Sun Shines Bright-On The Marathon Men

They say time flies when you’re having fun and that has certainly been true of our marathon challenge to date. We travelled to Brighton in the knowledge that once we’d successfully crossed the finish line we’d be a third of the way through our mammoth challenge. This was a great motivation for the race to come.

With a lengthy journey ahead Langley, Hayley and I decided to take the train in order to save our legs as best we could and for Langley to get his weekly dose of travel Yahtzee. The journey was full of humour and was lots of fun, despite me losing every possible variation of cards and dreaded Yahtzee. I must have been saving myself for the big run!

On the morning of the race we’d slightly underestimated the enormity of the event, not realising Brighton would come to a stand still and finding room on public transport or flagging down a local cab would be harder than completing the 26.2 mile race itself. Therefore we were faced with a 2.5 mile walk from hotel to start line. Thankfully the weather was fine and the walk gave our legs a chance to warm up.

By the time we’d arrived at the starting area the park was buzzing. Thousands upon thousands of runners and spectators were milling around and the atmosphere was electric. Runners were of all shapes and sizes, some looked nervous and others eager to begin. There was also the usual array of fancy dress runners amongst the crowds who added some colour and extra fun to the day.

Ready for the off at Brighton

I wouldn’t say I was nervous but I did make three toilet visits before we made our way to the starting gates. Perhaps adult nappies are the way forward at future races – this weak bladder nonsense can be a real time killer out on the run.

9am arrived and we were under starters orders with Brighton and Hove Albion manager Gus Poyet on the gun. I’d have preferred Alan Pardew myself but can see why they went for Gus – he was obviously the cheaper option!

Start

So off we went in search of a respectable time and fun race. Things were all going very well as we kept to our target 9 minute pace during the early miles, that was until my bladder struck again. I needed to make another pit stop only 3 miles into the race despite having had three toilet visits only an hour or so earlier. So I left Langley to trot off into the distance and I veered off course for a much needed break.

Stoppage over and I was hot on Langley’s tail again, although spotting him let alone catching him amongst 15,000 runners wasn’t the easiest task I’ve ever set myself. I put my foot down and set chase at speed, running at under 8 minute mile pace and found him a short while later. Thankfully this was the last pit stop I had to make on the day.

The atmosphere on the streets was electric and it seemed as though every corner we turned we were greeted by thousands more locals who’d made it their days work to come out and cheer on the runners. It was great!

By 52 minutes in we’d passed the 6 mile marker and were going good. By contrast the race leaders had passed us to our right and were closing in on mile 12! It was at this point Langley and I resigned ourselves to the fact that our chances of a podium finish were looking slim.

We carried on, not so much in quest of the leaders but simply progressing ever closer to the finish line and chance to rest our achey legs. Langley’s pace dropped by halfway and I galloped off to complete the second half of the race on my own. I say on my own, but all the way I was supported by the thousands of supportive onlookers. Many runners had their names printed across their chest or back. I however was being referred to as Mr Happy, Mr Smiley and Mr Camera Man. I’ve certainly been called worse so I was happy with my new found titles.

This support kept me going, but by mile 22 my energy levels were depleting and the going was getting tougher. I kept my head down and tried to remain cheerful knowing there wasn’t far to go, but by god those final 4 miles seemed to go on forever. It was at this stage we ran under an inflatable arch with the words ‘welcome to the road to hell’ boldly appearing across the front. I think this summed up the close of play fairly well – it certainly felt like hell.

As I struggled on I thought back to a runner I’d passed earlier in the race. He was running for a male suicide charity. I couldn’t help but think his money would be put to good use sooner than expected as I was feeling pretty suicidal in the latter stages.

Male Suicide

This thought actually lifted my spirits and I also told myself ‘however bad I’m feeling now, there are thousands behind feeling a lot worse, and most notably the tiger carrier’. This was a man we’d passed early in the race who was carrying a life size tiger across his back. He ran hunch backed with the tiger an awkward shape and not looking light. A great effort!

