Day 4 Preview : 2 Grounds and Wembley

day 4 grounds

If I make it as far as Day 4, it’s going to be the hardest day of the lot. Not only will I have already run close to 80 miles over the previous 3 days, but the route is going to be monotonous and has by far the fewest stadium visits of any of the other days, which is something I really won’t want at this point. However, the end will be in site and I will hopefully start to feel like I have truly done something that I would never have thought I could do 3 years ago, whilst raising money for Prostate Cancer UK in the process.

Ground 14 – The Hive (Barnet FC)

White Hart Lane to The Hive - 11.25 miles
White Hart Lane to The Hive – 11.25 miles

Ok, so we’re technically not talking about a Football League ground here, but they’ve been involved in in recent years, so it made sense to add an extra mile onto the route out to Vicarage Rd so that I could tick off another stadium. We’ll be in for an early start on day four as we have that 3pm deadline looming… It’s a long way from White Hart Lane to The Hive, so I’ll be taking it easy in the relatively early hours. I’ll be trying to shake the aches out of my legs as I head west through Finchley and Edgware.

This is a last minute addition to the route, but the more the merrier! NB: I have the right to change my mind about how I feel here when/if I actually get there.

Ground 15 – Vicarage Road (Watford FC)

The Hive to Vicarage Road -
The Hive to Vicarage Road – 6.9 miles

And so I head north 6.9 miles to Vicarage Rd, the home of Watford Football Club. It’s the last stadium that I’ll be visiting before I head back down south to return to Wembley. I have no idea how I’ll be feeling by this point in the run – if I can still move at anything resembling a run, it’ll be a success in my eyes!

I’m hoping I can take my time at Vicarage Rd, recover slightly and then finish on a flourish as I hit the home straight! In reality, I’ll touch a wall and then hobble off down some A-road in a desperate attempt to finish before I become finished and before the Championship Play Off Final kicks off!

Vicarage Road to Wembley - 11 miles
Vicarage Road to Wembley – 9.5 miles

Then there’s just a small matter of that last 9.5 miles… Watford, why couldn’t you be just outside the M25 or something?

The finish line.

After arriving at Wembley Stadium, I’m going madly in search of Shake Shack. I’ve dreamed about doing this since I decided to do this run. It’s just a shame it’s in Covent Garden, so if we’re being realistic, I’ll probably have to settle for a box of Krispy Kremes instead. So close, yet so damn far!

Then that will be that. I’ll swear that I’m never going to do anything like this again, but anyone that knows me knows that I’ll be thinking about my next challenge as we head back to Nottingham in the car, whilst listening to the match on the radio and hoping that Queens Park Rangers do the business!

 

IT’S CLOBBERING TIME!!

Day 3 Preview : 4 Grounds

day 3 grounds

Day 3 is going to be a massive struggle from the off. I’ve run long distances before – when I ran from Nottingham to Birmingham and Nottingham to Sheffield, they were both long distances on consecutive days, but this will be the first time I’ll have run massive distances over 3 days, with 1 more to come! Here’s hoping for some help from CherryActive!

Ground 10 – Victoria Road to the Boelyn Ground (West Ham United)

Victoria Road to The Boelyn Ground - 6 miles
Victoria Road to The Boelyn Ground – 6 miles

Running out to the home of Dagenham and Redbridge means that I form a huge arm away from an otherwise circular route around London, so I’ll be following the same route back westwards as I make the 6 mile run to the home of West Ham United – the Boelyn Ground.

