Saturday 21 June 2014

South Downs Marathon

Marathon #58  South Downs Marathon

5:13:12  ( Please ignore the time).

Tuseki Son at a traditional dinner
I had no intention of doing this run and it was very opportunistic. I had been in Tokyo all week stuffing myself with Sushi, Sake and Japanese beer and all the entertainment that I deserved. I got to spend a lot of time with the CTO of Softbank Tuseki Son which was an honor, and even shared a technology demonstration and  a chat with Colin Powell of all people, pointing out a few of his mistakes in Iraq to him.  (He hasn't friended me on Facebook yet but I'm hopeful and sadly no photos because of security reasons).

So anyway, I got back to London late on Friday night after a 12 hour flight. Jetlag to say the least, had me bad. Mr Google however told me that if I made it to Queen Elizabeth Park in the South Downs by 7:30 am, it would be in time for the bus for the South Downs Marathon start. I hadn't at this stage realised it was sold out. And so with no sleep, any proper nutrition nor hydration nor my normal marathon gear I headed off. I got there in plenty of time and after 10 full minutes of negotiation including sad tales of travelling a long way and flashing my MCI vest they let me in and I was on the bus to the start.

We quickly arrived at the West Sussex town of Sildon and its national trust managed posh boarding preparatory college for young boys. In Dublin this is known as a boys national school on the South side.  You could see the Isle of Wight off to the south. It was lovely in beautiful grounds and all set up for the marathon, a relay marathon and a half marathon all over the South Downs back to the Hampshire based Queen Elizabeth park just off the A3.

Sildon College
I had the great pleasure of meeting the marathon legend Travis Willcox who is the former world record holder for the number of marathons run in a year (114) and I gave him a few pointers on how to run today.

I decided to wear my Marathon club Ireland vest. I have to say its better than shopping in Tesco with a toddler for getting women of a certain age to approach you. Then of course the film star good looks and the sexy accent took over and I had them eating out of my hand. I may start wearing this vest out in town after today's performance.

It was roasting with 70 degrees + at the start of the race and it was expected to rise to 80 degrees during the race. It was also very humid and the air was dead. I hadn't researched the race but people were talking about hills. It turned out to be close to 3000ft of climb and the second hilliest marathon I have ever done and the heat was oppressive. Thats more than in the Howth Ultra.

The relay got off at 9:00am and the full marathon (with a big field got off at 9:30am). I knew after 1 mile this was going to be a bad day as my legs were dead. This was of course because of a half decent 50K the previous weekend and a week of partying (I mean working hard). The first of many hills came after 2 miles. The surface was really rocky and baked hard. All the hills were not runnable and as well as 3000 ft of them this race was net 200ft up hill (it didn't have much going for it did it).

The views of the downs were spectacular (but nowhere near what
The Downs
Ireland has to offer and I am so looking forward to Achill) when you eventually got to the top. The race was brilliantly organised with plenty of well needed water stops every few miles and well marshaled. I was only making 5-6 miles progress every hour and that got even slower on one particularly hilly section with one hour only yielding just over 4 miles. I knew quickly a 5 hr run would be good. I wasn't even able to make that.

Just one of the hills
I was through half way in 2:22 and immediately hit more hills. I would say that half of this marathon was walking, as the hills were just too severe and as you got progressively knackered even the small ones were walked. I did however run the downhills and the flats all the way to the finish. I unusually today suffered on the very steep downhill sections from the insoles in my shoes bunching badly at the toe and had
to stop on numerous occasions to fix this. I have to sort that out. I met a MCI former member Joe from Tipperary who lives in England, and he had let his membership lapse. I suspect MCI will be getting a cheque in the post. I was also struck by how many people acknowledging me during the day because of the MCI vest were admitting being Irish but were hiding it well behind well cultured English accents. Very odd.

After 5 hrs of hiking and running I came to the end and was delighted to finish. It has to be one of the toughest marathons in tough tough conditions that I have ever done. I'm not too worried about the time given the conditions, the difficulty and my preparation,  My head just wasn't in it today either. The Jet-lag however is gone and I'm back to normal.
The spoils

The next stop on my speaking tour is the LTE world Broadband conference in Amsterdam which starts Monday. Hopefully I can get another good fartlek session along the Amsterdam marathon route which I am attempting for the first time in October.

