Sunday, 25 November 2012


  There was a time in the dark, distant past when virtually all races were on a Saturday.  Picking out an Athletics weekly from 1967 9 races were advertised on the back cover,  8 were scheduled for Saturday afternoon. 
The 9th advertised "track, walking and cycling events" at a Monday Bank Holiday Sports event.  Then again, shops weren't open on Sundays in those days either.     
  Nowadays it's the nationwide traffic free parkrun 9 a.m. 5Ks which dominate the Saturday calendar plus,  of course, many  cross country events which uphold the Saturday racing tradition.
  Saturday road races seem few and far between but they do prove very popular as they leave Sunday free. Traditionally free for a "long Sunday" with club mates.  90 to 120 minutes of "conversational" running; much banter about the previous day's race, "scalps" taken,  praising improvement,  excuses for bad runs. 
 Will many be up for that after yesterday's WESHAM 10K?

 Certainly not me.  Something shorter, something safer and of course I'll be running solo as usual.
  Last Sunday's 13 miler took it's toll during the week and I had the choice between doing a track session or getting some speed back into the old legs with a race.  
  Didn't fancy my chances getting into the Salford Women only 5.25 K or paying £15 on the day for a Dash around Wythenshawe Park so I opted for yet another trek to the Fylde coast for my 148th 10K.  
  I must admit I wasn't expecting to get anywhere near the 43 minute mark the way I had felt in the week but I was hoping the adrenalin would kick in as usual once we'd got under way just after 11 a.m. (After we had clapped for a minute in recognition of REG CHAPMAN, a Wesham member who had sadly died recently.)
   By this time the temperature had fortunately reached a tolerable 4 degrees; up from the zero when I had started out from home at 8.15.
   Logistics prove easy at this event. There'a ample parking just a short walk from the start and finish point at the local school where the host club, WESHAM ROADRUNNERS, were set up for collection of numbers and late entries.   They have a limit of 600; 461 finished.
 But the quality was much better than the FCR Windmill 10K event.  Perhaps club runners would prefer to support club hosted events rather than those put on by a commercial organisation even though the entry fee was much the same.
 At the sharp end, STUART ROBINSON, ex-Blackpool, unfamiliar to some in the red strip of his new club Salford Harriers  overcame the threat from Anthony Valentine of Bolton winning in 32:17. SARAH PARKINSON ran a solid 38:03 to lead home the ladies; 32nd overall.
 From a personal point of view the race turned out better than expected. 
I would like to think that I maintained a good even pace throughout. Certainly going through the field as usual from half way as the faster starters wilted. 
 But the mile markers (again no K markers!!) would suggest otherwise.
7.19 6.48 6.55.  So far so good.  
 With Wesham ladies, Nicola Unsworth and Tara Fisher for company it's another solid mile ( 6.49) .....then amazing acceleration to 6.14 before drifting back to 7.41 for the 6th mile!  A last mile which was flat and I was racing flat out shoulder to shoulder with several others including the ever present Stephen Perry (Lancaster).
 The course does undulate slightly but not enough for the splits to be that inconsistent.   Let's just conclude that the 5th mile marker was not quite correctly placed.   Perhaps it should have been place at the one point on the route where the country lane was a foot under water!
 So final time a pleasing 43.11, 117 of 461 compared to 45th of 553 in the Windmill; and once again  I had to be content to finish runner up to the evergreen ALAN HUDSON (WESHAM) of the 18 in the M60 category for the fourth consecutive race.
 The jury is still out on the race pictured above....a tech tee in the style of a football shirt. Different!?  Let's just say it didn't exactly stretch the imagination of the  graphic designer.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012


As I write this I can actually see the other side of the valley here in Ilkley.  The "clag" , as they seem to say hereabouts,  was down until late morning with heavy rain thrown in just to make the thoughts  about  today's run somewhat less than enthusiastic.
 Another "saying" goes,  

             "there's no such as bad weather....just bad clothing!"

So it was a case of reaching for the Goretex jacket and stepping forth.  I would settle for a couple of laps of the Strid Woods; using the trees for shelter.  But late morning the rain relented, the skies brightened and having  run through the woods for 2.5 miles I switched tack and  put in 3 miles at tempo pace (aka race pace plus 10%) on a nice little traffic circuit between Bolton Abbey and the Cavendish pavilion.  

                                   I can think of worse places to try 
                             to run hard and (relatively) fast..................

With 2.5 back, it amounted to a pretty good sandwich session then of 2.5                 trail...3 miles road tempo....2.5 trail to finish.   A bit different to my usual sessions of 8 miles all trail or 8 miles all road.  

