Rodopi Ultra Trail, 100 Miles | + 8000m | Greece

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ROUT is a 100 mile ultra marathon that travels through the Rodopi Mountains National Park in Northern Greece. The mountains are wild and the forests virgin. Bears claim home in the mountains amongst other animals. last year, I crossed the ROUT finish line with my friend Jakub Hajek in 29 hours and 15 minutes, it was a wonderful experience and a testament of true friendship, so I have returned this year.

Only problem is I’ve been doing zero activity whatsoever in the last few weeks since the UTMB. The result of this laziness caused my muscles to stiffen leaving me sore and tight. Then after a series of stretches in my fathers kitchen I was unable to walk. Spending 3 days either in a wheelchair or on crutches, my future completion of ROUT seemed impossible. 

It’s a little before 6am, the air is cool and the sun is yet to rise. I’m standing at the start of the ROUT. I’m risking a DNF (Did not finish) but I’m prepared for this, I am fully aware I might fail but what have I to loose. If my legs give up on me at least I’ll know I tried.

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We run down a dirt road which will continue for another 7k until a right turn when we will enter the forest. I see Matthew Maday, a cool guy from America I met here last year. We chat a little before getting lost but it’s only for a short time and are soon back on track. Matt tell’s me how he had a test of faith after his 100 mile Western States Endurance run this year. He says he just couldn’t find the motivation to run afterwards and even wanted to quit ultra all together. Pressure Matt says was the reason, so treating ROUT as a group run will be his approach.

Now if I try to write what happened during the entire race you the reader I’m sure will become bored and so I will do my best to only include the significant sections of more interest.

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Running downhill for so long eventually causes me to limp and my left inner thigh muscle hurts, so I decide that at the next check point (Zarkadia 1) I will retire from the race. Finally approaching Zarkadia 1 some people to my left cheer and clap as I come close to them. My mind has given up, my body is failing me and so I feel the applause is unjust, I lower my head in shame with a shy smile on my face.

I’ve travelled 40 kilometres through the mountains, Its taken me 5 hours so far and has pretty much been downhill from the start. I’m not upset nor disappointed, I was prepared to fail and that’s what has happened. 

I see Xristos Tallas the race director, he’s such an inspiring guy, full of positive energy he sits me down, I tell Xristos I’m done and would like to retire. Standing in front of me Xristos puts both his hands onto my shoulders, looks at me eye to eye and say’s you cannot quit now there is a climb ahead, continue and you will find your rhythm. 

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His support is encouraging and so I decide to have some soup and reconsider. Then an English fellow named Owen whom I do not know comes across to me asks where I’m from. He tells me it’s interesting to see the different personalities of the runners during this point, mostly excitedly shouting and loud. Owen says how I’m calm and relaxed. Something about Owens presence encourages me and gives me strength. I decide to continue as it’s a climb ahead as Xristos has told me.

I’m running like a child, free from life’s pressures and responsibilities. Xristos was right the uphill gave my body time to adjust and I have found my rhythm. I have no pain in my body at all, in fact I feel the complete opposite, confident and have even found a new strength making my way towards 15th position. I battle with a runner as we run down the side of a mountain, I’m close behind him, we travel fast as if almost close to the finish. My adrenaline is high as the runner in front steps to the side and tells me to continue, eventually I can’t hear his foot steps, he’s lost the battle.

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I ran out of food 2 hours ago, I search my backpack for a gel but find nothing. My water bottles are empty and my mouth dry. I run forwards but now and then stagger to the side almost falling over feeling dizzy. I am so stupid I packed enough food to run for about 21 hours and thats how long I’ve been running for but I still have another 60 kilometres to go. 20 kilometres ahead is Zarkadia 2 where I will find hot food, drinks and my drop bag with more gels. It’s a long way to go I’m already done. After a few kilometres I arrive at the last small checkpoint before Zarkadia 2, I tell them my race number and ask if they have any spare water. the young man shakes his head. I leave feeling sorry for myself.

The hunt is on, the runners I past before are now chasing me down like a wounded animal. I really do not know how I’m going to make it to Zarkadia 2. I can feeling my body using fat stores as energy. I think I see a runners head torch but it’s the moon’s reflection in a river to my right. Somehow the final kilometres before Zarkadia 2 pass by and I can smell fire burning ahead as well as hearing voices.

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People cheers as I enter the checkpoint, I feel as if I have survived an apocalypse. Sitting down I go to work, yes I’ll have a blanket, yes I’ll have a bowl of soup. I change my socks with only 40k to go I feel its unnecessary but so anyway. I down a cup of cola whilst stuffing cold salted boiled potatoes into my pockets yuk. Other runners have arrived smiling and looking fresh, I get up and leave not wanting to be passed but know it’s only a matter of time as I still feel weak and deficit of energy.

The soup with meat hasn’t given me the energy I needed, eventually the sugar and caffeine wear off from the cola and I’m back to where I started before arriving at the checkpoint. I’m climbing up the last mountain before I will reach the checkpoint where Jakub will be volunteering (he’s not running this year). I know when, if I get there that’s it for me, I know I have given it my all. It’s not my body that failed me but rather my common-sense, packing food for only the first 100k was a rookie mistake. 

My energy is so low now I even start to fall asleep as I proceed to go up the mountain. I hear runners behind, turning to see head torches I know this time it’s for real not the moon’s reflection.

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I get passed by a runner from Cypress, he looks strong and this makes me feel even weaker. Shortly after I arrive at where my friend Jakub is, my first words are wear can I sleep. Lying in a warm sleeping bag I deicide thats it, my race is over. Jakub asks how long before he wakes me, I reply 30 minutes…. Kristian its time, I awake and ask Jakub for another 30 minutes, again as if I’ve shut my eyes having only taken one deep breath, Jakub wakes me, Please 30 minutes again. Finally Jakub wakes me and says time to go, I ask this time for just 10 minutes. I get up rested, not tired but still hungry, there is no food here and I decide to carry on till the last checkpoint with food “Prasinada 2”.

No longer tired but without energy I make my way towards Prasinada 2, I look at my watch and laugh, only 1hr and 10 minutes passed since arriving at Jakub’s checkpoint. He must have been fooling me with the sleeping time, good thing as I do not want to be passed by anymore runners, whilst I slept at least 6 runners passed by.

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I have done it, I have actually somehow made it to Prasinada 2. I will now restore my energy fully, there is no other way to continue forwards. The staff here are kind and feed me traditional Greek soup, I also eat chocolate, chips, drink 3 cups of cola and finish off with a hot, sweet coffee. Before I leave the Greek man who has been looking after me fills my pack with gels and bananas, he tells me the rest of the way to the finish I can run without hiking as its mostly downhill. I leave and receive a round of applause and cheers of encouragement.

With a new battery in my head torch the ground in front of me brightly glows. I’m running now, my energy back. Thats all it was before just a lack of energy. I take over my central governor and run hard down the mountain, overriding my minds natural self preservation and safety mode. Thats what ultra is, the ability to take control of your mind, body by sheer determination of your heart and spirit.

