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190 miles in 3 Days 23 Hours and 58 Minutes

This is my story of my run across the country 190 miles as a type 1 diabetic. This little rant tells that story, my plan is to write another one about the kit I used as I know some ultra running geeks would like to know, particularly how my feet stayed in such good nick. I’ll tap out another scribe on how I did it as a Type 1 diabetic and what strategies I used.


Over the past year it took me a while to appreciate that outside of my Adventure Sport friends most people struggled to get their head around someone running across the country. How? Why? It’s not possible? On Monday morning just before 5 am I ran in to St Bees in 3 days 23 hours and 58 mins – I’d covered 190 miles over some pretty harsh terrain, mountains, remote passes, and muddy paths.

So how? Imagine you set off running for a bus as fast as you can, it pulls away – you hope it stops so carry on running faster – eventually you run out of steam, legs like jelly and a bitter taste in your mouth. Next think of going for a walk, gentle walk – you take some food, you don’t feel tired, you eat you drink and could keep going for endless days. Somewhere in the middle the ultra runner lives – they fast walk or jog at a pace they can sustain. For me I’ve tried to run down hills, jog on the flat and walk up hills in an effort to keep that energy expenditure as even as possible.

But I need my sleep! do you? remember as a teenager going out for a few drinks, late night party and then up at 6 to go to work feeling like you have eaten your socks. Another night and you start thinking can’t keep this up. For me I see sleep as a bank – I need 7-8hrs a night, either I pay in just before an event or I will after. During the event and this one in particular I was getting 4hrs a night although on reflection I think I could have made this 3 hrs.

So that’s the plan – what happened?


Just 3 weeks before, I was fitted with an insulin pump, a big change in my diabetes management but one that many people suggested that would be better for the run. Ultimately a pump behaves more like a real pancreas, drip feeding insulin all the time. I was very fortunate that just before the run my diabetic nurse offered me a continuous glucose monitor – this checks the blood sugar in my blood every 5 minutes. It’s not the be all and end all as it lags by about 15 mins from what my actual blood sugar levels are – but it gives me a good idea and provides a trend.


Leading up to the start, I was keen to relax – get some early nights and be well rested. I’d invested a massive amount of time and money in this project and didn’t want to blow it by working till the small hours to finish a project off. Charlotte and I set off on Wednesday morning travelling across the country, picking up Ant Cooper and Joe Faulkner enroute to Robin Hoods Bay. The plan was to arrive in good time, get our kit ready have an evening meal and be in bed soon after 8.

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Marking up a 2nd set of maps for Charlotte Photo C Hattersley

Joe and Ant would be taking it in turns to carry my rucksac across the country, Charlotte had a support van and was ready to supply drinks and provide food bags and the next maps. Dave Mac was also coming along for the trip to cover the journey on video.

We had checked in to a local B&B with Dave and Charlotte electing to kip in their respective wannabe winnebagos (VW transporters). Dinner at the local pub and bed by 8 or soon after, kit set out ready to go.

Thursday Day 1

Up soon after 4am – shower, kit on, breakfast of alpen and cuppa. 4.45 we walked down the hill ready for the off at 5am, a pleasant morning – it was great to have both Ant and Joe with me for the first section. A walk back up the hill and on to the coastal path, oddly we were heading the wrong way further east – the wind behind us was ominous.


At the Start – Me, Ant and Joe Photo C Hattersley

I was getting my head around my continuous glucose monitor it was showing 22 mmol which is very high, needed to get that down but reluctant to pump too much insulin in checked my blood on a meter was 14 so gave myself 1/2 a unit and bumbled on at a pleasant pace.

With Joe and Ant - photo must be Lucy using Ants phone

With Joe and Ant – photo must be Lucy using Ants phone


At Grosmont it was clear we were going a lot faster than last time we were here good 40 mins up. Which troubled me – didn’t want to be one of those hares in a race who goes off too fast. Tea on the move and we carried on to Glaisdale eating food every 30 mins.


Lucy,Dave, Joe, Me, Andy at Clay Bank Photo Ruth Johnson

Here we met up with Lucy Harris as we headed past Lion Inn picking up a Jacket Potato and Andy Petit an Adventure Racer and very usefully a diabetic consultant. We chatted at length about how to set up the pump it was reassuring to have him along for a while. It rained like proper rain, bring out the fire hose rain. Down to Clay Bank where Lucy head back and we found David Johnson – here the hills albeit small go up and down.


