Author Archives: fak

Letters to my MP – government Covid-19 response

Dear Thangam Debbonaire,

I am writing to you to express my frustration with the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, and to request that you do everything within your power to hold them to account, particularly in regard to minimising infections by following scientific advice, and following all established protocols regarding awarding contracts paid for from public funds.

The people of the UK have given the government almost 7 months of their lives, since initial restrictions were brought into force on 16th March 2020. Since that date I, and many others, have left our houses only to exercise or buy essential supplies. I have not hugged any person outside of my household since that date, including my own sister, nor have I seen my nephew since January (and it now looks likely that it will be at least a full year until I can see him in person again).

Whilst some restrictions have been eased in recent months, it does not appear that the majority of these changes are based in scientific study to reduce infection rates, but rather were aimed at increasing economic activity with arbitrary conditions being set (why 6 and not 7? why the same indoor and out regardless of the fact that there is very little data to support outdoor transmission? why can strangers congregate in a pub but family members can’t meet in a house?).

I, like many others, have opted to continue to follow the science by restricting my interactions with others to be exclusively outdoors (which is becoming tougher as the weather conditions deteriorate going into Autumn and Winter) or online. I continue to social distance, to wash my hands, to wear a mask in any indoor space other than my own home. I no longer go to the gym, attend dance classes, practise circus skills with friends, or participate in the weekly parkrun (as either a runner/walker or volunteer). My social interactions are limited to a weekly outdoor hot drink with running friends (no more than 6 around a table), and an online group chat of my weekly juggling group (who are now homeless as our venue has been sold for housing).

I appreciate that I am in a luckier position than most, being retired and able to work from home in the creative arts, the pandemic has not hit me financially, and I maintain a roof over my head. But the strain of such a restricted existence is ongoing and amplified by the government’s mishandling of the pandemic.

I have watched whilst unelected advisors flout the rules and receive no reprimand. I have seen billions of pounds in contracts for PPE awarded to shell companies set up by Tory donors, and that PPE to be found not fit for use. I have watched other countries set-up effective test and trace services whilst yet more public money is handed out to consultants and for apps that do not work.

The increase in cases following the return of children to schools and students to universities was entirely predictable, the science has already shown that children can and do transmit the virus and that indoor spaces (particularly with poor ventilation, as most educational establishments are due to their age) are perfect locations for transmission. However, it appears to have taken the head of the NHS Test and Trace programme entirely by surprise. Perhaps if the government had appointed someone with a scientific background rather than a Jockey Club board member who presided over a large data breach in a previous position, things would be different.

The government has taken hundreds of millions of months of people’s lives, as well as costing lives through the late initial lockdown, causing unnecessary suffering to those who have lost loved ones and those whose medical treatment has been effectively suspended since March (with no light on the horizon as to when those treatments such as hip replacements, cataract surgery, breast reductions/enlargements/reconstructions, dental work, etc. might resume).

I, and many others like me, will continue to restrict our lives to try and restrict the spread of this virus, to try and reduce the infection rate and save lives (both from the immediate threat of severe illness and long-term consequences). We will do this not because the government tells us to, or because they tell us not to (they have lost the trust of the people through their arbitrary rules and consequence-free flouting of them), but because the science indicates that it is necessary.

If the government had followed what other countries have done since March: restricting arrivals into the country, introducing testing and quarantine for arrivals into the country, increasing testing levels to those necessary to accurately assess the level of infections and to guide targeted local restrictions, establishing an effective tracing system, recording contact data for all individuals using indoor spaces, mandating masks in all indoor spaces (including schools) for those not medically exempt, the current crisis where we are at the same level of hospitalisations as seen in March could have been avoided.

We cannot change the past, but I ask you as my Member of Parliament to hold the government’s feet to the fire over their failures over the past 7 months. I ask that you demand that contracts (particularly those not open to tender) are published within the government’s own deadline of 30 days, to expose the corruption of those contracts being awarded to unqualified Tory donors. I am aware that the government’s large majority makes it difficult to oppose them on legislation, but ask that you continue to use your platform as a voice for your constituents to raise awareness of their failings and corruption (which is often mostly missing from mainstream media), and to actively vote against damaging legislation rather than abstain.

