Tag Archives: travels

Running Europe: Switzerland

by Paul Thompson (Photos by Shamala Kandiah and Mala Gehri)

A few years ago, on the occasion of my wife Sham’s 50th birthday we were in Europe visiting, running and blogging our way through Vienna, BudapestBratislava, Salzburg and Innsbruck. This year we were back in Europe to celebrate her and her sister Ramola’s birthdays with their cousin in Thun, Switzerland. Schweizerische Bundesbahnen (SBB), with its great mobile app, got us from place to place on time – give or take a minute. On the way out we had a one night layover in London. On the way back we both flew into London and while Sham then transferred to a flight to New York I headed to Brussels for work. The runs are here (June 8 to 17) while the links in the text below are to 3D videos.

London

We landed in London after a red eye from New York and a few hours later were settling into a friend’s place – Nial, wife Kieko and son Sean – near Wimbledon Village. After a mid afternoon easy run through Wimbledon Common to Putney Heath and back we cracked open a bottle of Opihr gin that helped us get a good night’s sleep.

The next morning I met Peter Clarke and pack of elite masters runners including David Smith, Paul Cheetham and Simon Baines at Robin Hood Gate for a lap of Richmond Park and the Common.

Geneva

Our second destination was Geneva. After a short flight and 10 minute Uber ride we were at Sham’s friend’s place in Prévessin-Moëns, a village just across the border in France. We opted not to run the following morning but rather wait until we arrived in Berne, the  Swiss capital. We’d have a chance to savour the countryside around Geneva on the return leg.

Berne

Berne was wet and cold. Berne is a beautiful human scale city.  Once the rain abated Sham and I  stepped out. Our run took us along the river which was bulging with snow melt from the mountains of central Switzerland to the south. One could feel the force of the torrent. From the river we passed through the Old Town, a parade of historical buildings, and then the government quarter. I added a few miles by popping into the forest immediately to the north of the city centre.

Thun

We arrived in Thun after a short train ride from Berne Where Sham’s cousin, Mala met us and showed us the way to their place. Mala and Swiss hubby Adi live in a duplex apartment at the top of a 5 storey building on the central pedestrianized shopping mall. They have an incredible view from their balconey of the city’s castle which looks like it’s lifted straight out of a fairytale. Sham’s sister’s family – Ramola, Kevin and daugther Eloise – arrived in the evening. That day I decided to rest and enjoy the pre-birthday drinks and view.

The next morning I ventured out for a mid-week semi-long run along the shoreline of Lake Thun (Thunersee). While much of the run is on a paved path alongside the road the unobscured views of the lake and mountains were a perfect backdrop.

The following day I got my run in on the way back from a trip to Lauterbrunnen and Mirren – in a valley at the heart of the Swiss Alps – by train, cable car and hike. The hike culminated in amazing views of the Eiger and Jungfrau.

(Photo Credit: Mala Gehri)

I stepped off the train on the way back to Thun at Spiez . I ran 8 miles, with a few short diversions, back to Thun. While mainly alongside a road, descending gently, the run’s closing few miles took me through the picture postcard lakeside parks of Bonstetten and Schadau.

The next day we were back in the mountains this time  at Beatenberg. And again after a bus, cable car and hike started my run from a cable car station on the way home. While  the others descended via cable car to the Thunersee and owards to Thun via boat I ran the 12 miles back to Thun.  The route was mainly a small side road that followed the mountainside and slowly descended before I took a small detour to walk across a spectatular panoramic footbridge. The descending allied with hot weather took its toll. I  crawled into Thun and dipped my feet in the ice cold river.

The next day I ran easy with Sham through the parks of Bonstetten and Schadau. My plan was to recover for a long run the following day. It seemed to work. Early Sunday morning, a few hours before we caught the train to Geneva, I ran along the banks of the River Are north towards Berne for 7.5 miles before turning round and retracing my steps. It was a key test for my Hoka One One Carbon X. Fast paced long runs were their forte. The shoes passed with flying colours: 6:40 pace felt effortless. Unfortunately the sole unit was showing signs of wear from offroad running.

Geneva

Our final night of our Swiss vacation was spent again with Sham’s friend Laura in Prévessin-Moëns. The following morning,  our last of our vacation in Europe, we went out for an easy run along the farm trails around the village. It was little more than a shakeout after the previous day’s fast paced long run.

