RUNdown – October 2022

Introduction

Welcome to the October issue of Striders’ RUNdown. As I write this, the trees are in orange, yellow and red autumnal splendour. With blue skies and the sun shining, it’s ideal for a restorative run.

This month has seen the London Marathon, Chester Marathon, Kielder Marathon weekend and the Loch Ness Marathon. Striders took part in all of these. We also took part in three cross country events and the British Fell Relays as well as numerous local events. Read about these in more detail in the Shout-Out.

I was very happy to interview someone I have wanted to interview for a while, and that is Michael Littlewood, our Men’s Captain. You can read about his inspiring running history in the Strider Chat. This is followed by a tried and tested recipe for Tamsin’s Energy Bars.

As you will have seen, Diane Soulsby is the cover model this month. This photo illuminates her happy and friendly nature. Diane was a wonderful person. Our thoughts are with Stephen and his family at this very sad time.

Take care everyone,

Tamsin
Ladies’ Captain, writer and editor of Striders’ RUNdown
Malcolm Sygrove, sub-editor and publisher of Striders’ RUNdown

The Strider Shout-Out

Big City Events and Marathons
London Marathon

Several of you have been training over the summer for a big city marathon this month. The London Marathon took place on Sunday 2nd October. Five Elvet Striders ran. Kirsty Nelson ran a great time of 4:37 and raised over £2000 for the charity PANS PANDAS UK. This charity supports children and families who have children with PANS (Paediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome) and PANDAS (Paediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections). Further information about this charity can be found on their website by following this link.

Sarah Fawcett also ran the London Marathon, although she looks so fresh in her finish photo you might not think so! Amazing Sarah, well done! Allan Renwick and Michael Mason flew round, running it in really speedy times of 3:08 and 2:44 respectively. Well done both. Stuart Scott completed the marathon as an event, not a race, and enjoyed absorbing the atmosphere, experience and city sights.

Chester Marathon

Meanwhile, at the same time, Michael Littlewood was running the Chester Marathon as one of the Masters England Team, wearing his England vest. Amazing! He did a fast time of 2.44 and came 5th in his age category.

Loch Ness Marathon

Also on this day was the Loch Ness Marathon. Malcolm Sygrove ran this in a brilliant time of 4:30. This is a road marathon, which begins near the southern most point of Loch Ness, then follows the shoreline all the way along Loch Ness to finish in Inverness. Therefore you run through stunning Highland Scenery all the way. The route profile shows the first part to be hilly but with an overall downhill trend, then it flattens off. Malcolm may say otherwise though!

Yorkshire Marathon

Tim Mathews, with two friends from the Durham Triathlon Club, ran in the Yorkshire Marathon this month. Well done Tim.

Amsterdam Marathon

David Oxlade ran in the Amsterdam Marathon! He says the weather was fantastic on the day and he enjoyed it. Read David’s own account here.

Kielder Marathon

The Kielder Marathon, half marathon and 10k race weekend took place this month, all of which are popular races with this club. This year two Striders, Marika Kostusiak and Nic Down ran the 10k race and ran really well despite the rain, finishing in 1:01.

Manchester Half-marathon

Seven Striders took part in this competitive city race. You all did fantastic. Marc Watson shaved 3 minutes off his PB, running in a time of 1:56. Mark Kearney and Bryan Potts (whose own report of the race can be found here) ran amazing times of 1:13 and 1:16 respectively. Jo Robertson also ran a fast time of 1:44. Well done Jo. Alan, Aileen and Kirsten Scott ran really well, getting times of 1:58, 2:26 and 2:41. Fantastic!

Other Races
Trail Outlaws Penshaw 10k Race

This is a pretty trail run up to and around Penshaw Monument and along the River Wear. Lisa Lumsdon, John Bean, Sophie Dennis and Phil Swinburn ran. They all got great times for a hilly trail event (1:25, 1:01, 1:27 and 1:16 respectively), well done guys.

Yorkshire Reservoir Dogs Ultra (Punk Panther Endurance Events)

This ultra is 50 miles of rural north Yorkshire, taking trails around seven reservoirs, through Stainburn Forest and past Almscliffe Crag. Anna Grubert trained hard and took on the challenge. She did really well coming 3rd Lady and 6th overall.

Round Ripon Ultra

This is a 35 mile race also in Yorkshire, organised by the Ripon Runners. It takes place within the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is circular, starting and finishing in the village of Studley Roger. The route is on trail paths through moorland and woodland. Paul Stockil took part and ran a brilliant time of 9 hours.

