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! :)

Sunday, 26 October 2014


Today marked the end of my 2014 racing season of 22 events at the Fleet 10k with Debs and 4 other Sherfield Park Runners club members.  A nice, undulating two-lap triangular course (used for one lap as part of the Fleet half marathon each March) that had great PB potential...except that I have been unable to shift a sore throat and head cold for a week and a half.  Debs was VERY keen that I didn't run today, but I did with the promise that "I won't run too fast".  In the end I managed a reasonable, for me, half marathon style pace and landed a 51:15 at an average of 8:16 mins per mile. 

Not shabby, but not what I wanted....a PB better than my 49:07.  Wasn't to be, but I did it, enjoyed it and got another "gong".  A good day, especially with Debs getting her mojo back and really enjoying parkrun and this 10k this weekend.

Which gets me thinking.  What was I trying to do this year in my targets?  Actually, when I step back I am pleased with the way the year has gone.  In psychometric tests with work over the years a consistent trait is that I achieve with drive, bloody mindedness and a belief that I will achieve.  The problem, as such, is I don't celebrate success when it comes because I expect to do well.  So, please excuse me stopping for a second and being chuffed at how my three targets have turned out...5 mile, 10k and Half Marathon:

5 mile: To get below 40 mins. Down to 39:24 by 3:10 from 42:34
10k: To get below 50 mins. Down by 2:20 to 49:07 by way of an interesting 50:00!
Half-M: To get below 1:50:00.  Down by 3:20 to 1:48:31 at Edinburgh HM

So, I am happy at 2014 in an overall mix of pace, style, learnings and results.

So, what of 2015?  A mix of evolution and new challenges awaits after a winter of club cross country events and much training laying down my base.  I am still running every day and stand at 107 on this streak having got to 179 on my previous one in June before illness knock running on the head for 2-3 very frustrating weeks.  My new training plan has a weird concept of "rest days" as I build towards my big double act of running firsts:
April: Virgin Money London Marathon 2015 (my first marathon)
June: Endure 24 SOLO (my first ultra over 24 hours of 5 mile trail loops)

On the way there will still be 5k, 10k and Half Marathon races but with more specific selection to get quality over already in 4 HMs at Reading, Edinburgh, Bristol and Basingstoke.  Note:  I ALWAYS enter races early so I don't miss out, unlike some local runners who wait till the last minute and find races closed!  Targets are still developing for the new challenges but a couple that I am clear about already are 10k at sub 45 and Half-M at sub 1:45

All this training and the races and ambitions mean changes and sacrifices in 2015 to give time for the right amount of quality training, especially with the mileages I plan to do.  Since I was 15 I have almost continuously raced either radio controlled model cars or karts, racing karts with a great organisation called Club100 for the last 11 years.  I have hardly raced this year and really can't see me doing much at all next year which has come a quite a shock but what I must do to dedicate myself on my 2015 plans.

A time of change.  Really pleased with this year's progress now to lay down the hard yards/ miles to be ready for 2015's challenges.  Meanwhile, bring on the mud of cross country races!  ttfn, mark

Monday, 13 October 2014


Yesterday saw the first round of the Southern Cross Country League which has 22 running clubs and we, Sherfield Park Runners, joined this year to compete in 7 multi-terrain, 5 mile events held between October and March on a mixture of woodland trails and parkland sometimes with a little but more often a lot of mud!  The league has gone from strength to strength and now has approximately 400 runners at each event, with friendly competition and making sure every participant enjoys it.  

Races are held on a Sunday morning starting at 11.00am. Men and women compete in the same race with the first 5 men and first 3 women from each club scoring points. All abilities take part and the non-scorers from each club have a big effect on the results by getting ahead of scorers from other clubs, so every runner counts.
A, err THE, really good feature of the Southern Cross Country League is that the host club provides refreshments (read this as mainly cakes) at minimal cost after each event while the results are prepared and presented. Most venues are very family friendly, so whilst you run, friends and family can be enjoying themselves elsewhere in the parks before they cheer you in at the finish and then share the cakes with you.

