Athens Marathon 2016

The Athens Three

Three SAC members ventured out to Athens last weekend to compete in the Athens 'Authentic' Marathon, writes Dan Witt.

The race started in the small village of Marathon, some 26 miles to the north east of Athens. We were ferried out there on coaches from the city centre at 6am to be in place ready for the start at 9am, by which time the weather had already risen to a balmy 16 degrees or so. The course follows the original marathon accomplished by a news-bearing foot soldier from ancient Athens, who announced - with his last words - the victory of the Greeks against the Persians during the Marathon Battle in 490 BC. The Marathon Race follows this course and became one of the competitive events during the revival of the Olympic Games in 1896 and has been run annually for the last 34 years since 1972, including the Athens Olympics in 2004.

Runners assemble

We all started from 'Block 2' which was the first 1000 runners after the elite and championship runners whom comprised the first 100. Andy made it clear from the off that he was in no mood to hang around although we did run the first mile or two together and he even managed to get a shot of me on the move!Dan

John made light work of his recent knee injury and by half way point, Andy was 2 minutes clear of John and me. At this point, with the temperature up to 20 degrees, the wind really picked up and the hills began to kick in; subsequently our pace was severely effected as a result, mine going from 7.15 minute miles to 8.30 minute miles towards the summit of the hill at 800 feet or 260 metres, climb from 12 to 20 miles. This was a gradual hill as the road from Marathon winds it's way through town after town on the way to Athens. We had all expected to be able to pick up the pace in the last 6 miles on the gradual decent to the finish but alas, dehydration and cramps began to set in and we all found it impossible to pick up the pace and we grateful of the numerous water stops, sponges, gels and isotonic drinks given out every 3km on the course and also to Andy for his salt tablets, without which we may all have struggled to finish at all!

AndyHowever the best was saved for last as the last couple of miles in the City Centre we rewarded with firstly the Greek parliament gardens and then the welcome view of the Panathenaic Stadium, the site of the ancient stadium and where the modern Olympic games began 120 years ago in the rebuilt horseshoe shaped stadium constructed of 'Pentelic' marble. We were all extremely relieved to finish as can be seen from the photos; Andy in 3.20, John was 3.22 and my time of 3.25. We were all around 15 minutes slower than our anticipated times, which illustrates the testing conditions on the day and difficulty of mastering the long climb and decent of the second half of the race.

John's statistics for the race were as follows:

13,781 runners and only 123 were sub 3hrs.

Andy 555th (73 in age)

John 628th (18 in age and 1st Brit in age!!!)John

Dan 737th (140 in age)

We were all in the top 40 British runners; as shown in the results below (click CLOSE INFO (above right) to see all columns if reading this on the home page).

We all enjoyed several beers after the race and soaked up some sun in a café in front of the Acropolis. All in all, a great challenge, well organised race that one day I hope to be able to return to and master once my marathon running ability allows!

The full results are here.

Jungfrau Marathon 2016

Mike at JungfrauI drove up from Munich on the Friday before the race, writes Mike McCarthy, and this took 7 hours as opposed to the 5 it should have taken but there was a big delay around Lake Lucerne. This meant I missed the expo and number collection and would have to do it early on the race day next morning. I just arrived in time for dinner at my hotel in Wengen which is at 1,300m and you take a train up the mountain to get there as there is no car access. I had a nice steak and allowed myself one glass of red wine, followed by a peaceful night other than the occasional cow bell. The hotel laid on an early breakfast and I joined another runner from Germany to get to the start by train down to Interlaken at 560m. Quite a civilised and stress free way to get to the start. As the train wove its way down other runners joined and the train was now full into Interlaken. A short walk to the Expo to get the number and bag drop took little time with the expected Swiss efficiency. The temperature was a pleasant 16C for the 9am start. It was expected to rise to about 25C with dry and sunny conditions, perfect. The entry was around 4,000 runners but it sells out fast each year and this was the 24th running of it. As you might expect the entrants are mainly Swiss, German and Austrian but it is surprisingly international and the UK had around 100 entrants.
I paced it steadily and a modest 1:46 at halfway but conscious of what was to come. Then the fun begins as the route rises to 2,200m before dropping to the finish at 2,100m for the last km. The course is mainly tarmac in the first half then switches to hiking trails and mountain paths in the second half. It gets so steep running is impossible at times but you are still working at the same effort, I’m guessing the thinning air has an impact too (my excuse anyway). I found on these sections I was passing people with a fast walk despite their attempts at running.Course profile The scenery is spectacular from the start with lovely paths through the mountain valleys before you head upwards and greeted with views of the snow capped Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. The weather was considered to be unusually hot but it felt comfortable particularly as the altitude increased. The finish with the 1km descent was a welcome sight. There you receive the usual refreshments and a nice medal plus an alcohol free Weissbier which went down very well! The only disappointment was a bright pink technical finisher’s t-shirt, just not my colour...but that was overcome with a big slab of Swiss chocolate that was also handed out. The support was excellent through the villages with cow bells of all shapes, sizes and noises, lots of shouts of "hopp, hopp, hopp" not literally but local dialect for GO, GO, GO! Locals blew long horns in traditional dress, and even a piper at the highest point, was he playing "if you take the low road and I’ll take the high road" out of jest! I could now sit back and take in the post-race vibe and appreciate the amazing scenery rather than cursing the gradient moments before. I took the train back down to Wengen for a relaxing afternoon and a well-earned dinner on the hotel terrace overlooking the mountains I had snaked up hours before.

