Back to Fleet and looking forward

It’s taken me a couple of days to gather my thoughts after the Fleet Half Marathon. Not because I didn’t have a good race though the time wasn’t what I hoped it would be but more because I have to get my head around deciding how much to appreciate looking back at Fleet or whether I just look forward to the next event in Liverpool.

Don’t be looking in this blog post for answers to that. I’m just going to appreciate both for now.

Before I get to Fleet, now I’m going to look back at what brought me there. Since my last post I had a short run to play basketball, at least some running during that game, a third run in Jersey over a quarter marathon distance and two short ones in Reading.

Then I did the Sweatshop 10 mile training run and things went downhill from there. I hurt my knee during the course of that run and made it much worse when needing to run to the cashpoint later that afternoon. Since then walking had been particularly challenging and relatively speaking running was actually easier for some reason.

I had more or less a week’s rest then a tentative return to running on a Friday morning. Then a Saturday morning run with Jean, following which I also joined the final Sweatshop training of 5 miles on the Sunday before the half marathon. I found the start of that run quite difficult but settled into a pace before very long and it turned out to be a pace that was about what I would hope to do for the half marathon with my heart rate coming in at a reasonable level too.

That run gave me loads of confidence for the half marathon. However I also knew that I hadn’t done the miles I was hoping to do and ultimately my knee was not as good as I would hope.

So onto the Fleet Half itself.

Travelling to Fleet went smoothly enough although there were a couple of issues with the hotel but really nothing that would really affect the weekend when looking back.

I lined up right next to the 2 hour pacers and once the race started stuck with them for the first 3 miles or so. However I knew soon that it just was not going to be a pace I could achieve for 2 hours so I dropped back and slowly made my way back in the field.

As before when I’ve had less good runs, I resolved to just enjoy it. Yes, I took a few photos. I high-fived lots of kids. I overtook an armadillo – as you do. I just had as much fun as I could.

As dropping back I found that the 2:10 pacer group was still too quick as well and eventually during the last mile or so the pacers and the 2:20 group just about caught me up. I found something for the sprint finish, oddly just faster than last year’s race, and ended up just ahead of the pacers, coming in at an official finishing time of 2:19:54.

Once again the atmosphere at the finish was excellent, and I was greeted by my wife carrying a very welcome pint of lager.

Ultimately though my 20th time passing the half marathon distance was not fast by my best standards. But I have to be realistic that I was not fit to be performing at my best. So I have to look forward to the next one – the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half in Liverpool in May.

But first recovering and making sure my knee is as good as it can possibly be is way more important. Rest comes first and then we’ll see what targets follow.

Travelling and learning to pass the time

In preparing to settle down and write this post, I thought I’d look up how long it is since the last time I posted. I was surprised to learn it was only just over two weeks ago, which means the Poppy Half was only three weeks ago tomorrow.

The Poppy run feels like ages ago now so much so that I’ve been able to get a week into my next training programme building towards next year’s Fleet Half Marathon.

After the Poppy, I felt a bit sore from my back in the days afterwards so aside from a single run up to basketball the following Tuesday, it was about ten days before I ran again. I do feel I really benefitted from the rest though.

One thing I have been doing a lot of in the intervening time is traveling, obviously back from Eastbourne but I’ve had a couple of journeys between Reading and Jersey as well. I’ve changed how I travel a fair bit. I enjoy the experience of flying with BA and the lounge and all that, but sadly BA just aren’t very punctual flying into London which means a very late train journey and arriving into Reading around midnight.

So going forward generally I expect to be going via Southampton and when all goes well (which it has every time I’ve done this so far) I get into Reading not long after 8. Not a hard decision really.

The other change about my travelling is my choice of entertainment. I’ve tried magazines in the past but find them actually to be fairly inconvenient on cramped planes and trains and it’s meant I’ve got two copies of Runner’s World which have been backwards and forwards to Reading several times in the past couple of months.

I’ve tried watching recorded TV and find it a difficult thing to relax with. One of the first things I watched was Jack Whitehall’s Travels With My Father and I enjoyed the show but felt a bit “special” when laughing out loud at it so it’s just less relaxing so that didn’t last either.

One day a few weeks ago I stumbled across a motor racing podcast, focusing on sportscar racing and really enjoyed it and it’s a thing that’s grown on me and expanded. So I’ve now got a little selection of these, on various topics and rather than blathering on about my new training schedule for the next 18 weeks, I thought I’d share what podcasts are interesting me at the moment.

