Saturday 26th March I did my first Park Run. I got the train to Milton Keynes the afternoon before and Peter Ford, the manager of Sweatshop MK, picked me up at the station and took me to a hotel at Willen Lake, the venue for the start of the run the next morning. When I peeped through the curtains the next day it was misty and cold looking. The previous day it had been warm and sunny.
I had forgotten to pack my tights and for the first time this year raced in shorts. OK, I know it is not classed as a race but I and a lot of runners were in a competition ! A 2 mile warm up and I was ready to go. Standing near the back I hit a lot of runner traffic from the start. Parks do not have wide roads. Patience was necessary. In my ignorance I thought it would be flat; it was round a lake, but the first K climbed to a canal. 5:47. That was disappointing but should have been expected. I had been moving through nicely but on some good downhill had to reign in my stride because of runners in front. The 2 K marker had been stolen but at 3 K my watch showed 10:10 for that split, average 5:05 per K. That was better. Still moving forward a zig- zag step uphill then down to the banks of the lake. Now it was flat. Looking ahead I could see 69 year old Len Voralia, I think of Indian origin, who I had chatted to before the start. I believe he holds the course record for his age group 65 – 69.
I caught him and sped past. But only as far as a woman ahead of me then slowed to run behind her. Hearing Len trying to get on terms with me I waited until around 500 metres to go then strode out. I caught one guy in blue, who upped his pace when he saw me, but could not handle his final sprint. My last 2 K’s had averaged 5:06 so I was happy with that and my final time of 26:18 plus my final position of 97th out of 193 finishers. This will not be my last Park Run. Ist man home Tom Best 16:37, 1st woman M Jesson 19:22.
I spent a pleasant 2 1/2 hours in the Sweatshop store chatting to runners and answering questions before my rail journey home.
I ran easily Sunday, 5.5 miles and Monday 4 miles. Tuesday, 5 miles with speedwork : 2 + 4 + 4 X 70s. strides with 50s interval. Wednesday, an easy 3.5 miles. Thursday, hilly 4.5 miles including number stride fartlek up to 60 and down. Friday, easy 3.5 miles for a 31 mile week.
Saturday April 2nd, a breakfast run from Bourne Sports, Stoke-on-Trent. My run was 4 miles, at first running along a canal with John Bourne and 70 + John Nutt, sitting in behind groups of runners where we could ( head wind ), then leaving JB to loop back for a 3 miler whilst JN took me on a loop of the Brittania Stadium where a young woman caught and joined us. It turned out that she was born on Joel Lane where I now live !
This was a good warm up for the PENNINGTON FLASH 10K the next day, an off-road race starting and finishing at Leigh Sports Village. I started off in last position for one lap of the track, before the field headed out on to reclaimed railway tracks, trails and canal banks. It was sunny and warm for a while and I was steadily moving through the runners with K’s of 5:05, 5:05 and 5:12. The field was spread out by now and I was not passing many. The 4th K took me 5:43 ( ? ) which was somewhat deflating. What would the next K be ? I would never know. It was a windy day and it seems the 5 K marker had blown across the canal and was irretrievable. 6 K and 7 K had gone too . there was nothing for it but to get my head down and run as hard as I could.
There was a cold rain shower at about 7 K as we headed into he wind. Suddenly a fluorescent sign announced 8 K. My watch had 21:25 for that long split But my brain was too tired to do any calculations. Odd runners were still coming back to me. Now it was flat. 5:36 between 8 and 9 K. Disappointing. Two more to be overtaken then a dash to the line, recording 6:07 for the final K, which I could not quite believe, and a final ” chip ” time of 54:14 for 70th place.
Well, with 232 finishers I had beaten 70% of them. The time was almost irrelevant as it was off-road, slower than tarmac.
A dash to the line – Photo Credit – Brendan Fox, STI
Training for the rest of the week was identical to Week 13 except that Tuesday’s speedwork included 2 + 4 + 6 x 70 seconds strides, the maximum for this training period.
