Tag Archives: Training

London Calling’s a Pain in the Butt

by Paul Thompson

So today I was at the London Marathon Expo with running buddy Flavio De Simone and his wife Kate. While they collected their numbers I was deferring my entry to 2020.  This Sunday morning I’ll be spectating rather than running it. London is calling but I have a pain in the arse which has wrecked my 2019 plans. Those plans centered on trying to emulate London 2017 when I ran 2:31:45 and then running the Berlin Marathon  in September in a bid to top the M50 rankings in the Abbott Age Group World Rankings.

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Jamie Lopez, Katharine and Flavio De Simone seeking PBs of around 2:45, 3:40 and 2:35

Those that have suffered from piriformis syndrome know the choice of words is apt – metaphorically and physically it’s a total pain in the arse. It’s the main reason I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve had nothing to brag about, but lots to whinge about. This year look set to rival 2013 when I was knocked over by a cyclist and was forced to take 6 weeks off running altogether to allow my broken scapula to heal. I opted to save you the whinging. Until I saw some light at the end of the tunnel. I think I see some.

So what’s the story this time? And what have I learned, if anything?

Onset of Injury

The injury struck just as I was ramping up for the final marathon training block. By end of January,  some 13-14 weeks out, I was back in full training mode following 2 months of intense rehabiliation following breaking my shoulder on 9 November 2018. By the time I landed in Singapore in early February in time to celebrate Chinese New Year with family my shoulder was 90% right and I was all set for full marathon training. Or so I thought.

After spending a few days accimilatizing to the tropical weather I slammed in a 20 minute Mona Fartlek, took a day off and then ran 20 miles off road in 88F / 30C and 90% humidity. In the latter stages of the long run I could feel encroaching pain in my butt and hamstring. I’ve not been right since.

Diagnosis and Treatment

I have had no shortage of well intentioned and expert advice and help. Soon after the issue first arose I saw physiotherapist Mok Ying Rong at the Rehab Lab in Singapore who focused on trying to correct my gait. On arrival back in the US I then saw acupuncturist Russ Stram at Runner Clinic NYC and had weekly sessions of massage and active release therapy with Tom Nohilly  But it took several weeks to determine whether I had high hamstring tendinitis or piriformis syndrome. The symptoms are similar.

It’s not the first time I’ve had this. Back in 2013 I was grappling with it when I was knocked over by a cyclist and broke my shoulder. After six weeks forced rest the problem disappeared without trace. Hopefully this time I don’t have to wait for a cyclist to knock me over.

After spending several weeks fighting it and getting increasingly frustrated eventually I found some rhythm to my daily routine. Today that daily routine comprises an hour of cross training – a mixture or ART focused on the hamstrings, foam rolling the upper leg and lower back, and general hip and leg strengthening (quad, calf, gluteal muscles, hip abductor) – and running 30-60 minutes 5 days per week with the rest of the time on the static bike for an hour as I did this past week.

Root Cause

While I’m not out of the woods yet I’d like to figure out what caused this. Only then can I avert a repeat. Unfortunately, the list of possible causes is as long as my layoff and like my layoff the list keeps getting longer. Contenders include a wearing new running shoes (some Hokas instead of adidas Adizero Boston, my go to shoe these past few years), new Loake suede ankle boots (my brother Stephen helps make them), number of long haul flights in coach / economy, lack of icing legs post run (prompted by the cold winter weather), and that old chestnut – lack of regular TLC.

But the root cause might well be the accident in which I broke my shoulder. Friends in the know who I’ve consulted online reckon the accident may have knocked my back out triggering a chain of events culminating in my injury.

Lessons Learned

I’m afraid I’d like to think I’ve come out of this business wiser but suspect not. I’ve been reminded how poorly I respond to injury. It’s taken me far too long to diagnose and get into an alternative exercise routine. But I think I’ve gained some patience. I was starting from a very low base.

Revised Plans

My plan is to be done with this before the Brexit impasse is resolved. So that gives me until 31 October at the latest. I’m hopeful I’ll be firing on all cyclinders come June and then do the half marathon, 10K and 8K cross-country at the European Masters Athletics Championships 2019 in Venice on 5-15 September and / or the Berlin Marathon.

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Flavio, me and Jamie in Greenwich Park after a recce of the marathon start area

London Calling

In 2020 I aim to compete with the top masters from around the world as they converge on London for the Abbott World Marathon Majors Age Group Championships. This Sunday I will be watching the world’s greatest marathon and tracking closely top masters athletes Lee Aherne (M50), Stephen Watmough (M55), Flavio (M45) and Kate De Simone (W45), Rob Downs (M55), Jonathan Ratcliffe (M50) and Jamie Lopez (M45), amongst others. Right I’m dialling off here.

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Reflecting on 2018, Lessons Learned and Looking Forward to 2019

by Paul Thompson

Reflecting on 2018

The year just ended proved a mixed one for running, one in which I achieved some but not all of my 2018 goals. I plumbed the highs and lows, from a world medal through to tripping and breaking my right shoulder and, consequently, failing to run the 6 NYRR races necessary to get nominated for the 2018 NYRR Age Group Awards.

Rather than run a marathon, I decided to focus on winning a medal at the World Masters Athletics (WMA) Championships in Malaga, Spain in September and logging some fast times, hopefully sufficient to top  the UK and USA M50 rankings for 10K, 10 miles and half marathon. For the most part I succeeded despite lots of work travel to, from and within Europe.

Things started well enough. I ran 33:10 in the UAE Healthy Kidney 10K in April. That would be good enough for topping the 2018 UK M50 10K rankings. But then in May at the Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon I passed 10 miles in around 55 minutes flat and 200 meters later pulled up nursing a hamstring tear. In the early summer plenty of TLC enabled me to mend and prepare for the WMA.

