Archive for the ‘Running’ Category

Marlow Half Marathon 2016

Saturday, November 12th, 2016
Myself, John and Liam before the start of the Marlow Half

Myself, John and Liam before the start of the Marlow Half

It was touch and go whether my right leg would be up for this year’s half marathon, having pulled out of the Oxford Half a month earlier. I decided to rub some Ibuprofen gel onto the muscles and take a couple of pain killers before the start and see what happens. There was a 7 mile race being held at the same time so I could peel off at two miles and follow the shorter route.
For the first time in three years the weather was perfect, cold but clear and dry. I was surprised to see the Costa Coffee nearby was open at 0830 so next year I’ll take advantage of a booster there. The race is always well organised. I mentioned to my sister how impressed I was with Dave the Disco who gave the impression of knowing all the runners personally. My sister said he probably does! This was backed up by Liam who lives locally so it appears that Dave is a bit of a local hero.
As our little running group had decided this was not going to be a fast run we decided to position ourselves at the back of the start queue, being chip timed it doesn’t matter too much and at least it is better to overtake runners than be overtaken. The firework started the race as usual.
We set off at a steady pace but slowly overhauled some of the slower runners. With only moderate pain I decided to carry on past the two mile turn for the shorter route. The route through rolling countryside and little villages is entirely on tarmac so not too taxing on the muscles.
I eventually finished at 1 hour 58 minutes which although my slowest time for the course was much better than I had hoped, in fact just finishing would have been enough. For some reason there was a big hold up at the baggage reclaim. I can’t remember any queues before so there must have been a new system. It didn’t really matter as we were given our free tee shirts which we all donned to keep warm and it wasn’t raining. However there were some grumblings going on which was a shame.
I’ll be back, it is a bit of an institution now.

Scottish Islands Peaks Race

Friday, May 27th, 2016
Sailing from Oban to Mull

Sailing from Oban to Mull

This is no normal race and it is well to remember that!

For sailors it is a demanding race which takes in some tricky tidal areas. Unusually for a race picking up the crew or dropping the anchor has to take place under sail.

Equally it is a demanding race for runners. Running up mountains over loose boulders and then across hummocked bog land back to the boats is not easy going.

However it is the combination of the two that turns this into a very challenging race.

Normally before I go for a sail, I take a look at the weather and work out the tides. I then decide the best time to go to catch the all important tidal gateway. I also prefer to sail during the day. Equally, before I enter a half marathon or suchlike I’ll make sure I get a good nights sleep and a decent breakfast with a large dollop of coffee inside me about an hour before the start. The start is generally at a civilised time, about 9 or 10 in the morning.

Well forget all that!

To be fair, the first race around the hills near Oban does start at a predictable noon but after that anything can happen.

Simon and I had a reasonable first run near Oban finishing in about 38 minutes. We then jumped in the little inflatable to row out to Brimble. Our prediction of a slackish tide was not to be correct and I had to row like stink to counter the current. Once clear of the moored boats we were picked up by Brimble and a few seconds later we were in a near collision with a navigational buoy and a catamaran bearing down on us while another yacht tried to squeeze between.

We then had a lovely sail to Salen. It is important to get to the first anchorage quickly because Scottish Power turn off the wind at about 6pm to save energy. Our runners, Grit, Simon and Rob, were landed and running by 5pm on Mull. This allowed them to reach the summit of Ben Mor before dark. The really fast fell runners can get there and back while it is light but that is crazy fast. Sadly the weather was awful and it poured with chilly rain. The summit was apparently freezing cold. Our poor runners managed to get back onboard by 0245 having made the wet descent in the dark. It was a tough 22 miles and they were glad to be back on Brimble for some nosh and a rest.

John and I sailed the good ship towards the Sound of Luing before waking the Mull Runners to take over the watch. Craftily we handed over our watch just as the tide was about to turn foul in the narrow straits. Feeling slightly smug we crawled into our bunks. Sadly our cunning plan backfired as the constant tacking meant I couldn’t get to sleep. We got up as the tide turned again and Jura gradually approached. As Craighouse neared the wind began to drop and we decided to enter the northern approach to the harbour. At this point the wind died completely and Simon, John and I got into the little Seago dinghy to row ashore. The problem was it was about a mile and a half to row. By the time we reached the check point at about midnight I was virtually asleep. We were greeted by “You know you are last – you had better take your Yellow Brick tracker on the Paps” which was a bit unnerving!

