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Monday, 18 September 2017

Mic Morris Torfaen 10k

I wasn't intending on running in this race, but on the CRC Facebook page on Friday a place was up for grabs by someone who could no longer take part, so I thought, what the hell, let's go for it.

Mic Morris was a police officer and brilliant British international middle distance runner from Pontypool who died aged just 24 years during a training run in 1983. A trust fund was set up between Gwent Police and Torfaen Borough Council to raise money for Torfaen’s talented young sports people.

The race begins in the centre of Blaenavon, an old iron and coal town in SE Wales, and it finishes in Pontypool Park. It was a chilly but clear Sunday morning after a night of torrential rain as around 1000 runners lined up at the start line.

CRC members ready for the race

The race begins on a slight incline and then the rest of the course is either flat or a slight down hill, which is perfect for those looking to improve their PB.

Waiting to start

And they're off

I arrived at the finish line having completed the course in 49:27 minutes, an improvement of 4 minutes on my previous best time. But one thing is for sure, you wouldn't usually see me running sub 8 minute miles.

Tomorrow evening I shall be going out for a long run, in preparation for the Cardiff half marathon on the 1st October, then another longish run on Sunday. The club has a relay night planned but I'm not sure that I want to chance an injury doing this so I may just do a easy 10k run instead. I shall then rest and not run at all until race day, as I find this works for me.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Simplyhealth Great North Run

The Great North Run is the biggest half marathon in the world! It's bigger than the London marathon and sees runners from all over the UK and overseas taking part.

It begins in the city centre of Newcastle Upon Tyne and finishes on the coast road in South Shields. The run was devised by former 10,000 metre bronze medallist and BBC Sport commentator, Brendon Foster.

It was first staged on 28th June 1981 when 12,000 runners participated. By 2011 that figure had increased to 54,000, and last Sunday that was up to 57,000.

My journey to taking part began at the beginning of the year when I spotted a post on Facebook by The Sunday Times who were offering ballot places, which were to be drawn before the main Simplyhealth ballot, and amazingly, I got a place. So I was then forced to get down to some serious training, and I had only completed one half marathon this year, in my home town of Newport, which was back in early March I think. So I devised a simple but effective plan to get myself fit and up to the distance, and that was to register to take part in a few more half marathons. A little unorthodox, but I need something like that to motivate me, to give me that kick up the backside that I need.

I took Samantha's place at the Swansea half in June, and then in July I did the half marathon part of the Long Course Weekend in Tenby, which I covered in an earlier post. Then finally the Port Talbot half marathon in August.

My accommodation was booked at the South Shields and Westoe RFC, camping on the rugby pitch and using the club bar and bathroom facilities. I have to say that they were very well organised and made everyone feel particularly welcome. They also offered me very useful information regarding where to get my Metro ticket from, as I would need this the next day to get to the start line in Newcastle. They also advised me to collect my ticket the evening before the run as the queues on the day would be huge. They also advised me to leave as early as I could as well, because although there were extra trains laid on, they would all be very busy. A map had also been given to me so that I could find my way back to the rugby club once I'd passed through the finish line in South Shields. Fortunately it was only a 15 minute walk away.

Tent set up at Westoe RFC

At the finish line the evening before the race

So I arrived on the Saturday, mid afternoon after a six hour drive and was shown where to pitch my tent and given a tour of the club and given all the info listed above. That evening dinner was to be served in the club house at 8 PM and we had the choice of BBQ, (burger and sausage), or pasta bolognese, which I opted for. Entertainment in the form of a quiz was also held and I allowed myself one cheeky Guinness.

Breakfast was served from 6AM on Sunday morning with the choice of a full English or a "runners" breakfast of porridge, cereal, toast, bananas etc. I opted for the runners breakfast, then I made my final preparations before walking the five minutes down the road to Chichester Metro station. I only had to wait about five minutes for a train to come along, but already there was standing room only, and Chichester was only the second stop. By the time I reached the Haymarket station in central Newcastle, we were crammed in like Sardines.

