Monday, May 31, 2010

Crewkerne Nine

Crewkerne Nine

Sunday 30th May saw the Westgates at the 30th running of the Crewkerne Nine. A truly splendid, demanding, undulating nine-miler, that unfortunately must lose runners who prefer to do the fastish Wells fun-run 10K, held on the same day. Obviously no contest in our preference.

Preparations for the race went well, huge self-restraint was needed to restrict myself to one glass of yellow raspberry wine on Saturday night followed by nine hours deep sleep. Omens Sunday morning were encouraging as I managed to find one of the rare parking spaces in the high street near the town hall. Weather was improving and becoming almost warm and for some reason, as I helped the blind Chard runner to the urinal, I felt I was going to have a good run.

Sky TV was out looking for a story, this is David Laws territory!! And yet they seemed to find the start of the race sufficiently newsworthy/more interesting. My target was to beat Dave C, who I managed to catch at about 7 miles in 2007. In theory anything over 7 miles should be long enough to catch Dave, but if he gets off to a good start and I get the pace wrong, he wins. My first mile was 6:45 with Dave ahead out of sight. Rod Appleby, another rival who I rarely beat, went bounding past me on a steep downhill. I went through 2 miles at 14:03 having slowed a bit. However I was settling into a steady pace and soon went back past Rod. Drinks stations were frequent and at each I took 2 cups, one to drink and one to tip over myself. Unfortunately during the last mile, the cumulative effect of the weight of water and dodgy elastic meant I had to keep pulling my shorts up.

Mile 4 to 5 went well – 6:30min and I felt good. On the straights I could see Dave ahead, and on the hills I could sense him slowing until there were only 4 runners between us. After mile 7 (49mins) I didn’t look at the watch again, just at Dave ahead and concentrating on getting up the hills faster than him, intending to create an unassailable gap so that he would be unable to catch me with his devastating sprint on the final downhill.

I caught him at about mile 8 and went past; pushing on ahead with everything I had left. It worked and I posted my best Crewkerne time in 5 attempts, knocking a few seconds off my 2003 time. Lesley, as ever had another excellent run knocking over 4 mins off her previous best, and getting Maiden Newton in the prizes with 1stFV55.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Wessex Ridgeway 2010

Legs 1 & 2
by Martin

Got to the start with only 15 minutes to spare, but still an ungodly hour, to join the eager throng of runners from clubs all over at least 4 counties.

After an initial brief hill the first leg was fairly flat and I set off too fast, gradually losing places to a series of faster runners, including Nick Brooke from Yeovil. I was able to follow others most of the way, which was good since I had not recced the route. Near the end of the first leg I took a hard fall on a steep, grassy slope still damp from the early morning dew, and picked up an impressive set of bruises on my arm, but no real damage. All part of the fun! The second leg, though much shorter, was very hilly, and the heat was building, so I was forced to slow down considerably, and let another couple of runners past, including Garry from Axe Valley who was doing alternate legs so I had hoped to stay ahead of him. At the end, spurred on by pride, and the thought that it would soon be over, I managed a brief sprint and got back past the last couple of overtakers.

Legs 3 and 4
by Mike

Leg 3 and 4 got off to a good start. I managed to get to the change over without getting lost! Quite relieved to find Lin parked in a lay-by 100 yards from the start of Leg 3.

As the leading runners appeared the runners gathered at the cross road ready to take the baton. I decided if I was to keep up with these lean-mean-racing snakes surrounding me I will have to abandon the belt carrying gallons of water, lucazade, jelly babies, mobile phone, kitchen sink and run light clutching a bottle of water and the map!

