Category Archives: James Lee

A one-way ticket, Newcastle to Durham, Tuesday, September 17, 2019

James Lee

James Lee has left the building and is about to head south from Freeman to Durham

I am lucky. The chemo I am on is purely oral. I go to the Freeman, get weighed, answer some questions, collect the pills and come home. Then I take the pills the following five nights. Simples.

Last year I found that the buses were better than the train. Recently I started wondering if I could run home. I printed out a map – 16.2 miles on road. Yesterday I left the house in my running gear.

At the Freeman my resting heart beat set off the alarms again. I was thankful, yet again, that I’m not sitting there for hours on intravenous (yet). I stowed the pills in my back pack and went down to the back door. Set my Garmin, my laces, my music. Go.

The first two miles disappeared reading the map (is that how fell runners ignore the pain?). There was the Ouse Burn to follow, a bit of park, then busy roads down to Quayside. Too many streets to cross but I was keeping good time. Under the Tyne Bridge and over the Swing Bridge, enjoying the view, then up. Two pages of A4 to get to Gateshead, one page for all those miles home.

The World outside your Window. The Angel from the bus.

The up wasn’t steep enough to require running right (see link) but there were some long gradual climbs with the occasional view down in to the valley. I passed the Angel again, ran through Birtley and Chester-le-Street.

I kept the pace up because I knew I was pushing my half-marathon PB. I knocked minutes off what I ran earlier this year – and what I ran in my 20s. Then my calves seized up. I slowed down – the next record was the distance on my Garmin so time didn’t matter. I made it home. I was glad I had stuck to off-road this year.

Lessons learned:

  • The A167 is good for speed but very boring for distance. I won’t run back from Newcastle again.
  • Don’t think that, because you’ve done 16 miles off-road, 16.2 miles on road will be OK. My theory is that, because of the better grip, I was pushing more with my feet – hence the calves problem. Whether that’s right or not, the difference hurts. It requires more cushioned trainers, too.
  • Taking the bus out is a good way to get a distance target – it’s hard to stop. I think it could be great to run all those miles without turning around. I just need to find the right route.

For those of you wondering how I’m still running:

Last summer the odds on the chemo working were 40%. It hasn’t just worked, it blew the grade III bit apart. My consultant has seen that 3-4 times in her career. The grade II bit has stopped growing but the chemo is still just buying me time. I passed the short life expectancy back in January.

Most people last about 9 rounds of chemo before the side effects get too much. I feel rough for a few days but can now do the club runs on the Wednesday after pills. This will be round 16 for me. My consultant has seen someone last 24, not that that’s a challenge… The average life expectancy ends next month and I’m not dead yet.

I’m beyond the statistics but the estimate is now some time next year. I’ve been warned that the end of chemo can be quite sudden. I’d love to finish this cross-country season. I wasn’t kidding with the “I am lucky”.

Sometimes I wonder what’s killing me. Is it the brain tumour, the chemo, or the reminder every 28 days? But it’s the living that matters. Thanks to all for keeping me running.

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Running right, Out West, Friday, September 13, 2019

James Lee

I thought I’d run hills today, so headed out West. I felt pretty good and the sun was shining. Somehow it became the run I got right.

Crossing town is pretty flat tarmac and grass, so roughly 7 minute miles. After half a mile I stopped to sort my socks out and tighten my laces. Then I just went for it, even though I wanted to run 10 miles or so. Some time ago Lisa Evette’s post showed a heart rate average well above anything I ever get – was I pushing it hard enough? Then there was a side effect of the Pilates – suddenly I could breathe faster than every two steps without getting a stitch. The core of my body really does connect to everything, it seems. It just took a few decades to find out.

