news, race reports

Race Report: Race to the Stones

By Jon Laye

The Race to the Stones 100km Ultra Marathon

Saturday 15th – Sunday 16th July 2017

Introduction

Someone at work yesterday asked me ‘How did you manage to run 100km in 12 hours, and more to the point, why?’

 

The ‘how’ is surprisingly easy: next time you go for a run, switch on your Garmin/Timex/TomTom GPS watch to record your pace, and then run exactly one mile in 12 minutes. You will find that this is remarkably easy (I should imagine just about every Abbey Runner will be able to achieve this). Then simply repeat this process 61.4 times and you should be close to running 100km in the requisite 12 hours.

 

The ‘why’ bit is trickier to explain, but for me it is predominantly about my inbuilt competitive spirit. Imagine as you jog along for 12 hours at 12 min/mi pace you are going to have to stop for food or to go to the toilet or simply have a break (to relieve the boredom of shuffling along at what seems like a mind-numbingly slow pace). For every minute you stop, you have to run a little bit faster to make up for lost time. It seems entirely reasonable to stop for a least an hour throughout the whole process and suddenly you are confronted with having to make up that time by running quite a bit faster. Similarly, any hills that you encounter which require you to walk, result in yet more time to make up in order to achieve the magic 12 hours! And so, having arbitrarily set upon 12 hours as a good race target, I immediately put myself under pressure, to compete with myself and against the clock. And this is the ‘why’ I entered the ultra. I didn’t just want to see if I could finish it, but instead to complete it within a set of challenging boundaries I had artificially set.

 

The Race: a damp start

The Race to the Stones starts from a farm located at Lewknor, South Oxfordshire (used for filming Midsomer Murders) nestled at the foot of the Chilterns. The route follows much of the ancient trackway known as The Ridgeway, leading ultimately to the village of Avebury with its famous Neolithic Stone Circle (no, not Stonehenge, the other one that encloses the village). Along the 100km course the route passes Grim’s Ditch ancient earthworks, the beautiful small town of Goring, crosses the Thames and then climbs high up onto the Berkshire Downs passing Bronze age hill forts, burial mounds and the odd white horse or two.

 

The Race itself is popular. I heard an announcer at the start saying that over 2000 entrants were expected over the 2-day event and it is very much promoted as the UKs biggest ultra. And the organization matches the popularity, with large farms transformed to accommodate the start, midpoint and finish of the event. Some entrants choose to run or walk the event non-stop, but many elect to stop half way in an overnight camp (complete with inclusive food, drinks, a bar (!), free sports massage and with a huge field filled by swathes of identical tents). The race is sufficiently popular now that it is started in waves in the inverse of larger city marathons, with entrants starting position determined by their predicted finish times commencing with the slowest (walkers) beginning earliest at 7:30am and the fastest non-stop runners starting last at 9:30am. Presumably this is to avoid the race becoming incredibly spread out across the countryside, but this does mean that the route can become a little busy in places.

 

In keeping with the race’s size and appeal it attracts many novice ultra runners (like me) and its location relatively close to London means that it lacks the ‘hard as nails’ image of many ultra races, which is no bad thing. It is accessible, friendly and attracts many people who would never dream of entering an ultramarathon. For example, the farm field at the start was furnished with no less than 4 coffee baristas serving double-skinny-mocha-flat-white-chinos! This did not feel like the haunt of the mountain-hardened ultra runner!!

 

I had been placed in the 9th and final wave of racers and was nearly the very last entrant to cross the chip mat and set off at 9:30am, by which time a light drizzle had set in. Within 90 minutes this had become a thoroughly unpleasant deluge, but spirits were high and everyone was happy and excited. I soon settled down into running at a brisk but sensible pace alongside a local chap who worked in the renewable energy business (I was hoping to take some tips because I had the feeling I was going to struggle with a lack of energy very soon) but we seemed to be running much faster than all the other people in front of us. Despite the busy trails we were not unduly slowed by other walkers/runners and everyone was happy to let us through and bid us good luck. After a couple of hours of rolling hills and arable fields (and much shouting of ‘Coming through on your left….no, the OTHER LEFT, yes, thank you’), we descended to the Thames valley and I took 5 minute’s rest in a pit stop sitting on a fold-up camping chair in the pouring rain to check my feet for any early signs of blisters. A little bit of protective foot tape and quick bite of sandwich later and I hoofed it up the biggest climb of the day to make up for lost time and soon the rain had stopped and I was onto the whaleback ridge which undulated its way on and on across the Downs.

