Norfolk Gazelles take part in many Park Runs across the county, being such a friendly club we also target Park Runs so that we can meet up and enjoy a post run coffee and cake. In some cases there is an option for a bike ride or an open water swim, all are welcome to join us, Whilst not an official race we do wear Norfolk Gazelle running tops.
January 20th - Thetford
February 17th - Brundall
March 24th - Colney
April 28th - Fritton (with possible bike ride)
May 19th- Brandon (with possible bike ride)
June 23rd - Lowestoft
July 21st- Holkham
August18th - Mulbarton
September 22nd - Blickling
October 20th - Gorleston
November 24th - Kings Lynn
December 22nd - TBC
An impressive 34 Gazelles turned out to brave a distinctly windy Freethorpe 10 Mile race, with an especially brutal last mile into the headwind. First Gazelle home, sneaking inside the hour, was Joe Hawes. John Moore won the M55 category with a time of 1:00:49 (1 second improvement on last year!), with Steven Sadd third. Anne Ellen again won her category with a time of 1:18:55, and Theresa Dooley was 2nd F45, in a new PB of 1:10:43. Also receiving an award was Tim Woods, who was presented with an engraved tankard for having run all ten Freethorpe 10 races, the only person to have done so.
An impressive 30 Gazelles represented the club in the annual county XC championships over a tough course combining a bumpy playing field and an undulating section of field and forest. Race distances varied according to gender, with the men running 10.8km and the women 6.8km. Everyone truly gave it their all, and the club came home with a fantastic haul of county medals: golds for Anne Ellen, John Moore and Steve Rolfe, silver for Audrey Batchelor, bronze for Theresa Dooley, gold for the female masters 45+ team (Anne Ellen, Theresa Dooley and Sam Barwick) and a bronze for the male masters 50+ team (John Moore, Steve Rolfe and Steve Sadd).
Here are the full Gazelles results:
Men (10.8km): Michael Eccles (40m46s), Joe Hawes (42m27s), Alan Hume (42m52s), Mark Grubb (43m04s), John Moore (44m09s), Phil Whiting (45m55s), Stephen Rolfe (46m33s), James Fowler (47m25s), Matthew Collier (48m09s), Tom Hutchings (49m47s), James Frary (51m06s), Dudley Garner (52m18s), Stephen Sadd (52m25s), Ian Coxhead (53m00s), Pete Thompson (53m05s), Lee Oxbury (55m14s), Andrew Hammond (56m50s), Alan Butterworth (56m56s).
Women (6.8km): Rowena Leary (29m45s), Theresa Dooley (31m46s), Joanne Watkins (31m47s), Marianne Page (34m25s), Anne Ellen (34m45s), Sam Barwick (38m18s), Beccy Parke (39m42s), Karen Rix (39m46s), Imogen Lees (40m37s), Julie London (42m21s), Audrey Batchelor (44m52s), Carol Cooper (47m07s).
15 Gazelles turned up for a disconcertingly tough, windy and rather warm 10K along Yarmouth seafront. First home, in 12th place overall and first M55-59, was John Moore. Anne Ellen also won her age group (again!), with newcomer Theresa Dooley picking up second F45-49. Louise Hurr and Andrew Hammond were both 3rd in their age groups.
Half a dozen of the herd travelled to Peterborough for the fast and flat Perkins Great Eastern Run Half Marathon. John Moore headed the field with a time of 1:20:51, winning first M55, but star of the show was Sam Barwick, who fell unpleasantly early on, banging her head and cutting her knee, but soldiered on to get a time of 2:10:11. Slightly ahead, Lisa Netto and Beth King both missed the 2 hour mark by the narrowest of margins.
Eight Gazelles tackled the Jolly Jags 10K at the former RAF Coltishall airfield. First home was Jason Brunt in 40:34, with Rowena Leary first lady Gazelle in 42:40.
Gazelles superstar Michael Eccles was race winner in 26:23 at this very different race, involving lots and lots of steps. That's a 2 second improvement on his time from last year, which also won him the race.
There were 7 Gazelles at this scenic West Norfolk race. First home, and first M55, was John Moore in 1:25:36. Carol Betts (1:53:03) also won her age category.
New guy Alan Hume is clearly getting used to East Anglian temperatures, rather warmer than he's been used to in Stirling. He came 3rd in this partly off-road local 10K in 36:51. 12 Gazelles ran.
Michael Eccles was the first Gazelle here, taking 2nd place overall in a time of 15:57. Alan Hume was 2nd M40 in an impressive 17:15, while John Moore (17:42) and Nigel Arnold (18:16) were first and second M55s. Lou Hurr was first F50 in 21:45, while Susan Moore got a big PB, coming 2nd in the F60 category in 25:03.
