Races

Manchester Marathon - great to be back at the sharp end!

When I entered Manchester, I was targeting a PB attempt and it would be a key event in my Spring line up.   My training had gone really well, the build up was looking strong, then all of a sudden I was on my back inside an MRI scanner again.  Luckily it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared, however it meant I had 2 full weeks off running and another week building back up, which really put an end to any PB attempts for this race.

Still I wanted to give it a good crack and targeted going through half way in 75/76ish minutes, then ease off ever so slightly, but still clock a respectable time.  All good practice for London. 

 I've really missed this!!

I've really missed this!!

Sarah and I travelled up on the Friday morning, a pretty uneventful Pret fuelled train journey got us into Manchester for lunchtime.  We jumped into a taxi and headed for Media City, where our super luxurious 'Ibis Budget' awaited.  £184 for two nights, when the usual rate is £19/night, gives you some idea of the demand around race day, or I just got ripped off..probably a bit of both!  

 Not recommended :-(     But a nice view!

Not recommended :-(     But a nice view!

I was nursing a niggle in my ankle, but could still run ok, so headed out of Friday and again on Saturday for some easy recovery miles.  The carb loading process went well and we finished it off with a huge pizza from Rudy’s on Saturday lunchtime.  

 Pizza time!

Pizza time!

I’d done pretty much all my recent training in Hokas, however I went back to my old favourites for the race.  It just felt right and wanted to go with a shoe I knew had served me well in the past.  Nothing against the Hokas at all, I just need to get some more miles at speed in them before they become a race option. 

The race started at 9am, but as our hotel was so close we didn’t have to set off until 8 and before we knew it the bags were checked, warm up done and I was in the starting pen about to set off.  

It was really nice to see so many familiar faces at the start, then after a few hello’s and ‘what do you think you can do’s?’, it was time to get this show on the road!

 Let's go! 

Let's go! 

It was a quick get away, the first 5k came up in 17:31 and 10k in 35:15.  I’d got in with a good group of people all targeting a 2:30 finish, well so it seemed, so it made sense to stick on their tail for the opening part of the race. 

The course was very flat, as all the advertising had promised.  We were flying through Sale, then on the approach to Altrincham there was a bridge to get over and a few ‘hills’ to climb through the town. This was the first point in the race where I started to feel tired, but crossing the half way mark in 1:16 was a good confidence boost.  

 Time to dig deep!

Time to dig deep!

The gels were going down well.  I’d been trying the new Spring Energy gels in training, but for the same reason as with the shoes, I went with the SiS gels on the day. I know they are reliable and I will test the Spring gels more in training, really like them so far.  Check out 'my kit' page for more on them.  

 Strong and steady.. happy-ish!

Strong and steady.. happy-ish!

The stretch around mile 16 where there are runners on both sides of the road was so much fun!  Having other runners shouting your name was incredible, it really got me pepped up and kept my head in the game.  Thank you everyone!

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I knew I was slowing down, but everything was steady and in control, that was the plan.  20 - 25km was 18:33 and 25 - 30km was 18:52.  A few runners were struggling ahead, as I was catching them faster than I should have been.  It was a shame to see some well known people stood on the side of the road, clearly struggling.  Your day will come!

 Always an amazing feeling crossing the line!

Always an amazing feeling crossing the line!

The long finishing straight seemed to go on forever!  Being able to see the finish when you’ve still got a couple of K’s to race down isn’t easy.. but before I knew it the line was there and the Garmin said 2:37:15.  

 Smiles all round!

Smiles all round!

Given I hadn’t raced since November, planned to run the race steady and had zero issues during, I couldn’t be happier with the result.  It was a real confidence boost about what’s possible for this year.

Well done to everyone who ran Manchester, it was such a fantastic race.  So many great stories and it was so nice to meet lots of runners I know from Strava and Instagram!

 Happy team! Well done to Sarah and Vickie on PB's

Happy team! Well done to Sarah and Vickie on PB's

Now the training is solely getting ready for London.  The big one and I can’t wait!! 

 

Valencia Marathon - and more importantly what’s next?!?

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I’m not sure exactly why I entered this race, either beforehand or looking back now reflecting on it.. but it was probably just an excuse to swap the cold, dark and damp of England for the warmth and sun emblazoned skies of Spain!

We flew out on the Thursday evening from Gatwick and did that thing that I’m sure all runners do when racing abroad. Causally sitting at the gate and playing spot the Garmin and running shoes! By my reckoning there were at least 15 other runners on the flight, a few of which I’d get to know later on..

