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...

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Time to run and run and run and run......

I have now recovered enough to give a little description of the toughest and some of the best running of my life in my first ultra-marathon, the Ring O' Fire.

The start
It all started Thursday afternoon when myself and my support crew (my dad and fellow Run-Fast employee Shavaun Henry) travelled up from London to Anglesey where I had booked us into a hotel in Holyhead not far from the start. We arrived at around 7p.m. just in time to catch a few races of the Diamond League in Zurich. After this we headed out to a local Chinese restaurant so I could load up on calories.

The race started at 1p.m. on Friday so I had plenty of time in the morning to have a good breakfast, make sure I had everything ready for the day and relax before heading down to the start to register. As this was my first race for quite a while I had a really good balance of nerves and excitement, I just wanted to get started. The vibe at the start of the race was so different from any other race I had ever experienced, normally the elite athletes are in a world of their own, focusing on the race not talking to the other competitors, but here everyone was chatting and there was a real buzz of excitement for what lay ahead!! It truly was a gathering of like minded nutters!

We had a short race briefing, a rendition of "The Ring of Fire" by Johnny Cash and then we were off. The first stage was 32 miles so my tactics were to stick with the leaders up to around halfway and then if I felt good to push on. What I didn't know was that one of my competitors was a top Ultramarathon runner named Stuart Mills, and after about half a mile he went flying off, we probably did the next mile in sub 6 minutes which I definitely wasn't expecting!

Only 130miles left to run. Leading the Ring O' Fire along side "Ultra Stu"
I obviously forgot my tactics and after maybe three miles hit the front and pulled a lead of a few hundred meters before my first wrong turning of the day, this one only lost me seconds. At 5 miles we had to cross an estuary, at this point I removed my shoes and slowly waded across without any problems, as I was drying my feet and putting my socks and shoes back on Stuart went flying by having run straight through without taking his shoes off, this guy was serious! I set off in hot pursuit catching him up a mile or so later. We then ran together through the half way check point only stopping briefly to get some fluids. Just after the marathon mark I was feeling good so pushed on getting a decent lead but this was my first big mistake as I took a wrong turning! after running down a footpath I came to a cliff on one side and the barrier wall of Wylfa Power station on the other, I quickly turned back and found my way back on the coastal path. We were very near a checkpoint at this time but my diversion had made me miss it, due to this my Dad and Shavaun were very worried thinking I was injured or lost. I was very down heartened by this detour and it took the wind out of my sails slightly. I obviously kept running and the terrain got really tough, knee deep mud in places, seriously steep hills to climb and the weather started to turn for the worse. When I thought it couldn't get much worse I was confronted with a herd of cows blocking my path, as they had calf's in tow I wasn't prepared to risk getting charged at so I had to wait for a good five minutes until some walkers came through to help me move the cows along.

I finally bumped into Q (one of the race organisers) who told me there was only half a mile to go and when I finished I found I was only ten minuted behind Stuart but I had run two miles further!! If I had only kept my map in hand and not gone the wrong way I would have been leading!! Luckily due to the reading on my Garmin proving I had run further than needed I didn't get disqualified!! After a beautiful hot shower and a good bowl of pasta in a local Italian I bedded down for the night in the local village hall ready for the toughest days running of my life, 64miles of hell!!

Day 2 tomorrow......

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Out of Retirement and into the Fire......

It's been a long time since I last wrote a blog post and I have loads I could write about, giving Eziekel Kemboi (the Olympic 3000m S/C Champion) a lift from Bristol to Heathrow, being thrown out of the Olympic athlete village, my dad's inspirational story about his fight with cancer ( or the amazing time I had living in London during the Olympic games.

But after a very short retirement I have my first race this weekend, and it will be a big step into the unknown as I will be doing my first ultra marathon, the RING-O-FIRE, 131miles over three days!!! Day 1 is 32miles, day 2 is 64 and then a nice easy 35miles to finish me off on the final day. Not sure why I am doing it but it is sure to be an experience and a half!!

I will try and give an update at the end of each day if I have the energy.

