Category Archives: Race reports

2019 in review – close but not quite

It’s that time of year again when I look back at the running year just completed and maybe sneak a little look forward at what’s to come in 2020.

I guess the really key element of the year was the beginning of the challenge for my wife and I to take in 25 running events during the year after our 25th wedding anniversary. We’ve already completed 2 but the plans for the year ahead look amazing.

But as far as 2019 went…. it’s quite hard to summarise. There were no lifetime bests but there were some strong performances. My 3rd fastest ever 10k and my fastest 5k in two years primarily, but somehow I didn’t quite take that next step up to PB level.

Runs by location in 2019

Reading 149
Jersey 37
Churchend 4
Theale 3
Caversham 3
Lanzarote 2
Liverpool 2
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park 2
Winnersh / Dinton Pastures 2
Bordon 1
Chichester / Goodwood 1
City of London 1
Finchampstead 1
Fleet 1
Greenwich 1
Guernsey 1
Lowestoft 1
Maidenhead 1
Port Solent 1
Scratby 1
Silverstone 1
St Albans 1
Streatley 1

But I set out saying to myself I wanted to run better in 2019 than I did in 2018, and I did that. I ran more distance in a calendar year than I have before.

So what were the highlights?

January saw our first parkrun double on New Year’s Day in Maidenhead and St Albans, and I joined the Sweatshop Running Community events in preparation for the Fleet Half.

February began with snow mainly but not enough to stop us heading to Goodwood for the Chichester Priory 10k which went pretty well. I hurt my knee towards the end of the month during a rather desperate run to a cash point which set me back a touch.

March featured the Fleet Half Marathon but I wasn’t really fit to be at my best. I did enjoy it though because I accepted my fate early on and just had fun with my race number of 1 getting some attention.

April started with continued recovery from injury but also saw us discover a new running route along the Kennet and Avon Canal from Theale to Reading. We’ve used it a few times since and usually enjoy it.

May’s feature was the Liverpool Rock ‘n’ Roll weekend. The 5k with my wife went very well. My half marathon ok but not brilliant coming in just under 2h10m.

June saw me discovering a new, very enjoyable parkrun at Dinton Pastures, and a Guernsey Half Marathon where I picked up an injury within the first kilometre but still got round anyway. I’ll always remember the lack of responsiveness in my legs trying to cross the road afterwards from Costa to the pub. Tough day running, but I enjoyed the day immensely.

July mainly just featured training, but I did fit in my fastest parkrun in a year but still a little over 26 minutes.

August saw a surprise performance, probably showing that my training had been worth it, at QEOP for a Chase The Sun event where I switched from the 10k down to the 5k when I saw how fast I was going. It was under 25 minutes and my fastest non-Parkrun 5k by a fair distance.

In September we visited London and put in a strong effort around the hilly surroundings of Greenwich Park although I suspect a drink or two too many the night before might have affected the performance a tad. I also enjoyed a few runs on holiday in Lanzarote.

October was about training for the races to come but it had been going pretty well.

November saw probably my most exciting run of the year – not my best as that was probably Chase The Sun – but the thrilling experience of charging along at PB times at Silverstone but sadly not hanging onto that pace. Yet it was an amazing experience. I’ll look forward to the 2020 attempt for sure.

Finally, December’s race was a Chase The Moon at the Olympic Park where I just didn’t have the endurance I needed but still loved it anyway, particularly as my wife smashed it in an outstanding time, just as she had at Lowestoft parkrun the weekend before.

And that was 2019 in an admittedly rather large nutshell. I didn’t hit the heights I’d hoped but it went pretty well too. However, I do think it’s set the baseline for what I can improve from in 2020.

Which begins tomorrow with a parkrun double again. Bring it on!

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…

To Greenwich Park and beyond

Usually a long gap between posts here is a bad sign but on this occasion it’s just indicative of being busy. And probably also indicative of there being a lot of running to consider in that time so I’ll try and be brief.

