Race Report – Birmingham International Marathon 15 October 2017

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I thought I’d better get this written down before I forgot it – I will forget to add some people’s names, and I’m sorry about that.

Yesterday, I completed the inaugural Birmingham International Marathon (there was a Birmingham marathon in the 1980s – more on that later). I had signed up for it a year in advance, then my training hit a bit of a rock in the road when I had to have some medical treatment this May. I knew that I hadn’t had enough time to get strength and conditioning training in as well as endurance running training in, and right up until the day, I wasn’t sure I had the physical resilience to complete it reasonably comfortably. I was prepared to take walk breaks and do what I needed to in order to get myself round in one piece.

Thanks here to all the people who kindly trained with me even though they don’t run so far (some of them) or so slowly (some of the same, and others). I did quite a few long runs with my friend Trudie and was thrilled to see her and so many others achieve their first marathons.

Before the race

I travelled to the race with my clubmate and neighbour Claire – I think I surprised her partner, who I’d never met before, by announcing “I’ve been to the loo enough times”. Runners are like this. We picked up Karen from nearby and drove to Alexander Stadium in Perry Barr – this was not as bad as at the start of the first Birmingham Half but needed some expert local knowledge. Thanks to Sam for the lift and pre-race photo: Karen, me and Claire. The halo effect is my hair – I had it dyed in orange stripes for the occasion as our running club colours are orange and black.

Claire’s amazing ability to find a nice loo worked really well, we found some good ones in the stadium and then hung out there, gathering other Lions as we went, and saying hello to friends from other clubs.

The start

The start was on the running track at the stadium – where amazing people like Mo Farah have run, what a privilege. We saw the Red start (fastest people, starting an hour earlier than us) go off as we arrived. When we went down to the start there were pens for your predicted finish; although this couldn’t be regulated it worked pretty well and I slotted into the 5:30-6:00 with some friends.

Trudie, Sam, me, Helen Claire at the start (Trudie’s photo)

View as we queued to start (Trudie’s photo)

We shuffled forward in that way that always reminds me of the digestive system, sets of us moving then stopping, we saw 106-year-old Fauja Singh BEM who was starting us off (the world’s oldest marathon runner) and we were off! The bit on the track led to a narrow part that was fine, then a weird side-sloping path down to the main road which was a bit tricky to navigate. 

Into town and out of town.

The first section undulated over a dual carriageway which made it really hard to judge pace. At one point I thought I’d gone too fast here but I think I judged it OK as you always slow in the second half and I had energy for a sprint finish. I was overtaken by Scott Lucas, who I’ve known for around 25 years (who’d have thought, 25 years ago etc) who must have got there late as should have started in front of me. I was thrilled to see my friend Gill at the Barton’s Arms pub in Newtown, waving my orange and black bobble hat and cheering us all on – the support was low along here so that was very welcome, as was seeing parkrun mate Feargal walking along the side of the road. I enjoy a weird road section so this was all OK. I also saw my friend Lesley, who’d done the Loch Ness Marathon a few weeks ago! She was running with a 100 Marathons Club person and had a whale of a time. We kept encountering each other for a few miles.

Mile 1 12:16

Mile 2 13:01

Mile 3 12:24

Once in town, we went through Aston University Campus; the cameras from the Made in Birmingham channel were there and I shamelessly showboated and shouted the club’s name. I met a nice couple of runners from the Shropshire Shufflers and ran with them for a bit; I’d lost Trudie and Sam slightly behind me but they caught up with me here and we ran together until Highgate.

Mile 4 12:47 (this had a horrible out and back to make up the distance but I saw Trudie and Sam)

Mile 5 12:25 (down under the bridge into Digbeth)

Digbeth and Highgate

This was not very International Marathon. There was little support, such that we got thrilled when a man gave us a thumbs-up. We ran round where the skips live – hooray! The course was very wiggly and it had been hard to work out it in training, so that was easier. There was no line marked on the road to follow, which was a bit weird.

Mile 6 12:14 (what? This was UP Digbeth High Street, but a drop in elevation in total!)

Mile 7 12:54

After Digbeth it was into Highgate / Balsall Heath – quite a lot more support especially on this first loop, with clubmates out in force on Willows Road. At this point, Duncan from club overtook us. I thought he had started late then realised he was lapping us! He got an under 3 hour marathon, so this was to be expected.

There was a water station before Willows Road – a lady shouting instructions called my by name (I had Elizabeth on my bib) and it was my old friend from the gym, Zippy! Lisa from running club was also at the water station, which I had expected, and it was lovely to see her, too.

