Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Back to Zeil

Free Wine
For the last three years out of four, i have finished of my season with the Zeiler Waldmarathon, for anyone not sure where or what type of Marathon it is let me give you some idea, Zeil am Main is a small village which dates back to 1018 AD, every November the local Marathon takes place in the "Wald" which means forest above Zeil. Registration takes place on the Friday evening and for a short period of time before the race on the Saturday, morning in the local school, entry costs around 20 euros, the race is chip timed and you get a local bottle of non alcohol beer from the local Goller brewery, A local bus which is free takes you to and from the start/finish which is a five minute drive away, once you complete the race, you take your number back during the prize giving where you are given a litre of white wine (alcoholic) before joining the prize giving. in Europe the awards are very good as the prizes are given in 5 year increments for the first 3 male and female in all events.

Course Profile - Strava
How it looks in the snow
Due to the time of year and location the weather in Bavaria is very changeable you can go from sun to minus temperatures and snow (see picture), this year the course was very boggy due to the previous few days of rain combined with the Marathon (two loops), Half Marathon and Nordic walks.

Travelling to Zeil, you have to take the train from the airport into Munich City Centre then another train out to Bamberg before changing again for the final train (4 travelling back on a Sunday), it may seem like a long journey when your reading this but the rail network is great that the journey is not an issue.

We arrived on the Friday as usual and checked in to the local hotel which is less that five minutes walk to registration, we caught up with local  organisers at the school who have been overseeing the event for many years, then it was off for a meal and a few pre race beers.

A Quick Glass of Cola
Andy, Sam and Me (L - R)
On Race day it was down for some breakfast before heading for the bus to the start, after the usual customary photos and a quick chat with Adam Zahoran (2nd in WHW to James Stewart) it was time to step up to the line, Adam had said that there was some good ultra runners taking part this year, German 50k and 100k champs including Adam who had run and won the 100 miles four weeks earlier. the race which is two loops within the forest has over 2680 ft of climbing, a quick countdown and we were off, Adam sat in the lead with Neils Bubel who runs around 3 hours for 50k and Giovani Gonzales who ran just over 7 hours for the 100k in August, the leaders were away like gazelles floating over the course and the rest of us sat in content to get to the finish, as the kilometres started to tick away over the boggy underfoot conditions the rain came on, i was sitting in 7th place for the first 21km when i came through to start the second lap i saw Adam standing, he has decided that 4 weeks was not enough recovery for the underfoot conditions and profile of the course, i had now moved into 6th then around 25km i moved into 5th spot where i would stay as i crossed the finish line.

Sam's the Man
This years medal turned out to very very special, Sam who i train with and speaks great German has been travelling to this race for many years due to the friendship he has struck up with the organisers, which included a piper playing at our awards in 2014 and Sam running in a kilt in 2015 and now this year his photograph from 2016 was the picture for this years medal, not something you normally see but at this event they pick a runner or a group each year for the following years medal, well done Sam.


Monday, 6 November 2017

In My Minds Eye - Funny How Time Flies

I'm not one for regular posts on my running or training, you only need to look at the last time i posted below yep, April 2016, whats happened since then, here is a fly by to take you quickly through 2016 and catch up with where i am in 2017.


  • Hoka Highland Fling, 53 Miles,  Position 32nd, 1st Vet 50 and a new course PB for me in 08:50:18
  • Strathearn Marathon, Position 5th, 1st Vet 50 and a Marathon PB in 2:53:43
  • John Lucas Memorial, 50 Miles,  Position 2nd, 1st Vet 50 in 6:38
  • River Ayr Way Challenge, 40 Miles, Position 5th, 1st vet 50 in 5:23
  • Zeiler Waldermarathon, Position 7th, 1st Vet 50 in 3:15:53
All in all i cannot complain 5 Ultras, 2 Marathons (1 in the forest), finishing 1st Vet 50 in all races i entered with 2 podium spots and 2 PBs.

i decided that 2017 would be different, i wanted to step back from ultras to see if i could improve on my marathon times after all i ain't getting any younger so i thought what better time at 52 to try and see what the year would bring.

