Monday 29 May 2017


#187 Sat Night Marathon
#188 Jeskyns Challenge

Start/Finish Weir Pub (packed)
34 starters
It was forecast hot hot hot for the weekend and I still had the gammy knee.  My goal this weekend was to survive and make it to the start line of Endura 24. I was quite prepared to stop short and take it easy.

Knee update: I had gone this week to a Physio and had a deep tissue massage that beat the crap out of me. I also had not run at all and invested in a new knee strap. In fact I wore 2 knee straps, one that put pressure on the IT band, and one over the top that kept everything secure. Biofreeze, Voltorol and Advil were all employed.

Well strapped up
Brenda (finished together)
Sat was an unusual and cheap marathon. The medals had been donated by Paul Ali (I presume from the Sat night Thames marathon 2016) and was staged by Phoenix running. It was on the 8 lap circuit in Walton on Thames. As it was a marathon it was all or nothing.

With a soft 7 hour cuttoff and a 4pm start, my plan was to take it very easy and try for a 6hr marathon which meant that I probably would finish in the dark (with a head torch). A relatively modest 36 started (34 finished marathon) with quite a few having done the Kent circuit marathon earlier in the day and quite a few more going on to do more on Sunday in Dorset and Kent. There were a couple who didnt make it from the Kent event for various reasons.

Eddie had a stormer of a first half
All done just before dusk
I started off very tentatively on the first few laps taking it real easy. The knee held together and I continued on at a very even pace. It was hot, very humid and I was glad to see the aid station every 3.25 miles. There was noone really fast today and it was a great atmosphere with plenty of chats and stops for Ice Cream and drinks on the way. The tow path itself was jammers with dog walkers as usual and the pub en-route was heaving. I came through half way in 2:25 protecting the knee all the way. My plan was always to go slower in the second half and walk if need be. I had all night after all.

Nice medals
Ever present Brian Mills
A mini goal was 40 mins for a lap and knocked these off without issue. Brenda joined me for the last two laps. In the dusk the temperature dropped a little and it was absolutely beautiful along the tow path with party boats going past and people out drinking by the river from their homes on the far side. Knowing we had tomorrow to go we gently finished the run off in a steady 5hrs 20mins. Nothing dramatic and I was delighted to be painless.

Really roasting
A quick trip down the M3 to drop Brenda off and a few hours in bed had me picking her up again at 5:45 am to make it to Jeskyns Park nr Gravesend for the 7:30 am start at the Jeskyns Challenge. It was forecast even hotter today and it did not disappoint with close to 30 degrees and very high humidity making for one of the toughest running days ever. The course itself was wholly contained within the country park either on packed gravel wide paths or grass trails along the outside of the park. The park was jammed full of dog walkers (off their leads) and you had to have your whits about you not to get tripped up. I seen 2 runners get bowled over by dogs and I got hassled badly by one as well. Apart from that it was a surprisingly hilly course and slow slow slow.

8 laps was a marathon and I had 6 hrs in mind. This is a relatively pedestrian pace and I decided to walk all the hills. The heat and humidity were the issues today and everyone suffered. As most were on multiples this weekend the pace from everyone was way down and very few broke 4 hours or even 4hrs 30. The norm was between 5 and 6 hrs. So I had plenty of company.

Jenny Lee
It was a very tough but sociable run. I ran very evenly with each 3.25 mile loop taking between 40 and 45 mins. 2:59 brought me through half way and 3:01 finished off the marathon in 6hrs even. My knee survived, I spent a lot of time on my feet and finished both days. That was all I wanted to achieve.

Now for some more rest and hopefully more recovery.

Stats for the day.

Sat Night Marathon

Jeskyns Challenge

Wednesday 17 May 2017


#186 Pyjamathon   Nonshuch Park 5:55:09   29.52 miles

This was a Phoenix running event held away from home at Nonsuch park on the Epsom Downes. It was a pleasure to get away from the Thames Path and it was a beautiful course.

