Category Archives: marathon

Venice Marathon, Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sarah Fawcett

Not as impressive a performance as Stephen Jackson’s marathon but he didn’t mention jellyfish!

I promised Catherine Smith that I would write a race report if I finished today. I must have had a feeling it wasn’t going to be as good a result as I hoped.

I booked the Venice Marathon and 5 days in Italy months ago, but yesterday I was thinking of only doing UK ones hereafter.

It’s been stressful as I don’t speak Italian and I’m out here solo. From Airbnb reservation issues to having to navigate every sort of public transport; clocks changing on marathon eve; and, a persistent low-level headache all week, I’ve set the scene for you with all my excuses!

Well the taxi did turn up this morning at the only time I could book and 10-mins early to boot, and I got to the start before anyone else. Have you ever seen a bank of portable loos with no one queuing?

People soon started arriving by the busload, just as the rain and lightning appeared. It became apparent that the baggage buses were going to leave 15-mins ahead of the posters in the tent. The multilingual announcements were very good. The lorries ended up driving to the port then being put on boats to get them to the finish. Such is Venice. Still, ages to visit the loos – manageable queues- yes, I’m obsessed. Good to get out of the eye-watering fug of embrocation in the tent and the flooded floor.


The sun came out and the race started 20-mins earlier than advertised – see a pattern?

The route follows the River Brenta from Stra past glorious 17th and 18th Century villas – the summer residences of rich Venetians. Thinking of the contrast to the snow in Durham yesterday, I was wishing I had shorts on, not 3/4 lengths. All was fine until about 10 miles then I recognised that it was feeling like a slog. A poor halfway time of 2.24 and those demons started working- was I going to be able to finish?

But I had come all this way… From mile 16 I was run/walking and I couldn’t have told you what the scenery was. There was 2km in San Guiliano Park where the expo was and then some industrial area before the beast that was the 4km road and train link from the mainland to the island.

Today it was a headwind and spray and a view of a tumultuous sea. I walked most of it, as did those around me. We were all struggling.

It was a relief to reach Venice out of the wind, marginally, but after crossing a specially constructed pontoon, put across the Grand Canal for the race, it wasn’t long before we were all shocked by the path ahead; it was flooded by the tide for the entire last 2 miles. Not a little puddle, but a gutsy, wave breaking, ankle deep jobbie.

The ramps over the bridges, instead of being dreaded, were welcomed as dry land. This seafront stretch is where I saw the jellyfish on the “ path” and hoped no one was going to tread on it in the same way that I normally observe beetles or slugs on marathon paths.

I was relieved to reach the end. I hadn’t performed well at 5:09, my slowest road marathon, but at least I have the medal. Catherine Smith tells me the flooded end has reached FB if you want a laugh.Would I do it again? Probably not.

I think Venice is a beautiful city to visit but I don’t need to run to it. At this point, I’m not even sure I want to do another marathon!!

[Footnote added by Sarah on 30 October, 2 days after the Marathon:  Actually it is now no laughing matter. By Monday 70% of Venice was flooded in the worst tides they have seen for 50 years.]

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The Chelmsford Marathon 2018, Sunday, October 21, 2018

Stephen Jackson

This is a race that would never have been on my radar at all had it not been on the doorstep for my younger brother, Gerard, who lived a couple of miles outside the City. He had run his first marathon in Manchester in April 2018 and we had agreed to run his ‘hometown’ race later in the year. Gerard had managed a very credible 04:07:22 on his first attempt but felt confident he could follow it up with a better time without the logistics of travelling to a ‘big City’ marathon (and also benefit from doing some proper training).

Having only participated in one road marathon per annum (quite enough, if you ask me) for the previous 3-4 years, I initially intimated I would run with him. In hindsight, that was probably never going to happen with the prospect of racing for a new PB too tempting, having fallen just short of my best at a ‘warm’ London marathon earlier in the year.

It was to be a nice trip, one we were all looking forward to as it coincided nicely with school half term and the weather is always a few degrees warmer in the South-East. However, on the 24th August 2018, my only brother died tragically and that second marathon wasn’t to be.

During that awful first week following Gerard’s death, it occurred to me that he had entered the marathon and at that point, I just hadn’t got round to it. I had a chat with my wife, Vics, and I decided that I would contact the organiser’s to transfer the number into my name and run the race in his honour. The truth was that I was looking for a focus, a reason to maintain some disciplined training. Running continues to be a huge positive in my life, both physically and mentally.

On the morning of Friday 21st September 2018, I wrote myself a 4-week training plan for the Chelmsford marathon. I’d been running 60-80 miles a week throughout the summer and had already ‘banked’ a 25-mile long run with club captains’ new and old (Michael and Gareth). The plan was to do a ‘short and sharp’ focussed build-up using some of the same sessions I’d worked on in previous years with coach Allan. 100 miles, 80 miles, 50 miles, taper; easy.

By the evening of Friday 21st September 2018, I couldn’t walk from my bed to the en-suite bathroom because of a sharp pain in my left calf; the following morning it felt worse. By the Sunday I’d popped the marathon plan in the recycling bin and booked a physio appointment. I’d decided the injury was a calf strain – I was calling it a strain as that sounded less severe than it felt; it felt like I’d torn part of the muscle.

By the Monday morning, I’d seen Neil at Platinum physiotherapy and I was ‘cross training’ by Wednesday; a swim in the pool followed by 45 minutes in the gym. I managed a full seven days without running before I attempted an easy parkrun at Durham (mostly on grass).

The following two weeks could probably be described as gung-ho. Back up to marathon volume (two 10k runs a day – 140km per week) whilst walking the tightrope between injury and recovery. I didn’t feel fully fit, but I could run – just about. I was seeing Neil or someone at the team at Platinum twice a week. As the calf recovered I triggered some other niggles as I unconsciously adjusted my running gait. Oiled fingers, thumbs, forearms and elbows were applied with pressure into my hamstrings, quads, glutes and back as I discussed running and life in general through gritted teeth.
I was getting there.

