Why Stevenage?

I’ve never been to Stevenage.

On our first date, whilst I was nervously supping a sparkling water, Nicky asked what races I had planned.

“The Stevenage Marathon…”

Nicky nearly choked on her scallops.

You see, prior to falling head over heels in love with Nicky, I’d always thought racing was all about finding races to go as fast as possible. “What about you?” I asked.

The Eden Project Marathon. Doh! Time to re-evaluate…eden project

Later that evening, sat listening to some Barry White in my bedsit, I used my smart phone for two things…… Firstly to compose a message thanking Nicky for a splendid evening, hoping beyond all hope that she’d want to see me again. Secondly, The Eden Project Marathon was entered and a Travelodge for one, in Stevenage, was cancelled!

So why do we chose to do events at all, and when we do, how do we decide which ones? A quick search on Fetch offered a choice of 245 different events listed for tomorrow (2nd April 2017). We had long since settled on the Devonshire Dumpling, I wonder what the other 244 couldn’t offer us?

DOES IT COUNT?

100 MC Vest
We’re on a quest for the vest!

Well, we were looking for a marathon around this weekend, so other distances were eliminated. Also, we have our goal of joining the 100 Marathon Club so we check to see if it is listed on their website.

DOES IT COST?

We try to keep the cost down of our days out, trying to preserve funds for our ‘big’ trips, so the Devonshire Dumpling being only 40 or so miles from home it was an immediate contender.

IS IT BEAUTIFUL?

The route, terrain and, I’m sure, the panoramic views will make it a wonderful day out, enjoying the East Devon coast and countryside.

budleigh_salterton_beach
Setting for the Devonshire Dumpling

WILL IT BE PACKED?

Organised by the Long Distance Walkers Association, featuring walks and runs of 18 or 26.2 miles, with staggered starts, we’re pretty confident the queues for the stiles won’t be too bad.

WILL WE FEEL ADEQUATE?

I know the Elitism In Running blog provoked plenty of debate, but, trust me on this, it is there. We’ve had so many people say “me too!” in response to how demoralising some race situations can be for those further down the field. So, we tend to lean towards events which look a bit more quirky and which might not offer sufficient kudos for the more self-confident runners to attend, or where we know the race organisers actively encourage participation as a priority, over pace.

Such companies, White Star Running and Mudcrew particularly spring to mind, seem to manage to pull of the trick of having some seriously quick guys and girls at the sharp end, whilst being all embracing for the rest of us mortals. There are plenty more, but these two are South West based and host some of my favourite ever events.

Morrisons Great North Run 2015
Crowds – great for some, not really our thing

We do take all sorts of other factors in to consideration, whether we are taking other people, maybe the dog to be walked by one of our friends, so is the venue dog friendly. Sometimes we end up just fancying a race and we don’t know why.

A running friend started a debate on social media recently around whether events are over priced, and whether, particularly if you’re lucky enough to live in a beautiful running area, we need to do events at all. For Nicky and myself, the event is our adventure. We don’t drink or smoke or snort white powder, we don’t particularly go out to pubs and very rarely have meals out, so our time and money ‘budget’ is put aside for these days. So, as for price, we don’t really notice, if we’ve decided it fits our budget for the weekend then it’s the right price for us.

Just occasionally we’ll come home and say NEVER AGAIN, if we’ve felt the price didn’t reflect the quality of the event, or the venue was dull, or repetitive, or the company was dull, or repetitive, and then we’ll cross that one off our list. AND if they run out of cake!!!!

cake-crumbs
Don’t you DARE run out of cake!

BUT, that’s just our opinion, those 245 events taking place tomorrow will ALL be attended and enjoyed, so there is definitely something out there for everyone.

Even in Stevenage, I’m sure! (although I couldn’t find a link to a 2017 marathon to share – maybe a reader could correct this?)

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The first marathon we went to together…. Ain’t life grand

SO I never did get to Stevenage for my attempt at running ‘Good For Age’, I joined Nicky and her merry gang in a trip to The Eden Project and I ran what I still believe was my finest race to date.

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Finishing The Eden Project Marathon 2014

On a hilly course, yes in beautiful surroundings, I ran 3h18m50s (Good For Age would have been 3h15) for 5th place and had a monster pasty straight afterwards. Another enticer for us – post race grub! We did the marathon again in 2015 and the half in 2016. Great event.

I went on to run my Good For Age time twice the following year without resorting to a train to Stevenage.

