Race Reports

Portsmouth Coastal Marathon 23rd December (BAR Race)


After last year's sub zero temperatures - it was going to be interesting to see what difference milder conditions with recent torrential rain would make. Well - it was wet!! It was also windy. 

As usual the pre-race banter centred around the excuses. Loz and myself pleaded lack of training for distance, Jamie had done loads of distance but all at a slow pace. Martin Sanwell was doing his first marathon so did not really know what to expect. Jules had her usual approach, so virtually no training, and Jim Graham was taking it easy pacing his wife Helen round as his heel injury was still recovering after his amazing 3h 02m a couple of months ago. 

Jamie set off at a good pace straight from the start, but found his lack of pace training was causing pain in his overstretched hamstrings, so after 8 miles he backed off, allowing myself and Loz to move in front. Jamie is doing a 45 mile ultra marathon in a few weeks and it was not worth risking any damage at this point. 

As we approached the halfway turn (it is an out and back course) Loz was beginning to breathe quite heavily which turned out to be caused by tummy problems. Luckily there were 'facilities' at the turn point, but this was just the start of a torrid time for Loz with several stops in the second half. 

Jim was pacing Helen round and Jules was running at her usual sensible steady pace, although the course made it difficult to keep the pace even. It is half cross country and half tarmac, with 2 sections each way on shingle beach. The cross country sections were very wet, muddy and slippery. If Loz wasn't having a bad time already the last thing he needed was to slip on a wet concrete sea defence wall then skid off the edge. Unfortunately there was a big drop to the beach below and he completed the race with a huge graze down his leg.

 The conditions took their toll of everyone - especially as the way back was predominantly into a headwind, and the pace slowed for all. 

Performance of the Day for me goes to Martin. 3h44m for a first marathon is exceptional, and there is clearly a lot more to come. I am sure he will break 3h30m soon. Helen's 4h13m was also exceptionally strong. 

Martin and Loz pushed themselves so hard that they each went beyond the 'empty' point. When they finished they were both so pale that they really looked ill. It took an emergency dash to the nearest MacDonald's to refill them with junk food before either looked remotely human again! 

Well done to those that completed it. 

Men Winner 2h50m40s 

  • Steve Alden         3h19m50s    17.09%    10pts
  • Loz Wintergold   3h32m59s    24.8           9
  • Martin Sanwell    3h44m01s   31.26          8
  • Jamie Goodhead  3h49m32s   34.49          7
  • Jim Graham         4h13m12s   48.36          6

Women Winner 3h04m02s 

  • Helen Graham                4h13m13s   37.58%     10pts
  • Julienne Stuart-Colwill  5h46m56s   88.52          9 


Authors Steve Alden


Abingdon Marathon 2012

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The Abingdon Marathon was first held in 1982 and 2012 marks the race's 31st year since its inception. 

This is a flat, fast, scenic marathon with not too many runners. 

This race sells out within weeks. Mostly good standard club runners looking for a PB, because it's such a good race and usually ideal temperature in October. 

About 750 starters out of the 1,000 entrants. About 80 usually go sub-3 hours. 

Pre Race 

No idea how I would do on the day but weather seemed perfect. 10 degrees, light wind, cloudy. Some muddy puddles from recent rain. In 2011, I trained diligently for marathons and Abingdon 2011 yielded 11mins off PB for 3:11:03. Done several marathons since then and not gone faster. 2012 has been dominated by long distance triathlon and long distance duathlon with no specific stand-alone marathon preparation. Heartened by taking 3 mins off half-marathon PB just 3 weeks before Abingdon 2012. A bit in awe of Kevin James' 3:02 marathon finish a couple of weeks ago. 

My Race 

Figured I would go for sub-3 and see what happens. That meant a decent warm up for 10 mins before the start, so I could post sub-7min miles straight from the gun. Delighted to find I was doing 6:40-6:50 min miles with relative comfort for the first 6 miles but then got a nasty pain develop in heel at the Achilles Tendon insertion. At age 49, one does worry about Achilles Tendon rupture. Contemplated dropping out but decided to keep going as it did seem a genuine opportunity to fulfil the sub-3 dream.

