Cheshire 10k (12/11/2016)

After a relatively successful October, I decided to have a bit of downtime for 10 days before refocusing on a winter of shorter distances. I won’t be testing my ankle on the cross country, so I’ve decided on 10k’s, as well as some indoor track races (a career first for me!) and then Helsby Four Villages half marathon in January. I don’t plan to do a marathon for at least another 12 months, I’ve been concerned with my speed at shorter distances and this needs to be addressed almost immediately as I’m not getting any younger! It’s debatable whether I can top my old track pb’s, but I’m determined to have a go in 2017, as many have stood for around 10 years.

My first race was Cheshire 10k, which is a very flat and scenic race that starts and finishes at Arley Hall. I hadn’t done this race before, but it’s one I’ve been keeping an eye on for some time and it’s usually a high standard with fast times. The conditions weren’t perfect, the heavy rain had caused some flooding and it was quite muddy around Arley Hall, the organisers did well to keep the race on and we only had a minor delay of a few minutes before setting off.

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The final kilometre: Danson stepping up the pace

The field was strong; pre-race favourite Mo Abu-Rezeq was there, along with sub 2hr 20 marathoner Stuart Spencer, Rob Danson and Russell Bentley. The event has an interesting prize structure of offering £20 for the leader of each kilometre, which is certainly conducive to producing good times with similarly matched athletes. Unfortunately neither myself or the others could get anywhere near Rezeq; who pretty much had the race won after the first km, which was the last I saw of him! In all honesty I felt very sluggish early on and was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to compete amongst the pack fighting for second place, which consisted of Rob Danson, Russell Bentley, Matthew Wigelsworth, Stuart Spencer & Ben Johnson.

The group was quite packed on the narrow sections of road and after 3k I decided move to the back of the pack to have a bit more space, as I wasn’t really able to push the pace as much as I hoped to. We passed 5k in 15:54, which was about what I expected, but I also knew I wouldn’t stand a chance of clinching second place against these guys if I left it late. I knew I was perhaps lacking a bit of speed, so I decided to make my move between the 6th & 7th kilometre and try to grind out a tough pace over the last two miles, which would hopefully drop the others. Danson responded straight away and by 8k it looked like a battle between the two of us for second, so the tactic was working to some extent. I couldn’t shake off Rob though; he was clearly in top form and I could sense I had my work cut out, the closer we got to the finish, the more Rob looked to have the upper hand. By the last kilometre I was the one hanging on and he got away from me in the last quarter-mile to claim second place after a superb effort, bagging a new pb in the process. I lost my legs completely in the final sprint and was some eight seconds behind in 31:20 with Bentley and Spencer close behind. Abu-Rezeq cruised to victory in 30:27. It’s a great event and I’m looking forward to racing there again next year, possibly in both the April and November ones.

I had hoped to run around 31 minutes or under, but overall I was happy with my run. I ran the second half considerably faster, battling with Rob Danson who has improved to another level this year. He certainly has the credentials to break 31 minutes after covering that last 5k in around 15:20.

On the following day I started suffering with severe toothache and have discovered I’ve got an infected tooth, so training has taken a slight hit this week. Thankfully I was able to get the tooth removed on Thursday, so it will be nice to be off painkillers and penicillin at the end of this week! It will have a bearing on whether I decide to race at Wilmslow 10k or not, as I only want to race this if I’m happy with my training leading up to it. Hopefully that will be the only blip before Ribble Valley 10k on 27th December.

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Manchester Half Marathon (16/10/2016)

After the Lake Vyrnwy race I decided to enter the Manchester Half in the hope that I might still manage at least a seasons’ best. It would come two weeks after the marathon, but this has rarely been much of an issue, back in 2009 I set what was then a pb at the EDF Birmingham Half two weeks after doing 2hr 20 in the Toronto Marathon. In 2012, again after a Toronto outing with England, I ran 2hr 21 to win the Preston Guild Marathon. The last time I broke 67 minutes was at Cardiff, a week after a dismal performance at the Nottingham Marathon back in 2014.

