Archive for the ‘Running’ Category


Sunday, November 30th, 2014

29th November 2014

Southwark Park 5 k Parkrun

My friend across the road mentioned these park runs to me. Amazingly I had never heard of them despite the fact that 60,000 runners run them every Saturday morning at 9 am. Yesterday I gave it a go and was really impressed. To enter you go online to and fill in a simple form. It is FREE! You then need to print out your personal barcode. They advise that you laminate them and keep various ones in handy places (on your bike, glove compartment, under the insole of your trainers etc). Once you have your barcode you can turn up at any of 3,500 parks at 9 am (9.30 in Scotland). No need to book. They give a little briefing for all the first timers. At 0900 they set you all off. You don’t need to show your barcode to enter. There were 89 people running in Southwark Park. After three laps of flat tarmacked paths you enter the finish funnel and are given a barcode chip. You then take this chip with your personal barcode to one of the many volunteers who logs your result. Later in the day you can see how you did by going online. Brilliant. I managed 22 minutes 23 seconds and 70.98% age grade which wasn’t too bad. Coupled with a swim in the local pool it is a good way to kick start your Saturday. Give it a go!


Henley Trail Half Marathon

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

28th September 2014

The Route with some Confusing Loops that caught a few people out

The Route with some Confusing Loops that caught a few people out

Me looking wiped out after the finish

Me looking wiped out after the finish


I normally run the Henley Half Marathon run by the local Rotary Club but my buddy who shall remain nameless although his surname sounds like a wood boring tool suggested this would be a great little run and we should sign up for it. So obeying instructions I duly signed myself and Grit up and paid the entrance fees. Of course my buddy who’s surname sounds like a wood boring tool decided not to bother! We went ahead and arrived in plenty of time for the 0930 start. I think there were about 400 competitors but that included a 10 k too. As we sat in the car park a car drew up alongside with a couple of hard-core runners – singlet top, slit shorts, dark glasses and I made a prediction that number 367 would win outright. It was a grand sunny morning but a little too hot for me. We started a 0930 and I was determined to do a negative split. The course was flat mainly along the Thames and predominantly on gravel, hard mud or grass but with some tarmaced paths. In theory it should be fast. I felt I was going pretty well even though I had done hardly any training and been working late the evening before. Sadly I misjudged it and came in at my usual time of 1 hour 50 min and I think 08 seconds only to find Grit already there having finished in a record beating 1 hour 28 minutes! Sadly she was directed incorrectly by one of the marshals and missed a big loop off the course so she duly owned up and lost her place. Number 367 came in first!

Before the start at Temple Island

Before the start at Temple Island

Windsor Triathlon

Sunday, June 15th, 2014
The Well Deserved Pub Lunch.

The Well Deserved Pub Lunch.


The start line against a strong current

The start line against a strong current

15th June 2014

In our wetsuits waiting for the early start

In our wetsuits waiting for the early start

This was an on/off event for me. My crunchy arm had prevented me from swimming and there was so much going on that it all seemed very doubtful that I would make it to the start line. However, three weeks ago I decided to go for it and booked myself some swimming lessons, bought a wetsuit and persuaded my friend Richard to take me on a few cycle training jaunts. So feeling rather nervous and poorly prepared for my first triathlon I arrived at Windsor with John, Tim and Liam at the unearthly time of about 0600. We had racked the bikes on the Saturday. It was time to climb into the dreaded wetsuit (Zone 3 £150.00). They are unbelievably tight and, as my head comes out of my body in a different place to most humans, it has a tenancy to garrotte me. Tip toing bare foot from the transition area to the start point was quite painful.
The race starts in “Waves”. My wave was number 17 and the start gun went off at 0715.


There was an almighty scrum of clashed arms and thrashing feet. The current was really strong and I struggled to move at all. I also found it hard to get my breathing under control and it was an awful attempt to cross the river into quieter currents. Once there things went a bit better but still bad as I made slow progress up the right hand bank. The turning point was interesting as it was almost impossible to make progress against the strong current but it just had to happen. Once around the buoy I recovered my breath and got quite into the stride of it.
The end was in sight and I clambered out feeling very light headed and unstable after 39 minutes 36 seconds. Eventually I gathered my composure and ran to the transition area.