 

The Race: a tough middle

The sky remained grey and high humidity followed by a progressively stronger headwind made things tough, but not really challenging. At various points the route descended to very pretty little villages with seemingly every house thatched and set in exquisite cottage gardens, before climbing back up onto the ridge top.  After 3 more hours of this though, I was getting tired. Looking back, I can see now that the weariness was a subtle mixture of physical exertion and mental exhaustion. Running at a relatively slow pace for a long time is hard work, but not that difficult. The hard part is continuously concentrating and getting your brain to override all the other signals you are getting and demanding your body to keep the running going.

 

To keep us entertained there were the magnificent ancient burial mounds, chalk white horses and hill forts. None of which I saw (except a bloody great hill fort which we ran through the middle of at about mile 54). My guess is I was so focused on the running that I simply ran passed them all without noticing! But what about the scenery? I am used to running up hills to get to the top so I can enjoy the view, but on the Ridgeway, we simply ran through an endless collection of fields along an undulating track (which remains open to 4-wheel drive vehicles for much of the year) bounded by dense hedgerows. And where we could see the view it was extensive, but just an endless spread of arable fields stretching into the distance. Frankly I found it all a bit tame and dull. Remember, this is just my opinion (probably somewhat biased by running in a state of weariness), and I am sure many would find the scenery stunning, but I think I have been somewhat spoilt by doing much of my running in The Dales and Lake District.

 

At this point I was simply running between the pit stops and ticking each one off as incremental steps getting closer to the finish. The pit stops were great though. They were located every 10kms or so. There were lots of seats and tents with music and arrays of different food and medics and physios on hand and more than sufficient numbers of portaloos. Each time I entered a pit stop the crews clapped and cheered and then quickly offered to help fill my water bottles or get me food. The staff were brilliant! At about miles 20 and 40 I removed my shoes and socks, cleaned my feet, reapplied lots of Sudocream lubricant and then clean socks before getting back into my trainers and each time the effect of that short foot pampering was to completely revive me: a trick worth remembering! Rarely have I been at a race where everything went so much to plan. I felt so under control that I cannot remember feeling happy, sad, miserable or elated. I was simply weary and getting on with the job of running and spending as little time resting as possible. Suddenly, I found myself at the last pit stop with less than 7 miles to go and I was well within my schedule. I am not a talented ultra runner, but I think it says a lot about how I had approached the whole event that even though I was travelling relatively slowly, I actually had the 18th fastest 50-100km split time. And then the whole race changed from something that was becoming a bit mundane to an event that was really inspiring.

 

The Race: an inspiring finish

Throughout the day, I had been constantly overtaking people. Some folks had then passed me whilst I had a foot pamper or an extended drink break at a pit stop, for me to then overtake them again 5 minutes later. I overtook some entrants 3 or 4 times! One such runner was a young lady who was really going for it. I overtook her one final time within 4 miles of the end as we were descending from the ridge towards Avebury. Except this time when I gave her a greeting, she barely managed to reply and she looked utterly awful. She had completely hit the wall and was starting to look very wobbly indeed. I stopped and made her finish all my remaining isotonic drinks. From there on, I slowly coaxed her all the way to the end of the race. I didn’t really care about my finish time anymore. We half ran, half jogged together for the last few miles. I hope she reads this because Alex (from Derbyshire) and the way she staggered home to finish the Race to the Stones was amongst THE most inspiring bits of running I have seen in years and was certainly the highpoint of the whole event for me. As we approached the final straight I told her that I was most certainly NOT going to do a ‘Brownlee’ and carry her over the line!! And so, despite being utterly exhausted, Alex of Derbyshire picked up her pace and charged down the track and across the line in front of me. Afterwards, once she was safely with friends and family there were a few tears and lots of ‘thank you’s but I honestly would not have changed the end of the race for anything. I know that her immediate response was that she had ‘messed up’ the finish, but she should really be utterly proud of herself. It was tough going.

