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”:, 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, 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” - 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 ( earlier in the week to consider race strategy, some final physio with Alan at Harris and Ross ( 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.


Jessica Lovell – NSPCC -

Helen Thomasson – Christies -

Claire Smith – Christies -

Harriet Sutherland – The Prostate Cancer Charity -



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


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)


Vancouver, 2 May 2010
Edinburgh, 23 May 2010
Auckland, 31 October 2010


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 Macmillan provides practical, medical, financial and emotional support for people affected by cancer and campaigns for better cancer care (see

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NYC Marathon, 2004

NYC Marathon, 2004
NYC Marathon, 2004