Monthly Archives: April 2019

The Schneider Electric Marathon De Paris 2019, Sunday, April 14, 2019

Mike Barlow

I suppose it’s about time I wrote a race report, I’ve been a member now for 2yrs and so far, managed to dodge that obligation, well I can dodge no more…

In my mind the Marathon is the pinnacle of running achievement, it is what I have aspired to since being a child and witnessing my Grandad knock out several as an Elswick Harrier. But as life unfolded, and my only running achievement since school was a 2:01 GNR in 2004, it appeared that particular ‘dream’ would elude me.

Fast forward 14ish years…I had (once) mentioned to Stef that I would like to do a marathon, well she’s not one to forget things like that! A chance conversation with another Strider, lead Stef to making a speculative application to the 2019 Paris Marathon (on my behalf and without my knowledge!), assuming it would be a ballot like London, she gave it a go, and to her and more importantly my surprise it was accepted…

When I got over the shock and realisation started kicking in, I needed a plan, so I summoned the wisdom of the search-engine, and after much sifting, I settled on a 16-week sub-3:30 Runners World training plan, I decided to bin the first 3-weeks as I was already up to the mileage required from week-4. So, after 11-weeks of hard mileage, the 2-weeks of tapering began, and as predicted the onset of ‘maranoia’ took hold, I felt nowhere near ready, but as I chatted to those with far more experience than me, I put my faith in their wisdom and cracked on with the reduced miles, enjoying the protein and carb loading days (note to self: red wine is not carb-loading!)…

We arrived in Paris on the Friday, loads of time to get settled, get sorted and relax, fast forward the boring bits…

So now I’m in the 3hr15 pen, freezing cold and nervous as, the atmosphere was tense, I was playing over my race-plan, discussed with and amended by Allan at the awards night…8mm for 5 miles, then 7:30 for as long as I could hold on for…The Lord Mayor of Paris said something in French and I assume, started the race…

After the elites and wheelchairs had gone, the 3hr lot shot off, we then made our way down, this is it…I’m off, this feels ok, a glance at the watch, slow down…I settled around 7:50 (I’m sure Allan wouldn’t mind) felt good, people were tearing off passed me, don’t get lured into a race within the first mile, Got a cheer at 1-km from Stef, gave a wave and a smile, then concentrated on following the green-line…Mile-1 flashed up on my watch 7:41mm (oops), it’s near enough…As it turns out, that was my slowest mile of the race. So as the miles unfold, I check my pace, feel comfortable, I’m taking water at every station and food where available, I have gels, salt chews and gummy things given out at the expo, I feel in good shape…but as I approach mile-10, my right foot starts bothering me, right on the ball under my big-toe – Heat lead to pain, a feeling familiar to us all – blisters!! Typical, I had read a quote that became my mantra, ‘The first half you run with your head, the second half with your heart’. I thanked my head and summoned my heart, it was at this point I also told my Grandad I needed him…

I passed the half-marathon point in 1:33, great, I’m going well, feeling good (apart from the foot which I’m ignoring!) and now I can count down the miles…You would think that given I am running in one of the worlds most beautiful cities, I would be reeling off landmark after landmark, but apart from the river and the Schneider Electricity HQ (race sponsor), I can’t remember any of them, I didn’t even appreciate the majesty of the Arc de Triumph at the start line!

Anyway, as I get through the 20-mile mark, two Parkruns left, I’m feeling ok, still got a couple of gels left for ‘the wall’…The last 6.2 miles, was pretty brutal, do not pay any attention to Strava, the elevation in those final two Parkruns was greater than anything I’ve ever done before, a cruel trick by the organisers!

I complete one of the two Parkruns, I’m still moving, still ok(ish), one Parkrun left, omg I think I’m actually going to do it…I can hear the cheers from the crowds at the finish line, 2k left…1k…350m I get a massive cheer from Stef and a couple of complete strangers with her…I see the line, just keep going…nearly there…I’m on the green-carpet, and throw myself over the line…I did it…I look at my watch, 3:12:40, I hug the man next to me, that moment of a shared achievement, monumental, I hear my name, and look to see Stef beaming, emotion envelopes me, I’m walking in a haze, I just want to get out and see my wife, I collect my T-shirt, medal, other bits thrust into my hand, then I notice the escape route, I head out and scan the crowds for Stef, she flies toward me…I did it, hun, I actually did it!

So, will I do another marathon? Probably

Would I do anything differently? Definitely, I would not consult the internet for the answers to my questions and definitely not for my training plan.

