Sunday, 29 April 2012

London Marathon 2012


Good luck comes to those best prepared.
The Thursday after the race I found myself on a training course with work. It took place on the 11th floor of a high rise block somewhere in the financial district of London. My mind wandered frequently as I gazed out across the magnificent London skyline. From my seat I pondered how much of the London Marathon course, which I had run four days previously, I could see out of the window. I could certainly identify Canary Wharf at 15 miles. Closer were the Gherkin Tower and and the London Eye, sights which for most of the course delegates would have represented significant symbols of the capital city but for me they represented markers along the final six miles of the route along the Embankment. I looked towards Westminster and Big Ben where there is the long awaited 45 degree turn towards Bid Cage Walk and the finish. I sat and questioned what might have been. What if the weather had been a little cooler? Did I drink enough? Did I drink too much? Perhaps I should have gone off a bit slower or maybe I should have run a bit faster in the first half. Such a post race critique is usual and shouldn't be misinterpreted as an indication that I am disappointed with my time of 3 hours 5 minutes and 40 seconds. 

Sub 3 ambition
The day before the race I had indicated that I would be content just to finish, it's never guaranteed as was tragically illustrated by the death of a runner in the final mile. I would be happier with sub 3.10 which should qualify for a good for age place in 2013/14. I predicted I would be happier still If I could beat last years time. I managed that too by a mere 21 seconds! The only unachieved target was the elusive sub three hour target. Five minutes doesn't sound much but it's the best part of a miles worth off running and in reality I don't consider that I came all that close. 

We spent the previous night at an apartment close to Canary Wharf. The location was handy for the marathon exhibition and had good tube connections to get me to the start on race day.  After eating copious amounts of pasta, bread and panacotta at an Italian restaurant adjacent to the Thames I returned to face the dreaded pre race night's sleep. I always struggle to sleep before the marathon, anticipation rather than nerves get the better of me each year. This year I did perhaps sleep a little better than last year but my eyes were awake half an hour before the three alarm clock's which I had set buzzed at 6.30am


like a horse looking at the fence
A bowl of porridge and a banana later and I was out of the apartment and into the quiet streets of East London. I hadn't realised but our apartment was on marathon route. During the night the organisers had stealthily decorated the street outside and yesterday's busy traffic route was now empty and set for an onslaught of 37,000 runners, It seemed strange that I would pass again later. Not 100 metres after leaving the apartment I saw another person with the familiar complimentary kit bag making their way through the quiet business district towards the station. Like bees to a hive the swarm slowly gathers. At Canary Wharf there was a handful of other runners busily making their way to the Docklands Light Railway. Rather than jumping the DLR I walked the opposite way and took the Jubillee Line to London Bridge and then caught a train to Blackheath. As last year, the plan worked well, the train at London Bridge was relatively quiet and I was easily able to get a seat. The swarm of marathoners was fully gathered outside Blackheath station and we marched on up Blackheath High Street and out on to the common to our respective race starts. This was it, the culmination of a hard winters training was about to take place. Hours of training on the roads, speed work, races in different parts of the country not to  mention the diet sacrifices, all for the next few hours of effort. I sat next to a BBC sports producer at a wedding once and he enthused about his love for the passion of sport. He was fascinated by 100 metres runners who could dedicated their life to hard training and sacrifices of the highest order just for a defining 10 seconds of effort. A lifetimes dedication which culminated in just 10 seconds on a track. This was my ten seconds.  I was pretty nervous by this stage but psyched by the energy of the thousands of other runners at the start each of whom I knew would have devoted as much dedication as I, just to run around the streets of London chasing different personal goals. Pre race at London has a mystique all of its own. Every eye contact with another runner  has an unspoken commonality with it, you both know how important a race it is and how hard its likely to be.