So, with a slick and neatly created Women's team and a Men's team that was, eventually, strong but in the days leading up looked like a pub team with Dave Dee, Dozey, Beaky, Mick and Titch in the frame we set off.  Boy, were we "green"!  Lots of lessons learnt for future round like having the club sailbanner with us as a focal point, taking some warm clothes to the finish area rather than a cold walk back to race HQ (aka The Village Hall) and the biggie...if 400 runners are facing towards you then you are (a) at the front not the back and (b) facing the wrong direction!  But, great to see so many running friends and make new friendships.

Loved the day even if the first mile was at club "magic mile" pace.  Our Training Sec is all for "starting fast and hanging on" but this was barmy, so a little bit of throttling back saw me stay as an "overtaker" rather than being overtaken.  Enjoyed that!

Overall, a great event, with a really nice mixed 5.1 mile course except for a bummer of a 0.2mile finish up a hill!  Another lesson...don't bust a gut to pass a female runner as she is, in effect, in a separate race!  We did alright though for our first go...coming 16th overall of 22 teams.  Can't wait for Round 2 in November.

It was a beautiful running day on Sunday with a bit of mud and some muddy puddles.  BUT, tonight's run was just slog!  Get the legs going again, but in the rain, the dark, the cold it was all just banking miles and moving on. 

Shame I am going to miss out on our club "Hills Training" session but I am away with work.  Still, that was Day 94 tonight of my latest run streak (last one was 179 days that was stopped by illness in June) so chuffed with that...big 100 on Sunday, with parkrun #47 the day before so edging to that big 5-0! :)

ttfn, mark


Thursday, 2 October 2014


OK, so I knew that maths didn't work out well with 125,000 runners entered into the 2015 Virgin Money London Marathon ballot this April going for just 10,000 available places.  But, that didn't stop over 5 months of hope, anticipation and planning.

If you read my earlier blog, EVERYTHING WILL WORK OUT IN THE LONG RUN, you'll know my plans for 2015 events have taken a few knocks recently with date changes taking plans out of alignment.

Well, the big disappointment came yesterday...not just for me but for some 114,999 others with just 10,000 entrants going "woo hoo!!". Rather than a natty "You're In" magazine, I got the one I really, really didn't want to get. The one saying "Sorry" with the yellow costumed runner...the pesky yellow costumed runner who I have come, overnight to hate vehemently as the personification of my disappointment.

Yes, I know, the maths didn't work!
Yes, I know, I shouldn't have been surprised!
Yes, I know, I shouldn't have been as excited and anticipated a positive outcome so much!

But, that..doesn'!!!

That's even with knowing that there are runners out there who have entered the London Marathon ballot since Noah thought the weather looked like a bit of precipitation. One runner I know well has got "Sorry!" in the ballot 13 times BUT has managed to run the event 6 times through one competition win, two entries through the old rules of 5 rejections leading to a guaranteed place, and also three times running in charity places. But, never through the ballot

So, what's next? Plan B, it is! Our brilliant running club, Sherfield Park Runners, is registered with UK Athletics / england athletics and through the UKA/ea "British Running Club Entries" scheme should get two places allocated in VMLM2015 as the club's membership is now up over 70 registered members. This will all come clear in the next 6 weeks. Our Committee thought ahead in May and devised our first set of selection criteria for use in 2015 and sustainably thereafter in selecting which runners get those coveted places. The first is obvious - that a runner has to have entered and been unsuccessful in the ballot. Others, aligned with what other local running clubs use as their criteria, include what that individual has done for the club; raising sponsorship; running in the club colours in past events and at VMLM2015, etc. Cases are being developed and our selection will be made. Fingers are crossed for better luck in this stage!

