Monthly Archives: June 2017

Swaledale Marathon – A Soaked Supporter’s View, Swaledale, North Yorkshire, Saturday, June 10, 2017

23 miles

Pam Kirkup

8.00am on the morning of the race Paul F & I pitched up to registration, in my case, to hand in my number for anyone who hoped to get an entry on the day. It was drizzling nicely.

An hour later at the start, this year’s cohort of runners seemed somewhat diminished from previous years. The purple posse was there in strength … and the rain was building up.

If you don’t know the course of the Swaledale Marathon it’s 23+ miles over quite diverse terrain, including valley paths, some steep climbs on rubble and bog, some awkward peat hags, some decent paths over the moors and a pretty unpleasant, stony downhill path to the road down to the village of Reeth. Saturday was probably one of the worst conditions I have seen for this run. It was going to be difficult and challenging – a certain bog-fest, even for the experts. A baptism of fire for Swaledale ‘virgins’.

After the start, the walking wounded – Mandy and I – trudged in the now heavy rain to Reeth in search of coffee and shelter. In the meantime the purple posse was doing the slog up the rubble to Fremington Edge. This is a swampy, boggy ridge which goes in the direction of Langthwaite, the route goes through a gate downhill into the valley and then on roads to the first checkpoint. On Saturday Fremington Edge would have been at its most unpleasant – and I hear it was very boggy – but nothing compared to what was to come.

The route then is mostly on roads to Whaw and the second checkpoint. After this is a steep uphill climb to the main road, which the runners cross to the path up to Great Punchard  Head. A small stream on the way up had become much more full, and the stream crossing at Great Punchard Head seemed to have become a challenge to some people, as Paul arrived there. After Great Punchard Head route finding can be difficult but, although it was cold, very windy and the rain was hammering down, Paul said that the route was clear. No mist. And,  for the first time, the path was marked with flags. However, the ground underfoot was very difficult. Nina said that she lost her footing and one leg ended up knee deep in a bog. A runner in front of Paul ended up thigh deep in a bog – thankfully he was able to haul himself out. Luckily, visibility was clear and so runners could find their way to Little Punchard and then on to Level House – a fantastic food station with tea, sandwiches, cake, flapjacks and lots more.

By then I had joined the dash to Gunnerside – you have to get there early to get a parking place. The rain was now relentless. I missed the first few runners coming through but I did see Jack, and then Stephen and Gareth (poster boy for next year’s race??). The camaraderie of supporters is really amazing – everyone shouts for other people’s runners as they sprint down that riverside path to the road. Even though you don’t know them! The purple posse came hurtling in after that. Phil & Tim, Matthew & Elaine, David Brown, then Jules, Mike Bennett, Jan, Nina, Malcolm Sygrove, Camilla & Kathryn and then Paul! I didn’t get photos of Elaine Bisson (3rd lady!!) who ran a blinder with Mathew Archer (how could he possibly have run that course in road shoes???), or David Brown – his picture was black .Rain?

From Gunnerside the runners leave the road at the top of the village, taking a long steep path up to a (usually) decent path to Blades. Part of this has vehicular access for the cottages and farms so wouldn’t normally be difficult. At Blades the route veers off to the left onto a level moorland path to Surrender Bridge which can often be quite muddy – a quagmire on Saturday! Surrender Bridge is the last manned checkpoint and marshals point runners in the right direction for the last push to Reeth. Once you’ve negotiated ‘Crinkly Bottom’, a small but steep ghyll, (I hear it now has a bridge to cross it), you make your way to a long, narrow and often steep path of stones and boulders. Punishing on, by now, sore and weary feet. For me it’s always been a nightmare. Then it’s a downhill cruise on the road to the finish.

In the meantime, I drove back to Reeth, after Paul came through Gunnerside, and joined the finish supporters at the Buck Inn. People were sharing stories about the bogs, the peat hags and the awful conditions underfoot. It was certainly a more difficult course this year – for everyone. Gareth said “Never, never, ever again!”. Tim said “It was great I loved it”! Everyone had a story to tell! Spirits were high.

Regardless of the conditions, Elvet Striders did a great job. We were second male team, only just beaten by East Hull Harriers. And Elaine Bisson was 3rd Lady in a sensational 03.55 and was 33rd overall. There were some excellent times:

Michael Mason – 3.24, Jack Lee – 3.36, Steven and Gareth 3.39, Mat (road shoes) Archer – 3.53, Elaine (super woman) Bisson 3.55, David Brown 4.19, Tim & Phil – 4.31, Jules – 4.36, Mike Bennett – 4.45, Nina – 5.10, Jan – 5.17, Kathryn – 5.19,Malcolm – 5.26, Camilla – 5.27, Paul Foster – 5.37, Joan & Anita – 5.42, Emil Maatta – 6.02, Anna & Catherine – 6.51, Barbara Dick – 7.01, Louise Billcliffe – 7.20, Christine Farnsworth & Margaret Thompson – 7.42.

