Our Stories

Beginners Blog from a member of the Class of 2022

After attempting Couch to 5K on a couple of occasions and only getting to week two, I decided I needed motivation to get me running frequently. I found it too easy to make excuses to not run.

The Hungerford Hares beginners course gave me this. I was slightly nervous before going to the first session, but the Run Leader put us all at ease from the very start. Running with likeminded people of all ages and fitness levels. Everyone was welcoming and I really looked forward to our weekly run. In between sessions, a few of us would run together, repeating the run from the previous Tuesday.

The instructors are very understanding and don’t mind if you are slow. They keep encouraging you during the run.

I would highly recommend this course as a way into (or back into) running. I still run regularly with the Hungerford Hares and really enjoy the company and social events!

Running for charity with my dog during October 2022 to raise money for dementia.

Beginners – Hungerford Hares Running Club

Run Leaders – Hungerford Hares Running Club

Our Stories

Top 5’s to banish the ‘Blues’… or is it fiction?

The third Monday of a New Year, is known as ‘Blue Monday’. I must admit, this past week I have really lost my mojo, I have been blown over and soaked on my runs, I have a niggling injury and the holidays feel forever ago. However, in 2022, the BBC reported that it was potentially ‘a load of rubbish’ and argued that by giving the day a label, it made people thinking more negatively that they would have. I must admit that writing this blog post has perked me up, so I hope you enjoy reading!

To provide some positive vibes as we start the New Year, I have revived 5 top news stories from 2022, compiled a list of 5 winter and 5 spring local events to book onto in the coming months and shared our top 5 ‘motivational quotes’ for running!

2022 News Roundup

London Marathon never ceases to amaze

Photograph credit: Kirsty O’Connor, PA Wire.

World Records were broken in the 2022 TCS London Marathon, by amateurs and professionals alike. Fancy Dress records included fastest witch, scientist, six-person fruit box costume and standard (non racing) wheelchair, while Yalemzerf Yehualaw won the women’s elite race despite falling at mile 20. She carried on, breaking the record for the fastest mile in a marathon (4mins 43s) at mile 24, before winning with a time of in 2.17.26 .

Running together for a better planet

Photo: Runners handing over the baton at Kintbury Stores (Image source NWN).

Ramsbury, Kintbury and Newbury participated in the “Running out of time” world relay. A 7,767km route through 18 countries to raise awareness of Climate Change, with our local legs completed by runners covering approximately 10k each. Watch the video summarising the full event here bringing together people from all across the world.

Parkrun bounces back to near pre-pandemic attendance

Hungerford Hares at Grove Fields 2022 Christmas Eve Parkrun

Parkrun is for everyone, demonstrated by the launch of the ParkWalk initiative in October and Female worldwide Parkrun record smashed twice in December 2022 along with a reinvigorated attendance record for most events. If you fancy a perusal, Parkrun has a fantastic blog, so check out the News section of Parkrun’s website for more inspiration.

Need some inspiration to set yourself a charity challenge?

Gary McKee – Image Source A. Commins, Daily Mirror.

In 2022, this 53-year-old from Cumbria has gone through 22 pairs of trainers and has run 9563 miles in rain, snow and sunshine as he completes 365 marathons in 365 days raising £1m for Macmillan. So when you are training for your next long race, think of channelling his discipline, commitment and dedication – what a feat!

New Year, new you?

2022 Hares Beginners

As cheesy “New Year, new you” sounds, running has been proven to have physical and mental health benefits and in 2022 860,000 people logged a combined total of over 6 million runs using the free NHS Couch to 5k app! So if you are thinking of trying it out, you are far from alone.
Watch out for more information on the Hare’s Facebook page about our 2023 Beginners Programme!

Local Events

5 to get through Winter:

• 22nd January – Winchester Trail 14.5k/21k
• 5th Feb – The Lungbuster (Swindon) 9 miles
• 19th Feb – Winchester 10k
• 26th Feb – The Bowerhill Bomber (Melksham) 5k/10k
• 26th Feb – The Terminator (Pewsey) – 10 mile trail

5 to aim for in Spring:

• 18th March – New Forest 21k/14k/10k
• 2nd April – Reading Half Marathon
• 10th April – Mortimer (Reading) 10k trail & CaniX
• 29th April – Chieveley Chase 10k / Hurstbourne Tarrant 5 mile
• 29th May – Newbury 10k

Top 5 motivational running quotes to energise you in 2023

In at #1, this has got to be a firm favourite, and it is so true. Whether you are a keen bean or first timer, when you drag yourself out for that difficult run, it is a rewarding mantra:

“No matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everyone on the couch.”

#2 is all about the journey… which can be easy to forget when your focus is the goal…

“It’s not about the finish line, it is about enjoying the process of getting there.”

#3 Running is as much about mental strength as physical:

“Believe you can and you are halfway there.”

#4 Do things for you, not others. Stay curious and explore:

“Climb mountains, not so the world can see you, but so you can see the world.”

And finally #5, we all wish things happened a little faster… but remember…

“Good things take time, great things take a little longer and the fruit is even sweeter to taste at the end.”

I hope this blog post has got you looking forward to 2023. However, if you are finding positivity a bit tough right now, that is ok too.

At the Hungerford Hares we have several qualified Mental Health First Aiders that you can speak to, additionally, there are some further links that you may find helpful.

Wishing you an awesome 2023 and see you at the Club soon!


Helpful links:

Mental Health Foundation Tips Guide
Mind: support and information
The Samaritans, always on hand to listen, whenever you need to call, 24/7/365.
For those who like to understand the science: 2022 CoachMag article on Running and Mental Health

Our Stories



– “The little things can make such a difference”

By: Mandy Waldon

#REDjanuary (aka Run Every Day January) is a nationwide initiative that encourages people of all abilities to get active every day during January to beat the blues away. The #REDjanuary challenge is something I have seen many other runners complete over the years, but I was never brave enough to try …the fear of failure (of course) holding me back.

2020 was a year like no other we had ever known thanks to Covid-19, so I was thinking why not start 2021 with a challenge I had never tackled before? I decided that the minimum distance would be a mile, I wanted to be realistic and give myself the best chance of completing. I was not going to try and get sponsorship for the challenge but instead decided I would raise awareness of the amazing charity ‘Sport in Mind’ who #REDjanuary had partnered with this year for its official charity. The Hares had raised money for the charity a few years ago so I was aware of the fantastic work they were doing in supporting people through being active in sport with mental health issues.

So with this ethos in mind I decided I would try and run with as many different people as possible to provide opportunities to connect with club members, friends, family which felt even more important due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions we had been experiencing in our lives for the past nine months. I wanted to check in on people and give people a chance to check in with me …very simple. However I didn’t actually ‘sign up’ for #REDjanuary in my mind until Day 2….

Read on!

Day 1 New Year’s Day

6.67 miles

…I ran with my husband Chris, it was cold and frosty, a beautiful morning for a run and a chance to run on harder ground. No major after effects of a raucous NYE so felt really comfortable. Would I go public with my challenge? I needed another 24 hours to think about it!

Day 2

5.27 miles / 11.94 total

So I announced my plan on Facebook – it was now out there. I felt uncertainty and nervousness …would anyone want to run with me!?

I had a lovely run with Hilary in the extremely wet and muddy conditions! We discussed trail shoes, Hilary was about to get her first pair and the conditions were certainly appropriate… actually football boots may have been a better solution.

Day 3

4.74 miles / 16.68 total

Run with my sister Claire! A founder member of the Hungerford Hares Club, we had not run together for a very long time. Claire has pretty much given up running due to longstanding Achilles issues, but her workplace had organised a similar #REDjanuary challenge – not necessarily to run everyday but to do something active and she was definitely up for the challenge. It was great to run with her again.

Day 4 Solo Run – Reading

5.69 miles / 22.37 total

Looking back at this now it seems weird – I did a run in Reading near Prospect Park whilst my son Sid did football training. Wow this was just before the lockdown was announced. The last time really I have driven anywhere that far in recent months. I was chuffed with my pace – but a bit of a boring run along the A4 to Calcot and back. I remember how fast traffic was and reflected how lucky I was to live somewhere quieter.

Day 5 Solo run

3.37 miles / 25.74 total

Total Lockdown again

Day 6 Hill Reps and flying 30s with Geoff

4.65 miles / 30.39 total

Really good to see Geoff, it felt like it had been ages. We discussed my lack of motivation to do specific training such as hills/sprints so Geoff did what he always does best and made me motivated again with a commitment from me to try this once a week! Geoff is such a good coach, I cannot emphasise enough how his knowledge and coaching skills will improve your running… just need to open your mind to it.

Day 7 Run after work with my Twin Sis Nicky

4.41 miles / 34.8 total

It is lovely to have the option to do this, with my sister living near the hospital, obviously due to the new restrictions again and non-essential travel being banned this was still allowed. So important for family contact and I do feel grateful I could see her as I know so many people who have not been able to see family for far too long. Also it was nice to do a new route and someone else to lead!

Day 8

3.28 miles / 38.08 total

Run with Chris again my husband, one of the positives in lockdown has been this… no gym open and Chris working from home has made it happen.

Day 9

2.16 miles / 40.24 total

Run with Sid, my youngest son after lots of persuading, the thing is though once he is out he loves it! Went and had a look at the new houses being built… I miss already the natural landscape that I used to see coming through on the footpath from Priory road.

Day 10

11.35 miles / 51.59 total

so a run over to Kintbury to meet up with Victoria and a new route round a section of Kintbury that I hadn’t done, really nice to catch up with Victoria. Lots to discuss…. lots on self-care – the importance of getting out, family and staying connected.

Day 11

3.23 miles / 54.82 total

Solo on the common doing zig zag hills – a top tip from Geoff, one I will continue I hope – the best strength training for runners.

Day 12

4.82 miles / 59.64 total

My fastest run in January with my brother-in-law Phil. I would never have arranged a run with Phil if it wasn’t for the restrictions in place and of course my #REDjanuary challenge – so this was such a positive. Phil is a fast runner and it was good to push out of my comfort zone. Great to catch up with Phil and hear about my niece and nephew.

Day 13

5.73 miles / 65.37 total

Morning run with Moshe… ha,ha so Moshe chose the route and was looking for somewhere less muddy. Needless to say he could not have chosen a more muddy route! Managed not to fall over which was a bonus and good to check in with Moshe and hear how life in lockdown is for him and his family.

Day 14

4.19 miles / 69.56 total

Hares classic hills… solo. I was still listening to the voice of Geoff and motivating myself! I bumped into Caroline and Mary-Anne on the way back which was so lovely for a 5-minute download with them. Work is tough but I always feel so much better after a run.

Day 15

4.09 miles / 73.65 total

Evening run with hubby. Ok so legs feeling it and particularly left hip-feels tight. Struggled with my pace as normally push it when I run with Chris… not tonight but still great to get out. Just hope the miles I am building in my legs are not going to cause an injury with my hip.

Day 16 Hump day!!

4.27 miles / 77.92 total

Over halfway now. Wet and muddy run with Hilary before work.

So Hilary had her new trail trainers on. Not sure if they made any difference in the conditions but she was really chuffed with them. I like the look of these…recommended by Andy due to the wide toe box. I am definitely going to look into these for my next pair. Nice to get out early before work, it kind of makes me feel indestructible and ready for anything work will throw at me.

Day 17

5.50 miles / 83.42 total

Again an early run with Andy before work, 7am and we were so lucky to catch the early morning sunshine. So lovely felt like we haven’t seen the sunshine for ages. We did the Harey 8 route round the stud farm which I hadn’t done for some time. Home in time to see the kids before work, the smugness of getting out early for a run is priceless!

Day 18

2.79 miles / 86.21 total

…a family affair with Flynn and Chris. So Flynn thinks he cannot run, but he can! He did so well and as any parent of a teenager will know this sort of time together is so incredible, they are away from their screens and outside in fresh air.

Day 19

4.16 miles / 90.37 total

A lovely run with Kathyrn. She was also doing #REDjanuary and responded to my plea on FB, which was so lovely as we have never run together before. Her son is really good mates with my son Sid, so we have known each other for quite some time. Lovely to catch up with all things to do with the boys and the challenges that the lockdown has brought. We agreed we would definitely run again together…

Day 20

4.13 miles / 94.5 total

Solo run quite literally as the weather was horrendous, in my photo on the common there was literally no one about! Legs feeling quite lethargic, left hip feeling tight but I did not feel it was getting any worse. Concentrated on my cadence but noticing my pace really slipping. Have definitely got in the routine of this daily run but noticed I am neglecting some of my strength work.

Day 21 with Geoff ..Sun was shining

3.91 miles / 98.41 total

We did some hills which could count as my strength training I suppose! I felt good… until after the hills then felt like I had literally nothing left to give at all. I was giving myself a hard time about this in my head, felt I had to apologise to Geoff about it. When I have run with others who think they are slower than me they always apologise and worry about slowing me up-despite my reassurance. Now I was doing it to Geoff. I wasn’t feeling strong mentally, work was incredibly busy, home life feeling difficult (as with everyone else) so I know why I was beating myself up. Geoff sent me text later he said don’t worry, we all have times when we feel like that and it’s just important to appreciate being out on a sunny morning-which is of course is so right!

Day 22 Run with Nicky (my sister) after work

4.62 miles / 103.03 total

So I finished work late again, went to get changed in the staff changing room and pulled out my trainers except one of them was Chris’s! In my haste to get out of the door that morning I had picked up his right trainer instead of mine. Not only that but literally the heavens had opened and it was hail storming! I refused to cancel my run with Nicky, I so needed to get some fresh air and I knew I would feel better after a catch up with her. It was a lopsided run but at least I hadn’t got 2 left or 2 right trainers… always try and look on the positive side! We mainly talked about work (she works at Basingstoke Hospital) and the kids… we commented on the amount of cars on the road – sometimes it was hard to hear each other – where were they all going we discussed… ok it was Friday night but this was a lockdown?

Day 23 with Kerri

5.11 miles / 108.14 total

Lovely to run in the daylight and catch up with Kerri. We did the short Standen route but took a loop round the new houses being built near Kerri. It was good to hear how Kerri and her family were coping with the lockdown, we also talked about our new arrival, our black lab puppy and how excited we were. When I got back to Kerri’s house it was nice to have a quick chat with her husband and her son Zack. Again just seeing people, finding opportunities to connect made me feel happy.

Day 24 Morning run with Wilf in the snow!!

3.57 miles / 111.71 total

It was just so majestic to see the landscape covered in snow, we literally woke up and saw the huge snowflakes coming down and very quickly it settled.
I was meant to be running with Lauren but we thought better of it due to the condition on the roads. Wilf reluctantly but eventually agreed to be her stand in. Yes he went in shorts?!! It was so lovely – how these little things can make such a difference never cease to amaze me. It was great to see so many kids (and adults) on the common with their sledges.
Then I was lucky to run with Flynn too – he had been set the challenge of a 1km time trial to be done each week, so we mapped out a course on the triangle field for him to do 3-4 times a week with the aim of improving his time. His football coach had set the challenge along with long arch bridges and the long jumps …planning to do this with Flynn for a bit of variety and encouragement.

Day 25 Lunch run with Caroline in the gorgeous sun

6.27 miles / 117.98 total

It was so lovely to still see some remanence of the snow from the day before – we did the lovely loop up to New Hayward Farm then across to Chilton Foliate then back towards Caroline’s house in Eddington.

It was fab catching up… lots of puppy talk again… must stop monopolising the conversation!

Day 26 Managed a mile… just…

1.03 miles / 119.01 total

Too busy at work, I had to cancel my run with Simon. Thought I would fail at this point. Even a mile was nice to get some fresh air after the day I’d had :).

Day 27

1.17 miles / 120.18 total

Just a mile again tonight #crazysadbusywork. Had to cancel my run with Lauren

Day 28 Wet muddy Run with Claire

5.52 miles / 125.7 total

Snowdrops are out!! Brian commented on how nice it was to see Claire out running again and I so agree, I think she has caught the running bug again… do you think I can persuade her to reignite her Run Leader status again?!

Day 29 Morning run in the rain

4.31 miles / 130.01 total

Special day as Lyra our puppy arrived! So exciting…..

Day 30 afternoon run in the wet and mud!

2.24 / 132.25 total

Mud had definitely been a common theme this month! So after a bit of a disturbed night with Lyra I just about managed 2 miles!!

Day 31 Lovely Run with Esther

6.05 miles / 138.3 total

Last day!! Small section was a footpath that I had not done for about 15 years so that was really nice… lovely to catch up with Esther, been too long. Small section was a stream rather than a footpath… and then I took a tumble-had to make the last day memorable of course! No damage done except some impressive bruising!!

So I completed #REDjanuary running 138.3 miles in total! I felt quite emotional about finishing as it had been my one consistent through a fairly turbulent month. My plan of running with as many people as possible meant I ran with 15 different people, some more than once and I only ran on my own 9 times. My longest run was 11.35 miles and my shortest 1.03 miles, with some new routes along the way and new people which is great.

I would definitely do it again, it certainly made the month go quicker and gave me a focus and a reason to get out for some fresh air even on some of the darkest and difficult days. It is so good to talk and boost your mental health through sport, a massive thank you to all of you who joined me and encouraged me along the way.

#REDjanuary 2021 138.3 total miles

Our Stories

Recovering from Injury

By: Simon Hodkin

It started with building a simple woodshed, well a log store really. I was just lowering the roof onto the walls when I felt my back go. It’s like breaking a mirror; when it happens, it happens and there’s no going back. I hobbled around at a ninety degree angle for two days, then it was just stiff and sore and then by the following weekend I was running again. I even ran a 10k road race, a bit ouchy and a good two minutes or more off a PB but OK.

However, in the days that followed, my right knee didn’t feel quite right, and progressively got worse, a pain either side of the kneecap. I followed normal runners’ protocol, ie ignore it. On Bonfire Night I was running with my local club on an evening run and chatting to a fellow runner while limping heavily (it can be done). My gait was by now so unnatural that several fellow runners urged me to stop and with reluctance I did, and hobbled home.

My foolproof method of evaluating my injury was to continue to run at weekly parkruns, where I could just amble round and see how my knee felt. Progressively worse was the answer. Then I went on the first of several development days for Run Leaders in Bristol. There was a super all-weather pitch with a firm and grippy surface where we tried out new exercise routines. And of course it wasn’t supposed to be competitive but during one of the team relay sessions, I was putting more and more effort into the super-grippy surface, ideal for fast intervals. And also ideal for putting maximum pressure on a knee strain. Suddenly my knee was on fire and I limped out, swearing under my breath and then not under my breath. “Flippity, flip, flip, flip” I exclaimed. I think that quote may have auto-corrected itself. I’m not after sympathy but I returned to the classroom feeling sick with pain.

This time I took three weeks out. And then returned to my frankly-idiotic practice of testing my knee at parkruns. Each week my knee twinged if I put any pressure on it, so I continued to run lopsided. So I did what I should have done earlier and went to see a physio. He twisted and prodded my knee in all directions and finally announced: “Your knee’s fine”. “Then why does it hurt??” I said. “Because that’s where your injury hurts” he said. “Your problem is your ridiculously tight hamstrings”. (They’ve always been bad, but I do stretch. Well, a bit. Well, sometimes).

So he gave me some exercises to do, and I did do them daily, sometimes twice daily, and on both sides / both legs, which is a bit boring. But not as boring as not running. And I started to improve almost immediately. I had fortnightly checkup sessions with the physio, including a memorable one where he declared that my hip flexors were also tight and needed loosening. “I’m afraid this is going to hurt a little” he said. It b****y did, until I learned that the best response is to relax into the treatment and not fight it by tensing the muscles.

The other things I did was some cross-training. I bought an exercise bike and cycled a few days a week, listening to podcasts. I also started swimming (hate swimming) and have really noticed my swimming fitness improve.

I think it’s been pretty much four months off injured, all told. Now I have to get my fitness back. People, including myself, usually say breezily: “Oh you’ll get your fitness back again in no time”. But going from 80-100 miles a month to a weekly 5k amble is bound to make a difference, and at the moment I think I’d struggle with a 10k. The nice bit is that I’m beginning to ramp up the mileage slowly and seeing my pace improve. And the woodshed looks good too.

Our Stories

London Marathon 2020 – A Runner’s Diary!

First name out of the hat last night was Hilary Murgatroyd, followed by Rich Parry as reserve.

11/March 2020

I had a read through some of my previous blogs on my marathon preparation and was conscious that I had so many great training runs and routes planned which all fell by the wayside mainly due to the weather.

So now that time is very much of the essence and with my longer runs restricted to the weekends it’s time to take real action – rain, hail or shine.

And these were exactly the conditions I ran in on Sunday. Starting from Hungerford at around 8.30am I ran through to Great Bedwyn, back towards town via Little Bedwyn and North Standen Farm, then round the marshes before a final loop round Charnham Park. All in I covered 18 miles. It was slow and muddy and I tripped and fell over on the marshes. Fortunately I landed on soft ground on my hip so no injuries to report.

Although my pace was slow I was keen to ensure I covered the 18 miles and still be back in time for a hot bath and an all-important appointment in front of the TV to watch Scotland take on France in the Six Nations. Splendid performance from the Scots!

However, I digress…. It had been several months since I had run 18 miles but when regular Hares training came round again on Tuesday, I felt absolutely fine and am clearly a bit fitter. I’m always at the back of the pack on the hills but I felt better able to keep up on the straights and downhill and my recorded pace was a lot better than it has been lately.

All in all I’m feeling a lot more confident and optimistic about the race and my plan is to spend the next couple of weeks getting up to the 24-mile mark then taper.

There’s still no word from the organisers about whether the race will still go ahead amid public health concerns around large gatherings due to Coronavirus. It was announced last week that the Paris Marathon, scheduled for 5th April has been postponed and there’s really no indication either way at the moment that London will follow suit.

If it goes ahead then great! If not then hopefully it will be a postponement rather than a full cancellation. Whatever happens I do understand that public health protection has to come first.

In the meantime. My next run will be a 20 miler on Sunday and I’ll let you know how it went next week.

02/March 2020

Less than two months to go now so I’m now entering my peak training period. In my last update I was planning to hit the South West Coastal path in Devon but high winds made this unsafe. I did manage some shorter hillier runs which were good for building some core strength but not the greater distance run which I was really hoping for.

I was back out with the Hares on Tuesday on one of my favourite routes (Anvilles) and re-ran much of the route adding some extra distance in on Sunday. It made such a difference running in sunshine for what seems to have been the first time in months. I stuck to the roads, as all my usual long training routes along the canal are either flooded or too muddy just now. It was good to have built in more elevation on the roads but my distances are still below where I want them to be at this stage so I’m looking at other routes as I really need to start increasing my mileage.

There’s inevitably also some anxiety that this year’s London Marathon may not go ahead due to concerns over the spread of Coronavirus. The Paris Half-Marathon was cancelled this weekend and the Tokyo Marathon was restricted to elite runners only. The organisers of London say they are monitoring the situation and unlikely to make a decision until closer to the date of the event which is April 26th. In the meantime, all eyes will be on what will happen with the Paris Marathon which is due to take place on 5th April.

However, as far as I’m concerned, it’s business as usual. The decision over whether London will go ahead is out of my hands and the only thing I can do is prepare as best I can in the hope that the spread of the virus will recede allowing public events such as this to go ahead. However, I would completely understand should the decision be to cancel. Public health ultimately has to come first.

I’ll be back next week hopefully with an update on extended mileage and better weather!


Storms Ciara, Dennis, work commitments and a foot injury have conspired to keep my training mileage down this week but I’ve still been busy.

On 9th February, myself and a couple of hundred hardy souls descended on Newbury Racecourse for the half marathon, 10K and 5K races. Our chief opponent, Storm Ciara, certainly made her presence felt and I spent most of my sixth half-marathon race crouched into the wind with what felt like gravel being thrown into my face. What the race lacked in clement weather though was well and truly made up for in competitor camaraderie. A special shout out is due to my work colleague Jonathan Westlake who hailed a cheery and heart-felt “well done Hilary” – as he lapped me and went on the win the race in an incredible 1 hour 20 mins! For the record, I was 197th. Before learning the storm was on the way, I had been hoping for a PB as the course is nice and flat. I ended up staggering to the finishing line in my second worst time and (look away if you are squeamish) minus a toenail.

I also incurred a further injury to the same foot on the day (a bashed bunion) and given the London Marathon is inching closer I wasn’t keen to aggravate it so I have spent the week trying to rest it but otherwise keeping fit either swimming or through yoga. I’m back out with the club this week for our Kintbury run and our new intervals session on Thursdays which are proving popular. I’m also off to Devon at the weekend where I’m roughing it in a bothy without electricity. Weather permitting, I hope to get out and about on my beloved south west coastal path or I might retreat inland if it’s too windy.

In the meantime, I’m back to my regular routine of yoga on a Monday, Hares on a Tuesday, rest day Wednesday, Hares intervals on Thursdays, swimming on Fridays, rest day on Saturdays and long run on Sundays.

I’ll be back next week hopefully with some running tales from Devon. I’m still trying to figure out how to recharge my Garmin in a bothy. Answers on a postcard please?


A shot at running in the London Marathon should be a no-brainer for most runners but, for me it posed a conundrum!

Just two weeks before the draw for the club place, I had completed my first marathon in Bournemouth and was unsure if I could summon up the time and energy the training would require again so soon. I decided in the end to keep my name in the hat and let the decision be made for me. After all, the chances of me being picked were slim…….

Well, I was picked, and here we are, just under 11 weeks before race day. The calendar has moved into February and I have long since recovered from the initial shock of my against-the-odds selection.

Since the beginning of they year, I’ve been focussing on shorter, hillier routes as well as building up strength in my hips and thighs through targeted exercise and swimming. My legs have a tendency to stiffen up over longer distances so I’m hoping that earlier strengthening work will pay off as I get deeper into my training.

I’ve now started to build up my mileage adding two per week, starting last Sunday at 11 miles. This is the furthest I have run since last October and there are noticeable and obvious differences in marathon training during different seasons. The first being mud, lots of mud which turned Sunday’s run into, at times, a laborious, frustrating trudge. However, the cooler weather means I’m generally more comfortable and I’m not yet lugging around my Camelbak. The bulk of my training for the Bournemouth Marathon took place in the summer months and by the time I was up to 22 miles I was running later in the evening and into the night.

This weekend, I’m doing the first Newbury Racecourse Half Marathon and hoping to break the, to date, elusive two hour barrier. It’s my first race of the year and I’ll be back next week to let you know how it went.

Our Stories

Andy’s Diary – London Marathon 2019

The Final Bulletin: 6th May
A blow by blow account from Andy of his great London Marathon run!
So race day has arrived and 18 weeks of training with 724 miles run are done and dusted. Just one more run to go and you can have a break. But first you’ve got to get through those 26.2 miles!   Starting out at the London Marathon sees a lot of waiting around, and complaining about the cold, shuffling forwards and then suddenly you cross the start line and instantly the crowds are in full force, cheering you on and wishing you luck for what’s to come. The first mile seemed to pass in a few minutes, however checking my watch I was pleased to see I was running slightly, but not too far, above target pace.   My plan was to run a steady eight minute mile for the first 18 miles, and then take a view on how fresh I was feeling and, if possible speed up a little from that point. That would see me come in comfortably in three hours twenty something. And if I wasn’t feeling too fresh at the 18 mile point I’d just try to hold onto the eight min/mile pace and come in on my target time of 3:30.   Plans are all well and good but executing them is another thing!   I needed the loo within the first two miles so dived into a portaloo when I had the chance. This didn’t cost me too much time and it’s better to go earlier in the race when there’s still time to make up the lost seconds slowly over several miles than go toward the end and find you only have two miles in which to make up any lost time. However, it did mean I lost the friendly chap I had been chatting to at the start and on and off for the first mile or so who was aiming for a similar time to me.   Feeling relieved I continued on my way. Sticking to my target pace was proving suprisingly easy but you have to keep reminding yourself that you’re fresh, rested and have a long way to go so don’t get too carried away. The first 5 miles or so are a bit of an excercise in restraint. You just need to settle into a rhythm without letting the adrenaline, cheering crowds and other runners get you carried away running an unsustainable pace. Thankfully I’ve had a bit of practice at this from running a few ultras so am happy to let other runners do their thing whilst I concentrate on mine.   The miles were ticking off quite nicely, my legs were feeling good and I was soaking up the atmosphere and sights: views of London, the Cutty Sark, high-fiving kids, crowd noise… Amazing to be part of such a huge event!   Just after passing the Cutty Sark someone was playing up to the crowd a little too much and tripped the runner in front of them and they both went down to a loud “OOOH” from the crowd. It would be so easy to have your race ruined by someone else, keep your wits about you and try to find the space!   Crossing Tower Bridge is really great. The whole road is yours so you can go right in the middle and see up into the bridge above you, look along the banks of the river and see the London Skyline, and the cheering crowds that haven’t let up since the start line are still there in full force! Turning off the bridge gives us mere mortals a chance to really feel like we’re running in the same race as the elites. The course follows the same road in two directions for a mile or so meaning you can see the elite runners and top amateurs coming back the other way – about 5 miles ahead already! Sadly the front runners had already passed through this point so I didn’t get a chance to see Sir Mo or Kipchoge but I did shout some encouragement at someone who had clearly hit the wall very hard. He looked like he was really struggling and was going very slow. A lesson there for all of us: Even the top runners have bad days!   You soon enter the Isle of Dogs and this, for me, is the hardest section of the course. Physically it demands the same as the miles that come before and after but mentally you just want to get back to that section where you have runners in both directions as you know that until you get there you’re still just making your way around the same area and it feels like progress is slowing – even though my pace was still consistent. My watch had been slightly over-reading the distance from the start of the race and by this point it was reading about half a mile of extra distance. If I couldn’t trust the distance then that also meant I couldn’t trust the current pace reading either. Thankfully my watch does show elapsed time (and the primary function of a watch is to keep track of the time, right) and that was fine because there are mile markers for every mile except mile 26, and kilometre markers every 5k meaning I could do a bit of mental arithmetic every mile to make sure I was still on track and running the correct pace. You just need to know your eight times table up to twenty-six!   After about 15 miles my legs were starting to feel tired. It doesn’t seem to matter what type of race I’m doing or what pace I’m running byt 15 miles seems to be some sort of physical barrier for me. My legs always start to feel tired at this point but my ultra experience has taught me what I can ignore and keep running through. Sometimes the aches even go away but not this time, they just slowly became worse. Running on tarmac is quite hard on the muscles – the relentless pounding even if you try to run lightly on your feet, every footfall landing the same on flat ground means there is very little rest for any muscles.   With my untrustworthy watch I was more than a little frustrated to find that there were some mile markers that either I just missed (entirely possible to be honest) or were missing. I remember waiting for the 19 mile marker for a long time only to come across the 20 mile one instead! So with my watch reading almost 19 miles (actual distance probably much closer to 18 miles) I decided it was time to give running a little faster a go. My legs were tired and I knew about the extra effort as soon as I started up but my training has incorporated a lot of long tempo runs which get you used to running fast on tired legs – just what I needed to do now! Although I was tired I felt I could go faster and maintain it for at least a couple of miles.   The race had other ideas. There are so many people that maintaining a higher pace was very hard. I had to keep slowing down to wait for a gap to open up, go through the gap and acceperate, all the while looking for the next gap, checking over my shoulder, making sure I wasn’t too close to the person in front… I did not want to be that guy who tripped someone else up! I’d been drifting constantly through the crowd of runners the whole way but increasing the pace meant that I needed to take my concentration up a notch as I needed to focus on keeping my legs turning over as well as looking for a way through the never-ending crowd of runners ahead.   Because I was feeling tired the mental drain of the additional concentration was starting to take its toll. I suddenly did not enjoy having the crowds lining the course. Despite everything and everyone being positive their noise had become abrasive rather than encouraging. I tried to block them out as best I could and continue focus on maintaining a good pace and getting myself safely through the throng of runners but I was desperate to hit the Embankment where I knew the road widened and I’d have space to power through the last few miles.   I’d started the race with the 3:30 pacer a few hundred metres in front of me but lost sight of them earlier in the race despite running a 3:30 pace – looking at my official times shows I did the first half-marathon in an 8 min mile pace but I’d lost sight of the pacer well before then. I had thought that finishing in front of this pacer would be sure to see me hit sub-3:30 but now I was starting to doubt myself. Maybe I’d passed them already and hadn’t noticed? Maybe I was slower than I thought?   Don’t think about it. Just keep running your own race! I could tell I was getting properly tired now as the negative thoughts had started to creep in. Again, experience from longer races means I know to expect this and ignore the Voice of Doom. Just focus on the facts. You’ve been hitting your target pace for the past however many miles and there are only a couple more to go. Keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll hit your goal. Another indication of being tired is suddenly getting very emotional. I haven’t experienced this very often however last time it happened was during a 12 hour race, feeling (all things considered) physically ok, but suddenly a wave of emotion almost stops me in my tracks. For no reason I suddenly feel like I’m about to cry. Again, shut up brain I’ve got a race to run! but this time it was persistent and kept knocking at the door. Ok, maybe I’m at my limit now? No, just keep going. You’re close.   Finally at about 24 miles we hit some wider road and I could find my space and my pace without constantly slowing down and speeding back up, and there a few hundred metres ahead – do my eyes deceive me? The 3:30 pacer! Well I’m not getting this far and not overtaking them now! Catching them felt a lot harder than it should but I passed them strongly and continued on. We’d passed the 25 mile marker which felt like the finish line as the job was basically done but there are markers every 200m from 1000m to go and those 200m seemed to be much longer than normal! I was determined to finish strong and keep the pace up, keep pushing legs you’re almost there. Finally you turn onto the Mall, with Buckingham Palace behind you and the finish line is in sight.   There’s still LOADS of people in the way so I picked the very edge of the road to finish where I could see it was a bit quieter and found something for a sprint finish! I joined a queue for my medal, or so I thought, only to be greeted by Richard Branson saying well done and shaking hands! Thank you Richard, I’ll take it. I managed to get my medal before another emotional wave hit me and I shed a few tears. I think I was just releived it was over but I do understand why you see so many top level athletes crying like babies after big performances – it’s emotionally ehxausting to concentrate for that long!   My official time was 3:29:14 – A PB by just over half an hour. Not bad legs, not bad at all!   For the rest of the day I felt like a bit of a zombie and couldn’t really enjoy my achievement but this week it’s sunk in and now I’m starting to think maybe I could go faster? However, I’ve not entered the ballot for next year’s race. The crowds and number of people on the course make the event really great but at the same time they also make it harder. I think I’d like to do a quieter marathon toward the end of the year but first I need a rest! I’m feeling physically fine after a couple of days but an easy run on Friday left me feeling very lethargic for the rest of the day so I will take it easy and keep eating and drinking plenty for a little longer and then easy myself back into training.   As always feel free to quiz me on a Tuesday evening about anything to do with running a long way and the training I’ve been doing – I’m more than happy to talk about it!   Cheers, Andy                            

