The Avery Awards pt.1

Normally, when I write a blog, it tends to be about a race I’ve just previously completed and what my thought are of the race. However, summer is being its usual typical self for me and British 10k aside, I have absolutely nothing scheduled in until I hit the trails and paths of the New Forest Marathon. With that in mind and feeling myself itching to write something, I thought I would make a list of some of the best races, bling, goody bags and moments I have had since I began running. With that in mind, please allow me to welcome you to part one of the non-egotistically named Avery Awards!

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Best 10k

I thought I’d get a shorter distance out of the way and this was a tough one to choose for me.  I have ran some great 10k races and could easily have chosen one of the fantastic Mo Runs at Greenwich, the Bupa 10,000 from 2015 or (RunnersKnees look away now) one of the British 10ks from the previous two years, but the winner for this year is somewhere a bit closer to home and not too denting on the wallet!

The Avery Award winner for Best 10k goes to:

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Petts Wood 10k 2014

What a race this was. Not my best 10k result and also not the first trail 10k I’ve completed but what a race. I remember for months seeing this in magazines as one of the top 10 UK trail races and as it was only 20 minutes from my house I was a fool not to do this.

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I arrived to an unbelievably friendly and helpful Petts Wood Runners who gave us a quick race briefing. After the briefing, my family sat back and enjoyed the live band playing some classic rock songs and later participated in the wonderful and entertaining group warm up. The race started and we headed into the glorious surrounding woodland area. The scenery was magic and for only £17 entry this race was already proving to be an absolute bargain.  The Petts Wood locals were out to cheer everyone and even the moments back on road had the residents coming out of their houses, high fiving us all.  The last 2km had a wonderful surprise with the live band from earlier in the woods with us playing some more classic hits and many other supporters were in the trees enjoying the atmosphere. I crossed the finish line to a smart medal, lots of praise and the highlight of the race, the world famous trays and trays of samosas. “Would you like another one?” “Don’t mind if I do!”

 

Best Half Marathon

On to our next award and the distance has increased by just over double to a half marathon.  Now anyone who knows me knows that there is one half marathon that I have been screaming the praises of now for years and years.  This wasn’t just my favourite half marathon but also my favourite race. However, a race arrived out of the blue in 2016 that caused the Ealing Half Marathon to be shaking and quivering in it’s boots. Could Ealing hold its mantle and win the award for the best Half Marathon at this years Avery Awards? Here comes the envelope….

The Avery Award for Best Half Marathon goes to:

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Ealing Half Marathon 2015

The New Forest Half Marathon came incredibly close to winning this award and a recount was needed, however Ealing just managed to hold on to the title. This race has won the Runners Awards Best Half Marathon for a number of years but I think they will change their Twitter bio to include the Avery awards now.

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This was the year of two half marathons on the same day and at 9:00 I rocked into Ealing for the second year in a row to take part in the epic Ealing Half Marathon. The organisation is second only to the juggernaut that is the World Major of the London Marathon and there were plenty of signs showing where people were meant to be starting depending on their finish times, wonderful marshals who showed you everywhere you needed to go and where to drop off our bags and more importantly: miles upon miles of portakabins.

The start line had a brilliant MC on the microphone who was walking along the starters asking them how they were feeling, had they been to Ealing before and getting the rest of the race starters and fans to cheer them along.

The course may not be as scenic as Windsor or the New Forest, but it is a magic race nevertheless; with signs along the route wishing people from other countries good luck and also some interesting trivia like “did you know by mile 9, 10 million cagillion zillion litres of water will have been drank?”

A wonderful race that you have to do to take in the magic of it.  The atmosphere is phenomenal, the crowd support and steel drums in 2015 were great and the final lap of the park with people urging you round is fantastic.

Not just the Best Half Marathon, but still my favourite race. Looking forward to taking part in 2017.

 

Best Marathon

Now on to the big distance: The Marathon.

At time of writing I have done 8 marathons: Brighton four times, London twice, Dublin and Milton Keynes once each.  All have been great races and all totally, totally unique but there can unfortunately be no joint winners in the prestigious Avery Awards.  Be it the carnival atmosphere of Brighton, the prestige and spectre that is London, the stadium finish in Milton Keynes or the calm and collected Dublin marathon, only one can be victorious.

