More than half out of the box

I’m writing this a week late, on account of the fact that last Sunday afternoon I unaccountably fell asleep on the sofa for two and a half hours.  Poor excuse, I know, but it’s been a  busy week.

During the previous week I had visited The Run Shop in Hove. I arrived good & early to beat the rush but, em, found them closed! Fortunately Ethel’s Kitchen opposite does the best cakes ever and I sat whilst an Americano and a hot chocolate brownie slipped deliciously down my throat.


While sitting there I had two surprise visitors: Fred who was off to Run’s store in Worthing and then Claire, who was taking baby Emma for a walk.  Claire informed me that the BIG man Daren was home so I took myself off there… for more coffee and more cake!

When I returned to Run, Kurt was mobbed with customers, but he’s a really good juggler and he managed to seamlessly add me to the people he was attentively serving.

A little later I was kitted out with new splodge and new socks and the weekend couldn’t come quickly enough!

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The previous week I had also met the lovely guys from Armadillo Merino and although their gear is designed primarily for professional risk takers, it seemed as if it would be pretty good for amateur runners too.  Aside from this, my brother Nigel loves merino wool gear, which is a pretty good recommendation, so I invested in a new t-shirt.

One of the things that Armadillo said is that I’d only want to take it off to wash it (which is not that frequently due to it’s natural odour control properties)… and they were right!  I’ve been wearing it pretty much non-stop since I got it!

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In between meeting Armadillo and going to Run I had spent a fun evening in Lewes with Mark Johnson… in fact I was sat at dinner between him and Richard Garland of Gradient Consultants, who just happened to also be an ultra-marathoner!  A recurrent theme of conversation was my elusive next marathon!

I’ve been caught like this before, by Grant in 2004 (hence doing the Berlin marathon that year), so I’m quite wary of what I say… and reserve the right to change my mind again Mark!

So Sunday eventually came round and there I was, like a small child at Christmas, getting ready to run before 8am!  One final touch was required… some energy!


And then I was off, curious to know what my new splodge could do straight out of the box…. and whether I really could do a marathon in three weeks time.  I headed up to Oldlands Mill where the view was beautiful.


Then to Ditchling and up the Beacon track, where I was grateful that a walker commented on how hot and humid it was… I thought it was just me!

I continued along the top to Jack and Jill then turned around to do the return journey.  It was hard already and I was way past half way through my water, but hey-ho, it was a lovely day to be out and about.

The sun went behind a cloud as I reached the top of Lodge Hill so I took a few photos looking back at the Beacon (aka quick rest).


Then it was back to base for a cold shower and, as I previously mentioned, a rather long snooze on the sofa with my feet angled up onto cushions.

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So the new splodge and I managed 13.75 miles (more than half a marathon) in 2:37, a respectable average of 5.25mph.  Socks, t-shirt and shoes were all great… I’ve lost count of the number of these shoes I’ve had in the ten years we’ve been customers at Run (though I still have them all so a photo will be forthcoming in due course!).

Right, now on to write about this week!


Kurt-tailing my pace

T’was a Brighton sunny morning and I was really looking forward to adding some more photos to these pages like the ones on the 12th December.  Alas, the second time I remembered that I had forgotten to retrieve my Blackberry from the charger, I was already driving through Ditchling.

At least I had realised earlier, even if I had forgotten to act on it.

I sat at Falmer and waited, hoping that the guys hadn’t changed the venue or the time and watching something I’ve not seen before… a vapour trail that was moving as quickly sideways across the sky as the aircraft making it was moving forwards.  Windy up there then!

Andy arrived first, having cycled from the other side of Brighton and then Cliff pitched up with newbie ‘Leigh, no really a guy (male)’ [strange name huh?].

The guys got their excuses in early.  In addition to running most of the way to work and back one day in the week, Cliff had been swimming (racing?) yesterday with King Mandy (the circuits teacher) and had a bad back this morning.  Andy reiterated that he had cycled rather than driven to Falmer and would be doing likewise on the return leg.  Leigh had never run for more than an hour.  I have no time for excuses.

We ran up alongside the Falmer Road, pausing at the top to wait for Cliff and his excuses to catch up, and then went left across to Newmarket Copse.  From here we ran up to the ridge and out to Kingston on the Juggs Road.  Having run down the Downs, I tested my colleagues mettle by suggesting that we ran back up to the top and come down again.  Leigh said yes without hesitating, Cliff demurred but said he would do press-ups for the duration, which seemed fair enough, but Andy outright refused… sensible man that he is.

