24 Aug In the Spotlight – Malcolm Bradley
My first race was in June 1966 [not a typo], already I sense you thinking that this could take forever and eyeing the scroll bar to see how long it is.
It was the School Sports Day, I was in the 5th form, I’d just finished my GCE’s and was in the half-mile, [I think this equates to; Year 11, GCSE’s, 800m nowadays].
I finished 2nd, but that was only out of the four Houses. I’ve no idea how long I took, as it was just another lesson and, like all other lessons, I just paid lip service to it without any great enthusiasm. However, I’ve just run a 1km event in 4:10 and I’m sure it took longer than that! It’s still likely to remain my highest finishing position (in an 800m, Malcolm, let’s not be too modest here! ED)
Like quite a few other Members, I then took a gap year for; career, family, etc.
I played no sports in; school, college or job training. However, when I first started my first real job at Didcot Power Station, aged 23, I started playing Rugby and Badminton and improved rapidly at both. You’ll probably think that my build is too slight to be a rugby player, but I was about 10kg heavier then – I could claim that it was all muscle, but we are talking about Rugby in the 70’s!
It was during this time, that I first recall being tired – i.e. of the utterly exhausted kind. Friday evening we played a badminton match away to Banbury, managed to win and celebrated before the return journey. Saturday – rugby away to Aldershot – being an Army team they were big and very fit, I spent the whole afternoon tackling – we won 4-3, [Again, not a typo – four points were awarded for a try from 1971 to 1992]. Sunday – rugby again – a cup match away to Newbury. Normally, our 1st XV would play their 4th XV, but not for the cup. We played their first’s and were beaten 52-0 and that’s when I first recall the experience of being shattered. Since then, it’s become all too common, largely from working long, unsocial shifts in arduous conditions, but, more latterly, from giving it all in races, with a bit of jet-lag thrown in for good measure.
One abiding rugby memory is from the annual Easter tour to Paris. In the opening match, I scored my first “international” try, but, by the end of the match my foot was injured. For the evening pub crawl, my foot was so badly swollen that I couldn’t get a shoe on, so I hobbled around the streets of Paris with one bare foot. Fortunately [!], although it was the end of March, the weather was literally freezing and this helped to numb the pain. [I also recall that the weather was so cold that the ferry door had iced up preventing the coach leaving for 3 hours]. At the end of the evening, the captain calmly advised me that I’d been selected to play as open-side flanker again in the morning’s match!
I moved to Cardiff in 1979 and played no more rugby, but continued to play league badminton until 2003. I realised then that I was losing more games than I was winning [poor partners!] so I just stopped.
Oh yes, running – I’ve digressed – my next race. I’d joined a gym by then and members there persuaded me to enter the Swansea 10k in 2003, so my Gap Year took 37 YEARS! Again, I didn’t know how long it took, as I was so raw that I didn’t even wear a watch. It was actually 53 minutes – I’ve recently completed a 10k event in 47 minutes.
In some ways, I feel that I’m living my life “back-to-front”. Having done very little as a youngster, when I moved to Cardiff, I joined a walking club, then, 33 years later, on retiring in 2010, I joined a running club – Penarth and Dinas Runners.
Whilst walking in the hills, I would see other people in running events. It never entered my head / came into my thoughts / crossed my mind that I should do so. If anyone had suggested then that I’d be doing so after I retired, I would have dismissed it out of hand.
I’d become faster as I gained experience, but my times had plateaued . However, when I retired I took off again – freed from the shackles of shift work, where I felt like death for half the time, and maybe joining The Club played a part.
Cotswold Classic Ironman – to the uninitiated, this is only half an Ironman Triathlon, so ‘only’ 70.3 miles – therein lies another tale.
Regarding runs only, it would have to be my first London Marathon in 2015. It’s commonly said to have 3 target times when entering a long event, as well as actually finishing, viz: a not a good day time, a ballpark time, and a dream time. For me these were: 4:00, 3:45 & 3:30 – to achieve 3:30 needs an average pace of 8 min/mile [allows a few seconds of leeway]. My preparation had been good, my pace was extremely steady. I overtook the 3:30 pacer going down the Mall. My average pace was exactly 8:00 min/mile – my time – wait for it – drum roll …………….. exactly 3:31. How so – well, inevitably, I’d run further than the 26.2 miles – only the elite front runners can follow the thin blue line exactly. How did I feel afterwards – quite ecstatic frankly – privileged to have performed in one of the world’s great sporting events.
Most unusual event
This would be “Man v Mountain” in 2013. Essentially, a run from sea-level to the top of Snowdon, down to Llanberis to complete an obstacle course before finishing – more than 20 miles. At the start, from within Caernarvon Castle, the weather was about 10’C with drizzle – just right for running. However, as you ascended, conditions worsened, at the summit it was a freezing, howling gale. I sympathised with the marshal stationed at the trig’ checkpoint. As I descended, conditions gradually improved and the activity maintained my core temperature. The obstacle course consisted of about 10 events, some of them in Llanberis Lake. These were actually OK, as it was the start of September and the water temperature was warmer than the air – about 18’C. One of the obstacles was abseiling down a rock-face – just a bit of fun. The issue was the 45 minute queue to have your turn, no problem with the time for the delay, as they stopped the clock, but this is when I became COLD. One of the final obstacles was to swim across the river feeding the lake. It wasn’t far across, but I‘m a poor swimmer and was hampered by the compulsory life jacket – I made it by doing backstroke. Whilst the lake was warm, the water in the river had just come down the mountain and was freezing. At the finish, in the Electric Mountain centre, I donned the space blanket, drank hot, strong coffee, shivered – and repeat a few times. Talking to two fellow competitors in the evening, I was asked what the obstacle course was like. It turned out that they found the conditions so bad at the peak that they’d dropped out and taken the train down. These were youngish, fit young men, experienced in long distance events who had travelled from Hertfordshire to compete!
First Man v Horse for a few reasons. It’s hard enough normally, ~21 miles of hilly multi-terrain. It was 2 miles longer that year [2012?] due to forestry works. My long term preparation was poor. Having just returned from holiday, I was: tired, jet-lagged, unfit & overweight. It was hot. No nutrition plan – there was only water supplieden-route and I carried only 4 Shot Bloks. Short term preparation was poor – wrong turn on journey there [did stop for directions and bottle of Lucozade, that WAS a good move]. On the last, of three, stages I asked every marshal “How much further” – completely drained at the end – a lot of lessons learned that day.
The great outdoors –
anyone who knows will be aware that I’m a great lover of the countryside and this extends to running events. I love the atmosphere at the Gwent League cross-country events and not just for the cakes.
My history of marathons is a bit mixed – again, I felt that this was something that other, younger, runners did. However, having completed 10 halves, so many people would say, “So you’ve not done a full one then?” No one would accept that 10 halves is equal to 5 wholes, so I determined to do one. I entered Newport Marathon when it appeared on the calendar despite it not being affiliated. Having completed it, my shiny new Garmin displayed 23.6 miles – oops! I took some stick for that, I hadn’t gone wrong, the course was that much short!
My next one was the “Cheltenham Circular Challenge”, as it’ name suggests you do a complete circuit of Cheltenham. The event was quite odd in that you could start whenever you wanted [within limits] as it was chip-timed with numerous checkpoints. Also, it joined up all the countryside footpaths surrounding the town so you were issued with a 24 page booklet to help you find the route. Suffice to say there were many bewildered souls trying to find the way. I did complete it but I ran 27.5 miles and it took me 5:09.
So, my first real, decent one was Abingdon, my old stamping ground. I got it right this time, finishing in 3:36, gaining me GFA for London. I told people that I’d improved my PB by 1:33 and no, not 1 minute 33 sec, but 1 hour and 33 minutes!
Most embarrassing moment?
Final leg of the Welsh Castles Relay – as well as the hot one in ’18, I was also chosen for the “glory leg” in both ’11 & ‘12 when it finished inside the castle grounds. Having done it in 2011, I knew EXACTLY where to finish in 2012 – so I did …………. only to here shouts of “go on“ & “keep going” – they’d moved the finish point around the corner – in the time it took me to finish, two men passed me – not a huge issue as it’s based on overall time and cost me about 10 seconds. However, I’ve been subject to a lot of banter, then and over the years.
For a few years in the early ‘10’s, Welsh Athletics organised a tournament on a similar basis to our Club Championship. Along with Andrea, Lisa & Yvonne, I was fortunate enough to win my age category for three consecutive years. We had some great celebrations at the presentation evenings.
Who do you admire in running?
Well, I look up to Usain Bolt, but then, he is 5 inches taller than me! Within the Club – a lot to choose between, but if it is just one, it would be Yvonne, [not just for running either]. She, too, started very late to running but improved in stellar fashion. Going from zero to marathon in just a couple of years, I believe. Before her career change, she completed 13 marathons in a period of about 6 months. It would have been 14 if the “Narberth Nobbler” had better signage.
What golden piece of advice would you give to other runners?
JOIN A CLUB – preferably this one. There’s a lot more to running than putting one foot in front of the other faster than walking – I’m still learning a lot after 17 years. A main reason is that a club will provide advice that’s appropriate to an individual – it’s not the same as reading “Runners World”. Other reasons are: encouragement, motivation, camaraderie [i.e. banter], social side, shared travel to events, affiliation…..
I can’t match Abyd or Simon in these stakes, but there are a few Rugby players I could mention. I’ve shared a rugby pitch with [the] JPR. It was the Berkshire 7’s tournament at Windsor. I didn’t play against him, but he walked onto the pitch after one match as I walked on for the next. He looked straight through me – if we’d met on the pitch, no doubt he’d have run straight through me too! We were thrashed in the first round, whilst his London Welsh team [I think] went on to win the tournament.
Regarding running, I’ve beaten both Gareth “Alfie” Thomas and Shane Williams at a London Marathon. In both cases, it was in the early days of their career change – it won’t happen anymore as they have both improved hugely.
Regarding runners, I am the proud possessor of two “IBEATIWAN” T-Shirts for the inaugural 10ks at Barry & Porthcawl in 2018 & 2019. Each time, I overtook him at about 6k – he’s a readily recognisable character, being big and having orange hair to match his T-Shirt. I had a quick word when passing him, reminding him of the “no overtaking from here-on” rule – graciously, he complied.
At a Cardiff 10k, when warming down, I was surprised to hear an announcement that Jamie Baulch has just finished – I had a cheeky word in his ear along the lines of “what kept you?”
What event, past or present, would you like to take part in and why?
Regrets, I’ve had a few….. I’ve been selected to represent Wales three times, but had a holiday pre-booked on each occasion. I would have loved to represent my country.
What’s next? –
A hopefully, long and [un]gracious retirement.
Who would you like to nominate?
Andy Pearce – I suspect it will be interesting.
Enough – my, one, typing finger is developing RSI.