Monday, 21 November 2011

Lakeland 50

July’s Lakeland 100 and Lakeland 50 ultra distance events were a fantastic success (see www.lakeland100.com). Despite the warm weather, there was a new record in the men’s 100 with this year’s winner, Terry Conway, the first to break the 22 hour mark. He looked remarkably fresh as he ran through our North Doodle checkpoint in Howtown at about 11.15am. My friend, Rosie, also had an amazing run in the 50. She took third place in a brilliant 12 hours 57 minutes. Her achievement caps two years of committed preparation for the gruelling race and is especially impressive following her experience at the event last year. In 2010, we were marshalling the Mardale Head checkpoint, where Rosie had to retire from the 50 due to breathing difficulties. Given how frustrating and disappointing that must have been, Rosie showed some real grit to not only come back and complete the event, but to finish in the top three. You may remember that Rosie was the other half of Cumbria’s answer to Baywatch (see http://fivemarathons.blogspot.com/2010/06/homage-to-catatonia.html), when we plucked a panic-stricken swimmer from an open water swimming event on Coniston Water last year.



Rosie, leaving the Howtown checkpoint,
on her way to third place in this year’s Lakeland 50
This year’s event has convinced Martin and me that we should sign up for 2012. Having manned North Doodle’s checkpoints for the last three years, guided recces of the course and run the route several times (admittedly, broken up into smaller stages), it’s about time we got stuck in. Given that we’re both keen mountaineers and marathon runners, and I live only a short distance from the start, we were starting to run out of excuses.


With Martin, Rosie and Tubbster at the Chapel Stile
checkpoint of a Lakeland 50 recce, summer 2010
Including the 50 in my planning for 2012 creates some new considerations of its own. On the one hand, I still think I’m yet to run my fastest marathon, so I’m looking at speed training over the winter, towards a quick marathon in the autumn. On the other hand, the Lakeland 50 is all about slower endurance running. As a result, the training for these two events brings competing priorities. Perhaps more importantly, running the 50 will undoubtedly reduce my chances of a quick time later in the year. The top marathon runners consider that it’s only sensible to run two marathons a year. More than two marathons and you can’t expect to be at your peak on race day. That might seem a strange thing to be saying on a blog which started life with five marathons in one year but, back then, I wasn’t expecting a particularly quick time in any of them. I’ll sit down with Laith and discuss the best route forward for 2012. I’ll be seeing him this week for video gait analysis and track work.


Making my way towards Coniston, Lakeland 50 recce, summer 2010
he track work is really enjoyable, even if it’s often the hardest training session of the week. The speed work we did in 2009 and 2010 produced the PBs in San Francisco and Vancouver, each of which dropped 13 minutes from my previous best. Right now, the plan is to work on speed over even shorter distances, then build that up to marathon distance. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, most runners will focus on endurance training when preparing for a marathon. The thing is, I’m fairly comfortable with the distance now, so the focus needs to shift to getting quicker. I could endlessly run long distances and see only minimal improvement in my overall time. For San Francisco, we focused on improving my times over 5K and 10K, and then worked on stretching that pace out towards 26.2 miles. That worked really well, but to find the next level of improvement, we need to speed up the time it takes me to run a mile. We’ll therefore look at improved speed over 800 metres, 600 metres, 400 metres, 200 metres and even 100 metres. Who’d have thought that your speed over 200 metres would have any appreciable effect on your marathon time?


Rosie collects her trophy, Lakeland 50 2011
My preparation for the Lakeland 50 will doubtless be helped by my long runs through the hills around Shap. Since I arrived in the village nearly eight years ago, I’ve settled in remarkably well. That’s not to say there weren’t a few false starts. One freezing cold day in 2004, a neighbour in his mid-80s was out in the garden, trying to dismantle his greenhouse, which had been damaged in a storm the night before. At the speed he was progressing, he would have frozen to death before he was even half finished. In a show of neighbourly solidarity, I went out and offered to finish the job with my angle grinder and suggested that he go inside and keep warm. I got stuck in chopping the metalwork and, through a cloud of smoke and sparks, I left two neat piles of broken glass and aluminium. I stepped back to admire my handiwork and was approached by another neighbour, who asked why I had demolished his greenhouse. “What do you mean, “your greenhouse”?”. It turned out that he and the old boy had been falling out over the location of his greenhouse and, in my eagerness to be a good neighbour, I had inadvertently waded into the argument and settled it once and for all. I sheepishly picked up a couple of forlorn-looking pieces of aluminium, half-heartedly suggested that a bit of glue was all he needed, and made good my escape.


