Total Pageviews

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Dublin Marathon Weekend 2014

A Dublin Marathon weekend is so much more than getting your carcass from the start to the finish of a 26 mile strip of tarmac - so we set out to make the most of it :) :)

Friday 24th Oct

Since Marathon day was Monday we had plenty of time to go off and do a bit more exploring of the Emerald Isle beforehand.

First stop, Galway over on the west coast and since it is nigh on illegal to visit a place containing a parkrun venue without havng a run round it, 5k it was:

From Galway it was up to Westport, a tiny place oozing with friendliness. As Westport also has a parkrun course out and back along the Greenway leading to a very scenic bay, it simply had to be done.

If you look at where Westport is, out on the North Atlantic coast with not a lot around it you will appreciate how much of an acievement it is to make so much use of a single metal pole:

Saturday 25th Oct

From our hotel in Westport it was a mere 2 minutes to the official parkrun there on Saturday morning. However, we'd already enjoyed that course on Friday evening and since Castlebar parkrun was a mere 15 minutes along the road, off we went there instead.

A really attractive setting for a parkrun course. In hindsight it may have been run a bit too quickly at 18:15 but the marathon still seemed a fair old way off being two days away. Hannah ran a more sensible 18:56!

Sun 26th Oct

The International Breakfast Run - Battle of Clontarf

The Dublin Marathon organisers really go out of their way to welcome overseas runners. Runners from 47 countries were invited to attend a 5K breakfast run over at the famous Croke Park on Sunday morning. The start time was 10:14am to commemorate the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.

The run itself took us to the site of the battle where a reenactment was performed complete with gruesomeness and fatalities. Luckily the fatalities miraculously rose from the dead shortly after :)

Back at the stadium and we were treated to free breakfast, free t-shirt and a comprehensive display of Irish dancing.

Tony Aimon, Seb Cosgrove , Tom Eales , Steve Darby, Ben Hartley, Dan Donnelly, Rachel Bourne, Eoin Fegan, Hannah Oldroyd (all Hyde Park Harriers except myself, Hannah and Eoin of Malahide parkrun in Dublin)

Monday 27th October - Marathon Day

Race day arrived and the first sight on waking was seeing a tree outside the hotel window trying to bend itself in two! The BBC forecast had suggested 10-12 mph winds, this didn't look like 10-12 mph.

The Course

The course was changed from previous years due to construction works but the general idea was that the hardest part of the course was going to be a 2.5 mile uphill drag through Phoenix Park into a headwind. After that the course profile looked reasonable and if there was going to a headwind in Phoenix Park there could well be a helpful following wind for a lot of the remainder. At least that was the theory!

The Race

At 9am the first wave pictured below set off.

There was a lot of congestion in the first 2-3 miles, which is hard to understand considering that the circle below indicates our starting position. It was no great concern though as there was no rush to get on with it when there was the Phoenix Park drag coming up shortly.


The thinking during the first 10K was just to get to the top of Phoenix Park using up as little resource as possible. It was bound to be slow in relative terms so it was just a case of getting it done and then seeing how things were feeling.

Over the 10K mat and the clock was showing 42:21, around 2:30 slower than Yorkshire two weeks earlier which seemed reasonable given the difference in courses.


This section was encouraging with the effort level and pace being almost identical to Yorkshire. The second 10k was 39:45 so it would be nice if the third 10K produced something similar in the knowledge that the last 4 miles after a little hill at 22 were supposed to be nice and flat.


Where is all the wind coming from? I was either imagining it or the wind was really picking up now as the halfway marked was passed. To add to that there was what seemed like a never ending long straight uphill stretch into this headwind. This was getting tough. Trying to keep the effort level down was easier said than done as you had to try to keep some forward momentum going.

The second half of this section was noticable for the amount of runners stopping, it is rare to see so much carnage so early in the race amongst a group of runners clearly expecting to run sub 3 times.

The pace seemed to be drifting a bit now but not too badly considering  - it was looking like maybe a 2:55:xx sort of time as 30K was approached.


30K in 2:04:31 was around 6 minutes down on 2 weeks earlier but nothing seemed particularly problematic, the legs were strong and positions were being gained every now and then.

Around 22 miles there was a stiff little hill with a Lucozade sponsored 'Wall of Support' at the crest. On the road as you passed under their archway it had the wording 'You have now beaten the wall'. Nice idea but a little optimistic :p

Around the corner and I heard some very familiar footsteps close behind, there were thousands of pairs of feet out there and yet these were unmistakably familiar.

And there she was, it looked like Hannah had judged this one better through the tough third section so she was then able to pull away and keep up a higher tempo over the last 4 miles. This gained her 56 positions up to 213th while I slipped back 14 to 274th. That third section is always the key and she nailed that one to get her first ever back to back sub 3s just 2 weeks apart :)

For my part, 2:58:53 was satisfying enough. There wasn't going to be a scintillating time on this particular day so I was happy to marvel at somehow managing a 7th sub 3 in 12 months, something that would have seemed barely believable the way I used to think about marathons, ie months of recovery before attempting the next one!

