Tuesday, 5 May 2015


A week on from successfully completing my first marathon, the Virgin Money London Marathon 2015, and I'm still just as happy as I was a week ago.  This really will be something that lives with me all my life.  I did have about 5 seconds after when I thought “not again” but I soon dropped that nonsense and am eagerly awaiting the outcome of the 2016 ballot to try all over again!

The weeks up to the big day started with nicely controlled “tapering” as run mileage and intensity both reduced and I worked on recovery and energy stores.  In the last week, though, I seemed to encounter just about everyone with a cold as the famous pre marathon paranoia, or “maranoia”, really kicked in as the nerves built and I, like many others, worried constantly about something going wrong in the last few days – especially illness or injury!  What was at risk was 565 miles of relentless, self-focused, hard graft training…many say that the marathon is the hard bit, it isn’t, it is the “Glory Day” when you get back what you put in.  As long as you enjoy it too.

Early start 0616 train from Basingstoke packed with runners and supporters. Time for the iPod and some personal space.  Another train to Blackheath and I was there…umm, into grey, cold drizzle!  Rats!  But, I was lucky as, thanks to the great folks from Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, L&LR, I could join their pre-race do and have food, drinks, warmth and great loos!

All too soon, it was time to hit the Blue start assembly area, drop my bag and await the start in a fetching combo of old throw away tee shirt and a see through L&LR disposable poncho.  Yep, I cut a fine style in the portaloo queue…but I wasn’t alone.  Indeed, some 38,000 of us were doing the same thing, and we watched the big screens as the elites and wheelchairs made their early starts at amazing speeds, then queued in our particular start pens ready for the 10:10 start.  I’d thought that with so many people it may take 10-20 to get across the start line….but at 10:18:22 I was off and trying to remember all the advice.  Mainly to (1) NOT go out too fast and to pace it right, (2) keep my head up – take in the event fully – and enjoy it! and, (3) get my form right and use my arms to reset tempo making sure my hips and pelvis were level.

To be honest, all three worked and I pretty well kept to them although my pace and form slipped a little on miles 25 and 26 down the Embankment that just seemed to go on and on and on!  I was very fortunate that my club mate, Adrian, who was pacing for Runners World, caught me and shouted at me in Birdcage Walk which jolted me back to life for the big finish.  I had been aiming for 4 hours 10-15 mins and was and still am delighted with 4:12:57 with the potential to now tweak some things and improve stamina / form for the last 6.2 miles to go under 4 hours in future.

During the run, I really had enjoyed the whole thing and probably made it all look a big too easy at my cheering points at 11.5 and 23.3 miles where I not only accelerated to be far faster than targets for those miles but went by smiling and waving to show I was OK.  At both, I was very lucky to have two cheering groups…first my own dedicated “cheering crew” of my wonderful Debs who has had to live every day of my relentless training, plus Julia, Heather, Sophie, Danielle, Amy and her friend.  Easy to spot in bright yellow L&LR tee-shirts, they were what I was aiming for at each point and gave me a fantastic lift.  Then, at each place, just down the road were the supporters from running club, SPR, who gave me another lift. Did I make it look “easy” or “comfortable” by managing pace and the race mile by mile?  Yes, I probably did!  I now really do understand why people say the event is the easy bit…it is the utter dedication and determination in the training that is the hard bit with lovely 18 mile wet, cold, at times very lonely Sunday long runs.
I wanted to finish as the priority, I did and in a time I am very happy with for a first time running over 20 miles.  There is a great medal, tee shirt and goody bag but even more valuable are the memories as I was delighted that many of the people dearest to me could be there and share it with me…or, me share it with them?

By running for L&LR I not only benefitted from pre-event support and coaching but a post run celebration at Central Halls where, after a massive cheer that I just hadn’t expected,  some food, a very welcome 20 mins leg massage and an even more welcome beer.  Oh, and a wonderful feeling walking on carpet with no shoes or socks on!
A fantastic event and experience that couldn’t have been possible without a great group of people that each played a big role in the preparation and the day, who I trust with each aspect.  There were my constant “running buddies”, Amy and Libby, some guys from the Club, especially Jonathan, Nick D & Adrian, my coach Ben from Full Potential, all the team at L&LR, Gary Turner...and my brill sports physio, Vicki at The Body Reset Clinic.