North Doodle’s Howtown checkpoint, Lakeland 50 and 100 2011
I’ve had more success with some impromptu legal surgeries over my kitchen table. Since word got out that I’m a lawyer, I’ve had several villagers ask me to swear the statutory declarations that are required for a grant of probate following the death of a loved one. These days, when I get an unexpected visitor, I simply tell them I’m very sorry for their loss and invite them in. The man from British Gas looked aghast. A while back, I even changed a friend’s name for him by deed poll. It’s not as unusual as you might think. People don’t necessarily go for big changes and often swap only one letter. For example, John Cleese used to be John Cheese, Frankie Howard became Frankie Howerd, David Walliams was David Williams and Brian Cant insists it’s the best £40 he ever spent. Talking of David Walliams, the man himself recently completed a fundraising marathon of his own: swimming the length of the Thames, from Oxford to the Houses of Parliament. As you might have read, his efforts were hampered when he ingested raw sewage along the route. Not entirely unlike a career in politics: you start off at Oxford and, if you can swallow enough cr@p, you end up at Westminster.

And finally, tonight on Channel 4, you might like to tune into Britain’s Greatest Codebreaker, a tribute to Alan Turing. I wonder if they’ll mention his tremendous marathon-running record (see http://fivemarathons.blogspot.com/2009/09/alan-turing.html)?
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

2010

Vancouver, 2 May 2010
3 hrs 31 mins (new PB)
2011
Liverpool, 9 October 2011

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 29 seconds (new PB)
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 ).
Marco Giannini – Christies – (http://www.justgiving.com/marcos-72-mile-challenge)
View fivemarathons photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/fivemarathons/
If you’d like to be notified each time a new blog is posted, simply email dunkvaughan@hotmail.com

T

Saturday, 15 October 2011

With A Little Help From My Friends


Welcome back to the fivemarathons blog! You join us in the warm afterglow of the Liverpool Marathon (www.runliverpoolmarathon.co.uk), last Sunday, 9 October 2011.

Liverpool saw a great turnout from fivemarathons readers, not just amongst the runners, but also the friends and family lining the route. 21 members of my family travelled from all over the UK, Ireland and Canada to watch the race and share Mel and Ron’s first marathon. Following stops in London, San Francisco, New York, Vancouver, Athabasca and Philadelphia, the marathons have become a great way to connect with family and friends from all over the world. On the eve of the race, we hosted a pasta party to carb up ready for the race. So many Vaughans in one place at the same time probably requires a licence from the Post Office. Just as San Francisco inspired Mel to run, Liverpool has inspired my cousin Mitchell and his wife Elaine to look towards running a European race, where we can all meet up again. Who’d have thought that marathon running could have such a far-reaching and positive effect?

Another Place: final training session on Crosby Beach

Sunday was also the first time over the 26.2 mile distance for my friend and former colleague, Stephen. After various half marathons, and this year’s Coniston 17 (www.coniston14.co.uk), the marathon was the logical progression. When I suggested to Steve that Jayne and I would arrange food for us all after the race, he modestly suggested that it had better be a cold buffet, because he wasn’t expecting to be finishing in a hurry. That’s the kind of heroic modesty we like. As it turned out, Steve had no reason to worry. He posted a fantastic sub 4 hour time.

TEAM Vaughan warms up

Despite a very shaky start, with a 45 minute delay to the start of the race, involving us doing the hokey-cokey, in, out and back into the starting pens, the race itself was a lot of fun. I was so proud to watch Mel and Ron keep working all of the way to the finish. It was a great moment on a journey which started over two years ago in California. You can read Mel’s blogs, detailing her progression from non-runner to committed distance athlete, at Journey Of A Thousand Miles (http://fivemarathons.blogspot.com/2009/08/journey-of-thousand-miles.html) and The Manhattan Project (http://fivemarathons.blogspot.com/2009/11/manhattan-project.html).

