Sunday, 29 March 2009

Fivemarathons Party

On top of masterminding our fundraising efforts, Kirsten is busily planning the fivemarathons “Road to London” party on Tuesday, 21 April 2009 at Manchester's exclusive Press Club, 2-10 St. Johns House, Queen Street, Manchester, M2 5JB. Taking place just four days before the London Marathon, the party should be perfect, if slightly unorthodox, preparation. We're very pleased to have secured the services of top Manchester DJ, Marco Giannini, for what promises to be a fantastic night. All monies raised will go directly to Christies and Macmillan. I really hope that you can join us. For tickets, contact Kirsten on 0161 909 3000 or kirsten.arnold@pannone.co.uk


With Amanda, on our way to the starting pen

Yesterday's Coniston 14 race went really well, which was a big relief! I finished in 1 hour 48 minutes, which is a personal best. My fastest time for a half marathon was 1 hour 47, so I'm pleased with 1 hour 48 for a race that is almost a mile longer and over quite a hilly course. Lucy also ran a personal best at 2 hours 23. From memory, Lucy's time for last year's Great North Run half marathon was 2 hours 25, so Coniston was 2 minutes quicker over a longer (and steeper) course. Martin and Amanda ran similarly impressive times at 1 hour 44 and 1 hour 53 respectively.

Fortunately, my preparation for the race went well. After running 7 miles on Tuesday night, I backed my training right off to give my legs a chance to recover and be fully rested in time for the race. My legs had been particularly tired during last Sunday's 18 mile run, so I knew I had to give them some rest. The time for the 18 miles had been fine, but it had been really hard work. At first, that concerned me, but when I calculated back, I'd run over 53 miles that week, plus three long days in the mountains, so it shouldn't have been unexpected. As well as reducing my training, I spent Thursday and Friday loading carbohydrates (or “carbing up”) to take on the fuel which was going to see me through the race. This was particularly important because it would be more difficult to take on carb gels during the race in Coniston: to make the gels work properly, you need to take them with water, but there are only two water stops during the race. Friday night's pre-race dinner with TEAM fivemarathon's Amanda, and our friend Paula, included pasta, potatoes and bread, so all carb options were covered.

By the time I arrived in the starting pen, my legs were in good shape. Harris and Ross' Alan and Jessie had worked hard during the week to ensure that my niggling piriformis didn't create any problems. Their physiotherapy, and the programme of exercises which Alan has developed for me, really seem to be working well and I'm experiencing increasingly less discomfort from my piriformis.


With Amanda and Lucy after the race

The first two miles of the race were a little difficult, due to congestion from the number of runners. The starting pens are set out according to your likely finishing time. Given the number of people we had to overtake, we had perhaps been more honest than most in selecting our starting pen. As a result, we were held up in traffic for the first two miles. I planned to run 8 minute miles, and possibly a little quicker if I felt good. While my wrist-top GPS tells you your current speed (in minutes per mile), because of the number of hills, it's hard to get a picture of your overall speed. I had to rely on a bit of on-the-hoof mental arithmetic (never one of my strong points), dividing my time by the number of miles covered, to calculate an average speed. As it turned out, I was running at about 7 minute 42 miles. Given the hills, I was pleased with that.

TEAM fivemarathons swings into action again for the Great Manchester Run on 17 May 2009. The 10 kilometre race, over a relatively flat course, should feel like a sprint after yesterday's efforts.

Preparation for the London Marathon continues to progress well (touch wood). I'm now back into the long runs, peaking next weekend, then tapering down to the big day in London. I'll be back in Ireland with my family for my 20 mile run on Sunday. The coastal route I took last time, from County Meath into County Dublin, worked well for Barcelona, so I'll look to do the same again. Although, hopefully with a little less snow this time.

This week, one of fivemarathons' principal sponsors, Pannone (www.pannone.com), launched its “bags for life”. Although the bags are free to staff, Joy Kingsley (Pannone's Senior Partner) has asked for donations to fivemarathons. This is typical of the fantastic support which we have received from Pannone.

Finally, Macmillan has announced the location of its six “cheer-point teams” for the 685 runners taking part in the 2009 London Marathon for Macmillan Cancer Support:


  • Greenwich - 6 mile mark - Trafalgar Square.
  • Mudchute - 18 mile mark - western side of East Ferry Road.
  • The Old Rose Pub - 13 and 22 mile mark - south side of The Highway in E1.
  • Monument - 23 mile mark - northern side of Lower Thames Street.
  • Cleopatra's Needle - 25 mile mark - southern side of Victoria Embankment.