This year i was lucky enough to given a 'good for age' entry which included a separate assembly enclosure with access to the front of the start. I felt quite privileged not to have to queue for the toilets so long and to have a little more space to get changed, it made the whole pre race procedure less stressful. The lack of participants in the good for age pen meant that I met plenty of familiar faces. Tony Johnson of Ropsley Runners, Matt Willis of the BBC Running Club and a couple of folk from Wilmslow were some of the other racers who I chatted to before the serious business of greasing my nipples began. 
off to the start

The downside to the 'good for age' assembly area was that there was only one baggage bus and any time I gained in the short toilet queue was perhaps lost in the queue to dump my bag. The baggage system works well. Just before the race starts you give your bag to a volunteer who places it on the back of an articulated lorry. The lorries, perhaps as many as 30 HGV's drive to the finish whilst runners are racing and by the time we get to the Mall the lorries are parked right by the finish line ready to dispatch bags back to their needy recipients.


I shuffled into the start area, I was perhaps 100 metres from the start. It isn't until you watch the television coverage later that you get a sense of the thousands of runners lining up behind you. The race horn started and 9.45am and it took me perhaps a minute to cross the red start line. This was it, steady for the first half then let rip until the wheels fall off, then hang on to whatever you can find!

The first half of the marathon was largely uneventful I remember a hill on the red route before the runners merged and there seemed to be a few more turns than I remembered on the blue start the previous year. After three miles the routes merged and any space I had found was lost. I merged with the runner's world magazine sub 3 hour pacing group. I was a bit annoyed about it because there was a mass of runners surrounding the pacer with the intention of sticking to him like glue in order to be paced round in under three hours. It was my goal too but I wasn't going to run the marathon in such cramped conditions and so I edged out to the side and pushed on to find more running space a bit further ahead. In the end I didn't run sub three which suggests at some point the pacer must have passed me. I don't remember the sub three crowd coming back past but I suspect it was somewhere around 19 miles when I was struggling to hold it together.

I look forward to crossing Tower Bridge. Its significant as its almost at half way. The crowds are awesome around the bridge, the sound is amazing. I ran across feeling good and confident about the second half but hoping that the bridge was strong enough to take the thousands of cheering spectators that had gathered. I wanted to go through half way in sub 1:28. I had a semi permanent skin tattoo of pace time on my under arm. I was on pace, feeling strong, the second half was beginning all I had to do was run the second half like the first and the mission would be accomplished. I ran through half way in 1:28:51.

A tall order

Two miles later I was running past the apartment that I had left bleary eyed not four hours earlier. I pondered if Tracy would still be around but thought it most likely she would have made her way towards the finish. I ran past the 15 mile mark under which I had been photographed the previous day after the marathon exhibition. The marathon expo takes place in the preceding week at Excel Arena. After registering for the race you can amble around a massive exhibition of running related merchandise including the latest gimmicks on the market, the 1000 miles socks that won't give you blisters, the massage stick that will make you more supple and the Hokka shoes that are perhaps the opposite of the bare foot running craze but are 'guaranteed' to help you run longer! Karl Meltzer a famed US ultra runner is a fan.

Shortly after mile 15 I heard my name "Go, Paul Rushworth!" I glanced across to see friends James and Helen, I knew they were across from Belfast but I didn't know where they would be, they did well to spot me. I was enthused by the support and ran on still feeling good towards mile 16. Mile 16, 17 and 18 went well but I do remember beginning to feel a little tired. I was on target for sub three as late as 19 miles but when it happened, it happened fast. Within three miles I had gone from feeling great full of energy and confident about the remaining miles to feeling whacked. My mind felt good but my legs simply stopped working efficiently I felt like I was in a child's reign and somebody was holding me back. I knew I had to keep the momentum but it was absolutely noticeable that my had dropped. I questioned whether I was imagining it, perhaps I just felt like I was lowing down. "My legs are bound to be a bit tired perhaps in reality I had maintained pace" I thought. As I ran through the clock at mile 19 it was confirmed, I had lost about 40 seconds on sub three pace and it didn't at all feel like I could pull it back. I slurped another energy gel, drank more at the next aid station and swallowed a shot block that I had in my pocket. Usually I will come out of a period of dejection but not this year. Mile 20 came in and I had lost about a minute. The final six miles carried on like that it was pretty desperate. People were passing me all the time. I noticed that I hadn't passed anyone for ages which meant perhaps that I was struggling more than every body else in the entire marathon! In reality everybody struggles during those last five miles. The crowd support was as usual fantastic. I've heard it said, "If you are losing faith in human nature, run a marathon" such is the amazing experience of seeing thousands of other strangers scream at you with support and encouragement, willing you towards you goal. In honesty I would rather have been entirely by myself at that point. I was thoroughly dejected, I questioned whether I should walk, maybe even give up, this just wasn't my year I thought. I must try and remain more upbeat next time personal turmoil strikes, dejection nearly got the better of me this year. 
I mumbled and shuffled on moaningly to Big Ben. I remember muttering "yes!" to myself aloud whilst turning towards the final mile. I'd had enough. I didn't know what time I was on for at this point, I really didn't care, sub three had gone, all I wanted was to get this race finished. I ran toward the Palace and the signs 800m to go, 600 then 400 as I turned through the final 200m I could see the finish in the distance. I  muttered a much stronger version of "Thank Goodness for that" and mustered a kind of increased pace to the finish in 3 hours 5 minutes and 40 seconds . Relief engulfed me more than elation. 


In addition to Ben Mason and Ben Hatherley we made up a trio of runners representing Grantham Running Club. I had trained through the winter evenings with Ben and Ben and I knew they had miles on their legs an would run strong. Ben H ran home in 3:31:12 and Ben M 3:45:21 both great times in what I thought were warm conditions. Thanks to B&B and everyone else from Grantham AC who helped with encouragement and competition in training, it helped.  


The pub with friends including Steve Wehrle (in white) who has run every London Marathon

Post race I sat with my partner, Tracy in St James Park. We took in the post race atmosphere and exchanged stories with other runners. I spoke to a Swedish runner who had done the Boston marathon the previous week before flying to London to compete in less hot conditions. We shuffled on to the pub and met James Lawne, a veteran of 11 London marathons and his partner, Helen who had arrived back from their spectators positions at Canary Wharf. It was good to see other familiar faces from the BBC running club. A special round of applause was reserved for "ever present" Steve Wehrle finishing his 32nd London marathon having completed every previous London Marathon including running a pb of 2 hours 59 minutes and 59seconds!!!!!!


Entries for London 2013 open tomorrow (Monday 30th April). I might go again.

OK - I'm bound to go again.     


Thursday, 19 April 2012

London Marathon Preview

"The marathon is a charismatic event. It has everything. It has drama. It has competition. It has camaraderie. It has heroism. Every jogger can't dream of being an Olympic champion, but he can dream of finishing a marathon."
Fred Lebow, New York City Marathon co-founder 

The training came to a steady end at approximately 7.30pm tonight after a brief trot out with the good folk from Grantham AC. I've done a few long runs, I've raced a lot since Christmas, perhaps I should have done a bit more speed work (but it's sooo hard and I've done more than last year). All in all I'm happy to report I'm going to London feeling in great shape. there's a lot to be positive about, I've shed a few pounds, I ran a half marathon two weeks ago in a time not far off my 2002 pb and a further huge benefit is that the weather forecast looks ideal, cloud with sunny spells, rain later.

"The marathon can humble you." 
Bill Rodgers, winner of four Boston and four NYC marathons

Sub three hours is a bench mark for many club runners. I've dreamed of running sub 3 since running 3:03 in 2002. Last year I ran 3:06 and I'm aware I'm not getting any younger. My recent half marathon times put me the wrong side of a sub three hour marathon but only just, on a good day if everything falls into place I think I can have a good go at it but I am fully aware that the marathon can humble even the best elite runners. I see it like this:

If i finish it will be good - its never guaranteed and I'm genuinely glad to be able to take part. 
sub 3:10 - I'll be happy - it should get me a 'good for age place' in 2013.
sub 3:06 - happier - an improvement on last year.
sub 3.03 - happier still - a pb
sub 3 - dangerously happy.

