From Marlboro Country……….

There’s been a bit of banter since the last blog! Which I guess means it has provoked thought. It all got me thinking about how I started running in the first place…

I suppose we all started running for a reason. (I promise the BIG Nicky interview is coming soon)

Marlboro CountryI smoked my last cigarette on 13th January 2007, ten years and counting, I’m very proud of that. I was a champion smoker, a real Marlboro king. Bear in mind I didn’t have the happiness of my wonderful life now, so a sneaky drag in the night, first thing in the morning, on the toilet, in fact ANYWHERE, ANYTIME, gave me a bizarre pleasure.

Anyway, I knew I had to stop. My life was not great. As has been well documented, my Sister was very, very ill and I was feeling increasingly guilty about the healthy body I seemed to have despite my appalling lifestyle.

So the fags had to go.

 

tony-blair
This man played no part in my salvation

And I didn’t want Tony Bleedin’ Blair getting the credit for it when his ban came into force. I also didn’t want it to be attached to my 40th birthday which was rapidly approaching. I felt that would have been too much of a cliché.

 

I’d tried everything, patches, gum etc, but ultimately I knew I needed to WANT to stop.

And suddenly I did just that.

running-cigarette.jpgThen what to do with all the time that used to be occupied with the fags?

Go for a run.

Dear, oh dear, oh dear……. how had I become SO unfit. I’m not joking, I thought I was going to die.

I’ve recorded every single step of this running adventure on Fetch and simply wrote next to this first attempt “Nearly F****ng Died!”

And so the battle commenced. I think my weakness was my strength – once I start doing something I won’t leave it alone (stop giggling at the back). It became personal. Running vs Kevin.

It was tough to start with, I used to go out after dark to make sure nobody saw me. Yet after a while I suddenly noticed I could keep going for 3 miles. Then it became an hour. then I did a 10k.

My first 10k. Absolutely heaving down, I’d travelled to Combe St Nicholas where I thought nobody would know me. Because it was cold and wet I wore a heavy cotton sweatshirt and jogging bottoms. I was overweight then anyway, I must have doubled my weight with the amount of water these garments carried. But, oh my, what joy at having that medal put around my neck.

And so it spiralled.

I absolutely love running and the journey it has taken me on.

My trusty Fetch log informs me that I’m up to 15843 miles (including that first one, which may not have been a complete mile but felt like 10!) and I can honestly say I cant think of any I regret.

Some have been painful – the last 10 in my first marathon were appalling. Some have been bleak – Milton Keynes Marathon 2012 (shudders and shivers at the memory). Some have been less than picturesque – Reading Half, why? But so so so many have just been pure bliss.

 

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We’ve had some hair-raising runs…

The best miles though, are ALWAYS the ones ran wife my beautiful, inspirational wife. Just magical.

 

Anyway, keep on keeping on people……..

 

 

 

 

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Ocassionally we interupt our eating with a bit of running…..

 

Miniature Hero

2015-05-17-10-05-05.jpgWell, 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!)

Miniature heroesA 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:-

 

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Met a blog reader(!) and fellow Marathon Talk listener Millsy at the start – he came 10TH – good running!

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.

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Mile 26, er……..

 

 

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Started at the back. Whoops!

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?

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One of us struggled under the tunnel….

 

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.

 

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These lovely (ultra veterans) were also not up to standard today!!

 

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.

 

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Not quite the ‘full’ monty

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.

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Definitely a 2 ice cream day.

 

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!”!!

 

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This is what we did instead of the ‘other’ 13.1 miles

 

 

 

 

 

Green And Pleasant Land

I may not covet my neighbours, or anybody else’s, OX but am in awe at the level of OXing occurring on the Rushmoor Estate this weeknd. White Star Running’s extravaganza of trail races involved a 50 miler, a 12 hour race, a night 10k, an early morning 10k and the race of our choice, a half marathon. Some have done 4 races this weekend. WOW!

We chose the half, knowing we would be carrying our hard efforts from last weekend in our legs. At the top of the first hill we knew we had made a wise choice.

