Sign Of The Times (Indeed It Is)

an anthemic, pomp-rock grandiose

I’m not naïve, I know that I’ve fallen for it. Oh yes, I’ve been caught staring into the piercing eyes of the great consumption beast, tethered by the leash of the corporate machine. The witch doctor has cast its spell and I was unable to resist. I’m going to have to come right out and say it……. I really, really like the Harry Styles single.

Harry StylesThat’s, better, I feel cleansed to have got it out there.

It is a little known fact that I used to do a bit of writing for a music magazine back in the nineties, and readers of that rag would DEFINITELY be surprised to hear that. Although, I have to say it does have an anthemic, pomp-rock, grandiose to it which wouldn’t have been misplaced on a 70’s glam-rock anthology.

A bit side tracked there, must get back to whinging about how nobody says hello when we’re out running together….. oh hang on…… can’t even do that……

 

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Torquay in the early morning sunshine

Last weekend, the streets were paved with happiness. I ran 22 miles on my own on Saturday, bright and early, and on Sunday Nicky and I did 20 miles together. “Morning!”, “Hi there” “How you doing?” “Good running” “Hellooooo” and so it went on, runners of all speeds, genders and ages, cyclists, dog walkers, pedestrians, oh yes the luuurrrve was being shared, people were hanging out of windows yelling encouragement (I may have made the last one up!) and everybody seemed genuinely pleased to see everybody else. Bloomin’ lovely it was too.

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Even the gulls were in a good mood!

 

So, it’s coming up, only 2 and a bit weeks to the North Dorset Villages Marathon. Are we ready? Er, I hope so. COME ON, Are we ready? Yes, I think so. MORE POSITIVITY, ARE WE READY? Yes, YES, we are ready.

running couple cartoon
We’re READY!

 

Nicky  & I had a really good run on Sunday, clocking 15 of the 20 miles at faster than her target pace and an average pace faster than her fastest marathon. And on Saturday I did too, plenty of marathon pace in my long run. Very pleased with ourselves, and try as we might, little to moan about!

Running has been a bit thin on the ground this week, a few jogs with the dog, but, with work being so physical and off the back of last weekend’s running, my body will be appreciating the drop in mileage.

It’s been school holidays, of course, so some of the promenade boasted the previous day’s chalk drawings, I was taken by this ELO fan’s effort….2017-04-12 06.31.13

London marathin massesSo, it’s just over a week to the London Marathon the streets of the capital will buzz with thousands and thousands of runners and massive crowds lining the streets cheering them on. Whilst it doesn’t particularly appeal, that enormous mass of people, I need to remember that it was such mass participation events and their media coverage which got me into this wonderful sport to start with, and it was only a quirk of timing that I went to Paris for my first one (which I believe has even MORE participants).

The London Marathon shows the world that… YES YOU CAN and for tens of thousands every year it means… YES YOU DID.

An upcoming blog post will feature an interview with the quite wonderful and beautiful Mrs Bonfield and we explore this very theme, how the media coverage of such events talks to those of us looking to do, or be, something different.

london marathon logo

running medalsSo to all of you doing London a week on Sunday, good on you, have a fantastic day, soak it up and enjoy every step and wear that medal all week afterwards!

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Blogs Than Biscuits

Honestly, we chatted to more people, and stroked more dogs than we would normally in a month

2017-04-02 14.50.34Every race day day, Nicky and I travel home, munching cadburys crème egg s, declaring ourselves ‘ON IT!!’ from tomorrow. No more sugar, no more fizzy pop, plenty of core work and strength training, rest and stretching. girl doing stretching exercise clipart

Well, THIS TIME, we mean it!

North Dorset Villages Marathon 4 weeks today, we are ON IT until then……

Just a few dark chocolate digestives to see off tonight………

So, yesterday, The Devonshire Dumpling Marathon, hosted by the Devon and Cornwall Long Distance Walkers Association. Wow, what a wonderful day.

The start was in Budleigh Salterton, a gorgeous East Devon town. We were fortunate enough to grab what appeared to be the last parking space in the car park next door to the public hall. We then discovered what would be a theme for the day, it was going to be hard to offload any cash today!

The car park is free. All the time!

We paused outside at 8am and watched the walkers head off. The event had two distances, 18 miles or 26.2 miles, the walkers set off at 8am and the runners at 9am.

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The walkers setting off.

 

We nervously entered the hall, registered with the friendly welcome chaps at the desk, and approached the well manned (and womanned) service hatch. Regular readers of this blog might have gathered we like our pre-match coffee.

 

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Hardly suprising!!

