Riga Marathon 2014 – First time in front of my ‘home’ fans
Saturday 17th May
The morning started with a training session with some of the elite runners at Mezaparks, which is located on the outskirts of the city. This beautiful huge park is the ideal setting for a light training session in glorious bright sunshine. It was a great pleasure to train and run with the Japanese elite team made of Yu Chiba (who eventually won the marathon the next day in a time of 02:13:43, beating Kenyan Geoffrey Gikuni Ndungu by a second), Koji Matsuoka (5th place) and Sento Tasunori (6th place), and also Kenyan Duncan Koech (who finished 3rd). Also in the training were local runners and it was a great pleasure to train with the elites and got to know quite a few new people. Local girls Sandra and Agnese from ‘Sports Laboratory’ took up the warm up session which we all loosened our muscles before going on a 1.5km run through the park before heading back to the entrance of the park situated next to the zoo for some stretches.
When we arrived at Mezapark, Ollie & I were greeted by one of the race organisers who knew who I was straight away as I doing a lot of promoting and social media networking in the run up to the weekend and received a warm welcome. Via a megaphone a few moments later, he introduced the elite runners and also myself and Ollie (guests from Great Britain, an honour and immense pride when he announced that!) After the training he took us to a news reporter and cameraman from the national television station ‘LNT’ (Latvia), and we did an interview about our chances for the race the next day, why race in Riga and any advice we could give to viewers who were running in the next day. I thought the interview was well conducted and done professionally.
Later on that afternoon it was time to chill out so we watched the Ice Hockey Championships on the television in a huge in a huge tent in the centre of the city. Took a walk afterwards in the sunshine before meeting friends from Latvia and Belarus before having another carb meal in an traditional Latvian restaurant. No sign of nerves, kit prepared and a decent night’s sleep followed.
Sunday 18th May
It was a bit of a weird start to the day. With the usual preparations and breakfast eaten, I took the tram into the centre from the northern suburbs of Riga. Not many people were seen on the streets, the sun was out, and when I boarded the tram in my kit (no jumpers or tracksuits needed as it was warm and also my wife would bring my kit bag later on in the day as I left her asleep in bed), there were a few runners inside but was mostly empty. Did the residents of Riga know there was a marathon in town today? I rang Ollie who was having breakfast so I said to him I meet him after the race as I wanted to get down there early as part of my pre-marathon preparations.
On the river embankment I managed to do my warm ups before the officials let the runners go inside the starting areas. I was right at the front with the elite runners and it was great to see some of the runners I made friends with from the previous day. With television cameras swooping down on us and receiving a mention via the loudspeakers, nerves were setting in. I was speaking to a few other elite runners who gave me some tips and before I knew it, we were off, running westwards along Eksporta Iela before turning back towards Old Town. The crowds were big and loved the ones looking from the Vansu Bridge above the runners as we would run underneath them, waving their flags.
The heat was getting unbearable but I did not want a repeat performance like the one in Milton Keynes marathon two weeks earlier. There were plenty of water stations on route to keep me cool so at every station I drank a cup of water and a cup of orange squash. The crowds were amazing and kept me going all the way. The route eventually took the runners across the Vansu bridge then onto Kipsala island located in the middle of the Daugava river, before heading back onto the Vansu bridge, turning around at the southern end before heading back across the bridge into the heart of the Old Town and pass the sights of the Freedom Monument and the Laima Clock. The crowds here were huge but there were also music stands and locals in traditional dresses giving the runners high-five’s as they run pass.
After a tour of the old town the route took the runners of the marathon and half marathon down 11.Novembra Krastmala and south out of the city to the Lido restaurant with the crazy windmill. The road was long and not many views to look at on the way apart from the tall and thin television tower on the other side of the river. Turning around at Lido, the runners turned back towards the Old Town, pass the start/finish area before heading into another suburb where Arena Riga is located (home of my favourite ice hockey team, Dinamo Riga). A tour around there was nice but by now my legs was tired. Three marathons in thirteen days have taken its toll and now I was doing a mile just under ten minutes instead of eight. Back around parts of the Old Town, then over the Vansu Bridge where Ollie overtook me at such a pace (and he had a knee injury, how he does it I don’t know!). I couldn’t keep pace with him but he was now after a personal best and I knew I was still on course for a time of less than four hours.
