Tag Archives: half marathon

Redemption – a running ghost is exorcised.

One of my aims for last year was to run a sub 1.50 half marathon. Full of confidence, in June ’13 I enlisted the help of my daughter and amazing ultra runner Cat, who at the time of writing this is undertaking The Atacama Crossing. She happily agreed to pace me at the Up Flow Down Tow, even though it meant a rather pedestrian run for her. Well I failed. Other halves came and went, running 2 with a stress fracture in my foot didn’t help, starting at the back of the Paddock Wood thus having to weave in and out for a few km was a mistake and it was never going to happen at this year’s Kent Coastal as Cat was running with a 6.5 kg backpack (having run 28 miles on the previous day with the same) for Atacama training, and we ran together to support her.

So the Brussels half came around; I should have run it last year but I was in the middle of stress fracture recovery so couldn’t. The organisers happily deferred the entry until this year and the thought of a ‘free’ run was too good to miss. So as to make the whole package as cheap as possible (I did still travel over last year as I had booked and paid for transport and accommodation prior to the injury) I took the mode of transport from London to Brussels guaranteed to provide the worst possible race preparation, the Saturday overnight coach at £17.50 – and the same coming back on Sunday night.)  You won’t be surprised to hear I didn’t get much sleep.

Arriving just after 6.00am with 4½ hours before the start I made my way to the Holiday Inn. I had asked the race organisers if they could recommend where I could get my gluten free porridge prepared and this is where they suggested as it was the official race hotel; the first thing I saw there were the 3 Kenyan runners who were expected to be the ones to beat having breakfast! The chef couldn’t have been more helpful, besides happily microwaving my porridge he told me to help myself to anything else that I wanted. Thank you Holiday Inn.

I eventually went to collect my bib, and to see what I could do about getting the technical top I’d paid for and collected last year swapped for the 2014 edition.  They were very accommodating giving me one of this year’s (no €15 charge) and let me keep last year’s. I found a few Brits to talk to; their major topic seemed to be about the undulating nature of the course, Brussels does have an unexpectedly hilly profile.


Not me, just the balloons!

I had decided to do what was successful for me in the Düsseldorf marathon and run with the 4 hour pacer and as there was a 1.50 it seemed ideal. Running conditions were excellent, then had been some light rain and it was cool without sun or wind. The start was quite bizarre, the actually timing pads were a few 100m on from the inflatable start gate and we were into full stride by the time we reached them. But not a bad thing.

Everything went to plan for the first half of the race, the running was comfortable and I’m sure the 2 pacers and their green balloons were working well together keeping the group of 20 or so on what was needed. But as in Düsseldorf I lost them after a water station; I had changed from running just behind the balloons to running just in front and didn’t realise that I had slightly increased my pace (or the pacers had slowed!). The hills/undulations didn’t concern me, I have been purposely running up 2 local long hills at least twice a week so maybe that is working. As the kilometres ticked by my previous companions were noway to be seen and I was regularly overtaking runners. Still resisting the temptation to look at my gps, at the 20k marker a big timer was visible and I was a bit shocked, knowing that it was gun time and I wasn’t sure how many minutes after that I had crossed the start pad, I felt I must up my pace. The rest of the race was downhill or flat, although quite a lot of wet cobbles. Looking at my gps details now I averaged fractionally 15 km/h or 4 min/km over the last 1.1k. And it worked, the had timer showed me that the 1.50 was beat but at the finish line so was 1.45 was finishing in 1.44.26 giving me (what I consider to be) a massive 9m 10s PB. Absolute euphoria at the end I had never considered a sub 1.45 was ever likely, the thought of running at an average of more than 12 km/h over the distance never crossed my mind. It gave me an age graded time of 1:20:32 and age graded % of 73.53. It was my 2nd PB in just over a week, I broke my parkrun with 22.40 the previous weekend. As I also PBed in my last marathon in Guernsey at the end of August I am feel quite smug.brussels1

Overall I ended 1770 out of 7316 runners and  7/37 in my M65 category.

So thank you Brussels, because of you I have well and truly laid the 1.50 ghost.

My only complaint about the city is the beer…there is just too much choice. Despite having almost 12 hours after the finish before boarding the coach back I couldn’t even scratch the surface of the huge range in the amazing Délirium Café which I stumbled across.


