Post Challenge Video

In preparation for our talks at the NERC Into the Blue Showcase at Manchester Airport next week we have uploaded a short video which you can watch below. Free tickets for entry to this great event are available from the website at and there are a small number of research aircraft tours still available.

If you and your family are interested in environmental science, this is an opportunity not to miss!




Post Challenge Reflections

Claire and Pam recently completed an epic challenge to run 15 off-road marathons in 15 National Parks during a month in September. This equated to running a distance from London to Loch Lomond in Scotland (over 400 miles) and climbing Ben Nevis 12 times. Not content to simply run, they carried out Science experiments on route and wrote blogs about their experiences. The logistical, mental and physical challenge they set themselves was immense and bought them close to breaking point at times. However, their positive mental approach and excellent teamwork got them through.


Psychology played a massive part during this endurance challenge and they worked hard together to develop strategies that would outplay the many mind games that they encountered. They made a pact to keep the slowest person in front and when someone was suffering mentally or physically, they took the lead and control of the map. The sense of responsibility they got when having to take a lead role helped them to suppress any pain or negative emotions.


The only exception to this was when Pam put herself through the sugar experiment. Having predicted the catastrophic outcome of taking a sugar only breakfast prior to starting the days’ activities, Claire was tasked with taking control of the map and Pam. Pam went from being exceptionally bubbly with a spiking heart rate to suffering roaring headaches as she went through the pain of the sugar low. Pam said that on reflection this was one of the worst things that she has ever done in the name of Science!

When asked what their favourite park was they both struggled to answer. They loved the variety of the different climate, topography, geology, flora and fauna in each park; and how much this had influenced the lives of the people that lived there. Both having studied Geophysics at the University of Liverpool, they are very aware of how nature’s forces impact people and how societies achieve most when they work with their surroundings rather than battle against them. This was particularly prominent at Pickering, where careful land management of the rivers catchment area had helped to prevent flooding of the town below at the end of last year.

In addition to the differences within the parks, they also enjoyed exploring the similarities between them. Many of the parks have extensive areas of peat moorland and are working hard together to preserve this natural store of carbon. Many are also looking at renewable energy solutions within their park boundaries; the New Forest and Pembrokeshire coastline both provide many excellent examples of this. There were many surprises during their adventure but some of the most memorable had to be the height of the cliffs along the Exmoor coastal path and how temperature and relative humidity are so closely linked in the mountains. Rising to over 400 metres in height in places, the Exmoor cliffs are the highest sea cliffs in England and Wales and gave them a marathon to remember.


They are both very grateful to all the support they got on route and for their family, friends and mentors for instilling in them a love for the great outdoors. Having driven from one National Park to another, run across or around them in such a short time frame, learnt so much more about the Science that drives them, they feel privileged to have seen the United Kingdom in a new light. Their final thoughts echo the comments of the many people they met on route.

“We are all very lucky to have access to these amazing parks which teach us so much about how the Earth works. We must all do our bit to inspire the next generation to protect and cherish them. No amount of money can buy the feeling you get after a long day’s run or walk in one of these magical places.”


If you would like to hear more about their challenge and the Science experiments they carried out on route, read the rest of their blogs or attend one of their talks at the NERC Into the Blue Showcase at Manchester Airport on Tuesday 25th and Friday 28th October (

So many to Thank!

A month ago this journey began and we started our first marathon in the Norfolk Broads National Park. 28 days later we managed to drag our tired bodies through the last marathon in the Cairngorms National Park. Elated but exhausted, we could finally take stock of what we have achieved, learnt and experienced. Such an amazing feeling!

However, we would have managed only a fraction of all this without the help of some very important and special people…..

Firstly, we want to say a big thank you to all of the enthusiastic and wonderfully inspiring National Park Authority representatives ( who took the time out of their busy schedules to either meet up with us or carry out research to help focus our investigations. It has been fascinating to learn all that we have from these very knowledgeable and inspiring people.

  • Jonathan Dean for his enthusiasm, for sharing ideas on how the South Downs try to inspire young people, and for not laughing at our ‘twitting’ rather than tweeting! Unfortunately showing our age and ignorance of social media; we are learning if a little slowly!
  • Helen Robinson and Aynsley Clinton, from the New Forest National Park, for their patience, fun and for being such great sports in helping us to take videos on the physics of cycling. Also for taking us to the Reptile Centre and introducing us to Richard, the centre manager.
  • Orlando Rutter for taking the time to think through and suggest suitable science investigations that we could carry out, as well as clearing our chosen route with landowners in the Dartmoor National Park.
  • Dave Gurnett for meeting with us mid-run, introducing us to the enthusiastic Exmoor National Park Centre staff where we got a much needed cup of tea. For talking to us about all of the great projects that the park are currently running and for welcoming us so warmly.
  • Graham Peake from the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority for putting us in touch with Darwin Science who provide excellent educational services for schools in the area.
  • Chris Robinson and Sarah Wilks from the Peak District National Park for helping to connect us to key people in other national parks and for taking the time to discuss all the exciting projects that are currently underway to encourage young people to get out into the Peak District.
  • Graham Watson, a fellow fell runner, for briefing us on John Muir Award and its extensive success within the Lake District National Park; for suggesting interesting ideas of science and environmental topics that we could investigate.
  • Sue Wilkinson, from the North York Moors National Park, for all of her positive energy and enthusiasm. Also for meeting with us in the delightful village of Goathland to discuss about all of the amazing projects that this park is currently running.
  • Elspeth Grant for her kind support and for promoting our challenge amongst fellow physics teachers in the Cairngorms National Park.

