Monthly Archives: June 2015

South Downs 100 Mile Relay

It is 6.45am and I arrive at the Withdean stadium carpark to meet my team, jump in the van, and head off to the start of the South Downs Way Relay, one of the most enjoyable vents in the running calendar. In the van with me sit Gareth, Julian, Malcom, Simon, Hwyl and our driver Michael, and we hit the road to Beachy Head.Rewind 12 months and I’m sat in a very similar van, with a different team (the Vets) heading back from the race. A combination of inexperience, illness, injury and getting lost (by me mainly) had meant out team getting cut-of at one of the handover stages and receiving a disappointing “DNF” result for our efforts. We’d all worked pretty hard and this was a sad way to end our day.

This year I was running for the B team, pulled in from the reserves after a number of injuries, and faced with the pressure of Arena 80 B teams many years of prize winning. The first good news of the day is that cut-of times are going to be discretionary (a lesson from an overly strict adherence last year) and the weather (if a little windy) is looking kind.

Leg 1 and Simon heads off over the challenging seven sisters, chasing a group that looks largely made-up of very speedy A team runners. When we next see him he has made good time and before I know I’m of on my first leg of the day.

Leg 2 was the one I was dreading, I did feel confident in the route, twists, turns, steps, ups and downs all leading to a long uphill finish. I struggle at the start, my legs just wouldn’t get moving, but after a while I get a bit of a rhythm going. A couple of indecisive junctions, but no going down the wrong routes and I make it to the long uphill. I adopt a walk-run approach, quick running followed by fast walking and I make it to the final downhill. I’m not delighted by my time, but I’m ahead of my predication and I gratefully hand over to leg 3.

The rest of the team are performing brilliantly and the driving goes smoothly as we move through the first third of the race.

My next leg is number 7, the leg where I got lost last year. I’ve practiced this one several times since and I know exactly where to go. The Arena A and Vets teams have caught up with us at the handover by now, but I’m determined not to get caught by them on my leg. I take the start easy and do my best to hit the downhill stretches as fast as I can. The up-hill stretches are another story, with the head-wind being at its strongest. I’m under estimate again, and many minutes quicker than last year so I’m pleased not to have let the team down too badly.

The next set of legs are picked off with a good degree of effort by the rest of the team, and I enjoy the battle that has developed between the A’s and the Vet’s. They are minutes apart and swap the lead a few times before leg 15 where the A team start to develop an unassailable lead. It was a great effort by both those teams throughout, and some good banter at the handovers.

  
I’m enjoying the scenery and the tam spirit so much that it is a real mental effort to get back into racing mode at the start of leg 16, my final run of the day. The leg starts at the Sustainability centre, and we anxiously give the marshal our expected handover time. We are a little outside the cut-of time, but discretion is applied and we are allowed to continue. A time for the race is guaranteed!

Leg 16 is my shortest leg, and I know that I’m going to struggle on the final ascent. So I choose to hit the start, and the two downhill stretches, as hard as I can. The run feels easier than expected and I’m pleased to pick of another team on route. Looking back after the final downhill stretch I see that as well as the team I’ve passed another team is closing in. This gives me all the impetus I need to push on to the end and, although I’m spotted walking on the final hill, I beat my target time and don’t get caught by the chasing team.

The final handover is a great feeling, and all that is left is to support Gareth and Malcolm as they tackle the final two legs of the day. They take them in their stride and we cross the finish line with an estimated 12 hours and 40 minutes on the clock.

  
A celebratory burger and a pint go down extremely easily and we decide to skip the formalities and hit the road home.

Sat in the van, preparing to depart, Anthony appears at the window. He’s clutching a stack of blue boxes – we’ve been awarded medals for second place B team. Result! We’d managed to maintain the B team’s prize winning record for another year.

If you want to try a proper team event, and get to experience a full day of racing across some of the most beautiful countryside in the UK then get your name down for next year. You’ll have a brilliant day out and you might just win something.

Superhero Run 2015

Another day, another year and it was time yet again for me to tackle my nemesis 10k race which I have struggled with every year for the last 4 years. It has always been at a time when for one reason or another I have been unfit or carrying a niggle and thus have never been able to give this a good shot. So this year I got my ass together and have followed a training plan to get me to the church on time. In the last couple of weeks before this big one everything was coming to plan. I had just got a park run PB, had a great WSFR run over the hills and managed to watch a whole series of Family Guy all within a week, oh yeah life is good and coming into this race I was feeling ready to take it by the scruff of the neck, fling it around a little and swallow it whole like Trevor Day devouring a bag of jam doughnuts. 

The day of reckoning had arrived and I was up early (about 3am by my watch and 3.01am by the clock) in anticipation of this momentous day. I had my usual pre-race breakfast of oysters and champagne, even managed to squeeze out a whole thimble full of wee, oh yes those little nerves were playing footsie with my tummy but today was my day and no one and nothing was going to take away my moment of glory.

