Mentions: andy5000miles

30 miles for 30 years

In my previous post I wrote that I was doing 30 miles in a day in aid of Kirkwood Hospice – my mad idea of a 30th party celebration. I promised more details nearer the time – well we’re nearer the time, so here it is –

The event takes place on Saturday 15th July, setting off from Huddersfield Kirkwood Hospice charity shop at 09:00 – all the other details are below……

Here’s the rules –

  • this is a totally unofficial, informal, unmarshalled, unregulated event. I would absolutely love it if lots of people ran bits of it, as much or as little as you like, with me – to encourage me, keep me company etc. That will be fantastic – some people have already let me know that they’ll be joining me – if you want to, then you can just turn up, or send me a message either here, or on Facebook (type Kirkwood 5000) or on twitter @andy5000miles to let me know where you fancy running – however, I can’t be responsible for anything as far as transport back to where you started, or any other logistical issues – I have a support vehicle which will be going ahead from stop to stop, and the shops know that we’ll be there and are happy to provide “facilities”, some may even be doing some refreshments, but there are no official marshalls, or water stations or anything like that.
  • my speed for running marathon type distances on the flat is around 8:45 pace – on the one hand this run could be perceived as easier because it’s in short stages, but on the other hand it’s a bit further than marathon distance, there are some significant climbs, it’s the height of summer, and it is absolutely not a race. Finishing is the goal. So – my best case scenario, if I was running alone, would be looking at doing around 9 minute mile pace on the flat, slower on the bigger climbs, and slightly faster on the descents. However, I don’t want to put people off who may be thinking that they would like to run a leg but will be too slow, within reason. So what I’m saying is that if there are a few people on any given leg, I’m going as slow as the slowest in the group, as far as 10 minute mile pace – any slower than that (apart from on the big climbs) and it will become difficult to stay as a group – I don’t really want to leave anyone behind, but as a rule of thumb, I’d say that you need to be able to run 10 minute miles, and whichever leg you choose, need to be able to run that distance without stopping or walking – some of the legs are very short (they are all listed and rated below) so if in doubt pick one of the shorter, easier legs (the last two are the easiest in my view). However, this is assuming that I make a super human effort myself and don’t blow up on the day, in which case it’ll be survival pace, and I’ll just do the best that I can. If it’s a particularly hot day, then the times I’ve listed below may also go out of the window and just getting around will be the aim.
  • publicity – there are no medals or tee shirts for finishers (unless someone has got me a medal!) but what I’m trying to do, even more than making money, is raising the profile of the Hospice, whether that’s social media or the Press – so I’ll be looking at taking loads of pictures on the day and leading up to the day, and hoping that lots of people will share information about this as widely as possible – it all helps to bring the Hospice and the fact that  it’s the 30th anniversary to the attention of the local population. So, please take pictures, put stuff on Facebook, and tweet – I’m using the cumbersome but accurate #30milesfor30years hashtag, as well as my regular #Kirkwood5000

This is the itinerary for the day, with the approximate times of each leg, the distance in miles (approximate, but to the nearest 10th of a mile), and I’ve also rated each leg for difficulty, based on both distance and hilliness (out of 10, 1 being easier, 10 being harder) – hopefully the description of each leg will give you an idea of what to expect, if you want to join in. Please note that the times are likely to be accurate earlier on, but may get out the further we venture into the unknown i.e. towards the end – the times may also be dependent on the heat as well, the hotter it is, the slower I’ll be…….

All the venues are Kirkwood Hospice shops. Meet at the Huddersfield town centre shop at around 8:45…..setting off at 09:00
Leg 1 – Huddersfield to Marsh – 1.2 miles (rated 4/10) start time 09:00

The first leg, out of Huddersfield town centre, under the subway and then a steady climb – only a short leg but almost entirely uphill – a good alternative to Huddersfield parkrun, which is cancelled on the 15th July – you could park wherever you normally park, jog down the hill for the start, then run this leg and then cruise back to your car! Your bar-code won’t get scanned but you’ll have had an excellent and rewarding alternative to the Greenhead park experience!

