We run and we run RaceBest. This blog is about running, but it's also about what we're up to at RaceBest.

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Our time is running out

Where does the time go, you know, when we’ve done with it?  I mean, when it’s gone, used up, behind you, where is it kept?  Is it being stored in a great big cosmic bedroom at the back of a great big cosmic house? Or is being catalogued so that our descendants can search it to find out exactly what shape Tuesday was and how much January 2007 actually weighed? Or do we just recycle it and in fact the moment you are currently experiencing was last here as a long, dull, Medieval Sunday with nothing on the telly.

The question, where does the time go, applies equally to the yawning chasm between the last time you spoke to your bestest ever uni pal and the news that he has just got divorced as it does to the distance between the starting gun sounding and the time now showing on your PaceMaster 3000.  Regardless of race distance there’s always a point where either you’re ahead of time or you’re behind time, or if you’re really lucky, in the moment, but whichever is true, it also true that you just lost 20 minutes or 2 hours of your life that you will not only never get back, but also will never be able to locate, because THEY won’t tell you where THEY keep it.  Of course this now raises further questions, such as, if you’re ahead of time, what does the space between time and you feel like? If you slowed to let time catch up, would time thank you or just elbow you out of the way, immune to your protestations because he or she (gender is a debate for another day) is wearing headphones and in the zone aided by Queen’s Greatest Hits (6 million Brits can’t be wrong) on repeat.  Or if you’re behind time what does he/she look like?  I imagine a big lilac splodgy mass, not unlike Barbapapa but then that’s my age.  Of course, time has been defined more precisely as a big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff, which clearly supports my Barbapapa theory.

And I can’t even begin to ponder the correct tense for this horological debate, so I’m just going to ignore it, unlike the White Rabbit who just overtook me on the way to the finish line.  Him, I will follow, down the Rabbit Hole (“Don’t Stop Me Now!”). Maybe that’s where the time is.  In the Underland, guarded by Morpheus and the Time Lords (a glam rock band that never lived up to their early promise).  If I’m right, you’ll see me break the two hour marathon barrier at Manchester. If I’m right, you have already seen me break the two hour marathon barrier at Manchester, in fact you have just retrieved that moment from the cosmic catalogue, and it weighed a ton.  Yeah, I know. Heavy.


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Beat The Clock

Race number? Check.  Safety pins? Check.  Shirt, shorts, shoes? Check.  Gels, jelly babies, jelly-legged jalopy? Check.  

Oh it’s all coming together like a Flaming Pie’d Beatle with a yen for Japan.  Or a Byrne’d out talking head on a road to nowhere.  Or a zimmer man with any number of roads he’s impelled to walk down.  Talking of which, I’m on the low road and she’s on the high road, and many will be in Scotland before wee me.  I start in London, she starts with a Regent, but we both end at Muscle Beach…or something like that.

I’m talking Edinburgh Marathon Blues. Numbers, pins and energy tablets arrived today, so barring limb loss we will be on our way in ten days to the Scottish capital to run 26.2 miles for no other cause than the mere fact we can. Which is enough. I think.

The long runs are behind us, the long run before us. We’re tapering hard (if that’s possible, because frankly tapering is easy, running less has never been a problem for me). Targets have been set, plans and splits discussed, fuel strategies practised.  I’m as prepared as a boy scout with a Prince 2 badge.  So like a moustachioed Mael and his kid brother all I have to do is beat the clock (you gotta beat the clock, you gotta beat the clock).

What can possibly go wrong?

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Tardy or what?

I blame the Easter bunny, that malevolent six foot rabbit with a chocolate fetish, sort of Donnie Darko meets Willy Wonka. Or perhaps it’s all the plodded miles.  Or the return of Dr Who.  Oh, I don’t know, it’s all excuses for not having posted for a while.

Marathon training continues, not quite apace, but definitely at a pace, more tortoise less hare, more Eeyore less Tigger,  more Long and Winding Road less Jet.  The training group has dwindled as others have had their day on the finish line (Paris has gone, London is imminent) or the finish line is fast approaching (Mancunians are tapering).  Meanwhile Edinburgh is still five weeks away.  That’s 2, maybe 3, long runs away.  About another 200 training miles to go, which coincidentally is the distance from here to there.  So I could set off now. Maybe not.

It’s all gone to plan, which if my past marathon experience is anything to go by, means not a thing.  My poorest training programme (longest run 17 miles, 6 weeks before the event) is my second best time.  My best programme (over 600 injury free miles) is my personal worst.   What will be, will be.

I hope to be better than tardy on the day, but at my age and with my reputation, I’ll settle for finishing.

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Not yet halfway

Marathon training is a slog.  In fact it’s a bit like running a marathon. A lot of miles, a long way, a journey where the end is not conceivable, let alone visible, when you are at the start.

I’ve reached Week 6 of 16 (37.5% for all you statisticians).  In marathon terms that means I’m just approaching Mile 10…16.2 to go.  Which still seems like a long way. Probably because it is.

My weekly average is over 44 miles, which is definitely more than I’ve done before.  And whilst part of me thinks that none of this seems to be having any impact on my readiness for a marathon, there is evidence that it is.  I ran the Dentdale 14 at the weekend (which I thoroughly recommend for those of you who like hilly courses in beautiful surroundings topped off by cream teas made by the good lady villagers of Dent) and felt as strong on the last hill (mile 13) as on the first.  And I know that would not have been the case six months ago.

So with 10 more weeks of my training to go, I guess I’m heading in the right direction.  But when I think of having run 10 miles with 16.2 to go I struggle to think anything other than “OH. MY. GOD.”

