2019 SimplyHealth Great North Run

8 September 2019

Two minutes after the horn blew I crossed the start line. I took advantage of the wide road by  weaving amongst runners. The inevitable euphoria of a big race meant my pace was faster than I wanted. I slowed then kept my pace steady despite the surprising undulations. I had to keep concentrating. 
I crossed the famous Tyne Bridge. 
The spectators were large in volume and decibels. There was music blaring from speakers and musicians playing live. 
I absorbed it all but kept glancing at my Garmin watch to ensure my pace didn’t drop.
I purposely ran through several shower stations then took a bottle of water and a sponge from an aid station. 
The sun cream on my face stung my eyes a little as I sweated more.
My achilles felt sore in both feet but I ignored the pain.
My left foot became numb for several miles too.
The inclines stretched for longer, and I found myself running alone for short periods.
But every time I reached runners in front I overtook them, naturally. 
My average pace was on target as I passed roundabout after roundabout.
Then I dropped down to the coastal road at South Shields.
There, the atmosphere was even more electric.
I picked up my pace. My breathing became audible and my quads felt sore.
I kept passing signs for the upcoming finish.
I raised my arms aloft clapping at the spectators.
I got a warm response.
Then I sprinted the last 100m or so on the grass to finish.
I recorded a new personal best, tired but extremely satisfied.

The experience of running my first SimplyHealth Great North Run was inspirational. The tens of thousands of runners and spectators all along the route was an amazing spectacle, and spurred me on to my best ever performance at the half marathon distance.
My training had gone relatively smoothly since my last race (the Great Baddow 10 Mile race). I maintained consistent mileage (43 miles on average per week) and running threshold workouts (at a pace slightly quicker than my target race pace of 6:20 per mile). I stayed injury-free throughout the weeks leading to the race and enjoyed my first visit to Newcastle-upon-Tyne as a tourist.
I was also fortunate enough to be only several yards away from famous people such as England national footballers Jill Scott and Steph Houghton, TV presenter Gabby Logan and the legendary founder of the race Brendan Foster. I saw the Cricket World Cup trophy that England recently won in the distance too.
Best of all, to be a part of such an incredibly well-organised and historic running race, was a humbling experience. I was able to raise £225 for Havens Hospices in the process (the highest amount I have ever raised for a race), and run the race the way I wanted to.
Not only did I receive a wonderful medal and t-shirt, the perfectly executed race in ideal weather conditions with previously unimaginable support will live very long in my memory.

2019 Great Baddow 10 Mile Race

19 May 2019

There was a false start then we were off.
There was a short lap around the recreation ground before I hit the pavement.
I knew I couldn’t sustain sub six minute per mile pace but the runners around me made me especially conscious.
I encountered several inclines and I could feel my heart rate rising. But I stayed calm.
Then, as I completed the second mile, the longest, steepest hill of the route inevitably slowed me.
I kept working hard and passed several runners. I glanced at my watch and had a dilemma; should I increase my effort to maintain a strong pace or respect the hill?
I found a middle ground within myself and ran. I knew there was a long way to go still.
By the time I reached a flatter section of road my pace didn’t return as I had hoped. I still had to work hard.
Before halfway I had to accelerate or be held back by a couple of runners.
Vehicles continued to whizz by me.
There were pockets of cheering spectators including some from my former running club. It gave me a slight boost but another hill loomed.
Whenever I saw my watch early in the mile, my average pace was promising, sometimes sub six minutes. But by the end of each mile the time just crept over the mark.
I kept calculating whether I was on track for a new personal best. I had to force myself to believe I was still on target
I took a sponge and water from two aid stations, never stopping.
I continued to pass runners, many of whom praised my strength.
Then one final hill faced me. The traffic was building from every direction.
I checked my watch and knew there wasn’t too far to go. I soon passed the sign for ‘400m to go’.
The runner ahead was too far ahead to catch now.
I turned the final corner along the straight to the finish line. My watch buzzed in recognition of covering 10 miles.
I sprinted the last seconds.


The Great Baddow 10 Mile Road race was the final examination of my training since the start of 2019. After improving my personal best for 10 miles by over two minutes 13 days prior I wanted to give any last effort I still had.
Although I expected the course to consist of hills, I wasn’t prepared for such frequent and steep undulations. I wanted to maintain an average pace closer to the Witham May Day 10 race and was on course after the first two miles. However, after the third mile, the fourth and fifth miles were too challenging for me to maintain. I am pleased that I ran the second half of the race quicker, and I managed a sub 6 minute mile in the final mile to finish in a respectable fifteenth position.
My Garmin watch showed that I had actually run the 10 miles in the exact same time as my previous race, which proved that the recovery and additional workouts in between races helped keep me performing at my best. The 25th road race of my running career was a memorable one, even if the traffic and hills made for a stern test of my physical and mental resolve.

