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A Little Light Reading


We’ve recently acquired the rather impressive little head torch, by the name of Ninox2, from SILVA.  It’s a powerhouse of a torch.  Not because of its overwhelming brightness, (its modest 200 Lumens is ample by anybody’s standards), but because of its clever collection of features.

SILVA Ninox2

The thing is, in order to get the most from it, as with any product, you really are best to have a quick read through the instructions that come included within the box.

Described in the instruction book (as well as the torches own product page), is the clever little lever – built into the strap’s buckle, for use when opening it up/sealing it shut once the AAA cells are neatly in place.

Also in there, you’ll find out all about how to switch it on:

One press of the power button and it’s on full blast.

Another press and it’s down to half strength, but twice the battery life as a result.

One last press and it activates the emergency strobe for attention grabbing when in need of assistance/rescue.

Press and hold to switch it off, or continue to cycle through the above settings.

And finally, if you press and hold to begin with, it comes on in red (for camp use, or perhaps map reading, etc), so preserving night vision and not broadcasting your position as far as the white mode will.

Fairly straight forward, but if you don’t take a look at those instructions, you could be losing your finger nails, or damaging your brand new torch while unaware that they’ve already made it easy for you.

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Light Relief


A word about lighting.

When running, your chief concern from dusk til dawn – is night time visibility.  That much is obvious.

But as you strive to secure that largest, most powerful equipment known to mankind, it might be wise to consider some of the more practical concerns associated with moving at speed through the darkness.

Accelerate Trail Runners every Tuesday evening


Here is my advice, based entirely on experience:

Criteria for a running headtorch are as follows:

Light – enough, but not over kill.  There are torches out there which put my car’s headlights to shame, but in reality – if you can see the ground before you and you’ve enough warning of what’s approaching, you’ll cope.  Which leads neatly into point 2…

You’re moving at a pace, so it appears that obstacles are hurtling at you from the gloom.  Bear in mind, that if you have enough power to illuminate 20 meters of ground, you’re unlikely to ever be taken by surprise.  You’d have to be running at an inhuman speed over uneven terrain to come a cropper due to something appearing out of the blue.

The difference between one torch and the next, aside from raw power, is the quality of the light itself.  Years ago, you’d be blessed with a very warm yellowy glow from a filament bulb, perhaps if you were lucky, it’d be backed by a little mirror to enhance the strength by bouncing the light that would otherwise be lost.  Soon after came the various Halogen options and then LEDs.  In various ways technology has improved the characteristics of a low power light source (via additional lenses, etc, much the same as with lighthouses), to the extent that at roughly 200 Lumens, you can see further than necessary, while also flooding the immediate area in such a way that you’d swear you had you own personal patch of daylight, as I like to call it.

The remainder is purely a matter of comfort.  Secure headbands, easy to operate controls, no nonsense battery installation and so on.

The clincher in many cases, might just be the little extras that get thrown in for good measure.  For example, some products come complete with a range of accessories.  Some arrive alone, but with the promise of accessories available separately.  Things like extra batteries, spare headbands of alternate colours, extension leads, belt clips, mounts for bike handlebars and so on and so on..

Weight.  None of the above counts for anything if the damn thing threatens to break your neck.  For a good while, it was a given that your torch would employ a pack of batteries, which would have to site on the rear of your headband, or if you had it good, upon your belt – via the aforementioned extension.  Well these days, it’s incredible just how impressive a super lightweight torch can be, while self contained on the front of your head, weighing in at a mere 86g, with the 3 x AAA batteries in!  You’re hardly burdened by the torch then, while still able to spot objects at 30 or so meters and the floor around your feet illuminated at the same time, thanks to twin lamps and an intelligent system of mixing flood beams with spots to offer exactly the right balance of light for all occasions.

And there’s burn time.  Where once you might have factored in a change of batteries at around an hour and a half, these days even the most modest of units could last up to 30 hours on its strongest setting.

So, with all of this, your buying guide might be something along these lines:

Get a simple, front mounted headtorch – that weighs next to nothing.  Try to make sure it runs on AAA batteries if you can, since it’ll be possible to stock up on Lithium versions, which are lighter, more powerful and more resilient against cold weather conditions, while offering you the chance to always have spares upon your person for safety.

