The back story:
This road trip was a long time in the making but worth every moment.
It was a few years ago when I spotted that two of my bucket list USA races
were fairly close together (date and location wise), normally a week apart.
If you're going all that way, might as well do two! Would have gone last
year but alas, for a change, they were on the same day in 2018.
Instead, October last year I was running the Firenze marathon with one eye
on the clock, Chicago qualifier in the bag, time to put the plan into
Fairly simple road trip planned - we fly into Minneapolis on Wed 2nd, see
the Twin Cities, wife's special birthday on Friday, complete the Ultra Loony
Challenge (5k, 10k, marathon), Mon 7th hire a car and drive along the
Mississippi, various stops, overnight at La Crosse, on to Milwaukee for a
night (return car), Wed 9th evening train to Chicago, see the city and catch
a show, Chicago 5k and marathon, home on Monday 14th. Simples.
Twin City 5k/10k:
They have an EAS race weather warning system in America, I gather following
some previous incidents somewhere.
Unfortunately with a storm blowing in for the Saturday this meant e-mails
from the organisers warning of possible changes etc. and a final update at
4am on Sat.
Saturday's events were cancelled. I was bitterly disappointed at first,
especially when this was allegedly due to the risk of lightning strike, yet
we saw no lightning at all. I must admit though, the idea of volunteers
standing in that torrential rain seemed horrid and would take some real
dedication, this to me was surely the main safety issue. So pros and cons -
it was best to be safe, it would have been slippery and dangerous on course,
winds could blow things over/into runners/spectators, marshals could be in
low numbers if volunteers, volunteers would be exposed for long periods, was
the right call - plus, my stuff would have been absolutely soaked for the
main event. Shame no refund, but they are posting out the medals and
PS - this was indicative of St Paul/Minneapolis at this time of year (colder
than we expected) - we had a couple of nice days, one wet, one very cold
with icy winds.
Twin City Marathon:
The storm had passed and I woke to a glorious new day. I'm up and on the
Metro at Union Depot St Paul, headed to Minneapolis US Bank Arena for the
Turns out the metro (tram) is home to quite a few homeless overnight and
they were quite surprised by the disturbance we caused, as each stop went by
even more runners joined.
Its early doors and icy cold, start time at 8am, well organised, plenty of
loos, easy baggage drop, drinks station already, big screen and music,
decent DJ, knew what he was talking about race wise too.
Hats off for the national anthem with 10 min to go.
8 am and we are off!.
The race is through the skyscrapers and city centre of Minneapolis, moves
west and circles the network of lakes and nature areas, hits the Mississippi
and follows it north, crosses, follows it south for a bit and then strikes
onto the famous Summit Av for a long stretch to the finish line at the state
capitol building in St Paul.
A mix of big city, suburbs, lakeside views, wooded areas, river runs, posh
neighbourhoods and grand city capitals.
I intended to take this one easy, especially with the big race next weekend,
and just enjoy the day, the race, the atmosphere and the views. Wow! What a
This race basically delivered on all aspects, wonderful city start, great
skyscraper running, out past parks and churches on the main roads to the
wooded suburbs, there before you know it.
A mainstay of running through fantastic lakeside roads with amazing views,
tree canopied lanes, classic US style houses (many already gearing up for
The last of the lakes also meant we looked north across it and saw
Minneapolis' skyline in the distance, great view.
A huge level of support, seemed like everyone had simply come out to watch
on the Sunday morning, weather clearly helped.
Plenty of people sat having breakfast parties on their lawns, lots of
cheering, music, water stations etc. all the way round.
The river part was probably less dramatic than I'd expected because there
were trees on both sides of the road/lane we were on, as such the river view
was obscured in parts, but the tree lined running and crowds were great and
there were plenty of views of the river at other points.
Summit Hill was no trouble at all, and then the 4 mile long Summit Av to the
finish was brilliant and again with massive support, passed the cathedral
and then the finish line and capitol is in view for the home straight.
Timewise - 3:21 - bit of a surprise, really meant to go a bit slower.
Effort wise, did start to get twinges in my right knee in the last two miles
and swopped over my knee support (I wear it more out of habit these days) on
my other knee. Worked a treat, but left me wondering about next week.
Easily met up with my wife, changed, and carried on with our tourist stuff,
plenty of walking about and I was feeling good, paddleboat on the river in
the afternoon, was nice, and sneakily free.
Chicago Breakfast Run:
I do like these breakfast runs, not really a race, a bit of a laugh, lots of
flag waving, plenty of music, a leg warmer event that can cover parts of the
city you won't cover in the main event.
