Friday, 14 December 2012

Birmingham Black Country Half Marathon

July 02nd 2011

This is a linear race from Wolverhampton to Birmingham and the route is the tow path along-side some of the many canals in the area. It starts early for a race. This is due to the tow path only being a few feet wide. So, to avoid overcrowding the trail we are released in groups of around thirty at a time. Because of the numbers this results in runners coming in at the finish line over several hours. It makes for a great atmosphere. Visitors, shoppers and supporters in the city centre get to see the spectacle of sweaty and shattered people running or staggering past them while they sit at the canal side pubs having a cool and refreshing drink. This year as last year was very hot. Much of the route cuts through industrial areas with factories and warehouses built right up to the tow path edge. This increases the temperature by radiating the heat off the brick walls. Also this year there was no breeze which didn't help either. You would think that, because the route is so flat, that it would be good for a PB. But, either because of the heat, lack of a breeze or maybe because of the monotonous 'flat-ness' of the path, I never get a Half Marathon Personal Best. I'll keep trying.

Finish time 02:20:00ish.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Stratford Upon Avon and 10K

November 2010.
Julie arranged for us to have a weekend break to Stratford and of course to entice me there it incorporated a 10K.
We arrived at Long Marsden Airfield where the race was to take place. You couldn’t get any flatter than an airfield I suppose. Because it was so flat and open the icy cold wind was cutting. I can’t remember running a race that felt so cold but apparently it was only 3°C. My finishing time wasn't all that impressive for a flat race 52:48.
After the race we headed into Stratford to our hotel where I thawed out in the spa and steam room.
The next morning I was up early for a 4.5 mile 'Tourist' run and of course, I took my little indestructible Olympus camera with me to photograph the empty town before the crowds arrive.  It’s been a few years since we’ve visited Stratford and it’s nice to see that the restaurants have improved even if their prices haven’t.
All in all, a really nice weekend in a town oozing history.
Click my ugly mug to see the rest of our visit.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Birmingham Half Marathon 2010

My pal Graham entered the Birmingham Half Marathon but couldn't make it so I took on his number. This was the first time running this race and the atmosphere was fantastic. There were approximately 15,000 runners and somewhere in the region of 50,000 spectators. It was freezing cold so it was nice to see there was a DJ getting everybody moving to warm-up. Along the course were various supporters playing and singing different styles of music and songs. This is now a must for me to enter each year.
Finishing time 01:58:39

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Lanzarote September 2010

Map picture
We had a real nice couple of weeks break on the lovely island of Lanzarote. We took a couple of tours around the island which mainly involved volcanoes and lava flows.
I did get to run while there but I had to time it right. The heat was a little overpowering at times so it meant running early in the morning or late in the afternoon. About a mile behind where we were staying was a small, extinct volcano which I ran to and up a couple of times. The view was great if not a little barren as far as greenery is concerned. A little like my niece’s dinner plate.

Click to see the rest of our visit

DSC_6024 Stitch

Monday, 20 September 2010

Woodstock 12

Blenheim Palace Saturday 18th September 2010.

In June, some of my brothers and sisters bought Julie and I vouchers for a massage and spa day as a part of my 50th birthday present. Julie was looking at all the places where we could use the vouchers and one of them was in Banbury, Oxfordshire. With a little more researching she found that there is a twelve mile race held in nearby Woodstock in the grounds of the beautiful BlenDSC_5126 Stitchheim Palace. She entered me for the race and booked the hotel and spa day for the two of us. We had taken a tour of the house and grounds earlier in the year. I looked at the grounds and gardens on that visit and thought it might make a nice venue for the Euro-Runners to run the 1911 World Wide Festival Of Races. The race for me on this day was three laps of four miles all within the grounds which avoided roads and traffic. We couldn’t have chosen better weather. It was warm when the race started at 2:00pm and cooled down by the last lap. With it being three loops we passed water stations five times so I just took a gulp of water at each DSC_5550stop. I found the undulations quite difficult and with each lap I was dreading the uphill climbs more and more. On my third lap I was struggling for almost all of it and had to slow down. The winners flew past me at a great lick which gave me a little inspiration to speed up but not for long. I finished at 1:51:47 satisfied that I could not put any more energy into the finish because I had no energy left. I don’t know about the other runners out there. But, when I have enough left in me to put on a spurt at the finish I’m left feeling that maybe I didn’t run hard enough earlier in the race. Anyway, I really enjoyed the day and looked forward to the following day where I would get my massage and laze around for the rest of the day in the Steam Room, Sauna, Jacuzzi and swimming pool, Steam Room, Sauna, Jacuzzi and swimming pool, Steam Room, Sauna, Jacuzzi and swimming pool, Steam Room, Sauna, Jacuzzi and swimming pool. You get the idea.

