Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018
Showing posts with label Marathons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Marathons. Show all posts

Thursday, 22 August 2019

The London Marathon - 26 April 2020

Well, I've been competing with about half a million other people, without success, for a place in the ballot for the last few years, but this time - thanks to perfect weather in Manchester on , I've managed to get in!
£39 later, and my place is confirmed. Now to find somewhere to stay for the weekend in London...

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Sunday 7 April 2019 – The Manchester Marathon

Here I am, being greeted by my masseuse and her daughters just beyond the finishing line. Can you tell that it was a successful outing!

The day began earlier than necessary on a chilly (8C) overcast Manchester morning. Fuelled with a chocolate croissant, and carrying a banana and some chocolate for a pre run snack, I caught a tram from Timperley to Old Trafford soon after 8 am. Lots of friendly fellow travellers with a common purpose. I should have set off 30-45 minutes later, as I finished up spending the best part of an hour at the start, dressed in a bin liner.

First, a visit to the athletes’ village to find a loo and say hello to some of the Wythenshawe parkrun helpers. They have a really long and busy day – possibly harder than actually running! Then it’s a stroll down Warwick Road to Chester Road and onwards to the starting area.

It might be fine dressing up for a 5 km run, as I do at Christmas time, but for a full marathon?…these people really must be crazy.

With about 14,000 entries and separate relay and wheelchair races, the start has to be carefully orchestrated. The wheelchairs go first, and the relay runners go last. The mass of 14,000 is split into eight groups that are corralled in separate holding areas, with different coloured numbers for each area. Most people stick to their allocated area, which is based on their rime estimate given to the organisers. I was in the seventh area (G), with the light blue numbers. This suited me fine as I was near the 4.45 pacer. Starting at the back of my group, I was just ahead of the last group of starters – you can see them below with the ‘H’ flag strapped to the back of the 5 hour pacer. My target was to stay ahead of him.

We were entertained by the starting team, and a fairly lengthy interview with Vassos Alexander (formerly of Chris Evans’ Radio 2 breakfast show) who was hoping for a time of under three hours.

9 am finally came around, and the first runners, way out of our sight, set off. The departures continued, each wave leaving five minutes after the previous one. This keeps people well spaced, together with runners of similar ability, and the official timings are based on ‘chip’ times, the chip being a piece of electronics (a chip!) embedded in each runner’s number, that is activated at the start and gives times at certain recording points along the route.

After a while, we slowly eased forward, and I was at the back of a large group that set of at 9.30. Even then it took me a couple of minutes to cross the start line. I don’t know about childbirth, but in the picture below, we have started to move forward, but the start line is still out of sight.

I was aiming for 6 minute 20 seconds (6.20) to 6.30 kilometres, but without Sue Strickland to keep me to that as she did last year, I was running closer to 6 minutes. A loo stop during kilometre 8 took an extra minute, so my time of one hour and two minutes for the first 10 km wasn’t too embarrassingly fast. I passed the 4.45 pacer and didn’t expect to see another one – I would be delighted if 4.45 stayed behind me.

Colin saw me in Stretford – a photo may follow, and it was good to be cheered on by Selwa, Amro and Zakariah at the end of their road in Sale Moor. There were lots of people in the streets supporting the runners. Lots of water stations, mostly ignored by me, but I did try a ‘gel’ that was on offer along Brooklands Road. Yeuch.

Sue was positioned on Stockport Road near the centre of Timperley, and after taking the next picture she presented me with a bottle of coke and a very tasty banana. This was at the 16 km (10 mile) point, so was most welcome. I’d been going for well over an hour and a half and was only just over a third of the way.

As Altrincham is approached, there’s a section where runners entering and leaving Altrincham meet on opposite sides of the same road. This can be both distressing and heartening. Cheering from the Barber family in the middle of Altrincham was definitely heartening.

Soon after leaving Altrincham, another pacer appeared in the distance ahead of me. It turned out to be the 4.30 pacer, who would have set off about five minutes before me in the wave that started at 9.25. Whilst I felt I must be going too fast, I settled for a slightly slower pace in quite a large, chatty, group behind this pacer.

