Interview: Gary & Cheryl

You might already have heard of Gary and Cheryl Mort a.k.a. The Trail Running Couple as they have a great YouTube Channel full of videos from their trail and hill running adventures. Last week they took on their first 100 miler – the Centurion Running North Downs Way 100 – and we caught up with them afterwards to find out how they got on!

Great to meet you guys and congrats on (spoiler alert) finishing your first ever 100 miler! To start with, please introduce yourself to our readers.

I’m Gary, a 49 year old electrician and my wife, Cheryl, is a 42 year old teaching assistant. We live in the Manchester area and met through running around 6 years ago. We both frequented a local running club and started long runs together over the weekends. The rest is history!

What led to you deciding to take on the NDW100?

Our real passion is mountains in the Lake District and Snowdonia. We love long unsupported days out to really challenge our ability of being self sufficient on technical terrain. Our favourite places would be the Scafell and Helvellyn ranges of the Lake District and Tryfan in Snowdonia.

Cheryl always wanted to tick off a 100 miler, I wasn’t so sure due to the fear of sleep deprivation. I don’t know why but at a point last year I just said let’s go for it and see what happens. We then had to find an event that would fall within both our holidays and the NDW100 fit perfectly. It also had the added bonus of not being too flat nor too hilly – a perfect first 100 for us. On paper anyway!

When we’ve run long distances together we’ve found that our paces don’t always match up… what has been your experience?

We always run together. It helps having a similar pace but more because running is a passion we share together. We always train together and will also take injury breaks for each other. During events we always have highs and lows at differing times and together we’re best placed to get through them. Its what we do!

So what were your favourite bits of the NDW100 then?

Waking up on race day, focusing on what we need to do and knowing we’ve trained for it. Andy, a friend who we met through YouTube who has done many Centurion Events was stood on course at Box Hill, around 24 miles in. That really picked us up seeing him. Any technical terrain we came across always helps with focus and enjoyment. All the aid stations, staffed by fantastic volunteers who would do anything for you. Oh, the iced coffee at Wrotham. It was such a warm day and it helped us so much!

And the bad bits?

We both took tumbles and still have the pain from them now. Easy done on tired legs but that’s not a first! Sickness – I, Gary was sick multiple times at the Bluebell Hill aid station at 76 miles in which took a little time to recover from with the help of the staff. Very sore feet for the last 15 miles, incredibly sore for the last 3 miles.

Every race is a learning experience, especially your first time at 100 miles distance. What did you learn from this one?

I think if we did this event again (or any other 100) we would pay more attention to shoe choice. We opted for a less cushioned Altra Lone Peak 6 and whilst it’s a fantastic shoe and previous tested to 73 miles over a triple Yorkshire 3 Peaks we found its limits (for us) around the 90 mile mark. The ground became increasingly hard which caused lots of foot pain, turning severe for the last 3 miles. We had a plan in place to change shoes to a more cushioned Hoka Speedgoat 5 at the 82 mile aid station at Detling. As our feet still felt fine on arrival we decided to stick with the Lone Peaks instead of sticking with our plan. It cost us lots of time by the end of the race.

I’ve also learned that over a distance like this you’re going to feel sick at some point, maybe even be sick. You just need to take a few minutes out, recompose and start again. It gets better. Also lack of sleep due to running through the night wasn’t the big issue I always feared, senses become more focused which helps a lot. Also as dawn breaks and it starts to become light it’s a magical feeling and your day starts again.

The sickness part seems to affect some of us more than others. Julie never has an issue, but Iain regularly pukes on long ultras, especially if it’s hot! Anyway, what’s up next for you guys?

We’ve got Lakes in a Day in October, a 50 mile / 4000m ascent event starting at the very top of the Lake District at Caldbeck and ending up at the very bottom in Cartmel. On paper it looks pretty tough so looking forward to that. We’ve also got plans to enter the ballot for Lakeland 100 in 2023 which is a race neither of us ever dreamed we could do. I think the NDW100 has given us lots of confidence moving forward.

Bucket list runs would be multi day events like the Dragons Back and Spine Race. It’s a shame work gets in the way but hopefully one day we’ll be in a position to consider an entry. The Arc of Attrition also looks interesting with a tough cutoff. Other than that something abroad like the UTMB.

You don’t need to convince us, but what would you say to anyone thinking of tackling a long run with someone else for the first time?

Our advice for anybody looking towards long runs with a friend or partner would be to have fun without pressure and try to run in nice places where possible, the distance soon passes. It can also help if you’re of similar ability and improve at a similar rate. We listen to each other and work as a team, challenging ourselves along the way. Also don’t be afraid of cutting your long run short for any reason, or even extending it if your both feeling good. Treat it dynamically with a positive attitude.

Great advice – totally agree with you! Thanks for talking to us for the blog, and good luck with Lakes in a Day 👍

That’s all for this post… we hope you enjoyed getting to know Gary and Cheryl a bit. If you want to follow their adventures some more, you can find them on Facebook, YouTube and of course Strava!

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