It’s a decent distance to use as a set of warm up miles for the day, but it will hurt. West Ham is another great stadium, though, so I’m very much looking forward to arriving there. Hoping for better memories than my previous trips there when watching Forest get thrashed…

Ground 11 – The Boelyn Ground to The Matchroom Stadium (Leyton Orient)

The Boelyn Ground to The Matchroom Stadium (via The Olympic Park) - 4.75 miles
The Boelyn Ground to The Matchroom Stadium (via The Olympic Park) – 4.75 miles

During this section of the route, I have decided to take a bit of a detour from the most direct path. I’ve done this to take in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the Olympic Stadium. I’ve never been before, so I figured it would be a great addition to the run. In a few years’ time, it will also be West Ham’s new stadium, so it kinda makes sense! Come this point in proceedings, though, I’ll probably really regret adding it into the route.

Most of this section will be along the Greenway, which looks like it’ll be a really welcome break to roadside paths that will make up 90% of the rest of the run!

After visiting the Olympic Park, it’ll be a short 1.5 miles north towards the home of Leyton Orient, bringing this sections total mileage to 4.76 miles.

Ground 12 – Brisbane Road to The Emirates (Arsenal)

The Matchroom Stadium to The Emirates -
The Matchroom Stadium to The Emirates – 5.2 miles

As far as stadiums go in England, you don’t get any that are much more impressive than the Emirates (sorry, CJH)! I’m only going to see it from the outside, but I’m looking forward to it. Again, it’s a stadium that I see pictures of every day whilst I’m sitting in the office, so to arrive there after having run around 70 miles, I’m hoping it’ll be an exciting time!

This section of the route is around 5.2 miles and doesn’t involve many turns or complicated directions. This might sound pretty monotonous, but when you get tired, your brain doesn’t quite function as you would want it to and increases the risk of cognitive mistakes (ie. taking the wrong turn), so it’ll possibly be quite welcome at this time!

I’m going to be in touch with some of the guys at Arsenal, so hopefully I’ll have some kind of interaction with them on social media, which will help boost coverage about the run and Prostate Cancer UK.

Ground 13 – The Emirates to White Hart Lane (Tottenham Hotspur)

The Emirates to White Hart Lane - 4.5 miles
The Emirates to White Hart Lane – 4.5 miles

Forgetting one of the greatest rivalries in English football, I’ll be hoping to build bridges by running straight from The Emirates to Spurs’ White Hart Lane. It’s a 4.5 mile route almost directly north and this will be the last stadium of the day that I will visit.

I’m going to be sore, hungry, tired and seriously lacking in concentration, so I hope it’s going to be pretty straight forward! Spurs have been great, so all being well I’ll be meeting someone when I arrive at the ground.

After I’m done there, I’m going to try and notch off a few more miles before calling it a day. White Hart Lane will come at about the 73 mile marker, which would leave me with about 27 miles left to run on the final day. I want to leave myself with about 20 miles to run on the Saturday as I won’t quite have the luxury of time. The Play Off Final kicks off at 3pm and I want to be done by then. So with this in mind, I’ll finish somewhere in north London around East Finchley.

Anything past 3pm and I’ll feel massively like I have let myself down. I’m not prepared for that to happen, so if Friday needs to be a late one, then so be it!

Then it’s off to Travelodge number 3 for a good night’s rest!

Nearly there… Nearly there.

Day 2 Preview : 4 Grounds

At the moment, I don’t really have a starting point on day 2 of the run, that all depends on how day one goes!

One thing is for sure! It’s Mum’s birthday and she’s being treated to a delightful day out, slowly following me around south London as I visit a host of football grounds that are closed for business throughout the summer break. Mum – I’m so, so sorry. We’ll put the blame on the Football League for hosting the final on a Saturday and not on the usual bank holiday Monday. Either way, I’ll do my best to make it as fun for you as possible!

Ground 6 – Kingsmeadow to Selhurst Park (Crystal Palace)

Kingsmeadow to Selhurst Park - 9.8 miles
Kingsmeadow to Selhurst Park – 9.8 miles

After awaking in Chessington, we’ll make our way back to the exact point that we finished on the previous day. Depending on where this was, there will be around 5 miles left to run before we reach the home of the Eagles. These will be slow, steady miles as I try and shake out the aches and stiffness that the previous day’s miles will have brought. I’m hoping that the CherryActive, which was kindly sent to me, will have done the trick and I’ll be free-moving as I move eastwards across south London! I’ve been to Selhurst Park before (to watch Forest get thrashed 3-0 on a cold December evening) and I struggled to find it then – I’m hoping that I’ll have better luck on my second visit to the ground!

