The Great North Run and the ABC Plan

It’s always good to have a plan B but why stop there?

The A plan would have seen romping home at the Bupa Great North Run in a new personal best of somewhere shy of 2:56:14 but when I failed to lose the 2 stone accumulated since the last PB I knew it was unlikely.

Plan B was somewhat of a compromise and had the 3 hour mark as the line in the South Shields sand. Plan C was a must and would see me finishing ahead of Gladys, the unsuspecting 80-year-old I have been stalking since the 2010 Great North Run. It may be considered unsporting to race against someone who is completely unaware of the wager but I need every legal advantage.

20120917-184210.jpgIt was a grim start to the day. We took rather too long in the hotel room considering whether to join in Dan’s impromptu warm up session and that meant a rather tardy arrival at the start. I had secured a place in the green pen (one up from the end) and although Dan and Michael were supposed to start in super speedy orange zone, they hung back with me. I know they regretted that when we were refused entry at every opening due to overcrowding. We had to join the back – behind the sweep van.

The race started some kilometres ahead of us and the clouds opened in celebration. 45 minutes later we shuffled our soggy bodies over the start line and so began the relentless weaving.

I’m sure this year’s event must have been bigger than ever. I just couldn’t get into a zone that enabled me to run free. I was surrounded by walkers 3 or 4 abreast and veered this way and that trying to find space to put one foot in front of the other.

I’m afraid to say I didn’t really feel the joy of GNR for much of this year’s race. I don’t know if it was the weather dampening spirits all round or the overcrowding on the course. I overheard some spectators in the bar at the end of the day saying they thought the runners were a bit flat this year and weren’t so appreciative of the support. That’s a shame as we all feed off each other and I was genuinely grateful for everyone who gave me a cheer down that last gruelling mile of coast.

I might not have looked so jolly from miles 8-11 though. From mile 8 onward, my Garmin’s virtual partner overtook me and started kicking sand in my face. I was sure I’d programmed him to pace me to the 3hr mark and I felt miserable to be failing on my plan B. I pushed on but my heart wasn’t really in it.

The steel bands and the Bupa Boost Zone complete with Jelly Babies, raised a hint of a smile but that was a tough section.

At some way past 11 miles I looked at my watch and noticed I was at 2hrs 40mins and decided that I surely had a chance to rattle off less than 2 miles in 20 mins and just then the sea appeared – that wondrous apparition that appears like a beacon and melts away the gloom of sodden pounding along dreary dual carriageways.

That sight has brought me to tears on each of the last 4 runs. It figuratively marks the end of the pain – we’ve reached lands end and can surely go no further. Although it seems we can as it actually marks the start of an extremely steep descent on to an extraordinarily cruel mile-long stretch up to the finish line.

I had a target to beat though so couldn’t weep and philosophise for long. I took full advantage of my Hoka One One’s superhuman descending properties and fair sprinted down the slope. I had to call out for a path to be cleared as I was a little wayward and my arms might have been wind-milling.

Then I pushed on and on up that coast. I felt I was going to come a cropper some way short of the finish line but I was prepared for the worst and pushed on. Here the supporters helped me along and each calling of my name sprung me forward at least a centimetre.

20120917-181834.jpgI gave one of those sprint finishes that remains imperceptible to the human eye but it was there and I stopped to read the Garmin at ………. 3:01:25.

Thank god for Plan Cs.

I didn’t actually see Gladys but I’m reading her stats now and I’m glad to say she was there and a good few minutes behind me. Ah the joy of beating 80-year-old speed walkers.

I don’t think I can rest on my laurels though, Gladys was 5 minutes faster than her 2010 time and at that rate will be breaking my PB next year. Bring it on.

Alternative Wisdom for the Great North Run – 9 Insider Tips

As I prepare to head up north for my fourth running of the Bupa Great North Run, I feel it is time to assemble a top tips post, illustrated with snippets from earlier race reports.

Treat the Great North Run as 4 individual stages – XLMan from the runnersworld forum let me re-post his race strategy back in 2007. I’m still using it to visualise the race 5 years later.

