Facebook Square Linkedin square Twitter square

tel: 07799 063 115

By Andy Mouncey, Jul 8 2019 09:27AM

Despite the dearth of running-based posts here recently I can report that there has actually been some running-based stuff happening.

Quite a lot actually.

And quite seriously.

It’s just that I’ve kept it under the counter till now.

But now we’re into July and that means less than one month to go to the Montane Lakeland 100 And given I’m still pissed after last year’s result (see blog) it was almost inevitable that I’d be on the start line again.

Mission: Be Un-Pissed.

It’s taken 3 months to get into shape to be able to handle the training – then 2 months of ‘proper’ training, and I’m currently halfway through the final month of some serious boundary-pushing. There’s been no racing to look forward to this time - it’s been a simple project of two halves:

Get The Work Done

Sort The Shit Out That Sabotaged Me Last Year

Brutal Simplicity

Some changes to my approach from last year have meant that since May my training diet has focused on four Hero Workouts in rotation – monotonous, bloody challenging and all solo against the clock and that means nowhere to hide. And I’m still working with a coach so I also have to hand my homework in.

Here’s an insight into two of those four:

Hero 1

This one can be described as Up-Over-Out & Back. It clocks in at 18km with 885m of climbing up and over one mountain and takes me between 4 hours and 2 ¾ hours depending on mode of travel and load carried.

Three of those variations are:

1. Hike with heavy load using poles – for me that’s 20-25kg

2. Hike with a lighter load of water filled bottles dumping the load at the summit so I can run free on the descent before loading up at a stream on the other side for the return trip

3. Speed hike-run combination unloaded where I’m hiking the steep stuff and running the gentler slopes

All done at maximum sustainable effort – and all done using my car as a base.

I’ve simply been adding Legs and getting more race-specific over time so that now this one has become a delightfully fun way to spend a whole day – or an afternoon and evening. You can guess the hardest bit: Getting my ass out the car after a nice cup of tea and a very civilized sandwich to go face the mountain once again…

Hero 2

Ah yes – the one I’ve been stuck on.

A single loop taking in one mountain as a long flat approach, a climb up, a ridge run to the summit, a plummeting stepped rocky descent and then flat along the valley to link it all up. It comes in at 12km and 460m of climbing and I’ve run it periodically since 2008 – which means I’ve records going back over 10 years and a pb nearly as old at just under 63mins.

My ‘could I really?’ goal for this loop was actually set 3 years ago during a bout of ‘How would I know I’m in shape to race a big ultra? brain dump: Run four consecutive loops broken by a short recovery at maximum sustainable pace all within 90 seconds of each other.

Without dying.

No car as base this time as the start-finish is a short run away from the road so I stash some refuel supplies in a wall out of reach of foraging sheep.

May 10 rolled around and I’d finally – after some days tying myself in knots - summoned enough courage to go for my first double loop:

Loop 1: 67-05

Recovery: 10min

Loop 2: 67-55

Monumental confidence boost!

Three weeks later I went again – this time the goal was to repeat with half the recovery time. I came home with 66-16 and 66-18 either side of a 5minute recovery. Upwards and onwards it would appear we were going.

Then I changed my programming mix as the second half of June rolled around and promptly got stuck. Hero 2 was now the final session of the week AND came the day after a programmed long day in the hills.

I would be going into it more tired.

That was all deliberate – but I’d not appreciated how much more difficult this session became as a result of those changes - and that if I wanted to avoid the weekend crowds on this very popular mountain I’d have to be up at 4.30am to start running by 6.

June 16th and I try for 3 loops. I have doubts pre-start and in the end delivered my own self-fulfilling prophecy. The numbers told the story and hinted at the cause:

Loop 1 in 78-20 / 5min rest / Loop 2 in 78-42

Despite seriously upping the effort level on the second one I just couldn’t move any faster – and that’s a straight fuel/depletion thing: I need to be getting more in me through the week AND take more on during the session.

Two weeks later I go again from a stupidly early start and this time while more motivated I know the odds are stacked. My long day the previous day in the hills had been delayed so I’d not started till late morning. The goal was 8 hours – done in one of those heat wave days - so that was 7pm. Drive home – eat: But not enough and too late.

