Getting a bit chilly

I was out of the door and half way across the car park before it hit me. Hmmm, thinks I, this is a bit chilly. I turned around and ran back into the house. Another layer is needed. Buttoning a shirt over my running top. and donning a pair of gloves I emerged back into this frosty Sunday morning now suitably attired.

This is my second long run since signing up for the 50k Race To The Stones next year. I’ve been thinking about the terrain and the type of running involved in this endeavour. For today’s training run I am using a rucksack and have put a water bottle in it. Race To The Stones looks very well supported but I will definitely need water (it will take place in July after all) and having a tendency to lose a lot of salt the legs soon start cramping. This also means I shall require a handy supply of these mysterious and magical whatchamacallits of which I know so little.

I say I know little about magical thingummies but some Internet research was done prior to this training run, and enlightenment has settled upon me like falling snow (must write it down before it melts and drifts away). It seems that electrolytes are a bunch of stuff that helps your body work smoothly.

A brief diversion as we try to figure out these electrolyte thingies

They are:

Calcium – strong bones and help with clotting
Potassium – this is the one that interests me most of all as it should help counteract those diabolical cramps. Bananas are a favourite source for this and before and after the run today I tried salted potatoes. Seemed to help a bit and tasted delicious. I got the cramps but not for as long.
Sodium – something about regulating body fluid volumes. I’m not entirely sure what that means.
Chloride – similar to Sodium – not sure what’s going on with these guys.
Magnesium – is like the bus that other electrolytes use to get them to where they need to be. Hurrah for Magnesium. This is another one that you’ll find in bananas.

Back to the run

Another consideration for this run was to find some uneven ground and possibly changes of gradient. I found both of these on the other side of the Cam running through the fields towards Fen Ditton. The ground was most definitely uneven and running on the bits where there was no track soon became a significant trial. My brain flipped out a little as I glanced over toward the track. Every fibre of my being cried out that I should be running on the easier bit. Look, it seemed to yell, other people have already walked or run there and made it flat and easy for you. What kind of fool would ignore those advantages? I veered a little but managed to stay off the track until at least the other side of the field. Isn’t it just astounding how hard wired we are for efficiency?

Pic of tree lined pathIt’s a steady incline (albeit gentle) all the way up into Fen Ditton but then levels out as you pass by the church. There’s a beautiful tree-lined path along here and then a right turn across the common heading in the direction of Cambridge. Passing by a chap smoking here the deliciously sweet scent of cannabis wafts through the air. I considered following him for a while just to enjoy the smell for a little longer but decided that might possibly be a little too weird.

A quick wiggle through the streets and then I pop out onto Coldhams Common. A new parkrun began here just a few weeks ago and I’ve considered popping along to give it a try. Unfortunately Coldhams Common, being so desperately flat and empty holds little attraction for me as a running destination. I may give it a try though, as part of trying to increase my mileage, by running there, doing the parkrun and running back.

After exploring Coldhams Common I then shuffled past the Leper Chapel and into town.leper chapel pic

My body had warmed up now so I was able to pop my gloves and hat into the rucksack while grabbing a drink and a Shotblock. It’s good to carry your supplies with you, although I suspect the rucksack will be a lot more irritating to wear in the heat of July.

I circle around Jesus Green, back through Midsummer Common and along the river to cross over by the Green Dragon. From there it’s only a stagger, totter and topple until I’m back in Milton.

Looking at my phone I see the distance covered so far is 19km.  I turn off into Milton Country Park to add on those vital two kilometres to make it a half marathon. Finally I arrive home feeling that this was a good morning’s work.

It feels good to complete 21K as a training run. My weekly run distance had dropped down to between 10 and 15km. After kicking off my smelly shoes I stretch out for as long as I possibly can before becoming too bored to continue (stretching is an astoundingly dull activity). Then it’s time to do some lounging about in the bath.

I feel that my training is on track and vaguely wonder whether to jump up to the 100km distance for Race To The Stones. I consider this for a moment and then tell myself not to be so silly.

A running watch

pic of running watch

My phone would probably not last for the many hours it would take me to complete the 50km of Race To The Stones so I am considering getting a running watch. My wife, mum and brother are all clubbing together to help me purchase one. Favourite at the moment looks to be the Garmin Forerunner 35. It reckons to be able to operate while using GPS for 13 hours. Surely even I can finish 50K in under 13 hours…

Winter Training Starts Here

I’ve been musing, pondering and wondering about doing a really epic run.