If I make it back alive from the Ring-o-fire I'm really excited to be going to watch the athletics at the Paralympics next Thursday. Today I had a visit from one of the Kenyan Paralympic athletes that I met last year in Iten, his name is Jonah Chesum and is a top guy. He is competing in the 800m & 1500m (T46 class I think) and is favourite for the gold in the 1500m.
Myself and Jonah Chesum in London.

Friday, 15 June 2012

My near Trip(oli)

The taxi picked me up at 3.30a.m. so I could get to Heathrow in time for my 6a.m. flight to Tripoli (Libya) via Vienna, all went very smoothly and I arrived in Vienna in time to transfer to the onward flight. Just before boarding the official asked if I had my visa, I gave him the "official" letter that I had been given by the race organiser. Unfortunately it turned out to be not very official and the Libyan Immigration had never heard of me! So I was stuck in Vienna!! Luckily after a bit of sweet talking the female official at the Austrian Airline desk rearranged a flight back to the UK for later that day. This gave me the rest of the day to explore Vienna, at least something positive came out of the mess!

Exploring Vienna
After a good walk around the city I found a nice restaurant to enjoy a beer and schnitzel. I then made my way back to the airport for my flight back to the UK.

One of the many impressive buildings in Vienna
The good news is one of the athletes we had competing in the Libya 10km won the women's race.

Next week it's back to Torquay for the Torbay Half Marathon.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Where to Begin......

I've been back to full time work for about two months now and so far I'm having a great time. For those of you that don't know I'm working for a sports management company called Run-Fast primarily on the sports management side of the business but also helping out in our recently opened retail shop which at the moment is based on Leadenhall Street right in the heart of London City.

Since my last blog post just before the London Marathon (where I predicted both winners!!) life has been very hectic. As well as settling into a new job and a new place to live, most weekends I am now away at races either in the UK or abroad but if I do have a free weekend I try and make the most of it by exploring new places in London or catching up with old friends I haven't seen in years.

The main part of my job is to organise marathon races for the Run-Fast marathon athletes. Due to this I got the chance to travel to Ottawa in Canada for the Ottawa race weekend. Run-Fast had a group of athletes competing and pace making so it was important I made sure they arrived on time and didn't get lost or miss the race for some reason, it was also good to meet the elite race organiser face to face as we hope to send athletes to the race for years to come. Ottawa was a really nice city and we were blessed with terrific weather so I enjoyed some great runs along the river and canal that runs through the city. A number of races make up the Ottawa race weekend with top elite fields in both a 10km and the marathon. One of the athletes in the 10km was in my opinion probably the best distance runner on the planet last year winning both the Boston and New York marathons both in course records, none other than Geoffrey Mutai. Geoffrey absolutely destroyed the field in the 10km as most people guessed he would and made himself some decent money in the process!

Not the best picture but it's me with Geoffrey Mutai shortly after him winning the Ottawa 10km

After the races all the Kenyans (and me for some reason) were invited to the Kenyan High Commissioners house for a party to celebrate the Kenyan athletes competing in Canada. It was just like being back in Kenya as they had put on a real Kenyan feast including loads of ugali, chapati, ndengu, nyama choma etc. They also had the obligatory speeches followed by a disco full of the best Kenyan classics.

Enjoying a Canadian beer at the Kenyan High Commissioners house in Ottawa
As well as working hard, travelling around a lot and getting in some socialising I have been running maybe four or five times a week to keep a decent level of fitness. For some strange reason the other weekend I decided to try and run from my flat in the Barbican back to my parents house in Essex, bearing in mind over the last two months or so my weekly mileage has probably been 40 at best I managed to make 40 miles in one run!! I made it to Chelmsford in 5 hours and although I "only" had 15miles to go until I made it back to my parents house the train was just too tempting! It was still 12 miles further than I have ever run before in one run and maybe the start of a new career as an ultra distance runner!!

This may well be my final blog as tomorrow morning I will be flying off to Tripoli in Libya for a 10km that we have some athletes competing in!! If I make it back in one piece I will carry on blogging and let you know what I thought of Tripoli!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Back Soon

Since moving to London and starting my new job life has been very hectic, so I have neglected updating my blog, I will update it over the next few days I promise!

