Tuesday 21 July 2015

Runners should never look back.....

 ....but that's just what I've been doing today, to 1990, 25 wonderful years ago. I was 58 at the time and been running for only 4 years. Most would consider themselves too old to start running in their mid fifties but it's the most natural of exercises and no-one, I believe, is ever too old. We were born to run. Unless there is some very serious disability, anyone is capable of doing it. Long ago the human body was designed not just to run, but to out-run other living creatures upon which they were dependent for food, something to think about while driving to the supermarket!
That means all of us......    (Click pictures to enlarge)
 Someone said, "Everyone's body is capable of running, it's the brain that's the problem". And so it is with most aspiring runners. The brain can invent an endless list of reasons for not running - as it did with me. But you've gotta have the courage to say "Watch me" then get out there regularly until it's become a life enriching habit.  Looking back through diaries covering those first 4 years, what happened to me is almost unbelievable. I'd become a force to be reckoned with in road races, fell races and on the Track - at approaching 60 years old!  Here's a monthly run-down of that 4th year 25 years ago with added pictures and quotes from other times to show what can be achieved in later life if the spirit is willing.
Taken while breaking the MV55 course record in the 1988 Pennine Marathon - with a 3.05.47
 Two races in January brought a 2nd MV55 placing in a Yorkshire Veterans 10K Cross Country Championship at York, then a pleasing PB (Personal Best) over a hilly 7 mile road race in Huddersfield. There'd been snow overnight in the latter, so I ran it in studs finishing in 42 minutes.
 Monthly total: 164 miles @ average 8.15 pace
A most treasured medal - for my first MV60 win in the 24 mile Three Peaks of Yorkshire race
 February was a busy month starting with another Championship 10K race at Barnsley that produced a bronze medal and another PB of 38.12. Then a Northern Veterans X-Country Championship at Accrington where again I could only manage 2nd MV55. X-Country races were never my best discipline. To make up for it I ran the 'Huddersfield 6 mile road race in 38.12 to set an MV55 course record.
Monthly total: 184 miles @ average 7.52 pace
My Northern Veterans O/65 10,000m Track record still stands. That MV80 guy wasn't the ex Prime Minister
 A hamstring injury in March reduced me to a jog over the last 10½ miles of the undulating Dentdale Run but still covered the 14½ miles in 99.05. Two weeks later I ran the York ½ marathon in 81.19, a PB that still stands in my record books. In some ways it was a graduation day when I finished ahead of my tutor, a very good runner called Alan Taylor, who'd recognized my potential and first encouraged me to race. Thanks Alan, I owe all my trophies and prizes to you!
Monthly total: 173 miles @ average 7.35 pace
My first MV60 win in the 1993 London Marathon. My second win, 2 years later, was faster
 My only race in April was the Kentmere Horseshoe, a 19.8km fell race with 1006m of ascent, which I'd entered as a Grade A qualifying race for the following year's Three Peaks of Yorkshire, a race I'd set my heart on running. I was 1st MV55 at Kentmere, in 111.23, but beaten by a remarkable MV60, a chap called Bill Fielding who finished 4 minutes ahead of me. I wasn't bothered. I'd got my qualifying time for the 'Peaks'.
Monthly total: 241 miles @ average 7.35 pace
MV70 English Fell Runners Champion medal. I'm proud of that, achieved with very little training
 I was a late entry for the Tadcaster '10' mile race in May so ineligible for prizes, even if my 63.43 had been fast enough. It was a scorching day and the route was between fields of heady oilseed rape that had runners reeling all over the place. I recall the ambulances being very busy.
An Alsation dog gave me a nasty bite across my kneecap 4 days before the 'Trailblazer' 7 mile race 10 days later so I was reluctant to run until a friend said "Just imagine that bloody dog is chasing you and you'll be alright". I don't remember whether I did imagine that, but I easily won the MV55 race in 45.41.   The Meltham Maniac Mile, a downhill race, was run a week later, the day after I'd been on a tough 20 mile training run over Scafell Pike with three of my Northern Veteran friends. I'd got myself all psyched up for it, and chosen a suitable sub 4 minute pace-maker, only to be told there were too many runners for one race, and that I'd have to run in the second one. Spit!!! I went off the boil and could only manage 4.05 which, I suppose, wasn't bad for a 58 year old apprentice!
Monthly total: 232 miles @ average 8.07 pace

