Out on a little run this morning I was pondering on how simple life can be. Yes, of course all of us have worries, issues, problems to a greater or lesser degree. But as with the practice of mindfulness, running a few miles along quiet lanes on a fine morning can reduce the world momentarily to the one you are living in – the buildings, the fields, sky, sun, clouds. Nothing else matters. The past is gone and can’t be changed. The future is uncertain and can be dealt with as and when it comes. You are experiencing and enjoying the now, which is usually, at least, OK.
But the meditative effect of putting one foot in front of the other can also have other, surprising effects. In the past I have suddenly had worrying problems unknot themselves, unbidden, on a long run. I have, now and again, ‘lost’ a mile or so of a run – no recollection of having run the roads which have got me to my present position.
And this morning I thought of a little thing that happened over 50 years ago. It was of no consequence, one of the millions of memories which are generally stored in the dark recesses of one’s brain to stay there, but occasionally to pop to the forefront for no reason. I was still at school and it was the early 1970s. I was in west Cork with a school friend of mine, looking up relatives who were plentiful at that time – aunts, uncles, cousins. We visited a woman whose identity escapes me, but we were aware her daughter (or granddaughter) was celebrating her birthday – maybe her third or fourth. Accordingly we bought a cheap doll, duly arrived at the house, and presented the parcel to the little girl. I don’t think I’ve ever seen wonder on anyone’s face such as that of the little girl as she unwrapped the present and saw the doll. Enraptured, she removed it from the box and clutched it to her chest.
Then she carefully put the doll back into its box and wrapped it up before walking away, returning to it and reliving the joy of opening the present once more.
That little girl will be in her 50s now. If she has children and maybe grandchildren I don’t think they’d be so easily pleased.
In 2009 Jayson Lee, a fellow runner and all-round sportsman, collapsed and died. The following year his family organised a 10k race in his memory. More than 200 runners took part – I finished in 49.24. That year, 2010, was my best running year.
Last Sunday was the 13th running of the Jayson Lee Memorial 10k which again attracted an entry in excess of 200. I finished in 49.18.
And just a couple of minutes behind me was my daughter Emma with her 5-month old son Dawson.
At the end of the race I exchanged mutual congratulations with a few runners I’d brushed shoulders with out on the course, took a bottle of water and walked back around the track to encourage those who were approaching the finish. I know full well how a clap, a shout, a few encouraging words can give you a lift as you dig deep through the physical pain, having given everything. I’m in a good place with my running right now but there have been many times when I’ve struggled way back towards the end of the field.
There were many familiar faces there, young and old. Those I have run with socially, a pleasing number I recognised having coached them in the past. Most managed a smile and a word or two, others merely grimaced all the more – believe me I understand that! But for a few minutes I reflected on how lucky I’ve been to be able to stay healthy and continue to take part in the sport. And how many good people I’ve met along the way.
A new course, out and back from Les Quennevais heading away to the north-west of the island and returning by the coastal route. Yes it looked a promising course but the rather nasty final two miles were to come home to roost.
An 8am start, a good innovation which gives clear roads for the first hour at least. After that time the whole of Jersey becomes awash with Sunday drivers going nowhere in particular. About 400 entries including a notable mainland contingent with a lively bunch from Watford Joggers. Conditions splendid as we set off with a lap of the cycle track to spread the field out before we venture out onto the roads.
As for me, I feel in good shape, hoping to get inside 1:55, so averaging kms of 5.30 mins. We take the lanes which snake around the airport’s west runway and dive down the steep escarpment towards St Ouen’s Bay – here I protect my ageing knees and the younger ones fly by me. Down onto Chemin du Moulin which winds northwards through the rather wild landscape of St Ouen.
I’m way inside my target time, running smoothly, exchanging banter with my fellow runners in the mid pack. It’s a feature of the longer races these days that the gals are as plentiful as the guys which adds to the race day experience. It’s odd to recall the times when women were only grudgingly accepted into road racing with some of the guys being affronted if they were “beaten by a girl”. Those “girls” are plenty tough and not afraid to beat anyone.
