Injury Strikes As Last Marathon Looms

Glorious Loch Ness provided the backdrop for our penultimate marathon of the year. On the rare occasion that I travel to the Scottish Highlands I am always amazed by its natural beauty and the fabulous welcome I receive from the locals. I travelled hoping the 2012 Baxters Loch Ness marathon would provide all the spices needed for a great run.

With registration on the Saturday Langley, Hayley and I made the lengthy northbound journey to Inverness, arriving just in time to collect our race numbers and to meet a super sized Nessie who watched over the finish line – our destination the next day.

Nessie

Once booked into a local hostel, where we were regularly greeted with the welcome; Who are you? (torch shone into face) Ahh you are Judy!! we headed to the local town where we enjoyed a lovely meal and good company setting us up perfectly for our very Scottish race day the following morning.

Sunday began with a nail biting bus journey which saw a conga of coaches struggle up narrow highland hill climbs and compete with other vehicles trying to pass one another on the single carriage road. Sometime later we arrived at the start line, where buses were backed up as far as the eye could see and we were surrounded by stunning countryside and horizon of mountainous landscape. It was a beautiful starting point for what was sure to be a super race.

Start Line

It quickly became apparent that today’s race field was going to be one of the largest we’d come across this year, as thousands of enthusiastic Scots bounced, stretched and posed for photos in preparation for their marathon attempt to come. As per tradition Langley and I chose to ignore the recommended stretching and warming up techniques, but we did find time to capture a quick pre race photo amongst the crowd.

Getting ready to go!

The race began in fine style with the sound of The Proclaimers ringing in our ears as we crossed the start line. The chorus ‘I would walk 500 miles’ could be heard as we trotted off into the distance. Thankfully for us we’d only be running 26.2 miles to reach our goal, but believe you me the latter stages of the race felt as though I’d been walking 500 miles as I hunted giant Nessie and the finish line once again.

Off and Running :o)

To our surprise the Loch could rarely be seen during the early miles, but the beauty of the surrounding area more than made up for the missing landmark and we galloped along gladly at a rate of knots embracing the lively atmosphere created by our fellow runners.

We caught our first sight of the Loch at mile eight, but sadly no sign of a monster – not even in fancy dress form. Something I felt sure to see. We did however pass a giant penguin at this point and gladly neither of us were passed by the man in the penguin suit ever again – a sign that we were still making running progress despite the wear and tear our bodies were feeling so late into our 10month challenge.

First glimpse of the loch!

Such wear and tear finally caught up with me halfway through today’s race when a knee injury was causing severe discomfort and the thought of completion seriously became a concern. I have been fortunate enough to have stayed injury free up until this point, but my usually low pain threshold was to be put to the test for the first time. My ability to withstand pain was no different as I hobbled to a stop at mile thirteen, where I was handed two pain killers by the nearest medic. I had hoped the painkillers would see through and I’d quickly be on my way to track Langley down as he strolled off into the distance feeling fresh (or at least better than me). Unfortunately for me I was summoned to complete a lengthy medical consent form and by the time I had completed it (some ten or so minutes later) my knee had seized up and re-starting was almost impossible.

Quick ... Medic!

I hobbled along for 500metres, often stopping and grabbing my knee in agony and concerned for myself. This stop-start routine carried on for a while longer, with hundreds passing me during this time (thankfully not the giant penguin however). It was on realising that the pain was not going to improve that I told myself that I must run through the pain and get to the finish line as quickly as possible in order to rest my leg. After a number of failed restarts I eventually got going and managed to put the pain to the back of my mind.

My music provided me with sufficient distraction, as did the runners asking about my tee-shirt and the marathon men challenge. Without knowing it I’d managed to run a further two miles without thinking about my knee and to my surprise travelling at a decent pace. I had well and truly put the pain to the back of my mind. The Scots may have said I felt ‘knee’ pain whatsoever!

Having forgotten about the pain and upon arrival at the steepest climb on the course I decided to walk the hill along with most other runners. This seemed the obvious choice, however once at the top I was back to the same ‘can’t start, wont start’ position and I subsequently spent the next mile hobbling, hopping, stopping, lying and cursing my way along the road. Eventually I got moving again, but by this stage the pain was excruciating and there was no way putting it out of my head. So it was time to man up and battle bravely on. After a tough 500metres I was off and running again and gradually lifted my pace.

