It’s the end of 2019 so as is traditional we all look back and realise the fleeting nature of time and cry at lost opportunity and receding hairlines. Then I make sarcastic lists as it’s the easiest form of humour.
January – Surprisingly Cold
It was cold, lots of people ran and posted about how cold it was. My dog agreed and asked to be dropped off halfway through a morning run as she couldn’t feel her fingers. I pointed out she didn’t have any. She countered that she couldn’t talk either so I was probably suffering hypothermia induced delusions. It was a fair point. Mostly I ran lots as training for an ultra and got into an unhealthy competition with a local runner on a Garmin challenge and managed 360 miles. Mostly January is pretty dull. And cold. Did I mention it gets cold in the winter? Revelation.
February – Still cold
Very little happened. I pissed off to Gran Canaria to get sunburnt running up mountains on the Transgrancanaria. It was even hillier than Milton Keynes if that is conceivable. I concluded that not only am I rubbish at running up mountains, I don’t actually like running at mountains which was awkward with the Lakeland 100 coming up later in the year. I did manage to pair up with some Irish runners and figured the finish photo may help me get an EU passport.
March – Bland
Brexit happened and we left the EU on 29th March just as May promised. It all went great, we had 40 trade deals ready to go and the British empire regained control of the world. Then Farage awoke from his wet dream and realised it was all an embarrassing mistake as we’d delayed it but it was almost certain not to be delayed again.
Weather was actually pretty good and there were no major race cancellations this year so generically dull. People ran Bath and Reading HMs and got the miles in the bag. Still not sure what bag you put miles in. Hopefully a recycled hemp one, more likely one of those drawstring bags you get from races that I love but which my wife has a deep seated loathing for.
Asics picked their latest set of Frontrunners. I was overlooked based on being a miserable bugger and as inspiring and photogenic as cat sick. My hashtag game was also weak #howdothesework #inmydaythissymboldenotednumbers #anyonefornoughtsandcrosses
A dog ran the MDS.
He didn’t need a personal trainer or sessions in a heat chamber just lots of pats on the head and to be told he’s a good boy. Cactus has yet to write his 24 page blog on the race detailing how he cut the tags off his top to save 0.0001g of weight and precious weeks weighing food to see if Almonds or Macadamia nuts packed more calories per gram (can dogs even eat nuts?). He did get a medal which saved him the £4.5k entry fee. Good boy. Cynical people noted MDS was down on numbers from previous years and a cute dog running it would guarantee some media coverage and encourage more entries.
Manchester marathon held a marathon length marathon, with no obvious baggage or transport disasters. This brings their mighty string of unbroken success to a whole 3 years and about a 50% success rate so they celebrated by releasing early bird specials for the following year. With booking fee on top these were just under £50. A whole year early. Bargain. Entrants were further enticed to join by promise of a new route through the city. Many hope this might also be marathon length marathon.
Nike launched the ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% running shoe, the sequel to 4%. They were allowed to be worn by the elites at London as were available in shops prior to race day. About two shops, and a couple of days before the race. Nice gaming of the rules. Retailing at £250 it was literally minutes before a pair were up for sale at the bargain price of £1100 on FB groups.
A man dressed as Big Ben runs London and has to be helped under the finish gantry in a symbol of the goodwill of London. Later in a pub the real London shows it’s form and the costume is nicked.
The March Brexit was so good we left again on April 12th. Even more potential was unleashed.
London Marathon scores a bit of an own goal by having pacers for 7h30 to be inclusive and then closing the course ahead of them. Runners in the pack are denied aid stations, sprayed with blasts from the crews pressure washing the blue line off the route and eventually forced to complete on the pavement. Unfortunately for them the pacer documents the whole debacle and posts over social media. They’ve seemingly dealt with it well and anyone affected will be back for 2020.
Also in media issues, and the issue with influencers, one posts a photo of herself after the arduous London marathon on a drip. No not in a medical tent or hospital but sat at home the day after having been given a freebie by The IV Doc as “more and more athletes are having this, It includes fluids, vitamin B12 and multivitamins”. No, more and more athletes are not having this. As a professional life coach and motivational speaker you need to act responsibly. I’ve edited out the name as it’s a rant more about influencers and their negotiable values than a single individual. When this one was roundly criticised for promoting unnecessary medical procedures (at circa £150 a pop) when a big drink and some food would be better she handles it poorly, accusing people of being bullies.
