Donnie Campbell interview

Donnie Campbell is one of Britains best trail runners and coaches. He recently won the Salomon Ben Nevis Ultra and has previously represented Great Britain at the world trail running championships.

Reading about Donnie’s run across the Namib Desert in Outdoor Fitness was one of the core inspirations I had to get myself outside, exploring the trails  and where my journey to running ultra-marathons began. I attended Keswick Mountain festival  2017 where I heard Donnie give a talk and we both raced in my first official Ultra the Keswick 50k, (which he won in a course record time). So it seemed perfectly natural that he would be the man I contacted for the inaugural interview on this site.

Donnie kindly allowed me to interview him over the phone after he had finished working at a Salomon trail workshop.

MO (Moor Outdoors)

What have you been up to?

DC (Donnie)

I have just finished working doing some Salomon trail workshops

MO: Firstly congratulations on winning the Salomon Ben Nevis Ultra. So what were your personal highlights this year?

DC: Highlights have got to be obviously Ben Nevis ultra. Winning a Skyrunner world series race on your home turf was special. It was the race I was building to all year and everything was focused around that race, so it was good everything came together on the day. It was a tough course, there were a lot of bogs and I found it really tough because there were a lot of flats, which I am not used to, I’m used to more hills. So you know from that point of view the middle section of the race I really struggled with. Just the monotony of running on the flat knowing there were some nice hills I could have been going up on either side, and having to run the race by myself for the majority. You are in the lead but not sure how much further back people are, so you have to keep switched on and just keep pushing. But it was a good day.

The other thing that sticks out this year that was a personal ambition was to run up Mont Blanc. I did that this summer with my wife. We ran, powerhiked and climbed to the summit and back down in a day. It wasn’t anything quick, just something I have always wanted to do, so it was great to get the weather window to complete it in 11 hours.

MO: Brilliant. Was that when you were over there for a little while?

DC: Yeah I was in Chamonix for August basically, I spent 5 weeks out there just training and having a good time, I was like a kid in a sweet shop with so many mountains and trails.

Donnie living the dream

MO: Living the dream

DC: Yeah I like to do a bit of mountaineering as well as running, so it was good to get some mountaineering in on Mont Blanc and we also went up to Aiguille du Tour, which is another nice peak in Chamonix. So I had a mixture of that and running some trails, so it was a good summer.

MO: What about any low points? I saw you had an issue with your foot.

DC: Yeah so I have been managing an issue with my foot for the last two years. Ive got Morton’s neuroma on both feet. It’s caused me to DNF in 3 races this year. Which has been a bit annoying but I am having an operation in the next couple of weeks which should get it sorted for next year.  So winning Ben Nevis and summiting Mont Blanc were definitely the highlights but having to pull out of races due to pain is probably the low point. Mont Blanc 80k in June I had put a lot of effort into my training for it and had to pull out with 20k to go, because the foot had just got too sore

MO: You were in a good position then as well?

DC: I was doing alright I was 10th and pacing it well because I planned on pushing hard in the second half, but by the time I got to half way I was struggling to run and put any weight on my foot, so I kept on losing pace and places to the point that I couldn’t really walk on it anymore, which was very frustrating to get that far round and be in a decent position so that was the lowest point.

MO: People often ask how you know when you can run through an injury and how would you personally describe an injury. Because with ultra-running you are often sore and have niggles so when do you know it’s too bad and rest or physio is needed.

DC: Its different for every individual, the injury and the pain I’ve got is from a nerve so I know I am not doing any long term damage, it’s just a nerve pain so when I stop the pain goes away, so I am not putting any stress on the bones or ligaments. I am not doing anything long term it’s just a question of how much pain I can take. Generally training with a niggle or tight muscle, if it is caused just from overuse, it’s normally alright to do a light session. If you are carrying something more severe, my best advice is to be proactive rather than reactive. So it is better do go and see a physio right away rather than training through it and needing a longer break.

MO: That reminds me of something you said in your Keswick Mountain Festival talk. You said that you can rest for up to 5 days before you start losing fitness

DC: Yeah and generally a lot of people are overtraining for ultras or doing too many. You hear of people racing every other weekend, and when you compare that to the elite Kenyan marathoners they will race twice a year. By doing a few Ultras a year, you are pushing your body to its limits. I also think people look at the elites and try to get there too quickly. It takes years for them to condition their bodies to do that kind of mileage. People think they need to run 100 miles a week to do a 100 mile race and that is not necessarily true. You can do a lot less mileage and still complete the race

MO: I think overtraining is a real issue. I’ve only been running about 18 months and for me I find that if I can sustain at least 40 miles a week injury free I am happy, in the beginning I gave myself shin splints because I was looking at other people and trying to emulate them before my body had adapted.

