Category Archives: Race Reports

Brighton Half Marathon 2017. Arena continue with successes.

For once the Brighton Half Marathon didn’t lay on it’s usual blue sky and calm winds instead we were offered a damp misty affair with a fairly stiff SW wind to battle with however the show must go on and so it did. it was another 8000 plus runners taking to this annual event which for the first time included a wheelchair race of 8 quality participants.

The course record for the men is held by Paul Martelletti – 64.53 set in 2016.
The course record for the women was held by Leigh Lattimore – 75:52 also set in 2016

2017 – The first man home today was Jonathan Tipper of Kent AC in 68.37
2017 – The first lady home today was Eleanor Davis of Newquay Road Runners in 74.26 who set a new course record.

What of our Arena athletes I hear you ask, well the first man home  was that man Al Silvester who again looked very strong and impressive. Al placed 33rd in a time of 75.31 just 31 seconds from his PB.

 Second man home and what an epic battle it was in the last mile of the race was the very inform Dan Vaughan who slowly but surely reeled in the distance from Anthony Snelling to take 2nd Arena man. Dan bought it home in 77.56 and just 23 seconds outside of his PB. Dan was also 10th in the O40 category.

Anthony Snelling was 3rd Arena man home and proved again that he is well up there amongst the teams best. Anthony was another man close to his best time and came home in 78.13 and 34 seconds outside of his PB.

Of the Arena women we must say a huge congratulations to Emily Proto who took a fantastic 2nd place today. Emily looked in a fighting and determined mood out there and still looked full of running at mile 11.5. Emily was pushed hard by the lady in 3rd place, Sarah Hill, who had previously beaten Emily in 2015 so it was honours even and good to see that Emily’s almost religious and regimented training regime came to the fore today to bring her home in 81.27.

Second lady home and a superb 10th overall for the ladies was Tara Shanahan who really is in mustard form with a new PB time of 87.06 and smashed her previous best set back in 2015 which was 91.41.

Third lady home was her partner in crime Dani Tarleton who also took a brilliant 11th place for the women’s race in her time of 87.26 and just 9 seconds off her previous best. Tara and Dani were also placed 4th and 5th respectively in the O40’s category. 

Other athletes worthy of note and congratulations go to Nicky Yeates who placed 8th in the O50’s women in a new PB time of 1.40.11.

Soulla Wright taking 3 minutes off her previous best of 91.34 and now down to 88.14. I’m not sure what she was listening too in her headphones but she was definitely bouncing to the beat.

Lucy Anderson who took a massive chunk of her PB which stood at 1.59.13 but after today can now proudly sit with 1.45.58 a whole 11 minutes off – wow.

At the time of writing I haven’t seen all the results but I’m pretty sure there were quite a few other PB’s that also went down today.

We should say a big thank you and well done to our volunteers at the Peace Statue, not only did they do such a great job in keeping things moving smoothly down there but also the support they gave to, not only to the Arena massive but also to the other runners participating as well. It was Arena at their very best and again the camaraderie amongst them is second to none.

All in all we can say it was a very successful day for Arena 80 which ever way you look at it and so pleasing to see our athletes rise to the occasion to be the best they can be.

I read a quote from one of our Arena athletes today that said “Super happy with my half marathon PB! Best thing I did was to join Arena 80.. not only have I got faster but I have met some lovely fellow runners, a few of whom I huffed and puffed alongside today.. thank you guys”.

it pretty much sums up Arena 80.

Well done to all who took part and achieved their goals so onwards to the Brighton marathon then.

For Arena results: http://results.sporthive.com/events/6232162395931082240/races/402739/team/6241610078462793216

For full results: http://results.sporthive.com/events/6232162395931082240/races/402739

“We are what we have done and what we will do!” – Unknown

Wolverhampton 10K and Marathon – 4 September 2016 – race report

Wolverhampton 10K and Marathon – 4 September 2016

Graham Shorter

Yes, you read that correctly. The old bloke who bimbles round at the back on a Monday night actually did a race. For those of you newer to the club, I did actually used to be able to run, 80 minutes half marathons, sub 3 hour marathons until ankle surgery put an end to all that about 15 years ago.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it's Graham Shorter.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?…..

Nowadays my competitive juices are satisfied by the triple jump, in the top 10 in the UK for the over 60’s in 2015 (yes, I know there are probably only 10 over 60 triple jumpers in the UK).

My younger son (Dave) now lives in Telford and volunteered to do the Wolverhampton marathon to raise funds for his mother in law’s school. I’ve offered support and advice throughout his training, so said I would go up for the weekend of the race. About 2 weeks before, he said that the 10K wasn’t full, so did I fancy doing that! HELP!! Apart from the ill fated Adur challenge in 2015 (Graham’s Folly anyone) I haven’t run that far in one go for donkey’s years.

So I entered. Duly received my number with a chip in it (to show how out of touch I am with racing, I thought that chip timing meant watching the oven to see how long they would take to cook). The whole set up on the day was really good, although I was amazed at the low number of runners for a city marathon, 354 for the 10K, 597 for the half and only 224 for the marathon. My only reservation was that Molineux was being used as a car park for the event, so mine, resplendent with an assortment of Albion stickers, looked a bit out of place.

Dave’s aforementioned mother in law (Mary) and loads more from her school were all doing the 10K, so I had someone to chat to after the marathon had started before we ran. She does a bit of running so there was definitely incentive for me to go well and get the family bragging rights.

On the entry form I had to put my expected finishing time. I had no idea what to put, so went for 56 minutes, more out of hope than anything else, thinking that 9 minute miling might just be possible. Suddenly it was time, so we lined up. Mary asked where we should stand. My pathetic response was that I really had no idea, except not too near the front!

And off we went. I seemed to drop into a reasonable rhythm, with no real idea of pace until I got to the first K marker, which I reached in 5mins 25 seconds. Not too bad I thought, just a bit quicker than target and I’d left Mary and the rest floundering in my wake. Then someone fell over in front of me, so I wasted precious time making sure they were OK. Strangely, I fell into the same rhythm and maintained pretty much the same pace until 9K, when I thought, not far to go now, let’s push on. And I did! Finished in 53 mins 23, 111th out of 354, and 3rd man over 60! Mary did 1hour 1min, so I’m the king!

For a first marathon, Dave did OK. He’s struggled to put the training in, partly due to having a 16 month old son and partly due to his shift work. He did join his local club, Lawley Runners, to try and get some training with others, but having paid his annual fee, three weeks later they tried to sting him for the next annual fee, having not told him that the first one only had 3 weeks to run. Disgraceful, I said Arena would never be so mercenary, so he told them where to stick it. So all his training was on his own.

He’d done 20 miles at 10 minute pace as his last long run, so he was hopeful of getting around four and a half hours. He went through half way in 2 hours, which was probably a bit quick, as he started calf cramping at around 20 miles. Having finished my race, I ran the marathon course backwards (you know what I mean) and met up with him at around 24 miles so that I could run the last bit with him. Is that pretty extreme parenting or just plain stupid?  He was suffering by then which I became aware of due to the frequent expletive followed by a sudden stop as he cramped. He finished in 4 hours 52, and the good news is that he wants to do another marathon, it hasn’t put him off.

As far as the race goes, it’s not really one that I would recommend, although looking at the results, Arena runners would do very well. My PB for a marathon would have got me third place this year. The organisation was first class. All 3 races are reasonably flat, just a few inclines to keep it interesting. There are road closures, but they aren’t comprehensive and didn’t last all that long, so there is a good bit of mingling with traffic, hardly ideal when you’re knackered at the end of a marathon. The course is not exactly riveting, but then it is Wolverhampton.