Leg 2 – Marsh to Lindley – 0.7 miles (rated 2/10) start time 09:20

One of the shortest legs at less than a mile, but still going uphill – if you’ve run the first leg, you may as well do this one too!

Leg 3 – Lindley to Slaithwaite (via Milnsbridge) – 4.5 miles (rated 6/10) start time 09:30

After a quick stop at Lindley, it’s the second longest leg – the first part of this one doubles back down the hill, then levels off followed by a steep drop down into Milnsbridge – wave at the Kirkwood pound shop on the way past, and then the rest of the run is relatively flat, along the canal, with occasional short climbs where there are locks, into the village of Slaithwaite.

Leg 4 – Slaithwaite to Marsden – 2.8 miles (rated 4/10) start time 10:20

This is the ideal leg for the more casual runner, as it is relatively flat, most of it is along the canal towpath, and it’s slightly shorter than parkrun distance. If you can run a sub 30 parkrun, then this the ideal leg for you to come join in, and we’re guaranteed a warm welcome at the Marsden shop.

Leg 5 – Marsden to Meltham – 3.8 miles (rated 8/10) start time 10:50

Now the going starts to get tough – the climb out of Marsden is the first of three long climbs, pretty constant for the best part of a mile, some of it very steep. I’ll be trying to keep going without stopping or walking up this first one but I envisage the pace being slow towards the top, then back to normal once it levels off – the views are spectacular but worth noting that there are sections with no pavement so extra care will be needed – once you get to the descent into Meltham it’s a lovely long downhill stretch then into the shop for a well earned drink.

Leg 6 – Meltham to Holmfirth – 3.8 miles (rated 9/10) start time 11:45

The climb out of Meltham is in some ways more difficult than the previous one because it is in several sections and more varied in gradient, plus it doesn’t level out for long before you are descending down into Holmfirth – we’re taking the route via Upperthong, that’s the one I did when I did the rekky so I’m sticking with that route. The climb is steep, but so is the descent, so hoping to conserve some energy on the downhill bit. I have some jelly babies saved in the fridge at the Holmfirth shop from my previous visit, so I can promise one of those to anyone running that leg!

Leg 7 – Holmfirth to Honley – 2.9 miles (rated 5/10) start time 12:40

I’ve built a bit of possible rest time in before this leg, depending on how I’m going for time – this is the only leg I haven’t yet run at the time of writing, but I’m told it’s pretty straight forward with pavements on the A6024, then up Far End lane and Southgate into Honley. Another good chance to get a parkrun length run in.

Leg 8 – Honley to Kirkburton – 5.2 miles (rated 10/10) start time 13:20

This is the one that’s keeping me awake at night – the leg that is making me pray for a cool day – this is easily the biggest climb, I ran this with my friend Catherine as a first leg of that day, and it was really tough – on 15th July, by this point, all being well I’ll have done 20 miles. This one is going to hurt – I can’t guarantee running all the way up the hill – it’s a two mile climb, I suspect I’ll be taking it steady by this point, but if you fancy a real challenge and the chance to shout at me (“come on Andy, you’ve got this” – “I thought this was a run, not a walk” – “is that all you’ve got?” – or whatever your friendly banter insult of choice may be) then this might be the leg for you – not for the faint hearted, even the descent has bits of slight incline, and there is a climb back out of the valley into the village at the end too.

Leg 9 – Kirkburton to Almondbury – 3.1 miles (rated 6/10) start time 14:20

We’ve done a marathon now, more or less, this is just the bit tagged onto the end – it’s fairly steady away, until you get to Fenay Bridge where there’s a climb up around the golf club, then it levels off and you have a shortish, steep climb into the village, where the shop awaits on the main High street. If you want to join in on one of the later legs like this one, it’s probably worth checking with the shop to see whether they have information about times, as I’m hoping to keep to this timetable but it’s hard to predict what will happen on the day, for all sorts of reasons.