Would I recommend the Paris Marathon? Yes, the crowds were great, not masses of people, but decent pockets of support (it was Paris-Roubaix grand depart also), rock bands, steel drum bands, jazz bands, shouts of Allez allez allez, great volunteers, well organised, easy to get to start and so I’m told, some beautiful architecture en-route.

To all of you that have advised, encouraged, helped and inspired me over the past 2-years (some of you may know who you are, others will not) I owe you a massive thank-you.

ASICS Manchester Marathon, Sunday, April 7, 2019

Jan Panke

Flat course with ups and downs,
My journey to Manchester

Until 7.4.2019 I was one of the 99.5% of people who have never run a marathon. That has now changed.

How did I get there?

Some 4 1/2 years ago I started C25K with expert coaching from “Laura” who spoke to me from my iPad. I remember how scared I was having to run for 8 full minutes uninterrupted on the treadmill. At the same time, I banned gummy bears from my glove compartment and managed to lose about 3 stone in weight. I did Parkruns, built up to the GNR and other half-marathons and started to train for Kielder Marathon in 2017. Training went well and I got up to 30k on the railway paths. 3 days later, I ran Durham City 10k and halfway through I got an almighty pain in my plantar fascia. Hobbling the last 5k to the finishing line was a big mistake as I could not run (or even walk) for a good while. That injury stopped me running for 4 months during which I lost stamina, endurance and speed …the only thing I didn’t lose during that time was weight.

After the injury, I decided that something had to change. A friend told me about Nick Constantine, a Chi running coach in Whitley Bay. I had a single coaching session with Anna. My running was filmed, analysed and criticised. To my horror, I noticed that I ran like a cartoon character (legs half a meter ahead of the rest of the body and my shoulders hiding tight behind my shoulder blades). It looked absolutely hideous. So, back to basics. Learn to run again from scratch. Inspired by McDougall’s “Born To Run” (a must read for every runner) and Ken Bob’s “Barefoot Running”, I decided to give barefoot a go. For 6 weeks my skin hit grass (that is the most soothing experience when you have plantar fasciitis), tarmac and gravel. …and no, I did not encounter any dog-do or glass splinters. Very slowly I changed my running style and gained some strength back. But I still lacked confidence, always worrying about overdoing it and getting plantar fasciitis again.

In October 2018, I got my usual “Sorry” magazine and the too small running top from Virgin London Marathon (I’ve got a collection of those now) and decided to enter Manchester Marathon instead. After looking around and checking with others, I decided to download and print the ASICS training plan. A super plan which helps you to train 4 times a week with speed sessions, Parkruns, long runs, fartleks, recovery runs and strength training to get you around a marathon in under 4 hours. The plan is still completely unfollowed on my bedside table. I didn’t dare to do speed sessions, being frightened to get my dreaded plantar fasciitis again.

In February Anna and I joined the “Weekend Longer Runs”-messenger group and for the following weeks, I did a long run every Sunday covering 26, 27, 30, 27, 32, 34, 25 and 18km with a shorter run midweek. During the long runs David Browbank gave me all the advice he collected in his running career (“…a fixed point in the distance does not run away from you”, “don’t start too fast”, “tiredness is only in your mind” and “distract your mind with the 7-times table when you get tired” …). Anna also got me through some very useful strength training following Jeff Horowitz’s “Quick Strength for Runners” book.

On Saturday we drove down to Manchester and met up with a lot of Elvet Striders for a “carb-loading-meal”, arranged by Corrine, in an Italian restaurant. (I think carb-loading is totally overrated; I practised carb-loading for 12 years and at the end, I still struggled to run for a bus!). The next morning was not too hot and not too cold, slightly overcast, perfect running conditions. Luckily I bumped into my running-pal David who started in the same pen as me. We ran together for most of the marathon, relaxed at a decent manageable pace just above 9 min/mile. 10km passed in under 57 min, half marathon mark in under 2 hrs, 30k in 2:49. After 30k I needed to use some of David’s mental tricks to keep me going, concentrating on fixed points ahead of us and running towards them, being happy to have done another short segment. After 35km I had to let
David run off and slow down myself. The flat road ahead felt like running up Redhills Lane and I needed to walk here and there. Even reciting the 7-times table didn’t work and I gave up when I got to “47”. 2 miles before the end I heard a familiar voice shouting for me. Mike Elliott gave me a big shout and run for a bit next to me. Every energy boost was needed to keep me going /running. Then I had Alex Brown overtake me (David and I overtook him much earlier) looking fresh as a daisy and whizzing past me with no signs of tiredness. I didn’t even try to keep up with him. The last 2 miles were crowded with great supporters and somehow I managed to get over the finishing line faster than anticipated after 4:11 hours. That’s nearly as fast as Stephen Jackson (at least per kg of weight that is).