Mile 8 12:48 (keeping nice and consistent to my 13:00 mm plan)

Cannon Hill Park and out past the cricket ground (1)

Coming into CHP I had lost touch with Trudie and Sam but could still see them. I knew the cheering station for KHRC was there, and also YES spotted my friends Ali and Meg outside the tea rooms! Fabulous and Ali took a lovely photo of me running through this park I seem to be always in. Then the cheer station – wonderful – a sea of faces so that I got anxious looking for Jenny and missed some people. Jenny had my fuel bag and got me gels and a bottle of lucozade sport out and took my salomon squash bottle off me.

Fuelling: I took a gel or food once every 45 minutes as planned. Around 400ml of squash in the first 8 miles then a 500ml bottle of lucozade sport that I topped up at water stations, and I also had a gulp of water at any water stations where I’d just had a gel. I didn’t use the loo or get dehydrated or thirsty, and, like last time, only hit mental, not physical walls.

Across the bridge and through the car park and then round the cricket ground car park … in last year’s half it was full of support and sound systems, this year, nothing. I tried to encourage someone from the red wave on who was suffering.

Mile 9 12:15 (Downhill and cheering station excitment!)

Coming out of the cricket ground, I was expecting more friends, I’d been chatting to a bloke running for John Taylor Hospice and telling him I was watching out for a daffodil, and just after a charity support bus there were Lis and Andy Yu, Welsh Lis resplendent in her daffodil hat. Andy took a great couple of pics of me here – thank you!

Mile 10 12:40

Now we were onto the Pershore Road and the real chance to see loads and loads of running friends, from club, other clubs and parkrun. This was wonderful and really gave me something to concentrate on. However, my bum and inner thighs were starting to pain me here. I did some extra hip stretches at yoga on Friday (entirely my decision) and I think this was a mistake. I started to drop speed from now.

Pershore Road Loop (1)

This was a hard part of the course. You ran all the way to Bournville down the Pershore Road (seeing other runners going back up the other side, until the zig-zag they took away from the road) then UP Mary Vale Road, down Linden Road, and down Bournville Lane, rejoining Pershore Road then going up the hill of Selly Park Road and down Kensington Road, rejoining Pershore Road (seeing fellow runners on their second loop) ALL THE WAY UP to nearly the ring road, then down through Highgate again.

But, I did see people I knew every half-mile or more. There were individuals outside houses, there were stray Bournville Harriers and Kings Heath Running Club folks, there were people from Run and Talk and parkrun, and this made it much more fun.

Mile 11 13:01

It got quite hard when there was no one going up the other side of the road. Still Up the hill towards Mary Vale then up Mary Vale. I told myself if I ran it this time, I could walk it next time. Fine. Made much better by seeing running club friend Sam yelling my name and encouraging me, then zipping back to Bournville Lane to cheer me again!maintaining my pace.

Mile 12 13:31 ()

Down Linden Road and Bournville Lane. This is where I saw a bevy of Kings Heath folks and Alan from Run and Talk which really spurred me on. It was much better supported here than other years, I felt. That was my last under 13:00 minute mile until Mile 22. I got to the 14 point (on my watch, which was out from the signs) in exactly 3 hours, so realised I had 3 hours to do 12 miles (15 minute miles) to get in under my PB. This seemed doable and it was easy to judge in 15-minute intervals how well I was doing against that.

Mile 13 12:33

There was a water table outside Masala Merchant along here. I asked the man serving people to pop some water in my lucozade bot

tle. All the while, my friend Louise was hopping up and down trying to get my attention. I turned, saw her: hooray!

Mile 14 13:31 (A mile of ups and downs, up Selly Park Road and down Kensington Road. See Mary Vale for my bargain with my future walking self. However, Bournville Harriers’ cheer station was at the top and my goodness they put on a good wall of sound, with cowbells and calling me by name – wonderful!)

Mile 15 13:19 (Picking it up again when I realised I was losing my pace, back onto Pershore and seeing others on their second loop.)

Mile 16 13:50 (Round again – we saw the sign, Marathon Loop or Finish, and obviously chose loop. Argh! A slightly dark moment.)

Cannon Hill Park and out by the cricket ground (2)

It was hard going round again. Although some families and kids were still out in Highgate, I saw Zippy and Lisa again at the water station and the lovely blokes from the fruiterers on Willows Road were there, the club supporters had gone into town to see people to the end (fair enough!) and when I got into Cannon Hill Park, it looked like Ali and Meg had also gone (they hadn’t, they had missed me by believing when I said I’d be coming through again. Finding out they did try to see me was a big boost, weirdly, afterwards). But I did see the Boldmere Bullets and Swifts cheering stations and had a sweet from Richard Swifts which helped get me to the KHRC cheering station.

At the cheering station, it was just as amazing, lots of people had gone to run the half marathon, others into town to catch people finishing, but one fast marathon man had come back to the park to cheer others on – how wonderful! Jenny leapt out at me as I shouted “Banana and hot cross bun!” She’d got the banana peeled by the time I reached her and although I had a horrible feeling I’d chomped it out of her hand, I did in fact break it off politely. Emma rushed up to check I was OK, I wailed, “I’ve lost my pace!” and pressed on.

Through the MAC car park, past people singing Crazy In Love which had to be joined in with, along by the abandoned ghostbusters car and I encountered my Shropshire Stumblers friends again. In the wastes of the cricket ground I came up behind an older chap in a “People’s Marathon 1982” vest – yes, he’d run the original Birmingham Marathon, how wonderful.

Mile 17 13:54 (Uphill, a bit lonely.)

Mile 18 13:39 (Downhill, a pause by the cheer station, then willed on by them.)

Pershore Road (2) and the half-marathon catches us

Onto the Pershore Road and bloody well along it again, however there was a couple singing an Erasure song which really cheered me. still seeing friends on the other side which was the lift I needed. Far fewer spectators now but as we were so spread out, a lot calling my name. This helps so much! I saw lovely Allie Livesley and husband Tim, who I’d cheered through the red start, which was a huge bonus.

Mile 19 13:55

I’d told myself I wasn’t allowed to walk until after I’d walked in the Reykjavik Marathon, which I thought was mile 14 and was actually Mile 12. Things were hurting now – bum, inner thighs, hams, calves – and when I got to the 19 mile marker I collapsed briefly into huge, racking sobs. I walked and two lovely ladies from Bromsgrove talked me through it. They were amazing and I am very grateful to them. I got going again, but that was hard as every single person in front of and behind me seemed to be walking. I tried to get people to run with me, to no avail, but set off again, slightly grimly.

Mile 20 15:12 (slowest mile. Slowest mile in Iceland was 15:38 and I had two over 15:00 minute miles.)

Then, two motorbikes zoomed past on almost the narrowest part of Pershore Road, flanking what looked like Will who often comes first at parkrun, the front runner in the half-marathon which started at 1.30. Then a bicycle with a rider shouting Keep Left. I immediately moved to the left and tried to tell other walkers / runners to do so, unfortunately many of them had headphones on. I was in marshal mode then I was all do your own race, Liz, so thought, but somehow shouted, “Not my circus: not my monkeys” and just carried on.

As we went round the Bournville Loop, the half-marathoners came thicker and faster. It was quite scary, and got more so as they rushed down Bournville Lane and onto Pershore Road. I want to emphasise here that it was not good for us OR them, and I felt for them as they had to negotiate people who were often right across the road, going slowly. Even people like me keeping well left could present an obstacle. But for me, I was running my race, trying hard and had people zooming past, almost running into me, and I was very scared at this point. Thank goodness, the lovely Becks from running club raced across the road, resplendent in her orange hoody, and ran beside me to keep me safe – she’d done this for a few of us who all came through one after the other. Amazingly timed and hugely appreciated.

Mile 21 14:31 (Up Mary Vale Road. But hooray, my friend (and fellow-runner) Daisy was on the corner with a cheerful shout!)

Mile 22 12:57 (Not bad for Mile 22! Down Bournville Lane. I was with a chap running for Macmillan who had a stress fracture: hope he did OK.)

Along Pershore again and Louise again – slightly less energetic this time:

Also, not many spectators!

Then it was up Selly Park Road – and BVH again, thank goodness. Stacey and Emma cheered me through and I ran up their bit of hill after walking up the main bit. Down again and more Pershore Road. But soon enough though we reached the split off point! I was however running in the left-hand gutter all the way, stepping into drains regularly, to keep out of the way of half-marathon runners. This took a real toll on my left knee and ankle. I did encourage (boss) half-marathoners who had stopped with a cheery, “I’ve run shedloads further than you and I’m old enough to be your MOTHER, come ON!” I was playing tag with a fellow KHRCer here (Ken?) who was working hard, too.

Mile 23 13:49 (Up and down, so not bad. At this point I knew I had my PB if nothing bad happened.)

Mile 24 13:33 (Last time, too, I felt stronger in the last miles, and enjoyed them. Apart from running in the gutter.)

Splitting off and the end game

Having seen the sweeper van going down Pershore Road (not on the same side as me), we pushed on to the gantry and this time took the Finish direction – straight on into town. This was a slower mile as I did tire a bit and was aching and still in the gutter. I kept saying it was OK to walk but I didn’t, I just kept trotting slowly on.

