Snowdonia Trail Marathon 2018

Snowdonia Trail Marathon – Sunday 15th July– Report by Caroline Hargreaves

 

The Marathon started at 9am and after a brief run through the village centre we hit the first ascent which goes on for about 3.5 miles and it a brutal way to start the race. After finally reaching the top there is a brief downhill until you reach a turnstile, which is the only way to cross over one of the farmers land and because of that there was quite a que of people getting across. Once across the turnstile you can finally stretch your legs and get some downhill running, crossing over grass and bogs and you get to see some stunning views of the countryside. Not for long though as not far around the corner was a slate hill where you had to climb over a huge pile of slate. After that climb we were running on flat land until the check point at 6 miles. Once through the check point and realising how long it had taken to complete the first few miles myself, Pete Morris and Suzanne Bates knew that we needed to get going if we were going to make the checkpoint at 2:15, which we were told was at 18.8 miles at Pen y Pass. The next 10 miles were undulating with plenty of turnstiles to climb over, hills to go up and down, stone tracks, gravel paths and thin trails to run through including running around a beautiful lake at mile 13.

At 17 miles we had 35 minutes till cut off and felt that this was enough time to get there on time, however I was not expecting that the next few miles were going to be so brutal! Incredibly steep hill that just seemed to go on and on and on and at 2.15 I was at 19 miles and the cut off was no-where in sight, feeling incredibly deflated I thought I had missed the cut off but just had to keep on going as I was determined to complete the race. I finally reached the check point at 2:28 and was happy to know that the cut off time had been extended until 3pm and so I was all good to carry on. Pete Morris was already there waiting and Suzanne came in just after and we were told we were ok to go and we were the last people to leave to climb Snowdon. All runners after us were told they could not continue.

Now the hard work started, the first part of the climb is large rock boulders that you can step up, once at the top we went around the side of the mountain and had 3 tough miles to the top. The inclines just kept on coming and coming and at some points you had to physically climb on your hands and knees to get up. Finally, we reached the top, absolutely shattered all I had in my head is that I needed to finish and I needed to finish as so as I could and so from somewhere I managed to get the energy to run all the way to the finish, physically my body was absolutely broken but mentally I knew I was going to finish and so I put my big girls pants on and just ran. I finished in 9:22:13.

The Ultra has 7000ft of climbing over 60km and this was the first year that the event has held an Ultra distance. The race was won by Reading Roadrunner Rob Corney in a fantastic time of 5:56:05 The Ultra was also ran by Peter Higgs who is now the only person that has ran all 4 distances at this event and he came in at 12:12:58. In total there were only 151 entrants and 15 of them DNF which shows just how tough the course is.

The half marathon takes a different route up to the top that doesn’t involve climbing, however is still the toughest half marathon that I have ever completed and was taken on this year by numerous Roadrunners. Clive Bates, Chloe Lloyd, Amanda Rosser, Tina Woffington, Sarah Richmond-Devoy, Veronika Royle, Andy Dingle, Nicola Gillard, Kathy Tyler, Helen Grieves, Linda Wright, Hannah McPhee, Sarah Drew and Gill Manton. And Chris Manton tackled the 10k.

 

If I could sum this race up in one word it would be BRUTAL!! However, it was one of the most stunning courses I have ever done and is both mentally and physically challenging. If you are looking for a challenge I would recommend this race. Just make sure you enter nice and early and book your accommodation as both sell out incredibly quickly.

Endure 24 (Part 2) Leeds

Race Report: Darren Lewis.

Following a thoroughly enjoyable race in Reading with a speedy team, a post on the busy Endure24 Chat Facebook caught my eye. A team from the Midlands were short of runners and appealing for somebody to stop in and give them confidence to take part. I wasn’t fully-recovered from six hard laps (yes solo runners only 6) at Wasing Park, but thought: Why not? Meet some new people, feel good about helping out, no pressure and a stack more miles in the legs.

