Thursday, 20 October 2011

History Stands

Two or three years ago, some paper-pusher in the Department for Education or some other such administrative body in charge of exams decided that it was time for another rule change. Successive UK governments like to fiddle with our exam structures every now and then to put their stamp on education, and usually I couldn’t care less. But this one was different.

In summer 2005 I collected my A-level certificates, ridiculously satisfied to have achieved the highest possible set of results: four As. My school could offer a maximum of four A-levels per student, so I chose four subjects I enjoyed and was good at, worked hard at those four and got good grades in all of them. My CV would forever proclaim this clean sweep of school-age academic testing. I may not have collected any shiny plastic trophies, but academically I was top dog.

Until that paper-pusher moved the goalposts and added an A* grade to the A-level scoring system.

Now my CV looks good, but not great. I ‘only’ got As. Hypothetically, when the current cohorts of A-level students filter into the job market, their performances could be unfairly measured against mine. I did the best I could within the rules I was given, but now the rules have changed I’m retrospectively disadvantaged. How is this fair?

It isn’t. But it doesn’t matter. I have an MA now, so my A-levels are pretty irrelevant. Hopefully anyone looking critically at my CV would have some awareness of the rule change, if they were to care at all.  But imagine if a comparable scenario was played out on an international scale, affecting achievements which are recorded in history books and have huge sums of money associated to them. Imagine the greatest athletes in history being downgraded by retrospective rule changes. Sadly, right now, we don’t have to imagine.

The IAAF, athletics’ governing body, recently changed the rules for female distance records. Essentially, world records will only be certified in women-only races, on the basis that mixed races or races with male pacemakers offer some sort of ill-defined advantage, loosely generalising that women run faster in the presence of men. Aside from the fact that this is pretty sexist and to my mind based on flawed logic, there’s an even greater injustice afoot.

Outrageously, the rule is being applied retrospectively, disqualifying Paula Radcliffe’s phenomenal marathon world record of 2:15:25, achieved in London in 2003, and establishing her merely amazing 2:17:42 in London in 2005 as the official world record. Paula ran the 2003 race with pacemakers (whom she hadn’t asked for), although consciously not running behind them (which might have been considered drafting, entirely legal but not Paula’s style), at the pace she wanted to achieve (without giving the pacemakers any instructions).

Paula ran 2:15 with her own legs, in her own way, in a world-beating and record-shattering time. She strived and sweated and worked harder than anyone else on the planet to do it. The IAAF, on the other hand, whom I imagine to be cooped up in some gleaming corporate headquarters, have ruled that her time wasn’t achieved according to some new standards they invented eight years later, and so are quite happy to wipe it from the record books, belittling the months and years of work it represents. It’s worth noting, of course, that Paula is still the world record holder, in fact she has run the three fastest female marathon times ever, including the disqualified 2:15.

Check out the 'News' section of
Looking forward, this is bad news for women’s marathoning. Relatively few women-only races or women-only starts exist, limiting the potential for faster times. Berlin is a prime example – the men’s world record has repeatedly been broken there, but it doesn’t have a women-only start. There will never be a female world record achieved on what is possibly the fastest marathon course in the world. This will create a messy two-tier system of ‘world best’ and ‘world record’ times, possibly subdivided again to exclude courses like Boston which don’t meet IAAF qualifying standards of elevation and layout. A cynic might say that this is a ploy to push up the standards of IAAF championships and the Olympics - races which are usually run for podium places, not necessarily for fast times...

Paula and Nike are mounting a campaign against this decision, with a massive groundswell of public support from the running community and beyond. I have no hesitation in adding my voice to it. 

Do you think I could convince them to have a go at the A-level thing too?

History stands.


2011 to date: miles: 1023.17, parkruns: 6, races: 6, miles biked: 155, metres swum: 1225

Monday, 17 October 2011

How I deliberately cycled 35 miles

Exactly one year ago, when the Crew Chief was away for the weekend, I packed a rucksack and fairly spontaneously ran 18 miles along theWater of Leith on my own. I don’t know where this impulse comes from, but when left to my own devices I seem to get an uncontrollable urge to go on some sort of self-supported adventure. Perhaps it’s because the Chief would point out the obvious flaws in my (lack of) planning. Or maybe just that I’d rather spend my free days with her when I can.

Whatever it is, it’s happened again.

This time there was slightly more planning, mostly because I recruited another person to join me on my frivolous jaunt – Will Wright. If Will had been born in the early eighteenth century, he would have been some sort of swashbuckling pioneer, discovering new lands and claiming them for floppy-haired Welshmen everywhere. Since he was born in the late eighties he has to make do with a lot of travel, mad business ventures and cycling all over the place instead. I also needed to make more of an equipment plan, as this was to be a cycling adventure. Since I know nothing about bike maintenance I ended up spending eleventy billion pounds getting my bike serviced before daring to use it over a significant distance. So slightly more planning, yes. But not much.

Having never cycled more than about 10 miles in one go, I didn’t really have a frame of reference about what was achievable. So instead we picked a route, the towpath that runs alongside the Union Canal, and a vague destination, the extraordinary Falkirk Wheel, planning to get the train home afterwards. The canal runs all the way from Edinburgh to Glasgow, and Falkirk is a little under two-thirds between the two. 

Ready for the off.
And so it was that at precisely 10.38 a.m. on Sunday that Will and I set off – the pedals on his mountain bike held together with duct tape and the narrow, brand new tyres on my hybrid entirely inappropriate for the varied terrain ahead. We cycled the early miles through the heavily-populated part of the canal’s path, where cheerful barges share the canal with rowers and kayakers, calm suburban gardens back onto the water and almost everyone seems to be walking a small white terrier. There was very little chance to pick up any speed, as this carefully-maintained part of the route is neatly tarmaced and often crowded with walkers, runners, cyclists and children. But no matter – it’s a lovely place to be. Once we had crossed the aqueduct over the Edinburgh bypass, we were deposited into beautiful green countryside. We were making good time and enjoying the freedom of a day on the bike, by and large, and I was waiting for some tiredness to kick in so I could get on with the ensuing endorphin surge.

We managed a little over six miles before needing a pit stop, when Will had to remove his rear mudguard to stop it angrily rubbing against the back tyre. Will is the kind of person who never goes anywhere without an adjustable spanner, a multi-tool and a roll of duct tape. He is a useful person to have around if things move when they shouldn't or don’t when they should. Five minutes later we were back on the trail, speeding though countryside.

Then more countryside.

And some more countryside.

Then, suddenly, even more countryside.

In fact, 15 miles in, we were getting a little bit bored of countryside. With the canal always on our left, a quickly-deteriorating trail under our wheels and fields spread out everywhere else, the view was beautiful but monotonous. Those few landmarks that did pop up quickly receded into the distance, leaving us to continue contemplating the fields. The trail was becoming an issue too. Perhaps when it was built by some bearded Victorians it was carefully laid down and relatively smooth, but in 2011 the majority of the path is either hard earth or broken stones, which my unforgiving tyres juddered over for miles on end. My hands slowly shook to pieces as the handlebars vibrated viciously in my grip. As I watched Will sail off into the distance, smoothly riding his mountain bike on chunky fat tyres, I conceded that I had brought the wrong tool for the job...

Two hours after setting off we arrived in Linlithgow, our nominally-designated lunch stop, and cycled into town in search of sustenance. We had covered just over 21 miles. I was utterly starving and starting to tire, with sore knees and a few other niggling complaints. Weirdly, I seem to have missed out on the endorphin surge that I would have expected from two hours of non-stop exercise. Maybe I was doing it wrong, but I know for certain that after running for two hours I am always exhausted and elated – two hours into our bike ride I was just exhausted.

After lunch, the trail got worse. Large muddy patches posed a serious skidding risk, as I frequently lost what little traction I had. In places we were cycling on what looked like a thin forest track, very far removed from the smooth, broad path we started the morning on. Weaving around puddles was turning into a dangerous activity too, as we swerved pointlessly away from the mud and water. We ended up covered in a thin layer of mud and Will’s lack of a rear mudguard made a predictable mess of his back and trousers. 

But as it deteriorated the route was getting more interesting. At one point we cycled through the most extraordinary tunnel, probably a mile long and bored directly through an enormous hill. The roof of the tunnel was lit up every 20 metres or so, showing the rough rock edges and giving the impression of some sort of underground boat ride at Disneyland, looking almost too spooky to be real. All we could do was focus on the light at the end of the tunnel, as in places it was so dark that when I looked down I lost my balance, unable to distinguish between the wall, the ground and my wheels. Veering off course here would have ended very badly indeed – specifically, in the canal, in the dark, with a bike.

The miles kept ticking along, albeit rather slower than they had earlier. We were both pretty tired, and happy to bimble along side-by-side where the path allowed, discussing the monotony of the landscape and generally putting the world to rights. Just a mile and  a half from Falkirk, Will’s duct-taped pedal finally snapped in two and he made the rest of the journey with his foot resting on its broken shaft. Closing in on the last mile we passed a lock, the first we had seen after the miles and miles of perfectly flat water, and suddenly we were cycling along a heavily developed section of canal, including going through a modern concrete (and mercifully well lit) tunnel. As we broached daylight at the end, the Falkirk Wheel popped up in front of us, an impressive and very welcome sight.

Mission accomplished. And before you shout at me, I took my helmet off for this photo.
Otherwise I wore it all day, promise.
We had a very brief look around (disappointed not to see the wheel in action) and then meandered into Falkirk in search of the train station. After having cycled over 35 miles and spending most of the day travelling under my own steam, it was quite depressing to find that my train fare home was less than £4, for a journey of just 25 minutes. Such is life.

I have concluded a few things from this cycling initiative. First, that cycling is much more efficient than running. If I was even capable of doing it, a 35 mile run would probably take me between five and six hours, and I would be struggling to walk for weeks afterwards. On the bike it took us less than 3 ½ at a leisurely, comfortable pace. Second, that my bike is really not suitable for all terrains. Third, and probably most importantly, I’ve concluded what I long suspected: that cycling, for me, lacks the magic that makes it so hard to explain the appeal of running. Cycling feels like a means to an end – just a way to get from A to B. Running isn’t about A or B, it’s about the journey. If I had run 35 miles yesterday I know I would have finished the trip forever changed by the experience. Instead I’ve just got some mud on my trainers and had a nice day out. Cycling lacks the magic.

Unless, of course, I just didn't cycle far enough...

Happy locomotion


2011 to date: miles: 1020.62, parkruns: 6, races: 6, miles biked: 155, metres swum: 1225

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Home Turf

2012, by and large, is supposed to be a money-saving year. In September the Crew Chief and I will be buying dinner for 110 of our closest friends, then jetting off on some sort of exotic holiday in pursuit of sun, sea and upgrades – so until then we will be saving.
2012 won’t be a year, therefore, in which I hop on a plane to fly halfway around the world for a marathon. In fact for a while I thought I wouldn’t be running a marathon at all, instead focussing on shorter distances and building up some core strength and speed. But after just a small amount of soul-searching, I can’t bear the thought of leaving it until 2013 to run marathon number five...
So I’ve decided to run a 26.2 that starts less than two miles from my front door: The Edinburgh Marathon.
Yes, I know, I’ve complained about it before. There’s a lot wrong with this race, some of it fundamental, and going by previous form it seems unlikely that it’s going to change any time soon. But in the spirit of austerity I’m thinking that running a race which incurs no travel costs and no accommodation costs, no time off work and no peripheral sightseeing expense is a Good Thing.
In fact the more I think about it the more I like the idea of running a ‘home’ marathon. I have seven and a half months to prepare for it, plenty of time to explore every inch of the course and learn every turn and undulation (although I’ve run the first half of this race during the relay, I’ve yet to experience what the route is like after 13 miles). The 10am start means I don’t need to be up for breakfast until 8, don’t need to leave the flat until 9.15 at the earliest. Assuming a half decent run and some post-race cunning, I could be back home with a frosty beer by mid-afternoon.
A half-decent run...
Yes, alright, my interest was piqued by the idea of running a mostly-downhill course, certified as ‘the fastest marathon in the UK’. Loch Ness and SF were wildly undulating; aggressive, spiky hills popping up at most turns for punishment on the way up and the way down in equal measure. Edinburgh starts with a gentle descent and is then overwhelmingly flat. I can’t help but imagine what might have happened if I had run Edinburgh instead of SF this year – no jetlag, no crazy early start, no mad sightseeing or cycling adventures the day before and most of all no real hills. All else being equal, how much time could I have taken off? 5 minutes? More?
The trade-off, of course, is that whilst SF was a 26.2 mile sightseeing tour of an iconic American city, Edinburgh’s course is mostly on tedious, exposed seafront and largely run in rural East Lothian. Instead of enjoying a two-week holiday in the USA I’ll be back to work the next day. Instead of finishing on a palm tree-lined boulevard with the Bay Bridge in the background I’ll be crossing the line on a random street in an anonymous suburb. But who cares? If all goes to plan, maybe I won’t be out there for long...
Put simply, I want to run for a PB in Edinburgh in May 2012. And I am going to work very, very hard to get it.
Watch this space.
Happy running

2011 to date: miles: 1008.56, parkruns: 6, races: 6, miles biked: 120.06, metres swum: 1225 

Thursday, 6 October 2011

I love the bling

I was never a sporty child.

I used to visit friends’ houses and marvel at the bedroom shelves – or sometimes the mantelpiece or even a fancy cabinet – full to bursting with trophies, ribbons and medals from football, cricket, judo, horse riding, athletics and dozens of other active youthful pursuits which resulted in gold-coloured plastic being handed out on a termly basis. Adorned with tiny plaques engraved with such banalities as ‘Runner-Up, Under-11s 1997-98 season’, they served as dust-collecting reminders of my relative (and indeed complete) lack of prowess as a sportsman. I never, ever, (to my recollection) received anything like that.

Maybe I exaggerate, but only because the instances in which I did collect such awards are so tragically comic. I do remember being given a few bizarre medals for sports participation on package holidays, which I wore with glowing pride in the full knowledge that anyone who attended any given activity twice merited such an award. Worse still, I recall being presented with a medal at the end of a friend’s birthday party, which was organised as an extended competition since the birthday boy was so sporty*. Everyone’s medal was different – the birthday boy’s a gleaming gold as he came first, mine a dull, almost grey bronze colour to indicate, I think, that I came dead last. When I got home I spray-painted it with some leftover gold Christmas paint and completely ruined it, the paint collecting in the grooves and making a sad, sticky mess. Then I threw it away.

As the years without collecting any sporting bling dragged on I decided that I probably didn’t want anything like that anyway. Let the kids play their silly games and collect their shiny mementoes if they want – I don’t need anything like that. Not while I have the smug satisfaction of the non-participant.

Paris, Brighton, San Francisco and Loch Ness Marathon medals
So it came as a bit of a surprise to me when, aged 21, I was so incredibly excited to receive a medal after my first professionally-organised run. It was the old,  now-twice-superseded Edinburgh Half Marathon, subdivided for us newbies into a 4-person relay of roughly 5k legs. We were given the same medals as people who completed the full distance, rewards which claimed we had run a half marathon each. I was utterly overjoyed.

Over the following couple of years I became a magpie for the things, delighted when my collection outgrew the successive storage and display ideas I came up with. Where the opportunity existed, and particularly for marathon medals, I had them engraved with my name and finish time. 

I became a connoisseur of medals, sometimes even choosing races based on how good I thought the bling would be. I cherished the ones that were emblazoned with the date, the distance, the name of the race and a quality logo, disparaging those which missed any of my criteria. Finally, I felt, I could look those stupid little football trophies in the eye. In a similar, though less obsessive vein, I grew infatuated with the freebie T-shirts handed out at races. Then I started carefully preserving all my race numbers. My collection of bling and stash quickly became unmanageable.

The whole ridiculous collection
I think it was after my seventh or eighth major race, however, when the shine started to come off medal-collecting. The pile of bling became weighty and unruly. It looks ridiculous to have them all out in one place.

 When I ran two Kilomathons six months apart, one in Derbyshire and the other in West Lothian, and received identical medals because the organisers decided to save themselves a few quid, I grew a little cynical about the whole concept. I finished the Meadows (half) Marathon this year and realised that they didn’t award medals, which briefly irritated me before I decided that I was quite pleased not to have to lug home another piece of commemorative metal on a ribbon. Only when the MokRun handed out beautiful, handmade and glazed pottery medals on tartan ribbons did I briefly think that there was still mileage in collecting them. But, like many of my running friends, I more or less resigned to the idea that the medals were a silly distraction for beginners and bucket list marathoners. We real runners don’t need such nonsense.

But just last week, we had some of the Crew Chief’s family to stay. Despite the fact that my medals are currently tucked away in the bottom of a cabinet in the corner of our living room, they caught the eye of one of our guests, and she asked me about them. I glowed with pride as I explained how I got them, probably looking not unlike myself as a twelve year old boy, walking proudly around a Club Med resort wearing a mad medal shaped like Poseidon which declared my low-level commitment to archery (if this seems confusing, it is). Each one is a little marker in my running career, a tiny little witness which unobtrusively says ‘I was there, and I did that’.

Alright, alright, I love the bling. I earned it, after all.

