Marathon #6 – Yeovil Marathon

So June brought the 2019 Yeovil Marathon as the 6th marathon in my 12 month, 12 marathon challenge.

I’ve been having a bit of a lull in my training, since London. I had backed of the training a little, and have been eating and drinking a load of rubbish! I have a music festival this week, so loads more rubbish to come. Then, I have a new plan to go again on the training front, and to build towards getting properly race ready for another peak in September.

So I went to Yeovil, this time without a marathon fresh in my legs like the May marathon in Southampton, but not feeling as fit.

I set out with a familiar plan, a couple of quick miles while feeling fresh at the start, then try to knock miles out at 8:45 a pop or there abouts.

Went to plan, getting to halfway at about 1:56. However, that was as good as it got. The second half saw that pace catch up with me, and towards the end the pace tailed off. Kept on grinding out the miles, despite a major sense of humour failure late on, and bought it home in 4:11:40, weirdly 4 seconds faster than my May marathon!

Would I run this one again, I don’t think I would. The marshalls were very friendly, and I had a nice run and chat with another runner through some of the middle miles, but I was not a fan of the course.

The course double backed through the same area as the start, and it was a 2 lap course, so I just had a bit of a feeling I wasn’t going anywhere, just running loops to make up miles. Maybe thats a strange complaint for someone who has run a track marathon this year. Maybe the fact I was there on my own, and the field thinned out late on made a difference. Add to that an extra little loop at around mile 23, and then a heap of slalom running around flags on the field before the finish, and by the end I was pretty grumpy!

Still, on the bright side, we are now officially halfway through the challenge, and fundraising is going well.

Onto the next one, and I have finally decided on July, it will be another run with Phoenix Running, to collect one of their nifty looking Space themed medals.

Marathon #5 – ABP Southampton Marathon

Great support again from the Isle of Wight Road Runners Crew!

So just 7 days after the London Marathon, and it was time for my May marathon. I have never done marathons this close together, so was expecting it to be a challenge – and it did not disappoint on that front!

I knew going into this one that I was not fully recovered, I could just feel it.

So in between, I did a couple of little runs. Not training runs, just trying to get my legs moving again. I also had an excellent massage from Ivan at Medina Sports Massage which was definitely a big help.

Despite my best efforts, I was still not 100%, and not just my legs, I could feel in my general well being, I was just feeling a bit tired.

Still, race day arrived and it was time to get on with it! An early start on the 5:30am ferry from the Isle of Wight for an early race start at 9am.

I did consider approaching the run differently and starting off slower, but decided I didn’t want to ‘die wondering’ whether I could have hit 4 hours again. So aimed to set off at around 8:30 per mile and see what happened.

The first mile, was 8 minutes, followed by 4 miles around 8:30s. However, all was not quite right, and I was starting to get some discomfort in my left hamstring. By the time the first half was done, I’d slowed quite a bit already, after all, more important to finish than hit the target time.

I got to halfway in around 1:56, but that didn’t tell the full story, I had slowed quite a bit. The second half was just about crossing the line, getting the medal, and ticking off marathon #5, which I did in 4 hours and 11 minutes, happy with that.

So what was the Southampton Marathon like as an event? Well, I always find something to moan about… First up, the relaxed nature of people’s starting positions did bother me. The start pen had flags up indicating target times, but too many people just ignored them. I passed a lot of people in the first couple of miles, who had clearly started way too close to the front, really…. what is the point?! One in particular, within the first 500 yards, was an old man who had started walking by the time I passed him. He didn’t look injured, looked quite comfortable, but had just decided he needed to be at the front jostling for position, even though run / walking the course. I don’t get it.

The run itself is quite good. Not too hilly, but it did have a few inclines. Inevitably on a two lap run, the second half seems to lack something. I’d guess I’m only a third of the way back through the marathon runners, but when I came through lap two there were way less runners, supporters, and some of the entertainment areas (music etc) were already being packed away.

Generally though, the course is good, nice touch to go through the football stadium (I did wish all the stewards in the ground ‘Play Up Pompey’ which they seemed to appreciate), and running through the parks is nice. The support was generally good from the locals in the first half, the latter stages got a bit quite, especially having been spoiled at London the week before!