"The difference between the mile and the marathon is the difference between burning your fingers with a match and being slowly roasted over hot coals."
Hal Higdon, running writer and coach

This is my fifth London marathon, in addition to the times above I've run 3:11 and 3:23 on previous years. If i can offer any advice through experience it would be 1) don't go off too fast 2) get to the start in plenty of time, its a fair way south of the river 3) drink often even (such as the first 10 miles) if you don't feel like it 4) my strategy is to coast comfortably to halfway then try and gradually increase the pace until my energy runs out, then hang on 5) whatever happens, keep ticking over, possibly the best piece of advice I have ever had. If you feel like walking, try not to, just keep ticking over. 6) take in the atmosphere, listen to the live music and harness the energy it brings.

"I'm never going to run this again."
Grete Waitz, after winning her first of nine New York City marathons

The marathon is inspiring and so are the runners that take part. Here's but two inspirational stories that have crossed my path this week.   My running mentor from the BBC's running club Steve Wehrle is one of only 18 remaining people to have taken part in all 31 London marathons. Steve will line up again on Sunday to attempt his 32nd London Marathon. Steve was responsible for helping me get my first London marathon place and I blame him in part for this daft affliction that has troubled me ever since. On Wednesday this request for sponsorship pinged into my inbox. In short, a barrister's clerk from London has found himself caring for a relative who suffered a severe stroke and deteriorated to the point of needing assistance with living. the Clerk decided to run London for the Stroke Association. This is but one of thousands of human experiences that puts life through running into perspective. It's common during a marathon to run past people with the simple word "Dad" etc on their shirts or even photos of loved ones stuck to the back of ordinary people that have decided to dedicate the hard miles of training and the harder 26.2 miles of racing as a dedication to people they have lost. Through a marathon, people channel grief and emotion into focus on a positive goal - crossing the finish line. The sense of accomplishment and satisfaction for such endeavours linked to the cause for which they are running and the memories of the people they are running for must be colossal and Its great to be part of the same event.

"I watched a documentary last night about diving. Apparently humans only ever use three quarters of their lung capacity. Do you want to see if we can find the other quarter tonight?"
Ben Hatherley - Grantham AC

The above quote was put to me  shortly before fellow Grantham runner Hatherley sped off up the hill at the start of my first hill rep session on a bleak, dark winter's evening. I was left questioning the sanity of the group in general and wondered as I floundered up the same hill some seconds later, If it might have been better to join Sleaford Striders instead! Such was the trouble of that night (the same night I thought we had set out on a warm down lap which turned into about 20 laps of the local estate) that I remembered the quote. I am quite certain that I found my final quarter of lung capacity on my first attempt.

If anyone is in the capital on London I'll be spending some post race time at the Marquis public house which is here.  It would be great to see anyone that's around.      

I understand that if you visit this link on race day you can track runners around the course by entering their race number. My number is 32105

GOOD LUCK  EVERYBODY - leave it all out there.........!!!     



Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Friskney Half Marathon 2012

Friskney Half Marthon 2012 - The Silence of the Lands

You're a star
Friskney is in the middle of nowhere. It's in the far east, the far east of England, perhaps 20 miles from the glorious resort of Skegness. When I took my brother in law out to similar parts of the fen he described expecting to see a child by the road side with a straw hat playing the banjo. The further east you travel from Grantham the less there is but the featureless terrain has a definite charm of its own. Miles and miles of flat arable farm land stretches out as far as the eye can see only permeated every now and again by a ram shackle barn or a scarecrow blowing in the breeze.

