Thursday, April 29, 2010

Final report

I'm back in Cape Town, so here's the final report. The official time stands at 3:57.34, with fairly even splits. I'm very happy to be inside 4 hours, and trying to go a bit faster is probably the only reason I'd do this again.

The event is an amazing feat of logistics, with 36,000 runners and thousands of spectators lining the route. There were jazz bands, rock bands, people handing out food to complete strangers, it was amazing. Having your name on your shirt helps as much as everyone says - having people cheer you by name all the way round is great. My faithful supporters were at the Red Cross cheering point at about 25 miles, which was something to look forward to. They gleefully told me that while waiting for me to go past they saw a guy with one leg, a bloke dressed as a banana, and a couple of fairies. They also say I looked quite strong at that point, but you can judge for yourself from the pictures below.

Many thanks to everyone who turned out, sponsored me, sent me their good wishes, and listened to all my tedious running chat for the last 6 months.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I'm finished!

It's all over: 3:57.34 according to this page. I managed to run pretty consistently throughout judging by the split times: 1:58 for the first half and 1:59 for the second. Perhaps I could have started faster, but I'm very happy to have broken the four hour mark. The Red Cross reception was great - at a hotel so posh it had a TV in the shower. Now I'm back at Stu's, a bit stiff, but looking forward to a few beers.

Can't wait to get back to the family on Wednesday morning, but two nights in the pub between now and then...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ready to go

I am in London and ready to run! I was on the first scheduled flight out of Joburg after they re-opened Heathrow. It didn't feel real until I got to the registration, but they gave me my number and it suddenly hit me that I'd made it. I've got my stuff all laid out in my bedroom at Stu's house: shoes, socks, shorts, and Red Cross vest with my name carefully ironed onto the front, and the number pinned on. An easy day today, and then tomorrow it happens. Every so often I get a shot of nerves, so goodness knows what it's going to be like standing on the starting line.

Six months of work, and it all comes down to tomorrow. Apparently it's going to be hot for London, which equates to somewhere around 20 degrees, so I shouldn't freeze. That's comfortably cool, so ideal for a good time, although I'm still not really sure howfast I can run. I'd be disappointed to be over 4 hours, and very chuffed with anything under 3:45. All the good advice I've had says to run the first half slowly, so that has to be the plan. Maybe about 1:55 for the first half, then see how I feel at about 20 miles. I really don't know: it's unknown territory. Watch out for me on TV - I'll be the guy in the white had with the red cross on top.

Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

All my bags are packed

...I'm ready to go - la di da - cos I'm leaving on a jet plane..!

BA's brinkmanship paid off. According to Sky last night they had two dozen planes on the way into Heathrow well before the airport was re-opened. Willie Walsh was daring the CAA to divert him to airports 200 miles away while London remained closed. Whatever, it worked, and SAA at the moment think they're flying tonight. At least the head of customer services does. The woman on the swithcboard thinks there's a volcano erupting in London and all flights are cancelled for the foreseeable. I suggested she check the news.

So all plans, bets etc. are back on, and now I have to get my head around running on Sunday.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Flights and plights

103 hours of training. Just worked that one out. Tonnes of fresh produce rotting in Kenya for lack of a flight kind of puts it in perspective, although it doesn't make it any less frustrating.

So it looks like "Not the London Marathon" may be on. We are going to need:
  • Runners: Bruno & me so far, with one or two tentative extras
  • Family and supporters / sponsors to man water tables: several volunteers, and we can always
  • A route: 2 options so far: either to/from Hout Bay up the coast to Cape Town, then round and back towards Rondebosch or Newlands, OR to/from Hout Bay via Chappies, Fish Hoek, Constantia, to Groot Constantia. One takes us through Woodstock etc, the other over Chappies, so neither is perfect.
  • A T-shirt designer - offers / ideas?
  • Water, Energade, gels etc.
  • Other stuff I haven't thought of yet
It can't be too big, or we need permissions - probably a maximum of about 20 runners. Any suggestions?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sodding volcanoes

After 6 months and over 1100km of training, I am in the hands of meteorologists and the air traffic controllers. I've been focused on next Sunday since October, and it looks as though I may be on the wrong contintent when the gun goes. As John Cleese said after his taxi ride home from Norway: "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans". At this stage it's still touch & go whether my flight to London will leave on Wednesday night or not. Frustrating doesn't even begin to describe it.

The latest from another of those bodies I hadn't heard of a week ago is this:
... the latest Met Office advice is that the contaminated area will continue to move south with the possibility that restrictions to airspace above England and Wales, including the London area, may be lifted later tomorrow (Tuesday).
That sounds to me like some small cause for optimism, so we wait and hope.

If I don't make my flight, then I am planning to run "Not the London Marathon", which will be a 42.2km run (26 miles etc.) somewhere around the Cape Peninsula. Potential runners so far are me, Bruno, a few friends if we can talk them into it, and anyone else who is stuck here when they wanted to be running in London. With a bit of luck and work, we can get some T-shirts made, a bit of press coverage, and some nice sponsorship. Families will be manning water tables, and we can finish at a suitable pub. Let me know if you're in a similar position and keen to run. Watch this space...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I've made it!

