Day 2 – Tough Day But Still In One Piece

On May 12, 2012, in Running, by Robert Dallison

Finish Time — 6:31:24
Average Pace — 14:56 per mile
Steps Taken — 54,740
Mantra of the Day — “Keep calm and jog on”

If someone tells you Brathay 10-in-10 is hard, don’t believe them. It’s harder. Much harder.

Today was my first reality check here at Brathay. Every hill felt steeper than yesterday, every mile felt longer.

Physically I am doing fine — so far so good, no real niggles or discomfort. But for some reason as early as mile 4 I started to feel depleted, empty. It was different somehow from the energy crash or “wall” that you might expect at mile 18 or 20 if you are under-fuelled. More like a general fatigue, maybe lack of sleep over the weeks leading up to this event.

Long story short, I slogged it out mile after mile and finally got round in just over six and a half hours. For anyone who might be wondering, yes that’s quite a long time to be out on the road.

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Aly and Mac (from Brathay Trust) for their dedicated support out on the road and for knowing how to say the right thing at the right time. They are just amazing.

My chosen mantra for the day proved to be perfect. I did start to panic a little bit at one point, then I remembered “yes, I can do this!” — if only I stay calm, believe in my preparation, and keep moving, even slowly. Thank you to Class 4 for including this one in their amazing card which now has pride of place on the motivational wall of our athletes’ HQ!

I have to say that even in the hard moments, I keep in mind that the kids for whom I am raising funds don’t have the luxury of walking away from their challenges and tough situations. So when I finish this ordeal next Sunday, I will be thinking of the children and young adults who will have to continue enduring damaging and abusive environments that we find it hard to imagine. Please help me accomplish my goal of raising £5,000 to support the work of Brathay Trust, and visit my fund-raising page at Thank you for your support!

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Day 1 – Good Day But Some Tweaks Needed

On May 11, 2012, in Running, by Robert Dallison

Finish Time — 5:07:43
Average Pace — 11:44 per mile
Paces Taken — 51,576
See below for the day’s pictures

Day 1 of Brathay 10-in-10 started for me today at 6:30am, with the BodyRehab team taking baseline measurements for posture and balance, which involved functional squats, one-legged squats, overall balance and posture photography. They will be taking these same measurements morning and evening throughout the 10-in-10, which enables us to be very precise and scientific about how our bodies are suffering!

After sorting out my fuelling logistics for the day (gels, bars, shot blocks), a hearty breakfast was in order before the “media start” at 10am. The highlight was the Brathay gamekeeper complete with tweeds and deerstalker, firing his shotgun to sound the off. After dashing across the lawn for the cameras, we headed down to the road for the real start.

I’m not going to write a long race report. Suffice it to say that Windermere fully deserves its reputation of being one of the hardest road marathons in the UK.

Contrary to what one might expect, the course does not hug the lake shore. The total elevation gain and loss is about 2,000ft, which comes from a seemingly unending series of climbs and descents as you crest every single spur and shoulder that drops from the Lakeland fells down to Windermere.

Curiously the second half of the course feels much more difficult, even though the elevation gain is only 800ft (as compared to 1,200ft on the first half). The hills between Fell Foot and Bowness seem to go on forever. In fact, after a while even the downhill stretches begin to feel as if you’re climbing…

As a result I struggled from miles 16 to 22, but before and after this stretch I was in control and very much enjoyed the run. Because of that tough stretch I missed my goal of a 5-hour finish. My objective over the next few days will be to eat and sleep as much as possible, to avoid that mid-race burnout.

The afternoon and evening has been a bit of a blur… today’s run has put me in that zone where time doesn’t seem very important, and psychologically I am already preparing for tomorrow’s marathon.

Of course before signing off I want to thank BodyRehab and their magic hands… And I have to say that I am looking forward to the ice bath again tomorrow! 10 minutes in a bubbling jacuzzi at 3.7 degrees centigrade will do wonders to get the legs ready to hit the road again…

Please remember though, that I am not running for fun. I am trying to raise £5,000 to support Brathay Trust and the work they do with some of the most vulnerable and under-privileged young people in the country.

If you have a few pounds or dollars to spare, your contribution would be welcome at my fund-raising page, Thank you for your generosity and support!

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Day Zero Is Finally Here

On May 10, 2012, in Running, by Robert Dallison

Well here we are, back at Brathay. Suddenly everything is very real. The first marathon starts *tomorrow*. Gulp!

It’s great to be back with the group — and it really doesn’t seem like 4 months have gone by since we were last here.

After a long drive up through the rain and wind, I am happy that this amazing event is finally kicking off. All that’s left to do now is get a good night’s sleep!

