Ding! Ding! I’m In The Fling!

After a long day ripping up 2 overgrown rockeries in the garden, lumping oversized rocks around, digging up plants determined to annexe their neighbours, and generally attempting to return our garden to the (kind of) pristine shape that it used to enjoy pre Harris, I was all but set for a very early bed tonight.

And then I remembered it was Fling night. No, not some night of sordid sexual depravity, nor a night of Scottish dancing, but, instead, the opening of entry to The Hoka Highland Fling, the 53 mile ultramarathon that is Scotland’s, if not also the UK’s, biggest Ultramarathon.

With a capped entry of 1000 solo runners, I was hopeful of getting a place but, regardless, decided to err on the side of caution and sign up as soon as entry opened, at 9PM this evening.

With a couple of crashes along the way, it was obvious that the web servers were taking a bit of a pounding but, thankfully, I  secured the desired place, ending my 2 year ‘sabbatical’ from ultramarathons.

What I didn’t expect was to see over 600 of those 1000 available spaces sell out in the first 40 minutes of the race being opened. I won’t be surprised if the race is sold out by the time I waken tomorrow morning at this rate!

So, a commitment to run 53 miles on 25th April 2015, along the lower ’1/2′ of the West Highland Way, on the 10th edition of the Highland Fling, along with some 999 other solo runners and some 50 approx relay teams of 4 runners. I had best get training!

A Far Flung Fling?


A far flung Fling? Only as far as Glasgow (from Ellon). Not that far really, but a) I somehow came up with the title and decided to run with it and b) when a toddler who isn’t overly fond of travel (or more to the point of being restrained for any length of time) enters the equation, even 160 approx. miles is far enough!

So, is a return to ultramarathons on the cards for me after an absence that started back in March 2013, shortly after the birth of my son Harris?

The short answer is ‘who knows for sure’, but the more considered answer is that I sure hope so. I’ve been making changes that should impact on my running, hopefully allowing me to train for ultras without the excessive mileage that I put in pre Harris.

Essentially, it boils down to continued weight loss (See my previous post, Suunto Ambit 3 & The Return To Training, for more details), more speed work (again referring to my previous post, I’ve now got my 3 mile time down from approx. 30 mins to 21:45 in the space of just a few weeks), and greater specificity, with more emphasis on hills when the terrain available to me permits it.

In a nutshell, I’m aiming for quality over quantity, and hoping that my regular swimming and cross training will supplement the run training.

My history with the Fling is mixed, providing me with my 1 D.N.F. to date:

  • 28/04/12 Highland Fling 12:36:12
  • 30/04/11 Highland Fling 13:03:43
  • 24/04/10 Highland Fling D.N.F. (27 miles)

2010 resulted in my only D.N.F. to date, 2011 saw me awake most of the night with massive leg cramps, too scared to move for fear of more cramping, and 2012 saw me retire to bed early, shortly after completing, with the weirdest case of the shivers. And yet, I love it – the terrain, the atmosphere, the slick, quality for money event that it is.

It’s one of ***the*** races I have missed the most and, in my absence, it would appear that Race Director John Duncan has taken the Fling from strength to strength making it one of, if not ***the*** biggest ultras in the UK.

2015 is the 10th Fling and, with 1000 solo runners plus relay teams, it’s sure to be a party!

My aims for the 2015 Fling are simple:

  • Secure my place in the race
  • Train, train, train (but train smart!)
  • Beat 12:36:12

It would be nice to take a good chunk off of that 12:36:12 time but, given that this will be only my 1st or 2nd ultra back after my wee, toddler inspired, ultra ‘sabbatical’, I will ultimately settle for a finish. I certainly don’t want to be adding to my list of D.N.F.s!

Realistically, whilst recent changes have the potential to translate into a quicker ultra running pace, it’s getting the long runs in that will be the toughest aspect of training with a toddler.

Entries Open for the 2015 Fling Ultramarathon on Sunday 12th October 2014 at 9pm (UK Time) – best set a reminder as I don’t think it will take long before the race is at capacity!

Suunto Ambit 3 & The Return To Training

There’s nothing quite like new technology to mark the resumption of training and the intent to return to ultramarathon running in 2015. Released just last week, the Suunto Ambit 3 offers improved functionality alongside connectivity with the iPhone (Android to follow), facilitating on the go customization, push notifications, and the ability to create movies of your activities, complete with photographs taken en route.

My last ultramarathon was back in March 2013, when I crawled around the D33 in a personal worst time of 6:18:33. Admittedly, it was only 15 minutes slower than the first time I ran it which, given that my longest training run had been just 11 miles, surprised everyone, myself included. With a baby due to arrive and a house to prepare, there just wasn’t the time for quality training!

Harris arrived just weeks before the D33 and I soon appreciated that training time was a luxury I could not afford, despite my intentions to try and continue running ultras.

Ironically, since I stopped subjecting my body to the battering of ultramarathons and ultra training, I have been almost constantly injured in one way or another.

My running did benefit from nutritional, training and running form advice that I received whilst participating in The Running Bug’s PUMA PB Challenge back in July-October 2013. The aim was to smash a 1/2 marathon PB set way back in 2008 which was considerably faster than I was running at that point.

Unfortunately, injury struck just 5 weeks into training and it looked doubtful that I would even toe the start line of the Great Scottish Run, my target event. Despite injury, I came within 1 minute and 45 seconds of beating my target, considerably better than I had hoped for and way faster than my running had been for years. However, it was still a failure, and a very public one at that!