On arrival at a sweltering Bramham Park I found the Midland Deaf Team. They’d already setup a caravan and a few tents set up in the motorhome area. This was a result as I was able to park my car in our camp for the duration. Even better – pasta was cooking and my new pals insisted I scoff a few platefuls. Carbs consumed, we promptly found the bar and chatted more about the Midlands than race tactics. They all live near Rugby and, hailing from Coventry, I used to play rugby against Old Laurents RFC where a few of them are active members. It is a small world. There were hearing folk among their party that were able to translate my drivel. We got on like a house of fire – so much so we’ve entered Leeds 2019 together. They are also coming to Reading for the first time next year.

About Endure

For those that dont know Endure 24 is billed as Glastonbury for runners with camping, music and food. You can run or walk it as a team, a pair or solo and you have 24 hours to complete as many laps of the five mile trail as you can or want to. There are marshals every couple of kms and a fuel station half way round the lap. Encouraging signs point the way and fairy lights adorn trees, buildings and the odd marshal. There’s amazing support, slick organisation and a festival-like event village with thumping dj tunes, food, trade stands, music, showers and a massage tent.

The Leeds course

The Bramham course felt marginally faster than Reading with nothing like Heartbreak Hill to zap the legs. The chalky tracks were looser underfoot creating far more dust and reflecting so much light that sunglasses were essential. It was, in my opinion, mentally harder. With less distinct chunks than Reading and it felt more relentless.

The loop starts with largely downhill first kilometre along a tree-lined track and under the first ENDURE24 banner. This is followed by a drag uphill (similar to first km at Reading) through woods before flattening out past the Temple of the Lead Lads, which is adorned with fairy lights overnight. Then there’s an open section leading downhill to Temptation Corner, where the SKAbus was parked and Cliff and Mark Saunders from Roadrunners danced around to Madness for the whole event while handing out shots of energy drink. Up a rise to the first gazebo where marshals in hula skirts danced urging runners on towards The Deep, Dark Wood – the only cool area and a short but welcome break from the dusty gravel. Slight downhill to Shambles Café, a water station offering Clif Shot Blocks marked half way. The fastest descent follows before a sharp little incline to the next marshal point in a copse. Back into the open and onto Festival Field. Then a long stretch that was the hottest part of the course. Round a bend then another descent past another giant ENDURE sign, up an incline onto another tree lined path. From there the start/finish is in sight, under a Mizuno banner and past a giant inflatable trainer before a dip and rise to the end of the lap.

My laps

After the kind of night’s sleep that’s normal on cider and a roll mat, the scorching weather saw us up early and deciding on our race plan. The team decided to set me off first with no real idea how many laps we’d each complete.

In the race village I found a few more green vests. Rachel Derry and John Saunders were both running solo. I promised to run with them during the night. Sorry guys. Next time I’ll take a pen, note phone numbers and discover where tents are before it gets dark. The start was like a big city marathon with a Mizuno gantry and chip timers. For a wally like me that means adrenaline overdrive. True to form, I nudged my way to the front and set off far faster than sensible as the crowds hollered and music blasted out. There’s something about chasing a lead car that does funny things to a deluded forty-something – even on one of the hottest weekend of the year!  The exact same 3:30 km I kicked-off with at Reading. Way, way too fast, but plenty of coverage for the green vest on the Endure start videos. A solid first lap coming in about 10th.

Back to the tents for banter and rest, then two laps back-to-back. Our predicted first lap times had been fairly accurate. I was running laps in around half of some of the others. Folk were wanting to stay out of the sun and they were keen to ensure I got a decent number of laps in/similar time on the course. A couple laps overnight (one of these after text as I into not my sleeping bag asking if I’d be happy go again as others were falling apart), saw my fastest runs as the temperature had dropped and breathing was easier. The Leeds course was far more predictable underfoot, so easier to hammer it wearing a head torch.

My final loop was around 11am before we joined arms for the celebratory team run through the finish.

Another 30 miles solid running under my belt, off precious little training, a huge amount of fun, new friends and signed-up of both Endures next year.

