Project 565 Miles – Paul Mason
In 2020 Paul Mason will run 565 miles to raise awareness and funds for research into cancer specifically hepatocellular carcinoma at King’s College Hospital (KCH) in London. He’ll run in memory of his friend Mark Thornberry who died of primary liver cancer in June 2020 after a 3-year long battle.
The original plan was to complete his challenge in 100 days. Paul would start on May 21 with the Grand Union Canal Race (GUCR), Britain’s longest, toughest, non-stop running race. Competitors are required to complete the 145 mile distance from the centre of Birmingham to the centre of London along the Grand Union Canal within the time limit of 45 hours.
Paul planned to undertake a double GUCR145, starting from the finish line in Little Venice, London, run up to Birmingham, then turnaround and join the official race and run back down to London all within 4 days.
This obviously didn’t happen because of Covid-19, so Paul rescheduled Double GUCR145 (290 miles) to 23rd July – 26th July 2020:
Approx timings of where Paul Mason will be in relation to the first 145 miles. He will be wearing a tracker for the full event so you can join him or follow along.
Leg 1 – Little Venice London to Birmingham Gas Street – Thurs 23rd July to Fri 24th July
Start L.V London – 4am – 0 miles
H’brough Tavern – 6am – 11 miles
Springwell Lock – 7.50am – 22.5 miles
Grand Junction Arms – 10am – 35 miles
Br99 Water Eaton – 12.15pm – 45 miles
Navigation Br 64 – 4.30pm – 61 miles
Heart of England – 8.15pm – 76 miles
Birdingbury Br21 – 3.45am – 96 miles
Hatton Locks – 7.30am – 120 miles
Catherine de barnes 2pm Fri – 135 miles
Gas St Bham – 6pm Fri – 145 miles
Sat 25th/Sun 26th leg 2 – 146 miles to 290 miles; details and approx timings to follow shortly.
Paul will have 2 crews of 2 people each to help keep him moving forward to deliver the goal for Mark.
This number will be available for those wishing to join us on any of the 290 mile journey up and back along the GU canal over the 4 days:
24th-25th July 2020 Paul would join Kennet & Avon Canal 145 (145 miles), but it’s unfortunately cancelled, so Paul will find another race later this year.
Hopefully the rest of his plan can take place as follows so on 29th-30th August 2020 he’ll run Leeds & Liverpool Canal 130 (130 miles).
His WHY is very simple:
“At the end of June 2017 fellow runner Mark Thornberry was diagnosed with a type of terminal primary liver cancer and given 6 to 9 months to live.
However, Mark was determined not to go quietly into the night and followed surgery at the start of 2019 to remove 50% of his liver, numerous other procedures and an experimental dual drug trial, still fighting a valiant battle.
Unfortunately at the end of September 2019 additional secondary tumors were identified and there was a strong probability that Mark would no longer be eligible to continue the drug trial he was on.
On June 14, 2020, Mark’s race ended. He will always be a huge inspiration!
There is no donation too small (or indeed too large) I know that there always seems to be someone asking for something, but your help and support matters more than you know and is so hugely appreciated.
Many thanks, Paul Mason.”
July 28, 2020:
A BIG THANK YOU POST dedicated to a bunch of wonderful people who I am honoured to call my friends….Sorry if I have missed anybody.So the last 4 days have been memorable and the highs and lows will stay with me forever. Running the double GUCR145 for thorners has been an honour. Running long distance takes a hell of alot of planning and organising and is definately a “TEAM EVENT” as the Crew are your best and what feels like your worst friends (when they kick you out of that comfy chair) and tell you to get moving. They are your biggest supporters but deliver “Tough Love” at times and their priority is to keep their runner focused and moving forward no matter what the pain is like. They have the ability to assess their runners needs and deliver a service that cannot be described. Caroline Farren (aka my Boss and partner) and Karen Webber in my opinion are the best in the business. They are like parents, school teachers and enforcers all at the right time. They allow no weakness and remind you to keep moving forward and that you will get this done. Karen Grieves, Matt Brown and John Breslin the other 3 key parts to the Crew all giving up their personal time to support Mark Thornberry and the KCH charity. My Crew were my lighthouse guiding me on my journey along the canal. The journey of 302 miles delivers a huge variance of positive and negative emotions and it is hard to stay positive and gung ho in front of them as they witness you stripped bare (emotionally and physically). They see you naked (not literally but there were afew towel moments lol) as you are fighting the pain and the nagging demons telling you stop and give up. My Crew were a solid Unit working together often sleep deprived and hungry but keeping their runner fed and watered. They patched up my feet when they were falling apart and gave me the will and desire to get the job done. I was ready to quit at 253 miles where my mind just gave up and the thought of moving another 45+ miles was horrific. My Crew enabled me to reset and refocus and onwards we went. 5 miles further down the canal I was running again and in stronger spirits.Also to my key buddy runners (body guards) keeping me safe from nutcases at night etc sharing many miles with me and being my body guards offering support and muling for me to keep my pack weight as low as possible. Special thanks to these special friends in no particular order,Tom GarrodPaul CommonsDave FawknerRob CowlinTina McGrealDonna LawDave JohnsonLaurence HyltonAndrew HarbrowClare BonnickKirsty Wilson – fan club presidentClive Bugeja (aka curry) Dan Perry (Ice Man to the rescue).So as you can see the Crew were immense delivering a 7 Star Service. I will forever be in their debt and my heartfelt gratitude towards everyone of them is huge.I hope we all made Mr Mark Thornberry Proud with our run for thorners event.