So am I now full of enthusiasm to rekindle my endurance career. Maybe, but I know I can’t because if I run more than once a week, my foot would probably fall off. But did I enjoy it as a one off, most definitely!!

Graham Shorter

(Admin says “if you would like to do a write up on any race that you have taken part in, then please do send them in for our race reports to: arena80ac@hotmail.co.uk)

Hartfield 10k meets fell running.

My Dad used to be a fell runner. He came to the sport suddenly in the summer of 1986, after years chasing the dream of a sub 3 marathon.

His conversion to ‘felling’ was off the back of a gruelling six month period of 90 mile weeks plus marathons and half marathons all over the UK.

Then suddenly, out of the blue, he was floored by pneumonia.

Now, for a skilled manual worker, this presented a problem. The doctor insisted he take eight weeks off work and admonished him for pushing too hard.

‘I liked t’marathons,’ my dad told me over a beer at his 70th birthday party recently, ‘but I weren’t abart to kill mesen-over-em.’

So fell running it was.

I don’t know how he concluded fell running was in some way ‘easier’ or ‘safer’ than 90-mile weeks on tarmac. But this was now the mind of a fell runner and those ‘up hill and down dale’ runs couldn’t possibly be as dangerous as a near death brush with pneumonia, could they?

One Sunday he was late home from his club run (Bingley Harriers). Eventually he arrived drip white, hobbled off his motorbike, slumped into a chair and promptly announced he’d broken his leg.

It was a group run, they were charging through a wood just off Baildon Moor, but dad lost his footing and smashed his tibia. Thankfully one of the lads waited for him, snapped off a tree branch for a makeshift crutch and walked him back to the sports centre (a three mile trek). Don’t ask me how dad managed to ride his Kawasaki home, and certainly don’t ask me why he decided to give his mate a lift home as well, it’s a question my mother’s never had a satisfactory answer to in 30 years.

Anyway, I honestly wasn’t thinking about this story when I ran the Hartfield 10k last weekend. To this delicate parkrunner, the Hartfield 10 was ‘challenging’ but nothing like Burnsall Fell in Yorkshire (a fantastic event under AAA rules, not like some of the fell races some of dad’s mates used to get involved in).

Nonetheless, finding myself frustrated at the back of a group atop an ascent on Sunday, seemingly out of nowhere, a piece of fell running lore popped into my head, something that had always struck me as just a bit of ‘fell runner’s banter’, but for the first time in my running experience, suddenly made complete sense.

‘It’s not how fast you can run up a fell that counts lad, what matters is how fast you dare run down it,’ dad used to say.

Inspired by this thought I instantly attacked the group I was running with, shooting to the front of the pack, barrelling off rocks and driving through the mud with the nimble cadence of a mountain goat negotiating a crowded bar for a pint of Theakstons.

As the hill petered out, I surged again, refusing to let go that hill’s momentum and reeling slightly at the fact I’d put 10 metres into the group I’d been at the back of barely seconds before.

Reaching a hard turn I glimpsed back to see that 10 metres had become 20… I was away!

‘Shit,’ I thought to myself, ‘what am I going to do now?’ Spying a runner maybe 50 metres ahead, I attacked again, a nice flat section now where I could go like a road runner, telling myself: ‘Paul, they’re never going to catch you, they haven’t got it, they haven’t done any Thursday night Hove Park hill reps, they simply haven’t got a chance, if they level up you can simply surge hard again, they’ll hate that.’

Now, I’m not a fast runner, and there was no chance of me winning this event, but it felt good to be in what I was now treating as a race. Sure enough I was soon back in the middle of a grassy field, cursing the world for putting all that mud there, breathing hard and no longer catching the bloke in front.

But salvation was soon at hand. There’s a 2k stretch towards the end of the Hartfield 10, along an old disused railway track. It’s a chance to shake off the mud, get your form right and run hard, not quite Eurostar, but defo diesel loco. And, there’s no mud! What a prospect after 8 kilometres cursing the git in front for ‘making’ you follow the same route through the muddiest sections of the course (it’s always their fault isn’t it? Always their fault for making you follow them into the boggiest sections? They do it on purpose don’t they? Why do they do that?). Anyway, on the railway section you can just… run.

With about 1,500 metres to go I passed a photographer who, upon enquiring, told me my pursuers were ‘nowhere mate.’ It started to dawn on me that I’d done it, even my exhausted trudge (muddy and uphill of course) to the finish line would be unassailable now. That attack down the hill had worked.

I was delighted with my 12th place finish and joined a team of fellow Areeneez who seemed to have enjoyed the run too. I quite like this cross country lark, who knows, perhaps I might have a go at a fell run at some point too?

Our thanks to Paul Hebden for this great race report.

Paris Marathon

As I stood upon the famous cobbles of the Champs Elysees in the early morning spring Paris sunshine I looked back to the Arc De Triomphe and the 42,000 runners eagerly anticipating the start of the 40th Paris marathon. I turned and looked down towards the Place de la Concorde and the Louvre and then all around me to the multitude of nationalities assembled eagerly anticipating the start and it made me realise how much I love being on the start line of a marathon, especially a big city marathon.
It all goes downhill from here on in!
We arrived in Paris on the Friday and tried to cram in as much sightseeing as possible without tiring the legs out too much. Mrs O’ was along for the journey as well as our 9 year old son, the elder son was quite happy to stay at his cousin’s house providing we purchased him lots of chocolates and presents, considering the Eurostar and hotel costs I thought that was a good deal all round. Also, me and the eldest had done a road trip when we lived in Australia relocating a campervan and the youngest son was not happy that his big brother was one up on the trip front, so this was an opportunity to set the record straight. I forgot all about resting the legs pretty quickly and wanted to see as much as possible. Come 5 O’clock at the weekend Mrs O is usually gagging for a beer and/or wine so I knew we would have to visit a few cafes. The beer was the same price as a soft drink and I could not bring myself to ordering a soft drink at the same price as a beer so ordered two beers and I sipped water as Mrs O downed the beers. This worked out quite well as we were back in the hotel room earlier than planned both nights as Mrs O was drinking twice as much beer/wine as usual and I managed to rest the legs and have early nights. However, there was none of the Paris romance when you have your 9 year old in the room. Right, where was I!
As the marathon starts in waves I was off at 8.47 am and then it was a staggered time start with the 4.30 plus marathon runners starting at 10.05am. This is a great way to avoid overcrowding on the course but can be a bad deal for the late starters especially as the temperature was up to 18 -19c by mid-afternoon on Sunday. At this stage I would like to have gone into a prolonged adventure story about how I fought and conquered my 19th marathon in my fastest time. However, it all went bang on plan so I will give you an abbreviated version. We left the Champs Elysees and I settled into a good pace of 4.10 per km (can’t believe I am saying I settled into 4.10 pace, is this me) and we ran out towards the Bois de Vincennes and a 10k loop around the park. Once out of the centre the crowds are very thin on the ground. There was one stage where I got quite excited as we approached a big crowd in the distance but this was the local Sunday market with people going about their business presumably buying bread, cheese and garlic – right, let’s not go down that route. There is really good support along large parts of the course and lots of bands but it is nothing like the crowds we have in Brighton and London.
After the loop of the park we hit halfway by the Place de Bastille and I crossed halfway in pretty much bang on 1.28 which was my target. I then adjusted to my new target of trying to complete the second half in under 1.30 and the plan was to maintain 4.10 until 25k and take it from there. Why 25k I hear you mutter, well at 25k you have 4 tunnels pretty much one after the other where you drop down and then climb out, one of them is about 1km long and it plays havoc with your Garmin (I managed a 1km pb of 1.43 at km 27, unfortunately, km 26 was 6.42). I reckon this section could make or break your marathon as it does take its toll on your legs, but not for me today, I’m bang on target and feeling good. I passed 32k and was still managing to complete some km’s in under 4.10. I then hit the 1km drag up into the final park. I knew this hill was waiting, I’d checked the map and it was a bit like the drag up to the marina on the Brighton half, not a killer but will slow you down slightly, especially at 35k. I reached the top and remarkably carried on going still holding a good pace with 4.09 and 4.11 for km’s 38 and 39. You would think at this stage I knew sub-3 was in the bag but as many of you know, in the marathon anything can go wrong and as with the rest of the race I was so focussed and concentrating on what lay ahead I did not even allow myself to think I had achieved my mission.
Now for the exciting bit! On the final bend out of the park and into Avenue Foch at just before 42km I suddenly had a killer cramp in my left leg, by this stage I knew sub-3 was in the bag and rather than stagger on like the hunch back of Notre Dame towards the finish line in pain, I took the sensible option of hassling some poor family by the side of the road to stretch out my leg for a while. This was my moment of sub-3 glory, I wanted to go over that line in style and I did not want to cause undue stress to Mrs O and Oliver who I knew were just round the corner waiting to cheer me on. Suitably stretched I jogged on and approached finish line with chest puffed out like King Eric (Cantona) himself and fully enjoyed my moment of glory and crossed the finish line in 2.57.34.
And that was it, after 3 serious attempts at sub-3 I finally managed it and smashed through in 2.57 (My 3 attempts were Amsterdam 2014 – who was I kidding I was nowhere near in sub-3 shape and crashed and burned in 3.08, Brighton 2015 – 3.01.50 on track until 20 miles but mentally just switched off and then 2 weeks later in London I did 3.00.50 and this was off the back of 3 full days of drinking the black stuff in Dublin on the weekend between the marathons.
What did I do differently this year?

