Tag Archives: Marathon

Lucerne Swiss City Marathon 2019

Over the last few years Lorna and I have travelled with friends to various European cities to take part in races. This year we opted for Lucerne in Switzerland because it offered a half and full marathon, the course looked scenic on the flyers and we were guaranteed great food and chocolate after the race. I signed up to the marathon while Lorna, Alex, Rob, Ray and Robbie decided to go for the half.

We flew into Zurich early on Saturday morning before catching a train to Lucerne. Lorna had found a lovely apartment not far from the train station, race expo and start. Having dropped our bags we headed to the expo at Hotel Schweizerhof.

Collecting our numbers was easy as there weren’t any queues, so we could head straight to the pasta party to continue the carb loading.

As the sun was shining we picked up an ice cream before taking some photos and heading out on the lake on a pedalo. Lorna and I sensibly saved our legs and let Emma and Ray do the hard work. For dinner we decided to play it safe and have some pasta and pizza from the local supermarket. Without a TV in the apartment we played cards in the evening to relax before getting an early night.

The race started at 9am so we woke up at 7am to shower, have breakfast and sort our race kit. I was feeling really relaxed about the race. Since the London Marathon in April I hadn’t ran/trained much so I planned to run the first half with Lorna aiming for around 1:35 and then see how I felt for the second lap. The conditions were perfect, the sun was shining again and it was cool as we walked towards the start. As the apartment wasn’t far from the finish we didn’t have to drop bags so we could get straight to the start line. We wished everyone good luck and positioned ourselves near the 1:35 pacer. Alex was hoping to finish in a similar time so we started together.

One thing I love about smaller marathons (in comparison to London & Boston etc) is that you don’t have to stress about bag drop and waiting around for ages. We got to the start line just 10 minutes before the gun and then we were off.

As the road was nice and wide we had lots of room to run in and settle on goal pace. We knew 4:30min/km pace was what we needed to hold to finish in 1:35. I let Lorna and Al run slightly ahead of me to dictate the pace they felt comfortable at. This was slightly inside goal pace but not too fast to be worried about. It’s pretty normal with fresh tapered legs and the adrenaline of starting a race to bank a few seconds through the first 5k or so. There were a couple of hills towards the end of the opening 10k which levelled out our average pace to be pretty much spot on.

Running alongside the lake the views of the surrounding mountains were incredible. Alex joked that he was glad he only had to run the hills once but I was thinking “I don’t mind two laps with views like this”. Of course I knew it would be a tough second half having not trained much and running it on my own but I was feeling good and looking forward to the challenge. After 11k or so Lorna was feeling good so we picked up the pace while Al eased off a bit.

The second half of the loop weaving through the city was fun and we kept pushing. The kilometres passed really quickly and we were on the long home stretch before we knew it, Lorna said “it feels like we were only just walking down here to the start”. I could tell she was digging deep as we neared the marathon turnaround point but I was so proud of her for working hard throughout the whole race and crossing the line in 1:34. I really wanted to carry on running with her through the finish line but with 800m to go I took the u-turn to start my second lap.

It felt really strange to have been running with Lorna to help with her race to then be focused on seeing what time I could achieve. Surprisingly my legs felt good so I decided to see if I could get as close to 3 hours as possible. I knew I’d have to average around 4min/km pace through the second half so picked it up and got into a rhythm. The roads were really quiet so I could focus and stick to the racing line. Despite wanting to regularly check I was on the correct pace I kept my head up to enjoy the mountain views again.

I felt relieved to get through the hilly part of the course with the legs still feeling ok. As it was getting hotter I took on water at every aid station and stuck to my nutrition plan, taking a Maurten gel every 7k. This worked well in both the Seville & London Marathons earlier in the year. Making my way back through the city centre I was still holding around 4min/km pace. The crowd support was awesome and there were lots of bands dotted along the course playing great music.

I knew the last couple of kilometres along the lake would be tough but I kept pushing as I was going to clock over the marathon distance on my watch and had to account for this. As I neared the finish Alex, Robbie, Ray and Rob cheered me on as they were walking back towards the apartment. Rob shouted “run faster!” but I was thinking “if I try to run any faster my hamstrings will go”. I held it together and eventually the finish gantry came into view. The clock was ticking ever closer to 3:00:00. I broke into one of those sort of sprint shuffles and crossed the line with the clock reading 3:00:04. Luckily we hadn’t crossed the start line bang on 9am so my official time was 2:59:25… phew! Another sub 3 marathon in the bag. Considering the lack of training throughout the summer I thought I would have to settle for nearer 3:10-3:15 so I was really happy.

Everyone else enjoyed the scenic route and ran well. Robbie clocked another sub 1:30 half, Al finished in 1:38, Rob finished under 1:45 and Ray crossed the line in 1:48. Overall an excellent and very successful race.

Now the legs are recovering we’ve all been thinking about future races. Lorna, Al, Robbie and I are all taking part in the Barcelona Marathon in March so after a couple of easy weeks the mileage will creep back up in a bid to go into 2020 in good shape.