This time it was a better pairing – the second faster than the first at 78-20 to 77-50 with a 5min break – but I just didn’t have the juice to work at the intensity required. I figured a third loop would have just been pathetic - when the challenge with this workout was to control it while tired and up the effort level progressively. This came at the end of a big ole week so I took that quietly delighted while wondering what it would take to break out of two loops…

One Week On

I decide it’s way worth loading the dice so I have a fighting chance of completing the triple. I make one programming change so while it still comes after a long day in the hills it falls mid-week instead of at the end. In other words I’ll be fresher and will have the mountain to myself. As it happens my body clock has me up at 4.30am anyway and I’m still harboring doubts as I drive in.

Patience, my young Jedi…

5.30am and the sun is already up on what promises to be a shorts-only session despite the early hour. I grab the refuel supplies and jog out to my very familiar start-finish and secret squirrel hole.

Loop 1 here we come…

I give myself time to ease into it by focusing on the physical cues that has this unit working well:

Keep it light – cadence up – elbows back. Find the flow…

Gradually I settle and start a controlled climb up as the tops of the nearby hills emerge from the cloud so it feels like I’m running on the roof of the world.

Fair enough – as long as you get DOWN from the roof in one piece…

The descent is the crux of this loop. I can usually tell how ‘on’ I am by how smooth I am on the gentler rocky ground off the summit. Smooth gives fast and to do that means swift and sure footwork to dance at speed. I’ve gone arse over tit enough times up here to know that if you fall at speed it always REALLY hurts on the hard pointy stuff.

I’m smooth, swift and sure – blessing the fact that the relatively new steep stone steps put in by the footpath repair teams are dry. The scars of popular use are all around us here in this part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and footpath repair schemes are now much more common – and happening on an industrial scale in places.

For those of us who run the fells one of the differences is that it has become way harder to descend safely at speed where paths have been replaced by stepped stone slabs. To make matters even more interesting on this loop, some of the slabs are downward sloping when you descend them – and are lethal in the wet. It all adds up to precious seconds and even minutes on your personal bests!

But on Loop 1 I’m down safe and trying to hit cruise control along the valley. I stop the clock at 71-44.


5 minutes and straight into Loop 2. I need to be faster and not that much faster so the trick is where to obviously kick it up a gear. The answer to that is the first section – and some of the climb.

Half way round nearing the top of the climb and I know I’ll make a third loop. While the effort has definitely gone up everything is still very much in the green. Once more I’m swift off the top and don’t put a foot wrong on the decent. The clocks stops at 71-01.

Right then – showtime!

Another 5 minutes and this time I’m working harder straight away as I know I have to just to keep the speed over the ground the same as Loop 2. I figure if I can hold this all the way up and descend smoothly for the final time I can REALLY push along the valley to drop the difference.

This is the one that counts, man…

Once again it’s finding that point of maximum sustainable effort without going mental and tipping over the edge. In my head what that DOESN’T mean is 70 minutes of effort. What I’ve adjusted it to is around 40mins of big effort, 20mins of big concentration and a little less effort (on the descent) – and 10mins balls to the wall.

C’mon! You’re f***in’ doin’ it!

‘Nothing wrong with a little positive stroking now and again.

I stop the clock on 71-23.

Part of me registers that’s a measly 25 seconds shy of the reduction I was really after.

Part of me doesn’t give a flying f***.

F*** that boll***s! I’ve just done 3 f***in’ laps!

‘And that’ – as I suspect they say on the shooting range – ‘is one hell of a cluster.’

By Andy Mouncey, Jun 14 2019 08:38AM

The phone rings and it’s one of my ultra running clients – but it’s an unscheduled call and that’s highly unusual. Curiosity builds and after the usual greeting there’s this:

‘…But I’m not calling as your client – I’m calling on behalf of the company I work for…’

‘Very expectant pause.

‘We want to give you some money…’

You… WHAT?

‘For your prison work…’




I just sat and listened almost in shock as A explained the why and how of it all.

Short version and I’ll paraphrase:

A‘s been talking and they’ve been following my stuff.

They get the whole Problem-Solution-Mission thing.

