Run Fatblog Run (Colshaw Hall)

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Last Sunday, I ran the latest event in the ridiculous 10 x 10k challenge I have set myself for this year, and it took place within the picturesque grounds – and surrounding countryside – of Colshaw Hall, in Over Peover (pronounced ‘peever’, for anyone even remotely interested), which is near Knutsford in Cheshire (pronounced ‘Cheshire’, for anyone even remotely interested).

Regular readers may be aware – or may recall – that I am trying to run all ten events for charity, and my aim is to do so in under fifty minutes each time.

Unfortunately, having collapsed shortly before the finish line at the Whitchurch 10k in April, this knocked my confidence somewhat for event number four at Tatton Park the following month, resulting in me stopping and walking a few times (through a fear of ending up in hospital again). As a result, I not only missed my target of running the entire race, but my time was well outside fifty minutes (54:13, to be precise).

Fortunately for me (and I use the word ‘fortunately’ with more than a mere smattering of sarcasm), Tatton Park is the only one of my ten events to be held monthly, so I do still have the option of re-running it later in the year, should it transpire to be the only race where my targets have been missed.

Thankfully, I was back on track last Sunday, as – despite my legs begging me to stop and walk a couple of times towards the end – I managed to run the course in 49:23, which is very much in line with what appears to be my ‘usual’ pace (Sandbach last September was 49:16, Oulton Park this February was 49:11, and Poynton in March was 49:28). I conclude, from that information, that I tend to run a 10k in just over forty-nine minutes.

I was particularly pleased to complete the Colshall Hall 10k, for a few reasons:

  1. It was event number five; so, leaving aside any possible re-run of Tatton Park later this year, I’m half-way to the point where I can load my running shoes into a cannon, and blast them toward the horizon;
  2. It has gone some way to restoring my confidence that I will not collapse and nearly die each time I run more than a few miles;
  3. My preparation for the race was pretty dreadful, and not what most runners would recommend before a 10k.

Let me expand on that last point.

Normally, I don’t tend to run too much leading up to a race, and will only do a few miles earlier in the week. This time, however, I decided to instead run a full 10k circuit around Sandbach on the Tuesday evening, and then get extremely drunk on the Friday night. Ok, all the alcohol was well out of my system come the race on Sunday morning, but I was still feeling the effects of spending the whole of Saturday generally tired and hungover.

But, above all, most runners (and anyone with an ounce of common sense) will tell you it is best to avoid any injuries prior to a race, particularly when those injuries are to the whole ‘foot’ region.

So, imagine my displeasure / anger / rage, when – in rushing around before the school run last Friday morning – I stamped down hard on one of Isaac’s metal toy trains. I suppose I shouldn’t necessarily blame him for the injury (although that didn’t stop me), as I should have anticipated that he would want to keep his collection of Thomas The Tank Engine trains in a partially obscured spot on our bedroom floor. Only a fool would expect them to be in plain sight, or, I don’t know, in his own fucking room, but Isaac has never really conformed to what society would deem ‘normal’ behaviour.

So, Isaac left his collection of trains just where he wanted them – in a prime spot to badly hurt Daddy (and make him use many colourful expletives), two days before one of his races.

Of course, I don’t only blame Isaac, as naturally it took two people to cause my injury. No, I don’t mean me – as I dashed around like a headless chicken trying to locate a pair of socks – I mean this little shit:

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For the uninitiated, this is ‘Ferdinand’, one of Thomas the Tank Engine’s friends. And don’t let his goofy-toothed expression fool you, either, because Ferdinand, I discovered last Friday, is an evil metal bastard.

Now, I would upload a picture of my foot at this point, to emphasise not only the amount of pain that the initial injury caused me, but also the damage which persisted come Sunday’s 10k, however:

  1. The visual bruising didn’t do the injury justice;
  2. The pain has thankfully now almost gone, as has the bruising, so I should have taken a photo earlier in the week, because now you would just think I was being pathetic.

You’ll just have to trust me when I say that I was still having trouble walking, let alone running, by Sunday morning, to the extent that I almost pulled out of the race. Thankfully, in a short ‘test’ run with about half an hour to go, I realised that running would be relatively pain-free, so long as the middle of my left foot didn’t come into contact with any stones, potholes, tree roots, or another person’s foot (the latter of which being a real shame, as it’s often a tactic I employ when overtaking a fellow runner, to gain an advantage).

Anyway, my foot held up nicely, I finished the race in a respectable time, and I’m now well on my way to completing this challenge. So, without further ado (as I am well aware that these running entries aren’t very popular, and most of you stopped reading a while ago), here are my ratings for the Colshaw Hall 10k:

Time: 49:23

Position: 272nd out of 1,078 runners (which I’m really pleased with, as I have an unofficial target of trying to finish in the top-third each time, and there were dozens of ‘proper’ runners there from actual clubs – including a group from ‘Sandbach Striders’, who I managed to overtake and finish faster than – ha!)

Cost: £19.95 – on the expensive side, bearing in mind we didn’t get many goodies for our troubles.

Course: Easily the most scenic so far, comprising delightful little country lanes (without ever sending us down hazardous muddy tracks, or canal towpaths – Poynton 10k, I’m looking at you). The route took us all round Over Peover, and past the iconic Lovell telescope at Jodrell Bank:

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There were a few unexpected ‘hills’, however, which the organisers failed to mention – but when they clearly have as twisted a sense of humour as I do (bearing in mind the sign they positioned at the top of the steepest hill), it’s hard to stay mad at them for too long,:

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I did swear quite loudly at the time though, as it was bloody steep. Still, the course gets a solid 8/10

Weather: Almost perfect. Like Whitchurch, it was a little on the warm side for my liking, but it was dry, breezy, and about as good as I could have hoped 9/10

Organisation: Very impressive indeed. Each kilometre was marked clearly, there were helpful and enthusiastic marshals at every key point, and the pre-race pack was sent out nice and early, with everything you might need – not to mention the fact they allowed us to wear headphones, and sent us our race numbers and timing chips in the post, so there was none of that awkward safety-pinning with just a few minutes until the start of the race bullshit 9/10

Official Photos: Taken and uploaded – for free – by Bryan Dale, who I recognised from an event earlier this year (or possibly even Sandbach last year). He apparently had 5,000 photographs to sort through and upload to his website, which he clearly worked around the clock to achieve, so that we weren’t left waiting for long. I can’t really blame him that I’m either hiding, or looking like I might collapse, in the five in which I appear:

There is also apparently an official video, which will be uploaded to the Colshaw Hall 10k Facebook page soon, but I am yet to see it. Hopefully, I’m not featured 8/10

Medal: Massive, solid, and heavy, everything you want in a medal 7/10

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Goody-bag: Not bad at all, actually. Ok, we didn’t get a t-shirt, but we did receive an actual bag (with the event logo on), containing a delicious chocolate-covered flapjack, and a packet of Haribo 6/10

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Post-race refreshment: We only received a bottle of water, but that’s because the flapjack and sweets were in the goody-bag. Still, when my previous post-race refreshment has comprised the likes of bread and fruit, I didn’t feel like I was missing out. Wouldn’t have minded a big tray of jelly babies, like they had at Oulton Park and Poynton though. 5/10

Summary:

Course: 8/10

Weather: 9/10

Organisation: 9/10

Photos: 8/10

Medal: 7/10

Goody-bag: 6/10

Refreshments: 5/10

Meaning a total score of  52/70 (or 74%) – a very impressive score, meaning Colshaw Hall is now top of my leaderboard:

Colshaw Hall:              52/70               (74%)

Whitchurch:                49/70               (70%)

Tatton Park:                47/70               (67%)

Oulton Park:                46/70               (66%)

Poynton:                       39/70               (56%)

Amazingly, the race which nearly killed me is still doing rather well near the top of the table. Maybe I should enter it again next year?

Ok, perhaps not.

My next race is a week on Sunday, in Alderley Edge. If you’re local, feel free to pop down and cheer me on. If not, you’ll just have to donate instead, won’t you?!

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/greg10x10k

(Isaac was there, but refused to pose)

Thanks for reading x

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Run Fatblog Run (Whitchurch)

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Last Sunday, I took part in the third event of my 10 x 10k charity challenge – in Whitchurch, Shropshire – and those of you who know me in ‘real life’, will probably be aware by now that things didn’t exactly go according to plan.

