Ealing Half Marathon 2014

I don’t really know where to start with this one.

I signed up to the Ealing Eagles Running Club back in April and almost immediately signed up for the Ealing Half Marathon (EHM). Although not an Eagles event, the organisers are heavily involved in the running club and the event attracts a large contingent from the club.

It’s an event I’ve known about for the past couple of years, however entries into the Royal Parks Half Marathon, which in 2012 and 2013 took place on adjacent weeks to Ealing, meant that I didn’t run. Despite the race starting half a mile from us and going directly past the flat on 2 occasions I had also never even watched the event. I had been missing out.1619231_10100443657476522_6308688758510416902_n

The day before the race Rhian and I helped to put out some of the signs. As newbies we were put on toilet duty.

I’m not going to go too much into my running or training from April as I’ve captured this in previous blog posts, but post-marathon, this was the event that I was really looking forward to. The goal was always sub-1.40, but having achieved this during the Maidenhead Half 3 weeks previously I had to reassess. So having run 1.37.04 I decided that I would target a similar time.

The day of the race proved to be an emotional affair. The runners of EHM were asked to show their support for the campaign to find missing schoolgirl Alice Gross by wearing yellow ribbons – the symbol of the #FindAlice appeal. Search Continues For Missing Teenager Alice GrossThe race route takes in an area which includes the home and the school of the 14-year-old, who went missing on 28 August. It’s really fitting that an event that is all about the local community did their bit to raise awareness of the appeal. In this most difficult of times for the family of Alice Gross, there is a real feeling of pride in how the communities around Ealing have come together.

The race village was amazing, this was a huge event, not just with the number of runners, but the large amount of amazing volunteers and spectators. 10641178_10154792507840556_3912416153365519542_nI was determined to enjoy the race. After all, it’s not every day you get to run around the streets of your local area with people shouting your name the whole way round. We had 178 Eagles running the event, so there were plenty of people to talk to beforehand and many of us got there in time for the pre-race Eagles photo under the finish line.

About 10 minutes before the race I made my way to the start line and gradually edged my way towards the front between the 1.40 and 1.30 pacers. I was with fellow Eagles: Graham, Jen, and Yvonne. Over the past couple of months I’ve got to know a lot more people in the club and invariably you get to know those that run similar times to you. We talked about what pace we were all going to go off at, but with the looming hills (undulations) I think we were all slightly apprehensive about whether these paces could be maintained throughout. As the start time got closer I looked around at my other fellow competitors. They all looked seriously quick. Despite running a 1.37 a few weeks before, I still didn’t really feel that was a 1.37 runner.

9.00am on 28th September 2014, the gun went off. It’s always a bit of an anti-climax unless you are at the front, as it usually takes a minute or so to get to the start line. 10624848_346440122194993_3395763076783700348_nWith it being a chipped race (almost all races are these days) there is no rush to get to the front. I think it was less than a minute before I made it to the start line, so off I went up Culmington Road. It was a great feeling, the sheer number of runners, the noise and the weird feeling of running down the middle of the road, having run along the equivalent pavements 100s of times over the past 2 years. A couple of minutes later, I was opposite our flat and approaching the first water station, where Rhian was volunteering. Unfortunately I got myself on the wrong side of the road and it wasn’t until I passed Rhian that I spotted her and the noise of the crowds and the large volume of runners meant that she didn’t hear me calling her. Not to worry, I would see her on my way back. The crowds even at this point were amazing and there were plenty of ‘Go Eagles’ shouts. These would come in handy later.

I quickly got into my target pace, but it was evident early on that this was going to be a tough race. The temperature was close to 20oC and there was hardly any wind. After about 2 miles, my legs felt a little bit heavy. Maybe I had gone off too fast and I still hadn’t reached any of the hills!

The first hill on the course is Park View Road, around the 3 mile point. It’s the first of the 3 hills that everyone warns you about. On their own they are not a problem, but the cumulative effect means that you have to respect them. The good thing about hills is that by the time you reach the top you know that at some point you will have the luxury of running down a hill.

