Sunday, October 25, 2009

What a contrast...

Last weekend I was in south London, going round and round a 400 metre track with the constant background noise of people, traffic and fireworks. Today I headed up into the Ochils with my dog Lucy, and it couldn't have been more of a contrast. The scenery was wonderful, it was peaceful and quiet, and I hardly saw another soul for the 2 hours or so that I was out there. It was fantastic. I ran from Blackford, up the old drovers' route towards Tillicoutry then took a left when I came to Upper Glendevon reservoir, before heading all the way round in a clockwise direction. I lost the path a couple of times but came across it again quite easily; I even stumbled across a 'Public Right of Way' signpost, pointing to Blackford, which confirmed I was heading in the right direction. At one stage I took a step forward and found myself knee deep in water; a couple of times I fell as I was running through the thick grass - all of which added to the fun. The last 2 miles back to Blackford were almost the best of the day, thanks to the downhill path and the strong wind pushing me from behind. I'll definitely be back up there soon - there is something wonderful about being out on the hills on a winter's day with your dog, the wind blowing hard into your face, without a care in the world.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Look what I found!

I was rummaging through my drawer last night and guess what I found? My blister from last year's 24 hour race at Perth! It's a bit harder than it used to be - a bit like a poppadom in fact - but considering it is now more than 13 months old it is in excellent condition.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to find any of my toe nails from the same event, but I'll keep looking :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Reflections from Tooting

It's time for me to stop posting on my 'event specific' 24 hour blog and to move back to this mainstream site, where I plan to share some of my thoughts from the weekend. First, the facts: I completed 250 laps of the 400m track (exactly 100km) at Tooting Bec in 12 hours 28 minutes. I had real problems from about 8 hours onwards keeping any food down, starting getting really cold, and hit a complete low after about 10 and a half hours when I could see no way of carrying on. It was a great surprise that I managed to get going again and for a while was running reasonably well, but within an hour I was heading for yet another low. I decided to cut my losses and stop when I reached the 100 km mark, and this time no-one was able to persuade me otherwise. A day or so further on I am disappointed that I didn't run for the full 24 hours but still don't think there was any way I could have continued: I just couldn't get my head round the thought I would be out there, in the close to freezing temperatures, for another 11 and a half hours, and my body was not prepared to push through the barrier, perhaps because of the lack of food.

Despite the disappointing outcome of the run there were many positives from the weekend. It was great to spend a bit of time with Dave and Lee. The level of support they gave me the whole time I was in London was incredible. Nothing was too much trouble for them, even down to making me my pre-ordered Friday night dinner of pasta and chicken, and my pre-race breakfast of scrambled eggs on toast. Guys, you were just brilliant - you couldn't have made me feel more welcome. I was also really touched by the number of people who sent text messages of encouragement and posted comments on the blog. A particular mention is due to Brian, who travelled down from Milton Keynes with his daughter, and watched the first few hours of the race. Dave has already said it on his blog but I want to say it again here: the WHW family is a very special and close group of people, and I feel privileged to be a part of it.

A couple of members of that family produced outstanding results. Paul Hart ran more than 140 miles to finish in 2nd place, and Aileen Scott ran more than 117 miles to finish 1st lady. Wonderful performances from them both. Congratulations also to Rachel McCuaig, who reached her target of 100 miles - I thought she had dropped out at one stage when I thought I saw her in non-running clothes, but quickly realised I was looking at her identical twin sister who was providing support - and to Ian McCuaig and Ray McCurdy, who both put in their usual gutsy performances.

So what now? I maybe need to have a bit of a rethink, and take on board 'John's' comments which were left on my other blog (Incidentally if John is reading this can you let me know who you are? The comment was valid but I would rather know who had made it. Thanks.)

I think the time has come to rethink what you want to achieve as a runner. In the last 2 years all you have achieved is a giant step backards. ultras, marathons, half marathons, 10k and cross country you are now just average. You are better than this Ian.

There is no doubt in my mind that I have done a lot, probably too much, this year: 7 ultras and a marathon is definitely not a recipe for achieving PBs (unless your name is Richie Cunningham or George Reid...) However there are other factors that affect my ability to achieve faster times, particularly how busy I am at work. I have been running consistently now for almost 20 years, and when I look back at my best spells they have always coincided with periods when I have not been as busy or under the same pressure. I have also felt that my running has not been as good since I left Troon in 2003. Prior to that, I would be down at the club twice a week, bashing out high quality sessions with 5 or 6 people of a similar standard; I don't get the chance to do that now. Also, George and I used to meet up almost every Sunday morning for a long run of between 15 and 25 miles at a decent pace, and we would often go out on a Wednesday night for a tough tempo run of up to 10 miles - some nights we could hardly move because of the gale force wind, but it certainly helped improve both our times.

