Thursday, 28 April 2011


  I mentioned in yesterday's blog that I was told ( by his coach)  that one of the UK's top marathon runners tended to limit his long run to his target marathon time and generally did it off road.  I suggested that this would result in a "long run" well short of 26.2 miles and if this practice is common with all our top ranked runners then this could be a factor in determining  much criticised race performance.
 I was keen to learn if there was any evidence of top American marathoner RYAN HALL training  26.2 or more following his 4th in the Boston marathon in 2:04.58.  A time which beat his previous Boston best time from 2010 by nearly 4 minutes and his previous marathon P.B. by 1:14 secs. 
 It didn't take long to find.  Amongst several training videos on Youtube we are shown him running with training partner Josh Cox on "dirt roads" in what looks like pretty hot conditions, certainly by the end.  Cox accompanies Hall for 1:45 mins including 1 minute hard/ 1 minute steady (x times) efforts leaving Ryan to go for a further 1:18.   He covers overall 30 miles in 2:54 but cranks up to tempo pace for the last 5 miles which he covers as follows......25 (5:38)  26 (5:32)  27 (5:27)  28 (5:25  29(?)  30 ( 5:11) then adds another 1.6 ease down for 31.6 miles in total.  

After a good cough and spit, no doubt due to the very dusty road he had been running on,  just to prove the 31.6 mile effort has not dulled his intellect,  he launches into extracts from a poem by George Meredith (1828-1909) presumably a source of inspiration for this spiritual athlete............

                THE LARK ASCENDING

                He rises and begins to round
                He drops the silver chain of sound
                Of many links without a break
                In chirrup, whistle,slur and shake

                For singing till his heaven fills
                'Tis love of earth that he instils
                And ever winging up and up
                Our valley is his golden cup
               And he the wine which overflows
               To lift us with him as he goes
               Till lost on his aerial rings
               In light and then the fancy sings.

Asked if he is 'the lark' he raises his eyebrows indicating 'perhaps' but  not all the time and that there are other 'larks'  out there.  Clearly indicating that the training is often arduous and gruelling,  but has to be done to remain competitive,  as there are rivals elsewhere giving it their all in much the same way.
     If you can fathom the full meaning of the poem ,  seeking sufficient inspiration to tackle training  runs   of 30 miles or more then perhaps you too could run a 2:05 marathon!   Certainly inspired me!!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011


Part of the pleasure of going to races is maintaining contact with contemporary friends and club mates.  But  invariably  a race will throw up the chance to chew over past running times with old running friends or acquaintances. 
After Good Friday's SALFORD 10K  I  had a chat with running legend MIKE FREARY of Bolton United Harriers.   Ten years my senior he was setting the roads and tracks of the North alight when I first started senior competition in the late '60s as witnessed in featuring on the front cover of Athletics Weekly (number 81) with team mate Ron Hill , who Mike beat by nearly a minute running 25.46 for 5.5 miles in this case.  Now 72, Mike recaptured vividly and so enthusiastically , albeit with his customary expletives(!), events at a road relay which took place over 50 years previous at the same Kersal venue.  Described  just as if it had happened yesterday. I think it's fair to say that Mike's achievements in Bolton, Lancashire and indeed the country were slightly overshadowed by those of Dr. R. Hill, his team mate.  But on this date , APRIL 27TH 1968,  in the AAA National Road Relay at Leicester Mike indicated he was , quote A.W., "on the brink of athletics greatness",  running the fastest long leg of the day, nearly 6 miles in 26:33 on a tough course on a windy day.  Bill Adocks (27.09) Dick Taylor (27.21) Ron Hill (27.28) and some fresh faced young teenager from Sale H. (30.06) were no one near him on this day 43 years ago.
Mike's  run was described as "astonishing" by reporter Mel Watman.   Certainly equivalent to a sub 28 mins. 10K at least.  Mike was telling me he is still in the sport with Bolton United harriers, " putting a bit back" as he put it. 