Loch Katrine Marathon - 19th March 2017:

My training was going reasonably well for December taking me nicely into January, during a chance
meeting out running i bumped in to Andy Callan who i have known for many years during our time at Springburn Harriers, we shared some miles when unfortunately a trip over Andy's foot at a road crossing would cause me to break 2 ribs leading to just over six weeks being side lined. My first race was fast approaching,
Loch Katrine which was to be a stepping stone for the VLM (Virgin London Marathon) which was 6 weeks later, i wasn't sure if i was going to be ready in time, race day arrived and we started off at a steady pace which i settled in with Gerry Craig and the Neil Barton that he beat the year all was going reasonably well for me, Gerry dropped off slightly as i sat in 2nd place for most of the race,  similar to the year before i passed the leader Neil Barton  roughly at  the same spot Gerry did in 2016, the race would finish in that order with me crossing the line in 02:58:29, with Neil taking second in 03:00:34, Stephen Rowntree in third and Gerry in 4th.

Virgin London Marathon - 23rd April 2017:

six weeks later and it was on to my "A" race, the VLM, it was all down to Strathearn Marathon the year before that would get me the qualifying time for a GFA place (Good For Age), i arrived in London and stayed in Paddington over the weekend, on the morning of the race i met up with Mark Ashby and Alex Potter as we travelled out to the start at Blackheath, both are seasoned VLM runners, as we arrived i met some familiar faces, Sandra Beattie and Gavin Harvie. the conditions were perfect and the adrenaline was pumping, we were called to the start line and then we were off, as the coloured groups started to merge it was amazing for a first timer, conditions seemed to get warmer as the miles passed, the crowds were amazing and time was flying by, my planned 5km splits were on target and before i knew it i was approaching Big Ben, it would not belong before the finish line would arrive, i was absolutely delighted when i turned on to the Mall to see that i was on for another Marathon PB time, which i managed to cross the line in 2:49:23.

Strathearn Marathon -11th June 2017:

Left to Right - 2nd, 1st and 3rd
Again it was six weeks after VLM and i was back at Strathearn again for a second consecutive year on what is a very tough course, i bumped into Gavin Harvie again on the start line who was using it as part of his WHW training. Conditions were ideal compared to the previous year where it poured the whole race and was freezing cold at the end, Ian Beattie got the race started, off we went and it wasn't long before the race came down to 2 runners sharing the miles me and local runner Rich Myres who i met the year before when he finished in 3rd spot and me in 5th and a PB We were neck and neck up to the 25 mile marker but Rich managed to find another gear and open a gap on me finishing in 02:50:48, i held on for 2nd place crossing the line in a course PB of 2:51:2, around 30 seconds behind but nearly 2 minutes  and 20 seconds faster than my time from the year before.

Clyde Stride Ultra Marathon - 15th July 2017:

CS40 - CP1
I decided to enter the CS in December as my only ultra of the year, the plan was to use it to keep me ticking over prior to going on holiday a few days later, the race was again the six week recovery after Strathearn, seemed to be working well,  conditions again were also perfect,  it was the usual hello to the many people at registration whom i have gotten to know over the many years of ultra running, after the customary pre race speech, the race went off at the usual blistering pace with Grant Jeans leading the way followed by Craig Reid and myself, Grant was later to pull out with David McLure coming through to win in 04:52 with Craig in second in 04:54, Steven Porteous who would catch me with under a mile to go finishing in 3rd with a time of 05:01:03 and then myself in 4th in a time of 5:06 which would give me the 12th fastest time over the course and fastest                                                   non podium place finisher ever.

Loch Ness Marathon - 24th September 2017:

I decided at the closing point of entries to go for the Loch Ness Marathon, i was aware that my training partner Gerry Craig had also entered and was heading up with the family for the weekend so i knew that we would share some of the distance together, Gerry kindly invited me to join him, Linda and Andrew for a meal the night before with a couple of pre fuel beers. i met Gerry at his hotel early doors on race day and we travelled to get the bus to the start, whilst on the long journey around the Loch out to the start, the rain came down, we eventually arrived at the start,  for anyone who has never ran this event, you are out in the middle of nowhere on a hilly road with no shelter from the wind and rain. 

Brian Burnett who was starting the race soon got it underway, the race has a fast start due to the first mile being downhill followed with plenty of climbs and a killer hill thrown in at mile 19, me and Gerry worked away well with a small gap opening between us just before half way, i was through in 1:21:00 and  i think Gerry in around 1:22:44, the second half was certainly tough as i tried to concentrate on running down the miles, as i arrived back in to the town centre, Linda and Andrew gave me a shout as i crossed the river back on to the other side which was around 1km left to run, i could hear the tannoy system calling out the finishers names as i was getting closer to the finish line, i received a shout out from Gavin Harvie (he's stalking me this season), lol, he was working at the expo, this probably gave me the wee kick i needed right at the end to get me in with another Marathon PB, all be it 7 seconds as i could see the clock heading towards my London Time. 

