You might think that when you win a huge race and you get a sword, a flippin’ sword, as a prize that you would feel really happy. You might think that if that happened and you didn’t feel happy, you were ungrateful and sour. That did happen to me a few weeks ago and, even though there are a few pictures of me smiling, it was forced because that is how I knew I should have reacted. Mostly I felt numb. So why put myself through that when it didn’t make me happy?
Last year, in a feverish bout of pandemic madness, I entered the Hardmoors 160. I had sworn I would not do this race, but it suddenly seemed like a good idea with my original mountainous races not happening. It was a big enough challenge and a step into the unknown, and I wanted to know how I would cope with two nights on the move. And it’s Hardmoors! I actually enjoyed the race itself, despite an injury – or something mysterious that caused my left calf to balloon – and the fact that I didn’t finish. The weekend was great: I was among friends, running in an area I knew and loved and to be back racing was wonderful. I went into this year’s race looking for the same feeling, just with a better outcome. This was my first mistake – never try to replicate a great memory!
My training had gone well too, better than last year and I felt strong. The difference was that I had lost that drive to race over the last couple of years. It was never very strong in me anyway: I always enjoyed racing shorter events or ones where I wasn’t expected to ‘do well’, but when I felt the perceived expectation of other people, I just wasn’t into it and if anything, it detracted from the actual running of the race. The space it took up in my head as I told myself all the little stories that I assumed other people were thinking was too much. A race shouldn’t consume your every thought: ultimately nothing world changing is going to come of it, but it still becomes your obsession, and ultimately, I was sick of thinking like that. I knew though, that if everything went well and I did the time I was capable of, I would be competitive. So therein lies the conundrum!
The start of the race takes in 10 miles that you end up repeating on the Sunday too, from Sutton Bank to Helmsley before joining the Tabular Hills route to Scalby. I was nervous when we got to Sutton Bank. I had been so busy making mountains of sandwiches a la Mrs Doyle, that I hadn’t left enough time for my toe taping expert Jayson to tape my toes as thoroughly as usual. The biggest worry though was this feeling like a race in comparison to last time. It was still a staggered start but with thirty of us instead of six and I had two other ladies in my wave, Heather and Haley. Heather and I set off together but had already talked about how we wanted to run our own pace so would happily let the other go. Once we started, it got easier – we just ran, nice and steady, chatting and chilling out a bit more. The little descent to the White Horse was where I first saw Haley, who bounced down it like Kilian while I tottered uncertainly. Of course, it crossed my mind that she was a good runner, clearly better at descending than me! It was also around here that Dan made himself known and would become my Tabular Hills run buddy for a while. Dan is coached by Jayson, who had told him to ‘stay behind Kim’ – my pacing skills are obviously renowned! It is very easy to get pulled along in the first 50 miles as the route is so runnable but it often bites you later on. So Heather, Dan and I trotted along together more or less for a little while. I think Heather dropped back from us somewhere just after Helmsley, and I didn’t see her again. I was always expecting to, but she suffered a lot with an injury and still managed to finish, which was amazing.
The first twenty miles or so trickled by nicely: the evening was warm and pleasant but the grass in the fields (of which there are quite a few) was overgrown and wet, which would make life very unpleasant later on. Dan and I stuck together mostly here though and got into Fadmoor in good time. This was where Jayson was meeting my overnight crew, Debbie and Simon, to do the handover so he could go and sleep for the night, and where we hit our first food snag. In my haste to be organised, I had left all of my hummus, cheese and crisp sandwiches in the fridge so my instructions to have a sandwich at every checkpoint were a bit useless. Luckily Jayson’s mum lives in the village so she knocked me up a couple and somehow, through the night, Debbie and Simon managed to keep supplying me with more! I left Fadmoor on my own and got ready for the dark.