I also  caught up with another former local athlete I used to race against; now coach to one of the UK's leading marathon runners.  In the conversation I asked him what was the length of his athlete's longest run.   He replied that it wasn't done on distance, rather on time.  Time seemingly equivalent to his target race time and the run was generally done off road.  I could only conclude from this that the actually length then would be a good distance short of 26.2 miles.
 It left me thinking again whether this decision,  that it is not necessary to train 26.2 and over,   is a major factor determining the much talked about performances of today's leading UK marathon men.    Perhaps more over distance training runs might just be the missing ingredient?
Going further back to the big London/Boston marathon weekend one performance which stood out for me was that of  RYAN HALL in Boston.  2:04:58.  for a new U.S. record and 4th place.  Now he's certainly one who believes in training over the 26.2 distance.  More to follow tomorrow on this...

It's 5 days since that Salford 10K but I think it was still in the old legs today as I returned a very sunny but wind swept Nelson track for this week's "speed session"......8 x 600.  It's 9 weeks since I did this session last and I must admit I was hoping for signiicant progress.  Last time the average was 2:41.8 , today  2:39.2.  So some progress but not at much as expected.  Racing takes a toll at any age but more significant at 62.

Monday, 25 April 2011

SALFORD 10K....if you can't stand the heat....


Good Friday.  A 14th. Easter visit to the City of Salford, Greater Manchester.  Twice in the '60s to run the Salford 7.5 mile road race and a dozen times in later years to run in the metric version , the Salford 10K.   It's certainly not the scenery of Salford's Kersal district which draws mainly club runners to this 2 lap event and the demolition of the Cussons soap factory adjacent to the start did nothing to lift the spirit.
  No, the attraction is the potential for a fast time but unseasonly high temperatures into the '20s were dominating the prerace banter.   However,  if many were fearful of a tough morning's run it wasn't evident by the many dozens who overtook me  and sped away in the first mile.  Most of whom I would see again as they wilted on the second circuit.
 The Blackpool Stanley Park 10K  (43.28) in early March served well as a benchmark for the training in the last 7 weeks and as that period had  gone well  I considered  a time of 43.00 would not be too unreasonable a reward..  Question was could a pace of 4.18 per kilometre be maintained in the adverse conditions.  I couldn't  see any chance of acceleration as in the Blackpool race; today;  it would just be a case of survival and sticking to the task....if possible.

 Taking up a position fairly near the front the first K  it felt as if I was standing still as the wave of runners flooded past but the pace going through IK  was  spot on with 4.17.3.   Followed by 4.16  4.17  4.19 and 4.17......21.29 at 5K......and as expected with  temperatures continung to   rise the less cautious  were  starting to fade and I'm  started to pick faltering runners  off.  
 On the second lap  I was finding the air quality becoming quite problematic but resisted the temptation to use the inhaler and in fact seemed to be coping better than most and continued to pull through with 4.20  4.15 splits to 7K.  Air quality not helped by a strong wind which came up and blew a dust cloud towards us on the back straight. Lovely!   A 4.27 split for that 8th K resulted  somewhat below target pace and would mean no let up over the last 2K.  
  I had to dig deep at this point  but at least I was still overtaking.  I passed one runner clearly on the point of collapse; legs buckling and dangerously swaying into the path of passing cars.  He was  quickly supported and eased towards the finishing line.   A line I cross with  timekeepers calling out......42.59.  One second inside target time.   Survived!  My new  warn weather mesh club vest did the trick.  
 Looking at Pat's race pics  one of the runners with me at the end of the first lap, a seemingly  strong, fit looking  young man,  ran 7 minutes slower on the second finishing in 48.25 and 118 place behind.  It was that kind of day. Some coped. Some didin't.  Perhaps those who are blessed to be able to train in daylight all the year around are more used to the heat, who knows?
  A pleasing time then but only good enough for 5th in the M60 category (of 18)  with 3 M65s also in front to further add to future motivation.   At the sharp end,  fellow Sale member Antony Ford  (one of 17 Sale Harriers who raced) just edged out Matt Pierson Of Holmfirth but failed to break 30 minutes.   The heat meanwhile didn't seem to hamper young Lauren Howarth of Leigh who finished a tremendous 10th overall in 32.33 to win the ladies section.
 So, that was a fairly Good Friday.  A  hot and sticky start to the Easter  holiday break  which  fortunately continued  up in the Lake District  for the rest of the weekend.
        I leave you with  a shot taken above  Lake Windermere  taken towards the setting sun.....

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Grete Waitz, gone but never to be forgotten.