At the WMA I ran a poor tactical race in the 10K road race and finished a disappointing 4th with a mild hamstring strain to  boot. I bounced back to snatch a silver medal in the half marathon a week later. And then soon after returning to the US rocked the New Balance Bronx 10 Mile logging 54:29, enough to top the UK and USA M50 rankings.

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Receiving the silver medal in the WMA in Malaga, Spain.

In the final quarter of the year things went awry. I tripped and fell while running the Lake Garda bike path in fading light. I was left with a badly bruised right arm and thigh. Barely 9 days later I ran for England in the British and Irish Masters Cross Country International and was a sluggish 6th and last scorer. On arrival back in the US an X ray revealed I had a fractured right shoulder, a non-displaced humerus. Since then I’ve been seeing physical therapist Miranda Lyon at the New York-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital and doing lots of home exercises.

Learning in December that I’d failed to win nomination for the 2019 NYRR Age Group Awards was disappointing. Since turning 40 I have won every year bar one when an accident got in the way of my running the required 6 races. In 2018, I ran 6 races but 2 of these was guiding visually impaired runners – Paraolympian medalist Jason Dunkerley in the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon and Jared Broughton in the Achilles Hope & Possibility 4M. In the half I had no race tag, just a guide bib, so was excluded from the results. That left me a race short. But I’d not have it any other way. Guiding Jason was awesome, on par with my best races of 2018.

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Guiding Jason Dunkeley in the New York City half-marathon.

Lessons Learned

I learned a lot in 2018. I think. First, recovering from serious injury, such as my hamstring tear in May or fractured shoulder in November, demands patience and plenty of TLC. Second, staying fit and fast in your fifties demands a range of ingredients.  Training is important but then so is mindset, diet and strength exercise. So one year on I’m a year older and, maybe, a few days wiser.

Looking Forward to 2019

As for New Year’s  resolutions it’s more of the same. My main aims are to run a spring (London) and autumn (Berlin or Montreal) marathons, top the Abbot World Marathon Majors for M50 and qualify for the World Masters Marathon Championships in London in April 2020. Running two marathons in one calendar year will be a first. The risk of injury or illness looms large. In my wife and coach Lee Troop I have the best early warning stystems. The work starts here. And this week I’m on track to run 70 miles.

Fighting Fit and Fast in Fifties: The Ingredients

By Paul Thompson

This article is a personal view, informed by what I’ve read, heard and learned by doing, on how to stay competitive at distance running as age tries to catch up with us. It’s written against the back drop of mankind’s obsession with avoiding the effects of old age. But before we find a way of arresting the onset of old age what can masters runners do to stay fighting fit? This article, more anecdotal self-reflection than scientific analysis, explains how I have navigated the physical and psychological to keep the effects of creeping age at bay. We will slow as we age, but as this New York Times article explains we may not need to slow too much. Although declines in our running are unavoidable, they may be less steep than many of us fear. The article looks at the key ingredients, and their relative importance, to mastering masters athletics from training, recovery and mindset and motivation through to time management and planning, diet and support network.

The Author

Let’s start with a few words about me. That way you can judge whether or it’s worth reading what I have to say. I’m 52. I’ve run consistently, and competitively, since I was in my early teens. I ran for school, town, county and region but was never good enough to cut it a national level in the open age category. Until, that is, I turned 40. Since then I’ve been one of the top masters’ runners on both sides of the Pond – in the UK, where I was born, and in the US where I have lived since joining the masters’ ranks. It seems that as I’ve aged I’ve slowed down slower than most. Today I am proud to be a world class masters runner and able to compete and win medals at world masters athletics championships. My full running resume is here.

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Silver medel in the half marathon at  the World Masters Athletics championships, Malaga, Spain, September 2018

Review of the Literature

Before I tell my own story a few observations on what the literature is telling us about how to stay fit in our fifties. Arguably the most significant writer on the subject is Joe Friel. His book Fast After 50 was written primarily with endurance cyclists in mind but much of it is just as relevant to endurance running. Friel starts out by looking at the what is holding us back as we age — our specific weaknesses, or “limiters.” He notes that while many areas of our life can nurture limiters, such as time available to train, diet, amount of sleep, and speed of recovery, and much more, the “big three” aging limiters are as follows:

  • Decreasing aerobic capacity – we lose the ability to deliver oxygen to our working muscles.
  • Increasing body fat – we can expect more fat and less muscle, a transition that accelerates in our 60s.
  • Shrinking muscles – starting around age 40, a progressive decrease of muscle begins.

Friel encourages us not to be defeatist. While these limiters can’t be dodged there’s much we can do to slow the pace of change. The book describes in considerable detail several key training, recovery and nutrition strategies that can limit age-related losses to performance. Below I’ll try to fuse my own ideas with those of Friel and others.

Training

The single most important ingredient to our athletic success irrespective of age. My running log looks much like it did when I was younger. I run around 70 miles per week. This includes a 2 hour plus long run, longer than when I was younger, a mid-week medium long run, and two work-outs. Friel’s foremost recommendation is to maintain aerobic capacity through continued high-intensity training. I agree. As we age the natural tendency is for us to concede defeat and quit high intensity training on the basis that we should take it easy and push back. This is in keeping with the prevailing general view that as we age we should retire, take up golf and all that. So many of us revert to just steady running. Unfortunately, this just speeds up our rate of decline. Accepted it’s hard to wrap your head around the idea of running repeats slower and slower. But to stop high intensity training altogether will make us even slower, sooner.

Before I describe a few workouts I do on a regular basis, and how they differ from what I used to do, let me say a few words about how I approach them. First, get my mind and motivation right – see the section below. Second, while I may record the workout on my Garmin I tend to only glance at it during the workout to get a rough idea as to the time and pace. I try to avoid being a slave to the device or schedule. Organic is preferred. Third, I typically do a warm-up run of at least 25 minutes. Fourth, like all my runs I tend to start easier and slowly step up the intensity. In this way all my runs have a progressive dimension. For example, like this workout  or this steady run. And finally, I do workouts mainly alone, partly to avoid the stress of chasing others and being reminded that I’m getting slower. When I’m rocking them I’m happy to have company.