I rested in the autumn (I usually do an autumn marathon)

I started going to a body pump class once a week (would recommend for all round strength conditioning) and did core work at home for 45 minutes once a week (planks, press ups, sit ups, stretching and rolling)

I kept the weight down over Xmas, I usually spend January and half of February trying to shed the weight I usually put on from Xmas and Xmas parties (that’s why I run so I can drink and eat what I want to).

I did more medium length runs of 9 -14 miles which meant giving up track for January and February

More marathon pace runs, one every 3 weeks

Wednesday nights I would also be freezing on my own up towards Carats café and back down to King Alfred banging out a tempo or mile repeats before meeting up with the group and doing the same again
Finally, as ever the company and camaraderie of my running buddies at Arena and the help of Bob and the rest of the team are what make this running lark all worthwhile and I really appreciate the club we have. I just need Kev to get back running again properly as I miss his moaning about his injuries and ailments! One last special mention to Steve (I’m taking it easy tonight) McNealy who has really helped me out over the last couple of years with his encouragement and support on a Monday and Wednesday nights.

What next, well Brighton and London marathons of course, I need to be back on that marathon start line!
Cheers
Mark

Crawley AIM 6hr

Crawley AIM 6hr – Saturday 2 April 2016.

Round and round and round we go, where we gonna stop, nobody knows!

What an experience and probably the most fun I have had running round in circles!

Way back last year after dragging my miserable self around the South Downs Way 50 and then a near meltdown at the Arun River marathon in May, I decided I had had my fill of long distances and wasn’t actually enjoying running any more. So releasing myself from pressures of having to run, shortening the distances, getting in some quality stuff I started to run for the simple enjoyment…and actually started to see some improvement. So, what on earth possessed me to enter a 12hr track event, but enter I did. I had actually had my eye on it for two or three years but other races got in the way.

Anyway, Autumn turned to Autumn…well the temperature did ….then the rain came down, then the ground turned to mush, then I lost my appetite for slogging miles out for hours on end, so I parked the 12hr in the back of my mind and carried on enjoying. I discovered cross country for the first time in my 56 years, learnt to embrace Arena Thursday evening’s 15 hill rep sessions and concentrated on run specific strength and conditioning in the gym especially upper body stuff to help with my form when tiredness sets in..I can now bench press 26kg compared to 20kg and deadlift 40kg compared to 28kg!

Autumn part two turned to Winter, then Spring, then Winter, then while in Portugal last month I finally officially pulled out of the 12hr. done! Free to enjoy the WSFRL and the Bognor 10k ….until…the race organiser (RO) came back to me with an offer of a place in the 6hr!! So with 10 days to go I accepted the place and so began my non-existent taper! Children, don’t try this at home!

I’d been pacing the 4.30 group for Runbrighton all winter so knew I was marathon fit in terms of distance, my training had been consistent even though I wasn’t really sure what it was being consistent for and I knew my head was in the right place (not just on my shoulders), so what did I have to lose? In prep I did a 3hr run with Runbrighton on the Sunday before followed by the Lewes Easter 10k on the Monday…followed by nothing in the remaining 4 days and a lot of eating, no alcohol or caffeine.

Race day dawned, the sun came out and Michele, my dedicated lap counter, whisked me up the A23 to the K2 athletics track at Crawley. We spent a pleasant journey putting those less perfect than us to rights and I voiced my race strategy for approval! I did have butterflies in my stomach, but nowhere my usual pre-race anxiety level, it was more nervous excitement, I also enjoyed my first hit of caffeine in a week. I was actually looking forward to getting on the start line. Both of us have lap counted at a track marathon before so had an idea of what was in store for us. One last minute panic when I realised ear phones were banned. I was hoping to pass the time listening to Pop-pickers on R2 at lunch time, then I remembered Tony Blackburn had been given the push anyway and Michele told me I would just have to get on with it! I pushed away any thoughts of the entire 6 hrs ahead, just break the race down, only think about each 30 minute section at a time and breaking it down to the 25/5 ratio.

So at the K2 and I ambled off to set up my fuel station on a chair, (some experienced had small tables!) I’d packed enough gels and stuff I knew I wouldn’t eat to last me a few days, but I do like a bit of choice. This was one of the attractions for me, no need to carry loads of gear, it can all be left in one spot, impossible to get lost and I am never far from the start. The 12hr runners were already on the track and seeing them helped ease the butterflies, they were just ordinary runners, chatting as they went round at various speeds and one lady power walking. Number collected and pinned on back and front like a pro, instructions for us both…make eye contact at least on every lap, wave preferably, run in lane one or on the line and enjoy! Then we were off to join the 12hrs, 3hrs in for them, going round and round.

Having no idea where I was in terms of pace fitness I had sort of planned to start around 11min miling, thinking I was probably around 10.15 pace marathon fit. I had decided on two run/walk ratios, 25/5 and if it got too tough, 12/3, nice rounded segments to concentrate on and break the distant down. The first 25 mins clipped away quite sharpish, so much for 11min miling, I was doing 10…oh hell, slow down…no, no, keep going, it’s comfortable…you’ll suffer for it! Never listen to my own advice, I ploughed on, forcing myself into the 5 min walk section I picked up a piece of flapjack, cup of high5 and water at the communal fuel station weighted down with the usual goodies and carried on, dreaming up different types of waves to give Michele who had now been joined by two more friends, Lisa and Anne. I decided to try a thumbs up combo and perhaps a salute on the next few laps.
Lap counters

lap counters

Back into a run section and I clipped off two 9.38 miles…11min miling!? Another walk break and this time I didn’t feel so self-conscious as others were taking frequent breaks apart from the leaders and two extremely focused Swedish women. One of them was called Agnetha (our names were on our numbers, back and front) and every time I passed her or vice versa, I started singing Dancing Queen in my head, you can dance, you can run, having the time of your life here at Creepy Crawley! Gel time I decided and an opportunity to visit the facilities before the next run time kicks in. Fuelled by a lemon and mint SIS gel (not sure about the taste) it was another 9.38 followed by a 9.57…11min miling!? I clipped the half marathon point off with a 9.33 and then broke into the pineapple chunks as a treat on my next walk break, I interspersed this with little chats to my fellow runners, haven’t I seen you before, bit breezy isn’t it, nice scenery! Opps, nearly forgot to wave or was it thumbs up time? I was treated to a Mexican wave on occasions, it turned out it was every time I completed 20 laps. Round and round we go, I feel in the zone, metrognomic! This is how running used to feel, this is how I used to be consistent with my pace, I was finishing almost in the same spot after each run section, I must be consistent.

