One Step Forward…

I got some miles in this week – 65 of them, although my 20 mile run on Sunday morning didn’t go exactly as I wished.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I wasn’t sure how fit I was after not running at all during my holiday in Tanzania.  To ease back into it, I did a few easy training runs at home followed by a steady effort at the Reyjavik half marathon last Saturday.  I ran the final three miles quite hard there and it felt good.

The Even Splits 5K race at the Brownlee cycling track on Wednesday night was a good opportunity to see exactly how I was going.  Liz and I did a nice long warm up and on the start line I tried to focus my mind to make sure that I concentrated fully, embraced the pain and ran a true hard race. 5K racing is meant to hurt!

The track is exactly a mile long, so the course is three laps plus a bit at the end. I completed the first lap in a very aggressive 5:38. Unsurprisingly it was hurting; I decided not to look at the watch much, I may have been scared by how high my heart rate was.  Instead I looked ahead and picked out some of my usual rivals and tried to reel them in. Forgetting the watch and just racing is usually the best way to achieve a good time.

The second mile was a 5:52, I was still progressing through the field as others were slowing more than me. I dug deep and completely rinsed myself on the final lap, with a 5:51 third mile, leaving 170 or so metres left to the finish line.

I could feel Aidan from Abbey Runners bearing right down on me so I stared ahead and tried to unleash my best sprint finish. I stole a couple of places in the finishing straight to record a chip time of 18:06, which I was absolutely delighted with. It was much faster than I thought I was capable of. Even better, Liz knocked a minute off her previous time with a storming run.

(photo Kath Robbins)Even Splits

Looking at the Garmin data after the race, I saw that my heart rate maxed at 172 bpm just before the finish, the highest I have ever recorded, so it’s not surprising that I collapsed in a heap on the grass after the line.

What with the high mileage and very hard race, I felt very tried and sluggish during the remainder of the week.  I dragged myself round to a respectable but heavy-legged 19:18 on the tough Bradford parkrun course on Saturday morning.

I wanted to round the week off with a minimum of a 20 mile run on Sunday morning. I fancied running it on my own, I thought I might be quite slow.  I chose a simple 10 mile out and back route along the canal towpath. Although I was tired, the first 13 miles felt reasonable at just under 8 minute miling.   However as I became more fatigued, I felt my ankle getting gradually worse and after 17 miles I had to stop running and walk-jog back to car.

Hopefully, it’s just a symptom of the volume of miles and nothing too serious.  I’ll take a couple of days off and have an easier week before stepping up again. I want to be in reasonable shape for the Leeds Country Way relay next Sunday – I’m running the final ‘glory’ Leg 6 with partner Kevin in the Vets team.


CM -6 weeks

65.6 miles, longest run 20.1 miles

Parkrun – Bradford 19:18 (6th)

Weight 11 stone 0.4 lbs

Aerobic efficiency (5K race 940 beats per mile)



Under Pressure

There are six weeks and five days to go until I toe the line at the Chester Marathon wearing an England vest.  I am woefully under-prepared.  I haven’t been able to shake off the problem with my bothersome ankle and managed not one single step of running during my 18 day holiday in Tanzania. I need to get my arse in gear.


This long-planned trip was the intended jewel in my summer sabbatical. It didn’t disappoint, I had a great time.

The first part of the trip was a guided trek up the 5895m of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa (and the highest free-standing mountain in the World), followed by a five day safari around several National Parks and conservation areas in Tanzania.

I love the wonderful haphazard craziness of Africa. The people appear infected with joyfulness and have a carefree resourcefulness that (eventually) solves most problems. They aren’t the World’s greatest timekeepers though.

There are several approved trekking routes up Kilimanjaro. Backpackers looking for the cheapest way up face a five day race up the crowded Marangu route. As well as being cheap and quick, this route also isn’t particularly picturesque and has the lowest success rate of about 65% (due to poor acclimatisation).

We chose the longest and slowest route – the Northern circuit, which takes nine days in total including the descent. It is an expensive option, but the main advantage is the high success rate (over 90%) due to plenty of opportunities to acclimatise. The route takes in the quieter more unspoilt slopes on the Kenya-facing ‘back’ of the mountain.

Our party comprised eight trekkers (mainly Australian friends with whom I walked the Inca Trail in Peru in 2012), four guides and about 32 porters.  That may sound a plethora of porters, but it’s about the average walker to porter proportion.


The guides and porters were simply wonderful, they pampered and pandered to the softy Western tourists and never once failed to smile, laugh or sing whilst doing it.  And they had to lug dozens of 25KG packs up the mountain….


To be honest, the first few days of the walk were fairly easy for me. There is a phrase in Swahili that you hear all the time on the mountain: “Pole, Pole” (pronounced: “Po-lay, Pol-lay”).  It means “Slowly, slowly” and it is the absolute key to success on Kilimanjaro.

At first I was surprised just how slowly we were made to walk – to call it funereal would be to exaggerate the pace, it was much slower – something around 1 mile per hour.  As we got higher and the air got thinner, we walked even more slowly – on summit night we covered six very steep kilometres in around ten hours.

Our head guide, Davis, had summited over 250 times, so we trusted in his counsel.  My breathing and heart rate was comfortable at Pole Pole pace, but as soon as I tried to go even slightly quicker I felt my heart rate shoot up and breathing become laboured.

The ascent of Kilimanjaro is a trek, a walk. It’s a long and arduous walk and the summit night and day is very long and testing, but provided you stay healthy and can cope with the altitude the main requirement for success is patience and determination.