Updated comeback marathon list:

2009 April - Blackpool Marathon 3:24:17 (Age 42)
2009 September - Fleetwood Marathon DNF (Age 43)
2010 October - Amsterdam Marathon 3:04:27 (Age 44)
2010 November - Milton Keynes Track Marathon DNF (Age 44)
2011 April - London Marathon 3:18:30 (Age 44)
2012 April - London Marathon 2:57:04 (Age 45)
2012 October - Chester 2:55:36 (Age 46)
2013 April - London Marathon 3:11:29 (Age 46)
2013 June - Cork Marathon 3:06:19 (Age 47)
2013 October - Budapest Marathon 2:58:53 (Age 47)
2013 December - Lancaster Marathon 2:54:17 (Age 47)
2013 December - Pisa Marathon 2:54:09 (Age 47)
2014 April - Manchester Marathon 2:51:52 (Age 47)
2014 April - London Marathon 2:57:52 (Age 47)
2014 June - Rhyl Marathon 2:58:24 (Age 48)
2014 October - Yorkshire Marathon 2:47:34 (Age 48)
2014 October - Dublin Marathon 2:58:53 (Age 48)

As predicted last week, whatever happened there was likely to be some much anticipated Guinness consumed with Dr Dan Donnelly. As it turned out he had his most enjoyable marathon to date so enjoyed the black stuff immensely :)

The Hyde Park Harriers contingent also seemed partial to Dublin's finest brew. Here with Tom Eales, Rachel Bourne and behind the camera was Ben Hartley enjoying his newly achieved GFA time.

Tues 28th Oct

Before leaving Dublin on Tuesday there was time to try out a couple more new Dublin parkrun courses, Waterstown and Poppintree (starts this Saturday):

5 day weekend in Dublin with zero non-Guinness days, can't beat it :) :) To be recommended? 100% YES!!

Monday, 20 October 2014

The Week Before/After A Marathon

The inspiration for the title:

So here we are mid way between two marathons, 7 days after The Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon and 8 days before The SSE Dublin Marathon. Dublin is run on a Monday due to that day being a bank holiday in the Republic.

It doesn't seem much time between marathons but then again there are many people who can run them day after day, including Kelvin Dickinson who ran two sub-3 marathons in 24 hours not too long back. I believe Kelvin and Caz Hall were probably the most responsible/guilty for getting us into trying out back to back marathons. They do look like a couple of dodgy looking characters likely to lead the unwary astray ;)

Firstly though it is worth jumping back a bit to the lead up to Yorkshire. This was the most enjoyable marathon to date by far so it is worth noting any points which might have had some influence on that:

Yorkshire Build Up

1. Long Runs - This might be surprising but in the 9 weeks before Yorkshire there was only one training run longer than 10 miles and that was only 12 miles! The only longer runs were in races.

2. Training Paces - All training was 8:00/mile+. Since all racing was faster than 6:30/mile this means that the paces in the range 6:30-8:00 were pretty much never touched. 

3. Races - The 9 weeks contained 22 races/parkruns at the following distances: 
1 Mile - 3
5k/parkrun - 11
10K - 3
10 Miles - 1
Half Marathon - 3
Marathon - 1 (Thames Meander Marathon)

4. Mileage - Those 9 weeks were something like 83, 80, 73, 79, 76, 70, 66, 53, 56 (race week)

A few discussion points in there amongst those basic stats!

Why 2 Marathons in 2 Weeks?

So why are we doing something that just 12 months ago I would have considered pointless, stupid and pretty risky, ie running two marathons in quick succession? Good question!

It has been said a few times, by wise people that know about these things, that the best time to run a marathon is actually two weeks after the previous one. Can this be true or is it nonsense?

How many runners actually try it? Not many as a proportion of the total marathon running population as it flies in the face of the supposed 'rule of thumb' that you should rest for 1 day for each mile of race distance.

So, in the last 12 months we have tried running 'pairs of marathons' three times (four for Hannah) and this is the experience so far:

1 week gap - Hannah:
13/10/13 Budapest Marathon 3:01:18
20/10/13 Yorkshire Marathon 2:57:53

2 week gap:
1/12/13 Lancaster 5-3-1 Marathon 2:54:17
15/12/13 Pisa Marathon 2:54:09

2 week gap - Hannah:
1/12/13 Lancaster 5-3-1 Marathon 3:02:50
15/12/13 Pisa Marathon 2:56:54

1 week gap:
6/4/14 Manchester Marathon 2:51:52
13/4/14 London Marathon 2:57:52

1 week gap - Hannah:
6/4/14 Manchester Marathon 3:05:37
13/4/14 London Marathon 3:00:45

2 week gap:
12/10/14 Yorkshire Marathon 2:47:34
27/10/14 Dublin Marathon ??:??:??

2 week gap - Hannah:
12/10/14 Yorkshire Marathon 2:52:08
27/10/14 Dublin Marathon ??:??:??

What will the question marks be this time? Well, if anyone is really bored at work next Monday morning:

The Sandwich Filling - What fills the gap?

The last thing you feel like doing between two marathons is not running. 