All this added up to 32 miles for the week.
Saturday April 10th I ran 3.5 miles. It was a breakfast run from the Sweatshop, Hyde, when a group of us ran out along the banks of the River Tame then back along the towpath of the Peak Forest Canal. A refreshing change. Good preparation for the ” Gin Pit 5 ” miles the next day.
The morning was unseasonally warm which did not bother me as I was used to training in full gear and sweating accordingly. The course was a lap of 1 mile followed by two laps of 2 miles. I warmed up alone at a gentle pace allowing 24 minutes for 2 miles. At the start I stood near the back not the very back as the track was narrow here and uphiil. I had noticed several rivals all of whom had had the better of me in races, some recent; MV65 Kevin O’Brien of my own club, Clayton le-Moors Harriers; MV75 Peter Edwards, N Vets AC, and new MV70 Keith Robson, a handy triathlete.
Halfway through the first lap I tucked in behind a young woman in a sage green top and wearing earphones. She was an unattached runner, Rachael Simpson. A gentle uphill and a slight head breeze. On the steep uphill back to the start line she went away. 1 mile passed in 8:29. Slow. I caught her on the downhill and followed again into the breeze. We passed Kevin O’Brien with little response. 2nd mile 8:02. I was striding to keep up with Rachael and away she went up the steep hill. With her again down to enter the final lap. The 3rd mile, 8:33. She helped me up the long hill and just after 4 miles ( 8:21 ) we passed Keith Robson. He gave me a shout but was having an awful day and dropped out of the race. The last time up the hill Rachael raced away to beat me by 2 seconds. I’d had no answer despite a last mile of 4:11.
A good run for me, 41:36 for 112th out of 173 beating 35% of the field. But I was only 2nd MV70 to John Riley, N Vets AC 37: 46 ! Kevin O’ B ran 42:43 and Pete E. 43:20. Worthy of mention, Derek Haworth MV80, 43:30.
Winner, Tony Battersby, Leigh H & AC, 24:52. First female, Laura Riches, Leigh H & AC, 29:48.
The rest of the week was similar to previous with speedwork, which seemed to be paying off, on Tuesday and Thursday for a total of 30 miles.
The reason for including speedwork in previous weeks’ training was to be in top condition for the B.A.A 5 K Race on Sunday, April 17th, the day before the Boston Marathon. I had been invited back with May in 2010 on the 40th Anniversary of my victory and record run ( 2:10:30 ) there back in 1970. We were unable to fly last year because of the Icelandic ash cloud but the invitation was accepted.
From landing on Friday the 15th we were treated like Royalty, being met at the airport and whisked to the Fairmont Plaza Hotel right near to the Boston finish line. There was only time for one run before my race and that was Saturday morning. May and I jogged downDartmouth Street to the Charles River where I did an out and back to make a 3 mile loosener. From then on it was hectic. Saturday, 9:15 a one on one media chat with Rob de Castella, then the BAA Champions’ Breakfast with Rob, Champion 1986, Alvaro Mejia ( Colombia ), Champion the year after me, 1971, myself, and Jean Driscoll an 8 time women’s champion in the wheelchair race. Things were so rushed that we never got breakfast ! We were interviewed on stage. The audience contained many other famous past champions, Geoff Smith, the only other Briton ever to win Boston and did so twice, Amby Burfoot, Bill Rogers, Greg Mayer, Utta Pippig,Joan Benoit and Lorraine Moller. After the formal interviews I was inundated with questions and barely had time to greet Jeff Johnson who I had stayed with in 1975, when I ran 5th in 2:13:28. and who had taken wonderful photographs of my two Bostons which appear in Part 2 of my autobiography, ” The Long Hard Road.”
Serving at the Pasta Party, Mayor Meneino on the left in green, Rob de Castella on the right, Rh on Rob’s right
A delightful lady, Gloria Ratti, a Vice President of the B.A.A, was looking after the invited past champions and she did a great job.