Its supporters make Macmillan stand out from the crowd and have an enormous impact on the Macmillan runners. For further details, contact Sue Blunt at sblunt@macmillan.org.uk or call 020 7840 4602. I'll let you know the location of the Christies cheer-points when they're announced.

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, 30 March 2009 Rest
Tuesday, 31 March 2009 5 miles very easy, off road
Wednesday, 1 April 2009 6 miles fartlek
Thursday, 2 April 2009 7 – 8 miles steady
Friday, 3 April 2009 Rest
Saturday, 4 April 2009 30 mins easy, on grass
Sunday, 5 April 2009 20 miles steady (target 3 hrs 20)

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

Sign the Manchester Evening News' petition at: http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/health/s/1101538_cash_back_for_christie_campaign

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



Saturday, 21 March 2009

Keep on keeping on

First, some fantastic news: last Friday, my new nephew, Monty, was born in Drogheda. While he gets his good looks from his uncle, he obviously has an alternative supplier for his generous head of hair. I know that my sister, Jilly, wants to come over for the London Marathon, so it may be Monty's first major sporting event. I'm sure he would have preferred the final of the FA Cup or the Champions' League, but he'll just have to make do with me grimacing my way around 26.2 miles of London's unforgiving streets.







Monty


Last week, I visited Josh Cheng at Harris and Ross' Wilmslow clinic. After filming me running at a steady 11 kph, Josh and I were able to computer analyse my running gait to identify any issues. While my running style was generally sound, it was obvious that I was bending my back slightly when my left foot strikes the ground. This is almost certainly a sub-conscious attempt to stop my niggling piriformis muscle from hurting as I run. The problem with this kind of imbalance is that it can put more pressure on other parts of the body as it tries to cope with the unusual foot strike pattern. For example, Paula Radcliffe recently had to pull out of the 2009 London Marathon with a broken toe. At the root of the problem was a bunion on her foot which was causing her to change her foot strike pattern in an attempt to stop the bunion hurting. This altered strike pattern increased the strain on her toe and she suffered the stress fracture which has ruled her out of this year's race.


The tightness in my piriformis also appears to be making me over-pronate slightly on my left foot. The tight piriformis muscle is causing my foot to point outwards ever so slightly. It's a little like pulling the string to a marionette's leg – the direction of the foot is bound to be affected. I ran in three different sets of trainers: my favourite New Balance 1024s, the newer 1062s and some high stability 1224s. The video clearly showed that my back was straighter, and the over-pronation less pronounced, with the 1224s, so I'm running in those now. All in all, the video analysis was positive, and while we'll keep things under regular review, there's no need for any orthotic insoles at this stage. Josh was also able to give feedback to Harris and Ross' Alan Raw, who is using Josh's data to formulate a suitable programme of physio and sports therapy to rectify the issues detected via the video analysis. An integral part of Alan's treatment is a series of tailored exercises to strengthen my core stability muscles, specifically my lateral rotator muscles, of which the piriformis is one.



On Wednesday, I start work with Harris and Ross' sports massage therapist, Jessie Danuser.
Jessie joined the Harris and Ross team from Australia, where she worked as a soft tissue therapist with various national and international sporting teams, such as Melbourne Storm Rugby League Club and Essendon Bombers AFL Club. Since arriving in the UK, Jesse has worked with Wigan Warriors, Sale Sharks and is currently the massage therapist for the Great Britain Rugby League Team. Using a variety of techniques which I won't even pretend to understand, such as deep tissue massage, myofascial release and cupping, Jessie will seek to keep me in good shape for the remaining four marathons.



With Angie and Martin on Walna Scar Road


I spent last weekend in Coniston, guiding a group through the mountains with TEAM fivemarathons' Martin. Long days on Dow Crag, The Old Man of Coniston, Sca Fell Pike, Lingmell and Helm Crag may hopefully help the conditioning in my legs. On Monday morning, Martin and I took a training run around the route of next Saturday's Coniston 14 race. The views across the lake are fantastic and should take my mind off some of the steep hills on the course. Confidence in the fivemarathons camp is high and Amanda, Lucy, Martin and I can't wait for the starting gun.



After the Coniston 14, the team's next outing will be the Great Manchester Run on 17 May 2009. The greatest distance runner the world has ever seen, Haile Gebrselassie, has just confirmed his place in the race, which is great – I like a challenge. Anyway, before I can focus on teaching Haile a thing or two, there's the small matter of 26.2 miles in London to consider.

Finally, I'd like to mention Christies' campaign to secure the return of the £6.5 million it lost in the collapse of the UK regulated bank, Kaupthing Singer and Friedlander. Christies is asking supporters to sign up to the Manchester Evening News' ‘Cash Back for Christie Campaign’ which is calling for the government to help secure the return of the money lost in the Icelandic banking collapse.