With less than two weeks to go before the marathon, I attempted my final ‘long run’ with some trepidation. I’d loosely scheduled to do some work at as yet undetermined marathon pace but the real goal was to be pain-free running. With Michael recovering from the Kielder marathon and Gareth out of the country, my training partner for the day was Vics; on two-wheels with gels in her pockets and a bottle of water in her back-pack – what a hero.

If anyone is still reading this I’d be interested to know if this is the furthest into a race report anyone has got without mentioning the race itself? Answers on the back of a race number to the usual address.

By race day I felt good physically, no niggles and my legs actually felt quite fresh, possibly due to the enforced week of rest. The marathon is a distance that can chew you up and spit you out, but it can be tamed with a diligent approach. Having run 6 over the previous 5 years I was aware of most of the mistakes that can be made; on my debut in Nottingham, I made the baffling decision to not take so much as a sip of water throughout the entire race. By now, I know what time to set my alarm so the routine can begin; water, coffee, toilet, breakfast, toilet (again) and so on. I drop my bag at 08:45 and jog half a mile to the start. I have one final wee in Costa Coffee and stand on the start line – there are 20-30 runners within the ‘sub-3-hour section’, London Marathon, it ain’t.

It occurs to me that I’m likely to be racing fellow runners as opposed to my watch and a pre-determined goal time. I make the decision to go with the lead group for the first mile and assess the situation. Three or four years previously Paul Martinelli had won the race (for context, he ran 02:18 this year in Berlin) but I knew that six-minute-miles would have you ‘in the mix’ most years.

There were a few twists and turns during the first two or three miles, as runners were taken out of the City Centre and by 5km there was a group of 5-6 runners just behind the lead bike, including myself. The pace was brisk but soon settled to approximately 6-minute miles in old money (my watch was beeping each km between 03:40 and 03:45).

There was a name I recognised, a local runner called Crispian was getting lots of support. I knew he’d won it on a previous occasion and although now in his forties had a fantastic pedigree as a club runner (his Power of 10 is a fascinating read)

We reached 10 miles in just under 59 minutes and the group of six had become three; Crispian moved 5-10 metres ahead and seemed to be getting quicker. Sure enough, my watch beeped 03:33/km; which was 2 hours 30 pace, too quick for me but not for him? I did the only sensible thing I could think of and moved back to the front, running faster still I dropped my shoulders and shook my arms off – a bit of bravado that was to suggest I was finding this easy (I wasn’t).

This seemed to have the desired effect as the pace settled back towards 6-minute miles and the three of took turns to take the lead and the miles through country lanes were ‘ground out’ with only the occasional Sunday cyclist and the odd car for company.

I had no plans of trying to make a move for the win until the last 5km or so but just after the 20 mile marker I suddenly realised that I was on my own at the top of an incline, not significantly but enough that it no longer felt like I was running as part of a group. By 22 miles the guy on the lead bike told me I had a gap of about 400m, but remembering I had a guy behind me with a 2.29 PB I was taking nothing for granted.

I did, however, feel remarkably fresh considering I was well over twenty miles into a marathon. I started to push a little bit as the splits started to creep towards half marathon pace and I ran the final 5km in about 17 minutes, this was turning into the best performance of my running career to date. I knew the gap had increased and the race was mine to lose, I discarded a sweaty cap at mile 25 and blew Vics and the girls a kiss, one more mile – I could run a mile.

I’d done some maths in my head and though I could be on for sub 02:35 so I was absolutely delighted to see the clock on 02:34 as I turned the final corner and hurtled towards the finish line and let out a roar.

02:34:17 – that one was for Gerard.

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Asda Foundation Yorkshire Marathon, York, Sunday, October 14, 2018

Corrine Whaling

Our journey to York began the day before the marathon with a playlist of rain-related songs following on from Jonathon’s Facebook suggestion that we all learn “Singing in the rain” – turns out there are a surprising number of alternatives out there (Travis: Why does it always rain on me, Garbage: I’m only happy when it rains, and Rhianna: Umbrella were our favourites!). Suffice to say we were preparing ourselves for a wet soggy run….

On the morning of the race, we got a lift to the station from family and joined the long queue of people waiting for the shuttle bus from the railway station to the University campus. I couldn’t fault the organization for the rest of the day, however, this aspect could have done with some thinking through! Pay as you board meant that getting on the bus took an age, the organisers’ assurance that runners would be prioritized wasn’t followed, and all the while we were getting wetter and wetter. Our Poundland ponchos were undoubtedly the best purchase of the weekend! Rory tried to keep me distracted by making numerous suggestions about ways in which the bus system could have been remedied, but at that point anxiety was building (I was late for the GNR one year having queued in vain for the portable loos and missed getting into the starting pen resulting in a vault over the barriers – I am now absolutely obsessed about getting to the start of races early and so this bus wait was no good for me at all!). Eventually, we boarded and started the short journey to the campus.

On arrival, Rory and I dropped bags (super efficient system), and then decided to do our own thing and meet afterwards– which was probably for the best with regards to maintaining marital harmony given how snappy I was with him at that stage! Luckily I bumped into fellow Striders, Karen and Lesley, and had a lovely chat, which helped to calm my nerves.

The start was fabulous – lovely chatty people in the pen, all bonding over the atrocious weather conditions, which had, in a lovely way, taken the pressure off with regards expectations of the race. We set off on time, all still wrapped in jumpers/ponchos/bin liners.

The first mile flew by, and I set off far faster than I had intended. The route heads into York, and by the first mile-marker I had warmed up sufficiently to ditch my charity shop purchased fleece but was still holding on firmly to the poncho! As we approached mile 2 we passed York Minster with its fabulous bells, which was an amazing sight and sound on a Sunday morning.