The holiday was a crucial test of my recovery from piriformis syndrome. I logged 63 miles and two 1:40 runs. Troopy had me down for two workouts – tempo and fartlek –  which I deferred a week due to some bruising around my ankles. I last raced in November 2018.  This is  my longest period of no racing since arriving in the US in 2004. If all goes to plan I’ll be ready to pin on a race bib in September.

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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 another 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 races 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 a few days after the race I have little memory 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 Swede 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.

IMG_0911(Edited)

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: 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.

Race Report: NYRR Ted Corbitt 15K, New York, December 9, 2017

by Paul Thompson (pictures Shamala Thompson, John Le Tran and Ramin Tabib)

I kicked off the week running in mid 50s F temperatures and bright sunshine on trails in Marin County with fellow Brit and former New York resident Antony Scott. I ended it, and maybe my racing season, duking it out with Urban Athletics team mates in low 30s F with snow flurries in Central Park. No guesses which was the more enjoyable. But the more rewarding was certainly the race which is held in honor of the father of US ultra running.

I’d not raced since the New Balance Bronx 10 Miler. That day I’d complained it was too hot. Since then I’d been on the road, flying around Europe and to the West Coast for work. I enjoy the travel. But it wreaks havoc with my running routine and dents confidence in my sense of  race preparedness. Landing in unfamiliar places with no running pals leaves me searching for green spaces on GoogleMaps and popular segments and heat maps on Strava. While traveling much time gets invested in figuring the when and where. The outcome can be less than ideal, like a park in the dark in Bucharest, other times near perfect, like the lake mid-day in Geneva or the sunrise over the Golden Gate Bridge.

So here I was lining up for a 15K race. The route was the 4 mile loop, cutting across the 72nd and 102nd Street Transverses, followed by a 5 mile loop taking in the park’s  southern end (and avoiding the northern hills). I last ran this race in 2015 when I ran 50:25. Today I figured, with freezing temperatures and snow flurries, that I’d be happy with 51 and change. Urban Athletics M50 team had a lot to play for. Going into this my maths (math) had us finishing the season level with CPTC in the NYRR Club Standings if we won Ted  Corbitt. Our Women and Men’s Masters teams had already  accumulated enough points to win  their respective categories and a number of UA runners were in line for award nominations in 2018. So we had to be on our A game. Fortunately we had newly minted 50 year old Matt Chaston join Adam Kuklinski, Jonathan Schindel and I.

Matt (blue hat) and me in the starting corral

Soon after the gun went I settled in mid-pack with around 30 runners ahead of me. I quickly realized that the leaders had gone out hard, chasing, as it turns out, the event and course record winner.  I found myself running with team mates Javier Rodriguez and Jason Lakritz. Jason, who could have challenged for 50 flat, was essentially ‘on duty’ pacing us. I attacked the  opening miles, heading south down the east side, much to Javier’s angst. I was looking for 51 minutes so needed to run sub 5:30 miles. The first three miles per Garmin and Strava data were 5:28, 5:17 and 5:33.  5K  followed in just under 17:00. Up ahead there were 4 groups, the first dominated by West Side, the second and third by NYAC and then a duo from CPTC and DWTC.

 

Lead group includes fellow Brit Matt Gillespie (Henwood Hounds)

 

Jason, Javier and I chase 4th group

We passed mile 4 in 21:34 and crossed the finish line, signalling a lap of 5 miles left to run. At this point I started to started to lose contact with Jason and Javier. I told them not to wait for me. In case that’s what they were thinking. As they edged away and we started tackling the rolling hills down the east side I started to feel the fatigue my body usually saves for the closing miles. I was now isolated. And stayed that way for the next few miles. I covered the 5th mile in 5:30, passing 5 miles in 27:04. On the long descent after the reservoir I rallied with a 5:23 6th mile and passed 10K in a little over 33:30. I had stopped losing ground to my team mates. They were just 30 metres ahead.

