I'm currently training for the Brighton Marathon on April 18th, and raising some money for Water Aid in the process. This blog is my diary of the ups and downs of my training over the past few months.

I hope that you'll stick around, and please sponsor me! It's a genuinely great cause, and any encouragement and support I can get will be invaluable in keeping me going through this last stretch of training and on the day itself.

FINISHED I managed to finish the race. Thanks a lot to everyone who supported me through it.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010


The crowds and the support in Brighton were amazing, the whole city seemed behind the race in such a massive way. I'm sure it can't be that good at most marathons. The Water Aid cheering points were awesome too.

So thanks very much to everyone who came out to support me on the day, and everyone who's sponsored me (so far) and supported me throughout the past few months. Specialbig thanks to my family, and to Pat for being with me the whole way and looking after me before and after the run : )


Okay I don't actually expect anyone to read this, but feel free...

On sunday I made it through the Brighton Marathon.

Pat and I had travelled down the afternoon before, and, suitably breakfasted, we joined the early-morning stream of runners making it's way up to Preston Park. We met Joe and Emily & Seth amidst the tents and toilet queues, and had a while to chat before the start. Wandered up to the Charity Village and had a look for the (absent) Water Aid desk. Plenty of time to apply sun cream, which was definitely a good idea. No nerves really. I stripped down to my vest and shorts.

I took my place in the 'Pink Start Corral' (as determined by the predicted finish time each runner was asked to predict upon race entry), right next to the geezer dressed as a pair of big hairy balls. It seemed a bit more serious now. I wasn't sure how far my ankle would allow me to travel, so was determined to take it very steady and not bugger it up too much too quickly. A brief lull in the pounding music in which the gun sounded, and the front runners were off, way out of sight to the south. I still had time to run off for one last piddle, and twelve minutes later I was off, plodding slowly down through the Park. Other runners began whizzing past me from the start, but I fought to resist being carried along with them.

At the last minute I'd decided to run wearing an ankle support that I'd picked up the day before to give me a bit more support before the race. It really seemed to help while walking and sitting around, so I thought I'd try it in the run itself. Completely untested, it was a bit of a risky move. However, as soon as I set off, my foot was painful. Instead of the tendon in the top of my ankle though, this was hurting the bottom of my heel and the body of my foot. It must've just been changing the way my foot fell slightly (as the fabric was fairly thick), and putting some new and unwelcome strain on it. Every fall of my right foot hurt like hell, so a few hundred metres in I stopped at the kerbside to take the thing off. The pain then reverted straight back to my troublesome tendon. I was far more fearful of the latter, knowing how quickly it had stopped me in my tracks the last time I'd run. So, as I finished the lap of the park, I stopped where Pat & co. were waiting to see me pass and put the support back on. I'd chosen my option, and now I was properly on my way.

Throughout the first 10 miles my optimism undulated. Each time I began to think I'd be able to make it, I'd speed up a bit only for the pain in my foot to suddenly intensify, so I'd slow back down to a plod and return to doubting I'd last until the next mile marker. So I carried on like this, always focussing on the next landmark.

I wasn't really taking a lot of notice of what was going on around me in the early miles, I was so preoccupied by my foot. I chatted to one of the Water Aid toilets briefly. A woman running up ahead was suddenly startled by the ringing phone in her pocket. In her fumble to answer it, she dropped it on the road and had to pause to retrieve it, then answered on the move: 'Yeah where are you? I'm just going past the Bat & Ball'.

The crowds were amazing; an unbelievable amount of people had come out to watch, lining the roads and shouting throughout almost the entire course. Apparently 80 000 spectators turned up, double the expected number. The blazing sun helped a lot, no doubt. It was only as the course headed out past the Marina after 6 or 7 miles that it began to get a bit quieter. By this point I was way down the field. Part of me was frustrated that I was still being passed by scores of runners I knew I was fitter and faster than, and thought 'It's fine, I'll just pick it up and catch 'em all in the second half'. But the other part of me knew I'd have to keep it steady if I wanted to finish the race.