9.30 through 18 miles and we reach a point of huge excitement, time to change direction…yay! 3hours in for me and 6 hrs for the 12hr gang. The RO makes an occasion of it and I get to see the faces of other runners, they look a bit tired too, that’s good, I’m normal. Oh this is nice, a different view, tall trees rather than office windows on the bend, however, it also took me a while to orientate myself. Now I would have to take my gels to the fuel station rather than water to my fuel chair. I could also see the race clock head on rather than turning back and the leader board as well as the lap counters at a different angle. By now I had decided a jelly baby between two cheesy nibbles was the way ahead…that and pineapple chunks and I was still clipping off sub 10 min miles….11min miling!?

Until about now, 22 miles in and I hit a bit of a low patch, time to engage my mantra! From William Ernest Henley’s poem Invictus comes the lines, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul. The two lines were paraphrased by Nelson Mandela whilst he was incarcerated and brought to life again recently by my other inspiration of today, Eddie Izzard. (The poem that is, not Mandela, although Easter has just passed so it could be feasible) Come on, draw on those dreadmill sessions, all that threshold running staring at a wall, draw on that mental strength. By now another couple of friends had arrived to hurl abuse at me and take some photos of my pain. Better try to keep my form for the camera, head up, shoulders relaxed, drive those arms!

By now we were about 4 hours in, 2 hours to go and I started to feel the effort of it all, the 25 mins were taking an hour and my stomach was feeling a little queasy at times. Time to hit the coke at the fuel station, coca cola that is, not the white powder, this worked on my stomach but not on my mind, it didn’t make the 25 mins tick any faster…so time to change the combo to. 12/3. This did wonders to my head and a well caught plunge into the dark places of my mind was avoided. 90 mins to go, the back of it is broken, I’m still waving, even smiling apparently…personally it was probably a grimace..but who cares. Two walk breaks in the next 30 mins, an extra visit to the fuel station for coke, come on dig deep…I am the keeper of my soul…that’s wrong, what was that flipping quote! Money, money, money, she can dance and her coach can shout! And shout he did, something in Swedish that sounded rather rude! The girls were apparently trying to qualify for a Swedish something and he was trying to spur them on and he did laugh when she was further down the track.

Walk break, chat to a 12 hr chap who seems quite envious that my race will soon be finishing, the sun has disappeared, it’s gone chilly so I grab my arm warmers on the next fly past of the fuel chair. One hour left to go, we’re in the last hour whoop, whoop, I can do this, soon be home and able to eat the chicken thingy I had out in the pre-set oven, chicken dinner, winner, winner, come on dancing queen keep moving.

It is about now that I found Michele hanging out at my fuel chair waving a pair of gloves at me, they don’t look like the ones I packed! Are they mine? No, they’re Lisa’s, you have gone a funny colour! Green? No grey? Are you cold? A bit? Put these on, they don’t fit! Lisa must have small hands, no mine are puffy! I’ll have mine, where are they, in my rucksack…I’ll get them next time around, don’t stop me now, I’m having such a great time, I’m having a ball, that’s not Abba but who cares. Sure enough, 2 mins later or there about, my gloves await me. Walk break and it’s 30 mins to go, just a parkrun….not sure why I thought that, then I remembered thinking that at mile 23 during the 2012 Brighton marathon and then I had 30 mins to finish with a PB….which I did with some to spare. So that passed another lap, tick them off, come on shouts Jan, only 6 laps and you hit 50k, come on dig deep…I pass the race referee who gives me a marker and tells me to leave at the side of the track where I stop when the whistle goes, I spend the next lap wandering where to put it rather than clutching it…I settle for stuffing it inside my glove. The next lap is spent wondering what side of the track to place the marker and the next one if I stay with it or not, finally I caught the ref again and my thoughts were answered.

Last walk break done, it’s the home straight, I must have done the 6 laps by now? It feels like a million and six! More words of encouragement from my cheery team as they shelter from the spits of rain…are you lot alright under there? Into the last few minutes, to shouts of put the hammer down I found something deep inside and pushed on, passing the 6hr leader having a walk…come on, you can’t walk now, past dancing queen also having a walk, glad I haven’t got another 3 hours to go.

brigitte
Another lap, all those threshold and interval sessions on the dread mill each week are paying off, all those 15 thousand hill reps on a Thursday have given my legs the strength to drive me forward, round I go, two minutes on the clock, I pass the woman in 3rd place who has got stronger as the race progressed but still took time to say well done each time we passed. The hammer is almost well and truly down, I wish I had shoved it down a wee bit more as when the whistle blew I was just a shade off the start/finish line…I like completeness, joined up circles and rounded miles. Hallelujah, I’m finished…how brilliant was that, how absolutely delighted am I! No need to beat myself up on the drive home, no need to wish I had gone faster or further. I had played a good part, I loved my stage today and best of all those dark demons stayed away, I really was the master of my fate….and I made it just over 50k!

 

brigitte1

medal

Some years ago, 11, to be precise I did my first ultra, the Dartmoor Discovery, 32 miles over the roads of Dartmoor, it remains my favourite to this day. None of the commercialism of some of today’s races, just good honest running organised by good honest runners and this is what the AIM 12/6 hr event is like. Don’t expect chip timing, an overrated goodie bag full of flyers or a medal as big as your backside. But do expect and embrace the simplicity of it all, the organisation even down to fixing the dodgy timing clock, your lap counter and fellow runners for that sense of camaraderie and community, a well-stocked fuel station, a finishing bag of essential crisps, drink and chocolate bar and a medal to be well and truly proud of. For me the best of all, the sense of achievement, I had been round and round that track 120 something times, did I ever get bored, no never, what did I think about, lord knows…was it tough, yes at times, but even parkrun has it’s tough parts…well all bloody 3 miles of it actually! Will I do it again, not this year and 6 hours was probably enough…but then I said that after the 100k London to Brighton, then look what happened?

Onwards now, a little rest then back to fun and enjoyment…oh and swearing on a Thursday!

Brigitte G

 

 

 

Tokyo Marathon 2016 – Al Silvester continues to conquer the world.

Konichiwa!

Here it is! The big one (until the next big one). The culmination of 5 months of difficult and sporadic training across Asia!

Did I train hard enough? Did I do enough long runs? Would all the beers and delicious foods I’ve been stuffing my face with count against me? Would I be able to sneak under 3 hours, or perhaps post a better time? What did i have for breakfast in the morning of the race? How many toilet visits did I make? Will anyone read this?

All these important questions will be answered in the next few minutes so keep reading! Or don’t. Your choice of course. I don’t want to force you to read it obviously.

Anyhow, where was I? Yes, we arrived in Japan and more specifically Tokyo and had a week’s count down before the big day itself, so we travelled around the country with Cat’s sister Rachel and her husband Phil for some solid tourism (however that will be covered in the Japan blog post so keep your eyes peeled for it).