2019 Witham May Day 10

6 May 2019

I held back from running too fast from the start line.
I had to be patient.
The course was undulating from the start and along country lanes with few spectators.
I kept glancing at my watch to make sure I was running under my targeted 6:20 per mile pace but not faster than ten seconds.
I ignored the first water station and continued to adjust my effort as I ran up the slight inclines, on the flat, then down the slight declines.
Runners ahead of me helped give me a target for which to aim.
As I approached the halfway mark my pace was controlled and within my target.
My instinct was that I would achieve a new personal best. I felt relieved.
I passed a couple of runners as I quickened my pace.
By the next mile my quads were feeling tighter. I continued to power up the inclines.
I wasn’t perturbed and continued to concentrate, largely running alone.
I grabbed a water bottle from the final water station just after 7 miles. I took a couple of sips and wet my hands. I then chucked the bottle in a nearby bin.
I wanted to push my pace, and I knew I still had the strength.
I kept a cluster of three runners in my sight ahead of me.
At mile 8 I quickened my pace once again, keeping my breathing controlled.
I passed one runner, then another.
Over the last mile I forgot about my watch and pushed on. I could hear my own breathing as a runner in front stayed ahead. The last stretch of road was the same as the one- and two-mile time-trial I ran in late March and early April 2018.
I never looked behind me.
Instead, when I turned towards the final stretch, a marshal congratulated me on 11th position. So I sprinted the last 100m over the grass to the finish line. I was desperate to overtake another runner and although I was gaining, I ran out of distance. The results showed I was half a second away.

Witham May Day 10 2019 sprint finish

I had three aims prior to the race.
First, I wanted to beat my previous year’s time at the same race.
Second, I wanted to run under 6:20 for each mile of the race.
Third, I wanted to finish in the top ten.

I accomplished the first two aims and was so close to the third aim.
Most importantly, I beat my personal best by 2 minutes and 5 seconds, which validates the 18 weeks of steady and progressive training since the New Year.
I felt much stronger than a year ago and am confident that my daily routine of stretching and core exercises, along with my consistent 30+ mile weeks, had the desired effect.
The cooler conditions also helped me perform at my peak but an injury-free race was enjoyable and highly rewarding.

Dubai Marathon 2019 Race Review

The 20th edition of the Dubai Marathon is another spectacle of East African marathon supremacy.

The elite race starts at 6am local time. The sky is still dark, but the bright streetlights and little wind mean conditions are ideal. The marathon is held on relatively new roads, with flat, smooth tarmac.

The men’s race has three Kenyan pacemakers who are quickly followed by eleven men vying for the title. Bunched in with a couple of male pacemakers three elite women make an early breakaway.

As it approaches 7am daylight breaks suddenly and the races hot up.

Inexperience isn’t a disadvantage

 

In the world of elite marathoners the best are becoming younger and faster. Getaneh Molla’s debut men’s marathon results in an astonishing victory. Not only is the Ethiopian 25 years old, his time of 2:03:34 is a new course record and the fastest debutant marathon in history.

Most impressive is his measured approach throughout. He remains composed as his steady pace and concentration on the road ahead allow him to ignore his competitors’ tactics. It is an almost flawless performance, making his deciding move with less than a kilometre left. His win even surprises him.

There’s always more to improve

 
Ruth Chepngetich’s metronomic stride, strong arm drive and determined look prove superior over her steely opponent Worknesh Degefa. Chepngetich keeps a fast tempo but the water stations reveal her weakness.

At almost every 5km interval the Kenyan either misses or fumbles with her bottles. She inevitably loses momentum and time unnecessarily. Although she quickly makes up the distance, and powers to the finish line, her concentration is too intense. 

An improved self-awareness will surely make her a genuine contender to Mary Keitany’s current dominance in women’s distance running.
 

The prize money of $100,000 for each winner is undoubtedly an incentive for the athletes but there are also significant pressures to beat the course record and even target the world record.

This race has the atmosphere and appearance of a major event, and will no doubt rival the World Marathon Majors in the future as a showcase of the very best long-distance runners the world has to offer.

Strong Finish at Chelmsford 10km for Final 2018 Race

My first 10km race in almost a year and half was slightly hampered by my persistent shin injury.

Having fully recovered from my eighth marathon I wanted to end my 2018 racing season by running strong over a new course in my hometown.

But I hadn’t been able to train much leading up to the event. The five workouts on my turbo trainer (amounting to 69 miles) and four training runs (amounting to 17.6 miles) were insufficient to give me confidence I would set a new personal record.

I focused on effort level rather than pace, although I couldn’t resist setting myself the target of a sub-40-minute performance.

Even during my warm up I could feel my shins weren’t fully healed. Still, as I set off from the start line I concentrated on passing runners rather than glancing at my watch.

A gradual, but long incline was my first challenge and I was soon faced with a winding road that undulated far more than I had anticipated (41m of elevation gain and 36m of elevation loss, according to my Garmin).

I continued to overtake runners who were breathing heavily after so little distance. It reminded me of my controlled, soundless breaths, keeping me from overreaching. I also focused on my arm drive, opening up my hands and keeping them from crossing my body.

The only occasions I checked my watch were when it vibrated to indicate mile splits. I knew I was on target for my time after I covered 5km in approximately 19 minutes. I ended up running every mile under 6:25, my fastest at 6:11.

Once I turned into the park where the athletics stadium was situated I tried to expel the last amount of energy I had. I doubted whether I could pass the final few runners in front of me, but when I emerged onto the track a man decided to challenge me to a sprint finish. As I accelerated the last 50m he stayed with me. I felt lactate rise in my legs as I made one final push to the inflatable arch, beating him by a second. I congratulated him with a hand slap afterwards in a competitive but friendly spirit.

