Race Day

After 15 weeks of training the big day finally arrived. Saturday saw a day of, frankly, pigging out on pasta! Porridge and toast for breakfast, then pasta for elevenses, pasta for lunch, pasta for dinner.

After an early night it was a reasonably early start at 6:00 for a final meal of porridge before heading on the packed train to Preston Park.

The first drops of rain fell as Andy and I left the train and made the old familiar walk to Preston park. Just forty-five minutes later we’d changed on the muddy fields, dumped our bags in one of the 9 lorries transporting all our bags to the finish line, chomped on a few jelly beans, taken a last wee and were entering our respective starting corrals.

Back in April last year I’d decided to play it safe and estimated 4 hours as my finish time. My training suggested 3 hours 30 minutes or a little quicker, but too late, I was stuck in the second group to go and what a big group it was.

After Matt Prior had started the race it was a good few minutes that we waited for the second group to start moving. A short walk to the start and it was over the line 5 minutes into the race.

The early miles were a little frustrating. So many runners to negotiate as I tried to reach and maintain my intended pace. Into the second mile my gps watch lost it’s signal and while it returned quickly I could not trust the pace it was showing, so time for a little mental calculation on passing each mile marker.

The course took us past St Peter’s church, up North Road, along a narrow road (where i was nearly tripped), down North Street, back along past St Peter’s Church, looping around and back to the Old Steine, squashed again up St James’ Street and out into the open on Marine Parade.

For the next few miles I settled into a nice rhythm, the only frustration finding myself caught against the road divider behind a pace group. After a few minutes behind I worked my way out to the pavement side and nipped past.

One of the highlights of the race as we headed toward Ovingdean village: a procession of Mods on Vespa’s, Rockers on Harley Davison’s and customised mini’s cruised past, leading the race along the route.

After that distraction we passed through Ovingdean village and toward Rottingdean, before heading back to Brighton. The sun came out fully as we ran along the coast road, through miles 10, 11, 12 and down past crowds lining Marine parade.

My parents, sister Kristy and her fiancee Jerome were along here somewhere. I didn’t see them, but heard a loud ‘there here he is!’ from a familiar voice. Too late! I’d passed them, and had no intention of stopping as I swept down to Brighton Pier (at least that’s how it felt).

Here I had my first reminder of the potential toll of a marathon: Twelve miles in and a runner staggering and collapsing by the Royal Albion hotel. Not long after I passed another runner, this time collapsed on the road, in the recovery position being treated by parademics. A good reminder to pace myself at only half way through.

In the warm spring sunshine flickering off of the calm sea we swept Westwards into Hove and onto Grand Avenue. The Tramps Disco Inferno blasting from a balcony sent tiggles up my spine: a nostalgic reminder of Starksy and Hutch night at the Zap years ago.

Here, from mile 15 to 19, it started to feel a bit tougher. I felt I was maintaining a good pace, feeling pretty comfortable and as I hit mile 18 in 2 hours 18 minutes I started to see that 3 hours 20 minutes or a little less was potentially in sight.

Moving into the most remote area of the course, out by the less attractive Shoreham Power Station, we hit mile 20. Now just a simple 10km run home. Through 20 miles in 2 hours 32 minutes I realised that a reasonable 43 minute 10km run (something I’m know I can do) would bring me home in 3 hours 15 minutes.

Running through shower-heads re-invigorated me for a moment as I began the final 6 miles, in a straight line from the Power Station, past Hove lawns, the peace stature, the West Pier, the Palace Pier and finally onto Madeira Drive and the finish straight. Miles 20 to 22 felt okay, 22 to 24 it really began to hurt across my thighs. But the last mile was the worst. The road stretched on and on, the sun blinding, but the cheers of the crowd, calling my name (printed on my vest) pushed me on. Turning onto Madeira Drive, just 400 metres from the line, it was still so far away, off in the distance. A quick burst, as much of a sprint as I could muster, to the line and I finished in 3 hours 15 minutes and 5 bloody seconds. At the time I didn’t know that, just that I had finished the race in just over 3 hours 20 minutes, but taking 5 minutes to cross the line told me my chip time (the time it took me to complete the course)  was close if not under 3 hours 15 minutes. Maybe next year.

In terms of the race I finished 356th. But out of 9067 I’m pretty please. So my 16 week journey came to end. I collected my medal, fluids and a banana, grabbed my bag, met up with Andy, and wandered off to meet my family.

Many thanks to everyone who has sponsored, very much appreciated. Currently £105.00 for Cancer Research and £80 for Mind.

