Henley Half Marathon

On August 29, 2013, in Running, by Robert Dallison

Hello all!

I’ve just signed up for the Henley Half Marathon on Sunday 13 October.

13.1 miles starting along the Thames towpath, then up Fawley Hill, and back along Fairmile to the finish. I’m aiming to complete the course in just under 2 hours. I’ve a few unnecessary pounds to shed between now and race day, but the training has already started…

I realise a lot of people ask for donations, but if you have it in you to make one more, I would greatly appreciate it. You can give here – http://www.justgiving.com/robruns10in10.

This is part of my on-going campaign to raise funds for Brathay Trust, a charitable foundation that works with vulnerable and disadvantaged young people throughout the UK, helping them develop the skills, confidence and motivation to make positive choices in their lives. These kids are often trapped in a vicious circle of abuse, drugs and crime – and without the help of Brathay Trust they would never escape.

In May 2012 I already raised over £3,500 for Brathay, by running 10 official marathons on 10 consecutive days round Lake Windermere. If you want to know what that feels like, check out my journal about the event.

However, my original fund-raising target was £5,000 – so I have unfinished business, to the tune of £1,500.

If you can help me complete my original goal on this one event, that would be formidable. £50, £10 or even £5 – every little counts!

Thank you in advance for your generosity – and if anyone is interested in running or supporting on the day (or in joining me for a couple of pints and a large lunch after the race), just let me know!

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Day 10 – Hard Work All The Way

On May 20, 2012, in Running, by Robert Dallison

Finish Time — 06:07:10
Average Pace — 14:01 per mile
Steps Taken — 58,747
Mantra of the Day — “Keep your eye on the goal”

The beautiful spring morning on Day 10 was somewhat overshadowed by my apprehension about the day. Physically I woke up in slightly better condition than on previous days, but only marginally. Steve and Guido from Body Rehab worked their magic, but despite this I was not confident about my ability to “boss” my way around yet another marathon distance.

Despite all the talk about this being the “lap of honour”, “easiest marathon of the ten”, “light at the end of the tunnel”, I could not stop thinking that the course and its challenges still demanded serious respect. And despite the resilience of my body in recovering from a potentially damaging injury, I was conscious (and apprehensive) that the slightest mis-step could undo all the progress of the last few days and reduce me to a hobbling walk.

Still, as I said earlier in the week, there is no courage without fear. So I did my best to harness my negative emotions and turn them into energy that would drive me round the course.

Ideally I would have liked to take the main 10-in-10 start today, making the most of the official send-off for Day 10. But this would have meant that I absolutely had to finish inside a 6-hour window in order to get back in time for the medal ceremony, which I did not want to miss at any price. So I made the tough decision to go for the early (and lonely) start along with Toks and Stuart.

As it turns out this decision was wise, because although I still ran to finish inside 6 hours, I did not have to deal with the pressure and stress of missing a once-in-a-lifetime moment if I needed a bit of extra time!

The spectacular weather lifted my spirits and I made good enough time to Newby Bridge. From here on, there were lots of course stewards setting up for the main marathon, supporters at various points, and local residents clapping from their front gardens. Every little encouragement was an extra boost and I maintained a steady pace all through the tough rolling hills from miles 14 to 18.

In case this all sounds easy, I can assure you that this was one of my hardest days out on the course. For the first time since Day 3 I felt that I was really running again, with some quarter or half-mile intervals where I was striding out and re-discovering my normal running style. But at every moment I was afraid to over-stride, or misplace my foot, and aggravate my ankle again. So I tried to keep it under control and focus on the 6-hour finish.

Bowness at mile 20 was a huge boost with large crowds cheering me through. Then Ice Cream Mountain sapped my legs and my energy, and for the next couple of miles I had to back right off the pace for fear of blowing a gasket.

At mile 23 the lead runner of the main marathon came through, clock on the race car showing 2:24. At this point my own time was 5:24. I had to make a massive mental and emotional effort not to grind to a halt, out of sheer disgust at how slow I have been moving this last week…

Although absolutely everybody has been tremendously supportive through my injury and my recovery, there is always a little voice in the back of one’s own head that says “you’re an idiot, what are you trying to prove, look at these guys who are orders of magnitude stronger and fitter than you can ever hope to become.” This voice is quietly destructive, and very hard indeed to silence.

