Sunday, June 11, 2006

Marathon Philosophy From Start to Finish: what is life but an ultramarathon for which no real training is provided? Cathy visiting family graves, 6th May 2006. Posted by Picasa
Marathon Without Training: Philosophy From Start to Finish

by Cathy Warwick (the first British Chess Champion known to be a marathon runner?)

Another month, another medal. Chasing the dream of membership of the 100 Marathon Club, on Sunday 4th June I ran the Asics Blackpool Marathon. I came 612th out of 627. Two down, 98 to go.

Women's athletic emancipation has come a long way in the last half century. Until 1960 women were not allowed to run more than 200 metres in the Olympic Games. When Roberta Louise (Bobbi) Gibb applied to enter the Boston Marathon in 1966, “I received a curt reply that women were not physiologically able to run such distances and furthermore, were not allowed to do so”, she wrote. Bobbi smuggled herself ‘illegally’ into the 1966 Boston Marathon and finished in 3 hours 21 minutes and 40 seconds.

Women's participation in marathons was not officially sanctioned by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) until the Tokyo Marathon of 1979, and the women's marathon event was not included in the Olympic Games until 1984.

Apart from the British Chess Championships in 1988, my last visit to Blackpool was for the British Isles Zonal in 1990. The last time I ran more than a mile was six weeks earlier,in the London Marathon on 23rd April. So, a double whammy of uncertainty. What to expect?

One should wonder in the first place what pioneer marathon race organisers were thinking when they resurrected a 2500 year old event with a 100 per cent mortality rate. And what was I thinking, imitating Pheidippides by signing up for 26.2 miles in the grilling June sun without proper preparation? Not even any sunscreen.

The answer must be that the interest of such experiences lies in their experimental nature. If one knew exactly what to expect, why traipse all the way back to Blackpool?

To anyone asking 'did you know what you were letting yourself in for?' I would reply that if I had, there would have been nothing to discover. As Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) wrote in De Profundis (1962 text), 'The more mechanical people, to whom life is a shrewd speculation dependent on a careful calculation of ways and means, always know where they are going, and go there….people whose sole desire is for self-realisation never know where they are going. They can't know.' Furthermore, Wilde concluded in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891): 'most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover too late that the only things one never regrets are one's mistakes.' So I filled in the existential form for Marathon Without Training.

What is life itself, after all, but an ultramarathon for which no real training is provided? At least in the Marathon des Sables, also known as the Sahara Ultramarathon, participants are provided with maps and compasses. (For the uninitiated, the Sahara Ultramarathon is 150 miles, completed over a week. An important rule is '3 intravenous drip strikes and you're out'. The Marathon des Sables is extremely popular with the surprisingly large global population of ultramasochists, with no places left for 2007 and very few still available for 2008). Life being what it is, why fear such minor challenges?

Following our digression into ultra-endurance athletics, let's return to mainstream marathon philosophy. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) is a philosopher popular with chess players, thanks to his encouraging slogan 'what does not destroy (or 'kill' depending on preferred translation) me makes me stronger' (Thus Spake Zarathustra, 1892). I find this Nietzschean tag more applicable to serious chess than to feats of pure physical endurance. Marathons compared to chess are as gentle as a seafront stroll, because marathons cause physical rather than mental exhaustion. The brain's role in enforcing bodily performance is merely that of a rider with a whip; in chess these roles are reversed. Nietzsche also warned in Beyond Good and Evil (1886) that if one fights with monsters one is in danger of becoming a monster oneself, which I take as a warning that if one runs too many marathons one may end up as a marathon runner. As at least one critic of Nietzsche commented: “what does not kill you may **** you up for a long time.”

But Nietzsche should be ingested with a pinch of salt. He began by admiring the pessimistic philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), then decided Schopenhauer's quasi-Buddhist resignation was for wimps. Let us not forget that Nietzsche, whose exhortations to modern 'superhumans' to grab life by the throat remain influential to this day, spent roughly the last 25% of his life completely out to lunch. Another thing Nietzsche famously said, for example, was 'whatever is done from love always occurs beyond good and evil' and when impressionable youngsters read that sort of stuff it's no wonder teenage pregnancy rates are so high.

