Wednesday, 15 March 2017

What part of running 2 half marathons in 7 days did I think was a good idea? Definitely a tale of two cities and a broken man.

Half Marathon number 46 - Wrexham Half Marathon - 12/3/2017

This weekend involved ticking off Wales from the country list by completing the Wrexham Half Marathon. It was not my most enjoyable or best run. The excuses why I ran so badly are as follows:
  • 1) it was too close to the last race
  • 2) it was hilly (well slightly undulating)
  • 3) it was warm (yes Wrexham was warm in March)
  • 4) I am getting old, too heavy and probably not fit enough
  • 5) At 6 miles I got overtaken by a Gingerbread Man, who had started 1 hour before me and was running the marathon with the 3hr 30min Marathon Pacer
  • 6) My head was too focused on making excuses to run well.
Anyway over 10 minutes slower than Vienna and after dragging myself painfully through the last 3 miles I ticked off Half Marathon number 46 in Wrexham. A pleasant course through the town and surrounding country side.

To finish a bad day, i may be now banned from the Ramada Inn in Wrexham. Having stayed the night before, i had arranged to call back and have a shower in the Spa before returning home. What they didn't tell me was the only shower in the Spa was an open shower in the spa room which contained the Hot Tub and Sauna. Having checked there where no other guests a quick strip off and shower followed. It was only when leaving I noticed the Security Camera and the "This area is covered by CCTV sign". What made it worse was handing back my key to see the large CCTV monitor behind reception clearly showing the spa. May be a while before i go back!!

There is now a justgiving page, which will be open for the duration of the challenge

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Half Marathon number 45 - Vienna, Austria 5th Match 2017

45 half marathons done, now only 4 left to complete the first part of my challenge to run a half in every country in Western Europe.

The Laufen Hilft was a great fun event starting next to the Ernst-Happel Stadium. The race combined 3 events, a 5k, 10k and Half Marathon round a 5k lap. The first half of the lap took you down the main boulevard in the park, before turning off to run through the middle of the fair ground, before winding through the back streets back to the Stadium.

After lap 1 the 5k runners pealed off, after lap 2 the 10k runners finished, then with a little added the 1/2 marathon runners completed a 2 further laps. It really was a fun event with a great atmosphere with great weather. I set off to run 10 minute miles and ended up averaging 10:03 which was exactly what i wanted to achieve.

At the end all runners received a wooden carved medal, a first for me. This was followed by an evening enjoying the Austrian hospitality (to excess).
Next stop Wrexham this weekend

Sunday, 22 January 2017

First 4 Wainwrights to start off the 2017 challenge

A very icy walk taking in 4 Wainwrights - Ullock Pike, Long Side, Carl Side and Dodd. Only another 46 to complete this year

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Carlisle Resolution 10k

First race of 2017 in Carlisle on a wet Sunday morning. Great route, well organised and good fun. Pace wasn't too bad, but will need to be a lot fitter for the half marathons. Training must go on.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

The 2017 Challenge

So today is my 49th birthday, the start of my 50th year on the planet. So this is my challenge:

- To run 50 half marathons before my 50th birthday
- To have run a half matrathon in every Western Europe Country (Germany, Austria, Luxembourg, Denmark and Wales left to do)
- To cycle the coast to coast
- To climb 50 Wainwrigt Peaks
- To go to the Artic Circle in January 2018 and run the Polar Nights Half Marathon which takes place in the depths of winter, in the dark, on ice and in freezing conditions.
- Finaly and most importantly to raise as much money as possible for Willow Burn Hospice.

The next year is going to be a challenge and most importantly a great year....

Watch this space

Nigel Cook aged 49 years and 0 days

Monday, 9 January 2017

2017 Serious Training has began

2017 is going to be a big year (details to follow), so i am having to take it very seriously with a Personal Trainer, a training program and a low carb diet (plus a dryish January).

Week one now complete and over 20 miles ran, with interval and hill sessions included. Finished the week off in style with a 10.5 miles run across the fells to take the decorations off a tree!

