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The Big Half – Half Marathon-man Nigel Evans tackles another 13.1 miles at the big new London event

This year I have been trying to do more events that I have not done before as I have a tendency to book the same ones, so last year when I saw there was going to be a New London Half Marathon I thought great and booked it.

It appeared to be a nice run starting at Tower Bridge and finishing at the Cutty Sark but like with everything I book I worry about the logistics of actually getting there and back home again once I’ve entered.

London streets

With all the snow we had experienced I was not sure the event would be going ahead but I was pleased to receive confirmation that the race was on but they had cancelled the Little Half run (later they advised if you posted a picture on Instagram or twitter of yourself walking or running wearing your race number they would send you your Little Half medal).

The race start time was 9am but the first Sunday train from my nearest station Farnborough Main would not get me into Waterloo until 8.50 and with a bag drop cut off time of 8.20 to give the lorries time to get to the finish area this was no good so I was going to have to get the 6.36 from Woking which would get me to Waterloo at 7.30 giving me 50 minutes to get to Tower Bridge on the Jubilee line to London Bridge Tube Station and then a short walk. After the race I had booked the City Cruise ferry back to Westminster as the nearest tube was a bit of a walk away.

At 5 am my alarm went off and I got myself ready to leave at 6. Liz now being married to a runner had kindly offered to drop me off at Woking station at 6.15.

Getting to the South side of Tower bridge was busy but pretty painless and there were plenty of toilets so I got changed and put my bag in the appropriate lorry based on my running number.

Nigel Big Half bridge

The bag drop area was very very busy (with about 11500 runners actually starting) but with clear blue skies above and a back drop of one of the most famous landmarks in the world; start areas do not get much better than this!

The Elite line up was also pretty impressive for this event with Sir Mo Farah who had been training in Ethiopia coming over to run. However I think he would have been more impressed with my logistics in getting to the start and getting home again from Farnborough!

The start line was on the North side so at 8.45 I made my way across the bridge and joined the queue. The atmosphere was great with everyone cheering when Sir Mo’s name was announced.

Nigel Big Half start

I was in wave C which started at 9.15 on the dot to Queens Under Pressure. My plan was to start off at a nice steady pace around the 5 min/km mark and see how I felt at 10km then push it if I felt good. The Big Half did use chunks of the London Marathon route to create a course from Tower Bridge to Canary Wharf and back again then heading off to the Cutty Sark.

After about a mile we entered the Limehouse Link Tunnel which seemed to me to go on forever (1.8km actually) and with the lack of a cool breeze I soon started to get hot having dressed for a cold day.

After a couple of miles everyone got a bit of a boost seeing Mo racing on his way back to Tower Bridge again (Mile 7) as we were heading out to Canary Wharf.

I wouldn’t say the course was flat as it did have a few gradual climbs and there were large sections of cobbles which didn’t help as my legs tired but the organization seemed good with plenty of cheering spectators, ample water stops and encouraging marshals but to be honest I did not find the route very scenic.

My early km times were a bit quick so by mile 11 my legs had had enough and I felt physically very tired despite taking my usual gels at both 7km and 14km. Maybe I hadn’t fully recovered from the previous weeks Thorpe Half but I still managed the sprint finish across the line to collect a rather nice medal, finishers T-Shirt and a goody bag.

Nigel Big Half cutty sark

Now I had to get back to Waterloo but because it was so busy and I had to cross the course it took me 1 ½ hours to get to the jetty by the Cutty Sark to get my ferry (I missed the one I had booked) but it was nice once on board to grab a coffee, relax and have an hours boat trip back to Westminster seeing the sights. Sunday service meant that trains to Farnborough only run every hour so when I got off the ferry I had to run to Waterloo to make sure I caught the 14.07 train and not have another long wait.

Liz again came up trumps and picked my weary body up from Farnborough station.

All in all I am glad I made the effort to run the first Big Half as this may become a must do event but personally the logistics of getting there for a 9am start, the less than scenic route and getting home again from the Cutty Sark means it may be a while before I do it again.

This Sunday I will be doing the Surrey Half Marathon followed by the one and only Grizzly the week after to end a very busy 4 weeks of running.









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Thorpe Half Marathon – Nigel Evans enjoys a roller coaster of a run

I ran the first Thorpe Half Marathon last year , it was my first long distance run after all my back issues and I vaguely remember enjoying it as its quite local, parking is easy and a 9am start means I am home at a reasonable time.

