Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Round the Lakes 10k - Boxing Day

We decided to break with tradition this year and drive to Poole Park for the Round the Lakes 10k instead of our usual pilgrimage to the Stoke Stampede. Actually we were lured by the course description of “fast and flat” and omitted to notice the mention of laps.

The first challenge was a Round the Park search for toilets which weren’t locked – there weren’t any so we did the first km of the race in reverse to Race HQ at the cricket pavilion, then a km back to the car to change and then another km back to the start. At least we were well warmed up, I’m just glad that we arrived with plenty of time to spare.

This 10k is, as billed, completely flat. However the course is 4 laps of a large salt water lake on a narrow and in some places “slippy” path, with a detour across grass, through trees and puddles, passing by the temporary “reindeer” stables. By the end of the first lap I was almost wishing I’d worn off road shoes.

With over 350 finishers it was inevitable that there would be lapping – I overtook the back marker at the end of my second lap. It was OK to begin with, passing the odd straggler, but by lap 4 I had caught all the recreational joggers running three abreast and chatting with no thought for the people behind who were actually trying to race. It became a game of Russian roulette – do you take the easy way round, between them and the lake and risk ending up in the lake, or jump up onto the grass?

Martin and I were both hoping for a good time and under the circumstances we were both quite pleased. Martin finished in an excellent 28th place in a time of 38.39. I spent the whole race chasing down Pete Jakeman but he got away from me on the last lap and I finished in 41.45 - a post broken hip PB, although only having done about 3 road 10ks since I broke my hip that isn’t too much of an achievement. I subsequently found out that I was first V45 – prize in the post.

On the whole we have decided that we will be returning to Stoke St Gregory next year!!!

And on that note, congratulations to Lesley who completed the Stoke Stampede in yet another personal best time and also to Richard who despite feeling less than well managed to finish the course without needing resuscitation or a stretcher and slightly ahead of Lesley.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Wellington Monument

Sunday 20th December saw the Westgates at Hemyock for the 25th Wellington Monument race. Lesley had trained hard for this race with an extra incentive having just had a birthday and entered the next age bracket. Saturday night was particularly cold and about midnight I was roused from a warm bed by the sound of running water. Thinking the water supply pipe for the garden tap had burst I struggled outside with a torch. To my surprise everything was wet, the sound of running water was the downpipe from the roof; it had been raining. How can it rain when it was so cold? The sky was clear and I hoped it wouldn’t be an ice-rink in the morning. It was an ice-rink in the morning! Lovely and sunny but icy. We parked up in the parish hall car-park and I fell over getting out of the car! Although most of the race route was OK, the finish up to the school was no good. The pavement and road were a sheet of ice and the race director had no option but to cancel the race, a brave decision, correctly taken.

A large number of runners went on the organised at your own pace off-road run up to the monument. Lesley and I decided to do the original course starting and finishing at the 6 mile marker avoiding the worst of the ice. It was a perfect winter’s day for a fast training run, which Lesley treated like a race. On one narrow corner going up the hill a car came down too fast and skidded into a fence. For everyone’s safety the race director was right. On higher ground towards the monument the rain had fallen as a light dusting of snow and we exchanged greetings with about 30 other runners who had decided to get their money’s worth and run the course. For the record Lesley completed the 6 miles in 50:20. Over all not a bad day, and we still got a mince pie and an anniversary hat.

Monday, December 07, 2009

East Devon Way Recce Legs 1 - 6

(Sorry Richard and Lesley for bumping your Full Monty Blog off the top, your fault for posting it so promptly! Click here to see it )

The drive to Exmouth

We were only 2 minutes late picking Phil up on Saturday morning and that really wasn’t our fault (hat, horse, tractor, long story, don’t ask). I unselfishly allowed Phil to take the front seat so that he could get the full thrill experience whilst I sat safely in the back – further from any impact with large, fast moving metal objects. Having said that we arrived in Exmouth unscathed apart from Martin becoming cross at Phil and I for chatting instead of map-reading – I found myself ejected from my comfort zone and driving Martin’s Ka with the manic clutch whilst he barked orders at me from the back seat. Bit of a problem with the car park/toilet/finding the correct place to start but as this is already threatening to become a very long story I’ll cut that short.

Leg One Exmouth to Lympstone Common (4.6m)
Off we set just after 11am with the estuary on our left, the railway on the right and the large font instructions clutched firmly in my hot little hand. What could go wrong? Well it would have been nice to make it as far as half a mile without catching my toe in a stone and falling flat on my face. Phil gallantly waited until he was sure that I hadn’t a) broken something or b) burst into tears before he started laughing. Fortunately I have a high pain threshold – it’s no problem for me to limp 10 miles with blood gushing from my knee – Martin intercepted us shortly afterwards so I insisted that he get a photo of my injury before it got covered in mud.

The rest of the run passed uneventfully – the instructions are very clear and the East Devon Way, unlike the Wessex Ridgeway, is clearly signposted. We lost count of the times that a little red Ka and our personal photographer popped up en route but lots of unflattering photographs of me puffing along in pursuit of Phil will NOT be appearing on this blog.

Leg Two Lympstone Common to Higher Hawkerland (5.8m)
I was glad to send Phil off with Martin so that I could slump into the car with sweat pouring off me. Attempts to read the instructions to the next handover were thwarted by my glasses steaming up every time they came within about 3 feet of me. However despite the fact that I had no idea where I was or where I was going, the instructions were clear and I arrived at the next car park with plenty of time. In fact by the time Martin and Phil arrived I had gone from sweating to shivering.

Martin said: One reason we took so long, apart from it being the longest leg, is that we somehow went off course after 10 yards, and wandered around in the woods for a couple of minutes before retracing our steps and finding the correct path out of the car park! I can’t blame Phil for doubting my navigation at the bottom of a steep hill a bit later when there seemed a more likely path off to the left, luckily in this case I got it right, and mutiny was narrowly avoided.

Leg Three Higher Hawkerland to Harpford (2.9m)
Phil and I crossed the dangerous A3052 which no runners are allowed to set foot on during the race, but which apparently is quite safe to cross during recce runs.......and set off on a nice downhill section through the woods. At the bottom there was a stream with a cunningly concealed bridge, which we wasted valuable time using to get across although Phil was quite clear that on the day I should not waste time trying to keep my feet dry. Some more well way marked footpaths, a small section of road, a very steep but fortunately short climb and we could see Harpford Church ahead – just a few sodden fields and the swollen River Otter between us and our destination. I was extremely grateful that Martin had not only arrived but picked up supplies en route – we had grossly underestimated the time and I’m not used to skipping lunch (not to mention elevenses). Given the unsociably early start breakfast was a dim and distant memory.

Leg Four Harpford – White Cross (2.9m)
What a nightmare!! Trying to stuff food back, read the map and stay in control of Martin’s mad car I got hopelessly lost. The instructions were useless!! I turned right too soon and didn’t get suspicious that I was on the wrong road until grass started appearing in the middle and then it turned into a stony farm track. Had to reverse back about half a mile, set off again, turned left when I should have gone straight at a cross roads and eventually got onto the right route – a single track lane along which I met three cars and had to reverse back for two of them. On one occasion into a muddy gateway that I had severe doubts I’d ever get out of again. Finally got to White Cross about 3 seconds before Martin and Phil – luckily most of their route had been uphill or they would have arrived there long before me.

Leg Five White Cross to Hatway Hill (3.4m)
This was familiar territory for me as apart from the last short section the East Devon Way is also the route of the Four Trigs. Phil and I zoomed happily downhill for the first 1.7 miles until we reached the road crossing in Sidbury. Unfortunately Martin had got a bit confused and thought this was where the next hand over point was and so had assured Phil that this leg was all downhill. He was therefore slightly underprepared for the horrendous climb ahead of him. We gave up any pretence at running half way up the first field – by the time we got halfway up the really steep part through the woods Phil had even given up trying to talk (I only put that in as an indication of how bad the hill really was). At the top we turned off the Four Trigs route and enjoyed the last half mile stretch gently downhill to see Martin jogging out to meet us. Phil, having already covered over 19 miles decided to take the easy option and hitch a ride in the car. I dithered for about 2 seconds, nearly offered to run the last leg with Martin but then callously sent him off on his own.

Leg Six Hatway Hill, part way to Middle Knapp Farm and back again (should have been 3.2m...)
For the happy ending to our story I hand over to Martin who no doubt will enjoy regaling you with stories of my years to come when people are introduced to us there will be a side comment “Don’t mention the keys!!!!”...........................................

Martin Said: About 2 miles into the final leg, I was nearing the bottom of a long hill which I had just run down with the wind behind and was thinking “I’m glad I am running down and not up that”, I received a call from a slightly hysterical wife claiming to have lost her copy of my car key. “But I explicitly checked that you had it before I started this leg!” I replied, incredulously. “You’ll find it”, I assured her. “No I won’t, we’ve looked everywhere, and you’ll have to come back”. So, I did, into a stiff wind, expecting all the time to receive another call saying the key had been found. But on arriving back at the car and opening the boot it became clear that Lin had found about the only place in a Ford Ka where it is possible to lose a key so completely – on top of the rear light so that when the boot was closed it would be in a little pocket between the light and the hatchback. It was just bad luck that the Ka lacks an interior boot opening and cannot be unlocked except with a key. I’m sure it could happen to anybody, so I won’t mention it again - until I do something equally boneheaded unfortunate.

Anything you want to add, Phil?

Full monty-cute

Sunday 6th December saw the Westgates at Ham Hill for the 11th Full Monty-cute trail race. After missing Bicton through injury this was a real treat. Just over 10 miles of multi-terrain including ten hills and some lovely mud after the recent bad weather. Nice to see Dave Webb at the race HQ, back in the car park we found him parked immediately in front of us. Hopefully I prayed he wouldn’t be in front of me at the finish. Weather was breezy, bright and warm for December. Going was heavy and ambitiously I set off too near the front at a silly pace. I saw five potential rivals who have beaten me before and decided to just go for it. Before long Dave went past but I sort of slid back past him on a very muddy downhill slope. By mile 3 I was gasping for a drink, how long to the next water station. I was dripping sweat and eventually was able to tip two cups of water over my head and drink one. Pressing on a marshal counted me off in 24th position, impossibly hopeful!

At a road crossing were familiar faces – Lin and Martin cheering us on. Saw the six-mile marker and knew it was going to hurt from now on. A Wells City runner chatted for a while; he was expecting his partner to go past at any moment and sure enough she caught up and passed, looking fresh as a daisy. (Not surprisingly she was first lady). At the top of another hill were the enthusiastic Lascelles. “No walking aloud” I heard as I plodded upwards – I was walking quietly. Brief wave, short pause at the drink station, then sharp right and I caught a glimpse of Dave only seconds behind, damn…

Managed to put a bit of distance between us down a downhill rutted slurry track, but didn’t feel too good. By about mile nine he had caught up and gone past, but on another grassy hill I caught him again and tried to convince myself that he didn’t look good at all. Didn’t work and he pushed ahead. Coming to the finish I just accepted I wasn’t going to catch him and he finished about twenty seconds ahead. However just before the finish there was a tempting puddle and I jumped two-footed into it, “well done” a marshal called out “you’re the only one who has done the course properly!”

Time was irrelevant, 27th was good enough for me, and a spot prize as well. Walking back to the car with Dave he let it slip that he was hoping that I would have a bit of stomach trouble, to make sure that he stayed ahead!

Some words from Lesley:

From Richard’s account you’d think only a couple of Maiden Newton Runners were there, but in fact there were quite a few of us. Andy Staples spent the last few minutes before the start frantically trying to find Charlie and Olivia to give them their numbers. However that was the last I saw of them as we were off. Lovely start, going past the monument with the sun shining, and even saw three deer crossing the path right in front of me, but all too soon we had reached “that” hill. Was pleased to find a rope – climbing practice and running at the same time! But some of those ahead were still making slow progress, so I struck off into the undergrowth and pulled myself up using any handholds available. Hated the steep down hill muddy bits and loads of people went past me on them, but the downhill grassy slopes were another matter, and I was flying past other runners by avoiding the path and running in the long grass and nettles. Pleasantly surprised to see Lin and Martin at the top of another grassy hill, but told them what I thought when they asked if I was doing Exeter 3K the following day!!!

By now my legs were dead and a lot of plodding followed, especially up hill 9 through the woods. Tried to run up hill 10 but “falling forward slowly” would be a more accurate description. The sight of parked cars and the encouragement of a fellow runner helped me through the last half mile, although I repaid him by overtaking shortly before the finish. No jumping in puddles for me, my lace had come undone again and I was glad to reach the line without falling over. I did have a speck of mud on my vest from a slight fall, but my trusty water bottle was in a sorry state after getting dunked in some particularly vile mud.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Boscombe 5k

Our recent obsession for driving extremely long distance to run extremely short races continued on Friday evening when we went to Boscombe to compete in the second of their winter series of 5k events.

A white knuckle ride through the outskirts of Bournemouth (anyone who has been a passenger with Martin will know what I mean), a frantic search for first a parking space, then the race HQ and finally a loo meant that the stress levels were suitably high as we approached the start with time for only a minimal warm-up.

This is a very well supported event with about 300 runners and the route is out and back along the sea front. Before I did this race I thought the start at Street 5k was a bit of a zoo, now I realise that Street is a gentle and happy place to start a 5k! Imagine the scene, 300 runners set off at 5k pace on a narrow stretch of concrete beside the beach – my race was nearly over before it even started as someone hooked their foot round my ankle. Fortunately there were so many runners in close proximity there just wasn’t space to fall over.

On the way out the wind was behind us and after the first mad dash the field spread out and it was possible to settle into a good pace – until the first stretch of sand was reached. There were several places where large quantities of sand had blown onto the path and it felt like running through treacle. I had no idea of my pace, there were no km markers and it was too dark and too dangerous to check the GPS, you needed to be looking strictly where you were going at all times.

All of a sudden there was a shout up ahead of “runners on the right” and the leaders were charging back towards us – just at the point where the path narrowed! It was a relief to reach the turn around point where a marshal was calling out times (9.47) and turn back, but now the surge of runners on their outward journey meant that there was no choice but to run through the sand until finally the path widened again and only a few stragglers were still running against the flow.

I tried to draft as much as I could back into the wind but it was hard to find anyone running at the right pace and to my surprise I overtook quite a lot of people on the return leg. At last the lights of the pier came into sight and I crossed the line in 20.26, which I was pleased with given the conditions and which was good enough for 1st V45. Martin had run 18.51 to finish in an excellent 35th place out of 319 entrants, although he was annoyed to miss out on first V50 by a mere 12 seconds. From a comparison of results most people appeared to be around 30 seconds slower this month.

My first words were – “this is the most horrible race I’ve ever done and I’m never doing it again”. How is it then that after some excellent post race refreshments we were working out that actually we could do the December race as well……………………?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Sunday 25th November saw the Westgates down in the scenic Devon countryside for the Drogo 10. For a demanding off-road 10 miler this must be one of the best. Late on Saturday we realised our names weren’t on the website entrants list and a conversation with the organisers confirmed they had not received our entry. The postal service just isn’t what it used to be with belligerent post-persons striking willy-nilly! We sorted out an entry on the day in advance, so slept easy.

After some truly foul, wet, windy weather, Sunday dawned bright and still and warm. We arrived an hour and a half early, truly relaxed although the red car was looking a bit mud-splattered. A record entry with, in my estimation, £2000 going to the National Trust. Following last year’s change the start and finish were outside the castle giving a fantastic race a splendid backdrop.

With the first couple of miles being downhill and narrow I decided to set off at full tilt to avoid any bottlenecks. The pace hurt and people fell on the tricky surface. Mile markers were clear and marshals and tape plentiful. A very demanding hill at around 4 miles reduced most runners to at least some walking. There were many good downhill stretches to get back on the gas. The section between miles 7 and 8 along the River Teign was very scenic but, by God, I was suffering and found it difficult to maintain any pace and it just went on and on. (a bit like Richard’s blogs – LW). Sharon Daw went past me at this stage and there was no way I could keep in contact. The final tortuous climb – Hunters Path – really hurt the legs; sweat was pouring off my head and face like a mini waterfall. Having summited there was an undulating path before another kick in the guts – a flight of steps. Onwards and upwards and soon the castle was in sight. A good crowd of vociferous spectators lifted spirits for a final sprint. I felt so happy, (it doesn’t take much – LW), and couldn’t stop smiling. I had pushed and enjoyed, and also beaten runners who had beaten me recently. It was in fact a personal worst but who cares we are all getting older. (so how come I got a PB – LW).

On a final note – it was extremely muddy and wet underfoot. At home Lesley neatly folded her running vest – not a drop of sweat or mud and put it away for the next race. I only know she’s human after watching her reverse the car into a narrow drive in the dark and wet.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Brighton Revisited - Park Run 5k

As we set off for West Sussex on Friday evening in a howling gale, I think either one of us would have readily agreed not to go if only the other had been the one to suggest it. However we sensibly ignored the severe weather warnings and drove through the floods to spend a largely sleepless night being buffeted about in the van, wondering whether it was going to stay the right way up.

After the fiasco last time when we overslept we set four alarms but actually need not have worried because Phil very kindly woke us up at 7.30am – when the text message he had sent us the previous evening finally arrived!!

The number of runners in attendance did not seem to have been affected by the daunting weather forecast and it did actually stay dry, if extremely gusty for the duration of the race. My plan was to tuck in behind two other ladies who were just in front of me on the start line, but at they started at a very conservative pace I soon found myself ahead of them. In fact I was only 20 metres or so behind Martin for the first km. I couldn’t work out if he was having a terrible run or if I had taken off way too fast - until I went through the 1km mark in 3.49 and knew for sure it was the latter.

The first half loop completed I set off up the hill on the second lap and found myself being overtaken by one of my female rivals. However once past me she didn’t pull away so I cunningly tucked in behind her and drafted all the way down the far side of the course which was into the strong wind. I was planning to try and stay with her and go for outsprinting her at the finish, however, heading up the hill on the final lap, and with full wind assistance, I managed to get in front of her again and rounding the last corner with half a km to go there was no way I was giving up the lead.

I sprinted for the line expecting my fan club to be cheering me on in this exciting finish, only to discover that he had lost interest and wandered off somewhere. Despite this uncharacteristic lack of support I managed to retain my lead and cross the line a mere two seconds ahead of the competition, in a time of 20.23, which given the conditions, I was well pleased with - and my first victory at a Park run.

Martin was disappointed with both his time of 19.14 and his fifth place – there’s no pleasing some people! Fortunately a delicious breakfast at the excellent park cafe soon restored him to his usual good humour.

Sunday saw us out for a 9 mile jaunt from Lovington up onto the South Downs Way in clear sunny weather through lovely countryside. The running in this part of the country is excellent and it makes for a great weekend away.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Cheddar Half

Sat. 7th Nov saw Richard at Cheddar for the Ninth Cheddar Half, while Lesley took herself up the gorge to mingle with wild goats. Also present and good to see were Mike and Di. Once again very lucky with the weather, a bit breezy with just one brief shower. Ever popular the “Nippy Ninth” was sold out and there were many familiar faces. My target was 95 mins, requiring an even pace of 7mins 15 secs per mile. My first 2 miles clocked 13mins 55secs slightly ahead of schedule so I slowed a bit and by the halfway mark was running comfortably and during the 2nd half went past 8 runners with only 1 going past me.

