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.


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


You’re Going To Stick WHAT into my ankle?

Needles, she said. I’m going to stick some needles into your leg. What foul quackery is this thought I. My ankle hurts and she wants to hurt it some more by sticking a bunch of needles into it.

I lay down on the bench and put my head through the hole. I’ve always hated needles. Dentistry has poisoned my mind against such barbaric instruments. However, the physio seems  to know what she’s doing, so I steel myself to whatever is to come. She assures me that it won’t hurt but I squeal pathetically every time she introduces a new needle. She assures me that the latest one hasn’t yet pierced the skin. “That’s just the tube” she says. I am baffled. That really hurt. I would be rubbish at tattoos. She goes into the next room to get something and I look around at my ankle. There are several small spikes sticking out of it. It looks extremely alarming. I look away and she returns to remove the needles and massage the tendon. Surprisingly it seems that she can now touch that achilles tendon without me squealing and leaping into the air. The needles thing seems to have eased the pain a little. I suspect the relief is only temporary but it feels good nevertheless. Apparently its purpose is to increase blood flow into the tendon. These tendon thingies don’t get so much blood and it seems that if you’re trying to fix them then blood is just the thing that their little tendon selves desperately need.

I’ve been seeing a physiotherapist for a few months now. It started with my hamstring problems just before the London Marathon. Then there was a debilitating knee problem after the marathon and now I have achilles tendon pains. It seems that I am receiving a crash course in runners injuries.

knee taping picThe knee pains were absolutely dreadful. It was they that put paid to my Edinburgh Marathon at mile 16. Michelle (the physio) explained to me that it was an imbalance in the muscles that had pulled the knee out of alignment. This caused the knee to scrape on things it shouldn’t be scraping on and therefore inflicted loadsa pain. She is very realistic and realises that runners are ridiculously stupid creatures and will still attempt to run whatever the injury. She therefore taped up the leg to try hold the muscles in place and stop any more inflammation. Unfortunately this doesn’t last long as the tape tends to work loose after a few days. I am, however, learning (albeit very slowly) that I really should cut back on the running and take up other forms of exercise until my injuries heal. Even when they have healed then it seems to make sense to look after the other muscles that work together with the leg muscles. She is trying to talk me into Pilates classes but I’m not overly attracted by the idea. I am however doing the exercises she has given me to pull that knee back into place. There are bum exercises and some more to strengthen the inside of my knee and these exercises seem to have worked. I have had no more pain from that knee. I have had pain from my achilles tendon though.

ankle taping picIt’s an overuse injury she says. My heart sinks when I hear this.I know that the only real answer to an overuse injury is to stop using it. I take a look on the Internet and everywhere I see the answer, it’s an overuse injury.


The physio has me standing on steps and pushing my heels down over the edge. I have to do 30 of these quite slowly every day. I also have to do calf stretches, ice the tendon, heat the tendon and then still maintain all those knee exercises. This fixing my legs business is becoming a full time activity. I am also under strict instructions to attend the gym, do  some swimming and lots of bicycle rides. Frankly all I want to do is the thing that I enjoy; just to run. I must be patient though. My time will come once this tendon is mended.


A New 10K Personal Best Time

I would say that I didn’t expect to get a personal best time today but that wouldn’t be strictly true. It was just a regular training run but I’d done a couple of 10K runs recently and found that I was running reasonably good times (for me anyway). I knew that I was in good condition.

I set off around the local streets and then headed out toward Waterbeach. My legs felt good although breathing was a little rough so I wasn’t altogether happy. I was fighting for breath and so felt that this would slow me down a little. My legs did feel strong and I was striding out quite confidently. I’ve seen videos of me running and it often does look rather like I’m just shuffling along, so I was really trying to stride out a little and flick my legs out after I landed. It felt good. I pictured myself as if I was a Kenyan or Ethiopian striding along at the front of one of the great marathons. It is testament to the wonderful flexibility of the human mind that I was able to maintain this fiction for several seconds at a time.

