Thursday, 29 April 2010

Me and my big mouth!

"You're not going to let me do this last one myself, are you, lads ?"   The lads,  2 fit young men in their 20s  responded by coming back onto the track aand jogged with me towards the 300 metre mark.  I asked them what they had been doing and they informed that they had completed 2 x 1.5 miles  in preparation for a bleep test they had to pass for recruitment into the fire service.
 "What have you been doing?", one of them asked.  "16  300s, this one being the last."
  The rest of the reps had gone very much to plan for once.  Having survived the attentions of a rampant Alsatian dog and a hissing swan in the park during the warm up I set about the task of hitting the target time of 72 seconds for each 300.   If I could manage this for 12 I would add another 4. 
  71.9    71.4    71.9    71.7    72.3    71.6    71.2    71.9........excellent consistency and well up to the mark but they are starting to hurt and I start to think that 12 might well be enough but it would be useful to do 16 to compare progress against the last set of 16 I'd done.
  71.8    72.1    70.7    71.3 .   12 done so I decide to complete the set of 16.
  70.8    71.0    71.1.............just one to do.

The young men had finished their efforts and had been watching me whilst they recovered but were up for one last 300.   One of them had looked strong on his efforts.   6'1" and 15 stone; rather dwarfing me at 9 stone 6 and 5'11".   I'd  have been quite happy for him to just share the effort and maintain the times.
  But inevitably it turned into a bit of a race. Perhaps I was keen to do a David over Goliath act.  The young man tracked me through as we rounded the bend and hit the straight.  Continuing the "fight" we crossed the line shoulder to shoulder .........62.7!!!!!  
  Goodness knows where I pulled that speed from.  But in retrospect it was a silly action!  Me and my big mouth!  I could well have torn a calf or hamstring and bang would have gone months of sound training this year. As it was I survived and can smile about it.   It turned out that my fellow "sprinter" was the brother of Lee McCash who was a national class local runner ten years ago, sadly doing little nowadays.
  So the third track session in 7 days went very well;  the best set of 300s for a long, long time.

Athletics Weekly was on the mat when I arrived home.  A headline reads....Lemoncello opts for marathon.  Presumably written without knowledge of his blog or before he had written it.

It was interesting to note that the runner nearest my 1983 time was Jethro Lennox of Shettleston Harriers in Scotland, pictured here.
(Were his parents fans of Jethro Tull and Annie Lennox?)
This young man has excellent results on the fells.  One notable victory being the prestigious 3 Peaks race in 2008 amongst others. He ran 2:53.39 compared to my 3:13 in 1977 but recently he seems to be shifting more to the roads now as I did.  He just has the edge on me across the distances as you might expect (except steeplechase)
 Perhaps he has been inspired by other leading fell runners who overcame a fear of tarmac with great success......Keith Anderson 2:17,  Kenny Stuart (2:11) and Dave Cannon (2:11) amongst others.  Great fellrunners who became great marathon runners.
  3 easy pace days for me now before Monday's 5K hosted by my own club, Sale Harriers, starting at 11.15 a.m. (American readers please note)....a very sensible time!


 Whilst  training can often be spoken about what we do in a 7 day period, races at the moment are coming up fortnightly.   So it's been a case of looking the bigger picture and not sticking rigidly to a weekly regime.
Again a benefit of not being tied down to club sessions.  
  So tomorrow will be the third track session in 7 days but Friday to Thursday.  Friday 5x1K at 10K pace;
 Monday's satisfactory 5K tempo at 10 mile pace.   A need I think to nudge up the pace with a set of 300s tomorrow.  
  With that session in mind I was careful not to get carried away in the second half of today's 9 miler on the canal.   Settling into the target pace of 8.30 after the first mile, I held this (within seconds)  for the next four miles but the brakes had to go on when the 6th mile was recorded at 8.18.   Telling myself to "save it 'til tomorrow" the last miles were restrained to 8.22  8.21 and 8.17.    Averaging 8.31.   I thought this amounted to a good solid steady outing and hopefully has left something in the bank for a good speed session tomorrow.   Hopefully the wind will be kind;   the last 6 days have been hard enough without having to struggle against the elements .   56 miles including tomorrow.
   Having said that the elements whether wind, rain or heat have to be endured in training because race days are  rarely perfect.   Obviously,  certain venues and dates can be avoided. Like Barcelona in early August.

   It certainly looks like GB's leading runner in the London,  Andrew Lemoncello,  is going to avoid the adverse conditions  marathon runners will no doubt have to overcome in the European championships in Barcelona.   According to his blog, The Life Of Lemon,  his agents and his coach  suggested that he could
"destroy" his "body in the blazing heat of the Spanish sun".  Consequently, despite immediate enthusiasm after London,  he has now informed the GB selectors that he won't be running.  Apparently they were not very pleased!
  Predictably he will appear for his second marathon in Chicago or Amsterdam in the Autumn.   Cynics of course would say that money talks.   An outing at Barcelona in the European Championships would be for pride only and not constitute a pay day?   A sprinter can afford to run the championships and turn out for money the next week.   Could he run 3 marathon in the year  at his level?    I ran 5 in 1984 but they averaged 2.30 pace not  2.13 pace.  

   But could Lemoncello run well in early August and then again in mid October?

Tuesday, 27 April 2010


   I rang Sally M. (3.10+) at London to hear how she was recovering and we inevitably talked about race pace and race splits.  She mentioned that an Italian lady had finished just behind her having run the first half in 2 hours!  Being the geek that I am I looked her up and yes indeed she went through the half way in 2:00:40 and crossed the finish line in 3:15:02!!  74.22 for the second half.  Clicking on her name however to look at her 5k times for that second half .....there are none.  She has no chip times for the second half.  Intrigued I "googled" her and saw she had run in the Miami Half Marathon in 1:57.28.  I can only conclude from these two pieces of evidence that she drifted into the crowd at Tower Bridge, freshened up and then jogged the last few miles missing out a huge chunk of the course.  Amazing to think she would travel all the way from Italy to record a false time.  Hard to believe?

