Archive for the ‘Running’ Category

Two weeks of gentle running on from the London Marathon, I return to the rural life. A calming run around the flatlands of North Lincolnshire, starting from the Trent Valley’s very own stadium of light – Glanford Park, home of the mighty Iron, Scunthorpe United.

Many post-industrial towns have clasped culture to their heart and established ventures such as water parks or sculpture trails; Scunthorpe has followed suit. The start, according to the race guide, ” is around a steady 10 minute walk away” – which indeed it is, although possibly one would be doing it a lot quicker once night had fallen. Scunthorpe’s Arts & Leisure department has seized upon this route as the site of its newest art installation; sadly, the artist is unnamed. Beginning with a small display of shopping trolleys in mud, the walker is led through a triumphal arch of multi-coloured graffiti, the entrance to the arch being guarded by an old mattress carefully juxtaposed with a large puddle. Once through the arch, one’s senses are confronted by a blaze of colour and, seemingly, randomly placed objects; bright orange plastic bags jostle for attention with piles of bricks; old tyres nestle next to once alive television sets. This cornucopia of found objects at once symbolises….(Ed: that’s enough art, thanks!!)

Ah…ok…the race. It was a larger field than I expected, nearly 600 runners. The gun was unannounced but pretty prompt at 0901. To be fair to Scunthorpe, the town soon gave way to very pleasant country roads and lanes, all of which were subject to total road closures, which is pretty rare these days for a small event. Just how rural it was  can be seen below:

The Route – jolly flat too!

The weather was cool, but with no wind to speak of and just a hint of sun. Ideal running conditions, aided by the fact the course was flat – very flat. My GPS said seventeen foot ASL for most of the run, although there was a short alpine section as I ran onto a motorway bridge at about mile 12. The northern leg was along the Trent, where I suddenly realised that the Berlin Wall structure to my left was actually the flood defences for the area – a serious piece of engineering.

The race was well marshalled by very cheery people, had plenty of water stations and even provided a  band at  some point! I ran a decent 1:47 including the fastest 5k and 10k that I’ve run for a bit; I probably ran close to a PB but I’ve no idea where my old times are in the Coker Acres data centre. The sun  came out as I sat in the home dug-out – yes, the race finished on the centre line of the pitch – and the DJ even played the original Chuck Berry “Let It Rock”. My post run enjoyment was only slightly marred by two Male V60s telling me how they narrowly failed to break 1:35. However, a medal, a decent t-shirt and my physiotherapist was first woman home; nice work Sally!!……….A refreshing walk around the hypothermia inducing Asda and then home to find a small tribute on the pile of stone outside my house:

Hurrah! A Flag!

Onwards and upwards to next week’s half in Orpington – don’t ask; it’s an Old Boy’s dinner that evening and I thought it might lessen the pain if I were tired. I shall recite my old school’s motto continuously during the thirteen miles: “Nitere Porro”, which might broadly translate as, “Go to work on a cabbage….”.

“Valete”, as we say in north  Derbyshire…….

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The thing about the London Marathon is that it seems to go on forever; no, not the race, but the build up. There’s the application for places, the rejection, the finding of a charity place, the training – all 103 days of it – and then, finally, getting registered. One has to register in person for the marathon, and for a good few years one has had to go to Excel in Docklands; part of this is to ensure entrants are who they say they are, but it also provides the opportunity for sponsors to try and flog a few more bits and pieces to runners. Luckily, one sponsor was giving away something useful:

Jolly tasty it was too..

Staying in London is always a mixed pleasure, although finding a decent hotel was a bonus – in Tooting Broadway of all places. It did enable me to pay homage at the large statue of Citizen Smith recently erected in time for the Olympics and then have a jolly nice Italian meal afterwards – accompanied by, I will admit, two bottles of beer. Just time for a couple of hours of subtitled Danish TV drama, then bed. Speaking of things Scandinavian, it would appear that my satellite link to Edale Village Hall was deliberately sabotaged to prevent me voting in EdaleVision; I know where you live, so don’t expect your email account to work for much longer!