I strode confidently at the side of the A10 and then turned right toward Waterbeach. I was beginning to tire here and soon reverted to my regular shuffle step. However when I got to the River Cam I lengthened my stride again and pushed on. My breathing seemed to stabilise at around 5K and I felt comfortable again. It seems to take me around 5K to warm up.

So, my breathing was fine but the legs were starting to hurt. I checked my phone and the time looked good. In fact it looked very good indeed and I started to realise that there was an excellent chance of a personal best time here. I pressed on. I reached 8K and turned back toward Milton. It was getting quite painful now but at 8K I could smell that potential PB only a couple of thousand yards away. I staggered up Fen Road and then turned into the country park. I knew that I’d reverted to my tired shuffle step now but cared not. I just kept pushing on. I reached 10 kilometres and collapsed on to a park bench. The time on my phone was 52:42. Far better than I had ever done before. I am a very happy runner indeed.

I was trying to think what might have made the difference.

I’ve been putting in a lot of miles in training for the London Marathon but I’ve also been adjusting my diet.

My wife Carrie has been adjusting her diet to try and lose a little weight so I pic of brown breadhave also adopted some of her new regime. One of these changes is to try complex carbs that take a little longer to digest. These include things like brown bread. Previously I’d steered away from brown bread due to it tasting a lot like cardboard. However we’ve found a brand that tastes really good. It’s Tesco Finest Wholemeal with Wheatgerm.

We have also started using organic brown rice pasta and that tastes pretty good too. I have managed to lose around 8 pounds over the last twopic of brown rice pasta weeks and it may be because of this or it may have something to do with the fact that I am foregoing my daily bacon sandwich but whichever it is I am losing weight so have a little less to lug around.

So now I am doing the happy, I’ve just achieved a new personal best, dance but am also deeply apprehensive in that I have only six weeks to go before the London Marathon. This is all getting incredibly real.


A Creaking Engine

I stepped out of the door this morning and began to run.

I’d been looking forward to this run all week. I get out there for 2 to 3 hours and just roam around, taking in the scenery and feeling the joy of piling on more miles to make my legs stronger and more prepared for the trials to be imposed by the London Marathon. I will often struggle a little at first until everything is at working temperature and then I just start scooping up the miles. Today was different and I don’t really know why.

I had a fine midweek run where I was zipping along quite nicely and a really good parkrun yesterday where I felt fit and strong. Today however all my joints seemed creaky and sad. It made me think of an old engine that has been left in a leaky garage for the last 20 years. Try to start it up and it will valiantly struggle but you’ll get little more out of it other than a few coughs and splutters. My body felt something like this. I imagined that what it probably needed was to be completely dismantled and soaked in a bath of oil for about a week. Then to be lovingly reassembled before being coaxed back into life.

The above didn’t happen. Maybe this is a good thing as I’ve never been disassembled before and I’m not sure I could cope with the trauma.

What did happen was that I just gutted it out for 13 miles and then staggered back home feeling terribly sorry for myself and completely baffled as to why my body is letting me down.

Hopefully things will go better next Sunday for the Cambridge Half Marathon.

London Marathon – The Decision to run for Save The Rhino

I got the magazine – you know the one – from Virgin London Marathon and it said ‘Sorry’ on the front cover. it’s a very nice magazine full of fascinating information about the London marathon, how to train and how to fuel for a marathon but it still says ‘Sorry’ on the front cover. It means that you don’t get to run in the London Marathon.

I was, well shall we say disappointed.

I decided at that point that I wouldn’t apply for a charity place. That meant that I wouldn’t run in the London Marathon. I’ve entered for Edinburgh next year and I would be happy for that to be my first marathon. It’s a great city and a great course. I’m sure that I’ll love it.

The decision stayed like that for some time but then I began reading the ‘Sorry’ magazine. I saw some of the really great fundraising ideas and thought how much I might enjoy doing some of that stuff. I noticed that one of the charities was ‘Save The Rhino’. As a long time fan of Douglas Adams I have encountered ‘Save The Rhino’ many times. Douglas was a founder member of the charity. However, I felt that it was probably too much to take on at the moment and I was worried about hassling my family and friends to give me donations for the next 6 months.