In the meantime my dad has just started a blog talking about his recent fight with cancer, check it out:

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Back to Business

This week I had a bit of a shock, back to full time work :-O

I'm now working for Run-Fast and this week we were manning the Pearl Izumi stand at the London Marathon Expo. Some really long working days but it was all good fun. Bumped into lots of old friends and ate a silly amount of Clif Bars as they were giving away samples on their stand.

Working with Shavaun Henry at the Expo

Good to be back working and as I'm now living in London, I have been out running most mornings this week with the Kenyan athletes Run-Fast have over at the moment. I must say it is nice to get out running, but even nicer knowing I don't have to if the weather is bad or I just can't be bothered!

Looking forward to watching the London Marathon tomorrow, I think both the men's and the women's elite races are going to be epic with so much up for grabs. If I had to put a bet on who I think will win, I'm going to put my money on Wilson Kipsang and Mary Keitany but to be honest it's only because I know them both!

Nearly forgot but I went to the book signing of "Running with the Kenyans" this week. I've never been to one before so wasn't sure what to expect but had a really good evening and was presented a signed copy of the book by Adharanand (the author) to take and give to my Kenyan friends at the Run-Fast camp.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Tiptree to Torquay, Champagne and the Dam

So far life after running has been great. I started off with a rather impromptu bike ride from my parent house in Tiptree down to their apartment in Torquay. I was really lucky with the weather which made it all the more pleasant and managed to get down to Torquay in about two and a half days averaging about 130miles a day. The first days ride went through London getting a lift across the Thames on the Woolich ferry followed by some nice country roads over the north and south downs ending at a very picturesque youth hostel in Arundel. Slept like a log that night but still up early for a beautiful ride along the south coast through the New Forest to Weymouth and a night in another hostel in Portland. The final leg of the journey hit the hills of Devon down to my final resting spot of Torquay.

Nearing the end of my ride to Torquay
I was really impressed with the youth hostels I stayed in, for less than £20 a night I got a comfy bed (bed linen provided) in a small dorm room and a good hot shower, perfect if you are just looking for somewhere to lay your head for the night.

Next on the agenda was a trip down to the Champagne region of France with my mum for a short holiday, we sampled plenty of the fabulous french food and local delicacies like the Andouillette sausage which I enjoyed but it definitely wouldn't be to every ones taste! Also as you can imagine when visiting Champagne we had to sample lots of the different Champagnes, all very good and surprisingly different, I always thought Champagne was just Champagne.

A nice walk through the forest in Champagne
Got back to the UK yesterday and today I'm off for three days in Amsterdam then pack up my things and move to London to start my new job next week.

One other thing to mention is some new earphones that I have just got as my old ipod ones were starting to get a bit tatty. I got some Jabra Rhythm ones that are perfect for use with the iphone or other similar smartphones and the improvement in sound quality is remarkable, they also have a mic so you can use them for hands free calls and they are suitable for use when running as you just have to tap the control box to skip tracks, answer calls etc. Definitely a good buy.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Running With The Kenyans

It's not very often that a book comes out that mirrors your life.....

At the end of 2010 as most people know who follow my blog, I quit work and moved out to the small town of Iten in the Great Rift Valley of Kenya to become a full time athlete and try and keep up with the best distance runners in the world, the Kenyans. At the same time a guy named Adharanand Finn also moved out to Iten with his family to try and discover the secret of the Kenyan runners and write a book about his adventure.

I first met Finn at the Discovery Cross Country in Eldoret, I was sitting in the main stand watching the crazy junior athletes fly around the dry grass circuit when a guy sitting in front of me turned around and said "are you Tom Payn", a bit shocked to be "recognised" all the way out here in Kenya I obviously answered yes and Finn introduced himself telling me that he had seen me race the week before in Iten and that he had been following my blog. From that day on mine and Finns time in Kenya in some ways mirrored each others. I was in Kenya trying to qualify for the GB Olympic marathon team whilst Finn was training for the gruelling Lewa Marathon. We both met and befriended the same group of Kenyans, we both lived and trained in Kenyan running camps and during the time we both spent out in Kenya we became good friends.