I passed halfway in about 2:27, and still thought I could put in a 2 hr second half. At this point the course came back past the pier, where the crowds were at their most massive and loudest. This is also where Pat and a few friends were placed to cheer me past, and this carried me on, and I began to pass people. As the course swung up onto Hove's Grand Avenue, a whisper of the need for a toilet stop began to grow. There were portaloos at every water stop, and queues at all of them. I really didn't want to commit to this timewasting, so decided I could carry on and ignore it. I'd underestimated the length of Grand Avenue. Lined with trees and filled with a river of runners as far as I could see, it reminded me of the Champs Elysees in the Paris Marathon. On the way back along it, around mile 17, I reluctantly had to commit to that pitstop.

For the past few miles I'd been more bothered by the need for that loo break than by my foot, but as I sped up to make up some time and places, I was a bit surprised by how forcefully the pain in my heel was coming through. I was really staggering now, and couldn't even keep up with the slow runners. I focussed my thought on Shoreham Power Station at about 21-22, the furthest point on the course, thinking that if I could make it there, I'd be alright because I'd be on the way back. But it hurt a lot. I was tempted to stop to remove the strap again, but I had the strong feeling that it was the only thing holding my ankle together.

The power station was really weird; bleak and horrible. There was one entertainment point there where a voice from a hidden DJ shouted encouragement, and told us that Fatboy Slim was only a little way ahead. 'How did I end up behind Fatboy Slim?' The most frustrating thing, I think, was that I couldn't even keep up with the walk-and-runners. I overtook the same walking people repeatedly, only to be overtaken by them a couple of minutes later as they'd started running again, and my limping, grimacing gait wasn't fast enough to keep up. I knew that I couldn't let myself walk though, that was the most important thing. I knew I wouldn't feel I could say I'd 'run a marathon' if I'd walked so much as a step. I did take the ankle strap off again towards the end, only to quickly put it back on again. These little stops did however mean I had to pass Norman Cook and his accompanying chorus of 'Go on Norm!' three times.

Running the last couple of miles, I knew Pat would be positioned near the end, so I'd only have a short distance to go after that. The noise from the crowd grew more and more deafening in the last mile, and I broke in to a bit of a proper run again on the home straight. The 0.2 miles after the 26 seemed like nothing. I made it across the line in a couple of seconds' space to myself, with a chip time of 04:53:54. Pat had managed to sneak into the Charity Village area at the end, and found me staggering around laden with my bags, a medal, a T-shirt and a banana. I met the rest of my posse and went for fish and chips on the beach.

About an hour slower than I'd always been hoping for and expecting, but I was immensely pleased to get around at all. And I didn't walk any of it. Looks like I'll have to do another one, although I don't think I'd do it again unless completely injury-free. I couldn't put any weight on my right heel for a day or so after the race, but that's already faded a lot.

Thursday, 15 April 2010


Three days to go. Forecast down in Brighton is dry and sunny, max day temp 13 C, with a measly 3 mph wind, according to BBC. That sounds pretty good, not hot, not raining or windy. Although it'd be better if it were overcast.

Zero running this week, as I ran half a mile on saturday only to feel pain coming back into my ankle. I called it a day straight away, and decided that I wouldn't run another yard before sunday: give it as much time to get strong as possible. And besides, if the ankle is going to give me real trouble on the day, I'd rather not know about it in advance. So I've been avoiding walking wherever possible.

Had my last dose of ultrasound today. Knee and ankle. My physio confirmed what I'd already been pursuing as my route to success this week: 'No walking, no driving, lots of ice, lots of painkillers. And fingers crossed'.

Thursday, 8 April 2010


I got my Water Aid vest through a little while back, and my race number made an appearance a few days ago. Colourful huh? A good, solid 4-digit number, I'm satisfied with that. So above is an artist's impression of what I'll look like on the day. The fetching pink corresponds to the colour-coded starting gate that I shall be departing from (determined by the expected finishing time that I gave upon entry).

I'll be having a test-run in the vest sometime soon to analyse it for chafing and whatnot. I'll let you know the results.

Water Aid

Pics from wateraid.org

I've been looking through the info material that Water Aid sent out as part of my sponsorship, and cruising around on their website this morning. The work they do is pretty staggering. Living without clean water or sanitation would definitely not be cool. I'm actually very proud to have chosen to run for Water Aid (or rather, I will be when I finish the run...).

A lot of people have been kind enough to sponsor me so far, and to them I say BIG THANKS. If you haven't sponsored me yet, please do and please have a look online at where the dosh is going.