Ground 7 – Selhurst Park to The Den (Millwall)

Selhurst Park to The Den - 7.25 miles
Selhurst Park to The Den – 7.25 miles

7.25 miles separates the grounds of Crystal Palace and Millwall and for some reason, unbeknown to myself, this is one of the sections that I’m least looking forward to! However, Millwall FC donated their shirt sponsor to Prostate Cancer UK for the 2013/14 season, so that’s one bit of motivation to keep me on my feet as I make my way north towards the Den. Another bit of optimism is the fact that I get to take in some more greenery as I pass through a couple of small woodland areas.

After we’ve done the whole photo and media update thing, we’ll look for somewhere nearby to get a decent lunch. After all, we shouldn’t forget that it’s my Mum’s birthday!

Ground 8 – The Den to The Valley (Charlton Athletic)

The Den to The Valley - 4.4 miles
The Den to The Valley – 4.4 miles

Heading east again and ducking just south of the meanders in the Thames, it’s a relatively short 4.4 miles to Millwall’s rivals – Charlton Athletic. I work closely with the club, so I’ve managed to negotiate a brilliant welcome gift upon my arrival at the stadium… I’ll not ruin the surprise on here, so remember to tune in on my Twitter next Thursday as I unveil the hospitality that will be given to me by staff members at The Valley!

I’ve been to The Valley a couple of times and it’s one of my favourite stadiums in England. I hope I’m still feeling good by this point as I’d hate an injury or an unwelcome feeling to overshadow the good memories I have of this ground! Positive thinking equals positive results. There’s a lesson for you right there.

Ground 9 – The Valley to Victoria Road (Dagenham & Redbridge)

The Valley to Victoria Road - 10.1 miles
The Valley to Victoria Road – 10.1 miles

A massive 10.1 miles and a huge river separate these two grounds! I can’t remember off the top of my head if this is the biggest stretch between stadiums on the route, but it won’t be far off if it isn’t!

There is a lot of potential to take the wrong roads as well. This has only really happened once in my charity running career, when I took the wrong road on the way from Nottingham to Birmingham. I ended up running an extra 3 miles that day and I suffered because of it. Here’s hoping I can keep my sense of direction about me as I visit the last football stadium of the day!

Also, if anyone knows how to cross the Thames, please let me know to save me typing stuff into Google!

And that will be that for day 2. I should have clocked up around 55 miles and have visited 9 stadiums by this point! We’ve also got a pleasantry in the form of a non-Travelodge bed for the evening as we’re staying in a B&B that has free wifi – stick that in your pipe, Travelodge! I’m also hoping that we can celebrate Mum’s birthday properly too. Both my mother and my father are giving up a lot of time to help me out next week and, let’s face it, it’s not going to be much fun for them! I genuinely couldn’t do these kind of things without their support, so I really do appreciate it a lot.

Man, I’m tired just thinking about how I’ll be at this point in the run!

Day 1 Preview : 5 Grounds

Day 1 -

On the morning of Wednesday 21st May 2014, I’ll awake in a Travelodge less than 2 miles from Wembley Stadium. My muscles won’t ache, my knees will feel fresh, I won’t be bored of the music on my iPod and silly little things won’t annoy me yet. Basically, I’ll still be excited about the challenge that lay ahead.

I’m aiming to head off from Wembley around 8am, giving me plenty of time to complete the first day’s miles during daylight hours. I want a minimum of 26 miles, but, all being well, I’ll have covered a small amount more. Here’s what day 1 is likely to have in store!

