“Time waits for no man” – Barnstaple Marathon 2015

Barnstaple square has an iconic clock tower which is at 3/4 of a mile on the outward leg and therefore about 25 1/2 miles on the way back. The 1920’s photo of the square shows that little has changed, buildings wise, and today the hands of the clock kept ticking with 4 hours and 43 minutes while I ran my marathon. Not my quickest, not my slowest but definitely the best organised and supportive that I’ve run.

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This is only the second running of the Barnstaple marathon and even though my time was hindered by the estuary winds and a sore hip it I’d recommend it to anyone. The pre race announcements suffered from microphone issues until the town crier stepped in. Without doubt he stole the show with a rousing speech that included “may the breeze be in your face, the wind behind you and there be a spring in your stride” followed by “God save the Queen”, it was quite emotional !!

At 10am we set off in the September sunshine with a pleasant breeze blowing across the park. The clock tower and old long bridge were soon in sight and within a mile we were on the Tarka Trail (see below) which is a reclaimed railway line that’s used for a large section of the route. With 14 water stations on the course we were well looked after from a practical point of view but what was apparent from the first one, onwards, was the enthusiasm of the marshals. The race numbers had our Christian names on so “well done Roger” was great to hear from mile 1 through to 26.

Fremington quay at around 3 miles had quite a party atmosphere with a large crowd, music, cow bells (all the water stations had cow bells) and even portaloos !! By the 7 mile mark we had turned back along the estuary and accompanied by the half marathon runners were heading into the wind. My pace was around 9 & 1/4 min miles but the wind didn’t bode well for the second half of the race on the more exposed side of the estuary.

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The half marathon peeled off and suddenly they were far fewer runners in sight as we ran under the new Taw bridge. I grew up in Barnstaple so the second half of the race meant passing a number of familiar land marks which was a pleasant distraction from the growing pain in my left hip. RAF Chivenor was approaching by now at around mile 19 and this meant 3 miles of the air field perimeter. A combination of the wind and the apparently never ending runway were a topic for conversation that I had with Gareth from North Devon triathletes. We were both struggling a bit by then but we soldiered on. It was good to hear later that the Kenyan winner of the race also found this section hard going !!

The marshals from 21 miles onwards were hugely supportive, even running towards you to pass on a wet sponge, that certainly helped my motivation. From 22 miles I needed stretching breaks for my hip but with my parents waiting at the end I dug deep to keep going. By 24 miles I overtook a couple of people and by 25 I knew the route was more sheltered. The 800m to go sign was a treat to behold and all that remained was the long finishing straight across the park’s grass.

I said “Time waits for no man” that was a reference to the stretching breaks and wind against us, but also the familiar sights of Barnstaple, some I haven’t seen for years, they reminded me that you need to live life to the full and don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today, #livelife. Great medal and T shirt too 🙂

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Running club “Trial Trail run” as part of my 10 mile Taper

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With a week to go until my Barnstaple marathon Sundays run was a steady one that combined some pre and post miles around Fareham Crusaders “trial trail 5K”. Six of us met up at our local leisure centre and followed the progressively uphill route out to Wickham. All the lads joining me had different endurance targets hence adding on some extra miles. A combination of the Autumn morning mist and colder temperatures meant we are in my favourite time of year for running.

The outward road 5K was at a “chatty” pace with Mike Harper leading the way. The start of the club run is on the fairly flat old railway line which has recently gone through a lot of work for drainage and accessibility, as a result, it is now a lot firmer under foot but has perhaps lost some character in the process. In days gone by there were wet section, firm sections and downright messy sections all of which meant you got quite a varied run, so today it’s fairly consistent.

The work on the line has drawn a lot of attention with both the high cost and the end result being viewed differently, depending on your point of view. I have to compliment some of the slogans, “Byway Robbery” and “Valley Vandalised” that have been used at the public meetings, however, there were no picket lines for the 25 of us to cross today, we were simply enjoying a run in the country. The car park was our meeting point.

After a briefing about the course and the fact that the club is hoping to use it as a race I ran the 5K at a steady pace with Dave Fuller and Paul Stephens (both wearing their 100K Race to the Stones T Shirts) . The route had a gradual incline on the way out with a slight detour through the woods that was marshalled by club members and then brought us back onto the line. The sights and sounds of the run showed me how much I’ve missed the countryside as I’ve been using flat coastal runs recently for my marathon.

The fallen leaves that are already starting to change colour, the squelch of mud under your feet and that “green” smell of the country are a treat for your senses. Everyone agreed that the course was interesting and the morning had been a great success so it’s thanks to Jon, Lou and the marshals for putting it on . All that then remained was a steady run back home that finished with an average pace of 8 minutes 38 seconds for the 10.4 miles. A great mornings running with mates from our Club.

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Taper 12 miles run & beating those “Voices in your head”

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Training for a marathon is quite a specific task, you rack up the miles steadily and do everything possible to avoid injury. However, …………….. we all have days when we are “tested”. When I say tested I don’t mean drugs I mean your mental strength, your spirit, your very reason for running in the first place. Sometimes you just need reminding what you are capable of.

I ran on my own today seeing as that’s what normally happens in a marathon, my garmin watch hadn’t charged and I wasn’t really feeling the love looking at the showery rain out of the window. The last 3 weekends have been 20,20 and 15 miles so my legs have been getting progressively heavier. I think all of this was in the back of my mind as I set off, but …..

