Author Archives: John Gibbard

We can do more than one thing. Creativity can help with both parts of the COVID19 brief, and each is valid.

For this post, I wanted to address a train of thought which has been prevalent in the creative and marketing spheres as the world tackles the pandemic. This is a sector that loves to critique itself, everyone has an opinion and, of course, that means I have one too.

I tend to believe that most people are good. Consequently, when I see our industry’s immediate response I err on the side of assuming altruistic, positive intention. The immediate response was, in many cases to produce ‘social distancing’ riffs of brand assets: McDonald’s’ separated golden arches, the Olympic and Audi rings underwent similar treatment and so on. This was easy, repeatable. Evan Nicole Brown in Fast Company witheringly referred to this as equivalent to the vacuous well-intentioned ‘thoughts and prayers‘, others likened it to the virtue-signalling trope of changing a social media avatar, some might say simple opportunism.

But this misses the point. Changing your avatar when a terrorist event happens is an ex post facto acknowledgement of sympathy, changing it to a rainbow signals a commitment and solidarity with LGBQT+ rights. We can debate the worth of those actions at another time, others already have done. The fact that brands have done this in the past (Mercedes Movember 3-point star anyone?) meant there was precedent, it was easy to sign-off and reproduce. But it wasn’t worthless. In the COVID19 instance the logo split is instructional, perhaps derivatively so, but it’s an acknowledgement of the steps we all need to take to stay apart; it might not be original, but communicatively speaking it’s actually doing a job. It’s also only part of the story.

Because, while social distancing is dealing with the preventative part of the pandemic (flattening the curve), the other element is the tangible action that brands and organisations are undertaking to improve our ability to respond to the healthcare crisis. In this instance we have seen equally derivative responses: huge amounts of 3D printing hacks to produce protective equipment or make it easier to use. Repetition here is inherently valuable! More is indeed more. Bring on the bucket loads of brewers and distillers making hand-sanitiser, the optimised venturi valves or retrofit respiration aids to Decathlon scuba masks. We’ve seen creativity in digital environments that support frontline health workers with food delivery, symptom tracking, transport and mental wellbeing. I was delighted to see Welsh denim manufacturer Hiut start making scrubs.

There’s no reason that all of these approaches cannot co-exist, and when pontificating columnists and the quick-fingered Twitterati hammer out their (equally derivative) shut-downs of the latest ‘lazy’ work: “It’s a pandemic, not a brief” sighed Anselmo Ramos (1k likes)  that’s when we snuff out the little flames of applied creativity that might just have made a difference. Of course, one logo separation looks the same as another but added together when everyone’s saying the same thing is the message diluted and ignored or is it normalised, does it make us all accept that spending time distanced and apart is the right and normal way to behave right now? I’d say it does, and that’s a good thing. There are other ways to communicate the same point: Volvo for example, if it still sounds like it came from your brand, so much the better.

Finally, there’s an important element in this approach that concerns accountability. Responding with even a low-level logo change does assert that the brand understands and cares. Anything which the organisation then fails to do or runs counter to that is damaging and perhaps this is the point others have tried to make. If you separate your logo and do literally nothing else or make your employees or customers suffer by your actions and policies then more fool you. Equally, brands don’t absolve themselves of the need to edit and interrogate the value of their work, many should have asked themselves whether emailing their customers to tell them that their employees were ‘washing their hands and had sufficient space between them in the factory and might you like 10% off stock’, was likely to be a welcome reassurance or simply an opportunity to unsubscribe (as they’d forgotten to when the GDPR emails went around).


There are two briefs to respond to. Why is only brief 2 considered worthwhile?


I’d return to Mr. Ramos and others and say there is a brief. A brief with two objectives:

  •  Flatten the curve (the ‘easy’ one) that we behavioural scientists have picked,
  • Increase the healthcare capacity (the harder one) that’s demanding we do all we can to add improve the efficiency of medical interventions and protect the healthcare frontline workers.

On the second part, Ryan Wallman and Tom Goodwin seemed to suggest that ‘marketing people, ad people’ lacked the intellectual heft or credibility to tackle these problems (“our understanding is always facile“), particularly if they were approaching this from the naivety of youth (<27) .

I profoundly disagree.

One really does not need to be an epidemiologist to produce work that responds to either the problems so clearly defined in those two distinct parts above, and I really don’t think I’ve seen a single brand or marketeer try and solve the problem at a virological level.

