Monday, 30 November 2009


Having a spring marathon to aim for is certainly one of the biggest motivational factors to enable a runner to haul the body through the cold,often wet and dark autumn and winter days.  But it seems for so many once the marathon has been run they are left aimless. Whether they have a good or bad the anticlimax is so great they fail to lift themselves for other events or even another marathon.  Even at the highest level many think that one marathin is enough in a year.

Last Friday I mentioned that today 25 years ago saw me running my 5th marathon of 1984. Having run the Leeds marathon on Oct. 28 (2:31.24 for 6th) it begs the question why didn't I just "call it a day" for the year. After all I had already run the other 4 in pretty good times, winning a couple of them.  On the other hand Morecambe was March 4,  Bradford May 20 and Selby June 24; so they weren't quite "back to back".

I can only think that we had probably arranged to sell at the Barnsley race (Complete Runner "mobile")
and rather than stand around for hours, as with so many other races, I would mix business with pleasure. Another factor was the team aspect. Steve O'Callaghan and Martyn Hopson (Valley Striders) had both run Leeds and were to do Barnsley, so we would have a good team.  Some would say one good marathon a year is enough.  Others a couple one in the Spring, one in the autumn.  How would this 5th go?

Conjure up a cool, crisp winter's day. Dry and sunny.  A flat course, meandering through idyllic South Yorkshire countryside.  Got that? Well it was nothing like that. It was industrial Barnsley on a cold, dank winter's day on an undulating course which had little to commend it.   Nevertheless, early pace was very promising....through 10 mile in 54.57....through the half in 72 plus....leaders still in sight. But my recollection is that conditions took a hold and the pace thereafter started to dip.   Through 20 in 1:52.47, still well under 6s but then slower still.  Managed to stay under 7s though to hold on to 10th place in 2:32.43.   Steve was 8th (4 mins. slower than Leeds) Martyn  (only 1.5 mins slower than Leeds).  So my time was much in line with theirs.   8th, 10th and 12th, we upset the locals in winning the team race.

Surveying the results, I'm certain few at the sharp are still racing.  Keith Singleton (7th) of Wakfield can still be seen locally.  Tony Kingham (11th), the driving force behind so many successful Bradford Grammar teams (Richard Nerurkar etc) and is still racing; now under Bingley H. colours. In 20th was Dave Woodhead who is perhaps better known now for his races up at Haworth with wife Eileen. But very notably in 43rd was Malcom Coles of Skyrac (2:42.46) who you will still see EVERY weekend and midweek in the summer in races of every description. Incredible!

So that was the year that was.........1984.....5 marathons, a 20 , 6 half marathons and 6 10 milers. All
entered and run voluntarily. No Orwellian totalitarian "Big Brother" state forcing me (and many others) to partake in some form of ritualistic torture in the name of sport. December would start with a couple of lower mileage weeks but then increase quite quickly to kickstart the New Year. I'm shaking my head reading  that I finished the year with a run back from Clitheroe 10k to Ilkley giving me 109 on the week just 5 weeks after Barnsley. So much for post marathon recovery.

Today's run?  After 13 mile yesterday...just 6 recovery run on the grass....coincidently same as 1984!

Sunday, 29 November 2009


After a good track session yesterday on top of a fairly hard week the plan today was to nudge the  "long" run
up to 13 but not be constantly looking at the garmin for pace. Just cover the distance nice and relaxed without putting pressure on calves and hamstrings delicate after yesterday. Checked out the local church flag as usual and saw the wind was blowing strong N.E. so plumpted for a Silsden start heading into the wind on the canal to 5 Rise locks. Heavy rain on the drive over and for the 1st mile but with laminated tights on and seamed Goretex jacket on anticipated no problems.  As they say there's no such thing as bad weather....just bad clothing!  How wrong was I?

After just 1.5 miles I met an an oncoming dogwalker who said I wouldn't reach the canal as the narrow lane was under water.  I ran to check though and found there was 18" of water covering the road. The work done a few months ago by the council hadn't worked it would seem.  Decided to wade through and stick to the plan. 

Danced through puddles most of the way there after and of course 40 metres of wading up to my knees in the last mile, but covered the 13 at "easy" pace (2 minutes above race pace) to give me 56 miles on the week.  Having shed other running commitments the last 6 weeks have gone really well with weeks of 50,50,
51,56,56 and 56.  Next decision is whether to run the Guys 10 or nudge the season's 5K time down again.

Saturday, 28 November 2009


Stuck to the week's plan arriving at Seedhill, Nelson track mid morning. Dry and quite still for a change. Quiet as usual. A couple of veteran sprinters and two young lads jogging around the track. 2 warm up miles as normal, back to track,......... two young lads still jogging aroung the track.

Session to be 4 miles of "speed"......any more and I knew the pace would drift to become a speed endurance 8 x 800 with 90 second jog 100 recovery. Should be capable of 7 minute/mile pace so target is 3.30.   Make a start......two young lads still jogging around.   I run
     3: 35.6      3:34.3     3.37.6       3:34.3
Halfway.  Times are down.....not going that well........two young lads still......
     3:32.0       3:29.1      3: 28.2      3.25.7
As usual a better second half; particularly that last one. Average not too bad for another solo effort.

Cool down on the track as the 2 young lads jog on.
I join them for a while in late morning bright sunshine.
"Are you OK lads? How far are you doing?"
"Yeah, we're doing a marathon"
"Really, you know that's 104 laps!"
"Yeah" They reply as if it's a normal activity for 11 year olds on a Saturday morning.
"Why are you doing so far?"
"Keeping fit", says one.
"A challenge", says the other.
"How many laps have you done?"
"64 laps in 2 hours 39 minutes"

It's past noon now and as I get into the car to drive home the lads are still jogging around and a parent is approaching the track with bottles of Lucozade for the courageous boys.  Can't help but admire their fortitude and endeavour. Whether they'll be fit for school on Monday is another matter. At least they'll have Sunday to recover.