It was left like that for a couple of days and then Carrie says to me – “you rhinologoknow Save The Rhino are one of the London Marathon Charities?” I said that I was fully cognizant of this. “Wouldn’t you like to run for Save The Rhino?” Well of course I would like to but there were so many potential problems. The main one was that I thought I wouldn’t be able to raise much money. I’d been looking through some of the requirements for other charity places on the marathon and most asked for a 100 pounds registration fee and a pledge to raise at least 2000 pounds. How on earth could I possibly raise 2000 pounds. Carrie waved away my protests. She was buzzing with ideas for raising money and getting people interested in both the charity and my attempt at running a marathon.

There are times when Carrie gets an idea in her head and at those times she suddenly becomes a nuclear powered, unstoppable train, going downhill. She assailed me with so many positive ideas and notions that I was soon swept up in the joy of it all. Moments later I’m in front of a computer screen picking my way through the application process. Save the Rhino, along with the other London Marathon charities have only a limited number of places so they need to make sure they get the best fundraisers that they possibly can. For Save The Rhino in particular this is their biggest single fundraising event of the year so  it’s extremely important to make it count. Such thinking is all very laudable but it does mean that the application process is very much akin to applying for a job. It involves a certain amount of blood, sweat and tears to sell yourself sufficiently that they’ll take you on. I wept those tears, sweated that blood and put together what I hoped would be a decent application. Save the Rhino saw my application and judged that it was good. Only a couple of days later they wrote and offered me a place. I had a few more hoops to jump through and a couple of hurdles and a few poly tunnels to crawl through and I was in.

A London Marathon runner am I.

Now to raise the 2500 pounds that I promised to do in my application. This is a terrifyingly large amount of money to ask for from my friends and family. Most of them are struggling through this recession trying to live frugally and avoid extravagance. I put together my fundraising page and Carrie kicked it off with the first donation. Over the next couple of days more people joined in and after less than a week I find that I’m over a fifth of the way toward my target.

I have some wonderfully generous friends. Thank you very much.

I’m much more hopeful now that I can achieve my fundraising target for Save The Rhino and possibly even surpass it.

There is also the small matter of attempting to run 26.22 miles. A distance I’ve never run before and a distance that seems further than my mind can contemplate.

So you’re probably now desperate to hand over some money to help me reach my target and also to contribute toward the conservation of this few remaining rhino.

It’s easy – just head over to this page

and donate.


Thank you very much

Running Supplies

Today was another half marathon distance in preparation for the Cambridge Half Marathon but it was also to test out supplies for the run. I felt pretty bad the first two times I did 13 miles and a little better on the third. This run I wanted to come home feeling that I’d had a good run but didn’t feel ill at all. My wife had bought me something called Shotblocks and I’d got a collapsible juice bottle to carry water. It was a chilly morning but the sun was rising and soon even managed to radiate a smidgeon of heat to take the edges of the chill away. I ran over the cycle bridge and then onto the busway. The busway is an odd thing where regular buses run between a couple of rails of concrete. The buses have guiding wheels on the side to keep them in place between the rails. At the side of this busway is a lovely wide path much used by cyclists, runners and walkers. It’s a delightfully easy track if you want to get a few miles under your belt.

One thing I did notice this morning was that there’s quite a lot of rubbish building up at the side of the busway. Much of it is probably left by people exercising there. I saw energy drinks cartons, gel wrappers and water bottles. It might be useful if a bunch of us who use the busway to exercise on went along there with some bin bags, to try and clean it up a little. If anyone is interested in a spot of litter picking there then please let me know. I can probably scrounge up some litter pickers and some bags from somewhere.