Mile 25 14:08 (This was slightly downhill so hm.)

Then it was time to finish! Well, I knew by now that my watch was coming up with the mile marker about 0.3-0.4 of a mile before each physical mile marker, so I’d be doing over 26.2 miles all told, so I kept pushing. Town came up fast, up through Digbeth and then eeeech up a tight slope by Selfridges onto Moor Street. I was gritting my teeth but enjoying it, big crowds, lots of shouts and I RAN up that bit, amazingly. Then there was a downhill and I was cry-laughing and got lots of shouts for being that kind of cry-laughing person finishing a marathon.

Except it didn’t finish. It went up again. My watch registered 26 miles. 26 miles showed up, still we went and went. I shouted “Where’s the effing finish?” sorry, I did. I think it might have moved on the map when they changed the route slightly at Balsall Heath Road. It went up. I checked my watch – coming up for 5:50:00 so all OK (previous PB was 6:01:12}. Push push, don’t cry, look for Matthew. I felt like I was flying and my last half-mile was a very good speed for me so I think I judged it OK in the end, even though I slowed for the second half. I saw Matthew, hooray, and didn’t shout any weird requests at him (last time, I asked him to take a photo of a random Alaskan … ). Couldn’t see the end, then there’s the end, showboat for cameras, look up as you come through the finish for the video, press the button on the watch, done!

Mile 26 13:47 (But a GAP of 12:50, a pace that allows for hills. Yo.)

Mile 26.4 11:57 (26.48 miles on the Garmin. Pleased I did have a kick at the end.)

You might be able to view a video replay of the route here.

Finish

The finish was quite well-organised. We were corralled into Marathon on the left, Half-Marathon on the right and I got my goody bag (plastic bag with water, Randoms sweets, a Trek bar, the usual leaflets and some seed cereal topping, a foil cape and a medal and tshirt). I then found Trudie, Dave, Sam and Helen, Trudie, Sam and Helen had come through together a few minutes before me. I went off to find Matthew and inhaled my banana and banana milk then we picked our way round the crowds (very tall man: “Did you do the full? Congratulations!”) and got the bus home.

There was a curry that night that we hobbled up to – lots of chat and “Did you see” and well dones. Everyone did so well and it was a privilege to see so many people achieve their first marathon. I have raised over £500 so far for the Birmingham Women’s Hospital charity which I’m very pleased about, too.

Result and thoughts

My time was 05:52:23 so an almost 9-minute Personal Best. I came in position 4769 out of 5203 marathon runners, which put me at the 91.65% of finishers (up from 1279 out of 1306 or 97.93% last time).

I had little chafing, thanks to the amazing product, Body Glide, and no blisters. My ankle and knee are a little sore, but not swollen or damaged as far as I can tell. I have inexplicable bicep and elbow pain in the arm that was not holding my drink.

Would I do another marathon? Yes. Would I do this one again? Not with this route or organisation between marathon and half-marathon.

It was MUCH easier doing my second marathon. I had my fuelling and hydration sorted out already and knew I could do it. I ran up more hills and did more yoga this time, and ran more in general, and all this served me well.

It was less scenic than Iceland of course, but the local support was aMAZing. Thanks to all who sponsored and supported me in whatever way. And sorry to anyone I’ve left out of this account!

 

 

Book reviews – Phil Hewitt – “Keep on Running”, Joel H. Cohen – “How to Lose a Marathon” and Lisa Jackson – “Your Pace or Mine?” #amreading #amrunning

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A little bit of a themed read and post today, and by the time this is published, I’ll have run and completed my second marathon, the Birmingham International Marathon [edited to add, I did it!]. This is the first time we’ve had a marathon in my home city since the 80s (some of my running friends ran those ones!) so it’s pretty special and exciting, and as a result of this, lots of my running pals have been inspired to run their first marathon, and someone’s worked out that over 1% of the whole field will be made up of our running club! I’ve been reading or re-reading a few marathon-themed books in the run-up (ha) to the event, so here’s a little cluster of reviews (two full, one re-read and a little mention, so hopefully not too much of a reading marathon (groan)).

Phil Hewitt – “Keep on Running”

(22 March 2017)

Subtitled “The Highs and Lows of a Marathon Addict”, this is the story of one man taking up (only) marathon running (I think he does one half), with a chapter each on some of the major and smaller races he’s taken part in. It does read like a series of race reports once he’s got the basic training in – because that’s what it essentially is – but they are interesting.