At mile 10 I was 73mins slightly down on schedule leaving me 22 mins to do the last 3.1 miles. This meant upping the pace to about 7mins 6secs per mile which given the downhill last section and a tale breeze was certainly worth going for. Entering the wet playing field to the finish I had to push a bit but got in a few secs under 95 mins. Very happy.

Sorry to Mike and Di but we had to rush off to do a ton of shopping. Some interesting results with two 60 year olds doing battle - Pete Jakeman and Lewis Jones. Lewis came out on top with a sub 90 PB. Jenny Moore produced a scintillating 82 something time.

Exeter 3K Series

Monday 2nd Nov saw the Westgates at Exeter Arena home of the mighty SWRR and Exeter Harriers for the 2nd round of the current 3K winter series. A great and very welcome surprise was the appearance of Lin and Martin. Obviously the 3K distance must hold a special attraction to warrant another long drive; maybe they were trying to work out why their 3K splits in a 5K are faster than their 3K track races.

Anyway the evening was surprisingly dry with little breeze and a large turnout. There were six seeded groups with the slowest off first. Lesley was in the 2nd group and soon eased herself into 3rd place. Someone remarked that she had a very fast but efficient turnover but not quite fast enough to prevent her being pushed back to 4th near the finish. However her 13-20 was another PB.

Lin and I were in the 4th group and I settled down to a sluggish rhythm trying to avoid clipping the heels of a tall bloke who in turn was running extremely close on the heels of Lin who in turn was close to a youngster whose pace changed. I wasn’t running particularly comfortably but managed to keep going and seem to remember running close to Lin for the last 2 laps. Rather than have any possibility of being accused of draughting I moved out and tried to run alongside. On the final straight I managed to ease past her and finished just 3 seconds off my 12-00 min. target.

Martin was in the 5th group and he produced an outstanding last lap with a spectacular final 100 metres.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Taunton 3K

Tuesday 28th October saw the Westgates at the inaugural 3K race on the Castle School floodlit track in Taunton. The event was put on by Ironbridge Runner following their success with the 3K series in Exeter. Racing conditions were good, warm for the time of year with not too much breeze. With a youngster’s one-mile race, followed by three seeded groups the evening went smoothly. Unfortunately some of the runners didn’t go quite so smoothly; still lacking match-fitness I recorded a personal worst at 12:09 but was reasonably happy and at least I didn’t finish last in my group. Lesley recorded 13.33 (PB) and neither did she finish last in her group, in fact she finished second. Also present were the three running members of the Lascelles clan................

Lin said:

Martin, Alex and I made the very long trip for a very short race, about 2 and a quarter hours of driving for a combined time of about 35 minutes of running.  Alex went in the first race and finished 3rd in about the expected time.  I was stitched up and found myself in group A as most of the people in group B lied about their expected finish times.  Both Martin and I based our times on recent 5k times and actually ran slower 3ks than we normally run through the 3k mark of a 5k.  This resulted in me finishing in a humiliating last place, just in case anyone is in any doubt as to who Richard is having a dig at!  Martin recorded 10.44 and I crossed the line in 11.50 although Taunton AC have kindly changed this to 12.23 in the results just to make me feel even worse about the evening.
I know maths isn't my strong point but I'm still trying to work out how 12.09 is more of a PW than the 12.24 Richard ran in the 3rd round of the Exeter series..... perhaps the same people were recording the times that night...........................

Friday, October 23, 2009

Parrett Trail 2009

Saturday the 17th October saw 12 MNR scattering all over Somerset, all planing to end up back over the border into Dorset by mid afternoon having completed their leg of this great event. As with the last 4 years the weather was fine and dry (once it got light for those going to the start of leg one).

I have waited all week for the reports on the various legs as you will see below there are still a few missing. But if I don't get something out before are Web masters get back from Holiday they will think we can't cope with out them.

Dan & Mike volunteered for the first leg (did I say volunteered) any way feeling guilty we had not managed to reece this leg I first took them to where they should end up and then took them on to the start. but we have to put aside all the unkind comments about their directional skills as they both made it to the finish in good time (with a little bit of help from the lamp) please see comments below.

Mike and I had a great run (Stage 1) - greatly aided by a mysterious genie that magically appeared just before sections that were difficult to navigate and ran along side us (to the bemusement of other teams) before vanishing off to pick up / drop off other runners. Much better than Sat-nav! Mike saved me from crashing into a bench whilst trying to simultaneously map-read and run - needn't have bothered, as you appeared out of nowhere to guide us past the tricky bit anyway. Best bit of the run...sprinting past the guy in front just a foot before the finish line - I proffered my hand to him after the race, but he didn't shake it...he was probably as pissed off as Jackie and Amanda when it happened to them! Have they stopped whinging yet? Lessons learnt:Always sprint at the end just in case someone's sneaky.I can't multitask, so should not even try to read a map whilst running.

Leg 2 was the turn of Di & Eric (a veteran of this leg who did not need to recce it!!!!)

Hi folks,after spectacularly ballsing up the Parrett trail relay, just had to work out where my navigation skills got up and "left the building". So with the help of Google Maps, I have attached a pic showing where we went (in pink) compared to where we didn't (in green)!!

(Well, nearly!)
But before we start let me provide a little background info:
This was my first official race since my foray into permanent contraception.
The training had gone really well - my last 10k run prior to the relay was 1hr 05secs - yay!
I thought I had a pretty good memory!!!

Race day started with a big bowl of porridge and a can of Red Bull. A great start. That eased the slight panic of not having my race number yet. I wondered into Maiden Newton for 7.30am to be picked up by Di who was also panicking as she had left my mobile number at home and wasn’t sure what I looked like!! I quickly nipped into the newsagents only to purchase a box of safety pins - to further alleviate my panic at not having my race number. Safety pins in hand, I see Di and we are off in a much much more laid-back and casual fashion than I was when Dan & I had our own separate pre-race race to our respective start lines!!!

With plenty time to spare, there was no-one at the start line. Had we gone to the wrong place. It looked right from what I remembered. (A phrase that was sure to haunt me later on in the day!) I started to stretch clutching my safety pins in the hope of Phil turning up with my race number. A car pulled up - an old bloke got out with a clipboard - a marshal! I asking him about not having a race number and he said it was alright, just make sure I see him at the finish line. (Yeah, I know, in retrospect, that was the worst thing he could have said!) Then Phil turned up with race number in hand - I felt like a proper runner now!!!

And off we went to the start line. I spotted Flora from Yeovil runners and said to Di to keep her in view as she knows the way. As I said that, in my heart I knew I should have trained more. Then we were finally off, down the canal curving its way out of Bridgewater. The weather was bright with a slight breeze and the legs and lungs felt good. In the car Di had reassured me that she wasn’t that fast anymore. Once we had settled into a good pace, I did wonder if was being hustled by Di and that she was cruising while I was on the edge of my limit. However, Di was an excellent running companion and once I had warmed up, the ability to chat while running came back to me!! Everything looked good, Flora was still in view and everything looked just as I had remembered it. We crossed over the canal at the right point straight into the lens of a photographer crouched at the end of the bridge. Both of us overshot the path - too busy trying to look good for the camera!

At this point all was well. The pace was excellent, the weather was perfect and Flora was just in view. Everything looked just as I remembered it! But after the next mile, there was no Flora or any runner of any kind. Even the dog walkers and other members of the public began to take on an ominous air. Two old men walking side by side didn’t budge off the path when we approached them; a dog walker with a couple of brutes for dogs didn’t care that his hounds were worrying us runners! AND everything was not as I had remembered it. The path looked fine but the scenery looked different. As a runner I do rend to zone out and not notice much, so on and off there would be parts that I didn’t remember quickly followed by parts that I did! Maybe my iPod could have helped me: which song was the left turn from the canal to the river????

The canal went on and on and on and on. Di kept asking me if this was right - I kept saying ‘I think so!’ Then we came to a lock which I just did not recognise!! We turned off the canal into totally unknown territory. We approached a small village - I could sense horses champing and snorting in derision; I could feel the tumbleweed rolling passed behind us. If I had gun in holster I would have reached for it because we had entered Bandit Land.

However, the locals were extremely helpful and kind of pointed us in the right direction - well, that’s not strictly true as after pursuing this new course we bumped into another pair of runners who were just as staggered as we were when we discovered that we were all running Leg 2!!!! I’m just going to revert to text-speak here: OMG WTF!!!!!!!! (Google that if you are still unsure!)

We backtracked slightly and Di said it was 1 hr 30 - we knew we would have made a good time had we stayed on the right path!! Gutted! After further directions from a kind local, we ended up on the main road to Barrow bridge - 3 miles out!!! My heart sank. But not for long! Going by our pace and the time, I felt that we had perhaps broken the 10 mile barrier - which for me was a major breakthrough!! (Subsequent research reckons 11 miles!) A kind Yeovil runner picked us up in his people carrier and off we went to the finish line where we met up with Mike and Dan.

Di was a superb running partner, great company, and an inspiration to run with. She even tried to shoulder the blame for going wrong on the canal! I hope she’ll run Leg 2 with me again next year!

The moral of the story: never trust your memory - recce the run!!!!!

The journey home seemed just as surreal but this involved Mike’s SatNav, but that’s another story….