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I pass 3 runners as if Im running a 5k, utter abandonment and freedom. I have just started, the past 150 kilometres are done they no longer matter, getting to the finish is all that counts. Last year Jakub and I hiked this final section, It’s a gentle uphill of 7 kilometres. I want to run it all without any hiking. A storm fills the sky above and rain crashes down, creating small rivers of water. Up till now I have done my best to keep my feet dry but so close to the finish I no longer care as I run through the collection of puddles and streams.

I’m running uphill and having the last laugh against ROUT which has broken me already so many times. I see a runner ahead who’s walking in the heavy rain with his jacket on. I run by him smiling, he looks at me and say’s a word in Greek I interpret as crazy man. I leave him behind knowing the faster I run, the sooner I will finish. Now and then my shoulders become tight and my minds says come on enough walk this section, I look at my watch and see if I can run the last 5k in 30 minutes I will finish in under 29 hours, so fight hard against the desire to walk.

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I hear bells ringing and know I’m close to the finish. I see a sign that reads 750 meters to go, I’ve pretty much done it. I turn off the dirt road and can now see parked cars and electric lights, I run the wrong way missing the finish line only to get told to run back to enter the finish correctly, I do so with complete happiness and joy.

Xristos was at the finish last year and is hear again this year. After what seems a lifetime I cross the finish line, again Xristos puts his hands on my shoulders as he stands in front of me, looking me in the eyes he says you did it, I respond, no Xristos it was your encouragement that got me here. Sofia a Greek girl comes over and places a medal around my neck congratulating me. It’s raining hard as I head over to the warm wooden cabin, opening the door I walk inside. The hot roaring fire is surrounded by what I can only describe as ultras human beings who have encountered everything that I have, I take my place next to the fire and we share stories of triumph.

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Earlier towards the end of ROUT whilst passing through a dense forest I asked god a question, “If you exist god show me a sign, I want to see a bear”. For the next 30 minutes I scanned the landscape around me for a wild bear but god failed me and I didn’t see one.

After sharing stories with the other runners around the fire I return to my tent to rest. The rain has now turned into hail and beats down upon my tent intensely. 

FLASH, BANG… Its the brightest light I have ever seen. The storm is directly above me. I’m certain the next bolt of lightening will strike me. I jump up and run back towards the log cabin, shouting out loud please god no more signs.

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10 Tips for Marathon Des Sables (MDS)

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Marathon des Sables

MDS is one of those epic challenges of a lifetime. MDS is a multistage race through the Sahara desert covering about 150 miles (250 kilometres) over 6 days. Runners must carry their own food, sleeping equipment and everything they will need whilst at MDS. People come from all over the world to enter MDS. I completed MDS in 2016, finishing 3rd amongst the British runners and 22nd overall. I learned many lessons whilst running MDS, here is a list of the top 10.


  1. LIGHT PACK - Aim to get your running pack as light as possible. The MDS rules state a minimum of 6.5 kilograms and maximum 25 kilograms. This weight does not include the water in your bottles so make sure to allow for this. Trust me a light pack will be better than a heavy one.

  2. GET THE RIGHT KIT - Decide early on what kit you will be taking with you and practice wearing it during training. Do not turn up to Morocco with new untested kit it might cause chaffing, blisters or you might just not like the feel of it.

  3. BECOME HEAT ACCLIMATISED - Remember this is a race across the desert in very hot conditions. You will be better prepared if you become heat acclimatised. I took my kit with me on holiday in Thailand and practised running during the hottest part of the day.

  4. CHOOSE THE RIGHT FOOD - Decide what food you will be eating and test it out ahead of time. You do not want to be in the desert and become sick due to your stomach not liking the food you have taken.

  5. MDS FACEBOOK PAGE - Join the Marathon Des Sables Facebook page, this way you can post questions and have them answered by other runners who have experienced MDS and successfully finished. You may also make some friends and could meet up before MDS for a training run.

  6. GAITERS - Get good gaiters for your trainers. Some people in my tent at MDS were unable to finish due to their feet becoming so blistered they were unable to even walk. I used the stitch on velcro method and it worked. I coupled this with a pair of Raidlight gaiters. I got the stitching done professionally by a Tailor.

  7. FITTING YOUR TRAINERS - Make sure your trainers fit properly. That means leaving a space of at least half a centimetre from your longest toe to the inside front of your trainers. Failure to do this results in loosing your toenails. I never had a problem with feet.

  8. COURSE KNOWLEDGE - Learn each stage, you need to know cut off times so you can stay ahead of being disqualified. Many people each year fail to finish MDS, this is one of the main reasons. It’s also good to know what distance you will be covering each day and will be better mentally prepared.

  9. BACK TO BACK TO BACK RUNS - In training you want to experience what it’s like to run on tired legs. I used back to back to back runs to help me become prepared for MDS. It totally worked and I even enjoyed them.

  10. TRAIN WITH YOUR PACK - Practise running with your pack on. Not every run and not even the full weight but do not turn up to MDS without ever experiencing whats its like to run with a pack on your back.

    I hope the top 10 tips above has helped. There are many other things to consider but the above information will help you in your journey towards finishing MDS. I wish you the best of luck.

    Kristian Morgan.

Appalachian Trail World Record

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I’ve been invited to help pace “Karel Sabbe” on his Guiness world record attempt for the fastest known time (FKT) on the Appalachian Trail in America. The Appalachian Trail (AT) crosses 14 states and is just under 2200 miles long. 

I got here 8 days ago and have been running upto 35 miles each day with Karel, keeping him company and enjoying the trails here in America. I met Karel at “Marathon Des Sables” back in 2015, we got on well together and had similar interests.

After a long day (6 hours) on the trail today we are staying at a hostel called the “Bears Den”, I guess it has this name because all the wild bears in the area.  The price was $30.00 for a room plus dinner which was a pizza, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and a soda (1800 cals). 

 

Olympus Mythical Trail, 100km | +6400m | Greece

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Crying without consideration for who is watching, I'm alone. Almost at the top of Greece's highest mountain "Mount Olympus". I know what it feels like to be alone, no-one to share with, no-one to talk to, just the dark sky above me and the towering peak of sinister Mount Olympus.

Tormented by crazy thoughts about good and evil, my mind takes its own direction. Is life real or is this entire journey just a misguided dream. I look down at my legs as I move forward, my body is holding up fine but my mind has had enough and is about to break. I can't give up even if I want to because I'm miles away from any civilisation, to quit now would mean to die. This is a metaphor for my mental state.

I think about my mother, warm feelings of nostalgia attached. I love her dearly, just the though of my mother brings me feelings of company. I ask myself the question why am I up a mountain alone in the dark, its a question I do not have the answer to. As if I knew all along but had been avoiding it a realisation grips me... Children, I do not have any, I'm 41 years old and do not have a family. Suddenly I'm awakened by the stength of love, the love a family and only a family can provide.

My mind now calm, I feel enlightened, all that matters in life is family and the love for them. I must have children, I must bring life into this dark world and it will no longer seem dark. I reach the top of the mountain, I'm no longer crying but instead I feel I know my true purpose.

 

Bustard Express Ultra Marathon Austraila

 Trail running Australia

This is a race report from a trail race I ran called the Bustard Express, its located in Cairns Australia.

