Being me nowadays isn't easy. I can barely remember yesterday, let alone a whole year. Here is a concise review of what I got up to in 2016. I've had to look at the Runbritain website to remind me!
It started off a bit mad really. I had decided to get up really early and cycle to Queen Elizabeth Country Park for the parkrun which started at 10.30. It was a 26 mile bike ride on my mountain bike. It was muddy and hard going down Butser hill with all those holes all over the place. I didn't even get lost! I made it with plenty of time but my legs felt heavy for some reason! I saw the founder of parkrun there to along with Dave Williams formerly of Pompey Joggers. I think Kiernan was race directing. Someone I would get to meet better later in the year.
It was bloody hilly and very muddy! I poor legs struggled on the mud. I was wearing road shoes and sliding everywhere. I was too scared to even run downhill. It is still my slowest ever parkrun of 32 minutes but what an experience. After eating a large brekkie it was time to cycle another 26 miles home in the pouring rain and strong winds. Never again!
The next day I did a comfortable 23 minute parkrun at Southampton. It made me appreciate the lovely tarmac and lack of hills. I only did one other parkrun that month. I was training for a half marathon..
I did Netley parkrun with an uninspiring time and then Exeter Riverside parkrun. Exeter was good but quite a challenge with a muddy field and the wind on the way into the finish. The weirdest part was getting your barcode scanned. You had to take your token to this building and take your shoes off outside. Walk up and couple of flights of stairs and queue outside this room to get your token scanned. You entered a room where a lady would be sat with a scanner. It kinda reminded me of being summoned to the headmasters office at school.
The next day however, the real challenge happened. The Bodmin half marathon. Me, Mikey, Di and Larry decided to give this one ago. I think it was my idea actually. One day I hope to do all the Cornish Grandprix races. It was cold. We started running and it was boiling hot with the sun beating down upon us. Me and this other run stood on a hill taking off our base-layers and moaning about the heat. There were some hills! Very muddy hills and the only way to get up them was to pull yourself up by using branches from the nearby trees. I loved it, Mikey loved and Di and Larry hated it. I tried to get them to enter again but they aid something very offensive...
Wimborne 20. 3 laps with some hills thrown in. After doing Wimborne 10 with Rob Benham we both decided to enter this one and it would prove to be great training for Rob's London marathon! I was just happy to race and see what I could achieve. Rob smashed it obviously and I got 2.37 which I was very happy with. I wanted 8 minute miles and got under, so all good. A great race but the only thing that annoyed me was that there were no XL t-shirts even though I put down for one on my entry form. They clearly had no intention of printing any, maybe due to lack of demand. So I just got a large which was thrown in the bin. Still, a great race and good to see White Star running legend Andy Palmer cheering us into the finish,
I did a pretty impressive parkrun at Southampton and ran a time of 20.18. More impressively getting a PB the next day at Eastleigh 10k with a time of 41.15. This would sadly be my only PB of the year. I was quite shocked to get this PB and really wasn't expecting it.
A slow Winchester parkrun was done and then a speedy 20.10 at Lee-on-the-solent parkrun the weekend after. The weekend after that was a slow-ish parkrun at Fareham. It was great to see all these new parkruns popping all over the place. Always very friendly and great fun. Straight after Fareham parkrun I hopped on the train to Plymouth.
The next day I ran the Plymouth half marathon. I put in all my effort and was a bit disappointed with my time. I knew I was struggling with the weight and training hadn't been great. It may have been a hilly course with a brutal uphill finish but it's a great race. I had been meaning to enter this race year after year but it always sold out! 95.42 was my time and I went on a pub crawl drinking diet cokes all night the day before!
A 22 minute parkrun at Netley and then the Southampton half marathon the next day. It was quite exciting to be running a race in your home town. It was a big event (almost as big as Plymouth) and the crowds were wonderful. I had to do better than Plymouth didn't I? Well, for the first 5 miles I thought I might even be on for a PB! Thing is, this race had tricked me. The first half was easy going and the second half seemed hilly and I was feeling destroyed at only mile 8. I pushed hard though and dug real deep. This was real suffering. 92.05 was my finishing time. A long way off a PB but I was more than happy with my efforts. I felt like I gave it everything. The cider went down nicely as I watched the rest of the runners coming in. I was getting fit again... maybe. .