At the bottom of a little woody hill just outside Gillamoor, I found Haley, route description in hand, looking confused. She had gone the right way, doubted herself and turned back, losing some time but sensibly double checking everything. As it turns out, she had never been on the route before, at least until the coast, so I told her that if she didn’t mind sticking with my pace, I would do the nav. We had a really lovely section, just chatting about everything, me slightly in awe of some of her times! It was also lucky for me that she loved horses and cows, as we passed by the frisky pair of horses before Hutton-le-Hole, she was able to distract them while I snuck past! I managed to keep her with me through a potential cow field just after Appleton le Moor too, which made me feel a lot better! Even without the animal calming skills, Haley was great company and full of energy, and the time flew by to Stape. I found Debbie and Simon on the roadside, gave Haley a cup of tea as she didn’t have access to any hot water at that point and had a sit down. Most of the sit downs I had are a bit blurry: I know I drank black tea, complained about my feet, and ate food. I think here I had a vegan cheese and onion pasty and took vegan sausage rolls (both a great find in Morrisons called the Naughty Vegan) with me. I had added these to the food stash this time around after feeling like I was too carb heavy last time. I don’t eat meat really anyway and would be having lots of cheese in the sandwiches, so these were a great compromise and had worked well in training. They had tons of calories in them and actually tasted good! I left Stape alone but managed to find Dan again and we pootled along together through the boggy and confusing Stony Moor.
We had both become a bit quieter by now and I can’t remember if we talked about the blisters that we were both suffering from after all the wet grass, but one thing that is crystal clear was the incredible moon on Levisham Moor. Coming up out of Levisham, we both took a bit of time to look at the huge blood moon: it was dark red but still bright, really stunning and atmospheric. It became a trudge to the Hole of Horcum at 42 miles, where I think I decided to take my shoes off and see what was what. There is a possibility I took them off at an earlier point too, but I can’t remember! As I had my tea and ate more food, I took my feet in. They were soaked, almost trench footy, white and with big furrows in them. After last year being so great on the first night, I just hadn’t foreseen this, so had left all my first aid stuff in the motorhome with Jayson. I had no spare tape, plasters, socks, anything. Simon managed to find me some Elastoplast style tape in their van though, so I did the best I could and covered up all the blisters, but had to put wet socks back on. I knew it would all come off again like the original tape had done but it would have to suffice. I also didn’t know that I wouldn’t see Dan again: his blisters were bad enough to stop him here and he retired from the race. I set off on my own again onto the Old Wife’s Way and into Dalby.
Last year, this bit had flown by as I had run it with Stephen but this time, it was a real drag. It is a gift really, flat and runnable, but I was doing all I could to avoid the grass, which was impossible until I got to Crosscliff and the tarmac. This definitely felt better in a way but worse in another! It was pretty spooky being there all alone in the dark, walking along and eating a cheese sandwich. I relinquished my crust to the Forest Gods and picked up the pace again, probably going a bit quicker than I intended but heck, it was dull! At the sneaky left turn towards Cockmoor Hall, I saw a headtorch and finally caught him up. It was Joel, someone that I had run a little with near the start last year who had also dropped out with an injury. It was good to hear him being so positive this year: he had learned from it, put specific work into the area that had given in last time, and was feeling strong. I was to see him a lot over the weekend as he kept appearing in front of me! We got into the checkpoint and I sat down again, as per the plan, to take in some hot food and I think a shake. I had decided to use protein shakes (Vivolife Perform) this time because it just made sense. When you are moving for such a long time, you need to be repairing as much as you can on the go, or you will break down quicker. I also had some Thai Green Curry Huel and once again, I think, retaped my feet as the grass has soaked me once more. The birds were just starting to tweet here too, which was amazing as it was still really, really early but nice to know that the sun was on the way. I set off with Debbie who was going to run with me until it got light.
It was so nice to have company here, especially someone that I knew, so it was easy conversation. Plus, the section to Scalby is all tarmac with a steep downhill so it is easy to get despondent! We ran together, again passing Joel, until I turned off along the river cut towards Scalby, I enjoy this little trail, especially as the day is dawning and with a bit of mist over the water. The wet grass got me again though and finding myself alone, I was starting to realise this day would be tougher than it should have been. As I started the climb up through Scalby to the coast, Mark Dalton pulled up alongside me and asked if I needed anything as he was crewing for a friend and waiting for him to come through. This is what is great about this sport; we all help each other out! I plugged on, cursing the grass as I made my way to the cliff edge but happy to have the Tabular Hills and all its tarmac behind me.