The fundraising target, that is - many thanks to Alex for helping me over the line. And to everyone else who got me to the line in the first place. The bubble to the right should now say 100%.

Now all I have to do is run...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

After the pain

As my running winds down, I can start to think about what happens after the run. For all my sponsors & supporters, there is a Red Cross cheering point, and a reception. The Cheering point is at the junction of Victoria Embankment and Northumberland Avenue. The reception is at the Royal Horseguards Thistle Hotel, One Whitehall Place. Runners have priority on food & drink (it says here on the official Red Cross thing!).

Map below:

Monday, April 12, 2010

I'm back!

It's been a bit quiet round here lately, as I've been on holiday. I did my last long run: 32km on my own in Plett. It's quite hard work running alone for that distance, but the family cruised by in the car a couple of times to cheer me on. I'm looking forward to similar levels of support on the big day, although it will have to be from UK based supporters.

So now I'm in the tapering period, when the longest run shrinks to an hour, and all the things I've read suggest that I will start to get my energy back, and be straining at the leash. Any moment now...

Sunday, April 4, 2010


I'm on holiday! Down the garden route with the family for 10 days or so. The thing is, the holiday atmosphere and the spartan, driven, hard core running thing don't really mix. I always find myself collapsing into a holiday, and discover that as soon as my body gets a chance it wants to rest all day. Running a lot doesn't help. I managed two 12km runs in the week, but getting my trainers on and getting out there took more self inflicted arse kicking than it normally does. This morning I was going to do about 25km or so, but we all overslept, and that plan has now turned into 30-35km tomorrow morning. That's probably a better option - I need to feel that I've done one more long run before the day, and this is the last chance I've got.

I had a chat with a friend who ran the Two Oceans yesterday, and he agreed that since we are both natural athletes (!), we probably need less training than most people. That's my theory and I'm sticking to it. So: 30-something tomorrow, then a couple of days off, then some runs on the beach. Hopefully.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


I've just noticed: this week I passed 1000km of training.
Since the Gun Run in October, I have run 1,032km. I've killed one pair of shoes, and now own three pairs, one of which took a near fatal pounding this morning. Boy, it was worth it though! We climbed the Vlakkenburg from Constantia Nek, then ran along the track on top, to the fort below Chapman's Peak, then down again and home. It was tough going up the steps to the Vlakkenberg - the steps themselves are steep, but the "treads" aren't even level - they slope too. About 2km of heart pounding climbing. Once at the top, though, it's beautiful. There are spots where you feel like the only person on earth - in among the fynbos and the rocks, and the views down onto Hout Bay are stunning.

That route is leg 3 of the Hout Bay Trail Challenge, so all I have to do is twice that distance, then that leg, and I'm home. Doddle. In the meantime, it's 4 weeks to the marathon: one long run next weekend, then I start (continue) to slow down. I've actually slowed down a fair bit already: 42km this week instead of about 70 I should have done according to The Plan. I was just stuffed after the 30km last weekend, so have taken it easy this week. I've decided that it's a sign of my growing confidence in my own fitness that I am no longer a slave to the schedule. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Quiet week

A gentle 12km or so last night turned out to be a match for my PB on that route to the second. Must be the new shoes. Still not feeling like running 5 or 6 times a week. I think my natural limit may be a half marathon, and the full one is going to wipe me out for a month or so.

Meanwhile, I re-read the symptoms of over-training in The Book, and listed there is diarrhoea. And guess what..? Maybe that's why I'm losing weight - it's got nothing to do with fitness, it's the dysentery effect. Oh well, every kilo is another one I don't have to lug around the streets of London ("have you seen the old man...?" That's me.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010


According to The Plan I should be doing 6 hours of running this week, running six days, with a long one on Sunday and shorter ones during the week. The Plan, unfortunately, doesn't allow for the fact that I was absolutely knackered from the 30km on Sunday, requiring at least a day off, and also that I went to see Elton John last night. So it's back to Signal Hill and the trails tonight, something tomorrow, then a longish one on Sunday. I'm going to be short again on the mileage, but longer on energy and stayingawakeness. I've finally got enough confidence in my fitness to ignore The Plan when my body tells me to slow down. My achilles tendons are still stiff, so I've got a lot of stretching to do as well.

Elton, incidentally, was brilliant. The combination of Kirstenbosch, Elton, some fabulous boogie woogie, Ray Cooper, and even a bit of rain, made for an unforgettable night.

Monday, March 22, 2010


I wish I was. I'm forty, and 30km is a long bloody way. Actually it wasn't too bad, apart from the feet. For the last few km, my feet were getting very sore. Since I ran in my second newest pair of shoes, I'm hoping that the new pair will make all the difference for the big day, but I fear that may be a bit optimistic. Perhaps I need to stretch something a bit more.

Still, 75km this week is a new record, and 2h34m is my new PB for 30km. Only two more weeks until the big taper.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Shiny shoes!

Trainers are a bit like jeans. They can be a bit stiff and uncomfortable at first, then when they're broken in there's a phase when they are relatively smart looking and comfy, then they start to decline in looks while getting even comfier, then they pass straight to knackered, at which point wearing them is generally not a good idea. I tend to think of jeans as 'new' until just before they start to get holes in them, or are replaced. It's the same with running shoes - the pair I bought a few months ago are pretty buggered, sending me back to the New Balance factory shop. I've bought the update of my other pair, so I now have two generations of the same shoe. Presumably the latest model is in the proper, full price, New Balance shops.

Anyway, the new pair has gold coloured trim, so I need to get them dirty quite soon. I ran in them for the first time last night, though, and took 1m40s off my best time for my standard 7km loop. These may be the shoes I run my marathon in - they should be nicely broken in and still good and padded. Maybe the gold will attract the TV cameras too.

I've not yet decided whether I am going to run my race tomorrow in them, though. It's 30km, which is 5km further than I have ever run before. It's a bit daunting, and I'm not sure I want to be worrying about possible new shoe problems. 30km is quite enough to keep my mind busy. They say you shouldn't increase your long run by more than 5% each week. I'm going to work on time, not distance (which would be 20%), so since last week's run was 141 minutes, I've got to complete my 30km in 2h35m. That's 5m10s per kilometre. It's my best half marathon time, then 5m30s km for an extra 5km on top of that. I think I may be over analysing this. Still, the mental arithmetic will give me something to do for two and a half hours tomorrow morning...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Next Big Thing

I must be mad. I have just entered the Hout Bay Trail Challenge. It takes place in the middle of the Cape winter around the mountains of Hout Bay. Reading a bit about it (after entering, cos I'm clever like that), I found the following:

"... is considered unequivocally the most technically difficult of all trail races in the Cape. The route is exceptionally challenging, and incorporates the mountains surrounding Hout Bay."

It starts and finishes at the Yacht Club at the harbour, from where you go up to the mast on Klein Leeukop, down to Suikerbossie, up to the reservoirs on the back of Table Mountain, down to Constantia Nek, up to the Vlakkenberg, and down to the cannon, along the beach and home. It's about 36km, and I'd be chuffed to do it under 6 hours. There's an individual version, or you can do it as a relay team of 3. Guess which one I've chosen?

It's good to have new challenges to look forward to. Now back to training for the marathon...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Blown away

I nearly was last night. I put off my run until later in the hope that the wind would calm down, and it got stronger. I decided that this was all part of the fun and set off, turning left up the road, and therefore upwind. Turning right is far better - downhill and downwind - but the 16km route I had worked out required going the hard way. After about 8km I started to climb Chapman's Peak drive. My plan was to run to the tollgate, then turn round and head back, but about 100m short I just couldn't go any further - it was physically impossible to run into the wind. Having turned round to head back, it was almost as hard, being shoved along by an invisible hand. Very weird.

I ran back along the beach, losing several layers of skin to a sandstorm, via the video store to pick up a DVD, then started to feel a bit rough. Stomach cramps again. It's no fun running when your core muscles are trying to do two things at once. Getting home, I discovered that the front door was locked, and my wife took an agonisingly long time to open it. I'll spare you more details, but I just made it in time. The funny thing is, I really enjoyed the run. Maybe the shits are endorphin related or something.

It seems that I am either allergic to exercise, or I've got my diet badly wrong somewhere.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Gusting a but

On Saturday I felt clunky when I ran. Last night I felt like a gazelle, bouncing along, eating up the road. I did one of my regular loops - 8.8km, and felt like I was flying. The strong wind made things a bit tricky in places, but I was sure that I had murdered my PB for that route. Sure enough I did: by 2 seconds. I thought I'd knocked at least a minute off it. I'm finding that it's very hard to tell when you're going fast: whether you feel good or bad is not really a guide. You'd think I'd be getting a feel for it by now.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Making it easier

I ran 24.5km on Saturday morning, but it was hard going - I never got into a good rythym. There are just days when it feels like you've borrowed someone else's legs for the day and they don't quite fit. On those days the last 2km is the worst. At that stage you know you are nearly there, and so you gradually allow yourself to hear all the things your feet and legs are telling you. Suddenly everything seems uphill and upwind.

At brunch later, a friend told me about a technique he uses. He runs for 9 minutes, then walks for 1. He does this right from the start of the race, and claims that it helps him go further, faster, feeling better. To me, the idea of walking feels like cheating, but I'm hoping to grow out of that. It's certainly more culturally acceptable in trail running to walk from time to time, especially since there are hills that you just cannot run up. In marathon running though, it feels like I'm not playing the game. Maybe next time. I assumed it was also for wimps, until I asked him what sort of time he does: under 3h30m. His best time for 21km is 1:25. So maybe there is something in it.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Dancing the trails

I was back on my favourite trail run route last night, only backwards. Not running backwards, just running it anti-clockwise. This means that we went down into Kirstenbosch, then climbed the wall of steps that we usually come down, then cam back along the single track and down to the finish. It means that the only really hard bit is the climb up the steps, then it is net downhill. The problem is that you do the tricky single track rocky bit immediately after the steps while your legs are still wobbly. Mind you, there's nothing like a precipitous drop to focus the mind on the feet.

