Worlds best marathons ?

If running 26 miles isn’t enough and you fancy travelling around the world to get there then this list might be interesting to you.

National Park trail runs

With so many national parks in the UK there must be some amazing runs out there just waiting for you to find them. This link has some great suggestions with links to run routes in many cases. Great all year round just make sure you have the right footwear 👍

British alternatives to London for those who missed out for the capital marathon – runbritain

Great little article with a whole host of ideas for a spring Marathon if, like many, you missed out on the London Marathon ballot

British alternatives to London for those who missed out for the capital marathon – runbritain
— Read on

Maverick Original Oxfordshire 2019

This video sums up the event quite nicely:

The race was one I took part in last year (2018) and it was hard, hilly, some pretty tough terrain, but some beautiful scenery in the grounds of Stonor Park and the Chiltern Hills.

This year the route was totally changed and took us on a magical mystery tour. The one thing that was not changed was the weather. I’ve rarely run in a waterproof jacket. Last years Maverick race was the first event I started wearing it. This years event was the second!! Both times it didn’t stay on as the weather ultimately turned out nicer than it had been threatening too.

So what to expect. Well, there are again hills:

There are great trails (see the video and below):

Pre-race there is a great spirit in the starting camp. Great food and drink for you and your supporters and some great gear to try out and buy – Inov8 have been the supporters up to the year and the chance to try out the Inov8 shoe range – including on the event itself – is great. Found out I’m a big fan of the Roclite range !!

The information given at the start is clear, friendly and simple. Pretty much knew what to expect before we started. Of course the biggest news was had Kipchoge done it ,,,

From the off there were hills, and mud. Both in bucket loads. There are also road crossings, but these are excellently marshalled and although not closed, they do a great job at controlling traffic. I for one felt very safe on the event.

The route is clear, but what is also nice is that there are three distances run on the day. You all start together and then there are route divides on the way around. In this case I think it was 2. They were pretty clearly sign posted, and marshalled so easy to follow.

Refreshments on the routes are perfectly sufficient, not every 5 yards but sufficiently spaced and stocked. I personally opted to run with a 500mL soft flask and so didn’t need to use the refreshment stations, but they were well used by others.

Some of the hills a repretty tough and on at least 1 if not 2 occasions it was near hands and feet climbing – at least it felt like it! But that’s what separates the Maverick events out form the others. They are a challenge, they are not an easy woodland stroll, but they are great and people keep going back (as I do and will!).

Having survived the 21 Km the finish line was a welcome sight, especially having had to recently hit one of those seriously steep climbs. The finish is at the same position as the start so the same facilities are available. Add to that the medal, bottle of beer, Jimmy’s Iced Coffee and an energy bar, I had just about all I could ask for.

Overall the Maverick events I have done are just brilliant. I don’t expect HM personal bests and I don’t expect a pristine clean kit afterwards – maybe a white pair of socks this year was a mistake !! but I just loved this.

Im already in for the 2020 New Forest Event in January, and hope to get to at least one other next year too. Not to mention the oversees events/camps.

Check out their website for more information if interested…

Fuelling for marathon success

If you have no idea what to do in the final days before a marathon when it comes to eating – what, when and how much – then this article might have some useful guidance.

Bournemouth Marathon Festival 2019

See the gallery here

7 Days ago I ran Windsor Half Marathon in a time only 19 seconds shy of my PB (which was Windsor HM last year!). So why on earth am I running another half marathon so soon?

Not to mention the knee injury which has meant training has been less than perfect!

Clearly gone bonkers!!

Well its a long story and just goes to show how much I have become obsessed with running.

It all started much earlier in the year when my wife was feeling the need to get into running and was doing a great job to run when she could. But she wanted an event to aim for. A 5Km or 10Km. We found a few options but every time we found one that looked a good fit it clashed with something else. Usually it was a race I was already doing – I have a tendency to book early!! So I became the reason that we were unable to find an event for my Wife. I had to find a solution. So lots of searching, googling, asking on forums later I thought I had found a workable solution. Bournemouth Marathon Festival. It was a free weekend. It had a 5 or 10Km. It was not too far away. But a bonus – it was a seaside location where my two youngest children might be happy to spend a weekend – as long as we had decent weather – but then it’s October, so that is a long shot.

So we agreed we would go with it. She chose the 10Km. Im then sitting there realising that the Half Marathon is early Sunday. I could do that, and get. back to the hotel, shower and change, and help checkout all before the hotel check-out time specified – you see my dilemma!!

Of course. at this point I already had the Windsor Half Marathon booked (week before) and the Maverick Original Oxfordshire Trail Half Marathon the week after (actually 6 days). So doing a third race is clearly crazy and foolish. So I signed up – I couldn’t go that far and not sign up for a race. it was like they had scheduled it just for me!!!