On the south end of the park, in the 7th mile, I started to close the gap on Javier and Jason. As I was ‘creeping up’ on my team mates, my cover was blown by former Warren Street team-mate Jim Stemm. He bellowed my name prompting Javier to glance back to see me coming. As we passed mile 7 in around 38:00, after a 5:30 mile, I regained  contact and suggested we work together to the finish. Javier was somewhat reluctant to accept the offer. He was suffering with a side stitch. For the next mile, which took in Cat Hill, we eased off slightly to  help him kick it into touch. Mile 8, 5:42, proved to be the slowest of the race.

Jason and I in the closing mile

One of the highlights of the race was passing Engineer’s Gate. UA cheerleaders led by Ellen Basile, Herbie Medina and Ramin Tabib, roared us on. It was a timely reminder coffee, ice cold beer (!) and bagels, with lots of bonhomie, would be waiting for us at the store soon after the finish. The snow started to fall faster. Realizing Jason was ‘waiting’ for us I decided to throw the hammer down. We gapped Javier. He was almost home but would his stitch was proving stubborn. I navigated my way across the line of lapped runners to the inside, turned the final left hander into the finish and crossed the line in 51:23, just behind  Jason. I was happy, relieved and cold.

Jason starts to sprint for home

I was 24th, 2nd masters and 1st M50. Javier came over the line in 51:32, a PR (Bob Smullen got one too). I recorded 2nd AG, just shy of 90%. Incredibly I was only 4th Brit! The best part of this race, like many  others, was hanging out in the finishing area as team mates and rivals crossed the line. We man hugged, fist bumped and congratulated each other on completing a long hard season: Peter Brady (1st M45-49 in 53:29), Brad Kelley (2nd M50 in 54:57), teammates Matt Chaston (3rd M50 in 55:17), Adam Kuklinski (6th M50 in 58:27) and Jonathan Schindel (9th M50 in 59:58), and DWTC’s Jonathan Kline (1st M55-59 in 56:42) and many more.

Matt and me in finishing funnel

Matt (right), Jonathan Kline (middle) and me putting on a brave face

Adam, Matt and I won the M50 for UA. Javier, Matt and I the same for the masters overall. The UA men’s open team were 5th.  Many of our women had spectated: our women masters had effectively won the season long championships in the Bronx.

The overall winners were Teshome Mekonen in 44:43 (event and course record) and Belaynesh Fikadu in 54:36. The NYRR race report is here. It was 2017’s final club points race of the year. The running community will celebrate the top runners and teams of 2017 at NYRR Club Night on February 1. Then we will discover if UA win the M50 award.

Women’s winner

Sham was there with warm clothes and warm heart, but not so warm body. After a short warm-down with team mate Alex Lorton the team retired to the store. There we got to meet Gary Corbitt, Ted’s son. As we mingled I realized, as team mate Paul Sorace said, that this was my family. My running family.  Some are closer, geographically, than others. I have running family members in Boulder, San Francisco, Kettering,  London, Huddersfield, Singapore, KL and elsewhere. Band of runners, brothers and sisters. As I close in on 52 I just happen to be one of the older brothers.

Ramin Tabib and me (top); Gary Corbitt and me (middle); and UA runners Stefao, Kieran and I on sale! (bottom)

Race Report: New Balance Bronx 10, New York, September 24, 2017

by Paul Thompson (pictures by Shamala Thompson)

The past few years, 2015 and 2016, I’ve run this race the weather conditions were perfect. This year they weren’t. Far from it. This came off the back of another work trip to Europe, ending with a flight arrving late Thursday night at JFK from London Heathrow. I’d had an easy few days so felt rested and the body clock, on Europe time 5 hours ahead, meant I was wide awake, if not raring to go, at 5am.

But I went into this race with confidence riding low. I’d been well beaten in the New Balance 5th Avenue Mile, was carying a low level calf strain that had caused me to cut short a Mona Fartlek session on Tuesday, and considerable work travel that had gotten in the way of my usual run routine.

The last 8 days I’d been on a whistle stop Europe tour taking in London (twice), Munich (for Oktoberfest at this great joint), Brussels and Frankfurt. I got in some great runs including two from a Munich Airport hotel, this one where a flat iPhone battery caused me to run 5 miles overdistance. In just over 24 hours I drank 2 litres of beer, ate half a duck and ran 26 miles. I’m strangely proud of that ‘achievement’. That 26 miles got me to 70 miles for the week, the weekly target that’s eluded me for much of the past 4 months.