Choose a torch with something like 200 Lumens available.  I have one that kicks out 180 and only ever really use it on half power, but it’s enough to see where I’m going.  So the many torches out there with three times as much power or more, are nice to be sure, but they’re a bit over the top and can’t be used in a group setting or when close to residential areas without causing offense, if not temporary blindness.

Make sure that it has a comfy stable headband and won’t irritate, or slide out of place.

Keep it simple, perhaps in a self contained unit without trailing wires or obvious points of weakness, but if these are vital, then be sure that they’re constructed out of good quality materials that won’t break while stuffed in your bag.

Waterproofing would be a bonus, since you’re inevitably going to get rained on at some point.  You might even accidentally drop the thing and it’d be nice to fish it out from a puddle/river/toilet and find that it still works just fine.

Finally, if you can see the value in it, grab one which allows a variety of light modes for use in close proximity, map reading without disturbing night vision, preserving battery life and so on.

An in-built power meter can be a good extra feature, since it might help you avoid heading out with batteries due for replacement mid-run.

And if it’s at all possible, make sure that your torch has more than one beam, working in conjunction, so that you can exploit a long distance spot, with a wide flood of light around your feet.

Sounds like a tall order, which might cost the earth if you’re not careful.

But in actual fact, we currently sell a torch that does all of the above for just £30!

It’s the Ninox2 from SILVA and it represents the lowest end of our current range of headtorch options in-store.  Dynamite.

SILVA Ninox2 – click & buy for £30

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New Beginnings…



First one in ages.

Yonks, you might say.

But here it is.  New style.  Short blogs.

I’ve been getting fat.  Lazy.  Unfit.

I just accepted an invitation to join a friend and his mate on next year’s High Peak Marathon, so, y’know…..


Gotta get busy with at least 30 minutes a day, 6 days per week.  Gentle at first for sure.  But it’s gonna have to get serious in time, because come March 2018 – 40-odd miles of up/down with thick filth and bog, covered in fog (potentially) and a dash of sideways rain/snow.  At night.

So there’s that.


I’ve recently started leading a beginners group on Tuesday evenings, as part of Accelerate Trail Runners and it’s going swimmingly.  That is, slowly.  But that’s the point.

Everyone who joins me gets to take it nice and steady.  Chatty.  Fun.

If there’s a member of the group who prefers to slow right down, then we slow right down.  If I suggest a figure eight route and half way through, somebody (or everybody) decides that they’ve already done enough, then ‘that’s all folks’.

So far, we’ve had a blast.  Some are testing themselves.  Others are enjoying the change of pace.  Some might very well be using my group as a recovery from racing.


For details of the club and what we do every Tuesday evening, click HERE.

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The Hard Bit


The momentum is already too great, any semblance of control I had only a second ago has dissipated, and so I crash to the ground for the third time in the last two miles and then roll off the trail down an embankment. I come to rest on my side, a face full of heather and utterly furious. The roar of frustration is out of my mouth and bouncing off the surrounding hills before I’ve even consciously formed the will to shout.

I’m about fifteen miles into this race. Aside from the series of falls I’ve already been lost twice, the second time fairly catastrophically, causing me to drop from a strong third to a distant fifth. The route marking is sketchy at best. Sixth and seventh places are on my heels. My liquid nutrition strategy is not working, in fact it’s looking a given that my liquid nutrition is going to make a reappearance in the very near future. It’s cold, it’s wet, I’m nauseous. I’m annoyed at everything and everybody, particularly the organisers, but especially at myself, for going off plan and throwing in a late entry to this jamboree and pushing a boundary that didn’t need pushing right now.

I haul myself back to my feet and take a deep breath. Glancing back down the trail sixth and seventh place are working together to close the gap. I will my body to move and muster a trudge back up on to the singletrack, and then the short distance down to the next aid tent. I refill water bottles and take a few pieces of watermelon whilst attempting to compose myself. It’s all quite the effort. Tellingly, as I leave the aid station, sixth and seventh arrive. The gap is now down to almost nothing.

I don’t know the next section of trail and so I pull out a small laminated card from the front pocket of my pack. I put some brief route notes together yesterday, just in case. It’s a little deflating to read that I’ll be climbing for the next two and a half miles, but then I catch sight of the quote that I’d included on the card, again, just in case. It’s a timely intervention from Joss Naylor.

It all suddenly seems so very simple. I get my head down and start to powerhike, hard, and quickly tick off a mental checklist as I move;

Physical condition: fine, although feeling a bit sick. Legs are good.