Legs 3 & 4 are over to The Webb family:-

Parrett Trail – Leg 3

Leg 3 is a curious leg, in that if you ran directly from the start to the finish it would only total about 3 miles. The organisers contrived to make it 8.6 miles by inserting a long diversion to take in the Somerset Willows and Wetlands Centre. These topographical features encouraged Dave C to take an inventive approach to parking the car, in an unmarked car park halfway between the start and finish, meaning a 2-mile jog down to the start at Burrow Mump. Waiting in the Mump car park, Dave embarked on a rather ambitious campaign to psyche out the Crewkerne speedster, Clive Harwood. After a few well-placed jibes about how quick we were and how much the course suited Dave, it was clear that Clive was completely unperturbed and Dave had to nip behind the hedge to relieve his nerves.

The way Legs 2 and 3 work is that the runners on Leg 2 finish (unless they are Eric and Di) by running down the Mump into the car park, while the Leg 3 runners start by running straight back up. As we lined up to start, the winner of Leg 2 appeared and hurtled down the hill towards us, earning a warm round of applause. He was followed by a blue-vested runner looking decidedly unwell, clutching a hand to his mouth and desperately trying to avoid vomiting all over us Leg 3 runners.

The words ‘Burrow’ and ‘Mump’ both mean ‘hill’ and that’s what we ran up and down. Thereafter the route is mainly flat, and includes a nice stretch along the river Tone, passing a small stone monument marking the spot where King Alfred burnt the cakes. Back in the winter of 878 the Parrett Trail had not been marked out; instead the area was mainly marshland, and provided Alfred with a good hiding place to spend the winter before emerging to defeat the Danes in the spring. No doubt he had tried unsettling them first with some crafty comments about how fast he was and how much the terrain suited him.

On our recce run we had found the route blocked by a field of maize surrounded by nettles. Luckily the maize had been cut by race day, so we missed out on a sweetcorn snack but were able to get across the field unstung. At that point we lost sight of the runners in front, including speedy Clive, and thereafter we found ourselves unable to see the runners in front or behind. Occasionally I wondered if the lack of other runners was because we were lost, but Dave was confident we were on the right track, and eventually we turned on to the path alongside the river. Dave finished more strongly than me, and even managed an impressive sprint for the finish, while I was happy to cross the line and collect my goody bag.

Parrett Trail – report from leg 4

Having checked out our route beforehand (I’m not getting at you Eric!) one of my main concerns was the bovine situation. As those of you who have been on club runs with me will know, there is nothing like a field of frisky Friesians to quicken the pace of this runner. When we’d been abandoned at the start of our leg for the dry run, within a minute we saw a huge bull in the first field, which had us scurrying off the set route and ready to jump in the river if necessary. The bull stayed where it was, but later situations with cows on the path had me being unnecessarily affectionate with Amanda.

Running conditions on the day could not have been much better; dry and sunny, but not as hot as last year. This leg is pretty much flat, but has hundreds of gates and metal bars to hop over. We started out at a good, steady pace and were able to maintain it all the way, which in retrospect, I’m very pleased with, but find that I still have trouble managing my nerves, so my legs felt wobbly for the first three miles and the last one. Poor Amanda tried her best to keep me positive, but there was another runner breathing down our necks for about five miles, which added to my inner turmoil. As it was her tactics paid off and she sprinted past us right at the finish. Of course I saluted her in a good sportsman like way, using two fingers, which I hope hasn’t brought the club into disrepute.

A quick picnic en famille before we headed up to Wynyard’s Gap to watch Phil and Richard finish their leg. Unfortunately I missed them crossing the finish as I was in the loo with Alfie. Jackie England was on hand as ever for the photo call. Over all we were a bit quicker than last year, largely thanks to Di and Eric’s tactic of running a half marathon and getting picked up in a minibus and it felt like a really good team event.

Leg 5 Charlie S and Andy

Unfortunately we all know what Charlie's IT skills are like so we have no report other than they completed it well under the cut off time and a lot quicker than when they had me with them the week before.

Leg six (the glory leg)

Having run leg 1 for the last 3 years (yes and got it wrong two of the three times). I was quite concerned about messing up on this, especially as Richard who had drawn the short straw to run with me had not had time to recce the route.
I did get a guided run of the leg by Lin & Martin two weeks earlier (only because it finishes at the Pub) but on past experience that was no guarantee we would find our way on the day.
After a quick warning about crossing the A30 and the railway line we were off, the front runners were soon off out of sight and we found ourselves running with Mr Yeovil RRC (Martin Chaffey). But Richard's pace soon became too much for Martin or did he drop back just to get away from my talking.
To my surprises I had remembered quite a lot of the route, it has to be said the signage is good on this leg. Slight concern approaching North Perrett trying to decide which one of the three bridges to take, but the sight of the short sharp hill in front confirmed we had picked the right one. On to the village and the first sight of our support team, outside the pub with out a drink (see what happens when Lin & Martin go away). Short road section followed by some fields full of Sh** from the four legged animals Jackie W loves so much and then over the railway line, to the second sighting of our support crew. This time accompanied by Sue & Fred from YTRRC who were manning a much appreciated drink station.
Richard had been counting off the miles or K for most of the run up until this point, but had now gone quiet. Being I can never stop talking, I asked if he was OK and was told he was concentrating as he was now past the distance of his longest run. Was that a polite way of telling me to shut up? Either way I decide this was not the time to point out the first glimpse of the Winyards Gap pub way up on the top of the hill a head.

Not wanting to distract Richard’s concentration, I must have stayed quite for at least half a mile before restarting my explanation of what was left before the finish. Unfortunately that was a short section up a flooded lane followed by the long climb to Winyards Gap. We soon made it to the top (with no walking) and on to the flat 300m road section to the finish. 12 MNR had covered 53 miles (well perhaps a few more) over two counties to complete our fifth Parrett Trail.

For any one that is the slightest bit interested with finished in 6hrs 55mins more than 10mins quicker than last year putting us 19/20 out of 27 teams (if you count the team which did not show up on the day).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Muddle and Stagger

Sunday 11th October saw the Westgates at the Mendip Muddle although only half of us would run as I had to DNS through illness. Driving up through the gorge headlights were de rigueur as low mist obscured the hill tops. As the rain increased I was not too unhappy about not running but, by Christ, it can be deadly frustrating being a runner at an event and not running. With my nose stuck in a book in the warm car I presume Lesley got off to a safe start so over to her:

Yes, off to a safe start, the rain didn’t start straight away, but it was still quite slippery underfoot, and after recovering from NFM my aim was just to get round in one piece. As we increased height we ran into mist and rain, bogs and puddles underfoot, a rapidly disappearing path and I couldn’t see a thing. I let the runner behind me go past hoping to follow a bright vest, and it was the smallest person in skimpy black running gear. Was glad to get that section out of the way, although we encountered something similar on the way back. I had carefully avoided looking at last year’s results so was pleased to find that in spite of my leisurely approach I has actually finished a minute quicker. And still in good shape, so all I needed was a few training miles and I would be fit for the Stagger the following week. Back to Richard:

Sunday 18th October saw the Westgates at Minehead for one of our favourite events the Exmoor Stagger. At the last moment Lesley had to switch to the Stumble as a precautionary measure having fallen over in the garage on Saturday. Once again the weather played a major role, it was perfect. Even on the exposed Beacon, the highest point on Exmoor, I felt comfortably warm. Previous years have seen torrential rain and howling gales. Coming back from injury and illness I really didn’t know what to expect. Near the start I spotted Eleanor Wood, a very good runner, but someone that on my day I should be able to beat – at the Seaview she left me for dead. Anyway I used her as a sort of pacemaker/target, and then slowly went past her after about 26 minutes. Running conditions really were perfect and this year I managed to run, albeit slowly, all the way up the climbing section to the top of Dunkery Beacon, and had plenty of energy to “enjoy” the downhills on the second half. As usual the climb after Wootton Courtenay was particularly energy sapping but I soon got going at the top. Didn’t look behind in case others were chasing me down, just ran my own race. Started to become very tired on the last mile and 5 or 6 men passed me. Felt good crossing the finish in 2:32:47, one of my better times, and the aforementioned Eleanor Wood came in a matter of seconds behind! I must say Minehead put on some of the best refreshments on the race circuit and I soon tucked into a large slab of walnut cake – no sickness today!!!! Over to Lesley again:

I was not a happy bunny!! Saturday morning, feeling fit and well I walked into the garage, bucket of washing in hand and promptly fell over a piece of wood, landing heavily on my right hand and right knee. It was quite painful and I took some time and effort just getting back on my feet, and there was plenty of abuse about the state of the floor. Luckily nothing appeared to be broken. Spent the rest of the day with my arm in a sling unable to do the simplest of jobs until I decided a hot bath might help, which it did. So Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny, the first time for years there have been good conditions for the Stagger. I couldn’t bear to do nothing so decided a slow trot round the Stumble might make me feel better. Well, runners do seem to have a competitive edge, and I thought I’m not likely to fall on the nice tarmac first half mile, so decided I might as well try and get going. Rest of the race went well, although was cautious on the downhill rocky bits. Coming up to the last section I heard footsteps behind me and that competitive bit kicked in again. As soon as I got to the tarmac I started to leg it to the finish, and the person behind stopped trying to overtake. Finished in 1:06 (some 4 minutes faster than in 2005) and was pleased to find they were giving prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd in all categories, so got a 2nd place trophy to add to the windowsill.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

27th New Forest Marathon

Sunday 27th September saw the Westgates at New Milton for the 27th New Forest Marathon. To set the scene, I had come out of “marathon retirement” after my humiliating defeat by Lesley at the Cornish last year when she left me for dead. Her plan was a sub 4 hour PB. Neither of us had done a huge amount of training for this race. Nine minute mile pace would get her about 4 minutes under four hours, my target was just to beat her, and my plan was also nine minute miles with three or four slightly faster ones thrown in to establish a buffer.

