Category Archives: Race reports

Durrell Challenge 2018

Yesterday saw me take part in my third race in four weekends – four out of four if you count last week’s parkrun – the third running of the Durrell Challenge, a 13k road race from town up to Jersey Zoo (or whatever they’re calling it these days).

I’ve always been keen to support this event because as a family we’ve always enjoyed the zoo having once been members and this seemed like a fun way to combine that with our sport / hobby of choice.

The course was the same it has always been – an initial mile or so from the park start through town towards a long uphill drag for 5k or so, followed by rolling terrain for pretty much the rest of the run. There are also two particularly steep hills to interrupt the rhythm and just generally make participants suffer.

And this year I certainly suffered. I set out with a fast pace on the flat and also on the steady hills, but the bigger hills totally wore me down. I simply haven’t done enough hill work this year, having focused (rightly) on my half marathon endurance up until the Fleet Half of a couple of weeks ago. I just blew myself out on the steeper hills and needed to walk up a couple of them. I also misjudged my pace on the last proper hill essentially kicking on too far before the finish – the opposite of the mistake I made in Fleet I guess – so I finished a bit slower than last year’s corresponding run but a lot more stressed with a heart rate of a silly 196bpm near the finish.

In the final results, I was 1:10 outside of my time of last year and on one level I was disappointed that I didn’t improve but I also looked at how my race compared with last year and the trace shows that I was quicker more or less everywhere apart from the hills where I walked so there’s lots of positives for the future.

One thing I do still enjoy about the event though is having the opportunity to race against Superman (or Henry Cavill as the official results insist on calling him). Like me, he’s taken part in all three Challenges so far. I’m 2-1 up now 😉

The odd thing now coming out of the Durrell is that for possibly the first time since 2015 I’ve got no races firmly planned whatsoever. I have some ideas but there’s not actually anything in the running diary. I think I’m just going to enjoy the unfocused running for a little while at least.


Unleashing my inner Greg

It wouldn’t just be false modesty to say that a couple of weeks ago I wasn’t expecting much from my two races in April. The Harbour View run last week really surprised me as I’ve written about it before but still going into the Fleet Half Marathon my confidence was not high.

My foot issues earlier in the year had really only started to clear up in February and I wasn’t really running properly until late March. The training sessions I’d put in showed I had some speed but had lost a fair bit of fitness as evidenced by some fairly high heart rate figures.

But in the week or so leading up to the Harbour View 5k training had improved significantly but still I didn’t feel it was at the levels I was at in the middle of last year. The inaugural event last week changed that. If a sub-25 minute 5k was possible then I surely would be in a position to put in an effort I could be proud of at least.

Let’s recap a little. The Fleet Half Marathon was meant to run in March, on the same weekend as the Reading Half, and much like that one fell victim to the snow of the time. However, Fleet said right away they would try and reschedule (Reading said right away they wouldn’t) and Fleet made the decision the day prior to the event and had been pretty negative about it the day before that (Reading strung everyone along until two hours before the run).

So, the sensible organisers of Fleet said early on when they found their reschedule date that they’d allow transfers of entries. A very simple process then followed and with the generous support of my wife I became a runner with a bib and entry of a Fleet & Crookham AC club runner called Greg.

I wasn’t settling for being Greg quietly, lovely though I’m sure Greg is, so I became “Not Greg” for the purpose.

Or “Greg” as most family members seem to think funny.

Or “Not Dave” as shouted to me by my wife during the run….hmmm…

Anyway, for our trip we picked our daughter up in Reading and then went on to Fleet for the night before the run. The route for the run started out in the very pretty Calthorpe Park. The infrastructure for the event was excellent. Most town roads were closed and the country ones were just very very quiet (or possibly closed, but I don’t remember seeing any signs).

The first kilo of the run was mainly uphill and my Garmin seemed to be struggling with detecting my speed at the time. I aimed to start with either of the two hour pacer runners but due to crowding at the start I probably crossed the start line a good 20 seconds behind the second one. I didn’t panic though. I kept the pacers in sight and caught one around the high street and the second not long after.

