Finding the next challenge

It’s been a couple of weeks since I decided to withdraw or defer my entry to the Jersey Marathon and I have to say I’ve not missed it. My back is still causing me a little bother so I can only dread to think what four to five hours of pounding the roads next weekend would do to it.

I’ve had reason to have a couple of exchanges with the marathon organisers, but in this respect at least they’ve been very helpful and supportive.

I had to give them a little kick a few weeks ago though. I asked quite a while ago now whether bone conduction headphones were now acceptable. The initial response came back saying that music was distracting regardless and actually represented a competitive advantage over non-music runners. A bizarre angle if there ever was one. I’d say the runners they are inviting over, paying for the travel and accommodation for are probably getting a pretty unfair advantage too.

Wonder if they’ve managed to avoid inviting any Russians this time…. anyway….

My wife and I share a music related irritation and our sense of injustice was flared up at this stage. So, I replied, while UK Athletics rules have changed I fully accept the organisers decision on this, however this being the case I wonder what proactive steps the organisers were taking to prevent and stop runners wearing and using in-ear headphones during the run. It’s always got on my tits that an alarmingly large number of runners will totally ignore the rules of a race and just wear their headphones regardless.

I do recall that the Run Jersey Half Marathon a few years ago had a runner disqualified for ignoring an instruction to remove headphones – quite right too. If they are going to have a rule in place for safety reasons I think it’s a fair question to ask how they are going to police it better than they have in every other year I’ve taken part.

I never got an answer to that question in the end as the organisers had decided a few weeks later that actually yes we would be able to manage the risks of bone conducting headphones and we should allow them in order to comply with UK Athletics rules anyway.  A result of sorts, not that I can benefit from it any more, but I’m still interested what they are going to do about those who are breaking the rules. Probably nothing I suppose. I know it can be a controversial topic but again if it’s safety related then it really should be enforced.

Anyway given what I titled this post I should probably move on to talking about future challenges. I have probably one main aim now for the remainder of 2017 – getting a sub 50 minute 10k in UK Athletics rules event. I’m still so proud of what I achieved in the Jayson Lee Memorial 10k a few weeks back but to do it in a recognised and Run Britain counting event will be so special. We’ve tentatively picked out the Poppy 10k in Bexhill-on-Sea. We ran at this multi-distance event in 2015 at which I set what was then my Half Marathon PB but knowing the course reasonably well I think it’ll be a really quick 10k course. That’s the plan for now.

I’d also quite like to get under 24 minutes for Parkrun regularly, and maybe take my PB a fair bit nearer 23 minutes.

Then at the back end of the year, training begins again for the Reading Half. I know that’s a fairly quick course so with a more healthy build up, a time well under two hours is certainly very possible.  For the time being though I think I’ll just settle for all back issues going away for now.

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Not this year…

I’ll open this post with my last running event of the past couple of weeks. Yesterday, I should have completed my final long run before the Jersey Marathon but due to a nothing-y sort of injury giving rise to problems elsewhere I’ve decided not to do the marathon this year.

I hurt my back doing nothing any more sinister than reaching down to my desk drawer at work and a week later it’s not sufficiently better to be able to train properly so rather than struggle through the final bit of marathon training, probably complete the marathon itself in five-hours-something and generally feel dissatisfied about the whole thing (again) I’ve decided to just withdraw.

Perhaps surprisingly it’s not a hard decision. On one hand I’ve gone so far with my training such that I ran 20 miles only a couple of weeks ago, but essentially I’ve just got no appetite to take part at anything less than approaching 100%. I’m prepared to say it’s possible I may never do another marathon – all my previous comments about really not enjoying the training for it still hold true, although at the moment I’ll probably try and defer my entry to next year and then worry about it then.

I had most of the past week off of running entirely hoping I could rest my back enough to try a long run this past weekend. I tentatively took part in Parkrun and that went as well as I could have hoped so I faced Sunday’s 22 miler with reasonable confidence, however within the first couple of miles I realised very quickly that my back wasn’t much better and what’s more I’d probably been running in an unbalanced manner the day before as my left ankle had started acting up too. Today my back is a bit worse again so I’m going to listen to my body and rest further.

