Saturday, 31 December 2016

End of the year

I have to give a big thank you to everyone who has contributed to this fund-raising endeavour. It's been a challenging year, but great to complete it.

I raced for almost 10 hours 40 minutes across the 12 events, climbing over 1,800m / 6,000ft during the 109km / 67.4miles of road, trail and fell (thanks to Saddleworth Rangers for the wine to commemorate my first ever fell race - I feel I earned it, Alderman's Ascent was tough). Within this I was hoping for a 5km sub-25 and a 10km sub-50... I set a new 5km PB, with 24m 33s during a virtual race, and set a new 10km PB, with 51m 7s during the Great Manchester Run (not quite to target, but close - I'll have it in 2017!). Finally, every single race I completed was a course PB! That's quite the year given I only started running with a club a couple of years ago. I hope you've enjoyed watching it unfold :)

Importantly, we have together raised £3,243 - a sum way beyond the £2,400 target, which is amazing.

Thank you to all the individual contributors, both in the UK and overseas. Thank you to my work colleagues for their support and to my employers, Sopra Steria, for providing fund-matching. Thank you to Seen Opticians who generously donated and from where I got my distinctive running specs. Thank you to my fellow runners in the Greenfield Greyhounds and in the other clubs near where I live (Saddleworth Runners, Oldham & Royton Harriers, Royton Road Runners and Hyde Village Striders to name a few), both for organising races and for being great running buddies and competitors.

Finally, a massive thank you to my family for all their support - for those that have come to races and have donated and send words of encouragement; for my mum and dad, who have attended almost all my races this year despite a busy work schedule; and for my lovely daughter and wife, who have put up with me being out training and racing and have also attended almost all my races and given me the support, time and encouragement I needed to get through it all. I love you all so much.

And so the challenge has ended. The races have been run. The money raised, 100% of which goes to the children I'm supporting in Zambia and in Haiti. It's been so important to ensure that these vulnerable children have food and drink, clothing and shelter and to encourage the workers that their efforts are noticed and valued. To ensure that the boys and girls in Zambia have the sustenance they need to learn well. To ensure the boys and girls in Haiti still have an orphanage to call home.

You can continue to donate to these worthy causes up until the end of January 2017 - if you were waiting for me to complete the challenge, now is the time to give!

Sunday, 11 December 2016

RACE 12 - Saddleworth Santa Dash

The race was new onto the calendar last year, when around 100 of us ran a tough uphill 5km race. This year word had spread and there were around 500 running a slightly flatter course round Greenfield and Uppermill. The weather was better too - last year was on the tail of Hurricane Desmond, this year was a pleasantly cloudy 5 degrees. I'd learned from last year's santa suit experience too, safety pinning some key points to stop it flapping about, which worked well.

The sight of so many santa's running down Uppermill High St was great - we initially headed along a flat section of course towards the far end of Greenfield, a mixture of road and playing field. From there we started to turn back towards Uppermill and began the hill climb, working up towards St Mary's church, on towards Boarshurst and still further up from there. I was tired by the time we got to the top and had to walk for 30 seconds to recover. Quite rural now we had some great views and then turned into a short section of trail before heading back down the hill towards where we had started.

The finish line was in the same place as last year, but far too small for so many runners and it was a little crowded and not well managed. As such, I don't have an official time, but my personal time suggests it was about 28 minutes and 15 seconds - not particularly fast, but good enough given the nature of the race and my lack of training in recent months. I was just happy to be able to run it and to do so with many of my fellow Greyhounds (over 50 of us)! A great race to finish with :)

Sunday, 4 December 2016

RACE 11 - Zombies, Run! Autumn Virtual Race

Apologies everyone, I completely forgot to blog about race 11. Back in October, I was on holiday in London with my family and took the opportunity to fit in this race. On arrival in the city I had the pleasure of meeting up with a fellow Runner 5, with whom I had been in touch on the ZRVR forum. Also called Matt, he gave me a great running tour of the city sights over a 10km trot. That was a fab way to see the landmarks (albeit mad busy with tourists to dodge) and gave us both the opportunity to listen to one of the training missions as we ran round.