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The Best Team Of Supporters I Could Ask For

On May 10, 2012, in Running, by Robert Dallison

This morning’s visit to meet Class 4 in Otterton was the best possible thing I could have done to kick off Day Zero of the Brathay 10-in-10.

It is a huge psychological boost to see how these young students are excited about supporting me, my fellow runners, and Brathay Trust.

We spoke for an hour and a half, and it was not long enough – I think they will agree that we could easily have continued all day!

We did a vote to select their Team 13 t-shirt design; they had me do a trial run around their playground perimeter to test my running style (!); we took pictures with a local journalist; I showed them Vibram FiveFinger shoes and running medals and a foam roller and refuelling products; they told me about all their ideas to raise funds for Brathay; and they asked me a lot of questions about running – really good questions that I often ask myself! What will give you the courage to finish the 10-in-10? How will you deal with failure? Who inspires you? Will you change the pace or style of your running for each marathon?

I’m not going to tell you how I answered these questions (and all the others!), because at some point I expect to host a guest blog from Class 4 where they will give their own account of our meeting.

But I will tell you that they presented me with the most extraordinary card, which has a drawing of all the 10-in-10 runners and a collection of running mantras that they have come up with. This card will go up in our team headquarters here at Brathay, for me and my fellow runners to take inspiration from every morning at breakfast.

To the boys and girls of Class 4, I would like to say a heartfelt “thank you” for inviting me to join you this morning. You are the best team of supporters I could ask for! Your enthusiasm and your support will be fresh in my mind as I get out on the road tomorrow.

To everyone reading this blog, you can play your part to support Brathay Trust by contributing to my fund-raising page, at Even if your donation is small, it will be valuable, and appreciated. And you can help too by spreading the word to your friends and acquaintances!

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The Amazing Story Of Class 4

On May 7, 2012, in Running, by Robert Dallison

Tucked away in a cute, typically English village near Exeter on the south coast of Devon, Otterton Primary School is a little gem of the British educational system.

As a topical project for 2012, Class 4 and their teacher Mrs Evans have been exploring the Olympic values of Pierre de Coubertin:

  • respect — fair play; knowing one’s own limits; and taking care of one’s health and the environment;
  • excellence — how to give the best of oneself, on the field of play or in life; taking part; and progressing according to one’s own objectives;
  • friendship – how, through sport, to understand each other despite any differences;
  • as well as the paralympic values of courage, determination, equality and inspiration.

The 13 students of Class 4 may be just 10-11 years old, but they never do anything half-heartedly. They have decided to organise a project around these themes. Each of them will individually raise funds for charity through a personal “Olympic enterprise” which could involve anything from washing cars to baking cup-cakes.

When Mrs Evans told Class 4 about my challenge to run 10 marathons in 10 days, they decided they would add a “relay marathon”, no less, to their Olympic values project. As part of their maths lesson, they measured the perimeter of their school playground, and calculated how many laps they would have to run in order to cover the marathon distance of 26.2 miles.

On 15th June, each student will take it in turn to run 2 laps at a time, sporting a Team 13 shirt. They expect to finish the complete distance in just over 3 hours. Yes, I am jealous of their speed!

Class 4 will be asking their families and friends for sponsorship to run this marathon. The funds they raise from this, and from the proceeds of their “Olympic enterprises”, will be donated to Brathay Trust.

These young children have displayed amazing autonomy and initiative. They have sorted out their own objectives, written and submitted their project plan to the school head for approval, and taken responsibility and ownership of their own project. Mrs Evans tells me that she has rarely seen them work so hard! I am sure that their enthusiasm will be matched only by their success.

Every penny of the funds raised by Class 4 will help Brathay Trust equip disadvantaged young people with the tools to regain their self-esteem and take charge of their own future. It is fitting, somehow, for Class 4 to be supporting their less fortunate peers.

I am honoured, and humbled, by the selfless and spontaneous support of Class 4. Their attitude and values will make for balanced, responsible adults later in life. We have much to learn from them, and I commend them as an example to follow.

If you would like to show your support for Class 4, and for the young people that Brathay helps, then please visit my fund-raising page at

Thank you sincerely for your support.

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Minimalist Endurance Running

On May 3, 2012, in Running, by Robert Dallison

As many of you know, I have been running “minimalist” for over 2 years now — in other words, 75% of my running career.

“Minimalist” doesn’t mean I’m trying to be cool and trendy. Actually, it makes me a little marginal. I get plenty of strange looks and skeptical comments when people see me undertaking a marathon in shoes that look like foot gloves.

