Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Oh, what a night! Striders smash records in the marathon relay

Coach Mike Jubb had a dream of the club coming together to smash the marathon world records, and last night thanks to our speedy runners, super organisers and enthusiastic supporters, it came true!

Inspired by Nike's bid to get a man to run a sub two hour marathon, Striders joined forces with St Albans AC to beat them to it by forming a relay made up of runners who could do a sub 66 second lap.

Meanwhile, the women teamed up to have a crack at Paula Radcliffe's incredible world record time of 2 hours 15 minutes and 25 seconds, which would involve running 400m splits of sub 77 seconds.

As we love to be an inclusive club, we didn't want those who couldn't quite hit the pace to miss out, so we also included some 200m legs.

Proceedings got under way at the track at Westminster Lodge at 6.45pm with the young AC athletes stepping up first to show us how it is done with their impressive turn of speed.

Under the glare of the floodlights, pumping music played, Jez Cox took to the mic to give some expert commentary, and our statisticians worked their socks off to keep up with the hand overs and record the times.

By half way, the men were well-inside the two hour target but the women were told they were four minutes down on Paula's time. A quick recalculation established it was in fact a four minute lead!

The rain started to fall but it didn't dampen the spirits of our supporters on the home and back straights, who stayed all night to cheer on the runners and add to the exciting atmosphere.

The support also came in on Twitter with Paula Radcliffe herself liking a tweet about the women's efforts, while celebrity marathon runner Nell McAndrew and the Marathon Talk podcast urged us on, along with other runners following our progress online.

As we approached the last quarter of the challenge, technology started to fail. Laptops lost power and the clock stopped working, forcing us to rely on good old stopwatches and pen and paper.

But the energy of the runners and supporters didn't wane and the baton exchanges continued (almost) seamlessly.

Our runners were leaving it all out on the track with most crossing the line gasping for breath and some clutching hamstrings as they gave their all. Many ran multiple laps despite the build up of lactic in aching muscles.

As the men continued to speed down the home straight, we entered the last few laps and it was clear we were going to smash the two hour mark – as long as nobody now dropped the baton! 

Cross country captain Cathal Gallagher took the baton as the bell rang for the last leg, handing over to chairman Graham Smith to bring the team home for the last 200m in 1 hour 51 minutes and 56 seconds. Two hour marathon? Smashed it!

Meanwhile, it was getting closer to the wire for the women's team who had lost their lead on Paula's time and were now in danger of finishing outside her record.

With a quick re-organisation of the running order to switch to 200m legs rather than 400m, there was hope we could still do it.

Supported by the men's team who cheered the women on like it was an Olympic final along the back straight, by the last lap the record was back within reach.


Laura Hicks took the baton for the final 200m, after doing a number of previous legs, to bring the team home in 2 hours 14 minutes and 39 seconds. A triumph!

The records were both achieved despite doubts in the build up that it could be done, proving the difference teamwork can make – and just how fast those elite runners go over 26.2 miles.

There has been fantastic feedback from runners and spectators with everyone saying how much they enjoyed it and how proud they feel to be part of Striders.

While the runners did their bit, it couldn't have been done without the organisers so thank you Lucy High for her great work organising the women's team, with Gillian Jubb for the AC, and Clair Drage, Jen Conway, Laura Hicks, Sallyann Cox and others for rallying around to help with timing.

Thanks to the legend that is Mike Jubb, who organised the men's relay so professionally (he could do this for a living), and our chair Graham Smith for overseeing the whole event from start to finish.

Thanks also go to Andy Normile, Bernadette Newby and Philippa Walton for keeping us warm with a steady supply of hot tea, Chris Barr and Matthew Childs for their photography,  Deborah Steer, Peter Poulain and all the girls and boys from AC that gave us such a great start to the evening with some incredible lap times, Cathal Gallagher for organising the gazebo and race clock, Jez Cox for his superb commentary that kept spirits high and Will and Dan at 1Life for supporting our endeavour by letting us stay on the track beyond nine... we didn't need to!

Not only was the event a chance to bring the whole club together, thanks to the efforts of Si Fraser and Laura Hussey we were also able to support some local causes with collections for the St Albans Foodbank and Herts for Refugees – thanks to all who contributed.

Thanks also to everyone who came along to cheer and support - the atmosphere was amazing.

And finally, thanks to all who ran - around 150 of us in the end - together beating both our relay targets. If you enjoyed speeding round the track then don't forget there are opportunities to compete for Striders over the summer in the Southern Athletics League and Southern Masters League.