  It was with great sadness that I learnt today of the death of Norwegian marathon running legend, GRETE WAITZ.  She had battled against cancer for 6 years. She was only 57.
  Grete won the London marathon twice, the New York 9 times and won a silver medal in the 1984 Olympics. Plus a world championship gold in Helsinki in 1983.
  It was that year that she provided the platform for me to run my marathon best in London.  I had the great fortune of rejoining the race after a pit stop just as  she passed with a posse of a dozen , mainly UK club runners,  pushing hard at the 16 mile point towards a marathon world record.    A posse which tried to cling to her at she strode on relentlessly,  cheered on by the watching crowds.  But one by one they fell off  her unremitting pace  until there were just the two of us.  As we reached  the narrow section of the course along the embankment the crowd were within yards of us on either side  and I shall never forget the unbelievable roar from the masses on the sidelines.   Adrenalin was gushing from every pore!
They sensed that Grete  was on for a world record.  Sharing her limelight and the  fantastic
support of the crowd  lifted me equally to the greatest running high of my career.   Unbelievable, unforgettable.
   We  finished on Westminster Bridge, having run down the mall, opposite to the current finish.
As we reached  the bridge,  with probably a few hundred yards left, race director JOHN DISLEY,
parted us, directing Grete over towards the ladies finish.  I  could see the finish clock ahead.  It clicked over to 2:25.  Thanks to Grete  I had been elevated to a PB by over 4 minutes.  I recall a huge beam coming over my face.  A final look at my watch confirms I'll be well under 2;26 and I finally let her go , easing over the line as she continued to sprint  away to on her side of the course.
 She ran 2:25.29 (finishing 198th) to my 2:25.35 (200th).  Times which would have seen us around 40th place in 2011.  Unfortunately, she held the world record for just one day as Joan Benoit broke it the next day in Boston. Nevertheless,  her record places her as one of the most significant athletes  in womens marathon running.
 If you care to view the last minute of her (our) 1983 London Marathon go to BBC SPORT...CLICK ON on video of 1983 London marathon.
   So thank you Grete.  I am indebted to you for your inspiration that day April 17th in 1983. 


Sunday, 17 April 2011


I love dipping into a book I received  as under 15 overall winner of the Manchester Cross Country League in 1964. 
                     First published in 1960. 
   Largely remembered for his association with Herb Elliott,  who of course won the 1960 1500 metres Olympic title,  Cerutty had firm views on all events in the book including the marathon.    Views which would have had readers nodding their heads in the 1960s but perhaps now raising the odd eyebrow.  
   He could not have envisaged the "marathon boom" and certainly , perhaps charity runners aside, would not have approved of today's phenomenon as can be deduced from the following...........
    BEST SUITED?  The 6 mile runner (10K)....trains at a higher rate...a better coordinated mover than  a longer distance runner....can develop all the strength needed to run 26.2
    MILES PER MONTH? Limit training to 100 miles per week.  "Above 400 per month it would appear that the pace has to be slowed down so much that the organism is not conditioned to the required speed"
   NATURAL  SPEED IS  CRUCIAL.  "For a good, easy mover a speed of  5 minutes a mile does not seem excessive to me"  But to maintain that pace for 26.2 miles, running alone may not be the answer he suggests.
   TRAIN THE DISTANCE....AT LEAST.  The  newcomer  should run & run "until he has
 mastered ....the full marathon distance"  Added confidence...."master running to 30 miles, knowing he can do so..."
   SPEED TRAINING. A lot of training at pre-determined marathon pace.  (Say 5 minute per mile)
3 mile or 5 miles at marathon pace ...recover......repeat 2 or 3 times.   "A very good workout"!
   MEDIUM LENGTH RUNS.  Our marathon man should have his "objective to be able to run 10 miles in training in 50 minutes and on occasion extend the distance at this rate to fifteen miles even if this is only accomplished in a race."
   Cerutty acknowledges that all marathon runners aren't going to run 26.2 at 5 minute pace (2:11.06) saying that the rate can be applied to each athlete according to his ability. Say 7 minutes per mile (3:03)
        But............wait for it...........he goes on...
"I would suggest that any beginner, today, (remember is was written in 1960) who is not capable of ..3 hours...would be best advised to go away and make himself strong by hard mountain walking up to 30 miles per day (presumably not every day) as well as a hard course of gymnastics and weight training"  then......"....should be able to very soon run a marathon around the 6 minute per mile rate. (2:37.19)
             (Remember these are Cerutty's words NOT MINE)
 " too many poor types (!) get an easy ego-gratification by plodding in poor form and style over the marathon distance in what amounts to really poor times and performances that tend to make a burlesque of one of the toughest events in any sport any man can compete in"
 A TIME LIMIT...." a very generous time limit of 3:30  is suggested"  Cerutty says  that a 6 minute miler wouldn't be seen running with 4 minute milers so why allow it in a marathon.
 "This is not an intolerant attitude but an appeal to place the event on a proper footing and to exclude the cranks and exhibitionists" (Nice one, Percy!)
 DON'T TRAIN ON THE ROAD.  "Little or no training would be done on the bitumen or concrete roads"  bad enough having ro race on the road(?) country roads.
 TRAIN TWICE A DAY.  "Jim Peters of England....was on the right lines....5/6 fast miles during the day. Around 10 miles hard of an evening...he ran.....phenomenal times."
 VARY YOUR PACE..."so that he can whip in a fast mile at almost any stage of the race"
 SURGING.... to be practised..."we train so we race. And we shall race as we have trained."
 CONDITIONED RESPONSE.  "learn to race faster over the last 1/4 mile " doing so in training.
 REST DAY.  ..don't develop into a "plodder".  Take Monday's off. 
 REST WEEKS.  "Occasionally do long and arduous walks in mountains with heavy packs"
 HIBERNATE.  Say for 3 days, in the ,read , sleep ,move only to a hut by the ocean or up in the mountains.
                              "One rises from them like a giant refreshed"