Therefore without further hesitation, the winner of the Avery Award for Best Marathon is:

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Dublin Marathon 2016

A great race and a great weekend. Straight off the plane with our cases my family and I made our way to the Dublin Marathon Expo to pick up my race number and soak in some atmosphere. When we walked into the exhibition centre we were blown away. A huge Dublin Marathon medal was on display for everyone to get their photo taken with, clowns making ballooon animals and doing face paints for all the children who were dragged along by their parents, loads of stalls with excellent merchandise and helpful experts who were telling you the best way to pace your race while you gulped down plates and plates of pasta.  The Irish people were as exciting and bubbly as their reputation suggests and you could not ask for a more cheerful and helpful bunch of people.

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Race day arrived and the famous rain that had haunted previous years was nowhere to be seen.  I met a lovely couple before the race who kindly let me hang around with them before we made our way into our pens at the start line.

The start of the race was a bit crowded but after a couple of miles it opened up and the live bands along the route were really adding life to this already rocking marathon. “We’re still building and burning down love.  Burning down love!…” belted out the U2 tribute band and I could have easily stopped there at around 16-17 miles to stop and listen to more.

There was an absolute pig of a hill at the last 5k but once up and over I made my way along the blue carpet along the finish line.  I missed out on a PB by about 50 seconds but I didn’t mind.  It wasn’t just an amazing race but a great experience running in another country and I could not wait until what was to follow, the litres and litres of Guinness…

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Most Memorable Race Moment

The final award of the first part of the Avery Awards is the Most Memorable Race Moment.

Now, there are the obvious sentimental ones of completing the London Marathon down The Mall for the first time, achieving the seemingly impossible sub-40 10k finish at the Mo Run 2015 or a top 10 finish at the Maidstone Half Marathon in 2016 but for me it isn’t about sentiment.  My Most Memorable Race Moment was something that made me nearly stop in my tracks to appreciate the sheer beauty of the race I was doing and absorb this magical moment.

So trying my hardest to do justice to what I had experienced, My Most Memorable Race Moment was:

The Galloping Wild New Forest Ponies of the New Forest Half Marathon 2016

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I had won a competition only 36 hours before informing me I had won a place in the 2016 New Forest Half Marathon.

After arranging 11th Hour babysitting and telling my wife that I had to leave our house at 5:30 in the morning to drive down to the New Forest from South East London, I was ready.

The car was parked in the field by the race HQ, I picked up my number from the delightful race organisers and volunteers and made my way to the start pen to take part in what would be the most magic race I had ever participated in.

The nature and tranquility of the area was straight out of a novel and unless you have experienced running through the New Forest, no words can describe how beautiful this part of the country is. The smell of all the trees and streams was glorious and I knew within the first 5k that I would be back in 2017 to take part in the full marathon (note: as mentioned above, this is my next race booked)

I was running really well and the sights and sounds were distracting me from my heavy breathing and faster than average minutes per miles. Then the magic happened.

We all entered an open part of the race and all around us were the gorgeous New Forest ponies.  I reigned in my pace slightly just in case one of the ponies decided to walk on the course and was relieved when I ran past without incident.

We ran back into the woods and that’s when it happened.  Out of the corner of my eye I could see something moving at speed.  This brown blur was joined by another, then another, then another and within a flash, only a few feet away from us were a dozen full sized wild ponies running alongside us.  It felt like we were racing each other and neither wanted to give in.  These wild beasts were galloping next to us and it was like something from a Hollywood movie that you would have to experience to believe.  I felt myself slowing down in total awe of this moment and would happily have sacrificed hours off of my time to keep watching these animals in their natural habitat showing us mere humans how to run. They galloped off out of sight into the woods and inspired by these magnificent creatures I finished the last few miles strong and enjoyed all the post race entertainment with my Dad and two sons.  A magical moment which I will never forget.

 

So that is it for part one of the Avery Awards, join us soon for part 2 where some of the awards include: Best Bling, Best Goody Bag, Most Competitive, Most Scenic and many more.

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Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste….

2012 and I’m stood miles away from a start line without a clue in the world how I’m going to survive a 10k.  I’d never run a race before that and I was only meant to be doing this for a one off charity run.  The Nike British 10k was about to start and my wife and I were both in our black running tops.  I had no idea that 5 years later I’d be here again trying for a consecutive sub-40 minute British 10k….

Typically, as what normally happens with my 10k’s, I pick up a niggle or a cold a couple of days before that makes me feel a bit nervous for the task ahead.  The 2017 British 10k was no different.  The British themed music was playing but all I could think was The Rolling Stones. No, I never had the Moves like Jagger, I was thinking that with this new thigh injury that I wouldn’t run a time I’d be particularly proud of and that I Can’t Always Get What I Want.

