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Steven Brooks avatar
Steven Brooks

Stef's Year of Running & Cycling

A year of Running & Cycling for Wallace & Gromit's Grand Appeal because of the care provided for Ella Giambrone.

150 %
raised of £500 target
by 54 supporters

Wallace & Gromit's Grand Appeal

We support Bristol Children's Hospital to save lives & support sick children

Charity Registration No. 1043603


Thanks for taking the time to visit my JustGiving page.

This year I'll be Running & Cycling in order to raise funds for Ward 37 Renal at Bristol Children's Hospital.

They have cared for our friend Ella Giambrone for a number of years since she was struck down with a very rare condition (Nephrotic Syndrome) which attacked her kidneys.

The cause of the illness was a simple strep throat infection which managed to cross over a barrier and triggered the syndrome.

Bristol Children's Hospital is one of the countries specialist centres for the condition and this year I'd like to say thank you to them for the continuing support of Ella by fund raising on Ella's behalf.

The Calendar so far looks like this;

February 5th: London Winter Run 10k. Done! A really busy first mile or so meant that any hope of a PB was going to be slim, but after a bit of  ducking & diving, bobbing & weaving I found some space and had a great run. Managed to finish strong with 4:32,4:29,4:19 & 4:03 final kilometre splits and a total time of 45:33. All in all bodes well for Bath Half which is on what would've been my Dad's 72nd Birthday, so going to try to pull something out of the bag for that!

March 12th: Bath Half Marathon. Done! Picking up a calf strain the weekend after London and not letting it heal properly wasn't the best build up. Ended up with 2 weeks of no running before the race and no long run training at all. Very nervous at the start but got going and things seemed ok. 1st lap was ok and the thought of the Grand Appeal Crew in Queen's Square got me past the steepest hill on the second lap, but the lack of long runs took their toll on the final third of the race. I kept going and finished in 1hr 50mins & 30secs, which was 38s faster than the last time I ran it in 2015. So glad to finish and looking forward to being on a bike for a little while now!!

April 23rd: Etape Loch Ness. Done! A chilly start and we headed out of Inverness down the north side of the Loch into the wind. I took things steadily as I knew the main test was after we turned for home at Fort Augustus. Just as we reached Fort Augustus the sun came out briefly and as we turned out of the wind and started the King of the Mountain Climb I suddenly found myself getting rather warm (although my feet were still like ice!). The first stage of the climb out of Fort Augustus was steep but had just been resurfaced with brand new smooth tarmac so although we climbed 173m in 1.7km, I found a rhythm and just kept going. After the first lump there was a short downhill section before hitting the second lift. For some reason that second section of the climb was the worst, we climbed another 104m in 1.3km but by the top my thighs were burning and I was beginning to worry about the final lift to the summit. We had a little flat section along the side of a small mountain Loch and ahead I could see a short really steep section before a more gradual climb to the summit, so I got my head down and sped up towards the ramp, determined to carry as much momentum over it as possible. Somehow I flew up it and then just plugged away to the top to climb another 85m in 1.5km. From the top it was mostly downhill for a good section until one last hill before reaching Inverness. With 10 miles to go I was starting to feel tired and then something strange happened. As we reached the outskirts of Inverness the road closure went down to one lane and instead of just a ride it started to feel like a race. The thought "Dad would've loved this on a motorbike" popped into my head and from nowhere all of a sudden I started to accelerate and hammered my way to the end, catching and passing people at such a rate I couldn't quite believe it. The final section was awesome and looked just like a stage finish of a major race, with cobbles, hoardings, the lot! and with a final sprint managed to pass the last person ahead of me within about a metre of the line. It's a long way to go to ride a bike, but I'd recommend it to anyone. I crossed the line in 3hrs 50mins & 39seconds, coming home in 1,159th place out of around 5,000 entrants and 881st fastest up the mountain.