After Chester Marathon I felt perfectly fine and was confident of continuing this tradition of sorts; I did 60 miles in that week afterwards and then did 75 miles going into the race. I thought I’d picked up a bit of a cold, but I managed 8x 1km (2 min rec) in around 3 minutes with the club on Tuesday, and felt comfortable knocking out 5 miles in 26:03 on the track on Thursday, so at least the legs were fine. The race boasted decent prize money and time bonuses, so it was a stacked domestic field and my main aim was to be as competitive as I could with some of the top runners. The conditions were perfect for me, perhaps not to everyone’s liking, but cold drizzle with a bit of wind is just how I like it! We were off at 9-am and it was a fast start, but I felt comfortable enough to get myself in the main group up front, which consisted of nearly 20 runners. After three miles the group trimmed down a little with Ben Riddell and Dave Rigby just starting to drop off. I reckoned we must have been moving along at sub 5 minute pace, as nobody was trying to forge ahead from the group, which was mainly headed by Matt Bond. By 10k (30:55) I was starting to feel it a bit, as was Michael Kallenberg, who drifted a few yards further back; it wasn’t long before I too was dropped and at seven miles I saw the group of eight runners move away from me. I was averaging around 5-minute per-mile pace with 34:59 at this stage, though I was starting to slow down. Impressively, running strongly in that group was Paul Martelletti, who won the Yorkshire Marathon in 2hr 19 the previous week, so I certainly had no excuse if I ended up with a crap run! Once you’re dropped it’s important to keep in a positive frame of mind and try to consolidate your position; I was happy to be where I was at this stage, so it was a case of digging in and hoping one or two others might drop off from that pack. Ten miles was reached in around 50:42, which was still okay and I was looking good for 9th place. I caught a glimpse of two runners starting to drop off the pack up ahead; I wasn’t sure I could catch them, but if I could at least work on closing the gap it would mean that perhaps I could distance myself further from Kallenberg, who probably wasn’t far behind me. By 12 miles I was starting to make up some ground on Toby Spencer; a runner I’ve finished close to on quite a few occasions and I could sniff the opportunity of gaining another place. It was a long straight to the finish and in the last 100 yards I managed to pass Toby, crossing the line in 8th place. I also thought I’d done a 66:58/59 to dip under 67 minutes for the first time in two years, but the official result was 67:01 and I missed out by the smallest of margins. Despite this, I was highly satisfied with my run, the past few weeks have seen a massive turn around in my form and I finally seem to performing at the level my training had been hinting at.

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Left to right: Jacob Watson, myself, Dan Balshaw. Photo courtesy of Bryan Searby

The race was won by Adam Hickey in 64:41, who managed to out-do Matt Bond by a few seconds in the closing stages (despite Bond running 4:42 for the last mile!), Carl Hardman continued his resurgence with a new pb to clinch 3rd in 65:35, just ahead of Alastair Watson. There were some great performances by lots of runners on the day and I would have to rank this as the fastest half marathon course I’ve done. It’s well supported all the way round and once you got off the dual carriage-way in the first couple of miles the course was quite pleasant as you meandered around the Trafford suburbs, it’s definitely one to do if you’re after a fast time. I’ll be taking a year hiatus from the marathon and I’ll definitely be doing this race again next year; hopefully as a faster runner with a chance of getting a pb.

Worth honourable mentions are Jacob Watson & Dan Balshaw who flew the TeamFish flag proudly finishing a few seconds apart in (77:33, a new pb & 77:37). Fellow Blackburn Harrier Jack Hindle ran superbly, bagging a new pb with 74:00.

Results can be found here.