By about mile 5, I really started to get into the race. The pace was good and I was really confident that I could achieve a similar time to Maidenhead. I negotiated the hill on Greenford Avenue and still felt strong. Running down Greenford Avenue was one of the best parts of the race. It’s one of the few points where there are runners on either side of the road, so I moved over to the left to support my fellow Eagles and high-5 as many of them as I could. ‘Love this club’

This was the high point, but the low point (and only low point) came after coming out of ‘Bunny Park’ and onto Drayton Bridge Road. Mentally I thought all of the hills were done and whilst this wasn’t hill, in fact it’s only a gradual incline, it really took it out of me. By the time I got to the top I seriously doubted whether I would be able to finish the race without walking. I decided that this wasn’t an option. I’d been looking forward to this event for so long and I knew that I’d only be happy if I ran all the way. I wasn’t that bother10580034_10152531036339584_3210368078946081927_ned by the time, but I wanted to finish strongly, so I set myself the goal of getting to mile 11. I knew that if I could get to this point that the crowds would get me to the end. And that’s exactly what happened. The next few miles were tough, but the crowds as they had been up until this point were amazing and I was starting to see more and more familiar faces. I knew I could do this.

With 1 mile and a half to go, I was coming up to the final water station. I knew I would see Rhian and that this would be the boost I needed to get to the end. She clocked me running towards her and had a water bottle ready with my name on it. Just as I was about to grab it, a fellow runner changed direction at the last minute and swiped it from her grasp. We laughed and I took water from the next volunteer. The volunteers are a huge part of the event, with 500 people helping across the weekend, again this really shows what a great community Ealing has.

With just under a mile to go, we entered into Lammas Park. The crowds were huge and I was greeted by the broad smile of Kelvin Walker. Kelvin is the race organiser for EHM, a real community hero and a true gentleman. He put out his hand for a high-5 and shouted ‘Go on Linney’. This was a great feeling and I ran round the park with a big smile on my face, absorbing every minute of the amazing atmosphere.

I crossed the finish line with my arms aloft. I hadn’t looked at the watch – at this point it didn’t matter. It was a tough race but because I’d been looking forward to the race since April, I was delighted to have loved every (well almost every) minute of it.

My time in the end was 1.37.52, just 48 seconds slower than Maidenhead. I felt great.


I spent the next hour or so around the finish line, congratulating fellow Eagles that had already finished and those that came through after me. Everyone was in such good spirits, even those whose races hadn’t completely gone to plan. We were part of something great and that was all that mattered.

I’ve lived in the Ealing area for 6 years now, but it’s only really in the last 6 months that I’ve felt part of the community. It’s somewhere that I will always call home.

Here’s to EHM 2015.

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24th challenge completed – Sailing

Today was the day of my 24th Olympic challenge. At one stage I thought sailing might have been my first, but a lightning storm in Greece put pay to that 2 years ago.

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I don’t really consider myself a sailor or someone who has sailed much, but after speaking to a few people today at Hampton Sailing Club, the home of today’s challenge, I realised that I’d actually sailed quite a bit during my life. My first experiences were on the family dinghy that we used to take down to Chichester harbour over the summer months. My Dad used to be a keen sailor, so for him this was a great way of doing what he enjoyed, whilst spending time with the family. Claire and I also spent a week on an island (somewhere along the south coast!) as part of a holiday camp many years ago, where sailing was a big part of the programme. In 1998, my last family holiday, we went on a Sunsail holiday to Greece where we spent the first week on resort getting involved in all of the watersports based activities and the second week flotilla sailing around the Greek Islands. Then as an adult whilst working for Mark Warner I took my RYA level 1 and 2 sailing qualifications during my time off from tennis coaching. I took part in a few races and invariably annoyed a few of the paying guests due to my consistent disregard for the rules. I also sailed some of Richard Branson’s Hobie Cats on Necker and even managed to get one temporarily detained by one of the islanders after I needed recusing after struggling to get back home in swirling winds, with the night drawing in. We left the boat moored up on another island, only for someone to claim that we didn’t tie it up properly and that our boat caused damage to theirs. This was of course untrue and we soon managed to get the boat back.

So having come up just short 2 years ago whilst on a Nielsen holiday in Greece, today I finally managed to achieve the sailing challenge. The opportunity came about after chatting to Jimmy and Katie about which challenges were coming up and which I still hadn’t worked out how I was going to complete. Jimmy mentioned that his Mum and Dad were heavily involved in Hampton Sailing club and that they would probably be able to get me into a race. So after a few emails we decided on the 21st September as race day.