Now that I am back in London, working for adidas in the flagship store on Oxford Street, I hope to catch up and run with a lot of you soon.

Steve

The London Marathon 2019

On Sunday 28th April I took part in my third London Marathon. I’m incredibly lucky to be able to qualify for the race having ran sub 75 minutes for half marathons. My previous London Marathon experiences in 2016 and 2018 were special so I couldn’t wait to do it all again and enjoy the amazing crowd support. After running the Seville Marathon in February in a PB of 2:52 I was hoping to squeeze in some specific training and shave a little more time off. Five weeks after Seville I ran the Colchester Half Marathon crossing the line in 1:13:58 so I knew I was in good shape. However, the marathon is a different ball game and I doubted I had done enough long runs near marathon pace to warrant chasing a big PB. After completing a couple of 20k+ runs it was soon time to taper again. I headed to track on Tuesday nights for a couple of weeks to sharpen up before dialling back the mileage but kept the legs ticking over. 

The race came around quickly with being busy at work and fitting in training. On the Saturday before the race Lorna and I made sure to have a relaxing day; we prioritised carb loading, meeting up with friends Hayley, Will & Jackson for brunch and having dinner with her brothers Alex and Rob who were also taking part in the marathon. Having ran 3:11 in Seville Alex was opting to go out fast and try to hold on while Rob was running his first marathon, celebrating his birthday and raising money for the charity Sense. Having to travel in to Greenwich from Chelmsford we got an early night ahead of the big day. I slept well and was feeling relaxed about the challenge.

 

Lorna and I left our flat at around 7am to begin our journey to Greenwich; we got the train to Stratford where we met up with Alex, Rob, Ben, Liv and Harrison. Ben was taking part in his first marathon while his wife Liv and son Harrison were going to cheer us around the course.

 

 

We got the jubilee line to London Bridge before going our separate ways; Lorna and I were allocated the blue start on Blackheath due to gaining our places through GFA & Championship entry. The boys headed to Maze Hill as they got in through charity places.

 

 

Once we arrived at the blue start area, I wished Lorna luck and headed to the Championship entry corner to drop my bag. It was good to see lots of familiar faces while walking to the start, I had a quick catch up with Sorrell and Claudi before the elite runners were introduced and Andy Murray got the race underway. 

My plan was to try and run an even race, I set out near 4:05min/km (2:52 marathon pace). With the first 5k or so being gradually downhill I purposefully held back to save energy as opposed to bank time, I clocked 20:08 for the opening 5k. I settled into a good rhythm, took my first Maurten gel at 7k and went through 10k in 40:25.

 

Thanks for the shouts Liv (@liv_chiv)

Having ran London twice before I know it is a good race to enjoy and appreciate the crowd support. Running around the Cutty Sark I kept my head up and soaked up the atmosphere, it was electric. I thought it may be quieter as the weather wasn’t as good as last year but if anything it was busier than ever. Despite rarely looking at my watch I was holding pace well and feeling comfortable, I ran the third 5k in 20:35 going through 15k in 1:01. 

Between the Cutty Sark and Tower Bridge I shared a few miles with Adam Lennox and Steve Hobbs (The Milestone Pursuit founder/coach); Adam was aiming for a PB and Steve was using it as training for Comrades Marathon. It was nice to catch up with them both, the miles went quickly and I was soon approaching (for me) the highlight of the race. The crowds grow and grow as you run up over Tower Bridge, it gives me goose bumps just thinking about it. It’s special to be running down the middle of the road with thousands of people cheering you on. In comparison to running London for the first time in 2016 I felt fresher and more relaxed knowing what lied ahead. My fourth 5k split was 20:23 and I went through halfway in around 1:26. I knew the hardest part of the race was to come but felt ready for the challenge. I continued to sip on water at every aid station and take a Maurten gel every 7k which worked well. 

Heading away from the crowds and towards Canary Wharf is always a little demoralising, it seems quiet after the high of running over Tower Bridge. However, I felt more present throughout the race than on previous occasions. I think because I averaged 4:05min/km pace in the Seville Marathon I was relaxed and felt more comfortable holding that pace. It allowed me to look around and spot friends in the crowd. The miles through Canary Wharf seemed to go a lot quicker thanin 2016 and 2018. I’m not sure if it was just me but I got the impression more people opted to cheer there. I was relieved to get through what is normally one of the harder sections of the route and looked forward to running past Tower Bridge and along Embankment. Plenty of the run crews had set up cheer stations roadside which always helps, especially when you’re really starting to tire. 

It was great to see so many friends along the route. Thanks for the photo Rocco (@roccoroy)

I made it along Embankment and was still feeling good. In a marathon you never quite know what pace to start at and what you can hold but I was relieved to get that far and not suffer too much. I took the right turn at Big Ben and knew I had just over a kilometre to endure. I picked the pace up a little, passing quite a few runners. Another right turn onto the mall and the finish line was in view. I hadn’t managed a PB but was happy to clock another sub 3 finish, crossing the line in 2:55:08. 