In an earlier blog I said “…just eight weeks to go to VMLM2015, and I absolutely can’t wait!”  Well, I wasn’t wrong, I loved it, and absolutely can’t wait to VMLM2016!”.  I know what it will take now with the kind of dedication, focus and sacrifice needed for “the hard bit” the training!  Things will be different now as, before 2016, my “A” race schedule has a run of “firsts” this Summer:
·         24 hour solo endurance trail run, Endure24
·         50km Trail Ultra, the Salisbury 5-4-3-2-1
·         Berlin Marathon

In my next blog I’ll talk about the recovery and the weeks after the marathon. Cheers, Mark

Sunday, 19 April 2015


This is it, just one week left till the Virgin Money London Marathon 2015 and, if on plan, as I write this I'd have about an hour to go!  A week / 7 days.  Seems a short time but, oh my word!  This is going to be a long, long, long week!  Not that I'm excited or anything and I am really bursting to get to my start pen at the Blue start and set off  round 26.2 miles of London's streets, but this week I face a two headed monster to battle with...

First:  Why, oh why, oh why does "everyone" I meet have a stinking cold?  Boots must be selling out of tissues and Lemsip 'cos wherever I go there are sniffles, bunged up noses and sore throats.  Even the steward in front of us at Wycombe Wanderer's away match at Wimbledon, yesterday, was in a right state of "manbola"! Stay away you lot...I DO NOT want a cold this week!

Second: I have been told about the final week paranoia and am deep into it now...

State of preparation: "What was that twitch in my hamstring?"  "Oh, my calves are a bit tight."  "Have I got planar F in my right foot?"  "Am I getting a cold (see above)?" 

The Expo:  Neeeeeed my race number, chip and kitbag...NOW!  Do I go Weds, do I go Thurs, how much time should I spend there?

The race: "Am I prepared?"  "Will the alarm go off?"  "Have I cut my toe nails a week out as Ben said?"  "What did I do when I ran the Bramley 20 miler?"  "OK, so I have run 20 miles several times...but what awaits in the last 6.2 miles?"

Simply, I want two things this week.  This week to go fast and to be completely wrapped in cotton wool and a duvet.  This week IS going to go very slowly but will also be THE most exciting, life changing, selfish, focused, single minded, paranoid and panicky week ever.  So that's it 555 miles of training so far, some simple runs and lots of rest and sleep this week, and a gradual build of balanced carbs and hydration to be ready for next Sunday.  I know how amazing it was as a spectator in 2014 and can't get my head around what it will be like following that dotted blue line on the road around, yes, 26.2 miles.  Not that I am looking forward to it or anything, really!!

Everything has a purpose and whilst a massive part is the personal challenge and experience, what I am doing is raising money for the great folks at Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research to help them beat blood cancers.  There are personal reasons and connections that I will draw on as inspiration and all I can do is thank those who have already donated and ask if you spare £5 or £10 or more to help me help them, please...
...here is my VM Giving page:
...and here is Stephen Fry giving his unique style of support!

Thank you, mark

Tuesday, 31 March 2015


Oh my!  The Virgin Money London Marathon really is getting close!  Sunday 26th April to be precise, or even more precise: 3 long runs, 8 effort runs, 9 recovery runs (or parkruns), 6 rest days, 2x Pilates sessions, 4x swims and a bit of cycling away!

 At 8 weeks from race day things were getting tough but they have got tougher still, due to work encroaching on my training, my personal life and especially my sleep.  I have been doing two major pieces of work in parallel which meant I didn't get an off day, including weekends, from 15/2 to 28/3.  Have almost kept to my training plan when viewed over a week as I juggled sessions at extreme ends of the day and did some double training days but some effort sessions and some recovery runs have gone and my weekly mileage dropped, although I've already banked 457 miles of training since December.  Been a bit lax with swimming, foam rolling, leg exercises and stretching....but when many nights I was getting 2-3 hours sleep it was no wonder things would go.

