Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Homage To Catatonia

It has been another packed week at fivemarathons HQ. Just the usual: training plans, food allergy tests and saving lives. Last Sunday, I was on Coniston Water, paddling one of the safety canoes for Epic Events' open water swim event. For the 3.8km race, one of the competitors went into shock and started to quietly freak out. Cue the Baywatch theme tune as Rosie and I raced over. Despite my various attempts at polite enquiry, we couldn't get a word out of our rescuee. Nevertheless, we managed to pull her out of the water and into the canoe. The whole thing was a bit surreal; she had a fixed thousand yard stare, looking straight through me and not saying a word. Admittedly, she’s not the first woman to have been rendered catatonic by my arrival. It was like university all over again. However, something was obviously badly wrong; she was less than 200 metres into the race. We paddled back to the marshals and turned our patient over to their care. I could get used to the whole David Hasselhoff routine, although I’m not sure that the red shorts would be all that well-received in rural Cumbria.


Baywatch: Cumbria branch

Perhaps surprisingly, Sunday was not my first attempt at lifesaving. Some time back in the early 90s, I was on a train journey from Caen to Paris. It was absolutely packed, and I ended up propped up against a door, next to a British backpacker, who muttered to me that he wished we could get seats. Only seconds later, the large gentleman opposite us started to complain that he felt unwell. We passed over a bottle of water, but things took a turn for the worse when he started to complain of pain in his arm and clutch his chest. You didn’t need to be Dr Kildare to realise that he was having a heart attack and, if we didn’t help him quickly, matters would not necessarily resolve themselves to his advantage. I don’t know about the backpacker, but my own heart must have been doing 180 bpm minimum. We pulled the communication chord and I explained the background to the guard in phrasebook French. Having asked each other the way to the beach in increasingly loud voices, we made him understand the gravity of the situation. He used his radio and confirmed that the paramedics would be waiting for us at the next station, just 10 minutes away. The air was thick with prayer. By now, our man had passed out, and all I could do was try to keep track of his pulse and make sure he was still breathing. Had it been a few years later, I might have been ideally positioned to have administered the last rites (see “The Devil Wears Puma”, http://fivemarathons.blogspot.com/2009/07/devil-wears-puma.html). As we finally arrived at the station, I was aghast when we realised that the paramedics weren’t there. After what seemed like an eternity, they finally arrived, and we managed to manhandle the patient off the train as best we could. What an unbelievable stress. As the backpacker and I finally dropped down onto the seats vacated by the sick man and his wife, he turned to me ashen-faced and said, “My goodness, I really didn’t want a seat that much”. There may have been marginally more swearing, but that was the upshot. Be careful what you wish for.


"Are we there yet?": Final straight in Vancouver

On the Sunday evening, fresh from our Baywatch heroics, Rosie and I went on a great fell run over Winder Fell and Arant Haw. While it should have been great preparation for my forthcoming off-road races, I found that my stomach was cramping again. I was quite tired afterwards, and my legs took a long time to recover. Something is obviously not right. Ever since Vancouver, I’ve felt weak during my training runs and generally tired. Fortunately, last week, Jess had arranged for me to visit Keith Knight at Balanced Health (keithknight1954@yahoo.co.uk / 07961 381694) for some food intolerance / sensitivity testing. I’d already figured that I’d developed a wheat intolerance, but Keith’s tests revealed so much more. For example, I’m not responding well to grapes, citrus fruits, olives, marmite, sugars (and artificial sweeteners), mushrooms, green peppers, alcohol, nuts and MSG. Crikey, no more boozy nights in the pub eating bar snacks, followed by a cheeky Chinese takeaway on the way home. Keith’s test results, and his analysis, made a lot of sense. Basically, my digestive system is out of balance – too much yeast and not enough lactobacillus (the friendly bacteria made famous by the Yakult advertisements). The yeast issue will undoubtedly stem from the 6 bagels a day I was putting away during my training for the fivemarathons. For reasons even harder to digest than 42 bagels a week, I haven’t been converting all of the food I’ve been eating into energy. As Keith put it, “you’d have been getting just as much nutrition by eating the box the food came in”. By about 8pm each evening, I was really starting to crash and crave sugar. Lucy and Amanda were both suitably surprised to see me reaching for a Cadbury’s Double Decker the night before the Edinburgh marathon. Not the virtuous diet they’d come to expect!


TEAM Vaughan crosses the finish line: with my cousins Melanie and Neil in Vancouver

To further complicate matters, my immune system has been overloaded trying to deal with some of the side effects of my misfiring digestive system. This almost certainly explains why it’s taken so long to shake off the cold virus I picked up a week before Vancouver. The lack of nutrition could also explain why I’ve felt so tired during my training runs – without proper energy, my body may well have started to break down muscle. After a week of taking the supplements recommended by Keith, and following a heavily revised diet, I’m slowly starting to feel a little stronger on my training runs. I hope it continues; I was starting to get quite nervous.