 

Iffley Road London Marathon Cambrian T-Shirt

On one hand I was disappointed not to PB but on the other I was pleased with how I executed my race plan and that I got to enjoy the London Marathon again. As the conditions were good so many friends achieved incredible times, well done to those of you that ran. It is such an inspiring day to take part in, it is definitely time for me to set some new goals and get into a good training routine again. The marathon takes a lot of specific training if you are aiming for certain times, you definitely can’t wing it. Over the next few months I’m going to focus on the shorter distances for a while and then I will build up for another marathon later in the year.

Thank you so much to those of you that sent messages of good luck &/or well-done last weekend, I really appreciate your support.

Hope the recovery is going well for those of you that raced. Catch up with a lot of you soon.

Steve

Seville Marathon 2019

On Sunday 17th February I took part in the Seville Marathon having signed up with my girlfriend Lorna and her brother Alex. Having struggled in the heat running the Boston Marathon in 2017 and London in 2018, Lorna and I thought Seville would be a great race as it boasts “the flattest route in Europe” and the weather is generally good. I was really looking forward to exploring the city and predicted it would be perfect timing as over the last few years I have felt in better shape in February as opposed to April. 

 

In October, 17 weeks before race day, I wrote a rough training plan. It included going to the Run-Fast/The Running Works track sessions at Mile End Stadium on Tuesday nights, sessions around marathon pace on Thursdays and easy long runs on Sundays. I always find training easier when the temperature drops; I managed consistent weeks of training throughout October and November. Averaging around 130k per week I felt as though I was balancing speed work, tempo sessions and long runs well. Some of the marathon paced runs along the river and around Battersea Park on Thursday evenings felt tough two days after hard track sessions, but I figured it was the most specific training to replicate how my legs would feel nearing the end of the marathon. In the past I have been guilty of running either a lot quicker or slower than goal marathon pace. 

 

To see how training was going I ran the Run Through Victoria Park Half in January at around marathon pace. Considering I had run two 20ks on consecutive days before the event I was glad I could hold goal pace. As the race neared Lorna, Alex and I ran long runs spending almost marathon time on feet. I was feeling confident that with a good taper and race nutrition strategy I would be able to achieve a sizeable PB. Learning from previous years I lowered my mileage considerably in the two weeks before the race and made sure to keep hydratedand eat well. 

 

We travelled to Seville on the Friday to explore the city, pick up our race numbers and get into a routine ahead of race day.

 

 

On Saturday morning we did a 5k shake out run to stretch the legs and see the start/finish line. Staying in an apartment near Plaza Nueva (close to Seville Cathedral) it was only a couple of kilometers to the start on Paseo de las Delicias which is very close to Parque de Maria Luisa and Plaza de Espana. To save our legs for the rest of the day we took a bus tour, it helped us visualize the marathon route. From the bus Lorna spotted a pizza place so we jumped off to carb load at lunchtime. On Friday we found a restaurant serving chicken and chips so opted for that at dinnertime. We thought we would leave the amazing paella, tapas, ice cream and alcohol for after the race. 

 

As the race started at 8:30am we set our alarms for 6 to eat breakfast and get to the start area in plenty of time. The last thing you want on race morning is to be rushing around and stressing over small things. I was feeling relaxed about the race. I knew I had trained well and was excited to see what I could achieve. I also couldn’t wait to see what Lorna and Alex could do. We dropped our bags and headed to our start pens. Having run sub 75 for half marathons I was in the sub 2:45 pen, I decided to start the race around 3:55 min/km pace (2:45 pace) and see if I could hold it. With the London Marathon lined up I figured I had nothing to lose and that it could be achievable having managed more marathon paced runs in training than in previous years. I settled into a good rhythm and ticked off the first few kilometers between 3:55 and 4 minutes.

 

 

I saw Lorna’s dad Bob and her brother Rob early on, it was great to have them supporting us around the course. Just before the 5km point we crossed the Puente de la Barqueta Bridge that provided great views of Puente del Alamillo Bridge, designed by Santiago Calatrava.

 

 

 

As Maurten gels provide 25g of carbohydrates, and they are smaller in size than SIS gels, I opted to use them throughout the race. Previously I felt as though I hadn’t taken on enough fuel so I planned to take one every 6 kilometers while sipping on water at every aid station. I ran through 10k in 39:49 feeling comfortable. I was enjoying the race; it was nice to be in a group running alongside the river on perfectly flat roads. Roughly every 5 kilometers there were bands playing which was good entertainment. The first half of the race included quite a few long straights. As we hadn’t turned many corners I was surprised to be clocking 400m or so more than when passing kilometer markers. I crossed the halfway point in 1:23:36, just slightly behind goal pace but I felt good and was hopeful that I could pick it up near the end. 

 

Having consumed four gels by 25k unfortunately I was starting to feel a little sick/nauseous. I think because the Maurten gels are thicker and have a neutral (but sweet) flavor I was perhaps taking on too many carbs/glucose and fructose. My legs were tiring so I needed to keep taking on fuel but I didn’t really want to. In hindsight perhaps I should have taken some of the sports drink from the aid stations but I didn’t really feel like taking on anything. I should have practiced more with the Maurten gels in training, generally they are great but I think I need to experiment with the frequency and or drink mixes. 