York 10 Mile Road Race

This race is organised by Run for All. It takes place within the city, passing many city sights and ending at the University. It looks well organised and has pacers every 5 minutes. Mark Kearney and Phil Ray smashed it, running 56:45 and 58:24 respectively.

Devil’s Foot Trail Race

This beautiful trail race organised by Trail Outlaws follows the Southern Upland Way between Lauder and Melrose in the Scottish Borders. There is a hard finish with the ascent of the Eildon Hills. Heather and Theresa enjoyed this race and came 16th and 7th Ladies. Well done!

Essity Prudhoe Miners Run

This is a fun, local road race of 5 miles, organised by the Prudhoe Plodders with good prizes and cake at the end. Lynne Waugh enjoyed this race, well done!

Hadrian’s Wall Half-marathon

There used to be a ‘Hadrian’s Wall Half-marathon’ in the past, that was run by a different organisation and took a different route – a circular route along the wall then headed north then circled back through the forest. Well, this one is a new one, run by Wild Deer Events, which is a linear route from Housesteads Roman Fort, along the wall, then south to and along the Tyne Valley back to Hexham. Myself and Dave Forster took part. I was in two minds to go, as I was recovering from a horrible cold. I decided on the morning to go, with a more tempo run planned and a plan to make use of the opportunity for hot drinks before the run at the friendly Housesteads cafe. I am so pleased I went. It is such a beautiful route, with stunning views in clear sunshine. Hilly, muddy and boggy with big downhills overall. I will definitely go back and do this route as a run. This would be easily possible by parking in Hexham (at Tyne Green Park parking is free for first 24 hours) and taking the public bus to Housesteads. Or you could cycle to Housesteads and collect your bike from there after (there is a bike lock at the Housesteads car park).

Faulds Brow Galoppen

Geoff Davis took part in this tough orienteering race organised by the Border Liners Orienteering Club. The race location was over some exposed and featureless moorland near Caldbeck in North Lakeland. He chose the blue course which had 17 controls you had to find. He did really well coming 1st in his age group and 9th overall!

Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultramarathon

Aaron Gourley ran this 38 mile (with 2800ft elevation) trail race from Jedburgh and back. He did it in 08:07. Well done Aaron!

parkrun

We have had some amazing achievements at parkrun this month. Sam Jackson has come first place at Riverside parkrun twice. Andrew Race came first at Herrington parkrun. Liam came first at Workington parkrun and at Hartlepool parkrun. Bryan Potts came first at Peel parkrun in Manchester. Well done all!

Team Events
Cross Country Harrier League Druridge Bay and Lambton Castle Fixtures

This month saw two Harrier League fixtures. At the start of the month was the Druridge Bay fixture. Conditions were sunny, grassy and bumpy underfoot. The Ladies’ Team came 9th (countersmyself, Anna Ting running her first cross country race, Anna Basu and Emma McCabe). The men’s team performed well coming 5th (counters Sam Jackson who came 6th!, Andrew Race who came 19th running from the medium pack, David Milligan who came 22nd, James McNaney running from the fast pack, Alex Collier and Mark Warner). Following this fixture the Ladies were in 8th place and the Men in 4th place (both in First Division) overall.

The Lambton Castle cross country fixture took place at the end of the month. Well done everyone for running so well, and especially well done to Anna Basu for being promoted to fast pack. Our overall standings are now men in 5th place in the first Division and women in 8th place in the First Division. Bring on Aykley Heads!

Well done to all new (and old) Striders that ran cross country for the first time, or that did so at Wrekenton.

NECAA Cross Country Relays
© Stuart Whitman Photography

These took place at Thornley Farm. Four teams entered and did very well. Congratulations to the male vets team who came 2nd place (Michael Mason, David Milligan and Michael Littlewood) and earned some very shiny medals. Congratulations also to the Senior men’s team who came 4th (Sam Jackson, Andrew Race and Bryan Potts). Well done to the Senior women’s team for coming 7th (Nina Bojadzic, Rachelle Mason and Anna McCleod). Well done to the second male vets team who came 11th (Allan Renwick, Ian Butler and Lindsay McEwan).

