John O'Groats to Lands End - Preamble to an eight hundred and something mile journey...

After taking on the 190 mile Coast to Coast last year in under 4 days I vowed never again.  Since that time there have been further lockdowns and any prospect of 'normal' road racing has been a distant dream.  It made me appreciate all the more that the Coast to Coast wasn't just a trip, but a real journey with some massive highs and lows crossing the best terrain that England has to offer.  Since that time there has been a sensation growing inside me to do something else, but the problem akin to an adrenaline junkie is that the next 'hit' needs to be bigger than the last one.  What better than attempt John O'Groats to Lands' End by foot?!

John O'Groats

The rules are fairly straight forward - the start and end points are Lands' End and John O'Groats but other than that there is no fixed route.  Google states the shortest distance avoiding motorways is 874 miles, but it is possible to cut this down a bit further as a pedestrian to about 815 - 830 miles.

Unsurprisingly the vast majority of LEJOGs (Lands' End to John O'Groats) or JOGLEs (John O'Groats to Lands' End) are undertaken by bike and has been a recognised 'thing' for a number of decades.  Crossings by foot are a rarer beast, probably simply because the distance and the time required is prohibitive for most.  That said, there is a record that according to Guinness is a little under 9 days and 3 hours that has stood since 2002, but has since been widely discredited for various reasons.  Guinness are a commercial organisation that have no authority or pedigree to determine what is and isn't a record and for most, the real records are recognised as 9d 21h 14m set in 2020 by Dan Lawson and 12d 0h 30m by Carla Molinaro also set in 2020.  Both are incredible times and will be hard to beat.

Planned Route

To go for a record requires a huge amount of preparation; for most this requires a campervan(s), support crew with various people assigned roles ranging from masseur, lead and follow cyclist, cook etc.  A real team effort to try and take as much strain off the runner whose role within the team is to put one foot in front of the other.  A lot.

Inevitably as a decent marathon runner it gives me some pedigree, but something like JOGLE is altogether a different beast.  As I have no real ultrarunning background, the chance of going for a record resulting in a complete blowout is significantly higher than average.  More so, any attempt by me is going to be lower key with just my wife in support.  Therefore, I will only be able to fuel up at meeting points, self-navigate and carry any extras I need in between.  The goal is to just finish and as quickly as I am physically able to but in an absolute max of 16 days, ideally under 14 if at all possible.  This means a minimum of 51 miles a day, or 58 miles if aiming for 14 days.

My wife is going to be key to the challenge and you would think that supporting a moody dishevelled and somewhat stinky runner is no one's idea of fun, yet she strangely enjoys it and we both consider the Coast to Coast in 2020 as a highlight of our year.  We've both learnt from the Coast to Coast what went well and what didn't and this will put us in good stead for our attempt.

I've planned a route that is about 814 miles long, but I suspect in practice will be a bit longer as I won't have accounted for the numerous kinks on the ground.  In the main, I'm following a fairly similar path to the record setters, with a few places here and there where I would be breaking new ground.  Even though I'm not going for a record I've planned the shortest practicable route where possible, but not at all costs - for instance I plan to follow some quieter side roads or bike paths rather than major roads where I feel there is a potential safety conflict.  That said, I also plan a degree of flexibility, so if any safety fears are unfounded, I can switch things into a more direct routing if required.  Two particular locations spring to mind as examples - the A9 in Scotland I have avoided where possible and likewise the A30 in Devon/Cornwall.

Unlike most people I am being fairly flexible on night stops.  Until I get going I have no idea of what I'm capable of each day, so although I've got accommodation booked for the first couple of nights it is quite difficult to plan beyond this.  If really needed the tent will also be carried in the car as a back-up.

I'll now address the elephant in the room - why JOGLE and not LEJOG?  After all, the vast majority of cyclists do the latter, and the records on foot were also LEJOG?  Originally, I was also planning to follow the majority, but eventually came to the conclusion that JOGLE was better suited to me mentally and physically.  As I'm self navigating, the first few days of JOGLE are straight forward to the point of probably not needing to carry the map with me so I can ease into things; conversely the Devon/Cornwall section I've planned is very intricate in places and will be difficult to establish a rhythm.  Also, the John O'Groats section appears less physically challenging than the Devon/Cornwall section and contrary to most people who would think it's best to tackle the hardest bits at the beginning, in contrast I think it will be mentally difficult to recover from the shock of such a hard first few days and could invite me to drop out early on.  I would rather tackle the hardest bit at the end when the finish line feels much closer.

Although training had been going well, about a month ago my old ankle injury has flared up again (which previously took a steroid injection to treat) which has meant I've only been able to exercise on my spinning bike.  I'm sure my base fitness will have deteriorated a bit, but hopefully not too much.  The biggest issue will be to manage my ankle en-route when I'm sure it will start to flare up again at some point.

I'm under no illusion that a significant number of people who undertake the challenge fail to finish, usually caused by fatigue or injury.  I have no idea how I will fare, but all I can do is give it a go and see what happens!  

You can follow my progress by following the link from 5am on Saturday 22nd May 2021:

My wife will be loading progress videos to:


Popular posts from this blog

Spine Race - Some Stats (2012-2024) - Updated following 2024 race.

Ranger Ultras - High Peak 100k

Ranger Ultras Pennine Bridleway 270km