There is also room to have fun and interventions and creativity might not seem so obvious as solutions to the brief but can be strongly connected. I’ll return to this perhaps in my next blog as we address the implications of lockdowns and restrictions that last a prolonged period of time and we find ourselves struggling to sustain the momentum and need other ways to maintain that downward pressure on the curve.

Aside from the irascible and cynical commentary on the first salvos of marketing’s response to COVID19 there has nevertheless been some helpful and measured guidance. Renata Mittnacht and Carly Gibson of Ogilvy NY produced a simple checklist and accompanying social media guide which certainly helped us at Spark44 edit responses to the pandemic for our client, Jaguar Land Rover. This guide reminds us to think carefully about tone, opportunism, the contribution to panic or anxiety, the assumptions we might be making and the impact of behaviours we might be encouraging. Of course, it also encourages us to ensure the brands we work with are contributing in a meaningful way through their wider Corporate Social Responsibility remit. It’s this sort of constructive filter we need to apply.

Please, even if you’re allergic to unoriginality, dial down the crit and allow some of the wildly-sown creative seeds to take root (help thin them out by all means) but we really need to be tackling this en masse because I’ve already illustrated above, we’re seeing some truly inspirational piece of design, coding, science, engineering and psychology being unleashed on the vicious virus.

When Matt Kandela concluded  that as creatives our final response shouldn’t be “well, perhaps we change our logo?” I found myself answering that of course, it shouldn’t be, but if that’s where you choose to start your part of the response, that’s ok too.


Put that light out. Get out of the park. Lessons from the behavioural science of 1939-45.


British wartime posters warned of the consequence of disobedience

Depending on your level of cynicism or perhaps your workload, we’re either in the middle of a boom in behavioural science or we’re over-playing our hand. My personal opinion is that it is no more or less than it has ever been; perspective will emerge over time but, evidentially, it has been behavioural interventions that have had the most significant impact in these opening battles with COVID19, not least because currently there is neither a vaccine nor a cure.

Historical perspective is something I thought I’d share today to perhaps point out some interesting parallels with how society is both encouraged and legislatively required to behave under threat.

In 1939 the journalist Mea Allan described London’s descent into darkness thus:

“I stood on the footway of Hungerford bridge across the Thames watching the lights of London go out. The whole great town was lit up like a fairyland, in a dazzle that reached into the sky, and then one by one, as a switch was pulled, each area went dark, the dazzle becoming a patchwork of lights being snuffed out here and there until a last one remained, and it too went out. What was left us was more than just wartime blackout, it was a fearful portent of what war was to be. We had not thought that we would have to fight in darkness, or that light would be our enemy.”

On the 1st September, two days before war was declared, the nation was expected to extinguish lights after dark, to prevent the Luftwaffe from identifying areas of human population or movement which would allow them to target their ordnance. The nation lived under these regulations for 5 years, 7 months and 22 days. Although it had been tested briefly during zeppelin raids in 1915, the blackout this time was not simply a dimming of light, it was comprehensive, vital.

The blackout was also not simply a request, it was an instruction, asserted in law and policed by air raid precautions (ARP) wardens. Guidance was provided and the public was readied for this change with rehearsals during 1938. By the autumn of 1939 streetlights were extinguished, curtains were lined and thickened (and were not to be washed, less they thinned), cardboard and paint applied to windows. Even cars and pushbike lights were shuttered downwards.

Living in near-total darkness outside wasn’t easy. Overnight houses, factories and pubs would become suffocatingly stale and stuffy, raising and removing coverings were tedious. Traffic accidents soared, crime experienced an uptick. Again, the resourceful public responded by daubing kerbs, street furniture, railings and even cattle with white paint and the government played their part by lowering speed limits and beginning the marking of roads with white paint. Interventions even extended to advising pedestrians to walk with a newspaper, white handkerchief or leave their shirttails exposed.

For the most part, the public adhered to these conditions – it was quite apparent that disobedience could result in the clear and present danger of a bomb being dispatched over your house. If the fear of a bomb was insufficient or apparently remote, fines and court appearances gave it more immediate salience.