Running to transition

Running to transition

I panicked when I couldn’t get out of my wetsuit and decided to tear it off. Then I realised the Velcro flap was still attached and managed to peel the thing off and jump on the bike after more than 3 minutes.
The bike ride was fun and armed with some jelly babies seemed to go quite well. The 42 km ride took me 1 hour 27 minutes and 9 seconds. That said my friend Tim was riding a single speed wooden bike he made himself and finished
in a staggering 1 hour 19.38!
The transition from bike to run was fast and there was enough energy left in the tank the complete the run in 51 minutes 32 seconds.
The final time was a very slow 3 hours 03 minutes and 33 seconds – not too good but a result nevertheless.

I rather enjoyed it!

Tim Powers Across the Finish Lime with an amazing time!

Tim Powers Across the Finish Lime with an Amazing Time!

Steyning Stinger

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

2nd March 2014

Group Photo before the Steyning Stinger

Group Photo before the Steyning Stinger

Grit, Pen, Anthony (Alex), Paul and Alasdair

This was the Half Marathon that I had been waiting for. I’ve run it once before and loved it. It is virtually all trials and pretty hilly being based around the South Downs. The first time I ran it, the “Stinger” was pretty dry under foot with just a few muddy patches but today it was quite different with long muddy stretches sometimes up to a foot deep. I went for the mass start at 0900 but you can give your time and start earlier if you prefer to avoid the crowds. Actually you can opt to walk it if you like and set off at 0730.
There was no announcement but we were off! And it was straight into a muddy field that acted like suction pads on your legs. Anthony (Alex) lost his shoe and he certainly wasn’t the only one. The first “Sting” is a bit of a trick as there is a long uphill slog and eventually the brim of the hill and it turns down. Sadly don’t be tricked as the real sting hasn’t even started. Eventually you get onto the top of the downs with easy going and great views. Pen had motored on passed me by now and it wasn’t long before Anthony overtook me. The open running up here suited Anthony and he was soon out of site. There was a biting wind and even running it made me a bit chilly. There again I was only wearing a tee shirt.

At about 9 miles (I think) the path splits and those super-fit lunatics doing the full marathon shoot off to the right while us whimps begin the descent back to base. Here I misjudged a foot placement and twisted my leg but managed to carry on running on it with just a little pain. The 13 mile sign came into view so I tried to gather my reserves for the final sprint only to find a 13.1 mile sign and no sign of the end. That was a bit scary but it wasn’t far around the corner. Sprinting to the finish line in thick mud is a bit of a laugh. Grit had set off early so she was there to greet me with Pen and Alexander.

The times haven’t been posted yet but Pen did it in 2 hours so I must have been 10 minutes behind. The last time I did it in 2 hours 1 minute so I’m either getting less fit or the mud slowed things down.

We went off for the wonderful free breakfast provided by the friendly organisers, had a good natter and headed home. Definitely one for next year.

Group Photo after the Steyning Stinger

Group Photo after the Steyning Stinger


Deal Half Marathon

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

9th February 2014

Deal, Kent

Awaiting the start of the Deal Half Marathon

Awaiting the start of the Deal Half Marathon

The Zetland Arms in glorious sunshine!

The Zetland Arms in glorious sunshine!

The rollers come in at Kingsdown Beach

The rollers come in at Kingsdown Beach

This was a bit of an impromptu race. I mentioned to my friend Philip who was up in London last week that I thought there was a half marathon in Deal which could be fun. Philip emailed the next day to say that we were welcome to stay with him as he lives in the nearby village of Kingsdown. I hadn’t realised it was this weekend! After a bit of deliberation as to whether we were ready for a Half Marathon we decided to go for it and treat it as a training run for the Steyning Stinger in early March.