The First 7 Days:

The 7 days since Yorkshire has contained 11 runs, Monday to Friday had 8 runs with nothing further than 10k and nothing faster than 8:00/mile and then there were a couple of blasts over the weekend to get the legs back up to speed:

Sat - Huddersfield parkrun
Sun - Stadium Runner's Woodland Challenge (Huddersfield), an off road 6 miler that provided a good feel for how the legs are shaping up. I was quite happy after this one. How? I'm NEVER happy after off road races :p

The Second 7 Days:

The next 7 days leading up to Dublin will consist of one run per day, alternating between 5k and 10k with everything at 8:00/mile+ except Saturday, which will see a parkrun somewhere on the west coast of Ireland, which will be run pretty strongly but not flat out, maybe 19 mins or so.


In the lead up to a marathon we usually carb deplete for 4 days, Mon to Thurs, in both of the last two weeks. However, when you have two marathons two weeks apart you can't really start carb depleting the morning after the first one so there will be just one week of carb depletion before Dublin. There's nothing strict about this, it is just a case of eating predominantly lots of protein for 4 days and then eating normally up to the race. There is very little in the way of 'carb loading', just eating to normal appetite but with a bit of a shift back towards carbs. For the last 10 or so marathons this has worked out fine.

Ready for Dublin?

It is hard to say at this point but it will be approached in the same way as Yorkshire, ie run at the same effort level, and the pace will be whatever it turns out to be. Whether that means 3:15, 3:10, 3:00 or something a bit quicker or a DNF will remain to be seen but I can confidently predict that we will be sharing a pint or two of Dublin's finest with a certain Dr Dan Donnelly on Monday afternoon :)

Monday, 13 October 2014

The Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon 2014

Sunday 12th October 2014

The weather forecasts leading up to this marathon were looking damned near perfect - fog was predicted for the early part of the race but temperature and wind conditions couldn't have been better:

Although just 7 days earlier a not too friendly virus had resulted in a 42:00 performance at the Burnley Fire Station 10k, in the days leading up to York the legs were feeling great with each run during the week feeling progressively easier as the week went on.

So did this mean that the 21 year old marathon PB of 2:48:58 might be coming onto the radar, especially with a couple of quick fire sub 80 half marathons in the build up? It had to be getting close so Sunday couldn't come around quick enough to give it a good go and find out the answer.

This was the state of play of the marathons since the comeback started:

2009 April - Blackpool Marathon 3:24:17 (Age 42)
2009 September - Fleetwood Marathon DNF (Age 43)
2010 October - Amsterdam Marathon 3:04:27 (Age 44)
2010 November - Milton Keynes Track Marathon DNF (Age 44)
2011 April - London Marathon 3:18:30 (Age 44)
2012 April - London Marathon 2:57:04 (Age 45)
2012 October - Chester 2:55:36 (Age 46)
2013 April - London Marathon 3:11:29 (Age 46)
2013 June - Cork Marathon 3:06:19 (Age 47)
2013 October - Budapest Marathon 2:58:53 (Age 47)
2013 December - Lancaster Marathon 2:54:17 (Age 47)
2013 December - Pisa Marathon 2:54:09 (Age 47)
2014 April - Manchester Marathon 2:51:52 (Age 47)
2014 April - London Marathon 2:57:52 (Age 47)
2014 June - Rhyl Marathon 2:58:24 (Age 48)

The Race

After a few hellos on the start line we were off into the fog bound centre of York. It all seemed very peaceful despite sizeable crowds and that made it easy enough to switch off early doors and start getting into a tick over rhythm. If you're feeling any effort in this first 10K then you're doomed, so it is just a case of ignoring anything going on around and trying to get Tony Audenshaw out of your head after listening to 'The Day Before/After A Marathon' on the way to York. The fact that the organisers were also playing the same track as we booked the baggage in only served to doubly entrench the earworm :p

Anyway, the first 10K took 39:38 feeling nice and easy. Just seven days earlier 42:00 had seemed so much harder for a single 10k so at least that showed that the virus was no longer on the scene.


Out on the quiet country lanes now and by quiet I really mean quiet. There were times when, because of the fog hanging around, there wasn't another runner or spectator to be seen. This was absolutely fine, it felt really good to have an uninterrupted rhythm and an empty road ahead.

The second 10K went by in an uneventful 39:14. There was no thinking about potential finishing times yet as I leave that until at least 30K when you get a feel for how the closing stages are going to shape up. Nonetheless, I was happy that moving along at sub 2:50 pace was feeling pretty comfortable and that places were being gained on a regular basis.


The halfway mat was a little late, which is why the splits from 20k to halfway on the official stats look a bit odd. My own halfway time showed as 1:24:00 (which I was happy with) but in reality it was a few seconds quicker than that.

As a comparison, in the previous comeback PB of 2:51:52 at Manchester in April, halfway was reached in 1:26:11 and I don't recall it feeling as comfortable as this.


This section included the two switchback points, at 14 miles and 18 miles, where crowds gather at just the right times to get the mind switched on to start laying the stall out for the closing stages. I find that if you get to 30k and you are thinking about chasing times and/or chasing down runners in front then you are probably going to be fine to the end of the race and hold together pretty well. On the other hand, if it is starting to already feel laboured at 30K you can quickly become a passenger in a slow inevitable car crash of a last 10k.

