Sunday, 29 March 2009

Charnwood Marathon - my first LDWA event

Yesterday I completed the Charnwood Marathon, an event organised by the Long Distance Walking Association. I'd heard of the LDWA years ago as lots of the 100 Marathon club members are big fans of these events. Some events are for walkers only, but lots have a later start time for runners to take part. They are very friendly events, with lots of fruit, cake, sandwiches & hot drinks at the checkpoints, as well as soup at the finish. They are cheaper than most road running events too. There were certificates and sew-on badges at the end rather than medals. Timing was approximate.

The Charnwood Marathon started in Quorn, Leicestershire and followed a loop trail route through many fields, tracks, paths and over hills and a gazillion stiles. It was very uneven terrain leaving me with tender ankles today. The weather varied hugely - it was windy more often than not, but we also had hot sunshine and freezing cold icy hail. The route was scenic with some great views (including from the highest point in the county) but it wasn't marked or marshalled, nor was there a route map. My Garmin produced the following:

The LDWA events involve participants being given a sheet of directions to follow. There were 2 1/2 sides of A4 with densely packed instructions: "Go thro kissing gate next to ladder stile. AH on path and downhill to X stream & thro kissing gate. TR along field edge keeping steam on R. TL at field corner, uphill with wall and wood on R,..." - that excerpt was a mere 2 lines worth! I found it extremely difficult to read and run, but fortunately I was running with an experienced LDWA member who'd mastered the knack of running down difficult terrain while both reading and eating an energy bar. Apparently it gets easier with practice. It was draining mentally to have to keep up the concentration rather than just running. We also had an orienteering-style card that had to be clipped at the checkpoints, some of which were unmanned so we just had to hunt around to find the clipper.

It was a great day out, despite the marathon taking me just over 5 hours to complete. I think I'll try some more LDWA runs in the future. They certainly make for a different sort of challenge.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Charity Updates

I received an email from the Kashmir Education this week, saying that

..."the third quality school (BANJOSA VALLEY PUBLIC SCHOOL) of KEF opened on 24th of March in the remote village of Banjosa. Lovely children with smiling faces were the first intakes of class prep and class 1."

The money I raised by doing the '7 runs on 7 Suns' challenge went towards building this school. Jim's school raised further funds for Banjosa by having a non-uniform day.

Also, back on the 13th, I received the following in an email from Animal Aid: "The income from the sponsor form is £10,796 so far.
The target for an Outrage insert is £12,500, and £10,796 at this stage means this should comfortably be achieved. Given the current state of the economy, this is very good news indeed."

It's good to see that being sponsored to run has a real impact. I almost feel guilty taking money for doing something I love, but then the money's not for me so I guess I should just ask for more! Actually, I probably challenge myself more when I know it's for charity than I would otherwise, so I do get something very positive out of it personally too. It's currently looking like the '10 Marathons' Challenge may well end up being closer to 15 for example...

Running with Wombles

Ok, so the title is a bit of a misnomer as it was a group of students, not Wombles, that I was running with. Not that I think my students are wombles, but we were doing a 10K in Wimbledon you see… (Ok you pedants, it wasn’t actually on Wimbledon Common, but hey, Orinoco makes me smile!)

So, Maths may be my subject, but the teachers at my sixth form college are asked to organise two 6-week ‘enrichment’ courses for the lower sixth each year. It was obvious I’d choose to get ‘em running. (Well, I thought it obvious, but initially I was asked if I’d like to look after the netballers – “NOOOOOOO!”)

We only get an hour or two on Wednesday afternoons to train, but the time is spread across more than six weeks, as half term holidays and other things crop up during the term. I figured the timing was about right to get the students up to a level where they could complete a 10K. We train in a local park, doing a mixture of drills, intervals and hillwork. We’ve been out in all types of weather, including rain (making for comedy slippyness) and we even did one session on the college field in inches of snow – a fantastic workout! We also discuss nutrition and I help them come up with a training plan, basically adding two further runs per week (one easy, one long). This year I’ve had the assistance of Meriem, our cutest French teacher, at the training sessions. She also ran in the race.

The first group of the year do the Brighton 10K in November; the second lot do the Wimbledon 10K in March. This year it was on Sunday March 22nd - a lovely sunny day. We met at Embankent tube station at 07:45, which fortunately didn’t seem too early as at least the mornings are still light before the clocks go forward. The students were great – they’d trained hard and also got sponsored (mostly for NSPCC) and all of them completed the event. Their times ranged from 48:31 to 1:21:23 and they were really chuffed with their rather nice medals. One student organised his own special vest from a Cancer charity and ran in memory of his friend’s mum: he raised £100. One of the students was tripped at 6K, but he hobbled his way to the finish – a long way to limp! There is one keen student who’s done all 4 of the 10Ks. Even the Vice Principal of college came along to take part (beating the rest of us with a time of 45:43).

I also met Peter Simpson again, the founder and club secretary of my running club: Vegan Runners UK. He’s pretty quick, finishing in an impressive 42:08. I was just taking it easy on the day, as I didn’t want to risk injury that would spoil my busy running schedule over the next few months. (My time – 54:24.)

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Cambridge Boundary Run Marathon

I did the Cambridge Boundary Run marathon today. Being a geeky mathematician type, when I saw the elevation profile I wasn't at all bothered about the 'hills', as I looked carefully at the scales on the axes. And rightly so as the course was lovely and flat, with only a couple of minor undulations. I thought it was going to be a road run for some reason, so was pleasantly surprised that it was predominantly on trails.

The surface was mostly good, though there were a few muddy areas and several styles to cross. It was good weather for it too, though I'd have liked a bit of rain really. Then again, the route was marked with some paper signs on lamp posts and flour arrows on the ground, so rain could have been a bad thing for navigation. As it turned out, I got lost only once (faring better than some people!), for just over half a mile near mile 23. We were given maps and instructions to back up the arrows so I was able to retrace my steps and get back on course fairly easily.

Overall it was a nice day out and I met up with several runners I already knew and met a few more I'll most likely see at future races too. I didn't manage to get a decent picture of me with the race T shirt, hence the eyes-shut pic here.