Race Review: Virtual London Marathon 2020

A version of this post first appeared on Fetch Everyone on 6th October 2020.

On Sunday 4th October last year, I completed the Virtual London Marathon 24 hour challenge (a 1.2 mile run every hour on the hour for 24 hours) that I had been planning for several months. It was a lot easier physically than I expected – my legs still felt absolutely fine and fresh 20+ miles in – and probably slightly tougher mentally. I knew what I had to do and I was able to keep getting myself out the door, but it just felt like it went on for such an insanely long time.

Virtual London Marathon
The middle of the night… sometime during the 24-hour period!

I posted some thoughts the day afterwards, along with a YouTube video about my journey through the 24 hours:

Stuff I forgot to mention in the video:

(1) While there were a lot of runners out and about, I only spotted one other guy who was definitely doing the marathon (i.e. had a running number on). I must have looked like I was struggling at that point as his exhortation of ‘keep going’ had a bit of a worried tone to it.

(2) I don’t have much luck with phones and the London Marathon. In 2019, when I staggered round the real race in 7:13, my phone spent so much time in my sweaty back pocket that the outer layer of whatever-they-finish-phone-plastic-with started rubbing off, leaving a mottled effect. I was happy to leave that as victory scars on the phone in 2019, but rather less willing to do the same with the completely smashed screen on my new phone in 2020, so the phone went into a repair shop a few days later!

I hope to do many marathons-in-one-go in the future, and maybe even organised longer endurance events, but I don’t think I’ll ever attempt to do such a long challenge as this just by myself (or with occasional accompanying Geth) again. There were a lot of very lonely laps out there. I’m really glad I did it, though, just to see what it was like and prove to myself that it was possible.

Two days after the event, I wrote:

‘I think it’s going to take me all week to recover from doing this – it was really intense, and I don’t feel like I’ve caught up on sleep or processed it properly yet. Hoping to feel marginally normal again by the weekend!’

In hindsight, it was a mistake only to take one rest-ish week – I ended up burning myself out later in October and needed two rest-ish months as a result – so I’ll bear that in mind for the next one!

(The ‘next one’ – the in-person London Marathon – is scheduled for October, but you just never know with this pandemic, so as I’ve mentioned before I just have to hope very hard!)

Saturday ’80s Photo: One Car Among Many #1

There are, I find, two types of ’80s cars in my world. One is the type you see in American cop shows of the era and now beloved by synthwave fans: big, ostentatious sports cars made by Lamborghini and the like (the Countach is still my dream ‘silly 1980s car’, though I know if I actually had one I would never be able to park it anywhere). The other is the kind of car that actually existed on the streets of ’80s Britain – the type that litters the photos of our family archive. These cars often look a bit tired and rubbish, but they’re what most people drove.

What’s more, I find them a bit more interesting than the cars they drove in Miami Vice!

Here’s Mum in 1984, pregnant with me, taking a photo and standing next to a Morris Ital.

My mum and a Morris Ital, 1984
You don’t see that ‘greige’ colour for cars any more!

The Morris Ital is now one of the rarest cars on UK roads; according to the Telegraph there were only 11 left in 2018 (warning: paywall).

Possibly another ’80s car photo next week! Unless I get around to photographing more artefacts around my house again.

Budgeting hours and minutes

I do not lead the kind of life where I should be short of free time. My work is part-time, I set my own hours, I don’t have kids, and as an introvert I don’t do much socialising even when there’s no pandemic on. I do run and blog and do a vague series of tasks (mostly accounting and logging) that I call ‘admin’ every day, but none by themselves have ever felt like they take up too much time. So where has it all been going?

In order to answer this question, last week I did what the TOMM website’s TOTT (The Organised Time Technique) book calls a ‘bootcamp’ and logged what I was doing every minute of every day for the whole week. I was expecting to find lots of periods of time lost to aimless social media scrolling and web browsing. However, while the latter did indeed account for an alarming amount of my time, I was surprised to find that I was already fairly strict about limiting the former to once a day. Although that ‘once a day’ was still taking up too much time!

In response to my findings, this week I’ve instigated a daily schedule that tells me what I need to be doing at all times. For the first half of the day, it’s very strict – this enables me to get all my daily stuff done and out of the way. Most of the afternoon is a bit freer, allowing me to work on the projects I choose (or day job work that comes in), and then I have the evenings free to relax. The main problem for me in recent years is that my to-do list takes up the whole day including the evening, and so I’m not getting any downtime. This is a good way of guarding against that – it does mean that my day is a lot less flexible, but I think I’ll get used to that. It does also feel a bit like ‘scheduled fun’, but scheduled fun is better than no fun at all because I’ve let the to-do list take over my whole day!