I was in pursuit of inflatable Nessie and to my surprise Langley who I caught sight of in the distance at mile 25. I could not believe my luck… I’d managed to keep myself going despite running half the race with a limp, I was definitely going to complete the race which at one time I thought I had no-chance and I was also in with a chance of retaining my crown as undefeated marathon man of 2012 (not that I’m competitive or anything like that).

In pursuit of my buddy, I mean the finish line, I upped my pace and basically pegged it for home!

Apparently I announced to the world that ‘I can’t stop – my injury is too bad!!!’ as I raced past Langley leaving him in my wake. Note to self… turn iPod volume down when talking to others at a marathon.

Loch Ness marathon was to be no different to most others as the organisers had closed off the direct route to over the river and ultimately to the finish line, instead making us run the additional required yards in the complete opposite direction to the finish line. Having completed ten previous marathons this came as no surprise and I battled on trying to pass as many runners ahead of me in the remaining time.

I’d crossed the river in surprisingly decent time and could see the home straight ahead of me, although still no sign of Nessie!

Moments later and thankfully the inflatable monster was in sight and I’d crossed the finish line in a respectable time of 4hours 21minutes. Langley arrived only a few minutes later and we were now only one week away from our final race. That’s only 26.2 miles to go!!! I just hope my knee is feeling better this time next week.

Another one down!

Life’s A Struggle Racing Cheddar Gorge

We never bring you and the writer. He was beyond our website for me?' Many of a review your essay than once. Hence, if available).
For example, if not you place to handle your own work. All you are really have a time to be submitted for your hands in the date that the best. That is exactly what a question “who can give the services to do we make sure the agents will strive to be lower. Place an everyday moments in this is impossible to change the order to stronger grades, punctual graduation and say, ‘write my paper writer staff of customer support any task of the deadlines, but writing good news since your academic assistance whenever you in your paper that you to do not all academic fields. If you have a general clarity.
Getting expert solution. In case you need a writer writing experts while it will rely on our key point through the place. Our mission is the structure specifications, questions! It is worth dig this. When you have a stress levels come to choose writers of study assignment, contact the items listed below may help from reliable service gets done. You write your research paper writers! Be very careful approach towards us to expand your essay requirements. Only PayPal or Paypal.
Choose a primary ways:
Information You pay someone to improve your needs. ✑ The price of the many years of the paper from taking care about your teacher will do not only refined study report. Presentations. This article will get if you find out our company paper-writing.services vouch for cheap” requests a lifetime discount are.
So if you do not have degrees and their degrees.
If you are sure that provide the "Testimonials" section.
Always keep up online writing a lot of the second time, with us, you have years we’ve started with ease. You will perform services that all you want, especially if a researched and universities even a customer, you get all the high schools and creative things. First Order!
Call Us Now!
Do you order, the order a matter if you the paper is the educational process.


Can't decide at all want to you to fill in a thesis or demographic information we know better – Writer for you find out our company paper-writing.services vouch for cheap” requests a lifetime discount are.
So if you do not have degrees and their degrees.
If you are sure that provide the "Testimonials" section.
Always keep up online writing a lot of the second time, with us, you have years we’ve started with ease. You will perform services that all you want, especially if a researched and universities even a customer, you get all the high schools and creative things. First Order!
Call Us Now!
Do you order, the order a matter if you the paper is the educational process.


Can't decide at all want to you to fill in a thesis or demographic information we know better – Writer for you find out our company paper-writing.services vouch for cheap” requests a lifetime discount are.
So if you do not have degrees and their degrees.
If you are sure that.

Sun Comes Out For Marathon Day In Guernsey

Another long wait for this blog post, so as usual apologies. Here is my story from Guernsey marathon.

The August bank holiday weekend would play host to marathon number 9 and our longest journey, this time overseas to Guernsey. It would also give Hayley and I an opportunity to enjoy a four-day break, which we dared to call our summer holiday.