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I arrived at Green Park to a slightly subdued but excited atmosphere.  For the first time over 10k, I really could feel some nerves kicking in. I tried not to let it show, but I was worried my tight thigh was going to decide this would be the moment to decide not to play ball with me.  My new sunglasses were hiding the nervous look in my eyes and I left my wife’s side to slowly make my way to pen B, while she made the walk back to pen F.  Pen B was a very lonely place for me, not the chatty atmosphere that you get in races of this size and I certainly was thinking that I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.  I didn’t really have anyone to chat to, my thigh was teasing me and playing a game of chicken with me, I was starting to worry.

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The pre-race music and warm up was great fun. I joined in trying to shake off some of the nerves and I was amazed how the music seemed to be making everyone start Dancing in the Street. Pens A & B finished the warm up and made a slow walk around to the start line. The sponsors of this years race was Virgin and I was surprised with the colour scheme that they decided to go with: luminous orange and yellow which was a huge difference to the red, white and blue from previous years and the bright pink from the Vitality races. There must have been some discussion with the colour scheme this year being too bright, because to break up some of the fluorescent colours they decided the gaps needed some darkness and agreed to Paint it Black.

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At the start line, just as the race was about to start I thought about just giving it my best shot and see how my leg would hold up at a semi fast pace. A shower of confetti rained over us and we were dashing down towards Piccadilly.  The runners in pens C-F gave us a big cheer and applause as we darted out towards the first corner up Regent Street.  My legs were holding up well and I was gobsmacked to run past a South London Street Band, past a lot of gazebos in the middle of the road, up to a u-turn and back down to the 2 mile mark with a mile 1 time of 5:58 and a 2nd mile clocked in at 6:00.  I was getting a touch emotional at this time but thought that I’d be a Fool to Cry.  The rest of the B team and I continued on our tour of London and made our way past Her Majesty’s Theatre, the National Gallery and I was managing to hold on to this fast pace on just a small bottle of water, I didn’t need any extra lucozade or Brown Sugar.  I held on tightly to this pace past Trafalgar Square and saw the sign to say we had got to halfway.

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Following a couple of turns and car washes, we made our way along the Embankment for the final stretch of the race.  I knew that there was only a couple of miles left and I had a bit of time to play with to get under 40 minutes.  This did not make me stop and just like Jumping Jack Flash I continued to give it all that I had and finish the race strong. I knew that my thigh would hold out so for the first time in the race I really felt that I was capable of overtaking others at this pace and this really helped to Start Me Up, luckily it didn’t make a grown man cry.

At the end of the Embankment was a sharp left and over Westminster Bridge for the penultimate U-Turn.  I must’ve been a dreadful Fortune Teller as I had 8 and a half minutes to finish the last mile.  Still not taking anything for granted, I soldiered on and continued to give it all I had.

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I made my way up towards Trafalgar Square again, where the finish line was situated nearby the Horseguards and Downing Street.  I had managed to get in under the 40 minutes which I’d hoped for and turns out I had 16 seconds to spare.  I was absolutely delighted and proudly grabbed my medal,  high fiving and hugging everyone within a 20 miles radius.  I was delighted, the woman starting the race called all the runners rock stars and if that is the case then I Know it’s only Rock n Roll but I like it.

I hung around for a few minutes waiting for the 45 minute pacing machine Paul Addicott to finish and after a quick chat and hand shake, made my way back up to Trafalgar Square to watch the excellent Not the Rolling Stones band while I waited for my wife Leigh to finish.

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I met back up with my Dad, Uncle and two boys and took them to the finish line to watch Leigh finish. Leigh desperately wanted the boys to run with her as she finished the race, so as she approached the finish line I put the boys over the barriers and they finished the last 20 yards or so together. If you didn’t find this emotional that a woman who struggles to run finishing her Everest with her two most favourite people in the whole world then you must have a Heart of Stone.

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So that was it, the British 10k 2017.  A race that got me a bit nervous before the start but when I crossed the finish line I realised I had nothing to worry about.  A well deserved rest on Monday before my training resumes again on Ruby Tuesday.

And the Oscar for Best Colour Run Performance goes to…

Danson Park was the setting of the greatest battle. Maximus dining in hell from Gladiator was only having a light brunch compared to this day, Luke Skywalker did not “blow this thing and go home!”, he never left the house and stayed in all day watching re-runs of Blake Seven in comparison. Nothing could match this day, this day when Laura Avery laced up her F&F running shoes, bought a novelty tshirt and showed the Colour Run who was boss.

