Sunday, December 29, 2013

Stoke Stampede

This traditional Boxing Day race has been moved to the first Sunday after, which makes sense, I suppose, although it means that we no longer have much excuse for not doing a fast time at what is a reasonably flat course. Situated in the middle of the Somerset Levels you would expect it to be even flatter though, and there are a couple of undulations of about 50 feet, so it is not a super fast course like the Easter Bunny at Yeovilton. But its fast enough, and its also a nice, rural route, with few cars, and only a few puddles this year. Like the last time we ran it, 2 years ago the weather was perfect, managing to catch the middle of a rare patch of nice weather in the middle of a horribly wet and windy spell.
We arrived an hour early, to make sure of a good close-in parking spot, but were nearly frustrated and forced to park over a mile away because coming from the west instead of the east to avoid potential floods, we encountered three separate sets of  marshals directing traffic to an emergency car park miles from the start because the usual parking field was completely waterlogged. Luckily, experienced hands that we are, and without a shred of conscience we bluffed our way past them, first pretending to not be runners, then promising to pick up numbers, and return to the remote parking field, then finally, refusing to stop at the checkpoint, instead shouting "just going to register" out of a partially opened window, and pretending to be deaf  to the cry of "parking is back that way". The reward was to arrive at a half-empty car park, next to the village hall, 20 yards from where we picked up our numbers and more importantly attended to various personal matters involving certain paper products and soap.
We then changed and waited in our car for a relaxing twenty minutes watching the weary hordes trudging in from the car park 2 villages away to collect their numbers, before making a final pre-race pit stop and heading out on a warm-up loop to the start half a mile away. Near the start we met Lesley, and briefly chatted, keeping our distance to avoid the cold she warned us of. Then we completed our warm-up running past the start and along the course past a stream of runners heading to the start. After a while we met our friend Jim and ran back with him to the throng where as always it was a pleasure to chat with him, and before we knew it, it was 11 am and after waiting a minute or two for a few stragglers to arrive there was a very short briefing and then the hooter got us underway.
As usual the initial pace was fast, although it didn't feel hard, but after a couple of K we hit the first, and main hill on the course, and the pain started. I was maintaining target pace, but just beginning to doubt if I could keep it up for long, however after overtaking a couple of runners on the way to the top, I felt better as we started back downhill around the loop to the 3k point, and then past the start again and another couple of kilometres before the next hill and the next test of my resolve and fortitude. This is always the hardest point on the course because it seems like a long uphill slog to the farthest point and 7k mark, this time I hung on fairly well, and reaching the turning off the main road (coincidentally near the distant location where the marshals had been directing people to park) I made a sharp left and commenced a welcome downhill stretch with less than 2 miles to go.

In previous years I have faded badly on this stretch, but this time things went better. First I reeled in a couple of young guys in Taunton shirts, then as I passed them at about 8k I was overtaken by a female runner who turned out to have won the race last year, and who said something which sounded vaguely encouraging like "don't let these youngsters beat you", but could equally have been "don't let this old git beat you". I couldn't actually make out which it was, but chose to take it as encouragement to me anyway, and picked up the pace a notch, pulling away from not only the guys, but the lady, and managed a last mile fast enough to finish just under my target time of 39 minutes.

Lin was not far behind, in a respectable time too. Strangely we had both run an undulating 10k course at a faster pace than a dead flat 5k, 4 days before, which goes to show that on race day, with a bit of competition and motivation, you can go a lot faster.

Both chuffed, we ran back up the course to encourage fellow Maiden Newton Runners John, and then Lesley, with whom we ran back to see her finish just under 50 minutes, a really good effort considering her status as a recovering cold-sufferer.

We waited around half an hour for Lin's honourable mention as 3rd female veteran, but none for me, there being only a single Vet category, so no chance for someone as old (and/or slow) as me! But never mind, I'm always happy to bask in Lin's reflected glory. Anyway, another fun race under our belts, and time to head circuitously out of the village en-route to a celebratory cup of coffee and slab of Christmas cake at Lin's parent's house 10 miles down the motorway.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot Half Marathon

A few weeks ago we discovered that there was a half marathon on Thanksgiving Day just a 10 minute drive from our friend's house in San Jose and since we were going to be spending the day there anyway it seemed too good a chance to we signed up for it.

As with all these things they seem like a good idea at the time....but not when the alarm clock goes off in the middle of the night.  We left the house at 7am and headed for Hellyer Park and the Turkey Trot Half Marathon. Unfortunately the virus I picked up at the weekend had not gone away as hoped, the sore throat had returned overnight on Tuesday and I was feeling pretty wiped out, so I did the sensible thing........and raced anyway. 

It was a lovely sunny morning, just a bit on the cool side that early in the morning, but unimaginably warm compared with a late November morning in England.  First stop was finding the closest free parking (we could then feel smug watching the less savvy locals circling the $6 a day car park desperately seeking a space to park) and then walking over to the number pick up.  We got there just in time to hear the announcement that due to a power cut all the toilets in the park were locked because the flushes apparently need electric to work.......400 plus nervous runners and no toilets, every race organisers worst nightmare! Fortunately our route back to the car to drop off our excess clothing passed through another part of the park where there were a couple of porta loos......which we found ahead of the other 398 people who all appeared to be queuing for them a bit later on.  We may be country bumpkins from Dorset but we were way ahead of the local city dwellers and the race hadn't yet begun!

We were expecting the race start to be delayed due to the toilet dilemma but it was actually very prompt. The half marathon and 10k started together with the 5k getting under way 10 minutes later.  So at 8am sharp we were off on the mile loop of the picturesque lake before heading out on the Coyote Creek Trail for the rest of the course, which was a straightforward out and back. We weren't sure what the standard was going to be as this is only the second year the race has been held but our suspicion that it would not be very high proved correct. 

I had set my watch for 6.50 pace which is slower than my normal half marathon pace but I was being realistic about the sort of shape I'm in after 6 weeks of no regular training, too much food and alcohol and on top of that a virus (I had my excuses firmly in place).  The usual race start adrenalin rush made it feel easy for the first mile but unfortunately that didn't last for long and it soon started to feel like hard work.  After 4 miles I really just wanted to stop and lie down at the side of the trail but since that wasn't an option I gritted my teeth and resigned myself to another hour at least of feeling horrible!  It was made slightly harder by not feeling like a race, after the initial jockeying for places, I could see one person ahead of me on the straight parts of the trail but otherwise I could have been out for a morning run on my own.

At least I knew I was ahead of all the other female competition and the going was fairly easy.  There were a few undulations, the odd dip in the path and bridge crossing but on the whole it was a flat course and I was just about managing to hang on to the target pace.  As I neared the turn around point I started to meet the leaders coming back and started counting to see how Martin was doing.  It was fantastic to see him neck and neck with another runner in joint third place and looking comfortable.  The turn around was just across a foot bridge over the creek and I was 8th overall at that stage.  I had meant to take note of the time to see how far ahead I was of the next female when I passed her on the way back....but naturally I completely forgot!

