Guiding Danny around Wilmslow

March 23, 2017

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It felt fabulous to guide Danny through his first half marathon though that feeling wasn’t there instantly as we crossed the finish line at Wilmslow. The race was well organised, routed, marshaled and supported. It was chip timed, with excellent pace runners, it had a bag drop off area, tempting post race food and beer available and a post race massage tent but the only down side was that it finished on a rough, narrow track by the side of a corn field. This wouldn’t normally be such a problem but when you’re responsible for guiding someone who’s tired, wet and cold and you don’t quite know which way is back to somewhere sheltered suddenly you’re on edge and tense among the crowds of finishers and supporters when you’d really like to collapse and relax yourself. Danny was picking up fliers for other half marathons whilst at that point in time I was much less enthused by the prospect of another 13 miles at any time in the future. On finishing I suddenly realised how physically drained I felt as well as being a bit mentally frazzled.

Our training had gone really well and other than getting locked in Heaton Park one evening after dusk, it had passed without incident. Busy weekends with our respective families left us short of daylight for training but as the days lengthened so did our runs with an excellent final run just short of 20k that Danny rounded off with a sprint finish down his street.

We had very welcome and helpful company on the day of the race with me picking up Rob and Sol before Danny. It all felt a bit Ocean’s Eleven as I rounded up a North Manchester posse to do a job on Wilmslow’s streets. Rob worked in Wilmslow and I was grateful that he navigating us there in good time relieving me of some race day stress. Rob is the current quickest guy in our running club and amazingly broke 80 minutes in only his 2nd half marathon. Sol managed a 4 minute PB as well and helpfully lead us off from an elevated position on the graded starting grid halfway between the 1:30 and 1:40 markers.

As we set off Sol opened up a space in front of us and then as the field settled there was a steady succession of people passing us. A block of runners overtook us at the 3 mile point bunched behind the 1:45 pacer and then a 2nd wave behind the 1:50 pacer passed at 6 miles. This was a bit more troublesome as it was on the narrowest section of the course, a country lane riddled with potholes. The body of runners made it harder for me to see the road immediately ahead and I couldn’t stop Danny from stumbling a couple of times. He didn’t want to stop although we could afford to as we’d banked some time against our 2 hour target by running the first 10k in 53:30.

The last 4 miles were tough and I suggested he count them down by ‘visualizing’ the distance remaining in relation to somewhere familiar like Heaton Parkrun. As we passed the 9 mile mark I’d remarked that we had less than one and a half Parkruns to go and explained that as I get into the later stages of the race I busy my mind with conversions between miles, kilometres and percentages to find the figure that makes the distance seem shortest. Having mentioned ‘visaulizing’ I instantly realized that wasn’t going to help Danny, bearing in mind his impairment, but maybe he could relate the last 5k to our Parkrun’s turns and gradients as I compared our actual position to various virtual points on the course which we have run together numerous times over the last few months. I’m not sure if that helped him as Danny had gone a bit quiet and was digging deep to ignore some niggling leg pain caused by an over-excited cross trainer session in the gym. We conquered the most significant climb cruelly positioned just after the 12 mile point but once that was out of the way there was a gradual downhill to the end with crowds building as we returned to Wilmslow. You’ll notice from the photo above that I was struggling as much as Danny and we were both delighted to get to the finish line.

A few days later I’m feeling more satisfied with what we’ve done. Danny smashed his target time and is keen to run again. We’ve learned loads along the way to make sure the next race is easier although knowing Danny he’ll be pushing even harder next time.

 

Nevous?

February 26, 2017

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I didn’t think today mattered that much so when I woke up feeling bobbins I was annoyed and disappointed rather than putting it down to nerves. I hadn’t drunk to excess the previous evening (though I had drunk obviously) and felt like I’d slept well but I’d woken up with a hang-over like sickly feeling in the stomach and the head. Had I picked up a cold at just the wrong time?

Today did matter though, my first Prestwich AC club run of the year and ducking a half marathon in Cheshire which wouldn’t have been in my comfort zone so soon after Christmas. The Radcliffe AC Terry Nortley 10 mile trail race had given a pleasant and useful focus to my winter training taking me out of Prestwich into the Irwell valley and although I hadn’t spotted any deer this year during my Sunday training runs I’d enjoyed those runs and the resulting improvement in my fitness levels. I’d worked hard to lose some weight and noticed the benefit of this in my climbing and a quick Parkrun last weekend confirmed I was in the best February form of my life.

This morning the stomach was churning and my head had a cold like fogginess. I really didn’t want to get out of bed. A couple of miles early doors before a bit of porridge was the plan but no, not today. No running early this morning despite decent weather for February. I couldn’t stomach the instant porridge either so skipped it and went straight to the pre-race energy gels and to be fair lack of energy wasn’t a problem today.

As soon as I started running all the fears and worries evaporated. As usual I started too quick and being at the sharp end I was swept along in the top 10 where I was never going to stay. I felt comfortable at the time and thought I was running within myself but those first 5k were a bit too quick. I swapped places with about 4 other guys through that first period and when my club companion Dan pushed past me I tried to stick with him, trusting in his dependable pace and strength in the second half of a race. I couldn’t keep with him and finished over a minute behind consolidating a solid 3rd position within the club but there’s no doubt he helped me along for a while before I knew the gap was never to be reduced.

I’ve spoken to my kids about nerves a few times (before pushing them into a performance in front of their school mates or Church congregation) and I’ve told them that they should view it as ‘excitement’; a sign that what they are about to do matters and they care about it, which is obviously a good thing. It might be semantics but excitement is a positive term whereas nervousness is less so. I should have been telling myself this today. It might not have gained me any positions but changed my whole attitude to an event which was executed to perfection by Radcliffe AC. I love the Terry Nortley 10 mile trail race and next year I vow to look forward to it and revel in the joy of such an excellent race on my doorstep.

Let them eat cake

February 15, 2017

cakeThe photo above represents my 2017 weight loss in assorted baking materials. I’ve done well so far and I’m definitely feeling the benefits with quicker runs coming easily without pushing myself any harder than I’ve done before.

I’m the lightest I’ve been in my adult life and some cheap scales from Aldi are ensuring that my loss is fat and not muscle mass. I’m pretty sure I’m lighter than Ricky Hatton and well on my way to dropping down another weight division.

Exercise wise I’m doing plenty but no more than in previous years. All my runs have a purpose with a 10 mile trail race at the end of this month looming. Training with Danny is upping the mileage a bit but there’s only 1 other social/recovery run in the week all the others are stretching my endurance, speed or strength. I’ve cycle commuted every day this year so far (weather has been kind) but there’s been no additional cycling for pleasure.

I’ve lost weight mostly through improving my diet and watching the quantities I eat. I hadn’t completely blown out over Christmas and hadn’t drunk too much either but with a new year and the annual resolve to improve myself, I finally managed to quit the office vending machine which I’d visit 2 or 3 times a day. A timely desk move has put me at a healthier end of the office where we have a fruit club and I’m now a short walk from the designated office cake and sweet sharing area. I didn’t go dry for January but cut back and even had to lie at a recent health checkup when I could only count up 8 units consumed that week. It seemed a bit pathetic and atypical so I rounded up my weekly estimate to 15 units (still a healthy reduction from 25 that had been put on record some time in the distant past).

There’s been no sweets, chocolate or crisps over the last 6 weeks but I’ve not cut out cake. Cake is the food of love, it shows you care whether that’s for a charity cause, your co-workers, friends or family.  We have plenty of office bake excuses for charity, product releases and birthdays as well as chocolaty treats from colleagues in the Polish office and there’s no escape at home either. One of Catriona’s colleagues lavishes her office with Friday cakey/deserty treats that she struggles to consume so it’s often brought back to me. Maria, a long time cake lover, has recently taken to baking; she had cakes to make as food tech homework at the start of the week, is currently making iced buns for friends to celebrate her 12th birthday tomorrow and will be taking orders for cakes over the next couple of weeks as she raises money for her Scout troop. There’s always bits of stuff that need me to perform a Quality Assurance role. But it’s about quality and not quantity and my Jamaica ginger cake scoffing days will remain in the past.

So rather than just letting them eat cake, let’s all eat cake, but share the cakey love wide and far, making sure our portions are moderate and that we savour every mouthful and morsel.

Training for the Wilmslow Half

February 11, 2017

dannyDanny and I are booked in for the Wilmslow Half Marathon next month, which will be his first half, and up until Thursday evening I was concerned that our preparation was a little off track. We’ve run together at least once a week over the last couple of months but haven’t fallen into a particularly strict routine. Our 5k Parkrun times are tumbling even though we’re still struggling with the congested start and losing about 50 places that we retake in the first kilometre. It would be good to keep ahead of the main body of the field and as we get closer to 25 minutes we should find it easier at the start even if we’re blowing a bit at the end.

I was aware that we only have 6 weeks to the race and due to one reason or another hadn’t even covered half distance yet. Midweek running has to be done on pavement as Heaton Park closes too early for us. In 2 or 3 week’s time we might be able to go back in the park before sunset but for now we’ve been contending with tree-root distorted pavements and kerbs around the streets close to Danny’s house.

This week I told Danny we’d try to run 10k which is 4k longer than our previous longest run and he wasn’t fazed by this. Danny’s fitness has improved with cardio sessions in the gym in addition to our runs and since buying new trainers hasn’t felt any niggles in his legs. Thursday evening was fresh without being freezing, it was dry and windless too. I took a while to settle and relax as we covered some pavements new to us. Danny could sense the tension in my voice especially as I met him after cycling straight from work, but the stresses and frustrations of the day melted away as the miles ticked by. As usual we chatted as straight uninterrupted pavements allowed and despite going beyond what we’d done before I realised that our pace was not dropping. We ended up covering 13 kilometres and he finished with a sprint down the middle of his road resulting in his last kilometre being his quickest. I was delighted! If only my own training runs could be so successful!

Danny has a steely determination that makes you feel like nothing is impossible. It’s inspirational. I can’t wait until we run midweek in the park again and without the Parkrun crowds around us we can push hard along the familiar wide paths and who knows what he can do!

Back in the groove

January 15, 2017

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After the last race of 2016 I backed off a bit, still running fairly frequently but reducing speed and distance. The only constant was my Saturday morning Parkrun where I’ve paced 20 minutes pretty much to the second over the last couple of months. My first Prestwich AC race of the season will be a 10 mile trail race at the end of February which I’m starting to build to now.

With a new year the usual resolutions are made and I’m proud to say I haven’t visited the office vending machine yet in 2017. I’ve cycle commuted every day and added a quick midweek evening 10k into my week. The house is finally clear of Christmas treats, we’re eating more vegetables and drinking a bit less and as a consequence a few pounds have slipped away and I’m feeling less sluggish.

The retro-running has returned too! Just a bit of it and probably more of a retro-jog than a run. It’s convenient to squeeze in a mile lap of the old UK Championship course prior to Parkrun-ing and as the Heaton Parkrun was cancelled this weekend due to ice I had time to do a couple of laps. As I was running I spotted the quickest 5k runner I know who was doing some mile intervals in the same part of the park as me. I finished my 2nd lap just as Joe was finishing his session and I felt like I had to explain what I was up to. I pointed out we’d raced against each other when I’d finished a few places (and a good few minutes!) behind him at a 5k race in September and then explained the significance of the route I’d been running. He was interested in the times that were possible so I moved on from my own ability to quoting some of the current retro world records to him.

I found out recently that Aaron, the American I raced against in Germany, had just broken the mile record taking it down to 5:54. I pointed out that in his prime Aaron could run it forwards in just over 4 minutes so some decent athletes were taking it seriously.

The date has been set for the next World Championship meeting in Dublin and I’m hoping that there might be a UK Championship held this year down near London. I’m not training for either of those just yet but that little bit of retro-running should be helping my fitness and complementing some longer and quicker forward runs over the next 6 weeks.

If anyone fancies giving Retro-running or Retro-jogging a go I’ll be down by the boating lake around 8:30 on Saturday mornings.

My running year 2016

December 29, 2016

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It’s been an awesome year of running. I’ve clocked up over 1,000 miles, improved my 10k PB and enjoyed both guide running and pacing at the local Parkrun. Trophy wise I claimed the Prestwich AC V40 Championship title and become a (veteran) World Champion Retro-runner.

I enjoyed Prestwich AC’s inaugural off road championship which I lead for a while until the longer and tougher runs played to the advantage of our more experienced fell runners. Next year I’ll look to challenge myself with longer events further from my comfort zone and will finally use in anger some of the waterproof kit I’ve amassed over the last year. There will be less worrying about speed and positions and I’ll hope to enjoy more of the scenery together with that post run sense of achievement when you might not have been smiling too much during the race.

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Soon to be overtaken at the Lee Mill fell race

In the main Prestwich AC championship I missed a few races early in the season including a couple which would’ve suited me well. I was playing catch up on the points table and although I was disappointed not to have improved on my half marathon time at Lancaster on a course flatter than the previous year I did enough to claim the newly created V40 title at this last race of the season.

The 6th World Retro-Running Championships held at Essen in July have probably provided me with a pinnacle to my athletic career. Standing on a podium to claim the veteran’s bronze in the 3km justified my trip Germany. The next day I topped this by taking the veteran’s silver for 5km in front of my family who had come out to join me on the Saturday.

The gold medal and chance to sing the National Anthem whilst holding a flag aloft was as amazing as it was unexpected. I hadn’t specifically trained for that half marathon race and had covered that distance 12 minutes quicker previously but on the day with the conditions and competitive field as they were I found that I had what was required to win. The date of the next Championship meet in Dublin has just been announced and I’ll be keen to defend my title. That’s still 18 months away so next year I’ll be able to concentrate on the forwards running and maybe do a bit of cycling and a triathlon too.

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My gold medal that gets taken out around Prestwich village all too often

Pacing has been fun this year. I love running the Heaton Parkrun and have paced a few people to PBs around the course that I know and love. I’ve worn the 20 vest for the last 7 weeks and can now hit that target time to the second. When I haven’t been in the vest I’ve guided a visually impaired runner to his best and also claimed first runner home on the 7th birthday run. This was my fastest 5km of the year, 10 seconds slower than in 2015 but I hadn’t really looked to improve my best times other than my 10k.

At the start of the year my fastest 10k was a trail run so I knew that could be improved upon. Our club championship race at Burnley gave me a chance to reduce it and as 4 runners from my club set off together at a similar pace if felt like we were initially supporting each other. It was far from flat but the climbs being early in the course left 4km of gentle downhill to help me when normally I’d be fading. I took my PB below 39 minutes and I’d hope to improve that further in 2017 on a flatter course.

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When in Burnley: Post 10k recovery including a Bene-bomb in the Miner’s Social Club

Guiding a visually impaired runner called Danny has been the most rewarding bit of the year. We met at Parkrun and on the first outing I was determined to take him under 30 minutes for the first time. We have since improved that by a couple of minutes and enjoyed meeting in the Park at other times. We tried a street run together for the first time earlier in the month and although it was incident free I think we’d both rather be back in the familiar and safe surroundings of Heaton Park. We’ve mentioned doing a half marathon together and I’m due to meet with Danny for a pint so we’ll get a date fixed and put it into my 2017 calendar which might not be as spectacular as 2016 but looks to be even busier.

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Parkrun guide running with Danny

 

 

2016 Results:

Ashurst Beacon fell run 39/167

Terry Nortley 10 mile trail run 25/263

Rivington Pike fell race 39/264

Mount Famine fell race 34/141

Eddie’s Revenge fell race 21/132

7th Birthday Heaton Parkrun 18:03 1/621

Royton Trail race 22/171

World Retrorunning Championships 3k 14:27 Bronze M1 (Vet 40)

World Retrorunning Championships 5k 24:10 Silver M1 (Vet 40)

World Retrorunning Championships Half Marathon 2:09:58 Gold M1 (Vet 40)

Lee Mill fell run 21/97

Stan Curran birthday 5k 10/108

Burnley Fire 10k 7/200 PB of 38:46

Lancaster half marathon 21/442

 

Guide Running

December 20, 2016

I’ve really enjoyed guiding Danny, a visually impaired runner over the last few months and on Friday evening we finally stepped out from the safety of Heaton Park to run along streets for the first time.

Danny is a regular and improving runner, over the years he’s played football, cricket and more recently goalball. He ran the Manchester 10k last year and I’d love to do the Half Marathon with him next year if he’s willing to give it a crack. We met at Heaton Park’s Parkrun after they put out a request for a guide around the 5km course. Obviously I knew the route very well, some might say backwards and I think that particular experience gives me empathy towards VI runners as retro-runners become more sensitive than most to changes in terrain, inclines, camber, potholes and dogs. Danny and I got along well, dealt with the usual crowd of over 500 runners and set a respectable time which obviously I was keen to smash the next time we ran together.

The Run England group I meet with on Monday evenings booked me onto a Visually Impaired guide runner course at the athletics facility next to the Ethiad. It was interesting, practical and good fun too. I was paired with a Chorlton runner and we took it in turns to put on an eye mask and help each other to negotiate an obstacle course and laps of the indoor 200m track before moving outside to deal with the 400 metre track together with the steps and grassy areas around the small stadium. It was a pity I didn’t have Strava switched on to capture a pacy 400m lap when I dragged my poor sighted guide partner around the track towards the end of our session when my blind confidence was sky high.

After the course we were to get a DBS check and then register on a pairing website to match up guides with people who would like to be guided. However, I already had a partner and although I’d be happy to run with others on Monday evenings in Heaton Park my commitment to Danny means that wouldn’t want to find another regular partner. The course taught me that communication and mutual trust were the keys to safe and successful guide running. Danny and I have got that in abundance.

And so to our first street run, which was completely unplanned and in the dark to boot. I was to meet Danny at 5pm on my way home from work at the Middleton Road entrance to Heaton Park. As I was locking my bike a security guard was driving out and closing up for the night so I had to move it to the other side of the gate. We normally run 6 or 7 km around the park taking in parts of the Parkrun course, but it wasn’t to be this time. The hastily assembled plan B would be some pavement running avoiding street lights, bus shelters, road signs, bollards and dealing with kerbs. The obvious route was towards Middleton following the wall of the park, across the M60 and then turning left up Heywood Old Road which was a bit of a climb but had no left turns along it for over 1 kilometre.

Danny has some vision and can make out shapes due to differences in light and dark but on coming headlights and the sudden changes in contrast meant that our run in the dark was to be far more challenging than normal. He was putting a lot of trust in me and we just about got through the 35 minutes without incident. We developed a countdown strategy for going up and down kerbs and we adapted to me switching to run on Danny’s unfamiliar left hand side. We both like to chat as we run but without the relaxed and familiar surroundings of the park there were times when we needed to shut up and concentrate. At the end of the 5k run Danny had only clipped one lamp post with an elbow though immediately after finishing I forgot to warn him about a kerb I let him step off. No tumbles but room for improvement and I’d definitely run that route again. In the new year I hope we can go to the Prestwich AC monthly track nights and safely inject a bit more pace into our running and then maybe increase the distance as the evenings come lighter and we can return to the safety of the park where our only concern is for dogs running free.

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Dead not alive

October 25, 2016

 

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This year has been an awful one for losing popstars. Bowie and Prince dying within a few months of each other was bad enough but there has been a steady trickle of other obituaries written. Inevitably we all die at some point and some deaths are more unexpected than others but 80s pop seems to have been hit particularly hard. Rod Temperton died earlier this month and as our kids are massive Michael Jackson fans the passing of the writer of Rock with you, Off the wall and Thriller; some of the finest pop songs of all time had to be relayed to them. I suppose he’s reunited with Jacko.

And so to Pete Burn’s death this week, what might this mean to my kids?

As a 13 year old I was taken by “You spin me round” though I preferred their follow up “In too Deep” and although the Pete’s image and the scene from which he emerged went a little over my young head I could see he was a performer with style and power (albeit with his voice being digitally enhanced I’m sure). I bought Youthquake and remember rating it at about 7/10; not outstanding but more generous than Neil Tennant might have given it in his time as a Smash Hits journalist. I would have cut out the band’s lyrics from that magazine (or perhaps the inferior weekly Number One) and there was probably a poster on the wall along-side Wham. I’m still not quite sure why I joined the Dead or Alive fan club advertised in a small ad within Smash Hits as it was probably not the wisest use of £5, which was more than the price of a cassette album from my favourite record shop “Vibes” back then.

So I played “You spin me round” to my 11 year old Maria and showed her the cassette box of Youthquake.

“He looks like Bowie” she said. Very well observed, and I’m sure the Thin White Duke would have been a big influence on Pete.

“Is this called Venus?” – No, but you’ve clearly identified the mid 80s SAW sound. Dead or Alive gave Stock Aitken and Waterman their first number 1 as producers and this from a band where the lead singer certainly wasn’t a malleable soap star pop clone.

“I’m not sure I know this song” – Wait until the chorus, it’s quite memorable.

Then the chorus breaks and the Maria’s internal light-bulb goes on. I can’t quite remember when I last heard it played in our household though local BBC radio does play a disproportionate amount of 80s pop and Absolute 80s used to be our channel of choice, but Maria’s next response saddens and depresses me.

“It’s the Alvin and the Chipmunks song!”

Oh poor Pete! That’s no way to be remembered is it?

Fell Running

August 5, 2016

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In a quest to add more variety to my running, build up a bit of strength and most importantly to stop beating myself up about pace, times and speed I’ve taken to Fell Running this year. This has happily coincided with my running club initiating a first off-road championship to run along side the regular one. It consists of 7 races varying in distance and difficulty with us posting our 4 best results. I started surprisingly well with the easy stuff but it has become clear that in this first season a number of us are being ‘groomed’ into the ways of fell running. First was a trail race which finished with a nasty climb up to a beacon and the 2nd was a short dash up Rivington Pike and back with most of the running on tarmac. I started with 2 wins and the ever improving Rob just behind me in both of them.

3rd race was manic: Mount Famine on the edge of the Peak district. Not particularly long but all steep either up or down. No flat stuff and the downs were so aggressive little old novice me couldn’t relax, enjoy  or benefit from them in any way.

Eddie’s revenge a few weeks ago was more like my kind of Fell Race. Local, midweek, not too long, several climbs but no one of them too long and the terrain was fairly firm and true. Rob had taken first place in the 3rd and 4th races so last week at Lee Mill, Bacup we were level on points and with the 2 remaining races being longer and playing to Ultra-runner Rob’s advantage I really needed to win to have a hope of securing our club’s first off-road championship title.

So this was the 5th off-road race of the season and I think it’s the one I have enjoyed the most. The course was varied and had all the components I have come to expect in a Lancashire fell race: Gradients both up and down to contend with, one section of up requiring the use of hands and a section of down just too steep to be enjoyable. There was a flat bit too, although it had mild undulations and “bog holes” which provided a kind of runner’s Russian Roulette: once every few minutes I’d hit soft ground and a leg would sink down with stinking liquid rising above my knee.

I was still just inside the top ten as a sequence of 3 bog incidents sapped my strength and knocked my confidence whilst a group of runners behind me seemed to avoid all the worst stuff at my expense. I let a couple past and tried to keep with them, trying to follow in their footsteps but their pace was increasing and I couldn’t match it.

I had lead the PAC runners for the first couple of kilometres but stopping to tie a shoe lace had allowed Rob to pass me (though denying him the pleasure of passing me properly) and the 15 second gap I gifted him evolved into a 3 minute margin by the end of the race.

Then there was the steepest section of decent which was as hazardous for its uneven terrain as it was for its gradient. I was over generous in moving off the recognisable path onto more uneven ground in order to let a couple of runners past and this soon turned into 5 or 6 runners. My heart and lungs were okay but my inexperienced legs were a little wobbly and I didn’t want to tumble.

As we approached the end we went through a quarry, a point at which I should have been accelerating into the last kilometre but again the uneven ground caused me to back off. There wasn’t anything to play for as Rob was well ahead and I couldn’t see the next PAC runner behind me.

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I was delighted to finish without incident other than a scuffed shin from one of my bog hole incidents. I paddled in the Irwell to clean myself up and then tucked in to a chip butty. A pint would have just rounded things off but I was driving and unlike most of the other races this one didn’t start and finish outside a pub.

I was happy to concede the off-road title to Rob who finished a fabulous 7th from 91 runners whilst I was 21st. I’ve left it too late to enter the remaining races at Pendle and North Wales but will be happy to find more local midweek fell runs and recce some races to suggest for our PAC 2017 diary.

Looking back at Germany

August 5, 2016

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The dust has settled a little on the Retro-Running World Championships but local media interest is starting to pick up (check out this week’s Prestwich and Whitefield Guide everybody!) and I’m still being sent fabulous photos of myself at the event such as the one above. Most of the people of Prestwich have seen my medal now as it’s often carried around in my back pocket, but looking to the future I want to (shamelessly) use my success to re-launch the UK Championship and ideally in Heaton Park as that would be particularly handy for me!

Although the World Championships in Germany were slick, well organised and competitive it was immense fun and this was probably due in some part to the mind-set of the athletes. We had all worked hard in preparation but ultimately you must have a sense of humour to entertain running backwards. I met some fantastic and inspiring people, I can’t list them all but here are a few from around the world:

Dwayne had traveled furthest; from Australia thanks to some crowdfunding by companies families and individuals. As a double amputee his main drive to was inspire other amputees to try new experiences and ‘Just do it’. Dwayne’s sport is Basketball rather than track running but he was keen to set some world records for others to break. He is probably the first person ever to run on blades turned the other way round. This must have been a bit scary for him as he was left very vulnerable as he tired in the 200m. I think they would have enhanced his 100m time but after making his way around the curve of the 200m without any problem he found himself tiring and would have liked to have rested on his heels for balance and some stability. The blades didn’t have any heel support so there was a big wobble, Dwayne caught himself, and then bravely battled on the end of the straight in determined though rather precarious manner.

Dwayne

For the 100m later on the same day he went back to his regular prosthetics and trainers and finished that without any problem. The guy was great fun as well as an inspiration and I wish him and his family well in every future adventures he takes them on!

A quick shout out to Israeli Triathlete Lako who took 4th in the Half marathon as well as 5th in a very competitive 10k. I could have cried for the guy putting in all that effort without claiming a gong as he finished the 21.1km behind 3 excellent German runners. I hope he goes again in 2 year’s time.

I was inspired to be as professional a possible during and after my relay races by Aaron a middle distance ace only recently converted to Retro-running. He looks set to push the world records if he maintains his rate of improvement. His Mum sang the star spangled Banner for him as he collected a number of gold medals in front of his family who had come over from Kansas. Also from the other side of the Atlantic came Canadian Ultra-runner Kat who grabbed golds between 800m and Half Marathon distance and finished every event with a smile on her face. I particularly remember her whipping up the crowd in the grandstand every time she passed by in the 10,000m.

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In the men’s 10,000m, Thomas Dold (above), the star of our Retro-running world, also smiled all the way through breaking his own world record bringing it down to an astonishing 38 min 50 seconds. I haven’t even run that forwards (and I’m a World Champion if you hadn’t forgotten!) I chatted to Thomas the following day and he’s going to Rio to help coach the German ladies Marathon team.

My relay team of Polish Champion Artur, Austrian Ultra runner Daniel, and our experienced anchor relay man Garret. What we lacked in experience and sprinting ability we made up for in enthusiasm. We didn’t drop the baton and didn’t finish last in either race. It just goes to show what can happen when Europe works together and made me feel like I’d done something towards counter-balancing my country’s recent vote to break away from the continent!

Team

Garret inspired me on this 5 year journey of fun and fitness which I’m sure has helped me stay injury free and enabled me to improve as a forward runner too. Below is a photo from a few years ago in Heaton Park when the proud Irishman beat us all over the mile distance. I hope he can return to Heaton Park next year to inspire more locals and in return I’ll form a GB squad to take Dublin by storm when he hosts the 2018 World Championships.

garret

Finally Mark who represented the rest of the GB team as well as managing the European relay team. The bloke is absolute star, full of fitness and fun and living down in London he could help raise the profile of Retro-running around the capital. There was loose talk about holding a track based event before Dublin 2018 (GB trials?!) I’m delighted to hear that his Achilles is strong again and he ran backwards recently.

Mark

So that’s the end of my epilogue. I will serious consider resurrecting the UK Backwards Running Championships in my local park next spring and I will still be doing a mile or 2 backwards on a Sunday morning just to keep my self in Retro-shape though I definitely won’t be doing another Half Marathon distance (until Dublin obviously).