There was a fab atmosphere along Fleet Road

with people lined up outside the pubs and coffee shops with loads of support. The country parts of the run were much less well supported but they were also quite narrow in places so that wasn’t really a bad thing.

The course was essentially an outward spiral from the park finishing up the same road we started on, so we ran up Fleet Road twice. The second time was about the 7km point and by that time I had been pretty consistent, all of my kilo times apart from the first one being between 5:28 and 5:38. Being with the pacer no doubt helped that steady progress. I felt good during the first two thirds of the run. The pacer, Kelvin, regularly confirming that we were gaining time on the two hour target throughout with me quietly knowing I had more in mind because I started behind the pacers.

Steady progress continued – 5:31, 5:34, 5:32, 5:38, 5:39. I was down on my best ever Half Marathon time but I didn’t feel I was really racing against that. The fatigue started to set in around 13km by the lovely named village of Rotten Green. I decided to head off the front of the pace group just to give myself a clear shot at the following water station so I had one slightly faster kilo then one slightly slower one as I dropped back into the group.

The kilometres continued to tick by. Before long Kelvin pointed out that at the ten mile mark, you more or less just have a parkrun to go. For me that meant less than 30 more minutes of hard work.

Slightly oddly, Kelvin asked for a song request shortly after that. Someone suggested something a bit downbeat – don’t remember what at the moment – he rejected that and started a verse and chorus of Sweet Caroline, joined by one or two people. I joined the chorus only!

I decided earlier in the event that I was going to reconsider whether to stick with the group a couple of miles out. I wasn’t sure I felt fresh enough to confidently run off the front of the pack at the time so delayed my faster finish. On reflection, that might have been wrong and it cost me a faster time. I considered it again at a mile to go and I just didn’t feel happy to go.

At a right turn with about 1,000 metres to go I decided that was the time to cut the strings and go for home. I’d been at the front of the group for much of the second half of the race so I just pushed on away. This was down the hill that bothered me at the start earlier. Then there was a right turn at 500m to go as we entered the park and I then finished strong as I often do. I’m told I looked quite fresh at the finish. I overtook probably half a dozen people, if not more, in that final straight crossing the line at a gun time under two hours for the first time ever and a chip time of 1:57:53, exactly a minute outside my PB but probably ten minutes better than what I’d expected weeks before.

I was thrilled. I ran so well and, being honest with myself, I could have run better with a bit more confidence to leave the pacer group earlier. Could I have found that minute to get a new PB? Probably not actually, but it might have been close. But I look back not with disappointment at a new best getting away but with tremendous pride at what I did do.

Our Jersey flag was flying strongly at the event and I put in an amazing strong run which I really enjoyed. It really couldn’t have been much better. We’ve already talked about coming back next year, although we’ll have plenty of time to think about that.

If he sees the results after the run, I’d like to think Greg would be proud. Mind Jersey Harbour View Run 5k

It’s been a good month or so since my last proper post here, and in that time I’ve had some fairly modest runs and one really good one.

The modest ones included Jersey Parkrun #129 at which I ran too quickly at the start given my relatively light training schedule and recent illnesses and injuries and came in at a frankly rather disappointing 28:39.

My foot problems have cleared now though. I’ve been able to do more miles and at a faster pace and have felt more and more confident as I did so. A few weeks back I decided to enter the first event, a 5k around the harbour.

After my recent runs, I fully expected a time in the 26 minute range, probably as a best case scenario and I’d have been happy with that.

When the race started I noticed very quickly that my pace was good and my heart rate was well under control. And it stayed that way for the majority of what was an excellent run. I came home in the end in a time a little under 25 minutes, having finished really strongly but I still felt I had plenty left in the tank, and given I’ve still got the Fleet Half in a week’s time that was probably pretty sensible.

So my build up for Fleet may not have been perfect but it does seem to have me peaking at a pretty good time. I’m looking forward to Fleet but not setting any time targets at the moment. Sub two hours would be amazing but I doubt I’ll beat myself up too much if I don’t get it.

The Loneliness of the Long Distance (non-) Runner

Let’s start this post off by noting I’m not lonely – the above title came to me earlier today though and I wanted to go with it. Regardless of the facts.