Tiger Man

So with the tiger chasing me I picked up my pace and ran for the finish line where I spotted Hayley cheering and screaming. I’d made it home in a time of 3 hours 56 minutes which is my fastest time to date. My times have improved race-on-race – something I’m sure will come to an end soon. But it’s a good sign that I’m improving, or is it that the races are getting easier? Either way I’m a happy runner and long may that continue.

I dusted myself down and made my way to the grandstand where I met Hayley. Together we cheered Langley over the line in a time of 4 hours 27 minutes. Also a great time!

By the time we’d met up with Langley we’d secured our place in the VIP marquee courtesy of Rebecca, Alison and Steve at ExtraMile Events. Here we enjoyed free food, free beer and comfortable seating out in the sunshine. The perfect way to end a fantastic weekend!

Time to reflect

I’ll end this blog entry with a quote from Langley who when asked by Hayley on the phone how he was feeling after crossing the finish line he answered:

‘The only thing that doesn’t hurt is my willy!’.

Marathon running sure does make you say odd things 🙂

The Topless Runner

The summer has finally arrived and with the clocks going forward I’ve been able to make the most of the extended daylight and more importantly the recent spat of sub-tropical heat which has blessed the north east.

During this period I’ve donned the topless runner look – taking every opportunity to get my incredibly defined figure out in the open (yeah right) for the world to see and to top up my tan before the real summer months arrive.

If this weather continues I will have to get myself a Marathon Men branded tattoo printed across my torso, as its been off with the top and out with the guns in recent weeks, lol.

Jamie Looking Great!!

Just flexing after one of my recent training runs

Maipocokerna .

Not So Golden Miles

In my previous blog I spoke of my excellent preparation and good health leading into marathon two in South Devon. It’s safe to say that preparations for Blackpool had not gone so well. We’d both had a considerable drop in the number of training miles we were putting in and I’d had a spate of illness leading into the race.

Earlier in the year we had told ourselves that the Blackpool Marathon gave us both a realistic chance of setting a new PB and even the possibility of posting a 3 hour 30 finish time. On the day however, it was simply a case of us just getting round.

Ready to Race!

To our disappointment the course was to be two laps of the half marathon course, meaning we had to run the exact same route twice, and believe me running it once wasn’t the most inspiring route we will ever tackle!

We gathered at the start line, meeting up with Liz and a few other familiar faces – at this point Langley had attracted the attention of the world’s most boring man who seemed keen to quiz him about our challenge – good work Langley, they normally cling to me!

Just as Langley began to nod off, the starting gun went and we were sent on our way, heading towards the Blackpool Tower and Pleasure Beach.

Off and Running

We started off at quite a pace too, averaging sub 8.30 minute miles for the opening six. In fact we were moving along at such a rate of knots it wasn’t until mile 16 that we crept up into the nine minute mile category.

Throughout my thoughts were solely on my legs and stomach pain, largely because Blackpool had so little to offer that would distract me from the inevitable aches and pains that come from a race of this length. In fairness we had been spoilt at our previous races which had been both incredibly challenging and stunningly beautiful.

Blackpool did have a few high points which Anglesey and South Devon did not – these being the number of early morning drunks falling out of bars, an incredibly impressive young unicyclist, and in total I counted two tramps amongst the supporting galleries who’d kindly come out to cheer us on our way round.

By the 13 mile point my stomach was in bits so I decided to pull in for a pit stop, also known as the row of portaloos conveniently positioned at halfway.

Pitt Stop!

Langley carried on his way down the long stretch towards the tower – a boring run first time round, but even worse running it alone a second time. Pit stop complete, I thought I’d set chase on Langley who had well and truly disappeared into the distance. Rather foolishly I saw this as a chance to test my legs and challenged myself to catch Langley before the tower. Clocking a 7.49minute mile, followed by an 8.07minute mile saw me hot on his heels. Before long I’d hunted down my prey, albeit I was completely knackered.

Flat out on the hunt!

