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2022 Quarter 2 Review

Boom and half a year has slipped away.

So what’s happened? I would say a decent amount. I started this quarter with 1 race under my 2022 belt, I now have 6, so April, May and June have been busy – April especially:

2022 races Jan to Jun

I’ve been very satisfied by the progress this year.

Reading Half was a race that I took with one eye on Brighton Marathon only a week later. So I took that easier than I could have done and so was really pleased to get a 1:30 time.

Brighton Marathon was ace. I really wanted sub 3:30. I had in mind sub 3:15 (to beat my treadmill marathon PB from 2020), and given how well I was running, I had a bit of a dream that I might get close, or just sneak under, 3Hr. I didn’t quite make that but it was close – still comfortably a BQ time (!!!).

The IOW ultra has been bounced from year to year due to COVID and I was finally so pleased to take it on. A great race, some fabulous scenery and a lot of hills! A 6th place finish was very satisfactory.

The Hampshire Hoppit – a replacement for the cancelled Race To The Castle. A changed route to the now I ran in 2019, but still tough. Big hills, steep downhills and again, stunning scenery. Finishing 19th was better than expected.

Race To The Tower – This was amazing. The Cotswold Way is beautiful. Views go on for miles. The route is very challenging with hills a plenty. Some of the downhills are so tough they are harder to get down than some of the ups! Combining that with a nasty fall at around 20 miles, a 7th place finish and sub 10Hr for a double marathon was more than I dreamt of. That race is an instant winner in my book.

And that is the quarters events covered. The rest of the time training has continued following the Krissy Moehl guide I have used for a couple of years now. The mileage has been steady, but as we enter quarter 3, the mileage is going to grow towards the 100mile/week mark. Things are going to get tough.

The rest of 2022 has more races in the schedule. Most excitingly for me though is a return to Cornwall for some South West Coast Path running. My spiritual running home. The target of taking part in the 2023 Arc of Attrition means taking on some of the hardest hills I’ve ever run, over 100+ miles. So some time on the path this summer is going to be key to my training and conditioning for this challenge.

I also need to tackle some training with poles. I feel they are important to taking on the Arc. But not without practice. I have some cool Leki carbon fibre poles and a Salomon Quiver to hold them, so there’s no holding me back now.

One final thing for 2022. Nutrition. A lot more practice and research needed to fine tune my nutrition package for those long endurance events. I have good food options for mid distance ultra’s but long tough 20 hour plus races I need to work on. I have just started to look into Supernatural fuels so will report back on those. Im continuing to enjoy Veloforte gels/bars and have found Mountain Fuel a good addition to this, along with their night and morning fuel pouches.

So here’s to another 6 months of training and putting in the work to get me to the Arc start line in. January 2023. It’s going to be a real journey.

Getting ready to run into the second half of 2022.

Ww50

Firstly let’s get to know Wendover. It’s a forestry commission woodland in Buckinghamshire. It’s about 2 square miles and there are a lot of trees. Oh and did I say, it’s got some hills!!

How centurion get a 10 mile race route in that beggars belief. But if anyone can, they are the people to do it. 

The route is a mix of leafy woodland, gravelly, chalky footpaths, a bit of field, a few yards of tarmac, some steps and some steep climbs which are muddy or chalky in general. It’s trail running in its finest form. If it’s been wet there will be mud all over and in dry conditions it can be a dust bowl in places. November is often a good time to run but it can be wet. On this occasion we had great conditions. Possibly perfect. It was dry, soft but not squelchy underfoot and just about the perfect temperature for a gentle run in the woods. 

The start is in ‘trig field’. Car parking next to the start line. The route is 5 x 10 mile loops. You start in ‘trig field’ run around, through 1 aid station at Hale lane and then back to trig field to start the next loop. 

Registration – nice and simple. Get a number (for the second time at Wendover I was 237!). Get a tracker fitted to your pack and hand over any drop bag. I tend to not have a drop bag and utilise my car. You are allowed to go to your car after each loop Naomi get the boot nicely set out and organised as my own crew station and find that much more efficient. 

