Running – the peaks I reached

Now I’m not saying that I’m giving up running, but I am absolutely sure that I will never run as quickly as I used to. Therefore, I want to note here the personal bests I achieved in the (roughly) 10 years I’ve been a runner.

The reason I can cite these as a peak with reasonable confidence is that the past two years of niggles around my hip area have now settled down to a consistently annoying pain that is fine to jog around on for 40-50 minutes but no longer, and certainly not at speed.

So here are my personal bests. They are well good and I am properly chuffed with them. As someone who was rubbish at sport at school and effectively did no exercise at all throughout my twenties, I feel proud of these times.

5km – 17:54 – Sandhurst, Gloucester, July 2007

10km – 37:54 – Market Drayton, Shropshire, May 2007

10 miles – 1:07:39 – Walsall, December 2005

Half Marathon – 1:23:21 – Telford, March 2009 (I won money for this one!)

20 miles – 2:17:26 – Bury St. Edmunds, February 2008

Marathon – 3:01:22 – London, April 2008

You can understand how gutting that last time is, knowing I won’t go under 3 hours yet got so close. Ah well, never mind.

Of course running shorter distances, at a slower pace, is actually quite nice. I’ll still try to turn out for my club‘s competitive events from time to time, and, inevitably, I’ll still make some reference to running and the data it generates when I talk about digital/social media stuff in public. As I did last week in a talk in Toledo near Madrid:

EPC 2.012

My Birmingham Half Marathon 2009

First off, what a well-organised race this was. All the various races (elite men, women, wheelchair, mass) started on time, the baggage drop-off was managed well enough and I didn’t have to queue for a portaloo. Support along the route was great, especially around Bournville where obviously it helps to have Bournville written on your running vest

I came 251st in 1:27:21. A full four minutes off my best but I was pleased enough as my training drifted a little in recent weeks. A full season of cross-country over the winter should see me posting better times in the new year hopefully.

Well done to everyone that took part and especially to the masses of colleagues from Bournville Harriers. Some really impressive times amongst club members but Mel James’ 1:23:04 and 6th woman back (first in her age category) was the stand out. I think it was actually Mel’s first ever half marathon.

Here’s the map from my Garmin if you want to see how my race panned out:

(pic: Pete Ashton)

Dave Harte – winner!


I won a prize for running. My first ever prize for running. In fact my first ever prize for anything athletic ever. Or for anything at all now I think about it. It turns out I won the top prize for my age category (40-45) at the Ironbridge Half Marathon the other week. I went straight home after the race, not even thinking to stop to see if I’d won anything. So the above cheque and explanatory scrap of paper that arrived in the post today were most welcome.

I was actually third in my age category but the other two were in the top five in the race overall so got separate prizes for that leaving me to scoop £30 as the next fastest vet 40 male. The prize list is here (PDF).

This is so exciting I came close to breaking my twitter fast. I plan to spend my winning on more lucky running pants.

Back from an awesome run….

….as I used to say on Twitter.

Actually I’m back from a storming run at the Ironbridge Half Marathon in Telford. Personal Best of 1:23:21, third in my age category, 17th overall, and a male veteran 40 record for Bournville Harriers. I don’t think I’ve felt as good in a race for a very long time.

I’ve ran this a couple of times before so I know by now that the first half is very quick, being largely downhill, and the second half can be tough, being largely uphill. The times tell their own story with my early 6′ 15″ miles becoming 6′ 40″ miles by the end of the race. I reached 10k in about 38 minutes and my legs only really felt heavy in the last couple of miles.

The scenery as always was lovely and this time around the lack of rain recently meant a virtually mud-free course. This remains one of my favourite half-marathons, not just because I seem to go quick here but because it is always well organised, friendly and a decent challenge.

For the record I was wearing my recently purchased special running pants. From now on to be universally referred to as my lucky pants.

(Pic from Telford Harriers)

Ely New Year’s Eve 10k – Race Report

What is it about this race? I’ve now run it four times and despite achieving sub-40 minute 10k times pretty consistently elsewhere I still haven’t done it here. This year I crossed the finish line in 40 minutes and one second. How frustrating is that? Three training runs in the past six weeks probably goes some way to explaining the time; that or the two glasses of wine, a beer and that extra slice of cheesecake the night before.

Ely Runners put on a great 10k. Its main, and unique, attraction is the bottle of real ale you get for finishing it but it’s also a well-organised run around some rather nice flat countryside. It starts in Little Downham just outside Ely and you basically complete a squarish route back to the village. If the wind is up then it can be a tricky course given how ‘up’ the wind can get across the Fens. But this year was calm and cold. Very cold in fact. I went for the gloves and vest look but there were some runners who were covered head to toe. Of course I was freezing but I had hoped that would make me run quicker. Clearly it didn’t.

Chatting to a runner afterwards he tried to console me by saying that in some ways this race is too flat. Actually it does have a single incline at the 8km mark, hardly a hill but with a lone piper at the top of it creating the effect of it seeming more epic than it actually is.

The race finished with a sprint across a frozen field, not a quick enough sprint by me but the conditions did deliver some good results with the winner, Rob Joy of Notts AC, finishing well ahead of second place in 31:15. Congrats to everyone who braved the cold – and especially to those 49 runners who did get under 40 minutes.

