Running the Trails in Wales

When you’re obligated to carry a list of items including a whistle, foil blanket, windproof jacket and first aid kit on a half marathon you know you could be in for a tough run…

One of my favourite Chasers, Cat, absolutely loves a trail run or 5.  Over the last year she has single handedly driven our running clubs participation in trail running from casual Sunday jaunts along the North Downs Way (if you can count 18 miles of tough running in the rain casual…) to organised events across the country.  One of these events is the Endurance Life Coastal Trail Series (CTS) which, in their own words, promise the most amazing trail runs in the UK, bar none.

No lie – View of the beach at the top of (one of many) hills


I’ve done a few trail runs but I was generally of the mindset that trail running really wasn’t for me.   You have to run slower, concentrate on what you’re doing, have some kind of technical running ability and the risk of spraining an ankle for a clumsy fool (like me) is pretty high.

Last year, groups of Chasers went on weekends away to pretty much all of the 10 locations on offer and I was more than a little jealous of all the fun they seemed to be having….

So, with Cat and Frankie’s bullying support and encouragement I found myself signing up for CTS Gower this year.  I was sold into a weekend in Wales with all my favourite things – friends, running, stunning views, fresh air, the beach, wine and an after party.  Sounded perfect.

A 6 hour road trip on Friday afternoon left us all pretty tired but, as Sainsburys failed to deliver the food shop (apparently the driver couldn’t be arsed to read a map leaving 16 hungry runners with no dinner or breakfast stuff), we had to head out again to the pub for dinner.


The CTS offers 4 distances.  10k, Half, Marathon & Ultra but they don’t conform to road distances so all come up on the long side.  I went for the half but a fair few did the Marathon and Cat & Adam (both completely nuts when it comes to running) went for the Ultra (34 miles if you didn’t get lost…)

It was cold and sunny when we got to race HQ, very lucky considering the incessant rain that had hit us all week, and even the night before, and we collected our race numbers before the pre-race briefing.

Each event is graded from 1-5 in terms of difficulty with 5 being ‘extreme’.  Gower is graded 3 (strenuous) with 2,337ft of accent over the 14.4 mile half route so I was expecting some pretty steep hills, technical descents and tricky paths to navigate…

As soon as we started it was clear the course would be muddy and I was expecting the worst.  The route took us along a mix of cliff edges, up and down hills and along sandy beaches, with the recent rain creating some waterlogged areas in places.  A lot of areas were exposed to the wind but with the beautiful weather it actually got quite warm at times.



Starting at the Rhossili Village Hall we ran along the rocky coastline overlooking the sea and started to climb some pretty steep hills, it wasn’t long before everyone slowed to a walk as all you could see was up, up, upness.  Eventually we came to a steep decent of grass, rocks and water from the heavy rain.  I carefully picked my way through the terrain but it was a bit like running through a stream, a slip & slide affair! I was glad to reach the bottom where there was the 1st checkpoint to dib our timing chip and grab some go-faster gummy bears.

We were then taken onto some soft sand that led down to the beach, the sand was much firmer here and it was nice to run a mile or so on the flat by the sea.  The beach was pretty empty, apart from the runners and some surfers, and with the sun shining brightly I think this was my favourite bit and definitely my quickest mile!


Of course that had to come to an end and we proceeded to climb up and up and up more hills, there may have also been downs but I’m struggling to remember them…

There was mud, wet grass and rocks to navigate and each mile seemed to be getting slower.  We ran past sheep, horses, cows, a sheep’s skull(?!) but not so many other humans, luckily the course was well marked with red chevrons so I wasn’t worried about getting lost.  Unfortunately some wrong-uns took down some arrows on the marathon & ultra course which resulted in extra miles for some but I don’t think it’s a common problem.

I was surprised to see the ‘1 mile to go!’ sign at about 12.2 miles as I thought the course was going to be longer but I was happy to see it!  Through some fields, over some stiles, down a hill and then there was a flat road!  A fair few people were around at this point so I knew we were close to the finish.  I turned back into the field we started in and heard people shouting my name.  Finish line, whhhaaahoooo!


There were some awesome performances from the team including Hamish winning the marathon and Pete coming 2nd in the half, there were also a lot of top 10 finishes across all distances.  Adam came 11th in the ultra despite adding on 2-3 miles after a wrong turn and Cat finished as 7th female.  I’ve always had a lot of respect for ultra runners but trail ultra runners?  An absolute inspiration!

It’s fair to say the Clapham Chasers dominated in Gower.

As for me?  Well I just about finished in one piece with a smile which is as much as I could of hoped for!

Post race dinner in the local…it went downhill from here


There are more differences between trail and road running than I gave it credit for – not only is it really, really tough but it uses different muscle groups and skills as well as different etiquette. For me, road running is about speed and chasing PBs, trail running is more about running in the moment and enjoying where you are.  It’s perfectly acceptable to walk and take in the scenery and with views like this how could you not?