Let’s get back to race matters, and firstly as always the pre race expo!

Having not arrived back in Tokyo until the Friday, it meant we had to leave our expo visit until the Saturday, which as all you ardent marathoners know is a big mistake if you are wanting to avoid the crowds. However with Cat and Phil in check (Rachel was laid up ill in bed with woman flu and bro et al were out looking at the imperial palace) we set off to the Tokyo dock lands area where the expo was being held in a conference centre called Tokyo Big Sight (which looks a little bit like a James Bond evil villain’s lair). Similar to London and the Excel centre it takes a while and a few subway lines to reach the place, but was actually quite a useful journey, as this is where the marathon ends and the last few miles of the route approach.

As well as picking up my race number, timing chip, t-shirt and general freebies I also needed to grab some gels for the race and also some arm sleeves which I thought may be useful if the day was a bit chilly. However navigating through the throng of incredibly enthusiastic runners was a bit of a chore, but I ploughed through and managed to secure myself 4 power bar gels of varying flavours, and some dashing white arm sleeves. Success.

Pre race kit check = tick!

Pre race kit check = tick!

The pre race carb loading session was in a Japanese canteen down the road from the hotel in Nihombashi, which for Tokyo standards was incredibly good value. Ramen (noodle soup) and beef (my non red meat diet has suffered terribly in Asia) strips with a couple of dumplings was the order of the day and it deffo filled a hole. I therefore headed to bed early and packed up my race bag ready for an early 6am wake up call.

So, up with the partridge, and down to breakfast it was. Cat had kindly gotten up with me and come for breakfast as well, so we stuffed our faces with pan au raisins, hot dogs and cups of tea (never coffee before a race for obvious reasons). However, she wasn’t coming to the start line with me but instead meeting my auntie Estella from her pod capsule hotel (yep, Japan has lots of these places where you rent a capsule type bed for the night) and both heading to km 8 (no mile markers in Japan, just km markers, but I’m an imperial man so will continue with miles) to see the race come through there. So I said saionara and hopped on to the metro for Shinjuku and the start race village.

For once I had made good time (Japanese subway and trains are incredibly efficient – perhaps the UK should outsource Network Rail and the train operating franchises to Japan!) and arrived in the village ready to grab a banana, visit the toilet, warm up and get a good spot in the corral.

Halfway through the mother of all toilet queues

Halfway through the mother of all toilet queues

However, I had not bargained for the mother of all toilet queues! I shit you not (pun intended) that the queue for about 15 cubicles must have had over 1000 people waiting. After an hours wait I got to the front and made the moment count. Textbook stuff despite it being a squatter style!

A quick clothing change and dropping stuff off in the bag drop and off to pen A with 20 minutes to spare. Interestingly looking around the pen I spotted a few faces which looked familiar and on closer inspection their vests revealed runners from Serpentine, Kent and other places in the UK. I began to focus and listened to the guy on the tannoy announce the wheelchair starters before they headed off, and then the elite men (including last years winner Dickson Chumba, Olympic champion Stephen kiprotich and Ethiopians Feyisa Lelisa) and women. Strong fields in all events which is good. I guess as Tokyo is the first major of the year and there is enough recovery time before London or Boston a couple of months later the big boys and girls can double up?

All too soon, the gun was being fired and 36,000 of us trotted forward picking up speed until we were over the start line. Then it was the usual mad five minutes of weaving and jostling in to position and trying to find a rhythm. This is even more difficult in Tokyo, as the course starts with a few miles of downhill (similar to London in that respect). Not majorly so, but enough to post a couple of sub 6 minute miles for miles 2 and 3. Not a huge problem, but I don’t wanna be overcooking it now, as it may cost me later.

By mile 4 I had settled in to a decent rhythm and was ticking along at about 6 minute miles. Again, probably a bit too quick but it felt fine so I thought I would go with it for a while and see what happens.

The leading pack coming through at mile 5

The leading pack coming through at mile 5

By mile 5 you are entering Central Tokyo and I began to look out for Cat and Estella on the side of the road. They had positioned themselves at a good spot to be able to see the leaders come through and get some good pictures and also allow me to see them well.  After a quick shout of hello and a wave it was back to my own thoughts and the long road ahead.

The stretch from 5 to 10 miles is very straight as it heads past the imperial palace gardens and south on a straight road before hair pinning back up the same way. Along the way you pass Tokyo Tower which used to be the tallest building in Tokyo (at 333m) but has since been surpassed by the Skytree (634m). It felt like there was a bit of a tailwind during this section (although it was difficult to tell when the wind whips round the buildings) so I continued feeling ok up to the 10 mile point with the pace still in the low 6 min/miles.

However, after the hairpin turn things felt a little more difficult so I tried as often as possible to tuck in behind a fellow runner and hitch a lift. I managed to be dragged along to the midway point still in reasonable shape. I think my split for halfway was 1:22, which for my current fitness levels was certainly a couple of minutes too quick, but too late to worry about that now!

The fashion police were not impressed with the white arm sleeves

The fashion police were not impressed with the white arm sleeves

I passed the family again around mile 14 and this time Cat and Estella were joined by my brother Kean, his girlfriend Tetsi, their daughter Ella and Tetsi’s mum Julietta. They had taken up an excellent position on a cross road junction so had a pretty good view of the race coming by, a bit like this…

Another few hundred metres up the road more friendly faces in the form of Phil and Rachel popped up! Obviously they had taken a bit of a lie in and decided to place themselves at the nearest point from the hotel that the route takes. A sensible strategy! A quick wave and shout and it was back to the dark solitary thoughts of my own mind, which unfortunately were beginning to whisper discouraging things particularly as we passed my hotel where a nice sit down seemed quite appealing.

The tokyo skytree and the Asahi golden turd / sperm

The tokyo skytree and the Asahi golden turd / sperm

The next few miles take you to an area of Tokyo called Asakusa, which is along the riverside. It’s a nice stretch, as you see a few of the city’s nice sights like the Asakusa shrine, the Tokyo skytree and also the Asahi brewery building which kind of looks like a golden turd or sperm. Sort of.

The route here again doubles back on itself until about mile 21 or 22 where it veers off towards the docks. At this point, I had just seen the family for the last time (during the race, not ever) and the boost of adrenaline was starting to subside and the legs feeling very stiff and heavy. Not too bad I thought, I just need to make sure that the next 4 miles aren’t slower than 7 minute mile pace and that’s a sub 2:50 in the bag.

If only it were that easy. The legs really started to suffer at mile 24 and it was clear that the three twenty mile long runs I completed in training were not enough prep, and that some proper extended training at marathon pace would definitely have helped. By this point my hammy’s were twitching and I wasn’t really taking in my surroundings and every bridge seemed like a mountain. People were now coming past me more than I was them. Not a good sign. But I was still hanging on. Just.

And then disaster! Left hamstring cramp! F*#k me that’s a horrible pain. I had to stop. I couldn’t even hobble. The only thing you can do with cramp is stretch it out, but that costs time. I spent the next two minutes stretching out my leg and rubbing my hammy. Finally after what seemed an age i  was able to jog again, but that was it. Half a mile from the finish line took me about five minutes to finally cross the finish line in 2:51. Not a sub 2:50 but the main goal of getting a sub 3 was achieved 😎

For all you stat lovers here are my splits and pace.

al 7 al 6

I have never been so pleased to finish a race in all my life, and I’m sure I say that after every marathon, but his one was deffo tough. I walked through the finish area amd chatted to a few other finishers, picked up my medal, and goodie bag and wandered to what looked like the bag pick up.