Here are some photos from the first few days of the trek (photo credit Andrew Miley and Mervi Minshull)


Summit Night

We camped at School Hut – at an altitude of 4800m.  We dined early – at 5.30pm and rose at 10.30pm for an 11.30pm start for the push for the summit.

It was a stunning place to camp, I have never been to a place that felt more other-Worldly, way above the clouds and many thousands of feet above the vegetation line:


We were blessed with a full moon, which washed the mountain in a pale argentine light. I turned off my head torch for most of the summit climb, I could see perfectly well by moonlight alone.

The moonlight reminded me of my favourite poem – Silver, by Walter de la Mere, which I recited to myself as we slogged up the steep slopes below the summit:

Slowly, silently, now the moon
Walks the night in her silver shoon;
This way, and that, she peers, and sees
Silver fruit upon silver trees;
One by one the casements catch
Her beams beneath the silvery thatch;
Couched in his kennel, like a log,
With paws of silver sleeps the dog;
From their shadowy cote the white breasts peep
Of doves in silver feathered sleep
A harvest mouse goes scampering by,
With silver claws, and silver eye;
And moveless fish in the water gleam,
By silver reeds in a silver stream.

The most difficult time physically was around 3 – 4 a.m., the body is used to being in a deep slumber at that time of night, not creeping up a freezing mountain in sucking in diluted oxygen. I resorted to listening to some favourite music to keep me going – The Hounds of Love by Kate Bush and Grace by Jeff Buckley.

It was very, very cold – between -10 and -15 degrees C during the night and thankfully Davis had meticulously checked our kit before we set off to ensure we would be warm enough. He made me rent an additional thick fleece jacket and leggings and I was very thankful he did – I was just about warm enough.

At around 6.30 a.m. we stopped to watch the sunrise:


At 7:30 a.m we made the first of the three summits on the crater – Gilman’s point. Two hours later we got to the highest point in Africa – Uhuru Peak:



The summit peak was unusually quiet and we were able to spend around 20 minutes posing for photographs and generally larking about.  After having the highest possible pee in Africa, we started a long and exhausting descent down trails of broken stones and talcum powder-like dust. At times it was almost possible to ski down.

After the exhilaration of the summit, the descent was a pain in the backside. We eventually made it to the Millenium camp (3800m) at around 4:30 pm. We had been walking for 17 hours and it had been 23 hours since we had eaten hot food. We were knackered.

Most porters don’t summit and they treated us to an extra special song and dance as we shuffled exhaustedly into the camp. We ate and collpased into a deep slumber in our tents.


I won’t bore you with lots of the details of the safari, I’ll just insert a load of pictures mostly taken by my mate Andrew who is a far more accomplished photograper than me:


I was absolutely transfixed watching two lionesses hunting a hartebeest, though the scene was slightly spoiled by the fact that there were around twenty five jeeps all parked up with occupants gawping and snapping away.  The lionesses didn’t seem at all bothered by the vehicles.  Quite the opposite, one walked distractedly away from the prey up the track alongside the line of cars. She then quietly turned around and then snuck around the other side of the vehicles.  She was using the jeeps as cover – how amazing.

The hartebeest spotted one of the lionesses in the grass just in time and then legged it for all he was worth.  Antelopes 1, Lions 0.

We visited a traditional Maasai village in the Serengeti. The chief greeted us warmly in beautiful English and politely requested USD 50 from each car.

He was a magnificent human being – tall, elegant and serene, he reminded me of David Rudisha (who is also Maasai). He wrapped his red shawl around my shoulders and invited me to compete in a Maasai jumping dance (used as part of the courtship to impress the Maasai ladies).


I was impressed enough to buy his shawl off him for USD 35 (he wanted USD 50, and later I saw them for USD 10). He was a pretty savvy businessman.


We learned about the Maasai way of life.  They eat only three foodstuffs – blood from live cows, milk and meat. A lack of vegetables and carbohydrate doesn’t appear to do them any harm, Maasai are tall and thin and probably very good runners.

Although I enjoyed my African adventures, after 18 days away, I was happy head to home, well aware that I needed to get running again.


Just four days after landing back in the U.K., I was off again, this time to Iceland for a long weekend primarily to run the Reykjavik half marathon with Valley Strider mates. Liz and I were staying in an Airbnb apartment with Jock, my Comrades mate. Unfortunately his partner Karen couldn’t make it.

Iceland was an absolutely brilliant place, albeit eye-wateringly expensive, especially for a Scot and a Yorkshireman. My meal in a trendy tapas bar in Saturday night was basically posh fish and chips and cost me nearly £50!

Iceland blessed us with perfect running weather for the race on Saturday morning. It was crisp and cool with a massive cloudless azure sky.

At the last moment, I decided to run with Lizzie, for the first few miles at least. I wasn’t sure how fit I was. I was unsure of my ankle, so there seemed little point in smashing myself to finish in around 90 minutes.  Liz was hoping to run about 1 hour 40 minutes.


The first part of the course was flat and fast, but at around 10 miles Lizzie was feeling the pace after an aggressive start and told me to bugger off. I felt OK so decided to push the final 5k and test my legs. I lifted my pace to around 6:20 per mile.

I saw Jock a few hundred metres further on. He was having a storming run – well under his 1 hour 40 target pace. I was passing dozens of runners, and I expected to go sweeping past him but he latched onto me and we ran the next mile together in under 6:30.

