Sunday, December 30, 2012

Stanley and I cross the finishing line at Portsmouth on 23 December (note that I came first!), where I completed my 2012 in 2012 charity challenge. The 2012th mile was passed at Mile 24, where I skipped through the seaweed and mud on the beach section and baffled the runners around me with what must have seemed like a premature celebration.

A million thanks to everyone who gave me support and encouragement (and sponsorship) throughout the year, and special thanks to the fellow runnerts who helped me through those tough last couple of months. Too many of you to mention you all but you all played a big part. Have a great Christmas, every one!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A before and after message

Before: Damn you, Caroline Williams, for getting me to sign up to this Marcothon thing. I have already run four marathons in eight days this month, with another to come on Sunday, to finish my ‘2012 in 2012’ challenge. I’m knackered and the last thing I want to do is to go out in the cold again this evening. I just want a day off running to vegetate and eat chocolate. You’ve already made me run – in the dark, in the wet, in the cold – on at least three occasions this month when I wouldn’t have done otherwise. And I’ve hated you every time I’ve had to do so!

After: Bless you, Caroline Williams, for getting me to sign up to this Marcothon thing. I have already run four marathons in eight days this month, with another to come on Sunday, to finish my ‘2012 in 2012’ challenge. I’m knackered and the last thing I wanted to do was to go out in the cold again this evening. I just wanted a day off running to vegetate and eat chocolate. You’ve already made me run – in the dark, in the wet, in the cold – on at least three occasions this month when I wouldn’t have done otherwise. And I’ve felt better every time for doing so!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The temptation to quit

The Dorset coast ultra hadf to turn into the Dorset coast marathon when I realised that there weren't going to be enough hours of daylight to see me round the final loop. I'd like to say that doing the shorter distance enabled me to take my time and enjoy the wonderful winter sunshine in one of my favourite parts of the world. I certainly took my time - so much so that even on the marathon distance I had only minutes to spare before the cut off at the final checkpoint - but my legs were so desperately tired that they couldn't have gone any faster if the entire 2012 in 2012 challenge had depended on it.

At one point, about eight or nine miles in, after the steepest cliff climb of the day, I was so tempted to follow an inland footpath sign pointing back to Lulworth that I even started unfastening the pins on my running number. I could find another race somewhere between now and the new year to make up the miles, I told myself, have a fried breakfast in a seaside caff and potter about looking for fossils while the waves lapped over the pebble beach.

The moment passed, thanks in no small part to two women who emerged onto the clifftop, gave me some cheery words of encouragement and said that I could always walk to the furthest checkpoint, get a lift back to the start and just enjoy the day. The idea of getting a lift back, short of some debilitating injury, didn't appeal at all. But they'd done enough to get my legs moving again. There were large parts of the day that I didn't enjoy at all, despite the sunshine and the scenery - I came closer to quitting on this one than any other event this year - but I made it into Lulworth as it began to get dark and so too, I'm glad to report, did the two women who kept me going when I was ready to stop.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Make-or-break time

A lazy couple of weeks (I’d love to call it tapering but I cannot tell a lie) comes to an end on Saturday with the first of five marathons in 15 days. This is make-or-break time for my ‘2012 in 2012’. I think if I can manage the Endurance Life Dorset coastal run on Saturday and I stay free of serious injury or illness I should be able to drag myself round the remaining 142 miles. I swear every mile is getting longer though ...

Day five of the Marcothon today took me from Turnpike Lane to Tufnell Park Road. Yesterday it had to be 5k on the treadmill, which almost got me disqualified as it would have been against the rules if I didn't already do some of my training runs in the gym.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Marcothon, day three

Nearly dropped out on the first weekday of the Marcothon! I got back from a school trip to the panto tired, hungry and cold and with just half an hour free before I was due to play five-a-side. I came up with 101 reasons why I couldn't possibly find the time or energy to do both. None of them were totally convincing, so I seized the half hour and went out and ran 5k - can't quite believe it but I did!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

5k a day insurance policy

Here I am feeling worn out and weary, slowing down with every event and wondering where I'll find the energy to finish the 2012 in 2012. Solution? Sign up for another challenge - something called the Marcothon, which involves running every day in December for a minimum of three miles or 25 minutes.

