barkley marathons

This weekend is the barkley marathons. And no, there is no typo, it’s marathons. Barkley is one of the toughest and secretive ultramarathons in the world. 100 miles in the Tennessee wildnerness. Registration, course and even start time are secretive and all up to the organiser Laz. The course is a 20-mile unmarked route,

with no aid stations except water at two points along the route and the runner’s parked car at the beginning of the loop

plus an elevation of over 50,000 accumulated climb. There is a “fun run” at 60 miles, with a time limit of 40hrs. The race itself has a time limit of 60hrs, or 12hrs per loop.

Since its inauguration in 1986 only 15 winners have won. The race mystique was increased this year with the release of a documentary.

rhonda

This year’s race is covered widely on twitter via #bm100. One of the most remarkable runners is Rhonda-Marie Avery, a blind runner who will run with a guide. This is her arriving after completing one loop in 32hrs. She tapped out at one loop but what an achievement.

Edit: the race was won by Jared Campbell, his third finish. What an achievement.

running Paris marathon for the GCLS

I’ve done the running sponsorship once before and that’s it. I remember telling my friend CC about Chicago marathon and her first reaction was to reach for her wallet and ask “who are you running for?” So sweet, but I explained that I wasn’t running for any charity. She was puzzled; like many non-runners she associated races with sponsorships. All well and good, but that’s one of the reasons I don’t run for charity–while I cheer on the fundraising and good cause, I hate the way that races have been taken over to the point of being hijacked by charities. How many years have I entered for the VLM lottery? 100% failure rate.

parismarathon

I guess it’ll have to be a really great cause to get me to go the race sponsorship route. I’ve been involved with the GCLS for a few years now, I feel like I’m contributing, and they appreciate my efforts by giving me an award last year. As the organisation grows, so do operating expenses and the need to provide even more to members in the form of scholarships and technology. It seemed an opportune time to combine Paris marathon with the GCLS.

As I don’t live in the US, I approached the Board to figure out a way that works best for everyone. I initially thought about having sponsors fill out a form (so I can track total amount) and then donating directly. The Board did one better: they kindly created a fund just for me, to provide a convenient place to make and collect donations. That’s simply…awesome.

Here is the call for sponsorship that I posted on fb earlier, and is also on the description on the fund page:

On 3 April 2016 I will wake up early, gobble down several delicious French pastries, lace up my best running shoes and participate in the Paris Marathon. This is my 5th marathon and my first race on Continental Europe. The course takes us past sights such as Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower.

This year, I will run in honour of the GCLS.

As many of you know, the GCLS is close to my heart and I am involved in their mission to educate, recognise and promote lesbian literary work. It is a 501(c)3 non-profit organisation, entirely run by volunteers and funded through donations. Please consider sponsoring me in my efforts to help in their cause.

Here’s the link to donate online: http://www.goldencrown.org/donations/fund.asp?id=14228

Every little counts! Thank you in advance for your sponsorship. Look out for updates and race pics in April.

chicago marathon race report

chimarathon101split

42.2km 6.35.15hr 9.22min/km

overall: 36785 / 46033
gender: 16841 / 16955
age division: 1029 / 1041

Set alarm at 5am but woke up at 4am. Tea, a couple of waffles, a banana and a cereal bar for breakfast. Superfriend Carleen dropped me off and I joined thousands of people walking towards the start line. Found a quiet spot to watch the sunrise then joined the horrendous line for the portaloo. After half an hour in the cold wind the line hadn’t moved much but then someone came over and told us about other portaloos with shorter lines.

The corral was crowded. Wave 2 start was 8am, I crosssed the start line at around 8.11am. I felt great and happy. The crowds were fantastic and pushed me on, soon I found myself at LaSalle and 5k already. Lots of fun signs from spectators urging us on.

chimarathon049theatre chimarathon063drums

Things haven’t changed from 2010 and 2011: I stopped for the traditional pic outside the chicago theatre, there was warm support at Moody’s church, music at boystown, Japanese drummers at mile 10, the lasalle church opening their toilets up for us at mile 11. The roar of the crowds really did help.

chimarathon058flag

I also caught up with a runner holding an American flag at lincoln park, same as 2011 but different guy. Saw a fireman in full gear too. And a man in his 70s with “50th marathon” on his shirt. I spent quite a bit high-fiving kids and grinning.

Around mile 10 was when it started going pear shaped. First I got a nasty side stitch, which I hardly ever do. Then my left knee started hurting, which affected my calf and then moved to my right leg and finally my back. Basically anything that could hurt, was hurting. So disappointing, the wall came early. Even the biofreeze and tylenol at mile 12 wasn’t much help.

chimarathon071beer chimarathon077turbo

It’s always good to reach halfway, located just behind the old office. HM was at almost exactly 3hrs. I was pretty behind schedule at that point. After mile 13, the crowds thinned out and there wasn’t much shade. I started slowing down significantly and walked a lot. From mile 14 onwards it was boring and tough. Mile 19 was good, loud crowds through Pilsen. Lots of music and drums. Still a lot of walking. When first the 5.10 then 5.25 and finally 5.45 pace groups caught up with me, I tried my best to follow them for as long as I could.

After mile 22 from chinatown to sox park it was awful. Walking and walking. Turning into IIT and back north on michigan was more walking. I was keeping track of my time and I knew I was perilously close to the 6.30 cut off time. At mile 25 it was the final push. I picked up the pace and ran the last mile. It seemed forever before I saw the screen and the right turn up the hill. 400m, 200m and then it was finally the finish line. My iphone registered 6.33. I think they pushed the cut off time because of the hot weather.

chimarathon092finish chimarathon096medal

I collected my medal, a couple of bottles of water and a banana. There was a beer truck right at the finish, but unfortunately the beer was warm. The best thing was a cool, wet towel they gave us. Had my pic taken with the medal, couldn’t be bothered to go to the other side of the park for the tents. The exit closest to me was nearest the train station so that was where I headed.

I had more than 30mins to wait for the train. Felt a little dizzy and realised I hadn’t had much to eat for 7 hours apart from gu, bloks and gatorade. Fished through the goodie bag and found chocolate, and chocolate milk. That helped.

Carleen picked me up at the train station and we had pizza for dinner. I was more tired than hungry, and my feet were hurting. I came back to the house with the news that my fb friends had been tracking my progress online and there were dozens of comments and well-wishes. So moving. I posted a thank you status plus a pic of the medal and there were even more well-wishes. My fb friends are so wonderful. I didn’t even meet my most basic goal (beat 6.30) but the overwhelming support from the organisers, volunteers, fellow runners and my friends more than made up for the disappointment. Looking on the positive side, I finished. And that’s the most important accomplishment.

I didn’t take my camera with me, just used the iphone: uploaded to flickr.

p.s. this also counts as #99 of 101.1001 because I found a race, and I trained for it.

#chimarathon prep

Race day prep consisted of resting and getting into a positive, relaxed state of mind. Packed for the race and for Ptown, since we will be leaving first thing Monday morning.

Race goals:

  • D goal: finish before cut off time of 6.30
  • C goal: beat 5.38 (Chicago time)
  • B goal: beat 5.05 (Brighton time, all time PR)
  • A goal: 4.59.59

I signed up with the 5.25 pace group, I hope I can keep up with them. My aim is to keep them within sight at all times and it’ll be a bonus if I can go past them.

 

Here’s a really nice view of part of the course, taken by drone. It shows the city at its best. Drones are, of course, not allowed on the race (except officially sanctioned ones).

Some of the good things I remember from last time: the excitement going through the Loop, beautiful Lincoln Park, noisy crowds at Boystown (but that’s also where I lost my sunglasses clip-on), halfway point near the office, the nice Hispanic grandmother who gave me an orange ice lolly at mile 19, struggling back up Michigan and then hitting the crowds and cowbells on the final right turn.

People are joking about why runners run and put ourselves through this. The answer is simple:

runforbeer

There’s a free 312 waiting for us at the end, plus pizza and bananas and water and free massages. I’ll see what my time is, and how long I have to hang around the park afterwards. May be a second beer before I have to catch the train.

 

 

#chimarathon expo

Caught the train to the city and walked about 15mins to the Hilton to catch the shuttlebus to the marathon expo. The queue for the bus was long, I had to wait for bus #4 before it was my turn to board. Took about 15mins to get to McCormick Place. The expo started at 9am this morning and I got there around 10.30am. The place was big enough that it didn’t feel crowded.

chimarathon011fast

Got my confirmation scanned, got my bib, got my shirt. Nice shirt colour this year, a deep red, more maroon than the bright red of 2010. I made it a point to systematically visit every stall. I had on my shopping list the race cap and a few gu packets. I bought the cap ($30!!!) and resisted the t-shirt ($45). Bought a combination of gu and bloks. Sampled many cereal bars, bloks and gatorade. Bought a set of 3 bondi bands since the ones I have are getting grubby. Looked into socks but decided the pair I brought is good enough and I’d buy socks when I get back.

There were also tons of freebies. Encouragement signs, cowbells (sponsored by ML so in ML blue), a poster, space blanket, shoe bag and lots of leaflets in the official bag. Got a 30 second massage on my ITB at the free massage stand. Chatted with people at other marathon desks. Osaka marathon in October (though I’m wary of autumn marathons now) and Dusseldorf marathon in April. The lady at the Dusseldorf desk was super nice, it’s just a shame that it clashes with Paris.

chimarathon029pizza

By the time I was finished it was 12.30pm. The bus back downtown was less crowded and I walked around the corner to go to Lou Malnati’s. It’s been a while, and I had a craving for deep dish. The wait was around 15mins for a table, during which we were encouraged to put our order in to shorten the wait for food. I ordered the lunch special — small pizza with salad and a drink for $8.95. The pizza was smaller than expected, very tasty especially the crust and the sausage. It appeared that many people had the same idea for carb-loading, I saw many people with the marathon bags or marathon t-shirts in the restaurant.

chimarathon031gear

Train back and it was time to empty the bag and sort out my gear. Less than 2 days to go, it’s getting closer.

 

 

#chimarathon countdown 3 weeks

chimarathonguide

It’s starting to sink in. Three weeks till the marathon. The participant guide arrived via email, the hardcopy would have been sent by post. I need the hardcopy to claim my bib and packet at the expo. No escaping anymore.

With the guide also comes confirmation of my start corral. I’m in corral G, wave 2 8am start. I also have a map to see where my gear check is, and where the corral will be located. It’s quite a way down, almost to Buckingham Fountain. The guide has lots of information about the expo, start line and also where aid stations are. Even what is available at each aid station in addition to water and gatorade (chews at mile 12.5, powergel at mile 18, bananas from mile 20 onwards).

There are pace teams for 4.40, 4.55, 5.00, 5.10, 5.25 and 5.45. I haven’t seen pace teams go this much down the order. I’m tempted to sign up with them. In years past I followed them, but was never part of the group. I’ll chat the pacer at the expo to see.

What I don’t see is anything about a BoA customer tent. It was really useful in 2011 but it’s been 4 years. I have been tempted to sign up for either the official hospitality tent or the CARA VIP experience. Not sure if it’s worth $40 for private gear check, lounge, food & beer. They’re at the Radisson Blu, which is little bit of a walk to the start. I’ll probably just hang out like the other 40,000 people in the park.

 

run light stand race

7.0km 53.09min 7.36min/km

Whilst Chicago people are doing the ready to run 20 miler this weekend, I tested my race readiness by running a local 7k night race. It’s the first time I’ve participated in a night race.

Not a big race, around 1000 people. The race itself is along a dam then into a park. Took over 1.5hrs to get to the starting point, via train then bus.

runlightstand03kids

There were 2 races. The kids race started at 6pm, a shorter 1.5km distance. Those kids were fast. The winner of the age 6-8 category ran the distance in something like 6mins, which I can’t even do. What’s great was the top 10 in each category got prizes, and that probably covered every single kid in the race.

runlightstand02tattoo

The adult race started at 7pm and by then it was dark. They gave us temporary tattoos and the shirt was a little flourescent too. Some people were prepared with headlamps or made bracelets from glowsticks. Since it was along a dam and into parkland there were no streetlights at all. A couple of volunteers with glowsticks stood next to the various sleeping policemen along the way telling us to be careful. I couldn’t really see where I was going, I tried to follow people with lights as much as I could.

There were also a group of visually impaired runners with their guides. They were fast too. The guides had lights and shouted warnings when they approached. I always get a warm feeling when I encounter disadvantaged athletes.

My time was…okay. Faster than normal training runs, and conditions were similar. Even though it was night, it was still hot and humid. I hung around for a little bit to watch prizes given out. The top male runner finished in 23mins; the top runner in my division finished in 37mins.

 

paris marathon apr-2016

parismarathoncourse

I was clicking around marathon websites over the weekend (don’t ask) and realised I missed the registration for Tokyo. Then I spotted that Paris registration opens at 8am on 08-sep. I mean, it’s Paris. The course map above is small, but the route is clear. Start at Champs Élysées, run across the city past landmarks—Concorde, Louvre, Bastille, Notre Dame, Eiffel, along the Seine, finish within sight of Arc de Triomphe. It’s not a World Marathon Major event, but in terms of attractiveness of venue, is hard to beat.

The one thought I had going through my head during the last few weeks of Chicago training was: “why am I doing this? I’m never running a marathon again.” I hadn’t deliberately remembered Paris registration time until I looked at the clock, then checked the world clock: it was 7.55am Paris time. I found myself on the website, then to the registration site, then entering my details. I couldn’t even be bothered to switch to english, forms asking for name, DOB, address, t-shirt size are similar whatever the language.

The final step was to pay. It took me to a page that said redirecting and it will take some time. If I were just messing around, it was my opportunity to close the tab. But I left it, thinking if I get in, then it’s fate. If the page refreshes to quota full, then it’s also fate.

parismarathonbib

I went back to what I was doing, reading a book and surfing through feedly. Occasionally I’d glance at the redirect page, only to see it’s still waiting. More than 30mins later, it changed to give me the payment form. No going back now. €99 is a lot of money but at US$110 equivalent it’s 2/3 the price of Chicago and half the price of NYC. We get an image of our bib and race number immediately. Hopefully I’ll combine it with a trip to London and/or Amsterdam and/or elsewhere in Europe. Yikes, mm is going to kill me.

So, provided I finish Chicago next month, marathon #5 will be Paris. Or #6. London lottery results come out in october, wouldn’t it be just my luck if I got in? I can’t possibly run 2 marathons three weeks apart so I’ll have to defer one. Well, no sense thinking about that now. Back to Chicago training.

beat the banana 10th anniversary 5k race

2015bananarace01start 2015bananarace04medal

5k (GPS=4.83km) 34.48min 7.12min/km

I ran the beat the banana race in London a few years ago. The idea is to run after a guy dressed as a banana. Definitely a fun run, organised by the World Cancer Research Fund.

Today’s race had around the same people, the course was along the harbourfront. The 5k was billed as an “elite” race; there was nothing elite about it, it was the only 5k during the event. The other races were 3k fun run and 1k kid’s race. There weren’t any people dressed as bananas on the 5k, just on the other two shorter races, which was disappointing.

No chip, and the organisers obviously put more emphasis on fun, family and charity aspect. The course measured 4.83km on my GPS. There were volunteers telling us we’d reached 2km when it was just over 1km. The halfway mark was labelled 3k on the course map. Not “elite” but still sort of fun.

A grotty, foggy, muggy, humid, cloudy morning. I ran the bulk of the race with steam on my glasses, it was that humid. Then at somewhere between 3-4k my knee gave out on me. Sigh. Managed to get to the end. Grabbed the goodie bag, the sponsored banana, a couple of bottles of water and hopped on the bus. Home by 9.30am.

chicago summer races

chimarathon2011036sign

I have a small 10-12 day window in July between my arrival and our trip to NOLA for a Chicago race. The CARA race calendar is surprisingly disappointing, nothing in July except a few in the suburbs.

Another race site is more useful, listing races that were held in 2014 with the expectation that they will be held again in 2015, useful for reference:

  • stars and stripes 5k tinley park on 04-jul — fun run, probably full of families and kids
  • bastille day 5k/8k 10-jul-2014 at lincoln park — this is the most promising in terms of date and location
  • chicago challenge 11-jul-2014 — it’s a scavenger race for teams of at least two, so unless I can find someone to team up with, this won’t work
  • chinatown 5k 12-jul-2014 — chinatown is mile 21 on the marathon, the last stretch where there are crowds before the long stretch home, the location is pretty good for a race

Confirmed 2015 races:

  • bubblepalooza 18-jul-2015 — this looks so fun! Running through bubbles. The biggest downside, it’s at libertyville, more than 50 miles from where I will be staying, sigh
  • rock n roll half 19-jul-2015 — would have been perfect except a) we are probably starting our trip to NOLA that day and b) I missed the one day coupon code because I wasn’t paying attention to my twitter feed, RNR races are expensive and a discount code is definitely needed

 

tl;dr: as of today, I have no Chicago race in the summer.

race registration by cheque and SAE #stupid

shatin10kregistrationb

This weekend is when the major running race will be held. 10k with 4 separate start times, HM and FM. I used to fly back just to participate but ever since I experienced, and found out, how corrupt the race is, I’m boycotting it.

I came across a small 10k to be held in March. I clicked on the pdf document and couldn’t believe my eyes. To register involved:

  • printing, filling in and mailing a paper form to what looks like someone’s home address
  • paying by cheque
  • including a stamped addressed envelope, presumably for confirmation

 
I ran a disasterous 10k with no training in 2006, proper racing started in 2009. All the races I’ve entered had online registration. And the races that I’ve seen that involved a paper form accepted credit cards. I mean, paying by cheque? It’s so backwards and ridiculous. I had to ask my dad to write the cheque for me, the last time I used a chequebook was probably for my US account because Americans are probably the only people using cheques regularly nowadays. Cheques don’t exist in Switzerland, Germany, Australia and many countries. There’s talk that they will be phased out in the UK by 2018.

And an SAE? What are we? 1980s Blue Peter? What’s wrong with email confirmation? Or factoring the cost of envelopes and stamps into the fee. Luckily we had some stamps at home. The problem is I have no idea where the nearest postbox is located. I can just picture the race organisers as luddites who use Windows XP desktops. I bet there are no timing tags. I’ll register and go just to experience something from the last century.

 

marathon wishlist

chimarathon2011001tshirt

I’m trying to compile a list of marathons I’d like to try. There are a lot of marathons: at least one every weekend somewhere in the world. I’m sorting by the date registrations open, but sometimes the websites are coy about it, either it’s not the right time of year or they want people to sign up for their email newsletters. We all know it’s not the newsletter but the email address that matters.

So, my wishlist. Mostly I like bigger marathons because of organisation and crucial crowd support. Otherwise the route has to be an attraction by itself.

    world marathon majors:

  • chicago — I’ve done chicago and it’ll always be my home race
  • london — I try, and I try, and I try the lottery, I’ll get in one of these days; I’d love to call london my home race but I can’t do that until I’ve actually run it at least once
  • new york — registration opened this week and I got as far as the final page before realising they charge $11 just to enter the lottery and the race fee for 2015 is $255. Can I just say, daylight robbery? Yes, I am aware of the enormous amount of resources needed to organise a major marathon; I’m also aware that the NYC marathon is worth $340million and the NYRR reports $55million in revenue. So, the $11+$255 price tag? They charge it because they can, ugh
  • tokyo — I’ve heard great things about tokyo, in terms of organisation (no surprise) and the fantastic crowd support, may be I’ll try the lottery for 2016
  • I’m less keen on berlin, because it’s more important to get into london
  • I’ll never get into boston so I won’t even think about it
  •  

    city marathons:

  • uk — brighton which I’m glad has shaken off the London consolation price image; stratford-upon-avon, windermere and others with scenic route; islay single malt marathon (whisky, yay!); may be not perhaps more boring locations like milton keynes, sorry
  • europe — amsterdam; copenhagen; paris because of the route; vienna; zurich—any major city will be great; smaller places like seville and malta could be great to combine with a trip
  • americas — big sur, MCM, niagara—mostly for the scenic routes, there are way too many marathons in us and canada, my eyes glazed over the list
  • asia — any japan marathon like osaka, kyoto, hokkaido; not singapore or hong kong because of weather, inferior organisation and terrible routes through empty highways, tunnels and car parks—outside of japan there will be very little crowd or organisational support so it’s not worth considering
  • ANZ — melbourne great ocean road, sydney, rotorua
  •  
    destination marathons:

  • easter island — just imagine
  • arctic circle in finland or midnight sun in norway
  • marathon du médoc — oh the wine
  • tarawera — it’s actually a 50k ultra, but it combines stunning new zealand features like geysers, waterfalls with cream tea, that’s worth the extra training to get to 50k

 

That was just marathons. The list for half marathons is even bigger.

 

sundowner 5k

sundowner02start sundowner03firedept

Sundowner 5k at Joliet. Carleen kindly drove me there and waited till I finished. I was early, so I picked up my packet, pinned my number and checked the rest of the gear. There was time to wander around and queue up for the massage table. Only about 5mins of massage, but it was very good, the therapist found my problem spot on the left right away. A little hungry but there was no food so I drank a couple of small cups of gatorade.

There was a kids’ race before the adult race. 200 yard dash in groups of 3, 4, 5 and 6 year olds. So cute.

The adult race started at 7.15pm and by then it was getting dark (hence, sundowner). The course was through a park, the path was uneven and narrow. The majority of people were courteous and aware of others, just one or two runners pushing through the field unnecessarily rudely, we always get those at the start of the race: young men (almost always young men) who were late and trying to sprint up.

Markers were in miles. I got to mile 1 around 12-something and mile 2 around 24-something. I was a little slower in mile 3 and crossed the line when the clock as at 37-something.

sundowner04bug sundowner05loot

This is the first race I’ve participated in that had mosquito repellent, may be because it was through a trail-like course in a park. Queued up for food and drink afterwards: water, beer, doritos, banana, sandwich and cookies. The sandwich was soggy so I threw it away, and I only had about 1/3 cup of beer. They even gave us a small medal.

proud to run 5k

chiptr007medals

5.0k 39.52min 7.58min/km (12.49min/mi)
overall: 539/702
gender: 225/351
age gender: 20/35

This is my first race in over a year. After I booked my Chicago flight, I started looking into races during the time I’m in town and I found proud to run the day after I arrive. Everyone I talked to was unanimous in saying I was crazy to run a race the day after I arrive on a 15hr flight. But, well, I registered anyway. This was the 33rd annual PTR race, which is awfully impressive. There were a combination of regular racers and LGBT folks, the event was held during pride weekend. The organisers described the race as:

an annual 10K run & 5K run/walk focused on celebrating pride in a healthy way and raising funds to support the greater Chicago area LGBTQI&A community

I was very tired on Friday when I arrived and I was very, very tempted to DNS. I didn’t sleep very well either, but I woke up with the alarm at 5.15am so I thought since I was up, I’d go anyway.

I deliberately arrived early so I can find parking and do pack pick up. Parking was easy, I parked 5mins’ walk away at beautiful Montrose Harbor and I was one of the first to pick up my stuff. This meant I had loads of time before the official race start. I did a mile of warm up around the harbor, pier and flagpole area, went back to sit in my car, queued up for the portaloo, got water and generally hung around until it was time to start.

Official race start was 8.15am and they were prompt to the dot. I kept up a steady slow pace and didn’t significantly speed up when I got overtaken by what seemed to be the entire field. The course went north towards Foster and it was just like I was back on my home course again. Man, I have sooooo missed running along the lake. Sigh.

I got to the 1 mile marker just over 12mins and the 2 mile marker around 25mins. Mile 3 was tougher as it got hot, there was a point when I felt I was becoming overheated, a little dehydrated and my left knee started tingling. But I didn’t stop or walk, I kept trudging on. As the finish line came into sight I watched the clock tick close to 40mins but when I crossed it had gone past 40mins. Obviously official time I just beat 40. Considering I was jetlagged, not trained and still carrying an injury, I’m reasonably happy with the result. No, it’s a long way from my sub-30 PR, but it’ll be a while before I can hope to PR in any race.

I’m glad I made the effort to go. I have missed racing and especially racing in Chicago. They were giving away boxes of cereal bars so I got a bunch for Mum so it paid for itself.

how long is a marathon

How Long is a Marathon?

I’m woefully unprepared for the 5k race on Saturday. I keep saying to myself, it’s only 5k. We’ll see.

Saw this on rock’n’roll marathon’s twitter feed, an interesting infographic on how long is a marathon. Using their average finish time of 4:25hr, I learn that only 2,750 calories burned during the race. For some reason I thought it’s more—we always overestimate calories used during exercise. 2,750 calories is only around 2 burger-and-fries meals. But on the other hand, to get the same amount of calorie burn, we’d have to watch our favourite 30-min tv program 98 times. No favourite is worth sitting through 98 times.

Going to send this to the next person who says “5k marathon” — more useful than strangling them.

chicago marathon 2014->2015

chimarathondefer

I got into Chicago marathon 2014 through the lottery. But I’m not running. Scheduling, fitness level and not psychologically prepared for it. I kinda knew it when I entered the lottery, but I went ahead because I knew I could defer.

So today I filled in the form to defer my entry to 2015. I can’t defer to 2016 so I have to make myself do it.

In other running news, running isn’t happening. I felt a strange twinge in my left leg on the plane and it’s now developed into this awful stabbing pain that originates from this point below and behind my knee. Tough spot to roller, sigh.

chicago race planning 2014

Been trying to figure out if I can fit in a race when I’m in Chicago in the summer. I like races in Chicago, they’re usually well organised and I know the paths around the lake very well. Narrowed it down to a few options:

    proudtorun

  • 28-June: proud to run 5k/10k $35
    pro: part of pride week, my “home” course around Montrose, good value
    con: I arrive only the day before, I’ll be jetlagged
  • rnr1013turn

  • 20-July: rock’n’roll chicago Half Marathon $85
    pro: it was my first HM, so a bit of nostalgia
    con: expensive, overly commercial, expo on 18/19th, not sure if I’ll be back in chicago from portland
  • espritdeshe

  • 24-July: esprit de she 5k/10k $45/$55
    pro: date is good, easy 5 or 10k near the lake, same day packet pickup
    con: never heard of this event before, they seem to be combining a beauty treatment event with a running event, plus the free shirt is this girly purple sleeveless tank that i will never be seen dead in, ugh
  • sundowner

  • 24-July: sundowner 5k $35
    pro: date is good, easy 5k, low price
    con: in Joliet, clashes with esprit de she

Although I really would like to do a HM, I’m leaning towards either the Proud to Run or Sundowner. Pros and cons with both. Heck, I might register for both.

race fail

hkmarathonreg

I never learn. I’m like the alcoholic wanting just one more drink; or the celiac’s last bite of a croissant. I never have a good experience registering for this race and yet every year like a lemming, I return. In the early days, 2007-ish, the online registration website only worked with IE, but at least I could get in through my work PC and there was plenty of time to register.

Even when the website went firefox, then eventually mac-friendly, registration was always slow and the website would inevitably crash. Two years ago it crashed in the middle of me filling my my details, before I was able to pay, and by the time I got back in, I couldn’t register anymore. Last year, I was able to get my credit card details in before it crashed.

Where the hell did they hire their programmers from? A bunch of incompetents.

This year, registration was staggered for FM, HM and 10k. There was even a queuing system in place when I logged in first thing in the morning. Ha! I rejoice too early. By the time I got into the website and clicked on the race I wanted (HM race 1 — there are 3 races in total), the next page was an announcement that the marathon was full. Yes, I know that, marathon registration was last week. I had to go back into the queue, wait another half an hour. Still the screen that the FM was full.