The next checkpoint and the last time I would see Debbie and Simon was Crookness, a small car park area about 61 miles in. I got there in good time but was really starting to suffer and was greeted with a dry pair of socks! Debbie had managed to dig out an old pair of Hillys for me, so I let me feet air a little and towelled them off before reapplying the tape and the new socks, which instantly felt better. Having the right crew on a supported race really makes all the difference and not only did Debbie and Simon give up a whole night for me, look after me and manage to find things that I didn’t know I would need, they did it all on their special anniversary weekend! I am very grateful for all the help they gave me and will repay the favour when one of them does this! This was also the only time I saw Stephen as he powered through looking really happy, the swine! A bit more food and off I set as the day warmed up.
By now, all the sharp descents along the coast were causing me some real pain. As my feet were shoved into the front of my shoes and my toes squished, I knew this was only going to get worse, but there was nothing to do except get to Robin Hood’s Bay where I would see Jayson and get sorted. I know there was a checkpoint at Ravenscar but I can’t remember much about it: I think I took some jelly sweets and cracked on through as it is only a few miles to Robin Hood’s Bay, I usually really like this section too, it is mostly downhill and first thing in the morning is so peaceful and pretty. But, the downhills were not my friends and I even had to zigzag the inclines to temper the squishing toes. Bit of a brain fart through the Alum Works, meant that I hit more long wet grass again but at this point, I had stopped caring! There weren’t even any peacocks at Stoupe Beck Farm and the little stony steppy descent into Robin Hood’s Bay was the final straw. I walked into the car park with Jayson and prepared for a long stop. Shoes and socks off, feet up and raspberry oats in hand, we set to getting me ready to do another 80 miles on shredded feet. One of my coachees Louise, was here crewing her husband Pete on the 110 and she was amazing. While Jayson dried my feet off and got all the tape ready, she brought me Pete’s fleece as, even though the sun was warm, I was sweaty and getting a little chilly. She stood behind me and rubbed my shoulders while I ate: it felt very indulgent to have all this attention! Jayson must have apologised about twenty times as he taped me up, my little toes crumpled together and having to be pulled apart. It was very ouchy but I knew how much better it would feel to have an extra protective layer on my feet and to have dry socks again. I ate most of my breakfast here, which was great – this was something that went pretty well throughout – and worked myself up to moving again. I set off, MP3 player at the ready and with slightly revived feet.
It was starting to get busy now. A warm Bank Holiday weekend is always going to be popular at the coast and I was hitting a hotspot: Whitby. It wasn’t a massive hardship having to slow and weave for people as I was never going to be moving quickly anyway, but it must have been frustrating for the 110 runners. Once you are in Whitby itself, it is all tarmac again for a few miles, so I found myself hitting a bit of a slump here again. My MP3 player was being really irritating too. I had used an old pair of wired headphones to avoid needing to charge loads of stuff, but they were older than I realised and didn’t work well, so all the songs were stilted and jumpy. A quick toilet stop near the golf course in a not too private hedge and I was ready to get to Jayson again. I wasn’t sure where he would be as parking was going to be hard, so was pleased when I saw him on the roadside as I came into Sandsend. I left the MP3 player with him in a strop and told him how miserable I was, and when he reminded me that Serena was meeting me at the car park, I started crying! I had forgotten she would be there as it has been quite last minute that we could have support from that point, so I was overwhelmingly happy that I would have company again to distract me from my feet. I stopped at the toilet here while I could too (you have to take public loos when you can get them!) and Serena and I set off towards Runswick Bay. When I had done a long run here with Claire a month or so before, there had been a diversion that climbed up through some woods and took you off the long, flat cinder track. It was still in place and we took it after some deliberation because there was a barrier across the track. It was annoying to know that other people, not just people in the race but the public too, were just ignoring it and carrying on. I don’t even think there was any danger there so it was just another thing to be upset about! Poor Serena didn’t know what to say to me when I was telling her that I didn’t know why I was doing it either; she had never done this before and it is really tough to know whether to tell someone to just get on with it or to comfort them! Still, the miles definitely ticked by more quickly with her by my side and we got to Runswick Bay before I knew it.
