Monday, 7 March 2011

First update in 9 months

This site is now back in action. The last post was about Comrades. That event really took a lot out of me. I felt really drained and burnt out for quite some time afterwards.
I had a few weeks off and then managed to get round the Ironman distance triathlon that is the Outlaw. That was a good event, but my legs really didn't want to know about the run.
That was early August. By the end of October the legs were getting back into the running and managed to yield a PB at the Athen's Marathon. That is a significant race and not an easy course (though after Comrades, it's a walk in the park).
I'm now 11 weeks into a 16 week schedule for the Paris Marathon and I'm raising funds for the NSPCC. I've run 520 miles since 20th December in training and things are going well. I've equalled my all time PB for 5k on a frosty morning at a Parkrun, got a PB at the Stamford 30k and a PB at the Wymondham 20 Miles. Feeling quietly confident for a PB at Paris, perhaps by as much as fifteen minutes to get myself a sub 3 hour 20 minute qualifying time for the Boston Marathon.
Now that I'm getting closer to that goal I will report progress on here.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Comrades Marathon (Running Sunday)

"The ultimate human race"

Wow - what a day.

Wow - what an event.

The course is tough. There is no flat. 89km with 1110m of vertical ascent and 1725m of vertical descent. That is punishing on the legs. Upon reaching the half way point I was thinking that the first half was harder than any marathon I've done before, and I was about to do a harder one.

The support was incredible. The most friendly event I've done. The supporters turned out in their thousands and made so much noise. There were very few places were there were no spectators but come the villages it was several deep leaving barely enough room for the runners. Think of a mountain summit Tour stage and you'd not too far from the level of support.

"Comrades" is the most apt name for this race. It is entirely about the comaraderie between runners. Mutual pain, suffering, angst and celebrations is such a great way to break through international and language barriers.

How did I get on? I went through a roller coaster of emotions that almost match the roller course profile of the course. There were times when I was going okay and times when it was hurting. Twice my left leg gave way and I managed to catch my balance before hitting the deck. Times when I had to walk. Times when I thought I wasn't going to finish. Times when I didn't want to finish. Times when I feared I'd fail. I felt I was going okay, but at 22km to go I was losing concentration and could not work things out and come 18km was convinced I was going to fail. At 16km I rallied the strength for some stronger running. My mind then realised the miscalculations of the 22km to go point. At 10km I needed to sit down for a rest and really didn't want to get going again. Fortunately the mind won that battle. At 9km it was clear that I had time to walk the remainder of the course and still finish before the 12 hour cut off and that was all that the legs were willing to do.

My finish time was 11:28 and of 20,500 starters I finished 11,081st. Had I been 11,000th I'd have won a car, not that I'd have been able to get it back to the UK. The atmosphere in the stadium at the finish was unbelievable. With barely 15 minutes to go there was speculation that 8,000 plus runners were going to fail. Then news came in that the sub 12hour pacer was approaching the stadium. The crowd of runners with him, "the bus", was estimated at 2,000. Seeing that many runners enter the stadium with the final minutes remaining on the clock bought out a tear or two. Tears of joy that these people had achieved their goal and their dream. It brought home what I'd accomplished and what everyone else had accomplished. It also brought to mind how close I came to missing out on that achievement. We then had to witness the cruelest scenes of the running world. There are cut off points at various places along the course. If you make it past the last cut of in time you have to come into the stadium and get to the finish line, but come 12hours the clock is stopped, no more finishers medals are awarded and you're name doesn't appear in the results. Some missed out by just seconds and for ten minutes people were still running into the stadium. Cruel. 14,343 official accredited finishers.

Am I pleased I did this race? You bet. I'll be thinking about the day's events for a long time. It was testing and I now know myself a little better.

Would I do it again? Only by giving it the respect it deserves by training specifically for it and getting in lots of miles on hills. You can not treat this race as a minor diversion whilst you train for other events - it will beat you. Yes I did get to the end, but in the same way that a boxing match can go the full number of rounds where there will be only one winner,. In the bout between Comrades and Rob Lines, Comrades is the winner.

Profile and heart rate trace:

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Rugby Saturday

Today the hotel staff are back to their normal uniforms but the International Super 14 Rugby Final is on everyones lips. Fourteen teams from 3 countries were involved; South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. Two South African Teams have made the final The Bulls from Pretoria, take on The Stormers of Cape Town at 5pm. As you can imagine there is a lot of pride and a lot of rivally. The final is being played in Soweto, which is a massive Black Town Ship and the 45,000 white supporters will be bused in. We'll be watching the match on TV with our Tour Operators, Penthouse Sports Tours in our Pietermaritzburg Hotel. They are based in Cape Town and have already warned us that any cheers for The Bulls could mean that our luggage gets left in Pietermaritzburg.

Am I ready for the run tomorrow? As ready as I'll ever be. I'd like to respond with a confident "Born Ready", but 89km (56 miles) is a heck of a long way to run and it's going to hurt. Reflecting over the last 12 months: Ironman Nice, Ironman Canada, Marriots Way Ultra, Luton Marathon, Ironman Australia and Brighton Marathon. That little lot ought to mean I'm way better prepared than most of the 20,500 that are expected to line up at the start.

Follow us live
The Comrades website ( will have a live webcast (you might need to download the Microsoft Silverlight plug-in) there will also be a 'track your runner' feature on the website. My race number is 32908. Don't forget you can still donate to SIA at

KE NAKO - It is time!!

