“We stood on the start line soaked, ready to take on the Jungle, but it didn’t go as planned”

Getting to the Jungle was an epic challenge in itself, over 24 hours, one night’s sleep then an early start for a long bus ride to the Cloud Forest, the roads are long and windy, not ideal if you are like me and get travel sickness. Halfway through the journey we stop at a town to stretch our legs and buy local food, this is the start of the Amazon experience, seeing a different way of life to that we know, the temperature was cold and would get colder the higher and higher we climbed, at this point the sun was out and we were dry.

The journey continued and eventually we reached the Wayqecha Biological Research Station and Eco-lodge in the Cloud Forest, the place where BTU said it never rained, for our year this was not the case and it rained cats and dog!

Once at base camp it was straight to the brief overlooking the Amazon, simply a beautiful place to hear instructions on what to expect, Kris tells us of the dangers of the forest, the rough stage distances and that rain can change stages very quickly, that it did during this outing. Following the brief it was time for kit check, whilst dry at this point it was time to crack on and get the hammock up, something I thought would be easy.

Having practiced this at home I felt confident it wouldn’t take long, however this was not the case and I had a nightmare, it wouldn’t stay up on the poles, was pretty much on the ground and the fly sheet just didn’t make sense, I wasn’t the only one scratching my head, I wish I had practiced this more so I wasn’t stressing about something so simple.

Kit check is always stressful, you know you have the mandatory list but until the medics sign you off you’re not relaxed, that they did and it was time for me to sit on my carry on case and watch Dan get stressed about batteries, batteries in the end he unfortunately didn’t need.


Shortly after this moment the rain started and didn’t stop, it made the time very difficult as soon camp filled up with water, trying to keep everything dry wasn’t easy, we still had our main bags or in my case my carry on, they were on the floor until the following morning when taken with the vans.

Something that hit me when going to get hot water up a short incline was that I was short of breath, I hadn’t noticed the altitude until now, we are 3000 meters above sea level, I took a steady walk and wondered if this would affect the race, should I have arrived in Peru a few days earlier to acclimatise?

With all the rain it really did make for a sad camp, I am a minimalist with all things running but clearly got this wrong and was envious of the runners with large waterproof North Face bags, something I now own. The night’s sleep was awful, rain water was coming into my hammock and the temperature was very cold, a cold I hadn’t expected, morning couldn’t come soon enough so we could get going.

I feel pure excitement at the start of these types of races, the scenery, terrain, adventure, all take over how I feel and I just want to run, Dan and I had been tent mates at the MDS in 2016, we had trained together and agreed to run this event together, what we didn’t have was an agreement if we needed to run separately.

RACE DAY 1 – 33 Km – Cloud Nine

Back packs full to the bream, extra weight with the wet hammock, it was nearly time to go, a local band play their tune over and over, the excitement is building for this adventure.

Kris gives a quick brief of what the stage has in store, then his 10 second countdown finishes, we are off, all smiles from me as usual.

We head off down the dirt road for a short distance before taking a turn into the jungle, the first proper steps into one of the worlds most amazing places, my adrenaline excitement levels are maxed out, here I am running in the Amazon, unfortunately this was not to last.

Soon after enter the jungle Dan needed to slow down, this continued for a while with us ending up at the back of the race, further stops were needed, which we now know was caused by an infection, we continued together and I started to feel like I wanted to push on. This continued for some time with thoughts running through my head of how I could start a conversation which would result in us going separately, this wasn’t easy but eventually I talked about running on, without hesitation Dan agreed, but I felt incredibly guilty that I was letting my friend down, on the other hand it’s my adventure this played on my mind constantly. What I know now is that we should have had this discussion before we left the UK so there was no hesitation when this moment arose, furthermore my decision now is to not pre plan to run with anyone, if it happens during an event that is best.

I move on twisting and turning through the trails, I feel at home, this is incredible, I soon get to the bottom of the ravine and cross the river before the using the rope to get across a technical session and back onto the trail, where CP1 is, here I tell them about Dan and to keep an eye on him.

From here I start to attack the steep zig zag trail which eventually pops out back on the road we had left, from here it’s downhill to the end of the stage. As I’m moving down I pass runners, saying hello and having a chat, I soon meet Lee Quinn, a machine looking of a man with biceps bigger than my legs, we ran a few miles together and when Lee needed to be sick, after asking if he was OK, I swiftly moved on.