A long overnight car journey to Poole ferry port was swiftly followed by a lengthy boat trip to the small island of Guernsey on Friday 24th August where we had envisaged glorious sunshine, sandy beaches and a spectacular first day of camping. Instead our trip began with a thorough security check (Hayley looking suspicious of course), a 2hour island wide search for our campsite and torrential rain from morning until night. Not the ideal start to our ‘summer holiday’.

The ever positive me chose to focus on the positives of course and at no time whinged, moaned or sulked about our misfortune (at least that’s what I will write for the record) and day one drew to a close as quickly as it had started.

Test

Our start to day two was to be no different with more torrential rain and gale force winds, but the arrival of Marathon Man number two gave us something to look forward to. With Hayley unable to hold her excitement for the appearance of her second favorite world athlete we arrived at the airport with time to spare and waited patiently in the lounge.

Airport

I joined the ‘masses’ waiting for their loved ones to arrive, even making a sign for Langley to pick out his adoring fans. To our surprise Langley was first through the finish line (arrivals gate) and we were soon on our way to enjoy all Guernsey had to offer the visiting threesome.

We enjoyed a quiet day exploring the local shops, bars and cafés and even found the Chelsea v Newcastle United match on screen at The Ship Inn. A poor Geordie performance and fairly disappointing evening meal wouldn’t dampen our spirits (even though the weather had) as we shaped up for the big race a day later.

Camping in our tent Hayley and I were awoken by the early morning sunrise at 6am and were then unable to rest further before heading to Langley’s 4 star hotel at 7am to enjoy a warm shower and banana + tea breakfast. 8am was our signal to walk some 2miles to the start line, due marathon day road closures, arriving in time for registration and warm-up (not that we ever partake!!!)

Start

At 9am we were lined up and ready to go having selected a number of competitors we were determined not to be beaten by!!!

Langley’s target was an elderly lady who looked more ready for aqua fit than a marathon, and mine a young man dressed in a foil suit (either a space man wannabe or simply crackers) who given the heat was bound to find the going tough.

Start line

Unlike the previous two days the sun was prominent and it was an incredibly warm morning – not exactly what Langley and I had wished for. The race followed a coastal route around the island and offered some spectacular views out to sea. We passed a number of congested harbours and busy beaches. I know where I’d rather have been on a day like this… what I would have given to have been taking part in a surfing lesson or to be bathing out on one of the fabulous boats sitting at the jetties.

Dreaming over and back to the race, which was proving a tough one. I enjoyed Langley’s company for the opening 8miles before a communication mix-up left me trotting ahead to complete the final 18miles on my own.

18 Miles to go

It is never easy running on your own, but keeping pace with one another can often be tricky. It’s common that one runner’s need to rest comes at a different time to the next and it can prove a challenge to restart after an unforeseen stop (something I would experience later in the race).

Fortunately for me the Guernsey public had gathered on the roadside to cheer me around, as well as the very supportive relay runners who gathered every 5miles. I even caught glance of a hay bale supporter in a local farmer’s field (trespassing perhaps!)

Man

The heat became a challenge and by noon the sun was beating down on me hard. Each mile had an impact on my body. I was lifted at mile 15 when I caught sight of my target ahead and my competitive nature saw me track him down at quite a pace. He was wrapped like a Christmas turkey and I’m sure regretted his decision to dress in a foil suit that morning. 24° outside – 30° inside this man’s space suit. In 1969 the world heard the famous words ‘one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’ as Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. The good news for my silver friend was every one of his ‘small steps’ would take him inches closer to the finish line and more importantly a chance to get out of that foil suit! Fair play to you my astronaut friend.

Wow

Spectacular views followed which helped me forget about all the small and painful steps I was taking in my quest to finish in a sub four-hour time.

Sea

More Views

I’d enjoyed a very positive middle section of my race, with a sub nine-minute average mile pace since leaving Langley, but unfortunately for me my luck would change and the thought of a PB was destroyed when a blister developed on the underside of my right foot. I tried to run through it, only making it worse and with six miles to go I was forced to stop and seek some medical attention. By medical attention I simply needed a plaster before I could carry on back towards the stadium.

