Ackworth Road Runners Favourite Race shirt challenge

Debbie’s choice

When we were asked to run in our favourite shirt his weekend, it was an easy choice… my MS Trust T-Shirt with the sparkly name (yes, I have more than one!). Joe got this one customised ready for Race to the Stones in 2018, after I saw and loved a running mate’s 10 in 10 top! It’s my favourite (obviously!) and has seen plenty of action over the last few years:

💙 Race to the Stones (100k of pain with Victoria)

💙 My first marathon (the Athens walkathon option after injuring my foot a couple of months earlier)

Image may contain: 4 people, including Georgina Newton and Carrie Simmonds, people standing, sky, outdoor and nature

💙 Bashing out a double marathon at Endure 24 (with a cast of ARR extras)

Image may contain: 2 people, including Wendy Berry, people playing sports, people standing, sky, shoes, grass, tree, outdoor and nature

💙 Great North Run Mk III and the virtual version at Ladybower this year (GNR is where my relationship with this great charity began)

Image may contain: 2 people, including Joe Worthington, people standing, mountain, outdoor, nature and water

💙 The International Women’s Day 5k, last “real” race before lockdown being beasted at the end by Sara (MS affects twice as many women as men)

Image may contain: 1 person, playing a sport, dancing, standing and outdoor

💙 Climbing Mount Snowdon on my 40th birthday (a rare cloud and crowd free day)

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, sky, cloud, outdoor and nature

💙 Supporting Joe for his virtual London Marathon race around Barnsley

I always feel like I have to try my best when I’m wearing MS Trust blue and its a wonderful reminder of what running has allowed me to achieve and gain over our years of fundraising. Over £25,000 for them so far and a priceless set of friends and memories for us. 💙💙💙

Joe’s Choice

Image may contain: one or more people, sky, ocean, outdoor and nature

It was a really tough choice with so many great memories and experiences over the last few years

Had to go for last years Hardmoors 60, I feel so lucky to have got to do this race (one week later it would have been cancelled) in 2020.It was an absolutely brilliant experience running along the coast all day in perfect weather, with Debbie popping up every so often with more food. It’s definitely my biggest running achievement and a massive PB as a bonus, and lots of tears

Also a great weekend away for my birthday, and the last time we went to the pub. Even added the trail outlaws buff to represent both Dark Skies (first ever night race) and Branches and Bays (Trunce at the coast)

Image may contain: 2 people, including Joe Worthington, outdoor and closeup

A big month – 3 Events = 100 miles

It’s been a strange year with our normal fundraising running events being cancelled and our planned weekends away all being pushed into next year. However as things begin to kickstart again, I’ve decided to (or been pushed into by the events timings) take on 3 races to complete 100 miles within a month – These are the big two events we’ve done for the MS Trust before and then another go at my favourite race.

Great North Run at Ladybower

So on Sunday we took on the Virtual Great North run for the fourth time for the MS Trust, and decided on a change of scenery and headed off to Ladybower. It was much quieter than the main event and lacking supporters, but great to see a lot of other runners out and quite a few with their charity tops on too. 

A bit quieter than the real thing

Then this Saturday I will be taking on the 60 (and a bit) miles of the North Yorkshire Coast at Hardmoors 60 — which was a completely new experience for me last year, being out there that long and covering so much ground…. But I loved it and it’s become my favourite races. So I can’t wait for a another go at it. The weather was perfect last year and I’m not expecting that again, as the Hardmoors series has a reputation for unseasonably stormy weather — so I can’t expect 2 perfect years on the trot, can I? 

The end of Hardmoors 60

After the success last year we thought we’d try the guess the finish time again, with £3 a guess and £20 to the closest guess — (13 hours and 22 minutes last year- if you are interested). All proceeds going straight to the MS Trust — and it adds a bit more fun for anyone watching my dot move (slowly) along the coast on the tracker — I’ll try to stop for as long this year at the aid stations, as I think a few people got worried when i didn’t move for 90 minutes at Ravenscar, well the good news is I wont do that again as they have removed this Checkpoint!

It should be a nice trot along the coast — how hard can it be?

Earlier in the day

Finally after a long (2 week) rest I’ll be completing the Virtual London marathon, also in my MS Trust top, to see how the legs are recovering. Just to make it a bit harder, I’ve signed up to take part in the races at Elvington Airfield, so will be looking to push on for a fast marathon time and ideally a brand new shiny PB, after I feel I messed up in Valencia and then haven’t had chance to have another go this year. 