Nietzsche talked big, to be sure. But could he have run a marathon? He was fond of mountain climbing, so maybe. Schopenhauer, with his 'accept the worst and walk on' outlook, insisted on walking for two hours a day every day, whether weather permitted or not, so he probably possessed the requisite stubbornness. On the other hand, if Monty Python's historical accuracy can be relied on, Nietzsche must be ruled out as a marathon runner on account of his fondness for alcohol: 'there's nothing Nietzsche couldn't teach ya about the raising of the wrist' say the Pythons in their Philosopher's Beer Drinking Song; and Socrates would have been hopeless since he was 'permanently pissed'.

We can agree with Nietzsche to this extent: chess and marathons, provided they do not actually kill you, are probably character building. However, it is prudent to acknowledge that both activities are potentially dangerous (especially if Grandmaster Danny Gormally is in the running) and should be undertaken only with both eyes open. Jade Goody would be well advised to read a few chess books before entering the British Chess Championship.

Through marathons and chess I have made many discoveries. One is post-marathon depression. I was warned to expect a downer, but the severity of my post-London Marathon state was shocking. How could I play an important Four Nations League chess match with tears pouring down my face for no apparent reason? Fortunately, for most of that particular game, played after a night of no sleeping and much weeping, my moves were sufficient to give my
opponent something to cry about so hopefully he didn't notice. Thus I learned that in the depths of despair there is solace in the search for truth.

Schopenhauer, I feel sure, would have approved of marathons. In his magnum opus The World as Will and Idea (1818) he agreed with the Buddhists that Desire leads to Suffering, and utilised Buddhist thinking in his attempts to find a solution to the problem. What he came up with was a conclusion something like 'blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall not be
disappointed.' Schopenhauer argued that if only young people were not misled into thinking life had much to offer them, they would be happier - happy in the Buddhist sense that happiness equals an absence of suffering (H=aS).

I'm no mathematician, so I rely on mathematical readers to interpret my language despite my ignorance of theirs. I’ve probably got the symbols all wrong. But I think at this juncture some primitive mathematical concepts may be of help in expressing the marathon philosophy of human happiness, so here goes:

The oft-quoted Buddhist equation Desire=Suffering (D=S) is an oversimplification, based on the false premise that all desire is by definition insatiable. More accurate would be to describe Suffering as a function of Desire, as expressed by the statement 'desire leads to
suffering' or 'desire causes suffering', or 'desire becomes/is transformed into suffering' (D=>S).

The D=S equation is refuted initially by the following exception: How can Desire be Suffering if an individual's desire is FOR Suffering (D4S)? Desire for suffering is the one human desire that can reliably be satisfied. Therefore D is not equal to S where D is equal to D4S, just as D4S is not
equal to S except when S is unavailable, which is hard to imagine. This exception proves that Desire is not by definition insatiable. It is not Desire per se, but Insatiable Desire (iD) that equals suffering, so iD=S.

All desire, except the desire for suffering, is by definition insatiable, so D=iD except where D=D4S. Since the desire for suffering (D4S) is gratified by life, and gratified desire (gD) is equal to Happiness (H) it would seem that D4S=gD=H. Mustn't that mean Suffering = Happiness (S=H)? Does that not refute the Buddhist equation H=AS? Have I just refuted Buddhism?

Where do marathons come in? Well, to most observers, marathons are self-evidently a form of suffering. So if Marathons (M) equal Suffering (S) and Suffering=Happiness, then should not Marathons equal Happiness (M=H)?

But hang on a minute. Marathons definitely include Pain (P), but is physical pain the same as Suffering (S)? Moreover, there is more to marathons than the pain they include, so M must be greater than P (M>P). Or should one say P is a subset of M? More pressing is the problem of the true relationship of Pain (P) to Suffering (S). Is P a subset of S, or is the true nature of Suffering
such that Pain is actually the opposite of Suffering? Perhaps our problem is an imprecise definition of P. We are talking here of Physical Pain (pP), which, as indicated in our earlier London Marathon report, is an effective antidote for emotional/spiritual pain (ESP), and therefore, pP is the opposite of S.

All this goes a long way towards explaining traditional religious enthusiasm for self-flagellation, vividly illustrated by the unsympathetic albino monk in The Da Vinci Code. So it seems another exception to the D=S equation is afforded where your desire is for physical pain (D=D4pP). If physical pain is what you’re after, running marathons is as reliable a method as any of gratifying your desire - so Marathons equal Happiness (M=H) where H=gD and D=D4pP.

