Tag Archives: Stephen Jackson

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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Brass Monkey Half Marathon, York Racecourse, Sunday, January 14, 2018

Stephen Jackson

Ok, so it’s not for everyone, but I love the Brass Monkey half marathon. As long as my legs are strong enough, and my internet speed is quick enough, I’ll enter this race.
What better way to start the year?

The plan was to head out somewhere near PB pace or a little quicker and see how I felt. Never likely to trouble the lead pack in a highly competitive field this was more about seeing where ‘I’m at’ at the beginning of 2018.

After a fairly frantic start, I settled at the back of the second group, with the front-runners disappearing into the distance with the lead car. There was another break at 5k and I was in or around 15th position with some familiar faces, many from the North East (I was to finish 13th).

I found the first half (the ‘out’ of the out-and-back race) the hardest, I think this was due to the brisk start coupled with a headwind. I actually felt better at 10 miles than I did at 5. I ran from just before halfway with Michael Hedley from Tyne Bridge Harriers, not for the first time over the half marathon distance.

The conditions were good; cold but not freezing, no rain, not too much wind.

It was all there for the taking but in the end, I felt I had a good race, not a great one. This is a race you can achieve something special and I fell just short based on the high standards I set myself. That said, a PB is a PB – you shouldn’t be disappointed with a personal best: it is exactly what it says on the tin.

Also, if you’ve got the time – take the bus with fellow club members to a race this year. I know it’s difficult for people with families etc. to justify the best part of the day out of the house, but it really does make it a social ‘team’ event.

Overall PositionBibno.Finish time Chip time Participant Category
1124001.07.1501.07.12Jamie Parkinson
THAMES HARE & HOUNDS
(M) Open Senior
72185401.19.0601.19.02Tracy Millmore
Birtley
(F) V35
1382901.12.4501.12.41Stephen Jackson(M) Open Senior
30131101.15.0501.15.01Gareth Pritchard(M) V35
6997501.18.5001.18.44Michael Littlewood(M) V40
8524201.19.4801.19.43Chris Callan(M) V35
1024001.21.2601.21.19Matthew Archer(M) V35
144133701.23.0701.23.00Phil Ray(M) V35
19475901.25.4101.25.25David Hinton(M) Open Senior
19564101.25.4301.25.38Mark Griffiths(M) V40
265162801.28.4801.28.28Emma Thompson(F) V35
2693201.28.5201.28.45Michael Anderson(M) Open Senior
433134801.35.5101.35.24Allan Renwick(M) V45
4458501.36.1501.35.49Michael Barlow(M) V40
516112101.38.2501.37.57Dan Mitchell(M) V40
59767001.41.3001.41.01Jonathan Hamill(M) V40
771184801.47.3501.46.48Katy Walton(F) V35
78239001.47.5401.46.54Andrew Davies(M) V40
79270701.48.1101.47.09Peter Hart(M) V40
800144401.48.3801.47.36Anna Seeley(F) V35
85254301.50.4001.49.39Mark Foster(M) V35
936145001.53.4801.52.46Chris Shearsmith(M) V40
101697601.56.4601.55.58Wendy Littlewood(F) V35
1070141201.58.1701.57.15Lisa Sample(F) V35
108619701.58.3901.57.37Alex Brown(M) V45
1113150001.59.4401.58.42Catherine Smith(F) V40
11688602.01.5002.01.02Stephanie Barlow(F) V40
1180124502.02.2102.00.57Joanne Patterson(F) V35
130674002.09.4702.08.02Alison Heslop(F) V45
132886202.11.3702.10.02Debbie Jones(F) V45
1330105602.11.4202.10.06Debbie Mcfarland(F) Open Senior
1333129802.11.5602.10.21James Potter(M) V35
134451102.12.4702.11.01Kirsten Fenwick(F) V35
136721202.16.2602.14.41Vicky Brown(F) V35
14509002.30.4602.29.01Kerry Barnett(F) V45
146460202.36.4702.35.01Rebecca Gilmore(F) Open Senior
1481165602.51.5402.50.12Rachel Toth(F) V40
1486TOTAL RUNNERS
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RunThrough Lee Valley VeloPark Half Marathon, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London, Saturday, March 25, 2017

13.1 miles

Stephen Jackson

I’ve worked with coach Allan Seheult on three road marathons now, and we always schedule three races within a relatively short 10 week build up, with little to no taper before the races.