New Brighton

The Canadian flags on our race tops proved to be a big hit, and we met runners from Vancouver, Victoria and Nova Scotia. Out on the course, other runners regularly ran with us to ask where Mel and Ron were from, and to talk about their fond memories of the places where they’d lived and visited in Canada. You can check us out, standing under the Canadian flag, on the photographs and videos taken by our friends at www.run247.com.

The atmosphere created by the crowd on race day was fantastic, and few races can touch the energy created by the drum band at the exit to the Mersey Tunnel. Having said that, amongst the comments I’ve received about the race, there is a recurring feeling of disappointment with the route chosen by the organisers. Liverpool has so many unique sights: Lambananas, Liver Birds, girls shopping in rollers and pyjamas, and it’s the only town in Great Britain where JD Sports has an evening wear department. Not to mention a bridal collection. "Off-white shell suit, madam?". So, it was a real shame that we’d covered well over 12 miles before we arrived in Liverpool and even then there was no Metropolitan Cathedral, no St George’s Hall, no Anfield, no Goodison and, though the race took place on John Lennon’s birthday, there was no Mathew Street, no Cavern, no Strawberry Field, no Mendips, no Forthlin Road, no St Peter’s Woolton Parish Church hall (where another Vaughan first introduced Paul McCartney and John Lennon (see www.wikipedia.org/ivan_vaughan)) or so many other sights I could mention. It was a real missed opportunity to showcase some of Liverpool’s great architecture and fascinating history. You can make up your own mind at http://www.runliverpoolmarathon.co.uk/the-course/route-time-lapse-video/, where you can view the whole race route in just 5 minutes. I’m hopeful for next year. The organisers have at least conceded that there shouldn’t be anywhere near as many miles spent in Sefton Park. Mel and Ron will no doubt be pleased to hear that, after finding the seemingly endless slog through Sefton Park and Princes Park, without any landmarks to divert you, a real grind on race day.

Proud moments

My own preparations for the Liverpool Marathon were pleasantly interrupted by my nomination to carry the Olympic Torch on its way to the London 2012 Olympics: http://www.lloydstsblondon2012.co.uk/en/carrytheflame/Nomination/?nid=48674a33-641c-4502-90b6-82b076af53a3. A shifty-looking bloke running through the streets of Toxteth, carrying a flaming torch in his hands? It’ll be like the summer of 1981 all over again.

Fittingly enough, the race finished on Canada Boulevard: with Uncle Bob, Mel, Ron, Jill, Josh, Seb and Monty

Before Mel and Ron flew home yesterday, we discussed several possibilities for future marathons and half marathons. My cousin Neil and I have already discussed Philadelphia for another crack at 3 hours 30 minutes (and I might be able to persuade Mary and Laurie to join us in their home city), an autumn race would suit Mel and Ron, Mitchell and Elaine are keen to get running, and my folks are ready to travel whenever we name the date. Stay tuned, it’s all looking good for 2012.

With Jay

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

2010

Vancouver, 2 May 2010
3 hrs 31 mins (new PB)

2011

Liverpool, 9 October 2011


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 29 seconds (new PB)
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 ).


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

Rebecca Gilbert - Kids (www.kids.org.uk) - http://www.justgiving.com/Rebecca-Gilbert1

Marco Giannini – Christies – (http://www.justgiving.com/marcos-72-mile-challenge)

Melanie Opmeer – Canadian Cancer Society (www.cancer.ca) - http://convio.cancer.ca/site/TR?px=4183630&pg=personal&fr_id=9870&fl=en_CA&et=Hye9JhsoIUUbQukLHAgi5w..&s_tafId=180683

Lisa Canning - Cancer Research UK (www.cancerresearchuk.org) – www.raceforlifesponsorme.org/lisacanning2011


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


If you’d like to be notified each time a new blog is posted, simply email dunkvaughan@hotmail.com

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Greece Is The Word

Following my recent blog about the great Grete Waitz, regular blog reader Beverley told me that she had once run with the Norwegian legend. Apparently, it was in Japan with the Kobe Hash House Harriers (see www.kobehash.com). While a hash house may sound like something best left to the Dutch, my closer investigations revealed it to be something of a running institution. The hash runners follow a trail laid by another hasher (the hare). At a given signal the rest of the hash, (the harriers, hounds or pack) set off in pursuit. If you find yourself in Japan, it could be worth a look; they’ve been hashing every Monday at 7pm since 9 January 1978. Kobe’s website describes hash houses as “an international drinking club with a running problem”. I trained in Kamakura and Tokyo during the summers of 2000 and 2002 respectively and, I’m ashamed to say, the drinking (and the hash for that matter) passed me by. Probably for the best: Paul McCartney tried to introduce hash into Tokyo in 1980 and matters didn’t necessarily resolve themselves to his advantage (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-FmAXRKtws).