My new schedule also halves my social media time and eliminates random browsing from the ‘work’ part of the day. These things are huge time sinks, and I know a lot of people struggle with them these days. Social media in particular is very prone to making me feel worse about my own life (and guilty about not adding three hundred additional things per day to my already-crowded to-do list), so I really am better off minimising my time spent there.

I’ve only been doing the new schedule for a few days but I already feel so much better and more relaxed and in control!

So, what have I been using my newfound free evenings for? Well, at the moment it’s videogames (of course), but the important thing is having them free so I can unwind. In the future I might listen to music or watch favourite TV series… the world is my oyster!

Not much in the way of home improvement going on this week, but I’ve really settled into the groove of daily cleaning, especially now I’ve got the new schedule to keep it manageable.

Now for a lot of strictly-scheduled-in downtime over the weekend!

This fireplace needs fixing as it’s not putting out nearly as much heat as it once did, but at least it looks nice.

This week’s earworm playlists:


Traditional – ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’
Duran Duran – ‘Save A Prayer’
Lindisfarne – ‘Lady Eleanor’
Men Without Hats – ‘Safety Dance’


Audrey Hepburn – ‘Moon River’


Nintendo 3DS eShop – ‘Main Theme’
George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin – ‘I Got Rhythm’
Audrey Hepburn – ‘Moon River’
Peter Hames – ‘Ordinary Man’
The Boomtown Rats – ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’


Joe Hisaishi – ‘Kokoro No Kakera’
LunchMoney Lewis – ‘Bills’
Peter Hames – ‘Ordinary Man’


Audrey Hepburn – ‘Moon River’
Christina Aguilera and Redman – ‘Dirrty’


The Marcels – ‘Blue Moon’
Mark Ronson and Lykke Li – ‘Late Night Feelings’
Spandau Ballet – ‘Gold’
Duran Duran – ‘Five Years’

Plus a bonus track that Geth was humming that day:

3 Daft Monkeys – ‘Paranoid Big Brother’


Duran Duran – ‘Five Years’
Nintendo 3DS eShop – ‘Main Theme’
Abba – ‘One Of Us’

Phone Box Thursday: The Wrong Phone Box #3: Doctor Who, ‘The War Machines’ (1966)

Today we’re looking at another classic phone box that appears in ‘The War Machines’ – this time on location and thus a real in-use phone box.

This box appears later on in the serial, in episode four, once the titular War Machines are out on the rampage around London.

Doctor Who, The War Machines (1966)
War Machine vs. classic red phone box.

As usual, I used Doctor Who Locations to identify the filming location, which was in Charlotte Place, London.

Here’s the most up-to-date Street View image: 51°51’87.4″N, 0°13’58.4″W. The phone box is sadly long gone, but the Duke of York pub is still thriving (or was in 2019 at any rate).

Doctor Who, 'The War Machines' (1966)
The War Machine tries to attack the phone box!

The restaurant across the street is now the Rathbone Hotel, but the building next to the railings remains fairly unchanged. I love seeing how streets change over time! I just wish that all the classic phone boxes weren’t disappearing in the process…

One last phone box from ‘The War Machines’ next week.

Gig Review: Andy Taylor at the 100 Club, 27th November 2019

It’s been a while since I did a gig review… mainly for obvious reasons! I do have a couple of outstanding events to review from the pre-pandemic world, though, so I’ll get those posted while I’m waiting for life to return to the point where I can go to gigs again.

I reviewed this gig for Daily Duranie at the time (though the page is down at the moment as the Daily Duranie folks are currently in the process of sorting out their archives), so I won’t repeat myself too much, but it was a wonderful show. Some background context: my lifelong ’80s pop obsession narrowed to a Duran Duran sub-obsession in early 2017, but for various reasons the band (who since 2006 have been the classic lineup sans Andy Taylor) have not played any public gigs in the UK during that time, and so I have still not seen them in concert (or been able to cross them off my Band Aid baby bucket list as a result!). I was meant to see them twice in 2020… but then life stopped, as we all know. I now have tickets to see them twice in 2021, but we’ll just have to wait and see if that can happen. I’m not very optimistic, sadly; I expect it will probably be 2022, along with all the other 2020 gigs for which I’m still holding tickets.

However, I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the Andy Taylor gig in London in November 2019! Andy was scheduled to release a new album in 2020 (now scheduled for summer 2021 apparently), and this gig at the 100 Club was the first chance to hear some of the new material (along with favourites from 1987’s Thunder and the occasional crowd-pleasing Duran track!). Andy is also a touring member of Reef, and so Reef singer Gary Stringer was on hand to help with vocal duties.