Recognise this lady? No? She's ROSIE RUIZ pictured having just crossed the line at Boston marathon 1980 with the clock reading 2:31.56.  Completely unknown, eyebrows were raised. No one had seen her in the race. No race monitors picked her up. Eventually members of the public came forward confirming that they had seen her join the race about 1/2 mile from the finish! It turned out she had used the subway almost all the way.  Another who was happy to take the plaudits but not cover 26.2 miles was New Yorker FRED LORZ who "won" the Olympic marathon in 1904 in St. Louis enjoying the gold medal until it was discovered he had covered 11 miles in his manager's car. He redeeemed himself in winning Boston the following year.

I am not going to ask any readers to confess to cheating! 
Unless you absolutely have to get something off your chest!?

Out and about yesterday several people asked about the marathon. I said that it was great that over 36000 finished; a very large number of them seriously into their running,  having dedicated months of the winter in their preparation but they were all surprised to learn that standards at the sharp end were worse than 20 years ago.  I said last week that it's only natural that old stagers like me compare our times from the past
with those recorded each year.  For the record then

1983   2:25:36 good enough for only 200th place.  
2005...50th    2006....48th    2007....20th! 2008....36th   2009....31st    2010....33rd.

I can only repeat if Dave Bedford would only channel some of the prize money to the UK club team prizes then it would be a great incentive and standards would improve.

Am I wrong?   Why do you think UK standards under 2.30 are so much worse than 20 years ago?

Monday, 26 April 2010


 I hardly need to remind all you learned literary geeks out there that the quotation, "to thine own self be true" is from Shakespeare's Hamlet, spoken by Polonius.  You may interpret the words differently, but out of the context of the play I have always taken the phrase to mean stick to your own ideals and beliefs in life.  I think the approach to consistent running,  particularly with regard to avoiding injury is much the same.
 I know there are some runners who detest training by themselves. They have a list of running mates and will work down the list until they find one to run with on a given day.  There are other runners who have a single running partner and despite their levels of ability being slightly different train together virtually all he time.   Many young runners only run "down at the club"; every "session" with team mates.
  There is no doubt about it,  a session shared, whether  a steady run or track reps,  is far easier to cope with.  But I think all of the above practises  have drawbacks.   What if the running mate off your list is planning a run poles apart from your plan? Do you compromise, share the run and risk injury?  Or do you say,  sorry your run doesn't fit in with my plans and risk offending a friend?    If you run with the same person all the time, surely one is working too hard and the other not hard enough?   If you only train at the club, what happens when the "spoon that's feeding you" is taken away and you have to plan and execute your sessions perhaps when starting university.
  No, one advantage of generally running solo now and not having anyone at all dependant on me, is that I can plan my racing and training largely without restraints of other runners' needs.  Obviously racing wise there are team considerations but at present these largely  coincide with my plans anyway.  
  With the next race being on a May Bank Holiday Monday , the plan was to recover from the 10K last week then put in 3 track sessions at 3 day intervals.   So, last Friday (5 x 1K),  today Monday (tempo 5K)
Thursday (300s).   A plan possible as I am not drawn in to hard sessions every Tuesday and Thursday on club night or drawn into training with others with  different racing plans. 
  Don't get me wrong ,  I really appreciate the occasions when I train with freinds but as most of them are younger and faster  I wouldn't expect them to compromise for me.  It has to be a case of me catching them on an easy day or sharing part of a longer run.
    It's a case of choosing your races, planning your training and if others share your goals then great.
       Keep deviating your plans and objectives and you could end up like Polonius.  On your back!

 On this basis I've often found midweek race leagues problematic; particularly if the distances raced are unconventional or mixed terrain.  Perhaps I have too much of  a hangup with definitive distances and times. Am I too pedantic in my approach? 
                                      But, going back to the plan!
  Sadly today's 5K tempo effort on the track showed no improvement on last month. In fact the time was virtually identical at 22.37.6.   So at least it wasn't any slower.   Last night's hilly 8.5 took more out of me than expected for one.  Knees suffering from the descents!   I was "visualising" my finish for next week's 5K which also finishes on the track.......mental rehearsal!! For the record, spilts were (rounded off)
(55.4)  1.53  1.51  1.51  1.50  1.50  1.48  1.48  1.48  1.48  1.48  1.45.6  1.39.3.........22.37.6    Off to ice the knees now...which I failed to do last night!  

How about you?  Do you always have to run with others?  
Or do you need solitude when you run? It's your "me" time!
Do you have an everpresent partner?   Does it work?
Do you go down to your running club and not know what you will be doing 'til you get there?
Do you think planning detracts from the joy of spontaneity?

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Mixed fortunes on the streets of London

