Hocus Pocus – Magic in Blackpool!

Hocus Pocus by Focus is one of my favourite running songs. It really does make you run faster. They play it really really really fast on this live version.

Proper preparation prevents piss poor performance. Remember that old adage? Will it wasn’t true for the Great North West Half Marathon at Blackpool.

This was the least prepared I’d felt on the morning of a race ever. It didn’t help that Kate and I went out for a meal on the Friday night, got accidentally drunk (again) then had a “proper” rest day lying around the house with a hangover all of Saturday.

I didn’t even get my stuff ready the night before the race as I normally do, so getting up Sunday morning still feeling rough I had my breakfast and quickly gathered up my kit then Kate and I rushed out of the door to get up to Blackpool in time to pick up my race number from race HQ.

Sunny Blackpool

After parking up fairly close to the race HQ I had to run down to Race HQ to pick up my number before the 10.30am cut off, then got changed on the lower promenade and headed to the start line. Conditions where pretty fantastic for running though, a slight breeze and cool (but not cold) sunshine. A big surprise after seeing (though not taking part) previous Great North West Half Marathons where conditions have looked terrible in the past.

Kate and I near the start

Although on the morning and the weekend of the race I felt thoroughly under-prepared in the week running up to it I felt great. The previous week I had reduced my mileage significantly, visited the physio and got a sports massage after feeling some discomfort from some mild shin splints so after a few easy miles in the week my legs felt very fresh (it’s just a shame my head didn’t).

We had the countdown and then we were off in to the Blackpool sun as we headed south down towards the North Pier before dropping down on the Lower Walkway right next to the sea then heading back north under the start line then looping back up to repeat this again before finally heading out north towards Bispham on the Lower Walkway. First small set of loops done.

My first mile clocked in a 7.48 and I was thinking this is waaaaaay too fast. However I was feeling pretty good and my next couple of miles come in at under 8 minutes so I figured I’ll try to stick it out a 8 minute miles until I run out of steam and see what happens.

Once out to Bispham the course headed up on to the Higher Walkway (so there was a bit of a hill heading up) and that slight breeze I felt at the start felt a whole lot stronger when it was blowing in to my face. There were also a few undulations on the top part of the route and with the wind in my face I was still just about managing to keep near the 8 minute mile mark up to mile 8 when we were nearly back to the start/finish area, then for another loop!


Two Alan’s. I don’t know why the other Alan is doing Jazz Hands!

From mile 8-9 the course dropped back down to the flat Lower Walkway so I picked up a bit of speed on the flattest part of the course before looping back up at Bispham again. At least now after looping around back the 2nd time I knew I was heading back to the finish.

I’m not a fan of courses with laps and repeated loops in, I find them a psychological drag but I didn’t feel it too bad here. Probably because my head was still aching and fuzzy from Friday night and I was concentrating on getting rid of that rather than thinking about laps.

I was starting to struggle and my energy was running out a bit from miles 10-12, again the undulating top bit of the course with the breeze in my face was slowing me down and that pace was creeping up to just over 8 minute mile pace but I knew that up to mile 12 was as tough as the course was going to get and I picked up the pace again assisted by the sharp decline back towards the start/finish area.

With the finish line in sight I could see on the clock that the sub 1.45 was well and truly on. I sprinted as hard as I could and on the way to the line I just edged past another runner who’s legs seemed to have deserted him right near the end so I gave a big “Come On!” shout then we pushed each other on crossing the line at the same time (see the main image above, the race photographer captured my shout and sprint finish face well!)

I couldn’t quite believe it after crossing the line. I wasn’t sure where this came from, what Hocus Pocus and magic was this?!

Before the race I was expecting to do around 5 minutes faster than the Helsby Half (on 21st January) which would have given me around 1.48, but I didn’t expect to beat my time of the Village Bakery (Wrexham) Half from last February where I got my of PB 1.46.53. I certainly didn’t expect to beat 1.45, so to come in with a time of 1.44.34 I was ecstatic!

I smashed my PB and already beat one of my 2018 goals to get a sub 1.45 Half Marathon.!

After picking up my medal (Fylde Coast Runner do some fantastic massive medals), t shirt and freddo (the freddo makes it all worth it) I caught up with Kate, went for some fish and chips and headed back home well and truly pleased with myself.

I don’t usually enjoy courses with laps and I find them a bit of a drag. However conditions on this morning where just perfect for running, the support on the course was pretty good, I was feeling good (other than a fuzzy head) and the race was organised brilliantly so everything just come together on the day.

I’m done with half’s for a while now. I need to concentrate on getting that mileage back up for the marathon and looking after my legs (lots of foam rollering, massages, ice baths etc) as I don’t want shin splints ruining my marathon preparation.

Next race is the Trimpell 20 mile race in Lancaster on 18th March. I will be aiming for a PB and to beat my time from last year at this race.

Peace and Love.

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Stone Cold Crazy

A crazy stone cold morning in Helsby, and that’s the bottom line.

Sometimes when you’ve entered a race and you see the weather forecast secretly (or not so secretly) you’re hoping for a cancellation because really as no one in their right mind would go out running in that weather. This was the case for the Four Villages Half Marathon, starting and ending in Helsby. The forecast the night before was pretty dire; heavy rain and sleet with a temperature of 1-2°C. After watching people try and cross the icy road outside my house before I went bed the night before I was thinking (hoping) there might be a possibility of a cancellation.

The forecast on Saturday night. It wasn’t wrong!