We then headed out into the suburbs and towards the countryside – at around mile 3 I felt like a boil-in-the-bag runner, and finally had to ditch the poncho! I had planned to slow down at this point but felt good so kept the pace up. Mile 5 took us into Stockton on the Forest, which was, without a doubt, one of the high points of the marathon for me. On our way into the village a group of girls from the group I used to run with before we moved to Durham were cheering – I had a lovely hug from one of the girls I had run Manchester with, which gave me the lift I needed. Then onto the high-fiving vicar and the congregation who were all out supporting!

After that, the route was through country lanes, with long stretches without any crowds. Normally I quite like that, but I think the rain took its toll on my spirits, and I really enjoyed the villages and cheering. I particularly loved the pipe band at mile 7, being Scottish this was absolutely amazing – hands in the air clapping moment! Unfortunately, that also heralded the moments the heavens opened…It had been raining solidly prior to that but with little force, after that point, it rained heavily with no let-up or stop (until we were in the car journey home!). This meant that for much for the rest of the run lots of time was spent looking at the ground trying to dodge puddles, or trying to dodge the relay runners – I guess when you are doing 6 miles it doesn’t matter too much if you get wet feet, but I was very keen to avoid getting wetter than I needed to! Again I planned to slow down at mile 10 but felt good, so kept the pace up….

Entering Sand Hutton approaching mile 11 there was a stretch of road that was totally flooded with horrible sandy water – I guess there must be a lot of sand in the ground in Sand Hutton, an aptly named village!

Between mile 13 and 15 came the first loopback, I planned to slow down after the half but felt good, so kept going, and the same story at mile 15! The loopback allowed me a couple of shouts of “Go Strider” as Elaine and Anna passed going the other way in super speedy time.

Then another loopback at miles 16-20 gave me a glimpse of Rory, who looked strong despite having just finished the uphill part of the loopback. If I had one real criticism of the race it would be that the loopback there was just nasty! A gradual decline on the way out, whilst all the time looking at the people struggling with the gradual incline on the 2-mile stretch back up again – mean! Thankfully my water bottle needed refilling and Tailwind adding, all of which I hadn’t practised whilst running – the fiddling on with all of this totally distracted me from the climb, which was done before I’d realized!

Thereafter I did purposefully slow down my pace, realising that I needed to reign it in to avoid being in a whole world of trouble later on. I found mile 22 really tough, but then the mantras of “Only a Parkrun to go” and “Just jog it home now” kept me going (I’d run my first marathon using The Non-Runners Marathon Training Guide, which is big on getting you to practice and repeat your own mantras/phrases throughout the marathon, and I have found that this really helps me)

The last mile contains a sharp uphill stretch, although living in Durham, it was nothing compared to what we are used to! What goes up must come down, with the result that the finishing straight is downhill – the atmosphere here was incredible, supporters aplenty and brilliant tunes. I ended with a song and a sprint and finished well within my sub-4 goal with a time of 3:52:02, representing a 21-minute PB for me.

I enjoyed a nice chat with Anna at the baggage reclaim (system slightly less efficient at this point!), and then back home for the nicest cup of tea I have ever had!

Pos.Bib No.NameGenderCat.Chip TimeGender Pos.Cat. Pos.Chip Pos.
2781206Allan RenwickMaleM4503:11:3526550270
3331201Rory WhalingMaleM4503:15:3131560338
4351200Elaine BissonFemaleF4003:21:452810441
5161202Mark GriffithsMaleM4003:25:1647987539
5851203James GarlandMaleM4003:26:30541105576
12551209Anna SeeleyFemaleF3503:51:00188311329
19381211Lesley HamillFemaleF4504:09:13378381971
20511212Karen ByngFemaleF4504:12:39416412069
26811220Jane DowsettFemaleF5004:27:06681572568
28451056kirsty nelsonFemaleF4504:36:37751932840
33821061Sue JenningsFemaleF5004:55:101012863392
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Warsaw Marathon, Sunday, September 30, 2018

Kerry Anne Barnett

In my attempt to complete 50 marathons before I’m 50 and my aim to complete one international marathon a year, Rob and I headed off to Warsaw, Poland for the PZU Warsaw Marathon on 30th September. I’d never been to Poland before and don’t know any Polish which was a bit of a challenge with the plethora of pre-race emails! However, Google translate kept us right.

On our arrival on Friday, we headed to the expo to pick up our race pack, including t-shirts. My ladies medium was very small… I am not very small… so on Saturday Rob took mine back telling them they’d given him a ladies t-shirt instead of a mans… they swapped it so now I have a t-shirt that fits. But now he feels guilty about committing international fraud. Then we set our course on Apple maps to find the start of the marathon. It took us the long way, so we saw a lot of riverbanks and passed the Chopin Museum.

Maybe 2 days of walking around 13 miles a day around the beautiful and historic Warsaw City Centre, filling up on amazing vegan food, wasn’t the best marathon prep…. but hey-ho it’s a beautiful interesting city.

Race day came along. Our hotel was about 25 min walk to the race village, set up near to the Vistula riverbank. It was cold in the shade and warm in the sunshine, so we waited until the last minute to strip to our Club vests. Most people were in t-shirts and some were in long-sleeved full kit! We had been provided with a plastic bag, a sticker with our race number and an allocated minibus to put our bag on, very well organised.

Walking down to the start area, Rob headed off to the sub-4-hour area and I stayed at the 5 hours plus area. The weird thing at a reasonably small international marathon and being a typical ignorant Brit who can only speak English is not being able to communicate with the runners around you. However, a lovely lady started speaking to me and managed to have a conversation in English. Turns out she’s also vegan so that’s always a good connection. I have to say I was nervous about this marathon, despite it being number 31. No particular reason but I was just a bit nervous.