Passing each CP I continue to advise on Dan and tell the medics his number so they are aware of his condition which unfortunately got worse during the day, the end of the stage is just off the track in a small clearing, my time for the stage was 5.04.41, would the start I had effect the result at the end of the week?

I ran into the camp with a runner who’s pace was the same as mine, this run together would positively change my week and remove stress, Pete had a forces background and knew how to put a hammock up with his eyes shut, he showed me a way to do it that took minutes and was solid, Pete and his mate Gordon helped many runners and by the end of event were known as superstars for their help.

The camp was a swamp with a small hut that could hold a few runners, as people came in we all tried to get an inch to try and dry clothes and eat in the dry, some runners weren’t to keen to give up the spot they had had for hours……

Once eaten I retreated to my hammock which was now beautiful and waterproof, waiting for Dan to come in, the hours ticked by and eventually I overhead the BTU team mention a runner has pulled out and needed to urgently send a vehicle with medics, this was terrible news, knowing this was Dan was horrible and when they brought him back to camp he stayed in the vehicle to get warm, his race was over and would now be with the BTU team for the remainder of the week.

Following the stage it was essential to drink due to the humidity and to ensure I was hydrated for day 2, I got to the point where I was well hydrated and needed the bathroom, the problem being I was warm and cosy, it was raining and a swamp outside, I had to deal with it, putting on my swimming pool overshoe’s (thin plastic) out I went, feet instantly wet, goodness knows what I was standing on, all I could think was get this done quick, that I did with a retreat back the hammock trying to keep my dry gear just that way, which proved very difficult indeed. Some guys mastered a bathroom technique from the comfort of their hammock, something I hadn’t thought of!


RACE DAY 2 – 37 Km – Amazonia

Started with a glimmer of sunshine, was this to be the day we experienced true Jungle terrain and heat, yes it was.

Putting on my running gear wasn’t nice, it was still wet, socks, shoes and everything, this became standard for the week and something I just had to get used to, getting changed was the first thing I did before breakfast, I was then sorted and just had to eat, as usual time goes quick in the morning so it was soon time to line up at the start, ready for day 2, of course today I was starting by myself and my journey was really about to begin.

We get the countdown and we are off, free running at my pace, no expectation other than to finish the day.

It’s a long stretch downhill, arriving at CP1 comfortably before moving on, at this point the terrain isn’t challenging but it does feel long, I am eagerly awaiting CP2 where we will leave the track that we have been on for the last 2 days and enter the Jungle. Making my way down the track the sun really comes out and with this both the temperature and humidity rose quickly, what I found was that this didn’t hit me hard, I noticed it but my body didn’t react.

CP2 came into view and it was time for a quick refuel, then into the Jungle where all of a sudden it felt real, another boost of temperature and humidity made this moment feel like the race we had all signed up for. I was running comfortably, not fast, but at a consistent pace that meant I could move nicely both up and down hills, through shallow river beds and the jungle track that was anything but flat, going to quick I told myself would end in a broken ankle so steady was the way forward.

As the Jungle went on I started to pass runners, remembering not seeing them on day 1 it made me think I must be having an OK day, not sure on position or in all honestly caring I kept going, through large rivers holding onto rope, boulder hopping, falling off into the river and nearly losing a water bottle wasn’t a wise move, a quick lesson on how not to cross a river had been learned.

I learned quickly to look at what you try and hold on to, branches were rotten, covered in spikes, ants and other Jungle things, the small gloves I had paid dividends and something I was very pleased to have, with the mud you can’t help but fall over.

The final run into the Rangers Station at Tono was downhill and then out of nowhere there it was, this day had gone quickly for me and to my surprise had finished 7th. The camp was hot and dry, which after the previous 2 nights of being cold and wet was a welcome relief, as soon as you get to camp you find the best hammock spot you can, with my newly acquired skills I was keen to get my accommodation sorted and that I did, having time to test out the small shower, however looking up and seeing webs of spiders soon got me out!

Runners were coming back and there was talk of an animal, Tony Sheridan heard the roar of a Big Cat, to this day he insists he really did.

It was great now for clothes and shoes to be dried, although it wouldn’t last long, when the stages started the thought of not putting on wet clothes was good, after relaxing for few hours, hydrating and eating it was time for bed, thoughts turned to day 3 and the roar that Tony had heard.