So there you have it.  Thoughts on the marathon from a coaching legend....1960s style.
Can't help thinking he would be shaking his head if he was on the streets of London on Sunday later than noon.
                  But  to voice his opinion wouldn't be very charitable, would it?
                        If you raced London and achieved your goal,well done!  



Friday, 15 April 2011


  I must admit to being a touch apprehensive about tackling a track session today; just 48 hours after a 12 mile run on Wednesday.  The old legs have felt somewhat fragile since then.  I'd elected to run the 12 on a rough and rutted section of the canal and the uneven surface had certainly had an impact on the knees.   Anyway needs must. 
    It was 4 weeks since the last long rep session so I felt entitled to make and witness  some progression.   I had considered  the progression, doing more reps......two, shortening the interval recovery.....three, repeating the session but trying to run the reps faster;  I went for the latter. Would speed kill?
             Surely, I could run the reps faster after 4 weeks of trouble free running?
  So it was a repeat of last month......5 x 1K......with 2 minute interval. During the warm up and throughout the first rep the right medial ligmant is causing me concern. They say "listen to your body". In this case I refused to listen....and the pain went away!
  So , last month              4.35     4.31     4.27     4.24     4.14.................averaging  4.26
         today                      4.24     4.20     4.21     4.18     4.12.................averaging   4.19
                                                  Pleasing progression indeed!


 Build up to the London marathon continued this morning with Paula Radcliffe on the TV giving expert advice.....on what music to listen to when running the event.   "Nothing too fast early on..."!! Thanks Paula, sure your rivals will be grateful for that top tip.
 There will be all shapes and sizes taking part in London on Sunday and in Boston  the following day as the marathon is no longer the preserve of the traditional "athlete".   I  always state, not sure where I first saw it written, that the perfect weight for a male marathon runner is 2lbs to each inch of height.  So,  6 foot tall........72 inches........144 lbs.......10 stone 4 lbs.  As I say, not a pretty sight but it moves well!! 

  I have referrred in the past to Valley Strider clubmate, STEVE O'CALLAGHAN as being one exception to this "rule".   I think Steve was around the 13 stone mark when he ran his marathon best of 2:21!!
 Readers may recall Steve beat me in Selby marathon then added insult to injury by casually letting it slip he had run the Sheffield marathon the week before!
 At the other end of the scale we have another local rival from the '80s, HARRY BATES.  The diminutive Skyrac A.C. runner may have lacked stature but made up for it with Yorkshire grit and determination boasting a sub 2:30 P.B.  But will probably always regret  his decision to stop and drink at the 25 mile mark leaving me to go on and take the top spot.
 This shot shows them running a Mars London marathon.

