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Tuesday, 31 October 2017

ABP Newport Marathon & the Halloween Horror

I think I may have bitten off more than I can chew by entering this one, as it's only three weeks after the Manchester marathon. What was I thinking?

I think I just got carried away in the euphoria on Facebook, with many of my club mates entering this, and some of those being my closer friends in the club. Some people think that I have taken on too much, however there are some very experienced friends/runners who think that this is doable, if I rest for a few days after Manchester and then just do a couple of short runs in between, they think I should be OK. But I may end up doing a combination of walking and running from 15 miles, which is fine by me.

The route has finally been announced and to be honest, it brings no surprises as the course had already been described as flat and fast, so that had to take in the wetlands. Personally I would have preferred to have seen a route that began in Newport and ran out to Cardiff before heading back to Newport on a out & back or loop route. But I think this route has been devised and designed this way as it means there would be very few road closures.

Anyway, I'm quietly looking forward to getting into training for this, in a masochistic sort of way, But at least I have some nice people and good friends to run with and share the pain.

Halloween Horror 🦇👻

Club night this evening was a new route especially devised, (I think) for Halloween, appropriately entitled, Halloween Horror. The horror being the steepest hill in Newport, and one that, fortunately, I hadn't come across previously, and to be honest, one that I won't be sorry if I never see again 😅

We ran as a group with several stops to enable us to regroup and make sure that no one had got lost down those dark, spooky 👻 country lanes, and of course the Celtic Manor golf course, which was really dark and our head and chest lamps really came into their own there.

Anyway, I did enjoy this run, but then I usually enjoy the club runs. It's about the people as much as the running.

Laura Davies - The Purple Plodder

Before I go, check out the Favourite Links on the top right of my home page. Laura Davies lives in  N Wales although I believe she is originally from Newport, and has been running for a year now, but has already signed up to taking part in next years Snowdon marathon, probably the toughest Marathon in the UK. Laura has set up her own blog so that people can follow her progress, and I shall be keeping a close eye on her. 

I may just arrange to meet up with Laura in the near future, join her for a run and carry out an interview for this blog.

Watch this space.

And talking of the Snowdon marathon, I would like to say a big well done to CRC members, Andrew, Phil, Ian and Jason, Griffithtown Harriers members Cath and Lena who all completed this gruelling race.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Seven of Seven

Yesterday was my final race of 2017, the Stroud half marathon, and it was my seventh of the seven half marathons I had planned to complete this year.

It all began in March with the Newport half marathon, followed by Swansea, the Long Course Weekend in Tenby, Port Talbot, The Great North Run in Newcastle Upon Tyne, Cardiff and then finally Stroud.

Sally and Rachel drove up to Stroud with me, with Michelle following in her car, and Tania would be travelling home with us. My plan was to just have a nice, easy plod, with no pressure to try and achieve a PB, and run with the girls but, the best laid plans often go awry.

The starting line

Myself with Rachel, Tania, Sally, Michelle and Andrew photobombing in the picture

And they're off

Right from the start I began to leave Tania, Rachel & Sally behind but with Michelle keeping up with me. After a few minutes, Mark and Steve past me and Michelle attached herself to them so I decided to drop back for the other girls.

Tania came alongside my right shoulder and the pace then began to quicken, with my watch showing an estimated finishing time of 1 hr 56 mins, which I felt was way too fast this soon after the start. I looked back and saw that we were leaving Rachel and Sally behind but they gestured me to carry on.

The route took us out of Stroud and then through Stonehouse where Tania's husband Ade, and her two daughters were waving and cheering. We left Stonehouse and the route took us through very scenic country lanes, through the village of Standish, and the route was flat, which was nice. Tania and I also caught up with Steve, Mark and Michelle, who we overtook.

Tania and me waving to her husband and daughters

Once we crossed over the top of the M4 motorway, we were guided onto the busy A38 and headed into the village of Whitminster, which was the 6 mile mark. I turned to Tania and said that I couldn't believe that we had completed 6 miles already, the time seemed to go by so quickly. My watch was still showing a 1 hr 56 min finishing time, and I was still wondering how much longer I could keep up this pace? We had also been told that it was at 6 miles where the hill was. I have been to Whitminster before, so when Tania asked me where the hill was, I replied, "this is it"! It was just a gentle incline really, and we were expecting a big hill, so this was nothing to worry about and our pace didn't alter.

After Whitminster, the route turned east to head back towards Stroud again along Grove Lane, where I decided it was time to have a drink and consume a energy gel.

The narrow country lane joined with the busy A419, the main artery into Stroud from the motorway. The road hadn't been closed but traffic cones had been laid out about 1 metre into the road from the kerb, as there wasn't a pavement to run along. This meant that overtaking was going to be difficult and I found that my pace was slowing due to the traffic. I knew I had to take every opportunity to overtake when I could, and I did.

At Oldend's Lane there were a few of my CRC club mates there to cheer us on and take some photo's, and I knew from them cheering that Michelle was almost directly behind me, followed by Tania who was slowly dropping back, her pace slowing. But Michelle's pace was quickening and she caught me up and attached herself to my shoulder as we followed the loop through the industrial estate before rejoining the A419.

Just turning into Oldend's Lane, with Michelle just a few metres behind me

Michelle caught up with me

By this time, we only had about 3 miles left to go, just a parkrun distance ahead, and my watch was showing a finishing time of 1 hr 57 mins, so I had lost a minute in the traffic along the A419. This was the first time that I realised that I really did have a good opportunity to beat my 2 hr 1 min PB gained at Cardiff only a couple of weeks before, I just had to push hard and not allow my pace to drop and I really could be in for a sub 2 hr finish.

Michelle was looking really strong, still hugging my shoulder, and I thought that she could actually have left me behind, but she said that she was OK and was using me as a pacer. Who'd ever have thought that someone would be using me as a pacer in a half marathon, not me that's for certain.

By now my eyes were glued firmly to my watch, ensuring that my pace wasn't slowing and urging my legs not to slow down, even on the couple of inclines as we headed back into Stroud, I pushed hard, feeling my muscles beginning to burn on the hill.

Inside the final mile, Michelle and I caught up with a few other CRC runners, Yangi first, then Eddie, and then Tony, who was spurred on to a quicker finish upon seeing us.

Michelle crossed the line as the first CRC lady finisher in a chip time of 1:58:12 and I followed only 2 seconds later.

I couldn't believe it. Not only had I broken my PB, I'd done it by over 3 minutes and got below the 2 hour mark.

The route

Tania came in and also broke her PB time, and was looking completely worn out and very hot. Rachel and Sally came in a few minutes later and they too had broken their PB times.

I thoroughly enjoyed this race and will probably do it again next year, as I guess there is a good chance of improving my PB time again.

Once everyone had finished the race, we made our way to a pub where Vanessa had booked us all in for a well deserved Sunday lunch, where we enjoyed the food, the company and the chat about the race.

Outside the pub, from left to right, Me, Rachel, Michelle, Tania & Sally

Time for a well deserved Sunday lunch at the Lamb Inn

It was also going to be Yangi's birthday the day after, and she brought along a wonderful cake which was sliced up and dealt out for everyone. Happy birthday Yangi.

Yangi and her husband slicing the birthday cake

2017 has been an amazing year for me. I've been almost injury free, I've lost weight, I'm running further and faster than ever. The statistics speak for themselves.

I've broken my 5 km PB 3 times, my 10 km 3 times, and my half marathon 3 times. In fact, I've knocked 16 minutes off the time it took me to complete the Newport half marathon back in March. So to say that I am pleased is an understatement.

Now I'm going to take a well deserved rest until the 27th November when I will begin my marathon training. The club has allotted me a marathon mentor, Andrew Wright, who is not only a really nice guy, very funny, but also a hugely talented runner who I admire and respect immensely. In the Stroud race he was acting as the 1 hr 30 min pacer, a time I can only dream about.

Andrew the pacer Wright, posing as only he can 😂

Until then I will take part in the Tuesday evening club runs and do a short Thursday evening run, as well as parkrun on a Saturday. (I'm only 11 parkruns away from having done 50).

Watch this space ................

Monday, 16 October 2017

The Ponty Plod

Yesterday I took part in the Ponty Plod, a 11 mile, multi terrain race organised by Pontypool running club, running on roads, across muddy farmers fields, through woodland trails with more sloppy mud, and plenty of hills.

There were ten of us from CRC taking part, and for a few of us it was our first time at this event.

The race begins at the Llangdegfedd Visitor & Watersports Centre, then it immediately heads up a steep road before leveling out, and then after about a mile we were marshaled off the road and across fields.

This was my first proper trail race and I learned a very valuable lesson from the cross country race I took part in only the previous week before, and that was not to try and gingerly negotiate the pools of thick mud but, to go ploughing through it at full race pace. This I did and I found it so much easier, but also I was able to pass a few people who were gingerly making their way through the mud. Two of these were my own club mates Rebecca and Michelle. Once that mud had been negotiated, there was a short hill where I stopped once I reached the top to allow the girls to catch up, but Becca called out for me to carry on and that they would catch me up. That was the last I saw of them until the end of the race.

Further on I could see I was catching Sean, who was definitely slower running in his road trainers on the off road sections, and in fact I caught him just as he was getting up after a fall in the mud through some woodland forest. Later, Sean was to overtake me on another tarmac stretch, but he was never more than 100 metres in front of me.

With less than a mile to go, we were running down the steep hill that we had climbed up originally from the start, and slowly but surely I was catching up a Pontypool runner. A sharp right hand turn at the bottom of the hill left about 200 metres to run and I caught Mr Pontypool and went past him but, I could hear his pace quickening and I glanced over my shoulder and he was there, right on me, so I quickened my pace again. I was actually very surprised that after 11 miles I still had a sprint finish left in my legs, but I did and I was running at full pelt and finished two seconds in front of him.

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed that, running on different surfaces, across fields and through woodland. And boy was I glad I had deep studded trail shoes on as they afforded me so much more grip than some others had.

I finished in 121st place out of 173 participants, which I was happy with. My official time was 2 hours 2 minutes, although my watch recorded 1hr 59 mins, but then I didn't start my watch until I crossed the start line and not from the starting pistol.

CRC runners after the race

The route


Monday, 9 October 2017

GLCL Winter Cross Country

Yesterday saw the first of the Gwent Leisure Centre League winter cross country races, hosted by Parc Bryn Bach running club. 

The turn out from Caerleon was pretty good, although nowhere near as many people as the road race series, and overall there were several hundred competitors taking part from the local clubs within the old Gwent county area, and, this was going to be my very first cross country run.

Caerleon XC team

There I stood on the start line, next to fellow club mate and fellow XC virgin Suzanne, wearing our brand new, untarnished trail running shoes, and off we went, the men having to run four laps of the course whilst the ladies only run three laps. Why that is I don't know, it seems to be a bit odd in these days of sexual equality.

The course began easily enough for the first 200m and then a slow climb began, but through ankle deep, sloppy mud. The mud gave way to a harder, steeper track heading up through the forest to the top of the hill. At the top of the hill the zig zag course was a lot easier to run on the open ground with short grass and only patches of mud. It then headed back towards and into the forest where there was a lot more of the mud to contend with.

I was probably being a little cautious running through the mud as I was unsure of my foothold, whereas some of the experienced runners were absolutely flying through it, and I was certainly a lot slower as by lap three I was being lapped by the guys whilst the ladies were then heading towards the finish line.

I began my fourth and final lap and the mud by this time was even worse. After the forest section, and at the top of the hill, I looked behind me and there were very few guys following me, and they all appeared to be older guys like myself.

I did manage to stop myself from losing any more places, and actually I did overtake a couple of people on the muddy downhill section.

Approaching the finish line all my club mates were there clapping and cheering me on to the finish line. Phew, I was glad that was over. It was very tough but, I did enjoy it.

Shoe washing in the lake

Checking out our muddy shoes. Suzanne's shoes, (stood next to me) were bright orange.

Parkrun 13th Birthday

On Saturday mornings I do enjoy heading off to parkrun for a 5km run, and I'm lucky where I live in that I have a choice of four parkrun courses to choose from within a 20 minute drive from home.

My preferred course is the Riverfront in Newport, closely followed by Cwmbran, which I haven't run in a long time now so I think I need to go and do that one again very soon.

Last Saturdays run was parkruns 13th birthday and a call went out for runners to wear their parkrun apricot shirts, and that is what people did, all over the UK and indeed abroad too. In fact, a group of runners from Whangarei, New Zealand did their usual run at 9 AM, and then they did it again at 9 PM to coincide with UK parkrun. Well done Whangarei.

Whangarei parkrunners

You can check out the Whangarei course by clicking HERE 

Riverfront Parkrun, Newport

We at Riverfront enjoyed our usual run with the lovely Lisa as run director this time, and the C25K (couch to 5km) beginners group were waiting in the wings to set off once the main pack of runners set off.

I had intended to just run and enjoy it without feeling the need to try and beat my previous course PB of 26:35, so I was quite surprised when I arrived at the finish line with a official time of 26:28. I guess running works out like that sometimes and PB's happen when you least expect them or indeed, even try for them.

If you haven't experienced a parkrun, I would recommend you check out . It's a fabulous community and a great way of meeting people and making new friends.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

London Marathon 2018 and other stuff

Well my hopes have been dashed for running in next years London marathon. There were 386,000, 050 ballot entries and mine was not one of the successful ones. It's not surprising really with that many applications, and I had noticed from reading many Facebook posts that many people have been trying for several years and haven't been successful in gaining an entry.

I do have a second chance however. CRC receives two places each year and its membership is asked to select which two people it wants to send to London. This year I believe there are thirteen people with their names in the mix, so I just have to do some creeping around my friends and ask them to vote for me 😅

In other news, yesterday it was announced that there will be a Newport marathon being held on the 29th April 2018 and sponsored by Associated British Ports. It has been said that it will be the flattest and fasted course around, but as yet the the route does not appear to have been disclosed. Newport already has a successful half marathon which usually takes place in March each year.

I am already booked to take part in the Manchester marathon on the 8th April so, if I am unsuccessful at gaining a club place in London, then I shall most probably enter this one instead.

This Sunday sees the start of the Gwent Leisure Centre League Cross Country events, with this one being held at  Bryn Bach Parc near Blaenau. I hope to see plenty of purple vests and T's there. If I survive, I shall write up a report next week.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Cardiff Half Marathon

This was to be my penultimate half marathon for 2017 and one of my favourites too. 13.1 miles of mostly flat terrain, with a few short inclines thrown in for good measure, and taking us through, and past some of the iconic Cardiff landmarks.

A few days before the race the weather forecast was totally rubbish showing strong winds and heavy rain but, on race day it couldn't have been more different. There was hardly a breath of wind and we only had a couple of light, drizzly showers, which were quite cooling.

25,000 runners were lined up in four colour coded pens, our designated pen being based upon the predicted finishing time we gave when we entered the race. I'd positioned myself towards the rear of the 2nd wave green pen with fellow club mates Alex and Veese.

I had a goal and a plan. My goal was a sub two hour finishing time, which meant running 9 minute miles, or better, and my plan was to keep an eye on my pace and estimated finishing time being shown on my Polar M430 watch. I've had a tendency lately of setting off at a 10k pace and running out of steam at about 9 miles, so I had to stay fairly strict with my pace, so I was trying to keep my estimated finishing time showing at about 1:58 ish.