Yours sincerely,

CRAW – region 1 completed!

Team This is the way arrived at Fort Sherman (to board the boat from the mouth of the Panama canal) on 5th October 2020. This completed region 1 of the circumpolar race around the world in a total of 35 days. A little slower than needed for the 12-month gold buckle, but a lot of the team members live in California and had a week to ten days of not being able to run due to the poor air quality from the forest fires.

I managed to complete 305.84 miles over the course of the region (finishing 293rd of 2003 runners), and got to see my teammates start on region 2 in Colombia on the same day we finished (my 8 miles for the day counted towards region 1). A small change in personnel with two runners dropping out having brought us home with their final 16 miles, but another two joining for the next 3,094 miles from Colombia to Peru.

Onwards and further South!

Screenshot of CRAW region 1

CRAW – week 1

The first week of CRAW (circumpolar race around the world) is over! A short week (that started on Tuesday), but as a team we have managed to log 486.74 miles (including my 8.003 this morning). This places us 19.38% of the way through region 1, just approaching the big left turn at Citrofrut Paso Largo (a fruit juice company) which will take us towards the coast again.

It all started with being sent your CRAW passport, along with an email confirming you’d been granted all of the necessary visas and filled in all of the required forms (which was a nice touch), as well as there being a downloadable race bib with your name and number.

The wizards at CRAW HQ have made a map where you can track where you are as a team, as well as for each individual.

You can track where I am here: https://runsignup.com/Race/Results/95983/IndividualResult/LBbk?resultSetId=212380#U45842034

The leading running team has already made it to Guatemala, logging 1,269.85 miles, which is awesome! Their least active runner has logged 70.70 miles, whilst their most active has logged 253.30! They clearly mean business, and it should mean that region 2 as to be opened up soon. In comparison they have run further than all but the top 6 multi-sport teams (the top team is already in Nicaragua).

Running around the world

London marathon 2020 was finally cancelled last week, so after training for it twice (up to around 8 weeks out each time) I find myself at a bit of a loose end, race-wise. I have a qualifying time for Boston 2021, but am not sure I want to commit myself to flying over then in a tin can for several hours with several hundred other people. Nor do I want to commit financially to flights and hotels when I might find myself suddenly requiring to undertake a quarantine period, or the race gets pushed again.

So, what to do? I stopped the training plan at a point where I was averaging in the high fifties for weekly mileage, so thought I would continue at that level this time around (when lockdown was announced I stuck with a 40-mile base, with no speedwork and no runs longer than 10 miles). The race situation is a bit fluid at the moment, so a race might suddenly open up with a few weeks’ notice (and equally could disappear in an instant). Instead of training for a specific distance I figured I would keep doing one intervals session a week, probably whatever has been set by the Single Malt Marathoners podcast, just to keep the legs sharpish.

I’ve also switched out tempo Thursday for the Thursday half, where I will run at least half marathon distance to keep the weekly mileage up. That should keep me pootling around Bristol on a variety of loops that can be adjusted if any local lockdowns with distance-from-home restrictions come into force (unlikely, but if this pandemic has taught us anything, then it’s that anything can happen).

Motivation can be hard to find without specific targets to train for, but serendipity landed something in my lap just yesterday. A fellow INKnBURN ambassador got in touch asking if I’d like to join a team for CRAW. A lot of googling followed to find out what this was, and after a bit I signed up (for at least region 1 with this team).

CRAW is the Circumpolar Race Around the World. A no-time limit race from Laz Lake (of Berkley Marathons and the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee). In this incarnation teams of up to 10 are logging mileage in a relay race around the world, cutting across the two poles.

As I understand it, one you complete each region (of which there are 12 total), you are then allowed to start the next. At this point, you can switch teams should you choose, and continue with new team mates. Rinse and repeat until the final team you are in completes region 12 when you will have run all around the world.

