Thursday, 25 February 2010

Once A Runner

From previous posts I have made, you may see that I read a lot and having recently just had a birthday, my books-to-read pile has got quite large again, thanks to Alison who always finds books from around the world to keep me entertained. 

I have never kept a written record of all my books on running but they are all kept in a couple of large bookcases plus boxes in the loft and are from the late 60's up to recent times. I must have a few hundred books on running from all round the world and I really should start to make some kind of record of what they all are.  All the family are avid readers and both Craig and Laura spend hours in bookshops and libraries and even at a young age they both have 100's of books in their rooms.  Christmas, birthday and holiday money is spent on books and while we are in the States, weekly visits to Barnes and Noble and Borders are a must. 

One I have been looking forward to reading is the sequel to Once a Runner by John L Parker.  The novel, Once a Runner, is reckoned to be the best ever written about running.

I first heard about it maybe 15 years ago and whenever I tried to get a copy, it was out-of print. Alison managed to get me a copy through a book collector and she even got it signed by the author.  It was first printed in 1978 and was in its 9th edition in 2002.  To get an idea of just how highly it is rated, look  it up on Amazon and read the reviews ( I have copied the back page to let you see some of the comments from the major magazines).  At the bottom, you will see the ISBN number and if you ever want to try and order a copy this will make it easier.

I must admit that the first time I read it, I was left wondering what all the fuss was about and why it was so highly thought of.  However, at Christmas I decided to have another read at it and I must admit it is a superbly written novel and if you manage to get a copy you will not be disappointed.  It has taken 29 years to release a sequel and  last night I started reading Again to Carthage.  It has a lot to live up to.  

Other books I received for my birthday were Bikila- Ethiopia's Barefoot Olympian and Dick Beardsley's autobiography Staying the Course: A Runner's Toughest Race.  Dick Beardsley was the joint winner of the first ever London Marathon who went on to run one of the greatest marathon races in history - ''The Duel in the Sun'' (another book I have in my collection) against Alberto Salazar in the 1982 Boston Marathon.  He lost by 2 seconds in a time of 2 hrs 08 53 and became a household name in the world of marathon running.  Beardsley had a near fatal accident a few years later and never recovered his running form. From that point on he became a drug addict and had years of problems before getting his life back on track.  This is his story about being one of the best long distance runners of the early 80's, his ascent to the depths of despair with injuries and drugs and, finally, his recovery.

My collection of running books span 4 decades and covers dozens of athletes like Jim Alder - Marathon and Chips, David Bedford (200 miles per week), Derek Clayton (another 200 miles per week man), Gordon Pirie - The Imposssible Hero, Bill Adocks - The Road To Athens and the bible of distance running - The Long Hard Road  by the incomparable Ron Hill. 

I have always said if any young man wants to become serious about distance running, then Ron Hill's book is a must read. It is all there, including the training, mistakes and details of his successes covered in 2 books ( it was too big to be printed as one). I must have read both books a dozen times and they are starting to show their age now (26 years old).  Even now the training and times he was running 40 years ago is rarely matched by today's top British distance runners.  Maybe they should have a read and see just how much training and racing he was doing while working full time.  Ron Hill won the European Marathon Championship in Athens (1969) and was the first Briton to win the Boston Marathon (1970). His peak came when he won the Commonwealth Games marathon at Edinburgh in 1970 with a time of 2hrs.09 mins, setting a world best. He only managed to finish 6th in the 1972 Olympics just out sprinting Scotland's Don McGregor on the track and was bitterly disappointed, in fact devastated.  World records for 20 miles  in 1 hr 36 , 10 miles, 15 miles and 25 km have all made him one of the greatest distance runners this country has ever had.  I still follow his monthly blog which you can find with a link from his clothing web site and he is still running every day. He has not missed a day's running since 1964.  I had the privilege of meeting this great athlete at a question and answer night at Cambuslang Harriers some 15 years ago.  During his talk, Ron Hill mentioned that he had only competed twice in Scotland (Ben Nevis hill race and the Commonwealth Games).  After his talk, I approached him and reminded him that he had actually ran 3 times in Scotland - he also ran a one mile track race at the Fort William highland games.  I won't tell you what I got called when I repeated this when I got home!  A huge regret is that I did not take my copies of his 2 books with me to get them signed.