Back together again we enjoyed the same old sights we’d seen only a few hours earlier. It was becoming a mental battle and we tried to keep each other going. Our support team helped when we bumped into them again at mile 18 – some great support helped us kick on and push hard for the difficult ten miles ahead.

Langley took a quick break to sooth his recurring cramp pains and I decided to keep on running, knowing I had enough in the tank to get home in a good time.

Quick Chat!

The last few miles were long and mentally draining, but the words of Endurancelife were ringing in my ears – Never, never, never give up! All I needed was the sign from South Devon to encourage me to sprint for the finish line.

Running for the line

There was no sprinting on show I’m afraid, but I got my head down and drove towards the cheering crowds and inflatable finish line I could make out in the distance.

The finish line didn’t seem to be getting any closer and my chances of breaking four hours were beginning to look slim. I knew I’d be a miserable sod for the rest of the week if I posted anything above the four-hour mark so I decided to kick on no matter how much it hurt.

Before long I was sprinting over the finish line and I knew I’d made it in a time of 3hours 57minutes – exactly an hour faster than my finish time in Devon.

Jamie at the finish

I felt whacked and slowly made my way to find a seat, knowing my legs wouldn’t keep upright for much longer. From my seat I could see the rest of the race unfold and cheered Langley across the line only a short time later. Langley’s time was a very respectable 4hours 10minutes.

Ouch!

There goes the hamstring again!!

We are now a quarter of the way through our challenge and the word of the year so far has been awesome! As we hobbled back to the car I almost let the word awesome slip out of my mouth in describing the day’s events, but that was soon swallowed as we found two parking fines stuck to our car windscreens.

I quickly told the group that ‘I won’t be running the Blackpool Marathon again – it’s stuck in the 50s and it’s time to leave!’

For a moment I almost had a positive word to say about our most boring marathon of the year so far. Okay, it was still a little bit awesome (but don’t tell anyone I said that).

All done for a couple more weeks!

 

Marathon Heaven in Clifftop Devon

In a blink of an eye marathon two was upon us. Langley and I made the nine-hour journey to the South Devon coast excited if somewhat anxious about the next stage of our challenge. Our research showed that the course at South Devon was going to be stunningly beautiful, but also regarded as one of Endurancelife’s toughest runs with its daunting 4000ft ascent and 28.5mile distance. Surely it couldn’t be harder than the Anglesey stage of the series, could it?

In preparation, and with all the facts and figures planted firmly in our minds, we had put the work in, hitting the North’s local trail spots regularly, hoping the extra trail experience would see our legs through when we came down to the south coast. All in all our training had gone very well.

We arrived on site bright and early with the wind picking up and the sun beginning to peek through the clouds. There were cliffs as far as the eye could see, so we knew we were in the right place – Endurancelife would never make anything easy!

South Devon Start line

As always the event team were in great spirits and very welcoming to all runners and supporters. I reminded Langley of those wise words of Gary Jolliffe (always Bear Grylls in my mind) at the close of the Anglesey marathon. He’d told us that ‘the Devon stage is simply awesome. It’s set in an amazing part of the UK and its longer and tougher with down hills as hard as the up hills. It’s awesome – you’ll love it guys!!’ I expected nothing more from Bear, who is always Mr Positive with a slight tendency to overuse the word awesome.

Jamie with Mr Awsome!

So with Bears words ringing in our ears we couldn’t wait to get started, knowing it was sure to be awesome. Bear had filled me with so much positivity even the thought of my energy-sapped legs in the latter stages of the race was bound to be awesome too!

The Marathon Men ready for South Devon Marathon

Two not so awesome runners ready for another awesome race

The race began and it wasn’t long before we faced our first climb of the day. Once over the hill the views were spectacular. We knew we were on the coastal path and it was sure to be good (sorry Bear, I mean awesome!).

Heading for the beach!

A challenging 200metre stretch of pebble beach proved our first obstacle. Though short, the sinking surface quickly made the legs work – providing a good warm-up for the course ahead. Once we’d reached the cliff top path the sun had burned its way through the clouds making the views all the more impressive.