This formula is flawed, however, by the development of tolerance for the pain of exercise, leading to ultra-endurance events such as Ironman triathlons and even more extreme stunts like running across Australia (Google: Bob Brown). So sooner or later the initially gratifiable D4pP transforms into the insatiable desire (iD) of an endorphin junkie.

The actual experience of running the Blackpool Marathon nearly ruined even the consequent Marathon equals Temporary Happiness (M=tH) equation, because amazingly after the first half I felt fine. This was thanks partly to the playlist enhancements permitted by the larger musical storage capacity of my new Ipod Nano. Additions include Tchaikovsky's Dance of the Swans from Swan Lake, Mario Lanza's version of You'll Never Walk Alone and - as an antidote to Celine Dion's All By Myself - Grover Washington's Just the Two of Us (with reference to this latter track, I find it helps to run with, or towards, an imaginary friend).

The Ipod Nano's drawback is its hypersensitivity to touch, which makes it an unreliable running mate: it stops playing if it's rubbed up the wrong way. The Nano settled down once I'd managed to fashion my running number into a pouch and snuggle it in. Your basic neck-hanging Ipod Shuffle is a dependable sort, but it can't hold half so many tunes.

Blackpool was no exception to the usual marathon runner's nightmare of inadequate public conveniences. Well-attended marathons recall Monty Python's Race for Incontinents sketch, with people pee(l)ing off surreptitiously every few hundred yards. Unless one is blessed with the yogic self-mastery of an Indian fakir this is particularly awkward for women as Paula Radcliffe can confirm, so when I perceived on the promenade a facility with an open door I did not hesitate. Normally I laugh in the face of the separate-gendered toilet taboo - based on the dubious notion that buildings possess genders - but this masculinist contraption turned out to
be an especially unfriendly beast. It was an elevated, narrow steel trough with razor-sharp edges, difficult and dangerous for a woman to navigate - and it didn't look much more comfortable for men.

We were informed that this was to be Blackpool's last marathon, the organisers having decided that for various reasons the event had become more trouble than it was worth. One problem is that the seafront road has to be closed, and the town's impatience with this constraint was revealed when the road reopened just three and a half hours after the start. The route
between the Tower and the ironic Pleasure Beach was poorly marshaled, so as well as dodging vehicles, trams and pedestrians, runners had to guess which way to go. Additional hazards were offered by Blackpool's ubiquitous donkeys en route to beach marathons of their own.

I decided to maintain a slow and steady pace, so apart from severe sunburn there seemed some danger that my expectations of excruciating agony might be disappointed. I need not have worried. Between miles 18-23 both legs were like elongated exposed nerves plunged into molten lava. I was diverted during this penitential phase by a surprisingly cultured piece of graffiti
someone of a literary bent had troubled to scratch onto the sea wall. It was from Lewis Carroll's nonsense poem Jabberwocky: 'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe'.

Amused, I hit the last 3 miles running. In fact, I ran the whole distance - if I'm allowed to aggrandise a continuous shuffle with the verb 'run' - in 5hrs 32 mins 08 seconds. Slower than my run-walked London Marathon (5:30:26), but if you want speed gain, you must put in more pain. Pain on the day is not enough - for any chance of success you must be ready to bear
pain every day; daily pain being a necessary (though not sufficient) condition for competitive success. But does Competitive Success Equal Happiness (CSc=H)? Let's not go there.

Does all the above add up to Masochism = Happiness (Msc=H)? 'Told you so', says Leopold von Sacher Masoch (1836-1895), turning in his grave and pulling the cover of Venus in Furs (1870) over his head.

PS: Blackpool is absolutely unchanged. A good restaurant's still hard to find, but AJ's Bistro at 65 Topping Street is probably as good as it gets. The gentle art of cooking vegetables remains unknown in this locality; my broccoli had been brutally murdered. Apart from this expected shortcoming, the service was friendly, the food fresh and the atmosphere festive. Popular
with hen parties, AJ's exemplifies the refreshingly uncomplicated joie de vivre still celebrated in Northern England. Some day, I daresay I'll meet some of AJ's clientele of unblushing brides and bridesmaids on a marathon charity run: they're made of stern enough stuff. Try telling these buxom beauties bursting brazenly from their bodices that Desire equals Suffering,
and they'll fall about laughing. Lancashire’s earthy lasses will laugh even louder if you time your philosophical sally to coincide with the serving of AJ's speciality dessert: suggestively arranged Banana Fritter a la Creme.