16 Gazelles turned up for this one, with Rowena Leary putting in a particularly good showing to be the ladies' race winner, in a time of 1:34:38. Tim Sexton was first Gazelle in 1:30:00 (!), and Carol Betts was first F60 in 1:51:30.
There were rather cooler conditions this year for the fabulous Run Norwich 10K, through the centre of the city on streets empty of cars. 34 Gazelles took part. First was Michael Eccles, 4th overall, in 33:26. Anne Ellen and Carol Betts took 1st and 2nd places in the F60 category. John Moore (37:08) and Nigel Arnold (38:35) did the same in the M55 category, while Alan Hume (36:53) was 2nd M40.
Anne Ellen and Carol Betts took 1st and 2nd place in the F60 category at this popular north Norfolk event. Lou Hurr and Helen Mian both grabbed 3rd places in their age groups. On the mens' side, Tobias Arnup was first M60, adding to rather a collection of trophies he's building up this year.
Nick Ross and John Moore travelled to the Thetford Forest for an excellent if challenging cross-country 10K on a warm and sunny day. John ran a time of 37:54, coming 3rd overall, with Nick running 46:39, in 49th place.
The 2016 Lord Mayor's was a hot one, but the rather more clement temperatures for this year's race allowed some astonishing times at the front, with the winner coming in at 14:35, and the first 5 in under 15 minutes. Some way back were the only 2 Gazelles in the race, John Moore running 18:04, and Dudley Gazelles coming in in 20:57, this year triumphantly escaping the grim reaper who pulls you out of the race if you haven't completed the first half within 10 minutes.
There was another strong turnout for the Gazelles in the last of the 3 midweek Wroxham 5K races. First Gazelle was Michael Eccles, 4th overall in a time of 15:56, returning to racing after a period of injury. Helen Mian (20:52) won the F45 category, also claiming county championship gold, with Anne Ellen doing the same in the F60 category (again!). Louise Hurr was 3rd F50. The three ladies together earned silver in the vets team prizes. John Moore (17:20) and Tobias Arnup (19:43) won the M55 and M60 categories respectively, with Pete Thompson second M60.
27 Gazelles ran the Humpty Dumpty 10K at Freethorpe. First Gazelle home was John Moore in 37:09, winning the M55 category. As usual, Anne Ellen won the F60 category, in a time of 46:33, while Tobias Arnup was runner-up in the M60 group.
Another good outing for the Gazelles at the second of the Wroxham 5K series, where 30 Gazelles ran. Helen Mian and Anne Ellen once again scooped age category wins in the F45-49 and F60-64 categories, with Louise Hurr second in the F50-54 category. John Moore won the M55-59 group with Nigel Arnold second, and Tobias Arnup and Peter Thompson were 2nd and 3rd respectively in the M60-64 group.Results ...
On 13th January I did the Great Edinburgh Winter Run that took place in Holyrood Park. The first 1.5m of the race was a steep uphill as the course went up and around Arthur's Seat - the toughest 5k I have ever done! Not all bad though as the views were amazing and of course the second half was a steep downhill. Really pleased with 23:42 and 1st F 60-64. It was also inspiring to watch the elite run the Great Edinburgh Cross Country in the afternoon - especially as they have since announced that funding is being withdrawn and this is the last year that Edinburgh will host both these events. A real shame.
The county XC champs aren’t the familiar “get covered in mud and then tell Facebook how you got covered in mud” event – this is a more serious fixture, with county medals at stake. However, the 30 Gazelles who braved the freezing sunshine in Thetford on Sunday 6 January still managed to smile their way around the course… oh, hang on… I think some of those contorted faces might actually have been grimaces. Thanks to Ian Edwards for capturing so much of the raw emotion of the herd. No really, Ian… thanks.
A heated (no… sorry, frozen) debate raged over spikes or trail shoes, shorts or tights, long sleeves or short… Most of the chaps went for shorts while the ladies chose tights (and hats, and fleeces, and electric blankets), although Jo Watkins and Maz Page braved the temperatures and got their legs out, and we’re still awaiting NASA confirmation that Ian Coxhead’s hat was in fact visible from space.
The start was alarmingly reminiscent of a Norwich Junior Schools XC fixture as we trudged around a playing field, the course marked out by molehills and flapping roadworks tape, everyone hoping they wouldn’t go flying over a lump of soil or a strip of plastic during the first two minutes. But then we entered the forest for the first of two (or three if you were a bloke… lucky you) laps through the fields and trees.
Conditions were pretty much perfect for a winter run: crisp and bright, without mud or ice underfoot. Mind you, there were potholes and tree-roots aplenty as the course weaved across the grass and along the tree-lined sections. The hills seemed relentless – especially on the repeat laps – and as we emerged from the trees to the sight of a huge hill stretching ahead of us, surely even the stomach of smiley Boss Gazelle Sam “I love cross country” Barwick sank a little.
