Thursday, 19 December 2013

Its been a fuuny old year

As the year draws to a close, I am unfortunately injured again.  But, I thought I would review the year and start the process of setting next years targets.

Last year, due to general frustration at the way my running was progressing, or should we say not progressing, I set my targets for 2013 early, during November 2012.  They were:

- To climb Kilimanjaro
- To perform well in the Masters Cross country championships
- To break the M55 course record at the Yorkshire Wolds Half Marathon
- To do and complete 1 more marathon
- To run the length of Hadrian's Wall in 24 hours 

And I also identified one A race - The Blaydon Race.

The year started well with some good mileage under the belt and in February, my first target of climbing Kilimanjaro was achieved.

Kilimanjaro viewed from Moshi
View from the Summit
The next target,  Performing well at the Masters Cross Country Championships, proved to be less successful.  Taking place at Sunderland, only a few weeks after my return from Tanzania and full of cold.  I struggled around the course somewhere very close to the back of the field.

By now, I had found out that I had to go into hospital for an operation.  Which took place in May.  Initially I thought that this would prevent me from running my chosen A race, the 'Blaydon', on June 9th.  However, with a few easy runs under the belt I decided to start well back in the field and jog around.  As things turned out I felt better than I thought I would have and, although not performing as well as I had hoped prior to going into hospital, ended up completing the course in a faster time than in 2012 and picking up the 2nd M55 prize.

Finish of Yorkshire Wolds

With regards to the next target, well that turned out to be a comedy of errors.  Although still struggling a little I had got some good mileage in during June and early July.  However, failure on my part to establish what the correct M55 course record was  for the Yorkshire Wolds, meant I was chasing the wrong and a slower time.  I suppose it was a case of that old saying 'fail to plan and you plan to fail'.

Next up was to once again complete a marathon.  Having dropped out of the last marathon I had ran, 3 year go, I didn't want to finish running marathons with a DNF.  I realised, for a change, that I was not going to get anywhere near the times I used to do for the marathon, so decided that the aim was just to finish. 

The Town Moor marathon was the chosen race, which I finished in 3.27.36.  Over an hour slower than my pb for the distance.  But at least I had met my target.

Unfortunately, for the time being, running Hadrian's Wall has been put on hold.

Looking forward to next year.  At the moment it is a little difficult planning set targets, as I already know that at sometime in the New Year I will be returning to hospital for further operations.  However, once I get going again, the sort of things I am considering are for A races:

- The Dentdale run in March
- The Blaydon Race
- The Yorkshire Wolds Half Marathon - as they are changing the course this year the M55 course record wont be there to chase but at least I can aim at setting the record for the new course.
- Having completed the marathon again this year. I know I can run faster than 3.27, so am considering another marathon
- There is also the possibility of running my first Ultra-marathon (well its one way of getting a pb)

And of course, there is still a date with Hadrian's Wall to be kept.

So plenty to think about - Bring on 2014!

Monday, 16 December 2013

Two of my favourite things

One thing about being injured, it has given me the opportunity to catch up on some reading. A couple of months ago while scouring the bookshelves of a local bookshop (yes, I still prefer mooching around a bookshop rather than shopping online). The title of Scott Jurek's book Eat and Run (two of my favourite things) jumped out at me.

Ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek's book is in part autobiography, part cookbook and part beginners guide.  Covering the course of nearly 20 years starting with his early childhood in Minnisota  and taking in his ultramarathon career, the autobiographical aspect of the book, to me, is by far the more interesting. 

Although I intend to try out some of the recipes, as a confirmed meat eater, I will not be adopting Scott Jurek's Vegan lifestyle.  However,  having said this,some of the recipes are far too simple.  For example, is it really necessary to include a recipe for making mashed potato's from scratch, ie a potato?

At just over 200 pages the book skirts over a lot of the details of the actual races but gives a good insight into Scott Jurek himself and is certainly worth a read.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Diary of a Sloth

Admittedly its not as if I have done absolutely nothing,  I have tried to exercise around my current hamstring problems by going to the gym and carrying out a variety of stretches and exercises to help rehabilitate the injury.  But, the lack of running has left me frustrated, lethargic and Sloth like.