Mona Fartlek

One of my staple speed endurance sessions. The 20-minute version consists of 2 x 90sec, 4 x 60sec, 4 x 30sec, 4 x 15sec with a slower tempo recovery of the same time between each repetition. I approach the session as though a steady run with timed efforts. To be able to run the recoveries at a reasonable pace, ‘float’ recoveries, the efforts need to be fast but not all out. I aim to cover around 3.5 miles as I did on this one. This workout is great for shorter races and offers a varied high intensity session.

Hill Repeats

My typical hill work-out is 10x60secs with jog down recovery. The hill I use is of varying gradient but none of it is steeper than 10%. Close to the top is levels off enabling me to close fast. Like all hill sessions this one works the glutes and hips, maintaining muscle strength and power. I concentrate on form rather than speed. I did this one recently.

Other

Like most runners I also do repeats on track or flat road. Typically these are longer efforts with short jog recoveries and ladders.

Recovery

As we age the rate at which we recover, especially from high intensity sessions, slows markedly. Hence, getting recovery right assumes heightened importance as we age. When my daily run is done it’s all hands-on deck to recover as soon as possible. Except when it’s very cold I apply ice to my legs with an ice cup – this not only speeds up muscle recovery but in hot weather offers relief by lowering my overall body temperature – roll my legs and back on a foam roller and do a few strength exercises. Given my slow recovery I avoid back to back hard sessions: typically, I do steady runs of no more than an hour the day before and day after high intensity work-outs and long runs.

Mindset and Motivation

The second most important ingredient after training. As older athletes we have accumulated experience and grit. I can, if necessary, grind out training sessions and races even when the chips are down. I can eke out that extra few percent of effort on race day. Going into every work-out or race I moderate my expectations. I avoid comparing with yesteryear. For workouts the goal is to more to complete rather than to excel. Easing into the session, holding back early on, helps ensure I get it done. I know that I’ll struggle to run them anything like as fast as I used to. I also need to make allowances for the fact that age slows down the ability to recover so I may struggle to replicate the times the last time I did that same work-out. Similarly, my race goals differ to when I was younger. I’m looking to top my age group and maximize my age grade percentage (often at or around 90%) rather than bag a PR.

If I fear anything it’s injury rather than pain. I often have a contingency plan, or secondary goals, to avoid being like a ship at sea without anchor, in case things don’t play out the way I’d planned. In a recent 10K race my ultimate aim was to run under 33:00 but my back-up plan was to revert to 5:20 minute per mile pace. At 5K I reverted to Plan B and ran 33:10. When injury strikes one needs to be especially careful to ensure full and timely recovery. In a recent race I pulled a hamstring. I had to quickly bail out to avoid making matters worse. I rested, maintained cardio vascular fitness by cycling, and got treatment. Patience is indeed a virtue.

Finally, I’ve gotten a fillip of extra motivation from guiding visually impaired runners including Paralympian medalist Jason Dunkerley in the New York City Half Marathon. It feels good to help others enjoy something that I enjoy so much. And Jason has taught me that age, like blindness, is not a disability but a challenge to be overcome.

Time Management and Planning

Time is perhaps our most precious resource. There’s never enough of it. My wife and I are lucky in that we don’t have kids or pets or high maintenance parents. However, I like many in their fifties are at or close to the peak of our careers. This means a demanding day job and work travel. I invest considerable time in planning my week ahead to ensure I get the training done no matter when and where. Sometimes this demands last minute adjustments like moving a work-out to a less time constrained day.

Diet

There’s nothing special about my diet. I eat most things in moderation. But what has changed in the past few years, thanks to my wife Sham, is increased consumption of protein, to aid recovery, and fruit, nuts and seeds, sometimes in smoothies.

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Eating and drinking with family and friends on eve of 2017 London Marathon

Support Network

My support network is bigger and more important than ever. It includes coach Lee Troop, Urban Athletics team mates, manager, counsellor and wife Shamala, and physical therapist / acupuncturist Russell Stram at Runner Clinic NYC.

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Urban Athletics team mates

Measuring Success

To see how you successfully you are holding back the years, slowing the rate of decline check out this calculator. I plugged in 2:29:56 for my marathon PR / PB at age 40 in London. It predicted I run 2:47:03 at age 51: in April 2017 at age 51, exactly 11 years after I ran my PR I ran 2:31:45 in London.

Concluding Remarks

The ingredients to being fighting fit and fast in your fifties described above are not mutually exclusive. They overlap and interrelate. Get them right and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. And it’s important to work simultaneously on all ingredients, more so that ingredient in the shortest supply, our weakest link.

Race Report: New Balance Bronx 10 Mile, September 30, New York

by Paul Thompson (pictures Shamala Thompson and Nigel Francis)

It’s been barely two weeks since I ran in the World Masters Athletics Championships in Malaga, Spain. I was still enjoying the warm afterglow of having come back to the US with a silver medal in the half marathon for the M50 age group. But I was unsure how I’d fare 14 days later in what’s my favorite race of the NYRR calendar – the Bronx 10 Mile.

My uncertainty was made worse by the roller coaster training since getting home from Malaga. The half marathon, largely due to the oppressive hot and humid conditions, had been one of the hardest of races I’d endured. It left me reeling like a full marathon. And then I’d had the flight home via Madrid, some 16 hours door to door. And yet I seemed to  quickly get back into the swing of things sufficient to run for over two hours with team mates Flavio De Simone, whose race report is here, and Jordan Wolff over the hills of Rockefeller State Park on Saturday Setptember 22

The next day I was exhausted and 3 kilograms lighter than Malaga. A long run too far. All last week training had been mediocre, capped by my worst 20 minute Mona Fartlek measured in distance covered (3.2 miles versus the more usual 3.5 miles). I tapered after Wednesday and on race day morning felt sharp and rested. The previous day Sham and I went to a friends’ party at a building on Ocean Parkway (close to the 8 mile mark of the Brooklyn Half). I sampled the alcohol and picked away at the smorgasbord of food, much of it different to what I’d normally eat on the eve of a race, and then crashed at another friends place at Marcus Garvey Park (aka Mount Morris Park).

On race day morning waking up in Harlem meant an extra hour of sleep and a short 1.5 mile run to the start area over the Madison Avenue Bridge. I was at the race start around 7.15am. I’ve typically run well in this race. In 2015 I’d scorched to 53:36 at age 49. Last year I was slightly off the boil and ran 55:24 in warm weather. This year the weather was perfect – high 50s F, clear blue skies and gentle breeze from the north. The course is fast but not completely flat. My aim was to run 5:30 pace and hope to hold it for a sub-55 clocking. The object was to take a shot across the bows of my main M50 rivals in the US and UK.

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In first mile behind Beverly Ramos (#1)

After a delayed start we were away and I quickly settled into a pack running at 5:30 pace. The leading woman was in front for a short while: she went on the run 55:15, one of the fastest ever times by a woman in this race. My pack included three Dashing Whippets Running Team (DWRC), and regular competitors in my ballpark Bobby Asher of Van Cortlandt Track Club (VCTC) and Greg Cass of Central Park Track Club (CPTC). In the opening miles northbound on the Grand Concourse – one of the most spectacular boulevards for running, it being modelled on the Champs Elysees and punctuated with Art Deco splendor – I sat in the group as we reeled off 5:30 miles.

Approaching the turn onto the Mosholu Parkway just short of 4 miles I then started to do some of the heavy lifting. I was gaining in confidence, enough to dole out some pain. That exuberance was short lived. On the parkway a posse of CPTC runners and someone from Prospect Park Track Club (PPTC) breezed passed me. As we descended towards the New York Botanical Gardens they started to open up a gap. I passed mile 5 in 27:24, bang on schedule, ran the U turn wide and started to steadily climb the half mile back up the parkway to the Grand Concourse.

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I sensed I had a big group in tow. I led the charge up the Mosholu Parkway hoping to shake ’em off. I was firing on all cylinders as we got back on the Grand Concourse and passed mile 6. The beauty with a target of 5:30 MPM is that the math is simple. The clock at each mile simply needs to read :00 or :30 or thereabouts. As I tire I struggle with the math and to see my Garmin splits. If I could hold my pace from 6 through 8.5 miles then the downhill to the finish would see me comfortably under 55 minutes. I’d soon find out.

As I made the turn onto the Grand Concourse I heard “Go Paul” ring out loud and clear. You could measure it on the Richter Scale. Nicole Sin Quee has some big triathlete lungs! Heading south on the Grand Concourse one is met with a tide of humanity, the thousands of slower runners heading north on the other carriageway, many cheering us on.

I was now running for home, albeit with over 3 miles left to run. I felt strong and confident. I just needed to get to 8.5 miles and then the descent would carry me to the finish. Southbound the miles seemed much longer. The boulevard is immense, largely straight, almost like a runway. As I started to dig deep the roadway started to gently descend. As I started to inch up my pace a DWTC runner came past. And I sensed others were in the wings. So I kept putting the hammer down. With a quarter mile to go the course takes a sharp right and descends steeply to the finish just outside Yankee Stadium. I was being hunted down but got to the tape just ahead of two DWRC runners.

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Passing Mile 9 with game face on (picture credit: Nigel Francis)

I clocked 54:29, good for 23rd of 12,590 finishers. I was 1st M50 and 2nd masters after Guillermo Pineda Morales, over a minute in front in 53:28. At the sharp end Harbert Okuti of the Westchester Track Club was the top men’s finisher in 48:35, and New Balance athlete Beverly Ramos won the women’s race in 55:15. Read the NYRR race report here.

I was satisfied, almost very satisfied, with that. It was perhaps the best performance of 2018 so far, bagging me top age grade (AG) runner on the day with 91.97%. The Garmin data showed the even splits with slightly faster running down the Mosholu and in the final mile. My heart rate averaged 176 bpm and maxed out at 189 bpm. I clearly worked hard. The 7th mile, in 5:23, was decisive. At this stage one can easily lose focus. I didn’t. I was on a mission for home.

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Engraved bling

I hung out in the finishing area to see team mates and rivals, like my closest M50 challenger Brad Kelley of CPTC, cross the line. This is always the best part of the race where we get to talk and laugh rather than pant or gasp.

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Team catch-up – Ellen, Ada, Flavio, me and Saudy Tajeda

The Urban Athletics Team, though low in total number, did well:

  • Female Master 40+: 1st place (Cathrine Wolden, Ellen Basile and Jennifer Amato)
  • Male Master 40+: 2nd place (Paul Thompson, Flavio De Simone and Jordan Wolff)
  • Male Master 50+: 2nd place (Paul Thompson, Adam Kuklinski and Richard Temerian)
  • Open Male: 7th place (Paul Thompson, Flavio De Simone, Alex Lorton, Jordan Wolff and Adam Kuklinski)

UA’s masters women are hot favorites to win the NYRR 2018 masters 40+ team title but the men, in a distant 2nd place after West Side (WSX), have work to do. In the individual stakes, Urban Athletics got 4 podium finishes: Cathrine Wolden, 1st 45-49, in 1:04:57; Ellen Basile, 3rd 45-49, in 1:06:41; Kathleen Horton, 2nd 70+, in 1:36:20 and me. Flavio and Jordan got PRs of 57:25 and 59:21 respectively.