Having got my copy of Finns book yesterday I couldn't put it down finishing it this morning, it brought back so many good memories of my time out in Iten. Finn has got such a nice style of writing, he captures so well what it is like to live and train with those amazing athletes. Many of the stories made me chuckle as I remember seeing them first hand. Reading about his two girls experience of attending school out in Iten reminded me how I met them walking back from School that very night. The many athletes that wanted to buy his car, even asking me if I could ask Finn to see if that would help "clinch the deal".

If you want to know what life is like out in Iten or are at all interested in running you won't find a much better read than Finn's book, it goes straight to the top of my favourite books, but I guess a book that has me in it as a character was always going to!!

I've got a link to Amazon on the right hand menu of my blog, so if you want to buy a copy of "Running With The Kenyans" just click on the link and buy it NOW!!!

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

That's all folks....

After my unfortunate fall in the Bath Half Marathon a few weeks ago and missing a crucial stage of my marathon training I have made the decision not only to pull out of the Rotterdam marathon but to also take a break from running.

This has been a very tough decision to take but once I finally made the decision I knew it was the right one. I joined my local athletics club at the age of 10, so have been running for more than 22 years! I love running and I love racing but recently it has started becoming more of a chore than a pleasure, I feel if I keep pushing to get results without the enjoyment I will just end up resenting running and I don't want that to happen. I knew there would come a time when running wasn't my number one priority but it crept up on me much quicker and earlier than I expected.

Looking back on my athletics career I can't believe what it's done for me. I've raced in 14 different countries over four continents, met and made so many friends that I know will be friends for life. I've experienced different cultures and without running I wouldn't be the person I am today.

I am and always will be a runner, it's just time for me to move on to the next phase of my life.... whatever that may be......

Tom Payn - Time To Stop Running......

Friday, 16 March 2012

Still Hobbling

After my fall at the Bath Half Marathon last weekend my right knee has been in a bit of a bad state, on Monday I could hardly walk, Tuesday I still had a lot of pain whilst walking, by Wednesday I could just about walk pain free so yesterday (Thursday) I tried a 1 mile jog in the morning and it was painful! The pain didn't get any worse throughout the jog but didn't really get any better either. After the morning jog my knee seemed to loosen off so in the afternoon I went for another run this time around 3 miles, it was better than it had been in the morning but I still had very restricted movement.

Originally my plan for this weekend was to do a 20mile race but unless I am running totally pain free by tomorrow this will be a no go and right now I am very doubtful that's going to happen :-(

The Start of the Bath Half Marathon 2012

Sunday, 11 March 2012

My Bath trip.....

So today I was looking forward to a good fast half marathon in Bath, the weather was perfect, a good field had been assembled and I felt ready to run. The race started at 11a.m. and after the first mile I was tucked nicely in the lead group, just after this point the course turns onto a hill and halfway up this hill the runner just in front of me moved quickly to his left to avoid a curb and caught my foot causing me to go flying to the ground. I smashed both knees and slid along the tarmac on my shoulder and face, not what I was expecting! I got straight up and tried to run but after a few steps knew I couldn't run so I had to limp back to the starting area with bloody knees, shoulder and face. I must say a quick thanks to the St John's Ambulance guys for cleaning and patching me up.
Bandaged and swollen knees
This race was going to be a good guide to my form going into the last stage of the marathon training but after covering only just over a mile I got absolutely nothing from the race, plus as I can hardly walk at the moment it's going to be a few days before I will know if any serious damage has been done to my knee. Not the best day ever!!

Friday, 9 March 2012

Back from Portugal ready for Bath

After a month of glorious sunshine I got off the plane at Stansted to be greeted by wind, rain and cold weather. Relatively pleased with how my training panned out in Portugal and have been feeling good since my return earlier this week.

