Aged nineteen, on 22 August 1970, I ran my first marathon in 2:44, followed five weeks later with a 2:41. I was hooked, and in the 43 years since, have run more than 50 marathons. In my 20s I ran a 2:19, in my 30s another 2:19, and in my 40s a 2:38. As I slowed, the love affair began to wane and I only ran two in my 50s, the best of which was a 3:04. Now in my 60s, with an ageing body and chronic injuries, I plan to deploy all of my experience in pursuit of one last sub-3 marathon.
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Early morning on the Vermont 100 course.
Being retired has the advantage of letting me watch the American Super Bowl which is shown live on Monday daytime television in Australia. In fact, I have probably watched more Super Bowls since retiring than I managed to watch during the eleven years I lived in the US while working. It always seemed that I was catching a red-eye flight from the US to London when the Sunday night Super Bowl was on, and one of my parenting regrets is that I did not get to watch it with my son more often while he was growing up.
Apart from the game itself, I enjoy the hype which surrounds the Super Bowl. It's something the Americans generally do very well, including at some of their running races. In July 2000, I made my one and only attempt to run a 100 Mile race in the Vermont 100. After driving up the day before the race to rural Vermont and camping in the designated farm field, I had a sleepless night in a small tent, punctuated by the late arrival of race supporters, several thunderstorms, and the very early rising of fellow competitors preparing for the 4:00am start.
A checkpoint on the Vermont 100.
I soon got up myself, readied for the race, and wandered down to the start line in the pitch darkness. It began to rain steadily, and the 300 competitors, plus spectators, crammed into the large barn adjacent to the start while we waited for the start. Just before 4:00am, we were herded outside in the heavy rain, and sent on our way down the farm road towards the country road along which the first part of the course ran. The 300 runners splashing down the unlit track, accompanied torrential rain, bright lightning and crashing thunderclaps, was surreal enough, but it was upstaged by the sight and sound of a pianist in formal attire pounding out the theme from Chariots of Fire on a grand piano on the farm verandah as we passed. I momentarily wondered whether I was dreaming, then grinned to myself. What a great piece of theatre, some provided by nature, and some by the organisers.
A scene from the 2008 Vermont 100.
The race itself didn't go too well. My inexperience at that distance showed when I treated it like a long marathon race, staying in the top 20 until the 60 mile mark, then totally losing control of my quads in the next few miles and withdrawing at 67 miles. Injuries have prevented me tackling another 100 miler since then, but it's still on my bucket list. I am now Race Director for a 100 Mile trail race myself, but haven't yet employed a pianist.
I just walked 5km today, and was a little troubled by heart palpitations and low blood pressure near the top of one flight of steps that I, perhaps, ascended too quickly.