The Friskney Half Marathon is organised by Boston and District athletic club. I had heard the race was across a fast course. This time last year I had run the Belvoir Half Marathon but I was reliably informed that the Friskney race was cheaper and so I decided to head out east for a new experience. The race car park was in a farm yard, a big commercial farmyard full of pallets and vegetable remains. We had been held up on the A52 behind a tractor and trailer and we couldn't understand how the same tractor and its load of cauliflowers had arrived in the car park ahead of us. It was also a coincidence that we had both arrived at the same destination.  

Ahead of the start of the race I chatted to a few other athletes from Grantham AC. It was my intention to have an easy run today but I was encouraged by my running comrades to try and PB the course. I was reminded that the course was flat and fast and I was London marathon fit, perhaps as fit as I might ever be, I shouldn't let the chance go begging, perhaps I should 'have a go'! Such encouragement is dangerous.  My informal mentor Mcardle suggested that I was about as fit as I could hope to be ahead of London "it's all about fine tuning now" I was told. I was offered an energy gel to take with me. I wouldn't have normally carried an energy gel across a half marathon but I was grateful for the gift and accepted knowing that there was no obligation to use it. I like to think I'm a bit of purest  runner. There is no doubt that you can only go so far as your energy reserves will let you and there is no doubt that energy out depends on food put in but there is also no doubt that the running market has become saturated with all manner of gels, beans, cakes, biscuits, shot blocs, powders and other supplements. I'm a natural sceptic, perhaps sometimes ignorantly so. Ahead of the start I witnessed the not unusual sight of a runner with a belt containing several gels, and a bottle of drink. The same runner was clad in tight fitting technical Lycra and his calves were even encased in socks made of a heavy wet suit type material. Each to their own but I couldn't help wondering if the discomfort of the runners gear would outweigh any benefit, perhaps I should be grateful that I can run minimal and not take fast times for granted. 

John Ellerby - Grantham AC
The race started at 11am. No need for road closures in these parts. the route is a lap of mainly single track rural roads adjacent to the vast fields of crops which are beginning to look lively in anticipation of summer and no doubt aided by the recent spell of rain that engulfed Lincolnshire not a day after a hose pipe ban came into effect. I ran off fast, perhaps too fast. I was trying to temper my pace but I knew when I passed Arthur Short of Grantham AC that I had gone off fast, Arthur would be far ahead of me on most days, either I was going too fast or as a fellow London marathoner he was maintaining his discipline and taking things steady. I fully enjoyed the Friskney route, there was something remote about the course aided by the the vast expanse of interrupted farming land as far as the eye could see. At mile 7ish the route must have come back towards the start because the silence of the land was interrupted by a gaggle of spectators including my partner Tracy who was taking photos to illustrate this post. 

I had run the first half fast but just about within myself. I'd become involved in an ongoing tussle with a ginger haired runner. we overtook each other several times during the first 9 miles and it became a stressful battle of attrition, the kind that I try to avoid. I managed to shake him off between miles nine and ten but the extra effort had made me tire. My legs began to feel a bit heavy and negative thoughts started to creep in, "I shouldn't have gone off so fast", " I should   have stayed behind Arthur" "Why did I pick a fight with a competitor who's probably going to gazump me in the final mile". at this point I remembered the hallowed gift from mentor McArdle. My pre race opinions blew away across the fields and I reached into my pocket and pulled out the gel. With a bite of the foil i managed to negotiate a fair amount of the now warm gel into my mouth. the rest deposited stickily around my mouth and hands. At the same time the heavens opened. The conditions had been  ideal. I had been told that for all Friskney's PB potential, wind could blow savagely across the fen. Today had been cool with a slight breeze, great running weather.
The best part of a race