The evening highlighted what a great club we have - Nike may one day help an athlete run a sub two hour marathon, but they won't beat our team spirit!

It is perhaps best summed up by Binh Tang on our Facebook page: "I love how it started as a flip comment, turned into a joke/dare, then actually materialised into a Striders Classic, truly inspirational."

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Drum roll please... the results of our members survey revealed

In September last year, members of the club were invited to complete a short online survey. Over 100 responses were received and we would like to thank everyone who participated, your feedback will help to direct the club activities over the coming year.

The survey responses were reviewed by the Committee prior to the AGM in November and a number of action points agreed.

Here are the survey questions with a summary of the responses we received, and how we'll use this information...

Q1. How important are the following benefits of being a Strider to you? Please rank each element between 1 (not at all important) to 5 (very important).

This top level information will be used to help us to prioritise our efforts across the various aspects of the club. It was clear that all the listed benefits were important to most of the respondents, with most importance given to the structured environment of training nights and least overall importance given to the reduced race entry price that EA affiliation offers.

1 Not at all important
2 3 4 5 Very important
Meeting new people, making friends and social events 3% 17% 26% 27% 27%
It's easy to find people to run with at a similar pace 2% 7% 13% 36% 42%
Training nights provide a structured environment in which to push myself 3% 3% 7% 37% 50%
Reduced price race entry through club/EA affiliation 20% 25% 23% 18% 13%
It provides opportunities to take part in league races 11% 13% 22% 31% 23%
Obtaining tips and guidance on training, injury prevention, nutrition etc 7% 7% 25% 36% 24%

It was also clear that safety of running with others was an important factor for several respondents.

Q2. Do you think Striders membership offers good value for money?

No strong opinion

It was clear that respondents overwhelmingly felt that the club represents good value for money. The Committee will aim to continue delivering a good-value running club for members, including a reduced membership rate for those who volunteer at our events. Comments included...

'Use of the track is invaluable. Please keep its hire included in membership fees!'

'It is excellent value for money. I suspect that we could charge more.'

'Exceptionally! I am very lucky to be part of a well organised professional club.'

Q3. Do you have feedback on how club funds should be spent?

Feedback received suggested that members felt club funds were spent appropriately. Suggestions and subsequent action points are listed below.
  • Gazebo: The Committee will purchase a gazebo in the new Striders branding to be used at races and Strider events.
  • Updating the Striders website: The Committee will be working to deliver a new website over the coming year.
  • Creating a team atmosphere: Social events and coach trips will continue to be offered to members.
  • Training more Run Leaders: We would like to include a list of qualified Run Leaders on our updated website. If you would like to undertake Run Leader training, please speak to a member of the Committee.
  • Branded Run Leader items: The Committee will purchase a number of high-viz Run Leader vests to help identification.
Q4. Do you think new and prospective members receive sufficient support and welcome?

No strong opinion

We received positive comments on both general new members and the Run with Striders course with some as follows...

'Whoever does the announcements always calls out a welcome to new members, and we tend to be quite a friendly bunch who can chat to new people and welcome them.'

'Excellent experience in the Run with Striders this year.'

Suggestions and action points are listed below.
  • Monthly new members' night / run: Prospective members are encouraged to come along for the first time on the first Tuesday of each month. The Committee will aim to ensure Tea Night is always held on the first Tuesday of each month – to ensure the 'New Members' Nights' are as effective as possible.
  • Buddying new members: The Committee will contact those members who have suggested they are happy to help with buddying new members.
  • Website: Our new website will have better information for prospective members, as well as a members' area.
  • More support and training plans for new members: As the club does not have the resources to provide individual training plans, our updated website will have a section with links to training and advice (e.g. Runner's World), alongside details for recommended local coaches/personal trainers if new members would like more support with their training.
Q5. Do you have any comments or suggestions about our regular training session?

'Just to say a big thank you to those who take the time to plan and lead the sessions.'

'The right mix of structure and do-it-yourself.'