During the 2020 pandemic, society is facing a similarly disorientating and debilitating curtailment of primal need. This time it’s not light, it’s movement, social contact and space that is under restriction. Restrictions that are not from sunset to sunrise but all day long. It’s important to state here that I draw this comparison not to assert one being worse than the other, simply to contextualise the manner in which a society’s behavioural norms are first changed instantly and then must be sustained over a considerable period.

In the opening period of the pandemic response from the British government, there were a series of interventions aimed at slowing the transmission of this highly contagious virus. The public was urged to ‘self-isolate’ if showing symptoms, to ‘social distance’ and to wash their hands frequently and thoroughly. On the latter at least guidance was provided. In these interventions it could be argued that the guidance was particularly individualised, focussing on what we as one person could and should do. A direction, perhaps, that simplicity in messaging is important. However, a subtle tweak then occurred as observers noted that ‘self-isolate’ and ‘social distance’ although helpful in the epidemiological context, was tinged with negativity and thus harder to sustain longer-term (which would be required as the modelling had indicated) as they ran counter to our primal wiring to be sociable beings. This tonal change resulted in ‘stay at home’, essentially being the same advice but reframed in the more pastoral and parochial sense of being amongst familiar surroundings and implying that staying with the family group was ok. The advice to ‘self-isolate’ remained but was now specified to individuals displaying the symptoms of COVID19 not as a general preventative measure. With ‘social distancing’ the next iteration attempted to reframe this challenging behavioural change.

The advice to ‘stay at home’ was augmented with two additional parts. ‘Protect the NHS’ and ‘Save Lives’ Rhetorically this is clearly from the same communications school as ‘Get Brexit Done’, ‘See it. Say it. Sort it’ and adheres to many of the rules of good writing we know from the advertising and creative industries. Clearly, the rule of three is deployed once more, but to borrow also from Ogilvy:

  • Write the way you talk…. ‘Stay at home
  • Use short words … yep.
  • No jargon … ‘self isolate
  • Make it crystal clear
  • If you want action, don’t [just] write, tell … and this is being told, a lot

So, linguistically, it’s on the money. It’s apparent too that it’s a behavioural tweak: behaviours that were self-protecting (‘don’t let the Germans bomb my house … but maybe they’ll miss?) become societal protection. Although you might not feel personally at threat by COVID19, your individual actions are for the greater good.

In ‘Protect the NHS’ the government has identified and leveraged the quasi-religious devotion to the NHS, almost universal amongst the British public. For ‘NHS’ read ‘country’ and here, although the nation is not under unique attack, global as this pandemic is by definition, the NHS becomes both a literal organisation to protect – if we protect our health service from being overwhelmed it will function effectively – and metaphorical representation of Britishness. The coda to ‘save lives’ becomes almost incidental but its plurality is important. We, collectively are saving multiple lives with our behaviour, this is not simply self-preservation, it’s a collective responsibility to save the lives of other people even if you personally do not feel vulnerable.

Aside: The Government has iterated the messaging graphics used to decorate the lectern, optimising the televisual clarity and neutralising the implied party-political colouring.


Iterations of the Coronavirus briefing lectern graphics.

To add to this central message, further advice highlighted the protective responsibility: as over 70s and the immunocompromised were at higher risk, they were required to stay indoors and have no physical contact for shopping or other reasons. The most obvious negative interpretation of this is the profound isolation and anxiety this would cause. Consequently, this was framed as ‘shielding’. A more intimate, protective tone that shifted the obligation away from those being shielded, unburdening them with the responsibility the rest of us should bear to keep them safe.

So, the message was out and we were, in the most part, adhering. Availability and negativity biases went to work amongst the press as the disobedience was highlighted: It’s far easier to show a handful of people sunbathing in parks or gathering for illicit parties than it is to photograph the millions upon millions of people doing exactly as they were advised. It’s human nature to point the finger at the black sheep amongst us and I am under no doubt whatsoever that if social media had been present during WW2 that the great British public would have been passionate in shaming their neighbours. Indeed, of course, they did such that “careless talk, [and behaviours], costs lives”.

Shaming was seen in authority too and to return to 1939-45, eventually the ARP’s admonishing ‘put that light out’ began to symbolise a certain jobsworth pedantry, most obviously through ‘Dad’s Army‘, and the truth is that it was an instruction that was rarely needed, so effective was the societal pressure. Warden Hodges found his modern-day companions in Derbyshire Police, so memorably excoriated by Lord Sumption for their drone surveillance of socially-distanced dog-walkers.