July 29, 2020:
Run for Thorners double GUCR Thoughts & Reflections…. updated version.Running 300 miles is not for the faint hearted.So after 48 hours after finishing the 300+ miles I can confirm that the lower body is fairly battered and sore but is certainly improving incrementally each day. Muscle soreness is zero although the swelling is predominantly through the joints in the knees and feet. The 4 day event threw plenty of challenges my way but I am pleased to have navigated these storms and got the job done. We were blessed with pretty good weather overall but when it did rain it created real challenges to keep the feet dry. The canal is well known for being harsh under foot and as a result the soles and heels got pretty battered with some solid blisters forming. When I was planning Project 565 miles the thought of attempting the double GUCR scared me as it was a summit that felt too high. This became the reason to do it to see “What If” I was strong enough mentally and physically to complete the round trip. I had run the traditional GUCR145 back in 2017 and I know after that race on the Monday morning I could barely walk let alone think about running it all over again over the next 2 days. So that was the challenge set to be brave enough to attempt it knowing full well it was probably out of my capability range. In life we often set self limiting beliefs based on what we think we know but often not what we know. I knew at points during the 4 days I would face some low points and these arrived really early on in day 1 as I had stood on the start line in Little Venice with my lower back in spasm. 2 days before the event my back had just decided to give up and I was in real pain. At 7.30pm the evening before the run I had to contact a friend who I knew would be able to give me some physio and there I lay with needles sticking out of my back and piri formas feeling sorry for myself. It was all about self preservation for the 1st day to see what happened with the back which thankfully eased by 80 miles in. At 13 miles the canal bank was closed at Bulls Bridge and for 20 mins attempted to navigate through the diversion but the signs had all been moved which added an aditional mile to the run. Also coming out of the CP at 45 miles i felt dehydrated and foolishly stopped paying attention to our route and then found myself 3 miles down the Aylesbury arm which meant a soul destroying 3 mile march back to get on the right path. This knocked my spirits no end and so early on. So the challenges were real and frequent and then to make things worse my left knee began to stiffen up and this never shifted for the full 4 days making running far more painful than I would have liked. So the first half of day 1 was not the start I wanted and I was behind on time too. Thankfully I had a strong 2nd part to day 1 and clicked the 100 miles in 22 hrs 30 mins which I was sooper happy with, running with Dave we had clicked off the miles effectively. I had been met in MK by Tina who followed me on her bike as I ran we chatted until meeting Dave which was great. During night 1 I had started drinking my strawberry milkshakes to both add liquid calories and settle any sickness feelings these were a life saver. Day 2 went without too much of a hitch although blister care required at Birdingbury and as i arrived at Hatton Locks I felt the energy levels crash. The climbs up back through the multiple locks was soul destroying as temperatures were now significantly warmer. Halfway between H.L and CP1 it was great to get some Ice from Dan which really helped cool down our core temperatures. We started to pick back up the pace through Knowles Locks and then up to CP1. The last leg up to Bham felt good with a better path to run on. As we entered the ourskirts of Bham we had up and downs to navigate which tested the knee coming down.We trotted into Bham Gas St and finished in 38 hrs and leg 1 was complete. A great feeling even if there was some bonus miles thrown in. Fri night felt rushed at the Premier Inn, with little time to relax and regather thoughts and composure, getting washed, fed, refueled and mobility stretching before attempting a broken nights sleep. The knee was pounding and the thought of another 45+ hours moving on it filled me with fear. I woke up on Sat morning at 4.30am and realised my legs were not great especially the left knee which wouldn’t bend. I knew I needed to shut this out and get on with it. The Crew would not appreciate my whinging. It would be 2 days of suffering and learning to deal with the pain, I am not a great lover of pain killers but I knew I had very little choice if I wanted to survive a further 40 odd hours on my feet. Sat morning just after 6am, I set off with my 2 body guards Paul and Tom and we frog marched out of Bham with a walk run strategy feeling good. Progress was steady but we were getting the job done. Day 3 energy levels dwindled throughout the early sessions and as the weather became wet and muggy my feet by now were screwed. After CP2 we had refreshing rain keeping us cool although caused the tow path up to Braunston marina to be slippy and draining on the legs. Over the tunnel we took another diversion to get back onto the canal as the normal lane was closed which i had found on