THIS IS 2016!!! The Annual Review

2016 – it was a quiet one

The annual review is always an emotional rollercoaster, and this year has been one hell of a ride. I will try to keep it together and not go off the rails too much but please, keep your arms and legs in the car at all times – it is for your own safety.

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Looks legit

It has been a fantastic year running. Coming into 2016 with just the Berlin marathon to my name I was aiming big, with a year of more marathons and the dreaded ultra to conquer. It was a year of contrasting running experiences – long periods of running alone, trips alone, some amazing meetups, and great times running with people. The original plan, and one of the first races to be put on the calendar, was to use the Copenhagen Marathon in May as a way of removing unnecessary pressure from me at Berlin in September the year before but then, as race calendars tend to, it all started to go a little cray-cray with the signing up to the Race to the Stones 100K ultra (in one go) and then the Race to the King marathon a month before, “just to see if I like trail!” But we will get to that in due time.

The year started early for me, with races planned the previous summer, and applications to be brand ambassador out there. Being a brand ambassador is not really the selling out and prostitution that the naysayers tend to belch. When I say naysayers, I really mean those who whine about it a lot and really just want free swag too and haven’t worked out how.

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This year I have been asked to review numerous products but, as you know from reading this blog, I do not pull any punches. For the Salomon Speedcross 4s I had to tweet or post to Instagram 4 times using specific themed hashtags. I did, couldn’t wear them, and so gave them away. The Brooks Adrenalines I was given for running a contest, didn’t get on with them after a short jog, and gave them away. Asics Gel Kayanos and that inevitable RunnersKnees/RunnersNeed partnership, just gave them away. But this is different to brand ambassadorship.

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This year I was a Balega Impi. Socks! Yes, well it was better than nothing and I do wear them. Socks!?! WTF? I know, I know, it could have been On, as those Cloudracers are not cheap, or OMM as those pace shorts are £40 a pop. But socks it is, or rather was, as my time as an impi is now over. And what did I get and what did I need to do for those considering it?

I got some socks (half of which I gave away), t-shirt, a cool buff (that I gave away), wrist bands, a cap, massage balls (that I gave away), and trainer fresheners twice in the year, and ran two contests to win some socks – both ill-fated. You come up with your own contests and so I thought that my BALEGA STREET and MOTHER’S DAY DRAW contest were good ideas. Unfortunately people seem to just want to RT to Win nowadays, actually doing something for nothing is too much effort. But I am thankful for the handful of people who did. And I hope they like their socks.

If you are going to become a brand ambassador, you can run it how you want. Just read what is required. The brands will detail what they want in terms of effort. A few tweets or Instagram pictures are one thing, blogs and contests are another thing entirely. I wish you luck if you do, and hope to win some swag off you in 2017.

And now, onto the races.

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park 10K

Unlike a lot of this year, I had not planned this one too far in advance. My Canadian friends Ryan and Alana visited Europe for Christmas and New Year and Alana (70 races a year) wanted to run with me in London and this was the only local race around then. I have run QEOP many a time and it was more of the same, down by the canals around the stadium and then up by the café for two laps. It was good to see Alana there, and be comprehensively beaten by her as she is a fast 5K/10K specialist. Also meant Ryan could be deployed as cameraman and portable bag drop. So we could get changed quickly after.

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London Winter 10K

My second race was not planned at all. I ended up being a ringer for a group that suffered a last minute drop out. It was good to finally meet Claire, and it was entertaining seeing Jen as a snowman armed with a snow gun. I was not enamoured with the race, I donated to the charity to become the ringer, but it was the same as the prior year. Cold, wet, overcrowded. Cute medal though.

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Say hello to my little foamy friend

Greenwich 10K

My last race in 2015 was here, dressed as a mince pie (don’t go there). And again I had not planned to run it. I had, in fact, planned to run earlier in the year but had a cold, so asked the kind and good people at RunThrough to swap for another. And so I did this one when not coughing up a lung, and got to see an impressive Kaya finish first hand to boot, and it is always good to see Matty Wood.

