Sunday, 19 April 2015

Hard as Nayls - Hong Kong.

Race: Hard as Nayls
Website: Here
Results: Here
Distance: 21k (13 miles)
Elevation: 2156m gain.
Terrain: Path, Beach and Mountain.
Country: Hong Kong (a half version of this)

I was pretty unfit by this stage of our travels, i had spent much of the preceding six months eating my through South East Asia. Nonetheless, I was in Kong Kong and there was a mountain race to be done. The race was a memorial race in the memory of a police officer from Anglesey, North Wales who was serving as a police officer in Hong Kong until he died during an ironman triathlon in New York.

pulling up the climb.

The race ran around Clearwater Bay Country Park. I remember a particularly severe climb to the top of one of the hills that was rewarded by spectacular view across the glistening oceans below. It was a humid day making progress difficult. I had to avoid a competitor that had come to grief in the final 400m (he was receiving medical attention and recovered).  There were lots of Westerners dong the race and it seems there was a good running community locally. After the race we returned to one of the beaches that I had run across, only this time to dip in the sea.  I finished this race in 26th position in a time of 2 hours 12 minutes and 6 seconds. The video of me crossing the line is here at 1:47:40 


Sunday, 12 April 2015

RC Goldmine Half Marathon - Philippines.

Race: RC Goldline Half Marathon
Distance: 13.1 miles (21k)
Country: Philippines
Website: Here
Video: Here

Cebu is a major city on a  minor island in the south of the country. I had to get out of bed at 3am for a 4:30am start. The idea was to beat the heat, the majority of the race is done before sunrise. It felt strange assembling up on a race line in the dark and stranger when a clergyman took to the microphone to say pre race prayers across the cast of runners that had fallen silent in respect. Not long after prayers, we were released into the dark to hit the streets of Cebu. I wasn't fit for a half marathon and so I set off at a ginger pace to make sure I simply got round. It seemed a bit reckless to run into last of the night along unfamiliar streets an unfamiliar city, some of it was seemed fairly deprived.

I remember running past families crouched over cooking pots, cooking breakfast by the side of the road. I had a few Philippine bob in my pocket in case I got lost or came to grief. The plan was to hire a moped and river to get me back to the race start if I could describe where it was. In the end I finished in daylight as the heat was taking hold. An amazing experience, the Philippine folk love their running and make a real spectacle of their events as the video above illustrates.

Feeling the Heat 

The results where never published but I think I ran about 1 hour 50 but the major achievement though was not getting lost in Cebu City!    

Sunday, 1 February 2015

La Course de Printemps 10k - Vietnam.

Race: La Course de Printemps 10k
Distance: 10k
Location:Vietnam Gold and Country Club (near Ho Chi Minh).
Country: Vietnam
Results: Here 
Video: Here 

The location for this race was amazing and perhaps that inspired me to run well. For the first time in ages I felt strong during this 10k. My strength was reflected in a top ten finish. The race was organised by a French International School and it felt more like a French event than Vietnamese although there were plenty of local runners.

Ready to roll. 
We were handsomely ripped off in the taxi which took us to race start. As usual it was an early start to beat the heat and we had to get a taxi as we are too early for other forms of transport. We had looked up reliable firms but the reliable driver didn't know where to go so he drove round the streets of the city until he found an unreliable friend to take us instead. You enter these races not knowing were they are. We knew it was in Ho Chi Minh City but that's a bit like saying it's in London somewhere. As it was, it was on the outskirts of the City and it costs a fortune for for the plus 1 our taxi ride to race start made worse by the inflated price we were charged. It was approaching race start time, we had no chance to argue.
Vietnam Golf and Country Club 

The race ran round the country park. I finished in 44:50. After the race we made friends with two English teachers who let us share their taxi back into town at a quarter of the cost of the taxi on the way there.        

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Access to Justice 10k - Thailand

Race: Access to Justice 10k
Distance: 10k
Location: Huey Tueng Tao, Chaing Mai, Thailand.
Country: Thailand
Website: Here
Results: Not published
Location Map: Here 

The hotel where we stayed had communal bicycles for guests to use during their stay. We made use of them to get to the start. It was a typically early start to avoid the heat and we left the hotel in the dark well before 6am. There was a strange feeling of freedom as we cycled along the lanes from the hotel in the general direction of where we thought we needed to be. Our way was illuminated vaguely by dynamo lights working from the front wheel.

