Sunday, October 27, 2019

Worksop Half Marathon


It is somewhere near the top of L’s bucket list to go to Greenland, so we could have been at the Polar Circle Half Marathon in Nuuk today. Although that does look a bit of a serious undertaking weather wise. There’s a more terra firma based one in August that might be more appropriate for us. So no Nuuk this year, so we’re at Worksop instead which isn’t quite so exotic but almost as challenging weather wise. They warn us of puddles on the course which was a massive understatement. I have to alternate between breaststroke and front crawl as we pass through one of them.

Worksop is a very popular race despite the horrifically spooky t-shirt and it’s packed at registration. Parking was also a little fraught in the centre of Worksop even though it was a Sunday morning. I thought I’d done this before but it turns out I hadn’t. L certainly has.

It’s all on closed roads and takes in a large chunk of Clumber Park where I find myself reprising sections of the Clumber Duathlon run course. Whereas it’s quite a twisty route inside the park there are quite a lot of long straight section outside of it.

Apart from that, the overriding impression is that the whole thing seems to be slightly uphill from the start right through to mile 12. At which point the course does most definitely descend to the finish. Any other downhill sections mid-course we’re clearly very subtly indeed.

To take your mind off all this they have a quarter mile section just after mile eight which is littered with numerous humorous signs. After which you lose your humour completely as it goes uphill again at mile ten.

After a good start and sub 8:00 miles, the terrain wears me down and I’m hitting close to 9:00 by the time I finish in a time of just over 1:50.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Great South Run

It is a ridiculously short amble from our hotel to the race start. It’s the 30th year of the Great South Run but my first time here. L has ran it once before in 1999. Now that’s a while ago...

The race is started by Timmy Mallet and Jet from Gladiators (Diane Youdale) in a nod to its 1990 start date. The course is largely flat and takes us through the Historic Dockyard and past the HMS Victory. Although amazingly some runners appear to have failed to have seen this rather large boat or the man on the start line with a big purple and yellow mallet. I guess they were just too focussed.

I have a good run and lock into a 7:45 per mile pace which I manage to hold for most of the distance as neither last night’s beer nor the Steak & Ale pie are successful in holding me back. I am aiming to get under 1:18 after a pre-race research survey, that both L and I did, goaded me to beat my target time and dangled a £10 Amazon Voucher in front of me if I did.

I am on target as I hit the last two miles of the race which is all along the sea front. Despite an 8:10 final mile, I cross the line in 1:17:54. Show us your money Amazon!

The very same survey told L she wasn’t going to hit her target time and to give up, or something like that. These were supposed to be different motivational techniques.

I collect my goodie bag which I didn't even need to open to know what is in it or rather what isn't in it e.g. something suitable as a post-race snack amongst the flyers, flax seeds, breakfast cereal, tuna and sachets of piri piri sauce. Great Runs... don’t you just love them... and I've done three of the buggers this year. The Great Aberdeen Run, the Great North Run and now this one.

Those race names never tell you what the distance is and nor does the medal or the t-shirt. I know my running buddies aren’t a great fan of the t-shirts either, which only go as ‘small’ as small and which is massive on most women. So probably won’t get worn.

I head up to the massage tent knowing I probably won’t get one. I don’t get one.

After the run L’s sister has to rush back home and to work the next day while we head back to the hotel to chill out and have a few beers with the elites. Our hotel is so conveniently placed that all the officials and elite athletes are also booked in there. We are very quickly rubbing shoulders with the likes of Brendan Foster and Eilish McColgan.

McColgan won the race, breaking her mother’s 10-mile Scottish record, in a time of 51:38. She was nearly four minutes in front of the rest of the women’s field. Marc Scott won the men’s race in a very impressive 46:57. He was probably there too but we didn’t know what he looked like. While Chris Thompson, who had won the race for the last three years, came in 12th and started his excuses with ‘At my age...’. He sounds so like me.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Robin Hood Half Marathon

Today I do my 8th Nottingham Robin Hood Half Marathon, L is doing it too. I’m not sure how many times that is now for her but it’s way more than eight. It’s L’s sister’s second time and we meet her at Nottingham University before getting the tram to the start which involves changing lines at the railway station. Oh, and it’s raining.

Thankfully the weather does improve and the rain largely holds off for the race but soaks us afterwards.

This year the course has been tweaked slightly and the start moved further back but I’m not too sure what this is to accommodate. I line up in the ‘red’ zone as usual, hoping for something around about 1:45. My fastest Nottingham Half was my first one back in 2010 when I ran 1:36:22. This is actually also my overall half marathon PB that I have little or no chance of getting near these days.