Anyway, enough rambling for tonight.  Off to bed for a read of Return to Carthage!

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Open day success

Below is a copy of the email I sent out to everyone who helped on Sunday and made it such a success.

Well,what can I say. What a day for all members of Lenzie Golf Club. Today every prediction,hope and arm scribbling estimate was blown to pieces. Today was a huge day for the Club and  I don't think anyone would have predicted such a success, but it shows what can be done by all working together. It was great to see everyone working and pulling in the same direction and selling the Club to all who came today-fantastic and a great buzz in the club was evident throughout.

I would like to say a huge thank you to all who helped today,from the smartly dressed Juniors greeting the visitors all the way through to Barry and his staff in the kitchen you all gave 100%-well done,you all did the Club proud.

I would like to thank Bob and Roy for their help,as since November they have helped me plan today and thanks also to Billy McCartney who helped me get the idea started. I especially would like to thank Jim who has helped me from start to finish and to pull it all together-many thanks and your support was much appreciated.

The figures for today are as follows:

Gents 69
Ladies 9
Juniors 23
Youths 2
Social 6

Total 109


We must now work hard to keep these members this year and that is very important. New members night is on the 26th of March and we will start looking at ways to help integrate them into the Club and encourage them to become involved. We need to remember that if every new member spends £50 in the club that is another £5000 that we did not have at the start of the season.

On another note our visitors summer special is going great and we will now put up banners in place of the open day ones.

Once again a big thank you to all.


Friday, 19 February 2010

A beautiful day on the Way

Yesterday I ran and walked from Balmaha to Rowardennan and back. Running with me was my friend Hamish and we had set out with the intention of just walking the route, but we decided to run every so often. The weather was perfect with not a ripple on the water and it made for some nice photos. The walk/run went fine apart from a bit of discomfort in the knee that has been a problem since December.  I was fine today with just some general stiffness.
Hamish did great as he has never ran or walked on that sort of terrain and certainly never for over 3 hours but he seemed to really enjoy it.  Nevertheless he was glad to sit down in the car at the end.

It was good to be out on the Way on a calm day. Sometimes we tend to forget that Scotland is such a beautiful place and only a short drive from the city centre.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

The race that Eats its Young

A few weeks ago I was reading a chapter of the book Running Through the Wall and came across a race that in 23 years only 8 people had completed and the course record is over 55 hours for 100 miles! The race is called The Barkley Marathon.
After reading about this race I decided to look at just what it is that makes it the world's toughest 100 miler.
Course designer Gary Cantrell was inspired upon hearing about Martin Luther jnr's assassin, James Earl Ray, escaping from prison and only getting 8 miles in 55 hours of running in the woods. He said to himself "I could do at least 100 miles".  Thus the Barkley Marathon was born.
It is held in the Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee sometime in April with unpredictable weather and if you have seen The Blair Witch Project, then that is what it looks like but with hills - lots of them.  The thought of wandering about in the dark out there is enough to make you say "f..k that".

To give you an idea of the standard of athletes running in this event, I am going to set out the achievements of two men who have completed the race and their mind blowing performances outside of  The Barkley.

Brian Robinson, the current record holder at 55 hours in 2008, set a record for completing the 3 major n-s US trails in a single calendar year.  The Appalachian, The Continental Divide and The Pacific Coast, a total of 7400 miles in 300 days - 25 miles every day!

Andrew Thomson in 2009 finished with a time of 57 hours and he holds the record for the fastest single attempt on the Appalachian Trail, completing all 2160 miles in 47 days - 46 miles every single day !!!

The reason I wanted to list the achievements of these runners is for you to see that some of the best ultra runners in the world just make it inside the 60 hour limit when doing the Barkley.

Entry is a secret and you need to email the director with an essay saying " Why I should be allowed to run the Barkley".  If selected, you then get an entry and the fee is $1.60.  Yes, $1.60 and an old car license plate from your home state.  You are only told the actual race day once you get accepted and start time is 1 hour after a conch shell is blown at the camp.  Maps are only given out the day before so you can't train on the route.