  • The Week In Sportscars – an engaging show for sportscar racing fans largely based around listener Q&A
  • Midweek Motorsport – a bit more journalistic and news based but also with a fairly silly tone at times which is obviously a good thing.
  • No Such Thing As A Fish – presented by the QI Elves, and in fact featuring Stephen Fry himself last week, this is odd-fact based silliness and discussion
  • The Week In Indycar – similar to the Sportscar version above with the same lead presenter, Marshall Pruett, but with less banter and more guests, not necessarily making it better
  • Running Commentary – two comedians recording a podcast during a training run as they prepare for the London Marathon (at the moment anyway as they’ve been doing this a while now).
  • Lineker & Baker: Behind Closed Doors – not sure about this one. Plainly focused on football and Gary and Danny are always good for some honest opinions. They think the ongoing Nations Cup is nonsense so that’s a positive for this.
  • The Adam Buxton Podcast – I really enjoy most things AB does and I enjoyed this listen but it was a special I think based around a largely serious interview with a guy that had been kidnapped by pirates. Going to stick with it for now though.
  • Track Side with Kevin Lee and Curt Cavin – another Indycar focused talk show, but this time actually an internet radio show. As a result it fluctuates between slick and irritating, and is a bit snotty about non-US racing. Again, going to stick with it.

So that’s what I’m listening to at the moment. I’ll post more about running another time, but if it doesn’t come before Tuesday, wish me luck for a fun run/race on Tuesday up and down a familiar location, being the airport runway. Should be fun.

Poppy Half Marathon 2018

Looking back a few days after the Poppy Half Marathon it is easy to see both the positives and the negatives.

Yes I ran what is now my 19th half marathon. Yes I completed the half marathon distance in what were absolutely horrible conditions. Yes I’ve done something that frankly a relatively small percentage of the population do.

It just wasn’t as well as I could do it. I did my best on the day but it just wasn’t to be. The conditions were just too tough for the level of training and conditioning I had got myself into.

The trip down from Reading to firstly Eastbourne was slow but enjoyable. We spent a bit more time discovering Eastbourne than we had in the previous two years we’d been there and enjoyed it. The only downside was the wet weather we encountered on Saturday. Well, that and possibly the restaurant we chose on Saturday evening being full.

More importantly though, let’s talk about the race itself.

The routine for the morning was very similar to when we ran the same event in 2015. And like the 2015 event the weather did not look great. All week it had been windy and on the day it looked like it would be wet as well. However, the rain did seem to hold off for the vast majority of the event.

The wind however was another matter entirely. The course of the half marathon was one running east and west along the Bexhill-on-Sea seafront. The wind was blowing easterly, except of course when we were running with the wind when some of the course was sheltered so we really couldn’t benefit from it to the same extent.

This year I decided to try and run with the pacer groups. At start line I found the 2:05 pacer and tried to take up a position further forward on the start line from him, with the aim of finding the 2 hour pacer. After the normal 2 minutes silence, the race got underway however it started really really slowly with a lot of congestion around the start line.

But when we joined the promenade, space seemed to open up quite quickly and therefore it wasn’t long before I was able to run my own pace. For the first 4 kilometres or so I decided to run with a group. They seemed to be 5 or 6 people from one running club and they didn’t seem to mind me joining them.

The first 2 laps of the course were 8 kilometres each, and towards the end of the first lap I found I was unable to keep up with that group any longer. At this time, I had still not seen the 2 hour pacer and only later discovered he was 2 or 3 minutes up the road.

I’ve talked about it previously where pacers seem nowhere near the pace that they are meant to run. It just annoys me. If you were meant to be running a particular pace then run it. If it’s a really meaningful time like 2 hours then by all means run under that by a fraction but these pacers seemed significantly off.

A bit later in the event I joined the 2:05 pacer. For whatever, reason nobody else was with him at the time but from chatting to him I discovered he was actually planning to run 2:02 or 2:03. He was doing his best but I just don’t understand it if you’re meant to be running 2:05 then run 2:05.

I spent a few minutes with the 2:05 pacer and realised that his pace wasn’t for me either and I dropped back further. There wasn’t a 2 hour 10 pacer so after I let go of the 2:05 man I just went at my own pace and enjoyed myself.

