Acceptable in the Eighties

A very unscientific attempt to go back in time

Month: September, 2013

The Great Not Run

‘I think I remember this from Ron Clarke’s book, but I might be wrong. Basically, he says that when you’re doing proper distance running training – and you have been for the last couple of months – you’re borderline ill all the time’

Sometimes you don’t get away with it. I came down with a bit of a cold last week. By the time the Great North Run came along I was a phlegmy, sniffling mess, forced to watch from the sofa. Forced, it should be said, to watch one of the most exciting road races I’ve ever seen, but I’d rather have been running. A friend of mine, Richard, stayed at my mum’s place the night before the race and ran really well. I now don’t even have the fastest Great North Run time in the ‘people who’ve stayed in my house the night before the race’ category!

I’m sure other people noticed this too, but I think Paula Radcliffe might have cost Mo the race. As they were running down the steep hill onto the sea front she said in commentary, ‘I gave Mo one piece of advice: take it easy down the hill.’ He did. Bekele didn’t. He hammered it down the hill, got the gap he needed, and it was all over. Well, it was all over, then it seemed like perhaps it wasn’t, and then it was.

The hay, as they say, was in the barn for this one. I’d done six weeks at over 100 miles, and felt stronger than I ever have before. Hopefully, the cold was just bad timing. I’m already feeling a lot better, so I’m hoping that I can get back into full training in the next few days before attacking a couple more ‘Great’ runs – the Scottish and the South. I’m trying to learn from past mistakes and to take it easy until I feel ready to resume proper training, though. The trick, after such a long block of good mileage, is to trust in the training you’ve already done and to realise that a few days on the sofa doesn’t negate all the weeks of hard work. The barn hasn’t burnt down, it’s just undergone some necessary renovations.

I’m back in Durham now and looking forward to running some of my old routes. One of the advantages of going away and training hard is that all of your familiar runs feel shorter when you get home!


Tynedale 10 mile

‘Most farenjis, you know, they try to have a job and to run, and they run maybe only a little bit’, Tadele said as we warmed down. ‘You, I think maybe you have no job.’ This has to be the best complement I’ve ever had on my less-than-fully-employed status.

Last year I ran 52.57 at this race, a hilly 10 miler. This year I ran 50.52. There was, I should admit, a bit of a tailwind, but I don’t think that accounts for two full minutes of improvement. Vindication, I think, for the 110 mile week. Tadele may have already been warming down on the grass behind the finish by the time I crossed the line, but he only beat me by 48 seconds, so I’m relatively pleased with that. He’s run 2.13 for a marathon and 63 minutes for a half.


Team bus and manager for the day. Team Sky have nothing on this – coffee and bacon sandwiches on the move.

As I didn’t know that there was anyone of such high calibre in the race, I led from the start, and after a couple of miles it was just the two of us. I focused on maintaining a pace as close to five-minute miles as I could, which meant that I was working pretty hard on the uphill sections. I even thought Tadele was struggling a bit at one point, but given the ease with which he got away from me in the last three miles that must have just been my imagination.



A couple of photos from the ‘Running Along Somewhere in the North East with an Honourary East African Geordie’ collection.

Eventually, just after the five mile mark, Tadele came past me, increasing the pace imperceptibly until there was a gap of a metre or so between us without me really having noticed I’d let a gap open. Then he turned his head to me and waved his arm. ‘Come on’, he said, ‘come on’. This was a familiar piece of encouragement – I’d heard it time and time again whilst on tempo runs in Addis Ababa, when the guys I was training with wanted to keep the group together and I didn’t want to be the farenji holding things up. I checked behind me and we were out of sight of the third place runner, so I decided to embrace this piece of camaraderie and hold on for as long as I could, even if it meant overcooking things a bit at the end. It felt pretty good to be hammering along the road, a tailwind behind us, just me and the sole Ethiopian in the race. It felt pretty good, that is, until just after seven miles when Tadele decided to really start running. He’d wanted the company, clearly, but not that badly. We went through seven miles in about 35.40, and he finished in 50.04, running sub-4.50 pace for the last three miles. No wonder I couldn’t prevent the gap from growing.

My mate Dermot and I are now tied for the Corstorphine AC club record at 10 miles and separated by only four seconds over the half marathon. Onwards, then, to the Great North Run, where I can hopefully make sure one of them is mine outright!