It’s a flat course, so should be quick, but I’ve never done a multi lap event, so could be very different to what I am used to.

Then I can have a rest — for 3 weeks until I’m due to do another marathon ……

Enjoying our rehydration

You’ve come a long way, Baby

After a summer of running, jumping and throwing, a 10 year old girl leaves the stadium on a cold Autumn evening. With the floodlights behind her, she makes her way to the dark, misty expanse of the playing fields, ready for her first road race with the Rotherham Harriers. Starting to stretch as instructed, she reaches down to the ground and promptly puts her hand in some doggy deposits… a potent portent of her future distance running prowess. In floods of tears, she begs to return to the safety (and toilets) of the stadium, but the race is about to begin; cleaned up with spit and a tissue, she starts her running journey.

At the back of the pack, she feels lonely and scared – “you’re not supposed to be out on your own in the dark” she thinks. As she gets to the main road it seems brighter and safer, but her new foe is the hill. At the top, parents are waiting and more tears spill – why can’t she take the short cut back down to the stadium and end this torture? A few weeks later she’s forced to attend the awards evening, where she gets her Four Star Athletic Award certificate, never to return to the Harriers again.

Fast forward almost 30 years and it’s the start of another race, only a kilometre from the first… the return of the Rotherham 10k in 2018. The sun is shining, friends and family are waiting and it’s a glorious day in Clifton Park. After a not so glorious return to running in 2014, a rollercoaster of injuries have got in the way of progress… so recovering from a torn hamstring, she sets off once again around her old stomping ground.

Down past the old Arts Centre where she took part in teenage plays (now a Tesco), quickly through Canklow (don’t loiter, it hasn’t changed!), through All Saints square in front of the impressive Rotherham Minster for a quick drink. Then the hills begin… up past the front of the Museum (or Zoomeum as it was known back in the day), past the doctors (where she went with childhood tonsillitis and adolescent acne) and then up that same hill she ran up all those years ago.

Since then she’s traipsed up that hill barefoot, after nights of underage drinking and spending taxi money on chips ‘n’ cheese, and its time to walk once again, chatting to some other ladies who think it’s far too hot for excessive exertion! Soon she’s passing that little gap in the wall which leads down to the stadium, but once again, she’s taking the long way around. Across the playing fields, through the houses where the locals cheer on the runners, and back into the leafy park.

The finish straight is now familiar from Rotherham parkrun, but then and there the finish seems daunting and distant. At the end her husband and family are waiting and cheering her in, smiles all round. They chat and rehydrate… we’ve all come a long way, and no distance at all

Why I run — Joe

Back in 2014 I was still attempting to play football (badly), but my ankles were both shot, I could barely get through a game and was in pain for most of the week after. I couldn’t really train either, so I was getting ready to retire from football and take up golf in my old age.

However, I started doing a little bit of running and entered a couple of local races and realised all these old people were running past me and beating me. So rather than having another 6 months or so playing football, I might be able to run for a few years before breaking down completely…. Now 6 years on, I’ve been running everyday for over 1000 days and counting and the body is still holding together. Just!

bostonend

The first couple of races I did were the Sheffield half marathon and then the Leeds 10k (I signed up to the Wakefield 10k, but slept in and missed it). From the start of my running journey, pacing has been an issue; I set off in the Sheffield half on target for a sub 1 hour 20 time…. Safe to say it didn’t go well and my calf exploded and I limped in just under 2 hours – and I hated it. Then it was the Leeds 10K where I finished in just over 50 minutes and noticed most the people around me were 10-25 years older than me, whereas at football most were 10 years younger. I actually enjoyed this race, and it was where I started to think I might give this running thing a go.

Around this time, I remember my old boss telling me about this strange thing on a Saturday morning in a park in Barnsley, so I headed off to see what was going on and loved it. There was such a wide mix of people – all ages and abilities and everyone just had a chat and ran up and down the many hills then grabbed a coffee. I could get used to this! So the parkrun addiction started, although I moved to Nostell soon after, taking Debbie with me, it’s still a great way to start the weekend.

After running for about a year I was happily doing my own thing, a few more races and parkruns and these white vests with a blue stripe were appearing everywhere…. But surely I wasn’t good enough to join a running club?

