Saturday, 21 February 2009

Gone Skiing!

Ok, will update on my running exploits and what not in a week or so - am off now to Austria for a week of skiing!! Wahoo!!

Will also have an update on a charity I'm hoping to raise some money for in Australia - Friends of Brain Injured Children. These guys really helped my friends Cara & Jeff when their first son, Ryan, was born. Many of you know about Ryan (my Godson in Australia) and what they all went through when he was born, but I'll let you know more details of what the charity does when I get back.

Until then, keep well!


Now, why am I doing this blog and recounting my running exploits for you all to read?

Well, I’m not doing this to record my memoirs for my one-day best selling autobiography (although it’s conceivably not out of the question…), but rather because I’m going to be hitting you all up for money!! :o)

I’m running the London Marathon for Crisis, who are a UK charity that helps homeless people in the UK. Mel has volunteered for Crisis Christmas (see below) for the past 3 years as both a general volunteer and in the kitchens. I volunteered for the first time last Christmas (2008) also in the kitchens. Heaps of other friends have also volunteered and all agree that the work that goes on is pretty amazing. Working as part of a small team to help produce meals for a few hundred guests plus a couple hundred more volunteers is quite a task, but fortunately the head chefs weren’t Gordon Ramsay wannabies shouting and swearing at us. It was a great experience and if you’ve never done it, I’d highly recommend volunteering for Crisis Christmas 2009 (registration is usually open from October).

You can find my page to donate here via JustGiving ( If you are a UK taxpayer please remember to tick the “gift aid” option so that Crisis will get an extra 28% from Gordon Brown – such a generous fellow!

You can find out more about Crisis here, or you can read on…

Crisis Skylight
Our Crisis Skylights offer a variety of activities for homeless people and the general public. Our first Skylight is based at Crisis head office in east London. Our second Skylight is in Newcastle.

Crisis Christmas
Crisis opens seven centres between 23 - 30 December offering homeless or vulnerably housed people companionship, access to essential services, learning opportunities
and a programme of entertainment.

Skylight Cafe
In our welcoming cafe at 64 Commercial Street you'll find tasty food, refreshing drinks, great art, and an inspiring space. Most of all the cafe offers a route into work for homeless people.

Crisis Supportive Housing Model
A new model for sustainable communities. The Crisis Supportive Housing model provides innovative solutions to homelessness while creating high quality, affordable homes for low-income essential workers, and formerly homeless adults. Crisis is seeking to develop projects using this model.

Crisis Changing Lives Awards
Crisis provides grants of up to £2,500 to help homeless people move towards a work-based, vocational goal. The money can be used to fund training, or buy equipment needed to find work or set up a business.

The Learning Zone
The project provides free courses and study support for homeless people in many subjects. Come along and learn in small, friendly classes. All the courses lead to an accredited qualification.
Crisis Connect
Crisis Connect is the national advisory body for deposit schemes. We support the development of schemes through research, training and events. We also support the nationwide network of best practice SmartMove deposit schemes.

Crisis campaigns, policy and research
In addition to the projects and services listed above, Crisis also campaigns, and develops policy and research on homelessness.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Knobbled Knees

After the Cardiff half marathon I took a couple weeks off, then started some light running again. My knees felt a little bit better after a couple of weeks, then I went out for a 12 mile run and at about the 8 mile mark my right knee went really painful and I had to walk home the rest of the 4 miles… Not fun! It was ok(ish) after that and played football and aggravated it again and was painfully limping for the next few days! Such a dumb game football... ;o)

Anyway, off I went to the doctors and had to get an MRI. If you've ever had an MRi, it's pretty weird. Lot's of weird sounds and noises - like being at an England football match!! Since the MRI it’s been fine though, which was a bit strange. I rested for 3 weeks then slowly got back into some running and have pretty much been ok since – no troubles really on either knee, although am now wearing a knee brace thingy which seems to help.

I went to the doctors last night and the MRI results showed there was some evidence of ‘tearing’ at the top of the knee joint, but it wasn’t clear that there was any damage and at least there weren’t any floating bits of bone (which the doctor was worried about). The report said there could be something wrong behind the knee cap, but without going in with the camera they wouldn’t be able to tell. Given my knee seems to be working the doctor suggested I just keep going and come back if it starts hurting again – i.e no point going in for some surgery if it’s not troubling me. In my professional opinion, I agree!

Hopefully nothing will go wrong, at least before the marathon anyway! The gym work I’m doing and weight loss should also make life easier for my poor knobbly knees!!

Cardiff - My Second Half Marathon

19th October 2008 – Cardiff, Wales – my second half marathon

I ran this with some friends from church (St Peter's Barge) – Chris (again!), Vitor and Ed. Mel came along as official photographer and jelly bean distributor, as well as the return driver given my legs weren’t functioning after the race…

Unlike previous years the race didn’t go through either Millennium Stadium or Cardiff Castle, which was a shame. Still, was a reasonably nice route with some nice scenery. A bit boring at times and very flat and some areas where the path is reasonably narrow yet you have members of the public insisting they walk through the park, despite the 10,000 runners coming the other way… Ah, wakey wakey peoples!!

I started out at a good pace and was going well, then around the 5 mile mark my knees felt like lead and just weren’t functioning very well. I wasn’t in pain or anything, they were just like jelly. At around the 8 mile mark I was overtaken by the “2 hour” pace-setters. I tried to keep up with them, but unfortunately my knees wouldn’t let me. So I just kept going doing my best not to walk.

