Extreme weather?

Haha! Really like this so thought I would share your story! 🙂



Sandwiched between Kensington and Shepherds Bush is the pocket sized microclimate of Holland Park! I walked through it today, taking my chances, after seeing this sign at the entrance, thinking I’d have an adventure.

Blizzard? Ice trekking? Biblical flood to cross? A hurricane to sprint away from? But all was calm and quiet and reassuringly urban. The only adaptation I had to make for the weather conditions was to remove my scarf because it was rather mild.

I was going to run today but didn’t fancy it much. Then walking home from dropping my bike off for its service I noticed how bad the traffic was and hatched a plan. Rather than squeezing in a short run before getting changed and driving to meet people at lunch time I would bin the run, leave early for my meet up and walk there.

Janathon day 26.

5.9 miles walked.
2.4 miles…

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Sights around Kyoto Marathon (Part 3): 20 – 30 kilometres

The beautiful, historic city of Kyoto will host a marathon on February 15th.

This series of posts will focus on the temples, shrines and other attractions dotted along the course. If you are visiting at the time of the marathon to support a friend or loved one, I hope that you will have a chance to visit some of these places! Do spare some time before or after the day of the race to visit some of the other wonderful places there are to see.

Read Part 1.
Read Part 2.

20KM — 25KM

Access: Kitayama Station, Subway Karasuma Line

The runners head south after passing Kamigamo-jinja and make a left turn at Kitayama-dori to start heading east again.

Just before the halfway mark, the race passes the Kyoto Botanical Garden (京都府立植物園). The majority of people coming to Kyoto don’t come here for flora and fauna, but it is fairly large at 240,000 sq. m. with over 12,000 plant species. It is divided into a number of sections including a bamboo forest and bonsai. If you find yourself in need of a break from temples and shrines, this could be the place for you.

There are no major sights further along the road here, though of course Kyoto is never lacking the odd small or relatively unknown shrine and temple where you least expect it. The runners make their way out east until approximately 23k and then turn back along the same road.

My Recommendation to Supporters: This is the first part of the race since Arashiyama that is directly accessible by train (in this case the subway). If you are staying in the Kyoto Station or Shijo-Kawaramachi areas (most popular for hotels) you can simply take the Karasuma Line north. Depending on the pace of the runner you are supporting, you could take a quick look at the gardens in the 40-60 minutes between them passing for the first time and then passing again after the turning point in the course. Or come early if this is the first point along the course where you will be supporting. Combined with Kamigamo further back up the road, you can kill a few hours.

25KM — 30KM

Access: Kitayama, Kitaoji or Kuramaguchi Stations, Subway Karasuma Line

The runners spend a lot of time in a fairly contained area as they run two open loops — one by Kyoto Concert Hall (京都コンサートホール) and one through the gardens. So this makes the perfect spot to see your friends or loved ones.

If you prefer watching down by the river, the race runs down along the Kamo River from around the 27-kilometre mark.

My Recommendation to Supporters: Runners often hit the famous wall around 30k, though I have experienced it as early as 24-26k. While the main causes of the wall are physiological (due to a loss of glycogen in the body), there are also some psychological aspects to it. That little bit of extra support could just make the difference for someone starting to doubt their ability to finish the race.

Part 4 (30 to 35 kilometres) will cover the stretch from Shimogamo-jinja, along the river past the Imperial Palace and towards Kyoto City Hall.

Sights around Kyoto Marathon (Part 2): 10 – 20 kilometres

The beautiful, historic city of Kyoto will host a marathon on February 15th.

This series of posts will focus on the temples, shrines and other attractions dotted along the course. If you are visiting at the time of the marathon to support a friend or loved one, I hope that you will have a chance to visit some of these places! Do spare some time before or after the day of the race to visit some of the other wonderful places there are to see.

Read Part 1.

10KM — 15KM

The course reaches its highest point in this part of Kyoto. Many runners really appreciate support when the lungs are screaming and the legs are stinging. Not only is this a great place for cheering, but there are also a number of wonderful and very diverse temples all within walking distance of one another.

