Monday, 3 June 2013


                    RUN THE LANES 10 MILE ROAD RACE JUNE 2 2013

The journey through into Lancashire and the Fylde coast has become something of a Sunday morning ritual this year.  All but one of the 7 races I've run have been in that area.  The drive is relatively uneventful. Few traffic lights , no towns to go through with the M6 and M55 speeding up the latter part of the trip. The events have much to commend them.    Flattish in general and  often devoid of traffic for much of the course.  Of course the westerly winds can tend to prove a handicap quite frequently and with small fields it's easy to become isolated and the racing then is against the clock rather than the runner on the shoulder.
 Last week , MAY  26 114 runners gathered at the Scout Hut in GREAT ECCLESTON for race organiser ALAN TAYLOR'S  "FAST 4".  An unusual race distance but it serve as a good "speed" exercise prior to the RUN THE LANES 10 MILE race of yesterday.   
 As always the first mile, not as flat as expected,  sorts everybody out and I'm in with a group of 3 or 4. But as I maintain the pace they accelerate away with the breeze behind. With no one coming through I'm left solo for the last 3 miles, working hard to reel in anyone coming back. There are a few and concentrating on their backs provides the concentration to maintain the pace around the 7 minutes mark.
 As I turn the corner with  half a mile to go there is one lone RED ROSE lady in view. I  felt I was almost sprinting to catch her but the mile split still only registers at 6.58. Having run 26.2 miles at 5.33 pace in days of old,  it's hard to take in.  
 On the positive side I'm just inside 28 minutes. A few seconds faster than 18 months ago on the same course.  
Yesterday I headed west yet again. Just 8 miles south for the RUN THE LANES 10 MILER from LEA TOWN, north of Preston.  With so many other events on this weekend just 65 toed the line.  
  I envisaged another solo effort.  I wasn't wrong.   But as usual there's a constant string of faster starters "dying" to be pulled back.
 Again targeting their backs provides the stimulus to maintain the momentum but it was hard work on stretches where we ran into the wind.  Mile splits proving much more erratic than last week.
  7.19    7.06     7.13   7.24  7.19  (36.19)  7.32  7.15  7.21 

At the 7  mile point the gaps in front look in surmountable but the 3 runners spread out in front aren't going away and it's a case of hanging in there and seeing what happens.  I catch and pass unattached runner, Brian Speake , catch and pass Derrick Marsh of Trawden.  Leaving just Eric Green  He's clipping along nicely but the gaps is closing but a last charge over the last undulating mile in 6.50 (!) proves enough to catch him and open up a 12 second gap. We pose for a picture on crossing the line.  One Valley Strider and an ex-Valley Strider.  

I'm over the 72 minute target I was hoping for and it's the slowest ever of my 105 ten milers, but once again I've enjoyed the morning and the competition.  There's an unusual prize of chicken and vegetables as category winner but I'm 4 minutes behind GEOFF CUMBER who ran 68.11  at the age of 66.
 It was good to see Sale Harrier, STEVE TOWNLEY make the trip up from Gatley and he was rewarded with 3rd place in 58.29 hehind winner Rob Affleck (Preston) in 53.35.  Just 6 runners broke the hour.
                  Geoff's wife SARAH CUMBER was first lady in 63.15. 

Friday, 17 May 2013


Nice to sit down and get some time on the key board!  It's been manic in the FASTRAX production room all week. Never been so busy.  Last order going today was 200 vests out to VEGAN RUNNERS in Germany. I thought Germans liked their meat!
   The old legs are only just coming around following what was the 3rd race BLACKPOOL race in 3 weeks. the BEAVERBROOKS 10K.   This mass participation "Fun Run"event starts at the Hilton hotel on the front and heads down to the Pleasure Beach,  where we turn and head back up past the hotel and then turn on the Lower promenade.  The way the race pans out very much depends on the prevailing wind direction and strength.

   Last Sunday's event was as bad as it gets! Cold , wet and a wind speed of 19 to cope with on the way down for the first 5K.  But with over 2300 in the race  (unlike the Blue Light 5 with just 90 in it) I was looking forward to sheltering behind some fast young men.
   Joining the assembled masses from my "secret" parking place just 30 seconds jog from the start line I  slipped back  a few rows behind the sub 40 runners and stood shoulder to shoulder with "non club "  runners already tuned into their music.

                                                                   Having run 43.48 the previous week inland around Stanley Park,  to be honest  I couldn't see me breaking 44 given the strong wind.  But the sheer number of surrounding runners did provide shelter and ensured that the pace never dropped.  Plenty of encouragement on the way down from early Sunday morning promenaders against a background of bingo callers and music from the arcades on the Golden Mile.
  Unlike the mile marked Fylde Coast Running event this chip timed BEAVERBROOKS 10K 2013 is kilometer marked but judging by the splits the markers seem a bit randomly placed.  4.40  4.17  4.28  4.25 3.56(?). I look across to the faster runners who have already turned back and 
I'm pleased to see that track partner GRAHAM CUNLIFFE (Wesham, pictured here is running well, on the way to  sub 40. the first for some time. The track sessions and increased mileage paying off,perhaps?)