And if you’d still like to donate:

Mind:   http://www.justgiving.com/Antony-Woodruffe.

Cancer Research:  http://www.justgiving.com/Antony-WoodruffeCR.

Final stats:

Distance: 434.58 miles

Hours: 58 hours 16 minutes

Average Pace: 08:13

Calories burnt: 42034

Ascent/Descent: 12946ft / 14251ft

Marathon Training: Almost there……..(stay on target)

Many thanks to those who’ve sponsored me, if not there’s still time:

Mind:   http://www.justgiving.com/Antony-Woodruffe.

Cancer Research:  http://www.justgiving.com/Antony-WoodruffeCR.

Tapering has gone well, no injuries appearing, niggles remaining niggles, but nothing to be too concerned about. Quick enough training runs to reconsider my target and aim for 3 hours 25 minutes.

Unfortunately the much needed sunshine and warmth has finally arrived just a few days early for me. Out of nowhere Race Day looks set to achieve a fairly toasty 17 degrees. I’ve not run a long way in anything above 1 degree (and that with a wind-chill). Time to move that target finish back a bit.

It’s been a pretty long process, over 400 miles and many hours of running over the past four and a half months. A few things I’d differently if I do it again. Join a running club to have a little social interaction while I run, running alone all this time has been pretty lonely and left me pretty low at times. The flip side of course has been the major rush after running for several hours. Something I hope to enjoy again sometime around 12:30 or 13:00 this Sunday afternoon….as long as nothing goes wrong in the next couple of days of course. Almost there.

Stats to race day:

Distance: 407.89 miles

Hours: 55 hours 1 minute

Average Pace: 08:16

Calories burnt: 39257

Ascent/Descent: 125661ft / 13828ft

Marathon Training Weeks 8 – 11 Sponsor Time!

Weeks 8 to 11 of the training have continued to go well, but boy I’m getting a bit fed-up! I like running, but fitting in 4 or 5 runs a week with an extra long one on a Sunday just takes up so much time and effort. Very much looking forward to getting past the marathon when I  might go for a run if I feel like not because it’s part of any damn training. Still, tapering just around the corner – nearly there!

If you would like to sponsor my extra-long run feel free to follow the links below to make a donation. I’ve no target to achieve, but anything you’d like to give would be greatly appreciated.

Mind:   http://www.justgiving.com/Antony-Woodruffe.

Cancer Research:  http://www.justgiving.com/Antony-WoodruffeCR.

Week 8

Only the four runs this week, after the big Brighton Half-Marathonr run. Taking it a little easy in the week as I led-up to extending my run to 17 miles on the Sunday. A good run, spreading myself out to Crystal Palace park this weekend. Very chilly again over the hill, but glad of my new running gloves to keep my hands warm. 17 miles in 2 hours 40.

Week 9

Getting as fed-up with the cold as I am with the number of runs. Another four runs leading up to another longer run on the Sunday. A nice easy run followed by two intense speed workouts. Slight issue with the 10 mile second speed running as my right calf tightens up. Still two hours left of the run, so slow down toward a jog and take it easy as I get into work. Take it easy for the next couple of days and it’s long run day again! Another extension on last week, this time 21 miles. My, it’s starting to hurt! Now extending my run to include numerous parks and cemeteries in South London. In Crystal Palace park I have my first experience of what might just be the ‘wall’. Slow down for a mile or so, but still manage to end with a bit of speed over the last mile. Don’t move for the rest of the day. I’d like to, I just can’t.

Week 10

Meaning to do 5 runs over these weeks, but have fallen into a more comfortable 4 a week. One short, slow and easy, one hills run, and one longer speed run. All went well this week in the lead up to another long run. This one pushing toward 22 miles, but when I get back it seems to be 23.5 miles. It’s cold a bit snowy and I reckon the weather is affecting my gps watch. Why? According to my watch I was consistently running at a pace of 2 mins 30 seconds per mile….after 20 miles. I’d like to believe I was running in world record pace (and frankly should’ve been at the Olympics), but probably not. Checking the map of my run proves it: all over the place. Calculating my actual route I still covered 23 miles. Felt tough, though not as bad as last week. Take a moment to ponder the increase in miles. Four weeks I’d not run over 10 miles. I’ve more than doubled that and only three miles away from Marathon distance! 43 miles for the week.