However, I would hate this to sound like a moan about the marshals who are basically the most generous kind helpful and wonderful people you can imagine. There is no way an event like this could exist without their dedicated help. As we were the last to start the run, they basically had to wait overnight in the Community Hall until we arrived back safely. And they had to wait over 8 hours!

It was my fault. I was basically too tired to even start the run yet alone complete it. Along the roads and tracks I could slowly jog along but I couldn’t conjure the energy to cope with the foot placement needed for the scree slopes. I was falling asleep as I ran and fell over at least twenty times.  I was wearing a heart monitor and ironically it only registered an average of 131 and a max of 157. My normal running heart rates average about 167 and peak around 190. I never really got going. It was such a shame as I had been looking forward to the Paps for a long time but I can’t say this was an enjoyable experience at all.

The one thing that kept me going was Rob had promised to make a big dahl curry for our breakfast and indeed he kept his word. We arrived back on the boat and tucked into a most wonderful creation. There were seconds too! Then I fell into deep sleep as the crew sailed Brimble towards the Mull of Kintyre.

Refreshed after a good snooze on a calm sea I got up just as the tide had turned ready to sweep us around the Mull at 9 kn. John managed to arrange for Wings to be playing at the moment of the rounding! In perfect conditions we sailed towards Arran only to be caught out in the traditional manner by Scottish Power once again turning off the wind in the evening. The good news was that the run would now take place in daylight!

Grit, John, Simon and Rob ran the route to Goat Fell in fine weather and they made it back in good time ready for the final sail. After a slow start the wind gradually built up and we were sailing at 4-5 kn towards the finish. Grit and Simon rowed ashore and ran to the finish. We all retired to Scotts for a few too many beers and a lovely meal.

It was a great pleasure to be part of the race and to sail on a fine ship with such lovely crew. Thanks everyone!

Check Point on Mull

Check Point on Mull

John doesn't like to get cold!

John doesn’t like to get cold!

The secret weapon - Beetroot Juice. Sadly it didn't work!

The secret weapon – Beetroot Juice. Sadly it didn’t work!

View from a Pap in the morning

View from a Pap in the morning

Rough under foot

Rough under foot

Passing the Mull of Kintyre

Passing the Mull of Kintyre

Rowing the boat when the wind dropped

Rowing the boat when the wind dropped

The Goat Fell Runners return

The Goat Fell Runners return

Simon collects the finishing certificates

Simon collects the finishing certificates




Scottish Islands Peaks Race

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016
This should do the trick but those Jelly Babies are not for sharing!

This should do the trick but those Jelly Babies are not for sharing!

Oh dear, here we go again. This time I am joining the crew of the Good Ship Brimble, a 27ft Twister. There will be more space onboard than Sumara but still pretty cosy with five runners and all the kit. I’ve been a bit disorganised this year struggling to find the time to sort out my kit. When I went down to my yacht to collect my boots, hat, running compass and other gear I found she had been locked in a shed so I’ve had to buy a load of new stuff. There is a strict kit check before each run so there’s no busking it. Every runner also has to take 250g of chocolate on each run. Something to look forward to!

We are getting the sleeper to Glasgow tonight so we will arrive in Oban on Thursday lunchtime. That should give us enough time to get ready before the noon start on Friday. The weather isn’t looking too bright but at least we won’t be rowing again.

Three Forts Challenge Half Marathon

Sunday, May 1st, 2016
This thirsty dog had a medal too!

This thirsty dog had a medal too!

