Saturday, 18 May 2013

Friday, 7 December 2012

Lago Maggiore Marathon

Another Weekend another country. This time I had the good fortune of travelling to Lake Maggiore in northern Italy, and without a doubt this is one of the most spectacular places I have ever been to. I flew to Milan and after a little confusion as to where I was waiting to be picked up I was collected by the race organiser and driven from Milan to Lake Maggiore about an hours drive away. As we were driving along by the side of the river my driver pointed to this amazing hotel, I thought he was just pointing it out but he turned into the driveway and it turned out this was were I would be staying for the next four days!!

My Hotel at Lake Maggiore
As it was my birthday, I treated myself to a nice meal at a local Italian and a couple of beers, my Kenyan athlete wasn't turning up until the following day so I could relax and just enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

I always like to explore new places I visit and I find the best way to do this is to go out and run. I had been told about Lake Maggiore by my boss (Peter) who advised me to take this route up the mountain, he said "run until you reach the snow line, it's beautiful". So, I started running up the mountain, kept running, ran some more and before long thought to myself, where on earth is this snow line! Before I knew it I was at the top having climbed over 1400m in altitude and the view from the top was spectacular! I then realised that when Peter had been here it was the end of the winter and hence the snow line was a lot lower! Coming down from the mountain I got slightly lost and ended up running for 3 hours but apart from not being able to walk properly the next day, it was well worth it!

Views of the lake just before the start of the marathon
 The marathon itself basically runs around the lake starting on one side finishing on the other. I would highly recommend it for anyone wanting to do a slightly lower key marathon in Europe as it is well organised, a flattish course with the most fantastic scenery of any marathon I have ever been to.

My athlete John Mutai had a slightly off day, finishing in 4th position when on a good day he should have won it with ease. But despite this I had a fantastic time and look forward to returning many times in the future.

More views over Lake Maggiore

Monday, 3 December 2012

Tout Rennes Court 10km

If you have followed my blog, you may remember the name Edwin Kipyego. When I first stayed in Iten I shared a room with Edwin and would say without a doubt he is my best Kenyan friend. Edwin recently won the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, one of the most competitive half marathons in the world and is heading towards becoming a real athletics superstar.

On the 14th October Edwin was competing in the Tout Rennes Court 10km, an elite only city centre 10km in Rennes, France. The course consists of 8 x 1.25km laps, it is great for spectators and the tension really builds as the laps go by.

I flew to Paris to meet Edwin and we were collected by the race organiser were we had a long drive to Rennes, it was great to see Edwin again as I hadn't seen him for ages but we were both pretty tired from our travels and nodded off for most of the trip. Once we had arrived in Rennes and settled into the hotel, myself and Edwin went out for a 30minute "easy run". A Kenyan easy run is normally very very easy, but a few minutes into the run Edwin was already picking up the pace, the last ten minutes or so I was hanging on to his coat tales to keep up, this boy was definitely in good shape!

The day in before the race I went for another easy run with Edwin and then he spent the rest of the day in bed resting while I caught up on some work emails. On the Sunday (race day) there were a number of races held, including a half marathon, kids races, a mass participation 10km all followed by the elite women's 5km and finished off with the elite men's 10km in the early evening. Earlier in the day I went for a nice run along the river, I ran out along one side of the river crossed a bridge and back down the other side, unfortunately coming back down the other side I came to a fork in the river, I had two options, one turn back and run the way I had came, this would make the run well over two hours and make me miss lunch or two find a way to cross the river. Luckily I spotted a little rowing boat which I quickly jumped in and rowed myself to the other side! Luckily no-one spotted me and I got back in time for lunch.

