Well, today we celebrate 2 years of marriage. I am a lucky, lucky, LUCKY man. I get discouraged from gushing about how in love I am…… but Nicky truly is my miniature hero!! (and, yes, she does approve of the pet name!)
A silly pet name, really, what with, you know, us being ON IT and everything…….
SO, I shan’t go on and on and on about just how wonderful my life is with Nicky…. well, only a bit…….
Anyway, we did the Imerys Trail (half) Marathon on Sunday. Unfortunately we didn’t quite make the cut-off at 8.2 miles and were diverted on to half course. Clearly we aren’t fast enough runners for this event:-
The apparent race time limit of 5h30m (this would be 12m36s per mile) wouldn’t have been a problem, Nicky has recently ran a 4h24m marathon and whilst this is definitely a more challenging route, with her relentless and consistent pacing we would always get there. Lovely, settle in and enjoy the run……
Hang on, the cut off at 20 miles is 4 hours (12 mm). Oh, really, well, we’ll get to that relatively safely and even if we are tiring, that would mean we had 1.5 hours to do the last 10k (and as we now know, the last 3 miles are pretty quick). Smashing, we could average high 11’s and see how we felt at 20…..
Oh, HANG ON, the cut off at 8 miles is 1.5 hours, that’s 11m15s per mile!!! Er, why?? Anyway, I tried not to let this concern me as I set about pacing Nicky as best I could to this first cut off point. I can’t tell you too much about the course, as I was trying to get the right effort out of Nicky without burning up valuable energy for later in the race.
We ALWAYS start at the back. This serves two purposes – firstly, it avoids being dragged along by runners going faster than we should be and secondly it stops the demoralising process of quicker runners coming by as they find their place in the field. This was a mistake today!
It took us exactly a minute to cross the start line.
After a lap of the Cornwall College site we hit a rather bad bottle neck. Stationary. 90 seconds.
Then, an uphill very narrow grass path, at a gentle walk as there were plenty of half marathon runners enjoying the greenery as they were, of course, under no time pressure. How much quicker might we have done this section, maybe 30 seconds, maybe a minute?
The final nail in the coffin of our marathon was when we passed the 8 mile marker with 1h29m50s showing on my watch but with no sign of the split.
A few hundred yards later we were 2 minutes too late for the poor chap charged with the task of informing us! You were bravely firm and apologetic sir and I hope we weren’t rude!
We completed the ‘half’ in 2h28m feeling bright and fresh, a bit cross(!) but could merrily have gone around again.
Such a shame that my beautiful wife, a seasoned veteran of 30 marathons, including a 50 miler, 4 50ks and numerous tough off road events is now saying that she feels that she simply isn’t good, or indeed, fast enough.
I guess we’ll just have to be more careful to ensure races we enter are aimed at runners like us.
A cracking venue and course, numerous and enthusiastic marshals and volunteers and an inclusive half marathon with no time pressure.
Not all doom and gloom though, a pasty and an ice cream as we chilled on the beach at Charlestown was just splendid, followed by a lovely evening and night in our favourite bolt hole in Mevagissey.
And now we look forward to some lovely weekends of running and Nicky is getting right back into her open water swimming again.
Hopefully I haven’t come across as bitter and twisted. As I said to a nice chap in a Mudcrew vest as we stomped our way through the last few miles, I need to shut the wotsit up and stop moaning. “Oh no, he said, if you’ve developed a life skill you should definitely use it!”!!
I was wrong (I know!), shopping trolleys are EVERYWHERE…..
So, a 4 day weekend, what bliss, it seems to have passed by all too rapidly but there’s been plenty of fun and frolics, some lovely time with the Grandchildren and a ride out with Nicky’s Dad. Then today, another little road trip.
Yeovil this time, as an ultra trail running friend quipped, “all the way to Yeovil for a 10k?!” I know, and a road 10k as well.
Nicky and I do like a road race, especially as we’re targeting a road marathon in a couple of weeks. We also like a road trip, so this ticked a few boxes.
Yawning and delaying getting up, our mojos weren’t bouncing this morning and I think if either of us had pulled the plug we’d both have gone down the hole.