Secondly, to those people who not only trusted us with using and looking after their science equipment during our challenge, but for also taking the time to explain, in laymen terms, how to successfully use said equipment.

  • Sally and Jonathan Bonnell, from Warminster, for loaning to us a wide range of equipment to measure our physiological changes throughout the month as well as during individual marathons.
  • Tor Smith from the National Centre for Atmospheric Science ( for loaning us the use of HOBO temperature and relative humidity monitors that we used on several marathons across the country.
  • Luke from Forest Leisure Cyling ( Burley for agreeing to lend us some bikes for some Science demonstrations whilst in the New Forest.

Next, we would like to thank Craghoppers ( for sponsoring us with their fantastic clothing, which kept us both smart and warm on and between run days. Their Nosilife Asima Jacket proved to be indispensable throughout the whole adventure, their Kiwi Pro Stretch trousers perfect to slip on for warmth after each run and their Sienna Gortex Jackets essential against the elements on the mountain sections of our runs. Thank you as well to Craghoppers for supporting our adventure through Twitter.

Talking about Twitter, we must really give a big thank you to Gemma Rogers, from the Campaign for National Parks (, and Sue Windley, from Exmoor National Park Authority (, for also helping to promote our challenge to a wider audience, and for all of the encouraging words that they gave us.

The whole endeavour took its toll physically on our bodies so we had some essential ‘maintenance’ to ensure that we could keep going. For this we need to thank Lynne Taylor and Tim Budd, from Global Therapies (, and Christian Machen, from Scarborough Sports Massage Clinic (, for their magic hands and astute diagnosis of our ‘issues’! All of them are fellow runners so very aware of our needs. Thank you also to Lynne for all of her wonderful support on Twitter.

Although we managed to stay with some friends and family during the month, the majority of accommodation that we used was at Youth Hostels ( and These are two fantastic organisations that thankfully provided affordable, clean and comfortable accommodation for two weary and occasionally muddy runners!

Finally and most importantly, we must give huge thanks to our friends and family, who supported us physically, emotionally and psychologically. They ensured that we were well fed, had comfortable beds to sleep in and when necessary, the crucial use of their washing machines!

  • Pam’s brother, Paul Ellison, and his partner, Peter Begley, for the tasty meals and allowing us to sleep, shower, spread out our gear untidily around their place, as well as the use of their washing machine for the first of our laundry loads!
  • Claire’s parents, Dave and Celia Aspinall, for much appreciated running support, comfortable accommodation, nourishing food and the essential use of their dining room table to hammer out the first few ‘journey’ blogs. Great chilli!
  • Pam’s parents, Jane and Rob Ellison, for more much appreciated running support, comfortable accommodation, nourishing food and the use of their washing machine for our second large load of laundry! For also taking videos and photos of our efforts; even in the rain and mist!
  • Owen Simpson and Toni Searl for the amazing game pie and the much needed use of their place to catch up on our blogs and kit sorting.
  • Tom Bennett for his company and humour during the Exmoor run. This turned out to be the furthest and hilliest of all the routes, so Tom’s support was even more appreciated since it was his longest run by approximately 16 miles in 10 years!
  • Jane Fox and Lizzie Wilkinson for their company and enthusiasm during the Brecon Beacons run. The protein-rich cookies were a great boost mid-marathon; definitely keen to get the recipe!
  • Fellow runner, John Williams, who took time off to provide essential car shuttles, water support, take photos and show us the best places to park and get good coffee in Pembrokeshire!
  • Claire’s partner, Mike Hutton, for driving around small mountain roads to ensure that we could start where we needed and had enough water on our Snowdonia run. He also waited patiently for an extra hour, delaying him from an important photo shot, when we took longer than planned!
  • Helen Allison for her company, amazing strength to carry extra water for us and her magic hands for helping to keep Claire going at our highest point on the Peak District run. Most importantly, for showing us how to correctly use our poles, which turned out to be life-saving for our remaining marathons.
  • Claire’s aunt and uncle, Olga and John Haram, for accommodating us and providing much needed time-out mid-way through our challenge.
  • Zoe Barton for offering to help support on the Yorkshire Dales run and even if illness prevented her from managing to do so, her encouraging words kept us going.
  • Zoe Procter for keeping us entertained and motivated on the Yorkshire Dales run, as well as for helping to organise the use of key scientific equipment. We also need to mention that she took time to explain the results, and to carry some of the said equipment during this run.
  • Martin Kocsis and Frank for car shuttles, water provision and good humour; for showing us the bright lights of Whitby over a great fish ‘n’ chips supper!

There have been others that we have met along the way, whose encouraging smiles, humour and kind words kept us buoyed up and positive. Fellow walkers, mountain bikers, horse riders, runners, paragliders to name but a few, who like us, enjoy and explore these wonderful National Parks in their free time. Also the cafes and pubs, who not only provided much needed refreshment at times when we were flagging, but year-in year-out, give food and shelter to other park users.

Thank You!