Next stop, Mont Blanc...

The tests also revealed an intolerance to Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola. I hope the allergy is to cola nuts as opposed to coca leaves. Chewing coca leaves can really help you to acclimatise to altitude and I’ve got through an awful lot on past trips to the Andes. In 2003, my then girlfriend kindly packed a huge supply of Bolivian coca leaves in my rucksack, so that she could make coca tea later in the trip. You can imagine my horror, when I unpacked my kit in Chile, only to realise that I had just inadvertently trafficked over a kilogram of unrefined cocaine across the border. Well, she enjoyed her tea, and that’s apparently all that counts.

More tales of unlikely derring-do next week, when I may or may not tell you about the bank job I unwittingly perpetrated in Greece in the early 1990s.

You can support TEAM Manchester’s charitable efforts by following the links at the bottom of this blog.

2010

Vancouver, 2 May 2010 3 hours 31 minutes (new PB)
Edinburgh, 23 May 2010 www.edinburgh-marathon.com
Lakeland 50, 24 - 25 July 2010 www.lakeland100.com
The Atlantic Coast, 1 - 3 October 2010 www.votwo.co.uk/votwo2007/events-and-adventure/race_view.php?i=117
Auckland, 31 October 2010 www.aucklandmarathon.co.nz

HALF MARATHONS

Liverpool, 28 March 2010 1 hour 33 mins 14 seconds (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).


SUPPORT TEAM MANCHESTER AT THE EDINBURGH MARATHON AND GREAT MANCHESTER RUN:




Lucy Dawson and Amanda Howlett - Christies - www.justgiving.com/AmandaandLucy

Lucy Dawson and Amanda Howlett - Macmillan - www.justgiving.com/AmandaandLucymacmillan

Jessica Lovell – NSPCC - http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/JessicaLovell

Helen Thomasson – Christies - http://www.justgiving.com/Helen-Thomasson

Claire Smith – Christies - http://www.justgiving.com/Claireruns10k

Harriet Sutherland – The Prostate Cancer Charity - http://www.justgiving.com/Harriet-Sutherland0

Noel Bresland - Bliss - http://www.justgiving.com/Noel-Bresland-223-Marathon-Challenge

Join the Facebook Group "A Marathon Or Two"

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

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

In Through The Out Door


My journey home from Athabasca turned into an epic. After Mel and Ron drove me to Edmonton, I flew to Vancouver, on to NYC, drove from NYC to Philadelphia to meet up with Mary and her running friends, Laurie and Theresa (see “Local Zero” http://fivemarathons.blogspot.com/2009/05/local-zero.html), drove back to NYC, and finally flew home to Manchester (taking a wide detour north over Greenland and north of Iceland to avoid the latest volcanic ash cloud).

Vancouver 2010, miles 25 - 26: "hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way..."

I had such a great time in Philadelphia. Mary had arranged for us to watch the Phillies’ baseball game against the Atlanta Braves. See the photo of me watching the game from behind a Philadelphia cheesesteak. I’m not sure the cheesesteak will form a major part of the nutritional and training plans that I’ve agreed to prepare for Mary, but it sure is tasty. Congestive heart disease never tasted so good. As well as talking running with the ladies, who are working towards their first half marathon, Mary and I took some time to see Philly’s sights. We even visited the Philadelphia Museum Of Art, made famous by the Rocky films, and recreated our very own training montage. You can view it in all of its high definition, technicolor glory at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUfWECjUNwg. It was all Mary’s idea. She made me do it.

The cheesesteak won by TKO in the 4th round

Sunday, 16 May saw this year’s Great Manchester Run (10km). The race was a great success and many regular blog viewers were running, hot on Haile Gebrselassie’s heels. Amy Worrall ran a fantastic PB – taking a minute per mile off her previous best. After fighting back from a series of injuries (see Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants: http://fivemarathons.blogspot.com/2009/11/standing-on-shoulders-of-giants.html), this is a fantastic result and Amy can be justly proud. My friend Claire, running on behalf of Christies, also ran a new PB. Admittedly, it was the first time she’s ever run that far, but as I mentioned in last week’s blog, a PB is a PB, whichever way you cut it. Now you’ve set a benchmark, Claire. It only gets harder from here.