We managed to get in the car though and had an easy, uneventful drive to get parked good and early for Yeovil Town Road Running Club‘s flagship fast and flat 10k.
Has anybody heard the expression ‘a visit from the gingerbread man’ in relation to running? Well, it refers to a sudden need to, well you can guess the rest. The gingerbread man was well and truly knocking on my door this morning. You could actually hear my stomach grizzling over the road noise driving up. We got ourselves a coffee (“just make a donation”), eyed up the cakes, had a cheeky custard cream, then headed back to the car, both yawning and stretching and mumbling. We reluctantly stripped to our running kit and donned our numbers. I went for a warm up (there’s a running track on hand) and, after a visit to the portaloos, so did Nicky.
Regular readers might know that Nicky isn’t renowned for her warm ups, they normally involve keeping her hoody on until the last minute. BUT we have been doing proper warm ups in training, so she did some laps and stretches too.
In a previous post on this blog I received some online, er, banter, for suggesting that they may be a bit of elitism in running. Either about speed, kit, age or ability, any thoughtless quips, mockery or dismissive looks can have a truly demoralising effect on a runner perhaps lacking in confidence or maybe new to the sport, or who is trying to lose weight, or, indeed, for any other reason. Anyway, and I won’t labour this point, as the 400 or so runners were heading over to the start I over heard one lady say to her friend that she was very nervous. Maybe it was her first ever event, maybe she’s been injured, maybe she’s never run that far, maybe, just maybe there are reasons that are none of our business. Well, watching her head drop as a gentleman marching past in his high-viz vest retorted “Who on earth gets nervous for a 10k!?” I guess it was rhetorical, as he didn’t wait for an answer as the lady in question looked at the floor. Come on guys….
Just my opinion.
So, the race…….
My stomach seemed to have appreciated the warm up and I settled in to the pack as the low key countdown set us on our way. Anyone reading this blog hoping for a blow by blow chronical of every footstep is going to be disappointed. I’m really not very good at remembering these things in order….. or at all sometimes. I remember getting my DVD in the post after the Paris Marathon and being surprised to learn that I’d run (I say ‘run’…) past the Eiffel Tower!
When I’d been training well in the past, I’d managed to get under 40 minutes for 10k, so I was secretly hoping to be in that sort of territory again. The group I was running with seemed to be in the same level of discomfort as me, so I guessed we were pacing it right, the first mile in 6m12s seemed to feel right and somebody in the group had the breath to comically ask if any of us were pacemakers, “Is this the 40 minute bus then?” I semi seriously replied. Another member of the group chipped in “FORTY MINUTES, I CAN’T RUN FORTY MINUTES!” and promptly slowed down and disappeared behind us. Sorry mate!!
Mile 2 in 6.23 as the countryside rattled past. I’m so used to running for longer than this that, as mile three beeped on all the watches around me, I smiled to myself that we were halfway already and it felt like we had just started.
After 6.17 for mile 3 I sort of teamed up with a Yeovil runner (Darrell, I think, thank you mate for the rhythmic pacing) and we pushed through 4 in 6.13 and 5 in 6.14. We were both pushing hard now, and as I slightly slipped back he glanced over and gave me fantastic encouragement to keep up with him. 6.18 for mile 6 and he pushed on for a sprint finish as my legs turned to jelly and I wombled up the finishing straight to finish in (chip time) 39m26s. Chuffed as a chuffed thing.
Just as there had been around the whole course, there were so many welcoming marshals and volunteers at the finish, with much welcomed fluid and a fabulous quirky medal.
I know you readers are all thinking “what about NICKY?!”…..
Well I rushed back to the car, still sweating, pretty much stripped off (apologies to the people I hadn’t noticed cooling down in the field behind me) towelled off some sweat (only for it to be immediately replaced) had a quick spray and rushed back to the finish line.
I was right to rush back, Nicky came storming around the corner in little over 55 minutes looking really, really strong. As ever, she had paced it brilliantly and her fastest miles were at the end of the race. Proud husband alert…..
A cracking event, I guess by its nature aimed at the speedsters, but lots of great encouragement for everyone throughout the field and definitely recommended, particularly if you are chasing a time.
