Parky parkrunning


My aching legs told me that last Sunday’s hard  effort at the Dewsbury 10K took its toll – they felt heavy most of the week.  I couldn’t face the Club speed session on Tuesday evening, I was too knackered, so I shuffled around for the early part of the week, barely managing to break 8 minute mile pace.

I still managed to clock up a respectable 62 miles this week – running miles on tired legs is a fact of life in marathon training.

I treated myself to a day off on Friday, eager to have a go at a parkrun on Saturday morning. Cold rain and a breezy day erased thoughts of trekking off to one of the faster flat courses to the east of Leeds (York, Heslington or maybe even Hull) and instead I went back to my spiritual home at Woodhouse Moor.

Milling around in the throng before the start I didn’t notice many of the usual speedies.

I went off the start quite hard and freewheeled down first downhill straight. Amazingly, after 400 metres I was leading the field.

Often at Woodhouse Moor a few runners pass me on the drag up to the first kilometre marker, but not this time. I could hear other runners close behind, but I decided to get my head down and press on.

I went through the first mile in a smidge under six minutes and was still leading at the halfway mark.  Shortly afterwards, two runners eased passed me, though I managed to keep them in my sights, maybe within 10 – 15 metres.  They weren’t obviously running more strongly than me, I fantasized: maybe I can hang on and do them in the finishing straight.

It was a perishing day with a cheeky breeze. The course is nearly all tarmac, but there is a 100m muddy downhill section past the skate park on each lap. My Hoka Clayton shoes have about the same amount of traction as a bowling shoe and I almost came to a complete stop on the muddy slope undoubtedly costing me a few seconds each lap.

At the 4K marker I was still in third.  I gathered myself and tried to close the gap, but I was having to do a lot of weaving around other parkrunners.

With around 600 metres to go, a tall lanky young lad flew past from nowhere and surged ahead, going on to take the win. I caught the third placed runner at the final corner, but I couldn’t do any more and finished third in 18:26.

Given the conditions, I was pleased with that – third is my second best ever result at Woodhouse Moor (I once finished first many years ago on a snowy day when there were just 50 runners).

On Sunday, I dragged myself up to the reservoirs and ground out a dour 20 miler.  I didn’t enjoy it much, I was fatigued and a much of the running was into a bitter cold wind. It took me exactly three hours and it felt like a right old chore.

But I did it.


Comrades 2018 -17 weeks

11 stone 3.8 lbs

62.4 miles, longest run 20.1 miles. Woodhouse Moor parkrun : 18:26 (3rd)

RunBritain Handicap 3.0

Aerobic efficiency 1,047 heartbeats per mile


Sliding Doors

A post on Twitter this week about a runner’s ten year anniversary of his first parkrun at Woodhouse Moor caused me to check back on my record.

His first parkrun in January 2008 coincided with my second – I’d made my debut the previous week.

I don’t believe in fate or any kind of pre-ordained life.  We have a good measure of free will and we are exposed to the fundamental randomness of the Universe in my humble view; however, I did muse on how that simple decision to take myself down to Woodhouse Moor to try parkrun has changed my life.

It led me on a path to become a serious runner, I’ve made many new friends, I have travelled to places and done events that I could never have even conceived of and it also led to great happiness in my private life.  Yes, digging out my trainers and dragging myself down to try out a strange new free 5K run over a decade ago is one of the best decisions I ever made.

After two high mileage weeks, I stepped it back this week. It felt the correct thing to do, I have been going OK and I still have 13 weeks until London and 21 until Comrades so there is no need to go mad with miles just yet.

The weather hasn’t been great in the North of the UK this week – with plenty of snow and cold temperatures leaving roads and pavements often ice covered.

I decided to have a crack at the fourth Peco cross country race in the series, a course of 4.8 miles around Middleton Woods in South Leeds.  It was undulating with not many ‘killer’ hills that usually find me out and a couple of twisty technical descents that I can usually run quite well.

In my last cross country I was asleep at the start and got stuck too far back, causing me stress and extra energy trying to work my way through the field.  This time I set off more purposefully, established a reasonable position in the pack and then just battled away for places.

Peco 18.4

A nasty short climb about half a mile from the finish sent my heart rate rocketing and I lost a few of positions.  Back on the huge finishing field, I gathered myself and unleashed my best sprint to take most of them back.  I finished in 63rd position, fourth in my age category, but overall I was satisfied with my effort. I’d kept focussed throughout the race and I don’t feel that I could have done much more.

