Global Positioning

It was a cold winter this year. You almost felt sorry for those poor people stood outside doorways in pubs shivering as they got their fix. They were killing themselves in more ways than one now since they were forced to smoke outside. However I saw the exact same thing outside the Seymour Centre every Wednesday night. However these Serpies were not smoking, they had their arms raised like they were asking teacher if they can go to the toilet. But they didn't need the toilet, they were in fact asking for permission to run. Permission from some orbiting satelite to tell them they could start. Icicles would form around their frozen faces as the "signal" bar crawled up to 100% and then suddenly "Beeeeep" and these ice sculptures would splutter into life.

WTF happened on mile 7??????

I bought one of the first GPS devices back in the days where I thought the key to running happiness was to have every inch of it graphable. It was fairly poor by todays standards. It would often lose signal and would switch itself off after 5 minutes if there was no contact with the Starship Enterprise which meant I had to look at it constantly. In doing so I would run into people and for the first 10 runnings of the "Tower Bridge" run I completely missed this amazing bridge in London that has towers on it. It got better though, future models would hold signal better so that you only had to look at them when it beeps at you, declaring that you have run another mile and causing a funny reflex where you involutarily elbow the person on your left in the face.

The best bit was not the running though, it was the things you could do on a computer with your run afterwards. Plug your watch into your PC and all of a sudden your run becomes interesting. Pounding the trails or roads is boring and futile at the best of times but now your effort has a purpose, you can draw charts and graphs and analyse data. Brilliant. You can also be part of the scintilating conversations at the end of a run where you spew out numbers a the end to each other. "Yeah, mine was 7.32, 7.35, 7.21, 7.45 bugger, 7.32, 7.31". Splendid.

One day as I stared at a funny slug like object on my screen that resembled the path of my run and questioned why mile 7 seemed slower even thought the HR and elevation suggested it should be quicker I wondered whether I had missed the point of this sport. I remembered the days where I'd just go out and run because it feels nice. Now I can't seem to leave the house without something tracking my ever step, as if I need proof that I went outside. I had to ask myself "do I run for fun or do I run as a means to collect data?" If it's the latter then surely there are better ways? I could just stand outside and pretend to be a family fortunes researcher. I asked 100 people "what should I do with my life instead collecting pointless data?"

The watch went into the drawer and I decided to run whenever I liked and not when some beeping device told me too. It was risky, I mean how could I prove that I even went for a run? If I was audited how could I ever have the evidence that I didn't just sit on my backside watching TV? My own testimony would not stand up in court like a good pace graph would. I was treading dangerously.

However on relieving myself of the slavery of the wrist computer I felt like I has been released from prison (those things look remarkably similar to ASBO tags). My arm felt so much lighter having ditched the voluntary electronic tagging device. No longer did I have to let some virtual man beat me around some route, beeping with derision should I fall behind. I could just run as far and as fast as I felt like and could even look at things along the way. My mind could wander onto things so much more important than whether my heart-rate was staying within 80% while I ascended a 6% incline at 7.10 minute miles on mile 7 of my 15 mile circuit. Oh look, a squirrel.I felt more alive when I ditched the running laptop

I have not worn a watch in a run or race since. I can occasionally guess the miles in a race by the deafening crescendo of beeping from those all around me and the jerking of elbows swinging up to the left. I can run when I want, stop when I want and no longer get wound up if a 5 foot detour threatens the shape of a graph in a few hours time. I was in a race in summer where I had no idea how long I had been running, how far or even what country I was in. It was a magical feeling that I will remember forever and not one that I will re-live by looking at a bunch of numbers. I'd hate to think what I might have missed in the Alps or the deserts or the English countryside because I was too busy staring at liquid crystals. I don't need my computer to tell me whether I've had a good run or not, I decide that for myself.

I don't think I'll ever go back to that kind of captivity. I'm enjoying the running too much. I do love to ask users of such devices "what's the time". It's hilarious how they frantically press buttons on there watch only to tell me that they don't know, but that I have just raised their cholestrohol level.

And I giggled (perhaps harshly) at a friend who trying to avoid the situation in the first paragraph had his £300 device stolen from his garden wall while leaving it to gain signal.

"But can't you track where he is? I thought that was the point of those things".

"Only if he plugs it into his computer and uploads the stats"

"Well then, you just have to sit back and wait. With that kind of speedy running he is sure to upload it. The graph will be awesome".

Portsmouth Marathon

For some reason I had in my head that this was a road marathon. Not sure why as the race info made no such suggestion. I guess I still had Luton on my mind which is never a great thing to happen. Luton (that I have entered 5 times and not even started yet) was cancelled for the second time in 3 years due to ice. Now I hear they are moving it 3 weeks forward into November so that this is less likely to happen. Trouble is that November has some quite cool events like the Druids Challenge, Pembroke Challenge, Cornwall Marathon and so forth and so it's unlikely I'll ever do Luton again if there is something more glamorous on that weekend. And on the subject of glamorous, Portsmouth.

Has I have known that this was mostly off road I would not have queued for the toilets so much. There were about 300 people shivering around the startline. I caught up with a few friends beforehand though I barely recognised Drew Sheffield is his slinky little purple dress. I later discovered that it was the running vest of the Wootton Runners. Whilst chatting to Jany and the Paynes at the start we seemed to miss the starting gun (or whistle or shout or bong or whatever it was). We saw the mass of people shift forward and figured that we should start running too. Lovely Sludge - Thanks Ruth Emma Benzira for the Photo

I stuck with Ian and Nick for the first few miles which were on the promenade and then into some mud. There was not too much of it and the weather had been kind again over the previous few days to not make it too muddy. We have been really lucky with dry races so far this winter, I can only imagine that this will change when the ultra races start proper again in Jan. I saw Cleo Oliver for the first time in well over a year and she welcomed me to her "local" marathon. I said she should come and run my local marathon in Leicester. I never tire of telling the story about how my Leicester marathon nearly ended after just 2 miles after slipping over on a kebab. It wasn't mine by the way.

I managed to keep up with Nick and Ian and Claire for most of the first half. Ian and Lucy had to be done quick so that they could get back to watch a Bournemouth football game. I remember Lucy's exact words last week when she said "I'm not f****g about, 4 hours then we are out of there". Claire, Gus, Jany and I also had to get a move on as it was our running club's Xmas party that night. Everyone was in such a rush that we forgot to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Portsmouth.

Ian informed me that we passed the 6 mile marker in exactly 45 minutes which according to my calculation was an average of 7.30 minute miles. Now, I make a general rule in reading race reports or listening to people that I stop reading/listening on the third mention of the phrase "minute mile", however I may break that horribly here as for the first time in ages I felt like I was in some sort of race. I had no phone for facebook, no camera, there were no sausage rolls or any other excuse to hang around at checkpoints and it was bloody freezing and I was in just shorts and a vest. Had no choice really.

It was quite a straighforward course with no real difficulty in direction. About 3 miles of promenade, a few miles of coastal path and a little shingle and then a long stretch to 13 miles of hard trail where you could see the runners coming back in the other direction. On the approach to half way I saw the leader and the 2nd placed guy quite a way ahead of third. Dave Ross was the first person I recognised on the way up to half way and I later discovered that he and his wife Mel have both just got places for the Western States 100. It would be great to see them next year as they plan on being in Vegas around the same time as I will for the LANY race.

I made the turn at halfway at about 1.38, still feeling like I could keep that pace up even though I have not run that fast for a year. I high-fived everyone as I ran back the other way, scoring 8 out of 8 perfectly I think. I decided not to do Claire as I was worried she would fall over. I started to wonder when to have an energy gel and then I started to wonder even more about when I last even wondered about when to have an energy gel. I used to panic about such things, do I take it after 15.7 miles or 16.2? How many should I have? 3? 5? This time I just had 2 in my pockets and took the first after about 16 when a water station arrived. Only 6 months out of date. F**k this is boring. Typical Trail - Thanks Ruth again

I didn't see the rest of the guys again. I think Claire stopped off for a date with Elliott Loohire. Is that even a real name? I can imagine young Elliott trying to find his way in life. The tanning salon didn't work out, the Fish & Chip shop probably didn't work out too. Just as he was about to give up on running hs own business he had an inspirational idea, perhaps people could hire things from me? But what?

Anyhoo, I assumed Claire would spring past me with a smile on her face as she so likes to do in these things, Drew did say at the end he tried to give her a chocolate flavoured Gu gel that he knows makes her sick. Ian I think was in need of several dates with Elliott and Nick had fallen back as he had not run too far recently. We joked at the start about the usual question "How far is a marathon?" I think he forgot.

My body behaved itself mostly and the runners knee came and went throughout but I managed to ignore it towards the end as I was distracted by my own heavy fat breathing. I was overtaking people pretty constantly over the second half and don't recall getting overtaken apart from a woman and her dog near the end. I was pleased as this meant that I was probably keeping a fairly constant pace or perhaps even running faster. I did feel a little wobbly during miles 18-24 which apparently is normal in a marathon. I'd normally respond to this by slowing down and having a sandwich but it did not feel right here so I just leaned forward a bit and made sure that if I did wobble then at least I'd go forwards.

Some Shingle -Thanks again Ruth :)It's a great marathon for a speedy finish. The last 2 miles being on the promenade again and allowing you to put your foot down. I did and ran through the finish funnel and was presented with a voucher for a free burger, awesome. I had no idea at that stage what time I had done and to be honest didn't really care. However since then I have thought about it a bit. It was not super fast, around 3.20 but that was the fastest I have sustained 26.2 miles for a long time and given that I am a bit out of shape (85.2kg is quite fat even for me) I was pleased. I grabbed the burger and wandered over to watch the others finish while sporting my foil blanket (feeling like a proper marathon runner).

Claire bounced in. I yelled at Drew and the guy he was running with that there was only 1 burger left which caused a sprint finish. It was strange watching all these people finish as usually they are the ones waiting for me. It was not much harder than a flat road marathon overall.

This was a great first showing of the Portsmouth Marathon and I imagine I'll be back next year to do it. I'd be lying if I said it was the prettiest of them all but it was well organised, lots of water stops and a burger van at the end. The weather was kind and I am told that the norm is for heavy wind and rain/mud. That would make it a lot harder.

Anyhoo, since then I am getting a load of sarcastic comments about being fast (yes the "s" is supposed to be in there). Hardly deserved really with 3.20 or whatever. I am actually quite curious as to what my exact time was to see whether it was less than 7.30 minute miles and

Oh shit. Boring. I just broke my own rule. You can stop reading now.



Woodford Cross Country - 8k

"GET HER! CATCH HER! DESTROY HER! KEEP RUNNING! FINISH HER! KILLLLL HERRRRRR!!!!!" These were the words shouted at a 10 year old girl by (I assume) her father as she sprinted up a hill to catch some other 10 year old girl who happened to be wearing different coloured stripes. I am not sure whether she caught her mortal rival. I don't know what her punishment would have been for failure. No cartoons for a week? No going out with friends for a month? No boyfriends until she is 27? I did see one girl crying her eyes out. I'm not too sure what I had gotten myself into here. Certainly felt more intimidating than my last race in Greece. At least there I could be sure that no one was going to try to kill me.

 I have been suffering a 2 week post race depression, more so than I had done before. For the whole year I have had the insane summer of madness to look forward to. During the summer I always had the next challenge to look forward to. Once Spartathlon was over and once the pain disappeared I felt quite low as there was nothing epic on the horizon. I am done with ultras for the year, I have a few marathons to keep me out of trouble. Still I was really looking forward to Cross Country. I had not done this for years. In fact the last time I ran a XC race I was chicked. It was a Man's race, she just said she was running with the guys to chat them up. I have no idea why she was talking to me, I couldn't breathe.

