10 things I learnt on Tour

Here are ten things I learnt during this week’s Tour of Bournville:

  1. Using the same number every night is better in theory than in practice although it does allow for some interesting improvisation.
  2. Sean Rose is faster than me. Actually I already knew this. We all knew this. The best I could have hoped for was some astonishing loss of form from him but it wasn’t to be. Despite the occasional claim of sore calf muscles I knew he was playing with me. He beat me by 1min 53secs overall.
  3. Birmingham is a lovely place. During my marathon training I used to run down the Bristol Road to Longbridge and then up through West Heath amongst other grim urban routes. More fool me as South Birmingham is full of parks and quiet lanes if this week is anything to go by. 
  4. I look ridiculous when I’m running. In every single shot I’ve got my thumbs up. What is with that? Next time you see me please break both my thumbs. 
  5. Doing all five races allows you to eat crap all day. One of the most frequent things I get asked about my running is: “do you have a special diet.” Yes, I have a special diet comprising fry-ups and chocolate. This week I have averaged two breakfasts, several large lunches and quite a bit of mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks. Yum.
  6. The club has some good photographers. I’m unsure if this one below is a Paul Foot, Mark Lynock or Mike Scotney pic but it’s my favourite of the bunch – shows us all working hard. Those thumbs though – I really need to do something about them.
  7. Race 5

  8. The tour is good for socialising. I’ve chatted to more club members this week than ever. Partly because of the blog but I’ve had good chats with lots of people about all kinds of stuff. I even managed to get rid of some of my allotment rhubarb to Tony A’s other half. Apparently I’m to get a rhubarb pie as payment. More yum!
  9. Blogging rocks!. More of you should do it. It’s really very easy to set up. One of the good things about it is that people can comment on what you write. I haven’t had many comments this week but just having a few people say “good run” or something similar is really quite heartening. Our club website operates a bit like a blog anyway but having your own space to write your thoughts allows you to connect different aspects of your life and interests together and to connect to others who share those interests. Blogging about running also increases traffic to your website. My stats show a three-fold increase in readers of this blog since the link from the club website was made. Yes, that’s up from 3 visitors a day to 9 – wow!
  10. Some male members of this club are way more popular with the ladies than I am. I got a polite round of applause when I went up to receive my hat and bottle of wine but at least one of our male colleagues was rewarded with a chorus of female yelps and wolf whistles when he went up. What’s his secret?…
  11. Finally, something I already knew: we’ve got a great running club at Bournville of which I’m proud to be a member. Well done to everyone who took part in the tour and thanks once again to the organisers. Now it’s back to the grindstone of training – the cross-country season will be here before you know it.
Thanks to all those Bournville Harriers members who are new to this blog. Please keep reading as I do write about my running from time to time. Now in order to demonstrate the power of blogging you all need to write something in the comments about how this week’s Tour was for you…

Tour of Bournville Race 4

After today’s race a couple of the guys were talking about how the endorphin rush from this week’s constant running was giving them such a buzz they were finding it hard to sleep. I can barely find the energy to lift my fingers above the keyboard to type these words. Worse still it’s bin night round here and guess whose job that is in my house?


Anyway, I digress. You can tell by the opening that I didn’t win, otherwise we’d be having a repeat of last night’s blog post. Sean won comfortably by a good 20 seconds or so tonight which leaves the overall result as a bit of a foregone conclusion although I suspect we’ll still compete as hard as we can tomorrow whatever happens.

With one race left we should take time tonight to congratulate all the marshals and organisers of the races. Our club chairperson, Sue Ward, is doing a great job and has a good team around her of family and club members helping out. For those who don’t know the back story to the races they were the idea of her late husband John Ward who planned all the routes. Credit to him then for planning such scenic routes in the middle of a busy city. We’ve barely ran on any urban pavements (tomorrow’s 5k will be the exception) and credit too for the diversity of the courses. Tonight’s run on the grass of Manor Farm Park (4 miles) was testing but the soft grass comes at the right time of the week to ease sore calf muscles and niggling knees.

Of course if you ran last year’s tour event you’ll also recall that John had described Tuesday’s hill race as 5 miles in his notes only for us to wonder why it seemed to go on and on and on. Even though we now know it’s 7 miles I think a fitting tribute would be to continue describing it as 5 miles – it would be amuse me no end to see the look on newcomer’s faces as they wonder if their Garmin has gone haywire.

We should take a moment too to focus on Sally Gray, leading female runner but who is also powering ahead of most of the men. Results from tonight aren’t in but the results so far show how close she is to Andy Workman, a mere 20 seconds to pull back to gain 5th place overall. Her nearest woman competitor is quite a way behind (where there’s a really good battle developing) but Sally is not only looking relaxed and strong for each race but making sure the men remain competitive.

Given how tired we all are everyone seemed up for it tonight and everyone is still doing that whole sprint finish thing. Tomorrow’s another story though as we reach the end of our week of torture. It’s a 5k course around Bournville that’s familiar to us all with a slightly uphill finish. I’m ‘working from home’ tomorrow which should help me prepare a little presuming I don’t go crazy on the allotment

Tour of Bournville Race 3


I won. What more is there to write? I’ve never won a race in my life. Not ever. Not as a youth, not as an adult. So if you’ve arrived at this page expecting a full report on the runners and riders of race three of the Tour of Bournville then you may be disappointed. Instead there’ll be plenty of self-congratulation and discussion of my astonishing performance. I bet you can’t wait.


Race three is a good one. Dead flat along the canal from Kings Norton to Selly Oak and back – circa five miles. It’s a staggered start as well with three groups going out five minutes apart to avoid congestion and to provide the enjoyable spectacle of all the runners of all abilities finishing close together.  I recall last year’s race when Dean, Andy and I stayed close for the first half until Dean powered ahead. This year it was Sean (occasionally sporting a Spiderman mask!?), myself and the ever improving James who stayed together almost to the end.


I lead from the start in an attempt to push the pace and tried pushing on a couple of times to see if I could leave them behind but generally to no avail. James drifted slightly as we got towards the finish with Sean and I shoulder to shoulder with 400 metres to go. I decided to push and just kept pushing, hoping that Sean didn’t quite have enough. And so it was that I won my first ever race by a short distance. 

Of course I’ve only taken about 10 seconds out of Sean’s already significant lead and I could do without James getting any closer on my back. But overall there was real pleasure in winning – more please.

As usual Sally was first back for the women followed by Marianne. I’ve not seen the full results from tonight’s race but there’s an interesting battle emerging between Laura, Maggie and Sarah for 2nd, 3rd and 4th place (Marianne missed a race so can’t qualify). There’s been a few absences in the men’s race so I haven’t quite worked out yet how that battle is turning out but we’ll know after the results are in tonight I think (again, Andy and James will miss races so won’t be in the final running)

Tomorrow it’s cross-country, 4 miles. The questions for me are: Is Sean weakening? Can I take him again? Will it matter given he’s still over a minute ahead overall? Will the route be again partially blocked off by Firemen playing with hoses as it was tonight?

Tour of Bournville Race 2

Now here was a fascinating battle at the front of what was a punishing race with two strong runners battling each other on a succession of tough hills. What a shame I wasn’t one of those runners but hey, at least I could just about see them in the distance.

Those were big hills. I mean come on, I know there are plenty of tough fell running types in our running club but to me that’s as many hills as I want to cover in one race. I believe one of them is even known as ‘The Killer Mile’. Basically this is two loops of a course set in a strip of lovely North Worcestershire countryside unfortunately sandwiched between the last suburb in Birmingham and the M42. 

I came third today behind Andy and Sean who were having a great race about 50 yards ahead of me. Andy went out quickly and maintained a lead up until about 1.5 miles to go. By that point I was beginning to lose sight of them but I could see that Sean was beginning to establish a short lead which he maintained until the end. The cruellest part of this course (other than the manic farm dogs chasing us) is that once you’ve completed the second loop you have to go down the hill and then straight back up it again. It’s a hill in which you hope the runner is front is going to tire and you will find some hidden reservoir of strength. It wasn’t to be though and I came in at 47min 40secs which must be at least 30 seconds behind Andy. Sally came back first for the women again and looked very comfortable indeed. Everyone else looked suitably tired when they finished although there were a few sprint finishes which I find astonishing considering the size of the hill they’d all just come up.

As the results come together some of the battles in the age categories and elsewhere in the field will emerge and I’ll try to dwell on them as well since they may be a lot more interesting than hearing about my succession of diminishing returns. Although having said that, it is my blog and I do have a significant ego to feed.

Tomorrow: 5 miles on the canals (on which I suspect there will be a lot of standing water on the paths – should be fun)

(Above pic from Paul Foot’s collection although that’s him in the pic on the right so presumably this is a Mike Scotney pic. Full results at Bournville Harriers site)

Tour of Bournville Race 1

My number is already looking a little out of focus after race one of the 2008 Tour of Bournville. In fact I discovered its difficult-to-get-off green and black ink all over my hands and arms when I had a post-race shower. Seeing as we’re using the same number for all five races I’m going on the basis that it’ll be unreadable by Friday so this can act as a record of what number I am.
tour number
I’ll do a brief race report here although I apologise to non-Bournville Harriers types for whom the names I mention below will mean little. To the rest of us of course they represent the giants of the South Birmingham amateur running world – or something like that.

To cut a long story short race one was 10k approx (general consensus was that it was about 9.5k or less) around the paths, parks and playing field of Bournville. What a lovely route it was as well with plenty of variation to the terrain, hardly a car in sight and a nasty hill to finish on. A field of about 30 of us took part of all abilities in what were great conditions (for running that is, coolish, bit of drizzle). The full results will appear over on the main Bournville harriers site but I’m pleased to say I came in 2nd in 36min 49sec about 20 seconds behind Sean Rose and ahead of Andy and James, 3rd and 4th respectively. In the women’s race Sally edged out Marianne and I fully expect the two to be closely matched all week. The rest of the runners came in close behind and I swear, each and every one of them seemed to be putting on a sprint finish.

Tomorrow it’s 7 miles on a hilly course. I’ve already got a pretty big time gap to close if I’m to challenge the race leader but believe me, he’s in my sights….

Pics should appear are already appearing here and I’ll add I’ve added a couple to this blog as well.

More tomorrow.

5 days, 5 races

Next week I go back into full on running mode after a few weeks of post-marathon laziness. Yes it’s the 2008 Tour of Bournville, organised by the club I run for, Bournville Harriers. The simple idea is to run a race every day from Monday to Friday with all the race times added together to find the winner.

tour of bournville t-shirt

The five-year-old interrupts a session on the Cbeebies website to model the 2008 tour t-shirt

At last year’s event I could only do four out of the five races but this year, despite not really being fully fit for it I plan to do all five. I also plan to blog about each one on the evening they happen so if this ain’t your thing then switch off now. Here’s this year’s race schedule in full:

  • Monday: 10k Multi-terrain around Bournville
  • Tuesday: 7 mile hill race starting near here
  • Wednesday: 5 miles along the canal from Kings Norton to Selly Oak (and back I think)
  • Thursday: 4 miles cross country at Manor Farm Park
  • Friday: 5k race around Bournville.

Phew! More next week as the races get underway….