Happy running


2011 to date: miles: 991.94, parkruns: 6, races: 6, miles biked: 111.06, metres swum: 1225 

*That boy, now definitely a man, recently ran his first marathon. It was much, much slower than mine. I am in the process of building a time machine to go back and tell my eight-year old self all about it. He will be delighted.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Race Report - Loch Ness Marathon 2011

I have now run four marathons, in four countries, in the space of 2 ½ years.  And yet I never learn.

My Loch Ness Marathon started like many of my races, as a logistical conundrum. In the absence of the calm reasoning of the Crew Chief (who was heading south on a train to Birmingham), Ben and I were trusted to look after ourselves during our weekend heading north to Inverness. Risky.

The race – much like the Highlands in general – is a little bit oldschool in that it requires registration in person the day before the event. As a result we were in Inverness mid-afternoon on Saturday, having watched the rain lash down on train windows all the way up from Edinburgh. In the first incarnation of our plan, we were to spend Saturday night as guests in a large stately home surrounded by acres of wilderness. In the second, we had bunk beds in a dormitory in a naff city-centre hostel. In the third and final, we lucked out and found ourselves a comfy B&B half a mile from the race’s start line. Like Mystic Meg on holiday, we had found a happy medium. Our attempts to find some dinner were equally haphazard – I should really have anticipated that every Italian restaurant would be fully booked for the pre-race meal. We settled on a bistro/bar place which eventually served us a lasagne that was, confusingly, mostly beef and cheese. How I longed for the military precision of the Crew Chief’s itineraries...

After a night of light sleep punctuated by panicked time-checks, we found ourselves breakfasting on porridge and fruit at 6.30am on Sunday, prepared by Joyce the Landlady at the Macrae Guest House. Her entire guestbook was filled with marathon runners. We were out of the door before 7, heading over the river towards the bus pick-up point on the far side of Bught Park. The start line is, unsurprisingly, 26 miles from Inverness, but this doesn’t mean it’s actually somewhere. In fact we were to be bussed out to an arbitrary point on a single track road somewhere between Fort Augustus and Foyers. I had prepared myself for the psychological torment of being driven along the entire route in reverse, watching the miles stack up from the bus’s window and knowing that I had to cover each one of them on foot on the way back. But we were spared this. The buses took an even longer route to the start in a vast convoy (3,800 people take a lot of moving), which stopped occasionally to allow the less-prepared runners to nip out for a pee in the bushes, a truly bizarre and very, very funny sight.

Hours passed. Or at least, two of them did. Driving in the Highlands is never fast, but a convoy of 50 buses on single track roads which kept stopping for loo breaks (the busses, not the roads) is definitely not fast. But at last we were at the start line – a professional and huge marathon set-up in the middle of nowhere, a riot of colour and noise and busses and portaloos and nervous energy. We stood in the cooling drizzle and low cloud, acclimatising to the air temperature after the dry heat of the bus, and before long we were watching the local pipe band march through the crowds and declaring the race underway.

Ben and I had a plan. Based on his training runs, we reckoned that we should be sustaining comfortable 10-minute miles, and we had prepared nothing more sophisticated than a plan to stick to it no matter what.

We didn’t. At all.

Mile 1 – 8:41
Mile 2 – 9:03
Mile 3 – 8:59
Mile 4 – 8:58

These miles were fast, downhill, full of excitement and energy and banter and people-watching. We were kings among men, we were fulfilling our potential, throwing caution to the wind and spitting on those pathetic 10-minute miles. The drizzle turned to heavy rain, narrowing the road as large puddles formed on the verges, but it mattered not. As we powered on even nature gave way to our superior awesomeness and the rain turned back into drizzle before disappearing completely.

Mile 5 – 9:21

Though there was a little hill at mile 5.

Mile 6 – 9:13
Mile 7 – 8:50
Mile 8 – 9:09
Mile 9 – 9:20
Mile 10 – 8:40
Mile 11 – 9:08
Mile 12 – 9:04

Between about 6 and 12 we hit the ‘flat’ section, still gently undulating but generally quite manageable, alongside the loch and with some fleeting but fabulous views of the water. Unfortunately the road is in quite dense forest for miles and miles, so the view wasn’t quite what it could have been. But what a road – twisting, turning, hairpinning and winding through dense, ancient woodland, it’s a magnificent place to be and a privilege to run on. We went through great water and lucozade stations in the middle of nowhere staffed by wildly enthusiastic kids, and some wonderful pockets of support clustered around wee villages here and there. We kept up with some people, were overtaken by others and overtook others still, notably the seemingly ubiquitous squaddies carrying full packs and speed-marching in heavy boots. But then we stuck behind a man and a woman, too captivated by their conversation to overtake...

