Monday, 23 November 2009

Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants


After two years of preparation, 59 blogs, over 5,000 miles in training, 176 miles in races, 5 marathons, 3 half marathons, and one 10k, here it is, my final blog for fivemarathons. I’m glad to have made it in one piece. When you’re trying to stay healthy, and ready to race, for such a long period, you become paranoid about even the slightest sniffle. I heard about one chap who died following a single sneeze. On closer investigation, it turned out he was hiding in his neighbour’s bedroom wardrobe at the time.

Attention is already turning to next season and races for 2010. After New York, my friend Helen emailed me to explain that fivemarathons had inspired her to run her first marathon and she has signed up for Edinburgh on 23 May 2010. As I mentioned in a previous blog, TEAM fivemarathons’ Lucy will also run her first marathon in 2010 and this week, Lucy and Amanda signed up for Edinburgh. This is a great show of support from Amanda, who had sworn that she would never run another marathon. When they asked me to run with them, I soon realised that it was only three weeks after Vancouver. That may seem like awkward timing, but it actually works reasonably well – although I’ll inevitably have to be shuffling around at the back, it won’t interrupt my six months’ of preparation for Auckland on 31 October 2010. In any event, after all of the races that Lucy and Amanda have kindly run with me this year (Coniston 14, Great Manchester Run, Congleton Half Marathon), I’m really keen to return the favour. At our recent meal to celebrate the successful completion of the fivemarathons, Lucy chatted with Laith about possible marathons for 2010. I think Laith was absolutely right when he said that London and Edinburgh are the real contenders for UK marathons. All of the others are a little too small, especially if, as Lucy maintains, it will be the only marathon she ever runs. I’d be confident that, once she has the medal around her neck, she’ll be itching to race again. Anyway, you already know my feelings about the London Marathon (see Every Day Is A Winding Road, 2 May 2009), so Edinburgh could be the perfect choice.

Fresh from successfully taming the New York City Marathon, Amy is now looking for a new challenge and is strongly considering Edinburgh. She is now signed up with Laith (http://www.theendurancecoach.com/) and Alan (http://www.harrisandross.co.uk/) for 2010, so she couldn’t have a better support team. This week, at her first session with Alan, he diagnosed that she had run New York with a dislocated bone in her foot. Amy mentioned that she’d been in pain from 8 miles onwards, but it must have been absolute agony. What an amazing achievement to close out the race. As TEAM fivemarathons’ Martin explained during our high altitude mountaineering trip to the Swiss Alps (see High Fidelity, 6 July 2009 and The Devil Wears Puma, 12 July 2009), we achieve because we just don’t know when we’re beaten. To some extent, pain is an inevitable part of marathon running and dealing with it is something you can learn. As Haruki Murakami said, in his bestselling book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional”. Amy’s pain management in New York is nothing short of heroic. I wish her a successful, and pain free, season in 2010.

In this final blog, I want to say some important thank-yous and to explain a little about what the fivemarathons have meant to me. I can confirm that, with money still coming in, we’ve already raised over £12,000, which is amazing and is thanks to all of your generous support. This week, I met with Becky Bainton, Macmillan’s fundraising coordinator, who confirmed that £12,000 would pay for 48 families affected by cancer to have days out and short breaks together. Amongst the anguish of watching your loved one fighting cancer, you can imagine how much this time together must mean. Spending time with my Auntie Moll is what I have missed every day for the last 24 years and I couldn’t put a value on just one day with her now. That’s exactly what your donations have provided for each of those families and I can’t thank you enough.




My Auntie Moll, my brother Phil and my Gran Daisy, who died of cancer not long after this photo was taken

Since New York, and throughout the fivemarathons, I’ve been lucky to receive countless messages of support and congratulation. The truth is, I couldn’t have done it without the constant help and encouragement of my family and friends. In acknowledging his successes, Sir Isaac Newton once explained that “If I have seen a little further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants". To thank everyone who has made the fivemarathons possible would require several additional blogs, but I do want to take the opportunity here to give some heartfelt thanks to the giants upon whose shoulders the fivemarathons were built.

In no particular order, I’d like to thank Alan, my physio, without whom I wouldn’t have been able to run; my coach and great friend Laith, who took a 15.5 stone slowcoach, removed four stones off his waistline, 1 hour 9 minutes off his marathon PB and countless years off his life expectancy – 32 years on and still masterminding victories; my Mum and Dad, who bought my first running shoes and criss-crossed the globe to watch me race and show their love and support (check out the photo of my Mum and Dad in Brooklyn (The French Connection, 9 November 2009), it will tell you everything you need to know); Lucy and Amanda, who ran with me and whose unwavering commitment inspired me to keep going and encouraged others to show their support; Rob, who masterminded fivemarathons’ successful PR campaign and whose blog reminded us all why Christies’ and Macmillan’s work is so vital; Mel, who is the cousin I always wanted and whose support helped me to view the fivemarathons through fresh eyes; Martin who trained with me, even at high altitude, ran with me in Berlin and supported me throughout; my sister Jilly for her love and support; my Godsons Seb and Monty for flying to England to watch me race, even though Monty was only a month old; Jayne for reminding me what was important, when I was about to forget; Jon and Jon, who lit the fire, made soup and wheat-free bread after my long Sunday runs in freezing cold Shap; Claire, who got behind me from the first moment, when fivemarathons was no more than an idea on the back of a postcard, and spoke to me at every race (sometimes during the race) to show her support; my Auntie June for her kind encouragement and for travelling to San Francisco and New York to support me; my Auntie Joan for looking after me during the London Marathon and my Uncle Son for running with a 9 year old and encouraging him to succeed; and, most importantly, my beloved Auntie Moll, the Angel on my shoulder, for everything.

And that is what the fivemarathons have meant to me, an opportunity to honour my Auntie Moll and say a long overdue thank you, which I never had the opportunity to say. I love you with all of my heart.

With sincere thanks for all of your help, support, encouragement and boundless generosity,

Dunk

23 November 2009



2009

FIVEMARATHONS

Barcelona, 1 March 2009
3 hrs 57 mins (new PB)
London, 26 April 2009 4 hrs 01 mins
San Francisco, 26 July 2009 3 hrs 43 mins (new PB)
Berlin, 20 September 2009 3 hrs 46 mins
New York, 1 November 2009 3 hrs 53 mins

HALF MARATHONS

Coniston 14 (14 miles), 28 March 2009
1 hr 48
Humber Half Marathon, 15 June 2009 1 hr 40 (new PB)
Congleton Half Marathon, 11 October 2009 1 hr 33 (new PB)


2010

Vancouver, 2 May 2010
www.bmovanmarathon.ca
Edinburgh, 23 May 2010
www.edinburgh-marathon.com
Auckland, 31 October 2010
www.aucklandmarathon.co.nz




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

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonschristies

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonsmacmillan

Visit us at http://www.fivemarathons.com/

Join the fivemarathons Facebook Group

View fivemarathons photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/fivemarathons/

Monday, 16 November 2009

The Manhattan Project

The penultimate blog comes from my cousin, Melanie, who kindly came to support me in San Francisco and New York. You may recall from Mel’s previous blog (Journey Of A Thousand Miles, Sunday 30 August 2009), that the San Francisco Marathon inspired her to get running. Next stop is the Vancouver marathon and half marathon on 2 May 2010.