The climb out of Runswick is very steep and very long, but the climbs weren’t bothering me too much at all, in fact they were almost a respite from the downhills. We got to the carpark where Alison was waiting to take over, and Serena ran back to Sandsend. Alison had done a lot of ultras before and again, we chatted our way along the clifftops. Jayson was waiting at Cowbar a few miles down the coast, and I had another short pitstop here. I can’t quite remember why to be honest! I had my poles from here and maybe an ice lolly as the day was hot. After seeing how much everyone else suffered in the heat, I have to say I never really felt it that much. I am pretty sure I was getting slathered in suncream when Jayson saw me though and we were lucky to have the motorhome so everything could be kept cold. Another toilet stop in a field (!) and we were on our way to Saltburn. We met Claire just before Skinningrove and she trotted with us for a while as she waited for Michelle on the 110. She told me later on that seeing me as tired and in pain, and slow as I was then was a real eye opener as to how challenging this race is and how her 110 experience had been a joy in comparison! As she left us and the day headed towards early evening, we descended into Saltburn and 100 miles were ticked off.
Sitting down on my camping chair for some food at the bandstand, my brain was whirring: I didn’t want to be doing this, what was the point, why was I putting myself through this, the recovery would take an age and for what? There was no enjoyment at all and while everyone was trying very hard to be upbeat, I knew I was an energy sapping grouch. So I said it all out loud. Jayson and Bridget (my next support runner) said all the right things; I was tired, I had just done 100 miles in a shade over 24 hours, it isn’t about enjoying it now, you just have to get it done. I could see that Jayson was getting frustrated with my attitude as he knew how much work I had put in and to stop because I was grumpy was not sensible! I don’t think I really would have stopped with no good reason but in that moment, I know I didn’t want to continue. But I did. What else could I have done? Bridget guided me along brilliantly here, she encouraged me to run when it was flat and we shuffled along at a decent pace for how I was feeling. Somewhere near Slapewath, Ben passed me, another of Jayson’s coached athletes having a great race in the 110 and closing in on the leader Mark, who must have gone past while I was having my moan. It always buoys me on when I see other runners (unless they’re ladies in my race!) so it was great to know that soon there would be a steady stream of chirpy 110 runners coming by. It was definitely getting to the next level of hard though, with the evening closing in, the daylight fading and my second night out looming.
Roseberry and Little Roseberry were very tough and I was a real brat around here. Bridget asked if I wanted any photos taking and I said no, that I wouldn’t want to remember this weekend! Near the top of Roseberry, marshal in sight, I asked if I had to go to the trig and he said yes, to which I was less than pleasant. The little gap in the rocks at the top where you can see into the depths of the earth has always freaked me out, so I tentatively avoided it and pottered back down. The last little stretch to Gribdale and Bridget ran on ahead to get things ready for me. The memory of what I did here has faded but I think I put more clothes on as last year, Blowarth was really chilly and I had to keep stopping to add layers. I went overboard this time, just in case! I could hear them all talking about me outside and was still in my funk, not sure how I would fare through the night. Rachael and I set off at a walk and that was the end of my running for the weekend.
This section was pretty successful. Rachael had loads of personal news she was very willing to share with me and in return, I overshared too, at one point, telling her how beautiful she was! All boundaries collapse when you are this fed up and sleep deprived and I really didn’t care about what I said or did. I did start losing my head a little here too, not being aware of which path we were on and what we had just done when we got onto the tops. It flew by though and I was marginally cheered that we had had a good section time wise. It was time to try for a nap when I got into Clay Bank to get some brain cells firing again before I had to go over the Three Sisters. Jayson had managed to park well away from the bustle of the checkpoint so I laid down in the motorhome and closed my eyes. Like last year though, it just wasn’t going to happen, I couldn’t nod off and was wasting time. Up and out we went, this time accompanied by Steve, a running club friend who had been with me for the last 30 miles of the Hardmoors 110, my first 100 miler six years ago, and who would stay with us until the end.
Unsurprisingly, this was one of my worst sections in terms of pace. The previous leg was pretty good going with no steep or technical climbs or descents whereas this one was all technical and steep. Having done these hills so much, you would also assume that I knew where I was going but at the top of the Wainstones, I got totally confused. Convincing myself that one of the larger rocks was new, I tried to go round it a different way and we dithered around a bit before getting back on track. I had also decided to try and avoid the rocks as much as I could which is virtually impossible over those hills, but I stubbornly kept drifting off onto the grass to try and cushion my shredded feet. I saw what looked like a giant pig made of wire that turned out to be long grass too: not as exciting or as abundant as last years hallucinations but it passed the time! I have no idea what we talked about, but I knew that I enjoyed having Steve with me here. We hadn’t ‘run’ together for so long and it was great to have someone with me that had dealt with me in this state before. By the time we got to Lordstones, I was very ready for a nap, so I laid down again and this time it worked. I slept for somewhere between 10-20 minutes, still sort of aware of small noises around me but on waking, I felt more alert. As if it wasn’t hard enough already though, this was where I had to face some hard truths. Jayson told me that Jennifer O’Neill was catching me, moving faster than I was and making good time. If I didn’t pick up the pace from here, there was a good chance that the first place position I had held for most of the weekend, would be gone. It genuinely scared me. There was no way that I wanted to come away with less than a sword after all this pain and not achieving the time I had wanted. It would have been a massive failure to allow that to slide away now. On the face of it, it wasn’t that hard: I had to maintain roughly 3 miles an hour for the remaining 20 odd miles, a decent walking pace. I had done the big hills and the sun was coming up. It was on!
With Jayson waiting at Lordstones to get a gauge on how much of a gap I had, we ploughed on. It was going to be a bright day and I was managing a sort of race walk style of moving now, somewhere between a jog and a shuffle. The pain in my feet was still there but it had been going on for so long that I was becoming almost numb to it. Steve also pointed out that while I was chatting over the Three Sisters, my breathing was laboured going up so we agreed to not talk on any climbs. There was no getting away from it now, this was definitely not about trying to find the fun anymore! Seeing clubmates Dean and Nicola marshalling at Scarth Nick was a little boost even though I couldn’t stop and they gave me plenty of encouragement up the steep hill. Through Osmotherley it was getting hotter, and by the time we got to Square Corner with 20 miles to go, it was very warm. I had a shake here and Jayson tried to get me to take my capris off and put some shorts on to keep me cool but that would have meant taking my shoes off, which was not an option until the end. We briefly discussed cutting them off and how Wim at Montane wouldn’t mind sending me some more with such a cool story attached but I couldn’t bear the waste! One thing that I knew was that I couldn’t really face eating anything else. The idea of stopping for food didn’t wash as I wasn’t wasting any time, so I made do with the shake. I had eaten so well throughout that I knew I could do it, it would just feel harder. I set off with Georgina (George) up the last long climb over Black Hambleton, the home stretch.
After not feeling hot on the Saturday when other people got debilitating sunburn and heatstroke, I started to feel it now. We were just walking but I had to put the effort in to maintain that pace as Jayson had told us that Jennifer had gone over the Three Sisters so much quicker than me. I really wouldn’t have been surprised to see her come past, even though I knew I had about 90 minutes on her! George kept me distracted with horrific midwife and child stories: it was a good job I wasn’t eating at that point! We saw Simon and Debbie a couple of times around here too. They had come out for a civilised anniversary walk and happened to time it with me coming through which was great for me. Passing Stephen Headley on the 110 and feeling some solidarity was another great moment. Seeing him slugging it out when he was in a bad way was another reminder that lots of people were still behind me, all suffering. It was all starting to get real that I would finish sometime soon. Coming into Sutton Bank and knowing I had to go down to the White Horse car park again was pretty dreadful but I felt like a rockstar (albeit a drunk, stoned and washed up one) when we got to the checkpoint and were faced with so much positivity. George’s dad was marshalling and she told me how proud it made him that she was supporting me! Another little surprise was waiting at the top of the steps in the form of Jayson’s nephew Matthew. He had come out to see me to the finish too, which was lovely, even though I wasn’t very grateful at the time! For the last time until Duncombe Park, we waved good bye to the motorhome and were into the last 8 miles.