Yes, Blackpool Girls (and Boys) Just Wanna Have Fun. Oop North, philosophy is an instinctive blend of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche: Life=Suffering, there's nowt can be done about it, so you might as well enjoy the ride. Remember our earlier equation, Suffering=Happiness. Ergo, Life=Happiness, so lighten up. Sorted - or QED, as they say in Blackpool.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Posted by Picasa Refuge Team photo - 9am, 23 April 2006. Spot the theme Queen!
My Heroic Marathon Failure by Cathy Warwick

No, I did complete the race – but way off my target time. I finished in 5 hrs 30 mins 26 sec. I’ve raised nearly £12,000 for Refuge so far and now I must convince my sponsors that despite my disappointing finishing time they should cough up some more.
(Go to You know you want to!).
Despite an injury sadly preventing her running, Claire Summerscale was determined not to let down her charity, Sense, and walked the course in 6 hrs 50 mins.

So, now for the excuses – just like a chess player after losing a game! But I’m in good company: disappointed favourite Haile Gebrselassie blamed the wet and cold conditions for “my worst result in international competition since 1991”. Haile will be my mega-moan pacemaker. My chessic charity fun-runner costume served its purpose, i.e. made me look like a silly queen on a chessboard (well, kinda sorta – give or take a pink Refuge running vest). Its initially lightweight silk fabric also turned out to be as absorbent as a nappy, soaking up the driving rain. By the end of the race I was carrying about a litre of water. As for the Immortal Game diagrams I sewed on, I need not have bothered: Anderssen-Kieseritzky 1851 may be immortal, but on paper it’s not rainproof. Most of the diagrams simply disintegrated.

Having decided that my wedding tiara was essential to the ‘queen’ look, I secured it with hairpins although I knew this particular piece of kit would be unlikely to help me achieve a Personal Best. Not only was I concerned that it might fall off – or worse, tear my hair out – it gave me a headache, jabbed and itched. But it was worth it of course because, as Refuge’s Fundraising Officer, Rose, encouraged, “no one can miss you!” At least one spectator on the course got the point of the costume: seeing me struggling past at mile 19 he called out: “you’ll be all right, Chessboard!”

As this was my first marathon, the learning curve continued steeply upwards - with the endless loo queues at the start. You may think you won’t need to go, but you will. In each portakabin were two proper loos, and two urinals. What on earth, we women kvetched angrily, was the point of those? Of the two proper ones, one was unusable. ‘You really don’t want to sit on THAT’, one predecessor advised. One by one her followers verified her statement, and waited for The One. Tip for next year: start loo-queuing no later than 0830am, or you’ll miss the starting gun. I crossed the start line at 10am - 15 minutes late.

Oldest cop-out in the book, but for the first time since taking up running last December I actually felt unwell: nerves, inadequate sleep, an ill-advised last-minute 5 mile overtraining run the day before, and the beginnings of a cold all took their toll. With a sore throat and a cough, I had trouble getting sufficient oxygen into my protesting body. The bananas and Jelly Babies I accepted from well-meaning well-wishers en route in the hope of adding extra sugar mostly just blocked my airway.

Nonetheless I ran the first half (13.1 miles) in 2 hrs 21 mins or so – apparently on target - but my split time was deceptive. By mile 8, I was feeling bad. By mile 10 I was feeling lousy. By mile 13 I was feeling terrible, and I knew it was only going to get worse. It wasn’t just the usual stuff (all-over aching, stitch). What really worried me was the unusual chest pain and shortness of breath. Once one has hit the wall, mentally chanting affirming mantras like ‘I am a strong and capable runner’ simply doesn’t work. The power of positive thinking has little effect on dead legs and breathless lungs. Instead the power of negative thinking kicks in: try as I might, I was unable to banish from my mind the whinging words of Times journalist David Aaronovitch: “the second half of a marathon is soul-destroyingly awful, and the slower you run it, the worse it is.” True, but I wish I hadn’t read that piece.

The great thing about realising oneself through physical pain is that all other anxieties – practical, emotional, existential – miraculously vanish. Suddenly one gives a damn about nothing except somehow forcing one’s few cubic feet of uncooperative flesh over those last 6.2 miles – and surviving. Every step of those last few miles hurts like hell, and might as well be 60 for all the confidence one feels that one isn’t going to die.

