A year of achievements

It’s customary to look back at the end of a year at achievements (and what you wish you’d achieved) but with December fast approaching, I haven’t got many more goals for the year so thought I’d look now. It’s probably been my most achievement-laden year to date particularly with regards fitness and related goals.

Here’s a quick list with links to related posts:

March 2013 – Ran the Eastleigh 10K and almost achieved a PB but gained an age-graded PB

April 2013 – Winchester parkrun opened. This was an event I had quite a lot of involvement in behind the scenes until its inaugural event when Tansy and Dave Gill took the reins. Also helped organise the first ever Lordshill Mile Series Event and created the magic-mile.co.uk website to help administer the results for the series

May 2013Swam in the lake in a Lakeside for the first time and continued to swim there regularly through the summer and autumn

June 2013 – Completed my first Triathlon, the Eastleigh Open Water Triathlon. I loved it and went on to complete another 2 triathlons. I was also fairly active behind the scenes on the LRR 10K committee which was held on the same day. A great event. Also, held the 2nd Lordshill Mile Series event.

July 2013 – Ran in the National Lottery Anniversary Run (not once but twice) and got to cross the finishing line in the Olympic Stadium for my 2nd and 3rd time. The 3rd time was extra special because I ran it with Daniel and Denise.

September 2013 – Completed my 2nd Triathlon, the Valley Leisure Tri, and helped organise the 3rd LRR Mile Series event and got a mile PB. BOOM! Also, organised a Magic Mile singlehanded at Southampton Sports Centre and did my 30 day ‘cut the cr@p challenge‘. Also, became Vice Chairman of Lordshill Road Runners and joined a triathlon club, Southampton Tri Club. Finally, I completed my final triathlon of the year, the HOWSC 100 Sprint Triathlon.

October 2013 – Completing my longest cycle ride in the 70 mile New Forest Sportive

November 2013 – Race Director for the Lordshill 10 Mile Road Race, the Southampton Juniors parkrun trial, a PB at the Gosport Half Marathon and Southampton Juniors parkrun opened

Add to all that about 1130km of running, 740km of cycling and 140km of swimming as part of the training for the events above (roughly 200 hours) and also helping to start Winchester, Queen Elizabeth and Brockenhurst parkruns (and now helping with 3 – 4 more in the local area – more about those in early 2014), it’s been a busy year.

I’m pretty proud of all that I’ve achieved to date this year and don’t have any more hard goals for the rest of the year. Time for a month off 😉

Southampton Magic Mile 2013

One event I always look forward to organising each year is the Magic Mile. These are fun and informal events that are open to runners of all ages and abilities who want to run a mile as fast as they can. The first Magic Mile I organised was way back in 2011. This was the first Eastleigh Magic Mile.

Last year, we held the first mile on the track at Southampton Sports Centre and it had proved really popular particularly as many of the runners had never run on a track. I wanted to repeat the experience and as soon as Marathon Talk announced they were setting up the Magic Mile challenge again, I contacted Active Nation in the hope of securing the track. After a few gentle coaxing emails, they replied and we did a deal on the track fees.

At last, I could announce the date, the 2nd September. Last year, we used parkrun barcodes for registration. However, thanks to the Magic-Mile website (very quickly) I’d produced for the LRR Mile Series, we could use that and therefore clearly distinguish that the Magic Mile had nothing to do with parkrun.

Over the weekend, I spent a few hours preparing for the event. This consisted of:

  • charging barcode scanners
  • checking position tokens were all there
  • producing a list of things to remember (surprisingly long)
  • adding the new event and waves to Magic-Mile so that the results could be uploaded at the event
  • and numerous other things that would bore even me if I listed them all!

To ensure that I arrived at the event in time, I left home early and hit a fair amount of traffic. However, I arrived at 5:50pm so plenty of time to prepare before the participants and volunteers turned up from 6-6:30pm.

I checked in with the duty manager at the sports centre, paid the agreed amount and headed down to the track where there were already a couple of keen runners! Trevor Ellery arrived shortly after and we set up the laptop outside as the hut we’d been allocated was like a sauna.

I had plenty of time to check the laptop was working and, most importantly, the MiFi dongle which would (hopefully) allow results to be processed between each wave.

As I was expecting some of the Lordshill Road Runner training groups to meet at Tauntons and then join us for the mile, I decided to hold a junior race first. However, at the time it looked like there would be only two in the race (Declan Scarle and Callum Ronnie). Luckily, the Cleeves family arrived in time and therefore a proper race could be held with several competitors!

As 6:30pm arrived, I mounted a high platform to address the assembled runners. It was a great vantage point to get the attention of everyone. So much so that when I stopped talking, no one else did either. The silence was deafening!

Fortunately, it didn’t last too long before we could set the juniors off. We had 4 juniors competing and it was a battle to the finish line for 2nd and 3rd. However, the star of the race (in fact, the star of the whole evening) was Tilly Cleeves who ran amazingly to finish in 10:04. Well done Tilly! The results for the junior wave are available at http://www.magic-mile.co.uk/results.php?eventWaveID=7

Between waves, we had to do several things to prepare for the next wave. These included collecting and collating all the position tokens, downloading the data from the barcode scanners and stopwatches and resetting those. This gave a few minutes between waves for the next to warm up.

