Sunday 29 March 2015


Marathon #84   Rathdrum Co Wicklow


Avondale Forest Park (Rathdrum)
This was my first ever race in Wicklow. The second will be next week at the Vartry Lakes running
Homested of Charles Stewart Parnell
festival. It was held in Avondale Forest Park just outside Rathdrum. This was the homestead of Charles Stewart Parnell who famously introduced obstructionism (or Filibustering) to the UK parliament. It was a beautiful setting.

It was just over an hour from home and when I got there the early start was well under way and there seemed a reasonable crowd. There was a half and a full today and RD no 1 Vincent was there directing things. There were new numbers from precision timing and a new timing clock. All added to the day.

I started with the main start at 9:30am. It was a 1 mile loop followed by 5 x 5mile loops followed by
Main start
a run in to the finish. We were led through the first mile in approx 8:20 and we were on our own. The course was surprisingly hilly with over 1400ft of climb on some reasonably steep hills. It was however very runnable.  The 5 mile loop started by running past Avondale
Keeping concentration
House before descending for 400m past the main aid station and the finish. We then started climbing for about 400m to the entrance to the forest. Turning left on the main road the wind hit for the first time and this road section was very exposed. After 800m we turned right at the junction for a another 800m out and back down a hill to the turn around and back up the hill (with the wind now in back). You could see the race unfold on this section. We were then brought up a very steep hill until cresting and entering the forest again. Steeply downhill through the trees brought us to the change over point of the figure of 8 course that was wonderfully marshalled. Then up through the trees winding our way back to the car park area. A steep 400m downhill section brought us back to the aid station and finish area, We turned right up past Avondale House
Ran well today
again (going the other way this time) and followed the trail down hill for the next 1km. Then there was a long climb (sometimes steep) back to the start area and the loop was done.
And home

I was very focused today knowing that if I concentrated 4hrs was on.  GPS signal was ropey in the forest so you never knew exactly where you were but I knew that by half way I was around 1:53 and going well. Marie Chapman was not pulling away from me and I knew that was a
good sign. I kept the head down and ran all the way except for the 2 steep hills on the last lap and was delighted to come in sub 4 hrs in 3:56:20 . This was my best time since Longwood in Jan 2013 and first time under 4 hrs since I turned 50 last year. I'm a very happy camper today.

Garmin today (The GPS signal got cut out by the trees for portions of the run so it seems a bit short but it wasn't)

Sunday 1 March 2015

Mill Hill Marathon

Marathon #83  Mill Hill Marathon North West London


The time belies the difficult nature of this challenge. It was very hilly at 2500ft, It was long at 27.2 miles (It was long anyway but I also got lost) and it was muddy (It was the worst mud I have ever seen from start to finish).

6am got me up and breakfasted and it was 1hr 20 mins to Mill Hill. This was a rather affluent suburb of North West London (from what I seen anyway) in Barnet near the village of Totteridge (not that far from Wembley) . The event was held totally well within the M25.

I got to the venue early enough to be directed by the most over qualified parking attendant ever in Roger Biggs. This was an early measure of the professionalism of this event which was perfectly run. It was a small marathon limited to just 50 or so people and was a fund raiser for a local hospice. It was organised by Anna Hatton who I have to say put on a perfect event.

The local community center was open and was the HQ for the day and had changing and shower facilities. Registration was a breeze and we were quickly ready to go. The runners was a who's who of the marathon club in the UK. After a sometimes emotional race briefing and some photos we walked to the start and we were off.

It was a beautiful day but the storm of the previous week had done untold damage on the course and we were warned of mud, lots of mud and hills , lots of hills.

Brilliant aid stations
The course was 4x 9K loops followed by a 6K loop. We were warned the course would be long as well. The 9K loop left the HQ and followed a pathway that was full of mud and puddles for around 800m. We then turned left through a kissing gate onto the first real muddy section. There was no way around it and you had to just plough through it. As the laps went on the mud got worse and worse and worse.  The first hill was simple enough. The second long hill followed quickly. It went up and up and up (1.5km). It eventually came through the back of some houses before hitting the main road at Totteridge. Its funny when the easiest way up a hill is to run up the temporary river in the middle of it rather than the mud on each side. The next downhill was even muddier with sections or several hundred meters coming up over the shoe.

This led to an open field that was a complete quagmire and you had to slosh across it with each foot sinking in up to the ankle. After reaching the end of the field you turned right for the longest climb of the lap that was again muddy and long (about 1.5km long). I think I have missed a hill and some mud out of this description.

Fantastic helpers

At the top of the hill was a brilliantly stocked aid station with everything from cucumber sandwiches to prawn candies (which are now my favorite). Off we went again for another  downhill muddy section before crossing some gallops and heading up again (more mud) . We were getting close to the finish now and there was one last sting in the tail as we had a long steep uphill that brought us round to a nice downhill finish.

The laps ticked off nicely until I came to the third lap and at this stage I was on my own. I missed the

Anna RD
first turn and ended up doing a km extra (which included a hill). It was my own fault as I lost concentration and I had to do the run of shame back to the gate.  I lost a lot of places in this time but I think I managed to get most of them back over the last couple of laps.
First Bath
Muddy legs
The last lap was 3K shorter and missed out the first hill and some mud before bringing us around to the finish. I was delighted to finish. The medal was great and Anna took time to talk to everyone.

I couldn't stay around for the cake and the raffle and headed back listening to Ireland beat England in the rugby. It took two baths and a shower to get clean.

Garmin stats for the day