  Yes, not to missed folks,  coming to this blog VERY SOON,  thoughts on the marathon event of PERCY WELLS CERUTTY, the celebrated Australian coach to, amongst others ,  one of the greatest athletes of all time, HERB ELLIOTT. 
  Herb was a miler but I promise you PERCY'S words of wisdom on marathon running WRITTEN IN 1960 take some beating.  A taster......

   "Above 400 (miles) per month  it would appear that the pace has to be slowed down so much that the organism is not conditioned to the required speed".  
  So just one top tip to be going on are wasting your time running more than 100 miles per week.  Good news or what!!

  Meanwhile, if you are running London or even Boston have a great run and don't forget the sun block.   If you are spectating,  hope you cope with the crowds with two F.A. Cup semifinals and Arsenal playing at home this weekend.   Think I'll have the best view from my armchair.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011


         As I looked back over WEEK 14 it's hard to believe that a quarter of the year has gone already. How's YOUR running year going? 
                  Playing your cards right or have you gone bust already?
For me, it wasn't a bad week.  A very solid hill session on the Tuesday followed by a medium track session within 48 hours.  No run above 9 miles but the week totalled 48 miles, 529 on the year . The average rising to a respectable -38. So pleasing progress from the 16 troubled miles of week 1.
 Saturday was really the only easy day of the week, but the 4 miles around Sutton Park in reverse gave me the opportunity to see all of the 60 plus teams who started.  There was talk that the overall standard in terms of times was not up to the past but certainly the number of teams and the intense scrap at the front for the medals illustrated that there is still a great deal of interest in this national event.  But no matter what reputation or history a club has if current leadership is lacking,  absence seems to be inevitable. 
Witness no Bingley mens team and the ladies team of 6 reduced to one!
  This lack of support was possibly more evident at the Northern 12/6 stage relays which were held on a Sunday and it's possible the North  "shot themselves in the foot" as many runners were unwilling perhaps to give up a long Sunday run , particularly if training for London.  2001 saw 49 teams compete. 2011 just 35.

   1986.......looking back to this week 25 years ago
This year's Northern 12/6 relays were on March 20th but in 1986 they were held somewhat later on April 12th.  Being a very new club back then there was no tradition of participation in the championship by VALLEY STRIDERS and as  previously stated the vast majority of members focussed much as I did on marathons. Nevertheless, a full team of 12 elected to travel to Sefton Park Liverpool to compete against most of the North of England's long established clubs. Many containing teenager track runners willing and able to flash around the 6 short legs.  I know I have some "mature" local readers so I will stir a few memories by going through the VALLEY STRIDERS team  and the team position after their leg (of 58 teams)     
                 18    BRIAN EDEN                      26.35    
                 20    JOHN CONVERY               27.29
                 29    MARTIN HOPSON             28.27
                 28    MARTIN DAY                     28.19
                 33    STEVE O'CALLAGHAN     28.43
                 31    HILARY Mc EWAN             27.25
                 30    TERRY LONERGAN           14.58
                 31     S. HIGGINS                          15.26
                  31     GRAHAM TOLLEY             15.08
                  31     MIKE ABBS                         15.36
                  35     J.FLANAGAN                       16.23
                  36     G. MINFORD                       16.54             
                    36TH OF 58 TEAMS FINISHING

So that was our Saturday in Liverpool. A successful turn out and  a reasonable position all things considered. Sadly it was not a 12 x marathon relay which would have suited us a lot better!
                                   SUNDAY...................AIREBOROUGH 1OK
   The 15 minute dash around Sefton Park must have been deemed insufficient racing for the weekend as the following day I joined the Ilkley section of Valley Striders in running the Aireborough 10K run from Yeadon C.C. by Skyrac A.C.   This would serve as one of the last speed
sessions before my Bristol marathon and things continued to bode well with a 4th place in 32.53, in a race won by local English international Dave Slater in 31.09 with one of my former pupils Scott Dry second in 31.55. 
  The group generally performed well with a dozen inside 40 minutes.  Several of them were to go on and form part of the first Ilkley Harrier club membership.
                         So, 2 races in two days; a busy weekend..............time to taper!