Carlton Bank with Andy Petit – Photo Dave Johnson

It’s at this point I’d run out of steam, I’d been trying to go too fast up the hills and my blood sugar had dropped. Bit of food and gently does it. At this point I was struggling to get the food down which I had bought, flap jacks, brownies, malt loaf were all too dry and despite 10 mins of chewing I’d be ready to spit it out. Moved more on to custard / creamed rice / fruit & jelly / wraps.

Fuel tank empty with Joe - Photo Dave Johnson

Fuel tank empty with Joe – Photo Dave Johnson

We dropped down to Ingleby Cross where we said cheerio to Andy and Dave, must admit not feeling great and was thinking that I had the balance between insulin and food wrong. We dawdled the next section, it seemed to go on forever with a ridiculous number of stiles, Ant was trying to keep up beat and I was a bit cheesed off as was out of steam early evening on the first day.

Chaos at Danby Wiske - Photo Dave Johnson

Chaos at Ingleby Cross – Photo Dave Johnson

Bit of pizza and pushed a bit more insulin in and we headed out the door, quietly earlier in the day I’d hoped we would get closer to Catterick but being slow in the evening had put paid to that.

Not sure what time we got to Danby Wiske but it was early enough to get a coke and to blag some free ice cream off the bar man who thought I was nuts. But in my coffin on top of the campervan soon asleep.

Friday Day 2

Alarm at 3.30 I’d gone to sleep in the clothes I wore the day before so jumped out – porridge and tea but a bit chilled. Either I put more clothes on or I get moving quickly. I think I caught the team unawares who were still pottering as I jumped out of the van and headed straight off with poles in hand.. and nothing much else. No tracker / phone or maps! Still it was pretty straight road.

15 mins later I was thinking oops that was silly, may have dropped my support team. Then Joe came jogging up the road wearing jeans and crocs with a rucksac on – good on yer he said no point in hanging around.

The support vehicle pulled alongside and out jumped Sabrina Verjee and the Human dynamo Claire Maxted. We ticked along at a fast walking pace, should have been running but wanted to get to the Dales fresh.

Fast trails - Photo Claire Maxted Trail Running Mag

Fast trails – Photo Claire Maxted Trail Running Mag

What I was noticing was that paths I had used in February then a mudfest were now hardpack it was making moving a lot easier. We ran down to Richmond probably should not have gone quite so fast but it was fun and exhilarating. We knew the support vehicle was in Richmond but had not quite realised it was just outside at the top of a hill.

Low blood sugar just outside of Richmond - Photo Charlotte

Low blood sugar just outside of Richmond – Photo Charlotte

Was a bit pooped by the time found the support vehicle – was a long section. Sat down to have a bit of food. I was already doing the arithmetic could we get over 9 Standards tonight? When Jim and I had bumbled this section it had taken us over 18 hrs over 2 days. We had a done a bit more this morning as well. Be cool if we could but would that mean going over the hill in the dark – not what I wanted to do.

Sitting in the van I did a quick blood test 4.3 darn too low – 20 mins timeout whilst I get some pasta down me neck. Next stage was undulating enroute to Reeth, here I was introduced to cold mash potato with grated cheese by whiz bang Maxted – was surprised find it was very palatable.


At Dales MTBing with Stu Price – Photo Charlotte

We arrived at the delightful Dales Mountain Biking, set up as the event office with master of biking in the area Stu Price and his big grin giving us jip. Joe suggested I get a shower (must have stunk!), then beans on toast and I was off. My sugars were heading south and I was not feeling excactly tip top, tired and lethargic. The next stop was a road crossing and surprise it was Lisa my wife with our twins Amy and Thomas. It was special they had travelled for 2 hrs just to see me for 10 mins.. I did get a 10 min kip gave my kids a hug and moved on.

With the kids and Lisa - great photo Charlotte

With the kids and Lisa – great photo Charlotte

The next stage was a good 4 hours across some big hills, this had caught me out last time thinking can’t be that bad big large tracks rarely go that high, these were the remenants of old mine workings and ascended up to 600m. My company was Ant and Sabrina – now Sabrina started telling some really bad jokes, like really bad if Thomas came home from Nursery with jokes like that I would not be surprised I feel so sorry for your race team.