I hope the first-timers won’t be put off. On a good day it’s a fantastic course with wonderful scenery. Saturday was not the best start! However it takes more than a day’s deluge to dampen the spirits of the purple posse.

Here’s a gallery of some thoroughly soaked Striders!

 

Comrades Marathon, Durban to Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, Sunday, June 4, 2017

86.73 kms [UP run]

Dougie Nisbet

During the final loop of the CTS Northumberland Ultra I started chatting to a runner who had a pair of trekking poles in his rucksack. They’d stayed there the entire race and I asked him why he was carrying them. Kit rehearsal for the Marathon des Sables was his reply. Race rehearsal. I was impressed, and said so, before adding, “Would you like a potato?”

Comrades is as much about the logistical preparation as the physical. Never before have I done so much groundwork in planning a race. I’d listened to webinars, read blogs and watched countless YouTube videos to establish what I should wear, when and how to eat and drink, how I should pace myself, and, most importantly, what happened if you needed to go to the toilet.

The eating and drinking was pretty much sorted. At Comrades the food offering is bananas and small salted potatoes and in my training leading up to the event I tried both on my long runs and Ultras. Neither caused any problems and the potatoes certainly beat gels hands down.

Anyone who has done the GNR would have found the start of Comrades a breeze. Apart from being dark, the procedure was the same. Long chaotic queues for the toilets, lots of crowds, music and queues to get into the pens. In I went, tried a few selfies but my 5AM ghostly countenance looked so ghastly I quickly deleted them, sat down in a corner, and waited. There was a bit of space and many others had the same idea and it was weirdly calming sitting on the tarmac in the dark with the occasional drone flying overhead and the frequent bursts of music. As we approached 0530 the pen started moving in little jolts as the pens were gradually merged for the cock’s crow that would indicate it was time to go.

Comrades is unusual. The timing is Gun to Mat. That’s to say, although you’re chip timed, your race time begins when the gun goes off (or when the cock crows, to be precise), not when you cross the start line. When you’re out on the road you, and your fellow runners, are all on the same time. With 12 hours to complete the race and various cut-offs along the way this does mean if you are in one of the slower pens you have a bit of catching up to do. Planning and self-discipline are important.

Much of what I’d read about Comrades discussed with a sort of weary inevitability running the race as a positive split. I’m quite a disciplined runner and I didn’t like the sound of that. Apart from the obvious disadvantage of not running to your best, it sounded horrendous. Many runners work on the assumption that they’re going to blow-up anyway so they might as well go off quick and see how far they get. Crazy. I’d been following the training programmes, blogs and webinars of the official Comrades coach Lindsey Parry and I liked the grounded and pragmatic nature of his advice. I planned to walk the hills, and run the flats and downs. This meant walking early, as a strategy rather than a necessity.

Sure enough, as I’d expected, at the first hills I was marching up while others were streaming past. At first I felt quite isolated but looking around I could see I wasn’t alone. Others were also going for strategic walking to conserve energy that would be invaluable when many hours later we were into the endgame. I was spooked, however, at the first checkpoint to realise I only had 10 minutes in the bag. 10 minutes from being timed out! And one of the 12 hour buses had just gone past.

I was rattled. Comrades is famous for its unforgiving cut-offs. Strictly enforced, there’s no mercy. My Garmin showed two pieces of information: Elapsed Time and Average Pace. I was on plan, but nonetheless I had to give myself a talking to to calm my nerves and resist the temptation to put on speed and burn away valuable energy reserves.

And there was the matter of loo stops. I’d never run a race that started when it was dark and, quite possibly, finished when it was dark too. I was paranoid about needing the loo, and at every portable toilet I passed I noticed queues. This didn’t help. It’s all in the mind of course; nothing is more likely to make you feel you need to go, and go NOW, than an engaged toilet. 25Km and 3.5 hours in we passed through Kloof and I spotted a toilet door swinging ajar. No queue! Now was my chance! I jumped in and shut the door and soon realised why it was empty. Before me was a loo so astoundingly putrid I almost gave it a round of applause. I fished out the sweaty Kleenex from my shorts and realised that this was pretty much a lost cause, and with someone knocking at the door I decided to abandon this little adventure before someone started ringing the bell. Muttering “I’d give it the half-life of Uranium if I were you” under my breath, I dashed out into the fresh air and rejoined the race after this inconclusive diversion.

Post-race analysis of this stop, and the many others shows how easy it is to bleed away time. Lindsey Parry says whatever you are doing, keep moving. The only time you should stop is for a ‘pit stop’. My paranoia of not staying hydrated meant I was walking at every table (feed stations), and with tables ever 2 or 3 kms, I really should have been skipping them occasionally. All those seconds of browsing the tables mounts up to minutes over the 88 kms of the race.