Right, back to the race. Sham and I picked up team mate Javier Rodriguez from Dobbs Ferry as we drove to the race from Peekskill.  Javier and I jumped out of the car at the junction of the Madison Avenue Bridge and I87 and ran the mile or so north up the Grand Concourse. We ran the first and last mile of the course, did a few strides, met up with Urban Athletics (UA) team mates and got into the starting corral. Then we were off. Along with 15,000 others.

I quickly settled into a group including Bobby Asher (VCTC) and Brian Leese (NBR). We passed the first mile in 5:15. My target was sub-55 minutes. That would demand an average pace of 5:30. But I’d not fully factored in the weather. It was in the high 70sF (25C), bathed in bright unforgiving sunshine on an exposed course.

I traded places with the group but some got away. By mile 3 I had settled into 5:25-5:30 pace. My group kept changing composition. Brent Frissora (NYAC), who I’d narrowly beaten when running 53:36 in 2015, cruised past. I tried to join his train. I did for all of a mile. I passed mile 3 in 16:20 and 5K in 16:55. At this point of the race I thought I might not be able to finish. I’d maybe gone out too hard.  A big group was chasing me. And the short climb out of the underpass around mile 3 felt like a mountain.

The end of the Grand Concourse came into view. I was now stranded and would be until I got back onto the Grand Concourse just shy of mile 6. I passed half way in 27:35. The long steady incline up the Mosholu Parkway from the Bronx Botanical Gardens to the Grand Concourse slowed me to a 5:47 6th mile. But any thought of stopping I’d flushed from my mind. Everyone was hurting. And I was needed for the team – open, masters and M50+. As team mate Paul Wong, a fellow Brit, had said the M50+ NYRR 2017 Club Standings were “as tight as an Arsenal shirt”: UA and CPTC were neck ‘n’ neck on 108 points, 84 less the worst two races.

Onto the Grand Concourse I was joined by a group of 5 including team mate Javier and top M40 contenders Guillermo Pineda Morales (Memo) and Klaus Kuorikoski (a new comer to the NYRR racing scene from Finland and racing for Henwood’s Hounds). I passed 10K in around 34:15.  A few of the group, including Memo and Klaus, opened a gap on me. I was now in damage limitation mode, just like in the closing miles of a marathon. Javi dropped off the back. I now had my sights on Klaus, who Memo had gapped, and Brent who was slowing down after opening a big gap on me mid-race. I knew that I was home and dry at around 8.5 miles as I passed Brent. From there it’s an ever increasingly steep descent to the finish line outside Yankee Stadium.

Finishing straight comes into view

I got into my stride in those final few miles. I was now catching the runners in front. I overtook Klaus but on official timing (cip to chip) we were level on 55:24. Good for 24th overall, 1st M50+ and 2nd M40+ (after Memo on 55:06). I topped the age grading with 89.65%. Sebastien was next UA man home, running 56:14 for 3rd M40-44, followed by Javier on 56.43 for 4th M40-44. That nailed the M40+ team for UA by over 9 minutes.

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Sebastien

Javier with Jamie Brisbois in hot pursuit

It was a good day for the Team UA. The W40+ (Fiona Bayly (1st W40+ in 61:46), Ellen Basille (2nd W45-49 in 65:40) and Cathrine Wolden (4th W45-49 in 66:49) won by almost 15 minutes, nearly 5 minutes for each of the three scorers. That leaves the M40+ and W40+ teams with almost unassailable leads in the NYRR 2017 Club Standings. The M50+ team (Adam Kuklinski (7th M50-54 in 63:38), Paul Wong (20th M50-54 in 68:25) and me) also placed first, and now have a narrow gap over CPTC in the 2017 club standings. Things were less rosy for the UA open teams (6th men and 8th women), depleted by injury athletes and those focused on a fall marathon.

The NYRR race report is here. Harbert Okuti of the Westchester Track Club broke the finish tape in 49:32, while Roberta Groner of the NYAC won the women’s race in 56:50.

Teammates

So it played out better than hoped. I had self doubts during the race. But those doubts were overcome by the need to do my best for the team. And I came away top of the UK M50 rankings for 10 miles.