Ground 1 – Wembley to Loftus Road (Queens Park Rangers)

Wembley to Loftus Road - 5.4 miles
Wembley to Loftus Road – 5.4 miles

Leaving the Bobby Moore statue at Wembley Stadium, I’ll loop around the stadium and head south towards Loftus Road. It’s an easy 5.4 miles and should take me around 1 hour to reach. There’s nothing planned for when I get to QPR, so it’ll just a couple of quick photos, a quick refuel and depart for stadium number 2.

The only potential problems on this route would be the lack of space for the support car (aka. Mum and Dad) to stop, so I’ll be doing it without breaks and treat it as a slow warm up for the route ahead.

Ground 2 – Loftus Road to Stamford Bridge (Chelsea)

Loftus Rd to Stamford Bridge - 3.3 miles
Loftus Rd to Stamford Bridge – 3.3 miles

Continuing my journey south-east, it’s a relatively short trip across town to Chelsea FC’s Stamford Bridge. It’s short, but it’s a busy route, so once I leave QPR, I won’t be meeting with the car until I get to the home of the Blues. Again, there’s nothing planned for my arrival, so it’ll be a quick couple of photos, a boring update on twitter and Facebook and then onwards towards Craven Cottage.

Ground 3 – Stamford Bridge to Craven Cottage (Fulham FC)

Stamford Bridge to Craven Cottage - 1.4 miles
Stamford Bridge to Craven Cottage – 1.4 miles

I’m looking forward to this section of the run a lot. Not only is it the shortest inter-ground run of the challenge at 1.4 miles, but it seems like a decent area of the capital and will fly by compared to some of the later sections. Even though I’ve never been to the Cottage, my job involves a lot of work with Fulham FC, so I’m very much looking forward to visiting a ground that I see a lot of every day!

FFC have also been great in terms of publicising the run. I was featured in one of their matchday programmes towards the end of the season, something I’m very grateful for. Hopefully next season I’ll be able to make the journey down to the Cottage to watch Forest play there. Thanks to Katie and Tom at Fulham for their help!

Ground 4 – Craven Cottage to Griffin Park (Brentford FC)

Craven Cottage to Griffin Park - 5 miles
Craven Cottage to Griffin Park – 5 miles

The next 5 miles see me take on a decent route from the Cottage to Griffin Park. I’m following the Thames Path for 2.5 miles before leaving the water’s edge and heading west to Griffin Park. After leaving the path it’s a busy section of the route. I’ll probably also be starting to tire by this point as the mileage will have surpassed the half marathon length. Griffin Park is tucked nicely away amongst other buildings, so I’m hoping it’ll be easy enough to find my way to the stadium, but can easily see me getting lost here. It’ll also be lunchtime for sure! I can tell you already, from the comfort of my own home writing this, that the prospect of food is going to be an exciting one!

Ground 5 – Griffin Park to Kingsmeadow (AFC Wimbledon)

Griffin Park to Kingsmeadow - 7.25 miles
Griffin Park to Kingsmeadow – 7.25 miles

A fairly hefty chunk of road comes up next, but it appears to be a good stretch! 7.24 miles takes me directly south towards AFC Wimbledon’s Kingsmeadow. I’m planning on having a little rest in Richmond Park, as a good 3.5 miles of this section take me through there. As I get out the other side, I’ll navigate my way through a small built up area before ending up at Kingsmeadow. Nothing planned – photos, updates and then take myself east towards Selhurst Park.

This is the last ground of the day, but I would like to finish somewhere between AFC Wimbledon and Selhurst Park. I’ll aim for Mitcham, which should hopefully bring my mileage up to around 27 miles on Day One. All being well, I’ll have visited 5 grounds and will get a great feeling of how the rest of the run will be going!

I’m stopping in Chessington for the evening, which means that I have a short car journey back west to our accommodation. I will take the necessary measures to make sure I set off from exactly the same point that I finished at on Wednesday!

