…for my eight marathon of the 26more ‘year’ and my personal tenth marathon. Into double figures tomorrow…

I haven’t really got time today for my usual pre-marathon 3 miler so I waited until it was dark, and therefore cooler, last night to get the miles in.

Weather forecast for tomorrow is not great, a very warm 20 degrees. Much like Brighton last year, a bit on the warm side and hydration will be a problem for many people.

I hadn’t realised that the marathon was so big. Turns out it’s 16,000 runners and another similar amount are doing a half earlier in the morning too.

The reviews on Runners World aren’t complimentary. Maybe I should have checked that before I entered. Anyway, we’ll see how it goes.

Good luck to Neil of BVR, it’s his first marathon tomorrow. For the rest of you, enjoy the run ;-)

It’s my third year running in Manchester and I have to say, this is my favourite 10k. True, it’s expensive, but it’s also very well organised, flat as a pancake and simply huge with 40,000 runners this year!

This is the biggest 10k in the UK. They close Manchester city centre down for the event and build a temporary running track down Deansgate for the Great City Games in the afternoon too. It’s on TV and this year the field included three of the fastest runners on earth; the marathon world record holder Makau, winner of this year’s London marathon Kebede and of course four time Great Manchester winner Gebreselassie who met at the line waiting for the gun. I was about 6 feet behind them. Until the gun went of course when they left me for dust!

I’d got myself to a place where I thought I could get close to my PB today (set in the very same event last year) of 41:02. Conditions were good, but to be fair the only practice I’ve had at racing 10k since a year ago was three days ago! This was always going to be a challenge, but there was a possibility I’d get close.

I started near the front of the ‘normal’ runners pen, we all surged forward to stand behind the fast club runners about 30 seconds before the gun. Bang! We’re off!

I know this course. I know it’s flat. I know what pace I can run for a marathon. What I don’t know is what I’m capable of today at this distance, that really is another matter so we’ll see. I’d decided to use my heart rate as a guide and run accordingly. Allegedly 87-91% of your max heart rate is where you want to be for a 10k. My max HR should be about 186, but the finish on Thursday proved not as it peaked at 192. So low 180’s is about right for today.

Shame I ran high 180’s for most of the first four miles. I’d set my ideal pace at 6:34/mile as that gets me in near as damn it 41:02. Shave a couple of seconds off and I’ll be very happy. It wasn’t to be today though. I could tell it was a stretch too far for me right now, even without watching the heart rate hover around 189 for most of the run!

It was a fairly warm day. By 5 miles I knew I was well off my PB and have all but given up. The thought of the marathon next weekend was weighing on my mind and I figured I’d ease back a bit and crossed the line in a respectable, but a little disappointing 42:20.

Not bad, but not as good as I expected to do. I’ll be targeting a 10k in the summer to push that time down some I think. Maybe late summer after some proper preparation…

Edinburgh next weekend then.

And rest.

Some months ago my colleague James though it would be a good idea to challenge all of his colleagues to a 10k. He’d had an email from the Civil Service Sports Club inviting him to the Queen’s Jubilee 10k in Battersea park. Obviously I was happy to offer him some competition, others were less keen, but with a large helping of badgering and goading from James and I, several people finally agreed.

My colleague Mike has been training for it. He’ll be the first to say he’s not a runner and to be fair we’ve probably given him equal measures of encouragement, advice and mickey taking over the course of the last few weeks. He’s taken it all in good spirit and today was the day it all came together.

Given I’m in for the Great Manchester run on Sunday, today is about not getting carried away for me. Plan is to run 7:30’s for 5 miles and if I feel relaxed, push on as fast as I dare for the last mile or so. No records will be set today, it’s just an exercise in self control and runners restraint.

Everyone else has been training for, and looking forward to this. We’ve all taken the afternoon off to be here. It’s chip timed and the weather is beautiful for a park based 10k. What could be better on a Thursday afternoon?

The course is as flat as a mill pond. It’s four laps of part of Battersea park. A nice route. Well organised. With a really good atmosphere.

