Lakeland Ultra - 2nd July 2016 Baljit Dhanda

I always fancied doing something slightly longer in the lakes as the usual 15k-18k races that I normally do are fun but leave you wanting a bit more. So I was running along the canal when I spotted a runner with a 55k top and I thought I could give it a try.

 

So I looked it up and saw that Lakeland trails did a nice looking 55k course starting in Ambleside in July. So I took advantage of the early bird discount.

 

Next I needed a plan so I worked out a 24 week plan that went up to 65 miles a week. It also recommended running very slowly and doing a slow marathon as preparation.

 

Then I needed to buy a running backpack to carry all the mandatory gear : head torch, first aid kit, full rain gear, hat and gloves, emergency rations, whistle.

 

Training went pretty well. Even managed a couple of hilly marathons without too much discomfort. The marathons (Three Forts and Richmond Park) were on fairly warm days so I was slightly worried about doing an ultra in July. 

 

Booked a house in Coniston as would have a few in-laws in tow.

 

Back to the race weekend:

Drove to Coniston and then went off to register in Ambleside. This takes quite a while as they examine your mandatory kit to ensure it meets requirements.

 

Race morning was quite relaxing as it is a 10:30 start.

 

Race starts and grinds to a halt after about 400m as a white van is blocking the road and we can only get through in single file. In fact the first climb is like that as the trail is quite narrow and hard to pass. I forgot to mention that the rain has already started and I woud say it is ok enough not to require my rain gear yet. After 5.5k I reach the top of Kirkstone Pass which is the 2nd highest climb of the day. I stock up on jelly babies and ginger nuts while they record my number.

 

Next leg is straight down to Brotherswater and then flattish to Glenridding (11.3k). By this time the heavens have opened. The descent is quite tricky and I have my first fall but nothing serious. After that it is an easy trail to Glenridding. Into the checkpoint, restock and on my way.

 

Then comes the climb to Grisedale Hause which a 12.5k leg. This is fairly uneventful even though it is the biggest climb. Reach Grasmere which is just over halfway and have a cup of tea, cake, crisps, etc. I relaxed a bit as I felt the hard work was over as the next leg is fairly small and the hill looked less daunting.

 

The rain was pelting down and the wind was picking up. Started the climb over Silver Howe. This was quite rocky and my trails shoes were not coping with the wet rocks. It began to hail and temperature really plummeted. Managed to get to the top but the descent was hard. Lots of stone steps. Fell a couple of times but I thought I was through the worst of it when I saw the road ahead and knew it would be flat to the next checkpoint. Before I reached the road I slipped and fell a bit awkwardly and twisted my knee a bit. Got up with the help of some runners around me and then tried to continue the descent but the knee gave way and I slipped again. Reached the road and thought if I can get to the next checkpoint then I can assess whether to continue. So I walked 2k to the checkpoint at Little Langdale. 

 

So 37k of the 58k completed and still 7 hours to go before the cutoff, I stopped. I probably could have hobbled 21k to the finish on the flat but still a couple of the smaller hills to go and a descent back to Ambleside. Apart from parkrun I have never quit before so it felt a bit strange. Anyway phoned the wife who did the pickup.

 

It was a beautiful course despite the weather and hasn’t put me off doing another ultra. The runners are really friendly and the feed stations ace.

 

http://www.lakelandtrails.org/

Harry Hawkes 10 2016 by Rob Willin

It was a gloomy overcast start but I had optimistically packed my sun hat.  Mike and Angela Duff picked me up on Ealing Green and after a different route to Thames Ditton (don't always rely on Sat Navs) we got to the race village in good time.  The Harry Hawkes 10 is small with only 700 entrants so the village on the Green outside the cricket club was compact and low key, parking was easy although we used the second car park.  We beat the rush so queues for loos and number pick up were short, but it never got out of hand.  It all worked well with the numbers and so the venue never felt crowded.

With about 30 minutes to go I stripped down to running kit and started the gentle warmup to get flexible (but really to not get cold). At that moment there was the odd touch of sun so I needn't have worried.  Bags dropped (a self service arrangement that worked due to the small numbers), running plans discussed with the few Eagles and others including Martin White and Lydia, we wandered over to the start line for the official warmup.  I had just had my energy gel so was prepared.  At 9:30 we were off and it only took me 6 seconds to get over the line.  There was the inevitable bunching at the start but no real problems due to the low numbers.  I was aiming for about 7 minute miles and kept it at that pace through out.  I kept pace with Mike to start with but then watched him slowly pull away, but this was for me a fast run and not a race (honest guv!).  Angela had a different strategy and so started right at the back aiming to keep an 11 minute pace throughout as for her it was also a training run. 

The first mile or 2 was a loop around the Thames Ditton woods.  This was rather pleasant and the cross country training helped, fortunately it had dried during the previous week so it was not the mud bath that it might have been.  The pack had started to stretch out so although there were lots of runners around it wasn't too crowded.  Then back past the start and on into Kingston on the south side of the Thames, I was happy with my pace and I did not overtake many or get overtaken.  Meanwhile at the back others were obviously starting to tire (obviously starting too fast) and Angela with a steady pace was reeling them in.

Through Kingston town centre and over Kingston bridge, the run up onto the bridge seemed like a semi serious hill (undulation in EHM speak), so it was time to break out the secret weapon.  But disaster, I couldn't open the pocket zip on my shorts.  It is not easy to run at pace and fiddle with a zip on your shorts, good job Mr Yabsley wasn't there as he would have been yelling "ARMS".  A quick slurp of water at the next water station on the North side of the Thames and another fiddle with the zip and finally I could reach my wine gums.  The packet had already been opened (previously cut carefully with scissors so it wouldn't rip) and I managed to retrieve a couple for an energy boost.  This faffing about probably cost me about 10 seconds on that 5th mile, but it seemed to have some effect as I started to reel in the odd runner as we ran past Hampton Court Palace.  Back across the Thames at Hampton Court and down the A309, the speed limit said I could now do 40 mph, although that was a tad unrealistic, my pace was not dropping fueled by a few more wine gums and I was reeling in more runners that were slowing down.  My legs were starting to ache but otherwise I did not seem to be tiring.

We turned off the A309 and onto the side streets.  We weaved through these back streets and if it hadn't been for the runners in front, the signs and all the wonderful marshals, I would have been lost.  I finally recognised the bits of the Thames Ditton woods where we had run before.  The trails were not any muddier, it was easier with fewer people around and it is nice running through the woods with a bit of sun. I was on the home straight, down the final bit of road and then finishing off with half a lap of a cricket pitch (complete with players).  A cricket pitch is a big obstacle to get round and I am glad that they weren't hitting any sixes that day.  I had my final runner in sight but although he was slowing he was just too far ahead (if only there had been another 200m), I crossed the line with 1:10:39 on the clock.

So job done target of roughly 7 minute miles over 10 miles reached.  I got another big gong of a medal, I did ask the lady cutting the timing chips of the shoes whether she could do my toe nails at the same time, but that would have been an extra.  The banana and water were rapidly consumed.  I met up with Mike who finished just 80 seconds ahead of me with a PB of 1:09:21 (1:09:16 chip) and we sat and waited for Angela to cross the line.  I even managed to get all the stretches and stuff done whilst waiting and watching the other runners come in.  Then along came Angela with a time of 1:50:23 (1:49:36 chip) so perfect timing for 11 minute miles.  Although Angela did confess to a fast couple of miles at the end, but you are allowed a fast finish to overtake some rivals!

At the same time they were announcing the prizes and I almost got the fastest 55+ ladies prize but they realised the mistake (must have ticked the wrong box on the form or something).  We also met up with Dave Carlin who was running with a friend who was running gently at the back and swapped tales of the slow runners, especially one lady with a really odd arm action who just so happened to cross the line at that point.  Unfortunately we did not spot any more Eagles.

In conclusion, it is a great low key race but there were some quite fast runners from other local clubs there (fastest times being about 55 minutes).  The route is quite scenic in places and the marshals were very helpful and friendly

The Perth Kilt Run (Not Quite Ode to the Haggis) by Linda Newton

‘Twas a hot summer’s night when we headed to Perth

To join thousands of runners, full of energy and mirth.

For a Guinness World Record run in full kilts we did form

No shorts, skorts or spandex, that was not the norm.

 

We were marched to the start by three pipe bands – oh, aye!

With cheers from the pavement, not a cloud in the sky.

We walked and we walked ‘til the start line was near

And then we were off with a bang and a cheer.

 

Down to the first street, then turn with the pack

To the first water stand, and to throw a gulp back.

Oh yes, it was hot!  30C was the temp

It was not for the feint of heart or a wimp!

 

Through the streets of old Perth we did wind and wind

The locals they sprayed us and cheered us – so kind!

The pipers piped on and the dancers they danced

As we, through the streets ran on and then pranced.

 

Another sprinkler, a hose and then water stop

Keep sipping and running, you don’t want to flop.

Then on to the finish, oh what a sight

‘Twas a much welcome view, to be finished that night!

 

On through the finish line, Tunnocks and short-bread

Then for the ‘medal’ and beer, what a spread!

A medal to remember, a small whiskey pot

 

And a Guinness World Record, to finish the lot!

Endure24 - 11th June 2016

A compilation of comments and observations from Endure24 2016:

Sue

7am pick up from The Green, the ladies travelled by car, and Becky and Jesal were deposited in a field near Aldermaston which was already full of crazies, to set up camp. Paul and Stephen were duly collected from Reading Station and the team was complete. We looked like poor kids on a school trip with our tiny tents, groundsheet and not much else whilst others had camper vans, massive tents, BBQ’s, flags, etc.   Following a low key race briefing at 11.30 our opener (Stephen) set off at noon. The purpose was to run as many laps (5 miles off road) as possible in 24 hours, each team member taking it in turns. Stephen, embarking on his first Eagles event (despite being a member for 2.5 years ...where have you been?!) had a congested first lap whilst everyone sorted themselves out. It was also extremely hot as anyone who did Osterley 10k will recall.  The race included people running solo, in teams of 2, 3-5 and 6-8. We all completed our first laps trying not race - knowing we had 5/6 more to do in the next 24 hours!  Change of kit and most importantly socks is highly recommended after each lap. As dusk fell and the stars came out laps in the dark stretched ahead of us. Tired runners, incredible support, solo competitors (in some cases on a run of over 100 miles - hats off to you), chats about the Eagles, about clubs from all over the country and laps completed. 

I found the 01:30am lap the toughest with that nauseous feeling you get from waking in the middle of the night to go on holiday all the way round - I was glad when that one was over but am cross I walked up part of Heartbreak Hill having run up it on the other 5 laps). We managed a disturbed 30 minutes of sleep each. The trudge back to the tent (approx. half a mile), passing blurry eyed runners, illumination supplied by head torches like glow worms in the darkness. Dawn brought rain but also the energy came back when we realised we were over 18 hours in. Teams started to talk of injury. We expected similar but in the main were pretty healthy apart from Becky turning her ankle at the start of a lap and completing it like the trooper we know she is.  Paul (The Statistician) calculated we could complete 29 laps comfortably and this was agreed hours before the finish which thankfully left no-one under pressure and we could all just enjoy the occasion. Jesal brought the team home and the organisers allowed teams to cross the line with their final runner.