 

For the record, the winners were Benjamin Poiraton (7:52:55, male) and Sarah Hill (9:23:04 female), whilst I managed a ponderously slow 11:42:50 (100th out of 961 total non-stop runners). Oh, and yes, I checked: Alex of Derbyshire was 3

race reports

Club Handicap Results – 13 June 2017

Position Forename Surname Race No. Gross Net
1 David Beesley 575 28:59 23:29
2 Ellie Upton 561 29:26 25:26
3 Laura Woodhouse 550 31:01 31:01
4 Oscar Roden 563 31:33 22:33
5 Rhiannon Davies 549 31:52 27:52
6 Felicity Jackson 557 32:23 26:53
7 Jon Richards 566 32:30 22:15
8 Matt Ellis 582 32:41 22:26
9 Dave Jackson 558 32:44 27:14
10 Michaela Clark 570 32:47 21:47
11 Tom Broadley 569 32:59 21:59
12 Freddie Roden 562 33:00 21:00
13 Peter Badkin 547 33:09 23:39
14 Lisa Hulme-Vickerstaff 544 33:09 25:39
15 David Leslie 577 33:13 23:13
16 Angela Ellis 565 33:19 26:34
17 Laurence Lennon 556 33:23 23:08
18 Helen Roden 564 33:28 22:43
19 Sunny Cheema 538 33:30 20:00
20 Robert Vincent 545 33:35 18:05
21 Ross Armstrong 560 33:44 16:59
22 Jim Whittaker 580 33:49 22:04
23 Peter Holt 553 33:53 28:53
24 Adam Ellis 551 33:58 23:43
25 Kazuki Morimoto 572 33:59 22:59
26 John Ward 552 34:00 22:00
27 Daisy Moore 543 34:01 25:46
28 Alison Smith 559 34:05 23:20
29 Thomas Hetherington 581 34:06 33:06
30 Sophie Hodkinson 578 34:08 26:38
31 James Bye 588 34:09 20:09
32 Martin Jones 584 34:12 20:27
33 Graeme Littlewood 540 34:14 24:59
34 Katie Scatchard 576 34:15 20:30
35 Aidan Curley 579 34:19 18:34
36 Peter Persico 539 34:21 22:21
37 Liz Willis 574 34:22 25:07
38 Simon Jones 585 34:26 18:26
39 Martin Browne 583 34:27 23:27
40 Owen Hilton 548 34:28 19:43
41 Louise Corcoran 567 34:31 27:46
42 Gillian Nesbit 541 34:35 24:20
43 Ian Patchett 573 34:39 22:39
44 Victoria Gregory 555 34:41 29:41
45 Ryan Owens 587 34:43 21:43
46 Stephen Broadley 568 34:48 28:48
47 Suzanne Caley 542 35:01 29:16
48 Jane Oughton 554 35:07 28:37
49 Craig Kent 546 35:51 21:06
50 Connor Clark 571 38:55 26:55
news, race reports

Race results – Leeds Half Marathon – 14th May

What started as a cloudy, slightly damp day, soon changed to the usual Leeds Half Marathon weather!  Great turnout by Abbeys…

Name Gender Cat. Chip Time Cat. Pos.
Joshua Holmes Male M 01:31:40 141
Paul Simkins Male M40 01:34:43 55
James Whittaker Male M45 01:40:31 85
Howard Cohen Male M55 01:42:04 19
David Nahal Male M55 01:43:40 26
Katie Taylor Female F 01:47:19 76
Kazuki Morimoto Male M45 01:46:51 143
Tom Broadley Male M 01:49:59 553
Liz Willis Female F50 02:05:55 21
Ange Ellis Female F40 02:01:30 94
Matt Ellis Male M40 02:01:31 345
Helen Roden Female F45 02:14:38 68
Stephen Broadley Male M60 02:19:26 36
Andrew Wilson Male M50 02:13:52 251
news, Tips

I am the Invisible Man

By Jon Laye

I am the Invisible Man

 “Now I’m on your track,

And I’m in your mind,

And I’m on your back,

But don’t look behind…..

I am the Invisible Man,

I am the Invisible Man,

Incredible how you can,

See right through me”

Queen.

 

 

START of RANT: I think I must be becoming invisible. Yesterday morning to get to work, I slowly jogged down the Otley Road, all the way from Adel to Hyde Park and no less than FOUR people walked straight into me. Granted on the first 2 occasions I was running up behind people and then as I was about to pass them they unexpectedly stepped right into my passage. Presumably they just didn’t hear me and so on the spur of the moment they decided to take an impromptu ‘step to the right’ which resulted in my winging one of them and leaping into the road to avoid the second. Generally speaking I do give people a wide berth whilst approaching them from behind but this can be difficult when they are walking right in the centre of a narrow-ish pavement. But in 2 separate incidents later that morning the people I ran into were heading directly towards me, looking in my direction and just didn’t see me, so that when I swerved they both ploughed on and we kind of met in the middle (with a splat). I did try to take avoiding action in both cases and call out to them, but both times resulted in a shock on their part and bloody annoyance on my mine. Am I really invisible? The common feature of all these collisions was massive headphones being worn by the pedestrians who all seemed utterly oblivious of everything around them. But short of running around with a very loud klaxon to warn other pedestrians I really can’t see any option other than running on the road/in the gutter when trying to travel along pavements these days.

