Sweet “Run” Chicago

Chicago Marathon Week 2018 by #TeamJackMon (Paul Monaghan and Caroline Jackson)

UK, Europe, North Africa, even New York we have ran them all, but now was time to return Stateside and a good for age qualifier gave us a chance to have a crack at Chicago.

Elizabeth Johnson, Caroline Jackson, Brooke Johnson, David McCoy & Paul Monaghan just before the start.

We weren’t the only Roadrunners on this trip, amongst the other participants were Brooke and Elizabeth Johnson, David McCoy, and Simon Davies, and some of other friends from the 100 Marathon Club plus fellow traveller & runner Peter Mizzi .

It’s as much about the city & culture as the race so we decided we’d spend a week visiting and believe me it was a week well spent. We can’t recommend this city enough as it can be described with most superlatives we can think of.

For the first few days we were fortunate enough to stay with one of Caroline’s friends Sandi who she had last seen 18 years ago. We’d stay with her and her family on the outskirts of Chicago and then spend the remaining time Downtown. We therefore were able to experience the city from a local as well as a tourist’s perspective

Sandi had a very nice meal prepared when we arrived and was great for them both to catch up, they were just as interested in our culture as us in theirs so we spent most of the evening comparing different American & English versions of words over a home cooked dinner followed by cookies.

The next day it was down to business so we headed to the expo which appeared to be similar to the expo in London. We walked there with David McCoy and his girlfriend Christina. It was our lucky day as we got to meet Paula Radcliffe and also get our bibs personally signed.  Caroline had previously met her at a running event sponsored by Nike back in 2014 but nothing beats having and been able to treasure her sign our very own Chicago race numbers. We may even get to frame then (eventually).  Riddled with jet lag we headed back to Caroline’s friends for an early night and some traditional Deep Pan Chicago Pizza (a very thick crust and what appears to look like a great pie rather than a Pizza), but it was delicious if not calorific. Just the tonic for a marathon the next morning (Hope no nutrition experts are reading this)

Paul & Caroline are joined by Paula Radcliffe

Next morning we had to rise before sunrise at 4.15am, it was dark and raining on our subway ride into downtown. We did love the trains in Chicago as it felt like we were on a movie set high above ground. The transit system is officially nicknamed the “L”. It’s elevated subway with open air segments dates from the earliest days of the elevated railroads.

We arrived at Grant Park (the location of both the start and the finish of the marathon) just before 6am and thankfully the rain stopped. As it became light we just had a few clouds covering the skyscrappers. The location of our bag drop was directly next to the Buckingham Fountain, this is a great Chicago landmark dating back to 1927 when it was announced as the largest fountain in the world, the fountain itself represents Lake Michigan, with four sets of sea horses (two per set) symbolizing the four states: Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana that border the lake.  Obviously this became a good spot for photo opportunities and videos.

Both Paul and I had the same start corrals and our start time was just after 7.30am.  With some good music and the announcement of Mo Farah on the start line, there was a good buzz and feeling of excitement as we eventually crossed the start line. Unless you’ve ran a big city marathon the feeling of euphoria as you start is hard to explain, but I guess it’s part of the addiction we have to marathon running.

We both found the marathon to be pretty similar to New York, although Chicago runs through 29 different neighbourhoods and New York runs through 5 boroughs.

All the different neighbourhoods allowed us to experience and run through different cultures, architecture, historic buildings and residences. Caroline enjoyed the neighbourhood of Pilsen, we got to see and hear Latin American music & dance, and the Mexican’s were great spectators.

Paul liked Chinatown, festive and bright and full of character. We entered Chinatown through the Chinatown gate at mile 22. We were greeted by cheerleaders, Chinese music and dragon costumed dancers.

It did rain a little whilst we were running, it was quite a heavy downpour at one point but it did not dampen our spirits  as the constant cheering crowds & music were a welcome distraction. Thankfully the rain stopped and we were able to cross the finish line in dry conditions.  As 45,000 were running this event, the finish was slightly congested as to be expected, but the organisers coped with this so well and didn’t rush us along as they do in so many events.

Caroline finished in 3hr 47mins which was her 97th marathon and Paul finished in 3hr 54mins, (we’ve lost count how many he has now done…) J
David McCoy & Brook Johnson both ran a sub 3 hr with a brilliant 2:44 & 2:55 respectively. Elizabeth Johnson also ran an excellent time for her debut marathon finishing in 3:58 whilst Simon Davis ran a 5:14.

As usual we finished pretty close together, Caroline had enough time to take a few photos and have a little chat with fellow runners.  We walked to collect our medals and grab our goody bags.  There were also bananas, baby tomatoes and something more refreshing, a free can of the locally produced Goose Island IPA, this certainly went down well.  The girls giving out the goodies were very cheerful and broke into song making us smile; I think they felt like celebrating with us.

After the race and when we had warmed up a little and got changed, we headed over to the post-race party which was held on Butler Field, about a 5 min walk across from the fountain and baggage area. We caught up with Simon, Liz and Brooke and also some of our other pals including Peter Mizzi who was on top post race form as per usual and even managed to supply us with American styled slippers 🙂 . We all agreed that it was a fantastic experience, more so for Liz who had just completed her first marathon.

Rather bizarrely the weather in Chicago throughout our stay went from one extreme to the other, heavy rain storms to hot and sunny at 29c and then down to 10c on the day we came home.