We drove down on Saturday evening and were treated to a large pasta dish loaded with fresh fish and vegetables, just the ticket. After a restful nights sleep Philip kindly drove us up to the start. We paid our £20.00 late booking fee, collected our chip timing gizmo and numbers and headed off for the 10.30 start. I suppose there were around 400 people there. The route consists of a lead-in of two or three miles connecting to a big loop. The surface is all road and although it is described as hilly it is not severe in any way. All the hills are runnable without any need to put the brakes on during the down hill stretches. The up hill stretches were gentle but quite long. Despite the whole of England being drenched with floods and blasted by gales it was actually a really nice day! The sun was out and there was a very stiff, but not too cold, wind. The road surface was basically dry with just one puddle. Can’t complain about that or indeed anything else. The race was very well organised with ample friendly marshals, lots of water stations and clear mile markers. I don’t normally drink any water on half marathons. I have a good big glassful about an hour before and drink a fair whack after but never feel the need en route. Most of the runners were club runners with all the local clubs taking part and quite a few travelling from far afield. I was pleased enough with my time of 1 hour 46 minutes and 48 seconds (chip time). After the race we all went to the Zetland Arms on the beach in Kingsdown for a gastronomic Sunday Lunch. What a perfect day!

Running Times in and around Greenwich

Saturday, December 28th, 2013

South Dock

28th December 2013 (updated January 2015)

I really enjoy going along to British Military Fitness Running Club on Wednesday evenings on Blackheath. I find that running with a group pushes you to run much harder than you would ever try when running alone. Every week is different but they often include some timed circuits. I keep forgetting my times but have now decided to jot them down here for reference.

If anyone is thinking of trying these routes, to set your own target, my fastest flattish half marathon time is 1 hour 46 minutes and I am noticeably slow on short sprints. Every time we do a new circuit I’ll try to add them and maybe add little maps if I can. I’ll also add details of any long runs in the Rotherhithe – Greenwich areas.

Greenwich Park Outer Circuit.

This is when the park is closed and you need to run the roads by the shortest possible way. Maze Hill is a long and gentle hill and Crooms Hill is short and steep. You can go either way.

My fastest time 18 minutes 20 seconds (some BMF runners can do this in about 14 minutes!) 131200

Greenwich Park Inner Circuit

Apparently this is 2.2 miles. When I lived next to the park it always seemed to take 16 minutes but hopefully it would be a bit faster now?

Maze Hill – Westcombe Park Road – Vanbrugh Fields – Highmore Road

A little all road circuit for sprinting

3 minutes 131200

Gloucester Circus

Good for pairing up, one person runs while the other waits.

50 seconds per lap is about my fastest but 1 minute per lap over four alternate laps is just achievable 131200

Thames Circuit through Greenwich Foot Tunnel and over Tower Bridge about 11 miles

This is my normal long slow run. I start at South Dock but it makes no difference. The run can be increased by adding bridges with London Bridge being a half marathon. A word of warning – although it is lovely running at high water there can be bridge lifts to mess up your timing. Deptford Creek, Limehouse Basin and Tower Bridge can all open up but are less likely at low water. The locks at South Dock and St Katherines don’t normally hold things up as you can run over the closed lock gate (on the assumption they can never open them both!). Other things to mess up your run are unthinking property owners who leave rights of way locked with padlocks and Tower Hamlet Council who for some reason insist on locking a Memorial Park (even on Christmas Day!) forcing you up onto a horrible main road. Also beware on Tower Bridge as the tourists often step backwards to get a scene in their camera causing a major trip hazard.

This is a great circuit to do with less able runners as a river bus connects everywhere so people can decide to go half way if they like.

This is generally treated as a long slow run.

1 hour 50 minutes 131200

1 hour 53 minutes 131225

About 2 hours 140201 – This time we ran clockwise and it provides much better views with a great vista of Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf when heading east. Sadly we ran in the evening and the path is virtually closed off by all the flat owners on the north bank who put up gates all over the place. Such a shame that the Thames Path hasn’t right of way.

1 hour 37 minutes 6.9 mph 11.17 M (that’s a record for me) 140625

2 hours 8 minutes 140810 (wow that was slow) 5.3 mph 11.25 M

1 hour 41 minutes 42 seconds (that’s better) 6.6 mph 11.15 M 140825

1 hour 54 minutes 04 seconds 6.1 mph 11.64 M 150101

2 hour 03 minutes 6 seconds 6.3 mph 12.90 M 150110 (over London Bridge)

Our neighbour has done this route in 1 hour 18 minutes but he is entering the Mount Blanc Marathon. Has anyone done the loop faster?