The starting gun went off and we started moving, took a few minutes to cross the start line, as I was far back in the field, but it was chip timed so that was irrelevant. Off we went with a beep as we crossed the timing mat. Jogging along, we were ‘lapped’ by the front-runners before I’d even run 500m. It’s always amazing to see how fast these guys are running.

The course was fairly twisty and turny and there seemed to be many times we saw the same places. We headed off into the Zoo, not my favourite part I admit, although it was flat and sunny. I did see a hippo, some zebras, some mules, deer and bison, but would prefer they weren’t in cages, but they are.

Highlights included a man who was juggling his way around the marathon, a fella in a suit of armour, the lovely green parks we went through, seeing a red squirrel scurry across my path, the beautiful architecture of Warsaw and spacious wide streets to run through. The fuelling stations were regular and well managed, mainly with young people of Warsaw. They were friendly and encouraging. Woda! ISO! Banana! One or two stations had run out of paper cups by the time I got there but there was still water.

At mile 10 I started to feel my right upper inner arm rubbing against my vest; this had never happened before. I hadn’t put any Vaseline in my belt so was contemplating what to do until mile 3 when I sacrificed my nose blowing buff to tie around my arm to stop the chafing. Worked a treat!

I stuck to my 4 min running 1 min walking strategy until about mile 22. By mile 16 I was consistently passing people who had committed the cardinal marathon sin of ‘going out too fast’ and who were now reduced to walking all of the time. Mile 22 I struggled. Took longer walk breaks, tried to talk myself around. Kind of managed to get back on it and kept the strategy going. It was hot now. Managed a whole summer without getting sunburned then got sunburned at the end of September in Poland! Keep going, keep going.

Think it was about mile 18 that the 5k runners zoomed past. Again an awesome sight! Then running along the Nowy Swiat, a wide street, closed off to traffic on a weekend, lined with restaurants, a few runners amongst the other people just out for a Sunday stroll or lunch was quite surreal.

There were also bridges. One looked like the new “Northern Spire’ Bridge in Sunderland. We crossed that a total of 3 times. On the second time, there was a panda. On the third time, there was a panda, a fox, some people with cola (which I’d been fantasising about for about 10 miles) and a chap in a wheelchair giving out free hugs. I high fived the animals, drank the cola, hugged the chap and saw the 40km sign. Only 2ish k to go.

All of a sudden I was on the finishing straight. Rob was there, taking photos, shouting encouragement. And I was finished! Crossing the line seconds after one of the ‘ever presents’ with his original race number from 1979 pinned on his back. He got a trophy when he crossed the finish line. I got my medal, an isotonic drink, a bottle of water and a banana!

My favourite marathon? Probably not. Enjoyable? Yes, as far as a marathon can be. Well organised? Very much so. Flat? Net downhill. Would I do it again? Probably not, but there is a different Warsaw Marathon in April… a better course our ‘Communism walking tour’ guide told us. Would I recommend this Marathon? Yes, it was a well-organised event and Warsaw is a beautiful city well worth a visit.

The photos were cheap too. 39 zlotys (about £8) for the 51 pics I got. Bargain by UK standards.

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Loch Ness Marathon, Scotland, Sunday, September 23, 2018

Carol Davison

0 to 26.2 in a year and a half!

I entered the Loch Ness Marathon in November 2017 thinking that gave me almost a year to train. Having not long since completed the GNR, I was on a high! Yeah, I can do a marathon no problem!

Fast forward six months and I was thinking ‘what have I done’, I’m no runner….groan! But because I do these crazy things for Crisis (homeless charity), I had to carry on!

The training went ok until I picked up a ‘niggle’ about six weeks before the race that floored me for two weeks. I was convinced my race was over but with some rest, a bit of physio and a lot of grim determination, I got going again, but with only four weeks to go. I wasn’t sure I was ready for 26.2!

For all the doubts I had, my fellow runners at Elvet Striders had faith in me and a few days before I left for Bonny Scotland, they presented me with two little plaques to put on my trainers. One said ‘DREAM BELIEVE ACHIEVE’ and the other ‘WITH YOU EVERY STEP’! How could I fail with this kind of support…..?

Standing at the start, I just kept remembering some advice I had been given; make it a great race rather than a good time! I wanted to enjoy the whole experience and despite being nervous I was beyond excited!

At last, we were off, the bagpipers a distant hum, it was time to run my Marathon… The first few miles were downhill, great for my confidence and nerves! Apart from a bit of a hill at mile five, I was going great. Around the 7-mile mark, I got my first glimpse of Loch Ness. It was such a beautiful sight. I had to stop and take a photo. This is why I picked this one for my first, I thought, and off I went again!!

The next few miles were fairly flat and I was really comfortable. I was loving it! I talked to people from Australia, Manchester, Stonehenge and Sweden. So many people had travelled such a long way but it was easy to see why. The view just kept getting better; even the rain showers brought amazing rainbows!

Then we hit the hill I had been told about at around 19 miles. I was tiring by then and knew I would struggle to run up it, so I admitted defeat and walked up!

At the 20 mile marker, I kept waiting to hit the dreaded wall that so many people had told me about… I waited and waited, but it never came! I was still smiling and chatting. I was still loving it. Yeyyyy!

Once the ‘nasty’ hill was out of the way I told myself only 10k to go and how many 10k’s have I done!!!

It was a lovely run back into Inverness and despite getting tired and a couple of nasty blisters, I was still smiling! The sun came out and the crowds were shouting and singing along the route and more bagpipes! Just the boost I needed, I told myself to take it steady and you can finish this!

The crowds that lined the finish route along the River Ness were just as encouraging and as soon as I crossed the finish line, I cried. I just couldn’t quite believe I had run a Marathon! Me running a Marathon. I couldn’t run a mile two years ago!!!

And so my first Marathon did turn out to be a GREAT RACE!!