Here is the real killer - it's 5 laps with 2 unmanned stations with only water and you have to find 9 books and take a page from each as proof that you have completed each lap.  The thought of going back out into the wilderness having just completed 1,2 or 3 laps is just too much for most runners and hence the high drop out rate.  In 2009, 35 started and only 11 runners finished 2 laps then only 3 finished the 3rd lap but only Andrew Thomson started the 4th lap to do the last 40 miles on his lonesome. 

The course route has names such as Zip Line, Chimney Top, The Bulger, Rat Jaw, Testicle Spectacle, Squire Knob, Leonards Butt Slide and Little Hell which alone has a climb of 1500 feet in 0.6 of a mile at a 50% grade.  The total climb for the race is 53,000 feet and the same decsent, making it more than any other 100 mile race in the world. 

In 2001 David Horton and Blake Wood became the first Americans to complete the Barkley and it is their run that is described in Running Through the Wall. They started at 9.00am on the Saturday and finished at 7.30pm on the Monday night and UltraRunning Magazine chose their performance as one of the most notable of the year.

It's not just the severe course that stops runners finishing.   It's the mental torture thinking about another lap of hell, the cold, the dark and the lack of sleep causing them to become lost and failing to find the 9 books.

This is one race I would certainly be giving a wide berth as The  Blair Witch Project scared me shitless!

A Captain's Posting

Last night I became Captain of Lenzie Golf Club and I have to say what a huge honour and privilege it is.  I have a busy year ahead of me fullfilling my duties and representing the club as Captain and it is one that I am looking forward to.  It is hard financial times for all golf clubs at this moment in Scotland with falling and ageing membership which will make for a challenging year. One of the first things I am doing is to have a Open Day on the 21st of February between 12 -5pm. We are advertising in the press and on the radio as well as locally. The deal on the day is join for £1.00 (one day only ) and pay the annual subscriptions as normal. We have also introduced some great summer visitor packages and all are detailed in our web site
Thats the golf diversion over and normal running ramblings will resume.
Reading about a incredible 100 mile race at this moment and will post more about it in a few days. It's not for the faint-hearted. Course record 55 hours, only 8 finishers in over 20 years and the ladies record is not a time but 66 miles -the maximum distance that has been covered in the race !!!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Making plans for the summer

For the first time since before Christmas I have managed a few runs with the knee holding up, but sitting here reading various blogs about getting in 30+ mile runs,  I realise that no matter what I do now there is simply not enough time left for me to do anywhere near the training I was wanting to do for this year's Fling.

Since the 25th of January, I have walked, jogged and ran 68 miles.  Last Thursday I completed my first run without walking -4 miles and same on Friday and with 6 miles today in just under 50 mins and it was good to be running. The knee is not 100% but it is now possible to run and not be limping about in pain afterwards.

My original plan was to run the Fling as my first ultra but at the beginning of December when things were going along okay I entered a 50 km trail run in Florida called the Crooms Trail Run.  It is on the 3rd of April and I was planning to use it as my last long training run prior to the Fling when I am over there for the Easter holidays.

So at this moment I have decided to take it one day at a time with my training and I am not going to try and cram in runs and miles.  I will make up my mind mid-April with regards the Fling.  The run in Florida is still an option but that will also be left to the last minute and is dependent on what distance I am covering in  one go prior to going over to States.

Last week I sent off an entry form for the Speyside Run in August, so if things don't work out I have got some other options later in the summer.  I am also thinking about the Lairig Ghru in June.  The Ayr run in September is also an option and again I will see how other things pan out leading up to that one.

One of the things that has been in the back of my mind since I decided to do the Fling has been the distance for my first ultra - 53 miles.  Maybe the Lairig and Speyside at 28 miles and 35 miles are a more realistic target, especially starting from where I am now (longest run has been 16 miles way back on the 12th of December).  Time will tell.

So the tentative spring/summer plan is:
Crooms Trail 3 April 50 km
Fling 24 April 53 miles ???!!!
Lairig Ghru 27th June       28 miles
Speyside       28th Aug        35 miles
Ayr               18th Sep        44 miles  ???

It looks a lot but there are a few question marks and 2 out of the 5 is possibly a more realistic target.