There were about 3 or 4 women fairly close together and I spent the rest of the race expecting one of them to catch me up.  I pushed really hard to try and stay on the pace and I managed it until the 9 mile mark but after that I gradually dropped off and found myself working harder to run slower. Towards the end I started to pass the back markers in the 10k race, mostly walking, and I knew how they felt!  I had risked a couple of nervous glances over my shoulder and knew that there was one other runner behind me - male - and as I reached the point where the path split and headed back past the lake to the finish he overtook me dropping me down into 9th place.  Martin was waiting here too and said that I was second lady which gave me a bit of a jolt, I knew I was first unless someone had cheated..........but I tried to put it out of my head because I could see the clock ahead and I still had a chance to get across that line under 1.30.  Somehow I managed to find an injection of speed from somewhere and just made it....1.29.59!!  My worst half marathon time since 2009....

Martin had done really well and finished in 3rd place overall and a great time of 1.25.39 which he later realised was a PB for 1 second!  I was a bit worried by him thinking that I was second - he said that another girl with a half marathon number on had passed him whilst he was waiting for me. However, an announcement that the male course record had been broken was followed by another one saying that I had won and broken the course record by 5 all was not lost.  Fortunately they were handing out the winners medals as the runners finished so we didn't have to wait around for a presentation and in all honesty all I wanted to do was go home and lie in a darkened room for several days........

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Long Beach Marathon

After another sleepless night due to our delightfully noisy neighbours the alarm went off at 2.45 am and I have never felt less like running a marathon.  I came so close to blowing it off but I managed to convince myself that I'd start and if it felt really awful I'd just pull out. We were fortunate enough to get free entry since I met their elite criteria so nothing would be lost..... It seemed ridiculous to be eating breakfast at 3 am but with a 6 am race start that's what we had to do.  At least there was no stress involved in getting to the start, we left the apartment at 5.15 am and strolled there in 20 minutes or so.

Once we got to the start and started soaking up the atmosphere I began to think, ok, maybe I can do this. We positioned ourselves ready to get to the front of the field and as soon as the start funnel was opened up we rolled under the barriers and beat the rush - only to hear the bad news that the start would be delayed by 25 minutes due to safety issues. Just what we needed! Finally at 6.25 am we were off. Martin was in charge of pacing, my inclination is always to go off too fast and it was still just dark enough that I couldn't check pace on my GPS. Our target pace was 6.45 and it felt so easy for the first few miles as we crossed the river and headed down towards the Queen Mary. A few girls had gone off fast in front of me and it's a fairly good indication of how negative I was feeling that I didn't immediately give in to the urge to give chase.

As we ran along the scenic area on the shoreline past the Aquarium we reeled in the girl in 3rd place and I was just congratulating myself on moving into the placings when another girl overtook me and opened up quite a lead. We stayed on the pace and started the long section across the beach gradually catching up and passing one other female. Just before the half marathon split we caught the girl who had overtaken us a few miles earlier and exchanged a few pleasantries as we passed her. It took a while to shake her off but now I was in 2nd place, I knew I had no chance of catching the leader but I badly wanted to maintain both position and pace.

The miles ticked off and it became apparent that our GPS' were measuring the course long which meant that we weren't as well on pace as we had thought. We completed the out and back at the Marine Stadium and crossed the half way point in 1.29.33. It was already a given that we weren't going to achieve sub 3 today so I suggested we aim for 3.02 instead and hang onto the pace as long as we could. I could tell that Martin was struggling a bit already by his breathing and tried to encourage him to stay with me, which he gamely managed until after we had passed through the University campus - but then he gradually began to drift backwards.

The lack of long runs in our training was already telling and our pace had dropped off still more. I hate feeling so tired with 6 miles to go but there was nothing I could do except grit my teeth, dig deep and hope that I wouldn't be caught. A couple of times I tried glancing back, I could still see Martin and I was fairly sure there were no females closing in...but I couldn't be positive. I must be honest, the thought of the prize money was really the only thing that kept me going!

It was such a relief to hit East Ocean Boulevard and know that the end was finally within reach. Running past half marathoners gave me a bit of a boost but the tiredness remained and I so badly wanted to stop.  When the 3.05 pacer passed me with 2 miles still to go I really thought I'd blown it but he was finishing a bit fast and I crossed the line in 3.04.56 having maintained my second place.  Martin came in some 90 seconds later for the usual emotional reunion. I always find myself in tears at the end of a marathon!

As we headed away from the finish area we were intercepted by a volunteer who said she was to escort us to the VIP tent! How exciting and flattering was that! In addition to the very handsome finisher's medal and well stocked goody bag we were both given great Long Beach Marathon towels, I received my 2nd place trophy and we had a veritable feast of food and drink at our disposal. Sadly I can never eat straight after a hard run (although I always manage to make up for it later on) so I only managed some fresh fruit and coffee but Martin did his best to take full advantage and had the chefs make him a special vegetarian omelette!

Later we reluctantly left the festivities and headed back to our apartment for a much needed shower and change. On looking at the results, which were already on line, we discovered that Martin had finished 1st V55, so we headed back to pick up his medal and enjoy our courtesy visit to the Aquarium.

All that remained was to chose the venue for our evening celebration and as we really wanted some beer we went to the Beachwood BBQ and Brewery where we enjoyed a sampler selection of their finest beer and some excellent Albacore. What a day and how differently than expected  it turned out.

I love Long Beach, who needs to sleep?!

Saturday, October 05, 2013

View From the Back of the Pack(s)

The latest two articles from Dave Webb:

The annual Maiden NewTen Madness race means it is now a club tradition, on the 2nd Saturday evening in August, for some of us to don hi-viz jackets and spend a couple of hours scattered around the local countryside. Our job is to encourage the runners and point them in the right direction, which can get a bit repetitive. There is a limit to how many ways you can say ‘Well done. Turn left’. Amongst this year’s runners we were pleased to see 2 of our newer recruits, the speedy-sounding Lesley Fox and Felicity Quick. All the competitors are spurred on by the prospect of cakes at the finish, but for the potential prize winners there was the extra incentive of one of Chrissy Ashley’s delicious lardy cakes. I’m sure that the medal winners at last year’s Olympics would have much preferred to receive one of Chrissy’s lardy cakes along with their medal, instead of the usual bunch of flowers. We would like to thank Chrissy and everyone who helped with the race.
In fact the question of race mementoes is important for both runners and race organisers. Runners in the Battle of Sedgemoor 10K at Langport have for years been presented with a bath towel. I last ran the race in 2009, and my co-runner in life’s race, Jackie, advised me that my towel needed refreshing, so I entered again this year. The route seemed to have developed several hills over the last 4 years, defying the usual speed of geological change, so by the finish I had worked up a sweat which called for a dab from the commemorative towel. Imagine my disappointment then to be presented instead with a bottle of water, a banana and a coaster. I consoled myself with the thought that the original protagonists of the Battle of Sedgemoor, in 1685, probably received neither the towel nor the coaster, nor even a lardy cake for their efforts. 
As well as the club’s summer Poundbury 5K series, there is now a ‘Park Run’ in Weymouth each Saturday morning. A total of 14 different members have run 5K races in the last month or so, prompting this month’s running question which asks how best to achieve a fast finish. The usual advice is to include some repeat sprint sessions in your training, and maybe to do a decent run first to get used to running fast when already tired. My co-panellist, Mr Les Knott-Bother, says that pacing yourself is crucial, ie start slow, don’t go too fast in the middle, and don’t speed up too soon. In other words, walk all the way and then fall over the finish line.
I have previously mentioned our forays into multi-sport events, like triathlons, duathlons and speed hairdressing. In August, at the club barbecue, we extended our repertoire by adding welly-wanging, rounders and a curious event in which competitors pick up a cereal box from the ground with their teeth, without their hands touching the floor, and with the height of the box being reduced each round until only the base of the box remains. This event showed that yoga practitioners and young people are the most supple, and that tall men can do themselves a mischief. Frank Poe won the welly-wanging with an impressive 39 metre throw, 1st prize being a big courgette, while Jackie England and her team-mates surprised us by showing that rounders can be a contact sport, more akin to rugby.