Leg 10 – Almondbury to Waterloo – 1.3 miles (rated 2/10) start time 14:55

The last two legs are the easiest two of the whole route, this one is almost entirely downhill, should be a breeze if I hadn’t already done 28 miles at this point. This is a good one for non runners or fun runners to join in with, help me get over the line……..

Leg 11 – Waterloo to The Hospice – approx 0.7 miles (rated 1/10) start time 15:10

We’ll get the calculators out at Waterloo and work out exactly how far I have run so far based on the phone app I’ll have been using for the whole run – if I need to do a tad more than 0.7 then I’ll add it by running a different way or going around the block, but otherwise it’ll just be across the main road and back to the Hospice for a long rest, a final photograph with whoever has accompanied me to the finish.

I want the total distance to be not less than 30 miles. This will be the furthest I’ve ever run, I’ve done three marathons but never ventured further – this will be different because it’ll be stop start, and running at different paces too, so it’s a real challenge.

So please tell anyone you know about this challenge, if people want to sponsor me there is a just giving page (type Andy 5000 miles), but I’m more interested in doing this challenge to raise awareness of the work that the Hospice does.

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30 miles in a day

So far on my Kirkwood 5000 adventure I’ve run the York and Manchester marathons, run to every square on the Monopoly board, done a load of parkruns including the one in Florida, run a whole load of other races including PB’s at 5K, 10K and half marathon distances, run 25 days straight, and covered a total of over 1,650 miles in 83 weeks…….but on Saturday 15th July I am taking on my biggest challenge yet.

Kirkwood is celebrating it’s 30th anniversary this year and to mark the occasion they’re asking people to host parties. So – I’m hosting a running party – I’m running 30 miles to celebrate 30 years, visiting 11 of the Kirkwood Hospice shops en route. I’ll be kicking off at 9am from Huddersfield, running to Lindley, Marsh, Slaithwaite, Marsden, Meltham, Holmfirth, Honley, Kirkburton, Almondbury, Waterloo, and finishing off at the Hospice – a tour of as many of the Hospice shops in that part of the hilliest bits of Kirklees as my legs will take me.

There are a few different ways you could support me with this –
Firstly, it would be great if as many of my running friends could join me for sections of this challenge – I’ll be publishing a proper rough timetable for the day nearer the time, and there will be information in all the shops and online. Running is a great way to stay fit and healthy and although running 30 miles in a day in the middle of summer is probably a bit extreme for most people, you can join me for a section or sections – there are two that are less than a mile, and the longest is less than 5 miles. I’m trying to think about it as a series of 11 little runs, so why not join me for a little run or two?
Second, you could share this post, spread the word on Facebook or twitter (@andy5000miles / #Kirkwood5000) – the primary aim of this is to raise awareness of the amazing work the Hospice does for our area, so the more publicity we can get the better.
Third, is anyone wants to make a donation or even just publish or promote my just giving site it’s here https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/andy5000
My online and offline fundraising totals around £6,000 so far, it would be fabulous if this event pushed that total up a little bit, so any help you can give with that would be amazing.
If you want to take part (or “come to my party”) then get in touch either here on the blog or DM me on twitter, or just turn up – keep an eye on this page for more detailed information nearer the time –
The fun kicks off on Saturday 15th July – 9am at the Hospice shop in Huddersfield Town Centre!

500 miles – already?!

When I’d done the first 50 miles, I put something on facebook about a stupid maths error I’d made, as I was walking back into the house after a long run, I thought to myself, 10% of the way there already – it took a couple of minutes to realise that 50 miles is 1% of 5,000, not 10%. That dumb mistake helped me to understand the relative enormity of what I’ve taken on – 500 miles, which at that point was 450 miles away, was the point at which I could claim to be at the 10% mark. So, I’ve made it – for real this time. 10% of the challenge completed.

