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 www.toofattorun.co.uk, 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.