Prior to the race training was interrupted by a knee injury, but I managed a good race at Windsor only the weekend before. I ran a few Kms in the week in-between but mostly rested. hoping to do my best at Bournemouth.

The running festival is mostly focussed around the Pier front and the gardens in Bournemouth. It pretty much brings the centre to a close on the Saturday afternoon and most of Sunday. But it appears a very welcomed event. No complaints or winging, no angry locals that I could see. It was a real festival feeling.

My 5Yr old took part in the Kids 1Km with me, and loved it. Such a great little event.

My wife did the Supersonic 10Km event. And loved it. Her fist event and she thought it was ace. The course included Boscombe and Bournemouth piers as well as a long drag along the promenade. Great backdrop to run along. The finish line was crowded and loud and lots of support for everyone.

The Sunday arrives and the Half Marathon…

The start for this is some way away from Bournemouth Pier. It starts near Bournemouth FC football ground out the back of Boscombe/Pokesdown.

An 8am start, so I walked up to be there by 7am, got there about 6:45am. Was nearly dark still, hardly a soul around but preparation was underway. I was in the right place (tick), I hadn’t missed the start (tick) I had remembered everything I was planning to bring (tick) I was earlier than the dawn of time (oops). Never arrive late – always a stress!!

As the daylight arose the crowds gathered. The PA system pumped out the same message on a 2 minute loop. Useful to know but eventually drove me bonkers – ‘stop already!!!!’

As race time approached, I put the bag in the truck (well signed and well manned) and lined up in my start point (well signed with massive coloured flags!).

We got to within 15 minutes of the start when we were told it was delayed – by maybe 15 minutes. Not very well announced I will admit, the PA system wasn’t used, just a man in a Hi-Vis and a rubbish megaphone – most of us got it, but not the best announcement.

So we wait…

and wait a little longer…

The original start time lapsed and the PA system continued to give us countdowns. However it began getting it wrong. One minute it would say ‘there are 12 minutes left’ then it would say ‘there are 7 minutes left’ then it would say ‘there are 18 minute left’. Oh my god nobody knew what was happening – we just assumed somebody would let us know clearly and give us a 10second countdown or something. Well no, that didn’t happen. Instead I can only assume somebody at the front shouted ‘GO’ and that was it, suddenly we were running. Thank god I wasn’t tying my shoelace up! So a bit less than perfect – a shambles of a start really! – but as soon as we started running all was forgotten. Running through the streets around the start was pleasant and enjoyable. Roads can be tedious sometimes but this was good. some nice support along the roads and generally a good morning. It was warming up nicely as well and the rain had held off after an overnight shower.

The course headed out to Southbourne before turning back towards Boscombe. Still staying away from the sea front itself. There is then a turn back (running past runners going in the opposite direction) which headed through Southbourne almost to Hengitsbury Head. This is then when the course drops down to the sea front.

There is then a long slog towards Boscombe pier. Really good fun, bit of a headwind but really enjoyable. Around 8miles you reach the pier and cut inland through Boscombe Chine gardens where a short but steep hill meets you head on. Up this and the hilliest bits are done.

From there its Cliff top running down to the pier at Bournemouth where you drop down to the sea front again (past Harry Ramsdens!) and then head back to Boscombe pier, run down the pier then back to Bournemouth – Biot more headwind.

Finally you run the length of Bournemouth pier and then finish right at the Observation wheel at the start of the gardens.

Overall an excellent race. The course is really good, not pancake flat, not Himalayan hilly. The sea front is really good to run along, but a lot of sand, so carefully does it.

Support was great all along, even when there weren’t loads of people there were words of encouragement, clapping and signs, and the very useful jelly babies 🙂

I finished with a new PB 1:33:13.

Windsor Half Marathon, 2019

link to photo gallery here

The Preparation

Having taken part in the 2018 race. and loved it, I was quick to sign up to the 2019 race. 2018 gave me my HM PB and though its a hilly course I immediately thought, great, lets keep doing that as its clearly my PB course.

Now, if you know Windsor Great Park you will be familiar with the grounds and the scenery. Its great, its a really beautiful park to run in and the bonus of running the HM is that you get access to some land public normally are prohibited from visiting. Nice little bonus.

Training before Windsor was going well until 3 weeks out. For a reason I haven’t pinpointed I developed a niggling ache in my left knee. I tried it out a bit to see what was best and basically the result was to cut back on training and rest it. So those three weeks, which would eventually have been a taper anyway, became very light, half my normal running volume.