Flights have started all blending into one, but I’m sure it was great in the usual easyJet way and before we knew it we were outside the air BnB trying to explain to the taxi driver that I wanted to pay via card. A concept we quickly learnt was pretty alien to all Valencia taxi drivers, so it was off to find a cash point, which seemed to take forever..but his meter was still running, so it was all smiles his end!

The next day it was time to register. Expos are usually rubbish and I get so annoyed at having to go and have all these weird stands try and sell you stuff, but this one was was actually pretty good. And you got a huge free goodie bag, with enough snacks to last the day, so double win win there!

Included in the race entry was a ticket to the Paella Party, which was again, way better than expected. Decent veggie options and some entertainment as well! Carb loading had commenced... Valencia Marathon you were doing yourself proud.

Before I knew it race day arrived and I was on auto pilot. With so much racing recently, I could do all this prep blindfolded, walking backwards and well.. you get my point! Spain doesn’t do bagels, well not that I could find, so out the window went my usual pre race food, to be replaced with chocolate croissants, ha!

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With the quite ridiculous race build up, it was never going to be fast race.. I was standing on the start actually yawning, legs aching, thinking why are you even here!

So made the decision to go out fast-ish, then come off the gas and chill a bit in the second half. There was no chance of beating the 2:47 from the weekend before, so couldn’t see the point in destroying myself for what would always be a slower time.

The atmosphere on the start line was very buzzy, lots of nerves, probably from runners for whom this was the main event of the year. A fast, flat course and the pressure was on. A couple of Brits from the flight came over for a chat and before we know it, the mayor had fired the starting gun! We were off!

Like most marathons with 20,000+ runners in, the start was all elbows and legs flying everywhere, but after 250m I already needed to stop for a loo break.. such a pro! But no gels got wet this time, I’m learning! Haha..

5k in and I my legs were burning already, my HR was through the roof, but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and I’d knew this was still better than running in London! I actually made half way in 1:21:30, but knew that would be impossible to keep up, so kept myself hydrated and just ran on feel and easy while maintaining a respectable pace.

I didn’t really look at my watch in the second half, there were markers every KM, so knew where I was and just tried to chill out and enjoy it.

Of course runners were flying past and good on them, it was great to see so many sub 3 runners achieving their goal.

So in crossing the line in 2:56:13, how do I feel? Well all things considered I’m pretty happy with that. Just a few months ago I was benched and on crutches, now I’ve just ran 5 races in 6 weeks, all in very respectable times and I’d have given ANYTHING for that a few months ago when I was down and out. Everything about the race was spot on and the city was stunning, can’t recommend it enough for a trip away to run!

So what’s next? Well I have two options..

1. Carry on running 2:40-3 hour marathons, multiple times a year, with ultras mixed in and generally use the bit of natural talent I’ve got to get through and not take things too seriously..

Or, 2. Give myself 20 weeks to do completely structured training, monitor everything, diet, weight, strength, kit, tests, lab stuff and try and dedicate my life to do something very special at the Manchester Marathon 2018.

For me, right here, right now I’ve just got to see what my body is ultimately capable of. I can withstand some seriously tough training and recover faster than anyone I know. I’ve got a bit of a gift for running and get the feeling I’ve only tapped into the surface of what’s possible. I need to do this now, while at 34 I still can!! There are no ‘what ifs’ in my world!

It was Steve Prefontaine who said ‘to give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.’

That’s resonating with me now so so much. So for the next 20ish weeks I’m going to dedicate every part of my life to running. I’m going to push this body of mine to the very limit, to extract every last second and get myself in the shape I never knew possible.

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It’s going to be tough, painful and no doubt take me to the absolute breaking point, but having everyone here along for the ride will certainly help and all the knowledge I gain I’ll try and pass on in any way I can. So here’s to the next chapter.. two hours, twenty...something in Manchester! Let the training begin!

Abingdon Marathon 2:52:58

I don’t think you’d find many training manuals that say it’s a great idea to run back to back marathons as part of a return to running programme, but I’m so cheap that I didn’t want to waste the money on the Abingdon race entry!

In 2016 the race was a bit of a breakthrough for me, I managed a 2:53:46, which felt a decent chunk inside 3 hours and that we were now closing in on breaking the 2:50 barrier.  Coming back in 2017 I had mixed emotions, yes it was great to be back at such a classy race, but I was worried about potentially running slower than 2016.  Given my 2:57 at Amsterdam only the week before, I had to accept this was the most likely outcome.