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After the run I spent some time reflecting. I read this New York Times article again and was reminded how fortunate I am to have a relatively easy day job in terms of physical demands and hours. Occasionally I travel a lot for work but, as my mother use to say when i was a kid whining about not having something, “there’s always someone worse off than you”. It also reminds me what a great running community we have – globally, nationally, and locally here in New York City. It’s diverse, socially, ethnically, economically. And yet shares much in common – a love of running and fellow runners.

In the end it played out as best I could have ever hoped for. I had self doubts before the race. but these were quickly put to bed. And I came away top of the UK M50 rankings for 10 miles to go with my 10K top spot.

 

Race Report: World Masters Athletics Championships – Half Marathon, September 16, Malaga, Spain

Paul Thompson (pictures Shamala Thompson)

Before

Here I was again standing on the start line of the half marathon hoping to make up for the disappointment of finishing 4th in the 10K a week earlier. The half is my preferred distance. I appeared to be over a hamstring strain and resumed coach Troopy’s inter race schedule. And I was fully adjusted to the time zone. So this was the day to put it right. I needed to run my own race, stay composed and make adjustments for the hot and humid weather. Turns out a few seconds would make all the difference.

Rather than jog from the apartment to the stadium I got the metro  with Sham and decided to run the area surrounding the stadium to get familiar with the course near the start and finish and midway: the course was one small lap and two large with our passing the stadium three times before finishing with a lap in it. I was more relaxed about this race than the 10K though more nervous about the effects of the hot weather. My game plan was to run 5:30-5:40 miles to close in around 1:13, a minute slower than what I figured I could run in more favorable weather.

I met Edo Baart, who’d gotten silver in the 10K, on the metro ride in. Baart had a similar game plan to me so looked like we’d be running together, collaborating, and then start competing in the latter stages. But time was a secondary consideration. The goal was to get best possible finishing position, preferably one that came with a gong. That meant racing rather than time trialing as I tend to do in club races in New York where I take for granted winning my age group in distances of 10K or more. In the entry list my best recent time of 1:12:01 from Airbnb Brooklyn Half Marathon 2017 ranked me 7th fastest and there were 5 guys who had beaten me before. Pre-race favorites were Benita from Spain, gold medalist in the 2017 European Masters Half Marathon, Eichwein from Germany, silver medalist in the same and gold for 8K XC and 10K road in Malaga, and fellow Brit Tim Hartley, silver medalist in the 5000m a few days earlier. But Benita and Hartley did not show up.

We were lined up in corrals by age – M35-49 men and women in the first corral, M50-59 in the second. This meant having some 200 athletes, many much slower, in front. I reconnected with Baart. As a few older guys and girls ducked under the corral tape to join the first corral Baart and I, suspecting the floodgates would open, decided to follow suit. But the floodgates did not open. As I did not want to find myself beating someone simply because I started ahead of them I told Baart he was on his own. As I rejoined my corral I got that ‘look’ from many M50s. Turns out it would all prove academic as just before the start the corral breaks were removed and I forged my way nearer the front. So near I was able to tap Baart’s shoulder. He looked relieved.

During

And then we were off. I still had around 100 athletes in front of me but figured I had time to pass and settle into a group nearer the front. I went through the first mile with Baart, and Eichwein, in 5:39 (Garmin data is here). Slightly slower than goal pace but Baart said it was OK for him. I felt relaxed and we shared words. Though we sped up to 5:30 in mile two Eichwein started to charge away from us. Looking down the road I could see at least three M50s ahead of us: Eichwein, Joaquim Figueiredo (Portgual) who had gotten bronze, just ahead of me, in the 10K road race and the 5000m behind Hartley, and Luc Van Asbroeck (Belgium) who was just behind me in the 10K. Likely there were others. But how many?

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Edo Baart (Netherlands) and me being chased by Miguel Melero-Eichwein (Germany) in opening few miles

I covered the third mile in a solid 5:29. I was torn between holding back and hoping the M50s ahead would start to fade, or chasing them. Baart dropped away seemingly preferring the former (after the race he confessed to tight achilles, a result of his tip toe style). But I was now starting to cautiously chase or at least prevent them getting further ahead. Figueiredo and Van Asbroeck were some 20 seconds / 80m in front (in a race I often keep count of the seconds I’m behind a few key runners). Shortly before the U turn around 5K, covered in around 17:15, I could see all the runners in front as they ran in the opposite direction. I saw at least one Spanish and Portuguese M50. So I was in 6th. Or worse. (reviewing pictures after the race revealed 7th – this picture shows a 3rd Portuguese M50 in front me.)

The conditions were deteriorating. They were starting to be reminiscent of my races while living in South East Asia. Only it was later in the day, there was no shade and the sun stronger. Unlike other half marathon I was taking on water at each drink station. A few quick gulps, a splash on each arm, and a few drops over my head. I did not fancy getting my head too wet. Despite my writing this barely days after the race I have little recollection of much of the race. I just ground it out, chasing M50s that came into view.

In the 4th mile a taxi passed me,  its passengers bellowing encouragement with Swedish  accents. It turned out to  be New York-based Stefan Lingmerth, who later that morning would finish 12th in the final of the 1500m M40, and his brothers. I covered the 4th, 5th and 6th miles in 5:39, 5:37 and 5:39 passing the Spanish M50 at some point. Figueirido and Van Asbroeck were locked together still some way ahead. I was passing other runners one by one, including the first lady,  jumping from one small group to the next. And yet my pace was starting to slow. I guessed I was slowing slower than most. I ran 5:44, the slowest of the race so far, for mile 7. I was running solo at this point and thinking I needed to dial back a little for the next 5K to ensure I would run strong in the final 5K.  I was running by feel now pretty much ignoring the watch.

