Tuesday, 16 December 2014


Read all about Jack Brooks latest marathon adventures which have taken him across Europe, seen him reunited with old friends and boosted his trophy cabinet...

Chesterfield Marathon:  14th September 2014
For an inaugural marathon the people of Chesterfield did a pretty good job. The route was traffic free, there were plenty of marshals and supporters, and drinks and energy gels were available at frequent intervals. After a very hot day had been forecast the weather actually turned out to be perfect for running. However, there is no way of disguising the fact that this part of Derbyshire is fairly hilly and I certainly found myself suffering on the hills in the second half of the race. I finished in 4:01:20 coming 134th out of 332 finishers. Given the friendly atmosphere and nature of this race I’d certainly consider running it again. Now they just have to make life easier for me by setting a date when my brother isn’t away on holiday.

Barnstaple Marathon: 28th September 2014
This was another very well organised inaugural road marathon and it filled up within only a few weeks. Amazingly for North Devon the organisers managed to devise a flat route, which principally followed well-surfaced sections of the Tarka Trail. The marshals were great and thankfully (as it was a hot day) there were plenty of drink stations. Support along the route was brilliant. My time of 4:12:10 was good enough to win me a trophy for 3rd vet 60 plus (93rd overall out of 188), although there were only four in my age group and my legs felt like lead for most of the second half.

Monaghan Trail Marathon, Eire: 5th October 2014
This was the first marathon to be run in Monaghan County and it comprised five undulating laps with the majority of each lap passing through the scenic Rossmore Forest Park on sometimes fairly stony footpaths. There were 113 runners and we were fairly lucky as the forecast rain never materialised and all we had to contend with was a slightly chilly breeze. I found out at the end that an Irish friend, Michael Haydon (wishing to come 1st in the 60/64 age group), had been pushing hard trying to overtake me for the last three laps not realising that he’d actually passed me when I had to make an emergency call into the gents toilets at race HQ at the end of the second lap. He saw the funny side of it afterwards and was gentleman enough to give me a lift back to town after the race. I was happy to finish 48th out of 111 in 4:04:07, 2nd vet 60/64.

The Yorkshire Marathon, York: 12th October 2014
This was one of those marathons where everything goes right. The weather was perfect, the course was fast and the spectators and marshals were fantastic. The race starts (and finishes) at the University, but after approximately two miles running through York and past York Minster the route passes on to quiet country roads. I managed a negative split to finish in 3:42:16. My pace was an average 5:22min/km up to 10k: 5:20 from 10k to 20k: 5:24 from 20k to halfway: 5:22 from half way to 30k: 5:17 from 30k to 40k and 5:16 from 40k to the finish.

Chelmsford Parks Trail Marathon: 19th October 2014
This marathon was chaotic. The start area was confusing, the race started around 15 minutes late and the race route was convoluted. On top of this what had been advertised as a two lap course ended up being two laps plus a confusing c.four mile final loop. The route was muddy in places and the out and back stretches were somewhat depressing. The only saving grace was that all of the marshals and supporters were enthusiastic and helpful. It would be fair to say that I didn’t have a good day and I was glad just to finish and have it over with in a time of 4:08:53.

Frankfurt Marathon: 26th October 2014
Former Striders Andrew and Sylvi Roberts had invited me to stay with them for Frankfurt Marathon and treated me like royalty for the whole weekend. Andrew met me at the airport on Friday and dropped me off on the Monday and I couldn’t have wished for more attentive and gracious hosts. The marathon is organised with typical German efficiency and the whole route is along wide, flat roads. The start is in two waves and, being in the 3.45/4.00 hour compound meant that I was close to the front of the second wave start. There was nothing like the stop/start experiences and bunching that are the bane of marathons like London and Berlin. After running around 14k in loops around the City Centre the route heads out to Hochst, returning to the City Centre and big crowds at around 36k. If I have one slight criticism it is that the sports drink they provided along the course is the only one that I have ever had that I really hated the taste of. Otherwise, I loved the event and was happy with my time of 3:48:21. This is a race I would definitely recommend.

Nice-Cannes Marathon: 9th November 2014
The sunshine in Nice lasted until about halfway through the marathon. From then on we had more or less continuous rain until we boarded our flight on the Tuesday.  This marathon was a medium sized event with 6,821 finishers plus two well organised relay options. Generally the relay runners didn’t get in the way of those running the full distance. The route is 95 per cent along the coast and runs from Nice to Cannes via some pretty seaside towns and villages. Apart from some minor hills at around 35km the course was pretty flat and I bumped into plenty of people I knew as I was running. It got pretty wet in the second half. I finished in 3:54:19. If the weather had been ok the finish arrangements would have been fine, but in the pouring rain conditions were somewhat cramped and cold. Nevertheless, the overall race organisation was good and I thoroughly enjoyed my first experience of the South of France.  Kathryn Hall from Striders also ran and finished in 5:22:01.

Shillington Shuffle Trail Marathon, Barton-le-Clay, Bedfordshire: 16th November 2014
I love the LDWA trail marathon route description events and they are amazingly good value. For £5 entry fee we were offered amazing food and drinks at all four checkpoints and received a hot meal, a certificate and a sew-on badge at the finish. After some very wet weather the route basically involved passing through the villages of Lilley, Pirton, Holwell, Stondon, Meppershall and Shillington,  all of which seemed to be linked by increasingly muddy and slippery footpaths, and finishing back at Barton-le-Clay. I was running with a group of friends (one of whom was carrying an injury) so enjoyment, rather than time, was our main objective so I wasn’t bothered that we were out for 6 hours and 39 minutes. Even the rain in the last few miles failed to spoil our day.

Cleethorpes Maravan Trail Marathon: 22nd November 2014
Given how many caravan parks there are in Lincolnshire I suppose it was inevitable that someone would eventually decide to hold a race around some of them. When we arrived in Cleethorpes it was raining and when we left it was raining. All night before the race the rain beat down relentlessly on the roof of our three bedroom caravan. Miraculously the only time it didn’t rain was on the Saturday while we were running. The route had been marked out on the Friday and the storm that night was such that some of the markers and directional signs had disintegrated or been washed away by the time the race started. Most runners (including me) had some difficulty finding their way for the first two of the seven laps especially as one caravan looks much like any other. However, once everybody had the correct route memorised things settled down and I finished in 4 hours 14 minutes. All that remained was to enjoy a night and the best part of Sunday in the rain in Cleethorpes. It was a blessing that bottles of drinkable red wine in the pub next to our caravan park were reasonably priced.

San Sebastian Marathon, Spain: 30th November 2014
San Sebastian is a beautiful coastal city in the Basque part of Spain. The roads and cycle paths are well planned and there are plenty of wide footpaths. However, it does appear to rain a lot there. In 2013 17.8 per cent of the marathon runners finished in under three hours, 60.4 per cent finished in under 3:30 and 90.5 per cent finished in under four hours. I wasn’t surprised that this year my finish time of 3 hours 50 minutes placed me well towards the back of the field. 

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