Monday, 1 May 2017

London 2017

It was hot! 

Okay to just after half way and then had to slow.
I became encrusted with salt, had to drink more than usual and slow down.
So first half in a respectable 2:11; finish in 4:46

Importantly I maintained decorum at all time – no loosening of the bow tie, or unbuttoning of the collar.

The DJ was harder than last year’s suit. It was more restrictive due to slimmer fit; heavier material; legs had to push against the suit so got more tired; shirt almost double thickness due to pleated front and double cuffs. Plus cummerbund! And much hotter weather.

However, it was much loved by the crowds! Tux Man, Bond, 007, very dapper, best dressed man in the marathon, oooooh!, at least someone’s made an effort …….

So that’s it – out of retirement for Cavendish and an amazing total of over £5000 including gift aid. Thank you everybody – you are very kind and generous. And now I slip back into retirement …..

(I do have white tie and evening tails …. But that’s got to be worth over £10,000!!!)  

Monday, 17 April 2017

London Calling

On Sunday I’m coming out of road marathon running retirement for one last amazing day running the London Marathon.

You may remember I’m doing it because Cavendish Cancer Care got a bond place in this their 25th Anniversary year ….. and had nobody to run it for them. So they looked in Yellow Pages and found me under Marathon Runner for Hire. Despite my protestations of retirement I found myself saying yes to the ever persuasive Tim Pryor.

Yes because Cavendish is a small but very well loved South Yorkshire charity.
Yes because they provide counselling care for whole families including the children of sufferers.
Yes because I’d have liked that in 1973 when my Father died of cancer
Yes because I was diagnosed with a neuroendocrine tumour myself in 2016

And in many ways it is a fitting book-end to my road marathon running exploits which started on the streets of London in 1995 – 22 years ago.

Training has been tough – largely because I found it difficult to keep going out and putting in the long hard flat (ish) miles. Although as always once I’d made a start it was fine if a little tedious.

I also had the joys of a 3 month check-up before my last long training run. This involves fasting and the euphemistically referred to “bowel prep” – in other words catastrophic laxative! In 24 hours I lost 11 lbs (5kgs)!!

To celebrate all of this I shall be dressing for the occasion on Sunday and running the marathon like this:

If it’s hot I’ll melt and take it very easily. If it’s wet I’ll get very heavy and take it very easily. If it’s perfect conditions I’ll still take it very easily! I shall, however, remain properly attired for the full 26.2 miles – no loosening of the bow tie or any other lapse of etiquette. I expect a high chafing factor in the midlands and will apply anti-chafing factor 40 accordingly.

Whatever it takes and no matter how long I’m out there I will complete and I will enjoy it. Thanks to your incredible generosity I’ve already raised nearly £3500. This amount of money provides a full package of care for 8 whole families. This is life changing thank you. And there’s still time to sponsor me if you would like to – the link is on the right at the top of the page.

Next stop – London! 

Monday, 3 April 2017

End of the Road ......

But not for me!!!!

Saturday was the last morning at Quirke’s gym, a farewell. And what a send-off! Mick Quirke is a legend and the turn out proved that. World champions, TV presenters, boxing royalty, bodybuilding greats. Here I am with a very short loan of Junior Witter’s WBC Light Welterweight World Champion’s belt!

And with Mick himself.

My training has been disjointed, having to take a week off because “flipper” has been playing up – another reminder of why I retired from road marathons. But on Friday I managed over 20 hilly miles with relative comfort – so I should at least finish in London! Saturday was a decent cycle to Quirkes and back, followed by a quick 6 miles on Sunday.

This week I will be without gym for the first time in living memory – so it’ll be my own “garage gym” and some running – round a trip to Glasgow to see Dave Scott and my Mongolian adventure friends at an evening “do” with the British Mongolian Chamber of Commerce.

Then final long run on Saturday before I wind down a bit prior to London. Some of it enforced as I must fast for a day and other unpleasant things for my 3 monthly check-up next week. Just what you need before a marathon. But a great reminder of why I am running for Cavendish Cancer Care.

Anyhow it will help to ensure I still fit in my running kit …… I think I will turn up at my new gym wearing it! I’ve decided to join the English Institute of Sport for a couple of months until the new “real” gym opens. “We insist you wear sports kit Mr Heaton” “I’m running the London Marathon in it – how much more sporty do you want??”