On this occasion, 30K provided a nice boost as the 3rd 10K had taken 39:45 despite having some of the stiffer stretches of road within it.

So the pace was staying constant, the legs were feeling strong and there was a nice feel good factor provided   by the crowds at the 18 mile switchback point.

I must have been feeling pretty chirpy at this point as I'm usually a miserable bugger not one high fiving the crowds:

It was now going to get serious as the crowds were left behind for the next few miles, so it was time to start thinking about potential finishing times to provide a focus for this section.


My previous PB of 2:48:58 was conveniently exactly 4:00/km or 20:00 per 5km so the maths were nice and easy. To be on target at 30K required 2:00:00 so going through there in 1:58:37 meant that I could now start thinking about chasing down a new PB. It wasn't going to be easy but to get into this position and feel up for the challenge meant that I was going to give it a damned good go.

As miles 20, 21 and 22 went by it was starting to feel like it was getting harder now but I wasn't quite sure whether it was because we were slightly climbing or whether I was slowly falling into a hole. But each mile marker was providing a really big boost as the splits kept coming in in the 6:20s. No matter how it was feeling there wasn't a lot wrong.

40K was reached in 2:38:43 meaning that the last 10K had taken 40:06, marginally slower than the previous 10k splits but only by a handful of seconds.


It wasn't going to fall apart now so it was time to really soak in the best closing stages to a marathon that my legs had ever experienced. Going trough 25 miles with the clock still showing sub 2:40 and being able to see the clock at sub 2:45 when the 26 mile marker was visible just up ahead were both new experiences for me. And quite pleasant ones at that :) 

Down towards the finish line and I could see the clock up ahead showing 2:47 and not many seconds so it was now time to relax in the knowledge that the job was done and do a bit of showboating with the crowds. Embarrassing behaviour I know but if it's good enough for Mr Way ;)

The Marathon Age Time Line (2hrs + Age)
This used to be a novelty target which created quite a lot of discussion around what was the optimal age to achieve a time better than 2:00 plus your age in minutes. It sounds quite straightforward but then when you consider that it means that a 20 year old has to run faster than 2:20 and a 60 year old has to beat 3:00 it quickly becomes apparent that for most mortals there is a very small window where it is even feasible.

So, for that contrived reason a 2:47:xx at 48 years old is rather pleasing :)

Build Up To Yorkshire

So what was the build up like leading into this race? 

The answer was that it was the same as usual only with more miles, so where Manchester had been preceded by 10 weeks averaging 50 miles or so the comparative for York was more like 80mpw.

Running every day but with no 'training sessions' at all. Pretty much all training was 8 mins/mile+, with much at 9 mins/mile+. As a substitute for 'sessions' there was racing, lots of racing, with an emphasis on covering a wide range of distances.

It seems to work for me and exactly the same build up seems to lead to pretty much the same results for Hannah too. A 2:52:08 huge PB for 5th place yesterday wasn't too shabby :)

And celebrating by dunking Guinness loaf in Guinness is probably a first for any marathon runner anywhere. Ever. The girl has got class :)

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Manchester Marathon 2014

16 weeks since the last post and 16 weeks since the last marathon.

It was intended to be 17 weeks but a recent brainwave from Hannah that it might be a good idea to have a crack at Manchester a week before London meant that last Sunday morning, 6th April, we were headed towards Old Trafford at Manchester.

But not before a superb two hours of marathon motivation and entertainment at Marathon Mania the previous afternoon presented by Tony Audenshaw, Tom Williams and Martin Yelling. As seen from the lens of Helen Williams:

And it was the first outing to a marathon for Hannah's recent acquisition. What more appropriate number plate could there be for a Manchester 26.2 run than:

The Preparation

It was quite odd back in January/February reading about all the big miles/long runs that were getting done in preparation for the Spring marathons because having run two sessions of 26.2 miles @6:40/mile in December (ie Lancaster and Pisa marathons) the last thing that the legs were wanting was lots of long miles.

So patience was the key. Surely the strength from those two runs in December would feed through over the next few weeks anyway thus reducing the need for long runs? Maybe? Maybe not?

During that entire 16 weeks between Pisa and Manchester the only longish training runs over 10 miles have been one 16 miler, one 12.5 miler and one 12 miler.

The summary stats for the 16 weeks are:

Rest Days - 0
Total Mileage - 767 miles
Av Weekly Mileage - 47.95 miles
Races/parkruns - 40

So not what would be called a textbook marathon build up but I really felt ready to get stuck into a marathon to see if the legs were as strong as they felt.

I figured that with both Manchester and London being flat courses the chances were that one of them would fall favourably in terms of conditions.

The Race

Having completed the Locke Park 20 in Redcar in just over 2:09 four weeks ago I was just looking to lock into that same kind of effort level and then see what could be produced over the last 10K.

Even though the four weeks in between had included two half marathons, a 10 miler, two 10ks and four parkruns it was still relatively easy to remember how the 20 miler felt at the different stages.