This event is for everyone. We competed this year with a team of five, an age range of 37 years and a 5 mile time of roughly 40-60 mins. It's a team race that is all about having fun, pushing through with a tough mental attitude and above all a sense of humour. We all had a great time and I highly recommend it.

Becky

Endure 24 is an unforgettable event. When I signed up for this new challenge all those months ago it never occurred to me that I would be running 25 miles over a 24 hour period with limited sleep!  The location in Wasing Park was beautiful and the woods called the Far Away Forest and Single Track Heaven were magical at night. Seeing and hearing the hippie van called the VDUB Bar just after 5K really prepared you for the long haul up the aptly named Heartbreak Hill whether you were running or walking. I've always enjoyed running as part of a team with the Eagles at XC but being part of a team of only 5 was special. We all relied heavily on each other for running the 5 mile laps, waking up in time, making the tea (especially Paul) or just having a good time. I'm still paying the price for running so far with inadequate training but I don't regret it one bit. Might even fancy doing it again another year if I feel crazy enough!

 

Jesal

It was fab and I really enjoyed the experience. It was hard at times - especially the one time when I didn't feel like waking up and doing my lap & had Stephen, Paul and Becky in a bind around what to do. The key thing I learnt (besides mental toughness) was the importance of pacing. I found that keeping a steady pace pretty much gave me the best experience and really good lap times as well. So definitely one to highlight – pace, pace, pace is the key

Also Paul makes a really good cup of tea :) and Stephen was the perfect gentleman giving me his tent while I was giving him one of my laps in return :( :(

The solo runners were very inspirational especially the 85 year old.

Oh and last one from me - The marathon stick is my new best friend. Also it is probably a good idea to take the day off work for those attempting it next year & also take a day of rest - unlike me who did not take a day off and also went to the gym.

Paul

Great weekend so much happened I’m not sure where to start. The highlights were:

Sitting watching the football after my 3rd run; sun was starting to set, I was sat with a burger and beer, felt so relaxed and good yet I had already run 15miles!

Night running, was such good fun, I was buzzing, loved it, very surreal, and not as bad as I thought. I also loved the fairy lights going through the woods, though for me some of them were flashing, so was a bit trippy but just so much fun.

The atmosphere out on the course all weekend, but especially during the last 2hours, everyone out there pushing it and also out enjoying it all at the same time. Everything about the course was great, from Little Steep, Far Away Forest, the Clif Bar Cafe, the VDub bar with the 'hippy guy', Heartbreak Hill (I walked every time apart from 1st run) and the flowing finish and run around the campsite always had support on (even at 1am).

 

 

Le Tour du Nord-Ouest (pas si lugubre)* by Andy McFarland

During an unexpected week back in the UK, I noticed there were races practically every night within 45 minutes of my mum's house. Here's my account of my little tour of north-west running:

Monday 6 June - easy run

I eased myself into the week with a brief trot along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, which runs behind my childhood home.

This regular route passes Aintree racecourse and you can look across to the Valentine's Brook and Canal Turn Grand National fences.

More importantly, it also passes the Blue Anchor - formerly run by legendary Everton goalkeeper Ted Sagar (who lived next door to my granddad) - and scene of my quiz team once winning a £100 jackpot.

The turning point for this out-and-back three-mile canter is Wango Lane swing bridge, where I once saw a red-breasted merganser (that's an impressive sort of duck) but no such luck on this occasion.

Dist - 3.15m, time - 28:43, elevation gain - 6m

Tuesday 7 June - Paddy's Pole fell race

There aren't so many fell races within striking distance of Ealing but I always keep an eye out for any that look manageable when I'm up north.

They're particularly good when you're missing your mojo, or just aren't in shape to run fast, because you're more focused on staying on your feet and just getting round. It reminds me of when I first started racing.

Try fellrunner.org.uk if you're interested.

This race took place near the village of Chipping, in the Bowland Fells, and its starting point was obvious by the dozens of cars lining a country lane.

There's an appealingly informal atmosphere at many Lancashire races. Here, registration took place from the back of a van and I was handed the number 100.

So it was that 100 hardy Lancastrians - and one Ealing Eagle - set off up the road leading to Fair Snape Fell. One guy had set off early and we were told: "If you see him, he's using a crutch but don't worry he's fine." I thought he was joking until I saw photographic evidence on Twitter.

After a short burst on tarmac, the route took us onto the boggy fellside. I say route but on lifting my head I saw most competitors in a line about 30 metres to my left, with a flock of confused sheep penned between us. A few stragglers were a similar distance to the right. None of the paths looked particularly quick.

Within a quarter of a mile, the entire field was walking, bent double against the gradiant like a police search team combing the land for evidence.

Paddy's Pole from the trig point on Fair Snape Fell [Photo: Tom Richardson]

Even when I did muster the energy to run during that initial climb - 186m within two-thirds of a mile - I went little faster than walking pace. Cresting that only offered a few hundred metres of respite before the uphill struggle resumed in the form of another 100m climb over the second mile.

No cheering crowds to help you up, either. Aside from startled sheep, only the occasional hill walker paid us any heed and these bluff sorts reserved their encouragement for their local team.

Rounding the trigonometrical beacon and Paddy's Pole itself afforded those of us who weren't trying too hard a chance to take in the view.

The beauty of these fells is in their bleakness, and they started to look a little more threatening as mist began to veil the view across to Parlick.

Distant thunder offered an extra incentive to quicken the pace. However, so steep was the final plummet downhill (150m in 1/3 mile) that I found it just as difficult as the climb.

Wobbling around in cushioned road shoes (my trail shoes were at home), I was forced to step aside to let others pass and even stopped altogether at one particularly steep point.

 

I finished 20th from the back, and second-last in my age category, but the race proved a breath of fresh air in more ways than one.

Pos - 81/101, distance - 3.74m, time - 44:51, elevation gain - 329m

Wednesday 8 June, Birkenhead Park 5-mile Road Race

If there was little fanfare ahead of the fell race, then this one went a step further. Most runners were still chatting away their pre-race nerves when the starting pistol nearly killed a few - myself included - stone dead with fright.

This was my first visit to Birkenhead Park, Britain's first such publicly-funded space and one which is acknowledged to have been the model for New York's Central Park.

I was impressed by its Regents Park-style pavilion and cafe, woodland, lakes and bridges.

Its layout, and the presence of so many club vests, reminded me of the Self Transcendence Battersea Park races so beloved of PB-hunting Eagles.

Birkenhead Park [Photo Sue Adair/Wikipedia]

Having first been run in 1972, this is billed as Merseyside's oldest race. It consisted of one short lap and three longer ones, if I didn't miscount, the race was on good surfaces with just a small incline.

Having recently run about three times a week - usually two short hill bursts and a 7 to 11-mile beachfront run, I was nowhere near PB shape.

I thought I might struggle to go much quicker than 8min/miles so was reasonably pleased when my watch was clocking about 7:20. My legs felt strong, if lacking pace.

Unlike Battersea, which tends to come up a bit short on my Garmin, this one measured a bit long. But 38:18 still wasn't my worst effort at a distance I always find difficult.

Pos ?/?, distance - 5mi, time 38:18, elevation gain - 15m

Thursday 9 June, Not the Walsh Two Lads Fell Race

The only trouble with fell racing in unfamiliar places is that finding the start can sometimes be tricky.

So it proved when - with less than 10 minutes till the starting gun - I found myself in Chorley, rather than the Bolton parish of Horwich where I was supposed to be racing.

I wasn't far away but the road signs weren't helping me and I decided to abandon the race. I still wanted to run, however, and followed some brown signs to a country park just outside Blackburn.

I'd never heard of Witton Country Park and feared its gates might be shut. However, I needn't have worried. As I arrived just before 8pm, there must have been 200 people warming down after taking part in a free 5k group run - a brilliant initiative, I've since learned, started by one man whose life was transformed by a couch-to-5k scheme.

Aside from that, there was a six-lane track with field facilities, a cycle club, artificial pitches where numerous netball matches were in full swing and an adventure playground.

I headed along one of the trails in search of a viewpoint at Billinge Hill and was soon climbing through dense woodland, with only birdsong and the crunch gravel underfoot for accompaniment.

I missed the hill and ended up dropping to the banks of the slow-moving River Wear, where I hoped in vain for the electric blue flash of a kingfisher. Instead, I was serenaded by a blackbird from atop a dead tree as I crossed a bridge. Few sounds are sweeter.

I left the river and climbed again, this time through a beautifully kempt cemetery, before heading up a farm track. I'm never that happy around cows but they eyed me with only minor interest as I eventually chanced upon the vista I'd been looking for - revealing rolling hills south towards Darwen.

With the sky darkening, I decided not to risk getting lost again and plunged back through the woodland back to the car. 

I'd hardly noticed the 5.2 miles I'd covered - by coincidence the same distance I'd have run had I made the fell race (albeit with 185m of climb, rather than 274m).

I felt great afterwards.

Distance 5.22mi, time 53:32, elevation gain 185m

Friday 10 June - Norden 6 mile Road Race

Described as a "fell race on the road", this forms the first of an intriguing three-day event in the hills north-east of Manchester. (T-shirts only to those who finish all three and prove it by carrying a tag on the last day and leaving it at the top of Knowl Hill.)

This was yet another informal start. No road closures here: just wait for a gap in the traffic, swamp the road and then bang! Off you go.

The first mile and a half was one steady incline. However, the gradiant was much less fierce than my outings earlier in the week, so I enjoyed the views.

To the left were the sort of Buttercup-filled fields where you might expect to spot Tinky Winky, waving his handbag. To the right were lonely moors, home only to wind turbines and the occasional stone farmhouse.

 

Photo from the 2015 race [Ian Slater/Rochdale Harriers]

Then it was a left turn over the dam at Ashworth Moor Reservoir and mostly downhill to the end along the sort of roads, bordered by high hedges, that would make Postman Pat feel at home.

Plenty of better downhillers passed me and, to be honest, I didn't feel inclined to try too hard to follow. I re-took a couple on some cruel, sharp hills that cropped up later in the race.

Drizzle and steamed-up glasses meant I couldn't take in too much after half way but I was pleased to be able to step on the gas at the five-mile marker and post my quickest mile of the race.

A cone of chips from a cracking chippy near the finish meant I topped off the night in true Alf Tupper style.

Another great race and I was sorry I couldn't do the full three-day event.

Pos 91/130, Distance - 6mi, time - 50:33, elevation gain - 173m

Saturday 11 June - Croxteth Hall Parkrun

There are two parkruns close to my mum's house, offering a choice of a windswept promenade at Crosby or the winding woodland trails of Croxteth Hall Park.

Or to put it another way, the locations of a romantic stroll past the haunting statues of Antony Gormley's Another Place installation during Clara's first visit to Liverpool, or of lustful - if ultimately fruitless - face-licking with my first girlfriend a decade or so beforehand.

Naturally, I chose the latter and after clambering out of my car tried desperately to restore some life to legs still stiff from the race I finished barely 12 hours earlier.

