2015 precis

As the dust settles on 2015 it is time for the annual midpack slacker running year review.



Comrades 2015 – pre-race bravado




Starting with the usual roundup of numbers.


Total mileage for the year was 2,728, at an average of 52.5 miles per week (or 84.4km).


How does that stack up against recent years?

Looking back over the last 5 years sees 2015 is sitting mid-table. Two years I’ve run more (11 and 13) and two years I’ve run less (12 and 14).

Year Mileage
11 3178
13 3016
15 2728
12 2708
14 2596


What to make of this? Not much I think. I’ve had my two best years, 2013 and 2014 on either side of this year’s mileage. And 2011, in spite of being the biggest mileage by some way, didn’t really produce the best performances. I think the message is, just keep running. The actual numbers don’t mean much in isolation, it is consistency and year-on-year training that push performances on.


For most of 2015 I didn’t really feel like I was hitting my straps. I always seemed to be coming back from something or other. For sure there have been good pockets of fitness, firstly around April/May (from the London build-up) and reflected in London itself and the Master Road relays (3mi hilly 15:37), and then a second pocket in July and early August for summer road and track. The second patch had a premature end as I got injured (Psoas Bursitis) just as I was getting into some good shape for a sub16 5k attempt (the week before I got injured I ran 16:04 on the track).



I think I will look on 2015 as being high on experiences and less high on out-and-out performances. And I’m very comfortable with that. Must be old age.


So, the best runs of the year in terms of out-and-out performance are probably the 12 stage long leg (29:38) and BMAF 5000m champs 4th place in 16:04.


One step behind them, London marathon (2:43 something) and the BMAF road relays (3mi 15:37).



Experience-wise it has been an amazing year. Turning 40 and celebrating by running Comrades (a 54 mile race in South Africa) was undoubtedly the pinnacle. E03B2BC3-F5EC-4080-BD50-1E121E6DFDE7A fantastic present organised (as a surprise) by the amazing Catherine, Dan, Anna and Riaan and the Joburg and Durban running crew. The run itself was tough going, in as much as I was not well on the day. These things happen. Finishing that race however, is and always will be the prime element of any Comrades attempt. As fellow “tough day out there” finisher Dan said “it is probably the only race where you say I just want to get around – and honestly mean it”. Digging in for the second half of the race (44km) when my legs were already spent, and involved getting to the finish through a combination of painful shuffling in between walks, was an achievement I will savour with some satisfaction for years to come.


Fast forward to October and Dublin Marathon. It was great. Any chance to race it had gone out the window after losing all of August and a good chunk of September through injury. I became the pacemaker for a legendary 4some of sub3 attempters, all of which were successful. And one of whom I offered virtually no pace making to a5368711A-CEB2-4F71-A97A-AD34E5E7FA44s he insisted on running 50 meters ahead of us (Riaan!). Seeing the SA gang again and being involved in that momentous (and successful) attempt was very special. The beers afterwards and the celebrations that continued long into the night and for the rest of the trip will stay with me forever. A detailed report on the day can be found here.


In terms of fitness, I was the fittest this year at the end of August, just after a series of summer races (5k’s in 16:20-30 zone and then a 16:04). I was geared up for a big attempt on a sub16 on the road when Psoas Bursitis struck. The worst injury I’ve ever experienced by some margin. Six weeks of no running, and then a gentle return with a few attempts on a stationary bike (bloody hard work). I got back into regular running after Dublin at the end of October but didn’t really get my teeth into it and didn’t enter any races.


To end the year I did a succession of fairly hard parkruns, to see if I could continue my trend of increasing the number of sub17 5k’s achieved each year since 2012. I managed it by 1! (it took a 16:49 boxing Day effort at CHP – cutting it fine). There were some near misses in those final 6 weeks too though, a 17:00 at CHP and a 17:02 at Cambridge parkrun.


Total per year Grand Total
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015  
3 2 2 8 6 16 17 18  72


The sub17 challenge gave me a reason to put in race efforts even though I wasn’t 100% race fit. There will probably be more of these kinds of side-tracked goals as the years tick by 🙂 :-). I’ll need to do 19 in 2016 to keep it going… gulp.

What will 2016 bring? I don’t know, I may PB I may not. But I do know I will continue training, racing, and getting runs done as and where I can fit them in. That’s what this sport is all about and I love it.

Roll on Spring marathon build-up.

26 October 2015


Injury, hello psoas my old friend, had put paid to my marathon preparation. Nuff said about that. With racing aspirations out the window, my Dublin goal became simple and in a way, more special. I was going to run 4:10 per km for the sub3 gang for as long as I could and as evenly as the course would allow, and hope that Barrow, Barnyard, Bron and Boy would stick with me for as long as possible, ideally all the way.


I was in the elite pen (whoop whoop pretentious knob) so separated from the others on race morning and lined up under the start banner. Rubbing shoulders with Kiptoo and Sonia o Sullivan in the separate warm up area was a very cool experience. Starting this high up the field meant the first few kays would be jogging while the gang latched on. Standing on the start line was an interesting mix of emotions. I was among the serious boys and felt frustrated that I wasn’t going to be racing. I said out loud, at one point “I wish I was racing this” to no one in particular. But the other emotion was relaxation. Something I don’t associate with the start of marathons. I could really soak it up and enjoy the final 10 minutes to the gun. The guys around me were fidgety and nervous.



The gun went and we were off. I moved to the left of the road as per the plan agreed with Barrow. First kay in about 4:30. No sign of them. Second kay and suddenly some recognisable voices! I looked over my shoulder and there they were. The gang was altogether. We exchanged pleasantries and got on with the business.


We lost Riaan as he got a short way ahead of us after the first water point. We didn’t know that would be the last we saw of him for a long long way into the race. The first 5k came and went in 20:59. A touch slow but fine. The road was crowded and finding room for the 4 of us to get a groove on was tricky. I called each kay split as we went through. Next 5k in 20:40. Perfect. Somewhere around this point we caught and passed the 3 hour pacers with balloons. Once we got ahead of them the road got a bit clearer and our pace edged up slightly. The course also had some sweeping downs through the back of the awesome Phoenix Park. Next 5k included this and was 19:59. Touch too fast, even with the downs. So I tried to take the foot off the gas slightly. Still calling every split out and the group of Boy, Bron, Barrow and me were running nicely now. Next 5k in 20:40. Bang on. Somewhere in that 5k there was a bit of an incline, the first inkling that there was work to be done today. First 20 kay done.


As we approached halfway the wind and rain came down more heavily and we tucked into a tight formation. Bron was stride for stride next to me and every time I looked over my shoulder barrow was clipping my heels. All good. We saw our support crew at halfway and Snowy gave boy his fat shake or whatever it was. I guess Riaan was about 200m ahead at this point. We could sometimes make him out when the road straightened. Within the first kay after halfway during a standard shoulder check I noticed Barrow wasn’t there, he was 5m back. Oh no. A few minutes later 20m back. The next split in 4:07. I said to Bron, let’s keep running the pace and give them a chance to latch back on. Next time I looked around I couldn’t see them. I was gutted. All the work Barrow had done to get into this shape and his race (I assumed) was now going to be a painful shuffle to the finish somewhere outside 3 hours. I didn’t know what to do for a while. Bron had no watch and was relying on me for pace and wind break and encouragement. And she was sticking to the task with such determination as I have never seen. I couldn’t peel off now to find Phil and leave her solo, watchless and metric in a mile world. It was getting really windy now and Bron asked if she could tuck in behind me for a while. Truth be told I thought she was very close to being spent. And yet. And yet. And yet. Somehow the kays continued to tick past in 4:07-4:11. This girl was tough. Something you all know obviously but I was finding out.


My plan became to get her as deep into the race, on pace, as possible, so hopefully when she did blow we would have some cushion. Kudos to R and Barrow for deciding all those months ago that 2:55 was the target, not sub3. On a windy rainy day like today, that 5min cushion was the difference.


We were closing on Riaan now but he was staying tantalising out of reach and the final 50m to catch him took us over 10km. We caught up with him at about 37k. “5k to go guys”, I said to them. “you’ve done the hard work, now bring it home”. Another kay passed but it was suddenly catching up with us. I had worked out that even if the 4:10s became 4:50s we would still get under 3 and told as much as Bron. “Don’t worry about the blow” I said, “we are going to do this either way”.


At 40k Riaan the flipping ox had trotted off ahead of us again, after all that time trying to close him down, simply by maintaining his pace. We were slowing and there was nothing I or Bron could do. The 2 kays from 39k-41k were 4:25 and 4:29. I said to her if she wanted to chase him down in the final 2k she should go for it. But she wasn’t having it. we were purely in survival mode now. “Tell me when it is 1k exactly to go” she said. So I did. The finish was great, a long straight road right past the front of our hotel.


About 600m from home we saw Cheryl and she was screaming “go on Phil”. My first thought was oh no she doesn’t know he isn’t with us. Then I looked over my shoulder and the bugger was right there!! I have never been so surprised and so happy in a race in my life! I actually threw an arm around him and hugged him, which in hindsight could have ended badly on 41k legs. He moved alongside Bron and the 2 of them crossed the line hand in hand with me a step or 2 behind, with tears of happiness (and fatigue – three weeks of training after 6 weeks off meant this was a long long way on the legs).