9:30 and race start. Lap 1 is a little different to the rest but quickly joins the main loop, promptly passing the Gruffalo (will see him 4 more times and in the dark by head torch he’s a little more scary 😱). And heading down a rocky footpath. 

The route then takes you through the trees and around a loop with some long down hills before eventually heading out over an open field. This is a beautiful section. Lots of runnable terrain and great views. A gradual long climb before yet another fast downhill brings you back to the footpath and a good runnable section before hitting the ‘fake’ aid station. The looped course means you are often close to mother runners at other points of the loop (though you rarely see them because of the trees and elevation). But here you go within inches of the aid station, but have about another mile/mile and a half before you can use it 😖.

Another long, gentle climb (runnable but walkable as the loop count increases) eventually brings you to hideous hill number one. A long scramble with a tree to duck under. It’s a quad killer and on loop 1 you already wonder how you will get through 5!!  After this there’s a downhill and ooh that’s nice. But before you know it the ‘Go Ape’ climb appears. Another long climb rocky and uneven and the already complaining quads are really starting g to hate you by now!  As soon as you reach the top it’s back down hill again, and onto a decent footpath. Then the ankle mangle that is ‘Root Canal’. This is a shortish stretch with more routes than the AA Planner. It’s a real ankle worker but with care it’s pretty easy. It’s also very easy to turn your ankle and do some damage. Survive that and the aid station eventually arrives. I tend not to stop as the route being 10 miles works well with my 2 soft flasks. Enough fluid to get through.

So on i plod.

Another up hill – not steep, but long allows a fuel break.  Perfect time to top up the calories and carbs. Then it’s a long undulating runnable section. Mostly gravelly and rocky with chalk underneath. A great spot to pick up speed. 

Just when you think it’s been a while since a decent climb the rope appears in view on your right and it’s a long upward slog on a slippery chalk hill, heading up to the Hill fort loop. This is hard work, especially later on the race. In the wet grip is hard. We were lucky this time as the conditions were good and pretty dry – thankfully!

This next bit is pretty runnable for some time before the last few climbs. Firstly it’s a short(ish) scramble where hands are as useful to prepress as feet!  It’s steep and by lap 5 you can’t help but curse the course designer!!

A brief downhill and a short climb again send you down for on of the final times. A bit of decent running brings you to the start of the final climb action ‘railing in the years’. Some helpful climbing rails brings you eventually to within touching distance of the marquee. A bit of tarmac, a stile, a bit of grass and the loop is done!  Repeat 4 more times 😂😂. 

Loop one was OK. Two already started to feel like hard work – but mind over matter is key.  After lap two I stopped, changed shirt to cool down and cracked on. After lap 3 I thought time for food – I wasn’t hungry but wanted to try eating proper food in an event. So I headed to the car and ate a one pasta I had bought with me. That went well. Could have been a bit wetter, but it gave me no GI issues – a success!!

Lap 3 is just a grind. The legs ache but that’s all it is – an ache. No need to give up!

Before lap 4 I grabbed the poles from the car. They were a revelation. 

Pole to pole

I quickly for the poles into action climbs I would have walked I got into a fabulous march with the poles. I got up some slopes much quicker as a result. Some of the treacherous downhills were stabilised by using the poles carefully. I also use them on the runnable sections to keep a rhythm. When tired form and style can get ragged. The poles really helped me keep consistent good form. I’m still

New to poles but they were so helpful. Some of the climbs are too steep for poles if I’m honest but generally I give them a massive thumbs up! 👍 

For reference I use Leki poles, the Cross Trail FX.one Superlite. They are light, easy to put up and take down, and come with the excellent Shark grip glove. love these poles.

Nutrition

Precision hydration fluid all round. Each loop was a fresh 2 x 500ml. I had 4 cups of coke too. 

Eating wise – the pasta I bought, veloforte gel, spring apple cinnamon gel, veloforte bars and a satsumas. That al worked well. I. Ever felt dehydrated or under fuelled. 