I’m massively grateful to Cat for giving me the confidence and support to give trail running a proper shot as well as teaching me that, it’s not just OK, it’s expected to walk the tough hills!  She’s also promised lung busting trail running will give me gains on the road too and I have no doubt she’s right.

CTS Gower, you may not be for the faint hearted but you more than delivered on all your promises.  Next one?  Game on!




Amsterdam Marathon. The one that broke me

“Cause sometimes you just feel tired.  You feel weak.   And when you feel weak you feel like you wanna just give up.  But you gotta search within you.  You gotta find that inner strength and just pull that s**t out of you, and get that motivation to NOT give up, and NOT be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just  fall flat on your face and collapse”


The Marathon is a relentless, unforgiving, gruelling event.  The second you show just a moment of weakness it will turn on you, digging its painful claws deep into your soul draining you of everything you have, punishing you, willing you to fail, laughing at you.

It hurts. Then everything gets a bit fuzzy.


The Amsterdam Marathon broke me.  It broke me early and it broke me hard.  I genuinely started to wonder how I was going to make it to the finish line in one piece and I’ve honestly never felt like that before.

When I arrived in Amsterdam the concept of running 26.2 miles still didn’t feel very real.  Training had been anything but perfect, but that’s nothing new, getting to the start line of a marathon injury free having nailed every training run would put you in a very small minority.

I had started well, ticking off the miles and sticking to my plan, but my lazy bum triggered an injury that I struggled to come back from.  On the plus side, the injury has gone and didn’t flare up on the day, but the consequence of 4 solid weeks of bum exercises meant that the muscles I’m using when I run have changed, and 4 weeks is not long enough to get them used to the kinds of distances I was running.

My physio was brilliant, I did everything she told me and she spent hours painfully ramming her elbows into my leg so I could run without pain, but I was running very slowly.  I just couldn’t do any of my speed sessions, my legs seemed to be tiring much quicker than usual and on my last 20 mile run I stopped several times (in the pouring rain…)

Alex and I feeling hopeful at the start (he totally nailed it and got a new PB)


My Mum & Dad had come over to support me so we all went to the Expo on Saturday morning to register followed by some lunch.  I then went back to the hotel for an obligatory day-before-the-marathon-afternoon-nap before going out for a huge bowl of pasta and then back to bed for an early night.

The next morning I went through my usual ritual of force feeding myself porridge and a banana (not easy at 6.30am) and drank tea, tea and more tea (never again will I let caffeine withdrawal get me!) and we went to the station to meet my friend Alex.

The start was at the 1928 Olympic Stadium on the other side of town, which made for a great atmosphere, and Mum & Dad went off to find a seat in the stands.  Alex and I were in the same start pen which I was grateful for as I think I would have mentally crumbled on my own.

We chatted through our pre-race nerves, discussing toilet strategy (standard) and wondering if the dudes dressed head to toe in a weird silver outfit (we thought they were penises, Mum thought they were silver bullets…) would beat us (they beat me, Alex took them down) and then the elites were away and it was time to run!


The start was great, I wasn’t sure how I felt about having to run through the finish line to get to the start line, but it was fun to run round the 86 year old track for about 200m before getting onto the road.

The route was pretty, it took us through and around the City, including the heart of the Rijksmuseum (the famous passage which connects Amsterdam city centre with the south of Amsterdam), and along the Amstel River.  I think this was my favourite part as it felt very calming running past stately mansions and windmills, quintessentially Dutch!  As we neared the finish we ran through a very green Vondelpark taking in the trees and ponds, before heading back to the stadium for the big track finish!

Looking pretty cheery at about 4 miles


At 7.5 miles I heard someone come up behind me shouting ‘Go Chasers!!’ before realising it was fellow running buddy Ryan.  We had a quick chat, and, even at that point, I admitted I was starting to struggle.

I wasn’t feeling like myself, running felt like such an effort, it was laboured and difficult and tiring.  I think it was around mile 9 when I started to fall apart – I don’t know why, I just wanted to stop running.  So I did…and walked.  When the wheels are falling off at mile 9 you know you’re in for a very tough run.

Unfortunately it all went downhill from there, I tried to enjoy the scenery and take in the atmosphere but I was totally overcome by the need to take regular walking breaks which I normally wouldn’t tolerate.  I felt like such a failure, I was in the Amsterdam Marathon, my parents had come to support me and I couldn’t even run!

Giving up was never an option for me.  The task ahead was daunting, there were still a lot of miles left to cover, I knew people were tracking me online and I knew I was going to finish in a time that would crush me.  But giving up was not an option.

Of course that would have been the easiest thing to do, pulling out would have been the easiest thing in the world.  But it would also have been weak.  To give up on something because it’s tough, because you’re scared of failure, is weak.  I wasn’t ill, I wasn’t injured and I wasn’t weak, I was going to get to the finish line somehow.

My hardest earned medal. Ever.


