Sunday, 27 February 2011

First 20-mile run...

...and you know what, I really enjoyed it!

Yes, when I stopped I felt completely broken, but only at the point that I stopped.  While I was concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other it didn't seem so bad, not that there was much "kick" to fall back on.  It hurt,  but to quote Dean Karnazes it was a "good hurt".

I wasn't even planning to run 20-miles when I went to bed on Friday night.  My marathon training plan said do 16-miles this weekend for my long run, and that is exactly what I was planning to do.  But then I bought Dean Karnazes' "Ultramarathon Man" and read the whole thing through in one day,

What an inspiring read, the book is an amazing, yet I found very humble, account of what can only be described as some quite astonishing running.  Having completed the book very early Saturday morning while I waited for the alarm to go off (yes, I know that doesn't make much sense) I devoured my morning Weetabix with a newfound gusto and desire to try and push myself further, just to see if I could.

Still feeling a bit gung-ho after my 1:49:22 Brighton Half Marathon last Sunday, which was an unexpectedly quick PB, in my first big competitive Half Marathon race, I only needed a gentle nudge to be enticed into pushing the boundaries once more. Dean did it.

Feeling fresh and with a faint hint of Spring in the air, I popped on me shorts combining some very pasty limbs with a pair of very white compression socks and set my mind to running my first 20-miles. The first few miles were a bit clumsy, but coming upto mile 5, as I passed the Hospital, I started to find my groove and enjoyed a lovely run out along the seafront on the cliff road to Ovingdean and then over to Rottingdean.  What I hadn't appreciated on the way east, was the wind.  Not really strong enough to feel it was an aid from behind, but once I turned round and started heading back to town it was right in the face.  Thankfully not as bad as it had been through the winter where at one point I found my 6'4", 90kg frame running to a standstill, such was the ferocity of the gale, but still strong enough to be a bloody irritant.  Especially as my planned route for the day had me now going 8-miles west along the Brighton and Hove seafront.

I was so glad as mile 16 came up on the Garmin to turn away from the sea, it definitely made the running harder, but I'd like to think of it as a handy training aid on the day (and perhaps worth an extra mile of effort). What was really nice was turning away from the wind, sea and breaking waves and thinking "only another 4-miles".  It doesn't seem too long ago when the idea of running 4-miles was difficult enough, can't believe it's only April 2010 when I thought "right, I'm going to run a Marathon" having done nothing other than patchy, short infrequent runs before.  But to now be thinking, "16 done just another 4 to go and I feel ok" was a lovely sense of achievement and improvement, even at Christmas this sort of distance seemed frighteningly difficult and looming very close as something that had to be mastered.

As I came down the road to bring up the 20-miles on the Garmin, I honestly didn't feel to bad.  I did the last mile in 8:48 and finished (just) with a negative split over the run, which was very nice.  Once I stopped though it was a different story, I was buggered!  Legs went to jelly and I felt wasted. Jumped into a cold bath for 30-minutes or so then took the kids swimming. Which seemed extreme at the time, but proved to be a cracking way to stretch the legs out, and seldom has a cold beer and pizza looked or tasted quite so good as the ones I devoured in a pace that can hardly be termed a good example of table manner to my children.

I wasn't sure how the run would go, I did the 20 miles in 3:10:16, but the run was less about pace than distance, and I was unsure how much I would or would not enjoy the experience of running 20-miles.  But, I really enjoyed it. Honestly.  I don't mean the after-glow of thinking "crikey, look what I've just done", but during the run itself, I was remarkably happy and enjoying myself.

I quite like the solitude of a long run and I found a nice little rhythm that basically enabled me to just switch off and run. Not too quick I grant you, but at this stage I'll take a 9:30mile pace over 20-miles. And, I know it sounds a little perverse, but I think I enjoyed the experience while I was running more than I do on my usual 5-6mile training runs in the week.  On those I'm very aware of the start, finish and pace, but with a larger longer task and less interest in checking the pace on the Garmin and instead focusing on finding a rhythm my body was happy with to run for a long time, it was strangely a more enjoyable run. Not something I admit I expected to say after a 20-mile run. I want to do it again, not right now or tomorrow, but I am looking forward to my next long run and pushing on again.

24-hrs later now as I waffle my way through the latest blog entry and I'm a bit tired, but not too stiff or drained.  Sleeping in my compression socks was a good move I think and swimming offered a better stretch than usual, but I'm ok.  Gonna be sensible and take a few gentle days before getting back onto the schedule, but I'm not too bad. 