10 AM came and the first wave, (white), in front of mine set off, and about 5 minutes later we were off too, and immediately our pace was way to quick, so we had to slow it down.

By mile 4 Alex had dropped back a little on the hill but was still in touch with Veese and myself, but as we got onto the barrage at mile 5 I couldn't see him behind us. We did catch up with Joanne Henshall and exchanged the usual pleasantries before passing her. And we did also spot a grey haired gent in front of us shortly afterwards who I recognised as Steve Smith, who wasn't enjoying his race at all.

Mile 6 is at the Millennium Centre where Veese and I took on water. Veese was obviously feeling that the pace was a little slow for her and she went off on her own. I didn't want to try and keep up with her faster pace and then finding I'm burning out too soon, so I kept to my plan and and let her much younger legs plough on ahead.

The route then takes us more into the centre of the city. The crowds lining the route were fantastic from there and right into the Roath area, clapping and cheering on their friends and family.

Mile 10 is at the bottom of Roath park and the lake, and I had totally forgotten that the next half mile or so is on an incline, right up to the traffic roundabout at the very top of the park. I popped another energy gel into my mouth and tried to keep up with the same race pace, with my watch still showing an estimated finishing time of 1:58 ish.

Running along the opposite side of the park I was able to relax a little and try to recover as my thighs were by now feeling quite tired and a little achy after that climb, and I knew that very shortly we would be turning right and coming to the steepest hill on the course, which is a large hump backed bridge going over a railway line. I have to admit that halfway up that hill I did, very briefly, contemplate walking, but I dug in deep and slowly powered my way up to the top.

Cathays Terrace is a long straight road and slightly downhill. My watch was showing a finishing time of 2:03 at the top of that hill and I knew that would come down along this stretch of road, particularly if I let gravity help me and I could quicken my pace just a little, which I did but, my calf muscles would only let me go so fast and began complaining if I tried to push to hard by giving me the first indications of cramp setting in. If I did cramp up, a PB would most certainly have gone out of the window.

At the end of the straight, the road turns right with a smaller railway bridge to go over, and my watch was showing a 2:00 hour finishing time with about 1/10th of a mile to go to the finish line. By now my tired legs were going as fast as they could but, they weren't going fast enough to complete this race in under 2 hours, I just had to push as hard as I could as I was still in with a shout of a new personal best time, to beat the time which I got in Swansea back in July of 2:02:42 .

Me acknowledging someone that has called out my name

Veese coming in 5 minutes before me. She must have been flying from mile 6.

I turned the final corner to see the finish line and ran as fast as my little legs would carry me, but they had no more umph left in them. My thighs were burning and tight and I was feeling some muscles a little further up towards my pelvis really groaning and complaining, and I crossed the line in a official chip time of 2:01:32 . Initially I was disappointed that I hadn't got a sub 2 hour finish, but then I felt pleased that I had set another new PB. There is always next year, although with my 58th birthday looming in a couple of weeks time, I don't know how much faster I can go.

There were a lot of very tired legs crossing the finish line, but for Yangi, who had been running with Paul, who was acting as a pacer for a few guys and girls, it was a little too much as she collapsed only 200 metres before the finish line and Paul had to help her up and get her across the line. It can happen to the best of us, pushing ourselves to our maximum limits over our maximum distance, maybe not taking on board enough fuel and water, plus maybe the conditions on the day don't suit us. Fortunately Yangi recovered quite quickly and will be running again very soon I'm sure.

Paul and Yangi. The picture was taken from the television highlights program of the event

I took some video of the event so, make yourself a cuppa tea, grab a digestive biscuit and enjoy.  I'm afraid the video is a little bouncy due to the running motion. Hopefully I can upgrade my camera soon to the latest version with digital stabilisation built in which will eliminate most of that.

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...