Week 11

One more week toward tapering. I can’t wait. My weekends have been reduced to food shopping, chores and stuffing my face with carbs on Saturday, long run and resting on the Sunday. Wednesday sees a half day working at home, half day off. Take the opportunity to do some intervals around Dulwich park, but not after running up a few hills. It snows along the way, a full-on blizzard. Get myself lost in Dulwich wood before enjoying some fast intervals in the park. Unfortunately I tweak both achilles. My warm down slow job back is a little painful. So much so I decide to stop and walk back (very comfortably). Plenty of ice on both and some rest over the next few days and I’m okay for the Marathon pace 18 miler on Sunday. I’ve worked out my mile-milestones along my route so I’m less reliant on my gps watch this week. Another chilly Sunday. 19 miles later I’m home in 2 hours 20 minutes, on target for 3 hours 30 minutes. Run a bit quicker than intended, and it was hurting at the end, but in pretty good shape with one more 22 mile run to come before tapering.

Current stats:

Distance: 306.75 miles

Average Pace: 08:16

Calories burnt: 31250

Ascent/Descent: 9751ft / 10945ft

Marathon Training Wks 5 – 7: Almost (halfway) there

The Brighton Half Marathon almost perfectly coincided with the halfway point in my Marathon training, so it seemed like a good race to enter to test how well I’m doing. After my success in puncturing my thigh and ongoing pain along the bottom of my foot I was not overly confident that I’d reach the Half Marathon in particularly good shape, but had tried to keep a mix of speed, tempo and long slow runs inthese training weeks to give me the best shot of reaching the all important 8 mins a mile pace I’ll need if I’m to reach the magic 3 hours 30 minutes mark in the big one!

Week 5: Over the cold that coincided with my thigh injury, I was back to 4 runs this week, some good speed work across the hills of Forest Hill, and through Peckham Rye Park, Burgess Park and Dulwich Park led me to a long 10 mile run. The 9 mile run the pevious weekend had felt fine, but this one was sluggish and tough from mile six onward. Pains in my foot and a tight calf were worrying.

Week 6: Five runs and biggest mile count this so far: 35 across the week. Another good mix of different runs and the miracle stretch for the sole of my foot working its magic: much more confortable, much less limping! To finish it off the week before the Half Marathon a 13 mile run. Started off steady and comfortable and ready to reduce the pace when the fatigue hit later in the run. Instead I continued to feel comfortable and my pace increased over the last 5 miles of the run. Only drawback being the chill wind on the South side of Crystal Palace park blasting my knuckes and fingers. My sweat bands became ad-hoc fist warmers! 1 hour 44 for the 13 miles. Very happy.

Week 7: Reduced the number of runs to three in the run up to race day (27 miles in comparison to 35 the week before). Seemed to do the trick. Feeling much less than up-for-it, a bladder slowly becoming uncomfortable in the minutes leading up to the start, I was not looking forward to the run and expecting the success and workrate of the week before catching up with me. Instead I found myself picking off runners from the moment of crossing the start to crossing the finish line at the end. A chilly, foggy start to the day had given way to beautiful clear skies the sea front and it was a joy to run along with the sunlight glinting off of the sea. A comfortable pace increased through the second half of the race from Hove Lagoon past the Palace Pier to finish on Madeira Drive, crossing the line in 1 hour 34 minutes 23 seconds. Very happy, and a good enough time to suggest I might have a shot at under 3 hours 30 minutes for the Marathon.

Next five weeks will see an increase of 9 miles as I increase from 13 miles to 22 miles.

Current stats:

Distance: 157.92miles

Average Pace: 8:22 per mile

Calories burnt: 15701

Ascent/Descent: 4697ft/5396ft


Marathon Training Weeks 1 – 4

After a visit to the London Marathon last April, and my good friend’s Andy’s successful completion of his second Brighton Marathon, I felt sufficiently inspired to sign-up for this year’s Brighton Marathon. It looked like fun and having completed several 10km runs I estimated that completing four of those back-to-back, plus a couple of extra miles, really wouldn’t be too taxing. Several friends and colleagues have begged to differ.

Ten months later, Andy and colleagues with half and full marathon experience have helped to instil a more realistic perspective on completing this endurance test. Armed with a book on Marathon running, thanks Andy, I’ve been making plans to properly prepare myself and worked out a training programme based on five to six runs per week over 16 weeks.

Training has not gone particularly smoothly. Experiencing pain from my plantar fascia, the muscle and ligament under the foot holding all the bones and what-not together, I thought I’d give it a while before getting back into running after a month or so with none, so starting from a lack of general fitness. There has been another set-back, but at the end of week four I’m glad to write that I’m feeling pretty good:

Week one: a week later than planned to give more rest to my foot. Only three runs, all easy or steady to build my runs and intensity slowly after a month without running.

