Thursday, 30 September 2010

A Tale of Three Marathons

On the day my 2011 London Marathon acceptance landed on the doormat, I am about to embark on a double marathon challenge during October. After my London Marathon entry form went astray last year, and it took numerous phone calls to get it sorted out, I was relieved to get my hands on my acceptance this year without any problems. It will be my 19th London Marathon and 17th consecutive one, having completed every one since 1995. Six months and sixteen days to go. Just the small matter of keeping fit, healthy and injury free before I take my place at Blackheath on Sunday 17th April 2011.

However, before that I am about to undertake a double marathon challenge - starting this Sunday when I run the Scotland Kilomathon a 26.2 km race just outside Edinburgh and taking in two crossings of the Forth Road Bridge. This is the first Kilomathon to be held in Scotland and so it is a bit of an unknown quantity but I have decided to run it as a final tune-up for the Kielder Marathon - a challenging trail marathon around the Kielder Reservoir in Northumberland.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Heading for the Hills

It is a holiday weekend in Glasgow which gives me the opportunity for some high mileage running. Unusually the holiday weekend weather has been decent with some cold but bright mornings replacing the torrential rain we have had in the week.

On Friday I headed out for my last long run before the Kielder Marathon in 3 weeks time. I decided that instead of running the same route I have done for the last two weekends I would go out with the intention of running for 3 hours, mainly on the road, but not worry too much about the distance. I also wanted to include some climbing to help me prepare for what I might find at Kielder.

I set off along the McDonalds path to the Allander before hitting the Rangers path to the Tickled Trout before doubling back on the Auchenhowie Rd and right to Langbank and the steep climb to Baldernock Church. The first real climb of the day at 4 miles and over a mile of climbing before I drop down to the main Rd by Bardowie Loch. I have to run along the busy Balmore Rd for a mile before heading to the Canal by the paths through Cawder Golf Club. Once on the Canal it is a flat and steady run into Kirkintilloch. I head back along the main road back as far as the Stables and then along the Canal to Torrance. Here I head off into unknown territory, along the country lanes and some more hills before arriving back at Baldernock church. Here I turn right and more climbing before dropping down onto the Strathblane Rd and head for a lap of the Milngavie Reservoirs before running along the roads back home. I run 23 miles in three hours, including over 1000ft of ascent and I finished feeling quite strong. A great start to the weekend.

This morning I joined the Victoria Park Sunday club run from the Allander. I wasn't sure how my legs would feel after my Friday run. It was more hill running today and we covered some of the lanes I ran two days before. We ran a loop through Baldernock and then over the 'High Caves' taking us up some tough hills. A slight navigational blip meant we added an additional hill but I felt good and kept up with the group reasonably well. Shorter but much faster than my Friday run, we covered 9.3 miles in 67 minutes.

I am missing racing now though and I am planning to race next Sunday before easing off for two weeks to prepare for Kielder.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Mersey Marathon 2011

Reports on the RunLiverpool website suggest that the Mersey Marathon may return next year. I never ran this one myself but watched a few times and plenty of Southport Waterloo runners did compete over the years. I recall that the course used to run through Bootle but the proposed course for 2011 looks like it will start in Birkenhead, a loop on the Wirral before heading through the tunnel and onto South Liverpool before heading back along the river to finish at the pier head. Looks interesting and I will defintely be thinking about running it.

If you took part in the Mersey Marathon in the 80's then Alan Rothwell is looking for any information or memorabila. If you can help the please get in touch with Alan

Monday, 20 September 2010

Great North Run

Watching the Great North Run on TV it is hard not to spare a thought for the Southport based Kenyan, the late Benson Masya who dominated this race in the 1990's.

A virtually unknown former boxer, Benson Masya first won the race in 1991 in 61:28 seconds – the third fastest time in the world that year. The Kenyan, who went on to become the Great North Run’s most successful contestant, held off the challenge of Paul Davies-Hale by nine seconds. This was only days after Benson took part in the Southport Waterloo summer handicap race - two laps of the Marine Lake.

In 1992 the race incorporating the first ever World Half Marathon Championships, Masya won the race in a world record 60:24. Becoming both world record holder and world champion. Along with Paul Tergat and Joseph Keino, he also led Kenya to team victory ahead of Great Britain and Brazil. This was also the year I ran my fastest ever half marathon, reaching South Shields in 1.16.15

Masya returned in 1994 and ran even faster this time out to snatch victory ahead of Moses Tanui in a UK All-Comers record time of 60:02. Separating the pair of Kenyans proved an almost impossible task but a video replay found in favour of Masya.

in 1995, Tanui returned after the disappointment of the previous year to win in a time of 60:39 with Masya 80 seconds adrift this time. However in 1996, upset at his performance the previous year, Masya returned to win his fourth title with a time of 61:43.

However, despite his triumphs in the North East, Honolulu and the American race circuit, Masya died less than a decade later virtually penniless. At the end of September 2004, Paul Tergat, possibly the greatest of the great Kenyans, was obliterating the marathon world record in Berlin. Yet back in Kitui, in the Rift Valley, news was filtering out of the death of his contemporary, someone who dealt more than his fair share of defeats to the new world record-holder. Benson Masya was 33 when he died, leaving a wife and two young sons.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Blast from the Past

Southport Waterloo runners, Neil, Brian and Rick after the Ashurst Beacon Race - around late 90's?

Mud on the Tracks

It was muddy on the trails this morning. It has been raining all week and it was raining when I set out for another 21 miler. I have come off a high mileage week, trying to get into shape to run the Kielder Marathon in 4 weeks time, and the soft going meant that I didn't expect to cover the distance as fast as last week.

Autumn is in the air now and despite the rain it was cool, fresh and a great morning for running. I split this 21 miler into three sections of around 7 miles each and after the first section I was only slightly slower than last week. The second part didn't go too well as I was once again slowed by problems with pets and livestock. Twice I had to stop while some out of control dogs yapped around my ankles and their irresponsible owners flapped around trying to get them on a lead. Why not keep them on a lead in the first place if you know they are going to chase people!

It was quiet up on the Pipe Track - no dog walkers up here and in places the mist was so low you could only see 10metres in front. It was therefore a bit of a shock to come face to face with highland cattle on the path. No way around up here and although they didn't look too surprised to see me, they are big animals with scary looking horns so I wasn't too confident about just running past. I stopped to suss the situation and decided to walk slowly past them. Thankfully, despite their size, these animals seem more stable than the little mutts that attacked me earlier
and I was on my way again.

I picked up the pace on the last section and passed some orienteers in Mugdock Woods as I headed home. I pushed hard over the last few miles and ended up only a minute or so slower than last week in 2.48. Anything under 2.50 is solid running on this course and I will run it again once more next weekend before deciding whether to run Kielder.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Marathon Training?

After my disappointing performance at the Great Scottish Run last weekend, I decided to concentrate on some long training runs over the coming weeks to try and get into shape for the Kielder Marathon in October. I set off this morning to run the 21 mile trail run that forms the basis of my London Marathon training during the winter months. This is significantly further than I have been running lately but I wanted to test myself out and see how my times compared with earlier in the year.
This is a testing course, around 90% off-road and with over 1500 feet of ascent. All was going well for the first hour but I had to take a slight detour by road to miss out a field that is currently home to a bull. It didn't add much distance on though and my next challenge faced me a little further down the road as I ran past Milndavie stables a pack of wild dogs began chasing me. I thought I could out run them and upped the pace slightly but their barking got louder and I realised they were catching me. My only choice was to turn and face the snarling brutes and as I eyeballed them they backed off and I could continue my run in peace. I glanced over my shoulder and the two Jack Russell's were heading back up the lane.
Two hours into the run I hit the hardest hill on the route so I had to dig in and once over the top, the rain started and it was a hard slog back home along the West Highland Way. Back home in 2.47, just 30 seconds slower than the fastest I ran this route during my London training. This morning's session has certainly given me some confidence but there is a bit more hard work to do yet before I decide whether to take on this challenging off-road marathon.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Great Scottish Run

A huge field took part in this morning's Great Scottish Run. Just under 8000 finished the 10k race, won by Shettleston's Matthew Gillespie in 31.12. The last finisher crossed the line in 3.34.27. Just under 9000 competed the half marathon won in 1.01.53 by Ethiopian runner Hailu Mekennen. Andy Hudson and Vicky Harvey travelled from Southport but both were doubtful due to injury. Vicky ruled herself out after an easy run on Saturday but Andy decided to start the race and hope his achilles problems allowed him to finish. I had hoped to run sub 80 minutes, a tough call but I thought it might be possible. There were a few changes to the course this year, the most significant being in the first mile, heading straight up St Vincent Street. This meant a steep climb for the first mile before heading through Finnieston and over the Kingston Bridge from the west. With such a big field I knew I needed to get a good quick start but went far too fast on the challenging first mile. I hit the first mile marker in 5.54! At 4 miles I was spot on the pace i needed but felt it was going to be difficult to keep it going and I had drifted well of the pace by half way. With runners passing me I was into damage limitation mode and managed to keep a reasonable pace going to finish in 1.23.46 for 117th and 6th vet 50. Over three minutes slower than last year. I finished disappointed with my time but I gave it a go - I might have taken it easier at the start but I am not sure it would have improved my time by that much - I just didn't have it in my legs on the day. Andy overcame his injury problems to finish in 1.31.57, a little slower than last year but pleased to have got round in one piece. Andy was 393rd and 24th vet45. I hope to post more photos in the next few days.

Update: for Andy's information - former Pop Idol winner and co-host of teatime TV show 'The Hour' Michelle McManus completed the 10k in 1 hour 42 minutes.

Photos by Chris Upson