Croxteth launched just over a year ago but has built up an impressive community, with 333 runners lining up at the start in front of the hall which was built in 1575 and gradually extended into a handsome Edwardian stately home.

 

Croxteth Hall [Image: Liverpool City Halls]

It was a wet morning but the canopy of trees over most of the route kept us dry. There are a few little inclines but nothing too taxing.

Still, my tired legs were struggling to keep even to 8min/miles. At least they were until, with a mile to go, I was passed by a tubby bloke in a reproduction 80s Liverpool away kit.

That gave me the jolt I needed and I retook the place before stretching away and giving it a decent kick towards the finish.

Pos - 78/333, distance 3.08mi, time - 23:54, elevation gain - 15m

The parkrun neatly took my week's endeavours up to marathon distance.

My total running time was 3:59.42. So a sub-four hour marathon. Or sub-one week, at least, depending on which way you look at it.

Mostly, though, it had allowed me to see a bit of the world and enjoy running for running's sake. I finished the week feeling a whole lot healthier than I started it. Oh, and I got to hear loads of brilliant "proper" accents.

Maybe I should do this once a year?

If you find yourself in the north with time to run, a race-finder site I find particularly useful is John Schofield's UK Results service. 

It has plenty of interesting events that might otherwise slip under the radar. Note, though, that some won't make it onto Power of 10.

Total distance - 26.38mi, time - 3:59.43, elevation gain - 762m

* These things sound so much better in schoolboy French

Ottawa Half Marathon 2016 by Linda Newton

Winterman 2016. Remember my whining? The race gets delayed to allow time for it to ‘warm up’ to a balmy -25C with a lovely headwind from the west for a windchill of -35C.

It’s now May and time for the Ottawa Race Weekend races – 5K/10K/half marathon/marathon. I started tracking the weather a month ago, because Canadians are just as obsessed with it as the British. It was looking good with the forecast predicting mid-teens. Two weeks out it was 20C and cloudy. Two days out, the heat warnings began and suggestions that one or more of the races could be cancelled as the temperature was predicted to hit 31C, with the humidity making it feel like 38C.

Hmm … I’m sensing a trend here. I’ve only run five ‘real’ races in Canada since I returned and four of them have been either too hot or too cold. ‘Move back to London,’ I hear the Pluckies shout!

Unlike in previous years though, this year we had had quite a bit of hot weather leading up to the race, which helped with training and I had the additional advantage of including the tropical Ealing Eagles 10K in my training plan.

I’ll get to the actual half marathon race in a moment but first I have to commend Run Ottawa, the race organisers. They did a truly amazing job of anticipating the challenges the hot conditions presented.  

Run Ottawa started by announcing possible cancellations and warning people of the conditions on Facebook, Twitter, e-mail and in the media on Thursday. This is not an easy feat as there over 40,000 runners registered in the four main races. Saturday morning, it was announced that the 10K would be delayed 30 minutes and start at 7:00pm whilst the half marathon, on Sunday, would start 45 minutes earlier at 8:15 am. (Unlike Boston, the Ottawa marathon always starts at 7:00 am.) It was also announced that if runners turned up late for the HM start, they’d still be able to start at the original time of 9:00 am.

The 30-minute delay on the 10K was enough time for a thunder storm to arrive and douse the runners before they headed off. They started out good and wet, not ideal for some, but still better than good and hot. The 45-minute advance for the HM made an even greater difference. It was cloudy and about 20C, with a nice breeze when I started off. The sun and hot conditions only materialised over the last 3K for me. The HM course support was also adapted and energy drink/water stations were doubled to one every 1-2K rather than 3K. Misting stations, sponges and air conditioned busses were available every 5K or so, in addition to the locals putting on their hoses and lawn sprinklers.

Now for the race.

I was running with my friend, Meg (also waving in the pics), from the Ottawa Running Club and had a fab time. We started off with the 2:10 pacer but got behind as we walked through the many water stations to give us chance to cool down. The morning started cloudy with a nice breeze that cooled you off when running through the many sprinklers and misting stations. We ran through so many of them that at the end, I think we’d gained about 2kg! The sun kept threatening to come out but stayed in the clouds until about 18K. At that point the crowds of supporters were huge so we didn’t even notice the sudden increase in temperature. The finish is along the Rideau Canal where there is wall of cheering and encouragement until the finish line. When you got there you could even have your photo taken with a Mountie – we passed on the opportunity and let the tourists queue up!

 

The run itself is lovely. It’s a flat, grand loop around the centre of Ottawa and over into Gatineau, Quebec taking in the Rideau Canal, two bridges and great views of our parliament and other iconic buildings. Bands were playing, supporters were out in force and everyone was having a blast. It was the ‘fastest’ HM I’ve ever run, even if my time was not a PB.

If you’ve a mind to do running tourism, put Ottawa Race Weekend on your list. It even fits nicely with the UK half-term break!

 

 

Ealing Eagles 10k 2016 - By Heidi Vickery & Contributing Authors!

Phew, it was a hot one!  

But what an impressive turnout!  158 Eagles braved the heat and turned up in Gunnersbury Park to run in the annual Ealing Eagles 10km on 8th May 2016.  A huge number of Eagles also turned out to volunteer so a big thank you to all of you, as well as the organising committee – putting on this race is a massive undertaking and we really appreciate all your efforts!

 

Those volunteering, like myself, probably had the better job, as I got to stand in a nice shady spot and cheer everyone on!  There were a few looks of pain that passed me but also there was a lot of smiling faces enjoying the race, and a surprising number of PBs!  Well done everyone, and a big thanks to the pacers that got people round!

First man home for the Eagles was Jose Manuel Pabon in 37:49 and first lady for the Eagles was Melissah Gibson in 42:20.  Jen Watt also won her age category in 43:20, as well as beating Mr Santry, well done Jen!!

Here are a few words from some of those on and round the course today!

Susy Dand – Post Baby PB!

7 months ago I did what felt like my own marathon, and that was giving birth to my daughter. I had to stop running when I was 15weeks pregnant due to severe morning sickness. I volunteered at last years 10km and told myself I would run this year, after another Eagle mum told me she was running 6 months post baby.

So, somehow I found myself lining up on Sunday to do my first 10km in 18mths. (The comedy for me was that it was while running the Cancer Research winter 10k that I realised I was pregnant.) my little one was being entertained by Gill (an Eagle spouse) & seemed quite happy. My husband had been asking rather concerned questions all of last week - 'so what are you thinking about Sunday' & 'are sure you should be doing this?'. I had bee running & doing buggyfit but longer runs had been harder to fit in.

My determination... No, stubbornness got me there. As I stood looking at people I was sure had trained more than me, and wondering if I would manage half of it - I had 2 ladies next to me discussing that they had done 5km a few weeks before but nothing since. It made me wonder, many I could.

Before I know it,.we were off. The first 4km hurt - a lady cheering started shouting '' baby steps. Come on baby steps.' There wasn't much politeness in my head. I ran past the water station with t her lovely smiles and then got down to the trees.

I walked slowly down behind the trees on the second lap crying because I was hot, not sure I could continue with faster runner's flying past me on there third full lap & worrying whether Elizabeth was behaving or not. As one faster runner came past and started walking, and seeing the smiling Marshall clapping at the end. I had a little word with myself. So I started running again.

The rest of it I plodded & walked. I saw my little one sleeping & some familiar faces. The last lap felt do able - at the 8km I poured the water over my head and set my mind on the end. As I came down the last straight I was relieved I was going to be under 90min, and went as fast as my little legs would carry me. The Eagles cheers carried me to the end. I had done it - it was 25min slower than before Elizabeth. But I had set myself a PBPB - post-baby PB.

I then drank A LOT of water & ate what was in my fab pink bag.

Thank you to all who cheered, Gill for looking after Elizabeth& the Marshall with the big smile. It was great to be back in the coup, if I bit too hot.

Catherine Mulrenan - A Volunteer’s Perspective

Having had to make my decision to transfer my place to the lovely Lynne Kirkwood Price I knew I still wanted to be part of the 10k. I'd volunteered last year not knowing at that point I had the start of the whooping cough so am really hoping I'm not going to be jinxed next year as would love to run it one day! On saying that, this is one of the only races recently ( and I have had to pull out of a lot) that on race morning I had no FOMO whatsoever. Way, way too hot for me!

I was delighted my girls had agreed to come and volunteer too. It meant an early morning start for them which doesn't always bode well but the fact Jessica remembered the bacon sandwiches for volunteers last year seemed quite a convincing factor! Well that and the fact they really think the Eagles are a pretty awesome bunch of people!

I did feel a bit guilty that I would be leaving them so they could medal marshal right in the sunshine to go off to my shady spot at the bottom of the course but to be honest I think they quite liked the independence and responsibility!

At ten o'clock off I went to a beautiful spot with a little Easten and a little Mitchell ...what more could you ask for! Stuart did a great job putting up the sound system and worked really hard throughout.

We were based at a crucial junction ( aaaargh, the pressure!) but thankfully between Claire, Una and myself we sent everyone in the right direction!

Being a cheer squadding marshal was fantastic. We clapped everyone although it was obviously particularly great to see all the Eagles flying round, complete credit to every single one who ran in that heat! Skye got a special kiss each lap from mummy Easten and she did some great clapping herself. I think Skye was supposed to be ringing a cowbell to support but Claire Morris obviously had taken quite a shine to it and I'm sure most of the cowbell ringing came from her hand!

Kieren was hard at work taking brilliant photos down at the point we were. I do hope I've managed to stay out of most of them, I think I was pretty successful, thankfully! (yes you were, I couldn't find any of you!!)

As a marshal the organisation was great right through from registration to the finish. A huge well done to the team. The way the Eagles work together at this event is just one more reason why I feel completely and utterly proud to be an Eagle.

Sue Park – Words from the baggage tent

What may seem like a boring job is actually a great opportunity to chat to runners from near and far. The lady from Windle Valley Runners with a really low race number who ran her first 10k in last years race and hasn't done another since. She'd enjoyed 2015 so much she entered as soon as it opened and brought a friend this time.

I also recall the chap who arrived at 11:10 from Halifax via Richmond (wrong train), laden with luggage (I take less on a 2 week holiday), long sleeved, running tights, a jacket - none of which he wanted to remove despite my pleas...and his only explanation for it all - "I'm a friend of Rachid"!

Three Forts Half Marathon - By Sarah Mack

the one where we spent a lot of time eating cake

The Three Forts Challenge is one of those events that the esteemed WCR team captain, Jennifer Watt, had told me was my ‘kind of race’ early in spring 2015.  Unfortunately, we had already made the mistake of entering the Milton Keynes Half last May Bank Holiday so I had been waiting to find out whether she was right ever since.

Race day came around, a beautifully clear and sunny spring morning, and we set off to enjoy the day.  The race village was well-organised, with the usual slightly too few portaloos per runner ratio. I suppose this must be the reason why one of the canicross participants decided to cock their leg and relieve themselves on our recently appointed chair’s bag and shoe.

My racing companion, Andrea Hendy, and I started off at a steady pace, with her recent marathon success at Manchester as my excuse today for not going all out from the start.  About a mile in and we hit our first (noticeable) hill, which frustratingly came at a bottleneck in the course.  “Why are all these people walking, it’s not that steep?” I pondered, racing up the hill until realising there was just nowhere for me or the other runners to go on the narrow path.

Fortunately, the course widened and presented the first descent: a chalky path littered with rocks and boasting a fabulous gradient. Apparently, I can run more quickly downhill. Who knew? My legs kicked into auto-pilot and rolled down the hill, only stopping when we reached our first water station where I paused to let Andrea (who doesn’t pretend she is invincible when tackling a chalky hill) catch up.  Having discussed with Andrea the perils of a poor race hydration strategy in the first mile or so, it was good to see this at mile 2 in the race. Haribo jelly babies were scoffed then on we went.

The rest of the race goes pretty much like this: down a bit, up a bit, water station. Down a bit, up a bit, cake station…  “Hey, there’s CAKE!” Admire view, chat to marshals, admire view some more, eat a second slice of cake, speed off downhill like a 5-year-old who doesn’t have to worry about falling because their mum will pick them up if they do and then give them cake to cheer them up, cake station. Down a bit, up a bit, cake station. Massive up (accompanied by an a capella rendition of ‘The Only Way is Up’ from yours truly) followed by the ultimate race denouement: another massive downhill. Cue race legs switched on. Yes, Captain Watt, this is my kind of race.  

Apparently this was the second best weather they’ve had on race day. How lucky we were! Last year saw Sue Park and Dan Houghton running a mistier edition of this race so maybe running Milton Keynes back then was not such a bad call after all. Post race was spot-on: medal, more free cake (with a wider selection than on the course, plus popcorn) and a massage in the sunshine. Not sure what more you could want from a race. My advice? Run it next year.

London Marathon 2016 - By Christine Elliot

In short: It all went well... until it didn't! The toughest of the three I've done but also intense and memorable, with amazing support from Eagles and friends. 

Background: I've done Manchester the past two years and enjoyed them. My 3:43 last year gave me a good for age for London. I trained for roughly 3:40 this time was aiming for a pace between 8:20 - 8:30 which would give 3:38- 3:43. But I wanted to enjoy the race and I also was running for charity in memory of my friend Denise and that was more important to me than my time. Training went fairly well but some of my regular niggles did surface towards the end. Ominously, as it turned out.

The day:

Green start, weather good - chilly but sunny. Saw "fire engine", spaceman and T-Rex. Bimbled around with Emily, Ralph and Sara. Loo queue of course. Bags onto trucks, very efficient. Was wearing Stu's hoodie that he kindly donated to the cause. 

Banana, pen 4, countdown from space, we're off! Crossed the line in just over 2 mins. 

Crowded, crowded but good. Flew through the first 3 miles but not too fast. Marshals shouting "hump" at the speed bumps. SE London kids high fiving. Families out. Good atmosphere, very London. 

Hello Kelvin and co at mile 6.

Cutty Sark then 10k still all good. The miles are already coming up after Garmin beeps - should have turned off auto lap. Using pace tattoo - I'm about 20 seconds off 3:40 - that's fine. 

Spot more Eagles at mile 9 and despite knowing them all, I can only yell "Eagles" at them! 

Starts to feel a little tough around mile 11. Then at mile 12 I nearly fall on one water bottle and shortly afterwards fully twist my right ankle on another. Lady next to me asks if I'm ok. I say I don't know yet. Thoughts of the drop-out procedure run through my mind. I keep running and it IS ok, thank God. But I'm a bit shaken. Maybe I already wasn't picking my feet up well enough. 

Turn the corner and - boom, Tower Bridge! Amazing feeling and I look up and savour it. Great Marie Curie cheer squad on left hand side and I go and milk it. 

Off the bridge, look for my work friends Lisa, Emma and Caroline but I don't see them. Half way in 1:50:35

Still doing ok. 

I enjoy Narrow Street, people hanging out the windows and a great noise. 

At mile 16 it just all goes wrong. I don't know why but my right leg just starts aching and I can't pick it up properly. Pace starts to drop and declines over the next 10 miles. 

I had always said this one is not about time so I decide I'm going to get the most out of it. I look at the sights and take in all the atmosphere. 

Mile 19 Run Mummy Run crew. I run over and give Catherine Mulrenan a big hug and kiss. 

Mile 20 - not feeling great at 20. Very different to last time. Uh-oh, now my lower back is hurting. Got to hang on for mile 23

Mile 21 I see my mate Laurence then at last Lisa and co. Stop for quick hug. "It all hurts" I tell them. 

Soldier on and I know mile 23 is approaching, I get up on the kerb where it's low enough and run along. Amazing roar - thank you Eagles! High fives and then I see Stu and the kids - kisses. And one for Mr Eagle too. 

Unfortunately I don't really enjoy the last 3 miles, where the f*** is mile 25? But then it's 600m to go and I do manage to pick up the pace a bit. I thought I would get under 3:50 but no, 3:50:34.

Honestly I don't care. Glad to finish. Great medal, great organisation, find the family easily. 

No triumph but relief and also pleased about raising so much money. I did have a little cry a couple of times on the course thinking about Denise. 

Definitely not doing one in 2017, time to have a fallow year - if not longer! But I'm smiling on all the race pics and if this is my last one, I'm fine with that.

Boston Marathon 2016 - By Tom Easten

“This’ll be great!” I thought to myself as we set off, “finally training begins and going with Overton for the first run will keep me honest.” About ten minutes later, the pavement was hurtling towards my face as my left knee and foot began to voice their first objections to being slammed into a bike stand. After writhing around on the ground for a bit making a proper meal of it, off we went again. Nine miles, including the last four at LT pace, were done and dusted. That was that. Wasn’t it? 

The next day was an 11-miler. Or should have been; instead it turned into three hours at Ealing Hospital’s Urgent Care Unit for x-rays after I’d spent the day trying my best to pretend it didn’t hurt to put a pair of shoes on, never mind do anything else. Fortunately, there was no break. The doctor reviewing the x-rays said something like, “it’s a soft tissue injury. It should clear up with a few days to a week of rest.” At least, that’s what I think he said. I was too busy hearing “there’s no break. That means you can go and run as much as you like immediately.” A double session the following day to make up the missed 11-miler and everything was back on track. 

To cut a long story short (I’m not really cutting it short at all, am I? “What’s any of this rambling got to do with Boston?” You’re probably thinking. “Give us the gist of race day, tell us what was in the goody bag and let us get back to the real business of the internet; it’s been hours since I’ve seen a video of a cat doing something amusing or taken a test to discover my goblin name.” I have to dwell on the injury bit, though; always get your excuses in first), I didn’t miss a session in December and January. Things were flying along and a time of 2:50 was starting to seem achievable. However, the knee and foot pain were a constant presence in the background and shin splints kicking in at the end of January was the beginning of the end. Long runs were cut short in pain, sessions started to be missed and my beard was shaved off, which proved the final nail in my coffin. 

February and March were immensely frustrating. It’s hard, very hard, to admit to yourself that the time you wanted, and believed you were capable of, is no longer on the table. To delay that inevitable reckoning, I ran when I should have rested and ran too hard and too fast into the bargain. Desperate stuff, in hindsight, but seemingly necessary at the time. Lessons to be learnt, there. The build up to race day became, rather than the approach to peak fitness and sky-high confidence, a minefield of possible disasters. Time targets went out of the window and the focus shifted to making the start line capable of going for a run. It was a relief to get the last long run out of the way without incident, a 17-miler in the snowy sub-zero weather of rural Maine two weeks before race day. Decision made: I’d go out at 2:55ish pace, aided by the largely downhill first 14-15 miles, and that would give me something to hang on to. While a PB seemed unlikely, I wouldn’t drift too far off that pace. Even if disaster struck, 3:05ish would be the worst case scenario. 

Moving to Boston a couple of days before the race was special. The city embraces its marathon like no other race I’ve experienced; after so much history (this year’s race was the 120th) you wouldn’t expect anything less. The bombings at the finish line in 2013 had seemed, as these tragedies often do, to bring the city and the race even closer together. Boston Strong. Walking down Boylston Street on the Saturday and Sunday, the security was deliberately conspicuous: plenty of crash barriers, heavy police presence, a general sense of watchfulness that stemmed from more than mere anticipation of a major marathon. There were commemorations to the bombings at the site but they were understated and dignified, revealing a city not terrorised by an act of terror but instead, while angered and outraged, secure; confident they can take whatever is thrown at them and continue undaunted for another 120. 

So, to the expo. Less flashy than London’s but probably a little more to see; not so many eye-catching but pointless exhibits (free runners? bowling?) but more gear for sale and a few nice bargains to be had.  A densely-packed sea of runners with unreasonably white teeth which, not for the only time on this trip, made me puff on my cigars a little more furtively than usual. Number pick-up was straightforward and quick, the goody bag well-stocked. I always like a long-sleeved tech T-shirt and the Boston Marathon/Samuel Adams bottle opener was a welcome surprise. All that remained was to head home for final preparations. You don’t go all the way to the United States for a major race you’ve been training for for months and ignore sensible nutrition the day before, so cheeseburger, chips, onion rings, a beer and a few cigars it was. Dinner of champions. 

Race day started early. Alarm set for 5, heading out at about half past, get on the bus to Hopkinton at about 6. On the metro into central Boston, there was the usual gaggle of lycra-clad, fit-looking people wearing nervous expressions and exchanging knowing smiles. Only when we got to the bus loading area did the whole experience start to feel unique: row upon row of yellow school buses waiting to ferry us all 26 miles out of town for this point to point race. The Boston Marathon it may be but only the last couple of miles are actually run in the city. Legroom on the bus was suitable for a toddler or maybe a particularly small dwarf. Plenty of space for Santry to stretch out, then. We got out at a middle school in the small town of Hopkinton, a place you would never suspect would be home to anything of note, never mind a world-famous sporting event. Indeed, when we drove back there the day after (more on that later), you’d never know anything had happened there at all. 

The race village was in a field behind the school. Rather like the expo, there was nothing particularly fancy (coffee bar, couple of big marquees to shelter under, info stand and the usual portaloos everywhere) but it got the job done. An MC overlooking the scene from the top of a huge gantry provided a running commentary of events (and plenty of dodgy gags which were very much to my liking) to give us something to listen to. Eventually, after a couple of coffees and a cigar or two (“Thanks for sharing!” beamed one stroppy American sarcastically when he noticed what I was up to. Perhaps he thought sitting within ten feet of a puff of smoke was going to deprive him of the world record) it was time to start filing out for the 1k-plus walk to the start line. I solemnly folded my treasured green pre-race trousers and entrusted them to Santry before he went to the bag drop. The bag drop which was back in Boston and we should have used three hours earlier. Cue frantic negotiations (begging) to marshals and anyone who looked vaguely official. Santry sent me off to the start while he carried on trying to figure out what to do with his phone, credit cards, clothes and, above all, the best trousers in Ealing. I was still grieving their loss (assuming he’d have to abandon all our stuff) when I arrived at the starting pen just in time for a slightly odd rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner. There was still no sign of the Ivory Coast’s finest by the time a pair of Black Hawk helicopters roared overhead on their way to Boston. 

