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!!