The Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

2019 medals
At last managed to make my 2019 medal rack!

So, I have been meaning to wrap up my year of marathons and not quite got round to it, to here is a little summary of how it went down.

I guess the headline is that I kind of finished it. I had intended to run one marathon each month, but due to injury, the schedule got juggled about, meaning I didn’t finish one in July, and had to skip August.

When it comes to injuries, you definitely need to take care of yourself and listen to you body, but my year proves it’s also partly down to luck. I got wacked in the knee by a cricket ball, which did some ligament damage on the outside of my knee.

After a painful DNF at the Space Race Marathon in July, and then a month off running, I managed to get back up to distance, help by a nice pair of Brooks Ghost, which are much more cushioned than my normal shoes, I think that really helped my knee.

So twelve marathons done, they are listed out on ‘The Marathons’ page. Stats wise that was 262 ish miles of actual marathon running, backed up by around 1000 miles of training. I did around 1,650 miles of travelling to those marathons, and Strava says the marathons burnt around 38,000 calories. That’s a lot of calories, but I have proved that you don’t need to get too skinny if you drink enough wine!

On the travel side of things a big thank you to Red Funnel, that helped enourmously towards my travel costs, which helped me in turn to help the charity more.

The most important stat though is the £3,500 raised for the NSPCC. That was quite hard, but was achieved but organising a cocktail party, a race night, a ‘Frolic’ run, a prize draw, and endlessly nagging everyone to donate (sorry!).

Overall, I absolutely loved the year of marathons. There was always something ahead to focus on, and doing one a month was not too many (compared to the people I met doing one a week!).

Lowpoints – getting injured, the mud on marathon #1, the massive sense of humour failure at the Yeovil Marathon, not being allowed to defer or anything useful by the Bath Two Tunnels organiser when I was injured, and the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon, though I still don’t understand why it was so hard!

Highlights – London for the NSPCC, running past Mo Farah at the Space Race, the 2 minute silence in the middle of the Remembrance Marathon, trips away to run marathons with mates, getting back to run another PB after my injury and the Portsmouth Coastal, yes it’s a highlight and a Lowlight, it’s that confusing. Best moment for me was finishing the Isle of Wight Marathon with my 96 year old Nan there 🙂

Of the marathons, I’d recommend all of them, but would have more reservations over the Yeovil one as I didn’t like the route that much. New Forest as I’m not a fan of running on gravel and there was quite a lot of it, and it was my first run back from injury. Favourites were London, Southampton, Bedford Motor Circuit and the Track Marathon (yes I mean it!).

Thanks for listening 🙂

Marathon #12 – Portsmouth Coastal Marathon

Finished with Step Brother Robert

So marathon number 12 finally arrived, at the end of a year that has flown by.  Sunday was the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon, a race that has mystified me in the past. Having now run it, it continues to be a mystery. How can a run so flat, feel so so difficult.

On Sunday that was definitely down to the underfoot conditions. It is a real mixture, but some areas were very muddy or immersed in water, and very slippery. We saw a few people go down in the mud.

I had agonised over shoe selection, and was left wishing I had a bit more grip. I ran this one with my step brother Rob. He is more used to triathlons these days, but this was his second full marathon.

Preparation was not good.  Training had been restricted due to a sore neck over the last month or so and the night before was a sleepless one, waiting for the 4:30am alarm. We set a steady pace, and all was going ok until we reached 21 miles.  Then the energy sapping effect of the mud hit home, and we struggled for the last 5 miles.

Crossing the finish line!

We got home in 4:36. Second slowest this year, but the job was done.
Reflecting on the 12 marathons, I have genuinely loved the experience. Yes it has thrown up some really challenging moments, but that was the point of doing this. It wasn’t supposed to be easy.

Would I recommend it to other runners, definitely! As long as you have a few marathons under your belt. It is a year where you always have a challenge waiting just around the corner.

Highlights for the year would have to feature the London marathon. Doing that for NSPCC was special, and it is the best marathon I have run in so many ways.  The 2 minute silence in the midst of the Remembrance marathon was also amazing.

From a performance point of view, I’m really chuffed to have got under 4 hours 4 times, and having shaved some time off my PB. (3:52 at Bedford running Grand Prix). Now onto the next challenge!

Marathon #11 – The Remembrance Marathon

1 kilo of awesome medal!

These last 2 marathons I’m treating a little less seriously if I’m honest. Was really pleased with the last marathon at Bedford, had trained really hard and clocked a decent PB. These 2, time to enjoy and get finished safely.