We stayed in B&B one mile from the start and were in plenty of time and very relaxed. Contrast this with half-marathoners panicking to park up and get to their earlier start with the large car park full. (Their race was in fact delayed by 15 minutes but latecomers weren’t to know that as they rushed around). The day was wall-to-wall blue sky; barely any breeze and it did turn out fairly hot in the sun. Fortunately there were loads of water stations and buckets of water in which to plunge your individual sponge. Well done the organisers, marshals and helpers.

With chip times it was a leisurely trot across the start line. My nine minute mile plan might from one point of view have been optimistic as my longest training run two weeks earlier failed to maintain this pace leaving me walk/running from mile 13 to 18. But for some reason everything felt good at the New Forest and I did the first seven miles at eight-minute mile pace! The sun was out, it was pleasantly warm and everyone seemed in good spirits. As the miles ticked over I deliberately slowed my pace to conserve energy but was still well ahead of my nine-minute mile schedule. As a mental exercise I kept multiplying the miles by nine minutes, then by eight minutes and then feeling slightly smug as I worked out how much I was up on the deal.

A thought occurred to me, if I felt good then Lesley was probably feeling equally good and would probably not be as far behind as I had hoped. By mile 20 I was still about 16 minutes up on the deal. In fact I was enjoying this marathon more than any I had done, and was beginning to think I could get to the finish without walking or worse.

Near mile 24, within about 50 yards this euphoria vanished. I felt so uncomfortably sick that I couldn’t even walk! Solution – fingers down the throat to relieve the stomach! I was really despondent now after such an enjoyable 24 miles. Hastily I tried to calculate time and distance. It seemed I had about 35 minutes to do about 2.2 miles with the threat of Lesley tracking me down! I tried to run but felt too queasy; all I could manage was trot/walk. This was so demoralising and loads of runners went past. Not long after the 25-mile mark Alan Littlejohns caught me up as I was walking, after a few words I was spurred on and ran with him for a while. Then I was sick again, then I nearly died when I thought I heard Lesley’s voice, then I caught Alan – he was now walking. Then he started running again, and the last quarter of a mile was hell. By some stubbornness I managed to finish in 3:49:52. And not long after I saw a very tired looking Lesley cross the line in 3:58:17 knocking a fantastic 8 minutes off her previous best. This also won her first FV50 prize.

For the record I was sick again eight times before my shower, seven after the shower and seven at the kerbside before we left New Milton. About one and a half hours later it was as if someone waved a magic wand and was finally able to nibble some food and sip some water. I think I’ll go back into “marathon retirement”.

Lesley’s bit: Yes I had my nine-minute mile schedule, I even had it typed and stuck to my running bottle. Shame it was too small to read on the day! Anyway, I also stated well, and covered the first three miles in about 25 minutes which was much faster than I expected and I tried to slow down. At 6 miles it was 51.50, but then we reached the first of the two off road sections and the pace did drop off a bit, but was still 2:03 hours at 14 miles. After that it started getting a lot harder. Couldn’t work out the calculations for the pace, but had it in my head that I had to reach 20 miles by 3 hours, but did that allow for the point two miles at the end? Couldn’t work it out so kept plodding on, the scenery was lovely, some shady bits with lots of trees and some exposed bits of open country with grass verges to run on, but very few landmarks. So eventually I started counting paces and finally got to the 20 mile mark at just under 3 hours. The next six miles were a bit of a blur, forgot to look at my watch some of the time and failed to do the sums when I did. There was a jelly baby station at 24 miles but I was too tired to cross the road to it!! I think the time here was 3:40. At 25 miles I could have happily laid down at the side of the road, but pushed on by visualising the last mile of a training run back to home. Was so glad to cross the railway bridge as even in my hazy state I remembered it was just before the last turn towards the finish. Could see buildings ahead, and moments later had reached the last turn and there was Richard, on the floor right next to the finish line. I anxiously checked the clock but it was still on 3:58 and some seconds. Although I was really pleased to have made it under 4 hours I was just too tired to enjoy the moment. It took some time to recover enough even for a shower, and to check the results pages where I found, much to my surprise that I had won a trophy. The time also gets me a “good for age” place in the London Marathon, should I ever decide to do another marathon, but at the moment I’m joining Richard in his “marathon retirement”.

Well done to Jenny Moore who was not only first lady but 7th overall in a fantastic time of 2:57:18.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

36th Real, Berlin Marathon

- celebrating 20 years of Running Without Boundaries

The Training started with a 12 week training schedule at the end of June - in a heatwave. I have (un)fond memories of a 13 mile training run in Richmond Park which was supposed to include 5 miles at marathon pace. The only time I achieved anything like marathon pace was when I spotted a water fountain and managed to briefly unstick my parched tongue from the roof of my mouth. It got better (and colder, and wetter) and by the end of the 12 weeks I felt fit enough to start the 12 week programme and do it properly. If only we'd started at the end of April...........................

The Nutrition included trying to get down to "ideal" race weight and therefore meant cutting out all those delightful empty calories consumed at the pub. The ultimate sacrifice came with the last pint of beer enjoyed on 31st August - I really didn't think I could do it but the next one had to wait until 5.45 (German time) on 20th September. Was it worth it? Hell no!

The Preparation went well until I got a sore throat and temperature a fortnight before the race. Good races at the Beast and the September 5k increased my confidence but then I caught another cold a week later. How is that possible?!!

The Trip started badly with a nightmare journey from the airport to the hotel (involving an underground train which suddenly started going backwards returning us to where we had just come from!) and a very late night, followed by only 2 hours of sleep thanks to a group of teenagers running up and down the corridors, screaming and slamming doors until 4am and then getting up and starting their noisy behaviour again at 6am. Unable to leave the hotel from hell due to everywhere else in our price range being fully booked we invested in ear plugs and at least got some sleep the following evening. We spent way too much time on our feet on Friday and Saturday and on Saturday evening joined the rest of Yeovil Town RRC for a meal which was booked for 6.30pm. The food, which was mediocre to say the least, finally arrived at about 8.15pm foiling our plans for a very early night.

The Day started at 5.15pm. Having selected the hotel from hell due to it's proximity to the railway station, the trains weren't running every 10 minutes as normal due to "technical difficulties" which meant we had to catch a train at 6.24 which got us to the start at about 6.40 - giving us well over 2 hours to hang around before the race.

The Start saw the traditional team photo before we went our seperate ways to drop off bags, queue for loos and enter our respective starting pens. Martin and I were together in Pen D. Already it was a very hot, unseasonably hot for the time of year. A prompt start at 9am and it took us just over a minute to cross the line and a very slow start due to the crowds of people who had decided to start much nearer the front than they should have. Tim Hawkins from Yeovil finished in 144th place and a time of 2.37 and said he overtook about 500 people in the first couple of miles!

The Race saw Martin and I jogging the first mile well under target pace but as soon as we got going properly Martin cruised ahead and I began panicking about maintaining my sub 3.15 pace.
By 5km I was well on target despite the slow first mile and felt quite comfortable. However, I was not prepared for the crowds and found it very difficult to maintain even running. There were some bottlenecks where everyone slowed and I was continually having to dodge and weave to try and maintain the pace. The water stops were a complete scrum - drinks on one side only and in cups not bottles. I think I lost 20 - 30 seconds at each one, people were picking up a cup and then stopping to drink causing everyone else to pile in the back of them and underfoot was like a skating rink with discarded cups and water. On the other hand it was far too hot to risk missing any of the stops and each one became an energy sapping exercise in survival. I had studied the course in detail in advance and learnt about all the famous historical sites we would be passing by. I really tried to pay attention but I must be honest - I didn't see any of them. The race became a blur of constantly checking the average pace on my GPS, trying to maintain the pace and trying to stay hydrated in the increasing heat. At 25km I was still just under target pace but an upset stomach meant I had to dive into a portaloo and by the time I re-emerged I was off target and I never regained it. The last 2 miles my pace dropped right off and keeping going became increasingly hard. Turning the corner into Under der Linden Strasse I could see the Brandenburg Gate ahead and I knew the finish was just the other side - it was the only land mark I didn't miss! I crossed the finishing line in 3.16.23 and almost immediately found Martin on the other side, waiting for me under the guise of pretending to be sick so that the officials didn't move him on! I soon learnt that he too had not achieved his goal sub 3 hours and had finished in 3.08.10, also beaten by the crowds and heat.

The Post Mortem found that it wasn't our fault!!! Although we were both disappointed after all the training and preparation (did I mention the no alcohol?!) given the conditions we had to accept that it could have been a lot worse.

The Stats make me feel a lot better. I was 4th Yeovil runner home, 10th in my age group and 122nd lady overall out of 7060. Of our team mates 3 achieved PBs, all finished safely and unscathed and most were happy with the times they did.

The Highlights were the first pint of beer in 20 days, the second pint of beer in 20 days, patting Gebrselassie on the shoulder at the awards ceremony despite the best efforts of his bodyguards to keep the peasants at bay and finally, finally, managing to set off the metal detector at the airport on the way home with the pin in my leg after 4 years of trying!!