After keeping pace with Richard Smart at the Kinsley 10k for most of the race and at parkrun the previous weekend, I decided to see who they were. Debbie was working away, so I had nothing better to do and ventured down to the Pavilion in Ackworth. Here I was greeted by one of the older members (who shall remain nameless) who introduced himself and said it was “the best knocking shop in the area”. A strange introduction and I don’t think they’re still on the welcoming committee anymore!

hurdle
I definitely remember one of my first club runs and running with the quick group, thinking I was doing OK, and then me and one of the other runners started to pull away from the rest. He continued to talk to me whilst upping the pace; I was really struggling as we went up the hill towards Badsworth (I think). Safe to say by the time we regrouped everyone else was laughing at me, and I’d learnt not to try and keep up with Simon Newton! I’m sure it was some sort of initiation… But I still kept coming back.

I can’t believe how quickly the last 4 years have flown by, being a member of this great club with brilliant support and friendship from everyone since joining Ackworth Road Runners. I’ve done my first marathon and another 14 as well, and I still can’t get one right. I’ve also done a couple of Ultra Marathons and I can’t wait to see what silly ideas / challenges I get supported with moving forward.


Thanks for reading
Joe Worthington, May 2020

1000 Days of Streaking

Wow…I can’t believe the streak has ticked over 1000 days (last week) I still think the idea of a 30 day run streak is silly, and thought I’d never be able to complete a challenge that long!!! But we did the planned 30 days and raised over £1000 with the Summer Streak for the MS Trust — but then I kept going and going….
Thought I’d write a quick update on how things have been going over the last few months. A lot has changed since the start of the streak, until recently it was mainly quitting my job and setting up on my own, but with the current situation I am just grateful to be able to get outside everyday for some fresh air. I’m missing my brilliant running club and various events, but health is more important, and loving the virtual events happening every week to keep everyone in touch.
For day 1000, I was planning to head to the coast for something different, but that wasn’t possible. So  I thought I’d treat myself to my favourite local half marathon trail route, obviously this would be solo and I’d picked a nice quiet route, so I would be able to maintain the correct social distance.  It’s always great to be able to get out and enjoy the fresh air, luckily I had lovely weather for it and enjoyed taking it easy and just enjoying the miles pass by.
I can’t believe it was only 4 weeks ago that we were in Malta for a few days, running the half marathon and getting a huge 1 second PB; my last race and probably will be for a while to come. At the end of last year we made the trip to Valencia where I failed to get my sub 3 marathon or a PB, but had a brilliant trip with great company again  — I can’t wait to start going on these trips again.
valencia
I know people say we’re always on holiday, but the streak has proved that as I’ve managed to run in 14 different countries over the course of the 1000 days, with races or parkruns in  9 countries. So far on the streak I have ran over 8,500km (5,300 miles)  – which is just over the distance from Barnsley to San Francisco !!!!
rome
There have been so many great experiences throughout the streak and I hope to continue this as long as I am enjoying it, I’ve managed to improve my PB’s at every distance since starting and my biggest achievement was completing the Hardmoors 60 (62 a bit extra miles) race last September in just under 13 and a half hours — something I had no idea whether I would be able to finish or not. Strangely I really enjoy the challenge and currently looking for the next one to sign up to — possibly Chester 50,  next year.
We’re looking forward to putting our MS Trust blue tops on again for more adventures – hopefully with the Race to the Castle and Great North Run later in the year
As I said at the beginning of this short blog, I appreciate being able to get outside and enjoy the fresh air and feeling lucky for some of the environments we get to run from home.
sunrise fieldsunny woods
No idea how long I will continue with the streak for, but it’s become a natural part of my life and isn’t a chore. So as long as I want to go out, even if it’s just a couple of km, then I’ll keep going. And there’s always the treadmill in the garage if it comes to that….
Hopefully see you all soon …. and as a fellow runner shouted to me yesterday “Keep going, and stay safe”

Hardmoors 60 Blog

How time flies, I can’t believe it was a month ago, and I still can’t believe I completed the Hardmoors 60. It was my biggest challenge to date and after running a marathon for my 40th birthday last year, I thought what can I do this year? So, after running a Parkrun PB back in January, I stood in the café at Rother Valley and signed up for the Hardmoors 60, wondering if it was a good idea.