Take a look at this blurb from the Race To The Stones website:

“Follow the footsteps of Vikings, Romans, dragons and kings. Journey from the Chilterns to the mystical North Wessex Downs past mighty iron age forts, ancient monuments and through some of Britain’s most stunning landscapes.  A 5000 year trek back in time.”

It sounds amazing doesn’t it?

The full race is 100km long along the Ridgeway, the oldest trackway in Britain. That’s the one that I’d really like to do but possibly I should scale it back a bit. There is an option to just do the part 2 section of the course so should I? Could I? Many times I began the sign up process only to quit at the final pay now moment. Once I sign up I am also committing to a long hard winter of training in the wind, the rain and the snow.

Do I really want to do that to myself?

I finally decided that I didn’t want to do that to myself but I would just bloody well have to if I wanted to make this fantasy a reality. I want this experience and the pain of getting there will be part of what makes it so extraordinary. My plan is to start with the 50k and if I manage to stagger over the finish line then maybe, just maybe, 100k might seem like something I could do.

However, before the race must come the long hard months of training so I’d better put on my running gear and get out there and put in the miles.

But it’s raining.

Get out there you wuss.

And so I did.

I’ve slackened off a little recently and put on a good deal of weight. I am over a stone heavier than when I ran the London Marathon and I was no waif back then. Thinking about this (because I do make a habit of torturing myself) I imagined putting 7 bags of sugar into a bag and wearing it around my waist. It seems a ridiculous thing to have done to oneself but I really do enjoy a nice curry and it seems I have had several.
I have still been doing regular weekend runs and decided that today it would be a good idea to increase my Sunday run from the usual 10k up to around 13 or so. That would seem to be a sensible increase for the long run.

Running into the village of Histon the persistent rain became a little less persistent and I started to feel substantially more relaxed and happy. It was one of those special moments when you realise that this is going to be a good run.

A goose on the green at Histon was unimpressed with my efforts and fronted up to me like a street thug with a flicknife. I bravely turned away and ran across the road, and the goose, satisfied with its thuggery, waddled off to have a good bragging session with the rest of the goose gang.

I continued through the village to the roadway that leads on toward the busway. There was someone up ahead walking and so I moved out to the edge of the path ready to overtake. I looked up some time later and she was still quite a long way in front of me. How snail-like must be my pace if I am taking such an age to pass by. Are there snails watching from the edge of the path putting bets on whether they could take me in a 100 yard dash? I do eventually pass her and try to convince myself that actually she was walking really quickly.

picture of walker

At the far edge of Histon before I reached the busway I spotted openings out into a field. Aha thinks I. Race to the Stones is going to have lots of uneven surfaces. Let’s try some. It takes rather more concentration running on this kind of terrain as you leap over tree roots and splash through puddles but it is more interesting than the constant plod along the pavement. I realise that I am also going to have to find some hills during my training. As I live on the edge of the Fens this might be somewhat challenging.

Field

Paths lead on to paths but eventually I am drawn inexorably toward the busway which cuts right through this landscape and provides an extremely useful connection between the villages. I hop on to it and and am soon roaming around in far flung exotic locations such as Westwick and Oakington. Wild times indeed.

I realise that I am now quite some distance from home and am going to exceed my mileage or kilometreage target for the morning. As I haven’t brought any nutrition with me then maybe this might become a problem. Everything feels fine for now but I have experienced a nutrition crash previously and it wasn’t pretty. Turning back for home I encounter a shop in Histon. I don’t really know what the best thing to buy is to maintain these mysterious electrolytes that the running fraternity bang on about but I seem to remember a doctor insisting that drinking Lucozade and gels was just the thing when I was suffering at the end of the London Marathon. Grabbing a lucozade I topped up with whatever it might contain (from the taste I would guess that it’s mostly sugar). I don’t know whether this helped but I got home after 18 kilometres and felt absolutely fine.

photo of Woodland glade

The journey has begun…

Save The Rhino – I am of course doing this Race To The Stones entirely for my own selfish reasons but I would also love it to be of benefit to others, so I’d be delighted if you could donate money for Save The Rhino International at my JustGiving page here:

Save the Rhino logo

BRUTAL!