Shapanese running wisdom: wise words from The Greyhound pub in Shap

This week’s blog comes from Greece, the home of the marathon. If you’ve ever wondered why the marathon is 26 miles, this could be your lucky day. The very first marathon took place in 490BC, during the Battle of Marathon. Athens was under attack from the Persians, who had arrived at Marathon, a town conveniently located 26 miles along the coast from Athens. An almighty ruck had ensued and the Athenians needed a messenger to run from Marathon back to Athens to relay news of the battle. Pheidippides, who had already fought in the battle, was chosen, on the basis that he had proven himself to be a strong runner in recent Greek games. Sadly for Pheidippides, he was a short distance sprinter, with no experience of longer distances. Stay and risk getting slaughtered, or run 26 miles? I should imagine that Pheidippides was ambivalent at best. He arrived in Athens with just enough energy to announce that Athens was saved, then promptly collapsed and died. I’m sure most first-time marathoners can identify with that. Even mild shin splints have me Googling the telephone number for Dignitas.

Blogging in Kos – it’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it

So that’s why the marathon is 26 miles long. When Athens hosted the Olympics in 2004, the marathon re-traced the original route, along the modern Marathon – Athens highway, which runs southwards along the coast from Marathon Bay. I suppose we should be grateful that it started in Marathon. If Bonnie Prince Charlie had decided to send a similar message on 18 December 1745, the eve of the Battle of Clifton Moor (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clifton_Moor_Skirmish), the last battle to have taken place on English soil, the marathon could well have been called a “Shap”. Shap is the village where the Young Pretender installed his troops before the battle and is fivemarathons’ home. Fiveshaps.com would just not have had the same popular appeal.

45 degrees at only 9.54am in Kos – better schedule that 8 mile run for 6am

The British Royal Family has to take responsibility for the seemingly inexplicable additional 0.2 miles that you have to run at the end of each race. As if 26 miles weren’t enough. When the Olympics were held in London in 1908, the 26 miles were painstakingly measured out, with the finish line just inside White City Stadium. The Royals noted that the finish was too far from their viewing enclosure for them to see what was going on. 385 yards too far, to be precise. The finish line was dutifully relocated in front of the Royal Box, and that increased 26.2 mile distance was adopted in 1924 as the standard. Prior to 1924, the Olympic distance varied from 40 kilometres in 1904 (St Louis), to 41.86 kilometres in 1906 (Athens*), 40.2 kilometres in 1912 (Stockholm) and 42.75 kilometres in 1920 (Antwerp). To my amazement, my run in Vancouver would have been good enough for me to have won the gold medal in St Louis. Thomas Hicks of the USA broke the tape in 3 hours 28 minutes and 35 seconds. I was born 100 years too late. ­­I could have had a string of endorsements for running plimsolls by now and been sending the blog to you via the magic of telegram.

The morning before I left for Greece, I managed to catch an episode of Gok Wan’s “How To Look Good Naked”. Big fan, never miss an episode. Being too lazy to fetch the remote proved to be its own reward when this week’s stars turned out to be Macmillan’s North-West fundraising team and fivemarathons’ own fundraising coordinator, Marie Travers (see http://www.warringtonguardian.co.uk/news/2194440.macmillan_seven_bare_all_for_charity/). She kept that quiet. I can’t think why - the Macmillan girls looked great. I’m just grateful that I only had to run a few marathons. I don’t doubt that you are too.

Ticket sales for the fivemarathons live dates had been disappointing

Training on Kos is quite agreeable. Running through the worst of the Shap / Liverpool summer, on the other hand, wasn’t agreeing with me at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. I’ve had girlfriends that have agreed with me more. Matters came to a head, when I was lying in bed, central heating and winter duvet on, unable to sleep due to the sound of the rain on the roof, with only the thought of a freezing cold 14 mile run later that day to keep me warm. By 4pm, Jayne and I had resolved to take affirmative action, had booked Greece by 4.30pm, packed by 5pm and were on our way to the airport. My running now has an entirely different set of considerations. By 9am, the heat is already too fierce for running, so I’m up at 7am, running soon afterwards, then back for tea and medals on the terrace. Life could be worse. Just ask Pheidippides.