I took the baton from Martin and set off for the first time wearing trifocals firmly attached to my head with an elastic band. Soon to be overtaken by a fellow in a red t-shirt which was good for a few miles to lead the way. It soon became apparent that a kind soul had taken the time to mark the trail with red ribbon – happily I put my mind in neutral and could run without being preoccupied with navigation. The rest of Leg 3 was pretty uneventful. I was overtaken by two runners and over took one so a net loss of one position. Martin and Lin kept checking up on me. I have my suspicions they were worried I would need finding!!
Leg 4 still highlighted by red ribbons started with a long drink. I was quickly passed by a runner. He was the only runner I saw on Leg 4. I remember thinking if I had my walkman with me I should have chosen Desert Island Discs. By this stage I had had enough my legs were hurting never mind run through the pain – well that didn’t work anyway. While my legs were not enjoying the moment my eyes were – I did not need the glasses for map reading it sure helped to enjoy the fabulous view not forgetting to pick up the little red markers. Was I glad to see Martin and Lin now only a few meters from the end of Leg 4. Happily passed the baton to Charlie.

Legs 5 & 6
by Charlie

It was hot just waiting for Mike to arrive. Phil kindly reminded me that Dan and I had the legs in the heat of the midday sun: ‘mad dogs and Englishmen’ sprung to mind. Mike, our resident veteran of the Comrades Marathon and used to African heat, arrived looking like he’d just got out of the shower (no offence!), which boosted morale, not. The first hill was not too bad and half way up I wondered if I’d gone off too fast, in a relative sort of way, but miraculously I kept it up all the way and gained on the distant yellow shirt ahead of one of the Marlborough runners. Down into Minterne Parva and then Up Cerne lots of ramblers looked on as if I was slightly insane, but at this stage all was going well. The second hill up towards the changeover was OK and I was now only a couple of hundred yards behind the runner in front. Looking back there was no-one in sight. The narrow path to the changeover produced a horse coming the other way who looked similarly surprised to see a runner. Unfortunately the rider refused all offers of money so I ran on to see the other teams grouped around the end of the track. When I panted that I was doing two legs they got out the way and the short flat section of road was very welcome.

After that it got a bit harder, as there was no wind or shade, and the track was uneven, meaning much weaving about and concentrating on the track rather than looking at he view to take the mind off it. I think this bit was gently uphill – it certainly felt like it. The runner in front had disappeared - either deciding not to do the loop by the handover, or having conserved her energy better than me, so sadly there was no ‘hare’ to chase. Going down into Sydling I dreamt of jumping in the river to cool down, but decided to put the team first and save precious seconds (it had nothing to do with Martin and Lin waiting there to tell me to hurry up). By now it was hard work and the little track by the church, although in blissful shade, was a walking job (once round the corner, out of sight of Martin). At the top of that little rise the end was in sight and I knew it was only three or four fields up to the A37. Ridiculous thoughts of managing two legs without being overtaken started to enter my head, and right on cue, a Dorset Doddler came up from behind silently. She was obviously only doing one leg because she overtook me with ease. Looking back again, there were a couple of others making gains, but with only one and a half fields to go I got my head down and managed to stay ahead, just, and stumbled across the road and straight into the car where the air con was put on max, and much water drunk.

Legs 7 and 8
by Dan
There was a good atmosphere at the start of the race – other runners were waiting to go too, so our predicted times can’t have been too bad. Charlie’s exhausted head popped up behind the A37 and I was off. It was very hot, but Rachel and the boys were brilliant supporters – I did not need to hide water in the bushes as I had intended, as they kept appearing along the way with bottles of the stuff - a very welcome sight.

Martin appeared at the start of the section through Kingcombe, which I had never recce’d. He tapped along in his twinkle toe shoes chatting as we went (despite already having run his stages) and we overtook a Dorset Doddler, which was satisfying.
A couple of miles after the start of leg 8, another Doddler with fresh legs overtook me. I briefly overtook her a few minutes later, but could not keep the lead for long. Towards the end of the leg, Martin re-appeared, running towards me and reassured me that Lin would overtake the Doddlers on the next stage. I thought that I should give her as good a chance as possible, & ran the last bit so fast that I couldn’t even talk…not something I normally do. Lin took the baton and was off like a rocket.

It was quite a relief to get home and collapse into the paddling pool.