DC: It’s about finding the right balance and generally you don’t want to increase your training by more than 10% on a weekly basis and every 4-6 weeks have an easier week.  You can play about with it a bit the more experienced you are.

MO: On the subject of recovery do you stretch pre run, post run or have a dedicated session? I noticed recently you said you were going to hot Bikram yoga.

DC: Haha. I could tell you I stretch a lot but that would be a complete lie. I never stretch before, I just start off nice and easy, afterwards if I’m lucky I might spend 5 minutes stretching. What I do instead is get a sports massage every 2-3 weeks which helps to reduce my risk of injury. I have a foam roller in the house but its gathering dust. I know I should do more, my theory is if I pay someone to give me a massage that is better than me not doing anything at all. I am trying to do more flexibility and yoga, especially in the off season and it is something I am working on.

MO: I go to yoga most weeks now and have found that it has really helped with my running flexibility and keeping me supple from the strains of work. I didn’t go for a few weeks and found my back and hip flexors were really tight again.

Do you do a separate strength and conditioning session?

DC: No. I use mountaineering and going to the climbing wall as my strength session. I lack the motivation to go to the gym. When I run I mostly go up hill or downhill the more technical the better. So when I am scrambling I use my upper body and core more, which I think provides strength.

MO: When you are training for a specific race, do you focus on mileage, elevation gain, time on feet or just play it by ear?

DC: I log how much ascent I have done. I don’t pay much attention to distance. Coming into a race my focus is nailing the key speed sessions. Focusing on doing my easy runs easy so I have the energy to really push on my harder speed sessions. It helps to keep the pace in the legs and gives me the confidence to know I am performing well.

MO: How do you do your speed sessions?

DC: I do hills. I either do a tempo session with 1000m (3000ft) of climbing or a VK(vertical kilometre). Remember to run downhill hard as well because that conditions your legs for running long downhills. Intervals I will either do hill reps or my preferred session is a treadmill. I put the incline to 15% and do 2 minutes on a minute off. I train by myself and the treadmill won’t slow down, if I start day dreaming I am not going to subconsciously slow down and it’s a good way of monitoring your training. It’s the same conditions every week so I can monitor my performance and fitness.

MO: Do you think that has the greatest effect on your ability to improve?

DC: It depends where your weaknesses are. For me my strength is endurance, I know I can run the distance, it’s just about doing it quicker. That’s why I focus on speed work, improving my uphill running ability is my priority. If somebody has good top end speed but can only run for 3 or 4 hours then you might look at increasing their training volume, while trying to maintain some of the speed they’ve got.

MO: Someones running background comes into play as well. I started running trails with the dream to run ultras so I have built my endurance first but lack the speed, whereas lots of people ran track in school or have done fast road marathons.


MO: What are your plans next year?

DC: I did fancy a crack at the Tour Des Geants, but I got a bit of a curveball when they said the Ben Nevis ultra was going to be in the Skyrunning world championships next year, so it looks like I am heading back to Kinlochleven in September. To have such a big race in Scotland and not turn up would be crazy. That’s my priority now next year.

MO: I saw they have changed the distance to 66k

DC: I am hoping they make it a very hilly and hard 66k. 66k is a bit short for me, but it will be a great race.

MO: I have pre-registered for Laverado (didn’t get in). What advice would you give to people planning on going abroad to run a mountain race?

DC: Firstly these races have massive 1000m+ climbs so going out and practising long continuous uphills is important. Go to the Lake District, Scotland, Wales where you can get big continual climbs and descents. That’s where people are found out, if you haven’t trained the big ascents and descents you will struggle. Practice your power hiking, because realistically you will not be running up all the mountains and if you are going to use poles then learn how to use them. The main thing is to enjoy the experience. Explore the area, try to get your head up and take it in.

MO: How did your relationship with Salomon come about and do you have any advice for people who would like to secure some sponsorship of their own.

DC: I think it just came about with performances. I’ve had offers of sponsorship previously, but I have turned them down because I haven’t agreed with the products, because they have not worked for me. I couldn’t endorse something that I don’t believe in. I am not somebody that will chase sponsorship, just to be sponsored. I would only take a product from a company that I believe in.  I am fortunate Salomon have backed me because I find their products work. I was running in their shoes before they sponsored me which shoes I like their stuff and I am not just saying it. There have been other companies that have approached me and I tried their kit and it hasn’t worked for me, and I have had to say I can’t race in it  so I can’t endorse it. Sponsorship overall is tricky. More people are after it, trail running is growing in popularity and there is more money in it. I think though that it shouldn’t be your overall goal. If all you want is sponsorship then you are in it for the wrong reasons. It’s all about having a good time on the trail and being sponsored by Salomon helps me massively but my main focus is on having a good time and working hard. Sharing that content on social media helps Salomon but they don’t put any pressure on me.