The sequence goes something along the lines of 10k, longest run (3 hours), half marathon, marathon pace tempo run, 5k race, marathon.

All of the above, other that the marathon, is training. There is no time for the luxury of 10k or half marathon specific sessions or rest days to taper for the races. The races are part of ‘the process’, not the ‘A race’.

I was, therefore, rather pleased to run a solid half marathon time in amongst a fairly solid block of training.

The event was unusual, thirteen and bit one mile laps of the Velo Park in London. The venue is testament to the legacy of the London Olympic Games, still in great condition and well used by the residents of London and those further afield. It provided a great race HQ with showers, toilets, café, lockers etc.

In a strange sort of way the event quite suited my aim of running a solid, even paced half to get the legs turning over quicker than marathon pace.

Who needs scenery, eh?

I set off, on or around half marathon PB pace following one other runner through the timing mat for the first time; only 13 laps to go. We traded places a couple of times within the first couple of miles before I put in a little surge to drop him on the second lap. From there, I was running on my own. Except, of course, I wasn’t.

As early as the second lap I was overtaking people, which wasn’t a problem and made for a great atmosphere on the course as a few fellow runners gave shouts of encouragement. The only negative, as it emerged, was that I clearly wasn’t taking ‘the racing line’ whilst overtaking people and ended up running about 400m too far which cost me a PB on the day.

The laps were slightly undulating, on a smooth tarmac surface. I worked the hills with a few sharp strides and recovered as the course rolled back downhill. The repetition meant that I could find a rhythm, subtly easing off with the wind in my face and pushing on in the opposite direction. My lap splits were pleasingly consistent and on another day, in another race, I think I probably had a good time in me. That can wait, for now.

The race was well organised in great facilities with lots of friendly volunteers. Runners got a medal, a banana, a protein drink and a pat on the back – the same if you finished first or last.

Actually, first place got free entry to another race so I think I’ll go back sometime.

Pos Race No Name Net Time Category Club
1 942 STEPHEN JACKSON 01:15:24 Male Elvet Striders
2 1854 MARK WAINWRIGHT 01:20:50 Male
3 1919 ADRAIN BURKE 01:23:49 V35
(Visited 57 times, 1 visits today)

FlaminGO!, Kirby Misperton, Yorkshire, Saturday, March 11, 2017

10km

Stephen Jackson

 

This was a race nestled right in the middle of marathon training which meant that there had been no opportunity to taper. Michael Littlewood, my travel companion for the day was 80 miles deep into a 100 mile week and I wasn’t too far behind.

That said, I felt pretty good, and was ready to race. It was nice to lace the racing flats up following a long stretch of fairly intense training.

The course is a two loop affair, through the theme park and the zoo and around the golf course. Approximately 2 miles of the 6 were through muddy fields, the rest was tarmac – most of it was pretty flat.

The start was tentative as we all waited for the eventual winner, Tristan Learoyd, to head up the field and lead us all out towards the golf course. By 1km there was a group of 3/4 runners just off the lead and the pace was brisk before we hit the mud, which slowed us all up.

By half way I knew I had a good chance of placing in the top 3 so the exercise was more to do with ‘racing’ those around me than PB chasing. The grass sections were too muddy for the course to translate into an overall personal best so I didn’t even bother looking at my watch, I just ran to feel, trying to keep up with those around me.

As we left the golf course for the second time I was in second place, closely followed by James Fahey from North York Moors AC who unfortunately (for him) slipped just as we hit the tarmac again. After checking he was ok, I took advantage of this and put in a little surge, creating a gap of about about 100m between us, which I was able to stretch out over the last mile.

In the end it was a great day out, 2nd place and a pretty solid time. Michael also came in the top 10 finishers (8th) and joined me for a quick cool down before the presentation.

I’d recommend the race; it’s not on the doorstep but could be combined with a family day out. The course is interesting and there’s a chance to win a family pass for the park.

 

 

Results:

http://www.runbritainrankings.com/results/results.aspx?meetingid=195060&event=10KNAD&venue=Malton&date=11-Mar-17

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The Brass Monkey, York, Sunday, January 15, 2017

Grand Prix Race - click flag for current league tables. Endurance Champion Race - click flag for more information.

Stephen Jackson

A cold, but not freezing, morning in York for the 35th Brass Monkey half marathon. The weather, as it turned out, was pretty kind to the 1500 or so runners. The drizzle had disappeared by the time the race started at 10:00 and the wind was barely noticeable.