I decided to pace him in as best I could, it seemed the least I could do after he had shepherded me home safely at Comrades last year when I was a gibbering wreck.


We finished in just outside 1:37, a great time for Jock and testament to four 70 + mile weeks of hard training.  He is also running at Chester and I need to get my act together or he will be giving me a beating.

Liz finished just after us in  1:40 and a few seconds and nabbed a top ten age group finish to boot.

After a few days back home, I’m finally focussing on training again. Although my ankle isn’t right, I will just have to ignore it for now and try to train through. If I break down again, then so be it. I have to gamble on four big mileage weeks so that I can line up in something like decent shape and then just try to bury myself on the day.

I’m running the third Even Splits 5K race tonight at the Brownlee cycling track. I’ve run 19:05 and 18:38 in the first two races. I doubt that I’ll go quicker tonight.

Despite my lack of miles, one bit of good news is that my weight has remained quite low – I’m hovering at around 11 stones, which is about my racing weight. My aerobic fitness isn’t too bad, its my legs that are letting me down. Time to get running!


CM- 6 weeks 4 days

10 stone 13.2 lbs

Aerobic efficiency (half marathon 992 beats per mile)



It Feels Good to be Good for Age

There are just over eleven weeks until my autumn marathon at Chester and it feels like a good time to crank up this blog again. I quite enjoy writing it and it helps me keep my eyes on the job in hand.


The last blog post was about the London marathon on April 26th.  As is the custom, the post spring marathon training hasn’t been without injuries and hindrances. I am yet to perfect the art of the recovery.

I had a great time at London, made especially memorable as I had Liz with me as a non-running supporter.  In the past, she has twice run from the Championship start at London, but hasn’t been focussing on long distances in recent months.

I knew that she would love to run London again in 2018, and with me already qualified with the GFA (Good for Age) standard, we looked at the options. Realistically, gaining a Championship standard for 2018 was not on the cards for her at the moment, so the only option was to try to bag a GFA time (sub 3:50).

The deadline for achieving a GFA standard for the 2018 race was 1 June 2017. It was already early May and a quick look at the race calendar indicated one prime opportunity – the Liverpool Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon on May 28th.

Could she do this with no specific marathon training and only a limited amount of running over the past few months?  Maybe, maybe not, I thought, but why not have a crack, it would be fun to find out.  She wasn’t so sure, but in my mind it was a classic no lose situation – at best she would run the qualifier and bag a London place; at worst, we would have a weekend away and a fun run around a pretty cool city.

I assigned myself domestique duties – I would sort logistics, fetch the drinks and worry about the pacing, all she had to was run and see what happened.

We had fortune with the weather, it was pleasant – warm, but not too bad. We needed to average 8:46 miling in order to make the standard.

I knew Liz would be fine for the first half, the only question was could she keep it going in the later miles without having any long marathon training runs in her legs.

We reached halfway bang on 1:50 (3:40 pace) – just as planned. The route was rolling rather than flat and had wended its way through the Northern part of the city. We passed both premiership football grounds at either end of Stanley Park before returning to the city centre for a second Southern loop out through Princes and Sefton parks.  The route finished with a long four mile slog back along the promenade from Aigburth back to the finish in the Albert Dock.

Unsurprisingly, by Sefton Park deep into the second half, the pace was slowing. Our ten minute halfway buffer was being gradually eroded. I tried to keep Liz positive, though I could tell that it was starting to hurt.

As we hit the promenade, I worked out that we had to run the final four miles in under 37 minutes. However, our average pace had slowed to 9:30 and we weren’t likely to speed up.  Gulp, it was going to be mighty close. We certainly couldn’t afford to stop running at any point.

Liz was flagging, but dug in brilliantly, I didn’t dare tell her just how desperately close it was until inside the last mile. With about 400m to go, we thought that we spied the finish barrier just up ahead and with relief I thought that we would be in by a good 30 seconds. Frustratingly, this was an optical illusion, the real finish was another 150 metres or so further on.

Liz knew that she had to give it everything and with a brilliant dig-deep sprint she hit the line in 3:49:56…making the standard by a massive three seconds. It was a superb effort and a great achievement to make the GFA standard off very limited training. I was very proud.

Later that week I ran in the Apperley Bridge Canter, a local multi terrain 10K race. My ankle had been feeling sore since the marathon and although I ran an OK time, by the finish I had completely gone in the fetlock.

The following morning I had a badly swollen ankle and couldn’t walk without difficulty. A month later and following a visit to the physio, I was able to run (slowly) again.

I am definitely not race-fit.  I turned up at the first Even Splits 5K race recently.  It was held on the cycling track at the new Brownlee Centre a couple of weeks ago. On what should be a potential PB course, I struggled round in a time outside 19 minutes (my PB is 17:30). Hmmm, I have a lot of work to do. I’ll have another go at the second race in the series on Wednesday next week, hopefully I’ll go a bit quicker.

I have eleven weeks to get as fit as I can and hopefully run the best marathon of my life wearing a National vest.  Somewhat conveniently, I have the summer off work (my employer generously awards a 12 week sabbatical after 10 years of service).

However, I am not going to be able to do much running in the first two weeks of August because I will be away on a trekking and safari holiday in Tanzania (primarily to climb Kilimanjaro). I’m hoping that just being at altitude for a prolonged period will be a good substitute for marathon training.

I’ll try to keep the blog going once I am back from Tanzania.


CM- 11 weeks 18.5 miles

Longest run 13 miles

11 stone 5 lbs



The Northern Powderhouse

I have an easy way of remembering the last time I competed in the London Marathon.