I know I shouldn't enter but I can't help myself, its been 4 weeks of pretty much zero running. I call up the race director "Chris" and just like that I'm in, "Cheers mate see you tonight" Chris says at the end of the call. I borrow my cousins (Paula) small yellow car and within 45 minutes I arrive at the race venue. Its been hot today but now the air is cooler as its almost 5pm (start time). We set off and within the first mile Im running with Bryan O'Mahony and Steven Francis amongst some others. These guys came 2nd and 3rd in 2016 edition with me finishing as the overall winner. Its good to see them again and we catch up whilst running. In the group is also Glen Robinson an ultra running legend here in Cairns Australia, two years ago we also took a training run together but Glen does not remember.

The trails here are mostly single track and we run in a train like group of five. Its still light, sun will set at 6:30pm tonight, so I have my head torch waiting for me after the first lap. The race is made up of 3 different length laps, 3k 7k and 14.5k. The idea is to run for 4 hours as many laps as you can, you can choose any distance lap to run but must complete the last lap within 4 hours or it does not count. I'm really enjoying the feeling of running these Australian trails, I saw a frill neck lizard two years ago and it what so cool to be up and close to nature. We come in after the first lap (14.5k). I grab my head torch even though its still light, it will be dark by the time I return after lap two.

I'm now running alone now and then I see the group who I was with they are leading this race, I'm not chasing these guys, just running my own race. I had decided they were going a little bit faster than I wanted to go. Running out in the bush of Australia is such an experience, the wildlife, vegetation and sounds all ad into the experience. We were told that we may see snakes and that the check point staff have compression bandages Chris also said most runners will have their own bandages, not me, hope I do not get bit.

I haven't run in a while but still feel okay, I have kind of switched off and I'm just looking at the trail ahead of me, concentrating on foot placement as its pretty rocky in sections. I think back to earlier when Andre, my cousin Paulas husband said Steven Hawkins quoted "look up now and then" but said thats not the case with trail running as you will fall so true, but I still find time to look up. I have two gels which I have eaten one. I stop for a wee, looking down seeing the dark orange almost red in colour liquid I know I'm on the edge of dehydration.

I get back to the start area after my second loop and Chris asks me if I going out for another lap? I ask if anyone else has continued, Chris says yes and looks at me with a smile as if willing me to do another lap, "Yes I will go for another lap" I set off regretting what I have put myself up for and what lay ahead. Up till now I still do not feel this possible and that I will not finish. But I carry on, I ate cake, water melon and half a banana at the check point, sugar is in my blood stream. I really do not think this is possible, over and over again my mind tells me. I shut my mind down and just run, taking in the sounds as I stare at the beam from my head torch. Then my head torch flashes, this is a warning the battery is going flat, the beam is weak and my vision is limited.

I get to the point at which you choose the distance lap you will head out on. I'm pointed to the 7k but say I'm going to for another big lap, the volunteers look at their watches and tell me I can make it. I fill my water bottle and head out, again totally regretting my decision. I still do not think this is possible, but I carry on running. Shutting your mind down is not easy but its something I have learned to do to cope with Ultra marathons. To move forward when every part of your body is hurting and your mind is telling you to stop is something that I only experience with running long distances, by continuing you override your brains natural mechanism to protect you. The feeling you get when you push past these messages, stop give up, quit now from your mind is something else. A feeling of super human power, like your in total control and can do anything, like run 100 miles with out stopping.

I'm in this zone now, the super human zone, but this does not mean my mind is not conspiring against me, no its just that the give up and quit messages are not so loud. I start to believe I can finish, this is the first time I have had these positive thoughts. I get to the bearded guy who is maning a check point all by himself, he asks if my name is Kristian, yes it is I reply, okay your the last one on the big loop and I will catch you up 5 minutes, he has a bike. I've been waiting for a downhill open dirt road section but each time I wonder how far it is, I become anxious and so pull myself away from thoughts about the future back to the present moment and suffering, this method is helping to keep me present.

Bearded guy catches me up on his bike and he cannot stop speaking, its obvious he's been by himself for over 3 hours and is now pleased to have some to chat to. I need the toilet and have to interrupt bearded guy to tell him Im going to stop for a loo break. We are off again, I know the course well by now as this is my 3rd loop, up ahead is a left turn then all that remains is 5 kilometres. I have the option of heading out on the last part of the big loop which is 4k plus then a 1k stretch to the finish, or I can just got the 1k to the finish but if I do this my last loop will not count.

I tell the guys at the check point I'm going to go out to complete the full big loop, I ask how long I have to get to the finish, 40 minutes I'm told. We all agree 5k in 40 minutes is achievable, I know it is as my fastest 5k is about 16 minutes on a track but this is no track, never the less I know its doable. I find myself saying out loud "change your mind set, zero limits" when I start to over analyse how far I have to go, it works. Its like flipping a switch in your mind from negative to positive.

Time has all but disappeared and I'm back with the guys at the check point, just 1k to go. Only positive thoughts remain in my mind now all the negativity that was there has completely dissolved. I run fast to the finish passing 4 runners as I go. Finally I can see lights in the distance and I'm rewarded with a view of the finishing area where people are gathered. I've done it, I have over come myself yet again, but this time is was so hard, I had told myself as I was running earlier how this felt just as tuff as a 100 miler due to the negative mindset I had entering. Well if anyone wants to rid themselves of negative thoughts and flood the body and mind with positivity you now know what you must do, yes challenge yourself, you will feel so much better for it. Life is to easy these days and we must compensate by setting ourselves up with mental and physical challenges. good luck.

Chiang Mai Ultra Marathon

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Running up Thailands Tallest mountain

Walking to the start line with "David Emch" (Winner of Thailand North Face 100k 2 weeks ago), we see Kenyan runners jogging and warming up. David says "Well thats podium out the window". Thinking this funny I agree, little did I know what the future would hold and how the stars would aline for both of us.

Running in the dark is scary but exciting.

We started at 5am and the sun is yet to rise, above the sky a blanket of stars. I threw my freebie torch away when we set off as the streets we were running on had lamps. Now its pitch black, luckily a runner in front is switching their torch on now and then, I stay close behind vaguely able to make out the white lines on the road.

I’ve decided to run for 2 hours before taking my first gel.

I have five gels, calculating one gel every 30 mins will take me up till 4 hrs 30 mins. Normally I burn 80 calories per mile but as we are running uphill my body is asking 100 calories per mile. I realise that five gels totaling 500 calories is not going to cut it, if I'm to burn over 3000 calories on this race... gulp!

I'm running well and have reached mile 14 feeling pretty good.

Mostly running sub 8 minute miles. Also it’s light now as the sun has risen. All is fine and dandy but something has happened, time has stopped, I'm not aware of this happening but it has. I don't know it right now but I have run clean out of energy. As in a mist my brain is disconnected from my body, unable to think with any clarity. Then suddenly like a boxer given smelling salts the realisation hits me, I know I'm running on body fat and my tank is empty. This is a problem and the thought of problem solving excites me. Reaching into my pocket I pull out one of my last remaining gels and eat it.

Running uphill is not easy it requires a certain approach, you need patience as pace is slower. The incline has really set in now. I'm in the national park heading up towards Doi Inthanon, Thailands tallest mountain. This is a road Ultra and this road will take me to the summit but I've got some running to do before I get there. A thought occurs, I realise to make this experience easier than it’s feeling now I must change my mind set. The whole time I've been thinking I'm racing against other runners but now realise I'm not running against people, I'm actually running with people. I feel a weight has been lifted from my shoulders and running uphill feels so much easier.

