Sunday, 17 July 2016

Fairlands Valley Challenge marathon

Despite "retiring" from marathons after my 100th, I wanted to do one marathon in my 100 club shirt, so picked an old favourite with the Fairlands Valley Challenge.

Course familiarity really helps with this one.  I think the first ten runners all took slightly different routes over the first mile!  I went off a bit fast in the 9:30am mass start and soon settled into 4th place, and then 5th after the same guy passed me for the third time.

I raced the first half while it was hot but overcast, passing half way in 2:01.  Then the sun came out and the second half  just got harder and harder, especially on the hills, and I got slower and slower.

This year I barely used the map and directions, remembering much of the course from previous years.  Plenty of other runners were looking uncertain all along the route.  I used to find this one tricky to follow.

Too hot for running.

4:40 for marathon number 101.  I'm planning to take a longer break from marathons now!


Fairlands Valley Challenge 2016 medal.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

A 2,620 mile journey - joining the 100 Marathon Club

A journey that began in London 18 years ago ended today.  Little did I know when I completed my first London Marathon in April 1998, that I would end up completing the marathon distance or longer one hundred times!

The journey has taken me around the countryside, from big city marathons to lonely trails, blazing sunshine to rain and gales.  After that first London, followed by an enforced month off running, it took me five years to want to run another 26.2 miles.  Back in London I ran my second marathon PB in 3:58:24 and was hooked.  Marathon number three would be only 3 months later at the Fairlands Valley Challenge, one of my all time favourite trail marathons.

At this stage I hadn't even heard of the 100 Marathon Club and spent a decade running the odd marathon here and there.  That all changed in 2009.  I got the year off to a good start with my first ultra at the Compton Download Challenge.  40 miles of Oxfordshire Hills taught me a lesson in pacing, with me having to walk the last ten.  I followed that up with a big group of Hash House Harriers at Edinburgh a month later, my only road marathon that year.  Some time in the first half of 2009 I had become aware of the 100 club and knew I wanted to be a member.  Ten marathons complete, that goal seemed like a long, long way off and I started entering more and more marathons, completing nine in 2009.

While I could happily complete a marathon, I was still building the strength and stamina required to run back to back marathons.  After a year of travelling where the only race I entered was a half marathon in New Zealand, I returned home in 2011 to blast out five marathon in three weeks, including my first multi-day at the amazing Druids Challenge, with 84 miles of the Ridgeway trail over a 3-day weekend.  With only 29 marathons complete at the end of 2011, it was time to ramp up the effort.  There were a lot of miles to run between now and the hundred.

I started running as many marathons as my body and fitness would allow.  Any more and I'd just pick up colds and flu.  In February 2012 I ran the legendary Enigma Quadzilla.  Four marathons in four days around Caldecotte Lake in Milton Keynes.  This included my first marathon running on snow and I completed the weekend in an average time of 4:13 per day.  The Quadzilla gave me tremendous confidence to keep running and I averaged 14 marathons a year for 3 years.  I discovered many new places along the way.

So many highlights along the way.  At the Trionium Picnic Olympic year, at the start the organiser said "I've added a bit extra, don't know exactly how long it is, could someone with a GPS watch tell me at the end".    A PB at the Groundhog Track marathon and again a year later.  Then a surprise PB in Jersey, given it was far from flat.  Sandwell Six Towns includes a mile and a half in a dark and cramped tunnel, alongside a cancel.  And Bath Two Tunnels actually has four tunnels as you run two laps through the old railway tunnels which have been reopened as cycle paths.

Hilly trail marathons are my favourites.  Steyning Stinger and Three Forts on the South Downs.  The Welsh 3000s and Peak Skyrace much tougher than your average trail marathon.

At the start of 2015 I still had 29 events to complete.  Was this never going to end?  So I made a big push and got 23 of them done that year.  I know there are people who have run far more marathons in a year than me, but 23 was about my limit with work and a family!

I started 2015 well with a 3:32 PB in Brighton, followed by 3:33 in another PB attempt in London a fortnight later.  But the highlight was by far and away the Race To The Stones.  This epic 100km run takes in much of the Ridgeway trail.  This was a new journey into the unknown and I suffered through much of the second half.  I ran it with a friend and we finished in 13h12m.  Running the big ultras with someone else works well for me.  I returned to the Ridgeway for another crack at Druids in November and rounded the year off with the first half of the Trailscape Rail to Trail series.

Just six marathons to go at the start of 2016 and a deadline to get them done before my second child arrived in June!  I had something special lined up for the 100.

The second half of the lovely Trailscape series got two of them done.  Then I got some practice in for the 100.  The Thames Trot was 48 miles into gale force winds and torrential rain, along the Thames towpath.  I needed this to get familiarity with the route.  I then ran the Bolton Abbey Ultra, 4 laps and 33 miles alongside the river at Bolton Abbey.  This one with Martin to check we were ready for running the 100 together.

Number 99 was the Ashford marathon, a nice fast road marathon in Kent and then a three week rest before the Centurion Thames Path 100 miler.  I'll write that one up separately.  I enjoyed the entire run and had a strong finish, smiling all the way to the line to complete my 100th marathon, 18 years after it all began.

* Although the title says 2,620 miles, it is actually a bit more with all the ultras, which only count as one marathon each.  And quite a lot more with all the training runs!