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Saturday, 18 September 2010

Off & Running

So why am I writing this blog; there might be 5 people reading it.  I guess that one cannot ignore the simple self-indulgence of writing down ones thoughts and memories; it is a pleasurable way to record part of the biography of a life.  Maybe one or two people will draw some sort inspiration from it.  It enables me to develop my style in writing.  Perhaps the most important aspect for me is that I now feel I am more of a contributor to the Run Net Community.
I don’t know where the ‘new media‘ path will lead in terms of our communication but I sincerely hope that it will contribute to the breaking down of barriers between humans that still seem to be prevalent across our world.
It was exactly four weeks after the Pony Marathon that I toed the best one can at a mass participation marathon...again.  This was the 1981 Interplas Marathon in Birmingham.  I completed the course in 3hrs 15mins, with a diary comment of ‘Much better”.  
After the Interplas
Four weeks later again, and amidst quite a busy cross country season, I took part in the Honiton Marathon in Devon; the time came down again to 3hrs 10mins 30secs.  
My training was still quite un-informed.  I’d read Jim Fixx’s book and The Runner’s Handbook  by  Bob Glover and Jack Shepherd but I was still tending to just run at every opportunity, which mainly consisted of running to and from college (5 miles by the shortest route).  These were halcyon days of fitness.  A diary entry records, for example, “Ran to college, played 5-a-side football, ran home: 10 miles”).  
My training carried on well though the Christmas break and it was in February 1982 that I took part in the Seven Sisters Marathon, a cross country event that starts and ends at Eastborne on the south coast of England. More specifically it started up a very steep, grassy slope and finished over a series of cliff edge hills, the eponymous Seven Sisters, one of which is Beachy Head, sadly well known as a site for suicide jumps (so much so that volunteers are often there to talk with, and hopefully dissuade, potential jumpers). 

The Uphill Start
I remember this being a tough event but with some notable features.  Firstly, the runners set off some time after the walking entrants and I can still picture the rows of boots outside the pub door as the walkers took on their liquids...seems to me that that’s not a bad approach.  Secondly, we were all given a large chunk of fruit cake at the base of one of the later climbs (22.5 miles); the sensation of that chewy lump of cake becoming concrete-like in my dry mouth still remain a startlingly vivid memory.  I recorded a time of 3hrs 31mins and finished 11th out of 150 entrants.         
Closing stages of Wolverhampton
It was on Sunday the 28th of March 1982 that my marathon time fell below 3 hours for the first time. The Wolverhampton Marathon, which I ran with my friend Chris Windley.  I found my flow and my recorded time was 2 hrs 52 mins 25 secs.
My diary recalls a rather more significant event around this time though.  I returned to my family home in Exning, a small village near Newmarket, and there I ran with both my mother and my father.  Dad had been a long time smoker but he was stick-thin and had been a useful 400 yds runner in his school days.  It was a joy to run with him but Mum’s achievement was, perhaps, the greater.  She was hard working and stoic in her character, she would never have thought herself a runner but with gentle encouragement, starting out with very small increments, she was now joining me on a 5 mile run.
The next chronological event was my move into ultra distance running but I’ll leave that for my next posting.  I just want to skip forward here to Sunday the 18th of July 1982.  The Cambridge Half-Marathon.  I was a little disappointed by my time of 84 minutes but I was elated to be able to record that Mum, at 49 years of age and within months of starting to run, finished the same event in a time of 1hr 58 Mins. She grew to love running and was hugely disappointed when unremitting knee pain forced her to stop before she could tackle a full marathon although she went on to play tennis until, sadly, she was diagnosed with cancer and died in 1997. I still miss her. 
Mum and Me, very happy after the Cambridge Half

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