Saturday 15 October 2016


My blog on 31 July was called 'RUNNING TO REDISCOVER THE PORTALS OF OXFORD' and serves as an overture to my Oxford Half-Marathon run last Sunday, October 9 2016. If you read or reread that July blog, it's clear how much I was looking forward to returning to Oxford and running past so many seminal places in my past life. What I didn't know then was that I would be in the BBC Radio Oxford studios the day after the half-marathon as Al's guest from 11.05 to 11.30 a.m. talking about the race and 'The Road to Corbyn'. More of that in another blog very soon. For the moment, I'll focus just on the Oxford Half-Marathon 2016.

Start or finish - I'm not sure!

When you pay your money for a place in the starting line-up, you are asked to record your expected finishing time. I've just checked the registration email and I wrote: 'Between two hours and 30 minutes and two hours 39 minutes.' My time for the Bungay Half Marathon in April 2015 had been 02:35:04. Based on that information, you find yourself allocated to a starting pen ranging from A to I, stretching back from the start where the elite runners gather in the Broad back to and then way up Parks Road almost as far as Keble College. I was in the I pen towards the front with hundreds behind me and thousands ahead in the other pens. There was one numinous moment after the claxon had

started for the start of the race way ahead of us and I looked around at all the mainly young humanity all around me and I thrilled at the thought that here was an illustration of the triumph of a civilisation such as ours. Thousands of us - seven to eight thousand - gathered together, many to raise money for charity; a city centre closed to traffic for a few hours in order to achieve a greater good; an event taking place made possible only by the voluntary assistance of hundreds and hundreds of citizens - a celebratory gathering of human beings determined to push their bodies to whatever limits there might be on the day. This did feel at that moment a very good life.

It took 22 minutes to reach the starting line and activate the magic timing chip behind the running bib number - and then we were off. I was keeping my eye on the appointed runner carrying the 2 hours 30 minute pace marker sign and for 8.5 miles was just behind or ahead of him. But as we ran through Old Marston and began the turn for home and the return road I knew that my training had not been adequate. We reached the underpass and as we ascended up and out my will and capacity to continue steady running broke down. I switched to speed walking/running for the remaining 4.5 miles and rather than return a time of 02:30 recorded a chip time of 02:36:21. I can live with that. My official position was 7139 and I came 30/36 in the M65+ category.

University Parks - and less than two miles to go

Some moments near the end were easier than others. I enjoyed running through the Parks. Right at the end, running round the Radcliffe Camera was wonderful for a minute, then back bending, leg sagging for the next minute. The body does strange things, the mind too, when pushed to extremes.

How much further?

How wonderful, though, to cross the finishing line and collect the medal - and  the goody bag and the other freebies. And all in the Broad again!

Here is a video of the finish:

This wonderful way to spend a Sunday morning was of course not just an end in itself. My weekend in Oxford was part of my preparation for the London Marathon in April 2017, running to raise money for the Salvation Army having secured a Gold bond place with the Sally Army thanks to my application with its fully accounted pledge to raise and contribute at least £2000 from sponsorship for my marathon run. This will be my third marathon run and numbers of you reading this  will  have contributed to one or both of them: London 2012 (Alzheimer's Society - £2,300 raised) and Edinburgh 2014 (Kidz R Us, St Ives in Cornwall youth theatre - £1,250 raised). My father-in-law, Ronald Watkins, had been the single most generous contributor on both occasions. His death, aged 90, in 2015 has left me a beneficiary and I am sure he would be delighted to know that I am matching every contribution made to my London 2017 run.  My target is to raise £1250 from sponsorship and then match that total with £1250 from my legacy fund, making a contribution of £2,500 for the Sally Army, an organisation everyone I talk to loves and respects. I hope this venture appeals to your sense of  a good cause and charity as you read this blog. The specific objective for the Salvation Army in April 2017 is to raise funds for the drug rehabilitation unit in Swindon. Can I make a direct appeal for support here in this blog. Here is the link to my Virgin MoneyGiving website where sponsorship is recorded:

I've explained that Oxford 2016 is a preparation for London 2017. What lessons have I learned? I know that I need to systematically build up my stamina for running longer and longer distances on the flat, on the level surfaces of London (and Oxford in 2017 and 2018 when I shall be 70). Running up and down steep hills in Cornwall is strengthening but different muscle groups require training for flat running. Tomorrow, Sunday, I shall be back to the Marazion car park and setting out to run towards Mousehole, through Long Rock, Penzance, and Newlyn  (1 hour 17 minutes last time) - and then I'll continue running for ten minutes before switching to speed walking/running to return to Marazion. And the following Sunday, adding another ten minutes of running  - and so on.

Wish me well - it's a brilliant cause!       


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