Next month, I’ll be going with friends and will probably do a little celebrating after, and am actually running it with my step brother.

For this trip up to Walton on Thames, I had a car full, with 5 friends joining me on a promise of a good laugh and an awesome medal. This was a Phoenix Running event, my fourth with them this year, although I hoped this one would bring better luck than my DNF at the Space Race in July. This one had exactly the same start location, but was longer laps in the other direction along the towpath by the Thames.

Although I was looking to enjoy this one, I wasn’t planning on running with anyone, so did think in my head that I’d start out at my normal sort of pace and if that took me close to 4 hours, then so be it.

So, race time, and a few things cropped up that made this run a little slower than I thought it might be, not that it was a big deal.

First up, it was a Phoenix event, which means an awesome snack table at Race HQ. From experience I know that on a Phoenix event, when the going gets tough, it’s very easy to hang around the aid station for a bit too long having a chat!

Second, normally these events are much smaller. I was surprised to find that 650 runners would be making their way down the towpath today, so it was quite congested at the start.

Third, the weeks of endless rain, meant that this usually compact towpath, in places had become a bit of a mudbath and once again I wished I owned some shoes with some tread!

Finally, I started the race with some real fun and games with the GPS on my watch. It is sad I know, but when I run well I am a slave to the time. I like to constantly monitor my pace versus how I’m feeling, set targets, have target paces for different sections of the run etc. When it went wrong right at the start, my brain wasn’t really interested in trying to hit paces. The GPS was so far out, that I told the running buddy I started with that I thought my watch had switched to metric. In fact it got worse than that and at one point my pace for the first mile was reading 1 minute 30 seconds, now that’s moving! Once the race was over, it appeared that after a few hundred metres, the GPS then moved my location about a mile north for a while.

All things considered, the run went well. It was a busy start, and we battled through the first mile or so trying to find a bit of clear ground to run in. The first few miles were in reality around 8:40 on average, and after a couple of miles, Zoe who had started out with me, decided that wasn’t a sensible pace and backed off a bit, leaving me to some solo running. On I plodded keeping the average just under 9s.

At 11am, so at about 1:30 into the run, it was time for the 2 minute silence. The marshalls had spread themselves out down the 3.3 mile course, and sounded their horns. 650 runners stopped in their tracks, wherever they stood, and for 2 minutes it felt like time stood still and we remembered. A few moments to remember those that made huge sacrifices, some the ultimate sacrifice, so that we might enjoy our freedom. Somehow, it almost feels silly, when you stand there and reflect on the truly heroic acts by all those men and women, at a moment when you are frittering away a Sunday running up and down a path. It was however, a very special moment, the highlight of today and one of the highlights of this whole year of running for me.

Running backwards and forwards, 4 laps, 8 lengths of the river path, is in someways quite boring. However, it has the big plus of seeing people run past, many times. I kept seeing my running buddies, so first up running supremo Bill from my club, he was flying. Next Mick, a good friend and a running lunatic, he has been on more of my marathons this year than anyone else, next month will be the 8th I believe. Next up is Zoe who I started out with on this run. Steve Hickman was next up, a true legend from our running club, about to complete marathon #162 for him. Then came Giorgio who was tackling today on minimal training, a 10 mile run I believe. Then came my friend Sarah, very special to see her out running, as she is the person who first got me to join a running club, so it’s really all her fault!

I kept seeing them on each lap, we shouted encouragement at each other, sometimes abuse, and it helped the miles tick by. Then after a couple of laps a surprise for everyone when another runner from the Isle of Wight, Jane Andrew, popped up to offer encouragement, then was lovely.

Then I was in for a real treat, thanks to some very fortunate timing. I had finished lap 3, grabbed a slurp on my Lucozade and was about to set off on my final lap, when none other than Bill Goozee, came streaking down the path to win the marathon!

After seeing Bill win, I trudged off to finish the final lap. The pace had dropped a bit, miles 23 onwards were all in the 10s. The legs had started to feel tired before halfway, I assume that was the impact of the sticky mud, so was happy to get through it. Finishing time was 4:10:08 once the 2 minute silence was knocked off. All things considered, I was pretty pleased with that. One ‘skill’ I have definitely learned this year, is how to just keep moving when things don’t feel so good, or when it feels like things are against you. In previous years these moments would definitely have turned into walking.

A good day out, with some great people.

11 down, 1 to go! Next stop Portsmouth Coastal on 22nd December.

Marathon #10 – Bedford Running Grand Prix

Marathon #10 took me to the Bedford Autodrome for another Running Grand Prix with the Running Through team.

This was the last of my ‘quick’ marathons this year, and I came into it feeling fit after a good showing at the Isle of Wight Marathon 3 weeks before.  I was hopeful that I could dip under the 4 hour mark for one last time this year.

So that was the game plan. I’d scripted in my head how my splits would look up to halfway and beyond. If I could do that, it would then be about holding it together in the back half to get home in 3 something.

I’d stayed overnight with friends, so an hour’s drive in the morning, and was grateful that the clocks had gone back an hour.  Conditions looked good with bright sunshine, but a chilly fresh start at about 4 degrees.

The format consists of a marathon, 20 mile, half marathon, 10k and 5k.  The runs all set off at different times and are filtered into the main course in a way that it does not cause too much congestion.  Good for the marathon, as the 150 entrants get the course to ourselves, then are gradually joined by more runners around the 3 mile circuit. Then it gets quieter towards the end.

My hopes of a 4 hour run got a boost when I bumped into Craig. He is running his own marathon challenge this year and I’d run with him in January and briefly at the New Forest, I knew the pacing would be good if I could stick with Craig.

Off we went, and we ran miles at around 8:15, 8:20, 8:30 throughout the first half, taking us through halfway at 1:51. About the same as when I ran my PB on the track in March, so a swift start.

I bid farewell to Craig as I stopped at my bag for drinks and to reload on gels. I also popped my headphones in and set about tackling the back half. Felt about as good as can be expected, and managed to maintain a decent pace. It wasn’t until mile 21 that the pace crept over 9 minutes for any mile.

At this point I knew I was well on pace for not just sub 4, but maybe a PB (3:56) if I could hold it all together. The last few miles were tough as always, but managed to keep plugging away and they were all in the 9s.

Got home in 3:52:17, so a 4 minute PB, very chuffed and a bit surprised with that.  A great event, and a day when things just seemed to click for me.
10 marathons done, one each in November and December and it will all be over!

Marathon #9 – The Isle of Wight Marathon

Getting my medal from a special supporter today!

This is my home marathon. It’s one of my favourite and least favourite marathons all rolled into one!

Why is it a favourite… well, it is local, it starts late. What other marathon can I stay in bed until 8am and then get up and casually get ready. Also, imagine a marathon where people you know continually pop up around the whole course, supporting and marshaling. A good example this year, was suffering a little bit on the back of the course, was between drink stops and needed water. There parked in a layby in the middle of nowhere was the hubby of a club mate “Alright Glen, you want some water?” – Perfect, thanks Deano! Throughout the course supporters would pop up, club mates would pop up cheering and offering sweets, it would really be a jolly day if it wasn’t for those 26.2 miles.

Now, the least favourite part. The course is varied and interesting, but is a bit of a pig. My Strava showed 1,500ft of climb, and what makes it worse, is that three of the more significant inclines are all queued up and waiting for you at the end of the run. Three decent hills, starting from 22 miles in, and the last one lasting for the whole of mile 24!

This was the third time I’ve run this course, and it does have a special place for me as it was my first marathon back in 2015. This year though it was extra special for personal reasons. Whilst I have been doing this marathon challenge, my Nan at the ripe old age of 96, has been having a tough time of it. My marathons have become a little tradition for us. She knows when I’m running one, and the next day I usually hobble in to visit her, show her the medal and tell her all about it. For this marathon though, she was able to attend, and give me the medal at the end. It was very special 🙂

I’m not usually an emotional type, but I did find the thought that she was there waiting for me to finish today, really did push me on a few times when I was struggling. I really felt in the zone for today’s run. Whether it was just a good day and everything clicked, or whether my Nan was a factor I don’t know.

I kicked off the run in usual sensible fashion, running the first mile in 7:55! Calmed down to a regular pace, and with some hills thrown in, passed halfway in 2 hours exactly. I was looking for a time today under 4:30, hoping for 4:15. I’d even written 9:43 on my arm, to remind me what the average pace per mile would be to hit 4:15 once my brain was mush and I coudn’t think straight.

The second half went well, and where I was expecting to really suffer, I found that I was regularly finding runners on the second half to try and catch up and get past.

Then came those 3 lovely hills. On each I did a little bit of run / walking. Running up long hills at the end of a marathon I know sends my heart rate stratospheric. The run / walking I found didn’t hurt my pace too much, I guess the running was quicker than if I’d just carried on stubbornly plodding.