The field (in the main) look like serious runners. (As it turns out, it was a pretty strong field.) Each Government department can count it’s fastest 12 runners in three teams of four to see which is the fastest department on the day so there’s some desire to be in the top twelve over the line. There are 15 runners from my department so it’s not a given!

Early in my third lap I’m overtaken by the leader. About three minutes later the second and third place runners pass. The leader is so far ahead it’s unbelievable. (I later found he finished the race in about 33 minutes. Amazing pace!)

The course turns out to lend itself very well to my plan. I run 7:30’s for five miles. Five miles happens to tick over just on the sharp bend on my last lap. I turn the corner and take everyone around me by complete surprise as I break into a stride and instantly knock a minute or so off my pace. I’ve felt very comfortable all the way along and so am itching to push on. On the last lap you turn right into the athletics track and run 300m round it to cross the finish line. I’ve always liked running the last bit of a race on a track. I’ve been to a couple of events that have done it. I like the springy feeling of the track as it seems to help you sprint the last stretch. Today was no different. I cross the line at 45:38. Very happy I held back, but feeling suitably stretched by the last mile and a quarter. I take a breath, grab a couple of cups of water and my finisher’s bag and head back out to find my colleagues.

As I leave the track I spot Mike coming round onto his last lap. I run with him for best part of a k before wishing him well and turning round to find everyone else.

As I pass the track entrance again I spot David and James running together. I mention it’s a race and I want to see some racing so off they fly!

A good day all round. Mike finished his first 10k, which, on only about three weeks training is no mean feat! Well done Mike.

Turns out we picked up three of the top twelve places between us too.

Manchester 10k on Sunday then…

Having spent last night in London at a family celebration and then driven north, battling the M1 roadworks to arrive at 2:30am, I wasn’t looking forward to the alarm. At 5am!

A couple of hours sleep is not what I need. I woke up, bumbled about making little sense and could not stomach breakfast. Not a good basis on which to race.

I needed to collect my race number this morning. I knew there were fewer parking spaces than originally intended, thankfully the organisers notified everyone a couple of days ago. I knew I was going to need extra time to get my head in order for this one. The only way was to go for a criminally early start.

Parking turned out to be no problem at all. This event really is well orchestrated.
I headed down to the racecourse to find the race pack pickup. Another seamless exercise. Spotted Chris (race organiser) and said ‘Hi’. Then I wandered about trying to wake myself up.

The atmosphere was quite relaxed at the start. The pens aren’t so much pens as areas near time targets. I parked myself in-between 1h30m and 1h40m. If it’s a reasonably flat one, that should be the achievable range depending on how I feel once I get moving.

Just as with the Chester Marathon back in October, the town crier was master of ceremonies and did his turn. The gun went at 9am on the button and we were on our way.

Then it went a bit awry…

You see I hadn’t bothered to look up the elevation. Why bother, it’s only a half! I wish I had though. Given the benefit of hindsight it might have put the course elevation into perspective.

The race can be best described as:

Gun fires
Run through start gantry and out of the race course
Turn right
Climb…
…for 13 miles
Cross finish line

And I’m not joking!

The route just seemed to always be going uphill. Never particularly steeply (aside from a 10% gradient up the bridge over the bypass of course!) but just consistently. There was brief (and I mean brief) respite from climbing in a couple of places, but they were so close to flat and so short I barely noticed them. By 8 miles my legs were burning with the unending punishing incline. This one was really tough!

Allow me to explain my game plan…
Run, comfortably until half way and then push on as I usually do. The elevation was a complete unknown to me though. At 3 miles I was thinking to myself ‘it can’t possibly continue going up’. But it did. At half way I was starting to feel the beating in the legs. There was no pressing on to be done. I just had to keep going. Any dreams of a 1:35 or faster were long gone by this point and I resigned myself to the fact that it could quite possibly get worse. It didn’t, but it did just keep climbing. You’re probably asking ‘what is he whining about?’ but if you’ve ever been on a gentle incline for several miles, you’ll know how tiring it becomes eventually. As it turns out, the Chester marathon is basically a small gradient incline for pretty much the whole course. It’s felt like I was in an Escher picture! There is no end to the climb.