I plan to have a week or so without running to let my body recover, then have a fairly easy period throughout November. That will give me the chance to have a serious think about my plans and targets for next year.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Loch Ness

Yesterday allybea and I were up at Loch Ness forthe 5k and marathon respectively. I don't have a lot of time to blog at the moment so I've jotted down the main points:

1. Allybea achieved her target by finishing the 5k without walking. More details are here

2. I had the perfect pre race marathon breakfast: sausages, bacon, egg, haggis, mushrooms and potato scone, with some toast and coffee. Allybea went for the more conventional option of porridge and toast.

3. The marathon race start was delayed for almost an hour because of problems with the buses. Given my breakfast (see 2 above) I was quite pleased by the delay as it gave me an hour longer to digest it. I suspect I was in a very small minority, however - it is normally a complete pain if you have planned to start running at 10 but don't actually start till 11, and I felt sorry for those whose plans were thrown into disarray. I also felt sorry for the guy who was panicking because he had a flight to catch mid afternoon, and thought he might be struggling to make it. He will just have had to run a bit faster than he originally planned...

4. As I am doing the 24 hour race in 2 weeks, I had decided to treat this as a long training run and not worry about my time or pace. It worked very well. I reached the half way point in 1.42.17, feeling comfortable, and then ran an almost identical time for the second half (1.42.04) to finish in 3.24.21. I reckon I passed about 100 people over the last 10 miles, most of them going up the hill after Dores.

5. As I was feeling good I had time to look around and just enjoy the whole event. We were really fortunate to have almost perfect running weather, particularly after the rain and wind the day before. Once again I was left with the view that Loch Ness is a fantastic marathon. It is well organised (apart from the blip with the buses), has a great atmosphere, and the scenery is brilliant. It is definitely my favourite road marathon, and one I would highly recommend.

6. I felt pretty good at the end of the race and my legs feel fine today, so hopefully I haven't done myself any damage before the 24 hour. I suppose I'll find out soon enough.

Thursday, October 01, 2009


Many of the readers of this blog will know I am doing the Sri Chinmoy 24 hour race in a couple of weeks. I don't normally try and raise sponsorship from my running (I think the last time might have been the New York Marathon in 2002) but given the slightly unusual nature of this event I have decided that this would be an appropriate time to do so. The charity I have chosen is called SAMH, the Scottish Association for Mental Health. I have posted below a copy of the email I sent to a number of contacts and workmates earlier today, which provides more details. If anyone reading this feels able to help with a small donation, I would be most grateful.

On Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th October I am taking part in a 24 hour race in London. The objective is simple - to run as many laps of the 400 metre track as possible during the 24 hours, from noon on the Saturday until noon on the Sunday. It will be my second 24 hour race. Last year at Perth I covered a distance of 106.74 miles, and for weeks later I had some of the most impressive blisters you could ever hope to see!

I have decided to use this event as a chance to raise funds for a mental health charity, SAMH. SAMH is Scotland's leading mental health charity and has been promoting mental health for 80 years. It works to combat stigma and discrimination on mental health grounds and to promote the importance of mental health and wellbeing both for individuals and for society as a whole.
I would be really grateful if you would consider supporting my fundraising attempts by making a donation. You can do this by visiting my justgiving page which can be found at the following link:

For a bit of fun (and to help generate more interest) I am also arranging a 'Guess My Distance' competition (with a small prize!). To enter is simple - all you need to do is email me with your assessment of how many laps of the 400 metre track I will complete during the race. Please note your guess should be in laps, not in miles. You might get a bit of help by looking at my targets: these can be found at the blog, which I have set up to provide details of my progress during the race. I should make it clear that everyone is welcome to enter this competition, whether they make a donation or not - although obviously donations would be very welcome! This means that Gift Aid can be recovered on the donations, increasing the benefit to the charity.

Finally, if anyone is interested in what it is like to run in an endurance event like this, The Adventure Show this Sunday (BBC2 Scotland, 7.00pm) features this year's West Highland Way race. I took part in the race, and finished in just over 23 hours, although do not feature at all in the programme.

Many thanks for your support.