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45th BMW Berlin Marathon, Sunday, September 16, 2018

Pavlos Farangitakis

Being Happy Crossing the Brandenburg Gate

Berlin Marathon 2018. Everything that can go wrong will go wrong if you underestimate that you are still running 42.195 kilometres.

Short version/General info:

Pros: Fantastic fast course, not a lot of sharp bends so you can really go fast. The route goes through some of the most iconic places around Berlin, crosses the Wall, as well, a few times. Plenty of refuelling stations. Very well organized with info arriving on the day at their app. Hundreds of volunteers to help you. Spacious showers and changing rooms afterwards plus the unlimited (non-alcoholic) beer at the finisher’s village. Lots of big names always participate and you can meet them if you like, either at the expo or at the afterparty. The expo is huge and has a lot of things to do and spend money on (not sure this is a positive). Berlin is a lovely city with lots of historical sites to visit, very good food and everything is easily accessible by means of public transport.

Cons: Too expensive (100 euros). Not always suitable if you are aiming for a time because of crowding, however, the roads are wide enough to overtake. Hydration is a problem as they use really wide plastic cups so you practically have to stop running to drink. Timing is done via shoelace chip and not by a chip on the bib. Support is okay throughout and tremendous towards the Brandenburg Gate.

Long version:

I have to say in advance this is more of a calendar entry on how the race went for me rather than a detailed race report. I decided to put my name in the ballot for the Berlin Marathon sometime last October, having only done one Marathon prior to that (Manchester). I was hyped as I was running the Athens Authentic Marathon 2 weeks after my entry into the ballot and I wanted to make sure that I kept this self-harm addiction (sorry I was meant to say long distance running) going! So, 6 weeks later I got an email saying that I got a starting number for the 45th Berlin Marathon in September 2018.

Now I want to set the scene for what happened in Berlin. Between my signing up and being on the starting line, I ran two more Marathons. One in Athens (3:49) and one in Rotterdam (3:40). Thus, my secret hope and goal had become to aim for a sub 3:35 and a dream goal of sub 3:30.

I decided to follow a harder training schedule this time. I am using Matt Fitzgerald’s 80-20 running book which has proven to be very helpful in setting up a schedule, etc. So, I went with the top level programme this time, considering myself an “experienced marathoner”. That was mistake number one. I should, by no means, be considered an experienced marathoner. This schedule included 3 x 20 milers, and its peak weeks averaged about 70 miles a week. I never managed to completely stick to any of those two parameters. I injured myself twice during my 4-month training period: once something that felt like a stress fracture on my left leg and I was not able to walk properly for a day or two; and, once some really serious shin splints. This resulted in me doing four 16.5 milers and an 18 miler as my longest runs.

The night before the race, I slept really well and I made my call. I was going to try and break 3:30. Go conservatively the first 2-3 miles, follow an 8-minute mile pace until the halfway mark, then go for a 7:55 until the last three miles and then go all out. And that was mistake number two.

Skip to the starting line, in a 40 thousand long crowd of people ready to run the marathon distance. I had stated my only marathon time at the moment of signing up which was a 4:06 in Manchester, which put me in the second to last pen (about halfway through the crowd). I knew if I was going to go for what I was planning I was going to have to overtake a lot of people. Thankfully the roads were wide enough that this did not prove to be a major issue.

We watched the start of the elites through a big TV screen in the middle of the crowd and the roaring screams that came out of everyone when Eliud Kipchoge stepped up gave me goosebumps. Everybody was discussing it, that he was going to do a WR, and somehow, we all felt a part of that.

The gun went, the elites left at 9:15. Our start was at 9:35 so we sat there and watched the first 5k of the elite race, cheering for Eliud. Now mistake number 3 for me was to get overly excited by all of this and decide that somehow, I could smash my own 3:40 PB and celebrate joining the 3:20something club. In terms of nutrition, I had decided I would be doing an SIS gel every 4 miles and water at miles 6-10-15-20-22.5-25.

When the race started, I indeed, went conservatively for the first two miles, doing an 8:34 and an 8:11-minute mile respectively. From then onwards and until mile 14 I started averaging 8:00 (sticking between 8:02 and 7:55). The course is very flat and offered a great chance of sightseeing around Berlin. You pass around the Reichstag Building, where the Soviets declared victory in WW2, you cross the Spree River a few times on several really pretty 19th-century bridges and you get to see parts of the Berlin Wall. If you decide to do this race, look out on the road for diagonal black brick lines (two bricks wide) with the words Berlin Maurer on them. It is where the Berlin Wall used to be. Kind of asks you to ponder along the road how many great things human beings are capable of (like a marathon) and equally how many terrible things we are capable of as well.

Back to the race, at mile 6 (km 10) I decided to have my first water-stop. That is when I realised that water was delivered in plastic cups. This created two problems: a) the cups were too wide to drink water from, so it splashed in your face mostly and b) the route for 200 metres, after the stops, was wet and littered with plastic cups which make for an ideal slippery surface. I didn’t mind too much as I only needed a few sips, but I did not think of how that would affect my later race. When I got thirstier, by mile 10 I had to slow down to a fast walking pace for 10 seconds in order to get the water down. And this is where the problem started to manifest itself. Not noticing this was mistake number 4. A bit later after that, we heard on the speakers the last 30 seconds of the WR attempt. Everybody who was racing started clapping (even the non-German speakers after asking “did he do it” and finding out the answer, was yes and the time was 2:01).

My water problems happened again in mile 15 which was basically the final nail in the coffin. After that followed an 8:27, an 8:52, an 8:47 and an 8:40 mile which was basically a first mini-wall. If I had the option to drink water from a Camelbak or a bottle at that time I think I would have saved it a bit. However, once again at mile 20, I had to stop and drink and then get going again.