*The Olympics were held in Athens in 1906 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the birth of the modern games.

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

2010

Vancouver Marathon, 2 May 2010
3 hrs 31 mins (new PB)


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 29 seconds (new PB)

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).

Noel Bresland - Bliss (www.bliss.org.uk) - http://www.justgiving.com/Noel-Bresland-223-Marathon-Challenge

Rebecca Gilbert - Kids (www.kids.org.uk) - http://www.justgiving.com/Rebecca-Gilbert1

Marco Giannini – Christies (www.christies.org) – http://www.justgiving.com/marcos-72-mile-challenge

Melanie Opmeer – Canadian Cancer Society (www.cancer.ca) - http://convio.cancer.ca/site/TR?px=4183630&pg=personal&fr_id=9870&fl=en_CA&et=Hye9JhsoIUUbQukLHAgi5w..&s_tafId=180683

Lisa Canning – Cancer Research UK (www.cancerresearchuk.org)- http://www.raceforlifesponsorme.org/lisacanning2011

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

If you’d like to be notified each time a new blog is posted, simply email dunkvaughan@hotmail.com

Friday, 8 July 2011

Stop Me If You Think That You’ve Heard This One Before

Since May, it’s finally been getting back to business as usual at fivemarathons. The looming Liverpool Marathon in less than three months’ time is no doubt focusing my mind. Last month, I helped with training plans for Mel, Ron and Libby, and was back training in Central Park - just in time for the launch of this year’s New York City Marathon. This month, I’ve been making friends all over again with the hills around Shap and venturing to Norway with Martin for our annual mountaineering jaunt. I’ll no doubt tell you all about it in a future blog.

Running in Central Park, April 2011: “I’m walking here, I’m walking...”

This time last year, we were getting ready for a summit attempt on Mont Blanc (4,810 metres) and various other high Alpine peaks. With mountains in mind, regular blog readers may remember my all too brief career as a Roman Catholic priest (see “The Devil Wears Puma” - http://fivemarathons.blogspot.com/2009/07/devil-wears-puma.html), when I officiated at Laith’s wedding in Great Langdale. The chapel at which I performed the ceremony is part of the Achille Ratti Climbing Club (see http://www.achille-ratti-climbing-club.co.uk/). The club is named after Father Achille Ratti, a parish priest from Northern Italy who was also an accomplished mountaineer. Despite discovering (with Giovenni Bonin and Luigi Grasselli) Mont Blanc’s north Italian route in 1890, and publishing the seminal “Climbs On Alpine Peaks” in 1923, Achille turned his back on a promising mountaineering career to become Pope Pius XI. If the Vatican looks kindly upon mountaineering accomplishment when selecting a new Pope, then perhaps my chances of promotion are not entirely hopeless. This was at the forefront of my thoughts as I set out in Pius’ footsteps towards Mont Blanc.

I travelled to Zermatt with Martin and James to prepare for our summit bid. We acclimatised and warmed up with ascents on Theodulhorn (3,469 metres), Roccia Nera (4,075 metres), Dom (4,545 metres), Castor (4,228 metres) and Pollux (4,092 metres). The twin peaks of Castor and Pollux, also known as die Zwillinge (literally, “the twins”), are named after the twins of Greek and Roman mythology, who were transformed into the Gemini constellation. The Jedward of the classical era, if you will. The principal difference being that Gemini has some genuine star quality.

Three Wise Monkeys? On our way to Castor and Pollux, July 2010.

Mont Blanc itself is a big undertaking. Fortunately, I was in a very good team. Both Martin and Jim are serious marathon runners, so fitness wasn’t one of our concerns. The conditions, on the other hand, can be much more unpredictable. However, as we left our hut at around 1am, things were looking good for a clear ascent. The mountain has some reasonably challenging moments, like walking across ladders laid flat across gaping crevasses. Easier said than done, on three hours’ fitful sleep, with only the light of your headtorch to guide you, and steel crampons on your boots making you walk like Charlie Chaplin.