Garmin stats:

Sunday 15 June 2014


Marathon #57    Portumna Forest 50K  5:08

This race for me started the day before as I had been invited to play golf in Powerscourt. I played great but got let down by my team. Coincidentally, I was sitting at dinner with the after dinner speaker, who turned out to be acclaimed Irish teacher, motivator, entrepreneur and extreme Ultra runner Daithí Ó Murchú. It was an experience. Daithí is one of those individuals who has energy seeping from every pore and boundless enthusiasm. Listening to his stories and philosophies on the nutritional and spiritual aspects of running had me absolutely exhausted before desert.

Daithí  is entered in the 10 in 10 in September as training for his attempt at running across the desert in Namibia. Maybe when you are spending time with him at the 10 in 10 you can ask him about the time:

- He had to get his lung re-inflated by a Russian doctor on Everest before completing the ascent
- How when he finished the MDS he decided he hadn't run the whole desert and continued before exiting in Israel and being mistaken for a terrorist and incarcerated for 3 days.
- How he got air lifted out of South pole after a successful trip there.

His stories are endless and his energy overwhelming. If I could describe Daithí it could be crazy, tapped, but will settle for special.

I got back late and was straight to bed. 4am seen me up for breakfast and on the road for 4:15. Driving along  the quays in Dublin the night clubs were only getting out and there was human debris everywhere. Listening to the radio I heard that we were experiencing a phenomenon we only see every 40 years that night called the "Honey Moon" and there it was in front of me. It was so beautiful I missed the turn to Galway and was now late.

The new nemesis Pat
Fortunately when I got to Portumna things were backed up at registration and I had time to change and get registered. There were a lot of nerves on the start line as we were off at 7am with the 100Kers. My new running nemesis Pat Malone was there after he had welcomed me into the MV50 age group during the week. I congratulated him on his 50th marathon run that day but there was no eye contact and a cursory shake of the hands. This was going to be serious.

It was very humid but apart from that it was perfect weather.

Early hijinks
We were off. I started with Pat, stalking him, but he decided he had had enough and sprinted off into the distance. I was left with Finn O'Meara and Tom Reynolds (both 100kers) in a small group that was lapping in around  28 minutes. This was spot on 5hr pace. Some of those in the 100K had gone off fast.

Brenda Miere and Stephen  Mullin both in their first 100K were too fast in my opinion. They both proved me wrong, both finishing in times much better than their predicted. Meanwhile I had fallen in with Mark Conlon and Claire (from Wicklow) for quite a bit of time. Mark was suffering from a kidney infection and spent an inordinate amount of time in the portaloo. I came through 25K in 2.25 hrs. Still around 5 hr pace. My nemesis Pat was still doing well and pulled out a 10 minute gap. I was sure at this stage he was going too fast and that foot cramps were sure to follow. Time would tell.
Theresa and Collette

On we went knocking off the 30 minute laps. There were lots of injuries out there. I noticed James
45K in
Kelly struggling early (ITB went). Eilis Connery was flying and would be the leading Irish Lady in the 50K pipped by an English one. I think if Eilis concentrated on 50K she would be a real threat to the Dunne/Dilworth stranglehold on the national title. Eimer and Olivia were having a ball and Collette and Theresa were equally having a great time. Its a very sociable run.

I was being stalked by Marie Chapman, Adolfo and the ever present Mo. Somehow and unknown  to me Marie and Adolfo slipped past me at a feed station. They were both to go on and break 5 hrs. Mo slowed evenly with me and we were lapping in the same times. I clocked through the marathon at 4:11 and was expecting the inevitable of walking but kept going. Suddenly at 8.5 laps I came across Dennis McMonagle. I never catch Dennis. He was really struggling today. Meanwhile I noticed I was closing on Pat. Those foot cramps cant be far away I thought. Still running well I came through 9 laps in 4:34. 5 hrs was gone now but I kept going. There was little talking anymore.
Some of the finishers today

Then at 48km I saw Pat in front of me. FOOT CRAMPS I shouted inside and gave him a comforting Tap Tap on the way past. I put the head down and kept going. I thought I was flying but was barely breaking 11 minute miles. I came round the final bend and could see the marathon now fast approaching as it started at 12 noon. I crossed the line just in front of them exhausted. 5:08 was a good run today as I thought this was tougher than Donadea.
Bling for today

I am away now for a while travelling through work and holiday. Next stop Japan where the 5K loop around the Imperial palace will see the continuation of Berlin training.