If you are anything like me you usually have events booked months ahead so there is always a risk that you could suffer an injury or have an illness that scuppers your plans and so it was for this run.

With all the excitement of getting married a week earlier and then on our honeymoon weekend away in Christchurch dragging Liz to the Bournemouth Park run and having such a great time there feeling like mini-celebrities. I hit the floor with a bit of a bump on the Monday and started to feel unwell which over the next few days developed into tonsillitis, so no running for me just popping pills and resting.

Saturday morning I woke up feeling slightly more human but decided to give the Park Run a miss hopping the extra days rest would mean I felt up to running Thorpe Half.

The trouble with me is that I absolutely love the buzz I get from doing events, I never get nervous if I know I have put the training in I just get excited ( The Grizzly this month is the exception to this as Dave Bartlett will tell you) and if I cannot run ,cycle or go to the gym because of illness or injury it does effect me mentally as to how I feel and Liz notices within a day or two as I get a bit twitchy and unsettled so the thought of not running Thorpe after a week of inactivity did not rest easy with me.

Anyway Saturday night after I had got all my kit ready and put the number on my shirt. I decided to set my alarm for 6am and see how I felt when I woke up (TBH I think my decision was already made.)

I actually had a good nights sleep so at 6am I fell out of bed, got dressed, had my porridge and left the house at 7am thinking I felt well enough to give it a go and would take it easy at the start and just try to finish.

The weather was great, not a cloud in the sky but very cold at -1 with the wind chill making it a few degrees lower. I pulled into Thorpe Park’s massive car park around 7.45 and parked really close to the start line which meant I could sit in the warm car until a few minutes before the race began.

A nice touch at the start area as well as the usual nutrition/kit/coffee stalls was a visit from the Camberley Rock Choir that Liz is a member of and they were there singing a selection of uplifting songs to get you in the mood.

9am sharp and we were off. My plan was to set off at a nice easy pace and just see how I felt hoping to come in under 2hrs if possible. The run was on closed roads which was good with plenty of marshals giving encouragement.

After a couple of km’s I had warmed up and felt comfortable and the first 10km seemed to pass very quickly, looking at my Garmin I was surprised at my km splits as they were all around the 5 minute mark and I felt like I was cruising. I wouldn’t say the course was hilly but it did seem to have a fair few of those long roads with a slight incline that make you work just a bit harder than usual but it was nice as there were pockets of cheering supporters which gave you a little boost.

As it was very cold I only carried about ½ litre of drink in my hydration pack as opposed to 1-1.5 litres when the weather is warmer and I took a High 5 gel at 7km and 14km which is my usual half marathon plan.

Thorpe medal

At 15km’s I was feeling pretty strong so decided to up the pace a bit, I was enjoying the run and feeling very happy that I had decided to give it a go and before long I was running across the finish line with a time of 1:46:53 with the last 2 km’s being my quickest at 4m37 and 4m 34. All in all a good mornings work and another rather nice medal.






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The Big Half – The snow doesn’t stop Claire Rowse enjoying this new BIG city HALF

It was probably almost a year ago that I entered The Big Half Marathon in London, running for its first time this year, organised by the London Marathon Events team and billed as being a one day festival centred around the half marathon to celebrate the cultural diversity of the communities in London.

It sounded good, it sounded big, with up to 15000 runners but being its first year, I still wasn’t sure what to expect. On the run up to the event, I began to realise that perhaps it would be as good as it promised as the announcement that the likes of Sir Mo Farah and Callum Hawkins would be racing, plus information began to come through about what to expect en route and at the finishing festival.

With the snowy few days we had in the run up to the race, there was lots of apprehension on social media about whether the race would continue but the organisers proceeded to set up in the snow and confirmed on the Saturday that the race would go on.

As soon as I got my place, I had booked a hotel near to the start “just in case” I needed it as getting to London early on a Sunday can be a logistical nightmare. So on the Saturday afternoon, my husband, daughter and I made our way into London and enjoyed the afternoon being tourists and showing my daughter some of the sights.

Big Half river

On the Sunday morning, I enjoyed a hotel breakfast along with many other runners staying in the same hotel as me (the hotel was obviously not prepared for so many early risers on a Sunday as we jostled our way around the buffet whilst they were still setting up (Errr – did they not know that there was this massive event taking place on their doorstep?)

Race instructions said to arrive by 8am, so I left the hotel just before this time and made the 5 minute walk to the starting area which was by Tower Bridge. It was a glorious morning, the sun was shining and not a cloud in the sky. It couldn’t have been more perfect. Runners had been split into 2 starting areas – orange and green. I was orange which meant that I had to cross the bridge to the bag drop area (nice and easy, no queues) and then head back to find the assembly area for my start wave. Here, I found plenty of toilet facilities and with relatively little queuing needed for a change. The first wave wasn’t heading off until 9am so we had a bit of a wait but everyone was in good spirits and there were lots of announcements being made and music being played to keep us entertained a bit.

The race started with the wheelchair racers and the elite runners, and I was in wave D, the 4th wave out of 8 to go.

And at last it was our time to race!  We made our way from the assembly area to the starting line. Here I saw the pacer for my group – the 2hr pacer – I had applied for the race before I had even run my first half marathon and I guess this was my anticipated time then. This pace was a bit slow for me so I tried to get as near to the front as I could and just hoped that I could get away cleanly and pick up pace.

I started off well, was able to get a good pace almost straight away and didn’t find it was too congested to move through the other runners.  The race headed out initially in the direction of Canary Wharf and it was when I was around mile 1 that I experienced my race high – Sir Mo and the other elite runners whizzed past us in a flash in the opposite direction.  After this we entered the long Limehouse Link Tunnel, where lots of chants of Oggy Oggy Oggy could be heard echoing through amongst the runners.  The tunnel seemed to go on forever and after about a mile we finally saw light ahead and made the climb up the hill to exit the tunnel.  It was just after the tunnel, that I saw my family for the first time which gave me a little lift as I didn’t know where I would see them along the route.

Big Half Map

The route continued on towards Canary Wharf, past the whiff of Billingsgate Fish Market. We wound our way around Canary Wharf, past all the skyscrapers of the city, enjoying some music from a local band.  I continued to run well, not truly believing the pace showing on my watch as I’d had GPS problems at the start. There had been a couple of drinks stations by this point if you so wanted and sweets were plentiful on offer from the spectators.

During the loop back from Canary Wharf towards Tower Bridge, we hit a long stretch of running over cobblestones which was tough and led to a slight reduction in pace.

Around mile 7, brought us back to the familiar point of Tower Bridge and where we crossed over the river to continue with the second half of the run south of the river passing through Southwark, Lewisham, Bermondsey, Southwark and on towards the finishing point at Greenwich.  We were welcomed by Steel bands and Reggae singers, all helping to create the carnival vibe as the organisers intended.

Big Half action

It was around mile 9 that I started to flag a bit.  Up until this point I had been running well, with some splits faster than I usually ran and I found my mind started to wander a bit and I began to lose focus. With a quick look at the watch and a few mental calculations in my head, I realised that if I carried on at the rate I had been running at, I would be on for a good PB. I gave myself a bit of a telling off, sunk another gel, retained focus and picked up momentum again.

As I neared the end of the race, crowd presence picked up again and helped to push us on. As we ran the last mile, the crowds were several deep, apparently my family were here but I didn’t see them as it was so busy. The finish line approached by the Cutty Sark and I managed a sprint finish through the end. And I’d done it! I finished in 1 hour 47 minutes – my 5th half marathon since May last year and my 5th PB!

Big Half Medal

On completion, we were given foil blankets, a rather heavy goody bag containing 3 drinks and a dodgy tasting cereal bar, a t-shirt and of course a medal.

We were then funneled through to the bag collection area and on towards the festival which seemed to take forever to reach. On reaching the festival, I was met by family and my daughter (once she had pinched my medal and seen what goodies she could take from my bag) wanted to enjoy the attractions at the festival which included a big wheel, a boxing ring and basketball – all free and laid on by local organisations.

My sister and brother-in-law were also running the race, so we waited for them to finish and then we headed back to Canary Wharf on the DLR to enjoy a nice well-earnt family lunch before we returned back to the hotel to collect our luggage and then made the journey back home.

After failing to get a place in VLM for the 6th year in a row, I was hoping this might be the nearest I was going to get to experiencing the London running experience and The Big Half didn’t fail me. The event was well organised, everyone was buzzing, the crowd support was amazing, with lots of local bands, choirs, DJ’s singing and playing music the whole way along the route.  It certainly captured the community spirit as intended.  I will definitely try to get back next year in The Big Half and maybe next year might be my lucky year with the ballot………

Some interesting stats:

I finished 2957th out of 11504 finishers (I think a lot of people couldn’t make it because of the snow).

I was 619th woman out of 5097 and 77th out of 857 in my division.

Over the 1st half of the race, I passed 1154 other runners and 63 passed me.

I had just passed mile 5 when Sir Mo finished his race. (Edit: But Claire did give Mo a substantial head start!)



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The Big Half – John King feeds back on this new London event

What did I do on Sunday whilst most normal folk were still asleep? I got up out of a lovely, warm bed at 5:30am to get myself to London for the inaugural running of the Vitality Big Half. 

After the previous days’ snow, the race was still on, which meant having to get to London Bridge for as close to 8am as possible, hence the early start.  Top Tip for anybody thinking of running this event next year, there is a train from Woking Station at 6:36am (or so) that will get you to Waterloo for 7:30ish.  No trains running that early at Farnborough Station, so had to be a car journey to Woking.  Getting my wife up at 5:45am (not a minute earlier, I was told) to take me there seemed to be the logical choice.

I had two alternatives once I got to Waterloo.  Plan A, follow directions to Waterloo East and wait for a train to London Bridge or Plan B, walk/jog/run to London Bridge for a warmup and maybe get there sooner…  LOL.  Having never been to Waterloo East Station before, I talked myself into going with Plan B and I think I was glad that I did, as I could walk/jog/run off any nerves I had before the race start, which was incidentally at 9am! What was the hurry then? The Luggage Trucks were departing at 8:20am so no time to dawdle.

Has anybody ever noticed how many bridges there are along the River Thames?  Seemed like they were never ending!  Pant, pant, pant, is it this one?.. No. Pant, pant, pant, this one?.. No. I needn’t had worried though as it soon became apparent which bridge it was, as it was absolutely mobbed by thousands of runners, (11,500 in all, spread across 2 starting points, Orange and Green) all trying to get (as it seemed) up the narrowest steps to the top of the bridge, where you had to go to get to the infamous ‘Luggage Trucks’. I had wondered why a large number of people were stripping down to their race attire a little way from the steps, and soon found out why that was as, after getting to the bridge and seeing the trucks, this was where the vast majority of the runners were, all jostling and barging their way, trying to drop their bag off. Oh! I was still fully dressed! I had to get to the front of the queue (sorry to all the smaller competitors there, but I was just using my size to muscle my way through) then I could strip down while being pushed and jostled, which made for an interesting experience.  What I couldn’t do though was remove my tights (sorry Mum, they were my running tights though) as they were under my shorts so resigned myself to running in them.  After a lot more waiting and forceful tactics that I am not proud of (sorry again Mum) I was finally free of my baggage and could elbow and fight my way out of the mad scrum still broiling around me with only minutes to go until 8:20am. In reality, I don’t think the trucks actually left on time as there were still so many runners still trying to dump their bags. By the way, we were all given one of those London Marathon see-through bags that you get from the London Marathon peeps, as the Big Half is part of their brand and was even featured on the TV. Why the Baggage Trucks? Just like the London Marathon, the finish is somewhere else, so the trucks had to get to Greenwich before the fast runners got there.

Next on the list was to get to a porta-loo, hoping I could get out of my tights (sorry Mum) and the one extra sock I still had on. Yes, in my hurry to strip down, I had left one extra sock on my right foot. I needed extra socks earlier as it was still quite cold at 6am. Brrr… That done (no real dramas there) I had to find my start pen, as I had accidentally jogged into the wrong one. I was now in Pen B and ready for the start!  Elite Wheelchairs announced first on the tannoy, then Elite men and ladies, including that man again… Sir Mo Farah!  YEAH!..  We could not see any of this of course, but still cheered anyway and before we knew, we were off.