After the marathon from Monday onwards and when we relocated to a hotel downtown we tried to visit as many of the local attractions as we could, our hotel was perfectively located as we were just off the Magnificent Mile.

The Architect boat tour is one we’d definitely recommend as give an amazing insight into the history of the city whilst cruising the river to a backdrop of high rise buildings. This we followed with the excellent Chicago Riverwalk joining some pals from the 100 marathon club.

Another great trip was the Languitas brewery tour brought to us by a very entertaining and passionate guide. This commenced from a room that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Charlie & the Chocolate factory. We half expected Willie Wonka to greet us on arrival.

We even visited Chicago theatre land to see the excellent Tootsie brought to life for a stage musical.

The Navy Pier is like a city within a city and also a must see. Best time to visit is in the evening with its many restaurants, boats and attractions plus great photo opportunities against the Chicago night time sky line. It’s just buzzing with life and in a league of its own.

 

No trip would be complete without a trip to the Hancock Tower to visit the bar & restaurant Signature room on the 95th via an elevator that reaches it in 40 seconds (the fastest in the Western hemisphere so rumour has it ). We enjoyed it so much we visited twice, the last time watching an unforgettable sunset across the city whilst sipping cocktails.

Oh, what a night! Mary reigns in Spain on weekend of culture

 

FOLLOWING his brilliant dispatch from the Berlin Marathon, Roadrunner Andy Atkinson has been pounding the streets of the continent again to bring us a first-hand report of another exciting race…

WHAT links architectural greats such as Frank Gehry, Norman Foster, Cesar Pelli and Philippe Starck and sharp artists like Joana Vasconcelos, Alberto Giacometti and Jeff Koons with marathon running? Answer: they all come together in the Basque city of Bilbao.

On October 20th, international architecture and art were complemented by an equally international group of Reading Roadrunners, who came together to run the Bilbao night marathon, half and Carrera Pirata 10k.

Starting at the Estadio de San Mamés (ACXT, 2013), with a bag drop at the Euskalduna Palace (Soriano and Palacios, 1999) and a finish at the Guggenheim Museum (Gehry, 1997) for architecture alone the key race points won first, second and third prizes.

The race was billed as a “night marathon”, which immediately raised comparisons with Roadrunners’ outruns, groping through dimly-lit alleyways and tripping over raised ironwork and kerbs.

Yes, there were a few cobbles and tram tracks to negotiate and the going was a little uneven in places, but overall the “night” format worked very well. It is easy to see why this timing is quite popular in hot Spain. It is cooler, there is less traffic to handle and, work being over, the crowds were out in force and in fine voice. The Spanish also seem to spend a little more on street lighting, reducing the risk of an unexpected trip.

The race format was interesting in that all three distances were combined in one common start. So, once we had found the bag drop – not at the start, as we were to discover – we all lined up in four zones for the off. To get runners to stop at the correct distance, a system of filters was used in much the same way as the M25 separates off the M4!

The gusto of some runners made it equally hairy, with 10k runners zipping in front of marathoners to exit at the correct junction and then, for some unknown reason, rejoin the main traffic before splitting off again. 

The route was flat and fairly fast, sticking quite closely to the banks of the River Nervión through the heart of the town. However, the out-and-back riverside format had the unfortunate side effect of seeing the finish area approach on one side of the river, with cheering crowds and vivid illuminations, only to fade away as we slogged on to a far turning point.

The eventual finish made up for this – night accentuated the blazing lights alongside the Guggenheim and, never mind the neighbours, we were reeled in with music and cheering up to full volume.

Our performances were solid, but not spectacular and the jury is out on whether running at night is more efficient that in the morning. Our overall consensus was that morning is probably better, but who knows – there may not have been many owls in our group.

Fiona Ross (GB) took on the Carrera Pirata 10k, finishing with a very respectable time of 55:26. Most of the rest of us ran the half, with varying times.

A few notable performances included Fergal Donnelly (Ireland) at 1:27:11, Helen Pool (GB) at 1:36:54 and Nicole Rickett (Germany) at 1:43:58. Our guest on this trip, Seb Janssen (Netherlands), also managed a very respectable 1:52:48.

Two hardy Brits, Mary Janssen (right) and Mark Andrew accepted the marathon challenge, involving running twice around the half-marathon course. The repetition proved a challenge too far for Mark, who, afflicted by a stomach upset, withdrew after one lap, but managed a sprint to the loo, finishing in good time! Mary soldiered on to a brilliant 3:43:44

In the end however, she was not the biggest winner – Fiona picked up the sweepstake for most accurately predicting her finish time to within 20 seconds.

Finally, many runners live to run – not so with our group. We run to live and one of the great benefits of a Saturday night race was that most of that day and all the following Sunday we were free to socialise and explore the city.

It’s the Guggenheim museum’s 20th birthday and entry on both days was free. We made the most of this to review some interesting and controversial art (below). 

Like true tourists we did both bus and boat trips. Bilbao has consciously attracted famous international architects and engineers in revitalising its run-down areas. If you like modern art and architecture, it is a place not to be missed and the bus or boat are a good way to get an appreciation.

A recovery run on Monday, with beautiful weather in such a spacious city, was delightful. Another way some of us recovered was to cross-train with a swim at the Azkuna Zentroa swimming pool in an old wine warehouse re-modelled by French architect Philippe Starck. The quality of the building and the experience of swimming there is matched by few other pools. And all this is not to mention the jazz, bars, an excellent hotel and general ambience of the city.