Run 1 – 5 miles (8 km). (DON’T think about anything further) Huge crowds, great atmosphere, bands. Take it steady, not too fast, you’ve run five miles or further loads of times. Enjoy the spectacle, and remember you are part of it. Those inspirational pictures of thousands running across the Tyne Bridge? You’re in them this year. Yes, you’re in the Great North Run, the world’s biggest half marathon. Enjoy!

Run 2 – 3 miles (5 km). Forget the 5 behind you, they’re done. Think only of the next three. Three miles? Piece of cake, you’ve done 9, 10, 11 .. much more in training. These three are all downhill, wheeeeeee !! Great news for those of you after PBs for the event, or even if it’s your first time and you have a target. Go for it here, within reason. Unfortunately, the road narrows, so you may notice it feeling a little more congested. Be careful.

Run 3 – 3 miles (5 km). SLOW DOWN. This is where you need your mental toughness and/or your MP3 player. It’s a bit of a slog up the John Reid Road etc and there’s not much to enjoy, but hey, if it was easy, the medal wouldn’t be as important to you would it? If you’re a run/walk person this is where you may want to be taking extra walks, and psych yourself up, but don’t start thinking about the finish yet. Just get to 11 miles

Run 4 – 2.1 miles (3 km) That’s nowt! Of course you’re tired but you’re nearly there. Now, start to tell yourself that you’ve done it (almost) the goody bag is waiting for you, go and get it. The last mile and a bit up the sea front is fantastic. Huge crowds yelling at you, the end is nigh. Let your spirits fly, even if you’re knackered. You can stop soon. If you’re after a time, push, you know you are fit, you have prepared well, and as knackered as you will feel when you cross the line, the elation will speed your recovery. Well done, you’ve finished the GREAT NORTH RUN 2012

Go Low for Ritual Chanting – just past the start line the road divides and you get to choose whether to go under or over the bridge. The low road offers the full echoing experience of thousands of runners shouting oggy oggy oggy. It also carries the risk of a non too refreshing shower.

Take the high road for a shower free experience – at least a hundred men with bladder issues choose to take the high road and then proceed to shower the oggy oggy oggy runners beneath them.

I also came close to having an unwelcome shower from the guys caught short and relieving themselves on the overpass above me. GNR N0 1

Never underestimate the old and frail – This is one for Gladys who looked delightfully doddery at the start of the 2010 GNR but who had a second wind and was caught on camera at the finish line – a good 4 minutes ahead of me.

It’s all in the pacing – every seasoned racer seeks the holy grail of the negative split where you complete the second half of the race faster than the first. That only happens if you take the first half slower than the last and therefore requires you to proceed with caution and not get caught up in the excitement of the day. Breaking your 5k pb during a half marathon does not usually bode well for the finish line.

Remember to smile at mile 10 – For 2012 Bupa have installed a mile of smiles section at the toughest part of the run and you don’t want to be immortalised with a sweaty grimace.#happiestrun

Ride the emotional rollercoaster – it’s hard to run while gasping for air and choking on painful emotions

At 10 miles I was broken emotionally, I was on a rollercoaster of weeping triggers. The first was a picture of young man on the back of t-shirt, a dad, dead of prostate cancer already. So many people run with powerful messages it’s too hard not to choke up. The second was the red arrows swooping over the Jarrow Rd and third, that actually did see me sobbing was the sight of the sea on the slope down to South Shields. There is still more than a mile to go but it’s the best indication, short of the finish line, that marks the end of the pain. GNR No 3

Embrace the motivation from the crowd

She was barely more than four years old and I’d only gone about a kilometre before she yelled out from the sidelines, “Keep running fat girl!” GNR No 3

Run with faster friends – That way they can deal with the carnage at the baggage vans and deliver your assembled kit to the finish line.