Friday, 27 November 2009


Oh behave! ........It's Friday, so back easing the legs with a gentle pace recovery run on the grass. Despite a tough week, all went well, music on, avoiding the rabbit holes then......a bright light in the sky in the east....rapidly approaching. Was it Halley's Comet? A supernova?

Or was I about to be whisked up to heaven by the star of Bethlehem?  The bright light morphed into concentrated landing beam guided by the floodlights on the all weather pitch and as it hovered overhead forcing me to divert my planned  route and the noise increased I knew it was an approaching helicopter. The point for the end of the run coincided with the landing spot for large helicopter bringing Sir David Jones back to Ilkley from Wigan.  Minutes later a Bentley swings in to take him the last mile to his £2m mansion on the hillside (it's up for sale).

In case you don't know, Sir David Jones is in the same line of business as me. Sports retailing.  Except
his company JJB Sports have a few more outlets than the Complete Runner. We, however, do a make a bit of a profit.  He is executive chairman of the Wigan based company  JJB  who posted losses of £42.9 million in half a year.  Whilst I'm semi -retired and easing down, he at about the same age, and suffering with Parkinson's Disease, has the task of trying to "rescue the troubled company" (Daily Telegraph).  I did ask him on another occasion why?  His response was something on the lines of....what else would I do?    I know where I rather be at 11.30 each morning.   Of course if he ran home instead of using a helicopter then the losses of the company wouldn't be so great!

Nostalgia note.....the run recorded for 25 years ago .....Friday Nov.23rd 1984.......was 4 mile easy as today.  Final taper for the Barnsley marathon the following Sunday.  It was to be the 5th of the year and only
4 weeks after the Leeds marathon.  How bad could it get?

Thursday, 26 November 2009


5 Rise Locks to Low Lane farm at Silsden is becoming firmly established as my midweek, medium length run. Wet and quite breezy setting off but the pace throughout was consistently a few seconds faster than last week; each mile being nudged down to my humble "brisk" pace for the last 3 to 4 miles. Last week 78.02
today 76.40.                     9.07     8.48    8.38    8.37    8.31    8.20    8.16    8.15    8.03

Again it was tempting to push those last 3 miles up to tempo pace but I decided to save that effort for Saturday.

This picture of  Paula Radcliffe in tears conducting a post race N.Y. interview made me think again of Spedding's 3 key motivational questions. What do I want? Why do I want it? How much do I want it?  Presumably she wanted to win in a world class time. Presumably she wanted to record a return to form that would guarantee her the biggest cheque of the day. Presumably despite her past performances she wanted "it" enough for not achieving what she wanted to reduce her to tears. Tears for which in A.W. last week she was strongly criticised for wallowing in self pity instead of maintaining her dignity and pouring praise on Derartu Tulu (N. Y. marathon winner), conceding she was beaten on the day by the better runner. The A.W. piece was this week described in "Letters" as sour, cynical and mean spirited.

I can understand her being disappointed but her 2.29 plus was entirely predictable based on her N.Y. half marathon time of 69 plus and of course earnings wise she will still have pocketed a handsome amount. As they say one died.

Ever cried after a race?  I recall one occasion....but only one.  National |Cross Country Luton 1967. Having been coached to start every race very fast through the winter, I recall spearheading the field with a teammate after 1/4 mile; only to suffer very, very badly as we hit plough. Probably deep in oxygen debt,  runners streamed by in droves as they do in the National.  Eventually, I finished 97th. exhausted and quite upset!
Northern champions we (Sale H.) were favourites to win.....we finished 5th.

Redemption came the following week, however. 12th in the Inter Counties running for Lancashire.  I'd put the bad race behind me straight away and learnt from it.  When will Paula's redemption come?  Probably not for many months before giving herself the chance to pick herself up.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


Much as Sarah J. reported  a couple of weeks ago, hill sessions can be a real pain in the butt!  For her most likely because she had done hers with a higher knee left than normal, pain resulting via the stretched hamstring. For me, I could feel the effects of that return to hill reps. yesterday. A session in which I'd try to concentrate on maintaining good form much as Elliott was showing in yesterday's photo.  I'll  continue the hills programme now and build it up. The pain should be easier after next time.

Anyone training tonight has my sympathy as far as the weather goes, as I witnessed the "turn " today at lunch. I was back on the Strid 8 and in the first mile, past the cricket field heading towards the Abbey,I had a pleasant breeze pushing me along, the warm late morning sun was soothingly warming my back and I felt blessed to be not working and enjoying such a great day.  The run would be an easy pace, I could just run the trails and enjoy the exercise.  The rain came as I ran past the Cavendish on the way back and retracing my steps over the field it had a nasty cold bite to it and I know that it has persisted throughout the rest of the day. Let's hope tomorrow will be better.

I finished the Charlie Spedding book today. It's a good read and there is much to learn for runners whatever their level.  He laments the decline in standards, of course, and in line with me puts much blame for this at the
hands of London marathon and Great North run organisers who invite foreign stars leaving British runners with a lack of incentives and giving the "general public" the impression that besides the foreign stars, the rest of the field are fancy dress runners.  This false perception means that youngsters are not inspired to take part in events which perhaps their mother has run in wearing a pink tutu. It's just not cool. There's something in it.

Consequently, as can be seen in so many clubs without track/ field sections, there are few members in the 18-30 age group and there is no sign of matters improving. Certainly not before 2012.

I often talk about having a significant AIM,  planning OBJECTIVES towards that aim, planning and executing the training, running the races then evaluating the results.  In much the same way Spedding's major marathons became significant AIMS and he performed quite badly comparatively in the races in between.
He just didn't want success enough in shorter races. His mind was thinking of the main goal.  For the major races he adopted the mantra of..."What do I want?  Why do I want it?  How much do I want it?  the positive answers to these questions resulting in success.  He doesn't really say how much running he is doing nowadays. Certainly not racing as far as I know.  But if his answers to those 3 questions are all negative then I can understand it.   Not having an Olympic bronze medal I'm quite happy to still compete and try to finish in the first three in my age group.  