Monday, 4 April 2016

Glasgow to Edinburgh Double Marathon (GEDM)

It was shortly after my race in January, Country to Capital, 43 miles from Wendover to London finishing at the end of the Grand Union Canal in Paddington that back home people were starting to become interested in the Anglo Celtic Plate being held on Easter Sunday in Perth, Scotland not the one in Australia, decisions to make should i enter or consider going back to do Glasgow to Edinburgh, for me there really only one choice, to go back and do the GEDM.

I arranged for my crew from last year to provide support, Sam Green and Andy Hegarty, they would supply me with all i need at the less busy points, i arrived at Ruchill Park and got my number, walking back to the car i had a chat with David Alan, David is a really focused runner with a never say die attitude, we had a quick chat before heading on to the start line, a quick hello to Alan Mooney and Mark Ashby, i ran with Mark a few weeks earlier and also got a run with on the canal with Gerry Craig, Barry Johnstone was out on his run and took time to pop down to wish me all the best, a top bloke.

We were called to the start, conditions were perfect, it was dry and no wind, then we were off, i was first on to the canal followed by unknown to me Lee Muir, he flew past me and opened a big gap, i continued along until around 9 miles when i had a pit stop and turned round to see Latvian Runner; Ruslans Sulga, we had a quick chat, he said he was staying in Forfar and had run Half Marathons, heading along the canal we met Susan and Terry Addison who gave me some kind words of support, shortly after Robert Rogerson appeared running towards us, he was just back from a virus and kept us company for a good half mile or so, Ruslans seemed to have a good turn of speed and started to open up a gap, i knew that i was running faster at this time than last year so i decided to just sit tight as i still had a long way to go and was not sure how good the front runners where.

I went through Checkpoint 1, 13 miles (21.1km) in around 1:32, time was passing very quickly and before i knew it i was at checkpoint 2 (Falkirk Wheel), 23 Miles (35.8km) when i caught up with Ruslans who had stopped for his drop bags, we both climbed up the hill and through the tunnel, again he put the foot down after leaving the tunnel and opened up another gap at this point i still decided to sit tight, i went through Marathon in around 3:08 and 50km in 3:47 still feeling good i did not want to overdo things as i still had 24 miles left to go, passing through Linlithgow, 34 Miles (54.3 km), i knew that as long as i kept working away i was still on the target time i put in my entry form which was 7 hours, if the front guys are faster than that then there is nothing i could do, the next section to Broxburn, 42 miles (67.6km) seemed long as the underfoot kept changing from the newly laid tarred surface back to sections of natural trail, i knew that once under the motorway the last checkpoint, Ratho, 47 miles (76.1km) would not be far away, at this point i was told that the leaders were around 7 minutes ahead but i was not sure in what order, i decided not to get caught up in it and just started to count down the miles, my support were great they would appear from nowhere throughout the whole route but would always time it perfectly to find me (runners intuition), at Ratho i got lots of support from all the adults and kids out cycling, they kept me going for a couple of miles as we passed each other as they took a stop when a shower was threatening, 7, 6 and then 5, i went through the 50 miles in around 6:22 once crossing beside the Bypass i was counting down whilst remembering passing the points the year before, i was into the last mile and i could then see the finish buildings in site, i crossed the line in 7:03:29, still delighted and probably still one of the fastest 3rd place finishers, so i was still delighted.

I was greeted over the line by the one and only Sarah Self,  2 years running, a quick hug and a few snaps, i went over and congratulated both 2nd Lee who was sitting down and 1st, Ruslans who was on the massage table, both looked worse than me, lol, unfortunately i had to leave immediately so apologies to everyone behind me as i could not stay a while longer to see most cross the line as my phone was ringing in my pack along the last mile and a half, it was Angela to say that her mum was rushed into hospital but as i write this she is now out and back home.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

A Review of 2015 - Life begins at 50 - Me, Myself and Gerry

It's that time of year when we say goodbye to one year and welcome in the next, for some its about what did or did not happen and for others its a new start or a new challenge, where resolutions are made and many are broken.

January arrived, i had come off the back of a successful 2014 campaign and really only wanted to keep the same momentum going, the first thing was to see out the Strava MTS, leading the board towards the end of the month and a 50th Birthday celebration ensued.

My first race arrived over the Easter weekend in the form of the Glasgow to Edinburgh Double Marathon, 55 Miles; this would be my tester for my race in May, i set off with Gerry Craig at a steady pace and eventually caught the two front runners Grant Jeans and Robert Turner,where i made some ground on Gerry and found myself crossing 1st over the finish Line in 6:51:20 and 6th fastest time recorded over the new distance.