Race Report: NYRR Queens 10K, June 17, 2017

by Paul Thompson (photographer Shamala was off duty)

I went into this event with trepidation – about whether I could get there and once there whether I could race well. Getting there proved easy as my best laid plans came to fruition. Getting a good confidence boosting race under my belt proved a tougher nut to crack. The silver lining lay in the way the race motivated me to ramp up my game leading into the half marathon at the European Masters Athletics Championships in Denmark.

In recent weeks I’d been travelling extensively throughout Europe for work. My employer is a tiny Brussels’ based association. No Brexit for me. I typically spend 2-3 weeks a time, 5-6 times a year, based in the UK with friends and family and sandwich together meetings and events to maximize the bang for the buck. This time, as my running log shows, for some 14 days I was working and running in Brussels, Vienna, London (ironically in Wimbledon running around the Common), Kettering, Warsaw and finally Berlin.

Try as I might to maintain my running routine – including a 11 miles along the river in Vienna at 10 pm soon after touch down – eventually long runs and workouts gave way to steady runs and then no runs for two days in Berlin. For good measure I brought a cold back with me along with dirty laundry. The one positive was that Russ Stram seems to have sorted my hamstring tendinitis.

Getting to the race start line was always going to pose a challenge. I’d decided to use public transit. I boarded the train at Peekskill at 5:10 am, arriving at Harlem 125th Street at 6:10 am where I met Urban Athletics (UA) team mate Ramin Tabib. We boarded the M60 SBS to La Guardia, getting off at the furthest most stop at Terminal D. At this point Ramin had a rather skeptical but my iPhone helped us navigate the two miles – a useful warm-up – to the venue.

At the venue it was as if the entire NYRR running community, with all its clobber and paid parking of $25 to boot, had been accidentally teleported into Queens. Many Manhattan residents (sorry folks but I couldn’t resist this) seemed to be lost overboard, some 6 miles from the familiarity of Central Park. Queens is typically viewed from the ‘safety’ of their taxi or Uber en route to LGA or JFK.

At the venue – the 900 acre Flushing Meadows Corona Park – I seemed to have gained new found notoriety thanks to Will Sanchez. Will, a real connoisseur of the New York running scene, had invited me on his show ‘Gotta Run with Will’. The show was cut in early April just ahead of my running the London Marathon and went on general release in mid-May. I usually cringe at videos of my talking on camera but Will did a great job of making me look quite interesting. The phone hasn’t started ringing yet from Hollywood. I’m all set to guest star in a real life drama ‘Escape from Queens’.

Back to the race. My target was to run even 5:20 pace which would give me around 33 minutes. The course was about as flat as they come but included a number of sharp turns. The temperature was a perfect high 60s but the humidity was tropical. The first mile proved tricky to navigate as it was narrow and winding. I settled into a large pack which included team mates Jason Lakritz, Javier Rodriguez, Jamie Brisbois, Sebastien Baret (first race as M40+) and Aaron Mendelsohn. We had many for company including top masters John Henwood and Memo Morales Peres who I’d duked it with in Brooklyn.

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Promising start with John Henwood (left) and Bobby Asher (right) (Photo credit: Sam LaFata)

I did my fair share of the pacing. We navigated past the bunch of elite women who’d started out fast. The group was so large and tightly packed we kept clipping elbows and feet but fortunately no one tripped. We passed the mile mark in 5:20, some 20 seconds off the lead group. Midway through the second mile the roadway was water logged and left us all covered in muddy spray. We passed the two mile mark in 10:40. The group was working together, as though there were an unspoken truce.

In the third mile Jason threw the hammer down and the truce was over. The group went from close knit bunch to a long thin line, me nearer the back of the line. Sebastien and John had dropped away. Javier and Memo were up ahead, leaving me 3rd masters. I quickly came to realize this was going to be a hard day at the office, one for the team. I passed mile three in 16:10 and the half way in 16:41, 20 seconds slower than my last 10K.

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Losing contact with the group (Photo credit: Sam LaFata)

In the latter half I concentrated out damage limitation – time and place. I figured I could just about hold this pace and clock around 33:15. As we headed out to Citi Field (the last time I ran here in the NY Mets Run to Home Plate 5K in 2005 – won by John Henwood – it was Shea Stadium and Citi were a profitable bank) past the National Tennis Center the road was flat, fast and largely straight. Pity my legs and lungs failed to capitalize. I got to four miles in 21:30, the fourth mile of 5:25 being my slowest so far. But not the slowest. I held my pace for the fifth mile, passing five miles in around 27:00, and then started to unravel as I circled the Unisphere in the final mile. I covered the sixth mile in 5:30. Rarely do I close out a race with my slowest mile, except the marathon.

My 33:36 finish time was good for 1st M50, 3rd masters (after Memo in 33:12 and Javier in 33:21) and 24th overall. My age grade was 90.2%, 2% lower than my average for 2017 races, and second overall. I forgot to stop my Garmin. Some day I’ll remember. The heart rate readings were way off, likely due to my wrist band not being tight enough.

I milled around the finish funnel talking to rivals and team mates. Many of UA team had run slow times. We scratched around for an excuse and unanimously decided on the humidity. But then Ellen Basile breezed up to announce she’d smashed her 10K PR by over a minute. We were all very happy for Ellen but sad our excuse had been trashed.

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Discussing best excuse for a bum race

As NYRR reported this year’s race had more than 10,800 finishers, the most ever. Ayele Megersa Feisa of the West Side Runners broke the finish tape in 30:25 in a close finish over teammate Mengistu Tabor Nebsi. Belaynesh Fikadu, also of WSX, was the winner on the women’s side in 34:13, six seconds ahead of Roberta Groner of the New York Athletic Club.

UA turned in stella team performance. The men were 2nd in the open division (at the time of writing they were showing 4th since the NYRR results service was only scoring 3 runners rather than the 5 of Jason, Javier, me, Sebastien and Jamie), the women 4th (Harriott Kelly, Fiona Bayly and Ellen). Our W40+ team knocked the competition out of Citi Field: Fiona, Ellen and Cathrine Wolden won with over 16 minutes to spare. Javier, me and Sebastien won the M40+, albeit in less emphatic style. To complete the set (!) UA (me, Jonathan Schindel and Adam Kuklinski) won the M50+.

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Ellen shows up to blow away our excuses

43 UA runners towed the line, a large proportion of the total active membership. Many placed in the top 10 for their age group and there was some great packing: Jason (16th overall and 7th M25-29 in 33:07); Javier (21st overall and 2nd M40-44 in 33:21); me (24th overall, 3rd M40+ and 1st M50-54 in 33:36); Sebastien (27th overall and 3rd M40-44 in 33:57); James (32nd overall in 34:02); Aaron (6th M40-44 in 35:10); Harriott Kelly (7th overall and 2nd W25-29 in 36:23); Stefano Piana-Agostinetti (7th M45-49 in 37:30); Adam (4th M50-54 in 37:47); Jonathan (5th M50-54 in 37:53); Peter Heimgartner (10th M45-49 in 38:07); Fiona (1st W40+ and 1st W45-49 in 38:18); Ellen (2nd W40+ and 2nd 245-49 in 38:52); Stephane Bois (8th M50-54 in 39:23); Paul Wong (9th M50-54 in 39:45); Cathrine (5th W45-49 in 41:23); Jennifer Harvey (6th W45-49 in 41:37); and Jennifer Amato (5th W40-44 in 42:42).

So it was game, set and match to UA. Ramin was a wee bit disappointed, running oustide 42 minutes. As we left the venue to retrace our steps back to Manhattan via the M60 SBS most Manhattan runners were seen ‘legging it’ for the 7 train to whisk them back to their island. I’m sure they’ll look more fondly out the car window when stuck in traffic on the Van Wyck Expressway on their next ride to JFK. That’s it for Manhattan bashing. For now.

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Ramin and me waiting for the M60 SBS back to Manhattan

Work-Life-Run Balance

by Paul Thompson

Today I ran 20 miles. It started out easy but easy became steady and steady became quite fast. Such is the way with many of my long ‘easy’ runs in Central Park with team mates and mates from rival team Urban Athletics. There’s nothing planned or intentional about the steady increase in pace: it seems the more we chat the faster it gets. And those that know me well know that I can chat as well, if not better, than I can run.

