The Full Monty

This week, I watched the TV coverage of the England cricket team thrashing South Africa at the Kingsmead Stadium in Durban.  Kingsmead is an impressive venue and is where the Comrades Marathon down run finishes.

In exactly 5 months, I hope to run around that same beautiful turf and collect two medals – the back to back and one of another colour. I wonder which.

Training wasn’t great this week.  After missing out on two races last weekend, my achilles tendon tenderness tended to tarry. I didn’t run much at all in the early part of the week.

I also had the customary Christmas respiratory illness, it was only a mild dose and wasn’t a problem until I went to bed each night.  As soon as I lay down, I started coughing and just couldn’t stop. It was incessant, so much so that I didn’t sleep for more a couple of hours for three night in a row. I spent much of each night propped up in bed watching old episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm feeling utterly pi**ed off.

I ventured out on Tuesday evening for the club session, thinking that I’d take it steady and not put too much strain on my ankle. We did a pyramid session of 4-6-8-6-4 minutes, the pain was only mild at first but was getting progressively more noticeable as the session progressed, so I jacked on the last rep and just jogged it.

I have been off work between Christmas and New Year using up the last of my annual leave entitlement, so I decided to treat myself to a sports massage on Wednesday with Liz from the club. She concentrated on my calves and it seemed to help, my achilles felt less tight on Thursday and I managed to resist the temptation to go out running.

As an alternative, I beasted myself on the rowing machine with a 2K time trial.  My time was a somewhat pathetic 7:39.  I think my best time ever is about 7:10, but that was achieved about twenty years ago when I was 10KG heavier. I guess 7:39 isn’t that bad for a skinny runner.

Like many people (I suspect), I quietly dread New Year’s Eve. I’ve had one or two amazing times on previous New Year’s Eves during my life, but this year, I wasn’t exactly straining under the weight of invites for mad nights out.

I did have an offer to go to a house party with some people that I don’t know that well.  However, I think their main intention was to have a “drink until you vomit” kind of an evening and unfortunately that’s not my bag any more.  I was quite relieved when my friends and neighbours Andy and Debbie agreed to see Star Wars and then have a curry in Bradford. Rock and Roll – Pete Doherty’s got nothing on me.

My lack of night-time sleep caught up with me and I dozed off a couple of times during the film, but on waking I soon got up to speed with the plot (after all – it was Star Wars, not French Film Noir).

Afterwards, we enjoyed an absolutely superb curry at Shimlas on Great Horton Road. I can thoroughly recommend it. Cheap too.

Having hardly slept at all for three nights, I was home and tucked up in bed by 10:30.

The end of the year also meant the end of my year-long mileage challenge with my friend Hannah from Valley Striders. We  noticed early in 2015 that our Strava mileage totals were incredibly close, often within a few miles.  We agreed a fun £10 charity to bet on who would run the most miles during the year.

In the end I just edged it by a few miles. In truth, I won because I am a lazy bachelor with no responsibilities who can go running just about whenever I feel like it, whilst Hannah has an incredibly busy life looking after family and she recently started a new business. She has to squeeze most of her runs in early in the day, well before I would even contemplate setting my alarm for. Chapeau H.

My mileage total for 2015 was 2,461.7 – about 47.3 miles per week average.  The mileage dropped significantly after Comrades and I had a few very low weeks because of injury during the summer.  Still, it’s easily the most miles I have ever run in a single year.

I think I’ll need to up the ante if I am going to improve my Comrades performance. I’ve read on Comrades forums that 1,000 should be target for miles run before Comrades.  My goal is to run 1,250 miles between January 1st and Comrades on 29th May – i.e. an average of 60 miles per week.

Recently, Bob Jackson from Valley Striders lent me a brilliant book about Comrades:


Bruce Fordyce is the legendary 9 times Comrades winner. He ruled the roost in the days of string vests and tight shorts.

In 1988, he ran a then up run record of 5:27:42.  To put in perspective, that’s sub 6 minute miling (or 2:37 marathon pace) for a hot 87km Ultra with 2000m of ascent. That is insane!

It’s a great book, though as it was written many years ago a few of Bruce’s tips seem a little outdated now – mainly his thoughts on nutrition where he extols the benefits of lots of sugar.

Bruce had some very interesting thoughts on how one should train for Comrades.  Basically, he advocates not even thinking about Comrades until April. Until then, normal marathon training is all that is required.  However, April is the critical month when the mileage must be high and lots of hills need to be run. He says that one must arrive at Comrades feeling slightly undertrained, but he thinks that many are probably overtrained, especially amongst the faster competitors.


New Year’s Day is the only day of the year when it is possible to run two official parkruns in the UK. Events are permitted to deviate from the standard 9.00 a.m. start time if they wish.

In Leeds, one option is to run the Woodhouse Moor parkrun at 9.00 a.m. and then go to Temple Newsam parkrun (5.5 miles away) for a 10.30 a.m start.

In 2015, Temple Newsam started at 10.00 a.m. and I was one of a small group of nutters that undertook a frantic tempo-cum-threshold dash from Woodhouse Moor to Temple Newsam, making the start with about one minute to spare.

With the extra half an hour this year, the run in between could be undertaken with much less stress.  Consequently, many more people attempted the run double with the run between. Two fellow Valley Striders – Nobby and Joel, and I decided to run from Roundhay, run the two parkruns with the run in between and then run back to Roundhay –  for a combined mileage of 21.5 miles, which we dubbed the ‘Full Monty’.

I was tad worried about my achilles not holding out, but we took it steadily and I averaged just over 8 minute miling for the whole run. I felt the achilles, but it wasn’t painful like before.  It was top fun and a great way to kick off the year.

the full monty

Note Anne Akers photobombing our picture!

Sunday saw the third race of the Peco cross country series at Middleton Park.  After weeks of near unremitting rainfall the course was a mixture of gelatinous gloop, hard trails and spongy strength sapping fields.

Again, I utilised my new cross country tactics – i.e. set-off like a loon and try to hang-on. It was a bit daft this time. After 800 metres I was blowing like a chain smoker at the top of the stairs and conceded lots of places.

I tried to recompose myself and I ran strongly on the downhill sections through the woods, grabbing back a few positions. However, I was struggling again on a long uphill drag and sharp climb before the finishing field. In the end I finished 40th out of 390 male finishers and third in my age category, which is in line with the results of the previous peco races.

It’s the Yorkshire XC champs next Saturday, an event I missed through illness last year. I think it may be a tad muddy…

CM – 22 weeks. 39.8 miles
Weight 11st 3 lbs
parkruns: Woodhouse Moor 21:47 (64th); Temple Newsam 24:16 (111th)
Longest run 21.5 miles


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