Mixing it up - at the World Masters Mountain Running Championships, Switzerland
An only race in June was the Holme Moss fell race - 25.5km over the notorious peat bog that is Black Hill with 1285m ascent - another Grade A qualifier for the Yorkshire Three Peaks race. There was no MV55 category but I finished 2nd MV50 in 2.26.04.
Monthly total: 201 miles @ average 8.31 pace
Top ranked MV80 over three Track distances - and a 2nd in the 200m
July was an empty month racing-wise though I managed 203 miles of hard training including three of my favourite fast/slow sessions - basically jog a mile then run the next one sub 6, and so on until 4 fast miles have been completed in the eight. My diary for the fast ones reads 5.21: 5.27: 5.38: 5.19. I'd finish in 64 minutes so the 'jogs' were around 8 minute pace!  In another fast/slow session my fastest mile - down the road where I'd practiced for the Meltham Maniac - was 4.27.  In two other sessions I ran the Holme Valley Circular (a popular 22 mile hilly circuit) in around 3.08.
Monthly total:203 miles @ average 8.20 pace
On a training run with my grand daughter, Nickie - a triathlete
 Two August races were both 10K disatnce, one on the road, then a 10,000m training race on the track. The Almondbury 10K started with a 500ft climb to Castle Hill that sapped all the strength from our legs, then some thigh shattering steep downhills back to the Finish. I finished in 40.42 and 1st MV55.  The 10,000m training race was a warm-up for a forthcoming Track Championship and I must have been feeling good on the night to clock 37.21 which remains my all time Track PB.
Monthly total: 190 miles @ average 7.41 pace

My 24 mile Mallerstang Yomp Veteran's Cup record still stands
Shelf Moor fell race (9.10km/457m) opened my September account with 1st MV55 in 53.15. Next came Penistone Show 10K that had a very hilly start from the showground and a very fast finish. There must have been some very fast runners there that day because I didn't win anything! But it's always a very fine show to which race runners have free admittance.
The inaugural Huddersfield Town Centre 10K road race took place on the last day of June when I blasted the MV55 category and, presumably, set an MV55 course record. It still stands - because they never ran it again!
Monthly total: 175 miles @ average 7.47 pace

The oldest runner ever to complete the Langdale ½ marathon - with my wonderful partner
In October came the Northern Veterans 10,000m Track Championship at the Stanley Park track in Blackpool - and my first ever official track race. My plan was to run the first mile at 5 - 5½ minute pace, to break up the field, then settle into my race pace and battle it out at the end with anyone who might still be with me. It worked perfectly for in the event, no-one ever got near me and I ran out overall winner, lapping everyone, in 37.43 to great applause from the Stand. 
Two weeks later in the Northern Veterans 10 mile Championships my 62.19 was only good enough for 4th place behind the winner's (Brian Gane) 58.52.
Monthly total: 152 miles @ average 8.00 pace
How very true! The incredible Catra Corbett to whom 100 miles is a stroll in the park
 November concluded my racing year with a 10K race in Barnsley and a mixed Northern Veterans and Yorkshire Veterans 6 mile race at Leigh in Lancashire. I was well beaten at Barnsley and could only manage 2nd MV55 at Leigh. I'd gone off the boil and Christmas couldn't come soon enough.
Monthly total: 170 miles @ average 7.56 pace.
December's total was 122 miles @ 9.15 pace.
Well, that's just what I've been saying....
 All in all I ran 2,217 miles that year at an average pace of 7mins 55secs per mile - at 58 years old. That fell-running legend, Joss Naylor once said, "Running is just a question of training your mind, of implanting into your mind the will to accomplish the target you have set yourself". And there you have it - training THE MIND - that's what Joss said. His body was a bit of a wreck, no cartilage in one knee, two discs missing in his back, unfit for National service, often running with horrendous blisters, torn flesh, twisted ankles, sometimes sleepless for many nights. It didn't stop him becoming one of the most celebrated fell runners of all time - with an MBE to boot - it was his MIND that made him the great runner he became - after he'd cast his surgical jacket aside.

All good advice to get started
And so it can be with anyone who is willing to put their MIND to it. The MIND can override many physical handicaps - if it is allowed to do so.  Initial aches, pains and stiffness are par for the course until the body becomes adapted to what the MIND is driving it to do. These things pass, or we learn to accept trivial inconveniences when they're far outweighed by all the healthy, life-enhancing benefits running can heap upon us. That's been my experience, and I believe it can be for anyone.
Now that I've said all that, I hope I don't find half the population of Huddersfield prancing around Castle Hill when I run up there in the morning!


  1. WOW

    I oftern look back... what's the point of making memories if not to remember them!

    1. WOW indeed Coach. It shows what can be accomplished in a short space of time when the mind is set on doing things and refuses to listen to excuses....

  2. What an incredible year...! I plan to have an equally epic year when I'm 58 :) .

    1. It wasn't my best year Karien, but good enough to show what can be achieved at any age with the right mindset. Happy running....

  3. Amazing stuff. I always enjoy reading your blog.

    1. Thanks Milly. I suspect you run in the Pennines too, like me, so you'll be a pretty tough cookie yourself, battling the hills and the rain......
      Thanks for visiting. Keep on running.

  4. Thats a fantastic year, very ever with your posts!

    1. Inspiring? Me? Flattery will get you they say. Just lace up your running shoes and get out into the wide, wonderful world.
      Thanks Hollie

  5. Well sometimes it is so good to look back and see what we have achieved ... so I think you deserve some applause!

    I particularly like the quote you have used by Paulo Coelho.

    With the weekend so near - I wish you a good one, and hopefully not too much rain.

    All the best Jan

  6. Managed to dodge the rain Jan and get out, doing the things we wanted, in the big, wide, wonderful world - just as Paulo Coelho advised.
    Hope you'd a good week too...Cheers!