It’s over a 2 hour drive each way but the wonderful atmosphere was infectious from the moment we arrived. We squeezed the Mini into the car park and for a moment we did covet some our neighbours’ VW vans, even more so as we contorted ourselves in the mini to change afterwards!

We’ve got a summer of trail events lined up, Imreys Trail Marathon  next week, Race The Tide (16 miles) a couple of weeks after that, Coniston Marathon in June, Snowdonia in July and back to Cornwall for the R.A.T. in August. Not forgetting, of course my next ‘target’ race, the East Farm Frolic.

We have completed the 32 mile R.A.T. the last two years but Nicky was a bit disappointed with our time in last year’s event, so we are, you’ll be surprised to hear, ‘ON IT’! and intend to be Mr and Mrs Trail Running Experts by then (if Snowdon hasn’t killed us!)

Anyway, suffice to say we went round todays beautiful course at a fair old lick and are ready for the fun and challenges ahead, I think I’ll let our pictures tell the story of our day………

 

Tuesday Legs (& Wednesday, Thursday etc….)

So, today, Eliod Kipchoge and I both ran for 2h00m25s.

There the similarity ends.

So what is winning?

Kipchoge, as the world now knows, narrowly missed getting under 2 hours (for the marathon distance) in Nike’s Breaking2 effort. A string of pacemakers dropping in and out, in supposedly revolutionary kit and running shoes. Personally, I think that with athletics credibility suffering at the top end, it was a welcome and quirky distraction. They have never suggested that they would be claiming it as a world record. However you view it, hats off to Eliod for an incredible run.

I ran 14.6 less miles than Kipchoge, but I think we’re both winners today. We both smiled, doing something we love. I am proud that I spend every day being the best human being I’d ever hope to be and running is a massive part of that. I may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I’m ME.

Me and Kipchoge, never been seen in the same room….

2017-05-06 11.36.15Eliod Kipchoge

 

Have I previously mentioned my wonderful wife (I’m DEFINITELY winning!!), well she was in Teignmouth for her first venture into the sea this year, with Pete Wilby Triathlon, and we had a family drive there and watched, in total admiration, as the group acclimatised in the crashing surf.

pete wilby logoThere’s so much more to Nicky’s journey than this brief mention, but I’m lining her up for a BIG BLOG interview soon, so you’ll have to wait.

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Nicky attacking a fellow swimmer!!

So, another win, I reckon, for Nicky and her fellow intrepid swimmers and for Coach Pete for making the session fun, relevant and safe in the wild conditions.

I’ve been reflecting all week about ‘winning’. I allowed myself some disappointment at not hitting my target in last week’s marathon, but will not let myself dwell on it.

It was still winning on many levels, you see:

Firstly, being fit and healthy enough to attempt to run a marathon = WIN

Completing that marathon = WIN

Having completed 32 marathons = WIN

Running a marathon in under 3 and a half hours = WIN

Helping, being helped by, a fellow struggler over the last couple of miles = WIN

Seeing my beautiful, amazing wife complete her 30th marathon in a Personal Best time = WIN

Seeing my good friend Martin complete another fantastic marathon = WIN

Sharing the day with our wonderful friends, Gloria and Jan = WIN

Yes, on reflection, it was definitely a day of WINNING!!runner winning

Back in work this week, my quads particularly enjoyed going up and down the ladder to the roof then dragging up dozens of lengths of timber…….

Anyway, I managed a few little runs this week and still loved every minute, despite the rather shuffling nature of some of the miles.

I felt I was ready to tackle some miles today, so I got Nicky to drop me off at Labrador Bay on the way back from Teignmouth and I ran the coast path to Torquay before following the normal route home – you can check out the run here. A very challenging, hilly route with plenty of steps for my quads to enjoy!2017-05-06 11.59.40

I’ve just finished reading Redemption, the John Mcavoy  book. My interested in John began after his extraordinary interview on Marathon Talk and the book really has been every bit as gripping and inspiring as I’d hoped.

20170506_201427He speaks about enjoying the mental challenges as much as the physical preparation for endurance challenges. His motivational words and the inspiration of watching Nicky, yet again, pushing her boundaries, never accepting where her limits might be, really got my blood pumping for this run. So this morning was just WIN WIN WIN….