For comparison my lap times were as follows (in both cases saving just enough breath to mutter encouragement to pretty much everyone on every lap):

Leeds: 33:09, 33:13, 34:38, 32:37, 34:18, 34:23

Reading: 32:39, 32:49, 33:26, 35:10, 33:25, 34:43

Uganda Marathon 2018

Race Report by Caroline Hargreaves

When I signed up for the Uganda Marathon I wasn’t sure what to expect but the whole week exceeding all my expectations. The Uganda Marathon is not just an event that happens once a year but a social enterprise that works with community-lead projects in Masaka 365 days of the year, helping them to become self-sustainable and less reliant on external funding. Over the week we learnt so much about the projects and I feel that I really understood what drives the community and witnessed their determination to create change in their lives. If any of you would like to hear more about the charity projects please come along and have a chat or feel free to have a look on my facebook page.

RACE DAY

The race started at 7am and so I was up at 5am for breakfast, the start was only a 5-minute walk from the hotel and so plenty of time to get ready and to the start. There was a 10k, half marathon and full marathon, as running is still quite new in Uganda most runners were completing the 10k. In total there were 1500 runners, only 250 of the runners for the marathon and out of the 1500 runners, 150 of them were internationals.

The race started slightly late and the marathon and half marathon runners set off on the course leaving Liberation Square and the town centre. The first few miles were flat and so I just concentrated on getting into a running rhythm and getting used to the heat. We were advised when signing up for the marathon to add 25% to our marathon time and so I knew that it was going to be a long day and that I needed to pace myself. After going past the Masala District Administration Headquarters, we hit out first hill, once I got to the top I felt out of breath but once I saw the view it was well worth it. A few more ups and downs and then we reached ‘The Steep hill’ where we could hear some noise from the bottom, once I had reached the bottom I was overwhelmed to see loads of children lining either side of the course shouting ‘winners, winners, winners!’ it was an amazing sound.

The course then headed back into Masaka and we went past St Joseph’s primary school where I had spent my Legacy day at, the memories of spending the day with the 300 children came flooding back to me and I could see the gardening project that we had done on that day. About 8 miles in we reached ‘The Beast’ I had seen photos of this on the website and so knew what to expect and so walked up it, happy that I had reached the top with enough energy to carry on.

I was hoping that the rest of the lap was going to be downhill, but that was not the case, not long after we reached another hill which they are going the name in the future ‘Heartbreak Hill’ as it really was! After that it was a few more ups and downs and then we were back at Liberation Square and ready to start lap 2.

Lap 2 started well and I continued the same plan as lap 1 where I ran the straights and downhills and walked the steep up hills. Everything was going well until I reached ‘The Steep Hill’ where I slipped on the loose ground, falling I felt a sharp pain in both my knee and ankle, the next minute I had 2 medics and my friend Hat by my side making sure I was ok, my knee hurt but I was so determined to complete the race so I got up saying that all was ok and carried on with the course. For the next few miles everything was ok but the 2nd time around ‘The Beast’ and ‘Heartbreak Hill’ felt that they were twice as long as the first lap. What was amazing on the 2nd lap is that at various points on the local children would come up and grab your hand and run along down the street with you or they would just be cheering and saying “bye mzungu” (bye foreigner). After run walking the last few miles as my knee had swollen up I finally completed in 6 hours 31 minutes.

The race was won this year by a Kenyan national who completed it in 2:34. The fastest international completed the course in 3:04.

I would absolutely 100% recommend this race to anyone who is up for a bit of a challenge, hands down my favourite marathon and one of the best weeks of my life.

Thank you to everyone that donated trainers, these were all taken to the local running shop so that the local runners that had entered either the 10k, half marathon and marathon could purchase them before the race. They are sold for only a couple of £’s but the idea is that when they runners buy them it makes they feel like they have earnt them and so they respect them more than if they had been given to them as charity. All money from the sales goes back into the Uganda Marathon project.

Thank you to everyone that donated trainers, these were all taken to the local running shop so that the local runners that had entered either the 10k, half marathon and marathon could purchase them before the race. They are sold for only a couple of £’s but the idea is that when they runners buy them it makes they feel like they have earnt them and so they respect them more than if they had been given to them as charity. All money from the sales goes back into the Uganda Marathon project.

