Until June 2012 the numbers 3.1, 6.2, 13.1 and 26.2 meant very little to me. Oh how that has changed! Since then I have run races of 3.1 miles (5 km), 6.2 miles (10 km), 13.1 miles (half-marathon) and 26.2 miles (full marathon). There is now just under 2 weeks to go until the anniversary of my first race and my return to run that event for the 2nd time so I thought I would take the opportunity to reflect on the 13 races I’ve completed so far.
When I think my back to first race I remember feeling so nervous as I lined up with the other runners. Although I’d been training for just under 3 months and built up my fitness to a good level, I had no idea how I would do in race. The last race I’d been in before this would have been at school more than 20 years earlier and I probably came last. I remember wondering how I would feel as other runners past me and if it would bring back memories of being one of the least sporty kids in school. The reality was that I loved it. I ran faster than I thought I could and when I finished in 54 mins and 42 seconds I was ecstatic, even if my wife and kids thought I looked like I was about to collapse!
This was the big one for me. It was signing up to the Great South Run that got me started as a runner. My dad did the Southampton Half Marathon back in 1987 and ever since I had always wanted to follow in his footsteps. The GSR is a spin off from the Southampton Half Marathon so it seem appropriate to run the equivalent race 25 years later. It was really cold before the race started and I was physically shivering waiting for the off. It is only cold when you are not moving though, so I quickly warmed up and finished in an official time was 1 hour 23 Minutes and 45 seconds, placing me 3,985 out of 25,000 runners. This was also where I collected my first proper race medal (the medals are Apperley were made of chocolate!)
Mud, mud, glorious mud. Well, maybe not so glorious as it was bloody freezing. The Grim is not the typical road race that most runners compete in. As we waited to start there was an announcement that the race would start slightly late as the event organisers were breaking the ice on the various ‘water features’ on the course. It was cold enough waiting to start but once we hit the first bit of water we basically entered an ice bath – the first of many around the 8.5 mile course. The course isn’t called Grim without good reason. It has wet, slippery, hilly and rough terrain and at one point on the course I was stuck in thick mud under a cargo net struggling to event lift my feet. Several people lost there shoes at this point. It was a tough course, but great fun and I would happily run it again.
The day after the Grim I was in a very different race. A family friendly fun run with my wife and kids dressed in Santa hats. It was great to have the whole family involved in a race rather than just waiting for me at the end. It was probably less boring for them too. I can’t imagine it is much fun to stand around and wait for up to 4 hours (my full marathon) waiting for me finish and hoping you will be ready with a camera at the point I do approach the finish. I hope this run takes place again in 2013 so we can do it again.
What does a runner who has just started a challenge to complete 2,013 miles in a year do on holiday? Well in my case I got my family up stupidly early in the morning to run a 5k with me through Disney’s Epcot theme park. The Disney 5k is part of Disney’s marathon weekend. I had planned to do either the half or even full marathon, but sadly the event was sold out before I’d been able to confirm travel arrangements. Luckily the 5k still had space and so we signed up for it. My highlight of the race has to be seeing my daughter (aged just 3 at the time) run across the finish line. My wife and daughter were in the “stroller division”, but my daughter insisted on getting out and running the last mile in her Cinderella dress and sandals! Very proud Daddy.
My main memory of the Gloucester 10k is that it was p*ssing down with rain and really windy. I quite enjoy a bit of rain on a run, it is definitely better than baking sun. The Gloucester 10k was a good race for me as I improved on my 10k personal best by about 3 minutes and I sprinted across the finish line. Every time I sprint across the line I always end up wondering if I could have run the race EVEN QUICKER! I subsequently beat this 10k time in June at the Two Castles race and I think this is another race I will probably do again as I am sure the course was well suited for me to try for another PB.
After 9 months of running and several training runs of half marathon distance (or further) Silverstone was my first official half-marathon. Those 9 months had seen me go from someone who couldn’t run a mile without taking walk breaks and sweating like a pig into a runner capable of completing 13.1 miles in 1 hour, 49 minutes and 53 seconds. By this time I no longer considered training runs in my personal best times, but I am pretty sure this was the quickest I’d ever run that distance anyway and was very happy to take a personal best. I have to be honest and say that I found the course a bit boring, so I am not sure I would rush to run this one again.
Silverstone gave me a target for this race. The Warwick Castle half-marathon was just 2 weeks after Silverstone and my target was to match (or better) my time. Then I saw how hilly the course was and began to question if that would really be possible. My wife was waiting at the finish with a camera at the ready, but she suspected I would be slower when the race winner was 20 minutes slower than the winner at Silverstone. Thing is, I like running hills. Yes, they are more challenging but that makes them fun. I guess the enjoyment (versus the pretty boring Silverstone course) must be what made the difference as I crossed the line more than six minutes quicker than Silverstone in 1 hour, 43 minutes and 43 seconds! My long term goal of a sub 1 hour 45 minute half marathon was achieved on just my second attempt and I was VERY happy.