It was in 1999. My nephew Samuel was just over six months old and I recall getting a little emotional running along the Embankment when I heard my sister shout out “Do it for Sam”.

Sam is starting University in September, so it has been 18 years since my last jog around the streets of London.

I have a bittersweet relationship with our Nation’s capital. I lived there for a year in the early 1990s, it was sort of fun for a single guy in his mid-twenties. I drank a lot of beer and made a few mates, yet I felt strangely anonymous and ‘otherly’  during most of my time there. It felt like I was observing everybody else living their lives whilst waiting to live mine.  I don’t miss it.

However, it’s a magnificent place to visit for a day or two. You can devour its delights without allowing the negative aspects to grind you down.

My London training has not gone to plan. I wanted to average a minimum of 50 miles per week during January, rising to 60 miles per week in February and March. I calculate that would have totaled 880 miles from January 1st until the taper.

I have actually run 680 miles – just 77% of the target and I missed my final two 20 mile+ runs because of injury niggles.

The one thing I have learned about the sport of running is that you cannot fake it. If you don’t do the training, you won’t get the results.

Knowing that I was a bit under-cooked, I wasn’t expecting a personal best time on Sunday.  I still hoped for a time comfortably below three hours and if forced to give an honest prediction of my finishing time, I would have said 2:57. That would equate to an average pace of 6:45 per mile.

My plan was to try to run 6 minutes 40 seconds per mile for as long as possible.  Hopefully, that would feel quite easy for the first half and when the inevitable heavy legs arrived in the second part of the race, the decay in my running pace wouldn’t be too catastrophic.

Back in the autumn at the Yorkshire marathon, I went out at an aggressive 6:30 pace, I held it for around 22 miles, but when the slow down came it was calamitous, with the last mile taking me 7 minutes 40 seconds. I thought I was in better shape back then.

There were over twenty of my Valley Strider teammates running in London and I met some of them along with a few other local runners at Andy Wicks’s excellent pre-marathon Pasta ‘n’ Puds party in Leeds on the preceding Thursday evening.

I broke the rule about not running hard during the final taper week.  I went for two fairly brisk training runs of around 10 miles each at something approaching marathon pace.

It was a risk that seemed to pay off.  For the first time in several weeks, running felt good – I had that gratifying feeling of ‘clipping along’ that tells me I’m in decent nick…

We were staying in Whitechapel, a reasonable multi-cultural part of East London, next to the Royal London Hospital. We had a pre-marathon dinner at a trendy Italian Café-bar amongst the hipsters of Shoreditch/Bethnal Green/Hackney.  Amongst a mass of beards and fawning PR types, I never quite worked out exactly where we were.

I was cruelly reminded that I was in trendy London when relieved of nearly twelve quid in a pub in exchange for two pints of some kind of shandy variant.  For a few seconds, I felt slightly nauseous.

 Marathon Day

I was running from the ‘Fast Good for Age’ Start. This meant I could enjoy a dedicated smaller start area with only 10 minute toilet queues.  The start corral was at the very front of the Red Start. It appeared to be a completely woman-free zone.

The hour waiting for the start passed pleasantly – I made a new friend in the toilet queue and then bumped into Andrew from Valley Striders.

Whilst meditating in the portaloo I had a little giggle to myself.  Some wag had scrawled “The Evil that Men poo…” in marker pen on the inside of the door.  They have a superior class of graffiti vandalism in London.

The race started at 10.00 a.m. Well it did for the Blue and Green Starts, but for some unexplained reason, we were held for around eighty seconds at the Red Start.  The gun was eventually fired and I was across the start line in about 15-20 seconds.  I was able to settle into something like my proper race pace within a half a mile or so.

The third and fourth miles are significantly  downhill, consequently I ran them in under 6 minute 20 seconds each.  Indeed, although I felt like I was barely going faster than jogging, by Cutty Sark at 6.5 miles, I was about a minute ahead of my 6:40 target pace.

The noise was cacophonous around the old Clipper and I appeared to be stuck in a bit of a traffic jam.  I looked ahead and saw balloons belonging to the Blue three hour pacer.  Blimey, he’s a bit quick, I thought to myself – a few of his flock are going to blow to pieces later in the race.

Once I managed to manoeuvre myself around the pacing group, there was more space to run freely. I really enjoyed the next section approaching Tower Bridge.  The sun was out, running felt comfortable and I was looking forward to seeing some friends and supporters stationed between miles 13 and 15.

I passed halfway in 1:26:41 (2:53:20 pace). Despite frequently reminding myself to run conservatively in the first half, I was still about one minute too fast.

I saw Liz in the crowds at Westferry at exactly where she said she would be. She thrust three little packets of salt into my hand as I passed – I’d been panicking that morning when I couldn’t find my salt tablets and I was paranoid about suffering cramps. Liz’s purloined little Pret salt sachets may have been a life-saver.

Back in 1999, the section after halfway through the Isle of Dogs was still a bit of a pre-gentrification wasteland, a dead spot virtually devoid of spectators.  Not anymore, there were people at the roadside virtually the whole way.

This photo was taken by John Rainsforth at around the 16 mile mark:

LM 16 miles

Just before reaching the Canary Wharf area, I was caught by mate Tim from Valley Striders. He had run from a different start to me.  Tim has been running very strongly this year, usually beating me by a few seconds at most races.  However, he said that he wasn’t  feeling great.  We ran together for a couple of miles. (Photo Kathy Robbins)


Mentally I had told myself to really hold back until 20.5 miles, where I hoped to see Liz for the second time.  I wanted to run strongly over the last six miles and hopefully pick up a lot of places.