I’m going to deal with the runs I didn’t get to do later in this post though. I’ll start first with those I did and actually in the month or so since I last posted here I’ve done only five runs, two of which were races.

First up was the Stroke Association Resolution Run, an optional 5 or 10k around Les Quennevais Sports Centre – essentially two times the Parkrun route. Since my foot injury of late January it had continued to be a struggle to get going and at this point my foot certainly had not improved enough in order to get my fitness up enough. My heart rate shot up and showed quite quickly that I wasn’t going to be at my best. A finishing time of 1:02:12 certainly was not what was expected.

I then took a week off before running seven miles the following weekend, followed by an easy 2 miles the day before we flew to the mainland.

Wednesday saw us heading to the mainland and another run around the Olympic Park for the Chase The Moon 5k. With the half marathon coming at the weekend I deliberately took this easy, although allowed myself some acceleration in the last kilometre (timed at 5:12) to come in just under 29 minutes.

So that brings us then to Reading. We had a great time before the run with a day in London (we loved the Ice Bar and don’t understand why everyone else left so early) and a great time with our daughter.

I’m not going to dwell on it here – yet – but let’s just say that for reasons I don’t fully understand the organisers seemed caught out by the weather that had been predicted and ended up cancelling the Reading Half at 6:30 on the morning of the run. The organisers are yet to offer any kind of benefit or compensation for the cancellation – I’d take a significant discount from next year’s entry fee – and generally their efforts seem to have been focused on Reading residents for some reason. I’ve found that disappointing and as of right not I can’t honestly recommend the run to anyone outside the town, which is a shame because I loved it last year. Anyway, I might moan more fully another time.

However, I made the most of the conditions and got out for a good 4km run in the snow.

What the whole debacle has done though is left me wanting a replacement event but without being prepared to pay significantly for it – once bitten, twice shy and all that. And that in turn has left me with very little enthusiasm for running at all, which will need to change.

Hoping to get out tomorrow though which I hope will put a little spark into my running.

February put positively

Ok my last post was a teensy bit negative about February. Probably because I focused on running, and let’s be honest February has not been kind to me running-wise.

However, much of the rest of February has been quite cool. There’s been two trips to the mainland the second of which finished today, and they have been excellent. These are the recommended highlights.

The first trip was around half term and involved the best part of 200 miles of driving and only a little running. Oh and getting very wet.

The first night saw us up in Reading for a post-birthday celebration including cocktails!

We also took a trip to Ikea which can only be fun! The next night took us down to Arundel. We were going to visit Arundel castle but it was closed for some reason.

Following that we went down to Bramber once again to visit the lovely Old Tollgate Hotel. If you follow that link to see the hotel, try and imagine the photo on their front page in black and white. With the wind, rain and cold we suffered there, that was about how the hotel looked, but it was still no less lovely.

When we were there, we were planning to run down to Shoreham but the weather was too miserable and as a result so were we, but we did still have a good run.

Then on the Wednesday – Valentine’s Day – my wife and I went to Stratford to run a brilliant event around the Olympic Park called Chase The Moon. The run was tough again largely down to filthy wet weather but we had a lot of fun. And the medals were cool too.

We ran together and had a great time doing it getting round in about 35 minutes.

So that brings us to this weekend then. We did a bit of traveling around again but probably no more than 100 miles which is evidently quite slack in comparison. The whole family were back together again with the four of us attending a family event.

We stayed near Havant at a Premier Inn with the connected Beefeater pub being elegantly named the Rusty Cutter (or Rusty Gutter as it was delightfully renamed). That was a great base for the weekend actually and we’ll certainly be back.

On Saturday morning, I added a fifth venue to my Parkrun collection. After Jersey 43 times and Southwark, Reading and Old Deer Park (near Richmond) once each, we visited Southsea for their run. I ran on my own on this occasion and found my foot to still be quite sore. The first and last 2 kilometres were pretty good but I had to walk much of the bit in the middle to rest my foot. It’s certainly going to be tough to make Reading although I’m confident I can get round safely if things get no worse.

My time of 28:22 was one of my slower Parkruns but it was still good fun. An amazing venue though and again we’ll certainly be back.