The moral of the story is to never think ‘it’s just a 10k/half/5k/other run’ even if you’ve done plenty of them before unless you’ve checked the details/elevation/weather/whatever. You may live to regret it!

On the plus side, I ran 1h38m even given the gradient so I feel in quite good shape. I also ache like I’ve never ached before though!

The next few days get interesting now…
I have the Civil Service Jubilee 10k on Thursday with several of my colleagues and then the Great Manchester run (10k) on Sunday. My challenge is to potter round the first so I can do well in the second. We’ll see if I can hold back.

This will start well and might eventually descend into a rant. Sorry, but that’s what it needs!

Leaving the house this morning was tough. It was raining, cold, windy and generally horrible outside. And I had another marathon to run. Not the best day for a very long run eh?!

My hands are so cold I can't get my trousers off BEFORE THE RACE!

We parked the car and started the long walk to the ‘race village’ involving walking through the start and some considerable way beyond. Once at what we eventually decided must be said race village, we had to find out which of the 4 or 5 marquees was for baggage. I couldn’t see any signs anywhere. (It turned out later that all of the signs were on the finish side, read OTHER SIDE, of the marquees. Not much good if you’d parked in the official car park near the start!) Baggage drop off was a mess. You sort of wiggled your way through the crowd to hand your bag to a bemused looking bloke in army fatigues who seemed to pass your bag blindly into the tent. Ah well, they’ve got nearly four hours to get it sorted…

By this time my shoes were soaked through as the field we were in was three inches deep in water and mud. This is not a good way to start a marathon for those of you who were wondering! I headed over to the start, light rain peppering the bin bag I was using to keep dry.

The PA announces the front runners including local guy Andi Jones who ran 2h18m last weekend at London (and whom I met last year during the 1095miles.com challenge – click here). I tear the bin bag apart just before the gun and chuck it out on to the pavement. The rain gets heavier. The gun goes and off we run.

The next few miles are a bit of a blur really. (It was raining. I had water in my eyes. It was somewhat blurred for the next three and a half hours if I’m honest!)

The route winds through small villages and areas of Greater Manchester and what was really very good about it was the locals were out, braving the horrendous weather, to cheer the runners on. I can’t imagine what makes people do that when the rain is hammering down. They must really be excited by the idea of the marathon coming to Manchester to want to stand around under their umbrellas getting cold! I saw the most hilarious moment too, one of the runner’s laces came undone. He couldn’t tie it up because his fingers were so cold so a little old lady with a walking frame had got him to put his shoe on a garden wall and was tying his lace up! Made me chuckle.

After a few miles I got chatting to an Irish guy called Pat who was running for the Stroke Association. Nice bloke and helped pass a few miles in an entertaining fashion. We were both overtaken by a young lad running for Macmillan, with a skipping rope. And yes, I mean he was skipping along! we wished him luck through gritted teeth and agreed to keep him in sight if at all possible until we overtook him later!

The roads were heavily waterlogged and you just had no chance of avoiding the puddles. As I ran I could see that my shoes were throwing out large quantities of water with every stride, but just as soon as they had thrown out the water, along comes another puddle the width of the road and they fill up again!

I don’t recall any mile markers for the first 12 miles at least. They were sporadic at best in the latter half too. Not very good really.

The route passes through Dunham Massey, and I’m pretty sure that it was around this point that the already very waterlogged shoes became much much worse. The tree lined mud track we ran down became one long muddy puddle. At it’s worst it was easily eight inches deep! (And yes, I know that from personal experience!) I could actually feel that the heavy shoes were weighing me down and tiring my legs badly.

At about 18 miles Pat said “I spy a skipping rope” and we duly crept our way forward until we overtook the skipping lad again. All credit to him, he was still skipping at this point too! Well done mate.

The rain alternated between worse and better, only stopping once to allow a hailstorm to break through, and then back to rain again. It was really terrible weather conditions. The wind was strong too, meaning there were a couple of times you were flying along for brief periods with a tailwind behind you but more often you were being blown around by crosswinds! It also meant I spent the last six miles running into a strong headwind which made me feel like I was completely out of energy and frankly I wanted to stop. I’ve never once stopped to walk in a marathon and vowed I wasn’t about to start now. Besides which, it was raining, I couldn’t feel my fingers or my toes and I wanted to finish and get warm!