Finally (for us and indeed for anyone still reading this gibberish) the race was underway. Sharp elbows needed; less room for manoeuvre than London or any other big race I’ve run but it was an incredible feeling to be on the way to Boston. It wasn’t long, however, before things started to go awry. It was a hot morning, particularly in the first hour (it actually cooled as we made our way towards Boston and the coast as the day went on) and I found the pace of 6:35-6:40 min/miles I’d settled on a hell of a lot more effort than it should have been. After five miles or so, my knee first started to act up. By 10k my foot had joined in and the proper pain had started. 20 more miles…? You never want to give up too early but even at that stage, I couldn’t help readjusting my target to simply finishing the race, never mind the time. I maintained for a while but my pace started to drift after 8 miles. Mile ten was my last under 7 minutes. I went through the halfway stage in 1:29 but by that stage, sub-3 was out of the question; I wasn’t even completely sure of sub-4. It was just one mile at a time with an eye on mile 17 where the first appearance of the cheer squad was supposed to be.

Seeing them and stopping for a little chat and a drink of water was a huge boost, as it always is, but there was a tinge of embarrassment too; you want to do well in these races, not just for yourself but for everyone watching and following. Staggering along at the pace I was doing by that stage was hard. Over nine miles still to go, including the famous Heartbreak Hill. Gulp. In fact, the hill itself wasn’t so bad; anyone considering Boston in future should pay it respect but not fear it. It’s a long drag rather than a short, sharp shock. If you’re well trained, you’ll fly up there without losing much time at all. That done (and slightly proud of myself, under the circumstances, for not walking – plenty of people were up that hill and even before the ten-mile marker) there were only five miles of pain to go, with another cheer squad appearance scheduled before the finish. Pain increasing, pace slowing, we made our way into the city, by this time I was struggling hard to stay under 9-minute miles. Ellen, Sandra and Skye were in place a little before I’d expected them and on the other side of the road but luckily their screaming caught my ear in time to get one last boost to wrap things up. Right on Hereford, left on Boylston and the finish was finally in sight. Staggering over the line in a time of 3:21 (a proper Keenleyside positive split there) and it was time to head to the park and meet the others. There was plenty of food and drink for runners at the end but the security was still pretty tight; to get where I needed to go, a barrier had to be sneakily vaulted. I say ‘vaulted’. Try to imagine a drunk at closing time trying to get onto a bus through one of the windows, without opening it first. 

It wasn’t too long before the real end was in sight. The little park where we were going to reassemble was there on the right and at long last, it was time for a sit down. Sandra, Ellen and Skye appeared first, with little bottles of fizz for us. Santry appeared in short order to join the party. He’d managed to knock on the door of a local resident near the start line and drop our stuff off, to be picked up later. The green trousers live to fight another day! We drove back to the start the next day, a slightly odd experience since all trace of the race had been swept away and all that remained was one kind bag-keeping lady who’d even gone to the trouble of tracking Santry on Strava, presumably to ensure she hadn’t just been visited by some ghoulish leprechaun who’d be back during the night to raid her house for Jaffa Cakes. In the park, sipping bubbly and puffing away on a cigar, the crushing disappointment of the injuries. dreadful training and finishing time beyond my worst nightmares was already starting to give way to the realisation of what an extraordinary event it is and how lucky I was to have been able to take part. There’ll always be another marathon coming along to put things right (Berlin, you’re in my sights) and in any case, at our level, whilst PBs mean a lot and doing well is immensely rewarding, this is supposed to be a fun hobby, not life and death. As I’ve said to a few people since, what would the point of the marathon be if it was always easy? You need days like that to teach you to respect the distance and enjoy the fast ones. As far as Boston goes, I hope Kelvin and Sandra will forgive me for saying it is comfortably the best race I’ve taken part in. If you ever have a chance to go, do it. Simple as that. 

If anyone is still reading (your stamina, or boredom threshold, is vast) I can’t wrap things up without a word about my wife. From December to April, Ellen was a rock. Allowing my training to dominate our plans for 18 weeks, watching as I ignored her good advice to rest and allow my injuries to heal and then picking up the pieces when things inevitably went wrong, listening patiently to my near-constant complaining about everything, taking care of me when I was in bits after tough or injury-plagued sessions and not to mention going to work every day in a tough job so we can afford to go on these adventures in the first place. She’s way out of my league but she’s legally tied to me now so there’s nothing she can do about it. Oh, and she’s given me permission to do it all again for Berlin but that’s another story, to begin on Tuesday 24th May, hopefully without any bike stands. 

Boston Marathon 2016 - By Kieran Santry

Marathon Run a Race of Marvels

Would this be the headline on the Boston Globe the morning after Santry’s and Easten’s marathon attempt.

No this was the headline the day after the Boston marathon in 1903 when John Lordan a fellow West Cork man and Irish emigrant was the first to cross the finish line.

This plaque was erected in honour of his achievements.

Surely this was the inspiration I needed to get me through another winter of hard training. It was John Lordan’s 3rd attempt so at least I have two more goes!

‘’Santry you trained your arse off to get a qualifying time for Boston and once you got it you didn’t get off your arse’’ 

Thanks Ellen! She was dead right thought. I had gotten my marathon target time last year so motivation was seriously lacking this year.

Many sessions were skipped and I was a little like Conor McGregor (UFC Fighter) as I moved up 3 weight divisions in one go!

Luckily I didn’t have many injuries and got in most of my long runs but I knew in my mind I hadn’t hit the required paces.

Chicago in the springtime was the perfect place to spend a few days pre-race as I was there for my Godchild’s christening. A long story but I (and the child) ended up being over an hour late for it as we got stuck in traffic on the way to the Church!

My brother dropped me to O’Hare in Chicago for my Saturday evening flight to Boston. I was checking if other passengers were wearing garmins and if they looked like ‘Boston Qualifiers’.

Worryingly at baggage reclaim in Boston every other bag got picked up from the carousel and there was no sign of my bag which included my race card to collect my race number, racing flats, Eagles vest and all my gels and race day essentials. 

Holy Sh*te Santry!

The lady at baggage told me that my bag had definitely left Chicago, and that it might be stuck up in the overhead carousel, I suggested that I could climb up there and get it but she was having none of it and said airport security would be all over me.

I reminded her of what it took to get a place in the race and if my bag was up there then I was getting it.

She then passed a large empty tray through the carousel in the hope it would free my bag.  The tray passed through and still no sign of my bag. Oh it could be in New York Mr Santry. ‘’What the f**k ?’’

Well there was a flight leaving Chicago for New York at the same. 

Call us in the morning and we might know where your bag is.

Not ideal race day preparation but I still had a day to get ready.

I was suckered in buying ‘’The Boston Jacket’’ at the expo but I also had to buy everything else as I still wasn’t sure if my bag would arrive.

Walking the streets of Boston the day before gave me a sense of the occasion and I was starting to regret I wasn’t in better shape, this race is pretty special, a real sense of history and the locals love their marathon. BOSTON STRONG.

My bag finally arrived at Boston airport at 2pm and I made another mistake of not going to the airport to collect it myself.

They put it on a courier which didn’t arrive at our house until after 8pm, but thankfully everything was in it and I had to turn down Ellen’s offer of wearing her Eagles vest.

Tom and I had a little domestic that tested our bromance, he wanted to get to the race start as early as possible but I like to leave things until the last minute.

So Tom won and we left the house in what felt like the middle of the night! It was a cracking scene arriving at the race pick up point (and bag drop!) seeing hundreds of yellow school buses lined up ready to transport 36,000 athletes to the start line.

Although the leg room certainly was cosy!

We were so early we helped the organisers set up the race village

Even at that ungodly time it was getting warm, we were in Wave A and after 3 hours the announcer called us to go to the start line which was 1km away.

He then roared wave A only, not those in wave B or C, those in Wave B and C  you should have run faster in your qualifying race! That didn’t go down so well!

Tom passed me his hideous Green and Yellow tracksuit bottoms and we went looking for the bag drop that was 26.2 miles away!

After a few discussions with various marshals I was told I either had to run with my bag which contained my wallet, phone, change of clothes and finishers top or dump it.

I suggested hiding my bag somewhere and maybe collecting it the next day, that wasn’t a very wise suggestion given that there were snipers on the rooftops!

I broke the news to Tom that he would never see his tracksuits bottoms again he was distraught as we now parted in the hope I could do something with my bag.

I made my way to the start line considering what I would leave behind, I decided that I really had no option but dump everything and maybe just carry my phone.

Total disaster, as Roy says ‘Fail to prepare then prepare to fail’ 

Then I saw a few people outside of a house so I scaled the barriers and approached them. They couldn’t have been more friendly and my accent definitely helped.

Bonnie was the house owner and said that she and her husband were in all evening and the next day so I could leave my bag with her and collect it anytime. 

Problem sorted only now I had no excuses left.

A quick dash to my starting pen which was full of finely tonned athletes and myself. There was no sign of Mr Easten so I got chatting to a Dublin lad and we had good auld moan about how hot it was.

I had decided that I’d go out at 3:10 pace, get to half way at 1:35 and hold on as long as I could. Oh what a difference 12 months can make.

The black hawk helicopters flew over and the Stars and Stripes was belted out and we were off running the most iconic marathon in the world.

5 miles in and I was on pace but I have enough marathon experience to know it was requiring too much effort. I dropped the pace slightly but it was still more effort than marathon pace should have been at that stage in the race. 

Then the Wesley College Cheer leader girls deafen my eardrums for half  mile or so.

They certainly lived up to their reputation as they didn’t hold back on their signs!

‘’I’d never do a marathon but I’d do a runner’’

‘’My mother called me fanny’’

‘’Touch here and I’ll flash my t*ts’’

These were some of the cleaner signs along the way and I certainly don’t believe Tom’s claim that ‘I never even noticed them’ ya right!

I crossed half way in 1:36 so only slightly down on planned pace but each mile I could see the pace slipping away. It was great to see Sandra, Ellen, Skye and Linda at mile seventeen.

Heartbreak hill approached and I nearly did what I hadn’t done in my previous 12 marathons. WALK. It certainly crossed my mind but I kept thinking that this is the one and only time I’ll do Boston

And I didn’t want a really sh*te time on that Strava segment. I didn’t walk but my pace was now well over planned marathon pace. I did enjoy the last few miles as the crowds were going ballistic and I managed to hold a steady albeit slow pace until the end. 

The American crowds were boisterous and running up the slight incline and turning left onto the finish line on Boylston street is certainly a memory I’ll keep for years to come. 

3:26 was my finishing time.

Meeting the girls and Linney at the finish line was good and telling Tom his yellow and green tracksuit was safe brought a short smile to his rather grumpy face!

Tom, Skye and I travelled back out to the now sleepy village of Hopkington the next day to collect my bag and meet my saviour Bonnie.

She informed me that she held bags for 6 other runners, all of whom had collected their bags the previous evening.