Despite having done my research, one of the areas where I became a little unstuck was with race food. Unlike most races, the tables at Comrades aren’t consistent. Food doesn’t appear until a few hours into the race (depending on how fast you are) and the bananas and potatoes that I’d been expecting were late to appear. So I chewed steadily through the supply of Shotblocks I’d carried although I’d really brought them as insurance for the latter stages of the race rather than a possibly counter-productive sugar rush early on.

Food and drink doesn’t always come from the tables. A few hours in, and with the sun now overhead, I was getting a bit tired of Coke. The crowd really knew how to party and when I reached out as I passed one braai the spectator ran after me and pressed a bottle of Carlsberg into my hand. It made a lovely refreshing change from the Coke but I knew that cold beer wouldn’t be enough to get me to the finish and I vowed to make that impulse a one-off.

It was hot now and I always knew heat would be the problem. I’d ran my qualifying marathons in Lanzarote and Palma de Mallorca and had learned my lessons well about how I cope with the heat. I kept the pace down, knowing from experience if I got over-confident I would blow it. Drinks in Comrades are given in convenient sachets and once you’ve developed the knack of biting a corner of to get to the contents they work pretty well. As someone who has never coped well with emptying bottles of water over my head I was finding the sachets were excellent for keeping cool. You took one for drinking, and one to drizzle gently over your cap as if you were dressing a salad. The water seeps through the cloth and drips gently over your face for the next km or so. It’s a great system. It’s lovely.

Through the half way point, into the parkrun (Comrades is two marathons with a parkrun in the middle), and everything was still on plan. I had gone through the last couple of checkpoints with better safety margins and I was feeling more settled, and even had time to laugh as I found myself thinking, only a marathon to go!

On the race route coach tour two days’ earlier we’d stopped at Ethembeni School. This school caters for children with disabilities and over the years has built up a strong bond with the race and particularly international runners. They’d put on a fantastic concert for us and we were all given a tiny bracelet, each one made by the children. Each bead on the bracelet represented a km of the route, and each colour band represented one of the sections. It was a great idea and I was wearing mine today.

 

 

 

The race is the highlight of the year and the children line up on the roadside outside the school in the hope of high-fiving the runners. They absolutely love this and seeing the delight on their faces fills your heart with joy. I high-fived them all and no doubt lost a bit more time but it was time well wasted. Moving on I realised that I’d missed my bus and I had to put in a bit of a burst to get back on.

Buses. The Comrades Bus is a phenomenon. These pace groups can be huge and the pacer, the bus driver, will be wearing a flag with his or her name and target time on it. These are not the pace groups you might be familiar with in a British race, but more a sort of micro community in which the driver will have his or her own style and strategy. It may be precise adherence to a particular pace, or, more likely, a walk run strategy that has been worked out in advance.

I was riding my 2nd 11:30 bus of the day and I was loving it. There was perhaps a hundred or so of us on this bus and we’d all gathered in a protective cocoon around our driver. The crowd would sometimes shout out poignant encouragement to the driver, such as “Get them home safely Driver”, and the driver would occasionally shout out instructions to his passengers, such as a countdown to the next running stretch, or a marching rhythm on the hills. Sometimes the driver would raise their arms in a breathing exercise and we’d all instinctively mimic the move.

And then there was the singing. International runners make up a relatively low percentage of competitors with most runners being South African. So when the driver leads of, with a surprisingly gentle and mellow introduction to the Shosholoza, only to be answered with the beautiful voices of the bus passengers, you could forget you were in a running race such was the comfort that came from the choir.

I stuck with this 11:30 bus for a while before deciding to lift the pace a little. The day was getting on, the shadows were lengthening, and I knew I was going to finish within 12 hours. My training plan had put me on about a 11hr to 1115 Comrades and I knew I had to be careful about succumbing to the temptation of trying to get under 11 hours (and a Bronze medal) if I didn’t have the ability. Aspirational rather than tactical pacing would almost certainly backfire as I’d learned painfully from the Lanzarote Marathon. It was getting tough now, and I was remembering another good piece of Lindsey Parry advice: It will get tough, so don’t try and fight it. Don’t go into denial. Accept that it will get tough and you just need to deal with it. Endure it.

With about 20km to go I caught another bus. It was another 11:30 and I was grateful to hop on in the closing stages of the race. It was a great help as we hit and marched up the last of the big 5 hills, Polly Shortts. I zoned out and concentrated on the pacing being called out by our driver, probably getting up Pollys more quickly and efficiently than if I’d been marching solo.

Through the final checkpoint and I knew I had the race in the bag. The bus slowed at the table and I decided to push on. There was less than 10km to go and much of it was downhill. No point in saving anything now.

