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  • Birmingham Marathon 2017

    As mentioned previously…running is a thing now.

    Back in 2016 I ran the London Marathon.

    I got in by pure luck through the ballot, had an amazing time and thought that would be my one and only marathon.

    But I’ve ended up running a lot more since then (and actually enjoying it) so when I heard Birmingham were planning on hosting a marathon for the first time in over 30 years I had to sign up.

    So on Sunday I ran my second Marathon

    I knocked 27 minutes off my London time and just squeezed under 4 hours with a finishing time of 03:59:06

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    I’m really pleased with that!

    Having a had a couple of days to take it all in I wanted to share some thoughts on Birmingham’s brand new marathon!

    The Course

    A bit of a mixed bag

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    The course started at Alexander Stadium on the outskirts of the city, into and around parts of the city centre, through Canon Hill Park, around Edgbaston Cricket Ground towards Bourneville and then presumably so they didn’t have to shut Birmingham down totally back towards the park again to do it all over again. There is basically a big chunk of it you do twice.

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    I wouldn’t have a problem with this generally but there were some really tough climbs in there so knowing you had to do them twice was hard going.

    There were two hills in Bourneville in particular that nearly finished me off

    For comparison, according to my tracking app (Strava) my total elevation gain from London was 449 feet. Birmingham was 1,140 feet!

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    The last mile itself had two or three uphill sections that were really the last thing you needed at that point!

    A lot of the marketing messaging around the event talked about it being a fast course. There were sections of it that certainly were quick and for an experienced marathon runner it would have been a good challenge. But for the more casual runner, who Great Run will need to attract if they want to keep running the event, the loop and those tough climbs won’t have those people rushing to sign up again. A lot of first time marathon runners may not come back because of it. I saw a lot of Facebook comments on the Great Run pages that would seem to back that up

    The Birmingham Half Marathon that has been around for years famously had a killer hill at the end (and it is a killer. I ran up it with a torn ankle ligament last year!)

    That hill was taken out, presumably in recognition that it wouldn’t be a good way to end the marathon. 

    It’s a shame as there are some really good things about the course

    Starting in the Stadium was great, running through the park was beautiful and we got to see a wide variety of different parts of Birmingham. 

    The event itself

    I’ve run a few events put on by “Great Run” now and by and large it’s a well oiled machine.

    I don’t have much to complain about. The communication and information in the lead up to the event was good. The Great Run app is fantastic, especially as it allows friends and family to track runners.

    Water stations on the course felt well placed. The lack of a sports drink stop towards the end was commented on by some other runners. My guess is this will have been to do with the mix of marathon and half marathon runners. Gels were offered but I declined them as they were not a brand I’d seen before and I really didn’t want to go for something unknown in the middle of the marathon.

    A tiny gripe was at the finish. It would have been nice to have been given the medal instead of having to fish it out of the bottom of the goodie bag.

    I’ve seen a lot of discussion about having the half marathon on the same day and the loop causing problems with runners of different pace coming together. I didn’t suffer with that too much. The pace I ran at meant that I didn’t have too much of a problem, the timings meant I only came across really fast runners from the wave before me but I can definitely see the faster runners and slower runners coming together and getting in each others way.

    Fast half marathon runners could very easily catch the tail of the slower marathon runners.

    The support from the side lines was great. Though there were big stretches that were devoid of people. There lots of reasons why this would be the case. Time of day, length of the event, some parts were totally impractical for spectators (flyover into the city) but where there were people they made themselves heard.

    My Race

    When I ran at London it wasn’t with any specific goal in mind other than “get over the finish line”

    This time though I really wanted to set myself the goal to try and get under four hours, even though I knew it meant a big step up.

    But I worked really hard to train for it and I was right on course at the half way point and felt really good.

    That was when the hills nearly did me in! The road from the cricket ground to Bourneville is very long and straight but is an incline all the way. Then when you reach the end you turn right and immediately hit a steep hill. I didn’t really notice that incline on the first time through but the second time round it really sapped my strength and the two big climbs just after that were torture.

    My pace dropped off significantly and those internal personal arguments that happen inside every runners head were trying to chip away at me

    “Just walk this bit, and this bit, and this bit”

    “Stop for a little while, it’ll be fine”

    “So what if you don’t quite make 4 hours”

    “You’re never running again”

    As my watch beeped for the end of mile 23 I knew I was getting a lot slower. Even if I kept the same pace that sub four hour mark wasn’t going to happen.