It was hot I tell you. Damn hot!
The sun, today, had come out to play and all the clouds had scurried away.
Nevertheless I was looking forward to this run.

Marcus Gynn
Marcus

Firstly I like to do this one to remember Marcus. He was a wonderful person and was cruelly taken from us on 11th February 2016. I remember him as an excellent example of what person can be. He was generous, kind and always happy to help. There was a great deal of goodness in him and I see him as a fine example when I am striving to be a better person myself. Secondly, this is a course of many ups and downs and a great variety of terrain. It has road, soil, grass and sand. Yes, that’s right, this being near Newmarket there is a horses gallops section that has sand for the horses to run on.

We set off around the field and down the hill on the road. It felt nice and comfortable. This is a smallish race with just a few hundred people so there isn’t that shuffling first few kilometres that you get in the big city races. We turn left at the bottom and a bicycle came by with a car behind it. The car was going in to one of the farms down the road. The cyclist told everyone what the car was doing and it slotted in between the runners to reach its destination. The car driver even gave everyone a friendly wave as he/she turned left into the farmyard. All beautifully good natured and well managed. This was an open road race (that means that no roads were closed) and it is all too possible that drivers may not feel thrilled about having to share the road with a bunch of runners. I saw several drive by far too fast looking a little panicked by the situation but others just took it in their stride and stopped and waited if it looked like there might be a problem getting through. The runners also were mostly well behaved and kept to one side or other of the road, so allowing the cars to pass.

We reached two kilometres and were now going uphill. I was now beginning to suffer. This seemed a little surprising as two kilometres is a very short distance and you would have thought that I would be just about hitting my stride here. Instead I had sweat running into my eyes and the salt causing them to sting most outrageously. I was also blowing hard, sounding like a horse with asthma.

We turned right, dodging a blind lady making her way cautiously along the path. Her experience of going out for a stroll and encountering such a large number of stomping feet must have been quite surreal.

We then turned left along a soil and parched grass track. I thought this surface might be softer than the tarmac but was to be disappointed. There had been no rain on this for several weeks and it had the texture ground up concrete. No easy ride for my Saucony running shoes. It was almost a relief to hit the horse gallops sand and at least feel a little give in the running surface. OK, the give was mostly sideways underfoot and so didn’t really remove any impact but it did add variety.

The water station at 4.5 kilometres was a wondrous sight indeed. Inside my head, choirs of angels burst forth into song as the water station hove into view. I got one cup for my mouth and the other to pour over my hat. It felt absolutely delightful. There was the temptation to just stay there and spend more time pouring water over my head but I was less than half way through the race so figured that I should press on.

Underfoot it was all asphalt now and there was a fair bit of uphill. This was the first point at which I walked. It seemed ridiculous being reduced to a walk so early in the race but the sun and the incline were pretty brutal and the tricksy brain was whispering in my ear telling me that I had no chance to beat last year’s time so should just slow down and take it easy. A passing Newmarket Jogger begged to differ. ‘C’mon keep going, you can do it.’ I decided to listen to the Newmarket Jogger and started moving again.

We turned right and were now going downhill. This is a long stretch that takes us past six kilometres and well on the way to seven. This was probably my favourite section of the race. The sun was brutal but the downhill made me really feel as if I was making some progress. We turned left on to a flat section for a while and then the uphills were back and this time they really intended for us to suffer. Fortunately the 7.5 kilometre water station delayed the pain a little as I indulged in some more hat soaking but then there were more hills and so many of us there reduced our pace to a staggering walk.

I probably looked at my worst at this point and so of course it was here I saw someone that I recognised. I work with Jon and he’d been lead bike in this race to ensure that the race leaders went the right way. He had done this and the leaders were safely home. Now he was cycling back through the field to check that everyone was OK. He was looking bright and fresh and asking how I was was. I was grunting back at him probably seeming like I was doing some kind of Quasimodo impression and possibly sounding like I was raving about the bells. Maybe when I get into work on Monday I will find that he has suggested some kind f mental health assessment for me.

The hills went relentlessly up and I found myself doing more walking, especially when there was a bit of shade. The temptation to spend just a little more time in that shade was overwhelming.