The battle for third place: over. Realistically my race is now the fight for fifth. Focus.

Mental condition: all over the place. This is where I am losing my race.

I’ve been at that aid station before. I’ve quit races in the past when I’ve been in a similar mindset. Where physically I could probably endure but I’ve allowed my headspace to become muddied, anxious, unfocussed. A lack of perspective that can be more damaging than any fall or route walkabout. More debilitating than a lack of calories or a spasm of cramp. If the mind is unclear the body will struggle to understand what it is being asked to do. And this is where I can make a choice. I can choose to be resilient. I can choose to embrace the hard bit. The challenge is keeping that choice at the forefront of the mind. The choice is to be present in the moment.

A quick check behind me, and already I’ve opened up a slight gap on the climb. I start to note timings by features whenever I get good a line of sight. A minute soon becomes two. I focus on grinding out the climb with maximum effort. Because being hard, that’s the hard bit. I keep tabs on what is going on behind me. It’s not always clear, but I’m sure this gap is increasing. I hit the foot of Swine’s Back, and suddenly I am in familiar territory. Now I’m away, fast and easy towards Jacob’s Ladder, the long stretch to Edale, and my wife and son waiting for me at the next aid station.

It’s not until I’ve made the climb up to the Great Ridge and I look behind again that I see sixth and seventh, still together, crossing the Edale Road below. I glance at my watch. I’ve built a ten minute lead. The route diverts sharply to the right towards Mam Tor, and I start to traverse. For the first time in many miles I can see the bright green shirt of fourth place ahead of me. Being hard, that’s the hard bit.


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A Purer Form of Purpose


“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are” – Theodore Roosevelt

About fifteen minutes before we are due to start the race, the heavens have opened. Rain pounds the ground around me as I stand, camera in hand, attempting to capture the scene. I’m in a waterproof jacket, shorts, and a luminous tabard that conspicuously identifies me as today’s race sweeper. The shorts have already drawn a lot of comments and questions.

Ten feet away a couple of hundred runners in various states of undress huddle together under a large white marquee tent seeking shelter, warmth and comfort from the canvas and each other. It seems like the sensible place to be. I take the picture and join them.

The clock ticks on and the runners are called in to the field to start. I’m not really sure what to do at this point, I’ve never swept a race before, so I stand at the back making idle conversation with likeminded strangers as we wait. We are not held long, and the crowd soon thins through the funnel of the track that takes us up towards Burbage Rocks as the race gets underway.

By the time we pass through the first checkpoint (worked, amongst others, by my wife and six month old son), the pack has settled in to a nice steady rhythm and I am alongside a group of four ladies, all from the same club. For three of them this is only their second fell race after cutting their teeth at Salt Cellar a few weeks ago. For the fourth, it is her first time doing this.

Once up on the rocks the rain gets even heavier, and a cold wind bites at anything exposed to the elements. The ladies are all wearing vests, and so I ask after them, whether they are warm enough. I am met with a with good natured communal brush off and friendly laughter. Despite the hostile weather and the soggy conditions underfoot, they are having a total blast.

The conversation between us is constant, a mixture of musings on running, wonder at the scenery, and a healthy dose of gentle teasing. Every sentence seems punctuated by an exclamation of joy at the backdrop of the Burbage Valley. I am by no means blind to it’s beauty, but this is essentially my training back yard and as such, familiar to the point of knowing every rock. I find myself taking great delight in their delight, new perspectives on old views.

The path keeps climbing, and there is not a word of discontent from my companions. We get a great view across the valley to the ‘Plummet’, a locally famous flank of Higger Tor and for today the steepest climb in the race. We can pick out through a light hanging fog the tiny colourful dots of the race leaders, already starting their hands on knees ascent. I point to what waits for us. There are a few amusing expletives but an overriding sense of acceptance and pleasure. They focus on each other’s company, the places we are running through, and the challenge of getting around this race. There is never the slightest hint of a question in my mind that any of them will not make it. They are acutely present in the moment.

I am really enjoying this run.

We work through checkpoints at a constant, steady pace. I wish I could pace my own races this evenly. All the other marshalls out and about on the course are overwhelmingly positive and encouraging. My arrival at each point signals the end of their duties and a return to race HQ, whilst here at the back of the pack the race continues, the cadence metronomical, the vibes high. I’ll be out here the longest of the officials today, but I’m willing to bet I’m having the most fun.





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