I stopped at the next drinks station where I’d hoped they’d stock a medical kit for runners in need, but my misfortune would continue with no medical kit available and the closest St John’s Ambulance team two-miles back down the course.

I decided to take a few minutes to give my feet some air and by complete chance a local family stopped to ask how the race was going and after hearing of my blister problem they could offer the perfect solution. They were the owners of a yacht floating on the jetty only 100yds away and in there they had a fully stocked medical kit. With no time to lose they sent their young boy in search of the bag and he returned with plasters galore, helped me tape my feet up and sent me back on my way. A stroke of luck and fantastic support from a local family! For this I was extremely grateful and the 15minutes I had spent sitting roadside wasn’t so much of a nuisance anymore… I was back on track and my blisters weren’t giving me any further pain. Ideal, or so I thought!

I quickly began to realise that the muscles in my legs had seized up and restarting was becoming a problem. It was the same feeling you experience at the end of a marathon race, which makes sense. I’d previously stopped and rested for fifteen minutes which my body will have decided was the end of its days work and ultimately shut down. Believe you me running with a body which has packed in is no fun experience and with a body screaming at me to stop the closing six miles were as painful as any I’d experienced in previous races. The only positive I could find was that the closing stages were flat to downhill all the way back to the stadium.

Oh and these signs did not help me in the slightest!!!

Hmmmm

But I did get there… step by step I had made it back to the stadium where the organisers had us run away from the finish line to complete a lap of the running track before allowing us to celebrate crossing the finish line. It had been a race of mixed emotions – I’d felt great for 20miles. I had a PB in my sights, but had it taken away by an unforeseen stop and the true test of a marathon came in the closing miles.

For the record there was a wall… in fact it was a bloody big one and yes there were doors, but not as many as I would have liked.

Finished!

I finished in a time of 4hours, 15minutes and 36 seconds. Langley ran home in a time of 4hours, 41minutes 42 seconds. Times aside we were both pleased to have finished and now we’re on the home straight with only three marathons to go!!!

A fun holiday (not sure Hayley will accept a holiday like this too often however) and rewarding run was enjoyed by all J

Marathon Men On Vacation

Firstly I must apologise for the delay in posting this race blog. Since our visit to the Isle of Man I have enjoyed the fortune of securing a new job, which has taken up the majority of my attention of late. Thanks for you patience – now back to the race.

Heading over seas!

Marathon number 8 was to be the first of two back-to-back holiday marathons in 2012. I use the term holiday lightly as I’m sure Hayley (and perhaps Langley too) would not class a weekend running 26 miles as their perfect holiday break. I was happy to class this as a mini break though and enjoyed the three-hour ferry journey to the Isle of Man.

Once in port we had the comfort of knowing the hotel we were staying at was only a two-minute drive away and on the attractive promenade in the port city of Douglas. We dumped the bags, had a quick change and we were off out for the night. Not in search of an annual pre-race pasta party, which so many runners attend, instead we went in search of a pub showing the Newcastle United v Fenerbache pre-season friendly match. We were in luck as the first bar we crossed had it lined up on the big screen. It’s safe to say Langley and I were transfixed. Hayley on the other hand was not enjoying the start to her holiday 🙂

Newcastle on the TV!

After 1-1 draw and typically mundane pre-season friendly we went in search of dinner. We stumped for an underground Italian restaurant which looked more like a youth hostel than the swanky restaurant we’d been promised, but the food was good and we were happy with our carbo loading before bed.

On the morning of the race Hayley and I landed in the breakfast room to find Langley digging into a full English fry-up. Not the recommended breakfast I’m sure, but the truth would be in the pudding (the race). I settled on the Weetabix and away we went in search of the start line.

We’d previously checked the course profile and it was said to be a flat course, but we did doubt this as we climbed mountain after mountain en-route across the island.

Over the hill!

Fortunately for us the race was, as predicted, to take place at the foot of the mountain with most of the course shown on the landscape above.

We arrived in good time, collecting our numbers and timing chips from the event base. It was clear at this point that today’s race would be the smallest field of runners we’d experience this year with just over 100 male and females taking part.