Two white coffees please. How much do I owe you? Nothing, fresh air, zero, zilch. Blimey, how lovely. The volunteers in the hall were so so friendly, helpful and chatty, we learned so much about the route and any nerves about being in a fairly different environment to our usual races soon disappeared.

 

Back to the car to shed our top layers and we were soon outside the hall in a small gathering of runners and a couple of their dogs. And away we went…..

Through Budleigh Salterton’s back streets, the leading pack, i.e. everybody else, became smaller and smaller in the distance. ‘Are we going that slowly?’ Nicky asked unnecessarily. My reply is always to say that if they are all faster runners than us we won’t see them again, whereas some may be a little enthusiastic early on and we’ll catch them later. It really doesn’t matter.

Nicky said something about disused railway lines, I smiled, not really knowing what she meant.

 

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Some serious logging!

We were soon heading across country and encountering the first splattering of a day of mud! Whoever put this course together deserves our heartfelt thanks, we agreed as the countryside became coast path for about 3 miles.

 

 

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I think we took the opposite of this…

Heading back in land we soon found the first checkpoint……. quiches, cheese & chorizo tarts, chocolate brownies, drinks, sweets etc etc etc….. We each carried a small laminated number card which the, again, incredibly engaging and encouraging, guys stamped for us to prove we’d been there.

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Yum Yum – I reckon I ate more than I burned!

 

Off again, soon making a very small navigation error (the larger one was still to come!) before getting back in the mud for the flat path towards Otterton. We’d ran here before, in the Otterton Reindeer 10k back in December, an event, we discovered later that is also supported and marshalled with the help of the Devon and Cornwall LDWA.

 

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These ladies were bemused by us!

Honestly, we chatted to more people, and stroked more dogs than we would normally in a month, giving us a little rest every mile!

2017-04-02 09.39.30

 

Otterton is still beautiful and is a sort of gateway to mud. The next section, no less stunning, truly was laden with the slippy stuff. We did some serious giggling throughout this as we had worn our super slick road trainers.

One of us went to ground. Twice. (pssst, ssshhh, it wasn’t me…..)

Nicky said our footing would be more sure once we got to the disused railway lines. Again, I had no idea we were using old railway lines.

 

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What do we want? OLD GATES!

 

 

 

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We weren’t lost……

 

Across Woodbury Common (Bicton Blister country) and heading towards the halfway point, Rushmoor Wood, where we took a little detour………. Our only mistake on this self-navigating course.

We were catching walkers in small groups regularly now and every single one of them was friendly and upbeat and it was a pleasure to meet them all.

Into Woodbury itself and the village hall being used as the second checkpoint. Sandwiches and rolls, quiches, pies, cakes, jelly and ice cream etc etc… cold drinks and hot drinks and another room full of fun and banter.

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Something for everyone at the checkpoints

 

We didn’t stay too long, we might still have been there eating if we’d sat down, instead heading off towards the Exe estuary. We’d caught up with a couple of runners again and noticed they were sporting White Star Running attire (including the much sought after ‘I felt the badger’ badge) so we exchanged knowing smiles and wished each other fair winds for the rest of the run.

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She’s definitely a keeper!

 

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The shared use path to Exmouth was very busy on this beautiful Sunday afternoon but we couldn’t help but enjoy the wonderful scene.

 

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There was plenty of this!

A few miles of easy (ish) flat running on firm surface took us to the final checkpoint on the approach to Exmouth was followed by an undulating run through Exmouth itself and followed another (planned) detour where the pathway was closed. Before long we were back in the countryside and heading towards the sea. Running through the massive Sandy Bay caravan park, dodging the firing range on the headland and tackling the massive climb up the coast path, knowing it was all downhill to Budleigh Salterton from the top.

 

“So where were the old railway lines?” Nicky asked on the run in. I think she might have been reading up on the wrong race!2017-04-02 13.33.31

The finish back at the hall was a welcome sight after several and a half hours out on the trails, and we were presented with our personalised certificate to prove our participation.

2017-04-02 12.40.32Here’s the thing – have a really good look at the LDWA website, they have some absolutely lovely events both social and recognised distances (we found this via the 100 Marathon Club) and we met dozens of lovely people today and wouldn’t hesitate to do any other of their events. In fact we picked up three tempting leaflets whilst we were there……

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Big smiles at the finish of a wonderful event.

 

2017-04-02 15.39.03If you want to know where Nicky and I are  starting tomorrow….. we’re ON IT!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Stevenage?

That evening, sat listening to some Barry White in my bedsit, I used my smart phone for two things……

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…

A banquet fit for a (king or) queen

Our highly and finely tuned elite athlete bodies are programmed to run 3 mile time trials on Saturdays

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!

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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….

Don’t Stop Believing

When we were in Cornwall (as many of these blog posts allude to) great things happened.

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)