all in.  I am a single mum working 100%,  which sometime feels like 150%.  This can make fitting in exercise, never mind training for ultra's difficult at times, but somehow I manage.  

I am co-parenting with my ex which means that I get some free time and allows me to fit in big runs on these days.  Other days its not always so easy but time management becomes key especially when he is away for many weeks at a time.  I will run in the morning before work or at lunch time on work days.  I am lucky enough to work for a company that has flexible working conditions, so this allows me to fit my running around looking after my daughter and work.   Sometime I have to get creative, like running on a treadmill at the gym while my daughter watches a movie or have her cycle alongside me while I run.  As she is only 6 this alternative doesn't last too long, which is why I take along a rope and tie it around my waist and pull her along when she starts to tire or on the up hills.  She also enjoys it as I become her horse.   I like this option as it gets her outdoors to do something with Mum.  Always a good thing I believe.

Today I took advantage of her going to Pfadi (Scouts) for 2 hours and went for a fantastic Autumn run. The weather was great, around 18c and blue skies.  Perfect running weather.  I combined this run with taking some photos.  In the morning I joined a basic photo class to learn how to use my SLR.  So I thought I would put some of the learnings to use.  I used my smaller camera, but I think I still managed to capture a lovely autumn day and a beautiful running route. 

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Remembering Mountain Man
Today I got an email from one of the races I did.  It was from Mountain Man which has an Ultra race from Titilus to Pilatus in Switzerland.  I love this race as it is one of the most stunning routes and has everything a race should.  Embedded in the email was a link to a video which I think fully capture all the race has to offer, if you love ultra you will love this  ..

Monday, 15 October 2012

Cold & and getting colder
Returning back from the UK, I brought home more than a present for Melanie, I brought a nice cold for myself.  I couldn't believe it as my throat started getting sore.  I was just recovering with my neck and could start running again and then another set back…a cold. 

Thankfully it was not too bad and after a few days I had nearly recovered so on I went out for a 7 km run in the local forest.  It felt so good…it was so relaxing and invigorating at the same time.  Now I had to get back into training.  I started off slowly, running every few days getting a little longer each time.  This weekend I managed 2hrs 20, it was a bit tough so I still have a way to go.  Its a bit scary as I only have a few weeks left before I hit the big mountains.  

I have started doing hill sessions again.  I was a bit scared to do this as I the downhill jarring movements would be sore on my neck and back.  I didn't want to make things worse and go backwards so  I was careful and the downhill felt great, however the uphill was a struggle!   I was panting, trying to push those bad thoughts away, that kept asking me why it was a good idea to run up the hill, when I heard a kid laugh and scream.  He was running downhill and having a great time doing it and it reminded me of why I love running.   I was focusing on the bad stuff and forgot to focus on why I love running.  I love the freedom, the fun of throwing my self down a hill like a big kid, the quietness, the nature, the alone time, the speed, the challenge, the pain and the satisfaction.    After focusing on these things my run suddenly got easier and I enjoyed the challenge and I pushed myself up the Gurten hill to enjoy the view over Bern and the Swiss alps in the distance.

The days are getting shorter and colder.  That means getting out the winter running gear, looking out my gloves, hats, jackets and buffs.  It also means switching my running schedule.  I preferring running in the mornings but this is always pretty chilly in the winter so I prefer to run at lunch time instead.  That way I also get to see daylight.  But I can wait a few weeks more and enjoy those beautiful crisp mornings.  Where the air is fresh, the sky is blue and there is just a slight chill but not too cold….perfect running weather.  Just a few weeks to enjoy before the warmth of Nepal.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Have you seen the black puffer without arms roaming around Helvellyn?
With my first run recovery run under my belt, it was off to the Lake District in England for some hiking with my sister.  First day around Helvellyn, which is the 3rd highest peak in the lake district.  The weather was fantastic and as such brought out all the hikers in the lakes.  The hills were so busy it was like seeing lots of little ants climbing the hills in the distant.   We were out for about 5 or 6 hours and had a few incidents. 

The first was my sister loosing her body warmer at the top of one of the hills, so I ran up the hill to find it.  I couldn't remember what you called it and the only thing that came to mind was a puffer jacket without arms.  Alas I couldn't find it although at times it looked like some of the sheep were wearing it, as the sheep were black colored with white heads.
The second incident was when Laura nearly fell into a raging stream backwards, however she managed to save herself by holding on to the grassy bank.  I thought she still might fall in, as she was laughing so hard while still holding on to the grassy bank for a good 5 mins. 