I had also been told that a lot of the celebrities and elites do this one so
a chance to hang-out at the park afterwards - not so much I'm afraid.
I thoroughly enjoyed the run, had all the normal razzmatazz and flag waving
at the start next to city hall and the Picasso sculpture.
Must admit that once it began it seemed to develop into more of a 5k race
the further on you went and the less crowded it became - which seems odd as
there's surely no way you could PB on this.
I especially liked the straight alongside Grant Park as runners were in both
directions and as you approached the u-turn you saw yourself on the big
Very well organised, liked the striking bobble hat that everyone was wearing
for the rest of the day, and with a 7:30 start it doesn't affect your days
activities at all.
Expo first - opened at 9am on Friday, with a fleet of free shuttles (yellow
school busses) picking people up from four points in the city from 8.30
I opted to go first thing and beat the rush, downside, so too did lots of
others, upside, selfie with Paula Radcliffe. All the usual stuff, pretty
speedy once inside, and shuttle back to just round the corner from my hotel
- great service!
Race day - 7:30 start with advice to be there a good 1.5/2 hours early. I
opted for the plan of arriving circa 6:30, meant I'd have an hour for all
the security and bag drop stuff etc. and planned to meet up at the fountain
with Debs and Simon. It did cross my mind that I may not be the only one
with this sort of plan, suffice to say, 6:30 was fine, plenty of time,
fountain was good too, though Debs and Simon were running late. Don't forget
that they close the pen at 7.20 so you need to bag drop and get to it, I
delayed bag drop to keep warm and ended up cutting this a bit finer than
expected - doh!
I ended up at the back of my coral, but with 45,000 runners I looked on the
bright side, I'd be in for a slow start but it would help stop me going off
Hats off, national anthem - I do like this touch.
7:30 and we're off!
Turns out they've really sorted out the coral size and staggered start, and
with the wide roads there was no congestion from the get go!
Little bit of weaving here and there, that's it.
Wow, what an iconic start, big city running! Once again fantastic crowds and
a great atmosphere.
Big main avenues, great going over the rivers, they'd even laid out red
carpets for us over the bridges (turns out this was due to the criss-cross
metal road structure underneath - but at first I thought it was VIP type
Plenty of music, lots of people cheering, plenty of water stations (must
remember, Gatorade is first, water second).
Long, pancake flat straights, this course is a great one for a PB (not that
I'm heading for anything given the sheer mileage I've covered over the last
week and a half, added to last week's race)
We're soon headed north to Lincoln park and the various neighbourhoods (I
think we run through 29 different ones), we go through part of the park,
pass the zoo and conservatory, through Old Town, all good stuff, and again
still plenty of support and regular music, all feeling good.
I recall Old Town, I also remember the drag queens singing Brittany songs on
stage at the side of the road.
Then we turn and are headed back to downtown, skyscrapers luring us back in
once more, into the heart of the city, over the bridges and along the river
this time - all simply brilliant.
It's almost half way and we head out again to more suburban neighbourhoods,
definitely two halves to this race. The first half big city and parks, the
second more outlying neighbourhoods, China Town, and a home stretch for
Lots of people out cheering us on all the way round, must admit - 1hr 33 at
the halfway point made me feel 3:10 was on the cards - and as every mile
passed and I maintained pace, thereabouts, it seemed more likely. This would
be a cracking PB afterall!
I loved the comments of 'you've got this', initially a feeling of 'damn
right I have' slowly turned to more of a 'come on me, you have got this'.
Through China Town, tree lined suburbs, all the while with scrappers in the
Come mile 20 I was really tiring, come mile 22 the wheels were coming off
the bus, come mile 23 I reckoned on a PB but was unsure of 3:10, come mile
24 I walked a few meters and struggled thereon, even tried some Gatorade to
I knew when we turned for home and the last two miles straight had me
looking at the skyline in the distance getting ever closer, motivating
myself on. 'You got this!'
Such a relief to enter the final turn and head for the line, I felt
completely spent, 3hr:13 - and a PB by 30 seconds!
Here's the funny thing, in the immediate aftermath I heard serval people say
in a disappointed tone of voice that they had a PB. Like me, the pancake
flat course, the atmosphere, the crowds, the speedy start, all meant so many
went off too fast. Like when your eyes are too big for your belly, their
pace was too fast for their feet. By the end of the race it came home to
bite, so a new PB, but you feel you've left time on the course (a good three
minutes for me I reckon).