The gel along with the refreshing rain restored positive thoughts and  by mile 12 and I was able to push on with renewed gusto through Friskney village to finish on the grass field outside the village hall 23rd in a time of 1:24:52. about a minute outside a PB that I set at Wilmslow in 2002 but a satisfying result nonetheless. I had trialled new shoes today, the latest version of the Adidas adios racer that I had hoped to wear in London. Sadly the shoes had blistered my feet and taken skin off a toe meaning i face a tough shoe choice decision ahead of London. It's a choice between trying a fuller sock. (my Friskney socks were very thin) or using last years shoe which have by now lost most of their bounce. 
Winners inc Catherine Payne (pink) Grantham AC
 There were some great Grantham AC performances most notably Catherine Payne running second in the v45 category and (definitely) setting a pb on the way, nice run! It was good to have a post race chat with some of Grantham's experienced London marathoners including Paul Davidson who has previously run a 2:42 London marathon. I was told that back in the day the science was different. It wasn't about gels and energy potions, the science of the time was carbo loading, starving yourself of carbs two weeks before only to load up on carbs heavily the week before the race. Although I was informed it's a practice no longer recommended, I was assured, like gels and powders that it was the fashion at the time.   

I enjoyed the Friskney race. It was a good no nonsense runners event across a peaceful course with good tea at the finish. Post race we retired to Skeggy to watch Man Utd edge closer to the title followed by a great walk across Gibraltar Point an area of outstanding natural beauty (in contrast to the adjacent holiday resort). we were lucky to see seals basking on a sand bank in the distance and star fish that had been washed up on the shore. I resolved to return in better weather and run along the coast to further explore.

Results and Pics                         

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Grantham Cup 2012

The Grantham Cup race takes place as part of Belton Horse Trials and starts within the historic grounds of Belton House. I wasn't going to run this race and didn't think I could marshall either but I managed to get away from a work conference on Saturday evening and so decided to have a mosey up to Belton House on Sunday morning to see if I could help and perhaps take a few photies to illustrate this post.

Runners and Rider
Horse trialling is a sport I don't understand very well. It is clear however that its very well supported. There were thousands of people enjoying the horse trials, classic cars, and associated entertainment in the show arenas, including evil kinevil style motorcyclists jumping over ramps.   I learnt that there are two main parts to such a horse event, dressage which involves making your horse look nice before parading it around a ring and secondly show jumping which involves galloping the horse around a course and throwing it over huge jumps whilst as a rider you hang on to the reigns tightly. For me there was a far more sensible pursuit taking place, a running race. The Grantham Cup is perhaps unusual in these parts for two reasons. First the course is a 10k but over rough unforgiving rutted terrain. The course also involves a hill. Not a hill by Lake District proportions but a hill enough to test the resolve of the 110 participants that took part. 

At the start I spotted a runner from Clayton le Moors harriers, a prolific and respected club from the North West of England and a club whose runners I had often encountered when fell racing in the Peak District. The club has a very strong fell running section and I had a feeling the CLM runner whilst far from home, would fare well over the tough terrain and I wandered if he might show the Lincolnshire folk how to run up and down a hill properly!

A nice quirk to this event is the 'lead horse' instead of a lead car. The rider this year dazzled wearing Grantham Running Club's new green vest. Shortly before the race start she positioned her horse in front of the runners ready for the off. The race started when the adjacent horse course was clear. 

The route tracks through the splendour of the grounds of Belton House before crossing five gates lane and up the hill to the folly at the summit. The course then follows through the woods at the top where runners can find a bit of pace on the woodland tracks which were hardened because of the fine weather. A steady descent of the same hill eventually brings runners back to five gates lane. I wandered if the CLM athlete would extend a lead on the decent knowing that fell runners can run skillfully at break neck speed down such gradients whilst remaining upright. Finally the route comes back into Belton grounds to the finish where competitors are rewarded with a bottle of beer and a bottle opener.

Whilst the race ran, I walked up the course, admired a few horse jumpers and then positioned myself under a tree to await the return of the runners. Shortly afterwards the lead horse cantered by followed by Breton Holdswoth of.......Clayton Le Moors who was clearly maintaining the reputation of his club on familiar terrain! 