And that is where it happened. In my first marathon, I remember hitting the wall mentally and slowing down to 10-minute miles between miles 18 and 24. However, it was just mental. What I felt this time was nothing like it. This time it was physical. I started getting stomach cramps, which made it impossible to get the gels down (my body got them back out again) and started heading towards collapsing. The last six miles of this race was the toughest thing I have ever ran physically and mentally. I could feel my body giving up, my stride was now a hobble and the pain in my stomach almost brought me to tears.

Up to mile 25, I managed to keep at least jogging, stopping for water when necessary. I did that because I had decided that even if it meant collapsing at the finish line, I would not forgive myself for going above 4 hours.

Knowing my walking pace is around 16 minutes per mile and when I started flailing around and getting blurry vision at mile 25, I decided I was going to start walking. It was the most dreadful feeling in a race ever. I felt I had let myself down, I had let my Club down, the people who came to cheer for me, everyone was going to be disappointed at what I was doing (not gonna pretend I did not get a bit emotional that few minutes).

But suddenly at km 41, I could hear a roar from the distance and I knew the Brandenburg Gate was approaching. Let me just say that finishing under that, is an amazing feeling. Finishing under that when 2 hours ago Eliud Kipchoge has done 2:01:39 is even more amazing. I realised suddenly I was running on that man’s footsteps. I was in the same course that the greatest road runner of our time had just smashed a WR by a whole minute and brought the dream of a sub-2-hour marathon ever closer. That picked me up even more. What gave me the final push was actually seeing the Brandenburg Gate in the distance and hearing a roaring crowd boosting me on. A really nice touch by the organisers at this point was that they had a guy with a microphone reading people’s names from their name tags and especially people who were obviously struggling (uhm, me). 10 meters before the gate I saw my girlfriend with her brother and her best friend cheering for me. I had told them to not come with the crowds just in case something went awfully wrong, but seeing them literally gave me the strength to go and run another 10 miles (okay maybe 3). So I went and gave her a hug and a kiss. They drove 8 hours in the middle of the night on Friday from the Netherlands to Berlin to see me run for 10 seconds in front of them so I felt this was the least I could do. Past the gate and then through the finish line in 3:54:55. My 5k splits until 40 km were: 25:49, 24:47, 25:19, 25:13, 25:46, 27:03, 29:03, 33:42 and the last 2.2 km were done in 18:18.

That is the magnitude of how slow I got towards the end.

However, although I had gone through hell and back in the last few kilometres, I finished quite happy.

I had been reminded that there is a reason it is considered an unforgiving distance and that it is no easy task what you are called to do when you line up at the start. I had run on the footsteps of a world record, I can say I was in that course. And instead of all of this making me sad, it made me humbled. Also, even if the race went really, really bad for me I still want to go and do it again. Just to prove that having learned my lesson, I will not underestimate the distance again and I will learn to plan ahead (and actually read the website for once and check if they do water bottles or cups).

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Swaledale Marathon, Saturday, June 9, 2018

Nina Mason

How it all started: flashback to 1995 – me and Mum coming into Reeth

17 and counting…

I ran (and walked) my first Swaledale in 1995. I was new to running and Mum (Jan) suggested we give it a go. It was hell. We did it together, and all I remember was her going on about the beautiful views, and me swearing at her a lot. A year later I was back – fitter, 3 months pregnant with Leigh, and up for it. I was hooked.

There are many great races/runs out there, and many reasons why we each have a preference. Swaledale is my firm favourite. I’ve been back most years (though a long break between 2011 and 2017) and completed it in a range of times. With a decent pottery collection now in use around the house, this year was number 17.

For anyone thinking about doing this, I would recommend it (though you may have realised by now that I am somewhat biased!) You need to be quick getting a number (they sell out fast in January), but for £21 you get a well-organised run/walk, water at all the manned checkpoints and cake and sandwiches at a couple, a hot meal at the end, a badge and pottery souvenir, lots of great views, and the chance to share the experience with other like-minded runners and walkers. You don’t usually need to use your map if the weather is good and you’ve recced the route (though be prepared to do so if needed).

This year – I wished Mum and a few other Striders luck at the start then didn’t see her again after the initial climb up to Fremington Edge. The weather was great – not too much sun, a bit of a breeze, and fairly dry underfoot. I was aiming for under 5 hours but a little worried about post-Yomp legs (only 6 days before).

One of the Swaledale ‘greats’ (Strider RotY in ‘93 and ‘99 – and stepdad – Tony Young) once wisely said ‘the race starts at Gunnerside’. It’s true. I often fade here – that climb out is tough with 16 or so miles in your legs – but when I got there, well within the planned time, I focussed on forcing myself to run at least the flats and downs (ok, jog). This year I managed to keep my pace going and passed quite a few people between there and the end. Pushing hard down the stony track into Reeth (my favourite bit of my favourite race) I finished well under target time.

Really hard work but thoroughly enjoyed the day. Good performances from the other Striders that turned out too.

The best bit for me, 22 years after her first ‘visit’, was seeing Leigh at the end and a big hug; and then (with Tony) cheering Nanny/Mum/Jan in.

I jokingly challenged Leigh to do this next year, but I think she declined. I’d be very happy to walk/jog at her pace, perhaps waxing lyrical about the glorious views…. after all, it never did me any harm.

PosTime NameClass
103.15.00Julian Simpson
R'mond & Ze
1003.28.00Amy Sarkies
803.27.00Michael MasonM
7604.24.00Matthew ArcherM
10304.37.00Nina MasonF40
21205.46.00Andrew ThompsonM
21305.46.00Jan YoungF60
42008.22.00Margaret ThompsonF60
42108.22.00Anita ClementsonF40


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Liverpool Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, Sunday, May 20, 2018

Mark Foster

You’ll never walk alone ….

If somebody said to me 2 years ago that one day you could run a marathon, I would have probably just laughed at them. Well, it turns out that I actually could run a marathon; in fact, anybody could, providing you put in the hard work.