Bonnie and her husband had a great day tracking the 7 eejets who missed the bag drop.  They had our race numbers on our bags so it was easy to track us. I have no idea who the others were but it made my day when she said that I was a proper runner!

She knew I had finished and when I didn’t collect my bag that evening she then started following me on Strava to contact me!

The locals of Hopkinton love Boston marathon day and she said her late father told her that he remembered when just a handful of runners use to gather in Hopkington.

If you get the chance certainly have a crack off the Boston marathon.

They do an awesome job of making you feel privileged to be running their historic marathon.

Just do at better job at preparing for it than I did!

Maratona di Roma 2016 - By Angela Duff

The Rome Diaries  - All roads lead to Maratona

2015

Since uni days I had been a runner, off and on. Usually more off than on. I would train for a race, do passably ok at it, and then reward myself by not running anymore for a while. I would subsequently lose all my fitness and have to start again from scratch for the next race. This had been going on for years. But in 2015 something was different.

I had started running again in May, back from a nasty bout of runner’s knee, and I was due to run the Great Newham 10k and a couple of work based 5k events in the build up to the Ealing Half Marathon in September. Having a penchant for California in the fall, Mr Duff and I had managed to miss EHM in previous years. But this year we were signed up to run, and I was really looking forward to it - because I knew it was the beginning of my journey towards Rome. 

I had been to Rome as part of a study tour for my degree, and had wanted to go back ever since. But for some reason every time there was a long weekend or a week away to plan, Rome was suggested and then got bumped for somewhere else. This had happened several times, so I came up with a cunning plan. One thing that usually guarantees we go to a place is if Mike wants to run a marathon there. Well, Rome has a marathon. I knew this because over my years as a more-off-than-on runner I had occasionally toyed with the idea of running it, pretty much on the basis that if I was ever going to put myself through the full 26.2, I might as well do it somewhere pretty to take my mind off the pain.

Admittedly, finding a really masochistic excuse for a weekend away wasn’t the only reason I had for considering running Rome. Mike was always a much more serious runner than me. I’d witnessed a few rounds of his marathon training by this point, and it’s a fact that the process isn’t always easy when you’re the one watching from the sidelines. You can’t fully understand what they’re putting themselves through, or why they’re so tired, or why you have to have brown rice for dinner AGAIN. And on the day, whilst you’re incredibly proud of them, you’re also hugely jealous of what they have achieved and the look of sheer elation on their face.

So I casually looked up some training plans. I had already run six half marathons, so I knew I could run for 13.1 miles. Most of the training plans I looked at only had a handful of training runs above 13 miles. That seemed ok. I wasn’t looking for a sub 4 time or anything crazy like that. Just to get round respectably and not show myself up. How hard could it be?

So that was it. For absolutely no sensible reason at all, I had talked myself into entering the 2016 Maratona di Roma.

I’d bloody done it now.

Flying With The Eagles

The next stage of the journey was an unexpected joy. A few weeks before EHM Mike and I decided to join our local running club, the Ealing Eagles. This was partly because I wanted to make sure I kept going after EHM on 27th September and build up a firm base before starting my marathon training. However the main reason was to make some new friends in the local area and start getting a bit more involved in the community. I never could have imagined how much being part of the club would come to mean to me and how big a part of my life it would become in so short a time. Between EHM and the end of the year I was running more than I ever had, and thoroughly enjoying doing so, with the most amazing bunch of people. I ran loads more races, increasing my medal haul no end. I tried cross country and loved it. I became a regular at parkrun and wondered why the hell I had been signed up for years without ever going to one before. I started volunteering to help with the club beginners group. I had incredible new friends who refused to let me sit on any tiny bit of extra potential they could see in me, pushing me to new PB’s in the half marathon, 5k and 10k distances. I had 5 different pairs of running shoes for different types of runs. And nothing makes you feel more part of a team than having ‘Go Eagles’ screamed at you every time you race in the club vest (or randomly on the street when you run past a fellow Eagle, for that matter – yes Wei Hei I’m looking at you!). So now I had another reason to actually go through with this crazy plan of running a marathon in Rome. I had myself to answer to, but I also had my club to make proud.

Having said that, 26.2 miles is a really, really long way. What if I couldn’t do this? What if my runner’s knee came back half way through training and I had to admit defeat and forfeit the race? So I decided I would run Rome, but I would keep it to myself. Mark Yabsley had agreed to be my coach and was the only person outside our immediate household who knew I was training for a marathon. From the outset he seemed to enjoy the deviousness involved in keeping it below the radar (you can draw your own conclusions as to what that says about him). The cover story was that since Mike was running London I had decided to follow a similar plan so that I could join him at the organised 17 and 20 milers later in the spring, just to see how I did. No pressure. I’m still not sure how many people who were told this believed it – I mean it’s totally normal to train to run consecutive 20 milers for no reason whatsoever, right?

January

Training started well. I cruised through the weeks’ long runs up to the half marathon distance. I was a bit worried about going over 13.1 miles for the first time, but by doing what Jedi Master Yoda-bsley said and slowing my long run pace right down I managed to keep plodding on. By the end of the month, I was up to 16 miles. Whilst I still felt comfortable, it had definitely started to feel like this was where the real challenge would begin. I struggled up the Horsenden foothills in the last mile of that first 16-mile training run puffing like a steam train –  and why had it never occurred to me that the part of your body bearing the brunt of this sort of mileage would be your feet?! I could also feel my trick knee starting to play up and something that felt like it might be the start of shin splints, but was determined to go into month 2 of this journey without getting paranoid about every little twinge.

February

So, not shin splints. Halfway through February, a Saturday long run following a Valentines night on the tiles in unsuitable shoes caused a minor disaster to strike. I had pain in the outside of my right foot, which got progressively worse over the next few days until I could barely put weight on it. My rather stern but terribly helpful physio informed me I had stressed my peroneal brevia, which turns out not to be a cheap Italian car but rather a somewhat crucial but overworked tendon on the outside of my calf.

I was out of action completely for a week, before braving the Wokingham Half and managing a respectable new PB of 02:12:18, which was entirely due to the amazing support of Liz Wirdnam who point blank refused to leave me at 10 miles when everything seized up. She was having none of my ‘go on, leave me, save yourself’ melodramatics, for which I was beyond grateful. I was in quite small pieces by the time I crossed the line. But I was relieved – if all stayed well, I had only lost a week. Not the end of the world, and judging by the marathon blogs I was seeing from the Eagles’ VLM runners, being out for only a week seemed pretty lucky at this point. 

Wokingham aside, February was tough. It seemed to be a month spent doing endless foam rolling - during one particularly memorable session the pain and sense of weakness was such that I ended up just lying on the living room floor in a pathetic heap, simultaneously swearing and sobbing into my yoga mat - and equally endless slow mileage. Banned from track or tempo work, I ended the month’s training by plodding my way around a tough Gade Valley 17 course, willing my calf and hips not to fall off or go twang, and glad to see the back of the last few weeks.

March

March got off to a bang with a couple of good days of pain free training ahead of my first ever 20 mile event, the superbly friendly and excellently well stocked goody bag-ed Thames Riverside 20. The conditions, organisation, and marshalling of this event were all brilliant, which was a good thing because had it been otherwise it would have made this 3 hour 51 minute slog a lot less bearable. I also had some great company, falling in almost immediately with a lady who it turned out was also training for Rome! As she wasn’t an Eagle, I immediately swore her to secrecy, confessed my secret, and picked her brains about what to expect. I finished the run very stiff, in a bit of pain, but reassured that the famed Roman cobbles wouldn’t be as punishing as another run on a bloody English towpath.  

A week later I dropped 13 minutes off my Riverside time at the Spitfire 20, and it felt amazing. I felt like my strength was on its way back and I had surprised myself with how much I enjoyed this second go at such a ridiculously long distance, not to mention all the blokes I overtook who had gone out too fast. Maybe the marathon wasn’t completely insurmountable after all…

People were seriously starting to ask questions now. Mostly ‘why are you running 20 milers on consecutive weekends if you’re not training for a marathon’. Madam Chairwoman Allie was definitely sniffing around the truth; I was sure she was expecting me to pop up unannounced at Manchester. I started to wonder whether I should just come clean. But I headed into the taper still mired in subterfuge, determined to enjoy the cut in mileage and the extra time for physio exercises now the business end of training was behind me. A spectacular mid club run fall with three weeks to go leaving me with a grazed multi-coloured knee wasn’t part of the plan, but you can’t stick completely to schedule for these things can you?!

Rome

And so to Rome! We flew out on the Friday and headed straight to the Expo to avoid the day-before madness of the Saturday. Number duly collected, race T shirt personalised, we headed back to Colosseo station purely so I could grin widely and not quite hold in the tears at the magnificence of the ancient centre of this amazing city. There were changes (apparently the forum is only SPQR these days in exchange for 12 euro), and I was banned from gelato til Sunday afternoon, but it was still the same beautiful, vibrant place where I felt so at home all those years ago. I decided I couldn’t have chosen a better location for my first marathon.

On Saturday we met up with Phill and Sonja for dinner and made arrangements of where to meet the next morning. Phill had known I was running Rome for a while, since I really didn’t want to freak him out just before the race if he saw Mike and I at the start and thought we had just stalked him there like weirdos. Sonja hadn’t known until Saturday dinnertime but couldn’t have been more cool about my keeping it to myself, or more helpful with last minute tips and reducing the nerves by keeping us laughing. It was fantastic to have their company and for race weekend to be a bit more of an Eagles road trip than I’d thought it would be. Just another example of how brilliant the club is.

Race Day

Race day went by in a blur. The small number of loos at the start compared to the amount of people running meant that you just about had time to get there, queue for a wee, put your bag in the trucks and get over to the pens. This helped with any race day nerves, because there just wasn’t time to think about it. The 20 minutes or so we spent in the pen before heading off were easily the most nerve wracking of the entire day. Random thoughts came out of nowhere. There were so many people, bin liners and bottles around on the floor. What if I fell? What if I couldn’t keep up? The pacers didn’t seem to be in the right place. It was really warm. This was going to take me nearly 5 hours…I would never make this!

But then, to the sound of loud dance music and an unseen announcer shouting ‘Rome is at your feet!’, we were off! The first few miles were exhilarating, trying not to slip on the cobbles, listening to the cheers of the crowd, getting swept up with large groups of locals who screamed for joy whenever we went through an underpass – we were at 10k before I knew it. At this point a lot of people started to walk, and despite revising my pace early on to adjust for the hot weather I was already leaving people behind which gave me a bit of a boost. The second 10k was much tougher. The time was still going quickly but I just couldn’t hit my stride. The sight of Mike and Sonja at 8 miles - Sonja in classic EHM green and madly waving a cowbell whilst screaming ‘Go Eagles’ at top volume - was very welcome. Then at 10.8 miles a commotion caused by locals rushing across the route distracted me, I lost my footing on the cobbles and stumbled to the ground. I was scooped up by some kind Italians and sped off out of embarrassment. Oh God, I had fallen during the marathon. And right in front of the Vatican as well! I tried to be philosophical about it. Oh well, if the Pope saw me maybe he would think I was just genuflecting. At least I hadn’t actually been in front of a Swiss Guard – although they might have been grateful for not looking like the biggest idiots in the immediate vicinity for once. I’m so used to falling when I run (or just in life generally being a clumsy bugger with virtually no depth perception) that really it wouldn’t have been me running this damn marathon if I hadn’t gone over at some point, surely? But I admit it did knock my confidence. A mile or so later I realised I definitely needed to stop and use a loo. Despite the lack of loos at the start there were an abundance of them out on the route, and I managed to find a completely queue-less one to avoid wasting too much time.

