La Haule to La Moye and back

I’ve had a few weeks now of pretty heavy (for me) training. Heavy in the sense of there being four or five sessions a week, but not necessarily the same sort of distance as I was doing training for the marathon last year.

Most of it has been at a fairly steady pace as I’m following an 80/20 sort of plan. There’s still been time for the occasional quick Parkrun though but mainly the distance has been climbing again, up to 9 miles last weekend.

This Sunday just gone though I thought I’d break with the plan a little. There’s still 9 weeks until the Reading Half Marathon so I thought I’d push myself a little with a 7 mile run at a fairly quick pace. Going uphill for the first half at least. I thought I’d have half an eye on my heart rate monitor too though. Weather could have been better…

Well my HRM became unreliable pretty quickly and I think I set out uphill too hard so threw in a couple of walks early on but actually I did one of the better long training runs ever. I like to track my quarter-marathon times and this one was my 8th best ever, and 4th when I take out races – just about half a minute over 60 minutes. Bearing in mind this was a training run, being only a fraction outside two hour Half-marathon pace (having had a couple of short walks) is pretty alright in my book.

Next week I’m pretty sure I’ll be back to the steady long runs with a 10-miler but it was good to push myself, especially while I’m between races, just that little bit harder.

2016 and how not to let the statistics tell a story

Up until 9am Saturday morning I felt very conflicted about my running efforts over the year that was 2016.

Yes, I can look back on completing my first ever marathon. I can look back on a year having run over a thousand kilometres. I can look back on having taught myself how to safely run slower in training. I’ve completed lots of runs and races, most of all concluding our 12 races in 12 months. Of my ten statistically best runs ever six of them took place during 2016.

It was a good running year.

Wasn’t it?

Well, up until December my 10k times have got slower. I’d not run parkrun under 25 minutes at all. My Silverstone Half Marathon didn’t go well and not only could I not run the marathon under 4 hours, I didn’t manage 5 either. Yes I ran 6 of my ten best runs but before Saturday my fastest 2016 run was only my fourth best ever. In speed terms I’ve certainly slipped back for sure.

Then Jersey Parkrun #65 came along. I went into it feeling pretty determined to get under 25 minutes but after arriving at the start i wasn’t really “feeling it”. I’d have happily accepted anything sub-26 mins.

It seemed like a small field (it actually wasn’t) so I figured I’d be towards the back of a leading group at best. I followed a runner who I knew and who I knew was around just under 25 minute pace at his best. Pace seemed good and I overtook him around the 2km mark. He came back past me on the transition from tarmac to gravel and pulled away over the following 2km. I maintained a reasonably steady pace although slowed a little on the climb up the railway walk so was happy to let him go. Then running back up the final 500m climb from the final turn up to the finish I felt strong, surged past him and finished in my second fastest ever time of 24:15 (only four seconds off my fastest) – well beyond any expectations before the run. He had run a PB by a good half minute or so and I’d like to think I contributed to that. I came away feeling amazing.

After my second best run ever, it’s quite easy to be positive. Even though I feel my training isn’t going anywhere in itself whatever I’m doing is working over the 5k distance at least. My heart rate seems more under control when I’m pushing myself in terms of speed. My improvement hasn’t been necessarily reflected in times for one reason or another. At least I thought not.

My successes of the year came in less tangible ways. Running and volunteering in lots of parkruns. Running my second fastest ever 10k a day after another 10k on a hilly course. Running a marathon at all and finishing whilst not injuring myself further. Completing those 12 runs. Enjoying running through the city of London in horrible rain in January.

My fastest times at the moment might all have been recorded in 2015 but the last year saw us enjoy racing much more.

In 2017 I’ll certainly be looking to run a sub-2-hour half marathon but I’ll also aim to enjoy the little things like joining my wife for a bottle of wine just after 11am on a Sunday morning having run 13km. We’ll enjoy visiting Reading, Liverpool and Stratford during the year – probably other places too knowing us.

I’d like to enjoy training more than I did building up to the marathon. That was really tough and I’d like to be able to enjoy that much more. And I’ll enjoy doing less travel for sure.

2017 could well see some really strong performances in terms of time but I just hope that I enjoy them half as much as I enjoyed my runs in 2016.

A feeling like the total satisfaction we felt in August at Regent’s Park having completed that twelfth race next to Jean. Sitting there on the grass in the sun, other successful runners and their supporters all around us. Maybe the bottles of fizz helped too.  Yeah, having lots more experiences like that would be amazing for 2017.