Then yesterday we visited Spinaker Tower and Gunwharf Quays and enjoyed ourselves hugely.

All in all, two amazing trips which we’ll look back on very well in the future.

My running year – 2017 edition

I’m sure I’ve said it here before sometime previously but I’m not ashamed to say that 2017 has been my best year of running so far. Every record and personal best of mine other than that for the marathon was broken. Some real proper milestones set too.

This year I’ve run further than I’ve ran in any year before, had a month when I ran at least a mile every day and ran in five different countries / islands, and numerous different interesting places.

In this post I’m going to make a half arsed attempt at summing all that up and hopefully recall a few interesting stories from my running year, and probably re-tell several ones I’ve already posted here.

January and February – Reading Half training

OK if you’ve got this far you were probably quite disappointed at the thought I’m just going to run through the calendar month-by-month and highlight individual runs. I won’t, however what was significant about January and February was the build up of distance particularly culminating in a horrid 8-miler in the wind and rain then a week later a nice steady 11 mile run. That longer run could have been uneventful however it saw me do three things. It was my first (and to date only) run in snow – some snow, not lots of it. It saw me incorporate Parkrun into a longer run, and as part of that I managed to time my arrival at the start line to within about ten seconds of the actual start. You can just about see me and my training partner wife lurking right at the back of this video of the start.

The trouble with this period is when I didn’t run. After going over to Reading for a long run during which I felt reasonably unwell and for a little while after and then progressively feeling worse during the remainder of a trip which took us to Fareham, including buying a bottle of wine at near 1am from a 24-hour supermarket (this is a big event for someone from Jersey, people!). Anyway..

After feeling worse I didn’t run again for about three weeks which took me right up to one week before the Reading Half. I got some more runs in before Reading but I felt concerned enough to get my own medical clearance before racing.

March 19 – Reading Half Marathon 2:06:57 (PB 15km 1:23:48)

I loved almost everything about the Reading event. The town is great, the company I had for the event was great. I loved the pre-event build up. I loved posting on Facebook from the start line of people having a wee by the roadside – why do people do that…

What I didn’t enjoy about Reading was my result. I was pounding along well with the two hour pacer group, opening a little gap on them on the downhill section around the university, but in the final quarter of the race I struggled with stomach issues – similar ones that I felt the previous run I had in Reading – and I just faded. I was 53 seconds up on pace at 11k but ended up three minutes down in the high 2:06s. I was initially disappointed but very shortly afterwards was determined to be back. We return in eleven weeks time and can’t wait.

April 29 – Jersey Parkrun #82 23:55 (PB 5k 23:37, 12 mins 2.598km, 3km 13:55, 3 miles 22:49)

April was about variety first and foremost. Different places (running in Greenwich and Southend), different conditions and the usual variety of distances. Probably the highlights were around Parkrun. #82 saw me break my official best with a 23:55 and a few weeks later I strolled around to a 23:57 at #85 despite jogging up to the finish to not overtake someone who seemed to be suffering a bit. If only I’d paid more attention to the time!

May 2 – 1 mile PB attempt (PB 400m 1:31, 1/2 mile 3:14, 1km 4:03, 1.5km 6:28, 1 mile 6:55)

May 9 – 400m PB attempt (PB 400m 1:26)

The novelty of this particular run, other than being a PB in itself was that I did it not long after helping pace my wife to her own 5k personal best under 32 minutes. This was a good day.

May 14 – Durrell Challenge 1:13:16

There’s probably not a lot more I can say about the second Durrell Challenge that I haven’t said before but rest assured I loved it. Knocking five and a half minutes off of last year’s time was a real achievement for me. Running up all of the hills felt great and once again sprinting into the finish felt amazing. It was also great to see my wife take part and finish for the first time too.

May 28 – Rock ‘n’ Roll Liverpool Half Marathon 1:56:35 (PB Half 1:56:35, 20km 1:50:45, 10 miles 1:29:11, 15km 1:23:00)

The second race of our Liverpool weekend saw what stands as my half marathon best – a wonderful 1 hour 56 minutes of running in an amazing atmosphere. I will never forget the finishing sprint. I will never forget high fiving kids by the road in the streets of the city. I will never forget my first ever sub-2 hour half marathon. It was an amazing experience.