It may be that I have over-egged this particular historical comparison and inferred too much with too little knowledge. Hindsight will, as is so painfully true in all the interventions we are witnessing to today, be the judge.

Perhaps the easiest way to summarise this is to say that it’s the individual threat which kicks us into action, whether that by an invisible virus or an airborne bomb, but it is the collective responsibility and societal pressure that will ensure we sustain it.

Online queues, is there a better way?


Source: Queue-it, technology currently shuttering Ocado and others in the UK.

The seed for this thought came from Robert Hall (of Foolproof) and I must caveat that I have limited knowledge of the development of load balancing and traffic management in this scenario so am prepared to be roundly schooled by those that do (paging Ross Peat). With that understood, my approach for FMCG delivery services is as follows:

Allow customers into your online store. The pinch point is the allocation of delivery slots, customers understand that this is a problem which needs to be sorted through a fair algorithm that balances the logistical complexity with needs-management for the vulnerable. So we can manage that expectation and support them with at least part of their intent. Unlike a physical store, there is no obvious reason to curtail the capacity for browsing and making product selection choices. Currently, the retailers are holding people at the door, keeping the virtual shutters down and telling them their checkout queues are too busy. They can’t even come in the door to see what products are on the shelves.

So, to correct this, allow customers into the store where they can be permitted to browse the inventory, select the items and quantities they desire (with predictions of availability based on the stock levels and completed purchase patterns) and then join the queue for a delivery slot. In this instance, some endowment effect is at work and the abandonment of their delivery is disincentivised.

This is where it gets complicated, my first thought was that the slot-wait should be a ‘ring back’ style queue where you’re contacted by email or text when slots are opened up and so the wait happens in the background without you having to attend to it in an open window. However, this would create a batch demand where traffic would flood in as tranches of slots are released. Then I thought perhaps customers could select a series of preferences for slots (a set of five preferred dates and times) and the system accounts for this demand and attempts to predict and balance the slot allocation, providing a trackable progress indicator to the customer.

Or perhaps something even more complex: an approach where essential items are batched for earlier delivery (fresh bread, milk, eggs, paracetamol, hygiene products) where items you’re prepared to wait for (laundry products, low-volume ambient lines) are held back at a lower priority. Consistent with this could be the creation of ‘essentials bundles’ which groups common essential items into a repeatable and pre-packaged SKU that could be delivered more efficiently than 0000s of unique baskets.

The data obtained from customers creating these (ahem) ‘hanging baskets’ can be used to help the retailers plan their sophisticated supply chains and delivery logistics. From a user experience perspective, I’m particularly keen that we find a way to open the shutters and not insist everyone waits outside the store only to be frustrated and disappointed at all steps of the journey once they’re in.

Over to you in the comments.

[this post originally appeared on LinkedIn 30 March 2020]

Tagged , , ,

This was UX, part I.

An infinity loop showing the customer journey of someone buying a cinema ticket and watching a film.

Cinema Experience Loop.

This is the first of an occasional series of explorations into my previous work. I’ll stay light on the reasons only to say that I’ve been clearing out some paperwork and rather than hang on to old documents I thought I’d scan them, creating a digital record (portfolio?) and have the opportunity to explore them in public.

First up is this hand-illustrated experience loop that looks at the ways in which we come to think about buying a cinema ticket and watching a film. Full disclosure this is a commissioned illustration based on my original sketches. I’d love to be that neat but, for a pitch, it needed a draughtsman’s hand.

So, we start on the left side with a motivation trigger. What makes a prospective cinema-goer interested? We imply that a decision to watch something has already been made and this circle investigates the processes being made to identify why the customer chooses this particular cinema (brand). The early phase of influence is all about holding on to a customer that could easily flip to a different venue or decide not to go at all if there is friction in the process of determining a match between film, scheduling and the booking experience. This period, from a creative perspective, opened up lots of discussion around what the on-site and off-site experiences are and how they increase motivation or add friction. How does, for example, the role of review sites like Rotten Tomatoes or, frankly, Google, impact on the linear nature of this flow. How might the (ahem) cadence of this part of the process change depending on whether you’re looking for the next few hours or in the next week?

We looked at the impact of losing a prospect at this point. How might we encourage them back into the decision and consideration phase? We might think about creative ways to re-target and the requirement to have a technical solution in place that identifies those people that are dropping out of the process.