It’s the Northern Cross Country Championships next Saturday, held at Harewood House, only a few miles from where I live.  I might jog there and back to make it a long run day as well as a Championship race, we’ll see.  A top half finish will be my ambition

Comrades 2018 -2 weeks

11 stone 4.0 lbs

36.3 miles, longest run 7.7 miles. No parkrun (bad weather)

RunBritain Handicap 2.9

Aerobic efficiency 1,087 heartbeats per mile


Mojo Working

Another good week for the mileage log with no injury setbacks…things may be looking up.  For the first time in over nine months I experienced the elusive feeling of it feeling quite easy to run at a decent lick in training.  At last I am making progress rather than incessantly worrying about which bit of me might wear out or fall off next.

Seventy miles is my biggest week in almost a year.  Unsurprisingly I feel tired, but happy to be seemingly recording improvement.  I am hoping to run well at the Dewsbury 10K in three weeks.  I was on for a probable personal best time there last year only to be thwarted by a course that was more 10.2 than 10 kilometres.  I’m sure they will measure and mark it out right this year.

To get the mileage in, I’ve had to do some double days, which I find hard.  On Thursday I ran to work (5.5 miles) and for the return I took a longer route of 13.5 miles.  It was an unappealing run against a constant stream of glaring headlights on a cold, dark night.  However, I get a perverse enjoyment from completing this sort of run.  I wrapped up well, plugged in my headphones and caught up on my podcast backlog and drifted away with my thoughts.  I was home in what felt like no time, though it actually took me an hour and three quarters.

We tried a new parkrun on Saturday – Selby.  The course is around the bumpy perimeter path of an airfield, amazingly one lap of the airfield is exactly five kilometres. It was a chilly day and a brisk old breeze was scuttling through the windsocks.

The course was billiard table flat so I was aiming for a sub 19 minute time, hopefully nearer to 18:30. It’s quite a new parkrun (this only was the fifth event), the field was around two hundred or so.

Soon after the off, I was up in the leading group and after a kilometre I was off the front, running alongside a young lad in leggings and a club vest. I’d gone off hard, so my heart rate was up and I was gasping in the air, he casually turned to me and started chatting as if we were out for an easy walk.  I gasped out a couple of one or two word responses, which I expect were entirely incomprehensible.  He then asked me if I knew the way, “Erm, no, I was following you” I managed to blurt out.

Thankfully, it was hard to go wrong, we stuck to the fairly obvious perimeter path and didn’t head down the runway.

I managed to run the first (partially wind assisted) mile in just under six minutes, but the next was directly into the strong wind, we slowed to 6:30 pace.  Just as we were turning back towards the finish, with the wind again on our backs, another runner breezed past. I tried for a few strides to stick with him, but clearly he had been holding a lot in reserve and he zoomed away easily.

In addition to being bumpy, the path was covered in a couple of centimetres of mucilaginous mud. I had made a bad shoe choice and struggled for traction in the worst of it.

With around 400m metres to go I decided to have a dig to try to steal second place from the young lad.   I opened up my ‘sprint’.  I am pretty good at reading other runners body language in races and as he floated effortlessly past me, his body language was saying “don’t be ridiculous, you have no chance of beating me”.  He was right.

I finished third in 18:56, given the wind and the mud, I was satisfied with that. On a dry still day I am fairly sure I could have maintained sub six minute mile pace the whole way.

Next week – hopefully more of the same.


Comrades 2018 -21 weeks

11 stone 1.6 lbs

70.3 miles, longest run 17 miles. Parkrun (Selby, 3rd 18:56)

RunBritain Handicap 2.9

Aerobic efficiency on Long run 1,047 heartbeats per mile


Inverse tapering…

Three weeks before Comrades last year, I was feeling antsy – jaded by the volume of training through the winter and spring, I couldn’t wait to get to the Comrades start line.

This year is very different.  Feeling under-trained, I wish I had an extra month to fit in a few more long runs and hone my speed.

I’ve enjoyed the best week’s training of the whole year – 73.8 miles covered including my longest ever training run of over 31 miles. Thankfully, my injury problems appear to have abated.

I had an appointment to see a specialist sports Doctor on Thursday. Because of a lot of faffing around with the physio and my health insurer, it had taken the best part of five weeks to arrange the visit.