Legs 9 & 10
by Lin

Another great day out at the Wessex Ridgeway relay. I love the team spirit of this event. I'm not so keen on getting up at 5.50am on a Sunday morning to drive Martin to the start. Mike was right - we were a bit worried about his navigational skills. I must confess I even doubted his ability to drive to the start and had my running kit with me in case I had to run legs 3 and 4. Sorry Mike! It was nice having an early morning cup of coffee and chat with you before you started!! Once Charlie was underway we abandoned him to his own devices - knew we could rely on him not to get lost and hurried home for a quick re-group before spending a pleasant ten minutes or so sitting in the Sydling bus stop waiting to cheer him through the village. Dan had his own support crew but relied on Martin to lead him through the unknown bit of Leg 7 and to give him some running support at the end of Leg 8.

And then it was my turn. It felt oh so easy hurtling down the hill into Beaminster overtaking the Dorset Doddlers ladies team en route. Why then was it so hard to run up the hills? First Gerrards Hill, stunning views but absolutely endless, then Lewesdon where the bluebells took my mind off the heat and finally Pilsdon Pen which I made no pretence at running up. Martin, who was definitely the busiest member of the team, kept me supplied with water and opened all the gates for me - great support. I love the sun but I must admit it was a relief to hand over responsibility for the baton to Phil and put my feet up for a while.

The twilight shift - Legs 11 and 12
by Phil

As Lin has already said this is a great team event, which I was really keen to play my part in. That was until I started running and realised just how hot it still was.

Leg 11 starts with a down hill road section before taking to the fields and some climbing. With the redirected Axe Valley Runners having at least a five minute start on me I did not expect to catch anyone and just hoped no one would catch me, if all went well I might finish before 6.00pm?

Having recced both these legs last week I had no issue until catching up unexpectedly with Axe Valley running a road section, who dare I say had got a bit lost. I did the sporting thing and shouted which way to go before starting the long climb up towards Coney’s Castle, closely followed by the yellow vest of Axe Valley. Being reduced to a walk/stagger up through the woods before reaching the open common and the heat, I thought the heat was playing tricks with my eyes when I spotted a second runner in yellow (how had Axe Valley got in front again?) as I caught up I realised it was a Marlborough runner. Two places gain and still on leg11!!! Leg 12 started well again with a down hill section and Martin keeping company, until he decided a lift with Lin was a much better idea. Not sure if it was the ice cream I had an hour before running or the heat, but the engine was starting to give cause for concern and thought we were heading for a Paula Radcliff moment. But I pushed on determined not to lose either of the places I had gained. The running dropped to a walk at the only point on the climb to the A35 where I was apparently in clear view of the support crew. Once safely across the A35 it was mostly downhill to the finish and a much needed comfort stop.

The next hour or two was spent relaxing outside the pub helping Jackie celebrate her birthday while the remainder of the teams made their way to the finish.

Please let it rain next year.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Charlie's London Marathon Experience

After 10 years of watching and being inspired by the London Marathon on Sunday 25th April 2010 at 9.45am I said aloud to myself, "this is it"....I was about to become a real Maiden Newton Runner! 4 hours 33 minutes and 54 seconds later I had achieved one of my life goals!

It was amazing as I didn't even think of who needed a haircut, or going to the toilet or talking to anyone...Yeap...I think I was being Focused!!!

All the great advice, and there was lots of it, helped me every step of the way. My training was fun and challenging and sometimes so muddy that Andy for even carrying me some of the way (don't like dirty shoes). Drink this. eat that, add salt, 1000's of banana's and runniing in those Maiden Newton Hills, massages, cold baths, new shoes, more bananas/ all added to being prepared (not sure about cold bath, but Mike insisted even though I've not read it or heard that from anyone else).

The Race itself was packed with an unbelievable amount of runners and never seemed to ease up! So imagine my amazement when I heard my named being called only to see family and friends cheering me on at the 6th, 12th, 19th & 25th mile point!!! How could they pick me out from all those runners...? They deserve a medal and believe me I ran with lots of pride because of their support.

The finish came all too quickly and when I wandered into the meet and greet area I was overwhelmed by my family (Olivia's hug was almost a wrestling submission hold).

I did say that I wanted to do the London Marathon "Only once"! Then after a few days I started to think, "Hmmm maybe one day"! Now regardless of what I do next I must admit that it was truly worthwhile and YES I would do it all again!!!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Race report by Di Ashworth

My training began on the 2nd January with a 16 mile, 4 pub run which included champagne and chocolates on the hills with a lovely view.

