12 marathons in 12 months

In September 2016 I visited Rushmoor parkrun and went for a bit of a run after with the amazing Ben Smith of 401 Challenge fame. I ended up running a marathon that day, I hadn’t intended to, I had only intended to run about 18 miles in total as I was building up to the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon in December that year and that was what was in my training plan. One thing led to another and I ended up completing Marathon distance and loving every minute of it.

The following week I went to visit Salisbury parkrun, knowing Ben was starting that days 401 Marathon from there, with the intention of maybe doing a few miles and lending a bit of support. 30 miles later I’d run my second marathon within a week and a realisation of what the body is possible of doing began to sink in. I then started looking for a marathon to do in November and an idea had entered my mind, a seed was sewn. I’m up to distance, I can crank out a marathon as my long run on a monthly basis with maintenance miles between, 20-30 miles a week would allow this to happen.

As I was unsure on if I could complete this task, being an overweight 40 year old going through a midlife crisis. I didn’t publish my intentions too publicly or at least not too much, I’m terrible for chatting about things that I enthuse about and can witter on a bit…!

I visited a fair few places, Malta and Scotland stand out as two major trips, and have made some fantastic friends along the way. It’s been a journey of self discovery and enlightenment. There’s been blood, sweat and tears along the way. There have been times where I’ve picked up an injury, mainly due to my size and weight, where I thought I’d be out of action for months. I was determined to see this through to completion and definitely ran when rest would have been better. Runners are the worst for being sensible about whether they should run or not!

This personal challenge has changed me as a person, all those miles, a lot of them solitary, gave me time to reflect and think on my life and the choices I’d made. It’s taken my life in an unexpected direction and I’m looking forward to the challenges ahead, the adventure and the camaraderie. Since my first marathon in 2012 I’ve now completed 18 marathons recognised by the 100 marathon club. Will I continue on this journey to 100? Who knows, but I’m enjoying running marathons at the moment so only time will tell what the body and mind will allow me to do.

Marathon running, it is a voyage of discovery.

This was how it played out. I ended up completing 14 marathons in the 12 month period, 5 of those being ultramarathons, the furthest of which was a staggering 70 miles!! (Sadly only counts as one marathon!)

2016 the seed was sewn here

  • 24.09 401 Challenge marathon 390 – 27 miles
  • 01.10 401 Challenge marathon 397 – 30 miles

The challenge begins here…

  • 27.11 Winter Festive Frolic 27.6 miles (5:21:43)
  • 18.12 Portsmouth Coastal marathon (4:58:07)

2017

  • 08:01 Resolution run marathon (5:16:50)
  • 05.03 Malta Marathon (4:47:58)
  • 26.03 Queen Elizabeth Spring marathon (5:29:44)
  • 30.04 Wickham Whistler – 26.4 miles (5:30:42)
  • 05.05 The Ox 50 – 51.5 miles (12:14:26)
  • 10.06 Endure 24 – 71.5 miles (18:35:59)
  • 25.06 – Rainbow Superhero Challenge – 50k (6:18:20)
  • 01.07 – Insomniacs – 51.5 miles (11:52:18)
  • 05.08 – Midnight marathon – 26.7 (6:04:28)
  • 01.09 – Mogwai run – 29.5 (5:52:33)
  • 24.09 – Loch Ness marathon (4:21:53)
  • 28.10 – Beachy Head Marathon (5:26:04)

Phew!

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Everyone loves a spreadsheet

Especially when they are clever ones that show your parkrun data off in a lovely format!

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Portsmouth Lakeside parkrun #89

The one without the sun gods. Around 4000 Years ago, in ancient Babylon, the earliest recorded celebration honoring the coming of a new year was held. The festivities were dedicated to the rebirth of the sun god Marduk, obviously not to be confused with Murdock from the A-Team. The Babylonians made promises in order to get on the right side of all of their gods, they felt this would help them start the new year off on the right foot and New Years resolutions were born. Well, this morning at Portsmouth Lakeside parkrun there was a distinct lack of any sun god but there were a lot of people starting the year off on the right foot.

So as you can see I’m not visiting a new location this morning. I’m staying close to home and running at my home from home run, the lovely Portsmouth Lakeside parkrun. I do love Lakeside, it’s a quick out and back course around the lake and where my overall parkrun PB resides. It has tarmac paths and hard pack trail, but this time of year it gets quite waterlogged around the back of the course with lots of big muddy puddles. There is stacks of free parking (row C1 to C6) and it’s easy to get to using PO6 3EN on your sat nav. There are toilets in the main building and a Starbucks or Subway for post run refreshments (volunteers also get a discount in Starbucks). It’s a great place to hold a parkrun.

This mornings parkrun was the 89th at Lakeside, my 9th appearance there, their very first of 2018 and what a run it was. There was a record breaking number of people in attendance today. The previous course attendance record was 293 people set on the 29th July 2017. This morning that record was absolutely smashed with 355 of you completing the 5k course. Happy New Year to each and everyone of you.

This mornings run director, Charlie WATTS, briefed the awaiting throng on the course conditions. It was difficult to hear parts of it due to the volume of people present but the gist of it was that the course was a bit Marti Pellow. Yep, it was Wet Wet Wet! The subway was a bit flooded and the puddles around the back of the course were sightly larger than usual, but that’s all part of the fun, skin is waterproof and clothes dry off, a little bit of water isn’t going to hurt. You can’t beat a bit of splashing through puddles, release the inner child.

Andy TURNER clearly didn’t muck about splashing through puddles being the first male across the line in 18 minutes dead and securing a course PB. Julie HUMPHRIES was the first female finisher crossing the line in 20:10 also securing a course PB. What a great start to the year. Speaking of personal bests there were no less than 23 shiny new PB’s achieved today, hopefully enough to appease the Sun gods and deliver us some nicer weather soon. There were a staggering 102 first timers at Lakeside this morning, 60 tourists and 42 people completely new to parkrun. A warm welcome to each and every one of you, we hope you enjoyed splashing your way around the lake and look forward to seeing you again soon.

As you are no doubt aware parkrun is only possible due to the volunteers, so I’d like to thank everyone who volunteered today to make it a record breaking success.

If you fancy being a high-vis hero and giving something back to the parkrun community then it’s easy to do, just drop an email to portsmouthlakesidehelpers@parkrun.com or simply sign up at the event, there’s always a clipboard floating around with the future roster on it. Every role is simple to do and you get full instructions. Get involved in 2018, what’s the worst that can happen?

The event was made possible by 21 volunteers:

Ian J BERRY-BOWERS • Derek LUDFORD • Paul JEFFREY • Robert Alexander HALL • Mike CREEDY • Julie WATTS • Mark ALLEN • Dean CRISPIN • Eleanor NEWMAN • Darron JOLLIFFE • Kerry HOWELLS • Nick SANDFORD-SMITH • Charlie WATTS • Brian MILLO • Chris TAYLOR • Aimee WATTS • Richard DICKIN • Claire ELLIS • Caroline MOAKES • Richard MOAKES • Valerie RYAN

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New Years Day double – Southsea/Lee-on-the-Solent

The one with double the fun. You have to love a New Years Day tradition. It doesn’t get much better than being able to start the year off with a positive foot forward. It’s great to see folk up and out early, in some cases regardless of hangovers, setting about the start of the year with gusto. For me it was more like with gutso, but that’s just purely down to my overindulgence throughout the holiday and a real lack of running since the end of October. So lacing up and getting out there New Years Day was definitely in order.

New Years Day is the one day of the year where you can capitalise on your parkrun experience by being able to participate in not one but two parkruns. The New Years Day double. The locations are announced on the parkrun christmas compendium in advance so you can see who is doing a New Years Day parkrun and at what time, allowing you to plan your double. This handy website, Tailrun, also popped up using the data from the main parkrun site to create a handy double finder giving travel times and everything you need.

This year I opted for a flat tarmac option due to struggling a bit with a back injury, the usual Havant/Queen Elizabeth double was sadly not feasible so I went for Southsea/Lee-on-the-Solent instead.

Southsea was up first at 9am and was my 5th appearance there making it my 3rd most attended parkrun behind Havant and Portsmouth Lakeside. It was quite a wet and windy affair with 230 people making a very fresh start to the year supported by 19 volunteers. The course was the standard out and back along the promenade, which is lovely during the summer months, but not quite so enthralling on a day like today. The out part is quite pleasant with the wind behind you and it’s always quite well supported with folk at the Coffee Cup always providing encouragement. The back bit not quite so entertaining with the wind in your face and seemingly twice the distance back!