I ran along the busway and was pleased to see Richard there who had gone out early as he had family stuff to do later on. Passing the back of Histon I decided I needed some sustenance. The water was easy to access. I just removed the top and squeezed the bag. No problem at all. The shotblocks were sightly more difficult. I thought there’d be some obvious tab that said tear here. There was nothing like that but just tearing along the top was incredibly easy. I broke off one of the pieces and popped it into my mouth. It tasted really good. It was a little like a fruit pastille although bigger and without the sugary coating. I did have a little trouble eating it though as I have a bit of a cold and am having serious trouble breathing through my nose. This meant I was breathing heavily through my mouth and trying to eat at the same time. There were several moments that I thought I was going to choke as I almost inhaled the Shotblock thing. This didn’t happen though and I lived to tell the tale. I returned home with very weary legs but feeling sooo much better than any other time that I’d attempted this distance. It seems this body thing is very much like a machine. Fail to keep it topped up with enough fuel and lubrication and you’ll run into trouble.

I didn’t even feel that I needed to collapse into bed after the run but these two cats laying there all cute and that did make it seem like an awfully good idea to snuggle up amongst them.cats

Details of this run can be found Strava

Trying out Saucony running shoes at Up and Running

On Wednesday nights at 1800 the Shop, Up and Running puts on a social run. My friend Richard goes along regularly and occasionally I like to run with them too. Truth be told it’s often a little fast for me but it’s quite good to push myself a little bit now and again.Up and running shop front

This evening Saucony are there and they have some fancy new shoes for us to try. These are the new Saucony Triumph ISO. I happily strap some on to give them a go. The lacing is the first thing I notice. There are long tags on each of the lace up points. This allows them to flex and brace all along the foot in different ways. The human foot is an infinitely variable thing and this design allows the shoes to be strapped to any and all shapes of foot and still mould itself to the shape. I take them out onto the streets of Cambridge and feel how they hit the ground. They are a completely foam sole and flex and shift every time you hit the ground. The chap that brought them along suggested that we might like to try a little bit of hitting the ground hard to see what the feedback was like. The theory is that this design will not just absorb and dissipate your impact in the way that gel does but give you some kickback so you feel a little bounce when you hit the ground.

They felt strange at first. There was a kind of squidge in the middle of the shoe when I hit the ground as if I’d stood on a particularly well fed mouse and then a crunch slightly forward of that point as if I was spreading his tiny bones around a little. It took only around 2 minutes before I’d become accustomed to this rather unusual sensation and accepted it as part of what the shoes did. The shoes felt light and gave quite a bit of bounce. I really enjoyed running in them. I asked how much they might be and was told around 125 pounds or so. This is a lot of money. I paid only 48 pounds for the running shoes I currently use but would admit that these seem a heck of a lot better. However – the only way I could convince myself to pay so much for running shoes would be if I knew for sure that they would cut down the number of injuries I receive from running. This is a very difficult thing to prove.

We followed a little of the upcoming Cambridge Half Marathon route and I relished the delicious bounce and sheer lightness of these shoes. Apparently Saucony have gone all out to get them under 300 grammes and I can definitely feel the benefit. They feel good and if I earned about twice the amount that I do then I reckon I would now be the owner of some shiny new shoes.

As for the run – I didn’t enjoy the environment all that much. The streets of Cambridge were very crowded indeed. There were people weaving about in front of us and I felt that I was forever checking my stride to weave in and out of the fantastically erratic movements of the Cambridge Wednesday evening visitors. I quit after the first circuit and left the rest of the gang to explore a little more of the route. I stripped myself of the fancy running shoes and went home.

Here’s a pic of the shoe alongside the foam sole.Saucony Triumph ISO soles

The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances

The Oatmeal has bookmanaged to summarise this beautifully for people such as myself in the book, ‘The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances.’ It’s a delightful cartoon documentary of one man fighting all those demons that so many of us fight every time we don those running shoes and trot off down the street. There are the Krakens that we slay. There are all those whispering Bleurch things that tell us what a jolly good idea it would be to slob out in a comfy chair and consume vast quantities of salty snacks. However he also tells of that wonderful joy that the runner feels when he or she just runs and runs and all the voices in his head go quiet and there is just the joy of running.