Now, I’m not a good patient – not many runners are ! I immediately think the worst and so was expecting to find I might have to make a decision or two about taking part in upcoming races. However, that thought came to me immediately and so I instantly panicked. I’ve never pulled out of a race or DNF’d and whilst both are fine (if it’s not meant to be then you have to accept it sometimes) I was keen to not start just yet. SO training throttled back and the race approaches with me putting in short training runs a couple of times a week.

To be fair, the runs I did were strong. I felt good, got good pace and times and so when I ran I was looking good. The concern was that I didn’t run past 10Km in the three weeks since the injury occurred so I had no idea how I would fair on race day,

Race day

The race day itself was preceded with a good few days of rain, like real proper rain. This continued onto the day itself. I live about an hour drive from the venue and on the journey down at 7am I was battling rain that felt like a boat would have been a better form of transport.

Now, one of the issues with Windsor is traffic and parking. The venue has a decent sized car park – but in bad weather grass car parks chop up a lot! Also, Windsor struggles with traffic and it is very easy to get stuck and delayed. Being the paranoid person I am I left 3 hours before the start time for my 1 hour journey. Needless to say I was about car 25 in the car park, but having seen the traffic last year, I wasn’t willing to get stuck in that! A note of warning if you fancy this race – arrive in plenty of time!!!

Anyway, once I parked up the rain slowed and eventually stopped and the couple of hours before race start were mostly dry. A blessing for sure. I was able to get stretched out, prepare and warmup nicely before the race and without getting soaked. I am a worrier and the idea of getting soaked before race start just concerned me. Wet, cold probably miserable – not the ingredients for an enjoyable race! Well I didn’t need to worry, thankfully.

Having reached race start time there was a light rain fall – which pretty much persisted throughout from that point on. I lined up in the second pen (sub 90 – dreaming!) and awaited the start.

The Race

The race is formed of two loops in the Great Park. You start with your back to Windsor Castle, before running away from it and then starting. one of the two loops. Nicely, the first Km or so is uphill so when you take the first turn at the Copper Horse statue and realise there’s a bit more uphill to go you soon realise what the day has in store for you!

The race was mostly run in a mild drizzle but. that didn’t dampen the spirit.

There is great support on this course, even given the weather. Loads of people out especially near the start, the copper horse and the loop split point. Also the park is a popular place for people to get some quality time outside so there’s always people out, and they all provided positive support to the runners throughout.

Water is provided well throughout the course, this time in small bottles. A lot of races. are moving away from plastic bottles but Windsor so far has stuck with it. Whilst I applaud those moving away from such plastics, there aren’t many better options so far. So on the race the bottles are welcome. But Im expecting this to change.

There are a number of hills on the course, some of which are mild, but there are a couple of big hills and they take a good effort to run up.

Elevation profile

Theres some good flat sections too, in the middle of the route there is a stretch going out to the area in the Great Park where they play polo. This is a nice flat section providing a bit of respite before the second half push.

Now the rest of the course is as you would expect. Up, down and along… However when you get to the end you see the finish line early. And normally get a bot eager to finish, turn on what is left of the after burners and storm to a speedy and flamboyant finish. Well thats how it looks in your mind. In reality you pick the pace up and think ‘Yes, I’m there’ but actually that final drag to the finish is sooo much longer than you think. You realise this as you run ever closer to the finish line and see it slowly fade from view behind a natural rise and dip in the Long Walk path. Bugger!! Both times I’ve been caught out by it. You would think I had learnt from the first time!! So just remember, the final seems a lot closer than it really is.

So how did I feel? Well, I was concerned about my knee and how it. would manage. And in general it was good. For 15Km nothing of concern. From that point the left knee got tight and I was aware of this until the finish. Whether it affected me is hard to tell. I think it probably did, but who knows. I till finished with a good time, albeit 19seconds slower than last years current PB, but 1Hr 34 min 57secs given the weather and less than perfect training, and a wonky knee sounds good to me.

Post Race

Post race the medal is great, a cool T-Shirt and some nice snacks go down well. A brief visit to see Jo Pavey at the Saucony tent was. cool too. Given the weather I didn’t hang around and shot back home to the family.

Post race my knee was tight and uncomfortable for 24 hours. It took a while to feel goo and only a couple of short runs on the Thursday and Friday post Windsor before my Bournemouth Half (blog to come). By the end of the week things felt good. I know I have a knee strain. which will hold me back to a degree but im listening during the races to what my body is telling me and if I need to I’ll change plans mid run. On to the next one at Bournemouth Marathon Festival where I am running the Half Marathon.

Overall Windsor is great. It’s not the cheapest, but the medal/T-Shirt are good. Support is great and the course is really pretty – can’t fault the Windsor Great Park as a location to run through.