But with just 3 miles to go of this extraordinary 262-mile journey, I was not going to let myself be intimidated by some guy with a mere three-hour lead. So I gritted my teeth, put my inner chimp back in his cage, sucked down an energy gel, recalculated my finish time at about 6:10, and went for it!

The last mile or so through Ambleside and Clappersgate was phenomenal, with every single person I passed offering congratulations and encouragement. The pain and fatigue faded away, and I actually felt as if I was running properly again for the first time in a week!

Pushing up the Brathay driveway for the tenth and final time, I started to feel a sense of accomplishment that I had actually completed this amazing journey — while at the same time knowing that it will take me weeks and months to really understand what it is that I have done.

All of this went out of my head as I rounded the corner on to the crowded lawn. Spectators cheering and applauding; my name on the loudspeakers; Alex waiting for me at the finish line with my medal; surprise visit from Mrs Evans (Class 4); previous 10-in-10ers welcoming me to the club… So much emotion! This is without question the most intense finish of any race that I have ever run.

The rest of the day was a blur of activity. Highlights were the medal ceremony with fell-running legend Joss Naylor, and the 10-in-10 banquet in the evening. I will remember this day for many, many years to come!

I will post again in a day or two, because I have so much more to tell about this extraordinary journey that I have now completed.

In the meantime, I would like to thank you very warmly for following my progress, for your countless messages of support, and for your generous donations to Brathay Trust.

If you have made a pledge contingent upon me finishing the event, now is the moment to visit my fund-raising page.

Oh, and… those who had money on me pulling out early may want to consider doubling their stake and donating it to Brathay :)

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Day 9 – This Never Gets Any Easier

On May 19, 2012, in Running, by Robert Dallison

Finish Time — 06:21:58
Average Pace — 14:35 per mile
Steps Taken — 57,295
Mantra of the Day — “Run strong, run light”

In case you’ve missed it previously, make sure to watch every day’s video on Cumbria Live TV. It’s compelling stuff, and a great insight into the challenges we have faced during this event!

Every morning here at Brathay, the alarm clock is harder to obey, and the bed is harder to leave. There is a definite progression of fatigue — no surprise of course, but it is interesting to watch how it evolves. Most surprising is how it takes the body about 60 minutes to move into “active” gear. When I first get out of bed I literally have trouble standing, and yet an hour later I am walking to Body Rehab with little or no discomfort. And once they finish with me I am capable of taking the start line of another marathon. I still have a hard time understanding how the body manages this transition, day after day.

And so it was that I started Day 9 at a gentle jog that held nicely to Hawkshead, my first refuelling station. Warmed up at this point, I decided to pick up the pace a little and see what happened. Everything felt good, I continued at a 13:30 pace for about 10 miles. Arriving at Fell Foot just after the halfway point, I was surprised and happy to see Sue (one of my colleagues), who had driven out to the course just to say hello.

At this point I was on target to finish the day in under 6 hours, but my left quad started to cause trouble and I had to slow the pace a little. Only six more miles and I was in Bowness greeting family by the roadside — what a treat to have so much support during this difficult second half of the course!

The six miles after Bowness were a world of pain. My thigh felt as if it had an iron spike driven through it and I was forced to take the downhills at little better than a walk. At the top of Ice Cream Mountain I was in such a mental “zone” that I have no idea who all the people were — but I do thank you all for coming out to support!

Despite the pain I somehow sensed that this was not a damaging injury but rather a response to accumulated fatigue. So all along I had been recalculating my pace, and saw that I could finish comfortably inside yesterday’s time, without compromising my physical state for the Day 10 showdown.

Arriving at the bottom of the driveway I was caught by Matt who offered to finish together, a grand gesture from a guy who finishes this course two to two-and-a-half hours faster than me. Thank you Matt for giving me the extra ounce of oomph to get up the final climb today! End result — nearly 10 minutes quicker than yesterday, and I am satisfied with this, given the difficulties I have had to overcome to get back to this point.