Sunday, 19 March 2017

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

Last night we went to the Cavendish 25th Anniversary Ball - a wonderful evening, full of fun and spent with good friends many of whom I haven't seen for too long.

Of course I was singing for my supper to some extent in that I had been invited to speak briefly about my return to the roads and running the London Marathon this year for Cavendish. And I was dressed in my running gear - dinner jacket bow tie cummerbund and all the trimmings.

And I'm running like this to raise funds and have some fun on the day although of course the running will be much more difficult. Because I've got marathon running "form" people think running London must be easy for me - so unless I make it more difficult they won't sponsor me!!

Well it isn't easy!! A marathon is never easy - or rarely. Certainly not for me. It hurts. Those last few miles are rarely a pleasure. And that's just on the day. The training is punishing and there's so much of it. Pushing myself to get out and do the long lonely training miles is difficult. And training for London involves flattish miles which I hate even more.

So last week a long relatively flat run of around 4 hours / 24 miles. And this weekend a flat 10 with Heather who is training for the Sheffield half - Heather is a good runner but needs pushing because she likes to stop for a breather every now and again! That was Saturday .... and today the exact opposite - a brutal 18 miles taking in 5 huge steep long climbs in a howling gale, lashed by rain. But actually quite warm.

Good for strength, plays to my strength - but not as good for London. It's just tough, dogged, lonely miles - and you've got to do them no matter how experienced you are. The only thing my experience brings me is the knowledge that I will get round, I will complete, whatever happens. I know how to get through those difficult miles, how to manage my body when the wheels fall off. But easy - NO!

Except very occasionally - this photo reminds me of when I was in the form of my life, training for and just after Challenge 30 when I was running marathon after marathon and a 30 mile route in training every weekend. Only then was an "ordinary" marathon relatively easy.


Sunday, 12 March 2017

Hard Miles for Cavendish

I’ve remembered why I retired from running road marathons! It’s hard work – well the training to get yourself fit enough is.

I’ve not really been totally fit for this sort of marathon running since I ran London in April last year. This might sound odd as I have since run marathons in extreme conditions in Greenland and Outer Mongolia. But for both of those I knew I could complete and other factors such as strength and strength endurance came into play.

Back on the road in the UK it’s about consistent pace for a long time on even ground. I discovered long ago that just because I could run on the hills didn’t mean I could run a flat road marathon well. It’s the same muscles doing almost exactly the same thing mile after mile for a long time – and it negates my strength which is my strength. I’ve always done relatively better on so-called tough courses.

So a flat track 24 miles on Wednesday followed by a 12 Gym 12 yesterday. And both were very hard work. But I’ve got time to get a bit better yet!

12 Gym 12?? Well I run from home to my gym – 12 miles, but mostly and overall significantly downhill. And then I do a full gym session in my most favourite training habitat. Nip for a coffee at Costa, then run back home – 12 miles significantly uphill!

Here I am amidst the gym:

And I’m putting in the hard miles one last time for Cavendish Cancer Care. I was diagnosed with a rare cancer myself last year so this is personal!!

It would be brilliant if you could sponsor me for a few pounds and a huge thanks to everyone who already has. Every little counts. It really does.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Streets of London

Chris I’m just calling to ask you if you’d run the London Marathon for us ……. But I’ve retired from road marathons …… I know but we’ve got a place and nobody to run it for us ……. Oh go on then I will.

And so on Sunday April 23rd I will be taking to the streets of London – again. I will be running for Cavendish Cancer Care – a local charity that provides advice, therapy, signposting, and care for those suffering with cancer and also their families and especially children who are affected.

There are two reasons this is a cause worth me coming out of retirement for and putting in the hard training miles. My own father died of cancer when I was 14 and no such help existed for children and partners back then.

And secondly (this may well be news to many of you reading) I was diagnosed with a neuroendocrine tumour myself in July last year. A rare form of cancer. Now to date I have been lucky – it was found early and apart from suffering the indignity of a variety of instrument insertions and a small operation to have said offending tumour removed, I am fine. No need for radical surgery or drug treatments. I’m going from check-up to check-up hoping I stay lucky.

So two great reasons to put myself through the pain barrier again – for Cavendish as they celebrate their 25th anniversary.