May 13th: Maverick Original Surrey 25km Trail Run - Polsedon Lacey - Done! A little apprehensive at the start when I realised this was going to be my longest run since last September and apart from Bath Half I hadn't run further than 15km in one go all year! I set myself a target of finishing in under 2hrs 30mins and set off. The first section was generally downhill but busy until we split from the short course and start climbing. The hills were steep and when I noticed a near 7 minute km pop up on my watch I thought I was in trouble as the biggest hills were yet to come. Having said that I passed through 5k in almost spot-on 30mins. At about 8k we had a really steep descent with loose flints under foot that was a bit hairy and again I worried for my finish time as I was hoping to make up time on the downhills and flats. Soon after the downhill we came out of the woods at the bottom of the chalk escarpment and it became obvious that soon we were to head back up and over the top! The climb was hard but then we had a good section of gently undulating terrain and I managed to maintain around a 5 minute per km pace to pull back some time on the clock, in anticipation of needing it later in the race when fatigue would really kick-in. With about 8k to go we started heading back down hill but the last 5k contain 4 really steep climbs. I told myself it was just a Parkrun to go, but could see the clock ticking away. The last climb didn't finish until about 500m from the finish and I wasn't sure that I would make it in time. Luckily there were some supporters cheering everyone on and I pushed on to the finish. I crossed the line 2hrs 29mins and 13secs after starting and was elated! Now it's time to start silly season!!

June 11th: L'Etape Wales - Medio Fondo - Done! It was wet, it was windy, it was brutal, it was awesome. We started from the beautiful Margam Park on the outskirts of Port Talbot and then headed north-west past the steel works and into town, where we turned north-east and headed into the valleys, slowly gaining elevation until we reached Cymmer and started the 7km climb of Bwlch (Cat2) which topped out at 530m. From the peak we then had a 4 km descent into Treorchy before starting the next 9km climb of Rhigos (Cat2). At the top the view out north was stunning as was the route down through a pair of classic hairpin bends and then a long straight section of smooth tarmac which would have been beautiful without the crosswind. At about 45mph the bike began to develop a speed wobble due to the crosswind but thankfully I managed to stay calm and upright and we continued on to Hirwaun. After a quick foodstop at Penderyn we continued north into the Brecon Beacons and along the flanks of Pen-y-Fan towards Libanus where we turned west and then south-west into the wind and towards the toughest climb of the day The Devil's Elbow (Cat3). Although shorter (1.8km) than Bwlch and Rhinos the top sections hit 18% gradient twice and the lower section at around 10-12% was all into the wind. Just as I reached the top the heavens opened and I started the descent down towards Ystradfelte. I was following another bike down when someone started to pass on the right hand side. Just after they got passed me the bike in front suddenly drifted right into their path; there was a bump and then a wobble and then an almighty crash. I managed to miss the tangle of bikes and riders and stopped at the side of the road, jumped off the bike and ran back up to check they were ok. One rider was ok the other had hit the deck hard and had a suspected broken collar bone / shoulder. Luckily a support vehicle was on the scene within a couple of minutes and I became a stand-in Marshal for 50 minutes or so. Once the Paramedics were on the scene and all was in control I was back on the bike and heading for the second food stop. From Ystradfelte we continued down the valley to Glynneath where the rain really hit us and we turned back uphill and took on another 2.8km Cat3 climb towards Seven Sisters. From there we had a generally downhill run into the wind towards Neath before a final 2.7km Cat4 sting in the tail which was Cimla Hill. Soon after that we rejoined the out route and headed back to Margam Park. I'd never been so glad to see a steel works! 95 miles and 8,000 feet of climbing, taking 7 hours in the saddle. I've now got 5 weeks to get my running legs back!

