Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Races filling up fast, but Shawn is creating his own!

* Shawn Leek (left) and friends . . . sporrans at the ready!

I’VE yet to hear any convincing reasons why it’s happening, but the world of the East Anglian citizen runner has been changing fast lately.
On the face of it, we appear to be experiencing another running boom. Races seem to be filling up to capacity long before the day of the actual event, 5k Parkruns in various towns are pulling in record-sized fields week after week, and clubs such as my own are reporting highest-ever membership levels.

This weekend, I am told, the Brentwood Half-marathon is full and not accepting entries. Likewise, the Stowmarket Half-marathon is up to capacity. The Woodbridge 10k entry list filled up within three-and-a-half-hours of opening, and the Sudbury 5-mile Fun Run stopped taking entries more than six weeks before race day!

To be a runner around here these days you need to be more than just fleet of foot and possessed of good stamina. Evidently you also need to be quick off the mark and well-organised when it comes to planning your calendar.
Over the years I’ve mostly preferred the flexibility of choosing my races quite late in the day – say a week or two in advance - but this is becoming increasingly difficult.

One way to avoid the rush is to steer clear of popular events and simply make your own fun! That’s exactly what Shawn Leek of Great Bentley Running Club is doing this spring.
Next month Shawn plans to run seven marathons in seven days, six of them ‘solo’ affairs, ending with the Virgin London Marathon on April 26. He hopes his strenuous week will raise a hefty five-figure sum for the St.Helena Hospice in Colchester.

Forty-year-old Shawn has done a few ultras in his time, but admits his project of attempting 182 miles in just one week looks suspiciously like he’s having a mid-life crisis.
He will start on Monday April 20 from the St.Helena Hospice itself and run a 26-mile route to Ipswich town centre. Next day he’s off to Bungay and this is followed by marathons in Cambridgeshire on the Wednesday, Bedfordshire on the Thursday and Bishop’s Stortford on the Saturday, before joining the 30,000 throng in London on the seventh day.

Engineer and family man Shawn has been a runner for 10 years but has never attempted anything quite like this before. He’s hoping local runners will volunteer to turn up during his first six jaunts to run alongside and help keep his spirits up and encourage him along the road for a while. If you fancy this, e-mail him now at
He’s been training hard in preparation, including a time of 2hrs 44mins at the tough Tarpley 20-miler near Bury St.Edmunds and on March 29 will run from his home to the start of the Colchester Half-marathon, do the race and then run home again.

He admits to struggling with pacing during all this training. He wants to run the seven marathons at 9:30 per mile pace, but that is far slower than his normal race pace. Consuming food and drink on the run has also been a problem, and he’s been experimenting with chewy energy bars, sweets, jam sandwiches and wholemeal rolls filled with banana and honey.
Those of us who know somebody cared for at the Colchester hospice wish him the best of luck for next month!

(* Rob Hadgraft’s published books on running and football available at: )

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Runner caught red-handed!

Heard the song about the man with the 'Red Right Hand'?

YOU know you’re getting old when you can’t even be trusted to go for a simple training run without falling over.

When you start stubbing your toe on the relatively flat Wivenhoe Trail, where stones only protrude upwards half-an-inch or so, you know it’s time you started picking your feet up when out perambulating.
Three times I hit the deck in spectacular fashion during the recent cross-country season, but that was on soft terrain. This latest coming together with Mother Earth was a harder and more bloody affair, I’m afraid.

But what was most interesting about it was the reaction of passers-by (luckily few in number in view of the high embarrassment factor).

One female runner, evidently an Essex University student of foreign extraction, sailed on past without a word, occasionally stopping to take pictures of the adjacent river view. She’d seen the whole thing but was not at all concerned, and not even fazed by the blood pumping out of my right hand.

Well, perhaps ‘pumping’ is a slight exaggeration, but it was certainly seeping fast. In Tony Hancock terms, it was probably a good arm-full.  
The next reaction was the polar opposite of the first. Further along the slow run home, two more young people hove into view, again speaking in foreign tongue, but this time rooted to the spot with horror. They couldn’t even bring themselves to step aside and let me pass without difficulty.

By this time I was running normally again, but holding my right arm high in the air - I’ve heard if you hold a bleeding wound above the level of your heart, gravity will help stem the flow. Trouble is, this body-shape makes it look as if you are deliberately displaying your injury for the world to see.
Aussie troubadour Nick Cave has a song about the man with the ‘Red Right Hand’, and it was this tune I hummed as I headed home. Perhaps it was no wonder my second batch of spectators looked so startled.

It was only this week that a number of my clubmates at Tiptree Road Runners returned from one of the UK’s most gruelling mass participation races, the 20-mile ‘Grizzly’ in Devon. Some were on their feet for more than five hours that day, yet for the most part seem to have coped without crashing to the ground and tearing flesh. Perhaps they were more focussed on their task than me on my relatively gentle sortie.  
Mind you, I should point out that some of them did finish the Grizzly in a state of intense emotional fragility. Shedding tears rather than blood was our Louise H, for example. Tears of relief and pride, I suspect, rather than tears of pain as she fell into the congratulatory arms of colleague John McV at the finish line.

Now that the cross-country season is over and the Grizzly’s been and gone, there should be far less mud to encounter in forthcoming fixtures. That sadly means fewer soft landings for the habitual tumblers like me . . . .

* Rob Hadgraft's books on running legends of yesteryear are on sale via this Amazon link: