No.9 – Kent Roadrunner Marathon

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Nine down, eleven to go !

A special weekend …. loved it.

When I arranged this month I wasn’t too sure I could complete it if I’m honest. Three marathons in three weeks is something I knew could be done, friends have done three in as many days, sometimes more. But this was new territory for me, and with niggles and my struggles in Richmond I didn’t know what to expect from this one, maybe the lack of expectations helped ….. I had a blast.

Drove up the day before in horrendous bank holiday traffic and stayed within walking distance of the brilliant venue, Cyclopark. Walked down on Friday evening to take a look at the venue and collect my bib and elastic bands. This would be another looped course and for ease of keeping count bands are provided to wear on your wrist, dropping one off, or in my case pinging them at people after each lap, so you know how many you have left to run.

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Up early the following morning to find that surprise, surprise the weather forecast was all over the place as usual. We were expecting sunshine and  hot conditions, so I wasn’t too disappointed with the overcast skies and eventual rain that cooled us on our way.

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I was excited as always to be meeting up with friends from BCRC on this one, the lovely Katy adorned in her equine fancy dress and of course my fellow three in three Natalie who along with Phil were so kindly putting up with me for the weekend.

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The course was made up of one short loop, followed by nineteen larger loops of the Cyclopark in Gravesend, Kent. I’d struggled on a previous looped course with the repetitive nature and ensuing boredom ….. fortunately Roadrunner was different, much different.

There was a lot of support around the course here, with many families camped out on the side of the track cheering everyone on. The organisers and marshals were so encouraging and great fun with it. Seeing people so many times on each loop was great fun ….. I saw Natalie and Katy a few times, sometimes running along with them, sometimes pinging elastic bands at them ! And I appreciated the spectators cheering me on even though they had no idea who I was.

Occasionally people ask me why I run marathons ….. the following photo’s may help to explain …..

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They can be fun …. a lot of fun, and …..

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I run for my girl, I run because of my girl and I run because I don’t want to let go of my girl. This challenge means so much to me it’s difficult to explain, so I’ll leave it for another day.

Run we did, and fairly consistently too helped by the amazing support and knowing what was around the corner each time. Although the course turned out to be quite undulating, I coped with it fairly well and a few bleeps on the Garmin aside I finished fairly strongly in under four hours, and was quite pleased to receive quite possibly the biggest medal I’ve ever seen ….. oh and a lovely beer …. this is my pleased face !!

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I managed to drag myself and my medal off for a quick massage, showered up and popped back down to the course to watch the ladies finish …. Natalie was too quick so I missed her, but it was good to see Katy finish in high spirits. Job done, we’ve all now signed up for the ‘sister’ event in September …. if you too would like a shield for any reason do join us, hopefully I’ve managed to adequately articulate what a brilliant event it is.

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Learning points :

  • Looped courses aren’t all bad
  • The knee is holding out
  • Don’t tie laces too tight, the feet don’t like it
  • Free professional photos = good, Goody bag beer = spot on, post race massage = invaluable
  • I’m tempted as much by the medal as by the course
  • I said this was getting to be quite tough. I don’t know what happened this weekend, but I felt ok …. that makes me happy
  • I like having elastic bands on runs …. sorry ladies !
  • Kent is a great place to visit, I’m going back

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I got chatting to a few people at this event who had read about what I’m hoping to achieve and noticed my t-shirt. Some very kind words have been said regarding what I’m doing and the kindness of everyone I’ve had the pleasure of being associated with and met during my runs is often overwhelming. The generosity of random strangers and words written on my fundraising site often leave me in bits ….. thanks a bunch ! But whilst I appreciate your comments and generosity, this year for me is always about Sharon, and very much reflective of the generosity, kindness, compassion and sheer strength and determination that she exhibited throughout her life. I hope to be able to carry that on …. she’ll always be here.

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No.8 – Richmond Park Marathon

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Eight down, twelve to go !

Hot, hilly and quite a few old deer’s.

Drove up to this one on the morning in the end and after a clear run up arrived in Richmond Park about 8.30. After a quick look around and a brief chat with the organisers I got myself ready unsure of what the weather was going to do.

Initial forecasts had some rain coming our way, so base layered up but with cap in hand just in case I wandered to the start, finding some BCRC buddies on the way ….. always a good way to start a marathon.

The run was made up of a 12 mile out and back section, followed by a couple of 7 mile loops, taking in mostly trails and hills. Shared with the local wildlife, many other runners, walkers and cyclists the park was understandably quite busy on a sunny Sunday morning.

The sun was shining from the off and it soon warmed up despite the occasional shade of the trees. The body seemed ok after last week, so I set off at a decent pace which was probably my first mistake. The first nine or ten miles went ok, although the hills were starting to have an effect. I was drinking quite a lot due to the heat, and I think a combination of the heat, the hills and probably a bit of residual tiredness kicked in from about half way.

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I ended up taking off my second mistake …. the base layer, shortly afterwards which did help cool me down. I wish I’d binned it in the end as I ended up carrying it the rest of the way round. From around seventeen miles on I was really feeling it, my Garmin was buzzing and bleeping at me all over the place telling me I was working a bit too hard so I adopted a run/walk strategy for the rest of the race.

Support was pretty good from the organisers and marshals, but also from the other park users. My t-shirt got quite a few positive comments and initiated a few conversations en-route which helped pass the time along with a few photo stops.

I jogged in at four hours sixteen minutes feeling pretty exhausted, did a quick interview with the organisers after they noticed my t-shirt and ended up a bit choked up ….. I blame it on the dodgy mars bar.

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Learning points :

  • Richmond Park is beautiful ….. and hilly
  • If I have to run up them I’m not so keen on hills
  • I should have known not to trust the weather forecast
  • I don’t like mars bars
  • Good marshals are worth their weight in gold
  • My left knee is coming out in sympathy with my right knee
  • A kick about with friends children isn’t the best post-race recovery, fun though !
  • This is getting to be quite tough

So, I was left feeling pretty knackered after this one, but what are you gonna do when kids want to play ? Get up and have a kick about right ? …. third mistake ! And having to drive back home afterwards wasn’t the best idea either. You live and learn ……

It was all worth it to meet up with friends again …. supporters too x

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No.7 – Arun River Marathon, Sussex

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Seven down, thirteen to go !

Walking, talking, cake, cows, a big hill and a lovely fry up …. oh yeah and a bit of running too.

Knee strapped up again and feeling better with just nine toenails, I made the short walk from Marine Court on an initially chilly morning with some friends from BCRC, Natalie and Phil to Littlehampton Marina, the starting and finishing point of The Arun River Marathon.

Phil was carrying out the all important support role today, as Natalie and I collected our Bibs from race HQ. We soon met up with Gary, another friend running who I’d previously met during a previous stay at Marine Court.

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Following a race briefing advising us not to get lost (!), we set off with approximately 150 other runners heading north along the River Arun towards Arundel. With a few gates and stiles and narrow footpaths to navigate, the ensuing bottlenecks helped set the pace for mine and Natalie’s run. After a few miles Gary soon left us and our chatter behind !

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Arriving in Arundel we made our way on to the short road section of the course through the town, enthusiastically cheered on by Gary’s family and with the castle providing a stunning backdrop.

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Whilst the terrain was quite uneven under foot, it was probably more sympathetic to the knee and it was good to enjoy the scenery and the company. We talked pretty much all the way round, only interrupted by the odd cake from the aid stations, photo opportunities and surprised bovine spectators blocking our path !

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The course was pretty flat up until around 10 miles where me met a big hill which didn’t really do much to interrupt our chatter either ! It did go on for a few miles, but the views as we made our way up on to the South Downs certainly made up for the climb. It was nice to be greeted by the lead runners on their way down with words of encouragement.

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Reaching the top and half way we knew it was pretty much all down hill for the second half, so after a short rest and refuelling with more cake we made our way back down along the same route chatting to other runners as we went.

The weather had changed by now and we found ourselves enjoying glorious sunshine for much of the race so were glad to have topped up on water supplies at the aid stations as we passed.

Back down through a now busy Arundel, and back along the river we somehow managed to miss Phil supporting on this section, but following a brief telephone call arranged to meet back at the finish. We were pretty much on our own by now as the field had spread out far and wide, and we came in to the finish greeted with applause from fellow runners, my mum, and some good friends Jo and Ian who had kindly travelled down for the day to welcome us home.

Learning points :

  • Racing is so much more than about finishing times, it’s about good times too
  • I have a huge amount of respect for tail enders for having the physical and mental strength to keep going for so long
  • I still like trail marathons
  • I need to practice eating more cake instead of gels
  • A glass of wine the night before a race helps me sleep, I like that
  • It turns out a fry up after a race is pretty good recovery food
  • As this was over 27 miles, I believe I can call it an Ultra Marathon !

I’d never run a marathon like this before, but I enjoyed it. It was good to run the whole thing with a friend and we certainly went through some topics …. life, milk, wonky houses, chocolate moo moo’s to name just a few ! Thanks Natty for the chat ….. oh, and the running ! Gary did really well and hung around to cheer us home even though he had a bit of a wait. We rehydrated well later in the evening with his lovely family, cheers Gary and well done mate.

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“One of the hardest things is not talking to someone you used to talk to every day”

No.6 – Nashville

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Six down, fourteen to go !

Wow, what a month of ups and downs. My knee had been continuing to give me problems post Paris as had my head, and following advice from a Physio I endured three weeks of rest prior to travelling out to the states. So, for the first time I’d be going in to a marathon off of no running for a while …. a taper I most certainly didn’t enjoy.

I was accompanied on this trip by a wonderful friend of ours who made the trip much easier for me and the support was much appreciated every day. Although we probably frequented a few too many bars prior to race day than would be my usual routine …. oh well probably helped me relax.

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I’d arranged to meet a couple of stateside based BCRCer’s and their families in Nashville, as they’d kindly offered to travel to support. It was great to meet up and spend much of our time with them, and a lovely surprise to find out they’d decided to run the half marathon.

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DSC_8179Despite Nashville throwing torrential rain, thunder and lightning at us resulting in a delay of 45 minutes to the start time, it was good to run the first few miles of my first race in the US with friends, and great to see Karen make her way to the start for the 5k.

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We started downtown amongst the bars and clubs of Nashville, and wound our way out into some of Nashville’s well-heeled neighbourhoods, passing such sights as the state capitol, music row and many of country music’s famous sights.

The course was more congested than I’d expected with over 30,000 runners across all distances, but after 7 or 8 miles the crowds thinned out and when the race distances split it became quite a lonely race with sparse support on much of the undulating course.

It was always going to be a bit of an unknown how I’d fare this time round due to the knee, the rest up and the beer (!), but despite the knee reminding me it was there every now and then, I settled in to a steady pace and got on with it.

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The humidity, hills and beer probably started taking effect around 22 miles and I started slowing knowing I didn’t really need to push it. I was more than happy taking into account the preparation for this and the circumstances I was running under to go under four hours again. It was so nice to see my supporters as I neared the finish line, it gave me the boost to finish this one off with a little showboating …. well it was Nashville !

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After meeting up with everyone at the finish and finding out how well everyone else had done, and with a little medal envy we made our way to the nearest bar to celebrate followed by a lovely meal later that evening.

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Learning points :

  • I have some amazing friends
  • I need to factor in some rest every now and then
  • Alcohol and rest don’t affect my racing too much !
  • Warm bananas after a long run aren’t particularly appetising
  • Beer is
  • Toenails aren’t needed …. one down, nine to go
  • I forgot about Kent Roadrunner when I said I’d never run another lap marathon again
  • The US holds many special memories for me

This trip was always going to be about so much more than the marathon. I’d wanted to make the trip last year, but was advised against it probably for good reason. I will always be thankful for the friends who accompanied me on this trip, they certainly helped me enjoy it and picked me up when I needed it. Thank you so much to Karen for everything you did to make this trip so much easier and for being such an awesome friend and travel buddy, and to Danni, Linda, Hari, Nirisha and Jay for your amazing support and friendship.

We remembered Sharon often and toasted her with many a drink. She loved the southern states, and we needed to go back to her promised land.

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Always on my mind ….