Category Archives: racing

246. London Marathon 2012 – every single step: running for Macmillan Cancer Support

a tree on the heath blackheath london england april by Julie70 flickr1: Endangered species
The vista is all but empty now, across the expanses of the open plain ahead. The sky is blue and cloudless, the temperature cool in the early morning as the huge animal lumbers slowly past me.

I keep walking evenly, as calmly as I can, trying not to distract the rhino’s attention at this moment of maximum peril, as it sets out upon its annual trek.

Behind me, I can hear the approaching patter of many more feet upon the ground, growing inexorably nearer with every second. The veneer of calm I’ve been carrying since before the break of dawn seems false and fragile now, as the adrenaline rises in my throat.

The months and weeks of single-minded preparation, the hours of planning and even this familiar landscape offer little comfort as I stand in trepidation at the beginning of the journey. Almost in a moment, the chasers are on my heels.

And yet, I keep on walking. It’s a vow I made long years ago, for here and now one rash move can destroy it all. No matter the temptation, I will not run a single step until I really have to.

A moment later, the wave of pursuers breaks over me. The rhino is trotting frantically not far ahead as a hundred fleet-footed gazelles and antelopes bound by. I furl my brow in resignation and don my cap. Then I check my laces, hitch my socks and straighten my green shirt before the pain begins.

A bright flash of sun glints closer as I take what must surely be my final walking strides. The sight that greets me next stretches all due reason. The beast is in full flight ahead, huge head lolling wildly as he sets his eyes on other prey. Two figures clad all in shining white are streaking past with that wicked horn bobbing menacingly just a single pace behind.

london marathon 2012 starwars trooper c spoiltrottengiftscoukI allow myself a smile and take one last step across the fateful line of hope and fear. Right before my eyes, the rhino is chasing two Star Wars Imperial troopers in full battle dress, all along the road. I click my watch, and hit the tarmac running.

My 2012 London Marathon has started, and anything could happen now.
Continue reading

230. Autumn leaves and cobalt sky – 2010 London Royal Parks Half Marathon

ten ten ten westminster bridge royal parks half marathon london by roadsofstone

It’s ten past ten on 10.10.10 and I’m running across Westminster Bridge. The sun has just come out onto a perfect autumn day and Sunday mornings don’t come much more memorable than this.

royal parks half marathon london 2010 by roadsofstoneLondon has hosted a famous marathon every year since Dick Beardsley and Inge Simonsen held hands beneath Big Ben to share the first race victory one rainy day in March 1981. And now this soon-to-be Olympic city of ours has a world-class half marathon as well.

I head back along the bridge and east beside the Thames. There’s a soft breeze blowing leaves along the sunlit road under a clearing October sky. Across a silver slice of river, the London Eye is turning gracefully. The Embankment is my spiritual running home, and I’m very glad to be here.
Continue reading

209. A dragon slain on Doomsday – Horsham 10 km

dragon in horsham park maze west sussex england by captain tarmac flickrDragons used to roam in St Leonard’s Forest, or so the local legend goes. Today it’s only runners, and me amongst them, burning with limbs afire in the 25th running of the Horsham 10 km.

We’re on my regular lunchtime route, or at least the tricky part of it, where the Lower Cretaceous clays of the lush Arun Valley rise eastwards towards the sandstone plateau of the forest.

horsham 10 km 2009 at horsham rugby club sussex england by roadsofstoneWe gather on Horsham Rugby Club’s playing fields in bright spring sunshine, and when the siren goes we head off dutifully around the touchline of the first team pitch.
Continue reading

201. To hold the hand of Spain – Almería Half Marathon 2009

tarde tormenta cabo de gata lluvia almeria spain trebola flickrA cool, soft and forgiving kind of Spanish rain is falling.

I drift down the hill, easing into my pace and gently exploring that warm sense of anticipation which the early miles of a race can sometimes bring. There’s elation beneath my feet today. It’s hard to explain, but it fills the morning all the same.

This is the longest race I’ve run for two years, and my preparation has been meticulously disorganised. Steady, shortish lunchtime runs through Horsham. A nine miler every fortnight throughout the autumn. A 10km in November. Eight miles of the hilly Hogs Back Road Race in December. A two hour outing across the sunny Surrey Hills just two weeks ago.

My journey to the start line didn’t bode too well. A far too lazy start yesterday morning, followed inevitably by a wheezing mile-long dash hauling a heavy holdall at full pelt across the park at 5am to catch my airport train.

night-of-love-on-the-promenade-almeria-spain-by-roadsofstoneA long walk into Almería last night to buy the running socks I’d so rashly left at home.

At one time, I’d surely have worried about all those things. But today it doesn’t matter. I’m here to run, but it’s not about the running.

I’ve come to hold the hand of Spain.
Continue reading

197. The Hog’s Back Road Race, Guildford 2008 – It’s All About the Hill

hogs-back-road-race-2008-two-hundred-million-years-of-fog-guildford-surrey-england-by-roadsofstone“Upon the whole it was an excellent journey & very thoroughly enjoyed by me; the weather was delightful the greatest part of the day…  to my capacity it was perfection. I never saw the country from the Hogsback so advantageously.”

So wrote Jane Austen of her trip along the Hog’s Back, in 1813. But today is a different kind of day. The view from the top shows nothing but fog. A December morning, chill, damp and misty. That’s how we live.

And yet, I can’t complain. An hour ago, I was still tucked up and fast asleep in bed. Thirty minutes of muesli, tea and fast driving delivered me to the start in Artington. Five minutes to jog to the start, another five minutes to score a race number, and I almost arrived too early for my geological odyssey. But not quite.

hogs-back-road-race-2008-the-climb-begins-mount-pleasant-guildford-surrey-england-by-roadsofstoneTime at the start line is always good. A few minutes to share notes on the course, and establish credentials.

A woman next to me is wearing London Marathon leggings from 2006. I ran it that year, too. Her son is a huge rower from Belfast. He’ll struggle on the hill, as will I.

And yes, the Hogs Back Race — it’s all about the hill.
Continue reading

185. On the gallops – Epsom Downs and The Derby

green-tunnel-crunching-flints-rifle-butts-alley-epsom-surrey-england-roadsofstoneSummer drifts across these hills. And on warm June days, this is where you’ll find me, the lazy afternoon lagging heavily at my heels all along this steady climb to reach the Downs.

I leave the grey town streets along the old familiar path and follow its narrow cut between the houses. Up ahead, across the road, the first field opens up beside me, but there’s still some work to do.
Continue reading

170. The winds of doubt – Brighton 10 km 2007


madeira-parade-arcade-by-elsie-esq-on-flickrdotcom.jpgRunning ? Ah yes, I remember running.

To be fair, I fell down a rabbit hole on the third hole at Sandwich in late summer. I didn’t run a stride in September, and I’ve been slow since then.

But here I am, shivering on the start line in Brighton once again. Trying to remember just what it’s all about.
Continue reading