David passed me earlier but I still see him ahead along with another runner who is wearing no shirt. I get closer to the shirtless man and pass him, he's walking and says "The next section is really steep so I'm hiking". I feel strong and run on. 20 minutes later he passes me back. I keep seeing him ahead but every now and then a corner blocks my view. Finally David and the shirtless man do not appear as I get around the corners. 

I'm alone and have been for a while, the sun is out but it's still only 12 Degrees Celsius due to going up in altitude. I had noticed earlier how David and the other runner would hike up the steeper sections. I kept running on these sections but finally the mountain has broken me and I hike up a killer climb. I feel desperate, I had'nt figured I would hike during this ultra but as the first half of the course is pretty much flat the second half has all the accent which is over 2000 meters, in other words I'm getting my but kicked by this mountain.

Running, hiking, running hiking and so it goes on until I'm no longer human just an empty vessel some how moving upwards and forwards. I have no gels left just water, I stop for 15 to 20 seconds at each check point to splash water on my face and pour a cup over the back of my neck to stop from over heating. The check points no longer have water melon which I was so much enjoying earlier, just plan water, it will have to do.

My feet are hurting, this is my first road ultra (I'm a trail runner) and the lack of uneven terrain with the repetitive motion of my foot striking the ground has created a pain right on the ball of each of my feet. I tell myself its just a distraction and carry on. I get passed by a relay runner who looks fresh and full of energy which makes me feel worse.

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I start to feel small glimmers of hope as I tell myself I can do this, I know I can, its not going to get any worse. I'm still aware I must drink to avoid dehydration. I'm right on the edge of being able to just make it but at the same time so so close to just dropping onto my hands and knees and crawling to lay under a tree to be done with this suffering. 

Ahead I see a Kenyan runner, but he's not running, looks like a man wounded trying to get away from his attacker. He keeps looking behind and when he sees me he starts to run. Like a shark sensing blood the sight of his distress ignites something inside of me, which in turn pumps adrenaline threw my veins. Surging I chase him down. Drawing up beside him, I've never passed a Kenyan before so its new to me but this is ultra and in ultra sub 2 hr 20 minute marathons hold no value. Ultra is about dying and being reborn.

As I pass the Kenyan our eyes lock with one another, for a moment I feel his soul, its burning, as is mine, the recognition is reflected by a knowingness between us. He say as I pass "Number two age catagory", I respond "No not me, thats not me". I run on ahead unbelieving, seeing a 48 kilometre sign I know I'm close but not that close, looking behind I see the Kenyan is not trying to catch me, I am now fuelled with a renewed enthusiasm.

A minute or two ago I reached the highest point and now the road has flattened out, I see a sign "Only 1 kilometre to go". I take one last look behind me for fear of being chased down by the Kenyan he's not in view. I run on and before I know it I can see the finish line, one final push and this all comes to end. I grab the banner and hold it above my head, I'm elated. I hold the banner high for everyone to see. I did it, this is my moment of glory. I'm so happy I cuddle a hill tribe man who is standing close by looking at me, he matches my embrace with an equally warm embrace back. Then I cuddle the woman who places a medal over my head, the commentator laughs and cheers.

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I see David and the shirtless runner, we all congratulate each other, these guys finished 5 and 7 minutes ahead of me, during the race they felt a lifetime away.  At the start of this David had aimed to get top 10 and he did just that with 10th so he achieved his projected goal. The Kenyan runners comes in, I approach him laughing saying how I didn't believe I was second, smiling at each other the pain is gone but so is the connection. Shared hardship brings people together. I now know its true I finished 2nd in my age category's and 11th overall. I have won 15,000 Baht and I came back from the dead by problem solving. I feel I have accomplished so much today, I have learned so much in such a concentrated amount of time, thats what I love about ultra running.

Getting hold of the money from the race director was almost as difficult as the race, but thats another story...  

Fuel for an Ultra Marathon

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So you want to run an ultra...

When setting yourself the goal of running an ultra marathon, you must train your body to become physically ready for the challenge. You must also consider what you will eat during your chosen ultra. 

To be prepared ask yourself the following questions...

1. What is the distance?

2. How long do I think it will take me?

3. What climate will I be running in?

4. Is it flat or mountainous.

5. Will there be aid stations with food, if so how many and at what points during the race?

Answering these questions will help you prepare your fueling strategy and make sure you get it right on the day. Its also advisable to practice what food you will be eating in training. This way you can make mistakes in training and not on race day. Experiment as there is no right or wrong, different things work for different people.

Running in the Mountains of Thailand

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This morning I woke up early and ran up a mountain.

It was by far one of the best things I could’ve done for myself today. Along the way up I saw a small brown snake making its way through the brown leaves. 

 It requires a lot of energy and I was heavy breathing as I hiked up the mountain, on the flatter parts I jogged lightly.  

 Once at the top I found a remote village. I stopped off pressed pause on my watch and bought some barbecued sweet potato. I then found a coffee Grower who made me a coffee using beans from the ground I was standing on. His mum even ground the coffee beans and he roasted them himself.  

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 Starting my watch back up again I descended the mountain jogging lightly, relaxing my breathing. I found such a flow I forgot about time and where I was. All that mattered was paying attention to the rocks in front of me as so not to step and trip on one.  

 Once at the bottom of the mountain I press stop on my watch content with my mornings activity. I then ducked into a local Thai restaurant, saw some good food and said same for me.  

Why Hire a Running Coach

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Hiring an online running coach could really help

Hiring a running coach, what does it involve? First off your potential running coach will arrange a call with you. In this call the running coach will ask you a series of questions. These will be questions like...

From now until the end of the year which events are you running? Which of these events are your A races and which are just tune up races? Many more questions will be asked as so the coach can learn as much about you and your running goals as needed.

After the consultation the coach will create a running program for you based on information you have given them. During the program any questions you have will be answered by the coach. You and your coach will catch up with each other on a regular basis to discuss your progress.

Benefits of having a running coach.....

  1. Have a running program written personally for you.

  2. Get your questions answered by a professional.

  3. You and your running coach become a team.

  4. Avoid injury and learn correct running form.

  5. Achieve higher success in races and get new personal bests.

Thailand North Face 100km | + 2600m | Very Hot

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The air is cool,

Considering I’m in Thailand, but then it is just before 5am in the morning. I’m surround by runners at the start of the Thailand North Face 100k (TNF100). The commentator starts a 10 second count down 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, a horn blares out loudly and with great excitement we set off. 

3 months I have been training for the TNF100. Some mornings waking at 4 am to go running. Logging 100 miles per week in the peak phases of my program. To arrive at this moment with fresh legs, I finalised my program with a 3 week taper taking my weekly volume from 100 miles to 80 miles, 60 miles and then finally 30 miles in the week leading into TNF100.

I’ve set out with the front runners but on purpose not leading, I want to see what pace is set by the other runners and who the speedsters are. As it turns out the pace is as I predicted, within 7/8 minute mile pace, the speedsters are two Thai runners who are 40 meters ahead, one with running poles and another without.

2 runners on my left are chatting with each other, they sound relaxed, like seasoned pros. I ask myself “do I belong at the front with pro runners” I will find out the answer later. The road we are on is littered with torch beams, the sun is yet to rise, we are wearing head torches.