Finishing straight in Vancouver

In July, I’ll be back in the Alps for some more high-altitude mountaineering with Martin and James (see High Fidelity: http://fivemarathons.blogspot.com/2009/07/high-fidelity.html and The Devil Wears Puma http://fivemarathons.blogspot.com/2009/07/devil-wears-puma.html). This weekend, Martin and James were both in Latvia for the Riga Marathon, where they posted fantastic times (3:29:32 and 3:04:57 respectively). If Riga is anything to go by, Martin and I may struggle to keep up with James in Switzerland. Sunday also saw TEAM Manchester travel north of the border for the Edinburgh Marathon. Despite the hot weather, there were some fantastic performances, not least from my training partner Jess who, despite only having run the London Marathon four weeks previously, turned in a great 3:36:58. Amanda also ran a new personal best of 3:52:56, over 6 minutes inside her time from New York in 2008. Lucy, Helen, Libby and Harriet were all running their first marathon and should be really pleased with their great performances. Lucy still maintains that she’ll never run another marathon, but there are distinct signs of a softening of her position. On Saturday night, she said that there was no chance whatsoever of her ever running 26.2 miles again, whereas by Sunday night, over drinks after the race, she said that she was only 99% certain. The same thing happened to me after London in 2004. After I crossed the line, I promised my sister that I wouldn’t ever be doing anything like that ever again. By the following afternoon, I was signing up for the New York Marathon later that year. Six years, and 1 hour 31 off my PB, later and I’m writing a marathon-running blog.


Finally....

My Sunday in Edinburgh was quite frustrating. I hadn’t been able to shake the cold which I’d picked up prior to the Vancouver Marathon and it had spread to a niggling cough. I was feeling a little better by Thursday and managed a short training run of four miles. I felt incredibly weak and my lungs felt tight. Things were no better when I ran two miles on Friday. I travelled to Edinburgh undecided as to whether or not to run, but I did want to give it a go if I could. I walked into the starting pen in hope rather than expectation and got underway. Sunday felt no better than Thursday and Friday. My heart rate was relatively high for the slow pace that I was able to maintain and I decided to pull up at nine miles. The route was passing the ultimate finish at the Musselburgh racecourse, and I retired to the bar to consider what was going wrong. I knew that trying to grind out the remaining 17 miles was only going to make matters worse, but it was a bitter pill to swallow. Still, I’m trying to take the positives from it: if I had to be ill for a race, at least it wasn’t one of the fivemarathons for Christies and Macmillan, or Vancouver, where so many members of my family were there to watch the race.


One for the family album: with my cousins Melanie and Neil

My first priority is to get back to full fitness as quickly as possible and get training for the challenges ahead in 2010, not least the Lakeland 50 on 24 July. I’ve already spoken to Laith about what adjustments are necessary to my current training programme. While I’m excited about the ultras coming up this year, I’m finding it hard to not think about a marathon in spring 2011, when I can put Edinburgh behind me and look to take another bite out of my PB. I always try to learn from my mistakes and I’m rarely short of material. As the Rocky IV soundtrack put it, I’m “burning with determination to even up the score”.

video

Mel and Ron run past our support team at 3 miles

While I was in Vancouver, I received an email from my friend Noel. You may recall that he’s running 223 marathons for Bliss, the charity which cares for premature and sick babies. Noel confirmed that he’ll also be running the Atlantic Coast at the start of October. It’ll be great to have Noel and Jess there (and at least I can run with Noel when Jess leaves us for dust!).

Post-race celebration in Vancouver

You can support TEAM Manchester’s charitable efforts by following the links at the bottom of this blog.

2010

Vancouver, 2 May 2010 3 hours 31 minutes (new PB)
Edinburgh, 23 May 2010 www.edinburgh-marathon.com
Lakeland 50, 24 - 25 July 2010 www.lakeland100.com
The Atlantic Coast, 1 - 3 October 2010 www.votwo.co.uk/votwo2007/events-and-adventure/race_view.php?i=117
Auckland, 31 October 2010 www.aucklandmarathon.co.nz

HALF MARATHONS

Liverpool, 28 March 2010 1 hour 33 mins 14 seconds (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).

SUPPORT TEAM MANCHESTER AT THE EDINBURGH MARATHON AND GREAT MANCHESTER RUN:


Lucy Dawson and Amanda Howlett - Christies - www.justgiving.com/AmandaandLucy
Lucy Dawson and Amanda Howlett - Macmillan - www.justgiving.com/AmandaandLucymacmillan
Jessica Lovell – NSPCC - http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/JessicaLovell
Helen Thomasson – Christies - http://www.justgiving.com/Helen-Thomasson
Claire Smith – Christies - http://www.justgiving.com/Claireruns10k
Harriet Sutherland – The Prostate Cancer Charity - http://www.justgiving.com/Harriet-Sutherland0
Noel Bresland - Bliss - http://www.justgiving.com/Noel-Bresland-223-Marathon-Challenge
Join the Facebook Group "A Marathon Or Two"
View fivemarathons photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/fivemarathons/

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Strawberry Fields Forever


Hello from Athabasca, Alberta!