1st May 2016
This was the opportunity for all of the Scottish Islands Three Peak Race running team to partake in a hilly run together and have a chat about the final arrangements. After a week of winter weather with frost and hail we found ourselves in idyllic sunshine at Worthing’s Hill Barn Recreation Ground ready for the start. There were about 800 competitors for both the races (there was a tough marathon option). We got there in plenty of time to park up and prepare.
It was one of those well organised non-commercial events that I really like with plenty of smiling volunteers and a great atmosphere. There were some runners with harnessed dogs who set off before us. We started at 1030 (chip timing) and for the first two miles climbed gently to about 600 ft along rough paths before a pleasant decent to about 250 ft before a long slog to just over 800 ft. On top of the Downs the running couldn’t have been better, with sea views and soft short grass underfoot. This part of the course is shared with the Steyning Stinger – another great event. There is then a drop to about 300 ft before climbing again to about 600 ft with a small descent and a final little hill before a two mile fast run back to the finish line. This last descent had a somewhat tricky narrow chalky path which was vee shaped and could have caused a few slips if the ground was wet. Luckily in the dry conditions the entire course was easily runnable. Although it can’t be described as flat there were no really taxing hills, more a matter of endurance rather than strength. It could be interesting in really wet weather!

A big thank you to all the organisers and volunteers (and cake makers) for making it such a great day out.

Any bad points? Only my usual gripe about runners tossing gel wrappers on the ground in the lovely countryside. Maybe a volunteer will pick them up but surely its not too hard to find a way not to litter in the first place.
Results? I finished just under two hours (about 1 hr 58 m) which I was pleased enough with for a hilly run.
Afterwards we all met at the Old House at Home and discussed tactics for the big race over a pint of Harveys and roast lunch. A very pleasant day.

Getting Sumara ready for the sailing season

Saturday, April 30th, 2016
Pulling the bearings off my Aerogen 4

Pulling the bearings off my Aerogen 4

The Arthur Beale project has been zapping up all my spare time so some things are being neglected. Most of all I’m not getting to see all my buddies so that certainly needs to be rectified soon! But I realised the Good Ship wasn’t going to get all the love that she would normally get so I decided to ask Harry Kings Boatyard to help out. I’ve had some pretty mixed quality work done in the past when I have called in the professionals so I was a bit nervous about getting work that I’d normally do done by a boatyard. However I went to the boat last weekend and was very pleased with the quality of the work that Lee had done. So now I can relax knowing everything is in safe hands.
I am partaking in the Scottish Islands Three Peaks race on Brimble at the end of May so I won’t be sailing until June but I like to get her afloat before things heat up on land. Hopefully she will be bobbing up and down on her buoy in the River Orwell in the next few weeks. I still need to varnish the mast. She is all sanded and ready but I need that rare thing a dry still day before I start to varnish. I’m replacing the runners this year too due to finding a loose strand during the annual inspection.
One little job I have proudly finished is the renovation of my 20 year old Aerogen 4 wind generator. The bearings had gone and I managed to snap the hub when attempting to get it off the shaft so I relegated it to the boat jumble. When I was offered £20.00 for it I refused and decided to mend her myself. Now she has new bearings, newly tapped fin holes, a new hub, and a repaint job. I feel very proud, as she looks like new and I reckon fit for another 20 years. The great thing about the Aerogen generators is that they are virtually silent.
Tomorrow we are running the Three Forts Race with the Brimble Team. It will be a team bonding session and a chance to see how fit we are so we can pair up for the Scottish Islands Race. Better get some pasta on the boil!

The Steyning Stinger Half Marathon 2016

Sunday, March 6th, 2016
The Steyning Stinger Team - Grit, Alasdair, Alex, Kerry and John

The Steyning Stinger Team – Grit, Alasdair, Alex, Kerry and John

6th March 2016

It is cold and grey with hail pounding heavily against the window as I write this on the afternoon of the Steyning Stinger but this morning conditions couldn’t have been more perfect for the event. It was cold but the sun was out and there was just a gentle breeze. Underfoot it was muddy in parts but hey who would want to do the Stinger without a bit of mud? On the Downs the views were breath taking!
I think I am willing to stick my neck out and say this is the perfect ever race.
There is a community feel about it and it is very inclusive. If you are not a runner, you can start at about 7am and walk the half marathon course. If you are a runner but a little bit slow then you can start early and still get a time. If you are mega fit then you can even enter the full marathon course – which must be really gruelling. You can even change your mind half way through, but I wonder if any “Halfers” decide to upgrade! You can join the mass starts, or run the race peacefully by yourself.

