Tuesday 15 March 2011

Spring in my step

Last week was another reasonable one training-wise, with a tough 24 miles, but feel sure I'd achieve more if I'd a running partner of equal ability, or perhaps slightly faster, to sprinkle a bit of competitiveness into my solo efforts. Some years ago I trained with a a chap called Donald Bamforth, a butcher who sold some wonderful pies.  He was five years younger than me and ever so slightly faster. After a reasonable warm-up he'd say "Come on, time for an effort" and he'd be away like the clappers for anything up to a mile in distance with me nearly killing myself trying to catch him! 
Our runs were always off-road, often along one or more legs of the Calderdale Way Relay, anything up to 14 miles and hardly ever slower than 7½ minute mile pace. We'd no Garmins at that time, we just pressed 'Start' on our watches at the beginning of a run and 'Stop' at the end, so no way of knowing the exact speed we were running at any given time. I'd guess our 'efforts' were run at around 5½ - 6 minute mile pace. After 8 or 9 miles when I was feeling decidedly weary Donald would say "Come on, last one now" - and I'd think "Oh God, not another" - but it was amazing how the old legs would immediately respond, the adrenalin would kick in and I'd go all out to run him down. Donald boasted the distinction of having won the MV50 category in the London Marathon against tough world-wide opposition, and with his help and encouragement I emulated his performance by winning London's MV60 category - twice.
I miss those sessions. Nowadays all my serious training is done alone, no-one to chase down, no-one snapping at my heels, but the idea of 'efforts' still holds strong. On Saturday I went for a wild off-road run around Mossdale, a route of 11 miles with over 1,300ft of ascent. Towards the end, when I was slowing down and beginning to feel quite knackered, I suddenly imagined Donald's voice saying "Come on, time for an effort". Miraculously, my old legs sprang to life and I churned out a last mile at 7.15 pace. It just goes to show, the human body is capable of achieving far more than we'd normally think or allow.


  1. I suppose regular racing is the answer. I had thought you had done 2 10ks this year but Power Of 10 are only showing your Meltham which places you 2nd M75 in UK. Looks like you need to find a flat fast 10k to snatch that top spot.
    Perhaps the Huddersfield wasn't registered.
    Salford 10K on Good Friday would be a chance for a sub 50 I think. Not the most scenic of course but generally fast times.
    Email me at next time you are up the Dales. I could meet you at Barden Bridge. Could do a couples loops of the Strid.
    Take care, Terry

  2. Well put - you can't beat having a running partner to push the pace a bit. I took your tip to put a fast mile into my own slog today - enjoyed it a good bit, thanks for that!

  3. We've so much to thank you for, rf. The thought of enjoying competition in my late seventies is going to keep me going for the next 20-odd years! Can your local running club not supply you with some whippersnapper to chase down? It could be one of the more unexpected aspects of the Big Society!

  4. Hello there just found this on the Internet . I am Donald's son. My dad is still running albeit slower than he was. Great to read your memories. I will let my dad know. Thanks. Richard( I run and do triathlon but sadly nowhere near as good as my dad was!!