My conclusion was, either the website crashed again or the HM was full but they were too lazy or stupid to change the wording on the notice.

I have never seen such a fiasco of a website or so much incompetence. I found out in a local runners’ forum that the FM was full in 3hrs, and the HM was full very quickly — no one knew when but it was less than 2hrs after the site opened.

Registration for the 10k opens on the 29th. I think I’m going to give the whole event a miss, this year and probably going forward. No sense supporting idiots. I saw another race happening at around the same time, a local 10k. Registration involved printing out a form and mailing it to the organisers. I mean, how stupid and how old fashioned is that? This place really needs to pull its finger out and get with the program, it’s being left behind.

standard chartered HM

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official time: 2:54:28 8.16min/km 13.18min/mi

The annual standard chartered race, HM this year. The question when I woke up was, should I even go. Coughing. Not enough sleep. Not enough training. But I thought I may as well try, DNF is better than DNS, right?

I guess having some race experience helped. I was going to tackle the race in 3 segments of 7k, do 3k or 5k and walk whenever I needed it. Started off okay, if a lot slow. The nikeplus went bonkers, telling me I did the first kilometer in just over a minute, clearly the GPS is being optimistic.

The first 7k was almost an hour, with lots of walking in between. Thankfully the water line was long and they also had energy drinks. With a limit of 3hrs, I needed to get a move on. I knew Sis and my niece were coming to cheer me on, and we’d agreed on a time and place. I whatsapped her that I was behind schedule. The second 7k was okay, with the dreaded western harbour tunnel consisting of running the first half and walking the second half.

It was great to see the pink flag that my niece was waving. At that point there were lots of spectators and only about 500m to go, so it was a boost. My nikeplus showed 2:53 and the official time was 2:54.

Long trek to baggage collection. Walked to SIs’ place so I could shower. Parents were there too. We all went to lunch at the bar downstairs, had steak. Went home, totally exhausted, still very very sick. Should I have gone while sick? Probably not. At least I finished.

chicago marathon registration problems

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Registration opened on the 19th. I didn’t register; it’s like going to the supermarket when you’re full, I didn’t feel like signing up while sick. Anyway, this year isn’t good for a marathon so far away. So I was surprised when I read about how the registration system ground to a halt 3 hours after registration opened. Likely too many people trying to get into one of the last world class marathons that didn’t operate an impossible to get into lottery system. Registration will be closed till the 28th, with apparently 15,000 place still left. This is too painful! Just get filled up already so I’m not constantly tempted!

race on sunday, bad cough

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I have a race on sunday, a half marathon I’ve half-heartedly trained for. I also have a really bad cough — I’ve had enough long term coughs to know it’s probably bronchitis and the cough will last months. Not confident I’ll recover in 5 days. Race or not race, I can’t decide.

race pack collection

The annual SC marathon is next week. Went and collected my HM race pack. Interesting to see the other racers. Not the usual collection of marathoners, some were less athletic than I was expecting. Family galore at the 10k tables. The longest queue was for the HM, may be it was the timeslot for HM collection, I dunno. I have a slight sore throat, I hope I’m not coming down with something.

chicago marathon registration

chimarathon012start

Registration for chicago marathon starts in just over 2 weeks, at noon CST 19 February. I’m nowhere near marathon readiness, even though it’s in October and I have the whole summer to train. I also know that logically I should go for marathons nearer home, like Tokyo, which recently celebrated being added to the world marathon majors. Or Great Wall (um, no. Way too tough). Or at least VLM or Paris or Berlin.

The problem is, my heart tells me Chicago is my home marathon. I don’t have a lot of time to decide. Places will go very quickly, as it is one of the few major marathons that are still first come, first served. Sigh. I’m in so much trouble.

medal display

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My new filing cabinet arrived (yes, the delivery people worked Boxing Day) so I’m even better organised. It sits right next to my desk and before, I used the space for a calendar. Been thinking whether it may be a good place to display my race medals. Hmm. Anyway, these are just the more interesting medals: 3 marathons, 2 HM and the BUPA 10k.

HM training plan

higdonHM

My next race is a half marathon on 24 Feb 2013. I’m going to follow the Higdon novice 2 plan, although I know I will miss some dates. I’m already behind, the plan started on Monday and I missed most of the week. Anyway, I did 5 miles today to sort of make it up. Very slow 5 miles (8.26k), and my ITBS flared up again. Slowly does it.

unicef disney 10k

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10.23km 1:17:18hr 7.33min/km (12.12min/mi)
overall: 1902 / 2584
gender: 694 / 1148

For some reason I thought this race was yesterday, so I woke up at 5.30am and was almost there on the train when I noticed that there weren’t any other racers on the train. So I checked my email. Ugh, silly me. I considered not bothering today, not wanting to wake up at 5.30am again, but I did wake up before the alarm so off I went. This time, there were plenty of other racers on the train so I know I got the day right.

The race should have been on yesterday when it was cool and windy. Today, it was absolutely drenching with rain. I had a jacket but it got soaked quickly, my Chicago marathon cap started dripping right away. It was tough to run in that rain, and it was quite warm too at 20C. I needed both water stations, at 3k and 7k. Time, well, it can always be better but I did okay considering the lack of practice and the weather.

There were long queues for energy bars so I left, didn’t want to stand in the rain any longer. Got an express bus, then changed to taxi. Home by 10am, there was not a part of me that wasn’t wet.

10.10 26.2

chimarathon013state

I ran my first marathon 2 years ago, on 10.10.10. It was a struggle due to the heat and slight undertraining. Still, I did it and no one can take it away from me. This past weekend, I followed the 2012 Chicago marathon from afar, saw that two Ethiopians won and, most importantly, a couple of my close ex-colleagues finished. I was sad that I couldn’t make it, and sadder that I haven’t kept up my running. The sooner I get my life back into normal mode, the better.

corporate challenge

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official: 5.6km 34.46min 6.10min/km (9.56min/mi)
nike+: 35.40min 6.14min/km (10.04min/mi)

Race #6, second of the week. Corporate challenges always clash with other races, almost every year. This will be my last corporate challenge, which is a bit sad. Ah well. I had to go into the office to pick up my t-shirt and bib this morning, and I was early getting to battersea park, not sure about train times and all. It wasn’t ideal for running — yes the temperature was cool but it was sunny one minute and heavy showers the next, it’s the unpredictability that caused the problem. I wore my hot chocolate raincoat while waiting with the rest of the team — didn’t have anything to bagcheck. I don’t like wearing it on the race itself but I didn’t have much choice.

Took forever to start, despite the corrals. Really crowded too, with people running 2- or 3-abreast (these 3 women walking in the middle of the path too) and at the other end of the scale people pushing through running faster. The course being only 3.5miles I could afford to go quicker. At the straight part, I did okay, and then there was one part where everyone slowed to a walk because of the mud.

Decent time. Still waiting for the day when I can go back to my old form and complete this under 30mins. We get a finisher’s t-shirt, bananas, water and there was a voucher for a burger (i had chicken) and 2 drinks (beer of course). Socialised for a while, then headed home on the bus.

british 10k

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official: 10.0km 1:04:58hr 6:29min/km (10:27min/mi)
nike+: 10.2km 1:05:02hr 6:22min/km (10:16min/mi)
overall placing: 13,480 / 19,716

Race #5 this year. I ran this race last year and wasn’t impressed, so I’m not entirely sure why I registered this year. I’m totally not in running mode and was pretty tired when I woke up. Briefly I thought about skipping it for a second but one does not DNS without good reason. Tired is not one of them.

It was pelting down with rain, so I got out the disposable rain poncho that my sis bought for me. That proved to be so useful, I had it on until about 5 mins from the start and it kept me dry and warm.

Ah, the start. Fiasco last year, marginally better this year. Some singer sang a song, they played all 3 verses of the national anthem and the race started 10mins late. No corrals and having people line up on Piccadilly then turn around over the underpass really doesn’t work. At least the bad weather probably deterred some of the walkers, I remember scalds of them blocking the road last year. They still blocked the road but there were fewer of them.

I’m out of practice. Started faster than I wanted, still quite slow. The rain stopped for the first part and then it started pelting down. There was no cover, kudos to all the spectators who stuck around. I didn’t feel tired and kept a fairly even pace. Even managed to sprint a little down the last 200m.

Nike was the sponsor this year, may be the extra sponsorship money was responsible for the basic things in a race like timing chip and extra water. There wasn’t enough water last year, and this year there were 3 water stations. Of course it being a rainy day not as much was needed. We also had to wear the race shirt to qualify for a free official pic. It’s a nice shirt, I just hate the small sleeves for women’s t-shirts. There was also a finishers’ shirt and I grabbed a men’s one instead.

Definitely just a fun run. And yes, great course through London passing all the important sights, which I guess is its biggest draw. There simply aren’t enough big London races — plenty of smaller ones but only this one, BUPA 10k and VLM come to mind. And this one come a very distant third behind those two great races.

BUPA 10k

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10k (10.57km on nike+) 1:08:30hr 6:51min/km (11:02min/mi)
overall: 7,522 / 10,512
gender: 2,933 / 5,076
age division: 288 / 485

My 4th race this year, and absolutely no expectations: a) I’d done a grand total of 2x5k runs since the marathon and b) it was an extremely hot day.