Five weeks ago I was thoroughly injured and not expecting to run Comrades.  By Wednesday I realised that I didn’t feel injured anymore and I saw little point in seeing the Doctor.  The worst he could say was that I shouldn’t be running a hot, hilly 56 mile Ultra with a dodgy achilles. So I cancelled.

To protect my achilles, I have been running very slowly, shuffling around the streets of North Leeds in my voluminous Hoka shoes, my heart rate rarely exceeding 135.  On Saturday, I dared to cast aside the Hokas, put on my Newtons and give it a real go at Woodhouse Moor parkrun.

I didn’t know what to expect, I was hoping to go sub 19, sub 18:45 would be a bonus. I felt a rare prick of nerves on the start line – it’s been a long time since I have ‘raced’ (I know parkrun isn’t a race, but I use it as a verb, not a noun).

Rather than set my Garmin to show time, I left the display on Heart Rate.  I have a lowish heart rate – my maximum HR is in the low 160s. Rather alarmingly, after just 500 metres, the heart rate was already in the low 150s…

I’d almost forgotten how gut wrenchingly hard a full-out 5K is.  Basically it involves catapulting yourself into red threshold territory and holding it there for all you are worth. It was a large field of around 450 and lots of fast lads hared off way too quick in the first two kms.

I simply didn’t have the speed to stay with many of my usual peers. In horse racing parlance, I was off the bridle and couldn’t layup with the pace.

The hectic start started to catch a few out and during the second and third lap I was passing a few runners.

During the final uphill kilometre I could feel a fellow parkrunner sitting right on my shoulder, sensing that he intended to mug me in the finishing straight. I am nothing if not competitive and with 300ms to go I opened up my sprint, unfortunately not quick enough to shake him off.  I dug in again and kicked near the line to just pip him and we both flopped over the metal barrier after the finish line coughing and wheezing.

My time was 18:34, which I was delighted with.  It’s a minute slower than my 5K PB, but given my build up it represents good progress.

Many of my Valley Strider team-mates were running the Leeds Half Marathon on Sunday morning.  I didn’t have an entry – through being injured in the build-up and my aversion to the £35 entry fee.

I opted instead for a final extended long training run. Luckily, one of my team-mates Sarah wanted to recce the route for the Otley 10 mile race – a very hilly local race held on a summer’s evening in early June. Leaving at 7:45 a.m., I ran the 6 miles from home down to Otley to meet Sarah and we set off.  It was nice to have company for the first part of my long run.

It soon felt very warm – into the 20s and thankfully, I took a drinks bottle with me, replenishing it later in Asda and Morrisons, along with a purchase of bananas and a box of 6 cereal bars for a quid (Shopping tip: it’s amazing what bargains you find on the bottom shelf of supermarkets).

After running the Otley 10 route, I eschewed Sarah’s kind offer of a lift home and set off the long way home through Guiseley and Horsforth.

After about 24 miles I was entering Bonksville, and adopted a run-walk strategy (something I will have to do earlier at Comrades), but I dug in to complete 31.1 lumpy miles (satisfyingly exactly 50 kilometres in exactly 5 hours).

I’ve spent the rest of Sunday curled up on my Laz-e-Boy watching cycling and eating Kettle chips. I think I’ve earned that.



CM -3 weeks

73.8 miles

Weight 11st 5.2 lb

Parkrun – Woodhouse Moor 18:34 (11th)

Longest run 31.1miles


Miley McMileface

All through my months of injury, I have yearned for a return to my normality.  Breaking up my solitary working days by running along the canal each lunchtime, smashing myself at parkrun on Saturday morning and then grinding out the long miles on Sunday.

By such criteria, this was a normal week.  I was beset with a grim, grotty, greeny cold which meant I slept poorly most nights, frequently waking in the early hours with coughing fits, but by the weekend I was feeling better.

It is a long bank holiday weekend in the UK, so I decided to set myself a challenge to cover the distance of Comrades (56 miles) over the long weekend (Friday – Monday)…

To achieve that, I knew that I would have to do a very long run on the Sunday, hopefully over the marathon distance.  Given the paucity of miles run so far this year, that was going to be tough.

Luckily, there was a Sunday Striders Group doing a 10 mile run early on Sunday morning with a rendezvous point about 5 miles from my house. So it was nice to knock off the first 15 or so miles  with good company.

