Ben Nevis: Overcoming An Uphill Struggle

After Covid-19 thwarted our plans for a family holiday last year, we finally got away this year to Scotland and completed an ambition to climb Ben Nevis. My first experience of summiting a mountain was 25 years ago when I climbed Mount Snowdon. Ever since then I have wanted to climb the remaining 2 big peaks in the UK; Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike.

On the day of our mini adventure we had an earlyish start as we left at 8am to head to Fort William for our hike up Ben Nevis. We were very apprehensive as we didn’t know what to expect; we anticipated it being a hard trek and were concerned at getting lost on the path or being caught out in bad weather. Moreover living in Wiltshire we were not used to big climbs. Our 90 minute journey to Fort William was very scenic and upon arrival we realised from the car’s satellite navigation system that we were pretty much at sea level, which meant we were in for a huge climb.

We parked at the visitor centre and although it was only 9:30am it was full of cars and hikers. We got kitted up and shortly after 10am we started our hike. We crossed the foot bridge from the visitor centre and made our way onto the ‘tourist path’.

The foothills were relatively easy to walk. The path was mostly grit with stone steps taking us up the mountain. To our surprise we found ourselves in a long convoy of hikers making their way up the mountain; we had expected to be the only ones!

The path slowly climbed through the green lush vegetation and the stone steps became more frequent as the gradient increased. 

Soon we were clambering over rocks and the path became more stony. It was very warm and humid and we found ourselves sweating as we were working hard to maintain a good pace. We turned a large hairpin bend and the path lead us towards a lock. The path slowly snaked a long sweeping bend just before the loch and we could see the convoy of hikers way in the distance high up on the mountain.

At this point we were only half way, little did we know how much higher the mountain would climb. We crossed a waterfall and thought we were nearing the summit. However we were wrong and found ourselves on a series of zig-zags which were very hard going and we couldn’t see the top of the mountain.

The path become very stony and all around us was nothing but scree and rock. This section of the path felt relentless. We had already been climbing for 2 hours but still had a long way to go. I decided to break down the remainder of the climb into smaller stages and rewarded myself with 2 mini lunch stops. In the end we focused on completing the climb in half mile stages with a 5-minute breaks.

It was enjoyable climbing with others as we felt a sense of community. We all seemed to progress at a similar pace, passing familiar faces as we stopped for a rest and then pressed on again. It was interesting to see the wide range of ages and abilities climbing the mountain – there were even a few young children and dogs!

After the zig-zag section we crossed a short snowy uphill section (yes, there was still snow on the mountain in July!) and the path continued straight for the last section to the summit (although we still couldn’t see the summit at this point). It was a huge relief to finally reach the top after 4 hours of climbing.

After a few quick photos we collapsed onto some rocks to eat the remainder of our lunch before beginning our downhill journey back to the car. It wasn’t as cold as we were expecting at the summit, although initially we did layer up to stop ourselves becoming chilled.

As we started our descent we were struck by the pained expressions on the faces of everyone who was still climbing up towards the top – they had a look of sheer desperation to reach the summit, which was just how we had felt. We realised that we must have looked the same as them as we were coming up.

Initially on the descent we felt relieved and joyous that we had reached the summit and were now on our way back down. However, the descent seemed never ending and the constant pounding on our legs as we walked downhill soon took it’s toll on our legs.

It took us 3 hours to descend and as we passed through different sections of the path it dawned on us just how far we had climbed. Eventually we arrived at our car seven and a half hours after we had set off. Our mini-adventure was over and we had conquered Ben Nevis and had achieved a long-held ambition.

I had found the hike much more strenuous than I was expecting, however seeing so many others achieve it too made me realise that it really is achievable with the right mindset and just shows that your body is more capable than you think it is. It has certainly inspired me to try more challenges and given me a renewed enthusiasm for my training regime.



Due to the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which I’m sure you’ve already heard about, I’m writing this post to let you know about changes I am making to my privacy notice and the way I keep in touch with you.

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Mindful Running

mindful runningOften when running alone it is nice to just let your thoughts wander, however have you ever considered Mindful Running? This is where you focus your mind on the present moment, and bring an awareness to your body, breathing, sensations, thoughts, moods and your surrounding environment.