There appeared to be a distinct lack of first aid and marshals for the last 10 miles. There were one or two, but certainly nowhere near enough of them for the size of the event. I saw a couple of people at the side of the road shivering and looking decidedly off colour in the last few miles. There didn’t appear to be anybody around to help them, aside from the nice people in the crowds, luckily. I personally think this was a really risky situation given such poor weather conditions and the organisers deserve some serious criticism for it. I have to say I don’t think the event was properly organised from many different points of view and do worry that they put some runners in a seriously dangerous predicament through scant support staff.

Smiling through gritted teeth. I think my jaw was frozen at this point! ;-)

At about 25 miles I passed Tony Audenshaw. In fact I felt I had to. Someone in the crowd shouted “Run faster and beat the guy from Emmerdale!” So I did. I commended him on two marathons in eight days and went on my way. Crossing the finish line was a welcome relief. The finish was heavily waterlogged too. More trudging through 4 inches of muddy water.

I was presented with my medal and some water and energy drinks. Off I went to find my bag. This is where it went very wrong. I was wrapped up (badly because my fingers didn’t work) in a space blanket standing in a crown outside the baggage tent. They hadn’t sorted the bags out in the last four hours, they had just piled them up randomly. It was utter chaos. I was getting colder and colder, shivering along with the rest of the crowd. We were all cold and I’m sure you can imagine getting pretty frustrated. People were starting to get angry and shout. There was no organisation and the army cadets who seemed to have been dumped with the worst job of all just walked away due to the attitude of the now freezing cold runners. I’ve done a few marathons now, I’ve done plenty of running events. I’ve never seen anything so badly organised.

In the marquee, things were starting to get dangerous. It was too crowded and one guy passed out. I wandered outside, shivering. An old lady asked if I was ok and helped me to wrap the space blanket round me properly. My hands were so cold that I couldn’t move them to even swing the thing round my back. Terrible.

As the crowds got bigger in the baggage area it seemed that the organisers had done a bunk and were nowhere to be seen. I wonder when the disclaimer ‘we take no responsibility for loss or damage’ becomes null and void due to negligence? People started chucking bags out of the tent so that runners could at least get to the bags and try and find theirs. My bag appeared about an hour after I had crossed the finish line. By now I was seriously cold, very wet and pretty angry too. I couldn’t get my trousers on as my fingers were curled up and cold so I just threw a couple more tops on, got my space blanket tied round my waist and headed back to the car.

So, I’ll refrain from ranting and just leave you with the following important information: This event was ‘organised’ by XTRA MILE EVENTS.

UPDATE: XTRA MILE EVENTS have issued a public apology for the farce that was the ‘secure’ baggage storage at the GMM. Nice to see they’ve (somewhat half heartedly) accepted there was a problem, though it is carefully worded such that at no point do they actually accept responsibility for any of it. Time to just say “We screwed up, sorry” isn’t it?

Needless to say, I for one won’t be back next year to see if they get it right!

It’s raining today. Good practice for tomorrow I suspect. The forecast is grim for the Manchester marathon tomorrow. Rain and windy is the expectation. If it is right, it’s going to be a long cold run!

My friend Keith dropped me a text last night to say he’s finally given in and signed up for his fourth Brighton marathon. Glad to hear it Keith! See you at the start yet again!

This morning’s run was pretty terrible. I ache a lot and really struggled for the first mile and a half. Oddly enough, this is a good thing as many of you will know. I usually have a good run the day after a particularly bad one. Here’s hoping!

In other news, I’ve been working on adding some more pages to the Reviews and Clues section. Keep an eye on it for some new and hopefully interesting articles appearing soon.

Marathon number seven tomorrow, see you on the other side…

In the quest for a more relaxed week of running I joined Dave and Paddy, running with the middle group at our club run this evening. The group often breaks into two, unintentionally. Dave, Paddy and I had a great run with the back half of the group, taking in Farnham park along the way and completing nearly seven miles too.

Very relaxed, very gentle, most enjoyable. Just the way it should be a few days before a marathon!