The great thing about being part of a club is the number of people you know and I’d only run 1/2 a mile before Paul Stephens shouted encouragement at me from his van. Lifted by this I decided to run a 10k route I have, twice, and then I’d have a rough idea of times. As I was approaching home and the end of the first 10K I was questioning what I was doing ?

My spare drinks bottle was by the front door and I decided to leave my phone with my empty bottle. This was the smartest move of the morning. I already had little idea of the pace I was running but to then have no idea at all just seemed to free my mind. I stopped thinking about miles and measurements, about how I was feeling, about when I might stop, I just got on with it and the negative voices disappeared.

I watched the crops in a field swaying in the wind and thought how much they looked like the sea, I laughed as the sun came out and a shower got me wet, both at the same time. I could feel the wind against my face and that’s always good because you know it will be behind you on the way back. Dave Fleet cycled by and shouted “hello” and most of all I simply started enjoying running in the fresh air and feeling “alive”.

I thought of the comments from Twitter by two ladies, Lou and Kimberley, of them enjoying starting out on their running adventures and that made me think that running in its purest form is an escape from everyday life, freedom if you like, but it’s also the sense of achievement that you gain. After all you only get out of life what you put in. I settled on about 12 miles and averaged roughly 8 3/4 minute miles pace but the best result of the day was finishing with a smile and knowing I’d pushed on through.

When your legs get tired ………. run with your heart.

AR’s end of Summer series 5K – running with our #community

sb1stokesbay1Before and after, 17 Crusaders in total.

Last night was a case of “we run on the road” rather than my usual irunoffroad and a great night it was too. I read that keeping some speed work up would help your marathon training so after only 7 of our Crusaders ran this Absolute Running (AR) 5K last month I tried to rally some more away from a standard club night down to Stokes Bay. I’m pleased to say we managed 17 which I think is a number much more befitting the time and effort Nick from AR and his marshals put in.

As we assembled in the registration area it was clear to see a good 200 runners were there on the night and there were numerous local club vests in evidence as well as unattached runners. There certainly was a great atmosphere with much chatter between members of each club. The clouds overhead were becoming darker and rain looked a good possibility but there was no dampening of enthusiasm as we left the starting car park.

The route is an outward stretch that then combines two loops, followed by retracing  your steps back to the finish. A colourful line of T shirts and vests soon offset the dark skies. I think we’d all say a 5K is one of those events were your lungs are given a good work out, and this, I kept telling myself, would do me good on my longer runs. The backdrop of the sun going down over the Isle of White is a feature not too many races could beat and before you know it the last 100 meters push was upon me and it’s all or nothing for the line. My time was 23.37 and the two photos below show the great “NiceWork” medal as well as Kerry’s “atmospheric clouds”.

Well done to all my Fareham Crusader friends (in race finishing order) Paul,Lee,Mark,Me,Nikki,Mick,Martin,Karen,Liz,Emma,Ros,Sarah,Kerry,Sue,Chris,Liz and Lyndsey. Two PB’s that I was aware of were Mark and Kerry and an age category winning Liz Farquarson also wrapped up the series category award.

After a team photo on the beach it was either off home or indoors to the Bayside café for a chat, the results (Tom Barnard picked up one) and maybe a drink 🙂 There wasn’t a spare seat indoors and this kind of local involvement was a fitting tribute to the “all club” #community vibe that the race had. Finally it was also good to chat to some new Crusaders I haven’t met before #unstoppable 🙂

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15 miles and an education in “Forageable Food”

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After two consecutive 20 mile weekend runs today’s 15 was a walk in the park, or more specifically along the coast. The venue for today was Langstone Harbour that stretches from Portsmouth around to Hayling Island. I’ve run this route in recent weeks as it has many similar features to my Barnstaple marathon, in 3 weeks !! My running partner for today was Howard Stinton who’s next marathon is in October. Howard’s running mind set is very similar to mine, he’s never happier than when he’s away from the roads.

The 7 1/2 mile out and back run starts on tarmac close to the motorway but soon moves onto the coastal path (first photo above), over the bridge to Hayling and along the old railway line (second photo above). Howard’s training is going well at the moment and it was a case of trying to rein him in, so what I needed was a distraction. This came in the unlikely topic of food 🙂

The coastal paths are very “green” at the moment with numerous bushes, trees and hedges having had the benefits of the recent sunshine and rain. I am no expert but Howard impressed me with his knowledge and the run almost became a case of “spot the forageable food”. If my memory serves me right we saw crab apples, sloes, blackberries, elder berries, damsons, wild plums, cobs and rose hips. Bear Grylls would have been proud of Howard’s basket (if we’d have had the time to stop and pick any !!)

Not content with fruit we also could add nettles, sea cabbage (yes it’s grows in the shingle) bladder wrack and lava (seaweed), these examples would be for the more adventurous. Another noticeable feature of the Hayling Billy line is the amount of ladies that run it, unaccompanied, which is a really positive thing to see, no “damsons” in distress here just motivated women. The miles passed by at a much better temperature for running, than of late and Howard was already talking of adding on extra miles. He did 20, so well done mate 🙂

Talking of “elder” berries I was starting to feel the last three weeks long runs and had to dig in for the last two miles so as to maintain my 9 ish minutes per mile target. A 4 hour marathon needs an average of 9.09, today with Howard’s encouragement I averaged 9.05 so I’m still on track. After all this talk of fruit I’m looking forward to one of my 5 a day, the apples in my cider tonight !! So we started near a motorway but ran mostly trails, “go find them” and get hooked like us 🙂

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