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View from a taxi during the 4th mile (picture credit: Stefan Lingmerth)

That plan lasted less than 5 minutes. Soon after mile 7 I realized that Figueirido and Van Asbroeck were slowing and I was closing the gap which was now around 10 seconds / 40m / . Van Asbroeck had dropped off Figueirido. I sensed blood and my killer instinct kicked in. No wonder a young family member once said I resemble a shark. I chased hard and accelerated. My race was on.  In earnest. I was committed. I covered mile 8 in 5:36 and mile 9 in 5:34.

Soon after mile 9 I breezed passed Van Asbroeck. Under his breath I heard “shit”. It sounded strange coming from a Belgian. Clearly “shit” is part of the universal runners vernacular. Translated it meant “I’m  toast”. And he was. For a fleeting moment he tried to follow me. But soon his heavy signature breathing ebbed away. And I was now closing on Figueirido whom I gobbled up soon after the final U turn around mile 10 after a 5:44 10th mile. I figured I was now in the medals. Eichwein was way in front and there were no other obvious M50s ahead of me but somewhere I must have passed Manuel Ferreira (Portugal).

I was now heading home, for the stadium. I  was startiing to struggle like I do in the latter stages of the marathon. But I ignored the watch as it started to chime slower miles. And yet I was catching other runners including Melvin Wong an M35 from Singapore. Mile 11 took 5:43. I was now in damage limitation mode. And then into survival mode. Kerry-Liam Wilson, Team GB, who I’d only seen on the switchbacks way ahead of me, was now just 20m down the road.  He was clearly slowing fast. So I made chase. And in so doing caught and passed Albinio Costa, a Portuguese M50. Surely I was now in silver spot! And yet mile 12 was my slowest so far – 5:53.

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In the final kilometre with Kerry-Liam Wilson on my tail

Passing the stadium with just a mile to go –  a small 1K loop around an arena followed by  one lap of the perimeter of the stadium track – I caught Wilson and urged him to follow me. Which he did for a few metres. Can you imagine this was how he’d chosen to spend his 48th birthday? I can. With 1K left I passed a very slow M50 Spaniard – was I lapping a back marker or passing an elite M50 in trouble.

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In survival mode about to enter the stadium (picture credit: Stefan Lingmert)

Entering the stadium I realized we had an extra big lap to complete. As the 1500s were underway we ran the outer perimeter, lane 10 if you like. I eked out a slight increase in  pace –  I covered mile 13 in 5:49 – and finished in 1:14:53. I saw Wilson wobble as he crossed the line and pasesd him a water bottle. Wong followed soon after and a little later friends Francis Burdett, USA (11th M50) and Stephen Watmough, Team GB (6th M55). Now the race was over all runners were my friends again.

FinishLine

Last few metres (picture credit: Mark Havenhand)

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Kerry-Liam Wilson celebrates his 48th birthday

After

I breathed a great sigh of relief. It had been a battle of attrition and I seemed to have come out on top. Almost. The hardest part of the day was to follow. Dehydrated and hungry we now had to wait some 3  hours for the results and medal ceremony. When the results did come I got confirmation of a silver medal. I  was happy. While the time was ugly, I’d executed well,  running with my head for 15K and my heart the final 5K. I’d left it all out there and placed as high as I could have hoped.

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I spent hours in the tent hanging with Team GB team mates, including the aforementioned, Mike Trees and Guy Bracken who won the 1500m M55 gold in emphatic style We were comrades in arms. The battle had been fought and the war was over. Once we’d got our gongs, individual and team, a group of us then headed to the city to refill the tank with alcohol  and food. The following day I realized just how important it is to  eke out everything you’ve got. Team GB topped the medals table, edging the Germans by one silver medal. There were many silvers won by Team GB but I’d like to think mine was that one. Won by 10 seconds in the final kilometre.

Results for all age groups are here while the overal results, showing me in 24th place, are here. A short race video is here: I can be seen at around 7 miles at 0:29. And a comprehensive gallery of pictures is here with me at the finish line here.

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Another silver for Team GB

On reflection Malaga was far more than just a competition. It was a great holiday, in  a fascinating place with friends from around the world. Friends who get you and care. It was a time to represent, to vacation, to chill, to endure and test, and much more. Thanks to many for getting me here, especially my wife Shamala, Urban Athletics and Team GB team mates and coach Troopy.

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My new Team GB team mates

Race Report: World Masters Athletics Championships – 10K Road Race, September 9, Malaga, Spain

by Paul Thompson (pictures by Shamala Thompson and Paul Thompson)

In sport arguably the  three worst finishing places are runner up,  just outside the bling in 4th, and last place. Well I landed in of these places in the first race of my 2018 World Masters Athletics (WMA) Championship campaign. This was the second of four races I’d entered – the 8K XC, which I scratched since my flight landed the day of competition, the 10K road, 500m track and half marathon. But as I write this my campaign may have ended prematurely. So this partly explains why I was in no rush to write this. Here goes.

Sham and I landed here in Malaga in the early afternoon of Thursday September 6. Sham arrived from Berlin direct from a work assignment via London City while I landed from JFK via Madrid. As luck would have it we landed within 30 minutes of each other. Thanks to super efficient, cheap and convenient airport train we were at our one bedroom Airbnb apartment in SoHo in an hour. Over the next few days I recovered from jetlag and ran easy including a recce run of the course.  It would be the flatest course I’d ever run on, albeit with a few tight U turns, on a great road surface. The question was would it be too hot.

Race morning was much cooler than it had been – low 70sF verses low 80sF – but rain had left behind high humidity. Turns out it would prove too humid for fast times. I ran easy the 3 miles from the apartment to the start at the Malaga Athletics Stadium. The sun was slowly rising obscured by light cloud. Though I ran easy I could tell the humidity would be a factor. I arrived on site an hour before the 9am start and milled around trying to determine where it would start. As was everyone else it seems.

Eventually it became clear we’d be starting on the track – on the finishing straight soon after the bend. We were to run three quarters of a lap then exit the stadium next to the finish line. This was far from ideal. Runners – all masters male age groups from M35 through M69 – jostled for position as they pushed us back behind the starting mat.