It’s getting very real now and I’m truly starting to appreciate the task that lies ahead. However, breaking them down to sections of the route helps break down the psychological barriers massively!

Remember, this is all in aid of Prostate Cancer UK, so please feel free to send a donation over at my Virgin Money Giving page.

Derby County v Queens Park Rangers it is then!

One week today I will be joining the M1 and making the 120 mile journey from Nottingham to Wembley Stadium as I prepare to run to all professional football grounds within the M25.

When I typed my starting point and destination into google maps just now, it made me realise really how far I have to run next week and sent what was probably the first wave of nerves into my stomach that I’ve felt since I decided to do this. Anyway, I digress…

That means I have just one week to finalise my route, buy the rest of the supplies that I need and get my head firmly focused on the task at hand. Plenty of time!

Today, thanks to my good buddy Emma, I broke the £400 mark in my sponsorship totaliser. I never really had a target in mind for this as people are sick of the sight of me asking for charity donations, but I’d like to push on past the £500 before I return to Wembley next weekend and I’m fairly confident of doing this. The money means a great deal to Prostate Cancer UK and will help them fund research to help those affected by the disease for years to come. Don’t forget to donate 5 minutes of your time to take their Men United quiz.

Join Men United today!

In terms of my first ever bit of ‘product sponsorship’, I received a delightful package from CherryActive, who sent me a box of their montmorency cherry concentrate shot packs. These are proven to help with recovery after exercise. I have used it in the past and I’m very much looking forward to using it in London next week. Something tells me I’m going to need all the help I can get, so a big thanks to James and Co at CherryActive.

Have a read about the range of products that they do on their website here.

CherryActive

The two teams for the final have also been decided, as Derby County will be taking on Queen’s Park Rangers for a place in the Premier League. As I’ll be running to Loftus Road, home of Queens Park Rangers and the first stadium I’m visiting after I leave Wembley, I’ve decided to support them for the day. This decision has absolutely nothing to do with me being a Forest season ticket holder, honest. Shame I can’t see anyone being able to beat Derby at the minute, but you never know! It doesn’t really matter too much anyway… As it stands I’m not due to be watching the match!

Provisional running route. V1.0
Provisional running route. V1.0

Over the next few days, I’m hoping to do a daily preview of each day of the run. All 3 of you can have a good read of that and, if by any chance I’m running near your workplace or home, let me know and maybe we can run part of the route together.

Over and out!

Have you brought any fruits or vegetables on the planet?

This time in two weeks, I will hopefully be recovering after my first day running around west London. I should have at least twenty six miles under my belt and my feet will be resting in the comfort of a Travelodge in Chessington.

Back to the more present day; I completed my last long run of training on Sunday, which saw me hit just short of 18 miles at a pace of 8:14 minutes per mile. From here in, it will be relatively short runs at less frequent intervals as I maintain fitness without putting unnecessary stress on my body.

Owning the Grantham Canal... again.
Owning the Grantham Canal… again.

All my hotels are booked, which means I can now officially look forward to a tour of London’s Travelodges. I’ve ordered some back up shoes for the route and I’ve ordered some new kit. All completely necessary, but also all coming at a fairly big expense. I do still have a lot to buy before we head down to the Capital next Tuesday, but it’s all for charity, though. As long as my body holds up, I have no issues with the cost of it all!

I’m also looking to include another couple of stadiums in the route, but I’ll talk more about those as I preview each day of the run over the next two weeks.

As you may know, I’m a big wrestling fan. A good friend of mine pointed me  in the direction of the following story, which I found incredibly inspirational and I really wanted to include it in my blog… The video tells an amazing story about a courageous young WWE fan known as Connor the Crusher, who recently lost a long battle with cancer. If this doesn’t affect you, you’ve a heart of stone!

Anyway, that’s where I’m at. Not a lot to say, but nobody likes to see a stale blog.

Two weeks… two weeks.