However the finish area seems to go in forever! I must have walked ten minutes before finally getting to a large hangar where the bags and changing area were, but the volunteers I have to say were all incredibly friendly, polite and welcoming. They seemed to clap and bow to every single runner coming through. A lovely people for sure.

One of these love people took the following snap of me once I had learned how to smile again…

A free towel to help soak up the experience!

A free towel to help soak up the experience!

al 9I left the expo and started to head back in to town where my only criticism of the race came to bear. The race organisers give you a free Tokyo metro card to use on the day, so I had taken this in my bag when getting the metro out to the start. As I thought I could just use it on the way home I didn’t take any money with me. You can imagine my alarm therefore that when trying to use this card at the nearest station, to get back to the city centre and my hotel, it didn’t work and was not valid for that line. The nearest station you can use it was three miles back the way I came! Not exactly what I needed with a dodgy hamstring, but at least it meant I did get to cheer on some of my fellow runners  completing their last few miles…

Still, I made it back in to town and met up with the family for a Japanese feast. The restaurant we chose did not disappoint, as we found an authentic place with tatami mats and low tables in town. A table of tempura, noodles, rice, sushi etc was ordered as well as several pints of Asahi. I left feeling more like a sumo wrestler than a runner.

To top it all off, dinner was followed by a visit to the local karaoke bar, where I’d like to tell you that classic renditions of such famous running songs as Eye of the tiger and Walk 500 miles were belted out. But I can’t. Instead dodgy duets of Stan by Eminem and Spice up your life by the spice girls ensued.

I don’t know what’s more painful. Running a Marathon? Or listening to my own Mel B impersonation.

Saionara.

Alan San.

BMAF 1500m – Joe Ashley

It’s 17:32. According to my ‘last hour’ timetable I need to change my shoes and do two acceleration runs before reporting to the call room before my race. I get out my race shoes and socks and the nagging doubt I’ve had all day that I’ve missed something finally hits home… I’ve brought two ‘left’ socks.I’m getting ahead of myself though. I’m in North London at the Lee Valley Athletics Centre for the British Masters Athletics Federation (BMAF) Indoor Championships. I’d heard about the BMAF last year from fellow Arena runner David McKeown-Webster. They are a federation of veterans clubs all over the Britain & Northern Ireland and host a number of national championships for anyone aged 35 and over.

I have loved competing in the local Sussex Vets league over the last two years – which had come as a huge surprise to me having had no experience of track racing before the first league meet I went to on a windy Wednesday in Eastbourne. It really surprised me how much I enjoyed it and how different it was to road racing. I would recommend any Arena runner over 35 to consider the Vets league, regardless of experience or ability.

So for 2016 I had decided to concentrate on middle distance races, specifically 1500m, with a target to be reasonably competitive (mid pack) at the BMAF outdoor championships in the summer.

Training over the winter has been ok, but an injury meant that I hadn’t competed properly for a few months. I wanted to get a sense of whether I’d progressed, despite not doing any speed work yet. That meant a competitive 1500m, and that meant indoor racing – a completely new experience in terms of track length (200m not 400m), banked corners instead of flat bends, narrower lanes compared to an outdoor track, and air conditioning instead of our gentle seafront breezes.

There were a few events on offer in Feb and March, so I quietly entered the Southern Counties Vets championship 1500m as a trial run. The race went well and I ran a new PB despite a lot of new things to take in, so I took the plunge and entered the BMAF indoor champs in March.

So here I am. I get to Lee Valley at 4 o’clock, pre-race coffee in hand. There are over 500 athletes taking part from all round the country. Lee Valley is packed with serious looking officials and lots of cheering spectators. And my race is the last one of the day at 17:58.

It’s nerve wracking but fortunately not a completely new experience after the Southern Counties champs. There are slight differences though, such as I have to register and then sign a declaration form too. The declaration may or may not be on another table or may have been taken already to another part of the stadium in which case I have to find it.. All little things but I’m paranoid about missing something that would mean I couldn’t race. So I check and double check, then triple check I’ve done the right thing before watching a few races.

I have a ‘last hour’ plan written down based on my previous experience, so that I don’t get side-tracked with so much going on.

16:50 – get changed. I decide to do the same as last time and get changed in back of car. Why not?

16:55 – warm up time. Two miles, along a main road in North London. It’s not scenic.

17:10 – back to the centre for pre race drills. There is a 100m warm up track indoors for athletes. I’ve given myself 10 minutes leeway here for a toilet break and to walk up a ramp, so I’m feeling relaxed. I get to the track to find that somehow I have tied the mother of all knots in my right shoe. I’ve triple knotted it I think. Or something even stupider. It takes me about 5 mins to get it off. I seriously consider cutting my laces. So much for any spare time.

17:20 – warm up drills, which I am still not very good at. The less said the better. My competition are there too, they look much more assured than me. I almost fall over mid lunge.

17:32 – time to change my shoes and do some final 20m/60m/20m acceleration runs to get my legs moving and heart pumping. The left sock situation comes to light. TWO LEFT SOCKS! I do have a spare pair in the car, but it is 5 mins away. I have time, but is it worth it? It would blow my plan out the window. I am only going to be racing for less than a mile. I do not believe there is any major difference between a left and a right sock that is going to break me over just 1500m. Dare I throw caution to the wind and put an L on my right foot?

At this point I also notice that my watch is 2 mins slow and actually I don’t have time. So yes, I bravely don the second left sock on my only right foot and strap on my spikes.

17:40. Time to head to the ‘call room’ to check in before the race. Two guys who have been sat at a table all day cheerfully tell me that 4 of my competitors have checked in, there is one more to come and one has withdrawn. This is the last race of a long day, but they are still smiling.

So there are only going to be 6 of us in the M35 race. Two are far faster than me, then the rest of us are reasonably similarly paced. A bronze medal is on if I stick to my plan. I’ve got a plan based on my last race: I want the first 400m to be 70s. 71secs each for the next two 400m. Kick for the last 300m for something in the low 50s. I need to not get carried away at the start trying to beat the two fast guys, and if anyone else gets off to a flyer, just believe that they will fade.

We get called to the start. I’m called third based on my PB in relation to the others. Another reminder that third is where I need to finish as a minimum.

A hush descends on the stadium and the starter calls us to our mark. The gun goes off. I am a terrible starter, always on the back foot at the start.

We hit the first corner with the usual nudges and everyone tripping over each other slightly. I know I’ve over compensated for my slow start, but want to get a clear gap to run in behind the lead two. I hit 100m in about 15seconds which is too fast. That’s faster than my 400m pace, nevermind my 1500m pace. I ease back slightly, very much in 3rd place. One lap, two laps and I complete the first 400m is 69.6 seconds – bang on.

Except suddenly I realise that while the two leaders are long gone, everyone else is stacked up behind me. I know I have run faster than them before, but only by a couple of seconds. What if they’ve improved recently too? I have a fast finish, but maybe they do too? I’d hoped to give myself a couple of seconds’ buffer. But what if I overdo the next 800m and blow up? I want the medal, not a PB. I find myself dropping off my toes and running back on my heels, slowing and slowing down.

Two more laps and I’ve run the second 400m in 74.3. That’s not good, over 3 seconds off my plan. I’m almost running at 3k pace. I’m still in third, but start to worry that the pack behind is just cruising behind me. I want to pick it up, but now I’m not sure I can. Did that first 100m take more out of me than I thought? Have I already blown this? I’m also getting confused because I’m trying to pace it like a 400m track but it’s a 200m one. And there’s a clock just around the bottom bend that I keep turning to look at even though I have no idea what it means because it’s not at any particular point of the track. What am I doing?