My aim

I really wanted to complete the course, feel good in relation to fuel and hydration, get more pole experience and not feel like I had been hit by a bus. The main objective was to reach the end feeling I could carry on. And I’m glad to say I managed to achieve all of that.  

Finish

I intentionally held myself a little back, I could have pushed more, I could have left it all out there!  But I am training for the Arc of Attrition 100 miler. It another hilly technical route. It’s no easier than doing 10 loops in Wendover. So getting through 5 and feeling I could carry on was superb. Wendover 50 miler is the toughest race I’ve done (twice now!). The Arc will take that mantle come January 2023, so feeling I had more left to give was exactly what I wanted. 

That said I still beat last years time by 10 minutes – the last 12 months training has definitely helped me become a stronger runner. All year I have hit new PBs across many distances. Let’s hope this is the perfect base to reach the Arc in a state good enough to get through 100 gruelling miles and reach Porthtowan within the 36 hour cut off. 

The Arc

I’m not setting any goals except finishing. I’m not crazy enough to think anything else. The Arc promises to be a beautiful adventure whilst being a brutal challenge of true endurance. If the weather decide to kick our arse it could be immensely challenging. I’m up for the challenge, I’ve put in thousands of miles to feel confident of having earned my right to start. I’m also realistic enough to be absolutely scared stiff. Nothing comes close to this challenge I have set myself in so many ways. I’m in it to finish not just take part. 

If you are in Cornwall on Saturday the 28th January then I’ll be at Porthtowan sometime in the afternoon /evening. I will get there and I will love every step of the adventure. 

If a challenge doesn’t scare you is it truly worth taking it on?

The Arc of Attrition

Autumn 100, Centurion Running. Volunteering

Yesterday I did my first stint of volunteering. and I really enjoyed it. I took on the 3am to 11am slot at Pangbourne for the Centurion Running AUTUMN 100. This was the aid station between Goring and Reading so, was the final station before the finish line. 

I was a little concerned that the graveyard shift would be tough. I knew I wasn’t going to get any sleep (or nothing worthwhile) before heading out. I also wondered if we would get the real walking wounded, dead on their feet runners that really needed massive help.

I have to admit that whilst I have always been grateful to volunteers and the work they do, until now I have never truly appreciated what effort it takes to cover all the support a race like this needs. The long hours, lack of sleep, countless cups of tea and marmite sandwiches – and that’s just the volunteers themselves 😂
But what I saw in my 8 hours were the most inspiring support from a bunch of near strangers I can describe since I started running just for people to go out on a run and take part in a race. 

Runners of all shapes and sizes, of all ages and races all with one thing in mind – getting their 100 miler buckle. So many felt beaten and broken, so many questioned they could continue. But for every one that felt down there were a dozen that (even after 95 miles) came into the station with a jolly Sunday morning skip. They weren’t going to let anything get in the way, they had this. A quick refuel, some shouts of encouragement followed by pointing them in the right direction and they were off. 

At times there were tears, snoozes, sickness – we had most things – but what we did was make sure nobody gave up just because their head was telling them too.

We made tea, more tea, soup. Gave people a few minutes to compose themselves and then they were out. Sometimes with a bit of leverage from us to avoid them staying too long and regretting it. We counted them all in and we counted them all back out again. 

We had no retirements. We sadly had one time out at 95 miles. But he was the perfect example of what running a first 100 means to people. So pleased to have made it to 95. Disappointed, but now so much more prepared for the next crack at doing a 100 miler. Well done 👍 

And that’s not where things ended. We had the pack down, cleaning, van loading all to do. 

The team at Pangbourne were great. The runners inspiring and the experience humbling. 

I always appreciated volunteers. I am always grateful for their help, encouragement and endless positivity. Now, I have a deeper and far greater appreciation for the efforts taken to help us somewhat madcap runners achieve the targets we set ourselves. 

To all the volunteers out there …

Thank you !

Send them on their way …

Chiltern Wonderland 50miler

It was definitely a chillier than hoped for morning but as I walked from the car park at the station to get my train to Goring at 7am I still knew it was going to be a good day. 