Eventually I got to 9km and the support was fantastic. Everyone was urging me on and I was shaking my head saying that it seemed so much easier last time.
The marshall agreed, as she had run it last year and the weather was much cooler. She suggested that I set my sights on a short term target such as that white van on the hill. I set my sights and got the legs moving again. They gave out just before the white van but that spurt had put me much closer to the finish so I started running once more and ran into an overwhelming cacophony of small children screaming at the top of their lungs as they urged me on to the finish line. Kind of sweet but strange and a little frightening.

I was on to the field and could see the finish line and the counter. I was both disappointed in the time it was showing but was also surprised that it wasn’t worse. I pushed hard toward the line hoping to get there before the next minute ticked over but I was too late. However, I was fantastically pleased to have finished. I hung around near the finish for a few minutes and kept hearing that same words over and over again as people crossed the line.
THAT WAS BRUTAL!

and it was.

Looking forward to doing it again next year.

Hunstanton, Beat The Tide

Richard had mentioned this one and I was immediately intrigued.

  1. It’s in Hunstanton which is such a sweet little seaside town.
  2. It’s in Hunstanton and therefore only an hour and a quarter away from me by car.
  3. It’s running on sand
  4. It’s running on sand
  5. It’s running on sand – that’s so cool.

This event was run by the Stroke Association and hopefully raised a nice chunk of change for the cause. Entry fee was 20 pounds for 10k run and 5 pounds for the 5k option. I went for the 10 and my wife Carrie entered for the 5k.

We stretched out in one line and then all surged forward trying to come to terms with this strange substance underfoot. It’s not like soil and it’s not like mud. It is wet sand rippled with ridges that seem to dig into the soles of your running shoe. We were moving right and left trying to find tracks with fewer ridges and then we hit an altogether new and exciting texture which might be best described as The Mighty Gloop. Every step sank into the sand and the hole you were sinking into seemed to be trying to claw the shoes from your feet. We began to think longingly of those happier times when we had nothing to worry about other than the slight discomfort of rippling sand. The runners ploughed onwards through the mire, as they forged a furrow through the sludgy sand. We spied the turn around point of 2.5k where we would circle the flag and run back to where we had begun. Here the ground underfoot became so wet that we were actually halted in our stride. Momentum was no longer possible and we all slowed to a stride reminiscent a dazed orangutan with two wooden legs, one being shorter than the other. We somehow succeeded in circling the flag and firing back along the trail. This time however the route had fired us out on to a rocky shingle section of the beach. Ordinarily we might have met this uneven surface with some trepidation but now it seemed like the most delightful running track in the universe. We were making progress once more.

It seemed to take a long time to get back to the start as the sand continued to try and make off with my shoes. Many were the fellow runners who lost their footwear that day.

We circled the start flag and set off once more. The 5k runners were coming in to finish and looking mighty relieved about it. Carrie was one of those and we high fived as we passed by.

I was feeling a little better by now. I knew all that lay ahead of me (so I thought) and felt that I could cope with it. It got even better when I realised that they had re-routed us at the far end of the course so that we avoided the silliest section. There were surprises still in store. I had thought the ‘beat the tide’ title to have been used for dramatic affect. Imagine my surprise when I was suddenly confronted with a fairly deep section of water. Beat the tide was far more literal than I had expected.

The tide went up to here

Overall it was a terrific experience. It was a slow run but a tough one. It was full of excitement, adventure and strangeness but it all made for a fun time.

The scenery was delightful, the weather was gorgeous and we were able to cool off with a swim in the sea afterwards.

I may go back next year. I wonder if it would be easier attempting this one barefoot.

Winter draws on

Brrrr, it’s cold out this morning. I’m wearing leggings, t shirt, windproof (well kinda) jacket and a buff and I’m still feeling the chill. It hurts to breathe which surprises me a little but I think it’s the combination of a bitter wind and my suffering, from a cold that are conspiring against me. I found that breathing was much easier when I was in the sun and then became so much more difficult when passing through the shade. I’m running slowly anyway but slow down even more to let my breathing recover.

I ran over the A10 and along Butt Lane toward Impington. A black squirrel runs out of the undergrowth to my left and gives me a hard look. My stomping along the pathway is obviously disturbing his Sunday morning peace and quiet. These black squirrels were once quite rare but seem to be becoming a much more common sight around Cambridge. This one has some light brown markings on its haunches, tipped with white. I wonder if eventually we will have tabby squirrels. Now there’s a sight I’d like to see.Impington

Going through Impington I see something that looks like a particularly ugly cactus. I take a closer look and see that it’s entirely made up of what look like silver bells. Most peculiar.