Miles 0-10

So as the race got under way the first 2 miles were just about keeping out of trouble, there are two many feet and limbs in close proximity to think about anything else!

As things started to settle down there was a switchback point at about 3 miles. At this point there were a few familiar faces in front, eg Steve Middleton, Martin Hall and Kelvin Dickinson, all of whom I was quite happy to judge pace against as they have all proved to be masters of the pacing art in previous races.

I also knew that Tom Williams and Marting Yelling would have been somewhere in the vicinity with a declared target of 2:54. If they came up alongside that would present a good opportunity to switch off for a few miles and join what was bound to be a well paced train.

The first 10 miles went by without incident in 1:06:04, so an average of 6:36/mile.

This was feeling comfortable and with the comeback PB of 2:54:09 being 6:40/mile there was no need to get carried away too early. What would have been useful now was to lock into the pace of a group or at least another runner to get some more miles out of the way at this same sort of pace. But that was proving much harder than it sounds.

Miles 10 - Halfway

Halfway in 1:26:11 (6:35/mile). This was a minute faster than Pisa so still no need to do anything in terms of upping the effort level too much and risking sending the heart rate soaring.

Miles 13-18

I don't remember much of the next 5 miles except a couple of Ogdens (kev and Ian getting some motivation for London next week) and a couple of St Bernards with barrels around their necks.

18 miles was the next time check and at 1:57:33 I really did feel a boost of adrenaline. This meant that the last 5 miles had taken 31:40 or an average of 6:20/mile.

Just as I did that calculation there were loudspeakers at the side of the road blasting out 'And don't you feel good?'. I thought, "you know what, I actually do ..... and this is 18 miles into a marathon".

Experience was telling me to forget about any feeling good vibes though because I would sure enough be suffering pretty soon.

Miles 18-20

The next two miles took 12:41, again 6:20/mile. It felt more like hard graft now but clearly not too much amiss according to the pace. 20 miles in 2:10:14.

So something like a 44 min 10K would land a comeback PB. You can never assume anything in the last 10K but at least that was a doable sort of number allowing for a reasonable level of suffering.

Miles 20 to the Finish

Miles 21 and 22 were actually ok as well although I wasn't checking the pace at this stage. At 20 miles I just concentrate on getting through the next 3 miles on the basis that if I get to 23 I'll finish, it might not be pretty but I'll finish.

At mile 23 I was still passing the odd person but it was very strung out now and I was sensing some serious slowing. Even with just 3 miles to go the pace can fall off a cliff and add 5 or 6 minutes to the finishing time quite easily. So when I saw that mile 23 had been a 6:40 that provided a nice mini boost that it wasn't quite as bad as it felt.

A quick calculation at this stage suggested that 7:05s would get a 2:51:xx time, 6:45s a 2:50:xx or 7:25s for a 2:52:xx. Any of those would have been a great result when I started the race.

At 24.5 miles I saw the Old Trafford stadium and despite it not looking too far away it wasn't getting any closer. It didn't help now that there were a few fast finishers making me feel like a wobbling drunk hippo as they sauntered past. Ah well, resorting to the old techniques of breaking down whatever is left into manageable chunks, even if it is 10 metres at a time, the finishing corner finally arrived and the legs lifted themselves enough to cross the line with the clock still displaying a 2:51.

Happy days, a comeback PB by over 2 minutes and the first 2:51 clocking since Brussels in 1987, a mere 26 years ago.

Off no particular 'marathon specific' training that was a very pleasing outcome. I'm starting to come to the conclusion that the best indicator of whether you're ready to run a marathon is simply whether you feel up for it, regardless of what sessions have or haven't been done.

Having said that, official stats can make you look a lot more controlled than you actually felt. Half splits of 1:26:11 and 1:25:41 give the impression of expert execution but that second half split disguises a lot of varying degrees of pain and suffering:

In the overall battle against the aging process things are surprisingly still going in the right direction :)

2009 April - Blackpool Marathon 3:24:17 (Age 42)
2009 September - Fleetwood Marathon DNF (Age 43)
2010 October - Amsterdam Marathon 3:04:27 (Age 44)
2010 November - Milton Keynes Track Marathon DNF (Age 44)
2011 April - London Marathon 3:18:30 (Age 44)
2012 April - London Marathon 2:57:04 (Age 45)
2012 October - Chester 2:55:36 (Age 46)
2013 April - London Marathon 3:11:29 (Age 46)
2013 June - Cork Marathon 3:06:19 (Age 47)
2013 October - Budapest Marathon 2:58:53 (Age 47)
2013 December - Lancaster Marathon 2:54:17 (Age 47)
2013 December - Pisa Marathon 2:54:09 (Age 47)
2014 April - Manchester Marathon 2:51:52 (Age 47)

Greater Manchester Marathon Organisation

The whole event seemed pretty slick and well organised. Crowds were larger than expected along the route and the course itself flowed very nicely, ie just one turnback point at about 3 miles.
The baggage area was manned by the army and had no problems that were apparent, an area which I believe was a major issue in the first year. Highly recommended event.

