Archive for the ‘running’ Category

Running the Belvoir Challenge 26

March 2, 2017

belvoir1I entered this race to raise some money for Macmillan Cancer Support: a good cause, and also to raise the spirits of a relative who is seriously ill. I had never entered a “Challenge” race before – for the uninitiated, this generally means a vicious route, involving obstacles, mud and anything else the organisers can throw at you. In this respect, the Belvoir Challenge certainly lived up to its name.

The start was much like any other race – around 1,000 runners (with a preponderance of running clubs, from Newark, Lincoln, Nottingham, Grimsby . . .) gathered in the village hall to register and receive their race numbers. One difference was the number of cakes on offer and the start itself – a sign pointed to “Start in field”.

As soon as my feet sank into the rich, clay loam that makes the area around Melton Mowbray such good agricultural land, I realised what I was letting myself in for. Soon, a giant slipper of sticky soil was glued to each foot, making traction almost impossible. We trudged, staggered and slipped our way through field, after field, after field – I commented that you don’t need running shoes for this, skis would be a better option!

After five miles, came the biggest climb of the course – in total it involved 1,200 feet of climbs and descents – a brutal hill, involving clambering up the last section on hands and feet, using tree stumps to get some sort of traction. At least this was near the beginning, so we had some time to recover. The views across the Wolds made up for this ascent, however, with spectacular scenery – you could see the town of Grantham in the far distance and we had some respite as we ploughed our way through some relative wooded footpaths.

Soon, it was back to muddy fields, though – now with the added problem of a chill easterly wind in our faces, and driving rain. At least there was no danger of overheating. We had a welcome stop at the 18 mile mark, at the hamlet of Woolsthorpe – Stilton and crackers were on offer, and there was even the option of turning into the hall for some hot food. I wanted to push on, though, so wiped my muddy hands with antibacterial gel and a cloth, grabbed a homemade flapjack and a drink of orange squash and continued.

Turning the corner, the next stop was at Croxton Kerrial, where a friend of mine runs a pub (the Geese and Fountain). Knowing this was the only chance I was going to get to catch up with him, we had a brief discussion on the chances of Leicester City staying up and whether or not they should have sacked Ranieri, before reluctantly I said goodbye to the inviting warm interior, the pool table, dart board and range of real ales and turned once more into the wind and rain.

The route then took us through more muddy fields, more woodland paths and more twisty lanes – the last six miles took an eternity and I was definitely tiring by now. I passed another friend who was walking the 15 mile version of the course, who commented that I was on “top form” – appearances can be deceptive, as I willed my muscles to keep going and repeated a mantra of, “Not far now, you can do it” to myself. Soon, my energy reserves drained, I struggled through the last lanes back to Harby Village Hall and a welcoming bowl of tomato soup and rhubarb crumble, which might as well have been cooked by a Michelin-starred chef, they tasted so good.

My time was 5hrs 20minutes, which I was pleased with, this being my first challenge race, and having to negotiate countless stiles, the occasional electric fence, a road which promptly turned into a stream we had to ford, and seemingly endless muddy swamps.

I would recommend anyone to have a go and enter it!

Training for a marathon

December 27, 2016
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
Week 6
Week 7
Week 8
Week 9
Week 10
Week 11
Week 12
Mon 3m 4m 4m 4m 4m 4m 3m 3m 3m 3m 3m 4m
Wed 3m 6m 6m 6m 6m 6m 8m 8m 6m 6m 3m 4m
Fri 3m 4m 4m 5m 5m 6m 6m 6m 6m 6m 6m Rest
Sun 8m 10m 12m 14m 16m 18m 18m 18m 14m 10m 6m RACE

Simple training schedule, for anyone with enough time to train 4 days a week. Rest days have been built in after each run, with the exception of the long run on a Sunday, followed by a short recovery run on the Monday. The distance builds gradually, giving you three long runs of 18 miles to emulate the race, without overdoing it and “hitting the wall”. Anything longer than 21 miles requires about 4000 calories, which your body cannot store as glycogen – you have to accustom your muscles to burning fat stores in order to run further. After a peak 4 weeks before the race, the training tapers down, to allow you to be fresh and ready for the big day.

I would recommend listening to your body as you run. You do not need a heart rate monitor to tell you if you are going too fast – a simple rule of thumb is if you can speak, then you are not out of breath. A companion to run with is also a great motivational aid. In my case, my bicycle was recently stolen, so running to work is a good way of getting the miles under my belt, and also perks me up for the day ahead. The long runs should be run at a slow pace, and the shorter runs at the speed you are aiming to go in the race.

