Friday, 28 June 2013

Edinburgh Marathon Festival weekend

Runners and Supporters in Edinburgh

My first races "abroad". I had decided last year to make a journey north to meet up with many RFFs and enjoy the delights of the Edinburgh marathon. Also hoped the medal would look a little dodgy like last year?!

After staying the night at Mos, the wife and I drove the hours drive up to Edinburgh. We had decided to add a holiday in Edinburgh as well as me running the 10k and marathon. We had booked an apartment just off the Royal Mile. Not only a great location for being a tourist, but close to the 10k race and the start area for the marathon!! 

With the car parked up, the wife and I made our way to the Dynamic Earth at Holyrood Park. We were on the lookout for Sharon Parkin and Stephen Gunn. Both had come along to support us runners running the 5k, 10k and kids races on the Saturday.We soon found them, helped by having the RFF banner! Dawn Thomson was also with Sharon. I had met both Stephen and Sharon previously. Stephen got me a place at the Brighton Marathon. He was also great support during the London Marathon and last years Bewl 15. Sharon had joined me for a day down south running a local 7 miles. It was in fact 10, as I got a little confused. We also ran the Tatton half in November. Dawn was a first time meet. One of many for this weekend! 

Making my way with the supporters to the start area, we found Gillian Yates, who was also running the 10k. Also running it was Karen Tuck and Victoria Hunter. I some how mad managed to have a yellow number, which related to my start wave. The first one! Whoop.
The weather was rather toasty. Not what i was expecting. I had actually packed hats and gloves for the holiday. I had been told Edinburgh only gets warm for EMF weekend! They weren't kidding. The start area was just below Arthurs Seat. The big old silent volcano. Now I had looked at the route. Believing that the route went around the volcano. But within a mile of the start, we were starting to head uphill. The road was winding, so i decided to stay head down telling myself not to look up. Went round the next bend, I looked up! Doh! Keep your head down and keep breathing and moving forward. Next bend, yep, I looked up! Why? Stupidity!

Eventually we reached our summit. Thankfully, it was the very top! Good news now, we were heading back downhill! The previous Saturday I was running the NDW50 ultra. I knew my legs would be tired, so I wasn't going all out, plus I had a marathon to run the next day. My calf's had felt a little tight on the way up, but this downhill stretch was allowing me to open my legs. It really did help loosen the legs. On the downhill stretch I was just getting to the half way point when I spotted the RFF banner and support crew! A quick wave and onto the second half of the course. I headed out the park onto some local roads. It was only briefly on the road and we then turned onto a path heading back into the park. It was nice to get some cover from the beating sun. It was warm in Edinburgh, Hawaii! It wasn't long and I was back on the road within the park. The finish line was coming up and the support was fantastic. I spotted the RFF banner and support crew again. Just in front of the finish line. I crossed the finish line in a steady and comfortable 57 minutes. One race down. After receiving my medal and goody bag, I made my way to the support crew to cheer the other runners in. I didn't have to wait to long to see Gillian come home, and then Karen. Although it looked like Karen had been in some adventures with blood on her knee and elbow.

Whats great about EMF is the varied amount of races they put on. Rather than just the marathon, there is a race for everybody. After the 10k comes the 5k and kids 1.5k. As the 5k started, with more RFFs in, although as i write this I can only remember Chrstine Wells, sorry whoever I forgot. It was then followed by the kids 5k. Victoria Hunter and Helen McBain had there little ones running in this event. Again there were some other RFFs i have forgotten. So many names!! As we cheered them off, we made our way to the finish area. Before we had got there, the first of the kids were coming back! And also the first of the 5k! Wow they were quick!! It wasn't long till we saw the first RFFs coming in. Christine in the 5k was flying and so was Amy, Helens daughter. I cannot remember times, but was highly impressed by Amys minute mile pace! Helen has so competition!!

After watching the all the finishers come in, it was off to check into our holiday apartment and move the car before it got a ticket or moved for me. We agreed to meet Sharon and Stephen later at the Hub, where Mo was also going to meet us for her Photo shoot. A nice afternoon chilling and chatting, we were joined by Beverley Smeaton and Rachel Pecz. Soon followed by Mo and her friend Jackie?.

Carrie Morpeth had arranged a pre race meal for us at Prezzo's in Leith. A good chance to have a catch up and chat where we could look our best and not be covered in sweat and stinking!! A lovely meal was enjoyed with the following, and maybe a little to much piss taking from me on Carrie. The following were there - Shari, Nigel and Mia Bullock with Mias friend Rebecca. Sharon and Grant Parkin. Ann and Richard Smith. Carrie and John Moriarty. Maureen Murray. May Chan. Michelle Iddon. Paula Rose. Stephen Gunn. Beverley Smeaton. Fay and myself.

