Oxford Charity 10k 2014

The Oxford 10k Charity Fun Run – to give its full title – was originally supposed to take place on 26th January in Cutteslowe Park. Unsurprisingly it was postponed to 9th March due to the flooding but as the date approached and the park continued to be so soggy that even the parkrun had been rerouted and cancelled on occasion I wasn’t convinced it was going to happen. The week before we got an email saying it had been relocated to Tilsey Park in Abingdon, the venue for the Abingdon Marathon, so a sunny if breezy morning saw me cycling south for the race.

My shoulder has been moaning away and keeping me sleep deprived, though not in any way as painful as it was last year, so I wasn’t expecting to run fast. The course description – 4 times round the track followed by 4 times round the park perimeter and a final lap of the track to finish – sounded like a recipe for confusion. I went to collect my number but it seemed to have gone walkabout so I was issued a replacement, 498. For the first time this year I decided to run in just the vest, it really was warming up nicely!

I stood out the energetic looking warm-up as the last thing I wanted was some lady trying to get me to wave my arms in the air. The announcer asked that we left lanes 1 and 2 of the track for the fast folk so we didn’t block their progress I realised I was maybe too far to the back even for me. Then we were off.

The track was congested but fast, some poor chap went flying when he ran into a warning cone in one of the middle lanes – don’t know what it was warning of but in a crowd of 160runners it was obviously a hazard in itself. I passed a lot of slower runners on the first couple of laps, some seemed to have ignored the request to stay out of the fast lanes. Soon I was disturbed to see several of those I’d passed already started on the perimeter laps. It hadn’t been made particularly clear (though was obvious when you thought about it) that we were to count our own laps so it was a bit of an ‘honesty race’. I’d run 7:31 for my 1st mile and was deluding myself that I might carry on with similar – ha ha! Was that 2 or 3 laps I’d done? I thought I’d read a lap was 500m but surely it should be 400m? Best do another to be sure! It was evident from they way I was overtaking the same faces all over again once I’d left the track that I’d done a lap too many.

The perimeter laps signalled a big change in terrain, some damp ankle length grass followed by a steep bank demanding legs of different lengths. I got a lot slower, resorting to keeping my miles under 9 minutes, and also rather warm so was glad of the drinks station and even tipped a cup over my head on the 3rd lap. The faster runners charged past us, I saw the winner back on the track and heading for his finish, I think I was just starting my second lap. I passed various strugglers and a few reduced to walking.

As I split off to rejoin the track after my 4th perimeter lap a marshall was asking if we’d done all 4. A bit ironic as my Garmin had just clocked up a full 10k. Getting back on the track was like reaching the top of the hill and starting down the other-side. I managed to speed up a bit for the last bit and settled for 54:36 including my extra 500m, 80th of 168 overall I think. A fun morning in the sun and thanks to MCC Promotions for managing to run the event in the face of the weather and venue problems.


Xmas Time

Well I’ve not done a lot over the Xmas break so far and I’m not planning on doing much with my remaining week off work. I seem to be tired – as in don’t want to get out of bed before 8am tired – and suspect body and mind are doing some healthy catch-up on sleep lost to my frozen shoulder and early work start over the year.

With the Brighton Half less than 2 months away and it being a targeted Vegan Runners UK event I thought it about time I made myself a training plan. All things considered I’ll be happy with a reasonably dignified finish under 2 hours but I do need to build up the distance a bit to even manage that. Yesterday’s attempt at a decent parkrun – no beer the night before and up at 6:30 for breakfast – was a total flop as my determination gave way under the strain of a chilly breeze and a moaning shoulder. 27:29, 63rd of 101, is my worst for a while but at least I didn’t put a lot of effort in so hopefully will be able to struggle round todays planned 10 miler ok. I did receive my red 50 parkrun shirt so was worth turning up for that 🙂

parkrun 50 shirtI rashly entered myself for the Oxfordshire Cross Country Championships first weekend of January again as part of a club effort to target various ones across the country. Oddly ours is just over the Warwickshire border in Warmington near Banbury. Maybe I’ll be last this year – I’ve no idea what the course will be like but at least by driving there I get a chance to warm-up probable wet feet instead of taking them home on the bike.

What else have I done? A couple of very short spins out on the road bike which feels very precarious but doesn’t seem too uncomfy shoulderwise so something to build on. Lots of food and beer. Too much playing with the computer and websites – I now seem to be looking after both VRUK and VC&AC websites which is not a problem but I have to avoid getting obsessed with detail and stuck in this chair too long.

Oh and entertaining the cats who are not so keen on going outside for exercise at the moment. Mostly I sit about with them while Jane indulges them with sessions of string play (or is that the other way round).