Later that evening, sat listening to some Barry White in my bedsit, I used my smart phone for two things…… Firstly to compose a message thanking Nicky for a splendid evening, hoping beyond all hope that she’d want to see me again. Secondly, The Eden Project Marathon was entered and a Travelodge for one, in Stevenage, was cancelled!
So why do we chose to do events at all, and when we do, how do we decide which ones? A quick search on Fetch offered a choice of 245 different events listed for tomorrow (2nd April 2017). We had long since settled on the Devonshire Dumpling, I wonder what the other 244 couldn’t offer us?
DOES IT COUNT?
Well, we were looking for a marathon around this weekend, so other distances were eliminated. Also, we have our goal of joining the 100 Marathon Club so we check to see if it is listed on their website.
DOES IT COST?
We try to keep the cost down of our days out, trying to preserve funds for our ‘big’ trips, so the Devonshire Dumpling being only 40 or so miles from home it was an immediate contender.
IS IT BEAUTIFUL?
The route, terrain and, I’m sure, the panoramic views will make it a wonderful day out, enjoying the East Devon coast and countryside.
WILL IT BE PACKED?
Organised by the Long Distance Walkers Association, featuring walks and runs of 18 or 26.2 miles, with staggered starts, we’re pretty confident the queues for the stiles won’t be too bad.
WILL WE FEEL ADEQUATE?
I know the Elitism In Running blog provoked plenty of debate, but, trust me on this, it is there. We’ve had so many people say “me too!” in response to how demoralising some race situations can be for those further down the field. So, we tend to lean towards events which look a bit more quirky and which might not offer sufficient kudos for the more self-confident runners to attend, or where we know the race organisers actively encourage participation as a priority, over pace.
Such companies, White Star Running and Mudcrew particularly spring to mind, seem to manage to pull of the trick of having some seriously quick guys and girls at the sharp end, whilst being all embracing for the rest of us mortals. There are plenty more, but these two are South West based and host some of my favourite ever events.
We do take all sorts of other factors in to consideration, whether we are taking other people, maybe the dog to be walked by one of our friends, so is the venue dog friendly. Sometimes we end up just fancying a race and we don’t know why.
A running friend started a debate on social media recently around whether events are over priced, and whether, particularly if you’re lucky enough to live in a beautiful running area, we need to do events at all. For Nicky and myself, the event is our adventure. We don’t drink or smoke or snort white powder, we don’t particularly go out to pubs and very rarely have meals out, so our time and money ‘budget’ is put aside for these days. So, as for price, we don’t really notice, if we’ve decided it fits our budget for the weekend then it’s the right price for us.
Just occasionally we’ll come home and say NEVER AGAIN, if we’ve felt the price didn’t reflect the quality of the event, or the venue was dull, or repetitive, or the company was dull, or repetitive, and then we’ll cross that one off our list. AND if they run out of cake!!!!
BUT, that’s just our opinion, those 245 events taking place tomorrow will ALL be attended and enjoyed, so there is definitely something out there for everyone.
Even in Stevenage, I’m sure! (although I couldn’t find a link to a 2017 marathon to share – maybe a reader could correct this?)
SO I never did get to Stevenage for my attempt at running ‘Good For Age’, I joined Nicky and her merry gang in a trip to The Eden Project and I ran what I still believe was my finest race to date.
On a hilly course, yes in beautiful surroundings, I ran 3h18m50s (Good For Age would have been 3h15) for 5th place and had a monster pasty straight afterwards. Another enticer for us – post race grub! We did the marathon again in 2015 and the half in 2016. Great event.
I went on to run my Good For Age time twice the following year without resorting to a train to Stevenage.
As for this year’s marathons, next up is the North Dorset Villages where I’m hoping to chase another Good For Age. I’m older now so they give me another 5 minutes, 3h20m is the target this time. Nicky, too is chasing a time at this one. And no, I’m not telling you what it is, I do like my marriage…….
After that we’re having a week in the Lake District, incorporating the Coniston Marathon into the holiday – I reckon we’ll be ‘Good For Age’ whatever time we run!