I loved the mentions of how the mass runners are racing with the elites, giving a real contrast as well with the fact that he usually trained alone. He talks of the anoraky way that you need to add up your timings in a race, and it was interesting to read about the usefulness but also joy-sapping nature of the Garmin GPS watch, which came in part way through his running career. I’ve gone from stopwatch to Garmin but I try to use the Garmin to keep a record and make sure I’m not overdoing it, but he becomes a bit addicted to watching his pace, one that’s very much faster than mine, I admit!

His notes on big city runs needing good quality routes hit home a bit when I thought of the somewhat “our industrial heritage gone to seed” and “here is this same stretch of road four times” nature of the Birmingham International Marathon: he definitely wouldn’t like our one! But I loved his different reactions to routes depending on his mood and the conditions going in – it’s very much a true and warts and all story.

Most of all, although he usually runs sub-4 hour marathons, I loved his sincere admiration for his father in law, Michael, and all the other runners who are out on the course for many more hours than he is (although he does talk about older or compromised runners which undermines that a little) and his description of Michael’s wonderfully supportive running club. His best race experience and the most heart-warming part of the book is when he witnesses Michael coming through the end of the Berlin marathon being interviewed by the press and to huge cheers from the crowd.

A bit blokey in parts and honest, but a decent read with a lot of recognisable stuff.

Joel H. Cohen – “How to Lose a Marathon”

(23 August 2017)

A book about another unfit man’s running journey and path to the New York Marathon, with the end of the book being devoted to the race report. The author is so self-deprecating about his “terrible” running and writing that it all gets a bit laboured, but there are genuinely funny moments, too. He says it’s the book he wanted to read when he started running and didn’t know what to do, and has useful explanations of terminology and some good points about training, although not set out in a way that would particularly help someone else (he records his own marathon training mileage with funny comments, but not really a standard one for someone to follow, for example, which is fine). I think basically he wanted a book that told him a real person could run, and this certainly does this (although his so slow he’s almost going backwards speed is actually the highest end of my speed spectrum with a fair wind and not for 26 miles). I do love that his main aim is to beat Oprah’s marathon time.

I liked his espousal of other running books, and the startling discovery, reading “Born to Run” (which I bought just the other week), that people actually enjoy running! And I loved his practice of popping some small mints into his pocket and bringing them out as “Hill Pills” that will magically help him up hills, something I might well try out. His nuggets of wisdom are great, too (you can’t run 5 miles until you’ve run 4, bad runs happen to good people, etc.) and he’s genuinely emotional and celebratory about the achievements of the people who come in behind him in the marathon: he’s at his best when he ditches the very silly stuff.

Lisa Jackson – “Your Pace or Mine?”

(25 July 2016)

A re-read of this excellent, wonderful book, which allayed my fears as a slow runner before my Reykjavik Marathon last year (with a much smaller field, I really could have come last; I didn’t) and was very helpful for calming any nerves this time round, too. I would recommend this to anyone who likes a running book. Sections on what running has taught Lisa about, for example, not giving up, lifesaving (but who saves whom?) and dreaming big are capped with other people’s real life stories, and there are laughs, tears and smiles of recognition throughout. I can’t think of a better book to re-read in the run-up to the big race.

A longer and more detailed review from last year’s first read can be found here.

The Dorling Kindersley Complete Running & Marathon

(some time earlier in the year)

Matthew picked this up for me from the Book People table at his work and I will admit to not having read all of it, but the section on marathon day was excellent, full of good, calm and sensible advice. I will go through all the stretching and other sections another time, but I do recommend this for newbie and experienced runners.

Book review – Adharanand Finn – “The Way of the Runner” #amreading #books #running

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I’m hopefully caught up with the other book blogs I read by the time this comes out – I’d got really behind through a combination of working, running and reading, and felt bad. I hope my readers have stuck with me during this blog-reading rut!

Anyway, I read Finn’s book about running with the Kenyans recently and was a little unimpressed with his attitude to club runners / amateur runners / slow runners. But one commenter who has read both reassured me that he loses that attitude in this one, and I’d arranged a swap with a friend so we could both read both, so I decided to just go for it.

Adharanand Finn – “The Way of the Runner”

(borrowed from Jenny)

A little after his Kenyan adventure, Finn, about to hit 40, looks at how statistically good the Japanese are at marathons and moves there for six months to study their training and competitions. As you do. In particular he looks at – and tries to get into the world of – the immensely popular sport of ekiden, a long-distance relay competition that puts a high value on teamwork as well as individual performance and thus in some ways sums up how Japanese society works.