Also at London, Jessica Anderson an actual real life, life-saving nurse runs an amazing time in her scrubs to raise funds for charity. Having approached Guinness world records in advance she confirmed on Instagram approximately a month out from the event that they “have declined my application as my uniform doesn’t meet their criteria of what a nurses uniform should be but I will still be aiming to beat the current official record time of 3hrs 8 minutes 54 seconds”. She runs an impressive 3h08m22s, faster than the record.
That could have been the end of it but Social Media explodes with indignation and eventually Guinness World Records agrees and awards her the record. Are the costume rules used by GWR outdated and in the case of the nurse outfit bordering on something you’d find in Anne Summers? Yes (the school boy record requires a school cap, tie, shirt and satchel last time I looked which whilst hopefully not sexy is equally outdated). Did they state in advance the outfit didn’t meet the rules? Yes. Should GWR change the requirements for future years or set up a new ‘modern/contemporary nurse’ category? Yes. Is it right that they caved to social media pressure and retrospectively awarded it when they normally require stringent checks and officiating for a record to stand? Opinion is divided on that.
If a bloke ran in trousers and polo shirt in an unsanctioned attempt and retrospectively tried to claim the record for fastest school boy would there have been such an outpouring of anger at GWR having outdated Dickensian outfit requirements and infantilising of children? Probably not. In the unlikely event there was a social media storm and the blokes attempt took the record from someone who was burdened with satchel, shirt, tie and hat, would that have been fair on the previous holder? Probably not. Would a new category of ‘Fastest school boy (modern)’ be more fair to all concerned?
May – Nothing exciting
London marathon announce a record year of ballot applications with 457,861 applying for 17,500 ballot spots or about a 3% chance of success. Still better odds than the lottery.
June – MK runner wins an ultra
It’s the first year of the MK24 endurance event and I bash out 104 miles and a surprise win at an ultra. Just call me Kílian Jornet and don’t focus on the small field or that my aid box was mostly beer and cider.
July – MK runner nearly gives up on life
Notable only for me, but I ran the Lakeland 100 ultra. It took forever. Half the entrants wisely went home. I knackered my feet and I hallucinated frogs. I vowed to never run again. I finished and adjusted that to never run ultras again. I’ve signed up for next year. I’m an idiot. Send help.
August – London Marathon Good For Age places are released
This being the first year with sufficient warning of the new qualification standard there is a rush of applicants. Due to the number of applications exceeding the 6,000 places available, the qualifying times within each age category were reduced evenly by 2 minutes and 40 seconds for men and 4 minutes and 15 seconds for women. For men it now makes London harder to qualify than Boston. For women Boston is still the harder.
|Men||Qualifying standard||Qualifying times accepted|
|Age 18-39||sub 3:00||sub 2:57:20|
|Age 40-44||sub 3:05||sub 3:02:20|
|Age 45-49||sub 3:10||sub 3:07:20|
|Age 50-54||sub 3:15||sub 3:12:20|
|Age 55-59||sub 3:20||sub 3:17:20|
|Age 60-64||sub 3:45||sub 3:42:20|
|Age 65-69||sub 4:00||sub 3:57:20|
|Age 70-74||sub 5:00||sub 4:57:20|
|Age 75-79||sub 5:15||sub 5:12:20|
|Age 80+||sub 5:30||sub 5:27:20|
|Women||Qualifying standard||Qualifying times accepted|
|Age 18-39||sub 3:45||sub 3:40:45|
|Age 40-44||sub 3:50||sub 3:45:45|
|Age 45-49||sub 3:53||sub 3:48:45|
|Age 50-54||sub 4:00||sub 3:55:45|
|Age 55-59||sub 4:05||sub 4:00:45|
|Age 60-64||sub 4:30||sub 4:25:45|
|Age 65-69||sub 5:00||sub 4:55:45|
|Age 70-74||sub 6:00||sub 5:55:45|
|Age 75-79||sub 6:20||sub 6:15:45|
|Age 80+||sub 6:40||sub 6:35:45|
An annual highlight for many runners is the opportunity to take part in the Great North Run and the chance to pay just £58 for a half marathon. For anyone feeling flush for cash they can pay around £27 on top for an amazing 5k event the day before.