Alas a cancellation was not to be. It must have warmed up (very slightly) overnight as when I awoke there was no ice on the roads. Heslby is only a few miles away from me and with a 10.30am race time I didn’t have as early a morning as some of the other races I have done, so I had my pre-race breakfast (always 2 hours before a race), got myself lubed up (Bodyglide everywhere, Footglide* on the feet, obviously)  got kitted up and headed out to Helsby.

*Note:  I know that Footglide is probably the same as Bodyglide only more expensive for less product but I’m not getting blisters at the moment, so I’m not changing it.

Pre-race breakfast!

Driving over the Mersey Gateway Bridge the car was getting pelted with wind and sleet I was thinking “this is madness”. It was so tempting to turn off at Runcorn and head back over the bridge back to God’s own country and to my nice warm house.

I got to Helsby, managed to park up within walking distance to HQ (only just I nabbed one of the last few spaces) and headed to the start area at Helsby Community Sports Club. As you can imagine in this terrible weather pretty much everyone was trying to take shelter in the club and it was more than a bit cramped.

I tracked down some of my fellow Widnes Running Club Members and we congregated outside near the Up and Running Stall where another of our members Liam was working (Liam kindly offered to store our bags in his car). Whilst waiting for the start the weather went from rain to snow to sleet back to rain and all around again and we all generally moaned about how much of a bad idea this was and how cold we all where. I’d already lost the feeling in my fingers at this point. After finally plucking up the courage to take off my coat I deposited my bag in Liams’s car and headed to the start line all of 15 meters away.

Start line selfie

The race started and we headed out towards Dunham on the Hill and the hail stone started. Nice. It genuinely was so cold and it took me until about mile 5 to get full feeling back in my fingers as my hands finally warmed up.

I had been a little worried about the hills on this course and I was hoping some of the hill training that I’ve been doing recently would come in to play as I don’t like hills and running up them is certainly a weakness of mine!  However the first few miles were fine. Undulating somewhat (with some nice down hills to pick up some time) up until mile 6 or so.

Then the hills and the weather kicked in. Hail and sleet had receded to cold, cold rain and the course really started to get tough from mile 7. I think the toughest section of the course (and it shows in my splits) from mile 7 to 8, it was all up hill and very exposed to the conditions especially on the Smithy Lane section towards Mouldsworth Village, it felt the wind was right in your face and pushing you back down the hill. I found this by far the worst bit of the course.

Once that tasty little section was conquered there was a slight respite from mile 8 to 9, (although by now my gloves had got wet and I had lost the feeling in my hands again) before climbing back up between mile 9 to mile 10.5.


I’d not ran this course before but I knew that if I hang in there in this section than that was it course conquered and hills complete! It was true because as Super Fresco used to say “What goes up must come down”. A sharp decline at 10.5 miles (which is where the main picture was taken – “Wooooo!”) then a sneaky little undulating bit before being all downhill back in to Helsby and a good chance to pick up a bit of speed and pick up my two fastest miles of the race by far .

I had some left to put in a sprint finish and I crossed the line with an official chip time of 1:53:17. This is about a minute quicker that the Lancs New Years Half Marathon two weeks ago on a much tougher course in pretty terrible conditions. In fact I think I could of put a bit more in around some of the hillier sections and I think I could of get a better time than this (I was nowhere near as tired at the end of this race as I was at the Lancs half marathon) but I’m pleased with my result and I feel I’m making progress in my training.

Goodie bag and medal collected I headed back to the sports club. On the way I bumped in to an ex colleague from years back, all round nice guy, good egg and good runner Dave Owen and we bother agreed that that today’s run was “Character Building” and that we wouldn’t be winning any size contests today!

I headed back over to collect my bag from Liam’s car and I had some difficulty opening that car door and picking up my bagas my hands were frozen and my fingers would not work! I quickly got my customary post-race photos done and headed off in to the sports club to find a heater and to get my hands warm, get changed, get the hell out of Helsby and get home for a warm and a big feed (it took me hours to get anywhere near warm again!).

As much as I have gone on about the weather (it really was so so cold and up there with the worst conditions I’ve ever ran in) I actually enjoyed the run, even the hilly bits. A big thank you and well done should go to the organisers for putting on such a good race in these conditions, but a bigger thank you should go to the marshals, volunteers and spectators for hanging around in the terrible weather, well done!

All said and done I am glad this race went ahead. I needed to do this kind of mileage as part of my marathon training this week. If I hadn’t of entered this race there is no way I would of gone out in those crazy stone cold conditions.

Some more training in the coming weeks for me before my next race which is the Great North West Half Marathon in Blackpool on 18th February where I’d be looking to take around five minutes off today’s time (with a bit of luck and dependant on conditions).

Peace and Love.

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Guess Who’s Back?…..

…..The not so “Slim” Shady!

FINALLLLLLYYYYYYY Big Al has come back to……………………… LEA TOWN!!!!

Happy New Year! It’s been a while but I’m back running, back racing, back fund raising and back to writing blogs.

Last year I did a big running challenge to raise money for North West Cancer Research. I ran The Blackpool Marathon and the Great Manchester 10k and Half Marathon but I managed to get myself injured in the run up to the marathon last year. I didn’t really recover for the either the marathon or Manchester runs but I did complete them (I never actually got round to blogging about them, probably because I suffered with my injury through them!).

Since then I’ve had to deal with the injury sustained in the run up to the marathon, had a loss of mojo and have enjoyed myself a bit too much on holidays and at festivals. I will get round to covering those races from last year and my lack of mojo in much more depth in another blog but for this entry I’m covering my comeback and the Central Lancs Half Marathon in Lea Town near Preston.

I had actually started to get back running in September and October, with the last race I done being the Flintshire 10k in October. I was slowly starting to get some mojo back but then a holiday and a business trip aboard put paid to this and I ended up putting on a bit of weight (I was already a little bit heavy) and ended up around 21lbs overweight.