It was the jaw-dropping scenery that guided me to mile five without me properly cottoning on to the fact I’d been running. I’d been so attracted to the views that my legs had gone into robot mode, taking care of themselves throughout the opening period. If only those legs would do this more often and for longer!

Running on the edge!

At mile five we were greeted by Hayley, our lone screaming super fan who took on the challenge of finding us at the most obscure places on the course. One minute she’d appear in a field, the next hidden away on a narrow lane, later she was found lingering outside a local pub (no surprise there) and to prove her value to ‘team Marathon Men’ she stood alone in the driving rain to cheer us both over the finish line in her ever enthusiastic way. Others must have thought she was just a crazy local nutter up until the point of our arrival.

Jamie heading to meeting point 1

Enough about Hayley, back to the race. As the run progressed the hills became tougher and longer, but – looking at it with Bear’s positive hat on – the view at the top was going to be awesome!

Coast looking amazing!

By the time I’d reached the end of the coastal path I felt as though I’d been running for only an hour, as opposed to the two hours my watch was telling me. It really shows how running in beautiful places can take the mind off the aches and pains in your legs.

We started heading inland. By this point I’d lost Langley, leaving him on camera duty for the day. The miles began to get tiring, but no less enjoyable. The second stage of the course challenged us with more ups and downs, not to mention the crossover point where the half marathon merged with the marathon course. I’d bumped into a fellow marathon runner – a guy called Kevin – shortly before The Pigs Nose Inn and we had enjoyed a couple of quiet country miles with little sign of other runners or locals. That was until the half marathon front-runners came at us like a storm of wildebeest. They were moving at such a rate of knots that Kevin and I were more or less forced to step aside to let them through. My competitive side wanted to keep pace, but my head, lungs and legs told me otherwise so we let them pass into the distance.

By mile twenty Kevin and I were travelling at different paces and we had split, making for a lonely final 8.5miles to the finish. There was a fantastic forest trail late into the race, which I entered knowing by the end of the track I was almost home.

Nearly home?

The sight of this Endurancelife sign made me smile as I reached the end of the forest path. Here I dibbed in at my final checkpoint and asked what was to come. Laiprepaleset I was told ‘you’re home and dry now, there’s two miles of flat and a small climb before the finish’. I think I replied with, ‘another bloody hill?’ to which he responded ‘it’s just a mini one – you’ll hardly notice it’.

So off I went knowing I had nothing to worry about. The wind had picked up sending the heavy rain crashing head-on into me. Not the most pleasant two miles of my short running career, but bearable. I then reached that ‘mini climb’ I’d been told about. As always with Endurancelife it wasn’t mini and certainly didn’t feel easy 27miles into this tough race. I battled on, cursing the man – who no doubt continued to tell all passers the same ‘small climb’ story, then chuckling as we all helplessly ran off into the distance.

My spirits were lifted and my determination to drive for the line picked up as I passed the ‘Never, never, never give up’ sign carefully positioned half way up the final climb.

Never Give Up

I got my head down and drove for the finish, powering my way through the driving rain that fired straight back at me.

Jaimie heading for the finish

With Hayley’s cheers in the distance I picked up my speed for a Usain Bolt-like sprint for the finish line – shame she was the only one who saw such a pacey finish. I’d made it and loved every minute of it, finishing in a time of 4hours 57minutes. I was pleased to break five hours and was feeling surprisingly spritely!

Jamie Finished

I awarded myself a lovely cuppa and the most fantastic flapjack for my efforts before I headed back into the pouring rain to cheer Langley home in his time of 5hours 59mins. We later found he had taken a wrong turning 21miles into the race, which clocked his total mileage up towards 30. I couldn’t help but laugh at his misfortune.

Langley makes the finish!!

So we are now two marathon’s down and the story so far has been simply AWESOME!

We made it!