MO: I suppose your beautiful pictures from your time in the Alps and the races you have competed in are all things you would be doing anyway.

MO: One of the most common questions about ultra running is nutrition. What have you found works for you?

DC: I’ll take some Mountain fuel gels. I have been working with Mountain fuel over the last 12  onths helping them develop a gel which is refreshing and easy to take. I have been taking different versions of that which will hopefully be out next year. I’ve also been using a carbohydrate sports drink called Maurten which has really worked. They used it in the Breaking 2 project from Nike.

Mo: You don’t eat whole foods when you run then?

DC: If it is a longer race I might start on solid food, but all the races I have done this year have been 12 hours or less and I find that when I am racing that hard, it is difficult to eat so anything that is easily digestible is good for me. Also I know with Maurten it contains 40g of carbs per 500ml. So if you are looking at taking 60g an hour and you have 40 in your fluid then you know you only need one more gel and you have reached your target.

It is important to practice your nutrition on hard training runs where you are simulating the stress of a race on your body to see what works for you.

MO: Thank you for your insight Donnie and for granting me the opportunity to speak with you.

Salcombe coastal marathon in storm Brian

I only found out about the event a few days before it was being staged but I only live a few miles away so was eager to get involved on my local trails, and to raise some money for charity. The route was originally from Start Point to Bantham but due to the yellow weather warnings for wind the organisers decided to shorten the route to 20 miles and make it an out and back from Bantham to Salcombe.

As it was an ‘event’ not a race there was no mass start and you had to pick up your runners card and set off. The race organiser made provisions for people to only complete the first leg to Salcombe because the weather was due to get worse later in the day so if you were slower your return journey would of been in the worst of the weather. I tried to run it hard and treat it as a race for training purposes, but after struggling up the first ascent from Bantham I soon realised looking at my watch to check my pace was pointless as I was scrabbling around in a gorse bush looking for my Buff that had been blown off.

Me descending to Soar Mill Cove on the return to Bantham. Demonstrating the wind lean required for the duration of the event

The area from Hope Cove to East Soar was particularly exposed and slow going although on the way to Salcombe every now and then a gust would come from behind and you’d end up nearly sprinting trying to keep your footing whilst making forward progress. I started to get into the rhythm of running at an angle battling the wind and was beginning to enjoy myself. The descent to the turn around point at the Winking Prawn was sheltered and a much needed respite from the elements.

I turned around and set off back the way I came, all was going smoothly until I rounded Bolt Head and realised the organisers were right and the wind was much worse on the way back, almost grinding me to a halt at times. One runner carrying an anemometer recorded 100kmh gusts on the way out and 165 kmh gusts on the return, 100 mph gusts! No wonder I was completely immobile at one point, swinging my arms and legs at the wind to try to keep moving. I was enjoying it less at this point I must admit and just wanted to get back and out of the relentless elements. On the trails that bordered beaches the sand was being blasted into your face, it was part exhilarating and part infuriating. Eventually I climbed up from Thurlestone and began the descent back to the life guards station where our battle with Brian started. My watch read 2hrs 56mins, I picked up my beautiful medal and headed home for some food and a warm bath.

Congratulations to everyone one who completed the event and thanks to the organiser who resisted the advice to cancel the event. I believe that was the right call, I was never in danger just moved a bit slower.


Two peices of kit I found invaluable in the wind was my Buff which kept me free of ear ache and my aptly named INOV-8 Stormshell jacket which kept the elements on the outside.

First 50 miler – Dartmoor crossing extreme

I started running around 18 months ago and soon established that I wasn’t driven by fast 10k times or trying to run a sub 3 hour marathon. I was inspired to run because it allowed me to explore new beautiful places and push my body in ways I didn’t know it was capable of. This inevitably led me to the world of trail running, and living in South Devon I am spoilt for choice, surrounded by countryside and buffeted by the coast path and moor. I was driven by distance. After completing and winning the South Devon edition of Endurance lifes coastal marathon series in February I searched for a 50k to work towards. I settled on Keswick mountain festival and that became my goal. Even though my training was interrupted by a stress  fracture from an accident at work I managed to hit my target of a top ten finish and a time of under 5 and a half hours. I am sure most runners can relate to the feeling of elation that comes after a target race and the hunt for another one. I wanted to do my first 50 miler and began my search.

I found Pure Trails big day out. They were staging 3 races on Dartmoor on August bank holiday weekend. A half marathon which crossed half the moor, the crossing (34 miles) which was from one side of the moor to the other and the extreme crossing (53 miles) which was the standard crossing route but with two additional loops that added 20 miles and increased the Tor-yield per mile. I haven’t explored the northern part of Dartmoor much so the race appealed to me in that respect and I have run the second half which I thought would aid me when I was struggling.