I started a run/walk strategy based on distance and I think sticking to this was the only thing that got me through the last 6 miles.  My watch was ticking away with the time going up and up, my mile splits getting slower and slower and every half a mile feeling like the most difficult thing ever.  I had no idea how long it would take me to finish but I did know it would be my slowest marathon by a long way.

The support was the best spectator support I’ve experienced outside the UK and I fed off it.  Twice someone from the crowd took my hand when I was walking and jogged with me for a few metres, I love those 2 people.  People lined the streets in the last several miles and a lot of people cheered me by name, there was even a ‘free energy’ station where a group of people were having a little street party with a tannoy lifting everyone’s spirits.

Other runners were also very supportive, this really helped as everyone seemed to be struggling so we cheered each other on.  An old boy from Sleaford Striders was a big inspiration for me, he was running with a limp and a bit of a hunch but he was still running!

Eventually I made it through the park and could see the stadium ahead of me.  I was determined to run the last bit and enjoy the track finish – this is were the Olympics were held 86 years ago!  The seats were filled with people cheering us round and I could see the finish!  I tried to spot Mum & Dad in the crowd but there were just too many people to pick them out.

I crossed the finish line, got my medal and just wanted to collapse, I was exhausted!


Marathons demand nothing but 101%.  26.2 miles is quite a long way and it’s not easy whatever time you finish in.  Somewhere along the way I seem to have become desensitised to the distance and the challenges it brings.  26.2 miles is actually a bloody long way!

I’m aware I can be quite hard on myself, people tell me that all the time, I expect a lot and it’s disappointing when I don’t meet my own expectations.  Yes, I had a bad race, but one bad race does not make you a bad runner, you can’t run strong and get a PB every time.  Anything can happen in running and these things can and do happen, it’s how you deal with it that can make you stronger.

So I finished the Amsterdam Marathon in 4 hours 50 minutes.  All that really matters is that I finished and had a great weekend in a great city.   As my boss said when I went back to work and quietly admitted my time ‘Who cares? You did it and you were in Amsterdam, well done!’

It wasn’t lucky number 7.  Could it be lucky number 8?


The Poncey Air Kiss that could undo it all

There’s just 4 sleeps to go until I run my 7th marathon.  I’ve got a sore throat and I’m pretty sure my leg’s about to fall off.


No, really, I jogged, jogged round the block on Monday and there’s a new weird pokey unexplainable kind of pain in my dodgy leg….

Is it real?  It feels real…it even made me limp a little yesterday.  I’ve been doing all my lazy arse exercises, my foam roller is my new best friend and I’ve even been stretching after I run (I know, I don’t recognise me either).  So what the hell is it and where has it come from all of a sudden??

I know what you’re thinking.  The taper has got me.  But I think your wrong, injury has set me back so much it doesn’t even feel like a taper so how can I be suffering taper madness?  Exactly.

It’s also that time of year when the weather is changing and all the sickly types are starting to get, well, sick.  Why does this mean that everyone INSISTS ON TOUCHING ME.

Do you have to give me a kiss on the cheek?  Do you?  We’ve had 38 meetings before and you’ve not felt the need to kiss me until this particular occasion when you’ve just had a coughing fit and have snot dripping down your nose.  Thanks.  Appreciated.

Don’t get me started shaking hands. What is that? Why do we need to shake hands?  Will it really compromise our business relationship if our hands don’t touch?  Can’t we just smile?  Keep your gross germy hands safely in your pocket and…


If that wasn’t bad enough I have the added challenge of negotiating the rat race on a daily basis just so I can get to the place where all people insist on touching me.

Don’t get me wrong, being a Londoner is bloody brilliant, but you know what’s not bloody brilliant?  Getting the tube to work.  Packed full of germ infested, snotty, coughy, wheezy, sneezy commuters, tourists, children and even animals that are waiting in eager anticipation to invade my personal space just to spread their germs.  I hate you all.  WHHHAAAAAA


On top of all that it looks like there’s a storm coming.  Of course there is. Of course there is.



If you have the pleasure of seeing me in the next few days I strongly suggest you approach with caution, keep a comfortable distance and bring copious amounts of Berocca, hand sanitiser, First Defence, chewable vitamin C and broccoli.  Thank you please.


My Lazy Bum

I’ve learnt a lot about running in the last couple of weeks, which surprised me because I thought after all these years I already knew quite a lot. But the most important thing I’ve learnt is that I have a lazy arse. Literally.

Whilst my legs have been doing all the hard work for miles and miles and miles (particularly the poor right one), my bum has simply been coming along for the ride, shirking its responsibilities and enjoying a permanent rest.


A few weeks ago I started to get tight muscles around my knee after running, and it got to the point where I couldn’t really run 2 days in a row without feeling like I was doing some damage, not ideal.  The pain started to get worse and I realised that I couldn’t really walk, let alone run, without a limp.