We found him eventually in an emotional heap after spending about 45 mins battling in the baggage bus for our clobber. Shoes and bags and shirts had been strewn all over and it sounded a bit like a blood fest. Luckily I got to avoid all that – that’s the benefit of running with fast friends, thay get to collect the bags while all you have to do is struggle over the finish and stumble into the nearest fish and chip restaurant. GNR No 2

If you find any of my tips useful, perhaps you would consider showing appreciation by donating to my Virginmoney charity site – raising money for the Samaritans

Thames Meander Half Marathon

I’ve discovered the relative anonymity of mixed distance races and intend to exploit them.

20120827-133230.jpgThe fear of entering official races as a routine, back of the pack runner, is that you stagger towards the finish line to find all the volunteers packing up and waiting impatiently for you to pick up the last remaining medal so they can go home. If you enter a half with a full marathon tagged on, you can be fairly certain that although you may be the last placed in your race, you won’t be holding up the entire show.

That’s why I chose the Great North Trail Run and why I then sought out the Thames Meander.

The Thames Meander was a fairly low key event organised by a couple who set up events under the banner of Hermes Running. It started and finished at a posh school in the Kingston environs and took in the sights of Richmond Park and the Thames.

Towing the line with a load of uber fit marathon runners carries with it it’s own level of anxiety though and as ever with races, I shot out of the gates with an adrenaline fueled pace more suited to escaping a charging bull rather than dragging one around a 13 mile loop.

Within the first few hundred yards I’d overtaken 3 runners. This is not supposed to happen and should have been an alarm call. Instead I continued increasing my speed, terrified of the chasing pack. It was like a continuous Zombies, Run! interval.

At 5k my watch beeped to inform me that I’d recorded my best 5k time in about 3 years. Again, not great in a 13 mile event.

At 8k I followed a duff lead and went about 200 yards off track before realising and turning to face the chasing 3 – now 200 yards ahead.

I focused on reeling them back in and in the process managed to achieve my best 10k time in about 4 years.

Alarm bells and klaxons now sounded in a deafening manner and at the half way turnaround point my legs obviously cottoned on to the situation and stopped performing.

Almost immediately I was overtaken and then the brain kicked in with it’s negative speak. I had to drag my body and a nagging, whining, excuse of a brain around for another 90 minutes.

At the half way point I was on track for a finish time close to 2:40, 20 mins faster than my target. Over the last 10k I lost more than 30 mins, a staggering 3 minutes per km!

With only 3 weeks to go to The Bupa Great North Run, this half marathon has proved to be a great training session. Alerting me to the dangers of overly eager starts and inadequate fitness levels. My GNR target has always been to break 3hrs so now I need to work out what the best approach is to refine my performance over the last 3 weeks of training.

Of course I have more questions than answers.

  • How long will I be able to maintain my pace for if I set off slower?
  • Is it possible to increase endurance within 3 weeks of an event?
  • How much faster can I go in those last painful miles, with the whole of South Shields out in support?

The Thames Meander Half was a lovely route, well supported and attracted its fair share of supportive runners who were happy to offer a nod of encouragement on the loop back.

20120828-200941.jpgThe finishers medal was a thing of wonder and although I usually only run for t-shirts I was prepared to swap that reward for a rather substantial plate of spaghetti bolognaise laid on in the school canteen. An excellent addition to any run!

At only £18 I think Hermes Running laid on an excellent event including aid stations, medal, food, and hot showers.

I read a few complaints in the marathon runners forum that suggested some of the aid stations on their extended section had run out of water, which is a fairly terrible state to find yourself in over that distance but I understand that the organisers are heeding the lessons and next years event will be improved.

GNR Anxiety

The Great North Run race pack arrived yesterday.

A high level of anxiety followed its opening. Enclosed was a Team Bupa technical t-shirt which was so tight it finished a good few inches above my belly button. It might have super wicking properties but I don’t think the good folk of South Shields deserve the full exposure of my midriff.

I was spurred into action by the reminder that it’s only 6 weeks til the big day.

I’ve been following an unorthodox approach of weekly 10 mile runs interspersed with about 4 high intensity but short (20 min) spurts on the treadmill.

