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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 events, 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 own 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 5th 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.

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.