Nothing for it on a damp 1st January Sunday morning but to put my gear on and put in a few slow kms. I headed around to the north east and St Martin’s parish, parked up and headed off. As has become a habit, I declare my intention for the year by tackling a serious hill. In this case the two tracks leading up from Gorey Pier to Haut de la Garenne.
From there I plodded easily through the gloomy countryside (St Martin always seems gloomy, though pleasingly intriguing) following a roughly circular course and taking in the gentle morning, the nature and landmarks. Hope you like the pics.
Back to Longbeach car park 9.6km later, just as the rain began in earnest. Delighted to bump into Hannah Bechelet, a fellow runner and former Jersey resident now working as a TV presenter in Birmingham, back in the Island for the holidays with her husband and young twin boys.
I think the quiet months of January and February will find me doing a bit more rediscovery of our lovely part of the world at a suitably slow pace.
“One of these days I won’t be able to do this any more. Today is NOT that day.” One of my favourite quotes and one that, fortunately, still holds true. More than this, 2022 has been a very good year and one which I’ve enjoyed to the full. Fast approaching my 70th birthday I’m well aware that it will all end sooner or later but for now I’m riding the wave. Here, self-indulgently, I’ll review my running year.
Weight and health Other than a bit of a bug late in the year I’ve remained in good health. In particular I seem to have escaped Covid altogether, though I’ve never actually been tested for it. My target weight is 80kg and I’ve largely fluctuated around 81-82 (though am slipping a little as we speak). A healthy weight is a must for enjoyable running. I’ve adopted a vegan lifestyle which is easy, aligns with my animal rights views, is a no-brainer for anyone concerned about the environment and climate change, and provides a healthy diet.
Mileage In my case anyway, total mileage has always correlated with running performance. In 2022 I ran 2,310km (1,435miles), a record year, overtaking my 2021 total on Christmas Day. I have to admit retirement from full time work has freed up lots of time for running 🙂
Training I try to get out 4-5 times a week, usually alone but sometimes in company. It’s mostly easy running though I try to always throw in a serious hill, and occasionally a time trial or speedwork at the track. The flat out stuff I leave for race day.
The Races – (I love Race Day!) 11 Jan – Jersey Spartan 5k – 24.25 – I’m happy with anything in the 24s for a 5k.
29 Mar – Spartans 5k – 24.18
10 Apr – Spartans Spring 10k – 49.45 – sub-50 which is my 10k target.
19 April – Spartans 5k – 24.21
22 May – Durrell Challenge 13k 72.42. Tough old race, from town out to the Zoo, two serious hills in there. Finished strong and three minutes faster than last year. 146th out of 395.
12 June – Jersey Half-Marathon 1:57.45. Died a bit of a death on the tough final section but content enough with sub-2.
26 June – Headway 10k 49.39. 46th out of 105.
5 July – Spartan 5k 23.17. The highlight of the year and maybe my second fastest 5k ever. Winged feet, one of those rare occasions when it all comes right.
21 July – Spartans 10k (actually 9.76k) at Les Platons 50.02. Always a deceivingly tough course for which one needs to summon extra mental strength.
11 Aug – Spartan 8k Jardin d’Olivet 40.22
14 Aug – Jayson Lee Memorial 10k 49.18. 65th out of 219. Always a good race to run and well supported by the running community.
9 Oct – Spartans Autumn 10k 50.07. My favourite course (St Catherine) so annoying I was outside the 50.
18 Oct – Spartan 5k 24.43. Lost about 30 seconds after colliding with a bike, my own stupid fault. Could have been much worse.
6 Nov – Durrell Dash 12k approx – 62.39. 89th out of 203. Lost time re-tying shoelace, a rookie error on this tough course.
20 Nov – Frubbs 10 miler 1:30.14. My one really poor race, at the tail end of some sort of bug. I was treading water in the last few miles as many others floated past me.
20 Dec – Spartan 5k handicap 24.02. A fun race where the slower runners start ahead of the faster. It produced a good time in my case.
26 Dec – Spartans Boxing Day 10k 49.49. I couldn’t hold on to a fast start and my splits drifted upwards as the race progressed. Still, another sub-50.
31 Dec – Bouley Bay Hill Climb (1.6km) 10.13. This annual torture attracted a nice crowd with the youngsters very much in evidence, this being one of the few races that is open to all with no age restrictions due to distance. I was a little way off my 2021 time but never mind.
Plans for 2022? If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. Maintain body weight, maintain running consistency, keep running the races hard. And as I slip into the M70 age group I might be tempted onto a plane to enter a few UK races – there are few other silly old buggers still running here in Jersey 🙂
Our Friday morning Slackers & Skivers run group – an offshoot of the amazing Jersey Girls Run – had its heyday during Covid lockdown. Since then, most of the group have found themselves returning to work, resulting in regular turnouts of three or fewer. So it was this morning I kept the flag flying by running solo in the lanes of St Martin, the parish which best retains the character of old rural Jersey.
To head inland from this coastal road one has no option but to head uphill. The long Mont des Landes provides an early opportunity to get the heart going and the calves stretched.
Each of Jersey’s 12 parishes has its own character. St Martin always seems dark and quiet, no one ever seems to be out and about. Today the heavy drizzle is welcome after a dry summer and early autumn. Nature reigns, happy in its solitude and gets on with gently adapting to the season’s turn. Acorns and chestnuts lie in profusions along the lanes.
Then over to the Farmers’ Cricket Field. The season having just finished, Jim Perchard has scarified the outfield in preparation for re-seeding. The ground was formerly agricultural land but opened for cricket in 2005 thanks to Jim the landowner and his passion for the game. It quickly replaced Grainville as the premier cricket ground in the Island, just as Grainville supplanted the FB Fields in the late 1970s.
Turning back towards my starting point and a little diversion down another quiet lane which runs, little used, back to the coast road.
Back to civilisation after just 9k. A welcome coffee at the Driftwood Cafe and entertainment from a woman complaining bitterly over the freshness or otherwise of the croissants.
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.