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I met Laura and the rest of the family at the start line and the atmosphere was great. Everyone in their white tshirts and lairy sunglasses, the lone singer on a makeshift stage whacking out “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables and the big inflatable arch that acted as the start and finish line. “If I know I was getting these sunglasses,” Laura said “then I would have put my contact lenses in!” She was sizing up the opposition already and looking for weaknesses in this monster that she was going to take down. The poor sunglasses never stood a chance….

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We left the fan club by the start line and made our way into the relevant pen, huddled in tightly with all the others taking part, we were categorised as walkers, joggers or runners. Walkers to the left of me, Runners to the right here I am: Stuck in the Joggers with you.

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“Seriously Bruv, go in with the Runners and actually run it. You never know, you might win it.”

“No we said we’d do it together and that’s what we’ll do.”

“Yeah ok, but I do really need a wee”

“No Laura! Brad Pitt’s Achilles in Troy never went to the toilet when he called out Hector did he?!” I wanted to yell back at her, but it came out as an equally inspiring “no chance, you seen the size of the queue at the portakabin? I’m not standing here waiting while you queue, wee when you get back.”

After the runners set off, we received our countdown and like the mad dash from the opening of Saving Private Ryan, we made our way up our equivalent of Dunkirk beach: next to the swing park and up by the toilets to battle!

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Laura channelled her inner Tom Hanks and I wasn’t running alongside Forrest Gump, I was running alongside Captain John H Miller.  I was told that we would run for two minutes, walk for two minutes, run for two minutes then walk for two minutes and continue until we reached the end of the race. However, the battle and trying to defeat the beast that was the colour run was firmly in her sights.  We kept running until we got to the first powdered paint station and BANG! A big snowball like whack right in the chest and stomach, “son of a nutcracker!” I felt like screaming as I tried to run through the powder that was obscuring our vision. Laura was channelling Tom Hanks, I was channelling Will Ferrell in Elf.

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We kept running along the course and got to the purple ballooned archway. Different colour paint, same nutcracking feeling. It was a little sore, but we were loving this race. We made our way along the boating lake and Laura’s legs were feeling a bit heavy and needed to walk for a bit, which was ok as she had done some great running so far.  We got to the blue station and one of the overexcited paint throwers caught me with a ball of paint that felt like it was at the end of Apollo Creed’s right glove.  As Apollo’s coach says in Rocky IV “It’s meant to be an exhibition!!”

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We made our way to the start line again which acted as halfway. “Just over a mile and half left to go!” I said trying to be encouraging. “Please tell me you are joking?!” Laura responded with equal enthusiasm.

The second half was the same as the first: a very unique combination of Elf, Saving Private Ryan and Rocky IV.  Laura was starting to tire at this point and the running had started to become a bit less. But the walking was not a casual stroll, we were power walking, it was still a great effort from someone who was really new to running.  The Colour Run was not defeating us and when we got into the woods towards the final corner, Laura soldiered on and started running towards the inflatable finish line.

The Colour Run had been slain. Simba had defeated Scar, Batman had beaten The Joker, John McClain had beaten Hans Gruber and Anne Hathaway’s character in the Princess Diaries had beaten bad personal grooming. She had done it and finished strong.

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We were met at the finish line by my two boys and Laura’s son and daughter. Three of the four were handing paint and decided to launch it at us, luckily it was mostly in my hair and hid most of the greys that have decided to take residence on my head.

We got our medals, sat back and enjoyed cheese and tomato toasties while watching a local band. “That was well hard, but I’m glad I did it and will definitely do it again.”

Well done Laura, what a fantastic effort and we could not be prouder of you of the effort you put in. Maybe next year you’ll go around from the Runners Section…

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The London Marathon – Greatest race in the World or Less about the race, more about the pennies?

I remember during a Ukrunchat hour a while back reading a tweet along the lines of “I think any runner who’s done London once should not be considered in the ballot and only charity runners should be allowed in.” Reading that made my blood boil, I even vividly remember that evening my wife cracking an egg on my head as it would fry better on my bonce then it would in the frying pan. Roger Rabbit taking a shot of whisky had nothing on me.

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Now, I’m not one who does not believe in charity and that “all these companies make enough money, I’m just bank rolling their admin team!” I have raised a lot of money for charity by running a number of races and regularly host quiz nights for good causes, but reading this about some people’s perception of the London marathon only being a charity event got me angry. So angry in fact, I thought I’d do what any sane person would do: sit down, sulk and write a blog on the pros and cons of what is seen as one of the biggest events in the world. Enjoy!

