No Run, but Riverside Walk

At the risk of sounding like a broken record (see post last Sunday), I should have been going for a long run today… This week the problem was that I went out on Tuesday and, after a stonkingly good outward 6.3k/3.9 miles*, my calf tightened up and I had to walk all the way back. ☹  So, I’m resting it for another couple of days.
*The only saving grace was that my pace for the 6.3k averaged around 5m 17s per km or 8m 30s per mile (which is much better than I expected).

I needed to get some exercise though, so I went for a walk, of around 9km/5miles, alongside the river.

Snow stopped play…

Today would normally have been the day when I went for my ‘long run’ in preparation for a marathon in May.  However, the weather has disrupted my training twice this week.  My plan would have been to do 5 or 6k (3 miles) on Wednesday, but a few inches of snow and freezing temperatures scuppered that, as the pavements were far too icy to run on.  And today, the heavens have opened and snow is forecast all day.  Already we have about a foot of snow, so Jude and I are confined to barracks.

This means my weekly total is a big round 0k (0 miles).  But regular runners will know that it’s best just to write off the week (as you would if you had an injury or were ill) and continue with my plan from week 4 onwards. (Note that Week 1 was actually week 52 of 2018, but I couldn’t find a way to set that on Excel).

Back running again…

I lack motivation and I need a push to get me doing almost anything these days… Happily my wife managed to nudge me bit by bit into renovating the kitchen and the cupboards are now all painted and a new floor laid.  I even managed to cut a new worktop to size, which was a first.

When it comes to running, especially at this time of year, the freezing temperatures and the lack of a decent training route is a real mental block that I need to get through.  Indeed, I’ve not been out running since my Hallwilersee Half in October.  So I needed an incentive…

Thankfully, Datasport* came to the rescue again.  (*They are the people who advised me last year, via their regular and very informative emails, of the free travel to the Half marathons).  This time, one of the “Events not to be missed” was the Winterthur Marathon on 26th May.  Now, I hadn’t really got it on my radar, even though I have a goal to run all the Swiss marathons.  I thought it might be too small to put it on my list.  However, by May, I’ll be in a new 65+ category and I read that “The first three podium ranks of the respective categories win attractive prizes in kind.”  Not only that, but I read on their website that only 2 in that category finished in 2018… and 4 h 2 mins was good enough for 2nd and 4h 18m secured 3rd in 2017.   Now call me mercenary if you like, but that was just the kick-start I needed.

So last Sunday I plodded up and down our road for about 30 minutes (or about 5k/3miles) in sub-zero temperatures.  (My lungs complained bitterly for 2 days afterwards).  And today I drove down to Sion to pootle along my favoured flat training route, beside the Rhone, for just over an hour (or around 11k/7 miles).  As weekly totals go they are not far, but it’s a start…

As you may know, I don’t like to post anything without a picture or two, so I stopped off a couple of times on my way down to Sion to capture a few distant snowy mountain tops.

Zurich

With a certain festive period approaching, Jude and I took ourselves off to Zurich for a few days to find some ‘different’ presents.   I’d been there before to run the marathon, but I hadn’t really had time to explore the city and I have to say that we were both very impressed with how organised and quiet it was.  It was more like a large village than a big city.  It was also nice to see the wooden Christmas market stalls and the streets decorated with more lights than you could ever count.

 

Hallwilersee Half Marathon and Swiss Trains

One way to run an Autumn marathon is to run two Half marathons. 🤔  When I discovered that there were two in quick succession, I didn’t think I’d be able to run either, let alone both.  So I’m very pleased to post another report, this time on the Hallwilerseelauf.  (In case you missed it here is my Greifensee Half report from a few weeks ago).

You may recall that Sarah, Karl and I just failed, by only 13 seconds, to dip under the 2 hour mark.  So after a little bit more ‘speed’ training since, I had (perhaps too) high hopes of running 1 hour 55 mins, or in any event under 2 hours.  The course had a downhill start, which was nice, but inevitably you are drawn into going off too quickly.  With the sun shining brightly (again) and the temperature around 23 degrees, I once more suffered in the middle to late stages, but I “dug in” (as you have to in these races) to finish in 1h 57m 27s.   OK, it wasn’t 1h 55m, but one of the things driving me on towards the finish was the thought that the sum of the two races just had to be under 4 hours… 😀

As before, I didn’t carry my camera or a phone, so I have no photos of the race itself, but here is a link to my own personal video of the race courtesy of the organisers/sponsors.  I’m the guy in the red vest and black cycling type shorts and long socks by the way. 👨  Depending upon your internet speed, you may have to wait a few seconds for the video to come up and it’s best viewed, of course, by maximising the screen (via the top right hand corner of the video window). Enjoy!