Let’s Do It The ENDURANCELIFE Way

Despite the struggle marathon one in Anglesey inspired Langley and I to change the way we look at training. Rather than clocking up as many weekly miles as we possibly could we’d challenge ourselves to find as many top trail running spots over the next month. It’s hoped this will help us prepare better for marathon two – the Endurancelife CTS South Devon race and would surely make training that little more exciting, inspiring and of course challenging.

Endurancelife’s vision is ‘to inspire you to challenge your limitations, explore the world through endurance sports and experience the way of life that is the Endurancelife Brand’.

So we went to work, desperately trying to find the most inspiring and breathtaking runs on our doorstep. Here’s what we found:

Destination Hadrian’s Wall: In the last month I have run along Hadrian’s Wall on two occasions and locations don’t come much better than up on the wall. Nor do they come any tougher!

Hadrians Wall Picture

Although we’ve only picked an 8mile run, it is up and down all the way, with rocky terrain underfoot and is a lung buster run. With views as far as the eye can see this has to be one of the best runs on offer in the UK. There’s over 1180 feet of climbing to be done over the 8mile route so it’s a real challenge for any trail runner, let alone two novices like Langley and I.

Hadrians Wall Picture

Look out for the video we’ve made of a recent run along Hadrian’s Wall

Destination Kielder Reservoir: Kielder Reservoir has long been a favorite of ours (although Langley often tells me otherwise!). In the last month we’ve ran 16miles and 18miles around the water. Staying on the trail path gives the runner plenty grip and non-stop climbs to work the legs. Like Hadrian’s Wall it is the scenery that makes you stand and take note – a beautiful place to run!

Kielder Picture

Oh and there was the excitement of a fallen tree too – I think Langley is under the tree on this one 🙂

Kielder Picture

Destination Dukeshouse Forest Trail: One day I decided to venture out into the forest just next to my parents home in Hexham. It didn’t take long to find the most fantastic trail, meandering through the trees and down the valley. Although only a short trail it offers so much that you don’t mind running it three or even four times.

Dukeshouse Forrest Picture

Oh, it can get a little muddy though!

Muddy Feet Picture

Destination Northumberland Coast: My most favourite place in the North is the beach at Druridge Bay – so what better place to run on my day off! The beach is amazing, yet almost always desolate. As I arrived my temperature gauge in my car read -1° and the wind was howling, but I wasn’t going to let the North East weather get in my way. I crossed the sand dunes and made my way onto the beach. As expected I was the only (perhaps rightly considering the conditions) person for miles. I had the whole beach to myself – this was going to be brilliant.

Beech Fun

4.5miles with the wind in my back felt amazing as I trundled along the sand quicker than I thought my legs could go. The run back into a driving wind was testing, but equally thrilling!

It was a truly great day out on the Northumberland Coastline. It was very, very, very cold though!!

Jamie Lookin Good

We’ve found some great places to run; we are feeling a bit fitter and most importantly we loved every minute of it!

Anglesey Marathon Video

Hi all,

Good News!  We’ve now had a chance to compile the video from our first Marathon, the Endurancelife CTS Anglesey Marathon which we both did on 21st January 2012.  As you will see from Jamie’s earlier post it was an incredibly difficult day but incredibly enjoyable.  Take a look and see for yourselves, you’ll also get to see Jamie rant for a while towards the end. Enjoy!

MUD, SWEAT AND TEARS (ALMOST)

It seems an awful long time ago now that we set off in complete darkness in search of Marathon 1 and the Endurancelife base camp on Holyhead Island, at which point I remember saying ‘well it doesn’t look too hilly to me’. How wrong I was, how very wrong!!

We parked up (after getting a little lost at first) and followed directions to the registration tents. By this time the sun was just starting to rise and in the distance we could make out what appeared to be the rock face of the mountain we’d been dreading. At this point I think Langley pointed out that we might have found our hill!