This date coincided with the Bart’s Bash, a Guinness World Record attempt for ‘The Largest Sailing Race in the World’! It was a charity event in memory P1010746 (1280x960)of Andrew Simpson who was a gold and silver medallist, an America’s Cup professional and an all-round fantastic man who was tragically killed in a training accident on San Francisco Bay in May 2013. The Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation is a brilliant charity inspiring the next generation to live greater lives by providing opportunities through sailing. For more details please see  www.andrewsimpsonsailing.org.

For me, this was a great opportunity to raise money for a fantastic cause. It was also very fitting that one of my challenges was in memory of one of the individuals that had inspired the challenge in the first place. Details on how to donate can be found on the charity tab.

This morning I headed down to Hampton Sailing Club, a fantastic little club located on a small island (Benn’s Island) in the middle of the Thames River, not far from Hampton Court Palace. The club has been running since 1944. Everyone at the club was very welcoming and I couldn’t wait to get on the water.

I was crewing for Keith McAthur, the GP14 fleet captain on board the13065. There were 26 boats in the race, just above the qualifying number of 25 needed to contribute towards the world record attempt. Despite my sailing experience outlined above, I had never sailed on a river before and this proved to be a very different experience. Unlike when sailing on the coast, the wind is a lot less predictable on the river, whiP1010744 (1280x960)ch means that you can lose a lot of ground in a small space of time if you get into the wrong position. The race was really good fun and despite starting slowly we were soon in amongst the majority of the other boats. I started to remember why I enjoy sailing, because not only does it require skill and strength it also requires a high level of tactical prowess, as was evident with Ben Ainslie on route to this Gold medal in London 2012.

After 4 laps of the course we ended up 16th out of 26 boats. Hopefully I didn’t let Keith down too much!

It was a great day and I can’t thank Karen and Richard Comber enough for making this happen.

A race report can be found on the Hampton Sailing Club website. http://www.hamptonsailingclub.com/news/

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Quick running update

Achieved a new Parkrun PB this morning, completing the 5k in 21.11. A full 1 minute 22 seconds faster than my PB set in May.

Thought I would reflect on my running achievements over the past 2 years.

  • 2012: 10k = 53mins 14secs, Half marathon = 2hrs 14mins 8secs
  • 2013: 5k = 23mins 36 secs, 10k = 49mins 49secs, Half marathon 1hr 52mins 22secs, Marathon 4hrs 36mins 7secs
  • 2014 (pre-Ealing Eagles): 1 mile = 6mins 29secs, 5k = 23min 8secs, Half marathon = 1hr 46mins 7sec, Marathon = 3 hrs, 55mins 55secs
  • 2014 (post joining Ealing eagles): 1 mile = 6mins 7secs, 5k = 21min 11secs, 10k = 44mins 46secs, Half marathon = 1hr 37mins 04secs
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Sailing for charity

On Sunday I am taking part in Bart’s Bash, a Guinness World Record attempt for ‘The Largest Sailing Race in the World’! This is a charity event in memory of Andrew Simpson who was a gold and silver medallist, an America’s Cup professional and an all-round fantastic man who was tragically killed in a training accident on San Francisco Bay in May 2013.


The Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation is a brilliant charity inspiring the next generation to live greater lives by providing opportunities through sailing. For more details please see www.andrewsimpsonsailing.org.

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23rd challenge completed – Rowing

After a crazy weekend of sport (parkrun, beach volleyball, tennis, mixed netball and marshaling at the Ealing Eagles 20 mile self-timed run) it was time for the rowing challenge.

I really wanted to join a ‘learn to row’ course, but it was proving too difficult to find a course that I could attend in its entirety so I decided that the best solution would be a 1-2-1 private lesson. My lesson was with the Team Keane Rowing Club in Chiswick. (http://www.teamkeane.com/)

Before the session I was quietly confident that I would be ok at rowing and that it could potentially be one of the sports that I continue following the completion of the challenge. I knew that rowing was a technical sport as well as a power sport but I don’t think I appreciated how important the technique part is. We started on the indoor rower to get a feel for some of the basics, before quickly heading down to the water in a double skull with my instructor, Claire. She talked through the components of the oar and the blades and explained the key element of the technique. At first I really struggled to put everything together but bit by bit we worked on individual aspects of the technique and I soon got the hang of it.