If anyone would like to would like to sponsor me and help support this amazing project then my BT donate page is still open https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/carolinehargreaves1#.WslzgV0ugA.facebook

 

The Westminster Mile-More Than a Mile

By Sev Konieczny May 18

A favourite in the race calendar, the Westminster mile traditionally takes place the Sunday prior to the London Vitaly 10,000, another highly rated event by the RRR.

This year, a group of RRR made up part of the 8048 finishers of what is now the biggest ever timed mile  event in the world. From 9.30am to 3pm successive waves of aspiring athletes started on the Mall, passed Horse Guards, followed St James’ park to Birdcage walk to finish in front of Buckingham Palace.

The well established event now in its 5th year is far more than an epic distance in an iconic location, it is an opportunity to enjoy a great (family) day out, test fitness , mix with the greatest, have a go, witness new generations running their heart out and above all feel totally inspired.

Rumour had it that Mo Farah will be running in the family wave. Sadly he wasn’t in Stewart Wing’s one. It didn’t dampen Stewart’s spirits as he added yet another PB to his impressive collection of late, securing his nickname of PB king.

 

His Queen, Helen Dixon, chose a later wave to race a speedy sub 8.30 ( PB of course!). She was accompanied by Rachel Allaway, a Westminster mile first timer who was delighted by her faster-than-she-thought performance and Hannah McPhee.  Hannah was interviewed by the one and only Mo Farah at the start line. Vlm and weather chat as well as his words of encouragement were a great help in locating her running mojo.

Seb Coe sent off the rest of us in the parkrun wave.

 

 

Dean Allway couldn’t sustain his quick pace but still rejoiced at his sub6

Kerri French raced to her target, fantastic sub10 achieved in what she described as “an amazing organised event”

 

Liz Atkinson used the mile as a warm up for the 10,000 the following day.

 

I visualised the track at Palmer park every 400 meters. Sadly the voice of Tony Canning wasn’t loud enough in my head to take me to a sub9 .  Sporadic attendance at the Friday speed sessions had a slowing effect on the day as well as splinters and cuts under foot result of being stranded on Black Swan Lake in windy conditions the day before.

Moral of the story : more regular Friday training sessions at palmer park and less paddle boarding on the eve of the race for me as next year target is set.

 

Pollen was high this year making the race conditions quite tough. Andy Atkinson missed out on a sub7 and got beaten by Teresa Caswell ( of Reading parkrun) and Sam Whalley. Both parkrun EDs were determined to improve on their last year’s time with Sam reflecting afterwards “ I knew I would struggle to get close to last year’s time because I do not have a marathon behind me. When I saw my time was so close to 7, I wished I had had Peter Reilly breathing down my neck, as that might have made me go faster”

 

Regardless of the distance, when wearing a bib, race mode is on !

All of us embraced the day to the full and we hope more Roadrunners will join in next year for this uniquely inspiring experience.

All good practice for our club track mile!

 

 

 

 

 

World Marathon Majors-Completed!

By Katherine Sargeant

 

When I completed my World Marathon Majors in Boston on 16 April, Sam asked me to write a piece for the newsletter.  My son, and new Roadrunner, Ben came up with some questions about the journey from the New York City Marathon in November 2015 to the final, very rainy race in Boston this Spring.

Was there anyone or anything that first inspired you to attempt the 6 Majors?

That’s an easy one: Aaron Chai.  I still vividly remember Tom announcing during a dark and chilly pre-track briefing that Aaron had completed his 6 in November 2014.  Aaron’s journey concluded in New York, a place that was on my bucket list so I wondered to myself if I could secure a place for that amazing race and in my wildest dreams target all of the other races.  I’d never gone away without Ben, all of my annual leave was reserved for doing stuff with him, so this was a major departure and challenge for me: to travel on my own, find my way to the hotel, the Expo, the coaches to the start and then sight-see round New York for a week.  It ended up being one of the best weeks of my life.

What are the stand-out memories from the 6 races?

Each one stands for something.