 

Just after running through Plaza de Espana at around 35k my left hamstring tightened forcing me to stop and stretch it quickly. I knew the last 7k would be tough but despite my goal time being out of reach I was still hopeful of running a PB. My 30-35k split was 20:42; I lost the best part of a minute stretching. I got back into a rhythm albeit at 4:30min/km pace.

 

 

It was frustrating to have to suffer through the last 7k but it was a great learning experience. The marathon is always hard to predict, as there are so many factors. After another quick stretch and a few kilometers of “shuffling” I crossed the line in 2:52:09.

 

 

 

A new PB by a couple of minutes but not as large as I would have liked. 

Overall it was a great experience, it had been a while since I attempted a marathon PB and I learnt a lot while enjoying the training process. I now feel like I’ve built a good base to work on for the London Marathon and other races. I would definitely recommend the Seville Marathon; it is perfectly flat, the weather is often favorable and the support is superb. Lorna and Alex had terrific runs; Lorna ran 3:25 equaling her PB and Alex knocked 25 (yes 25) minutes off his PB running 3:11. 

 

 

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I’m glad to have got a marathon PB under my belt so early in the year and can’t wait to see what the rest of the year has in stall. I love this time of year when everyone is motivated and inspired building towards their goals/challenges.

 

Hope everyone’s training and racing is going well. See a lot of you out on the roads. 

 

Steve

Rock ‘n’ Roll Lisbon Marathon 

On Sunday the 15th of October I took part in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Lisbon Marathon. Over the last few years Lorna and some of our friends have raced in various European cities in the second half of the year. Last year Cologne was the destination of choice with it offering a marathon (which I took part in) and a half. The group decided Lisbon would be good fun as it is becoming an increasingly popular city to visit and because it hosts races of varying distances. I decided to opt for the marathon again thinking I would be in good shape a few weeks after finishing OCC.

We flew to Lisbon early (the security gates weren’t even open) on Saturday morning so we would have some time to sightsee. As we knew the expo would get busy later on in the day we went straight there to collect our race numbers. The expo was relatively small so we had to queue for 20 minutes or so to get in. 

After picking up our race numbers and t-shirts we got the metro to the city centre to grab some food and find our bearings. Following lunch we thought it would be a good idea to check out the finish area and arrange a meeting point for after the races. The lamppost with lanterns worked well!

In the afternoon we killed some time by queuing to go up a viewing platform and enjoyed ice creams, custard tarts and custard doughnuts to fuel up. Wanting to feel fresh for our races we decided to check in at our hotel near the expo and have a nap before dinner. We found a good restaurant just around the corner from Casino Lisboa, I chose to go for Lasagne and garlic bread whilst most of the group fuelled up on chicken and chips or pizzas. As the marathon started at 8am I got back to the hotel, laid out my race kit, filled my bag for dropping at the start and got an early night.

Obligitaroy race kit pic; Iffley Road vest, Adidas split shorts, Stance socks & Adidas Adios

On Sunday morning despite my alarm being set for 5am I woke up at 4. I think having been up at 2am the previous day and taking a nap on Saturday afternoon my body clock was a bit all over the place. At 5am I started to get organised and by 6 I was in the hotel reception asking a group of runners from Normandy if they would like to share a taxi to Cais de Sodre where we could then get the train to Cascais for free. The runners from Normandy were really friendly, they asked about my goal time and as I said “hopefully just under 3 hours” they let me go in the first taxi.

Once I arrived at Cais de Sodre station I was lucky to squeeze on the train, it was rammed. Despite not being able to get a seat the 40 minute trip went quite quickly, perhaps because I was still half asleep. 

The sunrise from Cascais was worth the early wake up call

After a 15 minute walk to the race village there was about 30 minutes to go until the start. I quickly dropped my bag on one of the lorries and then got in the queue for the toilets. Frustratingly there were only 10 or so toilets which didn’t seem like a lot when you consider 4,500 runners were taking part in the marathon. As 8am neared I had a decision to make; a) wait in the queue, miss the start and play catch up or b) start on time and stop part way through the race. I opted for the latter as the last thing I wanted was to have to weave through hundreds of people to try and hit a decent pace.

Leaving it late to join the start line I was lucky that I could enter the funnel near the front because I was number 347. I bumped into a guy that I had met on the plane on the way out, he said he wanted to finish around 3:00-3:05 and so he joined me for the first few kilometres. With it being around 25 degrees I decided to aim for another sub 3, I locked onto 4:15min/km pace for the first few kilometres and then nipped into the roadside portaloo at 4km. To make up some time for my toilet break I started running between 4:05 and 4:10 and felt good. Running along the coast and back through Cascais was beautiful, it didn’t feel too hot at this point but I knew there was still a long way to go.

As I struggled in the last 10k or so in the Boston Marathon earlier this year I decided to take an SIS gel every 7km. This didn’t just help me keep fuelled but it broke the race up into smaller chunks and I just kept thinking “keep working hard, get through the next few kilometres then down a gel”. With the route being relatively flat I felt comfortable at around 4:05-4:10min/km pace. This meant I soon caught up with my friend from the plane and went straight passed on one of the small hills.