There is no commercial feeling about this event, it cost less than £30.00 to enter and you get an organisation which is simply the best I have ever encountered. At the end you get a decent looking medal, free photos by Sussex Photography and to cap it all a free full English breakfast served to your table by the local cheery schoolchildren.

As for the run itself it is wonderful especially if you like hills! It is 90% a trail run with just the odd quiet stretch along tarmac road. It is a run you need to train for as the ascents are quite taxing although they are all runnable. That said many runners take the sensible decision to fast walk the steeper parts without really losing any time. I know they didn’t lose any time because I decided to run the whole thing and couldn’t gain on the walkers on the steep inclines. The route takes you on a long uphill path onto the South Downs where it joins the South Downs Way in parts. There are some fast stretches along the top (not for me though) with long views to the sea on one side and inland to the north. The descents are interesting and require some technique. One downhill through the woods follows a chalky hollowed out path which is rutted and covered occasionally in slippy chalk slime, occasionally in leaf mould and sometime loose flint boulders. I would be interested to know how many get injured on these paths. Maybe St Johns Ambulance have some figures. I suspect the tired marathon runners must find these descents even trickier.
I ran the race with my nephew Alex and his partner Kerry who confidently overhauled me after a few miles and finished in about 2 hours 7 minutes. Grit, John and myself all fell in behind. It is not a race for PB’s and you would need to be pretty fit to get in under 2 hours.

During breakfast we clocked a large contingent of German runners and wondered if they had come especially for the run. They certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves washing down their breakfast with Strongbow Cider!

We were doing it as part of our training for the Scottish Islands Three Peaks Race at the end of May. Next up is the Three Forts Race.
Will we do the Stinger again? Of course we will!


Salomon Speedcross 3 Trail Shoes

Saturday, February 27th, 2016
My new Salomon Speedcross 3 brand spanking new. Don't they look lovely!

My new Salomon Speedcross 3 brand spanking new. Don’t they look lovely!

I’ve signed up for the Scottish Islands Three Peaks Race on the good ship Brimble so some panic training is needed. Next week we are running the dreaded Steyning Stinger, one of my favourite races. My old Salomon Speedcross 2 shoes are unbelievably still quite serviceable although I fear they will clap out just before the race so I decided to buy some more. This time I decided to buy Speedcross 3. I hate buying online but none of the London shops had size 12.5. I don’t normally take size 12.5 but my old ones were this size and I tried size 11.5 and they were too tight. After a three week wait it transpires the shoes were left in a local sweet shop but no one bothered to tell me. I never have a smooth ride with online purchases. I picked them up this morning and decided to give them a go in Oxleas Woods. The new shoes have the treads moulded to fit the shoes whereas the old ones the tread was cut from a regular pattern sheet resulting in nobbles very close to the edge. They both have a great lace system. It looks fragile but it is really tough. You just pull on the clip to tighten then tuck the excess into a little pouch. The shoes are really well padded, I reckon you could run a half marathon in them from new without any trouble. They are really light and grippy. During the last Scottish Islands Three Peaks Race my running partner was wearing Inov8 shoes which lost all their nobbles on one scree slope! These Salomons will be good for several years. Highly recommended but take care on the sizing.

My old Speedcross 2 still going strong after four or five years! They just need a good wash.

My old Speedcross 2 still going strong after four or five years! They just need a good wash.

After my first run, seemed a shame to get them muddy.

After my first run, seemed a shame to get them muddy.