Still, you have to take a step back and think that only a couple of months before I was limping round in the Aircast boot and now I was running my second marathon in 8 days, life was pretty good right now and who was I to be complaining about not running a perfect race.

Luckily for me my Dad lives about 10 minutes from the start line, so Sarah and me checked into the spare room on the Saturday night, had a cracking dinner and retired to bed for some pre marathon sleep.

My morning routine has barely changed over the years.  1L of SiS energy drink, 2 bananas, 2 bagels and an energy bar.  All sipped and nibbled on over the 3 hours before the gun goes off. Oh and not forgetting the all-important Imodium tablets as a gingerbread man is my worst fear ever in a race!!

My tactics were the same for Amsterdam, I was feeling a bit fitter so thought it best to set out at 4:02/kms (6:30mm) which would get me home in just over 2:50.

OF COURSE I set out too quick, AGAIN!  But only slightly and there was a lady in the race who looked to be aiming for around a 2:50, so wanted to try and keep on her shoulders.  The first 5k came up in 19:18 and the second in 19:22, so the first 10k was lovely and even.

If you haven’t race Abingdon before then there is a couple of quirky things.  The roads are open to cars and there is a section of the course you loop twice.  Both of which can’t ignore, but strangely they are no bother whatsoever!  Half way came up as we approached the end of the first loop in 1:24ish, so we were still tracking very well.. but like in Amsterdam the week before I could feel things were about to get seriously tough.

From 23 to 30 the KM splits were all getting progressively slower.  4:06/4:02/4:12/4:08/4:15/4:08/4:19/4:12..  The only thing that was flying, was my 2:50 time out the window.. but still, we now had to knuckle down and ensure the 2016 time was beaten.

I knew I still had a lot in the bag if I could just steady things and was counting down the steps to the Lucozade station, as knew this would give me a real boost.  NOOOO! Where was the Lucozade SPORT?!  I guess someone had got confused and purchased the fizzy barley version… and what good was that? Absolute none! With no gels left this was going to be a head down, hold on and a real grind it out to the end.

I was surprised as I was actually overtaking a few people, despite noticeably slowing myself.  In these type of races people really do put it all on the line, sometimes it works and I was now making up places against all those where it hadn’t.

During 35-40k I really was running on fumes, legs screaming and I was just adopting Paula’s counting to 100 technique to take my mind off the pain.  That 5k stint was actually 22:09, way faster than it felt and in no small part down to an angel I saw coming out the underpass.

At about 38k you have to go down under a road and the climb out the other side.. it’s absolute torture.  Then at the top there was a young girl,  probably about 8 or 9 years old handing out some SiS gels.  I’ve never actually taken food from the crowd support before, but was in dire need and so a big thank you came out and down the hatch the gel went!

I don’t know what effect that black current gel had, but in my mind it was going to carry me home and back to Tisley park track and the finish.

As I came into the stadium my watch was showing 2:51 something, so I knew it was going to be tight to beat 2016’s time, but just said to myself I wouldn’t look at my watch until the finish and it was simply head down and drive.

As I crossed the line the clock said 2:53:01, so the course PB was in the bag and I could happily collapse on the inside of the track while the lovely St Johns Ambulance lady kindly got me a shirt and juice.

The chip time came in at 2:52:58.  Nearly five minutes quicker than Amsterdam, just 7 days before and a minute quicker than I’d been in 2016.  I was beyond happy and proud of all the hard work and effort that I’d put in to get in shape for the race.

A big thank you to my Dad and girlfriend Sarah and their encouragement throughout the race and generally being amazing in their support, love you guys!

So where to next?  No race this weekend, just some training on the trails, then we’re off to the Peak District for the White Rose 100 Mile Ultra the weekend after.  It will hopefully be a chance to get those last remaining 6 UTMB points that I need to get my entry in for 2018!  Oh 100 miles… I can’t wait!

AMSTERDAM RACE REPORT - Back to the day job!

Since getting injured in July, I’d had to withdraw from the North Downs Way 100, Ultravasan 90k, Skiddaw 54, Ladywell 10k. Great North Run, Chilten Wonderland 50, Ealing Half and the Bournemouth Marathon.  Eight brilliant events, that were all temporarily labelled ‘my comeback race’.. only for that date to pass, spirits to drop, sadness to kick in and the rehab continue...