To explain Blackhill Bounders, my running club, decorate a single tree in the middle of the Pennine Fells each December and un-deck it in January.

Let the fun begin....

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Monza Half Marathon – 11th September 2016 – Half number 44

If Carlsberg did half marathon weekend (almost). A weekend in Italy, A Formula One Circuit, A Favourite band in an Outdoor Roman Amphitheatre and a Half Marathon, what possible could go wrong.

We arrived late Friday night in Milan, too late even for a drink in the hotel bar L. Saturday was spent exploring Monza and collecting my number. I ended up with number 36, worrying almost elite status. Then a 2-hour drive in the evening to Verona where we had arranged to see one of my favourite bands, Marillion play a gig in an ancient Roman amphitheatre. The Gig was one of the best we have seen, the only downside being the 2-hour drive back to Monza at 11pm at night. Arriving back at the hotel 1am, alarm was set for 7:30am for breakfast and the run.

At the Start of the Race 

Weather was brilliant for a beach holiday, but worst case scenario for a half marathon. 32 degrees, clear blue sky and no shade. Many of the Italians were complaining about the heat, which suggested it was the usual weather they expected at this time of the year.

The run started on the start line of the Monza Grand Prix Circuit. The route then follows the circuit for around three quarters of a lap before turning off into Monza Park, the large public space in which the Monza Circuit is located. There were 4 distance options 5k, 10k, 21k (the half) and 30k. All runners started together with the 5k completing a single full lap, the 10k taking in the inner banked circuit while the longer distances took to the paths of the park.
The First Chicane at Monza

The heat was intense after 5k I started to see what I would consider as “elite” athletes pulling out and walking back to the start. I took the decision to make sure I took on as much water as possible to try and keep hydrated. Over the 13.1 miles I drank 3 litres of water, but the heat still caused me to vomit on 4 or 5 occasions. This was a tough run.

The Final Corner

Eventually we turned 90 degrees and re-joined the main circuit with only the long last curve and finish straight to complete. What the week before took Lewis Hamilton a matter of seconds, took a very weary middle aged runner a significantly longer time, but I made it in around 2hr 35 minutes. One of my slowest half marathons, but in the toughest conditions I have ever ran.
The Finishing Straight

What was unusual in Monza was the lack of running tourists, I normally see a number of UK running club vests on my travels, but in Monza I didn’t come across a single other Brit.
Number 44 Half Marathon Finished

A lovely receptionist in the hotel who let us have late checkout after the race, a wonderful Italian Pizza alfresco in Monza on the Sunday afternoon all made for a great weekend. We certainly rejuvenated our love of Italy.

Now for a rest and start to prepare for 2017 and the final push to 50 Half Marathons. I have already booked flights to Luxembourg at the end of April, not I just need to arrange runs in Germany, Austria and Denmark, plus a wildcard race and then up to the Arctic Circle in January 2018 for the final run.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Suzuki Midsumer Sun Half Marathon 23/6/16

Preparation for this race was not good. A busy day prior driving over 300 miles to eventually get to Luton. Staying over night before a 4:30am alarm to fly to Iceland. A look round Reykjavik to while away the hours before the race start at 9:20pm (10:20pm UK). Completely shattered before I even started.


It wasn't a big race with only 3000 runners between 3 events; 5k, 10k and half marathon, there was however over 30 countries represented, including a lot of British runners. At the start I bumped into 5 lads from North East Front Runners who had done Blackhill parkrun the previous week.


The route was excellent, the first and last miles on closed roads, then the rest a giant loop through the countryside on Tarmac tracks. Although there were always houses in sight the path followed streams, went through parks and even crossed a golf course. The only issue was the hills, on one serious one, but there seemed to be a lot more ups than downs. As is becoming the norm, the first half of the race went well, then my lack of fitness and niggles from my calfs started to slow me down significantly. The last few hills were particularly tough, but I got to the end and ticked off half marathon number 43 and Iceland as a country.


Bad planning again, I eventually got back to my hotel after being awake for over 24 hours only to set my alarm for 3 ½ hours later to fly home, via Luton and Friday afternoon drive north.

Probably one of the cheapest entry fees I have come across recently, however Iceland as beautiful as it is, is very expensive. The one beer I had at the end of the races was £6 for bottle!
The Map is slowly turning Green

Next stop Monza in Italy in September

Monday, 6 June 2016

Great Brewery Marathon 25km Run – Half Marathon(ish) number 42

There must only be a small number of people in the UK who google beer and half marathons together, well actually there were 34, 2 of which were myself and Victoria.

Ready for the start

The route through the Countryside

There were actually 3 events taking place on the day, a Marathon, a 25km run and a 25km walk. I opted for the run, Victoria the walk. The race centred around 3 breweries just outside Brussels; Duval, Palm and Karmeleit. The race began next to Duval and then meandered through the beautiful countryside of Belgium on a mixture of single track roads and cross country tracks. It also incorporated running through 2 breweries, literally the track went through the beer hall!

Running through the beer hall (and a bit of truck spotting)

For the Walkers there was the opportunity to try various beers on the route, the runners unfortunately were restricted to water and energy drinks. Probably a good thing as it was 25 degrees, probably too hot to run comfortably. Victoria managed to be first female walker home although it wasn't a race or timed.

First lady walker home
I thoroughly enjoyed the route, just hated the heat. To compound it a little further, the route had to be changed slightly due to flooding and the 25km/15 mile route was almost 16 miles by the time I shuffled over the line.
Great route, well organised, nowhere near a PB but free beer for all at the end. If I hadn’t been driving it could have been a messy day. Every entrant got up to 3 free beers to sample at the end, plus 3 bottles to take home. The finisher’s medal even incorporated a bottle opener – a nice touch.

42 runs now completed and less than 3 weeks until the next run in Iceland (hopefully a little cooler than the last 2)

Monday, 9 May 2016

Geneva Half Marathon 8th May 2016

This has to be one the most picturesque half marathons I have done. First half is through the Swiss countryside past vineyards, fields and villages, all with a back drop of the Alps. Just after halfway there is a non Garmin friendly tunnel (a pain when you are trying to track your pace), then a downhill to the shore of Lake Geneva. After 3 or 4 miles along the shore the run goes through the streets of the city itself then turns for the last mile along the lake shore again. The finish is halfway across one of the bridges in the city.


The organisation was excellent (they even issued suntan cream) and the support on route equally as good. I had loads of runners talking to me about the 50 half marathon challenge which eases the journey. At the start I bumped into a celebrity runner, the lovely Julie who founded the website, and has the Twitter name @fattymustrun. Fortunately I had seen on Twitter she was running and had looked up her first name, although she did say often people just shout “fatty” to her anyway, she wasn't bothered.


The only negative was the heat, it reached 23c today which made it tough going. I managed the first 10k in just over an hour, but then the sun started to get hotter and my pace drastically slowed. I finished in about 1:18, which given the heat I am happy with.


The things I learned on this run:

  • Always bring your wife, she can enforce a curfew and control the number of beers you have the day before.
  • The cheapest hotel is not the best, paper thin walls and a neighbour who finally switched his telly off at 2am, my alarm was set for 6am
  • Uber is great, managed to get me to the start for not a lot of money
  • My branded black top is not the best colour for hot runs.


Next stop Brussells in 4 weeks

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Sunderland 10K

Not a half marathon, but a very memorable run as it was the first time i have ran a race with my wife Victoria. It was her first ever race and first time at that distance. For someone who didn't run until very recently she did amazing.

A great photo out of it as well

Next stop Geneva on Sunday

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

San Francisco Rock and Roll Half Marathon - 3rd June 2016

A little bit away from the European Country Challenge, but took advantage of an American holiday to run the San Francisco Rock and Roll Half Marathon.

A very early start (04:30am alarm) to get to the start in the dark. Due to restriction on when we could run across the Golden Gate Bridge the race had to start at 06:30am, it was only just dawn. As can be expected with San Francisco the course was very hilly, so decided from the outset to enjoy the race and not worry about any sort of time.

