Category Archives: Trip reports

Guernsey, Newham and a lull in the running

It’s been about seven weeks or so since my last post here but I’ve still managed to squeeze in a couple of races in that time.

Training went ok. After Liverpool I did a couple of gentle runs then a ten miler on the Sunday after the half marathon. Then a few more little runs including an aborted effort at trying to beat #mymile record and the following Sunday another great long 8 mile run.

A couple of days on from that I had another go at my mile record and achieved it getting a 6:49 – a brilliant effort. Which pretty much takes me up to the Guernsey Milk Run.

In the build up to the run, my wife and I had decided that we’d try and run this one together, ideally in order to get her a best for the half marathon, but probably just to enjoy ourselves. While we were in Guernsey, we stayed at this lovely pub with rooms, the Longfrie Inn. The staff there were just brilliant and I really hope we find a reason to go back next year, although if I do the same run next year I probably wouldn’t stay at that hotel.

The first couple of miles in Guernsey were great. We both had lot of fun.

But as the race got on the heat took its toll on Jean so we didn’t do as well as we wanted too but the 2:54 time was perfectly ok in what were actually horrible, hot conditions.

After Guernsey I had only a couple of runs before running the Great Newham London Run two weeks later. Work had got really busy so training ended up taking a lower priority.

I think my wife and I had differing views about Newham. I thought it was an amazing event and I hope to be able to return one day, but again it was very hot and there wasn’t a lot of shade out there on the course.

Again we didn’t really meet any speed objectives but we had a good run. I really enjoyed finishing in the Olympic Stadium and while yes there could have been bigger crowds it still had a great atmosphere.

Then since Newham I’ve done very little running at all. Work has still been stupidly busy so running time hasn’t been available. But the Jersey Marathon is still a fair while away yet.

Before that though we have the pleasure of an all inclusive week in Greece and after the past couple of weeks I can’t wait.

Sub 2 done. What’s next?

So as we discovered in my last post, I might have just done something which for me was a little bit special during my last run.

This left something of a dilemma though. More about that later.

Firstly, let’s cover the last day of our trip. As would now appear to be traditional / compulsory for a trip we have in Liverpool we had one day of rain, but I suppose I can’t really complain that it was the Monday after our runs.

After a rather excellent breakfast – can’t really go wrong with a Premier Inn all you can eat breakfast – we wandered into the city center and before long we found ourselves in the Cavern Club. I’ve got to say I was surprised it was as quiet as it was but that was to our benefit – nicely priced booze, no queues and great live music on a bank holiday in a great venue. Could have stayed all day really but sadly we had to catch our bus up to the airport.

The trip back involved ropey looking weather around Jersey airport but we landed unlike most people flying back today so that was good.

Now my next race is in just 20 days time on Father’s Day in Guernsey for the Dairy Milk Run Half Marathon and having achieved something I’d been hoping to do for a while (let me know if I haven’t mentioned what that is), I’m left to consider what the next target is. Do I keep chipping away at a PB? Do I look at longer distances (clue: no, they hurt and have boring training)?

I’ll also be going from a mass event with 8,000 runners down to one in Guernsey with a couple of hundred. Possibly. But I guess my 2:06 training run a few weeks back tells me that I don’t need the crowds to run fairly well. Then after that it’s the Great Newham London Run in July then onto the Jersey Marathon.

I’m not sure how I’ll approach Guernsey now because somehow I can’t see another improvement but who knows. Maybe I’ll give it a go. Still plenty of training between now and then too.

The​ ​Rock ‘n’​ ​Roll​ ​Liverpool​ ​weekend

I’m writing this at about 9.35pm on Sunday night, the evening of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Liverpool Half Marathon. My legs still hurt a little, I’m a bit tired but I can look back at today with a tremendous sense of complete satisfaction. We’ve still got bank holiday Monday here in Liverpool but whatever we get up to tomorrow will surely pale in comparison to the past couple of days events.

Let’s start with Friday.  The weekend started fairly inauspiciously with huge queues greeting us at Jersey airport, however we were extremely surprised when we still found ourselves through to the departure lounge in maybe 15 minutes.  That being said we still only barely had time for a drink before our flight.  We arrived in Liverpool in good time and ready for the  bus that I was hoping to catch.  And then Friday went downhill as the 82A bus failed to show despite another driver swearing blind it had – it hadn’t. By the time we had a bite to eat and reached our hotel it was well past 9pm and a bit late given the runs to come.

The weather throughout the build up to the weekend first said it was going to be hot then it was going to be very wet.  The Saturday weather was hot in the end so not ideal but better than the practical issues we’d have had if it had have rained instead. This was all not before  I popped outside before the race to check on the weather – it was barely raining but in the end that was about the only rain we’ve seen so far this weekend.