Getting to spend the afternoon with Nicky, Frank (Father In Law) and  fantastic Step Daughter, who is still ‘ON IT’ as we say to motivate each other on that there social media, and the bubbly bouncy Grandchildren – more winning.

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“Psst, Grandad, you’re a winner to me, even if you DO detonate in marathons!”

Anyway, we’re off east again tomorrow for the Ox Half (with no ‘targets’ you’ll be pleased to hear) where we’re hoping to spend the whole day WINING!!

Follow me on Strava if you wish, on Fetch, Instagram (not really got the hang of this yet!), Twitter (infrequent but enthusiastic!) and good old Facebook

A few more piccies from the week…….

Don’t BMAD – NORTH DORSET VILLAGES MARATHON

So, today was the day. We’d trained and trained for this target race. Maybe both secretly hiding nerves caused by the pressure we had rather publically placed upon ourselves……

Could we deliver…

WELL, one big bold shiny Personal Best, with bells and whistles and tassels goes to my rather incredible lady, Nicky…….

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Eight whole minutes off Nicky’s previous best marathon time…. BOSH!!

She believed in herself, reigned herself back from running TOO much faster than target pace, took a couple of slightly less rapid miles on the chin, refocused, took a gel and dug deep to get back on pace for the run in.

As she belted up the finishing straight, I was just bursting with pride and emotion, She had worked so hard to be capable of such a performance. Marathon #30 nailed!

Our early night in preparation for the early start was fairly pointless as we were treated to the sounds of the BMAD festival down on the seafront until (what for most people is a perfectly acceptable) 11pm.

Now, ordinarily, I love a bit of All Along The Watchtower……

 

 

So, after about 5 hours sleep, we dragged ourselves out of bed and porridged ourselves up and got plenty of caffeine down us. Martin, running too, was collected from the bus stop (where some say he sleeps) at   crazy o’clock by our devoted and ever-present supporter, Gloria.

I even remembered the way to Sturminster Newton (although I think the journey home involved a little detour…)!

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(more) Pre-race caffeine

The NDVM bases itself in Sturminster Newton High School, where a small army of volunteers were providing drinks and cakes as well as bacon sarnies. As regular readers will know…. TICK.

The start is on the road outside the school and car parking is plentiful, ably directed by another small army, this time of boy scouts.

It truly is a lovely event.

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Martin’s regular pre-race pose

Martin, as usual, had a few short issues, but was threatening to have a smash at a time today too. He’s come very close to 4 hours a few times, and despite his proclamation that he hasn’t really done high miles, we suspected he’d go close.

 

He was also offering a curly-wurly to anyone who deserved it by the end of the day. This is a bit of a tradition brought to our group via some good running friends of old.

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They’re upside down, martin

 

 

We were right about Martin’s running. On a blustery day, he ran hard and strong to come tearing towards the finish line for a time of 4.04.

Great running again Martin.

“What about your race, Kevin?” I hear you all cry in unison…

Well.

Cards on the table, I genuinely thought I was in shape to run close to my personal best. Sure, I knew I was over tired, but I always train tired and believe myself to be strong mentally to tough it out, so I lined up fairly near the front of the field and set off with purpose.

The course is relentlessly undulating, but barely contains anything we would describe as a hill, so I aimed to keep just inside my target pace for each and every mile.

I soon got in to a little group ticking off the miles at about 7.15 pace, and, whilst I knew I was working for it, I didn’t feel massively uncomfortable, so pushed on. The breeze was brisk in places but we seemed to all be willing to take our turns in front.

I know the course winds through some lovely countryside and picture postcard thatched villages, but I was only half aware of it as I tried to keep my pace focussed. There’s a line across the road at halfway and I clocked that in 1h36m, so inside my 3h14m target pace. I knew from last year that the worst of the undulations were around the 20 miles mark so I felt I’d banked a bit of time.

Miles in 7.09 7.02 7.15 7.23 & 7.25 preceded……

wheels coming offTHE WHEELS COMING OFF!!

Oh and how!

By then I was in a group of three, “Oh they’ve sped up” I thought, glancing at my watch. WRONG! I had slowed down. Quite Dramatically.

This hadn’t happened quite so eye-wateringly since my very first marathon, in Paris. I took a gel from my pocket before putting it back, I was starting to struggle to lift my feet and quite frankly, I was exhausted. Nothing a gel could do for that.

I took my demise in good heart and let myself naturally get slower and slower and slower as runners started to pass me by. I took a minute at an aid station to enjoy some melon, coke and Jaffa cakes before setting about my last few miles.

My salvation came in the form of Luke. Luke was stopped at a marshalling point looking in a world of pain. Which, it turned out he was, with his back in spasm around a herniated disc injury. Ouch.

Come on mate, lets shuffle in together. Which we did. Great to meet you Luke. 2017-04-30 12.01.02

The biggest dilemma I have with my ‘disappointment’ is that I genuinely believe that, ultimately, it doesn’t matter, and I know that there are many for whom a sub 3.30 marathon would be a dream.

I guess I’m asking for permission to be a little disappointed, whilst still chuffed to have clocked up marathon number 32, ran another quick time and had a wonderful day out.

I did train very, very hard for this and believed I had it in me. Hey ho.

My 1st half 1.36, my 2nd half 1.52. Detonated!

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Still smiling at the finish

 

 

They may be many reasons for this:

Maybe spending a full day up and down a ladder carrying bags of rubble on Friday didn’t help. Maybe those troublesome sinuses and snottyness were drawing on my reserves. Maybe lack of sleep. Maybe being so much heavier than I intended to be for this day. Maybe eating too much simple sugars rather than good fats and protein. Maybe not having the strong core needed to maintain running form when tired.

Maybe, today, that was how it was meant to be.

I was smiling at the end, because I bloomin’ love running and I feel blessed to be able to do this wonderful sport at all.

Another of our little gang, Jan, fresh from smashing her own Parkrun yesterday, turned up at the finish to cheer us all in, along with Gloria, and quite frankly, it really was a lovely, lovely day and I also feel blessed to have such great friends.

As for Nicky?? Sometimes words just simply don’t do justice to how she makes me feel!

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Nicky’s amazing run
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Cute Tee Shirt

 

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Martin might have OD’d on sugar!
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The fine food and drink ladies of Sturminster Newton

 

And then there were TWO…..

….. days to North Dorset Village Marathon….

sleepy runnerAND it starts at 8.30AM, I’ve just read, so it actually starts in 36 hours time. It’s a two hour drive and we like to be there with an hour or so to caffeine up, so that’ll mean leaving home at er, hang on, I can do the maths, er……. surely that can’t be right!!

 

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Nicky ran her 2nd fastest ever marathon last year at NDVM

Nicky and I have both trained really well for this, plenty of quality runs, long runs, time on our feet, quick half marathons and 10k’s BUT we’ve both got maranoia – ache all over, tired, tight muscles, confidence dissipating, blah blah blah…… I’m sure it’s partly in our heads, we don’t normally suffer nerves as we do tend to aim to beat the cut off rather than aim for a time in most of our marathons.

 

 

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Going to be quite a view through this window when I finish knocking it out! (Yes I do have a real job!)

 

Anyway, I think we should be heading bedwards in light of this revelation about the start time…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Charlie whispering some last minute advice – “run, run, as fast as you can”

 

Check Ignition…

Ahhh the countdown to the North Dorset Village Marathon, 4 days to go. FOUR DAYS!!!

I haven’t done enough training, I haven’t eaten the right food, I haven’t done enough core strength work, I haven’t slept enough, my foot, ankle, shin, knee, hip, back, hair hurts. I’ve got too much heavy duty work to do, I haven’t planned my nutrition, my kit, my trainers are too old, too new, too big, too small, it’s going to be too hot, too windy, too flat, too hilly. It’s too early, too far to travel, have I definitely entered?!?!

Yup it’s marathon week. What can possibly go wrong?

Some sunrise pictures to take my mind off it….