If you enjoy road running there is no denying it’s a cracking race. York racecourse provides the organisers with a great base for runners and spectators alike, the course is as described; ‘fast and flat’ and the marshals and officials do a great job making everyone feel looked after.

I have a theory that the January date is particularly appealing for club runners looking for a ‘post-Christmas’ target – a reason to pull on the high-vis kit through December. Whatever the reason, this is a popular race with a capital P and apparently sold out in 38 minutes.

Unlike last year, this time I had a plan. Go out at 75 minute pace and (3:33/km) and try to pick it up towards the end. As it worked out I had some company for a big chunk of the race as a group of 5-6 runners from various clubs around the North East, including captain Gareth Pritchard, worked together in a little pack – each taking a turn to lead the group.

This worked really well up to 9/10 miles when I decided to make a bit of a move – followed only by one runner from Roundhay Runners in Leeds. It emerged that we had a similar goal in mind and again, the ‘strength in numbers’ approach helped build the momentum towards the end of the race, which was now in sight (metaphorically speaking).

As we hit the railway bridge with a couple of miles to go I had a little bit left in the legs, and pushed on again with my pace now nearer to 10k effort (3:22/km) – time for my end of race mantra ‘now or never’.

So, a second over 1:14 according to my watch, a second under according to my chip; I always did like chips.

A new half marathon PB of 01:13.59 and a post-race analysis of ‘job done’.

A very popular race with fellow Elvet Striders in abundance with lots of smiles and encouragement pre and post-race.

I really hope this can be the first entry on the running calendar for 2018, it is most certainly one of my favourites.