 CW50 was another of the races I had chosen to build the body up ready for the Arc in January. Hills, trails, varying terrain – all sounded good. 

The race itself starts on the riverside in Goring, heads south on the Thames before turning away from the river and heading eventually north into the Chiltern Hills. This first section is narrow river paths so not a time to be a front pack runner starting at the back!

Riverside start

The route then takes you north, through stunning Stonor Park, and onto the Turville windmill – yep that one from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 😊. The path takes you straight past it, however there is a beast of a hill to get there!

From there hang left, head to the highest point near Christmas Common and Watlington Hill. This then means a good long descent is due heading down to join the Ridgeway and begin the stretch through Swyncombe and eventually Grims Ditch. 

Finally it’s a weave through some pretty runnable rolling trails until you find yourself on the edge of Goring again and finally stumble across the ‘Finish this way’ sign. 

The route is stunning. The hills are great, the downs just as good. There’s also plenty of forest/woodland running which is one of my favourite terrains – must have strong ankles then ! haha 😆 

Aid Stations

Usual Centurion style. Simple but very effective. Water, squash, coke and tailwind to drink – and a variety of sweet and savoury snacks including fresh fruit and sweets.   They put on 5 stops. The first around 10 miles in and the rest 7 or 8 miles apart. Just about right 👍

As usual volunteers were ace. Enthusiastic, supportive, quick to help you through the aid station. Centurion volunteers are the best!

Approach

This was a B race for me. I wanted to do well but it was still training for the big one. I focussed on nutrition, really hitting it well in the first half, struggling a bit as time went on and I need to get more wet food in my plan to fix this. 

I wanted to perform well but not batter myself either. I have London marathon 15 days after and I want a good time!  So a little reserved in the second half – holding back a touch on a few hills and coasting a few flats. 

Challenges

 Not many – beside the race itself !

About halfway (I think) I got a tweak in my right achilles. Carried on a little and thought it’s a blister brewing so stopped. Nothing obvious but it wouldn’t go. So I stopped, shoes, sock off. Plaster over my taped heel to add some more cushion and off I went again. That fixed it and no issues after. 

Result

Though I was not putting everything into the race I still smashed my 50 mile Pb by about 2 hours to 8:15.01. That blew me away. I thought 10 hours but 8 😮!!

And a top ten finish at a Centurion Event!  I’ll take that every day of the week. 

What’s next?

London is around the corner, my first attempt at the iconic race.  I would like a good time but I’m just really excite to have made it through the ballot! Then it’s the long run into the Arc in January.  That’s going to be here before we know it.

Running the Roseland Peninsula

When we go on UK holidays I am always thinking of running opportunities.  In recent years Cornwall has featured heavily and I have taken on the challenge to run as much of the South West Coast Path as possible.  

This year we were staying by Towan Beach.  A stretch of the coast path which is around 43 miles long, with a ferry from ‘Place’ to Falmouth, via St Mawes to the west and a ferry from Fowey to Polruan in the east. Towan beach is about 2 miles from Place.

As I have committed my self to running the 2023 Arc of Attrition 100 mile race I thought this was a good chance for two particular firsts;

  1. Running with as close to full kit as I could get
  2. Running the Coastal Path in darkness

So Monday evening (after a long day out with the family in Falmouth) at 8:40 is I setout on my run.  Heading east towards Fowey as the sun was getting low in the sky.

Kit:

To cover most of the Arc kit I ran with my Salomon Adv Skin 12 – a new Salomon vest for me and my first time using it!

I had all the usual night running kit – torches, batteries etc.  I also carried waterproof trousers and a jacket, long running tights, base layers, hats gloves etc.  These are Arc gear and not stuff I would expect to need (and I didn’t – thankfully!).

I had 3L of water (there was no refuelling or topping up on the route) and I also had my Leki poles.  A real opportunity to test my Pole running abilities out.

I ran earing my Trailfly 300 from Inov8.  Im not sure if these will be the ones for the Arc.  In the winter conditions I might need something with a little more grip, however these have a pretty good grip, are comfortable, and may well be my shoes of choice.  Winter training will determine that decision.  