What minimalist means to me is that the human body is an extraordinary mechanism, a finely tuned orchestra of bones, joints, nerves, muscles and tendons. Regardless of how fit you are, your body is capable of working with maximum efficiency — if you will allow it to!

Your body will always strive to protect itself, and will do what is best for it under the conditions that you subject it to. This can sometimes lead to unexpected results. In the case of “normal” running shoes that are supposedly designed to “protect” and “support” the feet and lower legs, there is a growing wave of public opinion that says these shoes are in fact an impediment to ideal gait, stance and proprioception.

Back in 2010, after doing a lot of reading on the subject, I decided I could not pass judgment on this debate without trying minimalist shoes for myself. So I made the leap and found a new freedom in my running that I had not anticipated.

Two years later, I know for a fact that I will never again do any recreational or race running in so-called “normal” shoes. Indeed, if at some point I do transition away from the Vibrams that have given me such good service, it will most likely be to adopt full barefoot running!

But this is for the future. Right now I am facing the enormous challenge of running 262 miles in 10 days to support Brathay Trust, and as far as I know I will be the first person to complete an event like this in minimalist shoes(*). I know — all this proves is that I am marginally more crazy than my 17 companions. But only marginally…

(*) Of course I am happy to be the third or the three-hundredth, so feel free to set me straight in the comments if that’s the case!

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The Interview…

On April 11, 2012, in Running, by Robert Dallison

This interview was recorded during the training weekend at Brathay in January 2012. Expect to see a few more videos from me, leading up to the event and during it as well!

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One Month To Go

On April 10, 2012, in Running, by Robert Dallison

One month? Really?? Yes, one month to go.

Just 30 days from now I will be settling into Race HQ at Brathay House near Ambleside. Running the last checks on my kit, loading up on carbs and protein, settling down for a good night’s sleep, and bracing myself for Day 1 of the Brathay 10-in-10, edition of 2012!

It is very, very hard to believe that nine months have gone by since I learned that my application for the event had been accepted. I know that time seems to pass quicker as we get older, but really? Nine months already??

Lots of people ask me “How’s your training going?”, and my answer at the moment is some variation of “slowly” or “backwards” or “with difficulty”. The fact is that life gets in the way. Between work, business travel, house moves and other major life events, it’s hard to make time for the mileage that I should be clocking right now.

My greatest fear at the moment is that I’ll just blow a gasket on day 6 or 7. Everything I do in the next few weeks will be designed to prevent this from happening.

Theoretically I am in good shape for the challenge, titanic though it may be. Two months ago I completed the Enigma Quadzilla in relatively good shape. That’s four marathons in four days… and several people have told me that this is a good indication of one’s ability to make it through the 10-in-10.

Unfortunately, since then my running mileage has dropped off. I’ve packed on a few unnecessary pounds, and right now I am champing at the bit after 10 days of enforced rest due to an annoying lung-lurking lurgy…

My plan now is to cover about 150 miles in the remaining month before the event, including (if possible) a 10-day series of back-to-back runs.

So there we are. The master training plan comes down to these last 30 nerve-wracking, adrenaline-charged days!

In a way I welcome the arrival of Day 1 of the event. It will be a huge release. For 10 days I will be able to focus 100% on my running and on my body.

On the fund-raising front the challenge is just as big.

My whole reason for attempting this crazy challenge is to raise £5,000 for Brathay Trust, which helps disadvantaged young people by equipping them to take charge of their own lives.

Many of you will have received messages from me already, asking you to help me accomplish this goal. I want to say a heartfelt “thank you” to those who have donated. Please help me again, if you will, by telling your friends about my challenge…

To those who may wonder why I am doing this, I encourage you to visit, where you will find stories of the vulnerable young people who have been helped by this amazing foundation. If you are not moved to run 262 miles for them I will understand. But if you can dip into your pocket and contribute the equivalent of a latte or two that would be great!

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Inside 100 Days – And Feeling The Fear

On February 6, 2012, in Running, by Robert Dallison

Less than 100 days now until I toe the start line for the first of 10 back-to-back marathons at Brathay. It’s time to start applying some serious focus!

This may well be the most extreme physical challenge I will ever undertake. I am determined to finish, but to accomplish this I must also treat the event with extreme respect.

Everything I do for the next three months has one overriding goal. I must get to that start line injury-free, yet with a fitness level that will carry me through 262 miles on one of the most difficult road courses in the UK.

This means that I need to be hitting 50 to 60 training miles per week on average, listening intently to my body at all times and dealing with niggles as soon as they crop up.

It means I have to unlearn my bad running habits, and incorporate all sorts of tedious and annoying stuff I never bother to do – stretching, leg-swings and core strengthening to name just a few.

