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Photo credit: Jackie Chapman.

The Moon Shadow Wales Challenge

05-May-16

By Robert and Jackie Chapman

Call him crazy but Robert Chapman has decided to run round the perimeter of Wales in memory of his friend TJ. Here he and his wife tell the story.

The Moon Shadow Wales Challenge requires me to put myself through the stress and strain of running around the entire perimeter of Wales about 1,030 miles. Just thinking about it hurts my brain! It is in memory of Tony John (TJ) who died of motor neurone disease last year. After deliberation, it was named the Moon Shadow Challenge because this was TJ's favourite Cat Stevens song. If you’d asked me before June 2015 whether I would undertake something like this I would have suggested (politely....or maybe even with the odd expletive) that you were barking mad! But here I am thinking ahead to the next few marathons at the weekend.

So, why am I doing it? Sometimes in life you are moved to do something good. For me it takes the form of the perimeter run: 39 sequential marathon runs at weekends (I still have my business to operate during the week) up to the finish on the 30th July 2016 which is the anniversary of TJ's passing last year. I hope I will be able to stay safe and injury free but also raise my target sum of £25,000 for research to combat this devastating, debilitating disease.

Training & Preparation

It is fair to say that I am not an elite athlete. On the contrary, I am an ordinary person who just happens to have been touched by a particular cause, thereby supporting one of the lesser known charities amidst the plethora of heavyweight charities. I have always had the motto of "healthy body, healthy mind" so following a serendipitous meeting with Alex Jungmayr it was not out of the ordinary for me to consider the perimeter run. My preparation has been eclectic to say the least. Last summer I did not know anything about trail-running so I thought it would be sensible to read a few books by Dean Karnazes, Scott Jurek and Andy Mouncey.

Over several months, my training was random and intuitive. Having acquired a pack and trail shoes, I then proceeded to run:

  • a number of half marathons (Cardiff to Newport);
  • a run over Caerphilly Mountain;
  • a coastal run from Fowey to Mevagissey (whilst visiting Cornwall);
  • a canal tow path run from Waltham Abbey to Canary Wharf (whilst visiting a friend);
  • 7 no. 10 mile runs whilst on holiday in West Ireland;
  • listening to Biomechanics specialist Scott Corthine;
  • running with a weighted vest in the Brecon Beacons;
  • doing lots of squats with a weighted Bulgarian Bag;
  • undertaking two South Wales Trails: the SWT Half-Marathon through woodland landscapes near Ferndale and then the Gower50 ultra. Psychologically, the latter run was an eye-opener for a complete novice but I completed it after severe cramps and being sick
  • a training weekend in Cardigan with my mentor Alex Yungmayr;
  • walking in Snowdonia (up Snowdon via the Watkin Path with a 15kg vest);
  • walking up 10 floors in building no.1 Capital Quarter, Cardiff;
  • training with "Steph into Shape" whilst on Melbourne visiting my son;
  • following a periodisation training programme devised by Jason Smith over a number of months leading up to the start of the challenge;
  • in-between runs, doing twice weekly one hour circuit-training sessions…. etc

Kit

Of course, I have also had to think about kit. Here, I have had key advice from Alex Yungmayr. Essential kit has comprised: my Ultimate Direction pack (invaluable piece of kit); poles (essential for the aggressive up and down coastline in Pembrokeshire); my Salomon trail shoes; ASICS top and shorts; OMM waterproofs {top & bottoms: they were essential for storm Katie}; skins for compression and recovery etc.

Diet by Jackie Chapman

As his wife, I have been in charge of doing the nutrition research and sorting out what will and will not be suitable for Rob. We are not experts in nutrition but we have read books, taken advice from our mentor Alex Jungmayr, learnt what does work and what does not, but most importantly of all have added in foods that lift Rob’s mood!

The diet includes lots of carbs to avoid hitting the wall. Sweet potatoes, also an antioxidant, made into nutritious soups with carrots (as they promote a strong immune system) are a staple. Especially as hot soup is very welcome on cold, windy and wet runs. Yes, pasta meals are included in the diet but healthy ones with lots of roasted vegetables, chicken and all home cooked - no processed foods.

Breakfast after trial and error (we started with porridge) is scrambled eggs (1 egg gives 10% of daily protein needs, plus essential amino acids which help muscle repair and recovery) and mashed avocado.

We use cheese for sandwiches for the calcium and for the magnesium to maintain muscle function. Nuts are also integral to the snacks taken on the runs especially almonds as they are high in antioxidants, vitamin E and protein. Rob also eats salted nuts as the salt is useful when over-hydrating or sweating too much (plus salt tablets). Bananas are in the mix as they contain potassium which is also lost through sweating.

Other snacks are: protein balls and snickers bars (to raise morale). If there is a cafe stop then we are looking at hot chocolate and brownies - all good for the mental pick me up.

Post-run, Rob has adapted to drinking a pint of Pharma whey protein complex drink. Whey protein aids muscle growth, so two scoops of this mixed with water after every run. Hydration is very important, normally measured by the good old pee colour test. He drinks circa 1.5 litres of hydrolysed water per run, taking on board additional drinks as and when appropriate.

In the days between runs, food is home cooked and nutritious with salmon, lots of garlic as this is good for cardio vascular, chicken for protein, fresh vegetables and fruit for vitamins. Alcohol is not forbidden and in fact Rob enjoys a real ale after each run and hey it does give calories!

So the above is not wholly scientific but seems to work for us (at least so far). Rob also takes power gels, trek bars and sport beans on every run.

You can follow Rob’s run and Jackie’s nutrition tips here.

Images Jackie Chapman.

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