It was a steep descent down to Keld and we met up with Dave and Ruth, a quick bite to eat and we headed off up the boggy path to Ravenseat – we knew at this point we would not make it over the top of Nine Standards in the light so the plan was to get as high as we could. As we ascended the vague path, again I started getting cold so picked up the pace much to the surprise of the other guys, it was raining as well, so yet again my choice was get changed or move faster.

Checking blood sugars - Photo Claire Maxted Trail Running

Checking blood sugars – Photo Claire Maxted Trail Running

As we neared a shooting hut we bumped in to Ali Morris – the support vehicles were not able to get any closer so he gave us a lift to where they had holed up for the night – on top of the pass! Man it was windy up there. Was in my coffin on the top of the VW transporter – was half expecting that it would get blown off.

Saturday Day 3

As 3.00am neared and the rain tumbled down I half expected / hoped that Joe would stick his head around the corner “this is silly, lets leave it for a few hours” but he didn’t come.

Climbed back in to Ali’s car and back to where he picked us up the night before and we set off at pace along the vague tracks to lead to the top of 9 Standards. It was 3.47am, weather was foul but I had great company – it’s at this point my mind went in a spin. Was this the right way to do it? Up to that point I’d have been comfortable to do all of it on my own. Here going up the hill it was clear in my head that this was no place for me to be on my own, it was cold and I was tired. Without these guys I’d not be here and that was humbling – I reconciled this because over the years I’ve taken many people on the hills who should not have been there without me leading or guiding them – the table has turned.

Heading up to Nine Standards - Photo Dave Johnson

Heading up to Nine Standards – Photo Dave Johnson

We headed on in to the mist, and past the iconic standards. As we reached the road Ali Morris kindly pulled out my Hoka shoes and I took off my fell shoes for the 3 mile road descent in to Kirby Stephen.

We stopped in the Market Square; it was still before 7am. It’s at this point I changed my cannula for my insulin pump a process which needs a bit of attention as it involves needles and refilling the pump with insulin. I set off in a hurry with Alan Hartley whom I’d recced this route with before and Ruth Johnson.

1/2 hour out I realised I’d forgot to switch the pump on – a silly but serious mistake. Ruth has worked in A&E and the topic of conversation went to the implications of someone like me not getting insulin – they ultimatly will go in to DKA – bit of a morbid topic but I was interested to hear about it and the symptoms. Still that was not going to be me, but it was a healthy reminder that for a Type 1 diabetic not to artificially add in to their bodies insulin the outcome is not pretty.

Across the fields passed Orton with Alan Hartley and Ruth - Photo Ruth Johnson

Across the fields passed Orton with Alan Hartley and Ruth – Photo Ruth Johnson

We were moving slowly again – perhaps it’s a morning thing. We found the camper and I grabbed 15 mins sleep, popped out of the van and started running well jogging. Ruth and Alan were a tad perplexed and wanted some of what I just had. Told them it was a secret. We moved at pace for the next 4 hours until we arrived at Shap mid afternoon. Lisa was ready to join us and I briefly saw my parents who I’m not sure really understood what I was up to.

Again my mind was whirling could we make it over Kidsty Pike before it got dark or worse (the weather turned nasty). A gentle walk to Burnbanks by Haweswater with Heather Burrows, Lisa and Alan. At Burnbanks we waved goodbye to Alan and Heather – Ant had a spring in his step ready to take on Kidsty Pike.

Heather, Moi and Alan - Photo Lisa Thurlow

Heather, Moi and Alan – Photo Lisa Thurlow

We properly ran up the side of Haweswater, it was refreshing. But to be honest I’d not adjusted my insulin to cope with this pace, bit of indulgence. So just be before we left the main trail I was having a woosy moment and the rain was coming down on the end of a hose. We snuck under some trees to regroup, and for me to get changed into dry warm clothes which included a duvet jacket. The plan was to head up the hill at a VERY steady pace. We were in radio contact with Charlotte and Dave Mac who were camped out on the other side of the reservoir.