Ahead of schedule too.

Those of you who are following may know that I’m going on a family holiday for three weeks in July / August, and whilst I am not discounting the possibility of running in 100 degree Florida sunshine and humidity, I always wanted to be far enough ahead of the game (about 60 miles) by the time that came around to be able to enjoy my holiday in the sun with no pressure to do any miles. That’s still the plan, and I’m about 50 miles ahead already. There has been one main reason, totally unanticipated when I dreamed up this challenge, why this has been relatively straight forward….

Just to explain briefly, I’ve been thinking about this challenge for some time – I wanted to do something that it was possible to work into a busy family life in a way that other stuff didn’t suffer, but also that it was a distance of significant enough length to impress people into being inspired to sponsor me – 5,000 miles sounds like a lot, because it is. 5,000 miles in 5 years sounds like a lot, because it is, but if you break it down it’s a reasonable amount to do in 2 – 4 runs per week. You have to be dedicated (if you take a break, you’re stuffed – or you need to catch up), and committed to making the effort all the time, which is the bit that I hope inspires people. 20 miles a week is not a lot to a decent runner (I’ve met plenty of people already who do considerably more than that without making a big song and dance about it!) but an average of 20 miles per week, every week for 260 weeks – it starts to sound more impressive….but crucially, you have to carefully work it all around when other members of the family need you, squeezing those miles into windows of opportunity, either early on a weekend morning or on any evening where taxi driving is not required, or you’re not too tired……

Anyway, I digress – the one main reason, totally unanticipated, that has made it relatively easy so far is……….(drum roll please……………) London.

Yes, London.

Out of the blue, I got this fantastic opportunity to go and work in London for 6 months – for the purposes of this blog what I’m doing there isn’t important (I’m working for The Wellcome Trust, an amazing organisation that you can read all about here – www.wellcome.ac.uk/Our-philosophy/index.htm); what is relevant is that on two evenings most weeks I finish up in the office early evening, and then I have nothing to do in Central London except sit in a very nice hotel room (thanks Wellcome Trust) snacking and watching TV.

So, I have gone from a situation where I’m wondering whether I will be able to squeeze evening running in at all, to having two evenings each week in our capital city, with nothing to do…..it didn’t take me more than a few seconds after accepting the job for the cogs to start turning – I can run around London – I only know London as a tourist and would typically get off the train at Kings Cross and get straight onto a tube, so my perspective of London previously is of a bunch of totally disjointed bits, so I know Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park and Piccadilly Circus and lots of other places, I just only a vague idea how they slot together overground.

What I’ve done then, over the last four months, is explore London, in the dark, on foot, by running. I’ve made taking crap selfies into an art form, posting them on Facebook to the amusement of my friends.

london 1

I’ve run north, south, east and west from whichever hotel I happen to be staying in. I’ve got different degrees of lost, a bit lost, and really lost – but have always managed to find my way home eventually…..

Andy runs London Nov 15 pic 2

On my very first day, looking at a map it appeared on paper that I was pretty close to Regents Park. That’ll be lovely I thought, pretty Christmas lights, traffic free avenues to plod along – so after I finished day one in the new job, and got checked into the hotel, I “memorized” the map in my head and set off, running the mile or so to the park, dodging the crowds and the traffic, excited for this brand new experience. Imagine my disappointment when I reached what I thought was my destination, and there are six foot high metal railings and padlocks on gates…..and not a pretty Christmas light in sight. I felt like the naive Northerner that I am.