I dare to dream that I will have a storming run tomorrow on Day 10, but I have to be realistic and admit that it is unlikely I will crack 6 hours. For this reason I will be taking the early start at 7:30am with a handful of other runners (supporters welcome!), so as to have time to complete the course and change in time for the various ceremonies at 3:30pm.

Brathay is now buzzing with runners who have arrived for tomorrow’s annual Windermere Marathon, along with their friends and families. It was nice to be stopped by a few people who recognised me from the blogs and videos — and to chat with them about this amazing event.

Despite the excitement and the buzz, I am not doing this for curiosity or for entertainment. I am doing it to help kids who otherwise will have nobody to give them the respect they deserve. As Paul Foster put it perfectly in his Day 8 interview — running 10 marathons is the easy part; putting your hand in your pocket is harder, but you can do it, and the time is now! Thank you for your support!

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Day 8 – Riding The Rollercoaster

On May 18, 2012, in Running, by Robert Dallison

Finish Time — 06:31:17
Average Pace — 14:56 per mile
Steps Taken — 60,605
Mantra of the Day — “You can, you can do it!”

Once again, this morning I took the early start. My thoughts were full of the inspirational video from Class 4. If you haven’t watched this yet, you really should!

Grey day again today, but without the rain this time, which makes it marginally easier.

It was good to have Stuart’s company for a while, and then Toks and Davey. At the cypress stand before Devil’s Gallop I was warmed up, and decided to crank up the same slow but steady rhythm that I have been running at for the last two days.

Despite being so prudent, these early miles were tough for some reason. Reaching mile 10 ahead of schedule was a surprise, and I took my foot off the gas. Could I have continued at a 5:30 finish pace? Maybe, but today was too early to try it. I still wanted to give my ankle more time to recover, and my muscles more time to ease back into a higher pace.

As it turned out, my decision was the right one, and even the few miles I had run harder were quickly taking their toll. From Newby Bridge onwards, I had to fight for every mile. Not just physically — mentally as well. The doubts came crowding in, and the demons hid in the shadows whispering at me that I am not good enough for this challenge.

Arriving at Bowness I did a time-check and realised that I was in a position to match my Day 2 finish time. So I decided to go for it, and finished strong through Ambleside and up the Brathay driveway. The finish itself was intense, and hard to describe. Let’s just say it would be difficult to give that much every time…

As it turns out I bettered my Day 2 time by just 7 seconds, scoring my second best time of the event, and putting me at less than a minute from Davey on accumulated time since the beginning of the challenge. High drama in store at the back of the pack!

Brathay 10-in-10 is an extraordinary roller-coaster that swings you violently from pain, to elation, to despair, to amazing camaraderie — and back again. The ride leaves you with emotions as raw as if you had been skinned alive.

Today was hard, very hard. My finish time made me happy. But I am still very afraid of what the next two days hold. Many people here are talking about how Day 9 is the last “real” marathon, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and so on. Personally I cannot listen to any of this. The first 8 days have shown me that this course demands absolute, total respect. The physical and mental control required to get round are huge, bigger than anything I could have imagined. “Just” two days at Windermere is not something I take lightly, even with 8 already under my belt!

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And Now For A Quick Message From Class 4

On May 17, 2012, in Running, by Robert Dallison

Nothing I add can possibly do justice to this extraordinary video.

Thank you, Class 4. Keep pushing, we are nearly there!

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Day 6 – Back To Basics

On May 16, 2012, in Running, by Robert Dallison

Finish Time — 06:34:14
Average Pace — 15:03 per mile
Steps Taken — 62,880
Mantra of the Day — “Courage cannot be beaten”

In the same way that Day 4’s problems dragged me down at the start of Day 5, so my stronger finish on Day 5 carried over into a more positive outlook this morning. In addition we were treated to a spectacularly beautiful Lake District morning, that would have lifted the spirits of the worst curmudgeon.

Breakfast filled my belly, Body Rehab ninjas worked their magic, and I was almost impatient to get out on the road. What a difference from yesterday’s dismal start…

Not wanting to overdo things I started with the same walk-run routine as yesterday so that I could warm up gently. After the first drink station I felt that I could handle a full run, so off I trotted. Amazingly the ankle felt fine, and everything about the spring morning relaxed me and gave me huge confidence for the day. I jogged past the black pig snuffling in his field, I jogged past Randy Crag, I jogged past Hawkshead — and marvel of marvels I jogged up Devil’s Gallop. Steepest hill on the whole course, and the first time since Day 1 that I had taken this one at a run.