And then we were off. Five hundred or so runners and within 20 metres all converging on the bend. It was a disastrous start for me. I was near the front right on the inside and suddenly found myself boxed in, not by a few runners like a track race but over 100 runners. I stepped on the infield twice and on the metal. As we exited the stadium, just like the Euro 2017 champs, I found myself some 30-40 metres off pace.

I’d end up running the first mile in 5:15 suggesting I overcompensated once I got some clearance on the roadway. Up in front I could see Eichwein (Germany), Yego (Kenya) and Van Asbroeck (Belgium). And they were the M50s I could see – there may have been more and turns out there was! Eichwein and Yego were two of the favorites – Eichwein had won the 8K XC in 25:42 and Yego 4th having been sent the wrong way. Asbroeck was also no slouch having won the M50-54 European Masters Athletics 10000m in 2017.  I was now racing hard. Too hard.

Approaching 2 miles, passed in 10:28, I could see Asbroeck (30m ahead), Yego (20m) and Eichwein (10m) lined up like ducks in front of me. Unfortunately they weren’t sitting. I had recovered from my poor start but had lost composure and control and ran the first 2 miles 10 seconds ahead of goal pace of 33:00 / 5:20 MPM. I caught and passed a few Spanish M50s, Yego around 3K and a heavy breathing Asbroeck just before 5K. But Eichwein was relentlessly pulling away like a metronome. He even signaled as he moved across the roadway.

Soon after a U turn we hit the half way. I failed to check my time but Garmin suggests it was around 16:30 after a 5:27 third mile. That was my goal pace but did not factor in the erratic start, humid conditions, and sharp U turns which all nibbled away at optimal timing. At half way I was caught by Dutch duo Patrck Kwist, whom I’d beaten in the half marathon at the 2016 World Champs, and, to my alarm, a sprightly looking M50 Edo Baart.

Kwist and Baart were running smart. I suspect they’d started at 5:20 pace and were holding it. I had slowed from 5:15 to closer to 5:30 pace. I passed 4 miles in 21:23 after another 5:27 mile. Kwist, an M45-49 runner, pulled away while Baart seemed keen to run with me. He seemed to have gas in the tank. I was in a kind of damage limitation mode. He kept slapping himself, a kind of runners self-flagellation. He almost seemed impatient that I was unable to run faster. Post race I found out he was the Dutch Forrest Gump: he admitted to being ‘new’ to this running business! Baart and I were competing for a silver or bronze medal.

We passed 5 miles in 26:55 after a 5:32 5th mile. Baart then made his move. The stadium was in view and he was now making his run for home. I was simply trying to hang on and not lose anymore time. I was overtaking a few stragglers. This race had a high casualty rate in terms of runners that went out too fast and either slowed right down or DNF. Baart opened a sizable and growing gap. He was the only M50 to pass me. There were now at least two M50 in front. Was I 3rd or 4th?

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Entering the  stadium I was unsure whether I was in 3rd or 4th place.

Entering the stadium the clock read 32 something. And crossing the line, after a 5:28  last mile, I could see it reading 33:40 something.  I was relieved it was over. I was annoyed at my start. I was unsure whether I was 3rd or 4th. And I could feel my hamstring tighten as I crossed the line. An hour later I was a 4th placed injured M50 runner. Not a great place to be! But I’ll get over it.

My official time was 33:49, some way off my 33:10 from the UAE Healthy Kidney 10K run in an undulating Central Park in perfect weather.  The results show Eichwein winning comfortably in 32:36, Baart 2nd in 33:37 and Joaquim Figueiredo from Portugal 3rd in 33:43. I  did not see him. No surprise since I’d not met him before and the font size of the M50 on the race bibs could only be read within a few metres. And as a fast 3000m runner perhaps I’d not have been able to out kick him. At the awards ceremony Eichwein was uber efficient. He turned up showered and groomed and collected his prize. I attempted a warm down on my tight hamstring.

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World’s fastest M50 for 10K road

The following day I did not run. Sham and I caught a coach to Granada where we went to  the Cathedral and parts of the Alhambra including Generalife. The Alhambra was once of the most spectacular, serene and spiritual places I’ve ever been to if not the most.

We’ve spent some time seeing he sites of Malaga too. It’s a beautiful and varied city with beaches, port, marina, and historic city centre complete with cathedral and Picasso Museum (his birthplace). Yesterday I ran easy and hamstring was much better though I could still feel  twinge.  Hoping it will continue to recover in time to defend my title – though the competition is far more intense than Perth. Now where’s the ice?

Race Report: Percy Sutton Harlem 5K, August 25, New York

by Paul Thompson

It’s been a while since I last raced. And hence a while since I’ve written a blog post. May in fact. I dropped out of the Brooklyn Half Marathon, having just passed 10 miles in 55 minutes and loose change, with a hamstring injury. Since then I’ve travelled extensively for work and pleasure – UK, Belgium, France, Italy, Montenegro, Romania, D.C. – but somehow got the running in except for some quality workouts and long runs. So here I was on the start line of the Percy Sutton Harlem 5K looking for signs that I was ready for the World Masters Athletics Championships (WMA)

I’ve raced Percy Sutton before, the last time in 2016 when I ran 16:31 as part of the build-up for the the last WMA (where I got gold in the half marathon for M50-54). It’s  one of my favorite races despite the course being quite tough and the weather typically too hot. A course change this year introduced a steep incline – 10% or more for 250 metres – just before half way making it tougher than ever for 2018. However, with cooler temperatures than late – low 70Fs – I was shooting for 16:15-20.