According to Roan, running behind me, I am light on my feet for a big bloke. I took it as a compliment. On reflection, it's the kind of thing you might say to a fat guy who doesn't knock over the side table. Hmmm...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Body Heat

The movie Body Heat takes place in a heatwave that matches the steam coming off Kathleen Turner and William Hurt. When they first meet in a bar, he sits down to talk to her on condition that she doesn't mention the heat. Since moving here from the UK, my thermostat has re-adjusted. My personal scale now runs from 20-25 degrees: comfortable; 25-30: nice & warm; 30-35: hot; 35+ : too damn hot.

Yesterday it was 25 at 8am, rose to the high 30s, and the temperature in my bedroom at midnight was still 30 degrees. It becomes all consuming, and the only thing anyone can consider or talk about. I wanted to get a T-shirt: "Yes it's hot. Get over it". Like William Hurt: I'll talk to you, just not about the heat.

Boy, am I glad I didn't run yesterday!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A new PB

Every week it's another new personal best for me right now. That's not because I am getting fitter, although I hope I am, but because I am running further than I ever have. Yesterday was 25km: around Chapman's Peak to the end of Noordhoek beach and back. Not too fast, not too slow; early so not too hot - just right. Too bloody windy in places though, and during the run we saw the cat's eyes take out two other runners. The only danger for me, apart from desparate cyclists hoping to get fit before next week, was the wind blowing one leg into the other as it came through. Getting tap tackled by a cat's eye is one thing, but getting tap tackled by the wind is something else. That would have looked really daft.

After last week's blip, I am now nearly back on track, as you can see below. Having run on Saturday instead of Sunday, I managed to miss out a run this week, but I'm getting there.

Now going, because it's my wedding anniversary, and I'm going to lunch.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Windy city

Another 9km or so this morning, but very hard going. My total is now up to 811km since October. I know I'm going to be a bit short of sympathy from the crowd running in the cold & dark, but it's bloody hard work getting back into it when the wind is howling. You can't get into a rythym, and it's hard to catch your breath. Even downwind is tricky because of the buffetting. Maybe I should wear a tighter shirt.

Anyway, I don't feel dead again, so I may even run tomorrow. Watch this space.

Monday, March 1, 2010

On the road again

Ran again yesterday for the first time since Tuesday, and I feel OK. Luckily we got going before it got too hot, and did a nice steady 15km or so in about 90 minutes. I'd spent rather longer, and drunk rather more, than I had intended to at a party on Saturday night, so I think I may be on the road to recovery. Today is most definitely a day off, as opposed to an off day, and I may even run again tomorrow. Woo.

The only problem now is the weather. Look away if you are in the northern hemisphere. It was well into the 30s yesterday, at least 30 today, and much the same forecast for the rest of this week. I may have to get up early to run when it's reasonably cool. I'm going to have to put ice down my shorts to acclimatise me for London.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


A few people told me that the main thing with this whole running malarkey is not to get injured: if you manage that, then you can get through the training and finish the race. I had envisaged possible disasters: muscle strains, twisted ankles; and had even sustained one or two injuries out of clumsiness.

What I hadn't predicted, though, is what I've got now. It's closer to depression than anything else, in that I'm just not up to running right now. I feel strong in my legs, and I could run if I went out there, but I feel like I am out of reserves. The problem is not hitting the road, it's getting out of bed. The fact that my work situation is complicated right now doesn't help much either. I'm taking a variety of supplements and vitamins to try and help me out of it, but the main thing is to rest. How long for, I don't know, but it's really getting me down.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Overdoing it again

I'm not running today. There, I said it. I was due to run about 15km, but when I got up this morning my heart raced as I stood up, and I'm feeling completely knackered and run down. The thing is, it's really hard not to run. Firstly there's the habit of the thing, but mainly is the devotion to my programme, and a concern that if I miss a few runs then I'm in trouble.

Anyway, my glands are up, I feel it in my legs just climbing the stairs, it takes ages for small cuts to heal, and I'm finished. In The Book it describes over-training in detail, and that's what I'm doing. Not good. The question is how long to rest for - what if I never start again?!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mass appeal

Running is a very time efficient form of exercise, and also cheap. In terms of getting out there, you need some old shorts and a T shirt, some shoes, and then you step out of your front door. For the time you spend exercising, the effect on your fitness is probably the highest - something like swimming is probably also quite good, but then you have to drive to the pool. Running has a low carbon footprint too.

As far as burning calories, it certainly seems to be working for me. Several people have commented that I have lost weight. Many of them even seem to be sincere, rather than just following hairdresser protocol. (You've been to the hairdresser - "your hair looks lovely!" You've taken up running - "you've lost weight!") I'm even starting to think I may have lost weight, although I don't own any scales so can't confirm it. About a month ago I did manage to lose 4kg in as many days, simply by using two differerent sets of scales in the right order.