New York (November 2015) was a week of surprises.  I’d been pretty anxious about travelling alone and finding the start line, let alone the finish!  I was targeting sub 3:20 and in the end did 3:15:26.  For the last bit, which is undulating around and into Central Park, I think I had a look of shock on my face but this changed to absolute delight, especially when I was reunited with my ‘phone and saw that David Lewis and so many friends had been tracking my progress and sending me messages of congratulations.  Back at the hotel, one of the barmen asked me my time and when I told him he said the drinks were on the house and random people started congratulating me.  I ended up going out for dinner with an American couple who were also running.  The next few days were spent sightseeing in beautiful sunshine and talking to people wherever I went, e.g. to a guy on the Staten Island Ferry who had seen the Twin Towers come down from his office window.  It was a very memorable week.

Next up was London 2016 and I had one goal at this special race: a sub-3:15 and a Championship qualifying time.  I ran my heart out and finished in 3:11:18.  I was over the moon and onwards to Berlin in September.  Or so I thought.

Just 3 weeks before Berlin I tore my right plantar fascia during an off-road race.  Training had gone brilliantly until then.  I was heartbroken to pull out, absolutely choked.  It was a real low point for me.

So I considered myself very lucky to rock up at Tokyo in February 2017, on just 3 months or so of training following the PF injury.  This time I was part of the Sports Tours party, and it was a party.  Race day was sunny and chilly – perfect running conditions.  I tried not to think about the fact that it was 1 and 3 am back home and I was therefore running through the UK night!  Somehow I finished in 3:08:23 and ended up partying with a new set of friends who I still see (and have raced with) since then.  I will never ever forget how awesome that day was.

Chicago had been reserved for October 2017 and that was supposed to be the next target.  However, one of my Tokyo friends was doing Berlin and so – for someone injury prone I made the only sensible decision – to run Berlin in September and Chicago 2 weeks later.  And I was extremely fortunate to do so.  After Reading Half in 2017 I ended up with plantar fasciitis in my left foot and had another 3 months out.  So the mission became “get round” Berlin and Chicago.  When I started running again at the end of June my physio said “no speed work, no races, just miles in the legs, 3 times a week”.  I ran a reserved rainy race in Berlin and got round in 3:22:53.  Two weeks later Chicago was the complete opposite: in the high 20s and beautiful sunshine, it was tough running and I was thankful to cross the line in 3:23:32.  One race to go!!

Boston, 16 April 2018, torrential rain, near-freezing temperatures and a headwind of 25 mph gusting to 40!  Training had gone brilliantly and in ideal weather I thought I might come close to my Tokyo PB.  In the end it became a matter of survival with warnings of dressing appropriately to avoid hyperthermia.  All anyone was talking about was what kit to wear as the usual shorts and vest top would be crazy.  Elites were dropping out beforehand and those that did run were way short of their target times.  I was very grateful to squeeze under the London Championship qualifying time again, with 3:14:18.  I sobbed when I crossed the line.  I have no idea if it was the Majors achievement, the concentration I had been under for the last few hours, or the cold and wet.  Fortunately Aaron Chai, the guy who had inspired me to run all these races, finished just ahead of me.  He looked after me, took me to collect my long-coveted 6 star medal, but then I ended up in the medical tent to be treated for the cold.

Was crossing the finish line in Boston the most satisfying, the toughest and the last?

For sure.  We had done our final 20 mile training run on Good Friday in pouring rain, but nothing could prepare us for the Boston conditions, including the quagmire at the race village at the start in Hopkinton.  Being a point to point race, from west to east and into a biting easterly wind, there was no respite.  Seeing Roadrunners, Ann McKinnon and Louise Atkinson, at the foot of Heartbreak Hill (at 20 miles) was lovely.  Despite the atrocious weather there was support along the entire route – a tough but outstanding race.  My advice to anyone new to running: train in all weathers!

How important was the support you had in achieving this dream?