The next 400m are agonising. 73.5 seconds. Way off my target again, my heels are striking the ground like big foot. I can see the shadows behind me getting closer and closer. As I get toward the final 300m I can hear someone on my shoulder. I try to do the maths – I’ve run 3 seconds faster than the guys behind recently, but I’ve run the mid 800m 5.5 seconds slower than planned. If they are faster finishers than me, then I’ve lost third. I need to start running properly.

300m to go, I finally get back on my toes and stretch my legs. Somebody has dropped out, so there are three of us racing for the last medal. The guy on my shoulder moves to the right to overtake me as we hit the bend. Fortunately I know I’m good on the bends, he’s not going to get round me here!

220m to go, I’ve built a gap I’m sure. Only 0.5 seconds or so but I sense he’s a little further back. Finally it feels like I’m running properly, I’m now on my fore foot. I cross the line and get the final lap bell. 200m to go – it is now or never.

I hit the penultimate bend and it all suddenly clicks. I need to turn my legs over faster, increase my cadence asap. I fly round the bend and I know I’ve made another 0.5 secs on the guys behind. I can’t hear or sense him anymore. I just need to hold it.

I’ve no idea what’s happening ahead now, no idea where the leaders are. I’ve 100m left to get myself a British Masters championship medal on my first attempt. I am not letting this go now.

It’s an all-out sprint to the line. I’ve no idea what time I am running in. I get round the final bend and I can see the winners have finished which means the clock has stopped on the winning time, so I have no idea what my time will be. But I also know for the first time that I have got that final medal. I’ve pulled away, I know there’s a gap and as long as I can push to the line I’m driving home happy.

I cross the line and stop my watch. I’ve finished third. I have a medal! And then it gets better – one of the front two is a guest competitor and not eligible for a medal. I’ve got the silver!

Overall my time is 0.8 seconds slower than my last 1500m. Seeing as I had lost almost 6 seconds in the middle of the race I realise I have run a very fast (for me) final 300m. Leading a chasing pack was a new experience so I’m really pleased to have held them off to the end. For the first time I think at this distance, I haven’t got a new PB…but I have got the medal I came for.

Joe's first indoor competition

Joe’s first indoor competition

Al Silvester still going strong for Arena internationally.

As Al & Cat continue their adventures in running land around the world, here is the latest instalment from their recent race in Hong Kong. A little warm up for the Tokyo Marathon.

China Coast Half Marathon – Hong Kong

It's not about the prize but the taking part isn't it guys?

It’s not about the prize but the taking part isn’t it guys?

Well then folks, it’s January 2016 (or at least it was when I first started writing this post!) and after no races in Vietnam we were long overdue a sharpener before February’s Tokyo marathon. Luckily we had planned for such an eventuality and scheduled in the China Coast Half Marathon in honkers!

To that end I’ll cut straight to the chase, here is our race report for the China Coast Half Marathon as told through the inner monologues of runner numbers, 1838 (Cat) and 1839 (Al)…

Mile 0

1838:

5,4,3,2,1!! Go! Ok….exciting. Though still walking…..ooo crossing the line, quick, start the watch -go.

1839:

Bloody hell, too far back in the pen again. Why do I always do this? Must remember to get in early to get as far forward as possible. What’s the mandarin for “excuse me”? Ah yes, Dway Boo Che. Or something like that. “Dway Boo Che”, “Dway Boo Che”, “Dway Boo Che”, “sorry”. Ah sod it, this is far enough forward. Why is there a taxi trying to drive through the crowd! Idiot. What’s idiot in mandarin? Oooh crap, we’re off.

Mile 0-1.5:
1838:

Hmm, bit congested. Crap, watch says 9:40 m/m. Gonna have to make that up. Oh god, it’s hilly. Well what goes up must come down so the next mile should be nice. Yeah but what about mile 4 and then 10 etc – oh shut up don’t think like that it’s only the start!

1839:

Right, need to get round some people asap. Get to the side. That’s a bit better. Nice downhill start actually, sweet. Ooo, but now a rather large uphill!… This is a really long hill! Must be a mile long? Ah, but there’s the summit. Wow the leaders have gone over already! Better speed up a bit.

Mile 1.5-2:

1838:

Oo, yay downhill. Watch check…..oh this is better. Maybe I’ll be OK. This might even be fun. Uh oh watch is vibrating…crap storage space is low. Thought it would last the race. How can I have run out space in a few months – I haven’t done that many runs surely!

1839:

Ooof, it’s windy up here. Cracking view though. Concentrate Al! Right lets put some solid sub 6:30 min miles in then.

Mile 2-3:

1838:

Wow what a view!! This is amazing. Look at that reservoir and the islands and the sea defences. Hey are you all seeing this? That first hill was so worth it. Hmm, would I run a whole race uphill for a view like this…hell yeah! Woah, a 30km marker, what the hell. They have messed up a bit there. Watch check…6:47 m/m?! Great, it is broken! I can’t even do that for more than a mile of a park run. Maybe I should slow down a bit anyway.

1839:

Ok, feeling comfortable, pace is good, no one overtaking and starting to close the gap in a few people in front… That chap looks like a bigger version of me, but with no beard. Should I tell him? No, that would be odd in any situation, let alone in the middle of a race. Just go past him. I wonder if he is thinking the same thing though?

Mile 3-4:

It beats Basin Road South.

It beats Basin Road South.

1838:

Would I run a whole race uphill for a great view – No I would not!! Urgh! Oo water stop, oh dear it’s cups. How do I do this without stopping? Ok it’s impossible, did I even get any of that in my mouth. Uh oh, watch is full – no more stats. Gonna have to go old school and use the actual time.

1839:

This route is really beautiful. Who woulda thought Hong Kong had such great countryside! I always thought it was just a big city…. Ah, here comes a water stop. Don’t need any, stay on the left. Looks like cups. Great, that’s gonna be fun when I do need water… There’s the turn off for the 10k. Maybe some of the people in front are doing that and will turn off. That’d be good. Oh, none did, oh well.

Mile 4-5:

1838:

This view is so amazing. This might be my favourite race ever. This is going down hill a lot, hope we don’t have to go back up. I like her leggings…have to get some skins at some point, when they aren’t ridiculously expensive anymore. Oo some of the front runners are coming back the other way. Where’s Al, why isn’t he first?! 😉 hold on, we turn round and go back…up this! Ouch that will hurt. Better slow down and conserve some fuel for that. No, don’t slow down that much stupid. Just do this until it hurts more.

1839:

It’s very undulating. I wonder if there are any flat parts? Ah yer, looks like a flat bit along the reservoir. Can’t wait for the turn, this wind is ridico… There’s another chap slowing down on the hill… This is good, not slowing down too much on the uphill… Shit, a cow! Three cows! They’re not moooooving! Ha, good joke. Weave through them.

Mile 5-6:

1838:

Oh there’s Al!! Hey! Shall I do a high five? Nah better not ruin his stride, he seems comfy, ha and he shouted to me so he is fine. What position is he then, 6th?, 7th? Nice one…he won’t be happy though. Wow the sea defence is windy! I can’t actually run straight. Oops lost an earphone, oh and a safety pin, I think my number bib might come off. Quick memorise the number incase…1838, 1838, 18-38. There’s the turning so must be half way ish. That’s good I feel alright. Quick water decision??? Yes do it. Eek there’s so many cups on the ground in this wind they will be blown into the sea. I hope they pick them up quickly. Oh, there’s a bin there, dammit I should have put mine in there. Sorry!!
Whaa…was that the 10k marker?? I thought we cleared that ages ago when we turned back. Boo. Ok well don’t panic, definitely half way by now.