Except for one runner who just evaded me, I must have passed fifty or so competitors to record a respectable 45th position, my 12th top 50 race finish.

The race was my first that started in the afternoon and the weather was crisp and dry. The atmosphere at the end was tremendous; lively and encouraging. I spoke to a number of runners afterwards, some from my running club, who praised me for my sprint finish and ‘barefoot shoes’.

The race demonstrated my natural resolve to push on during the uphill sections and hang on to overtake more runners, despite not setting this as a goal before the race. My heart rate was relatively steady and low throughout, revealing that I had managed my effort well over the distance.

But the lack of pain in my shins, except for the first mile or so, only compounded my overall disappointment; I feel as if I know my body less and am reminded that my racing season could’ve been even more successful. Nevertheless, it was a memorable race and one that only motivates me to fully recover and better prepare for the 2019 season.

Fought off Injury to Finish 5th Marathon in Row

I started near the middle of the pack. I wasn’t used to being amongst runners who chatted and laughed. Space became tight and a runner almost tripped me up as we funnelled from the start line.
I kept a comfortable running pace. The early miles dragged as the markers didn’t start until the third mile. I ignored my watch as I focused on not flaring up my shin injury.
I modified my foot strike so I didn’t land primarily on my forefoot.
I soon passed my family and told them twice “I’m alright so far”. I was nervous but determined in getting through the first quarter of the race.
By mile eight I knew I would complete the race. My shins hadn’t caused me any pain and my anxiety about not finishing suddenly disappeared. Instead I needed to keep my muscle soreness to a minimum.
When I reached tenth mile my stomach began to rumble, so I ate several handfuls of dried fruit I carried on me. I enjoyed the sticky, sugary dates, apricots and mango pieces.
By half way my quads, hamstrings and adductors were extremely tight.
I reminded myself that this was natural as my training had been extremely limited and as long as I kept moving forward I would finish.
I passed cheering spectators, faced frequent undulations, and even runners that were walking or sitting at the side of the road.
The terrain was sapping my energy, and once I had drunk my second bottle of juice I knew a run-walk strategy was inevitable.
So I waited until the next aid station, located at approximately 19.3 miles, where I took advantage of the water the volunteers were offering. As I walked, I found that the pain was not discernibly different from when I was running. So I took a sensible approach and ran on the flatter sections of road, and walked the uphill and downhill sections.
I soon became obsessed with drinking, even though I wasn’t particularly sweaty or thirsty.
The next aid station was my only concern. I had plenty of company, with many runners around me showing signs of fatigue.
The final miles didn’t feel too slow, despite my pace of 9:30-10:20 per mile.
Spectators inspired me at the end to sprint passed a runner before stopping my watch at 3:52:35.


After once again suffering from pain in both my shins in early September, I knew my journey to my eighth marathon would be a challenge. Despite not running for 40 days I became paranoid that my shin bones were weak and tender. Even starting the race was in doubt up until Sunday.

My training during the seven weeks leading to the marathon consisted of walking a minimum of 14,500 steps each day, and cycling on my turbo trainer three to six times each week. Although I maintained a reasonable level of fitness, due to a variety of endurance and speed cycling workouts, I never believed they replicated the demands of running.

However, I was so fixated on whether I would experience shin pain that I neglected the impact on my muscles. On a positive note, it took 2 hours and 43 minutes of running before I succumbed to walking breaks. My mental strength proved once again that I could tackle a rather incredible feat (relative to my recent preparations).

My only goal was to finish, in order to maintain my record of running my local marathon each year since its inception in October 2014. I ignored position and pace, and only until the last few miles did I consider the 4 hour predicted finish time, and want to beat it.

The race was brutal on my body, akin to the first marathon I ever ran five years ago. Although my muscle soreness consumed my attention, I enjoyed the experience mostly as confirmation that my body is better at healing itself than I give it credit for.



Windy Seaside Race Success

19 August 2018
I stopped myself running hard from the start line.
Instead I let runners pass me.
I wanted to keep to the pace of my current personal best and only later speed up.
After one and a half miles I headed down a slope to the Lower Promenade.
The strong winds hit me straight away and quickly reduced my pace, and expectations.
I stayed at the back of a pack of seven runners, shielded slightly from the blustery conditions.
I passed clusters of noisy spectators until I headed up a short but steep slope to the Upper Promenade.
After one lap the group split, some of whom finished the 10k race (which started at the same time).
The second and final lap was longer, and I knew I could overtake the runners I could see in the distance.
I just had to be patient and not let the wind slow me down.
Despite runners behind me I knew I could stay strong and consistent. I had to run my own race.
I saw my family halfway along the Lower Promenade. I hoped I was lying in third position. But my mum shouted that I was ninth.
It wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but every position mattered to me.
I used random checkpoints to time the seconds I was behind the runner in front of me.
24. 22. 18. 12. 8.
I kept sipping my homemade sports drink, as others used the water stations.
I ran on the balls of my feet as I tackled the final slope.
2 miles left and the sun was starting to overheat me.
Still, I improved my pace by 5 to 10 seconds per mile.
Neither of the runners I had been chasing could respond to my surge.
But another runner quickly passed me, and I couldn’t stay with him.
Instead I worked hard to keep a 6:30 per mile pace along the final stretch.
I sprinted across the grass to the finish line with no one close behind me.