Toughed it out and got to half way in 1:29:30. Completed mile-22 and was averaging around 6:45 per mile, which was comfortably inside target. Hit some kind of wall thereafter and the next miles were 7:00, 7:10, 7:29, despite really trying hard and almost passing out.

Always manage to rally for that last mile, which was around 7:05 on this occasion. Then the last half mile was at 6:30 pace as I sprinted screaming like a nutter to motivate myself. Yes, that's 26.45 miles in total rather than the 26.2 miles I had in mind. That extra quarter of a mile probably took a 100seconds or so.

Post Race

Great to see Anthony Bliss of Sussex Sports Photography. Posed for a few pictures. Delighted with 3:01:17. According to Garmin I had done 26.2 miles in sub-3 but unfortunately that doesn't count.

Great to give Kevin a bit of friendly competition and perhaps the nudge he needs to go sub-3 next time.

My heel feels wrecked and will need serious rest from running for a while. Massive limp day after the race. Thank goodness I have swimming and cycling to do instead for a while.

Race Report by Jim Graham

**After the Male club Marathon being held for over 6 years by Steve Alden it was taken by Kev James 2 weeks ago at the Chester marathon with a time of 03:02:50. Unfortunately for Kev he only got to hold the title for 2 weeks as Jim is now the proud owner of that title.

Club records here



Chester Marathon


My trek up to Chester started on Saturday, leaving behind the family of wife and 4 year and almost 2year old kids.  At least the marathon guaranteed a good night's sleep but perhaps running a marathon is not the only way to achieve this! 

This year had been all about this marathon with my only other race events two 10k runs and a half marathon, virtually no cycling or swimming.  The year before had been a similar affair with three marathons Brighton (3hrs 24 and too hot), Beachy Head (4:09: too off-road and hilly) and Portsmouth (3:34 - too cold and unfit). I was really concerned that getting close to my pb of 3.10 (set at Rome in 2006) was a lost cause. But I figured I 'd give it another go. So all the eggs had been placed in the basket a long time ago and I was hoping to crack sub-3 hour into the equation. 

Early start as usual - with the upside of having kids is that waking at 6am without interrupted sleep meant that I was feeling the most refreshed I'd been in a long time. Small bowl of porridge and a banana 3 hours before race start then it was off to Chester Racecourse for the start. The organisers had a lot right - warm tents to hang around in - check. Excellent baggage drop - check. Lots of portaloos - no check (luckily that side of things was already sorted). 

Race start was on the Chester Racecourse itself and literally entailed ducking under the white metal rail onto the horse racing course.  It felt a bit strange to be at the front - after the marathon fails last year was I really even wise to step into the sub-3 area with others? But I figured that there is no use predetermining the outcome by being conservative and choosing a slower time.  And knew I should be there or thereabouts after a 1:25 half marathon the month before.  So with the elite thoroughbreds at the front, and the club runners around me I was banking on not being the pantomime horse in my bit.    

The town crier got us started with an oh-yay and a horn and we did a half lap of the racecourse on the grass (fortunately they don't start a marathon in Aintree!). The course then weaved around Chester city centre past the famous clock tower, the cathedral and the tiered olde worlde shops called the Rows. Soon we were out of the Chester part of the marathon.  In reality the majority of the course was on rural roads held across the border in Wales.

I settled into a group regularly doing sub-6.30 to 6.40 times and figured that this would be the one to hang onto. The first half of the course was fairly flat with some gentle undulations but nothing noticeable when feeling fresh.  I was happy with the pace, but dropped off this group eventually towards the halfway point as the main people doing the work in the bunch suddenly dropped their pace.  I was through the half marathon point exactly at 1.28.  Slightly ahead of pace and only 2 ½ minutes off my half pb.