At 35km I was on track to go sub 3 again. However the temperature was rising and running along the main road there wasn’t any shade and there were only one or two runners to chase down. I was starting to suffer so I took my caffeine gel to try and perk myself up. I got to 39k but then I got cramp in my left hamstring, I had to stop and stretch for 30 seconds which I thought cost me any chance of getting over the finish line under 3. Luckily it loosened up and I got back on pace. I was doing the maths in my head and trying to work out what pace I needed to hit. As I was running over the distance I knew I needed to up it. Thankfully my legs cooperated with me and allowed me to push on; I got through the 41st kilometre in 4:02, 42nd in 3:53 and then was at 3:33min/km pace for the final 500m to finish in 2:59:37.

Bling

It was such a relief to cross the line and I was chuffed to get another sub 3 marathon in the bag. It was definitely a lot harder than it needed to be but I guess that’s running. After collecting my medal and goodie bag I got roadside to cheer the squad round the half marathon. 

Stance Off

@fayebfit storming to a Half Marathon PB

@lorns_elliott zooming towards the finish line having just overtaken Alex to earn the bragging rights

@alexcvx looking strong. Great Stance combo & colour coordination

@bench53 heading for the beach! #LongDistanceCatwalk

Smithy, Lorna, Faye, Al, Rob, Chivers, Me, Becky & Robbie

In contrast to last year in Cologne Robbie didn’t run really really well because it was really really hot. However, everyone did well considering it was close to 30 degrees and there was a steep hill around 17k. 

Overall it was a great weekend in Lisbon. I’m now incredibly motivated to get into good shape ahead of the London Marathon next year. I’m planning to do a few shorter races including cross-country in the next couple of months.

Well done to everyone else that raced at the weekend, I’ve seen some awesome results posted.

See a lot of you soon.

Steve

The Royal Parks Half Marathon 2016

On Sunday the 9th of October I took part in the Royal Parks Half Marathon. I decided to enter the ballot earlier this year because I ran the event in 2014 and really enjoyed it. Back then I wasn’t in great shape so I thought it would be good to take part again and try and achieve a better time. When I signed up I didn’t know I was going to be doing the Cologne Marathon the weekend before so my approach to the race changed slightly.
During the week between Cologne Marathon and the Royal Parks Half I rested quite a lot. The only real running I did was for The Running Works Run Club and even then I did less sessions than normal. Thanks Nikki for looking out for me and telling me to rest. As the race was approaching my legs were feeling more normal as the days were passing. I knew they wouldn’t be completely fresh but I was hoping they’d feel good enough for me to give it a good crack.

With the race starting at 9am I got an early night on Saturday. Lorna and I woke up a bit before 7am to give us time to get stuff together. She would be cheering me on from the sidelines as she had chosen not to enter due to other races and the entry fee being expensive. For the second week running (pun intended) Lorna looked after all my stuff so I didn’t need to use the bag drop and gave me lots of loud cheers. It definitely helps having someone alongside you at races to take away some of those little stresses. We got the bus to Hyde Park Corner and met up with Tom at the entrance to the park and Ash, Julian, Laurent & Mark in the race village.

The race start time came around really quickly. As I had put in an estimated finish time of around 1:20-1:25 (I think) I was in the orange start pen, which was good as it meant I didn’t have many people in front of me. Mark Foster and Ben Fogle did short speeches about the Royal Parks and the race and before we knew it we were off. I’d decided to aim for around 1:20 so set off at 3:45min/km pace. I wasn’t really sure whether my legs would have it in them after Cologne Marathon but I was willing to find out. I think its good every now and then to push it on tired legs, as I mentioned in my last blog post I am trying to use races to pick up fitness and get back into the shape I was in when I ran Cardiff Half.

I started the race with a 3:43 minute kilometre, which is testament to getting in one of the front start pens and the width of the roads in that section. After 1km you are running through Green Park and shortly after you head past Buckingham Palace and along Birdcage Walk. Running in that area of London always gives me flashbacks to finishing races like the London Marathon, London 10,000 and the Westminster Mile. I’ve got some great memories of racing near Buckingham Palace, I feel incredibly lucky to run in London day in day out around such epic landmarks. The next few kilometres were less scenic as you are running along a few main roads, you run east to near Somerset House before doing a U-turn to head back along the strand and onto The Mall. At this point I was feeling strong and maintaining my goal pace. That said it was early days as when you are running along The Mall you have covered 5 miles.

The crowds were out in force as it was such a nice day. It was particularly busy around Buckingham Palace and up Constitution Hill, which was good, as when trying to hold a quick pace, that straight seems to go on for a while. As mentioned by Ben Fogle on the start line you don’t want to be struggling as you enter Hyde Park, there is still 7 miles to go. I still felt good at this point but knew that at any moment my legs could tighten reminding me I’d run a marathon the weekend before.