Cross Country is a really big deal for the Serpentine and I really wanted to get involved in some of the club events. My attendance in club races has been poor over the past years since I got into ultra running. I am determined to do as many XC races as I can fit in for the Serpies this year, not that I will be any use in the scoring stakes, only the top million score any points. I was ready to see how laughably bad I have become at trying to run fast.

The first fixture of the Metropolitan League (there are lots of leagues, I don't understand, I just turn up and run round till they tell me to stop) was in Woodford Green, the weather was great, sunny and dry, which was bad for cross country as it's supposed to be muddy and wet. People who know about these things were discussing how 3mm of metal might change their fortunes during the race. 9mm or 12mm? Or trail shoes? I had no idea. I wore my Walshs for the first time ever and did not want to get them dirty.

The course was 8k, in 3 loops (I thought it was 2) with at least 1 hill each lap and from memory 1 puddle. I started at the back and within 1k I was walking through a narrow section, just like the UTMB. I was confident of finishing before midnight though.

For loads of people I spoke to this was their first cross country since school. That brought back memories. I remember the stories before we went to "big" school about the miles and miles you have to run in the mud and if you did not finish in 35 minutes you had to do it again in your pants. It was not the most nasty rumour before going to that school. There were more, stuff that happens in the toilets between 8-9, don't ever sign up to the French exchange student program and don't get left alone with the woodwork teacher, he is fearsome with all those vices.

I had never ran any kind of distance before but cross country when I was 11 was the first time I realised that I actually liked running and I was (relatively) good at it. My approach was simple, on seeing the 100m stretch of road into the parks I thought "don't set out like you are running a 100m race, take it easier". I did this and I was fine. At least half the kids did just that, ran out like it was a race to the end of the road and then collapsed as soon as we hit the trail. Most of these kids were thick (I grew up in Leicester, it's a high proportion) and some of the fatter ones would try and hit the smaller kids as they went past. They were usually easy to avoid though, fat knackered kids pose little threat as they are imobile. On giving them a wide berth they may yell at you that they will get you after school bit for the next 20 minutes or so I was safe. Oh and by the way Ashley Wilson I don't recall you getting me back for that? How are you you fat twat? How is prison?

I was stuck behind a load of people in Woodford and was a bit apprehensive about making a move for it as I would probably blow up and look ridiculous. All the way round I got comments such as "only 100 miles to go" and "76 more laps". I actually thought it was over as I came in from the second lap, I had no idea what 8k was or how much 40ish minutes was, the sun was still in the same position in the sky for all of the race. How am I supposed to tell the time? Overtaking people is actually quite a tactical thing (as I imagine it is at the sharp end of races). There is more to it than just running faster than someone for a bit, you have to be in position and respond to any increase in pace they may show. It's more like formula 1 than running. At least that is how I imagine it is at the front, I was plodding along looking at some Highgate Harriers fat arse.

I really want to use these as fun speedwork. It's been a long time since I've gone out and tried to run fast for any length of time. The promise of cake at the end and a heaving pub full of Serpies is enough to get me out of bed for 8k. A bit less than Naomi Campbell.

This is whats known in the trade as "Defending the rear from enemy fire"The Serpies ended up smashing it all round. The Men's and Women's team won. They also each came 5th place too (like I said I don't really understand). I came 252nd out of at least 253 runners. My time was 36.06 and more importantly my shoes did not get a speck of mud on them.

I really enjoyed it in the end. The next one I can make is on the 23rd October and is for the Liddard Trophy (I don't understand). It really helped ease the post Spartathlon blues. I couldn't make a habit of it though, next week is a lovely and hard trail marathon. I just hope that no one shouts at me.