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Nicky’s 2nd fastest marathon NDVM last year

As for this year’s marathons, next up is the North Dorset Villages where I’m hoping to chase another Good For Age. I’m older now so they give me another 5 minutes, 3h20m is the target this time. Nicky, too is chasing a time at this one. And no, I’m not telling you what it is, I do like my marriage…….

After that we’re having a week in the Lake District, incorporating the Coniston Marathon into the holiday – I reckon we’ll be ‘Good For Age’ whatever time we run!

Anyway, much eating and resting to do ahead of tomorrow’s sojourn up the coast there…

Bright Copper Kettles and Warm Woollen Mittens

You know how I said I don’t just throw this blog together…..

So, that’s March pretty much done……

My favourite running community, Fetcheveryone, the subject of a previous blog, has only been in that there Guardian! It got me to thinking, I get a certain pride to be part of something independent, quirky and quite deservedly successful.

My wandering mind then started thinking that what else, apart from Fetch, would feature in running awards if I were the sole judge.cup

So, my favourite website AND community would have to be Fetch. I urge anyone with an interest in running to check it out. Take a bow Fetchies, top step of the podium.

2017-02-05 05.10.04
And the winner is……….

 

Talking of my favourite things, my amazing lady wife, Nicky, and I ran together on Tuesday, me taking the role of ‘coach’. I can’t tell Nicky what the planned session will be as she loses sleep fretting about it. Apparently she slept fitfully anyway, curiously nervous about how fast her legs would need to go.

The session was a good warm up with some mobility stretching then we did 1 x 1 mile hard, about 2 minutes recovery followed by 1 x 1 km hard again with a couple of minutes recovery then 1 x 600m (ish) which is a lap of the north green on Paignton sea front. Nicky’s legs were indeed a blur, particularly on the last one. We then jogged home and Nicky went off for a swim! After work we met up and did some rather public core-based circuit training. Phew!! A triple p.e. day for Nicky!

My blog is coming up to celebrating its 2000th visitor! I hope that it in some way is contributing to the wonderful running community and maybe engaging a few non runners with a little window into the strange world of us 50somethings with a running addiction!

Another great running community is that one that has arisen out of the listenership of the wonderful podcast, Marathon Talk. Don’t be fooled, this isn’t a deadly serious talk show based solely around the big city majors, it is a weekly 90 minutes or so of banter, training advice, interviews, features. a hilarious regular comedy piece from Tony Audenshaw (Bob from Emerdale) and so much more. They have a shiny new website where you can interact with the show, rating runs and entering your marathon performances in the hope of getting on the weekly podium.

They’ve interviewed the great and good and inspiring and quirky over the 377 episodes to date.

One of my favourite features is the interviewees magic mile where each week’s guest is asked the following hypothetical question:

“Given 6 months of perfect training, where you didn’t have to work, carry out domestic duties, you’re guaranteed no injuries or illness, what time could you manage for 1 mile on the track?”

Andy Baddely and Mo Farrah are top of the list on 3m48s, Ronnie O’Sullivan said 5m00s and marathon running legend, Steve Edwards said 5m29s.

 

Marathon Talk Weekend
The Marathon Talk Run Camp 2014 – if you look closely…….

Anyway, again I urge you to check it out. Presenters Tom Williams and Martin Yelling, please step forward to receive your award.

 

Running them close, despite being relative newcomers are the witty, engaging and comedians Paul Tonkinson and Rob Deering. Their podcast, Running Commentary is recorded whilst the guys are running and is full of observations, descriptions of the routes,  lots of running chat, stories from their lives and is a welcome treat on my drive to and from work.

Running Commentary
Funny Men Running – Paul Tonkinson and Rob Deering

 

They occasionally have interviewees too and this can make for some truly hilarious moments. they are currently training for the London Marathon (yes, I believe there is one in London) and so plenty of runners will relate to where they are at in their training.

I’ve managed really good long training runs in the last week or so, a 26.2 and a 20 and we treated ourselves to a sports massage too so feeling like the training for North Dorset Villages Marathon is coming together. We ran the race together last year and Nicky did her 2nd best ever marathon time. We’re both quietly targeting going well this year.

Before that we’ve got the Devonshire Dumpling marathon on Sunday, looking to run the flatter parts at a good pace and enjoy the hilly trails and coast path for the rest of it.

I listened to my body this morning and took Charlie for some ball chasing instead of running and was treated to a beautiful sunrise through the trees.