Now, as I train I keep getting told off for:
1. Being too hard on myself (can't help it, that's me!) but I want to do the best job.
2. Not getting enough sleep to allow rest, recovery and muscle build.  Tricky this one as I still have to work, at times, very stressful ultra hours with immovable deadlines.

Long runs have been protected though and, as well as the thoroughly enjoyable Bramley 20 mile race, there have been great miles in an 18 miler (horrid, sore toe issue), a 19 miler (excellent!), various 13-14-16 milers and a faster paced Reading Half Marathon with Amy, my running buddy, who has got me through many a low point in our runs this year.  We had a target, beat it by 3 mins plus and were very pleased with the days work.

Now though, the pattern changes as I move like all other marathoners toward the taper weeks as the amount and intensity of running reduces.  There are still Sunday long runs although these now go 2.5 hours, 2 hours and 1.25 hours so no more 3 hour runs.  Yay!

VMLM and Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research have put together a fantastic facebook video headed up by Stephen Fry – it could even go on various websites – as I raise money for a charity very close to my heart. https://www.myfundraisingfilm.com/view/60075f65-5cb6-473b-ad24-5805c4a9a7fe?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=socialshare&utm_campaign=myfundraisingfilm

Hope you enjoy it, and many thanks for any support you can give.  Cheers, mark

Tuesday, 24 February 2015


Just 8  weeks to go, can’t wait now, and a lot has happened since my last blog
The marathon training plan is still relentless, mid way through week 12 of 20, with lots of hills sessions, especially Kenyan Hills powering up and down rather than doing hill sprints, which have proved really good for building my base strength and endurance.  The fast running, threshold stuff has been OK but I prefer the hills as something I can actually “attack” and to cover this off by mixing road sessions  with cross country races, for my club in the Southern XC League (7 rounds of circa 5 mile XC races which seemed to have got hillier and harder with each round!).  In the mix are Pilates and swimming too, and I will ramp up the cycling from now on too.
The expected long-easy runs have not featured as much yet, often due to XC races, and perhaps not enough as there has been a 12, a 14 and had to abandon a 16 at 13 miles having been taken ill.  Couldn’t work out what was going on as I got colder and colder and slower and slower as my run buddy, Amy, got more worried and convinced me (“...can’t stop yet, need to do the miles...” and other such helpful comments from me!!!) to stop early calling my partner, Debs, out to collect us.  Nearly passed out on the run, in the car and actually did go for 1.5 mins at home...unhelpfully, in the bath!  Turned out to be gastric flu and I was actually soooooo pleased to realise I was ILL!  Not a problem with nutrition, hydration, sleep or over training.  A few days off work, and an actual rest from any training seemed to do me the world of good and I’m now nicely back on training plan without trying to “catch up”.
The “lack of long miles” meant that I was more than nervous in the run up to the Bramley 10-20 where I was doing the 20 mile race, having never run beyond 16 miles before.  More than nervous means, for the first time in 2 years of running, I was just plain scared.  Would I survive to finish? Could I do the distance?  What pace can I do?  Will I get preparation, nutrition and hydration right?  So, a tough prep but once we got going I absolutely loved it, treating each mile as its own little race, in lovely weather, chatting to some great people and being oblivious to the overall time and daunting distance.  It was great, I did it, and did it just 6 secs a mile average outside my (current) marathon target pace.  Sorry Ben (at Full Potential), I didn’t go the first 12 miles as an “easy” but did all 20 at marathon pace!!  It worked, I learnt a lot (like I really don’t like a well known brands’ elite jellybeans) and it has given me massive confidence and renewed enthusiasm for the challenge.
Why renewed?  Well, to be able to do what I am planning to do with running in 2015 I have had to change things in my life as there just isn't time for everything with a very demanding job: 
-          1.  Was to stop racing karts with Club100 as my feet and legs now have too much invested in them to risk a silly crash. 
-          2. Was I went “dry” in January and, by and large, that continued into Feb with just a couple of drinks in the month.  April will certainly be “dry” 
-          3.  The big and emotional change....two years ago my partner and I started a running club which has grown to nearly 80 runners registered with England Athletics and is mostly made up of great, positive and friendly people.  In any group like this you get the detractors, “takers”, under-miners, the “loud voices” who’s own opinion has to be seen to be more important than the majority.  I’ve held it all together as Chairman, Secretary, Membership Sec and kit-man, with 1-2 others,  for so long that it just became a massive boulder that I was pushing up an increasingly steep hill.  Lots of people had been saying for ages that I should step away from all the negativity and concentrate on training, racing and my “awesome year”.  Hard to do when so much time, effort, hard work and emotion have gone in but I’ve done it.  Hopefully, the club will move on to a stronger place but such clubs rely on volunteers and the “Jury is out” on whether people will really stand up to their promises.  Something I saw today rings true about my thoughts on some people who have made my life so difficult... “Never apologise for trusting your intuition – your brain can play tricks, your heart can blind, but your gut is always right”.  Lightweights will always be lightweights!
Whilst, in many ways, this has been a positive step it drained me emotionally and running just had many negative feelings attached it.  If it hadn’t been for the London Marathon and raising money to help Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research fight and beat blood cancers then I would have stopped running altogether!  It has take an few, fantastic, trusted people and some enjoyable runs like cross country races and my training plan to get me mentally back on track.  Totally out of character, in running terms it is now all about me and doing the best job round the streets of London, and raising that money.
So, a bit of a roller-coaster,  but now really positive.  I know what I enjoy with running, I know what I want to achieve for others and me and I know who I can trust and who gives me great support...like Debs, Amy, Libby, some great guys from the Club, Full Potential, L&LR and my brill sports physio, Vicki, from The Body Reset Clinic.
Just eight weeks to go to VMLM2015, and I absolutely can’t wait!

