National XC & Thorpe Park Half

Some weeks I wish I didn’t have to blog, so I wouldn’t have to explain every stupid, crazy thing I do. This is definitely one of those weeks.

In November I promise my club, Kent AC, that I will be doing the National Cross Country this year. I love being part of a team, and wish the team element was more prevalent in running. I also love the English National XC. 10,000 runners in arguably the oldest surviving footrace in the world. Nearly 130 years in a row. It is also incredibly tough, in a kindof way that no one even talks about. There is no point, you just have to go through it. There is a sense of warmth and satisfaction between the finishers, that you don’t find in modern, professional races.

In December I sign with my new sponsors, ‘On’, and am really thrilled to be part of another team. We are committed to doing a half marathon in build up to the main goal of London Marathon. The date of the half is not announced until late January, and it will be the day after the National XC. I feel like it is too late to pull out of either.

This sounds crazy, I know, but SOMETIMES you can feel great the day after a hard race, it pumps you up.

Also, On assure us that we can use the race as a tempo session, rather than flat out race, if that suits our preparations.

So, I agree to both.

Tuesday morning, I pull my hamstring on treadmill. Injuries are never down to luck (unless you get run over or something). There is always something I have done, or not done, to cause that injury. I know what I have done. So this isn’t a massive surprise. I go to track that night anyway, and think to myself, I will just go through the drills, and see how it feels. It feels surprisingly ok. So I go through the session. The last rep of the night and my hamstring goes again. It was a risk I shouldn’t have taken. I can feel you judging me.

It is a race against time now to get ready for the weekend. I feel like I heal very quickly. There is no way of knowing if this is really true. But believing it to be true probably helps. Wednesday, I can run at 8min miling without hurting hamstring. Thursday, bit faster. Friday, bit faster again. Rest it, don’t test it.

Saturday afternoon and I am standing, shivering, among the field of 2000+ men, all staring up the famous hill which marks the start of English National XC 2018. Gun blast. I know by the time I reach the top of that hill that it is going to be a long day for me. This is perhaps THE worst race to be carrying a weak hamstring. Pulling legs out of the mud, stretching out up and down hills, freezing cold winds, shoving and bashing other runners. I cannot run in my usual way, I have to tip-toe up and down the hills. I see lots of guys I know, and have to watch on, helpless, as they disappear away from me.



I don’t ask myself, “why am I doing this”. Because I know why I am doing this. I am a stubborn idiot. I would rather finish last than have to phone up the club manager with a sick note. I want to be the kindof guy who does something when he says he will.

I trail home way behind where I should be. But I am immensely relieved. I haven’t popped my hamstring. I shake hands with all my friends, nearly all of whom have beaten me. Clubmate and friend John Gilbert has the race of his life to come third. We all go to his medal ceremony where he gets biggest cheer of the day, then I have to head off.

On have arranged me a hotel room near the Thorpe Park Half Marathon. I arrive at just before 9pm, very nice room, collapse into bed.

Wake up 6.30am next morning, can hardly walk. My poor legs have had to compensate for the lack of a hamstring. They are stiff and sore everywhere. Get to race venue, bitterly cold morning. I get my race number from the desk, I am number 1. In my warm up I cannot break 10 minutes for a mile. EVERYONE is overtaking me. I just have to trust that when the gun goes my body will somehow work out a way to run.


First mile in 5.17, it feels a minute quicker. Teammates Kojo and Ben run away from me and I am left on my own for another long haul. I have to concentrate really hard not to run too fast and pull hamstring. It is exhausting. All the muscles I over-used are exhausted today. Every step hurts.

I get caught up by chasing pack with 2 miles to go. Olly Laws, a very good runner, comes past me. I hang onto him, shamelessly using him as a wind block. I manage to get past him and finish in third.


My best finishing position in the National is 38th. This weekend I finish 184th.

My Personal Best for a half marathon is 67.34. This weekend I run 74.14.

It could all be deemed a catastrophic failure. But for some reason it isn’t. If I had of had a few more days to recover I think the results could have been very different. But I am really proud of my body. I am so grateful it let me complete both races. And without doing serious damage to my legs.

Non-running highlight of the week

So many to choose from this week, including a NAP with Nina on Friday afternoon, an incredible Caribbean meal with friends in Brixton, and a big family get-together.

But, winner is haircut in Turkish barber in Bangor. First went there a month ago, guy had just started his own business, amazing haircut for £8. I went again this week, seats all full,  had to wait an hour. He works 12hrs a day 6 days a week, making £350 a day, sending money home to family in Turkey. Spends the whole time complaining about how my hair is too thick, but does a great job at super cheap price.

Best thing on the internet this week:

8 Life Lessons from Shalane Flanagan, winner of New York Marathon

Thing I’m digging this week:


Do a talk and session with Bangor Uni Psychology Students, who are undertaking a module called Born To Run. They are training for their first marathon and incorporate psychology to assist in their journey. They are all blogging and I’m really enjoying reading all the posts. This one is brilliant, wish I could write this well!

19/2/2018 AM PM
Monday REST 10tm
Tuesday 7tm 1 mile – 5.12. 8x600m (2min rest) in 1.46. 9 miles total
 pull hamstring
Wednesday 6tm 10tm
 8min miling
Thursday 4tm 6tm
 7.30 min miling. Drive to London PM
Friday 11
7.00 min miling. Beautiful sunny morning
Saturday 3  National XC. 184th. 12 miles total
Sunday Thorpe Park Half – 3rd. 74.14. 18 miles total  5
 Wake up at 6.30am on a Sunday for 9am start. 5 miles PM feels quite nice somehow
TOTAL: 101 miles  tm = treadmill



4 thoughts on “National XC & Thorpe Park Half

  1. What an amazing story, felt tears welling up, from the emotion. You are true survivor, a fighter, start unknown and finsh unforgettable.
    That is why you are an ON ambassador! Well done you are the wiiner this weekend! x


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