The Manneken Pis was specially dressed for the day.




Expectations count

When I entered this race in January I was looking at 4 month gap between marathons in Cyprus and Dundee so I decided a few half marathons in-between might be a good idea.  But two weeks ago my marathon plans changed and I entered Düsseldorf which is 4 weeks after this race…then another 4 weeks later…then another 5 weeks after that.  So this race changed from a bit of a fun run to one that would show me if I had any chance of recovering sufficiently to tackle the ones after Düsseldorf.

Until last November half marathons had been my staple distance, and I was comfortable with it.  But at the end of everyone I could not imagine carrying on and repeating the same distance.  Now after 3 marathons in 4 months how would I feel at the end of this race? None of my previous half marathons had been particularly quick, and my target time for the 12 months to my birthday in mid-April was one I hadn’t achieved.  So I decided to see how close I could get to it.

It took me much longer to get to Paddock Wood than my sat nav suggested, maybe the traffic over the last mile was to be expected, but not the diversion because of a closed road.  By the time I had parked further away than planned, finished getting race gear on and made my way to the start I had 20 minutes to spare.  That would have been plenty if the toilet queue had not been so long.  I ended up joining the back of the pack 3 minutes after the race had started, so the first couple of k were spent weaving my way around more than half of the field.

I thought that one thing my running of the last year had taught me was sensible pacing; however I didn’t get it right this time.  As usual I didn’t check details until I got home, but I knew well before the end of the race I had set off too fast. If I had maintained the pace of the first half of the race for the second 10.6k I would have beaten my target time by 5 minutes. Suffice to say that didn’t happen so I can use the same target next year!

My body and brain had expectations, they knew how far I was planning to run and wouldn’t have been willing to let me go further so it was a good job I hadn’t just finished the first loop of a full marathon I certainly wouldn’t have been up the the challenge of going around again!

As this was the 25th running of the race they produced a special medal, which did make the run well worthwhile.

PW medal

Bacchus Half Marathon

This is run on the same day as the Marathon du Medoc, and is its English equivalent, held at the Denbies wine estate, Dorking in the rolling Surrey Hills. As last week at the Kent Coastal, I was dubious as to whether I should be running it because of a foot ‘niggle’. But again the thought of the medal and the technical T, the design of which I had seen before the race, was too much to resist (but I am suffering now, I am icing my foot as I write this). The start time was friendly, midday, with the full at 11.00.  Although in previous years it had been very sunny and hot, the conditions this year were much more conducive to running, with just one heavy shower that didn’t last too long and some parts of the course missed it all together. It might not be an easy course,a majority on trails, but it is certainly one of the most scenic and it has WINE at all 7 refreshment stations together with the more traditional liquids and a brilliant selection of nibbles and gels. Many of the runners embraced the fun aspect of the run which lead to a wide variety of fancy dress costumes.My Activities 08-09-2013, Elevation - Distance

I made a conscious decision to start at the back of the pack, where I spotted someone wearing a Comrades T. We actually ended up running most of the race together and would have crossed the line together if he had not stopped just before the end to grab his 2 young children and run through the finish with them. But a big ‘thank you’ to you, Grant. It was great to have someone to chat to on the way round, but more important over the last couple of miles, particularly the downhill 2 miles at the end which should have been easy, as what I now know is metataralgia was causing more pain than I care to remember, your company kept me running. I will look for your progress when you do the return half of the Comrades next year. B1

When I checked the official results, I was amazed to find I was first home in my age category! And as I didn’t know this after the race I wasn’t at the awards ceremony (I was getting changed in the toilets). But I can pick the award up from Run to Live in Ashtead which I certainly will, many thanks to them for making it available.

Actually a strange occurrence took place while I was getting changed. I had balanced by medal and some clothes of the toilet roll dispenser.  When I picked up the T shirt to put it back on I heard a clang which must have been my medal hitting the floor.  When I looked for it a few seconds later it was no where to be seen.  I looked through the gap to  the adjacent stalls and the door but it was nowhere to be seen.  I finished getting dressed and then waited for the occupier of the only other stall that was in use to appear (after a surprisingly long amount of time) and asked if he had seen it. Maybe I wasn’t too surprised when he said “no”, he was highly unlikely to produce it from his pocket and say “Oh you mean this, I was wondering what it was and who it belonged to!”. Well things turned out OK because I found Mr Superman, organiser Alan Burrows who did not hesitate to send me to get another one, a big thank you for that.DSC_0007[2]

There seem to be many other blogs about this race, much better than this and containing some great pictures; try life.laura.london‘s.  Of course I must mention my daughter, Cat, and congratulate her again; marathons on consecutive Sundays and podium finishes in both! Of course. I cannot forget Jon her husband who is responsible for getting her into running and completed marathon number 82 on Sunday.