Monday, September 07, 2009

The Corfe Beast

Anxious not to repeat last month's near fiasco at Hove, we set three alarm clocks and managed to arrive at Corfe with an hour in which to prepare for our ordeal. This race has a reputation for being tough, with two extremely gruesome climbs. either one would be enough to ensure its reputation. Not to say that the rest of the race is easy. The first climb out of the valley is gruelling enough to reduce many to a walk. including myself, but not Dave Webb who had followed closely over the undulating first 2 miles, and as soon as I started walking was immediately past and away. Somehow I didn't notice him performing this manouvre, and for the rest of the race was expecting him to catch me up. I was finding it a real challenge to maintain a good pace, which I put down to starting a bit too quickly to avoid congestion at the first couple of footbridges and stiles.
The course wended its way south, reaching the coast at about 6 miles, at which point there was a brief opportunity to admire the wonderful view west from the 400 foot cliff before the path plunged about 300 feet at a 40% gradient then immediately recovered its altitude at what appeared to be an even steeper rate. As usual I gained several places with a recklessly fast descent, but gave up most of these on the way up, having to stop at least twice. The whole thing is a bit indistinct in my memory and seemed to last much longer than the 4 minutes that I timed on my watch. I can't remember feeling closer to total exhaustion since the MOB coast, but at least then I had the excuse that it was 28 degrees, I was carrying a 20lb pack, and had already run 20 miles. (my beloved reminds me that at many points during the worst of that experience she was carrying two 20 pound packs, as well as pushing and pulling as necessary to get me to the top). But this has already been reported at great length by the lady herself.
So, finally reaching the summit, the track levelled out and turned inland for a mile, allowing me to recover a few dregs of strength and a semblance of running form. The track then turned back to the coast, and the brutal climb to the top of the cliff looms, then is upon you. This starts with a relatively easy section before it becomes a straightforward grind of 169 (oh yes I counted them, and it didn't help take my mind off the pain) steps. At 100 I turned around and through the monochrome haze of my oxygen starvation I thought I spotted Phil's (or could it be Dave's?) grey (officially silver) shirt. This momentarily spurred me on, but I had to stop at least three more times before I reached the top step and staggered along the still climbing trail to the very peak of the cliff path. There it turned inland for the second and final time and I knew then it was pretty much downhill from there. It would be going too far to say that I could relax and enjoy this part because I was desperately tired but still expected to be reeled in by Dave or Phil, or possibly both. The one person I didn't expect to be right behind me was Lin...
Anyway I pushed on, reaching Corfe common and after a final few testing undulations (testulations?), the finish. Sprinting home to the encouragement of the spectators, some of whom seemed to know me by name, although I couldn't spare the energy to work out who they were, except... that looks like Dave? But how could it be? But it was! Over 5 minutes ahead of me, he had had a great race. He briefly had time to explain where he had got ahead of me before I spotted the familiar figure of our illustrious chairman, chasing a slim figure in a Yeovil shirt who I realised with delight was LIN! I could hardly believe it since she had been suffering from a nasty sore throat and other flu-like symptons and had considered not starting the race. What was even better was to hear that she was first lady. What a result!
Here she is collecting her prizes.
Lin's bit:
In the unlikely event that anyone is still awake.............. the Beast is one of the must-do events in our running calendar. It's a great race, very tough, very scenic. Therefore despite feeling like s**t, I knew I couldn't miss it for the second year in a row. And as you will already have guessed I'm quite glad I didn't. Only a few things to add to Martin's (I'm thinking rambling, he's saying comprehensive) report.
One: great support from Phil on the final few miles - he seemed more concerned that the second lady might overtake me than I was.
Two: having overtaken him on the first set of steps he would not have caught me up so easily later on if I hadn't been sick
Three: If I hadn't been sick I would have had a much closer snap at Martin's heels, maybe it's time for him to start looking over his shoulder again?
Four: Thanks to Jackie for bringing to my attention the bloke in the red lycra shorts which he appeared to be using to store a variety of garden produce.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Hove Park Run Revisited

Better late than never, a brief report on our latest trip to West Sussex for the 9:00 am Saturday morning Hove Park Run.
We drove up on Friday night in our camper van to a secret location 8 miles north of Brighton. Why pay for a camp site when you can park overnight up a quiet lane for free? Settling down for an early night after eating on the way there meant that we didn't even bother to set the alarm clock, which turned out to be a big mistake when, at 8:34 precisely Lin checked her watch on waking, and less than 2 minutes later we were on our way to Hove, in full panic mode.
The last thing you want to do having driven 3 hours to a race is sleep through the start!
Thanks to an unusual absence of hay wagons and horse-boxes, we made it to Hove Park in record time, and even had a couple of minutes to attend to various necessities like warming up, before the race got under way, bang on time.

Unfortunately, my GPS watch didn't have time to lock on, so I was unable to check on my pace any time during the race, which felt a little disconcerting. I probably rely too much on the GPS, but this time, I didn't really need it to tell me that there was no way I would be able to keep up with the front runners. Unlike the previous Hove Park race, there were some seriously fast people there, and it was as much as I could do to maintain 6th place behind a group which steadily pulled away and out of sight, out of mind. After a while, I dropped back into 7th place and tucked in behind a guy who set the pace for the next 4k. I hung on grimly for the 2 laps until I sneakily overtook him just at the line for 6th place. All this time, I had very little idea what pace I was at, and, given the less than ideal start, was pleased to see that I had achieved a new Park Run PB of 18:09.
After handing in my number to the recorder, I jogged back a short way to see Lin finishing in a very good time, and also a Park-run PB (by over 30 seconds) of 19:58.

We jogged around another lap to cool down, and then had a very enjoyable breakfast at the park cafe surrounded by the other runners. Many thanks to the organisers of the Hove Park Run, there is something really special about the event, and we thought it was well worth the 6 hour round trip!
Next day a 17 mile Long training run in the New Forest turned into a 20 mile run , thanks to a bit of a cock up on the navigation front, but its all good experience!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Jurassic Coast 10K

To start in the traditional way – Saturday 22nd August saw a solitary Westgate at the Jurassic coast 10K. But first I had to get there. Since last year when I started driving again, journeys have been just to work in Wellington and back, a total distance of less than ten miles a day, apart from a few longer expeditions with Richard acting as driving instructor. (He obviously missed his calling in life). So it was on to the A and B roads and with a good memory for directions, (no garmins in my car), I arrived safely at Budleigh Salterton at 9.45am. Stretched my legs across the car park to be met by Dave C who had arrived even earlier. However with all this time to spare I managed to remember my number, change into appropriate clothes, do a token amount of warming up and find the start line by 11am.
The race starts by the beach huts on the seafront, heads past the vast car park and on to a trail by the river, which we followed for a short way inland before crossing a bridge and taking the coastal path. It’s the same route as the Exe to Axe but made a bit easier by knowing we didn’t have to do another 13 miles of increasingly hard hills. The path turns inland after two or three miles, still following tracks, some through some woods, before crossing another bridge and heading back down the river. Through another gate and onto the track we came out on and I knew we couldn’t be far from the finish. And just to confirm, there was a sign “300m to go”, then 200m, and 100m. At this point there were footsteps close behind, I could see the finish line, and I hate being overtaken on the line. So taking inspiration from all the athletics I’d been watching, I found some reserve energy and really sprinted those last few yards, preparing to hurl myself across the line if necessary. It paid off as you can see in the results: Dave C also had a good race with an equally close finish, but being some 10 minutes ahead of me I didn’t see it. Hopefully he might add a few words here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Club Handicap 5k 13th August

The intrepid racers

The inaugral Club handicap 5k took place on Thursday evening in place of the usual pre-meeting run and the seven runners who took part all agreed that it should be the first of many.

Phil, having twisted his ankle whilst running round the Madness route the previous Saturday to make sure it was safe for the race, elected to multi task as starter, time keeper, marshal and sweeper.
Mike unfortunately drifted off during the pre race brief and neglected to listen to the route description. No-one really knows where he went or how far he ran (Mike included) but he seemed to enjoy it anyway.
Just getting everyone started posed a bit of a problem as all the start times had been calculated on the basis of a 7.10pm start - due to lingering for late comers this had to be put back. Some people also changed their minds about their proposed finish times causing the order to change and some people missed their exact start times due to our illustrious starter being too busy gossiping and losing track of the time. Some people missed their start due to over enthusiastic warm-ups and being half a mile away in the village when they should have been on the start line.
And so we set off, Di first, followed by the two Charlies, then Mike off on his magical mystery tour, myself, Dave and finally our speedy 5k expert, Martin. Dave passed me within about 50 yards and quickly disappeared from view. After that I didn't see anyone except Phil on his bike and eventually, nervous glances back proved what I had suspected, that Martin was hot on my heels. Despite a bit of a run in with an angry driver as I reached Maiden Newton I managed to keep ahead of Martin and once I turned into Chilfrome Lane and saw the finish line ahead, he was passing me over my dead body!!!

Charlie Spencer was the first "actual" runner home and Martin, despite finishing last, no surprise, recorded the fastest time. The handicapping wasn't too far out and all 7 runners finished within 3 minutes and 42 seconds.

Despite some teething problems with the time keeping!!! everyone agreed that this was a great idea of Phil's and that it should become a regular event during the summer months, hopefully some more of you will be inspired to join us next time out.
Mike attempts to explain where it all went wrong!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Summer Madness

Nicki Philp and husband Richard cross the finish line together....despite what the results say!

After last year's theme of "Monsoon Madness" it was a complete turn around this year with a lovely summer evening for the fifth running of the "quite" New Ten Madness. (Results now available at the following link:

There was a great turn out with 140 oops, make that 141 runners completing the event and a very impressive performance by first runner home, Bertie Powell from Woodford Green in a time of 37.49. Hot on his heels was Nigel Rackham from Metros with John Broom from Holmfirth Harriers finishing in third place. After all this foreign success it was good to see Yeovil Town's Paul Rose cross the line in fourth place to take the first MV40 prize, although he did seem more concerned about the collection of his lardy cake and cucumber.

