Sunday, 27 March 2016


The Greenfield Greyhounds have a series of beginner sessions at least once a year, possibly more depending on demand. This is a really good way of getting started with running, because of the added benefit of learning in a group - encouraging each other rather than trying to go it alone, having a regular time to run and effectively a commitment to others to run. The group doesn't work if people don't turn up, so it helps you get out in inclement weather when you don't want to let others down.

There are many ways to start to learn to run and there is no defined best method. Whether you find a guide on a website like or find a 'Couch to 5k' training plan or join a group, there are plenty of ways to take those first steps in a new healthy hobby.

The Greyhounds beginner classes start with short 2k runs and use a variety of routes and types of runs to slowly build up the group to 5k. The current class is reaching it's end and there are some enthusiastic new runners eager for the final challenge.

The beginners will be going to one of the local park runs (Oldham's Alexandra Park) to run a timed 5k. I'm confident they will all complete it and getting to the end will be a great achievement. It's a chance for those new runners to see just how far they've come in a relatively short period of time. Myself and several other experienced Greyhounds will join them in support and it promises to be a great morning, no doubt with a celebratory coffee and sausage butty afterwards somewhere :)

If you've considered running, but not quite got out there yet or tried and not made it very far, may be search out your local running club and see what they have on offer.

Monday, 21 March 2016


There are obviously a whole variety of race distances available to run - I prefer the shorter distance 5k and 10k races (3.1 and 6.2 miles respectively, for those working in imperial). Many take on a half marathon (13.1 miles / 21 km) and quite a few even run a full marathon (26.2 miles / 42 km). These are very long distances that take several hours to complete and push the body hard. The physical strain of moving that long, the practicalities of giving your body enough fuel and liquid as you run, and so on.

Rapidly gaining popularity and renown is something called an Ultra. That is, any race of longer distance than a marathon. It's taking endurance running to a whole different place for body and mind. It most definitely should not undermine the shorter distance races, which test us in different ways. Nor should it go unnoticed that still comparatively few people ever run as far as a marathon. But I have to give massive respect to people who run Ultra's. And those like Eddie Izzard who undertake endurance running in all types of terrain and in all manner of distance configurations.

So it is with great pride that I can tell you the following Greenfield Greyhounds (some of whom also run for other clubs like Saddleworth Runners and Royton Road Runners) completed the very hilly 40 mile (64.4 km) Oldham Way Ultra yesterday, Sunday March 20th:

Simon Jump (8:00:00), Colin Green (8:25:10), Paul Simpson (9:22:25), Jason Wilks (9:27:44), Billy Hughes (9:55:58), Stephen Lee (9:57:38), Allan Parkin (9:57:38), Mark Crossland (10:20:30), Ian Taylor (10:20:30), Mike Marn (10:20:30), Phil Craven (10:20:30)

And of those, special mention to Paul Simpson, Stephen Lee and Allan Parkin who ran the 55 miles (88.5 km) Hardmoors 55 the day before!

That's a lot of running. I don't want to run that far.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Zombies, Run!

There is an air of excitement among my fellow runners that lighter nights are almost here (and trepidation that London and Manchester marathons are also almost here). March 27th will jump our clocks forward an hour and mean we can put our head torches away and enjoy the scenery. Hooray!

This week I'll tell you a little about one of the tools in my training arsenal - a smartphone app that keeps me company on solo runs. A number of you will have heard me waffle on about this already, but it was key to getting me into running so is important to me (I know, it's just an app). It's obviously Zombies, Run!

The app tracks your running, whether on treadmill or out on the trails. During the run you play through a mission, which is a bit like hearing a personalised radio show - it plays you story segments and in between those plays you music from your own playlist. The story is told from the perspective of your character and items are picked up during the course of the mission to be used later in other areas of the app.

The premise is that there has been a zombie outbreak and we are in a fictional area of England during the apocalypse. Our character is sent to help a group of survivors holed up in a small settlement. We are dubbed 'Runner 5' and are based in 'Abel Township'. The app gives you a map of Abel and you use the mission collectibles to improve the base, expanding its boundaries, adding better quality housing, gardens, play areas, security measures, etc over time.

The creators have built an amazing world - each season contains a series of missions, season 4 bringing the total to 200! So there's plenty to keep you entertained on those solo runs. There's a whole cast of characters to meet, rival settlements, the need to gather items to survive, find ways to combat the zombies and plenty more besides. It's very entertaining, the quality of the app having improved loads over the years and the number of people using it has grown massively to over 1 million players!

I'm very happy to count myself as one of the first to play it. ZR has all my run data, so I can see that my first run was just 4 days after my 37th birthday, at 9.50am on the morning of Saturday 28th April 2012, a mere 2 months after launch! That marks my starting point as a serious runner and therefore a personal landmark date. I was on the gym treadmill making exceedingly slow progress and needing to take a walking break every 5-10 mins just to get through a 5k. I've used it less over the last couple of years due to running in a group, but I've still racked up 130 completed missions and still bring it out for solo training runs.

My next race is the Spring Zombies, Run! Virtual Race (ZRVR). I ran their first ever last autumn, so am very much looking forward to this. The race pack is in the post, including a t-shirt that relates to the race mission. To set the scene for the main race story they've started releasing training missions to play and blogging snippets of background story. It's a great build up, a very supportive community and a fabulous, inspirational app (even if you don't really like zombies).