Cactus made of bells
Strange artificial plant beastie in Impington

I pass on along into Histon and turn down Station Road eventually arriving at the busway. The sun is shining here and I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. It feels great to be doing my Sunday runs again. I can’t run as far as I had previously done but I’m slowly working my way back there

The last year has been a sorry tale of injury upon injury and definitely not enough running. I’ve also changed job and need to use a car to get to this one. This means my bicycle gets very little use and so my waist has expanded. This also is not helping my running. However, it is not all woe. Recently the injuries seem to have abated and I’m getting the running shoes out on a more regular basis.

Talking of running shoes I see that mine are a little past their best. I look around on the Internet and find out that, of course Saucony no longer make my favourite shoes, Saucony Triumph ISO 2. There is an ISO 3 that may be a good replacement but it feels a bit of a risk to move to a different model.

I arrive safely home, mentally checking through the various muscles and everything seems fine. I’ve managed another run without injury.

Things are looking up

 

 

Eglinton New Year Parkrun

We had a wonderful night on New Year’s Eve at the Carlton Hotel in Prestwick.

There was much eating, drinking and dancing and it all culminated in a jolly late night. This was all well and good at the time but I was firmly committed to run the Eglinton parkrun in the morning. Carrie had also promised to come along to watch and so we both staggered out into a freezing cold morning to join the running fun.Prerun briefing

We arrived just in time to hear the pre run briefing. Unfortunately the accent was a little too broad for my untrained English ears (or I hadn’t yet managed to get the ears to wake up) and I couldn’t make out a single word he was saying. I figured though that if I followed everyone else then I wouldn’t go far wrong.

Eglinton is a truly beautiful course. It seems to do a lot of winding around and about but it is all among the trees, over wooden bridges and around a very picturesque tower thing. There are marshalls everywhere, keeping a careful eye on the runners (very much needed today on an extremely icy course) and advising us to be careful over the many and varied obstacles. It was a pretty tough course with a fine combination of mud, tree roots and slippery paths. This made it a great test and I very much enjoyed the challenge.

The route has been cunningly arranged so that it is unlikely that the fast runners and the slower ones will become entangled with each other. However it is possible to see the leaders on their last section as you’re still doing the larger loop. It looked quite an exciting battle and looking at the results later I see the first two, Scott Martin and Paul Lafferty finished within a second of each other.Barcode scanning folks at parkrun finish

Last time I was at Eglinton was a year ago when I ran the Christmas parkrun in a rhino suit. I finished quicker this time around but not by a great deal. I reckon I was a good deal fitter last year as I was training for the London Marathon. That was before all my various injuries began to gang up on me.

I had a good time and it worked wonderfully well as a cure for New Year’s Day hangover blues. Many thanks to all the Eglinton volunteers  and the 98 other runners for making it happen.Eglinton country park

Dewsbury Parkrun

Well, it’s Christmas again and we are doing the tour of mothers.

First mum stop this year is my mum, in Leeds for Christmas and, of course I am looking to do a bit of parkrun tourism while I’m here. This is one that I haven’t done before. It’s in a place called Dewsbury which is in between Leeds and Huddersfield. It is in a park and, as with everything else in this area, it is on a hill.

The wind has been making a nuisance of itself and has blown debris all over the paths on which we intended to run. One of the pieces of debris is a tree and the decision is taken that it is probably a bit too big to just brush off to the side of the path. The parkrun volunteers take the decision to use emergency course which involves going around the small loop section a mighty six times. Our race director tries to explain this and gets into a frightful tangle when she adds extra detail to try and make it easier to understand. You will pass this monument 6 times she says. Ahem say the assembled masses. Seeing as the finish line is just back there won’t it be 5 times. Oh yes, well erm, yes ignore everything I’ve just said.start Dewsbury parkrun

Unfortunately my wife has taken the six times bit of data and possibly hasn’t heard the correction (you are cheating here Jim – you are speaking from the future so you know that is what happened – well yes – and so you shouldn’t go around sounding all superior saying this or that probably happened when you’ve already been to the future and so know full well what happened – harumph, my blog, my rules, if I want to pretend omniscience then I shall).waiting to start Dewsbury Parkrun