The hilly half-marathon theme continued in Plymouth with bigger and steeper hills than Warwick. Perhaps the steepest hill of all was in the last mile which was a bit challenging, but I got another personal best (1 hour, 41 minutes and 48 seconds). I finished the race with bruised toes and a bleeding nipple, but I didn’t care. Not with that finish time on my toughest half-marathon course to date.
This was a major milestone for me. Not just my first official marathon, but the longest run I’d ever done. In fact it is still the longest run I’ve ever done. It was also my birthday. I don’t think there could have been a better way for me to celebrate 38 years on this planet. Running the marathon was not easy and a VERY big step up from a half-marathon. In simple terms you simply run two half-marathons back to back, but if you asked finishers in a half-marathon if they wanted to immediately start again I doubt you would find many takers. Those you did find would almost certainly be much slower on the 2nd half too. I was going strong when I crossed the half way point. It was a really hot day, but I was feeling good until mile 15, then I was struggling and the demons inside wanted me to quit. That was never going to happen, but I did slow to a walk more than once. Thankfully another runner (who was also running for the CF Trust) tapped me on the shoulder and simply said “remember why you are doing this”. I quickly forgot my discomfort and started running again and finished in 4 hours and 3 minutes. I need to plan another marathon to try and take those 3 minutes off!
It’s not very often I choose to get up at 5 a.m. on a Sunday, but one race day in June I was up and out early to take part in my 7th race of 2013, the Two Castles Run. This was my first serious run since the Edinburgh Marathon and despite doing very little running between the two races I still beat my time from the Gloucester 10k and scored a personal best, completing the race in 46 minutes and 39 seconds.
I am in the ballot for the 2014 London Marathon and have my fingers crossed that I get a place. Since I started running I’ve dreamt about running through the iconic streets of London and that was my reason for signing up to this race. Sadly, due to the way the race start was organised (or rather wasn’t organised) there was no way I was getting a personal best on this race. The sheer volume of runners and the fact that there was no attempt to group runners by ability resulted in lots of traffic on the course (including walkers 4 and 5 abreast) and I found it pretty frustrating having to slow down and try to navigate a way through the crowds.
What is it with my half-marathon choices and hills? I think the Isle of Wight was the hilliest yet, a race that I heard described whilst waiting on the start line as “one of the toughest half-marathons in the UK” and “harder than the full Isle of Wight marathon as there are no gaps between the hills”. On some of the later hills I started to get cramp in my right foot, with the toes briefly curling in, but I was able to keep pushing through and keep running until I got cramp in my left foot. This caused me to stop dead and swear quite a bit. Luckily I was near a wall and was able to hop across to it and sit down to try and stretch my foot. My toes had curled in and were locked tightly in place. I took my shoe off to try and get my foot straight again. I managed to massage my foot straight, but as soon as I tried to put it back in my shoe the toes locked again so I finished the race in my socks!
It’s been an eventful year. One I have really enjoyed and I suspect I will continue to run races for as long as my body lets me!
2013 Miles in 2013
This year I am trying to complete 2013 miles self-powered miles. It is has been 10 years since my cousin’s son Adam lost his fight with Cystic Fibrosis. Adam was just 18 years old when when he lost his lifelong battle with CF, the UK’s most common life-threatening inherited disease. Despite spending large parts of his short life in hospital Adam never once complained, not even of a headache and was determined to make the most of everyday.
My 2013 miles in 2013 challenge is in aid of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust as I have been surprised since I started fundraising for the CF Trust just how many people are unaware of this disease and so I hope my efforts will not just raise money, but also awareness of the UK’s most most common life-threatening inherited disease.
The first person to commit to sponsoring my 2013 mile challenge has committed to 1p per mile (£20.13 in total) and this got me thinking. I am hoping that as many as possible of those reading this will commit to do the same and the best thing is, if each person does this on a “pay as you go” type approach all you will need to part with is approx £2 just after each pay day. In January I completed 205.9 miles, in February I completed a further 200.9 miles, in March I completed 185.7 miles, in April I completed 192.1 miles, in May I completed 168 miles, in June I completed 145 miles and in June I completed 210.1 miles. If you can please spare £13.07 to help the Cystic Fibrosis Trust it will be greatly appreciated.
The easiest way to give your sponsorship is to visit my Just Giving page: http://www.justgiving.com/2012-AYearWithoutBeer-CF.
2013 Miles in 2013 – The rules
The rules for my 2013 miles in 2013 challenge are quite simple:
- All miles must be completely self powered (no motors, sails, etc)
- I must be able to evidence all miles, either via GPS or with a picture of any static gym equipment
To complete my 2013 miles I will be running, cycling, rowing and who knows, I might even try a few other self powered methods along the way.