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.

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!