Results

Strider Pos. Bibno. Finish time Chip time Participant Category Start time Speed Pace
1 896 01:14:02 01:13:59 Stephen Jackson (M) Open Senior 10:00:10 10.62 mph 5:39 min/mile
2 1382 01:15:41 01:15:37 Gareth Pritchard (M) V35 10:00:10 10.38 mph 5:46 min/mile
3 1066 01:18:20 01:18:14 Michael Littlewood (M) V40 10:00:12 10.03 mph 5:58 min/mile
4 62 01:25:17 01:25:09 Matthew Archer (M) V35 10:00:15 9.22 mph 6:30 min/mile
5 165 01:36:03 01:35:40 Elaine Bisson (F) V35 10:00:29 8.18 mph 7:19 min/mile
6 165 01:41:04 01:39:46 Kate Milburn (F) V35 10:01:24 7.88 mph 7:36 min/mile
7 304 01:42:28 01:41:26 David Case (M) Open Senior 10:01:09 7.67 mph 7:49 min/mile
8 1800 01:45:47 01:44:44 Nicola Whyte (F) Open Senior 10:01:09 7.43 mph 8:04 min/mile
19 1558 01:47:43 01:46:59 Eric Green (M) V45 10:00:50 7.30 mph 8:13 min/mile
9 1524 01:48:47 01:48:02 Chris Shearsmith (M) V35 10:00:52 7.22 mph 8:18 min/mile
10 436 01:49:46 01:48:27 Lesley Charman (F) V40 10:01:25 7.16 mph 8:22 min/mile
11 250 01:52:43 01:51:24 Victoria Brown (F) V35 10:01:25 6.97 mph 8:36 min/mile
12 713 01:56:17 01:55:22 Lesley Hamill (F) V40 10:01:02 6.76 mph 8:52 min/mile
13 274 01:56:19 01:55:24 Karen Byng (F) V45 10:01:02 6.76 mph 8:52 min/mile
14 435 01:57:47 01:56:29 Steve Ellis (M) 60 10:01:25 6.67 mph 8:59 min/mile
15 790 01:59:51 01:58:09 Mark Herkes (M) Open Senior 10:01:49 6.56 mph 9:08 min/mile
16 389 02:00:35 01:57:57 Lucy Cowton (F) Open Senior 10:02:44 6.52 mph 9:12 min/mile
17 327 02:00:35 01:58:58 Trevor Chaytor (M) V50 10:01:43 6.52 mph 9:12 min/mile
18 1506 02:00:38 01:59:06 Anna Seeley (F) Open Senior 10:01:39 6.51 mph 9:12 min/mile
19 1558 02:00:39 01:59:06 Catherine Smith (F) V40 10:01:39 6.51 mph 9:12 min/mile
20 485 02:04:47 02:02:22 Jane Dowsett (F) V45 10:02:32 6.30 mph 9:31 min/mile
21 485 02:05:28 02:03:56 Karen Crampton (F) V45 10:01:39 6.26 mph 9:34 min/mile
22 1367 02:08:33 02:06:10 James Potter (M) V35 10:02:30 6.11 mph 9:48 min/mile
23 1926 02:08:57 02:06:30 Katie-Louise Finney (F) Open Senior 10:02:34 6.09 mph 9:50 min/mile
24 441 02:10:28 02:08:01 Katie Davison (F) Open Senior 10:02:34 6.02 mph 9:57 min/mile
25 1314 02:10:29 02:08:02 Mike Parker (M) V40 10:02:33 6.02 mph 9:57 min/mile
26 1555 02:12:28 02:09:59 Alan Smith (M) V70 10:02:35 5.93 mph 10:06 min/mile
27 789 02:12:32 02:10:07 Lucy Herkes (F) Open Senior 10:02:32 5.93 mph 10:07 min/mile
28 1067 02:13:20 02:10:44 Wendy Littlewood (F) V35 10:02:43 5.89 mph 10:10 min/mile
29 938 02:13:45 02:11:20 Debbie Jones (F) V45 10:02:32 5.88 mph 10:12 min/mile
30 558 02:16:09 02:13:19 Kirsten Fenwick (F) Open Senior 10:02:57 5.77 mph 10:23 min/mile
31 1146 02:16:22 02:13:57 Debbie Mcfarland (F) Open Senior 10:02:32 5.76 mph 10:24 min/mile
32 841 02:19:22 02:16:46 Karen Hooper (F) V40 10:02:42 5.64 mph 10:38 min/mile
33 65 02:24:50 02:24:10 Teresa Archer (F) Open Senior 10:00:47 5.43 mph 11:03 min/mile
34 114 02:26:14 02:23:36 Kerry Barnett (F) V45 10:02:44 5.37 mph 11:09 min/mile
35 1325 02:26:37 02:23:59 Joanne Patterson (F) Open Senior 10:02:44 5.36 mph 11:11 min/mile
36 634 02:29:04 02:26:16 Rebecca Gilmore (F) Open Senior 10:02:55 5.27 mph 11:22 min/mile
37 1676 02:33:37 02:30:49 Margaret Thompson (F) V65 10:02:54 5.12 mph 11:43 min/mile
38 139 02:36:20 02:33:36 Faye Bell (F) V35 10:02:50 5.03 mph 11:56 min/mile
39 913 02:44:27 02:44:27 Neil Jennings (M) V50 10:00:07 4.78 mph 12:33 min/mile
40 912 02:51:16 02:48:37 Elaine Jennings (F) V50 10:02:45 4.59 mph 13:04 min/mile
41 1035 02:53:03 02:50:21 Rachel Leigh-Firbank (F) V40 10:02:48 4.54 mph 13:12 min/mile

“I completed the York brass monkey today for the first time.  2hrs 3min 56sec.  Sore and aching but very happy with my result.  Met up with some lovely striders who were very friendly and supportive, especially Trevor Chaytor who helped me get home afterwards due to an unexpected emergency back in Durham.”  Karen Crampton

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Heaton Harriers Memorial 10K, Newcastle Town Moor, Sunday, November 13, 2016

Stephen Jackson


Shoulder to ShoulderWhen it comes to running, along with many other aspects of my life, I’m a creature of habit.

There are hundreds of great races that take place all over the North of England and further afield and often I check the results, browse the photos and think; I’d love to give that one a go.

However, my race calendar usually consists of 5-6 core races that I always try and enter; everything else has to fit around family life. This event now sits firmly amongst that select bunch. Brass Monkey, London Marathon, Sunderland 5k, Bridges of the Tyne, Clive Cookson 10k, Brampton to Carlisle. What’s the common theme? I’ll give you a clue, it ain’t the scenery.

If the weather is kind (more specifically; the wind) this has everything I could possibly want from an event. It’s a flat, fast course and a well organised, chip-timed race with a competitive field. Small enough to get your toes somewhere near the start line and big enough to provide a bit of competition throughout the field.

The minutes’ silence beforehand provided some stark perspective, a very fitting way of paying respect whilst doing something, running, that epitomises the freedom that our fallen soldiers died for.