There has been SPR success in the ballot though with, at least, two members getting the "You're In" pack and that is just absolutely fabulous news for them and the club. I hope to be working/ running through a marathon training plan with one of them who I already run a lot with anyway. That reminds me, better go and set up Friday's pre-dawn run (I was also out at 0540 this morning - funny how I didn't see any other runners!!!).

ttfn, Mark

Tuesday, 23 September 2014


Bristol is a lovely, historic place and both Debs and I have strong connections with the City and, although we both (separately) moved away some years ago, we both have family there and lots of personal history. Bristolians turn out in force to support the half marathon in their special way, as the route winds around the historic centre taking in The Clifton Suspension Bridge (twice) and the SS Great Britain, both built by a hero of mine – Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Last year’s BHM was quite traumatic as Debs lost her Mum to a stroke just 2 weeks before and, understandably, had to withdraw. This year she was back on a mission, running in memory of Judy and raising over £700 for the small stroke charity This was started by Kate Allatt following on from her book Running Free: Breaking Out from Locked-in Syndrome.  Debs will shortly blog about her day here, and, having been ill for a few weeks, with her training was limited to about 6-8 miles a/WEEK over the past weeks even starting was a source of great pride.

We all know that folks have lots of pre-event rituals and I’ve adopted many, such as:
  • Making sure I get a seat on the daily commute to London – FAIL, on 3 days out of 4!
  • Not drinking alcohol in the week before – managed that
  • Lots of rolling and stretching – FAIL, did plenty but not enough and my constant niggly “knot” in my left hamstring just wouldn’t budge
  • Having an “easy day” the day before – FAIL, but for a good reason as I did a Basingstoke, High Wycombe, Birmingham to Bristol loop taking my daughter off to Brum UNI to study History.

Race-eve became a shopping trip as Debs forgot her running shoes...kind of important for a half-marathon but luckily we found a good shop and she left armed with some new treads that had a hour or two of walking to break them.

Back to race prep. I hadn’t felt good all week with some sort of random bug and temperature, with legs like concrete, so not at my most confident. However, a couple of miles round Queen Square and lots of stretching seemed to improve things.

Race day dawned very sunny but, thankfully, without the horrid humidity of the days before. Race Village was only 5 mins walk away which makes a change. Debs was pretty emotional already as she headed off to the other start pens, and it was great to bump into runners from Hatch Warren Runners, another local running club, and Ian from our club about to take on his first HM. Blue pen for me, second back, and eeeeeek! Lots of talk of race paces a bit over 7 mins miles. Rats! My gameplan was around 8s with “plan A” being to spot the 1:45 pacemaker and hang on. Biiiiiig problem as soon as we started – the pacemakers were invisible, seemed to be just wearing an orange run shirt! No balloons, flags or whatever, so useless unless you happened to be next to them!

Pacing worked for first 3-4 miles but then slipped a little at a time as I leaked 10-20 secs a miles over mid race. Last year, for my 1:52, I drifted off in the last 3 miles so I needed to improve that. My 1:45 target was parked for another day so it became all about course PB and I was taking about 10 secs a mile out of that. So, good and positive, as was the great Bristolian support and welcome.

Locals were superb with great shouts. “...looking good moi luvver” or “...yer nearly there, darlin” or “...there be no hills in this areal” but I wasn’t so chuffed about “...keep going funny man!” until realising that was aimed at a Smurf running behind me! Over the miles I got bored of “c’mon Smurf!” so mile 8 saw a quick sprint to escape his sweaty, blue faced presence!  

A lap of Queen Square fell at 9.5 miles and the place was brilliant, excellent support, hot air balloons and a mass drum group...really gave me a boost in spirits and pace. More on this later.

There are a couple of “cheeky” hills late on which were dealt with fine then a tricky ¼ mile of cobbles which messed with my mind last year but were far better this year when treated more like a trail run. Final loop round the centre, 13 miles then the home burst, not quite catching Batman and Robin, and done in 1:49:17 so well inside last year’s course PB and only my second sub-1:50. Happy days!

Just after the finish a girl came over and said “thanks for that” leaving me bemused. She explained “ shot past me at the drum band in Queen Square and I thought that you were going OK so I sat in behind you all the way back” Didn’t know I’d become a pacemaker!