As I peeled off to wend my way back toward my home village of Bramhope, I planned an extra loop of 10 miles down into Otley to make it 30 for the day. The only problem would be long and sombre 3 mile slog from Otley in the valley bottom back up to Bramhope. However, if there is one thing I need to practise for Comrades it is hills.

I nipped back home for a 5 minute pitstop, wolfing down a flapjack, a mug of hot chocolate (it was blummin’ chilly) and a banana. After a change of t-shirt, I set off for my final 10 mile loop.

It was extremely tough, there are no shortcuts in this sport and my lack of training really told as I got slower and slower and by Otley town centre I’d lapsed into the death shuffle mode (i.e. 10 + minute miles).  The final climb was interminable and I was extremely relieved to fall over my threshold after running for 30.3 miles in just 13 minutes under 5 hours.

It is Sunday evening as I write this so I still have to run 8 miles tomorrow in order to achieve my Comrades distance challenge. I can barely walk at the moment…


CM -4 weeks

65.7 miles

Weight 11st 7.2 lb

Parkrun – Roundhay 19:37 (6th)

Longest run 30.3 miles


Back on it

Five weeks ago, I went off and crawled under stone, feeling injured and pathetically sorry for myself. After another injury relapse, I knew I had to stop running completely for a bit. I assumed that I would have to forget about running Comrades in 2016.

A month or so on, the World is a little brighter. The injury is better, but it’s still there. I have a stiff and sore achilles every morning, but it improves once I am up and about and tackling the day.  When running, I am always aware of it, I feel pervasive tightness in my left calf and sense that I mustn’t push off too hard on my left foot, but I can run steadily without too many problems.

My physio suggested a few weeks ago that I ought to see a specialist Doctor and hopefully have a scan on the achilles to see if there is a permanent issue – she knew an achilles specialist called Dr Rogers from Manchester who ran a weekly clinic once in Leeds.

After the rigmarole of getting my GP to refer me so that my health insurer would pick up most of the tab, I was dismayed to learn that Dr Rogers had decided not to bother with his clinic in Leeds any more. After a bit more faffing around, I finally have an appointment in early May with one of Dr Rogers’ associates.

My break from running was well timed because I had a dream holiday to enjoy – a trip to Georgia in the USA to watch the final day of the U.S. Masters Golf at Augusta with my great friend Richie.

Richie and I get together every year on Master’s Sunday in April to eat curry, drink beer and stay up to watch the conclusion of the golf. After last year’s tournament Richie suggested that we should go.  My 50th birthday is in 2016, I thought it would be a very appropriate present to myself. It was a huge extravagance but I am so glad that I went, it was a wonderful trip.

We flew into Atlanta and upgraded our hire car to an American muscle car – a mean black Dodge Charger.  We were staying in Athens, Georgia – about 70 miles from Atlanta.


Athens is a supercool college town, site of the University of Georgia and the home of R.E.M. and the B52s.  It’s a fab place – small, quirky, bohemian and full of wonderfully friendly people. We had a ball hanging out in bars and restaurants.


Richie is blessed with an easy confidence and a massive determination to have a great time wherever he goes. He can talk with ease to absolutely anyone which meant lots of encounters and new friendships with a massive variety of people – from beautiful young students, gay waiters, fellow golfers and charming old timers.

A typical conversation in an Athens bar would go thus:

Me: “Could we have two Terrapin Golden beers please”

Waitress: “Sure – Hey you guys are Australians aren’t you? How d’ y’all like Athens?”


Richie then jumped in and about 15 minutes later we have new friends and have been invited to a barbeque/game of golf/gallery/bluegrass concert.

We played golf at two top notch Country Clubs in the days before the Masters. On the Saturday, at the prestigious Georgia Country Club, we were asked to play with Will, a new member.  As he was on his own and it was busy they matched him up with two Limeys.


Will is a cleancut American WASPy guy – about thirty years old with a one handicap.  That means he is incredibly good at golf.  He hit it miles and was absolutely delightful company.

Sunday at the Augusta National was a very special day. It really is another World, with not a blade of grass out of place. There is absolutely no advertising or sponsorship, with everything branded as just ‘Masters’. You buy Masters beer and Masters peanuts to go with your Masters cap and Masters grilled chicken sandwich. It is like stepping back in time.

