Category Archives: Race reports

Jayson Lee Memorial 10k Run

I’m not ashamed to admit that I found Sunday’s race a little bit emotional. Not teary emotional, just an event I came away from having very strong feelings about.

I came into the 10k race interrupting my marathon training to have a break from the distance work and have a go at getting some serious speed work in, and maybe see what kind of dent I could make on my 10km PB of a little under 51 minutes done at Regent’s Park in December 2015.

The Jayson Lee Memorial 10k Run was to be possibly my only proper 10k of the year, and my parkruns of late – being all consistent low 24-minute runs – told me that the fabled sub 50-minute 10k was a possibility.

The build up to the race was not unusual, other than the fact we were at home rather than traveling for a change. And traveling to the race didn’t involve trains. We just walked there. That never happens. Except in Stratford maybe…

Before the start I heard some chatter in the crowd about there being 450 runners but that felt a little on the high side and that 250 was more likely. Then again I’m fairly rubbish at guessing the numbers of attendees at our local parkrun. It actually turned out to be about 230. Still a great turnout though for a local charity run.

The course was a good one, if a bit undulating. The start was busy but with plenty of space to run in. It just took a few minutes to find people about my pace to run with. I had come into the run with a game plan of running fairly steady 5-minute kilometres and a faster tenth to come in under a 50 minute 10k. I set out more or less on track, maybe a fraction fast, with 4:51, 4:54 and 4:53. I thought it might have been a tad quick but I also considered that I had some time in the bank that I could use later. The 4th kilometre had the first hills, one of which I’d forgotten was there, so I allowed myself a fraction slower at 5:03 then it was back on plan for the run to the turn back towards the inner road and a gentle climb – 4:57, 4:59 and 4:58.

When we hit the inner road it should have been a good feeling knowing I was into the last third of the race but it really wasn’t. The 8th kilometre was essentially all uphill – very gently uphill but uphill all the same. I think we also had some wind in our faces on that run back. It just felt hard and even the short downhill sections didn’t result in any particular improvement in speed. The 8th km was a 5:12. I wasn’t really happy with that but at least I did know I had time in hand and my target was still in reach but I couldn’t run that pace all the way to the finish.

On this return run where I’d allowed myself a lesser pace, I’d found myself following someone who was clearly on a similar target so I allowed myself to sit in behind her until about a mile to go.

Knowing the rest of the course very well I knew it was pretty much gentle downhill all the way to the finish at FB Fields and I got my pace back. The 9th km was a perfectly acceptable 5:01 and then I just kept on going. I lost my running partner, although she did try to come back at me entering the lap of the FB running track but she didn’t come past. Before that I’d seen someone in the distance who I used to work with. They’d clearly accelerated too though so I wasn’t really aiming on catching them. I was able to accelerate but I didn’t have a kick in me for a proper sprint finish.

But I did finish well and most importantly inside my target at 49:16 as per GPS timing (49:33 semi-officially although there was a results mix up so I may never have an actual finish time).

After the race I realised why I didn’t have a finish kick in me. My final kilo was a 4:26 which was my 4th fastest kilometre on record. I never realised I could sustain that sort of pace in the finish of a long run so that was a fantastic achievement. I don’t really know how I did it because I felt I had nothing left to give, but it was a good sign for future long runs for sure.

A day after the run I’m still feeling great about the run and grateful for the support I had at the finish. It was a great event and I’d certainly look forward to doing it again.

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Guernsey, Newham and a lull in the running

It’s been about seven weeks or so since my last post here but I’ve still managed to squeeze in a couple of races in that time.

Training went ok. After Liverpool I did a couple of gentle runs then a ten miler on the Sunday after the half marathon. Then a few more little runs including an aborted effort at trying to beat #mymile record and the following Sunday another great long 8 mile run.

A couple of days on from that I had another go at my mile record and achieved it getting a 6:49 – a brilliant effort. Which pretty much takes me up to the Guernsey Milk Run.