Last year, my wife ran the half marathon at Liverpool Rock n Roll, in fact, it was her first HM, and she absolutely loved it. I was told how the bands on the route were brilliant, how the atmosphere created by the runners and watching supporters was second to none (she hasn’t done GNR yet), and that the whole weekend, in general, was amazing. So given her feedback, how could I say “No”. After all, it was only the HM I was saying “Yes” to. That was until fellow Strider, Chris Edwards, stuck is oar in and tried to persuade me to join him in the marathon instead. After reviewing each run’s route, it didn’t take me too long to make a decision. The deciding factor being that the marathon goes by Goodison Park, the home of Everton, my childhood football team, as well as Anfield, a place where the other guys play. This might not make sense to many of you but as a massive football fan, this was very much the overriding factor.

Given this was to be my first marathon and having an obsession to have things planned and organised, I wanted to ensure that I had all bases covered before I started; a trusted training plan, knowledge of race nutrition, setting of race goals and strategies.

I called upon Anna Seeley to help produce a first timer’s training plan. Anna helped customise the plan to fit in with life’s busy schedule, which worked out perfectly. I also spoke with many others within the Club and asked them about their first time experiences (that doesn’t sound right, does it?), seeking advice about training and/or race nutrition. I knew that I had to set myself some target times, ones that were clearly stretching myself but equally achievable. I also set myself a target of losing some weight, much of which would come naturally as part of the increased training, but supported by a healthier and more balanced diet. From start to finish of the training plan, I lost approximately 1.5 stone, not quite target but very close to it (fingers crossed it stays away).

After 16 weeks of training, a period in which I saw many of my running/training buddies complete their training and run their own marathons before my own, I knew I was finally ready to give it a shot. I had worked hard for this race and I knew it was too late now to let myself down or anybody else. This was it….

Marathon weekend

The day before the big one I ran the Rock n Roll 5k run. This was purposely planned for 2 reasons; firstly, a nice gentle warm up to keep the legs warm and secondly, you get an extra ‘Remix’ medal for running on both days. It’s all about the bling, for some ☺.

The remainder of the day was spent sightseeing in the city centre. The sun was out which encouraged the crowds into town, creating a wonderful, vibrant atmosphere amongst the locals and visitors. Liverpool is such a beautiful city, one that has undergone so much regeneration and change over the years. If you’re not going to run this race or an equivalent Liverpool race then I would definitely recommend paying the city a visit at some point.

Race day

I didn’t think I would be nervous but I was. It was difficult to pinpoint why I was nervous because I had been excited and fairly confident in the run-up. All my kit had been prepped and set out the night before, so no worries there, however, I had to lacquer a couple of gallon of sun cream over myself. Maybe a slight exaggeration, but the forecast said it was to be hot, just like the previous day, so sun cream was a necessity.

We made our way to the starting line, just a shortish walk from our hotel, cheering on the HM runners who had just started. As predicted, it was warm but thankfully there was some welcomed cloud cover. A short warm-up lightened the nerves before we took our place in the corral (never heard this before, must be an American thing). Finally, we got to the starting line, the hooter went and we were underway by which point the nerves had gone.

The route initially led us around the docks (BTW, Fred’s weather map has gone) and the Liver building before leading up and out of town towards the Everton area. The crowds along the way were out in good numbers and very supportive, and the bands were loud, just enough to drown out my terrible singing. I felt that the pace was comfortable and I was on target as per my plan, and for now, there was no sign of the heat affecting me.

It wasn’t long before Goodison Park was on the horizon (about 4 miles in). I’m not one for taking photos whilst running, in fact, I don’t usually take a phone with me at all, but as mentioned this was the main reason I decided on the marathon rather than the half. I managed to take a pic or 2 at Goodison whilst trying not to lose focus on my run and pace.

The route made its way across Stanley Park towards Anfield where once again I tried desperately not to let it distract me. Just before Anfield, I reached the 10k timing point and a quick glance at my watch displayed 55:02 mins, just under 9 min/mile pace, so I was still on plan. For the first time in the race’s history, the organisers had an agreement with Liverpool FC for the route to run through the concourse of the famous Kop end.

Crazy as it might seem, being a Toffee fan (that’s Everton’s nickname for those who don’t know), this was actually my 2nd biggest highlight of the race. As I ran through the concourse I noticed there was a lit up opening, which led to the stand looking out towards the pitch, I just couldn’t miss out on this opportunity (sod the time, well it took all of 20 secs, just kind of wish I had more time to admire it the stadium and the pitch).

To top it off, as the run made its way out of Anfield, there was a band playing ‘Mr Brightside’, the best song EVER. The hairs on my arms were certainly standing up at that point.

Gradually the route rose to its highest point at about 7.5 miles in, a point, which provided wonderful views over the City Centre, although it wasn’t the nicest of areas of Liverpool.

Pace and timings were still good as we made our way towards the city centre, through China Town and then up the hill (some bloody hill) towards Sefton Park. I hit the halfway point at 13.1 miles in 1:58:08, so I was now spot on 9 min/miles with the big hill out of the way, or so I thought. It turns out there was a series of hills, one after another, but thankfully they were among some beautiful parks and areas including the famous ‘Penny Lane’ – I didn’t see any ‘fireman with an hourglass’, however, it was definitely at that point that the ‘Blue Suburban Skies’ appeared. It was suddenly like ‘here comes the sun’ but without the words or music. The heat soon turned up a notch.

I was in need of a quick pit stop before hitting the next park, I’m not just sure if doing so took its toll on me, but I slowed down somewhat after this point: most probably a mixture of sun and stopping for a wee break. I finally reached the 20-mile point before hitting the long stretch along the river towards the finish. It was at this point cramp kicked in, not just one calf, but also both calves and both quads. I was like a zombie at some points, absolutely excruciating pain, unlike anything I had ever felt before.