I settled into my rhythm and went back to the basics of minimalist running. Focus on centre of gravity, weight distribution, feedback from the body, and foot placement. Count the steps, count the breaths. Adjust, fine-tune all the time. And suddenly I was at Newby Bridge, having marked a regular pace on almost every single mile since the start.

Best of all I felt strong, and capable of carrying on at the same pace all day. Mile 14 went by, then mile 16 where Aly had written a message of encouragement on my banana! MIle 18, tick. Mile 20 and I’m in Bowness dodging Japanese tourists and bad drivers. Mile 22, Ice Cream Mountain where I chat briefly to a couple of guys biking Lands End to John O’Groats. Mile 24 and I’m *still* clocking the miles at the exact same pace. The last two miles were a treat. Smooth and easy, no pain to speak of, just looking forward to reaching the finish line.

Today’s run, although one of my slower performances, will go down in my personal records as one of my strongest runs ever — psychologically for sure, and also physically given the trials of the last couple of days. Any time you run a full marathon at the same steady pace, mile after mile, you know that you are in control. And it feels good!

I’m curious to see what happens tomorrow. I am on a high from today’s performance (almost two hours faster than yesterday) and I will have to rein myself in so as to continue my recovery and be on full form at the weekend. This journey is taking twists and turns that I could never have anticipated…

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Day 4 – Embracing The Fear

On May 14, 2012, in Running, by Robert Dallison

Finish Time — 8:17:40
Average Pace — 18:59 per mile
Steps Taken — 69,460
Mantra of the Day — “Embrace your fear”

This morning I woke up to bad thoughts of not finishing today’s marathon, and worse, to thoughts of what would happen if I could not start. My left ankle was still swollen and inflamed, painful from the first step of the day. I didn’t feel much like walking down to the main house, let alone going out for another 26.2 miles around the lake.

Still, we are not here to give up so easily. At breakfast I chose my mantra of the day from Class 4’s card — “embrace your fear” — and lodged it firmly in my mind. Then I headed for Body Rehab where Maria, Tracy and Tamara did some amazing work to get me back on my feet. Against all expectations I took to the road at 8:30am, feeling that I might actually make it to the finish line.

The outward stretch to Newby Bridge was tough, but manageable. I walked the uphills and jogged the descents, trying to preserve my ankle and minimise any further damage — while also trying not to over-compensate which could cause problems elsewhere in the body. Above all I forced myself to think in terms of a 7-day strategy that would get me to Sunday’s finish line, not just today’s.

After making the turn at the foot of the lake, the ankle was starting to make its presence felt. Matt cruised past me, then Sally and Keith and the other front-runners of the main pack. It’s good to see your friends after 3 or more hours grinding it out on your own…

From mile 14 onwards the task became progressively more difficult. Although I was running certain stretches, my biggest goal was to avoid additional damage to the ankle. Not easy when you have to take thousands of steps on it to complete the course!

Aly and Mac and Andrea were incredibly supportive up this back stretch, as were the rest of my 10-in-10 friends who stopped and chatted as they came by. The weather turned nasty after Bowness, but having anticipated a long day with changeable weather, I was wearing full protective gear so managed to stay warm and dry.

After a long, long time I finally made it back to Brathay and was actually able to run most of the last two miles. With the help of the miracle workers at Body Rehab, I am hoping that I might actually begin to improve over the next few days and actually enjoy a couple of the remaining runs rather than having to endure them!

I had a lot of time today to think about why I am doing this event in the first place. So many young lives will be changed for the better by the funds we raise; and when you focus on this, it suddenly becomes easier to get through the tough moments. Then too I remembered the day’s mantra, and on more than a couple of occasions I literally put my arms out to embrace the shadows and doubts that were dragging me down, and said “No way you’re stopping me, you’re coming all the way back to Brathay with me”. Sounds weird, I know, but after a couple of bad days in an event like this, I think you get into place in your mind that is very intense and primal.