Finn handily runs into some Kenyans who have been recruited into company ekiden teams – because that’s how it works: people are paid a salary by the big companies to run for them, sometimes not even having to do any other work for the company. Like in Kenya, more than a couple of people at a time can actually make a living from running, and this is contrasted with the situation in the UK, which is fair enough. Meeting the Kenyan runners allows Finn to contrast the training methods used in the two countries – in Kenya based on the individual and their own motivation and involving running on trails and resting a lot more; in Japan based on teams being berated by a coach and running high volumes on hard surfaces (although this is beginning to change). There’s a concentration on high school and university competitions which Finn feels works towards a high burnout rate among young athletes, and he wonders how well Japanese runners could do with more trails and rest. He manages to talk to an independent runner (a rare thing) who backs some of this up.

Another aspect looked at is the fabled 1000-marathon monks. Do they really run 1000 marathons in 1000 days? (erm, you can probably guess the answer) It’s an interesting contrast with the ekiden runners.

Although Finn manages to join an older people’s running club (and meets another where many of the runners are over 70 – good for them!), his main effort is put into trying to break into bits of a notoriously closed society – and usually failing. This does lead to some interesting philosophical musings about training if there’s no race to do.

And, as promised, while it dwells on the decline in British fast long-distance running over the past few decades, it is not nearly as disparaging about club and amateur runners, and more self-critical about his need for records and times. So, a good read.

Book review – Adharanand Finn – “Running with the Kenyans”

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Look at this lovely set of almost completely random books I bought in Cornwall last October. A running book, a music bio, a school story and a Bloomsbury reprint. Anyway, today we have a running book that quite a lot of people I know have read and seemed keen on. I do like reading about other runners but I’m more used to them being a bit more understanding and supportive of other runners, something I loved about Jo Pavey‘s book, for example, where she shared how she loves taking part in mass participation races with all the club runners and other people who don’t run for a living, but for the love of it. This chap almost sees the point in a couple of places – maybe we are running for the joy of it, but is a bit more mean-spirited than I really like in my running books. Anyway, on with the review …

Adharanand Finn – “Running with the Kenyans”

(03 October 2016)

An interesting book in which the author ups sticks and moves himself and his wife and three children to Kenya in a last-ditch attempt to become a “proper” runner. His aim is to complete his first marathon in a few months’ time (a scary marathon where they have to clear lions off the course).

Training is very different there, with simple sessions involving effort but not as much constant recording of data on watches as you might think, but Finn is disappointed to see no evidence of the barefoot running he’s heard about and which the Kenyans are famous for (it turns out they build up stamina and toughness running to and from school etc. but are then put into trainers and taught how to negotiate races – I hope this isn’t too much of a spoiler and I won’t reveal the secret of their success, which Finn is obviously also looking for).

Running in Kenya is a way of life, you do it because you’re good at it and you have a chance of doing well for yourself. The only recreational runners are more well-off people who run in the city. And this is where the author loses me a bit, because even though he experiences what it’s like to run at the back of the pack over there, I didn’t feel he needed to be quite so disparaging and plain nasty about people who don’t run professionally in first world countries. I do understand that he’s contrasting the all-or-nothing world of living eating carbs and running training, hoping to be spotted and to win prize money with the life of a person who runs as a hobby, but he’s really pretty sneery about club runners (let alone non-club ones), grey-haired men with bandy legs doing the cross-country for the fun of it and – shock, horror – those people who can “only” run 10-minute miles. He also claims there are only a few dedicated club runners who turn out for races in all sorts of weather conditions, etc. Although, as I said, I do understand the contrast he’s highlighting, as someone who puts quite a lot of effort and energy into encouraging people along their beginner runner journey to the proven physical and mental health benefits of regular exercise, and someone who has gained those herself and is proud of her 6 hour 1 minute marathon, I think he could have been a little kinder.

I did enjoy the stories of the Kenyan runners and getting behind the scenes info on some of the people we’ve seen excelling in marathons etc. on our screens, and the description of the marathon as well as the way his children integrate into the village is very nicely done. I will be reading the next book, set in Japan. but with slight reservations.


Has a book annoyed you recently?

Book review – Arnaldur Indridason – “Outrage” #books #amreading

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TBR shelf March 2017So here I am, persisting with just about the only crime series I’ll read. I started them because they’re set in Reykjavik and not too gruesome, but they are good in their own right, too. Before we start, did you see my COMPETITION to win a copy of Laura Bates’ “Girl Up”? It’s a proper giveaway just by me, not a funny thing to (not) click through to, so give it a go if you’re in or related to the target audience. Oh, and some Book Confessions below …

Arnaldur Indriðason – “Outrage”

(August 2015 or thereabouts)

I’m slowly working my way through my pile of Reykjavik Murder Mysteries, and I have to say that this was a real return to form after I didn’t think so much of “Hypothermia” back in December.