Don’t Look Back. Mont Blanc, July 2010: one of the smaller crevasses we needed to cross.

About two thirds of the way through our ascent came an almost vertical ice climb. Fortunately, there are fixed ropes, already attached to the rock face, which you can clip onto as you make your way up, digging your ice axes, and the front points of your crampons, into the ice as you go. The route up is in a natural channel, so it creates a bottleneck as several groups of climbers converge at the same point. The amount of ice coming down the channel, and onto your head, displaced by the climbing teams above, makes you grateful you wore your helmet. You honestly can’t look upwards; you just keep looking at the ice face, as golf ball sized ice fragments rattle down on you from on high. I just thanked my lucky stars for the fixed rope and got on with the job in hand. As I reached two thirds of the way up, I got to the point where my fixed rope was anchored, and got ready to swap to the next one. To my horror, the rope I was hanging onto had been rubbing back and forth across the sharp edge of a protruding rock and only a few fibres were left holding me up. I felt like Wile E Coyote, gazing in despair at the rapidly deteriorating rope as the Roadrunner looks on with a grin, chuckling to himself as I disappear into the abyss with only a frayed ACME climbing rope for company. Worse still, Jim and Martin were climbing directly beneath me, probably using the same rope. Later, back at the hut, when I related the rope situation to Martin, he doubted whether, in my position, he’d have been able to even consider the cartoonesque humorous elements of the frayed rope situation. If fate is watching me, the least I can do is try to be entertaining.

Between A Rock And A Hard Place. Mont Blanc, July 2010: I’m the character on the right, clinging on with a heady cocktail of sheer terror and colourful language.

The remaining ascent to the summit was hard work but, fortunately, nowhere near as eventful. We were on the summit at a little after 5.45am, UK time, and it felt great. Unbelievably, my mobile phone was managing to get a full signal and I used the opportunity to make some suitably boastful calls to several non-plussed acquaintances. If France Telecom can get you a full signal on the top of western Europe’s highest mountain, why does O2 require me to stand on a chair on the top floor of my Liverpool flat to get even two bars?

The unpopularity of my mountain telephone calls wasn’t necessarily anything new. At the end of 2004, I was in Argentina for an attempt at Aconcagua. On Christmas Day, I trekked across three glaciers to reach a hotel which had been built two thirds of the way up the mountain. The whole hotel venture had not been at all well thought out. The idea had been to fly in the guests by helicopter, but they’d made no allowance for the fact that the guests would be arriving at high altitude with no opportunity to acclimatise. The first guests checked-in, closely followed by headaches, nausea and loss of bowel control. A bit like a package holiday to the Dominican Republic. The hotel was now largely deserted, with the building frequented only by mountaineers. It did, however, have a satellite telephone and that was the reason for my no-effort-spared trek across the glaciers. I got there and called my then girlfriend to wish her Happy Christmas. I had naively imagined that she might appreciate the effort, and the uncharacteristically romantic gesture. To my surprise, she wasted no time in telling me that, if I went away on an expedition again, she wouldn’t be there when I got home. I commented that it sounded like a win-win situation and assumed that the long pause was due to the satellite lag on the shaky South American connection. Losing a girlfriend can be hard. In my case, it was damn near impossible.

Finally, you may recall my incredulity during my recent visit to Seville, when Spanish supermarkets were giving away a choice of free carving knives every time you spend over €20 (see http://fivemarathons.blogspot.com/2011/03/inner-city-blues.html). It seemed absolutely bizarre and you didn’t need to be clairvoyant to see what might happen next. Sure enough: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/spain/8513028/British-woman-beheaded-in-front-of-tourists-on-Spanish-holiday-island-Tenerife.html. Now I’ve seen Spain’s version of a customer loyalty scheme, I’ll be a whole lot less dismissive the next time Sainsbury’s ask me if I have a Nectar card. Come back Green Shield Stamps, all is forgiven.

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

2010

Vancouver Marathon, 2 May 2010
3 hrs 31 mins (new PB)


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).