The BUPA10k is one of London’s top races and prides itself on organisation. This year there’s the added bonus that the course is run on the Olympic marathon route this summer. May be we’re getting a taste of what the weather will be like too. Okay, 26°C is not a big deal for somewhere like New York or California or Spain, but that’s hot for here. Add on the race started at 10am and it was pretty tough going. Everyone assembled in Green Park, and the corrals were really very very well organised. Just over 10,000 people in 9 corrals. I was in #6 and it took about 8 minutes to the start line.

It is a great route. Start on the Mall, with Buckingham Palace as backdrop. Through to Trafalgar Square, the Embankment, St Paul’s and Bank before coming back, passing the Eye, hitting Big Ben, Horseguards and finishing on the Mall again. My only complaint is that there didn’t seem to be enough water stations and the promised water misters were nowhere to be found. Not a lot of shade either so I had to pace myself and drink constantly. It was a relief to turn left to see the 200m to go sign.

Time was respectable. I wonder if one of these days I’ll take a race much more seriously and leave my camera behind and not stop for pictures along the route. Or I’d train properly. Or not go into a race with only 2 5k runs over the previous 5 weeks. I always talk about goals like sub-30 for 5k; sub-60 for 10k and breaking 5hr for the marathon. The flipside is that if I get too competitive and race races, where’s the fun?

I didn’t check any bags so I just collected my goodie bag and made my way to the bus stop. Somehow ended up outside Buckingham Palace and some nice Italian people took my picture for me. The Race for Life was also taking place at Hyde Park, I watched it for about 10mins, a few participants noticed my medal and waved.

claire squires

Claire Squires collapsed and sadly died during last Sunday’s Virgin London Marathon. She was only 30 years old, and this was her second marathon. She was running for the Samaritans and had raised around £500 for them. Since Sunday, donations on her donation page has surged and is now over £700,000. With giftaid and justgiving waiving their fee, the total donations will top £1 million.

Except for the first £500 donors, most of us who did put in a small amount didn’t know Ms Squires. I’m not a big fan of charity running, and I must admit I don’t give as much as I should to charitable causes. But her death has touched something very raw and emotional — she was a healthy young woman who should be alive today. As a marathoner, there is this fear at the back of our minds that it could happen to any of us, and just as suddenly.

There is so much sadness and tragedy in the world. When we read or watch the news, there is often a sense of helplessness. There is a want to do something, and I’m thinking this is why people have donated to her page. It was very easy, just a few clicks. There is also, at least for me, a sense of comfort, that it is through justgiving, and to the Samaritans, both reputable and trustworthy. If this huge donation can help the Samaritans provide more and better of their invaluable services, then there is something good that comes out of this tragedy.

star wars charity 5k

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Well no, I didn’t run in a 5k race, I’m still knackered and I had problem running across the road. I saw this event on runnersworld UK, someone is organising a star wars fancy dress fun run to coincide with the 35th anniversary of episode 4 coming out. Only £10 and 500 participants; there’s a 1k for kids, a 2k handcycle / wheelchair race and a 5k. A bit out of the way, at Watford, I’ll need to zipcar which instantly quadruples the cost. And needless to say there will be a complete lack of chip timing or anything resembling a competitive race, they actually advertise it as a run/walk for charity.

But, the kid in me who actually watched episode 4 when it came out and who still has the original cinema ticktet is screaming, it’s Star Wars. May the Fourth be with you and all that. I can wear my Darth Maul hoodie and/or my Jedi robe and bring my lightsaber. So tempting.

brighton marathon race report

bm12005coral

chip time: 5:04:54hr 7:14min/km (11:38min/mi) 7174 / 8878 overall
Pictures at flickr

Here’s the short version, I had 3 goals:

  • A goal of 5:15
  • B goal of 5:30
  • Consolation goal of just beating 5:38

I surprised myself by beating even the A goal and came very close to sub-5. Had a good race, learned more about training and pacing. The rest of this post is the long version of the race report.

bm12011start

start
I met a fellow runner as I was coming out of my room at the hotel and she kindly gave me a lift in her taxi to Preston Park station, saving me a good 15mins of walking. It was her first marathon, I hope she did well. I did bag drop and wandered around the park. Tried out the squeezable water pouch we would get along the course, picked up a bottle of powerade and generally tried to stay warm. It was a sunny morning but very cold, I wasn’t the only one with chattering teeth waiting at the start corral.

The race got underway at 9am and the corrals moved out slowly. I was in the last corral, just happened to stand next to the 4:45 pacer. He was the slowest pacer, so I was prepared for the group to pass me early on. The first mile was around the park, then we headed out to the streets. I’m not familiar with the city, we were mainly in local-ish commercial areas, with some hilly bits, then we hit the Pavillion and at mile 5 turned left into (I think it’s called) Marine Drive that ran along the coast. I felt good, at the back of my mind I wanted to try to keep to under 12min/mi which, as my pace band told me, is on time for 5:15.

bm1201615km

mile 5-12 — Rottingdean and back
It was sunny with no cover, the wind was fairly brisk though. This bit of the course was boring, nothing much to see and the spectators had thinned out. I was keeping good pace, and feeling pretty fresh. Past Roedean and the hills started. At the U-turn between miles 8 and 9 they gave out bloks and cereal bars. I took a walk break up the hill at mile 9. It was good to turn around and start running downhill. The 15k marker was a welcome sight. Part of the course doubled back, in theory it was super easy to cheat, in reality who would do such a thing? The other thing about doubling back is that we could see faster runners coming on the opposite side of the road. These people are fast. By mile 12 we were back in town and aiming towards the pier.

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mile 12-20 — centre of town
Halfway point was at the Hilton. All the way from the pier on, the crowd was thickest and there were a lot of encouragement. At my pace, I’m running mainly with charity runners. Those who had their names on their shirt received the most shouts. Now is the time to mention the runners in costume, I saw a tiger, a badger, a lion, rhino, angry birds, spongebob squarepants and fairies. There was also an army guy in full gear and backpack, and I was lucky enough to run next to a wheelchair participant at one point. Apparently £4m was raised for various charities which is wonderful. Charity running is still not my thing, but if it gets results and people enjoy it, then it’s not for me to comment.

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Past mile 14 and we turned “inland” to first shops and then residential neighbourhoods. It was fantastic of people to come out of their houses to blast music or give out jelly babies or simply clap their support. I waved at the Queen and Kate (in masks) and received high fives from kids. Took a loo break at mile 16, there was somewhat of a queue and it took me about 5 minutes. More on that 5 minutes later.

Coming out to the seafront at mile 18 meant being hit by the wind. That part of the course was pretty tough with the wind and not many spectators. There were hardly any marshalls either, but the crowds seemed to be able to stay off the course.

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mile 20-23 — the Wall
They even had an arch at the entrance of “the road to hell” — an apt description given its setting of an industrial estate looping around the power station. I took my second walk break just after mile 20. I was slowing down and I figured a 3 min walk will restore my energy. And it did, to an extent. There was also a gu station, someone gave me a raspberry flavoured one and I almost spit it out. Luckily there were chocolate ones scattered on another table which took the nasty berry flavour away. All through the course I had been drinking their water, grabbing bloks and I had my own blok supply too. As far as nutrition was concerned I was okay.

Coming out of the Wall area was a great feeling. The mile 23 sign flashed by and I knew I only had 5k or so left to go.

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mile 23 to finish
I was thinking about another walk break at mile 24, but I skipped it. It was a long way home along the coast but at least we were running in the direction of the finish line. I found myself running, not fast but not lagging. I was passing quite a few people who were plodding or simply walking at that point. Lots of encouragement from the sparse spectators along Portslade. I even got one myself, a young girl and her father shouted “Go, lady in orange t-shirt, Go!!!” And we shared a big thumbs up. It was a great feeling.

Just keep running. Mile 24, then mile 25 and we were back along the crowded part of the course. I skipped the last water station and there it was, 400m to go, 200m to go. Past the pier and the last few meters. I took my finish line photo on the run, and then I was across the line. Another marathon done.

It was a long, over 1 mile walk back to the hotel. I had to sit for a bit on the curb before I ventured out. Initially I had to walk slowly, my calves were sore. Then halfway, it got easier, I think the walk ended up being good for relaxing my muscles. First thing after my shower was I put on compression socks, they are doing their magic now.

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time
I knew, coming out of the Wall, that I had a good chance of beating 5:15. The strategy of staying under 12min/mi worked, apart from the walk breaks, I made a conscious effort to stick to it. I crossed the finish line with the official clock at 5:17 so I knew I’d done well. Nike+ showed 5:08, but it wasn’t until I checked on the marathon app (yes, they had an app) that I saw that I was under 5:05. Wow. Oh wow. That’s 34mins off last year’s Chicago PR.

HM time was 2:26 so a 12min positive split. Both Chicago times had HM splits in that area, so what I did right this race was I did not bonk in the second half. Is a 12min positive split good? It’s okay, but it should be lower. Am I okay about it? Yes, absolutely. Could I have tried harder in the second half, knowing that an even split would net me sub-5? I thought about it, but decided that preserving energy was more important. I was already on my way to beating my A goal, I didn’t want to jeopardize it.