Unfortunately, I knew my race target and goal was over at this point, it was just a case of making sure I got to the end and completed the race, however necessary.

I was warned before the race that the last 5 miles weren’t the most exciting and it certainly lived up to those comments. There were a few bands spaced out along the path but nothing that gave me the boost I so dearly needed. The sun was still beating down which obviously didn’t help, so you could say I wasn’t feeling particularly happy at this point; however, I persevered and continued to run/walk through the pain.

My pace dropped considerably to about 11-11.30 min/miles but I was focused on just getting to the end regardless. I wasn’t the only one suffering, many others looked to be in a similar situation, but collectively we pulled each other along which coincidentally made me think of the Liverpool’s famous anthem “You’ll never walk alone”.

As I approached the last 500 meters, I heard the usual shouts of “the finish line is just around the corner”, and there’s me thinking it is but plus another lap of a track. I kept it going as much as I could but I felt I wouldn’t have the usual sprint finish within me. I honestly felt destroyed but with 200 meters to go, I heard a series of shouts from the crowd, recognisable voices too, and as I glanced over I saw Rachel Toth and Jacqui Robson cheering me on.

I then felt a euphoric feeling as the crowd pulled me in and thrust me towards the finish line. I did it, yes, I bloody did it. I finished in a time of 4:16:31. This was the definite highlight of the race. Completion!

The sense of achievement was and still is unbelievable. I had genuine tears in my eyes as I crossed the line, instantaneously realising exactly what I had just achieved. It was nothing short of remarkable (for me that is), something that I’ll always remember, but at the time thought ‘never again’.

In summary, I wouldn’t say I loved it, nor did I hate it. There are plenty of pros and cons of the race itself. I would definitely recommend it to folk who fancy a hilly road marathon with some fantastic views and parks to run through whilst being provided with great support and excellent live bands for most of the route.

It’s not the best sort of race for those who detest the commercial type runs. The goody bag contents were ok; however, I say ‘goody bag’, there was no actual bag, so you literally had to carry everything. Not great at the end of a marathon when you just want to collapse. Signage and directions need to be worked upon by the organisers, as it took a while to figure out where to collect my shirt from, but I certainly knew where to find my free beer.

The medals are fantastic, 3 for the price of 2, providing you run both days. Having said all this, I personally don’t believe I would do this race again, but another marathon, who knows??? I’ve already changed my tune in the few days since the run. There are definitely lessons to be learned on a personal level but I guess all this comes with experience.

Lastly, many thanks to all who supported me, sending best wishes and congratulation messages, however, special thanks goes to Anna Seeley, Allan Seheult, Lesley Hamill, Peter Hart, David Browbank & Chris Edwards. You all played different parts in the process and I’m very grateful for everything.



Overall PositionNameTime
402Mark Kearney
(Official pacer)
1212Mark Foster4.16.31
1628Helen Parker4.30.25
1630Bob Gratton4.30.30
1719Chris Edwards4.33.44
(Visited 12 times, 1 visits today)

Results Virgin Money London Marathon, Sunday, April 22, 2018

Anita Wright




Place overallPlace genderPlace cat.NameRunner noCategoryFinish
111KIPCHOGE, Eliud (KEN)318-3902.04.17
1511CHERUIYOT, Vivian (KEN)10918-3902.18.31
142142111Jackson, Stephen (GBR)139718-3902.39.31
45544978Littlewood, Michael (GBR)196540-4402.50.28
631621434Pritchard, Gareth (GBR)144418-3902.54.14
703692475Kearney, Mark (GBR)198918-3902.55.32
924120671155Walton, Katy (GBR)2029118-3903.58.02
106822558181Davies, Sarah (GBR)1004550-5404.05.42
129223374716Gardham, Sue (GBR)2029340-4404.16.41
251218102120Bradley, Jean (GBR)2471660-6405.09.38
2840496975229Brannan, Stacey (GBR)2029218-3905.24.56
304241071661Farnsworth, Christine (GBR)3059565-6905.35.48
355691353288Thompson, Margaret (GBR)2029065-6906.10.04
(Visited 4 times, 1 visits today)

Virgin Money London Marathon, Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sarah Davies

Sweat, Blood and Tears.

Sweat. Yes, it was hot! As we waited for the start, we were all drinking water, looking for shade and paying frequent visits to the ‘female urinals’ (a bizarre experience!) Finally, our wave set off. After all the waiting and anticipation, it was great to be finally running my first marathon! Although my training had been derailed by a combination of injury, snow and work, I still hoped I might be able to finish in under 4 hours. The first miles seemed deceptively easy. The atmosphere was brilliant and there were plenty of distractions: crazily-dressed runners (Paddington costume – in that heat??), cheerful crowds, Greenwich, the Cutty Sark. It was already roasting, but there were lots of water-stations and showers, and I found I was able to maintain a reasonable pace.

Blood. About 10 miles in, with the temperature continuing to rise, I suddenly had a terrible nosebleed! What to do? This was definitely not in the Plan! I didn’t want to stop, so I carried on running slowly for a couple of miles with blood streaming from my nose onto my face, hands and legs. Not a pretty sight! It finally stopped, but by then I realised would have to abandon any hopes of a sub 4-hour time.

Tears. The second half was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. There were lots of highs: catching sight of my family by chance; spotting Striders Rachel and Michael Mason and Peter Hart in the crowds at around 18 miles; strangers shouting my name; the man running with the washing machine on his back… But there were plenty of lows too: by about mile 20 my legs were screaming at me to stop and I had to force myself to continue. By 24 miles, I knew the end was in sight. Despite the excruciating pain, I managed to pick up the pace and finish with a decent time of just over 4 hours.

I came away from my first marathon with mixed feelings. I’m really glad I did it and it was a thoroughly memorable experience, but I can’t say I’m in a hurry to do another one any time soon!

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