Football Friday

Friday 28th May and all the hotel staff are wearing South Africa team shirts. I'm to find out that all workers are being encouraged to adopt Football Friday. Forget Dress Down Friday or Casual Friday its Football Friday now until end of the World Cup. South Africa are out to make this the best World Cup ever and are using it to unit and country. They want the World to see how far they have come since domcracy started in 1994. They've got 450,000 visitors arriving in the next couple of weeks. 11,000 media and 26 billion pairs of eyes will see images from South Africa (they figure that people will watch more than one match.) The World Cup is going to put South Africa firmly on the map and firmly into the minds of the World.

Registered today after a rather lengthy bus tour of the race route. Against my better judgement I opted for what was billed as a 5 hour trip with refreshment stops. It turned into a frustrating 7 hour wild goose chase. Anyway I did get to see some of the route. I did get to see Arthers Seat and Comrades Wall (more of these when I do the race report I'm sure)javascript:void(0). Having spent a bit of time upon my returning g-mapping the route I know now where the buses should have taken us (highway rules permitting):

I am now registered, I have my race numbers, and am now seeded in the correct starting pen. The organisation for this race really has been one of the hardest. I figure the race is going to be the hardest. Certainly gonna be the hardest running race I've challenged myself with.

Sani Pass

Thursday 27th May and I'm on another tour with 1st Zulu Safaris. This time in a Landrover to get to the top of Sani Pass into Lesotho. This was an incredible journey that took me from Durban through Pietermaritzburg and into another country and another world.

The Drakenburg's are a 1000 mile long mountain range starting in Cape Town and finishing up the coast way north of Durban. Sani Pass is a rugged route only passable my walkers, moutain bikes and 4x4s. As I was saving my legs the 4x4 seemed the sensible option. It was also 300km from Durban and I needed something to get me there. Though there is a marathon on the pass in November - perhaps another year. The pass starts at around 1200m above sea level at about 1600m above sea level there is the South African border control with the Lesotho border control at 2864m. That's 9,000 ft for those that use old money.

The route is stunning. I've put pics on facebook and there are a couple below.

Up at the top there is very little. Sheep, snow rats, the highest pub in africa and a village were the locals scratch a living from the land. There is no employment (excepting the pub staff and border control), no currency, no running water, no electricity, no sanitation and no trees. The guide had made friends with one of the villagers and in exchange for sweets and some bread rolls we were welcomed into their hut and given a little of their home baked bread. a family of 6 living in a small room with a single bed and an open fire in the centre of the round room to cook on. Bags containing their few possesions doubled as chairs. I felt very humble. We have so much and we take it for granted. These people have very little worldly possesions, but despite freezing night time temparatures and winter snow seem happy. Have we in the western world lost sight of what is important?

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Thank you. Thank you, Thank you.

To all of you who have made a donation to the Spinal Injuries Association via the Just Giving page or made a pledge on my sponsorship form.

Wednesday 26th May

My foot is no longer aching. No hurt, no ache. Didn't feel brave enough to do the prescribed 4x 1mile efforts on it. Gonna save it and my legs until Sunday.

Managed to pretty much completely stay off the foot yesterday. Went on a safari. That meant I was picked up from the Hotel at 6am and dropped off again at 9pm with very little time spent on the feet.

Was taken to the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve and full marks to those that know that it is pronounced Slu-sluie Imp-ol-osy. Of the big five we saw Elephant, Rhino and Buffalo. Saw loads of Impala, Zebra, Giraffes, worthogs, blue backed wilde beast, baboons, a couple of different eagles, some silver backed monkeys, some other gazzers that I can't remember the name of and something that looked like a weasel that my guide was sure was a squirrel.

Also went to the Emdoneni Wild Cat Sanctuary where they rehabilitate endangered felines. No Lions or Leopards to be found here to complete the big 5 for me. Neither of those two are endangered. They are looking after African Wild Cats, Serval, Caracal and Cheetah. African Wild Cats are very similar to domestic cats. From the explanation I'd describe them as a very specific predigree breed. They do and can breed with domestic cats and so the only ones that are classified as pure "African Wild Cats" are those that pass genetic tests that prove they pure bloods. They have serious behavioural problems so wouldn't want one as a pet. Was allowed in the pens with the some of Serval and juvenial Cheetahs, once they'd been fed that is. Advice was don't try to run from them and if they jump at you or get their claws into you don't try to push them away, wait for assistance. The juvenial Cheetahs were 18 months old, so not fully mature they are old enough to fend for themselves that means they can do 0-70mph from a standing start in 3.5seconds that's faster that most cars and certainly faster than me. Fortunately I wasn't alone in the pens with them and I figured I was faster than all the other humans.

Sorry about the picture being a bit dark. It was 5pm and getting dark and I didn't want the flash to upset the cats.
More pictures from the day at:

Today, I've mostly been loafing around at the hotel pool. Figured I need to acclimatise and that sun bathing is a good way to do that. I also gave myself a swimming lesson. I've been lent a copy of "Total Immersion" and I've worked my way through the narative to the first set of practicals and the small pool here was a great venue for floating on my back and on my sides whilst working on balance.

Tomorrow I'm on another tour. Off to the Sani Pass in the Drakensburg which is a 33km gravel road straddling sheer cliffs and topping out at 2873m above sea level. I'm hoping for a clear day so that I can get some more photos for you.