Sunday - Marathon Day.

Be luck rather than design, the start of the Marathon was a few minutes walk away. Awaiting the arrival of Mo, Chris and Rachel, who would no doubt need there last wees before the race, i managed to scoff down some porridge. Why is it so hard to eat on race day?
Once everybody had arrived we made the short walk to Regents Road, the start area. With the RFF banner, it wasn't long till we started to see other RFF members finding us! I was also putting smiles on peoples faces with the comment on it stating "Miles of Smiles". Many a person wanting a picture with it.

It wasn't to long to the off, so Chris Murray and myself headed to the green start area. We were going to run together. Both of us unsure what sort of legs we had under us. For me, it was only a week ago that i did the North Downs Way 50, plus yesterdays 10km. It was make or break, and i hoped to be under 5 hours all things considered.

With what has to be one of the best start build ups I've experienced we were off. I had heard that Edinburgh was quick and flat. Something i was pleased about. From the start you head downhill to the end of Regents road and head towards Meadowbank. Soon turning back towards the city centre and Holyrood Park. We joined Holyrood Park after running between Holyrood House (The Queens official residence when in Scotland) and the Scottish Parliament building. Chris and I at these point caught up with Mo and flanked her like body guards. Had a little chat and then we got back on our pace, just under 9 minute miles.

After leaving Holyrood Park we headed back towards the Meadowbank Stadium. Looping the Stadium we then headed towards Leith and the seafront. The weather was still rather warm at this point but occasionally there was a nice breeze. Chris and I kept going at a steady 9min mile pace. We soon welcomed the seafront. I had heard friends talk about the Power Station as a reference point for the race. It looked miles away! Not really surprising when running a marathon. Its interesting how, even now, its hard to visually judge distance. This was probably the first time i felt i needed to get my head down and focus on the task.

Chris was focusing on finding Jelly Babies, and occasionally he would spot them and inform me. Chris has pretty good eyesight when it comes to sweets. Although he was starting to get frustrated by the support. Well not the support exactly, more the fact that it appeared that women favoured calling my name out then his, and when his name was called, it was likely from a him rather than a her. I put it down to the fact that me being 6 foot 6 and wearing a sympathy helped with the fairer sex. But i wasn't knocking it!

After a few miles of more jelly babies and name calling. We passed the race course and also the finish area. Chris needed to use the little boys thunder box, so I decided to wait for him. I was enjoying running with Chris. I may have missed jelly babies if i hadn't ran with him. While waiting i saw a fellow RFF, Will Davidson, instinctively we high fived as he passed.
Chris was back out the toilet, not sure he had washed his hands, so i needed to be at those Jelly babies first!

We cracked on. I became aware that Chris wasn't right with me, but knew id have a bad patch at some point. Unfortunately i didn't have to wait that long. My left calf had been a bit niggly around mile 8, but i thought it had past. It came back with its niggly mates around mile 11. I had to walk. It wasn't long till Chris came past with Shari. They checked on me, but i said to keep going. Man Down!

I guess i was maybe hoping for to much after the NDW50 the previous weekend. Something had to give. But I'm determined if not anything else. While assessing myself i continued forward. I had set myself a sub 5 hour target before the race. Up until then i had been on a sub 4 pace, and had felt comfortable. Even thinking that a PB was on.

I attempted a run walk scenario. I ran for 300 steps, then recover with 100 steps. This seem to work, so continued with it. I felt i was back in the game. It wasn't long that i then got a call from Joanne Needham catching me up. That gave me a lift. I had meant Jo before, but it was a nice meet, all be it very brief. I crossed the halfway point in 2hours 5. Still well within the target time of sub 5. Best keep going.

Things went as best as they could right up to GosfordHouse, the turning point. I was struggling and the pain was building in the calf. Thankfully Mo had just caught me up and offered me some pain killers. Mo was having a tough time after losing her inhaler. But shes a tough cookie and kept moving forward. I decided to walk miles 17-18 to allow the calf to rest up. So it wasn't long to see more RFFs on course. First Beverley Smeaton arrived and gave me some jelly babies! Lost without Chris when it came to them. Just as she sped off Carrie arrived. She decided to walk with me and we had a chat. Mainly me taking the piss again, but she looked strong and soon left me to continue her own journey to the finish line.

Best get going again. Back into the return to the finish line I spoke to Calum Beaton. He was out on his bike supporting. We had a little chat and i pushed on. Heading back i soon saw Ann Smith, John Elvins and Maureen Murray heading to the turning point. I was pleased to see all three of them and they were doing well and looked like they had plenty in the tank.