The next section of the race was when the going started to get tough however and the course became more undulating.  I was holding the pace at the right speed (6.50 for sub-3), but it was really tough going as the field was much sparser by now.  Some nice if sporadic support along the very rural route and Wallace and Gromit music in a village was great.  There was a couple of hills along this point that were absolute killers (not in terms of normal running) but when trying to stay on pace (not possible) and to get back onto my average pace after they finished they were real mental challenges.  Eventually I passed the 20 mile point seemingly at 2.15 (new pb for this distance). I now had 45 minutes for 6.2 miles to get sub 3. But unfortunately the course and my body had other ideas.  A succession of uphill drags meant that I was losing on average 30 seconds per mile and my body was giving the early warnings of cramp.  The mind games were now in full swing - every time I started thinking negative I tried to keep it within the moment - just keep pushing on and ignore everything else. 

Normally I get a bit of adrenaline at the end of a marathon and my pace picks up again, but the threat of cramp became real as my hamstring went for a full blown lock out that stopped me in my tracks. I didn't hang around to stretch it out however and carried on a downhill section breaking occasionally into the monty python ministry of silly runs onto the final riverside section, which led into the Racecourse.  Unfortunately, the bridge I thought signalled the entry to the stadium was another ½ mile away but I continued on at some sort of pace.  Finally the course came into sight and it was back onto the grass race course for a final push to get under the 3.03 mark.  Final official chip time was 3.02.50, nearly 8 minutes of my time from six years ago. And some proof that I haven't peaked yet! On the plus side, it will also allow me to qualify for the Boston Marathon either for 2013 or 2014, which is another tick on my bucket list!!!  Unfortunately, not quite sub 3 and 2 minutes 50 secs is also just too near to the sub-3 that I now have to try for it again.grrrrr!  Overall, I was very pleased with the time but with a sense of unfinished business. 

For those interested in my training schedule:

Started training consciously 8 months ahead of the race.  Longest weeks were no more than a maximum of 50 miles in total, which I built up to gradually over the 8 months.  My longest run was a misjudged 23 miler but other than that my longest runs were 20 miles. Each week I did a maximum of 4 runs but many weeks only 3 runs per week.  This often included a long run (12 miles building to 20 miles as the weeks progressed), regular hilly tempo run off-road - 8 miles, faster short run (6 miles with some extended intervals), occasionally a 10 mile run or a treadmill session but each week was judged according to niggles, workload, family commitments etc. Part of my training was entering races, which were essential as gauges of being on track plus a nice intermediate goal along the way.

It is also worth mentioning my footwear, as I used my Inov-8 F-lites, which are 195 gramme shoes.  These are among the most minimalist shoes out there and, compared to 'marathon' shoes I have used in the past, I can honestly say that I feel no worse on the day after than in any other shoes.  Also, no blisters at all or black toes. I have been running in fairly minimalist shoes over shorter distances for years, so I think that I am now fully conditioned for them, but it shows that they can really work at any distance. It's about all about fitness, conditioning and technique and not support shoes.


Club Records click here

Marrakech Marathon 29/1/12 Race Report

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The Results: A top class international field produced a marathon winning time of 2:08 with 21 runners doing 2:18 or less. Any one of those would have won the Brighton marathon. The top 50 runners were finished by 2:45 and they were virtually all from Ethiopia , Kenya and Morocco. Jim Graham was the 98th man (the 4th British male runner) by finishing in 3:11, just a few seconds outside of PB.


The half-marathon race started 30 minutes before the marathon and the winning time was a sensational 1:01:59. Helen Graham was the 359th woman home in 2:17 (including time spent in a mid-race comfort break) which is MSTC best half-marathon time of the year (so far). 


The web-sites and results on the internet are mostly in French, so it is a bit tricky to work it all out. Race numbers went to around 7,000 but that seemed to combine half-marathon and marathon. Therefore, the event is tiny compared to London Marathon and about half the size of Brighton Marathon. There appear to have been fewer than 700 marathon finishers with the majority of runners doing the half-marathon.



