Monday, 27 April 2009

A Good Marathon

Had a really good London Marathon this year. The conditions were perfect. The crowds were unbelievable and gave you a lift when you were flagging. I think I went off too quickly at the start, but as the miles unfolded I settled into a nice steady rhythm. By keeping well hydrated, I found I was able to stay focussed and in the zone for the full three and a half hours of BBC1 coverage. I even had enough left later for the highlights programme.
I have to say that all elements of my training came together well; the stamina sessions watching the darts and the snooker, and the short, sharp, Question of Sport interval telly sessions that are so vital when you've got full-on Sue Barkering to contend with. As is usual, before the marathon I went out for a run (if you go out afterwards, it looks like you've been shamed into it by watching it on telly) and did a crisp 36 minute tempo session around the mean streets of, er, Wilmslow. Gorgeous day, cool and sunny and I felt good. Mind you, I can't imagine ever doing London. 50,000 people and 26.2 miles on road. Are you mad? Give me fells!
Smile rating 8/10

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Happy Hawkeshead

Hawkeshead Trail Race, 15km, Sat 18th April. Lakeland wore her prettiest face for the event: Bright sunshine, cool air, a light breeze.
It's a beautiful course, quite tough, with bits of road, a bit of forest trail and lots of stony footpath/bridlepath - pretty typical Lakeland running then. Despite my trepidation, by the time of the start I had my head in gear. I'd gone through all my usual pre-event routine (sunscreen, recce the last 800m or so, have a wee, light jog, gentle stretch, bit of chat with the person next to me on the start line) and was feeling really calm.

I ran conservatively, stayed well hydrated, enjoyed the brilliant chocolate-covered Kendal Mint Cake at 11km just before the infamous Coffin Trail (a steep, stony path from Windermere up to Claife Heights) and had enough left for a madcap final 800m down a steep grassy bank and across the field to the finish. Madcap, but I must have gained 20 places in those last minutes.
I finished in 1.42. My Garmin said I'd done 9.75 miles - which makes my pace about 10min 30sec/mile. Which I was happy with.

  • Starting near the back of the course is a good way of staying calm.
  • I was unusually irritated at continually overtaking/being overtaken by a guy in long combat trousers. I think I saw him off between 12 and 13k, but I may be wrong.
  • I finished ahead of the great Ron Hill.
  • Running at the back meant I was with a lot of runners who were unused to off-road running. It was gratifying how easily I drew away from them when the uphill road became uphill bridleway. There's definitely something in being experienced off-road. And it's rooted in balance and the ability to vary stride length, to skip sideways where necessary and to know when to walk!
  • Having realistic expectations is a good way of enjoying a race. I wasn't racing. I just had fun.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Thank you, golden retriever

I think I'm coming out of my slump. And I've a golden retriever to thank for it. It was an ordinary dog, doing ordinary doggy, snuffly, running around things, with a stick in its mouth and shaking its head. It was in a park in Wilmslow where I went for some nice smooth grass running to see if I could settle my aching back. On my second of three brisker intervals I saw the aforementioned dog and, all of a sudden, the world was a nicer place. It was sunny, breezy, not particularly warm, but there were families out enjoying the open space - playing football and throwing a stick for the dog. I guess I just relaxed and in so doing just began to enjoy my running; it began to flow.
Sometimes, it's the little things that give the sense of perspective. Roll on Hawkeshead on Saturday. The forecast looks OK - sunny but with a cool wind. New shoes. New enthusiasm. What could possibly go wrong...!
Smile rating 8.5/10

Monday, 13 April 2009

On shoes and shuffling

After last week's slump (see last post) went out today in my new Roclite's. Wonderful shoes. Not the greatest cushioning -but most of the run was on fields and fell, so OK - but brilliantly comfortable.
Did 8 and a half miles along the river to Staveley then up and over Potter Fell.
Still felt like tish backwards and struggled hugely on anything remotely like a slope (were the Spanish hill reps all in vain?) but plodded and shuffled on anyway and gained some satisfaction from at least having completed it.
Doesn't bode well for Hawkeshead next week though. Funny, three weeks ago I was looking forward to it. Now fear has crept in and the brain is making noises like 'well, let's just treat it as a training run,' 'just enjoy it', 'don't worry about time'. Hey ho. This is just running I suppose.
Gorgeous day out today. Sunny, calm and cool. Lambs a go-go. Skylarks and curlews filling the air with song. Perfect for running. Which makes my grovelling progress all the more galling.
Smile rating: 10 for the weather, 9 for my shoes, 3 for me.

On inertia

I kind of knew it would happen. I come back from holiday and have an enormous attack of can't-be-arsed-to-go-running. It all seem so pointless. I'm not getting any younger. It's not going to make me any younger. It's too hard. My spirits have indeed slumped. I've got the first of the Lakeland Trails in a week's time and there's no way I'm ready.
I went out for a River Loop run - my local half hour run - and everything was wrong. My feet hurt, lungs hurt, legs hurt and soul hurt. Sod it. Time to quit.
Decided the only thing to do was to go shopping. So went to Pete Bland's and bought some Innov8 Roclites to replace my Montrail Highlanders that were good, but pinched my feet. They don't 'stretch with wear'. If anything, the constant wet-dry cycles they go through made them shrink a bit.
Sat and looked at my new shoes in their new box.
For a long time.

Sunday, 5 April 2009


There's a beautiful grass that grows on a hillside in southern Spain. It's known locally as 'Cerillo grass' - the grass that grows on the cerillo (small hill). It's used as fodder for mules and grows in great profusion among the shoulder-high rosemary, bee orchids and myriad other exquisite wild flowers that line the zig-zag stony goat tracks that traverse the steep terrain.
It was among this beautiful grass that I did a twenty minute Kenyan hill session whilst on holiday recently. My route took me from the villa, down the steep, metalled, road to the plunging goat-track which led to a Roman bridge in the base of the valley. From here was a short, steep uphill section to rejoin the sinuous curves of the metalled road as it folded in upon itself. Once back on the tarmac, it was grind uphill, curve after curve, with no respite, back to the beginning of the goat track. Then repeat. Twice more.
It was a sweaty Smileyrunner that eventually dragged itself back to the villa. A tough training session. But scenically stunning.
Smile rating 7.5/10