Race result:
David Harte Bournville Harriers MV40 0:40:01 51st

(pic Charlie Barker – he’s captured my peculiar ‘thumbs-up’ look very nicely)

Birmingham Half Marathon race report

So that was the first ever Birmingham Half Marathon. All told it was pretty good. Here’s a brief report on the day:

It was of course a horrible night weather-wise (not as bad as up in the Lake District of course but thank goodness all the runners there are safe). By the time a group of eight of us got into a shared taxi at 7.40am it was just down to light drizzle and had stopped by the time the race started. I have no doubt that any complaints about the race will be based around the traffic at the start (big queues to park) and the loos (big queues to wee). Neither affected me much but I suspect the former was responsible for the 15 minute delay at the start. The pen system at the start worked well with runners starting according to their predicted finishing time.

The race was off by 9.45am and I have to say that it felt great to run on such wide roads. There was no runner congestion and generally good support all around. The underpasses and flyovers of Perry Barr were on the undulating side and running through the centre of town was fun but the really tricky hills were in Edgbaston. Every corner you turned seemed to be another uphill. The support on these roads was great and the water stations were well placed. Big thanks to Helen Foot who acted as my support crew by having a sickly orange energy gel ready for me at about mile 6.

The last two miles of this course are great. Given how tired my legs were after yesterday’s cross-country efforts I probably didn’t make the most of the two mile ever-so-slightly-downhill section but I gathered a little speed as I came past the large crowds lining Broad Street. An attempted sprint finish didn’t quite come off but I finished 96th in 1hr 27 min 11 sec. That’s a second best time for me at this distance. 

Overall there were about 40 Bournville Harriers running. Four of them were ahead of me with a couple of personal bests being achieved. Full results are online now. Well done to all.

I think the race was a triumph but I’ve no doubt there’ll gripes, especially from runners themselves (not flat enough, not scenic enough, no chocolate in the goody bag – runners can be a miserable bunch). But anyone who got themselves organised enough to arrive early, took in the atmosphere (lots of music along the way as well) and had the right attitude will have come away with a smile on their face as well as a medal around their necks.

By way of an aside yesterday’s cross-country was great as usual, and of course, muddy:

(pics Paul Foot although it must have been his wife Helen as Paul was one of the people stuck up a mountain in the Lake District)

On racing trains and being 40

The train pre-race
I spent Saturday racing against a train. To those not familiar with the weird and wonderful world of running this involves what it says on the tin – racing against a train. It’s simple really. Pack the 2.05pm departure of the Talyllyn Railway full of friends and family and start a race at the same time. Run as parallel as you can to the train for the 7 miles there and 7 miles back and the see who wins. On this occasion I’m pleased to say I won (along with quite a few others) – but only by about 10 seconds, coming in at circa 1:47:30 – official results to follow.

What a race though. You get to run through fields, people’s backyards, up the side of steep hills, through muddy streams – anywhere as long as it’s close to the railway track. I fell over a couple of times, wore the wrong trainers and generally had a tough time of it. My legs were so tired towards the end I walked a few times just to recover – something I only do if I’m really, really suffering. The train did go past me near the end (but then foolishly stopped at a station allowing me to just beat it back) with my family sticking their heads out of the window and yelling advice and encouragement at me – or at least I think they were, I couldn’t hear a thing over the noise of the train. Overall, a great race for which I woefully under-trained and suffered as a result. Oh and despite it being cloudy and rainy I still got sunburnt.

Dave in pain

It’s not the first race I ran this week. That was the Rowheath 5k on Thursday. I suffered there as well. Almost a full minute behind my PB. What’s going on? I turned 40 in July so I’m now in the veteran category. I should be relishing putting down some great times yet instead I’m running badly in any distance you care to set me. What’s that you say? Why don’t I just start training properly? Instead of moaning maybe I could show my face on Saturday morning training sessions? Maybe run more than twice a week? Oh come on you’re just being silly now.

Running to stand still

I spend too much time on this blog telling you about my gardening exploits. You’d have thought I’d given up running completely so this is a brief post to update you on where I am with that aspect of my life at the moment:

Training – in case you didn’t know I ran the London Marathon in 3hrs 1 minute in April and since then I’ve eased off training (compunded by a light ankle niggle in the weeks just after the race). I’ve been a bit half-hearted about it actually but I plan to step it up with the aim of getting a personal best half-marathon time at the year’s Birmingham half-marathon. Colleagues in my running club are even getting me to think about my spring 2009 marathon (maybe London, maybe somewhere else) and how I should be training for it now – yikes!

I’ve started running home from work a couple of times a week which is good for the soul, and on the pocket given the price of fuel. It’s only about 4 miles or more if I take the scenic route via Cannon Hill park (more again via the canals) but overall I doubt I’m running more than 25 miles a week at the moment, often less.

Racing – My last race was the Malvern half-marathon on June 22nd in which I came in the top 30 and recorded a good time in windy conditions of under 1hr 29mins. I was however a little dissapointed as it felt harder than any race I’d done for a while and I tailed off very badly in the second half. I should have paced myself for a more sensible run. I’ve much to do ahead of Birmingham in October if I’m to hit 1hr 26mins.

In mid-August, for fun more than competition, I race against a train across fields in Wales. Beating the train there and back along the route is quite difficult apparently but it should be fun. I’d like to squeeze in a 10k race at some point over the summer or early Autumn but I should wait until I’m at least a little fitter.

So overall this post is to let you know that I’m running less (I was doing 5-6 days a week during marathon training and up to 50 miles) but still enjoying it. In fact I’m probably enjoying it precisely because I’m running less.

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