With Tim alongside me, I made a mistake and pressed the pedal too early.  We had slowed a bit around Canary Wharf.  The course is very twisty around there with a few subtle inclines, so I should not have fretted about a 6:50 mile.

I covered the next mile, the twentieth, in 6:22. I saw Liz as planned  for the second time at Westferry; she gave me my second gel. I was still going well and passing lots of runners as we ran past the Tower Hill area.

My hubris bit back at me very quickly. On the incline out of the tunnel on Lower Thames Street my legs started to feel very heavy and all of a sudden running felt laboured. I did the old ‘its only a parkrun to go’ thing in my head.

To be honest, that’s not much use because one doesn’t normally start a parkrun feeling absolutely shattered with 23 marathon-paced miles in the legs.

I was securely on board the pain train and I tried playing other mental games, imploring myself to do it for loved ones and summoning up the mantra of Zatopek…when it hurts, go faster

This time, Zatopek didn’t help at all.  I was getting slower – not by much – but my mental affirmations could not arrest the deceleration.  Mile 25 took me 6:56.  I admonished myself : I refuse to have a 7 minute mile ruin my Strava record.

I turned towards the Corridors of Power – past Whitehall,  the Houses of Parliament,  and along Birdcage Walk towards Buckingham Palace. The last mile seemed to take an eternity.

Up to 23 miles, I thought that I was definitely on for a PB, however, with my pace slowing and the fact that I was going to run well over distance I realised that the PB was now touch and go.

I summoned up everything I had on the final long sweeping turn past Buckingham Palace into The Mall and tried to raise a heavy-legged sprint over the last 200 metres. Just as my eyes focused on the finish line clock, I saw it tick past my PB time of 2:55.08…oh bugger, I muttered to myself.

My finishing time was 2:55:21, so I missed the PB by 13 seconds.  I had run 26.4 miles according to my Garmin, and my average pace of 6:37 mile represents my best marathon performance by quite a margin.

Although I slowed a little in the last 5K and ran a 90 sec positive split, I stilled passed many more runners than passed me near the end:

LM results

I finished in 1279th place out of 38,070 finishers (excluding the Gorilla man who is still crawling the course as I write this), and 57th out of 2285 in my age category.

Given my fractured and inconsistent training, I was delighted with the time and I really enjoyed the race.

It was great fun meeting up with my Valley Strider mates after the race:

LM V Tree 2LM V Tree 1

Afterwards, we staggered up to a pub near Leicester Square and sunk a few hard earned over-priced ales.

The London Marathon did not disappoint. If you haven’t done it, then you should, its ace. Just don’t go to the Expo on the Saturday afternoon like I did, unless you like very crowded spaces and queuing a lot that is.

I still haven’t run my ultimate marathon performance…I really hope that will be in Chester on October 8th wearing a red and white England vest.


Mind the Gap


After my wobbles over the last few weeks, I’ve felt better this week.

The knee and hip pain has eased off. I’m still aware of soreness after a run, but it doesn’t hurt much whilst I am actually running.

The deficit in mileage over the final month of the training period means I am not brimming with confidence about next Sunday, though I’m not too apprehensive either. I am fit enough to run well, hopefully sub three hours, but probably not to run a sub 2:55 PB time.

I ran steadily last week then ventured over to York for a blast around the flat parkrun with a few other Striders on Saturday morning. I was pleased with an even paced 18:12 for 13th place. I ran very hard, but not completely eyeballs out and I had to do an extended cool down run back to my car parked about half a mile from the finish because  I had left my barcode in it. That’ll learn me.

The Sunday one week before a marathon is a bit late for a proper long run, but I chanced a 12 mile run along the canal, with about 7 miles at 2:55 marathon pace, sandwiched between some steadier miles running with Liz.

As is the custom, the marathon paced miles felt rather hard, but not obscenely so, and in the main the heart rate stayed below 145 bpm.

My lowered expectations may work in my favour next Sunday. I am setting myself some ground rules for next Sunday. Assuming I arrive at the start healthy and fit, I want to run a conservative first 18 miles – with a target average pace of 6:40 – 6:45 per mile.

If I feel OK, I will try pick it up a little in the final 8 miles, hopefully overtaking a lot of runners and running a negative split.  However, my lack of long runs may well scupper those intentions, we’ll see.

My sore knees and hips mean that I will wear my Hoka Cliftons for the race, I’m sure they will thank me for the extra cushioning.

I haven’t run a London marathon this century, I am really looking forward to the experience. There are lots of teammates running and quite a few friends will be there in support.

Whisper it softly, but as I write, the weather forecast looks quite good:

London weather



LM-1 weeks

34.8 miles, longest run 12.1 miles

Parkrun – (York) 18:12 (13th)

Weight 11 St 0.8 lbs.

Aerobic efficiency on Sunday run 968 beats per mile




Waltzing Matilda

I am progressing towards London a bit like a drunk trying to get off the Waltzers, i.e. I’m just about managing, but it isn’t graceful and it all might come crashing to an abrupt halt.