Saturday evening there was first a Cocktail Reception for Sponsors and B.A.A Board of Governors. Plenty of beer and excellent nibbles, followed by the Mayor’s Reception hosted by Thomas M. Menino, Mayor of Boston, with more beer and food. I think I may have overdone the liquid hospitality in view of my race the next day.
This was the third Annual B.A.A. 5 K starting at 8:00 AM. Our friends Graham and Oona Richards came to our room at the hotel to collect their race numbers. I had been given number 1970 in recognition of my victory in 1970. The minutes seemed to run away and I had only time for a 0.9 mile warm up in the back streets near the start. Far too short. It was cold raining and windy. Then we were corralled in the start area for some time. It was a huge field and as we set off up Boylston Street I ran to the right hand side to allow faster runners to pass. I did not feel good. People were passing for about 2 miles ! Around Boston Common the course climbed culminating in a steep climb up Park Street. The 1 mile point was around here but I missed it. Downhill into the wind , back on to Boylston Street then the 2 mile marker which I missed again but I saw someone press their watch. 16:32. I was very tired and when I saw what looked like a guy who could have been in my age group, white hair; in a green outfit I resigned myself to running behind him. This I did until we reached Boylston once more and the finish in sight. I pushed on once more to cross the famous Finish line in 25:17. Disappointed. I was 1024th out of 4197 beating 76% of the field. In my MV70 category I was 2nd to Gary Muhrke, 22:05. I had known Gary for many years on account of his famous running store. Race winner was Benjamin True, Hanover NH, 14:06 C R. First woman, Lineth Cepkurui, Kenya, 15:51.
Approaching 1 Mile, BAA 5 K. Credit: May Hill
The final duty of the day for the Past Champions was to help serve pasta and salad, alongside Mayor Menino, at the pre-race Past Party at City Hall.
Next day, Monday, we watched the fabulous Boston Marathon Races on big screen TV’s in the Westin, Copley Plaza Hotel, after an early morning 3 mile run.
Tuesday another 3 miler by the Charles River, followed by a walk in the rain on part of the Freedom Trail. In the evening we were privileged to be at an annual private ceremony at the Bill Rogers Running Centre after the store had closed. Bill’s brother, Charlie, who manages the store, along with a few selected friends and staff toasts various people with nips of rare single malt scotch whiskies. The first toast was to the life of Greta Waitz who had died recently from cancer at the age of only 46. Then Jock Semple, Boston Race Director when I ran in 1970 , Will Cloney, Johnny Kelly……and on…..A really moving evening with Bill himself present.
Next morning after a final visit to the Charles River for 3 miles we were on the road. Chris Nelson, from Rhode Island, who is the US distributor for Ronhill and Hilly picked us up at the hotel and drove us to visit a couple of running stores in his home state. After lunch I gave a talk to the track team, about 40 or 50 athletes both male and female, mainly about keeping going and not giving up.The men’s track coach, Tim Springfield, told me he had competed with me in a Maryland Marathon in Baltimore. Chris then took us to the Hampton Inn, Seekonk, RI. where May and I stayed the night. The next morning, Thursday, I discovered it was not an ideal place to train. No quiet country roads. I ended up doing a 3 mile run through store car parks. At least I got a run without he dangers of traffic as it was early morning.Chris drove us to New York state and a running shop in Westchester. Four more running stores later we arrived back at the Hampton Inn, a lovely clean place, at 7:10. Friday, another car park
3 miler and I’m not grumbling here ; I can always find something interesting to see. We checked out, Chris took us to another hotel, a Holiday Inn, near to where I would start a 10 K race the next day and after leaving our luggage we went sight seeing in Providence, RI, looking at lots if impressive mansions and touring ” Breakers,” home of the Vanderbilt family. We had dinner in the evening in The White Horse Tavern, Providence, Est. 1673, with Chris and his wife Mary. I had a ” flat iron ” steak and chips plus an excellent pint. We were packed and in bed by 10:00. That week was only 22 miles.