There is a tree lined circular road with traffic, so I ran around that for a while, but that then generated a different problem. After what I imagined was about 90 degrees around this 360 circular road, I took an out road, and ended up somewhere busy and confusing. I couldn’t tell from any landmarks where I was or which direction was home, so decided that the safest thing to do was to attempt to retrace my steps. I managed to do this, and when I worked my way back to the hotel I’d clocked up 4.7 miles. What I hadn’t realised was that rather than running 90 degrees around the circle, I’d done almost 360, come out almost where I had started a mile from the hotel, and then run all the way back around the other way, just to save getting lost. When you look at a map of the run, it was a ridiculous route and not a good start to the London adventure – I needed a new plan!

Next time I went out I decided to go somewhere I knew – but this meant Oxford Street, in the last week in November. Not a great idea. This is me with the Christmas lights – I had to sprint down the bus lane when there were breaks in the traffic, as the pavement was impossible.

Andy runs London week one

What has gone to pot entirely during these runs is any attempt at running either an even pace or a decent time – stopping to take selfies is time consuming (partly because I am missing some spacial awareness gene and cannot work out which angle I need to adjust the phone to in order to get me, and the landmark behind me, in perfect harmony – the ones you are seeing here are pretty bad, but you should see the deleted ones…..) and it also breaks up the rhythm. The fact that some of the places I’m running are extremely packed with people means that you are stop / start a lot of the time – also stopping for traffic signals, red lights are longer in London – all these things mean that even if when I’m actually physically in the act of running I am going at a decent pace (probably about 8:15 per mile) by the time I get back to base and log the run, it looks like I’ve been running 10 minute miles.

london 2

The more running I did the easier I found it was to get my bearings. Once I’d run to all the obvious tourist places I started taking requests – this is me outside the Royal Albert Hall, a request from one of my old MAYC buddies.

london 4

I’ve also managed to conquer my fear of running across bridges with water underneath – one of the best places to run that I’ve found is on either the north or the south bank of the Thames, but obviously to get to the south bank you need to cross the river. Look straight ahead, avoid looking up and down, keep running, and most of all try to use the power of your mind to move any walking pedestrians out of your path. I’m happy to dodge around anyone on a regular pavement, they have as much right to be there as me, but if I’m going over a bridge I want a straight line with no obstacles or distractions!

Anyway, I’ve had a great time doing this London malarkey, but the main advantage is that each week it’s given me 10 – 17 miles of my quota, without inconveniencing the family. I have a few weeks left and once the clocks go back and it is lighter for longer, I’m planning to run the monopoly board. That should keep me busy.

Talking of busy, I have two races coming up in the next few weeks, which I am hoping to use as attempts at PB’s but also to raise awareness of the reason I’m doing this. I’m running the Sheffield Half marathon on April 10th (that’s the one that’s five miles uphill and eight miles down!) and then the Leeds Half marathon in May. Many thanks to those who have already sponsored me, but if you haven’t and would like to throw me a bone for these two races, I have a justgiving page at www.justgiving.com/andy5000 – 100% of the money goes to Kirkwood Hospice.

My next blog post will hopefully be a race report – or you can follow my progress far more regularly on Facebook (search Kirkwood 5000) or on twitter (@andy5000miles #Kirkwood5000).

My 2015 Yorkshire marathon experience

My 2015 Yorkshire marathon experience

And so it begins –

I’ve run over 800 miles in training for this 5000 mile charity run, so don’t let on but in reality I’ll have run 5,800+ – however, I wanted to start with a marathon, to launch the Kirkwood 5000 in style. In order to train properly for a marathon you need to put the miles in.

I had a tough weekend aside from any running – I had to travel down to London on the train for an interview on Friday, then drive to Staffordshire to speak at a Conference on the Saturday, then drive back home. To be honest this wasn’t ideal preparation, but needs must.

The day itself though was nothing short of fantastic. Thanks to the lovely people at “Run for All”, they had very kindly arranged for me to have the special number “ANDY” in recognition that I was doing something more than just a marathon, but what I didn’t realise until just a few days before the event that as well as a VIP number I also got the VIP experience. This meant that I got a parking space fairly close to the start, and got to rub shoulders with the Celebs taking part, including Look North News anchor Nicola Rees and Yorkshire legend Harry Gration.