I left my car in South Brent where the race would finish and boarded a bus at 5:15 in the morning that would take us to Belstone to the start of the race. I felt prepared and had done training runs up to 40 miles to streamline my kit and nutrition. There were only 10 competitors, which was disappointing, I thought there would be more, the crossing and half attract nearly 200 each, but it was the first time the extreme crossing was staged and 50 miles is a long way so maybe people felt more comfortable doing the standard crossing. The registration and transport were well organised and stress free which is an important factor when you are getting up in the dark to run all day.

Route map

We started at 7am and the conditions were absolutely perfect. I do not think I have ever seen the moor so clear. You could see to the horizon and your vision was filled with the rolling tors and valleys of Dartmoor, with nothing but grazing livestock for company.

I set into a steady rhythm and was soon in the front with Lyndon Cooper. We ran close together until the first aid station at Postbridge, where we deviated off the standard crossing route for an additional loop taking in Lower white tor, Higher white tor and Longaford tor. We descended into Bellever forest and back to the Postbridge aid station. After leaving the aid station I had lost Cooper and the course took us over Bellever tor down through Hexworthy before getting onto the open moor again and making our way toward Princetown. This was the first time I started to struggle. My groin and hips especially were beginning to get painful and I was slowing down. I realised that I had made a big oversight in my training. I had thought that by chasing the ascent I would be able to cope easier with the relatively small amount (5500ft) of the race. But I overlooked the amount of damage the constant uneven boggy, rutted and stony tracks would inflict. I arrived into the Princetown checkpoint still in first place thinking I had a good lead, however as I was hoovering up Haribo and refilling my water I turned around and Cooper was right behind me looking much better then I felt.

I ran out panicking that he was so close behind me and embarked on the second additional loop. This was a much flatter section that should have been very runnable but the rocky track sent pain through my joints with every step. I was soon overtaken and was doing all I could to keep him in sight as we ran around Burrator reservoir and back to Princetown. I was losing ground and losing my mind. I knew I could push through it but couldn’t summon up the mental power to make myself and started accepting that I was now running for second. After dibbing at the Princetown checkpoint again we only had 13 miles to the finish, and after running the half marathon last year as my first trail race I knew this section well, and it had large sections of flat and downhill running.

My friends met me at this point and gave me a massive lift. I started to pretend that this was just a half marathon and that I could hammer it to the finish. The pain started to be pushed to the back of my mind and I was speeding up. Eventually 1st place came into view and now it was a mental game to will myself to maintain my pace to keep closing the gap.  With 10 miles to go at a water station I finally caught and passed Cooper and started my charge to the finish. My frame of mind had completely changed and I was enjoying the race and the suffering again, in the knowledge that it was in my hands to win the race.

Me struggling with 13 miles to go

I crossed the finish line in 8hrs 47mins securing first place. The race was organised well and I was happy with my time as I was aiming for 9hrs. We were extremely lucky with the weather, it was warm and clear all day which reduced the bogs and made following the markings straight forward. My nutrition plan worked. I used tailwind and supplemented that with Clif bloks and whatever I could grab from the aid stations and had no lulls in energy. My main learning point was not to overlook the terrain. I should of done more of my long runs on the moor to get my legs used to running on uneven terrain for hours on end, because the jarring of every step became really painful by halfway.

Kit list

  • Inov8 Roclite 290’s
  • Salomon Skinpro10
  • North Face Better Then Naked shorts
  • Salomon Fastwing tee
  • Skins compression calf sleeves
  • Tailwind
  • Clifbloks
  • Suunto Ambit3 Peak
  • Buff

On Cloudsurfer review

I have been aware of the On brand for a while and was very interested in their shoes. I had the opportunity to try on a pair when I visited runners need in Exeter and resolved that when my Nike Vomero’s finally needed to be retired I would splash out on a pair of Cloudsurfer’s. They felt beautifully crafted in the hand and although they feel a little odd when you first walk around in a pair they fit like a slipper, and feel much more like an extension of your leg then a big bit of rubber and foam on the end of it.

The biggest difference between On and other brands is their ‘cloudtec’, the shock-absorbing cushioning system that lines the bottom of the sole. The 13 ‘clouds’ are designed to close and lock for a natural transition for a faster takeoff, which should allow you to spend more time in the air. The ‘clouds’ also absorb the shock of the impact of running when you land. As someone who has battled shin splints since I have been running I was slightly apprehensive that they wouldn’t provide enough cushioning and I would soon be in pain. In fact the opposite has happened, previously when trying to run some fast miles the increased speed would always irritate my shins. This has not happened with the Cloudsurfer’s to any great extent and they give me the confidence to really stretched my legs when I want to without worrying about any debilitating repercussions.

