Category Archives: Race Reports

The Brighton Marathon & BM10k 2017

Now that the dust has settled and the results are in, we can now look back on the 8th Brighton Marathon and congratulate all our Arena athletes who took part in the marathon and BM10k.

The weather could have been a little kinder to those running the marathon as it wasn’t only the heat that made its mark but also a fairly stiff head wind at the turning at the Shoreham power station. With the blue skies and glorious sunshine, it did however bring out the crowds which did cheer on the runners through the 26.2 miles and the 10k.

The BM10k was the first race of the day and the first three ladies home for Arena were:
Women 10k
1st – Caroline Hoyte – 35.57
2nd – Nicky Yeates – 44.44 – A new PB
3rd – Isobel Muir – 47.14


The first three men home for Arena
Men 10k
1st – Dan Vaughan – 35.52
2nd – James Gladman – 41.21
3rd – Rob Derkin – 42.58
(Please note that positions are given by gun time but using their chip times).

The third place for the men was a race within a race with Tristan Sharp, John Thompson and Rob Derkin all pacing round the course together, that is until the last 50 metres, when they all made a charge for the line. With a sprint finish there’s not many who would have bet against Rob Derkin and so it was the case here with Rob just taking them in the last few metres, enthralling to the end.

We also congratulate the following athletes who all gained 10k PB’s:
John Thompson – 43.08
Lucy Anderson – 46.58
Patrycja Wollnik – 47.22

The second race of the day being the 8th Brighton Marathon and as already mentioned the conditions weren’t perfect but the show must go on and so it did. Arena had a fair few runners out for this with many having personal goals in mind. I take my hat off to each and every one of you for the dedication, commitment and mental strength you have all shown, over the long cold and windy winter months, with your training and getting yourselves to the start line.

The BM was the second race of the day and the first three ladies home for Arena were:
Women Marathon
1st – Soulla Wright – 3.23.28
2nd – Tara Shanahan – 3.28.59 – (3.30.00 Pacemaker)
3rd – Vicki Clarke – 3.30.15

Soulla Wright came into this race having had a virus during the two weeks leading up to this race and was not in the best of health. It was a brave and valiant effort on what was surely a very difficult run for her.

Tara Shanahan took on the pacing duties for the Run Brighton crew. She was pacing the 3.30 runners and with her time of 3.28.59 its fair to say that she got it spot on. Tara then went to help volunteer on the finishing straight for another couple of hours, still showing as much enthusiasm as if she hadn’t even run 26.2 miles. Amazing job Tara.

Vicki Clarke is for ever-present for the big races and always turns in exceptional times. Running along with Tara, it was another fine run and happy to see her running in the blue vest of Arena.

The BM was the second race of the day and the first three men home for Arena were:
Men Marathon
1st – Al Silvester – 2.42.48 – (16th overall)
2nd – Mats Gedin – 2.52.48 (44th overall and 2nd O50)
3rd – Del Wallace – 2.55.00 (56th overall) – New PB
(Please note that positions are given by gun time but using their chip times).

First man home for Arena was the man for all occasions Mr Silvester. Al was pleased with this run and this now sets himself up for the London marathon next week. Al ran In at 16th place overall and should be applauded on a fine race (unlike the volunteers who seemed to miss Al coming home as they applauded the 2nd lady home – very sorry Al.

The stalwart of marathon running Mats Gedin was 2nd Arena man home in 44th place overall as well as coming 2nd in the O50 category. Mats still holds 5th place in the men’s marathon club records with his time of 2.37.49 set in London way back in 2006 and proves he his still a very strong force to be reckoned with.

Third man home was Del Wallace who took six minutes off his PB and got his well deserved sub 3 hour marathon. Del doesn’t know if he could have gone quicker but said that he kept to his race plan and watching Del coming down the finishing straight, I feel he still had more in the tank. His goal was sub 3 and really pleased it was mission accomplished. it will be nice to see you back at the track again Del.

Arena athletes to note:
Probably one of the bravest runs of the day came from Juliette Roberts. In her words “I had a complete nightmare on the day with my hip seizing up just after 9 miles sending shooting pains down my leg. It got progressively worse and more painful to the point where it felt almost locked in the few miles and all I could do was shuffle along to the finish line”. I’m sure we can all feel for Juliette and how gutted she will be with this run but to even finish this race in that much pain when many would have quit says a lot about her mental strength and never say die attitude is an inspiration to us all. You may not have got the time you hoped for Juliette but you’ve gained a lot of respect and admiration from your Areneez family.

We have previously posted about our world record holder Dave Robinson who took on the Marathon in a straight jacket, I mean as crazy goes then this is right up there with the best of them. Full report can be found here:

Congratulations also to Kevin Price who indeed shone on stage on the day with his cracking time of 2.56.53 and finished 69th in overall position and bags himself a new PB in the process.

We also congratulate the following athletes who all gained new marathon PB’s:
Paul Arscott – 3.00.41 (you’ve got to be happy now Paul)
Ricky Coleman – 3.28.02 (wanted sub 3.30)
Craig Isaac – 3.21.17
Kristina Hind – 3.54.11
Chris Keene – 3.57.23 (new PB by 1h 20mins – amazing)
Jonathan Britten – 3.52.08 (new PB by 20 mins)

I would like to mention Dorian Rogers who, like Tara Shanahan, took on the pacemaker duties for the Run Brighton crew. Dorian was pacing the 4.45.00 group and came home in 4.44.57. Another job well done.