As you may have seen in the news, the Financial Services Compensation Scheme turned down Christies' claim and the charity is fighting this decision through the High Court. The Manchester Evening News is planning to take their petition to the Prime Minister which demands that the Financial Services Compensation Scheme reimburses The Christie. You can sign the petition online at http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/health/s/1101538_cash_back_for_christie_campaign,
(if you would like to support the newspaper's campiagn in any other way, please visit http://www.christies.org/ where petition forms are available).


Caroline Shaw, Chief Executive of The Christie said “We are very disappointed that our application has been rejected. We must now move on to the next stage which is a judicial review aimed at overturning the decision and getting our money returned”. The good news is that all of The Christie approved development plans remain in place and no jobs are affected, nor does it have any impact on services. It does however put under threat future research developments and new buildings.



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, 23 March 2009 Rest
Tuesday, 24 March 2009 6 miles easy
Wednesday, 25 March 2009 Warm up, then 4 x 1 mile timed, with 4 minute recoveries, then warm down
Thursday, 26 March 2009 15 minutes easy
Friday, 27 March 2009 Rest
Saturday, 28 March 2009 Coniston 14 Race
Sunday, 29 March 2009 Rest



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 http://www.macmillan.org.uk/).



www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonschristies



www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonsmacmillan



Sign the Manchester Evening News' petition at: http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/health/s/1101538_cash_back_for_christie_campaign



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



Join the Facebook fivemarathons group



Come to the fivemarathons "Road to London" party on 21 April 2009 at The Press Club, 2-10 St. Johns House, Queen Street, Manchester, M2 5JB.


Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Harris & Ross



I'm delighted to announce that the acclaimed sports physiotherapists, Harris & Ross (www.harrisandross.co.uk), will be looking after me for the fivemarathons. Harris & Ross' vast experience in the field of professional sports physiotherapy makes them uniquely qualified to keep me running right the way through to Central Park on 1 November 2009. My running tops for each of the marathons, and TEAM fivemarathons' tops for The Great Manchester Run and the Coniston 14, will proudly display Harris & Ross' logo. Many thanks to Harris and Ross' Alan Raw for his help in arranging their support.

Alan has experience at the very highest level, working with Manchester City, Sale Sharks and Wigan Warriors. He is working with me to sort out the niggling piriformis issue which has been with me for the last month or so. Already, Alan's suggested stretching techniques are working well. I've got a detailed evaluation with Alan later today to work out the best course of ongoing treatment, not just for my piriformis, but also more generally to ensure peak performance throughout the marathons. On Wednesday, I'll visit Josh Cheng at Harris & Ross' Wilmslow clinic. By assessing my joint alignment and foot positioning, and using video gait analysis, Josh is able to examine the stability of my pelvis and feet. This will help determine my stability needs and, if necessary, he can create the necessary type of orthotics (shoe inserts), give advice on the appropriate training shoes and, together with Alan, he can work on muscular imbalances that may need addressing.

Training re-commenced on Monday after a week off to let my body recover from Barcelona. While I enjoyed resting for the first few days, by the time the weekend arrived I was really itching to get running again. I suspect that my body has got used to the endorphins which are released during long workouts, and may have been suffering withdrawal symptoms! During my week off training, things at fivemarathons' HQ didn't stand still. On Friday, Kirsten and I visited Christies for a photo shoot for the next edition of their “Successes” magazine, which should hit the stands in time for the London Marathon.


With Christies' Fundraising Co-ordinator, Marco Giannini, and Councillor Alison Firth, the Deputy

Lord Mayor of Manchester (and the next Lord Mayor of Manchester).





Only a fortnight on Sunday until the Coniston 14 race and TEAM fivemarathons' preparation is going well. Martin and I are mountain guiding in Coniston this weekend and my training schedule has an 18 mile run booked in for Sunday, so I may recce the route of the race in advance. Forewarned is forearmed etc. I may even talk Martin into joining me. Regular readers may remember that Martin was unfortunate enough to be in Cumbria for my last 18 mile run and showed commitment above and beyond the call by getting up at 5am for a bracing run in the wind and snow. I suspect Martin will refuse any future invitations for a relaxing weekend in the Lake District.

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, 16 March 2009 Rest
Tuesday, 17 March 2009 6 miles fartlek
Wednesday, 18 March 2009 7 miles steady
Thursday, 19 March 2009 5 miles easy
Friday, 20 March 2009 Rest
Saturday, 21 March 2009 20 mins easy, including a few strides
Sunday, 22 March 2009 Race 10 miles or half marathon (target 1 hr 20 / 1 hr 52)

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/




Friday, 6 March 2009

Venga!