I’ll probably fail but I’ll try.

First of all these 8 weeks or so have been defined by variety in running. Particularly in location. Ranging from holiday (and running) in the Canary Islands, racing around Greenwich Park and dodging festival goers near the Thames August and September have covered a lot of bases.

I’ll just pick out the highlights somehow.

After Chasing the Sun very successfully I took a few days off running and then came back to it with a very positive Sweatshop 5k followed by 45 minute run and then 70 minutes / 6.5 miles at the weekend. That last one began a run of what now feels like running in the rain a lot. Every. Single. Time.

The following day to that I had the bright idea of running from work in Jersey up to the Airport. It didn’t go well, other than helping me to know I shouldn’t run uphill over a fair distance while carrying a reasonably heavy rucksack.

The following weekend saw us travelling south for a wedding but we managed to squeeze in a visit to a new parkrun at Hogmoor Enclosure, and then during the drive back home took in another parkrun location for a run, California Country Park.

The first week of September saw an unusual midweek evening run, but one that seemed to go really well. Then a trip to Prospect parkrun which wasn’t quite as good. The speed work I enjoy in my training was just starting.

Unfortunately the hill work hadn’t really happened so 5k racing around Greenwich Park with its unlovable long hill wasn’t brilliant, but I still enjoyed taking part.

During the next week I spent a few days working in London so I took the opportunity to run through some of the parks, and naturally enough the centre of one of them was closed.

On another week and then we spent a lovely week on holiday in Lanzarote, even squeezing in a bit of time at the hotel gym and pool as well as some enjoyable running. Our hotel was just off the rather hilly looking route of an Ironman event. Sooner them than me.

Since getting back proper training has really kicked in in preparation for our next race, returning to where it all began – what was our first half marathon – at Silverstone Circuit, this time running a 10k distance and if training can be used as a guide I have reason to be pretty confident.

So that’s a very vague selection of recent runs and things and hopefully I’ll not take so long to post the next one.

My spiritual running home?

Now there’s a click-baity, attention getting title isn’t it. Which in the spirit of all such titles we’ll get to in a bit, after I’ve made you read a bit more rambly stuff as usual.

Last time I posted here was incredibly just a little over a month ago, a couple of weeks after processing what happened just after the start of the Guernsey Half. I look back on that day fondly now, but with a resolve to go back and finish the job properly. Maybe next year. But, my, that feels an incredibly long time ago now.

So what has been occurring since that last post. The following weekend after my last post I had an exploratory run around the outskirts of Reading / Norcot / Little Heath / Churchend. For some reason this involved running past a lot of pubs, and then along the platform of Reading West train station too.

We came back to Jersey for a little short of a couple of weeks last month which we enjoyed. We got the boat across so stayed the night before around the outskirts of Portsmouth and had an enjoyable run one morning around Port Solent. The harbour of which was gorgeous and I’d have probably enjoyed it more had one end not been gated off to mere riff-raff such as me.

Port Solent became what I think is my 30th place I have run, although having looked at the original list I think I’d missed more, particularly creeping into the towns around Reading. See above…

While in Jersey I enjoyed a lovely birthday including one of my better 10-pin bowling games – 174 as I recall. Might have to alter my theory that a beer is good for my game. Probably needs more research though!

The following day I thought I’d do parkrun. I went out reasonably hard but it didn’t feel massively comfortable or quick but I hung on to a time of 26:05 which was my fastest 5k for a little short of a year. I was delighted with that.

Having got back home to Reading around the end of July, we had decided there was a nice loop of parks around the town using bridges across the Thames as ends of a loop. 9 miles flew by in 94 minutes. Not quick but definitely fun.

After having had a few pretty good runs I was intrigued to visit Prospect parkrun. It was tough again and I probably went out too quickly but I was still pleased to get an event PB. At the moment I’m still not sure if the course is two minutes slower than Jersey parkrun or I’ve just not done it very well up until now.