Suggestions and actions as follows...
  • Advertised training schedule: The upcoming track sessions will continue to be advertised via our website. We will aim to offer a similar schedule for other regular training options in the future.
  • Thursday training options: A number of members suggested more structured hills and interval options on a Thursday night. As our Club is completely volunteer-run, please let the Committee know if you would like to be part of a Thursday night rota.
  • Identifying the Run Leader: the Committee will purchase a number of high-viz Run Leader vests to help identification, and will investigate signage (e.g. 7-minute pace group).
  • Midweek Daytime Sessions: The Committee will not be able to arrange midweek sessions in the near future. However, if you are willing to arrange a regular daytime run for members, the Committee would be happy to support you to advertise this.
  • Inclusiveness of training sessions: All interval sessions (e.g. track, 1km reps, hill sessions) offered to members during announcements at our regular training nights are open to all. For longer runs, the pace and length will be advertised to help members chose the appropriate group.
Q6. Do you have any suggestions for the 2016/17 Club Championships?

Thank you to all who responded with suggestions for next year’s Club Championships. The full schedule of 2016/17 Club Championship events can be viewed here.

Q7. In particular, we would like to include another coach trip in next year's Club Championships. Do you have any suggestions?

Several people proposed the Great South Run and it has been decided that this will be next year’s coach trip and form part of the Club Championships.

Q8. Do you have any suggestions for social events next year, including the annual weekend away?

Suggestions for future social events included:
  • Annual Weekend Away: Incorporating a race, staying at an upmarket hotel and increasing the number of available spaces. Suggested locations included Suffolk, rural Wales, the Peak District and the New Forest. In addition there were suggestions for walking Lands’ End to John O’Groats, and completing the 'Three Peaks' challenge. Plans are underway for this year's weekend away which will be in May.
  • Summer Picnic/BBQ
  • Pub Crawls
  • Beer Mile
  • Singles Night
  • Karaoke Night
Q9. Do you have any other suggestions related to the club (e.g. kit items, host races, league membership etc)?

There was positive feedback on the branded kit, league race opportunities and Striders host race events. Suggestions included:
  • Host Races: Continue with current races and provide more notice about dates of events.
  • Activities/Presentations: Hold information sessions and presentations. The Committee will notify members about such events being held in the local area and continue to offer occasional events when there is sufficient interest.
  • Head Torches: While it is not viable to maintain a stock of head torches for evening sessions, all Run Leaders will be provided with a head torch if they do not have one.
  • Kit: Suggestions included branded racing tops, woollen hats, caps, buffs, blue shorts and waterproof fleece jackets.
  • Email Mailing List: Some members cited issues with email communications. Following significant work by Deirdre, our membership secretary, and Hannah, our webmaster, the old mailing list has now been retired and a cleaned and updated one has been in use since October.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Record runs, coach trip fun and a new host race: Striders review of the year 2016

It's been another successful year for Striders and as 2016 comes to a close, here's a look back at what we have achieved over the past 12 months...



There was a fantastic team effort in the spring and summer to once again win the MWRRL overall, with our women's senior and our women's vets team also taking first place.

Individually prizes were won by Paul Adams finishing 1st in the open men's category and Wendy Walsh finishing 2nd in the women's V45.
A huge turn out at the MWRRL helped us become the champions again!


More members continued to embrace the fun of hitting the mud contributing to our successful team effort...

Chiltern League 2015/16

Men's team - 5th
Women - 4th
Vet Men - 7th
Vet Women - 1st

Notable individual performances from:
Paul Adams - 4th senior men
Graham Foster - 2nd V50
Wendy Walsh - 1st V45
Liz Walls - 4th V55
Cross country kings and queens

Sunday League 2015/16

Men's A team - 5th
Women's A team - 10th
Masters Men - 10th
Masters Women - 10th

Notable individual performances from:
Wendy Walsh - 1st V45
Colin Braybrook - 4th V50

Other Notable Team Performances Over The Year

The bowls won by the women's team at the Bedford Half
Our Senior Ladies team of Lucy Waterlow, Wendy Walsh and Gill Pease got silver medals at the Stevenage 3K Road Relays. A great achievement to beat all bar one of the other 47 teams.

Lucy Waterlow, Wendy Walsh and Claire Kremer were 14th out of 195 teams in the Vitality London 10k in May.

At the end of the year, Deirdre Heydecker, Caroline Bailes and Fleur Harvey-Keenan were the first women's team at the Bedford Half and won some fetching bowls for their efforts! Deirdre was also the first V50 in the race with her time of 1.40.

Meanwhile at the Festive 5, Wendy Walsh, Helen Cartlidge and Claire Kremer won the women's team prize in a race that was dominated by Striders, with Tom Crouch winning overall.

Other Notable Individual Performances

Selected to represent Hertfordshire in the last year over cross country and track were Wendy Webster, Lucy Waterlow, Megan Steer, Tom Crouch and Paul Adams.

Blake Vivian represented GB in the European Vets Half Marathon championships in Portugal.

Paul Adams won the St Albans Half in an outstanding 73:08. Sadly for Paul this was a terrible day at the office, almost 4 minutes slower than his 2009 Club Record of 68.50.
Tom Crouch and Paul Adams have run some impressive races this year

Anna Buckingham finished joint 1st woman in the 268 mile Montana Spine Race traversing the entire Pennine Way in 166 hours and 38 mins. Remarkably Anna also set the Club record for 100m on the track in 2016. True versatility!

On the Club champs front – dear Lizzie Barber achieved an outstanding age graded score of 89.02% in the Welwyn mob match 10k (50 mins and 29 seconds at the age of 70!) We all wish her all the best for a speedy recovery.

Laura Hicks (2nd claim) – wowed us all by in becoming the Queen of the Stampede, the outright solo winner of the St Albans Stampede in 17 laps; 68 miles to you and me!

Steve Buckle, Gary Warren, Pete Crowdell, Nick Pattison – set a team course record in the Stampede with 29 laps; a total distance of 116 miles!


It was another competitive year for the Club Champs with 350 members taking part. After a closely fought battle, the age graded winners were Deirdre Heydecker and Graham Foster and the overall winners Amy Tanner and Jim King. Read a full report on the champs here.


A number have been set this year on the track as we have taken part in the Southern Athletics League and Southern Counties Masters League.
James McMurray set a fantastic 10k club record

It is worth pointing out that competing on the track is a good way to gain a club record and you can view the existing records here, to see if there are any that you think you might be able to beat.

A couple on the track worth singling out are Tom Crouch - 15.21 for 5k and then 31.52 over 10k which he achieved when taking part in the 'Night of the pbs' which was the 10k trial for the Rio Olympics.

Other new record holders this year across the age categories were: Martin Whitworth, Paul Adams, John Ockenden, Marc Phillips, Roger Attard, Anna Buckingham, Deborah Steer and Lucy Waterlow.

On the road, James McMurray set an amazing 10K record of 30.39 in Hyde Park, which I think will be hard to beat unless he gets a pb himself!

Congratulations to all!


Summer Solstice

We got the new race off the ground in record time; the inaugural Summer Solstice attracted 178 runners, achieved really positive feedback and made a small profit, which, for the first year of any event was an unexpected pleasure. Andy N had the brainwave of making this the end of course target for the RWS runners and this worked really well and gave an added feel-good factor to the night for those of us putting on the event.

Particular thanks to Wendy Webster, Steve Alexander, Martin Halling, Peter Blackaller, Tina Tremaine and Andy Normile for all their efforts.

Fred Hughes

2016 was the last year for Mandy Attree and Lucy Stern as our fantastic race directors. They did such a strong job of hosting our flagship race which is a huge responsibility as at the end of the day, it is our biggest source of income.

736 runners took part in 2016 and the race received its customary accolades for great organisation and fantastically enthusiastic marshalling.


Ben Scott and Amy Heap worked really hard on the second renewal of the St Albans Stampede and it was great to see it reach its target of 180 runners in year two. The event had a fantastic atmosphere and if you haven’t been along to run or help out yet, I urge you to do so because it epitomises all that is great about St Albans Striders. With the help of a whole army of support, Ben and Amy put on a brilliantly well run event with tremendous atmosphere and the race is something that we should all be truly proud of.


Striders Weekend Away
Following the steady start in 2015, the 2016 weekend away hit the ground running and all places were sold out within 24 hours of release! 38 of us had a brilliant weekend away in the New Forest, with varying amounts of running, cycling, cake eating and drinking.
Our 2nd weekend away to the New Forest was enjoyed by all

Now firmly part of Striders programme, the weekend away will be going ahead again in 2017, venue to be announced.

Thanks so much to Jen Conway who put her heart and soul into the organisation, even providing food for everyone as we arrived on the Friday evening, assisted by Graham Smith.

You can read about the weekend away here.

Striders Coach Trip

34 of us headed to the Great Birmingham Run (formerly the Birmingham Half) in October and had a truly memorable day out.

The coach trip has established itself as part of the Striders annual calendar now and the plan for 2017 is to go to the Great South Run over the slightly shorter distance of 10 miles, which will hopefully encourage even more members to come along and join in the fun.