I always come away from half marathon events determined to maintain my physical peak by rattling out weekly 10-milers. I reckon that if I can manage that, I ought to be able step up to 13.1 on adrenaline alone.

The trouble is, the weekly 10’s often turn into 8’s and then holidays happen and 6 weeks before race day I discover I’m no longer a perfectly honed running machine.

I discovered that today while the full cycling family entourage were called upon to push me around the 8 mile circuit of Richmond Park. It was hot, I moaned a lot and I crossed my imaginary finish line in an irritable, damp and salty heap. And, I was still 2 miles too short.

Richmond Park deer

When I got back home I headed for the treadmill to rattle off the last two. Inspired by the Australian version of The Biggest Loser, I set myself up for a 2 mile hill climb at maximum incline (12). I let myself down by gradually dropping the distance target until I decided that a 1km hill sprint had a lovely ring about it. I was less irritable but equally damp and heap-like at the end.

Perhaps I’m not too late to take some training advice from the Bupa Running team.

9 Top iPhone Apps for Runners

I’ve been running with my iPhone for a couple of years and I think I have now got a fairly stable armory of running or health related apps that I would be prepared to recommend. I’ll split them into 4 sections and go from there.

The Running Logs

The iPhone is my ever present mobile computer. It bothers me that my training logs are locked away on the laptop at home, or worse, spread across a few online logs like Garmin Connect, Adidas miCoach and Fetcheveryone. Surely when someone asks me how my training has been going for GNR or VLM, I ought to be able to pull out my phone and demonstrate with a pretty chart or a weekly distance log. It’s taken a bit of effort but I can now do that. Of course no one has asked how my training has been going for a while.

Athlete Diary (web link) (iTunes Link)

So for example I have set up a few keywords such as wt, Avg HR, Shoe 1 etc. Each keyword can be defined as total, avg or non-numeric which determines how it is shown on the charts and summaries. As far as I know there aren’t any limits to the number of keywords you can have but it does pay to think about it at the start so you can build up a consistent data set as you go along.

Having set up the keywords I can head back to the search facility and select the date period covering the last year, select running as my sport and perhaps select the training type as race. If I now look at the log it will show me all the running races in the last year. Moving to the summary sheets the same applies – running races in the last year. If I now choose the chart option I can select the keyword of interest so for example max HR to show the variation across the selected events. If I selected a specific keyword in the search facility such as Shoe 1 my log and summaries would show all the runs where I wore shoe 1.

It is such a customisable application that is very nearly worth £11.99

The feature that makes me so particularly happy about my purchase is the import/export functionality. The designers have gone to huge effort to enable you to get all your data into the log. It’s a bit of a faff and I had to wipe the database clean and start afresh a few times before I got the hang of it but I do now have every single run from the last 4 years loaded up. I pulled data out of Sporttracks, Garmin connect, Fetch and others, faffed around with it in excel to get the right format, converted to a text file, emailed it to my phone and the copy and pasted it directly into the import screen of Athlete Diary – Genius!

It’s hard to believe how happy that makes me. All my data inside my little phone. The Athlete’s Diary – Stevens Creek Software is well worth the initial investment in time and money.

HRM Log FM (web link) (iTunes Link)
Before I came across the Athlete Diary I was convinced that the answer to my problems was an app that synced with Garmin Connect. Admittedly I don’t have all my runs on there, I had a life pre-GPS and sometimes I run on the treadmill but in recent times it is fair to say that most have been uploaded to Garmin Connect. Garmin Connect is a terrible website though and it doesn’t help me get the stats and data on my phone.

After a lot of searching I came across HRM Log FM. As an app it doesn’t do a lot, you can’t add runs or modify data in any way but it is a perfect way to view data stored on Garmin Connect. The sync is fairly painless and new runs are added to a calendar view, clicking through enables you to view the details – summary, lap details and a pace and heart rate chart. The route map isn’t shown unfortunately but it’s still very useful.

The GPS Apps

I am not a big fan of the GPS apps but then I have a Garmin Forerunner so why would I bother?