RACE DAY 3 – 45 Km – Logging

Starting off on a 4×4 track the stage begins, I don’t start off fast like the others, I get myself going and tell a few pains to go away, that they do after 15 minutes or so, it really is great how your body will do what you tell it to do, even if your brain is trying to tell your body something else.

As I find my pace I find myself running to with 2 runners (Christian & Nick), they are both friends and I am sitting at the back of our group, we see the red marker to follow and take the turn into a dark Jungle path, from this point on we don’t see any more red markers which is the sign we have gone wrong, we question ourselves but keep moving forward, this feels wrong, upon reaching a fierce river it’s confirmed, I felt so annoyed that time had been wasted, energy had been used and we were doing extra distance, with the annoyance boiling through my veins I pick up speed, this was last the time I saw Chris and Nick.

Running back down the trail I was moving with intent to get back to the marked course, once I had and I ran around the corner, there was the zip line to get me across the river, I forgot about the mistake and moved faster to get the places back that I had lost, the start of my competitive running journey was happening. After landing on the over side it was time to enter the Jungle again, what came was climbs and falls, rivers with ankle busting stone beds, huge log roads that if I were to have fallen down the tire marks no doubt I would have been swallowed up into the Jungle, never to be seen again.

This part of the course was very hot and my water was running low, after coming out of the Jungle I was back on the 4×4 track, the heat seemed to intensify, with this I was consciously managing my water and effort level, I wasn’t worried but definitely concerned, what I didn’t have was a GPS watch, I had the attitude of liking the unknown, however at the this point, I wish I had some idea where the CP was.

CP3 came into sight just as I had caught Ant Herbie Hyde who was walking, the heat really had zapped people and this was before a final climb, then fall to camp, at the CP I drank a litre, filled up and moved on alongside the river, then a left turn up the track that started to ascend. At this point I was in my own world of getting this hill done, some minibuses appeared and out popped Dan, who decided to walk with me to camp which he thought was just a kilometre or two, it turned out to be many more and he soon regretted letting his lift go, I was happy to have the company so up the hill we went.

The track is exposed to the sun with nowhere to hide, the temperature must be 40C +, not wanting to lose the place I had just taken I kept moving, with each step my heart rate was increasing, the summit was getting closer, I knew once at the top it would be all downhill, when I reached it I could see Huacaria, that extra burst of energy kicked in and I was off, free running down the track to finish where gifted with a local necklace.

This camp was best by far, very flat ground and a crystal clear river to relax in, much needed after days in sweaty jungle gear, it was a great chance to wash everything, including myself, with the camp being comfortable, sunny and all round easy, it really did make for a nice afternoon, evening and bed time, that was until the cats, dogs, chickens and cockerels had their party!


Race Day 4 – 38 Km – The Lull

Day 4 in the Jungle is deemed to be one of the hardest days of all races, today would be the day that changed my running future forever, today was my day.

As we lined up to take the day on nothing other than getting through the day was on my mind, Kris was talking about the short course should the cut off time not be met so this was what I needed to avoid, the sun was out and it was another day in the Jungle. Kris delivered the countdown and as per the other days the leaders sped off, I wasn’t in the slightest racing them or competing for a podium place so I set off at my usual pace, chatting to runners as we departed, down the track and through the river we had relaxed in the previous day, there went the dry clothes after all of 5 minutes!

Out of the river and into the Jungle, by far my most favourite terrain to run in, I felt comfortable running up and down the hills which on this day I quickly got used to, its continuous and really not much flat at all, after an initial stretch in the Jungle we out onto a small settlement where the locals are smiling, this always make me feel special to be running in the area they call home, a steep decent was next, I navigated this with my bum, then onto the side of a large river, I was running well and soon caught up to runners where unfortunately we had to wait for the river crossing.

The other side of the river is where the real intensity of this day began, I ran behind Craig and Si (in photo) for a while before passing Craig who took a rest on a hill, working my way up the hills I was slipping, falling over, scrambling and it was often the same going down, I had no idea of distance or time, I was just moving forward.

I passed Si and figured again I was having an OK day, I had no idea if anyone was behind me or in front, its thick Jungle, I didn’t want to be passed by anyone so this slight competitive thought ensured I was pushing on hard up the hills and down, to my surprise I spotted someone ahead of me, It was one of the leaders (Chris), I was very pleased to pass and when he said I was now in 4th, I couldn’t quite believe it.