Friday, 4 June 2010

We did It!

Saturday 29th May Graham and I successfully ran the fifty miles from Stone to Kinver in 10:57 and a bit to celebrate my 50th birthday at the end of June.

Four of us started at Stone at 07:11 a.m. Mark, Stewart Graham and myself. John, my brother-in-law came with us to take our video starting the run and then drive the car back to Kinver for Julie my wife to use it as the support vehicle. The plan was to run the first ten miles at around 9:30 minute miles and use these miles as a leveller to get us all to run as a group. From mile ten we would run at 9:30 minute miles for five 017minutes and walk for one minute all the way home stopping only to replenish our gels and water and for a little junk food  at mile 28. The temperature was cool and at first just a light rain.

Our first stop was at The Boat Inn in Penkeridge at mile 20. This was just to be a quick refuel stop but Stewart who had been running with a long term Achilles Tendon injury had to drop out. We were wet through and hung around a little too long at this point and got cold. It took quite some time to get warmed up again. Our next break was to be a food stop at mile 28 at the Fox & Anchor pub in Coven. I phoned ahead to Julie and we ordered chips for Mark and Graham and a burger for me. We would wash these down with cups of tea. We were also joined by Jill, Marks better half and his mom Kath. Mark would leave us here and travel back with Jill.

Graham and I then ran on through Wolverhampton. When we got to the Mermaid pub we realised that we were going to finish over a mile short of fifty. The Mermaid is a pub I’ve run to in the past on my long training days. So, we ran past the pub for .75 miles, turned around and ran back to it, then turned again and headed for home in the hope we would make the miles up.108

We carried on to Lower Penn where we were joined by my 61 year old brother-in-law Malcolm. He would stay with us to the end and clocked up over thirteen miles. This was twice the distance he had ever run before. At Bratch Locks we met with Jacqui, Grahams wife and his son Jack along with my wife Julie. Julie unloaded our supplies from her car into Jacquis and headed back to Kinver. Once we got to Stewpony bridge, Jacqui was in her running gear along with young Jack and they both joined us for the last 1.65 miles. Mark re-joined us at this point too and stayed with us to the finish.

The finish was brilliant. Many of our friends and family were waiting in the car park of the Vine pub. Like many others, Julie was tracking my GPS signal on my phone through Endomondo using a laptop in the car. She was able to tell everyone where we were at any moment and that we were approaching the end. The Vine pub lies on the canal with the tow path on the opposite bank. As we came through a gate on the path we could hear shouts and cheers from the opposite bank. There we could see a hoard of mad people waving and screaming and holding up banners. As Graham and I ran into the car park to the finish we were met by a zillion kids, most of them my nephews and nieces and great nephews and nieces holding up a banner they made.

We had a great time at the pub. I do remember being very hungry but for some reason I couldn’t eat for over an hour. I did manage a couple or three pints of local beer though. My little brother Richard asked why we didn’t do it for charity. I said it would have been difficult to raise sponsorship money for the other events I run for specific charities. So, without my knowing, he went around the pub with a glass and got people to donate money without yet knowing what charity I would choose. He came back with £82.56 which I thought was a tidy sum for spontaneous money parting. I donated it to the NSPCC which when I ticked the gift-aid button, it came to £105.00. Well done Richie.

Although my watch gave up the ghost just before the finish, Grahams didn’t. We started at 07:11 and finished at 18:06. We had around 1.5 hours of breaks which wasn’t scheduled for and in actual running/walking time, we averaged around ten minute miles all the way.

The gels that kept us going were SiS blackcurrant and Hammer Gels. I had plain water in my camel-back and kept reple

nishing a 500ml bottle on my hip with an electrolyte powder and water mixed by Julie at some of the stops. Along the way I ate the occasional power bar and a burger at mile 28.

The next day, Sunday, my feet were hurting to walk on especially down steps. Monday afternoon I had to go to work to do a late shift and felt fine. Tomorrow, Friday, I will be going for another run of around 15 miles I hope. I’ll see as I go. Neither one of us suffered blisters and from what we can tell, no long lasting injuries. I do think I might lose a couple of toenails though. I did that damage the week before though, running down hill at The Swift Half Marathon.

I quickly put a video together which really needs some more work doing on it. I’ll re-mix it at a later date when I get some more material from others that were there on the day.