At the end, it was only 5 minutes. Could I have gotten that 5min back somewhere else? The obvious points were the 2 walk breaks and the loo break. Not much I can do about the loo break; I did keep to only one, and I had to keep hydrated. I’m not a guy so sprinking the flora isn’t an option and although I did see an odd female or two doing the same, I’d rather “waste” a few minutes queuing for the portaloo. Should I have taken the walk breaks? Probably not, but I was tired at those 2 points and I needed the psychological moreso than the physical boost. More training will take care of that.

course
Brighton bills itself as the second biggest UK marathon. I think the organisers try their very best to promote it as a race on its own merit and not a sort of consolation for people who didn’t get into the VLM lottery and don’t want a charity place. The reality was there were a lot of “loser” VLM fleeces out there. The race has a lot going for it — location, seafront atmosphere, fairly flat course and the organisation gets high marks from me. Certainly did not feel like it’s only their 3rd time round. There was plenty of water and energy. The volunteers as usual were great. Yes, the course was boring and could do with more bands, I’m not bothered about small things like that.

I really liked the app. It’s simple, and it gave me my time almost instaneously. When I whatsapp’ed mm afterwards she already knew my time because she also downloaded the app. Much better system than the not!working text at Chicago. The biggest issue is that it only gave me my overall position, not age or gender division. Coming in the 7,000 out of almost 9,000 runners is not a result I like.

Would I do it again? It deserves it, that’s for sure. Problem is, Paris is on the same weekend, so if I’m still in Europe next year and if I’m running marathons again and if I apply and don’t get into VLM, I’ll probably go for Paris instead. Nothing against Brighton, but it’s Paris.

what next
I did Chicago in October, and now Brighton. In theory, it means I’m capable of 2 marathons a year. In practice, even though part of me is itching to do another one (marathons are addicting, just ask any marathoner), I don’t want to go through the training cycle. It’s a huge timesuck and I’d like to have a life. What did go right this training cycle was I stuck 95% to the plan. The midweek runs from work with the backpack turned out to be fantastic training tools. The long weekend runs without the backpack felt so much easier.

Here’s the dilemma. I’m so close to sub-5 I should do another one soon, within a year, to take advantage off my current fitness level and break that 5hr barrier. Asking an elite to go drom 2:04 to 1:59 is extremely tough, but for me to get to sub-5 means only going from 11:38min/mi to 11:24, it’s not inconceivable that I can take 15 seconds off each mile. I do know that in order to improve, I have to take the wheels off and move up from novice training plans. 35 miles a week will not bring 4:30; a minimum of 50 miles a week is required. Do I want to spend the time? Sigh. I don’t know. I don’t think so, not today anyway.

That said, I do like the structure of a proper training plan. I only have a couple of 10k races in the calendar so I need to find a HM to aim for. Or find a plan that focuses on speed. I’ll take some rest, then start planning for the rest of the year. I won’t stop running, it’s taken me this far, I can’t stop now.

marathon countdown part 2

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Easy, fast train journey to Brighton. Hopped onto the bus to get to the hotel, and even though I was early the room was ready so I was able to check in. The room is small, yes, but it’s okay for one person. There’s a small balcony that overlooks directly Regency Square, the sea and the derelict old pier.

First port of call was the expo, a short 5 mins walk away. A lot of charities, a few stalls selling gels and whatnot, massage, and the big Saucony (sponsors) stall. I bought a tech training shirt for £15 and a pair of compression socks for £10.

The weather turned nice and I took a long walk all the way to the pier and back. Played £1 worth of 2p pushers for old times’ sake. A pot of whelks for the same reason.

The training plan has 2 miles today, which I didn’t do but I’m thinking that walking for 2hrs is a good substitute. Got water and coke zero from the supermarket and then made my way to the Lanes to find somewhere to have dinner. Didn’t feel like the proverbial big pasta carb loading. Possibilities included venison burger, seafood, bistro or tapas. I ended up at a pub with a pint of local ale and a root vegetable pie with mash, carrots and beetroot. The pie was ok, the veg was good, the mash was rubbery. For dessert I got 1 scoops of peanut butter and blueberry gelato from an ice cream shop opposite the pub.

Seems like there’s a lot of people in town for the race. Signs are already up on Marine Drive, if the Grand is at 13 miles, then Regency Square, aka “home”, is halfway. That’s a good landmark to aim for.

Am I ready? Still hasn’t sunk in. I’ll take it one mile at a time. 6.30am start tomorrow, bed soon.

marathon countdown

Almost time for the race. I’m taking the train down tomorrow to go to the expo and explore a bit, it’s been years since I’ve visited Brighton. I’m definitely getting more nervous. Staying 2 nights I should only have a few things, but my bag is actually quite heavy because I’ve overpacked. 3 race shirts, 2 pairs of shorts, spare socks, spare everything I can think of, loads of food and even Powerade.

Can’t stop looking at the course video either. The start is in Preston Park and it looks like it winds through narrow residential streets before hitting the main stretch along the beach. The part they call The Wall starting at mile 22 looks industrial and could be tough. The weather forecast is cold (10°C) with pretty strong winds. Not liking the winds but it’s better than blazing hot sun on a course that has little or no cover.

Am I ready? I’ll know better tomorrow night.

Brighton prep

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Only one month to go till the marathon. Unlike the other two, I have to travel to it. (Okay, last year’s Chicago marathon I flew all the way from London; but staying at Car’s house and driving to Millennium Park in my own car is a different type of travel.) It adds another layer of organisation and, well, stress.

I’m going down on Saturday, the race is on Sunday and I’m coming back on Monday. I have my train ticket £6.60, resisting the temptation to get first class, which at £25, isn’t that expensive, but for a 50min train ride, not worth the extra expense. Hotel is the boutique Artist Residence. Let’s hope the room actually looks somewhat like the picture on their website.

race your pace HM 2:24:29 PR

running

chip: 21.1km 2:24:29hr 6:51min/km (10:58 min/mi)
nike+: 21.34km 2:25:22hr 6:49min/km (10:58min/mi)

  • overall: 1013 / 1116
  • gender division: 367 / 429
  • age division: 36 / 40

Race #2 of 2012, Race Your Pace Half Marathon, held at Dorney Lake which is: a) Eton’s rowing centre and b) where the Olympics rowing events will be held this year. That was one of the reasons I signed up for the race, to see the venue. Of course, the only feasible way of getting there is by driving, so I had to zipcar it thus increasing the cost from £27 to over £100. (Did a big shop at Tesco’s afterwards, sort of justifying the zipcar cost.)

The race start time was 10am, I got there just after 8.30am, which ended up being a good thing because I was able to park pretty close to where everything was taking place. People who came later ended up parking almost 1 mile from the tents. Got a cup of tea and then hurried to the warmth and safety of the boathouse café. It was cold-ish, not too cold. But what made it really bad was how strong the wind was. The 20min before the race start (which was delayed by 15mins) was absolutely miserable, standing in the open being buffeted by the wind with teeth chattering and hands becoming frozen. Ugh.

ldnryphm001sign ldnryphm003lake

The course was 4 laps around the lake. Not very interesting, but flat and good asphalt running surface. The wind never went away, along the 2km long length of the course, it was either crosswinds from the left or crosswinds from the right. Where I got hit direct by the headwind, I could feel myself struggling to move forward.

I started with the 11min/mile pace group, at the advice of the (absolutely fantastic) pacer, I stayed just in front of the group. It was a good tactic as my aim was never to let them pass me, and that proved to be a great incentive. At times it was touch and go with the headwind. Being a multi-lap course, it was inevitable that we got lapped by the faster runners. The field was only about 1,000 people so there was never too much crowding.

Can’t remember exactly what time I had halfway, but 10k was at 1:10. I took one bathroom break, ate some chomps and took a couple of bottles of the lucozade sports. They did advertise this as a pancake flat course that was good for setting PRs. My previous best was at the Chicago Half and I had in mind to finish at 2:20 or even 2:15. I’m not trying to make excuses, but if the wind wasn’t so blasted strong, I may have had a chance. As it was, I was coming up to the last 2km stretch and I saw that I was lagging. At Mile 12 I opened up, figuring I should have enough gas left to go for it for the last mile. My last km split was 6:13min or 10min/mi, and I did finish in front of the pace group.

It’s only a 17 second PR, but I’ll take it. I learned more about pacing and more importantly, that perhaps I do have the endurance and energy level to run faster under race conditions. The trick is to get more experience and get to the point where I don’t have to hold so much back.

nike+ virtual HM

nike

I registered for the nikeplus virtual women’s half marathon challenge, where participants run a HM in their own time during the weekend of 14-15 Jan. For some reason, my HM never showed up in the challenge, sigh. Flagged it as a problem on their fb page and they had been very helpful, even adjusting the time of my run to fit into the criteria. Didn’t work. Just as well I hadn’t paid $40 for the souvenir finisher’s braclet.

serpentine new year’s day 10k

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chip time: 10.03km 1:04:11hr 6:25min/km 10:19min/mile
nike+ time: 10.03km 1:03:55hr 6:22min/km 10:15min/mile

overall: 391 / 463
gender division: 141 / 194
age division: 19 / 27

Race #1 of 2012, serpentine new year’s day 10k. A very reasonable start time of 11am, and a field full of what looked like dedicated and keen runners. Lots in club shirts too, clubs are big things here. A couple wearing a Racine Ironman cap recognised my Chicago marathon cap and we chatted for a bit. Heh, I should have worn my Chicago shirt. Ah, but luckily no. No with these times.

The course started at Hyde Park, went along the outer carriage drive then to the Serpentine, crossing to Kensington Gardens. Mostly it was run there. The paths were narrow, and even with a small field of 500 runners there were parts that could only allow 2 across. There was also a loop, so at one point both the frontrunners and slower people were on the same path. (Would have been so easy to cheat, calling Kip Litton.)