British Athletics Fell and Hill Relays 2022 (hosted by Carnethy Hill Running Club)

This event took place in the steep hills near Carnethy in Scotland. A mixed team from the Elvet Striders entered. This was Ellen Powell (leg 1), Stuart Scott and Steven Lonsdale (Leg2), Nina Mason and Emma McCabe (leg 3) and Graeme Watt (leg 4). Leg 1 was a solo leg which was marked and was 7.8km with 550m climb. Leg 2 was a paired marked leg of 11.2km with 890m climb. Leg 3 was a paired navigation leg (distance and elevation depending on the route you chose to reach the set dibber points, and leg 4 was a solo marked route of 7.8km and 520m.

They did really well coming 14th mixed team. These photos by Neil Renton (of Carnethy Hill Running Club) and Ellen Powell capture the event well.

 

Club Activities
Purple parkrun

We had a Purple parkrun at the start of the month at Durham parkrun. It was lovely to see you all. Special mention to Alex Collier who ran his 100th parkrun that day AND who ran really well getting a Durham parkrun PB. Also to mention is that Andrew Race came 2nd and Nina Bojadzic came 1st lady. It was great to see Liam and Anna Linfoot, thanks for your support and photographs. Thanks to all parkrun volunteers including Striders Susan Davis, Allan Renwick (who helped scan bar codes after running the parkrun, which he is able to since he runs fast!), and Jan Young. Sorry if I have missed anyone.

Halloween Club Run

A fun evening was had with a large group of spooky striders running round Houghall Woods in the dark! It was made even more spooky by zombie encounters!

The Drop

A group of Striders were voluntarily blindfolded and driven to unknown locations in the dark, where then it was a race to make their way back to the cathedral before the other contestants! This was organised by Stuart Scott. It was a highly successful and adventurous evening and Stuart has plans for another Drop soon!

Ladies Running through the Menopause Group

Now this group is established I have handed over leadership to the capable hands of Penny Browell. She is an enthusiastic leader and has many plans. The second meeting is about to happen soon and I believe Penny has invited speakers who are knowledgeable in this field. Do contact her if you wish to join.

Thank you to all run leaders, coaches and volunteers this month. We have had an excellent selection of weekly runs to choose from.

Strider Chat: Interview with our Men’s Captain, Michael Littlewood

I was delighted to interview Michael. He has a very impressive running history as you will see, as he has gone from couch to England vest! His ambition, focus and determination are inspiring.

When did you start running and why?

I started running in 2014 because I was overweight. So, it was to lose weight. It was part of dieting. I was 18 ½ stone and was classed as obese. Another reason I started was similar to why a lot of runners start, I was suffering from depression as well. It was to get fit, lose weight and make myself happier. I had not done any sport before then in my life, other than a bit of football, a little bit of running at school. I had also ran the Great North Run with my Mam at the age of 12…. I was still definitely a ‘non-runner’ and very unfit. I actually started running on 1st January 2014, because it was a New Year’s resolution. I have now been running for eight years!

I started simply. I looked at the clock on the wall, did a 4.5-mile loop, ran it, got in, looked at the clock, it was about an hour later, thought ‘ah that’s good’. Then I went out the next day, did exactly the same loop, looked at the time again and I wasn’t any faster and I was a bit disappointed! Because I expected a change in 24 hours (he laughs). I then did that four days in a row and then realised I couldn’t run on the fifth day. I had no idea about running! So, I had a day or two off because I couldn’t walk, then I just did the same thing again. I found it really hard. I kept on running four times a week. I threw myself in at the deep end. I wouldn’t recommend this to anybody.

Then I started reading a bit about it, finding out you needed a long run and a short run. I had a four-and-a-half-mile loop and a six mile loop which was my long run. I didn’t do any quality work. I then did a couple of half marathons and 10k. The first half marathon I did was in the April. It was the Sunderland half marathon. I was wearing that many clothes. I had jackets on and coats and base layers on. I had no idea about pacing. I didn’t have a watch. I was aiming for under 100 minutes, and I think I did 92 minutes. At one point, the guy running next to me said I’d be on for 88 minutes, but I hadn’t planned for the last three miles, so I got slower. I learned from that.

I really wanted to do the Great North Run properly and have a time target for it. It was my second half marathon, and I did it in 1:26. I did my first marathon straight after that, at Kielder. I learnt a lot of lessons there. My longest training run had only been 14 ½ miles, so I was undercooked. I thought I was big and clever after the Great North Run. I had no respect for the distance. I think I went through halfway in 90 minutes, after doing 86 minutes in the Great North Run. Second half: two hours. I had a lot of problems there. I got over the finish line in 3:30 hours, which is quite respectable for Kielder, it’s a tough course, especially for a first marathon!