Before I hand over to Mel, I’d like to apologise for the confusion created by the reviews at the end of last week’s blog (The French Connection, 9 November 2009). Many thanks for the deluge of supportive emails and phone calls from those of you who were outraged at the blog’s harsh treatment. I can confirm that the reviews were firmly tongue in cheek. On the one hand, I’m pleased that the blog has such an air of credibility. On the other, I’m disturbed at how plausible Lawyer’s Digest’s comments appeared. Tune in for the final fivemarathons blog next week, when I shall be discussing the benefit of carbing up from spaghetti trees (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaghetti_trees).


It’s hard to believe that a busy and exciting city like New York would embrace any one particular event, but you could certainly feel a buzz in the atmosphere surrounding the NYC Marathon. Arriving in New York several days before the event, I was met by numerous promotional sights: banners, bus advertisements, billboards and even a “ticker tape” display running along one of the buildings in Times Square. Dunk had told me that if I had thought the atmosphere around the marathon in San Francisco was great then New York would be “electric”. He was right.




Warming up for the International Friendship Run, 31 October 2009



Venturing out and about in New York prior to the marathon, we as Dunk’s support team (his parents, my Mum and me) had many enjoyable encounters and conversations with native New Yorkers and other visitors. Wearing our fivemarathons t-shirts was just the invitation for many people to enquire, “So, you’re here for the marathon?” Hearing the stories of other participants and friends and family gave the marathon a bit of a small town feel in the midst of the Big Apple. With 42,000 plus runners in and around Manhattan, you can imagine what fun it was to connect with others in this way.




In Central Park, at the finish of the International Friendship Run

As Dunk mentioned in the last blog, we had the pleasure of running in the International Friendship Run that took place the day before the marathon. I had told Dunk ahead of time that I was really looking forward to running with him sometime in Central Park, but I wasn’t expecting it to be in such an enjoyable and international event! It was the first time for me to feel a part of the special comradeship that exists between runners. It was a real thrill to run through the streets of Manhattan and over the marathon’s finish line in Central Park. Once the run was over Dunk gave me some helpful advice to answer those who asked what I was doing while in New York. He said, “Tell them you went to New York for the marathon and ran with your cousin.” Sounds good to me!

As you might expect, I was excited to see some of the sights of the city. Having traveled there a few times before, I had covered the typical tourist agenda: Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Harlem, Central Park, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ellis Island, etc. Since Dunk had also been in New York previously, I was hoping that he would like to share some of his favourite spots. Imagine my anticipation on the day before the race when he hailed a cab and instructed the driver to take us midtown by the New Yorker Hotel. I was eagerly anticipating some great sightseeing or shopping. Now imagine my reaction when the destination was the discount clothing chain, K-Mart, where we proceeded to hunt down some inexpensive clothing for him to discard just prior to the race. Add to that the joy of eating generic pasta (cafeteria style) at Sbarro’s the two nights before the race and you get the drift that this was a working holiday! Take it from me, your best bet is to hire Dunk as a mountain guide and someone else to tour you through New York! All joking aside, we did manage to squeeze in some decent fivemarathons team power shopping. Also, we were very pleased to be able to see the newly commissioned USS New York, containing a 7.5-metric ton bow stem fashioned from steel taken from the World Trade Centre site.



With Dunk at the marathon finish line in Central Park


Finally, Dunk has asked me to provide here a brief update on my running. As some of you may remember, I became inspired by the experience of the San Francisco Marathon to try running again. It has been a steady pleasure to run regularly with my husband through our small town. As we start to stretch out the distances, our frequent companions here are dogs and pick-up trucks while running down often dusty dirt roads. One fine morning recently through the fog we saw a buck (male deer) in the distance, standing in the centre of our path. He stared us down for some time and then moved off into the bush, only to return shortly thereafter to assert his territory. After much yelling and hollering on our part he finally ran off for good, much to our relief! Such are the joys of smalltown Alberta life! Presently, we are eagerly training for the Vancouver half marathon on 2 May 2010. We’re thrilled that Dunk will be joining us and other family members to run the marathon (http://www.bmovanmarathon.ca/).


Journey's end

I told Dunk that his fivemarathons was like a drop in a pond with ripples flowing outward. I am certainly one of those ripples who have been blessed by this venture of his. Thanks, Dunk, for the inspiration and joy you have brought to so many by undertaking this grand plan! You may never know the full extent of what you have accomplished and how many lives you have touched. God bless you!


FIVEMARATHONS

Barcelona, 1 March 2009
3 hrs 57 mins (new PB)
London, 26 April 2009
4 hrs 01 mins
San Francisco, 26 July 2009 3 hrs 43 mins (new PB)
Berlin, 20 September 2009 3 hrs 46 mins
New York, 1 November 2009
3 hrs 53 mins

HALF MARATHONS

Coniston 14 (14 miles), 28 March 2009
1 hr 48
Humber Half Marathon, 15 June 2009 1 hr 40 (new PB)
Congleton Half Marathon, 11 October 2009 1 hr 33 (new PB)


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

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonschristies

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonsmacmillan

Visit us at http://www.fivemarathons.com/

Join the fivemarathons Facebook Group

View fivemarathons photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/fivemarathons/

Monday, 9 November 2009

The French Connection

The day before the New York marathon, Mel and I ran the International Friendship Run from the United Nations Building to Central Park. This great event is organised for the international runners and it was very well supported. Most of the entrants were from Europe and South America. There was a particularly large contingent of Argentinians. I assume that they were in NYC for the marathon the next day. Either that, or the islands in the Central Park lake had better watch out. The route travels through midtown Manhattan to the finishing straight of the marathon. It was great to run with Mel – she’d mentioned in her blog (Journey Of A Thousand Miles, 30 August 2009) that she was looking forward to a training run in Central Park and this was a great way to do it.



Amongst the British runners at the International Friendship Run, Adam Hertz, a Pannone client, spotted the firm’s logos on my top.

My race day in New York started at 4.30am in Manhattan. Fortunately, US daylight saving meant that the clocks went back an hour overnight, so the early start was marginally less ridiculous than it might have been. The race organisers have to bus the 42,000 runners over the Verrazano Narrows to Staten Island for the start of the race. Such a massive logistical operation takes a lot of time and my bus dropped me off at the race start at 7am, a full three hours before the starting pistol was due to fire. Even with all of this time to spare, when it was finally time to get into the starting pens, there were too many runners to form an orderly queue. I, and several thousand others, ended up having to climb over a ten foot fence to even get to my starting position.



The importance of your support team: picking up water in Brooklyn

The race itself went well although, as in Berlin, my stomach had again reacted badly to my carbing up before the race. That left me dehydrated for the race, so I knew I’d have to back off the pace a little. To make matters worse, the water stations were handing out cups instead of bottles. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s virtually impossible to drink from a cup while running without getting most of it down your top or up your nose. By the time I reached the final mile, I was absolutely done and I just concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other until I crossed the line. I walked over to the medical tent and they put me on a drip to ensure that I rehydrated as quickly as possible. Not the fairytale finish to the fivemarathons that I’d had in mind, but I wasn’t taking any chances. Even with an iv drip in my arm, and a concerned Mum on my mobile, finishing the last marathon felt absolutely fantastic.

Getting the carbs you need in NYC is harder than you might think. In my hotel for the New York Marathon in 2004, the 24 hour room service apparently referred to the length of time it took for your pasta to arrive. Even at home, preparing the right food for my marathons in 2004 was tricky at best. My then girlfriend used to tell friends that there’s only one thing worse than a boyfriend who can cook and won’t, and that’s a boyfriend who can’t cook but does. When I delicately suggested that she might like to help, she explained that going from room to room, removing the batteries from the smoke alarms, was more than contribution enough.