2017-03-30 06.59.27

Anyway, expect a report on Sunday’s pasty (and run), hopefully in a more structured blog……

 

 

 

A banquet fit for a (king or) queen

2017-03-25 06.19.23What a beautiful sunrise this morning, the sun rising through the haze of sea spray as an north-easterly whipped the tops off the waves. Like running through a watercolour.

Chilly for sure, but good to have some bright weather to run in. We’re not Saturday long run people normally, preferring the traditional Sunday long one. I set off first, aiming to do about 11 miles at marathon pace before joining Nicky after she’d done 3 or 4 for another 16 or 17. Simples.

Marathon pace was barely happening today so I’d actually done 10 by the time we met up. Reassuringly, Nicky was also ‘not feeling it’.

Saturday, you see. Our highly and finely tuned elite athlete bodies are programmed to run 3 mile time trials on Saturdays, this was never going to be a successful experiment. That, combined with the sore knee Nicky is nursing meant she wisely finished at 10 miles, before the knee starting affecting her running too much. She’ll do a smaller run tomorrow instead.

Whilst I was feeling sluggish (half a packet of dark chocolate digestives last night can’t have helped!), I wasn’t in pain luckily so I carried on and did an easy paced hilly loop. This brought my run in at 26.2 mile! Well, if I’m going to do well in these ultras later in the year, I’ve got to be capable of this sort of mileage. Click HERE if you like run stats.

ANYWAY…….

Pretty hungry after all this, which got us to thinking about post race/run noshing. Nicky and I, er, like our food (not something you can regularly get away with saying to a lady!) so we’re always keen to get our nashers chomping after a run.

 

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Larmer Tree Chef, well good grub

The last marathon we did, the wonderful Larmer Tree (see previous blog), not only had a quite beautiful, peacock medal but also some lovely hot food for the runners included in the entrance fee. There was a choice of burgers, pizza, salads, vegetarian and vegan options, plus a bar and coffees a plenty.

 

What to eat after a marathon? We’ve tried everything. There’s a cracking pasty shop in St Austell, open well into the afternoon on Sundays, so they’ve had plenty of our hard earned shillings after some cracking events down that way.

I will, actually, eat anything after a run, that’s a danger time for me. Chips, chocolate, crisps, pork pies, bacon, cake, cake, cake, crumbs found in the well of the boot of the car, half eaten hot dogs found  on the floor, you name it, I’ll eat it!

2017-03-05 12.13.19
Post run essentials

 

We tried taking our food with us, lovingly preparing bagels, fruit, small snack bars (who wants a SMALL snack bar??) you name it, we’ve tried it but somehow those, cling film wrapped warm bagels, sweating in the boot of the car just don’t cut it.

 

2015-04-05 08.39.03
After conquering the South Downs Way 50 Nicky was presented with 50 cream eggs! Now THAT’S a post race nosh up!

 

Nope, it’s got to be pasty, coffee and cake for us and when we get home on race days it’s takeaway night. House special chow mein with fine noodles mmm mmmm.

After todays efforts it was belated porridge and a walk down to the sea for coffee and cake.

Looking forward to next Sunday’s Devonshire Dumpling where we have had to pre-order our pasty (meat please), included in the £8 entry fee!!

Keep on keeping on people….

The Marathon I Haven’t Run

I don’t just throw this blog together you know….

One idea I’ve been mulling over is to have an occasional series of interviews, with ordinary people. People who are into running would be good. Whatever form that takes and whatever running might mean for people.

Microphone
Fancy being interviewed for the blog?

Only, I don’t want to be too obvious, I’d like to find out more, delve deeper into the inner workings of the minds of those out on the paths, roads and trails.

Without asking the obvious………

Or taking it too seriously……..

2017-03-12 13.17.13-1
Nicky censoring her replies….. interview coming soon….

Nicky says “you can interview ME if you like!”

Stay tuned for that one……

So, I thought I’d kick off with a quick interview with……

……. Myself

Asking the questions I definitely won’t be asking anyone else……

Q: I hear you’re a runner, have you done the marathon?london marathon logo

Me: The marathon?

Q: You know, London

Me: No I haven’t

Q: (disappointed look) Oh dear

Me: I have run 30 marathons though, some of them ultra marathons

Q: But not in London?

Me: No, sorry.

Q: What’s an ultra marathon?

Me: I believe it’s any running race that’s further than 26.2 miles.

2015-03-08 13.26.00
Nicky & I in our first Ultra – The Imber on Salisbury Plain in 2015

Q: Are they in London?

Me: No, sorry.

Q: Oh, never mind. Anyway, isn’t running bad for your knees?

Me: Not so far, I’ve found kneeling down on cold wet concrete at work is worse.