As many of you will know, Sunday saw a surprise winner when young American superstar Jordan Spieth blew a five shot lead and gave Yorkshireman Danny Willett a chance to win.

I was right there on the 18th green as Willett held himself together brilliantly and calmly tapped in for his par four and walked off whilst being mobbed by his supporters.  He had to wait around an hour for Spieth to finish before it was confirmed that he was the 2016 Masters Champion and only the second Englishman ever to win. It was bloody brilliant.

I took my running shoes with me and though I only managed to run once, it was a memorable one.  Slightly jetlagged, I woke early on the first morning and said to Richie that I was nipping out for an early morning run before breakfast.

I headed down to the Oconee River trail, only half a mile from the hotel and was soon running on a perfect cool sunny spring morning totally alone through idyllic forest trails. I saw wild deer gambolling in the forest and felt that I wanted to run forever. It was perfect.

Since my return, I’ve managed to run a little more. If I warm up well, wear my Hokas and run steadily then the achilles problem feels manageable.

Yesterday, I tried a proper effort at a parkrun for the first time in months. I ran the hilly Roundhay parkrun and was pleased with my time of 19:30 for 7th place.  That is over a minute slower than my course PB, but not bad to say that I have barely run three hundred miles all year – less than a third of what I had planned.

Today was a big test – my first long run in three months.  I ran with a group of Strider mates and managed to run just over 20 miles just over three hours – at around 9 minute miles with an average heart rate of 119. I felt fine at that pace and I could have run further, though probably not another 36 miles…

Well what about Comrades?  Provided I have no reversals of fortune, I intend to be on the start line in PMB in five week’s time.  I will have no ambitions for a finishing time or a particular flavour of medal, I just want to complete the course within the 12 hour time limit.

It’s been anything but an ideal build up, but with good fuelling and a very conservative pace management strategy, I think I might just be able to do that.



CM -5 weeks

45 miles

Weight 11st 7.4 lb

Parkrun – Roundhay 19:30 (7th)

Longest run 20.2 miles


A No Progress Report

My stumbling and stuttering recovery pretty much hit the buffers last week. I was the author of my own downfall. My physio had stressed that I should only run: (1) very slowly, (2) at most, on every other day and (3) for no more than 5 minutes longer than my previous run.

Last Saturday, I broke rule (1) by running Roundhay parkrun in just over 20 minutes.

On Sunday, I contravened rules (2) and (3) by running out to Golden Acre Park on Sunday morning. I intended to run for a bit with John from Valley Striders. As I met him in the park, a group of Valley Strider mates ran past, part way through their Sunday morning long run.

It was a lovely day, my achilles felt OK and I wanted to go for a run and a chat with my mates.  So I tagged on and ended up running 12 miles in about an hour and 40 minutes. Quite a bit more than my allotted 25 minutes.

I felt pretty tired once I got home and my leg muscles were certainly feeling it, but my calf and achilles weren’t feeling especially sore.

However, on Monday morning I knew I’d blown it. My achilles was worse than ever – extremely tender to the touch and it was painful even when walking. “Shit, I’m completely fooked”, I thought to myself.

My injury – Achilles tendinopathy, is notoriously slow to heal, it often takes up to six months for a full recovery.  I think that if I keep running on it, maybe I’m just knocking my recovery back a few weeks each time. I’ll have a serious chat with the physio on Tuesday – I’m seeing a different physio, maybe it will be good to get a different opinion.

I think it extremely unlikely that I will be running Comrades this year, so I will never get a back to back medal. You only get one chance for that, it has to be done in your first two Comrades.

Some people have said to me that I should still run Comrades – start right at the back and run/walk it, aiming to complete it before the cut-off with the 12 hour bus. I could do that, but for some reason, my heart isn’t really in it.

If I can’t train for a race, I feel a fraud, a fake. My brain is wired in a way that I have to stand on the start line wanting to give of my best.  Jog/walking round just to complete doesn’t really do it for me – because I know I should be doing much better. There is also the fear that I might completely trash my Achilles for good.

I don’t know what to do, I’ll think about it. I’m still going to South Africa, I’ve paid nearly £600 for flights and I can’t get my money back. It might become a golf holiday rather than a running one.