Finally, I can report that the fastest hairdresser in the west, Charlie Spencer, was one of 5 club members who tackled ‘The Beast’, a notoriously challenging coastal course from Corfe Castle. Charlie was so chuffed and proud that, by the finish, she was also the most emotional hairdresser in the west, enjoying the feeling of personal achievement within a supportive team.

When people tell us ‘You couldn’t run a race’, it’s hard to know if they’re talking about our running or our organisational skills. On the race-organising front, August 10th sees the 9th edition of the ‘Maiden NewTen Madness’. The route is a mixture of roads and tracks, including some decent mud in Wraxall Lane and along the riverbank. Any visiting townies will know they have been in the countryside, though they may be consoled by the cakes at the finish.
We have also been organising a summer 5K series this year, on a 5-lap circuit in Poundbury. The advantage of a multi-lap course is that it is harder for people to get lost. The disadvantage is that it requires people to count to 5. On our practice event, in May, Charlie Spencer attempted to count the laps of the passing runners, which grows more complicated as the faster runners lap the slower ones. We discovered that, while she may be the fastest hairdresser in the west, she is not the fastest counter in the west, so we decided to make runners responsible for counting their own laps. The races have gone well, though it would be good to see more runners. The last of these races is on 28 August, at 7.30 from the new Poundbury Leisure Centre.
A hazard of summer running can be the overgrown footpaths, and particularly the proliferation of nettles and brambles. Apparently the Romans introduced stinging nettles to Britain, to keep their soldiers warm in these chilly Northern climes. Jackie Webb certainly seemed somewhat heated when she slipped in the mud, pirouetted gracefully through the air, and landed in a nettle patch.
The summer season prompts this month’s running question, which is whether to run while you’re on holiday. When I sought the views of my co-panellist, Mr Les Knott-Bother, I discovered that he himself had gone on his traditional annual holiday, a house swap with his brother, Will, in Dorchester. I can report, though, that Mr Will Knott-Bother does not plan to run anything except a bath while he is in our midst. For my part, I have enjoyed some fantastic runs on the Pembrokeshire coastal path and the Lakeland trails in recent years so I will definitely be packing my running shoes. Some club members have taken it further, and have organised holidays around training camps or overseas races. Visitors to Dorset also seem to be ready to run. During the summer holidays a number of ‘unlicensed’ runners have been spotted in the local lanes.
Some club members prefer not to race, but others have been busy pinning on their race numbers. 5 Maiden Newton Runners competed in the Durberville Dash at Wool, 8 members ran in the Haselbury Trail 10K, and 6 were at the Shaves Cross Mini-Marathon. Given our tradition of getting lost it is remarkable that 6 people succeeded in even finding Shaves Cross, in the depths of the Marshwood Vale. Others of us have managed to get lost closer to home. Dave ‘Wiggo’ Butt got off his bike to join me on a long Sunday morning run which involved us going round and round in circles in the long grass at Kingcombe, while a group of us could be found wandering aimlessly through woods near Chetnole on a Wednesday night run.
We are always looking for new members; someone with a decent sense of direction would be most welcome. We are also looking for a ‘larger’ runner to join us, since we have a spare XL vest that we are seeking to fill. Any local runner, no matter how large or small, or how slow or fast, would be welcome to join our happy band.

Dave Webb 

Sunday, September 08, 2013

View from the Back of the Pack - August

by Dave Webb

For some reason the sunny evenings seem to bring out more runners than the cold dark nights of winter. Our Monday night runs have seen as many as 16 people turn out for a run and a chat. Some runners are more talkative than others, with Dan Cantrell being our foremost chatterbox, although Charlie Spencer is never normally short of a word. Not everyone is so loquacious, so this month’s running question asks whether you should talk while running. For me, the key is not to talk when you are out of breath, which at times can call for stealthy tactics. A well-timed question at the bottom of a hill can keep your co-runner talking while you climb. My co-panellist, Mr Les Knott-Bother, believes that talking requires your full attention, and he doesn’t like talking at a moving target, which is why he prefers not to run.
Our chief talker, Dan, tackled his first marathon on a hot Saturday at Sydling, in late June. As his clubmates we decided to run sections with him for 2 reasons. First, we wanted to give him some support, and second, in the name of science, we wanted to find out how many miles he needs to run before he stops talking. The chatter was fading as he approached halfway, but after a reviving cake stop, he picked up the conversational pace until he fell silent around the 23 mile mark.
Earlier in that race, runners were startled by the unexpected sight of a local farmer sitting naked in an old bath in the middle of a field, enjoying a bottle of beer. Running in the heat is hard work, so a bath and a beer are tempting prospects. It’s probably best, though, not to go naked, unless you are competing in the naturists’ annual ‘Bare If You Dare’ 5K. So far as I know none of my clubmates took part in this year’s race; if they did do so, then they kept it hidden, which would not be in the spirit of the event. Back at the Sydling Marathon, I am told that the farmer stood up to greet the last runner, which had the desired effect of making them run faster.
Some members of Maiden Newton Runners have been branching out into multi-discipline events. Dave ‘Wiggo’ Butt is a demon on the bike, averaging about 25 miles an hour in his weekly 25-mile time trials. Phil England has put us all to shame with his triathlon exploits. As I write this he is tackling his 3rd ‘Ironman’ : a 2.4 mile swim, then 112 miles on the bike, and a 26.2 mile run to finish off. His goal is to break the 12-hour mark, though the hot weather may slow him down.
I have had some questions as to whether the fastest hairdresser in the west is speedier at hairdressing or running. I must stress that she takes her time on the hairdressing, though she has recently tried a new multi-discipline event, ‘hair-running’. Martin Lascelles started running, while Charlie cut Lin’s hair before they both rushed off in their trainers to catch him up. The key for these multi-discipline events is a speedy transition. Charlie had her running kit on so that she only needed to whip off her apron, drop the scissors, and set off. In triathlons there are strict rules about no nudity and no swearing during the transition phases, which is a problem for those of us who find it hard to get out of a wetsuit without exposing ourselves and cursing loudly. I am sure that Phil has no such problems, and I look forward to reporting his Ironman exploits next month.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Oxley Triathlon

Well it’s been a funny old year. Richard seems to have given up running except for occasional jaunts around the orchard and then complaining his hay fever is getting worse. So races have become a bit sparse. However I entered this as an early bird back in February (saves a few pounds) and maintained the cycling/running/swimming training until recently when my right leg was struck down by a mysterious pain. Stopped each of the above activities in turn but it made no difference, and after a month of no training except working on the allotment, was feeling more than the usual apprehension on Sunday morning.