If you haven’t read any of the previous entries from this challenge (for the races at Oulton Park and, more recently, Poynton), let me summarise my targets:

  1. To run ten 10k events in 2018 – raising money for Kidscan;
  2. To complete them all in under fifty minutes;
  3. To finish in the top-third of entrants for each race;
  4. To not cry or shit myself.

Whilst those targets still remain intact following the Whitchurch 10k last weekend (although #4 was borderline for a while), I have decided – for health reasons – to relax my expectations for the remaining seven events.

Let me explain why.

Firstly, with each new race so far, the courses have become increasingly tougher, to the point that Whitchurch was ridiculously uphill in parts, fast downhill in others, and with very little ‘flat’ terrain in between. Now, whilst I accept the courses becoming tougher is entirely coincidental, and has nothing to do with my fitness deteriorating (contrary to what I am about to tell you, I am getting fitter), I am dreading the remaining races being even worse. At this rate, I’ll be running up Kilimanjaro for the final event.

Secondly, despite the fact the course took its toll on me, to the point my breathing was laboured as I re-entered the grounds of Sir John Talbot School (where the start and finish line was situated), I still decided I had just enough energy left for a sprint finish – and this, in hindsight, was a terrible idea.

I’m not sure whether it was because I started my sprint too soon, but with about fifty metres to go I began to struggle. I couldn’t breathe, I was completely drained, and it took every ounce of my concentration to force myself toward the finish line.

Sadly, I didn’t quite make it.

With no more than ten metres left, my legs suddenly buckled, and I hit the floor (which was fortunately grass). I then vaguely remember the announcer shouting my name out, urging me to get up and reach the finish line, but when I tried to move, I couldn’t even kneel, let alone stand and run.

The next thing I knew, a fellow runner knelt beside me, put my arm around his neck and lifted me to my feet – he was not going to let me give up (even though, having essentially dragged me half way home, he told me I was going to have to do some of the work, as I was getting ‘fucking heavy’). I have since discovered that this man was Mike Glover, and he sacrificed his own time and position to make sure I finished the race. If I ever track Mike down, I owe him a pint or two.

Anyway, I have a vague recollection of collapsing over the finish line, and the next ten minutes or so is a blur. I’ve been told a kind lady watched the boys, so that Jen could run over with a paramedic; and the fact I was almost unconscious, entirely grey, and unable to communicate, gave everyone cause for concern.

The next thing I remember, is lying on a stretcher in the medical tent, hooked up to machines and being given oxygen. To cut a long story short, I spent the next two hours undergoing tests, before being informed that:

  1. A runner’s heart rate should ideally drop back below 100bpm within minutes of finishing a race, whereas mine was still above 120bpm two hours later;
  2. My ECG results were ‘erratic’;
  3. My temperature had gone through the roof.

Most worrying of all, I was told that the valves in my heart weren’t working properly, so whilst the heart should normally operate like this…

… mine was so overworked, and racing so fast, that the second set of valves were opening before the first had closed. This meant that, rather than work as a pump, my heart was operating more like a tube, letting blood simply flow through it without becoming oxidised – and blood without oxygen, is about as useful as tits on fish.

For obvious reasons, the paramedics were not going to let me drive myself (and, more importantly, my family) back home, and they insisted that I go in an ambulance to hospital.

I won’t bore you with a lot of what happened next, save to say some friends of ours – Chris and Vanessa – were kind enough to drive from Sandbach to Whitchurch to collect my family and get them home, while I went off to Telford A&E.

I remained there for the next eight hours, undergoing further ECGs and blood tests, before the most elusive doctor in medical history finally turned up to recommend that I stay in overnight. This, as you can imagine, was disappointing news (read: I was livid), because I was still sweaty and muddy from the run, had no change of clothes, very little money, and my phone battery was nearly dead. As a result, getting home the next day was going to be difficult, and since I had been informed earlier that I was probably being discharged, I had already organised transport home (via a good friend of mine, Emerson, who had very kindly gone well out of his way to collect me).

