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Ladies and Gentleman start your engines

 

While the amateurs hit the race track in Bahrain, the real machines will be readying themselves in Northamptonshire. Confused? F1 testing continues in the UAE, while Silverstone race track hosts the Silverstone Half Marathon. No guesses to where we will be heading then.

Richard Whitty and the WWF mascot pandaRichard Whitty and the WWF-UK mascot panda

The race has become a popular venue for those looking to get in a competitive race before the Virgin Money London Marathon (VMLM), and to my surprise some past competitors have told me that it’s – wait for it – hilly!! Checking the website it does look moderately hilly but seems like the biggest issue will be the wind.

Race tracks are notoriously barren and given the UK’s recent track record we can expect a tough and windy day out on the course.
The biggest news of all is the fact that this will be my girlfriend Lisa’s first ever half marathon. It will be the longest distance she has ever run – as well as her first competitive race on tarmac. She’s been all grass and mud up until now.

I remember lining up at Reading half marathon a couple years back for my first full half on road. So many competitors, all the pacing flags sticking up, the group warm up, last minute toilet and gel checks. Funny how as soon as the gun goes, every worry, every injury, every sniff or cough quickly fades – and with every step the doubt fades. It’s a pretty awesome feeling, hearing the cheers and screams, for a brief moment a complete stranger can potentially make you go from being down and out to making you feel like a hero.

Anyway, everybody heard the News! – not the troubles in the Ukraine or UK employment and inflation stats or even the sea bird that halted the wind-farm expansion. I’m referring to the fact that my personal hero – and the man I consider to be the greatest athlete who has ever lived – will be starting and pacing the elites in this years VMLM. Haile Gebrselassie, aka:

  • Two time Olympic Gold medalist
  • Four time World Champion
  • Four time indoor World Champion
  • Two time World Junior Champion
  • World Half Marathon Champion

Winner of:

  • Amsterdam Marathon
  • Berlin Marathon (four times)
  • Fukuoka Marathon
  • Dubai Marathon (three times)

But nothing and no-one – other than the great Sergei Bubka – can match his ability to break world records. Consistently besting himself over a period of 16 years no less than 26 times, during a period where the likes of Ismael Kirui, Moses Kiptanui, Paul Tergat and Daniel Komen all competed.

Silverstone half marathonSilverstone half marathon

First glimpse I had of him was on TV where he was competing in a 10,000 meters meet (now known as the diamond league) and I think was shoulder to shoulder with Moses Tanui. The bell sounded and he disappeared. 55 second final lap, which isn’t too shabby after going through 9,600 meters at well under three min/km pace.

There’s a wicked story behind his style of running too. He used to live in a village approx 10kms away from his school, so each day he would run with his books under his arm for 10kms there and back. As a result you can see his right arm still carries this slight characteristic of a young boy holding his books. Let me stop before I end up writing his biography!

The thing is, I’m crazy excited. I don’t expect to see him (although that would be amazing), its enough for me to know that one day I can tell my grandchildren that I raced with the greatest through the streets of London – albeit some distance behind.!

In other news, the first big race was completed in my 1,000 mile journey. The Sportive in Kent was more hilly than expected and the roads were covered in debris from the rain, but other than that the race went well. 70 miles in the bag, just over four hours of effort. The journey has really begun! Look out for my next blog when I’ll be talking about the Virgin Money London Marathon, and more.

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