Putney Bridge to South Dock

This is a 12.42 mile run along the river, except by Battersea Power Station where you are diverted inland. Clearly marked but it get crowded along the stretch from Westminster Bridge to Butler Wharf and you need to run quite slowly to avoid the tourists. We did it as a long slow run. Sadly there are no hills!

2 hours 1 minute. Average speed 6.2 mph. 140119

Greenwich Park 10K – including triple climbs up One Tree Hill

This was a wicked route devised by BMF as a Sunday morning race. The route was complex, I got slightly lost right at the end, but it was a good and hilly run so it was excellent training with maybe 150 -200 m of ascent. The fastest in was 40 minutes and 9 seconds. My time was 49 minutes and 8 seconds.

South Dock to Greenwich Park with one full lap

I hour 10 minutes 18 seconds 6.3 mph 7.44 M 15011

Surrey Hills Run

Sunday, November 24th, 2013
The Ugly Truth!

The Ugly Truth!

The Juniper Valley Route that we intended to run!

The Juniper Valley Route that we intended to run!

Gareth, Laura and Anthony. It's not that cold Gareth!

Gareth, Laura and Anthony. It’s not that cold Gareth!

24th November 2013

This was the first event organised by the South Dock Running Club – Fell Running Division. It may well be the last if our map reading skills don’t improve. Having recently discovered that Anthony had entered the Mount Blanc Marathon we felt some hill training would be in order. The plan was to drive to Headley Heath and park by the arrow on the map (coming soon!) We would warm up thoroughly and set off on a 9 km circuit which would take us to the bottom of Juniper Valley and up to Box Hill and around the North Downs Path with spectacular views over the Mole valley with another steep ascent and a jog back to the car. Basically a big hilly circle. How could it possibly go wrong? Gareth and Laura are now well accustomed to passing the same things two or even three times after experiencing one of my “circuits” of Oxleas Wood (just keep the fence on the right and you can’t go wrong). Laura was a bit worried about joining the Surrey Hills circuit in the first place and once we arrived at the same junction for the third time she smelt a rat and decided to call it a day. Gareth either being gallant or also smelling the rat offered to accompany her back to the Cock Inn at Headley. Anthony and I thought we would push on a bit further. We headed off in opposite directions. Twenty minutes later we met each other running along the same path the opposite way! Undeterred Anthony and I ran on faintly convinced that it we head north west we simply must find Box Hill. The thing is Box Hill is a massive great big hill so it can’t be hard to find surely. It is Surreys biggest tourist attraction. We sheepishly asked a walker, the Ordnance Survey map and compass swinging from my neck. “Oh, just go down there and up the other side and you can’t miss it”. We had just come from “there” but thought maybe we will give it another go. Twenty minutes later we were back where we had asked the lady the way. Anthony by now had realised that I was totally hopeless with the map, “all the gear no idea” kind of thing. I don’t really like to admit how rubbish I am with maps but I had better own up and get some training before I get seriously lost. Prudently Anthony suggested that we should finish off our running by running up the three hills that departed from the bottom of the valley as a kind of three pronged circuit. We could’nt get lost because we would stay in sight of the junction. So that is what we did. At this point I took off my rucksack with the Sports Tracker and left it at the junction. We ran up the steps and down, ran up the hill and down, hopped up the steps and down, and towed each other up the hill and down. Then we did some short hill sprints. Note that the Sports Tracker was static in my bag so when you see the picture of our actual attempt at the route it didn’t even include these runs. Nevertheless there are FIVE runs along the same path on what should have been ONE lap! That is how rubbish my map reading was.
We never got to Box Hill, never saw the views!
We met up with Laura and Gareth in the pub and had a huge beef sandwich and a pint of London Pride. We had run about 9 hilly miles so all was not lost.