I fix my eye on the 1:45 pacer and then off we go. Unfortunately he turns out to be a nutter, setting out way too fast over the hilly first few miles. On my reckoning he is up on his pace by a couple of minutes after three miles when he should probably be slightly down at this point and intending to make it up on the flatter parts of the course.

At the first drinks station somebody hands me a bottle of water and I’m like ‘YES, it’s in  a bottle’. It is so good to finally see the back of the dreaded water pouches.

Despite the breakneck pace set by my pacer I just about cling onto his shirt tails until I start to lose touch as he fleetfootedly, and inexplicably, skips through the congestion caused by the narrow sections in Wollaton Park. It's as if he’s trying to lose his flock. Perhaps he is.

Coming out of Wollaton Park I see Daughter at the 7 mile point and inflict a sweaty hug on her before renewing my pursuit of my pacer before finally giving up the chase a few miles further down the road.

As we get to the last mile the excellent Race Angels, provided by Notts Womens Runners, are on hand to help you get through that final mile but they seem to show no inclination in helping an old man break 1:45. I gather I am not their target audience.

Rumours of them handing out chilled glasses of Pinot as part of the service also appear not to be true. Which is a shame, as it would be one up on the Great North Run Beer Stop.

Then I’m at the 13 mile marker and into the last few hundred metres which is on the grass and was a bit like cross-country running. I slither across the line in 1:47:14. It would have been oh so different if I'd had that Pinot.

Sadly after two years of handing out t-shirt to all finishers the organisers have again reverted to not having one which is very poor. The post-race snacks, in common with other big races, were also very poor.

What is good at Nottingham are the massages. Once again Sheffield Hallam University provide a girl for each leg (or a guy if you prefer). Great North Run take note of that and also that they have a least double the number of massage tables you did for a field about an eighth of the size.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Rutland Half Marathon

Today I run the Rutland Half Marathon which is an event I’ve wanted to do for the last few years although I’m not sure why... as I’ve ran around Rutland Water several times before in various Duathlons and Triathlons. It has had great reviews and most of them describe it as really scenic. Basically there’s a lot of water and a lot of grass...  and today’s there’s lot of rain as well. In fact it’s difficult to get to register before the race as everyone is sheltering in the registration tent.

Sensible L doesn’t fancy it. ‘That sounds nice’ she says, clearly not meaning it, followed by ‘I'll hold your coat’ and the two collies of course but she doesn’t mention that bit.

The race starts from the Sykes Lane entrance and the Half Marathon distance that I’m doing is basically two out and backs, one in one direction and then one in the opposite direction after passing back through the start/finish. There’s also a Marathon, with a longer second loop, and a Team Marathon which is a relay along a 1/4 marathon section of the course.

The rain does actually stop for the run and the novelty today is it isn’t windy. I don’t think I’ve ever ran here when it hasn’t been windy. So not too bad conditions really.
I am wearing my new GP watch and have it set to kilometres which isn’t a great idea when the course is marked in miles. That’s a bit of a schoolboy error.

My time of 01:50:53 isn’t great. There are however the most amazing cakes at the finish including about fifty different varieties for Swiss Roll.

After the event L has changed her mind. Now she does fancy it, it’s probably the Swiss Rolls that have swung it. Either that or it’s her FOMO kicking in or perhaps just the two collies factor kicking in.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Mansfield 10k

On Sunday L, Daughter and myself are in Mansfield for the sixth running of the Mansfield 10k on its surprisingly hilly and rather loopy course. I did it two years ago and L was for some reason jealous of me, so here we are.

We had talked about supporting the Stephen Price Memorial 10k in my home village of Aston on Trent particularly as the previous Aston 10k race was scrapped due to dwindling interest. Price was a runner, and a very good one, who tragically died in his 30s last year. However clearly they don’t need our support as the race is full, which is good to see.

So here we are in glorious Mansfield, a place which is certainly in need of a lick of paint or two. So it's probably good that an event like this is pulling some trade into the town.

I don’t have great memories of the actual race two years and this year’s isn’t that memorable either as my 48.27 is two and a half minutes slower than two years ago. L says it’s brilliant, just obviously less brilliant than two years ago. I get less brilliant every year.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Great North Run

Saturday sees up heading up to Newcastle for the Great North Run. We go by train and via Sheffield, just in case someone obsessed wants to take in a Parkrun but, on this occasion, we don’t. 