The first race of the weekend then was the 5k run.  Over 3,000 runners lined up for the start next to the BT Convention Centre by the Mersey. We all lined up in our pens and waited. A hush began to work back down the runners as everyone eventually realised there was a moment’s silence in remembrance of the Manchester attack – a silence that was impeccably observed and was quite eerie in itself.

As the waves of runners started we actually got to the start line before we expected to but our rhythm wasn’t particularly affected by it. What we didn’t know was that up ahead of us there was a huge problem as the first three waves of runners (or possibly two or four waves depending who you ask) followed a lead bike which had turned right in front of the Echo Arena rather than around the back of it meaning they cut about half a kilometre off the route. I don’t really know how, or if, it got resolved.

As expected there were a couple of bands on the course adding to the atmosphere 

but it was over much too soon really in 32:47.  The finish in the Echo Arena itself was a bit of a novelty but because it was really dark it was also really hard to see anything – that was a pain really.  That evening we observed what is now our normal pre-race steak dinner – Miller and Carter really does come very highly recommended.

Today’s pre-race build up went well. The weather was about as good as possible with the exception of a pretty blustery wind coming in off the riverside.  There was a delay to the start apparently caused by huge queues at the baggage drop area but we got going before long.

Sort of.  The opening mile or so was very crowded so I started losing time on my two-hour target right away. The first 3k had me about half a minute down on schedule still with the hills to come. But I improved quickly and even on the hills themselves I kept up a good pace.  About this time I saw a guy in a monkey suit and we seemed to trade places with each other for most of the first half of the run before he pulled clear with his running club group.

The second half of the race was just hard work. From about the 7k mark I saw I was on track for a time in the region of 1:57 but knowing I had time in hand didn’t seem to be a positive. My heart rate was under control but still higher than I’d have liked it to be.  Heading for the halfway point I saw the two-hour pacer heading in the opposite direction. I knew from the course route there was a turnaround point but I had no idea exactly where so I initially had no idea how far I was behind the pacer.  I think it must have been 7-10 minutes which, considering my finishing time, is a pretty poor effort I think. I’m glad I couldn’t find the pacer at the start else my race might have been very different.

The final stretch running north alongside the Mersey was long and a little dull, although the dodgy pavements certainly kept everyone alert and interested! I saw one guy nearly fall over with just a mile to go but luckily he didn’t. As is now normal for me, my final km was my fastest at only a touch over five minutes and it brought me a finishing time of 1:56:35 – taking something like over six minutes off my personal best and of course running under two hours for the half marathon for the first time.

I’m really hugely proud of that time which will put me in the top half of all half marathon runners this year. I paid for it though. As I said I’m really tired and a little sore but ultimately I think it was worth it! What a brilliant event though. Certainly hope to return sometime.

Greenwich, Southend and a new Parkrun best

My last sort of catch up post was reasonably thorough about the number of runs I’d done in the past few weeks since Reading – and boy doesn’t that feel like a long time ago now. But what it did omit was a rather lovely trip to Greenwich and Southend.

We went over on the back of one of my fairly regular trips to London so met up on a Friday evening in our favourite Premier Inn hotel around Gatwick. We headed over to Greenwich in the late morning and aimed to get out pretty quickly for a run. Having been to Greenwich Park last in December we knew it would make a pretty fair site for a hill interval session 

but it was loads tougher but better than we thought. With the hills of the Durrell Challenge in mind we knew it was important but we did well. A nice pint or two was consumed in a sun-trap garden of a pub just down the road but we feel pretty spent at that stage.

We went back to the park the next day to have a look around the Royal Observatory, a really lovely walk around the park and a wonder down to the Cutty Sark to get the river bus across to North Greenwich by the O2. From there we took a ride on the cable cars which was something we’ve wanted to do for a little while. I was quite surprised how close City Airport is to them really.
On Sunday afternoon we went down to Southend and discovered a pretty fantastic Chinese on that first night which I’d seen good reviews for but which if I’m honest didn’t look up to much from outside. It was really well worth it though.

Monday morning saw us go out for our long runs. Mine was 8 miles and I enjoyed it. The fog was pretty thick so the views weren’t what they could be but it was fun – and even better it was followed by a great breakfast. We had a great relaxing break, had some fun and did a bit of running too.

So bang up to date then and today saw us going up to Parkrun. We weren’t definitely planning to but this morning we felt good so got on with it. On the first lap I went out strong but felt fresh. I faded a little over the second half of the run but still came in in a PB time of 23:55 – my first sub-24 race ever, although my Strava time had me down as low as 23:37. I set three other records on the way round so it’s fair to say it was a great run.

Tomorrow morning brings us another 10 mile run, with the Boat Show in the way of where we’d normally run to but I’m sure it will still be fun.

Reading Half Marathon 2017… and ’18?

