Monday, 8 September 2014

Jack’s Marathons (& other races) - June to August 2014

Walled City Marathon, Derry, Northern Ireland: 1 June 2014: I was amazed how pretty the City of Derry and the surrounding countryside is. Unfortunately the Everglades Hotel had been fire-bombed by a dissident Republican group a few days before the start of the race, but the staff had worked really hard to ensure that the runners could still use it on race day. The marathon route comprised a number of loops passing through the City and into the surrounding countryside. There was no shortage of hills, but the crowd support in the City was phenomenal, especially just after Mile 20 when we came off the Peace Bridge and ran alongside the River Foyle and when we climbed the hill from the Bogside into the walled city area just before the start of Mile 26. I ran with a talkative bunch in the 3.45 pace group until they dropped me at around 19 miles and I finally finished in 3:48:14 (3rd vet 60–64 out of 19 and 415th out of 1323 finishers). This was a friendly, well organised point to point race in beautiful surroundings and deserves to become a lot bigger. The finisher’s medal is bigger and more solid than any I’ve ever received and the whole town seemed to have turned out to support the event. I managed to catch up with a number of Irish friends as well as friends from Liverpool and Scotland and thoroughly enjoyed the day. I’m already thinking that I might go back to run it again next year.

Striders at the Stour Valley Marathon
Stour Valley Marathon, Essex: 15 June 2014: This was an off-road route description marathon in Essex. There were 5 of us there from the Striders (Mandy Attree, Lucy Stern, Conrad Wild, Steve Elkan and me) and we decided to go round together. Steve stuck with us for 20 miles, but was obviously champing at the bit so we told him to push on at that stage with some faster runners. The rest of us finished in 5:20:48. Hot food and drinks were provided at the race finish and we all thoroughly enjoyed this event.

Wakefield Trail Marathon, West Yorkshire: 29 June 2014: This was another new trail marathon starting from Nostell Priory with about 35% of the course on road and the remainder on cycle paths and footpaths. Being Yorkshire there was no shortage of hills, but the route was marked and it stopped raining just before the race started. I had a reasonable run finishing in 4:10:23. Fortunately I was staying with friends in Sheffield after the race so the post race drive was not too taxing.

Stratford Grand Union Canal Trail Ultra, Stratford on Avon: 13 July 2014: The distance according to my Garmin was 29.56 miles although others came out with a figure of 31 miles. Whatever the distance actually was this was another excellent event staged by my friend Chris Seeney. From Stratford on Avon we followed the Stratford canal north before turning onto the Grand Union canal. The turnaround point was at a bridge just over 15 miles out. The whole event was brilliantly organised and even without marshals there was little opportunity to go wrong. All the helpers were friendly and supportive especially at the drinks stations and the race HQ. The towpaths were slightly muddy and overgrown in places, but were perfectly manageable in trail shoes and we received plenty of encouragement from the occupants of the numerous narrowboats navigating the canals. At the finish there was plentiful hot food, a medal and a good quality towel with the race name on it. Chris’s events are really popular and it was great to see so many good friends taking part. My finish time was 4:56:48.

Fairlands Valley Challenge: 20 July 2014: DNF: Starting this race was an exercise in stupidity for me. I knew I was dehydrated at the start and by around 11 miles I was peeing blood. I dropped out at the 3rd checkpoint (12.83 miles) and cadged a lift back to base with a friend from the Spartans. The remainder of the St Albans Striders group I’d been running with were fine and all seemed to have enjoyed their day out.

Bearbrook 10k: 10 August 2014: I enjoyed this club competition race although my time of 48:39 wasn’t brilliant. It was great to see so many Striders taking part.

Leila's Run Trail Marathon
Leila’s Run Trail Marathon, Wheathampstead: 17 August 2014: This is a 4 lap race run mainly along footpaths between Wheathampstead, Harpenden and Sandridge. It is run in memory of Leila Taylor who was a member of both Garden City Runners and the 100 marathon Club. I ran most of it with a friend, Dave King. As he’s faster than me I’m sure he managed to talk twice as much as me, while I endeavoured to catch my breath. I was pleased with my time 0f 4:08:34 given that there were plenty of hills to negotiate. The finisher’s medal was quite unique as it had a revolving centrepiece of a runner’s shirt with Garden City Runners colours on one side and 100 marathon club colours on the other.

Finishing the Thames Meander
Thames Meander Trail Marathon: 23 August 2014: This is a trail marathon along the Thames towpath between Kingston and Putney Bridge. The path is quite narrow and it took a while for the field of 334 marathoners and 269 half-marathoners to spread out a bit, but once it did I was able to maintain a steady pace and was exceptionally pleased with my finish time of 3:46:10, coming 2nd vet 60–69. The route is flat, but the towpath surface is quite rough in places and quite a few runners took tumbles. However, there were plenty of drink stations (all handing out GU gels as well) and the marshals were all friendly and supportive. Striders Mark Travers (4:20:38) and Kathryn Hall (5:19:48) also completed the marathon and Ian Hirth (1:48:50) ran the half. Unfortunately Si Fraser had to drop out of the marathon at 24 miles with an injury. He had been well up with the front runners at the turnaround point. Ironically I was just 11 seconds away from running a time of 3:45 for my 345th marathon.

Halifax Marathon, Yorkshire: 31 August 2014: The good news about Halifax was that the return train fare was £17, the hotel was 100 yards from the station and the race started and finished 0.4 miles away from the hotel. The bad news was hills. The marathon route comprised 2 laps and was through very pretty countryside, but for the first 7 miles of each lap we were faced with a series of sharp ascents (one very steep hill had a cobbled surface and there was a handrail along the adjacent wall) and descents. There was then a stretch of just over 5 miles alongside a canal before a final climb back up to the race HQ. The route was generally well signposted although on the second lap there was one point where I had to shout at the group in front of me as they were all about to take a path to the right instead of to the left. I was surprised that my time of 4:26:55 was sufficient to gain me the 1st vet 60–69 award, but I guess most people suffered on the hills as much as I did. My quads were still very painful for several days afterwards.

Jack Brooks 

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