Bulletin 8: 16th April
This week’s update is a two-for-one as I was pretty busy last weekend and didn’t get a chance to write anything up, so here goes…   Training was going almost 100% to plan up until last weekend. I made it through the hardest interal sessions and got the ten mile tempo under my belt (hard but not impossible after all)! I’ve missed probably only one or two of “Something of Substance” runs* when a very busy weekend meant I wasn’t going to have time for the all-important long run… Oh no! In the end I didn’t manage to run at all over weekend the weekend (oh no again) which was quite frustrating but I hoped it shouldn’t have too much of a negative impact seeing as I’ve done a fair few long ones already, and rest is training too!   Monday rolled around and I was ready and well recovered – or so I thought. At work I started to feel unwell so didn’t want to risk heading out for a run at lunch time and making things worse so I took a very lazy lunch. Just as well I think because I only felt worse as the day went on. A bath and an early night saw me feeling much better on Tuesday but still feeling a little under the weather. A gentle run at this point may have been ok but I didn’t want to risk going back to square one and having to take more time to recover so I opted to rest on Tuesday (therefore missing the Hares hill session – boo!) and did a gentle run on Weds which felt fine, even if my HR was still a bit higher than normal, a sign of a body not 100% recovered but thankfully I’d beaten the worst of it and suffered no ill effects!   The glorious weather when I got home on Thursday meant I just had to get up onto Coombe Gibbet for on my tempo run (13 miles with 10 at tempo pace). Amazing views to feast the eyes upon couldn’t quite distract me from the lactic burn of running up “the slab”. I was pleased to run up a path I normally opt to walk but boy did I know about it the next day! Probably overcooked it a little if I’m honest as my legs were not feeling very fresh at all on Friday morning but once I got going on my easy run everything loosened off a bit and I felt a lot better.  

  This weekend I’ve been away on a stag do and I rather optimistically packed my running kit and looked up where the parkrun was … Two miles from where we were staying! If I could make it there, blast around and jog back then that would keep me more or less on track training wise but as someone who drinks fairly rarely I wasn’t very optimistic about making it there for 9am. But make it I did, and inspired by the sight of 600(!) other runners I thought maybe I should put all this training to the test. You might be thinking what are you doing “racing” a 5k when you’re aiming for a marathon? Well I’ve been doing all these intervals and tempo runs and have been seeing my times improve so I figured why not?   Why not indeed! A new 5k PB and going sub 20 for the first time were my reward. Very pleased with that and a great confidence boost for the marathon in a couple of weeks.   And that just left me with a long run to do this afternoon after travelling back home. Not feeling especially full of energy I set off on a 19 mile loop over Walbury Hill and Coombe (again). To be honest I didn’t really enjoy it which is unusual for me because I normally love being out on a long run – so good for the mind to just let it wander and give yourself time and space to mull things over. A nap first might have served me better but then I wouldn’t have seen the great views down over the rolling hills of Hampshire, or the panorama that opens out as you come back over into Berkshire, or the red kites circling on the wind as it comes up off the hill, or the lambs in the fields… Ok, maybe I did enjoy some of it!  

  And that is pretty much all the hard work done! 16 weeks of quite hard training, appear to be leaving their mark on my pace, and my body (more on this next week). The taper starts tomorrow and everything gets a chance to relax a little bit more and recover. As I sit here with the seemingly almost constant tired ache in my legs I am very much looking forward to it. *These are runs that fall into either intervals, tempo or long run categories Cheers, Andy  

Bulletin 7: 1st AprilWith the bulk of the training under my belt and improvements in fitness and speed coming on in leaps and bounds I thought I had this training lark sorted but this week has been tough! The total distance was less than last week and maybe I’m partially to blame for coming along to the interval session on Tuesday when I should have been sat on the sofa with my feet up given I’d  already done an interval set of 2×3 miles earlier in the day… But then it’s not supposed to be easy is it?I had to mix this week up a little as I couldn’t run on Monday. So I moved Monday’s easy run to Wednesday which meant I didn’t have the normal day of rest between the intervals and Tuesday’s tempo run (9 miles at tempo pace) which really felt hard from a few miles in and took a fair bit of concentration to keep pushing and stop the pace from dropping off. All good preparation for the last few miles of the big day though!Finishing that session a minute faster than I had run it the prevous week was a good confidence boost, even though it took a lot out of me and Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s easy paced runs all still felt like I was carrying a fair bit of fatigue in the legs.Both Saturday and Sunday’s runs were slightly shorter than the training plan called for. However, I’m not going to worry about the odd mile here or there, plus overall I’m up on the weekly mileage thank’s to Geoff’s interval session on Tuesday night!
The next two weeks are the final push in terms of training and I have to admit that double-figures at tempo pace on Thursday is slightly daunting. Plus another 3×2 mile interval session on Tuesday means I won’t be attempting to break any records during Tuesday evening’s Town Run! I may get a slight rest next weekend as it’s looking pretty busy and probable that I won’t have time for a long run. Disaster! These next two weeks are what the entire training plan builds up to, before tapering off (and I sure am looking forward to that taper!). They both include about 60 miles of running which is starting to make me look like some sort of serious runner but fear not, I shan’t be giving Sir Mo a run for his money any time soon!
Cheers, Andy  

Bulletin 6: 25th March
Here is the latest update on marathon training:This week’s training started hard and send to have got easier as the week had progressed. Probably because Tuesday’s interval session was 3x2miles which definable felt harder than any of the other interval sets I’ve done, and that was followed by the Hares Froxfield run which took me close to 20 miles for the day!As there are only 5 weeks to go until London Marathon I treated myself to a new pair of shoes. Billy will be pleased you can no longer see my toes where there should be shoe! I duly set off on Thursday’s tempo run with added spring in my step and found my pace faster than usual. The new shoes are red which everyone knows makes them faster so it’s to be expected but I was pleasantly surprised! However Tuesday’s efforts soon caught up and the pace started to feel pretty tough. I did manage to hold it for the 9 miles but it took some concentration. Maybe speed doesn’t come for free after all!Things started to get easier toward the end of the week with all the runs at easier pace, and the sun even came out on Sunday which always makes it easier to get out and about.I’ve run about 65 miles this week which is a figure I haven’t hit often before, but feel pretty good all things considered. Tired but not too tired to start anew on Monday.CheersAndy

Bulletin 5: 18th March
Another week, another update… After last Sunday’s run where I felt very low on energy I had thought it was just one of those days but on Monday I was feeling fairly under the weather so skipped Monday and Tuesday’s runs to make sure I got some proper rest was able to fully recover.A Piece of advice I read a while ago was that if you miss a run on a training plan then it’s missed. Don’t try to make it back up, just accept you missed it and move forward with the training plan. If you try to “catch up” by slotting in more runs then you’ll just end up getting over tired and probably do more harm than good. So I was happy to let the interval session I missed on Tuesday go but didn’t really want to leap straight into Thursday’s tempo session in case I was still not completely recovered. Therefore I added a short, gentle run into the schedule on Wednesday, just to make sure that the activity wasn’t going to knock me back to feeling rough again.Thankfully I felt fine during and after the run, so did Thursday’s 9 miles at tempo effort as planned. These tempo runs are starting to feel like proper training now. Keeping the effort going, running alone, often in the dark requires a lot mentally as well as physically. The good news is they really do pay dividends in terms of fitness! And I saw a barn owl 🙂
The rest of the week went without hitch with runs of 6, 10 and 10 miles planned for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I was glad of the company of several Hares on Sunday’s run, although we did end up going a little further than planned it was nice to be running in the sun again!
Next week offers a real gem of an interval session – 3x2miles… Having done long intervals like that in the past I can’t say I’m necessarily looking forward to them, but I’ll be glad when they’er over. Don’t expect me to be haring (geddit?) off the front of the pack on Tuesday’s Froxfield run!
  Cheers, Andy  

Bulletin 4: 10th March
There are only 7 weeks to go until London Marathon, here is the update on how things are going…   This week’s training was going to be a bit of an unknown quantity, what with running the Imber Ultra (33 miles around Salisbury plain in incredibly windy conditions) with Moshe on Sunday I knew I’d be in need of a little rest. Normally after a run of that distance I’d take it very easy for the week following, with very little, if any running in the first few days. I took Monday off as I was feeling very stiff. However the training plan called for intervals on Tuesday and a tempo session on Thursday…Still feeling stiff on Tuesday I set off to attempt the intervals (6x1mile) but had told myself I’d just see how it felt and call it a day if I was too tired. Well, I started my first interval and held back a little on the pace but felt fine once I got going, so continued through the set feeling pretty strong and ended up feeling loads better that afternoon than I had been in the morning. Very reassuring to see the body adapt to the training!Thursday’s tempo run was a loop that Simon, Moshe and I had run back in January so I was (again) pleasantly suprised to see how my fitness has improved. There is one climb I got up a full 2 minutes faster than the first time around (both run in the dark in wintery conditions).Just when you think everything’s going swimmingly you go and have a run like today when I just felt like I was running on fumes. The crazy wind (two weekends in a row now) didn’t help, but I felt hungry after a few miles despite having eaten a good breakfast which is always a sure sign for me that something’s up. Thankfully I had good running company in Cat and Moshe to keep me going. I still cut 3 miles off the target for the day but I felt 13 miles in wind and rain was enough for today. Thankfully runs like this don’t happen too often, and I normally bounce back after a decent meal and making sure to stay well hydrated (something we should all be doing anyway).Overall this week has been a mixed bag. I’ve seen the benefits of the training and the negative impact trying to do too much too soon. But I’ve never before run a 45 mile week following an ultra on the Sunday! I’m definately seeing more of the good stuff than the bad, and I’m feeling more confident that this year’s running goals are in reach.


Bulletin 3: 3rd March
Another update on from the road to Marathon greatness:   This week I took a slight detour from the training plan by following Monday to Thursday as normal then attempting a mini-taper before running the Imber Ultra with Moshe on Sunday. However, I ended up moving rocks most of the day on Saturday to build a new pond. Not the best prep for a 33 miler the following day!
I have been feeling pretty tired so tried to take this week little easier whilst still getting some good training sessions in my Something of Substance workouts. However after the tempo session on Thursday my legs were aching like mad and I was getting worried that Sunday’s run might finish me off.Thankfully I felt fresh on Sunday morning and was pleased to find I still had plenty left in the tank over the last 5 or so miles when I started to pass more and more people, and the last couple of miles were my fastest. Very reassuring to see the legs were still happy after so many miles and hours of running.This coming week my training changes slightly. Tuesday’s speed work becomes strength work – longer intervals at a slower (but still faster than marathon goal) pace. The first session is six(!) intervals of 1 mile, with a quarter mile recovery. If I make it out on Tuesday evening after that then don’t expect me to be leading the way!
  Cheers, Andy

Bulletin 2: 25th February
Another scintillating update from me below… This week started with an easy eight miles which felt pretty horrible for the first six! There must be something about Mondays that makes running so much harder… Somehow I ended up with a slight niggle in my knee – a sure sign I’ve been over reaching – so I’ve been trying to take it slightly easier, especially for the interval and tempo sessions which, if I’m honest, I’ve been running a bit too hard anyway. It’s gotten a little better but still there making itself known. Need to keep on taking it a little easier for next week I think!The speed and tempo work I’ve been doing are definitely making a difference, having run several sub-20 minute 5k’s within the interval sessions over the past several weeks (so no new PBs as there are gaps for recovery between the fast bits – I’ll explain on a Tuesday if anyone is confused). But its encouraging to see that a pace that is normally too fast for my legs is starting to feel manageable. Tempo runs are also getting easier to hold paces that I’ve never really run at before.I skipped Saturday’s easy 8 miler, and “replaced” it with a 17 mile cycle today… after the 15 mile long run. Needless to say stairs are hard work this evening.I’ve run 55.5 miles this week, a rather pleasing number I’m sure you’ll agree! and so far this year I’m up to 320 miles run, pretty much all of them coming from my marathon training plan!   Cheers Andy  

Bulletin 1: 18th February
There’s 10 weeks to go until London Marathon, which is not a lot of quality training time left! So far training has been going mostly to plan, however I am remembering what it’s like to have aching legs all the time – the downside to running five or six days a week is very little R&R time.
My running week generally looks like:
Monday – easy 6-8 miles (not always so easy after the long run on the weekend)
Tuesday – Intervals (plus, of course the Hares session)Wednesday – Rest day (and well needed by this point)Thursday – Tempo runFriday – easy 6-8 miles (not always so easy)Saturday – easy 6-10 milesSunday – Long run (though often not quite as long as you might think)Often the weekend runs are switched around, merged, extended, or the easy run gets dropped due to having a family and other things that get in the way of running, but I’ve stuck to the plan pretty well so far I think.If anyone’s interested I’m following the Hanson’s Marathon Method which I’m happy to talk about if you grab me on a Tuesday evening. 

Our Stories

Craig – London Marathon 2018

First of all, a huge bunch of thank yous!  Thanks to the club for having the ballot which allocated my entry to the Marathon after having my original entry rejected.  Thanks to various people for dragging me out, or joining me for runs over the winter months to help me get trained for it (you know who you are!)  Thanks to all the people who’ve offered kind words of support.  And probably biggest thanks to everyone I’ve come into contact over the last 4 months for not getting too annoyed when I whinged about it all! 