Honey String Dec 2013 Molly String Dec 2013


Eynsham 10k 2013

Apart from the return of a slight PF nag since the Watlington Skyline I’ve been feeling pretty good with my shoulder, while still not very mobile, hardly complaining at all. So I thought I’d try for a seasons best at the Eynsham 10k, not a lot to ask being as the best I’d managed so far this year was something like 52:30. I ran 48:33 at Eynsham last year and 47:48 the year before but that was then and it’s going to take a lot more training to get back there. So 52 minutes works out about 8:15 minute miles, achievable but only if nothing started hurting and I didn’t throw up!

I cycled out, over 9 miles, the furthest I’ve cycled since April I think. Last year there was flooding and the Thames had spilled over under Swinford Toll Bridge but this year just a bit breezy and chilly but really not a bad day for a race.

Leaving home just before 9am got me there in plenty of time to pick up my chip, chat to local runners and peel off my outer layers. A chap approached and introduced himself as Dean Miller, a recently joined Vegan Runners UK member. He wasn’t running due to injury but his vegan partner Jackie was. I also ran into another vegan from my neighborhood, Lynne, who was meeting up with members of her running group for the race. So I felt in good company.

We wandered round to the start then bang on 10:30 we were off. Chip to chip timing so I started not far from the back. A shout from Dean who was taking photos – then another from VRUK’s Maria who was unexpectedly supporting along with John and their dogs. The start being a bit downhill I tried not to get carried away but still passed a good many runners completing the first mile in under 8 minutes.

Eynsham 10k 2013 startI eased down to target pace for mile 2 only to feel my right shoe loosening and looked down to spot not one but both laces coming undone. Too far to go to leave them like that so lost about 20 seconds pulling out of the fray to re-tie and tuck in properly – I had been chatting when I put my shoes back on after removing my cycling longs and had obviously done a bad job of them.

The course is 2 laps almost right round Eynsham so a gentle headwind then a very slight climb up to and along the A40 path then left back into Eynsham to go round again. I held my pace and passed a good many runners though did have to ease a bit during mile 5 as breakfast threatened to make a return visit. I was going to get my season best but was glad I wasn’t trying for sub-50 as I don’t have it in me quite yet.

Eynsham 10k 2013 finish

We were marshalled left off the road, past the school race HQ, then onto the finish field where Dean waited with camera. I realised a last push would get me under 52 minutes on the finish clock so easily under on the chip – I went for it and just scraped in. A happy but rather achy ride back to Oxford and the results were up before the day was out. 51:17 394th of 588 runners. Slowest time to date at Eynsham but still pleased as I do feel I’m starting to move back in the right direction 🙂







Headington Road Runners 5 Mile 2013

It’s been a couple of years since the Headington Road Runners 10k round a flat old airfield at Worminghall disappeared from the calender so I was pleased to see they were organising a new race to celebrate their 25th anniversary. I got an entry in, the start at Oxrad was only a couple miles from home, though I wasn’t expecting to be up to much.

Meanwhile, over the last few weeks, there has been some progress with this blooming frozen shoulder. It is still somewhat stuck – I can now raise it a few more inches, level with the top of my head at a push – but I’m not going to be reaching stuff from the top shelf with it any time soon. But it has got less painful, I can get through the night without painkillers (to say I can actually sleep through the night would be a bit of an exaggeration). Sometimes I manage to forget it’s there for an hour or so then feel unwarranted disappointment when it starts aching again. Most importantly I’ve felt able to go out and run as fast as I can a few times, it hurts the shoulder but only for a short while – not like before when any real effort left it really sore for a couple of days. I even managed a sub-25 parkrun a couple of weeks back – my best for ages. So progress at last!

Back to the race though, I was knackered that morning and the shoulder was having a (now less common) moan. I stuffed a couple of ibuprofen and cycled down to Marston anyway and it was great to see lots of local faces on what was a good morning for running, cool and fresh for a change. We wandered over a couple of playing fields to the start area and I checked out the start and finish, we were to go through old Marston then out onto the bypass cycleway then back through Cutteslowe and the paths behind Summertown to follow the Marston Ferry cycle-track then under the subway and on to the finish.

Chip timing so I placed myself right at the back with a hope of 43 minutes and definitely wanting under 45, not very ambitious I know! Off we went with me only pushing the start on my Garmin after the lack of tell tale beep wrongly suggested it was gun-to-chip not chip-to-chip. I settled into comfortable pace and passed a few runners as we ran through Marston, I was surprised to see a bunch of what looked like fast guys appear out a road on our right and join the race. We unexpectedly appeared at what I think of as ‘the hole in the hedge’ where we were efficiently marshalled through onto the cycleway – I had expected us to emerge from Elsfield Road.