With Mel after the United Nations' International Friendship Run


The morning after the marathon, I really fancied a visit to a diner for a traditional American breakfast to catch up on some of the things I’ve been denying myself for the last two years. Blueberry pancakes, waffles and French toast for a start. I’ve always found the idea of French toast particularly ironic. The principal difference between the French and toast is that you can make soldiers out of toast. I should perhaps be a shade more careful with my French-baiting. At the New York Marathon, there was a large French contingent, some of whom came to talk to me about the fivemarathons and pose for some photos (see below). Normally, when anybody has asked about the marathons, I’ve suggested that they might like to look at the blog. Curiously, I didn’t do that this time – given the comments about the French flag which were disgracing the blog at the time (“I Love Paris”, 25 October 2009), I thought better of it.


"Don't mention the blog..."

Entente cordiale

Yesterday, I signed up for the Vancouver Marathon on 2 May 2010 (http://www.bmovanmarathon.ca/). Having a race to look forward to, and train towards, will keep me training through the winter. Without a goal in sight, it’s hard to stay motivated to run through the inevitable cold and the inclement weather. Now that I’ve completed the fivemarathons, I’m keen to stay in my training groove. I get particularly stir crazy in the week after a marathon. After two weeks tapering down before the race, and a week of rest afterwards, I feel like I haven’t had a proper run in ages (with the exception of a notable 26.2 miles in New York last Sunday). I'm really looking forward to being able to train properly and effectively without having another race looming in 6 weeks' time. When I started out, my principal objective was to survive all five races and get to the finish line in New York. By the time I got to San Francisco, I was starting to believe that, not only could I cling on for 26.2 miles, I might actually be able to improve and turn in some respectable times. On the one hand, it has been a frustration that the timetable of races hasn't allowed me to train to improve, only train to maintain. On the other hand, I'm so pleased that I was able to even contemplate improving and unlocking better performances. Now, I'm looking forward to being able to focus in on just one race and putting everything into achieving a good performance on the day.

"Like a red rag to a bull in a china shop" (see "Dunkin' Donuts", 12 August 2009)


I’m really looking forward to Vancouver. While I’m running the marathon, Mel and her husband Ron will be running their first half marathon. They’ll also be joined by our cousin, Caron, and her daughter Amanda. It will also be a great opportunity to spend time with my family in British Columbia, not least my Auntie June, who kindly supported me in San Francisco and New York. It was great to have Auntie June, Mel and my Mum and Dad to celebrate with me in New York. My Mum and Dad have travelled to all of the fivemarathons and it has been an amazing journey.

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, fivemarathons supporters Kathryn and Rick Price ran the Dublin Marathon on 26 October 2009 in a fantastic 5 hours 51 minutes (see below). You can read all about it at www.justgiving.com/kathrynprice3.


Kathryn and Rick Price after the Dublin Marathon 2009

Now that the last of the fivemarathons is successfully in the bag, I thought I’d share with you some of the favourable reviews which the blog has received over the last year:

“Vaughan has got nothing to say and he’s saying it far too often”Westmorland Advertiser

“There’s nothing wrong with Vaughan’s autobiographical blog, except perhaps his poor choice of subject”Shap Investigator

“Vaughan is the kind of lawyer you hope the other fellow has”Lawyer's Digest

“Life is difficult enough without this blog”Lancaster Star

“My colleagues thought that the blog was awful but I can’t say that I liked it that much”Cumberland Gazette and Argus


FIVEMARATHONS

Barcelona, 1 March 2009
3 hrs 57 mins (new PB)
London, 26 April 2009 4 hrs 01 mins
San Francisco, 26 July 2009 3 hrs 43 mins (new PB)
Berlin, 20 September 2009 3 hrs 46 mins
New York, 1 November 2009 3 hrs 53 mins

HALF MARATHONS

Coniston 14 (14 miles), 28 March 2009
1 hr 48
Humber Half Marathon, 15 June 2009 1 hr 40 (new PB)
Congleton Half Marathon, 11 October 2009 1 hr 33 (new PB)


Christies is the charity which provides funds for, and supports, the work of the world renowned specialist cancer centre, The Christie, in Manchester (see http://www.christies.org/). Macmillan provides practical, medical, financial and emotional support for people affected by cancer and campaigns for better cancer care (see http://www.macmillan.org.uk/).

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonschristies

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonsmacmillan

Visit us at http://www.fivemarathons.com/

Join the fivemarathons Facebook Group

View fivemarathons photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/fivemarathons/show/

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Pommy Granite

I’m relieved to tell you that the New York Marathon went really well. Despite a recurrence of my stomach problems from Berlin, I crossed the line in 3 hours 53 minutes, which ensured that I achieved my ambition of running all five marathons in under 20 hours (19 hours, 22 minutes, 18 seconds). I’m absolutely over the moon!


With Mel and the Macmillan support team before the United Nations'
International Friendship Run, 31 October 2009


Many congratulations to fellow Brits Amy Bell and Rick and Kathryn Price. Amy ran New York, her first marathon, in a fantastic 6 hours 29 minutes. What an amazing effort! Roll on the Rome Marathon 2010, when Amy will hit the streets again. Congratulations also to fivemarathons supporters Rick and Kathryn, who completed the Dublin Marathon on 26 October 2009 in a great 5 hours 51 minutes. Rick has fought back from injury and should feel justly proud with that result. Full details to follow in this week’s blog.


With my Mum and Dad at the finish line in Manhattan. 8 months, 5 marathons,
19 hours 22 minutes 18 seconds, 1 promise delivered


FIVEMARATHONS

Barcelona, 1 March 2009
3 hrs 57 mins (new PB)
London, 26 April 2009 4 hrs 01 mins
San Francisco, 26 July 2009 3 hrs 43 mins (new PB)
Berlin, 20 September 2009 3 hrs 46 mins
New York, 1 November 2009 3 hrs 53 mins

HALF MARATHONS

Coniston 14 (14 miles), 28 March 2009 1 hr 48
Humber Half Marathon, 15 June 2009 1 hr 40 (new PB)
Congleton Half Marathon, 11 October 2009 1 hr 33 (new PB)

This week’s training schedule:

Monday, 26 October 2009 2.5 miles easy
Tuesday, 27 October 2009 6 miles easy
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 2 miles easy
Thursday, 29 October 2009 Rest
Friday, 30 October 2009 Fly to New York
Saturday, 31 October 2009 United Nations’ International Friendship Run (2.5 miles)
Sunday, 1 November 2009 New York City Marathon

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

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonschristies

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonsmacmillan

Visit us at http://www.fivemarathons.com/

Join the fivemarathons Facebook Group

View fivemarathons photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/fivemarathons/show/

Sunday, 25 October 2009

I Love Paris


I was in London on Wednesday for work. London is a bit like a zoo – it’s fun to go and point at the animals but I wouldn’t want to live there. While I was there, I bumped into my good friend, Claire. We trained at the same law firm in East Anglia, where Claire is now a partner. Towards the end of my time with the firm, I was training for the 2004 London Marathon. Claire had been an accomplished junior runner and had plenty of sound advice, which was invaluable for a complete novice like me. Claire has forgotten more about distance running than I ever knew and, I think it’s fair to say, she hasn’t forgotten much. Later in 2004, I raced against Paula Radcliffe in the New York Marathon. While Paula was winning, I was sauntering around the five boroughs in a leisurely 4 hours 52 minutes. During her school days, Claire too had raced against Paula, the principal difference being that Claire had a realistic chance of winning. I’ll be keeping Claire’s advice at the forefront of my mind when I renew my own rivalry with Paula on 1 November in NYC. Admittedly, she’s the bookies’ favourite, but I don’t shy from a challenge.