Q: Are you going to run the London Marathon?

Me: I don’t think so, there’s so many other places I’d like to run.

Q: But not London?

Me: No, sorry.

Q: Great North Run?

Me: Nope, again, the crowd thing.

Q: So where have you run a marathon?

Me: Most recently an off-road marathon in Dorset.

Q: Was that as far the London Marathon?

Me: It was, it’s actually a bit further, Dorset miles are longer.

2017-03-12 13.41.03
Another flat, fast Dorset mile ahead!

Q: What music do you listen to when you’re running

Me: I don’t

Q: You don’t?

Me: No, I prefer an empty head, the sound of the sea, birds, my foot strike, breathing, the sound of my beautiful wife talking, that sort of thing.

Q: Do you do the MoBot?

mo and usian
Wonder if either of these two are free for an interview?

Me: Nope

Q: The Lightning Bolt?

Me: No.

Q: You are a runner, mate?

Me: I like to think so.

Q: So who’s your favourite runner? Mo Farah or Usain Bolt?

Me: if you mean ELITE runner I’d have to say Callum Hawkins or Laura Muir.

Callum Hawkins
Callum Hawkins

Q: Who?

Me: Never mind. But actually, my favourite runner is my beautiful, amazing wife Nicky, she truly is my inspiration. She believes in me, I believe in her.

Q: Was she in the London Marathon?

Me: No.

Q: The Olympics?

Me: No.

2015-05-17 14.27.33
All the inspiration I ever need (this was Windemere Marathon the day after our wedding)

Q: Right? Have you got many cups?

Me: Two, but I don’t run for cups.

Q: So why do you run?

ME: I enjoy running.

Head Over Heels (or ar$£ over t!t)

Last time I fell during a run was in the Haytor Heller 2015. Oooo I did graze my knees. I’ve been surprisingly sure footed since then. Until today………..

It sure has been a challenging week chez nous. So we were ready for a lovely adventure today, tired for sure, but looking forward to the Tavy 13. It is a fabulous half marathon, hilly and challenging but with a “ahhhh-weeeeeeeee” 3 mile downhill and flat finish.

2017-03-19 09.05.38
Other people might want some of that Martin

The same gang of three (the wonderful Mrs Bonfield, the silver fox & yours truly) set off for Tavistock, arriving in good time and ready for our standard pre-match coffee (or multi-sugared tea). We had all, of course, completed the Larmer Tree Marathon 7 days earlier (see last weeks review) and were prepared to be carrying that fatigue in our legs.

 

This event, fantastically organised by Tavistock Athletic ClubTavistock Athletic Club, also played host to the Primary Schools Challenge, where nearly 500 primary school children would complete a mile after the grown-ups had set off on their 13.1 mile adventure. This was the culmination of 13 weeks of the youngsters running a mile a week.

What with there being nearly 500 in the half marathon, all the supporters, children’s’ parents and supporters it made for a cracking atmosphere at the track and a strain on the toilet facilities!

We were all running our own races, so we wished each other luck and lined up on the lush spongy running track with the buzzing throng of runners.

2017-03-19 09.39.14
Toileted and Coffeed ready for the off

 

 

The hooter sounded and off we went, starting with half a lap of the track through the wonderful tunnel of noise created by all those children cheering us along.

I seemed to settle into what felt like my pace quickly as we went towards Tavistock itself and then straight into a climb out of the town. I don’t climb particularly quickly but I feel I have become quite efficient and so I focus on the rhythm of my foot-strike and try to ignore those that appear to be sprinting past me! They are either faster runners than me, in which case they’ll be gone or maybe they’re pushing too hard and I might catch them later.

Despite this climb, I went through mile 1 in 6m50s, bang on pace for a 1h30m finish, I didn’t really have a target for today, and I knew there was plenty of hilly stuff to come so I stuck with running on feel. We went along a fairly flat tarmac path through some woodland which ended in a sharp little decent followed by a hairpin turn to join a road and head back uphill.

I noticed the 2 mile marker on a post as I started to thank the marshal, there were so many wonderful marshals, skilfully guiding us through any junctions or tricky sections.

“Thank you marsh………..” SLIP, SMASH, SLIDE. Man down! My gangly 6 foot frame spread-eagled on the junction, “you alright mate?” the concerned calls of many of the runners as they hopped over me and headed up the hill. The very concerned marshal encouraged me to take a bit of time to recover, unsightly blood dribbling down my leg.