We had to share the course with the public, ack. Mostly, the public were alright, but there are always idiots. Families with buggies and old people walking 3 abreast. Tourists who never know how to walk in London anyway. One stupid woman had 3 dogs (black and white things) which she had off leash and they were running across the path and into the runners. Fucking dog owners. I hate dogs.

Chip, garmin and nike+ times were by and large close. I did better than I thought. With the narrow path, the multiple turns and short walking break at the water station (they gave us bottled water with no caps, had to drink it while walking), I’m pleasantly surprised I came under 1:05. 59:xx will come, one day, I know it.

Lots of volunteers on the course, and I tried to thank as many as I could. They seemed to appreciate a “thanks for coming out” and were all in good spirits. Volunteers make a race, any race. There was a souvenir running sock at the end, but that’s it. I’m so glad I brought my own water, otherwise would have had to buy it at the snack bar opposite. The good thing about Hyde Park, aside from it being my “home” course, is the quick hop on the bus home. I also ran this as part of the nikerunning hangover challenge. Hee.

finisher’s shirt

chimarathon2011080shirt

Went over to Niketown on Michigan to get my marathon finisher’s shirt. Hmm, orange. They also had finisher’s cap but I’d bought one already at the expo. I shouldn’t buy so much stuff anyway, trying to downsize.

Lots of people wearing the race shirt today. Also a fair few wearing their medals. In public. On the street. While shopping. Not something I would do. I wore it to the car, and I did take it to work to show people. Each to their own, I guess. Don’t want to take away other people’s achievement.

chicago marathon RR

chimarathon2011005lake chimarathon2011016start

42.2km 5:38:14hr 8:01min/km | 26.2miles 5:38:14hr 12:55min/mile
overall: 29,985 / 35,558
gender division: 12,145 / 15,404
age division1,017 / 1,363

mile 0: start
It took less than 30mins to drive up to town, then 15mins to navigate around the road closures. I parked at Grant Park North, wanting to be nearby and in a car park that I know. By 6.30am I was in the Bank of America tent, which they laid on for customers. There was water, gatorade, bananas, cereal bars, bench seating and most importantly, private portaloos.

As I was walking towards the start corral, the sun came out. Lovely view of it coming up on the lake. It’s gonna be a glorious day. I had signed up with the 5:15 pace group (12mm) so I found my way there. Saw my colleague K, and we lined up together. She is injured and wasn’t going to finish the race, but I said I’d walk with her for a bit.

We were lined up so far behind that we could barely hear the national anthem and the announcements. Took about 18mins to get to the actual start. I did walk K for about 100m, then she dropped out, limping. It’s disappointing for her, to DNF on her first marathon, but at least she crossed the start line and it will be the start of a longer journey for her.

chimarathon2011020theatre chimarathon2011026flag

miles 1-3: the loop
This is the best part of the race. Legs are fresh, crowds everywhere, perfect for absorbing the atmosphere. I had my headphones but didn’t put any music on. I don’t often run without music, but I find I’m not missing it. Speedwise I was going slowly, with the sheer number of people it wasn’t feasible to run fast anyway.

Ran past all the familiar landmarks. My favourite shot from last year was in front of the Chicago theatre so I did the same shot this year.

miles 3-7: towards lincoln park
It got quieter up la salle into Lakeview. There was still lots of shade, running was comfortable. Mile 4.5 was where the supporters from the Moody Church were stationed. They had music and gave everyone a high five. I’m afraid to admit that I’m not sure which denomination the church belongs to (not Catholic, that’s all I can say) but they provided much needed encouragement at a point in the race for which I’m grateful.

Feeling strong into Lincoln Park. I remember last year I had to stop at the aid station near mile 6 to wrap up a blister. This year I stopped there again to tape up the KT tape which had fallen off. Didn’t last long. By mile 7 I’d ripped it off. It was also in Lincoln Park that I saw a guy running with an American flag. He passed me, so I sprinted past him to get the shot.

chimarathon2011035boystown chimarathon2011037japan

miles 7-12: boystown, sedgwick, back to the loop
Up towards mile 7 was by the LSD, where K cheered me on last year. I thought about her, probably back at the start watching the runners. Almost to mile 8 was the northermost point of the course where it turned back at Addision. Lots of crowd there.

And then it was fun for the next 2 miles. The atmosphere at Boystown can never be beat, lots of spectators dressed up, the ROTC troupe was there, it was like carnival. It was at that point that I lost my sunglasses attachment. I spent 10mins looking for it, but it was pretty impossible. Sad, but I had to continue.

Shady down Sedgwick, which was good. Japanese drummers provided support. The stretch down Wells was okay. I was trying to see if I was feeling ok. About 1/3 done and I felt like I had 2/3 in the tank. Sponges and something luxurious — I think it was the La Salle Street Church that had a sign out front that bathroom facilities were open to runners. Oh man!! Talk about not needing to queue up for the portaloos and having a real bathroom. I know I seem to be obsessed with bathrooms, but if you’re out for 5hrs constantly drinking, toilet breaks become strategic.

chimarathon2011041sears chimarathon2011043halfway

mile 13.1: halfway
Entering the Loop again brings back the strong crowd support, especially at the 2 cheer zones underneath Sears Tower. Cross Wacker and there was the 13.1 sign. HALFWAY!! Time was about 2:40. Slow, ah well. People were shouting “Spiderwoman!” close to me, and I turned around to see that yes, Spiderwoman was running behind me. She passed me at 13.1 and I stuck close to her until around mile 14.

miles 13-19: the hard slog
Ah. Mile 14. When there were hardly any crowds, the sun began beating down and for me, that was the toughest point. I realised that I probably didn’t have 50% in the tank and it would take some digging. Not the wall as such, but I slowed down a lot. I also finished my pack of chomps. I’ve been taking gatorade and water from every station, so energy-wise I was doing okay.

My friend M met me at between mile 17-18 where they were giving out gels. I took a couple and saw her next to a water hose. Ran through the hose, but she didn’t mind giving me a hug even though I was soaked through. I was feeling a little miserable at that point and seeing her gave me a push. Thanks, M.

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miles 18-21: pilsen, halsted
Mile 18-19 was down a very hot Ashland. Most people around me were walking. Turning into 18th Street was a vast relief. The Hispanic neighbourhood of Pilsen was out in force, welcoming us. Lots of cheers, music and I got the BEST gift all race — an elderly lady at the side of the road gave me a cola-flavoured ice lolly (American: popsicle). It was absolutely delicious, thirst-quenching and gave me the energy to start running again. Thank you, Ice Lolly Lady.

And then, mile 20 came up. Instead of the wall, I got my second wind. People say a marathon is actually 2 races: a 20-miler followed by a 10k. As I reached the “second” race, I felt really positive. I can run 10k. I run 10k easy. I was going to make it.

chimarathon2011052chinatown chimarathon2011054turn

miles 21-26: chinatown, the long way home
Feeling good coming up to Chinatown. The second hardest part of the course, between miles 22-24, wasn’t too bad for me. I found the 5:30 pace group and followed them for about half a mile before dropping off. I was watching the clock and realised that I probably wasn’t going to make 5:30 so I may as well conserve some energy. Coming north on Michigan I passed a few people, then slowed down somewhat in the South Loop.

mile 26: mount roosevelt
I read somewhere that coming up to the right hand turn at Roosevelt to start kicking because of the uphill incline. I felt nice and strong and managed to pass quite a few runners. Hopefully the official photos look okay too. I tried to keep my mouth closed and to look halfway decent whenever I see a photographer.

chimarathon2011057finish

mile 26.2: finish line
200m, 100m and there it was: the finish line. I was almost sprinting to the line, and saw on my garmin that the time was 5:38. Exactly the same as last year. The iphone battery had died at mile 22, and I didn’t have a backup on the nike+. Not bothered. I know I’ll get my time from the official site.

It was a long walk down the chute. Got a heat blanket, water, gatorade, free beer, , banana, a pack of snack and an official photo. Headed to the BoA tent for more food, drink and to use the portaloo. Lined up for 10mins for another free beer. There wasn’t a lot of food available — hot dog, chili and gyro. None of which I fancied so I ate a whole pack of mini cereal.

chimarathon2011033vol chimarathon2011036sign

volunteers, organisation, supporters
There are not enough good words in the world to describe how I feel about the volunteers. Fantastic, wonderful in every way. Every single one had a smile and a cheer for us. I stopped at every station except the last one and to see the mountain of cups with gatorade and water. And always someone clearing up. Like I said, wonderful.

The organisation too. There’s a lot of talk about moving the race back a week or two to avoid the heat. It got hot out there today, although thankfully it was dry. I’m sure the organisers will make the right decision. A race this size, there will always be someone not satisfied. For me? The organisation was flawless, from the expo, crowd control at the beginning and end, making sure there were enough supplies, aid stations were spaced out well, the results were out the same day. I have zero complaints.

The supporters. Wow. Hundreds of thousands on the street, cheering for someone they know or for complete strangers. I had a couple of friends, K and M, and it helped me a huge amount. I was told I’m really good at exercise. A complete stranger gave me an ice lolly. Kids waved at me and gave me high fives. At one point we were clapping with the music from a band at the side (can’t remember which song). This is why Chicago is one of the best marathon experiences in the world.

summary
I finished my second marathon. Who would have thought? I don’t feel like a marathoner, but technically, I am. I think it’s because my time is so slow. Everyone I meet have been so supportive, because to finish is an achievement. I wear my finisher’s medal proudly. Tomorrow I will go to Niketown and buy a finisher’s t-shirt.