Nonsuch park itself is less than an hour from Basingstoke and I picked up Brenda on the way. We arrived ontime and checked in as Phoenix were already there with their normal excellent volunteers and setup.
With Jackie Hearn the
Fudge Queen

The forecast for the day was mixed and it turned out warm and perfect for running.

It was a special day for me as I was one of 5 that got awarded our certificates and medals for completing 52 marathons in 52 weeks and this presentation was made before the start at the end of the race briefing.

As it was a "Pyjamathon" around 50% of the field were in their Pyjamas and amazingly most kept them on for the whole length of the event was was 6 hrs. It did get quite warm as well.

Brenda and Emma
At 9am we were off with just over 100 starting (and finishing). The course itself was very mixed with some grass sections, forest sections and some compacted concrete and tarmac paths all within the park. The facilities were great with toilets at the start/finish line which we passed every 3.25 miles. There was also a cafe at the castle like main building. As you would expect in these public parks there were lots and lots of dog walkers but I didn't hear of any incidents.
Aid station

I was still nursing my dodgy knee and was quite prepared to stop short if need be. But it held together better than recently as we ticked the laps off. Because I was being so cautious I was a lot slower than normal but just delighted to be running at all. I came through 4 laps and half marathon in 2:25 and was very slow but even paced and running pretty much all of the course which was relatively straightforward.

The weather was absolutely beautiful and the 3.25 miles was just right for getting water and sweeties and I thoroughly enjoyed the day. My knee stayed pretty OK to the end of lap 6 but started to hurt on Lap 7 and I immediately slowed down and walked more. Marathon distance was around 5 hours and I was delighted to get through it at all and went out on a 9th lap. It probably wasnt the wisest and I should have stopped there and then to  protect myeslf but I did it anyway and completed Ultra no 45 in just under the 6 hour timelimit.

I would go back to Nonsuch park in a heartbeat as I loved the course and facilities.

Photos Dee Rand

Stats for the day.

Wednesday 3 May 2017


#185 Belfast 4:57:17

Smurfs everywhere
Despite doing this event many times since 2004 it is one of my least favorite events for the same reasons every year. The course is not good (some sections are awful), support is patchy for a big city marathon, relay runners do get in the way and have no etiquette. No other race I know suffers from the same level of problems (for me anyway). But it is promoted as a cross community event and attracts lots of runners particularly in the relay so it is what it is.

Start at City Hall
One of the good things about it is they post out your number so there is no messing with expo's etc....  Aid stations were also good and frequent and given the heat were (apart from the towpath section) very frequent. It was also very warm and there was no shortage of water even if it was from standpipes (which were COLD!!!). One other thing that is good is that there are lots of supporter popup aid stations that have everything including beer en-route.

Number in hand and tired legs from Limerick particularly the first half, I picked up Kris early and headed for Belfast. 90 minutes gets you there nowadays and with the new services in Lisburn you can get to the city well prepared. The forecast was for a glorious 16 degrees, light winds and dry. It turned out quite a bit warmer.

Parking up in Castlecourt, it was a 10 minute walk to city hall and the start area. Getting there early you get quick use of the toilets and  a chance to catch up with everyone. Between EAMS and Limerick and Ballyhoura there were a lot of tired legs around. EAMS as is their way had decided to go with a smurf theme this year and there was a lot of blue around.

Kathleen as a Smurf
Start time was 9am and on time we are off. Now the first 5 miles of this race are not good as you head into East Belfast and back on the Sydnam Bypass. Even on tired legs I went with the 4:15 pacers at 9:30 pace just to get it over with and when I came back into the city decided to hold back a bit as it was also getting very warm (I was also knackered). I enjoy the bit up the falls as its winds its way through West Belfast but it was hillier than I remembered. With 10000 relay runners it was busy.  Today was a lot slower and I realistically had 5 hrs as a target. The Antrim Road is hit at 10.5 miles and climbs relentlessly to Mile 14. I actually managed to run most of it and came through half way in 2:25 and spent some time with Craig and Finn dressed as Smurfs.