R was about 20 seconds ahead of us, and Boy, the wildcard of the sub3 group, only went and did it too! With pure guts and stubbornness the diesel engine yet again punched above his training weight. Well done Boy.


Well done everyone on the day – Mashudu making a 3:11 look ridiculously easy and Jamie relatively happy with his comeback of 3:23. Martin had a tough day in the wind, his 2:25 target ended with a still mind-boggling fast 2:32.


We retired to the hotel for a shower, dry clothes, and lots of Guinness in the hotel bar. A great great GREAT day. 🙂


And to dwarf all of this into insignificance, Adam only went and became a dad that day!


Lekker boet.

WMM trophyYep it is. Sorry about that.

Last year I had a very sporadic build up to London, not many miles and almost no long runs (one). On the day I ran out of my skin. Felt like I was running on a cloud for 2:43. This year I had a text book build-up, lots of good miles, lots of long runs, and I had a very mediocre day out for…  2:43.

What conclusions can be drawn from this? Clearly training is a waste of time. But let’s move on.


One thing seems obvious – going in with fresh legs is very important. I don’t mean final week tapering. Taper Schmaper ™. I mean building light weeks into the final 8 to 10 weeks of training. Seems obvious, but I’ve never paid any attention to it before.

Two miles into this year’s race I was feeling flat and heavy legged. Whilst my legs were strong, they weren’t feeling

light and full of running. My fitness was good though, and allowed me to tick off the kays in metronomic fashion in a newly formed window of safety between 3:48 and 3:56 per km. Nothing faster than that was possible it see

Ezekial Kemboi warmup routine

Ezekial Kemboi warmup

med, with a few exceptions here and there. I had hoped and expected for low 3:40’s but couldn’t get there. I knew early on that a 2:30something goal was out, and shortly after that that 2:40 was out as well. The added seconds each kay were accumulating and had become a couple of minutes by 15k. At 20k my split was 77:37, a number which the night before Dan and I had discussed as a possible halfway target. Now here I was a full kilometre behind schedule. Nothing for it but to keep on keeping on.

Halfway in 81:51. I wasn’t disappointed. The writing had been on the wall from a few miles in and the disappointing realisation of the day I was on had settled back then and mostly dissipated by now. So 81:51 was just what it was. I had verbalised my 2:45 adjusted target to someone who recognised the vest and asked me what I was aiming for. Each 5k timing mate was ticking over in 19:15-19:30 when what I had hoped for pre-race was 18:45. I imagined what my mates following the splits would be thinking. “Why doesn’t he get onto pace?” “Is he saving it for a big second half” “if he is really struggling surely he’d be slower”. Stuff like that.

why doesn't he get on pace?

why doesn’t he get on pace?

As it was I just clicking even paced miles off, one after the other, trying to coax my legs through with minimal damage. I settled in as part of a trio of guys who were visibly strong enough to keep the pace honest without any of us needing to shoulder all pacing the work. We took turns at the front and it worked pretty well. At about 20 miles I said to them, we’ve worked well up to this point guys. Let’s keep it going and bag the sub2:45. I had realised from their race numbers they were both Fast-Good-for-age entries which meant they hadn’t run under 2:45 before (or they’d have been in the championship start with different numbers etc.) so this was unchartered territory. We banked a few more miles in the zone, and as we drew into the final few miles I started picking it up, conscious that I really didn’t want to mess up the pacing now and not get inside 2:45. One of them came with me and one dropped off.

The final stretch is always tough and always memorable. Running alongside the Thames, and over the 40k timing mat. The end is almost in sight and the crowds who had been bonkers all race anyway, seem even louder. A wall of noise. Right hander past Big Ben, then Birdcage Walk, Buckingham Palace and the mall. What a location to finish. Like Tower Bridge, the novelty of running in these locations never wears off.mid race?

I turned into the home straight and saw the clock on 2:43. Phew the 2:45 was safe. It was only a good while after I’d crossed the line that I realised I had just missed a PB. How on earth I never thought of that during the race escapes me. I can only think my focus was so much on the 2:40 pace that once the splits were outside that I hadn’t considered any middle ground.

Some post-race thoughts. Disappointing not to achieve what I’d hoped. But these things can seldom be planned with any degree of confidence.

refuelingPositives I take are that I now know I can run 2:43 when I’m not having a particularly good day, and that’s reassuring. I also learnt a bit more about what I need to do in the weeks leading into the race. This is never an exact science but small building blocks of knowledge gained from each outing.

Last year it took an outstanding day for me to run 2:43. This year it took a very average day to run 2:43. Surely that’s progress of a sort.

