Matthew Kingston-Lee: My Journey to My Latest London Marathon

It’s time for do or die. Matthew Kingston-Lee will carry his broken body another time this Sunday, praying to a perhaps non-existent God that this distance, that shouldn’t really pose too many issues for a fit and healthy athlete, will be tolerable for one who is totally under prepared for the demands running a fair long way presents. Like all slightly stupid ideas, his latest London Marathon adventure is bound to be painful and probably soul destroying as he sets out to do what surely every other average athlete is hoping to do and that is beat Paula Radcliffe.

Here I ramble on pretending I am being interviewed when it is just the figment of my bored imagination. I make a mountain out of a molehill and reminisce on events that are significant probably only to myself and of little or no interest to anyone.

April 2010 – The Last Time I Ran (The London Marathon).

A Blister I Once Had

2010 was the last time Matthew ran the London Marathon. It was an event he really shouldn’t have made. In great shape (But with a bad hip…) he found himself stuck in Shanghai after the Grand Prix there because of the Icelandic ash cloud.

Via an unplanned visit to a Vietnamese prison, the seemingly impossible mission to make it to Blackheath in time culminated in a last minute rescue trip courtesy of a (very expensive and paid for) first class trip home via Moscow with Aeroflot. Fourty eight hours earlier he was being told by a jobsworth at Hanoi airport there was no way he was flying until Monday at the earliest. Now he stood (a little way behind) the start line of the only marathon anyone really cares about.

His story of how he got to the London marathon could be the stuff of a (really bad) Hollywood movie. At the very least it should have filled some airtime on one of those BBC life story clips that interrupt the pictures of people running in the race itself. Instead his marathon became better known for the infamous trip to the blue portaloo at 14 miles, from which he reappeared 88 seconds later and a couple of pounds lighter. Now one of the most unwatched athletics clips not available on YouTube, his brave battle to the finish with a hip that really wasn’t happy in a time of 2:55 was largely forgotten. What was not forgotten by his wife was being unable to walk for the next four days, especially as they were meant to be on a walking holiday.

Little did Matthew know that he wouldn’t be able to run London again for another five years – a combination of injury, clashes with F1 races or simply not bothering to enter put pay to that fun day out on the streets of the capital.

October 2014 – Whoops! How Did That Happen?

The end of September 2014 saw him in the running form of Matthew’s life clocking 1:15:29 at the Robin Hood Half Marathon, as frustratingly close to just missing out on securing an elite start at the London Marathon as it was when he ran 2:46 at Rotterdam earlier in the year. Still, he had the knowledge that his entry to the 2015 London Marathon was secured, and as it didn’t clash with an F1 event, sub 2:45 looked a formality.

Nike Free 4.0 V2 (Grey and Yellow)
Some Nike trainers, placed into the article, in no way trying to endorse Nike

Two weeks later and he was almost literally unable to walk with what transpired to be a fractured sacrum. Matthew, a man who is happy to not have gravel in his guts, was as stubborn as ever when it came to resting up. He took all of three days off, reuniting himself with the bicycle he had ridden on other occasions when he was too injured to run, and taking up a second residence in the shed – home of his faithful elliptical trainer.

December 2014 – Hitting the Pavement For a Sixty Second Hobble

Eight weeks after the sacrum fracture occurred and bored witless by the hours spent on the elliptical trainer, Matthew headed nervously out on Christmas Eve for a one minute jog. Forever the rebel he defied the recommendation of his physiotherapist and ran for one minute and four seconds. “It felt great!” said Matthew, “the best early Christmas present ever… Well except for the 42″ TV I bought myself a few years back as an early Christmas present. And the Garmin 910XT I bought myself too as an an early combined birthday and Christmas present. It was the third best early Christmas present ever.”

The rest of December was an embarrassment as far as running was concerned. Drinking too much alcohol, he could barely muster more than a couple of miles before repeatedly doubling up in agony with cramp. “I was scared I’d never be able to drink again. Luckily I can!” confided Matthew candidly. Every night after the kids had gone to bed, Matthew’s wife, Emily, would serve up a large glass of white wine, which he would drink in about five minutes or so. “It did nothing for my running, but it tasted fantastic.”

January 2015 – Four Months to Go – Back on the Streets.

With memories of a Christmas spent travelling from one set of relatives to another, Matthew winces as he remembers he only actually ran for two minutes on Christmas Day.

January though was another matter and enjoying the freedom of being able to run and not hobbling like someone very, very overweight, Matthew got back into the regular routine of sometimes picking the kids up from school and getting out for a run whenever he could. He found a new training partner in the form of former Latvian international Janis, who soon had Matthew running far faster than he should have. Rejuvenated by his new training partner, who spoke not much in the way of coherent English but could happily communicate in the language of running, Matthew found time to talk to his daughter.

Nike Air Pegasus 29 (Turquoise)
Some more Nike trainers, almost subliminally selling the swoosh to you.

“I said to my daughter ‘this might be the last time I can train to try and beat 2:45 over the marathon, a time that holds little significance to anyone other than those who understand it to be the qualifying time for the national marathon championships, which are actually just the London Marathon, but you get to start somewhere a bit posher,’ and she said ‘Dad, can I play games on the tablet?’ I hope to God London won’t be my last marathon, but it will be the last London Marathon I will run in 2015.

February 2015 – Heartbreak (Nearly on) Valentine’s Day.

Things were looking so promising for Matthew, he actually began running with his club mates again. Disaster would strike though on a (nearly) Valentine’s Day club run when an ominous pain crept up and through deep into his left glute. Barely able to walk by the run’s end, the pain was all too familiar. “I didn’t need any X-Rays or MRI scans to tell me I’d gone and fractured my sacrum again – albeit this time on the left side.”

Despite this boast of not needing an X-Ray or MRI, Matthew called upon the stretched resources of the NHS with firstly a an X-ray and then an MRI scan to confirm it was indeed a near mirror image fracture of the left sacrum. Whilst running on the potholed streets of Grantham his sacrum had again become the first port of call to surrender.

And with ten weeks to go until he was set to run the streets of London, Matthew went from running about 51.3 miles a week to none. His Latvian training partner, with no-one to run with, left for Norway. The lure of a better paying job with better working conditions and hours had nothing to do with it.

With no miles being run for seven weeks, help was sought from his GP who, after establishing it could be a Vitamin D deficiency causing the unwelcome fractures, suggested reserving a large patch of skin on his back to become permanently burnt to a crisp to help get his Vitamin D dose.

Finishing the 2008 London Marathon

April 2015 – One Week to Go – Disaster, Shit!

After waiting precisely seven weeks to allow the fracture to heal and with not that much help from anyone really, Matthew takes his daughter to a park in the near redundant village of Manthorpe, on the outskirts of Grantham. He doesn’t manage to run a step – his daughter is two and cannot be left alone whilst he galavants across the grass. He heads home, dumps her with her mother, and heads out for a run which lasts all of three minutes before he is forced to stop in agony.

Thanks to modern technology, Matthew was able to make this run literally not happen by making it a Private Run on Strava. There is pain, he can barely walk, let alone run. But the marathon has been paid for and the train tickets already bought. Someone has even gone and got his number for him. Deferring his entry is tactically not a good idea as he can guarantee entry until 2017 by not doing so. The marathon is on.

April 22 – Three Days To Go – Irrelavent Filler

In the shadow of the valley of death, Kingston-Lee walks towards a bunch of kids shouting what he now recognises as his name. “Dad! Dad!” they cry, in a variety of voices that confirm 90% of the children are not actually his.

He scowls back at them, ignoring their requests for sweets, ice cream, money and drugs. If his barely healed sacrum isn’t filling his mind with fear, he must just be permanently miserable.

Kingston-Lee’s wife, children, 1 & 2, and Mum and Dad, will not be watching Kingston-Lee run on Sunday

“It definitely better than it was a few weeks ago, but then again it couldn’t get much worse. I’ve run a few times since Easter but every time I’ve thought, bugger this, it’s too painful, and got back on the bike or the elliptical trainer instead. I’m ill prepared to run a marathon, but chances are if I make it I’ll likely finish in the top 25% of the field, which doesn’t say much for the state of running nowadays. I better had anyway as I’ve booked my train back to Grantham for 3pm”

As he runs walks hobbles around the course for what he sincerely hopes will not be the final time, some random memories may or may not flash before him. His father, who never carried any desire to run a marathon; failing miserably in 1998; definitely not running it under an assumed name in 2000; failing again in 2005; doing quite well in 2006; and 2007; and 2008; and 2010; and the stench from that blue portaloo which probably hung around for quite a few runners after him.

“I’ll just be trying to finish, in one piece” he says, “I’ve paid up for the Woodhall Spa Triathlon and I don’t want to lose my entry fee money again.”


Race Report – Robin Hood Half Marathon aka Project Sub 1:16:47

The big day came; weeks and months of training came to this. After four years of trying to better my old half marathon PB of 1:16:47, today was do or die, sh*t or bust, all or nothing, hero or zero… The first thing to check, once it became light enough to see outside with a 6am wake up call, was what the weather was looking like. Blissfully wind free was the answer, my number one concern after the last two Robin Hood Half Marathon’s have been spoilt, more so in 2012, by strong winds. The forecast though was for unseasonably warm and sunny conditions, but I wasn’t overly concerned about that – it was all about the wind, or lack of it.

The early wake up and depart for Nottingham was necessitated following my 2013 experience when I’d aimed to arrive at 8:15 (a good 75 minutes before the start of the race), but got stuck in horrendous traffic and had to all but abandon the car with the wife and kids to make it to the start in time. So I and Scott, my travel companion and competitor in the accompanying marathon, aimed to be there at 7:45. The plan worked a treat, the car park easy to get into, which wasn’t the case just 30 minutes later when the queues of traffic began to form.

With 1 3/4 hours to play with before the off, it was a relaxed build up to the race – a walk around the race village, a chat to fellow club mates and a 1 1/2 mile warm up which was unspectacular but did at least see the sciatica related pain in the right leg subside during the run to a point where I figured it wouldn’t interfere with the race. Still, I did one last long Piraformis stretch on completing the run, which I’d like to think made the difference between a nagging ache during the warm up and no aches at all in the the race.

This relaxed build up bit me a bit as I’d not made my pre race trip to the Portaloo and it was now less than 20 minutes to the start. A look at the queues for the aforementioned offices of convenience struck me with fear – they were enormous!  I made a quick scan for what liked the shortest and proceeded to fret increasingly with each passing minute as the queue diminished frustratingly slowly. I finally made it into my cubicle with less than five minutes to the start. I did what I had to do, leaving myself just three minutes to find the start and the first wave of runners where I should have been standing, waiting for the gun to fire.

A frantic run ensued, dodging runners, spectators, bollards, dogs and pushchairs. The starting gun went just as I made it to the opening for the back of the first wave of runners. Without stopping I was suddenly crossing the start line and beginning the race, losing around 15 seconds had I lined up at the front where I’d arguably should have been.

The plan before the race, as practised at the club handicap 10k earlier in the month, was to run with the HR averaging around 172bpm with the intention of running at, or around, 5:40 per mile. This was an ambitious plan which, if successful, would see me finish in under 1:15. All I wanted was to break 1:16:47, the plan being the old trick of go out hard, try and build up a time buffer and hang on as best as possible as you died a slow death in the final miles. I hate racing this way, always preferring to start a little slower and finish strongly, but I felt it was now or never to try this alternate strategy of going out hard from the gun and sustaining pace as long as possible.

Starting a little further back than planned slowed me initially but it wasn’t long before I was into my running and at the pace and HR I’d planned. I passed the first mile in 5:39, the average 169bpm, spot on what I’d hoped for and quite a relief given that a few minutes earlier I thought I was going to miss the start completely.

The Opening Mile
The Opening Mile

It turned out I wasn’t the only one with pre-race dramas. Fellow Kenilworth Runners Connor Carson caught me just after the mile and we exchanged pleasantries as best you can when running almost, but not quite, flat out. It turned out he nearly missed the start too, stuck in pre-race traffic. We ran together through to 3 miles which I was very happy with, I knew that he was hoping to run sub 1:15, although I wasn’t totally sure what form he was in. I went through the second mile in 5:39 (HR average 172), the third mile 5:37 (173 HR average). The conditions at that point were perfect, the roads flat, running well, feeling great. Then, just after three miles, Connor stopped, heading into the awaiting Portaloo. Clearly his pre-race dramas had meant the lack of time to complete the simplest human act had now ruined his race. I felt bad for him but had no time to dwell – 5k was completed in 17:37 and if I kept this up the PB was on.

By the fourth mile the field was well spread out and it was harder to find pocket of runners to run with. I slowed a touch to 5:44 but the HR average was steady at 172 so all I could do was just keep running as best as possible. The fifth mile is a little odd as it takes runners through the large headquarters of Boots the Chemists. It’s sparsely populated by spectators save for the security guards monitoring the property and a few race officials. There was little to entertain but it was interesting to pass a number of traffic speed signs – the ones that flash up your speed, normally as you drive past. For me and the group of 2-3 runners it read 11 mph. This was simultaneously pleasing and disturbing at the same time. 11 mph is usually around the top speed on a half decent gym treadmill. I’ve not been to a gym for several years, but that sort of speed was reserved for the top end efforts that I could usually only sustain for a minute or two. Now I was planning to keep that sort of speed up for 13.1 miles. It seemed a big ask, too big, so I tried to forget that nuance and worked on the slightly more comfortable target of 5:40 per mile, or by now, just faster than 5:50 per mile (The pace required to beat 1:16:47). The fifth mile was the slowest to that point – 5:46, but the final part, when we left the Boots complex, saw the steepest climb on the course, albeit only a crossing over a bridge above a railway line.

Mile six was bad patch as, I’m regularly told by Brendan Foster on any televised distance race, everyone goes through. It was on the run towards the University that I began to flag. Out came the emergency gel, quickly consumed, and it was then I had a little saviour in the form of Coventry Godiva runner Scott Hazell, who passed me, but I was able to cling onto as we headed up the most significant climb on the course, up and literally through Nottingham University campus. It was over the top of the hill and back down the other side where we passed firstly through 10k – 35:36, somewhat scarily just one second slower than I ran the Summer Solstice in June – and then half way – which was around 37:50.

The trip through the campus is scenic but a little tough going as it mostly on dry gravel. Feeling like I was leaving my bad spell I clung onto Scott and ran alongside. We began to talk briefly, when Scott mentioned he was running the marathon and not the half. This took me by surprise – running this fast for 26.2 miles! He was hoping to run about 2:34, so when we spoke we were just outside his target. I decided the best thing to do, with other runners few and far between, to try and stick with him as best as possible, which I managed to do until the half and full marathon courses went their separate ways at around 11 1/2 miles.

At 7 miles that was some way in the future. After mile 6, the slowest of my race (5:54), the feeling that I had rallied was borne out in the mile splits – mile 7, through the campus, was 5:45, mile 8, back on the roads and not the pavement as we had done on University Boulevard in previous years, was 5:43 and mile 9 was 5:51 – but it did feature the last hill of the race, a longish drag up before plunging down to a roundabout and a trip back towards the city centre. It was here I appreciated the quietness of the totally closed roads in contrast to how they’ve been when I’ve visited frequently in previous months.

The tenth mile saw us briefly retread some of the roads we took in the opening miles of the race and it suddenly became evident that I was feeling much worse than fifty odd minutes ago. The legs were heavy, I began to feel shivery, with goose bumps appearing which I took to be a sign of dehydration. The warmth of the day which I’d done my best to ignore now became impossible to forget and it became not just a physical battle but a mental one – pushing body and mind to keep going when it wanted to slow and stop. This was Rotterdam revisited, but time running 30 seconds a mile quicker and closer to maximal pace and ability.

Despite the suffering it was clear I was still running well, 5:42 for the tenth mile, with 57:50 or so on the watch, I had come very close to matching my 10 mile PB. I was now really using the crowd to keep me going, finding it harder to maintain form in the occasional quiet pockets, trying my best to cling onto Mr Hazell. With some relief I passed 5:46 for mile 11 and it was more encouraging that the distance on my Garmin was more or less tallying with the mile markers on course – it had been spot on for the opening miles, lost its way a touch through half way but was now only around 0.1 mile too generous. This I meant I knew that the 5:43 on the average wouldn’t necessarily mean a big PB, but I was confident at least I could get one.

When we split with the marathon runners and onto the footpath beside the River Trent, initially I had the toughest bad spell of the race. A mile and three quarters suddenly seemed too far away. Fortunately the knowledge that I knew this stretch reasonably well from running a five mile race here a couple of months ago – albeit in the opposite direction – helped. Moreover I was catching a runner who was around 30 seconds up the road. I caught him at 12 miles, which was a 5:52 effort. Knowing I had just one mile to run definitely rejuvenated me – doubly so when we turned 180 degrees and ran back on the road towards the finish. We even had tree cover for part of the mile which helped mitigate the effects of the sun.

We turned left on to the grass and finishing chute a little earlier than anticipated and I began a long painful sprint for home. This section was longer than the past two years and it seemed to go on a long time. I didn’t look at my watch at the time but I went ran the thirteenth mile in 5:40 and I was running faster than that as I turned left 90 degrees and towards the finish line. I heard the PA announce my name to the crowd and there was a generous round of applause from the spectators. As I spotted the finish clock and saw it read 1:15:30 I knew the PB was mine and a sub 1:16 was on. I sprinted for all I was worth but at the same time breaking into something of an anguished smile.

I think I passed the finish line at around 1:15:50. I was made up. Then I stopped my watch and looked at the time – 1:15:31 – even better! I’d forgotten it had taken me a little time to cross the start line. I collected my finish medal and bag and happily took the finishing foil – usually a waste in warm conditions, but still feeling shivery, very welcome. I stopped for a moment’s reflection then left the finishing area and found a grassy bank to collapse and slowly recover. Around 15 minutes later I was recovered enough to take a small recovery jog.

I hung around to see my club mates at Kenilworth Runners and Grantham Running Club finish, culminating with travel partner Scott coming home in a new PB over the marathon. I had enjoyed standing at 25 1/2 miles cheering home the runners in the closing stages. It wasn’t long though before we were heading home. That evening came the official results and the great news that my official time was a couple of seconds quicker than I’d though – 1:15:29. That gave me a new age graded PR of 81.09% which topped a highly successful day.

Robin Hood Half Splits
Robin Hood Half Splits
Race Analysis
Race Analysis

Project Sub 1:16:47 Weeks 4-7 (Ish)

Week 4 was a mixed affair: intervals upset by a dodgy tummy; dizzy spells on a recovery run forcing an unplanned day off; a lovely run around Belton House and then some inconclusive Saturday morning intervals. The highlight was undoubtedly Sunday morning’s lap of Rutland Water (Not forgetting the all important Peninsula). In theory it was a club run, the reality was it all solo and very enjoyable – excellent running terrain and superb views. The lure of saving a couple of quid on the car parking meant I covered the 22.6 miles in dead on seven minutes per mile.

Week 5 saw a somewhat odd club hills session on the Tuesday where, with nigh on everyone racing on the Thursday night, the focus appeared to be on putting in as little effort as possible, which I managed with great efficiency save for the final rep when the lure of stretching the legs proved too great. The race on Thursday was the Club Handicap Ten KM, reported on elsewhere here. Fastest time on the night, but a bit slower than yesterday, plenty of questions over form. A stomach upset induced double short run on the Saturday was followed by a long Sunday run that was more pleasing than the handicap race – the Newton’s Fraction half course plus three miles – run at marathon pace plus 30s and feeling very comfortable.

Week 6 began with a long 10 mile recovery run with Minnett’s Hill thrown in, which is never easy even if you are taking it easy. Tueday’s pyramid session at the club threw up an alarm when the left foot flared up midway through the session. Thankfully some massage during and after the session cured the foot of its ills, a lesson learned, the injury curse of Dysart Park avoided. Thursday was meant to be a hard fast run but I felt fairly lethargic so I changed the plan – taking part and coming home first at Newark parkrun on the Saturday (Six seconds outside my course PB) as part of and 18 mile long run.

Week 7 to date has been another mixed bag – easy run on Monday followed by what felt like ridiculously slow club hills on the Tuesday which turned out when I uploaded the run to Strava to be comfortably the quickest I’ve run them. Hopefully there’s something to be said for feeling rubbish but running quickly. The supposed easy run on the Wednesday felt so easy it turned into something quite swift by the end. Then on Thursday when I’d hoped to put in a hard threshold run, I came down with a cough and sore throat which resigned the efforts to a gentle paced run with the club and a day off on the Friday and see what happens in terms of the weekend.

The half marathon a week and two days away, I’m hopeful of being in shape of getting that PB, I think it’s going to be closer than I’d like and I think we’ll have to see if I’m on a good day or a bad day. We shall see.


Coventry’s half marathon–Sunday 23rd March 2014

I was like a bear with a sore head for the day or two leading up to Coventry’s half marathon (Which for the remainder, where applicable, will be referred to as the Coventry Half Marathon, dropping the possessive apostrophe – which, bizarrely, was the theme for the finishing medal – and resurrecting the redundant capitalisation). My left leg is not a happy bunny, it has been prodded more often than a fussy five year old’s unloved dinner, and is not responding well to massage and stretching. As with most of my injuries  – I’m sure the origins lie somewhere in the back, and until the sweet spot is found, a cascade of soreness and tight bits proliferate. Three weeks or so ago I was looking at a near sure-fire HM PB; now I was unsure of whether I’d even finish. Miserable doesn’t even begin to describe my mental state. It’s ridiculous but the life of a running addict can literally swing from boom to despair on the tweak of a tendon.

Back when I was a Coventry resident, the Half Marathon was less than a mile from home. I revelled in being able to leave home around 10 minutes before the off, jog to the race start and be off racing minutes after arriving. Now living in Grantham and with the race kicking off at an ungodly 9am, it meant an early start and rushed preparations in order to get out of the house in time. This led to the biggest mistake of the day when I failed to notice the kids’ car seats were in the back of the car I was taking, which wasn’t much use for the wife who was set to drive them to a party in the other vehicle. The error only dawned on me as I hit the M69; luckily for me the venue for the birthday bash was within walking distance.

I parked up around two miles from the start to allow the warm up to be the run into race HQ. Trialling my new running rucksack for the first time, this was pleasingly comfortable. The left leg, in particular the thigh, was less so. But at least it was bearable. The pain was forgotten briefly as I passed my old home, looking exactly as I left it save for two To Let signs in the miniscule front garden, which were infinitely more aesthetically pleasing than the (presumably broken) Nescafe vending machine that took pride of place in the garden a few doors down. The house that always gave trouble had truly excelled itself with the most bizarre piece of house furniture they’ve ever left outside.

I reached race HQ just 35 minutes before the start, which is around an hour less than I usually allow. It was hence a fairly rushed affair changing, stretching, pit stopping, dropping baggage etc.. It was a shame that I bumped into some fellow Kenilworth Runners literally as we were about to head to the start line. Never the chattiest at the best of times before a race, there was little in the way of meaningful conversation other than the most basic of pleasantries. My mind was focused on the impending doom I felt certain was going to strike me somewhere down the road during the race. That was a great shame as I was really looking forward to meeting old friends again, and time and circumstances sadly conspired against us.

I got to the start line just four minutes before the scheduled depart. I spotted fellow Kenilworth Runner Connor Carson, who is the club’s leading runner based on WMA age grades. He talked down his expectations for the race; I should have known better for he ended up finishing with a one second PB and an agonising six seconds away from breaking 75 minutes. Still, another 84%+ WMA performance is something to be pretty proud of, one that I’d be willing to a fair few creature comforts for.

The first mile was a fairly quick affair, although the 5:36 opening mile my Garmin clocked up I reckon was a touch enthusiastic on its behalf as the mile marker came around 15 seconds further up the road. That opening mile saw me hang on to Connor’s coat tails and even pass him at one point, but that seemed to inspire him and he soon eased himself away into the distance.  I settled into as best a rhythm I could, trying my best to ignore the persistent ache in the upper thigh and a myriad of other weird pains in the left leg.

At around three miles I was in a group of four which I considered sticking with to take advantage of sheltering from the headwind. They weren’t however quite running fast enough so I pressed on. As we passed through Allesley and continued a protracted drag uphill, there was some impressive crowd support which spurred me on a little. The legs felt a touch heavy, no doubt from the heavy mileage, but I was moving reasonably swiftly. In the distance was the unmistakeable frame of local legend Garry Payne, who in his heyday won more road races than I’ve probably entered. Fifty seven years young, the man can still knock out a swift half marathon (He won the Coventry Half as recently as 2011), and I was particularly pleased to catch him, run with him for a mile or two before easing away at eight miles (I was even more chuffed when he came to congratulate me on my run at the end of the race – that was definitely a highlight).

Miles 5-8 were tough. Exposed and into a headwind as we tackled the greenbelt land near Corley, we climbed to the highest point of the race at eight miles. Thankfully I knew once we turned right onto the main road back into Coventry it was going to be as near as dammit all gently downhill to the finish, with the added bonus of being aided most of the way by a strong tail wind. With Garry dispatched it was now a lonely race, with just a couple of Godiva runners to try and chase down in the distance. All I had to spur me on was trying to reduce my average pace which, after the opening mile, had slowly slid to just outside six minutes per mile.

The average pace over the next five miles came down, but not by as much as I would have liked. The left thigh ached just enough for me not to be able to run flat out. This is shown in my heart rate which was pretty much on my marathon threshold and should have been a fair few beats higher during the closing stages of a half marathon. I battled on as best I could whilst not wanting to risk everything by overdoing it. The long downhill stretch was rudely interrupted by a slight rise at 11 miles then another in the final mile. At least the crowds were cheering in the final miles to will us to the finish, and the PA at the end was plenty loud enough to hear my name called out to the crowd as I came home in 14th position.

I knew I was outside my PB; 1:17:32 should be a pleasing result given the circumstances, but I left Coventry a little disappointed. Twisting my thoughts full circle I was then enthused that I should be disappointed with a 1:17, showing that my standards have risen in recent times. But ultimately I felt a bit flat.

Fearing my leg would stiffen and knowing I had a run back to the car and a journey in it to survive, I had my first second ever post race massage (I’ve just remembered I had one after my first ever half marathon, when I couldn’t walk for a week afterwards). God bless the numerous and very enthusiastic students of Coventry University, who gave their services for free, but I received, without a shadow of doubt, the most ineffective massage ever.  I was requested on several occasions to let them know if the pain of the massage became unbearable; at times I had to turn my head and see if they were actually touching my legs – for they felt nothing.

I jogged back to the car, running more slowly than on my warm up on a longer route, retracing parts of Coventry I ran most often as a resident. The leg didn’t feel too bad considering, I had to consume a Snickers on the way though, suffering from a bit of hunger knock as the cyclists call it. Back at the car I no doubt bemused the residents of a part of Hipswell Highway as I changed outside their house out of lycra and into regular clothes. From there it was onto Warwick and a chance to catch up with some more club mates, some of whom had taken part in the Warwick Half Marathon. I would have spent more time with them had I gone to the right pub in the first instance though…. Time flew by and before I knew it my two hours of gratis parking on the expensive streets of Warwick was up and my time to head home had come.

It was fun racing back in Coventry but the race there left me with no regret over leaving. The warm down especially had me wondering how I was able to train efficiently when I was stopping every mile or so to cross a road or be dodging errant pedestrians. There’s now less than three weeks until marathon day. A cure for the leg woes is urgently required….

Split Summary
1) 1m – 5:36(5:36/m) 151/164bpm 79cal
2) 1m – 5:49(5:49/m) 166/172bpm 95cal
3) 1m – 5:55(5:55/m) 167/171bpm 97cal
4) 1m – 5:55(5:55/m) 168/172bpm 97cal
5) 1m – 6:09(6:09/m) 168/171bpm 101cal
6) 1m – 6:13(6:13/m) 167/171bpm 102cal
7) 1m – 6:16(6:16/m) 168/171bpm 104cal
8) 1m – 6:18(6:18/m) 166/169bpm 104cal
9) 1m – 5:46(5:46/m) 165/167bpm 93cal
10) 1m – 5:41(5:41/m) 166/167bpm 92cal
11) 1m – 5:40(5:40/m) 165/167bpm 91cal
12) 1m – 5:41(5:41/m) 165/171bpm 90cal
13) 1m – 5:43(5:43/m) 165/169bpm 90cal
14) 0.18m – 51(4:46/m) 168/171bpm 13cal

Day 62- Race: Stamford 30k

After what feels like months of wet and windy weather I think the entire country rejoiced this morning when the day dawned bright, sunny, and minus most of the wind which has battered us relentlessly for the past few weeks. It would be a great day for distance training and a great day for road racing.

I woke at seven to prepare for the Stamford 30k, which has a very sociable start time of 11am. I watched some Winter Olympics for a bit before downing my morning coffee and consuming my now regular pre-race breakfast of three cheap and cheerful cereal muesli bars. I showered and changed and then changed again at the last minute based on a weather forecast posted on Facebook which suggested the wind during the race would not make things quite as warm as I’d first dressed for.

It’s a short journey down the A1 from Grantham to Stamford – I arrived just as GRC runners Andrew and Scott arrived; my Kenilworth Runners team mate Stuart Hopkins was already there and waiting in the hall. We’d raced here together last year – Stuart beating me to the tune of ten minutes as I clocked 2:04 on a difficult day made tougher by Sciatica and the dreaded tummy trouble.

After collecting my number and generally pfaffing around trying to change into my race kit, I headed out for a mile’s warm up with Stuart. We passed the group containing Folksworth 15 winner Aaron Scott, who I pointed out to Stuart as being the likely winner of today’s race. One slightly interesting point to note is that whilst Aaron likely ran an extra half mile or so in warm up, it was at a pace more sedate than our leisurely stroll. There is no point doing drills or strides in a long distance race it seems.

Back at base I queued at the paltry two Portaloos. After ten minutes or so of standing impatiently it was apparent the queue had barely diminished, so I jumped ship to find alternate facilities. Thankfully there was a set of toilets which also had a number of people waiting, but at least they were slowly moving. I made it out of the toilet with just five minutes to the start – cutting it a bit fine but ultimately near perfect timing.

I made my way to the front of the field and met up with Stuart. We’d agreed to start together but not commit to running the whole race together. Stuart was full of cold and had plenty of miles in his legs following some heavy weeks of racing. I, thanks to my injury in the last couple of weeks, was relatively fresh – effectively tapered for this training race. After a brief pre race instructional briefing – which amounted to look out for traffic – we were off.

I’d said to Stuart I’d planned to run the first mile in around 6:30. I’d set the virtual partner on the Garmin to run 6:17 (Sub 2:45) pace, but in reality I was looking at something around 6:07. At the very least I wanted the race to be run at marathon heart rate. I think I said to Stuart we’re going too fast seven or eight times in the first mile as the pace read significantly under six minute miling. We clocked that first mile in 5:53 and thereafter I stopped worrying about going too fast. The heart rate was fine and the legs felt fairly good, so I decided to go with the flow.

We ran the second mile in 5:50 and passed through 5k in around 18:20. It wasn’t too many kilometres after that, on one of the infinite drags on the course, that I eased passed Stuart and pulled clear. No words were said but it was clear Stuart was not having a great time. I thought briefly about easing up and waiting for him but decided to push on. Despite the undulations the pace was good, breaking 37 minutes for 10k.

Heading into the eighth mile there was a wake up call as we turned sharp left at Careby into a long drag and a fairly stiff breeze. It transpired that much of the opening miles of the race had been wind assisted. The long uphill drag seemed to last forever. My morale wasn’t helped much on the following descent when I was caught by a rapid runner. We chatted for a while and even traded places to around 10 miles before he eased ahead. I went through ten miles in just over 60 minutes and went through the hardest part of the race with what seemed like hill after hill after hill.

I took my second of three Powergels and by twelve miles began to feel more comfortable again. I worked on being relaxed and it seemed to work, bringing the splits back down closer to 6 minutes. It helped too passing the 20km marker, knowing that there was just 10km to go. I went through 13.1 miles in c. 1:19:00, which even with my exercise addled brain worked out at 2:38 pace for the marathon. This was way ahead of expectation and that spurred me on further.

A runner caught me at around 14 miles when I took my final gel. At 15 miles, when we turned right to retrace the route we took from the start in the opening kilometers, I caught a runner ahead of me. After tackling the hardest part of the race along  a narrow partially flooded road with a stiff climb which totally destroyed me last year, the runner I’d just passed caught me back and we ran together for a while, discussing marathon plans and the number of hills remaining in this race.

Until now the legs had felt great – the memories of the injuries of the past weeks just those. At 16 miles the right groin just began to ache a touch and the legs felt really tired and almost numb. It was then I looked at my legs and my arms and realised they were covered in goose bumps. They weren’t so much tired as really cold.

This realisation seemed to spur me on. It had looked as though the guy I was running with had the better of me up the penultimate drag but I seemed to up my level on the final rise and as we turned left into the housing estate – which was just about a mile from the finish – I seemed to find another gear from nowhere. I began to close on the runner who had passed me at 14 miles. I wasn’t to catch him but closed a gap that was around 30 seconds at one point down to something much less. The final whole mile all but matched the fastest mile of the race and I increased the tempo all the way to the finish.

The final bit of the Stamford race is a real killer. Once into the school they send you on a lap of the playing fields. Mercifully dry despite all the rain, it was nonetheless heavily rutted and a real trial to run on. I hadn’t looked at my overall running time since I past the Half Marathon stage. As I crossed the line I glanced at the finish clock and saw 1:52:38! This was a couple of minutes quicker than Stuart ran last year and 12 minutes faster than I ran twelve months ago. Moreover, aside from a couple of difficult patches it felt pretty comfortable – plus Rotterdam is going to be infinitely flatter than the course I raced on today.

Stuart came home five minutes later, complaining of persistent stitch and hacking his lungs up with a violent cough. The first Grantham runner – Andrew – came in at 2:13:51 and was followed not long after by Abi who put in a storming run to finish in 2:17. I  watched the rest of the Grantham runners come home, but made a reasonably swift exit – the cold breeze beginning to wreak havoc with the back.

All in all with the injuries of the previous weeks, the Stamford 30k went better than I could have hoped for and bodes well for Rotterdam. I just need to stay injury and illness free!

Me at Stamford – courtesy Paul Rushworth


1) 1m – 5:53(5:53/m) 154/162bpm 88cal
2) 1m – 5:50(5:50/m) 159/165bpm 92cal
3) 1m – 5:59(5:59/m) 161/169bpm 95cal
4) 1m – 5:50(5:50/m) 165/171bpm 95cal
5) 1m – 6:03(6:03/m) 166/175bpm 99cal
6) 1m – 6:03(6:03/m) 166/173bpm 99cal
7) 1m – 6:00(6:00/m) 163/168bpm 96cal
8) 1m – 6:29(6:29/m) 166/171bpm 105cal
9) 1m – 5:59(5:59/m) 162/169bpm 92cal
10) 1m – 6:12(6:12/m) 165/168bpm 100cal
11) 1m – 6:07(6:07/m) 165/169bpm 98cal
12) 1m – 6:04(6:04/m) 161/169bpm 86cal
13) 1m – 5:59(5:59/m) 161/168bpm 85cal
14) 1m – 6:02(6:02/m) 160/167bpm 84cal
15) 1m – 6:01(6:01/m) 163/167bpm 89cal
16) 1m – 5:59(5:59/m) 163/170bpm 88cal
17) 1m – 6:15(6:15/m) 166/170bpm 98cal
18) 1m – 5:50(5:50/m) 168/177bpm 89cal
19) 0.73m – 4:05(5:36/m) 169/175bpm 66cal