My sore knee and hip felt better in the early part of the week.  I knocked the mileage back and got my bike out for a first run of the season.  My white Italian carbon steed looked beautiful in the sun – clean and glinting, shod with fresh 25 mm tyres. The white carbon frame perfectly complemented my pasty Yorkshire legs, seeing the sun for the first time in seven months

On one of the lovely Spring evenings, I bombed around my standard 18.5 mile hilly circuit as hard as I could in just over an hour.  With a nice fresh tailwind on my back, I recorded my fourth best ever time on the classic Strava segment from Otley up the hill to Pool Bank, in just over 6 minutes.

Although I was due to run the Vale of York 10 on Sunday morning, I still fancied putting in a decent effort at Roundhay parkrun on Saturday.  I went for a progressive run, with the third and final circuit at max pace.  I wore my chunky new Hoka Odyssey shoes and they felt OK, a bit spongier than my beloved Cliftons, but not bad.

I ran the final mile in under 6 minutes and finished 4th in just under 19 minutes.

Perhaps it was the hard parkrun, or maybe it was an afternoon spent digging over my vegetable patch, but during the warm up jog with Tim and Liz before Sunday’s race, my left knee felt really sore.

I knew straight away that I couldn’t race. The pain was not agony, but it was bad enough to be worrying. I might have been able to get myself round 10 miles, but I would not have been quick and I am certain that I would have aggravated the problem.

So I cheered off Tim and Liz for their race and treated myself to a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea.  Tim maintained his good run of form with a new PB and a win in MV50 age category, I guess if I had been fit I would have had a fair chance of grabbing second place.

My perfect day was rounded off when a young BMW driver reversed into my car in Homebase car park. Cosmic!

I’m more frustrated than worried about London. I think with two weeks rest, my knee should be OK to run on.  I’m going to try to keep fit by riding my bike and rowing and possibly by jogging on grass, but not for a few days.

I will lose some fitness so a PB is now unlikely, but London was never going to be the number one target marathon for the year – that is Chester in October.

LM-2 weeks

20.6 miles, longest run 8 miles

Parkrun – (Roundhay) 18:58 (4th)

Weight 11 St 4.6 lbs.

Aerobic efficiency on Sunday run N/A


Dem Bones

My old bones have not been feeling good over the last couple of weeks, something has been amiss.  I have suffered from knee and hip soreness which has precipitated a premature and involuntary taper.

In the ideal World, the training diary entry for the Sunday three weeks before a target marathon would read thus:

last long run – 24 miles, steady start then felt strong and pushed the last six miles at marathon pace. Finished tired but quietly satisfied. Bring it on.”

An honest training diary for my last long Sunday run is:

  • Got to the reservoirs at 8.00 a.m. ready to tackle a 22 mile long run with teammate John. At 8.05 a.m. John hadn’t arrived so checked my phone.  Saw that he sent me a text last night explaining he couldn’t make it, but I hadn’t had the gumption to look at my phone until now…. Will have to do this run on my own with no iPod.

    Set off running at shuffling pace, don’t feel great. Felt dull soreness in my left knee and right hip. Told myself to man up and get it done. It felt chilly and I wished I’d brought some gloves.

    First mile took nearly nine minutes, but it was  uphill and I wasn’t warmed up yet, told myself to dig in, it will get easier.

    Slogged around first lap of 7.5 miles in just under an hour. 8 minute miling felt hard. What was going on?  Set off on second lap without stopping. Tried to raise my speed a little.  It started to rain, the kind of rain that really wets you. Thought ‘Hmm, I’m not enjoying this, I’m wet, cold, slow and lonely….zip it up!’.

    Path blocked up with hundred of long distance walkers doing the Blubberhouses 25, spent my second lap dodging around them…

    Finished second lap in two hours feeling effing dreadful. Thought, there’s no way I can do another 7 miles…Decided to do a short lap of 3.5 miles instead…

    Set off for final short lap. After two minutes stopped abruptly feeling sore and incredibly fatigued. Muttered ‘Sod this for a game of soldiers’.

    Walked back to the car and drove home.


I can trace these problems back to the Trimpell 20 two weeks ago. I think I went too hard and I haven’t recovered from that race very well. I’ve obviously picked up niggles in my knee and hip and on top of that I’m short on sleep.

However, I’ve had an easier few days since Sunday and I feel a little better now (Tuesday afternoon).  I went for a 2.4 mile spin around the block last night and it was pain free.

So I’ve missed out the last proper long run and I’ve lost a bit of sharpness and top-end fitness because I’ve had a very easy couple of weeks. However, I still think I can run OK in London and I’m still hopeful of a PB, but its no longer the slam dunk certainty that it was a month ago.

I have a race on Sunday – the Vale of York 10, hopefully a decent run there might boost my flagging confidence a little.



LM-3 weeks

39.4 miles, longest run 15.0 miles

Weight 11 St 2.8 lbs.

Aerobic efficiency on Sunday run 985 beats per mile


25 amazing facts about running that will completely blow your mind…

…the title is just a little social experiment.  I wondered if a ludicrous Buzz-Feed style click-bait title would have any effect on my blog traffic.

Well you clicked, so I guess it worked with you…

The Trimpell 20 last week must have taken more out of me than I realised – I felt jaded all week.

It’s not surprising– running 77% of the marathon distance at sub PB race pace is a significant effort, and one would expect to take a week or two off completely after a marathon.

So I’ve had a low mileage week, not really what I had planned for. A month out from the target marathon should really be one of the biggest mileage weeks.  However, if your legs feel dead and there are pains in your knees and hips, there is no future in flogging the horse just for the sake of it.

After the clocks sprung forward on Sunday, a group of Striders met on a sharp but stunning morning up at the reservoirs, a runner’s heaven.