So it was with huge excitement and trepidation that I was actually boarding a plane at city airport, to travel to Amsterdam, for what was my ninth attempt at a ‘comeback race’!  The Shoreditch 10k the week before had shown that I was slowly getting into some sort of shape, but it was only a 10k, the marathon is a whole different game… could I still run a sub 3?

I’d actually ran the race back in 2015, just as I was starting out in running and battled round in 3:37 something, in the pouring rain, which was luckily hiding my tears at the pain I was in! So here I was two years later, still none the wiser about what was possible.  But over the second pizza of the day on Saturday I’d made a calculated decision to go off at 4:00-4:05/kms (6:35/miles) hang in there and see what happened.

Race day morning came and the usual thoughts of ‘why am I doing this?’, ‘I just want to stay in bed where it’s safe’ and ‘what if it all goes wrong?’ were passing through my head.  I do put myself out there on Strava and Instagram as love sharing the journey and enjoy helping newer runners get into the sport.  But I’d never failed at anything on social media, it was all so positive, great results, strong times and now here I was potentially setting myself up for being laughed at?  I know the running community is far better than that, but these thoughts are always passing through my head.  God only knows how proper GB athletes can deal with the pressure, with a whole nation is on their back.  Serious respect goes out to them!

But I took a big gulp of man up juice, booked the uber and got myself down to the Olympic stadium and the start line for the race.  When I entered the marathon I’d targeted this as a sub 2:30 attempt, so had some seriously quick runners around my on the start line, but for me it was simply head down, trust the watch and stick at the pacing.

5k came up in 19:38, about 30 seconds too fast, but we can live with that.  10k in 38:56, so getting a bit quicker still, but I was feeling ok and getting into a decent rhythm.  As we approached half way I could tell things were quickly becoming far tougher than they should be though.  I took the gel that was planned for 24k at half way, as I was fading fast, but that only left me with one for the rest of the race.

I was now in no doubt I was in for the toughest section of a race I’d ever been in. The pace I’d started out at had obviously been too ambitious and I was now paying the price, other runners were coming past me and the heat of the day was kicking in.  Get me out of here I was thinking, why oh why do I do this!!

I gave myself a stern talking to and actually managed to get the 25 to 30k stint done in 21:04, but we were now entering the dreaded last 12k and I was in for an almighty ride.  I’ve never had to implement a ‘walking through water stations’ policy, but now was that time.  Three cups of water at each one, quick recovery and crack on.  It really helped and with the last gel at 32k, I felt I should be able to get home in 2:55.

It was now over 20 degrees and I could feel myself drifting a bit all over the road.  The sponges were a great help in cooling down, but ultimately I was running on empty. Absolutely nothing left to give, but to drag by rapidly failing legs to the finish.  As I entered the stadium, the clock said 2:56:55, so I knew I’d still be coming in under 3 and was immensely proud of that fact.

I crossed the line in 2:57:38 and a huge wave of emotion came over me.  I’d managed a respectable time, given it my absolute all and was not in any pain, just completely and utterly shattered.

A big thank you to Brin, for putting up with my tiredness and general grumpiness on Saturday, plus awesome job on your new PB of 3:22!

It’s so important to never lose sight of how far you’ve come, Sunday was 40 minutes quicker than 2015, of course it’s not where I want to be, but we’re fully back on the train to destination sub 2:30.  Next stop Abingdon on Sunday! Lets go!

RACE REPORT - Shoreditch 10k - Accepting the injury and moving on!

After 3 months off running with a stress fracture, the day was always going to come when I’d have to toe the line again and get back into racing. As much as I don’t really like banging on about arbitrary times or arbitrary distances, it’s just a fact that nearly all runners are measured in this way. For me the best bit is always the ‘journey’, all the training sessions, the strength work, the sacrifices, the socials, the diet, the runs where you drag yourself out and come back feeling amazing, but then whenever someone meets me all they seem to want to know is what my PB is!

Anyway anyway.. I’d gone through a back to running program, which involved building up slowly with sessions compromised of running and walking. It was particularly tough mentally to be so scared every time my right foot touched the ground, with every step it could be all over again.. but with all the strength work I was doing alongside the running I was starting to feel normal again.