Personally, I think with a more positive attitude it's possible to train say for a marathon and still record good performances on the way; but of course with marathon training miles in the legs there has to be a degree of what if....?  


Tuesday, 24 November 2009


Deciding what to do on the Monday after a Sunday race is a fairly simple choice for most of us. Of course, some choose to rest completely.  Many, probably the majority,  opt for an easy shortish recovery run or if it's your club night (yes, why Monday?) you risk going down and being sucked into a damaging hard session by someone who hasn't raced the day before.

I have found as the years have rolled by that if the Sunday race has been anything over 10k that it has become necessary to be careful about what I do even on Tuesdays. Waiting until Wednesday before attempting to push the pace again.  On Sunday at Preston I spoke to Evan Cook of Blackburn after the 5K and he said he had suffered hamstring problems having done a speed session on the Tuesday after his 36.26
10K at Trafford.  He is 58!  Too much, too soon, we agreed.

Having said all that, Sunday's race was "only" a 5K so I decided to do a hill session today, ( a speed session without the speed) offroad tomorrow, a sustained run on Thursday, easy Friday, track on Saturday and the longest run on Sunday. Sounds like a plan! 

As I've retreated from road runs over the last few years the hill sessions have become increasingly less frequent.  So today, a couple of miles warm up then  working to 3 lengthening markers did 4 x A, 4 x 2A, 4 x 3A. Doing the first set I thought the session would prove to be too easy but by the time I attempted the 4th rep on the last set I was feeling the strain. 7 in total with cool down.  Quads quite sore.....where's that ice!   Today's session was on tarmac but the hardest hill sessions I ever did were on sand.  I think Percy Wells Cerutty the famous  coach started the trend at his Portsea training camp in Australia. This old photo (circa 1960) depicts one of his groups working on the dunes. Notice the excellent arm and knee action particularly of the second runner 1960 Olympic 1500 metre champion , Herb Elliott.  To replicate the sessions Sale Harriers organised for groups to holiday in Llanbedrog in Wales in the '60s. If you find some big dunes next time you're on holiday give it a go...but remember you have been warned!

Sunday, 22 November 2009


Hard to believe with my love of detail I know,  but writing Friday's blog entry I was forced to check my records for marathons run and found I'd missed one I completed in October 1983, the Leeds!  So without months of training, without breaking sweat and without running a single step I've added a marathon to bring the total to 26. 

Anyway, another funfilled, action packed weekend draws to a close. Kicked off Saturday with a mainly flat offroad 6 miler to leave training/ racing options open for today. Options becauseI wasn't sure how I'd feel after a wedding later in the day or indeed whether we'd wake up today to heavy  rain and gales as forecast for parts of the country.

Well, the wedding (the daughter of a friend) was a wonderful occasion. A beautiful service in Rawdon followed by a splendid meal and very entertaining speeches at the very tastefully renovated Mansion House in Roundhay Park. Cautious with the alcohol and taking in plenty of water for a change.

So with no sign of rain we set off for Preston to run the BEST 5K around moor Park based at Preston N.E.
football ground. The torrential rain hit us at Clitheroe! But persevered with the plan and lined up with 256 others in welcome dry conditions to tackle the flattish traffic free course. Underwater in a few places but only added a few seconds to our times. My Garmin is set to miles and showed good consistency with 6.42 6.48 and 6.47 but puzzled that the course itself was mile marked in miles as well. Amazing for a 5k in 2009.

I was then looking forward to getting straight back for a nice restful afternoon. But stopping off in Skipton to refuel we both got out of the car with the keys in the ignition and as Pat filled up the car "passively" secured itself!  With a wait of over 90 minutes for the RAC man to come i eventually decided to go for a jog of anoyther 5 miles to stay warm. So 56 miles on the week but I'd have settled quite happily for 51 and an earlier hot bath.  Glad to get the race in though. I certainly couldn't have summoned up that pace doing a 3 mile tempo run by myself.   2nd M60  but as my dear wife Pat managed first F60!  Today's picture is of her first.......only appearance on a tartan track in the Alan Robertshaw Memorial relay at Sports City Manchester in 2007.

Friday, 20 November 2009


You may not know but I've never been 60 before. So I'm still learning what my old skeletal frame, muscles and joints can cope with running wise, if my daily running regime is to be maintained. After all, having given up the sex, drugs and rock and roll as I was advised what other pleasures in life do I have. (No eating a bag of Maynard's Wine Gums will not compensate for my daily fix!). Obviously, it's key to remain injury free.  I think a lot of my injuries over the last few years have resulted from trying to fit in with the training of others; very often sessions I've set for them myself.  Sessions young bodies could cope with, but I couldn't.

The benefit of training solo is that you can plan your own sessions and have more of a chance of sticking to them. I'm not planning too  far ahead though at the moment. I'm a bit torn between trying to get some speed back over 5ks and 10ks or pushing the long run up and up to possibly tackle a spring marathon. But my concern is that will tackling 20s and over blunt my speed at my age, whereas in my thirties the marathon training strengthened me for all distances down to 10k.  Of course there is that nagging niggle that if I hadn't
got caught up with marathon fever (4 in '83; 5 in '84; 3 in '85) then my 5k and 10k times would have been better. Plus I turned my back altogether on the track; only returning as a V40 in 1989. Who knows?

Anyway, not sure about plans long term but at least this week was planned and today's run was to be 9 miles in 78 minutes. Had in mind usual 2 mile intro then 6 at 8.30 plus last easier mile back at 9. The pick up in pace from 2 didn't quite materialise but managed to pull it back to record 78.03.  There was a danger of "taking off" as last Sunday but some times we have to hold back and not get carried away. Reason being all being well I'll do another 5k on Sunday.