The onset of a head cold during the week, coupled with the fact that this wasn’t my ‘A race’ meant that my expectations weren’t especially high – perhaps a good thing as it is emerged. I knew I was in pretty good shape after a 6-7 week block of heavy training following the Great North Run. This training programme, under the guidance of Allan Seheult, was interspersed only with a couple of cross country races and I still maintain a lot of my road PBs have been earned, in some part, during those slogs around the North East Harrier League.

The race was a dream, and one of those joyously unexpected results that leaves you thinking did I really do that? Finding that precarious balance between speed (all relative) and control is not easy; but on Sunday I had some help. Around 7km into the race, just as I was really starting to tire someone went past my right shoulder looking, it must be said, far more comfortable than I was feeling. For the next mile I didn’t so much as glance at my watch, I knew it wouldn’t make a difference. I shadowed this poor bloke, stride for stride. If only psychologically, it felt like he was doing the work for me. This gave me a real boost before the final km which had to take care of itself, nothing left on the course, no ‘what-ifs’.

Ten seconds with my hands on my knees, a glance at my watch, then a smile. I love running.

And yes, I did beat him in the end.

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Clive Cookson 10K, Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Stephen Jackson

Clive Cookson 10K This was a very well organised, two-lap race on a relatively flat course, with great PB potential; what’s not to like. The atmosphere was very friendly, from the GB international at the front to the 90 minute plus 10k runner towards the rear – everyone was given a warm welcome. Add to this a mild, early summer evening with little or no wind and I was in my element – I fancied a new 10km PB.

The race started at 7.15pm prompt and it was tight at the beginning, even though I’d managed to position myself fairly close to the start line. However, it didn’t take long to find a rhythm as the lead pack(s) quickly broke. What I hadn’t quite appreciated is that the beginning of the race is on a slight incline, nothing too severe, but certainly noticeable on the second lap when the legs are slightly less fresh. The upshot of this is after 2km the road gently rolls back downhill and the pace naturally quickens.

I’d planned to run quite sensibly, split halfway at approximately 17:30 and increase the pace, if possible, towards the end – and so it was to be.

I went through 5km in 17:24, I think, and then had to dig in between 5km and 7km, I was passing people even though I was running slightly slower – I had no one at that point to drag me along. I then got in a small group which carried me through towards the finish, gradually feeling stronger; I knew I was going to be somewhere close to my sub 35 minute target.

I finished a second ahead of Jason Auld of Crook AC for the second time in a week, no mean feat as he’s one of the better Vets in the North East.

So, a new PB of 34.44 (chip time), a nice new t-shirt (albeit orange) and home in half an hour whilst the sun was still shining.

What could be better than that?

Stephen on course for a PB

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Virgin Money London Marathon, Sunday, April 24, 2016

Stephen Jackson and Elaine Bisson

Stephen Jackson …

Ready. The day before I travelled to London I was informed, via Facebook, that my 2015 PB from the Greater Manchester Marathon was no longer recognised by England Athletics as an official marathon time. Suddenly, the trip to the Capital had a little more pressure attached to it.

Ready.Fastforward three days, and I’m inside a portable toilet in the Blackwall tunnel, about fourteen miles into the Virgin Money London Marathon, again cursing my luck as my dreamof emulating that time from Manchester isslipping away before my very eyes.

There is undoubtedly a metaphor I could shoehorn into this report (hopes and dreams down the toilet related), but I won’t. Safe to say my race plan did not involve a portaloos portable toilets stop.

However, I emerged from that tunnel with a new focus, running a sub 02:45 marathon – slightly slower than my ‘dream’ time for London – but enough to earn a Championship place for the following year and a symbolic two fingered salute to the organisers of the Greater Manchester Marathon.

Just after the toilet stop I passed Alyson Dixon, leading the charge for the GB women, going in the opposite direction; this lifted my spirits as I was able to manage a “go on Aly” as she flew by me. Not long after that I saw my lovely wife Vics, our two girls and my Mam and Dad who’d made the trip to London to again meet the newest member of our family, my Nephew Seb.

Before long I was again hitting on or around 03:53 per km (06:15 minute miles) and things were, sort of, back on course. I felt better at 16 miles than I did at 6, I felt like I was back in control. 19 – 23 miles were, as expected, a struggle. My pace dropped off slightly and I really needed to dig deep to keep the dream alive. That said, I was passing people, I wasn’t thriving but I was struggling less than those around me. At 24 miles, I started to work towards the finish line. I had a wrong to right from Manchester, I wanted my Championship place back.

Statistics.