It wasn’t all bad. All the positive things people say about the London Marathon are true – it really is an amazing occasion with a marvellous atmosphere. One unexpected delight was the children dotting the route who wanted to ‘high-five’ the runners. Many little girls seemed especially attracted by my quaint and curious costume, so I brushed their outstretched hands with my black running glove as I passed. After mile 6, I decided to spare well-wishers this touch of grace since by then I was availing myself of the anti-chafing Vaseline being handed out by rubber-gloved helpers (its uses may be left largely to the imagination, but my supporters observed one male runner suffering from a nasty case of Runner’s Nipple).

Bands of all kinds were playing at intervals along the route, but of course I couldn’t hear a single note because my ears were welded to my trusty Ipod Shuffle playlist. I was informed afterwards that depending on one’s musical taste I might have done myself a favour there. Then there were the wonderful costumes which inspire other runners to greater efforts while appealing to the sense of humour. For much of the race I ran alongside Justin of Save the Rhino (look him up on justgiving or Google). He overtook me eventually, as did the green human caterpillar chain-gang. There was an immense teddy running with a gorilla (Chew Bacca?) just in front of me. The teddy only took his huge head off to hydrate at the water stations. But for most of the race my pacesetter was a naked man. I did a double-take when he first wiggled into view; then I realised he was wearing the briefest of leopardskin-effect thongs, a bow-tie, and some decorative tattoos. I don’t remember his running number; it wasn’t, after all, what caught one’s eye. Still wondering what he did about that.

At about mile 14 I started to run-walk – running downhill and some of the flat, but walking the upward inclines. What really makes the difference between a 20 mile race – which I ran much better - and the marathon is that when you know you have fewer miles to go, you are more confident of finishing and therefore, better able to keep going. Feeling dreadful half way, my instinct was self-preservation rather than ‘going for it’ and risking total collapse: a good decision in view of what happened to former British no. 1 tennis player Andrew Castle, 43. At some point after mile 23, Castle was rushed to hospital suffering from life-threatening dehydration.

At mile 16, thanks to plenty of ‘recovery’ walking, I was able to jog again – imperative anyway since I knew my dozen-strong crowd of personal cheerers was lying in wait at some unspecified point between miles 16-18. Not only was I anxious to avoid appearing before my loved ones as a total loser, I wished to avoid arousing undue concern. They commented on how well I was looking, but not long after I had passed them – at mile 18 – I knew I would be walking most of the last 8.2 miles. The cold rainwater weighing me down helped freeze my limbs that little bit faster. Occasionally, encouraged by the frenzied crowd as by an electric prod, I summoned a compliant trot. That’s why your charity makes you put your name on your vest. To be honest that aspect is simply a refinement of the torture: you want to shuffle along bearing your cross of agony in consoling solitude, and your road to Hell is lined with shouted good intentions. “Come on, Cathy! Come on, you can do it! Keep going!”

Another reason so many runners walk after mile 20 is the need to save a final reserve of energy for the Mall. No matter how knackered you are, you must somehow run the last 400 metres, and you must smile as you cross the finish line. The finishing photos are not yet available, but I bared my teeth as best I could. Now for the consolations: (1) the Medal. According to an unbreakable rule pronounced by Race Director David Bedford, this must be worn for at least a week after the race; (2) I finished only a minute or so behind Olympic multi-gold medallist (rowing) Sir Steve Redgrave. (3) I beat 20-something stick-thin supermodel Sophie Anderton.
One person who beat me was that brave woman Jill Tyrrell who almost lost a leg and nearly died in the July 7 bombing last year. Jill’s finishing time of about 5 hr 15 mins was, incidentally, similar to the maiden London Marathon time of my special heroine Jane Tomlinson, cancer sufferer and super-fundraiser. Such inspirational people challenge us all to rethink our limitations and – despite all I’ve written here – quit making excuses. I’ll run the London Marathon faster next year. Promise.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Cathy, former British Woman Chess Champion, runs for Refuge (Photo: Barry Martin)