 

My problems are not limited to headphone-wearing people sleep-walking through the streets. Three weeks ago I was physically tripped over by a couple of dogs (on a double dog lead) who decided to run from one side of the pavement where they were walking with their owner, across to the roadside just as I passed them. The dog lead to the owner went taught as I hit it, I tripped over the lead and then stood on one of the dogs as I fell because it was dragged underneath me. The dog owner was worried about her slightly flattened dog, not by my injuries. When it was clear that ‘Sybil’ was not seriously injured she thought it was all very funny and laughed, “What on earth will these crazy dogs of mine do next, eh?’ I was not amused and suggested that next time they might seriously injure someone followed by quite an expensive lawsuit. It seems I am invisible to dogs too.

 

Last month whilst running through Bramhope, a woman in a car mounted the kerb and drove straight at me along the pavement. She slammed on the brakes at the last minute with a look of total horror when she realized she was within inches of seeing me sail over her bonnet! As I continued on my (somewhat wobbly) way the reason for her maneuver became clear: she performed a U-turn in the narrow road and then promptly attempted to drive through the gateway into her house at speed. Amazingly, in doing so she nearly hit me again (second time lucky?)!!!!! If she hadn’t slammed on her brakes and skidded to a halt she would have driven straight across the pavement and ploughed through me but thereby successfully reached her home (presumably just in time for East Enders)! Car drivers cannot see me either!

 

To avoid all this sort of nonsense, I recommend running in the countryside. Like for example, 2 weeks ago when I decided to escape the scrum of the pavement. I headed up to Wharfedale and ran up Buckden Pike and along the ridge to Great Whernside. There was no one around for miles and miles. There was nothing but peace and calm and huge panoramic vistas. No crowded pavements or racing motor vehicles. Lovely! And on the descent, what do you know? I encountered another runner coming up the hill in the opposite direction to me. And as we closed in on each other, at the last moment he swerved directly into me to avoid a puddle!!!! And damn it all, he was wearing sodding headphones and despite me shouting hello to him, he just hadn’t bloody well noticed me!!!!!

 

I have decided to exclusively run on a treadmill in the gym from now on. RANT OVER!

news, race reports

Race Report: The NN Rotterdam Marathon Sunday 9th April

By Jon Laye

‘Cool, Cool, Hot, Hot, Cool’

or ‘This could be the high point of my marathon career?’

Why is it that the Netherlands, and the Dutch in general, are so very cool? I’ve only just arrived in the country and I’m on an über-fast intercity train from Schiphol Airport to Rotterdam and the train guard is apologising over the PA system for the third time that the train will be a whole 8 minutes late. And he is doing that in three different languages! How cool is that?

And then minutes later I am walking out of the massive architectural boomerang-shaped structure of ‘Rotterdam Centraal’ Station and there is the city and it is cool: modern glass and chrome skyscrapers, tasteful green urban spaces, chic young people cycling here and there on eco-friendly push bikes and oh-so-hip electric trams on manicured grass avenues swishing by. Rotterdam, man it is COOL!

The next morning I get up early and leave my hotel to just stretch my legs pre-marathon and whoa (!) there go the Kenyans on their warm-up jog – just like me. Yep, this cool thing is catching, man! Then 2 hours later, I’m queued up with 13,063 other marathon runners (and an additional 12,000 10km racers too) and BOOM, the race is started by some local troops firing an antique field cannon – how cool is that?

 

Within minutes all of us are running across the breath-taking Erasmus Bridge, which really is utterly awesome, and on every street corner there are large enthusiastic crowds and DJs playing ear-splitting Euro techno-techno!!! Man, this is utterly……

…..actually things are really FAR from cool. The temperature has rocketed. The sun is shining down onto the city streets and the breeze has dropped to nothing and we are all getting very, very dehydrated. The wide roads that we are running along give way to urban parkways and then paths along the canals and suddenly we are being squeezed and constricted so that I can’t run where I want nor at the speed that I want. My plan is to stick with the 3:15:00 pacers, but according to my watch, their pace setting is all over the shop. I am just about keeping up with one of the pacemakers: he is running 7:20 for one mile and then he is running 7:04 for the next mile and I am really struggling in the heat. And to make things worse my ribs are killing me and I am struggling to breathe deeply (exactly how I managed to tear most of the intercostal muscles/crack a rib or two on the left side of my ribcage precisely 7 days before race day whilst enjoying an easy jog on Ilkley Moor is a sad and sorry tale of self-induced injury – suffice it to say that retired rock climbers should not be allowed out unsupervised). All things considered, this is NOT cool.