And thanks to Mr Karnazes. I had to do a 20-mile run sooner or later, but you made it sooner and a bit easier.

I'd have loved to have been in Tokyo this weekend running the Marathon, but when alls said and done, 20-miles in and around Brighton doesn't seem such a bad alternative. Just a shame the sushi's not as good.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Brighton Half Marathon 2011: NEW PB - 1:49:22

What a great day! New PB for half marathon of 1:49:22, but also my 8 yrd old son Oli ran the kid's 1-mile race in 6min35sec - which I think is a far cooler achievement.
So, today was the Brighton Half Marathon, not particularly warm, slight breeze and generally a grey day (but hey, this is England in February, so what do you expect? Oz it ain't). But, as far as running is concerned it was a great day for a race. Not too warm, not to cold, breeze never picked up to being a wind, so a good day for getting your head down and going for it.

Plan was to get close to my previous half training best of 1hr55, but all of a sudden at the 11-mile mark I realised I was well within the 1:55 mark and then as I drifted past 12-miles I realised I had 10 minutes within which to finish the race and squeeze inside the 1hr50 mark, so it was a final case of digging in and going for it. Well chuffed when I went over the line inside that mark, hadn't expected it, so over the moon.  With the family all there to cheer me on, what more could you want...
Yes, I know some people go faster, but its not about anyone else, its all about me, trying to go faster than I did yesterday and trying to become a better runner. I ran my first half marathon distance in October 2010 in around 2hrs15, so to finish today's race at 1:49:22 smashing 25-minutes of that time in the course of 4-months is something I'm genuinely proud of.  And yes I know I've done the miles and been diligent about my training etc, but I couldn't have done today without DailyMile.

I joined DailyMile as a side-thought, and god am I glad I did.  The network of runners, triathletes, cyclists etc that I have grown across the globe, has rapidly become an inspirational group of people who make me get up go running, but more importantly make me strive to be better, not better than them, just better than myself and for that I thank them all.

Yes I trained hard for today's half marathon, but without DailyMile I probably wouldn't have pushed myself in the same way over the past couple of months, realising I can run a bit faster than I thought, then reacting to everyone's encouragement, motivation and inspirational comments to maintain that pace, and push to go even faster.

That's why I ran 1:49:22 today.

A few months ago I wanted to run this at 10-min pace as part of my Marathon training, through the encouragement of others I pushed myself to realise, then be comfortable with the fact, that I can run faster and I have the resources to push myself further than I thought I could before....if you could now all teach me how to look cool on the home straight I'd be away...
So, to all my friends on Daily Mile I say thank you.  And to everyone else running races this weekend, and there were a lot of racers and PB'ers, I say congratulations and I look forward to hearing about your simple uneventful training runs next week.  Yes, its great to hear about the glory of the race, but its the support for the 4-mile training run in the rain when you feel crap that means more, and again is one of the reasons why DM is so special.

So back to Brighton...it was a great race, atmosphere was really nice, a very calm relaxed bunch of runners, my one stress was realising the baggage drop was about 1/2 mile further than the start point which meant I should have left home a tad earlier to avoid the sudden dash to the start to get there in time for the off and not get stuck at the back, but you can't complain about that.  Support on the streets was in clumps with a thick gathering around the obvious points in the race, but nice none the less, and the steel bands gave the grey day a Brighton Calypso lift.

Was thrown a bit by my Garmin pausing for no reason at around 7.5miles (second time this has happened) and I only realised after about another 3/4 mile, but thankfully I had a second watch so could keep track of time if not distance.  Hitting the 10-mile mark and turning back onto the seafront could have been hard, but the high tide and listening to the surf crashing into the beach plus running for 2-miles past brightly coloured beach huts is a nice way to push towards the end of a Half-Mary.

So, overjoyed with my performance today, was just hoping to go a tad faster than 1:55, didn't expect this, but very happy to take it.  Only way to finish the day was a couple of beers and a fabulous banquet at the local Chinese...
...just don't expect me to race Oliver, coz at a 6:35 pace he'll kick my arse!!!

Friday, 18 February 2011

Robot Marathon

Yes, you read it right the first time.  A robot marathon!  Cool!  And where else could it be based, but my home-from-home in Osaka, Japan...

...there's not a huge amount more you can add to that is there?