Let’s be honest: it was tough: seemingly endless laps on tricky territory and plenty of ups and downs. But the race organisation was really good, the course excellently marshalled and all the hazards helpfully sprayed with fluorescent paint. And even though there was a LOT of “creative language” about everyone’s relative happiness while doing the actual running bit, it was definitely a brilliant Gazelles day out, topped off with the fantastic haul of medals we took home: team golds for the masters women (45+) and bronzes for the masters men (55+) as well as individual golds for Anne Ellen, John Moore and Steve Rolfe, silver for Audrey Batchelor and bronze for Theresa Dooley.
This was a very fortuitous turn of events. I was too late when I attempted to enter the Marriott's Way 10k a few months earlier and was hence looking to fill an empty race weekend. As luck would have it, an email arrived informing me that I had won a place in the inaugural Uniqlo 10k Olympic Park race on the 8th October - you had to sign up for the Strava challenge and run 40 miles in 2 weeks in September to enter the competition.
So not to turn down a free race, I set off at 6:45am on the Sunday morning arriving at the generous parking facilities within the Westfield shopping centre. Chip and race number were quickly picked up and then I was directed to a table with hundreds of Uniqlo running tops of of all sizes and colours. As I picked mine up I notice that pretty much everyone was changing their running tops to put on the Uniqlo tops - so I did the same.
It did feel a little strange looking around at everyone in the same type of tops. Due to the random nature of the entries, no one really knew anyone else, but running people being running people, there were plenty of conversations going on discussing what the route might be, whether the sun was going to come out etc. etc.
After a brief but mad group warm up, we took our place at the start line - there was no segregation due to expected finish times and not really much opportunity to shuffle around, so you pretty much started where you happen to be. After a short piece by a somewhat random live band, I heard the horn sound to start the race.
The route was basically three laps of a figure of eight around the main stadium and along two of the rivers - as you ran through the start gate 3 times, the chip timing actually recorded each lap time which was interesting. Each lap was pretty flat but with several definite inclines, usually followed by a steep drop down, it was quite twisty in places too with 3 almost 90 degree turns. This did pose an issue for the first few kms as the paths were actually quite narrow and people were finding their position for some time due to the random starting line up. Still, towards the end of the first lap things settled down. It was great to run around the Olympic Park though and I was impressed by how runner friendly the whole site has become.
I was hoping to beat my 10k pb which I'd set a few months earlier at Run Norwich, which I know is not a fast course. I set out trying to maintain a 7:15min/mile pace and was slightly up on this after the first two laps. The third lap was hard, my legs were definitely felling the pace now and I really had to push in the last mile, but did manage to come in almost a minute ahead of my pb with a time of 44:21 - I don't think I'll be beating that for a while!
Bag collection and goody bag received effortlessly and I (slowly) walked back to the car park and was home before lunchtime. All in all, a good experience, well organised race (although next time they should order the start) and a great venue.
Whilst most of the herd were running in Banningham, five Gazelles made the brave decision to head to the coast for the 2nd Nicholson’s Law Lowestoft Half Marathon. I did have my concerns as I drove east, as it became darker, wetter and the wind speed picked up. However it is a race worth considering.
The race starts at Ness Point and the first mile runs besides the sea wall, then you hit a “killer hill”, short but sharp. The course is a 2 lap “out and back” so you have the delight of the hill again around mile 6. There is a strange lap of a football pitch to do on both laps, too. However a bonus is it is run on traffic free roads.
It was great to get the encouragement of fellow Gazelles along the route as the faster ones passed me on the other side of the road as they started their 2nd laps, it’s certainly kept me going as the “drizzle” was now blowing into my face.
I was looking forward to the last mile as it would be down “killer hill” however the winds had built up by now and I had to work hard running into the head wind. It was at this point I was regretting the “mile efforts” with the Thursday night gang.
Congratulations to Joe Hawes who came 4th overall and thanks to Anne Ellen, Tim Cook and Mark Sexton (making his return in the Gazelles vest) for their encouragement on the course.
It’s not a PB course but one worth considering for next year - subject to the weather that is!
Given my flight back from a business trip to Toronto was not until Saturday afternoon and inspired by Lou Hurr's Canada parkrun adventure, I decided to seek out the closest park run to my hotel. Luckily, given there are only 11 parkruns in Canada and Canada is not exactly a small country, the closest parkrun was only 30 miles away. It was clearly meant to be, as the hotel had an Avis carhire desk on site and it turns out that 1 day's hire is cheaper than the taxi fare to the airport!! So after a little google mapping, I jumped in the car on the Saturday morning and drove to Whitby.
Looking at past events, the fastest finisher times ranged from 18 to 23 mins, with attendances of around 20 runners (somewhat different from what I'm used to at Eaton!). So I was in with a chance of securing a fastest finisher! I arrived at the start line at 8:45 and people were very welcoming - it was an international field, with people from the UK, Hong Kong, US and Canada. The route was an out and back setup and the Run Director basically said that you just need to keep left at every junction - I was a little nervous at this point as there didn't appear to be any signage and there was a chance that I would be in front with no one to follow.
I needn't have worried, a quick 3-2-1 and we were off, it soon became apparent that I would not be the first finisher as a young looking lad wearing a Horsforth Harriers vest sped off into the distance, so I tucked in behind a tall pilot from Hong Kong and though about securing 2nd place! The route was actually lovely, smooth wide paths, great views over Lake Ontario and pretty flat. After 1km the pilot seemed to slow and I concentrated on keeping my target pace of 6:50min/miles - little did I know at this point I was actually in the lead. At around 2km the guy 'in front' appeared from some bushes behind me complaining of having taken a wrong turn, I just needed him to make a couple more mistakes like this and I would be home and dry!!
The 2.5km mark was a chalk line on the pavement, at which point you turned around and retraced your steps back to the start/finish line. It was great high-fiving the other 15 runners as we crossed, everyone clearly enjoying their morning run/walk. I did manage to finish in 2nd place with a good time for me of 20:58. Phil, the guy in the running vest, finished in 19:02 having run 5.5km!! There was also serious celebration as Elaine and Sarah cracked 40mins for the first time having tried 5 times previously.
With such a small event, the volunteers had multiple jobs to do e.g. the race director also handed out the tokens and also scaned your barcode. I was asked if I minded taking pictures of each finisher as they cross the line for their Facebook page. Everyone stayed and clapped every single finisher and it really felt like a sociable event.
Certainly an experience I would repeat if I'm in Canada over a Saturday again.
A nearly perfect (or as good as I am going to get) training period meant The King was confident on breaking the 4.5 hour barrier at the Robin Hood Marathon 2017 on Sunday 25 September. He needed to knock off around 6 minutes from Dublin last year (where 4 pints of Guinness and half a bottle of red wine the day before had proved to be the best final preparation). This year, just one Guinness and two medium glasses of Valpolicella with the spicy meatball pasta at “Sexy Momma Loves Pasta” restaurant the night before.
There is no easily findable course altitude data on the marathon website – if there was, it would put off the majority of runners! One hill after another for the first hour or so. Not that Elvis minds the odd hill – but the number, together with the 20 degree heat, meant that a lot of energy was sapped early on. A quick wave to Ady around mile 5 (his mile 8) and a brief chat with Mimi around mile 11 buoyed The King who hit half way a minute under the desired time for a 4:30 time.
The hills gave way to pleasant parkland and a bit of off road, akin to Marriott’s Way. However, Running Elvis gets his energy from crowd support (as well as gels) and there was little from miles 13 to 20 (although very good marshals). Still, with 3 miles to go, straight 10s would get The King home sub 4:30.
Alas, those early mile exertions came home to roost and although there was no crumbling, the time aimed for was missed by just under 3 minutes. Cramp in both calves and under the right knee (a new one!) meant EP could not go any quicker (even if he had managed to muster further energy).
Still, another 3 minutes off the PB – maybe another bronze certificate if I’m lucky…….
You might think that being handed from one sweaty palm to another and being joggled around in all weathers for twenty-four hours sounds unpleasant. For me, it’s the highlight of my year. Better than Christmas, or birthdays. Imagine that! The other 363 days, I sit in a box with my extended family – all sixty-one of us - waiting for September. But when it’s the weekend of the Round Norfolk Relay, I come into my own.
Oh, you might think it’s about the runners. The humans. Them! They strive and sweat and grunt and glance anxiously at their watches. All for me, of course. Their fellow humans, the ones in jeans and jackets, who don’t run, stand around shouting at the running humans. The running humans wear tiny tight bright clothes, so that they can run specially fast for me. The running humans grab at the water held out by the jeans-wearing humans; they gulp down sickly sticky sweet goo; they spit, and swear – and they keep running, on and on, carrying me. It’s all for me. I am their precious cargo.
I like the first part of the journey – the humans call it “stages one-to-seven”. I like to see the sea and the sun. It’s my only chance in the whole year. This time, there was rain, too – heavy rain – but the running humans put their heads down and kept going. Nothing was going to stop them getting me to the next running human in the chain. Even when the path was slippery-slidey with mud, or crunchy-feet-sinking-down-in-the-shingle, and the human’s breath came deeper and they turned redder and groaned at the beastly hill rising up ahead – even then, the running human kept on, and held me tightly.
The next few stages are pleasant, too, on the roads. The bewildered faces of the Yarmouth humans as I glide past them during their Saturday night out. Horsey Windpump; the smell of chips and coffee wafting from the jeans-wearing humans’ hands; the increasing dusky dark picking out the flash of the humans taking photographs of me. I could smile as I pass, and wave, like a human celebrity - but there’s obviously no need. My shiny glow alone is enough to impress.
The very best part is the middle of the night. That is when I start to see my family again – my siblings from the box. That is when we start to catch up with one another. Each is held tightly by a running human. The running humans form a long line along the road, stretching as far as the (human) eye can see. Each running human places a light at its front; each is followed by a car, and each car has a flashing light. Some running humans have bicycles beside them, with cycling humans, and more lights. Sometimes my running human passes another, if he or she is particularly fast, and I whisper a secret baton-hello to my sibling as we glide by.
It pleases me to see my family, who have individually travelled all the way around Norfolk, being carried by so many running humans with such great ceremony, all lit up. It befits us. It is a truly wonderful sight.
When dawn breaks, the humans switch off the lights. This year, there was mist, and more rain. I could only just see the flat, pale fields, and the straight canals through the gloom. The jeans-wearing humans looked tired, as I passed. Some still couldn’t resist photographing me, of course - but most were huddled, wearing coats and hats, and yawning. I suppose they couldn’t help it: humans are only mortal, and accustomed to sleeping when it is dark. I appreciate them breaking their usual routine for me.
The finish, as always, was glorious. All the humans – both the running humans and the jeans-wearing humans – were there to see me cross the line. How they cheered for me! I shone more brightly than ever – I positively sparkled, knowing how desperately those humans wanted me to arrive.
The strange thing is, as soon as I crossed the line (with the final running human), the running human put me down with my siblings, and simply walked away. This happens every year. It puzzles me very much. I have been used to such reverence, for twenty-four hours; the humans put such effort into carrying me around Norfolk, and over the finish line – and then they just abandon me. Where is the ceremony, the grandeur, after the race? Where is my banquet – my after-party? I am put in my dark box again, and there I stay, until next September.
It almost makes me wonder whether the whole thing – the whole Round Norfolk Relay - is about the runners, and not about me at all. Could it be?
Breckland 10km is without doubt one of the friendliest local races – ideal conditions and a flattish course (apart from that long slow drag at the start, anyway...) on Monday 1 May meant we saw some amazing times from some of the herd.
Sam Thelwell flew around in 39m58s, his first sub-40 10km and a fantastic 17th overall. Steve Cook came home in 44m20s, followed closely by Steve Sadd in 44m25s and then Lee Oxbury in 47m01s. Huge cheers to boss Gazelle Sam Barwick, who – paced by Jason Brunt – finished in an outstanding 51m12s, annoyingly four seconds off her PB, though! Beth King (paced by Pete Thompson) ran 52m22s, and Imogen Lees was 20 seconds down the road in 52m42s. Nigel Bullen completed the picture in 57m03s.
The GEAR 10k in Kings Lynn attracted a sold-out entry of 2,500 runners, including three Gazelles. The weather conditions - apart from a pretty strong breeze - were almost perfect, but the packed field made it difficult to pass runners through the town centre section. As is often the case in races with large fields, people had started with over optimistic expectations, which was slightly annoying...as was the sub-45 pacemaker with his flag, who I had the misfortune to be following. With all the roads closed to traffic, the organisers had allowed headphones to be worn - something I'm personally not keen on. However, these small gripes aside, the course was extremely well-marshalled, flat and fast. Although the twists and turns were tight in places, the crowd support on the sections through the town was fantastic and certainly spurred you on as you went through the start and between 8-9km before looping back to a slight downhill fast 400m in the main square (the Tuesday marketplace).
For probably the only time, I (Mark Thorpe) was first Gazelle in 44.07, followed by Graham Hardingham in 49.54, closely followed by Tim Woods in 50.05. It's definitely a race I would recommend, both for PB-chasers and equally for those wanting to run maybe their first 10k.
The first race of the GYRR 5m series saw a large turnout from the club, most notably Lisa Netto, completing her 40th race in her 40th year challenge - well done Lisa! The day started with a morning of heavy showers and strong winds, which I'm sure filled everyone with massive enthusiasm for the race in the evening. However, by the 7.15pm start, the seafront was remarkably calm and reasonably good conditions prevailed for the duration of the race itself. The course is a pretty flat two-lap loop along the promenade and back along the seafront, with a deceptively long finishing straight - it was very easy to kick too soon for that finishing spurt!Despite a niggling injury, John Moore led the herd home in 29.12, followed by the battle of the London Marathoners, Phil Whiting and Jason Brunt, who were separated by a mere five seconds, Phil coming home in 31.56 (pretty remarkable only three days after London). Pete Thompson and Les Hill were the next two Gazelles, before Steve Sadd and Dudley Garner gave the crowd a grandstand sprint finish, Steve coming out on top by two seconds in 35.46... followed by myself in 36.52 (don't ask). Amelia Whiting was first female Gazelle home in 37.13, closely followed by Kate Head and the brilliant Anne Ellen. Well done to all the rest of the herd, too.