Some photos courtesy of Ian Shaw.

Garmin stats for today

Monday 2 June 2014


Marathon #56   Walled City Marathon Derry


This was my 7th marathon in 7 weeks so not surprisingly the legs were a little tired. So I decided I would try and emulate my effort in Tralee and run even spits under 2 hrs. That would be a great result.

Graeme Colhoun (Ultra Runner) and
Brian Ankers  (Top 50 today)
About 1400 started the race outside the Evergreen Hotel in Derry at 8:30am. Unfortunately a few decided not to run because of the incident 48 hours earlier and there were lots of free bibs floating around. Martin McGuinness started the race. The course was a clover shape in and out of the city 4 times not unlike Limerick with hills only encountered when you left the river. It was a soft day great for running.

The first loop took us south of the city on a switch back along the Foyle. It was flat and the field quickly spread out. Because of the switchback you could see the leaders on the way back and they were settled into their groups. As expected Freddy Sittuk was quickly miles ahead. Ger Copeland of EOI and DBRC settled into 9th place . Ger would go on to run a PB 2:55. I settled in between 3:45 and 4 hr pacers.

Ger Copeland (top 10 today) and Roger Biggs
Founder of 100 marathon Club UK
and running his 779th  Marathon today
We crossed the Foyle for the first time at mile 5 and hit South again this time on the other side of the Foyle, on the second and longest loop. This time we left the river and climbed about 500ft on a long long drag over the next 4 miles. I passed Wonder Woman and the Ostrich on this loop and was ahead of Jimmy Nugent today which is always a bonus. We turned and headed back towards the river along country roads before hitting the cycle track along the river. Unlike Belfast there were no relay runners and there was plenty of space. I came through half way in 1:57:30 and was feeling OK. Apparently the toughest half was over. We stuck to the cycle path for the next 3 miles before crossing the bridge again. I noticed the 4 hrs pacers only a minute or so behind me so now had a strategy of keeping ahead of them as long as possible. The peace bridge was 20 miles. That would be a good goal.

The third loop took us through the Waterside. This time past where "The Venue" was and up a long drag of a hill again. I past Dave Brady and Mo around here which surprised me. I had great support form friends here who took photos and cheered me on no end. At 18 miles we turned again towards the river and followed the railway track back to the peace bridge. As I entered the bridge the 4hrs pacers were only 30 seconds back and the inevitable was coming. The support at the far side of the peace bridge was great but the pacers soon got me at about 21.5 miles.

Fahan St
The only boring bit of the course was from here till 23 miles which took in an industrial estate and a park. If the organisers did something about this the course would have been top class. I struggled from here until 25 miles losing mucho time.

Derrys Alpe D'Huez
We entered the bogside and ran along "riot alley" and passed the murals and peace wall before truning sharp left at 25 miles along Fahan St. This was a very steep 400m section towards the walled city. I have to say this 400M was special and the most memorable couple of minutes in all the races that I have done. Thousands of supporters lined the route and shouted your name (it was printed on your number). It was like Alpe D'huez with room for only one runner and everyone patting you on the back and the noise was fantastic. All too soon we were in the city and on the last mile. This was downhill and fast and as we turned at 26 miles for the last stretch towards the Guild Hall the supporters were back in numbers and it was great finish.

The Medal was HUGE , weighing in at more than 600gms (over 1lb) and the secure area at the finish was great with loads of photo opportunities and food and a goodie bag.

In my opinion this is the premier road marathon in NI and I will be back.

Garmin stats for today