The following Saturday, Matt had arranged for any interested Runner 5's to meet in Hyde Park to race together. I joined around a dozen others at the Statue of Achilles (very appropriate) in time for an 11am start. Some of the staff from Six to Start (the company that makes Zombies, Run!) also joined us, both to run and to (very kindly) watch the bags. As such, I had the privilege of running with the actor who plays Sam Yao, one of the key and longest-standing characters in the game!

Some were running 5k, most were running 10k, we all ran at different paces. Heading off into the park we managed to keep in sight of one another for a short while, but slowly drifted apart and took slightly different paths. A slightly fast starting pace had us all easing into our regular paces further into the run than we'd all expected. The day was good though - not too warm, but far from cold, and dry. As such, good pace was made although I managed to get lost (it's a very big park), ending up on the wrong side of the Serpentine than I'd intended. No bother, I just invented a different ending path and pushed hard for a good finish.

Having had a rubbish running summer, due to work and art exhibitions taking up all my time, I was off pace in this race. I eventually completed in an ok time of 54m 38s, but it just goes to show... in April I completed it over 3 minutes quicker on a course with over 60m more climbing (Hyde Park is pretty much flat). Still, that placed me 216th on the leaderboard of 845 runners.

Afterwards we all met at the Serpentine Grill for lunch together, race chit-chat and a lovely medal presentation from the team at Six to Start. Everyone was really nice and I had a great morning with them, hoping to return to race together again sometime :)

Tuesday, 9 August 2016


Apologies again for the late post. Still very tired from work and other activities. Still not running very much right now.

I have decided to take a break from racing for a while. As you'll know from the race calendar, there are loads of races available. I had wanted to sign up for a couple in August, but I'm just too worn out to justify it.

I have completed 10 out of my 12 challenge races, so only 2 left. I've got the Zombies, Run! Autumn Race in October already booked and will look for a Santa Dash to finish the year in style. Beyond that I'm just going to get back to running for health, fitness and social interaction, enjoying it for what it is.

No specific race training, no putting myself under pressure to increase mileage. Just getting out there when I can, running with my Greyhounds and enjoying the experience. I need to get back into a rhythm of running again and slowly get back my pace. I fully intend to keep improving myself, just not focussing on that right now.

Also, I will reduce the amount of blogging I do for the remainder of the year. You've all read me waffle on long enough, I'm sure. I'll keep you posted about anything significant, but it will be nice to remove this little bit of weekly pressure to scribe for a while. I hope you understand and thanks for following me so far.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

RACE 10 - Millbrook Monster

The last race in my July Triple mini-challenge, this was another tough run. Work continues to be difficult and the hours long, so I have hardly run at all this month. As such, I was tired before the race had even started and slightly off my form.

Over 200 runners packed into the starting area. The race began and we were immediately into a 5km climb. There was a mixed bag of steepness and some flat sections, but it was essentially half an hour of going up. I thought I managed fairly well, although still had to power-hike parts of the last kilometre. There was also a bit of overtaking and then being overtaken again on this stretch.

Some great views on the way up and a quick pitstop for a drink at the water station just the other side of the crest. The next 4km were downhill, so a welcome change. However, it's easy to run too quick here and tire out. I suspect I had a bit of that and was really feeling it for the last 3km of the race.

With about 1.5km to go the route takes you pretty much to the finish line and then swoops you away for a final climb - cruel. Around the 9km mark there's a long series of steps that just finishes you off. I had to walk those. I knew they were coming, but still had no energy left. Other runners were starting to overtake me during the last quarter hour of running, which is a little hard to take, but I wasn't expecting a good time from this race.

Having finally seen the end of the steps, the course swings round for the last descent to the finish line. The gathered crowd was very loud and encouraging and that helped me put on a sprint finish. My support crew (aka mum, dad, Yvonne & Niamh) gathered round to help this extremely tired runner get me some more water to drink and be with me as I slowly recovered.

It was also another great show of runner camaraderie as racers encouraged each other through the tough sections and thanked the marshals as we passed by. The prize for completing was a free chip butty from the local chip shop, but I just had no stamina or will left to queue for it. So I left my fellow Greyhounds early to get home (passing a much quieter local chippy on the way!). Well done to Allan for winning the VM50 category :)