White Horse Half 2014

The best I could hope for at this year’s White Horse Half was to get in under 1:55 and after an outburst of moaning from my frozen shoulder over the last 10 days I wasn’t at all sure I could even manage that. I’d DNS’d the OX5 Run the previous weekend as I couldn’t face the ride out to Woodstock with my shoulder nagging away and stealing my sleep – the novelty of it not being non-stop painful long ago wore off. About time it just went away and left me alone!

Really not so bad when I arrived in Grove on Sunday morning though and I had a couple of ibuprofen to make sure then headed off to the start venue to dump my bag then a 5 minute wander to the start line. Despite thinking I’d run it last year I couldn’t really picture the layout which might have been because I’d not actually run it since 2011 and my memory is stuffed. I said hello to Maria who was marshalling and nodded to a few familiar faces then positioning myself about halfway down the field and we were off!

The first mile is a bit downhill if anything but I kept to the plan and resisted the temptation to chase the few runners passing me and was happy to keep the pace at 8:30 minute miles for the first half without feeling I’d overdone it. The country lanes were pleasant and the weather nice but the combination of my Asics Skyspeed ‘fast’ shoes and the farmer’s efforts to muck-spread on the tarmac made it all a bit slippery. I vaguely wondered if I was skating on residue left by the rain washing the previous day’s industrial smog out the air but this seems a bit far fetched.

About mile 7 we turned into the wind and I slowed a little. Not for the first time I managed to persuade myself I was on for a much better time than planned, 5 more miles 9 minute mileing was only 45 minutes! Pity there was 6 more miles to run I realised with a thud. I spotted Barry Cornelius who seems to be more often wielding a camera than running recently. He pointed said camera at me – later I followed a facebook post to his oxonraces website which turns out to be a fine resource.

White Horse Half 2014

Photo by Barry Cornelius

Mile 10 was difficult. There was supposed to be a water station somewhere about here so I ate the gel I was carrying and tried to keep up the pace as we turned into an increasingly strong wind and a gentle uphill. My Garmin let me know I was slowing to 9:30 pace yet I was pushing as hard as I dared. Too much of this and the 1:55 target wasn’t going to happen. The road turned downwards and my pace went upwards, the water station appeared, then we were back in Denchworth to turn south for the final couple of miles.

Knackered now the railway bridge was a challenge and mile 12 seemed to have it in for me as a sharp pain on top of my right foot caused me to stop twice to search for a stone or insect or whatever before discovering the tongue of my shoe had worked it’s way round allowing the edge to rub me up a sore bit. I adjusted it and tried to pick up the pace a bit for the last mile managing to regain a couple of the places I had lost stopping.

End in sight and Maria encouraging me to sprint for the line which I pointed out I thought I was already doing. 1:54:16 323rd of 485 so no records broken but I hit my target and was about 3 minutes faster than when I ran this race in 2004 as my 1st half marathon – I was much fitter then but didn’t have a clue how to pace myself.




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.


Brighton Half 2014

I’d entered the Brighton Half an age ago as it seemed there was going to be a big vegan presence. Rubbish that I may have been recently, I’d used this as a focus for some training and – while my target of scraping in under 2 hours seemed uninspired for a distance I could run in 1:45 2 years ago – it was a bit of a boost to be reminded by my ‘purple’ start race number that when I’d entered I’d apparently put 2:00 – 2:15 as my expected time.

As a ‘tune-up’ race (well alright because I couldn’t resist it) I did a orienteering event up Shotover the day before. Went for ‘light green’ this time and while I took a long time again – 1:06:36 for a nominal 2.8k turned into an actual 5k – I made an attempt to do it properly and managed 9th out of 11 finishers with 3 disqualified. 25 minutes ‘stopped’ time according to my Garmin so I obviously need to learn to think quicker!