Running along Haweswater - Photo Lisa

Running along Haweswater – Photo Lisa

At 400m the weather was pretty grim, I was feeling OK but mindful if this is 400m what will it be like on top? Ant and Lisa were clearly a bit nervous and asked me if I was OK quite a few times. As we topped out the weather cleared and with that the temperature dropped. We tried to pick up speed, as much as one could dressed in 4 layers of clothing which included a duvet jacket. The cold air was chilling my lungs.

We had a choice bug out down to Hartsop, not the Wainwright route but darkness was closing in and it had started raining again – it was 10pm and I’d been going since just before 4am. I was keen if we could to stick to route. It seemed to be the right decision at the time.

We headed towards Angle Tarn, stopping briefly for a bite to eat. Joe was to be heading up the otherway soon. As we trotted along I found myself getting tired it was 11pm and I was regretting this decision, the weather had turned bad – cold and ugly. The oppourtunity for me to bag a 5 min kip was not an option, to stop moving I’d get too cold.

Joe appeared and was soon dispensing coffee – not only would this keep me awake but it would also have the side effect of raising my blood sugar. My head was tucked in to my hood and I was just following the feet in front of me in the dark up on the hills above patterdale.. slowly dosing off… I woke up from the micro sleep with Joe shouting FIGHT IT JAMES! I was weaving around, wishing I was not here – it was check mate I just didn’t think I could do this. I needed to sleep and I knew if stopped I’d get cold quickly – I’d admit it was bringing me to tears – what had I done.

The coffee was slowly bringing me around, I recognised the top of Boredale Hause from numerous events, it seemed to take forever to get down to the valley floor. At 12.30 am or 1ish I was in the back of a van getting changed in to dry clothes and in to bed. As much as I was annoyed that I’d got myself in this pickle I wanted to get moving in good time.

Sunday Day 4

I was up at 5am and we were moving soon after, on reflection should have got up earlier – we paid for it later that day. Today was with Jim Rounsley and Lisa as we headed up to Grisedale Tarn and long valley which again been up a few times of late – feeling good and lot more fresh than times before. We turned to descend to Grasmere, was a surprise to find Rob Marriot perched on a rock at 7 in the morning. Good man – great to have his company.

Found Rob - Photo Lisa

Found Rob – Photo Lisa

We popped in to Thorney How Hostel, I’d stayed here earlier in the year and they were more than welcoming looking after the support crew. I grabbed a spot of breakfast and got moving up the Easedale valley to Greenup Edge. We had Dave Mac along for this section of the walk, it was a nice day and I hope he got some good footage.

Moving with determination :-) Photo Lisa

Moving with determination :-) Photo Lisa

As we topped out, I thought it best to grab some kip – a quick 15min nap on the side of the hill did the job and we tootled down the valley. All looking a lot more different than last time I was here and it was full of snow.

We found Charlotte and Ant along with a few tubs of ice cream. Honister was our next brief stop, bumping in to the Accelerate guys doing a fell running relay. Was keen not to stop here in the back of my mind time was slipping away – I really wanted to finish this trip in under 4 days. Going by my previous recce the maths said we should have plenty of time, what I forgot to factor in was that I was chasing to catch a train last time and moving a fair tick.

Ice Cream in Borrowdale with Foot Inspection - Photo Ant

Ice Cream in Borrowdale with Foot Inspection – Photo Ant

It was down to Lisa, Ant and me pretty much to the finish – it was early evening as we crested the hill above Honister the last big one, as we stuck our head over the top of the Ennerdale valley we got a great view of the coast – it felt good .. and then oh nuts its still a long way to go!

I can see the Sea - Photo Ant

I can see the Sea – Photo Ant

We passed the iconic Black Sail YHA, grabbed a bite to eat and tried to walk a bit faster down the track.. it was hard – the gravel track was making us all wince to walk on. As we arrived at Low Gillerthwaite the bubbly Sally Ozanne popped out to greet us. Ant passed the baton for Sally to take us around Ennerdale water. A great trip and with the sun setting on a beautiful evening it was a pleasent place to be, some of the paths are steep and exposed – glad it was daylight. Dave Mac was there to video it all..

We waved goodbye to Sally at the carpark and bumped in to Mark Wear who had a large tub of ice cream. Shame he didn’t have the time to walk with us – two large mouthfuls of ice cream and I ticked on. Lisa caught up but we had dropped Ant who had the tracker / maps – he was soon jogging to catch up.