There are medals for completing each region, and if you complete region 12 within 12 months of the start you earn a gold buckle, if it takes 16 months then it’s a silver buckle. There is also a multi-sport option (biking, kayaking, has to be human-powered), which has a reduced time-limit for the buckles (and if you complete any region in a multi-sport team, you can only qualify for a multi-sport buckle).

It should be fun. I only know a couple of my teammates at the moment, but knowing that your team is relying on you to complete the region’s mileage (which is all recorded on the honour system) should provide that extra motivation to get out of the door. The courses are all plotted using actual roads, with our own routes carved across the South and North poles.

Region 1 is Latin America, and will pass through Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama for a total of 4,009km/2,491 miles. Assuming it is run along the same lines as GVRAT, then teams will be able to plot where they are along the route base on the distances logged.

Starts 1st September 2020 (the day after the cut-off for GVRAT).

Letters to my MP – trans rights

Dear Thangam Debbonaire,

I am writing about the reports in today’s newspaper that suggest that Boris Johnson’s government is preparing to scrap a review of the Gender Recognition Act; a review which was commissioned by Theresa May because the current system for trans people is costly, lengthy, humiliating and unnecessary. The newspaper report suggests that the government is preparing to set out new ‘safeguards’ to protect female-only spaces including refuges and public lavatories.

I am writing for your action on three main points regarding this:

Firstly, the newspaper article suggests that 70% of respondents to the government’s consultation support improving the lives of trans people, despite a drive from anti-trans lobbyists to skew the consultation. I am therefore concerned about the government’s choice to ignore this overwhelming mandate for change and that it is instead siding with a relatively small but vocal group of activists and their followers, who appear determined to tell trans and cisgender women who they are and what they think. They seek to characterise transgender women as a sexual threat and cast transgender men as duped victims of a patriarchal conspiracy. This represents the government not acting in good faith with regard to this consultation, a point I feel that they should be challenged on, regardless of the subject at hand.

Secondly, the GRA review was intended to look only at the current process for trans individuals to change their birth certificate. A process that requires them to pay £140, gain accreditation from two separate medical experts, provide proof of living in their true gender for a solid two years and offer ultimate judgement of their identity to a panel they never personally meet. The government appears to be extending their remit and instead are suggesting revoking protections granted by the Equality Act 2010 to allow access to gendered spaces with reference to an individual’s gender rather than their sex. This roll-back of rights has the potential to cause harm to cisgender women, transgender women, transgender men and non-binary individuals. In North Carolina in 2016 a gender-policing law regarding access to public bathrooms was enacted that led to a rise in transphobia, as well as opening up the possibility of increased harassment of women in public restrooms who weren’t transgender but who didn’t dress or present in a ‘feminine’ way. It also meant that transgender men were being forced to use women’s toilets. This poses a far greater risk to spaces intended to be safe for those who identify as female (either permanently or on that day) as requiring transgender men to use such spaces makes it much easier for cisgender men to claim to be transgender and access them.

Thirdly, the government appears to once again be ignoring the evidence of experts in not allowing self-identification for the purposes of changing a birth certificate. Iceland, Portugal, Malta, Norway, Denmark or Belgium have all empowered trans individuals to self-ID. None of these countries have reported a rise in attacks on women in single-sex spaces.

In summary, trans people and all women are already self-identifying in single-sex spaces. There is no known evidence that male abusers are using this freedom to attack women. Self-ID in a number of countries has not affected women’s safety and has improved the lives of trans people. Policing gender in toilets and changing rooms has a negative impact on the freedoms of all women. Instead it appears that the ‘concern’ being expressed by lobbyists, without basis or evidence, is nothing more than anti-trans bigotry dressed in outdated quasi-feminist clothing. Nobody who believes in equality would seek to enforce the segregation of trans people and the introduction of further obstacles to all women.