I got back from these trips and I noticed on Facebook that North West Cancer Research where looking for fundraisers to run the London Marathon. I raised money for the same charity last year after losing my Dad to cancer in June 2016. NWCR are a charity local to me and everyone knows cancer sucks so it is a natural choice for me to support a local charity doing great work in stopping cancer sooner and saving peoples loved ones. I applied to NWCR for one of their charity places and found out I was successful on 10th December.

There’s nothing like a big charity challenge and running one of the biggest and most famous races in the world for getting some focus and some mojo back. This is not without some self-doubt, could I do it all over again? And could I raise that kind of money again? I raised over £2000 in 2017 and I need to do at least that again! I know how much hard work there is and how much training you need to put in to run a marathon.

For my 2017 marathon in Blackpool (held the same day as London) I started training in October 2016, this time around I started training in mid-December. So starting a couple of months behind and being 21lbs over weight I had a lot of catching up to do. It really did feel like start from scratch (and when I say scratch I mean like when I first started running ads a 16 and half stone big lad back in 2007), but I persevered through December and finally in the run up to Christmas it felt like my running mojo was back, I’ve lost a bit of weight (8lbs, so now just a stone over weight) I had a couple of good training runs where it felt like I got some rhythm back and actually remembered how to breath properly. My last good run was a 10 miler of Christmas Eve (I actually felt great doing this and ran much faster than I had initially planned).

Then Christmas happened. I was due to do a run on Boxing Day but I had so much of a good Christmas day with my family this was not possible! I has also planned on doing some runs around New Year. My wife (Kate) and I had a break in York over the New Year but other factors like bad weather (really unsafe running conditions in snow and ice) and hangovers put paid to this.

So this brings us to the Central Lancs Half in Lea Town near Preston on 7th January. I had actually managed to do two training runs in the week preceding this (one 4 miler where I stopped for a breather after a mile – this was on the 2nd Jan though) and a cracking little hills session. I came in to the race feeling as I had not trained enough, but this race was down in my plan to get some mileage in my legs (it would be the furthers I’ve ran since the Manchester half back in May), and I really needed to get that “feel good race factor” back.

I ran this race last year so I had a good idea of what was to come (although there was some slight changes to the course) and it was a good opportunity to see how far away I am compared to this stage last year.


So an early start heading up to Lea Town to get to race registration for 9am. The race started at 10am, but I like to be there an hour early to get prepared (PRP is essential). It was a very bright but very cold morning so I had my PRP in the portaloo’s, collected my race number from HQ and headed off back to the car to sit with the heater on for a while and to get in to my race kit.


I headed off to the start and I notice that it a had shifted a little since last year, I guess to make up for the course adjustment. I was a little chilly stood round waiting for the start, but not too bad as the race director gave us our instructions (including a request to use our brains as there was cold icy stretches out on the course).

And then we were off. My main plan was to use this as a training run but obviously that went out of the window as soon as the race started and I went off at a quick pace (for me!). I continued with a reasonable quick pace throughout the first half of the race really, the first three miles did have a slight elevation gain but race excitement carried me along, the next three miles where then pretty much downhill and I was going a pace much quicker that I have done in any training run recently. There was some icy patches around these first six miles but it wasn’t too bad and didn’t really have too much of an effect on my running.

Then from the halfway point the course starting going steadily back up hill and we were getting out in to the exposed and very cold Lancashire countryside. This looked great in the crisp clear winter sun but there was some very icy stretches of road and some care was needed whilst running. From about halfway up to 10.5 miles my pace really started to drop and the steady incline (nothing major just a few miles gaining a little bit of height) really started to take it out of my legs and I think the lack of any training over the festive break started to show.

As previously mentioned I had run the race last year and I know the after mile 10 the course would start to go back down hill and I hoped to pick up some time here. I did somewhat but not as much as I would of liked. I tried to pick up the pace more but my legs would just not go faster. Again I put this down to a lack of any training over Christmas. Anyways I finally got back towards Lea Town and I knew the end was near, turning the corner near the Smiths Arms I gave all I had left for a “sprint” finish (see main photo) finishing at 1.54.08.

Throughout the course I notice the mile markers where not matching up with my Garmin and I measured the course at 13.26 so it was 0.16miles long according to me. I’m fine with this though, I wasn’t going for a PB this race was just about miles in the legs. In comparison to last year I was a good few minutes slower (1.48.04 vs 1.54.08) but I’m not a million miles off and I’m happy with this as a base line for the rest of the year.


I do have some catching up to do on last year but I am more experienced and my training plan is much better this time around. Also I am carrying an extra stone which hopefully should be gone by the start of February (I really hope so, I’m looking forward to having more calories!). I will be aiming to get well under 1.45 come spring time.

Other positives to take from this race was my lack of blisters (I feel like / hope that I have stumbled upon a solution from my blister issues from last year – a combination of socks, shoes and lube), and my ankle not hurting and not clicking (at least until the latter stages of the race) – the strength work I’ve been doing in the gym over the past few months seems to be working!

One final note. Your mind starts to wander when you run for any length of time like this (part of the reason I run is for some “head space”) and whilst running this race I couldn’t help but think of Kate’s Great Aunt Sylvia. This was the third time this week I had been up to the Preston area, firstly to visit Sylvia in hospital on Wednesday. Sylvia then sadly passed away on Thursday. She was much more than a “great aunt” to Kate and she was the matriarch of the family. Sylvia could be often be cantankerous and obnoxious but much more often hilarious. She was such a great character and I clicked with her immediately upon first meeting her back in the late 90’s and I loved her dearly ever since.  She would always look out for me on the big televised races I ran in (and I think even some I didn’t race in) like the great runs etc though she never seen me on the T.V.  I’m not much one for “RIPing” or dedicating stuff etc., but this one is for Sylvia.