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Chester Marathon (02/10/2016)

September carried on in a similar fashion to August as far as training goes, though I was certainly hoping for some considerable improvement after my run at Lake Vyrnwy. On the 25th September it was the Northern Road Relays at Sportcity in Manchester. I was determined to put in a good run for my team, which was the strongest we’ve fielded for some time; all six of us had recent times for 5km ranging from high 14’s up to 16 minutes. I was confident we’d spring a few surprises and break into the top 10, I even dared to think we might even make top 5! In hindsight that was wishful thinking given the standard of the competition that day. The course was a bit of a strange one, perhaps lacking clear markings and having a few more switch-back turns than I’d like, but there was a great atmosphere all around the route with each leg starting and finishing on the track, so that made up for the repetitive nature of the course. The distance of about 5.5km for the two laps was peculiar too, instead of being around the usual 6-7km

Rob Warner got us off to a great start and ran well in 17:40, which was backed up by Jack Hindle in 18:00 and Zach Howe in 17:58, despite these quality runs we were still outside the top 20, which gives you some idea of the quality of competition that was out there, perhaps the highest I’ve seen. We crept into the top 20 on the fourth leg with Tim Raynes flying along in 17:19, it was then on to myself. I was really keyed up and probably ran out from the track a bit quick, but I settled down and seemed to be moving along well, catching quite a few of the other clubs. I spotted Ian Livesey from our local rivals Barlick just ahead, he was running well, but I managed to pass him on the second lap. Joe Monk anchored our last leg and ran brilliantly to get us up to 10th place with 17:54, with Barlick Fell Runners just behind (for a change!) in 11th. I didn’t time my run, so I was really happy to find out afterwards that I ran 16:44, a huge improvement from my recent form. I felt in a much better frame of mind and I really enjoyed being the “old head” in a very young and talented team, which helped take my mind off my own poor running form up to that point. It was a great day for our club all-round, as we fielded teams in all disciplines and even had four senior male teams out.

Finally I was starting to run well again after a long consistent spell of training, I could only hope it came in time for the Chester Marathon, which was on the following Sunday, 2nd October. I was still a little apprehensive, but I knew I had prepared for it in the best possible way; I reduced my training in the final week by 20% and had a day off on Thursday. I’ve started to experiment with carbo-loading and had some success with it last year before the Potteries Marathon, so I followed this plan again with two days of low-carbs on Wednesday & Thursday and high-carbs on Friday & Saturday. I enjoy having routine in my preparation, so I decided to do a half-day at the shop on Saturday, helping John during the busy spells. Complete rest just doesn’t work for me, believe me, I’ve tried it!

The night before the race, I changed my mind on what race shoes to wear; my Saucony Fastwitch 7’s were gone and I was having doubts about running 26.2 miles in my Puma Faas 300’s, which served me well in the relays. I decided to dig out my old Fastwitch 3’s and after stomping around on the tiled floor in my kitchen, I opted for those, which I used for marathons between 2008 & 2009! Still, it proved to be the right call!

I was up at 5:30am on the morning of the race and felt pretty good. Despite finishing work late the previous night, Hannah was happy to drive me to the race and by 6:15am we were on our way. I was confident of implementing my plan of running roughly 27:30 for each 5 miles, which is around 5:30 pace. Whilst I train with a GPS watch and have done for 10 years, I never race with one, as I like to stay focused on “effort” without the obsession of clock-watching every few minutes. I like to use a good old Timex stopwatch for races, which means they never go on Strava…such a shame.

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I was cautious at the start, letting Daniel Kestrel go off ahead and I hit 5 miles in about 27:50, running alongside Iraitz Arrospide and Andrew Davies. I wasn’t sure how fast Davies was aiming to run; he has the fastest pb, but with an international ultra race next month he was wisely running in preparation for that and we were starting to go a bit ahead him. I next checked my watch at 11 miles (missed the 10 mile marker) and was roughly on target in 60:28, but I was still a bit off the lead and some 200 yards behind.  I was still feeling good at halfway (72:00) and at around 15 miles (1hr 22:14) I was starting to move away from Arrospide in third, but Daniel Kestrel was still some way ahead and he looked full of running. I was regularly taking on water and pouring it over myself to keep cool and had a gel at 12 miles and 19 miles, which thankfully caused no adverse reactions this time! By 20 miles (1hr 49:25) I was picking up the pace slightly and gradually starting to close the gap. Time was now irrelevant, it was eyeballs-out to try and get closer to him. He was still running strong and was easily going to beat his previous best, so I decided to make a big effort at 21 miles to try and get myself in contention. I caught him at 23 miles and for the next mile or so we battled it out for the lead. I gradually pulled away in those last two miles and even though I was starting to feel rough, that wave of adrenaline kicked in and I pushed on towards the finish at the Racecourse. It was a brilliant feeling to come into the venue for those last 300 metres and enjoy the victory; which seemed a very distant reality three weeks ago. It was also great to have so many people cheering me on along the way, there was certainly a strong contingent of Blackburn Road Runners (our neighbour club) out on the course giving me encouragement too, which was much appreciated! Daniel Kestrel still kept a strong pace and broke 2hr 25, with Andrew Davies putting in some great preparation for his ultra, taking third with 2hr 26.