Race time was nearing and the weather was slightly cold and windy, the course had a few sharp bends so I wasn't expecting super quick times. There were at least twenty east Africans in the race, quite a few with best times under 28minutes for the 10km so this was not going to be an easy win for Edwin. The first five laps went by with a big group of between ten and fifteen runners together going through 5km in 13:50. The next time they came through Edwin had pulled a 20m lead and totally split the group up, it was now a case of Edwin pushing all the way to the finish and hoping he had the strength to hold onto the lead, the next lap he had extended the lead slightly but had an Ethiopian runner chasing him, with one lap to go the lead was about 40m, I was so nervous and excited I couldn't keep still! Three minutes later I saw Edwin turn into the home straight and sprint to the finish with a winning time of 27:50 in the process he won a brand new Renault Twingo!!

After the race we had a nice meal out in Rennes before a very early start to travel back to Paris to fly home.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Bucharest International Marathon

Well these last few months have been a complete blur, most of the time I don't know which day of the week it is or what country I'm in. Not complaining as I'm having the time of my life!

As I now have a little spare time in the evenings I thought I would update my blog with a few of the journey's I have been on since I last posted about the Ring-O-Fire.

As you may or may not know I am now an athlete manager, I arrange races for our (Run-Fast) athletes and the autumn is probably the busiest time of year for us, hence a lot of travelling around to various races. About a month ago I travelled to Bucharest, Romania for the Bucharest International Marathon, we had one male athlete competing named Felix Kangogo. My journey started with an early morning flight from Luton to Bucharest with Easyjet. I was sat next to a married couple, the guy was Romanian and the lady was from the UK, I don't want to be unkind but she was rather a large lady with the guy being pretty skinny, they made a very odd couple!! As we were nearing the end of the flight the Romanian guy started telling me I could get a nice skinny lady in Bucharest, "lots of pretty skinny ladies" he told me in his Romanian accent, his wife overheard this and was obviously slightly offended that he was talking about skinny ladies, he tried to reassure her and then turned to me and whispered "don't listen to her she is fat B**ch"!! This made me chuckle all the way to the hotel in Bucharest.

I was staying in the Hilton which was very nice, Bucharest is a strange city, big wide streets and lots of communist style buildings, most in need of a bit of restoration. I would like to see more of Romania as the people were great but I think I would only use Bucharest as a place to start. Felix soon arrived in the hotel and was very pleased to see me. We settled in and relaxed for the rest of the day with some good food and company in the hotels Italian restaurant. Breakfast the next morning was interesting, I had pointed out the little pots of honey to Felix so he could use on his toast, I then went to get some food for myself from the buffet, on my return I noticed Felix stirring some blueberry jam into his tea?! I asked him what he was doing and he said "honey", I said "no, that's blueberry jam!" He looked a little confused for a while and then understood, picked the bits of blueberry out of his tea and carried on drinking!!

I found out that there was a half marathon starting at the same time as the marathon, as it was on the same route as the marathon I thought I would give it a go as it gave me the opportunity to be with Felix right up until the start. As I hadn't done any specific training for the half marathon I thought I would try running at 70 minute pace as I was sure I wouldn't slow too much going at this pace. The marathon runners were being paced at 66 minutes through the half way mark and as the course had a few out and back stretches I was able to track the progress of Felix whilst racing myself. It soon became clear that I was pulling quite a big lead in the half marathon and I actually felt very comfortable running at that pace, winning the race and 500 Euros in a time of 70.04. After I had finished being interviewed for Romanian TV and radio, I had to go for the prize giving which was held on a stage infront of the Peoples Palace which is the second biggest building in the world. After recieving the trophy they started playing the national anthem, it was a great feeling and something I didn't think would happen so soon after stopping competing earlier this year. Shortly after the prize giving the leaders of the marathon were expected to finish, with 7km to go I knew Felix was in a lead group of three. To my joy I saw Felix sprinting down the home straight to claim a double win for Run-Fast, probably the first time ever that a manager and their athlete have won two races at the same event! All in all a great weekend. 

Myself and Felix celebrating our double win
 Didn't think I would ever see this again - Bucharest Half Marathon Champion!!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Last Adventure of the year....... Probably not.