Andy Taylor at the 100 Club, November 2019
My usual standard of gig photography, I’m afraid! Perhaps it will improve post-pandemic…

It was great to be able to get down to London for this (and meet up with other Duranies for the first time). I was so excited to do it all again in Cullercoats in May 2020… but that is another gig that has yet to see the light of day. Whenever it eventually happens, I’ll be there – Cullercoats is Andy’s hometown, so it should be a fantastic atmosphere, and it’s just a short trip on the Metro for me here in Newcastle. A bit easier than travelling to London!

Updated Band Aid baby bucket list progress: song artists 7/37 (18.9%); message artists 2/7 (28.6%); total artists 9/44 (20.5%).

Booze Alternative: Destination 1850 Virgin Apple Mojito

Towards the end of 2019, when Geth and I were doing a lot of travelling in order to attend gigs in other cities, I developed a taste for mocktails. The fact that I have been unable to continue sampling them is probably one of the pandemic’s ‘silver linings’, as while extremely delicious they are not particularly diet-friendly and I don’t need any extra temptations in that area right now!

The first one I tried was a Virgin Apple Mojito at Destination 1850, which at the time was a brand-new venue located within the concourse of Newcastle Central train station. Like everywhere else, it’s currently closed due to the lockdown, but it was a very nice stop-off when travelling by train, so I hope it’s able to reopen when things are back to normal!

Destination 1850 Virgin Apple Mojito
Destination 1850 Virgin Apple Mojito.

This drink tasted absolutely divine – I have a very sweet tooth and love sugary-tasting drinks as a treat – and so it was not the first mocktail of that particular weekend! More to follow next time.

24 things I learnt from training for my ‘mile an hour for 24 hours’ challenge

A version of this post first appeared on Fetch Everyone on 27th September 2020.

When the London Marathon went virtual last year and I decided to combine it with the ‘mile an hour for 24 hours’ challenge, I thought that it would be fairly straightforward – just go out every hour and run, right? Still, I knew that I should probably practise doing that for a few hours a day, and I’m glad I did, because it turned out to be *slightly* more complex than I expected. A few things I learnt from my 24-hour challenge training…

Virtual London Marathon day

1. I realised I wouldn’t be able to eat proper meals for the entirety of the 24-hour challenge, because eating an actual proper meal less than an hour before running was resulting in a horrible stitch while I was out on the run. As such, I ended up grazing on small snacks for the entire day instead, and it was a bit of a balancing act making sure that I was (a) eating enough, (b) not getting a stitch or making myself feel sick, and (c) making sure also to eat stuff that was healthy and not just pure sugar!

2. Related to (1), it turned out that there was an exact correct number of mini rolls to eat in between 1.2-mile laps. That number was 2, or sometimes 3 if it was later in the day.

3. The neighbours all thought I was mad, having observed me running up and down the street several times a day, and I’m not sure my breathless explanations did much to mitigate this. The situation did not improve much on the actual day, when I went out 24 times in total, starting from midnight.

4. The running itself was not the challenging part, although my legs did complain a little when I insisted on going out for multiple runs just a couple of days after the Virtual GNR. The recovery in between laps seemed to be long enough that I could keep going out again without getting fatigued. This was definitely more of a mental challenge than a physical one – and a week before the event, the doubts that crept in about my ability to complete the challenge were absolutely nothing to do with not being able to run it. Physically, I felt like I could run a mile every hour forever (well, not really, but you know what I mean). It was more about being nervous that I wouldn’t have the mental endurance to keep going out again and again and again.

5. However, while the 45-ish minute period during which I sat down between laps may have been long enough for recovery, it certainly didn’t feel long enough for anything else! I couldn’t really get into some work or a book or a videogame, or do anything other than a bit of Facebook browsing – because the next thing I knew, I needed to go out for another run. Most of the people doing this challenge on YouTube used the time in between runs to get stuff done off their to-do list, and I take my hat off to them, because I wasn’t able to manage anything else on the day besides running, refuelling, and trying not to fall asleep!

6. During the training, I felt incredibly embarrassed and guilty about spamming my followers on Strava with up to six running activities in the space of a few hours. I didn’t, in the end, do an apology post for the 24 separate activities that clogged up their feeds on the day of the challenge – but I seriously considered it!