  Sunday morning.  London marathon day.   Been watching the race preview.   Usual focus on the elite runners, celebrities and one or two charity runners. No mention of the leading UK male runners which perhaps is to be expected considering the current standard. 
  The elite women are now in action. Just over 30 lined up for the womens elite start and after just a minute some women are detached at the back. One "elite" female now with a very solitary 26 miles ahead of her.  Why do they choose this elite start when they could run with men as they do for most of their other races?
  The men are off.  6 minutes into the race and at last Dan Robinson and Andrew Lemoncello  are featured for a minute or so.   The roads meanwhile are looking quite wet.  Rain has replaced the feared sunny conditions.  Half a dozen pacemakers are spread across the road towing the elite men along; distinctive in their vest modelled on that of Shaftesbury Harriers, the club London organiser Dave Bedford ran for.
  Paula Radcliffe, commentating for the BBC, has just selected herself for the 2012 Olympic marathon team.  "I'll defintely be there", she declares.  Interesting. Back with the womens elite race and the pacemaker Kalovics. is once again detached ahead working hard to hit the set half way time she is being paid for.  Over Tower Bridge, approaching half way and UK favourite Mara Yamauchi has become detached, a few metres off the group.  Instead of staying with the women as they go through halfway the BBC divert to a map of the race route! First look at the UK males,  Lemoncello and Andi Jones are with yet another pacemaker; Dan Robinson running solo just behind.  They are on 2:10 pace.  
 The elite women reach 30K in 1:41; Yamauchi is now out of sight behind, facing 12K of solitary torment.
Over Tower Bridge, Lemoncello has dropped Jones  and the pacemaker with Robinson, on 2.12 pace a few meteres behind.  Back with the elite women, the lead group is now down to 4.  Russian, Shobukhova setting the pace plus compatriot,                        , and 2 Ethiopians.   At 25K, the world half marathon record holder, tadesse of Erotria has been dropped as the lead group have injected miles of 4.39 and 4.39!
2:10 into the womens race and it's looks to be down to Shobukhova and Mergia.   Yamauchi soldiers on alone;  mention again of the tortuous 6 day journey she has had to endure to get to the event in the first place.  I can't but think that there are men behind her running at the same pace as her. Again, so much for the womens separate elite start.   Inga Abitova of Russia has surged to join the two leading women. Back to 3 for a moment, but immediately Shobukhova puts the pedal down again and pulls away.   She finshes with a determined sprint to dip under 2:22.  Abitova improves her PB by 3 minutes 15 seconds behind. have beaten   Yamauchi  comes in 2:26:15;  she composes herself for a smile and a wave for the cameras.   The leading man Kebede of Ethiopia is now clear having put in miles of 4.33  4.36  4.41  4.51 and 4.33.  Kirui of Kenya 7 seconds adrift.  Mutai (Kenya) 35 secs down.   But Kirui starts to struggle and Mutai passes him as if he's standing still.  Kirui loses 1.40 and eventually finishes 5th.
  Andi Jones (Salford) appears being chased by other Brits  Ben Moreau and Lee Mearrinen.  They clocked
2.16:39, 2:16:44 and 2:16:47 respectively.   But first Brit is Andrew Lemoncello running 2:13:40 on his marathon debut. He expresses disappointment;  commenting on the wind and running alone for long periods.
he has the consolation of having qualified for the Commonwealth and European championships.  No sign of Dan Robinson who might well have dropped out.  
  From the finishing lines camera shot we spot Kevin Ogden going through in 2:45:30. With a faster chip time could be a new PB. Well done Kevin.   Amy Green of Keighley is under 3:08, a PB by over 5 minutes. Sally Malir passes through inside 3:11. Not a PB but faster than Blackpool in 2006.  Another excellent run and reward for all her hard work and surely well up in the F45 age group.  
 Confirmed times were 2:45:16 for Kevin,  3:07:42 for Amy and 3:10:49 for Sal.  Richard B. of Bingley also broke 3 hours. Well done to all.    Looking at split  times, inevitably, many experienced great problems in the second  half  including many runners who are generally seen winning local events over shorter distances.
 So for once it was a late afternoon run for me today. A rare run from the house.  Starting down the steep hill and having to finish up it was welcomed by my  tired legs and reminded me why I generally drive out to "kinder" routes.  But I have been neglecting the hills lately so it had to be done.   The 8.5 capped off the week at 52 miles and nicely brought the year's average back up to a perfect 50 with no zeros on the chart.

Saturday, 24 April 2010


  It proved a sound decision to leave this week's track session until Friday after Sunday's 10K race.  If only because the chilling wind which has accompanied the clear skies in the earlier part of the week had all but disappeared and for once Nelson track was comparatively if not totally calm.    I was determined to improve
upon the times for each rep in the planned 5 x 1K session, run solo as usual., compared with  the equivalent session in March.
  I committed to memory the times from then.,  the first being 4.16.   Concentrating hard on covering each 100 in 25 secs,  I manage just over ...4.11.   Rep 2 target is my jacket blows off the steeplechase barrier I am pushed back to 4.12 but still faster than last month.   Rep 3 target 4.11....I dip under clocking 4.10.   I'm starting to think I can't make the 4th target.....4.07; but dig deeper to record 4.03.   That's 40.30 10K pace;  so the session is shaping up very well.    Last one,  to get under 4 minutes , I need 24 secs per 100.   I dig deeper, hitting each 100 target and  trying to maintain good form throughout run, cross the line in 3.58!!
  So, March......4.16       4.15      4.11      4.07      4.06
         April........4.11       4.12      4.10      4.03      3.58
Looking back at my records this is the best session of 5 x 1K I have managed since  OCTOBER 2008 !
I have set younger athletes the target of  averaging  their 5K pace for this ession but I myself usually can barely hit 10K pace.  But for once I am spot on averaging last 5K being 20.35. 
  Following up the track session as usual with an easy run today,   I headed over to do my weekly "2 Res Run" around Swinsty/ Fewston.   This often takes as much as 65 59.40.    So taking the track session and today's run together,  it bodes well for the races to come in the near future;  if I can hold it together. It would be great to defy the rule that slower race times are inevitable at my time of life.  We shall see.

£25000 for first club team in London Marathon....

  Best of luck to anyone reading this running the London marathon.  I'll be particularly looking for the times of local runners Sally M. and Paul O'L of Ilkley Hrs. , Amy G. of Keighley plus Alan D. of Blaydon  and Spen's Kevin O. amongst others. Let's hope you can all avoid this feeling.........hitting the wall....certainly looks painful!!! Latest forecasts suggest that temperatures could climb as high as 22 degrees.  That wall could be severely dented on Sunday morning.

As usual us old guys will be looking to see how Sunday's times compare with ours from yesteryear and where our best time would have placed us in 2010. It's to be expected ,isn't it?   I'm still convinced UK athletes need more incentive to turn out better club teams and this in turn would lead to better individual times.  With  some inevitable savings on expenses for overseas elite runners,   wouldn't it be good to see some of that money go to leading UK runners instead.   I have always said that the UK team awards should be in the region of £25,000 , £15,000, £10,000  for first, second and third in the clubs championship split between 5 counting runners.   I think then we would see a return to more depth in quality in the home based runners .

Friday, 23 April 2010


Ok. Answers to yesterday's just for fun quiz. 

Hope my American friends knew this first one..........

FRANK SHORTER.  Wearing the U.S.A. vest...yes, you can blame it all on him!  When Frank Shorter won the 1972 Olympic marathon in Munich (leading the pack here) in 2: 12:19 he inspired thousands of Americans to take up "jogging" with the 26.2 trip as their major goal.  An activity no longer just the province of elite runners.  The U.S. running boom had started.....think then New York marathon....think Chris Brasher copying the idea.....and hey presto....the London Marathon is launched in 1981.  Of course,  with clear foresight and amazing prudence (!) Pat and I  opened THE COMPLETE RUNNER  in 1981 and started to develop the FASTRAX club kit business.  So thanks Frank! Couldn't have done without you.