I will quote On’s listed features and give my verdict on whether I think they are true. On describe their features as:

‘Uniquely engineered mesh places breathability and support exactly where they’re needed on the foot. Knitted from one single layer to enhance the fit’ I agree with this, I have not notice my feet getting hot and even when running fast down hill, where in the past I have felt the sole of my foot warming up due to the friction in the On’s it hasn’t occured

‘Second layer sock construction brings ultimate in shoe comfort. It adapts to your foot for a unique fit’ The fit of the Cloudsurfer’s I have found to be perfect, no discomfort and they make you feel like you want to keep running.

‘Newly developed arrow pattern provides outstanding grip and traction. The open cloud construction makes saves weight to make the Cloudsurfer lighter then ever’  I haven’t lost grip in them but definitely think traction can be improved in the wet. It has been most noticeable when running up a greasy hill.

Admiring my shoes and the view

So far I have not ran any more then 10 miles in them in a single run. This is because I mainly run on trails but use the lanes around my home to get in some mileage when I just want to get straight out the door after work. I feel completely confident though that if I wanted to do a road half or marathon then they would  perform just as well. It has also made me want to try  On’s trail shoes because I have been so impressed with these.


  • I found their sizing spot on and have had zero hotspots or any hint of a blister or foot issues
  • Although subjective I find them a very aesthetically pleasing shoe
  • Cushioning feels just right for me, the Cloudsurfer’s are said to be for anyone wanting to run 6-8 minute miles in them which is what I do on my average training runs. On make a range of shoes with more or less cushioning depending on what you want, so you can find something suitable


  • They are at the more expensive end of the market and I couldn’t find last seasons anywhere for a discount
  • I find when running up hills when the ground is greasy they don’t provide the best grip


I have been very impressed so far. They are lovely to run in and have benefited my shin splints which I didn’t even consider as a possibility. The only question mark I have about the shoes is how durable they are, but after over 50 miles there are no signs of wear yet. If they prove their durability, which for around £120 you would hope they do, then I would definitely buy other On shoes and would especially like to try the Cloudventure.

 You can order them online at

Yoga for runners

I have been running for over 18 months and am increasing my training to compete in ultra marathons, so far I have completed the Keswick 50k and will soon embark on a 52 mile race around Dartmoor. All this training coupled with my strenuous job as an Arborist left me feeling tight and often getting niggles. I looked for an enjoyable way to help myself and came across Carol Snape aka The Yoga Body. I have been attending her classes for over 6  months and have noticed a huge difference in my flexibility, core strength, recovery time and suffer less with pains and little injuries less often. I wanted to write a blog about the benefits of yoga for runners, but I thought Carol would do I far better job then I would so I asked her to contribute the words and pictures below. So thank you Carol for your insight and i’ll see you on the mat.

Yoga is the perfect activity to complement running. Not only does it loosen up tight muscles (from the repetitive movement), it also strengthens the core, improves breath control and calms the mind. Recovery time decreases as the muscles are stretched increasing bloody supply and oxygen, range of movement expands and the posture improves. Its a no brainer!

Below are 5 top postures for stretching out tight, overworked muscles which will see your running performance advance and leaving you feeling great! Give them a go and notice the difference.

Downward facing dog


This is a deep stretch for the hamstrings, shoulders, calves, hands and spine and builds strength in your shoulders, arms and legs.

From tabletop position (on hands and knees), begin to lift the knees and come over the toes to bring the feet down towards the mat. Your hamstrings are going to feel tight so feel free to pedal out the feet, bend the knees and get comfortable in the pose. Keep the hands shoulder width apart and spread all ten fingers into the mat, distributing the weight evenly. Push the seat bones high and towards the back of the mat, like an upside down V. We’re not in a plank position so make sure you’re not resting all of your weight into your arms and hands. Micro-bend the elbows and open up the shoulders. Aim to ground the heels down towards the floor, but don’t worry if they don’t reach, this takes practice and flexibility which will come in time.

Pigeon pose


This is a fantastic posture for opening up tight hips and lengthening the hip flexors.

From downward facing dog, take the right knee towards the chest and then let the leg come down onto the ground with the aim to plant the shin parallel with the front of the mat (this takes time so don’t worry if it’s not completely parallel). From here, sit down into your hip and allow the left leg to shuffle back to lie flat onto the mat. Try to keep the hips even and in line, do not fall to one side even if you are far off the ground. If this is the case, use a block or blanket underneath the right buttock to bridge the gap. If this is comfortable, feel free to walk the hands in front and come onto the forearms to sink deeper into the posture. Stay here for 5 deep breaths before swapping sides.