Loads of stuff handed out, glad I got my bag back as I needed it! Two beers
as well (should not have had them, I can't normally face much immediately
afterwards, I know better than a post race beer, circa 2 hours later I was
I clearly was utterly spent as I had to stop and sit on a park bench for a
couple of min on the way back to the hotel (twice), and was extremely
lethargic until the evening time, as we popped over to Navy Pier and out
onto the lake etc.
Overall a classic race, really well organised, amazing support and a
thoroughly great atmosphere.
PS - attached my strava links for the runs, loads of pictures too, as I
snapped and ran, Chicago was such that I didn't put my phone back in my
pocket at all!
PS - don't expect your Garmin to work in the big city parts
PS - on the way home the male winner was sat just across from me as we ate
lunch in the airport, and the female winner was on our plane (not to
Norwich, we flew via Amsterdam)!
PS - Milwaukee was almost missed off the road trip plan but turned out to be
a wonderful gem of a city. An hour and half from Chicago by train, if you
ever do Chicago, seriously consider a night in Milwaukee.
PS - Have now spotted that Quebec and Toronto are a week apart at the start
of October..not next year as I have plans already, but 2021 perhaps..hmm?
Inspired by some of the recent race reports from other Roadrunners of late, I thought I’d share a few thoughts about King’s Forest 50k and my season more generally.
King’s Forest was my third ultra and shorter than Peddars Way or the Coastal 100km so I was feeling pretty confident about finishing it. The conditions were great, drizzling and cool, and the course was well marked. I started off conservatively, letting a group of about 7 runners go away from me on the first 13-mile loop and got to halfway feeling like I’d held back and was full of beans. I’ve learnt on ultras that it’s all about holding back and keeping your powder dry for the first two thirds of the race. Getting great support from my family and from brilliant marshals like Wendy Smith on route, I set about upping my pace and picking people off in the second half. I was running about 6:30/mile when I went past the leader with about 6 miles still to go and I saw him look at my number, clock that I was in the ultra and visibly groan with disappointment as he realised he wouldn’t be able to hang on. This made me feel even stronger and I ran the rest of the race with a massive imbecilic grin on my face!
The KF 50k was the third in a series of Ultras organised by Positive Steps, following on from Peddars Way 48miles and the Norfolk Coastal 100km. I would thoroughly recommend this series if you're thinking of giving Ultras a try. At the start of the year I decided to complete the series. It was one of three targets I set myself for 2019: (1) Complete 3 ultras, (2) Run a sub17min 5km and (3) Run a sub2:45 marathon. I have achieved the first two, not the third (although I’ll have another shot at that in a few weeks). I say this not to blow my own trumpet, I’m well aware there are countless better runners out there, but just to share the power of setting yourself ambitious targets and putting everything into achieving them. If I had one recommendation for runners it would be to write down at the start of the year three things you want to achieve in running, pin them up somewhere you can see them every day and train your heart out trying to reach them. Other things that have helped me improve include: the plank (a few minutes every day); motivational Youtube videos (Ben Parkes anyone?); chia seeds in my porridge and the inspiration of Roadrunners like Mandy Foyster achieving amazing things every other weekend. The single most important factor, I have found, is running volume. Increase your mileage (steadily, safely and consistently) and you’ll see improvements in every aspect of your running.
My advice (for what it’s worth): start thinking about your three targets for 2020 now. They need to be ambitious, almost unachievable. Then set about achieving them.
few years ago I just thought running was running, I would see people on the street and just think they were out for a nice run. I had no idea there was so much more to it!
7 April 2018 I joined my Dad at Eaton parkrun to see what the fuss was all about. I completed my first parkrun in 38.43, stopped 6 times and genuinely thought I was having a heart attack....it was horrible! However, after crossing the finish line and realised people were clapping little ol' me, I got a sense of achievement and a proper buzz! It was then I realised what people were going on about! I was already looking forward to coming back the following week. 14 April 2018 I finished in 37.17. Each week the seconds and sometimes minutes were flying off....this was great! My parkrun PB is now 26.56 (Sloughbottom) and my 5k PB is 25.53 (Wroxham 5k race 1) so my aim is to get sub 25 by the end of the year!
It was in June 2018 I decided to join Norwich Road Runners and it was the best decision! I thought I preferred running on my own but since joining the club, I think I can count the times I have trained on my own in the last year on one hand. The support and encouragement the club has given me has been amazing. There will always be someone who will stop to check I am ok or stay with me and keep me going and if it wasn't for these people, I may have given up!
Since joining I have taken part in 26 races, 2 of them being half marathons and have many more booked!....I actually think they are a drug and I am slightly addicted!