Weasdale Circuit

Monday, November 11th, 2013
Weasdale Circuit

Weasdale Circuit

8th November 2013

I have been up in the Lake District doing an Industrial Rope Access course with Gareth from work. It involved a lot of hanging about in the most exciting way. As it happens Gareth likes a good run and is a founding member of the famous South Dock Running Club (est 2013) so we planned on getting up into the hills together. We bought an OS map and found a few paths near to Teabay where we were staying in the Cross Keys Pub. Dave Ellis from Lyon Equipment, who were training us, got wind that we fancied a run and very kindly came up with a very promising looking circuit just a five mile drive from Tebay. It was a route that the local Mountain Rescue Team used to take on Friday nights after work. This was re-assuring because at least they will know where to find us. We managed to persuade Victor to join us. Victor was from Spain and was completing a series of work at height courses at Lyon and then in Aberdeen. Poor Victor completely confused us with people who know what they are doing! On a wet and dark Wednesday evening we jumped in my car in search for the run. It was pretty hard just working out where to park the car and after about five minutes running we were officially lost. With one fading head torch, a hand torch and another dull head torch we gazed at the map and compass and shot off through a woody lane. However there were no woods on the map. We stopped again and half heartedly convinced ourselves it was off to the left, but it wasn’t. After about 30 minutes of getting rather cold we eventually found the start of the run. We knew it was the start because of a map on a post saying “You are here”. We set off a little way up the very wet and muddy trail before deciding to call it day. For a bit of exercise we ran up and down a road hill a few times (Victor wondering why we had to run back up having just ran down – good question) then jumped into the car and had a goat curry in the pub.

However, on Friday after we had all successfully completed our exam we decided to celebrate and have another go at it. Victor wisely pulled out. Time was slipping by so we purchased more batteries got changed and headed to the start. This time we parked right next to the start of the run and set off. The ground was wet and soft but runnable as we followed a dry stone wall until the sheepfold. We then set our compass and ran SSW up the gradient. I say “run” but actually by the time we were half way up the 586 m hill we began to walk. As the light faded away we were afforded some spectacular views, just a hint of what we were missing by running in the dark. At the near top we found some quad tracks which led south to the first “summit”. Here the land drops steeply away then rises again until you reach a cairn on Randygil Top.
Time to celebrate with a massive chunk of marzipan. Now the cloud had dropped in and the visibility was very low as well as it being a moonless night. We set the compass and ran off in a NE direction following some rough tracks. Running again it was very pleasant but even with nobbly trail shoes it was occasionally very slippy. We skirted the edge off Green Bell (605 m) and relaxed into a 3 or 4 km run down towards the east edge of the enclosed field. We hit the road bang on target and ran the last 1 km or so along the road back to the car. It took about 1 hour 50 but could have been faster with more light. We joined Victor at the Cross Keys for supper and some celebration beers.

The distance was about 9 km.

Henley Half Marathon

Sunday, October 13th, 2013
Laura surveys the wet scene

Laura surveys the wet scene

Alasdair running past a Flint wall or Alasdair Flint runs past a wall

Alasdair running past a Flint wall or Alasdair Flint runs past a wall

The Team relaxes at Gordon's warm house.

The Team relaxes at Gordon’s warm house.