The thing that is nagging at the back of my mind, though, is this: I didn't think I was that porky to begin with. If everyone is noticing that I'm losing weight, then how far had I let myself go? It's a sobering thought.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Here be dragons...

In Hermanus this weekend with Ange & Charles, and north of 21km for the first time ever - unknown territory. I had planned the whole thing with great precision, printed a map, and got all my energy gels in my Camel Pack thing, much to my host's amusement. I hardly got lost at all, although I did spend a fair bit of time fiddling with the various bits & pieces. My new earphones don't fit my ears very well, so they keep sliding out, especially when they're sweaty. The sound is also pretty poor, but that's a minor consideration - I'm not buying high end headphones to ruin them with sweat.

Speaking of sweat, I'm finding it a bit disconcerting how much I can produce (sorry!). My legs are slowly getting fitter, but I have the fittest sweat glands in the world. I come back from a run looking like I've already been in the shower. I think there may be something wrong with me. I'll have to google it - I'm sure it's a recognised condition.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bicycle race

The thing with running this time of year is that there are bikes everywhere. They're OK on the uphills, but if you're cruising along downhill and one flies past you it can scare the hell out of you - the buggers are practically silent. The reason they are all out there now is that it's only a few weeks until the Argus. That's a good day to stay inside if you don't like bikes, because there are about 35,000 of them sweating around the peninsula. The Argus is the biggest timed cycle race in the world, and this year the excitement is that Lance Armstrong is doing it, at least I think he is. Last year Matt Damon did it, as he was here filming Invictus.

Anyway, bikes everywhere. A couple of weeks ago I ran with Hout Bay Harriers, and one of their fitter runners was slipstreaming a cyclist going up Chapman's Peak Drive. Must have really irritated him. I've got into the habit of bumping into a friend of mine on the top of Chapman's Peak on a Sunday morning at about 7.30. He cycles there from Rondebosch, and I run there from home. He usually wins the race back down.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

9 minutes

It has occurred to me that I am making slow progress. OK, so my jeans are getting looser, and I'm able to run further, longer and faster, but not actually by all that much. Five days after my 40th birthday, on 11th October last year, I ran the Gun Run, a half marathon, in 1 hour 51 minutes. After that I began training in earnest, following my vaunted plan. In that eighteen weeks of training, I have run more than 700km, and spent about 65 hours on the road or the trails. I'm getting perilously close to working out an hourly rate of sposnorship here...

Anyway, after that 700km, and lots of sweaty socks, I ran another half marathon ten days ago in 1 hour 42 minutes. The improvement generated by all that running is therefore - wait for it .... 9 minutes. Is that it? It doesn't seem like a lot, and it translates to about 15 on my marathon prediction (that's 15 quid for you, Shug!), but it doesn't sound like much. It suggests to me that however hard I train, there is a firm limit as to how fast I can go. Maybe there's a sudden improvement just round the corner. I've still got about 600km of training to do before the big day, so maybe there's another few minutes to be gained. Maybe I should give up the beer. Let's not get silly here.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Hot hot hot

The guy who tried to kill me last Saturday has done two London marathons, about 12 years ago. He remembers that for one of them, the temperature was at a record high for the running of the race: 19 degrees Celcius. N-n-n-n-nineteen! That's my teeth chattering, not a Paul Hardcastle impression. I think 19 is probably about the coldest I have run in, and that only at about 6am - I don't think I will have finished a run in anything less than 20 degrees.

The Red Cross is sending me a running vest for the big day. I may need leggings and a jersey too.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Back on the mountain

Up on the mountain running again tonight, and feeling much stronger. Saw a couople of interesting things. As the world knows, today is the 20th anniversary of Mandela's release from prison. There were police parked at strategic intervals along the road on my commute home, ready to stop the traffic for him when he left parliament. From the mountain above Kirstenbosch, I saw the aerobatic display team pootling around the skies over the southern suburbs. I think they were Pilatus trainers, for the airheads amongst you.

The other thing, which nearly caused a pile up as I stopped to examine it, was a wasp and a spider. The wasp was dragging a spider, which it had paralysed, across the path. It looked just like the photo at that link. I've seen one before, and it hid the spider, then flew around checking if it was visible before flying off. What the wasp does is to lay its eggs on the spider, and when it's babies are born, their first meal is the still alive spider. Ain't nature grand!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Overdoing it again

Once again, I seem to have pushed it a bit. I'm either over-training or under-sleeping, I'm not sure which - probably a bit of both. Having surpassed myself in the half marathon on Saturday, I've collapsed physically. It's taken me until today to feel like I've got the energy to run properly again, and I've got a persistent sore throat that doesn't seem to be going away. My left knee is also achy, but I'm not sure if that's a bruise, wear & tear, or some kind of referred pain from my back.