Overall, a great day for the Sherfield Park Runners. My course PB, Ian starting fast and hanging on to his maiden HM time of 2:07 and Debs digging really deep, on almost no training, to run all the way round to a 2:24. Fantastic! Already planning on running the Bristol HM again on 13th September 2015 and hope to bring more folks from the club.

Ttfn, Mark
*”Correct way to speak Bristol”

Thursday, 18 September 2014


I like to make plans, I like to know what I'm going to be doing, with running this has been pretty simple up to now. 

Races were simple to find, to enter and a race calendar forms pretty early on. With my desire to get into races early, closely aligned with my natural desire to board an aircraft first (but that's another story!), I do end up with some good race numbers...the best has been "1" at May's Marlow 10k Trail. But whilst 5Ks, 10Ks, Half Marathons and Trails have been easy to knit together in 2014's plan the new plan for 2015 going longer via marathon into ultras is proving really pretty darned tricky! 

The plan has been formulating around 5 blocks that would have taken me to mid-August:
  1. Lay down the base over the winter, and a great guy from the running club is helping me plan that  
  2. A spring marathon - hopefully the VMLM2015 although there is a back-up plan but not so good on timing or being quite the event of London. Supported our club's runners in London this year and it was a key inspiration in my new challenges for 2015
  3. Edinburgh Running Festival in May...I am now entered in three events that weekend and will decide on what the mix is to be
  4. Endure24 in June as a first ultra
  5. Followed in August by its sister race, Ultra12. Now, it starts going awry!

I will find out soon whether I have been successful in the VMLM15 public ballot or whether I am lucky enough to get one of our club places through UK Athletics.

Endure24 will be 2 weeks earlier next year so there's only 2 weeks from Edinburgh to Endure, so that impacts my choices at EDI.

I was going to enter Ultra12 today as it fitted neatly in August and I booked a holiday in July to fall between Endure24 and Ultra12. Buuuuuuut, in 2015 Ultra12 has moved earlier and is 18-19 July so smack bang in the middle of my holiday! Rats!

So, I've started my search for alternatives and found that spotting the right ultra is really hard as there are far fewer events without a lot of travel. I'm being helped in this by a really experienced ultra runner who I have been introduced to by our mutual, wonderful sports therapist / physio. She's come up with all sorts of events and some super race reports which are building my knowledge. 

Then, bingo! When reading Trail Running magazine I spot an advert for the Cotswold Challenge, a 100 miler across the Cotswolds in 4 days in August 2015 finishing outside Bath Abbey. Perfect. Or, maybe not. Back home, onto laptop, fire up the website and... somehow the Cotswold Challenge has moved from August to 5-8 June which is no flippen use at all!!!!

The search continues and I still have the most variable race calendar with so many potential combinations that I'm befuddled. Oh well, better go out and build that base then. Never know when I'll need it.

ttfn, mark


A little about me, without the complexities of Google+

A 52 year old Dad with two daughters at UNI, a kart racing motorsport nut and now a runner, going longer and off into Marathons and Ultras in 2015. 

A management consultant working long, pretty stressful hours and living in North Hants. 

Also, entirely against expectation, I am the Chairman of a running club  that my partner, Debs, and I started in April 2013. 

Oh, and did I say I run?  And that I run every day?

Monday, 15 September 2014


In lots of what I do in life, especially the bonkers stuff, I draw on combinations of some influential and inspirational people.  There are historical ones such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel who I admire for his ground breaking work and sheer drive and “can do” approach.  Then contemporary key ones that fall into two categories:

First family:
My Dad, a still active 93 year old living in his own bungalow and mentally as “sharp as a pin”, whilst having angina and heart attacks since he was 68!  Years before being a production director in the automotive industry he spent 5 years as a prisoner of war, primarily in Stalag 8B in Lamsdorf in Poland.  He escaped three times, eventually successfully and making his own way across Europe to hitch a lift back to blighty in the back of a Lancaster bomber, from France to be greeted by a WAAF with a DDT spray!