Whilst we were nearly there, I still had my nemisis Dent Hill – it’s not in the Lake District, but its a proper steep hill, almost need hands to get up it, it’s not that small either. We took it easy as darkness fell – with only 2 out of 3 head torches working.

Getting fed up with Stiles - Photo Ant

Getting fed up with Stiles – Photo Ant

We found the top – would have been a great view, slightly spoilt by an English flag in the cairn on the top. Clearly some people are about 400 years behind the times. The descent was hard, my legs are really hurting now – its easier to go up than down. And this track must lead to hades as it doesn’t seem to stop descending. Eventually we pop out on the road with Charlotte and pizza in a attendence.

Here we had a real highlight, a couple had been waiting for us for quite a number of hours – they lived in Cleator and wanted to hand me a donation for diabetes research. I was humbled – it was gone midnight!

A 15 min kip and we set off around 1am. As we wandered through farms and along cycleways, I was still getting sleepy thinking that I could do with another 15 mins somewhere. Chatting to Ant he said still 12km to go and we only had 3 hrs till 5am. After 5am we clocked in to 4 days.. really wanted to do it under 4 days. 12 km is not that far but its a long way after 180 miles and at 2 in the morning when you’ve not had much sleep.

Sleep was out of the question, we need to shift on with a sense of purpose. One last checkin with Charlotte as the sun was rising near Sandwith. Just the coast path to go and just over an hour. Heck I’m tired as we walked along the cliff top path I thought man this is a bit silly.. we reached the light house.. just over 30 mins to go and 3km.

Crazy but I need a kip – I’m going to fall off the cliff!! OK 2 mins wake me up in 2 minutes. I went in to proper deep sleep and Ant woke me up. We set off fast as I could walk with poles, starting to jog the downs. Jacket off.. moving fast, as fast as I can pole up the hill this is going to be close. Fastest I can walk is 6km/hr any faster I’m running. I need to run, pass the poles to Ant – there is Charlotte my goodness was not expecting to see her till the finish, hope she is up for a run.

Charlotte snapping a photo

Charlotte snapping a photo as we run for the finish

We are heading up the hill and I’m picking up the pace, we round the headland – 7 mins to go, can see the beach but its still a long way off. I’m now going faster and hoping that Lisa and Charlotte keep up – caught between wanting them to be there but also wanting to get under the 4 days.

As I descend throwing myself down the hill with Ant scouting the right way. We pass Dave Mac filming “you’re cutting it fine!” yep we know. Now we have Dave in tow as well, we cross the footbridge in search of something to say we are here. The monument in front of the lifeboat station does the job with just over a minute to spare.

Yikes wished I’d got out of bed a bit earlier.. err yesterday.

The Finish - Photo Charlotte

The Finish – Photo Charlotte

What does it feel like, relief – great way to end, happy, surprised and proud that as a diabetic I did it – I didn’t tickle it, I did it in a credible 3 days 23 hours and 58 mins.

And finally

We dipped feet in the sea – it was just us no fanfare. It was 5 in the morning after all. The van in the car park looked a long way off – not sure I can make it.

The foot in the Sea - Photo Charlotte

The foot in the Sea – Photo Charlotte

Thanks to Charlotte Hattersley, Joe Faulkner, Ant Cooper, Dave Macfarlane, Lucy Harris, Andy Petit, Ruth and Dave Johnson, Sabrina Verjee, Claire Maxted, Stu Price at Dales MTBing, Ali Morris, Alan Hartley, Heather Burrows (and James and Chris), Rob Marriott, guys at Thorney Howe Hostel, Jim Rounsley, Mark Wear and Sally Ozanne.  Oh and Jane for shuttling people around.

For the support from Sarah my diabetic nurse, Medtronic (they make insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors), James Kirby for the website, Peter & Bruce & Graham at Haglofs, Cat and Ant at Mountain Hardwear, Gillie at Bradshaw Taylor with Keen / Timbuk2 / Icebreaker / Royal Bobbins, Graham at Anquet Maps, Sharon at The North Face, Rhia at adidas, Dave at Clif Bar, Nick at Power the Machine.

And finally Lisa my wife, was great for her to come with me from Shap to the finish – still astonished she did best part of 60 miles without any training.

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