Turning down to Gideons Green  on the steep downhill section, I caught up with Linda Cunningham still well on her quest for 100 marathons and we chatted for a while about running and running partners before I took a walk break. It was at this time I noticed my leg play up. It was in the same spot that I hurt when I fell in Ramscombe and it did not go away. It was to plague me for the rest of the event and no doubt slowed me down no end forcing me to walk a lot. Coming through the Green onto the tow path it was busy with fresh relay runners but fortunately there was a slight breeze in the back pushing us along. I was struggling but forced myself to run this section with the 5hr goal in mind and passed Linda fiddling with her Ipod. It seemed like forever before we exited the Towpath (no water stops for a long way) to the industrial estate. This is the worst section on a marathon course in the world and it stretches for a few miles winding its way past lorries and factories. At least today it didn't smell.
Beautiful day

Coming back into the city we passed through a building site (seriously) before coming onto the main Lagan towpath that brought us to the Ormeau Rd. I was at 23 miles at 4:17 and was comfortable enough for a sub 5 from here and plodded on with my sore leg. The support picks up here and there was lots of joviality at the Pavillion and Errigle pubs on the long drag up the Ormeau Rd. Turning for the last 1.5 miles (mostly downhill) was a relief and I kept it going all the way to the finish. Coming across the line in 4:57. Picking up the medal and T my leg stiffened up immediately and I hobbled to see the McVeighs who were running in one of the relay teams. They looked as if they had done a parkrun. It being a point to point event there was a shuttle bus back to the start where the car was parked and in no time we were on the road back to Dublin. Kris did great again following her sub 4 with a 4:05 for an average sub 4 b2b.

I went to the Physio the next day who thankfully confirmed there was nothing serious on the knee and some rest and massage should sort it out.

Stats for today

Tuesday 2 May 2017


#184 Limerick  4:08:12

With the Cru 6 mile fasties
Limerick is my PB course and the weather forecast was awful. Traveling down early from Galway it didn't seem too bad and arriving very early it looked positively bright. As it turned out the weather was perfect.

Finding parking just a few minutes from the finish area (advantages of being very early) a short 10 minute walk had Kris and I at the baggage area maybe an hour early. It was a perfect opportunity to meet people as they arrived and use the toilet facilities before they got busy. Quite a big crowd were in Belfast already with EAMS putting on a pre-event event. In Limerick MCI were putting on an post-event event the day after. I met most of the pacers whom I knew and there was a great atmosphere at the start.

Limerick is a big event with 9000 taking part in the very popular 6 mile race, half marathon and full marathon. This year there was a relatively small relay event in the marathon as well.  Ronan was there looking for a sub 3:30 and Kris was ever present coming off a great b2b in Longford.

Finish area
Loads of medals
At 9am we were off and I settled in with Dipak and Declan in the 3:45 pace group as we did our first small loop through the city centre. I have to say I struggled with the 8:30 pace and dropped off by maybe 50m at 2 miles. I made the decision to catch them up again with a 8:13 3rd mile and settled in. Limerick is quite undulating with some very long drags and the hill up past the University to the 7 mile turn around point is such a drag. 26 mins brought us through 5K and I decided to try and stick with them to 10K. 51 mins brought us through 10K and I was still in there. From the turn around point at 7 miles it was a gentle downhill into the university and I was now comfortable with the 8:30 pace.  The "living bridge" in the university was very bouncey and soon we were at the river on the newly refurbished towpath and 10 miles came and went. I then decided to try for half marathon at this pace. As we came into the city centre and half way in 1:51 I was totally done and it was very soon that I went "BANG!" and effectively stopped. Everyone had concern for me but I had just gone out too fast.