So there's days for "having a go" and days for holding back and sticking to the plan. I remember a night I put up a session at the local club and said it would be 8 miles at 8 mins......64 minutes total as I had raced on the previous Sunday. All went well with the group of a dozen or so staying together for the first couple of miles. The first to break away was what I call a "Tuesday night racer".  He never races at weekends so Tuesday his his only chance to show how good he is. Away he went ....and one by one went the rest. With two miles of the run left there was just two of us. But she too couldn't hold back and I was left to run the last 2 miles alone.   I arrived back at the club 63.50.  So why had the other 11 elected to do the session then been carried away by the "Tuesday night racer"?

Thursday, 19 November 2009


I didn't plan to run fast and hard today,following yesterday's 21 x 300 on the track and 2 fairly hard Strid loops. As it was the weather left me (and anyone else running this morning!) with no choice.  I was back on the 2 Res. Run again. Continually I would come around a bend to be brought to a standstill as my puny 9st 8 figure struggled to cope against the S.W. gales.  Reaching the foreshore near the small, northerly Swinsty car park I was moving so slowly I had time to take a couple of shots as published here.  So sympathy to all those who had to train in it tonight if the gales were still blowing.
Including Sarah J. (Running Bear) who kindly popped in for a couple of hours for a chat this afternoon and was planning a 13 tonight.

I have nothing but admiration for the commitment of this young lady and her partner Marc. Last weekend saw her record another fine performance. Ist F35 running for England in the Masters British international. Is this the same lady who finished 54th in a C.R. W. Yks. XC league just a few years ago?

A great example of a dormant talent reawakening and with continued determination she is reaping the rewards which she richly deserves. Long may it continue.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009


For well over a week I have enjoyed mild, sunny conditions for my late morning runs. I know many have suffered as the weather has deteriorated later in the day. Well, today the weather caught up with me with avengeance! I had anticipated having to face driving rain at the Nelson track so I planned 300s.  Not run as normal a summer fast 5k low rep. session but instead more of a speed endurance session aiming for a minimun of 21 reps. to give me approx. 4 miles of effort as normal.

3 mile warm up around the nearby Victoria Park, a few strides then off...with the rain now quite heavy and horizontal.  Managed to hit my target time ..........but sadly only on the very last rep. So nothing to write home pen and paper required.

The problem with doing so many reps.alone is that of lack of concentration. When the mind starts to drift then the arms stop drivingas they should and a few seconds are added to the time of the rep.

COOL DOWN!  Having done 9 miles at this point and with still no let up with the weather it would have been so easy to call it a day. But I added a mile jog to ease down the pulse rate gradually.

This was the mistake I made on Sunday at the end of that hard 12. Finishing with a 7.30 mile, only 40 seconds off race pace I just stopped, jogged for a few yards then walked the short distance to the car. They say the older the runner, the greater the body's "backlash" is likely to be from such an abrupt stop. I have always encouraged anyone I have mentored to avoid the common post race "huddle" and chat , going instead into an immediate cool down.  Plenty of time then for a chat about the race after.

Todays' photo shows a typical post race "evaluation" taking place after the Humber Marathon of 1985 with fellow Valley Striders.
Martin Hopson, Steve O'Callaghan, Terry Bean and
on the other side of the fence supporter V.S. founder member Stuart St.John. It's particularly significant because we are discussing how despite
finishing 8th (Martin, 2:27) 9th (Steve 2.27) 10th
(Terry B. 2:27) and me at 11th we wouldn't  be attending the presentation because there's only prizes for the first 6 and only one team prize! We had finished only second on countback and to their credit Sheffield A.C. said we had been very hard done by. If I recall correctly the following  year
the lads returned without me and shared £1000!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009


Part of my daily pre-run ritual is to check the flag of St. George flying from the top of St. John's Church in Ben Rhydding. What the flag is doing helps determine the structure of the day's run. Today the flag was boldly horizontal with winds gusting up to 17 m.p.h. I heard later.

So seeking shelter and also to make for a hillier run I decided to modify the normal Strid run by starting from Barden Bridge and doing 2 loops of the Strid Woods. Arrived at 11.15 and managed to secure the last parking spot! Another sunny morning brings out all the walkers.  Better pace than last night for twice the distance. So "mission accomplished". 8 miles of trail with moderate hills without having to battle the elements.

Thoughts on the run turned to how this year has gone performance wise and to which targets have still to be achieved. Paul O'Looney on his London Marathon blog referred last week to the athleticsdata/ power of 10 targets and how they were a spur. Quite correct. For V60s these were originally set as follows........
    21 mins (5k)     34.30 mins. (5 mile)     43 mins. (10k)    71 mins. (10 mile)   and 95 (1/2 marathon)
Then when athletics data merged with power of 10 ( they mysteriously changed to
   20 mins (5k)      33.00 mins.  (5 miles)   41 mins. (10K)    68 mins. (10 mile)  and 91 (1/2 marathon)

I have recently been informed that the reason the standards were lifted was so that volunteer statisticians would have fewer times to input and thus of course less work. They will however still update an athlete's record page even if the race performance time does not meet their new ranking cut off.Nevertheless, I have retained the old times as my targets for the year and up to now have managed  all but the 10 mile standard. 

Having missed Preston last Sunday and not fancying the Stockport, which I have run a few times, it looks like the Guys 10 at Bilborrow is the best option.  Pretty flat and flat if I recall and easy to get to just off the M6 north of Preston.  Can't see me going under the new ranking standard of 68 minutes but 71 may well be possible. Time will tell!

Monday, 16 November 2009


Easy? Just a reference to the pace for today's run following yesterday's uncontrolled effort.  4 mile relaxed jog entirely on the grass around 41 minutes.  A "rest " day.