The support was fabulous.  Ben, you were always amazing.  I remember the tear-provoking text which you sent me before I left the New York hotel, and you were always there to listen to the highs and the lows.  Tony Streams – boy, has he been through the mill?!  But we’ve run 3 of the races together, so we’ve had some fantastic trips and done some lovely stuff.  No response to this question would be complete without mentioning David Lewis, whose updates on race progress via Facebook are second to none!  Plus I am a member of an online wellbeing (but not running!) group called On the Wagon.  I’ve made a stack of friends there who made the bad days bearable and celebrated the highs.

Where is your Majors medal now?

It’s still hanging on my bedroom door.  It’s pretty much the first thing I see when I wake up which is really nice.  It’s also ready to pop in my bag and show to colleagues and clients etc. who have all been interested in my progress and want to hear about Boston in particular.  The plan is to have it framed with the 6 that made up the journey.

Do you have plans to run any of the Majors again, other than London?

Well, you know I want to take you, Ben, to NYC for the 2020 marathon when you’re old enough to be bought a beer in the US.  I’m hoping that’s the time when you also get the bug for running 26.2!  I’d also like to go back and do the time I know I’m capable of in Berlin.  And I might go back to Tokyo and share that race with Tony, as he looks to finish the 6 majors as well.  So no, not really!!

What’s next?

I hope to enjoy some Club Championship races in May and June because I gave these up in a bid not to do too much.   In the autumn, it’s back to some more overseas marathons, all being well.

 

Beer Lovers Marathon

Liege, Belgium 20/5/2018 – By Dean Allaway

After running the Medoc Marathon back in September 2017 this was on my radar to do and entered as soon as entries opened, only in it’s third year being held and only having a limit of 1500 places how could I resist a run with beer and music involved?

On to the weekend where I was accompanied by fellow Roadrunners Pete the Train Morris, Caroline Hargreaves and adopted Roadrunner Pete Bowles we all booked to go on the Eurostar which was dead easy from St Pancras to Brussels, then onto Liege which was about 3 hours in all.

We arrived Saturday afternoon with another short journey to Palais by train with only around 400m to walk we were right by the expo and very close to our Ibis hotel, so no logistical drama’s this weekend, wallet, passport, phone – check!!

Numbers picked up and bib number photo done, hotel check-in and back out for a few beers and to watch the FA cup final, which the winner was coincidently scored Belgian Edin Hazard.

In the evening we went out for a meal, most of us had steak and chips (which seemed a good choice as this was a fun run and nothing more), just as well it was a fun run as me and The Train ended up staying out late and going to the beer festival that was going on at same time.

Race day was a 9:30 start we only had a 5-minute walk to the start line by the expo, ideal as The Train was a bit hungover and I was feeling a bit de-hydrated. We got up at 8am and got ready to go with a fancy-dress theme of cowboys and Indians, Pete seemed to forget his outfit? We met up with Caroline dressed as Indian and Pete B another cowboy.

 

So a bit about the race, the first 10k was mostly uphill with over 500 steps to climb getting some great views of the city.  I think I drank more water to re-hydrate here, with 14 more beer stops to come of the best Belgian beers ranging from 5-9.5% and aid stations every 4k or less well stocked with cheeses, fruit, biscuits, white pudding and other savoury snacks. The route was then was mostly flat with nice parts along the river with music playing, it made for a great atmosphere, I had a water pistol gun which helped on a hot day too.

We had so much fun and we all just about beat the cut off time of 6 hours 30 me and Pete B 6:27 and Caroline and the Train got in just under 7 but I think there was still quite a few finishing behind us. We then had an after party which you got a free meal of chilli con-carne and yet more beer and music being played.

A great weekend had by all and a most do for any beer lover!!!

 

All Roads Lead To Rhodes

Road to Rhodes Marathon Weekend 2018 by Paul Monaghan

We do marathons quite often but every now and again a gem pops up that you just don’t expect. I’d visited Rhodes in 96 so started looking at my videos & photos again before we left, and what really sprung back to mind was just how beautiful this Greek island was.

Would it have changed since the 20+ years since I’d visited? Would I see it differently from a running perspective? I would shortly be finding out, and I couldn’t wait.