The day before had been spring like and sunny. Saturday 23rd, after getting up at just after 6:00, I looked out of the bedroom window and it was pouring!
Ron and May with Chris Nelson’s wife, Mary, in front of The White Horse Tavern, the oldest tavern in the USA. Credit, Chris Nelson.
The race was the JAMESTOWN BRIDGE 10 K. A new race, and what a bridge! It was a massive climb to the apex which allowed big ships to sail in to Providence. It was a cold, windy, rainy and wet underfoot morning but the number of runners there was close to the race limit of 1000. I was one of the few people wearing shorts with a long sleeve T, regular T and singlet. I warmed up for 16 minutes in pants and a thick Jacket borrowed from Chris. The times would be recorded electronically at the finish, but these would be gun times. I stood near the front but it still took me 11 seconds to cross the start line. There was a long downhill at the beginning. One lane of two on each side of the bridge had been closed for runners. On the way down my left arm banged into a tall bollard and I got a split of 1:52 on my tap screen Timex IronMan watch.
I passed a few and a good few passed me. At the bottom the fist big climb loomed. There was ahead to right side wind blowing. I found the uphill hard work. I did not see 1 or 2 mile markers. In fact they were sprayed on the road in blue which I discovered when I reached 4 miles. As the climb steepened I sheltered, first behind a guy and girlfriend running abreast, then a young lady wearing a purple T-shirt and loose black long pants. My left calf kept tugging in the cold. Due to a falling down injury in January. At the top there was a fierce wind with rain. I noticed most people were running in jackets and tights. I had on my Hilly compression socks and ASICS Piranha racing shoes.
Entering the last mile and hill of the race. credit Chris Nelson
After a stretch of downhill we turned right into a neighbourhood then right again almost down to the water’s edge. I was passing and being passed. On a level stretch I passed the 3 mile sign. I hit my watch. The split showed 23:16. “Not bad I thought.” Shortly after I remembered the bollard split needed to be added, so not so good after all. More runners mainly women were passing. Eventually the road climbed on to the bridge again. The lass in purple was still there but I soon left her. Now the wind was behind us and the climb up this time was not so steep. I saw the 4 mile marker on the road. An 8:32 mile. Not so bad. Holding my place now. Over the top and down. Now I was moving better. After the downhill there was a slight uphill before the final climb up to the finish. At 5 miles I had a split of 8:16. Encouraging. I looked ahead to where the last hill started and thought, “It should take me around 10 minutes from there.” I climbed well, passing and still being passed and reached 6 miles with a split of 8:38.
The road went under a bridge and swept right. Finished runners were shouting, “Just round the corner.”. I put in an effort and covered the last 0.2 miles in 1:43.
My official (gun) time was 52:29 making my actual time 52:18. I could not grumble at that in those conditions. I was 224th out of 930 finishers: only 24% of the field in front of me. I was 1st MV70 to finish. Interestingly, there were 533 female finishers and 397 only male.
The race winner was Adrian Rishworh, 37:07; and the first woman, Tara Allen, 43:07.
Chris took us back to the hotel for me to change, then immediately to Boston’s Logan Airport for the flight home.
I felt tired all week and did not enjoy the cold weather. Wednesday I ran 9 miles, down to Hyde Town Hall, then from there with a friend, Chris Bird, who was running 10 miles in all 10 boroughs of Manchester, on consecutive days, to raise money for the Lord Mayors Charity. That helped boost my total for the week to 36 miles.
Saturday was the last day in APRIL. I had run 129 miles that month. This brought my lifetime total to 154,852.5 miles (249, 210K) Both 155,000 miles and 250,000 K are beckoning!
No races this week, and not very pleasant running. Only twice did I run in shorts. The rest of the time I was in full gear as the temperature was below 50 deg F/ 10 C and I was conscious of protecting my knees. And to add to my misery the first 4 days featured a fierce headwind. Nevertheless I still managed 30 miles.