Saturday, 1 January 2011

How to spectacularly break a promise to your girlfriend

Dave: Linds, I've been thinking.
Linds: Makes a change.
Dave: Instead of running lots of races next year, which cost a bit to enter and also have travel costs, 'require' new kit, and generally involve spending lots of money, I'm only going to enter one big race instead.
Linds: Oh. How [yawn] interesting.
Dave: Oh indeed. And I think we should go to the USA and I'll run a race there as part of a longer holiday. I'll use the money I save by not racing to help pay for the trip and all will be fine and dandy.
Linds: Oh! How actually interesting! A big exciting holiday to America, hooray! And no other races for me to graciously pretend to be interested in! Hooray Hooray!
Dave: Hooray Hooray indeed.

Here follows my 2011 race calendar. You'll notice it has slightly more than one race in it...

I reckon designing a good race calendar involves finding the right balance between racing to ordinary life, allowing enough time for training and recovery, a spot of travel, a contrast between big-city pazzazz and rural idyll, and ensuring that I end up with an eclectic collection of commemorative tat and freebie T-shirts by the end of the year. A mix of distances, terrains, locations, types, topography and style. A blend of races that are free to enter and round the corner, races that are the other side of the world and cost the earth, and those which fill the enormous gap in between. Races, in short, which keep things interesting.

I've been making these plans for a while, and I still haven't gotten round to registering for any of them except SF, but here is my tentative schedule for 2011:

March - Alloa Half Marathon (Clackmannanshire, Scotland). This will be my third year running Alloa, a professionally-organised 13.1 mile road race usually entered by around a thousand people. More of a serious club runners' outing than a fun runners' jaunt, but a good show all round and at £17 a bargain. This is where I set my half-marathon PB of 1:37:03.

April - Lochaber Marathon (near Fort William, Scotland). This is probably the least finalised of all my plans, as running a full-length marathon should really involve a bit more commitment and planning than I've put into this idea so far... But, seduced as ever by the prospect of entering a race that friends are running, this is a definite prospect as a warm-up marathon. Warm-up marathon, I know. Who even am I? Lochaber's race typically has a few hundred entrants, and follows an out-and-back course along the banks of Loch Eil.

May - Edinburgh Half Marathon (Edinburgh, Scotland). Part of the audaciously self-styled 'Edinburgh Marathon Festival', I've run the relay part of this event for the last three years. I find quite a lot lacking in certain aspects of the Edinburgh Marathon and its spin-off races, so I really should vote with my feet and give it a miss, but I can't quite bring myself to ignore a major race going on in my home town... So I've chosen the half this year, all being well.

June - Seven Hills of Edinburgh (Edinburgh, Scotland). A madcap race that's part orienteering, part hillwalking, part running, part guesswork and completely hills. Starting from Calton Hill in Edinburgh, racers have to summit each of the city's seven hills in the correct order, which is verified by having your race number time-stamped by a marshal at each checkpoint, before slogging back up Calton Hill to finish. There is no prescribed route, the roads remain open and more or less anything goes. Accepted wisdom suggests that it covers about 14 miles and a total ascent/descent of 2200 feet. 

July - San Francisco Marathon (California, USA). The jewel in the crown of my race calendar, and the 'one big race' alluded to in the convincing scene laid out at the start of this post (also the only one I've actually registered for so far). 26.2 miles of staggering scenery and rolling hills. Starting with a few miles along the Embarcadero, then over the Golden Gate Bridge and back, the course then loops into central SF taking in parkland and some pretty funky hills. So funky, in fact, that the Wall Street Journal dubbed this 'the race even marathoners fear'. The race's own tag line is 'Worth the Hurt'! I'm running this race during a two-week holiday to California and New York that Linds and I are taking in July/August, and if I get enough hill training in and get some proper speedwork done I hope to run a very strong time here. Running a marathon is a staggering achievement, running a second and racking up a PB is a proud moment, but running a truly strong time in the race even marathoners fear will be worth the hurt. 

September - Great North Run (Newcastle, England). A hugely tentative proposition - entry to this incredible half marathon is by an extremely competitive ballot (I've been rejected twice already), or alternatively by getting hold of a charity place, which I'm hesitant to do. With 54,000 runners the GNR is one of the biggest races on the planet, with a fast course, incredible support and live TV coverage. It's one of my ultimate aspirational races - I'll get a place one day...

October - Dublin Marathon (Dublin, Republic of Ireland). I have unfinished business with this marathon. And I've heard rumours that certain guest bloggers are keen to tackle Ireland's biggest 26.2...

On top of this lot will probably be quite a few parkruns and any other free stuff I can sneak into. What are your plans for 2011? Want to join in any of these? Let me know!

Here's to an epic year. Happy running!


P.S. Sorry Linds. Love you.

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