A trip to the physio and a running coach revealed that my glutes aren’t firing when I run, apparently a common problem.  A video analysis (which I would rather have not seen!) shows that I overstride, lean forwards, don’t lift my heels enough, cross my feet, twist too much and don’t use my arms efficiently.   Doesn’t sound like I’m the best runner I can be…



My physiotherapist, Amy, is a running specialist, I don’t really trust phyios who aren’t runners themselves because they just tell you not to run and we all know you can’t say that to a runner!  She completely understands my frustration and how long I’ve got left until Amsterdam and is supportive of that.  I’ve even managed to get her permission to do the Richmond half marathon tomorrow, at a gentle pace, if I rest today (although Amy is also running the Richmond half so I know I’ll be in trouble if she sees me running too fast!)

She’s spent some time loosening up the muscles in my leg and knee and I have a series of exercise to do on a daily basis.  Glute activations twice a day, clam shells and a lot of leg rolling.  It’s boring and painful, but I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get me to the start line in Amsterdam in just 4 weeks.

When I’ve recovered from the marathon I’m going to start Running School to address my sub-optimal form.  Hopefully I’ll learn how to improve my efficiency, get faster and protect me from injury.

But for now it’s time my glutes got to work and gave my legs a helping hand because the clock is ticking!


Prosecco, Cupcakes & Chrissie Wellington

“I approached the race in good spirits…that said, I shat myself at the start.  Literally.  This is going to be a long day, I thought to myself.  The race hasn’t even started and I’m shitting myself already…It’s all very well crapping into your swimskin when you’re in the water, but doing it on a bike is horrible.  And trying to run a marathon with poo dribbling down your leg is not much more fun.” 

Chrissie Wellington: A Life Without Limits

After I had such a good time last year, I was excited when Runners Need announced they would be running their exclusive Women’s Running Events again this summer.  It’s an evening dedicated to offering expert advice specifically for female runners from training to physio to  nutrition.  They even give you a goody bag & a glass (or, ahem, 3) of bubbly.  Perfect!

Cupcakes and prosecco on rest days…


Having signed up to the Covent Garden event with some running club buddies I was buzzing when I received an email saying Chrissie Wellington would be making an appearance!

Chrissie Wellington is a British 4 time Ironman World Champion and she is my sporting hero.  She competed in 13 Ironman distance triathlons.  She won them all.


However, none of this came easy, she suffered from an eating disorder in her early days, was bullied by her teammates who were jealous of her performance, had to sleep in a brothel the night before a big international competition, and regularly suffered falls off the bike which left her with fractures, bruising, and even 3rd degree burns in the form of road rash (which you can partly see in the picture above, ouch).  

Her journey to the top was an eventful one – it was sheer commitment and determination that allowed her to overcome the odds more than once.

Inspirational speaker


I was looking forward to hearing her speak again, what better person to give us advice than someone who has conquered what is arguably the toughest sport on the planet?

Chrissies’ top tips and advice:

  • Find your passion
  • Set a goal that scares you
  • Remember your motives and why you want it – this is what keeps you going
  • You need a plan – there are 4 key sessions you should incorporate in the plan
  1. Steady sessions
  2. Strength work – eg Hills
  3. Race pace sessions
  4. Intervals – and they should ‘hurt like hell’
  • Rest & recovery is vital
  • You need to train the mind and brain as well as the body so you can teach it to shut up in races
  • Learn to hurt in training
  • Break the race into smaller segments – a marathon is never 26.2 miles, it’s 4 x 10km with a little bit on the end
  • Remember racing is supposed to be uncomfortable – if it’s not you aren’t going hard enough
  • The measure of success isn’t always the time on the clock – it’s the feeling of giving it everything you’ve got
  • Finally, and one I live by myself, Never Give Up

Chrissie signing my book at an event last year and telling me not to be so hard on myself!



Thanks Runners Need – a fab event and an awesome swag bag once again! Not quite sure about the ‘drinking oats’ though?!  Already looking forward to next year.


Cheers to the Marshals!

You’ve been running for hours,…it’s hot…you’re tired..there’s no shade and the sun is beating down on you…you’re desperate for a gentle breeze…you’re thirsty, so thirsty your mouth feels like sandpaper…


…then, like an oasis in the desert you see a water station up ahead. WATER!!!! The marshal hands you a cup of the best water you’ve ever tasted in your life, gives you a big smile and tells you how well you’re doing. What do you do?  THANK THE MARSHAL!



On Saturday I marshaled an event called HellRider.  It’s a non-stop 8 hour off road duathalon where participants complete as many laps as they can alternating between a 5k run and 7k cycle. – you can participate alone or as part of a team.

As a marshal, I had to be in Henley on Thames for 8.30am and wouldn’t finish until 7pm.  I was paid a nominal fee, and I’m aware a lot of marshals aren’t, but, having left my house at 7 and got back at 9pm it was a very long and tiring day!