I am running the Belvoir Challenge 26 in February, in order to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support, as a close family member is unwell. This is an off-road race, so trail shoes will be required, and I will need to break them in well before the race itself.

If you can, please give something to the appeal on my justgiving page – all support will go to this worthy cause, which offers counselling, advice and support for families going through the ordeal of cancer.


November 27, 2016

David Ginola recently had a heart operation, and seems to be recovering well after a quadruple heart bypass. I wish him all the best.

My memories of him as a footballer, was of someone of the calibre of George Best, who had incredible skills as a dribbler, and could weave through defences with balletic ease. I remember watching him playing towards the end of his career, easy to pick out on the pitch with his flowing locks, carving through the opposition. Yet, every time he got anywhere near the penalty area, where he could have laid the ball off for another player, or fired off a speculative shot, he would come crashing to the ground at the slightest hint of a contact, always looking for a penalty. What a waste of such meteoric talent, and what a pity for anyone watching the game.

In football, diving has become almost a recognised tactic – so much so I wonder if it is practised on the training ground – “Yes that’s it, brush past the defender and pretend to trip up, plant your face into the turf and roll around, look anguished, hands up in appeal to the referee, clutch your ankle in pain and pretend to hobble to your feet. Brilliant, now get out there on the pitch on Saturday and dive like you mean it”.

Yet in most other sports, generally, the highest standards of sportsmanship apply. A snooker player will always acknowledge the slightest touch of a ball, even if the referee didn’t spot it. Can you imagine a footballer stopping play themselves and acknowledging a hand ball, or querying the referee when a decision has gone in their favour? – this is from the climax of the World Championship final (Hendry vs White, 1995).

In rugby, there is hardly ever any faking of injuries – and the few cases that there have been have become infamous – the worst instance I can think of is the “Bloodgate” scandal where a Harlequins player bit on a fake blood capsule in order to be substituted, but there is also Yoann Huget’s simulation against Bath or Brian Habana’s dive against Farrell (for which Habana graciously made a public apology).

In rugby, these are rare exceptions, rather than the rule. The commentator saying that “this isn’t football”, is surely telling.

Board games have become commonplace online. I enjoy playing Scrabble. One way of playing, which is quite enjoyable, is to actually help your opponent. You can chat to the other player as they are making a word, and if you choose to, you can improve their score. On Yahoo! Scrabble, one person replied, “I felt like you were rooting for me!” However, this (in my opinion) makes for a more enjoyable game, and helps you improve your own play. I used to play chess like this against a friend. She was a better player than me, but we would look at the position together, analyse the moves and work out the best play. We called it “non-competitive chess”; at first glance, this may seem like an oxymoron.

Quite often, in Scrabble, you come across someone using software to generate the best words – for example, Word Breaker (Scrabble Cheat) – Android Apps on Google Play It can be difficult to tell a strong player from a cheat, but one tell-tale sign of a weak player cheating is a disregard for the tactics of the game, yet a brilliant ability to solve anagrams. Scrabble is a surprisingly subtle game – you can defend a lead by closing down the board and not giving your opponent an opportunity to score, or you can attack when chasing a lead, by playing expansively and taking risks in order to get that elusive triple word score. But what does that mean for the enjoyment of the game – what is the point of simply inputting an anagram given to you by a computer?

I also enjoy long-distance running at an amateur level and the camaraderie of the running community is, in my experience, always superb. In the latter stages of the Leicester marathon this year, a fellow runner offered me their energy gel. I refused actually, partly because it was my legs, which felt like lead, rather than a feeling of having no energy, but partly because he may well have needed a boost himself in the last few miles. Still, I felt this was a really kind gesture.

Sport needs to be played fairly and competitively, otherwise there is no point. You need to be matched against an equally strong or stronger opponent, in order to improve your own game, and the most thrilling encounters are when evenly-matched opponents play to the best of their abilities. For spectators too, if cheating occurs, then the whole integrity of the sport can be called into question – as has happened in professional cycling, such is the extent of doping at a professional level – this goes right back to the earliest days of the sport.


November 4, 2014

I line up at the back, no speed record for me

Alongside Scooby Doo and a Teletubby.

Inside my vest, my heart is pounding

Anticipating the race, cheers resounding.

In my ears, the starting gun sounding

Us off – syncopated surge carries us forward

As one, in a collective lunge

And a stop – into a brick wall of humanity.