Off we go around the monument and down the hill. I’m feeling great and really enjoying it.
The fast folk have already vanished around the bend at the bottom of the hill. I am skipping along happily until I reach the bottom of the hill and have to climb upwards again. It is a long slow hill but I see the finish line for the first time and this gives me cheer until I remember that it I must pass here another 5 times, or is it 6 or 4 or…

I pass Carrie at the top of the hill near the monument. She is wearing antlers and so fairly easy to spot. She hold up one finger doing her Sesame Street impression of the Count saying “one lap, ah ah ah”
Next time around the leaders have already caught me up. Gosh that’s a bit demoralising thinks I. Carrie is waiting for me again, “two laps, ah ah ah”. Around and around we go. I must have slowed down as people are passing me. There are a wide variety of costumes. Santas, reindeer and all kinds of Christmassy things.

“Three laps ah ah ah”.

“Four laps ah ah ah”

The leaders are passing me again on their way to the finish line. One goes speeding by and I hear a voice shout, “get yourself moving, we’re catching you.” The leader grins and steps up a gear.

“Five laps ah ah ah.”

I shout back to Carrie to say that I will see her at the finish line next time around. I look back as I run down the hill and she hasn’t moved at all. I wonder whether she didn’t hear me or didn’t believe me.

A chap looks behind and sees me approaching. “Go one he says, lap me now while you’ve got the chance.” I do as he says and do manage to pick up my pace a little toward the end. My time is still much slower than I expected but I reached the end injury free so am happy with that. I am handed a tag as I finish and then there is a long long windey funnel. This seems most peculiar until I realise that they are doing scanning at the end of the funnel. This makes absolute sense now as it means that there is plenty of room for the people to come through the finish line and then queue for scanning.

I am pounced on after the scanning and offered chocolates. I think if anyone is going to pounce on me then it is favourable if the aim of this manoeuvre is to offer me chocolates.

Carrie catches up with me and admits that there was a bit of confusion as regards 5 or 6 times around the monument.

It was a fun parkrun. It was fairly small (in terms of numbers, there were 119 people there on 25th December) and a very strange course going around and around so many times. I would like to try it again when they do the regular route.

Well done to Joe Sagar who finished more than a minute in front of anyone else and also many thanks to all the volunteers for putting on this extra Christmas Day parkrun.
jim mowatt at finish of Dewsbury parkrun

From Parkrun To London Marathon

The Book of my London Marathon run for Save The Rhino

Hurrah, it is finally done.

For all those of you who have a London Marathon place this year, I have just the book for you. I ran the marathon this year to raise money for Save The Rhino and found it bloody difficult but a tremendous experience. I’ve crunched all the fun and frivolity of the months of blood, sweat and tears and then the slog around London into a bright and breezy ebook called ‘From Parkrun To London Marathon’. Buy it on Amazon UK, Amazon USA and all those other Amazons all over the world . They will take their cut from the sales but every penny they hand over to me will be donated directly to Save The Rhino.

I’ve put my various stories together into a narrative that tells the tale from when I started running to my decision to run the London Marathon for Save the Rhino. I’ve then continued on to talk about raising money for the charity and extending my distance so I had some chance of reaching the finish of the London Marathon and claiming my medal.

The bulk of the book covers my experience on the day as I dragged my tired and unfit body around the streets of London. Trust me, it’s a lot more fun than it sounds from the description there.

There are lots of giggles along the way and hopefully some insights that will help people that are thinking of taking on the challenge themselves.

The paperback version is now available and the links above will lead you to the ebook and paperback versions of the book. Please buy as many copies as you can afford and disseminate them widely. Hopefully they will inspire other people to run the London Marathon and possibly even help push them toward running for Save The Rhino.

Fundraising

Remember all money I receive from sales of this book will go directly to Save The Rhino

 

Grantchester

Grantchester is just a ridiculously beautiful little village. If you take the phrase ‘picture postcard village’ and then feed that description into an amplifier and crank it up to 11, then you’re somewhere near being able to give an impression of what it feels like to be wandering through Grantchester. Driving through the village prior to the run I bask in the glow of village loveliness arraying itself neatly alongside the winding lanes. I glance to the right and see the church grounds all covered in snow.

fake snow pic
Fake snow at the church in Grantchester

Hang On!