I would highly recommend the Chester Marathon, I’ve done this four times and the organisation is terrific, as is the course, which is very scenic and fairly flat (I suppose that perception depends on where you’re from!). The support along the way is brilliant and it’s a real buzz finishing at the Chester Racecourse in front of a big crowd.

Results can be found here

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Lake Vyrnwy Half Marathon (11/09/2016)

Well, the Summer didn’t really go as planned, the foot trouble gradually eased off eventually, but it meant that I had to scale back the racing and focus on training. Still, by the start of September I had managed over 2,500 miles of running, which is okay after a dodgy June/July. In August I just ran in a 5,000m track race, finishing well behind Gary Priestley and then had a better outing at the Sale Sizzler 5k, coming 5th in 15:07. Mileage has been good over the past two months and recently the speed sessions have started to click into place, which is what makes my performance at Lake Vyrnwy half marathon so disappointing.

I’ve averaged 80-90 miles with the exception of one (66) since late July, even getting in some 100+ weeks on occasion. Over the past few weeks I’ve started to see the back of the plantar fasciitis and have been nailing some decent sessions, such as 24x 400m (30 sec rec) in 72/73’s and on the Tuesday last week I was happy with 10x 600m (90 sec rec) in 1:41/42’s. I certainly felt in better form than this stage last year and was aiming to run under 67:30 and hopefully retain my title.

It was a warm breezy afternoon and at 1pm we were on our way around this scenic and fast course in mid-Wales. All seemed to be quite well in the early stages; the first three miles were covered at a good pace in 15:10 and by this point it was just myself and Ryan Holroyd battling it out slightly ahead of the others. The race carried on in this fashion over the next couple of miles, but it was around this part where I was surprisingly starting to struggle and having to work hard to contest the lead. Holroyd certainly seemed to be moving a lot better than I was and I knew it would only be a matter of time before the inevitable happened. By the seventh mile (35:5o-ish) I was still hanging on, but after another ten minutes of running I lost contact and was barely able to hold together any sort of respectable pace; I got slower and slower and slower – I think I ran the 11th – 12th mile close to six minutes! The gap behind me had closed almost as drastically as the one opened up ahead of me; I was 30 seconds ahead of third place, but nearly two minutes behind Ryan Holroyd, who ran superbly to bag the victory and a new pb in 67:59. My time of 69:56 was far from impressive and totally at odds with what I “thought” was my current form. It also didn’t stack well against other runs I had here, my previous times have been 66:55, 67:43, 66:50, 68:04, 67:53.14291771_10210037053658580_5801384322776450223_n

I have plenty of racing planned over the Autumn, so that will be the test to figure out if it’s a blip or whether I’m struggling to compete at the level I used to these days. I’m confident of a much better performance in my next race, the hard work will continue and also increase and hopefully there’s still some decent races before the year’s out. Perhaps a change of approach is required; compared to my days living in Manchester, I’m doing lots of hillier runs but at slower paces and it’s no coincidence that my best races this year have been on hilly courses.

Results can be found here:

http://www.ukresults.net/2016/vyrnwy.html

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Podium 5k (29/07/2016) & Meerbrook 15k (30/07/2016)

After struggling throughout the second half of June with a minor injury and heavy cold, I decided to lay off racing for a bit and focus on getting the training in. In those six weeks I only raced in a Northern League 5,000m race for my club, running an average 15:29 finishing 10 seconds behind Dave Rigby.