Instead of thinking about the marathon I’ll now devote my running energies to more enjoyable distances, and particularly a 10k. I want to see how much more I can improve on the Jayson Lee event from a few weeks back, and I’ll probably work on my 5k / parkrun times too. I’ve had a succession of low-24s at parkrun including the very busy 100th event so I do think there’s a mid-23 out there somewhere sometime soon.

So, in running terms I get to look to the future, rather than worrying about the next couple of weeks and I’m very happy with that decision. Not happy with the end result maybe and the circumstances, but I can’t be upset at making the right decision rather than running just for the heck of it. Onwards and upwards…

I don’t like marathon training

Ok let’s be quite clear about this. If you’re looking for inspirational tales of someone preparing to run a marathon, this is not the post, or indeed the blog for you.

I don’t like marathon training. I don’t mind racing the marathon distance, having done it once. Sort of. But the training and preparation required in order to safely and hopefully effectively run the 42km distance is just more than I care to do. I’ve said it before – I’ve got three marathons in me – and while I suppose it’s not impossible that if I find a spring marathon and end up training for it over the winter I might enjoy it more, at the moment I can’t imagine that.

Anyway, I have my second ever marathon in the diary so here I am in the latter stages of a marathon training programme. A couple of weeks ago, I ran 16 miles and did pretty well doing so. Judging by last week’s 10km effort, my running is in ok form at the moment but today it just didn’t translate. Whether that’s poor preparation and nutrition, or a reaction to the hotter weather today I don’t know but it wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be.

I set off this morning hoping to run 30km in around three and a quarter hours and in the end it was about 3:27 which in fairness isn’t terrible but I think it was just how I suffered and faded over the second half of the run that I didn’t enjoy.

It was the fastest 30km I’d ever run by about four minutes so that’s positive and I can justifiably say I’ve never run that distance better but it wasn’t quite enough for me. I’ve felt pretty tired ever since too so I’m glad that tomorrow is a bank holiday so I can relax properly.

The slightly irritating thing today was that the uphill run through St Peter’s Valley went better than the nice downhill run down the Railway Walk, but that was just a function of how much I’d run before hitting the railway walk. Today during the second half of the session a lot of walking was necessary, but unusually I allowed myself to do that and I think it made for a better session as a result.

One more long run to come now. A 22 miler the week after next. Not looking forward to that session either!

Taking inspiration

I’m not sure if it was last year or the year before but I posted something here about how I felt about being told how much of “an inspiration” I was for what I was achieving. Whether that was one of our earlier half marathons or maybe the twelve races in twelve months, I forget now. But it was incredible to be told that.

Then I watch what I’ve seen tonight at the World Athletics Championships. Mo Farah giving his best but never really looking like it was enough. Incidentally I think I’ve watched Farah run twice live and he’s lost both of those races. Sorry about that.

Then the relative chaos of a 4×100 relay run where the British team always looked in control but you find yourself looking for Usain Bolt at the finish because he was there or thereabouts at the start of his leg but isn’t there now, only for the TV to cut to him lying on the track in obvious pain.
And then to reflect on it all a few moments later and consider that where that British relay team were celebrating,

 I was celebrating myself with my wife a couple of months ago. The relay team cleared their summit just like I cleared my two hour target in Liverpool earlier this year. Or my sub 7 mile. Or sub 24 parkrun.

I look back on my running year so far with immense pride. I’ve cleared so many mountains already. Next week might be another one with it being my first and possibly only competitive 10k of the year. And then there’s the marathon in only a few weeks time.

You can’t help sometimes but watch something like that shocking and excellent relay victory and take something from it. Or when Paula Radcliffe ran her last London Marathon, taking the hand of someone nearby and running in with them, and feel a little bit affected by it.

For so much of the time running is a solitary thing, but it’s those times when you come together with others – whether as competitors, training partners or spectators. That’s when you can step back and take in what you’ve seen or what you’ve done. That acknowledgement of “I’ve been there” or “I’ve seen that” really brings it home.

I ran down lane 3 or thereabouts of the London Olympic Stadium with my wife next to me, us both holding a Jersey flag. These are the kind of experiences we live and live for. And I look forward to many more.