Some shout outs to friends. Martin – you absolutely smashed it buddy. Your marathon class is unrivalled. Breaking 2:30 (again, after 6 years) is amazing. Dan – thanks for the pacing, sorry I couldn’t make better (or any) use of it. Next time it’ll be different (that’s never been said before). Nick – well done on the championship qualifier, so pleased for you. Kevin – 2:48 – brilliant. Well deserved. Long run training partner Ed – 2:52. Great PB and more to come I have no doubt. To Cath and Anna supporting us like stars around the course, thanks guys. To the Hajj in SA (and Cambridge) – we have a special group, lets never take it for granted.

Onwards to bigger (and longer) things.

5 weeks to Comrades. Watch this space.


Official results here

first half 81:51, second half 81:54

Kilometre splits

Projected finish
1 00:03:55 02:45:17
2 00:03:49 02:43:10
3 00:03:50 02:42:42
4 00:03:51 02:42:39
5 00:03:45 02:41:46
6 00:03:46 02:41:18
7 00:03:49 02:41:16
8 00:03:56 02:41:51
9 00:03:54 02:42:09
10 00:03:56 02:42:32
11 00:03:55 02:42:47
12 00:03:56 02:43:03
13 00:03:52 02:43:04
14 00:03:53 02:43:07
15 00:03:57 02:43:22
16 00:03:54 02:43:26
17 00:03:54 02:43:30
18 00:03:52 02:43:29
19 00:03:53 02:43:30
20 00:03:59 02:43:44
21 00:03:59 02:43:57
22 00:03:52 02:43:55
23 00:03:54 02:43:56
24 00:03:49 02:43:49
25 00:03:59 02:43:59
26 00:03:54 02:44:01
27 00:03:47 02:43:51
28 00:04:01 02:44:03
29 00:03:49 02:43:57
30 00:03:59 02:44:05
31 00:03:46 02:43:55
32 00:03:42 02:43:41
33 00:03:58 02:43:47
34 00:03:54 02:43:49
35 00:03:52 02:43:48
36 00:03:49 02:43:43
37 00:03:54 02:43:45
38 00:03:59 02:43:51
39 00:03:45 02:43:43
40 00:03:57 02:43:47
41 00:03:59 02:43:54
42 00:03:44 02:43:45
42.2 00:00:47 02:43:45
Total 2:43:45
Ave/km 0:03:53
Ave/mi 0:06:15

Twenty Fourteen

How best to sum up this year in running?


In terms of miles pounded out on the roads, paths and tracks it was 2,596 miles (or 4,177km).

This works out to 49.9 miles per week (aaarrgh why can’t it work out to 50??) or 80.3km per week.

Remember this is relative. Numbers stacked up against other people have limited value. It’s how much you can and want to get done. Looking back over previous years reveals this to be the lowest total I’ve racked up since 2010.  But there’s more to life than numbers, right? Right?


In terms of performances it has been a pretty solid year. On the road I achieved a full house of PB’s over the standard distances of 5k, 10k, half marathon and marathon. On the track I didn’t tick off too many but came within a whisker over 3,000m, running 9:07.1 to my 9:06 set back in 1996. On the track I did PB over 10,000m but does it really count when you’ve not run the distance before?


Ok onto some highlights of the year.


IMG_9609The first was undoubtedly London Marathon in April. I love this race more every year. This year was particularly sweet as I had almost no expectations going into it. The first few months of the year had been pretty topsy turvey with various injuries and niggles getting in the way. Running was even more on the back burner as I flew back to SA to visit my Dad and sister and her family who were looking after my dad who had taken seriously ill in February. Thankfully it wasn’t as serious as first diagnosed and I am happy to report he is recovering well, thanks to the incredible support of my sister and her husband and family. Back to the running, I wasn’t sure I’d even run London given the build-up but I decided to travel down, seeing as I had already booked all the accommodation, train tickets and so on. The weekend was brilliant and the race went very well. I blogged about it previously (2:43 PB) so won’t go into any more detail here.


The Highgate Harriers 10,000m race was another highlight. My first attempt at a 10k on the track. The conditions made it memorable for reasons other than performance. Windy and rainy, it was certainly an experience Mr Carter and I won’t soon forget.


My 5k road PB came at the Sale Sizzler series of races in Manchester. I was toying with a sub16 attempt and trusty all-or-nothing pacemaker Dan had stepped in to pace me to at least 4k on target. Although things went awry early on due to getting boxed in (a lesson we failed to learn from, Leeds 10k refers), we soon got back on track and although I never got under the 16 minute mark I was pretty happy with 16:03.


The next highlight also features Daniel in a pace making role and was the Birmingham Half Marathon. I didn’t have huge time targets on this as I just didn’t think I was fit enough. Dan thought otherwise and dragged my ass around to a 20 second PB in 73:29.


