Runner Profile : Dave Solomon

Dave Solomon - FRR Vice Captain

Dave Solomon – FRR Vice Captain

What first got you into running?

I was a relatively active youngster and had the odd appearance for my schools as a runner, but pretty much always to make up the numbers, I was never a stand-out athlete.  I enjoyed playing rugby but didn’t have much opportunity, and was never good enough at football to get into the team for this once at high school.  My main passion was on two wheels however.  Long before mountain bikes or BMX had been invented, I gravitated from knocking about on a succession of rough old bodged together bicycles around Rushmere Heath, which was on my doorstep, to making my competitive debut in a little-known sport called cycle speedway.

Gt Blakenham CSC U18s C.1983

Gt Blakenham CSC U18s C.1983

From the age of eleven, all sport outside school was focused on the bike for me.  I kept the cycle speedway up into adulthood and reached a decent level of performance which included top ten rankings in Britain and Europe, along with representative honours for England.  Incidentally, FRR can lay claim to having some four other former CS riders, but I’ll let them tell you more in potential future episodes!

I also got involved with playing rugby at adult level, both for my employer – Suffolk Constabulary, and the two Ipswich-based clubs.  This was at a far more social than serious level, but in common with the cycle sport, actually led to me running for the purposes of fitness that the respective disciplines demanded.  Up until my forties I would certainly never have called myself a “runner”.

This said, back in the late nineties, an ambition I’d held for a few years was to run the London Marathon.  I think it was my second go at the ballot that saw me take on a stand-alone challenge of the 1998 version.  Every scrap of my training was done alone and I didn’t include any races in the build-up.  Other than following rudimentary advice and training plans in the London Marathon magazine, I really didn’t have much of a clue about distance running, or running full stop, come to think of it.  On the day of the race I was positioned way back amongst the blues of the mass start, made worse due to having submitted a predicted time that I’d plucked from pure guess work of 4:45!  Needless to say, it seemed to take forever to reach the start line, and even then, many more minutes ticked by before it felt like I was actually running.  There was no “chip time” back then and all this haemorrhaging of valuable minutes had a frustrating effect on my state of mind.  Once actually moving properly on the London streets I found myself surrounded by seemingly slower runners.  Naturally they all needed beating so I spent the entire morning scrutinising the feet and Tarmac immediately ahead of me.  So much for the iconic sights of London landmarks then!

london-marathon-1998I actually found the race relatively comfortable and crossed the line in 3:46 (gun time).  For years, I claimed it as 3:40 (I did have a timing chip on the go, but there’s no data anywhere I can lay my hands on for a “chip time”), given my blighted start, but in recent times it’s made better journalism to refer to the full official duration.  In the days following my first marathon, which had also turned out to be my first running race (since school cross country days, at least), I didn’t look back quite so positively on the experience.  I had aches and pains all over the place, took in nothing by way of recovery runs or massages, so chose to walk away from my cameo in the sport and return to the other strings in my bow for sporting participation kicks.

Roll on twenty years: May 2008, and my next running race was the somewhat unlikely Heritage Coast Half Marathon.  This came as a result of my then boss being the long-suffering race director of this “Tin Pot Classic”.  For several years, he had attempted to lure his youngest (and fittest by far!) member of staff into the event.  By now, brother in law Robin was starting to turn up at various local running races having recently found the sport for himself.  It took little effort to talk him in to taking part too.  This would herritage-coast-2008turn out to be our first of many races entered together, so quite an important milestone in my story.  Looking back at the photo taken before the off though, I’m reminded that wife Sally, seventeen-year-old daughter Genni and fourteen-year-old son George all took up the six-mile race challenge that day too.  Little did I ever dream that eight years on, all five of us would be regular, “enthusiastic”, competitive runners, and with George a former, the rest of us current, FRR members!

