Category Archives: Race Reports

Milton Keynes Marathon – 4th May 2015


So yes, the not very well concealed rumours are true; I ran the 4th Milton Keynes Marathon on Bank Holiday Monday last week and have been wondering what to say about it ever since. As is ever the case, I only entered the race about 5 weeks beforehand and made the decision while warming up for the Parkrun back in March. Rich “Ultra_Stew” Stewart wanted to transfer his place before the deadline (he was wussing out to do the Thames Path 100 instead) so I obliged by taking his entry. I’d be telling a fib of sorts if I said I hadn’t been preparing for it though as I had been working on a 4 month training macrocycle which quite conveniently happened to draw to a close on that weekend – almost as if it had been planned that way. As Milton Keynes is just up the road, it seemed like the obvious choice.

I probably should have written a little more about my preparation because, unlike London last year, I actually did some. Much less winging it this time! I had the course map printed out and pinned up next to my desk. I had analysed the elevation profile and made some calculations regarding the gradient of one or two of the hills and I had even planned a nutrition strategy involving the use of energy gels. Hell, I’d even practiced with gels to not only make sure I could run with them but also make sure I actually liked them. Not that it mattered as my local sports shop had a massive choice of one (SIS gels if you’re wondering). If the race was going to be a disaster, it wasn’t going to be because of piss poor planning!

Incidentally, if you’re ever thinking of driving to a race like the MK Marathon, I strongly suggest not leaving your parking arrangements until the night before.
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Two things surprise me: 1. That I haven’t yet extolled the virtues and what a great thing Parkrun is and 2. That I haven’t actually run one for myself yet. So taking the first point as read, I can tell you that today I ticked off the second point as well. Why does that warrant an entire blog post? Two letters:

P and B.

My 5km PB – sorry, my former 5km PB – was set at a Serpentine AC Last Friday 5km in Hyde Park back in 2004 so it has been 11 years since I last ran that distance for speed. Admittedly, a lot has happened in that 11 years, not least the arrival of my 2 kids, turning 40, taking up obstacle running, adventure racing, mountain marathon-ing, ultrarunning and so on but there was always, at the back of my mind, a little bit of me wondering if I could improve on that time.

I did. It hurt. I don’t know if I want to do it again.

I was at Aylesbury ParkRun this morning. It’s mostly flat with a loop, some wooden bridges and a nasty little slope in the last 400m but flat was a good thing. I definitely set off too fast but then reasoned that I might as well see how long I can hold it for. I completed the first half in a sub 20 minute pace (and, according to Strava, somewhere in that first half I managed a 70s 400m – but that’s another story). The second half was unsurprisingly slower but I finished in a lung-bursting 21:02, nearly a minute faster than my previous best, came 11th out of 139 people and finished 2nd in my age category.

I am delighted. Over the moon! I don’t think I’ll ever get results like that again! Admittedly, I had to slow to a walk with only 800m to go so I could possibly have gone under 21 minutes – but hey, it gives me something to work towards should I choose to do it again.

As an aside, I recently had a conversation about ParkRun where someone said that it wasn’t a race. I disagree: ParkRun has times, places, age and gender positions, PBs, age gradings and all the stats you could possibly want from a race. The only thing you don’t get is a medal (although if you complete enough of them, you do get t-shirts). So yeah, ParkRun is a race – don’t let anyone tell you different. 😉

Berkhamsted Half Marathon – 1st March 2015

Berko Half elevation profile

At the end of last years report about this race that I didn’t know if I’d do it again. Turns out I know myself better than I think and I did indeed have a change of heart. I still left entry until about 10 days ago but I did so because I felt confident that I was better prepared and I could give this a better shot than I did last year.

I was right.

As with last year I studied the route profile (in the image above) but this time I programmed my Garmin with a workout of laps giving the distance of each incline, decline or flat section. It meant that when I was on a hill, I could tell how much further I had to g. It was an experiment in psychological motivation but I think it paid off – I successfully managed all the hills, strongly and steadily and made up the pace on the other sections.

The result? A new pb of 1:42:44 on a challenging course, beating my target time by over 2 minutes. Unlike last year, I feel very pleased with that how the race went – which just goes to show that sometimes, it’s not the course that needs to change, it’s the runner.

Hardwick X-Stream – 15th February 2015


It’s my birthday today so I celebrated by taking part in a local off road race, one I’ve done a couple of times before in 2012 (report here) and last year (where I didn’t appear to write a report). Like last weeks XC race, the course was very, very muddy and the water in the stream crossings (hence, X-Stream – still think it’s one of the best race names out there!) was quite high. And cold.

Given that my time was the slowest I’ve ever completed the race, you might be surprised that I think this was my best attempt yet.
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Cross Country League 2015 – Round 5

Teardrop Lakes

On whim, and at bequest of one of our club team captains, I stepped up to take part in the final match of the local Cross Country league in Milton Keynes.

It. Was. Painful.

Not quite as painful as watching Wales throw away the first of the Six Nations matches last night and get beaten by England at home but painful nonetheless and in it’s own ubiquitous way.

I’m quite pleased about it really.
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London Marathon – April 13th 2014


At 2:23pm on Sunday 13th April, I crossed the finish line of the 2014 London Marathon in a time of 4 hours, 18 minutes and 37 seconds. I had a smile on my face and agonising pain in my legs but I had successfully completed the task that a few days beforehand I wasn’t even sure I was going to attempt. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t fast but I finished it and, all things considered, I’m happy with that.

The run itself went as well, if not better, as I expected. It was a beautifully hot day (well, apparently not that hot but it felt like it was well over 20°C) and I started the race calm, relaxed, happy and pain-free. I had stuck to my plan of having no plan and had resisted the urge to bring my Garmin “just in case” because I knew that if I was wearing it, I’d start stressing over pace and time which I didn’t want to do. I found a comfortable pace early on, easy to do when surrounded by so many people, and stuck to running comfortably – low heart rate, easy breathing, barely pushing it. I was stunned by the sheer exuberance of the crowds even in the first miles through Woolwich and Charlton. Early sunday drinkers crowded outside pubs that had inspirational music – well, “Eye of the Tiger” – blaring from speakers; masses of people lined the streets cheering, shouting encouragement and holding signs of support while children held their hands out to be high-fived by passing runners. It was incredible and unlike anything I’d ever experienced and enough to put a smile on even this old dour face.

The miles started slipping by and the first 10km seemed over in no time as we passed the Greenwich Naval College (scene of the final showdown between Chris Hemsworth and Chris Ecclestone in “Thor: The Dark World”), past the Cutty Sark and then up through Surrey Quays. I kept an eye on the clock at each mile point and worked out that I was roughly sticking to 8:30 miles which I was happy with.
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Berkhamsted Half Marathon – March 2nd 2014

I’m a bit out of kilter with race reports. As I mentioned in the last post, I have raced a couple of times since last year but have yet to write about them but I’m starting with the most recent because it’s so fresh in my mind. Well, fresh in the same way that a pack of supermarket chicken bought from the discount counter and is a few days past its Best Before date is fresh. But before I talk about that race, I want to share some feelings about a race of sorts I did back in November – of sorts only in that it was a club only race and counted towards the club Off-Road championships but there were numbers and times and places and everything so it counts.

The race, which takes place on the route of the popular Ridgeway Race which our club holds annually, is a trail run through the beautiful National Trust woodland and is just shy of 10 miles long and takes in about 775ft of elevation (according to Strava). I was excited about the event because a) I’d never done it before b) it was my first real challenge after injury and c) I love the course. It’s a handicap race with all runners setting off at different times – slow to fast – with the aim of having everyone finishing at about the same time (although this hasn’t yet happened in the events history to my knowledge). The winner is the first one home, irrespective of the time it took them.