In the wake of this failure, I will admit to losing my running mojo and, beset with one injury after another, I lost focus on running altogether, something that just a year previously would have been almost unthinkable.

Weight gain saw me shoot up to just under 16 stones, the heaviest I have ever been, and certainly not conducive to running.

As a baby-wearing dad, it was evident to me on an almost daily basis what carrying an extra 1-2 stone in weight felt like. Losing this amount from my own frame would make such a difference to activities, my daily life, and my general confidence.

Thus, approx. 3 months ago, I set about implementing a different food strategy. I wont call it dieting as there was considerably more to it than that.

I have since lost over 2 stone and am lighter than I have been in many, many years. I am even a stone lighter than I was when I ran the 95 mile West Highland Way Race which is quite a thought!

Each pound is increasingly difficult to shift but, encouraged by weight loss to date, I am persevering and intend to shift at least another stone in weight before I focus on consolidating at a target weight.

If there’s ever an incentive to continue, it has to be the impact on my running. Yesterday, for example, I ran 3 miles on the treadmill 4 minutes faster than it would take me back when I was happily running 6-7 ultras a year. Not only that, I ran most of it at various stages of incline, including 1/2 mile at 5% incline. That improvement is before I really get back into training in any shape or form!

(Update 17th September 2014: I managed to take another 2 minutes off of my previous 5k time yesterday lunchtime. Feeling it in the legs today but this is hardly surprising considering how hard I was pushing and, also, given that both runs were done in Vivobarefoot Trail Freak shoes with absolutely no cushioning whatsoever. Today’s a ‘swim day’ so I can give the legs a well earned rest, but I am wondering now how much further I can take the speed and if it can be translated into ultra PBs.)

So, even with some continued aches and pains, I now find myself in a place where I feel happy and able to balance a return to training while continuing to be the best dad possible. I certainly won’t be returning to pre-Harris levels of running and my training will focus on quality rather than quantity of miles.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve slowly increased activity levels, based on a mixture of swimming, cross training and running and it is with this mix that I intend to continue, with the majority of training slotted into a lunchtime and/or of an evening once Harris is tucked up in bed.

Hopefully, come early 2015, I will have a better idea if this will be sufficient to see me comfortably complete a 2015 ultramarathon, or two, or three… :o)

Suunto Ambit 3


  • Route navigation
  • Up to 25 h battery life with GPS
  • Compass
  • GPS altitude
  • Heart rate in swimming**
  • Activity based recovery time
  • Speed, pace and distance
  • Bike power support (Bluetooth Smart)
  • Multiple sports in one log
  • Training programs
  • Growing feature set through Suunto Apps


  • Upload and share your moves instantly*
  • Customize your watch on the go*
  • Time and GPS satellite data up to date on the go*
  • Use your phone as second watch display *
  • See calls, messages and push notifications on the watch*

Enrich, Relive & Share

  • Take photos during your Move showing your current speed, distance, and more*
  • Create a Suunto Movie of your Move with 3D map, key metrics and images*
  • Share your experience instantly to your social media networks*

*with the Suunto Movescount App and smartphone
**with Suunto Smart Sensor

Installing the .NET Framework 3.5 on Windows 8 or 8.1

Try as I might, I could not get Moveslink to install on my Windows 8 PC in preparation for the arrival of my new Suunto and I was starting to think that I was never going to be able to hook it up to the PC!

The installation of Moveslink would only get so far before bombing out with a .NET Framework 3.5 installation error. I finally found the answer to my problems, not on the Suunto site, but from general searches concerning .NET Framework 3.5.

“The .NET Framework is an integral part of many applications running on Windows and provides common functionality for those applications to run. For developers, the .NET Framework provides a consistent programming model for building applications. if you are using the Windows operating system, the .NET Framework may already be installed on your computer. Specifically, the .NET Framework 4.5 is included with Windows 8 and installed on your computer with the Windows 8 operating system.”

Therein lies the problem! Moveslink relies on .NET Framework 3.5 but 4.5 is already installed on Windows 8. The .NET Framework 3.5 is not automatically installed with Windows 8 and, thus, needs to be enabled.

To enable the .NET Framework 3.5 in Control Panel:

  • On the Start screen, type and then choose Control Panel
  • Choose Programs
  • Choose Turn Windows features on or off
  • Select the .NET Framework 3.5 check box

Full details online at Microsoft MSDN:

Hopefully the above will save others the frustration that I experienced, and let everyone focus on getting their lovely new Suunto Ambit watches set up :o)

New Barefoot Running Magazine Web Site

Barefoot Running Magazine, the world’s first barefoot and minimalist running magazine, has a new web site www.barefootrunningmagazine.com with news, events, competitions, reviews and more! One of The Team may even be familiar to some of you!

The web site also contains links to current and back issues of the magazine.



Wow, who would have thought it. My little running blog, started more as a personal reminder of my own running exploits than anything else, has now surpassed 50,000 views since I started recording stats back in mid 2012. Thanks to everyone who has stopped by. I hope you found what you were looking for.

2015 should hopefully see a return to ultra running for me again and there will no doubt be many more experiences to blog about. I’m not back to full ultra training yet but that’s not far off and I have high hopes that 2015 will be the year of the PB :o)

Run, Walk, Cycle Scotland