I shuffle through the starting line,

Released, the path clears, temptation

To go with adrenaline, in full flow.

Slow, slow – take it steady

I tell myself. Concentrate on the pounding

Beat of my feet on the shiny, wet street

Going on and on. The city fades in the distance.

We separate from the multitude

At the split off point – force myself off on the long way round.

Alone, on a trek past sleepy village, after village

Sileby, Barkby, Queniborough, Thrussington.

Rounding the corner, going back home,

Keep the rhythm steady, feet still pounding,

I can do this – visualise the finish,

Put the pain out of my head.

But my muscles scream out,  the endless pounding

Has taken its toll. I stumble and slow to a walk,

Trudge past now-familiar landmarks

That never seemed so far from home.

A second wind then takes me, past bewildered shoppers

Wondering why anyone would put themselves through this.

Finally – New Walk, and a last incline,

Final, aching push uphill.

To a corridor of claps and cheers

Vicky Park and welcoming beers

In my local. But first, a massage

Yet more pounding. My spine felt fine,

Till your hands started pounding

Playing xylophone on my vertebrae,

My legs cry out in agony.

But I am proud, shiny medal hangs

Round my neck.

Veteran of another race.
little red little green


If you have enjoyed my poetry on this blog, my new collection, “Little Green Poetry” is now available from Lulu – – £4+P&P (paperback) or £2.50 (for e-book readers)

You can still order copies of my first collection, “Little Red Poetry” from or – again for £4 (pb) or £2.50 (as a pdf for e-readers).

I hope you enjoy reading my poems, and, as always, all proceeds will go to help build the fightback against corporate political parties, to build a voice for the millions, not the millionaires.

To find out more about my politics, visit the website of the Committee For A Workers’ International, which is engaged in struggle in around 50 countries worldwide.

Nothing like a cup of tea

October 27, 2014



The best cup of tea I have ever had was served at 19 miles, as I was running in the Potteries Marathon (now sadly no more). This was not a cuppa from a plastic cup, but poured from a teapot into a pottery mug. The prize at the end was a plate, testament to the once-thriving pottery industry in the towns around Stoke On Trent.

Bosses at Leicester’s hospitals have decided that staff in public places are no longer entitled to have a refreshing cuppa. Doing a 12 hour shift on a hospital ward is much like running a marathon, except that nurses have to concentrate, calculate dosages, make potentially life-or-death decisions. I would much rather be treated by a professional who was alert and awake than someone nodding off at the end of a long day. Hypocritically, the same bosses acknowledge the importance of being well-hydrated and require staff to be alert.

Socialists would put an end to petty bureaucracy in the NHS, by increasing democracy and putting workers themselves in control. I did my bit to raise the profile of our party, by running the Leicester Marathon this Sunday, selling 40 copies of the paper and raising over £40 in fighting fund as I went round the course. There was not a cup of tea in sight as I went round the course, just energy drinks and water, but some caffeine would have been very welcome indeed.

Cup of tea at 19 miles – My Race Results

April 30, 2013

1996 Great Scottish Run (1:54)
My first half marathon – I entered the day before, without having done any training, thinking it was a 10K race – really should have thought the word “Great” at the beginning would have meant a half, after the “Great North Run”.

1st December 2000 – 24 hour run for World Aids Day (a simultaneous event outdoors around Leicester University Campus and indoors in Canada) – the then British champion at this event, William Sichel from Sanday in Orkney ran 139 miles in 24 hours – incredible achievement. I managed to keep pace with him for around 20 miles, before getting blisters and retiring to the student bar! However, this race inspired me to enter the London Marathon the following year, thinking that if I can manage 20 miles, then a full marathon should be a doddle. How wrong I was, but I became infected with the running bug.

March 2001 Adidas Breakfast Run, Kingston-Upon-Thames (half marathon) 247th (1:42:43)
Preparation for the London Marathon.

London Marathon (April 2001) 10854th (4:10:36)
My first ever marathon. A flat course, with the only difficulty being the enormous number of competitors. A cool day – good conditions for running. However, I really struggled towards the end of the race and despite a great atmosphere, I did not enjoy the race as much as I might have done.

Nottingham Marathon (September 2001) 353rd (3:55:18, timed by chip in my shoe)
The route had to be changed because of foot and mouth, which meant that instead of going through the beautiful scenery of Wootton Park, we followed a main road instead. Very good support from people along the fairly hilly course.