What about London next week?

I think it would be beyond foolish to try to predict what will happen in a marathon just 7 days after the previous one but what I can say is that I'm really looking forward to it.

It maybe a case of struggling early on and getting a tube back to Westminster or it may turn out a bit more favourable. But whatever the story of the day becomes, the pint at the end will taste gorgeous :)

Friday, 20 December 2013

Pisa Marathon 2013

Sunday 15th December 2013 - Pisa, Italy

The question posed at the start of the last post was 'Why run a marathon just SEVEN weeks after the previous one?'

Well, that was on 1st December and the question this time is 'Why run a marathon just TWO weeks after the previous one?'

Quite simply Pisa was the back up plan marathon should Lancaster on 1st Dec have not happened, which had looked a distinct possibility with the forecasted gale force winds. Of course in the end Lancaster did happen and quite a pleasant experience it was  too :)

But Pisa was booked so we weren't going to go along just to watch, so a bit of carb loading and off we went ..........

Just to join the dots, so to speak, this is how the two weeks in between looked:

Sun 1/12 - Lancaster Marathon 2:54:17 (Comeback PB)
Mon 2/12 - 10K @ 9:05/mile
Tues 3/12 - 10K @ 8:53/mile
Weds 4/12 - 10K @ 8:50/mile
Thurs 5/12 - 10 Miles @ 8:24/mile
Fri 6/12 - 10K @ 8:32/mile
Sat 7/12 - Harrogate parkrun 18:45 (6:02/mile)
Sun 8/12 - Londonderry 5K 17:31 (5:38/mile) (Comeback PB)
Mon 9/12 - 5K @ 9:24/mile
Tues 10/12 - 10K @ 8:35/mile
Weds 11/12 - 5K @ 8:44/mile
Thurs 12/12 - 10K @ 8:27/mile
Fri 13/12 - 5K @ 8:41/mile
Sat 14/12 - Lincoln parkrun 19:47 (6:23/mile)
Sun 15/12 - Pisa Marathon 2:54:09 (Comeback PB)

Arriving at Pisa airport at around midnight it didn't take long to find the first evidence of something happening in a few hours time:

The logistics were great in the sense that you walked out of the front of the airport and the hotel was a 2 minute walk directly ahead.

The race start/finish area, ie The Leaning Tower of Pisa, was then pretty much a straight line walk of 3k or so in the morning. No need for working out public transport systems at this event.

As we walked to the start we crossed over the river Arno and this was the scene. As can be seen from the reflections in the river there wasn't a hint of wind. This was to be the early part of the course, running down the promenade on the left side before returning up the right side of the pic at about 4k.

No matter how you photograph the tower it doesn't seem to give a true impression of just how much it is actually leaning, you keep looking at it wondering just how the hell it is actually still standing. If it did fall over the point where the top of the tower would hit the ground was exactly where the finish line of the marathon was situated. Ah well, it has loitered at that angle for quite a while now, it was unlikely to pick the very moment of my hobble across the line to perform it's crash, wasn't it?

The Race

There were no expectations in terms of what would come out of this, after all I had never run a marathon just two weeks after the previous one before ..... and a thoroughly daft idea it seemed too. On the other hand, once under way if it started to feel similar to Lancaster then who knows?

Of course Hannah had very recent experience of running two marathons close together when finishing 5th at Yorkshire with 2:57:53 on 20th Oct just 7 days after a 3:01 PB in Budapest on 13th Oct!

Start - Halfway (1:27:04)

We were in no rush to get off the start line and since it was a bit chilly early on we were quite happy to get huddled deep in the pack of runners waiting for the start:

As we rolled out through the first few kms it seemed like a never ending stream of balloons ahead. There were pacemakers in both the half marathon and marathon, and plenty of them. It was like a fun game show where you chased down a set of balloons and only when you caught them did you get to find out what you were chasing, 3:15 marathon, 1:35 half, 1:30 half, 3:00 marathon, 2:59 marathon ....... it kept me entertained anyway :)

I didn't really need to glance at the watch much as the balloons were giving a good enough idea of how it was going. The only splits I remember in the first half are 9:13 at 2km, 33:10 at 8km and 1:06:15 at 16km.

The idea was to wait until halfway, see how the legs were feeling and then decide what to do next.

Halfway came in 1:27:05. This was the first point at which any thought of running a time anywhere near the 2:54:17 at Lancaster had emerged. But clearly there had to be a chance off that first half split.

Just after halfway came a turnpoint. As soon as I rounded the cones I could see Hannah right there approaching the turnpoint no more than a minute or so behind. As it turned out she had gone through halfway in 1:28:20, which remarkably meant that her 2:57:53 PB from Yorkshire was starting to look under threat even though this was her 4th marathon in 9 weeks.

It was still relatively early days yet though so the overriding thought was still about hoping for the suffering to be delayed quite deep into the second half.


The 28km point really stood out in this race. Not only did it mark the 2/3rds distance but the views as we ran along the coast were absolutely stunning. No photograph would do the scenery justice but because of the complete stillness it felt as though you were caught in an artist's painting, it really was breathtaking.