    I had a moment to “have a word with myself” and I gave it everything for the last two miles.

    What was also a massive help was the sight of my eldest daughter running toward me at mile 25. Bryony and Alice had come into Birmingham to cheer me on and instead of waiting at the finish line they’d ventured down the course to try and find me.

    It was a massive help. Alice even ran alongside to shout her encouragement!  

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    Then there was the small matter of the final climb to the finish and I just about managed to get a bit of a sprint on towards the line. BrumMedalWithAlice

    On the whole I had a really great day.

    I wouldn’t say I enjoyed the run as much as I have others. I really suffered in the latter parts of the race but the feeling of crossing the finishing line having managed to hit the time I wanted helps to put that to the back of the mind!

    I’m not sure I’ll be back for the same event next year. Maybe the half marathon. Never say never though. 

    But it won’t be my last marathon.

    I’ve got a new time to beat.

  • Testing, Testing (2017 version..)

    Is this thing on?

    The last thing I wrote about was my 10 year “Blogiversary”

    After writing a few paragraphs marvelling at myself for writing for so long I then proceeded to not write anything for a whole year

    Yay me!

    So it is literally a year…today is the 11th anniversary of my first blog post.

    With this landmark approaching it got me thinking into why my output is significantly different to what it was 10 years ago

    It’s not that difficult though. My life is totally different to what it is was 10 years ago.

    My job has totally changed. I do less front line technical work and more management work.

    My family has totally changed. We had a four month old baby when I started here. I’ve now got 8 year old and 11 year old daughters!

    My hobbies and interests have totally changed. Running is a thing now….

    The Internet is different. Social media gives me a wide variety of places to empty my random thoughts into.

    I don’t even look the same!

    (hilarious…)

    All of these have different demands on my time.

    It would be really easy at this point to say

    “I don’t have the time anymore”

    That phrase is a bug bear of mine as it’s rarely totally true for most people.

    What I actually mean is there are other things that are currently more important to me than writing blog posts.

    These three mainly…

    That’s simplifying it little but it covers most of it.

    But I do miss writing here, so I’m going to get back into the habit.

    The other main reason is that I’d forgotten who I was writing for.

    Too many times I’d half write something then abandon it because I didn’t think anyone would be interested

    That doesn’t really matter as my core audience is all that matter

    Me…This is for me

    If anyone else reads it then that’s great (hello!)

    So lets see if I can actually make it to two posts for the next twelve months

    Smile

  • 10 Year Blogiversary

    Today marks 10 years of this blog!

    This is post number 151

    My output has lowered in recent times, for a variety of reasons but it’s something I still enjoy doing, however often that may be.

    When I first started the whole main idea was just for myself. A personal knowledgebase if you will, as well as somewhere to get various thoughts out of my head.

    What I didn’t realise is where else that would take me. Starting the blog ultimately introduced me to lots of people, both online and offline who I’ve been able to learn from as well as have some fun along the way!

    It’s been an event filled and interesting 10 years that would have been entirely different if I hadn’t decide to carve out my own corner of the Internet

    So if you’ve ever read anything on here, shared it, commented on it, met me in person, or emailed me I just wanted to a thank you!

    And what better way to celebrate than with some decade old clip art! clipart-birthday-RcAbGMecL

  • Hello World June 2016.0

    How are we almost halfway through the year?!

    Just realised I haven’t written anything since the end of January.

    This wasn’t intentional!

    It’s been a particularly manic start to the year and something I learnt long ago is that sometimes you have to stop doing one thing if you want to doing something else.

    But I do miss writing so this is me just trying to flex that muscle again.

    So in terms of big events in the first half of the year…

    We’ve moved house (and I never want to do it again!)

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    I ran the London Marathon (4 hours 26 minutes – raised over £1000 for Meningitis Now)

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    and my brother got married! (this is us though…obviously. It was an amazing weekend!)

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    And all the other usual comings and goings

    So this is just me putting something http://www.mentalhealthupdate.com back on the page/screen (how do people of a certain age adjust their vocabulary?)

    Carry on….

  • 2015, So Long And Thanks For All The Fish

    We’re a couple of weeks into the new year and as with previous years (2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011) looking back on the previous 12 months is something I really enjoy doing.

    Especially when you have a memory as terrible as mine!

