Portsmouth Coastal Waterside Trail Marathon: 23 December 2012: This marathon promised water and there was certainly no shortage of that. 894 runners braved flood warnings to run this flat, out and back marathon. The sea was on our right going out and on our left coming back, but the main water problem was that many of the footpaths were waterlogged, muddy and very slippery and I saw numerous spectacular falls as the less wary lost their footing. The beach section of the race was partially shingle and partially a quagmire and it was a tough call to say which provided the easier running surface. In good conditions this would be a very fast course as it is flat and the whole route is well marked and marshaled. Unusually for a trail marathon they also put out mile markers and there is chip timing. I was pleased with my finish time of 4:09:55 and happy that I’d opted to run in trail shoes rather than ordinary trainers. Kathryn Hall also ran and crossed the line in 4:36:42.
Naples Marathon, Italy: 27 January 2013: Given that most of the first 6 miles of this marathon were along cobbled streets I finally understood why the marathon organisers required so many written indemnities and doctors’ certificates prior to the race start. Those of us who managed to make it past 13k without a broken ankle were able to enjoy an undulating course with some great views of the bay of Naples until we reached about 37k. From then on we had to battle our way through myriad cyclists, dog walkers and family groups along the sea front. Nobody seemed to look where they were going and the race directors made no attempt to cordon off an area for the runners. During that last 5k at least 2 bikes crossed straight in front of me without looking and a woman walked her dog straight in front of me so that I had to stop and then manoeuvre my way past it. Like everyone else who was still running at that stage I spent my time weaving left or right to avoid collisions and hoping that nothing was going to hit me from behind. I can definitely confirm that Neopolitans walk and cycle just as they drive. On the plus side my finish time was 3:53:43 and it was good to escape the snow for a few days.
Watford Half Marathon: 3 February 2013: Phew! My time of 1:47:04 was faster than for the last 3 times I’ve run this race.
Genk Marathon, Belgium: 10 February 2013: This is one of my favourite European Marathons and I have now run it 5 times. There is always a large contingent of UK runners there and because most of us are veterans the race director, Micha, refers to us as Dad’s Army. We usually travel to Genk by Eurostar and local train and stay in a hostel right next to the race start. The race comprises 7 x 6k laps. There is one fairly steep hill and a more gradual climb on each lap as well as a long downhill stretch. However, because the route is through very pretty countryside I never find it boring. This year the temperature at the start was around minus seven and for the first 3 laps there were some very slippery areas where the ice had not melted. Given the conditions I was more than happy with my time of 3:52:58.
Pitsford Water Trail Marathon: 3 March 2013: This is a new 4 lap undulating trail marathon held within the picturesque grounds of Brixworth Country Park, near Northampton. The route around Pitsford Water was well marked and there were ample drink stops. It was very cold for the first and last laps, but we enjoyed some sunshine during the middle 2 laps. Kathryn Hall was the only other Strider there. I finished in 4:12:10 and her time was 4:42:02.
Milton Keynes Half Marathon: 10 March 2013: It was snowing at the race start and I never really got warm. I had a reasonable run finishing in 1:47:33. It was good to see one of our former Striders Chairmen (Andrew Wasdell) amongst the supporters on the way round.
Great Barrow Spring Challenge Trail Marathon, Suffolk: 17 March 2013: Heavy rain on the Friday and Saturday had turned much of the course into a quagmire and it took great concentration to avoid taking a tumble. The sections through Ickworth Park and Nowton Park were pretty and snowdrops were everywhere. I ran round with a friend and finished in 5:28:33.
Run Round the Reservoir Trail Marathons, Northampton: 30 and 31 March 2013: I seem to have a mental block when it comes to back to back marathons and often find that I’ve agreed to run them before my brain kicks into gear. At least there was no serious travel involved between the races, which were both staged on the same course around Brackmills Reservoir in Northampton. The 6 lap route is relatively flat and each lap comprises a mixture of tarmac path and grassy footpaths. Unfortunately there was one stretch of about three quarters of a mile, which was fairly sticky at the beginning of Day 1 and which got progressively muddier and more clammy on the second day. Because the whole route is fairly exposed the strong wind and occasional snow flurries made for cold conditions, but I was quite pleased to finish the first race in 4:10:50 and the second one in 4:34:55.