My God, where did this year go? It only seemed like last week that I turned up at the Race Organiser’s Olympic Park 10K sporting my new 12 Marathons in 12 Months top, and ran a comfy race with Jenni Morris that then prompted me to a successful PB attempt a week later. And that was the first weekend of January. Now, we are in the last weekend of December, it is time to reflect on 2018 as a running year and the friendships gained, the friendships lost, the magazines, the injuries, and the joy. So here goes.
The race calendar was evolving as January started. Having completed 12 marathons in 12 months for Pancreatic Cancer UK in 2017 I needed to build on that and so started to add races that would challenge me more and so biggies started to appear. Transgrancanaria or TGC as we call it, was added for February, as was the famous Green Man Ultra 45 miler, and the St Illtyds 50K ultra as well as big city marathons at Vienna, Liverpool and Loch Ness and the final Race to the… series double marathon at Tower. But racewise I started small and local. With the London crew all crying off for one reason or another Jenni and I met up for our first race of the year at the Olympic Park. It was my job to pace and I did a pretty good job of it. It was so comfy, as I said, that I checked to see when the next Runthough Victoria Park 10K was, as I could sense a PB coming on.
And that is exactly what I did. With Lewis, Caroline and Simon there, I beat my previous 10K personal best by a whopping 31 seconds, and could have gone even faster if I had better prepared. Well, a PB is a PB! And the klaxons were sounded in January for the first time in a long time.
With two 10ks being my only races of January I got quite scared about TGC. It was one of those races where proper runners go. I was totally out of my depth. And what with the famous Green Man Ultra a week later a small sewerage plant had been set up in my trousers.
And so I did what I always do. When heading toward a race I deem as important, meaningful, or just plain scary, I turn to the Saxon, Viking and Norman race crew and bash out a marathon of laps somewhere dingy in Kent. And that is exactly what I did on 13th February after the Craft Beer Half with Melissa, Whiffers and Lew and signing up with coach Shaun Dixon to get me ready for the year.
I went down to the familiar Gravesend Cyclopark and ran there and backs for 5 and a bit hours to prove to my idiotic brain that I could run the distance after 6 weeks of muddling through.
And so it came to my first serious race of the year, the famed Transgrancanaria marathon with Whiffers and Lou McWilliams. Lou would be running one of the crazy distances and was there before Michelle and I landed. She would also already have retired with broken ribs and nasty bruises before we had even collected our bibs for what was, regardless of time, technical descent and the heat, just a marathon, and a downhill one at that.
Still, it did give me a few memories and a few photos that make it at least look like I know what I am doing.
And whilst we were loving it in Gran Granaria the snows hit the UK. Ok, rewind a little. We did, actually, have an issue with weather at TGC. The day of the marathon lightning storms hit the mountains and so we were delayed by 24 hours. It did give me an extra day of lounging in the spa before the marathon. And, as the snows hit the UK races were called off all over including Green Man Ultra or GMU. Although some people decided to run the course unofficially, it meant that the race would be rescheduled for later in the year (September). This worked out very well for me as I was 1. knackered after TGC and thought I would have to bail completely 2. had already attempted to bottle it down to the 30 mile from 45 as I knew I had issues with fitness, but had missed the deadline. Now the race was rescheduled I would be ok to run the 30 miler, even though it would be 6 days after Loch Ness marathon in September.
XNRG races have always been on the radar and as prep for RTTT and St Illtyds I thought I would start with Amersham 50 catching up with Superman Tim, Ali, Shaun and Susie Chan at the start before taking it relatively easy for the race that replaced GMU. It was muddy, there were angry horses, I had read up on it and knew what to expect and ultimately was happy with myself. Can’t you tell?
I was buzzing again, going into the end of the month on a high and next up was the Bedford 20. 20? 20 miles? Yes, that is right. And the last running of it at that. Shame! A great leg stretcher for those training for a late Spring marathon but alas, like Bovington Mara, and Picnic Run the Bedford 20 is no more.
Four races for April with the Easter 10K dressed with bunny ears, attended by Carmen To, a return to the Amersham area for a marathon attempt that was an utter failure despite the cool Groovy glasses medal (it was just too cold, too wet, too muddy and too many shitty laps around a school playing field to be fun), and a world record attempt. Well, the first of the year anyway.
It has been rumoured that I can be a little, ever so slightly, a tiny bit impulsive. So, after seeing so many people hammer Guinness World Records dressed as nuns, cowboys, knights in armour, pantomime horses, you name it, at VLM in 2017 I thought I would see if there were any GWRs I would aim for. Narrowing it down to either EMT/Ambulanceman or Lifeguard at half marathon distance I signed up for the Thames Valley Summer half, got independent witnesses, and a costume, that of my favourite reality show, the Australian lifeguard show Bondi Rescue.
It should have been a record, after all one did not exist at the time but the GWR can be real douchebags at times. It took 8 weeks for them to asses that yes I could go for it. Then I submitted the evidence, the timing shots, the signed detail by the witnesses, the RD and the timing company and GWR came back 8 further weeks later and said that it was NOT a record because 1. it was a little slow (shouldn’t matter as it was the first attempt at this category) and 2. the lifeguard costume was not red shorts, and a flotation device? What the actual fuck? So the Guinness Book of World Records think that ALL lifeguards dress like they are on Baywatch? What about the real life lifeguards from Bondi?
I was a little grumpy about how that went, after endlessly checking my GWR account for 10 weeks to be told I was unsuccessful pissed me right off. And I took that grumpiness into my next marathon in Vienna. Vienna (ahhhhh, Vienna!) was on the same day as VLM. I do love to avoid London on marathon day if not running and in 2019 will be in Madrid for the Rock n Roll. I would be there with Audrey Reddington and 2018 was fast becoming a year of always having someone awesome to hang with at the races. But my grump was well founded and stayed a little longer when I did not get a timing chip, and therefore no official time (the customer service for the Vienna Marathon is perhaps the worst in the world). Audrey did not get a medal after the race, they fobbed her off with a relay medal, and posted her marathon medal weeks later, and a Scottish couple we met there got no tees, despite it being their first marathon. It was also over 30 degrees, so everyone deserved prizes just for trying it and not bailing down to the half at the 13 mile point.
If there had been disappointment in April then May more than made up for it. My second 50K of the year and the most amazing of weekends in Wales at St Illtyds. It was a truly marvellous weekend with old friendships, new friendships and a rare old set of memories of everyone involved prompting me, as I did, to write an article on the race for Ultra Magazine (Should be out in the Spring). It started with a lift from Allie there, a hotel that I did not like, but then a cast of 1000s. Whilst I knew JK and Clare, Helen, Whiffers, and Rachel, Ellie, Lewis and Allie I met Josh, Ant, Caroline, Del and Michele, Garry and G, Loops, H, Dr Ben, Toozle, the Shaws and Si Gilbert and I felt immensely privileged to have done so. The race itself was tough as… it was lumpy, it was hot, we got lost on numerous occasions but the most salient factor is that we all signed up for St Wales 2 in May 2019. Hopefully the magazine will be out by then and Nathan and Tori will see how much this race meant.
And it led on nicely into probably my most comfortable marathon to date, the Rock and Roll Liverpool weekend where Jenni and I ran the 5K with Kate and Harry masks, and then we all ran the marathon for a triple bling weekend with Jenni, Rachel, Baz and Kaya, Lew, JK and Clare.
I was buzzing for want of a modernism, I am not going to say I was blessed, as I would have to start punching myself in the scrotum if I do, but things were going well. So much so that I then appeared on Brodie’s Everyday Running Legends podcast. Hopefully I don’t come over as too much of a knob.
Finishing the first half of the year I had to complete the Race to the Tower Double Marathon. It would be completed over two days with the camping option reluctantly chosen by me, as I joined Clare, Whiffers, Keith, JK and Jenni on an adventure that would mean Jen and I both completed the Threshold Race to the… series. It oddly became my proudest running achievement to date. I ran each of the three formats (half for King, all the way through for Stones, and over 2 days for Tower) and I did myself proud on the first day, putting to bed the demons from King and Stones, where I feel I did not do myself justice. I also, on both days, got finish line photos, something I did not get from either King or Stones. We stayed up playing Cards Against Humanity and drinking Limoncello. We cheered Jo as she came through and I finally caught up with Nigel. It was a grand old time.
What came next was annoying. Much like last year where my year was split into 2, with 6 marathons in the first half, then a 2 month injury break, then 6 marathons in the second half, with an ever changing list of marathons to keep up the tally, I got injured, and then I got sick. The injury was a recurrence of my knee injury from 2017 caused by day 2 of Tower or, to be more precise, the night sleeping in a tent at the end of day 1. I was limping. I could run with it taped or strapped, and with plenty of pain killers in my system but it was not ideal.
I tried to keep going. I plotted a couple of slow jaunts as my physio and osteo promoted rest and therapy. And so July, rather than being a series of marathons adding to the seven I had already completed this year. I joined Lewis, Jen, JK, Clare, Rob O’Hara, Elle, Baz and Kaya at the Ware 10s. Here you can run a 10 miler or 10K. I opted for a 10K with the idea of beating Lewis, who would run the 10 miler. Lewis is a phenomenal runner. He smokes, drinks, and yet consistently runs amazing races. To beat Lewis would be an achievement whilst injured. We dubbed the race MAN vs LEWIS and whoever beat Lewis would win the much coveted trophy… and in the end?
British 10K (insert eye roll emoji) next and a cheapy charity entry. More and more I am seeing races available from charities who oversubscribe, set too high a fundraising target and then are left with days to go before the race desperate for people to fill the spots, paying just entry. I did that for British 10K, a race I thoroughly dislike, but one that I needed to get me back on track during my period injured. Completed without further injury, and I even got race photos too. Shocking. Still hated it though.
I was glad I could run again, albeit slowly, because I had signed up for a second Guinness Book of Records attempt, this time as part of the collective known as the London Relay. It would be a constant relay going from City Hall by Tower Bridge, along the south bank of the Thames to Westminster Bridge, then across, and back along the Embankment, before crossing back over Tower Bridge to the end. A 10K loop, with a baton that, if dropped would make the whole venture null and void that lasted for a whole month and was going 24 hours a day. London running friends were there including the lovely Melissa. I believe we are still awaiting confirmation and, having experience of Guinness Book of World Records taking their time and then fucking you over, I hope we actually get this one. It would be nice to end the year with a world record.
It was pretty much then that I ran Mile End Parkrun, where Matt fell over and broke his hip, and I ended up with a nasty case of whooping cough. Sick. Just as I was almost back to full fitness with my knee. It meant that in total I would be missing 6 marathons that I had signed up for.
- PICNIC MARATHON
- STAR RUNS – EPISODE IV A NEW RUN
- GOBLING KING
- STOKE ON TRENT MARATHON
- SUMMER PHOENIX
- LEIGH TRACK MARATHON
Although at the end of the 7 week period of coughing to a point of throwing up I went to Leigh in Manchester with the idea of at least trying but no! I made the Pennington Flash Parkrun, I met up with the Twins, Secret Marathon Runner, Matt Bowman, Rachel and the Shaws, but my lungs were still not happy.
The first chance I got to run a decent distance again was with Rachel in Hull at the Hell on the Humber, a 36, 24, 12 or 6 hour lap race across the Humber Bridge that Joe had mentioned to me a few years ago. I saw this as another marathon opportunity after the 6 sickness failures so far. The laps would have meant we would need to run 7 laps, with each being 4 miles there and back. I was sick though and Rachel was undertrained, but we had a great time chatting the whole way for 6 hours and 24 comfy miles. I loved it, and the tee quickly entered the roster for daily wear.
No marathons planned for August now, with HOTH a failure too, but I had two 10ks to go before a trip to Cape Town that would include night races and mountain climbing; Pride (twice my 10K PB race) and one of the Runthrough Chase the Sun races. The latter though was a run with the lovely Caroline and Andrianna, Caroline was on the way to her first marathon close to her 60th birthday and Andrianna was injured, so it was more of a jog and a chat, catching up with great people, and it is something very important to me. Nearly every race of 2018 was with someone, or a group, and it helps me get through.
Now if the ten weeks from RTTT, and going through July and August, was wasted, 7 marathon attempts ruined thanks to injury and whooping cough by the start of September I was still not 100% but was damned if i was going to lose any more time. I had Loch Ness marathon and the rescheduled Green Man Ultra 6 days apart at the end of the month so the start saw me easing back into training again.
It started with a return to Mile End Parkrun, the venue where I contracted whooping cough, or at least the symptoms showed themselves. Then the Richmond 10K with Jenni, part of the Descente Duathlon and a night race in Constantia, South Africa, where I did not get a medal (say it ain’t so), but the goodie bag was unique (wine, frisbee and waterproof running pouch).
And so to the trickiest 6 days of the year, forget RTTT and 2 marathons over the weekend, Loch Ness after so much time sick and then GMU, one of my life A Races thanks to Ira Rainey, a self nav 30 miler around Bristol would be the real test.
Loch Ness had always been on my list of big UK Marathons to do, after London, Brighton, Manchester, Yorkshire, Liverpool then it is just Edinburgh and Loch Ness for me. With Edinburgh planned for 2019 it meant that I would be travelling up to see Nessie with Jo Fraser Wise, Jules, Jenni, Rachel from HOTH, Samwise Baxter and Reynolds too. And it was a fun one. The whole experience was great. It was wet, a bit nippy, and we had two torrential downpours during the run, but the organisation, the medal, the goodie bag, the Nessies and the town of Inverness and it’s Mac n Cheese pies, won me over. Even the soup confiscated at the airport on the way back from people’s carry on was donated to a local charity, making this my favourite marathon to date. Well done to all involved. Oh, and the race? It was a very comfortable come back and my first marathon in 3 months since RTTT. I was back on it!
Green Man Ultra was 6 days later, with Keith, although we did never see each other on the way around as he took the 45 mile option and I went for 30. GMU is one of those iconic races for me. A self nav 12 hour 45 miler around the perimeter of Bristol, with a 9 hour 30 mile option. It should have been in March and muddy as hell, instead it was in late September and the ground was baked dry. I am no good at traditional self nav. I had 3 compasses on me but none were used. I did have the print out of the maps and the directions, but only used them to confirm the location of the CPs as I followed the OS Maps app and the route GPX on the map. It was very tough, especially after Loch Ness and so long out, but I kept going, plugging away, running with the 11 hour Time Lord when he came by with his fun bus, and then running with a local for the last part.
Contrary to how I felt about it leading up to the race, and back in March when I was trying to get out of it, I absolutely loved GMU, so much so that I have already booked myself on the 2019 edition, and will be attempting to best this year’s time regardless of the mud. Marathon 10 of the year done and dusted.
October was a strange old time, after the sudden resurgence of the year in September. Many friends were running Chicago including the wonderful Caroline who I had spoken at length to and run with on numerous occasions leading up to it. It was so great to follow her exploits in Chi-Town, and then to track her throughout the race, updating the #ukrunchat community with her progress as she hammered her first marathon in her 60th year. I know I speak for her London fan base and anyone who has had any dealing with her when I say that we couldn’t be more proud, and that this run, of any by anyone I know in 2018, was a true inspiration. No bullshit, no lies, no drama, just Caroline training according to Jenni’s plan, and taking all the advice she could, before giving it her all. Well done! You get my vote for Runner of the Year, beating Camille Herron into second.
As Caroline returned and we all met up for a RunThrough Halloween special, Jenni and I got offered places at Royal Parks Half. It is one of those races, like Hackney Half and Brighton Half and GNR that battle over the title of “most ludicrously priced race of the year.” But we were offered cheapy charity spots to make up the numbers and, with Jen never having run it before (as it was too expensive) and I having run it twice (it was my first ever half back in 2012) we thought what the Hell and used it as prep for the Authentic Athens marathon, what would be Jen’s last race with us before heading off on her world travels.
I wasn’t done with October though and, having missed out on 7 marathons to date I signed up last minute for a Saturn Running Trolls the movie themed marathon, and bosh, got the pinkest, girliest, most trolly amazing medal for marathon 11 of the year, just in time to recover with the London crowd at the aforementioned RunThrough Halloween run where we all got to congratulate Caroline in person.
A week before Athens I managed to keep a promise. At St Illtyds I got talking to Luke about running and promised I would go up to York and run with him and his sons. I had the opportunity 6 months later due to family commitments and bosh, two birds, one stone, dutiful son and friend confirmed in one weekend. Job done!
Athens 2018 would be my 31st marathon and the first marathon I’d run on more than one occasion. In 2016 I ran it solo. Experiencing the history, the pageantry and sheer spectacle this year with Lewis, Jenni for her last race before her world travels, Keith, Emma, Dasen and the RUNR boys made it even more special with everyone having the most historic of times at the Authentic marathon.
It was an amazing time for all, Keith said he needed it, Lewis said if he blogged he would blog about the experience, and Jen, well for my running partner in crime, who guilts me into meeting her somewhere in the city for Parkruns, was off travelling the world and this would be our last race together. And if you are ever going to have a last race with your running buddy, then it should be the grandaddy of all marathons, the one that actually starts in Marathon.
With Jen off on her travels I needed to refocus. When the person who will call you on your running bullshit, and guilt you into getting your ass out of bed is no longer there, you need to snap to attention and sort yourself out. I signed up for a half at Vicky Park with RunThrough with the idea of going for a half PB. After all I did feel like I had recovered fully and, with the increased number of Parkruns attended and short distance races (most had been 10s and 5s since whooping cough) I thought I’d give it a go.
Unfortunately the planets were not in alignment and trains and distances worked against me. I managed to make it to the park to see the half start (the humanity!), but fortunately signed up for the 10K instead and got a good enough time to keep the dream of PBs alive going into 2019.
And I needed to believe in my chance of speedy PBs, because the trains also screwed up my chance of getting to Nottingham for the Christmas Marathon. My 8th missed opportunity to run a marathon this year, leaving me, as it did last year, with just 12.
The difference this year being there was a double, 2 50Ks, including one self nav, and the 8 I missed were out of no fault of my own. I would have run nearer to 20 if it hadn’t been for my damned knee, and my damned lungs.
What it did mean is that I could focus on other things. I was messaged by my good friend Marty Ewers regarding a journo asking about bling for Runnersworld. He passed my number on and the article appeared in the January edition, that landed on my doorstep in December. It does make me out to be a little obsessed. I am not really, I do like the medals, but I do have other targets (which we will come to later).
And one of my two articles for Ultra Magazine also appeared. This was the article I wrote when completing the Threshold Race to the… series this year. I am quite proud of it. I think I will be more so of the St Illtyds article when that comes out though.
It reminded me a lot of last year, if not a little bit better. 12 marathons in 12 months was the target in 2017, in 2018 I wanted nearer to 20 and did hit a few ultras, but ultimately came up short. With the shorter distance and midweek races I think I ended up on 36 races. I will end up on 18 Parkruns, which is also a record, bringing me up to 40 runs over 12 events. I am enjoying the chance to speed up AND the tourism. 2 months out after Comrades/London/MK last year was replaced with 2 months out with post RTTT injury and whooping cough this year. I do hope that 2019 I can avoid the 2 months broken, and see what I can achieve if I have the whole 12 months available.
But, as I write this, and look back on the year, starting in January with Jen at the Olympic Park, St Illtyds, Athens, Loch Ness and many more races, this has been a year to cement friendships made through running. I am not going to say “I feel blessed” as it will mean I will have to cave my own head in with a steak tenderiser, but I feel… um… lucky, fortunate? to have met so many great people and look forward to meeting many more.
Ah yes, my total for the year, excluding the 5Ks and weird night race. Not bad I thought. A pretty good base. And plenty to look forward to in 2019. My total KM of the year…. Gyarrrr! It is so damned close!
|2018 (as at 27th Dec)||1204|
I also want to better the times of all the races I have run before. That, at the moment, is St Illtyds, and Green Man Ultra now that I have bailed on TGC 2019. So let’s see how I do. I am booked into a lot of races. I won’t publish my full calendar on here just yet, as there are plans afoot, but let me just say that I hope to see you out there.
HAPPY NEW YEAR ONE AND ALL
and I hope to see you in 2019
ZURICH NEW YEARS HALF MARATHON