And Home
From here on in I struggled and managed the big loops at 10-12 minute pace losing time all the time. When the 4 hr pacers came past at mile 19 it bucked me up a bit and I started to pick it up again. It was great to see Paula on her 50th marathon who would break 4hrs for the second week in a row and Angela still struggling with her feet from Longford.

Its a bit weird coming into the city centre at 21 miles as its as quiet as anything as all the action is at the finish line one street up. We were well merged with the half marathon and at mile 23 the leaders in the 6 mile race came past which included many Cru! who gave great encouragement. I really tried the last couple of miles to get under 4:10 and managed it in the end with ease in 4:08:12.

A quickphoto op with the club afterwards and a pick up of the very nice medal and it was back to Dublin. Ronan didnt make his 3:30 but did manage a 3:44 and Kris did fantastic with her first sub 4 of the year and best results since Dublin in 3:48. It was then back to Dublin for the night.

Stats for today

Grand Canal Longford

#182  Grand Canal Longford Ultra
#183  Grand Canal Longford Marathon

This is getting an established event, despite it clashing with several other big events around the country particularly the Connemarathon. Its organised by the very popular Brendan Doyle and takes place over 2 days around a 3.25 flat loop on the Grand Canal just outside Longford town.

The loop itself is based around the Ray Flynn permanently marked mile on the banks of the canal. Ray one of Longford's more famous exiles is still the current 1500m national record holder and with some other famous Irish middle distance runners holds the 4 x 1 mile relay world record. Ray also has >60 sub 4 minute miles.

HQ was the wonderfully named slashers GAA club and parking and registration was a breeze. Day 1 was the main day which say >700 competitors take on a 10K (very popular), half, full and 53K ultra. Day 2 saw a much depleted field try for b2b half's or a b2b marathon or b2b ultra/marathon. Naturally Kris and I went for the latter.

Given the state of my leg over the last 2 weeks with virtually no running and straps up the ying/yang, it was always going to be a lottery. There was an early start time for Ultra and marathon but some half and even 10K jumped in too. There was also a medium start for marathon and some half and a separate start for 10K and similar for half. It was probably too much choice as it must have been a nightmare for the poor timing company (who eventually got it all sorted). Given ~700 on a 3.25 mile loop it was very busy at times particularly when the popular 10k and half started. But it was manageable just. Organisation was brilliant with very visible first aid and the RD always available and nothing was too much trouble. Aid stations were very good with water, energy drinks and coke as well as fruit, gels and Haribo mini men (Yeah!).

The loop itself was along one bank of the canal, cross a bridge and back along the other side. It was a mixture of tarmac and gravel and for the most part flat. Interestingly a cone and tape was put up at interim bridge (IMHO due to allegations of cheating the previous year). I think everything was above board this year.

Kris with very impressive numbers
We went off on day one reasonably steady, and started lapping in 27-29 minutes. Some of the fasty's went off at suicide pace as normal and lots of lapping took place. This brought up half marathon for me in 1:56 before I settled slower.  The ladies Ultra was very competitive with Gillian and Kris having a battle for a couple of hours before Gillian pulled away. I thought she was well clear before learning that Deirdre Lynn came from somewhere to pip Gillian. I plodded around and managed a 4:20 Marathon and 5:20 50K before coming in for 53K finish in 5:41. My leg held out OK. Out of the 25 Ultra finishers Aidan Hogan impressed with a 3:40 and everyone seemed to have a great time in perfect conditions. In the marathon Donna Mcloughlin impressed with a great win and would repeat the feat on day 2 as did Aidan Hogan.

A long drive back to Dublin for the night had us return on Sunday for a marathon in the reverse  direction. Only about 70 took part today in a half and full. Again we went off in the early start which ended up being the main start for the day and on very stiff legs went round and round. Most everyone had run the day before. There were lots of sore tired legs around including my own. Half marathon came in 2:30 and it was no surprise that Kris lapped me before she posted a 4:24 for her second 3rd place of the weekend. I struggled to a pedestrian 5:10.

Sat Ultra Stats

Sun Marathon Stats