The Strider: It's 22 miles to Ambridge and back

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The Independent Online

I have finally found a Walkman radio that is small and light enough to carry with me on long runs. So I no longer have to decide between training or listening to The Archers.

I have finally found a Walkman radio that is small and light enough to carry with me on long runs. So I no longer have to decide between training or listening to The Archers.

Maybe the radio has made all the difference – it is a weird experience, concentrating on a programme and running at the same time – but I have had a positive couple of weeks. These started with a 20-mile run two weeks ago, which was not particularly fast (average 8.45-minute- mile pace), but is the furthest I have ever run. Three days later I completed a running-track speed session, followed the next day by an 11-mile run with my running-club colleagues; I managed this last outing at under seven-minute-mile pace most of the way, and felt great. A couple of easy 40-minute runs completed the week.

This week I have been having a break in Cornwall. Here, I've put in a steady 12-mile run, a hard hilly run to replace the weekly speed session and a stunning cliff-top run. Which just left the small matter of Friday's 22-miler – this is one thing in south London, quite another up and down the Cornish hills. These, combined with virtually gale-force winds, almost brought me to a standstill more than once. The beautiful scenery receded into the background as swiftly as the opportunity of turning in a decent time. I finished in 3hr 35min.

Somebody recently told me that the last six miles of a marathon require as much effort as the first 20. As my runs get longer, I comfort myself with the knowledge that other runners, be they faster or slower, hurt just as much. There is a peculiar satisfaction in pushing myself hard. Perhaps it is the knowledge that the harder I train, the faster I shall run in races – including the London Marathon on 14 April.

Twenty-seven years ago I gave up running for many reasons. One was that, although I was good for my age, I knew that as soon as I became old enough to compete at senior level, my youthful ability would not count for much any more.

But at the back of my mind I always nurtured the desire to start again. What's more, being in my mid-forties and therefore able to compete as a "veteran", it occurred to me that I might be able to shine again.

Yet having taken the plunge once again a year ago, I found the veteran scene is not the pushover I thought it would be. Running is more popular than ever, and is awash with talent.

So, yes I am back, training hard, competing in races and finishing well down the field, but enjoying every painful moment. Or maybe it's just The Archers...

Entries are now closed for this year's London Marathon. Visit www.london-marathon.co.uk for details of the entry system for next year

The Strider returns on 10 March

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