No idea who the German chap on the left is. At least it's only photographs they're invading these days*

As well as articles for running247.com and absoluterunning.com, this week I’ve been preparing an update for Macmillan’s newsletter. Macmillan’s travelling support was fantastic in Berlin and I’m looking forward to seeing them again in New York. Macmillan’s Marie Turnbull has provided great support for fivemarathons, not least sending over some fantastic Macmillan coffee mugs with “We Dunk” emblazoned on the side.

My physio Alan (www.harrisandross.co.uk) has been busy working on my left illiotibial band. I had felt just a small pain in my left knee and Alan quickly traced it to my IT band. As well as curing the piriformis and plantar fascia issues which I took to my first sessions with Alan, he has been invaluable in finding, and resolving, issues before they’ve had a chance to get started. Alan’s now off on holiday, so Tuesday was our last session of the fivemarathons campaign - Alan’s colleague Ali will get me ready to race next week. It’s absolutely the case that I couldn’t have got this far without Alan. Not only is he a first class physio, he’s a great bloke. Being able to share a laugh certainly helps take your mind off the pain of Alan’s elbows working their magic.

I'm still investigating possible races for next year. The Jurassic Coast is already booked in for the end of March, and the Vancouver Marathon for 2nd May. I’m also looking for a marathon which will give me every opportunity of running a new PB. Something with a flattish course, and not too many entrants - I don't want to waste time and energy jostling with other runners for the first six miles. Like San Francisco and Congleton, I want to be straight down to business. If I'm being particularly picky, I also want a race where the water stations hand out bottles and not cups. Choking yourself trying to get down half a cup of water, most of which is going down your front, is nobody's idea of fun. Having said that, a smaller race, with fewer runners, is unlikely to have a deal with a mineral water company to provide the tens of thousands of bottles which are required.

Laith and I sat down this week to discuss possible marathons. I had thought of signing up for a race in February, but as Laith rightly pointed out, it’s probably not enough time to fully recover from the fivemarathons and then prepare properly for a really quick run. It’s therefore looking like October / November 2010, with the plan being to get the Jurassic Coast and Vancouver successfully out of the way, then devote six months to mounting a proper challenge at a fast race. The Auckland Marathon (www.aucklandmarathon.co.nz) could be just the ticket. Since inviting me to consider Auckland last week, my friend Rachel is getting married! Many, many congratulations – I’d never have believed it when we met 18 years ago!

"Christiana, will you marry me?". Curiously, the German camera
crew didn't feature Christiana's 9 foot banner with "Nein" on it.

Unter den Linden, 20 September 2009

Also under consideration for 2010 or 2011 is the Paris Marathon. I’m not sure that my Union Jack waving antics in the final straight would go down all that well with the French. Perhaps I’ll invest in a French flag instead. I understand it’s a white cross on a white background. Hopefully that won’t prompt the same outrage as my comments about Hull. While I’m unnecessarily upsetting people, I’ll answer an email I received this week asking what I’m looking forward to most of all when the fivemarathons are complete, this time next week. First priority will be a huge steak. I haven’t clawed my way to the top of the food chain just to eat vegetables. I’ve made a few jokes about vegetarianism in previous blogs, which fellow omnivores have pointed out could be construed as offensive. Fortunately, most of the vegetarians haven’t had the strength to protest.

*Calm down, Madam, it's a joke

FIVEMARATHONS

Barcelona, 1 March 2009 3 hrs 57 mins (new PB)
London, 26 April 2009 4 hrs 01 mins
San Francisco, 26 July 2009 3 hrs 43 mins (new PB)
Berlin, 20 September 2009 3 hrs 46 mins
New York, 1 November 2009

HALF MARATHONS

Coniston 14 (14 miles), 28 March 2009 1 hr 48
Humber Half Marathon, 15 June 2009 1 hr 40 (new PB)
Congleton Half Marathon, 11 October 2009 1 hr 33 (new PB)


This week’s training schedule:

Monday, 19 October 2009 2.5 miles easy
Tuesday, 20 October 2009 6 miles steady
Wednesday, 21 October 2009 London
Thursday, 22 October 2009 4 miles easy
Friday, 23 October 2009 Rest
Saturday, 24 October 2009 3 miles easy
Sunday, 25 October 2009 4 miles steady

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

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonschristies

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonsmacmillan

Visit us at http://www.fivemarathons.com/

Join the fivemarathons Facebook Group

View fivemarathons photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/fivemarathons/

Value Added Travel VAT Solutions





I'm delighted to announce that the VAT consultants, Value Added Travel VAT Solutions (www.vat2solutions.com), will be fivemarathons' Gold Sponsor for the New York Marathon. Even as we speak, their logos are being applied to my running top for New York. Many thanks to Jilly McCullagh for her help in arranging Value Added Travel VAT Solutions' sponsorship. The money which they have kindly donated will help Christies and Macmillan in their invaluable work.

FIVEMARATHONS

Barcelona, 1 March 2009 3 hrs 57 mins (new PB)
London, 26 April 2009 4 hrs 01 mins
San Francisco, 26 July 2009 3 hrs 43 mins (new PB)
Berlin, 20 September 2009 3 hrs 46 mins
New York, 1 November 2009

HALF MARATHONS

Coniston 14 (14 miles), 28 March 2009 1 hr 48
Humber Half Marathon, 15 June 2009 1 hr 40 (new PB)
Congleton Half Marathon, 11 October 2009 1 hr 33 (new PB)

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

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonschristies

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonsmacmillan

Visit us at http://www.fivemarathons.com/

Join the fivemarathons Facebook Group

View fivemarathons photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/fivemarathons/

Monday, 19 October 2009

A Boy From Nowhere

It has been another fantastic week at fivemarathons HQ. Personal bests, 2010 marathons and drinks with the world’s greatest living Welshman. Having said that, I seem to have spent longer behind my laptop than I have on the road. As well as writing this week’s blog, I’ve been asked to prepare articles about fivemarathons for both absoluterunning.com and running247.com, the forthcoming online running magazine from the team that brought you tri247.com. Despite the diversions, training continues to progress well and I’ve no shortage of motivation after the Congleton half marathon last weekend.


Under the Brandenburg Gate


In the run up to New York, my emphasis will now shift to tapering down my training, getting plenty of rest, avoiding injury and, next week at least, carbing up. In any event, with less than two weeks to go until the big day, there’s not enough time to improve from a physiological perspective. Laith and I have however discussed neurological improvements which will benefit me in the race. For example, speed training helps to bring physiological improvements – being able to run more quickly and comfortably – but there isn’t enough time to see the benefit before race day. On the other hand, the return on neurological training is much quicker. Have you ever tried to play a video game and found it virtually impossible to coordinate the controls? Curiously, after just two hours, you’re finding it much easier. This is because, even in that short time, your body has developed the neurological programming necessary to successfully operate the controls. We can therefore look at the neurological programming element of my training and still expect to see a positive improvement before the race. I’ll work on running smoothly and maintaining a fluid running style. This is a matter of neurological, as opposed to physiological, programming. I’ll run acceleration strides, where I accelerate smoothly from zero to almost flat out in fifty metres. When accelerating, I work on keeping a distance runner’s style, and not slipping into a sprinter’s form. Watch some of the great middle distance runners, like Seb Coe, on Youtube and you’ll see what I mean. His action is very fluid and smooth, but his pace is blistering, all of which is down to neurological programming. We spend a lot of time considering this aspect of my running. After all, it’s the smooth running style which makes it possible to maintain a quick pace for long periods with minimal effort. If you’re having to force yourself along, you won’t be able to sustain it over 26.2 miles. Or, as Laith explained it to me: it doesn’t matter how powerful your engine is, if you’ve got egg-shaped wheels, it’s going to take an almighty effort to move quickly.