What a relief as WE reach the turning point and head back northwards.  A good group has formed and we're working well overtaking slowing runners but the 6th K shows as 4.43.  Averaged out by the next in 4.05!  We're benefiting now from the cross wind but it's bringing in the rain ; not bad for us but getting unpleasant for fancy dressed "fun runners". At 7K I spot  a group of young men I was stood with at the start ...on their  way down at 4K. Hope they prepare better for their "A" levels!
 It's back up the hill, past the METROPOLE Hotel ,back up to and beyond the HILTON HOTEL. 
The weather continues to deteriorate the cheers from 
the waiting supporters is really welcome.  With a quarter of a mile to go, we turn onto the lower walk and the force of the late morning wind hits us again. 
 The gantry above the finish line ahead carries the timing  clock and to my amazement it's only just turning 42 minutes.  As I cross the line it's showing 42.35 in line with my watch.
With another medal for the collection in the pocket  I look back at the splits and see the last 2 K have been clocked in a rather swift 3.45 and 3.48. How have I been able to turn the clock back 10 years and regained the ability to race at 38 minute 10K pace! Amazing....or was the distance a tad short? 
The latter being more likely.
General opinion from those who employed GPS was that it was .1 mile short. 6.1 instead of 6.2.  So in my case perhaps 40 seconds short.  Disappointing given that the race was chip timed for the first time. (The chip being attached to the back of the number) But still it was a great race to compete in. I enjoy the cut and thrust with the young guns.  Several thanked me afterwards for keeping THEM going.  It should be the other way around, shouldn't it. It should be me being urged to hang on to them!  
 Even 40 seconds added to the offcial time of 42.35 means I can count it as my 140th under 44 minutes.The 151st in total.  
 As it's a "Fun Run" the results are published by age group. I'm in the over 55s where I finished  9th; not bad for 64,I suppose.
128th of the 2300 who "ran".
 Wearing our FASTRAX Elite vest STUART ROBINSON won the event in an official time of 31.39.  Racing largely unchallenged.  A fine time in the conditions. He will have taken all the force of the wind heading south; with no one to shelter behind as I had to some extent.
  So my 3 races in 3 weeks completed relatively succesfully, but the legs have taken a bit of a battering, particularly the hamstrings.  There will be no racing for me this weekend but I'll be seeking out more 10Kas soon to work towards that 150 SUB44  target.  


Wednesday, 8 May 2013


The plan was to race a 5 miler the week before tackling my 150th 10K on May 5 2013.  It was hoped that I would be able to go into the 10K race with the confidence gained from the shorter race.  Surely I could run 5 miles at the sub 44 minute target 10k pace?
  So, chaffeurless for once, I drove alone to the BLUE LIGHT 5 on the promenade at BISPHAM,just north of Blackpool. Leaving a warm and sunny Ilkley behind,  the weather, as forecast, deteriorated the further west I went.   Such that by the time I turned on to the M55 strong winds and rain buffeted the car.  Just what would it be like on the prom!
  Well,  let's just say that there are not many races where 50% of the field are seen huddled into a sea front shelter right up until the time when they are called to the line for the start of the race.
  As a nine and a half stone asthmatic the scenario could not have been any worse.  Nearly two miles into gale force winds between 25 and 30 miles per hour. Difficulty breathing. Difficulty staying up right!
  I actually considered giving it a miss with just minutes to go but then again I had travelled 75 minutes to get there.  I think the phrase is  "grin and bear it!"
  I desperately tried to hold on to runners for shelter in the first 2 miles but with such a small entry I couldn't find anyone and rather than being around  the 7's I went through the first mile in well over 8 mins and the 2nd in 7.40.  What a relief to have turned  and have the wind behind.  I was swept  past the dozens of Sunday morning promenade fisherman in more respectable 7.15 and 7.14 before having to endure the final uphill mile  back into the gale ....8.45!
  So  5 miles in 39.27.  A race which did not quite go to plan and did not do much for the confidence.
This was the first of 3 planned visits to BLACKPOOL on consecutive weekends.  The second was to run the ALAN SEDDON "THANK YOU" 10K IN Stanley Park.
  Alan  has dedicated much of his life to coaching dozens of Fylde runners and, organised by Sue Samme in conjunction with Fylde Coast running, this was their way of saying thanks for all his efforts. 35 of his athletes would be running the race for him.

  A  strong breeze replaced the gales of 7 days previous and  running shoulder to shoulder with a young man, somewhat overdressed in jacket and tights, it was  reassuring to see the first 3 miles knocked off in 7.01, 7.01 and 7.01.  Some of those we were overtaking included runners who had beaten me easily in last week's 5 miler.  Targeting 7.05s for a sub 44 it was going well.  
 I was good to have some company but my young "friend" drifted away from 4 miles leaving me the task of chasing slowing runners alone.  It was proving hard work. Miles of 7.08 7.06 and 7.05 meant  that there could be no letting up on the final lap around the track . But the line was reached with just 12 seconds to spare.....43.48.  
 Alan was on hand to greet each runner as they finished and clearly enjoyed the 
occasion; whilst I was clearly showing the strain.
                       So another milestone completed . 
                 Onward and forward to 150 under 44 minutes!


Monday, 6 May 2013


A section of SALFORD HARRIERS' newsletter is dedicated to an interview with a non club member.  They have featured  some of the very best GB athletes, LIZ McCOLGAN, ANDY VERNON,   for example  so I must confess to being a bit surprised when I received an email asking if I would similarly do the questionnaire.  I'm far from being a well known UK international, after all; but flattered none the less.  Here's how it went.....

     880 yards (2.00mins)(Stretford 1967)
     MILE 4.26 (grass track barefeet)(Wigan 1966)
     2K steeplechase 5.59.2 (AAA champs 3rd)(Liverpool 1967)
     5K track  15.18.6  (Leeds Carnegie) (1986)
     10K road  31.30    (Toronto) (1983)
     10M road  51.14    (York) (1983)
     1/2 Marathon 67.55 (York) (1986)
     Marathon  2.25.36  London) (1983)

Q2.What do you regard as your biggest achievement?