The next wave was for the faster runners, those expecting to complete the mile in under 6 minutes. We had 17 participants and some great running. Well done to Paul Ashley for taking first place with Paul Merritt in 2nd and Emyr Morgan in 3rd. The results are available at http://www.magic-mile.co.uk/results.php?eventWaveID=8

The 3rd wave was for those expecting to finish in under 8 minutes and many of the runners in that wave were from Kevin Yates’ training group so they joined in from their session on the football field that overlooked the track. Again there were some great performances with John Grant coming in first, followed by the ever smiling Jeff Scarle who is on top form after coming back from injury. John’s son, Sam Grant, was 3rd finishing in under 6 minutes. The results are available at http://www.magic-mile.co.uk/results.php?eventWaveID=9

We had one final wave with 16 runners. Jeff Scarle decided to run again and lead the field. It was great to see friends Philippa Whaley and Laura Ronnie competing alongside one of Philippa’s friends, Charlotte Yaldren. These ladies are all part of a team I’m going to run Thunder Run with next year (alongside Laura’s husband, Aaron). Everyone made a massive effort and there was a photo finish between Laura and Philippa who both crossed the line in 7:08. Charlotte was unsure what time she’d finish in and had attempted a mile a few days before in a little over 9:30. However, the adrenaline and race conditions meant that she completely smashed this to finish in a 7:22! What a PB improvement!! The results are available at http://www.magic-mile.co.uk/results.php?eventWaveID=10

Once all the waves were complete, it was time to pack up. All the results had been uploaded (and all participants should have received an email with their result) after each wave to the magic-mile website and it was time to head off to the LRR 10 Mile Race Committee meeting. A hectic evening but a great one.

There were quite a few people buzzing from their experience on the track and this was evident from lots of positive posts about the event and personal performances from many that attended. I love these events and especially love organising them. It’s almost second nature and I’d hold them regularly if there was the interest, not just because they’re great events in themselves but due to the positive vibe they give to all that participate.

Many thanks to Ben Pitman for a great set of photos of the event which are available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/69154870@N05/sets/72157635355887356/

Well done all!! Many thanks to all the volunteers including Trevor Ellery, Rob Benham, Lou Gower, Dan Campion, Helen Scarle and several others.

Lordshill Road Runners Mile #1

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been involved with organising a handful of mile events. These have proved very popular.

This year, the future of such events looked uncertain as I wanted to distance them from parkrun. In previous events, we’d used parkrun equipment (with agreement from HQ) including parkrun barcodes and that made the fact that the mile events weren’t parkrun events a little confusing.

As I love these events, I suggested that the running club I belong to, Lordshill Road Runners, might want to hold the mile events but open them up to runners from other clubs and unaffiliated runners. This would ensure that the event would be covered by PLI etc. The committee agreed and I had a meeting with Chris Brown who’s on the committee to discuss how to get the event up and running.

Chris is really organised (possibly more so than myself) and took control of moving things forward. We decided to create a series of mile timed runs with the first event being a trial for LRR only. This would give us the opportunity to ensure the event and related processes worked. Having had several mile events before, we didn’t anticipate any issues though.

Having set some dates, I contacted Southampton City Council (SCC) to obtain permission to use the Common (where Southampton parkrun is held). We’d held one Magic Mile there and it had been well supported. When the parkrun courses were officially measured, Colin Goater, had also measured a N-shaped 1 mile course with Gareth Jones.

SCC were happy for us to use the Common but wanted to charge a per event fee. We hoped to get participants to make small donations to the RNLI (LRR’s nominated charity) and used that as a means of getting SCC to waive the charge. That approach worked. I also set about creating the necessary Risk Assessment and a document describing how, from my previous experience, the event should operate.

At about this time, we expanded the event team to include Irene Moreno Millan, Clare Satterly and Gary Painting.

Irene got busy organising volunteers for the first event and, as usual, several members came forward to offer their help.

Originally, we had discussed paper registration on the night and for the first event this would have probably been fine. However, as we expanded the number of participants, that would become difficult. About 10 days before the first event, I decided to have barcode pre-registration and started work on a website to allow participants to register and receive a link to a printable barcode similar to the one used for parkrun.

It has been a few years since I’d dabbled in PHP development and had to quickly find a free barcode library to allow me to programmatically generate individual barcodes. Fortunately, there are several. The one I chose was an extension to a PDF generation library.

I had already registered the magic-mile.co.uk domain name and set to work. Within a couple of hours one evening, I’d created the embryo of the site along with registration, barcode generation (with emailed notification) and a couple of informational pages.

I tentatively announced the website’s availability and registrations began to come in.

In order to hold the event, we needed some gadgets so I ordered some Junsd stopwatches and found a 2nd hand Opticon OPN2001 barcode scanner on eBay.

As we were using barcodes, I needed to generate position tokens too. Again, this proved easy with the PDF/barcode library. I created a couple of sets. The only complexity was cutting the all out and laminating each one. This was a slow process!!