By contrast, the process of attending the cinema is explored on the right-hand side. This is where we looked to add a little friction, slow it down and engage the customer to embed a brand experience that is memorable. Creatively we wanted to introduce ideas around the venue arrival, recognition of the customer at point-of-sale and the personalisation of the foyer experience. How might we influence that crucial ‘take your seats’ phase, where your sense of anticipation is at its peak and where you’re most receptive to the little moments of delight that make the brand stand out?

The film itself is the green section, not much we can do here. This was largely out of our brand’s control. They could deliver exceptional sound and visuals – technology and seating design that was a cut above, but this was out of the purview of our pitch. At the end of the film, the opportunity to embed a great memory is significant. Kahneman talks of the effect of a crashing cymbal at the end of an orchestral score and this is the analogous moment, in more candid terms: don’t fuck it up. To this end we had the opportunity to discuss the rating or review of the experience on exit and the supporting of advocacy, finding creative ways to build on that classic behaviour of walking out of the cinema excitedly chattering about what you’ve just seen – how could this, for example, be broadcast more immediately so that it might influence people in the decision phase?

Finally, there’s a period of reflection. A little later than that foyer exit, perhaps in the day or so after the event where the brand has an opportunity to deepen the memory and connection of the experience with reward, follow-up and loyalty options that potentially build on the momentum and retain the cinema goer within the brand’s orbit such that any future decision to view is even more likely to result in a return to our client’s site and location.

As an exercise, this was a classic customer journey analysis and was the result of deep, intensive thinking and research during a pitch. It’s the tip of a strategic iceberg and was visually the framework which we used to introduce and anchor the creative ideas we presented. It was a demonstration to our client that we thought about the role of loyalty, of the critical touchpoints and potential leaks. We could highlight the interventions we had designed: exceptionally easy booking and film discovery, a personalised welcome and pre-booked refreshments, an effortless review-and-share interaction.

I’m sure it can be critiqued and holes identified. It’s pitch material and therefore hardly the most intensively researched and finessed work – not like you might do with a multi-year client, but I’m proud of what it allowed us to present and the manner in which it demonstrates that UX can borrow from service design principles to add essential context to the flows, screens and interactions we design and present.

Get in the comments on the blog/LinkedIn and let me know what you think. More of this sort of thing soon come.


Tagged , , , , , , ,

User Experience Lessons from the collapse of Wonga

Applied behavioural psychology in the world of User Experience (UX) occasionally strays into conversations about ethics. As persuasionists, is it right that we design interactions that part people with their money ever-more effectively? Most of us can robustly defend this work as part of a layered approach to the natural consumer behaviour of mature economies. There are, naturally, products and services many of us feel uncomfortable supporting with our work. Personally, two of my red lines are gambling and payday loans.

It will not surprise you then to know I did not mourn the news that Wonga is in significant financial difficulty. The previously-feted company saw itself as a technology provider first and financial service provided second – much has been made of their skill in the former that led to success in the latter.

Wonga is a powerful example of the deployment of many pieces of behavioural design, working together. Firstly, marketing to vulnerable segments, then underplaying the interest rates, using infantile creative that trivialised moderation, and their addictive user interface was just one part of that. That interface meant reduced friction, making it unbelievably easy for the distressed consumer to request instant cash.

Consider how their approach mapped to the EAST framework for behaviour change:

  • Their homepage sliders simply asked “how much cash do you want?” and “how long do you want it for” appealing to our avarice instinct. (easy, attractive)
  • They highlighted that you could have the cash in minutes. (timely)
  • They used design emphasis to steer you away from the true cost and toward the application buttons (attractive)
  • They used examples of people like you benefitting from their service. (social)

They let you see what you could get and then applied insufficient background checks, which meant that, in most cases, you got what you asked for. This played to two very damaging real-world situations: the ability to re-float a betting habit, and payday panic (running out of cash before salaries or benefits are paid). In neither of those examples would anyone suggest that issuing 5,000% APR loans would help and that the situation would not sufficiently improve by the next cycle that said obscenely high-interest loan would not actually deepen the problem. Thus Wonga’s irresponsible lending criteria (discussed at length in a brilliantly detailed tear-down by Dominic Lindley) was married to the very worst example of addictive interface design.