I chose this race because for the past three years the winning times had been only a few minutes faster than my previous personal record performance.
Last year I had been injured.

This year I had hoped to improve both my best time at the half marathon distance and my highest race position.

Although I don’t ever excuse my performances, two factors affected my race:

  1. I discovered on the morning that the conditions were very windy, weather I had not considered (or trained in).
  2. My block of training leading to the race was also far from ideal. I had a minor injury throughout June, which prevented me from running. Although cross-training in a local gym was productive, it could never replicate the sport I love. I therefore only had approximately five weeks of quality running workouts, culminating in 11 miles at an easy pace two weeks from race day.

Despite not achieving my two primary aims, I finished eighth, which was the third top ten performance of my career. I also represented my running club well, as the only male runner, and fastest finisher in barefoot shoes.
The race was a special experience for me, located in a seaside town of which I have very fond memories. My family could also see me a few times throughout, encouraging me and offering vital race information.

Racing to Celebrate Family Time

11.03.2012
Race day held special significance for me; my fiancée and I were celebrating our recent engagement with our families. It was the first time our families had met, and I was grateful that they were supporting my running.
We drove part of the route as we headed to race headquarters at Colchester United Football Club’s new stadium. The undulations made me nervous. I was only months away from my final university exams so my training had not been as intense as I had wanted.
My warm-up was also inadequate, too distracted talking with family, and a fellow racer and colleague.
I did not have to wait long on the start line. The early section of the course was downhill and had few spectators. I felt free and fast until we met a steep hill heading into town. The energy in my legs was sapped but the large crowds motivated me.
Everything was familiar until we ran along country lanes through villages. The strain on my ankles and calves became severe. Runners passed me but I stayed focused on the long rural road ahead.
I still made my trademark sprint to the finish line, except I misjudged the distance and needed to move fast again before the end.


Rather than a race to improve my personal best, the day was an experience to unite my family.

It was the first race in which I had to tackle multiple hills, and with inadequate training I found the course tough.

Interestingly it taught me that setting and beating self-imposed running targets should not always be the aim. The moments spent with family in a local, yet unfamiliar area still provide lasting memories.

Serious Racing at my First 5 Miler

2 May 2016

There was no pressure to run or undertake any core exercises as soon as I woke, as was my usual routine.
I felt good as I walked with my family from my home to race headquarters. To reach it we walked what would be the final 400m uphill to the finish line.
I found the 6:00 per mile starting section. There were club runners from the area beside me.
I felt a little intimidated, closed in by serious runners. But I reminded myself that I had trained on the route many times.
I made a flying start, running with fresh legs at a 5:30 per mile pace.
I was soon charging up a long hill, passing my family who cheered me.
I stayed in a group of runners as I ran the first mile in under six minutes. But my breathing and pacing became erratic as I tried to focus.
A stitch developed on the right of my stomach but I refused to let the pain slow me.
I alternated the strike of my feet, forefoot to heel.
I was soon passed halfway and heading back to the start. I ignored the water station and a previously fast runner who was now walking.
My first 5km was 18:48, equivalent to 6:04 per mile. I passed more struggling runners and felt hope I could run the race in under 30 minutes. But I needed to keep a faster pace.
As I made the last turn up the winding, steep incline to the finish I looked back. I was alone.
I avoided the potholes and gravel, as volunteers and spectators cheered me on.
I sprinted but could not catch a couple ahead of me.
I told my family that I could have gone quicker, and was a little disappointed that I was sixteen seconds from running under 30 minutes.
However, I was pleased that I had felt strong at the end of the race. As I applauded the last of the runners I knew I could improve my future performances at this uncommon distance.


Witham May Day 5 Mile 2016

This was my first race over 5 miles, and, located a half an hour’s walk away, was the most straightforward to enter. The race exposed me to many quality club runners as the race was also the Essex Road Running 5 Mile Championships. It is the shortest distance recognised by my home county, but I was not eligible to compete as I was not affiliated with a running club. I finished as the fastest non-affiliated runner and would have placed in the top 35 if I had been.

I took many positives from the race, especially my mental resolve to continually remove doubt that I would beat 32 minutes (my original goal) and not allow other runners to disrupt my rhythm. Similar to when I lived in Southend-on-Sea, my place of residence (and the familiarity of the route) gives me greater self-confidence.

Finish Line of Witham May Day 5 2016

Returning Home to Improve Half Marathon

12 June 2016

I ran a number of strides as a warm-up.
But the race start was delayed.
I stayed calm at the front of the field then ran a fast first mile in 5:47 along residential streets.
I passed many runners despite my calf muscles aching from the second mile.
I ignored the water stations as I continued to advance my race position.
As the weather became overcast I saw my supporters.
The crowds were loud at times, some cheering me as “Runner 763” and praising my “good running”.
On the second lap my legs felt fatigued. Rather than slow I alternated my foot strike to challenge different muscles. Running flat footed helped keep the pace consistent.
Closing in on the final few miles I used a soaking wet sponge to moisten my head and face, which felt excessively dry.
I battled with two runners over the final stretch but ultimately came up short.
I still managed a final sprint across the grass before collecting my medal.