    As always spending as much time as possible with these three girls is my biggest priority!

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    As with last year we tried to make sure we filled it with plently of fun and spending time with people who are really important.

    Some of the highlights included…

    Starting the year at Centre Parcs

    Center Parcs

    Eating chocolate!

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    Trying something new

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    Got a certificate in something or other . (move along…nothing to see here)

    Apple

    Got muddy

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    Went to a cup final generic ativan not working (it’s the taking part that counts right?)

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    Visited Harry Potter World (again..)

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    Evie won a prize for writing a poem!

    Evie Poem

    Alice won a singing competiion!

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    Doctor Who Symphony Orchesta

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    Visited Arbury Hall

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    Got covered in paint

    Colour Run

    Wolf Run with this lot

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    School Talent Show

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    Trip to Copenhagen

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    Introduced the girls to Mud Runs!

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    The Just So Festival

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    Summer Holiday in Portugal

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    More mud runs…

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    Finish Photo Halloween

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    Walk Off The Earth in Nottingham

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    Catch up with these guys!

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    Retro gaming (swiped from Richard!)

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    A very brief visit to Centre Parcs…again!ALice and Evie

    Seeing the new year in

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    You get the idea Smile

    2015 was pretty awesome and I’m really fortunate to have some great people in my life.

    2016 has just started and there is loads to look forward to.

    Bring it on!

  • The Difference Engine–Help Needed!

    imageWay back in 2011 I wrote about the Difference Engine.

    It’s a simple but effective way of adding captions to live performances created by Coventry based Talking Birds.

    In short, a laptop runs the software and over a local wireless network it allows any device with a web browser to view subtitles.

    i.e your mobile phone, tablet or laptop.

    A really simple idea to an age old problem for anyone who wouldn’t be able to hear what was being said.

    It’s intended for live performance but the simplicity of the system means it could be easily and cheaply re-purposed to anything.

    School assembly? Conference? Training Courses? Museum? Art Gallery?

    I could go on and on…

    If it has a script that needs to be followed it wouldn’t take much to plug it into this.

    So many events are run without any thought for the deaf and hard of hearing purely because adding that sort of thing is normally expensive.

    With this system you need a laptop. That’s it.

    Anyone that needs to use the system can use a device they’ll likely have already. You could hook the laptop up to a screen or projector you’d probably be using at the event anyway too. 

    Talking Birds have been working hard to improve the system but as with most small organisations like this they struggle for funding.

    I honestly think they could really make a difference if they can get to the next level.

    So I need your help.

    They have reached the finals of this years Tech4Good Awards.

    To be in with a chance of winning the “People’s Award” they need votes.

    Go here

    http://www.tech4goodawards.com/vote-now/ 

    Enter your email address

    Click on the Talking Birds image

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    Put something in the “where you found us” box (maybe mention me!)

    Click the button to submit the vote.

    That’s it!

    It’ll then give you some options for sharing on social media…If you do that too that would be cool.

    If you could take two minutes from your time to do that I’d be ever so grateful!

  • IBIT Solutions–10 Years

    This week marks 10 years since IBIT Solutions was first registered as a business.

    I very rarely use the company name here. It’s usually referred to as “work” or “the business”. That’s mainly because this is my personal blog. While the things I do at IBIT are a big influence on some of the content I create (when I create it!) I always intended to keep them separate.

    10 years ago, along with my business partner Kevin we had the bright idea of giving up our jobs and going it alone.

    When I look back it was a rather bonkers decision at the time.

    Bryony and I hadn’t long moved into our first house (with our first mortgage!) and Bryony was pregnant with Alice so of course I was going to leave my stable job and risk starting a business.

    What was I thinking! 

    10 years on I’m glad to say it was the right decision.

    It hasn’t all been plain sailing. We’ve had scary moments, have made plenty of mistakes and have lots of stress to deal with but there is a lot of satisfaction in being the master of your own destiny.

    The good moment have certainly outweighed the bad though and being on this ride for the last ten years has taken me lots of places I couldn’t have imagined 10 years ago.

    I’ve also met lots amazing people who I would never have come into contact with if I’d played it safe and stayed in my old job and I’m grateful to everyone who has had an influence on IBIT in that time.

    Like a lot of small businesses we’re not perfect. I’ve got a ton of things I need to change, fix, improve or build but we’re going in the right direction.

