In 2014 the 13 in thirteen challenge came back bigger and harder than the previous challenge. Starting on the 5th January 2014 and continuing for the next 13 months, the new challenge saw me competing in one half marathon a month so 13 half marathons in 13 months (13 in thirteen).
We decided to keep the name 13 in thirteen as it has become connected with me and my challenges. We had thought about 14 in Fourteen but settled for doing the races over 13 months instead. The aim was to not only complete a half marathon each month but to hit a total fundraising target of £4,000 and do a at least one sub 90 minute half marathon.
This new challenge saw the distance more than double as I stepped up from 10km’s per race to 21.082km or in miles it goes from 6.2 miles up to 13.1 miles. Below was the list of races and my finishing time.
The 13 races were as follows, with my finish time in brackets:
- Central Lancashire Half Marathon Sunday 5th January (98:33)
- Great North West Half Marathon Sunday 23rd February (95:07)
- Bath Half Marathon Sunday 2nd March (95:30)
- Plymouth Half Marathon Sunday 27th April (96:04)
- Edinburgh Half Marathon Sunday 25th May (94:27)
- Potters Arf Marathon Sunday 8th June (99:49)
- NSPCC MK Half Marathon Sunday 6th July (99:00)
- Great Yarmouth Half Marathon Sunday 10th August (94:23)
- Great North Run Sunday 7th September (94:46)
- Great Birmingham Run Sunday 19th October (89:11)
- Lancaster Half Marathon Sunday 2nd November (86:17)
- MK Winter Half Marathon Sunday 14th December (86:03)
- Brass Monkey Half Marathon Sunday 18th January (83:17)
Here is a recap of the challenge:
So no sooner had I finished the last challenge that the new one was soon upon us. After completing the last challenge (13 x 10km races in 2013), I decided to keep the momentum going and I upped the challenge and distance.
So Christmas 2013 was pretty much as you were training wise.
The first official race over in Lancashire. The race was called “The Central Lancashire New Year Half Marathon” and was just outside of Preston. The race was slightly undulating and consisted of a straight section and then a large loop and then the same straight section to finish back at the school.
This was my second ever half marathon so still to get used to pacing and was guilty of going out too fast, I did the first mile in 6:43 and it would have been great to do the whole race at that pace. I settled down and miles 3-6 were all within a few seconds of each other. The hardest part was the long stretch from 5 and half miles to 8. It was very open and you ran into a head wind. The pace slowed to just under 7:30 pace and stayed that way till mile 10.
By this time I was running on empty having forgotten to have any food before hand and the last 3 miles were really tough going with final mile being 8:27 and it was a case of just getting over the finish line. The watch and official time got me at 1:38:33 a new PB, knocking over 3 minutes off my previous time.
Well it was a long time coming, well it felt like ages between the first half marathon race and the second one. After 6 weeks of hard training where I changed my entire training ethos, I headed over to sunny Blackpool. Correction Armageddon (that is how the organisers described it on Facebook). Blackpool was the setting of the second race.
11am at the race start it was blowing from the south at a speed of 30mph and then the gusts were up to 45mph.
I had planned a very tactical race due to wind, for first mile I kept the 7 minute pacer in touching distance and then caught up with the pack by the turning point, so from 2.5 miles it was all head wind but as the pack was bunched up it allowed me to settle in behind them and just stick to them like glue. The turning point was just before the 6 mile marker and then it was back to start and out for the 2nd lap.
At this point the 7 minute pacer had edged away and I found myself out on my own with space between all the runners. I made sure to keep miles 6 to 9 as strong as possible as I knew come the turning point it was going to get wild and I was right. As soon as you turned just after mile 9 the wind was horrendous and this time I had no shelter and it was a case of holding on for dear life. As soon as we hit the turning point at 12.5 I knew it was job done and I cruised home in a time of 1:35:07. A new PB by 3:26 not bad in those conditions and makes me wonder what my time would have been without the wind. I think it helped me in places and slowed me in others. The task now is to recover ready to do it all again on the following Sunday.
So just a week after doing the Great North West HM in windy Blackpool, I headed to Bristol on the Saturday due to the distance we had decided to stay the night. The build up to this was great except for the small matter of a very sore hamstring. This happened mid week on a training run and right up to the start it was touch and go if I would be able to complete it.
With my injury I had to race smart and not over do it so the aim was to get around the same time as the previous week. The start was the most congested race I have ever been in and you spent first 3 miles weaving in and out of people just to get space, this would in end cost me a PB. The crowds were fantastic and most of the route was lined with people making it the best supported race. After the first mile you join the loop you do twice as I run pass the NSPCC support point to big cheers you headed out of Bath before turning and heading back.
By 10 miles my leg was aching and my pace slowed but I still felt I was on for a PB but every mile was buzzing before the official marker by 200 yards. As I turned the final bend I had 200 yards to do in less then 30 seconds. I wasn’t prepared to sprint and risk more damage to the hamstring so my official time was 1:35:30. My watch got it 13.3 miles. Had it been 13.1 my time would have been 1:34:26. I finish 1,011th out of 12,000 runners. For me I have to be happy with that.
Next up for me is my home tome race at the Sheffield Half Marathon.
At 8:30 I started to line up with everyone else when an old fella walked down shouting “race delayed by 30 minutes”. No reason was given and where the start area was you could not hear anything from the tannoy. People who joined the race area had not heard about a delay so there was much confusion. 9:30am and the revised start time came and went by this time, I needed a wee but I did not want to leave the start area as I was expecting to go any minute, 9:40am then came and went and still no announcement and no race start.
At 9:45am there was a lot of whispering of what had happened, everything from a car crash to no water but no official told the runners anything then just before 09:50am a boo rang out from the start area. (I was stood on the first pace marker of 90 minutes and could not hear anything). Sarah then shouts to me “The race has been cancelled” then all of a sudden we were off. I assumed she was mistaken and followed suit, completely unprepared to set off and was soon running past the pace car but assumed it had broken down. Everyone was cheering so I along with the majority of runners at that point assumed the race was on.
I ended up running the entire route only to cross the finish line and found out it had been cancelled and I had run it for no reason. This also meant for second challenge running I had to find a replacement race. Plymouth came to the rescue but meant Sarah had the task of driving to Plymouth and back over the weekend. The race was a tough one. The last one had taken a toll on me mentally and this one was hilly as you ran out of the city into a massive part then back along main roads and finished with a nasty sting up to the finish. For me it was a relief just to get it done and move on to the next one.
May saw me complete the fifth half marathon of my half marathon challenge for the NSPCC. Team 13 headed up to the Scottish capital for the weekend and in very wet and windy conditions, I came home in a time of 1:34.27, a new personal best by 40 seconds. It was also the race I decided to wear face paint. This looked wicked at the start but by the end I was a sweaty mess. The rain and wind lashed down in the first half of the race as we left Edinburgh and along the coast to Mussleburgh then the second half it got hot. It was a logistical nightmare due to the different start finish points and one I’d not do again but I was slowly chipping away at my time but I was still finding the distance difficult.
June was the start of 4 months of bad races or results. The weather played a big part in the next 4 challenge races. Plus my lack of race knowledge meant I picked some really bad races in which to chase my challenge goal of sub 90. June we head down to Stoke for their HM. A fast start but we soon found out why it was called a tough one as there seemed to be more ups then downs with heatbreak hill at mile 12 being a real killer. The heat and the hills meant this was my slowest ever HM time of the challenge.
July was the halfway point and it was fitting that it was the NSPCC organised half marathon in Milton Keynes it meant another weekend away and again it turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year. The route didn’t help as it was on public footpaths going up and under roads. I also cocked up my pacing from early on as I tried to stay with a virtual pacer but I thought I was in front but in fact was behind and by time I realised my mistake it was too late and only just managed to go faster then the previous months time. At this point I felt like I was going backwards.
Great Yarmouth HM was an interesting HM starting on a playing field it actually went out into the countryside and away from the seaside resort. We had enjoyed a hot day out there the previous day but Sunday a storm hit us halfway through the race with gale force winds at one point I was running with my neck to one side due to strength of the wind. However I seemed to run better in poor conditions then I do in warm and I actually managed to scrape to a brand new personal best by 4s!
September was suppose to be the big one! I had secured a place at the famous Great North Run. It’s one of those races you either love or you don’t. I don’t I think its over-hyped and over-rated. The logistics is an utter nightmare. Just like Edinburgh, my family had to drop me off and made their way to South Shields. I was paced by a running friend but at 10 miles I became ill and although I continued I struggled all the way to the finish and ended up collapsing in the charity tent. The next day Sarah got a doctor out to me and I was told I had sceptic tonsillitis and was ill for the next couple of weeks. Not how I planned on celebrating another HM.
I was starting to find form again after a rough middle of the year. I found I raced best during the cooler months. After running my first sub 40 10k the previous month in Sheffield, I was optimistic of getting a PB but had almost given up hope of a sub 90. Great Birmingham Run was the next race of the challenge and it turned out to be a nightmare to get to the start and in the end I arrived with only minutes to spare. Annoyed and frustrated I stopped holding back and went flat out from the off and the fast downhill start helped. The route was pretty flat till just after 10 miles when you had a hill to climb. For me the best part is when I ran down the under pass near the end and chariots of fire was playing. I actually got overcome with emotion as I knew I was on for a big PB. I got given a time of 87:11 at first but turned out a chip error had started two minutes late but after the error was corrected I was given a time of 89:11 my first ever sub 90! half marathon.
The good run of form continued into November as was only a few weeks later I did the Lancaster HM and wanted to prove that the last run was no fluke. Again I raced hard from the off and despite a nasty hill at halfway I again destroyed my half marathon time, knocking another 3 minutes off with a time of 86:17. I only had two races left and was starting to wonder if an 80 minute half marathon would be possible. Funny how things changed in just a few short months.
The final race of 2014 for the challenge was another trip down to Milton Keynes for their winter half marathon. It was similar to the one back in June but about 25’C cooler. It was freezing weather. I had forgotten to charge my watch, as I stood on the start line it died on me. So I had to race without it! This was so hard as I could never relax or tell if I was on pace or not. So I just kept pushing and pushing. in last mile I could see clock ticking towards 86 minutes and managed to drag myself to another PB by just 14s. I never wanted to repeat that feeling of running scared for an entire race.
After Christmas the final race of the challenge came. I had also decided not to do another after this despite people saying I should have done 13 marathons! The final race was up in York at the fast Brass Monkey HM. This was nearly called off due to ice and there was a mile where people were slipping and sliding all over the place. However I had a storming race and despite flagging in final few miles, I finished my final race with yet another personal best in 83:17. I’ve only gone fast 4 times since 2014 but I’ve only done 6 HM since 2015.
The challenge was a big success. Firstly the challenge raised another £2076 for the NSPCC but I did the Childline logo in LEGO in a stop motion video and also sat down with a case worker and told my story. My story was then used under by the charity for the 2014 media campaign and that campaign helped raise a massive £1,318,846!