the way up in the dark. Into night 3 progress was slow but we were moving with a run walk strategy. Fatigue and tiredness take real hold of you during the long Ultras and this was no exception. As I had been struggling with my left knee I hadn’t realised that I was compensating on the right leg and as a result was causing swelling in the bottom of the right shin, now 2 dodgy legs to run on. Just before dark on day 3 we managed to walk past the bridge that we were due to met at by the crew and as a result when on through unaware until a text came through to Tom saying that we had missed the crew. This caused some panic as we had no torches on us at the time and had to make some speedy alterations to meeting the crew further down.At 1st light on day 4 we came through MK, it was so quiet and peaceful just an odd heron looking on. I did a live FB post as I was feeling low as the charity page was not going up and it felt like nobody was interested (that certainly changed through the rest of Sunday) as many took pitty on my suffering and moving ever closer to delivering the goal. Just before getting to the CP I found a level of adrenalin and shouted at the top of my voice “I am a Spartan!” which felt so dam good but I hope nobody witnessed it as i must have looked like a complete nutcase rather Gerard Butler. At Water Eaton bridge 99 a gorgeous Sausage and Egg McMuffin was waiting for me which was gone in a blink. Refueled we headed down to Leighton Buzzard at a good pace clicking my fastest miles of the event. Just after LB I needed to dive in the bushes and almost fainted in the process which was the start of a slippery slope for me. At Tring 253 miles into the run I hit the lowest point and as i walked into the CP I mentioned to Paul, John and Karen that I was done and I had hit my summit. Karen sat me down and Caroline got to work with warm food and feet medics. The pain on the blisters was cruel and I sat with my glasses on so as not to show the tears of disappointment to the guys waiting for me. I felt angry with myself at even thinking about quitting as the Masonator is stronger than that but even he had had 4 days of torment and pain thrown at him. I kept talking to my inner self saying that quiting would hurt so much more in a weeks time and kept repeating this over and over in my head until the sub conscious started to listen. After a longer stop I got up on my feet and gingerly walked back onto the canal thinking another 45 miles to breakdown. It is times like this when you are able to look back and reflect when you get to feel proud of the shit that you were putting up with. Gee that was a close shave but we were still in the game and were going to find a way of chunking the remaining mileage down. For the next 8 miles I felt dead on my feet with little energy and a body that felt like it had had enough, at this stage I had to lay down on a lock and get 10 mins of shut eye or otherwise risk walking into the canal asleep. At Hemel somehow I found an inner strength to put in good sections of running and before I knew we were at Springwell Lock just 25 miles to go. Prior to that Caroline had delivered me some chicken nuggets at West Watford which tasted lush and hit the spot. Tom kept pushing me forward with run and good pace walk sections and the miles started to fly by which felt great. Coming out of the CP I felt confident and both Tom and I set off at a great pace. Near Uxbridge we met with Rob and we ran on into the night air. Just outside Uxbridge we came across a guy standing on the edge of the bridge and when he saw the 3 of us he started yelling at us and wanted trouble. We attempted to ignore him and moved on swiftly but kept one eye over our shoulder for the next few miles. Navigating the Bulls bridge closure was no issues in the opposite direction but the next 13 miles back down to LV were the longest of my life. The tow path from Bulls Bridge to Little Venice has more rubbish dumped on it than anywhere I have seen which is a great shame. The last 4 miles my back decided to tilt and I found myself moving in diagnal lines. The rain was cold and I was dead on my feet. I kept thinking when will this be done? Rob and Tom guided me like royalty ensuring I didnt divert into the canal. I remember some youths had set fire to something under one of the bridges and one of the factories had its night workers all leaving their shift on bikes with no lights which made it dangerous. The last half a mile I did everything I could to battle the pain in my knee and at 4am on Monday morning I crossed the finish line at LV feeling relieved and so happy that we had achieved the goal of finishing and making Mark Thornberry proud. Huge thanks to those who have already commented on my previous posts and sent me wishes and congrats as they mean alot. The run for thorners was all about raising funds for KCH and Liver Cancer research. I am so grateful for those who have been able to donate to the charity (pay day just round the corner if not…just saying). Yesterday I thanked my crew and the body guards who shared many miles collectively with me over those 4 days but today some other thank you’s of those often in the background. Thanks to Ronnie Staton and Lorrel Dawn Staton for your continued Coaching and Guidance