Serpies Do Davos

just about over the hangoverSo, Dave booked a double with Suzy. But after she dumped him for deleting all the threshold settings on her Garmin he now has to sleep in the dorms with Gary and Carl. But Carl is still pissed at Dave for boffing Sharon at the penultimate cheese day of the month last week. Sharon was due to share with Emma and Stacey but now Stacey wants to share the double with Suzy as she is very upset since her boyfriend Jim left her for Brian, (the fact that he downgraded from the K78 to the lake swim really should have been an early warning). Now, Emma is still holding out for getting back together with Kevin who has just had a massive row with Judith about forgetting to bring a towel. But, wait, oh no.... what's this? Kevin's life has just got a lot more complicated with the unexpected arrival of Amanda and her son Leroy.

"Yes Kevin, I'm back and I have news for you, he's YOURS".

"But we split up 3 years ago, I only met a year before that. This kid is at least 17 years old?"

"Well, what am I? A mathematician? Go book us another room, one that no one has puked in".



There must be something in the air in Switzerland that prevents anyone from sucessfully invading it. We were all over the place and no actual running had even started yet. In total about 70 Serpies invaded the neutral country and occupied it's bars. On saturday there was some running to be done,

The Davos K78 seems to have become an annual event for me. 2 years ago 4 friends and I headed out here, last year there were about 25 people from the club here doing one of the many races Davos has to offer. This time there were about 70 out there to cover over 2500k of alpine trail and around 1000 litres of alcohol.

I arrived late on the first thursday due to being too fat for a plane and ended up missing the thursday night drinking. I decided to make up for it on the Friday, the night before the race. I got a bit carried away and it only realy dawned on me when I was woken up by someone from the hostel offering to clean up the sick. That reminded me that I was sick. I felt pretty rough at the start line but always was going to take this very easy. Only 17 days after finishing Badwater I probably should not be doing this but I needed a medical certificate to get out of it. I could not go and ask a doctor to sign me out of a 50 mile race, particularly as I'd just asked them to permit me to run a 100 mile one 4 weeks after.

The first 20k were pretty grim, I had to stop a few times and felt a bit sick. After a while I felt a little less pissed and was looking forward to the hangover. The mountain should sort that out. I stopped for a minute to empty my shoe and saw a Serpie pass me who I didn't recognise. Inagine that? There was no way I was letting this one go so I ran fast to investigate.

I caught up and it was Laura Beckwith. She was running the C42 and then complained that I was going too fast. Apparently I was doing sub 8 minute miles. I had not done one of those since 2007. I slowed down and eased towards the mountains.

I remember the long road up to the mountains and was confident of finishing it before sunset, unlike the last incline I tackled. There were some spectacular views as we approached the marathon stage and then up to the climbing. I was way behind where I was last year, I recall getting overtaken by most of the people running the K42 whereas now I was in the back end of them. I didn't care at all, I had no idea what the time was as I didn't take a watch, I was just enjoying the day, the new found soberness and the most scenic run I have ever done.

While ascending the mountain I was caught up by Mark Bell. "Feeling a little peaky"? he said as I sat down on a rock (he didn't). "Wanna make summit of it?" I replied (I didn't). "That response is steeped with frustration so I shall press on, but Alpine for you at the finish line". (He did).

The top of the mountain seemed to come more quickly that usual. This pleased be as in the UTMB I have to do this 12 times. I got caught behind a load of walkers on the ridge which was a little frustrating as I felt like I could run and was still suprised that my legs had not fallen apart. Still, can't complain, I took lots of photos and considered making a snowman.

I really did just canter through the whole thing amazed that I could even still walk after Badwater. I cruised through the last 9 miles though I got really bad sunburn (oh the ironicallness). This was the first race in ages where I didn't want to see the finish. Afterall, it was still the same day as when I started. That doesn't really count as a race does it?

Then I got pissed again.

I survive Badwater and then this happens in the mountains?Now, I threatened this in the pub on the Saturday night. This blog allows me to see what has been googled that leads to people arriving on this site. It means I can write silly things about people and they may be seen in the google search screen. Lets see how this goes..

Claire Shelley was high on coke as she bounced her way down into the valley. Luckily she finished before 8, otherwise there would have been trouble.