So we had the usual panic about missing/forgotten equipment, and problems were only increased by the leisure centre moving the female changing rooms to the far end of the pool and then not labelling one of the doors. So after a last minute sprint to transition and back and a delay at the start I was ready to start my swim. Can’t say more than it went OK. I was slightly faster than the other two competitors in my lane (which doesn’t say much for them), and as I was in a middle lane had to flounder over the edge to get out. (Think penguins leaping out onto the ice and imagine the opposite). The bike section went well enough, didn’t want to risk the dodgy leg by pushing too hard, and only had one minor gear change problem. I wondered what the horrible noise was as I hurtled downhill with my legs trying to go as fast as Victoria Pendleton on a turbo. Looked down the chain was on 2nd gear and the indicator said 3rd. Sorted that and finished OK – no falling off this year, then off on the run.

Took this very steady as my last run had been in the rec more than a month before and I’d had to give up after 4 laps (1.3 miles). But it all went well enough. Some said the course had been changed but apart from the transition area being moved onto the field near the finish and the re-entry to the field being slightly different, it was all the same. As I came into the field ready to tell the next youngster charging past that I was old enough to be his mother, I looked over my shoulder and it was Dickie Wythe rushing past. I recognised him from Somerset Series races many years ago and by chance his finishing position was one place ahead of me.

I decided to have a shower before I left and headed back to the changing room to be met with a big space where I’d left my clothes & shoes. Panic set in, asked everyone I could see if the missing items had been found. Went back for a second look and found a man had mistaken the female changing room for the men’s. So looked in the unlabelled door and there were my clothes. Panic over. If that all sounds confusing, it’s because it was. But many thanks to the Wessex Wizards lady who helped me.

For the record I finished in 2:03:21 full results are here:
Richard didn’t take any photos but there are some on:
Copyright prevents me from copying them here.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Late summer Madness

In June of every year Phil starts mumbling that he hasn't done anything about the Madness yet and we all avoid eye contact and someone quickly changes the subject.......but somehow by the second Saturday evening of August everything comes together and the Maiden Newten Madness is a resounding success without us having to do's magic!

This year the weather was perfect, the entries were up, we had a new results system which (phew!) actually worked, the cakes were fabulous, the marshals were outstanding.......and 128 runners hopefully enjoyed every inch of their 10k "and a bit" race.  It was great to see lots of familiar faces - support from Yeovil Town RRC and Egdon Heath has been marvelous every year - but also lots of new faces too in the 9th year of the event.

One of the new faces (I may be wrong, but I don't think we've ever had any Bridport Runners do the event previously) was Ben Renshaw - not content with winning the first of our Poundbury 5k series back in June, he proved that it wasn't a fluke and was the comfortable overall winner of the race in 40.01. Obviously now he has to come back next year and run it 2 seconds faster!

Alan Chiverton from Westbourne AC (or Wimborne if you're Phil doing the results without his glasses on) came home in 2nd place with Edward Gibbs from YTRRC taking 3rd place.

The winner of the ladies race was another new face, Jenny Guard from Leeds City who finished in an excellent 13th place overall and was only 27 seconds outside the course record set in 2009. In 2nd place was Lynn Hutchings from Wimborne AC and in third place, taking the FV55 prize was Carol Jones from Ealing Southall and Middlesex AC - who  also came 4th on a previous visit to Dorset in 2009. The other female vet category winners were Rose Harvey (FV35) from Yeovil Town RRC, just taking it easy tonight after winning last year's event and Sandra Hood from Weymouth St Paul's Harriers was first V45.  Weymouth St Paul's also produced the 1st junior female home in 53.39, Holly O'Flannagan.

The male category prizes all went to local clubs - Egdon Heath Harriers took the MV40 prize (Steven Horsler in 42.49) and MV50 (John Cook in 45.06) and Yeovil Town RRC's Nick Brooke took the MV60 prize in 43.42 despite the distance being about 40 miles shorter than he usually runs......

I must just finish by saying that despite my flippancy at the beginning, we all know that Phil and Jackie put a huge amount of effort into making the race a huge success whilst the rest of us just stand around trying to look as though we have some purpose in being there.  We have a lot of support from non runners/members who year on year get roped in to help us out and do so willingly and cheerfully - being a small (but perfectly formed!) club we would not be able to stage the event without their help, so a big thankyou to all of them too.

Next year will be an all-singing, all dancing 10th anniversary event, so please come back and run it again and bring some club mates and friends with you because in 2014 Phil is going to start that muttering at least a month earlier in preparation........................

Results will be posted shortly on the Full On Sports website (there will be a link from the MNR site) and we have a huge selection of photographs which will be on the MNR Facebook page later this evening...if they EVER finish uploading.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Plym Valley Parkrun

As anyone who reads Dave’s entertaining minutes or VFTBOTP will know, Martin and I have been on a 5k-fest over the last 2 months in a bid to regain my race fitness whilst recovering from a long term Achilles injury.  We’ve become Park run junkies and have added quite a few new races to the list of Park runs that we’ve completed.

Each Parkrun has its own character and they differ widely from anything between 1 to 4 laps of parks, sports fields, tow paths, cycle paths, tarmac, mud, stones, the list is endless. The three things that they all have in common is that they take place at 9am every Saturday morning, they’re free and they’re great fun.

Last weekend we headed down to Devon to take part in the most westerly Park run in this country – Plym Valley. Of the ones we’ve done to date it’s also probably the most scenic and rural.  After a night spent “wild” camping at Cadover Bridge we arrived in the National Trust car park at Plymbridge Woods at 8.30am, bright eyed and raring to go......Well that’s not strictly true, Martin had a splitting headache, a strange numbness to various parts of his body and a strong conviction that he had suffered a mild stroke overnight.  I was definitely raring to go -to the loo, if only there had been one................

The start is in a lovely flower meadow between a cycle path and the river Plym. A large clockwise lap of the flower meadow takes you back past the start and onto the canal tow path before a short steep climb onto a cycle path which leads you back to the start and a further, smaller anti clockwise loop of the meadow.  Simple right?

By 9am a (what is the appropriate collective noun?) pack of Parkrunners had gathered on the vaguely defined start line and it was apparent that we were not the only Plym Valley Parkrun virgins as we jostled for prime position (which meant trying to find the least rutted piece of grass to run over to the start of a well trodden path).  Some Parkrun announcements and jokes followed and then we were off.

As usual I settled in somewhere behind Martin and followed my usual strategy of judging my pace off him.  Unfortunately this didn’t work as well as usual – either he was taking it easy or I was going way too fast.  The field spread out as we reached the end of the meadow and turned back on ourselves and my GPS confirmed that the first 1km had been completed slightly faster than was sensible but not fast enough that I should still be so close behind Martin.   As we neared the point where we ran back past the start I heard a man with a couple of young kids say “there’s Mummy” and thought that I had a rival.....but it turned out that he had said “where’s Mummy?” because he followed it up with the very unsupportive comment of “miles back I expect”!