Next year I am taking on my ultimate challenge and what has been a dream of mine for years.....The 2020 Virgin London Marathon! I know it will be mentally and physically challenging but I know I have a lot of people around me to help me train, support me, cheer me on and pass me a beer at the end.....which will be needed!
As cliche as it sounds, running has changed my life. Not only have I improved so much over the last year and half, I have made some amazing friends, taken part in some fantastic races and earned some solid bling out of it! It is true what they say, once you catch the running bug its hard to get away from it!
I am looking forward to seeing how far I can push myself in the coming years, as Eliud Kipchoge says "No human is limited" BRING IT ON!
It is always satisfying to see the positive results of ones idea and I had that satisfaction when I saw eight runners receive their medals for finishing the Dereham 5K race in race times they would be proud of.
As a member of Norwich Road Runners I had completed a Leadership in Running Fitness (LIRF) and had been involved in helping at the clubs Monday night sessions. These sessions are designed for new runners ,and those returning from injury. I found I really enjoyed helping beginners at the club and I had a real desire to encourage complete beginners to come to the club to start running. However it is not always easy for a novice to know where to start never mind going to a running club! Then ,when on a run, I had the idea of approaching the club committee to allow me to run the clubs own C25K. The C25K ( Couch to 5K) is a course designed, as the name implies, to take a complete running novice and get them to running 5K’s ,safely and without injury, in about 10 weeks. The committee was enthusiastic.
By the this time the Club had moved to new premises and I was running the Monday night sessions and had experience in planning routes and taking sessions.So with a group of club volunteers we began the process of setting up the course, planning sessions and advertising the course on social media and other platforms. On the first day of the course we were delighted and surprised that 65 novice runners turned up for first session! For the next 10 weeks my team encouraged, cajoled and trained these lovely people in the art of running, from stretching through to style and endurance. The target I offered the runners was a medal at the end of the course together with a chance to run in a UKA officially certified run-The Dereham 5K.
And so my summer ended-with 8 first time road racers, 15 new club members and 65 people who had tried something new. The Norwich Road Runners c25K course.
Thanks to the volunteers:
Sue Carver ,Clare Gooch , Rachel Miller, Sam Wall ,Jenny Sparkes ,Paul Corder, Joe Woodley ,Dawn Cook, Mark Downes ,Rachael Pizey and Anna Wright
6th October 2019
Just popping this up here as 'early bird' entries for 2020 are already open (£54).
A point to point race. You'll want to stay in Inverness as this is where you register, finish, and where the coaches will pick you up and take you to the start line. There's plenty of b&b's etc here but you'd probably want to sort this at the same time as your entry. An open return by train was about £168, I kept an eye on prices but there was never any variation from this.
It's about an hour's drive to the start (the coach transfer is included in your entry fee) probably the most 'middle of nowhere' point that I've ever started a race.!There will be portaloos , teas and coffees but nothing else (other than the baggage trucks). It's strictly runners only at the start, if you're taking supporters then they'll have to wait for you in Inverness asI think it would be very very difficult for them to try and see you at any other point on the course accessed by an alternative route.
Pipes and drums will see you off. The roads are closed completely for the first 18/19 miles and then 'your' side for the remainder, although there was virtually nothing ever coming the 'other way'.
Drinks/gel stations are frequent enough and I was pleased that the water was bottled (330ml) up until around the 21/22 mile point ,at which it was in paper cups.
Right, the course itself? Beautiful. A lot of it Loch-side, mostly tree lined. If the sun did shine then I suspect you'd still be able to find decent shade. It's a very natural setting with only the last 3 miles being an urban run back into Inverness.
Overall it's downhill with pretty much all of the downhill being in the first half. However, it has several cheeky climbs along with one particular 'when is this going to end' at around 19/20 miles.
The roads generally have a decent surface and although they have 'passing places' they're wider than 'single lane'.
It is all in one direction that you'll be running, North-East The loch will be on your left, the landscape will rise to your right. The road that you run on is generally quite sheltered, they'd be far worse places to be on a windy day even if it looked as if it was a headwind.
Although there are only supporters at occasional points (mostly locals(?)) there were always plenty of other runners around me (I was just under 4hr pace).
The capacity for 2019 was, I think 4,700. I haven't yet seen how many finished. In 2018 there were about 2,800 finishers (though I don't know what the capacity was for that year).
Good crowds for the last 3 miles and at the finish itself.
This is my mara number 21, run at 19 different locations and would be in my top 3 (or 4).
Get in there!