And how could this possibly be 10 days before xmas in December, it was like mid Summer.

Back to the race and it was flowing along far better than I had imagined it could, already into the last third and heading for home. The sun was shining, there were no hills to fret about and the pace was staying constant in the region 4:05-4:10/km.

I used to really hate this part of a marathon and yet here I was for the third time in just nine weeks actually enjoying the prospect of getting stuck into the closing stages. Happy days :)

At around 30km a guy on roller blades came past in the opposite direction. Since the blades made quite a rumbling sound on the tarmac it came as no surprise a few minutes later to hear a similar rumbling coming up behind me or at least it came as no surprise initially. However, it kept getting louder and louder. How could roller blades make that much noise?

I then became aware of a shadow looming over me as the rumble finally came alongside. I looked over to my left and saw this (okay, something similar to this!):

Something had spooked it in it's field and it had made a bid for freedom, escaping from it's field around where Hannah was and then galloping alongside the marathon. It must have carried on for some distance because some of the runners well up the field had reported being worried about being taken out by it. Never a dull moment.

Into the closing stages and I couldn't have been more pleased with how the legs held together. The pictures below are myself and Hannah at about 41km. I might not look pretty but let's just say that I can remember photos looking a lot worse than that towards the end of a marathon:

The Finish (2:54:09)

What a great setting for a finish!!

It doesn't really show from this angle:

But that finishing arch is just to the right of the tower in this pic:

There was no expectation of a decent time when we set off to Pisa but the fastest marathon for 20 years (albeit by 7 seconds) was a very nice bonus:

A nice chunky medal too. They don't skimp on the metal content either as my bottom lip will testify after I somehow managed to smack myself with it while in post marathon clumsy mode:

Now that shows the lean a bit more:

Oh look, a random Airedale Dodger who it is rumoured ran 2:56:54 for another stunning marathon PB in her 6th marathon of the year and 4th in 9 weeks. it makes me feel lazy! :p

It seems that not paying too much attention to the watch doesn't harm the pacing too much - 1:27:04, 1:27:05. I blame that rogue second on the horse........

And 1:28:20, 1:28:34 for the Airedale Dodger, a woeful pacing effort :p

In the absence of the usual celebratory refreshments, we had to make do........

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The 3-1-5 Lancaster Marathon 2013

Sunday 1st December 2013

So this was the 4th marathon of the year, the most I've attempted in one year, following on from London (3:11:29), Cork (IRL) (3:06:19) and Budapest (2:58:53).

Why another marathon just 7 weeks after the previous one?

Good question.

Previously I have always thought that you needed sufficient time since the last marathon so you could conveniently forget just how much hard work/pain was involved!

However, the week following Budapest in October had been noticably different to other post marathon weeks in that I was actually itching to do another one pretty soon. So when it was suggested by a certain Caz Hall, while enjoying a beer or two after spectating at the Yorkshire Marathon on 20th Oct, that Lancaster was on 1st December it was hard to dismiss the idea.

And despite the fact that Hannah had just run two marathon PBs in two weeks she also seemed keen on the idea.

What did the 7 weeks in between look like?

The 7 weeks in between just followed the usual pattern of running every day, with every 'training' run being slow. 'Slow' means whatever speed feels comfortable but a typical run of 10k or 10 miles would see a first mile of around 10 minutes and an overall average of about 8:30/mile.

We would then race and/or parkrun every weekend with the 7 weeks between Budapest and Lancaster looking like this:

Sun Oct 13th: Budapest Marathon 2:58:53

Sat Oct 19th: Temple Newsam parkrun 18:14 (1st)

Sat Oct 26th: Scunthorpe parkrun 17:49 (1st)
Sun Oct 27th: Accrington 10k 37:57 (12th)

Sat Nov 2nd: Kingsbury Water parkrun 18:00 (2nd)
Sun Nov 3rd: Lode HM 1:22:04 (2nd)

Sat Nov 9th: Larne parkrun (N Ire) 18:39 (3rd)
Sun Nov 10th: Forkhill 10k (N Ire) 39:03 (2nd)

Sat Nov 16th: Sheffield Castle parkrun 18:10 (1st)
Sun Nov 17th: Brampton Carlisle 10 Miles 59:14 (44th) (Comeback PB)

Sat Nov 23rd: Hull parkrun 17:27 (6th)
Sat Nov 23rd: Norman Woodcock 5 mile 29:24 (Comeback PB)
Sun Nov 24th: Northumberland Big 10 1:02:58

Sat Nov 30th: Doncaster parkrun 20:03 (6th)
Sun Dec 1st: Lancaster Marathon 2:54:17 (1st) (Comeback PB)

So, in effect, all the 'sessions' between the two marathons are in the list above.

And the definition of a  'Comeback PB' is basically the fastest since 1993, or 20 years ago!

Race Day

Because the weather predictions for Lancaster on 1st Dec had been for winds of 20+ mph just 7 days before we took the option of not entering in advance and waiting to see if things were going to be calm enough to have a decent crack at what promised to be a very good marathon course.

As it turned out conditions were absolutely perfect so we went over to Lancaster and entered about 40 minutes before the start.