I then started work on the file upload functionality of the website and results processing. This was pretty straightforward in PHP and I did a fair amount of testing of different scenarios. Results presentation came next. Again, this was simple enough.

I put together a document on the organisation of the first event and circulated to the team. A few minor amendments were made and we were ready for our first event. Well, almost. I had to purchase a first aid kit and create manual entry forms as well as put together a folder containing course maps, manual entry forms, spare position tokens, spare copies of runner barcodes as well as temporary barcodes for those that hadn’t registered. These barcodes included a ‘token’ which the runner could enter into a form on the website after the event to ‘post-register’ which would tie their result to them once they’d registered. I’d spent about 20 hours working on the website in total during the evenings and lunchtimes and although simple and little clunky and unattractive, it did the job.

The day of the first event arrived and Daniel and I made our way to the Common. It was unclear whether I’d get to run. However, Irene had suggested that Jim Davies would be happy to run with Daniel so I could try to beat my usual 7 minute finish time (I had finished in this time on every previous occasion we’d held a Magic Mile!) At first, Daniel was a little reluctant to run with someone but I talked him around fairly easily.

We arrived at the Common and were greeted by Chris, Irene, Gary and Gareth outside the Hawthorns. Before long, the LRR gazebo was up, volunteers and runners were arriving and Chris, as Run Director, was giving his briefing. Unfortunately, Chris was unable to run which meant our battle to the finish line was off!! 😦

There was lots of chat before the event officially started at 6:30pm and it was great to catch up with lots of people.

We’d decided to hold two ‘waves’; one for runners expecting to finish in 7 minutes and under and one for those expecting to finish in over 7 minutes.

Chris lead the first group of 19 runners to the start line (just north of the Cowherds pub) while we got ready for them to cross the finish line. My role was to hand out position tokens in the funnel and to then process the results.

Irene stationed herself so that she could see the runners as they approached the finish. After a little over 4 and a half minutes, she called out that they were approaching and that Jim was in first place.

Jim crossed the line in 5:01. A great effort there. The rest of the runners in the first wave crossed the line and I moved to the gazebo to process the results. All went well with the results download until I tried to process the results via the website. My Mifi dongle was out of juice. I’d accidentally left it switched on. I was a little gutted as it would have been great to have had the results on the website and emailed to the runners during the event.

Whilst the results were processed, the position tokens were collected and sorted ready for wave 2.

We were ready for wave 2 at 7pm and the runners headed for the start area. Daniel stuck close to Jim. It was funny to see him shadowing someone else!

We got to the start line and I positioned myself at the front, wished Daniel and Jim good luck and we were off.

The start of the mile course is uphill. Just before the start Jim had offered done great advice. You have to hit the hill hard as there’s no real opportunity to recover ground in the latter stages of the run. I took his advice and started picking off runner. I was soon in 2nd place and not far behind Steve Robinson in first place. After the first corner, you head across the Common downhill towards the Bellemoor entrance. I was still close to Steve and looked back to see Jim and Daniel.

By the time I got to the Bellemoor entrance I was beginning to flag a little. I was giving it my all and was unsure whether I could sustain it until the finish. We headed south towards the finish. It’s a 600m drag through the open area called The Flats and that 600m seemed a long way and far from flat! In fact, it’s not. There’s a very, very slight hint of an incline. No, really.

I still wasn’t too far behind Steve but there was no way I could close the gap. Just before I rounded the bend to the finish I saw Gary who shouted some encouragement about a sprint finish. More encouragement was received as I headed for the finish line. It was over. Thankfully!

I was shattered. I knew I couldn’t have given any more but forgot to stop my Garmin. I know I was sub 6:40 but not quite sure of my actual finish time. Going sub-7 was my target and I’d done it. My actual finish time was 6:38. An improvement of 22 seconds over my previous PB.

After a few minutes, I heard shouts for Daniel and he sprinted for the line and finished in 10:01!! An excellent effort. Many thanks to Jim for running with him and for giving me the opportunity to run fast. I was busy preparing for the results processing and watched Daniel’s finish from the gazebo

I downloaded all the data and we were ready to pack away. The event had run smoothly and we were ready to go. Chris as RD received a round of applause and the volunteers were all thanked.

When I got home, I quickly processed the results at just after 9:20pm and everyone should have received their result email at that time.

The results for the event are available at http://www.magic-mile.co.uk/results.php

It probably took close to 35 hours of my time to prepare for the event and yet, for all the runners, the event was over in 10 minutes or under. I love organising these events though!!

The feedback on the LRR page on FB was all pretty positive. Our first event had been a success. There are a few minor improvements to make before our next mile event where we open the event to other runners. 69 days to add capabilities to the magic-mile website. We have 2 more events this year (18th June and 13th August). Maybe next year we’ll have more events and add a league similar to the RR10 or CC6.

Manly thanks to the LRR Committee for agreeing to adopt the mile series, to Chris Brown for helping to organise it, to Irene for ensuring we had all volunteer roles covered and to the rest of the event team (Clare and Gary) for their hard work on the night. A great team delivered a great event.

I can’t wait for the next one!!