The first two days involved no more than I'd have been doing anyway: a 5k parkrun on Saturday and Mornington Chasers winter grand prix 10k on Sunday. Along with Friday's Serpentine RC 5k in Hyde Park, these have taken me to 1,870 miles in total, so 142 still to do. Since I make the rules for my challenge, I've decided that the Marcothon can count as an event - but only if I complete it. Which means that I've still got some very big hurdles to jump in the coming week, starting with an ultra on Saturday, a 10-miler on Sunday and three marathons in the following six days. I'm treating the Marcothon as an insurance policy in case anything goes wrong with any of these.

Monday, November 26, 2012

155 to go

I had a fantasy when I started the '2012 in 2012' that by this stage of the year I would be so fit that I'd be sailing through marathons like jogs in the park. And maybe 20 years ago I would have been - maybe. Not now, old man, not now.

What I'd not reckoned on was the cumulative fatigue of relentless marathon and ultra running, more or less every week, and the effort (and at times lack of sleep) involved in travelling to and from all those various events. An unwillingness to give up other aspects of an active life (I play my 100th game of 5-a-side in 2012 this evening - sponsor me, anyone?) has also no doubt had its effect.

Anyway, November has been a hard slog running-wise. Since New York, I've done the 25-mile Six Dales Circuit in the White Peak, one of David Bayley's 'Fox@40' marathons round the lake at Milton Keynes, the Dirt half marathon along the canal at Leighton Buzzard, the LDWA'S Sundon Saunter and the Gatliff marathon in Kent. The last two were about as muddy as it gets short of swimming in a slurry tank and I found them as hard as anything I've ever done. My legs felt as tired this morning as they did earlier in the year after events of twice the distance.

I have 155 miles to do. That's one less than the Trans Britain, and I won't be carrying a pack. But I think I'm going to find these final miles far harder.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Running anyway in New York

I've just finished the unofficial RunAnyway New York Marathon 2012. Four and a half times round Central Park on the route of the original New York marathon before it outgrew its birthplace, this was organised through social media in less than 36 hours after the official marathon was cancelled in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. A good few thousand people took part, with everyone doing what they could to help out by bringing along drinks and other supplies to share. A collection was organised for the hurricane relief operation and many locals turned out to give their support.

All in all, it was a heartwarming experience, not least for all the charity runners who turned out, determined to complete their 26.2-mile challenge so that they could go home to the people who'd supported them and say 'I did it!' With no prize money, no big commercial sponsors and no profits to be  made, it felt good to get closer to the original spirit of marathon running - even if it took the destruction and human cost of a hurricane to force it upon us.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Five in a day!

I think this may be some kind of record. On Saturday, I am going to do five different races in five different places, starting with a 5k parkrun in Ilford and finishing with the British Heart Foundation Midnight Half-Marathon in Brighton. In between, I’m going to do the Brentwood Running Festival 10k, South London Harriers’ five-mile Gibb cross country and the 8.5k Night Fright event over the Surrey Hills. All this will be bookended by the Woolwich Tunnel marathon on Friday and a return to Brentwood for Go Beyond’s marathon there on Sunday – which I’m sure will be absolute torture.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Return to Orgreave

Three races in five days took me under the psychological 400-mile barrier last week, and although I wasn't fast in any of them there was more life in the legs than I've felt for a good few weeks. The 30th Rowbotham's Round Rotherham 50 (actually, it's 81.1km and I'm claiming the extra km) found every niggle, ache, injury and weakness from my bunioned toe to my arthritic neck. But I got round in a little over 11 hours, making it back for cottage pie and peas before it got dark - something I wouldn't have managed to do before 2009, when they ran this event in December, everyone but the regular diehards got lost at least once and the mud was legendary. I've done it three times now; this one was in pleasant sunshine and the mud was nothing compared with what I've seen on other events during this sodden summer that don't have reputation of Rotherham.