The GPS reception is not as good as the purpose built watches and the effort drains the battery far too quickly for my liking. The last time I used it I nearly found myself stranded at the end of the Wandle Trail with no juice left to call for my pick up vehicle.

Having said that I have tried a good few and have been impressed with two: Adidas miCoach and Nike+ GPS. I’ve previously reviewed the Adidas mobile miCoach app and you can read that here.

Technical Running Stuff

PaceCalc (web link) (iTunes Link)

A very simple little app. There are many websites around that will perform the same function but it’s handy to have it wrapped up in a stand alone program.

You enter your time for a race or a custom distance and Runner’s PaceCalc FM returns a screen with pace and speed conversions in metric and imperial and then on another screen it displays projected race times on the basis of your entry. It also provides a series of recommended training paces.

Cadence (web link)

This is perhaps a bit gimmicky but I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about efficient running styles at the moment. I don’t have one but would like one and apparently one of the ways to get there is to shorten your stride length and increase your step rate or cadence. 180 steps per minute is the holy grail apparently. Seems unattainable to me but I’m happy to give it go.

This app is just a running styled metronome, I set the rate to 180 (or some other number) and the little feet beat out the pace for me to follow.

That’s all there is to it.

Diet and Weight

Some runners and particularly this one, need to keep on top of their weight, or more accurately chase after it like a hurtling runaway train.

I’ve got two favourites weight logs, True Weight and FatWatch.

True Weight (web link) (iTunes Link)
I’ve used True Weight for a long time, it’s very simple and uses the Hackers Diet principles to show the “true weight” after all the fluctuations have been smoothed. The display is clear and you can view the actual weight recorded as well as the trend line.

I have to admit that unfortunately, these figures are not mine.

FatWatch (web link) (iTunes Link)
I recently moved over to FatWatch as I wanted to record both my weight and my fat %.

It uses a very similar method for plotting the trend and allows you to set a goal and show your progression (or lack of) against it.

Both applications enable you to export your data via email so you need never lose data to a locked in app again.

As you can see I have an unfavourable divergence between the green (target) and red (trend) line so it’s time to take remedial action and start the calorie controlled approach for a while. This is where the last app comes into it’s own.

Tap&Track (web link) (iTunes Link)

This app gets reviewed all over and has proved to be incredibly popular because its so intuitive and smooth to use.

You start by entering your height and weight details and after setting your weight loss goals it determines your daily calorie allowance. By the grace of god or perhaps metabolism, you can increase your daily allowance by logging some exercise. I’ve just this minute bagged 30 mins on the treadmill so that I can polish off half a bottle of bubbly without having scale anxiety tomorrow morning.

Tap & Track -Calorie Counter is a typical food, exercise and weight log and works on the principal that if you diligently record everything that you eat, you might just think twice about putting it in your mouth. I find it quite effective but you have to be strict and record everything.

Like most of these logs it has the American bias but it does still seem to have a lot of foods available locally (including Sainsburys and Pret a Manger) and besides its an absolute doddle to enter your own items which you can then save to your favourites list. I don’t mind doing this, when I go on a diet I tend to eat a rotation of very similar foods so after a fortnight I’ll have just about all the options covered.

I read reviews where people doubt the accuracy of some of the nutritional entries, I’ve found a few problems as well so its advisable to sense check new items or enter them yourself from the label.

It doesn’t seem to handle alcohol particularly well. I’ve entered the details for Stella manually but it doesn’t have a section for alcohol content and so the nutrition chart doesn’t include a piece of pie for the proportion of calories that comes from alcohol. That’s a bit of a shame for me but maybe something they could easily add as an update.

Despite a few niggles, this app is a joy to use, very well designed and so far it seems to be helping me towards my goal.

So there you have it, 9 top iPhone apps for runners, have I missed any must have apps? Let me know.

Keep Running Fat Girl

Don’t you just love kids?

She was barely more than four years old and I’d only gone about a kilometre before she yelled out from the sidelines, “Keep running fat girl!”

Nice one.

