Race Reports

Abingdon Marathon 2012

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The Abingdon Marathon was first held in 1982 and 2012 marks the race's 31st year since its inception. 

This is a flat, fast, scenic marathon with not too many runners. 

This race sells out within weeks. Mostly good standard club runners looking for a PB, because it's such a good race and usually ideal temperature in October. 

About 750 starters out of the 1,000 entrants. About 80 usually go sub-3 hours. 

Pre Race 

No idea how I would do on the day but weather seemed perfect. 10 degrees, light wind, cloudy. Some muddy puddles from recent rain. In 2011, I trained diligently for marathons and Abingdon 2011 yielded 11mins off PB for 3:11:03. Done several marathons since then and not gone faster. 2012 has been dominated by long distance triathlon and long distance duathlon with no specific stand-alone marathon preparation. Heartened by taking 3 mins off half-marathon PB just 3 weeks before Abingdon 2012. A bit in awe of Kevin James' 3:02 marathon finish a couple of weeks ago. 

My Race 

Figured I would go for sub-3 and see what happens. That meant a decent warm up for 10 mins before the start, so I could post sub-7min miles straight from the gun. Delighted to find I was doing 6:40-6:50 min miles with relative comfort for the first 6 miles but then got a nasty pain develop in heel at the Achilles Tendon insertion. At age 49, one does worry about Achilles Tendon rupture. Contemplated dropping out but decided to keep going as it did seem a genuine opportunity to fulfil the sub-3 dream.

Toughed it out and got to half way in 1:29:30. Completed mile-22 and was averaging around 6:45 per mile, which was comfortably inside target. Hit some kind of wall thereafter and the next miles were 7:00, 7:10, 7:29, despite really trying hard and almost passing out.

Always manage to rally for that last mile, which was around 7:05 on this occasion. Then the last half mile was at 6:30 pace as I sprinted screaming like a nutter to motivate myself. Yes, that's 26.45 miles in total rather than the 26.2 miles I had in mind. That extra quarter of a mile probably took a 100seconds or so.

Post Race

Great to see Anthony Bliss of Sussex Sports Photography. Posed for a few pictures. Delighted with 3:01:17. According to Garmin I had done 26.2 miles in sub-3 but unfortunately that doesn't count.

Great to give Kevin a bit of friendly competition and perhaps the nudge he needs to go sub-3 next time.

My heel feels wrecked and will need serious rest from running for a while. Massive limp day after the race. Thank goodness I have swimming and cycling to do instead for a while.

Race Report by Jim Graham

**After the Male club Marathon being held for over 6 years by Steve Alden it was taken by Kev James 2 weeks ago at the Chester marathon with a time of 03:02:50. Unfortunately for Kev he only got to hold the title for 2 weeks as Jim is now the proud owner of that title.

Club records here



Hickstead Gallop - 5 mile (8km) cross country race

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It was a misty chilly morning when two member of the elite Elvis impersonators wing of the Mid Sussex Tri Club arrived at the Hickstead showground to take on the Hickstead Gallop - Haywards Heath Harriers cross country race.

It was dry but the ground was a trifle sticky as large groups of club runners stretched and warmed up we watched on, striking triathalete poses, gazing through our 1980's orange wraparound sunglasses as we nursed our hangovers and curry guts.

The gun went off and I burst to the front - I was in the lead - two seconds later I picked myself up, wiped the mud of my face and rubbed the spike marks in my back, 'humm reminds one of a good night out me thinks'.

Up the hill, down the hill, up the hill, through the mud.

Up the hill, down the hill, up the hill, through the mud.

Running backwards as more runners come by, I try to block with chicken elbows but to no avail, they just keep coming. The coaching books say start in a sensible position and run negative splits so you can have the joy, excitement and psychological boost of running past people. That's not for me I enjoy the extra pain of demoralisation and the feeling of losing every time someone speeds past wondering why I am wearing a wool shirt fashioned into a running vest.

Up the hill, down the hill, up the hill, through the mud - straight through the mud as other traversed the gate to avoid getting their £100.00 plus trainers dirty. Fortunately I had Robs £15.00 second hand cross country spikes on that he sold to me for £20.00 so straight through the mud, past a few runners at every gate and chicken wing to the next gate - absolutely brilliant spikes are thoroughly recommended if you do any of these events.

Still they come past - until the line came in to view, using my spikes and absorbing the DNA left in them by Rob to give me the power of a Spartan (fortunately with clothes on) I sprinted to the finish and past a few shocked runners as I past them, only to realise they were carrying on for their final lap.

The day was complete when I found a muddy old runners glove.

  • Colin - 34:57
  • Dean - 42.32



Chester Marathon


My trek up to Chester started on Saturday, leaving behind the family of wife and 4 year and almost 2year old kids.  At least the marathon guaranteed a good night's sleep but perhaps running a marathon is not the only way to achieve this! 