All told, the race went well for me. I set out too fast and paid for it later and still don’t manage ascents that well even though they’re relatively benign compared to anywhere outside the Home Counties. But I pushed myself as hard as I felt comfortable, maintained focus and managed to run my fastest time on that course (even allowing for the fact that, technically, a route change made it 0.1 mile shorter), finishing as I did in 1:18 on the nose (so an average of 8:17 mins/mile). It would have been faster too if not for the extra challenge of getting caught behind a couple of ladies riding horses down a narrow path – this slowed the group of runners I was with down to a walk for a couple of minutes. Perhaps the enforced rest did me good and enabled me to push the last couple of miles a little harder than I would have done otherwise. Any which way, I got a time I was pleased with on a steep and muddy course and, more importantly, I really, really enjoyed the run.

So what does this have to do with last weekends half marathon?
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Archive: Windsor Half Marathon – 25 Sept 2005

A race report from the archives of an old blog. I ran my first Half Marathon with only two weeks notice after a neighbour pulled out at the last minute. It was one of those spur of the moment decisions I said yes to because, well, why the hell not? I recall being in fairly decent shape, all things considered, but I certainly hadn’t trained for it. Another case of “Kids, don’t try this at home!” Then again, this is still my PB time for the half.

Windsor Half Marathon

It was 20 degrees yesterday which I would call rather hot for the season. Or I would but I seem to have a memory of September always being quite hot. Admittedly, never quite 20 degrees hot but still.

Anyway, a friend and I drove down to Windsor where we joined 5000 people to do the Windsor Half Marathon. I’d like to say that another reason I haven’t been around much is because of the copious amount of training I’ve been doing for this race but that would be a lie and you know it. The truth of it is that I only agreed to do it two weeks ago after someone I know who had entered pulled out and offered me their place. I haven’t run more than about 10k all summer and this was twice as far.
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Lakeland 100 – July 27th 2012

Blood. Sweat. Tears.

As I sit here typing this I have my Lakeland 100 UTLD Finisher 2012 medal nearby and I look at it and I think “Yes, you literally are the result of my blood, sweat and tears.” No, not literally as in it’s made from my viscera and bodily fluids because that would be weird and gross. And improbable. But, oh my, tears have been shed, blood has been spilt and so much sweat has been, err, sweated. There was also copious amounts of mud, rain, sun, jelly babies and, importantly, smiles.

Now I come to try and write about my experience and how the event panned out and I’m stuck. I’ve given away the ending already so there’s no suspense wondering whether I made it and no drama in wondering if I’d make it before the cut-off. I suppose it’s a little like the film “Titanic” in that you know what’s going to happen at the end – except in this case there are less icebergs, no bands playing and I didn’t get to paint a picture of a naked posh bird. Yeah, actually it was nothing like Titanic at all.

So all that’s left is for me to tell you how it all played out. Unfortunately I can’t promise it won’t be a little bit mundane.
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Hardwick X-Stream

The Hardwick X-Steam, organised by Bearbrook Running Club, is a race I’ve been meaning to do for years except I never remember to enter it until after the fact. I didn’t forget this year though. The race is a 6 mile cross-country affair mostly around fields. The main features of the course are hinted at in the name of the race – X-Stream: cross stream. (The name can also be read as ‘Extreme’ which makes the name doubly clever and impressive. Oh yes.) There are three water crossings on the hilly 6 mile course which means it’s both cold, muddy and all together exciting.

Being reasonably local there were quite a few people from my club in attendance (the race is also part of our clubs Off-road Championships so that’s another reason people came). All of us (but for a few of the guys who were going to be challenging for the top spots) grouped together at the start, waiting for the gun. At the bang, the crowd moved off quite fast, all trying to get past the muddy area by the first gate which would become a quagmire after 280 people had passed through it. I definitely set off too fast, trying to get in front of a lot of the crowd. I always do and don’t know why because it’s invariably a move that comes back to haunt me later.
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