The story of my Reading Half Marathon 2017 on Sunday is one of both great success and achievement but also missed opportunity and a little disappointment.

Let’s deal with the last of those first. Disappointment because I really could have probably achieved so much more had it not been for my poxy irritating illness from a few weeks ago. Training had been going pretty well, apart from going over on an ankle one time, and I’d felt confident. Being ill knocked much of that confidence out of me but I’d certainly felt ready as I could have been.

The trip to Reading had been a good one. The flight to London was fine. Our meal in London was lovely. The train to Reading dragged on a bit but it all ran to time. Meeting up with our daughter was fab and we shared a nice meal at our hotel in the Madejski Stadium – it was a fairly good hotel but quite expensive really.

The morning of the race was as full of anxiousness and anticipation as ever. I enjoyed the atmosphere of the race village although from my very quick visit back there after the race there probably wasn’t very much there other than retail stalls. The racing started with an earlier 5k event and then a bit before our event with a wheelchair event – sort of. I believe there was one self-propelled chair plus another being pushed by someone else. The self-propelled one didn’t finish as she came off on a bend after around 4 miles. Maybe I’d expected too much from the wheelchair event. Last year’s one had one finisher – only a slight fall then. Maybe that’s the wrong phrase actually…

Anyway, my race started well, stopped again about 20 metres short of the actual start line then started again – don’t know why. There wasn’t a narrowing of the road anywhere near there. The initial phase around the Green Park area was good aside from speed bumps every so often to navigate.

Before long we’d reached the first hills. A steady one up Hartland Road then the nasty one up Whitley Wood Road. I’d decided to set out with the 2-hour pacer group despite my poor recent training and see how I got on. I’d more or less kept up through the big hills but used the downhills on the other side to recover and actually pull slightly clear of the pacer again, although I made sure I didn’t go too far ahead.

My cheering section of Lauren and Jean saw me around the 4 or 5 mile mark as we turned off the road back to the town centre to have a couple of loop sections around the university. I enjoyed seeing them but otherwise didn’t enjoy the university section very much. Lots of short straights and corners and all breaking the running rhythm up a bit.

The run down to town was enjoyable and the run around town was excellent with some fantastic crowds and brilliant drumming, music and DJs. Special mention to the DJ around the halfway point on Friar Street who put on the most Excellent “Sandstorm” as I ran past. Nice choice.

I am told that on the corner before the hill coming out of town that a group were offering beers to runners. I seemed to miss all of that. How disappointing really. It might have made the rest of the run more pleasant. You see that was about 8 miles and from around 10 miles I thought my heart rate indicated that I wasn’t reacting well to the speed / distance so I dropped a little off the 2-hour group. Then a little later still I had stomach cramps which made me stop running a couple of times. 

For the final section running into the stadium proper I found the energy to finish off strong. The welcome from the crowd was brilliant, although one of my lasting memories of the stadium was how small it was – I wonder what running into the London Stadium will be like in July.

So after it all I finished in my second fastest half marathon time ever of 2:06:57. Yes it was a good seven minutes slower than what I wanted but at the end of the day I can look back at my training and conclude that I ran so much better than my training really justified. Yes, I’ll be looking forward to Liverpool when I’ll be going for two hours again.

Oh and along with my wife, I’ve signed up – on the day that 2018 entries opened – to do it again next year. The university bit aside it was a fantastic, largely flat course and I highly recommend it to anyone interested. It just so happens we love Reading too which definitely helps.

Reading long run

I wouldn’t go as far as saying today was a rehearsal but Jean and I came to visit our daughter in Reading and while here I went for a run over what were described as the hills around mile 3 of the RHM route.

Having done the hill in a 7 mile run I’m quite encouraged. Yes, there’s a very pointy bit but it really is very short and no worse than some of the hills we train on regularly at home. If I’m honest I think the longer hills before the run back to the stadium will be harder. Looking forward to four weeks time now!

Rejection and relaxation

In my last post I mentioned that I was waiting on finding out whether I’d beaten the odds to get a ballot place in the London Marathon.  I didn’t and at the moment we’re not planning to replace the run, focusing instead on the two spring half marathons we already have in the schedule.

So the day after learning my fate we were on our way for a well earned holiday in the Dominican Republic. The trip over was excellent, the very slick immigration process particularly worthy of mention.

While we’ve been here I’ve spent a lot of time relaxing on some of the many sun loungers present. I’ve also had my first run since the Jersey Marathon – a little run around the resort complex, followed by another run on a treadmill. That went well although my ankle was quite sore during that evening.

We’ve also done a lot of swimming which has been fun too. I should have been doing some kayaking today too but couldn’t so I’m hoping I’ll get another chance this week.

I also set foot in a casino for the first time, promptly leaving again on realising there was literally no one else in there! Too early apparently! Maybe another time…