At the 10 mile point I am revising my plan: I am just going to try to survive this race, and all thoughts of a personal best have already gone. I slow down sufficiently to entirely lose sight of the 3:15:00 pacemaker – and then all of a sudden, I am overtaken by another 3:15:00 pacemaker! What the….? How can two 3:15:00 pacemakers be separated by 5 minutes at the 11 mile mark? This is just not cool!

I am just going to have to grind this one out. At the side of the road, the Umpapa Band and their rendition of ‘The Eye of the Tiger’ is failing to lift my spirits.  Even the sight of the lovely thoughtful locals who have set up little knee-high trestle tables with platters of cheese and grapes and cups of water for the runners is not pulling me out of the sweltering black hole of suffering that I have dumped myself in. As we round a corner and cross a chip mat, video messages from family, friends and loved ones are automatically queued up on 4 enormous TV screens for us to run beneath (and the bloke next to me, collapses into sobbing hysterics as recorded footage of his kids doing a dance for the camera and singing words of encouragement is all too much).

It is NOT fun and then suddenly – whoosh, there on the other side of the road flash the Kenyans and Ethiopians en route for a 2:06:04, and I know that I am going to be out here for another 80 minutes or more and it is so very hot.

Lots of people are walking now, but at last I realize that I am on the last corner and there is just the long home straight left to go. We are surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of locals politely clapping and so in a moment of madness I am frantically waving my arms at them and shouting, “Come on, I can’t hear you! COME ON, I WANT TO HEAR YOU CHEER!” The ten people behind the barrier next to me start to cheer, and then the ten people next to them, and then the twenty next to them and then the 50 next to them and then a couple of hundred and on and on! And so, like the Dutch equivalent of a Mexican wave, 100s and 100s of wonderful spectators cheer and scream and roar their loudest at me as I wobble down the home straight!! They are shouting, ‘GO JOWN, GO JOWN, GO!” and it is MY name they are mispronouncing (in a really hip kind of way) and I am laughing (because they must all think I am a celebrity or something) and I am crying my eyes out but there are no tears coming because I am so dehydrated, and I am waving and then for one delirious ecstatic moment I realize that this is probably going to be the highpoint of my marathon career. And that, I have to say is utterly, undeniably COOL!

For the record, Dutch media reported that this was the second hottest Rotterdam Marathon and the early summer weather was probably in part responsible for nearly a million people coming out to spectate.

So the question is whether I would recommend it to others? The forecast of hot weather meant that the organisers put on extra sponge points and extra water I think. And I imagine that was probably very typical of the organisation as a whole.  Everything from the registration and trade show to the actual start of the race was very busy but seemed to be well organised and really pretty slick. I noticed numerous places where kerbs had been temporarily tarmacked over to reduce the risk of runners tripping. And there were hundreds of officials and volunteers throughout. The crowds were brilliant and the route was actually quite interesting, crossing the Erasmus Bridge twice and following a canal or two, passing beneath the famous Cube Houses and alongside the amazing Market Hall and even passing a couple of windmills (which I failed to notice). On the face of it, it would seem to be a really good PB race. The route is entirely flat and should have been fast, but actually running back over the Erasmus Bridge confronts one with what seems like a massive hill. Similarly, there are a number of points where the route is very constricted. As with most big city races, it was really not possible to run at one’s own pace for the first 6 or 7 miles and unfortunately the point at which one would normally want to settle down and focus on running comfortably was that point at which the route constricted to a relatively narrow pathway where one had to run at the crowd’s speed. I am really not sure what was going on with the pacemakers, but without doubt even within the first 3 or 4 miles they were going way too fast if they were aiming for even splits. And as per usual, how in heaven’s name is it that 5 hour-plus marathon runners managed to get into the sub-3 hour race pens?? I tripped over no less than 3 (largish) women in front of me who were already jogging or even walking in the first mile and a half and causing utter chaos for all those hundreds/thousands of runners behind them trying to relax and get in to their racing pace? It seems churlish to point these things out, because that is what large marathons are like. I am not convinced this is a PB race, but in all honesty it is a very amazing marathon and I recommend it strongly. Oh, and it is also pretty cool too.