The training continued without having any issues and May arrived, this was going to be my longest ever race, 145 miles from Birmingham to London, the GUCR or Grand Union Canal Race, as i was travelling down from Scotland most folk in the race come form England or Europe to take part so i
only knew names from Facebook, with the race under way at 6am, i met some very nice people along the way, Andy Horobin, Edward Batch, Paul Ali, John Knapp and Mimi Anderson to mention a few, i soon found myself on my own from 70 Miles to the 100 mark where i met Warwick Gooch, we ended up running together for the last 45 miles with some company in the form of buddy runners, Susie Chan (top triathlete) and Warwick's sister Shelley, we crossed the line jointly in 11th position in a time of 31 Hours and 39 Minutes.

After the GUCR i found it hard to get motivated and lost a lot of training days, it just so happened by chance on a local run one night that Gerry Craig drove by heading home, we chatted and before i knew it i was part of the JGS (Jordanhill Garden Supplies) relay team for the Cydestride in July. when race day arrived Alison went out on first followed by Duncan then me on third and Gerry on the anchor leg, the team came home in first position. it was during my wait on the third leg that i got talking to David Meldrum who offered me a place in the JL50 (John Lucas Memorial), i gladly sent away my entry fee.

The months were flying by and the summer had almost gone and we were now in August and myself and Gerry travelled through to the JL50, with near perfect conditions we were soon off, working together for the first 10 miles i was soon on my own until Gerry caught up with me around mile 41, by now i was struggling and this helped to get me through to the end, one that would bring its share on controversy as we both crossed the line together in joint first.

We were now into September and again i was in for one of my most attended races since taking up ultras, the RAW (River Ayr Way Challenge, a race that i had won the year before, i had arranged to pick up Jonny Pritchard who was staying in Glasgow after travelling down from Stornoway, i reckoned Jonny was in with a shout if he was making the long journey, the race set off and before i knew it Jonny and Willie
Robertson had opened up a lead, i sat with Mark Caldwell and continued to work away until i saw that the front runners had taken a wrong turn, this is where i decided to pick things up and try and go for a second win on the course, i arrived home in first with a new course record followed by Richard Cooper and then Jonny in third.

The training continued through October and into November where i was about to run my first Half Marathon in many years, The Kirkintilloch Half, and a very tough course again the usual suspects were on the starting line, once the gun went the leader and winner just seemed to disappear into the distance leaving the myself and Alex Chalmers to see who could take the podium places, Alex came home in second followed by me in 3rd and in a sub 1:20 with Gerry very close behind in 4th.

November also saw the annual SUMS awards, again Gerry and i travelled through to Edinburgh, it had been quite a successful year for the both of us, me taking overall male winner and vet 50 and Gerry with second male along with the vet 40 and third in the short category and second in the long, James Stewart our other training partner took third overall male and first in the short category, all in all a good night for three good friends.

As the year draws to a close the only aims i had left were to reach the 4,000 miles in a year, something i narrowly missed out on in 2014 with 3,741, this was achieved with 3 days of the year remaining and currently on 4.033.94, my second was to pass last years Marcothon Miles total of 679.4 miles , i am currently on 660.68 this will be achieved on the final day of the year.

As i said at the start, its not about making resolutions, its about doing your best to be happy and healthy, best wishes for 2016 when it arrives.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Back to the John Lucas Memorial 50 Miles

This would be my 3rd John Lucas, so far it has been one finish from 2013, which i won and again in 2014 where i pulled out after going wrong  a couple of times with 38 miles in the legs, so i knew that i wanted to make amends for the previous year and do better in 2015, so fast forward to the Clyde Stride, i was running leg 3 which starts at Strathclyde Park when i got talking to David Meldrum, David has done a fantastic job with the event and i had mentioned that i planned to run so he advised me to get the entry in fast, so i did.

Race day arrived and i agreed to pick up Gerry Craig as he had kindly got me for the Clyde Stride Relay a few weeks earlier, we arrived at Strathaven and picked up our numbers, a quick chat to Greg Beattie running the event for the first time and a hello to Lee McLean, Helen and John Munro before. As we headed to the start i could see Grant Jeans in the distance, this year the race started on the main road so after David addressed the runners with the race brief we were off, Grant immediately went to the front but did not go off too fas compared to his tactics in the G2E earlier in the year, myself and Gerry just sat in close behind.