Anyway, I'm going to drag my sorry, sore legs out of the door later for a few kilometres to see how it goes. Looks like I may be missing a few targets this week.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Half measures

Another weekend, another half marathon. This one was a lot flatter, conditions were beautiful, and I had a pacemaker. Mike was keen to break 100 minutes, and was busy at the start trying to convince me that I could too. I, on the other hand, had been feeling knackered all week - even more so than usual - and hadn't slept well for 2 or 3 nights. Anyway, Mike missed his 100 minutes by 3 seconds - although I pointed out to him it took 20 or 30 to cross the line - and I did it in 1:41.58, a new record for me. Since I'm fitter than I've ever been since I started running this kind of distance, I keep improving on my own times, which is quite satisfying.

I have still never run more than 21.1km, so the next few weeks is uncharted territory, but I'm starting to feel like it might be possible.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Bruno's in!

My faithful running partner has got a place in the marathon too! He managed to get a place via the St John Ambulance. He's an easy sell to them, as he has run marathons before, is already in training, and is a marketing whizz, so will have no trouble raising the cash. His target is lower than mine, so it's a good job I've got a head start.

I'm not sure if we will be running together though. Apparently there is some form of seeding in the race based on your predicted finish time, so they put the faster funners at the front to minimise congestion. I don't remember putting a time on my application, but if I did it would have been about 4 hours. Bruno has put something more than that, so he'll just have to catch me up. More speed training - we need to hit the hills!

In other news, 7km tonight with no nasty incidents, or need for further Immodium. A relief to everyone I'm sure.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Two bob bits

Can you believe it - I'm on a new project (woo!) and I've spent the first day at work feeling pretty ropey. Dodgy guts you see. Must have eaten something yesterday. Tonight I had a run planned: nearly 14km - over an hour of running. I felt great. At least, I felt great as far as the running was concerned. Then about half way round I started to feel not so great, and pretty glad that nobody was running behind me. Half way along the beach I had to stop to clench my buttocks. Luckily Dunes is at the end of the beach, so I dived in there and used their facilities. Since their tables are mostly outside, the toilets are easily accessible from outside, so I could get in and out with no embarassing explanations.

All the while this is going on, on the psychic iPod is Whole Lotta Love: "... I wanna be your backdoor man". Hmmm

Monday, February 1, 2010

Kloof Nek

Yesterday, stepping up the weekend long run, I did the Kloof Nek Classic half marathon, which took my weekly mileage (kilometreage?) over 60 for the first time, and my total since I started this whole thing over 600km. This is getting serious!

The run starts down at Camps Bay High School, then goes up (UP) to Kloof Nek, then up some more and along past the calbe station. It then turns for the first time, and you pass anyone who is behind you as you come back to Kloof Nek, then up again to the top of Signal Hill, and a great view of the new stadium at Greenpoint. You then turn again, back to Kloof Nek, and back down to Camps Bay High. It's a punishing course, and the last 4km or so, which is a steep down hill is probably much loved by Cape Town's knee specialists, as one friend remarked. My heel tends to get sore, as well as the knee, but hopefully it won't get worse as I increase the distance. Kudos to Bruno who was at the J&B Met (horserace / party) on Saturday, ran on Sunday morning, and played golf on Sunday afternoon. I think he went to bed early last night.

As for me, I ran 1:54, which isn't bad given the hills. I don't seem to be getting any faster, but I can run for longer, which is probably a good thing. At least I get today off.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I feel good!

Which is a relief because I ran 14km last night and felt terrible. Tonight I ran 8km in 38 minutes, and I felt like a runner. The change is notable - suddenly I felt balanced and smooth, like I know how to run, whereas yesterday I was plodding and staggering along. I'm still knackered, but it's a good knackered.

It's nice to feel like a runner. I saw the manager of a local restaurant when I was out last week, and she was also running. When I went to collect my take away the following evening, she recognised me: "did you have a good jog last night?". Bloody hell - I'm not a jogger, I'm a runner! Damn cheek.

Monday, January 25, 2010


When I was a kid there was a feature on Radio One called something like "True Confessions". It was hosted by one of those sloppy DJs - Tony Blackburn, Simon Mayo or someone - and it featured listeners writing in with stories from their past to make a public confession. The only one I can remember was a guy who, at college, had got fed up with an acquiantance who would always have long lie-ins, then copy the confessor's borrowed lecture notes and catch up. By the final year, the patience of the guy who was getting up each morning had worn thin, and he started to make deliberate mistakes in his notes. The sleep would duly copy them, did his revision from them, and actually failed his final exams. By this stage, the originator of the notes had left it so long that he couldn't say anything. The other guy then studied diliigently for his retakes, and failed again, working as he was from duff information. The final line of the story was that the job that this guy had ended up doing - the one who hated getting up early - was a postman.