…after all that effort, I still don’t know why Tamsin Imber thinks a marathon is “like a strawberry cheesecake”. But hey, I might do another one and get behind her secret.

Coledale Horseshoe, Briathwaite Village, Lake District, Saturday, April 6, 2019

AM 8.5miles, 3002ft

Nina Mason

Coach checking on my performance and offering gentle, maternal encouragement heading up to Barrow

A traditional Lakeland ‘horseshoe’ round Coledale from Braithwaite Lodge, taking in Grisedale Pike, Crag Hill, and Barrow. As the race map describes it: ‘a superb race with a monster climb at the start, a bit of scrambling in the middle, and a lovely grassy descent to finish’.

This was my first race in the Lakes. Despite other fell races I’ve done, I was very nervous. Mum and I had recce’d the route in fairly wintry conditions a couple of months ago, so I knew what to expect in terms of terrain.

Saturday’s forecast looked good, and when I arrived at Braithwaite (early, to see Mum and Tony at the campsite where they were staying) the day promised to be glorious – sun, clear blue skies, no wind.

The conditions were indeed, I felt, perfect for running. I collected my number (the race was pre-registration only) from the tent in the start/finish field, eyeing up groups of distinctly lean, fit-looking, ‘proper’ fell-runners, while my ‘imposter syndrome’ busily started kicking in. Pre-race nerves were settled a little by bumping into Jack, and then a solitary warm-up.

Then we were off – 300+ runners – through the village to the bottom of the hill and the path leading to Grisedale Pike (cp1). This is, indeed, a decent climb, alleviated briefly by a couple of short flatter sections, and a rocky section nearer the top.

The first climb to a Grisedale Pike, viewed from Barrow on full camera zoom. Spot the Strider vest (made easier as I’m passing a big arrow painted on the grass)

Once I got into my rhythm I felt strong, passing lots of runners (where I was in the field, all of us walking, of course, at this point). It was incredibly hot work – no breeze, and the sun felt very warm. Every time the ascent became less steep I made myself run. I was surprised to pass Jack near the top (he admitted afterwards he had set off a bit too fast) and then we were up at the cairn at Grisedale summit.

A spread of runners all the way across the top, as well as heading along the path in the foreground

From cp1 there is a glorious section of mainly downhill to the Hause, before the cold, wet, slippery Eel Crag – on all fours up here, scrabbling up the rocks Gollum-like, passing some of the bigger guys as I think my (lack of) size advantage told. The views I am told were wonderful…I was too busy looking where I was placing hands and feet.

There was a bit of snow on the tops, a mix of melting slush and some shallow patches. I was so thirsty up here I scooped a handful of snow to suck (yes, yes, only the white snow).

Once up the rocks, it is a very gradual incline to cp2 at the trig point on Crag Hill. I had a slight moment of panic as I tried to run and my legs disobeyed – they were feeling the last steep climb and though they didn’t ache I could barely lift my knees. I managed a fairly undignified shuffle to the trig (though to be fair, the runners around me appeared to be feeling the same).

Then as soon as the gradient changed I was away again, legs obeying, more wonderful downhill, clambering over rocks, another small pull up to Sail (the contour path is out of bounds due to erosion), then springy turf down to Sail Pass, really letting go down here.

Jack looking strong on the last section up to Barrow

From there, gradual descending and a bit of pace, pretty much all the way except for the last short climb up to Barrow (cp3). Mum and Tony were there, surprised at me being about 15 minutes ahead of my expected schedule and cheering me on. From there I pushed on, eye-watering hard (for me!) catching at least half a dozen runners on the final downhill, determined no one was going to pass me (no one did) and into the field to finish. Those at the ‘sharp end’ were already on their third mug of tea when I arrived back, looking as though they were ready to go round again (which no doubt they could). Good to see Jack at the end and compare notes.

This is a great little race – I realise we were very lucky with the weather on the day, but as a first venture into Lakeland running the route is relatively straight-forward (as the pre-race briefing advised us ‘if you feel the need to turn right you are going the wrong way’), it was well-organised, and there was a tent full of tea, coffee, sandwiches and cakes afterwards. Not to mention the views. Which I didn’t fully appreciate until sat basking in the sun afterwards.