The last two miles were everything I hoped they would be, I didn’t really give a monkeys about the iconic landscape, I was more interested in the fact I was finishing strongly. I did the maths in my head with 1km to go and new it was in my grasp, only just.

02:44:06 – 54 seconds to spare; maybe I didn’t need to rush that toilet stop after all. I have unfinished business at this distance; I can and will go faster, no doubt about it. But the feeling as I crossed the finish line was as satisfying as I’ve had in my short running career.

Cops and Runners.

I’d barely paused for breath and I saw Michael Littlewood heading towards me – a HUGE PB for him on the day, taking 12 minutes off in 12 months – impressive to say the least. I only mention Michael by name as we’ve travelled the length and breadth of the UK together over the last 9 weeks, united in a common goal under the stewardship of coach Allan Seheult. We were in this together and I got just as much pleasure out of Michael’s time as I did my own.

All the Elvet Striders in London did the club and the North East proud.

Now, I have a taste for the Marathon majors; what to do next?

… Elaine Bisson

Driven by the excitement surrounding last years VMLM, I gained a place with a GFA entry. The hotel and train tickets were booked months in advance. I travelled down on friday, staying in Lewisham (ideal 20min walk from the start line at Blackheath). Registration was at Custom Excel VMLM Expo, here there was a buzz of excitement from fellow marathoners and stewards.

I spent the remainder of the Saturday being very lazy and finishing off my carb loading. That night was the first in a long time when I slept until the buzz of my alarm clock heralded the start of race day. Fuelled up with porridge heavily soaked with maple syrup, I made my way through the magnificent surroundings of Lewisham to locate the green blip in the sky, marking the start for the GFA and celebs! By the Hare and Billet Road there was no doubt in my mind that I had found the right place, it was absolutely teaming with runners as they too made their way to the start.

A highlight for me was running into some fellow striders and being sneaked into the Virgin tent, with its warmth, bean bags, chairs, pre race fuelling, and most importantly pristine toilets with no queue (thank you!)

Baggage buses were loaded by 9:25, we headed to the start pens with 10 minutes to spare. 10am and we were off. Our route collides with the blue and then the red masses and the paths get busier and busier. So busy I narrowly escaped being tripped many, many times over as runners pushed to get past, or to stick strictly to the thin blue line marking the shortest route, or to dash in front to grab water. It felt like mayhem. I did not like it. I cursed a lot.

Honestly, I don’t remember much. If you asked me about Kielder or of Windermere, I could tell you so much about the surroundings, the rise and fall of the road, this was very different. It was an assault on all of my senses.

The noise from the spectators was incredible, throughout the entire 26.2 miles, and as the day wore on the voices seemed to get louder and louder. There were numerous bands along the route, pubs playing music, an insane 100m stretch filled with people in blue frantically ringing bells.

The smells were pungent from takeaways preparing food, beer, smoke… The sights of thousands of people shouting, the Cutty Sark, miles upon miles of roads that could be anywhere in the UK, the dark grotty tunnel, the shard, no. 10, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the most amazing finish line ever. We experienced all seasons, from a cold chilly start, hot sun, hailstones, rain, wind.

With 5miles to go, I had had enough. The buildings were encroaching on the sky, the spectators were becoming more raucous as the pubs were drunk dry. My ears were ringing and my heart no longer singing. The wheels were quickly falling off, I tried to imagine running along the quiet road to the finish line at windermere, I summoned all my strength to get this thing over. I clung to two women and forced my legs to keep in time with theirs, finally the mall was in sight and my heart began to leap, 1000m to go, 800, 600, I round the bend and see the finish line, with its 3 entrance ways and large clocks tick, tick, ticking. It was quite spectacular, I should have enjoyed it more. Expertly herded through to receive the biggest, heaviest gold medal (sorry, no, i hadn’t won), to get a picture taken (and try to smile and stand upright while my legs start to cramp), along to pick up my bags and then out of the barriers and into even more mayhem.

I tackle my way as quickly as I can through the masses swarming St James Park, up and then down a footbridge to find Victoria Station…then the long journey back to my hotel to pick up my bags, back to Kings Cross to fill a waitrose bag with utter rubbish and then on the train home. My phone turned on and there is pandemonium as it beeps and buzzes signalling facebook conversations, messages and voice mail from friends and family who have excitably followed my small red running figure on a computer screen and watched trying to spot my purple vest on TV…I wonder if they have had more fun than me.