   Difficult! Torn between the 2:25:36 marathon PB, the 2 marathons I actually won, a 3rd in a National championship (steeplechase) the 3:13 in the 3 Peaks. In terms of performance running 34.58 at the age of 50 in your own SALFORD 10K might well be my best performance as it equates  to 30.20 on age graded tables. In terms of longevity 114 10ks under 40 minutes.

Q3. After such a long and distinguished career, what is it about running and competing that keeps you motivated?
  I think old guys like me who refuse to stop running and racing are  “sticking to fingers up” to Father Time. We’re saying, “OK, we’re getting older but hey we can still do what we did as a teenager ,just a bit slower!”  We’re helped by the great numbers of novice runners taking up the sport,  as in races we’re still relatively high up in the field. But the key to it all is simply building enough variety into training that it remains enjoyable.

Q4.You have had your fair share of injuries and illnesses, was there ever a time when you felt like just packing it in?
  I have suffered setbacks, but there are countless years over the last few decades when I haven’t missed a day’s running (but I’m not obsessive about it.) I tend to deal with niggles a.s.a.p.myself rather rushing off to a physio.
 But,yes, the series of lung collapses I suffered at the age of 18/19 when I was just making my mark in senior competition were traumatic.
 I recall drinking a pint of Boddingtons Best in the Halfway House Pub at the corner of Cheetham Hill and feeling air coming out of the lung into my back. 10 minutes later I was in Crumpsall A.& E.
  The Morton’s Neuroma was very unpleasant to endure. It’s a very painful growth in the forefoot which I had to have cut out in 2002. Paula Radcliffe suffered similarly. Once it was diagnosed, I just wanted to sort the problem out and start running again.
 The asthma was more difficult to detect and before being prescribed the inhalers I did say I wouldn’t race again as performance deteriorated. But again it was overcome.
 A lot of runners, who have run much faster times than me, have stopped racing at their best. They have not wished to continue competing and record slower times. I’ve just accepted the inevitable; that, except for the late starters, we will slow with age. But I still enjoy competing, trying to beat the guys and gals I’m shoulder to shoulder with after the first mile!

Q5. What do you regard as the best period in your running career and what was so special about that time?
   Running is essentially an individual pursuit but I think when you’re part of a successful team and performing well individually at the same time it’s special.  I experienced that with SALE HARRIERS in the 1960s. We continually won the Manchester League, East Lancs Champs, the Northern and won the National Cross Country. Having said I still trained in Higher Blackley largely by myself. Being isolated I needed to develop SELF MOTIVATION and that hasn’t changed throughout my career. If a runner relies too much on group training it’s fine until the group breaks up.
   As a senior runner, my best period was the mid 1980s when I was aged
33 to 38 I would say. 

Q6.How would you explain/describe the differences/changes in the running community over the years?
   When I started running/racing in 1963 you could count the number of male runners on one hand and one finger for the lady who ran! Clubs recruited members largely by approaching the best kids in the schools cross country races. So the clubs were largely made up of quality runners. Very few senior runners would run over 60 minutes for 10 miles, for example. Marathons would have less than 100 in them.
 But with the growth in popularity of the marathon from the early 1980s we now see thousands upon thousands of people running and racing. A whole spectrum of ability, all shapes and sizes and of course a massive increase in the number of ladies! It’s tremendous.
 What puzzles my generation is that with so many more people participating it could be expected that distance performances would improve as well. But sadly this is not the case. My 2;25;36 would have placed me 28th in this year’s London but was only good enough for 200th place in 1983!
 That year 1983 103 UK runners broke 2:20. In 2012 it was down to 11!
But ultimately it has to be good that thousands are now enjoying an activity which we have derived so much pleasure from for all these years.

Q7. What would you say was the secret to churning out continuous great times on the road over numerous distances and over so many years.
  Self motivation. I’ve guided all my training and racing as a senior athlete. Have realistic aims based on your work and family commitments and build in a variety of training to achieve those aims.  Target a few KEY races throughout the year which REALLY matter interspersed with “tune up races” on the way.
  Don’t overdo road work, don’t overdo track training, don’t overdo hill training, build in recovery days of gentle jogging. Variety is the key. Don’t be afraid to say “no that sessions not right for ME tonight”

Q8.If there was one race you would recommend everyone do, what would it be and why?
  The mass participation races do have a real “buzz” about them and that inner glow on a Sunday night having run a marathon is very memorable. But I wouldn’t recommend doing say the London or Manchester marathon if your other responsibilities inhibit the training. Those completing marathons in well over 5 hours are not having fun nor are they generally running!
 I would rather recommend an improving runner focuses on running an even paced 10K than completing a marathon with a massive positive split. But it’s the marathon which is the “party” every new runner wants to go to whatever their weight, lifestyle or existing fitness level.
 Specifically, I would recommend a club trip to Amsterdam. There’s several races on offer. Go early Friday, come back Monday evening. A great weekend.

 Q9. Is there a race that you have fond memories of and which no longer exists and you wish would re-establish itself? Why?
  Not really. But sad we’ve lost the SALE 10 having already seen the Sale 15 go some years ago.

Q10. Who LOCALLY do you regard as the best runner Past/present that you have seen?
  It’s comes back to achievements and longevity really and who can rival what RON HILL has achieved on the track, on the road and on the country. A 2.09 marathon and winning the national xc, hard to beat.
Q11. A local runner yourself who ran for a number of clubs, was there never a point you came close to joining Salford Harriers?
 When I finished 7th in the Manchester Schools XC Champs it seemed everyone was saying I should join this and that club including SALFORD.
But ALAN ROBERTSHAW was very proactive in his recruiting of runners from both south and north Manchester and so I joined SALE HARRIERS, running with them for 10 years until I came to Yorkshire.
 Returning to the club in 2009 was largely based on nostalgia but it has been put to me, quite rightly, that SALFORD’S vets section would have been a better bet!