About to cross the finish line


Yesterday, I had my last long training run of the entire fivemarathons campaign. I’m missing it already and even thinking about races for next year. There’s been no shortage of tempting offers. I already mentioned the Vancouver Marathon on 2 May 2010 (www.bmovanmarathon.ca). Having run over 45 miles a week, every week, for the last two years, I’ve clocked over 4,600 miles, which is more than the distance from here to the start of the race in Vancouver. That’s got a disturbing ring of Forrest Gump about it. My university friend, Rachel, has also invited me to the Auckland Marathon in October / November 2010 (www.aucklandmarathon.co.nz), which sounds great. I considered Auckland for the fivemarathons, to give it a truly global feel. As it turned out, Auckland is on 1 November this year, the same date as New York, so I had to pass. 2010 is looking much better, though. Jessica has also lined me up for the Jurassic Coast in March, which is a scary looking race on the south coast of England. Between now and then, I’m looking for a fast course European marathon in January or February. A great opportunity to unlock some of the times which Laith and I are confident I can deliver.


Next stop, New York


Now, back to the world’s greatest living Welshman. On Thursday, I was enjoying a drink with a friend in the bar of The Lowry Hotel in Manchester, when who should literally bump into me but the man, the legend, Sir Tom Jones. A conversation about matters Welsh ensued and Sir Tom kindly signed the back of my running top above the Welsh flag. What better tribute to my Welsh grandparents than the great man’s endorsement? While it all may seem a little unbelievable, even to me, I’m assured it’s not unusual.



FIVEMARATHONS

Barcelona, 1 March 2009 3 hrs 57 mins (new PB)
London, 26 April 2009 4 hrs 01 mins
San Francisco, 26 July 2009 3 hrs 43 mins (new PB)
Berlin, 20 September 2009 3 hrs 46 mins
New York, 1 November 2009

HALF MARATHONS

Coniston 14 (14 miles), 28 March 2009 1 hr 48
Humber Half Marathon, 15 June 2009 1 hr 40 (new PB)
Congleton Half Marathon, 11 October 2009 1 hr 33 (new PB)




This week’s training schedule:


Monday, 12 October 2009 2.5 miles recovery run
Tuesday, 13 October 2009 6 miles brisk
Wednesday, 14 October 2009 4 miles easy easy
Thursday, 15 October 2009 8.5 miles steady
Friday, 16 October 2009 Rest
Saturday, 17 October 2009 5.5 miles steady
Sunday, 18 October 2009 12 miles marathon pace


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


www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonschristies


www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonsmacmillan


Visit us at http://www.fivemarathons.com/


Join the fivemarathons Facebook Group


View fivemarathons photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/fivemarathons/

Monday, 12 October 2009

The Long And Winding Road

Sunday was a big race day for TEAM fivemarathons. While Lucy was in Peterborough running the Great Eastern Run half marathon, Amanda and I were in Congleton taming The Sting In The Tail race, over the same distance. Martin is currently on holiday in the USA, so he was excused racing duty on this occasion.

Lucy put down a fantastic new personal best, crossing the line in 2 hours 10 minutes. As I mentioned in my previous blog (Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow), 10 October 2009), all the signs were that Lucy was on for a great race and she more than delivered. Lucy ran with her friend Kylie from Stamford Striders running club. In her first half marathon, Kylie ran a blistering 1 hour 48 minutes, which is fantastic. Flushed with their success in Peterborough, Lucy and Kylie are now looking for a full marathon in April 2010. Paris might fit the bill (www.parismarathon.com/marathon/2009/us/index.html), Barcelona in March could be even better (http://www.barcelonamarato.es/).



Lucy with Kylie (left) and Bryony (right) after their success in Peterborough
Amanda was tremendously brave to run in Congleton, given the knee injury she was carrying. After the race, the pain was causing Amanda to limp, which demonstrated how hard she’d worked to post 1 hour 51 minutes. On a more light-hearted level, Amanda’s knee injury was strangely ironic: you may remember that last weekend, Amanda’s husband Mike returned home with a knee injury and a pronounced limp from our whitewater canoeing expedition to the Scottish Highlands. Two weekends with me, two Howletts unable to walk. I may not be getting another invitation to dinner with Amanda and Mike for the forseeable future.


With Mike, before he was walking with a limp

Going into Sunday’s race, my personal best for the half marathon was 1 hour 40 minutes and 6 seconds. As I mentioned in a previous blog (Ich bin ein Berliner, 8 August 2009), I’d registered for Congleton with the hope of getting inside 1:40 before the end of the fivemarathons. Given the pain in my bruised ribs, my hopes for a quick time were not high. However, I prepared a 1:40 pace wristband, which sets out the timings you’ll need to hit for each of the 13 miles (get one at http://www.marathonguide.com), and went to Congleton with a straightforward plan: run inside 1:40 pace and back off if my ribs became too painful. The race was very well organised and I got a quick getaway. This meant that I could get straight into my running and a comfortable sub-7 minute mile pace. I was a little nervous that this was too quick, but my heart rate was low, my ribs weren’t too bad, and it felt like an easy cruise. I planned to re-evaluate at 4 miles, but keep at it as long as it felt smooth. If I felt that I was chasing the race, or struggling to maintain the pace, I’d slacken off. As the miles went by, I began to entertain the idea that today might be my day.



With Amanda at Congleton Half Marathon, before she was walking with a limp

The course was reasonably hilly, with the big climbs at 10 miles and 12 miles (hence the race’s name, The Sting In The Tail). On the uphill sections, I made a conscious decision to get stuck in, and get them over without losing too much time. It’s a tactic that I’ve picked up from Martin during our training runs in Coniston and Shap. On the downhill sections, rather than try to brake (and potentially tire my legs out), I just tried to relax and let the gradient take me. Given the work I was putting in on the uphill sections, it seemed silly not to benefit from the gravity-assisted boost offered by the downhill. I continued to run smoothly and well inside the 7 minute 38 second miles which is 1 hour 40 pace. While I hoped my speed wouldn’t tail off, I at least felt that I was building a buffer which would allow me to slacken off towards the end if I needed to. Fortunately, I was able to keep it going and crossed the line in just over 1 hour 33, a full 7 minutes inside my PB. To put it into some perspective, that’s a mile quicker than my previous PB, which would have still been at 12.1 miles when I arrived at the finish yesterday.
With Amanda and Nick after The Sting In The Tail
I crossed the line with a mixture of relief and elation. I had expected things to be tailing off by this stage of the fivemarathons, especially only 3 weeks after Berlin, so I’m really pleased to be turning in a significant improvement to my PB and, more importantly, seeing the flow of donations to fivemarathons increase.