I have the most hilarious trip home, filling my tummy full of goodies, and sharing prosecco and daft stories with an actress who is off to dress as a cyborg for her next movie. I fall out of the station with legs unwilling to move and perhaps having had a little too much bubbles. The taxis are all taken. As I stumble towards the hill that I will have to climb to get home, the wonderful Simon saves me and gives me a lift (another highlight of my day!)

So, what did I think? I wonder if I’ve missed something. I’m not sure how much I enjoyed it, if at all. There were parts that made me grin, but when I thought the cheers would spur me on, I longed for the solitude, for countryside, for air that I wanted to inhale, for the sound of my breathing and of my own trainers tapping the floor.

However, I also know I have unfinished business. With every marathon under my belt, I learn more about how my mind and body work, Ill come back stronger and smash that PB next time…

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Catpos Time
1 Sean Hehir IRL 02:17:20
501 Stephen Jackson 02:44:06
671 Michael Littlewood 02:47:31
4316 Elaine Bisson 03:17:32
5130 Penny Browell 03:22:51
9345 Fiona Jones 03:43:28
9780 Lucy Cowton 03:45:04
13264 Jane Ives 03:57:18
14269 Ian Spencer 03:59:55
15593 Kevin Williams 04:05:22
19422 Katherine Preson 04:20:11
19423 Kate Macpherson 04:20:12
20527 Chris Shearsmith 04:24:19
21703 Jenny Search 04:28:53
22443 Andrew Davies 04:31:41
26005 Debbie McFarland 04:46:20
26970 Jayne Freeman 04:50:46
27959 Christine Farnsworth 04:55:00
32195 Kelly Collier 05:19:11
32613 David Case 05:22:06
34779 Sophie Dennis 05:40:35
34860 Hellen Allen 05:41:19
34895 Lindsay Craig 05:41:19
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World Half Marathon Championships, Cardiff, Saturday, March 26, 2016

Stephen Jackson

Ok, so Cardiff isn’t exactly on the doorstep. But if you’re going to do a half marathon four weeks before the Virgin London Marathon, you might as well do the World Half Marathon Championships.

A dramatic view of the Start.

I’d had no taper for this race, and the weather forecast wasn’t good, but I still had a feeling I could run well in Cardiff; and that proved to be the case. It’s always a good idea to mentally prepare for three outcomes, perfect, good and satisfactory.

The most important outcome of the day was an injury free run with the training benefit of 13.2 hard miles – not to lose sight of the fact that it was a training session for London; albeit the most high profile race I’d ever been a part of.

Stephen and Michael. I managed three sub 18 minute 5k’s  to get me to 15km (just under 10 miles) at a pace that would have got me tantalisingly close to my ‘perfect race’ time of 01:15. Unfortunately, that is when I started to slow – possibly due to fatigue, or some minor ‘stomach issues’ but most likely due to the monsoon that engulfed Cardiff for the last quarter of the race. I have honestly left the bath drier than I left Cardiff that day.

I really had to dig in as others around me were starting to slow up a little too. I managed to get into a little group to work through the last few miles, courageously led by the female winner of the 2015 Greater Manchester Marathon, Georgie Bruinvels – who I later went on to pass. So, a PB of 01:16:03, and a fantastic weekend. I still have unfinished business at this distance, but that can wait until later in the year.

Finally, a mention to my partner in crime Michael Littlewood who ran a very strong time of 80 minutes on fatigued legs – all looking good for London.

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Age UK Harewood Dash, Sunday, March 13, 2016

Stephen Jackson

Stephen Michael and a Castle My best racing is always done in my head, in the car (or in this case the van), on the way home. This is because, in my head, I would have worked a little harder up the hill in the middle of the race and managed to place third, in a slightly more satisfying time of 35 minutes and so many seconds.

It is, of course, so much easier racing in your head. In my head I was stronger than the young runner who ‘out kicked’ me with 200m to go and denied me a place on the podium.

The reality was that this was a really good day for my London marathon training, a 90 second improvement on last year and a good time, a whisker over 36 minutes, on a really challenging ‘undulating’ [read hilly] course.

Both myself and Michael Littlewood, who joined me for journey South, managed to place in the top 10. Most importantly, we got some good quality hard miles in our legs for forthcoming races in Cardiff and London.

There was time for a quick coffee and a bit craic at Scotch Corner and we were back in Durham in time for lunch.

I may return next year, I now have some unfinished business after all.

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