I therefore ask you to support the LGBTQIA+ community, particularly during pride month, and hold the government to account for ignoring the response to their consultation; to require them to act on the recommendations laid out by experts regarding allowing self-ID; and to vote against the rolling back of existing rights granted to allow people to use gendered spaces based on their gender, providing safer spaces for all cisgender women, transgender men, transgender women and non-binary individuals who have been using toilets, trying on clothes in changing rooms, accessing domestic violence facilities, and generally getting on with their lives for as long as single-sex spaces have existed.

Yours sincerely,

Letters to my MP – Black Lives Matter

Dear Thangam Debbonaire,

I am writing to appeal that the export of tear gas, rubber bullets, riot shields and other equipment related to the militarisation of the police is suspended, specifically to the US at this time in relation to its use in excessive force against protestors of the death of George Floyd. Ideally I would appeal that the export of such items is permanently disallowed.

Yours sincerely,

Letters to my MP – Dominic Cummings

Dear Thangam Debbonaire,

I am writing to you to express my disbelief regarding the comments made by Ministers today regarding the trips taken by special advisor Dominic Cummings in contravention of the official advice during April 2020. Their words and his actions have seriously jeopardised the health of this nation and the ability to control the spread of covid-19 and I would like to see parliament returned before recess to discuss this as an urgent matter.

Yours sincerely,

A quick and dirty look at the new 2019 London Marathon GFA times

Yesterday, London Marathon announced that they were changing the way good for age entries worked, starting with the 2019 race. Instead of everyone who made the qualifying time in each age category getting a guaranteed place, 3,000 places for men and 3,000 places for women would be available. If there are more applicants with the qualifying times than places then the qualifying time will be reduced (evenly across each age category) until there are only 3,000 qualifiers of each gender left. They also changed the age categories in line with other major marathons and this has led to some pretty big jumps in qualifying time for people the ‘wrong’ side of the new categories.

I don’t have time to do a full analysis of who has currently run qualifying times since 1st January 2017 in each age category, so I thought I’d do a quick and dirty look at the 2017 results to see who would qualify for GFA places under the new rules, stripping out those who would qualify for championship places. The age categories don’t map completely, but this is quick and dirty stuff.

The Good for Age qualifying times for the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon are:

Men Time (in hours) Women Time (in hours)
Age 18-39 sub 3:00 Age 18-39 sub 3:45
Age 40-44 sub 3:05 Age 40-44 sub 3:50
Age 45-49 sub 3:10 Age 45-49 sub 3:53
Age 50-54 sub 3:15 Age 50-54 sub 4:00
Age 55-59 sub 3:20 Age 55-59 sub 4:05
Age 60-64 sub 3:45 Age 60-64 sub 4:30
Age 65-69 sub 4:00 Age 65-69 sub 5:00
Age 70-74 sub 5:00 Age 70-74 sub 6:00
Age 75-79 sub 5:15 Age 75-79 sub 6:20
80+ sub 5:30 80+ sub 6:40

Let’s start with the women. Going through the rest of the age categories we end up with a table that looks like this based on the 2017 results:

Women Qualifying Time (in hours) Number under 3:15 Number between 3:15 and QT
Age 18-39 sub 3:45  186  876
Age 40-44 sub 3:50  59  391
Age 45-49 sub 3:53  25  318
Age 50-54 sub 4:00  12  272
Age 55-59 sub 4:05  4  105
Age 60-64 sub 4:30  0  81
Age 65-69 sub 5:00  0  34
Age 70-74 sub 6:00  0  33
Age 75-79 sub 6:20  0  4
80+ sub 6:40  0 3

In 2017 there was only one age category for 70+ so I have listed all of those that were sub 6:00 as 70-74, those between 6:00 and 6:20 as 75-79, and those between 6:20 and 6:40 as 80+. That gives us a total of 2,153 women who meet the qualifying times just from last year’s London Marathon.

Now let’s have a look at the men.