It feels like ages ago that I found out I had a ballot place for this huge event, with 57,000 entries apparently sold this year. After the initial thrill, I was brought back down to earth with the realisation that the hotel companies are well aware of what's going on (£260 for 2 nights in a Premier Inn) and that trains (£360 for 2 return) were only slightly more economical than flying via Amsterdam (£370). The long slog up the A1 it is then.
Other key preparations I undertook included finding a good Italian restaurant on TripAdvisor, where I booked our table around 3 months in advance, and a parking space booking. Just Park (Airbnb for your car) did the trick here, and our host must have forgotten to put his rates up. Result!
My training was rudely interrupted by a minor op a month before, which led to me not running for 10 days. Not ideal, but not much to be done about it. I then crammed in some miles with the longest run beforehand being a Thursday evening NRR session, plus running to club and back, making up 10 miles or so for the night.
Now, to race weekend. After the drive up and checking in at our hotel on Newcastle's Quayside, right under the Tyne bridge, we had a little nose around Newcastle and watched some junior races. We even saw a young NRR girl and cheered her on! The aforementioned Italian was lovely and I got an early night.
On race morning I woke up feeling good, with light legs ready for a run. I thought I'd try to stick with the 1:50 pacer for a chance of a PB. The walk to the start was just over a mile and this was the first time I hit the crowd. After dropping my bag on the bus I went down to the motorway to sit down and soak up the start atmosphere. The sun had made an appearance and I was without protection, resigning myself to getting a bit burnt.
Around 10:15 I made my way to my pen (D) only to find a stationery queue. This wasn't looking good! I was with a Norfolk Gazelle when the entrance to our pen was closed and we were sent to the very back. I followed the lead of most others in this situation and climbed under the fence (grazing my shoulder in the process, sore today!) into the next pen back, where there was plenty of space near the front. I would never see the 1:50 pacer but knew I needed 8:18 miles.
Eventually, we were off! The start is downhill and with the energy of the crowd everyone had gone off fast. I tried to hold back on dodging left and right to get past slower runners as much as possible, before the road split with my left side going through a tunnel and the right side going over. Tunnels and underpasses were full of the traditional Oggie chants and everyone was having a great time!
About a mile and a half in we hit the Tyne Bridge. I made my way over to the very right to run past my girlfriend, who almost missed me but seeing her added more to my buzz. I gave the camera on the end a big wave and then made the climb off the bridge and now the run was properly under way. Paces settled down and I was right on target.
Every time we went over a rise, be it a hill or an overpass, all that could be seen in front was a mass of people normally seen only at the beginning of other races I've ran, but spread over the entire motorway. This would never change and for claustrophobic runners I imagine this wouldn't be ideal, especially after the course narrows to just using the left side of the road, never to widen again.
I cheered on a running Elvis, booed a running Donald Trump and soon was at halfway. Never before had I got halfway in so little perceived time, it had truly flown by. And I felt good! But knew the second half was harder. Due to the heat I'd taken water at every stop, having little sips and dumping the rest over my head.
And then suddenly, at around 8 miles, my legs had had enough. They felt heavy, lethargic and I knew the target was doomed. Running 270 degrees around roundabouts in a crowd will really bring that home to you. I gave in and had my first little walk at 9.5 miles, with more at 10.5, 11.5 and some (lots of) slow shuffling between. The lack of training had got me. I even took a cup of beer from some friendly spectators - the time was gone anyway, may as well soak up some more goodwill!
As we crested the final hill and saw the sea, recognition came that it was almost over. I found a different Gazelle having a walking break, gave him some encouragement and we started running together at a pace I hadn't done for well over an hour. Sadly he couldn't maintain it but I continued on into the finish, picked up my medal and goodie bag. I even got interviewed by YouTube's "the running channel" so keep an eye out there for tired (but elated) me.
I found my girlfriend at our prearranged meeting point and hobbled to South Shields metro station. The queue was roughly half a mile long but after about half an hour we were on the train back. It was then a simple hot bath and stretch before heading to Newcastle's finest purveyors of unhealthy food and alcoholic beverages. I rounded off the weekend with a good long sleep and a couple of recovery miles on the Quayside, before making the long trip home.
Mondays - Sessions for new runners, or those looking to have an easy recovery run after a hard weekend of running.
Tuesday - Interval Training sessions, developing speed, endurance and hill running.-Juniors and Adults
Thursdays - runs on routes of up to eight miles, in different pace groups.
Saturday Mornings Juniors 10:30 to 12:30 and NRR Boot camp 09:30 to 10:30
Sprowston Community High School, Cannerby Lane, Norwich, England NR7 8NE United Kingdom
19:00 – 21:00
If you are visiting our club for the first time please make yourself known to someone when you arrive and we will introduce you and show the ropes