Unlike most weeks most people vanished immediately after they had finished, heading off to get their second parkrun under their belt. There was a contingent heading inland to go battle the chalky clay mud and hills of Queen Elizabeth, others were similarly taking the flat option and headed west towards Lee-on-the-Solent. Those runs open to start slightly later than usual at 10:30, this is to allow people time to hurry there after their first parkrun of the day. Rumour has it that some people just appreciated a lie in, crazy as it sounds!

We arrived just after 10am at a very windswept beach to find that most people were sat in their cars sheltering from the elements. Opting for the warmth and comfort of their cars rather that socialising before the run. I wandered round and found a few familiar faces to say hello to. Most appeared to have opted for the slightly closer Fareham parkrun. Sounds like they were a bit waterlogged there underfoot.

Lee-on-the-Solent attracted a staggering 404 runners, quite a number given the weather! There were tourists from Frimley, Yeovil, Eastleigh, Nottingham, Fareham, Southwick, Epsom, Netley, Shrewsbury, and Australia! There were an astounding 107 first timers, lots of people making a positive start to 2018. This was my second visit to LotS parkrun and slightly colder, wetter and windier, but just as friendly none the less. They had 28 volunteers out making sure that we could enjoy our run and stay safe.

You have to hand it to the volunteers, standing out in the elements this time of year, they could be out there for in excess of an hour or so. Volunteering is very rewarding and I can’t recommend it enough. I’ve volunteered in various guises at parkrun and junior parkrun 25 times in 2017. It really is very easy to do, parkrun request that every runner helps out 3 times a year, this is by no means compulsorily but it is encouraged. There are no roles that are too difficult and you get on the at training and support from the other volunteers.

If you want to do something positive in 2018 then why not give it a go. There are plenty of options available and many that still allow you to enjoy a run. You can even volunteer at a run you are visiting, it doesn’t have to be your home run.

Thank you Southsea, Lee-on-the-Solent and all the other parkruns throughout the UK for making 2017 the most successful year yet. Thank you to all the participants too, you can’t have events without the volunteers but equally you can’t have them without the participants. There’s been so many amazing stories and successes throughout the year. parkrun is responsible for changing so many peoples lives for the better. Long may it continue. Here’s to an amazing 2018. Happy running folks.

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Jersey parkrun

The one with cakes on a plane! This mornings parkrun adventure is a very special one for many reasons. It involved getting up at 4am to travel from Portsmouth to Gatwick airport and board a plane to fly to Jersey. It’s only a 40 minute flight to pop over to the Channel Islands from Gatwick and the flight is scheduled to depart at 7am which makes it viable to get us to Jersey parkrun by 9am.

So what makes today’s parkrun so special that warrants a trip to Jersey? Milestones, that’s what. Between the two of us travelling there are a few notable ones.

  • My 100th parkrun, a milestone that I never envisaged hitting when I first started going to parkrun back in 2015.
  • My 50th different parkrun location, what is known in the tourist world as a cow, so quite fitting to pick Jersey as the destination.
  • My girlfriends 20th different run which sees her make it on to the parkrun most events table and eligible to sport the lesser spotted cow cowl.
  • It’s an opportunity to collect a rare J. There are a number of people who work towards completing ‘the parkrun alphabet’ or alphabeteers as we are unofficially known. You run at a parkrun that begins with each letter of the alphabet, I have just J, V, Y and Z to go for a full set.
  • My 45th birthday

So a good few milestones rolled into one, all of which demand cake, which was an interesting travelling companion that raised a few eyebrows at airport security. It’s taken a little bit of juggling to make my 100th parkrun coincide with my 50th location, Pauline’s 20th location and my birthday, something that appeared to be destined to fail.

On Friday 29th Jersey parkrun announce that there may be issues with the run! They may have to cancel due to fallen trees and some precarious ones around the course. We are locked in regardless and keep an eye on Facebook throughout the evening praying for good news. The last update before we got on the plane was at 16:00 the afternoon before saying that they were planning to hold it but weather overnight may change that. Would it be on?

At 7am, sat in the plane on the runway at Gatwick we still had no idea if it was going ahead. It’s an odd experience being sat on a plane at 7:15 waiting for it to take off to get you to a parkrun that might be cancelled. Usually I’d be well on my way in the car at this time, more in control of my journey and always with a back up plan for a different parkrun to divert to if required. There is no contingency plan here today, it’s totally hit or miss. Airplane mode engaged, no further opportunity to find out if we are hurtling through the sky in a shiny metal tube at hundreds of miles per hour to arrive at a cancelled event.

As we descend to land we are thrown around a bit in turbulence, we break through the cloud to be greeted by a wet and murky Jersey coming up to meet us. Wheels touch down at 8am, airplane mode is switched off and we frantically try to connect to the Jersey parkrun social media pages to see if our trip is a wasted one. Still no update, it’s not looking good. We clamber off the plane to be greeted by the wind and rain outside the terminal. As we are hand luggage only getting through the airport takes less than 5 minutes and there we are in the arrival lounge not knowing. 08:10 there’s an update, it’s on, yes!!! A sense of relief floods over us, now to get there from the airport.

There is an excellent bus service that runs very frequently, roughly every 15 minutes. It’s the number 15 bus and costs £4 a trip or £8 for a day pass. You can also get a taxi but that will cost you in the region of £6 to get there. It’s only about a mile from the airport so you could run there as a warm up too if you wanted to keep costs down and kill two birds with one stone. Options will obviously be limited based on what time your flight lands.

Jersey parkrun is located round the back of Les Quennevais Sports Centre and is easy to find. There are all the facilities you could want there, toilets, cafe, showers, we took towels and swimming stuff with us and went for a lovely post parkrun swim which cost about £9. The cafe will also give you a discount if you show them your parkrun barcode. Pretty much everything you could want as a visiting tourist. There is also a guestbook to sign once you’ve completed the run, don’t forget to do so.

On to the run itself, we were warmly greeted by the run director, Matt CUTHBERT, and other volunteers who were busy trying not to get blown away whilst setting up a special rerouted course. I can’t thank these guys enough, they battled the weather to make it happen for everyone. High-vis hero’s they are, each and every one of them. We also met John DRELAUD who has attended every single Jersey parkrun since it started, all 117 runs, he has also done pre event set up 38 times this year, just brilliant.

The course was predominantly tarmac, with a bit of hard pack trail and a bit of grass to run across where it was diverted, I ran it in road shoes without any issue. We did two loops around the perimeter path before hitting the trail path for a bit of an out and back, up and down. It’s pretty flat with a couple of gentle ups and downs. As today was somewhat overcast and blowing a gale it was a bit of a case of head down and run. I suspect on a clear day that the views across the golf course are quite spectacular. It’s definitely a quick course, or at least has the ability to be one, the course record is 15:12. Today no records were set but it was still completed by the first finisher in a very respectable 16:40, especially given the wind!

There were 207 runners who braved the conditions this weekend, 10 of whom were totally new to parkrun and experiencing it for the very first time. There were a number of tourists there as well, we met some from Woking as well as noticing others visiting from the mainland. I wonder if many others just flew in for the day!

After the run we went up to the cafe and chopped up the cake we had flown in with to dish out to anyone that wanted a slice. I’m very impressed with the way the cake turned out and the fact it made it over in more or less one piece. It also tasted pretty good too not that I can take any credit for making it. The apres-parkrun vibe at Jersey is really nice. We had quite a few conversations with other parkrunners who were interested in our adventures. We met senator Lyndon FARNHAM from the department of Tourism, Sport and Leisure, who is a parkrunner with 35 runs under his belt at Jersey. We also chatted with Sue LERUEZ from the Jersey Evening Post, also a parkrunner with 38 runs under her belt. We ate cake, drank coffee, laughed, joked, recounted parkrun adventures and signed the guest book. All in all I can’t think of a better way to spend my birthday. It was a long day, starting at 4am finishing at 10pm but what an adventure.

Thank you to everyone at Jersey parkrun for making this such a memorable day. I can’t wait to return and run with you again, perhaps in the summer next time and definitely more than just a day trip. It would be nice to visit Guernsey parkrun as well and “complete” the Channel Islands.

Travel Info

For budding tourists who want to visit Jersey parkrun flight info below.

  • Gatwick – Jersey : EasyJet 7am departure – 8am arrival
  • Southampton – Jersey : FlyBe 7:45am departure – 8:30am arrival

We took the Gatwick option due to worrying about arrival time. Travel from the airport to parkrun covered further up.

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