Sunday, 28 December 2008

Withnail and I

I hope you’re all enjoying a great Christmas.

Training is back on track after last week’s sniffle. Sixteen miles today, which is the furthest so far in preparing for Barcelona – so far, so good. Luckily, I’m not having any difficulty in finding the motivation to get out and run. At this time of year, the scenery in the Lake District is fantastic, which helps to divert your mind from the job in hand. To illustrate the point, today I took some photos of the training run from my house (see below).

I live between Wet Sleddale and Haweswater, which are the reservoirs that supply Manchester. Fans of the film “Withnail and I” (see will know Wet Sleddale: Uncle Monty’s cottage is located just above the reservoir (see and many of the film’s key sequences were filmed in the surrounding area.

Wet Sleddale (looking towards Uncle Monty's cottage)

Construction of the Haweswater reservoir began in 1929, when the Manchester Corporation dammed the Mardale Valley. The construction of the reservoir was, and remains, controversial. By flooding the Mardale Valley, the villages of Measand and Mardale Green were destroyed. Having said that, the dam has had some unexpected benefits for marathon preparation: to supply workers and materials for the works, a 10 mile concrete road was driven through the hills from Wet Sleddale to Haweswater; the road is now largely deserted and perfect for traffic-free long training runs.

The Rigg, Haweswater

Dawn over Haweswater

With the longer runs come carb supplements. The body only stores sufficient glycogen for about 15 miles – this is why many runners “hit the wall” at around 18 miles: their glycogen stores have been exhausted. For longer runs, I take carbohydrate gels – 3 an hour, which is tough going on your stomach. Having worked so hard to shed unnecessary weight, I’m now carrying an extra 2 kilos of water and carb gels to keep me going!

Christmas Day brought me some compression running bottoms which, I’m assured, will help to keep my legs in good shape as the longer runs begin. Paula Radcliffe pioneered the use of compression clothing for marathons – you may have seen the long socks she wears on race day. The idea is that the compression clothing supports your leg muscles, and reduces unnecessary muscle wobble, which doesn’t help your running, but does tire your muscles. I’ve trained twice with them now, and I’ve been impressed. Anything which can help get me over the finishing line in one piece is worth considering!

I wish you all a very happy and successful 2009. Just two months until Barcelona – bring it on!

This week’s training schedule:

Monday, 29 December 2008 Rest
Tuesday, 30 December 2008 6 miles steady
New Year’s Eve 6 miles steady, including 10 x 1 min fast, 2 mins slow
New Year’s Day 2 miles easy, then 2 miles brisk, 2 miles easy
Friday, 2 January 2009 Rest
Saturday, 3 January 2009 25 mins easy
Sunday, 4 January 2009 10km race or 6 miles fast

Christies is the charity which provides funds and supports the work of the world renowned specialist cancer centre, The Christie, in Manchester (see Macmillan provides practical, medical, financial and emotional support for people affected by cancer and campaigns for better cancer care (see

Tuesday, 23 December 2008


Welcome to my opening blog for! It’s a simple idea – run five marathons in 2009 in support of Christies and Macmillan. Christies is the charity which provides funds and supports the work of the world renowned specialist cancer centre, The Christie, in Manchester (see Macmillan provides practical, medical, financial and emotional support for people affected by cancer and campaigns for better cancer care (see

Barcelona, 1 March 2009
London, 26 April 2009
San Francisco, 26 July 2009
Berlin, 20 September 2009
New York, 1 November 2009

While the idea may be simple, the reality is proving a little tougher! I’m certainly not a naturally talented runner: “too heavy and too slow” was an early professional opinion on my likely chances of success. Still, there are grounds for optimism – by adjusting my diet and getting on a strict training regime, I’ve lost nearly 3 stones and I’m marginally quicker than when I started.

I do know what I’ve let myself in for – I ran the London and New York marathons in 2004. I also did all of the training for the Dublin marathon in 2005. Unfortunately, 2 weeks before the race, one of my colleagues kindly shared an awful cold with me. Not being able to run was incredibly frustrating. That brings me right up to date: I’m currently suffering from a bout of man-flu, which has stopped me training yesterday and today. Hopefully, I’ll be running again in a couple of days. Tempting as it is, it would be plain stupid to run right now. As long as it doesn’t happen again, everything should be ok. The further you get into your training, and the nearer the race, the more paranoid you become about illness: ensuring you sleep enough, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, vitamin supplements, antibacterial handwash, the list goes on.

NYC Marathon, November 2004

Other than the current ailment, training is going well. The plan had been for London to be the first marathon, but based on progress in training, we decided to confirm Barcelona for 1 March 2009. Also, starting earlier in the year gives more time to recover between the marathons. Training hasn’t been all plain sailing, though. In October, I was out on a training run in St Helens when I picked up an unexpected injury. As I ran on the pavement next to a dual carriageway, I heard a car behind me accelerate hard. As it passed me, something hit me on my rear and lifted me off my feet. It felt like I’d been shot! I nervously put my hand down to the injury and it was soaking wet. Much to my relief, it wasn’t blood but rather freshly squeezed apple juice. Two hooligans in the car had launched an apple at my rear and scored a direct hit. Less charitable colleagues suggested that it would have been hard for them to miss. An apple launched at 30 miles an hour, from a car doing at least 70 miles an hour, would have had a closing speed of over 100 miles an hour, which probably explained the black bruise the size of a large apple on my rear. When I related the tale to some friends, one kindly observed that I’d been the victim of a drive-by fruiting. Another helpfully suggested that it might be safer to avoid running in St Helens at certain times of the day: after dark, and during the day.

Many thanks for tuning in and showing your support – I hope you’ll continue to log-in right the way through until the New York Marathon in 2009. I wish you all a Happy Christmas - as you can see from this week’s training schedule (below), I’ll be out running 5 miles on Christmas Day. If I time that right, I should avoid too much responsibility in the kitchen, which will be a blessing for all concerned.

This week’s training schedule:

Monday, 22 December 2008 6 miles fartlek
Tuesday, 23 December 2008 Rest
Christmas Eve 10 mins jog, then 10 x 40 secs uphill, jogging back down, then 10 mins jog
Christmas Day 5 miles easy
Boxing Day Rest
Saturday, 27 December 2008 Rest
Sunday, 28 December 2008 15 miles training run at moderate pace

NYC Marathon, 2004

NYC Marathon, 2004
NYC Marathon, 2004