I was reasonably pleased with my inaugural half marathon time being 1:42, but before I could get carried away with this, I was struck down with the first of what has seemingly been a never-ending catalogue of debilitating injuries.  As a result of a foolish action whilst showing off and crash-landing on my mountain bike when out cycling with George and Robin, I managed to rupture the Anterior Cruciate Ligament of my left knee.  When the injury was eventually diagnosed several months later, after a summer of hobbling and with no sport, I went under the knife in December for reconstructive surgery.  The operation was successful (and credit must be paid to the surgeon who has subsequently become a regularly spotted participant in our beloved parkrun in recent years, who I’ll not name here) and after a demanding period of rehabilitation I was allowed to get properly active again by May 2009.  What better way back than to return to Heritage Coast and this time take on only my third ever race and following the established pattern, one approximately half the distance of the last!  The six-mile option of the Thorpeness-based festival saw me return a time of 41:33 and eighth place.

I was now starting to “get” running, particularly racing, but was busy most Sundays with coaching junior rugby or competing still at cycle speedway in the national team racing Elite League with a Norwich-based club.

Final season of cycle speedway racing

Final season of cycle speedway racing

Nonetheless, Friday evenings could be freed up and by now, Rob had discovered the joys of Friday Fives.  Early June would never be the same again after my debut in the discipline as I took part in my next race (again shorter distance than the last one) – 32:57.

Fast forward the next eighteen months.  By this time, I’ve become hooked on running all the local races I can find; I’ve finally retired from the cycle speedway and other Sunday commitments have also been cleared away to make room for what was now becoming very much my “A” sport.  I’d got five mile races down to 31 minutes, and my fastest (if only second ever) half marathon by autumn 2010 was now my one and only crack at Felixstowe’s version on the occasion of its final running (beach hut medal – 10/10/10) in a modest 1:34.

The next chapter in my running career is given a full airing in what started out as an article for the former FRR quarterly magazine (in a world before frenzied social media coverage), but soon ballooned out of all editorial control, missed various publication deadlines and ended up as a stand-alone read that I insistently, and with tongue firmly in cheek, referred to as “my book”.  It’s here if any of you need help with falling asleep, or for newer members who’ve yet to trawl through the saga for a first time.  As I sit typing this new feature, I realise with a sinking feeling that my intention to keep matters brief and to the point in this particular written episode, has already failed dramatically, and this is only the first question answered.  Sorry readers!

Favourite Moments and Races?

I like to race, I’m a competitive beast, and am frequently reminded how others perceive this in me.  I don’t see it as one of my worst character traits mind you, but have grown to realise that not everybody ticks in quite this fashion!  As I see it, sport is all about competing within given parameters: the rules, the opposition, but most importantly what you the individual can deliver.

Now knowing and becoming friends with a wide range of runners, I’ve noticed definite common routes into this great sport.  For some the social vibe is the top consideration, and competition either doesn’t feature or is a long way down the list, but I’m yet to meet a runner who doesn’t want to improve in their own performance, or body image/size/weight/fitness.  I know many runners that have stumbled into the sport on the back end of team sports, football for example.  I reckon, like I did, they suddenly realised there was far more on offer than a bit of jogging for fitness, and that even when playing days in the team sport were over, the opportunity to lay their body on the line and perform at their very best, still existed for them in competitive running.  Age suddenly no longer the barrier it initially seemed, perhaps?

FRR do SDW '16

FRR do SDW ’16

For me, I need to compete.  The effort that goes into training my body to enable it to do what’s needed, for what I perceive to be my highest level of competition, yields pleasing side effects.  These include being in reasonable shape for a nearly fifty-year old, along with getting away with indulging in vast quantities of carbohydrates in my low fat, high fibre diet that I pursue, and quaffing the odd pint of real ale too!  So I train to compete.  When uninjured, which as I type seems months ago, I generally run four or five days a week.  You’ll only ever catch me in a gym when in rehab, there’s no swimming in my world (but that needs to change in 2017 for triathlon improvements), but I do commute cycle, in addition to some leisure and competitive outings on two wheels – mostly with fellow cycling FRR members – at various stages throughout the year.