We came out of the meadow and turned onto the tow path for a half mile of fairly level easy running (as long as you avoided veering off into the canal) and I focussed on trying to keep up with a figure slightly ahead in a familiar Grizzly t-shirt.  At the end of the tow path section there was a very sharp climb up onto a cycle path which bled the speed from our legs but was followed by a slightly downhill section on tarmac where I managed to throw in a fast km.

With just over a km to go it was back into the flower meadow to complete the second, smaller lap and as I reached the point where the route divided the two lead runners blasted past on their way to the finish, both recording excellent sub 18 minute times.  I managed to overtake a couple runners on this last loop and was pushing hard for the finish, my target being to beat the vet 45 age category course record.  A final push for the finish line, taking one more male scalp en route, to finish in 10th place overall, first lady and a time of 20.36, beating the current FV45 record by a very satisfying 40 seconds.  Martin had also managed to set a new MV55 course record but was very disappointed with his time – 20.14, which was unexpectedly slow for him but at least he had got his excuses well publicised before the start.

As usual at Parkrun there was a lovely friendly atmosphere and we had a chat with the runner in the Grizzly t-shirt, who it turned out recognised our name and has been a reader of the MN blog in the past, and also a Poole Parkrun regular who recognised us and was also taking advantage of a weekend away to try out a new course.

Next week we’re off to Barnstaple for a second run round Rock Park, but if you want to do a Parkrun without the excessive travelling, don’t forget that Weymouth Parkrun starts on the 31st August and Yeovil (at Montecute) have their first event the following week.  For those willing to travel a little further Parkrun is also coming to King’s Park in Bournemouth on the 24th August.

All that remained on this lovely sunny morning in Devon was to find a suitable venue for our customary post Park run refreshment.......................................

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


by Dave Webb

In mid-May we entered 2 teams for the Wessex Ridgeway Relay. This is a 100km cross-country, self-navigating event that starts in Wiltshire at 7.30 on a Sunday morning.  We gave careful thought to which runners should do the 1st leg, before deciding that it should be Richard Blackmore and Phil England, on the grounds that they were absent from the meeting and therefore could not protest about the early start. Overall the day was a great success – our definition of success being that our runners found their way from the start to the finish. We ended the day just after 6pm at Uplyme, and could have finished slightly sooner had we not experienced some unexpected delays. Elite athletes don’t usually find themselves spending several minutes waiting for a woman to move 2 cows and their unco-operative calves, as Jackie and Alison did on Lancombe Lane. Then on leg 10 Neil Goode discovered that his pre-race meal was not agreeing with him, and had to spend some time behind a nearby bush. In fact, by the time Dave Butt and I crossed the finish line and headed for our free meal at The Talbot Inn, Neil was at home in bed feeling decidedly peculiar.

Now that the weather has finally improved we have been able to enjoy some beautiful club runs. On a Wednesday night in early June Martin and Lin led 7 of us on a scenic route from Shipton Gorge which sea views over Burton Bradstock before a steep climb to the top of Shipton Hill. If we’d had any breath left it would have been taken by the stunning panorama. The landscape of fields and hills, strip lynchets and hillforts could have been ancient, except for the electricity pylons and the noise from the A35. In fact this part of Dorset is known to be behind the times; in 1901 a bullock’s heart pierced with thorns and pins was found in a cottage chimney, being a traditional defence against witches. It makes Maiden Newton look positively modern.

The recent hot weather has prompted this month’s running question, which is what to wear when running in the heat. My advice is to wear a ‘technical’ running top, which is designed to ‘wick away’ the moisture (I told you we were modern in Maiden Newton). I am also a strong believer in something more traditional, namely a hat. This serves 2 purposes, in providing protection from the sun and in helping to obscure one’s red and toiling face. My co-panellist, Mr Les Knott-Bother, sas that it’s best not to run at all in the heat (he also believes that it’s best not to run in the cold, the wet, the dry or any other weather). If people do insist on running, he prefers it if they wear as little as possible.

Mr Knott-Bother should perhaps follow the old advice of being careful what he wishes for. On 7 July in Wales there is a race called the ‘Bare If You Dare 5K’. Runners are encouraged to wear only their shoes (and possibly a hat if they are sensible like me). The prospect of being a spectator at a race like this is positively alarming if the local runners look anything like their Dorset counterparts.

As well as running, we also organise some races, which are coming soon. At 7pm on the last Wednesdays of June, July and August we are holding a 5K race in Poundbury, from the new leisure centre. And on 10 August at 7pm we will be staging the annual Maiden NewTen Madness 10K race, from the Youth and Community Centre in Maiden Newton. Everyone is welcome to participate, however fast or slow, and a friendly atmosphere is guaranteed.

Monday, July 01, 2013


by Dave Webb

Last month I mentioned Shakespeare’s marathon advice: ‘Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast’. I’m delighted to report that Charlie Spencer kept these words in mind as she ran round the streets of London, taking an amazing 10 minutes off her previous best time. She finished strongly in 4 hours, 15 minutes, making a bid to be the fastest hairdresser in London as well as the west. Charlie has also asked me to thank everyone who sponsored her. She has now raised a fantastic £1,800 for the Fortuneswell Cancer Trust in Dorchester.
To run a marathon requires a lot of training, so this month’s running question asks how you can tell if you are training too hard. Research has shown that overtraining can lead to constant sniffles, restlessness, irritability, broken sleep and poor short-term memory. During the latter stages of long runs the brain’s glucose supplies dwindle, making it harder to do mental arithmetic calculations. My co-panellist, Mr Les Knott-Bother, says that he has studied these symptoms, which sound very familiar, especially the one about finding it hard to do simple sums, like adding up his lottery losses. He now realises that he has been overdoing it for years and should ease off on the physical exercise.
In mid-April one of our long-distance members, Richard Rider, ran in the Honiton Hippo, a watery cross-country race that is named after the hippos that used to inhabit these parts. Apparently they lived here for about 100,000 years, and their remains were discovered when the by-pass was built. Richard wrote an entertaining race report on the club blog, complete with a picture of him immersed in water which was happily free from hippopotami.
The club has entered 2 relay races in May, bravely embracing the complex challenge of running and carrying a baton at the same time. This may sound like a simple task but nothing is straightforward for Maiden Newton Runners. Last year our start runner at the North Dorset Marathon Relay left the baton in his car and only retrieved it in time for the last 2 runners. We have also entered 2 teams, Maiden Newton Chalk and Maiden Newton Cheese, for the Wessex Ridgeway Relay. This means we therefore face the complicated logistics of organising 6 pairs of runners to cover the 62 mile course from Tollard Royal to Uplyme. Some clubs take these events very seriously but we see it as a triumph if we succeed in getting the runners, and the batons, from the start to the finish.
Preparations continue for our summer series of 5K races in Poundbury. These events are open to all, and will take place at 7.30pm on the last Wednesday of each summer month, starting at the new Dorchester Leisure Centre. Dave Butt has persuaded Dorset Cereals to provide a box of products for each race, which means we can offer some tempting spot prizes, and Olives et Al have agreed to donate a meal for two. We need to decide whether this will go to the male winner or the female winner, or if we will follow my idea of making the 2 winners dine together. We also face a health and safety dilemma, because the course is marked by a number of sturdy wooden bollards which would do a runner quite a mischief in the event of a collision. Fortunately for us, Dave’s wife Jane has come up with an ingenious solution to this problem, in the form of hi-viz bollard sleeves which she has designed and made. In fact, Dave and Jane are showing such organisational skills that we should perhaps put them in charge of our relay teams.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Slateman Triathlon (or Wetsuit for Sale)

Sunday 19th May, at 10:25am and I’m standing up to my knees in freezing cold water with my feet encased in an old pair of socks resting on some evil mixture of mud and rotting vegetation waiting for a horn to sound, wondering whatever induced me to come here.