It would have been so easy to stop running. I was comfortably within the cut-off and could walk the whole of the remaining distance if I wanted to. But I figured I’d travelled half-way round the world for this race and I might as well go home with the best time I was capable of. There’s always the accusation when you run a good negative split that you could have gone faster. That you were holding back. Tosh.

My legs were screaming. But my breathing was good and I was still running with rhythm. The remaining kilometres counted down with painful slowness and the racecourse never seemed to get any closer. Then a few twists and turns, a tunnel, cameras, and suddenly we’re running on grass.

I looked around for my support crew. Roberta, without whose support this wouldn’t have been possible, and who’d been up at 2AM making sure I was caked in Factor 50 and had put up with and supported my countless 5AM starts over the last 10 months as I’d headed off for my pre-work long runs. I heard my name and glanced around. Then I heard it again. Then I realised everyone was shouting everyone’s name! The place was packed. Given that this was an 88km race the finish was surprisingly busy and I crossed the line with burning legs and quiet satisfaction more than any sense of life-changing euphoria. Immediately there were steps, really steep ones, to get back over the racecourse to the international tent (bumping into Rob Wishart) and to find Roberta and nowhere to sit. It was 30 minutes to the final cutoff and we settled down to watch the final countdown on the big screens.

Comrades will always be ‘gun to mat’. So much of this iconic event leads to this final, cruel, 12 hour cut-off. There’s no compromise, no leeway, no concessions. As 12 hours approaches the runners continue streaming into the stadium and make their final dash for the line. Huge numbers of runners finish in the last hour, and a massive amount of those finish in the last 10 minutes.

At 1730 precisely, an official stands on the finishing line with his back to the race so he cannot be influenced by what he sees, and at 1730 precisely, he fires the gun, and the race is over. If you’re 1 second over, sorry, it simply didn’t happen. I adore this brutal honesty. For the next 10 minutes wave after wave of runners walked desolately into the stadium accompanied by sympathetic applause from the crowd while the Last Post is played over the PA.

Our hotel was practically on the racecourse, in a casino, so once I’d gone through the surreal experience of passing through an airport-type security metal detector to get to the room, I caught up with my email and news. Although I’d never made a huge secret of my plans to do Comrades I hadn’t shouted it from the rooftops either and so not a lot of people I knew I was running. This made it all the more touching when I read the lovely comments on Facebook and realised that many in my club had been tracking my progress. Kerry’s “look at those lovely splits” comment gave me particular delight!

Comrades is 20 miles further than I’ve ever run but I had a training plan and I had a race plan, and I followed them both. I kept my side of the deal and this gave me the confidence to know that on the day I would get to the line on time in the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon.

Eric North Memorial Calderdale Way Relay – Leg 5, Wainstalls, Halifax, Sunday, May 21, 2017

7.55 miles

Jack Lee

In honesty it shouldn’t have surprised me that what had started over a year before and eventually developed into a determined pact between two men to come back and conquer a fell race ended in a roar of noise. That noise for the most part was Mark “encouraging” me (not so gently) up the hill towards the final lane and the finish not far beyond. Besides the noise what I remember is mostly made up of fragments of images and a feeling of overwhelming tiredness as I pushed my body to its limit. I felt I had long since passed what should have been my limit but a year’s work is not something to be thrown away easily and the end was all but in sight. So I ignored the fatigue, the pain and the cowardly voice in my head calling for an end to the first two and pumped my legs.

 

This feat of probable stupidity had started a year before when Mark and I, without any idea of where we were going, ran the 5th leg of the Calderdale Way Relays from Wainstalls to Shelf and by divine luck and following people who looked like they knew what they were doing made a good fist of it all; coming in a just a minute over the hour cut off for that leg. We probably could have left it at that and walked away heads held high but I think we are both more than a bit stubborn and we made a pact to try it the next year but this time having recced the course. It took us until the Tuesday before to get out and figure out where we would be going on the race day and there was quite a comparison between our amicable lope over the hills to Wainstalls and then back again to Shelf and the actual race day. It took over three hours and involved a fair amount of time lost, especially at the start. In the end what should have been 15 miles ended up nearer to 17.5 and the light was almost gone but the fire in our stomachs burned all the brighter.

 

Nothing Mark and I do can never be easy and we both did our best to ruin the start of the race with Mark turning up in the nick of time 15 minutes after registration should have ended and my bambi on ice moments in the first mile. The mass start of the race was hectic with not so much warning of the start as a shout from the marshals that the race had started. We all hurriedly dashed off with Mark and me falling into place as the third pair (we would finish 2nd from the mass start by the end). The crush of people meant I wasn’t getting much time to see my foot placements and after five or so minutes I did what I had feared and rocked a bit over on my left ankle. The day before, however, in a rare moment of insight I had bought an ankle support which probably saved our race and after a few limping strides I managed to get running again. At this point we were on the first of the three most trying climbs of the route up a grassy and mucky slope through farm fields to the farm buildings themselves. Here we pushed, keeping up with those around. Until we happily crested the hill and started down a long grassy descent a long what might be an old mining track to the outskirts of a small village.