So London had been a long time coming. When I was 11 I went to London to watch my Dad run it for the first time, never daring to dream that one day I'd be able to run it. I'd then started applying to enter when I was in my early 20's. Despite numerous entries into the ballot I was never successful. Then, in April 2016 I managed to record a good for age qualifying time: we were going to London!! I was building the weekend of the race up in my mind: recreating a family adventure of my childhood, eventually being able to race this iconic race, having a good rack at a sub 3 marathon and retracing Dads footsteps 30ish years on.However the day started relatively normally, up early porridge, kit on, travel to the start (albeit by ferry down the Thames, with Peter Rice). Even the start seemed a bit normal : congregate with other runners near the start, trying to chill out whilst nipping to the loo every 20 minutes. With 10 minutes to go Jason Brunt turned up and we exchanged a bit of banter whilst queuing for the loo one final time. Then it was time to gather in our starting pen, I was just getting into my zone when I heard someone shout "Whiting". I turned around to see Ali Robinson weaving his way towards me. This still all seemed relatively normal, just like one of the bigger local races, standing waiting to start with my fellow Gazelles.Then we were off.We'd agreed that we would all run at 3hour pace, Ali knowing he'd have to drop at some point as he hadn't done the miles, Jason hoping he could hang on long enough to nail a pb, and me hoping to get to the end and get that finish time starting with a 2.Jason, being Jason, did his own thing:at first he was ahead of us then behind, then ahead, his pacing seemed erratic, but he explained later he was just trying to keep his effort consistent throughout the rolling ups and downs of the first few miles. Ali and I ran shoulder to shoulder, for the first 17 miles, each monitoring pace and either holding us back or pushing us on when needed. With familiar faces nearby it could've been any local race. However, that's where any similarity to a local race ended. We were on the streets of London, racing the London marathon! The crowds were epic! I can hardly remember a point where the streets weren't lined with cheering, smiling happy faces, willing the runners on. At the first water station I picked up some water, I had planned to drink Lucozade all the way round (3 x 375ml) bottles a tried and tested formula!), but it was warm and thought a few sips of water might not be a bad idea, so grabbed some water took a few sips, poured some over my head and then thought it would be fun to squirt the rest at Ali!and so our little game began: over the course of the race we squirted loads of people: each other, fellow runners, children at the side of the road, quite possibly the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, definitely our own Royal couple: Steve and Julie ( and the woman behind them!). It was a great way to amuse ourselves as the miles ticked by. I don't remember too many sights along the route: Cutty Sark yes, Tower Bridge yes, anything else...no. It was great to see Gazelles along the route cheering for us, and gave me a great boost. Andrew Hammond first, then team Whiting at 10 miles, Sam Barwick at 13 ( I saw her St the last second, just as we'd passed so she had to chase me down the road with the bag of vegan sweets, bought specially, I kept my pace up just to keep her chasing down the street dodging trees and lampposts as she went!), also Steve and Julie at 11/12 and plenty of others along the route including other local running clubs. Thank you all if you there, it gave me a huge boost to hear my name.Ali dropped off the pace at 17 miles, as he'd predicted the lack of training miles was taking its toll. At this point I was bang on pace, feeling fatigued but okay. I think this is where it started to go wrong!! For the next 3 miles I ran 15-20seconds quicker per mile than target, and it seems that that extra effort soon tired me out, because by 20 miles the wheels were starting to come off! At 21 miles I was overtaken by the 3 hour pacer, by 22 miles I could barely see him. It was getting hard work now! It's hard to keep a focus when you're tired, impossible to keep pushing on. I kept doing the maths in my head to see if it was possible to hit my target time. Trying to convince myself I could knock out a 6 minute last mile! And then realising there would still be 400 yards further to go...At 25 miles, fellow ultra runner Paul Ali ( dressed as Hulk Hogan!) caught me up, and I managed to keep pace with him for a while, but then I couldn't even do that. As I turned into the Mall I just wanted it over, I'd missed my sub 3 target by a few minutes, a new phone was also ebbing away (eventually finishing 10 seconds slower), the only target left now was to beat Jason!! Fortunately for me I had at least managed that.I crossed the line and collected my medal and sat down in a mildly disgruntled state. The only thing I don't like about big city marathons, is not being able to see friends and family immediately upon crossing the finish line. It took me a while to pull myself together, congratulate myself on my second fastest marathon, and hobble off to find Team Whiting and celebratory hugs!As we made our way back to the hotel we crossed the route a few times and saw some of the runners 4.5 hours in, at mile 17. I found this quite humbling, a lot of these runners were digging deep, pushing themselves to their physical and mental limits with a long way to go. I could see from their running vests that they were running for charity, putting themselves through hell to raise some much needed money for charity. It made my quest for a new better time seem quite selfish.The marathon is a great distance to run, and London is a very special marathon to race. I thoroughly enjoyed the day, and plan to come back and run a bit quicker. I'd also like to come back and run a little slower, so I could savour the experience as well. London for me was a long time coming, and it did not let me down. A great day and happy memories.