I arrived on site to heavy rain and lightning – it didn’t look like the best day to be outside with no shelter but I remembered the huge brolly I kept in the boot – knew I put it there for a reason!

Pre-race briefing and piles of goody bags


When the event was set off (still in very heavy rain) 5 people were taken to marshal different points on the course whilst a couple of us stayed at headquarters.  I was stationed on the run/bike finish line to make sure people were OK, went over the correct chip mat and went through transition smoothly.  Other marshals were out on the course on their own with people zooming past them so I was quite lucky.

As a marshal the events of the day included, but were not limited, to the following:

  • I got lost on the way there…yes, with a satnav
  • I helped pack over 200 goody bags
  • I wore a fetching neon yellow marshal jacket
  • I got wet
  • I got sunburnt
  • I got hungry
  • I ate too many Cliff bars and Drumstick Squashies to curb the hunger (plus came home with another 13 packets left over from the goody bags…)
  • I shouted over and over again at people that were coming towards me on the wrong side of the chip mat after ignoring the neon signs
  • I used portaloos all day
  • I clapped, cheered and shouted ‘good running’, ‘well done’, ‘awesome work’ etc to everyone coming over the run/bike finish line
  • I was thanked at least 337 times
  • I got jealous that I was’t participating
  • I danced to the same songs that were played round and round on a loop…
  • I took a mans wet/sweaty/muddy running shoes back to transition and swapped them for the equally wet/sweaty/muddy cycling shoes after he went over the chip mat and forgot to change them
  • I ran the buff (used as a baton in the teams) over to a guy’s team who could barely walk at the end of a run leg (shusshhhh)
  • I sort some first aid for a man with a chunk of skin missing off his arm after coming off the bike (he soldiered on)
  • I was told I was one of the real heroes of the day (I really wasn’t)
  • I reassured a woman in a pink top with a bad back and walked with her to the finish line
  • My feet hurt
  • I was offered jelly beans by a man that had spent 8 hours running & cycling…I thought he needed them more than me
  • I witnessed some true strength, grit and determination
  • I was a designated ‘Gate Angel’ who had to stop people starting another lap when the 8 hours on the clock reached zero
  • I didn’t get to use my Gate Angel powers
  • I helped clear up all the crap at the end
  • I have a car boot full of bottled water
  • I was given a pretty awesome purple Buff
  • I got a goody bag (yayyyyy!)
  • I got stuck in traffic on the way home because apparently no one has anything better to do on a Saturday night than drive around London
  • I went to sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow

I know what it’s like to be out there racing, running as hard as you can, and when I was new to races I didn’t always thank the marshals because I didn’t quite appreciate the role they play.  But marshals do a bloody brilliant job making sure the event runs smoothly, water is readily available, and people get the help they need.

So, next time you’re in a race, remember there wouldn’t be a race at all without the marshals and give them a smile or a nod, they really do appreciate it!



HellRider is organised by Trail Plus, the same company that organise HellRunner, and it looks like a lot of fun!




Internet results are forever…but only if they’re published

The Edinburgh Marathon Festival has been slammed this week after refusing to publish a complete list of results for any of the events held over the May Bank Holiday weekend.

Why?  They claim:

“All your personal data and information, including your running times, are treated with great respect. As such your result information is exclusively available to you…They are your results and times.” 

Not even Power of 10 or Run Britain, websites which allow you to compare your performances against others, had access to results meaning athletes couldn’t record their performances.  Bloody annoying if you ran well.


And what about those who wanted to use Edinburgh as a qualifying race for another event?  How can you prove you’re a Boston Qualifier or London GFA if results aren’t readily available?  It seems almost ludicrous in this day and age.

This isn’t the first time this has happened – Bournemouth Marathon Festival did the same thing when they launched last October…and they’re organised by the same people.

Following an angry backlash, EMF have since updated their website giving athletes the option to ‘choose’ to publish their own results…but they still haven’t backed down on publishing the full results.

Whilst there are strong views surrounding this decision, as well as failing to meet IAAF guidelines (of which the IAAF Bronze Road Race label is proudly displayed on the EMF website), it does raise an interesting debate.  Should your race time, splits and finish position be made available online for the world to see?  Possibly forever…?

Of course, before the days of the world wide web (say what???) etching results into history forever wasn’t an option – when my Dad ran the Southampton Marathon many (many) years ago the results were published in the local paper, not national, and a results list was sent out to competitors through the post.  I believe this was common practice, but these results are unlikely to still be available.

However, it’s now 2014 and, not only is there a certain expectation as part of the race package, but it’s an IAAF requirement that full results are made public on the event website:

3.12.2 Official Results for all participants should be made available on the race’s website within the shortest possible time. 

Source: IAAF Road Race Label Regulations 2014

There’s nothing a runner loves more than running stats – our little eyes light up gleefully when we’re presented with the latest race results showing our splits and finish position – how did our friends do and other people in our category?  Did the heat slow everyone down or was it just me that suffered?