So onto darkest L’Etacq, as far from civilised St Helier as is possible, and we turn for home, heading south via the Five Mile Road. There are fewer groups now, most running solo. It is easy to fall into the mindset of accepting everyone else’s pace as fatigue sets in. A few, me included, make little breaks, overtaking other runners, trying to keep the tempo up. As we approach the south end of the Five Mile Road, at La Pulente, my pace is holding up, assisted now by regular intake of fruit pastilles. But I’m flagging and the hard work is only just starting. There’s an off-road section around the Petit Port headland which slows us considerably – it’s rocky and dangerous. Out on to the roads again and then the long, mean climb at Corbière – a lot of walking going on though I manage to run it, though at much the same pace as the walkers 🙂 Finally, on to the Railway Walk which leads to the finish, just over a mile away. But now I’m bushed, I’ve lost all track of time, only aware that my 1:55 has probably gone. As I drag towards the finish, two legendary oldies – Bernie Arthur and Sue Le Ruez – glide by me. Sparked into whatever life I have left, as we hit the cycle track, finish line in sight, I manage to edge by them both again to finish in 1:57.45.
A great morning, well-organised race, excellent company. A tough old race but running is termed an endurance sport for a reason.
Times past, this flagship event attracted many runners. For whatever reason(s), controllable or not, there were just 47 finishers last Sunday. Furthermore, there were few, if any, participants who were not regular and/or competent runners.
Still, it was a sunny if somewhat chilly morning as the race started, back to the Radisson before turning and heading west along the well-worn promenade along Victoria Avenue. Generations of runners have used this as their training ground, primarily for its traffic-free environment and its welcome lighting on winter nights. Perhaps some of those old runners were, invisible to us, sitting on the sea wall and casting a critical eye.
Personally, my aim was a consecutive sub-50 minute run – the math being easy as I kept my eye on my trusty Garmin timepiece. The leaders were soon in the distance and the chatty mid-pack bunch easing slowly ahead, chatty but still faster than me. I felt comfortable enough, hitting my 5min kms as we headed west. Richard Watson eased by me early on but I edged by him again as we turned at St Aubin for the run for home.
Then a reality check as a moderate south-easterly breeze sprung up, right into our faces. The even-paced cruise turned into a bit of a battle, arms working harder, no-one immediately in front to latch on to, recruiting one or two tricks to maintain rhythm. The last long run-in from First Tower and an anxious check of the watch. 49.43, which I consider a good morning’s work.
A couple of nights ago I ran a 5k race. I ran well and strongly, finished more or less where I expected in a good field, 36th out of 54, being by far the oldest runner on the evening. My time was 24.24, pretty good by my historical standards. Only trouble was I ran 23.54 last July over the same course and it felt like, on the night, I’d run sub-24 again.
Immediate reaction? Disappointed. But then I reconsidered. I’d enjoyed the run, I’d clocked a decent time. It is illogical to expect to continually improve one’s time – at age 9 perhaps, at age 69 next month, no.
So that’s my resolution for 2022. I’ll continue to race hard, to the best of my ability. Then I’ll be satisfied with whatever the watch tells me. That way I save myself the grief.
At last a year which I can look back upon with a lot of satisfaction. In almost 20 years of running I think it’s the first one with few, if any, low points. And the reasons for that have been clear.
Weight loss Since I entered my 30s I’ve always been on the heavy side, no doubt about it. It became a natural state of things. I’ve generally felt fine and healthy, I’ve done plenty of running and other sport. I’ve always been aware that maybe I’d improve if I shifted a bit of weight but I’ve never been motivated to do so. After all, I was never going to win races no matter what weight I was, so why bother?
In September of 2020 my daughter Emma announced that she’d lost a good bit of weight and, as a result, she was running very well. At that time she’d never beaten me over any distance. Maybe I was spurred on by the realisation that this boast was under threat and, on her recommendation, I trotted along to Kit Chamier, Sports Nutritionist. He weighed me, I was 99kg (218lb), very overweight indeed by any standards. Kit set out a dietary regime designed to lose weight steadily and – crucially – I was held accountable to send in my food diary on a weekly basis. Weigh-ins were infrequent, no jumping on the scales every day.