Peace and Love.

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Falling Down…

Potential disaster at the Sheffield Half Marathon

The song choice becomes VERY obvious at the chorus!

At the moment I’m tapering towards the big one, the Blackpool marathon on the 23rd April. Sheffield half marathon was perfectly placed in the calendar to use as a race to do just this so on Saturday Kate and I caught the train over to Sheffield (its quicker, easier and cheaper for us to get the train from Widnes to Sheffield than it is to drive) to stay the night to be ready for the 9.30am Sunday start.

Prior to the race I’d had been having bother with my blisters and had visited a podiatrist. After looking at my feet, trainers etc she suggested that I should wear trainers that fit me (DO NOT go up half a size as the running shops tell you) and suggested that I should get some (semi-bespoke) orthotic in soles. These in soles came one day after the Timpell 20 mile race.

As I needed my feet to recover following Trimpell for my Swedish Arctic Snowshoeing Trek just a week later (a truly incredible week away in the far north of Sweden – I will get round to blogging about this) I didn’t have much chance to properly try out my new insoles. I also had bought MORE new trainers (this time the right size). I done a quick 4 mile run out a few days prior to the race, and although feeling like my heels may pop out of my trainers I thought I’d just need to get used to the new in soles.

So, on the morning of the race I was up nice an early for a breakfast and headed out in to the morning sun and took the short walk across the city to the start line. The atmosphere was buzzing and this felt very much like a big city race. I had the usual pre-race nerves, and I had a feeling this was going to be a tough race. I’d read about the big hill and the 5 mile incline going out of the city and even at 9am the weather was very warm! After using the facilities and getting in my re race sports drink and gels got myself in position in the blue wave and near the start line.


The race started at 9.30am and we headed out through the city. The first half mile or so of the race was a bit crowded and the corners of the course were a little bit tight and was a little bit stop start with the number of people in the race, and getting around the outside of some (yes, I know this is to be somewhat expected in a big city race).

Anyways, once out of the city centre and on to Ecclesall Road the course opened up and there was much more room. I think I’d left it too late to have me sports drink as I already needed a pee this early in to the race. I passed some loo’s around mile one, and I was having a look around for possible places to go. Then around 1.5 mile disaster happened. My left ankle just gave way on me and I went tumbling to the floor. I have never fell over in a race before. I’ve never fell over in a training run. I never ever fall over (apart from when I’m drunk, then I ALWAYS fall over!). I’m not sure what happened here. I may just of been looking for a suitable place to pee and not looked where I was going, I might just of hit a pot hole, or the insoles and extra height in my trainer might of made me fall (I suspect the latter).

After my tumble and my forward roll I went and sat in a bus stop and composed myself. My ankle hurt a little bit but I thought that I’d have a go on it, and I’d try to run it off. I was running in NWCR colours and I didn’t want to pull up and not finish. I headed back on the course and up Ecclesall Road (and found a suitable spot to relieve myself).

Soon enough the course started the incline that was well advertised. Getting out on to Ringinglow Hill and getting up to mile 5 of the course was particularly tough. The organisers even had a “King of the Hill” chipped mile between 4 and 5 miles. I was pretty slow through miles 3-5, I must admit to stopping a couple of times to check on my ankle (though I might just of been using this as excuse to rest). My King of the Hill time was not very good, but at least I passed Rugby League legend (and massive human being) Keith Senior around here.


What goes up must come down, and once Ringinglow Hill was summited the decline was just as steep and afforded some wonderful views across the peak district of this most beautiful day. I now began to pick up the pace and that average pace on my Garmin began ticking down. Seems funny that my ankle began to hurt less as the course got easier.

My aim for this race was not to go for a PB and to use this as a training run. With the heat, the hill and the fall and injured ankle a PB was not going to happen for this run, but around mile 10 I ended up near the 1.55 pacer and I through that would do for me, so I stuck near him as we came back in to the city centre.

As the crowds cheered in the city I heard a few shouts of “Go on Big Al” (I had Big Al printed as the name on my Number) this spurred me on and I gave it all for a sprint finish, coming in at 1.55.55.

Resize 1

What I would say about this race are the crowds are fantastic. Right throughout the whole course there were lots of people handing out water, jelly babies and spraying people with water pistols (in this heat this was greatly appreciated!). This is the best crown I can ever remember at any race. Absolutely brilliant, and makes me want to come back and do the race next year!

All things considering I’m pretty happy with that time. I then collected my pint of alcohol free Erdinger (apparently full of electrolytes), medal and goody bag. By the time Id collected all of this stuff my ankle immediately started hurting. Funny what adrenaline does in shutting out the pain.


I limped away for my traditional post-race photos, before phoning up Kate and asking her to get the ice ready for me when I got back to the hotel. I got back, iced up for as long as I could then got ready to get the train back to Widnes so I could get home and recuperate.

After looking after my ankle and going through the whole RICE process on the Sunday night, I woke up on Sunday morning with a rather large, and very sore ankle. I’m lucky enough to work for an understanding employer, and I am able to work from home which was needed on this occasion.

Again after restringing and icing all Monday morning it wasn’t getting any better and I took a trip down to the walk in centre. After looking at my ankle and me telling the triage nurse that I was running a marathon in 2 weeks she just chuckled and said “no you’re not”! After a nervous wait for the results of an x-ray I seen a Doctor and we looked at the x-ray which surprisingly to the Doctor, and much to my relief was clear! I asked the Doc if the thought I’d be able to run in the marathon. He didn’t say I wouldn’t, but said that it might be possible to run the marathon with lots of resting and icing.