Whilst I would not ordinarily go against medical advice, I genuinely felt ok by that point (albeit starving, as I hadn’t eaten in twelve hours), and I wanted more than anything to go home, so I decided to discharge myself. It would be fair to say the doctor didn’t take this well, but I’m not sure whether this was because she was genuinely concerned for my health, or because she didn’t like being questioned.

Either way, she reluctantly agreed to provide discharge forms, if I promised to go to my GP on Monday – which I hastily accepted; although, by that point, I would have agreed to paint her house, if it meant getting the fuck out of there.

I did go to my GP the following day, and was immediately (and annoyingly) referred to our local hospital in Crewe for more tests. There, I had yet another ECG scan, the remainder of what little blood I had left was drained for testing, and numerous other checks were undertaken, before I was reassured that all the worrying signs had thankfully subsided.

Unfortunately, they had been replaced by high CK levels (whatever they are), and the fact I was now dehydrated, so my kidneys apparently weren’t working properly. I tried to point out that they had only given me one small drink in six hours, so it was no wonder I was dehydrated, but the consultant was having none of it – I was staying in overnight.

Within an hour or so, I was moved to a bay of six beds, with five other men who were all well into their eighties, and seemingly not long for this world. I genuinely feared I might be the only one of us to make it through the night, and so I took it upon myself to make sure we were all alive come sunrise. More on that, next week.

For now, I’ll leave you with the ratings for the Whitchurch 10k, and promise you that – after what I’ve been through – I will not be pushing myself to run the remaining races in under fifty minutes. I’d still like to run them all, rather than walk, but I will not be risking my health again. It’s simply not worth it.

Time: 47:50 (a new PB – by some margin, whoops!)

Position: 135th (out of 691)

Cost: £15.50 (very reasonable)

Course: The worst yet. Very little flat running, extremely steep hills, plus a start/finish on wet grass. It was incredibly well marshaled, with fantastic support from the locals, but you could marshal the Himalayas, and it still wouldn’t mean I’d want to run up and down them 5/10

Weather: Dry, sunny and just warm enough – virtually perfect 9/10

Organisation: A digital race pack was sent out with a week to go, although (as with Poynton) the organisers left it until then to confirm earphones were banned. There was also an issue with some missing race numbers on the day, but by all accounts that wasn’t the organisers’ fault 7/10

Official Photos: They haven’t been uploaded yet, which is disappointing, so I can’t possibly comment on the quality. That said, I’m in no rush to see myself being carried over the finish line, and at least they are apparently free (you reading this, Poynton 10k?) 5/10

Here are some photos my wife took before the race instead….

Medal: Very smart, and again made of metal 7/10

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Goody-bag: The best yet – not only did we get an actual goody bag (with snacks, sweets, and a voucher for half a pint in a local Whitchurch pub), but we were also given a smart ‘technical’ running shirt. In fact, our boys were apparently so well-behaved, while I was receiving treatment in the medical tent, the organisers decided to give them a shirt each as well:

Take note, other events, this is how you do a goody-bag 9/10

Post-race refreshment: Now, I’m struggling here, as I was semi-conscious and missed out on the post-race delicacies, but I heard whispers of jelly babies at one point, and there was definitely fruit and water on offer. Seemingly standard fayre for most events, and the snacks in the goody bag were already more than enough 7/10

Summary:

Course – 5/10

Weather – 9/10

Organisation – 7/10

Photos – 5/10

Medal – 7/10

Goody-bag – 9/10

Refreshments – 7/10

Giving Whitchurch a score of 49/70 (or 70%), placing it firmly in the lead, ahead of Oulton Park and then Poynton.

Next is the Tatton Park 10k at the start of May, and, as ever, if you’d like to sponsor me (because, in all honesty, this running nearly killed me last Sunday), here’s my Just Giving page:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/greg10x10k

Next week, I’ll be telling you all about my hospital adventures with five very old men. Trust me, you don’t want to miss that one.

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Thanks for reading x

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Blogged Determination

I’ve set myself a challenge for 2018. Yes, I know it’s a little early for New Year’s resolutions, but once the X-Factor live-shows start, it’s basically Christmas, right?