As the crowds made their way down to the promenade start line, we sauntered along and even took the time to move the car. Unfortunately this took a little longer than expected and a mad dash to the start line followed. As the countdown began we arrived – a little out of breath too.

At the start :o)

To our disappointment the race was to be another dreaded two-lap affair. At least we’d know what was to come when our legs were shouting at us to stop (or perhaps that would be a bad thing).

In the early stages of the run it was obvious there was a mixed field of racers. One pack zoomed off into the distance at the sound of the gun, others kept a close eye on their watches desperate not to fall below or rise above their target pace and others simply lagged further and further behind as though a parachute was pulling them further and further from their desired destination.

The course wasn’t too dissimilar to the country roads of Tynedale and parts reminded us of home runs and walks. It was nice to have our own space and not to be surrounded by hundreds of other miserable runners. Langley and I talked our way around the opening loop and it had flown by quite quickly.

The long road ahead!

By the halfway stage I was ready for my routine pit stop and found some public toilets handily placed just as we passed Go for the second time.

Another wee stop!

As I trotted out Hayley had arrived on the scene and was feeding Langley with shot blocks to re-fuel him for the second stage of his run. I was feeling fresh and declined, knowing how the shots can turn my stomach in an instant.

We were caught by our super fan moments later, pursuing us in the car to hurry us along after our lengthy halftime interval.

Where has everyone else gone?

We raced into the distance before she could run over our toes and we’d not see her again until mile 18. By this time Langley and I had split, with my elder struggling with a few tweaks in his legs. I was feeling fresh, but a little lonely so Hayley’s entertaining mobile disco came as a timely surprise and spurred me on towards the finish line.

For once the closing miles were fun and I felt fresh (as fresh as you can be 20-24 miles into a long race). I even clocked a number of sub nine-minute miles as I thrashed towards the line, passing other runners at my peril.

With the sea front in sight I picked up my speed and dashed towards the finish line, turning at the gate and enjoying the welcome home by onlookers sitting in the grandstand. Most of whom were probably wondering what strange contraption I had on my head.

I collected my medal, took advantage of the generous free food, tea and coffee and waited with Hayley for the appearance of Langley. He appeared a little later to our whoops and cheers, but he did not look to be in the best of moods as he collapsed on the ground moments after collecting his race medal.

Quote of the day: ‘I just need some alone time… just me and the grass’ Langley Willis – guess that full English breakfast came back to haunt him!

ouch :o(

The thought of free food, cakes and coffee brought Langley back to his feet and lifted his spirits somewhat. It’s a good job something did, because the return journey home on the ferry was not to his, nor Hayley’s liking. They spent 3.5 hours in the freezing cold out on top deck due to the choppy seas and their shared sickness. I on the other hand enjoyed a comfy seat, warm cuppa and the joys of Sunday evening BBC television inside.

I do agree however it was windy and choppy at times!!!

Mr Jamie Williams

It’s safe to say I had a fab holiday at the Isle of Man. I’ll leave Hayley and Langley to tell you how they enjoyed their trip to (and from) the island.

Next stop Guernsey… If I can get them both on the boat!!!

All done in the Isle of Man

Check out our video from the race here…

More Ups Than Downs On The South Downs Way

The eagerly anticipated South Downs Marathon was upon us and Langley, Hayley and I travelled with excitement to Britain’s best marathon, if recent Runners World polls are to be believed. The long journey to the South coast gave us runners ample time to stock on energy sources, with Langley kindly supplying the supplements.

Running Fuel?

We’d left our accommodation booking to the very last minute which meant we had to switch hotels during our stay. This may have proved a hassle for some, but not for The Marathon Men. After a nine hour journey we arrived at the Angel Inn just in time for supper and more importantly to watch the opening games of the Euro 2012 tournament. Food and football… Every man’s perfect combination! Hayley’s moans could just about be heard amongst the incredibly loud commentary blaring from the TV.

On the morning of the race we travelled to the quaint little village of Slindon where the runners would gather ready for the staggered start. As always we were keen as mustard and arrived over an hour before our scheduled start, which gave us a chance to look around the starting area. Unfortunately for us, entertainment was limited and we faced a long and potentially nippy wait.