When we hit the road near Rievaulx, I started to feel woozy and remember thinking that I sounded drunk. I am pretty sure I said some words that weren’t words or were mashed up versions at least. George offered me a gel and some Veloforte chews in these few miles, which I didn’t want but knew I needed and they did help to keep me relatively lucid as we got ever closer to Helmsley. Coming through the woods and those steps, we were caught and passed by a 110 runner Lucy and her support Jan, who I had recently started coaching. Lucy was so full of energy, or it seemed that way to me, and it was little moments like this that gave me a small lift. They bombed ahead and we crested the hill with Helmsley in sight. Jason Hayes appeared here and completely shattered my illusion of nearly finishing by telling me the new end was ‘only about 3 miles’ away. To say I was angry was an understatement and there may have been some swearing, so Jason ran ahead to double check. When he came back and told me he was wrong and it was only a mile or so, I was back up again, so happy that it would be over soon. Coming towards the town, we gathered up a little crew of Keith and Kristy Wise too. Keith had dropped out of the 160 which I was gutted about but it was so nice to see them coming to cheer me in. We all trekked down and were greeted with more smiling faces; Brenda and Paul who had also pulled out and I am sure some others that I can’t quite remember now. This is another great thing about trail ultras, everyone sticks around to see fellow competitors finish. It is a wonderful community! This was where it was unknown now. We turned off at the Cleveland Way stone into Duncombe Park and I had no idea what to expect. We walked up a grassy hill, very nice I thought, it will just be at the top. We turned onto a tarmac drive, okay, just round this corner then. Round the corner and it kept gradually climbing. Jayson, Indie, Matthew and Steve appeared on the grass at the side and started walking with us. After a while I asked where the finish was and Jayson pointed to a dot in the far distance, saying it was ‘just up there’. This is where a tirade unleashed. I don’t think I have ever sworn so much in my life and am deeply ashamed of doing it in earshot of my husband’s nephew (who is a grown up!) and potentially some innocent bystanders. There was nothing else to be done but grumble my way up the hill but even my energy for that waned as I had to dig right in to get to that little marquee. The cheers seemed to go on forever, but I got there, through the gantry, had my tracker removed by Kathryn (who I coach and didn’t even recognise!) and told Jon how much I despised him. I instantly felt guilty though as he teared up and gave me a big hug – I think it was me winning that made him emotional not my excessive meanness! It was a very strange feeling; I knew that I should be smiling and celebrating but I felt completely numb. All I wanted to do was sit down in the shade and drink water. Jayson and Dave Toth hovered around me for a while, I think because I looked so terrible and they were worried but all that happened was my eyes suddenly got really sore and watery. The picture of me dabbing my eyes with tissue was just that, not a flood of emotion! A few minutes later, Joel finished and this was the first thing that made me feel happy. I was really pleased for him and we exchanged a few words before he disappeared again. In a bit of a blur, I was presented with the trophy for 1st lady, the sword and a UD pack, crawled into the motorhome and took my damned shoes off for the first time in hours. It was instant relief and laying down felt so good. Having Indie clamber onto me and trying to keep him away from my feet was not as nice, but we were done and I could finally stop moving.
So why did I put myself through that when it didn’t make me happy? It is something that I am still not sure about to be honest. This last 18 months has been so unsettling that I don’t think I had realised how much it had made me look at the way I approach races until now. Learning that the thing I most enjoy about races is the experience of being around this awesome community, not winning or competing, has really hit home. I went into this race feeling that I didn’t want to ‘race’ but still somehow putting that pressure on myself. It is not something that I thrive on or want, but I am still going to have to work on it, as often, in these longer events, I will be competitively placed. I don’t want to stop doing my best or pushing my limits so I have to work out how to do that without feeling that I have to compete with others as it takes all the joy away. Finishing this blog a month after the race, after starting it three weeks ago, I can appreciate my achievement. Knowing that I am tough enough to cover 160 miles when I was in real physical pain with every step for most of it is of course something I am proud of. I could have handled it with more grace, but it is frustrating when you know you can do more and one thing keeps holding you back. Every 100 miler I have done, and some shorter ultras, I have suffered with very bad blisters and I am still working out why. I guess it just needs more practice!
The title of this is from one of my favourite Shakespeare soundbites:
‘Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’.
On the face of it, this is quite depressing but I love it because it is so true! An ultra is the same; the rage, the pain, the despair, the elation are all heightened in this one day or weekend, and then what happens? You go back to your life and it changes nothing. My first 100 made me believe I could do anything, but it didn’t change the world. The 160 was a profound experience for me but didn’t change anything significantly and rather than being a negative, this is precisely the beauty of it. We need to take every race, however big and important to us as it is, a race. It can be the centre of your world while you are in it but ultimately it is what we do for pleasure, to accomplish something and to gain a sense of achievement. So from now on, I am going into races to enjoy them, like I used to before I started gathering silverware. If you see me at the Farndale marathon, taking myself too seriously, please feel free to remind me!