The medal is OK, the T-Shirt is very good, but the rest of the goodie bag was a bit pants. At the end of the marathon a load of leaflets is really not what you are hoping to find to munch on!

A good day out, and a course I’ll probably take on again one day, so thank you Southampton. Time for a bit of rest before Yeovil in June 🙂

Marathon #4 – The London Marathon

London Marathon 2019
London Marathon 2019

So April 28th 2019, brought with it episode 4 of my marathon year. This was the main event, the marathon which I was running for the NSPCC, and the best marathon in the world. If you are a runner, this is the one you must do, this needs to be on your bucket list, it really is amazing and certainly does live up to the hype. Here’s how marathon 4 panned out for me.

My previous marathon was on 1st March, so I’d had almost 2 months off. That gap proved to be tricky for me. I’d gotten into a rhythm in the last 2 marathons, I was running well, and got a PB in marathon #3. During the gap, I kept my mileage up, but for one reason or another, each time I did a long run it didn’t quite work out how I had hoped. So coming into London, confidence had dropped a little. I would still give it a crack at running another Sub 4, but I really wasn’t sure if I would make it.

Preparations on the run up were good, apart from the normal pre-marathon lack of sleep. The day before went to plan, did the Expo, then took it easy. Ate and drank lot’s including plenty of carbs. Come race morning, I was up at 6am, and started checking off my checklist. I’d recommend this, there is so much to remember on race day. Come 7:30am, I was heading off to Maze Hill station to meet fellow club mates.

Conditions were perfect. A cool morning, overcast and even a little drizzle, a million miles from the 2018 marathon that was 25 degrees in the baking sunshine.

My plan was to ‘run to feel’ to some extent, for me that means running a bit quicker at the start, that’s what feels best when I’m fresh, but not to an extent that punishes me too badly later. So I set out to average the first half of the race averaging in the region of 8:30 / 8:40 per mile. A wee stop in the first mile, followed by 3 quite quick ones, then I settled into my running. Late in the first half, I was feeling the the pace so dialled it down a bit. At halfway my watch was around 1:53:30, an average of 8:34 per mile, and putting me 6 and a half minutes below Sub 4 pace.

I’ve been here on a couple of marathons before, so felt confident that despite starting to feel tired, I could manage the clock, and get home. Sub 4 pace is 9:09 per mile, and I had 6.5 minutes to lose.

Running London this time, was overall a much better experience. I was much more able to soak up the atmosphere this time. I mixed up my running to vary things, sometimes running in the middle of the road and concentrating on my running, other times when I felt I needed it, I’d run right next to the crowd, that gets people involved with lot’s of people shouting your name and offering encouragement, I must have high fived hundreds of kids. Course highlights for me were the sound systems outside peoples houses in the early miles, the walls of noise at Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf, seeing club mates at miles 6 and 23, and it was great to remember a bit more of the finish this year!

Add to all of that, the sense of purpose that running for the NSPCC gave me. Knowing how much money I’m raising for such a good cause, getting cheered on at all the cheer points around the course, and it was very nice being pampered at the post race reception.

The pacing plan worked, and I managed to keep moving at a pace to get home 40 seconds under 4 hours, very happy indeed!!

Now to find out if 7 days is enough time to recover fully from a marathon. Next stop Southampton.

The Friendly Frolic – Charity Fundraising Run

Runners at the 'Friendly Frolic'

The ‘Friendly Frolic’ was a charity fun run, that took place on 10th March 2019, as a fundraiser for the NSPCC. This made up part of my fundraising for the year, as I build up to running the London marathon for the charity in April.

The plan was to create a run that was fun (of course), did not put runners under pressure, created a friendly sociable atmosphere and appealed to the widest possible audience. I like to think we ticked all of those boxes.

The day brought with it a real mixed bag of weather. 50 mph winds, some rain, some hail, but of course some glorious sunshine.

2 West Wight runners returning to base

The run was organised as a ‘Frolic’. Running as many or as few laps as runners wanted to, over a given period of time, in this case 5 hours. The twist on the normal format, was that instead of one course, we had 5 loops to choose from, all of which started and ended at the Bargeman Rest in Newport, who acted as our wonderful hosts for the day.