Going back to Charlie Spedding. Another easy task was managing to wind him up on one occasion. Not competing anywhere near his level  or indeed living in the North East our paths rarely crossed.  However, I do recall a telephone conversation we had in 1984 after he had achieved his fabulous 3rd in the Olympic marathon behind Carlos Lopes (Portugal, 2:09.21) John Treacy (Ireland 2:09.56) running 2:09.58.  Earlier in the year he had won Houston in 2:11.54 and London 2:09.57.

During the 'phone call, I said I was pleased he was 3rd in Los Angeles.  He said thanks, thinking I was congratulating him.  I said, no I was pleased because it meant we both had the same marathon record for the year.  You have 2 firsts and a third just the same as me.  He was clearly taken aback and none too pleased!
"I won at Houston, London and a medal at Los Angeles! Where were yours then?
"Morecambe, Bradford and Selby, Charlie!" I replied. "You run where you run and I run where I run".
He laughed and finally realised he was having his leg pulled.   "Nice one!" he said.

Of course, in retrospect the laugh was on me.  I won a souvenir plate at Morecambe (2.28) a briefcase for 3rd at Bradford (2.37) and a "ghetto blaster" at Selby (2.28). For his Houston win alone, it was reported he won £14,000 in cash and £70,000 in a life insurance policy.    Check out my unbridled joy and enthusiasm at receiving said souvenir Olympic plate. Every picture tells a story! 

Sunday, 15 November 2009


I took a break from shop duties yesterday afternoon to read the first chapter of Charlie Spedding's book,
Last to First which he has written and published himself. This old photo shows the start of the Burnsall 10 road race in August 1979. Bill Padgett (8)
and myself (10) are leading the field up the hill from the bridge in Bingley's old blue and white hoops.  Charlie Spedding can be seen just behind me in the colours of Gateshead, white vest with red band. He went on to win in 50.05.  Second was Alwyn Dewhirst of Holmfirth in 51.17. You'll see Alwyn at races every weekend in his role as coach to the club.  Bill Padgett was 3rd. in 51.31. Great to see him back at work after heart surgery.
Fourth was Peter Rawnsley (Sheffield) who is still racing but now back at Skyrac.   I was 9th in 54.34 just behind Brian Pickersgill of Longwood who is still to be seen in local cross country races. Probably 4 of the first 15 are still competing after 30 years; not sure that includes Charlie but when you've achieved an Olympic bronze I suppose it's hard to motivate for lesser events.

Yesterday's track session was a tad depressing even accounting for the strong winds. The weather having improved today I planned to nudge up today's longest run of the week to 12, targeting 85 mins. for the last 10 after the inevitable slow opening 2 miles. Back on the canal for this run from the Fisherman's pub (Bingley) to ensure the bulk of the run could be on the more forgiving towpath surface. 18.26 as expected at 2 then settled into the target pace for next four, averaging 8.31.

From the turn at Low Lane farm I somehow went in acceleration mode much as I do in races.
8.12     8.09     8.09     7.55     7.51    7.30
So 52.32 for the first 6 and 47.49 for the second,  last ten in 81.55. (3 minutes inside target time)
Pleasing compensation for yesterday.It calls into question my thought not to  race any more half marathons.  Either that or I'll have to extend my prerace warmup to about 4 miles instead of 2! 56 miles for the week.

Drove past the Cow & Calf pub on the way back, seeing several people sat drinking November! Amazing.

Saturday, 14 November 2009


Arriving at the track I squeeze into the last space in the car park. I survey the scene. Compression clad sprinters flash past, they glance at each other, holding their breath, pretending the 200 rep. they have just completed has been no effort at all. On the far back straight a group of coached youngsters are being drilled. They lift their knees in exaggerated fashion, their spindly arms swinging pendulum like. A splat on the high jump bed. A thud as a shot strikes the turf. A javelin wings its way through the cloudless sky. Around the top bend a phalanx of middle distance boys streak onto the finishing straight and glide through another 600 rep. A film of perspiration shines on all the fit , healthy athletic bodies. The whole bowl is one vision of fruitful endeavour.

I join my waiting group of wrinkled vets.  If lines on faces could write a book, the pages would be many.
Tens of thousands of miles, hundreds of races.  As one they lift themslves up. "OK, guys,let's party!" I say.

With a great deal of banter and jibes a plenty we ease into the compulsory 2 mile warm up, readying ourselves for the 4 miles of effort to come on the track.  Bronzed legs, bronzed arms, bald heads, grey hair,
our little group snakes its way along the promenade, the intense sun glistening on the ice blue waters of the sea.

From afar I hear the disturbing sound of some kind of an alarm.
I WAKE UP WITH A START and know it can't be ignored. For this rare Saturday I have to work but I will break off early in the morning to that planned track session.
I jogged down to Seedhill track. The car park was empty but for 2 cars, one of them the attendant's. No rain but the wind is very strong. It was forecast to be worse.  On the track just 2 runners. One, a veteran sprinter striding 150s. The other a young, powerful looking lad, doing 400 reps;  training for tennis, he later tells me. It took me 3 miles before I felt ready to get into the session. It's 11 a.m. now. The track is deserted but for me.  I went for 6 x 1k.  I had hoped for nothing more than a "good" session bearing in mind the strong winds.  But running almost to a standhill at times I could only manage an average of 4.39.  A bit disappointing: but at least they did get faster....4.44  4.43  4.43  4.40  4.36 4.30. Hard work!

So only 3 circuited the track this morning. The track is in the middle of Lancashire,  one of England's most populated counties. It was Saturday morning.  There are 986 days until the Olympics.

 Presumably all the Olympic hopefuls belong to my club Sale Harriers and train at Sports City in Manchester!