The largest of the Dodecanese Islands Rhodes is a maze of cobbled streets surrounded by sunny beaches enjoying 300 days of sunshine per year. The Old Town is a historic delight to walk around, a true gem from the past. We wouldn’t be running through this but would run past it which was good enough for me.

To the South is Lindos, dominated with its view of the ancient Acropolis, dazzling white houses & turquoise crystal clear waters. A mecca for sun worshippers and history buffs alike. I’d also taken a boat trip here in 96 and loved it, I wondered if it would have retained it’s charm? We’d be taking a boat later during the trip, so for that reason alone I had to survive another marathon plus numerous souvlakis and plates of humus. No Hard Rock Cafés though…Every cloud (In joke)

It was Kerry Eastwood’s suggestion we give this one a go and with it including a 10k & half also it’s an easy sell, as we tend to not just get the hardcore marathon runners to join us, which is always a good thing. It was also great value and included an Adidas t-shirt a pasta party and free photos; It just had to be done. Pete Cook decided to give his camera a miss as his lenses would probably need a seat by themselves. Still, there were plenty of us to grab a pic or two (or even a #TeamJackMon video)… I hear you snigger.

Higgsy & Sheryl, Kerry Eastwood, Peter Cook and Maureen Sweeney stayed at a resort in Kallithea whilst Caroline Jackson & I (#TeamJackMon). Bushy & Pete Morris decided to stay in the city centre as our marathon was to kick off at 7:15 due to the race temperature. Our hotel was great especially the al fresco breakfast and was close the start.

One thing I will say about Rhodes town is even though a lot of the place can have a tacky feel , it’s still managed to retain its culture and a lot of nice places can still be found, which is ideal if you’re a couple travelling together and don’t want to bring England with you. It caters for most tastes which Caroline & I found appealing. We may not be able to enjoy 300 days of sunshine but we booked from Fri-Wed giving us at least 6 days.

On that note though, our first night was spent touring some of the bars plus catching up with pals & locals discussing our impending marathon. Us RRs know how to party, so much so that we may even write a pamphlet on it. ‘Foreword by Pete Morris & Martin Bush’.

The next day it was a case of going to the expo to pick up our race stuff and catch up with the others. Expo was ideally located close to the start in the town centre, which was easy compared to some races were a private jet wouldn’t go a miss to get to the expo from start line.

We all met up in the town during Saturday afternoon but one thing that totally slipped my mind was that Bushy had never visited. Fine you might say until you realise he must have a lack of Greek souvenirs. Anyway let’s just say the Greek economy was restored with just an hour of his shopping.

The guys staying at Kallithea ate back at their inclusive hotel but us Rhodes crew decided to give the pasta party a go during the early evening. We did notice there were no pasta party tickets in our race bags, so we brought our numbers along just to be on the safe side. The pasta party was to be held at Pane di Capo in Kallithea and we had no idea what to expect but gathered it probably wouldn’t be sitting on grass in the rain.
We made our way to the pick-up point but were slightly hesitant as not one of the crowd looked like a runner, in fact it looked like a gathering for a Greek wedding. Could we be in the wrong queue? I spotted a pair of Asics on one of them so we decided to take a punt.

Pane di Capo which we arrived at was absolutely stunning as it was located next to a postcard style turquoise watered bay. It seems most of the Greeks had got wind of it and decided to invite their families, meaning that the 150 they expected turned out to be nearer 400, so you can imagine the chaos. They had three chefs cooking from scratch and a DJ playing amongst the palm trees. As Pete commented it was more like a wedding scene from ‘The Godfather’. You just had to be there to appreciate it, but believe me it was as good as it gets.

We sat down having a beer and noticed a queue growing which we eventually decided to join. We must have queued for 1.5 hours because of the unexpected chaos. They just couldn’t cope, plus we had the added panic of just 2 hours before the coach took us back. Bushy had latched on to being able to get free beers whilst in the queue so I guess it cushioned the blow slightly. Anyway this was the only slight downside to an otherwise perfect set up. The coaches waited so all was fine eventually. I’ve attended a few pasta parties but this was by far the best despite the queuing. The race is almost worth doing just for that evening and I’ve not even started telling you about the race yet.