We spent around an hour on the water in total and I progressed more than I thought I would after just one session. I was looking to book another session, but luck has it that they are starting another ‘learn to row’ course in November, which I should be able to attend. The idea of these courses, is that by the end of it you should be able to start training with one of the men’s squads and therefore there is a chance that I could end up in a regatta before the challenge is up in 2016.

I really enjoyed this session so watch this space for more rowing updates in the future.

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Having said that she would never get into running, Rhian has successfully completed the beginners running course with Ealing Eagles and also took part in her first parkrun this morning.

Could this be the start of something big………………..

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22nd challenge completed – Canoe kayak sprint

Over the course of the past 2 years I’ve had various experiences in kayaks and canoes that technically count towards completing the canoe sprint challenge. These include sea kayaking, learning flat water canoe techniques prior to the canoe slalom and the latest canoeing adventure during our company conference yesterday. I’ve decided that this (for now) has allowed me to complete the canoe sprint challenge. Although we didn’t actually have a race (sprint), we played plenty or games which involved paddling as hard as possible for a short period of time. Canoeing is something that I’ve always enjoyed and potentially something that I would like try competitively and therefore over the coming months I am going to keep my eyes open for courses that I can take part in. I’ve included a few pictures from yesterday’s canoeing.


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Beginners diving

This week I started a beginners diving course at the Guildford Spectrum. It’s a 15 week course, although I’m not sure I’ll be able to make everyone. The first session was really good, despite being a bit stiff from the half marathon the day before.

I was amazed at how much we achieved for a first session. For someone that could barely dive into a swimming pool, I was surprised that I was diving off the 1m spring board by the end of the session.

I can’t see myself being a great diver but confident that I can learn a lot over the next few weeks.

Watch this space.

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Maidenhead half marathon

On Sunday I took part in my 5th half marathon race, almost 2 years after my first. Looking back at that experience, I was just happy to have completed it and I felt my time of 2 hours 14 minutes was pretty decent. Since then I have clocked a 1.54.08, 1.52.22 and most recently in February a 1.46.07. At the time, I thought the later was pretty near to my peak. However, since my marathon in April and joining Ealing Eagles running club, my training has gone really well. I’ve smashed my 5k and 10k times and as a result I felt that I was in shape to run under 1.40.

We had around 15 runners from the club heading to Maidenhead and a similar number of supporters. Outside of the summer league club races this was a completely new experience for me. I’ve often known one or two other people running, but to travel down with my fellow club members and have a ready made supporters club was a great experience.

The course was a flat, 2 lap route around Maidenhead and Cookham. Not the most exciting route but a quick one. I decided to go off around 7.30mm pace which would have me finish around 1.38/1.39, with the thought process being that if I did slow up towards the end I would have a bit in the tank. There were about 2,000 runners, which did make the start a bit crowded but we soon spread out and I was able to get into my rhythm. A lot of the Eagles running on Sunday were pretty quick so they all disappeared out of site quite quickly. This was fine – I was able to focus on my own race and there was plenty of support around the course. After about 6 miles I caught up with a fellow Eagle who was struggling. We ran together for a bit before he dropped back again. I was feeling pretty good at this point and felt that if I could maintain the pace maybe I could achieve a 1.38. By mile 11 I caught up with another Eagle, again a quick chat and I ran on. This is when I saw Piers and Graham up ahead. They were both hoping to go faster than me, but I felt that I had enough in the tank to catch them up. I pushed on, picking up the pace to below 7mm and they were slowly but surely coming back towards me. With about 150m to go I caught up with them both and eased past them. I was feeling great, I pushed one last time. 50m to go. Suddenly out of nowhere, Graham and Piers breezed past me. They were sprinting against each other towards the line. I couldn’t respond, but was happy with my race anyway. Piers pipped Graham, but it was great to have 3 Eagles finishing one after each other in the race.

My time – 1.37.04. Still can’t believe it. Never thought I would be able to run this quickly. I’ve put in a lot of effort, but a lot of this is down to joining the Eagles back in April. I might even be tempted to try a 3.30 marathon next year!

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