So if you run to live, Bilbao is a great place to race. Use one of the three races as an excuse to get there, forget the PB and have a good time!

COMING SOON: Andy Atkinson reporting from the New York City Marathon.

Chantal’s the glory girl as vets enjoy a day out at the seaside

SOMETIMES we struggle to get reports from Roadrunners events. This week we are privileged to have TWO from the same meeting, with Sam Whalley and Colin Cottell doing the honours. Here’s the contribution from ladies’ captain Sam…

ANYONE who had seen the weather forecast for Bournemouth midweek might have been put off attending the first Hampshire League cross-county fixture of the season. But then again, it would have been proper XC weather. Unlike what it actually turned out to be – very mild and quite sunny.

The Bournemouth fixture is the furthest away, and it can be difficult to persuade enough people to travel, particularly with rumoured travel disruption just outside of the town.

Imagine my delight when nine women and nine men turned up – a bit of a difference to the respective three and seven we had seen a year ago; the word is spreading.

First of our women back was Chantal Percival, with a placing of 15th, the highest we have seen in the club for some time, and a position that earned her an offer to run for Hampshire in the Inter-Counties XC champs, had she been eligible.

Hopefully we will see Chantal (second from right in our team line-up) receive a similar offer in the Berkshire XC champs at the end of the year.

Making up the overall scoring team were Gemma Buley (47) and Bithja Jones (49), the latter running her first XC race for the club. Afterwards, Bithja said: “I hated it from km 3 to km 5, and now I feel like I loved it.” Yep. Sounds about right.

Sarah Dooley (73rd) and Nicole Rickett (137th) were our other vets to score, Nicole feeling like she had run her best given her recent holiday and busy work schedule, which involves shoe-horning in runs whenever she can.

Travelling by train with her Southampton University Athletics Club team-mates was Katie Rennie, making her debut in the Hampshire League, and giving us our first Under 20 runner in the team, at least in recent years.

Next was Claire Seymour, still basking in the glow of her Chester Marathon PB last week, albeit on tired legs, followed by Nicky Chadwick, who, like me, was inspired to run XC by a daughter who needed ferrying to the fixtures. The team was completed by Alix Eyles, making a return to racing.

I was delighted with the performances of all of the teams and hope this level of popularity continues throughout the season.

And here are the words of wisdom from Colin…

LONG gone are the days when Reading Roadrunners were represented by one man and his dog (well, actually, there was no dog) at the annual Hants Cross-Country League fixture in King’s Park, Bournemouth.  It was more a case of ‘we do love to be beside the seaside’ as the green vests descended on the south coast, if not exactly in their hordes, but in sizeable numbers.

The 70-mile journey proved to be time well spent as the green vests turned in a host of top performances.  We were up against some of the premier running clubs in the country, notably Aldershot, Farnham and District, never mind in Hampshire, and at the end of an afternoon of high-class racing,  Roadrunners’ veterans stood proudly at the top of the vets’ league and in seventh position in the first division. 

Meanwhile, our ladies, who had raced earlier in the afternoon in bright and unseasonably warm conditions, were in eighth position in their league, and sixth in the veterans’ table. 

In what is an inexperienced women’s team at this level of competition, pride of place must go to Chantal Percival.  Continuing her rich vein of form after her 1.27 half marathon the week before, and in her very first Hants League event, she ran a storming race.  

As high as 11th place at one stage, she faded only slightly on the last lap to come in 15th, but still well ahead of athletes of the calibre of W45 England international Kath Bailey. 

Gemma Buley and Bithja Jones, the latter also contesting her first Hants League race, also ran strongly, finishing 47th and 49th respectively. 

The results for all our women can be found here: https://www.hampshireathletics.org.uk/results/2018/20181013_hlwomen.htm

I am afraid I haven’t very much to say about the men. I was running, and by the time I had finished they were all on their second cup of tea. Suffice it to say they performed to the same high standard to which we have recently grown accustomed, Mark Apsey having a great race, Andy Mutton also going well and Chris Buley making a top debut.

I did hear Mark Worringham complaining that he was 15 seconds down on last year, and that he wasn’t feeling 100 per cent, but I will take that with a pinch of sea salt given that he came in first V40, with Lance Nortcliff second.

With Andrew Smith and Pete Jewell giving great support, all I can say is Lord help all the other teams, when our vets gets all their ducks in a row.  

Full results for the men are at https://www.hampshireathletics.org.uk/results/2018/20181013_hlmen.html

I won’t trouble you with my own travails, except to say that it if had been a cricket match, the phrase ‘he didn’t trouble the scorers’ would have been appropriate. 

I can at least say that I continued my proud tradition in recent years of being the last male green vest to cross the line, although on this occasion I was only a whisker away from pipping Stuart Jones, another excellent debutant, to the post.

I tried a new tactic of trying to pace myself using my TomTom – I usually don’t switch it on at all for cross-country –  but found that after starting at 3.55 per km pace, and feeling easy, this dropped away steadily, until that final mad and ultimately futile dash to the line. 

The next Hants League fixture is on Saturday, November 10th, at Wellesley Woodlands, Aldershot. 

How Roadrunner Jane Davies put the ‘great’ in grandmother

ROADRUNNERS’ latest international Jane Davies tells the inside story of her debut for the England Age Group Masters team at the Chester Marathon…

SUNDAY, October 7th, saw me up before dawn tucking into a tin of cold rice pudding… my pre-marathon breakfast of choice.