Q12. Lastly, please tell us everything you know about Salford Harriers and their runners Past/Present.
  How long have you got? I have 50 years of knowledge and have the book describing the history of the club! JOHN TARRANT , the “ghost runner” and all that! Every Salford member should know his running story.
 I’ve seen SALFORD HARRIERS develop into one of the top harrier clubs in the country. A force to be reckoned with and may it continue!
 Personalities?   I never felt any real resentment that living in Higher Blackley I should really have joined SALFORD. GEOFF DOGGETT and JOE LANCASTER always had a kind word for me. I got on well with STAN CURRAN, STAN CLEGG, ALAN SLADEN, GODFREY CLAFF and of course one of your most successful runners ever ARTHUR WALSHAM.
  I hope younger members of SALFORD respect and perhaps learn from the great success that STAN CURRAN and ARTHUR WALSHAM have had in their long careers. Tremendous.
Q13. What are your future aims and aspirations?
  Essentially  to enjoy running  WISELY  on a DAILY basis in order to keep competing in 15/20 races per year. I managed 114 10Ks under 40 minutes and so now the current aim is to try to do 150 10ks under 44 minutes.
 But it’s not going to be easy! Might give the Boggart Chase a miss this year as that would be one I certainly wouldn’t go under 44 mins on!

Thursday, 2 May 2013


                    as (possibly!) described by a watching 10 year old.....

"We bunked off school this morning so me and my mate went down to the track to go round on our skooters. There were 2 dead old guys there, grey and wrinkly. One said they would be running around quite fast so we should be careful. I looked at my mate and thought, "yeah right, this has to be seen" They reminded me of my gran dad & he gets puffed out getting out of his chair. Anyway, we saw them start at the other side of the track. The younger one with glasses left the scrawny one right away and tore away and kept ahead for a lap and a half then just kinda slowed down a right lot. After a half a lap the older guy, who didn't slow down, caught him up. But just as he did the fast man just took off again! Didn't seem very friendlly to us. Seemed like the younger guy was teasing him! They did this 8 times. Going round 16 laps altogether. We thought they must be well tired by now but no they seemed to get friendly again and we then saw them go off round the park for even more jogging! 

                Why can't my gran dad do that?

Tuesday, 16 April 2013


2 A.M.
Heavy rain hammers down on the velux roof window of the bedroom and  the continuing wind and rain continues to disturb sleep at hourly intervals. The BBC WEATHER forecast predicting "HEAVY RAIN"  right through the night and morning is regretably proving correct.  The enthusiasm for the DAFFODIL GREAT LANGDALE 10K  is beginning to wane; but then again I have pre-entered for a change. Anyway what's the alternative!
 The rain continued to sweep through the Troutbeck Valley as I made last minute preparations for the race.  I    decide to pin my race number to my base layer and run  with a Windstopper Gilet over it instead of getting soaked to the skin wearing my normal race vest. Wimp or what?
 The drive up the Langdale valley was surprising quiet. No sign of other cars going to the event. Pat and I discussed where we might park but despite arriving just 50 minutes before the off we had no problem parking near to the finish.  The whole scene was bizarrely quiet.
  Meanwhile the driving rain continued unabated.
 I thought I might see a familiar face to share the  couple of miles warm up but no chance.  The runners I could spy were mainly maintaining shelter in their steamed up cars.  I saw no one at all as I ran from where the finish would be to the 5 mile marker and back. There seemed a distinct "post party" atmosphere.  This was after all  the second 10K on the course of the weekend.
 The 2 miles "warm up" was a struggle.  The inclines seemed longer and steeper than I remembered and the strong winds would be in our  faces as we pushed for the finish.  Perhaps the previous Wednesday's track session was a mistake.
 The rain eased somewhat towards the noon start time and as luck would have it stopped as we passed the first mile marker;  perhaps the gilet would prove a bad mistake!
 I've rarely been under 8 minute/mile  in training this year so I was pleased to go through mile 1 in 7.43 surrounded by several of the fairer sex.   Another undulating mile is covered in 7.40 and with another jacketed runner for company we cover mile 3 (downhill through Chapel Stile and the Langdale resort)
 in just 7.01 and make in roads on runners in front.
 Not surprisingly given  the weather there's sparse encouragement from spectators at the Britannia in Elterwater as we pass by and head back up the hill to the B53232 and swing left to retrace our steps back to Dungeon Ghyll.
 There's 3 of us together at the start of the long climb back up through Chapel Stile and pleasingly I seemed to cope best with the hill pulling away from the younger guys at the top.  But the mile has taken 8.06 minutes and the hope of a sub 45 minute time has "gone with the wind". Literally.
 The 5th mile in 7.47 and the last 1.2 in 8.14 against the head wind indicate good consistency over the whole distance.  But with a final time of 46.35 there's clearly room for improvement even taking into account the strong winds, the far from flat course and water on the road.

My aim to run another 11 10Ks under 44 minutes to achieve 150 is certainly not going to be easy.
 Of the previous 148 10Ks only one has been slower; last year's slog around the waterlogged pathways of Platt Fields. But there's some consolation in winning the age category (a bottle of red wine for Pat).
 The prize giving proved somewhat of an emotional affair as the ROD BERRY announced that this  was to be the last 10K he would organise based on recent negative events.
 It's a shame as Rod is a great character and his prize "ceremonies" always raise a smile.   However half marathon and marathon will still take place later in the year !?  on Saturday 21st September.

                            So he is not totally disappearing from the race scene!