By practicing mindfulness, you can improve your mental well-being or use it as a tool to improve your running performance. The body scan and counting your footsteps (exercises 1 & 2, below) can very useful in races as a tool to occupy your mind, stopping you becoming anxious about niggles or discomfort, as well as keeping you focused on maintaining your pace and form, particularly when the going gets tough.

To run mindfully, try using the following as a guide:

  1. Body Scan – take time to observe the following about your body as you run:
  • The rhythm, sound and sensation of your breath
  • Your shoulders – do they feel tight or relaxed?
  • Your arms – are they relaxed and swinging freely, or is there tension, are you clenching your fists?
  • Your posture – is it upright and tall, slumped or hunched over?
  • Your hips – do they feel mobile or tight, do they inhibit your leg action?
  • Your legs – does your stride feel free or restricted? If there is tightness or discomfort, where is it?
  • Your feet – do they land heavily or softly? Can you hear your footsteps?
  • Return your attention to your breathing again and observe its rhythm, sound and sensation.
  1. Focus on your breathing and now slowly count your right (or left foot) as it lands. Count 1 to 10 and keep repeating, until you reach a calm, relaxed and meditative state.                                                                                                                                 
  2. Now turn your attention to your thoughts and mood, acknowledge each of the following then let it pass without dwelling on it.
  • Any thoughts that enter your mind
  • Your underlying mood
  • Why you are running today?
  • How running has altered your mood and feelings?
  • Acknowledge the positive benefits of running, how it makes you feel/be better and how this will have a positive knock-on effect for the people you will encounter during the day. Running doesn’t just benefit you but those around you as well.
  1. Finally, bring your awareness back to your surroundings:
  • What do you see?
  • What can you hear?
  • What sensations do you feel, do you feel warmth, cold or the wind?

Walk Your Way to Fitness

winter-walkIn the run up to Christmas it can be a struggle to stick to your fitness plans, and with the recent very cold weather it can be easy just to opt to stay indoors. However the frosty weather with beautiful blue sunny skies make it a perfect time to get out for a walk in the countryside or around your local park. Going for a winter walk will help you to achieve the recommended 10000 steps per day and exposure to the sun will help give your body a much needed vitamin D boost. So wrap up warm and get out TODAY for that brisk walk – you will be glad that you did!

Sutton Benger Running Group support World Mental Health day with #runandtalk

Towp_20161012_19_03_48_pro celebrate World Mental Health Day on 10th October, England Athletics encouraged many groups like ours to hold a #runandtalk session in order to improve mental well-being through running and to break down the stigma associated with mental health by getting people talking about it.

So on Wednesday 12th October, instead of our usual coached running session, we all headed out for a social group run and enjoyed the chance to chat whilst we ran. Furthermore we all donated our weekly training fee to the mental health charity ‘Mind’. Thanks to the generosity of the runners in the group we raised a fantastic amount of £55!


As runners we all appreciate how running benefits our mental health – running offers us all the chance to switch-off from the pressures of everyday life, enjoy a relaxed chat without distractions, or sound-off to our running buddies and get a problem off our chest. Added to that running in the fresh air, especially through beautiful countryside, is very therapeutic as it helps us to feel more connected to nature. And at the end of a run we all feel so much better as our bodies release those feel good endorphins!

If you would like to improve your mental well-being through running and would like to join us or want some help to get started, then please get in touch.


Mont Ventoux: My Cycling Challenge

During a family holiday to the south of France, my husband and I grabbed the opportunity to achieve a long held ambition to cycle up Mont Ventoux – the most feared climb in the Tour de France. We knew that this would be a huge challenge for us both; as the last time we had done anything like this was 20 years ago when we were both much younger, very active cyclists. In recent years neither of us had done much cycling so we were not quite sure what we would be letting ourselves in for; and we would be relying entirely upon our fitness gained from running to get us through the challenge.

We had booked some bikes to hire from Bedoin and planned that my husband would ride up Mont Ventoux first (with me following in the car for support with drinks and snacks), then the next day we would swap roles and it would be my turn to ride. My big day dawned on Wednesday 24th August. I woke up early having had a restless night and feeling a sense of dread at my impending cycle ride up Mont Ventoux. Having seen how tough it was the day before I wasn’t sure how I was going to fare. P1030181It was a sunny day and it was already a warm 24 degrees Celsius even though it was only 9am. As I arrived at the cycle hire shop in Bedoin and collected my bike for the day – a Trek Emonda S4 – I was feeling incredibly nervous. After a few adjustments and a short test ride I was ready to set off. I lined up by the starting sign and posed for a photo and then I was on my way.