Sunday’s Vancouver marathon and half marathon were great events. Despite the heavy rain and cold weather, Melanie and Ron turned in personal bests. Admittedly, it was their first half marathon, but a PB is a PB. In the build-up to the race, I’d said to Mel that I wasn’t choosy about the weather, as long as we didn’t have excessive heat or torrential rain. One out of two ain’t bad.

Spotting Randy in Stanley Park

Mel and Ron got underway in the half marathon at 7am, while I got started half an hour later. As it turned out, some marathoners, those who expected to take over 6 hours to complete the course, had started running at 6am. I didn’t know that, when I was still passing the morbidly obese, 2.5 hours into my own race. I couldn’t understand how I could have been running so hard, for so long, and yet still be behind the salad-dodging chapter of the distance running fraternity. Having considered that it was obviously time to hang up my trainers, it came as a great relief to see the starting timetable after the race.

Ron, capturing the moment on Sunday's half marathon

Sunday was the culmination of a great adventure which started in San Francisco last year. Nine months of intensive training for Mel and Ron and a lot of careful planning by Mel and her Dad, my Uncle Bob, to get over 20 members of my family together on race day, meant we had everything in place for what was an unbelievable occasion. As my race started later than theirs, I was able to walk over to the starting pen with Mel and Ron and enjoy the build-up with them. It was so great to have our family around us, to share the moment.


Making tracks in Stanley Park

My own final preparation for the race had been far from perfect. I picked up a cold in New York which I just couldn’t shift. By the day before the race it had really got a grip. Had it been the forthcoming marathon in Edinburgh (23 May 2010), I would almost certainly not have run. I had trained so hard throughout the freezing cold winter that I couldn’t bear to waste the race – to run when I wasn’t feeling fit and, at the same time, tire myself out for a proper attempt at a time in a future race. Having said that, I had been building towards Vancouver, and thinking about little else, for six whole months, ever since I crossed the finish line in New York City, drawing the fivemarathons to a close. Also, with my family in town for the race, I really wanted to run if I possibly could.

Mile 10 support team

I’m really grateful for all of my family’s efforts to ensure that I had every chance of running a good race. My Uncle Bob made sure that I had all of the right food in the week before the race and drove me around the course to acquaint myself in advance with the uphill sections where I was going to have to work, and the downhill sections where I would need to bank some time. He also arranged that I had family members every five miles on the route, not only to support me, but to hand me the drinks which were going to be essential for a good time. That meant that I could avoid the scrums at the water stops, and actually get some fluids on board. I find it almost impossible to drink properly from the cups handed out by the race organisers, while simultaneously trying to maintain 7 minute 45 second miles. Perhaps, like all men, it’s the multi-tasking element I find hard. Most days I struggle to walk while chewing gum.

Uncle Bob, Val, and Mel’s boys, Jonas and Zachary, met me at mile 5; my Mum, Dad, Auntie June (three quarters of my San Francisco and New York support team), Jacob and Noah were waiting for me at mile 10; and Caron and Randy were just past the halfway point in Stanley Park, still smiling through the pouring rain. On the Burrard Bridge, at 17 miles, my cousin Neil, a fellow endurance athlete (and regular Iron Man competitor) was waiting to run with me and keep me on pace for the last 9.2 miles of the race. My cousin Craig, Tracy and Meagan met us at miles 19 and 22, which was a great inspiration to keep me pressing. Given my cold, I was trying to take it easy in the first half of the race, and keep my heart rate below 152 beats per minute. Running with a bad cold is never a good idea and I was keen to avoid any undue strain on my heart. My legs also felt tired and a little weak from mile one. Normally, the first 15 miles of the race are free, while the latter 11.2 are where you really earn your money. On Sunday, I was having to scrap for every yard from the very start. In spite of all that, by the time I reached Neil, I realised that a new PB was possible, if I could just keep moving freely. Neil was such a fantastic help and pushed me to a 3 hours 31 finish, 12 minutes inside my previous best. Thanks Neil! Whenever I can return the favour for you, just let me know and I’ll be there.


Job done

As we reached the finishing straight, Mel was waiting for us, having finished her half marathon with Ron in a fantastic 2 hours 18 minutes. Getting to run in a new PB, with my cousins Neil and Mel either side of me, and with our family cheering us on was a priceless moment which I’ll never forget. My Mum and Auntie June were in tears. On Monday evening, we all got together for a celebratory meal, which was a great way to mark a fantastic family occasion. Caron is keen to run another half marathon (having run Vancouver and Kelowna before), and Mel and Ron intend to keep running, so I may be back to do it all again.