The final highlight of the year came in December and was probably the most satisfying of all. The Telford 10k in 32:44. I knew I had a chance of breaking 33 if all the pieces fell into place. They hadn’t at Leeds a month earlier when we got boxed in and ran 33:15. At Telford I was determined to fix that. I don’t remember concentrating as hard or hurting as much in this race as in any race since the 15:51 on the track in 2013. Telford had that sort of feel about it. I was bloody well determined to stay on pace no matter what.


So even though I’ve not run as much as previous years, I had pockets of good training and produced some good results from them. Running is a continual learning experience and this year has taught me that breaks in training, even unpleasantly long ones, need not derail you and you can still keep things going even when you think you can’t. Scale back, keep ticking over, all those clichés come out and in my opinion they come out for good reason – they make sense and they are the truth.


Thank you to all my support crew. Everyone I run with, my family, kids and loved ones. Thank you.


Keep running guys, let’s have an awesome 2015 and just enjoy working towards whatever we are working towards. Times, distances, challenges, health, whatever.

Running will fix you.


PB List

Distance Time Year
Track 800m 2:04 1996
1500m 4:11 1994
3000m 9:06 1996 9:07.1 in 2014
5000m 15:51 2013
10000m 33:18 2014
Road 3mi 15:24 2014
5k 16:03 2014
10k 32:44 2014
HM 1:13:29 2014
Marathon 2:43:27 2014



The kitchen sink

Telford 10k race report


The die was cast a month ago when I committed to one more 10k for the year. I’ve tackled it a fair bit in 2014. Five times including Telford. One of those was a steady effort but the other four were all going full guns to break 33 minutes.


Last year in November I ran a break through PB of 33:06 at the Leeds Abbey Dash 10k. It was over 90 seconds quicker than I’d gone before. I was over the moon. But the feeling soon settled into a “if I can knock such a big chunk off my time surely I can find 7 seconds more?” mood.


Thus 2014 became, as far as the 10k is concerned, the year to break 33 minutes.


It started in May with an attempt on the track at the Highgate 10,000. Unbelievably windy conditions (blowing tents and things over around the track) meant that attempt was put paid to before it even got started. I got around in 33:41 and couldn’t have found 1 second more.


The next attempt was sometime later. Also on the track, at the Trafford 10,000, in September. This race was inconsiderate enough to place itself the first weekend after our family summer break to Lanzarote. Needless to say my shape wasn’t razor sharp. I had kept the fitness up but didn’t have the edge required to turn 33:20 into 32:55 form. I laboured around for a very evenly paced 33:18.


Then came the first road attempt of the year, the Leeds Abbey Dash. The same race I had had the big breakthrough the previous year. I lined up with Dan, personal pacemaker (a seasoned veteran having bested the pesky barrier at the aforementioned Trafford race with a gutsy 32:50). Sadly the challenge never got off the ground, due to starting too far back, a schoolboy error, and being caught in a very congested field moving just a touch too slow. The quality is very high at the Leeds race and the road was wall-to-wall with guys running 3:25 kays when we wanted 3:18s. The cumulative difference took its toll and by halfway in 17:04 there was no chance of breaking 33. I pinned my ears back and buried myself coming home for a second half of 16:11. Partly frustration and partly just wanting to not give up on the goal. The resulting 33:15 was not what I wanted but the 16:11 told me I still had a shot if I paced it better. Commit more you fool.


Onto the 4th and final attempt, another road race, this time the Telford 10k in December. It has a mineshaft first km and gentle ups and downs after that. I was determined to get out fast enough to be in the game. I was sick of 3:25 openers and trying to claw back deficits. But I was equally cautious of selling my goat before 3k and ending with the opposite of Leeds, a fast start and a slow finish. That was not on the Christmas list.


With that bubbling away in my mind, the gun went and we were off. Thankfully temperatures the night before hadn’t gone below zero so the paths were ice free, a deal breaker if they weren’t and a common danger in December.


A reminder: I needed 3:18 per km to run 33:00.


Anything under was good, anything over meant I’d need to drag it back somewhere.


First kay 3:13. Factoring in the downhill start this was not fast, but was fast enough to get me in the game. Just what I wanted. I settled in. Passed a few groups trying to find a gang moving at a pace I felt was right. Second km in 3:17, still good. Third in 3:13, more of the same. I was starting to feel it now and decided to sit with a trio I had caught. 4th km in 3:22. Panic. Is this the start of a blow? I needed a good halfway split to motivate myself for the pain coming on the second lap of the two lap course.

Telford 10k 2014

I pushed on past them and found another trio but I had worked hard to get to them, 5th km in 3:12 and halfway in 16:17.


Excellent this was where I wanted it to be. But I was hurting now and needed to consolidate for the next few kays. I stuck with the group for a 3:23 and 3:18 6th and 7th km. They were slowing I could feel it. I’m not giving up on this now. I went wide and went past them. Keep the tap fully open Ince, keep the pace going.


It was hurting too much now. It had been hurting too much for too long and the fight was ebbing out of me. I want to stop fighting, I want to back off and let the pain subside. Come on. Keep going. No I need this to ease.


The 8th kay was a 3:27 as a result of this internal argument. That fired me up. What the fuck are you doing?! I’m not binning this after all the work I’ve done. Come on man. Two more kays to go.


We turned at the traffic cone somewhere around this point and I noticed Ed was much closer to me than he should be. Is he ok? Shortly afterwards I passed him walking. Clearly not. A viral infection had not cleared his system in time and sadly his race ended there.


Right, refocus you big girl. Two more km’s. Empty the tank. Give it everything. Do not let this slip through your fingers. 9th in 3:16. A good split. Was it enough? Had I lost too much with the 3:27?? I couldn’t work it out anymore. Just throw the works at it. No matter what. Even if you don’t break it, give it horns. Maybe a PB is on the cards if not a sub33. Thoughts just churning around in my foggy head.


I hammered the final km. I was hurting so much but I was thinking in minutes not distance. Suffer for 2 more minutes, it can’t be more than 600m now, suffer for 1 more minute. Come on. Dig in. Push harder. Someone was passing me. Go with him. Let him drag you until you can’t go anymore. I rounded the bend, less than 100m to go. The finish clock was on low 32’s. I could do this. I was going to do this. I sprinted with every fibre shouting its displeasure at me. Get over that line! I did it. Crossed the  line with the clock still on 32 something. I don’t even know what.




Yes. Yes. Yes.


1 00:03:13
2 00:03:17
3 00:03:13
4 00:03:22
5 00:03:12 00:16:17 1st 5k
6 00:03:23
7 00:03:18
8 00:03:27
9 00:03:16
10 00:03:03 00:16:27 2nd 5k
Ave 0:03:16 per km
78.4 s per lap


That right there was the 33-minute dragon slain.

Full results here

The day dawned dry but windy. Temperatures were mid-teens, perfect for racing (in my opinion). The wind would be a problem, but nothing to do about that but get out there and get going.


Jamie and I met up en route to the race and made our way to the baggage area where we hooked up with fellow some BRATs. Dan, my personal pacemaker for the morning, Chris Ashford, Martin Matthews, Ed Barlow and Kevin McMillan. Chris committed to joining Dan and I in the 5:35 bus, targeting in his own words “anything under 74”. Martin was less specific but looked like he meant business. Ed was after “81 or 82” given he wasn’t 100% on his game since the arrival of a small bundle of joy a few months back. Kevin was also vaguely after something around 80 and Jamie was looking for sub90 still on his way back to regular running again.


We lined up in our separate pen directly behind the elites and waited for the gun. For this race report to make sense it is probably worth looking at the course profile below. As alluded to many times in the TV commentary this is a tough course with a few nasty inclines and then a killer climb of at least a mile between 17km and 19km. These climbs and the gradual uphill from 5-10 and gentle down from 10-15 define the race. “Unusually tough for an international event looking to attract the fastest runners in the world”.


The gun went and the stampede ensued. The first km is a mineshaft drop that you can really do without. I was determined not to overcook this downhill start and held back as much as possible. A group headed by Dan and Chris was at least 50m ahead of me when I went through the first km in 3:31. I knew I needed to latch on, and once the dangerous down was out the way I consciously stepped on the gas to catch up to the back of the group. It was about a dozen strong, including three of the elite women, Irvette Van Zyl from SA, Ana Dulce Felix from Portugal and another who I didn’t know. My second km was 3:13. I was surprised at the pace but wasn’t too worried as I was now in the bus and felt like I hadn’t cooked the goose. I settled in at the back while Dan and Ana drove on at the front. The next 3 km’s were 3:18, 3:26 and 3:31, taking me to the 5k mark in 16:59. I was working pretty hard to stay with the group but had faith in Dan’s pace making. I figured if I could stick with him for long enough it would start to feel right because I knew it was a pace I was should be able to live with.


At around 6k we turned right up the first notable pull of the day. The group immediately stretched. A few fell off. Irvette and I slid off the back slightly and ran side by side for a while behind them. I wanted to say something to her, preferably in Afrikaans thinking she would be boosted by knowledge that she had a countryman of sorts helping her. I couldn’t think of anything to say so didn’t say anything, thanks brain. As we hit the top of the climb and turned left back towards Pershore Road I sped up and closed back onto the bus, which had now been whittled to about 8 survivors. Irvette came with me and we resumed our position at the back of the pack, getting towed along.