The first mile clicked over in 8:07 which I was happy with, not quite up to 8 minute miles again yet but this was good enough and sustainable. We passed the ‘2 mile’ sign at about 1.4 miles – oh dear! A chap next to me had a grumble and I speculated that they had needed to change the route at the last minute, maybe due to problems on the road. Perhaps they’d add a bit on later.

I was feeling pretty good – always a boost starting right at the back as you’re bound to pass a few – just a matter of keeping the pace up and I was good for that. We turned off the cycleway and were very well marshalled through the Cutteslowe estate and down the narrow footpaths that they try and pretend are now a cycle route. Under the first subway, along the Marston Ferry proper cycle track – then under the 2nd subway where a couple of runners cut the corner despite being well marshalled. ‘Half mile to the finish’ a marshall shouted out – so we weren’t going to get our under-distance back. I passed someone having a walk just before the finish straight then heard her coming up behind so pushed over the line.

A lovely new race and really enjoyed it, a mug for a memento was nice as I’ve far too many shirts and don’t usually bother picking them up any more. It turned out that the race had indeed taken a wrong turn near the start and even a small mistake is impossible to correct when nearly 200 runners are charging along. Otherwise the organisation and support were great and I’m looking forward to next year already. 35:28 for 4.4 miles 123rd of 187 runners.

HRR 5 Mile Mug


Otmoor Challenge 2013

Checking back to my report on last year’s Otmoor Challenge I see that this year I was definitely going to go under 2 hours. Very funny! I settled for a target time of 2:15 instead with no certainly I could even manage that.

Come the day I was knackered what with my shoulder having moaned non-stop for days and the knock on effect of only managing to sleep in brief shifts between doses of ibuprofen and tiger balm. Friday night I accidentally made matters worse by deciding on a return to the paracetamol and codeine during the night but the blooming stuff didn’t seem to work.  I had to get up though as I was on the Oxford parkrun volunteer rota and needed to be there at 8:15, I breakfasted and set off bleary eyed muttering that I wouldn’t be doing Otmoor today. I was marshalling and was glad I took the camera as it was sunny enough for some decent photos and my victims were very game.

Oxford parkrun GorillaSo 1pm I was on my bike cycling to Horton cum Studley for the start having decided a nice dawdle round at the back in the sunshine would be more fun than sitting at home moaning about my arm. I wore my ‘Stop the Cull’ t-shirt over my vest and this got an approving comment from the lady handing out the race numbers. An energy gel, a couple of ibuprofen and a big drink of water then I positioned myself right at the back for the start and dead on 2pm we were off.

A nice slow start as we jog out the entrance, right down the road then onto a rough track at the end of a cul-de-sac in Horton. Few as slow as me though as I keep it real easy for those first couple of miles cross country till we join the road just before Murcott where the Hash Otmoor Elite Squad were already on their first beer outside the pub. Several miles of minor road now through Fencott, Charlton and Oddington where the same chap as last year standing outside the same pub told us to get a move on again. We’d spread out quite a bit by now and while I’d passed a couple and been passed by a few I was still keeping the pace very easy in the hope of saving some energy for the ‘endless field’ and the hill after it.

It was good to turn down a little avenue then back off tarmac onto field paths again. There was a tricky little wooden bridge and some gnarly surfaces though and my arm was starting to throb as the painkillers wore off. I was pleased to walk a few paces at the Noke water station, drinking a full cup to wash another gel down with. It was getting a bit too warm for comfort – Otmoor Challenge always seems to manage a sunny day – and some of my companions at the tail end were showing signs or wear as I’m sure I was. Shouting and hullabaloo behind announced the approach of the Hash Elite Squad who passed me in a fragmented state of exuberance and exhaustion.

The field went on and on with it’s narrow bits of path with awkward camber and surface. My arm hurt and I wanted to walk but had to keep reminding myself that, unlike sore legs, it would feel no less painful walking or running. The plan was to run everything except Otmoor Lane hill which climbed along the route of the old Roman road from Otmoor nature reserve to Beckley so a couple of miles was spent really looking forward to the hill. When it came to it a walk 3 telegraph poles then run 3 strategy worked fine and I think the only runner who passed me was a straggling Hasher who invited me to join him at their beer stop near the top. I declined and carried onto the last water stop. Then a bit more hill and we were almost home.

The grassy downhill was great as my legs were still good enough to enjoy it, it’s a pity about the stiles. Then a little path and a bit of track before coming out on the road for the last flat mile to the finish. The official walkers route rejoined ours along here so knackered runners, backpacked walkers and traffic gave a busy feel after all that countryside. Soon but not soon enough I reached the turning into the finish field and crossed the line in just under 2 hours 20 minutes – 310th of 353 runners. I was very glad I’d bothered to be there but also pleased I’d thought to bring the tube of ibuprofen gel to rub on my shoulder and ease the cycle ride home over the hill. Definitely going under 2 hours next year 🙂