Monday, 18 March 2013


We use quite a lot of running terms and expressions perhaps without much thought to   what the listener might understand by it.   
 For the last month or so when asked "how's the running going" I've responded "just ticking over really" and the reply came back from one who said, "how do you mean just ticking over?"

 The dictionary states...........
"tick over"
vb (intr, adverb)
1. (Engineering / Automotive Engineering) Also idle Brit (of an engine) to run at low speed with the throttle control closed and the transmission disengaged
2. to run smoothly without any major changes 

A pretty apt description then of how's the last month or so has been.  I started my return to speedwork for the season with a track session at SPORTS CITY, Manchester  but plans to make this weekly were scuppered as,  like so many people,  I had to cope with a head cold which went down onto the chest.  Not at all pleasant.

So 3 weeks of just trying to maintain some running fitness whilst treating the cold; no races , no speedwork and no real pace. Hard to record any miles faster than 9 minute pace.  

I'm not one for rushing to the doctor's but as "emissions" from the nasal passages and off the chest became quite increasing unpleasant I paid a rare visit.  The doc knew I was expecting to receive a prescription for a course of antibiotics but she just told me to "see how it goes" for another week.

She followed the mantra, no antibiotics for a viral infection.  As you do.

Of course 7 days later it was only marginally better so as per instruction I paid another visit,  seeing a different doctor in the group practice who prescribed AMOXICILLIN.   I would say that the AMOXICILLIN worked but perhaps the first doctor would contest that things would have cleared up without taking it.

sO, yesterday I decided I would more or less repeat last Sunday's "jog" on the canal.  The week previous before the AMOXICILLIN  I coughed and spluttered out and back for 10.5 miles. Averaging just 9.30 pace in very cold and windy conditions.
Yesterday  after a cautious start I was accelerating through 12 mile run down close to 8 minutes mile pace;  granted the conditions were much more favourable.

Things might have gone even better if I had not been sent sprawling to the ground by a tiny pug dog which darted across my path after 6 miles .So suddenly I couldn't avoid it.  Fortunately I didn't try to break my fall with my arm or I might have dislocated my shoulder again.  As it was I landed heavily on my right hip and then rolled over on to my back. So bruised hip and lower back.  GPS covered in grit; jacket covered in mud.   Shaken and stirred!!

The young man "walking" the unleashed puppy of course asked me if I was alright.   I don't recall an apology.   Now I'm not one for anger retainment. If you're angry with someone...........let them know!!  And I did and anyone within a half mile radius.
Let's just say that he was last seen with the wee dog under his arm and was running away down the canal towpath at a speed which would not have shamed Usain Bolt.

Of course, the consequences could have been a lot worse.  Yes, a dislocated shoulder,  severe hip damage......ambulance..........hours in accident and emergency etc. All because the pup wasn't on a lead!

I'll see how the legs feels later this afternoon..............when the snow has been washed away.

Friday, 15 March 2013


Bit like going to confession here....Catholics amongst will know what I mean......

Forgive me, readers, it's been 3 weeks since my last blog post.  So what's been happening!?
Well it's not been the best 3 weeks of my life but as they say life goes on and we have to make the best of it.

We try to be positive in negative circumstances but some things take a bit of getting used to.  I still keep reaching for the phone to have a chat with my mother in Manchester then quickly realise she is no longer with us.  She passed away last month in a manner which shook all the family.   Seems only months ago that we were telling her to watch her weight only to see her "fade away" over the last few months.
    But "making the best if it"  she was 93! and was joking and winking with us all to the very end.  
She'd had a hard to start to life without a father, a hard middle coping with the bringing up and keeping 4 children in school up to 18 and then having to cope alone when we'd all left home and my dad died suddenly at 63.  
  She remained positive, resolute and often stubborn throughout; trying to stay alert, alive and active and encouraged us to "enjoy it whilst you can".   I don't think though she could appreciate that my running is my enjoyment and such a big part of my life.
   I didn't run the day of the funeral. I did have time but it seemed appropriate really. As "mam" wasn't really into my running.  She simply didn't have time when I was a teenager and of course lately she thought after 50 years , surely I'd "done enough"!    If the weather was bad, she say, "you haven't been running in this weather, have you?"  or "why don't you have a rest" or  "when you going to stop"!
  But then again I didn't do what she told me to do as a teenager and I certainly wasn't going to in my '60s.
Having said that  I did give her the medal from the Morecambe marathon when I won in 1984 and it was still hung on the wall in her lounge when we cleared it nearly 30 years later.