After months of training and recceing the second half of the course, we made our way north for me to take the challenge on. Being a cheapskate,  I had found hotel straight from the 80’s, about 20 minutes from the start, but it was a bargain! We drove across in the evening to get registered and then found some pasta to get the last carbs in.

hardmoors start

It was a strange start to the race, where you have to take your own packed lunch for the two bag drops at miles 20 and 40, as well as stuffing as much food into my bag as I could to get me to the check points.

I know the race is advertised as 60 miles, but I run in Kilometres, so I counted it as 100km; this makes it easier for me to work out and understand what’s going on. Just after 8am, we set off with a gentle jog and I found it strange that less than 1km in we are walking as we queued to get through the first gate and some competitors were already starting to eat!

hm hill

Just after we hit the first hill, and it was a good one! It was a struggle to even walk up it… Such a relaxed start to a race, then once at the top the views were amazing as we headed  to the coast. As a first timer I was enjoying talking to some experienced ultra runners and getting their advice — it was all the same — eats lots, eat early and keep eating– I was liking the sound of this!

Then less than 5 km in, we got to the first set of steps, I wasn’t paying attention and ended up down on all fours, with an experienced Ironman telling me I should have practiced steps before… and there were many more to come! I managed to get up and down all the steps over the next 60 miles, although I did mange to trip on the very last set of steps as well, hopeless!

Once we hit the coast the run was brilliant and beautiful, the views just get getting better and better, and I was ticking off the towns and villages waiting to get to Whitby which was half way. Debbie and the support crew kept popping up along the course to provide me with more food. I was feeling comfortable and had just about got my head around walking up any hill and eating whilst racing – normally frowned upon whilst racing but everyone was at it.

hm coast

After going through 20 miles and getting to the first checkpoint, I met Debbie along with Vicky and Allan for a stroll on the beach at Runswick Bay whilst I was having my packed lunch, before setting back off up the cliffs to continue down the coast before I met them again in Whitby.

I arrived in Whitby feeling surprisingly good, apart from my knee which started hurting whilst running downhill at Sandsend, and continued to be an issue for the rest of the day (and still is now, although my fault for not resting it, strained ligaments apparently). It was strange running through the middle of Whitby on a Saturday afternoon with all the day trippers. I managed to confuse the runner behind me as I popped into the sweet shop to get some jelly babies for me and sugared almonds for Debbie – a must whenever we pass. As I climbed to the top of the steps I was met by Debbie, who’d grabbed me a beer from Whitby Brewery, along with Richard, Tracy, Vicky and Allan, which was a great boost.

After a quick shoe change at the top of the steps, I set off again for the second half, with a quick stop at the ice cream van. This was the furthest I’d ever ran in a day (50km), and I was only half way… So I set off into the unknown; could I keep moving and repeat the distance I had just covered?

I kept moving on one step at a time, the scenery was stunning and throughout the day the weather was great, after another food stop at Robin Hood’s Bay and a chat with Debbie, Lesley and Jim, it was the bit of the course I thought would be the worst — the trek up to Ravenscar, which is basically 5km constant uphill. After getting to the village hall I decided on a decent break, so had about an hour getting some food in, along with about 4 glasses of IrnBru and 3 cups of coffee. When I set off, it took a while to loosen off and get moving again, but I was able to keep moving at a decent pace and was feeling good.

As I got into Scarborough I knew I had 10 miles to go, the light was fading and I knew it would be interesting up on the clifftops around Cayton Bay as it would be pitch black and there are some steep steps and narrow paths. The hill out of Scarborough was tough, and I think that messed with my reasoning a bit.

As the sky got darker it made life interesting, but I decided not to use the headtorch until it was properly dark… just in case the battery didn’t last, even though I had a spare in my bag! Before I got to Cayton Bay it was undoubtedly needed, but despite the dark the views were still stunning, making the course a completely different experience.

I was now on the final stretch, but Filey didn’t seem to be getting any nearer. After passing a few people along the cliffs, I caught a couple of guys I’d been running with earlier, and decided to run in to the end with them as it was safer to have three torches along the tops than running off on my own when I was starting to flag.

I also had no idea where the finish line actually was and one of the guys had completed this a few times so as there was a hill at the end of sea front to get to the finish, we ended up walking in together — there was never going to be a sprint finish. I don’t think I’ve ever been so pleased to see a finish line or finished a race walking the last 500 meters … But after 13 hours and 22 minutes I was finished.

hardmoors

I don’t think I ever really thought I would finish, but it was done and after spending the last few miles thinking about a bag of crisps and a beer once I’d finished,  I only managed about 4 cups of tea, and then a very, very slow walk to the car.