Lizard pose


Another great hip opener, this posture is a great stretch for the hip flexors, the hamstrings and the quadriceps. By incorporating this posture into your stretches you can help improve the flexibility of your hip ligaments and strengthen the muscles in your legs.

From downward facing dog, take the right foot all the way to the front of the mat, outside of your right hand. From here you can drop the left knee and come over the left foot. Sink into the hip from here and if its comfortable, come down onto the forearms. To incorporate muscle strengthening in the left leg, come over the foot and lift the knee off the floor.

Don’t worry if you cannot come onto the forearms in this position. This will come in time. Just allow the breath to guide you deeper into the posture and enjoy the deep hip stretching sensations!

Lizard pose – with a quad stretch variation


Staying with the posture above, dropping the left knee onto the mat. Gently guide the right hip open with the hand so that the foot rolls over slightly. From here, bend the left knee so that the foot is facing up towards the sky. Reach around with the right hand for the foot and carefully pull the foot towards you. This allows for a deep quadricep stretch with an even deeper opening of the hip. Hold for 5 breaths before repeating on the other leg.

Big toe pose


One final and extremely effective way to lengthen your hamstrings, which allows you to deepen into the pose on each exhale and use the resistance against the toes to draw the belly closer to the legs.

From a standing position, take the feet to around hip width apart. Keeping the legs straight, fold over and reach for the big toes with your index and middle fingers (If you need to bend the knees to do this, go for it). From here, with the elbows bent and facing outwards, pull onto the toes to feel the stretch down the backs of your legs. Aim to keep the chest open and try not to round the back. Take 5 long deep breaths here, focusing on getting deeper with each exhale and then release. You’ll soon notice the difference!

So there you have it! Invite these stretches into your post run cool down and you’ll soon notice the benefits not only in your performance, but in your recovery.

You can see more from Carol at  Facebook @theyogabody     Instagram She holds classes in the South Hams of Devon and her social media is a constant inspiration for passionate yogi’s.

Pictures taken by the talented Brahma Studios

Running for your mind

I have been fortunate enough to have never had to deal with any genuine mental health issues, but like most people there have been incidents in life that have left me not feeling myself, and recently has been one of those times. I find when I am feeling anxious or mildly depressed I lose my appetite and feel exhausted. All I want to do is get in my bed and close my eyes and hope that I will feel myself soon. Unfortunately as much as that is all my mind and body want to do I don’t find it helps, and arguably exasperates my feelings as I then start to berate myself for feeling so weak and hiding like a child under the duvet.

So how does running help? NHS Choices website has exercise alongside cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and counselling as a proven, effective alternative to antidepressants. But as anyone who has been depressed can attest to, getting your kit on and going out feels like a huge hurdle. I do not have the answer on how to take the first step to exercising when you are feeling like this, and my experience of anxiety and depression is very minor, and I have still found myself unable to get out the door. On Sunday for example I had scheduled in a long morning run, I got home, ate, did my usual pre run routine and was immobilised by my mind until 4pm. The irony of this situation is I know that once I am running I will feel much better and that feeling will last long after I have refuelled and washed and yet I still lie there struggling to conquer my thoughts. I am by no means well versed on the field of mental health. This is just a personal account of my own struggles during times of anxiety to get out there and do the one activity that I know will help me.

Me finding some solace on the trails

Kelly Jayne Jackson was diagnosed with severe depression and generalised anxiety disorder. Kelly suffered with poor mental health from a fairly young age. But it was only in her late twenties that a full blown breakdown occurred and she was heavily medicated. For her the medications prescribed did nothing to actually help the state her brain was in, they only served to cease any feeling at all. Nothing. Which when dealing with suicidal intentions and anxiety, that was slowly manifesting itself in obsessive compulsive behaviours, isn’t actually a bad thing. Somewhere inside of her she knew this wasn’t a life, especially one that was shared with two children. So began the journey to find a cure, her cure. What followed was eighteen long months of intense weekly therapy sessions. Each week building on new skills on how to handle her ‘poor’ mental health using talking therapies, nutrition and exercise. It was in these three mighty things that she found a way out of the pit she was in. The days when even her body hurt from the burden of the thoughts in her mind, she still got up, put on her gear and went to the gym in hungry search of those elusive endorphin’s. Eventually she found them everywhere.

Kelly’s inspiring story demonstrates how the holistic natural remedies of communication, nutrition and exercise can be implemented to bring about a consistent and reliable aid to your mental health.  As a result she is fitter, healthier and mentally happier. And continues this day to battle her mind with her weapons of exercise and the great outdoors.