Sunday, 17 February 2013


  It seems every single day I hear or read about a runner being injured.  I suppose it's just comes with the territory; almost inevitable for the competing athlete.  More annoying though are injuries which occur when we are not in our running kit!  Take Friday morning......
  I went into the (Complete Runner) shop to find a large carton of hoodies, sweats and tees had just been delivered.  I thought there's  no way I'm  going to risk a back strain by trying to carry it upstairs so I simply bent down to move it ...and strained my back anyway!   Extremely painful, annoying and frustrating with two sunshine filled days being forecast for the weekend.  
  It isn't 100% but  plenty of icing,  use of  hot warm wheat bag and my magic gel, HIRUDOID  enabled me to finish off the week with an accelerating 8 miler today; a day when I'm sure 99% of runners were up and out to take advantage after so much poor weather of late.  8 miles but  it was a great day for more wasn't it?  
 What a contrast to just 4 days ago.  Last Wednesday I ran from the house zigzagging down to the shop in a blizzard. So glad I had remembered to don the SUNWISE "MARATHON" glasses with yellow lens. Ideal for the conditions to stop the eye sting!
 It was noon by the time I set off with Pat "in support"; having blown the dust off her bike to keep me company on the canal.   In over an hour's running  we saw over a hundred walkers,  dozens of cyclists but only one  As I said perhaps they had all gone out early.
 It was another "par" week of 40 miles and included the first track session of the year  ( the classic 4 x mile)
with a visit to Manchester's Sports City stadium. A venue buzzing with the excitement of the National Squash Championships for 2013.  Championships catering for age groups right up to 75. 
 For once I didn't have the track to myself.  I watched a young lady finish her warm up, strip off and flash around a 250.  She then put her  kit back on and left.  She was "racing at the weekend".  
OK for some I thought.   I'm coming back as a 400 metre runner!
 It's not just my back that's been bothering of late.  I "acted on impulse" late one evening a few weeks ago and entered the CONISTON 14.  So with that undulating course in mind I've been including  more hills into the programme.   No real problem but I think the downhill  stretches are  taking a toll on my old knees. Again having to pack them with the ice packs; which works well.
 So what with the weak back and sore knees I think I'm in need to look into some conditioning!
I wish I could say spring has sprung after today but we know it doesn't quite work like that does it? Remember the high temperatures and days of bright sunshine we enjoyed last March?



Tuesday, 5 February 2013


  Well I had hoped we'd seen the back of the white stuff for this winter but it came creeping back life a thief in the night to Wharfedale to create mischief and mayhem early this Tuesday morning.
  Fortunately by the time I ventured out for a flat 6 miler the roads had virtually cleared . But I correctly predicted lunchtime blizzards and was suitably prepared with windstopper tights, softshell jacket, windstopper gloves, thermal hat and clear lens in the sunglasses to protect the eyes from the snow. Sorted.
Equipped, protected but still a tad unpleasant coping with it all.
At  least it was a flat run. I'd finished last week, week 5, with a tough hilly 8 miler centred on the Strid Woods. A run which brought the week's total back to average plus with 42 miles.  No track work yet but a good wind assisted 5K on the Thursday  which hinted of good times to come.

  We've  been pretty busy in the Fastrax office the last few weeks; orders which included several for universities coming to Leeds for the British Universities & Colleges Sports cross country chanpionships.  Fondly known as the BUCS.  The championships were hosted by Leeds University on their Bodington fields; a venue which had already suffered from two other cross country events in recent weeks. 
 Needless to say they hadn't really recovered and so the students were faced with a very challenging course of relentless deep mud.

  Runners from both ends of the spectrum were on show from internationals like
EMILIA GORECKA and LAUREN HAWORTH (pictured above) to students clearly just making up the numbers but all would have found the conditions very testing indeed.
 Over the last few years young female runners have started adorning themselves with race "warpaint" in their club colours but Saturday many students took the practice to another level.  And it wasn't just the fair sex.     Lots of lads were following the example set by their female teammates.
 Possibly the most extreme being one young man from Durham University.....




Wednesday, 30 January 2013


 I hope this is the last time this winter that I'm posting run photos featuring snow and ice.  These here taken on an "easy"  run from Foulridge to the Nelson shop last Saturday  morning prior to doing a shift on the coal face for a change.  I prefer to have saturdays off but it's always great to be in the shop and discussing the running aims and needs of todays runner who so often gives this old timer a modern view of the sport.  Not that I always agree with some of the things said!

  A major thaw overnight Saturday was sudden and dramatic and I ventured out to the Strid,  optimistic of a return to normal underfoot conditions; only to spend most of the precarious jog trying to cope battling through 6" of icy slush until I found a stretch in the shelter of the woods and covered it safely...... a couple of times.
 But the pace for the difficult weekend runs mattered little as they were bringing to an end a comparatively modest week of just 27 miles, recovering from the Inskip half marathon.
 The thaw continued through Sunday and Monday and so it has meant a welcome return to some kind of normality with a return to the green,green grass of the playing field  following a hill 9 miler on Monday and a welcome return to the reservoirs today for my weekly 6.5 mile circuit. 
 Most runners have a routine which involves favourite routes and venues which we tend to take for granted; it's only when snow and ice spoil the show that we appreciate what we're missing.

 Returning to Saturday in the shop one of the shoe sales was a bit problematic as the young male customer wanted a shoe for the "TOUGH GUY". An event which I've been aware of  since it's inception by in 1987 by Billy (Mr. Mouse) Wilson but never remotely considered "running".  Possibly this description put me off....

 Taking place at the end of January, often in freezing winter conditions, the Tough Guy race is staged over a course of between seven and eight miles (about 12 kilometres). It consists of a cross-country run followed by an assault course, claimed to be tougher than any other worldwide, featuring 25 obstacles, including a slalom run up and down a hill, ditches, jumps, freezing water pools, fire pits and so on (see detail below). The organizers claim that running the course involves risking barbed wire, cuts, scrapes, burns, dehydrationhypothermiaacrophobiaclaustrophobia, electric shocks, sprains, twists, joint dislocation and broken bones.

  The young man admitted when questioned that he was largely responding to peer pressure in doing it. His wife was certainly not very enthusiastic about his decision; probably thinking that the £80 he had paid to enter (plus expenses on the day,of course) could no doubt have been put to much better use.
   I think the only thing the event has in common with my world of running is in terms of the shoes and some of the clothing being used.  I say some of the clothing as whilst some dress as they would for a normal winter's race, others, including a team of policemen took the whole "macho" element to an extreme by wearing trunks!
  The event has spawned other similar events of course. In fact Billy Wilson sued the partners of one such event and was awarded £450,000.  A fact which highlights how wealthy his rivals are and underlines how popular his and the copycat events are.
 Needless to say, I can't see the attraction. I just can't understand paying £80 and more to risk death (there have been 2 fatalities) by drowning, hypothermia or electrocution!
 But runners have died competing in half marathons and marathons ,haven't they?
It could be suggested the risk of a "tough" event is no greater.  But I'm not buying that and I won't be buying an entry for the TOUGH GUY, the TOUGH MUDDER, or the TOUGH WARRIOR  anytime soon!

