You know things are getting serious when you start building up a collection of different running shoes for different conditions. Last winter I entered a single round of the Chiltern Cross Country League and loved almost all of it, except for the fact that my regular trail shoes offered no grip whatsoever in the wet, sloppy mud; it was like running on ice in places. I’m hoping to compete in the full league this winter so these shoes should do a better job of keeping me upright.
A few photos from the Conti Thunder Run at the weekend – a 24 hour trail relay running from noon on Saturday till noon on Sunday. I ran 40km over four laps and our team managed 250km in total.
This weekend just gone I had a crack at going beyond 26.2 miles and running our club’s annual “Round Milton Keynes Relay” as a solo runner – just shy of 32 miles of mixed terrain in total.
It turned out to be a very enjoyable day. I ran parts of it with some friends and parts of it alone, but had people dotted around the course to say hi and top me up with drink and Snickers bars. Aside from some pretty bad nettle rash there were no particular low points in the run, no hitting the wall, no painful legs, no having to take walking breaks, just a nice comfortable steady run for a few hours.
It’s made me realise (yet again) that I far prefer this sort of long steady endurance stuff over busting myself to pieces and suffering in agony for 20 minutes over a fast 5k. I have the Coniston trail marathon coming up again in a fortnight and am looking forward to taking the same relaxed approach there.
This weekend I completed my first trail marathon. To cut a very long story short, it ranks as one of my favourite running experiences ever. Amazing Lake District scenery, interesting trails, great organisation, perfect running weather and a totally relaxed atmosphere amongst both the organisers and competitors.
Some observations I made throughout the day:
- Standing around chatting in the race HQ tent with other runners, looking at your watch and saying “ooh, the race starts in less than two minutes, we’d better wander over to the start line” is the most relaxed I’ve ever been about a race. What a brilliant way to start the day, it couldn’t be further from the sort of tense atmosphere you experience on the start line of a big city race like the London Marathon.
- I’ve never seen so many smiling and chatty runners around a race course before. Even after 20+ miles, everyone I came across was happily trotting along and appearing to enjoy themselves. Where were all the people bent double at the side of the road at 22 miles looking like death that you usually get at a marathon?
- Treading knee deep into a peat bog is a good way to lose a shoe.
- Running downhill over tricky terrain is tougher than it looks, but loads of fun.
- Having tricky trails to concentrate on, great scenery to admire and no mile markers or target pace to worry about makes the time and distance just zip by.
The one overpowering vibe that came through all day though was what a positive bunch of people everyone involved were. There were no charity runners, no stag parties, hen dos, people dressed as rhinos or telephone boxes or people that had been roped into corporate teams. Just runners whose only reason to be there was their love of running.
All in all, a great day and finished off with an obligatory burger and beer before the four hour trek back to Milton Keynes. I shall definitely be back for more of this nonsense in the future.
Third time lucky.
I’ve recently got back from a week in Portugal, having run the Lisbon Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. It’s part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon series, based mainly in America with a small handful or races in Europe too. The rock ‘n’ roll bit comes from the fact that they stage a number of small live bands around the course to entertain the runners and spectators, as well as putting on a bit of live music at the finish too. If I’m honest, it’s not much different to other events I’ve run where you often get a bit of music here and there anyway. That said, it was a well organised event and the course – the first half along the Atlantic coast and the second half along the river through Lisbon – is spectacular.
My third marathon attempt this year (and ever), I was trying yet again to go sub four hours. At London and Milton Keynes, earlier in the year, it had all gone well until about 18-20 miles after which I completely fell to bits and struggled to keep running. This time, everything came together perfectly. With the exception of a couple of slower miles where I stopped for loo breaks and hit a little congestion as the half marathon runners joined our course and caused carnage at some of the water stops, I managed to keep things consistently and comfortably below nine minute miles, finishing with a slight negative split at 3:58.
Compared to London, Lisbon was a pretty small event and I think I prefer it that way. Last week I received my rejection letter for London 2015 and wasn’t disappointed at all. I’d like to run more marathons, perhaps next autumn, but I’m keen to stick to smaller events that are more about the running and less about the spectacle of it all. In the meantime, I’m eyeing up a new half marathon PB at my local Milton Keynes winter half in December and definitely fancy a bit more duathlon and triathlon next summer.
It seems like it was years ago that all this started, when I found out I’d got a space in the 2014 London Marathon. In reality it was only last October, but I’ve (literally) covered a lot of ground since then. Since October I’ve run for a total of 113 hours, covering over 700 miles and burned around 80,000 calories. That’s around 230 burgers.
Race day in London was amazing. For 26 miles from start to finish there are constant crowds of people cheering and supporting, in places the support is so intense it literally takes your breath away. I finished the race in 4:16, struggling in the heat over the last six miles but swept along by the crowds. Milton Keynes was much calmer, although still had excellent spectator support. Three weeks of recovery between the two events may have been a little optimistic. Once again I struggled with the heat and hills towards the end of the course, finishing yet again in 4:16, although slightly more comfortably. Having my three year old son run across the finish line with me was pretty cool. Having the finisher’s medal put round his neck instead of mine, not so much!
I seem to have become slightly addicted to this distance running lark and have just booked flights to Portugal to run the Lisbon marathon in October. I can’t wait.
Here’s a little cartoon I came across a couple of months ago whilst in the midst of my marathon training. It’s worth five minutes of your time and describes long distance running better than I ever could: