Alex Van Tuyl - This Boy can Run!

Posted on Fri, Jan 06, 2017

When Justin asked me to do a season write up, the main issue was how to keep it short enough. 3 marathons, 3 ultras, 5 halves, and a triathlon for good measure, seemed like a few too many events to cover in a single post. Instead I thought it would be better, and briefer, to pick out a few of the highlights.

Having known Justin for a few years now, and having seen the Maverick races go from an idea to what it is today, it’s amazing. I really enjoy the races because of the quality of the courses. Seems to me that all the races now are all about bigger, longer, tougher, which I don’t always think is the right direction to go. I’ve done my fair share of mountain runs, and loved all of them, but I think the direction the Maverick team have gone, with the courses they have, is much better. The races can be run quickly, for the speed freaks, and can be achieved by all levels of fitness, rather than a test of survival, for those who are just starting out. For me personally, I much prefer this, so credit to the Maverick team for bucking the trend here. I also have to give Justin and Ben thanks for the support I’ve had over this season. Merci beaucoup!

Cape Town

I was lucky enough to go to Cape Town in March this year, and it has to be one the most incredible cities I have ever been too. James, a mate from university had a house in Camps bay, with Table Mountain leaning over you from behind, and the ocean expanding out in front, the place was beautiful. Few pointers on CT, wine tours are ludicrously cheap, and the wine is fantastic. The nightlife is equally good, although being used to London prices for alcohol and food, I did often find myself with more drinks to hand than planned. With Table Mountain imposing itself of every vista in the city, it was only a matter of time before I had convinced James that it would be a good idea to run up it……

The Mountain is so steep, with trails snaking all over it, give a multitude of steep climbs up. Once on the top, the views over CT, and to Kirstenbosch and Constantia where stunning.  A 7mile run racked up a healthy 4000ft of vertical, pretty much from sea level to

the top, and straight back down. I think my total mileage in CT was around 50mi, and I neared 25,000ft of vertical in that, which the quads were not too happy about!  The adrenalin kick from scrambling up the sheer sides of the mountain have to have made this one of my favorite places to have run so far.


Echappee Belle 

52 Alpine miles, 6000 m of uphill and 7000 m of downhill. I learnt that going downhill is actually worse. I always forget how big the Alps are, and stepping off the train in Aguibelle, and looking up and seeing these giants towering up to the sky, my knees felt considerably weaker.

I had done the same race last year with a friend, and the whole experience, bar both of our inability to walk after, was fantastic, and I had decided to do it again this year, with the main aim of knocking a few hours off the previous years time.

Standing on my own, in a random French village, staring at the monsters surrounding me, I was feeling pretty crap. I knew how hard the run was, and I knew that I would be spending the better part of the next day on my feet, and I knew that that was a long time to be suffering on my own. By a stroke of pure luck however, I met Martin. I ended up running the whole race with him, and the company he provided was the main reason I managed to limp over the finish line 18hrs later.

The weather was spectacular. Not a cloud in the sky, and the temperature soared above 30 degrees around midday, adding to the sheer brutality of the course.

The second climb of the day, 1500m vertical gain in ONE climb, up over the Col de Moretan, and gave some of the most stunning views I can remember. Slipping down the mini glacier on the other side was also when I began to realize that this race is a pretty serious undertaking.

Martin and myself made good time, until about 10 miles to go, when a huge thunderstorm broke just as the sun began to set. I have never felt so small than being up at 2000m, and seeing lightening striking all around. I was also pretty concerned, and put on as much speed as we could to get down below the tree line. From here one small climb of 500 vm was left followed by a final 1000vm descent into Aiguebelle. In my book, 500m of uphill is not small, and I was really starting to question how I could be so stupid as to do this race twice. The thunderstorm, while exciting and refreshing, had the added benefit of turning the top of the final descent into a mudslide, which combined with the darkness, and the 50 odd mile in my legs, was not appreciated. Finally, at around midnight, we crossed the finish line in 18hrs some minutes, necked a beer and collapsed. Good day.

