International Challenge Number 4

By Chris Large

Back in spring 2016 I received the annual email from Richard Inchley asking if I wanted to go along on the International Running Challenge 2016 trip to Lanzarote.  For those who don’t know about it, it is four consecutive races on four consecutive days each November.  Competitors stay at Club La Santa which is a purpose-built sports resort based on the north side of Lanzarote.  So the answer for whether or not I wanted to take part again was “is the Pope Catholic?!”.

This was to be my fourth experience of running ‘The Challenge’.  It has proved to be a great motivator for me to get fit in the winter months.  Although I try to keep my fitness level quite high throughout the year, this tends to be through doing lots of classes, rather than getting out running.  I’d started to put a few pounds on and this was made worse by the fact that I had a nasty fall off my bike in July, leading me to leave it broken in the corner of my living room.  Trips to the shop in Heath and Reach tended to be by car for that last minute pint of milk, rather than jumping on my bike and heading up Birds Hill.  I had very much lost my confidence and was burning petrol rather than burning fat!

The departure date was soon approaching.  Luckily, I work close to Andy Inchley who organises regular lunchtime running jaunts from the Aylesbury Vale District Council offices.  Throughout the year I had received an email each Monday morning giving me numerous running options.  These I politely refused until early October when I finally realised that some training would have to be done.  So intervals around various Aylesbury locations followed; I am not quite sure how I would have got any training in at all without Andy organising those runs.


Kelvin Corfield kindly gave me a lift with my roomie, Ben, for the early flight of 06:20 from London Luton.  Out we got to Lanzarote and I knew the drill – basically Richard Inchley organises everything (right down to transfers to and from the destination airport) and basically all we do is turn up and try to be as fit as possible.

To say a little of the group – we were a motley crew of runners of various abilities.  Richard managed to cajole several Redway Runners, MKAC members, Bearbrook and of course many from our own wonderful club.  I am one of the slower runners in the group – on the other side of the equation there are runners like Dan Webber whose marathon PB is 02:36:29.  We gave ourselves the name ‘Milton Buzzards’ and had special running vests made up to distinguishing us from the many other clubs and competitors taking part.

Breakfast Run 3K

Our warm up run is basically an excuse to carb-load before the proper Challenge starts.  Setting off from the 400m track at the resort we headed out in a rather unusual adventure type route, which took in the edge of the original seaside resort which once stood close by.  Plenty of little ramps and steps to negotiate which made things interesting.  All done then smashed down a yogurt drink, croissant and doughnut all provided by the events team for our enjoyment.  Happy days.

Vince Regan Memorial 10K

First race of the series.  With the usual nerves I set off from the track to complete this two loop course.  In a moment of overexcitment 10 seconds before the start I decided to tie my trainers way too tight.  After running for about 100m I decided the left foot was too tight, so stopped in the centre of the track to adjust.  50m later I realised the two feet were inbalanced so had to adjust the right foot.  Note to self – don’t tie trainers too tight!  My time was 48:30 on this one, which I was pleased with.  One down, three to go.

Most of the Milton Buzzards before the 10K

Ridge Run 13K

The Canary Islands are volcanic so the geography is pretty amazing.  The second race involves running up, up and up!  There is a short section at the top of a ridge, then we drop down the other side of the hill.  I always find it a relief to get up on ‘the ridge’ as it is pretty much downhill from there on in.  This was a very hot race and I think most people’s times reflected that.  I did bump into some runners from Scotland and cheered them onto the finish.  They complained that they were not used to the heat, coming from colder climes!  My time was 01:15:07.

Approaching the final K of the Ridge Run

Beach Run 5K

This is probably the most feared run of the series.  We took a short coach trip at 08:30 from the resort, over to Puerto del Carmen which is one of the main seaside resorts on the island.  This incidentally is where the marathon section of the Ironman Lanzarote takes place.  I guess my claim to fame and something which makes me quite proud, to run in the same area, though of course not a marathon.  Conditions are everything in this race – too much soft sand can add many minutes!  Luckily this year was easier than previous years, as there was lots of hard sand to run on.  My time: 27:40.  You have to do it to know why it’s slow…

21K Final race

Again a fairly earlier start for the 08:30 coach up to the start point.  A great atmosphere at the start and we had a group photo.  I started off right at the back, loads of niggles in my legs, and Richard checking up on me, asking if I was OK.  As soon as the legs warmed up then I was off, happy days, speeding along and putting in a very nice time of 01:54:36 which is great, considering the course was a bit longer than 21k.  I also had the once in a lifetime joy of passing Amy Inchley; my initial thought was that she would actually kill me.  However she was in a world of pain at that time so muttered something and I left her for dust.  Andy has challenged me to beat Amy again next year.  It might be a bit harder as she will probably not have just had a baby, will not be breast feeding, and she might have had more than one hour’s sleep!  Oh well I’ll enjoy the glory for the short time it lasts…

Focused on the challenge finish in the half marathon

The Amazing Baby Juliet

We were graced with the presence of the amazing baby on many occasions.  She is now to be known as ‘the baby who never cries’.  Many times she accompanied us for dinner and was as good as gold.  Several male club members were known to have held her, showing off exemplary baby handling skills, in an attempt to impress beautiful Danish ladies on nearby tables!

Attempting to "impress with baby handling skills"!

What next for me?

Encouraged by the Redway girls who joined us, I have entered the Freaky Peaky Duathlon in Somerset on 13 March.  So glad to have got myself fit again, and got my confidence back on the road bike.  Now just to keep it up over the next three months…

Special congratulations to:  Wendy Webber, Lena Gazzani, and Shirley Gibson from our group, who all won prizes for their overall performance in The Challenge, each winning their respective age categories.