The very end of April saw me jumping on a train to Fareham and getting picked up by Jeff Scarle. We were off to Wickham ito run the Wickham Whistler. An Event organised by Kiernan that I mentioned earlier. They were such a lovely bunch of down to earth people and very funny and quick witted with it. It was a simple idea really. Run 3.5 miles of the Meon Valley railway line and get a lovely medal with some great support thrown in. In fact, you could run for the whole 12 hours if you wanted! Well, me and Jeff managed a 28 mile marathon and Carlo from Hedge End runners kept on going. What a machine. I thought I might be on for another PB but a few toilet stops put an end to that one after only 7 miles. The best thing is that it's so cheap and you can stop whenever you like or push yourself to the limits. I would also see Dave Williams again and meet a few other runners like Robert Bryan of Winchester AC who was sadly injured at the time and Chris Maple.
May would see me heading back to Fareham parkrun and trying to run a sub 20. It never came but I was happy with a course PB of 20.10 there.
The week after would see my favourite event of the year and the best race in the world... but wait... Southwick parkrun first at 9am and then it begins..
The Bratton hilly 11.4K race. Bacon and egg roll and coffee and then race at 11am. I found this race back in 2012 and love it so much. The first mile is all uphill. You can see for miles across the Wiltshire countryside as you race onto a gravel track and past farmland. I am so excited and running as fast as I can. Will I get a course PB, will I finish in the top 20 this year?
A lovely little village 7 miles from Westbury. This race is led by Avon Valley runners, It's been going for years but this year I thought I woud bring Larry and Mikey along. Would they share my love and enthusiasm for this race? Would I still enjoy it year after year?
Simply Yes! Ask them, this is the best race ever. If you only do one race next year, do this one. Yes, it's hilly but it's incredible and varied. I smashed a minute off my course time. I think this is probably my biggest achievement running wise for 2016. Happy days :)
My fitness was at its peak and I ran a 20,30 parkrun and then it was time to go for that Marathon PB.
I got a free place at the Kent roadrunners marathon thanks to Neil Garton who volunteered there every year, or is it twice a year? Anyway, it was super tough. It was 21 laps of a cyclo-park. It was up and down. Glad it wasn't flat as the hills gave you something to look forward to! And seeing Neil cheer me on. I had 21 elastic bands to take off my wrist every time I completed a lap. Sounds easy right? I felt ok for about 15-18 miles and then it was getting harder to keep those sub 8 minute miles. I was slowly slipping into a very dark place inside my own mind and no-one could get me out. Thanks Neil..lol. The wrist bands never seemed to go down. Still 5 left!! I passed the 26.2 mark in about 3hrs 35 but the course was more like 27+ miles. I finished in 3,39. It was a great day though and the best bit was eating and chatting away to all the other runners and drinking a few beers. I even caught up with marathon legend Brian who had currently run about 1300 marathons. He can be quite hard to chat to at first but just mention Man. United and that'll do it..lol. Lovely guy really.
That marathon at the end of May had destroyed me. It was going to take a while to recover from. I also thought I had an umbilical hernia from the marathon. I went to the doctors and they told me it was just an infection and would clear up in a few weeks. All I did in June was run a few mediocre parkruns and jogged the 5 mile Beer race with my mate Rob Benham. It was still hard work though. I did want to push to hard and wanted to make sure I recovered well as I had some big plans coming up.
At the end of June I was off cycling around the U.K. The aim was to get to Dylan Thomas' boathouse from Southampton and raise money for Cancer research UK. It wasn't a direct route I choose though. I would be heading to Dorset, South Devon, most of the coast of Cornwall and up into North Devon, Somerset and then heading into Wales that way. It was an epic journey. On the first day is was raining heavily for 5 hours. My seat post had snapped and I had to cycle 10K standing up until I got into Wareham to get my bike fixed. I had also realised that I had packed way too much stuff to carry on my mountain bike and panniers! 85 miles for the first day was good but it was going to get very hilly in Devon. I kept at it but had a few foot pains after 4 days. I was already tired and feeling really bad. It had rained a lot and it getting me down a bit. It was nice to see friends in Plymouth and make the crossing on the Cremyl ferry to Cornwall. Right at the end of June I made it to Penrose parkrun near Helston. My legs were sore and tired but I managed 23 minutes on a newer flat course.
The cycling continued as I looped Cornwall staying at my friend's house in Camborne and doing a few more ferry crossings. I also stayed at my friend Craig's in St. Allen and caught up with my good friend Anishka in Quintrill downs. North Devon was kind of lonely as I didn't really know anyone there but it was lovely... and hilly again. At least the sun was out more now. I did Highbridge and Burnham parkrun in 22.50. Such a lovely course. One of the best I would say. Would love to do this one again. Beautiful and varied.