Sue had positioned herself on the railway bridge on Park Road, and I’m seen here approaching my second and last ‘banana and coke’ support point. Plus vaseline for a couple of sore bits.

Then off I went for the last ten miles or so. I’m seen below some way behind the 4.30 pacer, who is just to the left of the green traffic light. (Click to enlarge the image.) This is familiar ground. We live about 200 metres away, down some steps at a gap in the railings behind green jacketed Sharon from number 26. I’m sure we aren’t the only people to discover friendly neighbours by supporting the marathon from outside our homes. Sue got blisters from ringing our ‘dinner’ bell. My feet stayed mercifully blister free though at this stage my dodgy right knee, and a sore left calf, were both concerning me.

Sue took a few more photos, whilst I trotted on after Mr 4.30. You have to admire James, in this rather warm costume, on Timperley Bridge.

Having caught up with the 4.30 pacer, I decided to try to stay with him up to beyond the 30 km point. That actually involved dropping my pace a little, so after being my quickest 10 km split last year, this year the 20 to 30 km section was my slowest 10 km split (albeit in the same time as last year).

After 32 km I was feeling ok, despite being in the rather less populated zone along Carrington Lane and Flixton Road. I decided to pretend that I was just starting a ‘10 km in an hour’ run. The next three km were my fastest of the day; they seemed even faster, as I was overtaking lots of other runners – I probably overtook about 3,000 during the course of the marathon. By the time I entered Urmston, and lots more encouraging support, my legs were telling me that perhaps my brain had been wrong to cast away memories of the first 30 km, but it wasn’t until the last 4 km that my pace dropped significantly, and rather annoyingly, just near the end, the 4.30 pacer jogged past and I couldn’t maintain his pace.

Never mind, I finished just behind him, in less than 5 hours after the 9 am starters. Can you spot me at the finish, just inside 5 hours?

I was then accosted by Michelle the masseuse and her daughters, one of whom took the title picture for this posting. Sue had recommended (and booked me in with) Michelle, after she had helped bring Sue’s Achilles problem under control, and a 45 minute leg massage on the Friday before, and the Monday after the marathon certainly did me no harm!

With lots of people finishing all the time, the Wythenshawe parkrunners team had their work cut out to keep people moving through certain pinch points at the finish and in the athletes’ village, so it was just a brief “hello” to Andy and others after collecting my t-shirt and making my way to the tram stop.

By 2.30 or so I was at home in our garden with Sue, celebrating a most successful outing.

Shown below is a screen dump of my results. (As usual, click on the image for a better picture.)

My position of 9367 is taken from the 9 am start, so my ‘chip position’ would be much higher, perhaps around 8000, not that it matters. The ‘Good For Age’ time that gives one a better chance of getting into the London Marathon is 5 hours for those of us aged over 70. That was my target, and I’m delighted to have met it. (I could even have popped home for a cuppa when passing our house, and still met that target!)

There’s something wrong with the position data in the above information, as I would have gained many places after the 30 km point, not lost them, as it appears. I’ve noticed the same with other athletes, so I guess the position data should be taken with a pinch of salt.

I’ve summarised my Garmin and my ‘chip’ data for all my marathons below. This time I seem to have finished slowly (it certainly felt like it), but my Garmin measured 2.7 km rather than the 2.4 km on previous runs, probably compensated for elsewhere as I noticed the Garmin was telling me I had gone slightly further than the markers on the course indicated.

For anyone interested, here’s this year’s route. The upper ‘runner’ waypoint is the start, the lower one is the finish on Talbot Road. There’s lots more on the Marathon website. Next year the route will be changed to include part of the city centre.

Having gained a qualifying time under the current London Marathon rules, I hope to be there next April, again raising funds for the Levana School Partnership.

My fundraising this year is going well, with my current target of £1,500 having almost been reached as I write, but with quite a few ‘regular’ donors still absent from the ‘attendance list’. Here’s the link!

The reports on my previous marathons are shown (for my benefit) below:

And all my ‘Marathon’ labelled postings are .

Phew! And thanks again to all who have supported me.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Marathon Number 4

Hopefully the conditions will be better than they were near Ottawa in February, where I’m pictured above on the 5 km Kanata parkrun! Brrr.

I’ve entered the Manchester Marathon for the second year, by way of my annual fundraising for Levana School Partnership, a small charity that supports a couple of township schools in Cape Town. Every penny raised makes a difference. My JustGiving site is here.

Many thanks to those who have already donated to this worthy (one of many, I know) cause.

My target time for the 26 miles (42 km) is five hours, though a knee problem might affect that, as well as forcing me to restrict my training to little more than the weekly 5 km parkruns that Sue and I enjoy.

That’s all for now, I need some rest!, so I hope to see some more donations, and I’ll report back on Monday.

PS If anyone does want to follow my progress, I understand that may be done through the Marathon’s website. My number is 16667.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Sunday 8 April 2018 – The Greater Manchester Marathon


What a brilliant event this was. I left home at 8.15 and got the tram down to Old Trafford (pictured above), where there was an atmosphere of calm expectancy. I could have left it another 30 minutes, but the bin liner I’m clutching in the photo below kept me warm in the 6ºC weather.


I started right at the back of the nearly 10,000 strong field, leaving space for those ahead. This worked well for me.


I chatted to other fundraisers with rather more imagination than me regarding ‘dress sense’.


Starting at the back found me with like minded folk, well behind the five hour pacer. Sue Strickland, parkrunner and ‘Dragon!’, spotted me and I trotted along with her and other Dragons for the first few km, after which I slowly pulled away from them. It was good to have the company though, and it restrained me to my planned 6.30 per km pace. In my previous two marathons I’ve run as far as I could at 6 minute pace, but I found that pace slowed as the run progressed.

This time, encouraged by people like Ken and Norma in Altrincham, where I passed a large gaggle behind the 4.45 pacer, I managed to maintain the 6.30 pace for 30 km, despite a comfort break and a couple of banana breaks, courtesy of Sue and Helen in Timperley. I’m pictured at the second of these, at 23 km.


Not unexpectedly (after minimal training featuring just a couple of 5 km parkruns) things got harder after 30 km, and my pace slipped over a few km to 7 minute kilometres. There was a slower one at km 35 thanks to the need for another comfort break.

The support was fantastic, all around the course. My previous experience told me that if I stop running I’ll walk slowly and lose my rhythm, so when I felt I was close to ‘The Wall’ I just slowed my pace; others around me were walking nearly as fast, but after a while I found I could increase my pace again, especially when being encouraged by the locals. Quite a few folk were suffering from cramp, but I just had a sore knee, virtually from the start, which I was able to ignore.

Regular chocolate and jelly baby intake seemed to keep me going, and after the 41st km I felt able to push on for the last 1.4 km, and my pace of 4.39/km for the last 400 metres was faster even than my sprint to the finish in Toulouse in 2016, where I was forced on by a Frenchman. This time it was my turn to encourage others during my flight to the finish. It was good that Sue and Helen witnessed this on the U-tube live broadcast!

The finish was jollified by Wythenshawe parkrun’s ‘meet and greet’ team.

(Click on that link, it’s fun.)

As you can see from the picture below kindly taken by Martha during a break from dancing, my knee hadn’t really started to swell at this point.


By then I’d already received a text message with my time, and the full results were soon available – see below, though there’s a glitch with the Mile 20 data.


I bumped into a couple of parkrunners (below) who were queueing patiently for a massage, having cracked the four hour barrier. Well done lads, and well done to all the others we know who finished – especially Ken, nearly half an hour ahead of me, and dentist Mark and railway John, who finished 4th and 6th respectively in the 60-65 category, nearly an hour and a half ahead of me.


Here’s the route:


Just for the record:


Starting slowly certainly worked well. I managed to run all the way for the first time, and from 30 km to the end – the hardest bit – this was my quickest time.