Monday, 11 April 2011


  My association with the NATIONAL ROAD RELAY  championships is a long one.  I was selected for SALE HARRIERS  to compete in the
1968 event which took place in Leicester.  Same format at last Saturday. 6 long legs and 6 short legs.  I was somewhat surprised when I looked back at my records to see I had run a long leg rather than a short one as is usually the case with junior men.  We finished 16th of 25 teams. The winners, Coventry ran 4:14 the last team, Blackpool & Fylde, ran 4:36.  Only 8 of those 25 teams were present on Saturday but the absence of those 17 was more than compensated as 59 teams finished this year at the now regular venue of Sutton Park, Birmingham. The last team taking 5:35 was a long day!
  TIPTON HARRIERS were 5th in 1968; won the event when I ran in the BINGLEY team in 1978 and won again last Saturday.  But it was a close run thing and never "in the bag" until the last leg as Tipton,
NEWHAM and Northern champions , MORPETH fought out the 12th short leg.  Newham just nudging out Morpeth to take second.  Still the Morpeth lads were all smiles after,  proudly wearing their medals and their FASTRAX jackets which we had supplied in recognition of their Northern win at Catterick.
  So Tipton's traditional support of this event was maintained.  Looking into the ages of the team I had expected to find at least a few "youngsters". Several around 20 perhaps running the fast short legs.
But not the case;  several late 20's and five well into the '30s.  Maturity and experience prevailed.
 Both  SALE  mens and womens teams suffered the usual last week withdrawals and consequently were somewhat understrength, as many others will have been , and we only managed a middle order 32nd place. Similarly with our ladies who fell away from 6th after 3 legs to 16th.  But our 18 runners are to be commended for devoting a day to representing the club and all seemed to enjoy the great  atmosphere of this national event with the area around the start and finish surrounded by the multicoloured club tents and banners. All adding  to the festive mood on gloriously hot and sunny spring day.  My 4 mile "easy day" run of 4 miles around the Midlands park was just enough. 

Friday, 8 April 2011


 Thursday.  I set off for my customary 2 mile warm up around the park intent on returning to commit my first act of "track trespass".  I was regretting not having my phone to hand in case I should become stuck in the 9" gap between the vertical posts of the ralings around the track perimeter.
 However, whilst the main entrance to the leisure facility was well and truly bolted, a service gate had been left unpadlocked and this made the trespass quite easy.
  Perhaps leisure services were simply ensuring that any day time training Olympic hopeful could maintain their progress towards London 2012.  Or more likely, was it merely an oversight?

 So an illegal session on the track but no use of facilities due to local government cut backs as mentioned previously. £3 saved!    Returning to the car after the session I  got talking to a lorry driver who had been watching my run whilst having his lunch.  He said that ultimately the council were looking to scrap the track altogether and use the land for housing. 
                                    Another nail in the coffin of British sport!

 Thursday's  session?   A moderate  one  after Tuesday's taxing "3 peaks of Ilkley" run. Just 8 x 300 mts. with the usual battle against the strong winds of Lancashire;  some compensation in the form of brilliant spring sunshine.  
                Target.....75/76 based on 21 mins for 5K. 
                Recorded.....75  75  74  76  75  75  75  76...............and the legs held up!

Today, Friday,  back on the road for 8 miler, but it would definitely be a flat one unlike Tuesday.
Pace "steady"..... 1.30 minutes slower than 10K race pace(7.00) so target  8  x 8.30....68 minutes.
Managed just inside with a brisk last mile to record 67.49.  Again enjoying the sunshine but cursing the wind in the first half which once again hampered the breathing.

Tomorrow? Looking forward to an easy jog around Sutton Park in Birmingham whilst watching the National 12/6 road relay championships.  Can Sale Harriers improve on 7th in the Northern?

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Race a marathon? there's a thought!