IAN THOMPSON. Ian came to study at Trinity and All Saints Colleges  in Horsforth, Leeds in 1973.  Unfortunately, I had just finished 4 years for my degree there and so only shared the odd run with him.  We had run shoulder to shoulder in  1967  in the English Schools cross country champs: my 18th to his 23rd.
  Ian had never raced more than 10 miles before when he tackled his debut marathon, the A.A.A. which he won in 2:12:40!
    He went on to become Commonwealth Champion (Christchurch) 2:09:12 then European Champion in 2:13:19 in Rome.  In less than a year he had risen from "novice" marathoner to the world's no. 1.
                 Obviously the fine Yorkshire air suited him!
    What a shame our time at TASC in Leeds didn't overlap!

ABEBE BIKILE.  We'd tried barefoot running as teenagers in the late 1960s
(see previous blogs) but this Ethiopian took running without shoes to the ultimate level when he skipped through the streets of Rome in 1960 to win Olympic Gold in 2:15:16.  A victory which perhaps opened the doors for African athletes and served to inspire a country and a continent.   Four of the first 8 in that 1960 race were occupied by " unknown" African runners.
Bikile became the first marathon champion to retain the Olympic title in 1964, pictured here, wearing shoes this time, in world PB  2:12:11 in Tokyo.  He started his taper 5 weeks before the games by having his appendix taken out!

RON HILL.    He was a great local hero to us Lancashire teenagers in the '60s as we used to see him running local senior races when we were youths and then we'd see him representing Great Britain in major Championships. Olympian in Tokyo 1964, Mexico 1968, and Munich 1972.  UK cross country champion 1966 and 1968, European marathon champion Athens 1969.  Still 10th on the UK all time list with 2:09:28 and  despite all he's achieved  Ron is still happy to compete in races in the north at over 70. Nowadays he checks how many places he is from the back rather than the front!   A living legend.

JOYCE SMITH.   Confession time!   The John Benson who ran 2:29:46, 3 seconds behind Joyce Smith when she broke the UK record in London in 1982 was actually me.  Honest.  She had had a dstinguished track career and didn't run her first marathon until the age of 41.   Following a fair amount of TV coverage,
I received plenty of ribbing for using a lady to pace me to under 2:30  but the best was to come the following year.........

GRETE WEITZ.   London marathon 1983.  5 minutes to the off and I am in a side street just in front of the start line ,complete with black bin liner covering my race kit.  The plan is to be on the front row at the start and try to receive television coverage for the FASTRAX brand.   It works and the start line officials have no where else to put me.  Only problem now .... the pace.   We go through the first mile in 4:52....the second in 5:15. I'm desperately trying to slow down but still runners are coming past me in droves.   The pace settles and I think job done!   At about 16 mile I go off the road for toilet stop. When I emerge back on the course
a large cohort of "good club runners" are coming through towing along Grete Weitz at world record pace. I join them.
One by one the men go off the back off until by Westminster Bridge there's just the two of us.  She is ushered away to the womens finish, clocking 2:25:29  to my 2:25:35.   The picture shows us practising synchronised running on Birdcage Walk.  Note the adidas shoes.

KEITH CLUDERAY  TRACEY MORRIS STEVE O'CALLAGHAN.  Two Valley striders (Leeds) stalwarts, Keith and Steve assisted Tracey to improve her marathon time from 3:39 in 1999 to 2:33 (!) in London in 2004.  Famously, she went on to represent Great Britain in the Olympics in Athens that year clocking 2:41 for 29th of 81 starters where this shot was taken.  Keith and Steve along with half a dozen other Valley Striders had already enjoyed marathon wins themselves. Keith Cluderay winning the Leeds in 1987 in 2:25:17.   Steve O'C at over 13 stones defied all the rules about marathon running.  He always maintained he carbo loaded on lager.  He stopped me winning for a second time at Selby in 1985.   I'd won the year before but had to settle for second as he won in 2:26:59 to my 2:27:49.  He said afterwards that he didn't think he'd beat me that he'd run the Sheffield marathon the week before!!!  How's that for a speedy recovery.

RICHARD NERURKAR.   I first came across Richard when he was a Bradford Grammar school pupil. One of many excellent young runners produced by Tony Kingham and Selby Brock.  He was the same age as my runners at St.Mary's Menston and several of them were on a par with Richard.  But the Menston athlete  went on to greater  things,  particularly in the marathon; his 2:08:33 still ranking as 3rd in the UK alltime lists from London in 1997.  Check out his book....marathon running, from beginning to elite.
Richard would probably readily admit that he wasn't even the best member of his school team. Another example of a runner with good natural ability adding a good deal of hard work to make it to the top, ably assisted by guru Bruce Tulloh.

PAULA RADCLIFFE.  How's that for  glamour!  What a great photograph.
A portrait from a fashion shoot she did in Los Angeles having run Chicago in October 2002.   Her achievements don't need listing here. All I would say is that her great performances have inspired thousands of women throughout the world to start running and many to run marathons in much the same way as Frank Shorter did in the 1970s.   It will be interesting to see how many GB men run faster this year than she did in London time, 2:15:25,  in 2003.

And finally, my dear wife, PAT LONERGAN
finishing her London Marathon in 1984.   A fine example of those without any athletics background from when at school (she says she used to hide in the toilets avoiding P.E. lessons)
but come to   embrace the marathon dream despite  knowing it will require months of dedication and resolve.  A task she set out to complete as she does all things in her life and as such  was rewarded with a time well under 4 hours.   She says that it was her jaws which hurt most...from smiling all the way around ,she enjoyed it that much!
........but she never ran another one.

So that's it,folks, just some of  the landmarks in my marathon memories and their significance for me.

Thursday, 22 April 2010


  OK, it's London marathon week but rather than bore non-runners with all that boring stuff about tapering and hitting the wall I thought I'd be more inclusive and treat you all to a marathon quiz.  These are just some of the marathon runners who I personally deem to be significant for whatever reason.
  Just for fun.....who are they?  What did they achieve?  Where did they achieve what they did?  Why are they significant to me?