The first few miles were relatively easy and I rode them gently in an attempt to save energy for the tougher, latter stages of the ride; although my pace was slower than I could run! At 2 miles I took my first stop and topped up my fluid and energy levels, and it was pointed out to me that I was already riding in my lowest gear and the steep climb was yet to come. I set off again and soon turned a sharp left hand bend and suddenly the climb became a lot steeper. I stopped again after another 2 miles and was feeling fine until I got off the bike. Going from riding with my heart rate in the low 170’s bpm to suddenly standing still made me feel somewhat giddy and a bit sick. I waited for my heart rate to recover and feeling better I hopped back on the bike and away I went. p1030188Throughout the steep wooded section I continued to stop every mile or so to allow myself a chance to recover whilst I topped myself up with fluids and jelly babies. I found with each 5 minute stop I felt a lot better and could resume my cycling feeling a bit recovered. Despite the gradient the wooded section was not as bad as I had feared. I found some parts easier than others and I tried to keep a rhythm going and just focused on completing one mile at a time. I was really pleased to reach the 6 mile mark feeling in good shape as I was a good way into the ride and was making solid progress. I had even started to enjoy it! All around me there were other cyclists on their own personal quest to conquer Ventoux, plus there were lots of cars following cyclists all providing support – it felt like our very own stage of the Tour de France!

I was amazed when I reached the Chalet Reynaud as I knew I was just 6 km from the summit – I couldn’t believe I had made it this far already and I was still feeling in good shape. I ate the last of my Chia Charge bar, then said goodbye to my family ready for the final push to the summit. I rode the next 2 km quite well as the gradient was a bit easier. I was now entering the bleak peak of Mont Ventoux with its lunar landscape. I took a quick short stop and then pressed on again. It was now getting much tougher as my legs were growing tired and the high altitude meant my body was having to work harder. p1030162The last 3 km seemed to go on forever. I found myself taking more frequent stops and all around me other cyclists were struggling too. With 3/4 of a kilometre to go I saw my family by the roadside and stopped again –  I didn’t think the final kilometre would ever finish and to make matters worse the gradient was now 11%. I could see the 500m marker in the distance so I just focused on that. Next I set my sights on the next corner where the car park and sign for the restaurant came into view – I was so nearly there. I kept myself going and turned the last corner to the finish line (which was cruelly the steepest corner of all) and then I reached the finish line. I couldn’t believe I had made it and didn’t have to do anymore climbing. I had ridden uphill for 21.5 km to an altitude of 1912 m. wp_20160824_13_26_56_proI took at selfie and then waited to be reunited with my family. I then posed for more photos by the summit sign and sat down in the shade to ate my packed lunch.

After half an hours rest I bought myself a souvenir mini replica of a road-side marker showing the distance, altitude and gradient of the climb, and then I began my descent. The descent was amazing and I couldn’t believe how fast I descended – I thought I would go at a snail’s pace as I am not great on descents. I just used my brakes when I needed to scrub off a bit of speed and enjoyed the sound and sensation of the wind whooshing past my ears. After spending all morning getting up the mountain, it only took me 35 minutes to descend, and I was struck at the sudden rise in temperature as I returned to the valley below – it had now risen to 35 degrees Celsius. Before I knew it I was back in Bedoin where I returned my bike to the bike hire centre – my journey was over!

I felt really pleased with how I had ridden – it was tough, but I hadn’t really suffered or struggled too much and I had thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It had truly been a test of determination and I had to dig deep to find my inner strength, but I’m glad to say my mission was accomplished and I had ticked off one of the items on my bucket list.

What’s on at Circuits this summer

This Monday (11th July) will be the last session of our current 8 week programme. We will then have a break for one week and return on Monday 25th July with a series of special summer sessions throughout the rest of July and August.

Each week the circuit session will focus on a particular target area: legs, bums, tbeacgh fitnessums or high intensity cardio. And to get you in the summer mood the exercises will be performed to fab summer party music – just want you need to get your body ready for the beach! So what are you waiting for?….Come along, workout and have some summer fun….

A new regular 8 week programme will return to circuits in late September.

When Injury Stikes….

