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/

NYC Marathon, 2004

NYC Marathon, 2004
NYC Marathon, 2004