The event also offers a relay event which requires 5 in a team, good friend and training partner James Stewart had put a team in and at one stage i was in with a chance of possibly being part of the team, however the team picked remained the same which is why i ended up doing the whole thing, their loss as i could have bought them home even quicker, lol, seriously they blew the rest out the park, i am now putting a team together for next year, lol, anyway back to the race.

Within  a half mile of Checkpoint one, we were met with the relay runners warming up, a quick hello to Barry johnstone who was part of Jame's Team Vambo just  before we arrived at CP1, Grant still sitting in front of us crossed over to pick up his drink as he did we continued through the junction with a nice downhill section as i turned the bend, it was a quick hello to Janice Millar, i continued along and feeling good at this stage thought i would just work away and wait for Gerry and Grant to pull me back in, still a long way to go, this never seemed to happen possibly down to the fact that at this stage i was feeling good and managed to throw in seven sub seven minute miles before the next check point.

As i  arrived in Stonehouse still feeling reasonably good, it was a quick hello to Lee McLean and David Waterman who filled my drinks bottle back up, i was away again, just around the corner i got a shout from another training partner, Stephen Schofield, i was now approaching Marathon distance, which i went through in around 3:10, this is where the race can find you out as the next section has some nice climbs, i continued to work away and was keen after leaving Larkhall to make sure that i do not go wrong again this year.

The next point took me through Glassford which is around 31 miles, i went in to the hall and refilled my bottle, i was now starting to feel the going tough, i was struggling bad in this section with cramps and feeling dehydrated i decided to try and tuff it out until i could reach, David Gow, part of the relay team came flying past me,  Auldhouse which is 40 miles,  so it was a bit of running and walking, Auldhouse just felt like it was never arriving, suddenly i could see the checkpoint in the distance and stopped for a five minutes to refill my bottle, a quick hello to Karen Robertson on Marshalling duties and a chat with David Mooney, David was my wing man back in 2013 when i ran the race and have a lot of respect for, anyway we got chatting and his super hero Partner Julie Docherty nipped in to the Auldhouse Arms (Local Pub) and came out with a can of coke for me, this would later see me through to the end.

I was now into the last ten miles, Davy was cycling the last section and was giving me encouragement to continue but i was still cramping and had not recovered from the dehydration, he advised me that Gerry was closing in and was now only around two minutes behind me, this section continues to climb until you reach the summit where the wind turbines are, i happened to look round at 42 Miles and saw Gerry working towards me, as he closed in i decided to have another go at trying to stay as close as possible so i tucked in and kept working away, as we started to head downhill i found myself with a wee gap opening to Gerry, with Davy continuing to give us both support at this stage.

We arrived neck and neck at the junction and knew there was around 5 miles left to go so i continued to sit just behind Gerry, at one point i said on you go Gerry but within a minute or so i thought to myself you cannot stop now some how i found another wind and managed to get back up beside Gerry, all this time Davy was still willing us both on, the times started to pick up as the miles started to disappear, by now it was nip and tuck with both of us taking up pole position, we were now into the last mile and still neck and neck, this was how it would end as we both crossed the line together, both of us were greeted by David, Sarah Self (SUMS best Helper) and Team Vambo, we later found out that Grant had dropped out again and both Gerry an i would record PBs.

A huge thanks goes to Gerry for making me work right to the end, to Davy for the encouragement to continue, Julie for the can of coke, this certainly worked it magic in the last miles and to David Meldrum for putting on another superb event.

Monday, 21 September 2015

River Ayr Way Challenge

I had decide to enter the River Ayr Way Challenge only 2 days before entries closed, looking down the list of entries there was some decent names that i recognised immediately, Robert Turner, Grant Jeans, Jonny Pritchard, Mark Caldwell James Murray and Andrew Crichton,Glen Gemmell and Willie Robertson.

I had received a Facebook message from my friend James Stewart asking if i could give Jonny Pritchard a lift as he was travelling down from Stornoway and staying over in Glasgow. I picked up Jonny at 6am outside his hotel and we headed for Ayr, we arrived first in the car park i could see Anneke at the back of the van so we went over and i introduced Jonny as we got our numbers, shortly after Glen arrived and then Willie Robertson.

We got on the bus and started taking to a group of runners from Dumbarton AC, the jokes make the journey seem quick despite the ram shackle of a bus we were travelling in, as we arrived at Glenbuck, the first person i met was Greg Beattie who joked about offering me a 200 mtr lift to the meeting point, aye right, Mark, Andrew and James appeared and we had a few quick hellos before we got called to the start, after a quick photo shoot we were off.