Geeky?  Yep, but it’s difficult to fully assess your performance without knowing how others of similar ability ran on the day.  So when there are no results available to geek over…


So, what possible, logical reason could EMF have for making a decision they knew would anger the very same people they want to come back next year??  Money

Perhaps it’s not protecting the data of competitors the organisers are concerned about, but protecting the data of their event – an event that has arguably seen decreasing numbers year on year (I tried to find evidence to support this but, interestingly, could not find any comprehensive historical results either…)

Besides entry fees, races, especially big races, make a huge amount of money from sponsorships.  But sponsors want to reach guaranteed numbers of relevant people in return for their investment and they want to know what that reach is.  EMF have already seen Asics and Lucozade Sport walk.  How can you protect existing, and future, partnerships, and this vital revenue stream, when numbers are dwindling?  Don’t publish those numbers.


Cynical? Perhaps, but it makes perfect sense in a commercial world and, at the end of the day, EMF is a business and they need to make a profit.  It’s certainly a better theory than data privacy – especially when Marathon Photos offer an option to include your race time on your photo…which is available to preview…publicly.

There’s no denying that refusing to publish race results is a controversial decision.  The orgainsers prerogative?  Data privacy?  Or a bloody stupid idea driven by fear and greed?  I don’t know what EMF’s reasons are, but I do know the advertising industry inside out…and there’s only one theory that’s convinced me so far.

Jason Henderson – Athletics Weekly Editor





Why I Ran 2 Marathons in 2 Weeks

People say I’m impulsive.  They say that I rush into things.

Two days after I returned home from the Rome Marathon I entered the Manchester Marathon…and I would be running it a week later, so they may very well be right!


I didn’t peak in Rome, I knew that much for sure, and I felt like I had wasted months of training – I was looking for redemption and I still wanted a sub 3.45 to qualify for London GFA.  Physically I felt OK, sure I felt like I had been on a long run but I definitely didn’t feel like I had after previous marathons and, given my pace was a fair bit slower than my training runs, I guess this wasn’t surprising.  Most importantly I didn’t have any injury niggles, if I did I wouldn’t have even considered it as I knew it was a risk to run a marathon so soon anyway.

I was aware the Manchester Marathon was 2 weeks after Rome and I was pleasantly surprised/scared they were still taking entries so late.  Claiming to be the flattest marathon in the UK (I’m not entirely sure about that but we’ll come to that later!) I couldn’t help but sign up, surely it was an opportunity that I just couldn’t miss?!

Was I mad?


I didn’t keep it a secret but I didn’t tell  lot of people, mostly because I didn’t want to hear that it was a bad idea and I shouldn’t do it!  I took advice from some more experienced runners in the Chasers and was happy that they didn’t tell me it was a stupid idea –  instead they told me to focus on rest and recovery.  So I did.

A couple of Chasers were also running  Manchester and they invited me to post race lunch.  I was pleased to have some friends to celebrate with at the finish, a lonely marathon runner is a sad marathon runner after all.

I was aware that achieving the ultimate goal would be somewhat unlikely after Rome but I figured I had nothing to lose and running 2 marathons in 2 weeks would be a new achievement anyway. Win win?!

So Saturday came around and, questioning my sanity again, I headed to Manchester with just a backpack and bag full of food (travelling light is a challenge it itself for me, what do you mean I can’t take 4 pairs of shoes?!).  I made my way to Old Trafford to pick up my number from the race village which was in the car park.  It was most definitely the smallest race village/expo I’ve ever seen…


However, there was no queuing, the staff were friendly and it did the job!  I headed to my hotel to put my feet up and eat more food.

The hotel was in a fairly quiet area so I was glad I had planned ahead and made a big tub of tuna pasta for dinner, it also meant I could relax and not leave the room for the rest of the day.  Having learnt from Rome I took a big pot of tea bags & milk and proceeded to drink 2 cups of tea at a time to ensure my caffeine intake was up  (well, the cups were small!)

Arriving at the race village the next morning (with Martin Yelling no less) there was a lot more going on and I picked up a pace band from the Asics tent.  Whilst I was queuing I gave my parents a call to let them know what I was up to as I hadn’t told them my plans.  They were a tad surprised!  The bag drop was quick and fuss free and, whilst there was a queue, there were a lot more toilets than in Rome, phew!  Heading for the start line I made my way through the crowd to get to the 3.45 pacer, Ben.

I believe the race was started by Ron Hill but I didn’t see him.  A group us us ran with Ben and the pace felt OK, I most definitely would have gone off too fast without him.  If I’m honest I didn’t really notice much of the course, I simply concentrated on running, so I couldn’t tell you what I saw.  I did notice the course wasn’t as flat as I thought it would be though!  It wasn’t hilly but I’m sure there were more inclines than in London…

There were a couple of switchbacks early on and I shouted out to Keith and Matt in their Chasers vests.  At mile 9 I saw my friend Kim who had come to support Keith, she cheered and shouted and I was pleased to see a friendly face.