All in all a brilliant event in perfect conditions. That’s all for now, pending further edits, as I want those who have donated to be able to read this report. As I write, some £995 has been raised for Levana, so the £1,000 target will be reached. Many thanks to all who have donated, including Roger – for a bonus that I don’t really deserve. The JustGiving page remains open…

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Sunday 15 October 2017 – The Birmingham International Marathon


After completing the Toulouse Marathon last October, I thought it might be a good challenge to try one of these events every year. I was a bit nervous about going to Toulouse again as I doubted it could match up to last year’s experience, so I chose Birmingham’s first event of this nature in recent years.

Getting there was a bit easier than getting to Toulouse, as Sue’s parents live in Birmingham and it was an easy 30 minute drive to the Alexander Stadium for the start.

I’d tried to get vaguely fit for this by running for 4 km every now and then (about 16 times) whilst on our recent trip to Canada, plus three parkruns, on the last of which one of my hamstrings ‘pulled’. That was nearly a month ago and I hadn’t been able to run properly since then.

I decided to take part anyway, and to walk round the course if necessary. So I took up a place at the very back of the 5200 strong field of runners. Half of them had set off at 8.30 in the ‘red’ wave of faster runners. I waited behind the ‘longer than 6 hours 30 minutes’ flag for the 9.30 start. Everyone was very jolly and relaxed; there were no nervous ‘elite’ runners here.


The official start is out of sight to the right in these pictures. We watched about half the field start, then there was a three minute gap before the next ‘surge’, and those of us at the back eventually got started around 9.45.


I’d been chatting to an interesting chap, Taiwo Opesan, a 48 year old of Nigerian heritage who lives in Hale and coaches amateur footballers. We stayed together for the first hour, until I had to stop to slacken a shoe lace. That’s not happened to me before, and I had to stop later to slacken the other one. Apart from that my feet were fine despite being in trainers that are past their sell by date, and so long as I shuffled as opposed to striding out, my hamstring wasn’t too painful, though I did get some soreness behind the knees that took a few days to subside.

I caught up with Taiwo again, but even though my own pace slowed, he fell behind, finishing in 5.41. The support around the course was excellent, with lots of water and jelly babies being handed out. Sadly the only person with bananas was Sue, whose banana handout sped me towards the finish.

There was lots of chatting, with an assortment of folk. I find it takes my mind off the continuous effort of running if I can chat to somebody on such an occasion. The running is so slow that getting out of breath isn’t a problem, it’s the legs that are suffering…

Anyway, despite not being able to match my Toulouse timings I only gradually slowed, and like many of those around me (“we can slow down now, we’ll meet our target”) I managed to finish in under five hours quite easily, if totally unexpectedly.

Sue and I adjourned for essential rehydration fluid after I’d finished. We could look down on the course, which finishes with a rather cruel hill, so there was no last minute sprint this time.


Café Rouge is really a restaurant, but they seemed quite happy to serve only fluids.


Ah, now I’m feeling much better!


Here are a couple of screen dumps from the results website.


There were just over 5200 participants, of whom about 44 were aged over 65. One of the other people in my age group was a TGO Challenger, Stan Appleton, who took just 4 hours 18 minutes. My time, 17 minutes slower than my time in Toulouse, placed me 16th out of 31 men in my age group, in which there were also six women, all a bit slower.

Great news though – my sub 5 hour time makes me eligible to enter the 2019 London Marathon on a ‘good for age’ basis, so I won’t need to try to enter via the dreaded ballot. That’s some way off though; anything can happen before then. Meanwhile, here are (mainly for my own benefit) some more stats.


Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Sunday 2 April 2017 – The Manchester Marathon


The first Manchester Marathon was run in 1908, starting and finishing at the Saracen's Head pub in Warburton in Trafford. This was a 20 mile (there was no established distance for a marathon then) run organised by Salford Harriers.

The first ever amateur marathon to be run using the now established marathon distance of 26 miles 385 yard distance was the Manchester Marathon in 1909. This marathon started in Sandbach and finished at the Fallowfield Stadium in Manchester.

After a 14 year gap, the Manchester marathon returned and kept the same course from 1923 to 1928 and 1931 to 1936. This route started and finished at the Fallowfield Stadium passing through Cheadle, Timperley, Altrincham, Hale Barns, Styal and Gatley.