 I covered a few kilometres within Hyde Park but then unfortunately came a first for me in a race; I needed to nip to the loo. I was around the 8 mile point and had to ease up. I ran at around 4min/km pace for a while before getting to the toilets near the bandstand on Serpentine Road. After a quick stop I was back on my way, I knew that 1:20 would definitely be out of reach but I aimed to claim a few seconds back over the next few kilometres. Despite my best efforts my stride had been broken and I could only manage around 4 minute/kms until the finish.

 I was a little frustrated that I couldn’t run quicker and get closer to 1:20 but on the other hand I was happy to be able to run a nice half marathon the week after a marathon and enjoy it. My legs were tightening as the final kilometres were passing and I was entering cruise/damage limitation mode. I got massive cheers from the Advent Running crew at mile 12 and from Lorna and Nat as I was running down the long home straight of Kensington Road. Thanks for the shouts everyone, really appreciate it! 

 I crossed the line in 1:23:11 finishing in 86th position, pretty happy with that considering the circumstances. One day I’d like to race the Royal Parks Half fully rested and see what I could do. 

  

I collected my medal and then joined Lorna and Nat in cheering other runners through the line. We didn’t quite have the same effect on runners as the guy with the megaphone 800m or so before the finish line shouting “push, push, push, push!!” but we tried. A big shout has to go to Ash, Tom, Laurent, Mark, Julian etc for all running great times.

Overall the race was great fun, I’d definitely recommend it to anyone. I’d kind of class it as a mini London Marathon so if you want to run a flat, fast route and be cheered on by great crowds then enter the ballot. After all everyone loves a ballot right! Ha

Hope those of you in the ballot for London got in and to those of you who didn’t there are plenty of other great marathons out there so start doing some research.

Next up for me is some cross-country on Saturday with Advent Running. See a lot of you soon.

Steve

The Cologne Marathon 2016

On the 2nd of October I took part in the Cologne Marathon. Over the last couple of years Lorna has taken part in various races in Europe with her brother/s and friends from Colchester. We decided Cologne would be good as they organise a half marathon and marathon on the same day so people could choose the distance they preferred. Initially Lorna and I were going to do the Marathon and Alex (Lorna’s brother) and Robbie were going to do the Half Marathon. As we hadn’t been doing long runs or specific marathon training since Paris Marathon Lorna opted for the half marathon. Due to the half marathon starting at 8:30am and the marathon at 10:00am the plan was for them to run and then grab food and BEER to cheer me round. 

Unfortunately as the race neared Lorna picked up an injury and therefore made the sensible decision not to race. After all we have lots of other races coming up including the Boston Marathon in April. Having not trained specifically for the marathon I had mixed feelings about it. On one hand I was relaxed as I knew I wasn’t in PB shape but on the other hand I was nervous as I didn’t really know what pace to run at and still wanted to be relatively close to my personal best. Luckily over the last three or four weeks I made it to track on Tuesdays and managed to squeeze in a couple of decent long runs. 

We travelled to Cologne early on the Saturday morning and headed straight to the expo to pick up our race numbers.  

The expo was really well organised, despite arriving at what was supposed to be a peak time for pick up we walked straight up to the desk and had our numbers and bags to drop within a couple of minutes. Guess that’s German efficiency for you! We decided it was best to not hang around at the expo, after all we had a lot of running to do the following day so didn’t want to be on our feet for a long time. We then got the train into the city centre to drop stuff at the hotel. We stayed at the Hyatt hotel that is perfectly positioned for getting to and from the race start area.  

Carb loading was next on the agenda, having had a large breakfast Lorna and I opted for a pretzel whilst Alex and Robbie went for some pasta and pizza. In the afternoon we relaxed in the hotel and had a nap, as we were all pretty knackered due to the flight out being at 7:40am. It wasn’t long before we were carb loading again, this time we went to Vapianos for more pasta and pizza. As we would have to be up around 6ish to get ready for the race we got an early night. 

As I wasn’t aiming for a specific time I felt quite relaxed as the race start was nearing. It was good to have Lorna, Alex and Robbie there; maybe if I were racing on my own I would’ve been over thinking it. Lorna and I went with Alex and Robbie to drop their bags about half an hour before start time and then we headed to the bridge to find a good spot to cheer them on. Robbie was feeling good and I was excited to see what time he could run. He generally runs on track but had been training more specifically for this half. Being capable of a sub 5-minute mile I knew he would post a good time. Over the few weeks leading up to the race Alex had been struggling with a dodgy knee and therefore wasn’t too sure on how he’d feel. I obviously wanted Lorna to be running the race but due to her injury I was glad she decided not to run. If she had taken part I would’ve been worried about how she was getting on and thinking about it whilst running the marathon. Also it meant I could look forward to seeing her around the course and this would break the run up into chunks. 

Having seen Robbie and Alex run past Lorna walked over the bridge and found other spots to cheer at whilst I headed back to the start area to get ready. Luckily at this point the sun was out so I was keeping nice and warm. I dropped my bag off and stripped down to my racing kit: AR Collective vest, Adidas Split Shorts, Runderwear, Stance socks and Adidas Adios Boost 3. Typically once I was just down to my racing kit the sun disappeared and it was cold and windy, it looked like a storm was brewing but luckily it passed and the conditions were ok. 