Paris marathon weekend began on Saturday morning in blazing sunshine with a strong performance from international junior Gazelle Becca Lees, coming home first female in "Pitch Marathoons" 1.2km race. Her big sister and said big sister's best mate took a slightly less competitive approach to their 2.2km event...Then on Sunday it was the marathon itself. I tried to replicate my success at Wymondham but the wheels well and truly fell off at the half. I seriously could have walked off at that point but the kids were cheering there so I couldn't. It was bloody hot... I've never run in that kind of blazing heat. Paris is beautiful but realising you've got loads of kms to run is not. The course is flattish, which is nice, and the start in waves is much easier than London, although you get a weird feeling you're on your own..... The crowds aren't as enthusiastic as London either...but if you like oompah bands playing 1980s pop hits this is the race for you!! Also there's a lot of fibbing on bib times so I overtook loads of people who had lined up at 3hr45 or 4h00. The heat. Did I mention the sunshine? The sights. Oooh. The last few kms through a park were full of dispirited walking runners... mind you, the family saw three runners on the tube who had given up! Anyway, I scraped in under four and a half (4.26 on the dot) which was a bit of a surprise. I then drank lots of booze and ate meats and cheeses.
"13 degrees" they said, "There'll be a sea breeze" they said. 25/6 degrees in full sun, no breeze at all! But still 6 Gazelles made the journey to the Costa del Brighton for this, very picturesque, marathon. Lining up on Preston Park the race plan was scrapped as it became apparent that this would be a scorcher. The first third of the race loops around the city centre, which is fantastic for friends and family as they can see you many times. I'd forgotten how pretty the Brighton Pavilion is!We then take a trek out to "posh school" Rodene where I quietly shouted to fellow Gazelle Tim as he was on his way back into town. You then loop through the city centre again before a double back down a residential area with fantastic support. Thank you to Brighton council for setting up extra water stations and showers because at this point the sun was really beating down.The final lap out to the power station was not as bad as I'd been told and the run down the front to the finish was filled with cheering support. Jeremy Rogers came home in an unbelievable 2.47 with Tim Sexton, 3.30. Emma Jay and Marianne Page, running their first marathons came home in 3.51 and 3.53 respectably, awesome work ladies. Elvis (Mark Fitch) and I had seen each other all the way round (and indeed plan to run together next year!) and finished in 4.38 and 4.54.How would I sum up this marathon? Hot, sunny, hard but joyful. 20 minutes at the finish with St Johns (thank you for picking me up off the floor guys!!) has not dispirited me and yes, I'll be back next year.
"New York, London, Paris, Munich," as the song goes..... well, Brighton, Paris, Lowestoft, Norwich. It seemed Gazelles were everywhere over the weekend. The herd's biggest turnout was at the Norwich half, where 18 runners joined the throng of more than 2,000 starters at the Norfolk Showground - plus many others offering moral support around the course.The field seemed to stay remarkably compact as the first few miles rolled along, with decent crowds of local residents offering encouragement, along with the marshals. By this time, the sun was glowing nearly as brightly as the fields of oilseed rape alongside the country lanes. There was little (or no) shade, and the rising temperatures- along with the more undulating nature of the second half of the course - began to take its toll on many of the less seasoned runners.What we'll call "the Whiting water station" was found between miles 9 and 10: if you were a Gazelle and you stopped for a drink, you were. Promptly soaked and told to get moving as you were in a race! (unless of course Phil just picked on me for a beating...) Further on, a kindly soul provided respite via a sprinkler on a hosepipe - possibly the highlight of the race for me.Onward and into Marlingford, and just when the end was starting to feel in sight, there was THE HILL. I passed many a broken runner on the way up before the cruel glory lap of the Showground.There were some great performances by Gazelles: John Moore and Carol Betts were both first in their age groups, and Lou Hurr and Andrew Hammond were both second in their age groups.A special mention for Dudley Garner, who - despite falling foul of the aforementioned oilseed rape and spending 10 minutes in an ambulance - soldiered on and finished the course with the help of Peter Rice... another example of the great Gazelles camaraderie.