Marlow Half Marathon 2015

Sunday, November 1st, 2015

1st November 2015

I needed to enter a race before the busy season at Arthur Beale takes over my life. The last time I entered the Marlow Half if was badly flooded. This time it was dry but foggy and rather warm at about 14 degrees. The sun managed to burst through the fog on the hills and the autumn trees looked at their finest. The race started with a big firework going off bang. The start is crowded as we all squeezed through a narrow gateway with the chip timing mats but then it opens up along the high street until we all turn off onto the narrow roads and lanes which make up 90% of the course. It is gently undulating with a couple of small hills and all on tarmacked surfaces. The route is very pleasant countryside with a few small hamlets. It was awash with ambulances and their were plenty of marshals and well staffed drinks stations. I was a little upset to see some runners had dropped their gel wrappers in the road but I am sure the organisers will pick them up. It is a bad habit when out in the countryside and I hope it doesn’t catch on. A chap seems to run the course each year with a video camera and I am sure he upload his video to You Tube any minute now. At the finish line Dave the DJ did an amazing job encouraging the runners in. He gave me the feeling that he personally knew the whole fleet. Dave had some good banter about Rosie who was being waited for by some members of the crowd. He kept suggesting a search party should be sent out but in reality she ran a very fast race. Full marks to Dave the DJ.
The race was very well organised with friendly staff and everything you could possibly expect, save perhaps the slight shortage of toilets at the start – but that is a pretty common problem and runners always seem to cope. My time was 1 hour 49 minutes and 29 seconds which I was quite pleased with considering my lack of training. I’m sure I will be back.

Update: The chap with the video camera was John Pennifold who has sent me a link to the final video. I bet it took a long time to sort out – it always takes me about three times the time allocated to get a video uploaded – so a big thank you to John!

Stroud Trail Marathon

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

10th May 2015

Stroud, Gloucestershire

Tim and I enjoy a moment at the end of the Marathon

Tim and I enjoy a moment at the end of the Marathon

That’s Stroud pronounced a bit like a shroud rather than Strood which sounds a bit like rude. I mention this because a lot of people thought I was running in a flat area of Kent rather than the hilly Cotswolds. I’m sure Strood is very nice but it can’t be as nice as Stroud. This trail run is a corker. It has 800 m of ascent with running alongside shady canals, through woods covered with wild garlic and bluebells and up onto open heath with long views. There is a choice between a “Half” Marathon and a “Full” Marathon but both are slightly over length. There were a few of us running equally split between the full and half distances. The route is the same for 14 miles but the start times are an hour apart so we couldn’t run together. We had perfect conditions with pretty dry surface but nice and soft underfoot. I ran in “barefoot” trainers, well Nike call them barefoot. Trail shoes would be needed if it was wet. We had to carry a 500 ml water bottle although it need not have any water in it. I wore a belt, some had rucksacks and some ran with an old water bottle in their hands. I ran out of steam at around 20 miles and slowed down a bit but still finished at 4 hr 54 minutes which was mid fleet. Fastest time was about 3 hr 30 min and slowest was near to 8 hr. This is not a route for PB’s but can’t be beaten for organisation and gorgeous scenery. Highly recommended,

Eastbourne Half Marathon

Sunday, March 1st, 2015


1st March 2015

Eastbourne Half Marathon Finish

Eastbourne Half Marathon Finish

I know, I know, it was meant to be the Steyning Stinger, my favourite Hilly Half but sadly the application forms posted in December came flying back through the door last week with “insufficient postage” plastered over it. The Steyning Stinger was full and Eastbourne had places and so Eastbourne it was.
The appalling weather on Saturday encouraged me to wear a 250 g merino top for the race which was a big error. The sun came out on Sunday and blazed away all day. I nearly boiled over. I even had to grab some water en route – a rarity for me. I had a feeling it would be a flat run. There was mention of a hill which for some reason I thought would just be a minor bump – but I was wrong. After mile two we began to climb and it went on and on! At each “prow” there would be a turn and I would think “ah off down again soon” but once I arrived at the turn it climbed again. I suppose it wasn’t too bad but I just misjudged it. Most of the route was a friendly affair along the sunny seafront with drummers and cheering crowds.

Pier 150301We did a tour of the marina and headed back to the start which had one of those sneaky extra legs shoved in just when you don’t need it. My second half was slow and I let quite a few people slip past only managing a brief burst for the finish line. A well run fun race. My final time was a poor 1 hour 48 minutes and a bit. Oh well, must try harder.