I didn’t get into London 2012 but I’m confirmed for Brighton the week before. I’ll train for that, and then I’ll have to be very disciplined and not sign up for more. It’s imperative that I focus on speedwork. Halfs are fine, but no fulls.

Finally, my thoughts go out to the family of Captain William Caviness, who collapsed and later died at the race. He raised over $2000 for charity and was a real hero. This year’s race should be dedicated to him.

marathon gear 2011

chimarathon2011002gear

Getting my marathon gear ready for tomorrow. From top: spibelt, sunscreen, knee braces, garmin, small towel, headband, last year’s hat, phiten, shorts with bib, headphones, kt tape, pace tattoo, shirt, iphone, ipod, gu, cara card, sunglasses, gear check ticket, money/credit card/ID bundle.

Not in pic: keys, shoes, backpack, bank of america wristband (for getting into the special customer tent), other iphone, blackberry, spare shirt. Some of that will stay in the car.

the official chicago marathon weather obsession post

chiweather20111007

The obsession began a week or so ago, but every Chicagoan knows that it’s pointless to try to predict the weather here. But less then 36hrs from the start, I think I can officially start obsessing.

It’s been hot the past week, so it’s no surprise that the forecast is warm but not extreme. Probably better early in the day than last year, and then it will get hot towards the end. Another reason to work on speed next year rather than marathon distance races. The article, and the people on the rw forum say,

this is nothing drastically different than what they’ve been running in all summer and what they’ve been training in

Sigh. Except that some of us have been training during a

pitiful

summer that is coldest in 13 years.

no london marathon next year

vlmloserfleece

Came home today to a soft red package inside the front door. It’s my “loser” jacket for not getting a place in the london marathon 2012 ballot. I donated my £32 entry fee to charity in case I’m unsuccessful so I got:

  • the fleece jacket
  • entry into a draw for an additional 1,000 guaranteed places
  • free draw for 1 entry into the ING NYC Marathon 2012 including travel & accommodation, or 1 week’s sporting holiday for two

There’s also a magazine that has a huge COMMISERATIONS! written across the front cover, just to rub it in. Most of the magazine consists of adverts for charity. The message is, “come run with us, we have places!! Oh, you have to raise hundreds or even thousands of pounds for us. But hey look, we have places!!”

Sigh.

Okay, don’t get me wrong. Running for charity is a good idea. I’ve done it myself. But something clicked when I came to the UK and started looking into races. Almost all are driven by charities. The focus isn’t on running but on getting as much money from donors as possible. I’ve had a couple of people (non-runners) offering to sponsor me when I say I’m running a marathon and surprised that I said I’m not in a charity group. They thought it was a requirement.

I’m not alone in feeling the charity fatigue. People are tired of the incessant hounding. It is telling though, that one of the people in the article said,

I hate that every marathon or burst of activity has to be sponsored – for goodness sake, just get off your backside and go for a run if you want to

The problem, I think, is that the only way the person’s friend could get into the marathon or burst of activity was to “pay” the charity entrance fee (pay as in paid by their friends, family and colleagues). I understand that in these times charities are hard hit, and the majority are good causes. But there is a fine line between the noble cause of doing something for charity and blatant guilt trip to the verge of blackmail. My question is, do the charities think that the hard-sell method used by their chuggers, or the hoarding of popular race slots, really work? I guess the former mostly turns people off but the latter does work, because I’m sure the VLM will be at capacity next year.

Back to the VLM. I’m not that bothered that I didn’t get in. If I’m still in London I’ll probably go watch. And besides, I’m confirmed for the Brighton marathon a few weeks before.

the british 10k

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nike+: 10.4km 1:06:39hr 6.24min/km
chip time: 10k 1:05:57hr 6.41min/km

Race #5 this year, the british 10k. There’s a lot wrong with it, but it benefited from its major trump card: location location location. The route took 25,000 runners through hyde park corner, trafalgar square, st paul’s, embankment (across from the london eye), westminster bridge, parliament square, westminster abbey, and finished on whitehall. Considering I was forever stopping to take pictures — 24 in the set — I think I did pretty okay. My garmin lost its signal in the tunnels, the nike+ registered 10.4km, so even better.

So that was the pro, how about the cons:

  • no corrals, and I was lucky in the free-for-all scrum to be near the front with a view of the start line
  • the 9.35am start was delayed 10mins. From what I can see, it was because they had to set up the camera to interview the Mayor of Westminster, who was the official starter, and there were lots of dithering. Was it respectful to the 25,000 runners to be running late because of this? Probably not
  • they played all 3 verses of the national anthem and the elites were getting ready at the end of verse 1 and then had to stop, pretty embarrassing
  • funnel start caused lots of congestion
  • did I mention no corrals?
  • not even 300m from the start, still on Piccadilly, and we had to dodge past these idiotic women (and they’re almost always women) who were walking 4 abreast, I’m not kidding
  • should be rebranded as a fun run, it was good that there were so many charity runners, but so many of them were clueless about racing etiquette. Nothing in the program to tell them that walking is fine, at the back of the pack and in single file, jeez no common sense
  • only water available on the route — yes it’s only a 10k, but considering the number of charity runners and the hot weather, would have been nice to have gatorade and wet sponge
  • gatorade was available at the end, but nothing else, no fruit, no banana, no cereal bar, zilch
  • start and finish line too far away from bag check and meeting point
  • not enough portaloos
  • badly designed finisher’s t-shirt (in thin cotton), it’s going straight to the charity bin
  • apparently they ran out of medals (!)
  • (minor gripe) whoever designed the website must have been a myspace reject — framed, flashing graphics, poor font, not much content, difficult to find actual information, results not downloadable
  • chip time took far too long to be posted, and then it’s only a time with no indication of classification

rwreview

The reviews on runner’s world had similar sentiments to mine. The route was one of the best I’ve run on. Can’t beat Central London with all its glory. Supporters and spectators all along the route, atmosphere was good. Luckily I had a brainwave and stuffed one of those small collapsible shopping bags in my pocket and didn’t need to bag check. By the time I got on the tube and home it was almost noon.

Despite all the shortcomings I signed up for next year’s race, because only 2 weeks from the start of the Olympics and the the atmosphere in London will be sports-crazy then. Not sure about subsequent years though. Results:

  • overall — 4715/6520 (that’s the number of people who paid for chip timing)
  • gender — 852/2623 (ditto) — actually this was pretty good, to emphasize the charity fun run nature

corporate challenge 2011

corp201103 

chip time: 5.63km (3.5miles) 34.28min 6.07min/km

My third corporate challenge, my first in London. It was a big affair, the only JPMC CC location where the race is spread over 2 days. I’ll save my complaints about how the London office totally lags behind the Chicago office in terms of race organisation and participation. Suffice it to say that there were 200 people in Chicago last year (300 including supporters and family) and we had a tent, catering, a prize draw and a great time. In London we struggled to get 50 runners and we congregated at the signpost that said “meeting point G to O” — no tent, no supporters, can’t even find the group at times. At least we got a t-shirt and the same picnic chair gift. Oh, and there was a voucher for 2 drinks and a burger from the organisers. Big deal.

A field of 13,000 people and it was a corral start for the first time this year. I’d never run in Battersea Park before so it was always going to be a new experience. It was a meandering route on both concrete walking path and grass. I didn’t see many of my team mates, it was just like running on my own. I started out fast, 9mm, tucked in behind a couple of ladies. Lost them after a while, the field never thinned out. Did pretty well, considering I haven’t been training and I’m not at my fittest. Yes, 5mins slower than last year is a big difference. Ah well.

I queued up to retrieve my backpack, queued up for the burger and beer and sat down in the sun to scoff it all down. Found remnants of my group and stayed for a chat for 10mins but I was eager to get home. Results:

  • overall: 7,445/10,090
  • gender: 1,747/3,377

beat the banana 5k

beatbanana

garmin: 4.68km 28.05min 6.00min/km

Race #3, I did end up registering for the beat the banana race.

It was held at Hyde Park at 6pm, so I left the office at 4.30pm to get there to pick up my bib. Received the t-shirt in the mail earlier this week. I’m glad it wasn’t that hot, and it’s a short distance. It was a nice cotton (sigh) t-shirt, but cotton and racing are incompatible. But, this is a fun run, so can’t expect more. About 500 people, and one guy dressed as a banana. No chip, so I had to time myself. The distance was advertised at 5k, but the garmin said 2.91miles (4.68km), which seems right. I wasn’t going particularly fast and 28min for 5k didn’t feel right. Pace was exacly 6.00min/km so I would have just made it to the 30min mark.

The race is supposed to beat the banana guy, who had about 20 seconds headstart. But when I rounded the last corner towards the finish line, he was coming down the course, running with some people for a few meters and encouraging the rest. I got a high five. Such a nice gesture, he either finished or didn’t cross the finish line until after the last person was done.

This was a charity run. I had a low profile campaign, raised a modest £125 for the world cancer research fund. I got a medal and a goodie bag — water, banana, and a few WCRF booklets on healthy living and healthy recipes. Got a bus home, and was showered and having a curry dinner by 7.45pm.