Things steady the same for the next few miles until I saw the race course again. The finish was insight!! Not literally. I knew the RFF support crew were around the finish area. I started to run and vowed to not stop until after the line. Turning left into the park, there was the banner and my wife Fay cheering, the calf felt a little easier and i upped the tempo. The matting they put over the grass is a little weird. I crossed the line with a time of 5hrs 6mins. I wanted sub 5 but after having to carry the injury over half the course, and completing a tough 50 mile ultra the week before i was well pleased!!

I collected my goodies and had my photo taken with my medal.
I headed off to join the support crew and other finished runners. I soon had a can of cider in my hand, thank you Nigel!
It wasn't to long to wait before Sharon Parkin completed her first marathon! Brilliant effort. Then it was the turn of Ann Smith. The finishers were starting to come in a little spaced out now and supporters were heading home. Not us though. We were all still cheering everybody in. We were waiting to see Maureen Murray. Maureen is 67 and this was her first marathon. Many had told her she shouldn't do it. This just made Maureen more determined to do it. I decided to head back out and look for her.

I headed back up to the race course and passed another RFF, John Elvin, who was also making his marathon debut. I informed him, the finish was around the corner. Then there, in the distance i could spot a yellow shirt, it was Maureen. I went and meet her. She was doing well but appeared a little concerned. She thought she was last and that she had been asked if she wanted a lift back to the finish. Thankfully she didn't and i told her she wasn't last. I had seen plenty behind her after the turn around point. I informed her that everybody was still waiting to cheer her in. As we came into the finish area Maureen started running again, i struggled to keep up. We were soon joined by other RFFs as we crossed the line together. Maureen had done what so many doubted she could do, she had become a marathon runner. It was an emotional time. What an inspiration! I hope I'm running marathons still at 67!
I believe Maureen vowed at that point not to do it again, but Ive heard recently she has signed up for next  years marathon!! Good on you Maureen!!

Maureen on the finishing straight

To top the day off, a few of us headed into Edinburgh for some dinner at Chiquitos. It was here that my running caught up with me. That and the Desperados.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Run for Fun and Maureen Mo Virtue.

Its Friday afternoon and I'm drinking a large amount of coffee with the wife and our host Mo Virtue. We've been here in the Borders for an hour or so. Mo and I are looking forward to this weekends running. We both have signed up for the Full Marathon on the Sunday. Mo required some persuasion, which I happily helped out with. As the wife and I were coming up to have a holiday. I decided to run the 10k on the Saturday to. Mo had other plans. Mainly being the poster girl for next years event!! I guess my invite went missing? Bloody Royal Mail.

Let me tell you a little bit about Mo, and just as importantly Run for Fun (RFF).
Back in October 2011, I received an email from the Great Run organisers inviting me to enter the Ballot for the very first run in the newly built Olympic Park and Stadium. An opportunity I took up. At the beginning of November, I received another email confirming my successful place into the 5 mile run. I was going to be one of the first 5,000 people to run in the London 2012 Olympic Stadium in March!! Result. The event was being organised by the Great Run Organisation, on behalf of the National Lottery, for whom had donated a large amount of money for the Olympic Park to be built. The run was The National Lottery Olympic Park Run. There was also a Facebook page, naturally. With all the excitement of gaining entry, people were chatting about the event on this page.

Somewhere also chatting was Mo. But Mo had an idea. I may be wrong, not for the first time in my life, but I think Mo could see what could happen. After the event people may not chat anymore. So Mo put her idea into practice. She set up a little Facebook page called Run for Fun. She invited some of us into her group. A group on a Facebook page which was a closed group. You needed to be invited in or ask to come in. But it wasn't and isn't an exclusive club. Its Mo's way of looking after the people. I quickly asked if I could come in, I brought wine? After a secret handshake that never happened, I was in. I was now part of what has become amazing. The few months building up to the event, we would all chat and start to get to know each other. Mo seemingly having the ability to comment on all threads. The majority of the group, which at this early point was about 40-50 people, most doing the Olympic Park Run (OPR). The day arrived in late March for us all to head towards Stratford, London from all over the country. We were off to make history. No other Olympic Stadium had held an event like this before the Olympic Games. We had all arranged to meet as close to the Orbit within the Olympic Park as we could. Some of us had swapped numbers. The wife, my mother and myself were just outside Costa coffee in the Westfield development, when i tried to ring Mo. She was just in side! With Coffees in hand we met first time face to face and hit it off straight away.

This first event was a great success for RFF. A large group of us did meet and had a group piccy taken. After the event, the talk on the page was of the race and what the next challenges would be. Friends started adding there running friends, who in turn added there friends. The group was growing. A mix of first time runners and seasoned runners. Mo some how still managed to comment on every thread. Fuelled by coffee.