7. I still can’t decide whether I actually ran a marathon or not. Initially I was of the opinion that ‘no, it doesn’t count, I’m not running it all at once’, despite the fact that I was going to be in the results and get my medal and t-shirt and everything… but in the run-up to the event, (a) the London Marathon social media channels were very encouraging of people splitting the distance into multiple runs and (b) I discovered through my training and the actual challenge that going out for 24 runs in a day is its own type of tough, so maybe I should bestow the title of ‘marathon’ upon it after all. I don’t consider it a PB, though, even though my total moving time was a lot less than the last time I ran a marathon!

8. Running in the middle of the night was an interesting new experience, and I was relieved that, on challenge day, nobody along the route got suspicious for some random reason and called the authorities about the madwoman running past their house once an hour in the dead of night (see also (3)). I’ll actually did a few practice midnight runs in the last week before the challenge in order to scope this out…

9. Sleep deprivation was also an interesting obstacle. I planned to spend a couple of days in the run-up turning night into day so that I could sleep most of Saturday in preparation for starting at midnight… but this didn’t work out, and so I ended up staying awake for about forty-two hours with no sleep breaks. Strangely, the adrenaline prevented me from getting sleepy!

10. Somehow, despite running it exactly 64 times in training for the challenge, I wasn’t sick of my 1.2-mile route by challenge day. However, after running it another 24 times on the day itself, I couldn’t really face the same route for my recovery run the day after!

11. I had to do some strict laundry scheduling in the last few days pre-challenge, as I discovered that hanging around between runs in the same kit feels grim as hell and so I needed to change clothes after every few laps in order to feel marginally less grim (even my between-run trackies needed refreshing every once in a while). This was also necessary due to the fact that, as it transpires, even the most comfortable of sports bras starts to chafe if you hang around sweating in it for too long.

12. Stretching after every single lap was boring and possibly unnecessary, but I continued to do it anyway because I had remained uninjured during training and didn’t want to do anything to jeopardise that.

13. Multiple run practice was the only reason that I actually managed to keep up with the Fetch Everyone ‘Run The Sum’ game (where you run the sum of the date in kilometres every day, e.g. on the 17th you run 1+7: eight kilometres) in September. I certainly don’t think I could have managed it on just one run per day!

14. Related to (9), I had to try to learn how to drink coffee in between laps without feeling ill, because I thought that Pepsi Max alone probably wouldn’t cut it for caffeine on the day. As it transpired, neither agreed with me on the day and so I didn’t consume very much caffeine at all!

15. Next door’s cat has all sorts of hangout spots for different times of the day that I would never have known about if I hadn’t been out doing multiple run practice at all hours. Cats are fascinating.

16. Geth, it turned out, thoroughly liked the idea of ‘crewing’ for me during the challenge, which was something he’d picked up from watching hundreds of YouTube videos about ultrarunners doing impossibly long races. He thus ended up accompanying me during middle-of-the-night runs, helping to record video for my running vlog, and generally not sleeping as much as he would normally have done on a weekend. Reciprocity demanded that I go out to meet him at various points on his October long runs with fresh supplies of water and gels, which was quite nice (and a good excuse for a walk in those slightly less locked down times!).

17. In the 10-15 minutes before my next lap was due to start, I found myself at a loose end, impatient to go, and was often tempted to start the lap early. Related to (5), the 45-minute downtime was a really awkward length. However, as set out in the terms of my challenge when I first announced it, the plan was to go out every hour on the hour, and I was determined to stick to that… even if I would probably have been done with the marathon a lot quicker if I’d kept shaving 10 minutes or so off the rest period!

18. It felt a bit awkward running past the same council workers doing the roadworks every hour on the hour. I also observed more than I ever expected to observe in terms of the progress of said roadworks.

19. While I was regularly doing non-multiple-run-practice days up until the Virtual GNR a few weeks before Virtual London, the period in between was really dedicated to training for this challenge and so I found I was starting to miss both (a) running for longer than 1.2 miles at a time and (b) running on other routes. I planned to do a lot of exploring and venturing out to new places once the challenge was over! (This didn’t transpire as I was a bit burnt out.)

20. I was having some serious issues around my shoe rotation. I run every day (I started my run streak on 1st January 2020), have three pairs of running shoes currently in use, and never wear the same pair two days in a row due to all the standard shoe rotation arguments about shoe foam needing more than 48 hours to decompress and thus live its best life. However, does all of this go out the window if running multiple times per day? Should I have been rotating my shoes from lap to lap? Was I interrupting the foam decompression process by pulling on the same ones again 45 minutes after I took them off? So many questions.