The second day of hiking was less strenuous.  We walked up Dale's bottom or was it Dale's head, can't quite remember but Dale was very good to us and provided some great views and a lot of wind (maybe that part was my sis).   After Dale it was a easier walk to the lake and along to the YHA.  

My neck behaved and felt great and I even managed a few wee easy runs downhill.  Looks like I am getting back on track!  Yippee

Me and my sis at the hostel at the start of the weekend. Where did I get all those chins from!

At the top of Helvellynn

 At the top of Helvellynn

 Our hill friends
 2nd day hiking was a bit colder

 The water is sooo clear it is amazing
Its not all hard training, there has to be some reward!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012


My pain is going and the Chiropractor gave me the OK to start training slowing.  I am good with that, training slowing is better than no training!!!!

I started on Monday with a Yoga class which was a little tough and I was a bit scared to do the moves in case I hurt my neck again, but after the class I felt great and my neck felt amazing!  The yoga will help improve my posture which is one of the key things to change to ensure my neck full recovers.   I also now have a standing desk so this helps to improve my posture and I already feel the difference.

Last night my daughter, Melanie, and I went out for a run.  It was a big thing for her and she was so excited to be running with Mummy.  It was also a big thing for me, my first run in about 3 weeks and I was choosing to do it with Mel.  The fact that she is 6 and the distance that we were running was about 400m around the park, did not dampen my excitement. 

We started at one corner and Mel shot off fast while I trundled slowly behind.  I felt good, my neck wasn't hurting and the feeling to be running again was amazing.  After about 200m Mel needed a "time out".  Long distance is not her forte.  We managed twice around the park before finishing our run and taking time to enjoy the other areas of the park.

First recovery run over now to get ready for Nepal! 


Monday, 3 September 2012


I am injured and in alot of pain. 

Following the Mountain Man race in August I got back to training pretty quickly and felt my legs had recovered well.   I was doing some Gurten runs getting ready to run the Jungfrau Marathon and everything felt good until I woke up one Thursday morning and couldn't turn my neck properly.  As the day progressed the pain in my neck got worse and I could hardy turn it.

I did some stretches when I got home and hoped it would get better but the next day it got worse and by Saturday I was in complete agony.  I managed to get an emergency appointment with the Chiropracter.   He manipulated by back and my neck and managed to find all my sore points.  It did get better but when Sunday came the pain was still there and not getting any better.   Sitting, standing and lying provided no relief.  I was in pain all the time. 

It turns out I have a pinched nerve in my neck,  brought on by bad posture and exacerbated with running.   I am continuing with the Chiropracter appointments but I am in so much pain I cannot think about any exercise at this stage.  The scary part is, as I research this problem on the internet, I come to understand that the recovery period can be many months.  I do hope that is not the case and I recover fast so I can partake in my race. 

Monday, 27 August 2012

Turning veggie 

I started to look at my diet and ways I can improve what I eat to improve my health, running and recovery times.   Last year I suffered with stomach troubles in most of my long runs and I didn't want to go through that again so some things have to change. 

After reading Scott Jurek's latest book I got intrigued about a vegetarian diet.  I have never been a big meat eater and always loved salads and vegetables so switching to veggie for me would be relatively easy.  I am at the experiment stage right now, reading books and trying out different recipe options. 

I have started having smoothies but these are unlike the ones that you buy from the shops, full of sugar and  you don't really know what has been put in them.  I often have one for breakfast or as a mid morning snack.  One recipe so far is : 

1 Banana
2 handful of soft fruit (blueberries, strawberries, peach etc) 
1 tbsp hemp protein powder
1 tbsp agave nectar
1 tbsp maca powder
1 tbsp flaxseed powder
2 tbsp almond butter
1.5 tbsp Oil
2 cups of water

I am loving these and loving trying out the new recipes

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Glacier 3000

Distance: 26km   Vertical Ascent:  1,900m
The race course goes through a beautiful alpine landscape offering both runners and spectators many spectacular views. Between the starting point on the Gstaad Promenade at 1’050 meters and the finish line at Glacier 3000 (2’950 meters) lie 26 kilometres. The varying terrain and altitude gain of 1’900 meters is a challenge, even for experienced runners. Hence, the big joy and relief when crossing the finish line at the mountain top station Scex Rouge, after the last steep climb.
I decided that I would use this race as a training run as my legs were still tired from last week’s race in Davos.  This was a good run to do as a training run as it was a fairly easy 15km until you start going uphill.  I had decided that I would not push too hard so would only hike and not run any of the uphill.  I wanted the uphill and altitude practice, plus the views during the run are amazing!