What I’m beating around the bush to state here is that virtually every time I step out of the house in running shoes, it’s either to race (parkrun’s a race, right?) or train towards the next race that’s on my agenda.  Thus, my favourite races and moments have been when I’ve experienced a successful battle with the clock.  In the pursuit of particular pace during a race, and therefore finishing time, usually in the shape of a new PB, there have been some memorable grapples with respected opponents.

A bit like choosing music to take onto the desert island, I’d find it impossible to detail just one of these, but rest-assured I have vivid memories of satisfying encounters when certain factors have aligned.  One of the ways I keep these memories alive is by writing notes on the front of race numbers or “dossards” – as my favourite French running buddy likes to call them.  Sad, dedicated or obsessive, you decide!

I’m going to delve into two races for you that conform to the above framework though, and one further event that has played a part in possibly steering my future running in a new direction.

Martlesham 10K ’12

For many runners, this local (and nowadays FRR owned) Tin Pot Classic is derided for being boring, bland, repetitive, and uninspiring.  Well it’s never been that for me.  I just see it as an excellent opportunity to crank the engine up and keep laying the uninterrupted effort out there.  I’m yet to hear Mo Farah bad-mouthing the courses he wins Olympic medals on, and they really are repetitive with twenty-five laps versus Martlesham’s four.  This said, the first two occasions I ran Martlesham I failed to better the PB I’d recorded on the wildly undulating and far from boring Woodbridge classic version of the distance on the respective preceding middle Sundays in May.  Anyway, in 2012 I had stepped through the spring and summer taking part in an unusually high number of 10Ks.  Martlesham was to be the year’s sixth and three PBs had already been recorded, with that statistic standing at 37:54.

 Boxford 10K ‘12

Boxford 10K ‘12

The runners I remember being in and around during the race that year included guys I’d been locking horns with all summer.  Each of them I had beaten and lost to in varying amounts, but be assured that we all knew we were racing very hard and all seemingly at a pace that was optimistic and potentially ruinous to finish times.  I can still very clearly remember staring at my watch in disbelief as mile after mile was dispatched way faster than any I’d run before over such a distance.  One by one the known members of the “peloton” dropped off, but I was managing to stay strong and maintain the ludicrous pace.  Towards the end of the race’s tarmac portion I was in striking distance of the hitherto out of reach Lee Morgan.  The advantage was with me as I utilised his “carrot” status to reel him in and show myself on his shoulder.  Lee was having none of this and noticeably surged back ahead.  I hung on as best I could but a gap re-opened.  Now on the grass (old style finish – clockwise three-quarter loop of the field) I somehow found enough energy to attack again.  Thoughts of time were now on hold, although I was pretty sure a decent PB was about to occur.  What really mattered was absolutely emptying my tanks and forcing Lee to do the very same if he fancied maintaining his advantage to the line.  As we made the final turn I was level with him and kicked hard, one last time.  Lee matched my effort stride for stride as we sprinted at top exertion for the fast-approaching finish funnel.

Morgan and Solomon neck and neck

Morgan and Solomon neck and neck

You’re probably reading along expecting me to trot out the happy ending of just edging ahead, but no, as the funnel reached such a narrowing that only single file was possible, Lee had managed to just keep ahead.  I can’t remember the exact finish line, but have vivid memories of the rusty steel spike tops supporting the orange plastic netting flashing past us very closely. Lee stopped in the funnel, in near collapse, I took solace in the fact I felt better than he looked, but my day was about to be made complete when I realised the time shining out of the now stopped watch on my wrist.  This special day, that had started just like most race Sundays, complete with high hopes but pessimistic glass half empty concerns about what could go wrong, had now delivered an other-worldly experience culminating in a new PB of some sixty two seconds.  I’d gone from only ever once before registering a thirty-seven anything to now being in the high thirty sixes.

I’m fairly certain (although never say never, hey?) that I’ll be taking that PB to my grave.  My improvement curve has largely stalled from April ’13 and the only PBs nudging into my life in the last couple of years have been for much longer stuff.  Lesson to be learned from Martlesham ’12 though?  Well how about this; if you believe that at best you’ll only just about be able to match or possibly narrowly improve on previous performances, and set out to do just that, then that is what you’ll get – similar results.  If, however you dare to run without fear, and are prepared to “back yourself” in digging that bit deeper than you’ve ever thought possible, then surprising rewards can be up for grabs.

London Marathon ’16

This was to be my seventh marathon race, and fifth in the capital.  In 2014 I’d had a miserable attempt at repeating 2013’s PB of 2:56.  I’d been very poorly prepared with a load of injury lay-offs knocking a huge hole in the programme.  I’d attempted to “wing it” on the day and set off at PB pace.  Notwithstanding what I’ve just written about my M10K experience above, this was actually very foolhardy behaviour.  My only hope was that my body might have somehow been having a particularly good day or else a spectacular crash was surely due to befall me.  A 1:28 halfway point may have given the Tower Bridge FRR posse some food for optimism but I knew the horrible truth unravelling between my legs and the Tarmac beneath.  The second half of the race saw an end to the runners surrounding me being of a similar cut (good for age types) and moving at my pace.  Now they were running faster as I slowed.  Through they came in their thousands, initially it was mostly blokes, then fast women were nailing me.  Imagine my spirits as not just, shall we say, the larger proportioned men, started edging past, but ultimately ever more “cuddly” women cruised past me too.  I finished mentally destroyed with a totally empty energy supply – not fun.  The last half had taken some fourteen minutes longer than the first, for a 3:10 finish.  I’m sure I could have run this time with relative comfort had I set out to do so at a neutral-split pace, so the state I’d actually finished in was so unnecessary – yet another running lesson taken on board then?

The only positive aspect I could find was that at least I’d bagged Good for Age status for the next couple of years.  However, come the approach to the entry deadline for London ’15 I found myself somewhat nonplussed at the prospect of all the associated pressure of another crack at the sub-three-hour holy grail in London – the recent experience still raw in the memory, so I opted not to enter.  The next spring did see me out preparing for another marathon though.  The plan was to prepare with all my training peers who were gunning for respective spring marathons, and if the body was holding together OK, drop into Bungay at short notice.  Yet again I suffered a hole in the programme – this time following a dark FRR session stumble which left me with a properly sprained ankle in March, and way behind schedule come race day.  Nonetheless, I took on the challenge of The Black Dog, but set myself the modest task of targeting seven-minute pace, unlike last year’s madness.  This approach actually turned out quite positively.  Other than a bit of late fading on under-cooked legs I ran a respectable 3:03.  Two weeks later though I found myself glued to the Sunday morning sofa as the London Marathon unfurled on TV.  I was now kicking myself for not being part of it, but properly keen to get back involved in ’16.

PBs had dried up, in that during 2014 there had been none whatsoever.  Just prior to rolling my ankle in 2015 though I was starting to feel positive for the future again with what was to be the only PB in the year with a scruffily run 2:10 at Tarpley Twenty, but post-injury and the Bungay result it was back to the remainder of the year yielding no further PBs.

So, to the point I come!  Back in the mix for London 2016 and I embark on the tried and trusted DIY training plan after a busy but strong-feeling December.  Yet again injury would strike, this time as a direct result of legs suddenly slipping about in strange directions in the quite unique mud found at Heveningham during the early January County Cross Country Champs.  I felt something go, deep in the glutes, and obviously should have pulled out.  I don’t do that (ever), which the rational Solly knows is very silly, but the racer in me always sees the worth in grinding on regardless and to hell with the consequences!  Well the consequences were struggling to even walk once adrenaline and race-face wore off.  The result was a week of non-running followed by painful comeback up to full capacity seemingly many weeks later.

Other than the weekly smearings that are the infamous Thursday Tempo Ten (TTT), there was little on my calendar of sustained effort at speed, ahead of London.  One marathon-paced Stowmarket Half (itself a favourite race/event of mine), two twenty mile races – Tarpley (disastrously) and Essex (tough work at just about sub-three marathon pace) and a swift 10K one week out.  My strategy for race day at London then was for setting pace that would get me a narrow PB.  If this slipped, plan B was to scrape in under three hours.