21. Much to my surprise, in training, my laps sped up throughout the day. I tended to start off with a nice gentle lap that worked out any stiffness from overnight, and it seemed to get faster naturally from there. This trend did not continue on the day of the challenge; on the whole, I was fairly steady. It didn’t really matter to me, though, as I was just happy to finish each hourly mile.

22. ‘Needing’ to make my own goody bag to open at the end of the challenge (due to London Marathon not sending the medal and t-shirt until after the fact) was a really, really good excuse to buy new running gear. Not that I ever seem to need one.

23. I’ve never had a problem with arithmetic, but for some reason, when it came to the number of laps I’d done so far in a day, I could barely count to three. I kept finding myself arriving home thinking, ‘So, I’ve got two laps to go… is that right? Have I really done three laps already? It doesn’t feel like I’ve done three…’ I don’t know what I’d have done if I didn’t have my Garmin to keep count for me. This was even more ‘interesting’ on the day when I needed to keep track of 24 laps while sleep-deprived!

24. As fun, intense, and different as this challenge was, I have really, really missed real races over the last year, and I can’t wait to be on a proper start line again – not least the proper start line of the proper London Marathon in October 2021. Things are looking a bit bleak and endless at the moment, so I just have to keep crossing my fingers that we will be able to race again by then!

A little more comfortable

As part of the big year of home improvement, I’m gradually adding stuff to help make the space easier and more comfortable for day-to-day living. The coffee table in the centre of our living room had been feeling a bit claustrophobic and precarious, as it was too close to the sofa (meaning I had to squeeze in and out of my favourite spot all the time) and really cluttered on top due to my need to have a cushion on it during the day (I like to put my feet up!). I’ve never kicked any of my drinks over yet, but it was only a matter of time. As such, I bought this useful side table last week.

Side table

The soft storage basket in the base provides a space for all my gaming handhelds, and keeping drinks on the top next to me means that they are now at much less risk of being knocked over! This is important given the quantity of electronics I keep and use in the space.

I’ve also been enjoying having all our bread products tucked away out of sight in our new bread bin.

Bread bin

I found it a bit difficult to open at first, but it turns out the trick is not to close it too tightly.

In non-shiny news, I’ve had a fairly busy week. Not too much day job work, but I did have a lot of admin and accounting to do in preparation for submitting my tax return, which was as boring as you might expect! I’ve also been continuing with the TOMM cleaning method, which is still taking me about an hour a day while I get into the swing of it.

From Sunday onwards I was able to go outside to run, which I was really appreciating… and then on Wednesday night it snowed heavily again so I was back indoors on the treadmill yesterday morning! Thankfully it had mostly melted by today so I was back out on the roads again. Hopefully there won’t be any more snow over the weekend as I’ve got lots of outdoor running plans.

I’m still playing ukulele as part of the Zoom group on Wednesday evenings, and I’m still getting as much videogaming in as I possibly can, and… that’s about it. I expect life will continue in this vein for some time, at least until the current lockdown restrictions start to ease off again.

This week’s earworm playlists:


The Marcels – ‘Blue Moon’
Ben E King – ‘Stand By Me’
John Barrowman – ‘Anything Goes’


Yoko Shimomura – ‘Radiant Historia’
Cast of Oliver! – ‘Food, Glorious Food’
Duran Duran – ‘Friends Of Mine’


Noriyuki Iwadare – ‘Turnabout Sisters’
The Weeknd – ‘Blinding Lights’
Julian Nott – ‘Wallace And Gromit Main Theme’
Arrow – ‘Hot, Hot, Hot’

And a bonus track Geth was humming that day:

The Lancashire Hotpots – ‘The Technical Support Song’


Men Without Hats – ‘Safety Dance’
Glenn Miller – ‘In The Mood’
Audrey Hepburn – ‘Moon River’
3 Daft Monkeys – ‘Paranoid Big Brother’


Oasis – ‘Songbird’
Duran Duran – ‘Friends Of Mine’
The Strokes – ‘Last Nite’
The Chemical Brothers – ‘Galvanise’


Bob Marley & The Wailers – ‘Three Little Birds’
Katy Perry – ‘Firework’
Duran Duran – ‘The Edge Of America’
Revo – ‘Fighting To The End’
Duran Duran – ‘Tel Aviv’
Belinda Carlisle – ‘Circle In The Sand
Duran Duran – ‘Anyone Out There’


Nintendo 3DS eShop – ‘Main Theme’
Landscape – ‘Einstein A Go Go’
Traditional – ‘America The Beautiful’
Pointer Sisters – ‘Automatic’
Audrey Hepburn – ‘Moon River’