Friday, 28 May 2010

50 at 50

Well it’s the night before the big one. I’m only going to make this a short one before going to bed. I will be joined by three pals tomorrow at the start. Graham and Stewart my two running pals that regularly feature in this blog and Mark who decided quite late that he will run the whole fifty with me. Mark ran the London Marathon this year and is the youngest in the group. Others will be joining me after mile 25. I will take as many photos and video as I can and put together a full blog page once I’ve recovered.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Cycling With Ben & His Bros

At six foot I’ve always felt I’m a pretty decent height for a bloke but my pal Ben is a twenty five year old fella two or three inches taller which gives me a little crick in the neck. Well, yesterday I met up with Ben and his two younger brothers Mike and Sam for a cycle trip from Kinver to Stourport, a distance of ten miles. These geezers were taller still. To avoid any neck strain I stood or sat several feet away from both of them. They rode to Kinver alo

ng the canal which was around four miles. I met them at the Vine pub and we cycled to Stourport from there. The canal and the river Stour run more or less parallel with each other for all of the journey. We cycled the canal tow path at a leisurely pace so we could take in the landscape and chat along the way. At mile nine we needed a pint and stopped off at a canal side pub just on the outskirts of Stourport. The beer was good but I was hungry – the young guys with me were starving. We rode on into the small town and looked for a suitable eating venue. We dropped into a nearby pub and I ordered a burger. These guys ordered the same but, for an extra quid they had an extra burger each. I remember those days – when I could eat a cow between two bread vans and have room for a pudding after. I struggled with my lonely burger, chips and token offering of salad.

We didn’t hang around too long at the pub. We got straight back on the bikes and rod bake to Kinver. This time we didn’t hang around. We made it back in an hour and five. Ben & co. went straight into the village to the local butchers while I prepared the BBQ, sauces and home made beer. When they arrived they brought locally made chorizo sausages, traditional sausages, spicy burgers and traditional burgers. Not one green thing in site! I flame grilled everything and they had no problem demolishing the lot. They

even put Buffalo Wing sauce and Reggae sauce on their chorizo sausage hot dogs – phew! These guys could eat for England.

I think we had a great time which took my mind off my 50 at 50 run less than two weeks away now. I’m a little apprehensive about it at the moment. My plantar faciitis  hasn’t completely cleared up and training hasn’t gone as best it could. I ran to work and back today in temperatures hotter than I’m comfortable with. I hope it’s not too hot on the day. I can cope with cold, snow, wind and rain but the heat will make it that much harder. Ben will be joining me at around mile eight from the end (mile forty two-ish) I tried to get Mike and Sam involved but I still don’t know how successful I was in recruiting them.

It’s the White Peak, Matlock Swift Half Marathon this weekend. I’ll be meeting up with Nigel (Running From The Reaper (the second podcast I started to listen to after Pheddippidations)) Drusy and Billy (geezer), Petra and hubby (first HM), Mark (who laughs at hills and spits at mountains) Iain (DevonIain) who puts more tri-miles on the clock than my car (you think I’m joking), Paul Abrale (AKA Run Yank Run) a soft speaking podcaster that’s easy on the ear on the longer runs.  A person that I’ve run with a couple of times now and is an absolute diamond – Steve Chopper, I’m hoping he’s ditched the pink tent he had last year (I need to introduce him to Decathlon).

Friday, 30 April 2010

50 Mile Reccy

I’ve been trying to get this reconnoitre done for a few weeks now. But, with one thing and another it’s not been possible until now. What I wanted to do was check out the route and terrain for my 50 mile for my 50th birthday run along the canals to my home village in Kinver. My pal Graham and I got the same day off work so at short notice we went for it. We were driven to Wolverhampton train station by the missus where we took our bikes on the train to Stoke-On-Trent. This was the nearest station to where the run would start from. We cycled the canal to Trentham where I thought the run would start (wrong – see later) then pressed start on the GPS to start counting the miles. The next town was Stone. Along the route the hedge cutters had been trimming down the bramble bushes that border the tow paths. I remember Nigel from the Running From The Reaper podcast mentioning he pierced one of his running shoes with one of these inch long thorns. At Stone, only five miles in, Graham discovers that he has two punctures, one in each tyre. We repair each puncture easily. But, when I came to inflate one of the tyres, I snapped the end of one of the valves off. No problem. We have spare inner tubes. Unfortunately, the inner tubes we had have the wrong type valves for Grahams bike. A chap we got talking to at the time said there was a bike shop just down the road. Graham ran to the shop only to find that it was shut. The owner was in Iceland and couldn’t get back to the UK because of the volcano eruption. Very kindly the bloke we met (Dave) gave Graham a lift into the next town where Gray was able to buy more inner tubes. We fitted them and got back on our way 2.5 hours later!

After we passed the ten mile mark we were hungry and stopped off at a pub for a pint and some food at Weston Bridge. When we left the pub I found a huge thorn sticking out of my brand new Kevlar front tyre.I decided not to risk it and changed the inner tube for a new gel filled tube. With a belly full of food it gave us the energy to get a wiggle on. We made several stops to photograph, video and make note of the various pubs and places for people to join or leave us on the day of the run. The tow path was terrible in parts to cycle.