That’s probably me now until Saturday. It’s time to rest for a few days and try and be in good shape on Sunday. It’s a really flat course by the looks of it (aside from what could be a damn great hill around 12 miles!) though unfortunately the weather forecast for the weekend looks a bit ropey. We’ll see in a few days…

Today is anti-marathon day at 26more.com. Allow me to explain. I’m not running London this year but I have a Good for Age time to claim a place for 2013. Given I ran a marathon last weekend and will be running another next weekend, this is a good thing! I hereby label today anti-marathon day. What else to do though…? This will be a rather off topic post until you get near the bottom I’m afraid, I’ll try and rein it back in to the running world by the end, I promise it’ll be worth the read!

Today I’ve been at the National Cycling Centre. Yep, the one where the GB cyclists train. No, I didn’t meet them. But I did ride my Brompton round the velodrome!

There is a promo video now up on the Brompton site…they filmed this while we were there (gate-crashing!) and I think they’ve done a great job!

Having never had the opportunity of visiting a velodrome, I was mighty surprised to find that the banked curves are at 45 degrees! Much steeper than I expected.

After the velodrome session we (about 60 of us on Bromptons) went for a ride into Manchester. 13 miles of rain and mud. Quite fun actually and much better than it sounds!

IMG-20120422-00261IMG-20120422-00262IMG-20120422-00265IMG-20120422-00269IMG-20120422-00270

Back to running I suppose…

It’s London marathon day. Congrats to both Sharon and Lawrence of BVR on completing the marathon in two superb times. Very well done guys, all that training and patience paid off!

You probably spotted the well publicised story of Matthew Loddy running 100 marathons in 100 days. Nuts! I heard him on the radio this morning, speaking to the same journo I spoke to on R5Live back in September. 100 marathons in 100 days is impressive. What is more impressive is why he has done it. He kept his word to his late friend before he passed away. Well done Matthew, you truly have something to be very proud of. Here’s his website if, like me, you feel the need to support his amazing achievement.

Oh, and I didn’t run today!

I may not have mentioned that my chip failed to register at the finish line of this years Brighton marathon. It did fail. It’s taken me a few days to get SportsSystems to review the video and add me into the results. Turns out my chip time was 3h22m38s and I crossed the line in 404th place. Very happy with that!

A couple of interesting updates in today’s blog post. I ran eight miles today. In the mud and rain of the north no less. Good prep for next week’s Greater Manchester marathon I imagine.

I’m in Manchester a week early though. I’ll give you a little clue why. Here is what I stole from the Brompton Dock at Manchester Piccadilly station last night. When I say stole, what I mean is a paid a tenner to ‘trial’ a Brompton for a week. That’s a steal! Most of you know I already have one anyway, but I needed a second for my companion for the ride and also wanted to try out the three speed option too. If you read my 1095miles.com blog, you’ll be aware that I’ve previously enjoyed larking about on a Brompton, see here. More Brompton based tomfoolery tomorrow!

Today I entered another marathon. No, I’m not trying to sneak another one in, I’m trying to space them out a bit instead.

I entered the Wales Marathon, starting in Tenby. It’s a really hilly one and no doubt will be a challenge for me, but it’s probably better to do that and drop the Cheltenham Circular which is only a week away from the Lakeland Trails. This way I run Edinburgh at the end of May, Wales two weeks later and then have three weeks to rest until the Lakeland trails. Fingers crossed this is a wise move!

This evening’s run was likely to be wet. It was. The heavens opened at one point soaking everyone. I’d decided to dispense with the waterproof as it was at the level of downpour where you get wet no matter what you wear. Shorts and a couple short sleeved tops will keep me warm enough, if allow me to become very damp! We covered 7 miles in the rain, mainly off road and very muddy. Good fun but possibly a little more than the legs needed today.

Next run will probably be on Saturday, give the legs a little break, maybe 10 miles. Then a surprise random event on Sunday which ought to make you chuckle…

All the best to everyone doing London at the weekend. I hope all of the hard work in training pays off for you, have a great day. From the club, all the best to Sharon, Lawrence, John and Nick. Enjoy the spectacle of London ;-)

Back in a few days…