Annual Dinner

There may have been a few sore heads the nest day but a fun time was had by all at our 2016 Annual Dinner, held at Luton Hoo's Walled Garden.
We ate, drank, danced and handed out awards at another fun Annual Dinner

We ate, drank and danced whilst celebrating the achievements of members by awarding prizes to the athletes and volunteers of the year, as well as voting new members into the Hall Of Fame. For a full list of winners, click here, and check out pictures from the night here.

Thank you to Emma Halldearn and other members of the committee for organising such a fun evening.


A huge thank you to our outgoing committee members for their hard work and dedication to the club over the terms of their office.

  • Jen Conway as Deputy
  • Si Fraser our Men's Road Captain
  • Graham Smith as Club Champs Manager and Mens XC Captain (even though he’s just taken on more!)
  • Shona Davis, Claire Stephen and Colin Braybrook for their diligent race reporting on the publicity side
  • Mandy Attree and Lucy Stern, our fabulous Fred Hughes Race Directors who really gave their all in taking our great race to new levels
  • Our hostess with the mostest Tina Tremaine for her legendary race catering and tea nights.
And not forgetting Stuart Middleton who has stepped down as Chairman (but will carry on as Deputy) after three years in office. During his time at the helm, Stuart has worked tirelessly to develop the club and help make it the friendly and successful place it is today. Over the past three years with the help of the committee he has introduced...

Thank you Stu for all your hard work and enthusiasm as Chair

  • New members' nights 
  • The weekend away
  • Coach trip to a race
  • Setting up new races St Albans Stampede and the Summer Solstice 10k
  • Turning the Annual Dinner into the social event of the year
  • And of course our stylish new vests which have become the envy of other clubs!
As highlighted above, Stu's time as Chair has seen the club achieve success in road and cross country events. On top of the club’s racing profile, there has been a real emphasis on enjoyment and social occasions - and strong importance has been placed on inclusion and participation, making Striders a club that we can all be really proud to be part of.

An email from an anonymous member following this year's weekend away sums up Stu's time:

'I've been a member of the club for just over 2 years and have experienced nothing but friendliness, encouragement and a positive humour from all members led from the top. I want to thank you for taking the time to run a club that doesn’t just cater for the elite runners but encourages those of us that are maybe lacking in confidence. You and the rest of the committee should be very proud of all you give to ensure that it is a club for everyone.'

Merry Christmas to all Striders and here's to happy PB-filled 2017 - we have lots planned including the marathon relay, third weekend away and the development of a snazzy, new website, so watch this space!

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

A review of the closely fought Club Champs 2015-16

Another Club Champs competition has come to an end, and what a close fought battle it was!
We’ve had 168 men and 138 women scoring in the Champs - with 350 members that’s virtually the whole club.
The Club Champs provides lots of opportunities to race together, like at this year's Festive 5
I just want to briefly remind us why we have the Champs at all. Yes, it recognises achievement, but as much as that, it also acts as a great backbone for the whole year of running, encourages participation, and gives us lots of chances to race together. What better advert for the club than to see a mass of yellow and blue at the start of one of our hand-picked races?
I should also mention everyone that gives their time for marshalling and other types of support that are so essential to run our events as successfully as we do, which is why volunteering points are integral to the Club Champs.
Graham Smith revealed the winners of the 2015-16 competition at the Annual Dinner
Over the year we’ve done very well, as Stuart highlighted at the AGM. We came away as the overall winners at the Mid Week League again, and won team awards at several of the Club Champs road races including the Festive 5, Fred Hughes 10 and the Hatfield 5k.
A couple of totally useless statistics: Between us all we did 1,147 Club Champs races over the year. This equates to 7,443 miles. Which incidentally is the target for next year’s Stampede course record.
This is now the third year we’ve run an age-graded competition alongside the main Club Champs. Seven of the Club Champs races counted towards this and anyone who did at least three of them was eligible for the competition.
Everyone is graded as a percentage against the best in the world for their age, and the winner is the man or woman with the highest average across their best three races.
Deirdre Heydecker won the women's age-graded competition for the third year running
In 1st place this year, unbeaten for the third year running, with an impressive average age graded score of 82.25% for her times in Fred Hughes, the Mid Week Mob Match and the Great Birmingham Run, Deirdre Heydecker. 
In 2nd place was Wendy Walsh, and 3rd place Zoe Lowe.
It would be remiss not to mention the amazing effort of Lizzie Barber, who at the age of 70, ran in the Mid Week Mob Match in a time of 50:29 to get the highest ever age graded score we’ve had of 89%.
And now on to the men. 31 men ran at least three qualifying races, and a special mention here to Seb Rowe who was the only one to run all seven. 
In 3rd place was Colin Braybrook, in 2nd place, Steve Buckle, and in 1st place, again for the third year running, with another impressive average score of 82.23% for the Festive 5, the Berkhamsted Half Marathon and the Hatfield 5k, Graham Foster.
Again, I’ll start with the ladies. For the first half of the year we had a dominant lead from a cross country loving Charlotte Holloway, before she decided to give everyone else a chance by taking a break to have a baby.
This opened up the way for a number of contenders. Caroline Skyrme and Clair Drage weren’t far behind, with an emerging Wendy Walsh pulling up behind.
Come the end of the Mid Weeks and Clair, Wendy and Donna Irwin were all looking good. But when it came to the crunch and the final furlong, a victor emerged.
The winner– putting in a late surge for the top spot, with a total of 473 points – your 2015-2016 St Albans Striders women’s champion is Amy Tanner.
The women's champion was Amy Tanner, with runners-up Wendy Walsh and Clair Drage
In second position, with 436 points, congratulations to Wendy Walsh.  
And in 3rd position, with 433 points, well done Clair Drage.
On to the men. Paul Adams took the early lead with a dominant performance at the Festive 5, closely followed over the cross country season by Colin Braybrook and Graham Foster.
But then we witnessed a phenomenon - the rise of the Runsketteers, the legendary band of have-a-go heroes. By March, Seb Rowe found himself in second place, with Gareth Beavis close behind.
Jim King was the male champ, with Seb Rowe second and Graham Foster third
Strong turnouts at the races over the summer and Autumn meant the competition stayed fierce, but with one clear leader emerging.
The 2015-2016 St Albans Striders men’s champion – with a commanding 471 points - is Jim King.  
With 406 points, second place this year goes to Seb Rowe.  
And in 3rd place – with 398 points – it’s Graham Foster.
All that remains is for me to say well done again to all our winners, and also everyone that took part in the club champs this year. I hope you enjoyed it, whether you realised you were taking part or not!
The new Club Champs year is already underway so get involved as it could be you winning the prizes for 2016-17! Full details and the race calendar can be found on the website.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

On the comeback trail! Jethro's running journey and 2017 targets

Jethro Offemaria, 26, who has been a member of St Albans Striders since August 2016 shares his story and his running targets for 2017...

Wearing my Striders vest with pride
I took up running in 2007 at the age of 17 during my time at Grateley House, a specialist school for people like me with Asperger's Syndrome and other associated conditions. I took part in the Salisbury Journal Mini-Marathon and went on to finish the adults and parents' race. After the race it was inspiring to meet Sydney 2000 Olympian Katharine Merry and the then Salisbury football coach and member of the 1976 Southampton FA Cup winning team, Nick Holmes.

A year later in 2008, I ran the St Albans 10K and finished in what was then a PB of 1:07:04. I was delighted as it was the first 10K run of my life. A few months later, I did a ten miler in Welwyn Garden City but I got my only DNF as I had to stop after four miles due to glute pain.

A few weeks later, I participated in the 2008 Great South Run in aid of Marie Curie and ran my 10 mile PB of 1:56:16. Prior to the race, I even had a chance to meet Cavegirl and Mile High actress Stacey Cadman and Olympic runner Paula Radcliffe who was taking part in the elite race!

In 2009, I set myself the hard challenge of running a half marathon by entering the Great North Run. I went on to finish in 2:55:01 and raised £800 for the National Autistic Society, who do lots of good work to help people with autism like me.

Taking part in the St Albans 10K
Then in 2010, I got a 10km PB in the Hertford Charity 10K with a time of 01:01:59. I was delighted I was able to finish this race by running continuously without having to stop and walk. In the same year, I also took part in the St Albans Half Marathon and broke my 2009 Great North Run PB by more than 11 minutes, finishing in 2:43:59 which I was happy with.

I then had to go into hospital so before I was admitted, I ran the 2010 Great South Run in aid of the Stroke Association, in memory of my late Grandad Max who passed away from a stroke in 2009. I finished in 1:58:42.
Finishing the Great South Run

After leaving hospital, I wanted to start running again and do some more races for charity. I joined St Albans Striders as I wanted to lose weight, make new friends and train hard in preparation for the Great South 5K and other 10K races. 