Mourning the inevitable demise of Wonga is not something Martin Lewis is keen on either, and in his comments on the subject he also raises the observation that a national financial illiteracy had a role in providing the fertile conditions for irresponsible lending to take hold. It’s a very worthwhile point and important also to remember that this applies as much to the ignorance of saving and investing as it does to the lure of easy credit.

In that regard whilst I take no pleasure in the possibility that good people will be made redundant from the UX and design teams at Wonga, I would suggest that they promote themselves to the investment industry. Much has been achieved in making microsaving and investing more effortless through technology, product design and marketing, but there is always more that can be done. It might be a far-fetched scenario but if the suggestible young professional can be duly coerced into upping their pension contributions after a heavy night on the tiles whilst watching late night TV then perhaps those skills won’t be wasted.

When making sense isn’t enough: Electric Vehicles and behaviour change

Several years ago the government wanted everyone to replace their loft insulation with more efficient stuff. They subsidised it so heavily it made absolute economic sense. But, proportionally, few people did it. Why?

The reason was that clearing your loft was a colossal arse-ache. The problem was not one of economics, it was one of domestic logistics.

Anyone doing the math(s) can see that running an electric vehicle makes sense. Heavily subsidised and low running costs (by almost every measure) but take up will be hampered because of logistics. Consider this quote from a recent Top Gear article based on the UK infrastructure: “To charge an EV on the road, you need to be a member of several different schemes, with opaque pricing. Some allow you to turn up and go, some want to send you an RFID key in the post, some will allow you to use an app. Some demand an up-front membership fee.

In [the author’s own] borough of Islington, you have to prove you own the car and prove you live there before you can use the on-street posts. So I can’t because I don’t own the Jag.

Oh and by the way, if you want rapid charging then it’s CCS for you. CHAdeMO and Tesla outlets are as much use as a petrol pump.”

So right now the EV market is tough because the government won’t help people clear their lofts.

Protected: Wardrobe Minimalism, Changes for 2018

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Tagged , ,

Pound Cost Averaging: August 2017 update

Time for an update to my little experiment in Pound Cost Averaging (PCA) and a modified version of this investment strategy which, as you will recall, invests more aggressively in a falling market and more cautiously in a rising market. My last update was 6 months ago.

When I started this experiment the FTSE was at 6903 points, on 1st August it was 7424. A rise of 7.54%. Using my modified PCA my ROI is 9.1% which is marginally outperforming a basic PCA and both are out performing the FTSE. The (rounded to the pound) figures show a pretty close match.

  • The £1991 total invested for the modified PCA has grown to £2173 (+£182 or 9.14%)
  • The £2000 total invested for the standard PCA has grown to £2180 (+£180 or 9%)

I’m surprised that the modified PCA hasn’t really pushed up the growth but in truth the market has been +ve in 11 months and –ve in 9 months so it’s really not seen the kind of prolonged rises and falls that might change this more. I’ve also had some thoughts that if generally the market rises then a strategy which ultimately backs-off on the inclines to the same degree it goes hard on the declines is always going to struggle to beat the average! So, at the end of the year I’m going to tinker with the modifier and go harder on the downhills.

In any event, if you’d put the same investment in a cash ISA over this period, well you’d have about £30.



Pilgrim40 +7


Me, approaching Hollingbourne on the North Downs Way. Credit @run_mama_kate 

“This time last week” has been ping-ponging around in my head for the past few days as my body and mind process the peculiar week of running I completed on Saturday afternoon, 12th August. Since that moment, when I touched the gate of Canterbury Cathedral I’ve sent the tracker back, reduced my intake of ibuprofen (more on that later), archived the hectic Facebook group, commuted and sat and slept in innumerable painful positions.

I’m not sure I’ve got the audience or compulsion to relive the whole week here on the blog, I documented each day on Strava and if you’d like to explore my painful summaries then here are the direct links:

  • Day 1 – Winchester to Farnham … Strava | 54.8km
  • Day 2 – Farnham to Dorking … Strava | 39.8km
  • Day 3 – Dorking to Sevenoaks (ish) … Strava | 30.9km
  • Day 4 – Sevenoaks to Rochester … Strava | 34.8km
  • Day 5 – Rochester to Wormshill … Strava | 31.9km
  • Day 6 – Wormshill to Canterbury … Strava | 42.4km

Total distance covered: 234.9km (would be +16km if we’d not had to cut short Day 3). Total ascent 4046m elapsed time (includes stops on Day 1, not on subsequent days) 30hrs 24mins.

