Saturday, 19 March 2011

Inner City Blues

Welcome to Gonzalo Quintana, our latest blog follower, from the Canary Islands. Gonzalo will be joining us on 9 October for the Liverpool Marathon ( While Gonzalo will be travelling from Spain to run in Liverpool, I recently did the reverse when I spent a long weekend in Seville. Last year, in the run-up to the Vancouver Marathon, I considered de-camping to southern Spain for six weeks, to finish my training in the sun. A long winter’s running in the frozen north will grind you down after a while. Moving to Liverpool meant I missed out on my planned southern European adventure, so it was nice to finally get running through Seville. There’s nothing like a long Sunday run to really get to see a new city. Funnily enough, in amongst the classical Iberian architecture, the most striking thing was the work of Seville’s answer to Banksy, who happens to share my initials. Tempting as it may be, I’m going to avoid saying anything less than positive about Spain’s urban artistry. My unfavourable commentary on Britain’s inner-cityscapes has got me into enough trouble in the past. Through the magic of the internet, I once likened Birmingham to a plughole, “empty in the middle with a ring of scum around the outside”, and very nearly crashed Facebook’s servers with the vitriolic backlash wending its way from the West Midlands. Sorry Libby. One comment, from Ipswich, said, “Oi! My family originates from Birmingham!”. The fact that Ipswich was viewed as an improvement to Birmingham kind of proves my point.

While we’re on the subject, Roger, another blog reader, and a former classmate of mine, recently noted that the main road into the town where we grew up actually spells ASBO (the A580). For our overseas readers, an ASBO is an Anti Social Behaviour Order (, a badge of honour for up and coming gang members throughout the land. You may remember the incident involving the drive-by fruiting when I was running along the A580 (see Oh, the irony.

Meanwhile, back in Seville, there was an odd incident in the local convenience store. I don’t know if this is in any way related to the abovementioned tales of urban decay, but when you spend over €20, you get a free knife. Not just one knife, but a choice of seven kitchen knives for you to collect. Much to the cashier’s surprise, I didn’t actually want my complimentary carving knife. Ryanair can be difficult over hand luggage at the best of times, without pushing my luck with an offensive weapon tucked between my castanets.

Curiously, for the whole of our stay in Spain, Jayne found it hilarious that the hotel had kindly written my name on my pillows (see above). For the hundredth time, it’s pronounced “ju-mah” not “dumbass”. Still, Jayne’s interpretation would have given French literature lessons a much needed kick in the pants. “The Three Museketeers” by Alexandre Dumbass. To be fair, it wouldn’t be the first time that authors of set texts have caused some juvenile giggling over at fivemarathons HQ. As Roger may remember, from 1985 – 1987 our two set history text books were by authors named Jackson and Ball. While our history teacher regularly started the lesson with, “Right lads, get your Jacksons out”, we waited in vain for a similar request for Ball’s worthy tome.

This week, I’ve been answering some queries from blog readers about marathon preparation. For example, what can you do to deal with the “wall” at mile 20 on race day? The “wall” is definitely something to avoid. Once you’ve been there, once you’ve seen what it’s like, you’ll never want to go back there unless you absolutely, positively have to. It’s like Blackpool. Not like Birmingham. At all. I’ll publish my thoughts on wall avoidance in a future blog. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a running GPS watch, this may hopefully help. Mary has joined a program at the Philadelphia school where she works. It’s called Students Run Philly Style and is a mentoring program based around running, with the aim being the Philadelphia Marathon. Mary is therefore looking at Garmin Forerunners and considering the 305 and 405, possibly favouring the 405 because it’s less bulky than the 305 and you can wear it as a normal watch. I’ve reproduced my thoughts, below: “I'm a big fan of the Forerunners - I'm now on my second. The first was a big brick that looked like a fat mobile phone had been hastily taped to my wrist (see I've currently got a 305 (, which I love. It doesn't tell the time, which can be a problem at the big races - once you've stashed your kit ready for the race, you can't tell how long there is to go until the race starts. However, it has a choice of useful information - I use it with the screen split into quarters, with four key info items: current speed (in minutes per mile, or minutes per kilometre; total time elapsed; total distance covered; and heart rate. It really makes a difference to your training: you can see the improvement in your running and you also get to learn what different paces feel like. Equally importantly, it will help you push hard for the all-important speed work. I haven't used the 405, but they do look stylish. Just make sure that the read-out is big enough for you to be able to read the information you need at-a-glance - you don't want to be having to press buttons as you're running to get to the information you want”.

With Marco outside The Christie, after the first of the fivemarathons, Barcelona 2009

Those of you wishing to support Christies this year may like to support Marco Giannini’s worthy 72 mile challenge ( You may remember Marco is the fundraising coordinator at the Christie and provided invaluable support for the fivemarathons (see blog “Harris & Ross” from 10 March 2009), not least acting as our house DJ for the fivemarathons fundraiser at Manchester’s Press Club. Marco has already completed the Dublin Marathon, with Berlin, the Great North Run and several other races coming up in 2011.

Marco, immediately after the Dublin Marathon, October 2010

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

Noel Bresland - Bliss -
Marco Giannini – Christies –

View fivemarathons photos at

NYC Marathon, 2004

NYC Marathon, 2004
NYC Marathon, 2004