Wednesday, 30 March 2011


I've had a strange week in running shoes since I last posted. I'm struggling to get back into the rhythm of regular training after Alloa, for several reasons. The blisters have been problematic and are healing very slowly, and both ankles are a little weak too. My muscles are just tired. What I've learnt is that a massive race effort takes a huge amount out of you, and your training schedule afterwards should reflect that...

Anyway, I've been ever so slightly distracted this last week and a half, so I've not had much time or focus for big miles. I've had things to do, people to see, a fiancée to lavish love and affection on. I did manage to get a nice slow 10-miler in on Sunday morning, a hearty out-and-back along the canal, and also produced a 20:44 parkrun on Saturday. That was a highlight - a few months ago that time would have been a 5k PB, but now I can achieve that kind of time on a recovery week. Though I was beaten by a 14 year old. By four minutes. Sigh.

All this has put my running mojo in a constant state of flux. When not running, I'm inclined not to run. When running regularly, it seems unthinkable to skip a session. My mojo's got to be in shape before I can do anything.

So what has picked up my enthusiasm to lace up the running shoes and update the slightly neglected blog? Two things; this video:

I love absolutely everything about every second of that video. It's heroic and amazing and inspiring. I aspire to have just a fraction as much heart and guts as this woman.

The second mojo pick-me-up is the fact that this evening's run has tipped me over the 300 mile mark for the year so far (since January 3rd). Three hundred miles. That's the length of England. What's more, that means I'm on track for totalling over 1,200 miles in 2011 - 350 more than last year. People ask why I'm so obsessed with logging my mileage - the answer is, for moments like this.

Happy running


2011 to date - miles: 301.46, parkruns: 4, races: 2, miles biked: 12.85

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Quite the weekend

So I’ve had rather an exciting few days since I signed off the LIVE blogpost on Sunday morning.  I ran the Alloa Half Marathon, during which I took nine phonecalls, broke two PBs, accrued three vicious blisters and lost my breakfast (twice). If you haven’t read the wonderful and bizarre tapestry of information that came out of the LIVE event then I urge you to go and read it now

Also, go back to this blogpost and read the comments, as one LIVE update was mistakenly posted there (it’s a cracker, too).

The start line, unaware of the horror to come.
The finish line, ecstatic that it's over!
I don’t think I need to add much more on my Alloa experience. I had a very, very difficult race – my shoulder was aching from a golfing injury, I was wearing too many layers and I set off at a -literally- blistering pace which for some reason, I hung on to. My digestion was all wrong and ended in disaster.  I started the race wearing gloves that I had to ditch after 3 miles.  The first two miles were dispensed in 6:43 and 6:44, which is just absurd. The pace only slowed a little until I hit the hill of ultimate death 11 miles into the race. I don’t know what came over me.

But I PB’d for the 10k in 43:34, taking a hefty 2:07 off my previous mark, then went on to smash my half marathon PB by 2:19, recording an official time of 1:34:44. I would have finished at least a minute quicker if it hadn’t been for the stomach upset. I have to be clear though: this was the hardest I’ve ever run, the most effort I’ve ever put in to a race. This half marathon ruined me - I am blistered, sore and broken. Walking is still quite uncomfortable. Those two PBs came at a hefty price, which I’m not sure I will be willing to pay again. Though running a fast time has its advantages: within two hours of the gun firing I had finished the race, showered, changed and made it back to the car to head off into the distance. The last runner still had almost an hour left to go as Linds (head cheerleader, crew-chief, chauffeur) and I left town, heading for St Andrews for the afternoon.

The LIVE concept was fun and I’m proud of the finished product  - even though I played a relatively small part in it!  I’d like to apologise to those who tried to call but couldn’t get through, and even more so to those who did get through and were rewarded only with wheezing, grumpiness and general malaise.  Everyone who posted an update is awesome, you all win an official I run because... t-shirt (or, you would, if they existed).  To those who had suggested that taking calls on the run would slow me down, I say – you should have been right, but I’m glad you weren’t. I might do another LIVE event, but no promises...

Then, my weekend got better. On Sunday afternoon, on a windy, beautiful beach in the East Neuk of Fife that we both know all too well, I asked my girlfriend and long-suffering crew chief to marry me.  I am still beaming at the fact that she said yes. I would like to write a hundred thousand things about that moment and the four and a half years before it, but this isn’t the time or the place. Suffice to say, I have something in my life more important than running.

Happy everything


2011 to date - miles: 275.65, parkruns: 3, races: 2, miles biked: 12.85

Sunday, 20 March 2011

LIVE - Alloa Half Marathon 2011

Morning all. It is 7.30am on Sunday 20th March and the Alloa Half Marathon is just a couple of hours away. I'll be leaving the flat shortly so I'll sign off now and leave the content up to you lot. Exciting.

Check back regularly from 10am to see LIVE updates on my progress.

Not much to report so far this morning, other than that I've eaten some breakfast, consumed coffee and vitamins and reckon I'm more or less ready to go! Look out Alloa, here I come...

If you're entering a race report, click on 'Comments' at the bottom of this post and type it in the box that appears (if it's not already visible). You can choose to post with an existing identity/account from the drop-down box, or you can just choose 'Name/URL' from the list and type in your name.

Happy blogging,


2011 to date - miles run: 260.39, parkruns: 3, races: 1, miles biked: 12.85

P.S. Following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan last week, I've decided to use today's race to participate in Run for Japan, which means I'll be donating a pound a mile from my run to the British Red Cross. I urge you to do something similar.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Coming soon - live blogging!

On Sunday I will be running my third consecutive Alloa Half Marathon.  Despite the less-than-inspiring location of the race, this event means a lot to me - it was my first serious race in a University of St Andrews vest back in 2009, and was my main warm-up race for the Paris Marathon. Last year I recorded a massive 7:40 PB there, finishing in 1:37:03. It’s supremely well organised and run over a challenging but really quite enjoyable course. In short; it’s a great event that I hope to do for  many years to come.

However, I won’t be publishing a review on this blog, since I’ll be reporting on the race for Runners’ World magazine. To avoid duplicating material (and to avoid infringing copyright on my own work) I’ve decided not to blog about it in the usual way. Instead, I’ve come up with an even better idea. Introducing:

I run because... LIVE

Here’s how it works: On Sunday morning before I leave for the race I will publish a blogpost to let you know that I’m leaving the flat, probably including such fascinating details as what I’ve had for breakfast and how annoying it is to be up early on a Sunday.  From there onwards, the blog content is entirely in your hands.  Readers of I run because..., particularly guest bloggers, will call my mobile during the race for an update, then scurry back to their laptops to leave a comment on the LIVE blogpost.

They can write whatever they want; something completely factual and serious, mocking and rude or even largely fictitious, could be just a few words or a chunky paragraph – the only thing I’ll ask them to include for definite is my approximate mileage and race time. Hopefully four or five comments will appear during the hour and forty minutes (ish) it will take me to finish the race, but who knows? Could be none. Or dozens. Once I’ve crossed the finish line, I’ll call a reader who will round off the post with my finish time. Exciting stuff, eh?

If you would like to participate in I run because... LIVE then you’ll need my mobile number – send me an email or message me on Facebook to get it. Absolutely everyone is welcome to join in. The race starts at 10am, and I will be carrying my phone and running earphones with me throughout.

So tune in – I run because... LIVE from 10am this Sunday, 20th March, right here on I run because.

Happy running


2011 to date - miles: 260.39, parkruns: 3, races: 1

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Race Report - Paris Marathon 2009

The 2011 Paris Marathon is four weeks today, and for the benefit of those of you who are tackling France's biggest marathon this year I thought I would publish my race report from the day I ran my first 26.2... This is a version of my original write-up, reviewed and revised for your reading pleasure. I ran this race with my good friend and personal running guru Alex Gnanapragasam, who was good enough to look after me on our circuitous trip around Paris. Here goes.

We were early for the 8:45am start thanks to our hotel being just a short walk from the start/finish area around the Arc de Triomphe (a walk which later wouldn't seem so short...). Alex was registered to start in the 3:45 pen, but I was less ambitious back when I registered in October 2008 and had put myself in the 4h slot. But my training had gone supremely well - or so I thought - and I was confident that 3:45 was achievable so I did my best to sneak into Alex's pen with him. The marshalls were quite rightly having none of it, and after some deliberation we did as we were told and both started in the 4h pen, surrounded primarily by American women in designer sunglasses. Odd.

The gun fired and a mere 8 minutes later we crossed the start line, weaving in and out of a million people as we nervously tried to find our pace going down the Champs-Elysees. The race never really thinned out, and at one point early on came to a complete standstill because it was so congested. Many complained, I was not one of them.

My brother Nick and his then-girlfriend-now-fiancée Erin had decided that a weekend in Paris would be lovely, and if there happened to be a race on at the same time then that would be OK. Their masterful supporting was rewarded with them spotting us around mile 3. Unfortunately Nick hadn't thought to shout anything more inspiring than 'DAVE!!' so we took this as an expression of support and carried on heading east out of the city and into the Bois de Vincennes.