I had entered the Wymondham 20-mile race rather on a whim, having seen that there was a special award for completing every race in the Leathes Prior Grand Prix series (it seemed a good idea at the time). A couple of weeks prior to Sunday's slog, I'd run a rather sketchy Broadland Half Marathon, blowing up at 11 miles though managing a respectable 1h44m, so it was with some trepidation that I made my way to Wymondham, hoping to complete in less than three hours.One of the best things about being a Gazelle is the great advice from the guys who run at the head of affairs. Having listened intently to Michael Eccles' advice - to save plenty for the last five miles - I took my place on the start line....once we made way for a bus to drive slowly past. Phil Whiting joined me, as he was using the event as a training run for his niggling hamstring. As the elite runners disappeared over the horizon of rolling, undulating Norfolk countryside, so did the first few miles, interspersed by idle chitchat and the occasional glance behind to check that all was well with the ladies a little way back down the road. Approaching seven miles, the familiar figure of Andrew Hammond joined us.A pit stop with jelly babies handed out by club chairman Sam Barwick in Morley village - complete with spectators ringing cowbells - helped to spur me on (despite Phil's complaint about the lack of a vegan option in the sweets department). We carried on through 10-13 where, at a feeding station, three became four: Chris Moore awaited us, having tweaked a muscle along the way. By now, my jovial demeanour ( along with my ability to hold any kind of meaningful conversation) had disappeared, just like those elite runners earlier. At mile 15, we spotted Rob Grant-Parke cheering us on and snapping photos: by one, my legs were beginning to disobey my brain's strict instructions to place one in front of the other. For the next three miles, I vaguely recollect a "good cop, bad cop" scenario: the good cop being Chris and the bad cop being Phil, as countless times, like a petulant child, I professed no desire to continue.andrew obviously felt sorry for me and started to struggle also, though somewhat less vocally...I've no idea how we managed to finish our first 20-mile race; it's all down to the power of the herd. The camaraderie at the finish was just fantastic, along with the times achieved by everyone. I woke up on Monday feeling not only like a proper Gazelle but also a proper runner...oh, and I beat three hours by nearly nine minutes- not that it seemed to matter: we were all winners.
If Cambridge is the home of science, then we're all thrilled to have been part of the experiment about how many runners would still willingly take on 13.1 miles when the start line was so shiveringly cold and wet that we all wanted to secretly go home and eat toast.Anyway, a huge herd of 25 of yer finest Gazelles braved the unpleasant weather for this year's Cambridge Half. On the catwalk we saw the latest collection from Wheelybinbags R Us, and during the first couple of miles, we all did the "can I get past the runner in front?" jog. Unless you're Mike Eccles, of course, who shot off and came home a magnificent second in 1h09m48s - PB.First Gazelle lady home was Rowena Leary, in an amazing 1.29m01s.The Cambridge Half is undoubtedly a beautiful course - although those of us of a certain age spent the mile or so through Grantchester wondering which was Jeffrey Archer's house - despite some congestion around the narrow streets of the city centre. And there were some tremendous times from the herd. Here are the results in full...Mike Eccles (1.09.48), John Moore (1.22.06), Phil Whiting (1.26.17 - PB), Olly Jones (1.26.26), Tim Sexton (1.27.29), Sam Thelwell (1.28.30 - PB), Rowena Leary (1.29.01), Katherine Trehane (1.32.44), Steve Sadd (1.33.49), Ady "Dark Lord" Waters, (1.35.15), Helen Mian (1.36.01), Ian Coxhead (1.38.57), Dudley "where's my bag? Garner (1.43.32), Tim Woods, (1.43.38), Andrew Hammond (1.46.56) - and brilliant supporting of the herd, Amelia Whiting (1.51.55. - PB), Maria "4 gels, no sleep till Wednesday" Hughes (1.53.59-PB), Imogen "Moggy" Lees (1.54.24), Beth King (1.57.03), Sam "shorts are absolutely fine in a howling gale" Barwick (1.58.27), Lisa "32 out of 40" Netto (2.01.04), Carol "Gin at home" Cooper (2.02.30), Julie "Dubai" London (2.24.02), Carol "lovely to see you back" Baker (2.29.54), Mimi "purple legs" Waters (2.29.55).
"Gently undulating" they said, "beautiful countryside" they said. True it was beautiful but they forgot to mention the gale force winds, and when does undulating change to hilly or indeed mountainous. The clue was the receiving of crampons along with your race number and chip!Results ...Despite this 5 intrepid Gazelles took on the challenge, all thinking it was a good idea for a training run, how foolish.Peter Rice, in preparation for VLM, ran the 10 mile course in 1.31 while Mike Eccles finished 5th in the 20 miler in a time of 2.02.04. (He was jogging!!!) Next home in the longer race was Jason Brunt in 2.24.49, closely followed by Rowena Leary, 2.29.07, finishing 3rd lady; excellent work Rowena. After a blink of an eye Sam Barwick came in ably helped by new friend Steve the Sudbury Jogger, 3.25.28.Think long and hard fellow Gazelles before signing up to this bad boy!!!