I’ve undertaken some stupid challenges in my time; however, generally speaking, I have always ended up being proud of what I achieved, usually because I was raising money for charity at the time – and you can get away with some pretty weird shit when it’s for a good cause.

“I’ve decided to hop to work on Thursday, dressed as Scooby Doo.”

“Are you mad? It’s three miles!”

“I know, but I’m raising money for The National Association of Disabled Great Danes.”

“Ah, fair enough. A fiver ok?”

In 2001, I watched all the James Bond films back-to-back (up to, and including, The World Is Not Enough), with a good friend of mine from Law School – we’ll call him Gerard because, well, that’s his name. It took us forty-three hours (without sleep) and, from a medical point of view, I believe our condition at the end of the ordeal would be best described as ‘a bit fucked-up.’

I can only take my wife’s word for this, because I have very little recollection of events from the start of Goldeneye onward, other than a vague memory of me being topless, and trying to mould a third nipple (in homage to Scaramanga’s anatomical abnormality in The Man With the Golden Gun), from some dampened pink toilet paper.

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It’s no wonder I never heard back from that Blue Peter audition.

Then, in 2008, Gerard persuaded me to join him in a charity abseil, down the side of the Europa Hotel in Belfast. At 51 metres high, The Europa boasts (if ‘boasts’ is in fact the right word) the title of being the ‘most bombed hotel in the world’ – and I threw myself off the side of it (admittedly attached to a rope, I’m not a complete moron).

To make matters worse, I was chronically hungover at the time, and still suffering the effects of a dodgy Lebanese kebab that I had drunkenly scoffed the night before. The people of Belfast will never know how close they came to literally being ‘shat on from a great height’.

I sometimes question why I remain friends with Gerard, because he is clearly not very good for my health (mental or physical), but he and I are very similar in many respects. In fact, we share so many common interests, the only clearly distinguishable difference between us (other than physical appearance – and even then, with the exception of his facial hair, we are not overly dissimilar), is that he is, without doubt, psychologically unhinged.

He’s like my reckless, sociopathic, death-defying alter ego from Northern Ireland. If it turned out that he is in fact a figment of my sub-conscious (a little like the Edward Norton / Brad Pitt relationship in Fight Club*), I would not be entirely surprised. I may, however, question why my psyche has given him an accent that I couldn’t fully understand for the first few months of our friendship.

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(*belated spoiler alert. Sorry if you’ve not seen the film, but it’s been out nearly twenty years, so you only have yourself to blame. Oh, and Bruce Willis is a ghost in The Sixth Sense, too. Oops.)

Partly because Gerard lives in Ireland, partly because we both now have families to look after, and partly because (as my wife constantly reminds me), prolonged exposure to some of Gerard’s ‘suggestions’, would almost certainly result in my boys growing up without a father, we haven’t seen each other in a few years. It’s probably for the best though, because the last time I spoke to him, he was still harping on about us kayaking down the River Lagan in Belfast, dressed as Mel Gibson’s William Wallace character from Braveheart. I’m not even sure why.

Anyway, as usual I digress. The bottom line is, I still like to set new challenges for myself every now and then (e.g. getting more than three hours of sleep, eating an entire packet of chocolate Hobnobs in one sitting, climbing a flight of stairs without developing back/knee/chest pains, etc…), but with one important distinction: I won’t be attempting anything dangerous. As such, skydiving and bungee jumping are definitely out of the question, as is swimming with sharks, cliff diving, and going to Port Vale away ever again.

These days, as I hurtle towards middle-age, I prefer my charity escapades to be feats of endurance, rather than anything which might result in serious injury or death. So, with that in mind, I have previously organised sponsored walks to away football matches (Macclesfield in 2013, and Hyde in 2015), as well as last year’s ‘Big Road Trip’, which involved myself and another good friend (who we shall call Gareth), driving 1,000 miles around the country, visiting twenty-eight football grounds in one weekend.

Our adopted good cause for these previous events, has been a children’s cancer charity based in Salford, called ‘Kidscan’. I first became aware of Kidscan, through my dealings with an online Stockport County fans’ forum in 2013, and since childhood cancer was affecting my wife’s family at the time, that’s when I took the decision to organise the first sponsored walk.