I think I was in a quick Pen, as I was swept along at a fairly brisk pace and (now all the usual excuses can come out again) I found myself going too quickly.  (Here we go…) My training had not gone well, I was out of shape for the pace that was being set, I couldn’t slow down, thing is though, all of this was true.  We entered quite a long underpass tunnel that we ran through after a mile or so which was quite weird. It felt quite airless so (adding in another excuse) felt as though we were running indoors. It felt like there was a lack of free-flowing air and so I began to sweat quite early on in the race. Unfortunately I became aware that most people were passing me so felt as though I was going backwards which was quite disconcerting.  Also, there were quite a few cobbled stretches of road, more than you would imagine which was not very pleasant and the course did rise and fall a fare bit too. I would class the run as ‘undulating’ rather than flat.

The Water Stations  were good, the mile markers were huge, the Cheering Points were great with music and lots of crowd support, very reminiscent of ‘The Big One’ itself.  You could tell it was ‘organised’, very slick and well marshalled too.  The first half of the run I was looking out for my friend who said that he would be at one of the water stations and did manage to see him; sporting one of those huge, foam hands for ‘high-fiving’ people.  It gave me a bit of a lift, so thanks for that George.

Memorable parts of the race:

After just a few miles, a little, innocent voice from the crowd piped up, ‘Why is everybody getting slower Mummy?’ as I was beginning to tire slightly.  She must have seen the elites hurtle past earlier on… Bless her.  😉

At about 10 miles, a different little girl was holding out sweets for runners to take (as they do) and because she had the biggest smile on her face, I veered towards her.  Her Dad said to her, ‘Look, there’s a runner coming over now’ and her grin only got bigger!  A real delight and looked like I had made her day.  😊

Unfortunately it was not long after this I decided to walk for a bit because I was completely done in, but did manage to rally after a half mile or so; then ran/walked for the rest of the race.  I will put this run down to experience and think about the Reading Half in just two weeks time…

Big Half Medal.jpg

The finish area was fine, we were given a space blanket for the walk to the Festival Area, as we picked up our finishers t-shirt and goody bag, before being deposited into the Meet and Greet/Festival Area proper which was across a road.  This area was fine, but all I wanted to do was to get some warm clothes on (it was cold again now) and maybe some hot food and drink. I plumped for the chicken curry and green tea, but there was quite a large range of food on offer. The best bit was that the dining area was under cover, in a large tent with heater lights, which was very well received by all.

After this it was a case of finding a train (very well sign-posted) to head back to the start, then on to Waterloo East, then Waterloo Main and on home, this time to Farnborough Station.  I had to pay the extra fare from Woking to Farnborough, but my wife was meeting me there so was worth the extra money. Would I run it again, with a group of friends it could be a craic, but solo, just seemed a lot of effort just to get there. If they changed the start time, I could be tempted but all in all, a great taste of the London Experience.

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3rd/4th March – SJ Weekend Run Down

Snow dominated the tail end of the week and the first half of the weekend. The Thursday clubrun and Track session was cancelled for safety reasons but lots of members took to the trails for stunning snow runs.

The snow also affected many Parkruns on Saturday morning with both Bracknell and Rushmoor events cancelled. Frimley Lodge made a late decision on Friday afternoon to go ahead and as a result attracted a sizeable field including twelve Sandhurst Joggers. Bracknell regular Charlie St Aubyn was first member to finish in a time only 15 seconds outside his best on the course despite the snow! Kate Parker completed her first run at the venue.

Parkrun FL SJ results March 3rd.JPG

Limited Parkrun Tourism this week as you’d expect but still some diverse locations. George Green made the short trip to Woodley one of the few other local venues in action. I collected a ‘U’ in the Parkrun Alphabet at the easily accessible from the M4 Upton Court while further afield Kevin Forster ran at Dungloe in Ireland. Award for the furthest trip to Parkrun goes to Simon and Anne Whillis who traveled all the way to Rotorua in New Zealand for the Puarenga Parkrun where they will have traded snow for the smell of rotten eggs.

Richard Boese took on the Phoenix Spring Marathon on a course along the Thames between Sunbury and Hampton finishing in 4:48:05 to claim 46th position.

Richard Phoenix Spring Mara

Sunday saw the Big Half; a new half marathon event held on a sightseeing course around London, starting near Tower Bridge the course looped out to Canary Wharf before heading south of the river to finish adjacent to the Cutty Sark.  We had a trio of members in action; Nigel Evans and Claire Rowse and John King. Finishing in 1:47:49, 1:47:53 and 2:07:23 respectively. Claire’s result was a 5th PB in as many half marathons and Nigel came within a minute of the time he set at his last half; the Thorpe Half Marathon.