I became aware that more and more people were trying to meet up at races. But it was difficult. Trying to recognise people from there Facebook Profile. If that in fact was them in the picture. So I discussed with Mo the idea of running tops. A bit of work was done and Mo was keen to have a big smiley in the design, we came up with the first version of the RFF symbol and shirts. I located a manufacturer, and set about the huge task of offering people the chance to have a top, in there chosen colour and with or without there names on the front. These were a great success. We now have a way to recognise each other at races.

The shirts/vests/hoodies were a great success. 180 odd were made. Mo now also takes on the mammoth task of doing the tops. 

I honestly don't know how Mo does it?! She also runs a B&B, has a beautiful daughter,Georgia, and a wonderful husband, David. Run for Fun was also setup while Mo wasn't in her family home. After suffering a fire. She was also recovering from Pneumonia!!
Mo is highly supportive and inspirational. Dishing out advice and cyber hugs. I'm privileged to call her my friend.

RFF has gone from strength to strength since that first race at the London 2012 Olympic Stadium. We celebrated a year of RFF with an anniversary run. We signed up to run 5 miles, anywhere. Be it an organised event or just with friends. All you had to do was register with Mo, plus a small cost to cover Medal. Then you just had to run 5 miles on the 31st March. The medal is fantastic and unique, with our mascot Rufus on the front. We had a similar Christmas event. We are also doing a Run the World event. Where from Jan 2013 to end of Nov 2013 we record our running mileage. We then inform Mo of our monthly mileage and Mo plots our Journey around the world. We have already completed one loop!! Again, we will receive a medal for this. A great reward for those training miles.

At Edinburgh this year, we got to unveil the first proper RFF banner, pictured at the top of this Blog!! If you don't spot a RFF shirt, then look out for this banner! It brings a smile to the most suffering of runners!

Run for Fun is now well over 600 members strong, all of them running stars in their own right!
Over 65 members will be running the National Lottery Anniversary Olympic Park Run in July! A true Olympic Legacy!! 

Mo will be there, fuelled on coffee, to spur and inspire us all onto 5 mile PBs!!

Mo Virtue, Thank you!!

Run for Funners, Thank you too!

Mo, the Poster girl for EMF 2014!!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Centurion Runnings North Downs Way 50 Mile Ultra

The day had finally come. One I had been looking forward to since August 2012. Centurion Running's NDW50 mile ultra.

Last August I volunteered to sweep the first 32 miles of the NDW50. A target I knew would be initially difficult, but one I could achieve and one that would challenge me. Last August, I set out to sweep with a fellow runner who was also sweeping, all be it the first 50 miles, Michael Sartorius. Michael and I set out doing our job and naturally got chatting. I think Michael initially thought I was mad. Previously only ever running up to 23 miles on a fell race last June, 32 miles was a big step. Soon realising that the pace wasn't to bad, thanks to having to remove signage as one of our jobs, the conversation soon changed to convincing me to try and do 50 miles with Michael. I must admit, it didn't really take much convincing!! To cut a long story short, as this blog is about this years event, I pushed on beyond the 32 mile aid station. The point I should have stopped at, I even got through the 39 mile aid station. But in between there and the 44 mile aid station I was done! Only six miles short of the target, but it took me a good 20 minutes just to get up Botley Hill! The plan was to sweep and get more insight into ultra running. A lesson I got a lot out of. Mainly the need to eat!!

Anyhow, as you can imagine, I was up for the challenge and felt far better prepared after completing the Thames Trot and sweeping 38 miles of the Thames Path 100. Not forgetting 2 marathons in 8 days.

The weather leading up to the race weekend had been a bit of a mixed bag. Making it a little difficult when coming to sorting kit. I knew i would be wearing my new Salomon Sense Ultras i had got a few weeks back and had managed a few runs in. They felt great and must thank Tim Lambert for suggesting them! I love a light weight minimal trainer. I had been running in the Cross Speed 3s up until then. I had opted for a short sleeve compression top and a technical T-shirt. Standard Adidas running shorts. Socks were my problem. Do I go with the Twin Skins or the Drymax. As the weather wasn't looking the greatest, I opted for the Drymax.

In my rucksack I opted for a lightweight rain coat and other bits of kit that was required. I also added some Cheese and Onion Discos and peanut butter and jam sarnies. Plus two litres of ready mixed pink lemonade Nuun electrolyte drink.

With all my kit sorted, the wife drove me the short distance to the Registration area in Farnham. My kit was checked and Robbie Britton was impressed by my crisp selection. I met up with Martin Bushell and Michael Sartorius. This was Martins first Ultra and we had discussed running together, but we hadn't set anything in stone. Michael was once again sweeping the course. This time on his own. No doubt spending it moaning about the weather not being perfect and thinking how he was going to get round the up coming Thames Ring 250.
James Elson, the race director, gave his speech and final instructions to us, the runners. I think he may have scared the wife a little when discussing the things that could go wrong?!

