Well yes despite an absence of running blogs over the last couple of months I am still running but first a brief final mention about the Y3P’s at a walk.
Despite saying so myself I was reasonably pleased about a blog I drafted covering my third visit to the Yorkshire 3 Peaks in little over a month in May of this year, Then disaster struck my Internet connection failed & I lost well over an hours work. My head sank & needed the high altitude of the Alps several weeks later to clear it. That said I still can’t find the motivation to re-cant that walk around the Y3P’s with a group of friends & just as importantly the co-incidences & kindness I received in the following 24 hours when my car exhaust fell off shortly after the walk, shouldn’t happen to an Audi, things ain’t what they were…….
So if you are sadly desperate to know more about that come into the cafe & I’ll be happy to go on a bit, for now though thanks to all those involved in a spirit lifting weekend on 19th & 20th May.
Now to running & in particular the Stockholm Marathon & the Trail Wales Half Marathon.
Stockholm entered my diary shortly after seeing a slide show of this beautiful city in October last year during Team 333’s AGM which was held at our Cafe. Beautiful, must visit, they must have a Marathon, indeed they did & it would be celebrating it’s 40th year this year, more than London!
Not liking the ‘wonderful’ Airport experience, ‘Dorina, I ‘ll drive us there & we can drive the bridges linking Denmark to Sweden’. Never again, German roads once the pride of the Third Reich are basically to be avoided, roadworks & closures at seemingly every turn despite cunning plans B’s & C’s, note to self car ferry to Scandanavia next time.
That said we arrived on schedule on Thursday afternoon a little under 2 days before the midday start. By now I was fully aware of the predicted heatwave of 26/30 degrees, what soon became apparent as I tapered by walking around Stockholm’s sights later that evening was simply this is anything but flat!
Friday dawned, more tapering as I led Dorina on a pre-breakfast 5K run along wonderful water fronts, followed by endless sight seeing steps & a walk up to race registration in 26 degrees before the planned early lunch & one bottle of wine then to crash out at the hostel mid-afternoon in readiness for the race. As Kean & Sandra soon found out here my ‘plan’ faltered. Over that tasty pasta lunch & some initial glasses of wine the conversation went something like ‘Dorina, it’s too hot for a pb, it’s too hilly for sub 3:15 (good for age London entry criteria), I’m going to just run for fun & enjoy today first’, ‘yes my darling’ was her encouraging reply.
At some point during the 2nd bottle, quite a low point I think, the call went into Kean & Sandra, Hi Kean guess what we’re doing, there then followed an hilarious 10 minute exchange which left me feeling vindicated & Kean thinking ‘Hodges, bloody hell’
More wine flowed as we returned to the hotel which did at least see me reach bed at a reasonable hour, probably about 8:00 pm but with almost permanent daylight it could just have easily been midnight.
Saturday dawned, a good breakfast & drinking water & juice like a fish I actually felt surprisingly good. Pre-booked taxi (good part of the plan & for once well implemented) saw us head for the start where the best pre-race toilet facilities I’ve ever encountered at Stockholm’s Olympic Stadium awaited (it’s a runners thing).
With the mercury reaching 28 degrees the gun went off at bang on 12 noon, only mad dogs, Englishmen & another 100 plus nationalities go out in the midday sun. Dorina waved on & would be waiting at both the 15K mark & the finish.
It was hot, I have run in Italy hotter but never raced, by 9K I was suffering, this was going to be a DNF, Dorina at 15K was too tempting, it made sense to retire there. Before that I would drink at the 2 mile stations & run under every cold water jet that the organisor’s placed at these drinks stations. Very well organised, well done Stockholm.
At about 13K I began to feel a little better & at 15K I simply waved to Dorina & ran on, it must have been a pride thing as it felt far from sensible at the time.
