Alex is trying to learn website rubbish
‘Valuable Lessons Learnt’
Apparently, no-one ever masters the marathon. This is due to the inconsistencies, multiple variables and uncertain nature of running 26.2 miles. But on the plus side, this means that it is possible to learn something new each and every time you run a marathon. Last weekend I learnt 2 valuable lessons at the Edinburgh Marathon.
Lesson 1: When NOT to bother running a marathon.
I must admit that 2018 so far has been something of a running ‘annus horribilis’. I have never been so injured. I have taken more days off from training prior to this marathon than in the 2 previous years in total. I missed all my warm-up races due to illness or injury, except the Vale of York 10 which oddly enough went smoothly (a really great event in my honest opinion). So, going up to Edinburgh to run was a bit of a gamble. But for the first time ever I had managed to persuade my family to join me at an event; I could run whilst they engaged in Scottish Castles and tourist bus trips! Pulling out of the marathon would have seemed foolish if I was going to be in Edinburgh anyway.
On Sunday morning, despite forecasts of warm weather, it was cold and grey: perfect for running. At the race start I bumped into Abbey Runners ‘Team Broadley’ and at the start line, David Nahal, all of them Edinburgh Marathon regulars. We lined up alongside 7000+ runners close to the University and with precious little fuss, we were off.
This year saw the introduction of a ‘New Route’ involving a 2 mile loop around part of the old town. Given the opportunity to look up from the road you get to see the sights of Edinburgh. But then after less than 15 minutes of running we were off and heading away from ‘Auld Reekie’ and towards Leith and the coast of the Firth of Forth. I thought all this was good fun: 5 miles of pretty-much downhill running is a good start as far I am concerned. David sped off like Mo Farah and it was only after nearly 40 minutes of cautious conservative pacing that I caught up with him! But by this point I was cruising and feeling strong and very comfortable despite the 15mph headwind that hit us as we ran along the very edge of the shoreline. Throughout there was lots of support (I think) but I was entirely focused on maintaining my pace and saving my energy. The halfway point flashed by at exactly the right time and I started to get that warm feeling that this could be a PB!!!!
At 15 miles into the route the chronic injury I have suffered for the last 3 months announced that ‘enough was enough’: my right leg stopped working. My foot went numb and my right ankle and then knee started to collapse. It wasn’t really a question of running through the pain, it was simply that it became impossible to run. If this had been a circular marathon I would have handed my number in to the first race marshal I came across and walked back to the start. But alas I was on a ‘there and back’ course. I had no option but to jog the remaining 10+ miles to the finish. As I limped along in excruciating pain, I realized that this was a lesson learnt: better not to risk permanent damage at the expense of pride. This was a marathon I should never have really started. And deep down, I knew that I could have predicted this outcome nearly 2 months ago.
Lesson 2: Running a brilliant marathon doesn’t necessarily mean getting a PB.
As I jogged along at the side of the road getting passed by dozens of runners I started to look at the surroundings and when the sun came out I started to appreciate where I was. The scenery was agreeable, plus there were hundreds of vocal and appreciative supporters dotted along the coastal road. I felt a bit of a fraud as they cheered me on, “Come on Jon, you can do it! You are nearly there! Keep going, keep it up!!’ etc. And inside I was thinking, yes, I know I can do it, I am not even out of breath here, I am just jogging to ensure that my right leg doesn’t fall off that’s all! But very soon I was chatting to the locals and hobbling along and just looking forward to the next group of spectators. I helped a couple of runners who had clearly hit the wall to get to the finish line, and let them sprint off down the home straight in front of me to get their moment of glory, whilst I just limped along, straight through the finish line funnel, got a medal and a tee shirt and then headed for the bus as soon as could. I finished the marathon over 20 minutes slower than I had expected, but frankly the second half spent chatting to the locals was probably the best bit: yes, it was agony, but in truth it was really an opportunity to observe the very best of Scottish hospitality and kindness.