Critics might argue that in the days of parkrun, what justification is there to price gouge the public for the same length race? Well Great Run answered that criticism by ensuring everyone got a PB when they knocked 300m off the distance. Yes another big price event that can’t even get the basics right. It joins Manchester (nearly) marathon and Brighton (not) Half Marathon, the later of which was 146 metres (0.09 miles) short for THREE years. I confidently predict it will be at least November until a repeat of short courses.
Running in a furnace, and doping
The 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships was held in Doha. This was based on their perfect climate for running at a chilly 39°c in the day and a positively arctic 29°c at night. They had to air condition THE ENTIRE STADIUM TO 25°c FOR FUCKS SAKE!
Even better is the easy transport links and strong local support for athletics leading to capacity crowds of 100, sometime 120 people. The mixed 4x400m relays was a new event for 2019 and had the honour of having more people taking part than spectating. Some lefty liberal snowflakes suggested holding events in the desert in Summer in countries that have little interest in the sport is stupid. Some couldn’t hear the complaints over the sound of their money.
Highlights were the mens 100m final where Christian Coleman (under a cloud for failing on three occasions in 12 months to let officials know his whereabouts for drugs tests but avoiding punishment on a technicality) beat teammate Gatlin, a convicted doper. It’s the sort of clean sport image that inspires children (if they’ve been kicked in the head by a horse).
Of course one of the reasons to host a prestigious sporting event is the amazing coverage of the scenic country on a worldwide platform. The marathon is ideal for this being a longer event, outside of the stadium. Doha took full advantage of this by staging the event at midnight and running backwards and forwards along a dual carriageway giving everyone ample opportunity to soak up the views of some kerbs and a couple of pasting tables.
In the women’s event of 68 starters only 40 finished as the rest were overcome with excitement at the sheer beauty of the course and needed to be taken off in golf carts. Some runners were embarrassed at being so easily distracted by the aesthetic perfection of the tarmac and unbelievably tried to blame the weather. “The humidity kills you,” said Volha Mazuronak, of Belarus, who finished fifth. “There is nothing to breathe. I thought I wouldn’t finish.” Have the courage of your convictions Volha. The perfectly lined up safety railings were too much weren’t they? I had similar issues at the Sistine Chapel.
In a shock announcement, completely out of the blue, Alberto Salazar, the American Coach was banned for four years for “orchestrating and facilitating prohibited doping conduct” after Usada concluded its investigation into the Nike Oregon Project. Countless athletes who had previously been coached by Salazar all appeared mystified and confirmed that if any doping had been occurring it was definitely the other athletes, not them, and their own massive jump in performance since being under his guidance was due to hard work only. Coincidences seemed to pop up everywhere. The announcement came during Doha so was discussed during the event on the BBC where pundit Paula Radcliffe failed to disclose her slight conflict of interest having been a Nike sponsored athlete, and married to Gary Lough, the current coach of Mo Farah who was previously under Salazar between 2011 and 2017 during his most successful period of his racing career.
October – World Records (and some not) fall
After getting so close to the barrier before, Eliud Kipchoge has a second stab at the sub2hr marathon and manages to break it in 1h59m40s. He consistently knocked out 14 minute 5ks. Have a go at your next parkrun. It’s around 2m50s per km. I can confidently say you’ll either win it outright or die trying.
The staged event was not a valid world record due to many technicalities such as pacers, and using a car with laser beams which looked pretty cool to be honest. Anything is cool with laser beams, even putting up shelves.
Nike also provided Kipchoge with a new model of the Vaporfly trainers – called AlphaFLY. The latest in a long line of performance enhancing shoes that have been worn by athletes running the five fastest marathons in history which then renewed controversy on whether the whole line of shoes should be allowed in competitions.
I used my 50% voucher from the lovely guys at Fitness Rewards life insurance to get some Nike Zoom Fly FK with the carbon fibre plate and then injured myself before being able to even wear them. I did limp around the Chicago Marathon in 3h24, 9 minutes quicker than the previous weekend in Bournemouth so they may potentially work although probably the benefit is best realised by racing snakes than tubby project managers having a midlife crisis.