In this run they managed well and I felt well connected to the trail, with the exception of the one time I tripped over my pole (I was getting a little lazy with my technique)!

Route:

My route was strictly the coastal path – where I could find it!  There was a detour just west of Charlestown (nr St Austell) but otherwise I was on the usual path all the way.

The path in this area of Cornwall is pretty mixed.  It doesn’t have the giant boulders you might find around the North Coast near Sennen, and it has a good bit of Beach at Par Sands.  It has more steps than Riverdance concert and some beautiful sights – even in the dark.

One of my favourite points about this 41 mile route I took was that there was so little of it involved built up civilisation.  I found myself in endless miles of fields, woodlands, steep ups and downs and just the occasional fishing village (like Mevagissey) or a short couple of road sections around Charlestown and Par.

The photos show some of the beautiful things I saw on the run.  My favourite point was Dodman Point.  I had read about this but forgotten the fact that there was a large cross on the top of the cliffs next to the path.

I came up the climb towards the top of Dodman point and was taken a little bit by surprise when I saw this magnificent stone cross.  The story of Dodman is here (https://www.southwestcoastpath.org.uk/walksdb/37/#).  The cross dates from 1896 and was built by the Rev George Martin as a navigation aid for shipping following a collision between two naval destroyers near Dodman Point earlier that year.

The final approach to Fowey seemed to take a long time – though I suspect that as just some tiredness also kicking in.  It’s a lovely route though, over the final headland and then through some wooded areas and finally into the harbour village of Fowey – one of my favourite Cornish towns.

Running Buddies

Apart from the first 2 miles to Portscatho and the route from Par to Fowey, I was alone.  Not a sole to be seen.  Yet I had a whole host of running buddies.  Running in the dark has the added benefit that you have only a short field of view.  My head torch is pretty powerful, but the varied terrain underfoot means a lot of time is spent illuminating only the few metres in front of you.  So it can be a little surprising sometimes when you come across other living things on the way around.

Firstly, at this time of year, and in the middle of the night, all the spiders come out.  Spreading their massive webs across the path to catch moths etc, many of them caught this runner that night.  I encountered dozens, a good few I spotted only as I hit the web, with many being brushed off my torso, head and the occasional (well 2) which were unfortunate to find their way into my mouth – urgh!!!

My second encounter was a first for me.  When running along the path, only metres from the cliff edge and the sea, to hear things rustling amongst the undergrowth is a little disconcerting.  So I was a little unsure when I heard things I couldn’t see.  I carried on, trying to just ignore, until an animal like a pretty large domestic cat ran across in front of me, stopped and stared as if to say – “What the **** are you doing here and this time?”  I found myself face to face with a badger for the first time in my life!  It was just brilliant.  As quickly as it appeared it shot off into the bushes.  This happened three times during the night, firstly around Nare Head and then just after Pentewan.

How did it go?

In a word … well.  I got through the run, I found the time with my poles was really useful and by the time I got to Fowey I really had gotten the hand of the poles, double planting or staggered planting, uphill, downhill, flats etc.  I really found them helpful.

I tried some new nutrition in Supernatural Fuels.  They were good, particularly the maple one!  They sat well in the stomach and were easy to eat.

Water was an issue.  During such a warm spell in the UK I always knew my limitation was going to be liquid.  I ran with 2.5L in my vest with 500mL emergency water in my Salomon Pulse belt.  Once I had to start to use the emergency water, I knew my race would need to end at the next place I could be collected.  I’m always a little worried about water, and so from halfway was rationing my intake.  To reduce my use a little I throttled back o effort a little, to ensure I kept my hydration a little more in control.  I reach Fowey consuming just the last few drops of my emergency water.  Well judged maybe, lucky, or just good management of consumption.  I would have liked a little more buffer, but I was in good shape when I reached Fowey.  

Recovery

This was a real bonus.  I finished just before 7 on Tuesday morning.  I was back out Wednesday morning running 6 miles on the path with my wife.  Whilst my legs had some miles in them, there was no aching, no niggles, they were good.  I have really found recovery now I follow a real training plan, to be where I have seen great improvement.  I have SIS Rego recovery protein, I try and hydrate before, during and after my runs, and I try to take on the right amount of calories.