Link to my fundraising page...

Monday, 26 January 2015


After week 6 comes week 7...astonishing, I know, but another step through the relentless forward progress through the 20 week training plan up to the London Marathon.

Week 6 ended with a very cold, damp 14 mile long run which was generally ok but resulted in me having a head cold which moved to my chest, low lung capacity and a cough.  Monday's are a running rest day, often the only one each week, with Pilates in the evening.  Last Monday I was facing another hefty week of work and training and not feeling great for either!

Tuesday is Sherfield Club Runners' club night where we do effort sessions and last week featured our great intervals session of a variety of effort and time mixes that pushes everyone's individual boundaries.  The double problems were said cold and the sub zero temperature that meant, even with a good warm up and constant movement, legs were getting stiff, sore and calf muscles were calling enough across many people.  A night for "throttling back" and getting the most out of the session, being positive, enjoying it and moving on.

This became the shape of the week with a work induced rest day on Weds, double training Thursday ( Kenyan hills at 0615 then a 4 mile club run at 1930...followed by SPR Committee mtg.), a recovery run them swimming ( off pace, no puff in lungs still) on Friday, a decent fastish ParkRun on tricky, icy paths after a warm up pre-run Saturday, then a return to cross country on Sunday.

The Southern Cross Country League continues to bring great events, great fun and a whole load of muddy challenges.  Yesterday was the turn of Stubbington Green Runners to host their event at Manor Farm country park on the banks and slopes above the Hamble.  A lovely setting and a very challenging run with loads of sticky mud and a particularly tricky bit downhill down a country lane that suddenly switched from Tarmac to very deep mud that you hit a full on road race speed...with the next few hundred metres looking like something out of It's A Knockout as everyone slipped, skidded and some fell negotiating this stretch.  A great event, great fun even with a killer last hill back up to the finish...and a good result from the SPR teams considering we were running at the minimum team sizes of 3 women and 5 men so everyone was a scoring runner.  Brill cakes after again!  As we all know, SXCL and cross country really is all about the cakes!