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I queued for the toilet with Mr Burton from Channel 4’s award winning Educating Yorkshire…..

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When we got escorted to the start line, literally down to the front, I got a cheeky selfie with the eventual race winner Edwin Korir…….

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As you can see he was thrilled with having his picture taken with me!

The rather obvious flaw in this amazing plan was that my number was a “Zone 1” number, and I had no way of (or any desire to) getting to my more realistic zone, which would have been around the back of 2 / front of 3. I was at the front, loving the experience with the elite runners, and I was going to make the most of it.

When the countdown finally happened, I tried to hang back, which lasted all of 10 seconds, and then I set off – being overtaken by absolutely everyone around me. I had trained for a long time for this race, and I had a plan, a pretty simple one – run 8:45 miles all the way. This gets you through the first half in about 1 hour 54 minutes, and you are then looking at hanging on in there. That was the plan. I had successfully run over 20 miles four times in training, and every time I’d run the first half marathon distance in between 1:53 and 1:54.

So – I’m running along in this huge wave of people, which is weird when you are primarily a lonely runner, and I am trying to go slow, conscious of the fact that all the runners overtaking me are significantly faster. I get notifications on my app at every mile mark, and so I was waiting for mile one, and when I get it, it’s 7 minutes and 59 seconds. 7:59. That is not the plan. I’ve made the classic schoolboy marathon runner error, setting off to fast – not just a bit too fast, but 15% too fast, which in running terms is a lot. Slow down, slow down, I try to tell myself. I get overtaken by the 3:30 pacer just before the two mile mark, my second mile is more or less the right speed, so I’m back on track, but I can’t redo the first mile, and I start to wonder whether I’ll pay for that later on.

Mathematically, the easiest way I try to think of the 8:45 miles is in four mile blocks – I should do 4 miles in 35 minutes, 8 miles in 70, 12 miles in 105, 16 miles in 140 minutes etc. At four miles I was bang on 35 minutes, but that was only because I had a toilet stop just before the four mile mark. I then tried to just settle in and enjoy the ride. I tweeted out on the morning of the race…….

Three steps for my – stay focused, execute plan, enjoy the day

I was now thinking of the third one – enjoy the day. I’d worked really hard for this, if I achieved what I wanted to then it was going to be one of the best days of my life, and I damn well wanted to enjoy it! In order to enjoy it though, I needed to stay focused on what I was doing, and execute my plan (run 8:45’s).

A quick bit of history at this point, just for some context. In 2010 I did my only other marathon – it was a weird experience and I haven’t looked back on it particularly fondly. I always say to people that I’d “done” a marathon, not “run” a marathon. Today, I wanted to run a marathon. In September 2010, with about 500 miles of training behind me (but less knowledge and experience of running) I did the Nottingham marathon. This event is a marathon and half marathon which set off together, there is a great atmosphere and good crowds over the first 13 miles, and then all the half marathoners run to the finish, and the marathoners carry on along a river and out of sight – I ran the first half in about 2:05, my target that day was to finish in about 4:20 so I was going great, but over the first couple of miles of the second half of the race, a weird thing happened to me. I started to question what I was doing, and my mind kept telling me that I was only just half way. There were no cheering crowds, there were hardly any other runners around me, and I was starting to get really tired.

I recovered a little and managed to get to the 19 mile mark, but at that point I did the classic hitting the wall, I started to convince myself that I had something wrong with my knee, I stopped to get it taped up, but it wasn’t my leg that was damaged, it was my mind. I thought that I was mentally as well as physically prepared for the challenge, but this was not the case. I managed to finish, but walked most of the last 6 miles, much of it in tears, freezing cold, and I finished in 4 hours 57 minutes.