Some other things I have found that have improved my recover:

  1. Keep moving – I find I recover best when I don’t crash after a long run.  I get up go for a walk.  Go out with the family, just keep a gentle amount of exercise immediately after.
  2. Yoga – new to me in 2022 but something I have stuck with since January.
  3. Stretching – Yes I know, runners should do this, and most of us don’t!  But I have made a little more effort ton this point – especially post run.

What I learnt 

Successes:

  1. The Salomon vest took all my kit and had plenty of room to spare.  I had most of my Arc kit onboard but the few other bits I need to add will fit with ease.
  2. The maple flavoured Supernatural Fuel was really good.
  3. The Leki poles were a real win, in combination with the Salomon custom quiver to hold them – on the rare times I wasn’t using them!
  4. Foot preparation went well, a bit of taping, my 2Toms powder.  No sock change and no blisters after 41 lumpy miles.
  5. Running in the dark on this terrain was a good win in itself.
  6. I run with my inReach from Garmin. My GPS tracker so the family can always see where I am when out in remote places. I rant his for the full duration of my time out and in the 10 hours or so it use less than a third of its battery, a good sign for some longer running.

Areas to improve:

  1. The Leki poles were great, but the shark grip hand straps are too big.  I have the M/L/XL size and need the smaller ones.  The caused a few rubbing hotspots around my wrists as a result.
  2. Upper body strength isn’t were it needs to be.  Using poles really helps take some of the weight off the legs, but I found that my shoulders – which are more bone than muscle – ached the next day.  I’m already addressing this with some upper body weights work.
  3. Downhill running – hen things are steep my technique needs improving.  I fell during Race To The Tower this year on a steep downhill and on the odd occasion on this run I felt unstable going down the steep downhills.  I got this improved by changing the angle I took on the downhill – I was previously just going straight down.  Adding a little more of an angle to go across the gradient a little was much more stable and gave me much more confidence.
  4. Where to hook my hat?  An odd one, but I found that I wanted to run much of the night period with my hat off.  I am a cap wearer and when I took it off I didn’t want the hassle of taking my vest off and putting the hat away, so I hooked it on one of the bungees on the vest.  This looked like it would be fine, but I found it constantly bounced about and the Velcro on it kept catching on the Velcro of my leki grips – not the worlds biggest problem, but annoying over long distances.

Conclusion

In summary, this was a great run in practice for the Arc 100.  The route may not be part of the Arc but running on the path at night poses equivalent challenges and difficulties.  Fuelling was good, pace was great and whilst I felt the effort at the end, I was in good shape and felt strong.  

The coast path is a splendid place to explore.  I feel I’ve been very lucky to have time out on the path to run day and night, and see some stunning sights.

How to train your gut (and consume more carb) by Precision Fuel & Hydration

Getting the fuelling wrong can so often be the reason behind a DNF. As the endurance requirements for a race increase, so does the need for thinking about fuelling that activity.

Usually the right answer is very personal and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ option here.

The top folk at Precision Fuel and Hydration have this great post about it and there’s some good tips and advice in there to help you out. Their nutrition products are also pretty good (and that’s just my personal opinion!).

Sports Scientist Andy Blow offers 10 practical guidelines to help you train your gut to absorb more carbohydrate during training and competitions…
— Read on www.precisionhydration.com/performance-advice/nutrition/how-to-train-your-gut/

The Sub 3:30 marathon Experiment

With the Brighton Marathon in 2020 being cancelled and the world basically imploding with COVID for 2 years, my plan after Brighton 2019 to break the 3:30 mark took a back seat. It’s not that I stopped running – just ask my wife or check my Strava!! But the organised events and in particular marathons that I could sign up for and had sub 3:30 potential dried up.

My focus moved on to trail events, and in 2020 I signed up for the 2021 Robin Hood 100. A 100 mile event around Sherwood Forest. Read about that here.

But doing that meant a training plan , and a training plan that was aimed at serious endurance, not a mere 26.2 miles! (I can’t believe I just wrote that – my how things change!! In all honesty 26.2 miles is anything but a ‘mere’ distance. It’s a marathon, its a lot of miles, its hours of running – even for the best in the world.

That training plan however did more than just prepare me for the endurance of a 100 mile event. It built my fitness up, it tightened my speed work and physical strength. It made me feel more capable and able. I began hitting numerous PBs at 5Km, 10Km during interval sessions, I really felt good. So whilst it wasn’t;t the plan, I felt that the sub 3:30 marathon experiment still had some chance. So I signed up for the 2022 Brighton Marathon. I didn’t target training for it. I ran my 100 miler and then restarted the same training program with more ultras in the calendar for 2022 (this time for the Chiltern Wonderland event ran by Centurion Running. Brighton Marathon just happened to fall into the training timetable, but I felt good that I would be able to turn in a good result.

In the run up to my 100 miler I ran the 2021 Big Half and set a new PB of 1Hr 23. I felt I had really smashed that, and the thought of doing a 3:30 marathon no longer filled my marathon sights, I was now thinking the 3Hr dream might just be the one I needed to aim for. Sub 3 would be beyond my expectations. I didn’t believe I had any reason to think I deserved to be that good, to break a line that is so far detached from what I thought I would be doing in 2017 when I started running.

As Marathon day approached I felt in good shape and put in a sensible taper for 2 weeks. Well that’s a lie, I ran Reading half marathon 7 days before the marathon and foolishly ran a 1:32 !! I should know better by now!

I decided on race day to run with the 3Hr pacer, see how I got on and if I had to I would drop back. But if I don’t try …

My first problem was that the pen I was in (sub 3:30 expected time) had no 3Hr pacer. They were in the elite group and so were some way ahead of me. Arggh!!

I worked my way to the front of the pen but couldn’t;t eve see the 3Hr pacer as I started, what do I do! 2 options …

  1. Run my own race, pace with my watch and control things myself.
  2. Catch the 3Hr pacing and use them to control the pace, knowing that they would do a better job.

Well, I opted for 2. I am not the best at self pacing and thought I could do without the added concern of keeping an eye on my pace. So catch the 3Hr pacer I did. According to the official timing for the marathon, this was a much bigger error than I thought. Official my first 5Km was 17 minutes ! Far far too fast. I would end up paying for that.

Now my other issue is that I am a runner that sweats a decent amount and I need fluids. I really need a good amount of fluid 500mL to 1L over the course of the marathon. I carried a bottle (500mL) hoping I would manage, but again this fell short, and the use of paper cups at the race – though commendable and something I support for environmental reasons, are just useless for taking on fluids if you are trying rot run fast.

So I had to refill my own water bottle, costing precious time.

At around 20 miles I started to slip back from the 3Hr pacer and immediately felt my 3Hr target was done for. I did however pull my big boy socks up and refuse to just let it fade into disappointment. I kept pushing, knowing now my target was 3:15 – which would be a PB (beating my treadmill PB from April 2020).

The crowd as ever was brilliant, the. whole town is so supportive of the race and the runners, so much cheering, encouragement and joy out there. The race brings Brighton to a virtual stop, driving anywhere near Brighton that weekend must be a nightmare, but embrace it they do and I’m so grateful for that, without that support it would be so much harder.

Eventually I hit Madeira Drive, saw the finish line and the customary extra skip in my step meant I crossed the line in 3Hrs 4minutes. Not the 3 Hrs I wanted, not the nirvana state of a time starting 2Hr … but still, 3Hr 4 – WOW. I cannot begin to comprehend what I would have said back in 2017 if people started telling me the ti would one day complete a marathon in that time. Its bonkers, it’s nuts, but it’s my time, I did it and nobody can deny me that.

One day I will try again for sub 3Hr, but for now I can look at that medal and the photos and think, I finished 276th our of over 8000 runners. That’s a memory to last a lifetime.

Thankyou Brighton, you were again brilliant.

3Hr 04 – that will do!!