I ended up finishing in around 2:08, so 8 – 10 minutes slower than I was aiming for, but about 3 minutes ahead of Dartford, so at least I improved my time. My online review is here.
Again, I won't go into detail about the trouble I had walking for the next few days...

Crisis Square Mile

I did this run through a contact a colleague had. He was asked by one of the city firms that sponsored the event whether we wanted to run, and so a few of us at work did – I ran with Mo, Roberto and my now trusty running-partner-in-crime Chris. It was a 3.5 mile circuit in the City of London. We started by St Paul’s Cathedral, ran down some streets, down some stairs, up some stairs, across a couple of bridges before finishing with a run across Millennium Bridge and back into St Paul’s.

They had to change the route 3 days before the race because the organisers were not told that Tower Bridge was going to be opened mid-race! D’oh! Anyway, aside from 2 delays of 5 – 8 minutes whilst you had 2,000 runners trying to get up a single flight of stairs, it all ran pretty smoothly.

It was good practice for running in crowds and how to swerve in and out of slow(er) people. I’m not sure what time I ran due to the delays, but was circa 28 minutes which I was happy enough with.

The interesting bit was waiting around for Mo at the end. He still says he finished the race, but as we never saw him at the finish line, we think he doubled back after the start, grabbed a hot dog and caught the train home… Hmmm…

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Dartford – My First Half Marathon

26th July 2008, Dartford, England – my first half-marathon!

I can understand why they run these first thing in the morning, but it doesn’t make it any easier to do! It’s quite difficult to get yourself out of bed early, knowing that you’re getting up to put yourself through a couple of hours of torture. But up I got, had some toast and water for brekky, and off we went to Dartford, picking up Chris on the way. We met Chris’ colleague, Clint, at the ground. It was such a nice day – blue skies, sun shining, not too warm, a perfect day really to be outside – but possibly in a beer garden with a pint rather than running 13.1 miles…

Anyway, off I started at 9am for my first half-marathon. The first thing I learned in this race is that a lot of people think they are a lot faster than they are! It was quite congested doing a lap of the track and heading out, and without pushing myself at all I must have overtaken a few hundred people in the first mile alone – at which point many had already stopped to catch their breath! Things were going good for the first 3 miles and I was running way ahead of my target time – this happens when you use someone as your pace-setter that is faster than you… Ooops! At the 3 mile mark came the first hill. It’s a short hill, but it’s not too far off vertical and it was a bit of a killer! When I got to the top the road bended around I thought I’d get a reprieve, but then they make you run up another 50 meters before it dips and you get a rest. Tough work!

Miles 3.5 – 9 were pretty OK, with nice scenery, good weather and generally keeping 5 minutes ahead of my target of 2 hours 10 minutes. At the 8 mile mark I took an energy gel that Chris gave me – note to self (and others): NEVER get banana flavoured gel, it makes you want to gag! :o)

At mile 9, things took a turn for the worst as I came to hill number 2! This is the opposite of hill number 1 – it’s not overly steep, but it keeps going up and up for about a mile! I got about half way up and my whole body screamed out for a break. So I stopped and walked for about 100m, then tried to start again, but the legs said a clear and emphatic, “NO CHANCE”. So I walked the rest of the hill… D’oh! This ate into my time and when I got to the top of the hill I was struggling to stay with my goal.

I learned my second lesson at this point – race organisers lie! They said after the second hill it was a gentle downward finish for the last 3 miles, but it wasn’t! It was a nice gentle downward slope for about a mile, then it flattened out so you had to work for the last 2 miles, which was tough when your legs are so sore. At this point all I wanted to do was stop, but I pushed myself to keep going. I wanted to stop even more when I got overtaken by a guy that must have been at least 60 (if not older!) – the lady at The Jog Shop refers to these steady old men as “wombals”!! But I pushed on and came into the final 0.1 miles which was a lap of the racing track. With all previous finishers there to cheer you on, it gave me a real boost and managed to pick up my pace and catch 3 people on the track, which felt good indeed!! I finished in a time of 2:11:42. Slightly over my goal, but I was happy with that time. My online review is here.

Despite the pain I was in, I was quite pleased with my efforts – I had gone from being exhausted from a flight of stairs to a half-marathon in just under 3 months!! I’d also managed to drop about 8kg along the way, wahoo!!

I won’t go into the difficulty I had walking for the next few days…

How it all started…

I’ve always wanted to run a marathon. Ever since I was little I imagined running in the stadium in the final event of the Olympics, to the cheers of tens of thousands of supporters… Of course, I quickly realised the Olympics were (slightly) more on the unlikely side than likely side, but I still wanted to run one. Then things got in the way and as the years went by and my fitness went down I’d pretty much given up on the thought of ever being able to run a marathon.

Then my friends Chris and Lynne joined a running group in which they trained for a half-marathon. Mel & I had dinner with Chris afterwards to hear all about it, and somehow by the time we’d finished dessert Mel had managed to convince Chris to do another half-marathon and me to do my first, and that we’d be training 2 or 3 times a week to do it.

Anyway, that’s how it all started back in May 2008. I really had no idea what to do, but I told my friend Jane in Guernsey (who I thought was crazy having recently started running) that I was as crazy as she was having started running myself and signed up for the Dartford Half Marathon!! Her husband, Paul, soon sent me a running schedule to help me build up from 0 miles to 13.1 miles in 10 weeks.

So a quick trip down to The Jog Shop for some shoes (my then runners were several years old and well past their used by date!) and off I went, a la Forrest Gump…