By 25th January I was 86.1kg, by 27th May 81.6kg. I stopped there and have maintained that weight ever since. I’ll talk a little more about that in my next post, but onto the running.
My running year My target for the year? To beat my record year of 1,333 miles, back in 2010. (I have always kept a diary.) So nearly 26 miles per week. In practical terms this means running 4 – 5 times a week. I have ‘go-to’ circuits from my apartment of 4.3 and 5.5 miles, each with a serious hill included to give extra training value to the run. A few of those and a longer run usually make up the distance.
Most of my running is done solo. In June I stepped back from running with Jersey Joggers, the group I started back in 2013. They’re still going strong but without me. I’m still happy to meet up and run with others now and again, including the Slackers & Skivers on a Friday morning 😃
And the races! I love race day. Pin a number on me and I’m happy. As Covid receded the races returned. Here are a few highlights. (Bear in mind, when looking at my times, that the proper runners are waaaay faster and finish long before I do.)
New Year’s Day 2021. By this time the weight loss had become very evident and I was enjoying my running. I resolved to make 2021 a good one. To this end I was up early on 1st January to tackle Rozel Valley. It’s a beautiful valley in the north-east of the island but it is long and steep, a full kilometre from the Rozel Bay Inn to the old mill at the top. I’d never before managed to run it without stopping. That day I did. That was the signal that things would turn out well.
10th Jan – At the height of lockdown, permitted exercise, a fun 5k time trial dodging families, dogs, buggies etc. on the cycle track at Les Quennevais, 25.06. Enjoyed that one. (For context, my PB from 2015 is 22.51).
11th May – 5k race 24.35.
22nd May – Durrell Challenge – 8.1miles (hilly), 1:14.25. My daughter beat me handsomely, first time ever.
8th June – 5k race 24.18
19th June – A regular time-trial of 6.5 miles out to Gorey Harbour, 56.30, my fastest in a long time.
26th June – Headway 10k, 50.42. Very happy with this, and rubbing shoulders with one or two local legends. (Again for context, my 10k PB remains at 47.54 from 2010.)
6th July – 5k race 23.54 (delighted with sub-24).
22nd July – Spartan 10k (actually 9.8k) 52.07.
25th July – Delighted to meet up with an old Jersey Jogger. Doctor Ella Corrick is now living and working in Scotland and, on a short visit, it was great to run a few miles with her.
31st July – 10-mile race 86.00.
14th August – Jayson Lee 10k 50.17.
10th October – Autumn 10k 50.29
23rd October – Hospice Half-Marathon 1:55.31, my first Half in a long time and pleased and relieved to get inside two hours.
6th November – Spartan 10k 51.02
14th November – Cannacord Half 1:59.18, tough uphill finish.
4th December – Durrell Dasher 12k (approx) 62.00.
18th December – Bouley Bay Hill Climb 9.44, a fiendish event, just under a mile.
26th December – Boxing Day 10k 48.48 (I’ve adjusted to 49.15 for a slightly short course.) The undoubted highlight of the year, I’ll never run as fast again. After a few near-misses I really wanted a sub-50 to finish the year. The only way I was going to do this was by starting quicker than I was comfortable with and trying to hold that faster pace. This I did, getting among the slightly better runners which kept me going. The danger was that I’d die a death in the final stretch but I managed to keep it together. Insanely pleased.
Total miles run in 2021 – 1,418.
Oh, and I also led a 9-week Couch to 5k programme for Spartans in the autumn, and I’ll be doing another starting mid-Jan.
That’s it then, on to 2022, targets not yet decided. One definite target is to keep running well until my 70th birthday in Feb 2023 at which point I’d be confident of getting a few age-group victories 😃
I love race day. I love 10ks. Sunday morning dawned cool, damp and still. I generally like to race in either my Jersey Spartan singlet or that of my Irish club Crusaders, but this is most often worn over another t-shirt. Today it would be just the Crusaders singlet.