 On the start line I was feeling good and ready to go. My only worry was that my hips were feeling a little tight. On Thursday night I had done a run with The Running Works, Under Armour and Midnight Runners and was feeling sore from doing a few different exercises. In hindsight being in a taper week before a marathon I should have just done the running part. You live and learn I guess. After listening to some horrendous German “music” the countdown began and we were off. I struggled to get onto goal pace straight away as the road was rather narrow and I had positioned myself a little far back, somewhere between the 3:00 and 3:30 pacers. The first kilometre was around 4:40ish as opposed to my goal pace of 4:15 (equates to around 3 hours for the marathon) but once it thinned out I got onto pace and made up a few seconds per kilometre over the next five kilometres or so. I was feeling comfortable and my legs were loosening up. The weather was pretty much perfect, nice and cool and the odd bit of drizzle. After a few kilometres my watch was already out of sync with the kilometre markings on the road. I was 500m or so ahead of the markings really early on and knew the end total was going to be long. This was frustrating but meant that I would have to try and up my pace to counteract the extra distance. I’m not quite sure why there was a difference between my watch and the course; I was sticking pretty close to the racing (blue) line so maybe it was just the gps or something. I carried on at goal pace and was enjoying the route, it was nice and flat and Cologne is a really picturesque city. 

I took my first gel after 11k/7 miles and was feeling good, having not done many long runs over the last few weeks due to having a cold etc I was having fun. I maintained my pace and went through the half marathon distance in 1:29:28. As the race was going on my legs were feeling better and better and the pace was feeling more comfortable. I carried on taking gels at regular intervals and felt well fuelled. 

 I made it to around 40k on target but by this point my legs were tightening and my pace was dropping. I was still only just over goal pace, frustratingly by my watch I went through the 42k distance in 2:57ish yet I knew I still had about a kilometre left to run. I wasn’t going to make sub 3 but despite my legs tightening I pushed on. I saw Lorna, Alex and Robbie with about 800m or so to go and despite Robbie briefly chasing me down the road I couldn’t up my pace or muster a sprint finish.  

Similarly to how I finished London I was shuffling towards the finish line at damage limitation pace, I didn’t want to pull up. I crossed the line in 3:01:03. I was annoyed I hadn’t managed to go sub 3 again but I was happy I wasn’t that far off my PB (2:54 in London). The crowds were great along the last few kilometres, I was struggling so it was hard to really appreciate it and take it all in but overall it was a great race. 

A massive thanks has to go to Lorna for supporting me and looking after me over the weekend. Once I had finished I met up with Lorna, Alex and Robbie.  

Robbie had run really well! He smashed his PB finishing the half in 1:24. Alex didn’t have such a great race finishing in 1:36 but considering the dodgy knee that’s still a good time. Robbie ran really well. 

If you are looking for a flat, fast marathon or half marathon you cant go wrong with choosing to enter Cologne. I am hoping to run the marathon or half again in the near future. The trip was relatively cheap as well, which is always good when you’ve got lots lined up. After the race we went straight for food and drinks and over the Sunday and Monday we did some sightseeing. This included going to the Schokoladen Museum (Lindt chocolate museum) that was awesome, I felt like I’d earned some chocolate.  

 Overall it was a great weekend visiting Cologne and running the marathon. Its given me a good base to work off and now I’m looking forward to racing the Royal Parks Half Marathon as well as other races in the next few weeks. I am planning to race myself back into PB shape. 

I hope everyone’s running has been going well, see a lot of you soon. Give me a shout if you see me at the Royal Parks Half. 

Steve

The North Face Zagori Marathon 2016

On Saturday the 23rd of July Lorna and I took part in the Zagori Marathon. We signed up a few months back and the initial plan was to run it with Michalis and Freya. The main reason we signed up was because Michalis is Greek and could show us around but unfortunately due to injuries etc neither of them could make it. Having paid for the race, accommodation and flights Lorna and I still made the trip. We travelled to Athens on the Wednesday before the race and spent a day and a bit there before heading north to Aristi, near to where the race started.It was my first trip to Greece so I didn’t really know what to expect. We arrived on the Wednesday afternoon and headed straight to the pool on the roof of our hotel for a spot of swimming and sunbathing.

The weather was awesome, roughly 30 degrees, I may have burnt a little. In the evening we went to a restaurant, recommended by Michalis, just down the road from our hotel. The food was amazing; we had Greek salad, lots of bread with tzatziki and Souvlaki. The wine wasn’t quite up to standard but it was really cheap so we couldn’t complain really.

On the Thursday morning we went for an exploratory 10k of Athens. Michalis had sent us over a route to follow so that we could take in some of the ruins and run passed the Acropolis Museum etc.

We started our run at around 9am and already it was baking hot. We kept it nice and steady bearing in mind we had a mountain marathon in two days time. After the run we rehydrated and found a nice little bakery near our hotel that sold massive ice creams. We returned to that bakery a fair few times throughout our stay. In the afternoon we chilled by the pool, it was so nice to just relax and not have to do anything. We went for an amazing meal in the evening at Orizontes which is situated at the top of Lycabettus Hill. The hill is the highest peak of Athens which overlooks the capital from 277 meters. This was one of my personal highlights of the trip; we had great food and wine and then watched the beautiful sunset.