At around the 11km mark on the left-hand / north side of the road, the runners will first pass Ninna-ji (仁和寺). Ninna-ji is known for its five-storey pagoda. It is another World Heritage site – there are seventeen in total in the city – and dates back to 888.

About a kilometre further up the road, we pass Ryoan-ji (龍安寺). This temple is home to the best-known rock garden in Japan. You can spend ages musing at what it all means. Nobody knows, but that’s part of the fun!

The race passes Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺), the famous Golden Pavilion seen in every Japan guide book, just before it reaches the 15K point. Yet another reason to make it up to this part of Kyoto if you are there to support a runner.

My Recommendation to Supporters: With a number of famous temples along a five-kilometre stretch, this is a good place to offer your support. However, buses are the best way to reach this part of the city and are affected by the race. Might be worth visiting these temples on a different day.

15KM — 20KM

This stretch is the furthest north in the city that the race goes. The main sites it passes are Daitoku-ji (大徳寺), Imamiya-jinja (今宮神社) and Kamigamo-jinja (上賀茂神社).

Daitoku-ji has around twenty Zen sub-temples and a number of Zen gardens. The temple dates back to the fourteenth century.

Next up is Imamiya-jinga. Built in 1001 to protect against an epidemic in the Murasakino area, this is a very beautiful and ornate shrine.

Kamigamo-jinja is one of the oldest shrines in all Japan. It was built in 678. Along with its sister shrine, Shimogamo-jinja, it is said to protect Kyoto from evil influences.

My Recommendation to Supporters: Some very nice shrines and temples in this northern district of Kyoto. Like the area around Kinkaku-ji, this area is well served by buses, but these will be affected by the race.

After a diversion out to the east, Part 3 (20 to 30 kilometres) will cover the part of the course where the race turns back south towards the city centre. Runners and supporters are greeted by the botanical gardens, the concert hall, a nice stretch along the river and Kamigamo’s sister.

Sights around Kyoto Marathon (Part 1): Start – 10 kilometres

On February 15th, I will run the Kyoto Marathon. Kyoto brings me many wonderful memories as I think back on the hundreds of times I went there. First as a tourist: with friends, or showing my visiting relatives around; then as an English Language Teaching consultant helping schools and programme coordinators to decide on the right materials for their classes; but most of all the place where I got married. Kyoto is former capital of Japan and exemplifies the quintessence of of this country’s rich history and culture.

This series of posts will focus on the temples, shrines and other attractions dotted along the course. If you are visiting at the time of the marathon to support a friend or loved one, I hope that you will have a chance to visit some of these places! Do spare some time before or after the day of the race to visit some of the other wonderful places there are to see.


Start – 9:00am Nishikyogoku Stadium (西京極総陸上競技場). Access: Nishikyogoku Station, Hankyu Line
This is a large sporting complex with an athletic stadium at its centre. It is best-known throughout Japan as the start and finish for the All-Japan High Schools Ekiden. The girls’ athletic team from my former school Hanamaki Higashi were perennial qualifiers in the days when I was teaching there. The stadium is also the home of Kyoto Purple Sanga, the local J-League football team. Runners will pass two large shrines – Umenomiya Taisha (梅宮大社) [around 3km from start] and Matsu-no-o Taisha (松尾大社) [around 4km from start]

The start will be very crowded. 15,900 runners have entered the full marathon, plus about 200 “pair ekiden” entrants and 20 wheelchair athletes. Judging by other races, depending on where in the crowd you are, it could take quite a while to even cross the start line.

My Recommendation to Supporters: Save it for later! Unless you have a very prominent flag or costume, it is impossible to pick someone out of the crowd whether you are a spectator or you are a runner looking out for a friend or loved one, it may be better to steer clear of the start and choose a more picturesque part of Kyoto to wait for him/her to pass. Moreover, all runners are pumped on adrenalin at the start and don’t really need the extra kick that a cheer from a husband, wife or child provides. They will do later!