As it is I don’t have a choice. I will be taking part in the marathon. If I’m able to run it all the better, but I WILL get round that course.

I have been a bit lazy in writing up this blog entry, and I now sit here a week later on Easter Sunday I have spent the week resting my ankle, and getting plenty of ice on it. My bruising and swelling has gone down, and although it’s still a little sore, there is still evidence of some swelling and its clicking like hell I’m confident that I’ll be running the marathon next week.

My lessons learned from this race is to STOP if there’s a possible injury. It is not wise to “run it off” with a marathon around the corner. Especially as this marathon has took over your life with all the training and effort I have put in.

Now for a week of rest (well maybe some light training), eating and looking after my ankle before the big one next week.

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On The Road Again

This blog details the tale of the Trimpell 20mile road race in Lancaster on Sunday but as Kate and I stayed up in Lancaster (well Morecambe) in Bri the Campervan on Saturday night the story starts with us getting on the road again.

We headed out up to Morecambe in Bri the Campervan. Bri is a 1997 converted Iveco van that we bought back in September, and obviously named it after my Dad. We’ve only done a couple of trips so far and we’re still learning the ropes. The van is in great condition and we love it, but it is fairly old and there’s still a few things that can go a little wrong on it.

Bri The Campervan on a sunnier day!

On Saturday it was the heater blower. In fact the heater blower motor has been temperamental since our last outing up in Keswick for New Year. We’ve been on the lookout for a new one (well second hand) since then but we’ve not yet found one. Before we left on Saturday we had the van in the garage to give it a once over, and all was working fine.

Now the weather was pretty awful on the way up to Morecambe, and it was lashing it down as we were driving up the M6. Around 30 miles in to the journey the heater decided to stop working!  That’s not a problem if the weather is nice, or even if it’s just cold, but when it’s lashing it down and when its cold it means a really steamed up windscreen. Which meant we were driving up the M6 in the pissing down rain and wiping the screen with cloths and towels!

Eventually the heater started working after many Fonzie taps on the heater controls, but by this time we had just got in to Morecambe so it was a bit late! Anyways, we got to the site, found out pitch and got all set up for the night.


We had a bit of tea and cake and I prepared my kit for the following morning then we got ready to hit the town. Well when I say town we went The Hurley Flyer pub over the road from the camp site for us tea. Hopefully this was the first and the last time we go here. The food and the service were pretty terrible and we’ll never go there again. Anyways back to the camper for some foam rollering, an early night and a good night’s sleep. Well almost, I think we need a mattress topper for the van and the wind and the rain was pretty wild throughout the night which made for in interesting night’s sleep.

Tight squeeze for foam rollering

So up bright and early to have some breakfast and to pack up the van before the very short 4 mile drive in to Lancaster. A lesson learned here, as I did not give myself enough time to both get ready and pack up the van. I really need to add a half hour on to van packing up before the morning of a race again. I was very rushed, and felt very under-prepared getting in to Lancaster and I was extremely stressed. I tend to get stressed out on race mornings anyway and the idea of coming out for the night in the camper was supposed to reduce this not make it worse! Kate dealt with me very well indeed and I must apologise for being so stressed and narky!

As I was in the camper I had to find a suitable car park and this so happened to be a little way away for the race HQ where I needed to pick up my race number so it necessitated a jog to get to the whilst taking on my pre-race energy gels.

On my way up to Lancaster Castle I met up with my training buddy Helen and her mum & step dad. I was still highly strung at this point and Helen helped me out pointing me in the right direction for my race number and stuff. Interestingly the race numbers were collected out of some prison cells (until 2011 the prison at Lancaster Castle was still functioning).

Anyways we headed down to the start line, when I say line I mean tunnel. I’m not entirely sure where the start was but we made it there in time, and set off out in to the wind and rain.


The first mile or so was quite difficult going as we were getting stuck in lots of traffic and the paths were pretty tight so it was hard work getting passed people. Once over the Millennium bridge that goes over the river Lune the path opened up again on to a walking / cycling path heading out towards Morecambe and coming close to the campsite of the previous night. The course then went round the Trimpell Sports club where the race must of got its name from before doubling back on itself heading towards Lancaster.

After heading back over the Millennium Bridge the course then dropped down to follow the Rive Lune heading back in land away from Morecambe. The difficulty was at this point keeping a sensible speed as both Helen and I were going a little bit faster than planned. In fact I found the first 10 miles of the course very easy and was going very strong, although I could already start to feel some hot spots on my feet so I was anticipating blisters (despite my best efforts of pre-emptive blister plastering and taping).

It was at 10 miles Helen and I split up. It had started out very cold on the morning of the race, but your temperature soon goes up after running for a bit and Helen needed to lose some layers so I left her at the 10 mile marker and I carried on alone. The next 8 miles where by far the most scenic of the course. Basically you ran out on a mainly trail path to somewhere near the villages of Caton & Brookhouse at 14 miles and double backed on yourself for the return to Lancaster. On this section there were a couple of bridges that took you over the River Lune and you were privilege to some cracking views (there happened to be a photographer there at that point too – you can see the out and back pictures!). The miles between 10 and 15 were getting a bit tougher for me and the pain from my blisters started to get a little bit worse, but I was still going pretty good.

Heading Out
Heading Back

I started to get tired and my feet started to get worse from mile 15, and I know at the appoint that I wasn’t going to get a particularly quick time so I stopped for a quick picture of my own from the Crook O’Lune Bridge.