                                        DISQUALIFIED FOR NOT WEARING A NUMBER?.........

Friday, 25 January 2013


 I don't know about you but I hate the cold.  At 5'11 and weighing less than 10 stone  there's not exactly a lot of flab around my oldbones to keep me warm. I'm sat here with the house heating just coming on, a supplementary room heater and a blanket round my legs.
 I certainly believe in protecting myself when I go running in zero degrees or thereabouts.  
Winter Windstopper tights,  good baselayer, Windstopper Softshell jacket for me!
I once remember raising a lot of eyebrows and prompted quite a few quips back in 1987 when I ran the Preston 10 in a pair of plain black lycra tights.  I thought heck I wouldn't train in shorts in freezing conditions (although it was March 1st) so why not?  Didn't seem to slow me down much as I ran the 10 miler in 52.30. 
 I was surprised when I saw quite a lot of runners jogging to the start last Sunday wearing just what they would wear for a race in July.   There was no snow as previously reported but there was bitingly cold north easterly which  worsened as the morning went on.
 Thankfully though it remained dry but what can happen when conditions deteriorate rapidly?   It can happen.
 A cross country event which began with warm, March sunshine late morning  ended in fatal consequences with officials dying from hypothermia as rain, sleet and snow came in throughout the afternoon with severe and sudden drop in temperature.
 Athletes have complained bitterly this week about the cancellation of the Southern Cross Country Championships which were due to take place at Parliament Hill tomorrow.   I have read arguments for and against the cancellation but read nothing about the plight of officials manning the course and the finishing pens if conditions are severe.
 Last Sunday I made a point of thanking marshalls for standing out in the cold, as did several other competitors.  Standing in the spot for over 3 hours is not an eviable task even in the summer.
 If the Northern Cross Country does go ahead tomorrow at Knowsley I hope athletes will protect themselves.  Young ladies particularly seem vulnerable as they seem to think running around in a pair skimpy briefs and a crop top is a good idea.  

    "Hey, look at me I'm fast, I'm an  elite athlete, I'm too fast to suffer hypothermia!!!

Compare the approach of GEMMA STEEL compared with FIONNUALA BRITTON.
Fionnuala is unbeatable on the country in Europe this winter, of course!  
  I was curious to read more about HYPOTHERMIA (the opposite of HYPERTHERMIA) its cause and its effects.
The generally recognized risk factors associated with the potential for hypothermia include:
  • Low air temperatures, often combined with inadequate clothing or protection; the reflex   action of the body to cold exposure is to shiver, an involuntary effort to generate heat.
  • Wind chill, the combined effect of temperature and wind on the human body; wind chill is a deceptive phenomenon, as it may occur in all types of cold weather environments, including sunshine. As a general proposition, at temperatures below 40°F (4°C), winds at speeds as low as 5 mph (8 km/h) can significantly induce increased sensations of cold; the greater the wind speed, the more pronounced the effect of cold will be.
  • Moisture; skin that is wet, though either excess perspiration or environmental effects, will freeze more readily than dry skin. Moisture will also magnify the effect of wind chill.
  • Consumption of alcohol, which tends to stimulate blood flow in the peripheral parts of the body, an action that contributes to heat loss.
  • Amount of skin exposed to the elements by the athlete; exposed skin permits heat to be lost by both convection and radiation to the immediate environment.
  • Consumption of caffeine or any other diuretic, which acts to reduce fluid volumes in the cardiovascular system.
In its mildest manifestation, hypothermia causes pronounced shivering, numbness, and a cold feeling through out the body. As the body temperature remains low, the symptoms become more pronounced, as the person will experience an inability to move quickly or decisively, accompanied by dizziness and confused thinking. At its most extreme, the affected person will experience a rigidity of the muscles, followed by a lapse into coma. At a body temperature of less than 95°F (35°C), the person must receive immediate attention or, as a result of a progressive decline in the function of the organs and the internal systems, death will result.

In short,  if you go out on a Friday night...... have a few drinks with your mates, .......try to sober up the next day by drinking coffee ......then race in the Saturday afternoon on a cold winter's  day wearing nothing but a crop top and knickers or even a vest and split shorts .......and it begins to rain 
                       YOU COULD WELL END UP IN HOSPITAL!!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

That end of season feeling!

 The local grammar was one of so many schools which closed on Monday and consequently we saw a steady stream of youngsters coming up the iced up road outside making their way to the Ben Rhydding Golf Course. The golf course is built into the hillside below the famous Cow and Calf rocks and makes an ideal venue for sledging. A good time being had by all, no doubt.
 But not such a good time for runners; particularly those midway through a cross country season with important regional and national championships coming up or those preparing for spring marathons with half marathons cancelled or their favourite long run routes iced up.

