Bob Pentland

Copy of meet the member andy (1)

I am sure that almost everyone in the club knows and recognises this member. One of the most friendly and incredible people, Robert Pentland, known as Bob, shared his stories, pictures and amazing racing tales while we were sitting in his back garden with a cup of coffee. Over 600 official races, 40 marathons and more….

Bob, born in Edinburgh in October 1953, told me that he started in team sports when he was 23 years old, playing football and hockey and later on moving to squash. All his running back then was to keep fit. Enjoying the simplicity of running, as he said you can “just put your trainers on and go”, made him start to develop a love for the sport.

In 1980 Bob was part of the top league in the squash club in Edinburgh and he met Debbie. He used to play with his future mother-in-law and she used to give him some lifts back home. One day, in the car, he asked her if he could take her daughter on a date (Debbie was 20) – of course her mom said yes. How cute is that?!

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After only one year dating Bob and Debbie ran away from Edinburgh to one of the channel islands, Guernsey, to work in a hotel. Running wasn’t anything serious yet and was just to keep fit and keep Debbie happy – “if you know what I mean,” said Bob.

in 1987 they moved to Portsmouth following a job offer. Not longer after, in the following year, he started in the Post Office as a Postman. This new job kept Bob fit, cycling to work, walking to deliver all the mail around Portsmouth and doing circuit training twice a week – that was Bob’s secret of a base training. Until this point he had never raced, or competed in any proper running event – it was all about keeping healthy and fit.

At the Great South Run (GSR) in 1994, Bob was watching some friends and lots of other people running the well known 10-mile road race and he could not stop thinking, “If they can do it, so can I”. And that was it, the race bug bit Bob and his running tales began.

He kept the same training patterns, cycle to work, walking the whole day, 2x circuit training and did his first event, the Victory 5, a five-mile race in an impressive 29min, which is an average of  less than 6min/mile or 3:40min/km. Yes, very impressive for a first timer. But his goal was the GSR in 1995, for which he clocked 61min! Yes! 61 min for a 10-mile race. Soon after Debbie also started running – probably thinking that “if he can do it, so can I”.

Bob early swim days

Bob and Debbie started to enter all kinds of races and distances, everywhere around Portsmouth. It would be hard to name a race that they haven’t run. After a few years, in 1999, they decided to join Portsmouth Joggers and the distances started to go up and up.

Everything was going well, both were training for their first marathon in 2001 – the London Marathon – but a couple months before the race Bob got injured and had to defer to the following year. In 2002, Bob was 48 years old, now recovered from his injures, he clocked 3h09min on his first marathon. Hell of a start! Guaranteeing a place for the next year.

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Going to London and doing the marathon was a kind of a mini holiday for the Pentlands, they were really enjoying it and soaking up the whole experience every time they raced, staying few days after and before the race in London to take the most of it. Bob has run the London Marathon eight times and his PB (age 49) is 2h58min (2003).


Bob has kept a record of all his races with the date, distance, time and comments (it is impressive) since 1998. Over 600 races, +100 half marathons, 40 marathons, +20 duathlons, +20 triathlons, and still counting…


Bob told me that in reality he prefers cross-country races because you don’t usually have the distance markers, so you have less pressure on distances and time, but also he feels that the terrain, muddy or grassy, is more kind on his knees, making the impact less painful. And of couse his Number One race could only be an off-road one, Beachy Head Marathon, which he’s completed “only” 11 times. He describes it, “Fabulous scenery, extreme hilly, like seriously hilly” – So, are you in?

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Some of his medals

All their holidays are planned around races and events. – I got confused when someone that lives the whole time on holiday, retired, actually plan a holiday – We both laughed.

The Pendlands have four big holidays every year, as they said, with races:

  1. South Devon: Grizzly 20 mile with hills, mud and water (up to your chest)
  2. North Devon: Woolacombe Marathon
  3. Isle of Wight: Fell runs – 3 races over the weekend
  4. Eastbourne: Beachy Head Marathon (of course)

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Bob, until now, after almost two hours talking, we were mostly talking about running, can you tell us a little bit about triathlon? Do you like triathlon? – “Of course” – Said Bob – “I love the variability of the sport, makes it easy, splitting it in 3 small variations. I am lucky that I love all three sports”.

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As a breast-stroke swimmer Bob has completed over 20 triathlons and claims that he can keep a good speed, keeping up with frontcrawl swimmers. It certainly helps to keep an eye on the buoys and swim in a straight line.

At 65 years old Bob keeps the same enthusiasm for races, keeping all his medals from all races until now. I asked Bob what he loves most about the sport and he said, “The finish line! I love them. The emotion of crossing regardless the time or distance. That emotion keeps me signing up for races until now, and the feeling has never faded away”. That is impressive to hear after so many years and more than 600 races.

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– Bob, Tell us your secret, what is your weekly training plan?

  • Gym – 3x
  • Tai-Chi – 2x
  • Spinning – 2x
  • Running – 2x
  • Swimming – 1x
  • Outdoor cycling – 1x 24 miles
  • Commute cycling around the city to do daily tasks, including to go to gym at the Mountbatten Centre.

– Ok! What about your PBs?

  • 5 Km – 19:57 (Parkrun)
  • 5 Miles – 29:30
  • 10 Km – 36:01 (Chichester)
  • 10 Miles – 60:00
  • Half-Marathon – 1:20:00 (Gosport)
  • Marathon – 2:58 (London)

After listening to all his stories and great tales it makes me feel good to be able to keep up with him in races and training.

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*Interview by Vini Vecchiatti