 

Position Name Country Cat Category Position Time Chip Time
1 Marius Kimutai Kenya MSr 1 of 2954 2:06:04 2:06:03
25 Meskerem Assefa Ethiopia FSr 1 of 1032 2:24:18 2:24:17
1580 Jon Laye UK M45 216 of 1647 3:23:26 3:22:32

 

news, race reports

Race Report: Fleetwood Half Marathon / Trimpell 20

The Fleetwood Half Marathon, Sunday 21st August 2016 (very belated)

The Trimpell 20, Sunday 19th March 2017

Or ‘How I suffer from Runner’s Wind!

 

WIND! Oh how I suffer from wind when running. As runners we all must, to a lesser or greater degree I guess, but it really seems to reduce me to pedestrian stagger. One minute I am cruising along and then the next minute I am knocked for six! It may be because I am light (well, slight of frame, my mother says). Or it may be that I am a trifle top-heavy, you know: skinny legs and more dense above the waist than down below, as it were. The end result though is that the slightest breath of wind, the most innocuous breeze and my running goes to pot (now come on, you didn’t think I was referring to flatulence, did you?). No, any sort of meteorological air disturbance has an incredibly detrimental effect on my performance. Let me give you an example:

 

As a final long practice race before the Loch Ness Marathon last year I chose to enter the Fleetwood Half Marathon. It seemed ideal: it was flat, fast and with a limited field of entries I felt it would be a brilliant ego-massage to boost my confidence and get my brain into ‘race mode’. Now, many unkind things have been said about Fleetwood: the only good things to come out of Fleetwood are Syd Little (of Little and Large ‘fame’) and the Number 12 tram to Blackpool etc, but in all honesty, I drove there on the morning of the race with an open mind, I truly did. When I arrived I parked on the sea front by the Lower Lighthouse and peered in to the gloom before me. The view was rumoured to be stunning, with the Lakeland Fells rising majestically across the dancing blue waters of the bay. Instead, all I saw was 2 thirds of a mile of mud and a grey smear of filthy low cloud. But just because the tide was out and a bit of low cloud was lingering were no reasons to be miserable, I thought. When I got out of the car though, I couldn’t understand why salty seawater was lashing my face, until I realized that a gale force wind was blowing the distant spume of the sea across the mudflats and straight into Fleetwood. I struggled back into the car. Curses, my great enemy: WIND! And what a wind: genuine storm force slowly diminishing to gale force!! I knew that the race itself followed promenades and roadways along the edge of the beach and with a gale force onshore wind it was safe to assume that things were going to be tough. Luckily just before the start, the weather started to brighten up and things were cheerful enough as the race marshal went through his repartee (plus the lead race car had been replaced by 2 guys on ‘ElliptiGos’ elliptical bicycles: cool, very cool). And then all of a sudden we were off and within 2 minutes we were being buffeted and sideswiped and thrashed by the wind. I cannot explain the fact that at no point during a 2 lap circular race did I ever have the wind at my back!! It was just constantly either pushing me sideways or completely in my face. Very soon the whole thing descended into a weary, unproductive struggle. The race marshals did their best to keep things light-hearted, but during the second lap away from the shoreline back round the council estate again (where I passed a couple of cruising police cars) I lost the will to race. I know Fleetwood is socially and financially depressed, but many of the locals seemed to watch the hundreds of runners passing their doors with glassy-eyed disinterest. There was no cheering, no clapping, no response at all (by contrast, not long after this sorry saga, I did the Middlesbrough 10K and the crowds there were utterly awesome). During the second lap I started passing the slower runners and for each and everyone that I overtook I gave them a word of support and a cheer, and each and everyone of them looked shocked that anyone was bothered! Finally, I reached the home straight, which was back into the terrible headwind and there was the crowd, and they were noisy and cheerful. And yet, so strong was the gale, that amazingly, there were runners in front of me who would have recorded good half marathon times, but the wind had done for them and they were walking the last ¼ of a mile.

 

Now don’t get me wrong: the event was well organized, the marshals were excellent, and on a sunny calm day this would have been really fun. Presumably, the crowds would have thronged the streets too. I have no grounds for criticism of the event at all. But I left Fleetwood with one of the worst half marathon performances I have ever experienced, utterly exhausted and feeling miserable and extremely nervous of my forthcoming marathon. Everything was simply destroyed by my nemesis: WIND!!