Hellrunner 2014

Being the generous brother that I am, I bought two of my three brothers entry to the Hellrunner ‘Hell in the Middle’ trail race, which took place at Belvoir Castle yesterday, for Christmas.

I’ve done a few of the Hellrunner events before, Tom had done one and Joe would have been new to it. As it turned out, an injury meant that Joe had to defer to the 2015 event.

Hell in the Middle 2014 - before
Hell in the Middle 2014 – before

Hellrunner is a trail run of between 10 and 12 miles in length (they never tell you the exact distance) and involves steep, often vertical, hills, waist deep bogs and woodland growth that literally rips your legs open as you bash your way through them. Sounds fun! I decided that this was going to be the substitute for my weekly long run and become part of my training for the Roads to Wembley run.

Tom and I set off from Nottingham at around 8am and arrived at a cold and overcast Belvoir Castle at just after 9am. The other HR events that I have some in the past were much better attended and, at first, we wondered if we had the right date – it was that quiet. As it turned out, there were less than 400 competitors at Belvoir, yet there were over 2000 at the one we ran on Cannock Chase in 2011. That still didn’t ease the 35 minute queue for one of the eight portaloos that were available to the runners, organisers and spectators. The only poor piece of planning over the whole event.

The race started at 10:15am (it was delayed to allow the huge toilet queue to work its way through the facilities) and we hit off at an easy pace, which was what we planned. It was fairly standard cross country running for the first 3 or so miles until we were diverted off dry land, through a hefty bramble patch and were detoured through the edge of a lake, eliminating any chance of staying dry.

 

Follow the buzzards… Trying my best Wyatt family impression.

A few miles of running hill slaloms, running through a marquee (with a ridiculously bass heavy Firestarter by Prodigy blaring out) and vaulting logs followed until we were forced off the trails and into a small quarry. Probably the only truly dangerous part of the route where we had to run across uneven, jagged rocks. I could here Tom behind me muttering, “this is fucking ridiculous”… Shortly after this followed the Hellrunner’s infamous hills of hell.

Our pace slowed here, but I was still feeling relatively decent. I thought it’d be funny to wind Tom up, so I waited at the top of the bigger hill doing some press ups. I regretted it instantly, but got some great jock points under my belt.

One more mile of undulating hills took us to the last challenge of the run, known to the event as the Bog of Doom. The thickest, blackest water I’ve ever seen in my life. The lad ahead of us got stuck and only managed to free himself after Tom declared that, “Bear Grylls says you need to twist”. After that it was a mere 200m to the finish line, which we finished relative ease at a time of about 1 hour and 39 minutes. We finished about 50th of the 400 runners.

Hell in the Middle 2014 - after...
Hell in the Middle 2014 – after…

We were so disgustingly dirty from the bogs, that we decided to take a swim in the lake, which was situated next to the finish line. I think it says something about the run you’ve done when it’s actually a good idea to swim around in muddy water on an overcast day and the temperature is just 12 degrees just to clean yourself.

Tom having a bath onsite
Tom having a bath onsite

The run can be difficult at times, but it’s a great event in a truly beautiful part of the East Midlands. What’s more is that it served as a great bit of fun training ahead of the Roads to Wembley run. I would encourage anyone thinking of taking part to do so, whether it be Hell in the South, North or in the middle. I’ll be sure to do it again next year, especially if they keep this particular event at Belvoir Castle.

A nice, relaxing soak.
A nice, relaxing soak.

You’ll also notice that we were supporting a charity called Shelterbox, which sends aid to areas of the world hurt by natural disasters. Tom had a serious operation on his abdomen last year and has spent his time since then recovering with an aim to run a half marathon in Norway this June. The Midnight Sun Half Marathon starts at midnight, but the sun doesn’t set at that time of year so it’ll still be daylight – how cool is that?! Anyway, Shelterbox is his chosen charity for the run and you can sponsor him here.

Until next time.

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