The race was my second Southend Half Marathonand my fifth half marathon. The experience brought back fond memories of my first ever road race in 2011.

I felt pressure to ensure I improved my performance, although I contained my nerves. My training had gone well, culminating in a 9-mile run in 57:40 (6:25 per mile pace) three weeks prior. I felt confident and despite the cool conditions, I began the race strong. The significant pain in my calf muscles was a concern, but I coped well throughout the race.

I maintained a steady, fast pace throughout the flat course and was extremely pleased with my finishing time of 1:22:50 (6:19 per mile pace), shaving over 6 minutes off my personal best. I finished in 29th position out of almost 2,000 runners (18th in my age category).

I was also proud of raising £140 for Havens Hospices, the local charity that organised the event. The day proved again that my hometown brings the best racing out of me.

Southend Half Marathon 2016 finish

How I Improved from my First Marathon

Sunday 11th May 2014

The sky was overcast and drizzly.
My mum, partner and I waited for the start of the race in the crowded sports hall.
I was confident of a good race so I started at the front of the pack as the gun went off.
By the first quarter of a mile I was gasping for breath and my legs felt tired.
My enthusiasm was soon squashed and I settled into a smooth, comfortable rhythm.
Not long into the race I saw my supporters. I threw them the gloves I had taken off.
I tried to keep with other runners, but every time I found a steady rhythm I would be deserted again. One dropped off my pace to run with a fellow club member, another got too far ahead of me.
Still, I stayed mentally strong, refusing to stop, even when I accepted water from the numerous aid stations.
The weather improved, brightening the scenic route.
I kept checking my watch and noticing the mile markers were accurate.
I overcame the occasional hills and repeated sections without feeling deflated.
As the distance dragged on and my pace slowed my mind strayed to food. I wanted the banana I had given my family to keep ready for me but I had to cross the line before I could replenish the calories I had burned.


It was a hugely satisfying race as I finished in the top third overall, and in the top half of my age and gender category. In contrast to my first marathon I was able to interact with the marshals on route and not feel as if I had failed to represent my capabilities.

I ran my second marathon because it was local and I needed to prove to myself that I could run the entire distance. I followed an intermediate training plan that lasted more than 20 weeks.

I developed mental strength and a greater tolerance for pain during my long runs, and overcame a bout of illness.

My first marathon taught me so many lessons about preparation. The changes I have made since then meant I finished 46 minutes quicker.

  • I registered for the event months in advance.
  • I used a respectable source for training advice (a plan endorsed by Runner’s World magazine).
  • I logged my workouts and mileage, through my previous blog.
  • I learnt to use more functions on my Garmin watch, including lap counts, which encouraged me to run slower and to warm-up and cool-down.

I still made one mistake pre-race; thinking that gluing together the front of my well-worn trainers meant adequate footwear.

Most memorable were some impressive runners that participated in the race, including Rob Young and athletes that were completing their 100th, 200th and 600th marathon. It was also the first time I appreciated runners who finished last, for some had endured over seven hours on the route.

Unsurprisingly, my gut reaction was to sign up for my next marathon.



Smart Pacing for my First Negative Split Marathon

22 October 2017
I was disciplined from the start. I let runners pass me as I kept to my strategic pace.
I smiled as I soon passed my supporters in the crowd.
I fought off a slight stitch and maintained a comfortable rhythm.
I sipped my homemade electrolyte drink every mile. Then I alternated my caloric intake with energy balls and dried mango.
I approached the halfway mark on schedule. But I reminded myself that the work had only just begun.
As I continued along the long, winding country lanes I adjusted my foot placement and effort level to deal with the strong side winds.
I began passing runners that were breathing hard, slumped forward or shuffling.
I reached the twenty-mile mark and knew this was the time to speed up. Only slightly, but enough to ensure that a new personal best would be mine.
Even though I ran out of fluids two miles from the end I had the fuel to push on and overtake more runners.
I felt greater strength as I continued on the path through the parks I had run many times.
I did not look back as I reached the spectators.
Then I turned into the final straight and sprinted to the line, overtaking a runner by a second.


Chelmsford Marathon 2017

Even as I crossed the line I knew I had not finished.

I continued to walk in circles in the park for ten minutes as I consumed a post-run homemade pea-protein shake, two bananas and plenty of fluid. I also stretchedI did not want a repeat of my post-race leg pain at last year’s event.

I also spoke to a runner named Alex, who told me I had inadvertently paced him for the first two hours, before he sped up. We had mutual respect for one another, and I know that he is the standard I must attain if I am to qualify for the London Marathon.

Despite the favourable cloudy and dry conditions I had to concentrate so that my energy was not sapped combating the wind.

I dedicated the race to my grandparents, who are sadly no longer with me. They taught me that hard work offers rich rewards.

There were many reasons I achieved my best marathon to date.

  • I carried my own fluid, which contained carbohydrate (in the form of orange squash) and sodium. I drank a litre of this homemade electrolyte drink, plus half a litre of water from the aid stations. This kept me hydrated and energised without needing to slow.
  • I also carried enough calories, packed with sugars and proteins to ensure that my stomach was constantly filled with fuel to use. I balanced my intake well so that I did not feel bloated or suffer from excessive stitches.
  • I kept a steady heart rate throughout the race, which meant that I could focus on my caloric intake without having to panic about an unsustainable breathing pattern.