Although the scenery was good I was starting to get a bit fed up from mile 17 and my pace slowed right down. Not only that but I had an issue with my headphones so I had no music to take my mind away from my painful blistered feet. On reflection I should have stopped to investigate why this was. I guess it was just a loss of Bluetooth connection, but at the time I though the batteries had gone flat. It also felt the wind was in my face on the last 5 miles heading back towards Lancaster.

I really struggled from mile 17, and I had to stop more than once as my feet were getting very painful. However the other runners on the course were so supportive so I persevered I was glad to see the 19 mile marker located just before the course headed back in to the city and towards the castle.  I had been warned that the “little hill” (as the race organisers put it) that heads up towards the finish within Lancaster Castle was brutal. I part staggered part jogged up the hill, turned the corner then was met with another smaller hill on cobbles which felt horrible but at least the finish line was now in sight and I was extremely relieved to limp over the line in a time of 3.08.23.

As you can see I ran this course in my Widnes Running Club shirt. There was great support out on the course from some the faster guys from the club out there and also from other runners giving  me a “Come on Widnes” shout which was very encouraging and felt great. It’s also good to see the club getting noticed as we are still in our infancy. The encouragement from the marshals on the course and from the volunteers on the water stations was also fantastic and much appreciated. Its this kind of support that really gives you a boost and makes running these events enjoyable (or gets you through the event!).

After picking up my medal, t shirt and wolfing down a chocolate bar I seen Helen come in to the finish just a couple of minutes after me. After a post-race chat and rest I headed back to the van.

The conditions on the course had not been great with some quite heavy showers and blustery conditions, however the weather really decided to take a nasty turn as I limped back to the van. The heavens opened and it absolutely pissed it down. I was drenched and very very cold as I got back to the van.

Luckily for me Kate had got some minestrone soup and a cup of tea ready for me for when I got back to Bri the Campervan. After me being pretty fed up with all the stress it had caused in the morning this is when the van really come in to its own. I had somewhere to shelter, get warm, something to eat and drink and somewhere to get changed and clean myself up. A real god send after a 20mile race in tough conditions and blisters from mile 10!

Once I finally got warm and ready it was almost time to go. As we had heater problems on the way up I decided to run the van for a bit to get the heaters warmed up whilst we cleaned up and done the dishes etc. Now we had parked on a slight incline and I needed to take the van out of gear to start it. After getting the van running I headed back around to help Kate with the cleaning. I then noticed that the post in front of the van was moving away from us! “Shit, its moving!” I shouted as I ran my last few meters of the day back around the front of the van and jumping in and hitting the brakes before the van rolled gently down the hill! Another lesson learned. Always keep the van in gear when parked up!

One final note on my blisters. I have seen a podiatrist prior to this run, and I was waiting on some orthotic insoles (which I got the day after the run), the advice that she gave me was NOT to go a half size up like suggested in the running shops, and to wear shoes that fit. I also have a weakness in me left ankle which causes my right to hit the ground harder which goes some way to explaining why I tend to get worse blisters on my right foot (and why in the past I’ve tended to get things like ITBS and shin splints worse on my right leg). I have been told to work on strengthening that ankle, to stretch my calves and hamstrings EVERY day and to get lots of sports massages! I now have the insoles and yet ANOTHER pair of trainers this time in the right size (those Hokas are going in the bin) and hopefully this will help reduce the blisterage. Though I won’t be running as far as 20 miles now until the marathon.

All in all this was a tough run, painful for the last few miles in pretty bad weather conditions but I’m glad to of completed it. I also learned a few lessons about staying in the campervan, and I think this can work for me going forward (I just need to give myself an extra 30 minutes). Hopefully with my new insoles and trainers I might see an improvement on the blister front. One the plus point my feeding and nutrition strategy seemed to work ok for 20miles so I can transfer this to the marathon.

I’m heading for the trekking holiday in the Swedish Arctic wilderness for a week this coming Sunday. Not ideal preparation for a marathon in 4 weeks but I love adventure and this was booked long before I decided to run a marathon and it’s going to be the trip of a lifetime. I’ll try to blog about it on my return!

Peace and Love.

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The Stars of Track and Field

This blog covers my double header weekend of the Blackpool Stanley Park 10k on the Saturday and the Warrington Winter Track Team Marathon on the Sunday.

Seeing as both runs featured a track the song choice to accompany this blog is Belle & Sebastian’s “The Stars of Track and Field”:

Widnes is famous in music with the Stone Roses Spike Island gig going down in baggy folklore, Paul Simon’s “Homeward Bound” was wrote on Widnes Railway Station and Widnes actually gets a mention in “The Stars of Track & Field”.

Widnes also gets mentioned in lots of other popular songs like: KLF’s “Its Grim up North”, David Brent’s “Life on the Road”, Elvis Costello’s “Watch Your Step”  and of course in Black Grape’s “Reverend Black Grape” and in Marvin Gaye’s “Can I get to Widnes?”.

Saturday – Blackpool Stanley Park 10k

Saturday’s race was a tough day at the office. I had one of those days where my lungs just did not want to work.  On the Friday night I went to a gig again this time to see Man and the Echo (who are a wonderful witty indie power pop band from Warrington, they feature in my blog “Distance Runner”). Though I drove there and back and stayed sober (I learned my lesson from “Young Dumb and Full of Cabbage”) it was still a relatively late night getting back – especially after dropping off my pissed brother and his pissed mates outside Tony Meloni’s Sambuca bar. That drive back from Manchester was fun, cheers David & the Todds.