A special mention goes to Howard, who interrupts his pre-race routine to come and cheer me off at the early start (as well as scolding me to get to bed earlier!); and also to Foxy, who popped out of the bushes today at mile 24. He had finished his race, then came back to run the last couple of miles with me. True 10-in-10 spirit! His timing was perfect, I was beginning to flag even though the end was in sight. I hope that before the end of the week I will be able to repay the favour or pay it forward to someone else who needs the support.

To end on a positive note, I have now covered 104.8 miles so triple digits are in the bag, tomorrow marks the halfway point, and I still believe that I can finish this challenge!

Oh, a little challenge for Class 4 and anyone else who wants to play — see if you can guess why I have chosen today’s picture… If you think you know then leave your comment below!

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Day 3 – Anything Can Happen, And Probably Will

On May 13, 2012, in Running, by Robert Dallison

Finish Time — 7:01:14
Average Pace — 16:04 per mile
Steps Taken — 63,940
Mantra of the Day — “With a spring in my step and a smile on my face”

Because of my long and difficult day yesterday, I decided to join Toks and take an early start today at 8am, instead of the main field start at 10:30am. Physio treatment went on a little longer than planned, so I did not get on the road until 8:10am, but it was definitely the right decision.

The daily routine at Brathay is somewhat frenetic — breakfast; balance and proprioception testing; pre-run physio treatment; run a marathon; post-run stretching; protein intake; lunch; balance and proprioception testing again; ice bath; shower; prepare next day’s drinks and fuel; laundry; dinner; post-run physio treatment. In some ways the marathon itself is the calmest time of the day!

Running early means there are no drink & food stops between mile 6 and mile 18, so fuel and fluid strategy is completely different because you are carrying everything you need for almost half the race. No problem though – I much prefer to deal with this in return for arriving back at Brathay with a couple of extra hours in hand!

Last night I slept longer and better, so I started today’s run feeling calm and re-energised. In fact I made it as far as Newby Bridge (13 miles) before feeling any real fatigue, and even then it was nothing out of the ordinary. My running stayed strong all the way past Bowness (mile 20) and I was on pace to finish in about 5:50, about 40 minutes faster than yesterday.

Then suddenly from nowhere came a really disagreeable pain in the front of my ankle, that basically made me run so slowly that I was able to power-walk faster than I could run.

Within a couple of minutes I made the tough decision not to run any more at all, but rather to walk the last 5 miles and give Roxy’s miracle workers at Body Rehab the best chance of putting me back together.

In the end I finished in just over 7 hours. Absolutely infuriating after making what I thought was a strong comeback from yesterday’s performance. Still, I finished — if not with quite such a spring in my step, then at least with a smile on my face!

At physio tonight I was treated to poking and prodding and ice and laser treatment that hopefully should get my leg back in shape by tomorrow morning. With a bit of luck all I will have to deal with is the traditional Lakeland weather that has now rolled in from the hills…

This event is gruelling by any standards, and demands respect. At all times you have to listen carefully to your body and be prepared to make tough decisions in the field based on getting through several more days, not just today. Most of all, you must never forget that even on a day that starts well, anything can happen and probably will!

If you’re following this adventure and would like to support me in my fund-raising for Brathay Trust, then please make a donation at www.justgiving.com/robruns10in10.

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Day 2 – Tough Day But Still In One Piece

On May 12, 2012, in Running, by Robert Dallison

Finish Time — 6:31:24
Average Pace — 14:56 per mile
Steps Taken — 54,740
Mantra of the Day — “Keep calm and jog on”

If someone tells you Brathay 10-in-10 is hard, don’t believe them. It’s harder. Much harder.

Today was my first reality check here at Brathay. Every hill felt steeper than yesterday, every mile felt longer.

Physically I am doing fine — so far so good, no real niggles or discomfort. But for some reason as early as mile 4 I started to feel depleted, empty. It was different somehow from the energy crash or “wall” that you might expect at mile 18 or 20 if you are under-fuelled. More like a general fatigue, maybe lack of sleep over the weeks leading up to this event.

Long story short, I slogged it out mile after mile and finally got round in just over six and a half hours. For anyone who might be wondering, yes that’s quite a long time to be out on the road.

