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Monday, December 24, 2012

Seasons Greetings.

The spirit and camaraderie in the running community is unique (runners know what I'm talking about) and this video encapsulates it so well. I look forward to a more structured running schedule in 2013 after making a full recovery from my accident one year ago. Running for Pearl is going from strength to strength as is our passion for helping those who need it the most. Thanks to all who have followed the ups and downs of the road and life. Looking forward to bringing you new adventures and faces in the year to come. Blessings to you and yours and whether you are an elite athlete or a 5K runner. You are AWESOME!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mizen to Malin Footage.

Last year was an epic trip across Ireland and although the entirety of it was not filmed the crew did manage to get the beginning. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Running--Is It Dangerous?

How dangerous is ultra-running, or even marathon running? Over the years there have been many stories that have focussed on the deaths of competitors at running events. Statistics showed that between 2000 and 2009 a total of twenty eight people died in the USA as a direct consequence of running a marathon, twenty two males and six females, the average age was forty one and ninety three percent of the cause was heart related, oh, and this is out of a total pool of just under four million people. Jim Fixx, the pioneer of jogging and the man who made running the popular participation sport it is today, died in 1984 of a heart attack during his daily road run in Vermont, aged fifty two. High profile articles have been published in newspapers and blogs about deaths in other countries too, so where does this leave us? The main reason for tackling this subject is because in our ultra community we have been recently hit with a double whammy of tragedy. The first was a few weeks back at the Cavalls del Vent race where only 223 out of 896 competitors finished a gruelling eighty four km course that saw even the most high profile ultra runners abandon the course. The principal factor was inclement weather with forty eight year old Teresa Fariol succumbing to hypothermia overnight. The second fatality was this past weekend where Daz Holloway, a much loved runner on the British Fell Running scene died after collapsing during the stage between Brothers Water and Patterdale at the Ian Hodgson Fell Running Relay, the post mortem ruled hypertrophic cardiomyopathy as the cause. These unfortunate events remind me not only of the fragility of life but also to make the most of it. Running endurance races help me to maximise living so do these risks put me off running ultra distance events? No, because everything in life has risk attached to it. I do however think a modified approach needs to be taken and looking at the French way of doing things is definitely a model that could be followed. Whilst Teresa Fariol's death was related to the weather conditions, the majority of the others could have probably been avoided.

I was at a sports therapy appointment with Pearl last Wednesday when I saw on the notice board of the waiting area a local trail race that would be taking place in a few days time. I thought to myself that it would be an excellent opportunity to get back into racing again after a long lay-off. On checking the site that night it gave me the option of scanning my medical certificate or mailing it, at this point I realised that I hadn't done my physical this year and it was a bit close to the race to have to go and see my doctor and go through all the tests. I cursed the French system for a few minutes but soon remembered that all the previous years, no matter how fit I was, I had to go to the doc and get a thorough check up before he would sign off on my health for the year ahead. It has always been a hassle to get round to doing it but whether you want to run five km or a hundred and five km you cannot enter a race in this country without a certificate. Most other countries require just the entry fee and away you go, yet going through marathon death records I can't find any that have occurred in France. My view on the importance of this rule became even more galvanised when I was reading Runners World a few years back. An English guy had written a letter describing the process of applying for the Paris Marathon and his annoyance at having to get clearance from his doctor before he could register. Faced with no other option he reluctantly made an appointment with his doc and had his medical check. Turns out the doc found a rhythmic error in his heart and told him in no uncertain terms that had he run a marathon with he would have died. After a treatment of medication and learning more about his condition he was able to lead a full life and did run his marathon in the end, he was a success story, not just another statistic. I think it is not unrealistic to ask for an across the board rule for all marathon and running events to adhere to this simple but very effective concept. It may seem like a hassle to have to pay a doctor and take time out of a busy schedule just to get to the start line, but, when you consider the possible unknown alternatives, it could be the investment of a lifetime.

