Sunday, March 11, 2012


Marathons hurt. I know, I've just run my twelfth. I have no doubt that marathons cause some degree of discomfort or even pain to anyone that has ever run one; from the fabulous Paula Radcliffe to the 6 hour plus plodders at the back of the field. It's not just the struggle of covering the iconic 26.2 miles on foot that leaves legs like jelly and causes some finishers to walk downstairs backwards for a few days. It's probably more to do with the fact that our bodies only store enough fuel in the form of glycogen to keep us going for about 20 miles.
So while I marvel at the incredible feats of endurance accomplished by human athletes, how even more amazing are the migrations of birds?
Arctic Terns undertake the longest migration of any bird, from the sub-arctic breeding grounds to and from the Antarctic, a staggering round trip of about 22,000 miles. These elegant seabirds obviously feed as they migrate, not unlike runners taking on gels and energy drinks on a long run. But according to Stephen Moss's fascinating book Everything you always wanted to know about birds but were afraid to ask, the longest single migratory flight is probably that of the Bar-tailed Godwit, from southwest Alaska to New Zealand a distance of 6,800 miles in a single flight! That certainly puts my efforts into perspective.
I actually ran the Blackpool Marathon today as a training run for London. I ran 7.10 per mile for the first 22 miles as planned then slowed down to an easy 8 minute mile pace for the final few miles. This gave me the respectable overall time of 3 hours and 10 minutes. Which allowed me to get back home in time to see the England rugby team beat France in a thrilling and close game in Paris.

A stunning summer-plumaged Bar-tailed Godwit, Wallasey,
May 2011.

Arctic Tern, Farne Islands, June 2010.

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