Here's a bit about projects in Malawi, where only 15 percent of the rural population have access to a latrine:


And there's a link to my online sponsorship page at the top of my blog.

Only 10 days to go now...

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Last long one

I arose at 6 o'clock yesterday morning for my last 'long run' before the marathon itself. I departed Pat's laden with a bottle of powerade, a couple of gels and a neatly clingfilmed bundle of jelly babies, determined to stay energised this time. Also tucked away in my pocket sat my specially constructed 5-section map [above], skilfully planned out to exactly 16 miles on good old Google E. I called on it a good few times as I ploughed down through north London to Westminster before a loop around the river.

I managed to restrain myself and plod along slowly, and felt good enough after 10-11 miles to pick up the pace a bit, only to head off in the wrong direction at Cambridge Circus and suddenly find myself running in confused, fatigue-assisted circles around Holborn before stumbling back onto my route through sheer luck.

I'd obviously sped up a bit too much though, and ended up walking the last mile home in my socks after tweaking my ankle. No problem though, just a day or so's rest and some ice.

Feeling really good after this. Staying fueled up, this distance feels easy. Just need to make sure I go off steady enough on the day not to burn out or pick up injuries half-way round.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010


I've been re-reading Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, and was struck by this little ode to leg joints:

'If you're a long distance runner who trains hard every day, your knees are your weak point. Every time your feet hit the ground when you run, it's a shock equivalent to three times your weight, and this repeats itself perhaps over ten thousand times a day. With the hard concrete surface of the road meeting this ridiculous amount of weight (granted, there's the cushioning of the shoes between them), your knees silently endure all this endless pounding. If you think of this (and I admit it's something I don't usually think about), it would seem strange if you didn't have a problem with your knees. You have to expect the knees to want to complain sometimes, to come up with a comment like, "Huffing and puffing down the road's all well and good, but how about paying attention to me every once in a while? Remember, if we go out on you, we can't be replaced."

'When was the last time I gave my knees any serious thought? As I was pondering this, I started to feel a little remorseful. They're absolutely right. You can replace your breath any number of times, but not your knees. These are the only ones I'll ever have, so I'd better take good care of them.'

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Ran 16 English miles this morn, through Ebley to Nailsworth then back to Eastington and home. I took one of those fancy sports gels with me, testing out a bit of mid-run refueling. I felt good as I squeezed the warmed-in-the-palm gel into my mouth halfway round, but it just wasn't enough. My leg muscles were well up for running further than 16, I wasn't out of breath, but for the last couple of miles I was just done for energy. Glycogen empty. I floated along a bit light-headed, fueled only by the memory of food, I think. Not having any water probably didn't help either.

I'm going to work on a cunning plan to transport sufficient sugary products around with me, and plus they'll have energy drinks at the water stations on the day anyway.

While I was running Dan Robinson (Britain's top male marathon runner) passed me. As I plodded and limped along, counting my footfalls and dodging terriers, he sped past like someone out of the Matrix. I carried on, watching him get rapidly smaller, his immaculate trainers barely stroking the ground. That's when I chomped my energy gel.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Tapering off...

On a more serious note, I'm feeling relatively good. I've upped my run load without too much discomfort to my knee, and I feel fit in general.

But, I got my latest email update from the Brighton Marathon organisers today, telling me (as is the generally held wisdom) that I should now be 'tapering off' my training, leaving me fresh and spritely come race morn.
'Last long runs no later than this coming Sunday' I am enthusiastically told. I should have my mileage safely on board by now. Umm...

This is probably the trickiest point for me now: getting the balance right between doing a few more distance runs so that I'm actually capable of running far enough, and avoiding further injuries from over-doing it and upping mileage too quickly, while leaving myself rested enough for the actual day.

My longest trip so far hit about 13 miles, on sunday, so I guess it's not too bad.

Another long one in the morning...

It'll be fine! : )

Last Supper

I've been eating relatively healthily recently anyway* (as is advisable) but a few days back I indulged in what I decided would be one last hideously unhealthy meal before the Mara, as Pat & I picked up a juicy bucket of chicken. I've got to say, the Colonel's magic is not so great after sitting for 20 mins in a warm car on the way home from the drive-through. And contrary to what you may hear, a Krushem is just a standard milkshake, and you probably will forget your first one.