We then made our journey to the start area. To get there we must cross the railway at Farnham Station, in true fashion, the crossing barriers were down, so we had our first climb of the day, over the railway bridge. I hung around the back of the pack with Martin. Start as you mean to go on. Had a little chuckle to myself about the amount of tape used just to mark the route to the start area. Michael was going to have a lot of tape to remove!

We were off. The start of the NDW50 Ultra. Martin and I settled nicely down into a comfortable pace and started chatting. The early part of the race takes you along some country lanes as we head towards The Sands and the course becomes more trail and less road. This part of the course is also very familiar as I live local and train on it. I knew one of my Nemesis's was coming up. The hill up Puttenham Common. Its not a big hill, but because its sandy and during rain falls, the sand gets washed away leaving a lot of flint around. I find it really breaks my pacing up. Thankfully, I managed it without a hiccup and enjoyed the trot down into Puttenham.

The first aid station is only 6 miles into the course just next to Puttenham golf club. It always seems a bit early, but I feel its always good to use the opportunity to get food on board. The aid stations on Centurion Races are brilliant. There was always something there plus a few little surprises added by the volunteers. I kept it simple with a cup of water, a few jelly babies and cookies and we were off again. 6 more miles to the next aid station and more food.

The course carries on past the golf club and heads east towards Guildford. Eventually passing under the A3 and towards Watts Gallery. The course is pretty flat here and it starts to become undulating as you make your way past Loseley House. Just to the North is the Hogs Back, but the course doesn't head up there, sticking to the Pilgrims Way/North Downs Way. The pilgrims stayed low to avoid the highway men. I was pleased, there were enough hills to conquer this day! Maybe the Pilgrims just didn't like going up hills either??

The course continues past Loseley farm and eventually you come out onto some roads in Guildford. We quickly crossed these and made our way down towards the River Wey. A nice little surprise was in store here. Some kind gentleman had made bacon sarnies and was serving them up to any runners who wanted one. I duly took one, id burn the extra calories off. After crossing the river a little further up, I found my bacon sarnie had ketchup! Do I turn round and get some brown sauce?? Deciding against it, i ate the free and rather tasty bacon sarnie as we crossed Shalford Park. Bacon is pretty hard to eat while running. Learnt something new!
We crossed the road and headed along a road called Pilgrims Way?! What a coincidence!
This also meant we were starting the ascent to St Marthas on the Hill. If you've never been here before, St Marthas is a church built on what is basically a massive sand dune!

Before peeking this "dune", the second aid station welcomes you in. This one i had been looking forward to. The wife was there to meet and encourage me. This was the only time i would see her til once home many hours later. Also the aid station was being ran by my friend Paula Patterson. I was looking forward to seeing what spread she had put out. I also finally got to meet Dave Urwin - the bearded runner. I could have happily stayed here and chatted. It would beat having to get up the rest of the dune! But i noticed no mars bars? My finger was firmly pointed at Robbie and questions were asked.

With food in our bellies and fresh fluids taken on Martin and myself made the final ascent up the dune.We did walk a little, until i saw the photograph up ahead. Giving Martin a heads up we started running. Giving the impression we had ran the whole way! Seeing the pic further down, I think we got away with it?!

As they say, what goes up, must come down. And we did, quickly. At which point all the shaking induced Martin into his first pee stop of the day. I stood watch/guard. Not watching.
After the brief pit stop it was back to some uphill action. The short ascent up to Newlands Corner. This is where my training runs started. The next section is enjoyable but uneventful while staying along the higher slopes of the North Downs Way. I struggled a little along here and Martin went a head chatting to another runner. I was feeling sorry for myself, but also knew the long descent down through Denbies vineyard was coming up, which would lead me to the next aid station at the bottom of Box Hill. I picked myself and got a good pace going down to the aid station. Last time I ran through Denbies vineyard there was wine at there aid stations. Bacchus Half and full marathon are good fun and wine at every aid station!

Eventually making the Box Hill aid station, I was pleased to see Martin there waiting for me. I planned to arrive here between 5-5.30 hours, so I was will on course when i arrived at 5.05. A good scoff, but no Mars bars Robbie?! Martin and i set about climbing Box Hill, but first the stepping stones to deal with. I really was hoping Martin wouldn't slip up here, mainly because time would be wasted with me laughing. It turned out to be uneventful and we both crossed incident free. 