For my latest venture, I wanted to depart from anything to do with County (partly because there are no convenient away fixtures that we could realistically walk to this season – at least, not without a risk of snow – and partly because I simply fancied a change of direction), so I decided that my new hobby of running might be a suitable platform. Actually, ‘hobby’ implies that I enjoy running, whereas I merely tolerate it, in order to halt the advancement of middle-age spread. In all honesty, I am to running, what Boris Johnson is to foreign relations. Or running.

Having ruled out some kind of distance target (in my sleep-deprived state, I genuinely/naively Googled ‘how far is it to the moon?’, and then immediately dismissed the idea, when it transpired I would need to average 654 miles a day, for the entire year, to achieve my goal), I began considering other options.

Then, in a moment of weakness, I thought back to my first ever 10k race in September. At the time (and for a few days afterwards), I was telling anyone who would listen that I would never do it again. With aching limbs (and moderately tender nipples), still very much fresh in my memory, I had more chance of entering Iraq, or Katie Hopkins, than another 10k event.

However, time is very much a healer – of both memories and nipples (note to self: consider ‘Memories and Nipples’ as potential autobiography title), and it wasn’t long before I questioned whether I had been prematurely dismissive of competitive running. Maybe  I could grow to love it. Perhaps this was my sport after all. Perhaps I could still – even at my advanced stage of life – become one of the world’s great distance runners?

Ok, fine, if I’m honest, I just want more shiny medals to add to my collection (of one). Does that make me a bad person? No. If anything, it makes me a fucking magpie.

Then, one morning, I settled on the idea of running a number of 10k races throughout 2018. I briefly contemplated a challenge of doing one a month, but found this not only difficult to organise (I wanted to keep the events local, and there isn’t quite one a month in the surrounding area), but I also might need some flexibility in case of injury etc. So, having changed my plan slightly, I decided to try and run 10x10k instead.

The more I investigated the various running events throughout the calendar year, the more I realised that they all see it as one big competition between themselves, as they battle to be the best 10k event in Cheshire (not that such an accolade actually exists).

The ‘Knutsford 10k’ organisers claim to have the prettiest course and the biggest medal; the Alderley Edge 10k may be boring (the route essentially takes you down the ‘new’ bypass and back again), but is largely flat and promises the fastest times, not to mention a t-shirt in your goody bag at the finish; the ‘Poynton 10k’ is apparently like an assault course, with a route that includes some steps and a stile (although I do not necessarily consider this to be a good thing, as it’s meant to be a 10k race, not fucking Ninja Warrior UK).

In fact, each of my local 10k races seems to boast something the other’s don’t have, as if fickle sods like me are only attracted to material items and gimmicks, rather than the sheer love of running (ok, they got me, I’m only doing this for the silverware).

Each of the races I looked at, within a 25 mile radius of Sandbach, had their own individual appeal, with the exception of Market Drayton. Not only do they keep the contents of their goody bag a secret until the day of the race (how can I tell if I want to run their stupid 10k, until I know what I get at the end?), but the wearing of headphones is ‘strictly forbidden’ (despite it being a perfectly safe, fully road-closed, course) and results in instant disqualification. Well, Market Drayton 10k, I don’t care if you ‘sold out within 24 hours’ last year, as far as I’m concerned you can piss off with your shitty secretive goody bag, and I’m not running unless I can have music to distract me from my burning nips.

I’ve already paid the entry fee for five races: Kidsgrove in January, Poynton in March, Whitchurch in April, Knutsford in June, and Alderley Edge in July; and I have four other definite races pencilled in, which aren’t currently open for registration (including a repeat of the Sandbach 10k next September). For my tenth race, I am toying with the idea of a trip to see the in-laws in Norwich next August (which would be the largest event by some margin – several thousand runners, in fact), but there are a few alternative options if that doesn’t work out.

For now, I’m just eager to get going, as I think I’ll be less apprehensive when I have the first few races under my belt by Easter. All details – which will be updated as I go along – are contained within my JustGiving page, https://www.justgiving.com/greg10x10k, and if you feel like sponsoring me nearer the time, or joining me at any of the races (or both), well that’d be just grand.

And the best part about all of this? That’s at least ten blog entries for 2018 already.

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