The TNF100 is a trail ultra and starts off the Asia Pacific North Face series. I ran last last year finishing in 3rd but ended up in hospital after the race, lying in a hospital bed I really thought I might be taking my last breaths. But I was fine and released missing the award ceremony and this disappointed me cause I really dug deep to stay in 3rd position.

Learning from my mistake last year I came with a race plan, to pace myself sensibly for 50k then push for the second half. I’m currently in about 5th position. We come to our first climb, a small mountain. I did this section two times in training, Its a new addition from last year making the race more difficult. I saw a small brown snake yesterday whist here.

Im feeling relaxed, small feelings of confidence start to seep in as we run up a wide, dusty trail. One Thai guy has dropped back from the front and the other with the poles is still up there. I’m with the seasoned pros, I haven’t talked or made conversation with them just focusing on running. The one guy has an American accent and is wearing a cycling hat with the peak sticking up, The other guy sounds French, they are both wearing Altra trainers.

Passing a pack of barking dogs I not startled as I faced these in training and we were warned about the dogs on the course during race briefing yesterday. I stop briefly for the loo and get left behind but Its not long before I catch back up with the American runner, he’s crouched down doing something with his shoe, I run by and can see the head torches of two runners ahead. I run my own pace  as I’m not interested in trying to catch them, it will be what it will be.

Feeling good about my effort, I’m not over cooking it, my engine is just going steady. Its been mostly uphill till now so the downhills feel good as I let gravity do its work. I turn right onto a road section. A runner comes from behind. He starts chatting and I feel instantly relaxed as till now I have spoken with nobody, maybe I’ve been too focused. His name is David Emch and he’s from America (not the American I passed). I find out this is his first race outside of the states. We chat for a while about running and so on. I ask David if we have passed CP1 yet and find out that I missed it, this is a bummer because I have 3 gels to pick up from my drop bags, I have to collect them on the next 50k loop (the course is made up of two 50k loops).

Ahead is the second significant climbing section, David and I are still running together and I know this section and so detect a right turn ahead, David says he’s grateful as would have run past it had he not been with me. I need to make a pit stop and tell David I’ll catch him later. Just as I get running, again the American who I passed earlier comes running along the trail and we run together. I learn his name is Cory Lewandowski and he’s been running ultras for 3 years. He lives in Taiwan thats why he’s running TNF100. On a rocky downhill Cory says he wished he had put in the rock plate to his Altra Superiors as he feels the trail is a lot rocker than he expected then his biker hat fly’s from his head, he stops and turns back to go fetch it, I run on ahead, this is a race, I don’t see Cory again.

Back onto the road after stopping at CP2, its a long uphill stretch and I think of Badwater 135, I imagine I’m running it now as I look down at the white painted line. I just missed the application for Badwater, I’ll enter next year. I turn right and I’m on smooth dirt trail, the colour is almost orange, I relax my breathing and look at my heart rate, its low but my pace is fast, Im happy how its all going.

My first real test is when I get to a single track section, its full of 25k runners who only do part of the TNF100 course most of them are walking and approaching them from behind I call out 100k runner, I end up loosing a stack of time, I also get passed by a Thai 100k runner, he’s flying and is a better tactic to pass the 25k runners. A lot of these runners have headphones In and others just don’t understand me. I find myself loosing my relaxed state of mind and becoming almost angry. I’m aware of my negativity and try hard to calm myself down, I remember last year an American runner almost got into a fight in this section, he got really pissed off, I’m totally not in his predicament, my negativity is internal and nobody sees it.

Pleased to be through this section I come too a second new part of the TNF100, the tallest mountain in the area, it only reaches 600m and change, after being in the Alps last year at Tor Des Geants this feels like and ant hill. Passing CP3 up I go, again a long line of slow walkers, one Indian guy is in front of me, I ask if I can pass he is sweating and obviously tired, he tells me to wait with tones of resentment at asking to pass, I respond “No man move out the way” I pass him feeling a bit better for airing my feelings. Up the hill and down then back onto trails to the end of the first 50k loop.

Happy feelings start to come back as I think about seeing my mum at the halfway point, she’s here in Thailand and has come to Pakchong to support me. At this point you run against runners along the road and I see a runner heading back out to begin the second half, he’s young, Thai and looks very fresh in comparison I see a national hero named “Sanya Khanchai”, Sanya has won the race before and is considered a true champion. I feel sorry for him as he sits eating food, Sanya looks terrible and I’m not sure if he will even finish. I feel strong as ever and proceeded down the long slightly inclining tarmac road to the trails ahead. I didn’t see my mum but I know I will at the finish.

Its just beginning to get hot....

I’ve been drinking regularly and I feel fine. The thought of running another 50k hasn’t fazed me yet, I’m ready for part two. The road comes to and end and I join the trail. My watch bleeps every 5 minutes, 20 minutes and also on the hour, telling me to drink, eat and take a salt tablet. I start feeling I’m eating too many gels, the sugary gels begin to make me feel sick. I feel like I want to vomit each time my watch bleeps.

I’m entering my first low of the race in the form of GI stress (stomach not wanting to play ball). Its all the gels I know it, along with filling my water bottles with electrolyte from the check points, this had been waiting to happen. 3 gels per hour is just too much for my poor stomach to handle. I feel like quitting, the thoughts grow and evolve in my mind. As time goes by I feel so low and down about myself I question what I’m doing. I go into such a dark place I don’t just want to quit this race but running all together.

I say out loud “Kristian your having a low right now and your feeling bad” recognising how I’m feeling and verbalising it helps a little. I decide to do something about the GI issues. I change the eat alert on my watch from 20 minutes to 30 minutes, from now on I’m going to be having 2 gels per hour instead of 3. I also decide to empty any electrolyte I have left out of my bottles and refill with plain water at the next checkpoint. From now on I drink to taste rather than the sound of my drink alert on my watch. Its a gamble but I already hit rock bottom, the only way from here is up.

After a while my strategy starts working, no longer does my stomach feel bad, I no longer need to pee every 10 minutes and finally I start to feel my flow coming back. I see a girl ahead, eventually I catch up with her, as I pass she asks how I feel, I say….. “I had some GI issues but cut back on the gels and I feel fine now” (finally I’m out the dark place), I ask her name, its Kristi and I ask how she is feeling “legs are hurting but hey” I say “thats ultra”, then Kristi says “go kill it” in a thick American accent.

At CP7 I forfill my self made promises by emptying the green coloured electrolyte from my bottles, its water all the way from here baby. I feel I have a clean slate, the race is mine to do with what I want and I want this race. I ask myself how bad do I want it? “I want it real bad” I tell myself. I’m back on the uphill road section where I earlier imagined I was running Badwater. I turn right and run down a dusty trail, ahead are CP8 and CP9, then Im finished, about 30 more kilometres to go.

Nobody behind me, nobody in front, I’ve been alone for some time, the trail is rolling up and down, I’m so looking forward to the hill as so I can use some different muscles in my legs. I arrive at the section where I had to navigate around 25k runners but I’m all alone this time, it feels like Im in this race by myself. I feel really strong now as I approach CP8. I stop refill one bottle with water and half another. I have on wrists bands and place a large piece of ice under each of the bands, this helps cool me down. I then pour water from an ice jug all over the back of my neck. Feeling refreshed and ready roll, I ask the CP8 staff what position I’m in, one guy says you are number one and laughs then says no your number three. I laugh at his teasing joke then thank everyone and take off.