The experience: The easyjet flights and transfers from Gatwick to the superb hotel "les Jardins de la Koutoubia" were a doddle (www.lesjardinsdelakoutoubia.com).


We chose to organise the trip and race entry ourselves rather than use one of the marathon tour companies. As a result we paid the same in total but got a much better hotel that was just half a mile walking distance from the race start/finish. Collecting race numbers the day before from the expo was easy and great fun as it coincided with a kids race that day.


Marrakech is a culture shock (in a good way) for a couple from Hassocks. A cross between "Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Arc" and "Carry on Follow that Camel". Shouldn't have been such a culture shock because Carry-on-Follow-that-Camel was filmed on Littlehampton beach. Like Littlehampton, Marrakech feels like it hasn't changed much for centuries (except the horse-drawn carts in Marrakech have rubber tyres now). There was plenty of exhaust fumes from 2-stroke mopeds to remind one this is the 21st century.


Following the race we had a swim in the hotel pool then a nice wander in the Marrakech Souk (markets a few hundred yards from the hotel). Within minutes we had got live snakes wrapped around our necks and were being demanded to pay money for the privilege. Mayhem. It was frantic and amazing doing a little shopping for souvenirs.


The race was different with no energy drinks but just bottled water at irregular intervals (carry your own bottle I suggest). No energy gels but oranges, dates, figs and raisins on offer. The middle of the marathon had a 5-mile section with no feed stations and running through busy city roads competing with traffic and pedestrians. It is actually possible to get lost even though the runner in front is just a few metres away. The road closures get a bit less well enforced once the elite runners have gone through (I'd have had those Ethiopian Olympic Team runners otherwise..honest). However, the course is flat and has no annoying hairpins or switch backs so definite PB potential. The temperature was a pleasant 13-15 degrees during the race plus there was some shade from palm-trees and the ancient city walls.


BAR 13 Portsmouth Coastal Marathon 18th Dec 2011


The final race of the season brought out 8 hardy athletes for a bitterly cold race on the coast. Good preparation does not prevent all problems however and Rob was fighting off a sore throat, whilst Steve was recovering from a gastric flu bug which hit just 8 days before the race, leaving him unable to eat for 4 days. Medical advice suggests it is not good to race in those circumstances. What do those doctors know anyway?

Most race organisers understand the 'smell of fear' concept. For those who don't I would not suggest going near any nearby toilets just before a race. This race was the exception, there were virtually no toilets. In fact it turned out there were more massage ladies available after the race than toilets beforehand. That didn't stop Kev, who was into the ladies like a shot when the opportunity arose, barging desperate women out of the way to shed a few pounds before the start. The rest of us looked elsewhere and found a toilet block, but the cold water feed had frozen so there was no flush! Did we give up and look elsewhere - NO - stack it high, flush later! I can only imagine how bad it got.

The race got underway at 9.30, with the air temperature still below zero. The course is about as pancake flat as it is possible to be, but for all that this was a tough race. One third of the course was pavement or tarmac, one third was gravel tracks which were not too bad apart from the puddles, and the other third was downright cross country. It was those sections which made it hard. There was mud, narrow slippery wet paths, rock strewn paths, shingle beach sections, and grass and large puddles. You could get back up to speed on the good bits only to have another strength sapping section to knock you right back. In addition there were no marshals except at the (very good) feed stations. When you are tired it is too easy just to follow the person in front, and whilst it was generally easy to follow the course there were odd sections where it was easy to go wrong. I don't think any of us got round without errors. Jim certainly went wrong about 4 miles from the finish, and there was one section where the entire field went wrong. A steep path on this section finished at a river edge with a 4 metre drop into the water. I wasn't expecting it and had to pull up sharply to avoid going over the edge. The race times illustrated how challenging it actually was. Only 8 people finished under 3 hours.

Jim, Steve and Kev stayed together for about 4 miles but then Jim pushed up the pace and dropped the others. By the half way mark he had a good minute advantage over Steve, who was as far ahead of Kev. Rob decided to pace Rachel round because of his bug and Emma was taking the race at a sensible pace whilst Kay and Julienne were going along steadily.