Getting to the bus, and then the walk back through the centre of Edinburgh to my hotel was an unspeakable trial, but this is really an entirely separate issue. My opinion of the Edinburgh Marathon cannot be altered. It WAS good fun. Much is made of it being a good PB course, and it probably is. There are barely any hills to climb, and with an early 5 mile stretch downhill to the coast to get you warmed up (including a great fun dash down the Royal Mile), I think that if conditions are favourable this could be a really good alternative to a European Big City Marathon. The only cautionary note is that it is very late into Spring for a marathon, and so the weather could be anywhere from 9˚C (as it was in Edinburgh at the start) to 22˚C (at Mussleburgh at the finish line on the same day). And in addition, the route is infamous for its headwinds that cut along the Firth of Forth potentially knocking the stuffing out of runners. Equally, a lot is made of the ‘endless’ walk to the buses at the end of the race and the lack of a Race Expo and ‘disappointing’ T-shirts but this is all peripheral and should not deter you from a good event. If I could enjoy it with only one functioning leg, then I am sure you can get just as much out of it as I did.
Right, I am off to begin a couple of months of rehab, before running yet another marathon, so I can learn a few more valuable lessons! Congratulations to all the Abbeys at Edinburgh.
|Overall Position||Name||Chip Time|
|1 (1st Male)||Joel Kipkemboi Kiptoo||2:13:33|
|45 (1st Female)||Caroline Jepchirchir||2:47:35|
By John Laye
Valencia is the third largest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona, and is famous for a number of reasons: it is one of the earliest Spanish colonial settlements of the Romans (founded in 138BC), subsequent occupation of the city by Moroccan and Arab Moors has resulted in a beautiful mixture of both Catholic and Muslim influenced architecture and the locals enjoy extended festivals amongst which the ‘Fallas’ are most celebrated (five days of street partying, fireworks and paella). Oh, and Valencia has a football team apparently!?
But in my humble opinion what Valencia should really be famous for is its UTTERLY AMAZING Marathon!!
So, if you haven’t ever thought of entering a big city international marathon here is my pitch to sell you Valencia as the perfect race:
As a modern tourist destination Valencia is beautiful, has lots of accommodation and it boasts a good local airport within 20 minutes’ taxi ride of the city centre.
The Marathon is run alongside the 10K race and so the whole event attracts 1000s of runners, giving it a bit of a buzz.
The race event is well organized and extremely well marshaled.
The people of Valencia throng the streets and are very noisy in their support. Lots of bands, DJs and 1000s of supporters keep the runners motivated and enthusiastic. Towards the end of the race the crowds are deafening.
So far all these positive points could be made for numerous marathons across Europe. But here are the very best bits of the race:
The race route is flat: very flat! Consequently, it is very, very fast indeed. The 2017 race was won by Sammy Kitwara of Kenya, in a rather quick time of 2:05:15 which stands as the fastest marathon time in Spain.
The marathon is hosted in the autumn, which means in Valencia, dry, sunny, mild weather. Despite the sun getting a little warm by midday, the running conditions are lovely compared to the November weather experienced in the UK.
There is a massive international field (18,000), with runners from many different countries. However, the runners are overwhelmingly Spanish and incredibly friendly. I was really impressed with the number of runners who wanted to communicate knowing full well that we didn’t speak the same language. Not once did I detect anything but kindness and enthusiasm from the runners or the locals.
The start and finish of the marathon are brilliant! The start is a galloping charge across the Montovilet Bridge (one side of the dual carriage way for the marathon, the other side for the 10K race), whilst the finish is a descent down a ramp off the streets, a sprint round the outside of the Museum and Arts Centre to the a final home straight across a bright blue pontoon bridge built over an artificial lagoon(see photo below)!
Personally, I thought the event was a wonderful experience. Running a marathon at close to one’s limit is never entirely pleasurable but for me the Valencia Marathon was as close to being enjoyable as it is possible to get! I achieved a PB (and pretty comfortably too) and felt the only limiting factor was perhaps the heat of the sun during the final hour of the race. To get a pretty accurate impression of the whole event I recommend that you should view the Official Race Video which can be found on the Valencia Marathon website.
The Amanda Rhodes result in the Maastricht Iron man is above.
This would have been a remarkable achievement in normal circumstances.
Swim – 2.4 miles
Bike – 114 miles
Run. – 26.2 miles (marathon)
But Amanda was knocked off her bike less than 4 weeks ago and sustained a broken arm.
By Jon Laye
The Race to the Stones 100km Ultra Marathon
Saturday 15th – Sunday 16th July 2017
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
Well done Duncan on winner his age category!!
|66||Martin Jones||M40||1: 17:17|
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.|
Congratulations to the Abbey’s who ran London marathon
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|