Archive for October, 2010

Half life

Knocking big chunks off PBs is not something that happens to me very often. Generally speaking, I am past the “big improvement” section of my running career.

However, yesterday at the Birmingham Half Marathon, I did exactly that.

Before the race my half marathon PB stood at 1:20:12. I wanted to break the 80 minute barrier quite badly. (I first ran an 81-minute half marathon in 1993 – so had been staring at the 80-minute door for quite a while…)

After yesterday’s race my PB was 1:17:36. 🙂 What more can I say? Lots probably, but I’ll try not to. In a sentence: I went out sensibly, sped up a bit in the middle (not sure why that happened), then slowed down towards the end before managing a glory-hunting, final mile sprint down Broad Street. I would say it went perfectly, aside from the slight wobble between miles 9 and 11, but in my defence they were mostly uphill.

Our club had an excellent day out. First home was the legend that is Paul. 67 minutes in his first ever half marathon. What?? And he’s only 18. Next up was my training buddy Niceguy Eddie, who smashed his 75 minute target with a low 74. (His current form could have seen him a minute or two quicker, but he had some hamstring issues towards the end of the race and had to remove one of his legs and run with it under his arm, from what I heard). Next home was Matt, an 800m man, doing a nice gentle 76 minutes. Then there was another club mate who I don’t know, and then me. Richard just behind me in 78 minutes (coming back from injury) and Mr Dependable, Andy, running a solid 80 minutes and change. So we had 7 guys home in 80 minutes or quicker. Stand back Oregon Track Club, here comes Birmingham Running Athletics and Triathlon Club (that’s not a mouthful at all).

Here are my splits:

Mile       Time                 Split
1          00:05:42        00:05:42
2          00:11:37        00:05:55
3          00:17:31        00:05:54
4          00:23:25       00:05:54
5          00:29:17       00:05:52
6          00:35:02       00:05:45
7          00:40:32        00:05:30
8          00:46:41        00:06:09
9          00:52:39        00:05:58
10        00:58:46       00:06:07
11        01:05:30       00:06:44
12        01:11:37        00:06:07
13        01:17:04       00:05:27
13.1    01:17:36       00:00:33

Ave pace 00:05:55 min/mile
00:03:41 min/km

I came 56th (out of just over 11000 finishers).

Here are the full results.

Thanks to my support team, brilliant as always. Bec, Jode, Abs, Jon&Teri. And Gracie. (Although next time Gracie, get your shoes on and come racing).

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Not unlike the cricketer for whom the nickname was created, Sammy Dubya delivered a riveting knockout return-to-form performance at this weekend’s Chicago Marathon.


Marathons are famously unpredictable. Any one of a dozen elites can win any given race on any given Sunday. The pre-race favourites seem to come through less than half the time.

But, in the last few years, a few super-elites have arrived on the scene and have skewed the picture slightly. It started with Martin Lel (pre-injuries) in the early-to-mid noughties and now two more have joined the club, Tsegay Kebede and Sammy Wanjiru. Patrick Makau looks to be knocking loudly on that door as well.

Consistency over the marathon distance is a rare phenomenon, but these three, and a fit Martin Lel, have it. When they race head-to-head, obviously only one can come out as the actual winner of the race, but if the other two are in the mix and racing for the win with less than a mile to go, that’s consistency in my book.

Kebede in particular, is blessed with this ability. He shows up, you know he will challenge for the win. He never seems to have an off-day in a big city marathon. Wanjiru, bar his London performance last year, is the same. Were it not for that one-off failure, his record would be unblemished. Robert K Cheruiyot, Boston winner this year in emphatic fashion (skipping right over the 2:06’s in taking the course record from the 2:07’s to high 2:05’s) was also in Chicago this past weekend. Those were the big three likely to be challenging for the title. But Cheruiyot had just the one major title to his name, and had not yet been given the opportunity to demonstrate big marathon consistency. The unknown of the three, but with arguably the best recent performance going in.

Skip to the 30k mark and the race begins in earnest. A biggish pack of 6 or 7 athletes looking comfortable. Cheruiyot is already off the back however, his race now over. The group quickly becomes a threesome, as the real contenders emerge. Wanjiru, Kebede and Lelisa. Lelisa, a young Ethiopian, just 20 years old. To call him the young one in the trio is of course relative; as the two “experienced” big match players in the group are both the ripe old age of 23.