At this point I had to give myself a bit of a talking to. I hadn’t been able to keep to my planned pace, I’d needed to stop to use the loo for the first time in any race, and I’d bloody fallen over. After a stern ‘get your sh*t together’ and half a mile with no further incident I picked up a bit. I might not have been covering myself in glory here but I had no intention of letting this race defeat me.

The miles between about 16 and 20 are not well supported. It turns out those are the miles where support would have been very welcome. There was a stretch around 18 miles where we were running up a hill which was sheltered from the wind and had no trees or buildings to offer any shade which was definitely the hardest part. Lots of people around me started walking. It took every ounce of determination I had not to join them and to just keep running.

And then suddenly we were past 20 miles. For a moment I felt amazing, I was nearly there! But no, hang on, there was another 10k to go…! Thankfully those last 6 miles are where the Rome marathon comes into its own. You head back into the city and suddenly you’re ticking sights off at every turn; Piazza Navona, the Area Sacra with its stray cats, the Vittorio Emanuelle monument, Via del Corso, Piazza del Popolo. Piazza del Popolo marks 39k – just 3 and a bit to go! Cruelly just after 23 miles the route goes within sight of the finish line, but at Piazza del Popolo you really are nearly there! Somehow, from somewhere, with the final music act of the route’s choice of ‘Killing in the Name’ spurring me on (yes, I did sing along to the sweary bits. Sorry.), I flew through the Piazza Venezia towards the honour guard of Centurions waiting to welcome me over the finish line. And I could see the clock – I had made it in under 5 hours. Overwhelmed, I staggered to claim my medal, vaguely registering that it isn’t a pretty sight trying to cry when there is no water or breath left in your body. A few metres more and there were Mike, Phill and Sonja waiting for me, cheering and waving.

I had completed the 2016 Maratona di Roma in 4:55. Phill had clocked an incredible time of 3:26. All that training, tiredness and endless foam rolling had been worth it. Tired, happy, with sore feet, we headed off for a Team Eagles lunch. And yes, it did involve a bowl of gelato the size of my head.

Thank You

I have to give the biggest thanks to the amazing Mark Yabsley, who not only coached me brilliantly and dug some potential out of me that I didn’t really think was there, but kept my dirty little Italian secret the whole time. Hours listening to my whittering over lots of cups of tea, almost constant support on messenger, only ever the best of advice, and just one threat to get the Riot Act out; I honestly don’t know how this awesome chap has time to do everything he packs into his busy days but I am very grateful that he managed to find time to coach me. I couldn’t have done it without him. Thank you Mark!

Practicalities

A few people have asked me about the process of running Rome, since few Eagles or indeed Brits seem to try it when compared to choices like Paris or Amsterdam. Here is my practical advice about the Rome marathon.

·         It is a pain in the arse to apply to. You have to register to the online portal either with an affiliated membership number or something called a Runcard which costs a few quid and guarantees you a load random emails in Italian for the rest of the year. Just use your EA number, it’s easier! I didn’t have one when I first applied and it was a bit of a faff. You also need to get a medical note saying you are fit to participate, a la Paris. And expect to wait a while for them to tell you you’re in. The Italians are not to be rushed.

·         Don’t fly with Alitalia. Nightmare.

·         The Expo is a good size, easy to navigate once you’re in, and you get a great race pack consisting of a very fetching, well sized race T shirt and a good quality backpack. It is in a horrible industrial suburb of Rome called EUR, which fortunately is really easy to get to (and away from!) on Linea B from the main centre. Also if you like Roman History there is a museum there worth a look for its reproductions of hard to see elsewhere statues and an amazing, massive scale model map of the ancient city – Museo della Civiita Romana.

·         There is a 4k fun run which includes a jaunt around the Circus Maximus, starting just after the marathon sets off. Not a bad plan for a running partner and/or kids while they wait for you to get back!

·         It’s a decent sized pack – 13,000 people this year. So if you haven’t done a big marathon before it’s a nice size to start off with, not as scary as London!

·         There are not many loos at the start, but there are loos at every water station (every 5k-ish) and every sponge station (every 7k-ish). Water stations are well stocked with water, energy drinks, gels, fruit etc. Sponge stations were a bit of a weird concept for me but easy enough to navigate.

·         People seem very panicky about the ‘cobbles’. Remember these are not British cobbles. Mark tells me they are more properly referred to as ‘sets’ and are in fact completely flat on the top. Yes, if its wet you need to watch your footing, but honestly most of Rome’s pavements are made of tufa or marble so slippery floors are par for the course if it rains. In reality only 7k total of the route is cobbled, the rest is tarmac. Just be careful at the water and sponging stations!

·         It was warm. Should have been 14 degrees, was more like 20. Bear that in mind after winter training.

·         Baggage on the day is excellently well organised. I think it took me about 30 seconds to get my bag back. All done in number order from trucks.

·         There is a decent amount of music on the route, but the area between 16 and 20 miles is quiet in terms of support. You get nice views of the Tiber to make up for it though.

·         The medal is different every year and this year’s was a classy affair in Roman soldier colours. Very good bling.

·         Speaking of soldiers, you get welcomed home over the line by an honour guard of Centurians from the Gruppo Storia Romanum re-enactment group!

·         You run past the Vatican, the Spanish Steps, and the Piazza Navona. You start and finish between the forums in the shadow of the Colosseum. You’re in Rome for goodness sake, what more do you want?!

Manchester Marathon 2016 - By Ewan Fryatt

Why being an Eagle changed me from hating marathons to possibly enjoying parts of them

The brief was to write a blog that that may inspire others to run a Spring marathon next year. 

If so, the title of this blog may suggest you should not be reading this.  So feel free to stop, after all it did not take long to write; unlike marathon training - that takes a huge amount of time. Come to think of it, I’m really not sure why people attempt marathons. But I digress…

Actually this blog aims to show that even I can now enjoy parts of marathons; and so I would think everyone can. So please read on. 

Some context; I have divided my experience below into three key parts of a marathon – preparation, running, and recovery.  As background, my general thoughts on those aspects of running, which inform my thoughts on marathons are: 

1) Preparation: I don’t like training plans. Unpredictable work and having two small kids make a plan hard to follow, but fundamentally training plans just add stress to my life. I think about my training a lot, but it’s very rare for me to choose what session I’ll do more than a day in advance;

2) Running: I only really enjoy running when I’m going fast. Anything slower than tempo pace is just a necessary evil;

3) Recovery: it’s boring. 

The way this then translates to races for me is: 

5k race – fun

10k race – reasonably good fun

Half marathon – tolerable

Marathon – not fun

Clearly not everyone feels that way, so things can hopefully only be better than I set out below. 

2015 - How I came to run another marathon

Given my feelings about marathons, I’ve not tried to run many. My only marathon prior to November 2015 was back in 2009. That’s where I learned that I do not like them. 

Then, in September 2015, I moved back to Ealing, ran my first race as an Eagle at EHM 2015 (though not a visible Eagle as I did not have my vest yet), and it turns out what would normally just be a ‘tolerable’ distance was incredibly good fun. 

‘Maybe I should run another marathon’, I thought. 

At that time though, my only real goal in running another marathon was to break 3 hours. It felt like a time that was achievable, so just needed to be conquered. Having a good training base after EHM I thought I’d design myself a 5 week training programme and just get it done. 

I signed up for a small marathon for the end of November. I ran it in 3:00:47. I failed to achieve the only goal I had that day, and didn’t really enjoy it that much. But I guess I also didn’t dislike it as much as I thought I would. 

2016– How I came to run Manchester

A month after the above, still obsessed with breaking 3 hours, I decided to run another marathon. But it needed to be one that had the 2015 EHM formula – lots of Eagles there. So I chose Manchester 2016. 

Spoiler alert – it didn’t go to plan. 

It happened as follows: 

1) Preparation 

Marathon training plans are tough. With my natural fear of training plans (and as an aside I really admire people who have the mental strength to follow a 14-18 week plan), I decided that 10 weeks of training would be enough. Like previously I had a good base and fitness, so the only rule would be to do a long run before work each Tuesday – starting at around 15 miles and gradually increasing to 23 miles. Then run as normal the rest of the time. I’d then run a fast half marathon 3 weeks out from Manchester. Then taper. Then dip under 3 hours in the marathon. Then retire from marathons. That was the plan. 

The plan didn’t go to plan. I got injured in week 4. Fortunately I could still cross train so I was able to do some even more horrible training than long runs, by working up to 3 hour sessions of cross-training in the gym. But no long runs. As a rather obvious learning point, this is not recommended as preparation for a marathon. 

After my foot healed, I had a few weeks of gradually increasing running, and got up to 15 miles again. But it was already time to taper. I did actually run a fast half marathon at the end (fast for me anyway at 1:22). I tapered. But did very few long runs. Again, as a rather obvious learning point, this is not recommended as preparation for a marathon. 

But in my mind the plan to dip under 3 hours in the marathon was on. 

2) Running 

I didn’t have many long runs in training, so I was actually quite looking forward to long slow running for once. Did I mention the lack of long runs is not recommended? 

Now to the race itself. 

The build up to a marathon does have some aspects to it that I knew in advance would be fun – mainly the opportunity to enjoy a lot of pasta. I had 4 courses of pasta on the Saturday before the race. So far so good. 

I arrived on the start line feeling quite confident, albeit with a few mental doubts about lack of distance training, and unfortunately a cold. I would have rated my chances of sub-3 at around 71% then. 

Like many marathon stories, the first 20 miles were enjoyable (well, the 19.7 or so in this case). Right from the start there were Eagle cheer squads. My garmin failed almost immediately, but eventually started reading pace again so although slightly irritating to not know distance, it meant I could ensure I wasn’t going too fast. Eagles were popping up everywhere to provide encouragement. I got completely distracted by the anticipation of when I would next see Eagles cheering, waving flags, and holding amusing signs. I passed half way in 1:28. It all felt fairly easy. 

It wasn’t long after that the easy pace became a lot harder though. By mile 17 the doubts had set in as 6:40 pace was feeling harder than it should, and 9 miles to go sounded rather a lot to me. Thankfully two Eagles cheer squads in short succession gave me the confidence to carry on at the same pace until 19.7 miles. 

At this point, it’s worth emphasizing that the Eagles squads alone made the marathon worthwhile. I revisited this from the other side of the barriers at mile 23 two weeks later, and I almost wished I was in the race. But back to Manchester around 19.7 miles…

I hit the wall. This didn’t happen in my 2015 marathon in quite the same way; it was a very gradual decline then. In Manchester I very suddenly felt I had no energy at all to go any further. This is the real challenge of the marathon and when the test of physical and mental readiness really comes in. In this case, I failed it. 