We’d anticipated a hot race but as we opened our curtains at about 6am the sun was already blinding us. Caroline had run London the previous week but this would be even hotter, we are used to these kinds of temperatures and really enjoy them but there’s never any chance of running a fast time. Never the less we couldn’t wait to start this one and it didn’t disappoint.

The start area atmosphere was electric. The MC was hollering enthusiastically as the runners and officials posed for pics. We couldn’t understand a word but it had a loud passionate tone that had all cheering. The full and the half would kick off the same time whilst the 10K would kick off at midday, though we were all there to support each other.

Eventually the gun fired as the full and half marathons set off together. There was a festive vibe to all of this, and to me it always seems just that much better when it’s hot and sunny. As usual there were happy kids’ high fiving us as we set off, with the obligatory drones hovering above us to grab that essential YouTube aerial island footage.

Was not long before the endless blue of the Aegean was to our left as we ran alongside the ancient Rhodes walls of the old town. The heat was killing me but the brilliant views more than made up for it. I decided on a strategy of not looking at my watch, though the pacemakers can spoil the fun of ignoring your own time & pace. Parts of this route were unsupported, but it’s no surprise as there were no houses at many points and parking would have been difficult. I pushed on regardless but had no choice to stop at most water stations. I just poured bottles over myself as the temp had ramped up to 27 with no shade. Eventually the route doubled back so was a chance to see where the rest were and cheer each other on. I was ahead and still feeling quite good. It was back past the medieval castle and eventually up a hill with the most breathtaking views. I was not sure of my time at mile 24 but had estimated about a 4:20 finish as spent so much time walking and drinking water and generally enjoying the views. Anyway I had a second strength and speeded up towards the end, little did I know Caroline was in pursuit. I crossed the line in 4:05 which though disappointing for me, I knew I couldn’t have done much better in the sweltering heat.

I raised my arms and clapped the crowd as I crossed the finish. This was better than most foreign marathons I’ve done hands down, as everything was just spot on. From the pasta party to the expo, the marshals, the course, it was nearly impossible to fault.

Caroline was not far behind at 4:06 as was chasing me down, It was big hugs as she crossed the line. Bushy & Pete Morris managed a 4:37 and a 4:58 respectively.

So what about the others? They all ran the half except for Maureen who did the 10k. Whilst Sheryl was kind enough to come along to support us all. Pete Cook did a 1:54 whilst Higgsy and Kerry who looked like they were having great fun running the course together managed 2:34 each. Maureen’s 10k kicked off later at 12:15 so she had a chance to cheer us in before starting her own race in which she managed a 1:09. Results for us all though were more or less irrelevant as this was more about the experience.

I just missed out on an age cat prize as did Caroline but it was so much fun watching the festive prize giving. All us RRs sat in the roasting sun sipping beers on this stunning island. Even Bushy resisted the gift shops and pubs for a few hours (OK two hours)… A friend of ours from the 100 marathon club ‘Costas’ did pick up a prize so we had something to celebrate besides finishing in the blistering heat.

During the prize giving we were approached by the Larnaca marathon organiser. (Larnaca Marathon is twinned with Rhodes Marathon) They offered us free accommodation during that weekend as Caroline will be running her 100th there. It was the icing on the cake to a great day.

The following day we took a trip with Pete to Lindos which I’ve described above. If you go you really have to do this, not only is it a stunning place, but you get a chance to sunbathe on the top deck of the boat and go swimming. If you happen to go with Pete you may even get a few dodgy selfies thrown in.

We did another boat trip plus visited the infamous Faliraki and a few other places, which I’ll skip going into detail about. Ultimately all as I have left to say is you just have to do Rhodes Island’s Marathon weekend as you won’t regret it. Oh and don’t forget your sandals & sunscreen J

  1. If you want to join us or anyone at the club for a foreign trip or race please get in contact or check out my new ‘Runners on the Road’ section on the website. Everyone is welcome regardless of ability or even if you’re recovering from injury. All are also more than welcome to join us for Caroline’s 100th Marathon at Larnaca, Cyprus in November.