Dawn Broom, ex local lady, now defected "up north" put in an excellent run to lead the ladies home in 45.14 and right behind her (always chasing the ladies!) Pete Jakeman celebrated his first run as a V60 by being first V60 - good job we had a spare lardy cake since there wasn't an official prize for the category. Sarah Jordan Whittaker was second lady home and Julie Rayfield finished in third place and could also claim the prize for travelling furthest, being a member of Dubai Road Runners!

Once again there was great local support from Yeovil Town, Egdon Heath and Royal Manor of Portland, and following some bullying tactics at the Haselbury Trail race the previous week, it was good to welcome our first ever Langport runners to the event - worth the trip for Matt Hill who finished in an excellent 7th position.

Richard Rider led the Maiden Newten contingent home followed by Mike Ashworth, Charlie Spencer, Andy Staples, Jackie Webb, Olivia Newman-Spencer and Di Ashworth - all looking like they had thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

As usual, the driving force behind the success of the event was Club Chairman, Phil England with support from his long suffering wife Jackie. Thanks must go to everyone who helped make the evening go so well, but without Phil there would be no Madness. So there you are, you know who to blame!

Under Phil's expert organisation everything ran like clock work and he even looked quite happy too!

Our friends from Yeovil Town Running Club made up a large part of the field and they made an impressive sight as they led the charge as the race started at 7pm.

Mike sprints for the finish line and if he looks that happy he obviously didn't try hard enough!

Charlie leads the Maiden Newton ladies home - as usual not a hair out of place - and no mud either!

Di looks pleased to see the finish line.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Brighton & Hove Park Run

Following another week of tough training for the Berlin marathon , Martin and I headed off for West Sussex last weekend for a little fun and relaxation - a 5k race and an 18 mile training run.

This was our second time at the Brighton and Hove Park Run - a 5k time trial held every Saturday throughout the year, brilliantly organised and free to enter. A pre race jog round the park confirmed that my legs were way too tired to be racing but reminding myself that it's all good training I joined Martin on the start line.

The race does two and a half loops of the park with a bit of a hill being run three times so my expectation was that I would not be able to match my last Yeovilton time. Last time here Martin paced me around the race but having seen the previous winning times and in view of his current form this time he was going with the leaders and I was on my own.

For me the race was a huge disappointment and really hard work, making me doubt that the marathon training is doing any good. However it was really exciting, having completed the half lap and plodding up the hill on the first full lap, to see Martin racing along the other side of the 4th place!! As my race went from bad to worse, Martin's race went from great to fantastic! Plodding up the hill on the final loop I once again saw him sprinting along the bottom of the park....and he now appeared to be in 2nd place, although I couldn't be sure as the leaders were lapping the back markers.

I'm ashamed to admit that knowing my time was going to be poor I more or less gave up on the last half km and crossed the line in 6th place in the ladies race with a time that I'd prefer not to mention.

Meanwhile Maiden Newton's super sprinter had indeed finished the race in 2nd place in a time of 18.20 and was now lamenting that he hadn't tried a bit harder and come in first! He was only 6 seconds behind the winner who had a 20 year age advantage and could clearly have been beaten into 2nd place with a little more effort. I am so proud of him, just got to say that again - 2nd place out of 168 runners, fantastic!

The following day saw us out on the South Downs doing an 18 mile hilly training run across some fantastic countryside, and purely by coincidence we saw the start and finish of a 30 mile ultra which we didn't even know existed, the Downland no prizes for guessing what we will be doing on the last weekend of July in 2010!!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Blackdown Beauty

The Blackdown Beauty is a new event, "dreamed" up by Honiton Running Club which has five pubs, a cream tea, 18 miles of scenic off road running, including boggy bits....sound familiar? The only thing missing is the sea.

And they're off

We gathered at the Holman Clavel pub at Culmhead for a very civilised 11.45am start, each clutching our beautifully prepared map and instructions and prepared to search out the elusive white drawing pins which were marking the route. A small but eager group of Axe Valley Runners charged off in the lead through the woodland section which began our adventure. The path was steep, wet and stony, requiring careful navigation. It wasn't long before the leading hares missed a sharp right turn and Martin and I found ourselves in pole position on route to the first pub, the Queens Arms at Pitminster. Scenting the beer, we stepped up our leisurely pace to pretty much race pace in our eagerness to beat the queue of thirsty runners and were greeted by the landlady as we charged over the threshold with "Ah, the first runners are here!". A nice pint of Doom Bar was enjoyed whilst the other runners filtered in.

The first pint - always the best

We knew it wasn't a race but the alcohol hadn't yet blunted our competitive edge so we set off ahead of our fellow drinkers (runners?) with a trio of Dorset Doddlers, heading towards the Merry Harriers at Forches Corner. After a few fields of sociable running, including one encounter with a rather lively bull, Martin and I decided it was time to shake off the company lest they get to the bar before us. As most of the route involved a steady uphill climb, with some steep bits thrown in, it was quite hard work, but we were rewarded by an empty lane behind us. The last part of the route was through some lovely woodland and by the time we reached the top, fortunately, we had worked up quite a thirst. We were relaxing nonchalantly in the beer garden with a rather decent pint of Proper Job by the time the Doddlers and Axe Valley runners caught us up.

The second pint

After a brief interlude I managed to persuade Martin that he could wait until pub number three, the Half Moon at Clayhidon before having another drink and we set off again, this time unaccompanied. This stretch was a bit more complicated involving a very faintly defined path through some rather boggy bits and an interesting climb over a high wall into a field of pigs. At least it had the advantage of being flat and we were able to make good time, despite a rather shocking experience with what turned out to be an electric fence. We thought we may have been overtaken because there was clearly a short cut which could be taken by remaining on the road, but once again we found ourselves first at the bar, and just as we took refuge under the awning in the beer garden with a pint of Yellow Hammer, the skies opened and the first rain of the day came down. We could be forgiven for feeling a bit smug that we were under cover whilst our fellow runners were getting rather wet, but of course we felt no such thing and were more than glad when they began to arrive, even though the Doddlers came from the wrong direction due to some faulty navigation.

The third (and for some, fourth) pint

Martin decided that he needed to sample a pint of the local scrumpy and as the next stop was the cream tea, hence no urgency, we let the Doddlers leave ahead of us. We had a sneaking suspicion that they weren't really drinkers anyway........We finally set off, and on this stretch my intrepid map reader made his first mistake and we missed a left turn and added a half mile or so to what was already the longest leg of the run. By the time we had retraced our steps we were behind the AVR foursome and they were much too fast for us to keep up with. We also encountered an unhappy landowner on this section who was patrolling the footpath which crossed her land verbally attacking innocent runners. I fear I may have wound her up a bit (it's OK I had my Yeovil Town shirt on at this point so can't be accused of bringing MNRC into disrepute) and then left Martin trying to calm her down whilst I went in hot pursuit of AVR. I think she must have had an exhausting afternoon by the time everyone had passed her by.....

Soon we saw the welcome signpost directing us to Pear Tree Cottage at Stapley, and OK, they didn't have any beer but they did serve rather decent cream teas. A debate ensued about whether they were Somerset or Devon cream teas (jam on top) but no one could remember which was which and who cares anyway, either way they were seriously good!

Too much cream can seriously damage your ability to drink beer

We were lagging well behind now, but as with the cream teas, it didn't seem very important any more. For some reason my memory of the fifth leg is rather vague, I do remember a field with an awful lot of pigs in it, which we ran all the way around before we found the correct way out of - which seemed to upset the pigs a bit. In no time at all we were at the York Inn, Churchingford, where Martin managed to effortlessly down a pint of Summer Lightening. I confess to being a lightweight, the cream tea had gone straight to my head and I could only manage a half. I'm seriously ashamed of myself, I will do better next year.

The fourth or fifth pint?

All that remained was On Inn, another lovely stretch which involved Otterhead lakes and a field of extremely lively bullocks who were somewhat mystified by Martin's antics (as was I!) before a short section of road and the welcome sight of the Holman Clavel.

This was a great day out, full marks to Honiton for setting out a lovely route and excellent pubs and also negotiating an excellent meal deal at the final pub - fish and chips for a fiver. The only thing which could have been slightly better was the weather, but the running, the company and the beer were all top class and we will definitely be putting the date in our diary for next year.

Some more photos can be seen at:

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Charmouth Challenge

Well done to everyone at the Charmouth Challenge on Saturday 4th July. Well done to Martin who I believe ran a PB on the course finishing 24th, but with a strong field in his age category he was only 4th MV50. Also well done for finding a free parking space in a side street – the credit crunch must be biting when 80p parking fee is out of reach!! Well done to the Ironman who cycled a prodigious distance to and from the race (perhaps he was also trying to avoid parking charges.) Well done Lin who was a close second in her age group, unfortunately only one prize per category. Well done Lesley who behaved impeccably resisting the temptation to bring the club into disrepute when two walkers wilfully strolled slowly two abreast in front of her on the narrow bridge near the finish. Well done Charlie who managed to change gender and appear as fourth male team member – see provisional results. Well done Andy who looked comfortable as he finished. Well done Dave C who at last had a slightly off day, allowing me a rare victory over him. Finally well done the organisers who were rewarded with a record entry.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Man v Horse

First words from Lesley: “I beat a Horse”!!!! Not just one, not two, but eight of the great hairy beasts, and they all had a complete set of legs! Careful consultation with race officials had me believing the horses would be tucked up in their stables by the time I limped over the line.