Slothness  is something that cannot be levelled at local runner Dave Knowles, however.  On Sunday morning, as the chill rolled off the North Sea, I joined a small group of hardy supporters at the Lord Collingwood statue on the banks of the River Tyne at Tynemouth. Where we cheered Dave off on the start of his charity run.  A run that will see him finish in Trafalgar Square, London.  Having completed 13 marathons in 13 days.

Dave is hoping to raise £13000 for the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Details and photographs can be found here and here

Monday, 25 November 2013

Cross country season off to a healthy start.......... for some

Start of 2012 NEHL at Blaydon
With 547 runners taking part in yesterdays, senior men's race and 300 in the ladies race, at the 2nd fixture of this years North East Harrier League, in Jarrow.  It would appear that Cross Country running in the North East is fit and healthy.

This is especially so, when you consider that the first fixture at Blaydon a month ago saw record numbers of 575 runners in the Senior Men's race and 300 in the ladies race.

That said, yesterday's figures in the men's race should have been at  least one higher as it had been my intention to run.  However, the untimely hamstring problems encountered last Thursday soon scuppered that plan and also look likely to prevent me turning out for the third fixture this weekend. 

Hopefully I can get sorted and back running fairly soon.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Do you remember Forrest Gump?

I am sure you all remember the 1994 film starring Tom Hanks, where the main character, Forrest Gump, runs through defining moments of America's recent history while also running across the country a couple of times.

But have you ever wondered at the feasibility of this?

Lauren Hanson, in The Week magazine describes how it could be so

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

A pint of Black Sheep and a packet of crisps please

I know this may be frowned upon by some but like a lot of people I know, following training nights at the 'Harriers' on Tuesday and Thursday evening's it is customary for us to go to the local hostelry for a couple of pints and some post training socialising.

A few year back, during one of these socialising sessions I proffered the idea that drinking beer post training was actually beneficial as if you just drank water you may quench your thirst before adequately rehydrating and this could ultimately be harmful to ones kidneys.  By drinking beer, however, I suggested that the kidney's would remain active and healthy.

A doctor friend however said something to the effect, that although it was a nice idea, things didn't actually work like that.

But, perhaps I wasn't that far off the mark.

 As following his study of 16 active men who ran on a treadmill for an hour in a heated room.  Dr Manuel J. Castillo, of the University of Granada School of Medicine in Spain, presented his findings at the 2011 European Conference on Nutrition.

These were, that following the exercise described above.  Each person drank either water or 660 millilitres of beer with a 4.5 percent alcohol content.  He found that a moderate amount of beer following exercise did not adversely affect recovery.  Stating, "We found that this amount of beer is as effective as water to recovery from exercise."

Also, there are the findings from research carried out at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia and published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.  Here seven men exercised vigorously until they lost about 2% of their body mass.  Following this, they had 1 of 4 fluid replacements:

- light beer (2.3% alcohol content)
- light beer with added salt
- standard beer 4.8% alcohol content)
- standard beer with added salt.

The researchers found that drinking the light beer with added salt produced the greatest benefits and didn't put athletes at great risk of further dehydration, which could occur with the higher strength beer.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Harry swaps Quidditch for the track

There were numerous press releases last week naming Harry Potter actor, Daniel Radcliffe as the person chosen to play Sebastian Coe in a film version of Pat Butcher's book The Perfect Distance.

The book, which is an excellent read, charts the rivalry between Coe and Steve Ovett.  Filming starts in Spring 2014 ready for release later in the year.

I have not seen any news as to who will be playing Steve Ovett yet. But if the film captures only half of the interest, tension and excitement the pair created in real life, then it should be a fantastic film.

Back in those days people tended to be in either the Coe camp or the Ovett camp as the pair ruled the world of middle distance running.  I must admit to being firmly in the Ovett camp.

All this publicity has prompted me to re-read another excellent book about Steve Ovett.  Coincidently a book to which Pat Butcher gives acknowledgement at the beginning of The Perfect Distance and that is Simon Turnbull's, Steve Ovett: The Portrait of an Athlete.