To end this post we would like to say a massive thank you to all of the Arena volunteers who helped, not just on the day but, over the whole weekend and I know some have been helping in the back ground for many weeks. The support that Arena give to this event is essential to help making the day as special as it can be. As you walk around the event village, you can find Arena in many quarters of the village with everything from the information tent to picking up the race packs, Arena stand out. The mini-mile doesn’t go a miss either with Arena also supporting this and of course on marathon day Arena really come into their own. As you run around the course the Arena Volunteers can be found giving support and water to the runners and lastly as you approach the finishing line, again Arena are there to show their support. We thank each and every one of you that have given up your time to support this event and we look forward to 2018.

To all of our Arena athletes that took part this year, congratulations on a job well done and we are proud to have you flying the vest of Arena 80.

Good luck to those taking on London next week and we look forward to you bringing in the news in due course.

Much respect Arena 80.

Sussex Road Relays April 5th 2017 – Arena 80 break records.

I know it seems like a long time ago (just over a week now) but the news has come in that Arena ladies broke their own W40 course record at this event.

News on the Sussex athletics website quotes “The rest of the records all came in the Masters’ races with Arena 80 breaking their own year old W40 aggregate record of 38:06 with a fine clocking of 36:43 while Julie Briggs, who had anchored the Arena 80 team broke Sharon Elder’s (Worthing) 2012 lap record of 12:00 by two seconds”.

if the day wasn’t amazing enough with the sheer camaraderie shown from all of our members then this is surely the icing on the cake. What a proud day for Arena 80, our ladies and along with Julie Briggs it really doesn’t get any better than this. The club has gone from strength to strength over the last year with many outstanding results from our members and to see Arena breaking records goes to prove how much of an improved club we are.

Our biggest congratulations to the ladies and Julie Briggs on such an amazing result.

What a day at the Sussex Road Relays – Saturday 1st April

What a magnificent day it was for Arena 80 at Christ’s Hospital for the annual Sussex road relays hosted by Phoenix AC for the first time with chipped batons.

There were a record 220 teams that entered this year, which included all age groups, and the weather helped to play its part as well. We were also joined by an Olympian finalist, Charlie Grice,  who was running third leg for Phoenix and a real pleasure to see him on cruise speed making his way around the pathway. It’s not everyday you get the chance to see an Olympian at these events.

But what about the Areneez who made the trip up to Horsham? 28 ladies turned out and they fielded 10 teams for this event, which I believe is a record amount. We are so very proud to say that the ladies took home the bounty again. They came home with the team V40 Gold & Bronze & V50 Gold. There were some great individual performances from all standards, including V40 fastest lap to Julie Briggs and second fastest went to Dani Tarleton. Caroline Wood also took home the V50 individual silver.

The men took 18 along for this event and it was never going to be an easy task with the calibre that was on show here. There were some fantastic performances from our men and we are pleased to announce, that for the first time EVER, our senior men placed in the top 10 which is an outstanding achievement for Arena 80.

We can safely say that It was a very successful day all round and the ladies also came up trumps with cake afterwards which they gracefully shard with the men. So many great friendships are made at these events and it was lovely to see so many of the Areneez using this as a social event as well with so many friendships being built along the way.

Thank you to Tara Shanahan, Mark Stephenson and Steve McNealy for all the hard work and effort in putting this event together for the Arena Club. It is and was very much appreciated by all, as you will have seen by many of the photos shared on Facebook.

The best photograph of the day came from Bob Page who caught Jon Bowditch and Joe Ashley in perfect running synchronisation. Now this is a potential winning entry in our Arena photo competition. They couldn’t have done this if they had tried to, just brilliant.

For those that missed this the it’s worth noting this one in your diary’s for next. year.


Luan Ke Kuynh conquers Antarctica Marathon 2017.

During the Spring/Summer season of 2016 Arena 80 were joined by Luan Ke Huynh, an athlete from Denmark.

Luan was working in Brighton for a while and was looking for a running club to join as he was training for the Antarctica Marathon. He found Arena and soon made his mark on the club by gracing us with his presence in the club records. He currently holds 2nd place in the clubs Hove Prom parkrun in 16.29 and 3rd place in the clubs 10 miles in 59.01. There is no doubting that had Luan been with us for longer, he would have clearly made dents in the other club records as well. 

Luan sadly had to leave Brighton due to his job taking him back home but I’m sure his time here at Arena 80 stood him in good stead and will have helped in his quest for this ultimate In Marathon challanges.

No crowd control needed for this one.

We have had a message from Luan to let us know how this incredible adventure went for him.

“The feeling of succeeding when you are going all in. Now one of the few and one of the youngest in the world with a completed marathon on each continent. And I won my first and last marathon – Antarctica Marathon 2017 Winner (March 11th): 3:24.22. Thanks for the support from my family back home, USA and Canada. My friends/colleagues for always listening to me and my running mates for pushing me the entire way. Never thought I would get to know to so many people world wide, revisit my family in USA, Canada and live abroad in Brighton along this amazing and crazy journey. 34 years old – I feel like a 24 year-old”.

From everyone here at Arena 80 we must congratulate you on such an amazing achievement and to thank you for being a part of Arena whilst you were in Brighton. It was our pleasure to have you along and we look forward to hearing of many more of your running successes.

Clearly a different class of spectator compared to that of Brighton.

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!

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.

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!




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.


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.


Alan San.