Answers of luck!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Desperate to run the London marathon

  No, not me, silly! I'll be watching the London marathon as usual on Sunday and must admit I was quite looking forward to some of the focus switching onto some of the  leading UK based athletes but it seems likely the majority of overseas inviyed athletes will make the start line albeit less relaxed than they would otherwise have been.   Still I hope that the cameras will find time to film the efforts of top Northern runners like clubmate Gareth Raven (887)
  Salford's Andi Jones. (number 3,  here at Wilmslow half) and much to my surprise I'm told that another top local marathoner
Chris Cariss is making a major comeback. Remember his 2:15 in 2004 ?
  A dozen east African athletes , including last year's winner Sammy Wanjiru, have been flown (presumably courtesy of Virgin) by the organisers to Madrid for a flight to London.  Easy peasy!  But how about Mara Yamauchi nightmare journey.  Tokyo to Albuquerque for high altitude training, then to Denver (last Thursday) for London flight which was of course cancelled due to that Icelandic volcanic ash.  So she flew to New Jersey hoping to fly to Ireland (Shannon).  No luck, so flew to Lisbon, followed by a 6 hour taxi journey to Madrid.  Failed to secure places on ferry to Portsmouth.  So rented a car and drove to Paris which took another 2 days but failed to get a seat on Eurostar.  Next move then a taxi to Le Touquet on the coast to board a private plane organised by VLM to Sussex completing the journey by car into London. Desperate or what?
An ordeal which Yamouchi descibed as "interesting".   Let's hope that the experience won't detract from Sunday's performance for the UK's only chance of marathon success. 
  It's to be hoped the week is going better for you marathoners out there and that after all your build up the tapering is going well and the energy is flooding back!  
  Meanwhile, as one resigned (probably!)  to limiting my racing exploits to half the distance, the week up to now has been about recovering carefully after Sunday's 10K,  whilst upping the volume a touch in a week without a race at the end of it.   So I followed the very easy 5 on Monday with a couple of outings  yesterday.  A flat grassy prelunch with a hillier 3.5 on the road in the evening.  A rare run from our Complete Runner shop to home. 
I was "invited" to join a group of simialarly mature (presumably retired) runners for a speed session over in Airedale today  mid morning but I've learnt to be cautious returning to race pace and so opted  for a solid 8 miler on the road instead.  I'll go offroad tomorrow (Thursday) leaving this week's track session until Friday.  
The skies have been spectacularly clear today, no sign of that ash,  but  the chill in the air was still prevalent and made the initial miles into the cooling breeze hard work on my fragile lungs.   But going back to the marathon the forecast is for the temperature to rise.  
Add sun screen to your checklist!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010


  After Sunday's 10K I managed to get the post race refuelling totally wrong.  We opted for just a snack followed by a 2 mile walk late afternoon so by 7.30 I was getting quite "hyper" with hardly enough energy inside me to tackle my  evening meal.   Am I alone in ignoring the simple advice to refuel as soon as possible after hard efforts, on occasions?   Then as so often happens I have a very restless, sleepless night as I rerun the race and the day's events.  Am I alone in not sleeping well AFTER races? Or is it because I don't get out much and find all the excitement a bit overpowering!
  For Monday's recovery run we drove from Troutbeck towards Lake Windermere for a flat easy jog hoping the magnificent views would take the mind off the aches and pains of the previous day's racing.


 In fact the legs weren't bad at all. Managed a gentle 5.The main problem was coming back into a very chilling wind coming off the water. So cold that even some newly arrived local inhabitants were forced to seek shelter...........

Monday, 19 April 2010


 Arriving at race start for the Sunday version of the Great Langdale 10K there was a definite feeling that we had arrived at a party after most of the guests had gone home.  It was the ease with which we were able to park in the feld at the Sticklebarn Tavern.  For the December XMAS PUDDING of the event 387 had turned out.  This spring weekend on Saturday 270 had run; for our Sunday event only 143.  So much so that the organiser may well not decide to run the event on both the Saturday and Sunday next year. 
 Within minutes of parking it was fairly preditable that most of the prizes would be coming back to our corner of the field where Richard Pattinson, Jo Waites, Evan Cook, Erika Johnson, John Smethurst were assembled.   Question was could I join them on the prize list?
 Having failed to go under 42 mins. on the badly K marked Salford course I suspected on this undulating Lakes course it would perhaps take a greater effort to actually stay under 43 and that thought was confirmed as I went through the first K in 4.21 with Richard Pattison already clear in front with Jo Waites not far behind in third.  
Concentrating on maintaining form and effort, a young man in front was annoying me as he jogged
along head swinging from side to side as he admired the spectacular countryside!  "Concentrate! I cried.  "Just having a good look around , fantastic!  He said.....then moved away!
  With only 143 running it was not surprising to be running solo then for the next couple of kilometres. We turned through the Langdale Estate, past the Brittania at Elterwater, up the  hill and then retraced our way back.   There were  5 lined up in front to go for and one Keswick man looked like he could be in my age group.   Then to my surprise Karen Bridge and John Bridge of Eden Runners charged past....great running I said....just a training run before London she said! Through Chapel Stile at 7 K I caught and passed Derek Harrison of Keswick (an M60!)  and started to close on Jo Gillyon of Keswick up the hill leaving Chapel Stile. 

Try as I could I was seemingly only closing the gap inch by inch over the last 2K.  By this time my nose was running as fast as I was symptomatic of a slight chill which had made the inclines hard work.   I looked at  the watch at 9K and knew it was going to take a great effort for both of us to go under 43.
I shouted ahead, encouraging Jo to keep going whilst still wanting desperately  to catch her.  We turned the corner , I saw the finshing field and made one last effort, passing her and just staying ahead to the line. But did she take some catching!
  We finished 21st and 22nd and our last K in 4.04 had brought us in as desired just under the 43 minute  abyss in 42.55 and 42.56 respectively. 
Richard P. indeed won the race in 34.11 over 3 minutes clear.  Jo W. ran 37.35 for first lady and 3rd overall. Evan Cook of Blackburn ran 5th and 1st M55, 
whist Bingley stalwart John S. finished just behind his son in winning the M70 category.  Erika J.  of Swaledale consistent as ever ran 13th and of course ist lady over 40.  
And me?
Yes,  that with that push over the second half I scraped a M60 category win as well.  A bottle of white wine immediately claimed by by my dear wife, Pat.