July: 15th - Race to the Stones 100km Ultra-Marathon. 100km along the Ridgeway from Lewknor to Avebury. Done! Well that was a tough one. The first 25k were brilliant and then we hit a flat section along the river which perversely was really tough as there were no excuses of a break. I was glad to get to Pit Stop 3 and see a hill ahead that meant I could legitimately walk rather than run! At this point we climbed up on to the North Wessex Downs and the gently rolling terrain along the ridge turned out to be a much tougher challenge than I had anticipated. Race to the King last year was much more up and down but enforced walking breaks, whereas long stretches over shallower grades really sapped the energy reserves. Anyway made it to the halfway point, devoured a Fajita and got straight back out again before my legs had chance to tighten up. From the mid-point we headed out towards Uffington Castle & White Horse over a generally flattish section of the route. Unfortunately we didn't see the White Horse as it's over the side of the hill from the Ridgeway. Just a bit further on we passed Wayland's Smithy which I did see a sign for! From there we headed down and crossed the M4 before climbing back up to Liddington Castle. Got to say I didn't spot that one either! It was a long stretch into Pit Stop 8 but the fact that there was just one more to go before the finish helped. From PS8 we first dropped down towards Southend before a long long climb back up towards PS9 just before Barbury Castle. Things were getting tough now and the sun had dropped below the horizon and the temperature dropped. We ran through the hill fort and then started to drop into a valley, but running down steep slopes was really starting to trouble my left knee and my right ankle was getting really sore as well. I teamed up with another runner at this point who was about as exhausted as me and we dragged each other to the end. Finished in 14hrs 48mins 37secs. Hoped to get under 14 hrs but when the head torches had to come on the surface was too uneven to run on.

August: It's with some regret that I have to admit that Race To The Stones took more out of me than I anticipated. Therefore rather than go into something underprepared I've decided to concentrate on building up to Equinox24. It will be 13 laps. It will be 3 Marathons in 24 hours!

September 23rd/24th: Equinox 24. DONE! 24 hours to run as many 10km laps as possible. Last year I made it to 10 & 100km. I'd like to beat that. 13 would be 3 Marathons in 24 hours. Might be too much but got to aim big! It was just too much, made it to 12 laps and 120km but the last lap I was broken physically and mentally. Broke a tooth on Thursday and with no time to get it sorted, had to grin and bear it. So with little sleep Thursday or Friday night I was fearing the worst, but thankfully as soon as the race started it worked as a pain transfer! Started with 4 laps (40km) but the last one was getting tough. Came in for Pizza & Churros and don't know what they put in them but went back out ran two cracking laps and a tiring third. Came back in and refuelled and a quick power nap before heading back out to run through midnight. Getting ready I was shivering so put on my winter running gear. That wasn't a good idea, within half a lap I was boiling and stripping back down to a base layer! Managed another two laps to reach 90km and then headed back to the tent to try to get a little sleep. Back out in the morning needing only one more lap to reach last years total. Again went out too wrapped up, ran through and via the tent to drop off the excess clothing and back round for 110km. As I started my last lap, I saw Spiderman (who I've run with for some of both years at Equinox) and he was looking decidedly wobbly. Walked the first km with him until I thought he was ok and then pushed on but couldn't get my legs moving properly. At the 9km mark I could see Sarah & Edie ahead and started blubbing. They got me through to the end and I just managed to run up the finish straight with Edie (My highlight of the race). Legs aren't too bad apart from a sore left shin, which is a bit of a worry as that was what stopped me running for 6 months in 2015. Hopefully we will be ok for The Great South Run!