I really enjoyed my race; a great day out, very pleased with how I felt, and looking forward to my next venture to the Lakes.


Cannonball Ultra, Canalathon, Sowerby Bridge, Sunday, March 24, 2019

50 k

Gareth Pritchard

I was gutted I couldn’t do the 100k this year, so dropped down to the 50k as I’ve got a marathon soon… Now that’s something a short distance road runner like myself never imagined I’d say. If you’re wondering exactly how this happened? Hopefully, this small report will shed some light, but the short version.

#poweredbyplants and Heart rate running. This event is awesome, give it a go.

After doing well at the 24 hour Leeds Endure24 event last year, I decided to continue to experiment with ultras (anything longer than marathon distance) in 2019. The concern for me was always loosing my top end speed, and that’s the challenge. Trying to do both, ultra and 5k Pb training.

The main goals remain at 5/10k but I’ve now gotten used to running longer and still training through with less recovery time required. The main changes I’ve made are diet and using heart rate to train clever. My mileage and general training remain the same.

I’ve always considered 7 mm an easy recovery pace, HR training zones changed this. I’ll still run 7mm, but definitely not a recovery run. I couldn’t recommend HR training more highly, it will change ur running for the better without a doubt.

So onto the Canalathon 50k race itself, organised by Cannonball Ultras and completely new to me. Anna Seeley did the 100k last year and sung its praises. So after chatting it over, I entered the 50, Anna did the 75, Catherine Smith and Kerry Barnett ran the 50k.

It’s run entirely along the canal banks between Manchester and Sowerby Bridge. No navigation required and a fantastic first/tester ultra for anyone stepping into this awesome world.

Ultra runners are a very different and fantastically friendly bunch of runners. The atmosphere was warm and welcoming from the start. Kit checks were done and lots of exciting chat about the long day ahead.

The 100k and 75k start at Sowerby, the 50k starts at Manchester the half way turn around point. It’s organised so the 50k runners see the others running the other way. This is a great idea, it helps with navigating, as it’s still possible to briefly take a wrong turn. And also gives a strong sense of being part of the same fun event.

The organising team are mostly vegan, so at the checkpoints, all the food is vegan-friendly 👍🌱 other options available post race too. This definitely made things easier for me. I’ve recently embraced the vegan diet fully, more flexiterian tbh. So won’t worry if I accidentally eat something non-vegan. But the difference I’ve seen in the last 4 months now I’m 95% vegan is massively rewarding. I’m lighter, stronger, recover quicker and feeling healthy. Plus I’m loving the variety of foods, such a transition makes.

The bus ride to the start was nerve-racking tbh, I spent most of that trip in the toilet 😱 but I was relaxed at the start and felt good. I still feel out of my depth on these races, they all looked like pros as they limbered up at the start. I resigned myself to sticking to my plan, a good long training run and hopefully finish feeling good.

The first few miles and the leading pack sprang off. I followed a bit behind and settled into a comfortable heart rate zone of 150. This was lower than I’d planned but the pace was still good, so I got into the rhythm and enjoyed the beautiful canal ways leading out of Manchester.

It’s was a beautiful sunny day, and I soon started reeling in the leading pack. I passed the first checkpoint at 10 miles in the lead and feeling really good. It’s a low long climb for
the first 18 miles and you really feel it. The locks get ever closer and I took a few wrong turns too. But my pace remained sub 7 mm and I knew it was going to be a good day.

I loved seeing Anna coming the other way and also Kerry’s partner, Rob who was achieving amazing things by completing the 100k while I just did the 50. The idea of turning around and doing the race again just amazes me, big respect rob.

I knew the course record was low 6:40 mm, for 31 miles 😱 just amazing to think what people can do. I managed 3:35:54 an average of 6:56mm. I won the race and really enjoyed the experience too. Not sure what I’d have done if someone ran at that pace, but the last 4 miles were still extremely painful as 31 miles is a long long way for a 5k runner.

Catherine and Kerry ran together and smiled the whole way around. They loved the friendly checkpoints and marshals. They got a hot tea at one and Catherine introduced Geep into my vocabulary. Grazing geese aka, Geep were spotted on the course 😀

Anna achieved her 75th marathon/ultra distance on the day and also placed 2nd female too. A fantastic ongoing running machine.

6 days post this race I’m writing this, having run a course parkrun PB and feeling awesome. Vegan and HR training are here to stay.