From 1969 to 1973 the Maxol marathons started from Manchester Town Hall and finished at Old Trafford football stadium. Manchester Marathons were then run from 1981 to 1985 and from 1996 to 2002.

Then, after an absence of ten years, the Manchester Marathon was brought back to Trafford in 2012. 

After the 2015 event came the news that “24,000 people have not completed the Greater Manchester Marathon after the course was found to be 380m too short for the past three years, with all runners between the 2013 and 2015 events having their times invalidated”.

Oh dear!

Today nearly 9000 runners, including 2600 women, ran round the re-measured and re-measured again course in perfect weather. Sue and Ken and I took our dinner bell off to Timperley where outward bound runners passed the 11 mile mark and those returning from ‘The Altrincham Loop’ passed us again after 14 miles.

We spotted a few friends. Jackie C not unexpectedly produced the star performance, coming in 12th out of 80 in her age group in a time of 3 hours 53 minutes. She just held off a last minute dash from a Wythenshawe parkrun run director, Alan, who finished a couple of minutes later.

Doesn’t Mrs C look so relaxed?!


Jayme who does TGO Challenges managed 4.11 for his first marathon; SWOG Helen came in in a creditable 4.56 on her first, and another first timer, parkrun Ron, took 5.13, possibly slowed by chatting with us in Timperley for a while. We also saw Paul and Edyta, Frank, and Claire, as well as a host of Sale Harriers who sometimes appear at parkruns.

Well done to all of them, and I do hope the course was measured correctly!

The following photos were just random ones of people who probably finished in times around 3.30 to 3.45. It was hard to cheer, ring a bell and take photos all at the same time…



Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Sunday 23 October 2016 - The International Toulouse Métropole Marathon


Warning: some readers may find this entry long and tedious; if so please move on!

Saturday night's tagliatelle au saumon at Pizzeria Vecchio took a bit of getting through after our mid afternoon giant lunch. But I manfully consumed it, as an intrinsic part of the training plan laid down by Sue. A plan that involved no running at all. It was two late for that. If I'd known Alistair hadn't bothered with anything else after the carbo loading lunch, I may have managed with just a pasta salad from the Monop' shop.

Anyway, after a couple of croissants and a cup of coffee for breakfast I made my way down to the start for soon after 9. There was lots of security, so meeting up with Alistair was a bit fraught, and handing over fleece and valuables to Laurence had to be done after we'd started.

Ali and I ran together for about the first 10 km, tracking the 'yellow sails' of the 4 hours 30 minute pacers. Ali finally went ahead of them, as did I after stopping for a pee and deciding a drink every 5 km was sufficient. The pacers were stopping at every drinks station - at 2 to 3 km intervals.

We were going at a pace of about 6 minutes per kilometre for the first hour. Conditions were good - not to hot, with a breeze to evaporate the sweat. There were no steep hills, though the course did undulate. My GPS, usually pretty accurate, shows ascent totalling a modest 200 metres for the entire course.

I happily jogged along for a second hour, passing the 20 km marker after a little over two hours. Keeping to that steady pace was however becoming harder, and the half way point hadn't been reached. The official timing shows me reaching half way after 2 hours 10 minutes.

I did the Macclesfield Half Marathon seven years ago, again with no training, so I'd known that barring injury I could keep a steady pace for that distance. But now I was in new territory. I soon passed Alistair, who had moved into a run/walk mode. I was managing to maintain a pace of just over 6 minutes per kilometre. I was passing lots of people, breathing deeply from time to time, and munching a pocket full of jelly babies. That made me feel queasy so I switched to grabbing bananas at the frequent support points.

Right from the start I'd been walking whilst drinking or eating (I'd learnt on the Macclesfield run that this was the antidote to choking), otherwise I ran all the first 30 km, passing that milestone after about 3 hours 5 minutes. Near here, Laurence and Monique were cheering me on, and from time to time the crowds shouted encouragement. Having your name (an easy one) on your bib is great...
"Allez Martin, bon voyage" or similar.