Kids actually make this race. They line up with their grubby hands outstretched for a high-five and I love it when they screw their faces up with a grimaced “euuuw” as they come into contact with your sweaty palm.

At the 8th mile one particularly bedraggled lad was offering out orange quarters from a bucket. I could have kissed him as I took it from him. I’d been hallucinating on the joys of oranges for the last few miles. I could see hundreds of discarded skins on route but didn’t hold out much hope of their being any left for the slow pokes at the end. The Great North Run spectators are so generous with their support and their treats and it was particularly impressive this year with the constant drizzle and occasional downpour.

After breakfast Dan joined us to wander down to the start line. We probably took it a bit too leisurely as we couldn’t even squeeze past the crowds to make it into the coloured pens before the race started. There seemed to be more people than ever trying to cram themselves onto the dual carriageway. We had plenty of time to eye up the opposition though including one old dear who we’d pegged as a lost spectator but who actually turned out to be a competitor – Gladys was her name. Here she is crossing the finish line about 4 minutes ahead of me, and she isn’t even sprinting.

I don’t know what happened, I was ahead of her at 5k, 10k and 15k and I even sprinted at the end. I’ll be back next year and I publicly challenge Gladys to a 10-13 mile showdown.

It took 40 minutes for the crowd to clear enough for us to cross the start line. I was fit to drop before we started but as my four year oldfriend said, I just had to keep on running. I did just that. I hit an in-year record for my 5k time, not very good pacing but impressive nonetheless. At 5 miles an old geezer pulled alongside me and informed me that I was keeping a good pace – 15 minute miles he reckoned. I would have been happy with this comment if the old fella hadn’t been walking comfortably alongside me. I upped my pace and escaped.

My pace seemed to die around the 9th mile from then on I lost a couple of minutes for each remaining mile. I felt ok really, my legs weren’t suffering as much as usual but I was on autopilot, head down, eyes closed. I couldn’t seem to alter the pace after slowing down for an uphill trog.

At 10 miles I was broken emotionally, I was on a rollercoaster of weeping triggers. The first was a picture of young man on the back of t-shirt, a dad, dead of prostate cancer already. So many people run with powerful messages it’s too hard not to choke up. The second was the red arrows swooping over the Jarrow Rd and third, that actually did see me sobbing was the sight of the sea on the slope down to South Shields. There is still more than a mile to go but it’s the best indication, short of the finish line, that marks the end of the pain.

From here on in I was gasping from the increased effort and the choked back tears. Both Lynn and my parents had come down to support me and I knew I was going to see them any minute. It’s a lovely experience to collapse over the finish line after such a gruelling effort and find all your loved ones around you.

Yes, this event holds a special place in my heart.

Race t-shirt can be seen on the t-shirt page.

The Gadgets Keep Getting Bigger

We took receipt of the largest box in the world yesterday.

I am just beginning to get over the stress of it now. It took 3 of us to haul it across the threshold and then I spent the rest of the afternoon emptying the dining room of extraneous clutter such as dining tables and tried to make the contents of The Box look just a little smaller.

Not sure I was that successful. The dining room still looks like an homage to The Box and I am a little unpopular.

So, the new toy, an industrial size mega treadmill is filling the room and the pressure of the “you better bloody use it” variety is building. I reckon I could easily use it more often than the dining table but I’m not sure that’s going to be enough to save me.

It was relatively easy to install and despite discovering two spare parts and 6 extra screws I was able to clamber on board and knock out a sweaty 5k from the comfort of my own home.

It was an ideal opportunity to test out all my gadgets and clobber for the Great North run tomorrow.

I’ve discarded the miCoach as it seemed to disable the remote control features of my swanky new Sennheiser headphones. I bought the new sporty model which comes complete with a microphone. Now I’ll be able to answer the call from my mum without having to pull out my phone. She always rings at about the 10 mile mark to say she can see the Red Arrows as they swoop over South Shields.

The blister plasters had to go as well, they just won’t stay put during a run but the special padded toe end glove things are marvellous.