Left for dust: swallowing my running pride at LTIS

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to run with the Marathon Club at the Landing Trail Intermediate School in Athabasca. LTIS is the school attended by Mel and Ron’s sons, Noah and Jonas. At lunchtimes, the kids run 2 kilometres around the school grounds. Once they reach 42.2 kilometres, they’re awarded their marathon certificates. Noah and Jonas are already well on their way, with half marathons under their belts. I’m not ashamed to say that, for the first 400 metres, I wondered if I was going to be able to keep up! Fortunately, the boys settled down into a more sustainable pace, and we got our heads down for their next two kilometres. It was an absolute pleasure to run with the kids, and hopefully help to enthuse the distance runners of tomorrow. The next destination on my running world tour is Philadelphia, first thing tomorrow morning, where I’ll be meeting up with my friends Mary and Laurie, who are fresh from last Sunday’s Broad Street 10 Miler in Philly. I know Mary is looking to bag her first half marathon before the end of the year. Photos and a full race report to follow in a future blog!

Sam, Sebastian, Jamie and Jonas

As always, I’d like to offer my sincere thanks to my coach, Laith (http://www.theendurancecoach.com/) and my physio, Alan (http://www.harrisandross.co.uk/), without whom I couldn’t have even dreamed of taking another 12 minute bite out of my PB. Thanks chaps! Work starts Monday for a 3 hour 15 finish in spring 2011. Just a few minor races to keep me occupied between now and then.

2010

Vancouver, 2 May 2010 3 hours 31 minutes (new PB)
Edinburgh, 23 May 2010 www.edinburgh-marathon.com
Lakeland 50, 24 - 25 July 2010 www.lakeland100.com
The Atlantic Coast, 1 - 3 October 2010 www.votwo.co.uk/votwo2007/events-and-adventure/race_view.php?i=117
Auckland, 31 October 2010 www.aucklandmarathon.co.nz

HALF MARATHONS

Liverpool, 28 March 2010 1 hour 33 mins 14 seconds (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).

SUPPORT TEAM MANCHESTER AT THE EDINBURGH MARATHON AND GREAT MANCHESTER RUN:


Lucy Dawson and Amanda Howlett - Christies - www.justgiving.com/AmandaandLucy
Lucy Dawson and Amanda Howlett - Macmillan - www.justgiving.com/AmandaandLucymacmillan
Jessica Lovell – NSPCC - http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/JessicaLovell
Helen Thomasson – Christies - http://www.justgiving.com/Helen-Thomasson
Claire Smith – Christies - http://www.justgiving.com/Claireruns10k
Harriet Sutherland – The Prostate Cancer Charity - http://www.justgiving.com/Harriet-Sutherland0
Noel Bresland - Bliss - http://www.justgiving.com/Noel-Bresland-223-Marathon-Challenge
Join the Facebook Group "A Marathon Or Two"
View fivemarathons photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/fivemarathons/


Tuesday, 4 May 2010

BMO Vancouver Marathon


With Mel and Ron at the Vancouver Marathon Expo

I'm pleased to confirm that yesterday's BMO Vancouver Marathon went really well. Despite feeling quite unwell in the days before the race, I'd come too far to not run and I turned in a new PB of 3 hours 31 (12 minutes inside my previous best).

Race jerseys

It was a fantastic occasion and it felt so great to have so many of my family around me. Despite the cold and heavy rain, Melanie and Ron finished their first half marathon in a superb 2 hours 18 minutes. Full details to follow in this week's blog.


Canada's next top model

Roll on Edinburgh! No turning back now.

2010

Vancouver, 2 May 2010 3 hours 31 minutes (new PB)
Edinburgh, 23 May 2010 www.edinburgh-marathon.com
Lakeland 50, 24 - 25 July 2010 www.lakeland100.com
The Atlantic Coast, 1 - 3 October 2010 www.votwo.co.uk/votwo2007/events-and-adventure/race_view.php?i=117
Auckland, 31 October 2010 www.aucklandmarathon.co.nz

HALF MARATHONS

Liverpool, 28 March 2010 1 hour 33 mins 14 seconds (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).


SUPPORT TEAM MANCHESTER AT THE EDINBURGH MARATHON AND GREAT MANCHESTER RUN:



Lucy Dawson and Amanda Howlett - Christies - www.justgiving.com/AmandaandLucy

Lucy Dawson and Amanda Howlett - Macmillan - www.justgiving.com/AmandaandLucymacmillan

Jessica Lovell – NSPCC - http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/JessicaLovell

Helen Thomasson – Christies - http://www.justgiving.com/Helen-Thomasson

Claire Smith – Christies - http://www.justgiving.com/Claireruns10k

Harriet Sutherland – The Prostate Cancer Charity - http://www.justgiving.com/Harriet-Sutherland0

Noel Bresland - Bliss - http://www.justgiving.com/Noel-Bresland-223-Marathon-Challenge

Join the Facebook Group "A Marathon Or Two"

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

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Philadelphia Story

You may remember that this time last year, my friend Mary, and her friend Laurie, were running the Broad Street 10 Miler in Philadelphia (see “Local Zero” http://fivemarathons.blogspot.com/2009/05/local-zero.html). I talked to Mary about joining them this year, if the dates fitted around Vancouver. Unfortunately, this year both races both fall on 2 May, which is a shame. The race itself is reputed to be the USA’s biggest 10 mile race – this year, entries had to be capped at 30,000! That’s pretty amazing, when you think that the London Marathon only gets around 35,000 finishers. While Laurie will be running this year, Mary has unfortunately sprained her ankle and has been unable to train. After doing all of my training for the Dublin Marathon in 2005 and being unable to race, I know how incredibly frustrating it feels. Especially when your friends are getting excited about the race.