Last Christmas, I dreamt that this year’s blog might be a record of several near 100-mile training weeks, interspersed with a couple of PBs and would culminate with me recounting my heroic run into Kingsmead Stadium to complete the 2016 Comrades Marathon in 7 hours 29 minutes and 56 seconds, thus claiming a Silver medal by the skin of my teeth.

The reality is that I’ve barely run the distance of Comrades during the last 10 weeks of training combined.

On this very same weekend last year, I ran possibly my best ever race – a PB at the Thirsk 10 when I beat the hour and came third in my age group in the Yorkshire Championships. I was super fit and nearly a stone lighter than I am now.

I’m not giving up on running and certainly not giving up on keeping fit, but my body is telling me to give it a rest for a bit. I’m not happy about it, but I don’t think I have much choice.



CM -10 weeks

Weight 11st 13 lb

Parkrun – None

Longest run 0 miles


Baby Steps

I went for a run on Saturday! OK, it was only a five minute jog at 9 minute mile pace, but that represents progress. A journey of a thousand miles and all that.

I went to see the physio again on Wednesday. I’m impressed that she is obviously aiming to treat the cause rather than just the symptoms of my achilles problem. She thinks there is possible a neural cause and the main thing I have to do is lots of calf strengthening and glute exercises. She said that I was walking noticeably better, whatever that meant…to be honest it was just regular walking to me, I noticed no difference.

She spent a good 20 minutes working deep into my left calf.  There were a couple of areas that were just incredibly painful when she got her thumbs in. I was yelping and jerking on the massage table in absolute agony! She didn’t back off, so I hope it does some good. Clearly a good physio needs a streak of sadism.

She said that if I felt OK, then I may try a 5 minute slow jog at the weekend, then wait to see if there is a reaction and then try another jog two days later if its OK.  At that rate, I’m not going to get back into full Comrades mode any time soon.

I’ve kept up the rowing in an effort to keep fit, doing at least 20 minutes per day and I even did a full 1 hour effort on Friday evening, managing 13,779 metres at about 2.10/500m pace. A full hour on an indoor rower is a very long time so I paced it very conservatively, keeping my HR down below 130 for most of it. At least the rowing is helping to improve my somewhat weedy guns…

On Sunday I went to support my Valley Striders team-mates running at the final race of the Peco XC league at Roundhay Park.  Being an injured runner makes one feel a little isolated in a running club. As you don’t turn up to training or races, its easy to feel marginalised and out of the loop. It was a lovely crisp winter’s morning and great to cheer on the Striders.

I feel more positive about things this week.  My calf feels OK today after the little run, so I should be alright to jog gently on every third day now.

Could that be a chink of light?

CM – 15 weeks. 0.5 miles
Weight 11st 7.6 lbs
parkruns: None
Longest run 0.5 miles



Losing my shirt

For the first time in about 6 years, I have spent a week on the planet without running a single step.

I don’t like it much – it’s causing a quiet melancholy, a feeling of fitness gently melting away.

I went to see a sports physio on Monday – the Coach House practice in Leeds, mainly because I’d seen plenty of recommendations from other runners.

The Physio immediately saw that my left achilles tendon was thicker than the right. I told her that I had been doing a lot of calf lowering exercises. Oh dear, she said, that may have been making things worse – not permitting my achilles a chance to recover

She spent a long time trying to establish why my left achilles is a regular cause of problems for me. After observing me stand in various poses and then walk up and down in just my shorts, she said that I appeared to be over-using my core muscles and not using my glutes. She also thought my coccyx was misaligned.

I have a series of rehabilitation exercises to do – mostly calf work, but also a glutes re-education programme, intended to get the glutes ‘firing’ rather than my core muscles when I run. However, she said there was to be no running for a while.

I have been doing the rehab work but I can’t really tell if I am getting better. In normal life, just walking around, I feel no pain or discomfort. However, I have no confidence in my achilles, I think that if I run, it will be sore again, but the only way to find out will be to try it out, but not yet.

I intend to try to keep fit mainly by indoor rowing.  If the weather was better and it was lighter in the evenings then I would venture out on my bike, however, I’m a nervous cyclist.  There are too many car drivers looking at their phones for my liking.

I had two days working in Glasgow on Tuesday and Wednesday and have just spent a boozy weekend in Woking celebrating my mate Tim’s 50th birthday, losing my shirt at Sandown races on Saturday into the bargain. It was great fun and certainly helped take my mind off the injury.