Box Hill is simply a killer. How the lead guys get up there so quick, I do not know. I don't think I could run up it, even with a permanently attached oxygen bottle. Who knew the air could get so thin in Surrey? Once up and realising i was still alive, the views south across Dorking and beyond are stunning and worth the climb. Last year there were Olympic rings up here for the cycling event. Sadly they are long gone. 

With enjoyable views and some newly found energy we plodded on, ticking of the miles while continuing to head east towards Reigate. At one point we passed Jez Bragg. I believe his wife Gemma was also running the event to gain a qualifying tie for the Western States Ultra! Fair play. I believe she achieved her goal.We eventually got to the bottom of Reigate Hill. The 7 odd miles between Box Hill and Reigate Hill are probably, in my eyes, the hardest part of the 50 mile course. Rhythm is broken up so much along this stretch and with two big climbs it really eats into your time. Well it did mine. Reigate Hill is a tease. Unlike Box Hill which is steps, Reigate Hill is more a steep road, teasing you into trying and running it. FAIL. Back to walking and wondering where my sherpa with the oxygen bottle was. Reaching the top i again bumped into a runner who was supporting his friend running the race. I didn't get his name, and i apologise for that. I met hi at the finish of last years NDW50 which he completed. I had seen him a few times during the day, always offering a drink or checking we were good. At the top of Reigate Hill, he gave Martin and I some Jelly Babies. Perfect to help us get through the next mile to the 32 mile aid station.

With yet another enjoyable plod along the ridge offering more great views we made the 32 mile aid station. My friend Fi McNelis was waiting here for us, and her other running friends. Fi had rang me while i was climbing Reigate Hill (which i used as an excuse to get a breather in) to find out where i was. Martin and I got some food on and didn't hang around to long here. Mainly because once you get Fi talking, its hard to stop her! Only kidding Fi. Fi is a very jolly ultra runner and will amuse you no end if you ever have the pleasure to meet her. Ask her about the bike pump on the SDW100!!

Leaving Reigate Hill behind it isn't long till you get a nice downhill section through a golf course and then along a cricket pitch. Being a nice day, there was a game on. Not sure who was winning, but i would have put money on the team in white! The next part of the course crosses the M25. Up until this point you have been south of it. This bridge crossing indicates that you are now north of it and within its circle. The finishing line is getting closer. Its not long after this you also cross the M23. 

Back at Reigate Hill, i took a good amount of food on board, as i knew the next aid station was fluid only. The course along this stretch after the motorway crossings is very tranquil with fields to cross and church yards to go through. After what seemed like ages, we came out of the woods and up ahead was an oasis. The 39 mile aid station. But it was different. It had food!! Very good food i hear too. Being a bit of a slower and closer to the back, i missed the ice creams and chocolate coated strawberries. I didn't mind, as i wasn't aware of them at this point. I was pleased to see food and drink. The apple crumble cake was awesome and i joked that i could quit just here and enjoy the evening. But i had a demon to put to rest. It wasn't long after this aid station last year where it went wrong for me.

Leaving that aid station behind and having another runner, Alan, join us, we headed off. We had been informed that the Bull wasn't in the field and headed east. It was here that my sock decision came back to haunt me. I was aware i had a blister building under the front of my left foot. I tried to manage it by curling my toes up to ease the pressure. I thought it was working. But then I got a horrible sensation. Initially i thought the blister had popped. But no, it had spread under the skin. Great, because running the NDW50 wasn't hard enough!! 

After a while in some woods again we eventually started to head downhill and were running parallel with the M25 just west of the Clacket Lane Services. Last year, as Michael and I made our way around the quarry, I just stopped. I felt very sick but wasn't. The tank was empty. This year I ran around that quarry like a gazelle. A grazing Gazelle rather than one being chased by a Lion. But none the less a Gazelle. We then came to the field with the Bull. A nice sign up "Beware Bull". I think Alan was concerned, as if there had been a Bull he may have had out walk it. Thankfully there wasn't!

We made it incident and Bull free to the bottom of Botley Hill and the last big climb of the course. Martin started to tell me about his training run along this stretch. A magical Peacock. Apparently, during his run down the hill, he saw something he believed was a Peacock. So certain it was, he slowed not to scare it and got his camera out. Eventually getting closer, he confirmed it was actually a plastic bag stuck in the twigs! This helped put a smile on my face, and we continued up the hill quoting Monty Python. Some how we made it to the top. Monty  Python helped and i would highly recommend it the next time you have trouble while running.

This was a fantastic milestone. Last year it ended here for me, but there was no way i was done. We had got here in 10 hours and still had 3.30 to go. Easy. We set off. Unfortunately we let Alan slip behind. I guess he was struggling and needed to continue at his own pace. I hope Monty Python helped him up the hill. Maybe that's why he slipped behind?