So, the week done and survived.  Still very positive and motivated and driving on, so rather than being a bit downcast by distances or effort or pace or weekly mile count being "off target" I'm still happy that every session done counts and builds towards THE DAY on 26th April.  M

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

6 DOWN, 14 TO GO!!

The end of 2014 was tough...I lost my Dad in November and, whilst 94 is a fantastic age and he “kept all his marbles” until the end, it is still a big loss to lose my Dad, my friend, my “sounding board” and my inspiration in one go. A massive hole in my life that will never be filled, but life really is about the next generations and loved ones around me. That’s where my drive comes from now. The early weeks of London Marathon training were more “mechanical” than inspiring and they went in a unmotivated flow, ticking off session after session. Christmas and New Year changed all that. For once, I properly downed-tools from work, rested, re-charged and re-set my life. Proper rest, improving speed and endurance in training, the benefits of pilates and lots of great times with family and friends. I somewhat blew the concept of rest days (Ben at Full Potential please ignore that bit!) as my motivation kicked in and I found myself saying, between two parkruns on New Year’s Day “...funny, the more I go through my training the easier running is getting”! Doh!

But that is the difference, I am now deep (200 miles with 100 miles in 2015) into the 20 week pre London plan, seeing and feeling benefits although not (yet) shifting the weight I want to (basic physics...want to carry less weight, and each 1lb off equates to 10lbs less pressure on my knees) and have not touched a drop of alcohol since N Y Eve...even having a non-alchi birthday! I can really say now, having completed 6 weeks of the training plan that I am utterly enjoying it (yes, I am bonkers!) even its relentless nature. As some of you will know, this path to VMLM2015 is a step on to ultras so my plan differs from many a marathon plan that would have an easy day on Saturday ahead of a Sunday long run. Thanks to Ben (from FP) my plan is a very personal fit to my needs and what work demands of me too...unlike many, with my client work being on various sites, I am not able to do commute runs so I have adapted.

What’s my week like? Mondays are the oddest thing called “rest days” with [drum roll] NO running but with pilates...I am loving pilates but have no style – others have graceful and controlled movements, whereas mine are somewhere between a one-armed paper hanger and someone with their laces tied together! Core work and conditioning rule, and pilates along with my trusty foam roller and a fantastic new knobbly massage roller stick are working. My sports physio, the wonderful Vicki at Body Reset Clinic, is really pleased at the way some old, persistent muscle knots are getting under control. I really am trying to look after my legs and feet with all the investment going into training which means that I have stopped racing karts, which is quite a shock, and do get really annoyed at silly trips...caught a kerb and stumbled out of control into a parked car last week, luckily without any real injury apart from a sore foot for a day. The rest of the week has...3 effort sessions (Kenyan Hills, Intervals, fartleks, threshold, sprint hills, etc.), 2 recovery runs, parkrun and a Sunday long run or a Sunday cross country event. Oh, swimming and starting cycling again drop in there somewhere.

Gotta say, I love mud-plugging on cross countries and whilst the distances are “only” 5-6 miles there is an all-round training hit of threshold + hills + endurance in one wet hit, yes!! The year started with the Cliveden 6m XC taking 3.5 mins off my 2014 time around the beautiful grounds of the house, complete with steep uphill zigzag and twice up the 175 steps of yew tree walk!!!!!!

Fellow club members from Sherfield Park Runners, have been great. Practical advice, great club nights and also joining me in various of my effort sessions rather than me always banging out effort sessions on my own. Many are in their own training for half and full marathons so it works for all and I really, really appreciate the company and enthusiasm.

Events wise things are getting serious. The Bramley 20 (cunningly that is a very local, 20 mile race) is looming very near, as in Sunday 15th Feb! By then I really need to have settled on what “marathon pace” means for me as I am still in a range. 22nd March brings the Reading Half Marathon where Amy, my running buddy (from SPR), and I are targeting a 3 mins + reduction in PBs and getting a sub 1:45 HM. Yeah, not remarkable for many but another step forward for me where my first HM, March 2013, was 2:15+, so all good. April sees the London Marathon itself which I am already massively excited about, including the support that I know will be there from Debs and others, Endure24 in June as a solo and the Berlin Marathon in September. Now the latest piece of the jigsaw has landed...in August, at the Salisbury 5-4-3-2-1 the very popular 50km trail ultra round Salisbury with 5 rivers, 4 hills, 3 country estates, 2 castles and a cathedral!