The last 6 miles were awful. As I had to slow to walking pace, the 3 hour pacers passed me. I can’t remember exactly where as it’s all a bit of a blur, perhaps it was somewhere between the first 22 mile marker, and the second 22 mile marker about half a mile down the road from the first. The trauma in that moment of realising those 3 hour sessions in the gym were wasted distracted me momentarily from the severe physical pain. That’s really just part of marathon fun I guess. I finished at a jog in 3:09. 

3) ‘Recovery’

By recovery, I mean beer. 

My disappointment was largely cured instantly by walking into the Wetherspoons to the cheers reserved for each marathon runner that entered the pub. Meeting new Eagles, and seeing ones I knew, sharing stories of running and cheer squads with them, banished any remaining thoughts that maybe this hadn’t been worth the effort. 

Later that night further recovery involved dancing, lunging and some recovery pole dancing. I did not even get injured in doing so. 

I really do strongly recommend marathon recovery. 

Parting thoughts 

Had I run this marathon without being an Eagle, I would have seen it as failure, and definitely not fun. 

But it was fun. I’m glad I did it. I will do another one. 

And this would have seemed like a crazy thing for the pre-Eagle me to say, but I’d even do one where I knew I could not beat 3 hours. If there were enough Eagles going.

So I have revised my philosophy on racing. It is now: 

5k race – fun

10k race – reasonably good fun

Half marathon – tolerable (EHM more than that obviously)

Marathon – not fun

Any race as an Eagle, including marathon – fun

The only two bits of advice I have are: 

If you’re going to run a Spring marathon, make sure you do some long runs first; and

Run a Spring Marathon. It’s fun. Why wouldn’t you? 

Ottawa Winterman 10k 14/02/2016 - By Linda Newton

It Can’t Be as Cold as Last Year!

Winterman 2015. Remember it?  I posted a video clip of the start last year – no faces only bodies with every possible part covered, and then covered again to protect themselves against the -40C temperature.  Somehow Eastern Canada missed the memo about global warming last year.  The Ottawa running year started out with 20 days below -20C before mid-February.  This intrepid Eagle should have known better as we were in the midst of the coldest winter on record, but no, she ran Winterman 2015 and lived to write about it!

Where is this going you ask?  Wait for it...

Winterman 2016 approaches and, thanks to El Nino, we are in the middle of the warmest winter on record.  Only two days below -20C since winter started.  I run in shorts on Christmas Eve and even manage capris a few times in January.  So I sign up, along with hubby, for this year’s event.  After all, it can’t possibly as cold as last year, or can it?

As we progress through the week, the forecast gets colder and colder.  I tell the Pluckies that it will now be -25C; warmer than last year mind you, but still colder than Teresa Connolly’s freezer.  By the time Friday arrives, the ‘do not go outdoors unless you’re stupid’ warning is all over the news.  I wake up Saturday morning only to find my weather app telling me that it’s -25C but it feels like -48C outside thanks to the strong winds. Surely Sunday will be better.

I keep checking my app all day and it doesn’t change and then at 11:00PM the e-mail comes:  **URGENT WINTERMAN UPDATE**.  “While Mother Nature has reared her ugly head, we are still going through with Winterman, but in a revised format!  The late decision to amend the original format has only unfolded in the last 8 hours as we monitored the Environment Canada website which has indicated that the cold spell is not going to subside as originally forecasted.”  The marathon and half marathon have been modified to a separate 10K and the 5K/10K start has been delayed from 8:30 am to 11:00 am.

It’s now Sunday morning and the thermometer reads -28C.  By the time we head off to the run it’s a balmy -25C with a lovely headwind from the west for a windchill of -35C.  So much for the warmest winter on record!  Still, off we head to the start and away we go to the sound of a 125mm howitzer (a big gun).

The course is the same as last year, two out and back 5K loops.  The out is uphill, cold and windy but the sun is shining and it looks like a glorious day otherwise.  The back half is tropical by comparison, with the wind at my back I fly along.  There’s been an ice fog overnight so the trees look like they’ve been painted by Jack Frost.  Unfortunately, it’s now too cold for my camera so I can’t get a picture.  I skip the drinks on the first lap but by lap two some nice warm water is looking good.  Only problem, they left it out too long and it froze along with the Gatorade.  Oh well, only 2.5K to go.

The last two km are great, it has warmed up slightly, or at least I have, and I cross the finish line with a final sprint.  Bring on Winterman 2017.  It can’t be as cold as this year!

Box Hill Fell Race 23/01/2016 - By Catherine Mulrenan

Tales of a slow fell runner! 

I had been nervously excited for ages about this race. This was the second time of doing it and last year I had been petrified about what nonsense I had let myself in for. I had visions of not being able to complete it, falling over and getting lost but luckily Carla, Lisa and Harriet had pep talked me and it was an amazing experience. I loved it so much in fact that there I was last Saturday back for more. 

I knew this year that I'd have to take it easy, my lungs still aren't a hundred percent from having whooping cough last year and hills and poorly lungs are not the best combination. Allie and I had decided to run it together or run/walk it, as I had promised Allie when she said she might consider it! 

As soon as you arrive at race HQ the feeling of camaraderie is so evident. People are united in the fact that they're about to experience a really, different, challenging and exhilarating run. Even the walk to the start was full of excited chatter, smiles and the occasional daunted look as people gazed to the top of the hill we were about to attempt to ascend. 

Starting off at the back meant there was no pressure from the start. Being a shorter person the steps you go up to start with are a challenge. A lot of leaning on the tops of my legs were involved to get myself up to the next one. The start is amazing, it does get you straight into the more challenging aspect of fell running and for a first timer is very daunting but once you've done that bit, to me anyway, the rest seems so much more achievable. 

Once we reached the first summit you turn round and head down a steep grassy hill, this year it was particularly amazing as not only were you running down it fast, it was so covered in mist you couldn't see exactly where your end destination was! From that point on I was just thrown into the zone, the reason why I love this race, the feeling of being away from it all and being totally at one with your surroundings. 

Off we went along a grassy trail, following by now, trainer churned paths up a gradual hill. One of my favourite parts was turning to go down a mud filled narrow path and realising once you'd started the descent the easiest thing was to just go with it, at this point Allie was behind me but was going quicker than I was, luckily we had taken two slightly different angles so she managed to slide on past me without the two of us colliding and falling into sticky mud! 

Running at a slightly slower pace meant we chatted all the way round, we turned back to admire where we'd come from and occasionally we would venture to look straight on to see what we had to come. In short, I enjoyed every minute.

My favourite parts are going downhill, I loved the running down muddy grassy paths, Stoney sections and best of all the wooden step divides on muddy paths. Again my short legs meant I had to jump down most of them but that just added to the enjoyment.

Many people think fell racing is only for the fast, athletic best runners. If I could say one thing it's that this race is for absolutely everyone. As Jen Watts ( first in her age category) informed me, even she walked bits....so it is ok to walk! I can not recommend this experience enough, it remains my favourite ever race. The buzz I get from getting away from it all, running in almost complete isolation and achieving something like this is amazing. I can not recommend Box Hill Fell Race for anyone enough.

Serpentine New Year's Day 10k 2016 - By Charlotte Johnson

Booze is the new beetroot juice

The Serpentine 10k 2015 was one of my first races as an Eagle. It was a miserably grey morning, made worse by the previous night’s booze and three hours of sleep. I ran it with my Mum and met my first group of Eagles. 

Fast-forward a year to 1 January 2016, with a few hours extra sleep on last year, and many more hours spent with the Eagles during the year made this year’s greyish morning a whole lot brighter. Getting up, as for any morning race, wasn’t easy. I cast aside my usual pre-race porridge as I didn’t think my stomach could stomach it; I didn’t have high hopes for the outcome of this race. Injured Mother and injured friend Sophie in tow, we cycled the 8 miles to Hyde Park and arrived in good time to pick up my race number, visit the 20p loo and wish some fellow Eagles a HAPPY NEW YEAR, which was really more of a whisper, a hangover was threatening… 

I left Mother and Sophie to limp up to the 2k marker and made my way to the start. I found some Eagles, enquired about timings and tactics, and before we knew it: GO! 

Winter Wonderland had caused a slight bottleneck at the start that evened out fairly quickly. As usual, my first kilometer was too fast; what did I think it was, a parkrun? Anyway, I wasn’t feeling too rotten so ambled on. I soon found myself besides Michael Hellyer, who I recognised from a couple of the interval sessions I’d led in Lammas Park in the summer, and who I like to refer to as, “one of the fast boys”. Ben Cale dropped back to us and kept us company for a few kilometers before tearing off in anticipation of his infamous sprint finish with Niall.

The kilometers, amazingly, seemed to slip by largely painlessly, and largely painlessly, I kept up with Michael, gratefully nodding thanks to spectators and Serpie volunteers shouting, “Go Eagles” and “Go Charlotte” (I did have my name on my vest after all, but also, I’ve met and befriended many Eagles since returning from university in the summer and I quietly revelled in their personal encouragement). 

As we started on the second loop we met some of the less fast runners, which I love, not because I am passing people (honestly!), but because I love to look out for my club mates and give them a cheer. I should add at this point that winner, James McMurray of the St Albans Striders came tearing past us and I genuinely thought he’d just started the race late. At kilometer 7, I passed Jeremy, Sophie’s Dad, parkrun-lover and almost-Eagle, and told him that he needed to get a move on and heard a groan of assent in reply. Wei Hei was a bit further ahead and we exchanged encouragement before pressing on towards the finish.

Turning the corner onto the final stretch along the Serpentine was welcome but the wind was very much unwelcome. Anyhow, there were speedy Eagles lining the finish and Mum and Soph calling “SPRINT, SPRINT”, but by this point, I wasn’t too bothered about sprinting. Even without glasses I could make out a 43-something on the clock, it would be a PB, and so I went over the clock smiling (or so I thought, the photos, predictably, display the characteristic sprint grimacewe all know and love). So, following many glasses of prosecco, tequila and a few hours after NYE I had managed a 10k PB; 2016, come at me! I am seriously considering reviewing my fuelling strategy in races to come.

Indeed, the PB was glorious and I will certainly bask in it for a while, but the cherry on the cake was the unquenchable support from Eagles around the course and the myriad of PBs from Eagles (20 out of 51 Eagles got a PB, if you were wondering), which I am convinced must be connected. Have any of you stats lovers tested the correlation between the number of Eagles spectators and runners yet?

All in all, a bloomin’ marvellous effort was displayed on New Year’s Day. Thanks to Michael for the spontaneous pacing, all the enthusiastic supporters before, during and after the race, and the photographers, professional and otherwise. Running around Hyde Park is always rather fun, dodging tourists and dogs, and the relatively small field makes the pretty flat race a fast one. But most importantly, taking part on NYD makes you pretty hardcore and is a good omen for the year to come. The goody bag was pretty good this year too: water, medal, sports gel, a couple of discount vouchers, and A WAGON WHEEL! Not a shoe bag in site. I am super proud to be an Eagle and can’t wait for another year and next year’s Serpentine 10k with the convocation!