This one is centred around Detective Elinborg, so we learn more about her home and family life as she investigates the grisly murder of a possible rapist. Things are never easy in detectives’ lives, are they – even I know that – but it’s well done and sets her work against a happy marriage but difficulties with two of her children, one of whom has taken to blogging about them all.

I really liked the way that Elinborg’s love of cooking (before this one, I think about the only personal detail we knew about her was that she’d published a cookery book) was brought in to help her to solve the mystery, as her sense of smell and knowledge of the cooking supplies shops locally help her to unravel clues. I also enjoyed the Reykjavik location, mainly set in the network of streets between the lake and the church, but also featuring a visit to a small town and a look at what it’s like to live in a more isolated area.

Sigurdur Oli is a minor character in this one, messing things up for Elinborg, in fact, and Erlendur, the central character in the previous novels is off looking into his past, only being mentioned in passing. There’s a mystery there for the next book. A good read.


Some confessions now. But the first ones since my lovely glut of review copies …

In fact, I’ve already read and reviewed “Girl Up” of course, as I wanted to get it read and out there. The Debbie Macombers are all set in, you’ve guessed it, Alaska, and are only just out. I’m saving these up for when I need some comfort reads, but I’ve checked and it is a new series – she’s quite good at publishing books under different titles in the US and UK, or republishing old ones, both of which are OK of course, but you do have to check.

Phil Hewitt’s “Keep on Running”, which is about his multiple marathons as a “normal” runner (rather than an elite), was recommended to me by the lovely Cari, a friend originally from BookCrossing, but now also on Facebook. She and I used to join each other’s bookrings like mad, liking the same reading. I recently noted she’d started running (hooray!) and now we can recommend running books to each other, too!

Have you got any authors you stockpile for gloomy, sad or unwell days?

Book reviews – Being Freddie and Your Pace or Mine? #books #20BooksOfSummer

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Aug 2016 TBR

Two sporty books today, one from the TBR and a #20BooksOfSummer read, the other an impulse buy after a recommendation from a running club friend, which I have since recommended on to many others. It’s a little ironic that I have probably read more than 20 books since starting the summer challenge, however it is nice to make a pile of books and keep to it, and I am working my way nicely through that pile.

Andrew Flintoff – “Being Freddie”

(6 October 2015 – from a box of books donated to BookCrossing by a running club friend)

I picked this out of the box because I do like a sporting biography and also like cricket. This did show me that I’ve lost touch with the younger generation of cricketers, but was still enjoyable.

This autobiography (ghost-written but acknowledged as such) takes us up to winning the Ashes in 2005. Thanking his publisher for getting the book out so soon after the Ashes, a lot of the final chapters are devoted to a blow-by-blow account, so it’s in a way more of a memento for that series than it is a book to keep for the illuminating life story. There are the requisite cricketing stats in the back, so it is one for the real fan of the sport.

It does take us through his career, injuries, exercise plans and friends/ colleagues, but the massive gap and the elephant in the room once you know about it is that he does not mention the eating disorder which undermined his life and health during his professional career. He talked about this five-odd years later, and it does make the book come out a bit odd, half a story.

Well-written, though, and full of funny anecdotes as well as play-by-play cricket.

This was Book 13 in my #20BooksOfSummer project.

Lisa Jackson – “Your Pace or Mine?”

(25 July 2016)

One of Jackson’s blog posts for Runner’s World was shared on Facebook by a running club friend and the next thing I knew, I was clicking on the buying link. A perfectly timed read for me, this lovely book chronicles the ups and downs and learning points of Jackson’s marathon and ultra experiences. It’s not a how-to book and there’s little about her training, nutrition, etc., but that’s not what this book is for (she’s written a how to run book, too, which covers all that).

What it is is a joyful celebration of being a SLOW runner and enjoying herself far more (right) at the back than she would further forward (her worst marathon experience was when she got her 4:38 PB and couldn’t talk to anyone). She shares what she’s learned in themed sections, not forgetting about adversity and the death of her close running pals and relatives – the book does literally make you laugh and cry.

She also shares other people’s stories, both family members, people she’s met during races and more elite athletes who even share why they do it in the first place (not, mainly, for the medals or glory). There’s even a place to record your own favourite runs at the back.

I loved this book. It’s so inspiring and one to press onto people and read again and again. The production values are high in a nice-looking and well-made book, the editing is excellent, and it’s a must-read for the slower or novice runner.