About a mile down the road the second blister on my left foot spread. This one on the heel. Right foot was fine? This slowed the pace to walking. And awkward walking at that. I tried to push on as hard as I could, but the pain was tough at times. Martin was fantastic at this point. He stayed with me. We were having fun. We came up to a field with cows in, but opted to take the slightly longer flatter route, the road to the side of the field. I was glad we did too. The cows were hanging around the exit gate like some gang wanting to jump us for our iPhones. Michael tells me he did go through the field and there was also calf's in there. Wise choice by Martin and myself. 

We were soon in the field behind the finish area at Knockholt Pound. We could see the finish inflatable and here the tannoy. That are the last orders call at the pub. We eventually made it to the road into the village, and i said to Martin "I've got to finish this running". We were off, Gazelle like again (grazing). Running up through the village and the last of the days sunlight drifting in the horizon from where we had come, it was a great sense of pride and achievement to cross that finish line. I was so pleased to see James Elson again and felt honoured to receive my medal and finishers Tshirt from him. I have helped at several Centurion Running events, but this was the first I had competed in. It was awesome. 12.59 hours!!

I cant thank James, the Centurion Running team, and especially the volunteers enough. The enthusiasm to put on not just a good race, but a great race was fantastic from every single person on course. The number of people wanting to run Centurion Running events speaks for it self. If you only ever run one ultra, run a Centurion Running one!

I was also pleased to see Michael arrive at the finish hall while i was cramming sausage into my face. He had finished sweeping and had helped a few back markers also arrive before cutoff. One of them being Alan who had fallen behind after the last aid station. I was pleased he had made it!!

My main thanks has to go to Martin. What a star and true gentleman. Martin had bags of energy and probably could have been in the pub long before I finished. We did even joke about getting a drink in before his wife picked us up. It was also his first Ultra. Martin wanted to run 40 miles before he was 40. I think he made it! We had great fun and he was a great support for me. I was so pleased to see him waiting at Box Hill. 

So thank you MartinBushell. Same again on the TP100?

Another hill?!
 Medal and finishers T shirt
 Martin and myself enjoying Paulas Spread
 Martin and I just after the first Aid Station
 Running up St Marthas! (Got away with it Martin)
 Martin and I as Ultra runners

London Marathon. Two in 8 days is tough!