  At the presentation the organiser Rod Berry did indeed suggest that with the small Sunday numbers next year he may just offer one chance to run the course as is the norm. Let's face it there aren't many events where we get the choice of racing on the Saturday or the Sunday.
  So that was the 2010 Great Langdale 10K.   Some good K s in there....4.05, 4.04 and 4.04 which suggest a much better time on a decent flat fast course ...shame about the hills!



Friday, 16 April 2010


   Nowadays the 10K distance is probably THE  DISTANCE we use to "assess" a runner's ability, because it's the distance we all commonly run. It's the distance 1500 track boys step up to a couple of times a year and half/full marathoners step down to for speed endurance.   It's certainly the perfect event for those with insufficient time to train for the longer events. I have had the pleasure (and heartache!) of working with several younger athletes and witnessed their dedication to improving  from well over 40 minutes to several minutes below.  For them breaking 40.00 for a 10K was like going under 3:00 for 26.2 miles; a very siginificant barrier to break through.  Emergence from jogger to runner you might say.
  The distance in the UK only really became prevalent in the 1980s.  New 10K events sprang up but several, like the previously mentioned Salford 7.5 were converted to the metric distance.
 So despite  first racing senior events in 1967 the first 10K I have recorded was one near to Toronto, Canada in 1983.   I ran 31.30 and have gone downhill ever since!   Unfortunately no improvement for me.....114 under 40 minutes ....126 run.....but sadly I never improved that first effort!
  I think mainly because like so many others in the 1980s I never specialised and focussed. I was never really any more than a "good club runner" and as such was versatile from 10K through to a marathon. Rarely out of the first 10 in local races, winning the occasional one but I didn't make county level again in a particular event and as such was happy to race whatever came next so to speak.   But quite obviously running so many marathons ....5 in 1982, 4 in 1983, 5 in 1984, 3 in 1985....  I was hardly likely to hone my speed to improve my 10K and 5K times.  If only for the reason that most of the speed work was endurance based e.g  5/6 times a mile.
 That Blackpool Marathon in 1988 (2:36) was really my last real effort at the distance. I ran London in 1994
(2:56) by invitation (Asics) and Amsterdam in 1998 similarly (2.:50) (not too bad for 49), thanks Adidas, but
hardly full blown efforts. By this time, not having to slot in runs in excess of 20 miles helped me preserve speed for the shorter distances but of course at over 40 I was then struggling against Father Time. 
  So whilst I never improved that initial effort I am most proud of having run 34.58 at the age of 50for 1st M50 at Salford in 1999. A drop of just 3,5 minutes in 16 years. When of course marathons had become very much a thing of the past!  Sometimes we have to stand back and decide the distance we are best built for or suited to.  You never know you might be running marathons when 1500 meteres is your best event! In my case I just decided, rightly or wrongly , that I was not going to improve on my best marathon time over the age of 40 and decided instead to try to preserve my speed.
  I predict that Sunday will be my 126th failed attempt at improving my 10K time as I run the distance for the 127th time at Great Langdale in the Lake District.  It's the spring version of the December race I ran in  2009.   It will be quite a contrast from the suburban Salford 10K on Good Friday
  The Gt. Langdale organiser writes that..."You don't realise how very fortunate you are to be allowed to run in this most beautiful valley in Englandshire(!?)
                                                             Do you agree?

Sticklebarn Tavern ..race H.Q and start and finish point.
Out (and back ) through Chapel Stile

Past the Britannia Inn at Elterwater 

                                                                     and to the finish
Has the edge on Salford for beautiful scenery but I did enjoy the after race shower in the leisure centre on Good Friday!   Have a good weekend all, particularly those of you who are racing against Chris Hoy on his bike in Edinburgh.
.  Try not to breathe in too much  icelandic volcanic dust!

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

A frustrating wind of change.

  It would have been good to report another set of improved times in today's track session, but every flag I drove past on the journey to the Red Rose county  was being forced horizontal by a strong north easterly wind and I knew the change of direction was going to make the session distinctly cold and uncomfortably difficult.   A wind apparently carrying Polar Air chilled in its passage across the North sea.  Put it this way I warmed up around the park wearing hat and gloves!
 I had set off with the intention to make a determined effort to run 24 secs for each 100 in a 8 x 600 rep session.   40 minute 10K pace throughout. I switched the starting point of the session to try to reduce the effect of the biting wind but after hitting target pace for the first 100 with wind behind then lost up to 5 seconds fighting against it.   Frustrating.
  So aiming for 2.24 the first was 2.32; the second rep 2.34.  Very,  frustrating.   I  started to think how I would build in the word abort into the title of this blog!  But I persevered and in my usual manner was able to nudge the reps down ..........2.33,  2.32, 2.31,2.30, 2.28.    An all out lung bursting effort on the final rep finally produced the target time of 2.24.    Very, very frustrating.  
 Having said all that  the  average time of 2.30.9 (41.40 pace) was the fastest since last June (2.28) when I was being run down a certain adventurous young female running bear.  So some consolation from the session but with that pesky wind it could have been so much more enjoyable and rewarding.
 Perhaps I just needed a voice in my ear urging me to maintain the in the adidas micoach.

Via the ear piece the runner can receive feedback on his/her performance whilst completing a predetermined session.  It would have been quite amusing to watch today's session if I had been wearing such a device because I'm sure I would have been shouting back at the voice in my ear...
  "For God's sake,   shut up!   I'm doing my ****** best!"

More comment on how the adidas micoach
system works and  implications of its use to follow.......anyone out there got one already?   Good or bad?

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Beware the marathon taper!