It's been a long time since my last blog entry but I just haven't had time to sit down and write an entry. Since the Ring-o-Fire I have been living a jet-setting lifestyle, I'm currently sitting in Hong Kong airport waiting for a few of my Kenyan athletes to arrive before we try and make are way accross to Macau on the ferry as they will both be competing in the Macau Galaxy International Marathon next Sunday 2nd December. Over the previous few months I have been to Romania, France, Italy, Kenya, Spain and now Hong Kong. I will attempt to add a new blog most days over the next week or so to tell anyone interested a little about each of these trips as they all ended up having a good (in my mind) story to tell.

Right now I am going to sit back in the comfy chair I have found drink a nice cup of coffee and maybe catch up on a bit of sleep.......

ummm coffee...

Friday, 7 September 2012

The Best Running of My Life

It turns out that day two of the Ring O' Fire was between 68 and 70miles, I managed to get a good massage, three bowls of pasta and a good nights sleep in another village hall. Runners were coming in all through the night some taking over 20 hours coming in at 2a.m. and having to start running again at 6a.m.!!

As I had a near three hour lead over the second place competitor and my knee was very painful I just wanted to get through the final 35miles, so I ran for most of the day with Richard Webster. Richard is a crazy nutter ultra runner, having done such races as a 250mile arctic race and the infamous Leadville 100 (look it up, it is crazy!), so this race was a walk in the park for Richard. He was a really nice guy and chatting with him helped me forget the pain in my knee and also stop me from getting lost.

Running on the final day with Richard
Not too far after the halfway mark the pain in my knee subsided and with less than 20 miles left to run I pushed on. The last two hours of this race was without a doubt the best running of my life, I have read stories of people who have done ultra endurance events and gone into a euphoric type state but never really believed it, until now!! The scenery was spectacular and I just felt like I could run forever, it was awesome! The last few miles were up and over Holyhead mountain, not a big mountain but the highest point on Anglesey. My dad had checked the route map and met me at the bottom of the hill and drove up the road next to me whilst I ran, I don't think he could believe how fast I was running. I skirted around the peak of the mountain (luckily the coastal path didn't take us over the summit) and made my way down to what was one of the best things I've ever seen, the finish. Spurred on by knowing I had less than half a mile to go I sprinted down to the finish to complete the epic adventure. 131miles, 13695feet of vertical ascent, the Ring O' Fire......

Now having rested for a few days I am having some serious withdrawal symptoms, you forget the pain and just remember the joy and sense of achievement of what has been achieved. It was one of the best weekends of my life, and I can now proudly call myself an Ultra-marathon runner.

Talking tactics with my Dad
 People have been asking me how I managed to get round this race the way I did. As I have mentioned before this race and I guess any ultra endurance event is tougher mentally than it is physically, so you need to have a strong motivational pull to get you through. My motivation and inspiration for this race is my dad, however tough it got for me during this race it would never be as tough or as painful as having your leg amputated. So whenever I started to struggle or the going got tough I just thought of that and on I went.....

Thanks Dad, this one was for you :-)

Thursday, 6 September 2012

11 hours of constant running

After a surprisingly good nights sleep in a village hall people started stirring at around 4.30a.m. ready for the start of day 2 of the Ring O' Fire. At 5a.m. one of the organisers came in blasting out "The Ring of Fire" by Johnny Cash, a song that will for ever more bring back memories (good and bad) of this weekend.