I never really woke up for this one. 
The race was run by a international NGO which supports access to justice for those that might not know about it.  there was a high energy environment at the race start but I was only just waking up. The 10k event ran around the lower roAds of Doi Suthep Country Park. I remember feeling knackered throughout this race, I don't think I ever really woke up. At half way i was offered ammonia on a stick. I thought it was an energy product and i was just saved from eating it whole by the shriek of the marshall who gestured to me to wave it under my nose to revive me. I didn't thin I looked that rough.
Thai post race food. 

I was really glad to finish in 1hour 1 minute, a hard race indeed . After the race I ate noodles and a porridge like substance before cycling back to the hotel for a well deserved bottle of Chang.   

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Jakarta Half Marathon - Indonesia

Race: Jakarta Half Marathon
Distance:13.1 miles (21k)
Website: Here
Results: Here 

This was by far the hottest race I have ever run. The race began in the dark at 5:30am but despite the early hour, the humidity was frightening. We had eventually managed to find a hotel near the race start which was about 40 minutes outside of downtown Jakarta where I had registered two days earlier. We had to battle through a line of prostitutes on the road outside the hotel during our short walk to race start and by the time I arrived one the start line, I already had a good sweat on.

A very hot race. 

I remember  a great sunrise over the city as In staggered out into the first five miles. there was a musty smell about the dusty roads as we headed out to the suburbs. I took time to drink at all the aid stations as long as the aid stations supplies lasted. By the final water station at about ten miles the station had run out of supplies despite me being towards the front of the field. After the race a big online protests developed fuelled by runners who were upset about the danger of running in such heat without the organisers ensuring there was enough water to last the race duration. In fact, only in coming to type this have I realised the extent of her folks frustrations in their Facebook posts here  perhaps it was good that I was the other side of the language barrier apart from the lack of water I was blissfully unaware.

A very hot race. 
I was just glad for the experience of taking part but i was gladder to finish. The half marathon was the only reasons that we had decided to fly into Jakarta and it was a real mission first to find race registration and then a hotel near race start. Jakarta is a traffic laden, smog filled city so to actually get to the start of the race had been an accomplishment. I finished this race in 48th position in a time of 1 hour 51 minutes 51 seconds.  

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Southland Marathon - New Zealand

Race: Southland Marathon part of the Southland Festival of Running.
Distance: 26.2 miles (42k)
Location: Riverton to Invercargill
Country: New Zealand
Website: Here
Results: Here
Route Map: Here 

At that the Southland Marathon, I relearned a valuable lesson that I have forgotten many times. Don't enter a race that you have not trained for because you can't cheat a marathon. The opportunity to enter races abroad was too tempting to surpass so when I heard that the worlds oldest (arguably) and  one of the most southerly marathons was going to coincide with my visit to Southland on New Zealand's south island, I put my entry in.

On the way to Invercargill
Two months later I was standing on the start line looking a bit sheepish contemplating how far it was between Riverton and Invercargill along the road that we had driven along the previous day. The buzz of running in New Zealand was what kept me going during this race. I remember thinking that I would coast steadily to half way then endure the second half. In reality I was spent as I crossed the bridge out of Riverton a couple of miles into the event. My only training had been a crossing of the Tongariro Alpine pass a few weeks earlier.  I did manage to grind out the miles and avoid the temptation of retirement to the camper van which Tracy had manoeuvred into position at various points along the marathon course.    
NZ ultra legend Vajin Armstrong and I after the race.  

I finished via a lap of the indoor velodrome at Invercargill's sports stadium. Looking back, 6th position wasn't bad in a time of 3 hours 24 minutes. The presentation was quite a formal affair at a local hotel. I was able to meet the race winner and international ultra runner Vajin Armstrong.   A few days later we visited the exhibition dedicated to local running legend Derek Turnbull.  

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Porirua Parkrun

Race Route.
Race: Porirua Parkrun
Distance: 5 km
Race Results here

It seemed strange that my first foray into the park run scene should be at the other side of the world. We had travelled south through New Zealand's North island and we had a couple of days to wait before the crossing from Wellington to Picton on the south island. 