Different day, same bull (see “The French Connection”
http://fivemarathons.blogspot.com/2009/11/french-connection.html)


Although I can’t make it for the race, I am stopping off in Philadelphia on my way home from Vancouver. I know Mary has got some great activities lined up, not least going to one of the Phillies’ home games. Avid baseball fans will know that the Phillies made it to the World Series with the New York Yankees last year. The series was decided while I was in New York for the marathon and the buzz about the games was incredible. Although the Phillies won their game on the day I arrived on Manhattan, they sadly lost the next, and the series, the day before I left to fly home. I’m sure my presence at the game on 7 May will prove talismanic and the Phillies will go one better this year. Ahem. As well as the Phillies’ game, I have suggested to Mary that I’d like to recreate the iconic training scene from “Rocky”, where the man himself (the Fighting Pride Of Philadelphia, no less) runs up the 72 steps to Philadelphia Museum of Art as the stirring culmination of the training montage. I’ll bet no tourists have ever done that before. Coming soon to an embarrassing Youtube clip near you.

As I mentioned at the end of the last blog, Jess had an amazing run in Sunday’s London Marathon. After completing the first half of the race in a blistering 1 hour 37 minutes, she went on to close out the race in just 3 hours 29 minutes. This performance put Jess in the top 500 female finishers – in one of the World Marathon Majors (www.worldmarathonmajors.com). This blog isn’t normally graced with outstanding athletic achievement, but rather heroic and no less shambolic tragi-comedy (often involving medical intervention and even the odd flock of sheep), so we really should relish this moment. Well done, Jess!


"We need to take the bull by the balls before somebody pulls the rug out from under our noses"
(see “Dunkin’ Donuts” - http://fivemarathons.blogspot.com/2009/08/dunkin-donuts.html)


I’m writing this at JFK Airport, awaiting my flight to Vancouver for the marathon. It has been raining so hard today in New York that flights are being delayed because of the amount of standing water on the runways. After last week’s volcanic ash, and today’s apparent floods, I’m fully expecting a plague of frogs for my return flight to NYC. In my day job, I once spent a series of teeth-grindingly boring meetings, discussing the nature of “acts of God” for the purposes of commercial agreements. After being prevailed upon to provide expert insight into the potentially detrimental effects of sonic booms, I announced that we were worrying about nothing, suggested that we each respectively get a life, and find something more pressing about which to concern ourselves. Little did I know, I was about to have a stark lesson in the truly bizarre nature of natural phenomena and their effect on the best laid marathon-running plans of mice and men. An Icelandic volcano stopping the production of our running tops, and grounding flights to north America? Who can honestly say they spotted that iceberg?

Check out TEAM Manchester’s marathon-running fundraising efforts, below. I’m particularly pleased, and proud, to plug Lucy and Amanda’s run at the Edinburgh Marathon, not least because Lucy maintains that I talked her into it (I could have sworn it was the other way around!), but also because they’re fundraising for fivemarathons’ supported charities, Christies and Macmillan. Claire and Helen are also supporting Christies, while Harriet is supporting The Prostate Cancer Charity. You can read about the inspiring stories behind each of their efforts at the websites below. I could fill an entire blog telling you about Noel’s 223 marathons for Bliss (watch this space!). Finally, if Jess’ outstanding performance in Sunday’s London Marathon inspired you to show your support for the NSPCC, visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/JessicaLovell.

2010

Vancouver, 2 May 2010 www.bmovanmarathon.ca
Edinburgh, 23 May 2010 www.edinburgh-marathon.com
Lakeland 50, 24 - 25 July 2010 www.lakeland100.com
The Atlantic Coast, 1 - 3 October 2010 www.votwo.co.uk/votwo2007/events-and-adventure/race_view.php?i=117
Auckland, 31 October 2010 www.aucklandmarathon.co.nz

HALF MARATHONS

Liverpool, 28 March 2010 1 hour 33 mins 14 seconds (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).