I'm relieved to tell you that the Barcelona Marathon went well. My official finishing time was 3 hours 57, which is a full 55 minutes better than my previous best time in a competitive marathon. It just shows the difference that proper preparation can make. I stuck rigidly to my plan to run just inside 9 minute miles and it worked well. I was running as quickly at the end of the race as I was at the start (although it was a little easier to maintain at the start!). Inevitably, there will be some things for which you just didn't plan: for example, in Barca the total distance, from start to finish was over 27 miles! While my wrist-top GPS was telling me that I'd already finished, the distance markers confirmed that I still had another 1.3 kilometres to grind out.

As with all of the major marathons, the route had a blue line painted on the road, which is the most direct route and should measure exactly 26.2 miles. It allows the runners, especially the elite athletes, to run as efficiently as possible, and have the best chance of getting a personal best. World records were never going to be a likelihood in Barca because it's quite a hilly route. Now, while I wasn't able to hug the blue line for the whole of the route (there's always congestion around the line because most runners are trying to follow it), there's no way my meanderings accounted for an extra 1.3 kilometres. Fortunately, I'd been sufficiently inside 9 minute miles to allow for the extra distance. I'd have been a shade upset if I'd missed out on getting under 4 hours because somebody in Barcelona can't use a ruler!

On the positive side, it hopefully bodes well for the remaining four marathons. On a flatter course, which measures the correct distance, I may be able to shave a little off my time from Barca (no guarantees, you understand). There were other grounds for cautious optimism on Sunday: my aching piriformis was fine and my legs were in good shape. On the evening before I flew to Spain, my physio did a great job in getting me ready to run. It was such a marked improvement from a few days earlier, when I'd been hobbling around the house, muttering like Victor Meldrew.


My Mum couldn't stop crying after the race. The last time I'd made her eyes water was November 1972.

The atmosphere in Barca was fantastic and the sights that the course takes you past are spectacular: Gaudi's La Pedrera and Sagrada Familia, the Gothic Quarter, La Rambla and the Pla├ža de Catalunya. Also, the enthusiastic support was a big plus. The crowd shouting “venga!” or “vamos!” keeps you pushing, when you might otherwise want to back off the pace.

During the race, I carried my mobile phone for my support team to let me know where they were on the course, so we could look out for each other. This created some unexpected issues of its own. For example, at 15 miles, I took a call from a call centre in India asking if I was satisfied with my mobile phone service. Perhaps understandably, I had bigger fish to fry. More constructively, I received several texts offering support, which really helped when I had to dig deep at around 23 miles. I'd really like to thank everyone who phoned me or sent emails, texts, Facebook messages to send their good wishes and support over the weekend. I was particularly grateful to TEAM fivemarathons' Amanda, whose message the night before the race reminded me to be confident and trust my training, just when my dodgy piriformis and aching legs were causing me to doubt myself.


Enjoying the Barcelona skyline on the day after the race.

Three days after the race and I'm more or less back to normal. Until Tuesday evening my legs felt like they belonged to someone else. It was like being a Dalek: everything was alright until I was faced with a flight of stairs. Training re-commences next week, when I turn my attention to London. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy Barca for a little longer.


This week’s training schedule:


Monday, 9 March 2009

15 minutes easy

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

2 miles easy, then 3 miles brisk, then 1 mile jog

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

10 mins warm up, then 10 x 40 secs fast uphill, jogging back down, 10 mins warm down

Thursday, 12 March 2009

6 miles easy

Friday, 13 March 2009

Rest

Saturday, 14 March 2009

20 mins easy

Sunday, 15 March 2009

18 miles training run (easy, 3 hours)


Barcelona, 1 March 2009
London, 26 April 2009
San Francisco, 26 July 2009
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 http://www.macmillan.org.uk/).

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonschristies

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonsmacmillan

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

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Marato de Barcelona




The marathon went really well today in Barcelona. Great conditions, fantastic atmosphere and superb crowd. I finished in an official time of 3 hours 57 minutes. Full details to follow in the next blog (or tune into BBC Radio Manchester at 8.30am on Monday, 2 March 2009, when I´ll be speaking to the Breakfast Show from Barcelona).

Many thanks to Mazars, fivemarathons´ Official Sponsor for the Barcelona Marathon.

Barcelona, 1 March 2009
London, 26 April 2009
San Francisco, 26 July 2009
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 http://www.macmillan.org.uk/).

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonschristies

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonsmacmillan

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

NYC Marathon, 2004

NYC Marathon, 2004
NYC Marathon, 2004