Leicester Marathon, November 2001 107th (3:50:23)
Race notes: a hilly course and a cold, wet day made for tricky conditions. Good start to the race, from Mallory Park circuit. I ran the first seven miles quite slowly with Eve Taylor, who was running in her first half-marathon. Then I sped up in the middle section and hung on somehow at the end. The organisation was very good, but an isolated course meant that few people were out to cheer us on. I was delighted with my time.

10K, Victoria Park Races, Leicester, November 2001 42nd (38:34)
The course was over several tortuous laps of the park. Only gentle hills to contend with and good support.

Gaddesby Sunflower Half Marathon, June 2002 30th (1:38:42)
I went off pretty fast, and just managed to keep it going. It was a hot day, and the course was hilly. Good support and race organisation made for an enjoyable race. I celebrated with a pint afterwards; probably not a very good idea!

Potteries Marathon, Stoke-On-Trent (June 2002) (4:00)
Very hilly race on a hot day. Brilliant support throughout the race – a fantastic atmosphere. Excellent race organisation. I set off too fast, miling at 7:30 pace and so struggled in the middle of the race. However, I managed to recover a little by 19 miles, and made up some time. A very friendly event – sadly no longer part of the race calendar. The highlight was definitely the cup of tea (served in a proper cup) at 19 miles.

2002 Wycombe Half Marathon (July 14th) 413th (1:52:02) A fast course, but a very hot day. I was collecting for charity as I went around, so getting into a rhythm was difficult. I really enjoyed the race. It was very satisfying when people gave me their change. Good support in parts of the course. Excellent job done by the race organisers. I raised £48 for the NSPCC on the day. Thanks to Lee and Tracey for their support!

2002 Waterworks Valley 10K, Jersey (August) 41:10 A really tough course – I was quite pleased with my time.

Nottingham Marathon (September 2002) (4:00:02) – Killer section around the National Watersports Centre – where a looped track meant that you could see people who were 4 miles ahead of you! Good fun again this year.

June 2003 Gaddesby Half Marathon (1:42:24) 4 minutes slower than last year – but I had done less training.

Potteries Marathon (June 2003) (5:27)
Even hotter than last year, this time I elected to collect for charity along the course. Big thank you to the kind person in the card shop who let me change £20’s worth of loose change into a note to make my bucket lighter, and to Santa Claus, obviously in training for the North Pole marathon. His wife was going round in a car emptying his bucket and she kindly emptied mine too. As a result of the generosity of the people of Stoke, I raised nearly £100 on the day.

Wolverhampton Marathon (September 2003) (4:19)
A flattish course, and good conditions for running because of the 9:30 start. I went off too fast though, running the first half in 1:45 and paid for this after the 18 mile mark, when my legs felt like lead.

Feelfine British 10K 2004 – can’t find or remember my time for this!

Potters Half Marathon (Stoke On Trent, 2008) (2:25) 975th
Ran round collecting for the Socialist Party with papers and a collecting bucket. Very hot conditions and a tough course. Very enjoyable run, but hard work.

Coventry Half Marathon (2006) 2:14:37
Running with a collection bucket and papers for the Socialist Party.

John Fraser 10 mile (Countesthorpe) 2007? – can’t find results for this – remember running first 5 miles in a very fast 35 minutes and then paying badly for my earlier speed at the end – having to walk between 9 and 10 miles.

Leicester Marathon (2007) 4:39:46

Potters ‘Arf Marathon (2008) 2:25:29
Collecting as I went round for the Socialist Party – great support as ever in Stoke – but no cup of tea at nineteen miles (unlike the full marathon).

Coventry Half Marathon (2009) 2:12:10
Collecting for the Socialist Party.

Leicester Marathon (October 2010) 534th (5:06:19)
Collected for the Socialist Party, with papers and bucket. meant only to collect for first and last six miles of race, but my support couldn’t make it, so collected for all 26 miles.

Loughborough Corporate Games 10K 2011 Position 8th – Age 30-39M
Horrendous start to the race, when all the competitors were given the wrong directions to the event. Teeming down with rain, turning the course into more of a cross country race – making me wish I had dusted down my spikes! Difficult terrain, but I got round in just over 45 minutes, which I was quite pleased with.

Leicester Marathon (September 2012) 397th (4:29:15 Andrew Walton V40 M) Collected money as I went around and sold copies of the socialist newspaper – my best time for 26 miles with a collecting bucket! Great support as I went round the course, starting and finishing in Victoria Park, just a short stagger away from where I live.

Sheffield Half Marathon (2012) sheffield 1