But these little races really didn’t do it for me. They were the adverts before the previews before the movie. I had one eye on Manchester and Copenhagen marathons, and both eyes on Race to the Stones. To be honest if it wasn’t for Alana and Ryan, Claire and Jen and Kaya, I probably wouldn’t remember them at all. Is that bad? I just have raced at these venues and these races so many times before, and normally at the same time of the year, with similar weather, that they blur into one.

Brighton Half

A horrible noisy hotel, terrible night’s sleep, and poor fuelling combined with a fast course and too fast a pace that led to a 10 mile wobble. It was great to see young Jeff and Judie at the start. And that photo won a competition too and Judie got pampered at Champney’s because of our beaming smiles and colourful buffs. Hope you enjoyed it, lovely.

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What this race did do though, was illustrate to me the potential of a good PB at the Brighton Marathon in 2017. The Brighton Marathon being the money grabbing scheisters who, around the time of the London ballot, months after they closed entry to their race, open up some more places and jack the prices up double. Shameful really. And so I booked my Brighton Marathon place on the day it opened to lock into a more acceptable price.

Photoshoots and feeling fat

It was around this time that the lovely Roberts Photos asked me to take part in a photo shoot at Primrose Hill. You will remember that I did the same last year, when my photos were used (disconcertingly so) by Running Bug to ask what your Running Age was (mine was 28 according to the test).

This year there were three of us, all boys, including the wonderful Suraj; a lovely colourful chap with whom I thought I hit it off quite well and was embarking on a journey similar to mine for Pancreatic Cancer UK (last year it was me and three girls, one with a pushchair and one with a dog). He wanted to raise money for a homeless charity and wondered how. I do not know how much help I was but it is good to see his updates as he runs all over the place for them and I always look forward to seeing him and his brightly coloured kit.

Images from the Running photoshoot, 21 February 2016 at Regents Park, London. Photo: Paul J Roberts / RobertsSports Photo. All Rights Reserved
Images from the Running photoshoot, 21 February 2016 at Regents Park, London. Photo: Paul J Roberts / RobertsSports Photo. All Rights Reserved

I guess my problem with the photos is that, even though I deliberately wore black and compressionwear to give the impression of slenderness, I look like a giant overstuffed black pudding. Despite the great photo of Suraj and I sprinting up the hill, and the action shot with the blurred background, they do not make me feel happy with my overweight Hobbit physique.

London Supernova 5K

But moving on to the next race and one I actually had booked a long time in advance. I was supposed to run this with Nina. It was to be a gentle introduction to running that never came to fruition when she decided, pretty much from day one, that she didn’t not want to run it. And so I gave the entry away to UKRUNCHAT and so met, for the first time, the lovely Melissa.

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The photo of 2016 above illustrates just how much the people mean in the community. I loved all the social meetups that happened this year and there are some faces appearing more than others and so often they have become good friends. Melissa is one of those who has come into my running and non-running life and I am glad for the randomness of a race place giveaway.

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The race itself, again with Roberts Photos behind the lens, was again around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. It was a night run with the whole Supernova theme being day glo and fluorescence. I for the first and probably not the last time (not with the Bowiethon in February) donned my Bowie t-shirt, orange shorts and planned on face paint, that in the end I did not wear as it would have been too hard to put on in the loos of the Olympic Park café, surrounded by runners going for a last minute pee. For the Bowiethon I think I shall try to use non-eyebrow removing electrical tape.

Melissa, of course, beat me but I didn’t push myself (do I ever?). But since then we have become friends and, indeed today, we are off for cake in the city if the gods of timing are aligned.

Dartford Half

An early motivator for me to take up and continue running was to reach 100 medals. Marty Ewers, such a good boy, and I started chatting on Twitter a few years ago, we missed each other a few times (at TW half etc) and finally raced at RNR Dublin together and we both shared this aim. But after a few injuries and Marty’s midweek then weekend race schedule he hit the ton way before me. The 40th Anniversary of the Dartford Half would be my 100th bling and the first time I got to meet the lovely Lisa Freeman and James Surname. Jen, Nick and Tash would also be there too from what was becoming “the usual suspects.”

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I think this may have been my first race in the calendar actually. The medal was put online as soon as they designed it and I was sold. But, looking back, I was not 100% sure this would be the 100. The problem with having all the medals on the rack (and I had only the one SA Hanger rack from the Two Oceans – the I AM AWESOME one) is that counting them can be a pain. For much of the time, or until I actually ran the next race, the Hyde Park 10, I was convinced I was on 99. I was wrong and it turned out that Dartford was in fact, my 100th medal. Next aim = 100 marathons.

And the race itself was ok. No music, and this was the furthest I had run without it. I was slow but consistent, I had Manchester marathon on my mind and was experimenting with not training at all (as I had worked my backside off preparing for Berlin and wanted to lowball it with Manchester and then work out my best training regime). It was a country route, with some nice hills. Oh yeah, and I was given number 2. So I did receive a few comments/jabs about being elite. I was not, am not and will never be. I did see some guys running in their MDS gear and felt a little jealous.

Met up with the guys at the end and discovered that Dartford is pretty run down and there are literally no places to find a decent pub lunch. So disappointing.

Hyde Park 10K

In my head this was my 100th medal; so much so that I was determined to have my photo taken with it at the end. I have bad memories of Hyde Park and running there, after the Serpies New Year’s day race where I got a shoe bag instead of a medal and they get to base themselves in London’s poshest park. If I had realised that Dartford was my 100th medal I may not have even bothered, but I wanted to tick off that milestone in my running life before I ran Manchester Marathon. And so I did, and I got my photo with the medal, and it is done. No more Hyde Park for me.

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There! 100! Oh, what? Wait! This is 101?

Manchester Marathon

And so to the Manchester Marathon… As mentioned before, I worked hard to get ready for Berlin in September, following a 16 week training plan almost religiously. I ran the first 35K before joining the walking dead for the last 4 miles. I outdid my expectations for fitness without showering myself with a ticker tape parade of glory. Job done, as they say. What I want to do in the long run, and I am getting there, is to find a point where I train enough to bash out a marathon or two a month at an okayish pace and feel good at the end of it. Having worked hard for Berlin I wanted to come into Manchester cold, other than races. I would then be able to work out a happy medium between a lot of training (Berlin) and no training (Manchester) and that would become my norm.

So if I told you I beat my Berlin time by 10 minutes that would make sense, right? Or not? Well, I did and therefore it blew my masterplan out of the water.

The race weekend was a true UKRUNCHAT affair, with Sherie being mum and organising a pasta dinner attended by David, Joe, Katie and me, and the Fitness Rewards peeps. Pasta and beer and good people? What is not to like?

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I was staying at a hotel close to Old Trafford and would recommend the Copthorne if you are racing there. The race village is by the Old Trafford cricket ground, the bag drop becoming a total disaster at the end with people queuing for hours to get their bags, and families being let into the already cramped race village. The race itself is ok. Other than the aforementioned issues I would recommend it. And they even measured it long this year, to make up for the fact it was short for the years leading up to it.

Injury 1

But after Manchester, the day after the marathon, as I was walking around the City, I kicked my own ankle bone. MY OWN ANKLE! And I kicked it so hard it turned blue and swelled up to a point that walking was uncomfortable, and running was nigh on impossible. I was cursed! And with London 10K in a week, I was in danger of not being able to run my anniversary race, the only race I had run every year of my running life.

London 10K

 Okay, so of course I ran it, or rather limped around in 54 mins. The BUPA London 10K has been a mainstay in my diary for all 4 years of running but this year it switched to Vitality and so I will not be running it any more. Even though the event organisers have not changed, it changed the race for me. In the glossy magazine in the race pack Vitality had even been so petty as to photoshop out all the BUPA bibs in all the photos from the year before.

The race was, however, the debut of my London A-Z vest. I really liked it, right up to the point I felt someone poking me in the pens at the start (easy, Tiger, I said pens). I turned and they apologised for finding their house on the printed map on my side. And this would not be the only time I was poked. It happened throughout and until the end when re-entering Green Park. It is a fun vest, but it has unforeseen side effects.

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Alice in Wonderland Caucus Race 6 Hour Ultra

 Still limping and with Marty Ewers now aiming for 100 marathons using the Saxon Viking and Norman races in Kent to bump up his numbers I joined him for a busy day in Dover and on a FRIDAY NO LESS!!!. The SVN races are great. Very friendly, organised by Traviss, and have a close club feel about them. They are mostly 4 mile lap races, mostly 6 hours, and give a great goody bag (including booze) and a HUGE medal. You can do as little or as much as you want. The 6 hour limit means you can pass marathon distance easily for the same medal (albeit with a badge with the word marathon on it) as those who run one lap.

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Train home? Sorted!

The medal for the Alice in Wonderland Caucus race was one of the first pieces of bling I truly coveted, and with a waiting list, I was surprised to be offered the chance to get it. It did mean I had to make an effort, and with a field that included Tweedle Dee and Dum, and plenty of slutty Alice’s and Queen of Hearts’ and so…

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My aim was to limp around a few laps. I would have liked to run a half but only managed to make it around for 10 miles. This actually worked out for me as 1. The venue was miles away from the station and along a main road and 2. I had to run that afternoon in London.

Run with Strava and the Running Awards

Yeah, that appeared from nowhere didn’t it? It kinda did for me. This blog was nominated for an award at the Running Awards at the O2 but not shortlisted, but I gained VIP (very inebriate pisshead) access along with the UKRUNCHAT crowd and a lot of fellow Twitter runners to a night that included free food and drink and a bit of a knees up. With Richard, Jen, Joe, Pip, Jeff, Roger, Dr Juliet and others we would both party on, Wayne, and party on, Garth, all sponsored by Strava.

What it did mean was that we had to run with Strava beforehand. It was short 5K and we were split into groups where I finally got to meet running legend Susie Chan and her husband, and epic runner in his own right, Shaun.

So I completed my 10 miles dressed as a rabbit in Dover then got changed and a lift to the train station, trained back to London, tube to Hampstead, then changed and packed again and tube to North Greenwich in time to run again. Phew!

But after the run came a Q&A session with Strava hosted by the Marathon Chat guys Tom and Martin and then booze! And a fun time was had by all.

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Brooks Forum

This was around the time of the London marathon that, as per, I didn’t get into. The ballot really is a joke with people having no joy year after year and others getting in every year they tried. I really hate the ballot system and how long it takes, basically a way to force you into taking a charity spot, but I have to do it at some time or another to complete the majors so I keep trying.

Lots of other things happen around this time, with the running goods manufacturers trying to engage with potential clients as best as they can. For this purpose I ended up at a Brooks forum with Rob O’Hara, Ell and Jen to give our feedback on running shoes on the market and to, yes, you guessed it, get freebies. Freebies that I did, yes, you guessed it, give away.

Hackney 5K

Nothing good to say about this race. I didn’t plan on doing it, but after limping my way around all the runs since Manchester I needed to get around without stopping and in pain. Trains were up the swanny so I arrived late. The warm up was being held and I still needed to collect my number from a pair of beleaguered and, from what I could tell, incompetent Race HQ staff members, and then drop by bag off. When I did the latter the bag handler commented on all the race tags on my bag and asked if I would like him to remove them. As I ran to the start I shouted sure, if he didn’t want to live.

I made the starting pens as they were off, catching sight but not meeting up with NinjaBoy and joined the masses on an incredibly dull and disappointing run around Hackney Marshes playing fields supplanting the catastrophic Southend Rudolph 5 Miler as what has become known as “my least favourite medal and race ever.”

Ew
Ew

Copenhagen Marathon

And this is where the year really starts! After a successful return from self-inflicted injury and buoyed by the idea that I managed a PB at Manchester with zero training the Copenhagen marathon was going to be a bit of a “milk tray man” race. I didn’t know anyone there, and so ended up flying, hotel, racing, hotel and then flying without any interaction with anyone, other than ordering food and drink (mostly at the hotel). Whilst it was an incredibly lonely weekend racing, I am proud that I did it. It was hot but a good experience. Even when you are used to having your friends around you as support, they cannot be there all the time. And so my focussed trip to Denmark can go down as a good race and a lesson on self-reliance.

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Injury2

A day back from being away and the marathon curse struck again: another self-inflicted injury. Taking out the rubbish I fell down 5 stairs straight onto the same ankle that I had kicked post-Manchester. It cracked very loudly and it buckled under me. Ice and elevation applied, it turned blue and I couldn’t put any weight on it. Again!

What it did mean, as I limped around London, was that the Shrewsbury Half Marathon, a mammoth UKRUNCHAT weekend where Joe was the RD and the UKRUNCHAT logo was emblazoned everywhere, would be missed. I had the great unknown of the RTTK trail race and then the trial of the RTTS 100K ultra coming up, and needed to be ready and rested for both.

 Go Dad Run 10K

On the day of the Shrewsbury half, where Douglas Kuhrt was mistaken for me, and I missed one of the largest community tweet ups ever, I limped to Southwark Park and took part in a cheeky 10K on a mostly bark chips surface in a Superman shirt with giant underpants over the top of my shorts – as you do. I did the run without any problem and my ankle held up, mostly thanks to a reel of KTape, but it held up nevertheless, giving me some hope for RTTK.

And this is where the year really starts.

Race to the King Marathon

Anyone that knows me will know I love road races, and big city, big field road races at that. I love to just plod around a foreign city with 40,000 other lemmings until the end and get a big shiny medal. Outside of a small chunk of the Petts Wood 10K in October last year I have spent no time on the trails. Race to the King would change that and my attitude to running in quite a profound way.

Jen, Spence, Emma, Stevie Mac and Chelsea were there, so I had people I knew and to be honest, as we lined up in a field close to Arundel, if they hadn’t then I would probably not have made it. I was wholly unprepared for running a trail marathon, especially so close to coming back from injury. Turning my ankle over became such a concern that I focussed on my footing to a point of exhaustion. It rained. There were some nasty hills and, as I made it to the finish to Jen and a beer, and Stevie Mac waiting for me, after my longest run by an hour, without anyone there from the race to give medals and take photos, I realised just how much of an ask RTTS would be a month later.

I did not like RTTK, and it made me realise that bashing out road marathons without training is one thing, but trail is a game changer, and the game is hard.

Best tea ever
Best tea ever

Gym

What RTTK did though, was prompt me to get fit. Running is one thing, but I now realised I needed to have a level of fitness that meant I could keep going no matter what. And so the Virgin Active on Finchley Road became my haven. Four days a week I started to work out for an hour and then add cardio on top of that. Not dreadmill, oh baby Jesus no, but bike, and rowing machine.

Race to the Stones Ultra marathon

But four weeks is not enough time to make too much of a difference, so for RTTS I booked a hotel near the finish, a shuttle bus to the start and crammed my backpack with an extra pairs of shoes and socks, food, waterproofs, head torch and even walking poles to get me through. I needed every little bit of help I could muster.

The usual suspects were there, Jen, Nat, Spence, Sean and the Kenna’s, and it felt very familiar as I stood in a field somewhere, already muddy and wet, wondering what the hell I was doing. And the rest? Well you have read it.

It was hard, by far the hardest thing I have done to date. It was running with the volume turned right up, and physical exertion that finally made me feel like I had and could accomplish something. I kept the Twitter community apprised, which probably annoyed some of the naysaying elite running snobs, but it kept me going. I would take a pause at each checkpoint on the 100K hike down the Ridgeway, have a drink, have something to snack on and tweet an update. It did help, even at 80K when I was sitting amongst the beaten and forced myself to go on.

Fuck that noise!
Fuck that noise!

The end was emotional, well, the memories of the end are. Finishing as we did, and when we did, was pretty remarkable and scarring. I did joke in the review about it being like ‘Nam, but really, unless you were tripping and stumbling through pitch dark cow fields desperate for a glowstick, you weren’t there, man.

Race to the Stones has changed running for me at a fundamental level. Run/walking for 19 hours, hours alone in the darkness, helping others out, getting each other through, nothing is the same anymore. Marathons are just a slog. Anything less is just a run. I want to say the challenge is there but it is not. Races are just races where I meet people and have a pub lunch. Runs are just runs. Marathons are just training runs until I hit the next real challenge. I went to the gym the next day. But running would not be the same again.

Punk Run 6 Hour Ultra

Another SVN race, this time dressed as a punk (note: punk wear chafes the hell out of you) around a mountain bike and road cycling park in Gravesend and I got to spend more time with the lovely Lisa Freeman and the Surnames. 4 mile laps, as many as I could muster in 6 hours, to somehow exorcise the demons of Stones a fortnight before.

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You run a lap, stop and chat, eat pick n mix, drink then go again. I do not mind laps, but I was not ready to return to the field so disappointingly only made 20 (or so) miles before bailing with, what would turn out to be, an injury I am carrying to this day – PF and Heel Spurs – very painful, but hey, I still had four months of running to go before I could take a rest.

BBC Running Club 10K

 We needed to get back on it. Not just me, but race buddy Jen was not doing well after Stones and whilst I had Chester, Beachy Head and Athens marathons on my list, she had Beachy Head and the inaugural Nepal marathon. Mojo needed an injection of something and so after an impromptu signing up we ended up running around Regents Park with the BBC Running Club.

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Did it fix anything? No, not really. It was good to meet Nettie finally, having spoken to her on Twitter a lot, but all I got out of this run was a vest, a generic medal and a horsefly bite on my elbow that made my forearm swell up like Popeye’s for a week. Agg-agg-agg-agg, oh, Olive!

Get the antihistamines!
Get the antihistamines!

RAF Museum 10K

 And so the meandering continued. Running had become a bit of a chore, but fortunately the gym was starting to have positive effects on my physique and mental state. This race I did not plan to run initially. I had run it last year and the bling was a star among the UKRUNCHAT peeps. They loved it and the twins (Colin and Keith), Emma Morgan, Sarah and Welsh starlet Eleanor signed up, probably due to me. Emma even said as much and so I had to.

I threw a fun stance on it by coming up with multiple options of costume and asking the community to vote (Biggles or Red Arrows), and also, with Emma adopting a rigid run/walk strategy the team would stay together, chat for the entire run, and finish as one. It was good fun and I really enjoyed seeing everyone in costume and lunch and drinks with El were great. I cannot wait to do it again. Tidy, as she says. Slowest 10K ever! But this was about the people.
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Run the Boroughs

 Keeping on with hanging out and running with good peeps and Melissa popped up again for her legendary running of the boroughs, a weekend of hard fought hills and roads for charity with friendly faces (and mine) keeping her going. I am very proud of her effort and was glad to be a very small part of it. I do have the badge she made pinned to a medal ribbon on my rack.

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Bacchus Half

 Speaking of Melissa and starting with the highlights of the year, Bacchus became one of those races that just needed a video made of it (and did). With Emma, Jen, Melissa, Susie Chan, Sarah, Tim and a cast of thousands in fancy dress descending upon the Denbies Wine Estate near Dorking this was going to always be fun-fun-fun. Costumes? Wine at the water stops? Free food? What is there not to like? It was so much fun and exactly what my year needed. We went all out on our unicorn costumes; we made the most of the wine, and the most of the day, and even appeared in Women’s Running magazine in our horned glory.

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It was slow, slowest half by over an hour, but this was not about time, this was about the experience and the people we were with.

Who's idea was this? I think it was yours.
Who’s idea was this? I think it was yours.

And there was so much team spirit and boozy love there that the herd (or blessing) or unicorns is going to reconvene next year, and this time with a lot of new recruits.

Steps Challenge

 I found my spreadsheet of race times had a lot of red on it at this stage with RAF Museum (10K), Bacchus (Half) and RTTK (full) being my slowest times by a country mile. I needed to refocus, with some great runs coming up, and three marathons in the space of 6 weeks (albeit one of them was a metric, so it was a marathon only in name).

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To make myself feel a little better, and knowing that Beachy Had would be hilly and would include a lot of steps, and that Athens would be uphill, I set myself a weekend challenge, to run down the up the steps of the 5 deepest tube platforms in London. And so that is what I did. I ran 5 miles between Hampstead, Belsize Park, Russell Square, Goodge Street and Covent Garden, totalling 1690 steps. Not a bad exercise, but one that was easily accomplished in about an hour. I may well do it there and back next time.

The VLM Ballot

 I can’t go through my annual review without mentioning this. I had wanted to get into London next year. It would have been an achievement, but with the cockamamie ballot system I knew the odds were against me. So I signed up my brother too. And, of course, he beat the odds. The one and only time he will run, the one and only time that he will enter the ballot, at the age of 40, with zero running experience, he got in. I did not. Ho-hum.

Chester Metric Marathon

Bam! And back on it! This one was an oddity that I could not ignore. A metric marathon? Metric marathon, I hear you ask. Yes, 26.2KM. I went there with Katie and this was a tester to see if a combination of 3 months of gym and a brand new playlist could help. The playlist was offered by the members of UKRUNCHAT and to be honest it was brilliant. A 3 hour list of everyone’s favourite A-tune that would be motivational for me. If anything these are everyone’s running to the finish, or uphill songs, so if I catch them right I want to run the whole way. And I did for Chester Metric, a test for the next two big races, and two marathons in a fortnight.

The list - get involved. Just put it on, forget looking them up
The list – get involved. Just put it on, forget looking them up

Beachy Head Marathon

One of the hardest marathons in the UK, miserable weather, and trail! This should have been a disaster for me but the weekend turned out to be wonderful. You cannot have preconceptions when it comes to races. Or so I have learned. Some of the races I looked forward to the most were ultimately disappointing and others, like this, turn out to be memorable for all the right reasons.

Best running photo of me EVER!
Best running photo of me EVER!

With my RTTS “death before DNF” mentality, and no longer tied to finishing times as much as I was, these hard races now become a slog to the line, and Beachy Head is really a slog. It has a crazy amount of gain, 300 steps at one point and then it finishes after climbing and descending the 7 sisters. It is tough. I would  recommend finishing it, and then basking in your glory with lunch at the Pilot Inn and then relaxing in the spa at the Grand Hotel.

Athens Marathon

And so to the new big one, the A Race that replaced the A Race that was RTTS. The Athens Marathon was a late inclusion. I cannot remember when but it was after RTTK, when I realised that Beachy Head would also be very hard and slow too and I thought I needed to end the year on a high. So, for a mere 30 euros (yes, you read that right), airmiles used to get the plane tickets and a booking.com cheap and cheerful hotel I was going to the “authentic marathon”, the “original marathon” starting in…

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Where’s Wally?

And it is odd, as I rarely repeat races and wouldn’t for Copenhagen or Berlin, despite them being great, but I would go back to beat the Athens Marathon, and I would go back to Beach Head. I would like to do both without the PF and bone spurs on my heel. I would like to do one of the UK’s toughest marathons and the one where it all started again to do them (and myself) justice.

Men’s Running and Women’s Running

Of course, that was a great marathon experience to end the year, epic finish at the original Olympic stadium in the shadow of Acropolis, finally washing away the pain of RTTK by a long way, despite a very slow time in the heat on the constant incline.

And so my fingers were crossed that the final half and 10K would do the same as I ensconced myself back in London ready for the end of the year, picking up running magazines and discovering, to my surprise, that me listing completing RTTS as my greatest achievement made Men’s Running and the photo of Jen and me finishing Bacchus made Women’s Running.

Time to start a scrapbook methinks.

Tatton Park Half Marathon

But before that… the lovely Yorkshire and Lancashire crowd suggested we should all run together and so, within minutes of the DM group bring created, we had found a race we could all do – the Tatton Park half in Knutsford. I was not happy with my foot but I am not quitting races anymore and so made the long train journey there and back to see these wonderful people. Time was slow, but a darned sight better than Bacchus, and so more of the status quo was resumed.

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Leaving just the Santa Run 6 miler to tick 2016 off nicely.

Santa Run

TBD!!! I am not running up until this race, and I am not running for 5 weeks after it. So, this will be my last run of the year, and as long as I do it in under an hour I am happy. Ur-huh-huh.

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 Study

This year I have been completing a new master’s degree. The thesis is on the Impact of Activity Tracking Technology on a user’s activity levels. The paper is due in February and included a 6 week survey of UKRUNCHAT members on their usage of technology, as well as senior community members and the fitness reward providers. Excitingly, as well as getting my scroll at the end, Runner’s World magazine are going to speak to me about an article on it. Cool.

 In summary Looking back at 2016 and  looking Forward to 2017

You cannot only look back, you need to look forward and treat the past as lessons learnt. I learned this year that to feel achievement you need to truly push yourself, and to truly push yourself you need to leave your comfort zone. My comfort zone at the start of the year was somewhere around the 21K mark. At the end of the year it is now 42 and then some. And so, with the exception of the fun and games of Bacchus, and a very fast 10K planned at Pride in Victoria Park, next year is full of challenges. There are, if you look closely, 4 ultras (with the SVNs booked and planned as 6 hour races). The rest are marathons, but what are my A-Races?

Comrades, clearly, has the gravitas needed. It has a 12 hour cut-off and is uphill so I will need to train pretty hard for it. The deal I booked includes hotel, meals, travel to and from the airport and the EXPO and the race. I am looking forward to it.

The 100 Mile Berlin Wall race was supposed to be my A-race but, if I can convince the right people to take part, maybe the Petra Desert marathon would be another. I will do one over the other, or both if I am feeling a little flush. We shall see.

What it does mean, and I know this will sound odd, but all the other races, the marathons in Brighton, and Barcelona and MK are just training runs. And so I am not too bothered with the times. I may have to get the Guinness Book of Records involved. The WR for a race dressed as a chef is 3:56 and maybe at Brighton and MK I could go for it. We shall see. I have had a great year running, and meeting new people, and having the great and good and beautiful welcomed into my life. I hate to see people say it, and it is making me vomit into my mouth as I type it, but I do “feel blessed.”  And not Brian either.

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And so, to close, with the right people, and the right experiences, I am convinced 2017 will be even better, and I hope to see you all there.

My races are listed below. Please, let me know if we have some crossover.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. robohara83 says:

    wow what an epic year, totally jealous and in awe of the events….. next year sounds amazing too…. me n elle are at chocothon the day after cakeathon, will prob travel the day before so may see the end of the cakeathon

    Like

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