From the photos you may see that I took every opportunity for a photo on the way round

The highlight was running over the Golden Gate bridge - twice. Although the atmosphere, people and American support was great. Another first was having to avoid a dead raccoon on the course? You don't get that in Europe

Ran in in just under 2:30, which was slow, but I had a lot of fun on the way. That is half marathon number 40 completed.

Next stop Geneva in May, only 10 left to go.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Paris Half Marathon - 6th March 2016

Half Marathon number 39 the Paris Half Marathon.

The Great North Run can learn a lot from the Paris organisation, stick a few police around with sub machine guns and people certainly obey instructions. 47,000 runners and nowhere near the congestion you get running from Newcastle to South Shields.

Hats off to the French they staggered the race start to the point that the winner had finished the race before the last person crossed the start line 1 hour 10 minutes after he had. The course is a flat route from Chateau De Vincennes East of the city centre running through the Vincennes Park before heading off into Paris passing the Bastille area, the Hotel de Ville and then City Hall before following the banks of the Seine back towards the park and the finish.

The support was not as prevalent as the Great North, but that worked well for the support crew who came with me who managed to spectate at the start, 4 miles, 7 miles and the finish by jumping on and off the Metro.
Having been full of cold for the preceding days combined with an upset stomach, things didn’t bold well. However the cold temperature did make for good running conditions. The first 7 miles went fine at a reasonable pace (for me anyway), then lack of fitness and feeling crap took effect and the pace slowed drastically. Still managed a steady 2:17, and as I am too old to worry about times, I am happy with that.

The couple of things I did learn with the Paris Half Marathon Experience are:
  • Raw Beef, French Onion Soup (or Onion Soup as it is known in France) and Spicy Pasta are not the best food to have the day preceding a half marathon
  • French Cyclist take priority over every other type of vehicle, pedestrian. At one stage we were met by a cyclist riding against the flow of runners on an apparently closed road?
  • You can get away with running a half marathon in brand new shoes without lasting effects
  • The French are actually quite good at organising mass sporting events
  • A cold beer never tastes any better than after a 21 kilometre run
Another country ticked off, my map of Europe is slowly turning green

4 weeks now until Half Marathon Number 40, a bit off piste from the #runeurope challenge, running across the Golden Gate Bridge twice as part of the San Francisco Rock and Roll Half Marathon.

Friday, 12 February 2016

2016 Filling Up Already

First race of 2016 only 3 weeks away, will be a struggle as training has not been great, but it is all about the miles not the time.

The map is also filling up with half marathons in France, Switzerland, Iceland and Belgium already confirmed (plus a slightly off-piste one in San Francisco)

To add to the running challenges there is also training to be done for a 45 mile lakes tour on the bike, a triathlon in August and a little cycle ride from Edinburgh to Consett in September.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Another Running Milestone Acheived

A steady 5 mile run yesterday meant a big running milestone was achieved. I have now ran a Minimum of 10 miles every week for the last 5 years. This has included runs on ski slopes, boats, beaches in various cities, countries and terrains. Next 2 years will be a big challenge with 12 half marathons to complete in 12 different countries to hit my goal of running a half marathon in every country in Western Europe and running 50 half marathons before I reach my 50th birthday. Roll on 2016.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Half Marathon number 38 - The Vantaan Half Marathon, Helsinki, Finland 10th October 2015.

First trip to Finland, and hopefully not my last. The trip to Stockholm and this one to Helsinki have certainly made Scandinavia one of my favourite places to visit.

Early 5am alarm Friday morning to drive to Manchester to catch a direct flight to Helsinki. The plane was surprisingly busy, but it turns out Northern Ireland played Finland on the Sunday in the Euro qualifiers, so majority of passengers had strong Irish accents and a belly full of Guinness for breakfast.

Decided to walk from the hotel to the race HQ to register and pick up my number after arriving Friday afternoon. The receptionist did question why I was doing this, but I was insistent and set off map in hand to walk. It was shortly after this I realised how cold Finland is. Just over an hour later I found race HQ, luckily surviving almost certain hypothermia. An expensive taxi took me back to the hotel, sod walking.