July saw a big improvement with some decent mileage with weeks of 100, 83, 104, 80 and covering 396 miles in total for the month. The speed sessions have gradually got better, though there’s still room for improvement, especially as far as 5k race pace is concerned. I’ve also been doing a bit of coaching, which has morphed into “TeamFish”, courtesy of Dan Balshaw, who’s a dab hand at this internet and social media malarkey! He’s also part of the “team”,  along with Bryan Searby (an incredible example of how running can change your life), Jacob Watson and Richard Hayes, aka Mohican Runner, you can read all about him on his blog here.

On the back of a decent few weeks of training, I felt ready to start having a go at racing again and first up was the Podium 5k on Friday evening, 29th July. The field wasn’t as stacked as last month in terms of depth, but at the front end, I knew the Stockport lads (Jack Morris & Jack Nixon) would force a faster winning time than mine last month. The race got off to a fast start, covering 1k in 2:54 and I was feeling a bit stretched, but was able to stay in the lead pack which also included Rob Danson. The pace carried on relentlessly and by 3k it was just myself and the Stockport runners, but by this stage I was feeling “all in” and was unable to respond when Morris surged away, leaving myself and Nixon slightly adrift. The lack of speed started to tell and in the last kilometre I lost about 50 yards on Nixon, finishing in my slowest time at Podium in 15:06. Morris just missed out on the course record in 14:45, which I’m sure would have been possible for him had he been challenged a bit more in the second half of the race. My club-mates Joe Monk and Jack Hindle had a good outing, with both of them recording pb’s of 15:51 and 16:12. I was happy with my own race, even though it was slower than last month, but at least I have been consistent; only seven seconds separate my best and worst performance here. Though perhaps my worst performance was in a video interview afterwards with John Sutton (esteemed club-mate & colleague) firing Jimmy Hill style questions at me, whilst I’m fidgeting and staggering my way through questions like Kevin Keegan after getting a good hiding!

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Next up, in the following morning I had the Meerbrook 15k road race, near Leek. I have been meaning to do this race for a number of years, but it’s always clashed with the Northern Athletics League. On this occasion it was the week before, so I was happy to accept Mick Hall’s invitation to race. For some reason I got my dates mixed up and right up to the final week  I was convinced it was on Sunday. It was only when chatting to the postman (another keen runner!) that I was reminded it was on Saturday! As I had also committed to doing Podium, I decided to go ahead and do both races anyway. Mick put me in touch with Lee Jones, who along with his wife Sammy, kindly gave me a lift to the race from Stoke station. I had met Lee before, as I presented him an award at the North Staffs Road Runners Presentation for his work in reviving the Potteries marathon last year, which has now gone on to be quite a success.

I got to the race in plenty of time and got plenty of useful information about the course from Lee. Going off what I was told (also with stiff legs!) I decided to set off cautiously. I was at the front with Dan Soltys and managed to establish a lead on the first long climb at about the 3k mark. I didn’t feel comfortable on the descents, but thankfully I was able to get a good gap on the climbs where the leg stiffness wasn’t really a problem. There’s a final climb on the way back from around 10-12k, by this stage I knew I had a big lead and was able to tackle the last 2k descent without having to worry about being chased! Wilmslow’s Peter Speake finished second in 55:12, just ahead of Carl Mounton, with Dan Soltys 4th. Hannah Oldroyd won the women’s race and also repeated my stint of coming 3rd in the Podium 5k the night before. My time was a solid 53:49, which I was happy with, though I reckon I can run a bit quicker without racing the night before. Still, it just highlights how impressive Andi Jones’s record on that course is, which is some four and a half minutes faster! It’s a great event and one I’d highly recommend, as one would expect in such an area, it’s very scenic and it’s a nice change to race over a less familiar distance whilst enjoying the challenge of some decent hills as well. It was good to see Mick Hall, who’s been ill recently battling Lymphoma cancer. Many of us runners know Mick quite well; he’s been involved in the sport for as long as I can remember and I’m sure I’m only one of very many that’s wishing him all the very best in beating this illness, which I’m sure he will.