 

I felt Mark pushing and it was all I could do to keep up with him. Generally either one of us could be ahead on the uphill, the downhills were my ground but on the flat I felt like a sailor without a boat…desperately trying to keep afloat. It continued like this for a good while with a few scrambles through fields and the odd chance to throw ourselves through small gaps in the walls until we reached the longest climb. It started with a steep road section which I happily ran. In the recce we had agreed that both of us could walk and run the loose track afterwards (still steep as anything) but Mark was obviously feeling in fine fettle (see the next photo) and dragged me up at a slow jog with him, passing a few groups with batons on the way. At the top we met two ladies one of which appeared to be very tired and her partner (obviously the fitter) was pressing ahead. We had a brief section of flat…Mark sped up, but I knew after that there was a tight squeeze through a gate and a downhill section. The fitter of the two women was battling to stay ahead of me, however, and I had to call most of my strength just to dive through entrance before her even though her partner was a fair distance behind.

 

The downhill was a relief and for a while I could be the one pushing but what goes downhill in fell running quite often has to go back up and after crossing a small stream we had a short steep climb into a quaint hamlet before a very steep and grassy climb. I had to warn Mark as he tried to miss the turning towards this horrific slope. By this time it was just us and Team 7 (Baildon Runners). We had been nearby each other all the way through the race and now as the end was in sight we both took chances to try and break away from each other. First came their attempt after the grassy slope on the still uphill but not as steep lane and then one of Mark’s shortly after. I pushed and pushed determined not to be holding him back. After a few fields and lanes we came out onto a road just above Shelf and Mark roared into action sailing down the hill and I went with him.

 

It was the uphill shortly afterwards where he started encouraging me enthusiastically, with the two others behind us mirroring. As Mark shouted “Come on Jack” we could hear from behind “Come on Eoin”. I am going to be honest that the climb felt slow. I later found out that we had done the last half a mile in about three minutes. Mark had splits in pen on his arm and he neglected to mention that while we had been 35 or so seconds up on last year at one point we had lost that before the last mile and a half. After what felt like an eternity of torment we came to the turning and I all but sprinted down the lane. I remember a flash of the paving stones and one of the pair behind shouting “30 seconds”. We burst out of the laneway to happy faces and I pumped one fist in the air as I stopped my timer on 59.37. The later results are wrong and still say 1.01 to my chagrin. We had done it and given Louise and Keith a 10 second or so head start on the pack, which was hard earned and I suspect we will never get thanked for…

 

It does look like it was drinks and smiles all around at the rugby club in Halifax but I had already headed off for a few days in the Lakes.

 

 

 

Results are available to download here

Managing mental health – Endurance running is my salvation and why my workplace prospers from it, Friday, May 26, 2017

Jason Trimmer – Chiltern Harriers

Quite a long title I know, so bear with me whilst I explain. Those of you who know me personally, understand that I don’t mind self-serving some physical and mental hardship occasionally. I’m a veteran, I took the Queens shilling and served with the British Army for 14 years, it made me who I am today and the physical lifestyle has stayed with me, ingrained, even when I transitioned into civilian life.

 

They say that ‘middle age’, whatever decade that is now, is one of the most difficult periods of your life, raising children, managing a career and caring for ailing parents. Pressures from all angles, that if not managed, can cause mental health issues. I arrived back in the UK from Australia, 2.5 years ago, with my family and 5 suitcases, nowhere to live and no credit history. I returned to support my Dad who was just about to start his first round of treatment for prostate cancer. Giving up my career in Sydney, pulling my 3 boys out of school and asking my wife Carolynn to leave her family behind was a big ask and has tested us all.

 

I hear daily about mental health, it’s profile has been elevated and deservedly so, however this is a consequence of just how many suffer from it. The workplace is a massive breeding ground for anxiety and stress, time pressures abound, high expectations given the digital tech we surround ourselves with, constantly bombarded with multiple streams of information that need to be digested. It seems to me that society is ever increasing the demands and demonising by some is common place in our 24/7 lives. And this is just the workplace!

 

My salvation is endurance running through remote and difficult trails, preferably in mountainous areas, 100 miles is not uncommon with big elevating climbs that can take days to complete. These types of events take meticulous planning and training just to get to the start line. My last ‘big event’ in the summer of 2016, took me around the Mont Blanc ‘massif’, through 3 countries, 103 miles with 10,000 metres of climbing over 36 hours non-stop. It took everything from me, physically, emotionally and towards the end I began to hallucinate. I suffered 30+ degree heat during the day, ran across snowfields during the night at altitudes of 2,500 metres and endured a thunder and electrical storm atop one of the last peaks. This event stripped me to my core and perversely I would do it again, even though ‘everything hurt’ and I mean everything.