    I’m very lucky to be in position where I enjoy going into the office. It makes the hard work hardly seem like that.

    If you’ve had anything to do with IBIT over the last 10 years, in any form, thank you.

    Here’s to the next 10! 

     

     

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  • Where Did January Go!?

    Every year I usually write a post that looks back on everything that happened in the previous year. The end of 2014 and the start of 2015 has been so packed with so many various things January seems to have just vanished before my eyes.

    This time last year I was writing about how tragically the year had ended.

    With that in mind we, as a family (me, Bryony and the girls), made the decision to make sure we got the absolute most out of 2014.

    This meant spending lots of time with friends and family, doing things we enjoy as well as doing new things.

    We certainly achieved it!

    Some of the highlights, in no particular order were,

    I ran my first half marathon

    Shortly followed by my first obstacle half marathon!

     

    Bryony jumped out of a plane!

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    We went to Australia for a wedding

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    Spent a week in the Isle of Wight

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    And a weekend in Rome

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    Took the girls to Comic Con in Birmingham

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    Engagement Celebrations in Newcastle

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    Climbed the O2 in London

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    Saw Monty Python Live!

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    and won a cup!

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    (Photo credit Bobby Bridge Photography)

    and much much more!!

    Going through some of the photos for putting this together what jumped out at me was the number of smiles. So many pictures of happy faces is a good thing to look back on.

    To say I’m pretty happy with my lot at the moment would be an understatement. In Bryony and the girls, I’ve got an amazing family so why would I not want to spend as much time as possible with them! 

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    So it mean I’m glad I was able to squeeze as much enjoyment as possible out of 2014 as I could and I’m very grateful to all the friends and family that were a part of it. 

    Thank you!

    Let’s go make 2015 even better.

  • Taking Stock

    This weekend marked two months since I last wrote anything here. It’s not exactly by accident.

    In my 2013 round up post I mentioned there had been some very bad news in the wider Parkes family. It took a little while for this to fully sink in but it made me think about exactly what’s important to me and how I prioritise certain things.

    There are only 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week and I want to spend as much of that time with the people who are important to me, enjoying life and doing things I enjoy.

    Of course there is still that balancing act between putting in the hours at work because enjoying life costs money!

    What that has meant though is tweaking how I make use of time and shifting priorities around certain things. Writing here is an example. If I’ve got an hour free and the choice might be between writing something or kicking a football in the garden with the kids then these days the blog post loses every time.

    It’s a pretty simple example but it stretches across into work too. We’ve had a particularly busy period recently so I’ve done my best not to increase my own workload by getting involved in certain things and drop other areas altogether. (I have a bad habit of not being able to say no that I’ve been trying to work on for some time)

    I’m also effectively off Twitter at the moment – I check there a couple of times a week at the moment as I’d find myself “having a quick look” and before I knew it an hour was gone.

    It’s working out ok at the moment.

    So this post is really going anywhere else but it’s something I wanted to get out of my head. Doing that here has worked pretty well for me before. Smile

    If you do want to take anything away then please do believe when I say you have no idea what could happen tomorrow. Terrible and tragic things can and do happen to good people. Make the most of the time you have with the people you love.

  • Farmageddon 2014

    Around this time last year I did my first obstacle race. I’ve done a couple of different events since then and two weeks after the Warwick Half Marathon I was back in Melton Mowbray for my second crack at Farmageddon.

    Not wanting to make things easy for myself this year they were offering a 20k course so we duly signed up.

    Pre-Race

    Just to make it a bit a clearer as I’ve glossed over that.

    That’s the same distance as the Warwick Half Marathon but off-road terrain and with a variety of obstacles to overcome.

    I can safely say this was an incredibly difficult thing to do!

    Having said that the difference a year makes is noticeable. This is my fourth obstacle course and my fifth event overall including Warwick and while I’m not saying it was a walk in the park I was barely able to get round last year which was half the distance.

    The extra distance is made up of an extra lap. Once you got within touching distance of the finishing line you carried straight on!

    As with last year there was a good atmosphere and lots of friendly banter before, during and after the race and with a newly added 5km option the turn out was much larger. Over 500 people I believe in comparison to around 280 last time around.

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    The course was largely the same as last time but with some minor tweaks which really helped with getting a correct pace as well as providing various talking points on the way round such as;

    “Remember when you dropped that log on your head?” 