They’ve had a ring-side seat on how my stuff can work as A has progressed through more and more outrageous ultra running adventures and (so far) emerged smiling.

They can’t believe I’m still trying to make this thing fly – but they believe that I could if given the sniff of a chance.

They wanna give me that sniff.

And no strings.

Holy shit!

There’s an enforced pause while I transition from incoherence to coherence – then realize that my vision has gone a bit blearly and my eyes are tickling.

That’s reassuring: I still have feelings then…

A lays out the details while clearly also grinning like a loon on the other end:

They’d like to give me £--- a month.

For 12 months.

Probably longer.

If that’s OK.

‘And Andy – no strings, really….’

‘If that’s OK?’ Are you f***in’ kidding me??!

A deeper dig into the ‘why?’ come in the follow up email:

Here at Kebbell we are aware we live in a very privileged world. We build fabulous houses, sell to discerning purchasers and live in a wealthy part of the country. We have no idea what has happened in the lives of inmates for them to have ended up in the penal system. Deprivation, mental health issues, abuse, drugs; not a world we ever come into contact with. We do know, however, that there must be something amiss with the current rehabilitation process as so many prisoners re-offend within a year of release.

You have helped and continue to help me achieve extraordinary things, making the extraordinary ordinary. You have completed some of the most brutal endurance events and therefore if you feel as passionate as you do that you can help improve reoffending rates and improve a system that clearly does not work then I believe you will succeed. I am in awe of what you’re doing. But being self-employed I can only guess how time consuming and expensive your commitment is.

It’s a gift – well, it’s actually many things truth be told – but let’s keep it simple for now.

Then I remember that there’s some stuff I’ve figured out about gifts, and it’s this:

We’ll all get gifts in this life.

Some we’ll recognize – some we won't.

Some will be expected – some will not.

And some we won't realize are gifts until much much later.

There’s one rule about gifts and it’s this: Take the gift, look the giver in the eye and say thank you.

Thank you Kebbell

Now for this kinda thing to happen once is jaw-dropping enough…but a few days earlier I’d had something as mandible-gaping from a former client. Again, I’m paraphrasing but the gist was this:

‘Andy, we’re going to a big fund raiser in London for a charity that does some similar work to yours. We know some people etc…We’ll get you a ticket and we can probably work you an intro to the CEO. There could be some synergy between the two of you – and there’ll be some big hitters there. We’ll get you in the door but you need to do the rest – go sharpen your pitch, my lad!’

So once I picked myself up from the floor I have indeed been sharpening – ‘cos on Monday night I’ll be at the Key4Life Gala Dinner 2019 in my best bib and tucker because someone else decided they could, and they should – so they did.

By Andy Mouncey, May 14 2019 03:51PM

Breaking In

So you think it’s hard breaking out of prison? You want to try breaking in.

This is what it takes for a new social enterprise with One Big Idea to get going in our Justice sector – as lived by Andy Mouncey of Run For Your Life CIC www.runforyourlife.org.uk

Timeline To Date

2012 First invitation to a Category C prison. Project pulled pre-start

2013 First short pilot delivered (unpaid) at a Cat D prison

2014-16 More testing – more pilots – still no ££

2016 RFYL Conception. Doors open–doors close-funding bids/rejected

2017 RFYL Community Interest Company incorporation. Doors open-close/bids (sad face)

2018 Doors open–close/bids etc: Getting boring now. Still no ££

2019: Too far in to give up – so it’s this year or bust

The Numbers

Funding Bids Written & Rejected: 19

Times I’ve Honestly Thought About Quitting: 4

Times My Wife Has Given Me Permission To Quit: 2


In some ways right now – post pilot - feels like the toughest time.

I mean, it’s not as though I expected bells to ring, bunting to be hung in the streets and a mad scramble to buy…but SOMETHING to land successfully would be nice.

I’m nervous on another level too: There is good research out there that says unequivocally when you intervene successfully with a ‘hard to reach’ group in a challenging environment and then withdraw leaving them in a vacuum…they can revert to worse levels than when you started.

In other words the sink is deeper and faster – so reaching ‘em from THAT demands even more of a stretch.