For 30 years, my idea of sport was chess - primarily a mental rather than physical activity. During my running training, though, I've found the traditional distinction between mind and body in sport is artificial. Just as the mental athleticism of chess requires physical fitness to sustain concentration over a long match, so the demands of endurance athletics require mental toughness. Optimum performance in both mind sports and physical sports depends, therefore, on the same two essential elements: a sound mind in a sound body. Not a new idea: "mens sana in corpore sano", the Romans called it. I've learned to respect the Romans.
My first 20 mile run literally stretched me to the limit! I made the classic novice mistake of galloping off at the start trying to keep pace with faster runners, with the result that my legs had died by mile 7. How on earth could I complete a further half-marathon distance? The answer: slowly and painfully! The half-hearted attempts at post-race exercises were to no avail. As I post this, 3 days later, I'm still having trouble with stairs! Still, again I just about managed not to win the fight for last place: I came 160th out of 168. More importantly, I've almost proved I can run a marathon. Could I have staggered on for another 6.2 miles? I think so. Just about. (Photo: Mark Warwick)

After 3hrs 56 mins 58 seconds, a chequered son (Albert) congratulates his blurred mother (Cathy) after her first 20 mile run. Cornish pasties were on offer to all finishers of the Duchy Marathon and Duchy 20 races at the Penventon Park Hotel in Redruth, but Cathy prefers bananas. Hubby Mark got Cathy's pastie. (Photo: Mark Warwick)

My second race was the Duchy of Cornwall 20 mile race on 12 March 2006. I had never walked 20 miles before, let alone run that far. The distance was further by almost 7 miles than I had ever run at a single stretch. Despite my optimistic smile for the camera I was feeling apprehensive, as well I might. So far I've been unlucky with the weather in both my races - just awful! The Duchy courses are scenic but hilly and tough, the runners lashed by coastal wind and rain. The race organisers and marshals in both the Duchy Races and the Sussex Beacon Half Marathon, I should add, are wonderful. The marshals and drink-givers stand freezing selflessly in the gales - at least the runners keep warm by moving! (Photo: Mark Warwick)

My chess mate Claire and I have teamed up to do our training runs together in the scenic environs of Richmond Park. One circuit of the park is approximately 7 miles. At the time this picture was taken, our maximum training distance was 9 miles - we were attempting a 2nd circuit when the weather defeated us! We are proudly displaying the t-shirts of our respective charities. Cathy models Refuge's fetching pink number, while Sense's brighter white sets off Claire's dark hair nicely. (Photo by Barry Martin)

A Training Game before a Training Run. Cathy and running buddy Claire Summerscale, Cathy's team mate (& also manager) of the Pride & Prejudice Chess Team (currently leading their division in the 4 Nations Chess League), grab a piece of the action in Richmond Park. Cathy and Claire are modelling their Marathon Charity Runner t-shirts. Cathy is running for Refuge, while Claire is running for Sense. (Photo by Barry Martin)

Fruits of labour - the traditional reward of bananas for the 13.1 miler. For the uninitiated, it's kind of a nutritional rule to restock on carbs and glycogen & potassium, etc after a long run. Check with the nutritionists - all I know is BANANAS ARE GOOD. (Photo: Mark Warwick)

Relief at not coming last brings a rush of euphoria and a victory wave. 2,979th place out of 3,122 - hey, I'm in the top 3000! (Photo: Mark Warwick)

Isn't running a great sport - you get a medal just for finishing! Now it's time to go weak at the knees - mainly due to the sight of hubby and his unforgiving camera! (Photo: Mark Warwick)

I finished the Sussex Beacon Half Marathon in 2h 31 min 22 sec. Must try harder to have a chance of finishing the London Marathon in my target time of sub 5 hours! I suffered the humiliation of being beaten by someone encumbered in heavy costume as an enormous pint of beer. I had, however, the consolation of defeating a huge gorilla who appeared to have escaped from the film set of "Trading Places". The going got especially tough after about mile 8 when my Ipod Shuffle drowned in the rain and, now musicless, my heart sank still further as I looked up at the endless rise of Telscombe Cliffs and felt as though the course went on forever! Climbing the final hill and seeing the finish ahead, I felt better and broke into what for me passes for a sprint, and what to my son looks like a duck waddling! (Photo: Mark Warwick)

It was very cold and wet during the Sussex Beacon Half Marathon. The worst part was slithering the length of a 2 mile muddy ditch along Telscombe Cliffs on the 'home straight'. The race winners, male and female, ran the slowest winning times for years. (Photo: Sarah Warwick)

Umbrellas were out in force on the day of my first race - the Sussex Beacon Half Marathon on Sunday 19th February 2006. 1,000 runners dropped out on the day due to the 'appalling weather conditions.' (Photo: Mark Warwick)