1839:

Ah there’s the leader coming back, the turn must be near. He’s got a healthy lead. Must be 30 or 40 seconds at least. Yep, there’s 2nd. Oh, and there’s the turn up ahead. And a water station. Right, take the hairpin wide then throw some water in the direction of your open mouth. Go!… Hhhmmm, maybe got an eighth of a cup in the mouth, rest in my eyes. Great. Still it’s cool enough to not need it.

Mile 6-7:

1838:

‘I know you don’t get a chance to take a break this often, I know your life is speeding and it isn’t stoppin’, here take my shirt and just go ahead and wipe off all the….sweat, sweat, sweat; lose yourself to dance’. God I love daft punk – should put more on the running playlist next time. Legs have loosened up now, this is fun! Ooo rock the casbah – yes!! Just in time for the heavy hill. Reckon I can take some of these guys…don’t push it though you know that right butt cheek is starting to twinge..oh f**k it I’ll be alright. Last race of the trip.

1839:

Think I’m closing in on another chap, he seems to be getting nearer…. Pace is speeding up a bit now, that’s good. Having a tail wind really helps… Lots of runners coming the opposite way now. Wonder where Cat is? She must be coming through soon. I wonder if she really is gonna take it easy like she said. Probably not.

Mile 7-8:

1838:

That guys thigh muscles are HUGE! I wonder if that’s a good thing…power for hills but he would need more energy and be heavier. I wonder if other runners are thinking stuff like this. Maybe someone is looking at me and thinking my legs are too muscly for efficient long distance. Maybe I’ll write about it for Al’s race report. What have I’ve been thinking about all this time…

1839:

There she is! “Go on babes!”. Ah, head phones are in, probably didn’t hear me. She’s looking comfortable though. That must be 5 or 6 miles for her. Reckon she may be on for sub 1:50 then. Obviously not taking it that easy. Would be nice if she got some pics though, this place is amazing… Anyway, focus, keep the pace up.

Mile 8-9:

1838:

Uh oh, Moby! Great tune but too sad and too slow. Good job we are going downhill again now. This is great though – heading back to the reservoir, are we here already, must only have about 6k to go, woop. Maybe this will be a good time. I’m not even in pain really, that much.

1839:

Wonder where I am in the field? Deffo top 10. Maybe 7th? Can see one guy ahead. Think I can catch him… Yep, he’s deffo getting nearer…. Reckon anything around 1:24 would be fine for this course. Maybe Tokyo will be ok after all. Need to get some longer runs in though in the next couple of weeks. Must stay off the Tsing Taos. And the Oreos. I’d love an Oreo now. Or a creamo. Less cream in a creamo than an Oreo I reckon though. Takes the biscuit really! Ha, good joke.

Mile 9:

1838:

The view from the reservoir bridge is soo good. We must be joining up with the 10k race, where have all these people come from..beep beep! That means only 5k max to go surely, time check…ok looking like a sub 1:45 maybe even 1:40 that would be good. Definitely can’t stop to take piccies now.

1839:

Ah crap, here’s the merge with the 10kers again. Why do all Asian races do this? Bloody hell, and the corporate challenge lot as well. Half of them are taking selfies! What is it with the Chinese and taking selfies? Hhhhmm, I suppose I too have a selfie stick. Probably shouldn’t judge. Still at least they are moving aside as we come through… That chap in the blue is really close now. Should have him soon.

Mile 10-11:

1838:

Water stop decision time…do I don’t I. Quick, do the super fast cost-benefit analysis…nah you’ve blown it it’s gone. Didn’t need water anyway, sure I’ll make it fine without.
That girl is tiny…she’s destroying this hill. Ok I might just be able to overtake her but only cause my legs are longer..seems kind of unfair. Must be getting close to the super downhill finale from mile 1 – come on Cat move it. You can overtake those 2 Hong Kong Runners, yeah! Oh…maybe not. Suppose I could try to play the cat and mouse chase with these guys for a bit to see if I can keep the pace. They look like they are running together to get a good time and help each other out. Where is Drew!!
Lot of traffic here, it’s those taxis the race official warned us of, the ones that will probably just run us over. That guy in front is in the middle of the road. Hmm he has earphones in and don’t think he knows – I better tell him, it’s gonna take a speed spurt .. this might hurt.

1839:

Yes, taken him! And there’s another chap up ahead. That’s a good sign, it’s normally me dying at this point. I’m still feeling good and we have a big downhill coming soon!… What shall I eat later? Deffo some dumplings I reckon. Maybe the bbq pork ones, they rock. Pretty hungry now actually. There must be bananas at the end. That would be aPEALling. Ha, good joke.

Mile 11-12:

1838:

Whaaaa, why are we going this way? That’s not fair I want to go where the 10k runners are going. That’s away from the finish line people!! Balls – I knew I wasn’t tired enough for it to be too close to the end. No, I’m slowing down..boo! And there’s more incline, boo. Oh well, just keep running. Wish I knew how fast I was going. Wish Drew was here, he’d make me not slow down and he’d give me updated stats for some morale boosting. He would also love this race, but not the flight.
Oh man, half marathon runners are coming back the same way, I can’t see the turn around point, another corner and no turn, argh!! How long will this go on for.

1839:

Ah, here’s the extra bit they add on to make up the full 13.1. I was wondering where that was gonna be added. Must be an out and back stretch. Well marshalled actually, plenty of warning and great use of cones there. Must be in their CONEtract. Ha, good joke…. Yep, here’s the leader again. Looks to be even further ahead… There’s 2nd… There’s 3rd and 4th, they look pretty close… Ah and there’s the turn, and 5th only just going around the cone… What’s that guy saying? Oh, step on the mat. No probs mate. Right chase down 5th, he looks like he’s blowing.

Mile 12-13:

1838:

Thank god, we are here! Just a little more back to the 10k route and then it’s downhill finish – only 2k left. Hey that looks like Al coming the other way, why is he behind me? It is him! Arrr, he’s come to run the last bit with me. That’s nice, hi Al.
Hmm, actually kind of wish he wasn’t running with me….he looks so comfortable, I feel super slow now! Oh stop being such a wimp, it’s good, he’s trying to help you do your best – just try and keep up, lengthen those strides. Not long now.
Yay last downhill bit, woop. Not long now. My breathing is laboured, it is so loud!! I wonder how Al got on, I should ask him….can’t though, can’t talk. Need to conserve all oxygen. Maybe I should tell him I want to ask but can’t right now. No, stupid that would be more effort than actually asking!! Ah, what’s that Al? Oh he’s gone, must mean the finish line is near.

1839:

Right on him now. Try and get him on the downhill, you’re gonna slow on the steep incline… Crikey, my pace says 5 min mileing! This downhill is steep. My legs are wobbling a bit!… Yes, taken him at last. Now keep pushing! One last bit of effort.

Mile 13 – 13.1

1838:

What! There’s an incline to the finish line! You are kidding, no fair! Ok fine. Don’t slow down, don’t slow down. Yaaaaay! Ooo medal.

1839:

Oooo, nasty little finish! Push on up to the top. Aaaarrrgghhhh, this is horrible, I’m gonna be sick…. Phew, finished. Jesus that was a horrible finish… Ooo, they do have bananas.

Postscript:Al & Cat conquer Hong Kong

After getting our breath back and chatting to some lovely runners from AVOHK we made our way over to the results board and checked out our performances. Surprisingly I had managed to finish in 5th overall and 2nd in the senior category with a gun time of 1:22:49. Happy with that on a course like that.

Good luck on your next crazy adventure and we all wish you well and best of luck for Tokyo.