Men Qualifying Time (in hours) Number under 2:45 Number between 2:45 and QT
Age 18-39 sub 3:00  392  701
Age 40-44 sub 3:05  104  437
Age 45-49 sub 3:10  31  376
Age 50-54 sub 3:15  15  287
Age 55-59 sub 3:20  0  138
Age 60-64 sub 3:45  0  103
Age 65-69 sub 4:00  0  58
Age 70-74 sub 5:00  0  82
Age 75-79 sub 5:15  0  17
80+ sub 5:30  0  16

This would give a total of 2,215 men meeting the qualifying time just at London. On first glance it would seem that if you meet the new qualifying time then you should be fine, but remember that London is only one marathon (and not necessarily the fastest). People will also be running qualifying times at Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin, Brighton, Manchester, etc.

For shits and giggles lets have a look at how many people would have been guaranteed a place under the old system based on the 2018 GFA times and age boundaries to see how many people may now be losing out (either because of the 3,000 cap, the age category change or the time change).

This is the old table:

Men Time (in hours) Women Time (in hours)
Age 18-40 sub 3:05 Age 18-40 sub 3:45
Age 41-49 sub 3:15 Age 41-49 sub 3:50
Age 50-59 sub 3:20 Age 50-59 sub 4:00
Age 60-64 sub 3:45 Age 60-64 sub 4:30
Age 65-69 sub 4:00 Age 65-69 sub 5:00
Age 70-75 sub 5:00 Age 70-75 sub 6:00
76+ sub 5:30 76+ sub 6:30

So, starting with the women again:

Women Qualifying Time (in hours) Number under 3:15 Number between 3:15 and QT
Age 18-40 sub 3:45 (no change)  186  876
Age 41-49 sub 3:50  84  679
Age 50-59 sub 4:00  16  361
Age 60-64 sub 4:30 (no change)  0  81
Age 65-69 sub 5:00 (no change)  0  34
Age 70-75 sub 6:00 (no change)  0  33
76+ sub 6:30  0  4

As we can see an 85 additional women qualify under the new procedure, as by splitting the age categories into 5 year increments the second half of a decade get an extra few minutes.

Onto the men ( and this is where the age category jumps get painful in the new procedure):

Men Qualifying Time (in hours) Number under 2:45 Number between 2:45 and QT
Age 18-40 sub 3:05 (no change)  392  701
Age 41-49 sub 3:15  135  1,237
Age 50-59 sub 3:20  15  458
Age 60-64 sub 3:45 (no change)  0  103
Age 65-69 sub 4:00 (no change)  0  58
Age 70-75 sub 5:00 (no change)  0  82
76+ sub 5:30  0  33

Under the old system, 2,672 men would have qualified for GFA places, meaning that 457 will now miss out. This doesn’t sound like much, but it’s quite a high proportion, and it comes from the tighter times for the younger halves of the old age categories. A 54 year old now has to run 3:15 instead of 3:20, a 44 year old 3:05 instead of 3:15.

I feel bad for those who have just run Brighton or Manchester, thinking that they crossed the line in a qualifying time only to find out that not only don’t they meet the new time, but even if they did they are still not guaranteed a place. At least with Boston (where you also need a qualifying time to even apply for a place) there are a lot more places available.

I’m a feminist, but…

I’m a feminist, but (in true Guilty Feminist style) I feel that I need to explain what that means to me, as there is no consensus regarding the term.

Feminism, to me, is the stance that all humans are equal and should therefore have equal rights and access to services. It approaches the fight from a history of the suppression of these rights and access over the years to people identified as ‘women’.

Why have I put ‘women’ in quotes (just regular ones, not scare quotes). Well that’s because the term ‘woman/women’ has become more nuanced and complicated over the years.

It used to be that sex=gender and there were only two option (woman/female or man/male) and that was it. But the turtle moves and it is now (mostly) accepted that sex (which looks at the physical anatomy of an individual’s reproductive organs and secondary sex characteristics) is different from gender (which is a social construct based on roles, behaviours, activities, etc).

At this point I want to apologise if I inadvertently cause someone offence by using the wrong terminology. If I do so, please understand it is an error and I would welcome the opportunity to learn to correct myself if I do offend and if someone has the time and energy to correct me.