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

Rebecca Gilbert - Kids (www.kids.org.uk) - http://www.justgiving.com/Rebecca-Gilbert1

Marco Giannini – Christies – http://www.justgiving.com/marcos-72-mile-challenge

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

If you’d like to be notified each time a new blog is posted, simply email dunkvaughan@hotmail.com

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Born To Run

Many thanks to Amy for writing her recent blog. It generated such a good response that I spent the next few days forwarding to her positive feedback from all over the world – New Zealand, Australia, Canada, South Africa and the USA to name but a few. So popular was Amy’s article, I’ve already received several requests from readers asking me to include their contributions in future blogs. What a fantastic result. I may never need to write again. This week’s blog comes from my good friend, Rebecca Gilbert, who is well on her way from complete non-runner to her first marathon in New York on 6 November (see www.ingnycmarathon.org).

Before I hand over to Rebecca, the big news is that my cousin Mel, and her husband Ron, have confirmed their places for the Liverpool Marathon on 9 October 2011 (see http://www.runliverpoolmarathon.co.uk). You may recall that, while I was running the Vancouver Marathon, Mel and Ron were completing their first half marathon as part of the same event (see http://fivemarathons.blogspot.com/2010/05/strawberry-fields-forever.html). Their training is now well underway, in rural Alberta, for the big step up to marathon distance. You can follow their progress, as their 16 week training plan begins (on 27 June 2011), at https://spreadsheets.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AmvRQE8Gbr2CdFI4TDJOTWM0VG5QeEtranNjcVRmMHc&hl=en_US#gid=0. Mel may even write for fivemarathons.com again, to give an insight into the journey towards Liverpool. You can read her earlier blogs at http://fivemarathons.blogspot.com/2009/08/journey-of-thousand-miles.html and http://fivemarathons.blogspot.com/2009/11/manhattan-project.html.

Ok, so maybe I should start by telling you about how I got stuck in the world of running. A year ago, the thought of putting one foot in front of the other at any pace faster than a gentle stroll didn’t so much fill my soul with dread as total confusion. I just couldn’t fathom why anyone would do it – never mind willingly, and with self-motivation for the reason! After having my daughter, who’s now 18 months, I was dragged along to, what I thought, would be a nice social event called Buggy Fit. I had images of chatting to my friends whilst pushing Daisy, my daughter, around the local park followed by a nice slice of justified cake at the local farm shop. The reality was far from this. The person who took the class was a personal trainer who was there to, well, train. After having various bits of flobber pinched with callipers, heart rates measured and tuts over the state of my ‘vertical abdominal muscle’, I was feeling slightly miffed; couple this with being made to jump, lunge, lift and pelvic raise to within an inch of my life and I was contemplating eating the whole of the chocolate cake as opposed to just a slice. It was declared that I should lose 20% of my body fat and that my diet (which I had always been slightly smug about, ensuring that lentils and spinach made regular appearances) was all wrong and needed to go through a ‘radical transformation’. It was at this point I first considered running. Straight for the hills. I am, however, quietly competitive and horrendously stubborn. So I announced to my friends and family that I was going to get thin and fit. They laughed (quite a lot, much to my dismay), with one friend consoling me that it was a phase and I’d get over it soon enough.

At the Carlise Half Marathon with Jon and Daisy

The following week, I returned to Buggy Fit to find a much depleted group; many of the others had far more common sense and had stayed in the warmth of their homes. I had, however, armed myself with a really long list of excuses. When we were told that running would help us shift the weight, I very loudly announced that I had a baby so couldn’t possibly, and I walk the dog whilst carrying said baby, therefore raising my heart rate to a sufficiently high level to justify eating curry several times a week. I couldn’t possibly do exercise at any other time because I’m a mother… In fact most of my excuses revolved around the fact I was a parent… Adam, the trainer, just shook his head in utter despair. After many weeks, and much nagging, I decided that maybe I should have a go at this running malarkey, so I could say I tried it and dismiss it once and for all. I decided to look at the bright side: if I did it with non-parenty friends, it would be a great opportunity for a catch up and a chat with people I didn’t get to see so often, so I founded the Slow Jogging Club. We began by moving in something which resembled a jog for 30 seconds and then walking for 30 more. Slowly this progressed to really jogging for 30 seconds, then a minute, then two until we were jogging for 5 whole minutes without collapse. At this point our group had dwindled to two as Yorkshire weather had sent the rest running for their nice warm sitting rooms with mutterings of the pub and the word unhinged. I was beginning to get excited. I’ve already mentioned that common sense isn’t my strong point, and I proudly declared to my trainer that I was going to run a marathon. He stifled a laugh (he’s very professional and so would never laugh openly in my face), muttered something about Ben and Jerrys, and suggested that I would benefit from walking before I could run. It was with great indignation that I recounted this story to my running partner, who wasn’t so polite, didn’t stifle her laughter, and promptly opted out of any hair-brained schemes. It was the following week, as I was dragging her over the windy and wet moorland, that she complained her ankle hurt. I told her to not be so ridiculous and to keep going, which she dutifully did, for a further 3 miles. The next day, she turned up on crutches and with a pot on her ankle – something which I have not been allowed to forget since, (slightly justifiably).