Breton Holdswoth - Clayton Le Moors
Arthur Short of Grantham AC ran past looking strong and subsequently finished 7th in 40:40. Stuart Sinclair was next Grantham runner also finishing in the top ten in 41:35. First Grantham lady and second overall was Catherine Payne looking far too happy for the later stages of a race and ultimately finishing in 46:16.

I enjoyed marshalling. It's interesting to see the response to racers after you clap and support. Some run past silently too tired to muster an acknowledgement, some grunt a thank you and others start a full blown conversation, "oh thanks a lot, that hill was pretty tough and I'll be glad to get back" said one memorable competitor. The trick of support I overheard at the start is to encourage without patronising, I hope I got the balance right! 

After the final few runners came through I ambled back to the start and watched runners reflect in their glory. It was good to see the round of applause from spectators that accompanied the back markers cross the finish line. The Belton Cup is to be recommended a modest race fee includes the ability to enjoy the horse trials post race.     

I took a few pics which can be found here and results are here.


Sharp Knives - London Marathon Training Run

I took leave from work last Wednesday in order to complete a final long training run ahead of the London Marathon. The unseasonal early sunshine that had graced much of the country continued and I woke at 8.30am to clear blue skies and looked forward to 20ish miles road running through the Vale of Belvoir.

A bowl of porridge, a coffee and a pint of water later I left Grantham for Harlaxton Road - Denton - Harston - Knipton - Branston - Belvoir Castle - Woolsthorpe - Denton and back to Grantham. Similar to previous long training runs I drove the route the night before and dropped water and food at approximately 6 mile intervals. I have run a 25 mile version of the this run twice this year but decided to scale it back a bit as its now just three weeks until the marathon.
Mysterious Staring Horse

The previous evening I had done some speed work around Dysart Park in Grantham. Laps of 400m were completed, 1 lap, rest, then 2 laps, rest, 3 laps etc until 4 fast laps were completed. We then ran back down 3, 2 and finally 1 more tiring lap. As I climbed out of Grantham the next morning I felt tired and knew I was in for 20 'long' miles. By the time I reached the countryside which surrounds Belvoir Castle I was enthused by the sunshine, it was hot, and felt like a run in the middle of summer, brilliant! I sat and rested at a drinks stop just past Branston before shuffling on towards the castle. On the approach to the castle car park I happened upon a local Romany gypsy accompanied by his chickens, dogs and horse. I have seen the vardo alongside local grass verges before and as I ran past I resolved to return later and make use of the Gypsy's knife sharpening service which is advertised outside his van. 

I ran on onto Woolsthorpe and walked up the hill towards Denton. I would have normally tried to keep running but today was about enjoying the run and being close to London I had an excuse to take the foot off the pedal. I stopped again at the salt bin at Denton, refuelling this time on 'high five' and bananas before hammering out the final few miles back to Grantham. I ran home in 3 hours after a roughly estimated 20 miles of running on one of those days when the weather makes you wish you could run forever. 
Knife Sharpener

Later in the evening I returned to the Gypsy's vardo. Approaching cautiously whilst scattering the wild hens I stood outside and shouted a greeting, I couldn't see a doorbell on this house! I could hear what sounded like a television inside but after a few more shouted greetings it was clear there was nobody home. Outside the vardo there were plates and mugs for sale, a sign advertising palm readings and a big wooden machine on wheels which appeared to be the knife sharpener.  The mysterious, adjacent white horse was staring at me and making me nervous so I decided to leave three chopping knives of the Gypsy's top step. I retreated to the car glad to be away from the constant yapping of the Gypsy's dogs and the stare of the white mare which were tied to a adjacent trees. I couldn't get back to the vardo until Saturday evening and I took a risk that the gypsy and the knives would still be there three days later (i don't think my partner was very impressed!). On Saturday evening i pulled alongside and retrieved three duly sharpened kitchen knives. The knife sharpener told me he had been in the pub during my previous visit!

This was a great run in brilliant weather through some of Lincolnshire's finest countryside culminating in a Lincolnshire liaison with a real Romany, fantastic and three Sharp knives to boot...