Sunday, 18 November 2012


  Before today's training  run  I thought I'd have a look at the LEEDS ABBEY DASH (9.30 start) as it passed through the 5K turn point at Kirkstall Abbey on a cool but pleasantly sunny Yorkshire autumn morning. 
 If  you ran the race check out how you looked after 5K in this 9 mins video....

The WINDMILL 10K on the front at Lytham  last Sunday left me quite jaded and I only notched up 20 miles from Monday to Friday.  

Nevertheless, I was very keen to maintain the year's average and that meant tackling a 7 on the undulating Strid trail  yesterday followed by a solid half marathon training run this Sunday morning to reach 40 miles for the week.
  The run, from Rodley on the Leeds Liverpool canal took me into Leeds and back; turning at the point where  the canalside bars and restaurants were preparing for their Sunday lunch business.   Quite a nice spot; very cosmopolitan.
 The splits fpr the 13.1 miles show the customary   acceleration throughout the run as far as the puddle strewn towpath and Sunday morning walkers would allow.  A 9.33 first mile..........7.50 for the 13th mile........a comfortable 1:52 overall.  
 Just might be looking for a half for the New year.

Friday, 16 November 2012


  My mother has done incredibly well to remain defiantly independent in her third storey flat at the age of 93.  But  in the last few months her health has sadly taken a turn for the worse and the decision was reluctantly made that she should stay in the Care Home where she is now on a permanent basis.
  So today  Pat and I  had the unenviable task of  starting to pack up her bits and pieces and prepare for the move.  
  I took a break from filling boxes with the accumulated paraphenalia acquired through the decades  to complete a 6 mile "nostalgia run" ; a chance to see how the area I was brought up in compared with my memories from  45 years ago when I ran the streets of Higher Blackley, Manchester.  A runner was a rare sight back then; not like now.
 The start of the run took me down a set of steps laid down over 50 years ago to facilitate access between the upper and lower estates on the hillside. A hillside we climbed every morning on the way to St. Clare's Primary School.  My mind went back to the morning when my school mates were talking about a new second TV channel which they had been watching called Granada.  They now had 2 TV channels! We didn't even have a television set.  Now I have one in almost every room in the house!  So, ner!
  I ran on and around the estate where I was lived  between the age 6 and 18.  A 1950s "new" estate which featured a circular road ; the scene of several informal "road races" we kids enjoyed as a form of street play.

  I ran on and came to the house where my mam and dad had brought the 4 of us in the '60s and '70s along with my "nana".  By chance I spoke to the lady who lives there now (with just her husband) and asked her, in jest, what had happened to the front lawn I had toiled over for so many years.  It had been paved over to provide a space for their car.  
  Few people had a car on the estate when we lived there. Everything on the estate seemed so much smaller than I remembered it.  Even the street  where we played "farmer, farmer, may I cross....."
appeared so much narrower.

  I ran on into Heaton Park and up the hill towards Heaton Hall. A hill I knew so well from Sunday afternoons spent doing solo hill reps in the summer under the guidance of my Sale Harriers coach, Alan Robertshaw.  Little did I think back then I would still be capable of running up that same hill  some 47 years later. 
                                                                   Only not so fast as I did then.

I ran on and passed the field behind the hall on which I  completed my reps, training for  steeplechase events, , dragging park benches into position to act as make do barriers; looking all the while for park rangers.

I ran passing the reservoir embankment, onto towards the Commonwealth Games croquet venue and turned down to the field where I  had my very first race, the Manchester Schools cross country championships of 1963; a race which earnt me a very unexpected place in the city team and started my whole running career off.
 I ran on, exiting the park and passed the site of Heaton Mills where I had worked for a summer as a teenager; despatching printed cloth all around the country.  The mill is no longer there. The land is occupied by a Sainsbury's car park.
 I ran on in bright warm, November sunshine, passed the old house again ,  back up through the estate, back up the "new" steps and back to the block of flats which features large on the North Manchester skyline.  

    A block of flats where my mam spent so many good years alone but is                        very unlikely to see again.   But she'll have a new place now  and when we've filled her room with the contents of some of the boxes we filled yesterday she'll hopefully regard it as her new home.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