 

I put on my running gear along with my new pair of Zoot running shoes purchased the day before. Never change anything on the day of a race is the rule of thumb so I made sure to comb my hair into its usual wide parting, it looked like a solar panel for a sex machine. My new trainers were the dogs, all clean and bluey colour with neat ironed laces, I think they fitted ok but I just liked the colour of them. With number adorned over my chest, it was time for this Gladiator to take his chariot to the battle ground. As we drove closer to the meeting place at the Hove Lawns I could see many other runners making their way to the battle ground. They came in all shapes and sizes and ages, there must have been at least a couple of thousand like-minded runners for this biggy and the sun god was shining down on us today although there was a very cool steady breeze blowing through. I made my way to the start pen and somehow found myself at the very front of the pack on the start line, so I took a few cheeky selfies just for good measure but as I turned my head I caught in my eye line Steve Booker and Michelle Cartwright , it was too late at that point to say I hadn’t seen them so I made a hasty retreat from the front and jiggled my way back to them, and again took some more cheeky selfies with them. The anticipation rose amongst the crowd and it was almost time for the off. Michelle said she was possibly going for a PB and I knew Steve was in good form so I was in two minds as to whether to stick to my race plan or stick in behind the guys (if you’ll excuse the expression).

 

The horn hooted and the 1500 other super heroes all went surging forward. There I was dressed as Beer belly man along with Michelle as Super woman and Steve as, well I still haven’t worked it out. Before I knew it I was over taken by ninja man and the incredible hulk, this was a race of epic proportions and one not for the feint hearted. I decided to go with Steve and Michelle so my race plan went out of the window and my first mile was some 25 seconds faster than I had planned for. Mile 1 came and Michelle was already flexing her cape and starting to pull away from Steve and myself. Ok ok no panic just keep popeye in my sights and who’s that with the long black tail, no I must stop looking and concentrate on the race, although I have to say cat woman did look rather fetching dangling her tail along behind her. Mile 2 came and I had long lost Michelle and Steve so I was on my own now, just me and my big belly to lug around the course. I checked the watch and I was 10 seconds up on the 2nd mile and then mile 3 came ad again I was another 10 seconds up on my race plan so giving me 45 seconds up on where I hoped to be and I was looking good along with er some bloke who was dressed as a dominatrix gimp kind of style and the man who really hadn’t bothered too much and wore a t-shirt with a super hero emblem on it, why do these people turn up if there not going to take the race seriously. Mile 4 came and I had dropped my pace but I was still in with a shot of my 10k PB. The 5k super heroes had dropped out of the race now and there was now daylight and running space along the beach. It was a spectacular sight seeing so many runners playing dress up and the public was lapping up this festival of costumes parading themselves like the grand national horses on race day. Mile 5 came and disaster struck, my gremlin from so many races before had raised its ugly head again and decided that today was playtime, CRAMP. I don’t know why it likes to always come out on race days coz it sure doesn’t bother on training days. I pulled up to stretch it out and I could see martial arts man, the hulk and crazy doctor with blood stained white coat (super hero???) all passing by me. I couldn’t believe it was happening again as I lay my belly on the bench and stretched out my calf. I checked the watch and there was still hope on the horizon. I saw the saucy cat tail in the distance and hoped that might spur me on, so I soldiered on with a mile to go. I could see Steve Booker up ahead and though that maybe that mask was one mask too many for him, how was he meant to breathe through that thing. Again I had to pull up and stretch the calves out but I still thought that by this time there might just be a glimmer of hope that I could make my PB.

   

With about 600 mtrs to go I was over taken by two dudes so it was game on, if you have the costume to overtake at this point then I hope you have the super hero power to take you to the finish line ahead of me. Now I’m not very competitive when it comes to a finish but these dudes had seriously ruffled my cape. So I poised myself for a finish, hair – check, belly in place – check, sweaty head band away from eyes – check, ok this was it, time to show the full force of super belly man in full effect. 300 mtrs to go and I made my move, I got along side of said two dudes and glanced across at them. I could see one of them had been hit hard by Kryptonite so he was going to be no threat but the other dude still had some spirit left in him. 200 mtrs to go and Kryptonite man was out of it and it was just me and spirited dude left. I made my move and spirited dude came with me, aarrgghh no this wasn’t in the script, so again I pushed on and my cape was flying behind me, again spirited dude tried to go with me but it was all over as I powered my way through to the finishing line, well when I say powered I use the term very loosely here of course, not so much powered erm more like a giddy up like school kids do in the playground. I looked down at my watch but alas today was not to be my day 48.42 and a minute and 20 seconds outside of my PB. Maybe if I hadn’t have purred over cat womans tail so much or maybe if I had stuck to my race plan or maybe of the weather had been kinder or etc etc can I add any more excuses? This however is a great family day out and is a real spectacle for the general public. This just engages youngsters and fun-runners to participate and all for a great cause as well. As for Steve and Michelle, Steve said he didn’t have his greatest run and I think the mask may have had something to do with that and Michelle, well she got herself a new PB. Thank you Super heroes run and I’ll see you again next year then. Thanks Marc Bonaldi.