In 2011 I foolishly got a desire to attempt a triathlon, followed by some others and culminating in the purchase of a second-hand wetsuit to attempt the open water swim in the Bideford Triathlon. Even on the hottest day of the year (in October) it wasn’t that warm in the water, but memory fades quite quickly, and after watching it on TV I decided that I could attempt the Slateman Triathlon in North Wales. I even stupidly ignored the fact that the swim that year, had been cut from 1000m to 750m due to the cold conditions, but last year was a poor year and it was going to be better this year, wasn't it? Well after a miserable, cold winter during which I hardly got out on the bike at all, I decided I wasn't fit enough to attempt the 60K bike course, so asked to be changed to the sprint event. (400m swim, 20K bike and 6K run). This seemed a lot more achievable. We booked B&B in Llandudno, ok it was a few miles from the race, but it was No 1 on a tripadvisor list, and was a very nice place. We got the last room available. So we were on the 4th floor, and there were 63 stairs down to the breakfast room in the basement!!

We spent Saturday driving round Anglesey as heavy rain had been forecast, but none actually appeared, went bird-watching (as we do), caught a brief glimpse of two puffins, and saw hundreds of razorbills etc. Then back to check the weather forecast and pack the equipment. But there seemed to be a problem, the weather was being forecast as dry and sunny – surely some mistake !! Anyway I packed various items of warm clothing in my box just in case. Up early the next morning for a bowl of cereal, our hosts had even offered to make us rolls in lieu of the cooked breakfast. And even after Richard had insisted on washing all the seagull droppings off the car we still arrived in good time. Set up in transition, ignored the safety briefing (oops, don’t tell the organiser), but I needed the loo and didn't want to use the wetsuit.

The main event started first with the fastest athletes going off at 9:30am, followed by three more waves at 10 minute intervals. Eventually it was time to force myself into the wetsuit and nervously wait for my turn to start at 10:30am. Well after all the practice swimming laps of the pool, I thought I would be OK. I’d even counted roughly how many strokes it would take, but I still couldn't get my face to go in the water, so ended up doing breast stroke with my head up again. I started off near the back, and hadn't gone very far when the competitor on my right raised his hand and needed to be rescued from the water. They have plenty of marshals in boats ready for this, and it did cross my mind for brief moment to do the same. But I plodded on, aware of the field pulling away in front of me, but with a glimpse of a few white hats nearby. Without my glasses, the hats and the red buoys for the turns was all I could see. Three hundred strokes later and the boat is alongside, and I can hear encouraging words, but still I can’t see, “left a bit”, “straight on”, “right a bit”, “just past the black buoy”. I can’t see it, so she guides me towards the finish, then I get cramp in my right leg, and can’t move it, so swim with just my left leg. Then my feet touch the mud, but I can’t stand up so paddle forward a bit more, then hop and paddle and finally I’m on dry land. Richard is there and unhooks the Velcro on the wetsuit zip, but I concentrate on just running up to the transition. It’s about 200 yards, and I can’t see much without my glasses, but I ran it yesterday so pretty sure I can find my bike. Then it’s off with the wetsuit, or rather it isn't as the old socks and the timing chip are all tangled together with the leg of the suit and it takes several attempts to extricate myself. (Which causes some amusement for the spectators just the other side of the barrier). Luckily all this effort seems to have brought some circulation back to my hands, and I get my red cycling jacket, shoes, helmet, and gloves on and set off on the bike.

By now the sun is starting to come out, and the course is only slightly undulating at the start. So I’m feeling much better already. However it’s not far before we’re starting the long incline up to the top of the Llanberis Pass. I’d heard this mentioned in hushed tones, so was suitably apprehensive and had carefully avoided driving anywhere near it. However it’s not that steep, there’s plenty of steeper hills round here, but it’s just relentless. About 4 miles just continuously going up. The road winds a bit so a line of cyclists can be seen ahead, some moving very slowly or even walking. Coming round one bend I hear the unmistakeable sound of a cuckoo, and I’m starting to pass quite a few of the cyclists. And then ahead it’s the top of the pass, people cheering and the joy of descending the other side is only slightly tempered by the thought of the climb back up on the return. Meanwhile a Llanberis Mountain Rescue vehicle has whizzed past, followed by other “blue-light” emergency vehicles. As I come down and round a bend I spot the reason, someone – I think it’s a motorcyclist, not a competitor, has had a nasty accident. A sobering moment, and I take it a bit more carefully on the bends. Turn left at a junction, turn in a lay-by and the sprint competitors go back the way they came. The casualty is still lying on the ground, but the face isn't covered so that’s a good sign. Back up to the top of the pass, not far this side, then it’s the long downhill back in to Llanberis village. I can see only one competitor in front and I’m keeping up with him. Then back into transition. My box is a mess, I can’t find my hat, and when I do the fastening has come undone, never mind, I perch it on top of my head, and I’m out on to the run. The sun is out and it’s becoming warm.

The track in the grassy field becomes a tarmac road and I slow down to adjust my hat, hearing a bystander laughingly saying “I thought it was a sprint”, his wife hits him and I continue up the steep hill. This rapidly becomes a rough track with plenty of stones, boulders and tree roots. I've passed a few runners and am now on my own. I’m reminded of bits of the Haytor, Race the Train, and anything on Exmoor. I convince myself I've done plenty that has been harder, but my legs are definitely starting to complain. Suddenly there are loads of competitors around and I realise the long course has joined the route, but they are much faster than me, and I obligingly let them past. It’s good to have someone to follow. We’re now going downhill and soon the trail is back on tarmac and then a gravelly track with a “400m to go” sign. Joy!!! This is so similar to the finish at the NDVM. I’m counting down paces, I suddenly hear Richard cheering me on, and there’s the finish, I've made it. I collect my slate coaster (what else ?), grab a handful of biscuits, chocolate etc and Richard’s there to meet me. And the sun is still shining.

The official review of the race is at And the results are at:

Saturday, May 18, 2013


By Dave Webb
Last time I mentioned that we are organising a series of 5K races in Poundbury this summer, on the last Wednesday evening of each month. This process is more complicated than you might think. First, we had to identify a 1K lap that could be safely run 5 times. A group of us could therefore be seen on a Sunday morning, running round and round the pavements and paths of Poundbury. After 9 different attempts, and much inspection of GPS devices, we had worked up a decent sweat but still hadn’t nailed it. Finally Dave Butt found a route which has now been verified by an official UK Athletics measurer, ie a man from Weymouth with a carefully calibrated bicycle.