Purbeck Marathon

The Purbecks are where I grew up, and really started running, the rolling green hills hide a intricate network of tracks and trails. You can run on beaches, through shaded trees, or crawl up the hills that break rupture the coast path.  The area is amazing for being gently beautiful, concealing stealthy gradients amongst the stunning views.

I only did the Purbeck marathon as a tester for the Bournemouth Marathon a couple of weeks later, as it was the main aim for the season. Initially I wasn’t really aiming to push the course to hard, somehow that idea always goes out of the window on the start line….

The weather on the day was near perfect, the sun was out, it was warm, and it was dry. Anyone who knows the coast path around Swanage and Worth Matravers knows how slippery the clay gets down there. A couple of runners set a good starting pace, and after a couple of miles I settled into a good pace with Ian, a runner from Blanford, and we were able to start distancing the other runners.

The legs were feeling pretty good after 6 or 7 miles, and with a little effort, I was then able to break away from Ian, and managed to push out a good lead. One of the most amusing, and helpful things about doing a race in the Purbecks, is that my parents can take over support duty for the day, feeding and watering me, and talking to basically everyone on the course. I’m not entirely sure the dogs understood why my parents were shouting at me, why they couldn’t run after me, or why the kept getting hauled in and out of the car, but they also seemed to be enjoying the day out.

I finished the course 1st, with a time of 3.01. I was really pleased with this for marathon distance, with over 4000ft of climbing, and turned out I was only 2 minutes off the course record. I think I’ll be back next year.

Probably the best thing about the race was the price, a painting from local painter Cathy Veale. I have to mention a friend, Pete Roper. Despite being over twice my age (and I’m mid twenties now) put in a huge performance to come second in the Purbeck 16, the ‘half’ marathon that runs on the same day, truly impressive.

Dorset CTS Marathon 

Last race of the season, and my 4th time at this race. Being in December, it’s a cracker to end the season on I had a bit of a bone to pick with this race, as I had lost my title in 2015, and wanted to win it again. The second aim for this race was to have a crack at the course record. Jez Bragg, a local running legend, set a time of 3.34 in 2009. I had an inkling that with a good block of training, this could be beaten, weather dependent.

To add to my enjoyment of the day, a friend, Lewis, had decided to run the half marathon (all 16 miles of it) as his first off-road half, and second half ever, so I was pretty confident I was going to have someone looking worse than me by the end.

On the day, the weather was good, around 10 degrees, little wind, and I and managed to get in a really solid 5 weeks of training before, I didn’t really have many excuses not to give the record my best shot.

I hit the first half of the race, the quick half, fast. 45 minutes or so to the Ringstead turn point, and a nice flat run back meant I came back though Lulworth well ahead of the field. Sadly the second half of the course is far tougher than the first half. Still I managed to keep a strong pace out the far eastern turn point of the course, then hit a little bit of a wall. One of the things I really struggle with is keeping my strength up for hill running. Living in London, I am limited largely to speed work as a means of training for any hilly races, and after 20 odd miles, this was starting to bite me in the calves.

Fortunately the course doubles back on itself, and on my way back I crossed a most of the half marathon runners, and managed to get a fist bump out of Lewis as I fell down the hill past him which gave me a boost for the final few miles home.

I finished in 3.29, knocking 5 minutes of the record, and a great way to end the season. To add to good news, Jack Galloway, a good mate of mine, put in an incredible run to come home third, which was really great to see. Lewis also had a fantastic run, coming in 18th.

Races and results

·      Maverick Sussex – 1st

·      Maverick Surrey – 1st

·      Jurassic Quarter – 2nd

·      Maverick Dorset – 1st

·      Classic Quarter – 2nd

·      Swanage Triathlon – 4th

·      Echappee Belle – 29th

·      The Beast – 1st

·      Purbeck Marathon – 1st

·      Bournemouth Marathon – 10th

·      The Stickler – 1st

·      Dorset CTS Marathon – 1st, course record


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