A tour of Kipsala Island wasn’t the nicest part of the course, a little bit run down, not many people watching the event and the Russian music stage located here was way too loud. Back into the Old Town and I kept running. The drag up Brivibas Iela was long and horrid despite the excellent crowds but I kept pushing and pushing, slogging it out in the heat. Pass the Blackheads house, the final 195 meters I sprinted. I ripped off my tea towel off my head, did a crazy celebration whilst punching the air as I crossed the finish line. Job completed, crowds were going mental and the guy speaking into the loudspeaker said something about me but wasn’t too sure what he was saying.
I was supposed to do a 5km race afterwards (about thirty minutes after I finished), but my body was tired so I gave it a miss. Walking back through the old town and the crowds with my free non alcohol beer which I got given at the finish, I thought to myself I could do the 5km and I wished I did. The day finished with a rest and a 50cm pizza and lots and lots of beer.
Riga marathon is a well organised event, a very flat course which runners could get personal best times on and the crowds are excellent. Its value for money, the quality of the t-shirt is impressive and the finisher’s medal is one of the best I have got. I will be back next year.
Position: 577th out of 1,226
16th fastest person out of 24 runners from the United Kingdom.
Riga Marathon 2015 – Personal Best!
I did what I set out to do today and beat my marathon time. Ok I was aiming for 3h15 but it wasn’t to be and had to settle with 03-16-21 beating my previous time by 4 minutes and 15 seconds. Also a course best smashing last years Riga time of 03-58-27. I said if it rains hard and I can get the crowd behind me then I would produce a performance and a positive result.
Then I took up the 5km challenge afterwards. Not sure on position but there were thousands of runners. I clocked a time of 28-41 which is my slowest time ever but who gives a dam? To me it was a lap of honour.
Feeling top of the world right now. Like to say a huge PALDIES for all those who came out and saw me, Riga – you are amazing and I can’t wait to return next year. To all my friends and family back home your supportive messages are inspiring. Thank you for pushing me! Ejam! Alus!! Ja! Ja! Ja!
Riga Marathon 2016
For the third year in the row I took part in the Riga marathon in Latvia. I call this my ‘home’ marathon after all my connections with the Baltic country. I knew what to expect from the race, the course, the atmosphere, the build up and I was hoping after recovering from my back injury in the London Marathon three weeks earlier that I might be able to put on a good performance and stay injury free.
But first the usual build up, collecting the race numbers and doing a few bits and pieces with the media near the Arena Riga.
The day before the marathon (despite the heavy rain) I was doing an elite training session in Mezaparks, a huge park in the north of the city with some of Latvia’s finest runners and eventually the Africans came to play but decided not to run in the rain and stay warm. However meeting them and doing the interviews with Latvian television was a great experience (and I was totally soaked afterwards…not a good state to be in before a marathon).
In the afternoon it was time for the ‘Parade of Nations’ where a parade of all the nations who are taking part in the marathon get to walk from the Freedom Monument down to the riverside whilst someone holds up the flag and a sign saying the name of that country. Then there was a little presentation at the end and also got to meet my great friend and race director for the second time that day, Aigars Nords. He knows how to organise an event.
The next day, it was race day. Near the front again and was mingling with the elites. Got on television again by doing an interview on the roadside. Then I was off. A great start, fast pacing. Could I get a fast time here, I know what to do, so I went for it. The crowds were fantastic once again and love the local support. They really did spur me on.