The tame version that more people will be familiar with is going back to work fired up after an inspirational away day or an uplifting weekend only to find very quickly that it’s the same old, same old.

Or completing a successful pilot with the expectation that it would be the breakthrough needed to bridge to longer term work.

Not on my first choice timescale, apparently.

The difference of course is that those of us on the outside have infinitely more choices and support than those serving time on the inside.

So I worry about my 11 back in Stafford.

In my defense I did try to set up a bridge for them:

Public verbal commitments about what they would do differently from the end of the pilot and what help they would need from others.

Photos of the key activities we did so they have reminders.

Personal diaries they continue to use.

A letter to each one week later.

Still I worry.

Two weeks on from the pilot I was back at Stafford for a full review with key folks – and while it became apparent very quickly that we had ticked a whole host of boxes, it didn’t take a genius to work out that this is where it would get interesting.

For me, anyway.

With one decision – f*** it, I’ll give you four days of me – I’d raised my stakes and expectations. And I’m not sure there is another line of work where giving your stuff away for free first is a normal way of getting over the threshold, but in the Justice sector this seems not especially unusual.

This opens up all sorts of questions around Intellectual Property – and somewhere down that road lies Non Disclosure Agreements and if we were in the private sector there’s probably A Letter Of Intent (pre-contract) lurking.

But we’re in the public sector and a shrinking public purse talking about resources for a problem most people would rather not have to think about.

Or most politicians not to have as a portfolio of responsibility, it would seem.

So care and diligence is the name of the game – and that fact that I’ve spent 7 years proving the concept and 18 months building the relationship with Stafford is just my baggage (sigh).

By Andy Mouncey, Mar 29 2019 02:04PM

Breaking In

So you think it’s hard breaking out of prison? You want to try breaking in.

This is what it takes for a new social enterprise with One Big Idea to get going in our Justice sector – as lived by Andy Mouncey of Run For Your Life CIC www.runforyourlife.org.uk

Timeline To Date

2012 First invitation to a Category C prison. Project pulled pre-start

2013 First short pilot delivered (unpaid) at a Cat D prison

2014-16 More testing – more pilots – still no ££

2016 RFYL Conception. Doors open–doors close-funding bids/rejected

2017 RFYL Community Interest Company incorporation. Doors open-close/bids (sad face)

2018 Doors open–close/bids etc: Getting boring now. Still no ££

2019: Too far in to give up – so it’s this year or bust!

The Numbers

Funding Bids Written & Rejected: 19

Times I’ve Honestly Thought About Quitting: 4

Times My Wife Has Given Me Permission To Quit: 2

Don’t Be Shit

A last look at the bloke in the mirror: ‘Just don’t be shit, OK?’

Climb out of the car gathering my goods and chattels and round to the main gate at HMP Stafford practicing the skills of projecting Cool & Calm & Completely In Control.

Act As If, right?

The gods clearly think so - presenting my ID at the gatehouse something momentous happens:

‘Ah – Mr Mouncey. You are expected!’

In all my prison visits this has never happened: Yeah, today’s gonna f**kin’ ROCK!

Before we can get to the effin’ rocking I need folks in the mosh pit. It’s coming up to 8am and I’ve asked for my 12 to assemble for a pre-breakfast Welcome Workout. The clue’s in the title - though I’m fairly sure most will think Welcome and Workout don’t necessarily go together. Still, I put my faith in Gavin and sure enough the men start to arrive singly or in small groups.

Basics first: Recall and check first names, eye contact, welcome, handshake, smile and thanks for coming x 12.

‘Turns out it’s only 11 in the end but that’s just life here.

And suddenly we’re all over the threshold and committed: I’ve got ‘em, they’re waiting and Gavin’s watching.

Let’s rock fellas…

Full Immersion

Half hour later and I’ve turned their concept of ‘warm up’ and ‘workout’ inside out and upside down. But we’re all smiling, the tension’s gone and Gavin is still letting me run with this thing. I’ve made our virtual classroom in a corner of the sports hall – low benches, crash mats, floor mats, big pads of paper, colored post-its, stuff taped to the wall – and over a communal breakfast in our new home for the next 3 days I do the formal welcome stuff and lay out what we have in store.

