Tuesday, 15 April 2014


I'M SAT,  yes sat, on the floor of the showers in the changing rooms at Leeds Road playing fields,Huddersfield.  With the soothing water bouncing off my head and pouring down onto my back.
 I'm asking Why? Why? Why?
  Why?  Did I choose to race over 26.2 miles in the first place.
I knew the answer. The same reason I ran a 15 mile road race ILLEGALLY at the age of 15. I was to born to race long distances. Having not made the under 12s 100 yards final at he school sports, I quickly leant the longer the race the better I performed.
  Why?  Choose Huddersfield? Why choose such a pig of a course?
  A roller coaster tour of the "Last Of The Summer Wine" countryside in West Yorkshire. I don't suppose I even thought about the route and whether it was flat or not. Essentially it was just another race. Another afternoon of sport.  This was a time without GPS, a time before gels, a time when water was allowed in races below 10 miles.  I presume there would have been water on the course; but most of generally raced by. We might have taken the odd sip. Sensible? Who knows. We were there to race.
  Why? Why do another one?  Being content to sit in the showers rather than stand was an indication of the impact of the event. The course and distance had taken its toll but there was the question of what could be achieved on a flatter course. It wasn't a case of "never again!" I felt there was more to come.
 I hadn't particularly targeted the race. There had been no tune up races of half marathons and 20 milers as today.  I raced the Northern XC and the National XC and a leg for SALE HARRIERS in the Northern 12 stage road relay.
 I don't recall even changing training routine particularly. We always did long runs of over 2 hours on a Sunday (most races were on a  Saturday).  In hindsight I suppose we were a bit naive and ignorant. "Just another race.....we'll be OK" sort of attitude.
 The race, on the Easter Monday, started at 1.15 after lunch. he aim was to have everything done and dusted by "teatime" around 4 and back home for the football results.  There would be no one running over 4 hours certainly.
 64 runners were on the prerace programme plus a few late entries. Runners who decided at the last minute that a 26.2 jaunt would pass the time on a holiday afternoon  All male ,of course.  But 51 actually started.  KEITH DARLOW (Bolton) led after 10 miles in 53.06 shoulder to shoulder with Wakefield's JOHN NEWSOME. I'd shot through the first 5 in 30.06 (2:37 pace). and at the 10 mile point I was running solo back in 31st place. 62.30 (2:43.52 pace).
 At 15 the leaders were still battling it out. Behind them as the hills took a toll, 7 had dropped out. I was now up to 27th in 93.50 (still running for a sub 2:44)
 A further 8 pulled off the course between 15 and 20. Up front, John Newsome had moved away from Keith Darlow and oped up a lead of over a minute.  I meanwhile ploughed on going through 20 in 2:06.31. I'd overtaken another 7 but it was beginning to hurt....a lot.
 But it was even more painful for others.  Another 6 were passed by the time I crossed the line at the Leeds road track to finish 14th.
 25 minutes earlier the slightly stooped, bespectacled Wakefield Harrier Newsome , aged 32, had won his 6th Yorkshire marathon title by over a mile in 2:22.56. Clear by over a mile from COLIN HUNT (Wolverhampton and Bilston) Keith Darlow had hung for 3rd. Hunt had been over 4 minutes behind at 20 miles.
 FINAL TIME.....2:47.23 for 14th. place on a testing course.  
Could I run faster on a flatter course? I would find out just a few weeks later.
I decided to race the PRESTON TO MORECAMBE marathon on AUGUST 24.
        That couldn't possibly be hot, could it?

Monday, 24 February 2014


With a "bank" of 4 weeks training  after the INSKIP HALF on January 19 completed,  I'd spent nearly everyday prior to the GREAT NORTH HALF on the grass at the local hockey club.  An 8 x 1K track session the previous Saturday had left the legs battered and I wanted to recover well for Sunday's Blackpool race.
 As many compettitors, no doubt,  I had been checking the BBC WEATHER site for forecasts of race day conditions since midweek and it wan't looking good.  They were forecasting  rain throughout the day but more significantly... near gale force southerly winds.  A forecast which didn't change by Saturday morning. Not good at all.
 As I posted on my Facebook page,  as a very lightweight 65 year old asthmatic I was less than enthusiastic about the prospect of being battered by 29 m.p.h. winds on the concrete Blackpool promenade.  Makes breathing somewhat difficult!
 I mooched around all Saturday morning uncertain about whether to race or not,  but decided to leave options open by doing my normal prerace jog of 3 miles on the grass.  A wind blown jog after which I'd decided NOT to bother for reasons of health and safety.
 It wouldn't be good for my health and I might get blown into the Irish Sea!
But  the more I thought  about all the training I'd done over the 5 weeks since INSKIP.....and the £20 entry fee......the more I was inclined to change my mind. I decided to go. The forecast might change overnight. Just how bad could it be?
 A study of the race route, a 2 lap course, would at least mean that the first miles would be wind assisted.  I would  then be looking to shelter behind young big guys (hopefully) for the next 3 or so miles into the gale then revert to wind assisted race pace for miles 7, 8, 9 and repeat.  Sounds like a plan!
 Arriving at the Blackpool Hilton ,we managed to secure our normal spot in a side alley just minutes from the start and walked onto the promenade. The forecast had been correct.  Rain and strong winds from the south.
Perhaps they would bus us own to St. Annes and we could run back.....gale assisted.  Chance would be a fine thing!
 Complete with hat, gloves and windproof gilet over race vest  I set off with 1350 others but wind assisted with opening miles of 7.32, 7.23, 7.25 I was overheating. The hat, gloves and gilet being shed after lap 1.
 Managing  to find the planned shelter for the 3 miles back down to North Pier were still a trial. Not surprisingly the pace dropped .  7.45, 7.49 and 7.57 to 6 miles. but not disastrous.