Race action from the Marathon
However my pacing went down big time after mile twenty, I just didn’t have the race pace in me and had to go a lot slower than expected. No injuries or anything, just didn’t have the pace. I was gutted. Still I crossed the line in 03-50-22 in 641st place.
That was not the end of the event for me. An hour later after crossing the line I was in the 6km event and used that as a cool down. There was no way I was abler to race in that after finishing a marathon, the rain chucking it down, roads were getting flooded and lots of runners on the course, half of which probably never done an event in their life. I did finish the course in 38 minutes and 18 seconds, didn’t really care about the time but I got a second medal of the day and I cooled down well.
I can’t wait for 2017 Riga Marathon….bring it on!
Riga Marathon 2017
The build up to my fourth time I will compete in the Riga Marathon consisted of the Parade of Nations, training with the elite athletics, press conference and of the course, picking up the numbers. Here is a few of the highlights before race day.
It hurts but will not be defeated. After feeling comfortable at running at a steady pace for the first 14 miles (23km), I collapse just before the start of the second lap of the Riga Marathon in Latvia this morning. My left hamstring gave way. I knew I couldn’t run after that. But I didn’t come all the way here for my ‘home’ marathon to get a DNF (Did Not Finish). I just brushed myself off and managed to power walk the rest of the course (12 miles!)
I was fine doing this until the last 2km where the hamstring was getting tighter and tighter and was finding it tough. It was the mentality which did not leave me. The locals spurred me on and thanks to Claire for walking certain parts of the 2nd lap with me.
Was very emotional at the end, all the guys on the sideline trying to make me run to the finish line but I couldn’t. At the end of the day, I done what I came out to do…complete my fourth Riga Marathon. Now time to get that bloody leg fixed! Oh… final time. 05:33:33 and finished 1601 out of 1640 runners.
And in 2018, a year after ‘that’ failure…..
So, 2017 wasn’t great. I was unfit, overweight and on a downhill spiral in my life. I was at an all-time low on and off the tarmac. In December 2017 I was given the opportunity to get my running career back on track with Craig from KineoRun who deal with training runners in all type of distances. Craig took on the challenge and managed to get me to shed a few stones over the winter months and somehow got my fitness back on track. OK, I wasn’t back to my former glory but I was on the right track. I gave up beer, trained in San Francisco, Svalbard and France and even managed to get a place in the World Championships at half-marathon distance wearing Latvian colours (check out my blog post here. In that time I also got a personal best at 20 mile (32km) distance. Training was go well until nine days before where I was doing a tempo run and managed to do damage on my muscle on my calf muscle. At first I thought it would put me off my marathon comeback in Riga the following week. I couldn’t walk on my right leg, struggled to get up staircases. Craig and Tracey (from ProRehab Therapy) did their best to get me fit enough and recover quickly before race day. Nine days is not a lot of time to recover from this type of injury but I was recovering quickly and the day before the race I had a late fitness test which I passed.
Going into the race I knew in the back of my mind my muscle may not hold. The race started and managed to hold the pace what Craig wanted me to do but a few miles in I could feel my muscle not hurting but feeling heavy, still, I kept the pace. The crowds were out on the streets of the Latvian capital which spurred me on but I wasn’t enjoying the heat of the spring sunshine. I made a decision on mile 11 that I would finish the race at the end of the first lap of the two lap course (as the half marathon finishes there). I didn’t want to do anymore damage on my muscle and I had an another event at the end of June to which I knew I could fully recover for. I got to the finish line of the half-marathon distance and to be honest, the feelings afterwards, I wasn’t disappointed. I knew I did the right thing and it was time to focus on plan ‘B’ ahead of my next marathon. The only shame was that I didn’t finish this marathon as it was a special medal rewarded to all finishers at the end of the race as it was Latvia’s 100th birthday this year. Oh well, my health and fitness comes first. Still, I enjoy the experience in the best marathon in Europe and will I be back in 2019…should be. Craig is behind me and I am sure he will get me fully race fit and back to my best by then.
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