Heading for Registration

We arrived in plenty time and had a good look round and spoke to a few people. If I’m honest I felt like we were the novices of the pack, but everyone has to start somewhere. One day maybe we can look like hardened trail runners and fit in with all the others. As the scheduled start time approached I was filled with excitement and a little anxiety about the road (can I call it a road?) ahead. My anxiety wasn’t really helped by the wise words of the event starter who enthusiastically told us:

‘The conditions at the top are going to be mountainous. It’s going to be 5 or 6 degrees colder up there and when you turn at the peak the wind’s going to hit you straight in the face – it’s going to knock your head off. It’s gonna be awesome guys!!’

It was like a scene from Bear Grylls and didn’t sound too ‘awesome’ to me or Langley, but we liked his enthusiasm! Moments later the race was under way and we headed away from the overshadowing mountain and towards the sea before we started our slog up the mountain face.

Under Starters Orders!

The Hill to Come!

As the race went on I felt more like an adventurer than I did a runner – climbing over rocks and leaping down drops. Like the man said this was bordering on ‘awesome’. That was until mile 20 where I checked in at the final checkpoint and began the 7mile stumble to the finish line. Never in my life have I endured such a mental battle – one moment I felt like crying as the miles kept getting longer and more painful, the next I’d be singing out loud like a looney, sorry about that folks! It was like a scene from ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’.

Endurancelife’s motto is ‘never, never, never give up’. So I thought ‘when in Rome, do what the Romans do’ or in this case ‘do what the nutters from Endurancelife do’.

This attitude took me to mile 25, the point I had told myself I’d be home and dry. I did however tell myself this not knowing they’d stick a huge 650ft mountain in my way which took me over 20 minutes to climb, and I mean literally climb – rope, harness and hiking boots really should have been provided at this point. microsoft cloud . how to buy expired domain Now talking to myself I slowly but surely made it to the top where I was hit by an almighty wind which in the words of, lets call him Bear, ‘nearly took my head off’.

A View from The Top!

So here I was standing at the highest point on the island and even from this point I could not see the finish line or any of the event marquees. I descended the mountain with the wind crashing into my face knowing that I was inside my last mile. I kicked on, blissfully aware that I was now well and truly home and dry!

The End!

I’d made it and was pleased with my time of 5hours 10minutes, but even more chuffed to be presented with a hot cuppa and a seat. Quite simply the hardest thing I’ve ever had to endure, but looking back it was all worth it. Bear was right – it was ‘awesome’

Chris Hay

To say I felt like Chris Hay at the end of the race was probably a bit unfair… I’m sure he felt much worse!!! Chris is a friend who ran Kielder Marathon with me back in October and I still berate him for his highly impressive (in the wrong sense of the word) finish time of 6hrs 30mins.

The day would not be complete without cheering my buddy Langley home who finished the race feeling very much the same as I did – sick and in all sorts of pain or in simpler terms ‘feeling like Chris Hay’.

So we are one marathon down with only eleven more to go, sounds good doesn’t it.

Still Alive ... but only just!

Waiting For My Chance To Come

Having rarely suffered any serious short or long term lay-offs from sport, the start 2012 came as a bit of surprise to me. A reoccurring tight hamstring and a self inflicted swollen knee has kept me off the road for 10 days, agonisingly close to marathon one at Anglesey. Frustration is mounting each training day I lose, however I am confident that I will recover in time for the big challenge opener in two weeks time – I just hope the lengthy lay-off won’t haunt me on the day.

On a positive, my last run was a 20mile New Years Eve dash around Kielder. I felt comfortable despite the 2266 foot of climb and a struggling run partner, Langley, who found it tough going on the day, but hats off to him for his fantastic week of running. plan a route . He had previously completed 45miles over the previous 5 days and after this run he’d clocked up a highly respectable 65.72miles for the week. Did he know it was Christmas?

For the record, he too lies on his sick bed nursing a knee injury – perhaps a result of such a vigorous week of running (and a little hint of old age creeping in too!!).

So I sit around waiting for the day my next run will come – I honestly never thought I would say it, but I am missing that ‘energy sapped feeling’ that comes from running your body into the ground for miles on end. Does this mean I can now call myself a proper runner? I now even have a year’s subscription to Runners World!!! Thanks to Langley’s son Zach for that one 🙂