 

For me it’s about feeling ‘raw’, getting back to basics and getting back in tune with who we once were as humans, we chased our meals, we ran away from danger, humans are built to run and we’re dam good at it, humans need to keep moving. You don’t need to replicate what I do to achieve the benefits; the biggest step is putting your shoes on and getting out the door.

 

So why does my workplace prosper? I’m more alert during the day as I sleep better, if I’m sleeping well then my overall mood is boosted. I’m a positive person who always looks optimistically on the world, probably due to the endorphins that are released through my system. I would like to think that my memory is improved (I have no way of measuring this as I’m not prepared to stop running for an experiment). And because I feel ‘happy’ my social behaviour is positive, not to mention the motivation, goal setting, having a purpose and critical thinking that happens, a direct correlation to running and my behaviours in the workplace. I’m less prone to sickness which means more days in the office, a tangible benefit to the business. Confidence is reinforced meaning that any work goal is achievable, we may fall occasionally during a project for example and some would see that as failure, failure is only realised when you refuse to get back up, re-evaluate and crack on. This is what runners do, sheer will and determination is sometimes required in the workplace not just outside on the trails. I could go on and on.

 

My typical response to any of my colleagues asking me in the morning, ‘How are you Jase’, is ‘Bloody great’ and that is the truth, because I am a runner.

 

Soon I’ll be enjoying my 50th year and I’m looking for my next ‘stretch’, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m also pleased to say that my Dad is doing well and in remission.

 

If anyone would like to talk to me about Mental Health and how I manage it through running, then please shout out, we could chat whilst we run.

 

Ultra-Trail Du Mont Blanc (UTMB)

Queens shilling

 

Footnote

When I read Jason’s article, which he originally published on LinkedIn, I thought it would benefit other runners, who may not use LinkedIn.  I therefore asked Jason for his permission to share it, and do so gratefully.  Jason told me that ..”reaching out to as many people as possible about mental health and how we can manage it is SO important”.

Jonathan Hamill

Chairman

Asics Windermere Marathon, Brathay Hall, Ambleside, Sunday, May 21, 2017

26.2 miles

Catherine Smith

The journey to Brathay Windermere Marathon – May 23rd 2016 – May 21st 2017

 

Almost exactly a year ago to the day that I ran Windermere (my first solo official marathon) I was coming back from a number of ongoing niggles and injuries, I wanted to get faster but had fallen out of love with running after training for Dark Skies which I ran through the night with Gareth and storm Katie in March 2016 (my first realllly long race – 26.8 miles round kielder – I like to make things easy for myself!).  I hated the feeling of ‘having to run’ during training and hated the fact the injuries were also stopping me enjoy running.

 

I asked Anna Seeley (coaching co-ordinator) for a training plan and we met to discuss where I was at, what I wanted to do and what my running habits / preferences were, she designed a really flexible, simple, yet effective, plan for me to follow and I saw the benefits being realised pretty much straight away, I got my mojo back, niggles were kept at bay and the PBs were falling until one fateful shopping trip when I treated myself to a new pair of trainers because ‘they looked good’ and ‘matched better’ (DOH).  Soon after I developed heel / foot issues which was diagnosed as plantar fasciitis. I was in a lot of pain and spent a number of months and large sums of cash trying to resolve the issue.  I ‘water ran’ to nelly the elephant (thanks Katy Walton for the tip and loan of the float) and followed various stretching, PT and Pilates regimes in an attempt to fix it & not lose too much fitness but it was taking such a long time to heal I was struggling mentally and physically.

 

Thankfully I seemed to turn a corner in the last few months, I couldn’t say exactly what made the difference, probably a combination of everything but I was finding my fitness was coming back & I was able to chip at a couple of my PBs again without the foot flaring.  I was entering local longer runs and doing them as a run walk strategy to minimise injury flaring (Leas Marathon- did 20 miles and loved it) Locke park 20 was a fab day out running in circles with some of the purple posse and I was organising some regular Sunday long runs with a variety of folks.  Before I knew it I realised that I had sort of been doing an informal Marathon training plan without any ‘have to’ feelings, I was loving running again and had had none of the pressure of following a rigid plan!  On the back of this realisation and the high of my Blackpool half pb I floated the idea of running a low key marathon sooner rather than later and suddenly we were booked for a weekend in the lakes with a Windermere entry in!! Not a fast or flat course – in fact probably more challenging than keilder but it would be during the day, I wouldn’t have to carry ‘full kit’ and I very much hoped storm Katie or any of her mates wouldn’t make an appearance

 

With Anna’s input I had decided on a run the flats / downs and walk the big hills strategy to minimise injury / foot flaring.  I had never ran over 14.2 miles alone before so this was big for me but I was excited as much as I was nervous.  Gareth had decided to enter too as he had unfinished business with Windermere- his first ever marathon which totally broke him! He wanted to right that wrong of a ‘terrible’ performance (no gear and no idea) which culminated in a 3.07 first Marathon time (if only ha ha) so we both had challenging goals we wanted to achieve.