It was a different training experience for me with the snow, ice, rain and very cold temperatures as well as getting to run on the treadmill.

As it always seems when you start training for an event it was months away but before we knew it it was April and we were tapering.

On the Saturday we met our son Neil and Kat in London and went with them to the London Marathon Expo to register and get my number. We were in bed by 9.30 that night. Our accommodation was great until we switched off the lights and found that the light from the surrounding offices managed to sneak through the blinds lighting up the room almost as bright as the Blackpool illuminations!! Shortly after midnight I fetched a towel and put it over my head – much better and slept well until 5.30 am when I had my breakfast and got ready for the big day. Mike came with me to Charing Cross where I caught the DLR to Blackheath. Like Saturday the tubes were packed and we had to stand all the way. They seemed to pack in more and more people/runners. Once out of the station at Blackheath we just followed the crowd through the town and out onto the open field where you could see the colour balloons for the starts. I ate my honey sandwich while I found where my bag had to go. Then to find the loo!! This was another first for me – a ladies urinal!!! We were given a piece of card to use – a new experience! Then found my start position. Dropped my bag – shortly after which it started to spit and then rain a bit harder. This continued until just about our start time. There were people everywhere lying on the ground and putting on Vaseline, their running shoes etc. all just resting, waiting. By now the Ladies race had started. Went to my start zone where I thought it would be a bit warmer amongst the runners. As we started to move forward I put my watch ready to start as we approached the start. I think we crossed the start around 5 minutes after the official start. There was a lot of noise with the anticipation of the day. We started well with a little walk break after a couple of 100 yards. After that we didn’t really stop. The rain stopped and the sun shone. Decided to use the loo at the second mile mark which was good as there was not much of a queue. As I was leaving there saw Princess Beatrice’s caterpillar assembling itself. The first set of humps we came to in the road there were people with signs and shouting ‘hump’ which was a good idea as with all the runners you certainly did not see them. I found it hot very quickly running in the middle of the pack so moved to the side where there was more of a breeze.

There was a big crowd of supporters right from the beginning and relentless noise, wonderful atmosphere.

The buildings of the National Maritime Museum were lovely – then I knew we were near Cutty Sark where Mike and Neil said they would try to get to. Keeping to the sides I ended up on the inside next to the covered up Cutty Sark so did not see them. They said getting back from there was a nightmare as the tubes were so packed.

All was going well, although it was getting quite warm. Ate some of my banana. It was hard to work out where I was in London. Went past a group of Gospel singers singing ‘Oh When the Saints’ which prompted a special thought for my brother. Then there was a group of youngsters chanting ‘you can do it’ words which I was to remember later in the run. Shortly after that crossed a bridge and remembered Jan said she had watched the London Marathon when she was living in London from a bridge but couldn’t remember which bridge!! I think it was after that I went under a bridge which had a banner saying ‘Go Runner bean – Great, green running machine’ Susanne had given me a card with a runner bean on it.