I made the conscious decision to take off at the back of the Good for Age pen, thus being aware that all runners whom I knew that were also in the GFA area would be ahead of me.

Filed dossard, complete with notes

Filed dossard, complete with notes

I started in a controlled fashion.  Needing a couple of miles to seemingly even get up to target pace.  Notable FRRs up the road were Gripper (AKA Jason Taylor), and very likely, although difficult to be sure, as he’d started from GFA-Green, Tall Spikey (AKA Dazza Cook).  Roger Stone (Alhambro Noir) was due to have started at my red GFA but none of us had seen him that morning so presumed he was DNS.  Spikey, as it turned out, was in touching distance of me at the merge of Blue (incorporating green) and red a few miles in.  The two factions of runners from different start zones come together separated for a short distance by a central kerb.  I was keeping an eye out with no success for Dazza, unaware that he’d clapped eyes on me but was unable to make me hear his shouts.

After about 4-5 miles, I became aware of the familiar sight of a cruising Gripper amidst the crowd of runners ahead of me.  As I closed in on him, very happy to be about to have some, albeit temporary, running company, I reckoned I’d play a little game by seeing how long I could hold just behind his shoulder prior to him realising I was around.  Well that game didn’t even get off the ground as the hordes of roadside spectators blew the whistle on me with shouts of “come on Solly” as a result of my name being emblazoned all over my FRR vest!  Gripper swung around upon hearing the shouts and clearly my presence had a positive effect on his pace as after a couple of words of greeting, he was off up the road.  I realised instantly that opting to run along with him would take me above target pace, so I let him edge back ahead, although managed to keep him roughly in sight.  I’d started to think how nice it’d be if we were together as the first two FRR runners to take the morale-boosting surge of support that the Red Army of FRR friends and family were due to deliver just after Tower Bridge.

A special acknowledgement to Gripper here, if I may.  He’s a runner (and cyclist for that matter) I hold in the highest regard.  Over the years I’ve known him there have been occasions when we’ve london-marathon-2016operated around the same level of performance, but he has proved himself to be more accomplished at marathon running for sure, with at least two results in the low two-fifties.  Just this training season running up to London he’d consistently thrashed me on TTT nights and the prep races as detailed above.  However, this day I reckoned I might be in with a shout at getting close to him as it was his third consecutive Sunday of racing a marathon.  He’d done Manchester then Brighton both under three hours and I knew there was no way he’d not repeat that feat in London.  Keeping him in view without trying to finish in a time I believed I’d be incapable of was very much the order of the day so having track of him during the middle portion of the race should be a decent barometer.  It did turn out that we were together at Tower Bridge after all, and it was great to see the friendly, familiar faces at the roadside – what a lift that gives.

Maybe twenty minutes later, perhaps Isle of Dogs, around the sixteen mile point, Gripper and I were now actually seemingly running side by side indefinitely.  We were both happy with the pace, and although no pacts were being discussed, it seemed logical that we’d continue in this format until the likely fade by one or other of us later on.  Something very surreal then happened.  Very much in the same way Gripper had been alerted to my catching him, the pair of us now swung around in unison to repeated shouts of “come on Roger”.  I certainly did so in disbelief as our Roger was DNS don’t forget (in my mind), but oh yes, it was Mr Stone alright.  Now Roger is a supreme runner, as you all know yourselves.  I can only dream of moving across the ground as effortlessly and gracefully as he does, but for some reason, one of the only PBs of mine that keeps Roger in the shade is the marathon.  This says more about Roger’s relatively poor fortune with the distance than my prowess, and the fact that today I was going alright, but still he’d reeled me in as I worked hard with Gripper, meant Roger was clearly on a good day and was about to cruise past the pair of us.

Nonetheless, the very fact of the three of us close enough to have thrown a blanket over warmed my heart as I took stock of the majesty of the unfolding day.  My pessimism butted in to my thoughts now.  As Roger cruised on past me at a pace I’d neither be able to hold, nor should even attempt to, Gripper would surely kick, with the carrot of keeping with Roger too irresistible for him.  But no, I found the power to hold on and as the next few miles unravelled, the three of us now seemed to have morphed into a rhythmical unit.  I certainly wasn’t hanging out the back, and even led as we got back onto the contra-flow portion of the route.