That 20 helped me notch up 70 miles for the week, the second week of my 12 week program through to my April marathon. Coach Lee Troop, whom I introduced in my recent post, promises the real work starts tomorrow. But it took some work to get through last week, not least as I had a challenge balancing work and running.

So what did that last week look like? Well it started on the evening of Friday, January 22nd. New Yorkers will recall that was the night the snow started to fall. At 10pm I was on board a Etihad Airways operated SriLankan Airlines flight using a Jet Airways plane – that’s what airlines call code sharing. As it taxied on the runway at JFK snow was starting to fall. This was the Great Escape. As New York hunkered down for what turned out to be an epic snow storm I was flying to Sri Lanka for a work assignment.

My 22 hour gate to gate journey coupled with moving the clocks forward 10.5 hours meant I spent the whole of Saturday in the air or in an airport (in Abu Dhabi I changed planes). My Sri Lankan Airlines flight touched down in Colombo at 5am Sunday, January 24th. By 6am I was checking in at the Cinnamon Lakeside.

At check-in I was advised my room would not be ready until 8am. If I wanted immediate occupancy I would have to pay for one additional night. This proved a crucial decision point. I opted to wait but inquired whether they had a place I could change. Fifteen minutes later I was in shorts and t-shirt heading out into a city yet to see day break.

I had a good sense of where to run. I’d been to Colombo on two previous occasions, had Googled the city’s running options and had studied a city map. I headed to Galle Face Green on the waterfront. I logged ten miles and saw the day break over the city. I also got to run past the hotel Sham and I stayed at when brother got married in Sri Lanka, back in late December 2001 – the Galle Face Hotel. My run took in the fort area. When I was last in Colombo in 2010, soon after the civil war had ended, the fort was a militarized zone.

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Galle Face Hotel, Colombo

When I got back to the hotel I was hot and sweaty but content. I was also quite a sight, at least for non-runners. As tourists, largely from China, milled around I realized nipple rash had left its tell tale signs on my white tee shirt. Soon after 8am I was all scrubbed up, wearing shorts, and having breakfast at the poolside. There’s nothing like a long relaxing breakfast especially one you figure you’d earned. Run and breakfast done, barely 5 hours after touch down. And it was not yet Sunday in New York, almost half a day in arrears.

Throughout my four night stay I repeated the routine with jet lag the main driver. Typically I was slowing down around 5pm, asleep by 8pm, awake at 4am, running at 5am and breakfasting at 7am. Each day I covered 8-10 miles. I covered pretty much the same  ground each day except one day when I ventured to Viharamahadevi Park (Sri Lanka really challenges your spelling ability). Often times I was joined at breakfast by a crow, sometimes a flock. And on two mornings I was also an ‘extra’ in a wedding photo shoot.

 

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Crows join me for breakfast, the one behind a ten foot high tree

My flight home was at 4am Thursday. I’d run 8 miles Wednesday morning and toured the city in the afternoon. The highlight of the tour, which more than made up for the fact 75% of the time was spent stuck in traffic, was Gangaramaya Temple.

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Buddha at Gangaramaya Temple

In the early evening it was time for a family reunion. I met with a cousin of my wife, Keyan, who lives in Colombo but whose home village, like Sham’s grandparents, is Siruppiddy near Jaffna, a city in the north of the island. Keyan shared the coordinates of Sham’s paternal grandparent’s family home. One day we hope to go there for a full family reunion.

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Family reunion with Sham’s cousin Keyan

At midnight I ventured to the airport. On the return trip I flew Qatar Airways changing planes at their Doha hub, Hamad International. This airport is truly amazing, in stark contrast to the shabby New York airports. By 4pm Thursday, 27 hours after departing the hotel, I was unlocking my front door in Peekskill. Rather than settle down and sleep I decided on a short run. This would ensure I was still awake when Sham got home from work.

Back in New York I rounded out the week with 9 miles on Friday morning and that 20 miles on Saturday. As I finish writing this I am tired but satisfied with my 70 mile week despite 40 plus hours of flying. And despite the humidity I’m also glad I got to run in 30s C weather rather than ploughing through snow in 30s F here in New York. It helped ease the work-life-run balance.