By 7am I had donned my England vest and lots of layers of warm clothing and outside the sun was coming up. Our first task was to scrape the ice off the car before heading into the city to Chester racecourse. 

At race HQ, there was already a buzz and a warm welcome at the England Athletics tent. Pre-race team photos were a challenge as we had to strip off down to race kit in glacial conditions.

Our paparazzi moment was soon over and there was time for a quick canter around the racecourse before heading to the special start pen for the Celtic Challenge competitors. We were just behind the elites and puffed up with pride.

We set off at 9am with a loop around the city before heading out into the countryside and crossing the border into Wales.

My race plan was to average 5 minute-kilometres, but my new Garmin was telling me that I was doing 4m 35s. A quick decision (and it proved to be a good one) was to keep going at that pace for as long as possible, ticking off each kilometre.

It was certainly a gamble as I had done 3h 41m at Brighton in April and my race plan for Chester was a finish time between 3.30 and 3.40.  

My progress was helped by lots of family support en route; my husband, Phil, who I saw twice and who was in charge of my performance-enhancing jelly babies; my daughter, Helen, with her friend, Lizzie, and our granddaughter, Lexi, had found themselves a Welsh vantage-point; my son, Michael, daughter in law, Claire, and our baby grandson, Zac, were close to the start and later cheering me on as I came along the home straight at the finish.

My parents, Ann and Richard, were with me in spirit, supporting from their home in Suffolk, so I had four generations of family support in all.

I was in good spirits throughout the race with just one flat patch early on around the six-mile mark, but soon came through this and out the other side.

At the 20-mile point, when marathon gurus tell you that you are psychologically halfway, I knew I had to keep strong and have faith that my training would pay off. It certainly did and I overtook a lot of fellow runners during the last six miles.

The route was mainly flat with a few undulations until the last mile when we found out they’d been saving up a serious hill for us. It was SO tough at that stage of the race and we all had to dig deep to conquer it.

Finally, the racecourse was in sight and the finish gantry – euphoria!  Now I know how the horses feel. 

As we crossed the finish line to the roars from the crowd, we were rewarded with a wonderfully calorific goody bag (not a nosebag!) and a chunky medal.

My race stats : 

  • Finish time : 3.22.23  (PB : London marathon 2013 : 3.22.15)
  • Second in F55 category
  • 59th female out of a total 831 = top 8 per cent of women overall
  • Overall – 553 out of 2785 = top 20 per cent

I would recommend the Chester marathon for its excellent organisation, lovely venue, wonderful marshals and for all the friendly local people who came out to support. 

Plans now are to enjoy the cross-country season running for the club then to tackle the London marathon once again in April.  It will be my tenth London, 30 years after I first ran it in 1989.

The sky’s the limit for ambitious Roadrunners relay squad

 

ROADRUNNERS celebrated their first appearance in the national road relay championship finals with an ambitious target…. now let’s get there every year!

Men’s captain Phil Reay said: “The future’s bright for us. We’ve set a new benchmark. It was the first time in 31 years we have made it there, but with the strength in depth we have I expect these finals to be an annual fixture on our calendar.”

Roadrunners’ senior men were a highly-creditable 71st at Sutton Coldfield, having been elevated one place from their finishing position following the disqualification of Gateshead Harriers.

Our under-strength line-up on the Birmingham course included just two of the squad who did so well to qualify from the southern finals at Crystal Palace, Jack Gregory and Seb Briggs.

They were joined by two members of the B team, Chris Lucas and Jamie Smith, veteran squad anchor man Ben Whalley, and late call-up Ian Giggs. Reay said: “They all did the club proud.”

Like most of the other teams, Roadrunners front-loaded their line-up with their quickest runner, Jack producing our fastest leg in 18mins 42secs, good enough for 46th place.

Such was the strength of the opposition that Reading AC’s top man, the Great Britain international Jonny Davies, could only manage 12th place. Anyone who saw the clips posted on the club’s Facebook page by the acclaimed film-maker Pete Morris couldn’t failed to be impressed by how fast these guys were racing… and that was only the second-strings!

Nevertheless Seb managed to maintain most of Jack’s good work by coming home in 19:16 for 46th place. Chris ran 20:32 for 58th, Jamie 22:47 for 68th, Ian 22:51 for 72nd and Ben stayed in 72nd with 21:09. Our accumulated time was 2:05:17.

Among the big names who were missed by the Green Vests after their heroics at Crystal Palace were Matthew Richards and David McCoy, who both ran personal bests in the Chicago Marathon the following day. Matt clocked 2:31:20 and David 2:44:32.

The club had fielded a total of seven teams in the SEAA championships at Crystal Palace, with several club members stepping up to the challenge of running in more than one team after late cry-offs.  

“Every single runner gave 100 per cent,” said women’s team captain Sam Whalley later. “It was a grand day out.”

For the women, ever-consistent Carrie Hoskins was the fastest  Roadrunner over the 4.8k course, recording 18.32, followed by Gemma Buley in 18.54 and Katherine Sargeant 19.15.

Both Claire Seymour and Susan Knight went the extra mile by running two legs after two of those originally selected couldn’ t make it.

