As I approach my 100th marathon/ultra marathon at London in a weeks time, I have taken the time to reflect on my running journey. The highs, the lows, the improvement and the joy and improved quality of life running has given me. I would never have imagined in 2003 as I crossed the London marathon finish line in 5 hours and 7 minutes, that I would be writing this article 16 years on.
Assuming I finish next week of course, then I will have reached the Big 100. I have on the whole loved pretty much every race I have taken part in. Here is a list of my favourites, ones that were just ok and the ones I have tried to forget.
Top 3 road marathons
Berlin – Germany
I love Berlin – I even had my stag weekend there. The course gives you the experience of the crowds and big race without the congestion and hassle that you get at London. Its quick too, with long straight sections and plenty of crowd support on route.
Beirut – Lebanon
An unrivalled atmosphere and simply put an amazing country to run in. Chaotic organisation only enhanced the experience.
Maui Oceanfront – Hawaii
A point to point race along the coast in Hawaii, whats not to love. The field is small so you run practically the whole course on your own. The race starts at 5am and to see the sun rise over the ocean as you pass halfway is something I will never forget.
Worst 3 road marathons
If council estates are your thing then this race is for you.
Phoenix Thames Towpath
Up and down the Thames path time and time again. Suicide seemed a good option at halfway.
Kigali Peace Marathon – Rwanda
Its Africa and the country is recovering from genocide, so expectations aren’t high. A 30 min delay at the start line, 4 laps weaving in and out of traffic, soaring heat and inadequate water supplies turned the race into a mental and physical survival mission.
Top 3 Ultra marathons
Heroes Race – Crete
97 miles of rugged mountain landscape across a beautiful island. The welcome from the local villagers across the course is something I will never forget. The history and story behind the race is truly inspiring.
South Downs 100
The only race I have felt compelled to belt out a verse of ‘Jerusalem’ on the way round. A fantastic, runnable 100 miler with some of the best scenery the UK has to offer.
Laugavegur – Iceland
A 55K trail race across the highlands of Iceland. The most spectacular views I have ever experienced on a race with a few knee deep river crossings thrown in.
Eco Trail Paris, Endurancelife Exmoor, Glossgockner Ultra, Eiger Ultra Trail, Everglades 50.
The ones that got away…
Poor course markings coupled with shocking navigation skills resulted in an aborted race and run back to East Croydon station to get the train home.
As the years pass, the pain subsides however I am still haunted by this DNF. 90 miles in with plenty of time left yet I felt drawn to the death bus. Could I, should I, have crawled to the finish? A lesson learnt not to go too quick down the hills and try and beat your younger brothers time from the year before.
A DQ for foul and abusive language aimed at members of the public on the Box Hill Stepping Stones. I think had the race been in Yorkshire no offence would have been taken by my use of the word ‘cretins’.
On completion of this list I find myself surprised that Spartathlon isn’t featured anywhere. This poses a strange dilemma. My proudest running achievement (I may even say achievement in life) yet not one I particularly enjoyed. In fact, during certain points I actually wanted to die I was so miserable. However after opting out in 2019 I feel strangely compelled to enter again in 2020. Surely that is the sign of a great race.