It was a tough event and the wind was horrible. I didn’t enjoy that element of it at all. During the last kilometre or so I found some speed and overtook a few people but still I came in at a little over 2 hours 12 minutes. Not something I’m happy with but it was the best I had on the day.

So now our minds turn to the next challenge already. We will be running a 10k event in Chichester / Goodwood in February next year which is now only 12 weeks away. I’ve got a lot of work to do between now and then but I’m confident I can do it.

Some days are good, some days are bad

The above is a pretty good analysis of where my running is at the moment. In 3 days time I will have completed another half marathon, my twentieth as I recall.

For whatever reason it doesn’t feel like it at the moment. Rather than feeling on the cusp of another excellent achievement I feel like I am on the cusp of a disappointment.

That may be unfair, but it just doesn’t feel like it. Over the past few months it just feels like my running has just plateaued. At best.

I have enjoyed taking part in Prospect parkruns over the last couple of months. They have been hard runs, particularly with the wet boggy section on each lap, but they have been quite good fun too.

However, it is quite hard to translate the effort from those wet boggy runs to a tarmac half marathon like that I will be undertaking on Saturday. On Monday I undertook an old-fashioned Fartlek run, during which I enjoyed my running but I don’t feel it was particularly exciting either.

At the end of the day, I just don’t know. Last year, I went into a half marathon in Reading with very few miles of training behind me however up until about 12 miles in that run I did well and I don’t think that the lack of distance was actually that significant.

On Saturday, I plan to run with a 2-hour pacer group and hopefully I can hang with that group with the end result being well under 2 hours. I can’t promise whether it will work out that way because at the moment I just don’t know. I am going to try though and that’s all I can ask right now.

Speak to me here on Monday and I very well may come out with a different answer.

Working towards the Poppy Half

The past couple of weeks have gone better than the last time I posted here. I managed to run the week after my last post as I hoped I would with a tentative couple of miles along the Thames.

Me being me I followed that up with a longer 6k run the following Sunday in foul weather joining my wife.

Once I was back in Jersey the basketball winter season had started again so I started playing although for the first game I probably only played half the match, at pretty much half speed, being very careful with my calf.

I had a short run on Wednesday that was interrupted, but I made up for it with a fun unstructured 5km run on Friday morning in Reading.

Saturday was parkrun day once again seeing me take on Prospect parkrun for the second time. It went slightly better than the first time did but I still am finding both the course and speed work really hard. Actually, I’m not really doing speed work at the moment so I can’t really be surprised that my parkruns aren’t improving or even getting back towards the 25 minute mark. All in good time but I need to prioritise distance with the Poppy Half being quite as close as it is.

On Sunday, my wife and I went once again and this time I went out looking for a longer distance and ended up at 14km. We had run together along the Thames back to Reading station but split up around half way along or run upon which I did another lap around the Thames Path. It certainly wasn’t my fastest run ever but I was happy with it all the same.

Yesterday, I played basketball once again but in addition to that I ran to and from the venue – about a mile each way. My calf might not have been perfect but it certainly has improved enormously on where I was a couple of weeks ago.

I am hoping I might run tomorrow morning but I certainly will on Friday morning in Reading. That will take us up until more or less two weeks before the Poppy Half and therefore pretty much too late for any distance work to be of any benefit. I remember that when I did go into the Reading Half Marathon last year I had far less training and still performed pretty well. The preparation might not have been perfect but I still have reason to be positive.


I’ll say now this isn’t going to be my most positive post ever. I have various reasons for feeling disappointed with running at the moment so will post them here and probably feel a bit sorry for myself.

But first of all, let’s look at what runs I have managed to achieve.

During the early part of September, we spent a short time in Greece on holiday and in that time I managed to fit in a couple of really good runs, lots of swimming and my first time ever stand-up paddle boarding.

During the course of September I also began getting into a routine splitting my time between Jersey and Reading. When my wife goes to work when I am in Reading I tend to go for a run, even though this tends to be around 7 in the morning which is certainly not a time I’d ever do when I am in Jersey. although having said that I might change my attitude to early morning runs based on my Reading experiences.

I also ran at my sixth parkrun destination at Prospect Park (following Jersey, Southwark, Reading, Southsea and Old Deer Park) but unfortunately this wasn’t my best ever effort coming in around 28 minutes.