This year had been all about this marathon with my only other race events two 10k runs and a half marathon, virtually no cycling or swimming.  The year before had been a similar affair with three marathons Brighton (3hrs 24 and too hot), Beachy Head (4:09: too off-road and hilly) and Portsmouth (3:34 - too cold and unfit). I was really concerned that getting close to my pb of 3.10 (set at Rome in 2006) was a lost cause. But I figured I 'd give it another go. So all the eggs had been placed in the basket a long time ago and I was hoping to crack sub-3 hour into the equation. 

Early start as usual - with the upside of having kids is that waking at 6am without interrupted sleep meant that I was feeling the most refreshed I'd been in a long time. Small bowl of porridge and a banana 3 hours before race start then it was off to Chester Racecourse for the start. The organisers had a lot right - warm tents to hang around in - check. Excellent baggage drop - check. Lots of portaloos - no check (luckily that side of things was already sorted). 

Race start was on the Chester Racecourse itself and literally entailed ducking under the white metal rail onto the horse racing course.  It felt a bit strange to be at the front - after the marathon fails last year was I really even wise to step into the sub-3 area with others? But I figured that there is no use predetermining the outcome by being conservative and choosing a slower time.  And knew I should be there or thereabouts after a 1:25 half marathon the month before.  So with the elite thoroughbreds at the front, and the club runners around me I was banking on not being the pantomime horse in my bit.    

The town crier got us started with an oh-yay and a horn and we did a half lap of the racecourse on the grass (fortunately they don't start a marathon in Aintree!). The course then weaved around Chester city centre past the famous clock tower, the cathedral and the tiered olde worlde shops called the Rows. Soon we were out of the Chester part of the marathon.  In reality the majority of the course was on rural roads held across the border in Wales.

I settled into a group regularly doing sub-6.30 to 6.40 times and figured that this would be the one to hang onto. The first half of the course was fairly flat with some gentle undulations but nothing noticeable when feeling fresh.  I was happy with the pace, but dropped off this group eventually towards the halfway point as the main people doing the work in the bunch suddenly dropped their pace.  I was through the half marathon point exactly at 1.28.  Slightly ahead of pace and only 2 ½ minutes off my half pb.

The next section of the race was when the going started to get tough however and the course became more undulating.  I was holding the pace at the right speed (6.50 for sub-3), but it was really tough going as the field was much sparser by now.  Some nice if sporadic support along the very rural route and Wallace and Gromit music in a village was great.  There was a couple of hills along this point that were absolute killers (not in terms of normal running) but when trying to stay on pace (not possible) and to get back onto my average pace after they finished they were real mental challenges.  Eventually I passed the 20 mile point seemingly at 2.15 (new pb for this distance). I now had 45 minutes for 6.2 miles to get sub 3. But unfortunately the course and my body had other ideas.  A succession of uphill drags meant that I was losing on average 30 seconds per mile and my body was giving the early warnings of cramp.  The mind games were now in full swing - every time I started thinking negative I tried to keep it within the moment - just keep pushing on and ignore everything else. 

Normally I get a bit of adrenaline at the end of a marathon and my pace picks up again, but the threat of cramp became real as my hamstring went for a full blown lock out that stopped me in my tracks. I didn't hang around to stretch it out however and carried on a downhill section breaking occasionally into the monty python ministry of silly runs onto the final riverside section, which led into the Racecourse.  Unfortunately, the bridge I thought signalled the entry to the stadium was another ½ mile away but I continued on at some sort of pace.  Finally the course came into sight and it was back onto the grass race course for a final push to get under the 3.03 mark.  Final official chip time was 3.02.50, nearly 8 minutes of my time from six years ago. And some proof that I haven't peaked yet! On the plus side, it will also allow me to qualify for the Boston Marathon either for 2013 or 2014, which is another tick on my bucket list!!!  Unfortunately, not quite sub 3 and 2 minutes 50 secs is also just too near to the sub-3 that I now have to try for it again.grrrrr!  Overall, I was very pleased with the time but with a sense of unfinished business. 

For those interested in my training schedule:

Started training consciously 8 months ahead of the race.  Longest weeks were no more than a maximum of 50 miles in total, which I built up to gradually over the 8 months.  My longest run was a misjudged 23 miler but other than that my longest runs were 20 miles. Each week I did a maximum of 4 runs but many weeks only 3 runs per week.  This often included a long run (12 miles building to 20 miles as the weeks progressed), regular hilly tempo run off-road - 8 miles, faster short run (6 miles with some extended intervals), occasionally a 10 mile run or a treadmill session but each week was judged according to niggles, workload, family commitments etc. Part of my training was entering races, which were essential as gauges of being on track plus a nice intermediate goal along the way.

It is also worth mentioning my footwear, as I used my Inov-8 F-lites, which are 195 gramme shoes.  These are among the most minimalist shoes out there and, compared to 'marathon' shoes I have used in the past, I can honestly say that I feel no worse on the day after than in any other shoes.  Also, no blisters at all or black toes. I have been running in fairly minimalist shoes over shorter distances for years, so I think that I am now fully conditioned for them, but it shows that they can really work at any distance. It's about all about fitness, conditioning and technique and not support shoes.