So my journey up north has begun. This time tomorrow I’ll be covered in blisters but at least my toe nails will still be intact.

Long Distance Limbo

I needed a long run this weekend, something to confirm that I could complete the Great North Run without crumpling. We were away at the in-laws so I opted for the canal run. A remote out and back trail with no opportunities for rescue or abandonment. Perfect.

Out and back runs offer up an interesting dilemma – when to turn back. I set off with a ten-miler on my mind but I was feeling good after the first 5k and it was a fairly easy decision to commit myself to an extra kilometre before turning round. At that rate I would finish the run at 18km knowing that I’d only have to pull another 3 out of the bag come the big GNR day.

I was comfortable, smug almost for the first 6km. I was actually worried that my route might be too easy. A canalside swathe cut through the lowlands of Grantham isn’t a great imitation of the undulating route along the dual carriageway between Newcastle and South Shields.

I needn’t have worried. The towpath disappeared at 7k and I had to navigate bumpy grassland and then the fishers appeared.

I had to disturb at least 30 anglers who had set up along my route, their huge rods laid out across my path. Mostly I had to hurdle them but some fishermen took time to lift them out of my way. They’d allow them to hover around 4ft off the ground and I had little option but to limbo under the obstructions.

I didn’t feel like turning round too soon and making them repeat the exercise in reverse but I was getting fed up and wanted to be home already.

The return journey was not as enjoyable, the moment I turned round a pair of psychological bands clamped tight around my thighs. At every kilometre beep from my Garmin I would quickly calculate where I would have been if I’d turned around at the planned 8k point. I was punishing my earlier rash self.

I’d deposited a spare water bottle at the 5k point and now threatened to collapse with dehydration before I arrived back. When I did retrieve the bottle I was so paranoid that a passing dog had pee’d on it that I couldn’t enjoy it.

I was staggering by the end, hobble walking for the last kilometre but it was done and now I know I can do it next weekend.

Now all I need to do is raise some money. Donations for the Samaritans greatly received.

Sporting Provenance

I was sent a goody bag of sporting delights to try out a few weeks ago by a guy who is in the process of setting up a UK distribution for items with a valid sporting provenance. I have to say that I was impressed by quite a few of the items.

Hoo Haa Ride Glide”, a skin cream designed for lady’s delicate bits and pieces by those that know about such things.

Every time I step near the Brompton and its vicious but highly desirable Brooks saddle I stagger away longing for chaffing relief and even the Triumph Bonneville leaves it’s mark in the Hoo Haa region after a long ride. I’ve tested the product out on a few occasions now and each time it’s left an odd, relieved, then panicked expression on my face. Quite unusually they decided to pack a creme designed for the nether regions with something like menthol or peppermint. This cools at first but quickly tips over into a burning sensation as you begin to wonder if you accidentally applied deep heat to your gentle parts. It eases off again though, leaving you with a tingling sensation and an altogether more satisfied expression.

I think I like it but I’m not sure if it’s quite decent.

It stays put for your ride, it’s got a great name and I find myself looking forward to an excuse to use it – try it.

Reflect Sports was set up by a couple of women who were frustrated by the lack of women specific sports products and so decided to plug a gap in the market. They also have some great swim ranges – REFLECT H2OTM Swimming Conditioner, REFLECT H2OTM Sulfate Free Swim Shampoo and REFLECT H2OTM Pre-Swim and Sun Protecting Gel. I’ve been lucky enough to try out all these products and they do a good job of reviving your hair after a session in a chlorine pool.

Also in the goody bag were a pair of novelty pink feet, otherwise known as StuffIts.

They may look a little comical but they are stuffed with cedar and perform wonders with damp, ever so slightly pongy shoes.

There was a vast selection of Lip Balm flavours by Joshua Tree, and I made sure I nabbed the lavendar tube before the kids dived in.

I’ve also been asked to try out a fuel injection system from zerogoo. Having had bad experiences with nasty, sticky gel packs I’m quite taken with the notion of a self contained system that will release my energy source of choice into my hydration system. I haven’t got round to trying it out as I’m not quite up to gel standards yet. I’ll update you over the summer.