With my running club: hiding in the middle, at the back

So then there was one, with no talking or chatting or catching up with friends, I decided I couldn’t possibly stop now – I’d told people I was going to run a marathon! It did amazing things for my training – without using all my lung capacity to fuel my mouth, I started really running. Not very far, or for that matter very fast, but I was definitely running. Friends stopped laughing and started inviting me to races – usually the HellRunner type (see http://www.hellrunner.co.uk) that they couldn’t convince anyone else to do, but still it was nice to be asked. One told me they loved the fact they’d met someone as nutty as they were when it came to personal safety whilst hurtling down a hill. I was still running alone in the evenings, as anti-social running times around Daisy, and not really being that good, meant that I didn’t really want to inconvenience real runners with my presence.

Hellrunner!

I attended local 10k races and started to be asked if I wanted to go to local running meetings, and I really thought about it, before dismissing it as a crazy thought. I mean I’m a Slow Jogger Club member – the only remaining one, but the clue’s in the name! All through this, my husband had been quietly supportive, only complaining that I couldn’t keep completely replacing my wardrobe every three weeks to fit my rapidly shrinking waistline. So it was with his normal happy manner that he got out of bed when I shook him awake at four thirty am and announced that I thought I should have a go at a half marathon and that there was one today, 100 miles away, that would be perfect. Quietly, he made a coffee, got behind the wheel and drove me to Carlisle. He fielded the confused daughter as she woke up in a car park, while I lined up at the start, and was there at the time that I said I should be finishing – in actual fact I’d finished half an hour before, completely underestimating my time as I felt that I couldn’t slow down when spectators were watching me. This set a bit of a precedent for future races with Jon usually arriving anything between 15 – 45 minutes after I finished the race. With a sub 2 hour half, I decided that maybe I could just try the local running club. It was with huge trepidation that I waited at the advertised meeting place. I knew I was about to be found out as the non-running fraud that I was. I was sent out with the middle group and puffed and panted my way around after them, up some ridiculous hills I’m not sure my car would make it up! As we reached the end, with me muttering apologies and promising never to darken their running door again, one of the group members turned around and announced “the new lass has done alreet and we’ll mek a runner owt of er yit.” I decided to persevere and found that, week after week, I was apologising less for being an embarrassment to the sport.

Neverthong 10k

I’ve now got my entry for the New York City Marathon and D-Day is fast approaching on the 6th November. The enormity of what I’ve said I’m going to do is slowly dawning on me and I’ve begun to beg Adam and a running friend to help me out. Both have very kindly risen to the challenge and are trying their damnedest to turn this self declared cake addict into a sub 3.45 marathon runner. I keep reminding myself that it’s an amazing cause that I’m running for and, although I can let myself down by not completing it, there’s no way I’m going to let down the charity I’ve pledged to raise £1500 for, and the children who rely on it. To find out more about who I’m running for, please visit my justgiving page at www.justgiving.com/Rebecca-Gilbert1.

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

2010

Vancouver Marathon, 2 May 2010 3 hrs 31 mins (new PB)


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).

Melanie Opmeer – Canadian Cancer Society - http://convio.cancer.ca/site/TR?px=4183630&pg=personal&fr_id=9870&fl=en_CA&et=Hye9JhsoIUUbQukLHAgi5w..&s_tafId=180683

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

Rebecca Gilbert - Kids (www.kids.org.uk) - http://www.justgiving.com/Rebecca-Gilbert1

Marco Giannini – Christies – http://www.justgiving.com/marcos-72-mile-challenge

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

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NYC Marathon, 2004

NYC Marathon, 2004
NYC Marathon, 2004