I was positive but slightly nervous for what lay ahead, without a doubt it was going to be the toughest day of my life, 64miles running non stop. Similar to day 1 we had a short briefing and then we were off, everyone was a lot more conservative at the start with the daunting distance that lay ahead of us. A group of 3 shortly pulled away from the rest, myself, Stuart Mills (the winner of day 1) and another guy named Richard Webster. We ran together at a nice easy pace and the first hour or so went by without any problems. After crossing one of the numerous stiles on route I had a quick toilet stop, I then looked up to see Stuart being charged at by a cow! Luckily it turned away with only a few meters to spare, Stuart seemed unconcerned (nutter!!) but from this point on I gave all cows as much room as possible. Another hour went by and I started to "zone out" a bit, I was leading the group of three and after running up quite a long hill I turned to talk to Richard only to find him a few hundred meters behind, so it was down to two. Not wanting to get lost like day 1 I stuck with Stuart for a good while, the going was tough, deep mud, slippery seaweed made us both fall over a few times. I started to get the feeling Stuart was not comfortable running with me as he kept letting me get 50m ahead, I'm not sure if it was a tactic on his part so that I would get lost, but if it was it certainly worked, as on three or four occasions I would have a lead of maybe one minute or two, take a wrong turn and see Stuart overtake me on the correct path! Time for some map reading I thought!

Fuelling up at a checkpoint on day 2
So for the rest of the day I would run with a map in my hand and this made a big difference as no more wrong turns! Nearing the marathon distance I was feeling pretty good so I just continued running at a comfortable pace pulling further ahead of Stuart. At the third checkpoint of the day I had my dad and Shavaun waiting for me which was great as a friendly face always lifts the spirits, I filled up on some fluids and carried on running, at this point we sort of ran back on ourselves and across a field I could see Stuart and he must have been at least ten minutes behind, this was very surprising but a big boost. Having checked out the map the night before I knew the next section of running until the halfway mark was flat so I upped the pace slightly, this was short lived as the coastal path went onto a very rocky beach, rocks that I had to climb over in places! Also the tide was at it's high point and on a few occasions I had to wade through the sea up to my waist, just another challenge I thought!! I was soon back on smoother ground with only a short distance to cover until the halfway checkpoint. Again my dad and Shavaun were waiting for me and the plan was to have a 5 or 10minute stop to get a lot of calories and fluid back into my system. I really didn't want to stop but was persuaded to put on a clean pair of socks, have a banana and a good drink. It was a nice thought knowing I was halfway around the island, I always try to look at the positives, rather than thinking I still had half the island to run!!

Run-Fast Kiprop!!
The second half started up a long steep climb, I actually missed a turning here but wasn't too concerned as had been warned about a bull in a field so a short extra distance seemed like a small price to pay!

The miles were ticking by quite nicely, 40 miles, 45 miles, then my Garmin watch ran out of battery, maybe not a bad thing. I was well into my 7th hour of running and feeling pretty good, the next checkpoint was unmanned and at a lighthouse at the end of an out and back point. To make sure you didn't cut out this section the organisers had put some disposable cameras and a book where you had to rip out a page and take it to the next checkpoint. The book was "Fifty Shades of Grey". The next section was a very, very long section of beech and I started to really struggle, my knee became very painful, I had to climb through a section of scrub land where I kept falling over, it was not fun. I knew this would happen sooner or later so just had to will myself into keep running with the final days checkpoint getting ever closer. I got myself through this bad patch with sheer will and determination and arrived at the checkpoint to once again have my spirits lifted by my dad and Shavaun. Shavaun was off on holiday the day after so she had to shoot off at this point to get her train back to London, her help and friendship was invaluable to me in this race and I owe her a big thank you for getting me into it in the first place and for supporting me through the first two days.

With Shavaun after 60miles of running!!
With only 8miles of running left I knew I was going to make it!! It was still tough and a few more fields of scary cows was somewhat annoying but before I knew it 11hours after I first started running the finish line was in sight.......

And relax....... what a day........

It turned out Stuart Mills had stomach problems and dropped out at halfway, so the second place finisher on day two was Richard Webster finishing in 13 hours, a full 2 hours behind me!!

A crazy, emotional, extraordinary day...... but still one more to do :-(

I will try and get day 3 up tomorrow.

Running Machine...