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Podium 5k (17/06/2016) & Freckleton Half Marathon (19/06/2016)

It’s been an inconsistent and somewhat frustrating month; training and performances have ranged from good, average to downright terrible. Over the past five weeks I’ve been ill twice and have to deal with the return of plantar fasciitis in my right foot, thus the mileage over those weeks have been erratic to say the least; 80.5, 50, 89, 90.5, 33 and last week a dismal 28.

June got off to a good start; after being ill I was back into decent mileage of 80-90 miles-per-week and starting to get good track speed; benefitting from the Tuesday night sessions with the club, where Tim Raynes has been really pushing the pace. In fact, the whole group is looking very strong, I think Tim will break 15 minutes for 5,000m very soon, we’ve also got Joe Monk and Jack Hindle improving rapidly, rattling off pb’s on a regular basis.

I had my first races on the track this season in the Northern League at Sheffield on the 5th June. I was pleased with a solid 2:03 in the 800m B race in 3rd and a win in a closely contested 5,000m race against Tim and Preston’s Dave Rigby in 15:21. I only won by half-a-second but I was very happy with my final lap of 65 seconds. Training continued to go well for another couple of weeks until I aggravated my right foot in a track session; I have been getting on well using spikes in training again, but I pushed my luck on this occasion. I was meant to do 10x 800m (90 sec recovery), but was late after work. I joined the session halfway in and implemented my own type of workout; I did 2x 1200m (30 sec rec, each in 3:39), 3x 800m (90 sec rec, 2:24, 2:22, 2:23) and then a hard two miles in 10:05 – it wasn’t wise and I paid the price for it. I could barely run the next day and took 80 minutes to run 11 miles. I didn’t run on Thursday, which helped ease off the foot only to find I had gone down with a cold again. Still, I felt okay on Friday and was still determined to stick to my plan; race Podium 5k to dip under 15 minutes and defend my title at Freckleton half marathon on Sunday.

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Freckleton: The struggle begins…

I managed the first one, I mainly ran from the front to finish just ahead of Tom Adams (15:02) and Tim Raynes (15:04) in 14:59. The foot was bad again after that and I had to take Saturday off. I wasn’t confident of winning at Freckleton, though even I was surprised at just how badly it would go. I figured that if I could get away with a slow start, I could still have a chance of winning and initially that was how the race went in the first couple of miles. John Mason and Dave Rigby were at the front looking strong and it was only by the third mile when I began to realise that I wasn’t going to play a part in contesting this race. I don’t think the pace increased much, but after four miles, I was off the back of Rigby and Mason, with Rob Danson moving past me into third place. My foot was uncomfortable, but what was more alarming was how terrible I felt; I’ve never run with a hangover, but I reckon this must be what it feels like, I guess I was more ill than I thought. As the race progressed I just got slower and slower and slower. Chris Barnes was spectating on the bike and offered me a lift back in his car at six miles, but I wanted to at least finish. As I had won it nine times in a row, the last thing I wanted was to be bundled off in the back of a car and disappear; it would be very unsporting. I had mentally given in by halfway and just focused on finishing, which I did in 75:16 coming 6th… what a difference in just two days!!! Dave Rigby won, with Rob Danson 2nd and John Mason 3rd, I expect that those three will dominate the podium places over the next few years. Rigby has improved considerably over the past two years, with Danson taking over the mantle of legendary Steve Littler as Wesham’s next top class runner. It was a tough day for John Mason, who’s had some injury trouble this year, but he will definitely be back and certainly deserves to have his name on the trophy at some point. Also worth honourable mention is my club-mate, Jack Hindle, who at 19 has set the course record for a Junior (previously held by Rob Danson), finishing just a few seconds behind myself.