I didn’t have the best night’s sleep on the Friday night (having a piece of pizza at midnight just before bed didn’t help) and I woke up around 4am looking for my inhaler as my chest was pretty bad and I was struggling with my breathing. I then struggled to get any more sleep before my alarm went off at 7.30 and I got up to eat some breakfast and get my stuff together (I didn’t have the time on the previous night as I was out at the gig).

So not the best preparation as I headed out to meet my running buddy Stu and the East Lancs Road for the trip up to Blackpool (I am allowed to say you ran the race now aren’t I Stu?).

We got there with plenty of time before the race which gave time for race number collection, PRP, and a warm up lap.

Race HQ was at Stanley Park Leisure Centre in Blackpool, and the course was a 2 lap route starting with a lap of the athletics track, then heading round the outside of the park, back through the park round some boating lakes and ponds, and back around for a lap of the track. Then repeating all this and with a nice fast finish on the track.


I had planned on a sub 47 minute 10K for this race. There’s absolutely no reason why I should not be doing this at this stage of my training. In fact I got a 46.45 in the same race last year, so I set the pace on my Garmin for between 4.35 and 4.40 min/km. After the first kilometre is became quickly apparent that this was not going to happen for me today. The remnants of storm Doris was still knocking around in Blackpool, and the wind was pretty blustery. Not only that but I was wheezing and panting and struggling to get my breath. I was feeling that bad that for a brief moment I had contemplated stopping for a DNF. Instead I just slowed my pace right down, took on some inhaler and stuck with the race going ad a slow 5 min/km (ish) for the rest of the race.

I did have a bit left for the last kilometre so pushed it as hard as I could in the track for the last bit of the race coming in at 48.30 (for a course my Garmin measured 270m short!). All in all a disappointing time, it was just one of those days I think and I was just glad to of stuck with it and got it over and done with.


Sunday – Warrington Track Marathon

Saturday evening was a bit more chilled out. Kate and I went to Kate’s sisters for a Chinese and to see Kate’s cousin, Ben who was over visiting from New Zealand. Its bit of a shame it was this weekend he was visiting as due to my racing I couldn’t have a few drinks with him. We were back home nice and early on Saturday night, I had a much better sleep and my asthma was much better controlled so I was feeling much better for Sunday’s team track marathon.

The event was held at the Victoria Park track in Warrington. The premise was that in a team (you could participate in a team or individually) you covered 105 and a bit laps of the track between you which is 26.2 miles.

I ran as part of a team with some of the guys from Sweat Fitness. Stu and Helen are regular running buddies, and we roped in Leigh on this one. Both Stu and Leigh are trainers at Sweat, and in the group chat leading up to the event we were talking tactics. Stu had some convoluted plan that I didn’t (and still don’t understand), and we were still undecided till Leigh came up with the ridiculous idea that we take some kettlebells along and do some burpees and some kettlebell squats after each lap (basically we run a lap each then do 10 burpees and 13 goblet squats), which obviously I point blank refused to do.

One the morning of the race we all met up at Sweat for the short journey in to Warrington.  Somehow or other Leigh managed to get a 32kg and a 24kg kettlebell in to the back of the car to take to the track with us, and off we went to Warrington.

Once at the event we got ready, had a race briefing on how the event would work, and how the transitions would work, I had a quick PRP, and we headed out to the team transition area to get set up.



I am part of Widnes Running Club, who also had a team in the event. The club had sent the big guns out to get the best possible time, and they and the other teams looked on in some bemusement as Leigh carried the kettlebells from the start to the transition area.

I’m not sure how and when it happened but we agreed to go along with his hair brained scheme. We dropped the burpee’s part of the idea but we stuck with the goblet squats. So basically each team member done a lap, tagged the next person in, then done 13 x goblet squats (Leigh, Stu and I using as 32kg kettlebell, Helen using a 24kg kettlebell).

Anyways, come 1030am it was race time, with Stu leading us off, then tagging in Leigh, followed by me and Helen.  It was basically like a maxed out interval session, run 400m as fast as you can, do 13 goblet squats, rest, repeat. 26 times.


I make it sound worse than it was it was actually was. The first five laps or so felt a bit tough, but then once in to my stride and getting used to it, it soon felt ok. About half way through we each done a section doing 2 laps each to allow for toilet breaks, then back to the one lap each.

It started to feel tough about 3/4’s in to the race. It felt like the wind was getting stronger in the home straight with every lapped that passed (whether this was psychological I’m not sure), it was also raining ever so slightly making the kettlebell harder to handle the longer the race went on. It was also hard to keep track of where we were up to. Luckily Helen was around with her whiteboard to keep us on course.


With our lap times dropping off as we were getting through the later laps bit Leigh ran the final bit to get Team Sweat home in 03:01:02. It would have been nice to crack 3 hours, but we’ve still got to be happy with this. We came in 7th overall, and the 4th team on the day. We can safely say that we were the only team that were doing goblet squats after every lap. In total we completed 1310 squats between us, equal to a cumulative weight of 40 tonnes!

On another note the team from Widnes Running Club won the day with a time of 2.40.40, so a great result for the club too.

All in all this was a great event. Really well organised, with good support. The idea of having runners to pick the soundtrack that was played throughout the day was great, and to be able to speak to the same people as the laps ticked by throughout the day was really good. There was a cracking atmosphere at the event and I think we all really enjoyed it, and the medal was great.


We’re already thinking of something bigger and better to up the anti at next year’s event (assuming they hold it again).

Here’s a pic of my medals from the weekend.


Peace and Love.