The route followed the St. Swithun’s Way to Farnham and then the North Downs Way (NDW) to Harrietsham where I detoured to Wormshill. The following day we dropped back on to the North Downs Way to pick up the Canterbury branch. It did intersect with the assumed ‘Pilgrim’s Way’ but stuck to the waymarked National Trail. I will certainly complete the Dorking to Sevenoaks section at some point, probably next spring, having missed the final 16km due to some horrendous and borderline dangerous weather. I may also try and do the NDW Canterbury-Dover-Canterbury loop at some point too, just to scratch that itch.

The OpenTracker trace of the route


Next week I’ll be seeing Liam Grimley at Elevate to understand the longer term implications of the run on my body which has taken a lot longer to deal with the overuse injuries I picked up than I expected (although I’ve hardly done all the right things since I took my Adizeros off last Saturday). I will say this, I’m annoyed with myself that I’ve ended up quite broken and unable to use (in the foreseeable future) the fitness that I earned on the trip. It is, however, nice to clear the running diary a little and focus on a sensible and managed recovery to be fit for Maverick Oxfordshire in October. I was aware that I used a lot of ibuprofen (never exceeding daily dosage) in the days of the run itself and am keen to give my renal system a break from that, but doing so has meant a lot of painful walking and offloading/overcompensating making the recovery a bit demoralising.

I would add one thing, and that’s a simple observation that it wasn’t quite as much ‘fun’ as I was expecting. I’d had in my mind the thought that it would be difficult to start each day and there would be some logistical gripes (there were) but I had expected to be able to find myself scooting along thinking ‘isn’t England pretty’ and ‘aren’t I lucky to be able to do this?’ Whilst those thoughts do indeed find their way into one’s self conscious, they are mere mayflies in comparison to the more persistent droning of ‘when is this stoney bit coming to an end?’ ‘my ankles are actually on fire’ and ‘those mixed nuts are rattling around a lot in my rucksack’. There is much of the NDW that is on tree covered ridges and the sweeping escapement views are transient until the Kent sections, although much of it is beautiful and familiar it was only really the Rochester to Canterbury parts that stood out – the weather was just too gloomy and miserable in the Surrey sections. In many ways the day did feel like a job that needed to be done and in running with other people you spend a lot of time zoning in to their conversation – particularly when it becomes the best way to deal with the overwhelming distance and discomfort. Ask me again in P40 +70 days and I’m probably going to be in a miserable winter mood and reflecting much much more positively on what is still, a highly memorable and self-fulfilling week of running.

I suppose that’s it, for a short while. Probably about time I posted some work stuff too. Running did at least strengthen a few thoughts there, if nothing else.

Official thanks: Accommodation, I was supported with bag drops and overnight stays at Mecure Winchester Wessex, Hogs Back Hotel Farnham, Bovey Cottage (Betchworth) Dorking, Best Western Donnington Manor Sevenoaks, Golden Lion Wetherspoon Rochester. I was tracked by OpenTracking thanks to James Thurlow and Rob Marriot, I used SiS electrolyte and caffeine gels, Adidas Adizero 3 shoes and ran in a mix of Bjorn Borg and Adidas kit.

Personal thanks: Jo & Theo, Mum, Dad, Richard, Vicki and their families, Anita and David. Wise heads and motivation: Martin Yelling, Darren Cornish, Anna Smith-James. Finally, the essential support runners: Jon Brombley, David Blackman, Mark Norris, Matt Andrews, Vicky Cooper, Kate Pitts, Richard, Vicky and Beryl Gibbard, Master Prowle and Mark Thomas.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

#Pilgrim40 Run

A short update

Monday 7th August I’ll be visible on this link, thanks to the guys at OpenTracking as I run from Winchester to Canterbury over the next 6 days.

There’s more on the Pilgrim 40 Facebook Group.

  • It’s not for charity, there’s no money being raised.
  • It’s principally just me running, I will be joined by friends and family along the route.
  • I’m doing it because I reach 40 in September and thought I’d prove something to myself.
  • I’m hoping to work out what that something is by the time I reach Canterbury.
  • I don’t actually know the total distance, I’ve never added it up.

I’ll update my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram throughout the week.