This is October, it’s about 12 degrees Celsius, there shouldn’t be snow.

Maybe it wasn’t snow. Could it have been a huge amount of some kind of white blossom? My mind is zipping back and forth, performing somersaults and triple back flips as it struggles to comprehend what it’s just witnessed. Fortunately moments later we see a large studio lighting truck and I realise that the church has probably been decorated for the TV series, Grantchester.

Phew!

We park up and all gather in a large field. There is a large inflatable that says start on one side and finish on the other. My mighty brain reaches the conclusion that this may be where we begin the run.

The ankle injury is still a long way from being healed so I’m not expecting a good time today. I began near the back of the pack aiming to finish in around 63 minutes. I often start these races near the back and I’m not entirely sure this is the right thing to do. I always spend the first few kilometres jammed in among the masses. I feel that I should be moving on but there’s nowhere to go until the field starts to thin out a little. This sounds like I should be starting further forward but then there is the possibility that I may set off too fast and then have nothing left in the tank for the finish. Alternatively am I being too careful and not really putting in as much effort as I could do?

Eventually a few gaps appear and I am able to start passing people. We cross the M11 and start meandering around across fields, through clumps of trees and then eventually back over the M11 several kilometres later. It is at around the 8 kilometre marker that I encounter a Mr motivation type guy. He is running just in front of a woman that I assumed was his partner. He was holding his hand out at around thigh height while looking back at her and making encouraging type noises. This looked such an odd thing to do that I hung back a little so that I could watch. What was she supposed to do with this hand that he was waving in front of her. It was a good kicking height. I wonder if she was tempted. “C’mon”, he was saying, “you can do this”. Over and over again he exhorted her to run a little faster, to push, to work to try harder etc etc. Surprisingly I never heard her swear at him or even try to kick that hand that he was waving in front of her. Eventually I decided to pass them and this seemed to turn up the dial on his motivational outbursts. “Look, you’re being passed”, he said. “He’s going right past you. You’ve really dropped off the pace. You’ve got to pick it up if you’re going to get in under an hour.” Still she said not a word but I think she started to run very slightly slower. Either his motivation was breaking her spirit or this was her form of rebellion. I left them behind but could still hear him shouting about how slow she was going long after I had reached the edge of the field and was heading toward the 9K marker.

I speeded up a little after 9K and was surprised that I still seemed to have plenty of energy. Maybe that answers the question I asked earlier. Possibly I am being too conservative and should try to push myself more from the start. I sprinted for the finish inflatable and crossed in a time of 57:51. Much faster than I had expected but possibly I could have finished quicker than that.

I wonder if the motivation couple managed to get to the end in less than an hour. Maybe if she looked like she was going to finish under the hour, she would have stopped and walked just to irritate him. I suspect motivation guy would have exploded in a mushroom cloud of anger and frustration if she had finished in 61 minutes. Twould have been quite a sight.

I was too busy queuing up for bacon sandwich and coffee to see who came in after me. I much approve of races providing bacon and coffee. I have far too many running t shirts now. I would much prefer bacon.

The medal looks quite classy. It has a blue background with a picture of a clock with the hands at 10 to 3. This is in homage to the poet Rupert Brooke who lived at the Old Vicarage in Grantchester and wrote a poem called ‘The Old Vicarage’ which ends with the words:

Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?

medal
medal

 

 

Great Run Local in Southwold

Southwold is a lovely little seaside town on the East coast of England. It’s full of beach huts, old folks, fish and chips, Adnams beer and genteel jollity. Of course I also hoped it would have some kind of timed run.

I scanned the parkrun pages for a run local to Southwold but the nearest was Lowestoft. This is only about 30 minutes drive from Southwold but I was on holiday with my wife and felt it might be a bit unfair if I went off up the coast without her. I then searched just for runs in the area and found that Adnams (the brewer) did a 10K run but that was a once a year thing in November. I did however spot in the list of hits something called ‘Great Run Local’. I clicked on the page and saw that it mentioned something called Wythenshawe Park and Salford Quays. I scrolled down and saw a map centred on Manchester. How odd, I thought. I shouldn’t have got that in my search. I was just about to click away when I decided to try a Ctrl F page search for Southwold. Sure enough there it was, just a little below the cut,

Southwold 3M and 1M Run

Run’s start at 9:30am from the Water Tower on the Common every Sunday (please arrive for 9:20am).