Sunday, September 30, 2012


I have been lazy, OK maybe more demotivated, I mean I haven't been inactive but I have just been scoreless on the running front. I don't run to score mind you, but having a goal is what makes the journey to that start line all the more rewarding, after that it's the luck of the day. Finally getting over the injury made me think about running differently, it made me appreciative, I contemplated never signing up for another race again as ultimately the races are only a competition between me and the road. I was also writing of a book that hung over every spare moment I had, many an evening I promised myself a little trail stint only to get bogged down in nailing a chapter or a long edit. The book is in the hands of my editor right now which leaves me no excuses, yes there has been life stuff too but really I just needed a kick up the ass and to be shown that a goal can change the perspective of life. Well, this weekend did it. Running fever hit me in the gut over the past two days like I have never felt before. I am hungry for an event so I can use it as a ballast in my crazy life, a beacon to guide me through the everyday crap that only gets me down if I let it. Here are the things that rocked my world this weekend.

  • This sixteen km quad-crusher passes through my village every year in September and the hill at the midway point is formidable and punishing. This morning I saw my barefoot buddy Christian Harberts fly through in an effort that was just pure ease, the ease that comes from putting in the hard hours and loving what you do. He then turned around and ran sixteen km back home after the race!! He is just one of the many runners who laid it all out there today but the look on his face made me think that it's a while since I had that look.

  • Berlin Marathon
    The fastest course in the world and the one my friend Stefan Smith had been focussing on for months, he is a dailymile guy who only started running nineteen months ago. He braved early mornings, bad weather, lactic acid induced speed sessions and started knocking on the door of a sub three hour marathon early in the year. This morning he ran a sub 2:54 and owned the race. The fact that he is awesomeness personified makes it all the sweeter.

  • Alicia takes up running
    My ex was never a runner, now she is and is doing her first half marathon in Novemeber, she has really gotten the hang of it and loves her training, watching her passion for it grow makes me smile wide. She will have many adventure ahead of her.

  • Not only the greatest friend one could ask for but a stud on the road. I met him two years ago when he was injured and he is now a beast. Seriously, he threw down a 1:13 yesterday at the Akron Half Marathon and there wasn't a bother on him come the evening. He is going to show New York how it's done in a few weeks time. His discipline is one thing but his attitude is pure courage, he has more grit and fight in him than a few runners put together. He is also a super humble person who is as great off the roads as he is on them.

  • Yesterday an elite mountain race in Spain demonstrated that it takes guts to make it to the end. I am more inspired by everyday runners than pros but this one was special and I followed it all day on Twitter. Kilian Jornet and Tony Krupicka battled through wind and rain in an eighty four km beast with over nineteen thousand ft of climbing. Only 183 of 900 starters finished such was the difficulty of the conditions/route and one lady succumbed to hypothermia during the night and sadly passed away. There is nothing romantic about dying whilst doing something you love, this death is a tragedy. But it is also a tragedy to not go out there and search for oneself, to waste life sitting on the sidelines. Danger is a part of running, but it's also dangerous to smoke and to fly on planes or drive a car.
I don't think racing is about winning (oxymoron that it is) what it takes to get you to that race is where the fun is. The camaraderie of the people who support us during good training and bad, the ones who boost our doubts and the ones who reign in the arrogance if we can't get our head through the door. It's a community with a shared vision, to take pride and do the best one possibly can with each adventure. In brief, the people in the community are exemplary and to be a member of that community is an honour. I have met friends that will lead to life long connections, as for the people I've come to know through blogs and the Internet, they are no less a part of my life because of a minor detail like needing to take an international flight to have a coffee together. Becuase of this huge weekend of inspiration and revelation I have decided to sign up for a 100km race in the Spring of next year, having made the decision I am already anticipating the work and effort it will take to be in the shape I want to be in. I now have a goal and I can hold onto that instead of drifting along aimlessly. Many thanks to the stacks of others too who get me fired up daily with stories of adventure, friendship and a love for the great outdoors. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Inspirational Running Videos.

 Hitting the mountains recently and making my days priority a run at the moment has led to some sweet motivational finds online. These are a few videos that show the purity of the run for me, yeah there is a video camera present in them which takes away from the solitary aspect of it but overall it's very positive. Enjoy, I'm hitting sunny, western Paris trails for a few hours.

The Beauty of the Irrational from The African Attachment on Vimeo.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Slieve Bloom Way.

Just over two weeks ago I was sitting at Charles De Gaulle airport bound for Ireland when a jolt of inspiration hit me: The Slieve Bloom Way would be on my doorstep. So as I pondered the logistics of how to make this happen, given I have zero gear for such an unsupported mountain endeavour, during the short flight over it was a puzzle I started fitting together. The Slieve Bloom Way is an 82km circumnavigation of the Massif of the Midlands. It was a playground for me and my biking buddies back in my teenage years but I fancied it on foot this time. I had no backpack, no trail shoes and no drinking equipment, the food carrying could be managed but my worry was running this in a pair or Saucony Mirage road shoes. I love this shoe but wasn’t sure a flat sole was going to help me out much, and it didn't.

With my ever supportive sister Alison taking care of the kids, my mum dropped me at the mountains foggy, eerie base at 7:30 last Monday morning. I had packed enough food and water to get me through the day, additional hydration would be provided by mountain streams. The first 30km consisted of meandering single track and gravelled roads which made the ascent to the mountain top a lot easier than I expected, the river flowed beside me as I power hiked up very steep and technical tracks. The momentum was ever changing but I had to play it cautious given my footwear, I could feel every muscle getting a thorough workout. Stopping for a two minute break at the top I wolfed down two bacon sandwiches, three tortillas smothered in Nuttella and set off on a 1,200 ft descent. My quads were feeling the strain but overall my form felt good. After I hit the 40km mark though it became a real struggle on the next ascent, the route became heavily forested and the underexposed floor was pure sludge after Ireland’s rainy summer. I got no purchase on the ground and slipped constantly, I could feel all the muscles in my legs being overtaxed with the strain and was sure I'd pull and hamstring or worse, fall down a ravine. The fun of the experience had now gone and I was too afraid to fall foul of injury again. 20km later, at a snails pace, I decided to cut the route short and head back down from the peak. I had trudged through ankle deep muck for close to three hours and it showed no sign of letting up. I'll let the photos tell the rest of the story but suffice to say it was a day that taught me how to really live my life to the fullest. I think it's highly possible, given the right conditions and gear to nail this loop in a sub 9 hour push, gives me food for thought for next time.

Total distance 61.2 kilometres.
Elevation gain 5.315 ft
Time 7hrs 6mins.

Setting forth.

Early days.

Good roads early on.

One of the many road/stream crossings.


Perfect technical trail.

Heading into bogland.

Cresting the summit.

Slogging to the top.

After 20km of this, I packed it in.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Local trail route. Photo M McLoughlin.

It's amazing how ones attitude to running changes over the years, in the beginning; naivety, curiosity, occasional frustration. Then is the mid-phase as I call it; obsessive, hyper-analytical, running-gear-junkie, running-blog-fanatic. The phase after that is the one I'm in now; simplicity and appreciation. It is maybe not like that for everyone but I have noticed these rites of passage in others who take up the sport or graduate from one phase to another. It's natural. As an addict I can readily admit that running filled a huge hole in my quest for sobriety, it did replace, and almost eclipse my propensity to crack a beer at any given hour of the day. No more stumbling drunk to bed at 4 am, nope, I'd get up at 4 am and run a marathon, for fun of course. Putting in 160km+ each week was healthy for my heart and body and mind without a doubt, I looked and felt pretty darn good. Problems? I'm not a professional athlete and running those distances with no job tends to seem pointless, I dreamed of being a running star and realised after years of training that my so called 'idols' were able to run when they pleased and had sponsors to cover travel costs and so on. They were also gifted. I found it hard to accept that even though I put in the work and loved my sport I would never be able to rub shoulders with at these oh-so-cool runners on facebook and various blogs that I had become so overzealous about. I wanted the best running shoes and all the latest apparel on the market, I was hooked bad. But as this phase passed I came back to running and the very source of its hold on me. Whilst recovering over a seven month period (that finally ended this past week with a few solid, double figure efforts) I started to pay more attention to friends who were beginning to get the running bug. Some of them were newbies preparing for a 5k or maybe feeling adventurous to go half or full marathon. Then there was the more seasoned runners whose commitment to rising early in the worst of weather to get the runs in before work, and then nailing a marathon PR, filled me with joy that they had been rewarded. I got emails from people I knew in school back in Ireland who caught wind of the fact that I was a now runner and had decided to take it upon themselves to give it a shot. All of this activity was bustling in cyberspace and here I was laid up with my battered foot that I had grown to hate. I chose though to embrace my friends victories, however big or small it may seem on the outside, they are monumental to the individual who achieves it. The mum who works hard at taking care of her kids and trains for a 5k or 10k is no different to me that the guy who nails a 2:40 marathon. Every individual has to put in the work to get the job done.

My period of inactivity had me thinking hard as to why I run and what my motivation is. The answer slowly revealed itself to be in front of me the entire time. I run because I like it. No medals, no great achievements and not thoughts of grandeur are circling my mind on a day like yesterday where I felt the branches crunch under my feet as I wound my way up through a narrow trail line. No rock star runners kept my outdoor spirit alive during my injury period, no, it was the support of decent 'ordinary' people who, even though they did not know it, were carrying my own hopes and passions with them every step they took in their own training and racing. The selfless, communal attitude of the sport is a strange thing given we spend a lot of time in solitude and I think it's because of that telepathic introspection that we can connect with others so well. Everyone just gets it, like a secret handshake. My current phase depends not on the shoes I wear or the times I post, it is not driven by a goal that will stamp an identity on my contribution to running. It is more about what running has contributed to me, to enable me to analyse the world around whilst being in the world around me. I am able to transcend the 'barriers' that society (and my own mind) surround me with, I am free and roaming under my own steam, exploring and learning, fulfilling my role in life. To all the people who got me back on my feet and kept my mid in the game, thank you, you most definitely know who you are.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Plodding Along, Still.

So, I haven’t been busy here but I have been elsewhere. As the previous post pretty much summed up the reasons for my inactivity this one will explain the progress and direction of things to come. I have finally started my own business at It is a venture that took some time, networking and a lot of mistakes to get off the ground. It reminded me of learning how to be a good runner. I have always written but in a Sunday morning jog kind of way, stepping it up and trying to hone my craft with a variety of projects has taken me to the level of running ultras. I'm careful when to go all out and careful when to reel it in. I will also be blogging on that site but it will be of a more personal slant. I aim to carry on writing here about running, Autism and the progress of Pearl. I have seen a great community of activists, athletes and volunteers come into the picture since I started this blog a few years ago. Seeing how Autism is becoming more relevant and talked about here in France reinforces my belief that smallest oceans can make big waves, it just takes persistence and drive.

The book has reached the halfway point and that material has been sent to my editor, when the kids leave at the weekend for a two week break with Nana I shall turn my attention to it again having stepped back for a week. Going through the back catalogue of my mind has taken me to some very strange places, I have recalled some things with more clarity than others and some I'd rather forget. The process is a journey and to get the best out of myself I have to prod at a few old scabs from time to time. I am very lucky to have an incredible friend, Danny, who is editing and a great guy I met in London many years ago, Bruce, who has delivered a top class site for me and then the friends whose encouragement keep my going when my eyes are closing at midnight. Teams and communities make us who we are, no one ever achieved anything significant without a squad of optimists and drill sergeants behind them. I'm just lucky that mine know when to use the carrot, and when to use the stick.

Injury wise, it's the first time I have been able to walk a lot and not feel too much pain. I am wearing flat soled (dare I say it) minimalist shoes for day to day getting around. I have played a lot of barefoot games with the kids at the local football stadium on astro-turf and its almost been like interval or sprint training. My friends in Paris are egging me to get out for some slow miles soon and I'm tempted. I will be on vacation for three weeks in Ireland too and should give me an opportunity to clock some miles. When the time is right I'll know. Happy summer everyone.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


I could list off ten things in a single exhalation as to why I haven't been blogging but those reasons are long winded and very personal, lets just say being on here was pretty far from my mind. I have been blessed that both Tim and JP have flown the RFP flag in pretty spectacular fashion these past few months and I'll never forget that. I have just been busy with a lot of life changes and the transition period through a divorce and moving homes is just beyond stressful (you know when you're moving and someone says "It's as stressful as divorce they say" Well, I say 'they' are wrong. Doing both within six weeks of each other doesn't help much either. But there is new light on my horizon and it comes in many forms, writing has taken on a much more disciplined and methodical approach recently as I've started my book as well as some freelance pieces that are thoroughly exciting prospects. Life changes and you adapt or you wither. It's evolution baby and the only way is forward. I am currently delving into many things related to my past and it's a trip and a half. Sad, revealing, funny, haunting and tragic--it's always been a goal to get it down on paper but I was never strong enough or ready until last week. When you know, you just know. My running has recommenced with three little outings in the past six days for a grand total of thirty five kilometres for the week, I have no goals other than the pure enjoyment of it. It's what brought me the distance through battling the booze and understanding Autism. It's my constant friend and after four months of limping inactivity I love it as much as ever. More details to come soon but I couldn't resist plugging back in as I sit here in the French countryside looking out at the rain. Happy trails friends and see you round the bend.
The next generation of trail heads, so proud of them.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Jean Phillipe Brunon Interview.

(hanging with 'JP' after 12 hrs of battle at Feucherolles)

Just under a year ago at the 12hrs de Feucherolles I met Jean Phillipe Brunon. We instantly hit off and during a days racing and well into that night got to know each other a lot better. Since then, thanks to the Internet, we have become pals who share a passion for running and for the human connection that is such a vital part of why we do this. With my current injuries sidelining me from anything remotely resembling an ultra it is Jean Phillipe who, along with Tim are the torch bearers for 2012. I caught up with JP over emails and this is what he had to say. On a side note, English is not JP's first language so he did really well and I thoroughly enjoyed putting this piece together with him. Thanks JP on behalf of all the people involved in Running for Pearl.

We first met at the 12 hrs de Feucherolles in may last year, how was you race that day?

Up until Feucherolles my longest race was 100 km, I wanted to properly test myself before running my first 24H race in October, especially hydrating and fueling properly. My target for this event was initially 132 km (average speed 11 km/h) so I started at 12 km/h. But the weather was a bit hot (departure was at 11 am) so this was a bit too fast. Fortunately though I slowed down preventively after the marathon mark (during the afternoon the temperature went up). I had no problem during the race and I even accelerated a bit at the end as it was fresher during the evening.

After this my decision to run a 24H race in October was reinforced! My final mark was 127,2 km and I was happy with it despite the fact that it was less than expected because it was quite hot and I finished in good shape. With this kind of race what is more important than performance is the friendship with other participants. I was very pleased to meet you in person after getting in touch on the DailyMile site.

Tell me a bit about your running background/career?

When I was a teen I practiced cycling but due to knee problems I has to stop at the age of 21. After that I did almost no sport, maybe a jog every few months. I began running in summer 2005 just to get in shape and to lose some weight (I've lost 12 kg). I took part in my first race (a 10K) in 2006 and I liked the atmosphere. Also a lot of elder runners ran faster than me, this motivated me to begin some structured training. I was soon fascinated by long distance running, so I ran my first marathon (Paris) in April 2007 and y managed a sub-3H marathon for my 4th marathon in November 2009 (Nice-Cannes, 2H57).

Regarding ultra-marathons, my first one was the 6 hours des Yvelines in May 2009 at Villennes/s/Seine (now it's in Feucherolles). I entered it just to see if I was going to like it, and I really enjoyed it! Despite many newbie mistakes ( starting too fast, bad fueling) I managed to cover nearly 68 km and discovered a very friendly community of ultra runners. So from 2010 to now-and I hope for a long time-most of the running year is dedicated to ultras: my first 100K (Chavagnes in Vendée) in May 2010 then the famous Millau 100K in September 2010. I try to increase my mileage and ultra distances every year as the longer was the race, the more fun I have!!!

2011 was a pretty good year for you, what were the highlights?

I can say that odd years are generally good running years for me. 2005: start, 2007: 1st marathon and 1st sub-40' 10K, 2009: 1st sub-3H marathon, 2011: 1st 24H and win. The even years have not been as good (in 2008 I lost my Dad, running helped but performance was not a concern, 2010) hard-time for 100 km de Millau, but this was a delight as it changed my approach of ultras.

My main goal in 2011 was to run my first 24 hour race in Autumn, primarily to see if I was able to achieve continuous effort during 24H, and if possible break the 200K mark which is quite a psychological barrier that many circadians (24H runners) want to break. So I decided to take part in 12H des Yvelines in May to test all the logistics, mainly alternating running and walking for proper hydrating and fueling (which is even more important than training for ultras). The result was very positive because I was not exhausted at all and ready in my mind to run another 12H. I registered in 24H de Vierzon race just after Feucherolles.

I also ran 100 km de Theillay 6 weeks before Vierzon to make final adjustments for 24H pace and fueling, I was quite confident because I completed this 100K without being tired at all.

D-Day of my 2011 running year was at Vierzon on October 8-9th. A friend of mine (Jean-Jacques) was there to assist me. My goal was to stay 24 hours on the circuit without sleeping, and eventually break the 200K mark. I started slowly compared to many other runners, and I managed to keep my initial pace (close to 10 km/h) for 16 hours until 3 am (race started at 11am) and I was in 1st position by midnight. The most difficult part was the end of the night between 5 am and 8 am because I had a strong desire to sleep and I slowed down but never stopped. When the sun rose in the morning, it was like a revival and I managed to finish the race without being too exhausted. I was very pleased with my distance of 227,645 km as my most optimistic prediction was 215 km. Also, it was my first victory in a official race, but the most important thing is that I had no muscular nor tendinous problem, and that I really enjoyed this 24 hours most of the time, so I'm optimistic for my future ultras.

What races are you taking on for 2012?

As every year, I try to improve a little my speed on short distances (10K, half-marathon) in winter before the ultra marathon season. I don't like short distances-especially 10K-but it's good to run sometimes at a faster pace and also to meet other runners outside the ultra community.

For the 2012 ultra season, I will have 3 targets :

1. 100 km of Belvès (in the Perigord) on April 14th.
It will be a competitive race as it's the French 100K championship. My target is to beat my 100K PR in 8H30/8H40 which is not obvious because the route is hilly. Jean-Jacques will accompany me on a bicycle so I'll have both logistic and a mental assistance.

2. Ultrabalaton (non stop 212 km race around lake Balaton in Hungary) on June 30th - July 1st
It will be my first very long non stop race and I'll run it in cool -possibly hot weather- to graduate to this kind of event and to improve logistics and mental strength in the scope of 2013 (see dream race). Just enjoy my time with other runners and finish without being exhausted if possible...

3. 24H de Vierzon (same circuit as 2011) on October 6-7th
I'll try to improve my 2011 mark by 5-10 km but as it will be the 24H French championship, victory or even the podium is out of reach. Also it's more difficult to run a event for the second time because making mistakes due to an excess of self-confidence that often occurs when all went smoothly the first time!

I'll also run other ultra races, like 6H de Buc, 6H de Feucherolles, and 100 km de Theillay to prepare these events or just for the fun.

Why have you chosen to support RFP?

I first heard about Running for Pearl at Feucherolles when I met with Malcolm.
I was thinking about supporting an association while running ultras for a couple of months, especially in the fields of youth, health, education or environment. I also prefer a small structure where I know people in person rather than large ones. Autism affects hundred of thousands people in France alone, and there is little or no communication about it in the media.
So RFP is a "perfect match"! There is also a nice and well-know young French ultra runner and walker, Franck, who is Autistic (Aspergers Syndrome) who runs dozens of ultras every year (he also was there in Feucherolles). So many ultra-runners are already aware of Autism.
On a personal point of view, it really can help to surpass myself during a race when it gets hard, because comparing to what Pearl and her family endure it's really nothing!

Your attention to detail for your training logs is astonishing, where does this come from?

I think this is due to my scientific background (I'm a software engineer). I like stats, so I always record data like speed and heart rate. I also like to optimize my training and control as many parameters as I can during the race. Logging every training session and every race is useful to analyze data. It helps in not reproducing the same mistakes and improve training and efficiency during races. I hope that in the future, once I'll have learned how to train, hydrate, fuel, ... I'll be able to run long distances more "instinctively".

What is the dream race you hope to compete in someday?

Since 2010 I have wanted to run the Spartathlon (a 246 km non stop race in Greece from Athens to Sparta, web site: Because of this goal I select races as stepping stones to ultimately be able to finish the Spartathlon and kiss the foot of Leonidas in Sparta.
My first attempt will be in September 2013, there is a countdown on my blog. Finishing this race is an achievement for an ultra runner because cut off is very aggressive (limit is 36 hours).

Running the Comrades marathon in South-Africa is also a dream, more for the atmosphere (it is the most popular ultra in the world with 20000 runners and over 2000000 spectators). It is also the oldest ultra in the world (1st edition in 1921).

There are also two marathons on my to do list : Boston because of history also (oldest world marathon, 1st in 1897) and Berlin because it is fast to set a lifetime PB.

Whats your opinion on the current ultra scene in France?

I'm a newbie on ultra scene (3 years and 8 ultras is very little) so I cannot compare with the past. Also, I only run road ultras and not ultra trail for a couple of reasons:
- training for trail when living in Paris is not easy
- I like to be very relaxed and zen when I run which is easy to do on the road as you don't need to pay attention where you put your feet on or just not getting lost.
- There is more and more money in the trail (even money for winners on some races) and I think this begins to alter the initial spirit of those races
- I hate following fashions and "do like the others" and being a finisher of races like the UTMB where you first need to be selected in a lottery is not my cup of tea!

So I cannot tell about ultra trail (which may be 90% of the ultra scene in France)...
But the community of ultra road runners is rather small with the exception of 100 km de Millau where most participants do it as a challenge and are not regular ultra runners. I think there are about 1000 regular ultra road runners in France running from 1 to 10 or more ultras per year.
There is a strong respect among all ultra runners without any consideration of performance. This is obvious during time event where every runner encourage others while overtaking (which happens often because circuits are short ~1 km). Time events have become more and more popular, there are about twenty 24H races organized every year in France. There are about 10 100K organized each year. In terms of performance, French runners are quite competitive, especially in the 24H where they win medals both individual and team at every world championship.

Who inspires you?

Among french ultra-runners, Emmanuel Fontaine (a member of 24H French team with a mark beyond 250 km) inspires me because he isn't a fast runner but manages to optimize his training and has a regular pace during 24H with very little slow down. His wife Anne-Cécile is also a champion because she was twice 24H world champion with a mark beyond 240 km.

Another French ultra-runner I admire is Jean-Jacques Moros (he was a 100K French champion, was 2 times on the Spartathlon podium, has the course record of Nove Colli and Trans Gaule. But he really runs for the pleasure and friendship with other ultra-runners!

Of course I have to mention Yiannis Kouros because he is really a living legend in the world ultra running scene. Among all his world records, his 24 hours mark of 303,506 km is just fantastic.
Even more than his performances I admire his mental endurance and my motto is directly from Yiannis Kouros thought : "Without patience, you will never conquer endurance".

What is the race you are most proud of and why?

This is not an ultra, but a marathon. I really achieved a "perfect" race on the Nice-Cannes marathon in November 2009. It was my second attempt for a sub-3H after a missed one in Paris 6 month earlier. I started at a slower pace because I felt very unwell and I accelerated gradually. I really felt in the zone around km 30 and it was a little harder to finish but I managed to run faster and faster. I did a negative split even if the second part was a bit hilly and a 2H57 which I did not expected initially! I dream I'll run a perfect ultra-marathon one time in my life.

Are you a full time runner?

I do not practice any other sports apart from running and during intensive training I can run 6 times and up to 12 hours per week, my yearly mileage is around 4000 km which isn't that much for an ultra-runner who does not practice any cross-training. So running is a major part of my life, but of course family (I'm married and have a 6 year old son) and work (I'm a software engineer) are the most important.

I'm a member of a running club (XVe Athletic Club in Paris), but I don't go to training sessions very often because of my work. Also, I'm my own coach and planning my training and the logistics is really part of this hobby. Also I'm a very cautious runner and I listen to my body rather than following my training plan blindly, so I have never been hurt since I run.

I'd like to keep on running ultras even when I'll be an old man.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


For the end of 2011/beginning of 2012 I had a whole spiel ready to drop about the things I learned in the former and my goals for the latter. Well, life is indeed stranger and more dramatic than fiction and if someone had told me that bigger, more pressing challenges were ahead I would have tutted and rolled my eyes.

The majority of 2011 was tough for personal reasons and my running also had its ups and downs. Cutting my Ireland trek into bike riding stages was never my end goal and even though I had convinced myself it was all for the best and I had learned from my struggles and all that crap, I didn't really believe it, until now.

You see, when things are going OK or maybe not so OK you still don't fully appreciate anything for the true worth it has. You can say you do but you don't. Its like having a sore thumb, you don't value the thumb until you bash it accidentally with a hammer and then try to open a jar or twist a door knob the next day. It hurts and you realise how much you love having functioning, non throbbing thumbs. Running is the same, you say "I'm so grateful for the ability to do it"or "I never take it for granted" etc. Shoot, I was always saying these phrases and I always will. But, when you are cycling home from Boulogne after teaching your last class of the year on December 16th and a motorbike cuts two lanes, jams your handlebars against theirs, sending your left foot into the motorbikes rear wheel and dragging you 10 feet down the busiest route in and out of Paris then you are suddenly and acutely aware that the excrement has indeed hit the windmill. Hell, running becomes a luxury that you just can't afford after that. I could go into the specifics of the accident but the fact that it took the guy ten minutes to get my Salomon shoe out from between the spokes of his moto whilst looking around for cops and subsequently taking off immediately kind of tells you who was at fault. All I knew was that I was stranded with a bashed up but cyclable bike and twenty five minutes to make it back home to collect Pearl and take her to her physical therapists appointment. The days that followed were just a blur of looking after two kids with a foot that just tore me up with every step I took, but it was also a sharp reminder to the fact that I got severely lucky given I wasn't even wearing a helmet and the ruck sack on my back saved my ribs from being crushed on impact.

After getting checked out it was no surprise that I had a fractured Metatarsal and that ruled out any and all running for 2-3 months, depending on the healing process which differs for everyone. I spent many of my days hobbling and limping around, taking frequent ice treatments, and supporting it with various bandages and supports. I knew that if ever patience was needed it was now. This was when my endurance running really taught me how to manage my low points. Facing uncertainty in this really played on my mind as Pearls behaviour always worsens around the holiday period and running was not going to be an escape. Then you see your friends getting in runs and being able to burn off the turkey and all you want to do is half an hour even. There were times when I was on my knees praying for a way to just be able to hike up a trail head for twenty minutes. But two things really counted in my favour. The first thing is two different constituents that will always be inextricably intertwined--running and sobriety. Managing to quell an addiction that has a voracious appetite for destruction twinned with the ability to run back to back 100k stretches gives one a certain amount of perspective and resilience. The other vital ingredient is support, without this nothing is possible. From friends and family, both runners and non, the overwhelming good vibes that came my way was more soothing than any over the counter medication. Knowing that a crutch like this exists makes the waiting and the frustration bearable, in fact I would almost go as far as to say it makes it worth it because you know who has really got your back. Everything is distilled down to what is really your passion in life and how will you go about making the changes in your ways to fully live the way you want to.

(looking forward--photo--M.M.)

What I have learned is that I have a passion to run, but the enforced rest showed me that I have other talents that needed some attention and the time to rise to the surface. My life is evolving and ebbing and flowing on a daily basis but it is also making me face life on a daily basis. Sure I still love to plan things and all the races I had hoped to do between Jan and April have all been scrapped but today I got back on my feet for my first run since November last year. I jogged four km's of pure joy and when I say there were tears it was not because of the wind in my eyes, it was because I am alive and I am able to change the course and path of my life for the better with every breath I inhale. I refuse to be knocked down (both literally and figuratively) and I am willing to do whatever it takes for my kids and myself to live full and happy lives. I will ease back into it but I can say right now that I feel good about my foot and my future. I have started to structure my book and although its a long road I have plenty of people walking it with me. For my upcoming blogs I will be featuring Jean Phillipe Brunon who is a great friend, awesome runner and is flying the RFP flag this year. I will be talking to him about his success last year and why my daughter has become a cause close to his heart. I will sign out with a tune that has been getting some heavy rotation recently and also a message to the guy on the motor bike--running away from a problem doesn't work, trust me I know!

Running for Pearl

This blog is dedicated to my daughter Pearl who was diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) in August 2009. My goal is to raise funds and awareness by doing what I love....Running.