A microadventure on a hill

I have wild camped many times, but only using my little 2 man tent the Zephyros 2.  I have been meaning to purchase a bivvy bag for a long time and finally bought one from Alpkit. The weather had been stunning all week and looked to continue throughout the weekend so I began to formulate a plan. At Keswick mountain festival last weekend I went to a talk by the brilliant Phoebe Smith who’s book on wildcamping I had previously read. For her most recent book and the inspiration behind the talk, she tackled her favourite small hills around Britian. This lead me to incorporate one of my own local hills into my night in the bivvy. I chose Ugborough Beacon because it has dominated my eyeline on every drive I have made to Dartmoor or the A38 for my entire life. It would also provide me with enough of a vantage point to watch the sun set over the moors and to rise over some beautiful English countryside, and was a mere 15 minute drive from my house.

The scene that welcomed me to the top of Ugborough beacon

I parked at Peek moor gate, popped my bag on my shoulders and began my ascent to the top. It is only 378m/1240ft but it is a steep climb and I was beginning to regret putting my down jacket on at the start, but I only had to sweat for a few minutes before the granite outcrop that marks the top began to come into view. As I approached and the scene unfolded before me I was stopped in my tracks by the beauty of this little scene. Dartmoor pony’s grazing all around and golden sun dropping away behind. It definitely vindicated my decision to make this the site for my first bivvy.

The sun rising over Brent Hill

I made myself comfortable and watched the sunset. I was the only person there, and on such a clear evening my sight stretched to the sea. The atmosphere was serene, and the views spectacular. The only thing on my mind was why I had waited so long to do this. When the soft glow of dusk started to disappear I settled down in a spot shielded from the wind. I had planned on continuing to marvel at the sky until the stars were out but I fell asleep in minutes, although I awoke once in the night so I didn’t miss out entirely.

Me watching the sun set over the moor

I set my alarm for 4:30am to ensure I didn’t miss the sunrise. It was just as magical as the previous evening’s sunset, the colours slowly filtering in and illuminating the clouds until the golden orb appeared. I sat still, and just watched, before scrambling back down the hillside. Home by 6am for a coffee, my spirits lifted much higher for the evening’s experience.

Awoke on a tor

Burnished sky enthralling me

Dawn chorus rising


Keswick Mountain Festival 50k race report

Ever since getting into off road running and reading Richard Askwith’s brilliant Feet in the clouds I have been longing to visit the area and run. I have been keeping a look out for races in the Lake Disitrict that would be a challenging distance and course profile and would also provide me with some stunning vistas. So when I stumbled across the Keswick Mountain Festival I instantly bought my ticket. It appealed even more to me because the festival would collect likeminded people together for a weekend and they held talks. On Friday I went to Ricky Lightfoot’s followed by Nicky Spinks & Jasmin Paris , Saturday was Donnie Campbell who also ran and won the 50k, so for an aspiring ultra, mountain runner it was perfect.

The course

‘The course is a mixture of wide open trails, single track (fast & technical), big long ascents & fast technical descents, open valley running & very remote feeling trails around the back of the Buttermere/Crummock Water & the Newlands Valley area. It takes in area’s that you will not have run in before. Expect to be blown away by the views of the 4 valleys we take you through & overwhelmed by the quality of running you will be enjoying. This race is not only tough, but is also one of the most scenic routes in the Lake District & takes mountains & lowlands in its stride offering you the best trail running experience in the country’

50k route
50k elevation (2)
Elevation profile. My Strava came out at 5946ft of elevation gain

The alarm went off at 4.30 am to allow me time to devour some Summit to eat porridge which was a freeby from the festival and get myself awake and to the start line which was moved next to the Theatre by the lake for the 6am start time. The weather forecast was for 60mph gusts and rain but the temperature was moderate, and I recently had a 18 mile training run on Dartmoor which blessed us with zero visibility and driving rain so I had confidence in my kit and my ability to grind it out when the weather has other ideas.

I started at a comfortable pace and had to remind myself that although it was flat now I had another 32 miles to go so settled in to enjoying the race and trying to find a pace that was difficult but sustainable. We climbed up through the woods where we appeared above Walla Crag. Early on I tried to manage my ascents by realising there would be large sections where I would be more efficient and faster power hiking then trying to run. This egoless strategy semmed to work because throughout the race I felt good on the hills and was able to up the pace on  the more runnable terrain. I was running well in the top twenty and started to pass a few people in the lead up to the Honister mines. I found this the most difficult section. The climb was very steep and difficult and the high winds were really felt here, to the point where any forward progression felt like progress. I consoled myself by thinking of the old adage ‘what goes up must come down’ But the descent via Dubs Quarry round the back of Fleetwith Pike was extremely technical and I didn’t feel like I could gather any speed or flow. Whenever I thought I was cracking this rocky descent business I would stub my toe and nearly fall or kick a rock into myself.