“It was tough but good,” said Susan. “It was a bit steep quite early on, but it doesn’t go on for ever.” Crystal Palace split times:

Senior Women A (4 stages of 4,800m): Gemma Buley (18.55), Jane Copland (19.54), Pip White (21.06), Sophie Hoskins (20.56).

Senior Women B: Sally Carpenter (22.48) , Sam Whalley (23.53), Susan Knight (23.31), Claire Seymour (25.38).

Veteran Women A: Helen Pool (20.03), Katherine Sargeant (19.17), Loretta Briggs (21.34), Carrie Hoskins (18.28).

Veterans Women B: Susan Knight (22.10), Claire Seymour 23.28), Angela Burley (22.55),  Julie Rainbow (21.26).

Senior Men A (6 stages of 6,100m): Mark Worringham (19.06), Jack Gregory (18.28), Mark Apsey (19.20), Rob Corney (18.32), Seb Briggs (19.40), Steve Ridley (19.36).

Senior Men B: David McCoy (19.55), Jamie Smith (22.24), James Lockhart (22.41), Ben Whalley (21.43), Chris Buley (22.54), Chris Lucas (20.26).

Veteran Men: Ben Whalley (20.50), Lance Nortcliff (20.11), Colin Cottell (in action above, 23.55), Mark Worringham (20.38).

Marathon Du Medoc 2018

Medoc Wine Marathon Madness– Report By Caroline Hargreaves

On the 1st March at 9am I was on the computer getting my entry sorted for the Medoc marathon. After missing out last year as it has already sold out by the time I was home from work I was determined that I was going to get in this year! This race attracts people from all over the world and I was lucky enough to get in alongside 4956 people from France, 1081 other brits, 305 Japanese, 25 Italians, 2 Mexicans, 6 from Iceland, 1 Kenyan, 17 from New Zealand, 87 Canadians and many more nationalities represented.

On Friday we flew out of Gatwick and landed at Bordeaux airport and jumped straight on the bus into Bordeaux centre to check into our hotel and then head to the expo. The expo is where the race starts, which is about an hour out of town on the train and then a 5-minute walk. There is an option to pick up your race number on the day, but the expo is absolutely the best expo I have ever been to and so well worth going to the day before. I have never been to an expo before where there is wine tasting along the road to the entrance and a lot of the other race stalls giving away wine, beer and cider along with the flyers, it was setting the tone for the next day.

Race day is an early start, there are buses laid on for the event that you need to book in advance (only 7 euros) and so it was a 6:15 bus that we boarded to take us out for the start line. There are 8,500 participants in total, pretty much all in fancy dress and with the theme being amusement parks there was so really big crazy carousel and fun fair style floats at the start line. With it being Caroline Jackson’s 40th birthday, Paul ensured that Caroline was appropriately decorated with a 40th birthday sash and giant badge whilst we all wore smaller 40th badges.

I lined up with Caroline, Paul, Cathrin Westerwelle and her boyfriend Dan and the atmosphere was just crazy, with music playing and fighter jets flying above the crowds and helicopters filming everything, I have never experienced anything like it. The race started and we ran into the town where there were loads of people cheering everyone along and filming everything, within half a mile of the start you hit the first wine stop, which we decided to skip to give us a chance to split away from the chaos as the first few miles you can bottle neck trying to get through the town. Once you get out of the town and into the first wine yard there is another wine stop and this one we didn’t miss! We then started off again and came to the first chateaux where people in duck outfits were in the pool which was hilarious, Paul and Caroline managed to get themselves interviewed by some reporters. Over the next 20ish miles it was pretty much all going through numerous wine yards and chateaux with more wine stops than I could possibly count. It was a really hot day and it fancy dress this did make the race even more challenging but with so many opportunities to stop and get a drink and various snacks it made the heat more bearable and they did have water stops with every wine stop as well as a few extra water stops too. A lot of the chateaux also had various types of live music, which was good to have a dance on the way round. Around 16 miles one of the wine fields was full of balloons that was just an amazing sight and at mile 20 there was a field that was full with about 8 different wine tables that looked like village fete. The last 3 miles is just one long stretch of road, that in the heat felt like it was twice as long as that but it had an Oyster stall about 1.5 miles from the finish and then an ice cream stop about half a mile from the end, I swear I have never appreciated an ice cream so much in my life.

At the end of the race we were given the best goodie back ever, a bottle of red wine and a Medoc marathon designed cool bag. After the race was finished there was only an hour until our coach was taking us back into Bordeaux and the car park was about a 20-minute walk away. Unfortunately, they had the worse organised bag drop ever and so I only had the chance to finish and get my bag and then head straight to the bus and so no party tent for me this year! Next time I would look to get the train back and so I would have time to chill out before having to head straight back. Cut off for this race is usually 6 hours 30 minutes but this year this was ended to 7 hours due to the heat. This is a race where you would want to be out on the course as long as possible and make the most of all the wine stops, there was one rose stop and one white wine and the rest are all red wines, I drank more red wine on this race than I have ever drank in my whole life! This race definitely has to go on the to do list for anyone that enjoys wine and fancy dress!

 

Burnham Beeches Half 2018

Good things happen to those who wait… and wait again… Race report by Ben Hart

The Burnham Beeches Half Marathon was a long time coming. The path which took to me to the start line was not a straight one, and certainly not simple.

As a few Roadrunners were aware, I was looking forward to the Reading Half in March, it being my first race. What is more, this run was part of two events in aid of the children’s charity, Dreams Come True, a cause I have raised money for previously.

