Sunday 23 November 2014

Walton Upon Thames

Marathon #74 Walton Upon Thames,  Phoenix riverside marathon 4:43:13

Today was all about finishing and not getting injured and I wasn't too worried about the time. I am going big for my 75th state side next week.

This was the first event that was run by Phoenix Runners from Walton Upon Thames (within the M25 in London). Phoenix runners has been setup by the legend of marathon running Rik Vercoe who boasts a hell of a marathon and ultra CV .

Weir Pub
Walton Upon Thames was very convenient and 37 minutes brought me door to door and event HQ at the Weir pub was very easy to find. I picked up my number in the pub. The marathon was off at 9am and a half marathon was off at 9:15.

As we were on the Thames there was even some who rocked up to the start on their boat (Classy).

The weather forecast was awful and by the time we arrived it was pouring rain. I was huddled with everyone around the pub and heard two people chatting. One relatively young guy was saying he was off to the US to run across
the US, just to tick that box. He may however break his trip and come back to the UK to do 14 marathons in 7 days. In fact if he timed things right he could "knock out" 48 marathons in 29 days in May. Lindsay would be proud of me as I quickly stepped away. It turned out this was Rob Young who is running a marathon every single day for a year and he runs it in a kilt (This looked to get incredibly heavy as the race progressed).

The course was a 5.25km out and back along the tow path. So that would be 4 laps for the marathon. 

At 9am we were off (fairly big crowd). Immediately the problems for the day were obvious. As it had
Waterlogged course
rained for days and as it was currently raining the tow path was waterlogged at best with I would say most of it under water. Getting around the massive puddles proved difficult and by the way back on the first lap everyone was just sloshing straight through them. Trying to avoid them was a mud fest. Some were quite deep and above the shoe.

There were two aid stations at the turnarounds so there was plenty of help and water.

With such a close  course you could watch everyone in the race and encouragement was great.

I clocked just over 2:05 for the first half, running steady. I was paranoid about getting injured and got a big wake up call when I hit a root and went over on my ankle at 4km. But I was able to run it off.
All done with Rik Verco

The rain and puddles and the mud got worse and worse as we went on and I slowed a bit on the second half to come in on 4:43:13. I got a lovely medal from Rik who gave a big shout out to Eimear
and Collette (how many people do you know???).

Garmin gave up today at 4:11

Sunday 16 November 2014


Marathon #73  Tollymore Trail Marathon   4:48:01

4200ft of climb mostly in the rain

Ireland rightly is thought off as having some of the best golf clubs in the world. Portmarnock, Royal Co Down, Portrush, Old course Ballybunion plus many more rightly take their place in the top 100 in the world. I have done a few trail marathons in Ireland, UK and the US and its trail marathons like Causeway coast and Clare-Burren stand up well with the best. I'll add Tollymore to this list. Coincidentally the route had views over the Royal County Down in places

26 extreme did a fantastic job setting up a tough marathon within the bounds of Tollymore forest park which sits on the foothills of the Mournes. It was perfect in terms of route (2 loops of 13.1 miles) and organisation (very well marshaled and marked) and really challenging because of the long hill climbs. Sections along the fast flowing river were great and the downhills were a joy. The aid stations were frequent and well stocked.

This was the first marathon that I have run in my home county Down and one I will come back too. In total there was 4200ft of climb and the hilliest marathon I have ever done. My goal for today was 5 hrs (being realistic).

The weekend started with a quandary. Lindsay was taking the car
Rain absolutely tipping down
to go off to Mullingar for an Autism conference for research and networking for her new web game to raise the awareness of Autism. This meant I had a choice of train or bus home and rely on lifts or hire a car. I was shocked when on the Budget hire car website the price of a small car was €15 for a day and €16 for 2 including unlimited miles and insurance. So off to the airport I went on Friday and picked up a car for the weekend and a quick hour and half later I was home. I stayed with my sister for the night. The rain just lashed down all night and I didn't get a wink. I was up, breakfasted and off to Tollymore early arriving well on time for 9am.

Ken Beggs
After picking up my number I hid in the car for 45 minutes as the rain tipped down. Closer to the off time I went to the start line. I just wore a compression top and crusaders vest while most others were kitted out for the north pole. My decision turned out perfect as it was actually very mild despite the rain. I met loads of East Of Antrim guys and Lillian from DBRC who were all huddling at the start. Also there was Eilis Connery (second lady home) and Anthony O'Reilly who
Eilis and Anthony
shared my 50th run in England. Around 80 took part in the marathon following 50 that were off in the Ultra (start 8am) and followed later in the day by a half and a 10K (around 500 in total).

huddled at the start
We started in pouring rain with the first 3 miles gently meandering deep into the forest until we reached the Shimna river which was in full flow and looked and sounded fantastic. We followed the river upstream until we reached the first small climb. This was runnable first time round and after cresting we soon dropped back to the river again. Then came the first climb. I came across some East Down runners on the hill and was joined by Lillian Deegan whom I finished Dublin with. We stayed together for the next 18 miles chatting and enjoying the run. I think on the first lap I gave the hills too much respect and walked more than I should. They were long and steep but probably
At the Shimna river
Some EDAC on the first big climb
Lillian and I just finished
runnable. We crested the first hill and had a lovely 3 mile downhill section that brought us back to the other bank of the Shimna. This led us to the
bottom of the second climb which was tough and very long. This wasnt runnable for me and I hiked up with Lillian. I was very glad to get to the top but we now had a fantastic view of the mountains and eventually Newcastle with the Slieve Donard and The
Nearly home
Royal County Down golf club in the distance. After cresting it was a lovely mostly downhill run back to the river and the finish to lap 1. We came across in 2:14 which I was pretty pleased with as this meant that sub 5 hrs (goal time) was more than doable.

We headed off on the second lap and it was still raining. Naturally
With Colette and Lillian 
this was a little tougher and a bit more walking but still thoroughly enjoyable. Lillian was feeling strong and pushed on at the second big hill and ran away from 5 of us.  I was fading bad in the last mile and lost 5 places and was delighted to come in still running at 4:48:01.

A fantastic medal awaited me and a lovely burger and cup of
Fantastic medal
coffee. It was one of the best events ever and Im so glad I have done it.

My Garmin gave up after 4 hrs today and the photos are not great because of water in the lens.

Next up Walton Upon Thames in London next weekend.

Beautiful shot video of the day (above)

Garmin trail route