Monday, 21 November 2011

Lakeland 50

July’s Lakeland 100 and Lakeland 50 ultra distance events were a fantastic success (see 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, 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


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


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


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 Macmillan provides practical, medical, financial and emotional support for people affected by cancer and campaigns for better cancer care (see ).
Marco Giannini – Christies – (
View fivemarathons photos at
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NYC Marathon, 2004

NYC Marathon, 2004
NYC Marathon, 2004