The apartment I rented was in an area of the Algarve called Quarteira and was fantastic value for money, plenty of room and all the facilities I could ask for. The only problem with the apartment was that once the sun went down and the temperature dropped it was freezing! I guess all the houses and apartments in that area are designed to stay cool through the hot summer months and hence have very little insulation and no heating. The only solution to the cold was to wrap myself up in blankets like a little old lady, not cool but it worked! Some photos of the apartment below:

Living Room



View from the Terrace
This weekend I will be competing in the Bath Half Marathon, my second time doing this race after coming third in 2009 in what at the time was my pb, so I only have good memories of the race, I will try to make some more good memories on Sunday!

Racing at Bath in 2009

Tuesday, 28 February 2012


Whenever I'm in a foreign country I always like to try the local food, in Kenya they have ugali, sukuma wiki, ndengu, chapati and they love their really sweet chai. Here in the Algarve we went to a festival where we tried the Portuguese version of a donut called a farturas, really good especially if you have a sweet tooth as it was dipped in sugar and cinnamon. On visiting a fish restaurant right next to the local fish market we ordered a seafood cataplana and it was absolutely delicious. A cataplana is the name of the recipe and the dish it is cooked and served in, similar to a tagine. In the cataplana we had it was filled with a huge range of seafood including, sardines, sea bass, golden bream, prawns, muscles and clams, plus as you can see from the picture below it was also filled with potatoes.

The Seafood Cataplana

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Still Perfect Weather....

No Internet for a while, hence no blog updates recently. Nearly three weeks in Portugal now and I think I spotted one stray cloud the other day, apart from that it's been perfect weather, in fact yesterday I got a very sun burnt face after relaxing on the beach for too long. Both myself and Tom Bigham, who is out at the moment to keep me company, have nasty panda faces as we both left our sunglasses on, we look quite ridiculous and I'm sure some of the locals have been laughing at us!

Relaxing on the terrace with Mark

Training has been going well, some really good longer sessions but a few below par shorter ones which I put down to a little bit of fatigue. I think one thing that a lot of athletes struggle with is recovery and this has always been one of my problems. I never like to have rest days even though I know how important they are. I took a rest day last week, plus a few days of very easy running and feel much better because of it, you would have thought after running for over 20 years that I would have learnt to take my rest seriously!

Apart from training I have spent my time relaxing on the beach or on the sun terrace at the apartment I have rented, plus maybe a fresh orange juice at Villamoura marina, it's not a bad life being a full time athlete!

Villamoura Marina

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Out of the cold.

All settled in here in Portugal. So far I have been very lucky with the weather as everyday has been blue skies and between 15 and 20 Degrees, perfect for marathon training. On my first full day here I did a marathon distance training run which felt good then three days after that I had a 12km tempo run which although my legs were still a little tired from the long run it went well.

I have been joined out here by my Dutch friend Mark who has been enjoying the good weather as much as I have, before he flew out to meet me he has temperatures of -23 in Amsterdam!

Today we went to the cross country course in Albufiera as there was a local cross country taking place. There were some good competitive races both in the men's and women's divisions.

Most of my morning runs I have been enjoying the long beaches that they have out here, really good for running on when the tide is out. This time of the year down in the Algarve it is really quiet which is nice although it does mean that a lot of places are closed down until the tourist season starts up, at least I don't have to worry about dodging tourists when I'm running around the marina.

The beach, just a few minutes jog from my apartment.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Quick Update

Another stinker of a race at the Chichester 10km on Sunday has left me slightly down in the dumps. When training isn't going too well a bad race result can be explained, but when training is spot on a bad race result is very frustrating.

I've now escaped the freezing UK weather by flying out to Portugal for a month. On arrival I was greeted with blue skies and 20 degrees, and that was more than enough to cheer me up!

I've got myself a nice apartment in Vilamoura and enjoyed a solid marathon distance run this morning along the coast to Albufeira and back.

I will get some photos of the area and do a proper blog update later this week.