It should be very clear from my ramblings that this is a race (or walk if you want) that you should must do. I will certainly be watching eagerly for the opening of registration for next year, the way it is growing it will may become over subscribed and I wouldn’t want to miss it.

The Kent Coastal Half Marathon

For most of the week before this race I was seriously expecting  DNS to be appearing on the results list.  On the day when I did actually decide to give it a go, I though it only 10% likely that it wouldn’t be DNF.

Training runs on the previous 2 weekends had resulted in a foot ‘problem’, a sharp pain through the phalanx-metacarpal region which made even walking very difficult. Although it gradually subsided during the week it was still there on Saturday so I was pleased I had opted for parkrun volunteering  to give it more rest; I enjoyed giving out the finish tokens with some bingo descriptions, but had to look carefully to see who was approaching for 88. It was on the drive down to Margate/Cliftonville that I finally decided I would run, not really wanting to waste the entry fee and miss out on the medal!

Up the hill

The hill wasn’t as steep as it seems.

Collecting bibs and then chips was a slow process. I had registered on line via Runners World, and it was causing registration problems, not just for me. I wasn’t the only one who was given a hand written bib when names couldn’t be located on the lists. It did lead to a slightly late start.

It was/is an excellent course, mainly along coastal paths with a few excursions along pavements/roads. Friendly and very helpful marshals everywhere and enthusiastic public support especially outside the pubs and cafes we ran past.

In the first km the discomfort was noticeable, and expecting it to only develop further, and it did, I was wondering how far away I would be before having to stop. As I ran past Bleak House, at 9k, a sharp pain made me fear the worst, however maybe I slightly changed how I placed my foot because it didn’t persist.

The end

Finishing with a smile

So I did complete the whole race, running very conservatively and enjoying it much more than last year when I took off much too quickly and paid for it by having to walk up the hills during the 2nd half. This time they were easy and I was overtaking other runners on them plus quite a number during the final 2k. I did not look at my Kalenji at all during the race, so was very pleased and somewhat surprised to see that I was considerably faster than last year and very close to a PB which I hadn’t considered at all possible.

I was able to cheer daughter & son-in-law, Cat and Jon, in the full marathon, and maybe it helped Cat who came home as 2nd lady finishing strongly over the last couple of miles; and another one ticked off by Jon, marathon number 81 on his quest for 100. We ended up drinking cider and watching Arsenal (Jon’s team) v Spurs.



As so a week to recover before all 3 of us repeat it at The Bacchus next Sunday.

And sometimes stumble and fall

Just last week I was sorting out some old T shirts, and one was an ‘original’ yellow Razorlight, bought in 2004 at the first gig I took my then 14 year old son to (supported by the excellent but massively unrecognized Dogs). Little did I know that a few days later one of the songs we  heard that night would come true.


It all started so well. The deluge of the night before, that soaked me on the way to stay with Cat and Jon had cleared. We were in plenty of time to get the train from Paddington to Marlow, with a whole host of other runners, and arrived well before  the 10.00am start, despite us and most of the people on the train following the leading group in totally the wrong direction after leaving the station.

Warnings about the route was that it wasn’t one where you such expect a PB. There were a few obstacles to be negotiated, gates, steps over bridge, roads to cross and single file tracks in places. However I decided that as my PB wasn’t particularly outstanding and I had a target for a half marathon time this year, I would go for it. Even more importantly, I had a personal pacer, my daughter Cat, who who reigned in her own 1:30 pace to help me. And she did a brilliant job, slowing me down after the logjam of the first half mile had cleared, but moving in front after 5 miles or so to keep me on the required pace.