It was then only a short walk from the station to the start line, and I just followed everyone else, like a sheep. It was only when I reached the big, illuminated sign saying, START LINE, that the full scale of this event hit me, for in front of me were long banks of portaloos and baggage buses which must have lined the road for about half a mile.

Just part of the line of baggage busses

I met up with Peter, a fellow CRC runner who had taken someone else's place and we had a quick chat and had a photo taken before he went to drop off his bag and I headed off to my starting pen where I bumped into a few runners from rival club Lliswerry.

Peter & me

I had quite a wait in the pen, which rapidly filled up the four lanes of road leading up to the start line. The music was banging out and huge screens broadcast pictures from the start line.

The wheelchair racers set off first, followed by the elite ladies. Then, at 10:40, the elite men headed the pack of 57,000 runners to the sound of the starting pistol.

I stood there waiting, then waited some more, then the pack moved forward about four paces and stopped. I waited some more and then once again the pack moved forward another four paces and stopped. After another wait we began a slow, steady walk, until 35 minutes after that starting pistol had signaled the start of the race, I finally crossed the starting line and my race began.

The start was like any other race, with so many people around and in front of you it's difficult to immediately get up to full race speed. The competitor in me came out and very quickly my eyes were darting about, looking for gaps appearing that I could run into, and I found myself weaving in and out of slower people. Little did I think at that point that I would need to keep doing that for 13 miles.

We crossed the Tyne over that iconic bridge into Gateshead, with people whooping and shouting Oggy, oggy, oggy etc, and all I could do was try not to run into the back of anyone. But eventually we left the city for the open road, but it was still busy but a little more strung out, and I was still having to weave to get past people.

There were rock bands, samba drum bands, even an Elvis singing and playing to the runners. I'm glad I didn't wear headphones because I think they would have detracted from the overall atmosphere and excitement of the event. There were also hills! Not hills like I know them back home in Wales, just very long, steady inclines that seemed to go on forever, and once you got to the top there didn't appear to be a down hill section to follow, the road just leveled out, then there would be another long hill.

In a couple of places there were cooling showers to run through, though it wasn't a warm enough day for me to take advantage of that. And at 10 miles there were people handing out small glasses of beer! Can you believe that? Only in Newcastle eh.

By 10 miles my calf muscles were feeling tired as well as my joints where my thighs meet my pelvis, probably due to all the weaving and jinking I'd had to do. And many other people were beginning to flag too and they began to walk. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, and most runners would move over to the side of the road so that they didn't become a hazard to everyone else, but these people were walking three and four abreast in the middle of the road, which was becoming quite frustrating to me.

One mile left to run and there is quite a steep but short down hill section leading to a sharp left hand turn taking you onto the coast road and that final stretch to the finish line. The competitor in me kicked in again, and although my legs were very tired, I kicked into another gear for a strong finish in the final 500 metres, then passed through the finish line for a time of 02:08:30 , which I was quite happy with considering the conditions.

My legs just seized up at the end, something they hadn't done at Swansea, Tenby or Port Talbot, but I knew I had to keep moving or I wouldn't move again. So I collected my goody bag and began the walk back to the rugby club.

Proudly wearing my finishers medal & T shirt

Whilst I was running, I had my GoPro Session in my pocket and I took video in various places. Here is the finished result.

 Just to finish, I'd like to tell you about a lady I met. She is from Doncaster, is 74 years old, and she took up running in her 40's. She completed her first full marathon in her first year of running and since then she has run in 46 marathons, including Tokyo and Boston, and she still runs in at least one marathon a year. She completed the GNR in 02:15 , which is a great time considering her age, and a lot better than some people a third of her age. There is a morale to this tale which I'm sure is fairly obvious, but if you can keep yourself both physically and mentally fit and active, then there is no reason why you can't do just about anything in later life.

So what is left for me to do this year? Well the Cardiff half marathon is on the 1st October, then the first of this seasons cross country league races on the 8th October. The multi terrain, 11 mile Ponty Plod on the 15th October, followed by the last half marathon of the road race season on the 22nd October in Stroud. Then I deserve a short rest before beginning marathon training.

Autumn Catch Up

Hi all, it's been a little while since I posted so I thought I ought to tell you about what has been happening in my purple running worl...