As I've been gradually running further distances, I've found the idea of eating another helping of anything that can be obtained from a drive-through in the near future makes me feel a little bit sick.

*For example, only on one (special) occasion since mid-january has so much as a droplet of beer passed my lips.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Banged out a good 9 miles around North London a couple of days ago, and my knee held up fine so I'm actually feeling reasonably confident it'll make it. I'm recovering a lot quicker now too: 24hrs after a run like that and the pain's pretty much gone. I'll be walking up every hill I encounter between now and the Marathon.

I've come to terms with the fact that I'm not going to have done the amount of mileage that I'd desired/is necessary. I've just got to get a few really long runs in and make do.
Less than a month to go now : D.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Two visits to the physio this week, and I've now discovered/been told that my issue is most likely not a bursitis at all, but some tendon damage. So...a couple more exercises and stretches to do, and ultrasound once a week for a while. Had my first dose of that yesterday. Gonna try to gradually increase me ol' mileage a bit now. Hills are out though, and the physio suggested I stick to running on grass too. Awkward. But it's much lighter in the evenings now! It's good being able to still see the ground at six o'clock.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Going to see the physio tomorrow...

Friday, 5 March 2010

I've managed to run about 10 days out of the past fortnight, gradually worked up to about 45 min. Pretty pleased in general, although I'm still a way behind where I should be, obviously.

SUNNY DAYS this week. I couldn't remember the last time I'd run in the lovely sunshine. Tasty.

Into March now though. Not long to go...

Saturday, 20 February 2010

My two buddies

That's better.
Okay I definitely need some pictures on here. Hold on...

Inactive much

I would've been updating this more often if I actually had anything to report...

BUT I've just started running again the last couple of days, baby steps, a mile or two at a time. My knee's still giving me jip so I'm just taking it reeeeal steady.

The past 3 weeks have been pretty much exercise-less. Doing some leg exercises recommended to me buy the physio, munching too much ibuprofen, moaning, icing it.

I've had to bail out of the Brighton Half, which takes place tomorrow morn. I'm a bit gutted about that, especially as I was supposed to be running it with Chris, for the 3rd year running, but it would've been a really stupid idea. So good luck to him flying solo, and to Martin too.

So I've got [...counting...] 57 days to get Marathon-flavoured fit. No problem!

Friday, 5 February 2010

Bad timing

My x-ray showed no 'bonal abnormality'. And so the doctor eventually reached the grand summary: 'At the moment your knee's giving you jip.' Thanks for that.

Apparently I have a Prepatellar Bursitis: inflammation of the bursa (little joint cushion) over my kneecap. This quite possibly has nothing to do with running at all, and sometimes just comes along 'like a cold'. Running just makes it worse, and hurt a lot. There's no real way of remedying it, it seems, other than wait for it to go away, do a few leg stretchy things, ice it, take ibuprofen. This is quite crap. It doesn't even hurt. But if I run on it it'll probably get worse and won't repair. Frustrating, a lot.

It's nothing serious though, which is good : )

The Brighton Half is in 16 days, so I'm going to rest up a bit longer then see how it is and hopefully/maybe I'll still be able to run that. But mainly I just don't want to take any chances for the big marathon in April.

Thanks to everyone who has sponsored me so far!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

'I used to be able to draw diagrams on my notes...'

The doctor poked my knee a bit while I talked profusely about my ailment. He prescribed me some anti-inflammatories and instructed me to book myself in for an X-ray. He then spent 5 minutes complaining about computers and the digitising of medical records. Apparently, when a patient switches doctor's surgery, their records aren't transfered digitally, they're just printed off onto a stack of paper that no-one ever reads. So the overall Doc's conclusion was: a) things were better in the old days, and b) I don't know what's wrong with your knee.

X-ray tomorrow morning. No running for a bit, it seems. Swimming, maybe.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

What's up Doc?

I've managed a couple of 5 mile runs and a bit of a footy kickabout in the past week, but my knee's giving me some proper jip. It hurts when I walk, kneel, especially when I run, and especially after running. Headed out yesterday but I had to walk back home after about half a mile. Not cool.