5KM — 10KM

Saga/Arashiyama District (嵯峨・嵐山). Access: Saga-Arashiyama Station, Sagano Line

Just as the runners are getting into their rhythm and the field begins to stretch out slightly, the marathon cuts right through the hilly Arashiyama and Saga, one of the most popular and beautiful districts of Kyoto. There are lots of places to see in this area. There is a fairly large hill after the runners pass Daikaku-ji, so for runners who need a little extra support before, during or just after, this may be a good place to stand with a flag!

Tenryu-ji (天龍寺) is a World Heritage Site and the first of Kyoto’s five great Zen temples. The temple dates back to the 14th Century though it has been rebuilt many times. The garden, which includes a pond, pine trees and a bamboo grove, remains in its original form. If you have travelled from overseas for this marathon, this temple is one of the must-see places. So you might want to reserve it for a rest day.

Among the many other sights in the area, Seiryo-ji (清凉寺) and Daikakuji (大覚寺) – both with a history of over 1000 years are well worth a visit.

My Recommendation to Supporters: This is a great setting for cheering and sightseeing at the same time. While the runners are getting changed and gearing up for the start, head out to Arashiyama and take a few pictures while staking out a cheering spot. Arashiyama is in the north-west of the city and is usually reached by the JR Sanin Line from Kyoto Station. A number of buses also serve the area, but these will be affected by the race.

Part 2 (10 to 20 kilometres) will take in the famous temples of Ninna-ji, Ryoan-ji and Kinkaku-ji as well as the shrines of Imamiya-jinja and Kamigamo-jinja.

Ups and downs: A question of mindset

One running goal missed and one achieved. That’s how 2014 ended.

2013 went so well, achieving the 2000-kilometre target weeks before year-end. 2014 was a different story and though I covered less distance, it was a much harder journey. It didn’t kill me so it must have made me stronger in true Nietzsche tradition. With scars to prove it, I feel invigorated and ready for the next challenge.

distance 13 v 14

Over the last two and a half years since running has come back into my life, it has been more than a mere metaphor for my life itself. Setting goals has pushed me to some huge efforts but has also at times made me want to throw in the towel!

Here is an account of the last year and what I have learnt along the way.

The year started really well. After achieving my 2000k target in early December and setting a new target to run 1000k in the five months until my 40th birthday, I was on the crest of a wave. I went on to run my biggest ever month in January. This set me up nicely for “Tokyo” at the end of February. At the Tokyo Marathon, I set a very ambitious 3:30:00 target – 10 minutes quicker than my PB. Tokyo was the first of three marathons I ran last year.
While I started well and was 15 minutes ahead of schedule at 30k, my overzealousness got the better of me in the last 12k. I slowed down significantly, resisting the urge to walk. My eventual time was 3:32:13. During these last 12 kilometres my self-talk turned negative as I focused on the the pain I was feeling rather than on achieving a challenging goal. Japanese novelist, Murakami Haruki said in his memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running:

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.

My feelings at the finish were mixed: joy at finishing with a good time and not walking; despair at not meeting my target. My thinking was turning towards self doubt and I was choosing to suffer – not just during the race, but after too. My extended honeymoon period with running was now over and I found it hard to get out on the road again. Hindsight now tells me that I managed to get to the end without walking because I had trained so rigorously. It would take me until later in the year to learn this lesson of tenacity.


march june
My passion for running reached its lowest ebb. I took a rest after the exertions of Tokyo. While I needed to be averaging 200k per month to meet my goal, I struggled to run more than 75 in March and a paltry baker’s dozen in April. By the time of my 40th birthday, I was nearly 500k (a mere 48%) shy of my goal. I have to take this opportunity here to thank my wife again for all the birthday party planning – behind my back – in bringing my father and many of my friends to Kamata to surprise me!

Source: runkeeper.com

I didn’t have the appetite to set a new goal right away having failed so miserably!

Finally on June 1st, I set a new goal: seven months to run 1000k by year-end. While June was also not a great month, I did start to rebuild my habit again. It may sound basic, but commtting to these basic steps has worked for me:

  1. Set alarm
  2. Get up an hour early
  3. Put on running gear
  4. Step outside

If I achieve the above, I succeed in going for a run. When excuses set in, it is usually because I wait until after work to run.

