A Virtual Run instead of Polar Bear hugs

Pretty much every few days in the past month or so I’ve been saying internally that I really need to get round to posting here. And then forgetting to do so of course. But finally here I am.

But what I’m not going to do is recap the whole period of running. It’s been quite varied and would take too long frankly. However, I will say that in January I ran a fraction over 100 miles but they were really good quality miles.

Today’s run probably summed that up. A 10k including parkrun in just over 56 minutes – even quicker if you consider I was queuing to have my barcode scanned for a minute. It was my fastest 10k outside of races since 2015. Very very strong. I’ve also had a whole sequence of really quick 5ks too.

In the end today’s run was a virtual 10k race designed to earn the Winter Run 10k medal from the cancelled event last weekend. Storm Ciara made sure we couldn’t run the streets of London but it only stopped us temporarily.

The other races this year comprised the New Year’s Day parkrun double. This year we visited Dinton Pastures (too busy and too wet) and Maidenhead (evil hill at the end of each lap but still great).

Recent runs tell me that I’m in some really good form at the moment so I just need to keep the progress coming all the way to my first, and most promising, half marathon of the year in Fleet next month.

But I’m taking nothing for granted. Largely due to the weather, I’ve had a couple of slightly lighter training weeks so I need a couple of tougher high quality weeks. And that will take me to a 5k at Kempton Park racecourse on 1 March. Got high hopes for that one.

Lowestoft, Stratford and the rest of December

Running wise December wasn’t the best possible month. I slacked off a little although that was largely replaced by a lot of walking but also a fair amount of merriment, fun and alcohol in the name of celebrating my wedding anniversary.

Oh and driving. 660 miles in 18 hours 45 minutes over 8 fantastic days in the south and east of England.

There were two big running events. Firstly, on our wedding anniversary itself, we drove to Lowestoft parkrun. But not before locking ourselves out of the house we had rented.

But once that was sorted, parkrun went brilliantly. We’d decided to run together and my wife ran to her fastest ever parkrun time and I have to say my running had very little to do with it. She just did brilliantly but I loved taking part together with her.

The other race was our latest visit to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for RunThrough Chase The Moon and I was running the 10k. It wasn’t brilliant for me although was also far from a disaster. I had a few stomach issues earlier in the day so maybe I was a bit under the weather. Maybe I was just tired or a little under trained in the previous couple of weeks. But I finished in a touch over 53 minutes. So, a couple of minutes outside my Silverstone time but not a terrible performance by any stretch either. Just perhaps not what I’d hoped for.

In the next couple of days we’ll be entering a new decade with another double parkrun effort and then training really begins in earnest for my spring half marathons. I’m quite excited for what a good injury free spring and summer will see me achieve. Bring on 2020!

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars”

I love the saying above. It applies so much to my Silverstone 10k race. I had a crack at something special, didn’t quite get there but still did so so well.

I know I’ve said it before but the whole experience of visiting Silverstone is one I find really inspirational, whether that’s through 35 or so years of watching motor racing there or the memory of our first half marathon back in 2014. When you drive to the circuit, the road is actually only the width of a car park from the stands on the outside of the start/finish straight and you can clearly see the new Wing complex and even the podium. It just means the excitement builds well before the start. I love it, and probably always will.

The week before my training winding down to the race included a run on the Tuesday before in Jersey where I got grouchy with a rather inconsiderate running group feeling they had to take up the whole width of a path while warming up. The run went ok. Then a couple more efforts before the event on the Sunday.

As usual we drove up the night before and stayed at the Premier Inn down the road. That went well enough and we had a nice night, but could have slept a fair bit better ideally.

This was the 6th time I’ve visited the circuit – 3 for half marathons, once for a brilliant driving experience and then for the European Le Mans Series earlier this year. Then this – the return of distance running to Silverstone.

I felt ready as I’ve said before, perhaps not “in the shape of my life” ready but still set up for a strong run. Our regular Silverstone pre-race routine went well and why people don’t get changed and ready where we do I’ve no idea but that’s to our benefit. It just helps us get ready in our time and space and to relax as best we can as well.

We were not running late but race time sort of crept up on us suddenly. We found our pens quickly and got ready to go.

The race start had a good atmosphere, and there was plenty of space to run in. Just before the start, and thanks to some quick maths, I realised that I could follow the 1h45m half marathon pacer for as long as our two courses coincided. I should explain here that races over three distances were all going on simultaneously – 5k, 10k and half-marathon. So I knew I could follow the pacer to about 6k where the half-marathoners went off for a half lap of the Stowe circuit and service roads around the whole complex. That sort of pace would bring me in under 50 minutes. Stretching but I felt I could at least start that way.

And so it played out. The first 3km clicked over in 4:47, 4:49 and another 4:49 so actually well under 49 minute pace. I was sitting in with the 1h45 pacer group and just starting to feel it getting tough. I remember running in front of the Wing around the far end of the circuit and feeling like I was working really hard considering how early in the race it actually was.