Ring road and out to Bearpark Hall Farm. Crops harvested, gate open and what looks like a Grand Designs project all going well. Down to the River Browney then up – and up – to the top of Bearpark. Climbing has always been my weak point. Mile 12 of the Skipton trail half marathon proved that for 16 minutes. That was so wrong I finally asked Elaine about the steep climbs. She suggested I should try shortening my stride with a higher frequency. I tried that on her killing field session on Wednesday but I was still slower than some. At the end I thought I had too much left – and the average heart rate agreed. So this time I went for a frequency that felt bonkers – and kept the mile below 8 minutes.

Back down the same path to the Browney. Descent is not a rest – I think I read that somewhere – so when it wasn’t crazy steep I pushed it. Off-road, everything but the ground disappeared – those next few steps were all that could be processed. Avoiding branches relied on instinct. Speed was what mattered, not my quads.

Along the path by the Browney it was ‘just keep going’. The music helped – my son’s Now That’s What I Call Pop kept the mood right. Then there was the climb to Witton Gilbert and beyond. Keeping the stride when it wasn’t too steep; that frequency again when it was. Pushing it on those brief dips; keeping my feet down on the little steps; enjoying the view as it flattened at the top, looking back over the valley to Bearpark. Round the trig point (can’t turn down before that!) and back to the A691.

Then the footpath back to town. Fields, stiles without a stop, then faster tarmac. Picking up the pace quarter of a mile out; a final sprint across the grass. 10.8 miles, average 7:15 minutes. 3 miles under 7 minutes, only one over 8. Could I do this in a race? Only one way to find out…

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Durham Coast Half Marathon, Sunday, June 16, 2019

James Lee

Courtesy of Jan Panke

As excuses go, Sunday being Father’s Day was pretty good for getting my wife and kids out to Seaham. We hadn’t seen the sea for a while and didn’t know this bit of the coast. They watched the race start, saw the view, and headed down to the beach to look for sea glass in the sunshine.

In the race, Graeme Watt and Michael Littlewood shot off as expected but I wasn’t too far behind – I counted 12 in front of me and it was a fast, fairly flat start. The path was clear enough to enjoy the scenery as well. As the gaps got bigger it became clear that I and another guy were pretty even. He was good at the ups, I knew the pace on the flat and we both enjoyed the downs. I followed him for a few miles, then passed him – and found he’d been helping me find the route, too.

Courtesy of Jan Panke

Every now and again there was a stream that had cut down to the sea. At one point I could see the front of the race just 100m away – but they were on the other side of the stream and a mile ahead. We had to go inland, down and up and back out to the coast but it was good to see the leaders flying.

The race information warned about the 320 steps in those down and ups. Before the race I had gone over the river at Finchale Priory to practice a few times – but those steps are nice easy ones (I now realise). The steps along the coast are a whole lot higher so it was quite a relief to see everyone walking up them. Being in 13th place wasn’t too unlucky then – I’m not sure I’d want to watch the leaders on those climbs! The key was to start running at the top. I suspect that’s when my heart rate hit 178.

Then it started raining. In case you’re wondering, my family, with their waterproofs by the buildings of Seaham, got a few spots of rain on the beach. A few miles South it was pouring down on my Striders vest. Then we got to the stream that almost stopped the race. Over-the-ankle paddling, and we were told to stay in the middle of the ‘path’. It felt like running in lead boots for a while after that, so it was great to have Jan Young encouraging me up the hill. It also meant that Tony and I, still running together, exchanged names. Pairing up is great when it works, and we exchanged thanks at the end.

I didn’t cross the line with Tony, though. This was my longest race since 2003. Back then I was training for the London marathon, mostly alone and on the roads down South. I had learned that I could run up to 17 miles with no fuel. Turns out that, if you push hard enough off-road, the limits around 12. Tony edged away and, instead of speeding up on the flat finish, I lost places. Thanks to Allen Renwick’s yells of encouragement I did run over the line – but boy was I glad to see those cakes.

Thanks to all for the shouts and photos; the course and the education. I’m looking forward to the Northumberland Coastal Run.

Results for Durham Coast Half Marathon

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