Being a bit dim sometimes, my first thought here was that 3 metres and 1 metre isn’t very far to run. I did however manage to figure out that it was more likely to be miles.

The run was on a Sunday morning at 0930 so I popped out earlier to do a little warm up run. I felt terribly creaky and was breathing quite heavily after only a few yards. My physio has given me strict instructions to keep to very short distances and allow 2 clear days between every run. She also told me to try other ways of keeping fit such as swimming or resistance training. I haven’t really been doing these things so my fitness has dipped quite a bit. The ankle injury is giving me fewer problems though so cutting back on running along with the icing and stretching does seem to be helping. My breathing levelled out after a while and I started to move a little easier. I ran up to the common to find out where the run started and then ran back again.

Useful Sign
Useful Sign

I spotted a useful sign while I was there that told me ‘You Are here’ and then presented me with a blank sheet of metal. I returned to our rented cottage and my wife told me that she wished to come along to watch me run.

Start of 1 mile runThere was a lovely warm welcome waiting for us on the Common where they explained where we would be going and handed us a nice glossy piece of paper that told us a little more about the Southwold Great Run Local. It seems that this is a movement quite similar to parkruns but with a little more flexibility on when they do their timed runs. They also do 2 runs at the same time. One of the runs is 3 miles and the other 1 mile. This seems to be an exceptionally good idea as the one mile run serves as a great introductory run to the longer 3 miles. They even managed to convince my wife, Carrie to try the one mile run. Carrie keeps fit with all manner of fitness classes but an inherent weakness in her knees means that she has come to dislike running quite intensely. I was more than a little surprised  when she agreed to run the mile.

Jim and flagThere were 15 of us on the out and back 3 mile course. We were sent on our way and then the 1 mile runners started moments later on the same course but turning around much sooner than us.

I set off at a decent pace and was a little surprised to find myself among the leading group of runners. This never usually happens. I started to wonder whether I should slow down a little so that I would have enough energy in the bank to finish the run. I had just backed off a little when a little worry started to nag at me. I had no idea how well the course would be marshalled so there was a distinct possibility that I might get lost. I glanced behind me and the next person was quite a way away. I looked forward and could see the line of runners snaking away in a line. I should really try to stay in contact with these people so they could show me the way. I surged a little and locked in behind the runner in front. My thinking was that if I could get to half way then we would turn around and come back the same way. Then I shouldn’t get lost and could maybe slow a little. The running felt quite easy now as we passed along bramble covered hedgerows, then over the River Blyth where I was left gasping at the sheer beauty of it all.

The 1 and a half mile marker was a cheery marshall who was happy to be a runner roundabout as we circled around him and pushed back toward the Common. It was lovely to see the other runners as we retraced our steps and we were all able to offer greetings and encouragement to each other as we passed. We ran back along the long straight course (I don’t think I would have been able to get lost if I tried) and at the end the marshall waved us to the right to go back onto the Common. I was fighting for breath as I struggled up the very slight uphill toward the finish line but pushed on and staggered across to collapse onto the ground. Jane Samkin was there with her phone prodding at the screen as I crossed the line. I think the way it would usually work is for her to scan wristbands using the Near Field Communication built into most smartphones. I had registered on the web site but unfortunately my wristband hadn’t arrived by the time I set off on holiday. It was waiting for me when I got home.

Finish LineI crossed the finish line in 5th place in a time of 24.54 which pleased me immensely. My parkrun best for 5k is 25.54 so the time equates to something very similar, being a slightly shorter distance. This was completely unexpected coming off the back of so little recent running and gives me a lot of hope that I might be able to improve my time when my ankle heals and I can start to run more often.

Carrie also completed the one mile run (in ordinary shoes as she wasn’t intending to run) and now has a PB of either 12.14 or 12.35 to aim at when we get the chance to do another Great Run Local.

I really enjoyed this run. It had beautiful scenery, was well marshalled and had a really friendly atmosphere. I also liked there being the 1 mile option so that Carrie could run too.

I am grateful to all the people who gave their time and energy to make it happen.