Nick later told me that the stream of runners passing him were mesmerisingly identical, but the entrants who stood out were a woman running with a wicker shopping basket that appeared to be full of her daily market purchases, and another man reading the day's newspaper as he ran. Everyone else was steeled and focussed on the task ahead. This is indicative of the Paris Marathon and French running in general - there are few costumed fun runners here, rather a huge number of very serious, overwhelmingly male club runners. Spot anyone in a bright vest or a modest costume or even a half-decent smile and chances are they're English!

Pretty cracking course! Click to enlarge.
The first half of the marathon passed in a blur, and before we knew it we had reached 13.1 miles just 30 seconds behind our planned pace. Reading this back I realise what I'm saying here - running for almost two hours non-stop passed in a blur. Funny how your perception shifts as your goals change. I remember saying to Alex that six months ago I would have been delighted with finishing a half marathon, but that I hadn't come to Paris to run half a race. 

By now the course had looped back into the centre and soon we were running westwards alongside the Seine, dipping in and out of tunnels, including the one where Princess Di's car crashed. There was little time for reflection because the French runners seemed fascinated by echoes and were shouting to each other like a group of feral football hooligans. Just not cricket. Around mile 16 Nick and Erin's Jedi powers led them to see us yet again; this time Nick had thought for slightly longer about his supporting technique and opted for shouting 'DAVE!' slightly quieter and proffering a bottle of water, which was gratefully received.

Nearing the end.
At mile 18, climbing out of yet another sodding tunnel, Alex dropped back and I slowed down to stick with him. He fell back again, and I tried to slow to stay with Yoda, but the crowd was still so thick that my efforts were quashed and looking back just seconds later I had already lost sight of him. After the first lonely half mile I was resigned to solo running and thought it would be wise to get my head down and get on with it...

At 19 miles I had reached the furthest that I had ever run in my entire life, and as 20 approached I was aching like hell but still smiling and still ready for more. Then, out of nowhere, the world ended. I tripped and stumbled over one of the thousands of discarded water bottles just before the 20 mile marker which sent unholy cramp up first my right thigh, then my left, which forced me to slow to walk it off. Imagine the worst pain ever, and now compound it with the feeling that you did it to yourself. My legs are twinging even now at the memory. (Yes, still in 2011!)

The next 10k was bizarre. When my pace was disrupted by the trip, I more or less instantly hit the wall. Sapped of energy and furious at the banality of tripping over some loose recycling, I had slowed right down to 'only-just-running' pace. I couldn't think, couldn't focus and was quite confused, but decided to try and zone everything out except the blue line painted on the roads to mark the official route. By now I was in the Bois de Boulogne, and here the 26.2 mile buffet that is the Marathon de Paris came into its own. Beyond the offerings available throughout the race (water, energy drinks, bananas, oranges, dried apricots, dates, raisins, sultanas and sugar cubes) stands had been set up by a series of mentalists offering wine, cake, baguette, more wine, cider, grapes and haribo. I chose the cider, cake and haribo, thinking (rightly) that I couldn't feel any worse and some booze would probably cheer me up, which it did!

Somehow I reached mile 25, and my oh my was that a sweet sign. Sadly I hadn't realised that there were THREE more signs to go: 41k, 42k and 26 miles. All very depressing. As I reached 41k I sped up, trying to regain my earlier pace. I had lost a lot of time in the fall-out from the fall-over, and the 4 hour barrier had passed between 25 and 26 miles, but I didn't really mourn its passing. This was about survival.

I crossed the péripherique back into the city and onto Avenue Foch without seeing my parents or my sister, who also failed to see me. Probably wise, I can't have been much to look at. (They had left Kent a little before the race started, speeding through northern French countryside on the Eurostar whilst receiving automated text messages updating them on my progress. Their plans went slightly awry and we only managed to see each other after the race was over. Such is life.) Then suddenly, there it was. The 'Arrivée' sign, framed by the Arc de Triomphe. It seemed utterly impossible. I crossed the line in a daze, hands in the air, mind somewhere else, and feet screaming for mercy. 4:06:43.

Alex crossed the line around 8 minutes later, having been knocked over by another runner during the race! He never did properly explain that story. Maybe he will now. The comment box is down there, mate!

Happy running


2011 to date - miles: 248.56, parkruns: 3, races: 1

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Why does this keep happening!?