The one positive of back to running programs like this is you don’t sweat! You can’t even get up enough speed to get all smelly, so the usual laundry pile isn’t quite it’s normal size, but that was all about to change. After two weeks I was able to do a whole 5k without stopping! OMG, this felt amazing, a whole run without having to walk! I must say there were a few tears after that, as I was finally starting to accept we were going to get through this episode and be back running properly soon.

A friend from a company called Pro Direct Running got in touch as they had some places at the Adidas Shoreditch 10k, and as I’d helped Adidas do some promo work for the event I really wanted to be there and saw it as a perfect introduction to get racing again. So I took up the offer of the place in return of helping them with a short film there were putting together on the day.

All my running up to that point was pretty slow, base building at a low intensity, certainly nothing like a flat out 10k! So I really was going into the unknown, but had mentally prepared myself for the end result as I knew the time was going to be significantly slower than where I was at before.

In my head I thought I’d go for 35 minutes and had a bit of banter with Max Wilcocks, Tom Ryan and Nathan Fleur beforehand and even had a quick catch up with Tracy Barlow (GB Marathoner no less) on the start line, so the pressure was ON! I managed to win the race into the first corner, but inevitably everything slowed down from there..

The course was twisty, but very runnable and quickly found myself getting into a groove. It felt AMAZING to be back inside the barriers, open roads and blood pumping through my veins again.. it’s what I live for and I had the biggest smile on my face. The last couple of k’s were painful, but I dug deep and battled through crossing the line in 35:55 for 12th place overall.

I’d finished the race, there was no pain, I had friends around me, the sun was shining, I felt so alive again!

Of course there was the inevitable, '35:55 would have been a quick tempo run 3 months ago’ chat going through my head. But throughout this injury I quickly learnt you just have to keep looking forward. You can’t change the past, it’s happened and there is nothing you can do about it. Hey, my opening 10k at the London Marathon was 35:18, a great achievement, but so is running 35:55 after 3 months stuck in an Aircast boot!

I’m now about to embark on quite an intensive race schedule, some I’ll race quick, some I’ll just chill out and enjoy, but they’ll all be building towards my ultimate goal of running a sub 2:20 marathon.

Injuries happen, $hit in life happens, things go wrong, but it’s how we deal with these things on the journey that defines us. I have no doubt I’ll eventually get to 2:20 and look back at this period listing the many positives and strengths I took out of it, how it massively strengthened my mental toughness and how that ultimately got me one step closer to the biggest goal imaginable!

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Here’s my schedule for the next couple of months.

15th Oct - Amsterdam Marathon 22nd Oct - Abingdon Marathon 29th Oct - Off 4th Nov - White Rose Ultra (100 mile) 12th Nov - Ravenna Marathon 19th Nov - Valencia Marathon

If you’re racing any of these and see me, then come and say hi!

The Mental Side Of Dealing With Injury.

We all get injured, runners especially. The full weight baring nature of the sport means it’s inevitable that something will break down eventually, obviously sometimes you can be out for just a few days but at times it can be months or even longer. In my case I was having a fantastic year, during the first four months I’d averaged about 140km a week and hit the Spring marathon season pumped and ready to go. I had five marathons and a 100 mile ultra to do in 7 weeks and came out the other side with a 2:36 marathon PB and a sub 23 hour 100 mile race. I was on cloud NINE!

Then BANG! I was running up a hill in the peak district and had this pain come on like I’ve never felt before. I know my body pretty well and instantly knew this was serious. Consultations with Physio and a MRI scan confirmed a stress fracture on my 4th metatarsal and I was prescribed 6 weeks of rest.

6 WEEKS OF WHAT? You gotta be kidding me!!

I’ve dealt with injuries before, but most require a small adaptation and you’re back up and running within a few days. But this was like being hit by a bus. I had a stacked Autumn race calendar prepared and this had just written the whole lot off.

As I’m now back to basic run / walking I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, so wanted to share some thoughts on dealing with the mental side of injury that I’ve learnt over the last 6 weeks. As that has by far been the toughest part of this whole episode.

- EMBRACE OTHERS - When this happened I shut myself off from Strava, Instagram etc. I didn’t want to see anyone, or hear about other peoples running, successes or what they were up to. I had two running holidays planned.. what was the point I thought? But I was shutting out the very community who could help, who understood and knew me so well. I quickly saw that I could still be very involved in the running community, just in different ways. Basically I stopped being so selfish, got my $hit together and reached out to help others. I carried on going to my local community running group Goodgym, but just cycled each week. I crewed my girlfriend in a race in Sweden, (that I was desperate to run as was targeting a top 10 finish!) which was so much fun and gave me a whole new understanding of the work that goes on behind the scenes at races plus gave us a new side to our relationship that might have never happened. Then this coming weekend I’m going to the Lake District to crew for 3 friends (again in a race that I was hoping to do well in) and can’t wait to give them all the support and advice I can. Running isn’t always about… running! Get around others, chat about the sport, go to events.. there’s so muh to learn and give, which will never happen if you isolate yourself.

- WEIGHT GAIN - At the start of this I was down to 72KG, which at 185cms is no doubt under weight, but considering what I do it was fine. Last week I was tipping the scales at 80.2KG. 8kg GAINED! When you can’t run and carry on eating your regular diet it’s going to happen, but I never expected it to be like this. Seeing your clothes suddenly get tight and visibility looking different in the mirror is hard. The trouble was I never accepted the injury, I thought I’d be back running in a few days, so never got a decent cross training plan in place. The key though is getting a structure for recovery in place, then setting yourself goals within that plan in the same way you’d do with your running. Swimming time targets, cycling distance targets.. whatever you’re doing, set yourself something to aim for. That way you’ll push yourself and stand a better chance of maintaining some fitness and physique when you come out the other side. No more sugary snacks for me.. green soup it is!

- IDENTITY LOSS - This was so tough. I had running brands who I was speaking to about sponsorships, race directors wanting me to pace at their events and companies that were offering support and I was starting to do more helping out running Goodgym sessions. My whole world was resolving around running, who was I if I couldn’t run? Maybe I’ll never run again? I even thought about taking up cycling full time or returning to play golf as they are less injury prone sports! Haha.. But with a pro active approach you will get better, let people know what’s going on and your plans throughout the recovery. Just because you can’t currently run, it doesn’t stop you being a runner.

- INCREASED STRESS - There is no doubt we all use running as a way to de-stress from the modern world, but I’d lost that resource and was seriously stressing out over the injury… a double whammy! In my case I never accepted the injury and didn’t deal with it. All I could think about what was ‘why did I run up that hill’, ‘if only I hadn’t run so hard’ etc etc.. So I took to myself to one side and basically had a big cry and it all came out…it was as if I’d lost a loved one, thankfully no one was around at the time! Once you accept what’s happening and talk about it, then it’s so much easier to get a plan in place. Once I’d got my plan in place, plus the back to running plan it felt like a huge weight had been lifted and the end goal was in sight.

- FINANCIAL - So far I’ve probably spent around £750 on this rehab and lost £800+ on race entries and travel. Getting injured isn’t cheap! Physio sessions, MRI scans, strength equipment. As someone who hates ‘wasting’ money on insurance, it’s certainly something I’m going to look into going forward! But financial stress added to everything else is tough. You can’t rely on the NHS if you want something to happen quickly, so you have the dilemma about whether to pay for it or wait. Then you’ve got the lost race entries, lost hotels, flights etc. Again I’ll be ticking the insurance option on race entries and booking hotels you can cancel going forward!

All in all, $hit happens. We’re sent these set backs to strengthen us, develop our minds and come out as better people. There’s no doubt about it that I won’t run a sub 2:30 marathon this year, hey, going sub 3 again will be an achievement I think! But running is SO much more than arbitrary times over arbitrary distances, it’s about a very special community, it’s about experiences, it’s about keeping a healthy body and positive mind, it’s about travelling to places you’d never go to, it’s about helping others around you.. all of which you can do whether you're injured or not!

Injury Strikes!

When out on a run in the peak district at the annual GoodGym Shindig, I got a sudden pain in my right foot that completely stopped me in my tracks.  As anyone who knows me well, I manage to run through most niggles, annoyances or pains, but I knew straight away this was much worse. Luckily I had Sarah and Vickie with me to get me back to the place where we were staying, then it was simply damage limitation until I could get to see the Physio when we got back.

So at the time of writing I've been off running for about 10 days and am waiting for the MRI scan to fully diagnose what the problem is.  In all likelyhood it's a stress fracture in the 4th metatarsal and will need about 4-6 weeks of rest, not much fun at all!

But these injuries are sent to test us, make us stronger and also give us the opportunity to explore other things in life away from running.  So for the next month or so I'll be mostly swimming, cycling and rowing.  Of course I'd give anything to be out on the road, but you have to remain positive through these periods and I'm sure when I do get back out it will feel all the more better!