Even with Grahams suspended mountain bike and our padded cycle shorts, the bumpy path gave us both sore backsides.

The rain then started and we had to get into wet gear. This was making things uncomfortable. It rained all the way to the half way village of Penkeridge where we stopped at The Boat pub for a cup of tea. For the last five miles I had been very uncomfortable around the ‘Family Jewels’ and feared the worse that I might have a blister down there from the saddle. Here at the pub I had the opportunity to fully investigate my nether regions only to find I had a tiny beetle down my shorts. I liberated him into a near by planter box. I was only too glad that it wasn’t a blister to be bothered about how he got down there.

The next stop was at Cross Green near Coven. I knew now that we were just outside Wolverhampton and didn’t have far to go. The rain came down quite hard from here on so I didn’t get the camera out again until I reached home when the missus got a hold of it and videoed me in the garage. The whole trip of 58 miles took ten hours. That was three hours longer than we accounted for. We knew we were going to make plenty of stops along the way and even expected that one of us may have a puncture. We didn’t expect three punctures or contemplate that to repair them would take nearly three hours.

It was a great day out despite the punctures, sore bottoms and the fact that we were soaked to the skin. It’s given us an insight of what we’re about to undertake. My training isn’t at the stage it should be. My plantar faciitis hasn’t all gone but I think I can suffer it. My wife has become an expert at strapping my foot up. What else came out of the reccy trip was that the original plan was 2.7 miles out. The new start for the run is from Stone, where Graham fixed his punctures.

MikeThe worst thing that’s happened to me recently was the sudden loss of my big brother Mike. The news came straight out of the blue and took us all by surprise. Over the past couple of weeks I was given the task of putting all the photographs of him together to play back at his wake and to make up the Order Of Service cards. The thing that affected me most was I that also had the job of putting together a playlist of his favourite music. There is something about music that gives me stronger memories than photographs. I won’t try to elaborate on that because I don’t know how I can explain it.

Two days after receiving the news of Mike I hear that a good friend and old school pal of mine, Karl had also passed away. He left behind two daughters that I had not seen for fifteen years. It was very emotional when I saw them both along with all their aunts and uncles and cousins, all of whom I hadn’t seen for several years.

If there is someone out there that you have been thinking of getting in touch with that you’ve not seen for a while. Do it now! Don’t leave it until it’s too late.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010


A few weeks ago my wife and I were wondering where to go for a city break for a few days. There were many places suggested but nothing decided on. Then one night out of complete boredom, I watched the film xXx with Vin Diesel. It was filmed mostly in Prague and had some serious architecture and scenery. So, that’s were I talked my wife in to going. We flew out on Sunday evening and arrived just in time to have a drink in the bar, collect some leaflets and then get some sleep. My intention was to get up early and have a run around the city. I regularly do this when staying somewhere for the first time. This Pragueway I get to know where the buses, trams and trains stop, where the shops are and I get to see some sights too.

I was out of bed and on the streets for around 06:30 and headed for the city. I thought that if I keep the river near by I wouldn’t get lost. That would probably have been a good idea if I kept to it. But I wondered off into the city and shopping areas and when I decided I should head back I had found myself lost. Just like a bloke though, I would not ask for directions. I kept running hoping to find the river. When I eventually did find it I was none the wiser. I still didn’t know where my hotPragueel was. At mile 14.5 I flagged down a taxi and got a lift back much to my wife’s amusement. I quickly got showered and we went for breakfast then we hit the streets for an eight mile walk around shops and restaurants. The streets are mostly cobbled and uneven and proved to be quite hard to run on. My right heel and ankle were giving me some grief all day. I did have a plan to do a short run in the park the next day but I decided to rest my foot, from running anyway.

Over the week we visited Prague Castle and the Zoo. We took the tram and then a coach to a beautiful town, Karlovy Vary, a spa town around 35 miles from the German border. I did manage to get another run in though. I ran through he park opposite the hotel. This was softer on the feet in parts even though the same cobbles were used to pave some of the paths through the park. Still it was a very nice run with great views of the city from up high on the hill. Here’s the route I took from the hotel to the palace and castle

Now back in the UK I ran a ten miler along the canal to avoid hard surfaces then ran a 5.5 miler today. I can still feel a little pain in my heel and the ache in my ankle seems to have subsided. Will keep an eye on the both of them.

Good news on the Ten In Ten challenge. I managed to shift 9lbs. Not the ten in ten weeks but I’m OK with that. Even though the challenge is over I’m still concentrating on losing more weight. If I can do the same again over the next ten weeks that will be eighteen less pounds I’ll have to carry on my 50 mile birthday run.