Preparation for Reading had taken an unexpected turn for the worse when I sprained my ankle badly playing football at University back in January which left me with only a few weeks to resume any running.   Yet, to my disappointment Reading was cancelled for all except the barmy minority who still braved the streets of Berkshire to run their own 13.1.  So I set my sights on finding an alternative – The Gloucester Half Marathon. Roll on August but disappointment manifested itself again. The local council did not approve of changes to the course route and, as a result, Gloucester went the same way as Reading. I did begin to wonder if the running Gods were punishing for me for claiming a Reading finishers’ medal and t-shirt despite the event not taking place!

Quickly I discovered that it was all meant to be. Burnham took place a week after Gloucester should have done. My final training run took place on the day that I would have been running Gloucester and the extra week of prep allowed me to reach thirteen kilometres – the furthest I had run in this training stint with the sprained ankle still not being 100% and the focus of much physio. Eventually, and I do not use that word lightly, it all paid off.

With donations still rolling in, I put pressure on myself to succeed at Burnham. My stance on my unfortunate “run” to the start line was, “it’s been tough but these troubles are nothing compared to the battles which the children of Dreams Come True are fighting.” My second source of motivation was a work colleague of mine, Alex. Alex was training for a one-week cycle ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats, which would see him and two others complete approximately 150 miles a day. He advised me to watch an interview called “Driven” with an ex-Navy Seal called David Goggins, on the eve of the big day. I did, and Goggins did not disappoint. Goggins once completed an event called “The San Diego One-Day.” In short, participants run around a one-mile track and see how many miles they can complete in 24 hours. Goggins, built for heavy lifting and not long distance running, set out for 100 miles. For the last 19 miles, he ran with compression tape on his ankles and feet in an attempt to limit the pain he felt from multiple stress fractures.

With the children on one shoulder and Goggins on the other, I knew I was going to eat the thirteen miles in front of me for breakfast.

Early mornings are not generally familiar to me. As a University student, a 9 o’clock seminar is my worst nightmare, let alone a thirteen-mile race. My Mum deserves a mention for her efforts in helping me, not least when she prepared my breakfast of honey sandwiches, as I adopted her pre-race nutrition. Well fed, we arrived at Coldicot school and I was rather excited for the imminent challenge.

For the first few kilometres I was trying to settle down into my own pace, with Mum’s words of wisdom “run your own race” reverberating around my head. Another new phenomenon was the water pouches handed out to runners. My, are they hard work?! If anything, my inability to open the darn things made me chuckle as I pounded the woods of Buckinghamshire. At half way I felt strong and comfortable, confident that the second half of my race would be quicker than the first. After one more battle with the impossible pouches, the second half of the race seemed to fly by. I think it helped running a two-lap track as I could prepare mentally for the physical battle that was to come.

I desperately chased a time of sub 1:40 but missed out by twenty seconds, coming in at a time of 1:40:20. The sense of accomplishment upon crossing the line was one of my all-time sporting achievements.

I would not go as far to say that I have “caught the bug”, but I will definitely be wearing Roadrunners’ green (and blue shorts!) again in the future.

Roll on Reading 2019. I will be there to collect a medal that was truly earnt this time round!

Lets Go Fell Racing

An Insight Into 1990’s Fell Running– Report by Kathy Tytler

When I first started running in the early 1990s I used to run the Great North Run (GNR) every year.  I was born in Newcastle, so my journey to the north-east had a dual purpose; returning home to see the family and taking part in the 13.1 mile shuffle from Newcastle to South Shields.  One year there was an invitation in my race pack to take part in ‘The Great Mountain and Marathon Double’, running up and down the Simonside Hills in a Fell Race from Thropton, Northumberland the day before the GNR – a new experience for me that was too good to miss.

A group of Reading Roadrunners and our supporters (my mum and dad) went to Thropton Country Fair and some of us took part in the race.  Once the race left the village we were soon crossing a river, by running through it, then it was a steady climb.  At the top of Simonside, we scrambled over rocks before running back down, through the river again and into the show ground.  I was a little bit stiff for the GNR the next day, but as the race was always very crowded in my part of the field, there was never any chance of a PB, so it didn’t matter.  We got a special print on the back of our GNR T-shirts and I knew which race I enjoyed the most!

So after this I was on the look out for fell races, if possible within travelling distance of Reading!  I entered the Box Hill Fell Race in Surrey.  Driving there around the M25 it didn’t seem possible that there would be a fell racing landscape nearby, but suddenly the hill was there, rising steeply in front of us.  There is also a series of fell races in the Isle of Wight, which I took part in several years later.

Then there was the Goodrich Fell Race in 1996 which was a day trip for a group of us from Reading Roadrunners, which I reported on for our club newsletter: ‘How Not to come last in a fell race.’  For several years the Goodrich Fell Race was part of a double, with the Blaisdon Jelly Leg the next day.

It was a ‘proper’ fell race in the mountains of North Wales in 1998 which was the scene of my greatest fell racing glory; The Moelwyn Peaks Race.  I had been staying in Snowdonia for a week and I’d noticed that on the Saturday of my return home there was a race in Blaenau Ffestiniog, a 13 mile fell race.  It was soon after the other major highlight of my running career, it was the year I’d won the Compton 40 (first female), so no doubt I was feeling very confident.