This prolonged winter has been a test of our determination and commitment, especially when running into what Thomas Hardy called the ‘atmospheric cutlery’ of an easterly wind. Several club members braved an early start and a wicked wind-chill to run in the Yeovil Half-Marathon, where both Spencers posted good times, and Neil Goode set a personal best. Earlier in March, after heavy rain, the Great Western 10K presented a different challenge. The route took in some very muddy fields which Dave Butt reported as being like trying to run in lead boots. Andy Staples passed a runner who had stopped and was poking about in the mud. It turned out that he had lost a shoe, which was swallowed up by the greedy ground and never seen again.

Sticking with the footwear theme, some readers may have heard of some new high-tech running shoes that can speak. So far they have been programmed to say things like ‘Well done, you’re running well today’, and ‘How good to feel the wind through my laces’. This month’s running question asks what other phrases these shoes should be programmed to say. My co-panellist, Mr Les Knott-Bother, offered a choice of pithy phrases, not all of them repeatable in a church magazine. One of his typical suggestions was for the shoes to yell ‘Sit down, you fool, and put me back in the cupboard’. For my part, I would welcome any words of encouragement, and I suspect that the runner who lost his shoe would also like the shoes to be able to say something along the lines of ‘Help! Help! I’m being sucked into the muddy mouth of the mighty maelstrom’.

The main event of the past month has been the club’s annual Johnny Kipps race. The winner receives not only the glory, but also the hallowed trophy that has now been used for more than 20 years. To the untrained eye the trophy may resemble a biscuit tin, but closer inspection shows that it is inscribed with the words ‘La boite de Johnny Kipps…the true essence of Maiden Newton Runners’, embossed in felt-tip pen on a stylish cardboard mount. Tradition demands that the trophy is filled with biscuits by the previous year’s winner. This year the trophy returned to the Lascelles household when Martin was first home in a very speedy time of 38.22, ahead of 12 other runners. Other notable performances included Jackie Webb taking the first lady spot, and Tara England winning the first dog prize, having dragged Phil round the 6-mile route.

By the time you read this, the fastest hairdresser in the west, Charlie Spencer, will hopefully have completed the London Marathon. I hope she followed the advice of that well known athletics expert, William Shakespeare, whose friar in Romeo and Juliet provided words that could also serve as our club motto: ‘Wisely and slow! They stumble that run fast’.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Honiton Hippo? Sounds like a muddy run to me!

This event had escaped the diary for the past few years due to movable feast that is Easter.  This year was different, and upon applying online, I promptly received my race number.  The chirpy letter from Honiton Running Club was fantastic – describing how hippos were discovered during the building of their by-pass, revealing how they had inhabited the area for 100,000 years.   My eye quickly glanced over the usual race blurb and settled on the last line saying that ‘refreshments will available at the finish and the best bit is that they will be free to all runners.’  Perhaps plans are afoot to introduce the species...

'4 legged animal..., beginning with...?'
It proved to be a relaxed start; a blunt 10.30 outside Honiton County Primary School.  The only taxing bit proved to be what to do with the car keys, given the pre-race warnings that ‘hippos love water’.  The field of runners proved to be a mix of club runners, gym bunnies and many locals simply rising to the challenge.  There was health banter, with the organiser stating that all complaints should be lodged with Tiverton RC.  Upon starting, the race descended down to the by-pass allowing a glimpse of the foreboding river crossing at the end, and up into the wooded hills opposite.  The rain held off and the slippery slope up was saved from becoming a slippery slide down.  The hills were steep, occurring in the first half of the 7.3 miles.  The course marshals were jovial but sincerely supportive as they pointed runners back up the hill they had just descended.   Indeed, runners certainly got a lot for their miles; mostly off-road, lush and green, with 3 water features to negotiate towards the end.  By the time we arrived at the last one, a rowdy crowd had gathered for their morning’s entertainment!

My race started out as being the ‘6-11 miles easy; 2-3 half marathon pace’ as directed in my 5 k training programme.  However, my competitive streak got the better of me and it became an all out race when 2 likely lads sprang past me at the first hill.  They were eventually hauled in on the last hill, and help me clock 1 hr 01 mins for MN Runners which I was very pleased with, not least because it allowed access to the final piece of chocolate cake!  To sum up, this is a short but tough course for those with appropriately studded trainers and passion for the off-road and cakes.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

View (s) from the Back of the Pack

The latest of Dave Webb's amusing articles for the Herald:

Our February meeting fell on Valentine’s Day. Only 5 of us made it to our reserved table at The Fox and Hounds. I assumed that the absentees were occupied with affairs of the heart, such as wining and dining their loved ones, or walking together in the moonlight. It turned out though that Charlie was at Pilates, Dan was supervising his scout troop, Alison was working, Neil was at home with the children, and the one couple who were staying in for a romantic meal had opted for a dish of that well-known aphrodisiac, cauliflower cheese.
On 7 April we will be holding our annual ‘Johnny Kipps’ race. We will gather at 10.30 at Wynford Eagle to run a 6-mile circuit that goes out past West Compton, up towards Eggardon, and back down to Wynford Eagle. A few years ago Dan and I managed to persuade our clubmates to allow people to choose in which direction they ran the circuit, so that you could pass people coming the other way and not know who was in the lead.  I thought this was an idea which could catch on more widely; imagine how much more exciting it would be if the runners in the Olympics 10K final were running in different directions. This year we will all be running the same way. We hope to get about 20 runners, with non-members welcome. The London Marathon on 21 April will be hoping for a bigger turnout. Amongst the runners will be the fastest hairdresser in the West, Charlie Spencer. Lin Lascelles has been helping Charlie with some extra training, including speedwork. You may have seen Charlie running while Lin rides her bike alongside, offering words of encouragement, or abuse.
The 2nd Wednesday of each month sees an evening 5K race at Street. Most of our runners have got faster as the winter has progressed. Dave Butt, Martin Lascelles, Neil Goode and Charlie all set their season’s best times in February, and Charlie is on course to win the series prize for her age group. Dave Carnell, however, has been plagued by a persistent problem of getting a stitch during the race. In February he tried a new tactic, of fasting all day. The result was that he still got the stitch, but was also weak with hunger. Next month he plans to try eating a big curry beforehand to see if that propels him any faster.
Lin has her own rather eccentric theory as to why Dave has been struggling. She believes that he has let his hair grow too long. Her husband Martin, on the other hand, had a severe crew-cut and then posted his fastest time of the year. Perhaps Lin is not just Charlie’s trainer, but also her agent, drumming up new haircutting trade. Continuing this theme, this month’s running question asks, ‘Will I run faster if I have my hair cut?’ My view is that Lin is right; less hair equals more speed. How many hairy hippies do you see at the Olympics? Imagine the extra wind-resistance that would have slowed down Mo Farah if he had been sporting a full Afro? My co-panellist, Mr Les Knott-Bother, takes the opposite view. He has been as bald as a billiard ball for years but insists that long hair would not slow him down, on the grounds that it is not physically possible for him to move any more slowly.
Finally, I can give advance notice that we will be organising a series of 5K races in Poundbury at 7.30pm on the last Wednesday of each summer month. I’ll give more information nearer the time, but anyone who is interested might want to start by joining our easy-paced 4-mile Monday night runs at 7pm from The Chalk and Cheese in Maiden Newton.