Always on the lookout for an international race experience,  I found a parkrun and a nearby spot to park the camper van for a few days. I caught the train to race start and arrived before anyone else, a little perplexed as to whether I had found the right place. This was a well oiled race, the organisers arrived about 40 minutes before race start and I met a host of friendly regular faces that seemed genuinely interested that I had chosen Porirua as my first park run. It made me feel further welcome when at the gathering before race start the organiser introduced me as a foreign visitor from the UK and I received a round of applause! 

Almost home in 2nd place. 

The race was out and back up a gradual incline to half way. I think I led the race for a while before a local overtook me and extended his lead. I was surprised to return down the incline in second position  in a time of 19 minutes 31 seconds, a time that I haven't managed to better at UK park runs since I've returned home. In hindsight I must have been fairly fit at this stage of my travel expedition. My first park run was a very enjoyable experience.    

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Rat Race, Milford, Auckland.

Race: Rate race Milford Haven, Auckland, New Zealand.
Distance: 5km
Race Results: here

A very odd thing happened at this race...

Gathering at the start.

As usual the organisers of this weekly Wednesday night 5k seemed interested that they had an international entrant. Before the race, as we stood on the start line, the organiser announced my presence and I received a round of applause. There was a shout from the crowd, another UK runner was present and he rightfully didn't want to be missed -  two English entrants to this very local of Auckland races an unusual occurrence indeed. 

I didn't know where I was going on this race, it was so local that all the other participants had run it many times. I tried to keep up with the leader but he was too fast and when he stole away through the streets of suburban Auckland I was had to follow my nose to find the way. I was aware that the other UK entrant wasn't far behind and it wasn't long before he overtook me. This was an out and back course and soon the race leader and eventual winner came back past us, reaching half way about 60 seconds before me and my English compatriot who by now was just ahead. 

Adam Swallow 3rd (Bourne UK) Marcus Robertson 1st (NZ) and Paul Rushworth 2nd (Grantham UK)

I carried at a good pace in third place but on entering the housing estate on the way back to the start finish line I noticed that my English compatriot had started to tire. Time to strike for home. I mustered a good pace through the narrow streets trying to remember my path and I was able to overtake for second place in a time of 19 minutes 33 seconds. After the race I found out the other English guy was Adam Swallow from Bourne, Lincolnshire, about 20 miles from Grantham where I was based in the UK. There we were at the other side of the world, he from Bourne Town Harriers and me from Grantham Running Club. It really is a small world. 

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

K42 Mountain Marathon, Laguna Aculeo, Santiago, Chile

A rough cut of a few race images can be found on YouTube here.

The Disaster Finding the Race Start.

My efforts at the  K42 Mountain Marathon in Santiago were matched by the effort it took to find the race start. I'm travelling through South America at the moment. I had "googled" races in Santiago before I left England and found the K42 Marathon in Santiago which would run whilst I was there. I assumed the race was a road marathon in the city and I entered on-line with some difficulty as I couldn't read the Spanish website.  I should have paid more attention, It turned out that the marathon was a trail race in the Altos de Cantillana Mountains.

Altos de Cantillana Mountains from Laguna Aculeo.

We arrived in Santiago a week before the race and took the opportunity to travel south to Rancagua by bus. From Rancagua we would be able to use public transport to find the race start at Rangue, a small hamlet at the foot of the mountain range whose main attraction is the beautiful Laguna Aculeo where the race would begin. A bus, a long wait and another bus later we were in Rangue. The hamlet was sleepy, only occasionally interrupted by the sounds of clopping hoofs as traditional Gaucho's rode through the village on horseback. I admit that I wasn't particularly well prepared for any of this, Initially I thought the race began in Santiago but it then seemed to start 50km South of the city in Rangue, we had got that far but when I re-consulted a page on my phone which had been saved for offline reading I could see the word Cantillana. I showed my phone to a local, his reaction was to look to the mountains whilst extending his arm dismissively upwards. Cantillana, I learnt, was a mountain village much further on and it would take a fiurther two hours of walking to reach it. Four hours later we were back in Rancagua after abandoning our attempt to find the race start. I was beginning to fret. How was I going to get into the mountains in two days time to run this race? We would have to hire  a car.

Asking the Gaucho's for tips.

We managed to find a car hire place in Rancagua. The problem was that they would be closed on Saturday and Sunday meaning we would have to hire the car for 4 days so we could drop it off on Monday morning, something which the traveller's budget couldn't afford. At this point I thought I was beat, I had entered a race I thought began in the city of Santiago, it started in the mountains 50km South, we had done a failed reccy to find the start. I couldn't hire a car as it was too expensive, what could I do, how could I get to race start? The only option was to go 50km back to Santiago and hire a car from the airport where I would be able to drop it off any day of the week, 24/7 and therefore hire it for only one day at cheaper cost. 

The next day we drove out of Santiago Airport in a small Chevrolet courtesy of "Budget Rent a Car". Tracy drove the 50km back down the Pan American Highway to Rangue where we would attempt to find the mountain village of Cantillana. Two hours later we found ourselves on a near vertical rocky road travelling backwards with the wheels spinning beneath us. The Chevrolet wasn't going to make it up this rocky mountain pass. At this point I had a minor mental breakdown, I got of out the car, kicked some rocks and cursed the mountain dogs that had come to investigate our woe. It simply wasn't going to happen now, we had tried everything to find the race start but now I was beat, time to retreat to Rangue and then back to Rancagua for the night. Just before we left, In desperation I looked at my phone to try for a last time to find some more race details, surely a race director wouldn't expect 200 runners to travel up this rocky mountain road , they couldn't all have 4x4s? 
Horses at the summit.

It was Tracy that saved the day, when she looked at my historical e-mails she noticed the word "Los Altos" - "I think we passed that place in Rangue two days ago..." 

We retreated to Rangue and after asking more locals for directions we finally arrived at a non de-script high wooden gate flanked on either side by a six foot stone wall. I got of the car placed my hands on the top of the wall and climbed on to the stone slabs. To my delight and utter surprise, at the other side, I saw Club Marina Alto Laguna  the same place that I remembered in photos of on the race website. It had taken four days, four buses, metros, a car hire, plenty of arguements about who was wrong and right (I was wrong, Tracy was right) but I know knew then, for the first time, that the next day I'd be leaving Laguna Aculeo for the K42 Marathon. 

The Race

Race day morning bought low cloud which concerned me. I was further concerned by a woman that I chatted to at the start. I was grateful that she could speak English, I was ungrateful that she told me the winner would take six and a half hours, a fact which later turned out to be wrong. The race ran from an altitude of approximately 364 metres above sea level to about 2,200 metres, I was hopelessly unable to get the altitude into perspective but I now think I ran about twice the height of Snowdon, If I'd have known that at the time I probably would have stayed in the car! 

I had a few last minute panics and a crisis conversation with Tracy. I had never been in this mountain range before (I had never been in South America before), there was low cloud and rain forecast, how was I going to find my way? I then remembered that I really wanted to do this race, I've always wanted to run in the mountains. It was time to have a word with myself so I put some unnecessary "comfort" articles in my back pack and like a lamb to the slaughter, I made my way to the start. I stood on the start line sheepishly listening to vital last minute instructions - I couldn't understand a word.    
Race start and finish.

I can describe the race easily - up and down, out and back. If that sounds simple, it wasn't. I ran through a beautiful private nature reserve with a steep inclination to the open mountain. We carried on up to a first summit and then on to a higher summit where we turned and ran back along the same trails to the finish. There were aid stations every 5km but some seemed further spaced out than others. Weathered looking mountain men manned the aid stations. I drank water and ate oranges as the mules looked on over the mountain vista. The mules had carried supplies of water up the mountain for our replenishment. The aid station at half way was adjacent to a corrugated mountain hut, I could see beds inside. So far I'd focused hard on the path in front of me, I didn't want to get freaked out by my ascent into this increasingly remote cloudy place but the refuge hut soberingly interrupted my concentration.
On the way back down.

In honesty I was enjoying myself. I was feeling strong which was odd because I had spent the last three months eating junk food and hardly training as I travelled through Peru. Bolivia, Argentina and into Chile, perhaps the rest had done me good. It seems runners camaraderie is international, as I passed runners in front they seemed to offer encouragement and when I explained that I was English they encouraged even more, Bamos! was the cry (let's go!) 

The summit checkpoint and turnaround point.