Despite everything by halfway my time was on course for sub 3:20 but like many of those around me I was working very hard & I knew I couldn’t keep that pace up. So I became clever for once & backed off early, I began to walk through drink stations to make sure I drank a full cup of water & a full cup of electrolyte & continued to run off the direct line to make sure each cold shower enveloped me. It paid off later I would be pleased to find that my final four 5 K split times were all within a minute of each other, very consistent, very clever Paul.
Eventually we entered the Olympic Stadium for a final lap to the finish, was I running like Eric Lidell, no, but it felt good, Dorina look at me I’m overtaking again, Dorina was watching an annoying kid in front of her in the stands, still she photographed my back after I’d passed.
I crossed the line in my slowest road marathon time to date but despite yesterday’s debacle & the heat I had found a way to persevere & felt very proud. Not conforming to be funnelled hundred of yards away from Dorina to collect my ‘I was there’ T shirt I moved a barrier found my Angel, led down, changed top & enjoyed an ice cream.
My time was 3:31:15 placing me 1,190th out of 16,000 starters of whom over a 1,000 made a sensible decision, for them, to DNF. I came 112th O.50 (top 7%) & believe I was the first Brit in that category, however I wasn’t the fastest Paul Hodges, beaten by that bloody Aussie by a few minutes! Most importantly I could reflect with satisfaction & pride & still do today as I draft this.
Sunday saw us sightseeing all day, legs weary but moving in the heat, we visited the Abba museum, a must for those of a certain generation, if only it were still 1976/7 when the sun always shone, marathons were to be a thing of the future & I walked through those empty rooms without tears in my eyes.
On Monday we stopped at Copenhagen & I dragged Dorina around the sights for 3 hours before a lovely traditional restaurant re-supplied us. Another note, Copenhagen is flat, they have a marathon in May, it’ll be cooler, 2020 you are on my list.
Bruges was our next port of call & on Wednesday over a week after setting off we got home for a well earned break.
Quit here whilst you are behind but for those with staying power lets move onto the CyB Half Marathon. This is shorter.
11 days after Stockholm I went on an 11 mile hill run from the Cafe with some serious ascent, being only days before the Half Marathon my thought process was, Stockholm took a lot out of me, focus on the Reach Out for Nepal charity run in 11 days time & sod the Half Marathon you’ll have a crap time no matter what.
However I did give myself half a chance, the wine was eased off considerably all week & I rose early on race day to cook my pre-race favourite of 3 Poached Eggs & Beans on Toast. I even walked to the start rather than jogged. Then things went wrong as I joined the back of the queue to then find that this year (it’s hard to explain) that would mean I would indeed be near the back & not near the front, some pleasant ‘excuse me’s’ saw me edge forward but I was still mid-pack by the time the gun went off.
Sprinting to gain places before the trail narrowed I still knew I was not where I should be as we began the first climb but.. ‘what’s that? I have energy, it feels good, I can race, well what a wonderful surprise!
& race I did & I enjoyed it, even the normally annoying bits as I continued to gain places. I finished in 1:50:11, not only a pb after racing the route 8 times but more than 3 minutes faster than my last 3 attempts, see Matt Ward (who when I asked after January’s Winter Half, ‘has the route changed Matt because I can’t get near my 2015 time’, his response ‘your just getting old Paul’) there’s still a bit of life in the old dog yet. I’d finished 35th out of 508 & 3rd O.50 out off 55, had been 2nd at one point but that’s not going to put a damper on a very satisfying performance.
As ever great work by Matt, Sian, Dyfi & all the team for a fantastic local race on my doorstep.
Now all attention is on my first ever Ultra, The Ultra Trail Wales, a 50 miler on August Bank Holiday weekend, it’s time to pack up the keyboard & go out for a run.
Thank you for reading & thank you too to all those who visited the cafe yesterday including many Triathletes (congratulations on competing in that heat) who used us to re-fuel after the Snowman Triathlon in Capel Curig yesterday, you helped make it our 2nd busiest day ever & stopped me going out for a 15 miler but don’t worry I’m going to make up for that today.