Sometimes it was hard not to get sucked into the run and try and overtake people, but did my best to take it easy.  Overall it was a great race; I felt good and had loads of energy at the end, which was a good sign that I did take it easy.

My calves were sore on both the run and the uphill so I will have to work on stretching them over the next few days.  But I as I sit and watch the Olympics my legs are feeling fairly recovered with no soreness.  I am hoping that my change in diet is helping a quicker recovery.

Time:  4hrs 16 mins
Result:  87 Lady;  32 Lady Vet

The finish is the mountains in the distance!

The end can just be seen behind the chairlift

Looking back down the valley to the start

The path up towards the finish

The hard part has still to come, on the left is the hard slog up 

The finish is getting nearer but like all races, takes some time to come!

Running on the glacier

The view from the end

If you like my story and want to help The Gracias Foundation you can find more information on

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Swiss Alpine Marathon, Davos 

Distance: 79.4km   Vertical Ascent:  2,600m
The biggest mountain ultramarathon in the world, and the ultimate challenge with 21 km of the race being on high alpine terrain. The race starts in Davos centre and is relatively gentle until Filsir where the uphill starts.  The route takes the runners over 2 peaks and some of the most glorious scenery which you do have time to enjoy even though you are panting for air.  

I love coming to this event as there are races for every level and there is a big international participation.  There is always a buzz around Davos and as you walk down the street you hear many different languages.  It is a very busy week with accomodation sold out which is why I had a very awful moment when checking into my hotel to be told that they had no reservation for me.   It turns out that I had booked the Sunstar Grindelwald hotel instead of the Sunstar Davos hotel.  Sunstar Grindelwald is about 250km away from Davos.  Miracously the Davos hotel had a vacany and I managed to switch my reservation to the Davos hotel with no extra cost.

I found this race slightly harder than the last time I ran it,  2 years ago, as my legs were sore from 25km and I was very breathless from the start.  I kept giving myself little goals to help me through such as run to bridge, run to that set of trees and it worked.   I battled through the pain, some rain, thunder and sun shine to get to the finish.   It was great to enjoy an alcahol free beer, sit down and watch other runner come in while I recovered.

Time: 9hrs 59mins
Result:  61st lady,  14th lady Vet

Early in the race, still looking fresh

Sheer concentration as I run up the hill out of Filsur

The rain and thunder starts as we begin the uphill

If you like my story and want to help The Gracias Foundation you can find more information on

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Trail Verbier
Distance: 61km   Vertical Ascent:  4,000m
I have run this race 2 times before so knew what to expect and how hard it was going to be.   Although the distance is only 61km, the 3 peaks that you have to ascend are very demanding especially the last peak which is a killer.  This year I watched someone who was a third of the way up the killer, take off his number and walk back down.  The killer peak had got the better of him! 
I started slow and paced myself well.   I had no stomach issues, which had plagued me in races last year and felt good most of the race.   The first 2 peaks felt a lot easier than previous attempts but the last killer got me.   My thoughts during the race vary widely, from happiness at being with nature in such beautiful surroundings to "why am I doing this.....I will not do this again", yet I always come back for more.  Running these races gives me a sense of peace, a sense of freedom and contentment.  I love the challenge of pushing myself further, through pain and tiredness and I love that feeling of crossing the finish line, knowing I have achieved something.
As usual, I found the race hard but made it to the finish 1 hour faster than last year.   My goal is to one day finish this race in daylight without having to use my headtorch.  This means I need to get another hour faster…..that is a big goal!

Time: 12 hrs 21 mins
Result:   217th Overall out of 472,  43rd Lady overall out of 100,  19th Lady Vet out of 44

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Burton Creek Trail Run – Tahoe City
Distance: 42km
I was so lucky to have an opportunity to run this great trail race in Tahoe.  I was in San Jose for business the week before and managed to stay for the weekend so I could run this race.    The course was a combination of single track and fire road/double track in the Burton Creek State Park, based at an average altitude of 2,000m. 
I used the race as a training run so was not concentrating on speed, which was good as the weather was super-hot with the temperatures for the 2nd half of the race rising to approx. 30c.  The heat actually discouraged people from doing the marathon and as it was a 2 loop course many people pulled out after completing the 1st loop. 
It was fantastic to experience a different race in a different continent and I had the surprise of coming 2nd Lady.
Time:  5hrs 11mins
Result:  2nd Lady, 1st lady Vet

Only a few other people on the trails

Enjoying the trails and the sun

Happy to have finished