The day of the race started early; 0600, get out of bed, turn on TV for the weather forecast and see the first Elvis of the day:

The King on TV

….nothing better for the soul than a hearing a long-dead rock and roll giant announce that he expects to run “sub-three”. Open the curtains and check weather again – sunny, so better take all three possible shirts to wear under my vest. Wandering out to the hall I bump into another runner. We mumble greetings, eyes avoiding contact, but glances are made to check one another’s kit and status in the race – there is a fairly complex system of numbering and colours that indicate one’s place in the running hierarchy; needless to say, once he realised I was neither “Elite” nor “Good for Age”, my colleague politely ignored me.

Travel to Greenwich was both free and without hitches. The 0814 “Embrocation Express” from London Bridge was jam-packed with runners, all pretending they had absolutely nothing to worry about and all having particularly interesting discussions on what injuries had prevented them from doing what training. A pleasant walk up the hill into the park led to the Red Start assembly point:

Red Start

and the empty starting lane beyond:

The Starting Lane - 0826

This is my least favourite part of the race; there’s not much to do except avoid eye contact (again), check out other people’s gear, queue for the loo and wonder how many more “inspirational” tracks the DJ is going to play – I can assure my disc playing friend that he has a bright future on Radio Norwich should Alan Partridge choose to retire. The depression at seeing the elite women set off on the big screen is, however, offset by watching a rather portly, track-suited figure relive his school days by having a covert cigarette behind a tree; I make a mental note of his number and wonder if he might be my kind of pace setter.

The screen shows the wheelchairs setting off and we all move forward into the start lane. This is fantastically well organised, with runners being assigned a section according to their predicted finish times. Once, however, the marshals call us forward this all falls apart – mostly because all runners are competitive liars, but also because those who have dressed as giant rabbits or super-heroes realise that the one place that really will attract ridicule is the very back of the pack. Minutes before the start it looks like this:

The Starting Lane- 0943

Very shortly  the sun will really come out, the wind will drop, and the man dressed as a giant  banana will realise he may have chosen the wrong day to entirely clad himself in non-breathable PVC.

The countdown starts, the crowd chat, the hooter goes off. Then…..nothing; everyone stands still, shuffles a few paces, stands still again and then settles down to have another chat about soft-tissue injuries. Nine minutes after the blast from the starter, I cross the line.

It’s downhill all the way now, well, at least to Tower Bridge, but being that it is Sunday morning spiritual help is on hand to lift one to a higher plane. Firstly is the priest of Our Lady of Grace sprinkling holy water on his new, rather large flock; shortly afterwards, the pastor of the New Wine church Woolwich is exhorting people by the names on their vest to run faster; as we join the Blue Start runners at three miles, a Sikh drum band at a Gujarati temple beats out a usefully frenetic tempo. So frenetic in fact, I have to remove my t-shirt and spend the next 23 miles carrying it.

Music is an essential part of the marathon, and turning to head west towards Greenwich we start to find the pubs beginning to open and the sound systems starting. There are heavy rock bands, R&B bands, brass bands, the Salvation Army band and a countless number of trad jazz bands all of whom make the Elderly Brothers look like One Direction . ( I am assured by those who know, that One Direction are a beat combo popular amongst the young). Interestingly, it would appear that since Virgin took over the organization of the London Marathon the playing of “Keep On Running” by the Spencer Davies Band has been outlawed until after the five mile marker.

Just after six miles we arrive in Greenwich and suddenly the Cutty Sark appears. It’s been rebuilt and reinstalled since I last ran past it , and it looks fabulous – there are even men on the  topsail yard-arm finishing the rigging.