My emotions that day, and for weeks after, were really confused. I was kind of pleased that I’d done a marathon, but I was so disappointed with myself, any time anyone spoke to me about it I was negative about my performance, I felt like I had failed. I wasn’t sure what the future held for me running wise at that point, but I knew that running a marathon was an incredibly tough experience mentally and emotionally, and that if I were ever to tackle another one, I needed to be better prepared.

Back to today – enjoy the day! I had family waiting for me just beyond half way in the village of Stamford Bridge, with additional jelly babies and a bottle of lucozade sport (my fuel strategy doesn’t consist of endless gels, tablets, potions or anything else I saw being consumed by other athletes – I drink water beforehand and during the race, I have a couple of jelly babies at 10 miles, a bottle of sports drink at 14, and then more jelly babies as I feel I need them, plus water all the way – that’s it) so after stopping for another wee at around 11 miles (this time behind a hedge rather than in a cubicle!) looking out for them became my focus.

At the half way mark my time had slipped a little, I’d been conscious over miles 9 – 12 to conserve energy for the second half, that was going through my mind, and so my time had slipped a little and so I was surprised to find that my 13 mile split was over 1:55, about 90 seconds off what it should have been (it was a long wee). Not to worry – if I tried to make up this time by speeding up, then this could have an adverse effect later on, and who apart from me is counting? My target was to “run” a marathon – I knew if I did this my time would be sub 4 hours, which would be great. I thought I might be capable of 3:50 but didn’t want to break myself by pushing for that time. My wife’s target was for me still to be alive later that evening – she just wanted me home safe. So I took what I thought was a sensible decision all around, whilst my mental faculties were all in one piece, I’d just try to maintain this pace as best I could and keep it going – one foot in front of the other, execute the plan.

This worked pretty well for a while – from Stamford Bridge you run along one A road for a long time, then turn around and double back – that is mentally tough, because you are looking at people who are so far in front of you and mile markers that are so far in front – this is where I came unstuck last time in Nottingham, I remember seeing the 20 mile marker around the other side of a big lake, and feeling like I would never get there, so how was I ever going to do six additional miles? However, this time there were a whole load of differences –

  • I was far better prepared physically in many ways – nutrition, shoes, training, I weighed less, I’d done lots of miles
  • I was mentally tougher – although my body was 5 years older, my mind was five years wiser
  • I had a clear plan – even though I wasn’t following it exactly, I wasn’t simply turning up and running like last time, I had goals, a mantra “Do your job, execute the plan”, and felt in control
  • There were people depending on me – yes, I was running this for myself, but I’d had leaflets printed, had Press coverage, got the backing of my charity, I wasn’t going to let people down
  • I had the previous knowledge of what I considered to be failure – I knew how I felt the last time, and I knew how much I didn’t want to feel like that again

 Just past the 18 mile marker I got passed by the Look North anchor Nicola Rees. I’d met her earlier before the race and we’d had a chat, but not discussed times. I knew she was worried about her knee, and she just wanted to get around. I had a word with her, asked how she was doing, she said she was in some pain, but that she was trying for sub 4 so was just keeping going. I wished her good luck, and told her I’d see her at the finish. I decided to try to trail her but that didn’t last more than a couple of hundred metres as it became obvious that she was running a bit faster than me, and within a mile or so I’d lost her, and was back to concentrating on my own efforts.

Although I was feeling strong physically around miles 19 and 20, I was aware via my app that my times had slipped a little further, and I was now getting 9:05, 9:10 mile times rather than 8:45. Again, at this point, I tried to determine, through the fuzz that your brain becomes when trying to ignore the physical exhaustion, that I was better just plodding along rather than trying to speed up and risking a collapse. I realised about four miles previously that 3 hours 50 minutes was now beyond me and I had put that aside, and tried to focus on how awesome it would be to complete a sub 4 hour marathon.