 

I had set my ‘if only’ at 4.45 and sub 5 as a ‘must do’ Anna said she thought I should run to feel and I might surprise myself, but I was too worried about hitting the wall and bailing into the hotel pool & spa at mile 20 (that’s where our hotel was on the route) or being over taken by a penguin (Mike Parker I blame you for this irrational fear ha ha) or having pull out because of injury so I decided to aim for approx 10.55-11.15mm and take it from there.

 

On the morning of the race we met other striders in a rainy field where the Parking was organised by enthusiastic marshals who played a massive part in making the day such a success

 

As we squelched over to get our numbers I noticed that the t shirt was purple & white, and they had a ladies fit (I am normally swapped in race tees) so I felt this was a sign! I told myself I would be achieving my first solo marathon & bought the tee as my motivation / reward!

 

Obligatory strider selfies done we followed the marching band to the start, it was rather emotional and exciting, the day was starting to brighten up and we all wished our purple club mates good luck as we lined up, Gareth and Elaine moved up to the front, Gareth was definitely feeling relaxed as the start line picture shows ha ha

 

The gun went, the band start playing and we were off! This was it! More emotion as the crowds clapped and called out good luck wishes…. internal pep talk with myself & I settled into my pace, glanced at my watch, going too fast! Must slow down, got 26 hilly miles to go! I had decided to run with average pace set as that way I wouldn’t panic about the walks slowing me down or start racing to bring it back in line, I had used it for Blackpool half so felt confident that would be a good plan for Windermere too. First mile ticked off going too fast! Feeling good but 25 to go! The first hill loomed and I had the dilemma of the walking this early what would people think?? then I reminded myself this was my race & I had a plan for a reason! I wanted to get round in one piece and I wanted to recover sooner afterwards injury free so I slowed to a pacy walk, I was the first but others copied, I glanced at my watch, average pace hardly changed, still too fast, another mile ticked off.  This became my routine & I was absolutely loving the run, I felt strong as I moved up the miles, pace was still faster than any of those I’d predicted / planned to aim for – I was walking the hills and making the most of the flats and downs, I took time to hydrate at all the stations and kept up fuelling with chia charge flap jack as well as gels & shot blocks.  A good couple of miles were breezed though ahead of pace as I distracted myself trying to get chia seeds out of my teeth!

 

The marshal support at the drink stations and throughout the race was amazing as was that from spectators in the villages – I took time to say thanks and smile (I was pretty much grinning all the way round) and high 5’d the scouts who were cheering us on next to a purple cow! Resisted the urge for a purple cow selfie (THAT TOOK GREAT WILLPOWER)

 

I chatted to folks on the way some joined me on the walk bits but then dropped off as I picked up the pace again on the running bits – pace still to fast! I was worried that the wall or the penguin moments would happen or that the hydration fluid might decide it didn’t like me but I still felt great  cautiously optimistic! I passed our hotel and mile 20 & was smiling rather than wanting to bail, just 10k to go, I’d got this! It was soon after that Malcolm gave me a shout out a marshal point – he had had to pull out because of his knee, that made me sad but also more determined, I thought of him, Mandy & Lesley, people who couldn’t run at this time and would give anything to swap places and dug deep!

 

Gareth and I had driven this last section so I knew what was coming I knew we had icecream mountain ahead (big hill with an icecream van at the top) I seemed to be getting even quicker!! I dared to think that my 4.45 dream could be a reality! I didn’t appear to be hitting the wall, I continued with the hydrating/fuelling and run/walk and before I know it I was up & over icecream mountain, picking somewhat broken folks off along the way, I checked they were ok as I ran passed giving words of encouragement – I remembered Gareth telling me that was where he’d seen lots of folks struggling in his first Windermere attempt.

 

Last water station ahead, something cold, pink, rather sticky & delicious as my last fluid intake & off I went, chatted to a guy who said he didn’t think he could make it – I encouraged him to come along to Mile 25 with me & he did for a while, but dropped off as we came to the last mile. Checked watch something like a 9.53 min mile?!? Oops!! Still way ahead of average pace I had planned beautiful views of the lake I was feeling good but one thing that was messing with my head was the fact my watch had lost distance so I wasn’t displaying the same as the mile markers, what ifs kicked in….  I missed the 26 mile marker somehow (there were ALOT of luminous yellow signs) so I wasn’t sure what I had left to go, the last push to the finish is not fun at all it’s twisty turny, a drag followed by proper uphill – none of us enjoyed that section! But then you round the corner and it’s the down hill of the finish funnel to cross the line, I sprinted, glanced my watch, didn’t dare to believe it! Heard Gareth and Anna shout out, I’d done it!! 4.37.19!!! I’d earned my purple tee and exceeded all of my expectations!! I was over the moon! Anna came over to say well done and tell me that Gareth and Elaine had won prizes & id made it in time to see them – our Marathon day was totally meant to be!