Anyway, that brings us right up to Wednesday night’s Run Through Chase the Sun event. I went into it planning to do my best 10k possible, but was keeping a pretty open mind about my expectations. I did not have to decide between the 5k or 10k race beforehand so I chose to focus on the 10k but if i wasn’t feeling it then I might drop down a distance.

Conditions were pretty much perfect for me. A little damp from earlier rain but not at all hot or humid.

We have done this specific event twice before but also two other events around the Olympic Park too and pretty much all of those have gone well. I think I just love the idea of the Olympic venue and ultimately I have, along with my wife, run along the running track inside the stadium waving a Jersey flag. A special memory for sure. My spiritual running home? Despite having achieved precisely none of my PBs there. Yeah possibly.

But this one had a new course to those we have done before, as we were allowed to run right up to the edge of the Olympic Stadium (yes I know it’s not called that anymore and I don’t care). Close enough to read the words to “I’m forever blowing bubbles” on the stadium doors and across the paving slabs dedicated to fans and players outside the ground.

Not that I saw those until my wife showed me them the day after the run.

Anyway, the first 2.5km lap of the run went very well. Towards the end of that lap I caught up to someone wearing a Jersey Triathlon shirt which was worth a bit of conversation which was fun.

The second lap didn’t start well. Speed seemed to fall and Heart Rate seemed to rise, but I didn’t feel I was running slower. What actually happened was a GPS glitch but it definitely threw me a bit. During the lap you turn away from the stadium about 1k in so on lap 2 it meant about 3.5km in, and I felt I was still struggling a little but had some speed.

Over the next few minutes, I was contemplating strategy for the rest of the run. I saw my time at around 4k, which was around 20 minutes so decided I’d switch to the 5k event and just drive for the finish. And I really drove hard. The last half mile of this run was my 4th fastest ever. Funnily enough though I don’t remember overtaking anyone, at least apart from Jersey Triathlon Lady, but I just shut everything else out of my mind and ran hard.

The finish took a while to get to but when I got over it I came in at the finishing time of 24:35 – my fastest 5k since September 2017. I was stunned.

Looking back I ultimately made the decision to trade a sub-25 5k run over a sub-52 10k and if that was the choice – and of course as I won’t run that 10k we’ll never actually know – then I made the right choice. I loved it. I look back on Wednesday’s run so proud of what I did. Not my fastest ever for sure but still incredible. I managed to finish 3rd in my age group too – out of 11 – which was great.

And actually given I’m still looking forward to possible events later this year then actually it’s a really positive step towards something else.

Whatever that might be isn’t decided yet. Will be a great experience I’m sure though.

The best laid plans

I’m going to just pick up my running story from my last post, after the Liverpool Half Marathon when I entered the Guernsey Milk Run half for what would be my second attempt it. As I’d felt reasonably strong before Liverpool, I felt like I’d just go through a taper training phase again and see how that left me.

My first long run saw me take in Dinton Pastures parkrun which was good fun.

Check out my activity on Strava: https://strava.app.link/dpGgdP2l0X

Interval sessions, tempo runs, even a hill session all went pretty well and whilst I can’t say I was confident as I still had the odd leg niggle, I felt positive for Guernsey.

I did one of my occasional long runs along the Kennet from Theale back to Reading and enjoyed that loads.

I had a fairly relaxed couple of days in the build up to Guernsey so I felt prepared. My runs had gone well and while I can’t imagine ever going into a half marathon thinking that I’ll break 2 hours, it felt like it was within reach at least.

We spent a night in Guernsey and enjoyed ourselves with a really relaxed day and evening. We’ll aim to head back soon without a race around it. The morning went to plan. My routine was good, and the taxi was a little late but got me around the start nice and early.

I enjoy the start of this race because of the novelty having a donkey at the start, and a blow up milk bottle.

As you do.