I was impressed with the water stations, rather than bottles (that are a hazard when discarded), or cups (which are difficult to drink from whilst moving), they supplied pouches which were very easy to carry and water only came out when you squeezed it.   They’re also much less of a problem when on the race course as if you tread on them they simply squirt out any left over water.  Why don’t all races have these?

At half way I was still feeling good but I wasn’t convinced my legs could go the whole way at the pace I wanted them to.  At mile 16 I started to drop back and I saw Kim again.  She jogged alongside me whilst I started chatting.  She told me to stop talking and get on with running – fair enough!

Mile 16…still smiling!


From about mile 18 I knew I wouldn’t finish under 3.45 but I kept pushing.  I think the last 6 miles were more challenging than any other marathon I’ve run (and I’m sure it was all on a gentle incline!) but mentally I was feeling tough and I kept going.

The crowd support was great, unfortunately as a late entrant my name wasn’t printed on my number but  everyone still cheered me on, it really does help!

As I ran back towards Old Trafford the crowds lined the street and I crossed the line in 3.56.  The finish was smooth and quick and I got my medal, water and goody bag in minutes.  In fact I got 2 goody bags because whilst I was debating if I wanted the small or extra small t-shirt (always difficult to know with unisex sizes) the man gave me both!


I saw Kim and Keith waving and was very grateful they waited for me (for an hour!!), as I didn’t think I would find my way to the pub for lunch by myself.  We shuffled along to Salford Quays where I refueled on a chicken burger and cider (Kopperberg, which apparently is wanky London stuff…)

I eventually got home at 8pm and was absolutely exhausted (although Liam Gallagher was on my train so that made it more interesting, shame I both looked and smelt like a tramp).  I ate 2 bagels and went to bed, yes, 2!

I thought the Manchester Marathon was very well organised, especially after Rome.  The only small thing I would change would be to add some kind of sports drink at some of the stations.  I never drink a lot of this but I often get a craving for it in the later stages.  They did give out Shot Bloks though which I’m a big fan of (a bit strange to hear people shouting out ‘shots’ in the middle of a marathon!)

The race village, marshaling, water stations, crowd support and even the finish area were fantastic.

I would definitely recommend the Manchester Marathon but would I recommend running it 2 weeks after Rome? Only if you’re as tough as me!


What I learnt from this marathon is that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.  Last year I thought running 2 marathons in a year would be too much for me but now I’ve run 4 in the last 12 months including 2 in the last 2 weeks!  I’ve also been overwhelmed by the support I received from everyone offering advice, encouragement and, most importantly, their faith.  Thank you.

The only problem now of course is that I have a double dose of the post marathon blues…


Maratona di Roma…ice cream, pizza and running

I was initially going to call this post ‘Where did it all go wrong?’ but, the more I thought about it, the more I thought that was unfair and would indicate that I hadn’t enjoyed the race which simply isn’t true.  Sure, there were ups and downs (mentally and physically what with the hills) but hell I was running round ROME!

I arrived in Rome on the Friday night to leave plenty of time to settle and go to the Expo, plus I couldn’t think of a better place in the world to carb up!  The Expo was a little out of town – the queue was pretty long and Katherine, James and I found ourselves queuing across a road that cars were still trying to drive on…this was the first organisational fail.

We (or rather James) was amused by the people dressed up as New Balance trainers and he insisted we pose for a photo for the Chasers site (funny innit).  Collecting our race packs was petty simple but leaving the Expo was not – you’re forced around numerous stands in little more than single file and you get told off if you try to sneak out!  The goody bags were much better than Frankfurt though with a New Balance backpack, technical t-shirt, sports drink and (obviously) some dried pasta!


When we eventually got out we stopped for pizza and I headed back to the hotel for some rest.  Travelling, tapering and excitement is all very exhausting!  I went out again in the evening to meet my friends Ruth, Nathan and Paul for dinner and then got an early night.  We arranged to meet at 8am at the Arch of Constantine for an 8.50 race start.  Simple?

Well, not so much… I sprang out of bed when my alarm went off and made myself some porridge with the little kettle in my room and left the hotel at 7.30.  We were all staying in different places so I headed off towards to Colosseum on my planned route to meet my friends.

However, the route I was planning on was closed off and we were sent round the houses (or round the ruins should I say…) which was beautiful but I didn’t have a clue where I was and even less idea where the Arch was, there were loads of arches?!   Following the crowd I realised I would be starting alone, alone in the rain.

Oh, did I mention it was raining?


Attempting to drop my bag off was the next challenge and next organisational fail.  I ended up trying to push my way upsteam in an overly crowded area to the female baggage drop which was, of course, at the very back.  Without meaning to offend, I found the Italian men very rude.  There was pushing and shoving and elbows in the face, no chivalry here!

It wasn’t a great start, I was stressed.  Of course when I finally managed to get rid of my bag I had to fight my way back down again, the clock was ticking and I couldn’t start a marathon without going to the toilet first!