Training has been steady so far and I have set myself the goal to run the following races in 2017...
  • Vitality London 10km (29 May)
  • Great Newham Run (02 July)
  • Supersonic 10km (07 October)
  • Great South 5km Run (21 October)
In all of these races, I will raise funds for the National Autistic Society - plus race for the Striders!
If you would like to sponsor me, please visit my Just Giving page

Thanks for reading and I will do my best!


Friday, 7 October 2016

Hills, heat and following in the footsteps of a brave Canadian amputee: Jack Brooks' June to September 16 race highlights

Running with Striders during Leila's Run, one of my race highlights of the summer

Whittington Charity Challenge Trail Marathon: 16th July 2016: This was a four lap trail marathon near Lichfield, which was organised by my friends Bill and Pauline Howes. The route was undulating and by the fourth lap the hills were hurting.

It was also extremely humid throughout the day, which made for somewhat difficult running conditions. However, it was an ideal event for me as it enabled me to gauge how my post injury recovery was coming along and I knew that if I felt bad at any time I could always drop out at the end of a lap.

As it was I felt fine throughout, although by 18 miles my legs were feeling very tired. Given that I was not back to full fitness I was happy with my finish time of 5:14:51.

Summer Around the Reservoir Trail Marathon: 24th July 2016: The usual course for this marathon comprises six laps around Brackmills Reservoir in Northampton with around half the route running along a tarmac cycle path and the remainder along a mixture of grassed footpath and stony track.

Unfortunately, shortly before the race date the Environment Agency closed off part of the route for flood prevention works and the course had to be changed to eight out and back laps along the side of the reservoir opposite the tarmac cycle track.

The temperature at the start of the race was around 20 degrees and increased to around 25 degrees by the finish. There was no shade and everybody appeared to be suffering in the heat. I finished in 5:25:57 and was exceptionally grateful that my car had air conditioning as I drove home. I had just about cooled down by the time I made it back to St Albans.
An enjoyable day out at the Darnley Challenge

Darnley Challenge Trail Marathon, Kent: 13th August 2016: This event was a two lap off-road marathon using the Gravesend Cyclopark as the race venue. The route was much more picturesque than I’d anticipated passing as it did through Jeskyns Woodland, The Darnley Estate and Ranscombe Wildflower Reserve.

The route was unmarked and unmarshalled so we had to rely on a written route description. Fortunately this had been meticulously prepared ensuring that it would be extremely difficult to get lost.

There was about 1,500ft of ascent and a few paths were somewhat uneven and difficult to run on, but overall I had a really enjoyable day out and finished in 5:30:55.

Leila’s Run Trail Marathon: 21st August 2016: This local race starting in Wheathampstead provided runners with the options of running one, two, three or four laps. I opted for four, but there were quite a lot of Striders running the three lap option. I ran with Gladstone, Katie, Carol, Mandy and Howard for a few miles, but they were running at a faster pace than I was comfortable with and soon departed off ahead of me.

It was great to see a number of club members out and about around Heartwood Forest while we were running, amongst whom were Andrew Maher, Pete Blackaller, Graham Smith, Sheryl Norman and Colin Braybrook. I thoroughly enjoyed the event and finished in 5:18:50.
With Dave King after Leila's Run wearing our unusual medals

Heart of America Marathon, Columbia, Missouri: 5th August 2016:
Tom Detore, a running friend who I’ve known for around 20 years, invited me and Roger Biggs from Stevenage to stay with him for a week. This marathon is one of Tom’s favourites as well as being his hometown marathon. What he failed to tell us was that for many years it was classified as the hardest non-mountain road marathon in the USA!

We could tell as soon as we arrived in St Louis airport that we’d be in for a hot race and the conditions on Labor Day Monday as we lined up at the race start did not disappoint. By the time we reached the last six mile stretch the temperature had risen to around 90 degrees, the humidity was crushing and we had run out of shade. I crossed the line in 5:00:03 and was mighty happy to find a shaded area where I could sit until Tom and Roger finished.

This was probably the toughest marathon I have run in the States since Mount Rushmore marathon in 2005, and I was a lot younger and fitter when I ran that.
Roger and I with Tom at his favourite Heart Of America Marathon - he hadn't warned us how tough it would be!