 The only race I am entered for at the moment is the Great Manchester 10K in 6 weeks time. My prize for the category 3rd. last year's race!!
   I am looking at the options for a 5K, 5 miler or another 10K in between now and then.
  Once I've run the Manchester event it'll be a case of looking for another target to keep me motivated.   No half marathons this year yet so that is a real consideration.  But what about an autumn marathon? Now there's a thought!
   Every morning I receive by email from R.W. (U.S.) a "quote of the day". No doubt many of you too. Invariably the quote , from a whole variety of "celebrities",  is concerned with the marathon.
I'm not generally inspired by what the quote says but just there is a great "buzz" at this time of year  with so many spring marathons taking place and the thought keeps coming back for me to race another marathon.  
 I particularly use the word "race" as opposed to  "complete"  or just "run".  I believe there is a distinct difference. Racing to achieve a predetermined time or  simply participating.
 To "race" a marathon I would have run a build up race of a half marathon. I would take that half marathon time, say 1:37.30, double it and add ten minutes. That would determine my target time for the 26.2 miles or 42 kilometres is I was running abroad.  Hence 3:25. 
 That target time of 3:25 would then dictate my race strategy and pace per mile or kilometre.   Anything faster than 3.:25 would be down to excess adrenalin! a time between 3:25 and 3:30 would be down to bad weather (probably!) , anything over 3:30 would be considered as failing.
  Just completing is not the aim.  It would be about racing to that target time.
 Now having run 26 marathons, with times listed on this blog and a slowest of 2:50,  I have to ask  am I prepared to put myself through the training I would demand of myself to achieve 3:25?
 Am I prepared to lift my longest training run from 12/15 miles at present enabling to race a half marathon to 16, 18, 20, 22, 24 at the very least in the past?
 Am I prepared to start running twice a day most days again,  as I used to? 
 Am I prepared to do lift my weekly mileage from 40/45 to 70/ 80 miles per week? 
 Am I prepared to tackle sessions like 3 x 2 miles ,  6/7  x 1 mile at 10K pace? 
 Am I prepared to risk my 62 year body breaking down and ruining the reasonably comfortable daily running regime I have?
 All this to achieve a personal worse, an hour slower than my P.B?
                                                          Answer being NO!  
I have to be sensible and realistic.  I  have to keep my targets sensible and realistic,  mindful of the training I am doing and generally coping pretty well with.
  We continually hear and read about runners who have set themselves totally unrealistic targets and challenges whether it be to do a marathon or perhaps an off road event of equal distance.  With numerous work and family responsibilities  the preparation required to achieve their chosed goals very often just becomes impossible.  They invariably fail and it's often a painful experience. Physically and emotionally.   Sadly we see many turn  their back on running altogether.   We see it happen so often.     
  No,  I shall not be swayed by all the current buzz.  ( Even this morning when I walked back to the car having run around the reservoirs I was asked, "Are you doing the marathon?" )  and besides... wife won't let me!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011


 Well it's good to sit and write this post having put myself through a tough hilly run this morning as illustrated by the garmin download.
 I'd written yesterday that I had been avoiding hills;  today,  time to put a hill session on the training sheet!  I would always write in hill sessions for other people yet not so often for myself. 
   Running from the house for a change I  lost height jogging down to the river  and  then essentially tackled  3 long drags  (a mini 3 Peaks! of Ikley) covering 8 miles in total.  Just the type of running I used to do quite regularly but perhaps recently I've been shielding myself from.   As the legs are now "mashed" again the rest of the week could well be as flat as possible.  
Meanwhile, continuing my look back into the heady days of the '80s......

1986......this week 25 years ago. Anglesey 30K .  Sun. March 30

   February's  Malta suntan,  acquired mainly whilst running that somewhat contentious marathon, had started to fade but the way the local hero had been encircled by a group of cyclists and for the second part of the race been driven to the point of extreme exhaustion was firmly carved on the memory.  Still 4th in 2:33.52 in unfavourable conditions boded well for the Bristol marathon on April 27th.
 With a "7" and a half marathon already ticked off in March I was looking for a long build up race and spotted a 30K race over on the  island of Anglesey just off North Wales on Easter Sunday, March 30th.   No idea why,  as the island is 110 miles as the crow flies (could a crow fly that far?)  but according to the local paper I was pre-race favourite!  I think they were going by the Malta run. Question was could I live up to the billing, as they say.   Surely some young local would fare better than me at 37?
 The 30K race was a new event attracting just 300 runners but combined with a 10K , starting at the same time,  it was to make pacing that bit more difficult as from the off there was no way of telling which race the leading runners were in.  
  As a group of a dozen or so nudged ahead I must have decided they were 10K runners and let them go. But as the race split at 6 miles I could see that quite a number had carried on and I would have all on to pull any of them back.   Reports state that one runner after the other tried his luck on the front as the group charged along the Menai Straits.
  They motored through 10 miles in 54 minutes and through the half marathon point in 70.42 but they weren't going away now and I was on the hunt! 