Plodding on as I put it was the way I dealt with the hills, a consistent effort level that meant I didn’t need to stop to recover, not having a watch I believe helped today, I wasn’t looking at the digits longing for a CP to come, I was dealing with what was in front of me, power walking the uphill, running downhill and for as long as I could until an uphill came, usually a minute or two. Continuing in this way I spotted another leader, we ran in to the CP together where we both took pain relief, one thing with this event is that all parts of your legs get moved in all directions, creating stresses and strains, there is no flat tarmac for a perfect gait here.

I left the CP quickly and started to feel more competitive, now in 3rd I was having an amazing day, with 1 CP left, a big climb and decent there was time, it wasn’t long until 2nd place showed himself (Pete Liggins), walking, I was running and as a runner coming from behind and seeing a walker, you know you have the advantage, with this, a brief chat and I was gone, this is the point my mind changed. I now told myself that I had never done so well in any race as I am doing now and nobody is going to take this place away from me, this new competitive edge moved me up a gear and I attacked every hill, throwing myself downhills and running every part that was runnable, not knowing how far ahead I was meant I had to push hard.

Hearing a roaring river and looking down I could see a zip wire set up, not wanting to be told to wait for someone to join I ran harder to get there and told the guys to go, go, go, I was in race mode! As I got to the other side of the river, I had to pull on the rope to help the cart along, I was pulling like mad to get across and running again, I leap out of the cart, refuel the water and began the start of the monster hill.

The initial terrain was only a slight incline, I was running comfortably but harder than any other day, all of a sudden I heard movement on the trail, it was to the side and when I looked I saw a snake, raised and looking angry, I tried to take a photo but the camera wasn’t working, I took this as a sign to keep moving forward. As the hill started I kept running what I could, this didn’t last long as it soon got steep, the only way was to power walk, my steps were uneven and I was constantly reaching for a branch or rock to help me get up, my quads were firing and being tested like they had never been tested before, I got to a point where I had to stop for a breather, this was the first time, I could feel my heart pumping out of my chest, my temperature was high, dry throat and sweat running off me, at this moment I realised how hard this climb was. It’s an endless hill, you look up and all you can see is the track you need to follow, no sign of it easing up, still with the fear of 2nd place being taken I push on hard, when it starts to thin out a little I get the feeling I am nearly there, a few more steps and I hear voices, I have made it to the top of the hill.

Knowing the hard work was done it was time to descend and hunt Villa Carmen down, it took a while to get the legs going, each step I felt pain in both my quads and knees, I couldn’t stop, my movement and new increased competitive effort level came back, with that I was running hard, I was winding down the trail which initially was steep, then flattening out which was a sign to my brain that camp was near, I turned a final corner and there was the BTU flags and Dan shouting my name, you can see from the video my pure joy of finishing this day of racing.

I collapse on the floor with a feeling of pure happiness, I never thought this would be possible, I had been more competitive today than ever before and proved to myself that I could have a go.

With the long day to come it was time to recover, something that the body needed after a hard day, tomorrow was to be a monster day and I needed rest, I had big pain on my toes and after taking my socks off I could see why, a big blood blister had formed under my big toe nail, quickly going to the medic I had two choices, a needle through the nail to the bed, or behind the nail to the bottom of the bed, I took the latter and learned the skill I have now used many times!

At the end of day 4 we were all battered, looking around the camp nearly everyone was hobbling, limping and in pain, the thought of a long day 5 was daunting, I even thought was it going to be possible, my knees were sore and walking was painful.

Going to bed you I sense the anxiety, it’s only a short sleep until we are woken up early to prepare for day 5.




Race Day 5 – 80 + Km – The Long One

The camp comes alive with activity, my focus being on eating, I’m not a big eater but trying to eat a Thai green curry at 3.00 am wasn’t easy, I had to get food down but wasn’t hungry, I knew I would need the calories so was stressing, I opted for chia charge bars instead of the curry, that gave me 500 calories and I was content.

Being early and before the long stage it was quiet, everyone thinking about the day ahead, having thoughts of what this day would bring, also that it was the last day. Kris and Dan knew the rankings and although I wasn’t competing, they said I had a chance to improve on where I was, this seed was planted, however my body was hurting and my steps were small and slow when Kris delivered the final countdown, this was going to be a long day!

It was a very very slow start, moving along a flat road that slowly followed the edge of the Jungle, winding uphill to a long straight that you could see far in the distance, we had started in the dark and the sun was starting to rise, this moment I always find special. My legs really were hurting for the first few kilometres, after warming up and telling my body to move the pain slowly disappeared and I was moving OK, I told myself today would be long and slow so this was the plan, trying to keep myself feeling good for as long as possible and see what happened, the first CP came quickly and I didn’t need to refill to much water, still on the road at this point until a turning on a track, a nasty track that was very difficult to run on.