So Shotover done with mid-afternoon I was off to Littlehampton where I spent a comfy night in the Travelodge before scraping unexpected ice off the car and driving the last few miles to Brighton where I caught the special bus to the start by the seafront. Thousands of runners milling about, I bumped into Matt Woodman and Peter Simpson then deposited my bag before heading off to the ‘purple’ start area – after a bit of a warm-up we were off.

Plan was to start easy and try to keep my miles under 9 minutes throughout. This ought to be easy but I’d struggled to keep under 10 minute miles towards the end of the 13 mile training run I’d done a couple of weeks before and had been absolutely shattered for the rest of the day – it had felt more like I’d just run a marathon. Anyway I followed the convenient 2 hour paceman for a bit – entertained by his obvious urge to run a bit faster tempered by regular checks of his watch to slow down a bit. After a couple of miles I passed him though and was glad to find a bit of space appearing round me as the field opened up a little bit.

Up a long but steady slope for a mile or so watching the faster people descending the closed road in the opposite direction. A great drum band beating out a rhythm – Stix – then our turn to descend with a view of those behind. I had a half bottle of Lucozade at the 3 mile station and again at 6, it had turned into a beautiful sunny morning and I was working up a good sweat for maybe the first time this year.

Brighton Half 2014Tiring a bit around mile 8 I still managed to maintain sub-9s with the help of my Garmin. I felt a little queasy from the Lucozade so washed a gel down with a bottle of water at the 10 mile station which was just at the point where we turned back east and followed the promenade back to the finish. I was seeing a chance of finishing in 1:55 and come the last mile pushed as best I could speeding up for a fast (for me) finish but not quite – 1:55:12 3047th of 6924 finishers chip time – pleased with that though and a day later I feel ok and no injuries ūüôā

Afterwards I met up with some of the 15 odd other – mostly much faster – vegan participants, many of them VRUK members. Despite my earlier queasiness a chunk of V-Bites carrot cake and a hazelnut latte went down a treat!



Goring, Woodcote & District Lions 10k 2014

The Friday before the Oxfordshire XC Champs last weekend I got an email saying they were cancelled – not that surprising considering the amount of rain we’d been having, rain now resulting in severe flooding in Oxford and elsewhere.

I’d been rather looking forward to a race though so entered the Goring, Woodcote and Dist Lions 10k which I’ve done a few times before instead. This race is always fun, usually cold, and mainly consists of running on country lanes down a big hill then through Goring and then up a big hill back to Woodcote.

The forecast offered a window in the rains for the morning of the race and while cold it didn’t seem too cold for shorts. I arrived early to ensure I got a parking space and to enter on the line, it seemed a long 30 minutes waiting in the car for start time but a bit cold for standing around.

Gun to chip – we gathered for the start which was a couple of minutes early causing some surprise. Along the flat bit through Woodcote then over a slight rise and right at crossroads to go down and down. I would be disappointed to be slower than 55 minutes and was aware that the 2nd 5k would be taking several minutes longer than the first due to the hill.

Woodcote & Goring 10k

The first 3 miles just under 8 minute miles allowing me to build up a bit of time. I grabbed a cup of water at the halfway station, as much because everyone was running past making them look unwanted as that I needed a drink. Then gently over the first rise watching a couple of runners attacking it then giving up and taking a walk, perhaps they thought this was the big hill already! A bit of pleasant downhill – there was a bit of flooding round here somewhere which we all avoided by running on the grass verge though when I asked the marshal didn’t reckon it that deep.

Goring & Woodcote 10k 2014Then immediately right at the bottom to climb non-stop the last mile and a half. I was pleased to just hold my pace saving just enough to retake most that tried to pass me and then gain a couple more places before crossing the welcome finish line. 53:31 134th of 252 runners, a minute slower than last year but a good bit quicker than I would have been last summer so great to be improving be it rather slowly.

Another local race entered for later in January, the new Oxford Charity 10k from Cutteslowe Park which I suspect will resemble last years Wrap Up and Run.