0-10 miles (1:06:18)

The first 10 miles were run on the cycle path up to Caton and then back down into Lanacster, pretty much the same route used by the Trimpell 20 in March of each year.

There was also a Half Marathon taking place at the same time so there were plenty runners around in the early stages as I tried to click into a sustainable rhythm.

Just out of habit I counted the runners in front before realising that there wasn't much point considering that there were two races mingled together. Nonetheless, there were 16 runners in front at the 3 mile point.

There was no way of knowing who was in the marathon as the only indication was the colour of the number which, of course, you couldn't see from behind.

At 7 miles the course went back past the start so I asked the Race Director how many marathon runners were in front. The response was 'not many'.

At 9 miles I was running alongside Sheena Logan, who clearly did have a marathon number on and she was wondering the same thing about how many people in front were actually in the marathon. I was up to 12th now so I reckoned it may possibly be as few as 2 or 3 marathon runners ahead. That would be a nice position to be in!

Not long after I noticed runners turning around and coming back towards us. This must be the half marathon runners. Counting them as they passed I got to 8, then 9, then 10, then 11..... Hold on, if all 11 in front have turned to finish the Half Marathon who exactly is ahead of us in the marathon? Nobody! That's who!

This was confirmed as a man in a fluorescent jacket jumped on his bike and said 'follow me'.

So I'm actually leading a marathon, right? Really?

Okay, deep breath, 16 miles to go ....... let's get on with it.

10 miles - Halfway (1:25:59)

The section from 10 miles on Lancaster quayside through to halfway at Condor Green is run along the estuary path below. This was a path that I used regularly for training runs as a student and as such I knew that it could get pretty slippy and squelchy at times. But on Sunday it was spot on and allowed a nice regular rhythm to be maintained just under 6:30/mile.

I was really enjoying this but there was also a voice telling me not to get carried away.

The point in the picture below is just after 13 miles on the way out and just before 20 miles on the way back with a road loop around Glasson Dock in between.

Halfway - 20 miles (2:09:58)

Glasson Dock in the picture below was at about the 15 mile mark

I remember thinking at the time that this is usually the point in a marathon where things start to get a little bit more serious and you start to wonder about when things are going to start hurting and getting uncomfortable. But there was none of that. I was really enjoying it and the legs just seemed quite happy with the prospect of another 10-11 miles at the same pace.

It remained to be seen whether that was reality or just bravado from leading a race.

20 miles in 2:09:58 or 6:30/mile average led me to start thinking about whether a sub 2:50 might be possible. Even if the mile markers were a little bit out it could just be on.

Still concerned about overdoing it and ending up doing a slow death march to the finish I decided to keep the current rate of effort ticking over to 23 miles and then, if I could, really have a good bash at the last 5K.

20 miles - The Finish (2:54:17)

It wasn't until back on the quayside at Lancaster that the legs started to moan a bit but since this was now the 24 mile mark I couldn't complain at that.

24 miles was reached in 2:37:05. So was sub 2:50 still a possibility? 12:55 for 2.2 miles at the end of a marathon? Probably not but as is the nature of these things it is always worth giving it your best shot as you just never know, the mile marker could have been a bit late, you might have misread the watch etc etc.

25 miles was passed in 2:43:37 which told me a couple of things:

a) A 6:32 25th mile meant that the legs were holding together very nicely indeed.
b) The idea of a sub 2:50 marathon was probably gone, not that I was overly bothered as a 2:51 or 2:52 would have certainly been grasped with both hands before the start of the race.

I was determined to finish strongly so really got stuck into the last mile back up the cycle path. Even though I was putting a lot of effort in now there was one extra gear kept in reserve for when I got sight of the finish, just for that last little finishing flourish.

But where was the finish?

I kept thinking that the lead bike was going to turn right into a finishing area but he just kept going on straight ahead further up the cycle path. I looked at the watch, 2:50 had gone (which was no surprise) as had 2:51 and now 2:52. Surely I should be able to view the finish by now?

Eventually I saw a crowd of people up ahead and there was still a little flourish at the end but when I saw the time at 2:54:16, a time that I was still delighted with, I couldn't quite reconcile the near 11 minutes for the last 1.2 miles as opposed to the 8 minutes that would have been expected.

As the other runners came in every single runner mentioned the same thing so at least it wasn't me going bonkers.

My first thought afterwards was how surreal all this was thinking back to 2008 when I decided to start running (or rather walking) again at 5 stones overweight. Winning a marathon? What me? Never! :)

If nothing else, at 47 the ageing process hasn't won yet :)

Below is a pic with the ladies' winner, Sheena Logan, with a time of 2:59:59 and 2nd place lady, a certain Hannah Oldroyd running her 3rd marathon in 7 weeks and coming away with a 3:02:50 to go with the 2:57:53 from Yorkshire and 3:01 from Budapest. Not a bad collection in 7 weeks.

More impressive performances were also landed by Kelvin Dickinson (3:00) and Caz Hall (3:29) who told us about this event in the first place and then dragged us screaming to the pub afterwards to celebrate.