One thing I quickly discovered about Finland is that very few people speak English, not a bad thing but when compared to most other European countries it is unusual. I also discovered that I was the only English person in the race, it was very much a local event, although it claims to be the 2nd biggest running event in Finland (there must be some tiny ones elsewhere). I eventually figured out where the start was and after a couple of failed attempts to find out if it was a multiple or single lap race I gave up and joined the warm up at the start (warm up is essential as otherwise your running shoes would freeze to the ground).

Overall there was about 800 entries for the Half Marathon, but there was also a Marathon and a Quarter Marathon, starting at different times. The race turned out to be 2 laps of a flat course, ran almost entirely on pavements, roads and cycle paths. About 2/3 of the run was through the streets of Vantaan, the remainder in parks and a small amount of woodland.

Really enjoyed the event, which was well organised and marshalled. My Garmin showed a mileage of 13.3miles in 2:09:30. Which very happy with, especially as every mile was ran in under 10 minute mile pace.

No t’shirt at the end, just a yoghurt, apple juice and dried Finnish bread and a cheese slice (plus a free coffee). You did get a sort of medal but it had no ribbon or means to attach a ribbon to.

After a visit to the hotel sauna (not mixed, before you ask), jumped on the train to Helsinki and with a quick bit of TripAdvisor research had a fantastic meal of smoked fish, Elk meatballs and local beer.

The 4:30am alarm on Sunday morning was a bit of a shock to the system, but meant back in the UK in time for Sunday lunch.

38 races now complete, next race is booked for March in Paris. Will definitely be heading back to Finland and Scandinavia sometime in the future.

Some things I found out about Finland in my brief visit (not necessarily all true):
  • -          It is cold, very cold
  • -          The biggest export is trees (well forest products)
  • -          You only have to so much as look at a Zebra crossing and cars will screech to a halt
  • -          At Pedestrian crossings, the pedestrians will patiently wait for the green man, even if there is not a car in sight for miles
  • -          Finland doesn’t make many cars, in 2013 they produced in a year about the same number as Nissan Washington produce in 2 days
  • -          For a country so cold there are hardly any 4x4’s
  • -          Skiwear is the national dress
  • -          They serve Gin and Tonic on draft (true fact)
  • -          Every waitress under 30 is either a Goth, has a full covering of Tattoo’s or more often than not both.
  • -          Beards are a practical face warmer not a fashion item
  • -          Where the rest of the world shuns fur sales, in Finland if it can keep you warm kill it and make clothing out of it.
  • -          There seems to be more cycle paths than actual roads
  • -          No one puts their coat on the back of their chair in restaurants, everyone is religiously hung up
  • -          Every female has blond hair, the ones that don’t have dyed theirs
  • -          The trains are ultra clean and efficient. When you get a notification that your train is delayed by 1 minute you know they take timeliness seriously
  • -          There is hardly any graffiti
  • -          Moped riders think they are cyclist and often drive along not only the cycle lanes but also the paths.
  • -          Rudolph is not just for Xmas, it is food and clothing all year round
  • -          There seems to be no correlation between the written word and the spoken word. “a” is pronounced “r” and “o” is pronounced “a” as far as I can tell
  • -          If there is a baldness or obesity problem, no one would know as everyone wears so many clothes to keep warm (did I tell you it was cold)
  • -          Spotlights are mandatory on all cars
  • -          Hardly anyone smokes and no one has introduced Vaping to Finland
  • -          Hats, Gloves and Scarfs are the biggest selling clothing items after fur coats and fur lined boots
  • -          There is no public debate in Finland on the wearing of Burka’s as most inhabitants are covered up even more.
  • -          The beer is a lot cheaper than Sweden – only 6 euro a pint
  • -          The Finnish for Start is “lähtö”, the Finnish for finish is “maali” I had to google them to find out where to go
  • -          It gets dark early and when it gets dark it gets even colder.