I plodded on though past the Wing, around the infield section, then towards Woodcote but turning in to go through the old pit lane.

After that there was a short section where there was good support. That stood out largely due to the lack of support elsewhere around the circuit. I guess the weather will have kept many away.

Not long after this section I decided I was feeling sufficiently worn down to walk and recover a bit. I’d thought seriously about it a little earlier, perhaps around the Brooklands corner, but kept going then. I’d just pushed myself too far, too fast and too hard. My 4th and 5th kms were 4:54 and 4:52 so I’d lost some time but not much but I’d definitely used a lot of fight and strength to hang onto the group. Towards the end of the 6th km I walked a bit, letting go of any thoughts of PBs. It felt long but it couldn’t have been because that kilometre was 5:02 and my next was 5:26.

I walked a couple more times in the run. I was more or less spent. I’d thrown everything at it in the first half of the run – enough to have run my 9th fastest 5k ever, a good half minute or so faster than any race over this distance. It was bold and brave and ultimately not quite good enough to hold that sort of time. I fought on though. The final 3k were perfectly respectable coming in at 5:26, 5:17 and 5:17 and with a slightly long course I came in at an official time of 51:22 – my 3rd fastest official time ever.

Actually this was either my third or fourth fastest 10k. This course ran long and was slower in time but quicker in speed than when I ran around The Regent’s Park in 2015 but I also don’t have an official finishing result from one faster 10k (the Jayson Lee event in 2017, due to a timing foul up which the organisers couldn’t fix). Strava said this was my third fastest. That’ll do.

I could easily look back at Silverstone as a missed opportunity. I could say I was in great shape and misjudged my pacing, but I don’t. I look back and say I went hard and tried but I wasn’t quite in the shape I wanted.

I landed among the stars for sure.

But we go again tomorrow night (as I write this). A 10k around the Olympic Park. I’m ready to go hard again. Maybe the 4-lap format might suit me better. Let’s see…

Race week build-up

I’m writing this on the Tuesday night 5 days before my next 10K race and in the unusual position that I’m going into race week with a justifiable positivity. As I said last time I posted here, running has continued to go well.

Since the last time I posted here I’ve been running 4 or 5 times a week pretty consistently.

Not all of these runs have been particularly beneficial. There was one of those on Halloween where my heart rate was misread completely and somehow my GPS interpreted me as being about a mile away from where I actually was. Very odd.

There was also a parkrun where the weather was utterly foul – there was wind, it was raining, there was mud and I was not really enjoying it very much despite that coming in to it I had been hoping for a course personal best.

Training has really built up to a place where I am developing some confidence going into Sunday’s race. It probably started at the beginning of this month when I had a long 6 mile run with a fast finish where I ran faster than I have done, if I exclude all races, since the middle of 2016.

Then, this past Sunday I went even faster again – about another minute faster. To me and it really bears some repeating but these are the fastest runs I have done over this kind of distance – excluding all races – since June 2016. My 10km personal best was achieved in November 2017.

Does that mean I’m in better form than I was before? To be honest, I doubt it but I feel like I’m in really good form but not necessarily better then those brilliant days around 2 years ago. But you never know.

I am looking forward to Sunday as I could be on the verge something really brilliant. Or it could just be a great weekend away. Either way I’ll be happy.

I’m not sure I really mind how it goes actually but I’m certainly looking forward to it, am confident of running well and whatever will be will be.

What does come to mind though, considering where I’m running at the weekend, is the finish of my very first half marathon back at Silverstone Circuit in 2014. I finished that day having run the whole thing which I hadn’t really expected. Then, I stopped after the race, posted photos on Facebook and loved the reaction that came back.

Now I don’t expect reaction every time but back then it was still great and while I can’t imagine any reaction like that this weekend, to me this event could be just as special as that first time. I better let you know how it goes next week.

Progressing well…

Since last time running has continued to go really well.

There was a really strong speed play session along the Thames one Tuesday morning. I ran a 400m time quicker than I had in a little while, at least if we ignore a little Strava segment chasing in Lanzarote last month.

Just over a week ago I had an amazing Fast Finish session taking an hour in which I covered a little over 10k. At the time I’d only run 10k quicker in races this year, and there probably weren’t many training sessions ever that have gone quicker over that distance.

Last Friday, I squeezed in a session during my lunch hour, which I haven’t done in a little while. Again this was a speed session and I did a half mile time under 4 minutes. I have to go back to my last Greenwich Park race to see one faster than that.

I had a steady effort at parkrun at the weekend as part of a longer recovery run, and then a slightly longer Fast Finish effort over 65 minutes but this one wasn’t quite as impressive as the previous week’s.

However, ultimately things are all in a good place. Fitness is good. Health is fine. Injuries are clear. Have to say I’m really positive about races to come and looking forward to them.

Running and other mad pursuits