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Introducing a new project - Haiti

I am truly amazed by your generosity. In just 2 months you have donated over £1200, which already puts us half way to the challenge total!

I was expecting the fund raising to be slower and had planned to promote a different project every quarter to keep things fresh for supporters. But in response to this incredible start I am changing the approach. I hope you don't mind.

Everyone so far has donated in response to the Zambian project, so rather than the planned £600 Horizons will send them the £1200 raised to date - well done everyone, that's fantastic!

I will now introduce a second project and will champion that for the remaining £1200 target. You can find out more on the Supported Projects page, but I am going to run the remaining races to raise funds for an orphanage in Haiti.

There was a large earthquake in 2010 that killed hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses. Out of that, the Loving Hearts Children's Home has taken in 28 now-orphaned children. They are a small organisation and often overlooked by charities, but we managed to find them.

They are desperate for the means to buy food and to keep their kids clothed. They struggle just to provide one main meal a day and 'sometimes' a small breakfast. What a travesty! Please continue to give generously to help these children have access to the basic necessities of life.

Think of them when you consider what you eat on an average day - how would it feel knowing you will only eat once today, may be a small breakfast if you're lucky?

Think of them when you open your wardrobe in the morning and wonder what to pick to wear that day - how would it feel to see just two t-shirts and two shorts/dresses?

What luxury we have!

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

RACE 3 - Huddersfield 10k

This was a good day, cloudy and cool with the occasional burst of sunlight. I arrived on site with plenty of time to spare, so having not run the course before I decided to drive it - I'm glad I did as that let me strategise the race, gauge how much recovery time I might have between hills and see what the finish was going to be like.

On my return I registered, picked up a competitors t-shirt and pinned the race number to my Greenfield Greyhounds running vest. My wife and daughter, mum and dad all came to see me off and welcome me back at the end - Niamh had made a big poster saying "Run Dad Run", which was great to see!

There were 572 runners in total, all eager at the start line. The event was chip timed - a chip stuck to the running number registers as we run over special mats. A gun was fired to start the race officially at 11am, meaning everyone had two times recorded - one from the gun to the finish chip time and another from starting chip time to finishing chip time. My gun time was 56m 21s and my chip time was 56m 2s, so it took me 19 seconds just to cross the start line (and I was near the front).

The race began with a long hill climb, rising 100m over 3km. On a public main road, the runners filled the pavement and half the road, holding up traffic for the duration. There were pockets of crowds cheering us on from outside houses and shops all through the race, which was great. After the rise was crested, a good recovery downhill eventually took us off onto side roads and a steep descent that thinned out the pack. Approaching the 5km watering station meant running up the second hill, a short steep rise of around 50m.

That hill was an effort, but I felt ok and carried on without a water break. A nice recovery straight, a small switchback and another downhill. Hill three was steep and long, at around 60m climb over only 1km, this had quite a few runners struggling, but I managed to keep a rhythm going. I was pleased to have kept running to that point and didn't want to disappoint myself or my Greyhounds by stopping now. A shout out from a fellow runner "Well done, Greenfield!" was great encouragement to get me to the top.

A long straight downhill for another kilometre or so was then necessary for recovery, which was now taking me several minutes to get back to pace. I was overtaken by a few runners on this section, but just happy to keep moving. It was a good view, with Castle Hill looming large in the near distance. The descent got steeper and steeper - these downhills were tricky as it felt too fast to let my legs just run away with themselves (didn't want to slip or land awkwardly at that speed), but it was also difficult to run slow (I was leaning back and trying to take smaller steps, but landing hard and very aware of not running efficiently).

A fourth and final hill climb was thankfully short-lived and we were back onto the main road heading back to the rugby club. Thinned out enough now that most runners were on the pavement, one or two abreast. I found myself having run with roughly the same pack of 15 or so runners for the last half an hour. This pack slowly started to increase pace, sensing the finish line only 2km away, so I naturally had to increase pace with them.

The rugby club approached, with its driveway being around 200m long (or so I guessed). I was recovered by now, feeling good and knew I was going to finish under 60 minutes, which was a great feeling (personal target met). What I hadn't figured out until that last stretch was that I wasn't too far off my finish time for last year's Manchester 10k (my first race and a flat race, 54m 26s) - that gave me incentive to push hard.

I turned into the driveway and decided I had enough energy to last the distance with an increased turn of speed. So I started to lengthen my stride and overtake runners, picking up pace more and more. I saw the main building block approach and the crowds lining the side of the driveway - somewhere in the middle of that I heard my family shouting encouragement, but daren't shift my focus. Guessing there was around 50-75m left to go, I moved up another gear into full on sprint, entered the finishing funnel, turned the corner, saw the finish mat and just ran hell for leather, giving it every bit of speed I could find. I crossed the finish line absolutely flying and having loved that final stretch!

Huddersfield 10k conquered! Almost £700 donated online, over £400 raised by my work colleagues on top of that and hopefully some corporate fund matching to put me over the halfway point in raising money! Next week I will introduce the next project to sponsor. A big thank you to everyone who has donated to date :)

NB You can see some pictures and a brief video of the start from the Huddersfield Examiner write-up