Friday, 13 November 2009


Many customers over the years have said that they never run on holiday. Once they are out of their nornal routine and have to be more involved with their family, their running takes a back seat. Going back to the holidays of the '80s and '90s abroad I would train in the morning, "the punishment run"
I used to call it paying for the previous night's excesses, and then run  again in the evening.  On several occasions I would run to some isolated spot and witness a fabulous sunset and think, "why don't more people run so they can share such natural pleasures and witness such spectacular scenes".

 Well today they do. Thousands more people are running and experience such highs in so many varied ways. 

Yet,  again in the magazines this week the debate still goes about how standards are not what they were, how so much faster we all were in the '8os...blah, blah, blah.  I know I frequently point this out to people but I am always quick to say I think it's tremendous now that so many people are enjoying a sport which has given vetetrans like myself so much pleasure over the years.  Enjoying running .at what ever level, whether they race or not, whether they race quickly or not.  So many more able to share the sunset!  It would be great of course if the peak of the pyramid reached what it was back then whilst the base continued to widen.
But that's the problem the likes of Ian Stewart has to sort out but I don't think it will happen before 2012.

Today's  run as planned was short and easy, to "rest" before another hard couple of days. However, the
remainder  of the day wasn't too restful ....(even missed my  afternoon's nap again!)........covering at Nelson on shop,but I still get a "buzz" meeting people coming in, talking running and sorting out gear for them to enjoy the sport.  There again tomorrow.............but I should be able to sneak out to get a track session in.
Which should be fun in the gales which are forecast.  My thoughts will be with Running Bear who will be thrashing around a cross country course representing England.  Let's hope all goes well!

Thursday, 12 November 2009


What another fabulous morning!  Pleasant temperatures, near cloudless skys and uplifting ,bright sunshine.  As I had to be at the Nelson branch today, I was dropped off on the way at Kelbrook just beyond Skipton;
 the plan being then to run the rest of the journey mainly along the Leeds Liverpool canal which I joined at Salterforth.  After a couple of miles I reached Foulridge Wharf where I had to leave the canal for various reasons. The main one being the canal then goes into a tunnel. As I'm not a strong swimmer, do not enjoy confined spaces, am afraid of the dark and wanted to arrive at the shop before we closed at 6.30 I elected to run overland rather than swim through.

In 1912, Buttercup the cow, (see photo below) was not such a wimp. Having fallen into the canal by the southern entrance (portal) she decided to swim into the tunnel, all 1640 yards of it. Emerging at the northern portal, at Foulridge Wharf, it's said she had to be revived with brandy in the local hostelry, the Hole In the Wall (now sadly closed).  Pictures in the pub commemorated the occasion. However, I was told in the Cafe Cargo in Foulridge tonight that the contents from the pub were put into a skip today!  Poor Buttercup's legend.......trashed!!   But all is not lost.............her memory will live on by virtue of this blog...

But back to the running, rounding the morning run off to 7 miles I could certainly feel yesterday's 8 at good pace in the legs, so an easy, lower mileage day tomorrow,  leaving the track session until Saturday.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009


For those who are forced to run on the roads in the dark throughout the winter, choosing to run off road on a a fine day such as this would have seemed the obvious choice. However, I felt a 3rd day at less than moderate pace was not the correct piece of the training jigsaw which would fit. So looking for that faster rhythmical pace I alluded  to yesterday, I executed a flat 8 mile road run through the Wharfe Valley. Just a few seconds shy of the target pace of 8.30 at half way, I accelerated as usual to finally average 8.21.  So mission accomplished by 1.10 secs. 

As we sell more and more headtorches in the shops, I can appreciate how frustrated fell runners must feel in the winter having to tread the dreaded tarmac night after night. Headtorch running is certainly becoming increasing popular. Just glad I can run during the day and don't have to resort to such extremes to protect my fragile legs. 

A fruitful afternoon at the desk included sourcing some good books for those Christmas stockings including
Norrie Williamson's "Everyone's Guide To Distance Running", Hal Higdon's , Marathon A-Z. and Charlie Spedding new book, From Last To First; making for some good New Year's reading for some lucky runners.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009


Sadly yesterday's exceptional weather was not repeated as the sun was reluctant  to show itself, today, hiding behind clouds of grey.  With the need for another trail run and wanting to add another mile to last Tuesday's run,  made the choice for today easy.  The Strid 8 miler. From just before the A59 roundabout, past the Abbey Church, Cavendish Pavilion, along the Strid trail ( freshly cleared completely of leaves!..what a task!!) over the foot brdge and back on the other side.  Tightness in the chest so a very cautious pace.

No track tomorrow, as I'll be over in Nelson later this week. So perhaps I'll inject more speed with a road run for a change.  The trail runs are very enjoyable, quite "romantic" and testing on the gradients but after two days of relaxed running need a more rhythmical, faster paced run for Wednesday. 

Let's hope the sun is not so shy tomorrow.  Now where are my "shades"!

Monday, 9 November 2009


A memorable "2 Res Run" today.  Compulsory sunglasses for a 7 mile easy jog around Swinsty and the Fewston under an incredible, cloudless autumn sky.  Arrived to find the Swinsty car park nearly full and knew the paths would be busy for the figure of 8 run; and so it proved.  No real problem though as today the pace was not an issue. Just to get around without damage after a couple of "heavy" days. At 60 I must have been one of the youngest going around with the exception of newly sacked Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate who was taking advantage of the beautiful weather (and having time on his hands) to exercise his dogs.

Arrived home to find that my replacement copy of John Bryant's book THE LONDON MARATHON
The History Of The Greatest Race On Earth had arrived.  (£3 plus £2.75 p.& p. from Fair and fast via Amazon)  If you check out page 136 you'll see it shows the picture of Grete Waitz and myself incorrectly printed such that we are running the wrong way on the cobbles!  Scanned , corrected and published today. Scroll down. Happy days!