With the track not being nice, the next part of the course was simply horrible, we are sent up a river for what seemed like hours, at each red marker I was hoping it would take us out of the river, it didn’t.

I was grateful to have recorded this moment as it is exactly as I was feeling, pure pain and hatred for the stones, but absolutely loving it! It was incredibly hard, my ankles were screaming with each footfall, that effected my knees, but it didn’t stop me from pushing through at a power walk pace.

As per the previous days the leaders went off from the start and here I was again, moving to pass and gain a place, absolutely no idea on position but it felt good to be moving up the ranks, I passed 2 on this stretch before meeting Si Jones where we spent a good junk of the river section together, finally exiting it only for our emergency SOS beepers to be going off, freaked out we had a look and were pleased to know we hadn’t gone wrong, but not so pleased that the next CP had been moved due to heavy rain, the message said another 10K to go!

We were running out of water and thinking what to do, not wanting to risk dehydration we filled from a flowing river and took a sip, I didn’t want to drink much so a sip was enough, we ran together and finally arrived at CP where 2 runners were sitting down, I saw this is an opportunity to refuel quickly and move on, gaining 2 places.

Running on it was jungle trail and more riverbeds, I saw 2 runners ahead in the river and again saw this as an opportunity to move up the ranks, I had started slow, but here I was moving along nicely, after passing them I was into 4th.

After a small climb I came out onto a road, it was very hot and my body was battered, running was difficult but I wasn’t going to walk, I felt that if I chose to walk my running day will be over, the road goes on and with the thought of losing a place looming from the runners passed I kept the legs going, eventually CP3 comes into sight over a bridge, it’s a welcome relief where I stop for a few minutes to load up, here I am told the long course turning is up on the right, this will be the last time of entering the Jungle.

As soon as I turned off the road the hill begun, this was a bigger climb than day 4 so I knew what was in store, it was going to be long and slow, that it was, I slogged my way up searching for the top, it was hot, humid and mentally tiring, at the top telling myself that was the hardest climb I had ever done, time now to descend.

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The heavens opened at this point and a dry trail turned into a treacherous mud bath, I couldn’t slow down but I couldn’t go as fast as I wanted, taking each step carefully to not break a leg I made my way down, eventually coming out on the riverbed, this time not stones, more sand like, I could run, picking up pace I followed the red markers, checking back to see if I could see anyone, when I couldn’t I felt good and looked forward once more. The next CP was approaching, between me and the CP was a fast flowing river, slowly I make my way through instantly feeling the current and wanting to get out, getting through I run up to the CP feeling broken.

The positive words from the medics get me going and I make the decision to put my head torch on before leaving the CP, nightfall was coming and I didn’t want to get stuck fumbling to find it, the section is hard track used by motor vehicles, it follows the Jungle and I keep looking out for the red markers, I start to feel anxious as it’s getting harder and harder to see the markers, even with the head torch on, now my mind is playing tricks on me and the fear of getting lost starts to come into play, I tell myself that I can’t be, I and keep telling myself this.

I reach a junction where I see red markers to the left and forward, I’ve been running for over 12 hours and don’t need this, then a man pops up out of small unmarked van and says to go forward, I’ve got 1 Km to go, I simply didn’t believe him and must have seemed very ungrateful for the information, after checking 10 times it’s 1 Km to go, I leave the man and his van and start to run quicker than I have all day, this is the moment that I truly love, the adrenaline your body gives you to finish a race, coming into the town it’s confusing, lights everywhere, people everywhere, this is it, but where is the finish, then I see it across the square and make for a final run, the Jungle Ultra had been completed.

Earlier in this report I wrote on day 1 “my time for the stage was 5.04.41, would the start I had effect the result at the end of the week?”, the answer is no, I had an amazing journey and it all added to the experience.

Beyond The Ultimate Jungle Ultra

A truly epic adventure that I would recommend anyone to do, it’s an extreme event that will test and push you to your limits, I didn’t know what I was capable of until doing this event, the team including medics and locals are there for you and ensure you have an amazing adventure, you can get more information or to sign up here.


I created Focused Running after winning the ICE ULTRA in 2020, to register your interest in being coached please submit your details below.