And it means I have to grit my teeth and do some really unpleasant things, like ice baths and waxing and protein drinks, bleurgh. On the good side I get to have sports massages and learn unimaginable things about my anatomy…

The routine is often challenging, given long work days and regular business travel. But I have no choice, if I am to survive at Brathay. Fortunately though my physical fitness is slowly improving, and I am starting to feel more confident that I can handle the workload.

My training is structured around series of back-to-back runs. Currently I am on day 4 of a 10-day series – the last four days of which will be the Enigma Quadzilla, for a total of 145 miles in 10 days. More on that in another message.

The idea is to teach my body some “active recovery” skills. This is a fancy term meaning that you run on tired, aching legs – scrap the rest day, and suck up the pain!

(On a more serious note – your brain supposedly learns how to recruit the muscle fibres that were not damaged in the previous days’ workouts, and your muscle usage progressively becomes more efficient. The challenge is to do this without overstepping the fine line that leads to injury…)

But after all that talk about training, my reality is that the challenge is 90% psychological at this point.

I am afraid. Failure is my greatest fear – it haunts me on a daily basis.

I know for a fact that there will be many moments during the 10-in-10 where failure will be the easiest and most tempting option. At some point it may even appear to be the only option. Those are the moments when I will need the sheer guts to turn my back on the support van, and slog through to that day’s finish line.

I don’t think I have ever been tested like this, and frankly I don’t know how I will deal with it when the moment comes. I am hoping though that by anticipating it, I may be better prepared. To paraphrase my 10-in-10 colleague Keith Luxon: “if you cannot fail, then it is not a challenge”.

At the end of the day though, I am not doing this for myself. I am doing it to play my small part in helping kids from deprived and abusive backgrounds to regain their confidence and self-esteem. In the moments when I want to throw in the towel, I will imagine the hardship they have to endure on a daily basis, and hopefully that will be enough to get me moving again.

You can play your part to help me by telling your friends about my challenge – they can visit my blog here at, or sign up to receive my email newsletter at

If you have not already made a donation, please consider doing so. Click here to visit my fundraising page for more details, No donation is too small, and I mean that literally!

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Time To Crank It Up

On December 30, 2011, in Running, by Robert Dallison

It’s funny how the calendar can play tricks with one’s perception of time. Until just a few days ago, everything about Brathay 10 in 10 was qualified as “next year”. And because 2011 has been a year of major upheaval and adjustment (all very positive fortunately), things labelled “next year” have taken something of a back seat…

Until now, that is. All of a sudden, “next year” is right around the corner — and with it my crazy challenge of running 262 miles in 10 days.

In just two weeks from tonight I will be at the the Brathay training weekend, having dinner with my fellow 10 in 10 runners. And the next morning (Jan 14) I will be running my reconnaissance circuit of Lake Windermere. We only have limited running time (4½ hours) to complete the full marathon course. This is less than 40 minutes longer than my best marathon time, so I have little or no margin for manoeuvre, given that I am far from race-fit at the moment.

Suddenly it’s all become very real. Those 10-day training series with ever-increasing mileage? I can only squeeze in a limited number between now and May. And weekends (only 19 left) are now a precious resource, to be used wisely — including for family time, because I’ll be spending so many hours out on the road due to work and running…

But my training plan is taking shape nicely, with a scattering of events every month. Early February I will be running the Enigma Quadzilla — four marathons in four days — which will give me a taste for what lies in store. In March comes the Bath Half Marathon, by which time I will hopefully be fit enough to shoot for a sub-1:45 personal best. And last but not least, early April the Sussex Marathon will be a good dry run for Brathay, as apparently the course is hilly and challenging.

The challenge of Brathay 10 in 10 is just as intimidating as it has ever been. But I’m loving every minute of it, even if the adrenaline tends to buzz a little every time I think about it!

2011, you’ve been great. 2012, here I come. It’s time to crank it up!!

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  • Running PRs

    5K - 23:17 (Oct 16, 2010)
    5K - 23:37 (Mar 13, 2010)
    5K - 26:23 (May 23, 2009)
    10K - 49:09 (Oct 3, 2010)
    10K - 49:36 (Nov 26, 2009)
    10K - 51:36 (Oct 4, 2009)
    13.1 - 1:46:28 (Mar 07, 2010)
    13.1 - 1:52:23 (Nov 13, 2009)
    26.2 - 3:53:49 (Jan 30, 2011)
    26.2 - 4:39:14 (Jan 31, 2010)

    Running Goals

    5K - 22:00
    10K - 45:00
    13.1 - 1:40:00
    26.2 - 3:45:00
    Feb 2012, four marathons in 4 days
    May 2012, ten marathons in 10 days