It was all going so well until at about 8 miles the specter of Johnny Borrell appeared (only metaphorically).  My left foot hit the ground too hard, maybe I had just lost concentration, and the title became true. Right knee, elbow and hand met the ground and I was sprawling.  The following runners helped me up, Cat realised what had happened and came back to me. I started running again but it was immediately different and difficult.  The fall shouldn’t have had that much effect on me, but it did. I completely lost my rhythm, both physically and mentally. No matter how much Cat tried to encouraging then bully me, it didn’t work. Soon my pace had dropped below what was needed and the psychological effect of that was massive. I let Cat get away from me, and thankfully she went on to run her own race. I made it to the end, still in a respectable time under 2 hours, to be greeted by Cat and Jon. They were sympathetic, and know, as I do, there will be another opportunity soon enough.

We made our way into Windsor, past ‘police do not cross’ tape.  At the first of these we could see a knife under the arches and at the second a tent with people in forensic covering. Google quickly told us of a stabbing/murder the evening before. We spent a couple of hours drinking cider in the shade of Windsor Castle, playing an interesting ‘game’ I could look back and imagine what the scene would have been like 50 years ago; of course everything about the scene would have been totally unrecognizable from today. But in another 50 years time, when Cat and Jon could possibility be sitting in the same spot, what really big differences would there be.  Would it actually be possible to tell the there was a difference between 2013 and 2063.  What you be the really big differences? The run, the Purple Patch Down Tow Up Flow half marathon, could not come more highly recommended.

A really interesting route, incredibly well marshaled and a brilliant medal! Thank you.


Run Costa Rica


The beach at Manuel Antonio at sunset


A sloth, very easy to run past these!

Whenever I travel abroad the first items on my packing list now are my running gear.  Of course that obviously had to be the case for 2 of my recent trips, the half marathons in Jerusalem, and Marseilles, but when organising for Costa Rica my running shoes, socks, shorts and top where first in the bag.  Because a lot of the holiday involved early starts (I actually out of bed before 6.00am for 14 consecutive days and I cannot remember when I last did that – ever?) either for excursions or to move on to a new resort, I realised running was not be the first activity I could expect to do.  In fact it wasn’t until day 10 when we were at Manuel Antonio on the Pacific Coast that I managed to put the gear to use. Even then it was only for a 4.5k run along the beach because we did have an early morning forest walk organised, but it was enough.  The temperature was in the mid 20s C when I set out, and as soon as the sun came over the palm tress (just after 6.00am) the (my) temperature rocketed and running became very hard work.  I started out a few minutes earlier the next day (even I found it difficult to justify getting up before 5.30am on holiday) and managed almost 6k before the wall of sunlight hit.  But just running along a sandy beach (albeit in trainers, as previously in Zanzibar I had ‘shredded’ toes when running barefoot) was so refreshing after months of the Riddlesdown Parkrun mud!

It was however my third and final run while away that was an amazing experience after we had moved back to San Jose in preparation for the flight home.  We had originally been allocated a hotel near to the airport, but decided that with a 4.55pm flight, if we stayed in San Jose we would be able to explore the city in the morning.  We ended up a couple of km from the centre, very close to the new national football stadium which is at one end of La Sabana Metropolitan Park.  One of my first impressions of San Jose, on our first morning in the country (a Thursday) at the beginning of the holiday, had been the large number of runners we passed in the outskirts of the City as we were being driven out to Volcano Poás; before arriving I had no the idea that running was so popular in Costa Rica (why should I have had!)  But even this experience had not prepared me for my run in the La Sabana Metropolitan Park.  We had visited it the evening before, a Sunday, and it was clear it was the equivalent of Hyde Park in London or Central Park in New York, filled with families enjoying the usual hot weekend.

Marker post

Marker post

One of my first observations was a small wooden post about 30cm high clearly having a function other than to trip up unsuspecting tourists.  My astute eyes, more use to picking out potholes and mud patches, soon noticed more of them, forming a winding trail through the trees, maybe just a sensible way to make sure the whole area didn’t get trodden down?  But soon it became clear that the main users of this trail were not families but the occasional runner.  Great, I thought, a route to follow tomorrow.  A bit further through the park, it was actually after 6.00pm and dark, an actually running track appeared (the middle used for roller hockey); maybe I could also use this next day?