 

Fleetwood Half Marathon 2016

 

Overall Position Time Bib No Name Club Category Cat position
1 01:16:45 2 Robert Affleck Preston Harriers MV40-44 1
15 01:25:46 16 Andrea Banks Jersey Spartan AC FV40-44 1
33 01:30:26 284 Jon Laye Abbey Runners MV45-49 4

 

 

So let us fast forward to last weekend and the Trimpell 20 in Lancaster. This is widely known (and is promoted) as one of the best, last long races before the Manchester/Paris/Rotterdam/London marathon. Each year about 500 northern runners enter the Trimpell 20 as an opportunity to test their race fitness and get that little ego massage before finally going for it in their chosen marathon. And that is exactly how I viewed it too. The flat and fast route follows predominantly tarmac trails along the scenic banks of the Lune with various stretches of there-and-back offering one the chance to assess how well/badly the race is progressing. The finale of the event is to finish up the steep cobbled roadway through the gatehouse and into the courtyard of Lancaster Castle. But, as I set off for Lancaster on the morning of the race the forecast for the west coast was yet again for pouring rain and 40mph winds!!!!! I gnashed my teeth and railed against Mother Nature as I tortuously drove across the Pennines through wind-whipped downpours and along axle-deep flooded roads. How could this be happening again? As if Fleetwood hadn’t been bad enough last time, I was going to have to do it all over again this year!

 

I arrived at Lancaster in the rain and due to too many cups of coffee and then a very long queue for the toilet, I reached the start of the race 2 minutes after the gun went off (was there a gun? If there was I didn’t hear it). But this time I had a race plan and I stuck to it! I ran the first 6 miles slowly. This gave me the opportunity to socialize. I chatted to a couple of runners (last warm-up race before London marathon) who did this route every year and who assured me that last year the weather was perfect! A couple of ladies (last warm-up race before Manchester marathon) had decided that due to the wind they would not bother pushing themselves and turn the event into a slow, long training run. And then all of a sudden there was fellow Abbey Runner Peter Persico (last warm-up race before Paris marathon) and so we spent 4 miles talking and enjoying what was turning into quite a nice morning despite the wind. After bidding farewell to Peter at the 6 mile mark, I ‘revved up the engine’ and increased to my full marathon pace or just a smidgeon faster for the rest of the race. And it was great! I relaxed and just enjoyed passing people and keeping to the right cadence and despite the very wet and in places muddy tracks the whole event was great fun. And on the way back there was Peter looking strong and not far behind him another Abbey, Lisa Hitchen who I must have passed earlier on but never noticed.

 

And what about the wind, I hear you ask? Well I found that I was so relaxed that it just didn’t bother me at all. The sheltered nature of the trails meant that we were rarely open to the wind itself. And where the headwind hit us I noted that I was better equipped (or running significantly stronger) than those around me to simply plough on regardless. By mile 19 I had achieved all I wanted and so I backed off the pace and ran with some runners (last warm-up race before Blackpool marathon) who I helped push up the final hill to Lancaster Castle and the finish line.

 

As an event, I can strongly recommend it. If in the future you need the perfect last warm up before entering spring marathon-X, then this really could be just what you need. It was well organised, enthusiastically marshalled and had a really nice atmosphere. I enjoyed the novelty of collecting my bib number from a race organizer ensconced in a prison cell within the Castle (race HQ was located in the old prison). In places the trails were a bit narrow for runners passing each other in different directions especially when sharing the path with Sunday dog walkers (and a preponderance of Huskies….is Lancaster the cultural capital for Siberian Husky dogs and their owners?), and some may feel that the final hill is a bit much (a friend of mine whilst living in Lancaster used to use the road featured as the last ½ mile of the Trimpell 20 route for his habitual hill sessions; yes, that’s how steep it is!) but these are very minor points.

 

I headed back to the car (in another downpour) and with the wind gusting around me and realized that of all the things to worry about whilst running, wind is just not worth a second thought. Its not like you can change it, so relax. After all, we all suffer it, and frankly if you can’t laugh about a bit of WIND then you are probably a bit too serious to enjoy running. Ah, but flatulence, now that’s a different matter entirely!

 

Trimpell 20 2017

 

Overall Position Actual Time Bib No Surname Club Category Cat Position
1 01:55:53 671 Blain Rooney Ellenborough M 1
15 02:09:05 601 Michelle Nolan Gateshead Harriers F35 1
149 02:38:09 514 Jon Laye Abbey Runners MV45 18
299 03:08:10 632 Peter Persico Abbey Runners M 87
452 03:40:50 445 Lisa Hitchen Abbey Runners FV40 35

 

news, race reports

Race Review Dewsbury 10K Sunday 5th February 2017

By Jon Laye

One of the most important ‘Golden Rules of Competitive Running’ is ‘ensure that you get to the race start-line fit’. Whilst this is true, I think an even more important ‘Golden Rule’ should be ‘it is even more important just to get to the start-line at all’, as I discovered at Sunday’s Dewsbury 10K. I am ashamed to say that I have never run the Dewsbury 10K before. Which sort of explains all of the following.