In case you can't be arsed to click "Play" and be entertained with 1:06 of YouTube wackiness, this will be the world's first Robot Marathon and consist of 4 androids doing 422 laps of the 100metre track in order to reach the 42km goal, a feat that should take 4-days and thus coincide with the start of this year's Tokyo Marathon on Sunday 27th.

Personally, I fancy the tall blue sleek one with "I Love Osaka" emblazoned across his "chest".

Just another reason to love Japan! And at least at 4-day pace, its nice to know there's someone out there doing their first marathon slower than me this year.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Osaka Marathon 2011...by golly, I want to run it!

After months of waiting, since the announcement was made last year, registration for the inaugural Osaka Marathon has now opened (yes, I know they have a famous elite race, but this will be Osaka's first mass participation marathon).

My form is in and I've got my registration number, but now its about more waiting to find out if I get a place.  With 30,000 places up for grabs you'd think getting your registration in on day 1 would see you right, but with over 200,000 applying for this year's Tokyo Marathon the likelihood is it will go a lottery.  Hopefully the advent of inaugural marathons in Nagoya, Kyoto, Nara and Kobe (all very close) in 2011 and 2012 will spread the interest a little wider, and the Fates will smile kindly on yours truly.

I lived in Japan from 1995 to 1998 and absolutely adore the country.  Many are the times I've wondered what would have happened had I just stayed there rather than coming back to England, but life is good here and there's no point dwelling on that too much, plus we go back most year's anyway to see family.  Osaka is a wonderful city and my wife's hometown, I had an amazing 3-years living in Kyoto in the mid-90s as an English teacher in a Junior High School and truly had a fabulous time.

I love the city and taking part in the Marathon with family and friends there to cheer me on would be fantastic.  The route starts at Osaka Castle and takes it most of the "sites" of Osaka, but Osaka is more about atmosphere, and there'll be oodles of that on the day and the days leading up to it.
My New Year's Resolution was to run my first 2 marathons in 2011, my debut is in early April in Brighton, where I live, and then running my second in my wife's home city would bring a lovely synergy to my first forays into marathon running, and more importantly give me the chance if only momentarily to take on the guise of one of Osaka's most famous landmarks...

...the Glico man on Dotonburi
...except I'll be GINGER, which if nothing else will make me highly visible in Osaka at 194cm tall (it always does), but I'm sure the sight of me red-faced and puffing as a bouncing ginger head above the crowd of runners will be highly entertaining for all, or at least make is easier for family to spot me as I plod by.

And you never know, I could bring more fame and Osaka's adoration to Matt Murton, one of Hanshin Tigers star baseball players, who in his rookie season last year became only the 4th player in Japanese Baseball history to have a 200-hit season. With both of us sporting ginger hair and mutton chop sideburns, there were plenty of fun comments and curious stares last summer in Osaka, most fun of all having an entire section of the stadium give me (in my Murton Shirt (come on you would take advantage wouldn't you)) give me a standing ovation while the real Murton was a few hundred yards away on the field, which as you can imagine my 8-year old son thought was very cool, if a little weird "coz you didn't do anything dad".

So, fingers-crossed that I'll be out to Japan in the autumn (as well as the summer trip we've already booked) and bagging that second marathon, after all...

...ain't nothing to it.. but to do it!

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Ultimate Marathon Man - 365 in a year

Congratulations to Stefaan Engels, 49, who has just completed his 365th marathon finishing in Barcelona, having started a year ago on the challenge in his native Belgium.

Hats off to you Mr Engels, as an aspiring Marathon runner full of excitement and trepidation about tackling my first, the idea of running one every day for a year is a truly astonishing achievement that words can hardly justify. I'm planning to try and run 1,000 miles in 2011, this momentous run was over 9,500!!!
On average he managed around the 4-hour mark with a quickest of 2hrs, 56mins.  What an inspiring guy, more on his story, including details of his forthcoming book, can be found at: http://www.marathonman365.be

In his own words:
"I don't regard my marathon year as torture. It is more like a regular job. I am running just as Joe Average goes to work on Monday morning, whether or not he feels like it. I don't always feel like running, but when I am done, I take a shower, have some physiotherapy for an hour and that wraps up my day."  Stefaan


I hope Mr Engels will not mind me quoting him from his website, but I think his words sum up what a wonderful achievement this is and why he did it far better than my random typing could ever do...


Why 365 marathons?