Cons

The Ballot Process

Before we can even consider running the marathon, one would consider entering the ballot. Fill in the form online, cross your fingers incredibly tightly and hope that when the draw is made that you are one of the lucky ones who won’t have to spend all their free time over the winter months running and thinking of ideas to raise funds for the seemingly £1,000,000,000 pledge.

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However, the odds of getting in are incredibly difficult, the below table shows how the amount of ballot entries have risen dramatically. Seemingly event organisers have not compensated for this, therefore in theory alienating the ones who actually want to run the race even further.  The amount of entrants from 2015 to 2016 was nearly double and surprisingly the amount of ballot runners even went from 17,500 to 17,000 from 2014 to 2016.  A 6.9% chance of running this event does not fill me with much confidence!

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I have also recently held a poll to see how many people who follow me/I follow on Twitter, some I know reasonably well, who have entered the ballot and NOT got in and at time of writing I have the following stats:

Number of unsuccessful Ballot Entries:

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Charities view on the London Marathon

So one has not got in through the ballot and therefore we have to go through the charity places. Charities are researched for a number of different reasons but from personal experience, the two main reasons tend to be for personal reasons (family member or potential runner affected by the issue the charity is set up for) or ease of raising the funds requested.

Now when I have contacted charities asking for places, I have been asked the usual questions, “why are you running?” “How will you raise funds?” “Do you think you’ll make the target?” “What will you do if you don’t make the target?”

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I have never ever been asked, “what time do you think you’ll go round in?” “Have you run a marathon before?” “Is there any aspect of the race you are not sure about?” Once before running the marathon, I even tried to sell that I’m not too bad a runner and said “I’ll do well for charity and reckon I’ll do a good time too” and was genuinely met with the reply “to be honest Michael, what we really care about is how much money will be raised and not the time you’ll do, even though it sounds like you’ll do well.”

Also, if you compare the London Marathon with the Brighton Marathon, supposedly the two biggest marathons in the U.K, the amounts needed to be raised is drastically different. Some charities charge 3-4 times the amount more to do London than you would Brighton. Both distances are the same, from personal experience Brighton’s atmosphere can easily rival London and both are wonderful experiences. Is the London Marathon 3-4x better than Brighton?…..

Non-runner’s view of London Marathon

Whenever I tell people I am going to do a marathon or multiple marathons in a year, I always get the same response “oh brilliant you’re doing London!” I also get the same disappointed and fixed smile when I tell them “nope not this year!”

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I remember this year telling people I was running four marathons and that two were top 10 U.K marathons, one was in the gorgeous surroundings of the New Forest and also along the coast line of Beachy Head which I’ve heard rave reviews about and was met with “well you can always do London next year though? Are the others as far as London?” I felt another Roger Rabbit moment coming on…..

There are hundreds of other marathons around the world throughout the year. Yes, London is one of the majors but I have had some wonderful experiences in Dublin, Brighton and Milton Keynes, which as mentioned above, have genuinely rivalled London for atmosphere and good feeling. Unfortunately public perception is that there is only one marathon worth doing if you truly want to be a marathon runner.

London Marathons origins

As we know, the London Marathon was started in 1981. The iconic pictures and footage of Dick Beardsley and Inge Simonsen crossing the finish line is enough to inspire anyone to take up running. It shows that even in competition there is a degree of sportsmanship and friendship and is quite simply one of the most uplifting pictures you’ll ever see. However the main reason for now running the London Marathon seems to now be an afterthought to what the marathon is REALLY all about.

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One of the core reasons in starting the London Marathon is: To improve the overall standard and status of British marathon running by providing a fast course and strong international competition.

Now the course is a fast one there’s no denying it, the strong international field is also there, but can we truly say the standard of British marathon running has improved? At first it looked promising: before 1993 Britain had 5 male winners, however for the last 24 years we have not had one. Paula Radcliffe and Liz McGolgan have done phenomenally well for women’s running and have been inspirational for women, however we have not had a female British winner for 12 years. In contrast, the wheelchair athletes are doing tremendously well and we have boasted 15 British male winners with David Weir triumphing multiple times and most recently in 2017 and 14 female winners with the most recent being only back in 2012.