Where exactly is Dewsbury? I mean, I know where it is on a map. And indeed, tracing the route to Dewsbury with my finger across the page of an old AA road atlas seemed straight forward enough. The directions were simple: start in north Leeds, head to Ikea (inward groan), go straight past Ikea (inward cheer) then kind of straight-on a bit, then turn off and there you are. Easy.

But on Sunday morning, as I drove off to Dewsbury without a map or the relevant ‘App’ things all got a bit confusing once I waved farewell to Ikea. I ended up going through Heptonthwaite and down a lane to Slaithton and via Sowerstallingbridge and then around the corner to Mytholmstackheighley and Clattersgatting. And very soon, I realised that, with the exception of Cleckhuddersfax, I had visited just about every minor conurbation in the region without actually reaching Dewsbury. Down circuitous lanes I followed signs to Huddersfield, then up cobbled winding streets I sped searching for signs to Halifax. I thought I was back on the correct route until I realised that the roundabout I had finally discovered was actually a bit of waste ground in the middle of the road near Heckmondwike! Dewsbury seemed to have simply slipped beneath the surface and into the depths of the ‘Rhubarb Triangle’.

I had all but given up on the race itself when purely by chance I finally I arrived at Dewsbury with a few minutes to spare and just long enough to warm-up. But I think it is fair to say that I had started to dread the race itself. If the race route was anything like my journey to Dewsbury it would entail narrow winding snickets, the odd tortuous alleyway, a few roughly paved ginnels and 10kms of opportunities to get completely lost.

I am pleased to report however, that I could not have been more wrong!!! The race started on the widest dual carriageway I had seen for several hours and then the route followed a broad open road all the way to Batley, around a traffic cone or 2 and then straight back whence it had come with barely a corner en route. And frankly it was brilliant! From the moment the announcer gathered all the runners together with his banter, followed by the moving minute’s silence in remembrance of a local lady killed in traffic accident the day before, excellent race marshals with pompoms, right through to the day-glow pink T-shirts handed out by volunteers, the Dewsbury 10K was a wonderful experience!

One of the pleasures of doing a there and back route (apart from not being able to get lost) is the opportunity of seeing the really fast guys and girls whistle past you at speed. But also you get to cheer on all the Abbey Runners as you see them en route too. And as a consequence, I was able to enjoy some really excellent Abbey performances. I think sixteen other Abbey Runners attended (there could have been more but perhaps they got lost within deepest darkest Kirkstonthwaitehebbleton on the way to Dewsbury). Forgive me for not naming everyone, but especially noteworthy were Simon (36:36) and Sam (1:14:10) who dovetailed our team efforts. Well done to them both.

Howard and John ran brilliantly. I only just caught up with them at the halfway point of the race and neither of them appeared to be struggling with the pace. Congratulations are especially due to John for coming first within his age category. Similarly, Rob raced superbly; when I saw him hurtling back down the hill on the return leg he was absolutely flying and deservedly recorded an impressive sub 37:00. Afterwards he was his usual overtly demonstrative self: he smiled and said he was ‘quite chuffed.’ Hot on his heels over the finish line was Duncan who still seems to be able scream around these races and came an excellent 2nd in his age category. Sunny has demonstrated a remarkable improvement over the last few seasons and sprinted home with a notable time of 40:43. His enthusiasm is a lesson to us all! Meanwhile well done to Claire the first female Abbey to cross the line!

Personally, my race time was nothing special. I started the race really quite slowly by dithering about, automatically setting off in marathon training mode, but reached the halfway point feeling fresh and so started to speed up. By the end of the fourth mile I was really beginning to enjoy myself. I finished fast, still with plenty of gas in the tank (which is not a recommended race tactic to be honest) but also with a massive smile on my face so that frankly I didn’t care how quickly I had run the route. What excellent fun it all was….I just had to get back home to Leeds now!

So, I learned two new lessons on Sunday.

‘Golden Rule of Competitive Running Number 1’: Know how to get to the race BEFORE you set off.

‘Golden Rule of Competitive Running Number 2’: If you are going to run a race then you might as well make sure you finish it with a smile on your face!!

 

I recommend the Dewsbury 10K (if you can find it)!