Tamsin: Three and a half! Most people would be very happy with that!

Michael: (He laughs) But I should have run it a lot cleverer. I remember the last four miles I could hardly move. I learnt my lessons.

When did you join Elvet Striders?

In 2014 I lost a lot of weight quickly, I lost 7 stone in 6 months. As I was dieting and running. It was definitely not the right way, I would not recommend that. I was a lot happier though and never looked back. Wendy started saying to us, “What are you going to do after a year of running?” I said “Well, I will keep running and after a year if I still like it, next January I will join a running club”. Also, I did want to get faster. I was competitive. I had talked to a guy after the Great North Run who had done it in 1:22 and I was wowed by that. I thought what do I need to do to do that? So, I joined Elvet Striders 1st January the next year (2015).

I turned up to my first session at Striders and there was so much snow it was nearly snowed off. It was a short 5 miler round the town. I didn’t know anyone in the club when I joined. I turned up, stood in the entrance of Maiden Castle with about 100 people, as everyone used to meet there at the same time then. Really nervous. The first person I talked to at the club was Andrew Davies.

Then I went to track sessions. I got wrong off Allan Seheult within the first few months, cos I used to just turn up and run really fast, as fast as I could and then be really worn out halfway through the session. Allan pulled us to one side and said, “Michael it’s not a race you know, it’s a track session.” But I was like, “It is! I’m coming down for a race, I’m racing people!”

Then, Wendy was nice enough to buy me a Steve Cram training weekend in February. I went to this weekend, it was up in Kielder. I learnt so much that weekend at all the lectures. But the more important surprise was on my drive home, Wendy rang me to tell me she could get me a London Marathon place through work (she works at Virgin Money who sponsored the marathon, and they held a friends and family ballot). It was that April. I said “Well, I’ve no idea if I can but I’ll do it anyway”. So next week at Striders I was into marathon training!

I had about six weeks to get ready! I was talking to people at Striders about marathon plans. I had a target in mind, which was sub-3. I loosely worked out from plans that I needed to do 5 long runs of about 20 miles each within the training plan. So that’s what I did. When I started doing that, I realised I needed some rest days. I used to have Monday and Tuesday off, cos I was broken after doing the long run. I used to go to track on the Wednesday, do my fast parkrun when I could. Although my target was sub-3, I had a second target which was sub-3:05, because 3:05 was Good for Age (I wanted to be able to qualify for a Good for Age place for the following year). That was my ‘B’ target. So, me, Wendy and the boys went down to London! That was one of my first great achievements. I got 2:59:51. I got in by 9 seconds. It was a tough, tough marathon. I ran it well. It was an eye-opener on how hard marathons are, even when they are flat. I thought it was going to be easy compared to Kielder, but no, it’s just a different type of hard.

Tamsin: I agree. There’s no change in rhythm during a flat road race, it’s the same muscles constantly, no break.

Michael: Exactly.

Tamsin: So when did you think, hang on, I might have some talent with running?

Michael: Never thought that really. I had ambitions to get things. I ran on a bit with the club, then a couple of months after that I was approached by Allan Seheult to run in his small, coached group – the ‘Fast Lads’. It used to be on a Monday night and 10-12 people would go to that. He offered to give me a coaching plan and I started being coached by him. He gave me a weekly plan. He continued to coach me after that for all my races. Allan got a lot out of me that first year. I always had bigger ambitions than my ability would allow. I wanted to aim for a sub 2:45 in the London Marathon the next year. My goals were always marathon times. I didn’t quite achieve it, I got 2:47. It was said that training for a year with Allan you might hope for a 12-minute improvement, which I had done more or less. It doesn’t sound a lot but it’s nearly 30 seconds a mile pace faster. I also improved my half marathon time by eight minutes. It was Allan’s structured and consistent training that did this. It made a lot of difference to me as did his friendship and support. I have never since been able to find someone to coach me so well.

How many marathons have you raced now?