The trio continue in this fashion for most of the next 10km. Lelisa is hanging on behind the front two and never really looks like taking it on. He fights bravely but gets dropped with a few miles to go. Whammo, we’re down to the famous pair again.

Any time these two have squared up over the last three years, starting with the Beijing Olympic Marathon, they have delivered the goods. Today was no different. Thanks for coming everyone; it’s down to the two gladiators again.

Tsegay was determined to front run the rest of the way home. He was the stronger, he had the upper hand in recent head-to-heads (Wanjiru dropping out of London the last time they met) and he wanted to make it count. But, and here’s the thing, when they are both at 100% and racing from the top drawer, Wanjiru has not been beaten by Kebede. And it looked like Tsegay knew this. He was confident and strong, but he also knew if he couldn’t find and exploit any chinks in the Wanjiru-armour pretty soon, he might be in a spot of bother.

The final mile was perhaps the most exciting in many years of marathoning. (Hendrick’s battle with Paul Tergat in NYC ’05 being the only one from memory that topped it). They were 50kg heavyweights taking mammoth swings at each other. Wanjiru would run on Kebede’s shoulder, then drop a few yards back, and accelerate past. As he got shoulder to shoulder, Kebede would respond aggressively, once to the point of them both sprinting flat out, to regain to the lead. He would not let Wanjiru get any airtime in front. It happened a few times and with each time not getting rid of Wanjiru the booming got louder and louder. With a quarter of a mile left, it was painfully clear. Tsegay was not dropping him today. Today, Sammy Wanjiru was announcing his return. Boom. A final decisive heartbreaking–to-watch – if you’re a Kebede fan (I am) – 200m that Sammy just destroyed. His winning margin was 19 seconds, which doesn’t tell the story. He was not 19 seconds better than Kebede. He was quite simply unbreakable and refused to let Kebede get the small lead that would have seen him home. He absorbed punch after punch, waited and waited, gathered himself and launched. Boom. The winning time was 2:06 and change, which also told nothing of the drama of the final few miles of this great race.

Now, see it for yourself (thanks Flotrack)

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A fallen pair of soldiers.

 We never did make the 3000 mile mark. After all the time we spent together, sometimes feeling the relationship would last forever, then at other times, feeling that this could perhaps be our last outing together.

It all came to a head on a Sunday run two weeks ago. The City Centre to Sutton Park route, taking in the splendour of spaghetti junction. When viewed from the very depths of the structure, on a canal towpath, it is quite spectacular. That is, if concrete and tarmac highways, laid on top of and around one another, can be called spectacular. We’re all civil engineers at heart. But I digress. On the return leg of this particular run, a racing snake we will call NiceGuy, proceeded to up the pace, rapidly and relentlessly. As I struggled to not lose too much ground, my right foot started hurting. A kind of plantar fasciitis and midfoot metatarsal combination of discomfort. Not new to me you understand. It had come and gone for a few weeks now. But today it seemed different. It had purpose. It was saying “look, I’ve warned you for long enough now. If you don’t take action I shall have no option but to up the ante in this standoff”.

I managed to get home ok but it had forced my hand and made me consider that perhaps it was [dramatic pause]: time to replace my running shoes.


I totalled up the mileage. 2757 miles covered, since I first laced these Asics Cumulus trainers up. Knock ten percent off that for mileage covered in racing flats, spikes etc, and it comes to 2481. I’m rounding that up to 2500 miles and calling it a day.

I’ve introduced the new pair. Asics Stratus. First time I’m trying this model. They have no idea what they’ve signed up for.

I’ve now been in the Stratus a week and I have to acknowledge that my right foot pain has subsided, which is the final confirmation I required.

I guess if I was trying to draw some conclusion from all of this, it would be that running shoes, whilst nowhere near what the manufacturers would have you believe, do indeed have a useful life, after which they need to be replaced. I didn’t think that would be the conclusion I’d come to. After reaching 2000 miles in relative ease, I think I expected them to more or less last and last and last, until the material started falling apart or something. I didn’t think it would be in the business of “injury-avoidance” that they would be replaced.


So, the experiment has reached its end. Thank you Born to Run and Chris McDougall for planting the seed in my head.

And so, as one experiment draws to a close, another must just be beginning. Watch this space – the Stratus are on centre stage now. The floor is theirs.

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