Got to the top of the last hill, and knew that with a decent last mile I was under the 4:15, so pushed on finishing in 4:11:50, better than I thought was possible.

Finished with a gathering of family there to watch, including Nan, and of course with a good collection of Isle of Wight Road Runners who had now returned to base.

All in all a fantastic day, one of my favourites so far for the year 🙂

Marathon #8 – Goodwood Running Grand Prix

‘Racing’ around Goodwood with the Stig

After successfully getting round the New Forest course 2 weeks before, it was onto the Goodwood Motor Circuit for some flat tarmac. I was hoping to shave some minutes off the New Forest time as I was hopefully getting some fitness back. In the 2 weeks since Marathon #7, I had done a range of quicker runs, and had done an 18 mile run on the weekend in between.

So race day came, and it was a day trip to Chichester to the Goodwood Motor Circuit to take on the ‘Running Grand Prix’. So an early ferry off the Island with 2 running buddies to keep me company. Time was tight, we arrived at the venue at 8:15 with the race starting at 9am. We were mostly ready, so it was a case of sticking the numbers and tags on, last minute snacks, drinks, lubrication and on to the start.

My view of this event is that it was very well put together and well organised. It would be good if more information about the course and race day were published on the website, then I would not have to ask them so many questions!

The marathon started first, then each other race 20 mile, Half, 10k, 5k all kicked off 15 mins apart and those runners were fed onto the course. It meant that for the bulk of my run, there was a steady stream of people around the course, all chasing their own goals over different distances, it wasn’t busy though.

Mid run, the expected band of weather came through, and it absolutely poured down! I don’t mind the rain during runs, certainly preferable to baking sunshine, but conditions did get tricky for a while, with a lot of standing water on the track to splash through.

I had decided today that I thought I could go close to 4 hours, but probably was not fit enough for another sub 4, but decided to give myself a chance. So I set off at around 8:30s, and maintained that as an average for around the first 8 miles. I was then doing most miles at just over 9 minute miles, so was maintaining a pace that would get me just under the 4 hours. Sadly, that was when the wheels fell off!

From 20 miles onwards I was really suffering in my legs and hips and just felt like I didn’t want to run anymore. So from that point on, I slowed down and just plodded round. The 4 hours was out of sight and it was only now about collecting the medal. Miles 22 to 26 were all in the 10 to 11 minute range, but eventually the last lap ticked away and I was there in 4:12:30. A few minutes slower than I’d hoped, but I paid the price for some early over ambition!

8 down, 4 to go. Next stop the Isle of Wight Marathon on 6th October, my home marathon. Not a quick one, but will be nice to see lots of familiar faces 🙂

Marathon #7.1 – New Forest Marathon

Post race at the New Forest

So after a frustrating couple of months where I didn’t complete the Space Race in July, and skipped the Two Tunnels Marathon in August both due to a knee injury, this week I managed to get back on track and complete the New Forest Marathon.

After missing August, my planned run for September was the Running Grand Prix at Goodwood on the 22nd. Originally that was supposed to be a quickish one, but I knew the first one back after the knee injury, with a significant drop in training mileage, was going to be tough.

The knee rehab had gone well, a period of gym only, followed but a few successful test runs meant that when a friend dropped out of the New Forest on the 8th, I was willing to give it a go, and if I could complete it I’d view it as training for the Goodwood run. I had completed a 17 mile run the weekend before with no knee pain, so was confident I could at least get round.

So, race day and off with some friends, one doing the marathon, one the half and three supporters. Conditions were good, but we did have pretty much solid sunshine, and towards the end of the marathon it did get pretty warm.

I had company out there today. I started running with Craig that I had met on my January marathon, he is running an amazing 50 marathons this year for WWF. We did the first couple of miles together, but he was a bit too quick for me, and I had to stop and adjust my knee support.

The knee support was an addition during training to give a little more security as Lateral Ligament damage makes the knee a bit less stable. I was also running in different shoes for this one. I’d switched from my normal Adidas Boston 7’s which are pretty lightweight, to Brooks Ghosts, which offer a bit more cushion to give the knee a bit less of a pounding.

I also had a good friend Simon out on the course today, running his first ever marathon. I saw him at the start and we wished each other well before setting off. I set off with Craig, so started quickly and then reigned it in to get to the halfway point at about 2:03.