Chelmsford Marathon 2017 Finish

I executed the race so well there were few mistakes.

  • I carried three energy bars and several handfuls of dried fruit that I did not need. Although not heavy they were an unnecessary energy supply that I could have better calculated in training. This can easily be rectified for future races.
  • I suffered slight niggles in my lower legs, ankles and feet throughout the race. Although they were not enough to prevent me from achieving my goal I could have supported my lower body better by wearing newer ‘barefoot shoes’. 
  • More importantly I felt I had more to give. This notion is always difficult to judge as the marathon requires many decisions, which are impossible to analysis individually. Still, in hindsight I ran the first half too cautiously.

The race was a success because unlike my previous six marathons I passed runners in the second half of the race, feeling stronger and faster than ever before. Perhaps I could run much further at 7:20 – 7:30 per mile…



Pain and Joy After my Third Chelmsford Marathon

23 October 2016

I wished my runners the very best of luck before the race.
Then we separated, ready for our own journeys.
I ran as though the race was a half marathon.
I soon found myself alongside a taller runner about my age. When he passed me I surged into the lead. This repeated for many miles through the Essex countryside, absent of spectators.
The battle made me concentrate on staying strong but by half way he was out of sight.
I was left to run alone.
Runners kept passing me as I fought back fatigue and muscle soreness.
I wanted the race to be over but it dragged on as I inevitably slowed.
I couldn’t estimate my finishing time as my average pace was dropping quickly.
There was nothing I could do but to endure the last miles until I sprinted the last metres to the line in pain.


Chelmsford Marathon 2016 from front

I went out too fast too early. Although this was my pre-race strategy my hopes of not fading too much in the second half of the race were naïve. Despite the generous time I banked for more than an hour I suffered even more pain than previous marathons, culminating in 10 minutes of post-race lactate acid in my legs. I had never felt so much discomfort, and for so long after any race.

Despite a huge personal best time of over 20 minutes I was disappointed by my endurance fitness. This was my first attempt to qualify as ‘good for my age’ for the London Marathon and had come up way short.

Still, I also felt pride as this was my first race I had coached runners. Three of the four that started completed the race, two of which had never run the distance before and had all achieved respectable times.

Chelmsford Marathon 2016 from behind



Adapting to New Circumstances during my Second Chelmsford

18 October 2015
Soon into the race I passed the sub 4 hour pacer.
I saw my partner at the 5 km mark located at race headquarters.
At 5 miles a female competitor told me she was impressed that I was wearing ‘barefoot’ shoes.
As I approached half way I took advantage of the water, cereal bars and dried fruit at the aid stations.
Although at 17.5 miles a marshal said I was the first man that had passed him wearing Vibram FiveFingers I was struggling. I switched my running style from forefoot to mid-foot striking, until I tired and had to accept becoming slumped forward, my feet rocking.
The muscle fatigue worsened.
I saw runners lying alongside the path to the finish, reminiscent of my first marathon. I refused to succumb to my feet’s desires to rest.
I then drew alongside a runner, frequently exchanging positions, until I finally crossed the finish line.


Even though I recorded a new personal best the last hour was painful.

I also experienced mixed emotions when I received both encouragement and distractions along the route.

I was inspired by spectators calling me “Wonder Feet” and “Vibrams”, impressed by my barefoot style of running. However, another runner, a few miles before the end, joked to other runners that I had forgotten my trainers and asked whether I had practiced in them (which of course I had). 

The route had been modified from last year for greater accuracy and less confusion. Although this was much appreciated, more of the course was on tarmac, which felt more demanding on my legs.

The race proved that everything during a marathon can be exaggerated in the mind, and adjusting to external circumstances is crucial for long-distance success.

Pre Chelmsford Marathon 2015



4 Marathon Firsts in Chelmsford

19 October 2014
Boggy conditions but not raining.
A light warm-up then I was off.
I completed the first mile in just over 8 minutes.
I kept a steady pace. My breathing was always under control.
I ignored the many runners passing me.
I focused on my foot placement, especially after treading on a hard object after two and  a half miles.
The route switched from grass to asphalt to gravel, through scenic parks and villages.
I reached half way in 1 hour, 55 minutes; a time that replicated my training.

I continued running strong, boosted by a runner praising my (former) blog that I was advertising on my back, and supported another runner by giving them some water.
I ate two bananas for extra energy, as practised in training, and saw an old running partner and work colleague from my time at university, who shouted encouragement.
Fatigue hit me at mile twenty-three but I overcame confusing signage to finish in the top 35% of competitors with a sprint finish.
My finishing time fell between my first two marathons, which reflected my limited training for the race.


Chelmsford Marathon

I observed throughout the race that many runners struggled, perhaps unprepared for the challenge. This was confirmed by reports that of the 1,900 runners signed up, only 1,020 started and 961 finished.

It reminded me of my first marathon, where the second half of the race consisted of painful shuffling.