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Never say never again

They made me do it, your honour.  I said no, I said never, I swore on someone or other’s grave. But they wouldn’t let it lie, the voices in my head and the ones by my side.

And in the end it was easier to give in, go with the flow, let the long runs wash away my sins.

So 26.2 is back on the menu boys (and girls).  For the third time in Edinburgh, the fourth time in Scotland and the sixth time of asking.

And Mrs Bear is doing it too.  Baby Bear isn’t.  She’s far too distracted.

I’ll try and keep you posted.

Just 23 weeks to go.


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And you run and you run to catch up with the sun

But it’s sinking
Racing around
To come up behind you again

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free and I’ll give you the Abbey Massive on the second cold Tuesday in September.  Hand rubbing, self-hugging, foot stamping, clad in nowt but triple-layered lycra long johns and luminescent yellow jerseys (has anyone else noticed how many Tour de France winners there are in Abbeyville?), they low like cattle indignant at the unannounced and unwelcome annexation of their hay manger by a newly awoken one-in-the-eye-for-Dawkins infant (I am categorically NOT going to mention how many shopping days it is until Christmas at this juncture) and shiver, shake and shudder as if their quivering, in itself, will generate the will needed to overcome the nagging feeling that an evening at the bar would be a better way to spend the next sixty minutes.

However, whilst that was true the second Tuesday of September, it was so not the case two weeks later.  The seasonal mayhem that is so random it’s predictable, and to which by now we ought to have become accustomed, particularly as it can be blamed for everything from late trains to poor high street sales figures, played its anarchical hand and delivered not so much an Indian summer as a sub-Saharan heat wave.  Just when you’d put all those skimpy summer shorts and variable velocity vests (no I don’t know what I mean by that either) at the bottom of that smelly kit drawer, the mercury soars ever upwards like an atom bomb about to oh oh oh oh oh explode, breaking all records on its way (in fact, I understand, a record previously held by my county of birth was broken by my adopted county…if the fates are trying to send me a message there it’s far too cryptic; please hang up and try again).  It’s too darn hot and I for one do not like it.  No I do not.  When Blighty-hot has been and gone (and once again failed to outstay its welcome) its return is as welcome as Nick Clegg in a student union.

As we enter October 2011, month of 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays and 5 Mondays, (apparently the first time, since 1188 trivia fans) it should be mild, it should be clement; it should be autumnal, dammit.  It’s just too confusing for a bear of little brain to experience simultaneously, concurrently, contemporaneously and undoubtedly unnecessarily tautologically the blazing sun baring down upon me as the falling fruit of the chestnut, beech and oak bruise my battered back (wow, even I think that sentence is just trying too hard!).

For those who plan to run a North West Marathon on 9th October, I can report that Michael The Fish says you won’t need the sunscreen and there is absolutely no risk of a hurricane.  For anyone who ran on 1st – 2nd October, the doctor will see you now.

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London calling

Yes, I was there, too
And you know what they said?
Well, some of it was true!

I confess that on Sunday April 17th I was there too, some of it was true, but at various points I wished I wasn’t and it wasn’t.  You can’t always have what you wish for.

Say London to a runner and it means but one thing: the Marathon formerly known as Flora, now loudly and proudly Virginal.  It’s fashionable in certain circles to slag off the London Village Marathon with its focus on “charidee” and “fun” and suggest that it isn’t a serious marathon.  But 26 miles and 385 yards of tarmac is 26 miles and 385 yards of tarmac wherever it lays its hat and running a marathon is a serious business whether you’re garbed in singlet and shorts or dressed as a Rubik’s cube.

And there were a lot of silly outfits: rhinos, Mister Men, daft buggers carrying white goods, mankinis (no need!) and pink tutus.  Someone even went dressed as Will Young.  Furthermore, no doubt in a nod to the sponsor, I clocked sixteen vestal virgins who, l later learnt, failed to finish, and were last seen leaving for the coast, a pail of shady White’s (secret Lemonade drinkers the lot) in hand.

Me, I went to the party heavily disguised as a serious runner, hiding my natural grizzly state.  I can tell you, it’s no mean feat squeezing 600lb of hairy bear into a human costume.  Three hours it took me to shave my chops (thank you Gillette, the best a bear can get), Vaseline up and compress my enormous frame, Slitheen-like, into my “Spitfire thin strung like a violin” athlete’s attire.

In the end it all went pear-shaped, or perhaps bear-shaped.  In a fit of public service altruism I had donated my left arm to medical science just days before the big race, thinking it would make little difference, me being right-handed an’ all.  As all you smarter-than-the-average-bear-BooBoos know, Aaron Ralston took 127 hours to cut off his arm, which by some extraordinary coincidence is about the same length of time it took me to run London Town.

But, if at first you don’t succeed, then just enter another.  Despite my never-again mantra, muttered from Cutty Sark to Buckingham Palace, once I’d crossed the finish line, blubbed in the arms of a marvellous marshal, refuelled on bananas, Boosts and badinage, I had completely forgotten the bad bits (me, running) and only remembered the good bits (everyone, cheering).  Frank Shorter, an Olympic Marathon Gold medallist said “You have to forget your last marathon before you try another” and I can tell you I’d erased all the pain, self-pity and ineptitude by the time I stumbled onto the train at Kings Cross.  So I’ve entered Chester in October.  And I’ve entered London. Again.

What can I say?  An elephant never forgets.  A one-legged Kenyan gathers no moss.  A bear in the bush is worth a head in the sand.  Or so I’ve been told.