SUPPORT TEAM MANCHESTER AT THE EDINBURGH MARATHON AND GREAT MANCHESTER RUN:



Lucy Dawson and Amanda Howlett - Christies - www.justgiving.com/AmandaandLucy

Lucy Dawson and Amanda Howlett - Macmillan - www.justgiving.com/AmandaandLucymacmillan

Jessica Lovell – NSPCC - http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/JessicaLovell

Helen Thomasson – Christies - http://www.justgiving.com/Helen-Thomasson

Claire Smith – Christies - http://www.justgiving.com/Claireruns10k

Harriet Sutherland – The Prostate Cancer Charity - http://www.justgiving.com/Harriet-Sutherland0

Noel Bresland - Bliss - http://www.justgiving.com/Noel-Bresland-223-Marathon-Challenge

Join the Facebook Group "A Marathon Or Two"

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

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Above Us Only Sky

Hello from Manhattan! The good news is, despite Iceland’s best efforts, my flight left on time and I arrived in NYC without incident. No wing-walking to chisel volcanic rock from the engines either. Final preparations for Vancouver are also going well: a few gentle runs in Central Park and arguably eating too much. The park is a great place to train – very green, pretty and full of other runners. I’ve also got fond memories of the NYC marathons and International Friendship Runs in 2004 and 2009. More mixed feelings about September 2006 in the park, but that’s another story for another day. Send a cheque to Christies for a minimum of £75 and I’ll tell you all about it. It’s a cracker too: alcohol poisoning, ghostly apparitions and even a horse. It’s got it all.

As I’m writing, Jess is well underway in the London Marathon. The text updates from the race organisers confirm that she went through the halfway point in just 1 hour 37 minutes, which is very quick. I’m now ticking down the minutes until the text arrives from the finish line. Jess told me that they’ve got really heavy rain, which is far from ideal, but at least they’ll avoid some of the heat-related problems from recent years. Only four weeks until we’re doing it all again in Edinburgh (I’m sure that will be a comforting thought for Jess when she finishes). Based on my experience of long queues during last year’s race in London, Jess has done well to get into her running so quickly. My starting pen was full of runners in fancy dress. Many had come as either giraffes or people who’d never run more than two miles before.

Strawberry Field, Woolton, Liverpool. Sunday, 11 April 2010

Two weeks ago, I did my final long run before Vancouver: 21 miles from my parents’ house in St Helens into Liverpool. In fact, it’s only 8 miles between the two, so I had plenty of miles within Liverpool to take in some of the sights. As a big Beatles fan, I stayed after the run to see some of the Beatles landmarks – Penny Lane, Eleanor Rigby’s grave at St Peter’s church and, across the road, the church hall where Lennon and McCartney first met in 1957. I also visited Strawberry Field and Mendips, the house on Menlove Avenue where John grew up. So, during my training runs on Manhattan, I’ve been sure to take in The Dakota, the building where Lennon lived from 1974, and where he was shot dead by a deranged fan in 1980. I was only 8 when Lennon died, but even I realised that something seismic had just happened. The Liverpool Echo was filled with tributes for weeks after his death. Across the road from The Dakota, in Central Park, lies Strawberry Fields, with its mosaic tribute to Lennon. Amongst the thousands of fans who visit Strawberry Fields every day, my running had, just for once, taken on a cultural dimension beyond pounding Merseyside’s unforgiving streets.

Strawberry Fields, Central Park West. Saturday, 24 April 2010


My onward flight to Vancouver leaves late on Monday night, which should give me plenty of time to get over jetlag, acclimatise and get my head ready for the race on Sunday, 2 May. With London a week before Vancouver, Jess will have an all-important extra week to recover before we race in Edinburgh. Just getting that excuse on the table nice and early...

Talk to you again from British Columbia.

PS Just heard from Jess: she finished her first marathon in 3 hours 29. Just fantastic!


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 mins 49 seconds (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

HALF MARATHONS

Liverpool, 28 March 2010 1 hour 33 mins 14 seconds (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).


SUPPORT TEAM MANCHESTER AT THE EDINBURGH MARATHON AND GREAT MANCHESTER RUN:


Jessica Lovell – NSPCC - http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/JessicaLovell

Helen Thomasson – Christies - http://www.justgiving.com/Helen-Thomasson

Claire Smith – Christies - http://www.justgiving.com/Claireruns10k

Harriet Sutherland – The Prostate Cancer Charity - http://www.justgiving.com/Harriet-Sutherland0

Join the fivemarathons Facebook Group

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

Friday, 23 April 2010

Ashes To Ashes

Welcome back to the fivemarathons blog! Just in time for the new season, with the Vancouver Marathon just over a week away and the Edinburgh Marathon hot on its heels, only three weeks afterwards.