Anyone who knows Japan will know that these are the most unbearable months of the year when the humidity and temperature combine to create a double whammy of stickiness. And this is just from raising an arm to press the remote control. Running is not well advised during these months unless very early in the morning or late at night. But when you have a commitment to running, you have to overcome every excuse for not going out, even if you run the risk of getting complaints from your wife about stinky, sweaty running gear 😉
In 2013 I didn’t use it as an excuse as I ran more than 200k in August and September in preparation for the Osaka Marathon. In 2014, this dropped significantly though I did give myself a ready-made excuse: a career change!

July to September happened to coincide with the biggest change in my career in ten years, when I brought a close to my very rewarding and enjoyable time in publishing for a role working with a wider cross-section of industries spanning the public and private sector.
While I stepped up my efforts in July, as I got closer to leaving my old job and starting my new job, I let busy-ness keep me off the road more often than I would have liked. It was easy at the time to justify taking a day off here and there, but as I re-learned later, I need to go for a run to refresh my spirit and relieve the stress of the day!

As Nelson Mandela famously said:

In some ways, I saw the garden as a metaphor for certain aspects of my life. A leader must also tend his garden; he, too, plants seeds, and then watches, cultivates, and harvests the results. Like the gardener, a leader must take responsibility for what he cultivates; he must mind his work, try to repel enemies, preserve what can be preserved, and eliminate what cannot succeed.

Running is my garden.

mar to jun


October and November brought new challenges as I learned my new job. Anyone who has changed careers will have experienced “Impostor Syndrome“. During my first three months, I allowed myself many times to suffer from these symptoms. Once again, it was running that provided me with a crutch, when at other times I might have used my travails as an excuse to take a day off training here and there. So I did my best to run as much as I could. I took my running gear on a business trip and managed to get runs in in Northern Ireland (Belfast), Scotland (beautiful Edinburgh including the Royal Mile and the castle), and my hometown in England (past Warwick Castle – an even more beautiful construction than Edinburgh Castle – excuse my bias)! Of course it helped that I had to run two marathons during this period.

At the end of October, I ran Osaka for the second time. After my 3:32 at Tokyo, I entered the race confident that I could run 3:30. I was quietly confident of 3:20. What I chose to ignore was my training record. With a poor summer record to compare against the previous year, I was deluding myself. While I was on target for 3:16:00 at halfway, I hit the wall at 26 kilometres and faded fast. Though I will spare the photo, it didn’t help that I had developed a blood blister covering a quarter of my left foot! Succumbing to the pain, I made myself suffer through the shame of walking, hobbling, trotting, cramping up and getting a free massage through the last sixteen kilometres. A poor but justifiable return on my investment: 4:27:45 – more than an hour slower than my secret target.

Just a few days after Osaka, I received a package in the post from Fujisan Marathon – a race around two of the five lakes near Mt. Fuji at the end of November. In the excitement of changing jobs, I had forgotten that I had entered! My wife frantically booked the last room in a hotel right near the start line. Thanks again for the support you give to me Eri! My expectations were much lower, but with the benefit of Osaka and my autumn runs still in my legs, I ran the course in 3:40:54. If I hadn’t succumbed yet again to walking with four kilometres to go, I would have achieved around 3:35:00.


While I had managed to pick up my run rate in the autumn, I had left myself with lots to do in December. In order to achieve my 1000k target by New Year’s Eve, I would need to run 212 kilometres. I knew this wasn’t impossible as I had achieved this before in January and also September 2013. But at the same time, I knew that I would need to run most days to make it happen. In June 2012, it was a public declaration of intent that gave me the impetus to begin running. So I tried the same tactic, posting this image on social media:


It worked! On New Year’s Eve, I managed to run the last 14 kilometres needed in order to meet my goal.

Source: runkeeper.com

Seven days into 2015, I am tracking nicely towards my 2,015km target. As I re-learned the importance of habit, each month I will commit to running at least 150 kilometres. My next marathon will be in my favourite Japanese city of Kyoto.

And if you fancy a run in Tokyo from time to time, let me know! It would be great to encourage one another!