August beckons!

Tomorrow is August so this means the last round of mid-week races is fast approaching. For those of you who have done these before you will know what we are talking about but here’s a link to a news article that will give you all the essential information as to which ones suit you!

Information on mid-week race fixtures

They are all well organised, great value and highly recommended.

Knowsley parkrun

Chris Burton tried a couple of new things, Knowsley parkrun and then wrote them a race report. Here’s a copy of it, well done Chris.

Chris had some lovely things to say about our parkrun, so I invited him to write a guest runner report of his visit to Knowsley today, This is what he had to say…..

Today I ran Knowsley parkrun for the first time. I wasn’t sure want to expect.

I had a slight knowledge of what to expect because I did part of the parkrun course when I ran the cross country route on day 5 off the tour of Merseyside. So many memories just came flooding back when I arrived at the start line, as it was less than 3 weeks since I was here completing day 5 of the Tour.

When I was listening to the brief which was given out by the Run Director Richie, he was talking about a defibrillator saying that they still need £200 to reach their target to buy one for their parkrun. As a person who suffers from epilepsy, I think there should really be another way they could get one as I don’t think they should have to raise so much money to buy their own!.

After listening to the brief the run started. I had a good burst of energy which made me run a little bit faster. I was leading the way going into the 1st corner and I thought “oh no I don’t know this course I hope I don’t get lost” but I managed to survive the first lap only with a little scare when I nearly beat the marshal to his post so the fella behind me had to shout to tell me to turn around. Luckily I still managed to keep my position! The marshals were fantastic all the way around and they were very supportive. The photographs which the photographer took of me and the rest of the runners just topped off a brilliant parkrun.

When I got home and I didn’t receive my text message telling me what my time was I was a little worried, but it all got sorted out and my finish time of 19 minutes exactly was added to the results.

I can’t wait to come back and run Knowsley parkrun again with some more runners from my club.

Chris Burton – Wigan Harriers.


Rock n Roll Star!

If you can’t beat them, join them by Katie Green.

I started out running just over a year ago. After years of cheering on at the sidelines watching Chris get better and more competitive my loving husband signed me up for my first race while I was still pregnant. He decided that running would be good for me and that I’d be good at it for some reason. Last year I did the rock n roll 5k as my first ever race after 5 months of running and it petrified me so imagine the confusion at running it again a year later as well as the half marathon! It’s amazing the difference a year makes when you are surrounded by supportive, competitive idiots.

The rock n roll half marathon in Liverpool really is a brilliant race to run, especially if your still relatively new to the longer, scarier race distances. It’s a really well thought out route as you get a good mix of flats to get time in the bank and ‘fun’ hilly bits to remind you that you should probably do more hill sessions with the running club. I’m still yet to train properly for a half marathon as things seem to always get in the way (kids with chicken pox, car crash, chest infection) so race day morning I’m still filled with terror at the idea of running 13.1 miles and not being able to time running past the portaloos just right so I don’t wet myself or mess up my race time. Chris as usual was right up front with the other speedy harriers and I was quite happy in coral 5 with the other people aiming for the 2 hour mark. Its safe to say you know you are a runner when you feel a wave of relief when its nice and cloudy in May so you know you’re not going to finish a race looking like a crispy lobster.

The start is always the most stressful part for me because I hate the bottleneck effect of everyone trying to get out ahead of all the other people and trying to set their pace. Luckily at RnR they have enough sense to send you out in waves, yes it takes a little longer to get to the start line but it’s so much better being able to start a race and not be elbow to elbow with every other runner and start out at the pace you want to. The first few miles are really lively with people all along the route and minimal uphill routes. The bands lined up at various points really help to give you a bit of a boost too, especially towards the end when your shouting at yourself in your head for signing up to another of these things after you swore never again at the last one. I tend to get myself through longer runs by setting myself little targets. I managed to get up the hill around mile 6 without stopping, which really helped my confidence as I was surrounded by people going sod it just walk up it and after that you get a lovely few miles through the parks which are really nice flat, shady paths. I think I only ended up finding and passing other harriers after the 7 mile mark starting with Rachael giving me encouragement after I checked she was ok. By mile 10 I was arguing with myself about whether I could keep the pace up I was at but after checking my watch and realising I was in with a shot of getting a 1:50 half marathon it was a case of telling my legs to shut up and carry on.

Miles 10-12 were pretty lonely as there wasn’t much support out and I’d pretty much ran the whole thing on my own but it was a case of head down and plod on. As I got past mile 12 that’s when things got weird for me as I started to spot runners I knew that were faster than me! I got encouragement from other club runners as I was kicking up my pace for the last mile putting in a last ditch effort to get as good a time as possible. Its pretty safe to say I was amazed when i finished with a time of 1:47:45 knocking nearly 8 minutes off my previous half marathon pb from Wigan half! I still find it funny I saw more harriers at the finish line than I did for the whole race too, I finished just behind Jayne who gave me a big hug and congratulations when she spotted me as we’d both been aiming for the 1:50 mark, thou she smuggled more haribo off the table at the end than I did. It’s definitely a race I would recommend doing if you wanted to go for a half marathon and not just because they are some of the best medals 🙂

Marathon du Mont Blanc…..a very big hill!

We arrived in Chamonix on Thursday 22nd June as Warren was to take part in Friday’s Vertical Kilometre race before we both embarked on the Marathon on Sunday. I have never been to Chamonix before and this is certainly one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. Chamonix rests at the base of a valley with the Red Mountains on one side and Mont Blanc Mastif on the other.

Warren registered for the Vertical KM (with an overall distance of 3.8KM / 2.4 miles) and was given a start time of 16:15 hours. The start was a time trial, with the slowest going first based on each competitors estimated time. The first mile was runnable with a slight incline, but nonetheless took 17 minutes, the second mile was nothing short of brutal with non stop climbing and with the aid of ladders, ropes and a lot of scrambling, took a total of 33 minutes. Finishing in a time of 1 Hour and 1 minute, that was the perfect prep for a mountain marathon in less than 36 hours time, NOT!!

Following Warren’s massive achievement the day before, Saturday was a day of rest and a little sightseeing before the marathon. There is actually so much to see and do but we wanted to limit ourselves, because after all, we were there to race a mountain marathon. We visited the Mer du Glace (sea of ice) which is an ice cave, as this is something we have never seen anywhere else on our travels. There was a 20 minute train ride up the mountain, then 5 minute cable car down towards the ice and then just to keep things easy for me and Warren the day before our race, 448 steps down to the cave entrance. Taking the 448 steps back up to the cable car gave me the first real idea of how different it is to breathe at altitude. I’ve been running up mountains in the Lake District but nothing compares to the dizzy heights of the Alps. Having visited the cave in the morning we spent the rest of Saturday relaxing back at the Chalet as I prepared my Harrier nails. The plan was to have an early night but I have to say I have never had such a restless sleep before a race. Warren was fast asleep from early on, I was too hot, then I was too thirsty, then I had an ache in my leg, all of which was in my head making me more frustrated and less able to sleep.

Our Chalet in Les Pelerins which is about a 25 – 30 minute walk into the centre of Chamonix were the race starts in front of Saint-Michel’s church. We were up at 5:50am and out the door by 6:20am. That gave us 40 minutes to trot into town, we had to jog into town as the bus service doesn’t start early enough for the race. We got about 1/2 a mile down the road when Warren pointed out we had not put any sun lotion on. It had been hot the last few days and even though it was cloudy and drizzling it was forecast to brighten up around midday. Only one thing for it, yes thats right, Warren was to run back for the sun lotion whilst I waited with his pack. I couldn’t possibly go back, that would be too long a warm up and at least I didn’t make him run back with his pack on. Warren returned with the lotion about 9 minutes later and we jogged on to the start with about 10 minutes to spare. As Warren pointed out, “Well that’s my marathon turned into an ultra,” having now done a 2.5 mile warm up, talk about melodramatic, anyway I just didn’t respond.

Warren took the lead, jumping over the barrier so that we started at the front, in and amongst the Pro’s. With over 2,000 runners the queue tailed back around the corner past were the eye could see. He always manages to get me near the front which means a clearer start and avoids all the jostling which everyone knows can lead to a trip. The music was blaring and the crowds were out in force, cheering all their friends and family, the atmosphere was immense.

The Count down from 10 didn’t help my nerves, I mean what is wrong with a simple, quick 1, 2, 3 go. The pause between each number felt like forever as now I just wanted to go. Trois, Deux, Un and we were off, through the streets and then across into the woods and a shout out, go Karen, go Warren, I glimpsed Carol and Richard and then they were gone. Through woods it was undulating, nothing too severe and an 8 and 9 minute first 2 miles but I knew what was to come, Warren had made sure I knew, he wanted me to be prepared. Along the edge of a busy road the heavens opened but it was still warm and the rain was welcomed by all. This marathon lulls you into a false sense of security with a nice and easy rolling first 11 miles. But then the climbing starts with a 4 mile ascent of over 1200 meters. Once we stared climbing it felt like forever, up and up into the clouds, you could see in front of you but nothing more, the beautiful scenery from the days before had vanished into thick grey haze.

Once at the top relief usually follows on a descent with a chance to catch up and get a quick speedy mile in but not on these descents. A sharp, steep descent, made harder by the bracken, the roots and the rocks all slimy and slippery from the rain. Warren has done this race back in 2013 and this descent had loose ropes on it back then, now replaced by wooden ledges for steps which were caked in wet mud.

It wasn’t long before once again we were on the up. From Vallorcine its a relentless steep climb up to Aiguillettes des Posettes which is 23.3km (approx 14.5 miles) into the race and stands at 2,201meters. Next comes another steep descent and by now the sun was beating down on us but the views were magnificent. At this point and a number of other points during this race there is nothing wrong with slowing slightly to take in the awesome splendour or your surroundings. The zig zag descent was technical, a balancing act between picking up enough speed but not so much that you fall off the edge as experienced by the young man in front of me. As he went round a switchback one foot slipped over the edge followed by his other foot and he managed to spin himself around and grab the long grass holding on long enough for myself and Warren to pull him back up. Going over the edge is unthinkable when there is nothing but the side of the mountain. This made me more cautious the rest of the way down and of course putting on the brakes going downhill I knew my legs would pay for it later.

The bottom of this descent took us down to around 1,250 meters were there was no time to rest, no flat but back up to Le Bechar at 1,691 meters. Once at the top there were more switchbacks on the next descent. In and out of the trees and by now I really needed the shade. The problem with the shade was the tree roots because now I was feeling tired and concentration and focus was in order but left me as I stumbled a few times before ending up on my backside. To be honest everyone knows its rare for me to finish a trail race without falling and I was certainly kidding myself if I thought this was going to be any different.

Then from around 33.5km the course again ascends for over 3km to La Flegere standing at 1,865 meters. This climb was so tough and its fair to say I hit my all time low. The terrain was rocky, the climb was steep and the sun was blazing. I remember asking Warren if this was the last climb and this was a huge mistake because he said “no.” This was one of those moments when you ask a question that really deep down you do not want to know the answer to and as soon as I heard the word “no” I was overwhelmed with emotion. Never during any race or event have I felt that kind of emotion, I honestly thought that I was going to burst into to tears. Then I heard Warren “stop and come here.” He wrapped his arms around me and told me I was doing amazingly and that I was nearly there. He knows I hate to give up, I’m far too competitive and so we set off again up and up to the top.

La Flegere is 36.8km into the race and from this point the race becomes undulating and as Warren kept insisting runnable. Run this bit he kept saying and this was now a run, walk, run, walk, run race. The midday sun was now being felt by all and the more fatigued I got the harder it was to concentrate on running and drinking at the same time but somehow I managed it. Mainly because I had to, I felt that if I stopped now I would not start again.

This race is brutal and this is no more so than towards the end of this race. As we were running the flattest part of this course which is undulating I said to Warren that I felt I was doing more down than up and I wasn’t wrong as the route goes from 1,865 meters down to 1,810 meters. This is all for the final ascent to the finish, yes a punishing final 2.5 km up to 2,016 meters. There were lots of spectators along the final kilometres, all different nationalities and all different ages cheering on every competitor to the finish line.

We crossed the line together hand in hand and collected our finishers medals. We then collected a cup of Mont Blanc blonde beer before meeting up with our family whose support and encouragement make any and every race that bit easier. I could not be happier with my time of 6:55:46 and I’m extremely pleased to have come 639th out of 2,091 competitors finishing 38th in my age category and 52nd female overall.

Hand on heart this is the toughest race I have ever completed and even though it hurt towards the end both physically and mentally and almost reduced me to tears, there is not one second of regret. I have only done 2 previous marathons, both flat and both Manchester last year and this year. So yeah, you may think I’m insane but you only get one life and it should be lived to the full. The magnificent beauty that Chamonix has to offer is unbelievable. For me this was a chance to combine my love of running with my love of nature and the beauty the world has to offer. This is why I love off road running and why I can’t wait for my next challenge. To be continued…………