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The cut off time for the London Marathon finisher is something that courts controversy.  A number of  big marathons I have researched including Brighton, Manchester, Loch Ness, Edinburgh, Bournemouth and Milton Keynes have cut off times from 6-6.5 hours. If you cross the finish line after this, you don’t officially finish that race. These are pretty achievable finishes but there is still a need to put in a bit of effort. London, on the other hand, has a staggering 8 hour cut off time. Putting that into context, one would only need to practically brisk walk the race and still receive exactly the same medal and achievement as someone who has put their entire body through agony to try and get under 3 hours or beat their PB from the year before. Will this realistically improve British marathon running by making a target that is nearly two hours longer than many other UK marathons? The only way to improve British marathon running is lower the intake of charity runners and make the 8 hours down to 6 hours. This is supposedly one of the top majors in world marathon running after all….

Pros

Being accepted

Whether one gains entry into the London Marathon through the ballot or for charity, it is an amazing feeling. Many people who decide to run the London Marathon for the first time will have cheered people running on the course, watched on the TV or heard stories of people they know who managed to go through unspeakable amounts of pain but describe the euphoria and achievement of actually finishing. First timers will be ecstatic, will tell all their friends, family, vicar, people working on the checkout at the local shop, those waiting at bus stops. They’ll tell anyone and start conversations just to show people that they will be running the famous 26.2 miles around the streets of one of the world’s greatest cities; and rightly so, they’ve earned it.

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London Marathon v the others

Although not the only marathon in the U.K, London does have a magic and prestige about it that the others just do not get close to. It is quite simply, the most famous talked about running event in the country by some distance and one of the most talked about in the world. The excitement from those taking part before the start of the London Marathon in Greenwich Park is indescribable, the buzz from everyone is electric and you really feel you are part of something special. Meeting people from your charity and sharing stories with others in the same group as you can potentially be really moving and that extra incentive to really give it your all and go for it!

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People will say “I don’t care if I never do London because it’s not the be all and end all!” But I have a sneaky feeling that 99.9% of those who have done 20 marathons and have never done London will be first in the queue if they are handing out places.

The London Marathon Expo

You’ve got your place, trained for months, sacrificed nights out only to be told that you have to go all the way to an exhibition centre in East London to pick up your race number. “Those tightwads can’t even afford a stamp and post it to me!” I’ve said before, “this is a right pain in the bum”. But when you step off the DLR at the ExCel, you see hundreds of people with their draw string bags with their numbers attached on, families all cheerfully skipping around and having their photos taken with their marathon number. Then it’s your turn. You walk in and it’s a combination of Dorothy walking into Oz with being allowed in the Chocolate Factory after getting your marathon Golden Ticket. You’ve pushed through the coats in the wardrobe and are in Narnia. Mr Tumnus takes your letter, checks your photo ID and then hands you that box of Turkish Delight which is your number and you walk around the London Marathon Expo. Soak it up. Breath it in. This is part of the journey and something you didn’t expect. The marathon is the White Witch and the Wicked Witch of the West rolled into one and you are going to show her who’s boss. You sit down at the pasta party and listen to seminars and try to remember running tips from those who have been there, hit the wall and kept going. The nerves are kicking in, but you pick up your timing band, write your pledge on the giant wall and take more photos. The marathon is only a few days away and you never realised the Expo would be this good.

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Charity

Every year, the London Marathon raises a lot of money for charity. Actually a lot is an understatement, as Daryl Hannah likes to say in Kill Bill vol. 2: Gargantuan.

The amounts that people are asked to raise are a lot and require a lot of time and effort but are achievable. When you get pamphlets and booklets from your charities telling you what your money is going towards then it’s enough to really inspire you to raise as much money as you can. You won’t stop at the pledge, you may even want to sneak over and make more money for these people you are representing, most who won’t be able to embark on what you are doing. Yes, you are running for a charity, but you are also running for real people who will benefit massively from what you are doing and families who will be forever grateful to you for your efforts.

The event has raised over £450 million for charity since 1981, and holds the Guinness world record as the largest annual fund raising event in the world, with the 2009 participants raising over £47.2 million for charity. Isn’t that something special and magic to be a part of?

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Race Day Atmosphere

Yes the London Marathon may not be taken 100% seriously by everyone, but that’s also part of the fun. It isn’t just a very, very long run, it feels like a wonderful carnival of colour, cheering, fancy dress, well wishers, jelly baby holding supporters, bands playing music blaring from pubs and bars. Quite simply, it’s an occasion that lives up to the hype and more. Whether it’s the supposed drab bit through Rotherhite and Bermondsey (which as a South London man I’m particularly fond of), over Tower Bridge, through Canary Wharf, past the Tower of London, on the final stretch of Birdcage Walk and at the front of Buckingham Palace, it is priceless and a moment you would swap for no other. It is fantastic and having a good race and strong finish as you cross the end line at The Mall is a feeling you will treasure forever.