Week two: Tempo and speed sessions added in. Up to four runs and a good steady seven mile long run to finish the week.

Week three: The plan to increase to five runs stopped dead in its tracks, just as I was stopped dead in mine by the chain-link fence i didn’t see when crossing a road: one of the pyramid barbs between the links scrapped up my thigh, puncturing it below the groin. Tripping myself up in public, I was far more concerned with looking a fool than any possible injury. Thankfully not too bad, but a bit messy. One tetanus shot later, and a warning of likely infection, I thought it best to give the rest of the week a miss an give it time to heal.

Week four: Another short training week. The puncture wound taking time to heal, plus a cold so no running until Saturday. An easy four miler followed by a steady and enjoyable nine miler Sunday. 8:04 the average pace per mile, reasonably happy that my goal of under three hours forty-five minutes is feasible, and more so that I’ll be in reasonable shape for my first big marker: the Brighton Half-Marathon on 17 March.

Back to five runs, with tempo and speed, next week!

Current stats:

Distance: 54.97miles

Average Pace: 8:35 per mile

Calories burnt: 5735

Ascent/Descent: 18321ft/16590ft

A night or three at the King’s College Hotel

It was an unexpected change of heart that saw me eschew the humidity, bustle and polite hospitality of Yokohama, Japan for the more temperate climes of South London for my summer break, but one a change well worth making. In Japan nothing more than the corridor of a friend’s small apartment awaited me in the way of comfort. In South London little was I prepared for the sheer comfort, not mention value, of the King’s College Hotel.

Arriving late on a Sunday evening first impressions were not favourable and I began to question my last minute wavering. Kept waiting for a bed for several hours, the only saving grace that kept me hanging on was the gift of a blue and white patterned gown, light and comfortable in the early August warmth, and a small pick-me-up in the form of six little tablets.

Just as I began to doze an assistant arrived to escort me to my room, and in what style! My own chariot was provided and I fare glided through the corridors of the labyrinthine complex to my room for the next two nights. Naturally I offered a tip, but was refused in this most generous of places.

As many will be aware, hotel rooms in London can often be on the smaller size (unlike the rate) and this was no exception. A spare and sparse room, yet with a delightful window view onto a small garden or plant shaded by a high wall with several windows. I waved to my neighbour. He did not wave back, too tired from his own journey no doubt. The decor admittedly had seen better days and the maize and cornflower blue walls attempted to foster a tranquility which the square-edges of my box and stained foam ceiling panels simply rejected. For my convenience a commode was provided at no extra cost (and which was conveniently emptied most promptly and without complaint by the staff).

After my long wait sleep was upper-most in mind and having made use of the complimentary blood-pressure and pulse tests I lay my head down to rest. At this point I must admit my disappointment to notice the emergency exit light immediately above my bed. Undeterred, I burrowed my head beneath the covers and slept soundly.

My first day in these charming lodgings saw me take no steps from the room, such was I taken with the peaceful environment. Periodic complimentary tests and regular visitors through the day kept me too busy for anything as energetic as a walk. First a doctor commenting on my weight lose (no Dr, I have always been slim) who rushed in and out in a matter of minutes. Then a pharmacist asking me the exact same questions asked by, well, almost every member of staff I encountered. Finally a familiar face, another doctor who only recently provided a service to me and was keen to ensure I received any extra perks to my stay.

With all these visitors, a man needs energy and I am pleased to report that room service was of a high standard. True I had no telephone to order with, but like clockwork an assistant sporting a pink plastic apron would appear at my door to take an order. A hearty porridge breakfast followed by tea, followed by lunch of lambs mince and mashed potato, more tea, dinner of poached salmon and sliced potatoes, and yet more tea, all served with such a consistency hinting to a frugality of ingredients and lack of flavour that provided a true feeling of nostalgia for my school days and the dry, stodgy, flavourless meals of the old school canteen. As I came out of my youthful reminiscences I realised the sun had dropped to the horizon and night had come again.

My second night was not as peaceful as the first. It seems this establishment suffers from those inconsiderate guests who seem ignorant to the possibility that they are not the only ‘guest’ in the ‘house’.  Screams, shouts, crashing, thrashing and bashing from across the corridor all-night. And as I drifted to sleep? Well, an unexpected change to my lodgings. The worst possible circumstance: a double booking. No sooner had I drifted into a dream of sun and laughter, cheese and ale, than I was awakened with heartfelt apologies and requests for me to pack my belongs ready to move. I was not pleased, but too drowsy too raise protest before I was speedily whisked away (on the same bed no less) to a new home.