Once again, I had free travel to and from the event, but it involved catching a bus and 5 different trains to get there and 6 different trains to get back to Sion (where Jude would pick me up).  With connection times between trains of as low as 3 minutes, perhaps only in Switzerland would you even dream of getting there and back in a day.  But that’s exactly what I did.  It didn’t matter that there were weekend engineering works along one section of the route, the schedule had been adjusted and all 11 trains were exactly on time.  (See my outward and return timetables below).  Words cannot describe my admiration for the Swiss train (and Postbus) network. ⏱👍👍

 

Greifensee Half Marathon

Some time ago now I noticed that there was a Half marathon which went around a lake, near Uster, in the northern part of Switzerland.  The route was also was quite flat but, perhaps most importantly, free transport was provided there and back, courtesy of the Swiss transport system.  The start was at 3pm and I worked out that I could catch the 9am bus, get there for 1.30pm, collect my number, run the race and be back home (well, in Sion) by 9:30pm.  The only ‘drawback’ was that my daughter Sarah and her fiancé Karl would be staying with us on that day.

Now, I knew Karl was pretty fit and had run several half marathons in the past, as well as the Oslo marathon last year, so I thought he might be interested.  But, other than a few Park runs, my daughter had never run a race in her life.  She had run up to 7 or 8 miles with Karl, but that was just for fun…  Anyway, you may have guessed it, they both agreed to run it with me.  Our goal was to run together and finish in under 1h 55mins (though like most runners, this was perhaps wishful thinking) but sub-2 hours was definitely possible.

For the first 7 to 8k (5 miles) we were ‘on’ for the 1h 55m, but it was clear we were slowing slightly.  The weather was warm and I, for one, was feeling the heat.  We plodded on, over a mixture of rough farm track and tarmac roads/cycle path until around the 14 to 16k (10 mile) mark when we slowed a bit more.  At 18k we had around 18 minutes to do the remaining 3.1k (2 miles).  However we’d seen that there would be a significant rise in the profile of the route at 19k.  We pressed on knowing that what went up, did come down slightly afterwards and we almost sprinted the last 500 metres knowing that the clock was ticking… and, unfortunately, we missed out on sub-2 hours by an agonising and unlucky 13 seconds! 😞

Sarah had said before the race that it would be both her debut and retirement race, but she couldn’t have tried harder and I’m immensely proud of her.  So well done Sarah!

Karl, by the way, could have run around 1h 35 minutes, but he came down with a cold the day before, so he too deserves a special mention for running along with us and providing encouragement (as well as some very corny jokes) all the way through.

As you will see below, I didn’t run with my camera, well mobile phone, to capture the race itself, so I only have a few pictures of our journey there and afterwards.  It goes without saying, of course, that the Swiss transport system worked like clockwork!

Lucca, Tuscany, Italy

Judith and I have just returned from a 2 week holiday in Corsica.  We decided to drive there from our home here in Evolène, taking a daytime ferry from Livorno to Bastia.  It’s quite a long drive, so we stopped over in Lucca for a couple of nights* in order to explore just a little bit of Tuscany.  Apart from a long and interesting history, Lucca has the most amazing Walls.  They are several metres high and very, very wide (see pic 6) allowing cyclists, dog walkers, joggers and tourists alike to do all, or just part, of the 4.9km/3 mile circumnavigation.

*We stayed at the wonderful Agriturismo Ai Linchi, which is just a few kilometres out of the town.  So the first few photos below are of our evening walk to the local church when we arrived.  We certainly needed to work up an appetite, as the evening meal served up by Andrea was simply amazing. 😋

Long distance running (part 3) – Sub-3hr Marathon attempt

After running the London marathon in 1982 and the Jogle in 1983, I continued to run and race shorter distances, like 10k, 10 miles and a few Half Marathons.  But as I neared my 40th birthday, I decided I should have a crack at doing a sub-3 hour marathon.  Based on my best times at the shorter distances, I knew this should be possible, but of course you have to train hard and I’d need to execute the race perfectly.