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London Marathons origins

Finally, following on from the above, the other reasons the London Marathon was started was:

* To show mankind that, on occasions, they can be united.
* To raise money for sporting and recreational facilities in London.
* To help boost London’s tourism.
* To prove that ‘Britain is best’ when it comes to organising major events.
* To have fun, and provide some happiness and sense of achievement in a troubled world.

So as much as it may not meet the criteria of improving British Marathon running. There is absolutely no doubt that the London Marathon does all of the above.

Conclusion

Yes the London Marathon at times can be deemed controversial in what it aims to achieve and I too have put my hat in the ring when it comes to some of these factors, but there’s not denying the good that it does not just in the U.K. but globally.  In my opinion the London Marathon should totally be taken seriously and people should give it their all as I have done the two times I have run it, but there’s nothing that says people cannot have fun while they do it and if some very worthy causes make a bucket load of money that will help people who desperately need it, then that’s an extra super dooper bonus. And yes, there are other marathons out there that should be taken as seriously, but it’s just a fact more people know about the London Marathon than the others.

Let me know your thoughts on my latest post. Whether I’m wrong, right or somewhere in the middle, it’ll be great to know your thoughts.

Sister Act

“Seriously Mike, I’m gonna do it”

“Yeah alright whatever”

“No seriously Mike, I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna do a 5k!….. How far is 5k?”

“3.1 miles”

“Oh no, I can’t do that. I’ve got bad knees!”

This conversation is the regular, Groundhog Day conversation I have with my little sister roughly every 6 months, or roughly a couple of days after I’ve either run a marathon or she watches one on telly. The one moderation was just a couple of days after I had ran London 2015 when I received a phone call I never thought I’d hear:

“Mike! I’ve done it!”

“Done what?”

“Signed up for the 2016 London Marathon”

“You having a laugh?!”

“No”

“That’s amazing!”

“I think I might pull out. I can’t do it!”

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Alas, after much persuasion my sister did not do the London Marathon in 2016, but we got a much nicer medal when she gave birth to my lovely little nephew James in July.

“How can I get that wally brother off my back? I’ll have a baby, can’t say anything then!” She must’ve thought….

My sister Laura is a wonderful little sister, a fantastic mother to her two children and a great auntie to my two sons. One thing she is not, is a runner. She has tried in the past bless her heart, a few Race for Life races around Blackheath Common, but the one that she still talks about was after she completed the Westminster Mile in 2014 the poor girl ended the day in A&E having an asthma attack.

 

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Now the start of this blog is in jest, whenever my sister always says she is going to sign up for a race, I’m always giving her lots of encouragement and offer her nutrition ideas and light training plans, however after a couple of weeks her hectic life has unfortunately got in the way and she is unable to commit to the rest of the training and therefore does not compete in the races that she has entered herself in. The only exception was with the Christmas Caper of 5k run one year around Swanley.

“Mike, not running the race with you today.” My phone flashed one morning.

“Why not?” I replied

“Too cold. Good luck! X”

I was starting to think I was wasting my time a bit when she actually said to me this year that she wanted to take part in a local 5k to get fit and “no messing about this time innit? I’m gonna do it!”

So after much debating whether to or not, I decided that I’d guilt trip her a bit.

“Right if I pay the entrance fee, will you do the local colour run? I’ll do it with you, dress up like a right pair of idiots and let people pelt us with paint?”

“Yeah deffo!”

Fast forward a few weeks and her face looked a tad startled when on her birthday she opened an envelope which  read “entitled the owner of this voucher entry into this years Colour Run at Danson Park”.  Anyone who knows me knows I have a wicked sense of humour at times…..

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Her face sunk when she realised how far it was.

“Two laps of Danson Park?! I can’t do that”

“Yes you can, anyone can do anything if they put their mind to it!”

“And you’ll run it with me?”

“Yes, whole thing. Won’t run off.”

“Alright! I’m in!””

And with that, my sister is now committed to this race at the end of June. Will she run the whole thing? Will she get pelted with paint? Will she enjoy it? Who cares, the main thing is she’s getting herself up and doing two laps of the park that she dreads so much and only visits when there’s a fayre on or cheap WKD in the bar for happy hour.