Now of course there has to be a theme to my run … and building on last year’s theme of being late for work and running in my suit, this time I am burning the candle at both ends and haven’t time to get changed from the previous evening’s dinner – so here is my running kit for London 2017!!


If you would like to sponsor me please go to:
or click the button on the right.

And here is some more information about Cavendish Cancer Care

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Genghis Khan Ice Marathon

Well where do I start? So much, what an expedition! I think I’ll tell you about it by picking on a few highlights and showing you some photographs.

After nearly 24 hours on the go I arrive at Ulaanbaatar with Dave Scott, expedition leader, owner of Sandbaggers and Honorary Consul to Mongolia for Scotland. We are met by Timoruu, Dave’s man in Mongolia - a passable double for Oddjob, and Darkha the driver. Into an ancient Hyundai mini bus, into the traffic and chaos of UB, skies blue and sharply cold. Around -25.

First stop is for vodka. The first cup goes out of the window to honour the “gods”, then it’s my turn. Do my duty, hand the cup back, then Dave’s turn, then Timoruu. Oh my word it’s back to me again. ¾ of a bottle of Chinggis Khan Gold vodka later and we arrive at the hotel. A great room in the Best Western with amazing views over the city. The BW in UB is a very high quality hotel, entertains ambassadors etc and is run by Mike Booker from Yorkshire who was most kind, genial and generous throughout our two stays.

I’d obviously passed muster with my vodka drinking as I was invited to spend the evening at Timoruu’s own house – a tremendous honour. This meant still no sleep but I couldn’t refuse. His flat was in a soviet era tenement block. But inside his family had made it very individual, interesting, warm and comfortable. His daughter is a Shaman and we saw her room with all the icons and artefacts.

I realised that evening – with still 3 days to got to marathon day – that this was a trip largely centred round vodka, meat and a good dose of superstition / appeasing the “gods”. There aren’t many vegetables (weather), but as I was told – “we are herdsmen. We herd goats, sheep, cows, horses, yaks. We eat them” Eating meat was either the meat made into meatballs and served in dumplings or pasty-like pastry; or simply huge bones with all the meat on, a sharp knife, and hacking chunks off!

Audrey, Alistair, James and Andrew arrived in the morning and we departed for the next 2 nights in gers in the national park. Ger (hard “g”) is the Mongolian for yurt. I slept in ger 9 with anaesthetist  James from Ireland, now practising in Scotland and Dr Andrew Murray, renowned ultra distance adventure runner and superb marathon runner. Reassuringly doctor and adviser to many world leading sports teams including Ryder Cup golfers, Scotland RFU etc. The gers are heated with a wood and coal burner – stoked throughout the day and night and so darned hot on the first night it was like a sauna.

However, the 100 metre walk to the long drop toilet in the night with temperatures down around -30 to -40 meant getting fully kitted up and with headtorch. The long drop is a hut, with wooden floor, a hole to straddle over a huge deep pit – a long drop!! In winter it didn’t smell too bad as the cold kills the bacteria – I dare not imagine what it’s like in the summer! (I have a photo, but private viewing requests only!!)

The following day saw Sarah arrive, weather colder so that you could see the air as crystals tinkling in the sun. A short test run – kit fine, breathing difficult. Altitude of 5000 ft and desert aridity were enough to make a difference.  

A trip to national park and turtle rock, and a visit to a family living in a ger as most do outside UB. Everything is round the circumference – beds, wardrobes, dressing table, all dominated by a big TV with satellite box and sound system! Home for whole family with a total lack of any privacy.

And so the day of the run – breakfast at ger camp, then a drive to the start. It is cold – below -30, but not -40. Enough to need full face protection at least to start with. Various runners didn’t make it so we line up – all three of us!. A bit disappointed that there are no huskies this year and I only saw a couple of yaks. You could hear the wolves but they were too distant to cause a threat. So we each had a support vehicle – mine was yellow and stayed just in sight ahead of me so I knew where to go. Occasionally stopping to give me drink and check I was okay.

We ran out for 7 miles or so – breathing was very difficult and although my legs felt fine I was struggling a bit in the crystal clear but frozen air. It turned out this section was more uphill than I imagined so when I turned it all felt better and I picked up pace and ditched the facemask.