I think I am getting a reputation. As you know, on Saturday, this happened:
I said yes

This happens to me quite often, here are some recent examples:
I said yes

I said yes

I didn't say anything

There are the people who imply that I'm in some way culpable for their running...
I said probably

Then there are a few who, for some reason, don't like me constantly harping on about running, by 'liking' nonsense like this:
I said sorry

Then, yesterday, this happened:
I said yes.
Happy running.


2011 to date - miles: 221.07, parkruns: 3, races: 1

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Race Report - Meadows (Half) Marathon

Yesterday, after a week working in the Highlands where I only managed a total of 8.5 miles, I decided to head out for a medium-length, fast run to compensate. I thought I'd follow this up with a slow 12-14 miles this morning (Sunday) in the hope of salvaging my weekly mileage.

I got the medium run in without great concern: just under 8 miles including exploring an amazing old graveyard in a wood and a lovely section of coast. Due to a bit of an error with RunKeeper on the iPhone I was being fed a pack of lies in terms of data, which actually worked out rather well - the app was incorrectly berating me for a sluggish pace so I ramped it up a gear and finished with some fast miles.

So all is well - the first set of miles are in the bank and I was ready to pound out a long slow run on Sunday morning. Then on Saturday night, this happens:

Why yes, I am available! This event, the 'Meadows Marathon', is a fairly amateur race run on an eight-lap course around the Meadows (a public park) in Edinburgh. It's actually a half marathon - the website states that they 'went for alliteration over accuracy' when deciding on a name. Not sure many organisations would get away with this, but what the hell, for £15 and a last-minute entry I'll go along with it.

Maybe amateurish is an unfair description - this is a fun run: where the miles are of dubious lengths, half the field is in fancy dress and the banter is top notch. A group are 'walking 10km with 10 litres of water for water aid', a gorilla and a giraffe are fighting it out for first safari animal, and I couldn't help but laugh at the guy in an inflatable sumo suit who pinned his race number to his outfit and quickly looked rather, er, deflated. 

The peculiarities of an eight-lap course emerge immediately - though there's only one water station, there are effectively eight water stations. There are two bands on the course, which means there are sixteen bands on the course. Good times. But there's a nasty cobbled section, which we have to cover eight times, and an energy-sapping hill, which gets pretty bloody tedious after the sixth time you climb it. Bad times. But some other more bizarre things occur, too. The first mile marker says 10 miles, then 7, then 12, then eventually 1. Obviously this is going to be a workout for the brain, too.

I got a bit dizzy. Apologies to
Not in a particular hurry, I settle into a comfortable pace. As soon as the first lap is complete, the visual appeal of this unusual format becomes apparent - there is a smorgasbord of colours and runners strung out in a massive loop around the park. However, without any time-graded starting pens the early miles are very congested, which is made worse by the extremely narrow course in several places, and some very tight turns which cause pressure points. The lack of toilets on the course was a major oversight - when I asked a confused marshal for directions to the gentlemen's cloakroom he suggested I 'do a Paula Radcliffe'. We'll leave that idea there.

I start my 'racing' campaign by overtaking the slower runners until a natural pace group forms, but on the second loop, confusingly, we're overtaking people again. Some of these unfortunates have burnt out because they went out wildly too fast - there are clearly a lot of first timers here - but most of the people we're passing are still on their first lap. I am now constantly overtaking, and after four laps or so I'm overtaken by the leaders. They're on for something around 1:15, and I feel rather sorry for them as they have to duck and weave among the fun runners and overtake on grass verges as the course is so narrow. But no bother, they seem quite happy to steam past the penguins at an impressive clip.

After lap 5 my sister calls and we chat for a while - I have my running earphones in the phone - and this conversation makes me say out loud that I am spending my Sunday 'running around the Meadows a bunch of times', as the website puts it. My resolve to finish this nonsense and get home increases somewhat. I cross the line in 1:40:43, a satisfactory time but I'm still a tiny bit suspicious of the course's measurement. (Update - official time 1:41:10, which I think might be actually be gun time. Grr. 119th out of 450 finishers.) Whatever, you can only run the course that's laid out in front of you...

Would I do it again? Probably not, but I didn't plan to do it this time... Recommended if the concept appeals, but avoid if you're looking for a competitive race.

Happy running


2011 to date - miles: 217.76, parkruns: 3, races: 1

P.S. Thanks so much to everyone who has already donated to
my justgiving page - if you've not already donated, please do have a look and think about leaving a few quid in support of the Alzheimer's Society and the ongoing abuse of my feet...