October 22nd: Great South Run. Done! I ran it in 2014 at the end of my first year of running, but having burnt myself out with the Great Scottish Run and Oxford Half on the 5th & 12th, it wasn't a great run. 1hr 23mins to beat! I set myself a target of sub 1:20, but with Storm Brian arriving over the weekend and the last 2 miles being into the wind along the seafront it might be a challenge. In perfect conditions I hoped I might be able to get close to 1:15. Luckily the worst of the wind arrived on Saturday, with events having to be cancelled, but by Sunday the wind had dropped to the mid-20mph range with gusts into the upper 30mph region. Better but still a significant headwind! Thankfully the sun was out and we lined up for the start in Southsea. I was in the first wave of runners and the starting gun went and we headed west along the seafront and then turned north towards Old Portsmouth and the Historic & Navy Shipyards, running past HMS Victory and a number of modern day ships before turning south again into modern Portsmouth. Running past a few of my old University buildings was always nice and then we turned east and for the first time got a bit of a tailwind! Unfortunately it wasn't long before we reached a roundabout and turned back into the wind. Now the runners had spread out, we felt the challenge we were up against and what would wait for us when we turned for home at Eastney! Turning South we headed back towards Southsea Common and at about the halfway point saw Sarah & Edie for the second time before again getting a bit of respite while running east along the north side of the common. Checking my watch, I was really happy with my pace, but knew I'd probably need a little 'in the bag' before starting the last fifth of the race. The two and a half miles out to Eastney seemed a really long way, mostly because I knew I'd just run past the finish and the further I ran east the longer the stretch back was going to be! Finally we turned the corner back on to the seafront. I ran close to the wall of the old Royal Marines Barracks and managed to shelter from the wind at first but when we reached the Yomper Statue the wall ended and we were at the full mercy of the wind. The last mile and a half was really tough but somehow I managed to maintain a decent pace. As we entered the last straight I could see the timing gantry and knew I was on for a great time. As the clocked ticked on I crossed the line as it just went past 1:15. But I knew it had taken me a while to get to the start line from my position in the pen. I looked down at my watch and saw 1:13:29 which was later confirmed as my official result! I'd knocked almost 10 minutes off my previous best result from 3 years previous and was ecstatic!

It's been a great year Running & Cycling for Wallace & Gromit's Grand Appeal, and although my official schedule is now done, I might yet pull on my vest again before the end of the year and closing my page. Thank you all for the support, it's been special.


November 5th: Rockingham Duathlon. DONE! After finishing the year so strongly with The Great South Run I didn't want to stop and then the Rockingham Duathlon popped up on the radar! A chance to combine both the Running & Cycling in one race for the first time! I arrived at Rockingham as the temperature gauge on my car dipped to 3C! and when I got out the wind cut like a knife. I hadn't yet actually entered but forced myself into registration and filled out the forms. On a positive note the sky was clear and no rain was forecast. Being a complete novice and having never run and then got on my bike, and even more troubling that I've never finished a ride and then started running! I checked out the transition area to get some idea of what was involved and also checked the car again to make sure I had everything with me. The race started at 9am with a 10km Run followed by a 38km Ride and then a 5km Run and my totally plucked out of the air target was 2hrs 30mins (50min 10k Run, 75min 38k Ride, 25min 5k Run). The run went well, although when we turned into the wind it was a keen reminder of what we would be up against on the bike. I came into Transition 1 and took my time to get ready for the ride, making sure that I hadn't forgotten anything. The bike circuit used the main banked oval track and the first section was slightly downhill and was so smooth. Going through Turn 2 it levelled out and we started to feel the force of the wind and then through Turn 3 the wind hit us head on and as a double whammy we started to climb up the slope towards the Start/Finish Straight. At the end of the lap I popped the first of 16 Jelly Babies in my mouth, as there was no way I'd manage to keep count otherwise. As the laps went on the wind seemed to pick up and turn slightly so that it hit us earlier in the lap and it was a real struggle to maintain any pace towards the end of the lap. Anyway 16 laps were completed and thenI rode into Transition 2 with what I was told was the worst section of Duathlon (starting to run again after riding the bike). Thankfully my backside was so sore after sitting in the saddle for 38km, it was a relief to get back in my running shoes. I was getting tired and almost started running with my cycling helmet on. I headed back out on the run course for one final 5km lap and was pleased that the pain I was promised wasn't as bad as I was expecting. During the last km I noticed a runner in front seemed to be getting closer and with a final effort up the hill and down the finish straight I managed to catch him and move myself one place up the results table. Times? 10km Run: 45:36 (Faster than Planned), 38km Bike: 1:19:31 (Slower than Planned), 5km Run 23:20 (Faster than Planned). All totalled up they come in under the 2:30:00 I'd targeted but my transitions were a little slow and my total time was 2:33:18 and 28th Place overall. I'll take that!

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  • Equnox24 getting home with a little help 120km done!
  • Dragon Ride Top of The Devil's Elbow +21