I was feeling a little less confident after arriving at the race venue, explaining to the organisers that I was from Reading and I hadn’t done much fell running before, I asked them if I would be OK to run.  “Yes you’ll be fine,” I was assured as they pointed to three peaks clearly visible in a cloudless sky.  “See those three mountains there,” one man said, “It’s those three.”

It had snowed heavily during the week before and although the day was bright and sunny, and not too cold, there was plenty of snow on the ground as we climbed higher.  It was probably this combination of weather conditions that ensured my safety, or at least meant that I didn’t get lost.  The studded prints of a few dozen pairs of Walsh PBs are quite obvious in the snow.

I was at the back right from the beginning of the race, and I didn’t make up any ground at all.  But I didn’t make the same mistake as some runners who went up the wrong side of the first valley and were out of the race.  I was soon on my own, following footprints in the snow.  I did have a map and compass (and I do know how to use them), but I don’t think my brain would have been able to cope with that and trying to run up and down mountains at that time.  Approaching my second peak I had a strange experience; a woman was approaching from the other side and she recognised me.  “Hey, it’s Kathy,” she shouted, turning to a man who was walking a short distance behind her.  “What are you doing here?”  he demanded, “You’ve got a marathon next weekend!”  It was a senior engineer from work at Thames Water.  I was part of his London Marathon team raising money for WaterAid and he didn’t think a fell race was the best Marathon preparation, “You should be tapering!” he shouted.  I completed the London Marathon without any problems a week later.

There was a point where we came alongside a mountain road where there were marshals and drinks.  I asked them if I was last, and they confirmed that I was indeed last.  I them asked them if I was a long way behind everyone else, and they confirmed this too.  “Do you want me to retire?” I asked, almost hopefully.   “No, no, you carry on,” they were all very emphatic.  One of the marshals (an older man) accompanied me for a few hundred yards to make sure.  When I reached the road back in Blaenau Ffestiniog, the car with the marshals was returning and the same man got out and ran with me to the finish.

Although I was last by a very long way, they were all impressed by my performance; “coming from Reading an’ all!”  They said I deserved a trophy, and gave me ‘1st local veteran lady’ for which no finisher had qualified.  On hearing that I was driving back to Reading, the caretaker opened the showers especially for me.  I went into the local shop to buy some sweets for my journey home and I was greeted like a champion; “You’re the woman from Reading who’s just run the fell race!”  My fame had spread.

Later that week, at Reading Roadrunners, someone was studying Athletics Weekly.  My name was in the results!  I may have been last, but I was 4th female; there I was Kathy Tytler, Reading Roadrunners, placed in the Moelwyn Peaks Fell Race!   I’d featured in the results in Athletics Weekly and felt I’d made it as a runner!

 

Berlin Marathon: A view from the tail end of the field

AFTER the Berlin Marathon, our intrepid correspondent Andy Atkinson reports from the front line…

THE trouble with big races – there are so many participants it is hard to spot anyone. The trouble with marathons – the front runners have gone home, are in bed, or on the plane before the tail-enders finish. Thus it was with Berlin.

Some fantastic performances from our front-runners, Rob Corney, Brendan Morris and Gary Tuttle, but did we see them? No.

But just as we were returning from a post-run light lunch, who pops up, but Rob with his sis, Susie, who kindly agreed to take this photo!

Unable to escape in time, Rob was asked the inevitable: “How does it feel to take the RRs marathon championship?” and answered with usual modesty that it was an honour to be classed with such runners as the former champ. How was his run? “Great for the first 30km.”

Very heartening to hear that even champions fade on such a long run.

This interview begged a comment from the former champion, Keith Russell, who just happened to saunter into our departure lounge at TXL.

“How does it feel?” we ask again. More modesty from Keith: “Rob is a great runner and his achievement is well deserved.”

Asked if he will be back, Keith confirmed that he is returning to form and thinks he can get his times down. With Brendan not far behind, it should be an interesting couple of years. Keith was in Berlin to support the Roadrunners, showing great club spirit.

So, the highlights of the marathon viewed from the latter half of the pack…

The day before: In-line world championship skating at astonishing speeds. The winner covered the marathon course in 57.58.

The after-party: After presentations to Eliud Kipchoge, the new marathon world record holder and Gladys Cherono, the women’s winner, we did the best we could on the dance floor, but I had to admit defeat and retire well before the night was out. Past and present champions are made of sterner stuff and continued on into the night.

The bit in the middle: I entered the marathon ballot as part of the team “Aaron and the Andrews”. This was the result of a post-parkrun coffee… Mark was later to comment that it was the most expensive coffee he had ever had.

One Andrew and Aaron did pretty well at 3:28:18 and 3:27:45 respectively. The other Andrew (yours truly) was a little further behind at 4:38:19, so it was just as well there were no team prizes to lose. Mark and Aaron were a little disappointed with their performances, but it was hot and both are recovering from niggles and illness.

Although slower than my last two marathons I was quite pleased that I managed to finish strongly and get round without injury.

I am gearing up for the NYC Marathon, so this was a result in itself.

My better half, Liz, had another great run and was the only person I know to enjoy the experience and look relaxed from beginning to end.

Astonished to find herself accompanying a runner with a name (not a number) on his bib, she enquired further. “Ronaldo da Costa… what are you doing here at the back. Did you get up late?” (Ronaldo was the world marathon record holder in 1998 with a time of 2:06:05).