"I now fully understand that a human being is capable of great things." A. Kusada
Dear all,
365 marathons in 365 days. That is what I am aiming for. That is my goal. I didn't just accidentally choose the quote mentioned above. Akinori Kusada is a 65-year-old man from Japan who conquered his spot in the Guinness Book of Records in March 2009 by running 52 marathons in 52 days. That was 1 more than his 48-year-old predecessor from Italy. So Kusada is the man I want to dethrone.
It is undoubtedly tempting to attribute my plan to a crazy mind that might as well have suggested beating the world record of chimney-sitting. I have heard all that before. I heard it for the first time on a June night in 2007, when I told a few friends how I wanted to break the world record of long-distance triathlons. A year later, however, I had completed twenty of them. I had secured my spot in the Guinness Book of Records. 'Yes, I can.' became the title of the book.
So am I superman? Certainly not. Rather than having super powers, I suffer from asthma and my body is that of a 40-year-old. But I still succeeded. It was an eye-opener to many. In times when practical obstacles increasingly disappear, the biggest obstacle is right between our ears.
Which is why my message is: dare to change your life. Don't be afraid to chase a goal that requires leaving the path on which you risk getting stuck. Preferably a goal related to sports because that will bring you some result. A more active life results in a healthier body and a sharper mind, ingredients for a more qualitative life. More people picked up on my triathlon story. I searched for and found one hundred folks who did not exercise but were motivated. For six months they would be working to take up a sportive challenge. Obviously, it wasn't going to be a long-distance triathlon, but it did encompass half a marathon, four kilometers of swimming or the mythical Alpe d'Huez. Feelings of doubt were plentiful, but each and every one of the participants wanted to go for it. And lo and behold, in that hot summer of 2009 most of them achieved something that had previously seemed unthinkable and unattainable. Yes, we can.
Exercise deficiency may be persistent, but so am I. With my new attempt to set a world record I want to take it even further, and make it more spectacular. In order to spread my message even more and to inspire more people.
In 490 BC a certain Pheidippides would run more than 40 kilometers from Marathon to Athens to inform the city that the Persian army had been beaten. According to the most familiar version, upon pronouncing the word 'nenik├ękamen' (we have won) he collapsed and died then and there. In 1896, during the first modern Olympic Games, about 10 athletes ran again from Marathon to Athens. The marathon was born.
In 2010, I want to be the MarathonMan. Just like Pheidippides I want to run marathons to bring a message. And I invite everyone to get some exercise and come run with me for a little while.
Just do it!
Sportively yours,
Stefaan
So there you have it, a great story and an inspirational man. Hope you don't mind the huge direct quotes, but I'll be buying your book on April 7th when it comes out, so trust that makes up for it.

Oh, and in case you didn't already know, in 2008 he set the record for the most long distance triathlons (3.8km swim, 180km ride, 42km run) in a year at 20!! What a dude!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Empire State Building Run-Up 2011

1,576 stairs from the lobby to the top, covering a vertical distance of 1,050 feet (320 m)...do you fancy it?
The 2011 Empire State Building Run-up was yesterday in The Big Apple, and that's exactly what it is, a vertical 320m climb/run to the top.  Kind of torn between admiration and thoughts of "your nutters!".
Let's face it though, we all love a good run, but this ain't the type of race for anyone that gets into a sulk when the escalators are broken.  Just thinking about it you can imagine the lactic build up and burn in them thighs - ouch!

Talk about crazily impressive, Thomas Dold of Germany won this year for a record sixth straight year racing up in 10 minutes 10 seconds.  Hats off to Thomas, Alice McNamara who won the women's race, and everyone else who ran the race. 
Apparently the record's for the run stand at 9:33 for the men (Paul Crake, 2003) and 11:23 for the women's race (11:23, 2006), truly impressive stuff. 
As you can see from the video, the key seems to be hitting the stairs first (in addition to monstrous endurance), they're not exactly wide and me thinks the only way to overtake at that point would be a bout of fisticuffs.  So just like flat racing you don't want to get stuck behind slow runners at the start or you're buggered...
First out of the stairwell: Thomas Dold leads runners as they sprint off the starting line en masse
You just now its going to be painful, found this quote on an old Guardian article, "It's not all that pleasant...after my first race, I puked in a garbage can. Everyone high-fived me." Hard-core!
And you know what, its not that hard to imagine either is it? 
If you fancy trying to experience it and can't find a tower or be bothered to sprint multiple times up your stairs at home, just sit back imagine the pain and check out this speeded up video of the run and tell me nausea doesn't wash over you...