    “It was around this point I would have eaten my right arm”

    “That cold water that’s coming up soon will do wonders for my cramp again”

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    So overall I enjoyed this just as much as last year and the extra lap pushed me really hard. The previous year the 10k took us 1 hour and 32 minutes so having set a realistic goal of three hours to actually finish in 2 hours 46 minutes was brilliant – especially when we got delayed quite near to the start (I’ll come back to that). Overall standing was 18th out of the 27 20k runners so pretty happy with that too. It also meant that even with the two laps we were faster than last year.

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    Since this was my second year it did give me the opportunity to compare both events.

    In terms of improvements…

    Bottle Neck

    One issue with obstacle courses is getting the placement correct so that as the field starts to spread out people hit the obstacles at different times. When this doesn’t work out it can mean waiting in a queue while people in front navigate the obstacle. If you have a few people that struggle to get past it then makes the problem even worse. On an event called X-Runner we did last year this actually meant out second lap was considerably faster than our first lap as we got held up considerably on a single obstacle near the start.

    One of the first obstacles was a cargo net to climb up and over. Because it was so near to the start everyone basically hit it at the same time causing a large queue. Not great.

    Either more of them were needed or it needed placing at a different section of the course.

    Lack of consideration

    At the bottle neck a few people decided they didn’t want to wait in the queue and came charging over regardless. This was while people were still on the obstacle. The marshals were only letting people on two at a time (for perfectly good safety reasons) yet these guys thought it would be ok to throw a few more bodies on. One poor girl who was just going over the top somehow managed to stay calm and avoid getting pushed off. Their excuse as they clambered past was "We’ve already had a 15 minute delay". No-one in the queue wanted to wait so their inability to understand we had waves and chip times made the blood boil. 

    Ghost Town

    The 20k field was considerably smaller than the 10k and 5k (understandably so) but we went out at the same time as the 10k entrants and the two waves after that weren’t too far behind us. This meant when we finally finished there was hardly anyone about. The big crowds to cheer you on to the finishing line and the loud music that was played throughout were nowhere to be seen. It meant that once we’d collected our finishing packs there wasn’t much point in hanging around. We stayed quite a while last year cheering on other competitors and soaking up the atmosphere. Even the burger van was packing up!

    I’d probably have started the 20k wave about half an hour earlier than the 10k wave so we finished around the middle or end of the 10k field.

    20k

    Maybe it’s just me but in my eyes doing the 20k was a big deal and I thought this was reflected in the smaller numbers who wanted to give it a go. But since there was practically no-one about when we finished and we got exactly the same finishing pack as the people that did 5k and 10k it felt like a bit of anti-climax as we crossed the finish line, collected our stuff and left. Maybe it’s just my ego that needed massaging after all that hard work but in comparison to my memories on how it felt at the end last year this year felt very low key.

    I’m not complaining about all of it though! Some things I did like included

    New T-Shirts

    I do like collecting the t-shirts we get after completing events and the blue one provided this year looked even better than the one we got last year – which I was more than happy with too!

    Beer

    This was new.

    At the end of the race as well as the standard post-race swag we were given a can of lager (or cider). While it wasn’t straight from a fridge or a fancy continental brew at the end of the 20k it was one of the greatest tasting beers I’ve ever had.

    Marshalls

    They were great, especially some of the younger kids who were helping out. It was especially nice to still see them patiently waiting for us on our second lap when everyone else had finished and gone home!  

    Bananas

    Sometimes it’s the small things that count. As you reached the end of the first lap it was a left turn to the end for the 10k runners and straight on for the 20k runners. Just before turning into the first bend was a small, unmanned table with some bottles of water, some plastic cups and bunches of bananas. Taking a minute to refuel and rehydrate as well as contemplate going round a second time was just what was needed.

    The Course

    Having now completed a few events I can easily say this is one of the most physically demanding I’ve personally done (over 10k and then 20k). There were several comments on the Farmageddon Facebook page that said there should be more obstacles and less running. I couldn’t disagree more with them. Each event I’ve done so far has it’s own unique challenge. Part of this particular event are some of the long runs. While at the time having completed the hill climbs and then having to face a 3km run felt horrible it’s part of the signature of that particular course. Please don’t tweak that too much.

     

    The good largely outweighed the bad I’m pretty confident of shaving some minutes off that time so I’m already looking forward to 2015!

    Thanks to the organisers for putting on such as great event again.