Now I’m in another gear, 20k till the finish, thoughts of quitting are long gone, distant memories that no longer belong to me. Instead I’m flying, I mean seriously going for it. I told myself the first time around the 50k loop its all about conservation and I had to wait till loop two to kick some trail butt, well its loop two and the downhills become my release of conserved energy. Then just out the blue without expecting it, on single trail I run straight into 2nd place, a Vietnamese runner named Quang. He’s standing on the trail opening a gel and looks tired. I place my hands on his shoulders to stop us colliding and pass him by. I don’t look back, just run as fast as I can, I’m full of adrenaline. I had been passed by Quang when being held up by the 25k runners on this same section earlier. I remember looking at his technical skills as he ran down the trail in front of me, over roots and rocks, some how passing 25k runners without any effort. It’s now Quang’s turn to look at the back of me. I thought he was chasing me but finally when I did look back nobody was behind me. He was gone for good.

CP9 the last checkpoint. I fill one water bottle as all that remains is 10k. Up the hill for the last time, technically this is the most difficult part of TNF100, but right now I’m actually having fun. I keep telling myself this is what you get when you run a smart race and pace properly, I’m now prospering from my earlier actions. I fly up the hill, as I go up still passing slower 50k and 75k runners. Something dawns on me, earlier I asked myself the question “Do I belong up here with the seasoned pro runners” I wonder to myself where these guys now and finally I have my answer, yes is the answer, I do belong.

With the last hill behind me its a combination of flat trail and road to the finish, I’m running 6 minute miles and feel full of energy, I wonder where first place is. Turning right onto the last stretch of trail then left at the bottom back onto road to the finish. I did it, I overcame myself in the darkest hour to triumph, victory is mine. I here the North Face commentator “Kristian Morgan 100k runner, I cross the finish line grabbing the tape and holding it above my head. I see my mum and smile. I think to myself how my family are such a motivating factor in pushing limits and boundries. The commentator says out loud Kristian Morgan 2nd place runner less than 2 minutes behind the winner (David Emch), I can’t believe my ears.

Food for Ultra Runners

Eating local, fresh wholes foods makes people feel good there is no question about it.

You cannot argue against a high intake of whole foods over processed foods is what our body really wants!I get a real pleasure from going to the local market and buying a few bags of brightly coloured foods to take home.

Once at home I chop, peel and make up recipes that cannot be found in cooking books. The secret is to experiment and try mixing new foods that you didn't think you could combine. For example I have mixed in bananas to salads and the result is positive. 

I also like to use herbs (not the mind altering type) but hey guess what you would be surprised to find out the effect on the mind natural fresh herbs have. Take a look at turmeric for its anti Alzheimer’s property's or how new research is unearthing the memory boosting functions of sage.

For coffee lovers out there, taking a coffee break will counteract the age related degenerative processes and can fight against Parkinson's disease.

The main thing is whole foods taste good, so my advice is to go buy some herbs, fruit and brightly coloured vegetables from your local market and go eat it, oh and while your at it have a coffee. I promise you will feel good.

Importance of friendship

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Friends

Many times Tsegaye and I would run together, the Ethiopia landscape surrounding us, easy conversation flowing as we would pass cows or sheep.

I just finished speaking with my good friend Tsegaye.

We have not spoken for a while and it was nice to catch up with him. I met Tsegaye at the Palermo marathon in Sicily, which he won. A few years ago I lived in Ethiopia with Tsegaye and his family, we shared a room with some other runners. We had so many good times together, running, cooking, eating and talking. I was to learn about Ethiopian culture through Tsegaye and he became a great teacher.

I was saddened to hear that his mother has passed away last year, I met her many times and she made me feel as if I was a true family member. I will never forget her and times I spent in her home. We would all go and eat at Tsegaye's mother house, she would take care of us all as if we were all her children. I remember spending easter at her house, eating traditional Ethiopian easter dishes, Tsegaye slaughtered a chicken which we all ate, drinking three cups of coffee after eating as in Ethiopia thats how they do it. I would say Tsegaye's mum is one of the nicest women I ever met.

Many times Tsegaye and I would run together, the Ethiopia landscape surrounding us, easy conversation flowing as we would pass cows or sheep. We would talk about running goals for the future, dreams of visiting other places around the world and finally food as we became tired and hungry. Tsegaye will be a friend of mine forever, I value the times we have spent together in the past and look forward to the times will will have together in the future.

Heat Acclimatisation for Ultra Runners

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Today I ran during the hottest part of the day, why did I do this ? The answer is to get myself heat acclimatised. I will be running the "Thailand Norh Face 100K" in ten days and BELIEVE me its going to get hot. I have noticed the benefits of heat acclimatisation and here are 5 tips that will help you you become heat acclimatise

1. The single best way to get used to running in the heat is to actually run in the heat. So if possible I'd avoid the early morning or late evening runs and get yourself outside under the sun and go run.

2. Try walking for 30 minutes before your run in the heat and also walk for 30 minutes after your run in the heat. This way without any real effort your getting in an extra 60 minutes of exposure to the heat without too much effort, as walking requires a lot less energy.

3. Subject yourself to running in the hottest part of each day for at least 10 times before your race.

4. If you do not get hot weather in your country then why not try sauna sessions. First start off by staying in the sauna for a set amount of time, then as time goes by increase the amount of time you spend in the sauna.

5. No sun, no sauna, okay why not try wearing a few layers of clothes and going out on a run, this will raise your temperature and you will get hot.  Or even put the heating on to full in your house then do a workout for a set about of time.

Running helps connect our mind and bodies

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I am now sitting in one of my favourite restaurants in Thailand "Mama Pooh's. It took almost three days to get here from London, England. I have travelled here because I will be taking part in the TNF100 - "Thailand North Face 100k, I also ran last year placing 3rd overall. I'm writing this post today because I'm excited about running. I have been on all sorts of transportation over the past few days including planes, trains, buses, taxis and even boats, but in three days I have not used my favourite form of transport, that would be my legs.

Getting here "Koh Phangan" - (Island close to mainland Thailand) I feel pretty shitty after way too much sitting down without much if any movement. I go to the dirt running track at a school that I discovered a few years ago. After only 10 minutes of running I start to cry, this is whats been wrong with me, how come I have felt so uninspired. Running has awoken my body and connected my brain, I feel alive again. I really believe we as humans were made to be moving at some level, not just sitting.

So thats it, a short post on how running is not just running but movement to help connect our body and mind. Without running I would be using another hobby to move my body like climbing, walking or kayaking anything that moves the body. If your not feeling yourself or want to boost your brain chemistry get outside and move, its that simple. Your body will thank you for it, I promise.

Transgrancanaria 128km | +7500 | Gran Canaria

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TRANSGRANCANARIA 2017

Transgrancanaria - "TGC" is part of the famous "Ultra Trail World Tour". Many of the world’s greatest ultra runners enter but not all of them finish due to the technical and brutal nature of the TGC. I first heard of this race whilst listening to "talk ultra" hosted by Ian J Corless. The second time I heard about TGC was whilst running the "South Downs way 100 mile" in the UK, one of the runner’s I spoke with told me it's awesome and there’s no need to enter via a lottery. I made up my mind there and then, one day I would enter the TGC. Little did I know it would be so soon.