Sunday, 8 November 2009


I suppose it's only natural to try to blank out trauma we experience in life. Certainly events which  happened
over 40 years ago do not emerge on a daily basis; but ,of course, reminders do occur and prompt thoughts of if only....?! One of the tracks which came through the headphones during Friday's jog on the grass was KAISER CHIEF'S "Saturday Night" on CD Employment in they sing "Pneumothorax is a word that is long. They're just trying to put the punk back into punctured lung"

It reminded me that  this month 40 years ago I started running again after bilateral lung surgery to bring to an end a series of collapsed lungs I'd suffered and prevent future reoccurences. The surgery was successful.

Before the trauma of the surgery in 1969 could be buried again I turned the pages in this morning's paper only to read the heading, "Why young, fit, tall men are more likely to have a collapsed lung"  Just what I needed to read about.  But I did and the conclusions were pretty much as they were in 1969.  Body type.
I always say if we were meant to have surgery we would have had zips fitted!

So the run that followed was naturally reflective. As always I came to the conclusion that life at times deals us bad cards and we have to deal with them. Without that series of pneumothorax I may well have achieved more successs running wise but would possibly  still be teaching, possibly down south. As it was I switched my degree course to Leeds, taught in the north, started the running business  and still feel I've had a pretty good running career. Still it does make you think what if.....?!

In this reflective mode the first two miles of today's run from Silsden were as cautious as normal (9.24 and 9.22) feeling how the old legs were after yesterday's track session. But once I hit the canal the pace picked up nicely throughout the 11.5 miles.

8.49    8.41    8.33    8.36    8.18    8.12    8.23   8.27    8.02    4.02

    I regard "steady" pace as about 1.30 above race pace. So anything around 8.30 would be acceptable and this was certainly achieved with 8.33 overall; faster taking out the first  2 warm up miles.
    Reviewing the week, all has gone to plan.  Ran everyday, managed a longish run today, 2 track sessions, a tough up hill run and over the 50 mile target with 51 in total.

Saturday, 7 November 2009


Scheduled another session at Nelson today.  First on the track at 10.20; very quiet as usual. Rain relented for the 600m. reps; a favourite distance with jog 200m recovery.  Did 6 reps. a fortnight ago averaging 2.35.6. Today, did 8 averaging 2.34.1 so initially quite pleased,  but when I scrolled up the training sheet I was reminded that I had achieved 2.28.6 average for the same session earlier this year. Difference being that on that occasion I was being run down by Running Bear, giving me 100 m. start each time, albeit on a warm and breezy morning in June. (Can't think of anyone better to be chased by!) Anyway, a second track session of the week completed at approx. 42min. 10k pace and no injuries although the legs felt a bit wonky at times as the above photo testifies.  Stepped off the track looking forward to an immediate hot shower; only to find the attendant had locked up and gone home with my bag inside the building! Following a rescue call by Running Bear he returned 30 mins. later.  Lesson being if you train at Nelson on a Saturday morning go early.  Fortunately I could get a shower at the Nelson Complete Runner shop.

39.5 miles on the week so a steady canal run tomorrow to take it to around the 50 mile mark as planned.
Let's hope the legs aren't as wonky as today!

Friday, 6 November 2009


Entry on the training sheet says....EASY JOG ON THE GRASS.....4.  In reality four miles on a wet, windy, dark night jogging around the conbined fields of Ben Rhydding Hockey Club and Ilkley G.S. proves the hardest run of the week.  Music from the phone helps but I did think I'd rather be playing football with the kids on the all weather.  Still  Wednesday and Thursday were quite hard days and with another two solid sessions planned for the weekend, needs must as they say.

Thoughts on the jog went back to an article in Athletics Weekly this week on the Welshman Steve Jones.  Did you know.....he still holds the British marathon record with his 2:07:13 from 1985.....not a lot of people know that!  Now based in the U.S. he "has" one of "5 or 6" development marathon groups. He says he tries to inspire them but " I don't bring great coaching......there's no science involved, no Garmins, no heart rate monitors, no cross training. It's all pure running. The science comes at the end , not at the beginning"

So there's no science.......but it comes at the end.?????   I think he means that he works with athletes based on his personal , what I call aquaintance knowledge, of having been there and done it.  You set towards them.......perform.....evaluate....(what he calls applying the science at the end)....then go again working towards the next target, (the next marathon in the '80s!) readjusting the training accordingly.   Did he say that or was that me putting my slant on what said! 

It's very clear with marathon running.  You choose a marathon as a major aim,  you choose shorter races as
objectives towards that aim, you plan and execute your training,  run the race,  succeed or fail, evaluate then go again, readjusting your training if you can pinpoint the problems.  I think I've just talked myself into running
another marathon....................!!!!!!!!  

Thursday, 5 November 2009

TWO PHEASANTS & 2 RABBITS...that's all folks!