From Greenwich it’s westwards to Tower Bridge, when the first really big crowd of the day appear. They are ten deep on either side of the bridge, all shouting, clapping and taking pictures of their runner. I slow down to look for my pal Tim – sadly, Tim has decided that a better option to watching long-distance running done badly was to go to the pub. There are two depressing things that happen at Tower Bridge: firstly, the half-marathon sign appears, meaning there are still 13.1 miles to go; secondly, as we turn east we run parallel to the elite runners sprinting past the 22 mile marker – at this point Wilson Kipsang, the men’s winner, was running at over 12 mph…..I, dear reader, was not running at that speed.

We head east through Wapping, pausing only to boo the bus advertising the Sun newspaper, and down to the Isle of Dogs. This use to be the very dull part of the marathon, with just Millwall Park and some industrial estates to watch go by. Now, London’s expansion has filled the place with houses and flats and thus people on the street. These people are shouting and cheering again, but an Asian lady is offering her home baked cakes to runners as they go by – assessed as “jolly good” by a colleague on my right dressed as Batman…a very hot and sweaty Batman at this point. We turn north past the park and head for Canary Wharf and the 19 mile mark. Here in the underpasses the drum bands have set up and the noise is deafening as we run past. At some point we go past a sound system blasting out “Geno” and as if by magic the whole cohort of runners drops into a slow, loping bounce – well, slower, loping bounce.

We turn west from Canary Warf and have time to savour the splendours of the A13. My GPS always packs up in Docklands, this time announcing that I’d run a 6:14 mile. My left knee decided to start hurting, but copious sprays of water lessened the pain – or at least gave me another pain to worry about. From now on it’s mind games; convincing oneself that it doesn’t hurt; convincing oneself that it’s only a 10k left; wondering why, as one passes runners going east at the 13 mile mark,  anyone would want to run anywhere dressed as the Nat West tower.

Heading to Cannon Street there are plenty of things to see – I’m sure I must have run past the Tower of London and St. Paul’s, but I was having to concentrate. I hadn’t hit the wall, but I was being mentally challenged by a group of gospel singers banging out “Living On A Prayer” and the fact that a runner dressed as a lifeboat had decided to tag along to me as a pacemaker.

Through the underpass at Blackfriars; two miles to go, more cheering crowds and still a man dressed as a lifeboat is on my elbow. I need to formulate a strategy for the closing stages; whatever happens, I cannot be photographed crossing the finish line with a man dressed as an RNLI rigid-inflatable ahead of me. As if by magic, the group of runners I’m with realise we can go sub-four and the pace picks up. Along the Embankment, past the Houses of Parliament, onto Birdcage Walk – suddenly the signs are in yards not miles. Six-hundred yards to go and it’s now or never; I’d like to say I sprinted past Buckingham Palace, but a slightly faster shuffle might be more accurate – Lifeboat Man can’t respond. Just to make sure he won’t be in my photo I veer to the left at 385 yards and head for the far finishing gate. My GPS has magically started working again and I cross the line at 3:59:23. Not a lifeboat or sprinting vegetable in sight – and in any case, I have Photoshop at home.

Those nice ladies cut off my timing tag, I get my medal and collect my bag from the baggage truck – all very efficient. Text messages begin to flood in – I was touched, I can tell you. Tim phones up explaining that he’s still in the pub, that he loves me and that I’m his best mate. As he starts to sing “I Will Survive” I realise it’s time to head north; the Rambler calls and a pint of beer is beginning to hove into view.

The taper starts here..

Posted: April 11, 2012 in Music, Running

Have my kit....cat

Mmm…well, at least one of the mammals in the house is getting to grips with tapering down…although she has been snuggled up with my running kit for several hours now..it is clean.

A brisk five miler yesterday, pleasing as it was under 45 mins. A scheduled slow run today means I can take the faithful Saffy – ok fans, quieten down.

