My Big Marathon Challenge

Onwards and Upwards

Not a bad week. I even managed a fast 500m at the end of a 7 1/4 mile run, overtaking two and being overtaken by two others (both FAR younger).

I’ve been eating more gels (free from High5) on the long runs than I used to, which I hope is keeping me going.

I’ve had a couple of sponsors for Richard House. Thanks especially for the anonymous £30.


A Morale-Boosting Week

  1. All the runs have gone quite well; even the Threshold efforts were not too painful. A 12-mile hilly run at Hemel Hempstead was quite enjoyable and, while not fast, at least faster than my previous long runs on flat ground.
  2. Very good advice on nutrition, supplements and gels from Solgar and HIGH5, and confirmation that I eat a healthy diet. My beetroot a day was commended and even more my usual breakfast of fruit, porridge and a tin of sardines – not all mixed together I should add. No one else thought they could face sardines first thing in the morning.
  3. Potentially best of all. An experienced marathoner said I don’t need to give up alcohol for four weeks before the London, as I usually do. He even recommended one beer the night before. I think I need confirmation of the value of this before I have the nerve to follow his example.

A Good Week

The training has gone well this week. The long run was the most enjoyable so far, slightly faster with no discomfort. I’m actually looking forward to a hilly 12 miles on Sunday.

My new trainers (free from Asics) arrived, and on Friday I’ll be getting advice (and maybe samples) on nutrition from High 5 and Solgar. So thanks again, Men’s Running, for including me on the Challenge.

Unfortunately, though, no sponsorship money has so far been put on for Richard House Children’s Hospice. It’s a really good cause.

All going well

My training continues fine, but I’m still waiting for the burst of energy and speed that I’ve been expecting since I was picked for the Big Marathon CHallenge. It was good to meet two of the others in the team last week, when we were assessed for our third pair of trainers from Asics.

Moreover some sponsorship for Richard House Children’s Hospice has started to come in, £20 so far on

Some Good, Some Bad

First, nothing to do with my training and only indirectly to do with me. A 44-year-old friend who finds it difficult to motivate himself to go out for a run, was so impressed by the Big Marathon Challenge article that he decided that if a 73-year-old could turn out for a run four or five times a week, he had no excuse not to do the same. He has even pinned the photograph of me on the inside of his wardrobe, so when he gets home after work fancying a spell in the armchair with a glass of wine, he hangs up his jacket, sees me and puts on his trainers.

On the first night his partner asked who he was talking to. When he said “Derek” she asked “Who’s Derek? There’s no one else in the room.” He’d been reassuring my photograph that he was off for a run, no doubt with a few expletives thrown in. He is already running further and faster, and enjoying it more. So it is not only the four of us who were lucky enough to be selected who are benefitting from the Challenge.

For the first time in about twenty years I’ve had a bit of a cough and thought it best not to run one day. I haven’t missed any of the runs in my plan but I put them all back a day, and considered last Thursday my rest day rather than Sunday. Not ideal, but probably best in the circumstances.

I had someone else to run with for my two hours easy, which was good for a change and I’ve found some undulating land in this flat part of London. It did mean doubling back and doing some parts two or three times to complete the 45 minutes prescribed, but it is possible.

Pushing through those January blues

My 105-minute run on January 1st was a bit lack-lustre, to put it mildly. That could have something to do with too much alcohol on New Year’s Eve and less than five hours sleep. Ben (my coach) had told me to listen to my body, but mine was saying “stay in bed and forget the run”, so I thought I’d better ignore it. I must have looked far from my bed after 1 and a half hours sleep as, for the first time ever, as stranger asked me if I was all right and sure that I could make it home. As he was sitting on a park bench, surrounded by emtpy beer cans (before noon) and slurring his words however, I thought I must be in better shape than him and managed a 50-metre sprint to prove it.

I had been thinking that the Threshold runs were becoming slightly less hard, so that at the end I was just knackered rather than totally f—-d as previously. Then Ben increased the Threshold efforts from 4 minutes each to 7 minutes and I was back in f-mode.

I can’t wait to receive next month’s programme.

All set to go

I’ve now completed the first two weeks if the training programme! I’ve done all that Ben has set – in fact a bit more, as a few wrong turns made my 120 minute boxing day run a 160 minute run. Fortunately I didn’t have a hangover, though I wasn’t notably abstentious on Christmas Day.

I’m still finding the threshold runs hard but enjoying the long easy or steady turns. Three times a week I spend an hour in a kayak or on a rowing machine. I probably ought to do more additional core work.

I haven’t lost any of my initial enthusiasm for the Big Marathon Challenge and miss no opportunity to tell all and sundry about the details of my training. I’m sure they are all grateful, though they haven’t said so in as so many words! I shall have to pick my moment carefully to ask them to support Richard House Children’s Hospice.


New tricks for an old dog

I liked to think of myself as a phlegmatic, stiff-upper-lip Englishman, but that went out of the window when I was told that I’d been accepted on the Men’s Running “Big Marathon Challenge”. Although I am 73 I felt like a seven-year-old who’d just seen the Christmas present he’d asked for. Since then I haven’t wanted to think about anything except running the 2017 London Marathon. At least once a day I have a moment of pure euphoria.


Until I was 35 I didn’t enjoy running and did it only as part of fitness training for other sports. Then I was reluctantly persuaded, by a prefect at the school where I taught, to organise and run a 10-mile race. My initial response was “I could never run ten miles”, but I did it and enjoyed it. I’ve been running ever since. I still do other sports, and for seven or eight months a year, they tend to take precedence. But from December to April running has absolute priority.


2017 will be my ninth London Marathon and my fifth consecutive one. My best time, many years ago, was 3 hours 5 minutes (twice), and my best time since turning 70 was 4 hours 3 minutes 35 seconds. My ambition is to get under four hours, even by a second. If I don’t manage it, it will not be for want of trying, as I’m determined to give it my best shot. And I am an optimist. So much so that there is already a little voice inside my brain saying “after April 23rd there may be a Senior Citizens’ Ultra you could think about”.

Derek James.JPG

I shall be running as usual for Richard House Children’s Hospice, where I’m the volunteer gardener. It does support work for hundreds of children and their families. They have to raise about two million pounds a year, but every little helps.


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