Headway is the local branch of the head injury charity and the race is sponsored by Jacksons the car dealer. The race director is Bryce Alford and he’s put together a well organised race. We start on the cycle track at Les Quennevais and this has the effect of stringing the field out a little before we head out onto the main road towards the airport. I’m feeling ok though my quads are still feeling the effects of Thursday’s sand dunes even though I had a good run the day after. Still, it’s only a dull ache and nothing to worry about.
So down towards the airport, turning right past Strive, the new health and fitness centre most recently used by the British and Irish Lions during their training camp, past the rugby club, diving left past St Peter’s football club and across the main Route de Beaumont into the lanes by St George’s Prep. I’m running pretty well, keeping up a decent pace, feeling strong. At half way now and I glance at my watch – just under 26 minutes so on course for 52 with which I’d be pretty happy.
The field is, of course, well spread out by this time and the fast men up front will be approaching the finish. Out of the lanes, back across the main road, behind St Peter’s Village and we connect with the path around the airport perimeter. Always I have the runners ahead of me as targets and I’m never satisfied unless I can nibble away at the gap and perhaps pass them out. But what’s this – John Cunningham onto my shoulder? We exchange a few words. John’s a legend of local running having completed the Comrades Marathon (in fact it’s 89 kilometres) in South Africa on a number of occasions. However he’s no spring chicken and has a heart problem so he’s taking it easy. Still, I’m honoured to be alongside him in a race. Now into the last 2k and trying to latch onto John’s heels keeps me from fading, still pushing for a decent time.
And, into the last kilometre, ahead of John is Sue Le Ruez, another legend and a good friend of mine. I’ve never even come close to Sue in a race and here’s my chance. But no. I can’t find another gear and Sue, then John pass over the line but I’m amazed to be so close to both of them. My watch says 50.42, quicker than I’ve run for many a long year.
So, not fast by the standards of the ‘proper’ runners – the race was won by George Rice in 32.01 with Katelyn Ridgway first woman in 37.04. Still, 89th out of 175 finishers ain’t so shabby.
I thought I’d reinvigorate this occasional blog by recording bits about my running – training, races etc. I’ll start off with a race report from yesterday evening.
One of Spartans’ long-established events is the Sunset Trophy. Originally, this was two circuits of the sand dunes which climb from sea level at Le Braye up to the high ground of Les Quennevais – the playing fields, the golf course and the Les Ormes resort. The course has has since been modified so that the climb takes place only the once (small mercies) and the runners are then decanted off the dunes and onto the playing fields, along the Railway Walk, down La Pulente Hill and back along the road to complete the circuit. Only 3.2 miles but still a bit of a challenge.
23 of us lined up at the car park, amongst them Paul Holley who we don’t see much of these days but who immediately became the pre-race favourite. The first objective as we set off though was to avoid breaking an ankle in one of the many rabbit holes. Then there’s the matter of choosing the best course up the dunes. The choices are many and, having made brave but wrong decisions previously, this time I dutifully followed the majority.
There is a reason that athletes and other sports players train on the sand dunes – it is a trial of strength as you slip back one step in three and fight for grip to maintain upward momentum. Still, I made the gate off the dunes with a few runners behind me and settled in for the two remaining flat/downhill miles.
Bernie Arthur is a class runner but he’s now 73 to my 68, and also struggling a little with injury. He came up onto my shoulder and threatened to pull away. OK, I was in a race. I like that. It brings out a bit of my competitive instinct and raises my game. I concentrated on keeping the gap manageable and with the last flat mile to go I was on Bernie’s shoulder again. I felt I had a bit left and thought I might test out his injury, see if he could respond. (Sorry Bernie.) I pressed on the gas a little, no response. And so I opened the gap and finished in 13th place out of 23 in a time of 28.14. Paul Holley had duly won in 19.22.