I felt a bit like that on Sunday. I am notoriously fond of my sleep, and very hard to rouse in the mornings. At 6am Sunday I found myself stretching in the cool breeze, ready to begin a long run. Come to think of it, I used to be notoriously shy of any run of more than about 200m as well. The strange part is that I am loving it. Chapmans Peak on Sunday was a great example - nearly 20km, the second 5km of which is solely uphill, but the scenery, the weather, and the run is beautiful. It's also amazing how many other people are out there running or cycling at that time in the morning. The best part is, I don't feel too bad this morning, just a bit stiff. Probably a good thing since I am due to run for 70 minutes tomorrow.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lost in the big city

I've been up in Johannesburg for two days, back tonight in Cape Town. I managed to get a brief run in before I flew yesterday, but then had to run in Joburg this morning. I had mapped out my route in advance, and then written down the road names on a piece of paper. I set out confidently from the hotel, then promptly took a wrong turning. Joburg is a bit short on street signs, so my first guess turned out to be wrong. No problem - I had a rough idea of where I was going, and I was confident that after a few kilometres I would recognise the streets near the hotel I used to run from when I spent time up here last year.

Plodding on, with the same Led Zepp song on repeat for the first 15 minutes - one thing at a time - I turned occasionally in the direction of what I thought I knew. After running for 30 minutes I had still not spotted anything familiar. This is where the iPhone comes in handy. Standing in the middle of a park in the Joburg drizzle, queues of commuters on one side, and mums dropping kids at school on the other, I opened up the map GPS thingy. Where the hell is Dunkeld? After a few minutes of fiddling it turned out that it was just round the corner from Rosebank, where I was staying. Ten more minutes got me back again, albeit knackered.

I got back to the hotel drenched in sweat, having really struggled. Then someone pointed out that Joburg is 1900m above sea level, i.e. Cape Town. I have now done my altitude training. Bring it on!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tired but smarter

According to the Telegraph, and others, this morning running makes you cleverer. It stimulates the brain and helps your memory, thus staving off the debilitating effects of ageing. Not much consolation for President Sarkozy, who took up jogging to try and keep up with his young wife and shortly after collapsed while out on a run.
Jogging: die of a heart attack, not Altzheimer's.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Fundraising techniques

Here's a new one. My regular poker night met on Friday without me as I was double booked with my wife's birthday. We had a great evening - thanks for asking - and apparently the poker guys did too. With one or two new players, they had a few practice rounds, then did the usual R100 in from everybody, and played through to the now traditional final round with the dodgy cards. At that point, they decided very kindly to donate the evening's cash to my marathon fund, which was a wonderful surprise.

In the meantime, I ran a 15km run yesterday morning in 74:30, which I was pretty chuffed with. It was a very up & down race too around the mansions of Constantia. I came 317th, for what it's worth. I did get a pair of socks for my effort though. Ran again this morning, so I managed to get to 48km for the week. It still doesn't sound like much compared to the 42 I have to run in 14 weeks time...

Friday, January 15, 2010


Not out here, but in here (taps head). On the hottest day of the year so far, I manage to get a cold. I didn't run for two days until this morning, and it feels very weird - the first time I've taken two days off since the start of November. My wife managed to talk me out of running in the rain on the mountain last night, but I'm still planning a 15km race in the morning. Should be OK, as long as I take it fairly easy. The main problem is that all these races start at 6 in the morning, which doesn't really work with my biorythms. Or something.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Juggling schedules

I've realised why I'm so attached to my running schedule. It's a mental thing, as apparently marathon running is too. If I follow the plan, then the plan says that I'll be OK in the race. Therefore if I follow the plan, my head will be straight, and my legs will have to follow. Or something.

Having said that, the plan goes out the window today. On the hottest day of the summer I'm feeling like I'm getting a cold, I'm knackered, and it's too hot to run: pushing 40 degrees. I am juggling this week's running anyway to accommodate a long run / race on Saturday instead of Sunday, so I'll have to move today as well.

Sponsorship and South Africans

I always feel like a bit of a fraud pushing South Africans for sponsorship, as I've said before. While I'm making a big fuss about running my marathon, I am often surrounded by those who've done the Two Oceans (56km), Comrades (90km), Iron Man (swim miles, run a marathon, cycle even further), or Cape Epic (8 days on a bike in the mountains). In those circumstances, it almost seems a bit much to ask for sponsorship, but as all the advice says, it pays to be thick-skinned!

So here's the thing. I'm not saying that running a marathon is a big deal, although it's a big deal to me; or that it's anything unusual, but I am saying that you should sponsor me. Don't sponsor me because it's something special, sponsor me because my cause is important, and you want to support me in raising money for them. Now click here and get your credit card out!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

South African Airways

It's not just about the running. When you live in Cape Town and are racing in London, there are logistics to take care of too.

South Africa has a national carrier that is everything you might expect of such: inefficient, poorly run, but well equipped, funded as it is by the taxpayer. Unfortunately, I have got myself hooked into their Voyager miles programme, so when it came to book a flight to London for the Marathon, I did it via them.

I need to be in London in time to recover from the flight before the race on the 25th April, so I planned to leave on the 20th to arrive on the 21st, then leave on the 28th coming back to give me a few days of recovery and socialising time. I booked my ticket, then realised that the 21st is son no. 1's birthday. I got back on the phone, and explained my predicament to a guy who was obviously a father, very sympathetic and helpful, and moved my booking. So far so good, so out of character with SAA, but we can all change.

A few weeks later I got an email from SAA advising me of a change to my booking. The JHB-London leg was now 30 minutes later (I have to go via Joburg to be able to leave on the 21st). No problem, just an extra half hour loitering at OR Thambo. A few weeks after that, I got another email, sending me to another schedule on their site which now showed two return flights, one on the 28th as booked, and one on the 27th. I only need to come back once, so I called SAA. They informed me that my booking has been moved forward 24 hours.

"Technical difficulties"
"So you can forecast technical problems 4 months in advance?"

Anyway, I am now coming back earlier than I had hoped, and further changes to my schedule seem to be at the whim of SAA. My guess is that the flight has been over booked, so they are bumping airmiles passengers to accommodate. It's interesting that the customers who have racked up a lot of miles are the ones to suffer, but then we are all self loading cargo.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bay to Bay

... and back again if you do the whole thing. I didn't, citing my all important schedule, which does not say that I should be running 30km at this stage - I'm quite happy with a relay leg of 15km. Bruno, my running partner, did the whole thing, at least I assume he did. Last I saw he was heading back off through Hout Bay. The Bay to Bay runs from Camps Bay to Hout Bay and back again. I did the first leg as Bruno's pacemaker. Actually it's the other way round. I normally go off too fast then struggle later. Bruno runs the same pace for the first km as for the 20th, and goes the same speed up and down hills. It's a bit uncanny, but very good for teaching me to pace a run properly.

I've worked out that my running schedule is neatly split up into three areas. I had read the books about doing hill training, speed training, and just getting the miles in your legs, but hadn't worked out how to accomodate all that. As it turns out, I've got my trail running on the hills for strength and speed, running with friends for just getting the miles, and then when I run on my own I tend to go faster, pushing myself. It's all working out quite nicely.

441km of training so far...

Friday, January 8, 2010

Fell running

I was running, then I fell. Boom boom!
Seriously - I've just read 'Feet in the Clouds' by Richard Askwith. It's subtitle is 'a tale of fell running and obsession', and it's absolutely absorbing. He interweaves the story of a year's fell running races with a history of the sport and a narrative of his own attempts to conquer the goals he has set himself. Fell running is probably closest to trail running, but more extreme in terms of the peaks and valleys. Some of the things that the runners achieve are incredible, and humbling. I'm struggling enough having run last night, on the mountain, and this morning again. We're going out for dinner and there's a decent possibility I'll fall asleep in the starter.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hot, hot, hot

My wife is also busy getting fit, so she went for a bike ride first thing this morning. That pushed my run back to 8am to 9, by which stage it was about 30 degrees. Centigrade. I'd also forgotten quite how steep the route I had decided to run was. I ran up the track to Hout Bay's shipwreck, which is past where we used to live. As I puffed up the road, it occurred to me that I always had to put the car in first gear to get up. Then I'd forgotten how rocky the path is, and since I was last there, the wind has put a dune across it as well. Not a hugely successful route. By the time I did the downhill return I was finished. It took me about half an hour to stop sweating.

I was forced to go and relax at Newlands all day. Poor day for England, but after my experience this morning, I know how their bowlers feel. It was hot enough sitting and watching, let alone running around in the sun!

Monday, January 4, 2010

The land of the blind

As soon as  you get into something new, you discover how little you know, or how bad you are. Some people deal with this by building up their achievements, and telling anyone who will listen how good they are. People like me start out all excited, then realise that we know nothing. I've always wanted to find out how good I am - especially in sporting terms. When playing rugby, I kept going until I found a club where I had to really work to hold down a first team place. In business, if someone asks me about a field, I can talk about it for a while, but will then point them at someone who knows more. Now I'm running what my mother thinks is a lot, I know that there are plenty who would consider my weekly mileage a nice morning warm up.

I guess that's the thing: there is always someone better. I tend to under-value anything that comes easily, or that I've forgotten how hard I worked for, especially when I know how much I don't know. The corollary is to try not to over value anything that currently seems impresive because I'm finding it hard. Ignorance is bliss, and in the right head, expertise. Beware the novice who thinks he's cracked it.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy new year

So now I have run on Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Funnily enough, it was easier getting people to run off their hangover than it was to exercise pre turkey. I'm feeling pretty stiff, having run 4 days in a row, but I also feel strong. It's really encouraging to see the progress I am making. Perhaps when I lay off the booze and pies a bit after Christmas, I may even get slimmer. I certainly hope so. At the moment I'm keeping consumption and expenditure of calories about equal.

My temporary running partner goes home tomorrow, so I may be back to me and the iPod for a few weeks. I'm planning to spend some time at Newlands in the five days from Sunday, so I'm going to have to get out early so I can get there in time. Having watched England lose to South Africa at Newlands (I think) every time I've seen them, my expectations are low, but it's always a great place to spend some time.

In the meantime, I'm a bit worried about the craving I get for running, and about the fact that it's becoming one of my main topics of conversation. I may be in trouble here.