  The newspaper report describes that I was now "rapidly improving"  and "making a strong late challenge" but it was largely in vain.   I picked off a few but couldn't get anywhere near the race winner TEGID ROBERTS who is still running sub 40 10Ks as a M50 so must have been in his twenties.  Picture shows him crossing the line wearing a CND "ban the bomb" vest.
  They placed me 3rd in 1:43.17 behind local North Wales  Roberts and one D. Carter but John Potts of Birchfield , a veteran, was also in front so I was actually 4th overall.  A repeat of the Malta placing.  
 Without the race splits to go by I'll never know whether I made the wrong decision to let that pack go in the first 10K.   The race report certainly said I'd "misjudged the early pace".  But perhaps my pace was actually correct and the fact that I worked through to 4th illustrated that many had gone off too fast.  Who knows?
 What we did know was that  1:43.17 worked out at 3 x 34.26 10Ks which is 2:25.05 marathon pace.
So an excellent exercise as a build up race and well worth the journey to the North Wales island.
 The  race proved  that training was going well and Bristol could be a good one.

The following week it was time for something completely different.....the North Of England 12 man relay. Question was, could my club at that time, VALLEY STRIDERS, essentially a club of dedicated marathon runners and only a few years old,  conjure up a team to compete against UK's finest established clubs including some budding young track and field stars?

Monday, 4 April 2011



Whilst I've always championed the cause that training should be enjoyable, for me  from day 1 there has always been a race on the horizon and that has always dictated the training planned and executed. Take away the desire for competition and the need to train usually  diminishes. If not total the intensity just is not required. Only natural really.  I have had racing troughs as in 1994 when I only ran 4 races and consequently the training was halve to around the 40 mile mark. It took a change of club to motivate me again.
 Speaking to Complete Runner customers it's interesting to learn how their approach to racing varies so much. Many don't race at all, using running as a means of "unwinding", keeping the weight down or just an attempt to "stay young and beautiful"...body maintenance.
 Quite a lot just run a couple of big races each year. They talk frequently and enthusiastically about the "GNR", the Great North Run, the world's largest half marathon and "the Marathon",  referring to the London as if it was the only one on the planet!
 Questionably many club runners seem to crave a weekly fix; even  a twice weekly fix in summer. They seem to record very consistent performances but perhaps never really make great progress towards a fabulous P.B.
 Then there are those who say they aim for 3 or 4 key races in a year in which they aim to peak. Tune up or build up races on the way are not run at training pace but they are run  with an eye to the main prize.  The "big one" demands a good taper or ease down, hopefully an outstanding performance, leaving the runner
well and truly spent. A period of recovery and it's  off again rebuilding the "wall of fitness" for the next defining event.
 I think I have tended to fall into the latter category. Certainly in the '80s when 3, 4 or even 5 marathons would define the aims and objectives of the running year.  I could accept the toll the  event had on the body; nature of the race.   A case of.....
                          The marathon is a 26.2 mile race, get used to it!

I've suffered that post big race feeling the last week.  Shame because the Great Grizedale Trail race was not exactly listed by me as  a defining major race , far from it.  Not exactly the "big one"!
As with several I spoke to we were half regarding it as our off road Sunday run with a number on.
 But as I always say I defy anyone to hold themselves back to their normal training pace with a     number is attached to your racing vest.   Nigh on impossible!
No, I wasn't prepared for the damage the roller coaster Lake District event would do to the old legs.  Partly because just that I wasn't prepared  for it!  As I said I coped better than most with the hills but  essentially I don't run "do hills" like I use to.   (Note to self:  build in more hill work!)
 So the 7 days of week 13 didn't quite go as well as planned.   No days missed, but fewer miles (40) , every day less than pencilled in,  and no speed session. Yes,  I  felt so drained I even  missed my "farewell" (official) session at Seedhill Track which will no longer be open in the the morning due to cut backs.  
 Following a week of "icing" after every run the soreness gradually faded and I managed a 10 yesterday albeit in a slow pace. 
   In contrast, a customer who ran last Sunday's race told me he raced again on the Tuesday night and  another lady recovered such that she ran not one but 2 10Ks trail races last weekend.   (I passed her at 4 miles last week and she finished 5 minutes down at the end )
  As I said,  runners'  approach to racing varies so much, it takes all sorts.  But ,hey, as long as we're all enjoying our running what the heck, that's all that matters really isn't it? 
                                               Or how do you see it?