Despite not achieving a new personal best there were many first-time experiences I enjoyed. The race was the first ever marathon in Chelmsford, a city 10 miles from my home. It was the first race I ever ran in barefoot shoes, and first in which I raised money for a local animal charity, the RSPCA Danaher Animal Home (£150 in total). Finally, it was the first marathon where all my family came to support me. The rain held off as we celebrated my fiancée’s birthday with a picnic after the race.

Chelmsford Marathon 2014 medal



Fear and My First Marathon

29 September 2013.
The sign was not clear. A marshal repeated his mantra “half marathon straight on, marathon to the left.”
I heard my mum say it was fine to finish the half marathon.
Despite the pain I had eliminated that option before the race.
I took the turn, away from the crowds.
Away from the finish line.
Away from my comfort zone.
I stopped to use a port-a-loo. My legs stiffened as I descended into the country park. A large lake appeared. I was to run three quarters of it.
An ambulance soon passed me, forcing me and other runners onto the grass. My calves were so tight I was reduced to jogging and walking. My muscles threatened to cramp.
The sports drinks and water did nothing to help.
When I caught up with the ambulance a runner was sitting on the grass, his race finished.
I knew it could be my fate.
I had to dig deep to keep moving forward. I tried to count seconds to establish a rhythm but I could not concentrate for long.
I started to doubt myself. I feared I would not finish in the allocated time and be disqualified. I was unaware of the cut-off time and could not work out what my projected time would be. The mile markers were also further than my Garmin recorded.
I continued along the River Trent, passing people enjoying the sun.
Every step was another shock to my body.
I soon had to squeeze through pedestrians and marshals as I went over the final bridge.
My mood worsened as I felt the race would never finish.
Yet I sprinted the last metres to the line. The fatigue was tangible as I forced back tears.


Fear got me through the race. Fear of the unknown. Fear of letting myself down, and my family who supported me. Fear that I may need a medic to take me to the finish. 

Fear also got me to the start line. I had imagined running a marathon for some time and I worried I would never achieve it. I had forced myself to enter the race a month prior; evidence that I was unsure of the challenge.

I had convinced myself that with less training I ran better. But I was wrong.

It was my greatest achievement to date because I used all my mental resolve to overcome severe physical discomfort. I reminded myself I had chosen this, that I wanted to run because I enjoyed it, despite the pain.

Best of all I learnt a great deal about the person I am.

Robin Hood Marathon

Race Report: Basildon 5km

Basildon 5km

I was amongst a large group of runners.
Ready.
Then we were off.
I was soon on my own, the race spread out and the leading pack out of sight.
I followed the concrete path, and passed a lake, trees, benches, other park users.
I kept thinking of the time I wanted. My goal.
At halfway my mum and fiancée cheered me on, which inspired me to push my pace.
Once out of view I returned to a manageable rhythm.
On the second lap I fought off a stitch. I developed a metallic taste in my mouth; I was on the verge of manifesting runner’s cough.
I had to dig deep not to drop my pace.
I came to the playground and car park for the second time.
The finishing stretch appeared as I lapped the runner in last position. I sprinted to the line, passing a couple of runners.
As I got my breath back my family told me my finishing time. It was seven seconds quicker than my goal, equivalent to the time saved from two bursts of sprinting.


Although I had a clear and realistic time goal of 20 minutes I did not wear a watch. The benefit is there are no distractions. The drawback is that at no point during the race did I know whether I was on track; I had to trust my instinct.

I did not complete any specific 5km training but I was prepared to push myself and experience pain.

The start line felt like a mass cross country competition, even if the circular, flat and dry course did not.

It was also the first race my fiancée watched me, which was a boost. I was surprised and pleased to obtain a new personal best and finish in the top 20. Better still, at least half the runners that finished ahead of me were over 40 years of age.

I was excited that if I kept myself as fit as these experienced runners I knew I could achieve greater success.

Later, when I looked to enter again I found that the race was no longer held. I wonder if the emergence of free parkruns had an impact…

Basildon 5km Finish

Race Report: Southend-on-Sea 10k Classic 2012

I was matching another runner stride for stride.
I doubted I could maintain the current pace.
But I wanted a new personal record and my instinct was to keep up.
I was running in my hometown. The beach and estuary were beside me. The road was lined with loud supporters. Motivation was all around me.
But I could only focus on not slowing, despite my fear of the inevitable. Due to the limited space we weaved between runners that were not keeping pace. My heart rate kept increasing.
I knew my body could manage the hard effort. The possibility of falling back and allowing the other runner to pull away continued to test my concentration.
Then the finish line came into view. I chose to sprint the last metres, my trademark ending.
But I did not feel elated as I often do after a race.


I knew before the starting horn sounded that to get the best out of the race I had to use another runner to pace me. This strategy showed my inexperience and lack of training preparations. I felt I was running close to my maximum and my partner runner offered me a physical reminder of my desire to push my limits.

The race taught me that mental strength and confidence is vital to keep insecurities from negatively affecting performance. The final stretch proved I had more to give. But the loyalty that my partner runner had shown me made me question whether I should have beaten him.

After the race we shook hands. He said he could not have run the race as quick as he did without me. I thanked him for his influence on my race.

The runner was a man over fifty.

He inspired me with his performance. He was proof that, regardless of age, running can bring the best out of everyone. Running a road race is about competition but on this occasion it felt more important that I made a personal connection with another runner.