Mr New Balance showed up for race day…


The next fail was the lack of signs and toilets – it looked like there were just 8 portaloos and there was no systematic queuing.  I waited for maybe 15 minutes in torrential rain (hail at one point) before coming to the conclusion I would miss the start if I waited any longer and I was no closer to the loo.

So I did what any self respecting athlete would do moments before the gun – I peed in a bush.  I met another woman doing the same, she didn’t understand a word of English but we understood each other!

I rushed off to the start area where there was more congestion and no way to get through to my start pen – there were only 4 but I was in Pen C and really didn’t want to be at the back of Pen D.  But I was.  Eventually we got to some railings that separated the start pens but no one was checking who went where and it was a chaotic free for all.  I got into Pen C, relieved, but my relief didn’t last when I realised all the pens merged into one a few metres later and I was no better off than I was before. CHAOS, ARRGHHHHHHH


As soon as I got over the start line I was weaving and weaving in and out of people ‘scusi’, ‘excuse me’, ‘pardon’, ‘MOVE’ .  By this point I gave up and just started shoving my way through which was met by some angry shouts in Italian. Don’t have a clue what they were saying but it probably wasn’t pleasant.  Whatever.

All my early miles were 20-25 seconds slower than I wanted them to be and by mile 7 I realised I wouldn’t be able to make the time back.  I think at that point I mentally gave up.  I was delighted to bump into Ruth who was full of positivity, I thought about trying to keep up with her but, mentally I was out of the game and she sped off.  I knew she would nail it.

The route was pretty awesome.  Starting near the Colosseum the course wound round the city and along the river taking in temples and churches, passing St Peters Square and the Vatican, through Piazza Navona, round Piazza del Popolo, past the Spanish Steps and back towards the Altar of the Fatherland (which is a spectacular if controversial monument) and the Colosseum to take you to the finish line. There’s plenty to look at!


There were cobbles, but I was prepared for that and they weren’t really that noticeable for the most part, even in the wet.  There were also some inclines but they were tolerable and the declines were enjoyable.

The water stations were a disaster.  There was no water! At least no water readily available, you had to grab a cup and wait for someone to slosh a bit of water in – they weren’t generous with it either, were they rationing water on race day?!  I dread to think how much worse it would have been on a warmer day.

There was Gatorade and food stations with oranges, bananas and biscuits as well as some other bits.  I didn’t have any food but Paul had a full on picnic…he still beat me by some way!

Through a combination of a chaotic start, slow early miles, lack of organised water stations and generally feeling not quite right (I realised too late this was caffeine withdrawal, my usual 10 cuppas a day had been reduced to none…error!) I finished in a disappointing 4.04.

I got a lift when a group of British people shouted ‘go on the Brits, go on Katherine’, and James shouted at me with his little daughter Jessica at 36k. I’ll also never forget the look on Nathan’s face when he saw me walking at 37k – a combination of pity and errr, what are you doing?!  ‘Just 5k, just 5k‘, he said.  But 5k seemed so far…

Some thoughts I had whilst I was running:

  • Get out of my way
  • Italian men are rude
  • I’m never running a marathon ever again
  • Maybe I’ll give it one last shot in Amsterdam
  • Ooooo look at that!
  • I’m going to pull out
  • No, I really really want that medal
  • Oooo look at the pretty big building
  • Oh good, it’s raining again
  • Why do the Italians think a shot of water will get me through the next 5k?
  • I wonder what that building is…
  • Why are there twice as many sponges as cups of water?
  • I’ve just put my entire foot in a puddle, perfect
  • Does the Pope live there?
  • I’m embarrassingly uneducated
  • I’ve just been overtaken by a man with a distinctive limp
  • Whhhaaaaaaaa
  • I’m never running a marathon ever again…

As I rounded the corner from the Altar of the Fatherland I saw what could be the finish.  However, my Garmin was well over 26.2 and I didn’t want to get my hopes up, from the experience I’d had so far it could be a decoy!  Luckily it wasn’t.


Marathon number 5, and my 3rd international, was completed.  Job done, now where’s that medal!!

The post race goody bags, which contained all the drinks, was just as chaotic as everything else.  Pushing, shoving, elbowing.  Frankfurt may only have had cups of water at the finish but at least there was plenty of it and I didn’t have to fight!  I was ready to get out – it was a shame I didn’t see any of my friends at the end, especially as Katherine had run a similar time, if I had known we could have run together.

Anyway, I made it back to the hotel for a shower and a snooze then headed out for dinner and celebrations.

image   image

The Rome Marathon is a beautiful course in a beautiful city but it’s not well organised.  As long as you go expecting that, and maybe even taking your own water, you should enjoy it.  I really do love Rome.

What did I learn from this marathon?  The Italians are not good at organising events but they are awesome at making ice cream.  I tried 9 different flavours.  Well, when in Rome…