Club Records click here

Barns Green ½ Marathon

11 MSTC athletes took part this time. This year the race was brought forward by a month from it's traditional time at the end of October. Slightly warmer weather and a later than usual start made it quite a civilised race but as usual superbly well organised and marshalled. 

The men certainly surpassed all expectations. Jim, Mike, Martin and Gordon all gained new PBs. Jim was really flying with 1h22m33s while Mike ran his first time under 90mins with 1h28m6s. Martin started very strongly and finished in 1h36m58s and Gordon cruised round with his dad for most of the way (just leaving him towards the end) for a 1h48m04s. I think we are going to see further huge improvements from both Martin and Gordon in the next couple of years.  Steve A managed a respectable time (1h32m23s) just 6 days after completing LEJOG and James paced himself round sensibly to a sub 90 minute time (1h29m28s) 

Lucy (1h43m4s) held off a very strong challenge from Emma Jaffe (1h44m38s), with Rachel not far behind both(1h46m10s). Hazel was a bit disappointed to find it quite a struggle this time in 1h51m19sand Helen Graham comfortably completed it sub 2 hours (1h57m06s) 

MEN WINNER 1h06m53s 

  1. Jim Graham         1h22m33s     23.45%   10pts
  2. Mike Jaffe           1h28m06s      31.75        9  
  3. James Dear          1h29m28s*    33.79       8
  4. Steve Alden         1h32m23s     38.16         7
  5. Martin Sanwell    1h36m58s     45.01           6
  6. Gordon Skeats     1h48m04s     61.61         5 

WOMEN WINNER 1h25m04s 

  1. Lucy Williams    1h43m41s    21.89%    10pts
  2. Emma Jaffe        1h44m38s*  23.00         9
  3. Rachel Baker      1h46m10s    24.81         8
  4. Hazel Tuppen     1h51m19s    30.85         7
  5. Helen Graham    1h57m06s*  37.66         6

 * means chip time not available so slower 'gun' time is recorded in the results only

Brighton Marina Tri. The view from the back..............

I competed in my second ever triathlon on Sunday morning, in conditions that were more conducive to spending the day in bed than partaking of a multi sport event. A view confirmed by the current Mrs John!

The alarms sounded early, but we were prepared(egg sarmies, coffee, etc.,) and we loaded up the kids and headed to the seaside. As we passed the Amex community stadium, I realised that there was no horizon, as the grey mass of the oceans joined hands with the grey fingers of the rain. At least the temp was in +. We arrived, decanted the various bags and "kuthundu" required, before being asked to drive the car up to the top of the car park so as to have "something " to watch!

Eventually found the transition zone, after expecting to find it closer to the water. Racked my bike, donned my wetsuit, and readied my belongings for transitions. And then it started to spit. So I covered everything with my bag, only for it to roll off my shoes and display my clean smalls to the gathered audience! Quick briefing and a surprise visit from my sibling!

So we embarked to the start of the swim, me trying to herd a chattering of kids and uncles, only to realise that they were about to start the race! Water was indifferent, but at the very least it was not freezing. As a result of my faffing, I swam 1040m! Pull pull breathe, and the added salt buoyancy got me out in just over 18mins, despite the two run ins with kayaks( turn around now sir, and , watch out for the quay!) and some entirely unneeded comments about sturdy ladders for sturdy athletes. Long t1 (wet feet, wet socks, bag again!) and off out on the bike!

After the first zip along the coast road, I regretted not wasting another 30sec not putting on a jacket. Not because of the chill, but more to do with the needling rain. Turned left at St dunstans and into ovingdean. So far, so good no hills. How I hate hills. Drag myself up one, telling myself that the down hill will make up for the pain. Only to brown short it due to the wet roads. Up, up, up and away to woodingdean, and the singular most vile bit of road ever attacked by yours truly. Recovery roll across the top of the downs, one small rise to cope with and then the glory of the sweeping accelerating decent back into Brighton. And then do it again!!!

Repeat last paragraph!

Rolled back down to t2, and realised there were still bikes out behind me. :-) change of shoes, cries of cant feel my feet, can't feel my ears popping around as I managed to ejaculate Iso gel all over my hands. Nice!!

Out onto the run, and realise that the cliffs offer a lot more respite from the wind. Lots of "serious" athletes returning from the run leg, and some compatriots in the slow lanes overtaking each other provided some entertainment. " keep going mid Sussex, you are looking good " did boost my stride. Thank you. The feeling of exquisite agony on turning around, realising that I've done this once, I can do it again. No more overtaking, lots of smiling and then finished! Yay!

Swim. 1000m. 18.04
T1. 7.44
Bike 32km. (90.). 80.12
T2. 3.48
Run. 8km. 46.40

Total. 2:36:18

Lets do it again!!!