To date I have raced hard, 15, but probably ran 30 in total. My favourite route has been the Boston marathon. It’s just such an amazing atmosphere. Yellow American school buses take you to the start, which is at a big American school. You wait there for an hour, where there is some entertainment. Then you walk half a mile to the start line. The route is linear and goes through seven American towns all the way to end in Boston city. Every town is just full of support for you, better than London support, and London is amazing. You see movies about New England and see roads with leaves getting blown across the roads, and it was exactly that. And it had a bit of everything, down hills and uphills and beautiful views. Cityscape at the end. You go past skyscrapers. It was just amazing. Made all the more incredible by having a big group of Strider friends and family share the experience.

What are your proudest running achievements?

You know what, last week I ran for England, and that should be my greatest achievement, I loved it. I loved qualifying for it, even though it was an horrendous marathon (The Milton Keynes Marathon). The Milton Keynes Marathon was a horrible course, like running Durham parkrun eight times. I exceeded my target and got 2:41. A weird experience though, this was the first marathon I had raced without any friends or family actually there as it was still under lockdown conditions and a staggered start.

Running for England, it was a brilliant day and an amazing achievement. But I think the thing that equals that is the London Marathon. I got sub-2:45 in 2017 which was British Championship time. In 2016 I had run 2:47. I put a lot of mental effort into the race. It was probably the hardest I have ever run and the most I have ever hurt myself in a race. Again, it was another race where I made it by seconds, I got 2:44:51. I look back at that and it still makes me emotional thinking about that now, I went through turmoil to get that. I knew I would never run as hard as that again. I went to a really dark place at points along the course.

Some races, stars align, and this is what happened at Kielder one year – 2019. Usually every year, I train hard for London and then hard for Kielder, but this one year I decided not to train as hard for Kielder. I just did my normal training. I was running the race, and I was in 4th place, but at about 6 miles in, people started to come past me and I went down to 18th place. I got to 12 miles in and thought, no, no more are going to come past Michael, you are just going to stick with the next person and just see how far you can last. The next guy came alongside, and I thought, he’s running faster than you but just try and keep up with him. And keep up with him, I did. I got to 18 miles, round the bay and there was a climb and he just fell off pace. I thought I’m just going to go past you here, and he just fell off us. I ran to the dam wall and saw the leading lady ahead, I thought, right I’m going to catch her. She was maybe 200m ahead. I caught her and went ahead. Then I saw some other people ahead and thought, okay let’s see if I can catch them, and I just started passing people. Something just clicked in my brain, and I was running about 30 seconds per mile quicker than I was running earlier. I went from 18th and finished 4th. I looked back at the stats and saw I was the fastest person in the last eight miles of that race on that day. The year before I had trained really hard and done it in 2:59. Well, this time I did it in 2:54. My ambition at Kielder was always to finish on the podium, and that time most years was good enough to finish on the podium, (seeing as both my sons have in their junior races!!). It’s just that year people were a bit faster, but I thought, how I ran that marathon, the stars aligned and it’s probably my greatest ever run.

So, don’t get me wrong, running for England was a massive achievement and I will put a photo from that in a frame on the mantelpiece, but my greatest marathon was that time at Kielder. I have never felt so strong in the second half of a marathon.

You mentioned the mental toil of a hard race. How do you recover from that, or would advise runners to recover from that, from your experience?

I always give myself 4-6 weeks to recover physically after a marathon. Following that, for 2-3 months I may race, and run hard, but I don’t run so hard that I hurt myself. I call these B races. I allow myself to have bad races. Always after London is the Pier-to-Pier race, and I call it my ‘shit’ race. I still run hard, but I don’t dig deep. I go nowhere near any serious pain. I think as well, you’ve only got so many races you can hurt yourself in mentally. I think you only have so many marathons in you that you can race that hard.

What has been your worst running experience?

That was the London Marathon in October. I’ll give you a little history into it which starts at the beginning of 2021.

I trained really hard at the start of the year hoping for a spring marathon although due to COVID restrictions, this would be unlikely – I was really only doing the training to keep Stephen company who was working towards his upcoming Elite Cheshire Marathon.

Corrine said to me, ‘Why don’t you do the Milton Keynes Marathon? It’s a qualifying race for England.’ It was 8-9 weeks away and seemed possible to go ahead. Also, Stephen had faith in my ability and also suggested I do it. I thought, “Hold on, I’ve just done a marathon plan, so I’ll do that”. So, I put in my entry. Then it was postponed due to Covid to the end of June. So basically, I ended up marathon training for 22 weeks, but the consequence was although yes, I had peaked a little early, I had done 20 weeks of long runs, 20 weeks of tempo running, 20 weeks of 80-90 miles, I was in the shape of my life. I hit 5k and 10k times I had never dreamed of. I am not at that level now. Got to Milton Keynes, I did 2:41 but I was in 2:38 shape.