We have moved from last year’s hotel after they ratcheted the price up. We stay in Motel One which is right near our usual post-race Sunday Roast venue the Pleased To Meet You.

Motel One is nice, offers free bottled water to ‘members’ (I only joined to book it this once) and an electronic aquarium on the TV, like some sort of 90’s screen saver.

Having checked in we head off to find the Pasta Party, having finally got the hang of the fact that this is now in Gateshead or rather it was. It isn’t this year apparently. The Great North City Games which are the mainly track based athletics events they usually have the day before the Great North Run have been moved to Stockton. Oh. Although we didn’t initially realise this when we got to Gateshead because they still have the big screen showing live coverage of it. While the Junior races are still there but the Pasta Party and the Expo seemed to have been vaporised. Unless that motley collection of tents is the Expo. They certainly don’t have any hoodies this year. This doesn’t bode well as the race approaches its 40th birthday next year.

In the evening, finding somewhere to eat is difficult, for some reason everywhere is busy. In the end we eat at the Banyan bar which is full inside but they let us eat outside. That is until another staff member turns up to tell us that we can’t eat outside... once we’re finished eating. Then we pop into the delightfully and prophetically named D.E.A.D. for a pre-race beer. D.E.A.D. stands for Drop Everything And Drink.

Sunday is the race itself and we follow the throngs to the start where we join first the loo queue and then the start queue. Some poor folk probably won’t have even have cross the start line by the time Mr Farah is taking the tape at the finish. I line up next to a chap who ran 1:27 last year and is hoping to improve on that this time. One of us is in the wrong start zone.

As I have mentioned in previous years, it’s a pretty dull course so I mix things up this year by staying on the right hand side of the start which means you go over the first flyover rather than under it. So daring.

Then it’s the one exciting bit, over the Tyne Bridge but for some reason my timing is out and the Red Arrows are not overhead this year. Then I settle in for the grimness, get in a steady pace and high five as much of the crowd as possible to relieve the boredom until the next highlight at 10.5 miles where the beer stop is.

I am aiming for a time of around 1:45 but have completely failed to locate the 1:45 pacer either at the start or since. Then he comes past me at 12 miles. Are pacers supposed to sprint finish? I get a shift one and ‘un-lap’ myself finishing in 1:45:50.

Overall I am pleased with that. It’s a PB at my third attempt here. In previous years I’ve arrived pre-injured and have done a 1:48 and a 1:51.

Then it’s time for some more queuing. First I spend almost as long in the massage queue as I did running the race, all for what wasn’t even a great massage. Then I join the beer queue only to find that L has now finished her race and made the beer tent before me despite starting ages after me. We split three pints between us before heading off to join the bus queue as we attempt to escape South Shields.

Our evening meal and post-race drinks is again in the Pleased To Meet You and for breakfast the next morning we again frequent the Cathedral cafe.

Before the race L said this was definitely her last Great North Run but... she seems to have really enjoyed this one. We also have one more year of our three year ‘membership’ and next year is the race’s 40thAnniversary. I rebook the hotel for next year.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Speyside Windfarm Challenge

From our Scottish holiday base in Grantown on Spey we head to the Margach Hall near Knockando to register for the Speyside Windfarm Challenge. From there we have to drive two miles out into the middle of nowhere to Kirdelbeg Farm from where the race starts. L again opts for a 10k while I do the full distance which in this case is 12 miles.

The mission, should we chose to accept it, is to run up the hill known as Paul’s Hill to the windfarm and back. Those doing the 12 miler get to do a lap of all windfarm as well. So it wasn’t flat. In fact is was 1400ft of climbing in total.

Allegedly from the top there are views of the Cairngorms, the Spey Valley and the Moray Firth. None of this scenery looks remotely likely as it starts to rain again almost as soon as we get started. Amazingly though it does fine up and some views are possible as we do a tour through the turbines but I couldn’t tell you what I saw.

The rocky surface isn’t ideal for my ankles but I manage to get through it without twisting anything and, in an admittedly small field, we are both top 20. I do the 12 miles in a time of 01:41:17 which seems fairly decent and come 18th. L was 15th in the 10k.

Back at the hall there are loads of sandwiches and cakes. There’s also a raffle which we don’t buy any tickets for but end up with four prizes. They take so long getting around to drawing the raffle that everyone else on our table goes home and leaves us with their tickets. We accept two of the prizes but ask them to redraw the others.