WINDMILL 10K race report

After a month's break it was back to racing last Sunday with a return to Lytham St. Annes, Lancashire for the WINDMILL 10K ; a Fylde Coast Running event.
 Yet another 10K you might be saying?  True. But,  as with Mo Farah at the moment,  I personally still find the event a suitable challenge for where I am after 49 years of competing.  
 I'm not inclined to pay up to £90 to "run" through rivers, crawl through tubes or fight my way through barbed wire!
No, the challenge this season was  to run even sub 7 minute pace for 6.2 miles , get back to under 43 minutes and put a brake on the downward trend in 10k times year on year.
 Unfortunately, 4 of the other 5 races in 2012 over the distance have made that task impossible.  Platt Fields was waterlogged, Boggart Chase included half a dozen stiff climbs,  Stanley Park was a maze of twists and turns, Tholthorpe was hot and hilly.  The first attempt at Salford was too soon; I lacked the fitness.
 But  not having dipped much below 40 m.p.w since July hopes were high for a good performance on this  flat coastal run with few twists and turns; just as long as the wind behaved!  And with 700 entered there should be competitive company all the way around.
 As I warmed up I met former training mate Ilkley's Eddie Irving whose online entry had apparently failed;  he took up my suggestion to "run around with me".  Capable of sub 38 as an M55 it would be a tempo run for him.  He ran under 50 mins for 10 mile at his best.
 Being Remembrance Sunday we stood for the customary 2 minutes before heading south along the promenade past the Lytham windmill.  We covered the first "garmin"  mile in 6.54 ; bang on target.  Turning back and heading north as usual we started to chase down several clearly too fast out of the blocks for comfort going  through 2 miles in 6.46. The video shows I was 63rd at this point.
 What wind there was now  taking a bit of a toll on those in front and we continued to go overtake. I don't know how Eddie normally races but I hoped that he was enjoying  the thrill of the chase as much as I was.  Miles of 6.57 and 6.55 followed.  A sub 43 clocking looked certain as long as the wheels could stay on!  Which they did; a fifth mile in 6.45. 

 We were back on the promenade now with a warming sun on our backs,  the breeze pushing us from behind and  some welcome support from dozens of spectators.   We continued to overtake as we hit the 6 mile point in 6.47.    Eddie pulls out at this point as I mount  a  final charge over the last 0.26 (?) in 1.39 to bring me home in 42.43.  A season's 10K PB and 25 seconds faster than last year; so very pleasing.
 The splits then at 6.54   6.46   6.57   6.55   6.45 and 6.47 were much as I would normally run so I'm not sure that having Eddie present made a difference but who knows?   Certainly going through more than a dozen runners who fail to maintain the pace over the second 5K is now becoming the norm as I eventually went through to 46th.
 The category win proved elusive as usual; finishing 2nd of 15 to the superbly consistent Wesham runner, ALAN HUDSON.  But perhaps THE run of the day was that of M65 JOHN MORRIS (Wolverhampton) who ran a fantastic 40.12.  Hardly surprising to see that he  tops this UK's 10K rankings with a January time in Paris of 38.32 when he was younger.........66!! Phenomenal!

 Pat's  video clearly shows how Wakefield's PAUL LOCKWOOD (31:38) dominated the race straight from the "gun" and was never threatened with FCR's Autumn Breaker 10K winner, IAN GRIME (Newham) second (33:25).  
 Blackpool's BEV WRIGHT is well used to winning her vets F50 category but may well have been surprised to win overall in 41:30.   Perhaps her young rivals were racing on the country.
 So all in all a pleasing day at the seaside.  A  fine,  enjoyable, autumn day and one for which the wind was not too unkind.   Rare for the Fylde coast.  A 147th 10K which for once went to plan and the challenge of consistent sub 7 mins pace was faced and overcome.



553 finished the WINDMILL 10K last Sunday which started and finished on the promenade at Lytham St Annes on a fine autumn morning.  Pleased to record a season's P.B. of 42.43.  Video here......

Wednesday, 7 November 2012


 Sadly, but not unexpectedly, my dear 93 year old mother is no longer able to look after herself and is now in a North Manchester Care Home. Pat and I visited her this morning and I went on to do this week's "speed" session at the Sports City  outdoor track, adjacent to the Etihad stadium; the Commonwealth stadium which,  of course,  became the home of Manchester City F.C.
  Perhaps not the ideal venue for a Manchester United supporter but needs must.
          I say "speed" session but it's all relative isn't it? 
I could simply describe today's SPEED SESSION and I'm sure many would read it and raise one if not both eyebrows, thinking " Call that a speed session?" But scoff ye not!! Wait 'til you're 63!
 Back in the '80s when I was running marathons at well under 6 minute pace, many ,many steady miles would have been completed at between 7 and 7.30.  Mile reps would have been nearer to 5.
Nowadays "speed sessions"  have to relate to recent 5k race times of 21 mins or 10ks this year  between 43 and 44 minutes.  
 So what was "steady" pace back then constitutes "race pace" today and sets the target for the track sessions.
It's a bit to tough to accept the slowdown but it has to be accepted I suppose as part of the ageing process.  I think without the track sessions  race times would deteriorate even more.