I struggled a bit from halfway, the lack of training miles over the last 2 months taking it’s toll. In the last few miles, even though it felt hard, I seemed to be doing well against the field, reeling a few runners in again. I pushed on to the end and passed our gang of enthusiastic supporters on the finishing straight.

Job done, #7 this time officially ticked off in 4:22:33.

The New Forest Marathon is a good event that I’d recommend.

Good bits: There are a ranges of distances to choose from, 10k up to the marathon. There is a really nice area to chill out afterwards with a stage, live music, beer and food. The scenery is beautiful, through the forest, country roads, a couple of pretty villages and of course New Forest ponies! Event was well organised, toilets were plentiful.

Not so good bits: Gravel, quite a lot of the route is gravel paths, which for me personally is not my favourite surface to run on. I would prefer a different energy drink to be available, or to be able to supply my own to a water station. What was supplied I was not familiar with, and was in the same cups as water, hence I did hear about one chap who had poured it over his head to cool down! 🙂

Injury / Challenge Update

A few weeks on from failing to finish marathon #7, and I’m afraid I will need to skip marathon #8 next week in Bath.

For a few days after the Space Race in July, I really couldn’t walk properly. My GP has diagnosed Lateral Collateral Ligament damage on the outside of my right knee, and I don’t feel it is ready for a marathon attempt yet.

I have spent a couple of weeks so far, mostly going to the gym to workout on the Rower and the Cross Trainer. Hopefully that is helping me maintain some level of fitness. I’m also starting to watch what I’m eating and drinking again, trying to get back down to something more manageable.

The two tunnels marathon in Bath next weekend, looks quite challenging, and on the couple of test runs I have done, the knee has not been painful, but certainly uncomfortable, right from the first mile. So I won’t be running in Bath. It’s a real shame when the organisers of these races show absolutely no sympathy to people that get injured, especially when they are running the race for charity. Would it really have harmed Relish Running Races to let me give the place to someone else, or even to let me go back and run it in 2020? I think that is just mean, I’ll try not to give them any more of my money in the future.

So, I’m going to keep the miles to a minimum for now, and will continue goig to the gym to try and strengthen this troublesome knee. In the meantime, no more cricket! Goodwood marathon is on the 22nd September, fingers crossed for that.

Marathon #7 – The Space Race

July’s marathon was supposed to be The Space Race, a 6 hour timed event run by Phoenix Running, who I ran marathons with in January and March. It took place along the Thames, so starting near the location of the track marathon, but going 1.6 miles along the path by the river, and back to a well stocked HQ, as always with Phoenix.

Today, was a bit different to my previous runs, as for the first time I arrived with genuine question marks over whether I could complete the run.

The key to this challenge was always going to be staying marathon fit for the whole year. A few weeks before this run, I had been struck very hard on the outside of my knee by a cricket ball. I had initially tried to ignore it and carry on running, but when I tried to run around 8 miles one day, realised there was a more significant problem.

I had seen a sports injury specialist, who said the knee was structurally OK, most likely soft tissue damage. So from then I rested, and against the advice of running friends, thought I’d give this run a go.

8 laps of the course was the goal, that equates to an official marathon finish.

So, off I set, at my normal kind of early marathon pace, around 8:45 to 9 minutes per mile. The first lap was fine, I would not have know I had ever hurt my knee. Lap 2, also fine. Stopped for drinks, and setting off for lap 3, I noticed the first signs of discomfort. On we went, through laps 3 and 4, to the halfway point.

Setting off on lap 5, my knee was really hurting now. I knew I was going to have to change tack if I was to have any chance of completing another 4 laps. So part way through the out part of Lap 4, I tried to walk, surely I’d be able to run / walk the rest? However, somehow, walking hurt more than running. I actually found it better to hobble along at a jog.

I finished leg 6 in agony, and knew drastic measures were required. I stopped at HQ, went to the pub for Coke, took an array of pain killers, and put on a leg brace. I sat and gathered my thoughts for 10 minutes. When I stood up to test the knee, it pretty much gave way under me. There was no way I was running in it, certainly not another 6 miles.

So, in the eyes of Phoenix running I was of course a winner, and collected the most awesome dinner plate of a medal from organiser Rik (pictured). However, will always be a bitter sweet medal in my collection, as this was the day I had to give up on the primary goal of the challenge, completing the 12 marathons one per month.

The challenge lives on though, I’m determined to complete the 12 marathons, hopefully still in 2019, if not ASAP. However, for now, marathon #7 still does not have a tick against it!

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.