Queen City Marathon, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada: 11th September 2016: We flew into Regina airport on the Friday and met up with our friends Rich and Jeanne Holmes from North Carolina. Our flights were via Chicago and Calgary. The flight from Chicago was an hour late and we passed through immigration fairly quickly. After that everything went pear shaped. We had to pick up our bags, but the airport advised that these were being unloaded on a different carousel to the one they were actually unloaded on.

After a long delay we managed to locate the bags, but then were told we had to recheck them in at the Air Canada desk, which was two floors above and a fair distance away. We rechecked our two bags within 15 seconds of each other, but only one bag arrived in Regina. Apparently the other one “had been checked in too late”. It was delivered to our hotel around 1.30am that night.

Moving on, race registration went smoothly and the predicted rain and cold winds failed to materialise on race day. I had looked up the course description for a different Queen City Marathon and so was delighted as the race progressed to find that (whilst the altitude was around 1,900 feet) the whole route was on well surfaced relatively flat roads and paths rather than the compacted gravel hilly course that I’d been anticipating.

I was still unsure about how much fitness I’d regained since I’ve been back running and decided to start with the five hour pace group and see how things went. It soon became evident that I was able to go faster and I spent much of the first five miles weaving between large groups of slower runners until I found space to run at my own speed.

The race had drink stations virtually every mile and gels were being handed out as well at some of these. Apparently they had one volunteer for each six competitors (impressive).

I went through half way in 2 hours 8 minutes, but flagged a bit in the second half eventually finishing in 4:31:23. I was more than happy with that result as it was my fastest finish since before my knee injury.

Maritime Marathon, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada: 17th September 2016: Apart from a mix up over seating Air Canada got us to Halifax via Toronto late on the Tuesday without too much upset and the bus from the airport to our hotel location was reasonably inexpensive.

We then had a few days in which to chill, wash clothes, sight-see etc before the 5k evening race on Friday the 16th. That race started at 7pm and I ran most of it at a very relaxed pace talking to a guy called Earl who had relatives in Hertfordshire and had seen St Albans on my race vest.

I’d started towards the back with the intention of having an easy run and with around 2,500 runners there was little scope for fast times anyway. Having failed to start my stop watch I discovered later that my time was 30:23. There was a spectacular fireworks display after the 5k, which meant that we got back to our hotel quite late on the Friday evening.

The next morning we had to catch a bus at 6am back to the marathon race start at Fisherman’s Cove (just by the Eastern Passage). I had no preconceptions about what the course would be like, but it turned out to be hilly and, with few roads closed, somewhat dangerous in places (especially in the second half, where those of us running the marathon frequently had to step off the road onto a rough and uneven sidewalk in order to avoid oncoming cars).

I ran the last 7k with a guy called Marian, who is the only person I’ve ever met who shares John Wayne’s Christian name.

My schoolboy error for this race was forgetting to switch off my stop watch. However, my published chip finish time was 4:53:28, which placed me 2nd out of 8 in the 60/69 age group. Whilst the sea views were beautiful in places for this race I was disappointed that traffic safety was such a problem for the last 12k and also that the only distance markers were every 5K.

HuffinPuffin Marathon, St John’s, Newfoundland, Canada: 25th September 2016: I was injured last year, but had already booked the trip and so I walked the half marathon. What I remembered from this course was that it was undulating and that there was one particularly vicious hill that we’d have to run up twice in the marathon.

A memorial to Terry Fox, an amputee who tried to run across Canada after losing his leg to cancer
When we went to check out the location of the Terry Fox memorial I realised why the route goes up this hill. Terry Fox was an amputee who set off to run across Canada to raise money for cancer charities after losing a leg to cancer. He never completed the full distance, but his gallant attempt inspired the nation and the fund he set up has raised millions of dollars for charity since he founded it. The memorial is by the harbour in the spot where Terry dipped his foot into the ocean at the start of his epic run and is also at the base of the really nasty hill. This once I can forgive the Race Director for designing the course to follow this particular route.

On our way to view the memorial someone shouted at us and we realised that it was two other runners from Fairlands Valley Spartans who had also come over for the race. It was cold on race day, but thankfully the rain held off and I finished the two laps in 4:30:05.
The course of the HuffinPuffin Marathon takes in a route run by Terry Fox in a fitting tribute to him
It was a bonus after the race to meet up with a bunch of St John’s runners who had provided great entertainment at the previous week’s event in Dartmouth. As with any long running trip the tedious part of the holiday will be the long flights home via, Halifax and Newark.