4 weeks on and I’m still in recovery mode, the knee still isn’t right, but that’s my own fault for running 2 sub 19 minute parkruns when I said I would take it easy. Hopefully in a week or so I will be able to push on and get ready for my next challenge in December with the Valencia Marathon. I’m already looking for ultra’s for next year and have one big adventure booked, but what else can I find…

Thanks to a last minute decision to run a sweepstake to guess my finishing time, I also managed to raise £250 for the MS Trust (and find out exactly what my friends thought I’d be able to achieve!).

 

Ultra Madness

25 days to go until my biggest craziest challenge so far — Hardmoors 60. I can’t believe how quickly this has come around!

scarborough

After deciding to run a marathon for my big birthday last year, I started to think what could I do for this years birthday challenge and there it was, the Hardmoors 60; advertised as a 60 mile trail race, it’s actually 62 and probably more on the day. It seemed a great idea at the time but now it’s getting so close, I’ve realised how far it’s taking me from my comfort zone and giving me a whole range of brand new things to think about and prepare for.

I know some of my running friends could complete this without giving it a second thought, but this is a lot more “time on feet” than I have ever done before. So far, my biggest event is last years Race to the Stones, which was the same distance.. but over two days with a nice massage, evening meal and sleep in between!

The Hardmoors 60 looks like a beautiful run along a coastal path in North Yorkshire, but after going up and doing several recce runs and covering the second half of the course, I was shocked by how hilly it is and how many steps there are. The length of time I’ll be competing is going to be a major shock (Race to the Stones was 6 hours each day and this is twice the distance) and last years winning time was just over 9 hours. I have no idea how long I will be out there for…

The terrain is going to be tough and the weather in September could be sunny and boiling, wet and freezing or anywhere in between. There are a lot of un-runnable hills, stiles, steps and other hazards, so I have been advised (by a woman Debbie met at Endure 24) to spend sessions up at the gym doing long stints on the step machine… This is the least fun part of my training over last month or so.

endure coach
Debbie giving coaching advice after Endure24

The final element in my preparation is the one I thought I would enjoy experimenting with the most, but it has actually been causing me the most problems — fuelling. How do you get enough food in to be running for over such a long time? Do you eat on the run or is it best to stop and have a picnic every few hours? I’m still working on this and have a feeling I’ll be coming up with new ideas right up to the event and learn a lot from the race too.

Despite all the challenges that the day will bring, I’m really looking forward to testing myself and to see how I cope. As I’m putting myself through this madness, I thought it would be amusing to run a sweepstake to raise some money for the MS Trust. For £3 a go, you can play along by guessing my finishing time (or DNF in 10 mile blocks) with £20 to the  person with the closest guess. Wish me luck!

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=Worthington500k&isTeam=true

whitby

Honestly Honoured

It’s been a while since I’ve felt the urge to write a blog about running, not because I’ve been sitting on the sofa, but more down to sparing anyone from reading my frustrated ramblings! Since the last one about surviving the bonkers 100km Race to the Stones, I’ve completed the Great North Run for the MS Trust in a course best time, walked the Athens Marathon and prepared to welcome in the New Year with a 10k in Barcelona. Doesn’t sound too bad, but after acquiring another random injury and missing out on Autumn’s events, positivity and humour have been in short supply!

So what’s changed? On Friday Joe and I attended the annual Ackworth Road Runners awards dinner; Joe’s been teasing me about not getting any trophies this year as I’ve spent half of it marshalling, but I can’t really blame him after ribbing him the first year we were members for not getting any awards when I did! Once again it was a lovely evening celebrating everyone’s achievements and I was very pleased to win a bottle of fizz in the raffle, joking I wasn’t going home empty-handed after all!

Towards the end of the presentations, presided over by comedy duo Chris and Stewart, our club Captains Ruth and Chris announced the introduction of two new awards. The first recipient of the Ladies Captain’s Award was someone who had suffered an injury this year, but persevered and completed their first marathon and ultra-marathon, as well as raising funds for their chosen charity by introducing the Summer Streak and selling the ARR bobble hats…. sound like anyone you know?