So much has happened since my last blog but, right now, it’s hard to focus on anything but the volcanic cloud which our Icelandic cousins have kindly sent us. After donating Bj√∂rk and the banking collapse (see “Keep On Keeping On”: http://fivemarathons.blogspot.com/2009/03/keep-on-keepin-on.html), you’d think they’d been more than generous enough. First of all they bankrupt their country, then they set it on fire. It’s starting to look suspiciously like an insurance job. This latest Icelandic gift has had a range of unexpected implications here at fivemarathons HQ. First of all, our friends at TheCycleJersey.com, who make fivemarathons’ race tops, are stuck in Spain, after European airspace was closed due to the volcanic ash currently resident in the upper atmosphere. This means that production has had to be halted on the tops for Vancouver (see the design, below). It’s a particularly large order, of over 20 tops, because so many of my family will be in Vancouver to either race or support us. As if that wasn’t enough, my chances of getting my flight to NYC on Friday are looking particularly slim. In the meantime, I’m marooned on a desolate rock in the north Atlantic and can only hope for some strong winds to blow the ash eastwards. Over France would be fine, but I’m not choosy.

Scottish Highlands: fruitlessly searching for volcanic clouds in the upper atmosphere

Regular blog viewers will remember that my cousin Melanie, and her husband Ron, have been dedicatedly preparing for the Vancouver half marathon on 2 May (see “The Manhattan Project” - http://fivemarathons.blogspot.com/2009/11/manhattan-project.html). In addition, my cousin Neil, himself an accomplished endurance athlete, will meet me at mile 18 of the marathon to help pace me and keep me going for the crucial last 8 miles. Race strategies stand or fall in the latter stages of the race, so it will be great to have his help and support. Running quickly for 18 miles is relatively easy, but having enough in the tank to remain in your rhythm right the way to the finish line is the real trick. Having so many family members in the crowd is also a big boost; not just for their support, but also because they can hand out water bottles, which means I can avoid the inevitable scrums at each of the water stations. Also, drinking from bottles is much more straightforward than trying to drink from the cups provided by the race organisers. Try drinking from a cup while seeking to maintain 7 minute 45 second miles – if you’re anything like me, most of the water will disappear down your front and / or up your nose. All highly hilarious until you’re on an iv drip like I was after the NYC marathon. Fortunately, my Uncle Bob is kindly organising my support team to be at the key points of the race, so I can take drinks when I need them.


Vancouver marathon race top

Mel and Ron’s training for the half marathon has been tremendous. From being a non-runner when she came to support me at the San Francisco Marathon in late July last year, to taking 12-mile long runs in her stride barely 8 months later, Mel’s progress has been just fantastic. Despite being over 5,000 away, Mel, Ron and I have managed to coordinate a solid training plan via the magic of Google Docs. I upload the training plan at this end, Mel posts her progress, comments and queries, which I then try to answer! I’m ever so proud of Mel and Ron’s hard work, not least because of the inclement northern Alberta winter through which they’ve trained – everything from minus 25 degrees Celsius to plus 15. It puts the harsh Shap winter into context. I don’t feel so bad about the three months of snow and ice through which I had to run (and the studs I had to wear on my trainers just to get some grip). I can’t wait to get the telephone call during the marathon to let me know how Mel and Ron have enjoyed the half marathon.

With Amanda at the Congleton Half Marathon, 11 October 2009

Without wishing to speak too soon, I've been pleased with how my own preparation for Vancouver has gone. The last six months have all been about speed training, to make fast cruising feel much easier. Early signs are good. Despite a very relaxed run in the Liverpool Half Marathon, I set a new PB and each of my long Sunday runs have gone smoothly. Having done all of my longer runs in the hills around Shap, I’m finding running on the flat to be comparatively comfortable. A last-minute discussion with Laith (www.theendurancecoach.com) earlier in the week to consider race strategy, some final physio with Alan at Harris and Ross (www.harrisandross.co.uk) and I’m almost ready. Just a few final training runs in New York and I should be ready to race. While I’m running in Central Park, my training partner Jess will be taking on the London Marathon. London will be Jess’ first marathon and everything is looking good for an impressive time. I wish her every success and trust that she’ll take miles 20 – 24 completely within her stride. Make friends with pain and you’ll never be alone!

Right, I’ll talk to you again from New York, assuming my flight ever leaves Manchester.


SUPPORT TEAM MANCHESTER AT THE EDINBURGH MARATHON AND GREAT MANCHESTER RUN:

Jessica Lovell – NSPCC - http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/JessicaLovell

Helen Thomasson – Christies - http://www.justgiving.com/Helen-Thomasson

Claire Smith – Christies - http://www.justgiving.com/Claireruns10k

Harriet Sutherland – The Prostate Cancer Charity - http://www.justgiving.com/Harriet-Sutherland0


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 mins 49 seconds (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


HALF MARATHONS

Liverpool, 28 March 2010 1 hour 33 mins 14 seconds (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).


Join the fivemarathons Facebook Group

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

NYC Marathon, 2004

NYC Marathon, 2004
NYC Marathon, 2004