Tuesday, 23 September 2014


Bristol is a lovely, historic place and both Debs and I have strong connections with the City and, although we both (separately) moved away some years ago, we both have family there and lots of personal history. Bristolians turn out in force to support the half marathon in their special way, as the route winds around the historic centre taking in The Clifton Suspension Bridge (twice) and the SS Great Britain, both built by a hero of mine – Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Last year’s BHM was quite traumatic as Debs lost her Mum to a stroke just 2 weeks before and, understandably, had to withdraw. This year she was back on a mission, running in memory of Judy and raising over £700 for the small stroke charity www.fightingstrokes.org This was started by Kate Allatt following on from her book Running Free: Breaking Out from Locked-in Syndrome.  Debs will shortly blog about her day here, and, having been ill for a few weeks, with her training was limited to about 6-8 miles a/WEEK over the past weeks even starting was a source of great pride.

We all know that folks have lots of pre-event rituals and I’ve adopted many, such as:
  • Making sure I get a seat on the daily commute to London – FAIL, on 3 days out of 4!
  • Not drinking alcohol in the week before – managed that
  • Lots of rolling and stretching – FAIL, did plenty but not enough and my constant niggly “knot” in my left hamstring just wouldn’t budge
  • Having an “easy day” the day before – FAIL, but for a good reason as I did a Basingstoke, High Wycombe, Birmingham to Bristol loop taking my daughter off to Brum UNI to study History.

Race-eve became a shopping trip as Debs forgot her running shoes...kind of important for a half-marathon but luckily we found a good shop and she left armed with some new treads that had a hour or two of walking to break them.

Back to race prep. I hadn’t felt good all week with some sort of random bug and temperature, with legs like concrete, so not at my most confident. However, a couple of miles round Queen Square and lots of stretching seemed to improve things.

Race day dawned very sunny but, thankfully, without the horrid humidity of the days before. Race Village was only 5 mins walk away which makes a change. Debs was pretty emotional already as she headed off to the other start pens, and it was great to bump into runners from Hatch Warren Runners, another local running club, and Ian from our club about to take on his first HM. Blue pen for me, second back, and eeeeeek! Lots of talk of race paces a bit over 7 mins miles. Rats! My gameplan was around 8s with “plan A” being to spot the 1:45 pacemaker and hang on. Biiiiiig problem as soon as we started – the pacemakers were invisible, seemed to be just wearing an orange run shirt! No balloons, flags or whatever, so useless unless you happened to be next to them!

Pacing worked for first 3-4 miles but then slipped a little at a time as I leaked 10-20 secs a miles over mid race. Last year, for my 1:52, I drifted off in the last 3 miles so I needed to improve that. My 1:45 target was parked for another day so it became all about course PB and I was taking about 10 secs a mile out of that. So, good and positive, as was the great Bristolian support and welcome.

Locals were superb with great shouts. “...looking good moi luvver” or “...yer nearly there, darlin” or “...there be no hills in this areal” but I wasn’t so chuffed about “...keep going funny man!” until realising that was aimed at a Smurf running behind me! Over the miles I got bored of “c’mon Smurf!” so mile 8 saw a quick sprint to escape his sweaty, blue faced presence!  

A lap of Queen Square fell at 9.5 miles and the place was brilliant, excellent support, hot air balloons and a mass drum group...really gave me a boost in spirits and pace. More on this later.

There are a couple of “cheeky” hills late on which were dealt with fine then a tricky ¼ mile of cobbles which messed with my mind last year but were far better this year when treated more like a trail run. Final loop round the centre, 13 miles then the home burst, not quite catching Batman and Robin, and done in 1:49:17 so well inside last year’s course PB and only my second sub-1:50. Happy days!

Just after the finish a girl came over and said “thanks for that” leaving me bemused. She explained “...you shot past me at the drum band in Queen Square and I thought that you were going OK so I sat in behind you all the way back” Didn’t know I’d become a pacemaker!