My two teenage, UNI attending daughters who are a daily source of pride, with my youngest being the artist behind this portrait of Dad.

And, my partner Debs, who has brought a whole new life and amazingly selfless levels of support in all my bonkers stuff (bar getting her wellies muddy at Endure24!)

Then, running related, including:
My running club (Sherfield Park Runners) and its great and growing membership from who I have drawn so much energy.  Some have had profound effect on me in many ways.

The SPR runners at VLM2014 where Debs and I went to support 5 club members and had an emotional and life changing day.  I had always said “... I’m not going to run a marathon” whist secretly watching and learning from their prep during the early months of 2014.  So, my first marathon is due in spring 2015, hopefully in London.

Gary Turner, 13 times World Champion in various fight formats, and now an evidence based hypnotherapist, weight and nutrition guru and an ultra runner with his two huskies.

And, Ira Rainey and his book “Fat Man To Green Man” about his path to his first Ultra that just grabbed and inspired me in my holiday reading some weeks ago.

So, put all that with my bonkers approach to getting on in life and making things happen and you have my drive for new challenges developing into getting ready to run a first marathon quickly followed by a first ultra marathon and bonkers moves to ultrabonkers to reshape my life.  And, no doubt, the lives of my nearest and dearest!

Sunday, 14 September 2014


October 6th, 1984 was the day that led to me being told I'd never walk again, then after 5 months in plaster and on crutches, leaning to walk again. But now I run.

Why? I raced karts and had a double end-over-end flip crash landing on and smashing my left ankle. The injury seemed quite straightforward but after a month the consultant realised I had damaged the blood supply to my foot meaning my toenails weren’t growing and, more importantly, the breaks weren’t healing. Many tests followed but all that could be done was wait and hope.  Amazingly, my body fixed itself by re-creating the fine blood supply and I eventually came out of plaster ... missing out the “walking plaster” stage as I was already (without permission) walking on the existing cast and, err, riding a bike! Just the sort of bonkers thing I do!

So, walking ... things changed from “ should be able to keep your foot but not walk on it” to “’ll need to learn to walk again” (for which I was given absolutely no help by the hospital!). I taught myself. I fell over a lot but got mobile again but it took me months to be able to walk down a flight of stairs facing forward. Now the mantra was “ mustn’t run, ever!”.  So I didn’t for far too many years as I was so pleased to be able to have a foot and to be able to walk.  I followed the warnings for some 28 years, and what a waste of running time that was.

The catalyst for change was meeting my partner, Debs, in 2012 and as we coloured in the details of our past lives running came up (she’d run half marathons before) so we decided to start running together.  We did, and I entered us for the Fleet Half marathon just 4 months ahead to give us some focus.  Bonkers!

Away from running I am a 52 year old Dad with two daughters at UNI, a kart racing motorsport nut and a management consultant working long, pretty stressful hours and living in North Hants.  Now I am a runner too!  Also, entirely against expectation, I am the Chairman of a running club (Sherfield Park Runners) that Debs and I started in April 2013 ... but more of that in another post.

Over some upcoming posts I’ll take you through my inspirations; the running club; run streaks; and, into my training.

Training? Yes, this year has been based round 5 half marathons (Reading, Fleet, Edinburgh, Bristol and Basingstoke), lots of 10Ks and 5Ks (love parkrun in Basingstoke and as a “tourist”) and various trails including in a team of 8 at this year’s fabulously wet and muddy Endure24 where my contribution was five, 5 mile laps.  I am constantly being told I am bonkers especially when I grab a new challenge, often coming from when someone says “ can’t” or “ are too old”.  This applies even more with my 2015 running plans ... a first marathon (planned to be VMLM2015) and straight on to do Endure24 again BUT this time as a SOLO as my first Ultra Marathon!

My summer reading has been Ultra marathon books from Ira Rainey, Dean Karnazes, Chris MacDougall and Byron Powell, and tapping into some great Ultra marathon groups for info.