It wasn’t marshalled, it wasn’t timed, there were no prizes. Just lot’s of runners getting out, having fun, and donating money to a great cause.

The loops provided some variety. Flat ones, hilly ones, cycle paths, main roads, tarmac and footpaths. They also provided much debate amongst the runners. Should I get the long loop (11 miles) out the way first? Shall I run a mixture of loops of repeat the same one? As it happened, there really was a mixture. Many ran one loop, some collected a range of different loops, some ran the same loop 4 times! Some ran 4 miles, some ran with their children, some ran solo with their headphones in, some ran en masse with their mates, some ran a marathon!

Another important aspect, was that it was an ideal framework for people to get in a long marathon training run. It gave people the support of a drink station and some much needed snacks, whilst they took on a long training run. We had 25 runners who ran over 15 miles, a run which I’m sure will stand them in good stead for the upcoming Spring marathons, as they go off to tackle the likes of the London, Brighton, Manchester and Southampton courses.

A special well done to the young man that was just 8 years old, that went out on a 3 mile run with his Mum.

Another big congrats to Kelly Forster and her son Louis. I’m not sure who dragged who round, but young Louis complete half marathon distance for the first time.

It wasn’t a competition, but I do need to say well done to the 3 runners that completed approximately marathon mileage. They were Sarah Holmes who ran the furthest by running the same out and back loop 4 times! Phil Mannall who clocked up a marathon if we include his run from home to the start, and Matt Fletcher who ran approx 25 miles as he gets ready for the London Marathon.

A more important stat is that between our runners they covered almost 1,000 miles, and they donated an awesome £725 to the NSPCC 🙂

Well done to everybody that took part, you were all winners, and thank you to our hosts The Bargemans Rest and to our team of helpers, Ruth, Claire, Giorgio and Luke.

Marathon #3 – Excalibur 3 ‘Track Wars’

Track Marathon
Track Marathon

So Friday 1st March brought an early marathon for month 3. It’s been a busy start to my challenge, having just run 3 marathons in 5 weeks. Now I get nearly 2 months off before the London Marathon. That will give me a chance to do some different training, but more about that later…

This marathon was one of the ones I picked as it would be a bit ‘different’. This was a track marathon, yes, a marathon, round a track. 400 meters, over and over, 106 times!

I was kind of looking forward to it. Having done better than expected in marathon number 2, 2 weeks ago, and having had some good workouts since then, I was feeling confident.

I had done a 30 lap test run at my local track, so felt all would be good.

Track Pic


So, first the good news…. I finished it in 3:56:07. That’s a PB by 1:38 🙂 Really pleased with that of course.

Another plus is that the running surface is perfect, a nice flat bouncy track. And another, drinks are easy! A well stocked drink / food station on the straight, you can leave you own drinks, pick up a drink and put it down by the track ready to pick up later, I even had time to pop to my bag next to lane 8 and grab my headphones when the going got tough.

So what was the bad news?

Well, as various people had warned me, running round a track 106 times will drive you nuts…. and yes to some extent it did. Not because it’s so boring, or made me dizzy, or made me lean to one side! No, with the track running it was just the number of laps that got to me.

When you reach about 21 miles in a marathon, it tends to be around crisis point in one way or another, you are tired and vulnerable. Normally, the strong part of your mind will step in – “It’s just 5 miles, just get this next mile done, you got this!”. However, on the track, the screen was telling me I’d run a whopping 84 laps, and this time a not so strong mind delivered the realisation that “OMG you still have 22 laps to do, are you kidding me?!”.

In a road marathon, usually everyone is running 26.2 miles. If someone is running near you, that must be running a similar pace to you, they probably have similar goals. Not the case on the track. You regularly see the whole field, people running a 10k, people run / walking an ultra, people dressed as up. I found that quite a distraction. Never been good at running past people walking.

Another issue was the whole lane etiquette thing. So obviously everyone wants to run on the inside of lane 1, otherwise you are running a lot further than you need to. But with runners going at such different paces, and some with headphones in, that gets tricky. And it’s not just about who is in front of you, will you undertake, will they leave enough room, have they heard you…. there is always the constant issue of knowing who is behind you about to run past, as you really don’t want to be that person slowing them down.