The only downside was that Jean was seriously suffering after the event, despite having achieved her own PB so we couldn’t stay for the post event gig by Republica, but chilling out and resting became much more important.

I hope I can do the event again one day. There’s easier half marathon courses, but possibly none with the atmosphere of Liverpool.

June 13 – #mymile PB attempt (PB 1.5km 6:22, 1 mile 6:49, 2km 8:57)

The Strava app ran a #mymile feature during June for athletes to get out there and run their fastest single mile ever. I did this during a planned attempt after work one weekend and pushed my record well below the 7-minute mark.

June 18 – Guernsey Dairy Milk Run Half Marathon 2:56:23

I was playing the support act to Jean’s main event for this run, but I enjoyed it enormously despite the really hot conditions. Definitely hope to be back for this one.

July 2 – Great Newham London Run 74:06

Another event where I’d agreed in advance to join my wife for the fun, although the real joy here wasn’t the run itself but the amazing novelty of running into the Olympic Stadium to the finish line. An incredible experience.

July 8 – Jersey Parkrun #92 25:19 (PB 12 mins 2.605km)

August 6 – 16 miles training inc Durrell Challenge route (PB 15 miles 2:36:46, 25km 2:42:27)

August 20 – Jayson Lee Memorial 10k 49:33 (unofficial) (PB 5 miles 39:45, 6 miles 47:38, 10km 49:18)

We decided to enter this event relatively late on. The organisers amused us by putting some words of encouragement on my wife’s bib encouraging her to beat me. A nice touch of humour you don’t get normally.

I probably shouldn’t have done as well as I did. It was a 10k race just thrown into the middle of a marathon training programme. I was itching to race though so was entirely up for it. The story of the race was covered before in my original post but it’s a race that left me at the time with a fear that I’d never run this well again, and given that I didn’t officially have a finishing time that really was a bit of a problem for me. Happily I was wrong.

August 27 – 30km training run (PB 30km 3:26:48)

My last training run before I chose to withdraw from the 2017 Jersey Marathon was actually a really good one.

October 1-30 – Mile Every Day in October

This was a monthly challenge I’d been encouraged to take on by virtue of it being a challenge raised in a Facebook group I’ve come to enjoy during the year. This probably wasn’t the ideal month for me but in the end I ended up running in Jersey, Gatwick, Reading and Grenada during the course of the month. In training terms, they probably weren’t the most effective miles ever but it was an achievement all the same.

Places run this year

  • Jersey (164 times)
  • Magazine Beach, Grenada (8)
  • Reading (7)
  • Nea Moudania, Greece (3)
  • Liverpool (2)
  • Bexhill-on-Sea (1)
  • Gatwick (1)
  • Guernsey (1)
  • Reigate (1)
  • Newham (1)
  • Greenwich (1)
  • Southend (1)
  • Blackheath (1)
  • Washington, South Downs (1)
  • Shoreham (1)
  • Richmond (1)

November 11 – Poppy 10k 49:06.85 (PB 5 miles 39:34, 6 miles 47:29, 5km 49:07)

This to date is what I consider my best run ever. It wasn’t an easy run by any stretch but I will never forget the feeling I had when I got my results print out and it showed me I finished right up towards the quality end of the field in 26th place out of over 200 runners. It was an unforgettable day. Bexhill-on-Sea will always have a special place in my heart.

November & December – starting to explore trails

We began a new adventure trail running in the back end of the year, re-visiting walks we had done in Jersey in the past, plus running around Old Deer Park and the South Downs Way in near freezing conditions.

It’s not massively compatible with half marathon training but it’s something different and is enjoyable enough for that.