Then I made some mistakes. I was recovering well, but after 4 weeks we went to Jersey on holiday and I decided to do the Round the Rock Ultra (47 miles and 7,000ft ascent – a lap of the circumference of Jersey). It was too soon. I said I was going to run it slowly but I ended up running hard, got in the top ten, got a gold medal, really happy with that. Then I went into proper recovery and didn’t run for two weeks.

But then the week after it was the Great North Run. I thought, right, I can still do a half-marathon. So, I ran that, I was actually running quite well, but got to the last mile and a half and I got cramp in my hamstring. I’ve never had cramp in my whole running life – clearly a sign of fatigue. I hobbled in, thought, “Right what am I going to do? I’ve got London in a few weeks”. I wrote off being able to get a good time. I wasn’t being stupid; I wasn’t going to London to run fast. I was just going to run hard. I lasted 13 miles then the cramp came back. I had to jog in for the remaining 13 miles. I went through the thought process of dropping out. But what was in my head, was once you’ve stepped off a race, I think it gives you that mental option in the future to do it again. I normally run marathons in 6 min miles, I was now running 8 min miles and everyone was coming past. That was because I was stupid that year. I just did too much. It was a great year, but after Milton Keynes I should have just gone into recovery. Doing an ultra, then a half, it was too much. After London it cost me. I was only just coming back in January 2022, but then got Covid, then I was just playing catch up since then. It has affected my running, but I am slowly starting to make progress now.

Tell me about how you became Men’s Captain.

Bullied into it (he laughs). I originally had no interest in it. Then one day I got six messages asking me if I would fancy it. That planted a little seed in the brain. I talked to Wendy, and she said, “Are you sure?” I said I’d do it if she helped me. So, it was kind of thrust upon me. But I honestly have to say I think it’s the best thing I have ever done. I have loved it.
I love supporting people and seeing others improve. I also like the pressure of having to set an example – it gives me more focus and ambition to keep on running hard as I also expect it of others. But I will say I think all Captains have a shelf life, so one day somebody else is going to have to come and do it.

What is the qualifying time to get into the England Marathon Masters team?

They don’t have a specific time as such. In a qualifying race, they will take the first five finishers in every age group. This year at Manchester, the first five were all sub-2:40. That was a high standard. At Milton Keynes the field was easier, I think I came 1st in my age group. You just have to be lucky, as it depends on who turns up. I was in the 45-49 age group. It goes all the way up to >85 years. There was a gentleman I met at Milton Keynes who broke the over 60 British marathon time and ran it in 2:39!

After you have qualified for England, you can then enter another qualifier to enter the World Masters age group marathon race. This may be held anywhere in the World. You can do this for 10k, half-marathon, marathon, and cross country. The Elvet Striders who have done this before include Stephen Jackson who ran for England for cross country. Anyone can try running for England, you just go to the England Athletics website to find out where the qualifying races are. If you qualify you can then run in home nation races.

Tamsin: Are you allowed to wear your England vest at any race?

Michael: Yes!

Tamsin: Make sure you wear it at parkrun!

Michael: I’ve got two vests, shorts but I didn’t buy the whole shell suit or anything like that as it was going to be too expensive. But when I turned up at London some people had bought the whole kit! I could still go back at the end of the year and buy it all (he laughs).

What are your future running goals?

My future goals are to run a sub-2:40 marathon and a sub-1:16 half marathon. I want to complete the Abbott World Marathon Majors. This is running all six high profile city marathons; London, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, New York and Tokyo, to compete in an age group competition to qualify for the Wanda Age Group World Championships. Your best two times from the six marathons are used to qualify. All runners that complete all six marathons win a six-star medal. I aim to help Striders win as many competitions as possible including the cross-country harrier league. My final goal is to be one of the fastest 50-year-olds in England.

What advice would you have for other runners?

First one, and this is a borrowed phrase from a podcast, but I believe in it, is “Trust in the process”. It’s consistency that makes you better. Consistency and having a plan. It’s the long game, doing your long runs, doing your speedwork.

Secondly, most of the time, don’t run too fast. There are people that run 80/20, I don’t follow that, but when I am not doing my track, parkrun or tempos, I am running slow. I am not struggling, I can chat.