I think that did the trick as, after a few exchanges of where each other lived, he sped off never to be seen again. He finished in 4:03:59… not bad given that he was at the back for the first few miles.

Liz likes to talk her way around a course and was delighted to be accompanied and supported by Tony Eastaway for the first half of the run. She adds that Tony’s support helped her to a new marathon PB.

Tony had a difficult run, finishing in 6:07:29. With characteristic grit, he rallied at the end and finished well. I am sure the experience will be good preparation for his shot at the NYC Marathon in November.

Our group of runners were accompanied by a fantastic support crew including Louise Atkinson, Linda Wright, Veronica Andrew, Veronica’s mum and sister. Also running were our neighbours, Linda and Joella Flintoff, supported by Grant Flintoff.

Other supporters we know of include those mentioned above… Susie Corney, Keith Russell and Anna Richmond. It is the supporting teams as much as our fellow runners that make the race such a fantastic event.

And that’s not to mention the live bands on just about every corner of the route. Just as I was flagging at about kilometre 32, Purple Rain belted out from one of them. Was Prince reincarnated? From my position it was hard to tell, but the echo kept me going for a good few miles!

Overall, a five-star race not to be missed!

Corney’s record collection: Another one bites the dust

ROB CORNEY went yet another step towards rewriting the Reading Roadrunners record books when he set a new mark of two hours, 27 minutes and 27 seconds at the Berlin Marathon.

Already this season he had destroyed the old records at 5,000 metres, five miles, 10k (twice) and half-marathon.

For his latest trick Rob (below) shaved 21 seconds off the previous marathon mark set by Keith Russell in Amsterdam five years ago.

And on a great day for the club Keith was on hand to support his successor and break the news of his triumph with a post on our Facebook page.

Second Roadrunner through the Brandenburg Gate, and also in a personal best, was Brendan Morris in 2:38:53, and there were also PBs for Sam Hammond, with 3:31.30, and Liz Atkinson, with 5:39.15. Sam took a massive 16 minutes off his previous best and Liz (pictured below) went one better with 17.

Other Green Vests starring on the iconic German course were Gary Tuttle (3:07.29), Aaron Chai (3:27.45), Mark Andrew (3:28.18), Andy Atkinson (4:38.19), Colin Byers (4:58.54) and Anthony Eastaway (6:07.29).

Having taken over seven minutes off his previous best set in Dusseldorf last year, Rob revealed the secret of his success.

“I didn’t go into the race with Keith Russell’s record in mind,” he said. “I knew if I ran the splits I wanted I’d get it so I just put it to the back of my mind.

“I target 1km splits in races. They come up pretty quickly so it’s easier to stay in control of your pace. The plan was to hit 3:30min/km.

“Obviously the first 10k was slightly fast… no one needs negative splits anyway. I spotted Simon Goldsworthy (ex-Reading University) shortly after the start and crossed to run with him. We found ourselves in a nice little group going just above our target pace.

“Just after halfway Simon started to ease ahead and I, being sensible for once, held back with the group.

“As you can tell from my splits, 35-40k was a struggle and there were some pretty dark points where it was a battle to keep moving. But that’s why we run marathons, isn’t it?

“I saw Simon again and passed him at about 39k as he was going through a low patch and I’d managed to pull myself together.

“After that it was just a matter of trying to pick my feet up and run for the line.

“I think Keith Russell was more excited about my time than I was. He’s a great sport and unfailingly encouraging! I can’t wait to see Keith fit and racing well again.”

Former club men’s captain Keith said: “I have no mixed feelings about losing the record at all. Rob is a great guy who trains hard and is very supportive to everybody else so I was more than happy that he was the one to take my record.

“I’ve been rooting for him to do so for ages and, to be honest, I’ve held the record since May 2009 (before improving it myself in October 2013), so it’s about time somebody else had it. Hopefully Rob’s breakthrough is just the start of a glut of sub-2:30 marathon performances.”

After Sunday’s race, Rob joined the rest of his team-mates in a pub, and he said: “Brendan Morris, who ran another great race for a big PB, then put on his second magnificent performance of the day!”

Meanwhile the tributes poured in from club-mates on social media and men’s captain Phil Reay said: “I’m running out of superlatives for Rob Corney. He’s re-written the club’s history books this year. His hard work and dedication have really paid off.

“There were a couple of things from Berlin which really stand out and encapsulate the culture of the club and the good all-round people we have there.

“Firstly that our previous club marathon record holder Keith Russell was in Berlin genuinely willing Rob on to break the record and was the person to break the news.

“Secondly, Rob had an amazing day and the spotlight was on him, but he still made the time to congratulate another of our members on a PB in a 10k.”

So, what’s next for the club’s No.1 speedster after a year which has also seen him chalk personal bests at 15k, ten miles and parkrun as well as victory in a 60k ultra-marathon in Snowdonia?

Immediate targets include a half-marathon in Sweden and he has an entry in the Abingdon Marathon on October 21st.

By then, of course, the records books may have been rewritten again. I understand that Matt Richards, who was nine minutes quicker than Corney in the London Marathon in April, is confident of running a very good time in the Chicago Marathon on October 7th.

And Mark Worringham, fresh from his 11th-place finish in the M40 marathon at the World Masters Championships in Malaga at the weekend, will be chasing another good time in the Chester Marathon on the same day.

Will Keith Russell, far from fully fit at the moment, bid to get his record back? “Of course. That goes without saying.”