I travelled up to Somerset where I met up with an ultra running buddy I met at a race last year. His name is Nicolas Thick and he lives in Portishead. All the way there I was singing "Wandering Star" by Portishead but didn't really know the words. Was great to see a familiar face again as it seemed like ages since i'd seen a friend. He showed me around the bars of Portishead while we drank cider and he told me some fascinating stuff and knew the most random things. I loved the conversation and I was going to miss it! Nick warned me about Avonmouth being a bit of a dump. As soon as I got there, there were two burnt out cars in the subway. I'm glad it was really early in the morning. I passed the Spanner and Hammer he was talking about. At the time of him telling me, I was just really confused..lol. I crossed a big bridge over the water and was now in Gloucester but not for long as I could see the old Severn bridge.
I always thought you were in Wales as soon as you crossed the river Severn but you're only just getting to Chepstow. It wasn't long until I found the "Welcome to Wales" sign though. I took a picture and a group of cyclists passed. One of them stopped and asked if I was doing LeJog. I said "No, too short for me" and cockily winked and smiled. He laughed and caught his crew up. I messaged my friend Becci Starr in Newport and was glad to see her and John. They made me tea or was it coffee? and offered to do my washing. I nearly cried at their generosity. I was feeling quite weak and emotional at this point. I realised that I had cycles 65 miles with no food or water.
After Cardiff I was starting to urinate a lot and when I wasn't urinating I felt like I needed to urinate! I thought I had a kidney infection from dehydration and not drinking enough water. Maybe it was but another theory from my sports therapist is that I had a bladder infection from leaning over my bike so much. I was so painful when see massaged my swollen bladder. It was also later confirmed that I had an umbilical hernia. I probably shouldn't have done this bike ride but hey, it's for a good cause right? I even met someone in Plymouth who was having radiotherapy. She couldn't thank me enough and I felt very touched and determined after that.
Anyway, off to my cousin Phil's next in Ogmore-by-sea. What a lovely place. More sheep than people and right on the coast. He made me a family sized lasagne which I scoffed down when I wasn't going to the toilet for another wee. I was then travelling into the familiar grounds of Carmarthenshire where I spent a lot of my childhood in the summer holidays. I cycled up the hill to my old nan's house in Pensarn. I managed to find the exact house and all the wonderful memories came flooding back and the next thing you know.. i've burst into tears and i'm crying. My emotions were really pushed on this bike ride. I was constantly tired but had the desire and sometimes that is enough.
I was glad to get to my Auntie and Uncle's house in Banc-y-felen. I only has one more day to go to get to Laugharne and Dylan's boathouse. Now though, I kind of wanted to make 1000 miles on the trip. I decided to cycle into Pembrokshire and Tenby and then head back to the Boathouse in a loop. This was a hilly day but 60 odd miles felt easy now. Nothing to it and best of all. I could leave my panniers at my Auntie's house! I was free and flying. I got to the boathouse and drank coffee and ate some lunch. I had made it! I couldn't believe it was over. Even worse, I didn't want it to be over but the urinating was getting worse, plus the hernia was worrying me. I had raised over £1000 though and was very happy. My dad drove to Wales and picked me up. Everyone was calling me lazy for not cycling back but I just couldn't face that hill in Sidmouth again!
It was an incredible journey that took me about 15 days I think. I wrote a journal every night but often fell asleep while writing it. I may write a book one day as there is just too much mention about the experience. Thanks to all who sponsored, supported me and left messages of encouragement. Couldn't have done it without you!
I did a few parkruns after that but I had only run 5k a week. It was hard to run. My body was trying to recover and my normal 40 miles a week of running was no longer there. 5k's were hard! I did Woodhouse parkrun in Leeds which was a nice course and very friendly people. One of the oldest parkruns too.
I was still fucked! I did a few parkruns. Southampton, Netley and my 100th parkrun at Eastleigh. It was slow but I was so happy to have reached the milestone. Never thought it would happen and now I have the t-shirt (finally). Below is a photo of Patrick beating me at parkrun after running 3 miles with me. Nice sprint finish Patrick!
September with something completely different. I was going skateboarding around North Devon. At the time I didn't really know what I was getting myself into.
Just before my bike ride I had become a qualified skateboard instructor. I met some nice people on that course and Andy Norman was one of them. He lived in Barnstaple and was part of the older generation of skateboarders like myself.
I booked a hotel in Barnstaple but jumped off the train in Exeter to skate with my friend Simon Gillard first and then it was rest and an early night.
Andy and I met at the bus station pretty early and caught the bus to Appledore where we would be the others and begin our journey. Parks and Pubs was done twice a year. Once in September and once in April. There was a scheduled route and Andy was our leader. We left the Appledore mini ramp and skated along the coast. We ended up at someone's house for a can of beer at 9.00-9.30? Felt a bit weird drinking beer this early on a skateboard but what the hell. i had signed up for this now.