My attempts at self-diagnosis were inconclusive: I found 10 different knee injuries on one running website, with solutions ranging from 'Jog it off' to 'Painful Surgery'. I'm pretty fed up with it to be honest. So I'm going to go see the Doctor later today. We'll see what he says.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Okay so I decided to take a couple of days off to rest my hurty knee, which I seem to have acquired while running around North London with G Ben just after NY. I ran for about a mile a few days back, then bailed because it hurt a lot. I'm really not up for making it loads worse, so a few lazydays seemed like the most sensible option. All in all, I've run about a mile in 6 days.

But today I'm gonna give it a go again, promise! I've got an old buddy driving up and he's keen for a jog. New shoes time.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Old shoes, new shoes.

These are my trusty old Mizuno running shoes. Though we've had our ups and downs- a few blisters and aching feet here and there- these old workhorses have served me very well over 2 years, 3 half marathons and a fair few miles in between. They've dodged ducks, deer, giant monitor lizards, cyclists and Tai Chi-ers, cows, dogs and cars, in 30 degrees+ heat, in sun, rain and snow on two continents...but now they're entering retirement as I've just picked up a shiny new pair of Nikes : ) .

So I did a quick painting of the old girls as a little thankyou to 'em (and because I wanted a picture to use on Facebook).

When I was shopping for these new badboys, the helpful chap in the running shop said that 'they should feel like slippers'. They do, so hopefully I'm on to a winner.

I really wasn't up for running today (and I think I'm starting to push my luck with the slippery pavements), but I did pop out for a few miles.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Braving the fresh drifts, I did set out this morning. Snowing finely throughout, but I plodded on for 8 or 9 miles. The main annoyance with running in snow, I've decided, is the way that the hollow in the bottom of the trainer's heel swiftly fills with a gigantic wad of compacted snow, protruding out from the sole in 'heaped spoonful' fashion. So it feels like having a big rock glued to the bottom of your trainer, and requires frequent shoe-scraping stops to rectify the matter. Reeeeeally annoying, and can't be good for your feet either.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010


I had a 'rest day'* today, anticipating a big 'un tomorrow morning. Unfortunately someone's ordered in 'Heavy Snow' again for the morning. Still, I will press on. But I'm a little undecided on whether to get out really early and try to beat as much of the apocalyptic blizzard as possible, or to wait til a little later when it's supposed to have cleared up a bit, but there'll be more on the ground. Classic Eskimo conundrum! Perhaps. Any advice from wiser folk?

*this is runner's slang for 'lazy day'

Monday, 11 January 2010

10 miles today, 85 minutes-ish, with a stretch through snowy fields. That was really good: complete silence apart from "scrunch-scrunch-scrunch" footfalls and the odd crow protesting about the cold. Battled through a fine snow/sleet (sneet?) shower on the way back, slipped once but managed to avoid hitting the deck.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Pounding Snow

Okay so when the Great White descended this week, I decided to have a day or two off, you know, wait for it all to melt and leave the pavements fresh and reborn... Well, due to the unexpected icy persistence, by saturday I'd realised I was going to have to set out into the snowy wild. The pavements around here were still a bit dodgy, so I scrambled up to the playing field and ran laps around the perimeter. Rather repetitive to be honest, but I pressed on as the snow began to fall again (listening to a bit of footy commentary on the radio), and returned home after 60-odd minutes and what must've been getting on for 20 laps.

By this morning the thaw was most definitely advancing, so I followed the roads, fitting in a stretch dodging dog-walkers along the partially-frozen canal. Great conditions to be out in really, still valuably peaceful but no longer bitter, moorhens sliding around on the iced-over water, a buzzard taking off overhead. It made me wish I'd gotten out more this week, for sure.

A rather pathetic running portfolio this week, but I'm feeling pretty strong and gliding along nicely when I'm out there. My left knee and left foot have been giving me stick for a fair while, but I'm going to ignore those for the present.

Below are a dodgy pic of me in wintry-run mode, and a snap of the first of the snow coming down on tuesday afternoon.


Hello. This blog will be my record of my training for the Brighton Marathon (& the Brighton Half Marathon) over the next few months. As well as keeping you all informed (assuming anyone actually reads this far) I hope that this will help keep me focused on the task at hand and help to keep me going.

I hope I can keep you interested enough to stick around, as I know I'll need all the support I can get, and hopefully I can persuade you to part with a few pennies for Water Aid in the process.

98 days to go...