Finisher CertificateMy time was 4:32, my slowest marathon with a 2nd half of 2:46! That was actually ok as my overall position and age category improved at every checkpoint. I made the top 13% overall and 10% in my age category. I was happy with that as I don’t have the Eiger in my backyard to train for this, and a treadmill at 12% average gradient isn’t quite the same! I believe it is at least a time adjusted 1 hour+ for mere mortals compared with a flat City marathon. The winning time was 3 hours and consistently around this level in prior years. Of the 4,000 or so starters, 3,649 finished. There are cut-offs and where the time limit is 6:30. Next year is the 25th running with the field increased to 5,000, a special finish prize is promised and I’m thinking of doing it again!

It was a fabulous but challenging race in a beautiful location. I recommend giving it a go one day if you are so inclined (pardon the pun)!

Knole House Relay - 19 July 2016

KHR winners 2016

Here are the results of the Knole House Relay from Tuesday night including lap split times and lap consistency ratings, writes John Denyer. Congratulations to the winning team of Kym Herregods, Anna White, Chris Desmond and Andrew Hutchinson.

Thanks for all turning out and making it a successful event - we hope to stage it again next year.

KHR 2016 participants

Hoy Half Marathon - 12 June 2016

Hoy Half start

Orkney has been in the news recently for the centenary of the Battle of Jutland, writes Simon Hallpike. But another event overlooking Scapa Flow this month was the 30th Hoy Half Marathon, which I had been training for since last year.

For most of us participants, this begins with a thirty five minute ferry trip from HoutonHouton on the Orkney Mainland to the former military harbour at Lyness. It turned out that the woman sitting next to me, married to an orcadian competitor, formerly lived just a few yards from where I live in Biggin Hill. The ferry trip was followed by a bus ride to the island's primary school which serves as the race HQ.

Famous for its coastal stack, the Old Man of HoyOld Man of Hoy, the island's name derives from the old Norse for "high", since it is the hilliest of the Orkney Isles. If this is not apparent from the bus trip from the HQ 13.1 miles to the start, it certainly is from the climb at four miles up Lyrawa Hill: up and up for a mile and a half with no respite. A new challenge (to me) this year was a constant twenty-five mph headwind, which thwarted my target time in the first few metres.

From the start it is ten miles on single-track roads to the first inhabited house on the course. After the first three and a half miles through the desolate Rackwick valley,Simon there are views across Scapa Flow all the way, and you can also see the leaders, hunched as they climb up hills miles ahead. I had a few other runners around me for most of the race, and although I seemed to get clear of them from ten to twelve miles, the final hill, "Ore Brae, a nasty little hill which gets worse around the corner" according to the organisers, soaked up nearly all my remaining energy. I was overtaken in the final metres, but as it turned out, not by any over-60s and I won a big cup!

In contrast to the morning ferry, on which all the runners hid from the wind in the windowless passenger lounge, the trip back involved sitting out on deck in brilliant sunshine: excellent relaxation after a great day's racing.