Written unfortunately, at the time during which Ovett refused to communicate with the press and published in 1983 this non the less does not detract from it being an excellent read.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Town Moor marathon

Having dropped out of my last marathon at 21 miles, 3 year ago, I did not want to finish running marathons on a DNF. So the  aim for this race was just to finish.

And as we progressed into the third of five laps and I tried to pick the pace up and race, I could tell that the training I had done, although good enough to get around , it wasn't going to let me do much more.  As a result I was forced to ease back as we moved into lap 4.

The race, which incorporated both the BMAF  and VAANEE championships started under bright blue skies and although there was a light breeze blowing across the moor, it wasn't going to cause too much trouble.  Starting conservatively I was content to just take in the scenery and let anyone who wanted to pass me, do so.  After 2 laps I was lying in 30th place and thanks to championship runners wearing the age group on their backs, I knew I was 2nd M55.  This latter fact worried me a little, as from looking at he start list, I knew there were at least two other M55's who were faster than me.

Then as we moved into the third lap two runners about a yard apart with 55 age group numbers came past.  The interesting thing, though, was although the first of the two was moving easily, the second seemed to be working hard to maintain his pace. However, there was no way I could hang onto them.

Moving into lap 4 I was starting to struggle and since the aim was to just finish I decided to ease back.  As we climbed the incline towards the switchback on Grandstand Road I realised that Morpeth's Gavin Baines had moved back up to second M55 ahead of the guy I had noticed earlier was having to work to maintain his pace.  In fact as we passed each other going in opposite directions I noticed that he was now going no faster and if anything slower than I was.  Instinctively I started working out the distance between us and how long it might take me to catch him.

As we headed down the Great North Road on the fifth and final lap, however he seemed to be a little to far ahead.  But then as we turned back onto the moor and doubled back upon ourselves I realised that he was slowing again and that I could catch him.  Which I did at around 25 miles.  As we cut across the moor, the wind which had been picking up throughout the race was now pretty strong and the rain started to fall.  However, I hung on to cross the line in 3.27.36 for 35th place and 3rd place in the BMAF championships and 2nd in the VAANNE championships.

So with the aim of finishing achieved, will this have been my last marathon?

Well, possibly not...

Results can be found at North East Races.

As usual, photographs by Francesca, more photos can be seen here.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Gone for a run

Scene following the start of Saturday's Parkrun

photo by Francesca

Monday, 14 October 2013


Having turned out for the Parkrun on Newcastle Town Moor on Saturday morning to use the 5km run as a time trial, things didn't go quite to plan.

The weather was chilly and damp and I had not warmed up properly prior to the start.  With the result that about three quarters of a mile into the run I felt a sharp pain across the top of my right leg and into my groin.  Easing back a little I kept things going to finish in 19.44.  A little slower than I had expected but still a solid run I suppose. So once finished it was straight home to spend some quality time with the ice pack.  Not really what you want 2 weeks before the marathon and the day before your last long run.

Sunday, I had planned to do 20+ miles and setting off on a chilly, grey and drizzly morning my groin and upper right leg felt stiff and tender from the previous day.  However, as I eased myself through the miles I gradually loosened up, eventually completing 21 miles, albeit, at a slower pace than I had originally wanted.  But still the miles are in the bank. I will be tapering down over the next two weeks.

I now find myself in a slightly strange situation, having completed only (deliberately)  about 2/3 of the training I would have done in the past and trying to remind myself that my aim is only to complete the race and not go for a particular time.

 Although I feel fit and strong I am now having doubts over what I perceive to be the lack of miles.  Also I am now finding it difficult to think in terms of just finishing rather than aiming for a particular time.

Ah well - we will just have to see how things go! After all it's to late to change anything now.