Anyway, much eating and resting to do ahead of tomorrow’s sojourn up the coast there…
Running back toward Chesil Beach, with about 2 miles left of lap 1 of the Portland Coastal Marathon, we ran past two boarded up public houses. Being a ‘failed’ publican myself, I always take a moment to think of the final, departing guardians of these, presumably once thriving, seaside hostelries. We had decided to turn up and have a crack at the marathon despite neither of us feeling particularly bright in the build up. It has been a tiring and demanding couple of weeks and sleep has been at a premium rather.
It became quite apparent early in the race that we were going to be struggling to be inside the organiser’s cut off time of 6 hours. We had lengthy and honest discussions about how we felt about this being the first Did Not Finish either of us have ever experienced.
We aren’t spring chickens, we’re the first to recognise that, but Nicky and I are veterans of 27 and 29 marathons and ultra marathons respectively. We understand the importance of respecting the distance, the terrain and conditions.
I digress, but we do on occasions, whilst out running, have conversations around why we choose to run together for most of our marathons and for many of our training runs, rather than chasing individual times. The reason? I simply love running with my beautiful wife.
Interestingly (and again, I’m digressing, although the topic is ‘elitism’ so it sort of ties in), when we did the Dartmoor Discovery last year (a 50km ultra marathon over the hilly roads of Dartmoor) we encountered another couple running together. The male runner was quick to make us aware that OBVIOUSLY he wouldn’t ordinarily run so incredibly slowly! He was, of course, lowering himself by allowing himself to be seen near the back of the field as he was supporting his (extremely embarrassed) wife. Patronising so-and-so.
Anyway, back on Portland, passing these relics of a bygone drinking era, some runners who were far, far ahead of us came past in the opposite direction. This is a two lap race with a difference, the second lap is run in the opposite direction to the first. This means that all of the runners will encounter each other travelling the other way. Not only that, the half marathon started 30 minutes after the marathon resulting in a steady stream of runners coming past us, reinforcing the sensation that we might be moving relatively slowly.
My rather splendid, and quite beautiful wife occasionally has a confidence issue around how others might perceive her running, that her running is in some way less worthy. This is, of course, absolute nonsense. As I have said, she is a veteran of 27 marathons and ultra marathons. This includes her ‘fifty miles for fifty years’ smashing of the South Downs Way 50 mile race to celebrate that landmark birthday. She trains hard and endeavours to be as well prepared as possible for every event.
Where were we? Oh yes, outside The Closed Arms and Three Bankrupt Feathers as two particular runners came past in the opposite direction. “Hi, well done mate”, “good running fella” we chided, or words to that effect. A sneering, up and down look with what I perceived to be a rolling of the eyes was the first guys considered response. The second chap went for looking as far away from direct eye contact as he possibly could whilst attempting to exude the nonchalant air of someone trying hard not to stare at the non-athletic efforts of those of us running at bang on cut-off pace.
Unfortunately Nicky was already on her downers, knowing we were on our way to pulling out at the halfway point, having had the tail running marshals in close proximity for many miles, full of head cold and battling into a freezing headwind . What a lift these guys could give others with a simple acknowledgement of shared efforts and experiences of a tough race in tough conditions.
“In what way does he think his run is any better than ours?” I mused. “Well, for a start he’s probably going to run ALL of it!” My self-depreciatinly humorous wife quipped.
These are guys are probably top 15 or so, right up there at the sharp end, but their miles are no longer than ours, their medals no more, no less, deserved. Now, I completely understand that if you are running, eye balls out, chasing your best possible time, not wanting to divert your focus from the finish line goal, then you are probably not going to want to lean against a tree chatting to every runner you pass. I also know that it is possible to to acknowledge others without breaking focus or rhythm.
Interestingly, the chap who was (clearly) leading the race gave us a big thumbs up, smile and “good running” type shout as he whistled past. A word about his kit. Obviously he passed quickly, but I did note his baggy, unbranded top and Karimore shorts. Should he, by some chance, read this, I hope he takes this as a compliment in the spirit in which it is intended. Suffice to say, he had a reassuringly rugged and shambolic air about him. Like those fabulous photographs of champion fell runners, tearing down 1 in 3 descents of loose scree. You know the guys, fearless as they skim the terrifying terrain in what looks like their old P.E. kit.