Yes, Ruth had decided that I was worthy of this great honour and I was over the moon, especially when the winner of the Men’s Captain’s trophy was announced as Superman Tom Camponi. Tom’s had a memorable year too, coming back from completing his first marathon and juggling a hectic home life and demanding job; it’s always great to see him at training and events. Another runner will forever be pleased that Tom was able to run the Pontefract Half Marathon this year, as Tom saved the man’s life when he suffered a cardiac arrest, along with Ackworth member, Kirsty Shepheard.

IMG_4580
@Graham Beardsley

I may not have saved any lives in 2018, but the award has made me think differently about a year I was all too happy to put behind me. Yes, I’ve had a lot of set-backs, but the things that stopped me running allowed me to support and volunteer at more events, and as I’m usually nearer the back, it was great to cheer everyone over finish lines for a change! Spending more time in the gym doing strength work has definitely paid off too, as Race to the Stones demanded more in every sense.

I’ve learned a lot too by trying new things to help me return to fitness and manage living well with MS whilst training for greater distances. A real revelation was using the Jeff Galloway run-walk technique, enabling me to finish half marathon distances strongly, with plenty left in the tank for pulling silly faces, and making me think that a marathon in under 6 hours was a real possibility (even if I didn’t get to test the theory at Loch Ness!).

Raising awareness of the work that the MS Trust does will always be closely intertwined with our running challenges and it’s brilliant that we’re able to raise money for them too by selling the ARR bobble hats. Having my Mum’s help to make something that members want to own is a wonderful way to contribute to a charity that supports so many people. Since we started fundraising in 2015, we’ve raised over £22,000, enough to train 12 MS specialist nurses, with over £2400 of that from bobble hats alone. Thank you.

All this leads me to say how important the introduction of the Captains’ awards are. It shows that the people who don’t break the finishing tape have just as much to give to the club and are recognised and valued for their efforts. These are awards that any member can win by showing determination, compassion, resilience, and by doing the right thing. I couldn’t have achieved what I did without the support of a wonderful group of lycra-clad friends and I can’t wait to hear the stories of next years’ winners!

More Marathons

Sorry we’ve been a bit quiet on the blog front for a couple of months, barely seem to have sat down since the last one.

debs gnrstart

It’s fair to say we have been a bit busy since the beginning of September. Since then we have completed the Great North Run, where we met with some more runners for the MS Trust and went back to the tent where this all started. Once again it was a great day with an early start and unseasonably warm weather, the support around the course was great and the welcome back at the MS Trust tent was much appreciated, along with the Haribo, cup of tea and massage.

After this we were off to Scotland to celebrate (or hide from) the fact I had a big birthday, so we hid out on the Isle of Skye for a week and I think we saw every kind of weather possible. We did lots of exploring and already want to go back.

 

Unfortunately due to injury Debbie wasn’t able to run the Loch Ness Marathon, but she’s stubborn and still hobbled round the local Parkrun. She wanted to get the I for her alphabet challenge… But for me it was the first Marathon in a new age category1 Despite the fact I’d run this event as part of the original challenge, I had completely forgotten how many hills were on the route and found it really hard going.

Despite being a lot quicker than my first attempt, I think it took more out of me than any other marathon. I’m sure I’ll be back for round 3 and I know Debbie wants to experience the course and look for Nessie too.


After a couple of months of rehab and limited training for Debbie, we were off to Athens for another Marathon challenge and her first Marathon (obviously Race to the Stones doesn’t count). We both blame Simon Newton for us ending up out there, and the fact we didn’t look at the course profile until about two weeks before the event… We arrived from our cold Winter with about 15 other Ackworth Road Runners to find a very warm and hilly Athens waiting for us.

After some fun and games with the local public transport to get to the Expo and get our numbers, along with an accidental trip down the coast (sorry about that) we got back to explore the city. We’d never been before and such a mixed city completely changing from one road to the next, never knowing what you’d find around the corner

expo

Anyway, the 5am alarm went off on the Sunday morning and we were up to get the bus to Marathon to start this, Kev came to meet us as we were staying at a pick up point, however something went wrong and we ended up walking back to Kev’s hotel to get on the bus. It was a long hilly and dark trip out to the start, when we got off we wondered into the Stadium to find masses of other runners gathering and preparing for this little run.

start

As usual for me, the start of the Marathon was an emotional experience, added to the fact was the story of the Wild Fires suffered by the towns and villages along the route – yes there were tears before I even started, and more on the way.