So I set out running at an ambitious pace of around 8:20 mins per mile. I knew there would be a controlled degradation of that pace, but didn’t expect the second half to feel so difficult.

Why did it feel so hard? The mental aspects of so many laps was definitely a factor. The pace I started at also was a factor. I also feel that the track is an issue. Yes it is springy and responsive, which makes it possible to run a bit faster, but my theory is that this takes it’s toll on the body. I was wearing compression sleeves on my calves, but my thighs and hips really did feel it for the second half.

Oh and one more bit of bad news. Started running the first lap and noticed my watch was showing no Heart Rate data. That didn’t mean I was dead, but did mean the HR sensor was not working. I’ve had it before, but means switching my watch off to wake it up. I didn’t want to switch my watch off and have incomplete run data, so had to sacrifice the HR data. I love analyzing the data on my runs, and a key part of that is seeing how my HR rises during the marathon, so I’m pretty grumpy that my fastest marathon run has no HR data 🙁

Anyway, job done, 3 down, 9 to go. Really pleased to get a PB in the bag on this challenge. Next it’s off to London at the end of April to run the greatest marathon in the world!

Marathon #2 – Martello Marathon

Isle of Wight Road Runners on Tour
Isle of Wight Road Runners on Tour


Marathon #2, 3 weeks after #1, and a welcome return to running on tarmac after the mud of Essex in January.

Another welcome change was being joined on this trip by some club mates, Steve, Mick and Sarah. Two joined me for the trip down, and one lives locally. That makes it much easier and more fun.

The Martello Marathon is named after the Martello towers that decorate the Kent coast, and a couple of them are usually in view on this run. The run all takes place on the seafront, between Folkestone and Hythe. 3 out and back laps, of 8.74 miles each. Dead flat, and the only obstacles are local dog walkers, out enjoying the weather. It was a beautiful day, a little bit warm for February, up to 15 degrees I think, and not a cloud in the sky.

My plan for the run, was to run the first 2 laps at a decent pace, and give myself a shot at running a 4 hour time, something I’ve only done once before.

As happened in marathon #1, I was lucky enough again to get chatting with someone who turned out to be a very useful running partner, thank you Paul! We got chatting after about a mile, and ended up finishing the marathon together. He was an experienced campaigner with over 200 marathons under his belt, and we took turns dragging each other along as the miles ticked by.

After 2 laps, that was 17.5 miles in, I was behind the pace I’d hoped to set, but found that I was still feeling OK, and was still managing to put in 9 minute miles. They became 9:15s, 9:30s, and then the last 2 or 3 miles really did get quite tough. Eventually the finish line came into sight, and crossed it to clock a time of 3:58:56. Delighted to get under 4 hours again.

Job done for February. Next up a track marathon on 1st March, that will be an experience!

So how do you train in between marathons?

Well… when I figure it out I’ll let you know!

This has been a question mark for me coming into this year. The answer for me is going to be trial and error.

Marathon #1 and #2 are 3 weeks apart, well, just under 3 weeks. Found the Excalibur One marathon quite tough, as it was pretty muddy and I’ve only run marathons previously on tarmac. So, was resting up afterwards, and once I’d missed some runs due to snow etc, before I knew it I’d had 8 days off!

So this week I’ve run 12 miles, and a couple of 7 mile runs, with a half marathon to come, so that will end up close to 40 miles, a big week for me.

Marathon #2 is next Friday, so a couple of short, quicker runs next week to keep the legs moving and that will be it.

Will that be a good approach? We will find out on 15th February in Folkestone!

After that it is just over 2 weeks until an early March marathon, so if I got it wrong we can try something different.

Marathon #1 – Phoenix Running Excalibur One

Muddy underfoot at the Excalibur One run

And they’re off! Marathon one is in the books, and we are injury free and looking forward to the February episode.

This was a 3.3 mile loop (8 of!), from a centrally located Race HQ, along the towpath by the Rover Stort, back along the other side of the river which was more of a trail, cross a footbridge back onto the towpath, back to HQ. Race HQ consisted gazebos housing some friendly helpers, a wide array of sweets and snacks, and a clever drinks system allowing you to order water and different flavours of squash ready for your next visit.