Here follows a rather more lengthy account from Richard of our weekend in Wales:

Saturday 13th June saw the Westgates at Llanwrtyd Wells for the 30th Man V Horse Marathon. I’ve been aware of this race for years but have never been tempted – I’m not keen on horses and it sounded a bit gimmicky; also at 22 miles it’s not a marathon. However Lesley seems to have taken control of our running diary and it was with considerable trepidation I found myself entered. Training has not gone too well this year and I had a week off work recently with a chest infection. My last long run was the Exe to Axe in April, where I recorded my first DNF, while Lesley finished fairly comfortably.

So on Friday, after a hectic day at work, and emergency plumbing work at home, we set off for Wales. Unfortunately for us Oasis were playing at the Millennium and the queues for the tolls stretched back for miles. At one point we though we would be too late for the free pasta party. With the M4 behind us things looked up and the scenery improved. However as I entered a roundabout an old fella in a beaten up old red car came flying down the road on my left, straight onto the roundabout, skimming past the front of my car like a meteor. Lesley, who had been looking at pigeons or something, looked up and screamed as the meteor threatened to extinguish two English life forms. She was so shaken she couldn’t speak for about five minutes, not a bad thing really – well done Taff!

Shame we were a bit pushed for time and we had to rush along the really scenic B4519 Upper Chapel to Garth road, through the Sennybridge Training area (military), trying to avoid suicidal sheep. By coincidence this is also the weekend of the Welsh Castles Relay and this road is part of the route with a finish at Drovers Arms and a start at the conservation centre. (Really thought you’d want to know that)!!

Arrived safely at the B&B and walked about 40ft to the hotel/pub for the pasta party. I opted for the vegetable chilli with rice, naan bread and baguette. Unfortunately the chilli was unbelievably spicy and I had to have extra rice to stop it burning my mouth. A bit of Guinness for good measure, an early night and I was ready for racing. Fit or not I had a race plan that would get me round in one piece and keep ahead of Lesley. I planned to run 30 minutes then walk 5 minutes, with a worst-case target time of 4 hours. On the day I stuck to this and had further walking bits when it was too steep, and even flat bits when I felt too tired and it worked as you will find out.

Racing always gets the adrenaline going and entering a race for the first time is even more exiting. Man v Horse is quite special as it is the largest horse race in the country – bigger than the Grand National! There are quite a few runners as well, some of whom opt to compete in a team of three as a relay run.

One of the best things about staying in B&B is the cooked breakfast; so on Saturday morning we were up early and ready to order by 7.30. Bearing in mind the race started at 11am I prudently decided not to eat too much. Having polished off a bowl of fresh fruit and yoghurt I nibbled at a round of toast and marmalade. I cut the cooked breakfast down to sausage, bacon, tomato, mushrooms and baked beans washed down with a pot of black coffee. And just to finish off, another round of toast and fruit juice. It was a shame to miss the egg and fried bread but us runners have to make some sacrifices!

After breakfast we lounged about. The start was 20 feet from our front porch, so we were very relaxed. Lesley went off to see the horses as they paraded through the square to their assembly point, while I wondered why my shorts felt a bit tight.

I know I should have listened to the pre-race briefing especially as there were going to be over 40 horses charging through the countryside sometimes in very close proximity to the runners, call me difficult, but I just wanted to keep moving, warming up and stretching. All too soon we were off; well the front runners were. I decided to start off in very last place. In fact you can see my yellow and black running vest and headband behind everyone on YouTube. It was a good, gentle start on road and I went past Lesley after four minutes. I prayed that this was the last time I would see her before the finish. We were soon climbing and I was sweating badly in the hot sun. Groups of runners became walkers, why the hell do they have to walk three abreast yakking!? A very minor gripe because it soon thinned out and everyone could run comfortably at their own pace.

From now on the exact sequence of events is very mixed and blurred; I try and recall but the memory cells get confused with the Exmoor Stagger, the Quantock Beast, the Haytor Heller, the Mendip Muddle and especially Race the Train. With about 3000ft of climbing it’s quite challenging and you get some unique views as parts of the route go over private land. In fact Man v Horse has just about everything you could wish for except a pebble beach! I do remember that before too long we were up on some lovely open moor which was in fact a bog. I am proud to admit that in over 20 years of racing I have at last lost a shoe in a bog! It was a bit embarrassing as I had just finished one of my 5-minute recovery walks and had gone back past a whole row of runners when my left foot sank very deep in the mud and came out shoe-less!

The feel good factor of this race must have rubbed off on me as I actually found myself talking to other runners! There were even moments to talk to passing horse riders! Now anyone who knows me, knows how I am about as wary of horses as I am of dogs (one of my SWRR colleagues was kicked in the chest by a horse while out on the road and was injured for some time). However at Man v Horse the riders were very professional and the horses seemed at perfect ease with lots of runners about. It was about 40 minutes into the race that the riders and runners converged. I must say it was quite a sight – horses are quite large beasts close up and the sound of their hooves pounding the track was quite memorable. Imagine some of the steep gullies at Haytor and you get some idea of the kind of terrain that these beasts had to scramble up and down. These points were often the most narrow and yet there seemed to be no conflict between horse or runner. Horses passed literally within inches but somehow everything was OK. I must admit it felt good when I went past a few horses – some of which didn’t seem to go very fast downhill.

The relay changeover points, where there were crowds of noisy supporters, also acted as check points where individual runners handed in safety tags. The cheering definitely gave a boost and I was tempted to try and keep up with a “fresh” relay runner. However common sense kicked in and I kept to sensible pace with the five-minute walk recoveries. On one very narrow muddy path I heard horses bearing down on me at speed and with nowhere to go I just had to stop and turn sideways to let them past - they definitely weren’t stopping! Towards the end even the gentle undulations seemed like steep hills and walking and talking became order of the day. I could see I was well within my target of four hours and just wanted to finish in one piece. A few hundred yards from the finish there was the river crossing. I swear the River Irfon was at least 30 ft wide at this point and I thought I’d take it at a canter. Within seconds I was flat on my face underwater. Sitting up I felt a bit foolish and someone called out “I bet you meant to do that”. So I just sat there and started washing some of the mud off my legs! Lesley said the water was quite deep and came up to her shorts, but that’s not saying much. The rocks in the riverbed were covered in slime making it extremely “slippy”. Dave C would have had his health & safety clipboard out suggesting a less hazardous route using the nearby bridge. Having narrowly avoided being washed away in the torrent it was on to the finish paddock where a large, cheering crowd encouraged me to a show-off careering sprint to the line.

Fantastic. A few stretches then in to the tent for the free refreshments. After about half an hour Lesley finished looking fresh as a daisy, but she did have two small muddy spots on her vest! After relaxing in the sun for a while I started to feel very uncomfortable in the gut region and just made it to a toilet as last night’s hot, spicy vegetable chilli exploded – talk about ring burn. Feeling relieved we decided to make our way back to the B&B. However true to form my stomach now started feeling unsettled and I soon had another view of my recently eaten tomato sandwich.

The race went in a big circle finishing at the Victoria Wells Mountain Centre, about a mile outside the town. This centre has motel chalets and a swimming pool set in the countryside. Back at the B&B it was time to wash and rest then out for an early fish, chips, peas and salad pub meal with some more Guinness. To round the day off I thought we would have an early night but Lesley had other ideas. Towards the finish she saw what appeared to be a new handkerchief at the road side – waste not, want not – so we retraced about three miles of the route to retrieve this snot rag. We had a leisurely stroll across the bridge near where I had fallen earlier, and also saw donkeys in the mountain centre.

Well my loyal, patient but probably fast-dwindling band of bloggers I will hasten on and conclude our Man v Horse weekend. Sunday dawned with a shock. I had put on suntan lotion after donning my running vest – big mistake – the fierce sun had burned me through my vest leaving strap marks in reverse. Soon cheered up with a full breakfast and then a short journey back to the scenic road in the military training area. Lesley resumed her role as SWRR groupie following the Welsh Castles Relay. We parked up at the red-kite centre, and by chance met up with some familiar faces from Bitton Road Runners, including Ross who casually mentioned he was off soon to compete in the Austrian Ironman!! Shortly afterwards, oh joy of joy, the mighty SWRR club chairman then honoured me with his fingerprint in my Vaseline jar! He was optimistic mood as our A team were currently leading the vet section after day one. We saw leg 15 start, dashed back to see the finish of leg 14 at the Drovers arms, and then followed the leg 15 runners to Brecon, where we saw some great finishing including Andy Jones who was 5th. We also then saw some finishers at the end of leg 16.

You might think this was enough activity for a couple of old gits like us, but no, Lesley took us to the middle of nowhere, paid an extortionate £4 parking fee (why can’t outgoing motorists pass their tickets to incomers), and went to seek the largest cave mouth in Wales. This led on to a demanding trek with hundreds of steps, cut in steep gorges to see four famous waterfalls. The most impressive had a large curtain of water, with a narrow ledge which allowed you to walk behind the water. Then we went home.

For the record I finished in 3:31:24 and of 397 Riders, Runners and Relay Teams I was 201st. I beat 13 of the 40 Riders and 32 of the 103 Relay Teams. I was 116th out of 255 who ran the whole course.

Lesley finished in 4:00:38, beating 8 Riders and 12 Relay Teams. She was 180th of 255.

PS There’s a big money prize if a runner beats the first horse. Apparently a runner was first over the line but the organisers make a time allowance for the compulsory horse veterinary stop, and this pushed first man back to fourth. It seems this is always how it works but this info wasn’t included in the race pack.

PPS Llanwrtyd Wells is also home of the World Bog-Snorkelling championship and hosts other great events like a tribute festival to Screaming Lord Sutch.