I had a plan in my mind to use when getting towards the end of the race. I have a regular run along Leeds Road in Huddersfield, setting off from home, and running to B&Q and back is pretty much bang on 10k. I know exactly where all the mile markers are – what I wanted to do, once I got to 20 miles in the marathon, was to try to imagine that I’d just stepped out of home and was doing my regular 6.2 miles along Leeds Road. It didn’t work. My mind was all over the place, and I was starting to be irritated by my headphones, and my breathing was going funny (I had that feeling you get in your windpipe when you have hiccups, and you know you are going to hiccup, but in those few seconds before – well my chest felt like that all the time).

I started to argue with myself about drinking water. Have a drink, that’ll make the feeling go away – don’t have a drink it’ll make it worse – but you need to take on fluids – and why were my headphones now not working properly, and why were the inspiring tunes I had deliberately stacked up for the end of my playlist not inspiring me?

Miles 22 – 25 were really really tough – there was a long section with no people apart from the odd marshal, lots of people were doing what I had done 5 years previously, they were walking, broken, unable to run anymore – I kept on putting one foot in front of the other, telling myself “Do your job, execute the plan”.

Then, when I got through the 25 mile marker, a weird sense of calm came over me – we ran out of the country and into an urban area, people on the pavement shouting encouragement, and I knew that I was so close to the finish that I WAS going to make it. I was about 8 or 9 minutes from the end, and I gritted my teeth and just dug in – I knew that my family would be somewhere near the finish, down the straight – what I didn’t know was what was around the corner before the straight.

Someone had told me on twitter a few days before the race that there was “a bit of a hill” just before the finish. I run up and down hills at home all the time, I live around hills, so I wasn’t concerned about this. I’ve also done hill training with my running club, Roberttown Road Runners, so I wasn’t daunted. In fact, the crowds start to build when you get to that bit, and I just decided that my legs were strong, and I was going to do it, and there was loads of encouragement, so I just went for it. I overtook so many people up that hill, I wasn’t counting, but I didn’t break stride, just powered to the top, and when you get to the top, it opens out towards the finish, and the crowd are cheering and you forget that you are mentally spent, and so you just run, and run, knowing that you are going to make it, and then you stick your arms in the air and cross the finish line, and you’re done!

I saw my kids screaming and waving with about 200 metres to go, so I waved back and then just cruised to the finish line. My official time, which gets texted to you about 10 seconds after you cross the line, was 3 hours 53 minutes and 47 seconds. I’d done it. I’d exorcised the demons that I had since my 2010 experience, and achieved what I’d always wanted to. I’d waited 5 years for that moment. I hadn’t gone under 3:50. That was an over ambitious target I had set myself, and I was, and am still, absolutely determined that I am not ever going to be down on myself. Maybe I’ll run one faster in the future, maybe I won’t, maybe I won’t even try. I “ran” a marathon, 1 hour and 4 minutes faster than 5 years previously.

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The family found me a few minutes after I’d finished, and we wandered over to the VIP area – had another nice chat with my new best mate Nicola Rees – she’d finished about 5 minutes in front of me (she is about a hundred years younger than me after all) – the kids got a selfie with her too so they were happy.

On the journey home I reflected on whether I’d fulfilled the three points in the earlier tweet

  • stay focused – pretty much, but it’s hard to stay focused for 4 hours and in the later part of the run, when your mind is playing games with you, it’s tough, but compared to last time I was better – I’m giving myself 8/10!
  • execute the plan – the plan was 8:45 miles all the way – my app says my average pace was 8:54, so 9 seconds out on average per mile, plus I ran the first mile far too fast, which could have had an effect – I had had a stressful couple of days, not ideal prep for the perfect race – so all in all that’s worth 9/10
  • enjoy the day – absolutely, I had a wonderful day – rarely have I felt more exhausted, but so proud, totally worth it – 10/10 without hesitation.

All in all, a pretty good start!

@andy5000miles