  It was pleasing to get a call from Sally M. last night to share today's run of 8.5 miles (see earlier blog on the "pocket rocket")  Having completed 6 months of preparation for the London Marathon (week on Sunday) including several runs at 20 miles, several at 22 and 24, she is now enjoying a well deserved two weeks tapering before the main event.   There is nothing she can do now in terms of long runs or speed work to enhance her London performance.  So this morning was a very leisurely pace for both of us and as always the converstaion flowed and miles passed swiftly by.
  What she and other serious competitors have to ensure is that they do not divert the extra time and energy available as the miles are cut down to engage in physical activites such as gardening,  spring cleaning,  painting and decorating etc.  Activities which can undo the months focussing on the main aim. No during this tapering period only mistakes can be made........see below!!!
  24 of my 26 marathons were completed when I was self employed and I welcomed this extra time during pre-marathon tapering to catch up with paper work or projects set aside when training up to 90 miles per week.  This would have been genrally reduced by a third in the penultimate week with a 4 x mile session on the Thursday.   A short Friday run would be followed by a couple of 7s at the weekend then nothing more than 4 in marathon week.  The hope after the 10 days of simply easy running was that by race day I would feel like the proverbial "caged tiger", a rejuvenated beast ready to be unleashed over 26.2 miles.
  Mistakes?  Looking today in my 1988 diary to examine the taper for the Blackpool Marathon of that year I referred to yesterday I was somewhat surprised  to read that this was one marathon when I deviated from any prescribed taper you might read. 
  This was a time when Pat and I travelled to races manning THE COMPLETE RUNNER mobile sales van
and I had arranged to sell at the Golden Square half marathon in Warrington, Cheshire.   My usual plan was to sell at the event but also race in it.  Problem was the event was on the Thursday night just 10 days before the Blackpool marathon.  I can't recall any particular major decision making on the night about the wisdom of racing the half marathon but I certainly recall it being a very warm, humid evening and being feeling pretty sickly having tried to refuel with a Chinese meal at about 10 p.m.  I had finished 3rd in the race in 72.57 and the effort had taken its toll!
  The 9 remaining days showed runs of (Friday) which time the energy was coming back and I ran an easy 6 on the promenade at Blackpool the Saturday before the race!   Race day produced strong breezes and high temperatures. I came off the leading group at half way and ran a solitary second half finishing  in 2:36.   A time which would have won last Sunday's event but good enough for only 12th back in 1988.
  The half marathon time from the Thursday 10 days prior suggests that I would probably have run 2 or 3 minutes faster but I would have only gone up 2 or 3 places in the marathon.   Having said that if I had had a coach I'm sure I wouldn't have toed the line for that Warrington half just ten days prior and perhaps the Blackpool would have been a more comfortable run.  As they say all part of life's rich tapestry........
  No, marathoners, enjoy your taper. Don't get involved in other physical pursuits which might cause injury.
Read that novel you've set aside, catch up and tidy up your inbox, see that film you've read about especially in the last 7 days. Don't fall at the last hurdle! 

Monday, 12 April 2010


   No, after yesterday's 13 miler I'm not referring to myself flying around the Fewston/  Swinsty reservoirs this morning, rather than a reference to the formation flying of some of the birdlife.  Having witnessed a magnicent formation takeoff by a flock of geese (I think) I whipped out the wee camera and managed to capture them in flight and landing again.  Not quite the red arrows but certainly a superbly choreographed and coordinated display for the watching picnickers!

Following the highest temperature of the year registered on Saturday it was another beautiful day out there and I was pleased to join the walkers doing the tour. Many of them clearly grandparents looking after children still enjoying half term.   A fabulous spring morning.  Done before but no apologies for sharing with you a shot of  Swinsty under cloudless skies today........with the promise of more days to come.

622 runners who may not have appreciated the warmer weather yesterday were those competing in the Blackpool Marathon.   I'm not sure how that number compares with 1988 when I ran the Wyre Marathon over much the same course but sadly I can report that yesterday's winning time of 2.39.44 would only have been good enough for 20th place that year. The race was run in June with temperatures just short of 30 degrees.


  As we sat in Accident & Emergency at Airedale Hospital, Pat reminded me of the word I always tell people is the most important word in the English language..........consequences!   Namely that when getting involved in certain activities we should think carefully of what can go wrong and try to avoid adverse consequences.
  It was a shame having to endure the trip to the hospital  because Sunday had started off pretty well.  The plan was a 13 miler made up 2 warm up, followed by a solid pace 10 miles with a mile jog to finish to bring the heart rate down.   Although I failed to check out the wind direction for the routine canal run , the return
6 into a fairly strong breeze went well despite having to weave through dozens of cyclists taking advantage of the spring sunshine.  The 10 mile section was completed in just over 80 minutes;  a "brisk pace"  for me  without  a particularly "brisk" approach to it effort wise.  Best average time in the last 18 months for a steady run of this length. .  The consistency in training would appear to be overcoming the ravages of time.
  During mile 12, I passed a group of 3 (man and 2 ladies) jogging along and joined them for my 13th cool down mile.  I asked them if they were training for London.  The male said no they were training for Madrid.   He said he had been at his best when he was just over 11 stone some years ago but following injury had let his running lapse and not burning off his diet of curries and beer had ballooned to over 18 stone!!  He appreciated that it was like me running carrying myself, but he was determined to do the Madrid. His main fear being that the Spaniards had a cut off time of 6 hours and he might be asked to come off the course before crossing the finish line. A long way to go..........
  So the start to the day was good but turned to bad as Man. U. played out a frustrating 0-0 draw in the Premiership against Blackburn.   But things got worse as I decided I would do a spot of valeting on the car after the depressing match. Brushing a cleaner onto one of the alloy wheels I "flicked" some up into my eyes and eventually headed for A.and  E. to have the stinging fluid washed out.   Consequences?   I had put gloves on in case some of the cleaner touched my hands but should have worn some protective eyewear as well.  Eye damage is classed as immediate priority at A.and. E. so thankfully I was seen within minutes of reporting there and after having a litre of salt washed over the eyes I am back to normal today.
  Not quite the end to the week we had planned for.   A week that had gone well running wise with not just another 56 miles on the chart but an improved 5K tempo track run on Wednesday in 22.38 and that brisk 10 miler today at just over 8 minute training pace.   The yearly weekly average being maintained just below 50;  somewhat short of the 180 miles per week of young Simon Lawson, mentioned recently.