Why do all this? On one hand I love a challenge and am, in many ways, (Ultra)bonkers! But there is a good cause under all this...raising money for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research. Please have a look at this page, my drivers and what I’m trying to do:


I have a stinking cold....do I care?  No!  Staying cheerful and positive and will use a little rest for all the development to sink in.  Cheers for now, Ultra Bonkers Mark

Sunday, 14 December 2014


It's been far too long since I sat down to Blog, but now is the time to put that right.
It has been a long and, at times, hard year of running and competing with lots of lessons learned and some real development in both running pace and style as I developed better technique.  Still lots to do.  This year included two run streaks of 179 and 107 days, split by a bout of illness.  The second streak was ended as focus turned to the challenges of 2015. All was going well until I lost my Dad.
After 94 years of a great life  doing so much to help others, being a Husband, Father, Grandfather and Great Grandfather, a production director in a car parts business and 5 year PoW veteran of Stalag 8B from 1940-1945 who escaped three times and eventually fought with the Czech partisans he died in early November.  Dad never wanted to go into a home and it is fantastic that he stayed in his own bungalow until the day he died, organising things and living life his way.  A way I thoroughly approved of.  The honour of being with him alone in his hospital room overnight for his final night will stay with me forever and was a small thing, last thing I could do for him.  George, Dad, you have and always will be my inspiration in life...very much always will be.  RIP GEB.
And, oh, will I need inspiration next year?!  People keep saying things like "you're going to have a big year next year" and I think they are right.  A big year where I will absolutely need every bit of inspiration from Dad, and every bit of support from Debs.
You may recall that although I didn't get a ballot place in the London Marathon 2015 I am fortunate enough, to have one of Sherfield Park Runner's two UK Athletics club place.  So, I am in and preparing now, a week into the 20 week training plan.  My brother, Chris, died of Leukaemia at the age of 51 and, in memory of Chris, I asked the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research Trust if I could fund raise and run for them.  They said yes, and like another 174 runners I will be fund raising for the L&LRT, and getting their full aid and support up to, during and after the VMLM2015 with great support on the day.  Through them comes coaching/ training support from Ben and Richard at Full Potential, and we had had really practical on-track and in classroom training day yesterday.  What has to be done over the next 19 weeks is clear...and now has to be delivered with many hard miles of effort in the cold of the coming Winter months.  I can't wait!  I seriously and positively can't wait!
But this is just the first of many big running events in 2015.  On a whim, and thanks to the light night power of Facebook, I signed up for the public ballot for the Berlin Marathon in September, safe in the knowledge that I wouldn't get in.  Oh wait!  I have an e-mail in German, scroll down to the translation, and "Congratulations You Are In!  You must now start preparing for the 2015 BMW Berlin Marathon"!  Wow!!!  Hmmm, I hadn't really said to Debs that I'd entered as she'd just think I was/ am bonkers, expecting to not be successful, but here I am now with a place, hotel booked and all set for a marathon expo at the very famous Templehof airfield, and a marathon threading its way through both (as was) West and East Berlin.  It is flat too so, yeah, time to pick the pace up!  Oh, and she does think I am bonkers!
And in between?  June sees my first Ultra, running Endure 24 (24 hours around a 5 mile, woodland, trail lap) as a solo runner, rather than the team of eight that I ran for this year.  Plus, a new challenge...a self designed/ planned approx. 63-65 one day Ultra leaving our development north of Basingstoke ("B") and running with the equally bonkers Ben Eason (SPR's Training Sec and all round awesome bloke / runner) across Hampshire to finish on Bournemouth ("B") pier followed by fish and chips at Harry Ramsden's.  Hmm, there are no official aid stations so the plan is to map out big supermarkets and make use of all their facilities. This is The B2B, and is scheduled for early August...and, with the holiday traffic, we'll probably get to Bournemouth faster than the holiday makers.
Can't wait for all that next year but first comes Xmas and the New Year with family, friends and my cadre of running shoes, on road training and off road doing trails and cross country races for SPR (Southern Cross Country League) and others like today's Muddy Welly 10k Trail and January's Cliveden 6m XC with its infamous set of steps.  Bring it all on!  UltraBonkers to the max! :)