I had planned to do the Potteries marathon again in July, but I’ve decided that I won’t do much racing over the next month or so; I’ve had enough of racing when I’m not 100% and last week proved that there’s very little to gain from doing so. I hope to get some track races in before the end of the season and then switch my attention to road, but I’ll have to see how things go before making any commitments. At the moment I just want to focus on getting out of the rut of taking one step forwards and two steps back.

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Milton Keynes Marathon (02/05/2016)

I made the decision quite late on to do the Milton Keynes Marathon; whilst it was never going to be about getting a personal best, I like to do lower key marathons every now-and-then as a way to experiment with race tactics and preparation. The idea with this one was to run a very slow first five miles and to run a negative split. Sometimes these experiments have paid of, such as my win in the Preston Guild marathon a few years ago and Potteries marathon last year. There’s been some shockers too, a personal worst at Edinburgh in 2011 and a DNF at Nottingham last year, but it all adds towards learning as much as possible about the marathon.

I can’t say my experience at Milton Keynes was a complete success; after taking six minutes to cover the first mile I ramped up the pace and ran the first five miles a bit quicker than I planned, though I was very comfortable at halfway in 73:50. As well as having a sizeable gap, I was also well on course for beating the course record. 15 miles was reached in just over 1hr 24, but by 18 miles I was starting to struggle a bit; the comparative warm weather wasn’t doing me any favours either! After reaching 20 miles in 1hr 52:48, I knew I wasn’t going to run a negative split and just focused on running a six-minute mile schedule to the finish, which ended up being enough to maintain my lead and knock a few minutes off the course record. The time was a modest 2hr 31:10; I wouldn’t say the course is hilly, there’s a bit of undulation and quite a few twists and turns in the second half, but having said that the course was quite pleasant and the finish in the MK Dons stadium is great. James Baker was second and slightly reduced my gap at the end, he was also inside the old course record time. Steve Way won the half marathon, ahead of Robert Pope – both of whom would have given me a serious problem had they chose to run the marathon.

MK-winner

After Milton Keynes, the focus was on something much bigger than the marathon; it would be my wedding! I got married to Hannah on the 7th May, about 18 months after we got engaged and we have been together for 7 years, so I suppose it was long overdue! Weddings are certainly a lot more nerve racking than marathons, but once the afternoon was under-way the day just flew by, when everyone is having such a great time, you wonder what all the worrying was about only hours earlier. We spent our honeymoon in Wales, out in the sticks with just our running gear, a portable typewriter and some alcohol that was left over from our wedding day. It was really great for us to spend time away from all the mod-cons; no television, no computers and for the most-part, no phone signal. I decided not to fret about training too much whilst away, I just did a few runs, but nothing structured. The plan now is to get straight back into the swing of things and perhaps throw in a race at the end of the month.

On a final note; there’s obviously been a lot of negative press recently about the accuracy of some high profile races, which is a terrible shame. I feel sorry for the runners, it may affect one or two of my pb’s as well, but I feel very bad for the organisers; yes, some do make a lot of money, but most are put on by clubs and fellow runners who get very little back, other than the satisfaction of encouraging good competition at grass roots level. I wouldn’t even point the finger at the measurers, as mistakes will always happen, we are human. I am disappointed in the governing body though, which has plenty of funds; it doesn’t seem right that with all the money currently in the sport, so much of it is still dependant on volunteers. Officials and course measurers are incredibly important to our sport and there needs to be a lot more support for them. The UK Association of Course Measurers should be a professional organisation, not voluntary. Surely this would improve procedures, such as more frequent re-calibration of equipment, frequent course re-measurement and a more thorough measuring process. Touching on that last point, I was surprised that a calibration is only done over 400m (wouldn’t 1km or 1 mile be possible?) and the instance of an incorrect calibration dates back over seven years, again, do they not get checked regularly? Then, adding to that, some courses have only been measured once, which easily allows for the possibilities of errors to creep in, not only that, the race could go on for a number of years before an error is discovered.

I’m sure most of us at some stage will have run on a short course, or even long ones and mistakes will always happen, but now, in the light of 30+ races being under scrutiny, it’s time the system had a major overhaul, as it has let down far too many runners, organisers and officials who give so much to the sport.

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