Saturday, 10 April 2010


Returning to topic of twice daily training.   Two runs in the day was very much the norm when I was younger.
  I took up the idea of training whilst commuting when I was in the sixth form.  I would run the 7 mile home after school,  then back the next morning, straight through the middle of Manchester. (It wasn't just Kenyan pupils who ran to and from school!)   Certainly became used to bouncing off a car bonnet  and racing buses.
 When I worked in the centre of the city  having left school I would go on the bus on a Monday morning then run to and from for the week very often,  finishing with Friday morning.  Friday night I'd get the bus home complete with shirts etc worn during the week.  Manchester traffic was such that very often it was possible to cover the jurney faster than public transport.  Fully loaded double decker buses complete with a dozens of passngers standing on the lower deck would struggle up the inclines as I powered up past them; much to the annoyance of the bus drivers who I often witnessed going through red lights to keep ahead! Reaching the city centre, buses would fill up with school mates and I would suffer their jibes for much of the rest of the run.
  In the sixties virtually every house in Manchester would burn coal for heating. On occasions the smoke emitted from thousands of homes became trapped in the atmosphere and dense smogs occurred, very often in the morning.   One particular week, conditons were extremely bad every morning and prevented me running back to work, having run home the night before.   Each morning I had to find another suit for work.  By Friday I ended up with 5 sets of clothing which all had to be brought home on the bus.   I still wonder whether the Manchester  smogs brought on my pneumothorax at the end of the decade.
  I continued to run to and from work during the years when I was teaching.  Any books for marking Pat would collect from the school and bring home.   Training twice a day in this fashion was a very good way of clocking up the miles and of course meant that runners were at home with their families in the evening.
  The running to and from work routine generally means one run Monday, run to and from Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, one run Friday.  But having set up The Complete Runner in the early '80s
and being self employed I would twice most days except weekends running 80/90 miles per week. Never more.
  I think that 70 miles to 90 miles per week with tapering for and recovery after key events can be maintained for many years.  But it is not surprising to read that the talented young Welsh runner, Simon Lawson,  has "quit athletics" at the age of 19,  when his mileage peaked at 180 per week!!

Following 8 on the road last night today I'll be nursing the legs on the trail this fine spring   morning.   Enjoy your running!

Friday, 9 April 2010


In answer to the question, Should I Run Twice a day?  Bob Glover (Competitive Runner's Handbook)
writes emphatically....... No! Unless  you are.....and then lists....
Running through injury...Running in difficult footing(?).....running in extreme cold or heat.....running with a busy schedule.....running for recovery.....running with a "speed workout" later in the day.....running for high mileage....
I could say my first run yesterday was a gentle recovery after Wednesday's tempo 5K on the track.   The second?   Well, really just because I'd been sat at the office desk sending out emails about our new Fastrax website ..... .....and as it looked such a nice evening out there I just fancied repeating the run I'd done in the morning.  A virtually flat valley run mainly on grass. 
I was interested to see if the two runs followed the pattern of old; namely that the second run was significantly faster.  So it proved yesterday.  the pace of the evening run was consistenly half a minute faster per mile than the pre noon run.  
Would we all run better times if races were held in the afternoon or evening rather than the early race start times we have become accustomed to?
I took the camera out on the second run and took a couple of shots from a path I've only just starting to use adjacent to the river Wharfe despite living in Ilkley for over 30 years!!

                Not sure if the arrival of the Heron is a sign of spring but the emerging daffodils certainly are. 

  Whilst believing that most runners don't need to run twice a day Glover  concedes that the "high mileage runner" can increase his or her weekly mileage with a few extra outings of 5 miles or so.   I tend to think that the first run yesterday helped me to run faster on the second run but  in the past so many of us trained twice a day because we used our running as a means of getting to and from work. Couldn't afford the bus fare!!!

Any of you running to and from work?  Many of you training twice a day on a regular basis?

Thursday, 8 April 2010


  The sun did eventually make an appearance during our lakes break......just as we were packing the car to come home...... which of course meant that we didn't get soaked whilst doing it.  The ladies suggested we deviate on the way back so that they could shop at B.M. in Colne and looked slightly puzzled when I happily agreed.  Then I explained that before they shopped I could be dropped off at Nelson to do a track session!
  After wading in the water soaked trails of the Lake District at 10 minute pace it would be good to return to some safer, more rhythmical and much faster running.  Usual 2 mile park run warm up followed by strides etc on the track.  I elected for a 5K tempo run so the pace would not be too distant from recent days since the last race.  Quite pleased with the effort on a breezy improvement on the 23.03 from last month.  Usual acceleration ...7.26....7.19.....6.59.
  It was interesting to contrast my warm up with that of a young lady (15) who came on the track with her coach.  2 laps was deemed sufficient for her followed by a minute or two of "leg flicking" then straight into 400s at 72 secs.   Most athletes I have worked with seem to prefer jog recoveries between efforts.  She seemed to prefer sitting or lying on the track to be the best option.   I say preferred but perhaps it was the 5K fell race she had run the night before which had an influence on her mode of recovery.   She was sporting a county vest so obviously was of a good standard but  perhaps on this occasion a race the day before competing against senior male and female athletes had not been a good idea?


I was keen to avoid yet another road run on Tuesday but didn't wanting to drive out to run.  So took to the nearest trail to head up to Troutbeck Farm knowing that much of the trail would be saturated with water pouring off the hills to my right.
Recent heavy rain combining with the snow still melting off the ridge did indeed make for much "river running" . The National Trust own the land but not much is done to ensure the water streams across the trail and through to the fields below. It tends to reach the path then flow down it. Naturally it ices up easily in the winter making for it very dangerous for walkers, bikers and runners.

I stopped after a very slow 3 miles of wading in the water to take these shots of the terrain ahead!  At which point I decided enough was enough and turned for home.  Hopefully when I do the run again it'll be a bit drier under foot but I'm not banking on it.

MONDAY...........A DRY RUN!

Pat was interested in seeing for herself the route  I'd run for last month's Haweswater half marathon so on Monday we preserved energy for an evening jog by driving back over to Brampton and driving over the course.
  I was able to appreciate the scenery somewhat more than I had done during the race itself but the drive also served as a reminder of how
long the climbs we'd "suffered"  had been.

By early evening there was a respite from the rain and it was good to run through the quiet village of Troutbeck and then down through Troutbeck valley.   Another road run but at least my feet stayed dry!
An easy 6 to start off the week.