At this point Felix decided she had more legs and as soon as we got back onto Pershore Road she pushed ahead with one of the uni youngsters who had been in our group. The pair disappeared off and we didn’t see them again. The climb to the 10k mark was wearing people down and a few more detached as we turned the corner and hit Bournville. The sharp incline saw off Irvette and I didn’t see her again for the rest of the race.


We passed the 10k mark in 34:37, our group had now become an exclusive BRAT-only three-way. And everyone loves a BRAT three-way. Dan and Chris with me tucked in behind forming a tight triangle. I felt great at this point and on a high, commended Dan on his sterling work so far.


Orlando Corea formerly of Bournville but now of Birchfield fame, had been quietly biding his time in the group in the early stages but had disappeared when it got whittled down. But he is a classy runner with a 71min half to his name from a few years ago and now he reappeared and our became 4. Luckily the Birchfield vest is also black so we still looked good heading back down the other side of Pershore Road. The gentle incline going the other direction was now a gentle descent and the pace edged up slightly as Dan looked to put some time in the bank. Successive km’s of 3:25, 3:23, 3:24 were rattled off as we marched on. Orlando decided he’d had enough of this pedestrian pace and broke clear to a point about 30m ahead of us.


The increasing pace on the descent, combined with the fatigue starting to accumulate as we hit the 13-14km zone, caused me to start faltering. I was struggling with the pace and probably subconsciously thinking of the final 5k of the race. See the profile to remind you how ugly the final 5k is. I slipped a few metres off the pace as Dan and Chris closed the gap back towards Orlando. At this point I was hurting and I was also fairly happy with how the race had gone. I was reaching that point where you think, you know what, I’ve banked a great first 14km here, I can settle in, not hurt so much and still run a solid sub75. It’s the usual negotiations your body enters into with your mind as the hurt starts increasing exponentially. “Why not stop this nonsense?” it says. “You’ve done well buddy, you deserve a bit of foot off the gas time”. As they edged 5, 10, 15 metres ahead of me I was saying in my head “Don’t look back Dan, just keep going and stay with those 2, let me suffer quietly on my own.” Obviously at exactly that point Dan, the star that he is, looked back and saw I was off the back. He immediately ran wide and slowed so I caught up to him. “Come on mate” he said “Work back to the group. Let’s get back to them”. I put my head down and put the opt-out plan out of my head, and tucked in behind him as he took me back to the group. The 4 of us were now reunited heading into Cannon Hill Park.


I must have run literally hundreds of miles in Cannon Hill Park. It is a great place to train, not to mention home of the cannon hill parkrun, which I’ve run 60+ times. We climbed a short hill in the park and set off towards one of the gates at the top. Chris was opening an energy gel he had been carrying and moved across the road to get some water from a station as we passed. There was contact between him and Orlando and he went down. Hard. Really hit the tarmac. None of this semi-slam stuff, this was the real deal. I was off to his right and had just missed getting caught in the fall, Dan was slightly ahead so was also unscathed, but Orlando had stumbled over Chris being right behind him and I think slowed to assess the damage. Suddenly it was just me and Dan. We went through the 15km in 51:55. Maybe it was the adrenalin from being right next to the fall but I suddenly felt full of running. I pulled up alongside Dan as we exited the park and began the journey towards The Hill. “Relax” Dan said “don’t push yet mate, just keep doing what you’re doing.” The advice was timeous and gratefully received. I felt good but was unsure how to proceed and I figured, well this guy has been spot on with his pacing so far, why second guess anything now?


We headed through Highgate and towards the main road that would pull us painfully back up the hill towards the city centre. The two kay splits from cannon hill to the start of the hill were 3:27 and 3:28. I felt good, I felt confident. Bring this hill on. Then something amazing happened. First we heard footsteps and before we knew it, Chris was back in the group! Bleeding a lot from his right knee and even more from his right elbow and arm, he had somehow made up the ground and latched back on. “Chris you legend” I said to him. And so the 3 of us hit the foot of the climb.


I tucked in behind the two of them as we began to climb. About a quarter of the way up Chris got perhaps half a yard on us and Dan looked at me and said “go with him mate”. It was all I needed to hear. More impeccable advice. I sped up to Chris, leaving Dan, pacemaker extraordinaire, behind. He had worked so hard as wind breaker, pace-judger and advice-giver to this point. I felt bad as I pulled away, but I remembered what he had said pre-race “mate I will give everything to deliver you to the bottom of the climb. Then you can (Chris) Froome it from there”. So I stretched away and tucked in behind Chris. Almost immediately I pulled back out of his slipstream and went past. I suddenly knew it was time to empty the contents of whatever was still rattling around in the locker. I raced up the hill hurting but feeling great. Strange. I knew I was going to run a good time. I was sure I was close to my PB. I must be. I picked out Martin up ahead who was having a very decent run. I caught and passed him and set my target on two of the elite starters who were in range. From the top of the hill it must be about 2k to the finish. I was working really hard now and picking up the pace a lot.


My splits up the hill had been 3:53 and 3:46. Those kays had added 23 and 16 seconds respectively onto my 3:30 target average. I could only hope I had built up enough reserve to offset them. I couldn’t do the maths now. I turned right onto Hagley Road and could taste the finish. The 20k marker was coming up on my left, I had walked past it earlier that morning to get to the start. I flew past the mark in 70:02. I could get under 74. The hill hadn’t killed off the PB chance. I caught up with a Highgate harrier elite and tried to work with him. He wasn’t too interested in helping with the pace but also was clearly in no mood to let me get away. We sprinted down Broad Street towards the finish line. I love this bit of the race. One of the best finishes of any race. Crowds lining either side of the dual carriageway. You feel like a superstar. The gentle downhill. The proximity to the finish. It all adds up to an awesome kick for home. The Highgate runner outkicked me with ease but I didn’t care. I felt like I was flying. The final km split of 3:05 confirms, that for me, I was. I stopped the clock on 1:13:29. A 20 second PB. I was exhausted and ecstatic.


I finished 23rd or 24th (tbc) overall.


I walked through the finish area and waited for the guys to come in behind me. A clutch of BRATS, Martin, Chris and Dan all finished around 74 minutes. We must have sewn up the club competition (also tbc). I gave Dan a huge thank you, geeky runner’s style high five. Mate you were rock solid in today’s race. Without your work there was no PB for me. Simple as that.


Chris, what a hero, finishing in 73:56 and rushing straight off to hospital to get stitched up. Martin a solid solid race. If you’d run with us in the beginning instead of doing all that work on your own, you’d no doubt have been quicker. Dan, enough said.


Jamie had a less memorable run, having to stop numerous times for a stomach problem, Ed Barlow was pleased with his 81 and Kevin seemed satisfied with his 81.


What an awesome race. Birmingham’s own little version of VLM day. Not that little actually with over 20,000 runners.


See you in 2015.


BHM2014 course profile




BHM14 splits



Chaperoning a teenage party seems to be solid preparation for a 3,000m track race. Friday night was chaperone time, Saturday afternoon was race time.


The race was 3,000m. The meeting was the second of the season in Midlands Div.1 track and field. The location was Wolverhampton.


I drove there with a semi-injured but upbeat Dan (and a frustratingly quiet satnav).

dan and mark 3000m wolverhampton


Standard warm-up of a 1-2 miles jogging and 3 x strides down the back straight. Then it was gun time. My only goal was not to be a knobhead and run the first lap too quickly. So often I go through the first lap of a track race waaay too fast and by the time you’ve heard the timekeeper shout “68-69-70” as you motor past you know you’ve probably wrecked it. I was relieved to hear a 73 this time. And when this was followed up with a 2:26 at 800 I knew I had got the first bit right. There was a tight group of 3 up front, which included Dan. He looked comfortable and in control. I settled in with the guy I was running with who was clearly full of leg speed, being a middle distance runner (I’d seen him in the 1500). We ran fairly even splits for the next few laps, 1k passed in 3:03 and 2k in 6:06. Couldn’t ask for more really. Each time I felt I was getting dropped I told myself to just last for another lap, another half lap, whatever it took. As we passed 2k and headed to the 2 laps to go, we caught Dan who had been dropped by the front two and was struggling with his troublesome calf. We passed him and I motioned for him to join us. I also decided I had some gas left and pushed on as we passed 2 laps to go. I dropped them both temporarily but as we hit the bell (in 7:57 and with my lactic-induced hazy brain wondering if a 62 second lap was possible to break 9 minutes. Haha) the other guy came back to me and outkicked me very easily in the final 100m. I crossed the line in 9:07.1 (last lap of 69/70) . My kays had gone 3:03. 3:03, 3:01. Not quite a lifetime PB (9:06 from 1996) but pretty close.


Dan finished a few seconds back, clearly hampered by his calf, which in his own words he can now “attend to properly”. Speedy recovery mate.


Footnote: I didn’t get there early enough to watch the Steeplechase, but I did hear that Ed not only won the race, but lapped the entire field. Nice work padre. Ezekiel Kemboi must be looking around nervously…