Race Report: Hardwick 10km

Hardwick 10km

On the start line my quads and groin ached.
As I set off I ignored the distraction and focused on charging up the first of many gradual inclines.
The road was packed with runners.
I maintained a comfortably hard (tempo) pace as we navigated the undulating rural landscape.
I kept within a pack of heavy breathers as we approached Hardwick Hill.
As runners slowed I passed them by sustaining my effort level.
Only, the route continued to ascend for over half a mile.
My heartbeat accelerated and my breath shortened.
The steep path twisted until I reached the entrance to the Hall.
I saw the leaders running the opposite way.
I chased them back down the hill, past the long queue of runners refusing to stop despite the challenging climb.
Before I conquered the hardest section I was stunned.
People began clapping me. Not just spectators but groups of runners, one after another.
I could not hold back a smile. I returned their applause.
I ran hard to catch up with the top runners. But they remained too far ahead; I was alone.
No sooner had I reached the last kilometre I was cheered again.
I sprinted to the finish, to celebrate with my family and retrieve my t-shirt with “I beat the Hardwick Hill” printed on the front.


This race was the first I ran in the county of Derbyshire, the first 10km for over four and a half years, and the first held in the evening.

Although I tapered my running I played an hour of walking indoor football the day before. This made my upper leg muscles sore when I most needed them. Although my performance was consistent with my recent training improvements and past race results it was not ideal preparation.

As a warm-up event before my marathon later in the year it was the perfect experience. The Hardwick 10km was a great test of my strength and produced an inspiring and supportive atmosphere.

My mistake of trying a new activity too close to race day reminds me of an important lesson too: experience counts for nothing if you do not apply previous learnings.

file_001-e1500839403142.jpeg

Race Report: Bungay Black Dog Marathon 2017

Bungay Marathon

I had been waiting for it.
I had overcome the challenging undulating stretches.
I had long passed the half-way mark.
I was slower than my planned pace but I had not given up on achieving my goal.
It was now that I had to push on, make up the difference.
Only I was struggling to keep my pace from slowing.
My goal time passed as I accumulated 25 miles. I attempted to speed up but the pain was instant and eradicated the last hope.
Then I found myself alone.
Each sight was another reminder of the race I had done, the little that remained.
I sprinted the last five seconds with the crowds cheering me across the line.
The race had not destroyed me and I felt great post-race.



I began training for a 2017 spring marathon late the previous December. My goal was clear: run under 3:05 to qualify as a ‘good for age’ entry for the 2018 London Marathon.

I signed up for the Southend Marathon, a flat course along the seafront held in mid-March. I planned it as a fairy tale. “Local lad returns to his hometown for inaugural event, wins to qualify for London.” But two weeks before the race, as I prepared to taper my training, the event was cancelled.

I was gutted.

But I refused to let it waste my training and scupper my ambition. So I searched for another marathon held locally in the upcoming weeks. The Bungay Black Dog Marathon was ideal.

Or so I thought.

My training had been consistent and high quality. But the course was not suitable for a major personal record attempt. I paced the race well, always running within my limits. Although I still achieved my fastest marathon finish and remained positive physically and mentally during and after the race, I failed to achieved my dream

I remain determined to achieve my ‘good for age’ entry into the London Marathon, even if it has to be the 2019 event.

Bungay Marathon.

Race Report: Maldon Half Marathon 2016

Maldon Half Marathon Race

I was in the lead.

The cyclist pacing the race was my only focus.

My friend called “Come on, David.” This spurred me on.

I could hear runners’ steps and breathing.

I was running hard.

But I could not prevent myself from slowing. Two younger runners passed me then another older one two miles later. I watched them increase the gap until I could not see them. I was not able to respond with a surge.

I soon heard noises behind me. I checked for fifth place but he was some distance away. I had to navigate the route alone, with some signage absent or unclear.

I counteracted these race developments by steadying my pace and thinking of a new personal record. But the undulating course continued to sap the strength from my legs and I was forced to concentrate on maintaining my position. I pushed through the pain and hoped that one of the front runners would falter so I could overtake them.

This never happened.

Near the end I passed the winner walking home. He clapped and I raise a thumb to him.

I sprinted the last metres in the park to the end.

I finished in fourth position, one minute and twenty seconds behind my previous best.

As I sat on the grass watching other runners cross the line, third place greeted me and shook my hand. He said I was a strong runner. Fifth place did the same, but added that he was convinced he would overtake me. He never came close.


The problem is that I intended to win the 2016 Maldon Half Marathon.

This was based on my belief that the distance had produced my best performances and my ambition to win my first race as an adult.

I led for the first 0.7 miles (5.3% of the race). I had never led a road race before and it showed. I could not maintain the required speed.

It was my highest placed position in a road race. I will never forget the euphoria of leading, however short it was. More useful is that I tackled a challenging course and still performed respectably.

I remained competitive throughout the race despite harbouring a blocked nose and recovering from a sore throat. I also overcame a significant stitch during periods of the race.

The fact remains that I failed to achieve what I set out to do: to win a trophy by coming in the top three and achieve a new personal record. However, it was not through a lack of desire.

Instead I was ill-prepared for a race I had underestimated.