A track session on a previous visit to Portugal

Saturday, 28 January 2012

The University of Birmingham

UPDATE ** My room mate for most of last year Edwin Kipyego today won the 2012 Discovery Half Marathon in Eldoret beating a world class field including Emmanuel Mutai, the 2011 London Marathon Champion! Definitely the biggest win of his career so far, read about it here: **

Coming to the end of a really positive week of training which included a good 30km run down in Torquay and my best track session for ages on a chilly evening in Braintree. As the life of a full time athlete consists of not much else apart from training, eating and sleeping I haven't got much to talk about so thought I would continue the theme of my last post and publish some photos of my running days at University.

When I arrived at University I was an 800m runner but after my first British University Champs I decided to have a bit of a break from athletics to live the "University life", after a year of this I returned as a steeplechaser with some decent success including 2 silver medals at the British Universities, a UK inter-counties championship, 4th place in the AAA's and a best ranking of 7th in the UK in 2007 with a best time of 8.47.

A good team effort at one of the BUSA cross country championships.
On my way to a 2nd place finish in the BUSA 3000m S/C behind the winner Nick Talbot. You can just see Andrew Lemoncello behind in the green vest.
Another 2nd place at the BUSA's, behind me you can see Frank Tickner, Chris Warburton and Luke Gunn
Next on the agenda is the Chichester 10km on the 5th February, after this it's Portugal for a months training before a real test at the Bath Half Marathon on the 11th March.

Monday, 23 January 2012

The Good Old Days....

As my training is progressing quite nicely and I have no gossip to report from the streets of Tiptree, I thought I would post some old photos I found recently.

There is one photo that I have been searching for that I can't find anywhere and my mum is starting to think it only exists in my imagination, but as I recall my Grandad took a photo of me having a crazy sprint finish with a guy twice my height in my first non-school race, the Tiptree fun run (which was about 4miles?), it was a few years before I joined Colchester & Tendering Athletics Club so I must have been about eight years old. If I ever find it I will be sure to post it here.

Here is a small selection of the ones I have found.

Tiptree Fun Run
This is possibly my first non school race, it's the Tiptree Fun Run around 1989, I'm not sure if I had done it the year before? In this picture I'm running with my dad.

Colchester 5km Fun Run 1991
This one is definitely 1991 so I was eleven years old.

These three are from my multi-eventing days in which I am competing for Essex as an under 15 in a pentathlon. I am quite impressed with my technique over the hurdles and high jump!

Essex Cross Country Championships 1995
Winning the Essex Cross Country Championships as an under 17, I love the expression on my face in this one.

With Eamonn Martin after the Essex XC Champs
I think Eamonn had won the senior title that year but can't remember for sure. The other two guys are Scott Sterling and Neil Heppel, both were good rivals and friends throughout my younger years.

I'm off to Torquay tomorrow for three or four days, hopefully I will have time to catch up with the Torbay AC guys and maybe join in with one of their sessions, it's always nice for a bit of company!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Ultramarathon Runner

The day after my disastrous race at the Stubbington 10km I had possibly my best steady run ever, I don't think I have ever felt so good, shame it was a day late!!

Yesterday my training had me down for an "easy" 40km run. I roped my dad in to come with me on his bike and we started just as the sun was rising oven a very picturesque frost covered Essex countryside. It was freezing to start with and both of us had very numb hands but these soon began to thaw as the sun came up. We had a rough route planned but a few wrong turns early on turned an initial small loop into quite a large one, but when your running so far it doesn't really make much difference! When I'm doing a long run I try and run for as long as possible before looking at my watch and told my dad not to let me know how long we had been going, the first time I had a look I had been running for a little over 2 hours and more than 20miles, I wish my dad had told me now! This was good in one way as I thought it would be a lot less than this, but bad in another as the shortest route back was going to be at least 7 miles! I ended up covering 28miles feeling great the whole way even picking up the pace over the last few miles. I think my dad suffered more than me as he is still recovering from recent surgery to one of his legs meaning he only really had the use of one leg and cycling up some of the hills near the end was a bit of a struggle! This was my longest run ever in time and distance and as it was longer than a marathon I guess I can call myself an ultra marathon runner!!

Frosty Morning
A good few well earned easy days now until my next hard session later this week.