Photos of Parkrun, as usual thanks to Francesca

Monday, 30 September 2013

Redcar Half Marathon

I have had an on/off relationship with this race throughout my time of running.  The course has changed on a number of occasions over the years and having last ran this race in 2008, this was another new course for me.  I have a number of good memories from the numerous times I have ran at Redcar.  It was at Redcar that I last broke 70 minutes for the half marathon (16 year ago), but the one thing that always seems to spring to mind when anyone talks about Redcar is the wind.

1st place Paul Pollock

Yesterday, the weather conditions where bright and sunny with a stiff breeze.  Not the strong winds of previous years, so I was expecting a decent run.  I must admit though I struggled, going to pieces over the three mile stretch from miles 7 to 10, between Redcar and Marske, as the course headed directly into the breeze.

2nd place Andrew Wiles

Admittedly I probably started a little too quickly and as a result after 4 miles found myself falling back through the field as the more conservative starters filed past.

3rd place Ian Harding

Prior to the race I was expecting to run between 1.28 and 1.30 with 1.30 being a poor but acceptable result.  In the end I completed the course in 1.29.30 to finish in 96th position, so within my target.

The race was won by Paul Pollock of Kent AC in 67.05, with Andrew Wiles of New Marske (70.17) in second and Morpeth's Ian Harding 3rd in 70.55.

First lady was Shona Fletcher of Richmond and Zetland Harriers in 1.21.33 for 25th place overall.

4th placed James Bulman of New Marske was 1st M40 in 71.19 with Neil Byrne (79.49) first M45 and New Marske's Paul Gamble - Thompson first M50 (1.21.09)

While my category, M55, was won in 1.28.43 by Quaker Running Club's Brian Martin for 83rd overall from John Marshall of Heaton Harriers (1.28.56) in 85th place.  With me being 3rd M55.

For photos - thanks to Francesca

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Is technology ruining our sport.....

......... Or am I just becoming a grumpy old man?

It may seem strange to suggest that technology is having an adverse effect on athletics and running in particular.  Especially with the improvements in running tracks, advances in running footwear and clothing and improvements in timing systems to name but a few.

During the seventies runners were split between the elite and the club runner, with the latter, in a lot of  cases, being looked upon as slightly strange.  Then during the eighties, there came the 'running boom'.  I was probably among the first wave of 'running boomers' to join an athletics club and as such was educated in the training methods of the time.  Which if you had to sum it up in a word, would be mileage.

Following on from the boom, running became more popular and the concept of the fun run took off. The result is that now distances such as 10km, half marathon and the marathon are almost seen as a right of passage with the emphasis placed upon completion rather than racing for place and time.

Returning to the original question then, advances in technology running alongside this increase in participation has seen a number of flash points.  The most common of which being the wearing of headphones during races which has resulted in some runners being disqualified and some race organisers attempting to ban there use during the race.

But now there seems to be a new problem - the smart phone, and in particular the 'selfie'. Organisers of this years Hong Kong marathon are campaigning against entrants taking photos of themselves during the race.

The reason for this campaign follows an incident at the start of a 10km where a woman stopped to take a 'selfie', dropping her phone she stooped to retrieve it causing a number of runners behind her to trip and fall, including the eventual race winner.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Great North Weekend

It was that time of year again - Great North Run weekend.

As usual on Saturday I headed down to the quayside to watch the City Games while on Sunday I ran the Great North Run, chaperoning one of the celebrities.  This year I had the pleasure to accompany former Premier League Referee Mark Halsey.

The Great North City Games:

Great North Run:

Another great weekend!

Thanks to Francesca for GNR photos - More photos can be found at

Friday, 6 September 2013

Picture this........

Unfortunately I did not have a camera with me.  But picture this.......

As I approached the 15 mile mark, behind me,  a sense of tranquillity descended along the banks of the Tyne. The sun was melting into the sky, casting a deep red glow across the burnished gold of the corn fields.

Or, for those of you of a more practical mind.  The sunlight had travelled a longer path through the atmosphere than earlier in the day and had therefore been scattered by particles of dust causing the red sunset.

Either way I was knackered.

Setting off from the club early so that I could get my long run in last night rather than on Sunday the plan was to run 20 miles.  The first 18 at an easy pace with the last two at tempo.

