Category Archives: Race reports

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:

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.

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.

The road to Goodwood… and beyond

At the end of my last post, I mentioned a few things I had planned for January – our first New Year’s Day parkrun double, a trip to Vienna and my first group training run in Reading – and along with that lot in early February I had my first 10k race for some time around Chichester and Goodwood.

So let’s first talk about New Year’s Day. For the uninitiated, on NYD parkrun allow organisers to do an extra event that isn’t on a Saturday, but they also allow flexibility in start times such that runners can do two events in a day. We had hired a car for the purpose to save on early starts and reliance on public transport – which on NYD might not have been an option anyway.

We had selected the parkruns in Maidenhead and St Albans based on several criteria – that the events weren’t too busy, they didn’t have too many laps, the ability to get from one to the other in time and probably most importantly not having too early a start in the morning!

Maidenhead was a very friendly event, probably slightly too friendly with a complete list of the top 20 or so participants being read out. And the most frequent volunteers. Bit odd. But it was a fantastic route around a little lake and country park and we’ll almost certainly go back.

St Albans was just as good. They were using their three lap route, which actually on our original criteria wouldn’t have qualified. The two lap route looked much more fun, but it was still a good event. We wandered into the town of St Albans too and managed to find a Wetherspoons which had a very formal queuing system and most irritatingly a car park much nearer our destination then where we’d started walking from. The running was almost unimportant in the grand scheme of things. We just had a really good day.

The weekend after I did my first Sweatshop training run in preparation for the Fleet Half Marathon. First, 6 miles then a couple of weeks later 8 miles then a couple of days ago up to 9 miles. I don’t think it was quite what I was expecting but I guess ultimately a lot of the participants already knew each other. I got chatting to someone last time and had a quick chat or two with runners this weekend so I guess it’s doing its job as a social relaxed training run.

Vienna was a great experience. We didn’t run in the end, choosing to prioritise traveling light over taking another set of trainers. We’ll gloss over the nature of the part of town that our hotel was in too. Bet the nightlife around was interesting though.

If any of you fine readers do happen to go to Vienna though, and you’re prepared and interested in a bit of history and/or sightseeing, you absolutely MUST get the Vienna Pass when you go. I can’t even begin to tell you how easy it was to just wander into a museum we hadn’t actually planned to, flash our barcodes at someone and get in. It was brilliant. Fans of Sigmund Freud should probably not bother with his museum, at least not until it moves next year.

That then brings us to the other event of the past few weeks, the Chichester Priory 10k at Goodwood. I went into it with reasonably mixed feelings about my training. Some runs had been good but some had been poor, particularly my parkruns, so I went into it hoping to be well under an hour but wasn’t certain of it.

The weekend began with driving through enormous amounts of snow. That was fun.

We explored Chichester the night before the race and enjoyed it thoroughly. I think exploring towns is finally becoming something that comes more naturally to us. It’s taken a fair bit of practice it must be said.

The race itself was good. The start was a little congested but generally people put themselves in the right pens for their estimated finish times so I don’t remember vast amounts of overtaking people or being overtaken by groups either. I generally moved slowly through the field, doing my usual thing of latching on to the back of someone running my sort of pace until they either edge away or slow down and I’ll go past and find someone else.

I established a pace in the 56-57 minute range and pretty much stuck with it. The actual running itself was reasonably uneventful. I got chatting to someone at the entrance to Goodwood Circuit around the 6k mark who warned me that the circuit itself was a bit dull.

(But, like, duhhh, it’s a motor racing circuit and they can’t all be like Brands Hatch. Thank goodness!)

I had identified before the race that the circuit climbs until about 2k left then it was gently downhill most of the way to the finish on the Goodwood grid.

That helped a strong and fast finish with the final kilo coming in at 4:56 and still accelerating to finish in a time of 55:52. “Only” my eighth fastest 10k ever but my fastest since the Poppy run in 2017 so it was a fine achievement.

I guess now it’s time to look forward to Fleet in a little over a month now. I really enjoyed Fleet last year and I’m looking forward to doing even better this time. Still got a bit of work in training to do first though but I’d say I’m just about on .

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.

Durrell Challenge 2018

Yesterday saw me take part in my third race in four weekends – four out of four if you count last week’s parkrun – the third running of the Durrell Challenge, a 13k road race from town up to Jersey Zoo (or whatever they’re calling it these days).

I’ve always been keen to support this event because as a family we’ve always enjoyed the zoo having once been members and this seemed like a fun way to combine that with our sport / hobby of choice.

The course was the same it has always been – an initial mile or so from the park start through town towards a long uphill drag for 5k or so, followed by rolling terrain for pretty much the rest of the run. There are also two particularly steep hills to interrupt the rhythm and just generally make participants suffer.

And this year I certainly suffered. I set out with a fast pace on the flat and also on the steady hills, but the bigger hills totally wore me down. I simply haven’t done enough hill work this year, having focused (rightly) on my half marathon endurance up until the Fleet Half of a couple of weeks ago. I just blew myself out on the steeper hills and needed to walk up a couple of them. I also misjudged my pace on the last proper hill essentially kicking on too far before the finish – the opposite of the mistake I made in Fleet I guess – so I finished a bit slower than last year’s corresponding run but a lot more stressed with a heart rate of a silly 196bpm near the finish.

In the final results, I was 1:10 outside of my time of last year and on one level I was disappointed that I didn’t improve but I also looked at how my race compared with last year and the trace shows that I was quicker more or less everywhere apart from the hills where I walked so there’s lots of positives for the future.

One thing I do still enjoy about the event though is having the opportunity to race against Superman (or Henry Cavill as the official results insist on calling him). Like me, he’s taken part in all three Challenges so far. I’m 2-1 up now 😉

The odd thing now coming out of the Durrell is that for possibly the first time since 2015 I’ve got no races firmly planned whatsoever. I have some ideas but there’s not actually anything in the running diary. I think I’m just going to enjoy the unfocused running for a little while at least.