I hoped for a 21/22 mile run, but early into the run I knew it wasn’t feeling good.

I felt a niggling soreness in my left knee, although I could run on it with moderate discomfort, I saw no point in risking aggravating it and perhaps putting London in jeopardy.

I bimbled round for 14 miles and then jacked in after two of the planned three laps. I don’t think it is serious, but I am going to take a few days off running. I’ll try to do some cross training on the bike or rower.

As well as being a runner, I’m quite interested in the science of running and would like to progress into coaching in the future. I’m currently a volunteer coach for the first Young Tritons Running Club group in the country – a programme for boys leading up to a 5K run after 9 weeks.  It’s basically the boys version of the Mini Mermaids running club run by my friend Hannah Corne.

Our boys are boisterous and challenging, but it is great fun and I am certainly learning plenty about myself and how best to interact with children.

On Saturday, I completed the Leader in Running Fitness Course run by British Athletics, a starter/foundation course and hopefully I will build on this with more courses and more experience in the future.

Provided I recover during the week, I’ll do my last long run before London next Sunday at the reservoirs. I have two races during the taper period – the Vale of York 10 the following Sunday and the Salford 10K on Good Friday.


LM-4 weeks

44.7 miles, longest run 14.1 miles

Parkrun – none

Weight 11 St 3.2 lbs.

Aerobic efficiency on Sunday run 1002 beats per mile


Three Hundred and counting

Last Saturday at Roundhay, I ran my 300th parkrun.

I have run most of my parkruns around the paths of Woodhouse Moor in the heart of Studentville, Leeds.  Although I still enjoy the occasional spin around Woodhouse Moor, I’ve transferred my primary allegiance to Roundhay parkrun.

The records will show that I was the first finisher at Roundhay on Saturday, a lovely way to remember my 300th parkrun.  However, although strictly true, that doesn’t convey fully what actually occurred.

My 300th run was announced by the Run Director during the pre-start announcements.  I wanted to give it a real go, so I pushed off hard up the first hill, settling into fourth place, just behind two Abbey Runners.

The leader was way off ahead – a talented young athlete whom I know well called Alex Pagdin.

Alex is just 18 years old and is already a brilliant track runner with an 800 m personal best of 1:50. Look out for him in the future; I think he might be quite good. I knew I wouldn’t see Alex again during the run.

I kept the hammer down and managed to reel in and pass both Abbey guys, so I was in second position.

I pushed all the way and crossed the finish line in 18:36, but I was somewhat surprised to be handed the “1” finisher token.

Despite finishing well over a minute ahead of me, young Alex had swerved the finish line in order to allow me to be recorded as first finisher. What a remarkably selfless and generous thing to do.

Thank you young man; you are a credit to yourself and your parents. I will gladly buy you a beer at the first opportunity!


After last Sunday’s half marathon, my legs felt tired this week and I struggled to run a respectable volume of miles. Running was an effort.

I shuffled my way half-heartedly through the Tuesday track session.  I had intended to do a medium long run on Thursday by adding on miles before and after the Thursday 8 mile group club run.

However, after an awful three mile warm-up, I realised that I just wasn’t up for it. I felt deeply fatigued and hungry and although I could have just about dragged myself around the club run, I decided the best course of action would be to sack it off and go home and put my feet up. Sometimes a man needs his rest.

On Sunday,  along with teammates Myra and Tim, I ventured across to the dark side (i.e. Lancashire) to run my 20 mile pre-marathon tune-up race – the Trimpell 20 in Lancaster.

I like to run a 20 mile race about 5 weeks out from a marathon, hoping to run it more or less at target marathon pace.

The weather forecast was dismal – torrential rain and 40mph winds.  Although there was a very strong gusty breeze and persistent light rain, we were certainly fortunate to miss the worst of the weather on the day.

The course was basically flat and consisted of three out and backs along cycleways – a short one, then a slightly longer one around the Trimpell triangle and then a longer one of several miles alongside the swollen River Lune.  The finish was back at the castle and the last half mile included a thigh burning spiteful climb up a partly cobbled street.

Tim got the better of the traffic in a slightly chaotic start on the narrow cycletracks and surged off in front.  As the race settled down, I caught back up and we ran together in a nice comfortable rhythm, knocking out consistent miles a second or three either side of 6:30.

Partway into the medium out and back section, a little peloton of about seven runners formed. I think we all realised that it was in our interests to stick together given the wind and knock out a few miles as a group.  We chatted and passed drinks around.



I could tell Tim was strong and I felt good also. We went through the half marathon point, 13.1 miles in just over 1:25.  At this point we were heading eastwards along the River Lune path with the wind on our backs, it felt great.

I got a little annoyed with one of the other runners in our group who threw me a dummy at a drinks station, meaning that I completely missed getting a drink. In a bit of a pique,  I went to the front and pushed the pace. This fractured the group. I was joined by Tim and a lad from Chester Tri in a mini pack of three.

We made the final 180 degree turn; we had 6 miles back into the wind with the nasty climb up to the castle at the end.  I knew it was going to be tough.

Tim was the strong one, always pushing it at the front. The Chester lad and I were merely hanging on. However, despite running back into the wind, we were somehow maintaining the 6:30 pace. Rather than feeling easy, it was now really hard work.

With about three miles to go, the Chester lad fell away, leaving me running a couple of steps behind Tim like a faithful but tired old Spaniel.

We hadn’t said anything but I know that we were going to race out the finish; there was a chance that we would be racing for the first MV50 spot.