After discovering the course was a tough one, with the middle 20km up hill, I’d worked out a plan of attack to get around; time didn’t matter but I wanted to be sensible and finish strongly, as there was a nice 10km downhill to finish and then you hit the Olympic Stadium.
stadium

As usual, within 5km of the start, this plan had gone out the window as I was running far too quickly and couldn’t find a rhythm, not helped by the fact there was a sheep charging the wrong way through the field of runners at about 3km. I still don’t know how it got there or where it went, but it was the quickest thing on the road that I saw.

The first 10km was either flat or downhill and should have let me get into a pattern, but it never felt right or easy, so I started beating myself up and putting pressure on myself which wasn’t helping. We were told at the start that at 12km (just after we started to climb) we’d enter the areas damaged by the Wild Fires and the organisers asked the runners to wear a green buff as a show of support and create a “Runners Forest”.

Going through the archway, you could see the charred remains of the forests and houses which looked untouched since the summer; it was hard to see. The support through these areas was enthusiastic and very emotional; you could see the anger with the lack of government support for the communities and feel the anguish over number of deaths from the Fires. It was proving to be a very testing marathon.

It was definitely getting the better of me and at around the 16km I started to struggle; my legs were heavy and my head was all over the place. I had to pull myself together get some food and water on board and work through the next 14km of climbing before I could think about “enjoying” the last 10km.

It wasn’t pretty, but i kept going and I think it was at the 32km mark you could see the road start to dip away and at last the climb was over. Now it was just a case of getting the legs to turn over again. Throughout the course the support had been great from the side of the road and the very international field of runners out on the course. Everyone around me and on the side of the road seemed to know this was the turning point and it was all downhill to the finish!

I would like to say it flew by and I coasted through to the finish, but I would be lying. It was tough, but it was probably my quickest last 10km of any marathon I’ve done. It was never going to be a PB day, but with the support along the course, I’m pretty sure I got a PB for the number of High Fives on a run, it felt like thousands, so many I had to switch from one side of the road to the other to give my hand a break…

Once I hit the last Km you could hear the noise from the stadium and coming round the corner to see it was unbelievable. It was a strange feeling running into this historic stadium, so much noise, so many people, but mostly so much pain. Of all the other runners I knew that I saw finish, they all looked calm and collected took a minute and walked through to take in the atmosphere and get their hard earned medal. It was different for me however; I got about 10 foot beyond the finishing line then decided that was the ideal spot for a lie down, my legs, body and head were all spent. After a good 10 minutes I got myself moving again and went in search of the medal.

As an evil extra, the organisers decided the baggage trucks would be positioned (what felt like) miles away and the only way into the old stadium was via about three flights of very steep stairs. There were tears coming into the stadium, also at the end of the race (and on route, I think) and definitely at the bottom of these steps.

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It was another great experience, much tougher than I expected or prepared for, but a great feeling being there with a bunch of friends. Debbie got to finish her first Marathon, still hampered by injury, but she’d set herself a goal to walk the distance and got round ahead of schedule. I was great to see her “sprinting” her way to the finish and smiling at the end (did I mention that she’s stubborn…).

 

The day after started with a little 4km run, it was day 450 of the silly summer streak. For some reason I decided to head up Lycabettus hill, the highest point in the center of Athens and ended up doing more climbing than the entire Marathon the day before. Then we headed up more hills to the Acropolis, and did some serious site seeing around the town. We forgot our own medals but managed to borrow one for some photos.

 


There’s nothing big booked yet for next year  yet, so need to start thinking about the next challenge….

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Great North Run 2018

We have just about recovered from the mad summer where we completed Endure 24, the 100km Race to the Stones and Dusk till Dawn endurance events; it’s taken a lot of rest and recovery and now the big challenges start again…

In September we will be taking on both The Great North Run and Loch Ness Marathon, on top of this I have a milestone birthday coming up just before Loch Ness and will be officially OLD.

The 2017 summer streak is still continuing for me and Loch Ness will be day 450, assuming I can keep going until then.

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Since starting our challenge back in 2015, we have been amazed at the amount of money  that the Worthington 500k challenge has raised for the MS Trust and are currently just short of £21,000, it’s less than £100 to go! It would be amazing if we could hit this target before the Great North Run and if we manage to achieve this, there has been talk of running with blue hair (really not sure what colour mine would end up — but willing to see for charity).

So please donate if you would like to make us easier to spot on the TV on Sunday morning!

Link for Donations

We have more challenges planned before the end of the year, with more updates coming soon

Again, thank you for reading!