The attention-grabber as far as they are concerned is that on the morning of Day 3 they will all be taking part in a gym-based triathlon challenge row-bike-run format. Which means I have 2 days to get ‘em ready in body, mind and spirit. Along the way they’ll be learning some stuff very familiar to all those who do endurance sports the world over:

• How to persevere through multiple setbacks in a challenging changing environment and still stay on course

• How to manage your mood and take charge of your mind

• How (and why) to play by the rules when no-one is watching for a long period of time

Or as I’ve described it:

How to control how you feel in here (tap over heart) and think clearly up here (tap head) so that you can make the most of your time inside to stay outside on release.

We’re eating communally so I can keep ‘em together and do everything from one base as a group all day – genuine deep immersion stuff. Keeping ‘em engaged throughout will mean turning the traditional silo programing on it’s head – go to Breakfast, go to Education, go to Workshop, go to Lunch etc - so of course I’ve done that as well: We start with physical activity, then we do some learning, then we test and check where they’re at. Then we repeat the cycle.


And again.

And again.

And we don’t ‘go’ anywhere.

I still have them all with me at 6pm that evening at the end of our seventh or eighth cycle. But all that’s for later…

Testing & Checking

Bottom line is that this is an experiment and like all experiments there are some hypotheses we want to test and some evidence we need to gather. Three from our collection are:

1. Sustainable Rehabilitation: Putting fitness first produces quick, direct mental health benefits so that rehabilitation is faster, broader, more cost-effective and sustainable

2. Emotional Resilience can be taught and this…is how you teach and test it using physical activity for this population

3. Engagement: Learning is made easy and attractive when done out of a classroom and after physical exercise (preferably outside)

(Every parent of every small child knows the truth of the last one and yet prison still defaults to putting men and women who have typically struggled with mainstream education back in an environment they have so much baggage about: In a white room on a chair behind a desk being talked at).

By the time we get to lunch – which arrives at our base as if by magic on a trolley to much enthusiasm…(Easy to forget that simple upgrades/changes to routine for these men – especially any involving food – have a huge impact. Plates are piled and bar a few shreds of lettuce the food is GONE. For Gavin this is clearly old news but I find myself somewhat shocked: No-one asked Gavin or I and no-one thought to leave any for us. My Manners Monitor is about to explode but then…

Why would they? Staff and men don’t eat together here so odds-on it’s just not on their radar.

So while I do have my own supplies in my favorite Shaun The Sheep lunchbox I am momentarily nonplussed).


By the time we get to lunch…we’ve gone through the fizz-learn-check cycle at least four times and I’m definitely calmer inside. Gavin checks in:

‘Just trying not to be shit’ I reply. ‘Working quite hard at it..!’

I leave ‘em some gym homework to do under Gavin’s beady eye for the first part of the afternoon while I go fly the flag and press the flesh among other key staff members. I need to understand ‘normal’ and Big Picture here and I wont get that if my world remains my 11 blokes. This thing needs to solve problems for as many other folks here as possible and it needs to fit into what already works.

I have an informative break and then it’s back to the chaps. Tea is another locust-fest and I lead a final shorter session post-tea before the rush to make the most of the early evening allocated telephone time. Suddenly Day 1 is done: No-one has thrown their toys out, Gavin hasn’t had to rescue me and it’s all gone pretty much to plan.


Day 2 is much the same except for two things: We’re outside much more and come mid afternoon it’s very obvious that they are all at input-capacity and are starting to flag big-style. So we dial it all down and call it quits just before tea. Tomorrow we tri…

Putting It Out There & Wrapping It Up

We’ve made it easy for people to see and hear what’s going on by making sure the event is visible. Come mid morning there is quite a crowd and Gavin breaks out the banging tunes to add to the atmosphere as we rotate our 11 through 1000m of rowing, 5000m of cycling and 800m of running and much cheering. Everyone completes and some really do leave nothing behind – and almost inevitably this comes from the least expected quarters.

And I miss one thing: There are a lot of nerves made worse by a fair amount of waiting for those further down the competition order. I’m wrapped up in the Making Happen bit and it’s Gavin who clocks it. I catch him working 1:1 with a very withdrawn looking Kevin before the penny drops for me. I give a silent prayer of thanks to the gods of Gavin and make a note:

You’ll be plugging that gap next time then, won’t you Mr Mouncey?