Wife Sally was running this day too.  It was her first marathon and she’d bagged one of two club places.  It occupied my (now limited by fatigue) ability to think about numbers and sums as I reckoned it not beyond possibility that she might actually be on view the other side of the divide.  How wonderful that would have been to have caught sight of her and perhaps be able to give each other morale-boosting shouts.  I could feel my concentration on my own form and effort ebbing now, but reckoned it was a price worth paying whilst I kept look out for Mrs S, for what was only going to be a mile or so.  Also, I reckoned, the other two lads with me would move ahead as my pace and intensity faltered, meaning I’d probably fall from their “peloton” at last.  But no, once the contra-flow ended I remember thinking that all I had left to do now was concentrate on wringing my body out of all its available energy and get to the finish and hopefully the sub-three performance which was still on the cards.  Gripper and Roger were keeping out of sight behind me, but were surely biding their time before cruising past.

In all racing, I operate best when ahead of competitors.  The mindset is far more positive and powerful for me when I know my energy needs to go into staying ahead of others, rather than when behind them knowing I’ve got to not only get past, but also expend extra effort closing gaps to runners who must be better than me (they must be or they’d not be ahead in the first place?).  So the front-running role I now found myself with suited me just fine.  In keeping with usual race protocol not once did I turn my head back for a check on gaps, but just kept churning out the effort needed to somehow keep the pace where it was required.  If you’ve invested time in trawling through my aforementioned “book” detailing marathons ’12 and ’13, you’ll know of the trauma that ultimately occurred in the latter miles of both, so here I was now within sight of The London Eye, then Big Ben, envisaging all sorts of possible problems for this year’s instalment.  None came though, and before I knew it, I was charging down The Mall still with everything working well.  Yes, I was tired and knew I’d been in a tough race, but now it was about to be over.

solly-family-finishers-at-vlm-2016I knew instantly that I’d PB’d as my watch time (somewhere closer to gun than chip) was showing such.  Moments later Gripper was in behind me as we embraced beyond the finish.  Roger would soon surface.  I think he had the biggest smile of the three of us as he was well pleased with his shiny new PB too.  What a race, unlike previous versions, I now really got the full London Finisher Vibe.  Probably the single most special moment of my running career.  This was before I’d even got the news that official chip time was 2:54:22 (nearly two minutes of PB improvement).  There was more joy to come of course.  I met up with both my children and their partners and after a catch up with them and other FRR factions in the pub, it was back to the course at Parliament Square to wait and watch for Sally to stride proudly past in her final mile.  We saw her alright and gave her plenty of noisy support prior to soon meeting up with her again – now resplendent with finisher medal and foil blanket.  What a day in the Solomon household!

SVP 100 ’15

Peer pressure is a very powerful force in my world – far more so than is probably healthy.  Some of the FRR gang that I run and train with had been making noises about trail running and ultra-marathon running.  Initially it seemed to hold little interest for me, but the more I heard and the enthusiasm clearly coming across from them was the start of worse to come.  Them being most notably Luke W and Magic.  Nonetheless I reckoned it’d be a few more years before I would dip my toe into this seemingly crazy world.  Then one September evening sitting quietly at home with Sally she dropped the bombshell that was to change my running life; “Mark’s entered SVP”.  Surely Mark was the Ford version, not known for such distances by this date, but clearly a steely, slightly unhinged type that could do it justice.  But no, it was Goodwin.  Goodwin!

Now don’t get me wrong, Mark G is very much a respected friend, but in all hitherto conversations concerning running even marathons he’d made it very clear that advice received from a surgeon after knee surgery meant he’d never be able to run beyond twenty miles in one go – thus anything longer was firmly off-limits.  So how on earth could I let Mark take on the huge challenge of a 100K running race before I (having gone through knee surgery but not under any draconian lifestyle restriction) had even run beyond 26.2 miles.  How I ranted on the sofa!  The devil in Mrs S soon tuned into this and had swift justice to silence my protests.  “Well you’re in too, so you can shut up now Dear”.  She’d only gone and entered me online as I sat sounding off at the whole situation.  Talk about calling someone’s bluff (and with their own money, in the process).