I settled into the corral several rows back but figured that would help me avoid an  exuberant start. I need time to fire up the engine. After a rendition of the national anthem by a saxophinist – he added his own twist at the close –  we were off and soon taking in a chicane of consecutive 90 degree left and right hand turns. At the first turn teammates Paul Sorace and Bob Smullen were on NYRR volunteer duty, as part of the 9+1 guaranteed entry to the New York City Marathon, and Paul snapped the picture below.

Percy Sutton 5K Start

Brad Kelley (CPTC), me, Javier (4th from right in red) and Flavio (3rd from left in pop socks) rounding first turn (picture credit: Paul Sorace)

And then we started the steady 2-3% grade kilometer climb of St. Nicholas Avenue. I struggled to get into a groove and promptly dropped off the back of a pack containing club mate Javier Rodriguez. I was laboring heavily when I made the U turn at one mile (passed in 5:25).

On the decsent back down St. Nicholas Avenue I chased the runners just ahead of me and caught Javier. We worked together, as we’ve done many times before with much success, and reeled in a few runners paying the price of a fast uphill opening mile. We were running 5:10 pace. But at the back of  my mind was the steep climb around half way.

And suddenly there it was. A sharp right hander and in the space of a few strides we went from descending a 2.5% grade to ascending a 250 metre perfectly straight and uniform 10% grade hill. I did what I do best. I edged in front of Javier so I could take the turn wide and then ground it out at around 5:45 pace. I was in the hurt locker.

Percy Sutton 5K Hill

Ryan, Javier and I grind out the hill at half way (picture credit: Sam LaFata)

The hill was over and done with in barely a minute but the damage was done. As we made the left hand turn towards City College, still with a few metres left to climb, Javier threw the hammer down and encouraged me to join him. It was an invitation too easy to decline (and too hard to accept). So I did (and I didn’t). We passed two miles in 10:45 (5:20 second mile). I spent the next 400 metres or so running along the ‘upper’ west side of St. Nicholas Park watching Javier edge away. I tried to get back into my rhythmn and, unlike the saxophonist, I did.

As we started to make the precipitous descent with half a mile to go I pulled alongside Javier and a runner wearing that familar Britsh club vest (of hoops or stripes). Post race I found this to be Ryan Prout of Brentwood, recently having made the Manhattan transfer. The three of us duked it out for the firstpart of the long, too long, straight to the finish. Ryan dropped off and then, sensing he had gas in the tank, I told Javier to stop waiting for me. He took my advice for once and kicked away crossing the line as first Urban Athletics (UA) runner in 16:31 to my 16:36 and Ryan’s 16:39. I  failed to see the three mile mark  – my faculties are usually shutting down at this stage of a race –  but my Garmin data suggested it was around 16:00 (third mile of circa 5:15). Flavio De Simone was third UA man in 16:56, first time ever under 17.

As usual I stood around in the finishing funnel for some time soaking up the atmosphere, chatting to team mates and rivals, eating NYRR’s free handouts of apple and bagel, and posing for pictures. Despite 35th overall, 1st M50, 3rd masters and top men’s age grade of 90.31%, I was a little disappointed: my season’s best is around 16:25 at half way in the UAE Healthy Kidney 10K. Nevertheless, it was great to be back racing with my UA team mates and sharing in individual and team accolades which, thanks to Flavio’s blog, were:

  • Master 40+ Female: 1st place by minutes (Fiona Bayly, Ellen Basile, Dominique Saint-Louis)
  • Master 40+ Male: 1st place by seconds (Javier Rodriguez, Paul Thompson, Flavio De Simone)
  • Master 50+ Female: 2nd place (Fiona Bayly, Dominique Saint-Louis, Jen Braunmiller)
  • Master 50+ Male: 3rd place (Paul Thompson, Richard Temerian, Michael Rustin)
  • Open Female: 5th place (Fiona Bayly, Saudy Tejada, Ellen Basile, Dominique Saint-Louis, Katharine De Simone)
  • Open Male: 7th place (Javier Rodriguez, Paul Thompson, Flavio De Simone, Stefano Piana-Agostinetti, Alex Lorton)
  • Javier Rodriguez: 1st 40-44, 16:31
  • Paul Thompson: 1st 50-54, 16:36 (also 1st age-graded)
  • Flavio De Simone: 2nd 45-49, 16:56 (PR)
  • Stefano Piana-Agostinetti: 3rd 45-49, 17:00
  • Fiona Bayly: 1st 50-54, 18:07 (also 1st age-graded on 92.23% and 5th woman overall)
  • Ellen Basile: 1st 45-49, 19:26
  • Richard Temerian: 3rd 60-64, 19:32
  • Dominique Saint-Louis: 2nd 50-54, 20:20
Percy Sutton 5K Team

UA team shot: Javier, me, Stefano, Flavio, Saudy, Mike Rustin, Peter Heimgartner, Ellen Basille, and Andres Pareja (picture credit: Kieran Sikso)

Here’s what the run, including warm-up, race, idling around and warm-down through Central Park, looks like on Relive.

In the overall reckoning the West Side Runners’ Tadesse Yae Dabi was the men’s individual winner, breaking the tape in 14:48, while the New York Athletic Club claimed the top spot in the team competition. In the women’s race, fellow West Side Runners member Emebet Etea Bedada took first individually in 17:29, with the Dashing Whippets Running Team earning first place in the team race. See here for the 2018 club standings.

The WMA kicks off in Malaga, Spain on September 5. Running for Team GB I’ve entered the 8K XC, 5000m track, 10K road and half marathon road. The XC is already scratched as we fly in the day of the race. I  may drop the 5000m as it’s wedged in between the other two races and it’s my weakest event (of the entrants listed, with their most recent best times, I rank 3rd for the 10K, 6th for the half and outside the top 10 for the 5000m).

Percy Sutton proved that I’m injury free but not firing on all cyclinders. So this morning I revisted the hurt locker for a few miles on my run in Rockefeller State Park. Incredibly, but inexplicably, I hit a higher average and maximum heart rate than yesterday.