In theory, I thought this looked like a potentially quick marathon. However, in practise it certainly was not. The course was used for a similar event the day before, so the trial side of the course was muddy. Then it rained all night, do the course suffered further. The HQ area was also getting pretty brown. I really had not worn the right shoes, so it became a bit of a challenge just to stay upright.

I think as an event, this was a good one, and I’d love to have run it in better conditions, but hey, it is January. What made this one for me, was the company. There was a good friendly collection of about 100 runners out on the course, doing a range of distances. I got chatting to a very friendly chap within the first half a mile, and we ended up running with each other pretty much all day and rang the finishing bell together.

Officially 57 of the runners there completed a marathon, I finished 23rd of those in 4:55:23. Not a time on paper I’m proud of, but I know how hard that was and I’m pleased to have got through it without incident, and that’s 26 miles in the bank 🙂

Thank you Phoenix Running for a good start to the year!

Marathon Fundraising

Am finding this quite a tricky pastime! Especially along with the logistics involved with selecting and entering 12 marathons. Then there is the travel, especially when you live on an Island, where to stay. Oh, and I guess it would be good to fit some training in as well!

I found pre-Christmas, when I took on the challenge a bit of a write off. Most people are focused on Christmas, and then of course comes the long slog through January without any wages.

I have spent that time focusing on some fundraising events which I hope will get me a long way towards the target.

Here are the events I’ve been planning that hopefully will come off…

A couple of parties. I put on some food / cocktails and entertainment, my guests make a donation. Everyone is a winner hopefully, I raise some money, we all have a good time!

A Race Night. This is aimed at a different group of friends. At a pub, again hopefully we raise a few pounds whilst having a good time.

I’m awaiting confirmation on a treadmill run at a local supermarket. I will run something like a marathon distance on the treadmill, hopefully with my kids doing some bucket shaking.

Probably the biggest event, is a Frolic run that I have organised. This is a fun run, staged over 5 hours, with a choice of laps to choose from. People choose which laps, so it is completely flexible. Some people might come and run 4 or 5 miles, some might run a marathon. I am expecting a few people to use it as a marathon prep run. I was a bit shocked by this event, as I did the groundwork, launched it as an event on Facebook, and within a day or 2 it had 250 people interested!

Throughout all these events, I will sell tickets to my prize draw. I’ve been very lucky in that businesses I’m friendly with have agreed to put up some brilliant prizes. We have Festival Tickets, Shop Vouchers, Beauty Vouchers, Tickets to the Racing and lots more.

Hopefully with all these things put together, we might be getting close!

Training Update pre marathon #1

So the training ‘plan’ changed a lot in the run up to marathon #1.

I originally had quite an intense plan, that involved losing quite a bit of weight, and completing 3 x 20 mile training runs before tackling the Phoenix Excalibur One marathon on 27th Jan.  So that would pretty much match what I had done before when I trained hard for London last year.

In the end I thought better of it, and decided that doing that level of training for marathon #1, was going to be too much, too soon.  When I did that at the start of 2018, I had the luxury of taking a break after I had run the marathon (well after the second marathon).  This time I won’t be doing that, there is a long year of marathons to conquer.

So the new thinking is that marathon #1 really is considered part of the training for other marathons to come this year, hopefully some of which can get back down around the 4 hour mark that I managed last year.

So on the run up for marathon #1, I did manage to get my mileage back to something sensible, putting in 80 miles for November, 90 for December.  January should be back over the 100 mark again, which is where it needs to be.  I’ve manage to shake off half a stone of where I’d got to after spending last June and July eating, drinking and not running much.  I did manage 1 x 20 miler, around new year.

My last significant training run was this week, 6 days before marathon #1.  That was 11.6 miles at around the same pace that I did the first half of my sub 4 marathon in, really as a bit of a test to see where my heart rate would be at and how I would feel.  So Sunday will be a bit of an unknown quantity.  I need to start out slower than the test run, but how it is going to feel after 20 miles, who knows.  I’ll find out at about lunchtime on Sunday!