The dark nights of January are lit up each year by the highlight of Dorset’s social calendar, the Maiden Newton Runners AGM and Christmas dinner. The alert reader may be wondering why we hold our Christmas dinner in January. The delay reflects our deficits in both organisation and timekeeping. We do manage, though, to arrange a glamorous venue and a sophisticated meal, namely a takeaway from the Balti Express at the Maiden Newton Youth and Community Centre.
We usually aim to complete our AGM in under 10 minutes. In fact it’s the one occasion when we try to move quickly. But this year we had some weighty matters to discuss. As well as needing to decide which national athletics association to affiliate to, we also needed to decide on our subscription rates for the coming year. Phil, Lin, John and I, being the club’s officers, were mindful of the golden rule of democracy, which is never to ask a question until you are sure of the answer. We therefore got together beforehand to cook up a proposal, and then told our clubmates that they couldn’t have their curry until they agreed to it. We secured unanimous approval for our plan to charge a £10 subscription rate, with optional extras for those who want to register with UK Athletics (which brings reduced rates on race entry fees) and for new members who want some club kit. We also decided that people who come regularly on the Monday night runs will need to become club members.
A quick digression now for this month’s running question, prompted by our plans to revive the club handicap runs. The way these runs work is that everyone gives an estimate of their time to complete the 3 mile course. Runners then start at carefully timed intervals so that everyone should finish more or less together. The question is therefore whether we run faster when we are chasing or being chased. For some people the fear of being beaten by a rival spurs them on to go faster, while others speed up when they can target someone ahead of them. My co-panellist, Mr Les Knott-Bother, says he moves fastest when he is chasing something, like a bus or a free portion of chips.
Back to our AGM and the prestige of our annual awards ceremony. Blog entry of the year went to Richard Rider for his London Marathon report, beating off competition from Dan Cantrell’s description of the deep mud on the Inca Trail race (the Ilminster Inca Trail, rather than the Peruvian version), and Phil England’s account of the epic bike ride from Cattistock to York which somehow ended up in Doncaster. A new award, for the outstanding contribution, went to Jackie Webb for starting and leading the Monday night runs (7pm from The Chalk, all welcome). The annual club championship was won by Charlie ‘Speedy’ Spencer, the fastest hairdresser in the West. All that remained was to present the much-coveted Golden Welly, the PR award for bringing the club into disrepute. The prize this year went to Martin Lascelles, who had put together a portfolio of misdemeanours. He got lost on the Forde Abbey 10K and took half the field with him; he forgot the baton at the North Dorset Relay and ran the first leg without it; he put his London Marathon medal on E-bay as soon as he got home (and sold it for £30!); and at the Tintinten he got into an argument with the race organiser as he tried to persuade her that the prize for first lady should go to the first lady to finish, ie his wife Lin, and not to the first finisher with a lady’s name, ie a man called Leigh.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Killerton Park Run (aka Ashclyst Forest)

The biggest challenge in doing a Park run for us is always getting to the start line for 9am, apparently we're not morning people.......However, this outing involved additional pressure since Killerton has temporarily relocated to Ashclyst forest whilst the permanent course dries out - we both (incorrectly) assumed that the other one knew where we were going.  At 8.45am therefore we were in a village store in Broadclyst several miles away asking for directions.......

Arriving with about 7 minutes to spare the next dilemma presented itself, woodland car park in the middle of nowhere - no toilets. After 75 minutes of Martin's driving and the additional stress caused by the navigational challenges this was a real issue and caused a rapid plunge into the forest in search of solitude.  Very sparse covering vegetation at this time of year and a lot of people warming up meant that it was not a particularly successful mission.

Park Run have done a great job of finding a new course in a very short time.  They had used Ashclyst Forest for the first time the previous week and there had apparently been some issues causing a change to the course this week.  The pre race brief explained that it was now 3 "almost complete" laps and warned of so many hazards - loose stones, protruding tree stumps, loose shale, ice - that we began to wonder what we had let ourselves in for.

This was my first "race" since September and Martin had decided to run it with me.  We lined up somewhat further back than our customary aggressive front line position and set off at a decidedly steadier pace than the norm.  The course followed a woodland trail, which despite the warnings we found fairly easy running and the field soon spread out as we enjoyed a gentle downhill start.  We should, of course, have expected that any pleasant downhill would be paid for later and the inevitable climb back up through the car park soon followed.  This seemed a lot longer and steeper than the preceeding downhill and knowing that we had to climb it twice more did not help!

The lap actually seemed quite short and we were soon running past the finishing funnel and crossing the start line to start our second loop.  A long break from racing has seen me lose my competitive edge and although there were a couple of girls running ahead of me I felt none of the usual compulsion to mount a challenge, this race was just about getting back into competition and getting an idea of just how much hard work there is ahead to get back to pre injury level running.

Strangely the second lap seemed longer and the hill steeper and this pattern repeated itself on the final lap when I realised that the hill was actually a small mountain...but at least once we got to the top it was just a short and mostly downhill "sprint" to the finish.  We crossed the line in 23.47 and 23.50, not bad all things considered although given the nature of the course I still don't have any real idea of how much pace I've lost

After another magical mystery tour around the forest we finally found our way out onto the A30 and scurried into the lovely warmth of the Boston Tea Party in Honiton to thaw out and enjoy post race coffee and breakfast.........and all this accomplished before we would normally have even got out of bed, thank you Park Run!

Saturday, January 05, 2013

26.2 in 3:26

As Lin's Achilles has still not healed enough for her to resume training we have decided to take up a new sport together: Fencing!

We jumped in at the deep end and started with the regulation marathon distance of 26.2 (ft) - the length of fence that we needed to replace. The entry fee for this event was a bit steep, at £58.45 which we paid to Wickes Lumber for 50 2.4m lengths of 100x10mm feather edge board and 400g of 40mm galvanised nails which we delivered off the day before. But we already had the equipment needed, a tape measure, (slightly blunt) handsaw, and most importantly a pair of trusty hammers.

Being highly trained and hardened athletes we decided to cycle to the start (8.4 miles) and after taking down the remnants of  the diseased and dilapidated mess that used to separate our garden from next door's we were already shattered,  raring to go, and it was too soon for a break, so we dragged ourselves and tools and wood to the top of the garden and we were off! The course was fairly straightforward at first, apart from a tricky bit of sloping mud, so we made good progress to the 12 mile, I mean foot mark. Then we had to negotiate a sharp drop, down to the trampoline, and barely enough room to hammer nails in along side the retaining wall. It was hard work, but luckily a refreshment stop was provided by our neighbour Di who passed on some words of encouragement along with a cup of coffee and a chocolate biscuit. Much nicer than the energy drink and slime/gel sachet we usually consume during a marathon, Di even let us dump the old fence in her garden for burning later in the year if it ever stops raining, thanks again Di!.
After the drink stop, the old fence is in a heap in next door's garden behind
Then it was into the second half, and after a straightforward section, and with concentration and strength sagging we were faced with the challenging final 8 feet which required us to negotiate a curve in the line of fence, bending it around the last post, and behind the downspout and water butt. This nearly proved our undoing, but with the aid of a couple of lengths of old 2 by 4 we managed to bodge our way to the end and cross the line in a respectable 3 hours 26 minutes. Not a bad time, but the most impressive thing was that we finished having used every single piece of wood, with nothing to spare, how often does that happen!


We went back the next day to cover up the joins.