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Pain is Temporary (Like Paul’s Secretary)

Paul McCartney invented techno, go on, have a listen:

Sunday’s race was the Village Bakery Wrexham Half Marathon. After my previous week’s mess up this was a chance to “get back on the horse”. I must admit my confidence was knocked slightly by my failure last week, but after my quickest parkrun time since May the day prior and a good race nutrition plan after picking up a High5 marathon race nutrition box I felt a bit better and well prepared on the morning of the race.

So up relatively early on Sunday to have a breakfast of porridge a couple of pieces of toast, the rest of the morning I would following High5’s half marathon fuelling plan to the letter. I rolled the old legs out, taped and talc’d my feet up (where I normally get blisters) and got my kit together and headed out to Wrexham. I don’t really like driving out this way on a weekend as I drive out this way every day for work, but it’s a bit easier on a Sunday morning than it is on a Monday morning.

The race started in an out of town semi-rural industrial estate on the outskirts of Wrexham, to be honest it wasn’t the most picturesque venue driving in to the industrial estate but I got to the race HQ at Wrexham Club House and parking nice and early to get ready for the race and to use the facilities. The queues were pretty long for the portaloo’s outside so I headed inside the Club House for my PRP (pre-race poo). The facilities were not great, with one of the toilets being out of action and I heard more than one person describe it as looking like the toilet out of trainspotting.

Business done I headed back the car to get prepped for the race and bumped in to my training buddy Helen who arrived at the race with her mum. I was giving Helen a lift back after the race so she left her stuff in the car which including a hip circle band so I took the opportunity to stick it on and use it for my warm up. A hip circle band is a thick elasticated band, and you can put it just over your knees and basically go for a walk, and it will give the legs (in particular glutes and hips) a good warm up. You do look a bit daft doing this though, and I got a few odd looks and a couple of comments from other runners.

Sticking to the High5 nutrition guide I had my two energy gels and an electrolyte drink on my walk down to the start line, and positioned myself in what I guessed was the group behind the really fast runners. Its sometimes tricky to get this right as you don’t want to get too close to the front as you’ll get in the way of the fast people,  but nor do you want to go too far towards the back and try and pick your way through runners that are slower than you.

Anyways, once the race was underway it became apparent that I had positioned myself just right with people of a similar ability to mine and we were off. The conditions were pretty much perfect, still, dry and very warm for this time of year (about 12°C). My main aim for the race was to beat my previous time of 1.48.03 that I got in the Central Lancs Half in January but I felt I could go quite a bit quicker than that so I had my pace target set on my Garmin of between 8 to 8.15 minute miles.
The first 5 miles of the race was a lap around the industrial estate. Again, not the most pleasant 5 miles but I was the fast end of my target pace of 8 minute miles. If I could keep this up I’d be on for a 1.45 time, and after about 4.5 miles the 1.45 pacer passed me. I thought about trying to stick with him for a while, but I decided to run my own race and not worry or thing about keeping with the pacer.

To keep with the feeding strategy I took on another energy gel at 5 miles, at which point the course then headed out past some farms and in to a bit more open country which made the route a bit more interesting and got some better views of the surrounding countryside.

It was about half way in I could feel the burn on my right instep where I’ve been getting my blisters. I’ve now tried a number of pairs of trainers and I made the decision to wear my Brooks Transcend 2 which were picked up for £30 at TK Maxx. So far I’ve not suffered from blisters in these trainers and I had done 17 miles in them the previous week with no major blister damage, but today was pretty painful. At around 8 miles it was really bothering me but then Macca’s Temporary Secretary came on my playlist and I immediately decided on the name to the blog, as I was thinking “pain is temporary” and I started to put the pain to the back of my mind and I took on another energy gel to think about something else.

My pace was still round 8 minute miles at this point and as I passed through the water station at 9 miles I thought I heard someone shout “go on Alan” and it gave me a little boost. I had idea who it was, or even if it was meant for me until I got to work and a colleague had said she’d seem me and was helping out at the drinks station – thanks Donna!

From 9 miles until the finish the course was a steady incline and I started to get pretty tired from here on in. In fact it felt like I was running on sand and I just couldn’t keep up the pace with me dropping down to 8.20 minute miles for the next couple of miles.

I took on yet another energy gel at 11 miles and I think this one was a bit too much. I tend to react badly with my asthma if I have too much sugar and a sign of this is a hot blotchy face and I felt like this was happening after the last energy gel. It didn’t seem to give me much of an energy boost as getting to mile 12 was my slowest mile. At this point it was just a matter of sticking with it. I knew that unless I stopped and walked I was on course for a PB, so it really was a matter of just putting one foot in front of the other, and repeating the whole “pain is temporary” mantra until the end of the race.

The last 3 miles felt harder than the previous 10, but passing the 13 mile marker does give you a bit of a boost and I tried to finish as strong as I possibly could. Though looking at the video I think I could have shaved another couple of seconds off as I seemed to slow down at right the line.

I was well and truly knackered at the finish and crossed the line with an official chip time of 1.46.53. This is a new PB so I’m pretty happy with it and I still think I can improve on this. The last few miles on this really done me in though. I think the incline together with the unseasonably warm weather done it for me. Not to mention the rather large blister!


All in all though this was a good event for me. It was the first event I’d raced in my North West Cancer Research vest. I think the event was really well marshalled with some excellent encouragement around the finish areas and at the water stations. You also got a nice medal and some nice sourdough crumpets from the race sponsor. The things I didn’t really like were the setting/first few miles around the industrial estate, the facilities at the start were not brilliant, and of course the massive blister that I got. I’m not sure what to do about this not after working my way through three pairs of trainers. Next stop is a podiatrist I think.

Anyways, that’s me done till next week and another busy race weekend.

Peace and Love.

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