Tag Archives: travel

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

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

2017 races, goals and adventures 

Now that I have run my last serious race of 2016 it’s time to start looking forward to 2017, set some goals and plan races and adventures. This year I managed to achieve some big goals, for example going sub 1:15 in the Cardiff Half Marathon and getting to run the London Marathon. Similarly to 2015 once I had achieved certain goals I failed to set new targets for the second half of the year. Despite that I ran some great races and was happy with my times.

My PBs I will be looking to better in 2017 are:

1 mile: 4:43 (City of London Mile 2016)

5k: 16:31 (Run Through Battersea Park 5k 2015)


10k: 34:50 (Orion Harriers Fast Friday 2016)


Half Marathon: 1:13:22 (Cardiff Half 2016)


Marathon: 2:54:08 (London Marathon 2016)

I always find it hard to set new goals but I think the big one for me in 2017 has to be the Marathon. I was hoping to go closer to 2:45 in the London Marathon this year but I couldn’t quite hold the pace in the last few kilometres. Due to Boston including heartbreak hill I may have to look for a flatter quicker Marathon in the second half of the year to improve my time considerably. However I’m going to be prioritising track, tempos, hills and the long run in training for Boston and I will see how it goes. Here’s a list of the races I’ve got lined up so far and my aims:

Brighton Half Marathon – 26/02/17 – 1:13

Essex 20 – 05/03/17 – improve on 2:03 from 2016

Colchester Half – 12/03/17 – beat 1:16 from 2016

Boston Marathon – 17/04/17 – 2:45-2:50

Night of the 10,000m PBs – 20/05/17 – sub 34 minutes

City of London Mile – ? – 4:35

I’m really looking forward to the races I have lined up. As well as the ones mentioned above I am going to take part in a couple of XC races in January to build some strength. I’m always on the look out for more races so if there are any you’d recommend drop me a message on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram etc. Also let me know what races and adventures you have planned.

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be carrying on with the Advent Running run streak and may take part in the odd parkrun/Santa run to keep me entertained until the new year.

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