Running trail


Running track

So before 6.00am on Monday morning I set off for my individual San Jose ‘Parkrun’.  My first positive experience was when the driver of a huge truck, the kind you see on films that drive long distances on highways through the US ‘deserts’, stopped for me.  I wasn’t trying to dart through a gap across the road at the corner of the park, as I normally would if there was a long stream of traffic, I was just waiting with the only vehicle on the road, this lorry, to pass.  But it was inside the park that the real revelation took place.  At such an early hour, on a work day, there were 100s of runners, some using the marked trail but most others running along the many paths.  CaptureAnd the actually running track was crowded with both serious club runners and enthusiastic ‘amateurs’ like myself.  If this wasn’t a big enough surprise, scattered around the area were tables with water, other hydration drinks and even fruit, all of which appeared to be free.  I was disappointed that I only had time for a 7k run as I needed to get back for breakfast and our brief walk around San Jose.  It was on this that I realised why the park was essential for the runners of San Jose city.  The pavements are terrible and the curbs the highest I have seen anywhere, totally unsuitable and unsafe for walking, never mind running!


Large, deep hole in the middle of the pavement


Pavement obstacles

We walked through the park at midday when the temperature was in the high 20s C and there were still plenty of runners (not workers on a lunch break). I wanted to come home with a San Jose running top, but of course the shops that sold kit only had the logo-ed tops you can get anywhere where the world.  I did spot a runner with one in the park and spoke to him; I don’t have much any Spanish, and him no English, which made it difficult  but his top was from the 2012 10.5k run in the city and he won’t have wanted to part with it whilst I would have been a fraud to wear it!

When I make my list of top 10 places to run, La Sabana Metropolitan Park, San Jose, Costa Rica will definitely be one of them. Pura Vida.


I’m sure that all runners have been scared/nervous/apprehensive before at least one run, maybe the first one that was an ‘official’ timed one.  Certainly I was before my first half marathon, and my first Parkrun.  I sure a few nerves before a run are too bad, as long as there are toilets readily available before the start!

But I was scared before my 2 runs this week.  On Monday it was a distance that I run to get to my normal Parkrun, but a route that just goes round the block, 4k.  Today it was a run that I have done more times than I can remember, a couple of years ago I used to do it almost everyday, although I added a bit onto the end today to make it 10.6k.

CaptureHowever I was  ‘running scared’ because these were the first real runs I have done since picking up an injury during Janathon, and two weeks today I will be in Jerusalem to run a half marathon.  I really have been wondering if I should/will be able to run it.  I’m haven’t entered for any particular reason, I decided to go over to keep Mr Marathon Widow company for his 65th marathon, as I have never been there before, and the run seemed the obvious thing to do.  The full marathon wasn’t an option, I’m not ready for that distance…yet.

Anyway, I didn’t know if my thigh would hold up.  But I felt I had to give it a go; I couldn’t go to Jerusalem without some idea of my chances of finishing. I actually stretched before setting out, strapped the appropriate thigh and I went out on both runs intending a steady jog rather than run; but I am not really used to trying to go slow.  So when I looked at my Kalenji on Monday and saw the time was only 2 minutes more than than my normal time for the route I was quite amazed.  My thigh did become a bit stiff towards the end, but nothing to cause me any real concern; I iced it just as a precaution.  Today was a bigger test, half the distance I should be doing in 2 weeks.  As with Monday, I didn’t focus on the leg at all, I was more busy watching every step of the way and every possible hazard, the uneven surface, pedestrians, dogs and cars.  The one thing I had to avoid was sudden stopping. Well I successful did that, finished comfortably and again surprised myself with 58:58 for 10.6k. There is no indication from the thigh that it is complaining about the trip out, so I now have to decide how many more runs, and what distance over the next two weeks.

And even more scary, I do remember the original Roy Orbison song Running Scared with the almost appropriate first line “Just runnin scared each p(l)ace we go”


After some reasonably creative stuff over the first 3 weeks of Janathon (well I think so) I am now struggling.  Mainly because I am not willing to risk my thigh by running in the icy conditions with the Jerusalem half marathon just 4 weeks away.

So today it has just been two 4k walks and a 16k ride on the exercise bike while watching the latest episode of Glee; now if I could could dance like Mike Chang did in the previous series that would count as Janathon exercise…

Mike and Brittany

I’m really grateful grateful to Janathon for getting me into the bike.  A great way to exercise while watching my favorite US TV programs on the PC.