Things were going well and I was enjoying the run but as I clocked up 14 miles I suddenly felt very tired.  Whether it was just general tiredness or my mind trying to convince me that I did not really want to do the tempo section I am not sure, but the next couple of miles were a real struggle.

Then approaching 18 miles my feet seemed lighter and my stride lengthened and the two miles tempo passed without any problem.  In fact by now I was feeling so good I decided to add on another couple of miles.

So at  22 miles a good evenings running

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Marathon training

Normally my 'running week' follows much the same pattern with sessions on a Tuesday and Thursday,  a long run on a Sunday interspersed with recovery or steady runs with possibly an additional session on a Saturday.

However, I already know that other commitments are going to cause a great amount of disruption to this routine over the coming weeks and with the marathon looming upon the horizon it is going to take careful planning to get things right.

To this end I will be doing this Sunday's planned 20 miles tonight.  Having already upped the mileage this week in anticipation of not getting much running in over the weekend I must admit that this evenings session is going to be on heavy and tired legs.

I am also going to find it difficult to fit in any races but the Redcar Half Marathon on 29th September is looking a good possibility.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Musings on a Wednesday morning

In this part of the world you can always tell when the Great North Run is nearing by a sudden influx of runners on the paths and by-ways of the region.  I live in a small village and as I left home for work this morning (in the car) 3 runners passed along the road.  During the twenty minute drive to work a further 14 runners where spotted.

Interestingly, all but two of these runners were women, and thinking about it, it seems when you do see someone out running these days that they do tend to be women.

 Could this be due in part to the comparative success of the British women endurance athletes in the recent World Championships and Olympics.  Along with the undoubted success, prior to her retirement, of Paula Radcliffe.  Not to mention the success of such celebrities as Nell McAndrew, filtering through and providing inspiration to others?

When you compare this to the fact that, apart from the exceptional Mo Farah, Britain had no other male competitors in the endurance events. It could be one of the reasons for the lack of depth at the 'front end' of men's competition.

The other thing I noticed this morning was that bright fluorescent colours and ear phones for listening to music are de rigueur. I also noticed, that all those I spotted this morning were wearing what I would consider to be 'normal' running shoes. 

I have on numerous occasions posted about barefoot running and minimalist running shoes and, in the press at least, the debate between barefoot running and cushioned running shoes seems to be continuing.

Last weeks Athletics weekly having a double page spread devoted to a new minimalist running sandal. These Huarache sandals are being promoted by Barefoot Ted McDonald who featured in Christopher McDoougall's book Born to Run.

Meanwhile, the published an argument against barefoot running.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

A mixed bag

My third week of marathon training turned out to be a bit of a mixed bag.

Monday turned into a rest day as my right knee was still pretty heavily swollen from the previous days race.  Luckily, however, the swelling had reduced by Tuesday evening and although still heavy legged was able to do an 11 mile fartlek session.

An easy 6 miles on Wednesday was followed by 12 miles with 3 x 2 miles with 5 mins jog recovery on Thursday.  Suffering a twinge in the left calf on the last effort saw me nursing the calf through an easy 5 miles on Friday.

Suffering no reaction from the calf and fancying a change of scenery on Saturday, I headed down to the Weardale Walk for a 5 mile fartlek session.

Then 17 miles on Sunday over a hilly route, taking in the nearby villages of Shotley Bridge, Newlands, Hedley on the Hill and Chopwell before heading into Chopwell Woods and down to Lintzford and the Derwent Walk before heading for home.  Worryingly I struggled quite badly over the last three miles.

I know that I have decided to take a more minimalist approach to the training for this marathon than I have done previously.  But I must admit that I am starting to worry a little over not doing so many miles.  With only 56 miles in this last week.

This is quite a contrast to the corresponding week for my last marathon which consisted of 80 miles and included two tempo runs, 1 of 3 miles and the other of 5 miles, an interval session consisting of 2 x 4 mins and 4 x2 mins, all on 2 mins jog recovery, a cross country race and a long run of 22 miles.

The photos were taken during the easier stretches of Saturdays fartlek session along the Weardale Way.