allowing me to continue to improve as an Ultra Runner. Thanks Katie Barnes and team for your endless physio and regular massage keeping my old chassis well oiled and moving. Thanks to Mimi Anderson for inspiring me to attempt the GUCR double as she was the 1st ever person to conquer this. Thank you to Javed Bhatti for your mind and technical work and the gains I have made from a mental standpoint. This is allowing to facexthe pain cave full on and dance with the angels. Thanks to my closest friends who continue to inspire me and encourage me to go further to find my max and keep me true with my whys. Of course I couldn’t not thank the boss Caroline enough who has been by my side during our time together and supported my challenges without hesitation. She understands how I work and is able to tap into that and allow me to deliver more each time. The journey from Little Venice to Birmingham Gas Street and then back to London was an incredible journey of just over 300 miles (helped by me taking a wrong turn and also Bulls Bridge canal bank being shut off and struggling with the diversion). I love to grow each day as an individual and I am constantly searching for a better version of myself where I push my perceived limits of possibility. Running 50+ miles further than my previous longest run just confirms to me that there is more in the old tank. I will take stock of my performance and areas to improve on (and there were plenty) to identify what and when is next. I learnt a great deal more this time about dealing with challenges and puzzles to solve and this will put me in a stronger place for the next big one. I have decided that I will not rush back to running and give my body a full recovery as i have been guilty of coming back too fast in the past. I found a whole new level of DARK in the mental Pain Cave which I never knew existed and god it is a cruel cruel place which batters you around like being on a ship in a storm. Every time it hit me and I went down finding my WHY became more of a blur. Thankfully getting knocked down like I did but being resilient and finding a way of being comfortable being very uncomfortable I managed to get back up and move forward. I knew it would not look pretty at times but running for 84 hrs it is never going to all the time. I have learnt that being knocked down in the long ultras is natural but getting back up isn’t so natural. I looked the Devil in the Eye and he was on top form over those 4 days relentlessly hounding my insecurities and attempting to chissel away at my resolve. As I stated at 253 miles he almost won the day as he had brutally punished me to point where I thought I had no more. Sparing in the P.C took on a whole new level of intensity and brutality but the thing I remind myself when I reflect back is no matter how many times I hit the floor I found a way to pick myself back up and move 1 step closer to achieving and this makes me proud. So plenty of learns over the 4 days which I will review and improve for the next one.I love the fact that we have so much more potential inside all of us and as long as we continue to remind ourselves of this point everyday and don’t set the limiter too low then we will all surprise ourselves with reaching higher summits. Many of us knew Thorners well and myself and the crew certainly felt his spirit and presence over the 4 days. Over the moon to complete the double GUCR as the route is my spiritual home. During the darker moments of the run I could hear Mark telling to get it done in his own tone. Take care all and a few memories of the trip.
August 1, 2020:
“here were people who told me I was biting off more than I could chew with the double GUCR attempt. They just did not realize the fuel that they threw on the fire to spark my inner desires. My WHY running 300 miles was huge to me and even though I hit low points, the end Goal remained clear even when I was in pain. In life you share your journey with friends and love ones who assist you in getting through the bad times and that is exactly what my crew did when I thought about throwing in the towel at 253 miles. NEVER let anybody tell you that you cannot achieve your Dreams. Believe in yourself and ensure you stay focused and visualize finishing the Goal. Take responsibility and don’t blame others for your failures. To Fail is to Learn and use these experiences to move you forward relentlessly. Don’t allow self-limiting Beliefs kill your deams. Remember deep inside us all is so much more Potential but our minds will protect us from searching new summits. Be the BEST version of yourself and continue to Grow mentally and physically everyday. Remember show gratitude for the small things in life as they all add up.”
August 9, 2020:
“HUGE thanks to everybody as pre “Run for Thorners” we set a Goal of raising 3k and today we have broken through the 5k and 6k with Gift Aid. So the 300 mile run up and back along the GU Canal, was a journey I will never forget. My Why was always big and important to me and running to raise monies for Mark Thornberry and keep awareness of Liver Cancer research for the Kings College Hospital kept me moving forward to the end. This challenge was the toughest todate but one that I enjoyed the suck when things got tough.”
Image by YouComMedia