2017-03-19 09.00.44
Luckily my fall wasn’t bad enough to require these guys

 

 

My watch had actually vibrated to tell me I had completed mile 2 in 6m23s as I fell!

I picked myself up and set off again, sore and with dented pride, wryly chuckling to myself. I seem to remember the next couple of miles being undulating (6.46 & 6.31) before a challenging climb in mile 5 taking us up on to the moors (8.07) before settling in to a couple more undulating miles enjoying the glorious vistas (6.50 & 6.39).2017-03-19 11.38.31

2017-03-19 11.38.39There is a big old hill in mile 8 and I started to trudge a bit. I spurred myself on with a little look at the ribbon I often wear on race day. My sister lost her battle with cancer 8 years ago, and today would have been her 52nd birthday. I try to only use Karen’s memory as a positive thing and I know she was so happy that’d I’d taken up running and started taking better care of myself, so she would have surely have told me to dig in and get to the top.

Through mile 8 in 8m30s, I knew the run in was down to the town and then flat so I started to let my limbs spiral as quickly as I dared, not wishing to repeat my tumbling antics of earlier!

Miles 9 and 10 (6.26 & 6.39) were a battle into the wind and mile 11 had a little climb (6.59) before whizzing back through 12 & 13 (6.18 & 6.47) towards town and the 600 meter finish on the track. My tired bleeding bloody was pleased to see the finish line and there was a brief emotional moment with me and the ribbon.

1 hour 31 minutes 22 seconds. Unofficial.

My rushing about didn’t stop then, though. Knowing Martin and Nicky were also soon to be on their way, I hobbled back to the car to collect jumpers (it certainly was chilly once I’d stopped) and coffee and cake money.

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Some of the wonderful Tavy Athletics Club Catering Team

The fantastic Tavistock Athletics Club Catering Team were handily trackside with drinks, cakes, hot dogs, bacon sarnies.. The Works. What an enthusiastic, helpful, smiling, congratulating and efficient team they were. The younger staff members falling over themselves to make sure I was laden with recovery refreshments for when my fellow intrepid runners arrived. Which was quite soon as it turned out, Martin blitzing up the home straight in 1h53m and Nicky following soon after also with a sprint to finish in 2h08m.

2017-03-19 12.10.00
Nicky flying to the finish

Their smiles matched mine as we compared notes and munched and drank through our post race goodies.

£9 this race. With road closures and the facilities and a lovely little medal. Bargain.

Hats off to the Tavy club for another resounding success, wonderful atmosphere and some great memories on a day on memories.

Check out the Tavy 7 too, another lovely race.

Please check out my other blog posts….

Larmer Tree Marathon, Bideford Half, my writing journey, elitism, tired Mo, working & running and have a rummage through my marathons to date.

 

2017-03-19 12.17.15
Scrummy post race refreshment

 

 

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Don’t Stop Believing

2017-03-16 19.52.09I’ve entered a competition. It isn’t a running competition. It’s a writing competition. No, really.

ronnie corbettTo cut a Ronnie Corbett sized story down to Ronnie Corbett’s size, this is how it came about…..

Nicky bought me a gorgeous journal after encouraging me to enter the East Farm Frolic. Knowing how I’d always fancied myself as a bit of an amateur scribe, she thought I could keep a record of my training journey building up to the 12 hour event in August.

After, what seemed like a lifetime or three of living in darkness, my life has simply exploded with light, and life, and colour and adventure in the time we have been together. Not only do we share our quest to make as much of our non-work time an adventure as we possibly can, but we also BELIEVE in each other. Something I’ve never known and my, oh my, how utterly wonderful it is.

Anyway, without going off on a tangent too much, the journal has been, and is, a truly wonderful thing. I am recording my feelings and levels of confidence and general assessments of training and how the rest of my life impacts upon it, and I have found that I really am enjoying the writing as a complement to my running.

Hence the blog.

Hence the writing competition.

 

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Did I mention our trip to Cornwall???

When we were in Cornwall (as many of these blog posts allude to) great things happened. This included us deciding to grab a magazine or two for our toasty evenings in front of the log fire. Up until that moment I hadn’t even know that such a magazine as Writing existed. Exist it does. And what a lovely read it is.

 

Well, they have regular competitions, the one in question is for a short story. There isn’t a theme but they give you the first sentence, you must create the story with a further 1500 or so words. So I did. And I have submitted it.

Blimey.

I may have stopped believing for a while, but it is SO easy to believe when the most wonderful, incredible lady walks into your life and gives it a good old shake up.

Aint. Life. Grand.

(Oh, and I’ve been running)