Onwards we went into places like Bideford and it's Wetherspoons, We skated Devonshire bowl for a bit but tragedy struck as Steve fell going down a hill and his bone came through his shin, We shut the road off and called an ambulance. I had never seen blood some thick before! We were too scared to take his sock off. We used one of my old t-shirts to wrap around the wound and try and stop the bleeding a bit. We made him as comfortable as we could. The ambulance crew gave him some strong stuff to make him laugh and then they had to pull his sock out from the open fracture.
Anyways, we soldiered on but it was a really sad thing to happen. My legs were aching a lot now too. It was quite rough along the Tarka trail and I hadn't really bought soft enough wheels.
By the time we got to Barnstaple we were about 17 miles in and my leg had cramped and really tightened. I was struggled but pushed through the pain. I was starting to feel a bit drunk now too!
Anyways, we made it all the way to Braunton and finished the day with another beer and a shot for our fallen hero Steve. What an epic adventure and a very long day! I was out injured for a while after that but obviously still managed a few slow parkruns. I should train a bit next time.
I also took photos at Overton 5 and the New Forest half where my friend Russ was running dressed as a Rhino for the "Save the Rhinos" charity. It was funny to watch him charging past runners and see their faces of disbelief as they were getting beaten.
I ran the Solent half. I was aiming for 8 minute miles/1hr 45. I ran it with my mate Paul Carpentar most of the way but he slowed on the last 5k or I sped up. It was also our mate Paddy's first half marathon and he smashed out a 1hr 33 and later admitted that he "Held back"!
I did a couple of parkruns at Southampton. One of them 20 minutes something and then I got a last minute place for Snowdonia marathon because poor Rachel was injured. So, I did some last minute marathon training with a 17 miler and went off and plodded out a 4hr 30 marathon or just under. Thankfully I had Angela to keep me company as I was already feeling it at 7 miles! She and the others had already ran a really fast marathon the week before too. Sarah W and Mike Bisson still smashed out incredible sub 3.30 times too!
Beautiful views and a great day overall. Not long after Mikey had finished, we walked back to the car and there was a man running in backwards! What a nutter! Thanks to Sarah Winstone who I stole this photo from ;) Oh yeah and after taking a year out to run the Lorsdhill 10 mile race, I was back in the club again. Thanks for taking me back Lordshill roadrunners.
Let's face it, my running wasn't really going well. I had no real goals and was struggling with weight and fitness but who says you still cant enjoy it? Poor Tony Rickman had injured his back and his Gosport number was up for grabs I didn't really want it to be honest but Rob Agar talked me round. Another slow half marathon at Gosport with a time of 1hr 40 but I was glad to to it. I think that is the only time that i've actually enjoyed that race. I pushed hard though but knew I wasn't in the great shape I was in earlier in the year. Still, I had targets for my comeback tour and I was achieving them. Next I would run Hayling 10. A time of 73 minutes. I was aiming for 7.30 pace, so all good there. I was starting to get the racing bug again and nothing could please me more. Also, I enjoyed the days out with the club and the great support. Especially from people like Kev Wilsher, Rob Agar, Ben Tavendale and Emily Smith. Always a pleasure to these people and many others and of course my old captain Jim.
A big thanks to Brian Davenport who was also a really big support when he was injured and took this the photo below at Hayling 10.
December was here already and I had been getting great support from everyone including Paul Johnson from Southampton AC who was cheering me on throughout the year at various races. He text me to ask what races I was doing and what he was doing. I totally surprised myself at Victory 5 with a time of 33.05. Not only was this a course PB for me but i was 2 seconds away from an all time PB. Dammit, if only i'd known! I was over the moon and on cloud nine for a while after that. I felt like a proper runner again and I wanted to get fast. Speedwork and hill sessions were to follow.
I did Poole parkrun for the first time in 20,25 and the next day raced the Christchurch Xmas 10k. It was tough and I think I really paid for that parkrun the day before. Just after two miles the pace was maintained but felt strained. I just snuck under 42 minutes though, so I was very pleased with this. I was running hard again but I still know that 16 stone runners don't get much faster than this. I'll have to lose some weight!
I then tried for one last sub 20 parkrun jsut before xmas and managed a 20.04. Not quite there but a Season's best for me. Things are definitely heading in the right direction for 2017.
Thanks for reading. Now to concentrate on 2017 and my goals for that. It's been a wonderful year and typing this is a great to remember it and look back at it all. See you all on the start line..........