The views and terrain of this race were quite amazing and I can quite understand why it was voted in the Top 10 of 'must do' marathons in the UK. There were marinas and harbours, marshlands and parklands, rivers and estuaries as well as the seafront views. However when it comes to the second half it becomes apparent that most of the view is a patch of ground just a few feet ahead of you as the fatigue starts to set in, pain starts to intrude and the real challenge of marathon running hits home.

Jim was probably the only one who wasn't feeling it too badly. He always looked strong and powered through to finish 29th just under 3h15m. Steve did get Jim back in his sights at about 22 miles, but then an old problem with his right knee suddenly triggered. It was like turning a switch from running strongly to being in severe pain and virtually being unable to put the right foot to the floor. This led to a comical running action of lightly stepping on the right foot and doing an exaggerated left stride to try to keep the pace up. It worked after a fashion but cost him 30 seconds a mile. Frustratingly it cost him a few places, including the second lady who was being dragged round by what appeared to be a husky! He was still delighted with 38th place and a 3h17m finish, and can only imagine what he could have done without the bug during the previous week.

It turned out Kev had dropped back for a reason. He has done 3 marathons this year and was very well prepared and fit. Sometimes however you just know it is not going to be your day, and this was such an occasion. He realised he was struggling and sensibly backed off in the second half to finish in just under 3h34m, still a very respectable time.

Rob and Rachel continued running together for most of the way, although Rob did find the cold weather and constant reminders of water a bit too much for his bladder, resulting in him stopping three times! Rachel however was running superbly and was on target to be way under her PB. Similar to me though, she suddenly hit problems at about 22 miles and from then on was really struggling. Nevertheless she remained a full 5 minutes inside her PB at the finish for an excellent time just under 3h46m. Rob, gentleman that he is(!) did manage to get a time 3 seconds faster, although clearly he didn't really get out of the comfort zone all the way round, and he even included his comfort breaks. They even managed to befriend an odd bloke called Dave!

Emma was running a steady pace and thought she might be able to break 4hrs. Her PB is 3h51m but it was 10 years ago so sub 4 would have been quite a feat. Like Rachel and Steve she also ran into problems late on and really suffered. She even went through a phase of wondering if she would finish at all but soldiered on for a 4h11m finish. As a training race for her true goal of the Brighton Marathon in April though, this was an excellent performance.

Kay got into trouble with a stitch relatively early. Clearly that makes proper running almost impossible so she had to resort to power walking and jogging. Husband Steve was trying to support her by riding round the route on his mountain bike, but wandered off somewhere towards Chichester and had to return to base to wait for her there. She finished, still smiling and cheerful, in 5h25m, probably looking in better shape than the rest of us.

Julienne had her usual steady pace. I did feel quite sorry for Darren at the finish, waiting in the freezing cold. On a positive note he always knew how she was doing because of the stream of text updates. She finished in 5h48m which I have huge respect for because it is an awful long time to be out there working hard.

Once we had finished most of us had a massage from the 'Pompey Pummellers' - I have to say it was the most painful post-race massage I have ever had, and easily the most effective one. She found every knot - although it felt like it was all knot with a bit of leg underneath. The difference it makes is staggering. The next day you can walk virtually normally - incredible!

Special praise must go to Tim and Claire who came to support, and stood out in the cold along with Darren and Steve Mac. However painful it is doing this sort of race I always prefer to be taking part rather than watching, if only for that sense of relief and achievement at the finish.

Men WINNER 2h51m29s

Jim Graham 3.14.48 13.39% 10points

Steve Alden 3.17.07 14.94 9

Kevin James 3.33.59 24.78 8

Rob Hoodless 3.45.50 31.69 7


Women WINNER 3h00m54s

Rachel Baker 3.45.53 24.87 10points

Emma Goodhead 4.11.03 38.78 9

Kay McMenamin 5.25.15 79.79 8

Julienne Stuart-Colwill 5.48.12 92.48 7


Author: Steve Alden