I didn’t fancy my chances, my only hope would be to cling on and try to win in a sprint, though how I would manage to sprint up a steep cobbled street with jelly legs, I had no idea.

With under a mile to go, there was a twisty section which included a few swerves around barriers and a run through a pedestrian subway. Tim took a racing line and put in a spurt on the slope out of the subway and took a crucial few metres out of me.

Repeating the familiar pattern from recent races, Tim pushed on up the hill to the Castle – finishing in 2:10:30, with me eventually limping in 17 seconds later. We were second and third in our age category as it turned out.

Myra ran really well and finished fourth lady in a very good time of 2:21.26.

As a marathon tune-up, the race was ideal.  I ran 20 miles at 2:50 marathon pace on a windy day without any nutrition during the race and without the benefit of a taper.  I’m hoping for a 2:52 something time at London as my A goal in five weeks time.


LM-5 weeks

44.7 miles, longest run 20 miles

Weight 11 St 0.6 lbs.

Aerobic efficiency on Sunday run 942 beats per mile





It’s Bath Time

I don’t know why, but undertaking a long road trip to a race makes it feel more special.  Maybe subconsciously we run a bit harder so as not to waste all the miles travelled.

I’ve just enjoyed a great weekend away in Bath, primarily to race the half marathon, but I also had a great laugh with two lovely Valley Strider pals – Lou and Liz.  For once, I didn’t mind being the ugliest Valley Strider in the group:

Bath Road Trip.jpg

I shouldn’t say this, but I won’t be inviting Lou to help me choose a new coffee table any time soon…

We amused ourselves on the long car journey down from Leeds by sharing our desert island discs playlists and we must have drawn a few incredulous looks from fellow motorists as we belted out “Sweet Child o’ Mine” in true Wayne’s World fashion on the M5.  It passed the miles.

The Bath half is a big race – 15,000 entrants and nearly 13,000 of them toed the start line (causing a few problems…). I was somewhat perturbed to note I was designated Start pen D when I got my race pack. Fortunately, the first three pens were small and I wheedled my way near to the front of my pen. I was across the start mat in a handful of seconds.

My target for the race was very clear – to run a PB and to go quicker than 80 minutes. My PB was 1 hour 20 minutes and 27 seconds, set at the Brass Monkey a few years ago. To achieve that I needed to average 6 minutes 4 seconds per mile or better.

The course was a two lapper with a mile or so of a start/finish shoot. It was generally flat, with a few undulations, but all in all it was a fast course. The support was fantastic, with supporters standing roadside for most of the route.

I felt good at the start and tried to get myself into a groove of 6 minute miling for the first lap. It felt ‘comfortably hard’, which is ideal for half marathon pacing in my book and I went through 10K bang on target in 37:48.

The start of the second lap was back into the breeze and included a couple of short rises. For the first time I was struggling a bit, my pace dropped and I lost a few places. Mile 8 was covered in 6:15 – not a disaster but I knew I had to pick it up.

I recomposed on a long gradual downslope and had a serious word with myself. I had driven a long way for this race and had recently lost my Uncle, a great man and huge lover of sport. As soon as I muttered to myself “This one’s for you Norman”, I felt my cadence and pace rise and I started passing other runners.

It felt good, so I kept surging like this, trying to dig deeper whenever the pain rose in me. We crossed the Avon at the far end of the loop. The 10-mile point was reached in 60:30 – my second best 10-mile time ever.

I tried to kick it up another gear for the final ‘parkrun’ to the finish.  I knew that if I could cover the final three miles in 18 minutes, with a bit for the 0.1 at the end then I would easily smash 80 minutes. I felt a little euphoric. I passed more runners – Mile 11 was run in 5:56 and mile 12 even quicker in 5:54. I felt certain I was going to do it.

With 1 mile to go, we left the circuit and ran back onto the start/finish shoot. I started paying for my exuberance. My legs felt heavy and suddenly it was a massive effort to keep the speed up.

My watch ticked over to 13 miles in 1 hour 18:35 – I had 85 seconds to run 0.1 of a mile. In my head, I thought ‘I’ll p**s this’…

However, I looked up expecting to see the finish banners. To my dismay, they were nowhere in sight – just a long straight road ahead and a distant left turn…what the hell?

By the time I made the turn and saw the finish line I had about 20 seconds left to beat my target. It still looked a long way. I sprinted as hard as I could for the line – Strava recorded my best pace at 4:03 mins per mile just before the line…

I stopped my watch and then looked down in horror at my Garmin:

Bath time


80:00!…I hoped that my official time might be rounded down by a second, alas it wasn’t.

Having checked a lot of other runners Strava records, most had the course length between 13.25 and 13.3 miles. I know Garmins aren’t deadly accurate but I feel that the course was a bit long, which undoubtedly cost me a sub 80 time.

Lou had a great run finishing in 1:38.34 and Liz wasn’t far behind her.

Apparently, the race even made the BBC news as the high number of finishers caught out the organisers who hadn’t ordered enough medals or T-Shirts leaving a few hundred of the later finishers extremely disappointed.

My 80 minute flat time was good enough for only 9th place in my age category – the fastest 50-year old ran an amazing 1:14.17!

On reflection I was pleased with my effort, I gave it everything and it augurs well for London, now just over 5 weeks away.


LM -6 weeks

43.1 miles, longest run 13.27 miles

Weight 11 St 3.2 lbs

Aerobic-efficiency on Sunday run 924 beats per mile