Overall, a great day for the Sherfield Park Runners. My course PB, Ian starting fast and hanging on to his maiden HM time of 2:07 and Debs digging really deep, on almost no training, to run all the way round to a 2:24. Fantastic! Already planning on running the Bristol HM again on 13th September 2015 and hope to bring more folks from the club.

Ttfn, Mark
*”Correct way to speak Bristol”

Thursday, 18 September 2014


I like to make plans, I like to know what I'm going to be doing, with running this has been pretty simple up to now. 

Races were simple to find, to enter and a race calendar forms pretty early on. With my desire to get into races early, closely aligned with my natural desire to board an aircraft first (but that's another story!), I do end up with some good race numbers...the best has been "1" at May's Marlow 10k Trail. But whilst 5Ks, 10Ks, Half Marathons and Trails have been easy to knit together in 2014's plan the new plan for 2015 going longer via marathon into ultras is proving really pretty darned tricky! 

The plan has been formulating around 5 blocks that would have taken me to mid-August:
  1. Lay down the base over the winter, and a great guy from the running club is helping me plan that  
  2. A spring marathon - hopefully the VMLM2015 although there is a back-up plan but not so good on timing or being quite the event of London. Supported our club's runners in London this year and it was a key inspiration in my new challenges for 2015
  3. Edinburgh Running Festival in May...I am now entered in three events that weekend and will decide on what the mix is to be
  4. Endure24 in June as a solo...my first ultra
  5. Followed in August by its sister race, Ultra12. Now, it starts going awry!

I will find out soon whether I have been successful in the VMLM15 public ballot or whether I am lucky enough to get one of our club places through UK Athletics.

Endure24 will be 2 weeks earlier next year so there's only 2 weeks from Edinburgh to Endure, so that impacts my choices at EDI.

I was going to enter Ultra12 today as it fitted neatly in August and I booked a holiday in July to fall between Endure24 and Ultra12. Buuuuuuut, in 2015 Ultra12 has moved earlier and is 18-19 July so smack bang in the middle of my holiday! Rats!

So, I've started my search for alternatives and found that spotting the right ultra is really hard as there are far fewer events without a lot of travel. I'm being helped in this by a really experienced ultra runner who I have been introduced to by our mutual, wonderful sports therapist / physio. She's come up with all sorts of events and some super race reports which are building my knowledge. 

Then, bingo! When reading Trail Running magazine I spot an advert for the 100milerun.com Cotswold Challenge, a 100 miler across the Cotswolds in 4 days in August 2015 finishing outside Bath Abbey. Perfect. Or, maybe not. Back home, onto laptop, fire up the website and... somehow the Cotswold Challenge has moved from August to 5-8 June which is no flippen use at all!!!!

The search continues and I still have the most variable race calendar with so many potential combinations that I'm befuddled. Oh well, better go out and build that base then. Never know when I'll need it.

ttfn, mark


A little about me, without the complexities of Google+

A 52 year old Dad with two daughters at UNI, a kart racing motorsport nut and now a runner, going longer and off into Marathons and Ultras in 2015. 

A management consultant working long, pretty stressful hours and living in North Hants. 

Also, entirely against expectation, I am the Chairman of a running club www.sherfieldparkrunners.org.uk  that my partner, Debs, and I started in April 2013. 

Oh, and did I say I run?  And that I run every day?

Monday, 15 September 2014


In lots of what I do in life, especially the bonkers stuff, I draw on combinations of some influential and inspirational people.  There are historical ones such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel who I admire for his ground breaking work and sheer drive and “can do” approach.  Then contemporary key ones that fall into two categories:

First family:
My Dad, a still active 93 year old living in his own bungalow and mentally as “sharp as a pin”, whilst having angina and heart attacks since he was 68!  Years before being a production director in the automotive industry he spent 5 years as a prisoner of war, primarily in Stalag 8B in Lamsdorf in Poland.  He escaped three times, eventually successfully and making his own way across Europe to hitch a lift back to blighty in the back of a Lancaster bomber, from France to be greeted by a WAAF with a DDT spray!