Before Sunday’s race, Laith and I had already discussed my training plan for marathons in 2010. In outline, we’ll focus on speed work: training to get as quick as possible over 5km and 10km then, 18 weeks before the marathon, work to maintain that pace over the full marathon distance. It’s simple really, if you imagine that you have four effort bands, 1 being easy cruising, through to 4, which is running flat out, giving it everything you’ve got. By increasing the speed of band 4, you automatically increase the speeds you can achieve in bands 1 to 3. It’s all about being able to cruise as quickly as possible, within effort bands 1 – 2. Our aim for 2010 is to get below 3 hours 30 minutes and the result in Congleton hopefully shows that we’re on our way. Your half marathon time should inform your time for the full marathon: as a rule of thumb, you double your half marathon time and add ten minutes. That would give me a marathon time of 3 hours 16 minutes. No pressure there, then.

Many thanks to Laith for his brilliant coaching and insightful guidance. Without his help, I’d still be fighting giraffes at the back of the race.

FIVEMARATHONS
Barcelona, 1 March 2009
3 hrs 57 mins (new PB)
London, 26 April 2009 4 hrs 01 mins
San Francisco, 26 July 2009 3 hrs 43 mins (new PB)
Berlin, 20 September 2009 3 hrs 46 mins
New York, 1 November 2009

HALF MARATHONS
Coniston 14 (14 miles), 28 March 2009
1 hr 48
Humber Half Marathon, 15 June 2009 1 hr 40 (new PB)
Congleton Half Marathon, 11 October 2009 1 hr 33 (new PB)

This week’s training schedule:

Monday, 5 October 2009 10 miles steady
Tuesday, 6 October 2009 6 miles easy
Wednesday, 7 October 2009 6 miles brisk
Thursday, 8 October 2009 2 miles easy
Friday, 9 October 2009 Rest
Saturday, 10 October 2009 2.5 miles easy
Sunday, 11 October 2009 Congleton Half Marathon

Christies is the charity which provides funds for, and supports, the work of the world renowned specialist cancer centre, The Christie, in Manchester (see http://www.christies.org/). Macmillan provides practical, medical, financial and emotional support for people affected by cancer and campaigns for better cancer care (see http://www.macmillan.org.uk/).

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonschristies

Join the fivemarathons Facebook Group

View fivemarathons photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/fivemarathons/

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)

Registration for the Berlin Marathon took place at the former Berlin Tempelhof airport, scene of the 1948 - 1949 airlift. Despite the German reputation for ruthless efficiency, registration and the marathon itself was anything but. After three hours of queuing, we went for lunch and polished off an impressive mound of pasta to carb up for the race. Another diner spotted my Mum's fivemarathons tour t-shirt and asked if he could take a photo. He explained that he was running the marathon in the morning and had the utmost respect for my Mum's achievement in taking on five international marathons in 2009. He even went as far as to describe my Mum as "some kind of Iron Lady". A shame that Mum had to puncture his balloon. He had precisely no interest in Martin and me running the marathon! Had Martin, Mandy and I not been there, I wonder if my Mum might have been tempted to dine out on her achievements. Regaling him with graphic tales of gritting her teeth at mile 19 in London, clinging on for a PB in San Francisco, and shamelessly playing to the crowd in Barcelona? Don't worry Mum, you're a hero to me, marathons or not.

Into the final straight in Berlin

It was great to spend time with my folks, Martin and Mandy in Berlin. Mandy had also come to see me race in London and it was great to have her support, especially out on the marathon route, which my stomach was making very hard work.



Martin celebrating a fine run in Berlin

At the moment, my body is feeling very sorry for itself. Last weekend, I was in the Scottish Highlands, whitewater canoeing with Mike Howlett. Despite putting up a brave fight, I think it's fair to say that the river came out on top. More precisely, we got our posteriors well and truly kicked. Having been thrown out of the canoe on several occasions, we proceeded to fight a losing battle with various rocks. I bruised my ribs, while Mike’s knee is currently carrying off a passable impression of a football. For most of the week, I have been holding my side, looking like I’m playing a set of imaginary bagpipes. It hurts most when I laugh. Fortunately, I’ve spent the week in work, so my ribs have had a well earned rest. I ran 10 miles with Jessica on Monday, which went fine. Maintaining sub-8 minute miles was easy enough, but it’s uncomfortable when I breathe deeply. My friend Dan kindly cheered me up with tales of a similar injury he had a few years ago, which had led directly to a bad dose of pleurisy. Hardly ideal preparation for tomorrow’s Congleton Half Marathon with TEAM fivemarathons’ Amanda. I was hoping to get inside 1 hour 40 minutes, but I’ll now settle for a more comfortable training run.

On the summit of The Old Man Of Coniston, Pannone Outdoor Weekend 2009

While Amanda and I are racing in Congleton, Lucy will be tackling the same distance at the Great Eastern Run in Peterborough. Lucy is looking good for a great run, so I wish her the very best of luck. Seeing your work come together on race day is a great feeling.

While I’m now coming into the final phase of my training for fivemarathons, my cousin Melanie is just beginning her preparations for the New York Marathon. Mel is kindly planning the transport options to ensure that my support team will get to see me at various points on the route in NYC. Check out http://running.about.com/od/marathonsandreviews/a/nycmarathonfan.htm, which will give you a feel for the issues involved. Dealing with two million other spectators would be my chief concern. Fortunately, I only have to think about my running. Mel’s own training is coming on really well, notwithstanding the snow which is already falling in Athabasca, and we’re already talking about possible races for next year. The BMO Vancouver Marathon on 2 May 2010 is looking good, with Mel and I running the half marathon and marathon respectively.
My colleague Amy will also be running in New York. Amy has been working incredibly hard for the last eighteen months and the race will be an amazing achievement. We chat often and share marathon tips that we’ve picked up. Exactly as I was in 2004, I know that Amy is nervous about the last eight miles of the race. The atmosphere, the crowd, and the achievement waiting for you in Central Park keep you driving forward. I know that Amy will do it and her training should make her equally confident. Drinks on me when we’ve finished.

This week Hilly sent me some great new kit to trial: Hilly’s twinskin Lite Plus socks and their Capsule Long Sleeved running top. The socks are ultra lightweight and designed by Dr Ron Hill MBE himself. I trained in them this morning and they feel good – they’re already in the washing machine to be ready for Congleton in the morning!

Barcelona, 1 March 2009 3 hrs 57 mins (new PB)
London, 26 April 2009 4 hrs 01 mins
San Francisco, 26 July 2009 3 hrs 43 mins (new PB)
Berlin, 20 September 2009 3 hrs 46 mins
New York, 1 November 2009

This week’s training schedule:
Monday, 28 September 2009 6 miles easy
Tuesday, 29 September 2009 8 miles steady
Wednesday, 30 September 2009 6 miles hard
Thursday, 1 October 2009 Rest
Friday, 2 October 2009 Speed work
Saturday, 3 October 2009 Scottish Highlands: whitewater canoeing
Sunday, 4 October 2009 Scottish Highlands: whitewater canoeing

Christies is the charity which provides funds for, and supports, the work of the world renowned specialist cancer centre, The Christie, in Manchester (see www.christies.org). Macmillan provides practical, medical, financial and emotional support for people affected by cancer and campaigns for better cancer care (see www.macmillan.org.uk).
Join the fivemarathons Facebook Group
View fivemarathons photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/fivemarathons/

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Happiness Is A Warm Gun

Last weekend’s Berlin Marathon was a really great event. After weeks of hard training and anticipation, I was relieved to finally hear the starting pistol. I found the race itself hard work. The 26 degree heat made it important to drink plenty of fluids, but the water stations were like rugby scrums. To make matters worse, they were giving out the water in plastic cups – try drinking from one of those when you’re endeavouring to run 8 minute 20 miles. If you’re anything like me, most of the water will end up either on your running top or up your nose. The real problem however was my stomach. After 10 months of carbing, my body appears to have developed a wheat intolerance. I’ve been aware of it since before San Francisco, but it’s definitely getting worse. Until Berlin, I’d been fine with pasta, but after my carb-loading on the Friday and Saturday before the race, my body finally worked out that pasta is largely wheat. As a result, my stomach was cramping for almost all of the race. I simply had to grit my teeth and try to ignore it. After all, you can’t put the race off to another day. Sir Roger Bannister once said, "The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win”. While I never looked like troubling the podium, I did get within 3 minutes of my PB, so I was pretty relieved about that.