As in previous years i set off at a steady pace, average 6:30, i happened to look on my shoulder and could see Willie Robertson, followed by Jonny, after the first checkpoint (Kames Carpark) at 5 miles we settled down and it did not feel like a race as we all started to chat, i happened to look back and saw Mark Caldwell closing in, Mark i know well from previous races and our 2011 West Highland Way Race anyway he came through and went to the front of the group until Checkpoint 2 Limmerhaugh (10 miles). on leaving the checkpoint both Willie and Jonny set off and opened up a gap of a few minutes on us, i continued to work away with Mark close by, i remember saying to Mark just to do our own race as i felt they could still take a wrong turn with not knowing the route, this turned out to be the case as i came through 19 miles after putting in a sub 7,  i saw Jonny and Willie running along a road, i shouted at them to say they were off course at this point i was back in front and decided to try and open a gap, knowing that if i could the possibility of them not knowing the course would be to my advantage, this turned out to be correct as i later found out it was one wrong turn was one too many for Willie and he pulled out leaving Jonny in second place for a long time, as i arrived at Failford (25 Miles) i picked up my juice and was greeted by Greg Beattie on Marshalling duties sporting his camera, a quick wave and i was back into the trail,  

I passed through Marathon distance in 3:21:46 and still feeling fresh i continued along through the detour down to Tarholm Bridge (i went wrong here last year) and i was not doing the same this time around, i continued to work away through Annbank, and along a road that Andrew Crichton calls Tomato Lane, again another tough spot as it twists climbs and turns until you reach the main A77 road, once here and over the bridge,i knew that my time was looking close for the record but just not sure how close, the last stretch is a small undulation before dropping down and then crossing  over the bridge knowing that Dam Park Stadium is under 3/4 mile away, on approach to the track the place was empty, one person was sitting in the stand and Anneke working away under the finish line tent, i crossed the line to be told that i had now recorded the fastest time, Richard Cooper who had finished 3rd at the Clyde Stride was 2nd to cross the line in 5:18:48 followed by Jonny in 5:22:32.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

21st GUCR, Birmingham to London -145 Miles

I'm not one for blogging too much as you will see from my last post in November, since then i received the news that i had been accepted in the ballot for the  21st GUCR, for those not familiar with the acronym, it stands for "Grand Union Canal Race", A race distance of 145 Miles, where you cannot stop for more than 40 minutes at each checkpoint or you are disqualified this meant that if i wanted to attempt to do well or even finish i would need to make sure that my training  was the best it could be, December is a cold, dark and horrible month for training but because it's Marcothon Month
it was the ideal opportunity to get the ground work underway, i recorded 700+ miles running over the first 28 days and this continued into January with a further 700+ miles, the base work was now completed, all that remained was to get some runs on the local canal to prepare me mentally for the race.

I started training on the canal and entered the Glasgow to Edinburgh Double Marathon in early April to get me race fit, the race is exactly 55 Miles and went far better than i could have possibly imagined i was running with Gerry Craig and Duncan Oats most of the way whilst the two front runners stormed off, Bob Turner and Grant Jeans, it was only at 38 Miles where i passed the injured Bob and then caught Grant who was also struggling at 42 Miles did i then go on to win the event in a time of 6:51 all be it 7th in the hall of fame and the 6th best time over the new distance, not that i am complaining as i am the oldest winner in the history of the event, LOL.

Race Number
During the next 6 weeks prior to the race my form took a dip, my motivation wasn't the same and work was not helping, it was only the week before the race that i started to really sit down and go through all my itinerary that the race organiser, Dick Kearn had taken the time to compile, the whole race pack is well put together, waterproof maps 2 race numbers, and all the info detailed that you need to know,.

I travelled down to Birmingham on the Friday lunchtime and headed to O'Neill's  pub where the regular runners meet up each year before registration which is in the Travelodge just next door, Paul Ali, Paul Stout, Pat "Paddy" Robbins, Mimi, Natasha Farid, Gerry Smallwood and Andy Nuttall who was also a first timer like myself

After some food and registration it was back to the hotel for an early night, 100 individuals all in bed by 10pm whilst the rest of Birmingham parties in to the small hours. my alarm went off at 4:15 and i was up fed and headed to the start line for 5:30, the place was jumping before i knew it we were being called on to the canal to get started, the organiser, Dick Kearn announced that this would be his last GUCR, he has taken an event and grown it over 21 years, well done to him for the creation of a classic event in the British race calendar.