I had lost my privacy and found myself in a four bed dorm room. Yet for the loss of privacy I gained an airiness my own room simply had not had, and moreover I was offered the opportunity to observe the staff as they went about their business.

My view had little changed, save for the delightful addition of scaffold climbing up the high wall, but the distance to the inconsiderate guest had grown and I could sleep easier.

When I awoke the routine of the previous day in the main repeated itself. Despite the sites and sounds of London I simply preferred to stay in this peaceful corner. The addition of three other fine fellows to discuss and debate with added to the highlights of my stay, though one fellow I hardly saw as he spent the majority of his time taking the air, enjoying his tobacco and avoiding the over-zealous security staff, while another appeared keen to sleep his way through the days (though I can’t say I blame him). My other companion, a man in his sixties with a penchant for jars of pickled beetroot, enjoyed full and healthy conversation.

On this day I began to consider ending my enjoyable stay and intimated as much to the staff. Hospitable as ever, they assured me they would arrange everything as necessary and so I waited, and waited, and waited. The poor smoking fellow seemed to be having similar trouble. On advising staff that he wished to check-out he waited a full ten hours before anyone advised the bill was settled and he could go. At this juncture I kept my own counsel to avoid a similar fate and hoped they would not charge me for the extra night.

Night three past without incident (save the bumps and bangs and shouts that were now part of the local colour) and day four dawned with a strong heat. A commode had been provided once more for my convenience and I obliged to use it. It is sad for me to report that the hospitality and efficiency of the staff was no longer reaching the high standards of my initial stay. For one reason or another (perhaps simply understaffed), the commode sat, un-emptied for several hours into the afternoon despite several times advising staff it was ‘ready’. Perhaps they misunderstood. The same routine came and went, the doctors keen to diagnose and advise, the complimentary tests, the prompt room service, the special pills to enhance my stay. On advising once more that I felt that I would like to check-out I was assured that all was almost ready. If I would not mind waiting a while they would prepare a gift in honour of my stay.

Well, one hour dragged to the next and that fine patterned gown was no longer quite so comfortable in the heat of a summer afternoon (not with repugnant wafts of air from by my bed). Could it be that simple communication had broken down? Had the managers of this establishment reduced the number of staff working? Were they forcing them to work more hours in fewer days? I could not be sure, but a disharmony was certainly evident and the charm of this establishment was beginning to be undermined. On asking yet again for an update on when I might leave, I was suddenly and unexpectedly ready to go. My parting gift offered in honour of my stay: a big green bag full of those wonderful tablets that pricked my mood and calmed my mind. Despite the disappointment of the last days of my stay hospitality reigned to the end as I was invited to dinner before I left. Not one to miss a meal I duly obliged those last morsels of schoolboy nostalgia.

While appearances can lower ones expectations, the individual warmth of the staff here is second to none and makes one’s stay as close to a real joy as can be had. Perhaps with better communication or better management my three night stay may have been more enjoyable. It is hard to know whether I could have found a more recuperative experience on the other side of the world, but so close to home, in this little known corner of Denmark Hill I found the beginning of an answer to a question nagging me for some time. And that I could not have found anywhere-else.

If you do decide to stay at this establishment, do ensure that you take your own towel and toiletries with you and insist on an ensuite. Your neighbours will thank you.

My unexpected admittance to King’s College Hospital in early August, shortly before I was due to fly to Japan for a holiday, was my first experience as an inpatient. My impression of the nurses and Doctors was of caring professional’s working in difficult, pressured circumstances and I thank them all for their care and attention. The only book I had with me was Mark Twain’s San Francisco, a collection of satirical articles by Mark Twain on the various sights, sounds and people of late 19th century San Francisco. This piece was inspired by Twain’s work and style to comment lightly on the change in my expected destination, and some of the problems that appeared to exist within the operations of the ward.

And here we…go..

Welcome to the new version of my writing website.

This is a space for me to update the progress of various writing projects (screenplays, radio plays, poetry, short stories)  as well as to ruminate on the writing process, the world of film and any thoughts that pop in to my addled brain. However, being both somewhat busy and really quite lazy, posts may be few and far between. I shall try to keep them as frequent as possibly so please bear with me.