I felt warm but realised I wasn’t as my left eyelids froze together for a moment, saw my reflection and had icicles on my goggles and balaclava! My support vehicle had Doctor James in it and it had to leave me to see Audrey who had the beginnings of frost bite. At one point I lost quite some time choosing the correct route, but then arrived at the main ice-river loop.

Andrew was waiting for me which surprised me – he’d just completed the first loop and had fallen through the ice at one point!! So he took me round this point of the course – disconcerting to hear the ice cracking like glass under my feet, but I was told that underneath was simply more ice! As it would be at -32.

The final miles were simply very hard work. I wasn’t on top form to be honest having struggled with a cold and then the breathing difficulties. I came in in 5:15 – but after a couple more stops than I would normally have etc. So Andrew beat me by about an hour (he is a sub 2:40 marathon runner!) and I beat Audrey by roughly the same. 2nd!! But it wasn’t about the times – it was about the experience, the conditions, the journey to get to the start line in Outer Mongolia, the customs, the traditions, my wonderful fellow travellers.

Dumplings and a beer post race!

And then Saturday back to UB and prepare for Burns Night Supper – all whiskey, vodka, Ali the piper, real haggis and a great night.

Before my adventurous trip back with weather causing severe delays and an extra night in UB we did some sightseeing. Escaping the smog of UB we went to the famous Genghis Khan Statue. Words cannot describe how awe-inspiring it is – simply huge at 130ft/40m high – on top of a building which is itself 33ft/10m high. And unbelievably you can climb up inside it and appear on top of the horse’s head. Here are some pictures – I think my video, however, captures it best. See my YouTube Channel link on the right.

 At the same location are Mongol Warriors on horse back. In themselves amazing life-size statues conveying movement and the fear they must have inspired as they swept across the plains.

And finally to the Gandantegchinlen monastery
And the black market – where amongst many other things you could buy a bronze bust of Hitler!! I didn’t – nor did I photograph it sitting alongside those of Lenin and Stalin!

There we are – an amazing trip and the 9th person to complete the Genghis Khan Ice Marathon (10th finisher as Andrew has done it twice!). A land of contrasts – smog-ridden traffic laden chaotic haphazard vibrant Ulaanbaatar with 1.4m inhabitants. Isolated, remote, crystal clear, plains, mountains, sparsely inhabited (the other 1.6m) chillingly cold, where eagles soar and wolves howl and nomadic herdsmen drive their animals. Mongolia. Generous company, wonderful people. Thanks to Dave and everyone for enabling me to take my part in an amazing adventure.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Running With Wolves

Here I am ready for final kit testing. 9 miles in this and unbelievably I wasn’t shot or arrested!

It’s a balaclava, goggles and a face mask called ”Cold Avenger”. No moving parts but a grille which agitates the air and heats it a little as you breathe in. It also makes it harder to breathe – and what with it not actually being cold in Wortley I felt on the verge of a heart attack all the way round!

So – as I didn’t need this kit on the Greenland icecap a couple of months ago what on earth is it for? Well on Sunday 22nd January I set off for Outer Mongolia via Istanbul and Ulaanbaatar. I will be staying in a Ger, I will be running a marathon, and the temperature will be -40!! So I need all the cold avenging I can get!

I have received an invite to a Burns Night supper in Ulaanbaatar and will also be spending some days seeing amazing remote and beautiful scenery in the most sparsely populated country in the world. The world of Genghis Khan!

Whilst the sun is expected to shine - it will be nippy. It’s currently about -25 in Ulaanbaatar and will be -40 in the countryside. My feet should be toasty in these though:

But Chris you mentioned wolves! Yes I did – there is a large wolf population and the organisers cannot guarantee protection from wild animal attack! There will be husky teams running with us that should hopefully keep them at bay. I think I will run conservatively and with someone slower than me (if there is anybody) – then I only have to outrun them and not the wolves!!

However, if you see my tracker start moving at an unfeasibly fast rate then I’m inside a wolf! 

Only 7 people have ever completed this marathon. This is an extreme adventure which I am hugely fortunate to be able to take part in. Stories, photographs and video will be sensational. I will post as much as I can – and blog here again when I get back.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Je suis Polar Bear!

The Polar Bear Challenge

On Saturday 29th October I ran a marathon.
On Sunday 30th October  ran a half-marathon.

Not astounding news – until you look at this: 

Yes! This is part of the route and the marathons were in Greenland at Kangerlussuaq above the arctic circle.