We ran onward past the new windmill, past a myriad of potentially beautiful photographs and down into Lewes, before running up to the Prison.  Andy was conspicuously absent as we ascended the hill as he had gone the wrong way at the bottom, or some such excuse… they were all out today.

He moved to the front as we ran up towards Lewes Racecourse, but he disappeared again to stop for a pee and we had to wait for him again a little further up.

As we ran up towards Blackcap we had a little blast of the wind that had been blowing the vapour trail, although my attention was drawn from it by a lithe horse galloping past us into the distance… not one of the normal pony plodders, this.

As I was working out my tactics for beating Andy to the top (a rare trick, if you can manage it), we became aware of some runners sneaking up behind us.  Testosterone to the four, we picked up the pace a little, so I was then surprised when the first two guys slid past me barely ten paces later… one greeting me heartily as he did.

It was the inimitable Kurt from the Run Shop and in order to catch up on news I increased my pace to match his.  Alas, I couldn’t hold it to the top, having used every ounce of my reserves in a ridiculously short distance!  I wished him well and slowed to a crawl, whereupon Andy slid past and effortlessly beat me to the top.

Here I stood, immobilised for several minutes, trying to catch my breath before I did my best to walk after the other guys as they ran off, Kurt and his friends by now having vanished into the middle distance.

I can report that it took me about a mile to get rid of the stitch and another mile to properly get my breath back and catch the others up again… and all after just a sub-50m dash trying to match Kurt’s pace… man, that guy is FAST!  I had no energy left for excuses.

The rest of the run down to Falmer was straightforward bar the occasional and fortunately only vague desire to upchuck.

The observant amongst you might have realised that the only person not left behind during our run, despite never having run for more than an hour, was Leigh… he had just kept on smiling and kept up.  Mind you, he is almost 20 years younger than us… ouch, that hurts!

As the cars swung into view, so Andy picked up his skirts and started sprinting, with Cliff hot on his tail… and when my brain finally registered what was happening, me too.  Thus we finally left Leigh behind, probably shaking his head in disbelief at the display of old testosterone he was witnessing!

So 11.1 miles in 1.50, just over 6mph, no photos and,in my case, a lightly bruised ego!  Kim always knows when I run hard as I fall asleep on the sofa afterwards… having not fallen asleep afterwards for months, I collapsed in a heap in the sun and dozed straight off.

If you’re interested to see where we ran, you can find a record, with photos, of a very similar day on the 17th January 2010.

Auspicious company

Part way through my run today I heard the inexorable approach of feet from behind and turned to find Kurt from Run in Hove just about the slide past me with his friend Ken.  They were out for a 15 miler and though they were into the last stages, were clearly still running a tad faster than me.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I needed to start piling on the Sunday miles, so I took the opportunity of a beautiful day to run from my folks house in Woodingdean, down to Rottingdean, along to Brighton and all the way back again.  Aside from anything else, I thought it would be a good test of my staying power to run up a long, long hill at the end of a long run.

Of course, most of the first two miles were downhill, so the run started real easy for a change!  Between Rottindean and Brighton I took a couple of photos which might help explain why else I had chosen this route.

I reached the pier around 55 minutes which gave me an average speed of 6.9mph, it being about 10km into my run… with the help of the long downhill section, of course!

As I ran back along towards the Marina, so Kurt and Ken picked me up and pulled me along at their pace for a few hundred metres before I made my excuses and paused to say Hi to the guys at Martlet Kayak Club.  It seems strange to think that I was a member here in the formative years of my teens and early twenties… although the club is amazing now by comparison!  Andy was cleaning drains, but Nikki just happened to have her running kit on and agreed to join me for a while.

I had planned to run along the Undercliff Walk, but it was closed due to falling rocks and we ran up on to the cliff top instead… both feeling knackered at the top of the ramp!  It’s a lot easier running with someone else though and we then made light work of the three miles to Rottingdean.

And so it was, around the ten-mile mark, with Nikki heading back towards the kayak club, that I started back up the hill.  And actually it was okay, as the long, steepish hill is broken up by flat sections that give you a welcome breather from time to time.