Last night's icing seemed to have worked ; the legs didn't feel too bad at all so decided to make today's 6 miler a fairly tough one. Having driven past Bolton Abbey on the B6160 I turned left at Barden Tower taking the road signposted Eastby and Embsey. An immediate left to park and a short walk across the road. Through the gate and the run starts. The first mile is only a gradual climb (10.16) a nice intro for what's to come. From that point it's uphill all the way for another mile and a half.  Dry underfoot, loose chippings; not as steep as the Murder Mile on Ilkley moor and better underfoot but quite testing.
I'm conscious of yesterday's track session but I'm up on my toes, the arms are driving well and all seems OK. At 2.5 I reach the Upper Barden reservoir ......the large waterworks house is quite a strange landmark....time for the legs to recover on the flat, grassy path adjacent to the water. I turn at 3
(30.36).  Immediately I hit the descending trail at 3.5 I can feel the impact on the quads but not really of concern.  Good leg speed now as the pace quickens.  Fourth mile 8.29.  Excellent views now
back towards Ilkley and beyond.  The path twists
around again bringing in the autumnal colours of the landscape above the river Wharfe.....Simon's Seat,
Skyreholme and Appletreewick. The reward for having made the climb.  I don't concentrate on the view for too long though; I don't want to fall at this stage of the run. Back to the gate in 56.31. 8.38 and 8.39
for the last two miles.  Pleased with the session.  A good lung teasing climb and a safe descent at good pace.
3 minutes faster than last time I ran it in September. Nevertheless,  with usual weekend to come, tomorrow call's for an easy day. 
Just had the Athletics Weekly delivered with a report on the New York marathon inside.  Confirm's PAULA R. ran 2:29:27.  in 4th place.In her post race interview she refers to a problem with a tendon behind the knee 13 days prior to the race and elsewhere in the mag it says she missed London due to an operation to remove a bunion!
She has already had surgery to remove a Morton's Neuroma (the surgery I had back in 2002).  Both problems I would suggest due to mile after mile
(reportedly up to 145 miles per week!) up on her forefoot in her trademark style.  Perhaps it's time to ease the burden on her fragile feet,  switch to shorter distances, reduce the mileage and do more races. She had only raced once this year prior to New York.  Hardly the build up most coaches would recommend. With a 69 mins. New York half marathon her 2:29 was entirely predictable.  I ran 2:29: 46 and 69.46 for the half in 1982. At the moment I don't think she's really "in our sport". Who knows we might even see her back in a club vest taking part in a club event like top marathoners of the past used to do.  But cynics would say that club events don't bring in the money.  They might think that but I couldn't possibly comment! Suffice it to say that in 1982 I also ran the Yorks, Northern , National XC, four 10 milers, 2 20s and 4 other marathons! Stockport before London, Bolton, Sandbach and Leeds after. I did reach 90 miles on occasions but never 100 in a week.
   Two pheasants and two rabbits?  Well that's all I saw on today's run.....or was it one rabbit twice? So if you want a testing run, away from it all perhaps the Barden reservoirs run is the one for you!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009


One benefit of being self employed, semi -retired and working at home is that I can generally wait for a window in times of bad weather and get the day's run in. Yesterday, Tuesday, was  such a day. An easy pace flat 6 on the road  was the post race choice on Monday , so I nudged up the distance to 7. Keen to get back on the trail, I made my weekly trip to do the Fewston Swinsty reservoirs circuit. (The 2 Res Run, as I call it) I expected to have to prance through a lot of water on the narrow paths(not good for fragile hamstrings!) and so it proved. So 13 miles since Sunday's 5K race but not one of them faster than 9 minute/ mile pace according to the Garmin.  

Needed to get the old legs going a tad faster again so a Nelson Seedhill track session was called for. Last week I did a diminishing session whereby I started with 5 laps, then 4 , 3, 2, 1 looking for acceleration down the scale. This worked quite well; averaging 1.47.8   1.46  1.43.5   1.42.5    1.35.  (i.e. 5/4/3/2/1)

I'm a bit wary of speed sessions in the week after a race so for today I decided to go up the other way;  aiming to maintain the initial pace as laps were added. (i.e. 1/ 2/ 3/ 4/ 5)On the first 400 I managed 1.47.8.   800 average 1.49.8. , 1200 average 1.50.7 ,  1600 average  1.50.7   2000 average 1.49.3.  The last lap of the 2000 was 1.46.5. Faster than the single 400, so quite pleased with the session generally; in very wet and windy conditions.  6000 meters in total.  9 miles with 2 mile warm up and 2 cool down.

Average pace overall was slower than pace throughout Sunday's 5k but this is usually the case doing track sessions by myself.  Would definitely be faster in a group but no groups operating at 11.30 a.m. on a Wednesday morning!! Hence the need for regular races to maintain pace; particularly as so many offroad miles are 2 minutes slower than 5k/10k race pace.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009


Saturday. Midnight. Blurred. Into bed away in Reddish, near Stockport after celebrating mother's 90th birthday with family. Inevitably drank too much despite intentions. 4 a.m. Noise! Planes, trains, heavy rain, strong winds.
Do not feel well at all! Too much to drink or was that duck off? 5.45 a.m. manage to get back to sleep.
9.30 a.m. Decision time. Look out, grey, wet ,windy. Can I be bothered too drive to Whalley Range to race the 5k?  I know if I don't I'll still go for a run so I decide to travel; at least I can have a run with a bit of company.  Not many at the park. I pay the £2 entry fee (over 60s discount!) and start my usual 2 mile warm up.  Potholed on the long straight outside my old school, (as pictured here)  St.Bede's College Whalley Range, but should be OK with care.  Actually feel surprisingly good despite the bad night so decide to race as normal.  Last as usual to join the small field of 65 and slip into place behind the young guns at the front.  Shake hands with fellow retailer Tony Hulme (Running Bear) and know immediately that I won't be first over 60 to finish!   Cautious start as per usual.....4.11...
maintain pace as the quick starters slow down...4.14....going through nicely.....4.14......into a large void..
well away in front...see Tony edging behind......4.16.....turn again to see I'm being closed down
by fit looking young man with intent! It's just the spur I need. I accelerate to hold him off. Last 1k and he's really going for it, but he never quite comes alongside. Going through 4k, I calculate I need 4.04 to do 21.00.
I just manage to outsprint him.  Given 21.01 on the results sheet. 20th of 65. Tony H. 19th in 20.26.
Rchard Collins (Wigan Tri) 21st in 21.02.  Sadly the organisers do not show age groups on the results; I mentioned it and they said they "would have a word".   Having run 20.50 on this course in September (the races are monthly) I was very pleased in view of the night I'd had and the prevailing weather conditions.
I was glad I stuck to the racing programme as planned as well : as the previous week had been geared up for this 5K.  I don't get very nervous before races anymore but they are still a challenge. On this day I was pleased I'd been a "doer" rather than a watcher!
For details of Alexandra Park 5K events go to