Sunday, April 28, 2013

Manchester Marathon

It's been a few weeks since my last post, so apologies. I've got a few wildlife photos to post, but most of my spare time this year has been taken up with marathon training. Carelessly, I forgot to enter the London Marathon this year, mainly because I was concentrating my effort on completing my first ever Snowdon Mountain Race. So as an alternative I entered the Manchester Marathon.
My training was not up to standard early in the year because of an on-going hamstring injury, and then the cold, snowy weather of late winter and early spring really tested my mettle.
I was a bit late leaving home for the marathon and this was was exacerbated slightly by queueing for the Man Utd car park. But at least I didn't have to wait long before the race started.
A 26 second silence, followed by 26 seconds of applause was observed before the start of the race to honour the victims of the awful events of two weeks ago in Boston.
The race was started by running legend Ron Hill at 9 o'clock, just over the road from the "theatre of dreams" that is Old Trafford. There was a 3 hour pacemaker near me at the start and I planned to try and keep him in view for most if not all of the race. The first mile was a tad quick a 6.25 so I slowed and decided to pace myself. (6.52 min/miles are required to run 26.2 miles in 3 hours.) There were a few switchbacks on the course that allowed good views of the leading runners. Andi Jones, a demon on the Snowdon Mountain Race, was setting a blistering pace in the lead, I haven't seen the full results so I don't know if he won.
There was a bit of a headwind on the road out to Sale, but the fabulous support all around the course from the good people of Manchester, helped keep me at my target pace. My legs were beginning to ache at around 10 miles, which always surprises me because I am running at a pace over half a minute slower than my usual half-marathon pace; maybe it's purely psychological. A quick loop around Altrincham, were the support was again superb, brought me to the halfway mark in just over 1 hour 29 minutes. Despite the wind, conditions were good for running; not too hot and none of the forecast rain. At 21 miles I was feeling comfortable and thought I would be close to my target time. I kept my pace going until about 22 and a half miles. At that point my legs really began to seize and I had slight pins and needles in my fingers. I slowed considerably just as the 3 hour pacer went past! I had nothing in the tank to try and stick with him, so from then on it was just a case of damage limitation.
It's a times like this that supporters really help; shouts of encouragement and "keep it going Keith" got me through the last few difficult miles. The organisers thoughtfully printed runner's names on their numbers.
I crossed the line in just over 3hours and 3 minutes, a personal best! In retrospect I am delighted with that time and know what I've got to do to "crack" 3 hours. The organisation was faultless, the other runners were supportive and the crowds were amazing! Thank you Manchester.
And now I'm ready for a few beers. I'll post a picture later when they become available, hopefully I won't be looking too haggard!

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Monday, April 8, 2013


I broke my recent scarce bird dipping duck with, well, a duck! An American Wigeon to be precise. The bird was present on the saltmarsh pools at Neston, Wirral for a few days and gave reasonable 'scope views but was far too distant for photography. A visit to North Wales on Saturday also produced sightings of Hawfinch, so things are definitely on the up as far as birding is concerned. I arrived early in the morning by the small church in the village of Llanbedyr-y-Cennin in the beautiful Conway valley. No sooner had I left the car than I spotted a Hawfinch high in a leafless tree but it soon dived for cover in an adjacent Hornbeam. The sun was shining and I was happy to stand for a few hours as small parties of Hawfinch flitted through the trees uttering their sharp tack calls and occasionally flying overhead revealing broad white wingbars. I took some distant "record" shots of birds perched high in the trees, but managed some more acceptable photos of a bird on the ground feeding on a handout of seed.
After a pleasant lunch at Conway RSPB I drove home via Llanddulas beach were vast flocks of Common Scoter were 'scoped along with a few winter-plumaged Red-throated Divers and a pair of Goosander.
I ventured up to Blackpool yesterday to run the Blackpool Marathon. Conditions were excellent with blue skies and only a light breeze. As this was only a preparatory run for my attempt at the Manchester Marathon later this month I took it easy but steady, and despite a recent stomach bug, I crossed the finish line in 3 hours 12 minutes with plenty of running left in my legs. I even got a "year tick" during the race in the form of a Wheatear seen on the grassy slopes north of the tower. I celebrated at home later with a few well-deserved beers.

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