The only thing that you don’t get from any of the sunny photos above, is the temperature.  I was under no illusion as to how cold it was as there was solid ice across the pavement in a couple of places on the way down, but it was most apparent on the hill coming back… with the front of my jacket pressing against the two sweaty layers below, my chest was so cold that it was actually painful!

I had decided to stop at the Downs Hotel, but when I got there I felt a curious need to continue up the hill to the ‘bakery’.  The bakery has long-since gone but as the top of the village, it holds a symbolic value for me.

Apart from the symbolism and another photo opportunity, the other benefit of having run up to this point was the ability to run easily back downhill to the end!

13.5 miles completed in 2 hours and 5 minutes… 6.48mph.  Not bad Foster, even if I’m forced to say so myself!

Happy Second Blogthday

YES indeedie, two years have passed since I started writing this blog and if you’ve been reading it all this time, you probably deserve a drink!  To celebrate, of course!

Without the enigmatic Bok to keep me going through the winter, my results have been down on the first year, but only a touch.  In fact, I have been surprisingly consistent.

A quick run down on the comparisons show the following:

Writing is down from 156 to 102 posts, reducing the weekly average from 3 to 2, but then the first year there were a series of posts about films (we’ve not been going so often) and about the building of the tea-house.

Total mileage is also down, but only from 538 miles to 512, a reduction of just 2 miles per month… but WOW, that makes over 1050 miles in the last two years!  And if you take out all the time in between (that I was probably sitting down) it only took me 172 hours… a little over a week!

The slackest months were January 09 with 13.6 miles and February 09 with 14.3 miles compared to 22.3 miles in February 08 but, in my defence, I did do quite a lot of swimming in that period this year whereas last year we were away ice driving and skiing.

There were five months this year that I ran more than 50 miles (plus one at 49.3) compared to 4 the year before, but the best I managed was 62.75, where there were 3 over 66 miles last year.

Overall my average run was 8.14 miles in a time of 1 hour 20 minutes… just over 6mph, and 0.1mph slower year on year.  Of course what the figures don’t show is that I have been tackling more challenging runs.  For example, more than half of the difference in the average speed is accounted for by just one run: The Blighty Grouse Grind on the 26th July.

Since I have not replaced my splodge since the beginning of July last year, I thought today would be an appropriate day to visit Kurt at Run in Hove.  And as you can see, I now have a bright and shiny new pair of Saucony runners to add to the other four pairs I have bought from Run (and then slowly destroyed) in the last five or six years.

Five generations of Foster's Saucony shoes... shoes with sole

So another great big THANK YOU to all the readers of, especially the people who have made hilarious comments and the myriad of amazing folk who have allowed me to run with them.  I sincerely hope that you will continue to both read and run with me as we sprint, energenetically, into year three!

New splodge

I still have some old posts to catch up on, but I thought that I’d get some new ones down while they are fresh in my ailing memory!  Yesterday was a red letter day, as, after threatening for some time, we finally made it down to the Run Shop.  It was a great choice of day to go as both Kurt and Fred were in there.

I spend a lot of time talking to my clients about good strategy and I’m going to write a short piece on my other site about this place, as it’s such a great example.

Suffice to say that the range, though not vast, is carefully selected from the perspective of runners and the guys engage with each customer to find out what they really need… and quite simply help them buy it.  No pressure sales here, just good old fashioned, quality service!

Kim’s shoes, though not high mileage, were getting on a bit, having seen life before the Berlin marathon in 2004.  My runners, though only bought last October, have been used extensively right through the winter mud, have probably clocked up over 600 miles and have not been kept in pristine condition (especially in comparison to the Bok’s shoes) and have thus deteriorated… that’s my finger sticking through the webbing above and the other shoe has the same damage.

So, after five short runs around the block in different pairs of shoes we came away with some lovely Run shopping bags.

Imagine my surprise however, when I looked at what I had bought.

Okay, so I bought two pairs… and the other pair has an orange right shoe, before you start to worry.

The white ones are the updated version of the Saucony shoe I’ve been wearing since October (in fact, my last three pairs have been Saucony) and they are very light and yet sufficiently splodgy for the off-road terrain I favour.

The orange ones are going to sit and wait for the return of the autumn mud and a quick glance at the soles will explain why!

If you recall, yesterday was a beautiful day and I wondered idly how long it would take me to take the shine off the new purchases.  I guess that I needn’t have worried.