Watlington XC 10k 2013

Saturday before race day I had a cold –¬†shivery, snotty, tired – I wasn’t at all sure I’d be running. Watlington XC 10k isn’t an early start though and I’d already decided to drive rather than cycle so I decided to restrict myself to just the one beer and see how I felt in the morning. Sunday morning I had breakfast, didn’t feel too bad, more snot than weak and feeble. A look at facebook and it seemed Vegan Runners UK member Rafal had decided to enter last minute so that made my mind up and off I went eating a couple of paracetomol for luck.

In the start hall I collected my number and was pleased I’d brought safety pins as they had run out. Rafal wasn’t so lucky but a chap had a few spare so team VRUK settled for 3 each which was enough to do the job. I was only expecting to 10 minute mile it what with the hills and 1 hour 5 minutes sounded about right as I’d taken a hour last year and had been almost last at the Watlington Skyline only a few weeks ago. We got a runner to take a photo then jogged off to the start.

Watlington XC 10k 2013

A chat then we got in our appropriate start positions, Rafal near the front, me not far from the back, and waited while more runners arrived and 10:30am Рstart time Рcame and went. Lots of people were going off for warm-ups and Rafal must have done an extra kilometre by the time a young man with an iPad leapt out of a large black vehicle at gone quarter to eleven. Technology now present the horn sounded and we were off.

I took it nice and easy up the track and along the rough surface of the Ridgeway heading north. My body seemed to have given up what with the wait and I didn’t feel at all energetic. After very gently climbing for a mile and a half we turned towards the Chiltern escarpment then climbed¬†somewhat steeper till a bit after mile 2 I was walking the sharpest bit as expected. A couple of guys valiantly ran past me but I took the places back near the top when I started running but they’d given up.

We were hardly on the top road 10 seconds before turning right into a field and a good long, grassy,descent, a bit steep for me to let go in places but fun non-the-less. A not so young Thame Runner whizzed past me with the confidence of a fell runner. Along a bit of single track with plentiful trip hazards, skirting a wood. Then left onto tarmac, the same track we had started on but further up. Soon through a gap in large logs presumably placed to stop vehicles and soon enough I was walking the 2nd climb of the morning as was everyone around me. This one went on a bit so I got my walking speed up enough to gain a couple of places then into a field and I jogged the last bit of up before we joined the long track back down to the Ridgeway that runs parallel to the Watlington Hill road used for cycling hill climb competitions.

We’d been warned the landowner had cut a lot of wood back and moved the footpath. Every now and then the cut short stumps of coppice poked through the layer of leaves we descended through, fortunately painted orange but still demanding full attention. My specs kept steaming up which really didn’t help things. About halfway the surface improved and I opened up my stride aware from my Garmin, set only to show the time of day, that I was in with a chance of finishing under the hour. Steps fast behind and I wrongly guessed Thame Runners but he wasn’t far behind either and also passed me.

Still I was feeling good as we turned right back onto the Ridgeway and a glance at my watch when the finish came into sight suggested I had over 2 minutes to get there. In the bag I thought but still pushed my best remembering that this race was at least half a kilometre over distance. I was glad to finish but pleased.

Rafal had waited for me despite having finished in 47 minutes plus change. We wandered back to the cars both pleased with our efforts but a bit behind schedule what with the late start. When I did eventually bother to check my time on the Garmin it showed 1:00:08. Damn it how did that happen? Still a few seconds quicker than last year and a bit further up the field managing 94th of 150 finishers.

Still feeling fine I drove home. I had an unusual experience when a foreign chap I thought to be broken down flagged me down on the M40 slip road only to ask for money for petrol and food for his family. I gave him my emergency tenner – I can’t think this was the life he’d been hoping for when he headed for the UK ūüôĀ

Jane¬†also has this¬†cold and didn’t fancy our usual Sunday afternoon visit to Wetherspoons but I didn’t feel too bad as I had a beer and headed for bed. Monday morning though¬†I felt awful and took the day off. A bit better now, Wednesday, but still really tired, rather useless¬†and mentally adrift with a fair amount of snot. Oh well – so it goes!