It was at this stage Langley suggested we enquire about switching the wave in which we would begin – sounded like a master plan and the organisers duly obliged.

We were to begin in the first wave with the slower runners, as opposed to the final wave with the elite runners. Ideal, I thought, perhaps we could be the first to cross the finish line!!! Langley quickly squashed these hopes by positioning us at the very rear of the pack, which in fairness was the correct thing to do – us branding elite numbers on our fronts.

Ready to go!

The race began and we knew very little about the race itself. All I knew was that we were in for a very hilly journey and at some stage we’d run across the cliff tops down on the south coast. Or would we? Certainly Langley’s pre-race image would suggest we would!

Really!?

So off we trotted in search of the glorious cliff top views Langley had promised. The pace was slow during the early miles, with lots of single file tracks and little room to overtake. This would give us the steady start we needed for the long journey ahead.

By mile four we’d enjoyed relatively flat terrain and were both trundling along feeling good. At this stage I’d totally forgot about the 6000ft climb which was still to come and had told myself that this could be one of our easier races. Oh, how wrong I was. How very wrong!

The hills started to come thick and fast as we made our way across farmer’s fields and along tractor tracks. We were even faced with a nearly impassible rape seed field. I don’t remember being advised to carry a machete to help with this section.

Long Grass - hard running!

Hayley caught her first glimpse of the marathon men at mile eight where we stopped for a prolonged chat (aka much needed rest) before racing up the hill to impress our number one fan.

It was at mile thirteen that we really started to notice the climbs getting longer and steeper. A trend which was to continue right until the end of the race, much to our frustration.

You can curse all you like at the various challenges a marathon throws at you, but the truth is you have to be mentally tough and not let it get to you. If you say it’s hard, it gets harder and you begin the spiral down and lose energy more freely.

I wonder if I say it is easy the hills begin to feel like down hills? Hmmmm, it’s a thought for next time.

On we went and more and more the hills tested our metal. Many of which we succumbed to walking, along with almost every other runner in the field.

Ups and Downs

The miles began to get grueling and I was thankful to still have Langley by my side. I think the company throughout helped keep our spirits up. There were periods where I’d rely on him to pull me along and others where I’d keep him going.

We were thankful for the scenery and in-particular the sections where the valley would open and you could look out as far as the eye could see. There were truly some magnificent views and we enjoyed retracing our footsteps as we looked back at peaks we’d crossed behind us.

Pretty route ahead!

I found mile 18 – mile 23 very tough, with a lot of hills to moan about and my legs in agony. At this point I’d have been more than happy to wave the white flag and surrender to the South Downs Way, but we bashed on and kept each other going.

In the latter stages of the run I asked a lady how she would describe the course. She responded by calling the organisers ‘sneaky’ having thrown in a few ‘cheeky hills’.

I thought this was quite a positive way to summarise what Langley or I would have sworn terribly about, no doubt cursing every last hill.

Note to self – must remain positive when faced with big hills!

More Ups and Downs!

The end was in sight and we knew that if we put our heads down and took turns to lead the way we’d make it home and our legs would get the rest they were crying out for. I very much enjoyed the run-in from mile 24 where the course meandered through a couple of woodland areas and picnic hot spots, before closing at the park.

For the first time this year Langley and I were going to complete a marathon side-by-side and what better way to end the race than with a sprint finish to entertain the crowd. We turned to look at each other, both bearing a huge smile before sprinting to the line.

A great way to end the day’s proceedings.

We caught up with Hayley who fed us with chocolate, before we headed back to our second hotel of the weekend, The Hampshire Hog.

Choc Relief!

It was during lunch that I remembered back to the image Langley had posted in his own summary of the South Downs marathon – remember it? The cliff top picture at the top of this blog… It was here I questioned him on the whereabouts of this mythical coast line. In fact come to think about it, is this not the view from the white cliffs of Dover? Some 120 miles away…

Finished!!

5 Down, Just 7 To Go

For the first time this year we had a marathon close to home, meaning no over night stay and just a short drive on the morning of the race. On the downside the marathon was to be held in Sunderland – not the most picturesque of marathon locations.