 What a relief as we turned now and pushing hard again, at more like 10K pace,  miles of 7.14 (uphill) 7.06 and 7.02 resulted.  I was starting to think the end result might be so bad after all.
 But the wind strength on the second lap was even worse than the first.  Now a case of survival.  No apologies for using young guys for cover but watching the pace doesn't drop too dramatically.  Miles of 7.56. 8.11 and 8.08 resulting.
It was clearly going to require a great effort from 12 miles to get under 1:40.  I'm urging the group to keep going for the sub 1:40 but they are mainly wearing headphones so they can't hear anyway!

  A 7.13 13th mile  and I go on to record a gun time of  1:39.12 ,chip time 1:39.01.  106 half marathon done an dusted.
I turn at the end of the funnel and shake hands with those in the group who have shared the ordeal and pushed the pace along.
 Over 30 minutes slower than my PB for a half but after 51 years of racing I'll take that.
  The race was won by IAN Mc BRIDE; well clear in a moderate 74.01. But clearly today was more about tactics and  coping with the conditions rather than times.
 CARLY NEEDHAM (Rochdale) was first lady in 85.09.
  I managed to win the M65 category but cold and battered we headed off home. It wasn't a day for hanging around.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

MALTA MARATHON 1986....a personal view.

"Charlie! Charlie!".    The distressed, anguished screams of  Charlie's wife,Bernadette sounded out loud and harshly throughout the foyer of the SLIEMA cinema. His daughter gripped tightly  her mother's hand. Tears poured down her face. She was equally distressed by the sight of her father who had been carried from the finishing line and now lay on his back on the tiled floor.
 He has finished 3rd in 2:32.50 in this inaugural MALTA MARATHON  and would later say he was "very pleased" but few looking anxiously on knew the real story of what had led to his post race predicament!
 Just 140 runners had set off from Santa Lucia, many of them from England, on a bright, sunny February morning,   slightly apprehensive of the strong winds which would inevitably create problems and make the 26.2 mile journey and even greater challenge for us all.
 I had led very early on but Charlie Portelli, the local champion, had edged by and pushed on; maintaining a lead towards the Ta' Quai national stadium.  But  Longwood's PAUL PICKUP  and GB international, Commonwealth and European marathon champion caught him and went by.  I was now adrift ,running solo, in 4th position.  But was suddenly aware of a lot of chattering coming up from behind.
 I looked around to see a very large group of pro cyclists rapidly catching me up.  Possibly 20 in total.  They quickly caught me, passed me and rode on towards the stadium......and the local Maltese  hero.
I ran on but could see them catch him before reaching the stadium.  From this high point we would turn down towards the coast and the wind would hamper our progress most.
 Except rather than pass the 3rd placed runner, the group of cyclists seemed to form a circle around him. They seemed intent on creating  a barrier against the wind.   Mile after after, it appeared they shielded him and encouraged him to maintain his position.
 I think driven on by annoyance at what I was witnessing,  I gradually closed the gap and as we reached the flat Strand in Sliema I thought I might just catch him. The gap was getting maller and smaller.  But I failed as i simply ran out of road.
I crossed the line and  jogged back down the course for a few minutes,  envious of  spectators sat drinking lunchtime pints in the promenade cafes.  When I returned to the finish line Charlie P. was being carried away indoors.   His wife and child followed, fearing the worse. It would appear the cyclists had forced him to run himself "into the ground"
 I followed inside. But I said nothing of what had gone on. What was the point.  I had had a  Fastrax vest especially made in Malta colours of red and white which I took off and gave to him, saying well done.
 The records show that PAUL PICKUP went on to win in 2:27.48 followed by IAN THOMPSON in 2:29.46  CHARLES PORTELLI (MALTA) 3RD in 2:32.50 and TERRY LONERGAN 4TH IN 2: 33.52.
A big gap then to GERALD MARRINAN (Stockport) 2:39.40 with  a disppointed RON HILL 6th in 2:43.09.
    But you'll find nothing in the reports of what happened in the second half of the race as we battled against those strong winds.
   I stayed for the race presentation.  There were prizes for the first 3.  Mr Portelli took away 3rd place prize and  first Malta runner. A large trophy and a holiday in England.  Perhaps he deserved it for what he had had to endure but I always be left with the feeling that thanks to those cyclists I had been robbed of the "thrill of the chase" and the chance of a "podium" place  in that inaugural MALA MARATHON. 1986.