With Martin before the race

Election fever is currently gripping Berlin and each of the lampposts on the route of the marathon was covered with election posters. On race day, Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrat and Free Democrats Alliance held a wafer thin 48 per cent to 47 lead over their rival leftist coalition. In the event of a draw, I assume that normal German rules apply: first party to burn down the Reichstag wins.

"And the crowd has gone bananas!" - news of the result in Berlin reaches Ireland


On our way home, Martin and I bumped into a client at the airport in Berlin. He and his wife had also run the marathon. I knew that he’d been running, but I hadn’t realised that he had signed up for Berlin. I’d visited his offices in March, after the Barcelona Marathon, and we’d talked about the fivemarathons and the training involved. He said that he wanted to start running, and he’d called me several times to discuss training, kit and nutrition. Over a drink at the airport, he explained that Berlin was his second marathon, having run Edinburgh earlier in the summer, and that fivemarathons had inspired him to do it. That was a great feeling.

Last Wednesday saw fivemarathons’ largest daily total for personal donations since we started. Over £350 in one day, which is fantastic when you consider that there’s only one race left to go. The fact that interest is still growing, rather than tailing off, is testament to the great work being put in by fivemarathons’ marketing team. One particularly impressive donation was via my good friend and former colleague, Emma, who completed £105 of statutory declarations on behalf of a client and, rather than receive payment herself, she asked the client to donate the money to fivemarathons. What a fantastic gesture!

Downtime in Berlin, the day after the race

Apologies for the delay in preparing this week’s blog. I spent the weekend in the Lake District guiding Pannone’s Outdoor Weekend with Martin and Tei. The event went really well, with an extended mountain walk on Saturday and off-road driving on Sunday. There were some great moments. For example, if we raise over £250 this week, I’ll tell you all about Martin sleepwalking into a bedroom belonging to two of our guests.

Training for New York began in earnest this week. Only four weeks on Sunday until the big day and Harris & Ross’ Alan Raw (http://www.harrisandross.co.uk/) is working very hard to keep me in one piece and ready to run. Throughout my preparation for the marathons, I’ve been lucky enough to avoid cramp, however in the fortnight leading up to Berlin, I was awoken several times with painful cramping in my left popliteus muscle. The popliteus muscle sits behind your knee – when you straighten your leg, the muscle pulling your knee backwards, and locking your leg, is the popliteus. I could feel that there was something wrong when I was stretching before a run. As I stretched my quads, by bending my knee and pulling my foot up towards my bottom, my swollen popliteus felt like a golf ball was stuck behind my bent knee. The day before I flew to Berlin, my leg was particularly stiff and I was even limping slightly. Alan set to work manipulating the muscle and employed some acupuncture to release the tightness. It worked perfectly, and by race day it felt as good as new. Having dealt with my problematic popliteus, he is now working on my left soleus medial belly. When I signed up to run the fivemarathons, I had no idea just how essential Alan’s physiotherapy would turn out to be.

I'm often asked whether I get bored with running, especially 50+ miles a week. I'm never bored, but sometimes it is hard to summon the enthusiasm to get started, not least when it's the middle of winter in Shap, minus 6 outside and snowing. In those situations, I just ignore any misgivings and get started by changing into my kit. By the time I've done my stretches, I'm chomping at the bit and desperate to get underway. It pays to not contemplate too much, and to just do it. As the great Bill Shankly once said, "If you find yourself in front of the goal, and don't know what to do, just put the ball in the back of the net and we'll discuss the options later".


Barcelona, 1 March 2009 3 hrs 57 mins (new PB)
London, 26 April 2009 4 hrs 01 mins
San Francisco, 26 July 2009 3 hrs 43 mins (new PB)
Berlin, 20 September 2009 3 hrs 46 mins
New York, 1 November 2009

This week’s training schedule:

Monday, 21 September 2009 REST
Tuesday, 22 September 2009 REST
Wednesday, 23 September 2009 REST
Thursday, 24 September 2009 REST
Friday, 25 September 2009 REST
Saturday, 26 September 2009 Pannone Outdoor Weekend
Sunday, 27 September 2009 Pannone Outdoor Weekend



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

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonschristies

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonsmacmillan

Visit us at http://www.fivemarathons.com/

Join the fivemarathons Facebook Group

View fivemarathons photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/fivemarathons/

Monday, 21 September 2009

Berlin Marathon


I’m pleased to report that yesterday’s Berlin Marathon went well. Despite the 26 degree heat, and a decidedly unhappy stomach, I finished in 3 hours 46 minutes. Full details in this week’s blog.

Barcelona, 1 March 2009 3 hrs 57 mins (new PB)
London, 26 April 2009 4 hrs 01 mins
San Francisco, 26 July 2009 3 hrs 43 mins (new PB)
Berlin, 20 September 2009 3 hrs 46 mins
New York, 1 November 2009

This week’s training schedule:

Monday, 14 September 2009 Rest
Tuesday, 15 September 2009 2 miles easy
Wednesday, 16 September 2009 1 mile easy
Thursday, 17 September 2009 2 miles easy
Friday, 18 September 2009 Fly to Berlin
Saturday, 19 September 2009 1 mile easy
Sunday, 20 September 2009 Berlin Marathon


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

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonschristies

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonsmacmillan

Visit us at http://www.fivemarathons.com/

Join the fivemarathons Facebook Group

View fivemarathons photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/fivemarathons/

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

The Cartwright Group



I'm delighted to announce that the commercial vehicle bodybuilder and trailer manufacturer, The Cartwright Group (http://www.cartwright-group.co.uk/), will be fivemarathons' Gold Sponsor for the Berlin Marathon. Even as we speak, The Cartwright Group's logos are being applied to my running top for Berlin and TEAM fivemarathons' tops for the Great Eastern Run and the Congleton Half Marathon. Many thanks to John Cartwright for his help in arranging Cartwright's sponsorship. The money which they have kindly donated will help Christies and Macmillan in their invaluable work.

Barcelona, 1 March 2009 3 hrs 57 mins
London, 26 April 2009 4 hrs 01 mins
San Francisco, 26 July 2009 3 hrs 43 mins
Berlin, 20 September 2009
New York, 1 November 2009

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

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonschristies

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonsmacmillan

Visit us at http://www.fivemarathons.com/

Join the fivemarathons Facebook Group

View fivemarathons photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/fivemarathons/

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Alan Turing


Mathematician Alan Turing is rightly regarded as a war hero and the father of the modern computer. During the Second World War, Turing worked tirelessly at Bletchley Park’s Station X, where he was a key member of the team which unlocked the secret of the Enigma code used by German U-boats. His work directly saved countless lives and helped to ensure the Allied victory. After the war, he moved to the University of Manchester, where he became deputy director of the computing laboratory and worked on the first modern programmable device, the Manchester Mark 1.