 I wasn't sure what to expect for the lunchtime session.  At Nelson there would only be me; would the Sports City track be any different?  Well, the indoor facility was being made use of by a dozen or so including Olympic pole vaulter HOLLY BLEASDALE; but only one runner came through to join me outside.
 I was concerned that I would be getting in his way executing my 5 x 1K rep session; but  his coach had him do a couple of 300s and off they went, saying they would be back for more tonight! Strange.
 Running solo then and with a cool, autumnal wind swirling around the arena,  inevitably I was just short of  target 10K pace at 4.20 and had to be content with reps of 4.30  4.32  4.31  4.29  4.25 off a 2 minute interval.
 Times which might NOT look speedy to many; but certainly hard enough for me!
 As I walked back through the indoor track facility to the changing rooms I broke off to jog one lap of the 2oo track; thinking it might be useful on days when the snows come.  
 But might have to think again; I hadn't realised how much of a camber there is, even in lane one, on the track's bends.   A real injury concern.  

Tuesday, 6 November 2012


  The cancellation of the NEW YORK marathon was hardly a surprise was it? What was unexpected was how late the decision was made with thousands of the 20,000 overseas runners already in New York or on the way.  Many had even queued for hours to register and be given their race "bib".   Less than 48 hours before they were to start the 2012 IMG New York City Marathon, thousands of runners on Friday received news the race was cancelled.  It was the lateness of the decision that seemed to be the main complaint as,  of course,  the majority recognised their disappointment and inconvenience was little compared to the suffering of New Yorkers  as the hurricane struck. The marathon became a source of controversy  when Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided to go forward with the race, which was scheduled despite massive devastation from Hurricane Sandy. Anti-marathon sentiment grew as the race approached and that opposition ultimately prevailed it would appear.
It reminded me of a trip Pat and I made with a group of runners out to Spain for the MALAGA marathon in the '80s.  There were whispers about a possible cancellation,  due to traffic issues,  on the journey out and this was confirmed shortly after we arrived.  I don't recall the disappointed being personally too immense; probably because I was tending to run several marathons per year at that time.  So one less was no big deal. But a few in the party were somewhat  annoyed and vowed to run the route whatever on the Sunday morning.  
 In much the same way as thousands of runners flooded into Central Park as soon as it was opened ....

The following ,giving more detail about the NYC marathon cancellation is from  RUNNERS WORLD U.S. ...................
The day after the 2012 New York City Marathon was cancelled, runners were still processing the unprecedented news and trying to figure out their next steps regarding running and relief efforts.
Central Park, which had been closed since October 28, reopened Saturday morning at 8. Runners immediately flooded the 6-mile perimeter road as well as the reservoir path and bridle path. Large groups of international runners, who make up close to half of the race's field, ran together in national colours. Many runners had on the race numbers they would have worn on Sunday.
The marathon's finish line structure remained in place, but bleachers, flags and sponsor placards along the marathon's last quarter-mile were removed by mid Saturday morning. The large tent that had been the pre-race media center adjoining the finish was converted into a base of operations for workers deconstructing race-related structures.
Registrants did not receive official notice of the race's cancellation until just before noon Saturday, via an e-mail from the New York Road Runners. The notice contained no information on compensation for registrants because of the cancellation. At Friday evening's press conference, NYRR CEO Mary Wittenberg said that 2012 registrants will be given automatic entry into next year's marathon or the NYC Half, a half-marathon in March. It remains unclear whether this year's registrants will be required to pay the full entry fees for those events.
An 11 a.m. meeting for elite athletes did not clarify whether the race would pay the runners' full appearance fees.
"The meeting didn't give many details," Ryan Vail told Runner's World. "They are giving themselves a week to try to put together funds to pay us something. They did not say what percentage. The meeting talked about the Fukuoka Marathon and their efforts to compensate us." Japan's Fukuoka Marathon, scheduled for December 2, is a likely replacement race for men in the elite field. The women-only Yokohoma Marathon in Japan on November 18 is being discussed as an option for the elite women.
The mood Saturday afternoon at the Health and Fitness Expo at the Jacob Javits Center was surprisingly upbeat. Crowds of runners, albeit smaller crowds than usual, milled around clutching plastic gear check bags, mugging for photos, and munching free samples of SunChips.
Half-price race gear in the sprawling Asics section may have contributed to the positive vibe—lines 40 deep formed as runners snatched up discounted jackets, gloves, and bags emblazoned with the NYC Marathon logo.Meantime, a voice echoed over the expo's PA system: "The 2012 ING New York City Marathon has been cancelled."

I'm sure many were just pleased that they could at least enjoy a break in New York in much the same way as Pat and I did in Malaga; although I must say that Torromelinos would not have been our holiday destination of choice.