My point being, maybe a little bit further down the field, maybe some of the runners have a little bit of kit snobbery to compliment their pace snobbery.
Talking of which, there’s a particular bloke I see regularly when out on my favourite early morning road runs. He always returns my greeting when I’m running alone but quite blatantly turns his head and ignores us when I’m running with Nicky. This, of course, has led to a childish, ear-splitting 5.30am duet of “GOOD MORNING!” whenever we see him.
Another runner local to us springs to mind. Someone I know well. He’s a faster runner than either Nicky or myself but chooses to acknowledge me, but not Nicky if she sees him when she’s running alone. Pace snobbery?
If it is, then where does it stop? Nicky generally finishes with about 25% of the field behind her in a trail marathon. Does that mean she should start ignoring a quarter of the runners she encounters? Poor old Wilson Kipsang must have nobody to speak to!
A coastal marathon we entered in January was cancelled at fairly short notice after quite severe weather along that stretch of coast. We had already travelled and had a hotel booked so we chose to do what many others did and went anyway. What would have been race day was blessed with calm weather and the courses were still marked out . We ran from our hotel, crudely followed the half marathon course before running back to the hotel. A total of about 18 lovely miles on the coast.
BUT the kit snobs were out in force, literally looking us up and down before openly ignoring us. Two guys overtaking us actually stopped talking, slowed down to fully take in the shuffling middle aged couple, me in my head-to-toe Sports Direct/Decathlon combo, before sniggering and accelerating away to resume their new-monied, self-important, self-congratulatory back slapping. Or something.
At another coastal trail marathon last year, as we parked up the old Mini, banging last weeks mud of our running shoes, some younger chaps pulled up in front and exited their massively oversized Chelsea tractor. One of them called over (and these may not have been his exact words) asking for shoe advice. “You there, poor person, I say old boy, roadies, trailies or spikes?” Speechless.
So, kit snobbery. Pace snobbery? We have a very good friend in local running who goes out of his way to acknowledge each and every runner he encounters. He encourages and congratulates everybody on their achievements. This guy is a prolific race winner and not just of minor races. Pace snob? Nah. I’ve crossed the line in races and he’s been so keen to talk about how I’ve got on its been 5 minutes before I’ve found out he won the thing!
Kit snob? Well, he’s a father of a young family , working night shifts in a supermarket and was winning off road races on all sorts of terrain and over many distances before he bought himself a pair of trail shoes! Those shoes split recently and he superglued them together before winning another race in them. The superglue dried hard and gave him horrid sores on his feet. He promptly gaffer taped his foot and got out training the next day. Having recently treated himself to a running watch he reckons he can train even better now! Too bloke.
Going back to the Dartmoor Discovery, 2nd lady that day finished in the lightening time of 4h 18m 04s, yet when Nicky and I turned the corner to see that we had beaten the cut off (6h30m) by 2 minutes and 18 seconds , there she was jumping up and down and celebrating our success as much as she had done her own. Pace snob? Hardly.
It would be too easy and too lazy to simply say that certain people are attracted to certain events. I suppose, by their very nature, a lot of the events we attend are smaller, club organised and quirkier affairs. These, I’m generalising, attract quirkier, less outcome focuses competitors.
There are events out there to suit all. Not everyone’s cup of tea is a cup of tea.
There is, it strikes me, a balance to be had, where all can meet in harmony. The closest I have found (in my opinion and experience) are the trail marathons , to be found mainly in the county of Dorset, attracting club runners, 100 marathon club runners and fancy dressed runners alike. These events are regularly won by top runners in crazy times, but with plenty playing beat the (super friendly) sweeper at the other end of the field.
In any workplace, in any club, in any hobby, sport or pastime there will be people who get on with some and people who get on with others. There will be people who would rather be alone. There will also be those who embrace and acknowledge and encourage everyone regardless of relative ability, speed, kit, status , or some arbitrary, imagined position in a meaningless league table.