The view from the top of the ascent down to Buttermere

I had managed to find myself in 10th at this stage which is the position I maintained until the end. From the bottom of the descent we ran around  the southern shore of Buttermere & then Crummock Water to the 3rd Feed Station (CP 3) of the day at the foot of the lake and follow-on to run back up the north side, utilising the shoreline footpath. This was pretty flat in comparison to the rest of the race and I tried to crank out some faster miles here. The route then enterted the Rannerdale vale which was very wet and boggy leading to a single track hugging Whiteless Pike and Addacombe Beck. This section felt quite deceiving, I thought I should be able to run faster but I found it slower and more technical then I thought it looked. This is the most remote section and it certainly felt it.

Somewhere around Whiteless peak

Following another rocky technical descent towards the Newlands valley, you are on the home straight back into Keswick, having just ran 32.7 miles and covered 6000ft of elevation gain, I was pleased to finish but felt that I could of continued if necessary which is good to know If I plan on upping the training to tackle greater distances.

Kit and fueling

For the race I used from top to bottom

  • Buff
  • Inov8 AT/C Stormshell
  • Salomon long sleeve top
  • Salomon Skin Pro10
  • North Face better then naked shorts
  • Injini trail socks
  • Inov8 Roclite 290’s


I used all of my own nutrition and drink for the race apart from a few chocolate digestives I picked up at CP4. I didn’t seem to suffer from a lack of energy and I think I attribute that to constantly sipping on my Tailwind which kept the dreaded bonk at bay.

  • I put two satchets of Tailwind nutrition in my bladder
  • Clif bloks
  • Wiggle energy bar


I loved the festival, great food and talks in the adventure tipi were amazing. The town of Keswick itself is also fantastic. It is surrounded by peaks and the views of Derwentwater are great. When it was raining all day on Saturday I went into town and looked around the shops which are a dream for anyone into running and outdoor activities, a special shout out to the guy in needle sports I spoke to and even checked the forecast for Sunday on the computer for me. The race was well organised even with the high winds forcing some last minute changes, the course marking was probably the best I have ever encountered and at no point was I ever concerned about where to go. I also got my most ambitious result of a top ten and 5.30hrs so overall I was very happy. I do not recommend driving back to Devon for 7 hours though immediately after running  33 miles, I have been a bit stiff since.

Strava of the race

The view of Derwentwater from the shore of the festival 

Gear review Patagonia Houdini jacket

I purchased the Patagonia Houdini because I wanted a versatile weather resistant lightweight jacket for runs on days with suspect weather, and it needed to be light enough that when I put it in my hydration vest I would hardly know it was there. Patagonia market the jacket as providing

‘Proven protection from the elements, the featherweight nylon Houdini® Jacket is the go-to running shell for weather-resistant protection’

It is most definitely light and packable, it weighs in at around 100g and is smaller than my fist when packed into its own chest pocket. This means that it doesn’t only fit easily into my hydration vest but I have on shorter runs when hydration is unnecessary been able to fit it into the pocket on the back of my shorts. This versatility ensures that there is never any need to be without its protection because it is so packable. And the protection it provides is stout enough for all but the most driving rain. Its wind resistance and breathability are incredible for a material which feels no thicker than a Rizla. It has stood up to driving wind on Dartmoor and the South West coast path whilst protecting me like a shield, and allowing my sweat vapour to escape so that I don’t get wet from the inside out.

Me running on the South West Coast path in the Houdini

This is not classified as a waterproof but it has a DWR coating which I have found withstands much of the rain I have encountered on runs, and to be honest when it is pouring outside or forecast I will draw for the Inov 8 AT/C Stormshell which is fully waterproof. It is about utilising your gear for what it is best at and this jackets strengths are definitely its versatility. It is not the most wind resistant or waterproof jacket on the market but it stands up admirably to both. It was also reasonably priced. I purchased mine for £65, and for the amount of wear it has received already it was paid for itself many times over.

Overall this jacket is one of my most utilised pieces of trail running kit. It really hits the sweet spot in weather resistance and weight which means it is always on my person or in my bag waiting to be worn if the weather turns. I highly recommend this jacket for anyone that wants an alternative to their seam sealed waterproof on days when that is just too much.


The features of the Houdini are minimal to keep its weight down but it does have a hood, full zip, chest pocket and elasticated cuffs, which are really all you need to keep the weather out and to run hard.

  • 102gr/ men’s med
  • Full zip
  • Zipper chest pocket/ stuff pocket
  • One pull adjustable hood
  • Reflective logo’s front and back