It took just short of three hours to get to the summit. I knew I was approaching the summit because the lead runners started to come back towards us careering down the mountain and I reciprocated with the "Bamos!" that I had learnt earlier. The route finding had been easy, red ribbons lined the trail all the way to the top. When we reached the summit there was about half a mile of plateau to run  to the checkpoint, I could see the Chilean flag in the distance. This was the best part of the race, I felt like I was running through the sky. I could see the clouds beneath me and occasionally they broke to reveal a fantastic view across the mountain range. The shrubs on the way up had cut my legs, my fingers had swollen slightly and I was feeling pretty tired but I didn't care, I had ascended almost 2000m and was about to reach half way. I dwelled at the checkpoint to take some pictures until the checkpoint staff advised me to keep moving, this wasn't about racing hard, it was about enjoying the experience and getting down safely.

"Nicole" Female winner begins the descent. 

I left the summit to begin the lengthy descent back to the Lake. Shortly after the turn around I was overtaken by "Nicole" the lead lady that would go on to win her race. We had met on the ascent, I had been grateful to find someone that could speak English, "Come on Paul, this is the best part, I like to run down!" I tried and failed to match Nicole's enthusiasm and pace as she disappeared into the cloud. During the descent I was largely alone. The experience was at first amazing to be running out of the sky but I quickly got sick of the constant leg jarring as I tried to keep myself upright. My post race arms are as stiff as my post race legs where they broke my fall on a few occasions, once narrowly helping my jaw avoid a large rock.                  

I spent less time at the refugee checkpoint keen to get this thing done. It seemed to take ages to get to what had been the first aid station and I actually began to wonder if the race was returning via a different route. I had descended fairly gingerly but in the last 5km there was a level path and a dirt track where I was surprised to find extra reserves and able to find a good pace to the finish, passing a competitor on the way. 

Me and Race Director, Rodrigo Sales.
I crossed the line in 4 hours and 49 minutes finishing in 28th place. It had taken just short of 3 hours to get up and just short of two hours to get down. I was given a race finishers t-shirt in addition to the race starters t-shirt which I had been given earlier and which it was mandatory to wear during the race. The race director was very welcoming and knowing that I couldn't speak Spanish was keen to make sure that I knew where to find the complimentary post race sausage sandwiches, tea and biscuits. I was also given a runners rucksack and a medal a nice end to a great day.     


Saturday, 30 August 2014

San Andres University 8K, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Race: San Andres University 8km, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Distance: 8km
Results Not available

There was a distinctly Scottish feel to this race.
Argentinian Bag pipers with Runner Rushworth. 

I was surprised to see a troop of bag pipe players march out before race start to entertain the crowd. I assumed the pipers were international students but when I went to meet them, they were as Argentinian as Maradona. It seems from this wikipedia post that I'm not the first person to find Scottish Argentines an unusual concept but as i found out, there are plenty of them about.    

The race was an 8km, a distance as unusual as the Argentinian pipers. I've run plenty of 5k's and 10k's but the Argentines like a distance in between. I was super excited to run in Argentina, this was my first race abroad. It was a herculean effort to battle the online language barrier in an effort to gain an entry into the event and a further effort to find the race registration a couple of days earlier, somewhere in the sprawling mass of urbania that they call Buenos Aires. 

Glad to Finish Clutching my Race Loot. 

I was relived to make the start line and started to relax and take it all in. The race began and I felt rough from the beginning. We had traveled some hard paths through Peru and Bolivia and I think we were both a bit travel worn. I hadn't trained at all. It wasn't easy to walk round cities like La Paz in Bolivia because of the altitude, never mind consider training runs. I'd had almost two months off running. 

The lack of training paid its price. By 2k I was labouring, by 5k I was in the WC of a petrol station which I had found on the highway, and by 8k I staggered across the finish line vowing never to race under such circumstances again. I finished in a woeful time of 35 minutes. The pain was offset to some extent by the euphoria of completing my first event on the travel trail. It's an amazing experience whenever you race overseas and to race in South America was a personal achievement despite the slow time. 

Admiring the finish line. 

After the event I took in more of the Scottish/Argentine atmosphere. I got a photo with the race winner Marino Flor. Marino had helped me to find my way to the start line earlier that day. It had taken us ages to find the right train out Buenos Aries. We had travelled some distance into the suburbs and when we alighted at the other end we were very lost. Marino looked like a runner so I asked him for help. I didn't know at that point he was an elite athlete that would go on to win the race but I was grateful for him taking us through the streets to the start at san Andres university. Thanks Marino!