Nigel Big Half.jpg

Also within the M25, Krzysztof Zielinski ran well at the River Thames Half Marathon finishing in 1:30:43 to take 35th position. The course almost retraced Richard Boese’s marathon of the preceding day starting in Walton on Thames, following the river to Hampton Court before returning to the start.

The snow put the freeze on some running this week so numbers were a little down on recent weeks on Strava with seventy nine members logging runs. We still saw some very impressive totals this week! To take part in this just create a free Strava account and link it to the club in your profile. Here’s the top 10 from last week:-

Strava Leaderboard March 4th

Please let me know if I’ve missed anything and share your results and achievements in the future so the rest of the club know what you are up to. It’s also great to find out about new events or get an honest opinion on the multitude of events out there so we love to receive run reports. Any member, any event, any distance, any surface! Just email publicity@sandhurstjoggers.org.uk

As always keep a look out on Facebook for details of the weekday evening runs.

Monday: Patrick is back from Tokyo so will be leading the Monday night chatfest leaving Sandhurst Sports Centre at 7:30pm and covering approx. 6 miles. This is one of the most sociable runs of the week and a great opportunity to catch up with friends or discuss the preceding weekend.

Tuesday Club Run: Its the first Tuesday of February so Mike, Monica and the other run leaders will be leading run starting from the Morgan Rec in Crowthorne. As usual multiple groups will start at 6:30pm and cater for all abilities from beginners through to faster and more experienced runners. It’s perfect for novices and those coming back from injury or a long lay-off because you can start with an easy group and work your way upwards.

Tuesday Intervals: Later the interval sessions will meet at The TYTHINGS in Yateley at 8pm. The sessions have been split into two groups to provide more specific training for members targeting different distances with one group doing shorter efforts and the other longer durations to build endurance.

Wednesday: Andrea Vincent and Sharon Burfield are the General Members for the Wednesday which leaves from Sandhurst Memorial Park at 7pm. The run will cover approx. 5-6 miles over roughly an hour. Runners run at their own pace and loop back as needed. There has been a lot of interest in the 5k to 10k course starting later in the spring.

Thursday: This week the threshold/improvers run will be on the the Crawley Ridge route. Meet at Sandhurst Sports Centre at 7:30pm and don’t forget lights and high vis clothing. There are more groups than ever before so more support to help you achieve your running goals. The run is a great way to improve fitness by running as a group at a slightly harder intensity to take you out of your comfort zone. There is a shorter route available and a sweeper so nobody gets left behind.

Friday: Track is still free and the coaches have some great sessions planned for all abilities to improve fitness and technique.

Saturday: Many members will line up at 9am at the numerous Parkrun around our area and further afield. If you haven’t ran a Parkrun they are a great way to start the weekend, either running at a sociable pace or using for speedwork. More details can be found at the Parkrun website http://www.parkrun.org.uk/ And don’t forget your barcode! Also if you are training for a spring marathon you can use the Facebook group to find company for those long runs.

Sunday: Anybody not racing can join the crowd running from The Lookout at 9am. It’s a flexible run to suit everybody’s needs and is either adapted to fit with distance targets or multiple groups are formed. The three ‘Cs’ of Coffee, cake and chat are enjoyed in the cafe post-run.

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Tokyo Marathon – Patrick Wadsworth

I was only running Tokyo marathon as it is part of the Abbotts World Marathon Majors.  In fact all the Europeans I met were there for that reason.  For the first time I went with a tour group as there is no Good For Age for Tokyo and I was ‘buying’ my way into the event.  We arrived a couple of days before the marathon.

The day before the marathon there was a Friendship run 4K.  It was close to the Marathon pickup Expo and best imagined as a 4k from the London Excel.  Not the most inspiring surroundings but made up for by the crazy costumes of the other countries and the enthusiasm of the Japanese marshals.  A fun event and worth the early start.

The advantage of being in the official marathon hotel with a group was that there was a bus to the start.  In typical Japanese fashion each tour group had a coach to themselves which was nice.  The start area was frenzied.  Lots of volunteers pointing out the way to go, entry to the start area through a bag search according to number bib (The information on the bib showed your start area entry gate, bag drop off vehicle and cage within that vehicle and start pen – not just the start colour and start pen but it is Japan).  Massively long queues for the toilets which seemed to intersect each other but further sets after the bag drop with much shorter queues.