More importantly, the Elderly Brothers rehearsed yesterday; indeed, we rehearsed the acoustic set. What this means is that we play for ten minutes before realising we can’t hear anything and then mic it all up again; as someone once said, “For my monitor mix, I want everything louder than everything else”. Some new numbers were tried out, and Wally stucck to his uke mostly – although his blistering solos in some of the tunes will have pop-kids all oevr the country reaching for their air kazoos….

Most interestingly, we agreed to do a gig! Most surprisingly, the same day as the Sheffield Half Marathon – which most of us are running. As ever, we could have talked of tunes, keys and obscure Willie Dixon songs, but we chose to discuss injury niggles, mile times and whether we’d be home from the pub in time to listen to Mark’s book on Radio 4 when it was broadcast just before the shipping forecast; Mark did seem to think that there was a potential audience amongst deep sea trawlermen……His blog is here..and it’s funnier than this stuff..

A month is a long time…..

Posted: April 9, 2012 in Running

Hello Reader…yes, all one of you…..It’s been a month since I last wrote and many things have happened. I’ve bought some new road shoes, and the dog likes them:

Well, the dog thinks they're comfortable

This week, as I taper down, I should be able to break them in for the marathon.

The twin impostors have paid a visit, with stomach aches, knee strains and all the usual stuff – culminating in a crappy 18.5 miler before Easter. However, being positive, I ran the Retford Half on March 11 in 1:49:04 – even beating the guy in a wedding dress. Yesterday saw me run 18.1 miles in 3:08, so I’m much cheered…especially as the route went from home to Win Hill and I came back from Hope on the road, uphill! We’ll see how it goes. Here’s my Retford number….oh, I’m 38376 for the marathon!

Retford Half - 1:49:04 since you ask....

Saffy Returns…

Posted: March 4, 2012 in Running

Still, dear reader,the niggling calf complaint – so I’ve been taking it easy and skipped my long run this weekend. I’d rather do the marathon slowly than not at all. Two easy runs where I didn’t care about the time, one of 4.5 miles and the other just about 6.5. Taking it slowly meant I could take Saffy the Wonder Dog….and here she is:

We had a jolly romp up to Crowden, and the snow and hail didn’t really start until we were on the road back from Upper Booth, heading home. Yes, it was muddy and yes there was snow on the tops. Luckily, and thanks to a small tax rebate, I was wearing my new wonder- tights….well, a bloke has to do something on a Sunday afternoon.

A heavy week ahead, with the Retford Half Marathon next Sunday.

A lax weekend, but a good fund raising one; my sponsorship now stands at £515…thank you all!!

The Cramps

Posted: February 29, 2012 in Running

And what a splendid band they are. What isn’t splendid is getting cramp, especially three miles into a long run well, a seven miler – going up hill. It’s particularly galling as I’d just run down and up Jagger’s clough. Could be a difficult day tomorrow as I am at AC Lighting North all day and then need to fit a seven in before a band meeting….Since you ask 1:00:44 for five miles…but I was hopping…and someone gave me a donation of £20!!

 

And here are the splendid beat combo The Cramps!

A Moderate Weekend…

Posted: February 27, 2012 in Running

Not a bad weekend really, a run on the canal at Whaley rounding off a 35 mile week, The canal run was 16 mile – my longest run yet – which I managed in 2:29:12, an average of 09:15 mins/mile. Best of all, it was flat with very little wind!

Wind and terrain really does make a difference. On Friday I did a four miler; the Met Office said that there were SW winds at about 17MPH – gusting much more at higher levels.

My route was Ollerbrook/Cooper’s/Barber Booth via Shaw Wood Farm on the way out, running through the farm at BB and then dropping down to the railway viaduct to start the return leg on Tarmac:

Mile 1 : 09:45 – road/track/partial headwind
Mile 2: 10:03  – track/field/headwind
Mile 3: 08:32 – road/tailwind
Mile 4: 07:53 – road/tailwind
So a nice easterly would be great for London…no chance!