My two teenage, UNI attending daughters who are a daily source of pride, with my youngest being the artist behind this portrait of Dad.

And, my partner Debs, who has brought a whole new life and amazingly selfless levels of support in all my bonkers stuff (bar getting her wellies muddy at Endure24!)

Then, running related, including:
My running club (Sherfield Park Runners) and its great and growing membership from who I have drawn so much energy.  Some have had profound effect on me in many ways.

The SPR runners at VLM2014 where Debs and I went to support 5 club members and had an emotional and life changing day.  I had always said “... I’m not going to run a marathon” whist secretly watching and learning from their prep during the early months of 2014.  So, my first marathon is due in spring 2015, hopefully in London.

Gary Turner, 13 times World Champion in various fight formats, and now an evidence based hypnotherapist, weight and nutrition guru and an ultra runner with his two huskies.

And, Ira Rainey and his book “Fat Man To Green Man” about his path to his first Ultra that just grabbed and inspired me in my holiday reading some weeks ago.

So, put all that with my bonkers approach to getting on in life and making things happen and you have my drive for new challenges developing into getting ready to run a first marathon quickly followed by a first ultra marathon and bonkers moves to ultrabonkers to reshape my life.  And, no doubt, the lives of my nearest and dearest!

Sunday, 14 September 2014


October 6th, 1984 was the day that led to me being told I'd never walk again, then after 5 months in plaster and on crutches, leaning to walk again. But now I run.

Why? I raced karts and had a double end-over-end flip crash landing on and smashing my left ankle. The injury seemed quite straightforward but after a month the consultant realised I had damaged the blood supply to my foot meaning my toenails weren’t growing and, more importantly, the breaks weren’t healing. Many tests followed but all that could be done was wait and hope.  Amazingly, my body fixed itself by re-creating the fine blood supply and I eventually came out of plaster ... missing out the “walking plaster” stage as I was already (without permission) walking on the existing cast and, err, riding a bike! Just the sort of bonkers thing I do!

So, walking ... things changed from “...you should be able to keep your foot but not walk on it” to “...you’ll need to learn to walk again” (for which I was given absolutely no help by the hospital!). I taught myself. I fell over a lot but got mobile again but it took me months to be able to walk down a flight of stairs facing forward. Now the mantra was “...you mustn’t run, ever!”.  So I didn’t for far too many years as I was so pleased to be able to have a foot and to be able to walk.  I followed the warnings for some 28 years, and what a waste of running time that was.

The catalyst for change was meeting my partner, Debs, in 2012 and as we coloured in the details of our past lives running came up (she’d run half marathons before) so we decided to start running together.  We did, and I entered us for the Fleet Half marathon just 4 months ahead to give us some focus.  Bonkers!

Away from running I am a 52 year old Dad with two daughters at UNI, a kart racing motorsport nut and a management consultant working long, pretty stressful hours and living in North Hants.  Now I am a runner too!  Also, entirely against expectation, I am the Chairman of a running club (Sherfield Park Runners) that Debs and I started in April 2013 ... but more of that in another post.

Over some upcoming posts I’ll take you through my inspirations; the running club; run streaks; and, into my training.

Training? Yes, this year has been based round 5 half marathons (Reading, Fleet, Edinburgh, Bristol and Basingstoke), lots of 10Ks and 5Ks (love parkrun in Basingstoke and as a “tourist”) and various trails including in a team of 8 at this year’s fabulously wet and muddy Endure24 where my contribution was five, 5 mile laps.  I am constantly being told I am bonkers especially when I grab a new challenge, often coming from when someone says “...you can’t” or “...you are too old”.  This applies even more with my 2015 running plans ... a first marathon (planned to be VMLM2015) and straight on to do Endure24 again BUT this time as a SOLO as my first Ultra Marathon!

My summer reading has been Ultra marathon books from Ira Rainey, Dean Karnazes, Chris MacDougall and Byron Powell, and tapping into some great Ultra marathon groups for info.