Race to the King

Time: 12:11:37Pace: 8:21/km Nutrition: SiS Go Energy, SiS Go Gels.. everything at the aid stations! Kit: Adidas Boston Boost 6 Shoes,  1000 mile socks, 2XU Compression Shorts, Adidas Adizero Shorts, Adidas Supernova Top, Ciele Hat, Salomon S-Lab Ultra 12 Vest. 

Course: 5/5 Facilities: 5/5 Support: 5/5 Organisation: 5/5 Medal: 4/5 TOTAL: 24/25

I was sitting with Sarah enjoying a warm summers evening, at the University in Greenwich, when I pondered asking her if she fancied running Race to the King... in 8 days time!

I'm always up for any race, but this was a double marathon with 1600m of elevation, that is not something that should be taken lightly.  It would be much further than she had ran before, plus there was some serious elevation to add to the challenge.  It would be a really tough test, for both of us.  But as someone who is up for anything, she said YES straight away, so we went home to get the entries in and prepare for race day!

Long story short, the entries were already closed, but a quick phone call on Monday morning meant we secured two places on the 8:15am start line and they told us to be in Arundel an hour before on Saturday morning.

We gathered together our best gear and drove to Cranleigh on the Friday night, where my Mum lives to shorten the drive on Saturday morning.  It's amazing how well you sleep in the countryside, so when the alarm went off at 6am it was tough to move, but the excitement of race day quickly got us going and we were soon en route.. full of bagels and SiS Go Energy drinks!

On arrival we were running a bit late and only had 20 minutes before the start, but the slick organisation meant we were on the start line with around 600 other runners in plenty of time.

Then we were off!

The main goal for the race was to learn about the distance, get to the end unscathed, collect UTMB points but most importantly just have a laugh and spend some fun time together!

So we set off at a super easy pace, but quickly started to move up the field, despite running at what we both felt was very relaxing pace.  The conditions were perfect, overcast with a slight breeze and the miles started to tick by.

The route was 99% on the South Downs way, so I was making extra notes as I hope to return to run the SDW100 mile in 2018.  But in summary it was stunning! One of the most picturesque trails in the UK, just beautiful.

This combined with the jokes, chit chat and general laughter made the distance tick by and we were soon approaching half way, with the Garmin reading 38k.

Now, this was impressive.  Some competitors run the race over two days, so will sleep over at the half way stop overnight.  Tents were pitched, food was cooking and drinks were chilling.  It was without doubt the most impressive aid station I've ever seen, seriously it was approaching fine dining.

Pasta, pizza, garlic bread were piled on to the plates.  This was carb heaven!!  Plus some glorious fruit cake, oh this was just incredible.  It's normally quite hard to leave aid stations, but this was approaching impossible.  But leave we had to.

Now Sarah was into the unknown.  The furthest she'd ran was 50k and we were now through that as the hills continued to come.  But nothing was phasing her, the Garmin was showing mere numbers, but they didn't translate into fear, pain or worry.. we both kept pushing on edging ever closer to Winchester.

The warmth at the aid stations was infectious and gave us such as lift as we passed through, they were well positioned at the top of hills, right when you needed them.  Staffed by runners, who knew what they were doing and we were going through.  It's people like this that make such a difference, so can't thank them enough!

Sarah was starting to get tired and her muscles began to ache.  Some doubt began to set in, but she pushed that out her mind and pushed onwards.  It was impressive to watch her dealing with this so well, like a pro and this was the longest she'd ever run!

As we passed the last aid station, the 50 mile sign came up so we knew it was just a Parkrun to go.

We'd set an target of 12 hours, but this wasn't based on anything in particular.. just something to go for.  We knew that we would miss that, but still pushed on to get the final 5k done as quickly as possible. The final two Ks were 5:30 and 5:15, which shows the effort we were pushing with at the end, then the finish line was in sight.

Winchester cathedral provided the most stunning backdrop for the finishing chute and we crossed in just over 12 hours 11 minutes.  Incredible!!

Plus extra Kudos to anyone who can put up with me for such a length of time.

Well done Sarah.  4 UTMB POINTS!!! CCC 2018 here we come!!

Thank you to everyone at RTTK, it was a throughly well put together event.  Maybe not for ultra serious runners, but for any newbies to the sport I couldn't think of anything better.

Finally well done to all the other runners, we met some friendly and ever so welcoming people out there over the weekend.  Take a bow!