Sadly most runners are side-lined at some time or another by injury and accepting that you are injured and not able to run can be really tough, but it is really important to take the correct course of action to help recovery and prevent re-occurrence of the injury. All injuries fall into one of 2 types: acute (an injury that happens suddenly and is very painful and makes any movement nearly impossible) and chronic (injuries that start as a niggle and gradually get worse over time – these are typically ‘overuse’ injuries).

Sometime it is possible to continue training with a chronic injury that is detected early, provided that training load is reduced and preventative/corrective exercises are undertaken, but in many cases an injury does mean a break from running.

So, if you are injured what should you do to get back onto the road to recovery?

Firstly, take some painkillers such as paracetamol to help ease the pain (but not ibuprofen for the first 48 hours as it is thought that it can interfere with the body’s own healing mechanism). Also reduce inflammation/swelling by elevating and resting the affected area and apply ice for 10 minutes, 3- 5 times a day for the first 3 days.

It is a good idea to monitor your pain level by using a rating system such as the one below. This wilC__Data_Users_DefApps_AppData_INTERNETEXPLORER_Temp_Saved Images_painscalel give you an idea how your recovery is progressing and when you resume training will help you assess whether your injury is coming back. If an acute injury does not improve within 3 days (or a chronic injury with 2 weeks) after following the above advice then please seek medical or expert help.

After 48 hours you can start taking anti-inflammatories, eg. Ibuprofen and 3 days into the injury alternate applying heat and ice to the injured site. The heat will increase blood flow which will encourage the absorption of the swelling, removal of debris and dead blood cells, and the formation of new blood capillaries and scar tissue. After this a programme of gentle mobility, stretching and strengthening exercises should follow to help with the healing.

To maintain fitness during this phase you may want to do some cross-training; walking, cycling and swimming are great options (provided they do not cause any pain) – or if you can manage it try some aqua-jogging.

Once you are pain free then you can start running again. However DO NOT resume the same training regime as before you became injured – you will need to build up slowly to prevent a reoccurrence of the injury. Regardless of your running ability your first ‘run’ should be just 10 minutes of alternating 1 minute running with 1 minute walking. This way, if your body is not ready to resume training you won’t do too much damage. If following this short ‘run’ you are pain free, then 48 hours later try the same again, but this time for 20 minutes. Provided you are still pain free, run again 48 hours later – this time running for 1-2-3-3-5-5-5 minutes with 1 minute walking breaks in between. Continue running every other day gradually increasing the running intervals and reducing the walking breaks until you are back to covering your normal training distance. If at any time you feel discomfort, a niggle or pain then rest up and when pain free revert back to a previous stage of your running recovery programme.

Once you are back to running your normal distance then introduce some fartlek sessions for a few weeks before trying any speed work. If all goes well then you can resume full training and enjoy running again!

If having read this article you feel you need some further help or advice with getting back to running following an injury then please do get in touch.

Why a Properly Planned Training Programme is Key to Achieving Your Potential

Since qualifying as a Running Coach it has led me to reconsider my own training approach. For the first time in my running career I have used Periodisation – that is dividing my training up into 3 distinct 8 week phases – instead of following the same training schedule week-in, week-out, month after month.

I started 2016 by deciding on my goals for the year and what I needed to do to achieve this. I then carefully planned my training. I began with my base phase; focusing on increasing the distance of my long run to build endurance, as well as some Fartlek runs to prepare for the speed work that would come later on, and long hills and cross country to build strength. Next I moved into the build phase: maintaining my long run and introducing tempo runs, long repetitions and a mixture of long and short hills. Finally, I have entered my peak phase – fine tuning my speed work with 400m efforts and long repeats.

So the verdict? Well, 3 weeks into my peak phase I have just achieved my goal for 2016 having improved my 10K PB by over a minute. Prior to becoming a running coach my PB had plateaued for many years. So, the hard work and structured training programme has certainly paid off. Furthermore, over the last 4 months I have enjoyed my training more than ever. With distinct training phases it has kept me motivated (I certainly haven’t become stale or bored with my training). More importantly, it has given my the confidence to believe that I can achieve my racing aspirations by simply following a carefully considered, structured training plan. And as a coach, I now KNOW I can help others achieve the same successful outcomes.

So, if you would like me to plan a training programme for you and help you realise your goals then please get in touch. Email me at or call 07717021650.