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.