I was excited to turn the corner and find myself running onto Tower Bridge. Managed a quick look at the Thames each way – THEN – another time check mat – someone shouted something which distracted me and next thing I knew I was heading towards the road – my legs said ‘I don’t really want to do this’ and somehow I managed not to land flat on the tarmac – how I will never know. As we turned right off the bridge we could see the men’s race heading back and one wheelchair still going. I crossed the halfway mat at 2hr.20min. It seemed a long way winding our way through the streets with many turns – once or twice thought the corner was going the other way. I had another trip at the next but one mat – again someone shouted – again I managed to save myself – from then on I almost walked over the timing mats as I did not want a 3rd time lucky situation!!
Somewhere along here I spotted Charlie in front of me looking good. It was amazing you did not seem to keep anyone in sight for long as there were always so many runners and you were always changing places at water points or whatever. So all I could remember of Charlie is that she was behind some Red Indians and then she was gone! By now I had stopped crowd spotting to find Mike and Neil and it seems they were always behind me. I was pleased to see we were on the back stretch and other runners including the clean up vehicles were heading in the opposite direction. I was just concentrating on getting to the end. I was half way along Victoria Embankment before I really appreciated where I was. I was keen to find a clock for the time – my watch had given up on me during the 10th mile, so was pleased to see Big Ben. When I saw a picture afterwards of Neil below Big Ben I could tell Mike had already gone past by then. It was good to turn the corner onto Birdcage Walk and head ‘down’ it. There were not quite so many runners together now. It seemed almost torture to see the signs saying 800m to go, then 600m and then 400 and at last the three finishing boxes. I was really pleased to get there. Phoned Mike to tell him I had finished but did not get through. Neil contacted Jan in Australia to find out where I was!! She said I had finished! I had my photo taken, collected my goodie bag and my kit bag which was near the end of the line of trailers. I was very pleased to find the apple in my goodie bad, as did many other runners it seems judging by the pink lady stickers that now littered the ground. I eventually made my way to the Piccadilly changing area which was a partitioned off parking area with nothing in it to sit on or put your things on. Went off to the meeting area where I messaged Neil where I was – it seemed to be ages before we met up. At first we thought we would go and meet the other Zimbabwean runners at a pub in Pall Mall but when we looked at all the people and the time we had before catching our trains home we decided not to. At the tube station it seemed unfair to have to walk down the stairs! At Charing Cross it was so full that they stopped letting people down for a while onto the platforms. Kat and I waited at Liverpool Station for Mike and Neil to collect our bags from our accommodation – a man came up and congratulated me and proceeded to tell me he had run 10 London Marathons in just over 3 hrs. He was really chuffed to talk to someone who had done it today.

When we arrived at Waterloo the train to Yeovil was also very full mainly, it seemed with runners going home – their London Marathon bags, T-shirts and medals were give aways not to mention how stiffly some of them walked getting on and off the train.

We were home by 9pm and then at last could have a nice bath and get ‘human again’ as I say after running a marathon.

My time was 4hr43.22min. I found it tough but am very pleased I had the opportunity to do one more marathon and that was the London one.

Thank you all at Maiden Newton Runners for giving me the opportunity to complete one of the goals in my life and to my family and friends for all their encouragement and support.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

North Dorset Marathan in the words of Dave Webb

North Dorset Villages Marathon 2 May 2010

Standing at the starting line at 8.30 on a blustery Sunday morning there were 2 things making me uncomfortable. One was the sight of two of my fellow runners snogging like teenagers at a bus stop. The other was the creeping feeling that I needed another wee. This year there seemed to be more competitors and fewer toilets. The best thing to do was to start running.

I didn’t have a good experience here last year. I’d had a bad cold for several weeks beforehand, it was too warm, and I ran out of steam far too early. So I was pleased to settle into a comfortable pace, do the first mile in 7.15, not far from my target of 7.20, and tuck in behind a small group to shelter from the wind. I did have a cold again in the week before, but didn’t feel too bad, and had deployed a secret anti-snot weapon, namely peppermint oil. A drop rubbed into the bone behind each ear, and a drop in each nostril seemed to do the trick, though the other runners in the changing room probably thought I needed a drug test.

There were quite a few people on the streets of Stalbridge, where I don’t suppose there is much entertainment, and they gave us plenty of encouragement. As we left the town I was running near someone who seemed to be treating the race as the chance to perform a chemistry experiment. In the first few hundred yards I had stepped over 2 strange bags of orange gunge, which had fallen from a pouch in the back of his shirt. He seemed to have plenty more such bags about his person, as well as a number of bottles of fluid. At the 6 mile drink stop he spent some time gathering containers of water and pouring them into different bottles, which he then secreted in the back of his shorts. A little later he extracted another pouch of the orange gunge, bit the top off and spat it on my feet. I decided to get ahead of him before he got out his Bunsen burner.

I was on my own now, but feeling comfortable. I had thought there would be some familiar faces; when I entered this race, back in the autumn, I was one of 5 club members who signed up. Richard and Lesley dropped out when they realised that it started at 8.30, which apparently is too early for a postman. Then Charlie B got a London place in the ballot, and withdrew, so it was down to Phil and me, until the pull of the Knob festival proved too strong for him, leaving me on my own.