 

Thanks for reading! I would highly recommend Windermere as a challenging but low key road marathon with the joys of the enthusiast marshals and spectacular views to distract you from the hills (definitely not on the fast/flat list!)

Results available here

 

Helvellyn and the Dodds Fell Race, Threlkeld, Cumbria, Sunday, May 28, 2017

AL / 24km /1337m

Elaine Bisson

So I’d stupidly made a deal with myself, if I didn’t run as I hoped at Windermere marathon and could walk down the stairs the next day, I would enter this race. I didn’t run the race I hoped, my ankle had been causing bother, I could walk. I spent the week icing my swollen ankle and rolling my calf…all fun and games to convince my husband this idea was perfectly reasonable!

I packed my bag with full compulsory fell kit and had had a wonderful sleep. This race doesn’t start until 12, I could almost lie in (we have three kids) and still have breakfast and drive the two hours to the race headquarters at Threlkeld cricket club. I knew what was in store having recced this with Geoff and Susan the previous summer. Susan had then suggested that I try the race at which time I’d thought her quite mad, especially as I’d spent a considerable time attempting to come down Clough Head, how a year changes you!

Having registered I returned to hide in my car and stare up at Clough head, then covered in cloud. My second deal was simple, if visibility was poor I’d not run the race but do a training run in the lakes. I rechecked the mountain weather forecast which declared with utmost certainty that all tops would be clear by early afternoon affording spectacular views. Not convinced and chilled by the wind I put on my long sleeved top and returned to the cricket ground to have a few laps warm up.

With ten minutes to spare we all sidled to the start, all kits were checked and a race briefing was held. The only thing I remember as panic rises in my chest “visibility is poor, up to 50m at most, keep maps and compasses to hand. Remember if you come off Clough head too early you’ll come a cropper”.

And so there is Tarmac, about a mile,my ankle no longer likes Tarmac, I could feel the limp coming until open fell and up to Clough Head. It’s steep, there are little foot holds like rungs on a ladder. It’s important to get in the right group early on, I find myself going off piste to cut round slower people. At the top wisps of cloud drift down until it’s full on clag. First checkpoint (there are seven…four out three back, Clough Head, Great Dodd, Raise, Helvellyn) in the bag then I try my best to hang onto the men who were all in fell runner club vests. At times they disappearear and I blindly search for those lithe people rather than starting to follow the walkers heavily laden with kit and clothes. There’s a short section everyone skips around Stybarrow Dodd on a sheer grass drop. It’s grass, there’s a bit of a trod. But yikes I’m far too slow and again they leave me for dust. By Raise, the sky has cleared and I’m sweltering, slowing I take off my long sleeved top then set off again.

This out leg I try to keep pace with those around me,the ups seem almost too comfortable but I want to ensure I have enough left in the tank to get back, especially with last week’s marathon still lingering in my legs. It is a breathtaking place to be, the views are incredible.

The sun blisters down and beats on our backs. It is busy coming up Helvellyn Lower Man, trying to pass the many walkers out and keeping out of the way of the fast runners on their way home..that is a thing of beauty to behold lots of extremely fit runners skipping seemingly effortlessly across the rocks.

Helvellyn in the bag I decide to work harder now, I start to really enjoy myself, my ankle on this soft ground isn’t causing as much bother as I’d thought. By then I’ve fallen in with two men, we chat on the ups and I seem to pull them up, they in turn force me to run faster on the descents.

Now back to Clough head, the descent is grassy but extremely steep. By halfway I’ve really got frustrated with myself, I manage to catch one person but a fair few fly past me, I curse myself for my slowness. Then finally the slope lessens and I am able to stretch out my legs it feels glorious and onto the the final downhill stretch on tarmac. I reach the end elated, I’ve done it. Something last year I don’t think I would have dreamed of going near. I’ve finished 7th lass (as all marshals and runners refer to me) 61st overall. My time 3:09 is reasonable. My ankle isn’t complaining too much. The princely fee of £7 does not afford a race Tshirt or medal but it does give a sense of pride, the most spectacular day out and includes in the cost a fabulous picnic buffet…for runners 2 sandwiches, tomato, 1 cake and a tea or coffee. I fill my napkin and enjoy my picnic on the grassy field looking up to Clough Head deeply satisfied.

I’d done it, perhaps not done it justice, but done it all the same. I knew that the me of last year would be incredibly proud if not slightly gobsmacked. I’ll definitely return to this and give it all I’ve got, it’s a beautiful brute of a race, there’s quite a bit of technical work I need to crack before then though…more days in the lakes then!!!

Results available here