John showing that he has lost no fingers so far

John showing that he has lost no fingers so far

The Team before the start

The Team before the start

13th October 2013

A 7 am start from London got us to Henley at about 8.20 in time to park without any hassle. It is not a good idea to leave this run too late as the traffic really builds up. The summer weather has faded away and cool drizzle was the order of the day. Gareth and Laura from the world famous “South Dock Running Club” (established 2013) were to join me and John. John’s friend Rob and Tim were running too. The run is like a butterfly with two loops of about equal length. One is used for the 10 K race which kicks off a few minutes before the half. There didn’t seem to be many runners but there were over 1,200 finishers so it wasn’t exactly empty. Funnily this race seems to suit me although I don’t like roads and I do like hills. The first few miles felt very smooth and effortless. I just tucked in behind someone who I felt was running at a steady pace and enjoyed the scenery. It seemed that I was going quite fast despite aiming for a negative split. On returning over Henley Bridge there are a couple more flat road miles before swinging left up a 1.7 mile hill climb. It is a pretty gentle slope but it normally catches some of those who ran too fast at the beginning and I went past several people walking. Hills are my favourite so I mouched past about 15 runners on the way up before it flattens off and eventually turns hard leftdown a steep hill. At this point I stupidly thought I was going fast. I had a slight muscle pain in my right leg so decided to nurse it a bit with a marginally slower pace. Just before the Fair Mile I tripped on a pothole and twisted my ankle heavily but continued running. I really felt I was in for a personal best as I continued to overtake runners down the Fair Mile and put on a full sprint around the rugby club.
Sadly despite my feeling of comfortable speed it was a rubbish time of 1 hour 50 minutes 22 seconds. That was about three minutes slower than the previous year. Must try harder.
We all met up, scoffed a few snack bars from the Lidl Goodie Bag (thanks Lidl) and went for our cars to head up to Gordon’s house. Gordon had invited us all for a barbeque and kept his word despite the awful weather. Warmed up after a much needed shower we were fed, and fed, and fed until we hit the 1,400 calories we had burned on the race. Then we ate a bit more just in case. Finally we relaxed, after a bit of technology struggle, to watch a video of the Northern Lights.
Now that brings us neatly onto our next adventure. Russia here we come!

Thanks to Henley Rotary and all their volunteers who stood cheerily in the rain to make another great run and thanks to Gordon and Josie for looking after us so well afterwards.

Torrington Christmas Caper

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

Liam and John all clean before the muddy race

The posh mansion we rented over Christmas. It even had a washing up machine!

The River Torridge was over its banks

23rd December 2012. For the Christmas period this year a group of 12 of us are staying in a mansion in Torquay. Selma managed to find the place and it is pretty swish with a billiard room, chandeliers and a sweeping staircase. To avoid the usual over indulgence is was decided that the Christmas break would be an active one with runs, walks and a “Military Fitness Style” session on Chrismas Day. We also booked ourselves into the Torrington Christmas Caper held on the Sunday before Christmas. I have been really looking forward to it because it has a reputation for being very hilly and very very muddy. Sadly I damaged my calf muscle doing a fast little run in Greenwich Park on the Friday morning and was worried about entering it. I decided to go ahead with loads of Ibroprufen gel and a compression bandage. I promised myself to run through discomfort but to stop at pain. There were 350 people at the start and it wasn’t raining, although it had rained heavily the day before. The River Torrige was in full flood.  There was a great local atmosphere with most people knowing each other and a lot of runners dressed as fairies. However even in fancy dress they did look like a serious bunch of runners with quite a few people wearing tee shirts from Ultra Races.  The start gun went at about 1111am and we seemed to run downhill for a long way. That obviously means having to run uphill a long way too. It is a bit disheartening running behind a fairy and not being able to overtake! It wasn’t long before the race began to live up to it’s reputation with fairies and Santa’s wading thigh deep through muddy flooded roads. I like these conditions and my left leg was holding up well so we continued and a moderate pace. The race is only 9.5 miles so the half way jelly babies and water came nice and early. My second jelly baby got splashed with mud but in it went in any case. The second half was more hilly and had a little sting in its tail. At a checkpoint about 8 miles in they directed us over a fence and down what I can only describe as a deep muddy gully with a mini torrent in the bottom.Then there was a pretty tough long climb over soft heavy ground. Bizzarely my bad leg was great but by now my good leg was playing up with exactly the same thing. I wasn’t sure if I could run through it but I reduced the pace a bit and carried on. It finally packed up as I crossed the finish line with John. Now I just hope it will recover quickly so I can enjoy the rest of the Christmas activities

I’m not sure what our time was because we forgot to look but around 1hr 35 minutes seems to be the nearest guess. Thanks to all the organisers and marshalls for making it such a fun race.

We ended up in the Black Horse Torrington for a well earned lunch. Little Anna (3 years) entertained the whole pub by confidently, calmly and clearly explaining that she wants a pink tortoise for Christmas. They wished her luck.

The actual result  was1hr 31min 26 seconds. There seemed to be 215 finishers so I doubt my 350 starter figure was correct.

The full results for the Torrington Christmas Caper are below: