Sunday, 16 June 2013

Endure 24

 There are two conflicting sets of images that come to mind when I think back to the past weekend: One is looking down from Wassing park over the wooded hills in the distance, basking in the sunlight; the beautiful path into the woods past the first bend after the start, with flowers hanging from the hedges and the bright flags flying at the camp HQ and start / finish line.

The other is from a few hours later, as Sunday dawned, just before my fourth lap: Tony in the team tent, shivering under his hoodie, a towel and a duvet, his face reminiscent of El Greco' elder nobleman; the tiredness on Chris' face as he crossed the finish line to hand me the baton; and forty minutes later Tony again, but in his running gear this time, recovered and there to relieve me and continue our team's running.

It was my second year in an endurance event (Endure 24 is a relay trail race held over 24 hours on a 5 mile woodland course, starting at noon on Saturday and not ending till noon on Sunday) and most of our team were the same as last year's Thunder Run: Tony organised it this time, Julie did most of the actual work (as she tends to), Trudi and Chris provided much of the camping equipment and Mick once again saved us from having to do more laps than we had planned. New members of the team comprised of Jen (the team's last minute signing) and Darren, who from now can consider himself an honorary Harrier (he even swore allegiance to the Harrier flag, and was thus allowed a vest!). Official team photographer was the lovely Aimee, who humoured us all by taking the same photo on 8 different phones and of course offered potentially life-saving advice before the night runs (“if you see anyone in the woods wearing a Scream mask, don’t approach them; and if you are chased by a zombie, trip them up with a stick and then run away”), much to Julie's relief, I'm sure.

This year I could only arrive at the campsite on Saturday morning (most of the team had set up on the Friday), but Tony’s Tigers are an organised and helpful bunch, so not half an hour later my tent was up, I was given my bib number & chip and was chilling out in the Endure t-shirt and a very fetching hat! We eventually congregated by the start line for the briefing and to see off Chris, who would be opening the running for our team; Chris had volunteered for the first stint, knowing that this would mean he would be first in line to do an additional lap, if we managed to exceed the 4 laps per runner we had set as our target. 

With Chris off, I went to get ready to run the second stint. After the first bend, the course followed a fairly straight path for a bit over a mile before twisting and turning in the woods. For the final mile, the runners emerged from the wood cover to the fields that hosted the campsite, running approximately a third of a mile along a straight line by the western limit of the campsite, then doubling back on themselves before criss-crossing towards the final corner and the start / finish line. This last section afforded ample opportunity for the teams to spot their runner coming out of the woods, cheer them as they run twice past them along the straight bit (in both directions) and then make their way to the changing area to welcome them in and cheer the next runner off (the course, as recorded on my Garmin, can be found here.)

In terms of handling runner changes, we tended to all gather along the final mile's double straight in time for our runner to come through, offering encouragement to anyone who passed, chatting amongst ourselves and trying to think of silly things to do to embarrass them when they passed; these included miming soundless cheers to Mick (who had his headphones on), or more vocal demonstrations of support, like in the following clip:

So the first day was spent relaxing, watching people run (couldn't help it really, at an event like this!), pointlessly waiting for a kettle to boil in the breeze, giving up and buying a drink at the catering tent, laying about in the sun and going out on the odd run - can't fault it really! :-)

Until after a couple of laps you realise that the reason the event is called "Endure 24" is because it is a 24 hour endurance event, and running the first two laps as if they were two 5 mile races wasn't the world's best idea... Fortunately there were massage tables there (they took donations for charity for 15' massages), which helped significantly, but there comes a point during the event (usually as the sun goes down) when it suddenly transforms from a nice, leisurely, running-themed camping weekend, to quite a hard, painful and gruelling experience... It is at that point that you suddenly realise that being 1 1/2 hours ahead of schedule at the half-way point isn't as brilliant as it seemed a few minutes ago, it just means that you have to make your legs (and feet and knees and hips and all the other bits of you that are hurting) last 3 more laps instead of 2... and the fact that everyone in the team is running faster than they expected means that the resting time in between laps is less than you had planned for...

A little bit of reason then sets in, and you try to reduce the pace a bit (my 3rd lap was my slowest by far, as it was the night one and I was trying to preserve myself for the rest of the event), but then you overtake someone and they don't just disappear, they keep on your shoulder... or you notice that that pool of light on the trail in the distance is getting slowly closer, so you try to keep your pace up to get past them... and then you'd be damned if you let anyone past you, not uphill after all the training on Croft Hill... or on this lovely fast downhill straight that you think you've nailed by now... and certainly not on the last mile round the camp with your tired teammates watching, come on, just keep those knees up, elbows back and remember you can afford to start the sprint just before the final bend... 

And that is how it happens that at about 9am on Sunday morning, as you begin to strike camp, you glance at the folder with the lap times and the prospect of starting a final lap at 11:45 doesn't seem as attractive or as heroic as it did three laps and one part-sleepless night ago...

Which brings me to my internal conflict when I think back to events like this... they are certainly very tiring: no matter how much you like camping you can never get a good night's sleep (apart from the little matter of having to fit two runs in your 8 hours, every time you hear voices outside the tent - which, with people moving around the campsite all the time is always - you wake up thinking it's your turn to run again). 

But in another bizarre way they don't last nearly as much as I'd like them to... Especially when you are amongst such a lovely mix of people, the weather holds, and you've settled into the run, shower, eat, sleep routine, you feel it's a shame that you have to pack up and leave just as you are beginning to feel at home... 

There are the experiences you are treated to that you wouldn't have enjoyed otherwise: the rugged line from the headtorches coming into the camp as seen through the woods on the first, long climb; running in the dark of night through unfamiliar woodland (an experience some of our team enjoyed more than others, I know!); and all the little memories we will each carry of people we ran next for a distance, of the silent solo runners resembling ghost ships in the night and the less fit runners obviously struggling but still carrying on, running, jogging, or walking, but still doing their part for their teams (they the heroes and heroines of the event as far as I was concerned: a few of our team think of ourselves as 'marathon runners', but we weren't much fresher than them by the end of the weekend!)

 But there is also the sense (illusion?) that you are part of a team pulling together to do something important and worthwhile: it doesn’t change the world, in itself it doesn’t even make us better runners, but at the moment you are doing it, nothing matters more than being on time to relieve your runner at 4am, or powering up that hill faster than the guy or girl who’s been on your shoulder for the past mile or so... and, as a team, carrying on all the way through the night to noon the next day. 

Friday, 22 March 2013

Veni e vidi.

And so we come to the end!.. The race is run, and for better or worse we are gathered at home once again... and even if our bags have still not been unpacked, our photos are still being assembled and I am again trying to come to terms with what Costa calls an espresso, I still thought I'd make putting some words together a priority...

I won't even try to describe any of the delights of Rome (I'll leave that to proper travel writers), but in all it was a great experience and a very well organised event: I suppose that if I was being really picky, I could find faults (e.g. the lack of any directions or signage from the Metro station to the Expo building - at least on the first day), but in all I have to congratulate the organisers and everyone involved on a job very well done, especially considering everything else that they had to contend with, both planned and not (e.g. the whole Papal conclave, enthronement and general hoo-ha, the Italy v Ireland rugby game, Roma's home game etc).

At the Expo
We made it to the Expo (mainly by spotting people with green rucksacks and heading where they were coming from) and we found it good if a bit small (many of the pre-announced companies and delegations from other marathons were absent); at least all the 'important' stuff (registration, race pack handouts etc) worked like clock-work and really got us in the mood for race day! Dimitra, Alexia and Niko registered for the 5k fun-run (which ended up being a 3.6k more-fun-and-less-run and nothing like the Athens 5k and 10k equivalent which are treated like proper races in themselves, with chip times and strong performances by most participants). We also met the representative of Saucony for the region of Lazio, had a nice chat with him while my sister was queuing for some body fat analysis or another and left with a bagful of goodies and a recommendation for a Sicilian eatery very close to our hotel.

At the finish of the fun run
We then spent the next couple of days walking the length and breadth of central Rome (perhaps not the best pre-marathon strategy, but when in a town like Rome, anything else would have been a waste!) and constantly checking for any update on the race situation: As I had mentioned in my previous post, the election of the new Pope brought about quite a bit of uncertainty as to what time the race would be or even if it would follow the planned route or not... In the end a 9:30 start time and the original route (less St Peter's square) was confirmed.

Last minute advice from the coach...
And so to the race! As you know, I had publicly set myself a target of finishing in 3h 30': As it happened, I failed most emphatically! But I did at least make it to the end, improving on my personal best in the process. So, what went wrong? Not sure yet, but there were a number of factors:

As my previous post shows, before the race I was concerned with energy intake (the gels I had relied on started disagreeing with me on my last training runs). I sorted that problem out for the race (thank you Gu!),  but in the process neglected to plan my hydration properly and relied on whatever the organisers gave out. A 500ml hydration belt was almost an afterthought.

I was struggling with a cold on the day as well, which, amongst other things, confused my sense of taste: this meant that as I was coming up to the hydration points, all felt like was water. To be fair, I should have realised that not taking any isotonic drinks in would get me in trouble, but I didn't have the clearest of heads at the time (which leads us back to the need for prior planning and point 1!).

Despite all that, for much of the race I still felt I was running strongly: I set a comfortable PB for the half marathon distance, was running faster than expected till about the 26th km and was on pace for a 3:30 finish all the way to the 30th. But by then my legs had started to seize up and when the 3:30 pacers overtook me (their sky blue balloons tapping me mockingly on the head as they ran past), I knew I was in trouble.

This and the growing stiffness in my legs didn't improve my morale either and I felt I lost connection with the spectators and other runners, I was in a little world of misery all of my own: No more clapping for the bands, the shouts of 'bravi' and 'siete tutti fortissimi' didn't sound as if they were meant for me and when a runner slowed to a walk just ahead of me, my hand went to his shoulder as much as to avoid running into him as for support. The only exception was a young girl in Piazza del Popolo (39th km), who, in words I understood then but have since forgotten, cheered me on, entreated me to not give up and assured me that it wasn't long to go now... I had slowed to a short walk at the time, but I couldn't help but pick up speed again, do my best to continue running on those horrible cobbles (Piazza del Popolo had some of the worst) and at least carry on for a bit more before slowing down again...

In fact, I was so stiff in the last 10k that I had to take short walking breaks a number of times and even stop and stretch once (apart from my legs, my back and abs were also starting to seize up): My average pace for the last 6k was 6:18 min/km (10:05 min/mile), against an target of 4:57 min/km on average! At the last four km or so the 3:45 pacers caught up with me, but fortunately instead of taking the remaining wind out of my sails they proved a great help, personally urging on everyone they came across: they were the penultimate shot of focus and willpower I needed to become something resembling a runner again! I wanted to list all their names here, but unfortunately I couldn't find them anywhere on the internet; you know who you are, and you'll probably never read this anyway: but thank you one and all!

I said 'penultimate' shot, because there was of course the sight of Colosseum with about a kilometer to go, the last lap round it, the guy who unfurled a huge Texas flag in front of me (which of course meant that I just had to overtake him, regardless of how I felt!) but above all the thought that at any moment I would be coming up to where my family and girlfriend were watching from: I couldn't give up now! And I'm glad I didn't: there is even a deceptive video clip my sister shot of me overtaking people on the finish line!

In the end I finished just behind the 3:45 pacers, with a clock time of 3:45:22 and a real time of 3:44:29. My previous PB was 3:51:18. A few yards after the finish line my legs finally gave up, I couldn't even walk other than to drag my carcass to the closest first aid station, trying to think for the Italian word for 'cramp' (I didn’t have to: they spoke fluent English).

After a short treatment, I eventually regained control of my legs, dug out an apple from the post-race goody bag and limped to the medal engraving tent and hence through the ruins of ancient Rome and to my hotel bed...

So you see the event left me with a bit of a bittersweet taste: Objectively it was a lovely race, I had trained for it as well as I've ever had, but lack of planning (or perhaps too strong a start?) meant that I missed a goal that I had felt was within my grasp...

But with the benefit of a few days to reflect, I can honestly say I am happy with the whole experience: There were so many beautiful moments (the band at the 8.5 k point playing 'A Banda', one of my all time favourite songs, running through narrow cobbled alleys and suddenly 'chancing' upon the Fontana di Trevi, the final kilometer, climbing the incline around the Colosseum and down towards the finish line...)

I was fortunate to exceed my expectations in my first marathon (Athens), so the pain of Rome's latter stages was a useful reminder that marathons are not supposed to be easy... Rome taught me a valuable lesson in planning (and humility) but still let me walk away with my head held high and a host of lovely memories. There will be more marathons to follow (God willing and knees holding) and I'll be better prepared to face them thanks to this.

And then there is the trip... If it wasn't for the marathon we wouldn't have made the journey.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

No running in the square please!

Well, here we are, only a few days to go, and I have to admit I've failed miserably at this regular blog posting thing... It could be worse I suppose, I've at least managed to follow my training programme... Sort of: a few workouts I had to miss; some long runs that I used to try energy drinks, nutrition etc went horribly wrong (to the extent that I had to cut them short). But on the positive side I've found a brand of energy gels that doesn't make my queasy (or better, hasn't yet!) and I think I've found a pace / heart rate combination that I may just about be able to maintain for 42.2km and which should (with a fair wind and no ugly hills) get me to the end in roughly my target time!

In the mean time of course, our host city seems rather distracted from its marathon-hosting duties by the small matter of the Papal election, the culmination of which has conspired to coincide with 'our' marathon weekend, causing no end of headaches to the organisers and the city authorities! And as no-one seems to know when the election will conclude, and therefore the day on which the new Pope will be enthroned, no-one knows exactly what time the Marathon will start on Sunday (morning? afternoon?) and even what route it will follow: According to the latest (12-3-13) statement from the organisers, the race may start at sometime before 9:30 and follow a slightly modified original course; or it may start sometime before 4 in the afternoon, head out on a completely different course through the southern suburbs of Rome, along a section of Via Appia Antica, turn west to (presumably) cross Tiber and then head back north and to the finishing line at the Colosseum. The time limit for completion of the race may be 7 hours or it may be 6 hours, depending on the start time... The only things of which we can be certain at this stage are:

  1. The Rome Marathon will take place in or around Rome on Sunday 17 March, and
  2. St Peter’s square will almost certainly not be included in the race!

I have to say that I fully understand, and empathise with, the Italian authorities’ predicament; I appreciate the very good communication and frequent updates from Rome Marathon (although I wish they had sent us at least one email to alert us to the issue and had not relied wholly on Facebook and Twitter), but the largest ‘selling point’ of the Rome marathon is its scenic route (described on running forums as probably the most picturesque city marathon), so I do have to say that I am rather disappointed that the route we will run this year will not be the one originally drawn to show the city at its best advantage and that it will exclude one of the race’s highlights, St Peter’s square itself!

But I would be lying if I pretended that this uncertainty had dampened my spirits: I’m looking forward to a holiday after a series of hard weeks at work, months of hard (if sporadic!) training are drawing to a close and only one last run remains to see what they were all for!

I also have slightly mixed feelings about the inclusion of the Appian Way in the route: From previous visits I remember it as a wonderfully picturesque route, but not exactly the smoothest of surfaces to run on...

Although I suppose there may well be more gentle (if not as picturesque) sections of it, closer to the heart of Rome, and my concerns (but also hopes for an afternoon run in the Italian counrtyside) be nothing more than comments of an ignorant foreigner!

Oh, but I can't wait to find out!!!

Monday, 17 December 2012

Of runs, faraway and local...

Following up from the previous post, where I said I had planned two time trials to see if I had improved my short distance pace at all (up to 10k) before introducing more endurance work after the Xmas holidays.

I wanted them to be reasonably representative of race conditions, so I headed down to Braunstone Park for the parkrun on the 8th December and - first and foremost - had a really great time! It's a lovely way to start your weekend, the competition is strong and with runners of all abilities there you can be sure to be racing someone (assuming that's your thing!) regardless of how slow or how fast you are! The whole event is organised and conducted in a very relaxed, inclusive (runners with dogs and buggies welcome) and friendly atmosphere which is hard to fault. Results are issued (by email and text if you want) on the day, so they must be doing something right from an organisational point of view as well!

I am ashamed to say that it was only my second parkrun, but that is only because I find it very hard getting out of bed early on a weekend. Will try to do better in 2013 though!

(Hmmm... New Year's resolution list is becoming dangerously long again...)

For those who don't know parkruns, they are run by volunteers and exist in a number of cities around the world. It hasn't spread to Greece yet, despite the great uptake of running in that country in the past few years ... To be fair, Greek cities aren't famous for their parks, but (despite the doom and gloom we all read about), progress is been made in that area as well, and I can't help but think that there might be an opportunity there... So if any of my Greek friends are reading this and they feel they could make a difference, head over to Parkrun's website and have a look!

These thoughts, and a little excursion we are trying to plan in the Greek countryside for when we are there over the Christmas period, got me thinking again about the geography of the country, but as a runner this time (I only took up running after moving to Britain)... My Greek runner friends often tell me how lucky I am to live where I do, with all the country lanes to go running in, parks everywhere, and the amazing landscapes of the Peaks, the Lakes and other corners of Britain I've been lucky to run in. And while I do love the place I live in and appreciate all it has to offer runners, I think their comments are written from an Athenian rather than a Greek perspective... Thinking of the great variety of the Greek landscape and of how close everything is to each other, I would love to go on a little road trip in Greece, built around, say, 5-6 10k runs... From the austere cycladic landscape, to gorges with plane-trees and streams running through them, or among the olive groves of the Peloponnese.. through pine forests in the mountains...

Photo by Christos Theodorou from Panoramio

(Gosh, could what was that all about? Nostalgia? Lack of sunlight, causing me to fantasise about running in sunny places?)

Anyway, I've digressed enough! I managed to complete the 5km course in a respectable (for my standards) 21' 19'', which is a new PB and indicates that a marathon goal of 3h 30' is not unreasonable (I know, there are many caveats to that statement, but lets not get into this discussion now - I was only after a rough indication of how my sub-10k pace had improved, after all).

Similarly with the 10k run, which unfortunately did not manage to do as a road run and had to resort to the treadmill: I did that in 40' 10'', which sounds impressive, but then again I always find I run faster on a treadmill: I don't think it has anything to do with any calibration issues (I measured the distance with my calibrated Garmin footpod and didn't rely on the treadmill readings), it's probably more to do with the lack of hills, and the fact that when you begin to tire it's easier (mentally? physically?) to keep up with a moving treadmill than it is to keep your own pace consistently fast... Be that as it may, and making all sorts of allowances for the circumstances, I consider that another tick in the box so I am becoming more confident about my 3:30 goal. I'd just like to put a long run in this week though, just to give myself the peace of mind that this pace did not come at the expense of endurance...

The only other thing on my mind has been how to plan my training in 2013 after Rome... I aim to do two more 'main' or 'A' races in the year (the Bosworth half marathon in May and the Athens marathon in November) plus a number of smaller runs with the Harriers and then some "fun" stuff over summer, like the Adidas Thunder Run etc. I'm sure there must be a more intelligent way of training that approaching each marathon as a separate event, so I put the question to the Harriers at large and got some good input - even an offer of help from one of the most experienced (and fastest) among us!

I also found an interesting article about devising an annual training plan, so I'm hoping to have a go at that over Christmas holidays and see what pops out the other end!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Progress so far and DRXC Sinai

Well, here we are in December, the first snowflakes have just made their appearance, the days are about as short as they are likely to get and some Christmas trees have even been put up.... it is also the time of year when I had hoped to have completed the first part of my training for the Rome marathon which was all about building my speed over a 10k distance: You may recall that the rationale behind going about it that way was that last year’s objectives (primarily the Lakeland marathon) meant that I had concentrated more on endurance and hill work and had neglected things like lactate threshold training, tempo runs etc. As a consequence I found that not only did my 10k pace hardly improve from the beginning of 2012, but my ability to improve my half and full marathon pace was also impacted.

So how have I done? I certainly feel considerably faster than I was in September, I believe my form has improved as well and I feel that my tempo runs have become not only faster, but stronger as well: No longer does my body shout “pleeeeease make it stop!” between wheezes, it actually moves forward with a greater sense of purpose and determination, even to the end of the tempo run!

I also had a moment of inspiration on one of the Harrier training sessions a couple of weeks ago (we were doing fartleks I think), when I noticed one other runner in particular making much larger strides than me – larger than would be justified by the difference in our respective heights. As an experiment (or even an act of desperation) I tried lifting my knees a bit more during the next interval and I immediately felt that make a difference in my speed at the expense of no perceptible additional effort: I did all remaining intervals like that, making sure I did not overextend (and spoil the midfoot strike I’m so happy with) and the result was the same. Looking at my Garmin data afterwards I was pleased to see that it didn’t really impact my cadence either... so that’s what I’m concentrating on technique-wise. Not so much on slippery (muddy / icy) terrain yet (I still want to have my feet very close to the ground in such circumstances), but certainly something to work on.

But that’s hardly an objective review of progress so far, is it? It isn’t, so I’ve planned two time trials this weekend (5k on Saturday and 10k on Monday) to see where I am... I seriously doubt I will achieve the arbitrary goal of 10k in under 40’ I set myself in September, but I’m not too hang up on that to be honest... I just wanted something that would really stretch me but that sounded almost achievable (I find it hard to put your maximum effort in a goal you know you stand no chance of achieving).

Once done I can then look at my marathon goal finishing time (currently 3h 30’) and see if I need to re-assess it, before beginning the second part of my training in January, focusing on distance. In the mean time I will take a bit of a break from formal training and spend the Xmas holidays running for fun: I might take Dash for a comfortable run in Bradgate Park, do some hill-reps (because I need them - read on!) and generally add some variety and not worry about training structure. 


This Sunday past, we had the second in the series of the Derby Runner Cross Country races, at Sinai park. It wasn't as  muddy as the first one (although there was some ice), but the queues to get over stiles and through gates were still there: the worst one was at the end of a long downhill and before a steep hill on the other side... instead of being able to let momentum carry us downhill and up the other side, we had to stop half-way down, shuffle, stop, wait, shuffle some more then over the stile and only then tackle the hill... A bit frustrating, but I suppose it was the same for all participants, so can’t shout too loudly.

But the main feature of the race were the hills! To begin with the start was straight uphill and I thought that was just there to intimidate us... wrong, it was lulling us into a false sense of security! “Come along” it was saying, “look at what a scary hill I am, there can’t possibly be anything worse anywhere on the course can there?” But there were... two of them in particular!

Let’s just say I should make a habit of heading over to Croft hill every time I work from home and get some more hill reps in!

But for a second time, I followed the race with a yoga session at the gym... legs a bit painful, but between that and a warm bath afterwards it’s probably the best stretching and relaxation routine I could come up with! Add to that a juicy steak for dinner and the Monday off and you are laughing!


I guess that’s enough for now... I’ll be back next week with the results of my time trials and some other bits and pieces that have been on my mind for some time now...  

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Why we run...

As some of you might have noticed, I have missed a few entries – in fact I had to take about a week and a half out of my training to avoid injury: my hip started giving me some trouble and as it was suspiciously like a pain that caused me to have to give up running altogether for 3 months last year, so I thought I’d take it easy for a while, rest and go for the odd swim instead.

The problem I have when I take a break from my exercise is that all the energy I normally put into it turns into a vague and all-encompassing feeling of frustration, pointless dwelling on unrelated events, concern over the number of runs I will end up missing and the consequences of that on my fitness and so long... which as you can imagine doesn’t make me the best person to be around! It was to Demi’s great relief then that I declared myself fit to run again last Thursday and she wasted no time in suggesting that I went for a run that very evening!

A couple of sessions later I was back up to pace, all the frustration had evaporated and I was back to being the adorable runner you all know and love! :-)

Moral of the story? Keep running or you'll die alone, unloved and unfit!


On the 18 November was the first race of the Derby Runner Cross Country League in Markfield. It comprises of 6 short cross country races (each between 5 and 6 miles long) and I had only taken part in the two last ones last year... I spotted it in the Harrier’s calendar just in time this time round and realised that I would be available for all 6, so I have put all the dates in my calendar and will make a conscious effort to turn up... I enjoy cross country / trail running; apart from the scenery, I like the more 'technical' challenge and   the variability of even the same course in different weather conditions...

But I also want to start running in more races with the Harriers and I thought that taking one league (6-7 races) at a time, I stood more of a chance than making a grand resolution and then fail miserably...

Markfield itself was a strange race, the course was very, very muddy throughout (ankle deep in some stretches), many sections were over narrow paths where you overtook at your own peril by running through nettles and thorns and there were long queues to cross two stiles in particular (according to my Garmin I spent a total 4’ 27’’ standing still and queuing!). Add to that fallen trees in the wooded sections and a first aid service that picked the day to not turn up and you have great grumbling potential... To the contrary however most people I spoke to seemed to have enjoyed themselves: it was a lovely sunny day (I ran with my sunglasses on), the scenery was breathtaking (the bit by the reservoir especially picturesque) even if we were too busy to admire it as much as it deserved, trying not to slip ... Racing down a slippery hill to a gate with the sun in your eyes was almost as fun as trying to power up the other side only to find your feet slipping in the mud but that’s what cross country running is all about after all! Can’t wait till the next one on 2nd Dec!

Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos on the day, but here is one of me coming up to the finishing line courtesy of the official Huncote Harrier photographer – the full set can be found on the Harrier Flickr page:

(c) Huncote Harriers
In terms of performance there is no point comparing time and pace with other races, given the conditions, but I felt I did reasonably well considering it was my first race since July: I was slightly slower than runners who usually finish ahead of me and slightly faster than runners I finish ahead of... about half way down the overall classification - lets see if I can improve in subsequent races.

The team - (c) Huncote Harriers

Friday, 26 October 2012

Rome here we come!

So the pieces of the plan are slowly falling into place!!!

We have booked our tickets to Rome (an easyjet job I’m afraid, but hey-ho!), followed a friend’s recommendation and found a quiet hotel with easy access to the centre and even bought a guide book to start planning the details of our trip! And in a rare manifestation of sibling co-ordination, my sister and her boyfriend (let’s call him Niko, that’s his name after all) ALSO booked their tickets, for roughly the same period and even staying in the same hotel! Wow, we may actually manage to meet up during the week sometime!

And as if to add to the excitement, Maratona di Roma revealed the Race Packet and to my surprise they will also give us a proper backpack to use on the day (and keep afterwards of course). I don’t know how common this is in marathons (in Athens we were given one of those corded plastic bags, the kind you get when you shop at Gap) but I thought it was a nice touch! Needless to say it will become my new official gym bag! J

There are also two T-shirts: The standard cotton one all finishers will receive and a ‘proper’ tech tee, available for €10 extra! Only 4,000 of those will be available and you need to pay when you book your place, so I’m pleased to have booked my place nice and early!

It's not all been plain sailing though... Just as Niko had returned to running after an injury and was happily ramping up the miles, he discovered his knee is slowly coming apart and may need surgery before he can take on a marathon (and the many, many miles that he would have to run before he could even stand at the start line). Full diagnosis etc still to follow, but he is no longer certain he will run in Rome this year... Not the end of the world, there is Athens in November '13 and a number of other marathons in between and we will still all have a nice holiday in Rome whether he (or I for that matter) run or not... but he is understandably frustrated...

But whatever the outcome, I suppose this acts as a reminder that deciding to run a marathon (be it one's first or not) is a longish term undertaking (at least for us non-professional athletes) and there are no guarantees that one will start the race, let alone finish it... Which is the point of this blog in a way, to document all the build-up and eventual conclusion. Let's hope there will be a happy ending for everyone involved in this story!

Next week I'd like to talk a bit about shoes (my trusty Kinvaras are fast turning into slicks) and no doubt I'll have something to say about the changing of the clocks... But in the mean time I've opened all comments (sorry guys, I hadn't realised you had to sign in to comment)