I’m a bit behind in my reviewing, so look out for a review of #20BooksofSummer books 14 and 15, coming soon (the Kynaston is finished! and I read a great Icelandic novel, too). I’m now into Edith Wharton’s “The Reef”, as well as about to finish Jo Pavey’s inspiring autobiography. The Wharton is a 20Books book, leaving me with thre and a bit to finish by 5 September – I think I can do it!

Book reviews – A Mixture of Frailties and No Run Intended plus a small confession #20BooksOfSummer

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TBR July 2016Well, I’ve finished and reviewed both of my books for Shiny New Books and will link to them when they come out, and I’m reading away at my other books now. Although, looking at the picture to the left, I don’t seem to have chipped away at much of the actual TBR. How can this be? One of these books was from a pile on my bedside table (‘current reading’, which is a misnomer and a half, as I’ve been reading this Robertson Davies trilogy for ages!) and my Kindle, and the other book I’ve just finished (read all about that one on Monday) was on the Kindle, too. Anyway, here we go – one full review of a great book and one quick review of a not quite as wonderful one.

Robertson Davies – “A Mixture of Frailties”

(25 September 2014)

The last in the Salterton Trilogy and a great read. Solly’s dreadful mother has finally died, but she’s left a truly hateful will which has the effect of souring Solly’s genial and light-hearted nature and turning everything around it grim. It holds up everything, Solly’s inheritance, Miss Puss’s acquisition of the best tea service, the cathedral’s bequest, until Solly produces a male heir with the new young wife who his mother loathed. In the meantime, the interest from the capital must be used to provide an education to a young woman in the arts, and a sermon must be produced annually. The will must be processed within a year or the lawyer will lose the lucrative running of the trust to his bitter rival. Of course, this has the desired effect of panicking everyone and starting loads of nasty gossip.

Aspiring singer Monica is duly found and packed off to England, where we follow her for much of the book. She has all sorts of adventures and meets all sorts of eccentric musicians (this part reminded me of some of my beloved mid-century women authors, as well as good old Trollope), including Giles and his circle of misfit Bohemians. Her practical Canadian nature and naive artistic yearnings conspire to put her into a very rum position indeed, and it becomes unclear as to whether she will return home in disgrace or triumph. It’s also unclear how things will go with her family, who belong to a weird cult and cut themselves off from the rest of society.

It’s a delightful book with some dark happenings which aren’t dwelt on but do have an effect on the characters and story. Trollopian again and just a really good read. I wish more people read Davies, as he’s just so good at characters, plots, setting up the atmosphere of a small town or community and keeping it funny but not too funny.

This was Book Number 11 in my #20BooksOfSummer project

This book would suit … Those who love a big, involving, gossipy, small community novel that has an old-fashioned realist tendency and a biting wit at times. ANYONE!

Hannah Phillips – “No Run Intended”

(Ebook, bought 17 July 2016)

This was recommended in general chat by a running friend; it’s the warts-and-all story of how one lady started running and overcame a few disasters along the way. It’s a memoir rather than a how-to book, which is fine, and it is light-hearted and funny, but I had a few issues with it, unfortunately. First off, the gears change quite dramatically in the middle when family heartbreak comes along. This is of course awful and you feel for the author, but it makes for an uneasy mix, although I’m not sure how this could have been overcome. Secondly, she talks about personal disasters that she has (bodily fluids are involved) but in the main she doesn’t look at or explain how they happened. If I was a new runner learning that this could happen, I’d like to know how to prevent it! Lastly, and I try not to grumble about this sort of thing, there were lots of unfortunate typos (there was one in the book description, so I should have been warned). Some are really bizarre, and I’m not sure what’s happened there, as the author thanks an editor in the acknowledgements. *Edited to add: with horrible inevitability, I managed to spell the author’s name incorrectly in this review. I sincerely apologise and here’s a link to see all the lovely 5-star reviews on Amazon and buy the book.

So, she used an editor and cover designer, it’s funny and encouraging and lets people know about Run Mummy Run, which is a group a few of my friends belong to, and anything that helps people not fear starting to run has to be good. But perhaps not the right book for me right now.

This book will suit … new or would-be runners with a sense of humour who don’t mind the odd bodily fluid splashing around.

Running booksI’m still plodding on with the Kynaston, and hope to devote some time to it over the weekend, and I have picked Ann Bridge’s “A Lighthearted Quest” off the shelf to read as my next novel read, although I have some running books I need to read soon, too. Here they are, actually – I was recommended the Lisa Jackson one by someone in my running club who shared an article by the author, then the Jo Pavey one seemed to fall into my shopping basket … One good aspect of my marathon training is that I’m going up to bed earlier and spending more time reading; and both of these need to be read before the mara, really. Or before the Olympics start, in the case of the Jo Pavey one!

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