Nick Copas was bullied off the course by some large pebbles towards the end though still managed to finish sub 8.01.

Jen Bradley stacked it in the mountains, possibly while thinking she was cycling along a canal. Despite needing hospital treatment later she finished in an amazing pb.

While not high on coke Gemma Greenwood hallucinated a familiy of weasels in the mountain.

Natalie Kolodziej smashed the K21, chicking Andrew J Taylor as she did so. Andrew J Taylor didn't just get chicked. Andrew J Taylor got dicked a lot too. In fact Andrew J Taylor probably got chick-with-dicked.

Katy Levy made it to the start line despite flying to the wrong airport.

Helen James finally decided on a pair of shoes (or 2) and ran the K78 brilliantly. When asked if she would do it again she said yes definitely, but will bring more shoes.

Lars Menken promised to run the K78 next year, otherwise we are allowed to melt his bike.

On smashing the K78 and winning the Serpentine Ultra Championship Oliver Sinclair rewarded himself with a potato.

Alex Elferink; a bit confused when he reach the checkpoints and was told he didn't have to take any clothes off kept his heart rate in zone 3 as he walked the K42.

Allan Rumbles, so excited to even be let in a race set off hard and still finished respectably.

2 Serpies who smashed it proper were Wes Harrison and James Edgar. Wes Harrison was apparently grinning like a child as he allowed the mountains to shred his calves. A year ago I met James Edgar and he was baning on about age grading or something. Now he's so into the mountains I bet he does not know what age he even is.

Rob Westaway provided several great shots for the next edition of Westawimes as he cruised through 78K in good time. He did screw up his finish photo by trying to change his garmin settings on the line.

Everyone was amazed to see Sam Ludlow finish something with a clean face.

Cyril Morrin gate crashed the podium for the K78, a little confused as he entered the K21.

I've already google-fucked Jonathan Hoo, but thought just saying that might make the search results more interesting.

Despite being strip searched for contraband sandwiches at breakfast Brent Plump and Marianna Ivantsoff managed to have great races.

As did Facebook facebook Jany Tsai Facebook Facebook. Jany managed to avoid ripping off my clothes as she finished comfortably.

Happiest man in the world Alex Pearson praised the heavens for such wonderful calf smashing mountains.

Mike "Mr Slow" Wilcox was not that slow. World he was awesome.

Gemma Hagen was so excited by the whole thing she couldn't talk the next day.

And without having much else to say about everyone else I thought I'd list the rest involved in the great weekend. There were K78 finishes for Martin Cooper and Lisa Wray. A great K42 win for Huw Lobb in an amazing 3.16. K42 finsihes also for Gavin Edmonds, Poppy Lenton, Charles Lescott, Pam Rutherford, Christian Schroeder, Tim Renshaw, Claire Levermore (google her), Rob Crangle, Siobhan Reddy, Tanya Shaw (who proposed to on the mountain top. She said yes), Val Metcalf, Alistair Gear, John Cullinane, Katy Levy (I have already mentioned her but she is quite loud) and Natalie Vendette. There was a great K31 win for Teresa Gailliard De Laubenque (that took ages to write) and good runs too from Simon Bamfylde, Darren Over, Donna Clinker, Huw Keene (doing actual running but I didn't see it), Catherine Sowerby, Angharad Lescott, Lula Russo, Grianne Devery, Fiona Alexander and Angela Green. As always with Davos it was great to see people come out anyway even if they didn't run. Our cheerleaders this time were Gus Searcy (ill), Richard Jones (injured), Paula Redmond (injured) and Amy Whiddett (lazy). Worth a mention was our pom pom waver in spirit Nicole Brown, who was updating the folks at home with our progress and telling me off for facebooking too much in the race. Thanks Mum.

The weekend certainly had it's ups and downs (STOP IT). This time last year I said that I thought 100 Serpies go to Davos. We only managed 70 this year but who knows? Next year. Assuming the hostel has forgotten about the sick.