The final wrap up is deeply moving in parts.

We’re all gathered in our base for the final time – after I feared they’d eat the furniture along with the post-race food - with one of the senior staff sitting in. For the final two questions I ask them to speak out loud in turn to the group while I remove myself out of view so I can transcribe and they can make eye contact with their peers.

Last up is John - one of the seemingly more assured:

‘We’re all in a sorry situation here…’ There’s a pause and I can see everyone turn inward and heads drop in unison. ‘So we all got so much more out of this. I now realize I can do more than I thought – this has given me the confidence to raise my standards and test myself.’

After that there’s a minor matter of awarding the certificates and this time the handshakes are firmer and the smiles come from within. All that remains is that rather important final check with Gavin.

Deep breath:


A pause and a grin.

‘No – you weren’t. Definitely not.

By Andy Mouncey, Mar 18 2019 09:02AM

With a few days to go before I’m due at HMP Stafford here’s a piece I originally wrote just over a year ago. When you walk in the world of crime-punishment-rehabilitation it’s easy to forget that for most people that world might as well be another planet: An alternate reality below the horizon – questions about which remain largely unconsidered. They need time to catch up – ‘cos it can be a bit of a shock when it unexpectedly appears over the horizon…

Now I’ve had a longggggg time to get my head around why this stuff is important to me and what my contribution could be. I’ve also had to go to work periodically on my insides in order to be at peace with working with those who have broken the law – and done so sometimes in a way that turns my stomach. I’ve done that and moved on – but forget that some of my friends are still catching up. ‘Case in point recently…

I have an ultrarunning client-friend who is based abroad and is periodically in the UK on business. We hook up and I do the local tour guide bit out on the hills so he can get his fix without having to think too hard about it. Last weekend we were on Pendle Hill in Lancashire on a stunning clear cold day. We’d just hurtled down a descent making aeroplane noises – as you do - and he asks how the prison stuff is going:

‘I’m talking to some new ones.’ I reply ‘One of them has a high number of older inmates – that will be new for me – and also people who are incarcerated for sex offences. That will also be new.’

I’m not looking at him at the time but it’s as if the shutters slam. He goes dead quiet and I can feel the withdrawal. I let the silence stretch because I trust him to try and make the bridge. Sure enough…

‘Andy.’ Another huge pause as he wrestles with emotional and intellectual…

‘You have kids. I have kids…You’re a smart guy and you’ve clearly thought about this…’

Indeed I have.

So I do my best to articulate how I’ve squared the circle:

‘I’ve had to go to work on my insides. I still have to do it periodically - it’s still a work in progress and this is where I’m at with it all:

Park what you think you believe about crime and punishment ‘cos that’s a different question. What do we want our justice system to do? Punish AND return to society as a law-abiding citizen.

Except in this country we do the first bit really well but are truly awful at the second bit because at least six out of ten people will re-offend in the first year after release from prison. And that stat has remained stubbornly high for decades. The courts do the punishment bit – that’s sentencing, loss of liberty etc – the prisons should do the ‘return to society’ bit – that’s rehabilitation.

Except the stats say they don’t – they punish. Again.

As a father of two boys I want to know that those who have committed offences will play by the rules on release. ‘Cos nearly all WILL be released. I don’t want to be looking over my shoulder and neither do you. What they’ve done – why they done it – that’s not my bag and I don’t go there because I can’t affect it.

The reality is that they’ve been convicted, that’s where they are and they will be released. Somewhere. My stuff is re-education and transition: They start again – most have 30, 40 years of life left - and they contribute to society. Well, I can affect that – I think.‘

Big pause all round and a weak grin.

‘It may sound like I’ve got it all squared away and I think I have. I’ve had the ‘Why is Daddy helping people in prison conversation’ with our boys and I passed that test – I think. And I also expect to be tested like never before ‘cos this is new for me too.

But I think it’s the right thing to do and I believe I can. ‘Guess we’ll find out about that too.’

RunUltra Shortlisted for Blogger Awards_logo