Mile 13 – 10:42

Yup, we should have just overtaken them. But they were flirting on the run! They exchanged names, then, for the sake of detail, exchanged surnames and even checked that they had understood the correct spelling of each others’. They chatted about their various sporting exploits, their jobs and family lives, and basically covered all the bases which might lead to a film, dinner, coffee back at mine and maybe breakfast if you play your cards right. It was hilarious. But when we realised what damage our eavesdropping was doing to our pace, we decided it was time to push on.

Mile 14 – 9:15
Mile 15 – 8:54
Mile 16 – 9:09

The hills were approaching. We knew from the elevation chart that somewhere between mile 17 and 19 we were in for a kicking, so we braced ourselves and got our heads down in preparation for some slow, sluggish miles.

Mile 17 – 8:19
Mile 18 – 8:11

Hills!? What hills? OK, there were hills, but for some reason we managed to turn in our fastest miles on what was supposed to be the toughest part of the course. Awesome.

Mile 19 – 9:39

Ah, ok, there it is. Still manageable, though.

Mile 20 – 9:30
Mile 21 – 8:58

Things are still going quite well.

Mile 22 – 10:12

Things are going less well. My feet ache in a deep and agonising way, twisted and broken from the Great North Run. My old trainers are blistering my toes and my ankles are very, very weak. My left foot lands painfully with every step, pointing outwards by 45 degrees. We slow down to a fast walk up the very last hill of the race. We sing ‘Yesterday’ mournfully and occasionally in tune.

Mile 23 – 9:01
Mile 24 – 10:20
Mile 25 – 9:45

Try as I might, I just can’t hold it together. The pain is too much and I have to slow down to an only-just-running death shuffle. Ben is still full of life and laughter, and after much persuading, I finally bully him into leaving me behind and running the strong finish he deserves. He sails off ahead, ginger mop bobbing in the distance as I drag one foot in front of the other for the last few atrocious moments.

Mile 26 – 11:01

The sun is out, the crowds have gathered and the mood is buoyant as I am back in the civilisation of Inverness. I summon the last of my meagre reserves for a proper run down the last 385 yards, returning a smile to the giant inflatable Nessie who waits at the finish chute.

Marathon – 4:04:26

I cross the line some three minutes after Ben, my former hard drinking, heavy smoking reprobate of a friend who has just beaten me in a marathon. I could not be more pleased for him. Ben’s official time – 4:01:06 – is over five minutes faster than my first race in Paris was (Paris being, by far, the easier course). This is a man capable of a very fast time in the next year or two. We change, regroup, head to the train, get the beers in and promptly fall asleep. Some hours later we are back in Edinburgh, struggling up the stairs to my flat. A long, glorious day.

A very forced smile post-race.
So I’ve got another marathon under my belt, but somehow this one feels different. I didn’t build up to this race as obsessively as I did the first three. Instead I approached it with an attitude of nonchalance, deciding that I have reached a point in my experience and fitness at which I can run a marathon without much specific preparation, at a non-ideal point in my schedule and whilst nursing some small injuries. It’s true – I can – but I suffered for it. My nonchalance made me careless, too. I forgot to tape up my nipples, which bled profusely from the friction caused by rainwater. I can’t bear to look at my official photos and see the blood running down my white shirt. Equally, I packed my bag in a hurry and brought old kit by mistake, which has chafed so badly I’m going to throw it away. Whilst my muscles are recovering relatively quickly due to my overall fitness, the acute pain in my feet and the chafing under my arms and in some other important areas will cause me a lot of pain for the next week or so. I never learn.

So perhaps the conclusions are that yes, I can run a marathon more casually than I used to. Yes, I can manage two marathons in nine weeks with an ankle-shattering half-marathon in between, and yes, I can do all this without necessitating 6 weeks of teetotal training pre-race. But a marathon is still a heck of a long way, and I need to respect the challenge as much as I ever have. Complacency could end in involuntary nipple amputation. Which would be nasty.

Congrats, Ben, and welcome to the other side.

Happy racing,


2011 to date - miles: 988.44, parkruns: 6, races: 6, miles biked: 94.42, metres swum: 1225 

P.S. I ran this race with a totally oldschool disposable camera, so when I have the dodgy photos developed I'll be sure to post a few here.