AGAETE START LINE

Making my way to the start line of TGC, I enter the elite area at the front of the pack, my names not in the elite list, so I have to sneak past security. There are over 80 listed athletes ranked by the ITRA - "International Trail Running Association", these runners are on the TGC’s website as favorites. I’m pretty sure I'll finish within the top 80, so positioning myself in this area is brave but I'm sure I can do it (finish in at least the top 80). Part of the mandatory kit is cash, which I do not have plus I can’t find an ATM, so before entering the start I rush to a particular backstreet coffee shop and find Maria the owner. A few days earlier I brought a sandwich after a training run at her shop, we got chatting, she’s a friendly lady. I tell her I need €10, Maria doesn't hesitate to give it me along with an espresso. Adrenaline and caffeine rush through my veins, I'm now ready to start TGC. We set off at a good pace, I'm in about 60th position, 100’s of people on the street cheer us as we pass by them. 

TAMADABA FIRST CLIMB

Along the road up a path and straight into our first climb towards Tamadaba. Sea to summit with about 1450m positive elevation. No more street light’s just the beam from out head torches, looking up I see the leaders are not that far ahead. I feel comfortable with my effort and know I can sustain this pace up to the top of the mountain. My Leki micro trail poles are a real help as nobody on this uphill section is running so hiking with my poles save me valuable energy. About halfway up the mountain I turn to look back down at the snake of glittering head torch lights below, the view takes my breath and I soak up the amazing sight before turning to look ahead and continue with my progress. Finally we reach the top, surrounded by pine trees I feel like I’m in America at Western States 100. I’m feeling great. The atmosphere in Tamadaba is really cool, I fill one soft flask, as the other is still full. I'm loving the smiles from the checkpoint staff they are so supportive and encouraging. Leaving Tamadaba cowbells ringing we begin our descent. The group I'm following disappears into the cold mountain air. Time to react, I accelerate towards them down the rocky path at break neck speed. It's scary but awesome as I follow the single file group of about 6 runners in front of me, the runner directly in front is a female runner. 

DISASTER

Disaster strikes as my left foot gets caught in a root, I'm propelled forward, flying through the air time slows down. I look at the rocks ahead of me wondering which one I will smash my teeth on. I don't know how but I manage to get my left leg back into position in front of me and so don't land on my face. In doing so my left calf muscle cramps up momentarily. ***** it's all over, my mind is filled by nightmare memories of cramping up in Thailand. 3 weeks ago I was in Thailand running the TNF100 - "Thailand North Face 100k". I finished 3rd position but paid a price by experiencing severe dehydration and cramping after the race I spent 22 hours in hospital. I feel traumatized but continue down the trail chasing the woman ahead. The pace is relentless so no time to think. By the time we reach the bottom I've mentally recovered from my trip and mini cramp, my body feels fine in fact I'm feeling confident. I now have company behind me. Feeling part of a group I settle into the rhythm of running the trails. Our next big climb is from Tirma. 

TIRMA CHECKPOINT 2

Getting to the second checkpoint I'm ready with my soft flask open, one of the checkpoint staff take it from me to fill. There are many people here and they are cheering and singing the runners who enter and leave. with all the fun going on around me I forget to eat fruit from the table My nutritional strategy is 200 calories per hour via a Gu gel and 500ml of ultrafuel plus a salt tablet. I'm also eating what ever fruit is available at each checkpoint. So leaving Tirma I know I've rushed and not followed my plan but I don't worry as I still have all the following checkpoints ahead to eat fruit and this is what will count towards staying energized and able to finish TGC. Leaving Tirma I'm cheered and applauded by the large crowd. We run a short while on a flat dirt road before the climb up to Artenara which will give us 1500m of elevation gain. When running this section in daylight I was rewarded by seeing the large ridgeline of the mountain ahead of me, now in the dark with only light from my head torch I take pleasure in knowing the beauty of the landscape to come. I've passed the female runner who had been ahead of me all this time, but not because I’m running faster, just because she's slower on the flat. I turn left onto single trail the gradient soon becomes steep and I catch up with “Tim Wortmann” an athlete from the German “Altra” team. I met him before the race, he’s a friend of Matthias Krah the other German Altra team member. I met Matthias on my first training run here on the island. We all drove in my car to the start leaving Matthias's car at the finish this way we were independent and didn't need to take the coach service. 

TIM + MATTHIAS GERMAN ALTRA TEAM

I sense Tim's not feeling good. I ask where Matthias is, Tim say's he's behind us. Tim tell's me to go ahead because by now I have slowed to his pace. I push on feeling energetic. At the top the terrain becomes runnable so I do just that. Running along the mountain ridge I come to the section where I saw wild goats on my training run only days before. Here I begin a love affair with the trail as it zigzags through trees, just for a moment I stop turn off my head torch and look up at the sky full of sparkling stars, I’m humbled. I'm protected from the wind this side of the mountain, I feel safe in the wilderness away from internet and the madness of society. I continue the gradual downhill running easy my heart rate drops to 116 beats per minute. Leaving the dirt trail and onto a tarmac road I enter Gran Canaria's highest village "Artenara" the road becomes cobblestone as I pass many cheering people to enter a building in which hot food is served. 

ARTENARA CHECKPOINT 3

This is checkpoint number 3, eating a small amount of pasta, I'm asked if I’m okay, it’s pleasing to be able to say yes I'm fine. Around me runners whom probably set off too fast sit on chairs looking tired and worn out. I've climbed to 56th position. Filling my water bottles I leave and head up the steep tarmac road to exit the village. Next check point is at Fontanales, this is the start of the advanced race. Including TGC there's a total of 6 race's, the Promo/family 17k, Starter 30k, Marathon 42k, Advanced 85k, TGC 125k and finally the Trans 360 265k. Up till now I have run marathon distance. Running in the dark with a head torch is really cool, but before starting I was nervous and apprehensive, but now I grown use to the dark. The trail to Fontanales crosses three valleys, lots of ups and downs along rock-strewn trails. Here is where I experience my first competition. 3 runners pass me when going downhill then I catch them up on the uphill, this continues for a while. 

INTERNAL VOICE

Each time they pass me an internal voice tells me this is a race against yourself and the way you react to being passed on the downhill is a measure of your focus and character. One guy is impartially faster than the others and as he passes me on one of the downs he turns looks me in the eye and says no more ups for 6 kilometers, I take this as an attempt of intimidation. I have been passing him on every uphill so I think he wants me to know there are no uphill’s for a while. Knowing I shouldn't, I follow him down the dark twisty trail keeping close behind him, navigating the rocks at speed. It may be the worst thing I have done up till now. So far I've stuck to my own pace but chasing this guy I've lost my focus. I'm sure it won't be long before I pay the price. Eventually he gains time on me and I no longer see him ahead. I travel along a small tarmac road before turning right over to a slippery narrow decent, on the road I catch up with two guys one has stopped and is questioning if this is the correct direction. His friend shouts out to him yes it's this way. I know it’s the right way having already run this in training, a huge confidence boost for me. 