The circuit takes you through the opencast wasteland that is Orgreave, scene of the biggest confrontation between miners and police during the 1984-85 miners' strike. The same police force that fabricated statements, lied and tried to cover up the truth about Hillsborough was involved in exactly the same activities over Orgreave. I remember interviewing miners at the time who had been beaten senseless by the police and subsequently charged with riot and other offences (one joked bitterly about 'criminal damage to a truncheon'). They were all acquitted because the police evidence was found to be, at best, 'unreliable'.

The other two races were both 10-milers: the RAF Henlow road race, celebrating its 60th anniversary, and the Daventry Road Runners inaugural event. Given the way I've felt lately, times of 77.38 and 84.31 respectively felt positively pacy.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Three-quarters there

With the Lakeland 100, the Trans Britain stage race, the Run24 24-hour event, the LDWA 100 and the Great Barrow Challenge all out of the way, things should have been getting easier. Instead, I'm struggling to find the physical and mental stamina to keep going at the moment. Apart from anything else, this is all so damn time-consuming!

I've learnt that it's a lot less difficult motivating yourself for the big ones than it is to keep on going, clocking up the miles week after week - particularly when, instead of getting fitter and faster, I'm getting more fatigued and slower because there's not enough rest and recuperation time. Yesterday's LDWA Founders Challenge, on a beautiful autumn day in the Surrey Hills, was a case in point. I'd tried to run a fast parkrun the day before - in an attempt to prove to myself that I still can, as much as anything else - and I paid for it in my legs and overall weariness levels. By the time I reached the first checkpoint after eight miles, I felt shattered.

My mental tiredness was reflected in the fact that I'd managed to forget both my watch and my phone. The phone at least would have come in handy to let people know that I was running late when it took me more than two hours to drive the 16 miles across London from Sutton to Holloway on my way back. I could have run it in less time.

Still, I have knocked another 95 miles off the 2012 since I last wrote here: the Round Ripon 35, the Nottingham Ultra 50k, Saturday's parkrun and the Founders Challenge. More than three-quarters of the way there: 460 miles to go.

Monday, October 1, 2012

2012 miles done, 555 still to go

I blame my cousin, Jean Philip. As well as being faster than me at the Paris marathon in April – his first – he asked me if the 2012 miles I was planning on running in 2012 was just in events. In a sudden rush of blood to the head (this was in Paris, after all) I said yes. If I’d answered no, I’d have hit my target on Sunday, on the penultimate mile of the Ealing half marathon, the day after my birthday and with three months to spare. As it is, I still have 555 miles worth of events to go.

At the moment, these comprise four ultras, nine marathons, one 25-miler, two half marathons, three 10-milers, one 10k, one 6k (dressed as Santa Claus) and 12 5ks. That still leaves me almost a marathon short of the full distance despite taking up every weekend (both days) and a fair sprinkling of weekdays besides between now and 2013. 

And if that isn’t worth a couple of quid in my charity collecting tin, I don’t know what is.

Many thanks to everyone who has donated already.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Please don't piss in the showers

The second two days of the Great Barrow Challenge were no quicker than the first two but my legs felt less tired each day and today I managed a more respectable 1hr 46mins half marathon on Hackney Marshes. They've got smart new changing rooms to go with the world's largest assemblage of football pitches (80-odd at the last count) on the Marshes, so it's all very different from the cold showers and spartan changing rooms of days gone by. Sunday league football will never be the same again.

They seem to have skimped on the toilets, though, unless they've hidden them somewhere. The men's toilets to which all the signs pointed had spaces for just two standing and two sitting. I suspect the showers are being used for more than washing.