So there it was, all thanks to Mark and peer pressure, about nine months before the entry deadline of an event that doesn’t sell out, I was targeted towards August 15th 2015 being my date with ultra-running destiny.  I’ve waffled on far long enough thus far, and a whole other book could go to all the memories that were generated on the day when it finally arrived, but what a day it turned out to be.

I’d done little in the way of special training, and what I had done had been crammed into about four weeks.  I adopted a minimalist strategy concerning kit and refused to be drawn into wearing any of those “silly” waistcoat or back-pack type hydration devices.  The mandatory water that had to be carried would be in hand-held bottles and every other scrap of essential kit went in a modest sized bum-bag.  Talk about winging it.  I spent most of the day running with a diminishing group of FRRs and finished in the company of a lad from Leicester.  He had his eye on a particular finish time but his watch had long stopped working so hadn’t a clue about times and pace.  All day all I’d focussed on was eking out energy and taking on nutrition at a rate compatible with just finishing the thing.  Nonetheless, peer pressure made its last appearance in my SVP world that day as the pair of us spent the final sector – Stratford to Brantham, desperately chasing a sub-eleven-and-a-half-hour finish.  This manifested itself in me ensuring the lad could see his way onto the Leisure Centre field, some distance back, as I sprinted across it towards the finish line.  I made it with a handful of seconds to spare, he – it later transpired – had not been quite so fortunate, and just missed out on his target.  One further bonus of the day was that FRR claimed the team prize with the Taylor, Solomon, Whitwell threesome holding off a determined effort by local club Sudbury Joggers.

svp-finish solly-on-arse-aka-recovery-mode svp-team-prize

I truly loved the occasion.  What a challenge, and what satisfaction is to be had at the successful conclusion.  I desperately want back in.  I’d hoped to do so this year but summer months have been badly blighted by a new stress fracture injury in the shin so I had to scrap plans of entering.  I’m already in for 2017 though and the motivational “stake in the sand” that SVP enlivens in me is already a welcome presence.  It would be very crass of me to not re-mention Mark G at this point though.  After completing the event on his debut with me in 2015, he went back again this year and found at first-hand how brutal and cruel the event can be.  His DNF is currently figuring in his decision making ahead of a possible third consecutive visit to the Newmarket start line, with me and many other FRRs next year.  Good luck Mark if (/when) you take the plunge.

Plans for 2017?

So, as hinted at above, I’m intent on a second ultra in the shape of a return to SVP.  The racer in me wants more next time though.  I ran most of it as a “just make sure you finish” project, and in review reckon I could have covered the ground faster.  So, the goal will be to aim for a one hour improvement, and who knows perhaps yet another team title in the collection too.

I’m looking forward to rolling out the marathon training plan again and the weekly TTT group outings, in addition to those long Sunday runs through the winter months leading up to London again and perhaps this old dog may have just one more PB in the locker – we shall see.

SVP will actually be the second of my planned ultras in 2017 though.  I’ve recently been seduced into a race I’d hardly even heard of.  The ludicrous notion that is 88 Km Comrades Marathon in South Africa is now my main focus of activity on two feet.  I’ve entered the thing and although payment is made and place secured I’ve yet to formally qualify.  That’ll need a certain time recording in London and one similar to my compatriots in the form of Gripper and Tall Spikey, to ensure we’re all able to start in the same pen in Durban next June.  What could possibly go wrong?

Thanks for reading, I hope you’ve enjoyed it and taken something away with you.  Sorry it’s so long, but I’ve worked on the premise that if it’s too long people will get bored and not read it, if it’s not, they won’t, and will.  On top of all that, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed pulling together my updated running thoughts into my latest “book”.  All that’s left to do now, is hand the baton over for the first runner of the month for 2017 – Jo Dickinson.

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