I got to 10 miles in 1.13.07 and realised that I felt better than I had at this stage last year, despite a stretch running into a stiff breeze, and more uphill on the course than I had remembered. The prospect of another 16 miles didn’t seem too bad. I reached halfway in 1.35.37, half a minute down on last year but feeling much better. A quick pitstop in a field gateway to lighten the load and I was off again. The next few miles are fairly flat and I was able to keep the pace up, then had the wind behind me for the stretch along the B-Road to mile 17, which had done me in last year.

As I went through 18 and 19 miles, still feeling good, I realised that I was on course for a good time. I got to 20 miles in 2.25.47, ran up the hills into Child Okeford that had been agony last year, and kept going despite about a mile into a strong wind. The last mile and a half is the cycle track on the disused railway line. I got to 25 miles in 3.03 and knew that if I kept running I would break 3.15. The last mile seemed to go on forever, and my legs suddenly felt like lead, but I was close enough to the end to keep going, albeit much more slowly, though I managed a marginal increase in pace for the last 200 yards. I crossed the line in a personal best of 3.12.55, let out a little roar of delight, and looked for somewhere to sit down.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Non Boston Marathon

Most of you are probably aware by now that our marathon took the form of a 3 day trip across France and Spain by train and car in order to get a flight out of Madrid and since we missed the race by two days we went straight to sunny California to catch up with the rest of our trip.
Whilst staying with friends in San Jose we did a great trail run in the Rancho San Antonia State Park - about 12 miles through beautiful countryside in 80 degrees of sunshine, climbing to a height which gave us fantastic views of Silicon Valley.
However, the highlight of our trip so far is the 17 mile run/hike we did at the Grand Canyon, Arizona - from rim to river and back.  All the official advice states that you should not attempt this in one day but should camp at the bottom and return the next day.  As you all know if Martin is told not to do something then it immdiately becomes irresistible to him.  I was a bit worried - on average 400 people need to be rescued annually and several die, but we were well prepared with plenty of food and water and we started out at 5.30am (Yes Phil, 5.30am!!!), partially to get ahead of the mule trains but mainly to avoid the heat.
We went down the Bright Angel trail which was absolutely stunning and reached the Colorado river after about 8 miles, then crossed and followed the river to Phantom Ranch where we stopped for our picnic breakfast. We then returned up the South Kaibab trail which was slightly less distance.  The total descent (followed by the ascent of course) was almost 5000 feet and coming back up it was HOT!  As soon as you had a drink your mouth was instantly parched again.
In spite of that and all the dire warnings we managed to complete the trek in 5 hours 40 minutes and we didn't really push it.  Two days indeed, what is that about?!
Our sojourn in Arizona was followed by a couple of days in Utah for some spring ski-ing.  Unfortunately an unseasonble storm blew in and THREE feet of snow fell whilst we were in Snowbird meaning that we could not ski at all.  We didn't have the gear, it was way too cold and the top of the mountain was a white out - very dangerous for a novice skier like me.  Fortunately we were able to console ourselves in the rooftop pool and hot tub.  Very weird swimming with snow falling on your head and incredibly difficult breathing at 8000 feet elevation. The hot tub was sheer bliss though.
The next stop was Colorado - Boulder to be precise, running mecca of the world.  What a fantastic place, I want to live there - followed by a scenic drive to Glenwood Springs where I am typing this. We have taken advantage of the fantastic natural hot springs pool (even the width was 33m, I could barely make out the other end of the pool lengthways!) and the "therapy" pool is 104 degrees, a bit hot even for me.  We did a 50 mile mountain bike ride today - snow prevented us completing the route we had planned and even getting to 7000 feet was hard enough.  I hope all this altitude training pays off!
Now that the weather has returned to normal we are hoping to get a day on the ski slopes tomorrow on our way back to Boulder.
Apologies for the length of this mostly non running report...but Phil did say he needed some material for the View from the Back of the Pack!  I was planning to post some pictures but it proved impossible to narrow a selection down from the three million or so that we have taken so far..........
Only a week to go now and we will be back in time for next week's club handicap and meeting!