The start was the highlight of the first 21km of this race. Something went in my calf within the first 500m and essentially that was that. I nearly fell over on the spot, but got going again, then around the 1 mile mark I started walking and considered very seriously whether pulling out was the right thing to do.

I don’t give up that easily but I thought if this wasn’t going be a great race then what was the point. But ultimately I decided to go on, while taking it easy. One of my slower half marathons ever is still one more half marathon.

One more challenge met eye-to-eye.

One more challenge faced down and beaten.

It wasn’t fun but I did no harm. It didn’t feel like it in the aftermath of the run because I could barely walk from Costa across the road to the pub when it opened at 12. Managed it though.

But within three or four days I was able to run again and quite honestly it was at that stage when the disappointment really kicked in. At least, my body could have had the decency of being properly injured, but I can’t really be unhappy in the end.

At the end of the day, I finished with a time of 2:25:53. I finished a half marathon distance for the 22nd time. I was proud of sticking it out whilst being careful enough to not cause any lasting damage. I got a medal.

I’ve enjoyed getting back to running again. A good variety of tempo and interval runs. I also enjoyed a return to parkrun last Saturday and then my first 5k out with the Sweatshop Running Community last Tuesday.

We’re now planning another event for next month but there’s a lot of training to do for that. Looking forward to it really.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Liverpool 2019

Liverpool 2019 has been and gone. It did not live up to the PB setting efforts of 2017 but it still was an amazing weekend and not a bad run.

But first let’s sweep up the pre-race running and training. There was a 10 miler involving me getting a train down to Theale and running back which I quite enjoyed. The following week saw me back in Jersey and I had a fairly tough 12 miler along a different run in quite hot conditions but I sort of enjoyed it.

Then another first time route running in Reading which just went really well. Finally the Wednesday before Liverpool, I had a great 30 minute Foundation Run which felt really good and I enjoyed doing – a real confidence boost.

So that brings us to the Liverpool long weekend itself. This year since we started the trip in Reading, rather than Jersey, we decided to drive up, knowing that it would be a fairly challenging drive. We planned to have somewhere between 2 and 5 stops en route, and eventually settled on one – in Stratford-upon-Avon – but still got held up by a petrol detour and every set of road works on the way too. Stratford was lovely though.

The drive took the best part of 6 hours with the delays and detours (for context, the run back took about 4) but we left early enough that it didn’t really affect anything. Actually we had time for a drink near our hotel, and the race start, around Albert Dock.

or is it “The Albert Dock”. Whatever.

We had a chilled rest of Friday, before the first event of the weekend being the 5k on Saturday morning. Once Jean had decided to run, I’d decided to run with her and I’ve got to say it went so so well. I’m a little reluctant to tell the story of my wife’s race but she finished in a time she never expected and I don’t think I had reason to push her during this run but I’m proud that the two of us went under 33 minutes for that run. I loved the experience again.

For the rest of the day, we visited the runner expo, buying the official entrant shirt with my name on it – hey you’ve got to don’t you

– and just for the rest of the day relaxed visiting the Cavern Pub (across the road from the Club) and going for a lovely steak.

So Half Marathon day then. The build up was fine – not putting it down – but the atmosphere was ok but not brilliant. The runners were up for it and we got going quickly. The opening of the half marathon went well but I had a few concerns at my heart rate numbers and sure enough going up the biggest hills around a third of the way in, my HR rocketed and I decided to take that as a sign to back off the pace dropping from the two-hour group.

In the end I ran quickly but needed to break those runs up quite a bit, but still did enough to finish under 2:10. The last 5km running back to the Albert Dock was really tough with headwinds all of the way along, and this was possibly the least fast finish of any of my half marathons but as I said I got in under 2:10 and on the day I was happy with that.

So the following day, I decided, with my wife’s kind support, to have another dig at a half marathon in Guernsey in a couple of weeks time. I just need to keep the fitness going for a couple more weeks and I do think there’s a sub-2 time in me around that Guernsey course. I really look forward to it. Should be fun however it goes.