Thirdly, what works for me, tempo runs are a big part of running. Whatever race you are aiming for, run tempos at that pace. I did 20 weeks where I would be running my target marathon pace, anything from 5-12 miles. My target pace for Milton Keynes was 6-minute miles. So, I would run 10 miles in an hour. I would run 12 miles in 1 hour 12 minutes, or 5 miles in 30 minutes, but on the shorter tempo runs I wouldn’t run quicker because I could, it would still be 6-minute miles. It’s not about running fast, it’s about controlled pacing, getting the body used to that pace. Then when I was doing a track session, then I would run faster. I would be going really hard.

Fourthly, run your own race. Follow your own time goal. Don’t run someone else’s race, don’t follow someone, or chase them. You’ll just blow up. I’ve seen some Striders run their own race really well. Graeme Watt, he will let everyone else go in a 10k, then he drops the hammer at three miles to go, reels them all in, and goes from 8th to 1st Strider, I’ve seen it happen. He is mentally strong enough to run his own race.

Michael’s PBs (as they stand on 11th October 2022)

  • parkrun/5k: 17:21
  • 5 miles: 28:31
  • 10k: 34:23
  • 10 miles: 58:30
  • Half marathon: 1:17:36
  • 14 miles: 1:25:02
  • 20 miles: 2:05:.05
  • Marathon: 2:41:59

In 2021 Michael had the fastest 5k, 10k, and marathon age group (V45) times in the Northeast. He ranked as the fastest V45 male in the Northeast.

In 2022 he has the fastest marathon age group time in the Northeast, and placed well in other distances, so is still ranking fastest male V45 in the Northeast!

Thanks so much Michael for sharing your running experience with us and for your time. Thanks for all you do for the club within your role as Men’s Captain, it is appreciated.

Tamsin’s Running Bars

The idea of bars involving dried fruit and nuts is nothing new. Many brands of energy bars are available in shops. But don’t you think homemade always sounds nicer? The main ingredient of these particular bars is dates. The aim is to create ‘cold pressed’ bars. Sounds so good, yeah? I tried making these bars a few years ago, one December, but disaster struck! The problem with dates is that they are so hard and unsquishable. They would survive most world disasters I am sure. Last time, after pounding them in a bowl for an hour they looked the same. I had tried to soften them by adding cold water. No change. I had tried to soften them with hot water. Still no change. I had then tried heating them in the oven. Still tough as leather boots and looking like leather boots! I was starting to dislike them intensely. In a last attempt, I reached for the electric blender. After a few whirls the blender was set on fire! I had thrown it out of the window in a panic where it fell into a pile of snow, disappearing from sight! The sudden lack of evidence that anything had happened was very calming.

I decided that Saturday 15th October 2022 was the day to try again. Two years having passed had softened the memory and given me a new steely determination about it. So, I went to the shops and bought the ingredients, which are:

  • A punnet of dates (this one was 200g)
  • One handful of raisins
  • Two handfuls of crushed almonds (or nut of choice).
  • A dash of cocoa powder (my ‘dash’ was quite a generous one, as in 3 tablespoons, but you might want to reduce your size of ‘dash’ as being a powder it did not blend easily with the other ingredients, which, as described, are not very blendable anyway).

Method:

Put the dates into a bowl and harness your inner determination. Get a rolling pin and pound them. View it as a strength and conditioning session for the arms. Keep going. Still keep going. Okay, take a moment to chop the dates, (maybe if they are smaller they will squish?) then resume strength and conditioning. This time, for me, after half an hour the dates looked exactly the same as they had half an hour earlier. I don’t like giving up, but this clearly was not working even with extra determination, so I wondered if a different strategy should be employed.

Take a moment away from the dates to crush the nuts. I used the little sealable plastic bags that come in the Covid test kits to do this and a rolling pin.

I now had plan B, which is: put all ingredients in a bowl together and stir them up.

Pour the mixture into the centre of a dry, clean tea towel. Then fold the tea towel so they are securely within a ‘square’ of tea towel.

Get two very heavy objects. Two weights worked well. Place the tea towel and contents between the two weights then stand on top. Rock from side to side. Jump up and down. Spin round so the upper weight spins and the lower weight is stationary. Do this for 5 minutes plus.

 

Take a tea towel of contents out from between the weights and unwrap. You will now have a perfectly smooshed square of dried fruit and nuts! Cut into slices and hey presto you have energy bars!

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