The start was along a dual carriageway through an office park.  Just prior to the start the 3:30 pacers came into my pen and it seemed a good idea to see how long I could stay with them.  My thoughts had been 3:40 but nothing ventured, nothing gained.  Not the most exciting place but we crossed the start line quickly.  Keeping slightly behind that golden balloons of the five pacers I started.  Most of the route is along long straight roads, up one side then later in the race back along the other.  Looking at the markers on the other side gave an idea of how long until we would be back.  It also helped to spot the water stations.

Patrick Tokyo Marathon Tokyo sign

There were plenty of water stops with isotonic drinks and water (the well known Pocari Sweat!).  There had been plenty of opportunities at the Expo in the goody bag to try the local isotonic drinks so I was confident that they would not disagree with me.  There is no point in blindly running in these major marathons as it is unlikely I would be back again so I spent plenty of time looking around while keeping the pacers fairly close.  Lots of crowds clapping enthusiastically helped the kilometres pass.  The distance is marked in kilometres so I spent lots of time converting into ParkRuns and into Miles.  Rather than fuelling every 3 miles I was working on every 5k.   The halfway point came and went and I was feeling good and the pacers were still close by so it was looking promising.  We started down a long straight and the markers on the other side were showing 38K and counting down to the finish.  Now was the time to concentrate and make sure I kept the pace up.  Into the final few kilometres and the pacers moved to the side and encouraged those who were still with them to push on.  Onto the final kilometre and a turn to the finish, except there was no sign of the finish as it was just around the next corner but a sprint (very unusual for me) took me over the line.  The usual long walk back to the bags collecting a Finishers towel (yes really) along the way.  There were lots of marshals breaking into spontaneous clapping as I passed (very Japanese).

Another marathon major marathon completed.  I was not sure what to expect but although the Japanese speak only slightly more English than I do Japanese, getting around and communicating was rarely a real problem.  The marathon was well organised and the course is fast.  Now for Berlin in September!

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National XC – First timer Sharon Burfield visits the spiritual home of XC Parliament Hill

Having signed up for this race, without a thought for what it might actually involve, I was feeling fairly OK when I picked Ian Watson up last Saturday morning.  However, en route to the SJ meet up point at Sandhurst library, it became clear that Ian was far more in the know about what was to come than I was! He started to talk about thousands of runners, lots of mud and hills, and a 12k course!!! Hmmm… All this, after ‘accidentally’ running Bracknell park run with my boys in the morning!
Luckily, the weather was glorious, and we arrived at parliament hill with plenty of time to spare. First impressions were ‘Wow’, as there were literally thousands of runners and lots of club flags dotted all over the very large hill! Second thoughts were ‘oh my god, look at that hill!!!’
National XC Sharon steep hill
Once I began to realise just how many good runners were there, all equipped with spikes (I was in my trusty trail shoes), I started to feel a little nervous about what lay ahead of me. But after a short wander up and over the hill, with a quick look at the junior men’s race as they whizzed by, it was time for me to get to the start line.
National XC Sharon at finish
My strategy was, as usual, very open minded, and I was clear that I would NOT be racing off from the start line. I decided I would set off at a steady pace and just make sure I survived that first hill! Once lined up with the almost 2,000 ladies I made sure I was at the back, ready to start my race…
Once the start gun sounded, we set off up the mega hill at a nice steady pace. Even within the first few minutes I started to overtake people who had set off a bit too quickly, and I felt strong. Once at the top of the hill, I let gravity assist me down into the first lot of sticky, squelchy mud. Thankfully, I had tied my laces extra tight and despite a few slips my trainers stayed put. I nearly slipped a few times, but overall survived the mud well.
National XC Sharon in the crowd
Round the course, it was lovely to hear Nikki and Jenny shouting my name at various points, but I don’t think i actually ever saw them, as I spent most my time looking at the ground and where I should put my feet (the rather unattractive photos demonstrate this perfectly!).
National XC Sharon looking at feet
I continued to feel fairly strong round the two laps, going past a fair number of other ladies, and felt able to pick up the pace in the last mile, knowing that the finish was all downhill.
Once my race was complete, I had the opportunity to get on some warm clothes, eat some snacks and cheer on our SJ mens contingent, which, as usual, was great fun!
I would thoroughly recommend taking part in this event, especially if you like cross country!