Also at Chicago marathon, aside from me nearly getting a PB for most drunk during a race, the other notable performance was Kenyan runner Brigid Kosgei breaking the women’s world record set by Paula Radcliffe 16 years previously to cross the line in 2h14m04s (1m21s improvement is pretty steep). Having run the event I can confirm temperature was pretty much perfect, on a fast course, but with some blustery winds at times making such a big jump impressive for a record many considered unbeatable.
London Marathon Rejections
Being October, the annual London Marathon ballot results came out and as usual social media was awash with people who were ‘relieved as I never wanted to get in anyway’ or angry that they’d been denied again and proposed alternative ballot systems heavily weighted in their own interest. Personally I think allocation alphabetically by surname would be simplest although I was lucky enough to get in for the 2020 race so I’m quite happy with the current system, thanks for asking.
Taco & Beer God of Ultras
Just before the month ended, the legendary beer swilling, taco eating ultra runner Camille Herron won the women’s race at the International Association of Ultrarunners 24-Hour World Championship and set a world-best performance of 167.842 miles in the 24 hours.
Finally, to complete the set, the UK did a third Brexit on October 31st delivering on new PM Boris Johnson’s assurance that it would happen “come what may”, “do or die,” “no ifs or buts”. Some suggest that leaving the EU could become a monthly event or at least seasonal.
More short courses. Leeds Abbey Dash 2019 was found “to be short by 23 metres. This is approximately 4 seconds for athletes on a time of 29 minutes for 10k.” and any times recorded at the event will not be recognised by UKA and Power of Ten.
Florence (Firenze) Marathon had good and bad. Jess Piasecki (née Coulson) became the third fastest female in British marathon history after winning in 2:25:29. This follows follows Charlotte Purdue’s 2:25:38 in London, and Steph Twell’s 2:26:40 in Frankfurt.
All looked good for the first 42 athletes over the line in Firenze. Sadly it was later announced everyone else had run a short course “Firenze Marathon would like to communicate that due to a gas leak at km 40 along the race route of today’s marathon, in order participants’ safety, in agreement with local police and firefighters it was necessary to make a slight change to the route. Exactly 600 meters were ‘cut’ near Via Lungarno Vespucci”
I got my annual ‘Dear John’ from Berlin Marathon ballot. So signed up for NYC instead. That’ll show them. And by them I mean my Visa company as the travel package is ruinous and I’ve only got enough in book sales to buy the in-flight peanuts.
Just when Nike thought it might go a month between PR disasters, former athlete Mary Cain told the New York Times she was “emotionally and physically abused by a system designed by Alberto and endorsed by Nike”. She claimed that Salazar (him again) pushed her to get down to 8st 2lb (about the same weight as my left calf). As a result she stopped menstruating, broke five bones, started self-harming and had suicidal thoughts. I’m no coach but I’m pretty sure these aren’t the outcomes of a well rounded and athlete-focused system. The video on Youtube is a real eye opener and details ritual public humiliation the like of which Brits have only ever seen in US fraternity hazing videos.
As usual the Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) award overlooks athletics and anyone without the important man junk in their pants that makes their achievements worthwhile.
The amazing Dina Asher-Smith gets a consolation third place despite being the first British woman in history to win a global gold medal in a sprint event, with her 21.88s 200m at Doha and also won a silver medal in the 100m, and again in the 4 x 100m relay. Only three medals in a year eh? Clearly not enough.
Lewis Hamilton finishes second for driving a car really fast all year, against limited opposition, and virtue signalling about being vegan and saving the planet despite DRIVING A CAR REALLY FAST ALL YEAR. In his defence sometimes he leaves the car at home and takes a jet.
Outside the podium was Katarina Johnson-Thompson who ‘only’ got two golds in the Heptathlon, one at the World Championships and one in the indoor champs. If she’d done it using a car or better still, as a man she’d probably have made second place. Besides if SPOTY started recognising female athletes it might inspire future generations and lead to actual change which is never popular. Women will want the vote next and ask to join the gold club. Where would it all end? I saw a woman wearing trousers the other day. Brazenly.