  In contrast I would imagine the majority of the 315 who completed the Inskip Half marathon and were fortunate enough to be able to stick to their plans, won't be too upset to see the white stuff stiff hanging about.  I certainly wasn't planning to do very much.  A recovery week was always the intention. But still I would have preferred recovery on the more forgiving surfaces of the grass and trail rather than the roads or the treadmill.  A treadmill which took me several minutes to work out how to work; it's been such a long time since I was forced to use it.
 In common with most runners I was left with the feeling that I could have recorded a faster time last Sunday.   Not having run a half for 3 years perhaps I was far too cautious in the first 4 miles. The fact that the 12th and 13th miles were my fastest would suggest this.
 Problem could be finding a half marathon that is not already "FULLY BOOKED" before the London. Such a popular event.  
 But that's in the future.  At the moment having ticked off that half last Sunday I feel as if rather than starting this season I've concluded the last.  5K, 5mile, 10ks, a 10 and a half marathon done.
 Time for a couple of weeks ticking over; waiting hopefully for a thaw to set in. Time for planning this year's campaign; a need to plan ahead as trying to enter on the day is becoming more and more a thing of the past.
 And as the saying goes,  FAIL TO PREPARE....PREPARE TO FAIL!

Monday, 21 January 2013


Walking from the bathroom back to the bed at 2.a.m. this Sunday morning I stopped to look out of the window. Snow still covered the cars  and the steep road we live overlooking Wharfedale. Great for sledging.
 Back in bed I lay awake and a whole stream of negative thoughts flooded my mind about today's race, the INSKIP HALF MARATHON. It would mean getting up at 6.45 a.m., getting to the race might be problematic with ice on the roads on the 90 minute journey, the fact that I'd hadn't race a half for nearly 3 years,  I would be 30 minutes off my best. 
  So what's the point?, The zero temperature due to the stiff north easterly would no doubt play havoc with the breathing.
  Simplier to not bother and I suspect that's what 20% of those entered   decided to do!  the entry limit was 400 and only 316 finished.
I'd gone back to sleep before any positive thoughts kicked in and before I knew it, it was time to get up, pack a bag and go!   But not before checking emails for any last minute notice of cancellation from race organiser, Alan Taylor of Wesham Road Runners.  No message. So off we went.
   The further west we went on the journey so less snow we saw on the fields and even the country lanes approaching the venue at HMS INSKIP , just north of Preston  were well clear of snow and ice. So we would be good to go.   But from the car we couldn't detect the outside!
  Knowing I would be out in it for the best part of 1.40 I opted for hat , gloves, longsleeve,  club vest,  capris(?) and compression socks.  But many seemed to be sticking for full length tights and jackets as they would for a training run.  Except for the "fast" boys of course who many of whom were toughing it out in vests and shorts as if it was July!

 Rightly or not I tend nowadays to look at prediction times for races. I'm hardly likely to suddenly pull a vast improvement out of the bag as an emerging runner might do. So based on the GUYS 10 time of  71.52  the chart I should be looking at 97.50 or thereabouts.  7.28 mileing.  Could take some doing I thought!
 Stupidly I failed to "locate satellite" on the old Garmin before the gun went and so I lost my "crutch" to guide me threw the first 3 miles but I could clearly see that my young friend, JAYNE PERRY, from Lancaster who had finished just behind me at GUYS was already way down the road. 
   Once again I'd set off too slowly. I'll blame the lack of a decent warm up!    
 I set the Garmin at the 3 mile point  and said to the group I was with, 
  "OK, let's go get them!  An intention I just hoped I would be able to fulfill.
 I caught Jayne at the 4 mile point and as I suspected after her initial surge she was having to tough it out having run another half in the same area just two weeks before.   But still she responded well  and shoulder to shoulder 
we continued to overtake  through the country lanes. 
 At the 8 mile point I asked her how she was feeling. She replied that she was finding it tough and having to work hard. I reminded her that was why she had a number on her vest. She was in a race and giving it her all. 
  The lanes were completely free of snow except for one 1/4 mile stretch between 8 and 9 but would have only add a few seconds to that mile.  A tractor blocks the lane in front of us ; it's load at a precarious angle lodged in the drainage ditch. The driver is on his phone, calling for help.  We slide through and "plough" on. Deliberate pun!
  Splits from 3 to 11 had been 
                7.33     7.29    7.22    7.32    7.23    7.34    7.29    7.36.

As we turned a corner at 11 we could see the field tall communication masts in the distance and  the sight of them sparked a late surge with  the last time mile in 7.20 and 7.14.  Jayne  had stuck to her task was still in  the slip stream, finishing just a few seconds behind.  Slower than the one a fortnight ago but a good solid run, another building block for a spring marathon. Well done Jayne.
 Final time was 98.37. It WAS 30 minutes plus slower than my PB. and a tad slower tha predicted.
But heck, it was my 103rd and at 64 I 'll take that.  BUT clearly those first 3 miles must have been too slow and instead of thinking that that will be it for half marathon running for this 64 year old, I'm left with the strong feeling that all things considered I could improve on the INSKIP time.

 ALAN TAYLOR and his team are to be congratulated on the organisation of the event ; excellent in all aspects.  Parking, mobile toilets,  marshalling (hope they've all thawed out), goody bag (medal, water, chocolate and a Thinsulate beanie) and after race food included for probably a third of the Great north run price at just £14.
 Blackpool based STUART ROBINSON (Salford Harriers) won the race in 68.25 with MARIA KELLY (Penny Lane) first lady in 89.10. 
 It would have been so easy to give in to those overnight negative thoughts and not bother running the event. Particularly as I was likely to record my slowest ever half marathon time.
.  But I'm  glad I went and whilst the conditions were less than perfect I did learn that   I can  race 13.1 miles at not just a consistent pace but accelerating towards the end. Not just getting around.  I have something to build on.  
 I don't think for one minute that I was 100% ready and it was tough but I survived.   So many very able runners shy away from racing until they feel they are 100% ready because it is races do hurt and are tough.  But if we never bite the bullet and test ourselves we never learn just how ready or not we are, do we?  If YOU haven't raced for a while you know what they say..JUST DO IT!
 All in all a good solid start to my 2013 race campaign.  Now what's next?