Training for the London Marathon was a lot more hit-and-miss than I’d envisaged, trying to fit it around work, weather and other family commitments at the other end of the country.  At one stage, I was getting up at 5am on dark January mornings to squeeze in training runs.  (Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m not an early morning person – 5am is a very alien place to me!)  The weather dealt a few blows to my training, with snowfall leading to the cancellation of the Reading Half which was supposed to be a stepping stone to longer distances.  Minor injuries played their part too, with minor calf strains coming and going – usually appearing at the least convenient moment!  However, a long list of people did make the effort to go out on cold Sunday mornings or dark weeknights in the lead up to the Marathon, helping me get the miles in with good company. The only two lengthy runs I managed before the Marathon were the Coombe to Overton 16 miler (cross-country through snow and mud) and a 21 miler at 5am in the morning, (after an evening of beer and curry!), around my home town of Hartlepool.  That latter one gave me a false sense of security, finishing it comfortably, feeling strong and uninjured.  26 miles should be a doddle, surely…

When the time came, the Marathon itself was a great experience.  I was not alone in doing it: Thomas, Simon and Billy’s other half were all entered for the Marathon too and it was great to meet up with them either in training, or in collecting my registration the Friday before the race, or at the race itself.  Race day involved another early start, zipping down to Basingstoke to join Thomas and a platform full of excited runners on the train to London.  I was grateful for Thomas being there as I had no idea where I was going but to be fair, just following the crowds would probably have got me to the right place – the whole world seemed to be going in the same direction!  At Blackheath, we bumped into Billy and Charlotte but there was barely time for a quick hello, application of Esther’s suncream, trip to the lovely portaloos and then before you knew it, it was time to get into the starting pens to begin the race.

Thomas was in a different starting zone to me, so was on my own when the race began.  Barely after crossing the start line, I bumped into Simon and, aiming for around the same sort of finish time (just under 4 hours), decided to run together.  We were sticking to the 4 hour pacemaker but because of the sheer number of people, that was no easy feat.  The pacemaker seemed to cut through walls of slower runners like a hot knife through butter but I found myself slowed a lot, then picking up the pace to get by, then going slow, fast, slow, fast…  Whenever I seemed to get close to the pacemaker, a wall of people would appear in front of me and in the blink of an eye, he’d be a hundred yards ahead.

Around what felt like the 7 or 8 mile mark, I lost sight of Simon who’d been ahead of me before that and the pacemaker was getting beyond my reach.  I assumed he’d gone on ahead, while I was struggling to keep up.  At mile 10, I was feeling overly tired and starting to realise a sub 4 hour finish wasn’t on the cards.  I managed to keep on 4 hour pace till about mile 13 then, reluctantly, let the pacemaker out of my sights.  By this point it was very hot and I was breaking with my usual habits by stopping at water stations and taking on water.  I usually do without but if anything, I was going too far the other direction, guzzling water or energy drinks every few miles.

Mile 17 came and I was slowing dangerously to the point where I wasn’t sure I could actually lift my knees enough to keep running and my arms were too heavy to hold up.  I was just about to grind to a halt when I saw Billy in the crowd calling me and about to take a photo.  So I decided against giving in just there!  However, barely a mile or so further, hit a wall where I just couldn’t raise my knees anymore and rather unceremoniously dropped back to alternating between walking and running.  My family, who’d been following me online with updates every 5K thought I’d dropped off a cliff when I didn’t pass the next checkpoint and soon the phone in my pocket started bing’ing with concerned messages, replied to with blurry selfies of a tired looking face!

Having lost Simon earlier, I caught up with Thomas near mile 20 and we both had a similar problem – just unable to run.  For the final 6 miles the strategy changed to walk half a mile, run half a mile – sometimes less of one and more of the other.  In the final mile, turning your back on the Thames and heading for the Mall, you get the sense of excitement at being nearly there and I got a bit of a second wind.  But while Thomas had probably being taking it easy to keep with me for the previous 5 miles, it was his turn to struggle.  It was telling that we’d had a few other runners slow down to ask us if we were okay – think my wandering diagonally back and forth across the road, staring glassy-eyed at some invisible point on the horizon didn’t help!

And then with a few hundred yards to go, it was the final race for the line, crowds cheering (as they had been the whole way), medal, bag of goodies, bag collection and a desperate desire for a lie down which we duly did on the first available patch of grass!  In the end, I think Simon, Thomas and I all targeted a 4 hour finish but all struggled and were the wrong side of 5 hours.

If you haven’t done it before (as I hadn’t) it’s a big event.  Unlike other 5K, 10K, or even half marathons, the lead up and aftermath is a big part of it.  Hours after crossing the line, eating icecreams, Thomas and I were still being congratulated by strangers on the streets of London, still tirelessly clapping runners on and the whole route was lined with well-wishing watchers.  Even on the trains back home, kind people offered to give up their seats for us on packed carriages and miles from the event, you could feel it’s’ influence.

So would I do it again?!  At the time I crossed the line, I said “never!”.  4 weeks on though, it niggles me that I never got it done under 4 hours, so who knows…  Possibly.  Maybe.  Definitely!

Our Stories

Josh Parry – London Marathon 2017

The Final Blog

Well somehow through luck or through expert coaching (probably luck given those options), I made it through the marathon!! And it felt like the longest 4 hours of my life. Weirdly the first half felt quite good and fairly comfortable which I didn’t really expect, but it started to get a little more stressful at around 16 miles when my ankle decided it wanted to make the experience even harder than it had to be, this brought about the question of whether I’ll get under 4 hours or not. But down to good support a very big crowd and dad talking all the way round, we made it to 26 miles and the last .2 felt as good and as easy as anything (the medal was a nice touch too). After we’d found Kev and our support crew we headed straight for food and a pint (and then a few more pints). I’d say it was (just about) worth the 5 months of getting up early every weekend to run in the cold for 2-3 hours but not doing another one any time soon!!

Marathon Training Week 14

Another full rest week was not what I had planned but after seeing the physio on Monday he said it was the best thing to do. Luckily there seems to be no permanent damage to the knee (as it stands) but it does now mean I’ll have to go into the marathon without the training I or Dad wanted to have behind me. Not a good couple of weeks but hopefully will improve before the race

Marathon Training Week 13

Urm, this week didn’t go to plan this week Saturday was bigged up to be the final ‘long’ run before the marathon, a 22mile route from Newbury to Hungerford (with a little loop in the middle) and then back. However unfortunately as we got into Hungerford (about 10 miles in) I felt something tightening and pulling in my knee I spoke to Dad and after running on it for a mile and it starting to hurt a lot worse I stopped and walked to Kev’s to get picked up. Dad’s going to arrange a physio appointment for next week.

Marathon Training Week 12

As my birthday was the Monday of this week and I had a family party on the Saturday I took an executive decision to make this a rest week and not really run much at all (only to make sure I’m well rested for next week of course). So unfortunately not much to report on this week, other than convincing Dad and Kev to do a round of Jäger-bombs!!

Marathon Training Week 11

Finally Hares!!! Picked the wrong week with it being hills good to see people and have a sociable run.
Then after last week I decided it’d be best not to do parkrun,
so instead opted to cycle round while Kev and Dad run for 15 miles as a warm-up for Reading Half.
As you could probably guess, I’m now going to talk about the half;
I took 4 minutes off my PB and 10 minutes off last years Reading half,
so very happy with that!! Hopefully see you lot on Tuesday.
Marathon Training Week 10

No Hares again this week as Dad’s car decided to not work (technical term).
So had to wait till Saturday for another attempt at parkrun, this time coming in at 20:17
(sounds good but I went on to regret that).
As Dad was doing Bath half this week Kev decided he’d be urm? Nice?
And take me out on the 16 miler from hell. Apparently using all your energy the day before a long run isn’t a good plan!

Marathon Training Week 9

Not much really happened in the week (with regard to running) this week so apparently had to make up for it at the weekend.
Meaning when I got home from work at half past 10 I got told I’m running up to and back from parkrun the next morning on the plus side I did do a Newbury course PB at 20:48!
Then on to a very painful 10ish miles with Dad on the Sunday.

Marathon Training Week 8

This week started off with a cheeky 6 mile out and about run with hares,
then I was told we’re properly pushing the mileage with a stupidly mountainous 20 miler around Welford,
Kintbury and finished off down the canal towards Newbury (bloody stupid idea)

Marathon Training Week 7

As I was away with my girlfriend this week I was very much hoping I could get away without having to do a run; I was wrong. I was ‘strongly encouraged’ by dad to do at least 13 miles in the week. My girlfriend (knowing this) said she’d cycle alongside me as I ran, this was slightly cute and fun sounding however involved us looking like muppets running around Loughborough uni  (did it in 1:48 so I suppose it was worth it in the end (thank you Hannah)).

Marathon Training Week 5 & 6

This week was very similar to last week’s efforts except this week we were (finally) able to make it to hares on Tuesday for intervals, put way too much effort in trying to race Lee after the 16 miles on Sunday and ended up not being able to walk properly for the few days following because of this I didn’t run again until the next Sunday when Dad, Kev and I went for another 16 (slightly hillier) mile run which arguable went even better as we did it a minute quicker.