After a nice couple of days in Athens the time had come to head up North. We got a taxi to the bus station and then boarded a bus for the 8 hour trip to Ioannina. Once we arrived in Ioannina we were picked up by a taxi arranged by Michalis, we were driven to fifth element to collect our race packs before being taken to Aristi Mountain Resort where we would stay for the weekend. The resort was amazing; the views of the mountains were awesome.

We carb-loaded up before getting an early night as we had to be up around 5 o’clock to get organised and get a taxi to the start.

Our taxi arrived at 5:30am to take us to the race; luckily it was only a half an hour drive to the start, in the village of Kipoi (750m altitude), as the race started at 6:30am. We took a few pre-race photos, dropped our bags off and before we knew it the race began.

Being a mountain marathon there wasn’t the sprint start of a shorter distance race but some of the elite guys took off pretty sharpish. The first 700m or so of the race was on road, luckily I wore my Salomon X-series which have good grip for trail but due to not having any real lugs they are also good on road. Then we ran over a three arched bridge called Kalogeriko entering a well preserved path. Within the first couple of kilometres we went over a couple of stone bridges, the runners at this point were still pretty bunched together. Having not done much research into the route both Lorna and I were surprised at how rocky and technical the terrain was. We followed the river bank for about 2km before running inside the gorge, we found ourselves clambering over massive rocks/boulders. Despite the challenging route we were making good time and knew we’d make the cut off time of 4.5 hours for halfway.

 We passed through a couple of refreshment stations, one at about 7k and another around 11k. The next station was at 17.5km in the Voidomatis springs. This was where the intense uphill for about 10 kilometres started. Papigo was the site for the halfway point and aid station number 4. Lorna and I had made it to halfway in roughly 3 hours. It was a relief to get there in good time and have the opportunity to fuel up; there were crisps, cake and boiled potato etc. Having looked at the elevation profile a fair amount we knew the hard work was ahead of us.

The uphill was pretty brutal, it was still incredibly rocky. In hindsight prior to the race we should have hit the trails more often and prioritised hill sessions, however we were managing. The poles were coming in handy and Lorna felt more stable using them. Every now and then we had to just take some time to look around and enjoy being in the mountains, the scenery was spectacular.

None of the photos really do it justice. We continued climbing up until around 28k where there was a short sharp downhill section. This proved challenging as it was so steep and the ground was sliding away from beneath us, we had to put the brakes on. After the downhill section there was a little more climbing to do before a sustained period of running downhill. With the course profile in mind I knew where the ascending and descending was, the only thing I didn’t know was that not an awful lot of the downhill section were runnable (for us anyway). The 80km and marathon routes overlap so we saw some of the ultra-athletes flying down the side of the mountain. It was awe-inspiring to see them running with such balance and quick feet.

After the 6th refreshment station at around 31k things were pretty slow going, we were tired from all the climbing. We were running for what must’ve been close to two hours before reaching another aid station. Lorna asked one of the photographers on the route how far we had left to run and he replied “6 or 7k” we couldn’t quite believe it. We finally made it to Avgerinos and the 7th aid station; this was 37.7k into the race. Having done the first half marathon in 3 hours we couldn’t believe we were going to be pushing it to finish in the cut off time of 9 hours, especially with so many other runners behind us. We started to question whether we would even get a medal or anyone would be there at the finish. The pace picked up a little but a considerable amount of time had passed and the finish line was still not to be seen. On the horizon we could see a small marquee with a few people outside, we’d been running for ages since the last checkpoint and thought we must be approaching the finish but no it was another aid station. We were both thinking “this has to say 40k+, we haven’t just run only over a kilometre”. To our amazement it said 39k. It goes to show you can’t underestimate the terrain in trail races; kilometres can take a seriously long time. We shot off from the aid station in a bid to make the cut off time.

The first kilometre or so from the aid station was ok; we could hold a decent pace. Then came a section where we had to zig zag down the side of a hill. At this point we could hear and see the crowds at the finish line in the distance; Lorna and I were trying to predict how far away it was and how long it would take to run there. The final kilometre was pretty flat through a town on the road; this gave us chance to pick up the pace. We made it onto the red carpet/finish straight and could muster a sprint finish. Luckily we had made it across the line in 8 hours and 45 minutes. It was such a relief, we received are medals and then grabbed a drink to rehydrate.

It was such a long day running through the mountains but what a day! It was such a brutal but beautiful route, one I hope to tackle again in the future.

After the race Lorna and I had a few days in Aristi and Sivota to relax. We went rafting and chilled with Fred the Flamingo on the beach.


 On a whole the trip was amazing; it was nice to spend time in Athens, explore the mountains and then chill by the sea. A massive thankyou has to go to Michalis for helping me and Lorna get organised and travel around Greece.I’m already thinking about the possibility of doing the marathon again or even the 80k. Athens Marathon will also have to be done at some point soon.

See a lot of you soon

Steve