1,437 miles done; 575 to go.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Kilometre 2012

I've just finished the second of four marathons in four days in the Great Barrow Challenge. This is Barrow in Suffolk, so a kerbstone counts as a climb round here. Not that you'd know it from the way I've laboured up the slightest incline. The legs that carried me up and down mountains last week could barely manage to walk the final few miles of the course yesterday, when I took five and a half hours to finish and was seriously doubting my ability to complete this week's event.

A good night's sleep (lights out before the football had finished) made today's marathon more bearable but an easy five hours on the flat still took more out of me than five hours over Pen-y-Ghent this time last week. I've made a mental note to factor in a lot more recovery time when I've got this 2012 miles in 2012 thing out of the way.

Speaking of which, I've now done 1,371 miles. I passed 2,012 kilometres somewhere around Kendal on day four of the Trans Britain last week. I've a feeling that it was probably in that slurry-filled farmyard where the farmer had parked his trailer so tightly against the stile that the only way to get over the fence was by clambering onto the trailer and jumping off it into the field on the other side. When I landed, the ground was so wet and churned up by cows that I sank halfway up to my knees. That place will forever hold a fond spot in my memory as Kilometre 2012.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Third in the Trans Britain

This year was my second entry to the Trans Britain stage race, and since there were a couple of other competitors returning for a second time, including twice winner Paul Oliver, the organisers must be doing something right. That ‘something’ includes some of the finest off-road running you can find in the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and Clwyd hills, along with great food from Nick the resident chef and always-excellent facilities at the overnight campsites. This year’s special treat was a bathroom, no less, with seemingly limitless hot water, at the day two campsite overlooking Ullswater.

There weren’t the hurricanes blowing in from the Atlantic of the previous two years, although the descent from a cloud-shrouded Pen-y-Ghent got a bit hairy with some of the gusting winds. But there was plenty of rain, swollen rivers and mud (along with the occasional shot of sunshine and a glorious double rainbow) to remind you that this is a long way from a boring urban run. The race covers 156 miles in six days, carrying all your own gear (apart from a tent) and taking in half a dozen substantial peaks along the way.

Favourite moment? Storming down from Rydal fell like a kamikaze mountain goat for a ridiculous sprint finish that saw three of us separated by just 10 seconds after five hours of mountain running.

That leg had special significance for me because I had to cut it short two years ago to lead an injured fellow runner off Helvellyn. With visibility down to a few metres and the temperature having plummeted likewise, it was no time to take chances. I got a time penalty for my pains, which certainly cost me third place overall in that year’s event and probably cost me second. This year, in a much faster field, I held on for third in an overall time of 34 hours 13 minutes 04 seconds. To say I’m chuffed would be one hell of an understatement.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A big 'if'

I’ve been slowly putting myself together again after the toll taken by the Lakeland 100. Almost five weeks after the event I’m still struggling to feel comfortable in my running again at any distance. My regular Serpentine RC 5k race last Friday was my slowest for a year at 23.05 – and almost two minutes slower than the one I did the week before the Lakeland. The BBC 10k race a day previously took me 49.42, about five minutes slower than I’d have expected. And the marathon distance in yesterday’s Enigma ultra on a flat course round the lake at Milton Keynes took me about four and a half hours – more than 45 minutes slower than my time on the hilly marathon around Lake Windermere in May.

The good news, though, is that my left foot seems to be okay(ish) and my neck, for which I have my first physio appointment next week, is only tolerably painful. I’ve clocked up a further 65 miles in the above-mentioned events and the Sandwell Six Towns Marathon (in which I navigated the 1.75 miles of the Netherton canal tunnel without a torch), so I’m now up to 1,145 for the year. I’ve got 336 miles lined up in the 15 days from 8-23 September, including the 156-mile Trans-Britain stage race and the four marathons in four days Great Barrow Challenge. If I complete that little lot without mishap, the 2,012-mile target might just start to look achievable for the first time since I took it on. But that’s a very big ‘if’ . . .