Tim is also recovering from a serious achilles injury, which he aggravated by running the Berlin marathon with me last September. He went for his first run this week after nearly 5 months, I hope mine isn’t that bad.

Basically, I have had a week of eating crap and not doing enough exercise. It’s time to pull my socks up.


CM – 16 weeks. 0 miles
Weight 11st 8.6 lbs
parkruns: None
Longest run 0 miles


Back to Square One

I definitely overdid the mileage last week. When my left achilles tendon was too sore to run on again on Monday I decided to not run for at least a week. I actually meant it this time, I simply have to get this sorted.

This injury is becoming chronic and is now worrying me.  Now is the time that I ought to be really stepping up my training and banging our 60 mile plus weeks with 20 mile long runs every week.

The only meagre consolation from not running is that there is a lot less washing to do. There is no other advantage as far as I am concerned.

Work is quite stressful for me at the moment for reasons I won’t bore anyone with.  I normally declutter my whirling brain each lunchtime by running for at least 9 miles. I have really missed my lunchtime run more than anything else this week.  I could have gone out walking instead, but that doesn’t cut it for me, so I moped off to the café each lunchtime, got myself an unhealthy sandwich and went back to my desk and carried on working.

A midweek Facebook post reminded me that I had put my name down for the Northern Cross Country championship at Blackburn on Saturday.  I was about to explain my predicament and make my excuses when it became clear that Valley Striders had only six male entries.  Six finishers is the minimum number required for a team result. The deadline for entries had long since passed, so basically, I had to run.  I explained that I would not be quick, but I would turn out.

I travelled across to Blackburn with team-mates Jon and Kev.  Jon had researched the course and said that it was brutal and the men’s course of 12K contained nearly a thousand feet of ascent. Kev and I laughed, that just couldn’t be true, could it…

Unfortunately for us, on Saturday afternoon God was fiddling about with his new weather app. He gave us intermittent blasts of driving rain, gusting winds, a few minutes of watery sunshine, then weird ten minute squalls of hailstones and sleet.

Three months of record-breaking rainfall totals and a full programme of junior races left the course looking like a mass of farmyard slurry, there was barely a blade of green to be seen. One of our lady racers even lost her shoe in the deep mud.

My plan was to run steadily, see how the injury felt and just to make sure that I got round so that I counted for the team. I had my 15mm spikes in and I had triple knotted my shoes tightly to ensure that they remained on my feet.

The men’s race was four 3K laps of the park. After about two hundred yards I realised that my spikes were virtually useless. In twenty five centimetres of mud, it didn’t matter what you wore, because your feet were going to slip sideways on every stride.

As expected the race was brutal.  With two long steep climbs into the wind on each lap, runners were strewn all over the place. During my second lap we had the added bonus of another horizontal hail storm right into our faces. You simply could not lift up your head. It was savage.

My 10K race pace on the road is about 5 minutes 50 per mile. In this race, when I was running about as hard as I was physically able to go my mile splits were:  7:39, 8:25, 8:54, 8:46, 9:31, 9:37 and 8:39.  On the bright side, because of the hellish conditions, I didn’t have time to think about my achilles. I was aware of some mild discomfort, but I had bigger things to worry about, like how to get myself to the end of this bloody ordeal.

I was lapped at the start of my third lap. Maybe the first thirty lads in the field eventually lapped me. I didn’t care.

The winner was Charlie Hulson, a multiple GB International and the reigning National cross country champion. He completed the course in just over 43 minutes at 6 minutes per mile pace. In those conditions, that was superhuman.

I finished in 394th position in 1 hour, 2 minutes 38 seconds. There were 719 finishers, and a lot more starters because I’m sure there was a high dropout rate. With a skeleton team of just 6, Valley Striders finished in 22nd position out of 52 teams in the men’s and the four ladies finished 24th out of 40. No Striders dropped out. Chapeau to every one of my team-mates.

Here’s a picture of my gleaming yellow Puma cross country spikes after the race:

cross country Jan .JPG

Unfortunately the race has aggravated my Achilles – unsurprising really. I tried to go for gentle recovery jog tonight (Sunday), but after about four hundred metres I abandoned the run and skulked home.

Tomorrow, I’m making an appointment with a sports injury clinic.




CM -17 weeks

7.5 miles

Weight 11st 5 lb

Parkrun – None

Longest run 7.1 miles