In week 6 we couldn’t make it to hares  so me and dad went for a run in Newbury and then didn’t run again until the week after.

Marathon Training Week 4

So there were only two runs to talk about this week, and relatively slow 5k Tuesday night (as we couldn’t make it to hares again , then we were supposed to up my 11 mile effort from the week before up to 14; this didn’t quite go to plan as Kev brought some incredibly effective drugs (torq gels ) and our mentality switched from “why are we here?” to “why stop at 14??” Almost instantly and so pushed on for a 16 mile run in a little over 2 hours, which can never be sniffed at onto intervals on Tuesday.

Marathon Training Week 3

This week was a much greater improvement on last week’s efforts, on Tuesday as dad had an ‘injured’ foot couldn’t make it to the club so did an easy 10k by myself, then on Thursday I was told to go for another 6-8mile run by which was much faster  and probably worth it in the end. Finally after a 12 hour working day I was told to go to bed as I had an 11 mile run on the following morning; the only positive to this being me getting photographic evidence of Dad (and Kev) out for a run. I only signed up for one run in April, not this “training” I’ve been told to do. On to next week I suppose

Marathon Training Week 2

With London now 14 weeks away (getting less and less excited, and much more nervous) I was told I had to do three runs, obviously a great run with you guys on Tuesday, college work prevented the second run and had to go solo for an 8 miler on Saturday as Dad wimped out. My watch died on me at 5.23km so to be perfectly honest I’ve got no idea whether or not it was in fact 8 miles; but I know it was fairly close so hopefully that’ll be good enough. I’m sure it’ll be another good run on Tuesday and a horrible long run next weekend (as well as one or two ‘recovery’ runs). Will try to get some photo evidence of Dad in ‘action’ to make it just a little more worth it.

Marathon Training Week 1

In 15 weeks’ time I’ll be half way through my first marathon, and hopefully all will be well and I won’t regret the lack of running in this first week! Apparently “rest” has always been an important part of my dad’s training plans, and I can see the benefit in that, however we need to make sure we don’t take it to the extreme (for instance, Dad needs to lose half a stone at least 🙂 ). Unfortunately we missed the Hares run on Tuesday, so we forced ourselves to at least do 3 miles on Wednesday. Very much a case of just getting out on the feet, as it was the first run since the Hares Christmas run. (Note previous comment about plenty of rest!). Kev and Dad did their stupid “lets run up Coombe for a laugh” run on Saturday, fortunately I was working.
Some good news on the mileage front tho. Dad and I finished the week this morning with a steady, but hilly, 7 miler in 59 mins. It hurt more than it should, and I can safely say my training has properly started.
Hopefully see you all Tuesday 🙂

Our Stories

Venice Marathon 2015

Well I did it… it was much harder than I thought it would be, but the last mile of my first Marathon was overwhelming as I ran through St Marks Square and over 8 ramped bridges alongside the Grand Canal in Venice in front of thousands of cheering spectators. The finish was very emotional, full of elation and tears.   I was very apprehensive as I travelled from Venice on the free bus to the start at Stra, a small town 18 miles inland from the Italian coast. The Marathon Village had a carnival atmosphere and an international flavour with music and announcements in several languages. I met several English competitors who put me at ease, but it was pretty obvious to me that although the Venice Marathon had a charity billing, the vast majority of the competitors were serious runners, looking to make PBs on a flat open course that follows the Brenta Canal. This was confirmed when I realised that I was in the 5th and last starting corral despite predicting a time of just over 4 hrs to complete the course.    Being the 30th Venice Marathon, the organisation of the event was slick, the bag collection was painless, toilet facilities plentiful and drinks easily acquired. The hour before the run went quickly, with good luck messages and following a raucous rendition of the Italian national anthem we were all poised to start.  The Italians clearly like good old fashioned classical Rock as we passed the start with ACDC “highway to hell” booming from the PA.   I had become accustomed to an 18 degree high in Venice with a cool wind ensuring we kept our jumpers on, but it soon became clear that inland,  with no wind and the sun beating down on wide tarmac roads that it felt 5 or 6 degrees warmer than 15/16 degree real temperature.    The course follows the SR11 (A class road) to Venice meandering alongside the Canal, so although  7,000 runners were unleashed in less than 10 minutes, finding space to run your own pace was never an issue. The course passed through picturesque country side with the canal ever present on the right and punctuated by ribbon towns like Dolo, Mira and Oriago. The towns were lined with cheering supporters and kids reaching out to touch your hand. Local bands boomed out classics like Motorheads “Ace of Spades”, Deep Purples “Smoke on the Water” and softer rock classics like Cyndi Laupers “time after time”.   Mentally I felt good, I tried to run a steady pace and regularly took on energy foods and was carried easily by the amassed runners. Every 5km there were drinking stations and water buckets. Deceived by the sun and heat, at about the 8 mile point I was conscious I was getting hot, and for the first time in my running career I used the supplied sponge in my bib bag to douse myself with cold water from the buckets.   

  I hit the mid way point, feeling good and on target at around 1hr 57mins, as the countryside gave way to the Mestre urban area, part of the Venice mainland. I then ran into my first difficult spell at miles 14 to 16 as the midday heat and high humidity took its toll. My pace slowed dramatically and I stopped briefly to take on and shower myself in water.    At mile 18 we passed into the San Giuliano Park where the official Marathon Village was sited, with bands playing and spectators lining the 2 mile circular route around the park paths. My family were there as I entered the park to cheer me and served to spur me on, out of the park and onto the 2.5 mile long straight  Via della Libertà (Freedom) bridge, which is the only road bridge connecting the mainland to historic Venice.    The steady climb brought on my second bad spell, where I succumbed to walking as my legs tired, I recall an Italian girl competitor clapping and encouraging me on and thanked her as I began running again. I pushed hard, it hurt, there were no crowds or supporters, just me alone. In the middle of the bridge an ambulance was attending to a runner who had clearly collapsed. I was conscious of a cooling wind and the Venice islands outlined ahead. I pushed on uplifted, knowing the end was in sight and suddenly I had reached the historic city.    I hit my third and worst wall at 22 miles, disappointed as we passed through the ferry port and industrial areas to find no supporters. The heat of the mainland was now replaced by a cooling wind and several runners were falling by the way as cramp set in. Punctuated by short walking periods I pressed on and reached the edge of the Grand Canal. The wind was strong now. The bridges between the islands had been ramped to avoid climbing the steps. Even so the climb combined with cooling legs were contributing to onset of cramp, runners were dropping like flies, so I slowed my climbs to avoid the pain.    Then at 24 miles, just when I was seriously doubting if I could finish, I saw the San Marco Campinale, a distinctive tower rising high above St Marks square. Crowds were now alongside the canal side and cheering us on. “go go John”, they shouted as if they knew me. The organisers know the power of putting your name on you bib. Spanning the Grand Canal as St Marks Square approaches is a 150m pontoon bridge, specially erected just for the Marathon. As you come off the bridge the crowds swell and become a sea as you run through St Marks Square itself.  The historic buildings surrounding the square almost smile at you and suddenly you know the end is near. Between St Marks Square and the finish is just over a kilometre of barriered running lane, punctuated with 8 historic bridges, creating spectator pinch points. As you climb each ramp, crowds press to the edge, screaming encouragement, cameras and go pros pushed towards your face.  I just kept going wondering whether the next will be the last before the finish, then suddenly I climb a bridge and at the summit I see the finish arch 300 yards ahead. I knew I was going to make it and could feel emotions of elation and pride suddenly welling up inside me. Embarrassingly I was shouting out loud “I ve done it”, Ive done it” and threw my arms in the air as I ran the last 200 yards, the pain suddenly suppressed. I saw the time above the arch 4 hrs 23 mins as I crossed the line.    The organisers ushered me to one side and then after a few  seconds of reflection at what I had achieved, I felt the emotions well again and tears run freely and I wept. After 4 months of training and lots of support I had achieved something I had dreamed about for 5 years. It was harder than I expected and a proud moment that I will always savour and never forget.   Thanks to all my family for their support, to Ronald my faithful canine running mate and to my daughter who proudly posted on facebook “he only bloody did it…”  my first Marathon was the Venice Marathon – chip time 4hrs 17mins and 43 seconds.   John