Now, back to sex and gender. If we agree, and I hope that we do, that sex and gender are not the same thing (the first being biological, the second social), then it does not end there. Neither sex nor gender are binary, though some would seem to want them to be. Looking at sex first, whilst typically mammals (including humans) carrying XY chromosomes are labelled ‘male’ and those carrying XX chromosomes are labelled ‘female’ this is not a cut-and-dried, black-and-white, situation. An infant’s sex at birth is generally assigned by the midwife/doctor/nurse attending the birth after an examination of their genitalia. This may or may not match the infant’s chromosomes, hormones, other physical characteristics, etc. and in these situations this is typically (currently) labelled as ‘intersex’. So on the sex front it could be considered that there is a scale that at one end has female, goes through intersex, and terminates at male (going alphabetically, because that makes as much sense as any), not two boxes into which each individual must be crammed (cutting off appendages sometimes if deemed ‘necessary’). An individual may be anywhere on this scale.

On to gender. Again, the most recent prevailing view (historically and in some countries this is not the case) is that there are only two genders: the feminine and the masculine. Now, gender being socially constructed has even more scope for fluidity and confusion in understanding precisely because it is a social construct. It looks at the behaviours and attributes that a society determines to relate to the sex an individual is assigned at birth. This can obviously vary between and within societies as well as over time and geography. Since it is a social construct there is no reason why there should only be two genders, and slowly there has been more acceptance of gender fluidity and people identifying as gender neutral (or no gender).

So what does this have to do with feminism?

Well, as I said at the beginning:

Feminism, to me, is the stance that all humans are equal and should therefore have equal rights and access to services. It approaches the fight from a history of the suppression of these rights and access over the years to people identified as ‘women’.

The key part there being ‘people identified as ‘women”. The vast majority of discrimination relating to sex and gender is actually focused on the gender representation of an individual (since most people don’t go around checking genitalia, hormones or chromosomes before they start discriminating). In championing women’s rights through feminism I therefore include anyone who represents themselves as female regardless of the sex that they were assigned at birth when I use the word ‘woman’. I mention this because there has been a disturbing (to me) trend in some sections of feminism (I’m looking at you Germaine Greer) to only include those determined at birth to be female. This, obviously, excludes anybody intersex, transgender, gender fluid, gender neutral, and so on.

I do not see the benefit in using such a narrow, exclusionary, definition of what a woman is. What harm does it do to seeking equal rights and access to services for all people to include those who are subject to some of the worst discrimination? For me, if it isn’t intersectional then it isn’t something I want to fight for. 100 years ago some women (and more men) got the right to vote, but the fight for equal rights to vote didn’t stop there but continued to include all.

I say this from a position of incredible privilege. I have white, heterosexual, cis, middle class, able-bodied, home owning, well educated, and many other privileges. If it weren’t for the fact that I identify as female I would practically be the patriarchy.

I am also lucky enough not to have been the victim of domestic violence, which I mention because one of the arguments for women-only spaces are DV refuges. The vast majority of victims of domestic violence are people who identify as women at the hands of people who identify as men (though not exclusively). It has therefore been proposed that domestic violence refuges should be women-only on a sex (rather than gender) basis. Whilst it is important that the men who physically assault women should not be able to access those women, it does not follow that the people working in such refuges should only be women-by-sex-at-birth, or that only women-by-sex-at-birth should have access to the services. Instead security should be put in place to prevent those specific perpetrators from accessing those specific victims. Transwomen face the same, if not greater, dangers as women-by-sex. It is good to see that bans on transgender staff at women’s refuges are being overturned.

But does this is a fairly extreme example. It is common to hear someone suggest that a woman request a female doctor if they would feel more comfortable regarding an issue or procedure. I am all for people feeling comfortable when accessing any services (particularly with things like therapy after experiencing violence), but why is is considered acceptable to make a request based on gender (since I doubt the patient will check whether the medical professional is female-by-sex-at-birth, only that they present as female)? Is it similarly acceptable to make a request based on race or sexuality? I think we need to think more deeply about the lessons we are teaching women when making such suggestions, and by presenting DV refuges as women-by-sex-at-birth only.