SLIPPERY TRAIL

Down the slippy trail I'm on the tail of the runner who was unsure of the direction, from behind he reminds me of an American runner the way he is dressed, trucker hat and knee length shorts awesome trail fashion. I feel good but slip and land on my bum getting up I wipe the dirt from my rear. This part of the trail travels in between giant eucalyptus trees, smelling the strong aroma of these trees takes me back to Ethiopia. I take time to appreciate the pleasant smell of eucalyptus and memories of running in Ethiopia flood my mind. At the bottom I stop off for a quick toilet break. At Fontanales checkpoint I eat fruit, fill my bottles and am out running in less than 60 seconds leaving other runners behind, Im now in 51st position. Valle Secco comes and goes without me noticing, except this is the point the sky actually starts to change. I notice color and know it won't be long before sunrise. At Terror checkpoint I eat fruit and fill bottles, chatting with a French runner as I leave. The whole time up till now I have been eating and drinking as planned. Feeling strong I pass two runners on the relentless climb to Cruz de Tejeda. 

CRUZ DE TEJADA NEVER ENDING CLIMB

This climb seems to never end. I begin to enter my first big low of the race. It starts as a small voice in my head, are you sure you can finish this race? I am also cold and so put on my running gloves. Like a machine my mind drives my body up this cold windy mountain. At the top is Arinez checkpoint, for the first time I take out my waterproof jacket putting it on I now feel warmer. I pick up some fruit and eat it, and then I see a large piece of salty pretzel on the table I bite into it like a wild man. The checkpoint staff have a good laugh at me. The next part is uphill through a pine forest, which at the top literally passes the drive to the mountain cabin I've been staying in for 3 weeks, this is my biggest test so far. Thoughts of entering the warm dry room in the cabin laying on the bed and covering myself in a warm blanket corrupt my mind. Just before the top a runner goes past me making eye contact, I can see that he can see I'm having a ruff time, he gives me a look of sympathy and leaves me behind. At this point I ask myself how I would feel waking up in that cabin nice and warm in bed knowing I'd quit because the race was tuff, I'm not ready to quit this race just yet. I reach the top of the climb where the forest trail meets the road, right in front of me is the drive up to the cabin, I turn right and continue running along the road leaving the warm bed behind. The quit and sleep in the cabin thoughts try to pull me back but I'm too strong and solider on. 

DOWNHILL TRAIL

Turning left I now hit the downhill trail. All the way to next check point at Tejeda I run fast and furious empowered by growing self belief after over coming my first low. The sun has risen, I remove the head torch and let my eyes use the light from the sun. At Tejeda check point I dance to loud music that’s played, the staff clap and cheer, they are all women in their sixty's. I feel euphoric after the downhill section and offer a kiss to one lady, she looks at me smiles and kisses the air in front of my face. I quickly realize I must have food and snot all over my big moustache. She is wise not to kiss me. I take soup and try to drink it fast immediately spitting liquid out all over the floor as it's super hot, adding water helps cool it a little. Leaving Tejeda I head towards Roque Nublo the most famous mountain on the island, due to a huge exposed rock standing upright, it's meant to represent a man’s penis. “Nuria Picas” a famous runner told a joke "What do you get if you cross a rock and a *****? a dictator!" My technique up this part is simple, hike using my Leki poles on the steep ups and run everything else. At the top two runners pass me but I pass them back straight away. Shortly after I arrive at Garinon the 85k point and also the start of the marathon. From here only 3 more climbs remain. This is the checkpoint at which runners who do not have assistance are aloud to leave a drop bag. I would have but left myself no time to do so by being unprepared. 

GARINON CHECKPOINT 8

Inside the building where the checkpoint is I eat hot food whilst the staff fill both my bottles and add ultra fuel. Three other runners are here as well as me, two are the ones who passed me not long before, they are eating the third is a solo guy with dreadlocks he's doing a full change of running kit, socks and everything. I'm first to leave having been there only 90 seconds. Now it's time for the steepest climb to the highest point on the island "Pico de las Nieves". Up I go, at the top there is a small section of road then it's a right turn onto trail which travels though pine forest, here I'm passed by the same two who passed me before, the guys from the check point. I try following but these dudes are half human, half mountain goat. So I'm left by myself on the trail. The start of my second low, I do my best to catch these guys but it is impossible, the faster I go concentrating on every footstep the more tired I become. A helicopter passes overhead reminding me of when I ran Marathon de sables. 

TUNTE CHECKPOINT 9

Finally I have made it to Tunte check point, the big up hills are all done now, just two small inclines remain. Tunte is a beautiful small mountain village, one of my favorites on the island. I leave the village knowing I have a small climb but nothing drastic. I try but cannot run it, It's too late in the race to run hills and I'm too tired. At this point about 5 other runners pass me, making me feel *****. So I try a strategy of 5 seconds walk then 5 seconds run but this last's about a minute. I decide I'm close to the finish and I'll run all the flats and downhill’s but will hike the remaining uphill’s. There's something strange about these runners passing me, they all look too fresh, I can't understand but just accept they are stronger than me, maybe I'll pass them on the downhill. Each time I get passed I applaud the runner. Now the downhill to Ayagaures. I know Timothy Olson had run from Tunte to the finish in 2hrs 30mins during training, this plays on my mind but I tell myself I don't need to complete against Tim. 

AYAGAURES CHECKPOINT 10

I relax my breathing and have calm focus, really getting a good rhythm and perfect foot placement amongst the many rocks on the trail. At Ayagaures checkpoint I sit for the second time in the race whilst eating a little bit of hot paella. Only 3 minutes pass before I'm off again towards meta sur the final checkpoint. But first I have one more uphill followed by about 6k through an empty riverbed. I set off the sun is seriously hot now and I have increased my water intake not wanting to end up in hospital like Thailand. I'm now drinking almost one litre of fluid each hour. It's working, I'm staying hydrated. I'm on the edge of burn out but still have power to move forward. The finish is now only 10 miles away but still seem's like a lot and I honestly can't believe I'm able to make it. I keep telling myself Kristian have patience you will get there. The river bed is where “Sabastion Chagnau” passes me, he's a world champion aged 45. I just keep a rhythm through this area of various sized stones. It's amazing what the human body can do when pushed. I keep a constant pace over this part soon reaching the road. 

PARQUE SUR CHICKEN LEG

I get a feeling of achievement as I pass a group of cheering people on the first part of the road to the finish. I even get a surprise when I pass one of the two runners who had passed me after Garinon, he's walking using his poles on the flat and look's defeated. I'm now running faster entering the last checkpoint at Parc Sur, I find it funny when someone from the checkpoint holds out a chicken leg for me, I kindly refuse all that matters now is a 3k sprint to the finish. Seeing the finish line ahead I really can't believe I've actually made it, nothing can stop me now. I have done it. I cross the line not before high fiving everyone in the crowd along the final straight. What we can do when putting our mind to it. I said 16hrs and finish in 16hrs 52mins in 39th position. Not one runner had past me from the 125k race, all the runners who past me were from the shorter Advanced distance. Proud of myself I lie down and rest on the grass near the finish line in the shade. It was dreaming of doing this that got me to the finish. Thank you to my sponsor Leki. Thank you to all the people who have helped me in my running over the years
@Leki.co.uk