A couple of weekends ago I went for an 8 mile run around a loop I have created between home, the River Thames and the Reading Festival site. The loop is about 4 miles and I did the first lap with my wife and the second on my own at a slightly faster pace. For a change it was at the relatively luxurious time of 8am.

My next run after that did not go well. I had planned to do an interval session but only got as far as the first interval before feeling a tweak in my calf muscle. I tried to run the second interval but it got a bit worse for that, so instead I just walked home.

I thought that a couple of days rest would help however a week, and a couple of tentative attempts at running, later I am still being bothered by the problem. At the moment I am hoping to be better by the time I get to Reading next on Thursday.

Ideally, I need to be better soon in order to get myself fully prepared for the Poppy Half Marathon in just under 5 weeks time. That being said I have certainly gone into half marathons less well prepared than this (such as the 2017 Reading Half) but I was certainly hoping for a better preparation for this run.

Other than being injured, the other irritation has been the ballot process for the London Marathon. Once again for what I believe is the 5th year in a row I’ve been rejected and while the rejection itself is not rare at all, the whole process of it annoys me. When the race is as oversubscribed as it is I don’t really understand why the organisers prioritise people who have run it before over those who have not.

Maybe part of it for me is that I have no intention of running any other marathon. I did my 1 marathon in 2016 in Jersey and don’t plan to do another, other than London in the unlikely event I get in one day. So the fluffy well wishers on Facebook saying there are so many other events that you could take part in just annoy me more. I have lots of events I can take part in but there’s only one marathon I’m interested in and that’s London.

At the end of the day I can easily imagine that the next time I run a marathon will be during a longer event such as the 24-hour event we’ve been looking at. But I dare say I’ll keep trying to enter London until they let me in one day.

May to August in review

It’s been a good 3 months since the last time I posted here and in that time running has probably taken a back seat to many other things. I won’t bore you with those things right now but they’ve been really interesting times.

From a running perspective, last time I posted here I talked about the Durrell Challenge and I haven’t really competed in any races since then. A couple of parkruns but not really anything more. Partly this has been down to illness, partly injury, and quite a lot of lack of enthusiasm and focus.

This picture of a beach bar in Reading, complete with sand, swings and a live band, has no relevance to this post but I just like the picture!

Anyway, let’s have a stab at reviewing the last 3 months of running.

One highlight came while the royal wedding was going on during May this year. I decided that the seafront would be really quiet given everybody else would be watching the wedding so it was a good time to chase a Strava segment along there. In the end, the run went really well and I managed to get my fourth fastest half mile run ever.

During early June I was struck down by a cold which took me out of running for about a week and a half. When I got back to running I was struggling for enthusiasm and ended up running a few different trail runs. One around St Catherine’s and Flicquet was a particularly interesting diversion, as was Prospect Park in Reading the following week. Prospect Park is likely to be the venue for my new home parkrun over the next few weeks and months, although for one reason or another (Thai festivals, the circus etc) I haven’t yet managed to make a parkrun there, but I have completed another parkrun in Reading last week around the Thames Valley Park.

Me finishing Reading Parkrun #446 strongly with a smile

I was injured again in July missing another week and a half of action but since then I’ve been able to get a bit more back into running. I think it’s made a difference that we have more firm running plans for the immediate future.

We’ve decided to sign up for the Poppy races in Bexhill-on-Sea once again and this year I plan to chase my half marathon personal best from the Rock and Roll Liverpool Half Marathon last year.

Also during the past few months I decided that next March I would take part in the Fleet Half Marathon rather than the event in Reading. The Reading Half Marathon really didn’t treat us very well last year when they cancelled and while I have no doubt I’ll be back sometime in the future, this year I’m going to turn my attention back to Fleet and see if I can do even better than this year.

We have also been looking at other events and not necessarily just running. At the moment, I am considering whether training for the London Triathlon next August would be a good idea or just plain mad.

In another development which is almost certainly mad, we’ve been looking at the Henley running festival 24-hour race. Having said after the Jersey marathon in 2016 that I wouldn’t take part in another marathon again that was not the London Marathon, I think it’s amazing that we are considering such a long event. Granted I would not be running the whole 24 hours, but even so I can still imagine that at least one – more likely two or more – marathons will be completed in such a long time. We haven’t made a firm decision on that yet but I don’t really need to for quite some time.

The most important future plans focus around next week when we travel to Greece for a week and half of well-earned rest and relaxation – and no doubt some early morning runs as well.

Running and other mad pursuits