After 30 km I continued to run but my pace slowed, and at 35 km I had to accept that I couldn't physically run the whole distance, so I briefly lapsed into a walk. Friends had advised that if I found I couldn't run any more it would be an easy transition to a fast walking pace. Not after running for 35 km I'm afraid. So after about 20 metres walking, I relapsed into a slow jog, marginally quicker than a moderate walking pace, that was just as easy as walking apart from the need for lots of very deep breaths.

With about 4 km to go the yellow sails of the 4 hours 30 minute pacers went past. I wonder how I would have got on if I'd stayed with them all the way? Who knows? I might have expired like one of those yellow pacemakers that I passed near the finish. With gritted teeth and occasional pauses for drinks and a few metres of walking, the run continued. I didn't particularly enjoy this bit, but the mutual encouragement and camaraderie helped. There was one long avenue where runners stretched ahead into the far distance that was particularly tedious, especially as by now the leading relay teams had started to come flying past.

Near the end - maybe 500 metres away, though you couldn't see the finish (I knew it must be imminent as my GPS said we should have finished) I was given a push by a younger competitor. Vincent Carlier cajoled me into speeding up to the fastest pace I'd managed in the entire race. Every time I slowed he slowed with me and pushed me to an even faster pace. The orange carpet soon arrived and I'd like to think that was where we overtook one of the elite relay teams.

Thank you Vincent, whilst I didn't particularly enjoy it at the time, it was a memorable finish. Just desserts I suppose, as from time to time I've done the same to a few parkrunners in an effort to push them to personal bests. I finished at well inside 5 minute kilometre pace for that last 500 metres!

Getting out of the race compound was a bit of a struggle. I was later glad I'd eschewed the plentiful food on offer as I was still a bit queasy. I found a bollard to stand on and attempted to record Alistair rounding the final corner. Laurence and Monique were cheering us both on, though as I was distracted by Vincent I hadn't seen them at the end.

Here are a couple of relay teams going through, with Alistair just behind them, gritting his teeth to reach the finish.


Our times are somewhat academic as we aren't exactly elite runners and neither of us had done any training, though I'd probably had more exercise recently than Alistair, who works full time as a teacher in France near Geneva.

Martin: 4.32.40 (Half was 2.10) The ‘official time’ is a couple of minutes longer as that takes no account of the two minutes it took us to reach the start line.
Position 2067 out of 2637 participants, and 48th out of 78 in my 60-69 age group.

Alistair: 4.52.35, position 2378 (Half was 2.09).

We all met up, Guy appearing from somewhere, and I nipped back to my hotel for a shower before we took the subway to Ramonville for an excellent Sunday lunch with yesterday's team at Laurence's mother's house, where we were joined by Didier's son Florian.

Alistair and I were keen to absorb some of the Corsican beer that was on offer, and to show off our medals in the afternoon sun.


A trip to a spacious park next to the Canal du Midi provided Ali and me with an opportunity to loosen up (it worked) and a chance to meet Guy's son Jerome and his family (Corinne, Matis (5) and Romane (2)).

Lyra was also there, and she won a hastily convened Dog Hurdling Championship. Well done, Lyra.


By the time we left the Canal du Midi, the light was waning.


Then it was back for a welcome cup of tea at Monique’s house before returning to Hotel Ours Blanc for a good sleep before the journey home.

When I started this project a month ago I thought I might raise just as much money for the Cape Town township schools by sitting at home and writing out a cheque equivalent to the cost of this trip. But the response and the donations have been amazing. I've increased the target four times, and as I write the donations from 93 people amount to £1748, with a bit more to come. Thank you so much. I didn't know I had so many friends!

Readers are of course free to donate if you haven't already. It's a good cause:

There’s a slideshow covering my whole trip, here. If you click on the first image you may be lucky enough to be able to scroll through the pictures and see the captions, but if you find the ‘slideshow’ setting you are unlikely to see the captions. Google really are in a mess with this, I’m going to try alternatives when I have time.

PS Here’s the route, different from previous years, I believe, perhaps for security reasons.


And here’s the Garmin download giving timing splits, etc.