All the products were sourced from small businesses who have been founded by sportsmen and women who went on to develop a solution to the problems they encountered while doing what they loved.
Dave from Joshua Tree is a climber, Mike from StuffIts was sick of having damp, smelly cycling shoes and trainers, Laurie and Jena from Reflect Sports are triathletes. Trent from Zerogoo is an avid mountain biker.

Royal Parks Half – The Confession

This run was always going to be a bit hit and miss, booking two half marathons only 7 days apart and then going light on the training regime is only going to end in a world of pain.

In my mind I thought it would be interesting to see just how much pain would actually be involved – I was beginning to see it as an experiment in muscle damage.

Three days after the Great North Run I was still hobbling up the stairs and trying to recapture my youth sliding down the the bannisters. By Friday though I was able to move around without squealing and began to think this race might be a possibility afterall.

I arrived in Hyde Park to welcome a glorious autumnal morning and the classiest event set up I’ve ever witnessed. There was a farmers market in the event village complete with a wet fish stall and fresh bread counter. Someone tried to hand me a free sample of curry sauce and I was seriously tempted to quit the race and enjoy the grub.

Still unsure of my strategy for this event I propped myself against a tree and started reading through some outstanding blog posts. Speedracer happened to be deciding her strategy for running a marathon on an injured foot but as ever, her approach was gonna prove just a little too hardcore for me. Crippling yourself for two weeks is a step too far in my book, laying myself off work for a couple of days however, sounds much more like my cuppa tea. I did agree that hitting the finish line in 5 hours was going to be a waste of time though, I wouldn’t mind running over the line in 3:30 but if I had to walk, I wasn’t going to be interested.

I started running to Amy MacDonald and finally hit on the perfect motto for the event “I will run until my feet no longer run no more”.


It was a beautiful route, any event that forces street closures through central London has got to score brownie points. There is simply no better place to run. I was a bit worried to note that the route left the streets and headed into Hyde Park at mile 6 though. 7.1 miles looping around Hyde park was going to be a challenge.

At mile 3 my thighs started screaming in a mile 10 sort of fashion. This was going to be some battle of wills. I ran past 3 tube stations and tapped my pocket each time just to confirm that my emergency “get me out of here” oyster card was handy, but ran on regardless.

My energy was sapped at Hyde park, knowing I had more than 10k to go on familiar ground. Spectators and general park goers were getting fed up of the spectacle and started ignoring the fact that a race was in progress. I had to duck and dive through crowds and hop over extender leads as dog owners gave their stoopid poodles full reign.

There were 12500 runners in this event, almost a quarter that of the Great North, as a result, slow runners were a bit thin on the ground. In fact I seemed to be surrounded by those goddamn walkers. Run/walkers and just plain ole walkers. They were overtaking me on the hills again and was I being driven nuts.

At the 10th mile I actually stopped to walk just to see if perhaps it would be quicker that way, but no, I was even slower. At 11 miles something happened with my legs and the running got so slow I couldn’t even claim to be moving forward anymore, the garmin showed the damage – I’d lost a 6 minute advantage in the last 2 miles and my pace was well over 15 min miles. I walked off the edge and promptly threw up in the hedges.

Garmin stopped and I quit. My first DNF.

Royal Parks Almost Half

All I had left to do was join the dots.

I’m not too bothered by the failure, I wanted to see the affect on my body and I also wanted to know if I could persuade OGB and Tanya to substitute this event for GNR next year. It will be considerably cheaper.

In my opinion this is by far the better route, it was pretty well organised and had deluxe portaloos but the crowds were not a patch on the tyneside guys who truly know how to support crap runners. If you were further up the pack I don’t think you would have been tripped up by so many dog walkers.

I spotted JogBlog a few miles ahead of me but she’s been a bit slack with the race update. That’s the trouble with completing races – you get to nurse a legitimate hangover for hours whereas DNF’ers got to go home for a sober bath! Not the way forward.