The race started at 1 minute past six but it was soon evident that when two top runners, Dan Lawson and Mark Perkins immediately shot to the front that could mean only one thing, they were there to win it and to attempt to beat the current record held by Pat "Paddy"Robbins as we headed out of Birmingham i ran with Andy Horrobin and John Knapp, two strong hill runners, Andy ran 8.03 at the Fling this year, and John just over 9, we were just sitting behind the famous Mimi Anderson who has run just over 28 hours in the past and did a double run one year and was the woman's record holder until Debbie Martin Consani beat it in 2012,

Checkpoint 1 - 10.7 Miles - Catherine De Barnes

Andy kept a close eye in the watch making sure that the running was restrained, we came through in around 1:35, the pace was just fine we were joined at times with other runners, Edward Batch and Warwick Gooch who i would eventually cross the finish line with.

Checkpoint 2 -22.4 Miles - Hatton Lock

Again the chatting seemed to pass away the time and we came through this in 3 Hours 24 Minutes, we were all moving at a comfortable pace each taking turn to go to the front , we did not stop for food, just Andy applying some sun screen.

Checkpoint 3 - 36 Miles - Stockton

Similar to the previous checkpoint we were all steadily working away with no pressure to do anything silly at this stage we had completed 5 Hours and 24 Minutes and just wanted to keep running within ourselves, i stopped had a coffee and Apple pie and Custard.

Checkpoint 4 - 53 Miles - Weedon

We came through here in 8 Hours, 28 Minutes, i  stopped to refill my bottles and get some food in me, i decided to change my watch but was unable to locate a satellite  signal on the 310 so i stayed with the 920 a bit longer,all the faffing about cost me time at this point i lost Andy and John, further along this section as i came up the ramp at Blisworth Tunnel i took two wrong turnings the first was that i went right as per map but it should have read "turn left then right" along road and the second was i took a bridal path to the right instead of left, lucky for me  Russell Tullet who was part of the support for Russ Bestley was on had to direct me on the the correct path

Checkpoint 5 - 70.5 Miles - Navigation Bridge

They say that is the halfway point, well just short, i had now reached 12 Hours of running, i had a few glasses of Coke and hot apple pie and Custard again before re-filling my bottle and packing my head torches, gloves and buff along with changing into a long sleeve for the night time to keep warm.

Checkpoint 6 - 84.5 Miles - Willows Bridge

I arrived  here in 14 Hours and 43 Minutes, this was a real lonely section as it was dark from 9:30 which i ran and walked on my own, a couple of runners passed me with their buddies which is certainly a big help at this stage of the event, due to the underfoot conditions you are close to the edge and one mistake and your in for a swim, you just have keep your concentration about you.

Checkpoint 7 - 100 Miles - Marswood

It took me 18.5 hours to arrive here, after some coke and a yogurt  i left the checkpoint with Warwick and his buddy, Susie Chan who had ran the MDS would keep us going for the next 20+ Miles, there were points were i started to feel tired and dizzy, probably not enough food intake, the legs were feeling heavy and at one point i stubbed my foot on some rock sticking out of the ground.

Checkpoint 8 - 120.3 Miles - Springwell Lock

Bulls Bridge 13.5 Miles to Paddington
By now it was now a lovely sunny morning and we stopped for juice and bacon sarnies, Warwick change buddy runners to his sister Shelley, this was a tough stretch mentally as the legs were heavy the knees sore and body finding new aches and pains, it was also very warm, we tried to break it up the distance with 3 minutes running and 3 walking, probably too much walking but as long as we were moving, thats all that mattered until we reached Bulls Bridge which has the sign saying that you are just over 13.5 miles to Paddington.

Checkpoint 9 - 135 Miles - Hamborough Tavern
We continued with the 3 min on / off just beyond this until we were passed by 2 other runners, Jens Wittrowski and his buddy runner followed by Stephen McAllister who was on his own followed by tons of speed merchants on bikes with no bells to warn you of their approach, this gave us the jolt just to keep moving to the end, an end that just never seemed to arrive.

Checkpoint 10 - 145 Miles - Little Venice

By now we started to see the major land marks of London, the Chard, was in the distance and it wasn't long until we could see the finish line, a small detour diverted off the path then back on due to the path being repaired but we started to pick it up knowing we had reached our goal. me and Warwick crossed the line together in joint 11th place in a time of 31 hours and 39 Minutes, Dick immediately came up with the Medals that are the best you could ever receive

Left Side - London                                                               Right Side - Birmingham

The race is said to be one of the toughest with a high number of DNF's each year, this year we started with 100 and finished with 67 crossing the line, this is testament to how tough mentally and physically this race is.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Zeiler Waldmarathon

The year was 1987 and i was running the "Scottish City Link" Glasgow Marathon at the age of 21, i had just finished in sub 4 hours, in those days i did not train properly, i was not in a club so it was basically an attitude of you will be fine, i remember  saying to myself as i waited at the bus stop (did not drive either) that i did not enjoy that and would never go back until i was a vet, at that time age 40 Cat, 40 came and went and before i knew it i would be 6 months from turning 50, how time flys, anyway i had been lured by the prospect of running a forest Marathon in Bavaria by my friend Sam Green, this was appealing as i have enjoyed the last 4 years running up and down some of the many trail runs in Scotland

It was thursday 6th November and i was sitting at my desk when i got the text message from Sam to say that the airline where advising to seek alternative routes on to your final destination on arrival at Munich due to the Deutsche Bhan (railway) who had just organised a 4 day strike, i can tell you it didn't half deflate me, i was so up for spending time running a forrest marathon, upon getting home it seemed as the day went on there was still signs of limited rail travel within the country so we made the decision still to be there, but we were unsure what to expect upon arrival.

The flight took off of time and we arrived just over a few hours later in Munich, the airport train arrived within minutes all was looking good and before we knew it we were in the main station, still needing a further 3 trains though, next we boarded the Nuremberg train, a longer journey but we were getting closer and could get some sleep, before we knew it we were on train three for Bamberg, we were in the station for 10 minutes before the announcement came that the train was cancelled due to industrial action, we made our way out and eventually got a taxi to Ziel Am Main, 50 euros lighter but at least we had arrived at our hotel.

After 12 hours on the go we went straight over to register,  the organisers were amazing we even had a beer with them, we tried to get an early kip but it is hard when your on the go all day and you mind does not want to shut down, thinking about the race,  i think it was about 02:30am before i nodded off then suddenly it was 7:30 time to prepare for the race, with breakfast out the way we headed to the start, the organisers lay on shuttle busses to take you back and forth from all the events taking place.

Course Profile
I immediately went for a jog up the first climb for around 800 mtrs and it was still climbing, so i about turned and headed back to the start line, we were all called forward just then Sam tells me the guy behind me won the event last year and one to my right is also a regular on the podium just then the countdown began and we were off, as we started to climb towards the first km, Adam Zahoran who is unknown to us running in the Red vest from local club Bamberg went to the front, i sat in behind as we continued to climb up for just over 2 kms, still no idea how close the other two runners are behind me, the forest path then opens out on to a dust path before descending slightly to 3 kms, where there is a section of grassy field section, this lasts for about 200 mtrs before turning left back on to the forest trail again which continues to climb up and down until 13.5 kms where you run on the road for 1 km, at this point i could not see Adam as i believed he had opened up a considerable gap on me and as i looked back up the hill, i could not see the third person either, i continued along knowing that i was 4 kms from the half way point, the course continued to twist and turn, i could now see half marathon runners, and nordic walkers from the 7.5 and 21 km events.

As i approached the 21 kms point i saw my time, it was 1:22:20, i knew that it was unlikely i could sustain this for a second time around the course, as i hit the 2nd km again i was starting to struggle and i still has 19 kms of course to go, i just kept working away on my own until i started to pull in the back markers for the half marathon, this in some way gave me a short boost but my legs were worse for wear on the hills so this meant a short walk up the climbs at around 32 kms, just then i was passed on the hill and had moved in to 3rd place, i just starting to wonder where and when i may get caught
with the next runner, i kept working away, trying to use the half marathoners as my focus to get me to the last feed station which is at 38kms from here there is a slight undulation but also the great downhill stretch back the the finish, as i came around the bend i could see the split in the path, i knew i had done enough to secure the third spot in 2:57:17, i waited for my Sam to cross the line but as it had passed the 3:30 mark i knew something had happened eventually i saw him come down to cross the finish line in 3:48:03 to tell me that he ran injured, the whole of the second half.

We headed back for the bus so we could get changed for the prize giving that takes place in the local school, i got talking to Adam Zahoran, the winner who had told us that he took a wrong turning somewhere in the forest but managed to get back on tack, not sure where he re emerged as apparently a local photographer who took the photograph above said that at 25 kms, i was in the lead. The organiser had advised Sam in advance that something was planned for the day  (hence the reason he had to finish) this left Sam wondering, the mystery was soon revealed during the Marathon awards when Hubert changed in to a kilt and had a piper booked who played on stage for around 10 minutes a very fitting end to what can only be described as my best marathon experience ever, maybe i wont wait another 27 years.