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Aly and Mac (from Brathay Trust) for their dedicated support out on the road and for knowing how to say the right thing at the right time. They are just amazing.

My chosen mantra for the day proved to be perfect. I did start to panic a little bit at one point, then I remembered “yes, I can do this!” — if only I stay calm, believe in my preparation, and keep moving, even slowly. Thank you to Class 4 for including this one in their amazing card which now has pride of place on the motivational wall of our athletes’ HQ!

I have to say that even in the hard moments, I keep in mind that the kids for whom I am raising funds don’t have the luxury of walking away from their challenges and tough situations. So when I finish this ordeal next Sunday, I will be thinking of the children and young adults who will have to continue enduring damaging and abusive environments that we find it hard to imagine. Please help me accomplish my goal of raising £5,000 to support the work of Brathay Trust, and visit my fund-raising page at www.justgiving.com/robruns10in10. Thank you for your support!

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Day 1 – Good Day But Some Tweaks Needed

On May 11, 2012, in Running, by Robert Dallison

Finish Time — 5:07:43
Average Pace — 11:44 per mile
Paces Taken — 51,576
See below for the day’s pictures

Day 1 of Brathay 10-in-10 started for me today at 6:30am, with the BodyRehab team taking baseline measurements for posture and balance, which involved functional squats, one-legged squats, overall balance and posture photography. They will be taking these same measurements morning and evening throughout the 10-in-10, which enables us to be very precise and scientific about how our bodies are suffering!

After sorting out my fuelling logistics for the day (gels, bars, shot blocks), a hearty breakfast was in order before the “media start” at 10am. The highlight was the Brathay gamekeeper complete with tweeds and deerstalker, firing his shotgun to sound the off. After dashing across the lawn for the cameras, we headed down to the road for the real start.

I’m not going to write a long race report. Suffice it to say that Windermere fully deserves its reputation of being one of the hardest road marathons in the UK.

Contrary to what one might expect, the course does not hug the lake shore. The total elevation gain and loss is about 2,000ft, which comes from a seemingly unending series of climbs and descents as you crest every single spur and shoulder that drops from the Lakeland fells down to Windermere.

Curiously the second half of the course feels much more difficult, even though the elevation gain is only 800ft (as compared to 1,200ft on the first half). The hills between Fell Foot and Bowness seem to go on forever. In fact, after a while even the downhill stretches begin to feel as if you’re climbing…

As a result I struggled from miles 16 to 22, but before and after this stretch I was in control and very much enjoyed the run. Because of that tough stretch I missed my goal of a 5-hour finish. My objective over the next few days will be to eat and sleep as much as possible, to avoid that mid-race burnout.

The afternoon and evening has been a bit of a blur… today’s run has put me in that zone where time doesn’t seem very important, and psychologically I am already preparing for tomorrow’s marathon.

Of course before signing off I want to thank BodyRehab and their magic hands… And I have to say that I am looking forward to the ice bath again tomorrow! 10 minutes in a bubbling jacuzzi at 3.7 degrees centigrade will do wonders to get the legs ready to hit the road again…

Please remember though, that I am not running for fun. I am trying to raise £5,000 to support Brathay Trust and the work they do with some of the most vulnerable and under-privileged young people in the country.

If you have a few pounds or dollars to spare, your contribution would be welcome at my fund-raising page, www.justgiving.com/robruns10in10. Thank you for your generosity and support!

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  • Running PRs

    5K - 23:17 (Oct 16, 2010)
    5K - 23:37 (Mar 13, 2010)
    5K - 26:23 (May 23, 2009)
    10K - 49:09 (Oct 3, 2010)
    10K - 49:36 (Nov 26, 2009)
    10K - 51:36 (Oct 4, 2009)
    13.1 - 1:46:28 (Mar 07, 2010)
    13.1 - 1:52:23 (Nov 13, 2009)
    26.2 - 3:53:49 (Jan 30, 2011)
    26.2 - 4:39:14 (Jan 31, 2010)

    Running Goals

    5K - 22:00
    10K - 45:00
    13.1 - 1:40:00
    26.2 - 3:45:00
    Feb 2012, four marathons in 4 days
    May 2012, ten marathons in 10 days