So what was it like? Well it was cold! Probably the coldest I’ve ever been before the start of the marathon. The sun wasn’t above the horizon, it’s pretty darned cold on the ice cap in any case, and there was a howling wind to add “wind-chill factor” into the equation. 3 minutes to the start felt like an eternity, feet frozen, hands worse with shooting needle pains, nose-end like ice.

Fact I didn’t know – Greenland is an arctic desert with virtually no rain. It is very dry so we were advised to drink lots of water and not to wash our faces before the race – so the natural skin oils remain and give protection.

The race starts with a climb straight onto the icecap – an alien world of hills and bumps of ice swept with snow, twisting and turning a navigable route marked by poles, sinking at times knee deep in snow, ice-studs gripping and clawing at sheer ice at others. And the orange glow of the rising sun lighting the grey blue glacier hues.

I was aware I was burning huge amounts of energy trying to charge through these hills and troughs of snow and ice – so I slowed down, trying to preserve energy for when I could run and make good time. Stopping to film, fumbling hands trying to work my camera, glasses misting, freezing quickly, must keep moving.

After what seems like an eternity to cover the ice cap 7k or so, we emerge onto snow and ice-hardened trail for the remaining 35k. Significantly undulating and underfoot conditions variable – who puts those longest hardest climbs at 20k - just before half way and the end of the half marathon; and 40k through to 41k in the marathon?

I’d taken the decision to start cold – knowing that running would warm me up. Good kit choices – no need to shed or change kit like many did. Good job really as I hadn’t left any kit at any drops for changes. I was committed. I started to run freely from around 10k and was surprised to be told I was in the top 30 as I went past a drinks station – warm elderflower and warm energy drink! Perfect – I hadn’t packed any of my own and only a couple of energy gels. Most run too burdened.

My lack of training started to tell after 30k – but I was still going and passing a few who weren’t. With nobody passing me I was inspired to run through a severe attack of cramp in my right leg. And at 40k, even with a long climb ahead, 5 hours was just about a possibility. I crest the climb at 41k and start to descend, pushing so hard, end in sight, cheering beginning, “Christopher Heaton – very close to 5 hours” I hear on the tannoy – one huge last desperate effort – “Christopher Heaton – 4 hours 59 minutes and 30 seconds”!

An astonishing result placing me 25th out of 147 marathon starters. I always tell myself I excel relatively in tough conditions – perhaps I still can even at my advanced age!!

Much the same story for the half marathon – warmer on the icecap, but more snow made the road sections more difficult. And so I became 19th Polar Bear out of an eventual 80 completers of both full and half marathons.

Then the holiday begins – moving further north to Illulisat, the home of the world heritage site Icefjord. The only place where a glacier drops icebergs straight into the sea. I could rattle on but this picture really does say everything. One word often over-used but not here – WOW! 

(check out my short videos - link on the right!)

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Greenland Here I Come!!

I’m setting off tomorrow and on Saturday I will be doing this!

Running a marathon on Saturday and a half-marathon on Sunday. Running might be optimistic – I’m undertrained due to a couple of setbacks. But I did grind out 21 miles on Saturday followed by 7 on Sunday.

Of course this is not about time at all. And the cut-offs appear generous with 7 hours for the marathon and 4 for the half. So I am on a sight-seeing tour with some running!

My kit is ready. I’ve screwed my ice-studs into my running shoes, packed my glacier glasses, dug out my balaclava, and have my wonderful new down jacket for my non-running trip up to Ilulissat and the icefjord.

In some ways I’m testing this lot out for Mongolia in January which will be far more extreme temperature wise (-40 in Mongolia compared with about -15 in Greenland)

Best of all I have tested my new video action camera and providing it doesn’t freeze I should get some great clips. And some amazing photos too I hope. I will be posting these up for all to see but probably when I get back as internet is poor to non-existent and along with phoning it is also extravagantly expensive.

I’m setting up live tracking so those of you who have followed me before and anyone else can follow me either live or after I’ve done it on Google maps by clicking on the link below. I’m not sure what time the races are but I suspect about 10.00am Greenland time – which is 3 hours behind. So by mid-afternoon I think there will be something to track/see!  If there is no data – I’ve either not started or my tracker has been eaten by a polar bear.

I look forward to catching up when I return!!