So, as a relative novice at the distance, I decided to gain some experience by having a ‘test run’ in the Langbaurgh Marathon in the October of 1993, which was 6 months before my birthday.  I’d trained for about 3 or 4 months before this race (up to about 18 miles) and my aim was to see how far I could run before stopping and at what point I fell below the sub-3hr pace.  To my astonishment I managed 21 miles before I had to walk and 23 miles before I dropped below the required pace and finished in 3 hrs 4 mins.  (I’m amazed my brain had the capacity to work this out at the time, as normally that’s the first thing to shut down!)

As you can imagine this gave me a huge confidence boost and I continued to train hard, including some Long Distance Walker Association events, like the Kilburn Kanter and Rudolph’s Romp (which were both around 21 miles).  Indeed, I enjoyed doing these events so much I continued to do them for many years afterwards.  They are a fabulous way of building stamina, without the pressures of a race and have the added advantage of being off road, usually with lots of hills to build strength.

So, my chosen target event was the South Coast Marathon, which was just 11 days after my birthday in April 1994.  I have to say that I don’t remember much about the race itself, except that it was quite a sunny day, though not too warm.  After around 21 miles, I felt a little dizzy and decided to walk up a slight incline and was very relieved to see a drinks station only 50 yards ahead.  Suitably refreshed and feeling back to normal, I continued running, though I must have missed some of the later mile markers as each mile seemed to take an absolute age.  I then recall looking at my watch with about 10 minutes of the 3 hours to go and wondering if I might make it.  Then, out of the blue, I saw the 26 mile marker and, boosted by seeing it, I finished strongly in a time of 2 hours 55 minutes and 40 seconds.  (This remains my PB/PR to this day).

I mention this story, not to show off in any way, but as a lesson to all you young (well, under 50) runners out there.  Make the most of your best running days while you can.  You’re a long time retired or losing speed as you get older…  (The stats suggest that you lose about 3s per mile, or 2s per km, for each year after the age of about 45).

Yes, it’s an old T shirt, but it was never going to get thrown out after all that effort! 🙂

South Coast Marathon 1994

Hadrian’s Wall Path (Day 1 of 4)

Almost 2,000 years ago, in AD 122 to be precise, the Roman Emperor Hadrian ordered the building of a wall all the way across Britain, from Bowness-on-Solway in Cumbria to the appropriately named, Wallsend on the river Tyne (near Newcastle).  Alongside runs a deep trench called the Vallum and Hadrian’s Wall was made a World Heritage site in 1987.   For that time, it must have been an incredible feat of engineering, not to mention a lot of back-breaking work.  They completed the 73 miles of wall, which looks to have been about 8 feet thick and contained several turrets or look-out towers along its route, as well as a fort at Housesteads (see Day 3), in under 10 years.

Once the Roman Empire crumbled, so did the Wall, as a lot of the stones were removed to build other structures, like the Lanercost Priory (see Day 2), various nearby farmsteads and no doubt other walls.  But some of the central and most remote sections remain visible today.  So it’s not surprising that there is a recognised long distance path (of around 86 miles) which attracts keen walkers from all around the world.

For logistical reasons, my ex-running mates Pete, Liam and I decided to start our journey in Carlisle (about 14 miles in from the west coast) and finish at Heddon-on-the Wall, which is 15 miles short of Wallsend in the east.  Our day 1 proved to be a good ‘warm up’ of around 12 miles, from Carlisle to Brampton (where we detoured off the route to find excellent B&B accommodation at the Howard Arms).  The going was a little damp underfoot, but dry above and relatively flat all the way.

York (England) – City Walls

When I lived in York, my lunchtime running pals and I used to regularly run around the old Roman Walls, now in 3 separate sections, which circumnavigate the City centre.  We would leap off some of the steps which were 4 or 5 high and unsuspecting visitors would pin themselves to the walls as we came careering through.  (I should add that no women or children were hurt in this process and that dogs are not allowed on the Walls.  We’d also generally do it in winter when there were very few visitors).  Pete managed to get us and the route featured in the UK “Running” magazine as “Our Favourite Run”.

So, when I was back in the UK last week, Pete, Colin and I re-lived old times by walking along the route – all the way from and to the start and finish outside the Rowntree’s (now Nestlé) chocolate factory and offices where we worked.   The first picture below was taken 21 years ago (almost to the day), with our mate Tim.  I should also point out that the “Bars” in some of these pictures are “Gateways” into the City, unlike the one in the Maltings, which is one of the best pubs in York and where we stopped for lunch. 🙂  Cheers! 🍻