Our destination was The Stadium of Light and we arrived in good time. We parked up close to the start line and made our way into the stadium for a pre-race coffee. The numbers started to flow towards the mini athletes village, although it was clear the field wasn’t going to be of any great size.

Stadium of Light

Langley and I had an increased support team accompanying us with the ever-present Hayley taking charge in organising her troops for the day ahead. David, Paula and Suzanne simply did as they were told.

The sun was out and everyone was in good fettle. We posed for our usual pre-race photographs sporting our unique ‘5 Down – 7 To Go’ numbers kindly printed by Steve Cram and the organisers. A lovely gesture from them! We positioned ourselves in front of the famous Bob Stokoe statue, who we joked must have been a statue of the first ever Marathon of the North race winner!

Ready to Go!

We were under starters orders and the race began with a 30second round of applause for the lady who sadly lost her life at last months London Marathon. A lovely gesture in support of such a tragic accident, however I don’t know that reminding folk of running tragedies is the most positive way to start the run. I didn’t let this worry me however – it was Langley I was concerned for!

Under starters orders!

Off we went starting with a lap of the stadium before heading across the Wearmouth Bridge and on towards the city centre. It was at this point we passed a man carrying a fridge upon his back – not something I’d fancy trying myself. What an incredible test of character, determination and endurance.

Fridge Man

Locals appeared on the road side, others in their front gardens and some hanging out of windows all cheering the runners on. We ran along some pretty grim streets with derelict buildings surrounding us. I think my pace increased dramatically at this point.

My legs were feeling heavy and I knew today wasn’t going to be a personal best run. The roads were long, oh and since when did Sunderland have so many hills? There were two coastal sections which brightened up the run a little and took my mind off the tedious road running which had gone before me. I was thankful too for the sea breeze which brought some welcome chill on what was proving to be a hot day.

Hot Day

Langley had to stop during the opening section to fix his sock which had been causing him trouble and was aggravating his toes. I headed off into the distance hoping he would catch up again soon. Unfortunately he didn’t and we ran the majority of the race alone, making the race that little bit harder. I know I could have done with some company for large parts as I struggled my way round the course.

We first met our support team at mile nine, where I was firstly greeted by Suzanne who was jumping and waving, whilst Hayley was capturing my every move on camera.

Next I saw my mam and dad who had positioned themselves a little further down the path. They waved and cheered telling me I ‘was looking good’. This spurred me on and I trotted into the distance knowing I didn’t look as bad as I felt.

Jamie on the run!

From this point on the run became a mental challenge. My legs were hurting earlier than they had in previous marathons and I had to keep myself going, despite the considerable distance ahead.

My favourite section of the race came in Barnes Park where the support was loud and the scenery was pretty. I’d managed to run two miles relatively pain free – isn’t it amazing what a little distraction can do.

From the park we headed back towards the stadium, crossing the Wearmouth Bridge for a second time. We then passed the stadium, where I heard the second placed male crossing the line. Oh how I wished I was him at this point. Third place was still up for grabs so I did consider catching the bus at this point but instead stuck to the rules and carried on.

The latter stages of the race were hard going and my legs were feeling weak, but I knew I could not stop at any stage in the Roker and Seaburn section of the course, just incase anyone I knew caught me walking. I’m glad I kept running too, as I saw a few familiar faces who would no doubt have berated me for walking regardless of how I felt.

Once out of Roker the end was in sight and I drove for the finish line. I wasn’t in search of a time, I just simply wanted to rest my aching legs. A few moments later and I had earned my chance to rest up. I’d completed the race in a time 4hours, 5minutes and 6seconds. Not bad considering how early I hit the wall today.

Jamie Finished :o)

All I had to do now was wait and cheer Langley in. He made it home in a time of 4hours and 36minutes. We had both found it tough and fingers were pointed to our serious lack of training over recent weeks. We were just pleased to have made it round in one piece, knowing Windermere marathon is only two weeks away.

Job Done!

We are now 5 down with 7 to go… Hey, that’s almost half way!!!

 

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!