Personal bests set in 2017

  • 400m – 1:26 (training run Lib Day 2017)
  • 1/2 mile – 3:14 (training run May 2017)
  • 12 minute – 2.605km (Jersey Parkrun #92)
  • 5km (GPS) – 23:37 (Jersey Parkrun #82)
  • 5km (official) – 23:55 (Jersey Parkrun #82)
  • 5 miles – 39:34 (Poppy 10k)
  • 10km (GPS) – 49:07 (Poppy 10k)
  • 10km (official) – 49:06.85 (Poppy 10k)
  • 15km – 1:23:00 (Rock ‘n’ Roll Liverpool Half 2017)
  • 20km – 1:50:45 (Rock ‘n’ Roll Liverpool Half 2017)
  • Half-marathon (GPS) – 1:56:37.5 (Rock ‘n’ Roll Liverpool Half 2017)
  • Half-marathon (official) – 1:56:35 (Rock ‘n’ Roll Liverpool Half 2017)
  • 25km – 2:42:27 (training run mid Aug 2017)
  • 30km – 3:26:48 (training run late Aug 2017)

So that then was 2017, we have some interesting plans for 2018 just starting to take shape but I’ll bore you with those another time. In the meantime I’ll just look back on the year just gone and be happy. Very very happy.

Poppy 10k – the best run so far

As you may have read before, for our last race of the year, we decided we would return to Bexhill-on-Sea – the venue of what was until earlier this year my best ever half marathon. But having not had a solo run under UKA rules at the 10k distance this year, I thought I’d step down a distance and take it on today.

I came into the run wanting a sub-50 minute run, hoping for a PB and imagining what a sub-49 might be like.

Preparation has been mixed over the past month or two in truth. A back injury a few weeks ago had affected training and then holidays came up too which made running harder to arrange. All that said though I had had some excellent training runs since getting back from Grenada a couple of weeks ago.

The trip to first Eastbourne then on to Bexhill went well enough. However we discovered pretty early on that the weather was not brilliant. Rain was definitely in the air and there was a fair bit of wind before the start too, although in fairness that did fade before the race start.

With the way training runs have gone I decided I’d run the race in much the same way I attacked the Jayson Lee 10k a few months ago – aiming for 5-minute-kilos and try and hang on enough so that a final kilometre surge would bring me in under 50 minutes.

It being the 11th of November we had a two minutes silence before the start. Well it was actually longer because most people misheard the PA announcer when they said they’d start the two minutes silence shortly. Everyone fell silent anyway, leaving the PA guy to sheepishly say “right now we’ll have the two minutes silence”.

The course was two laps of an out and back route along the seafront and the first run out to the far end of the course was fine and steady. The first four kilometres were all timed within a second of each other around 4:54 each.

Around the 5k mark I was overtaken, possibly for the only time in the race by a lady who eventually was the second fastest woman in the race. Shortly afterwards I noticed some soreness in my hip and I was increasingly finding breathing to be hard work. I wasn’t feeling optimistic at the time but my watch still indicated I was heading for a low 49s time, but I did resolve to allow myself to ease the speed a fraction.

At around the 3km and 8km mark there was a steep hill, followed by a right turn and then a demoralising longer steadier climb. On the second lap I found this particularly tough and my predicted time dropped to over 50 minutes.

When I reached the top of the hill I felt like I accelerated very nicely, without really even noticing it because at one stage in the last kilometre I glanced down at my watch and saw I was running an excellent 13km/h and my predicted time was down in the 49s again.

I just put my head down ignored the time and speed after that, ignored the pain in my legs and ignored my wheezy breathing and just got on with running. The finish seemed to take ages but it probably didn’t. A bit of a fast finish coming in towards the De La Warr Pavilion brought me over the line in a gun timed 49:14 and chip timed 49:06, setting a new PB for the distance plus beating those also for 5 and 6 miles.

I was delighted. The time so was much better than I’d expected, especially given the bad the patch I had experienced around 7k. I picked up my unofficial time print and was amazed to discover that I was 26th overall out of 218. Just a brilliant effort and something I’ve never really done before. We’ll certainly be back.

These two ran the race in about 56 minutes. Nice

After the race I felt quite tired and sore. I’d definitely taken a lot out of my legs, and I had a sore right foot too. So the two hours on trains to come up here to Reading weren’t really wanted, but the trip was worth it.

Tonight we met up with our daughter and enjoyed celebrating the weekend via cocktails and steak and very nice they were too. We go home tomorrow and at the moment I’m expecting to have a lighter training schedule for a few weeks before Reading Half Marathon training builds again.