Memorial statue to Alan Turing in Manchester's Sackville Park

In 1999, TIME Magazine named Turing as one of the 100 Most Important People Of The 20th Century for his pivotal role in the development of the computer. In what turned out to be a very US-centric list, that was some acknowledgement of Turing’s work (see http://www.time.com/time/time100/scientist/profile/turing.html).

Tragically, due to Turing’s homosexuality, he was prosecuted for gross indecency in 1952. The conviction ruined his career and he committed suicide at his home in Wilmslow two years later, aged just 41, by eating an apple which he had injected with cyanide. It’s a little-known fact that Apple Macintosh’s logo – an apple with a bite taken out of the side – is considered to be a tribute to the great man, in grateful recognition of his pioneering computing work.

This week, Alan Turing received an apology from Prime Minister Gordon Brown (see http://www.number10.gov.uk/Page20571). Mr Brown said, “It is no exaggeration to say that, without his outstanding contribution, the history of World War Two could well have been very different. He truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war. The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely.”

“While Turing was dealt with under the law of the time and we can’t put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him.”

“So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work I am very proud to say: we’re sorry, you deserved so much better.”

You may be wondering why Alan Turing is being featured in a marathon running blog. Well, on top of his other achievements, Turing was a world class marathon runner. In 1947, he completed the Leicestershire Amateur Athletic Championships Marathon in a stunning time of 2:46:03. Bear in mind that, in 1947, the world record stood at 2:29:19. Even as an amateur runner, who could only train in his spare time, Turing was managing to get that close to the record. To put it in context, it would be the equivalent of somebody like me running next Sunday’s Berlin Marathon in 2 hours 21 minutes. Given that, even with a good head start and a following wind, I’ll be lucky to finish within 3 hours 45 minutes, you get some idea of just how great a marathon runner he was.


Turing competing in 1946

In spring each year, the Ely Runners stage The Turing Relay, which is a six-stage relay race on riverside footpaths from Ely to Cambridge and back. These paths were where Turing trained while he was a Cambridge don. It looks like a fantastic event and a memorable way to acknowledge a great man. I may suggest to TEAM fivemarathons that we enter next year. In the meantime, I’d better go and pack for Berlin.

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

This week’s training schedule:

Monday, 7 September 2009 10 miles steady
Tuesday, 8 September 2009 Rest
Wednesday, 9 September 2009 6 miles steady
Thursday, 10 September 2009 6 miles easy
Friday, 11 September 2009 Rest
Saturday, 12 September 2009 4 miles easy
Sunday, 13 September 2009 3 miles easy


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

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonschristies

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonsmacmillan

Visit us at http://www.fivemarathons.com/

Join the fivemarathons Facebook Group

View fivemarathons photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/fivemarathons/

Monday, 7 September 2009

Duncan vs Heile


Many thanks to fivemarathons’ PR Manager, Rob Ainscough, who has secured invaluable coverage in this month’s Messenger (the magazine of the Manchester Law Society) and Macmillan’s newsletter, both of which will bring our fundraising efforts to a wider audience.

Fivemarathons article in Messenger Magazine

Last week, I saw an online advertisement from the organisers of the Berlin Marathon, which
invited spectators to “Join us in Berlin to see Duncan take on Heile”. For one brief moment, it
looked like all of Rob’s promotion had paid off in a big way. Sadly, they were referring to the impending showdown between this year’s fastest marathoner, Duncan Kibet of Kenya, who won the 2009 Rotterdam Marathon with a time of 2:04:27, and world record holder Heile Gebreselassie of Ethiopia, the only man to have ever run faster (2:04:26 in Berlin in 2007 and 2:03:59 in Berlin in 2008). Berlin is a lightning quick course, which has seen six world records since 1998, including the last three men’s world records, so both Duncan and Heile will be chasing a new world record on 20 September.

It’s now just over a week until Martin and I fly to Berlin for the marathon and I’m really looking for it. There are several ways in which you can follow the race:


  • you can sign up for text message updates at:
  • http://www.pervasive.jku.at/marathon/berlin/2009/index-en.php?switch=1&token=1925855941. Simply type in the number of the runner you wish to follow (mine is 30394), plus your mobile phone number, and you’ll receive real time updates on your runner’s progress through the race;
  • Universal Sports will broadcast live coverage, on-demand videos and highlights of the race. Just log onto www.universalsports.com. Universal Sports will also provide the same coverage for my final fivemarathons race in New York on 1 November;
  • after the race, you can view a personalised video of your chosen runner’s race at www.mysports.tv. Available on the day after the race (Monday, 21 September), simply log on and click on the camera symbol next to your runner’s results to watch video from various camera positions along the course. The cameras are linked to each runner’s timing chip to ensure that they catch him / her on film throughout the race.
Best wishes to my coach, Laith, for a speedy recovery after a nightmare mountain bike accident last weekend. It was sufficiently serious that the Mountain Rescue had to be called. They suspected that he had broken his pelvis and called the Air Ambulance, which airlifted him to hospital in Lancaster. Fortunately, his pelvis wasn’t broken, but he had suffered serious muscle and ligament damage. When I spoke to him, he'd been given heavy-duty painkillers but, remarkably, he’d retained his sense of humour. Through the morphine-induced stupor, he even managed to relate this gem from a recent race: Laith and a friend had arrived early at the event, before anyone else. Laith's friend, we'll call him John, decided to use one of the hundred or so portaloos, before the masses descended. Once installed in the portaloo, he was surprised to hear another chap go into the one next to him, especially because all of the others were free. He was even more surprised when the chap started to engage him in conversation. Apparently, it went something like this:

Chap next door: "Hello, mate"
John: "Er, Hello"
Chap next door: "How's it going?"
John: "Ok, thanks"
Chap next door: "What are you up to?"
John: "What do you think I'm up to? Take a wild guess!"
Chap next door: "Listen Dave, I'll have to call you back - the bloke in the next cubicle is talking to me.”

While we've already descended to the murky depths of toilet humour, I might as well tell you about the chugging (or charity mugging) to which I fell victim this week in central Manchester. I’m sure you’ve experienced it yourself: two students, working for a well-known charity, collar you in a pincer manoeuvre and seek to convince you to set up a standing order into the charity’s coffers. On this occasion, it was a well-known environmental pressure group. After the initial disappointment of me confirming that I wouldn’t be handing over my bank details, the chugger suggested some practical ways in which I could help the environment. For example, apparently I can help save water by putting a brick in the toilet. With the amount of carbs I’m eating, that shouldn’t be a problem. That quip impressed no-one, but I did make good my escape.

You can now view photos from Barcelona, London, San Francisco and each of TEAM fivemarathons’ races at www.flickr.com/photos/fivemarathons/

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

This week’s training schedule:

Monday, 31 August 2009 6 miles easy
Tuesday, 1 September 2009 Speed work
Wednesday, 2 September 2009 6 miles brisk
Thursday, 3 September 2009 8 miles steady
Friday, 4 September 2009 Rest
Saturday, 5 September 2009 Mountaineering
Sunday, 6 September 2009 Marshalling Helvellyn Triathlon

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

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonschristies

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonsmacmillan

Visit us at http://www.fivemarathons.com/

Join the fivemarathons Facebook Group

View fivemarathons photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/fivemarathons/

NYC Marathon, 2004

NYC Marathon, 2004
NYC Marathon, 2004