One medical professional should be interchangeable with any other regardless of their sex, gender, race, sexuality, etc. Personally I don’t care what genitalia my doctor, dentist, or the person using the toilet cubicle next to me is. It very rarely comes up as any sort of issue in my day-to-day life. It does, however, run the risk of treating all women as to be trusted and all men as to be unsafe, when in reality any individual may be safe or unsafe.

The only time, in my opinion, when sex is relevant (as opposed to gender) is for certain medical issues, which should only ever come up between the patient and their medical professional (so Germaine Greer can sod off). Weirdly it still persists as a binary issue in sport (though huzzah for the AFL agreeing that Hannah Mouncey can play in the women’s leagues), and (it being awards season) award ceremonies such as the Oscars which has Best Actor and Best Actress but only one aware for Best Director (if you’re going to double up on the acting awards then why not double up on all?).

So, in conclusion, who cares what genitalia an individual has? If you don’t have equal rights or access to services, then I want my feminism to fight for those rights and access for you. I don’t care what your sex-at-birth is/was, I don’t care what your race is, your social status, your sexuality, etc.. And when I wear my feminist mittens, those Venus symbols are intended to include everyone who wants to claim them (and a pussy hat is so named because it looks like a cat). Include, don’t exclude. It is isn’t intersectional, it isn’t worth doing.

nine pic collage

2018 goals – running

All of the books about achieving your goals (running or otherwise) say that formalising, writing down, and telling people about them make you much more likely to succeed. 2017 was a pretty good year, running-wise (and my nine most liked instagram photos were all running related). I set PBs at 10k (40:35), half marathon (90:19) and marathon (3:31:19) distances, and ran my fastest ever 5k (19:25), albeit not on an officially measured course.

I’m hoping aiming to make 2018 even better (it’s certainly going to be more expensive, with 3 overseas races but at time of writing these have all been paid for). I have, as all of the books recommend, set myself A, B and C goals and organised my training around these.

My A races:

  • 22nd April 2018 – London Marathon. I set a big PB in 2017 despite hot conditions and this year I am aiming even higher and training to go sub 3 hrs 20.
  • 16th September 2018 – Berlin Marathon. If London goes well (and even if it doesn’t, so long as I don’t injure myself in training) I am going to train and aim for a sub 3 hr 15 marathon, the championship time for London. In the past I have increased speed over the summer when taking in more rays, so expect this to be true again. Berlin is also notorious as a PB course unlike London with its crowded streets.

My B races:

  • 4th March 2018 – London Big Half Marathon. I didn’t quite manage to get my sub-90 last year, so I’m going to have one more go at the London Big Half as part of my London marathon prep. I am sure that there will be other half marathons scattered throughout the year (indeed one of them is one of my C races) but this will be the first targeted attempt at the sub-90.
  • 7th October 2018 – Chicago marathon. This comes just 3 weeks after Berlin so I won’t be racing it as such, but it is an Abbott World Marathon Major so just attempting to complete it marks it down as a B race. It will be great to see how the city has changed since I was last there in 2003 and if I come out of Berlin OK I think I might be able to manage around 4 hours (but really the aim is just to finish, as a victory lap for the year).

My C races:

  • 11th March 2018 – Lisbon Half Marathon. This is a week after the London Big Half, but was booked in beforehand and is a bit of a jolly with some other Bristol runners. Now that I have set the previous week’s half as a B race this will likely be more of a training run, but it will be my first overseas race.
  • The remaining Weston Prom 5 mile races. I should be able to keep these fairly competitive as marathon tempo runs (with warm ups and cool downs) within my marathon training, to help out with whichever club team I am on (I think it is ‘Bristol & West South Westerlies’).

I would also like to set new 10k and 5k PBs but have not factored them into my existing plans (I get a week or so off after London before starting training again for Berlin) so they will have to be as a consequence of my marathon training if they come rather than anything specifically tailored towards those distances. As such I have not booked any races of this length into my diary yet. I am sure more races will be added during the year (such as the Bristol & West 5k series and the GWR 10k series) but I won’t be adding any more A races, two marathons in a year is plenty to focus on.