London, my first world major. This race was about running London and enjoying the experience. After running Brighton Marathon the weekend before, I wasn’t expecting any great time. The day was perfect weather wise. Black ribbon was tied to my vest in memory of those killed or injured at the Boston marathon.  I made the journey upto London with friends Maureen "MO" Virtue, Joshua Brockwell, Ross Glancy and Laura Brockwell. Only Mo, Josh and Myself we were running. Laura and Ross were supporting Josh on his first marathon. I was amazed to see so many VLM runners at Farnborough Main Station at 6.30 on a sunday morning! Getting the train into Waterloo was uneventful. Most of the 45 minute journey was spent giving Josh final tips. Once at Waterloo, the throng of marathon runners was unreal! All heading in the same direction, the platform that we would find our train to Blackheath. The train was rammed, so it was a relief to get off it at Blackheath and the short walk upto the common. Here we had to say goodbye and good luck to Josh, as he was starting in a different wave to Mo and I. We made our way in to  the Blue Wave assembly and start area. Now on the lookout for fellow Run for Funners. The pre arranged meet point was under the blue air balloon. Carl Rushton had text me on the way to the common, informing me of his exact location - infront of the lorries with baggage numbers 5601-6150! After a quick photo with Mo and myself, we went and found Carl. It wasnt to long until we were joined by Coralie "The Goddess" Masters-Hill, Emma "Marathongirl" Stanfield, Hannah Prentice and Karen. Lots of chit chat and nervousness soaked up a good 40 minutes until all the ladies needed the Loo. Oh and Carl did too. Again it was time for goodbyes and good lucks as we made our waves into our pens. A 30 second silence was amazingly observed, and a timely reminder of our togetherness in the running community. I was expecting it to take a long time to cross the start line, but 8 minutes later I was off. The thing that struck me straight away was the supporters. From the start line it was 3-4 people deep! Cheering as if we were in the final mile! With the crowds cheering the first few miles went by happily waving. Eventually we joined up with the red wave and headed to the first real iconic London marathon image, the Cutty Sark. Holding back the tears, realizing what I was actually doing, I became conscious that my legs really were tired. I was in for a long day! I persevered and it wasn’t long till iconic image number two, Tower Bridge. It has a slight uphill in it, but the buzz of the crowd and running Tower Bridge I hardly noticed. It was not far after this that I realized two marathons in 8 days is tough! Heading into the Docklands, I had one thing on my mind; I need to see my running buddy at the 25km marker. I needed a familiar face! It wasn’t long till I saw it. That gave me the push I needed to get to the 30km marker, where another familiar face was waiting. Fortunately at 18 miles an unexpected familiar face was shouting at me! A brief stop and an offer of beer, sadly declined at this point, I continued on. The 30km marker eventually loomed, surrounded by the large buildings of the Docklands. A friend said it can be quiet here, it wasn’t!! Pushing on, I felt like I was on the final straight, but one more familiar face which I really needed to see was my wife’s! Just before mile 22 it arrived!! Hug time!! My mother and brother were also their and had come up into the big smoke to cheer me on. I feel really blessed that they had come to support me. Its a long day for the runners, but we have a strong focus. It must be a really hard day for the supporters too!! With me feeling sorry for myself, my wife gave me some encouraging words and I headed off. The crowds were really growing now, shouting and encouraging us all!! It was almost impossible not to smile. The only muscle in my body that wasn’t hurting! Big Ben (St Stephens Tower) soon loomed, symbolizing the start of the finish. I suddenly felt a little refreshed and lifted my pace a little. This wasn’t exactly quick. Forever the tourist I decided to do a little filming heading towards Buckingham Palace and the Mall. I then tactically maneuvered myself into a position for a great finishing photo and crossed the line in a personal worst of 5hours 26. But hey, id just ran one of the world’s most iconic marathons!!
After crossing the line, I had one final mission to complete, receive my medal from friend and fellow RFF Lisa Harold. I knew she would be on the right side of the finishing area, so headed that way. I soon found myself in a line, but it was the wrong one. Quickly diving out and into the correct one!! It seems silly now, but it was important to me then, it still is actually. Thats what make these events even more special. Medal and hugs received, time for my finishers photo with medal. After that was done I walked western style to reclaim my baggage. On my way there i bumped into Sian Lewis-Evans, or more she bumped into me. Sian was the young lady I met sweeping the Thames Path 100 only a few weeks back. Isnt it wonderful, that amongst 35,000 runners, you can still bump into familiar faces. After a little chat and well dones I headed to the pre arranged meet point - a tree with R on it. Here it was time for more hugs. Meeting up with Chris Murray, Mo, Joanne, AJ, and Martine. I felt shattered and was already dreading the train home!!
Finishing at the Mall meant only a short walk back to Waterloo station. Well, short when you havent ran a marathon!! This would mean we needed to cross the race route again. I was amazed that there were still runners out there, and i did my bit, now as a supporter and cheered them on! Once at Waterloo I decided I had done enough to have a Burger King and made probably one of my quickest manouvres of the day. Straight at it!!
Eventually home, Mo and I discussed the days events awaiting the arrival of Paula Patterson. Paula soon arrived, champers in hand!! A great day was finished off with bubbles and a chin wag, but I was spent. Two marathons in 8 days is tough! What made me think I could do it? Nothing, but I could only try. And i succeeded!
 Celebrating with Paula and Mo
 With Mo, Chris, Joanne and AJ.
Medal and T shirt
 At the VLM Expo with Hannah and Mo
 Michael Sartorius. He failed this time, but had just ran Boston.
 At the start with Coralie, Carl, Hannah, Emma, Mo and Karen
 At the Cutty Sark
With my medal

Brighton Marathon, cool going on toasty!!

Brighton marathon was my first marathon for 2013. Arriving at Sussex University nice and early on the Sunday morning for the park and ride, I jumped onto the bus to the start. A dry and overcast morning so I opted for long sleeve compression top and charity vest. I hung around the start area like a groupie waiting to see if I could spot any fellow friends running. It wasnt long until I found Brian Watson who was running his first marathon in aid of the CATS Foundation. Surely after I found Dave Coombes who was also running his first marathon.The start was pretty uneventful accept for seeing the Elites come past from their separate start area. We immediately made a loop round Preston Park, before heading into the city centre. The crowds were great here and a nice early push before heading up the hill towards Rottingdean. This is the point I realized my long sleeve compression top was a bad choice!! Just before mile 10 I binned the top off and continued in my vest back into the city centre. Just before half way out the front of the Thistle hotel, I saw the front running Elites heading to the finish! Wow they were motoring. This is when I found the course a little dull and boring with two out and back stretches on the similar routes. Although the course was rammed full of partying supporters which made it more enjoyable. After 20 miles the sun was really at its height, and I was glad not only to have removed my top, but also that I had brought along my running cap. Which I swiftly put on. The last few miles along the seafront were tough and the Pier just didn’t seem to be getting closer. Eventually it did get closer and shortly after finished in a steady 4hrs 41. An ok course which can be a bit uninspiring but the crowd makes up for it!