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In all honesty, I’m very proud that she has taken the challenge and will give it her all. It will be a really tough race for her and we will run it together, walk if we have to but we will both finish the race and she will experience what I experience when you have all your family and friends cheering you over the finish line….. only with loads of the local B&Q chucked all over us. Go for it Laura, you are going to absolutely smash it and you never know, you might actually really enjoy it and this may be the start of a path that you may want to continue running on.

Come back in a couple of weeks to see how she got on and how she got on. She will finish, but will she enjoy it?…..

 

 

The Chislehurst Half 2017

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I have been thinking recently about starting a blog and typically now that I have set it up, I don’t have any races to write about!

Therefore, as I am now counting down the days until my next race and ideas to write about, I thought I’d do a quick copy and paste of the Chislehurst Half, as that was the reason why I decided to start my blog. Enjoy!

“Well the day did not start well for me, left my kit bag with all my gels and my drinks at home, so pre-race it was a mad dash to get a couple of bottles of lucozade to keep my carb levels topped up during the race.

We got parked up and made the short walk to Glebe Football Club, where we were met with a beautiful sunny day and a really friendly atmosphere. “Race registration is next door!” We were told, “check your name on the list and what number you are to help us out!” It seemed a reasonable request, I found my number next to my name and joined the queue. “147, Avery” I said to the woman handing out my number “147? Down there, you’re in the wrong queue!” The weird thing was though, I didn’t see any signs indicating different queues, but I obliged and got my number.

After the pre-race warm up, we all made our way to the start line where we were given our brief, which consisted of “have a good race, it’s PB weather and conditions and be careful of the rabbit holes, we tried fill them in with flour but you might fall down them.” We didn’t mind, this was trail running after all.

3-2-1 and we were off! I was with the first 10-15 runners and we set off at a good, fast pace. The first few miles were nothing special and I chuckled as we ran along an A road and an underpass. Was I back in Milton Keynes?…

The race then took a detour into the woods and the scenery was beautiful, running in woodlands, jumping over streams, ducking under low branches and running alongside fields with horses and other animals in them. Trail running really is something totally different to road running and the natural sights around were stunning.

I was maintaining my pace well and although running at a pace which wouldn’t trouble the leaders, I was happy with how I was running and felt a top 20 finish was more than achievable for me.

Then disaster struck for all of us just after 6 miles. We were shown which way to go by marshals, followed the arrows, ran out the woods and then BANG! Nothing. Not a single sign, marshal or arrow telling us where we needed to go. Nothing, nada and no crowd supporters we could see in the distance. We were lost and off route, our group of 25 runners were then joined by around 10 more…. then 10 more. This race had become a total stand still for around 5 minutes.

“let’s go this way!”

“no that’s not the right way!”

“they’ve changed the route so it’s a bit different”

“let’s try this way.”

An absolute shambles.

We all went back into the woods and agreed to try and honour the order so that the leader wasn’t unfairly right at the back. Back in the woods and after a few paces we realised we were lost again.

“hang on” said one female runner “I’ll have to get the map out”. So we all huddled around her as she logged onto the race website and got a map up. Exactly what happens at every half marathon…

We still had no real concept of where we were so decided to aim back towards a road and head back to the start to inform the organisers. After running for around a mile, we found our way back on the course, but back at the 10km mark and was miles back down the field. Many of these people who were now in front of us were originally miles behind and I was playing catch up to try and make up my time and position. This race was now becoming a long, demoralising and downbeat slog. After running around a bit more woodland in a foul mood and trying to make up a position I unfairly lost, I reigned it in for the last two miles and saw it as nothing more than a long training run.

Normally when I finish a race, I punch the air for photographers, high 5 people, do something silly but today was not one of these days. I was not really in the mood so just wanted to cross the finish line. 1:41:39 and a 48th position. I was gutted, I have hit the wall before and have ran poorly in the past but this was a new level of annoyance. To drop down the field and finish with that time due to nothing I had done was a bitter pill to swallow and the normal medal biting picture I take post-race was not to be taken today.

Positives from today: the weather was nice, the course was beautiful and the marshals were friendly and energising. Nice medal too and the pre-race atmosphere was very friendly.

Negatives from today: the organisation which caused the front pack to get horrendously lost. The lack of acknowledgement that the organisers had made a mistake “well you must’ve missed the sign” yeah mate, like 50 people running sporadically with numerous minutes in between each other will all miss this sign. The fact I nearly got hit by a car twice due to marshals stood in the wrong place also needed to be addressed.

Conclusion: It’s a shame one huge, massive gaff has ruined what was a lovely little trail half marathon. Let’s see what next year has to offer.

PS One of the people who beat me on paper was a man and a dog.”