In the build up to the run, my wife and I had decided that we’d try and run this one together, ideally in order to get her a best for the half marathon, but probably just to enjoy ourselves. While we were in Guernsey, we stayed at this lovely pub with rooms, the Longfrie Inn. The staff there were just brilliant and I really hope we find a reason to go back next year, although if I do the same run next year I probably wouldn’t stay at that hotel.

The first couple of miles in Guernsey were great. We both had lot of fun.

But as the race got on the heat took its toll on Jean so we didn’t do as well as we wanted too but the 2:54 time was perfectly ok in what were actually horrible, hot conditions.

After Guernsey I had only a couple of runs before running the Great Newham London Run two weeks later. Work had got really busy so training ended up taking a lower priority.

I think my wife and I had differing views about Newham. I thought it was an amazing event and I hope to be able to return one day, but again it was very hot and there wasn’t a lot of shade out there on the course.

Again we didn’t really meet any speed objectives but we had a good run. I really enjoyed finishing in the Olympic Stadium and while yes there could have been bigger crowds it still had a great atmosphere.

Then since Newham I’ve done very little running at all. Work has still been stupidly busy so running time hasn’t been available. But the Jersey Marathon is still a fair while away yet.

Before that though we have the pleasure of an all inclusive week in Greece and after the past couple of weeks I can’t wait.

The​ ​Rock ‘n’​ ​Roll​ ​Liverpool​ ​weekend

I’m writing this at about 9.35pm on Sunday night, the evening of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Liverpool Half Marathon. My legs still hurt a little, I’m a bit tired but I can look back at today with a tremendous sense of complete satisfaction. We’ve still got bank holiday Monday here in Liverpool but whatever we get up to tomorrow will surely pale in comparison to the past couple of days events.

Let’s start with Friday.  The weekend started fairly inauspiciously with huge queues greeting us at Jersey airport, however we were extremely surprised when we still found ourselves through to the departure lounge in maybe 15 minutes.  That being said we still only barely had time for a drink before our flight.  We arrived in Liverpool in good time and ready for the  bus that I was hoping to catch.  And then Friday went downhill as the 82A bus failed to show despite another driver swearing blind it had – it hadn’t. By the time we had a bite to eat and reached our hotel it was well past 9pm and a bit late given the runs to come.

The weather throughout the build up to the weekend first said it was going to be hot then it was going to be very wet.  The Saturday weather was hot in the end so not ideal but better than the practical issues we’d have had if it had have rained instead. This was all not before  I popped outside before the race to check on the weather – it was barely raining but in the end that was about the only rain we’ve seen so far this weekend.

The first race of the weekend then was the 5k run.  Over 3,000 runners lined up for the start next to the BT Convention Centre by the Mersey. We all lined up in our pens and waited. A hush began to work back down the runners as everyone eventually realised there was a moment’s silence in remembrance of the Manchester attack – a silence that was impeccably observed and was quite eerie in itself.

As the waves of runners started we actually got to the start line before we expected to but our rhythm wasn’t particularly affected by it. What we didn’t know was that up ahead of us there was a huge problem as the first three waves of runners (or possibly two or four waves depending who you ask) followed a lead bike which had turned right in front of the Echo Arena rather than around the back of it meaning they cut about half a kilometre off the route. I don’t really know how, or if, it got resolved.

As expected there were a couple of bands on the course adding to the atmosphere 

but it was over much too soon really in 32:47.  The finish in the Echo Arena itself was a bit of a novelty but because it was really dark it was also really hard to see anything – that was a pain really.  That evening we observed what is now our normal pre-race steak dinner – Miller and Carter really does come very highly recommended.

Today’s pre-race build up went well. The weather was about as good as possible with the exception of a pretty blustery wind coming in off the riverside.  There was a delay to the start apparently caused by huge queues at the baggage drop area but we got going before long.

Sort of.  The opening mile or so was very crowded so I started losing time on my two-hour target right away. The first 3k had me about half a minute down on schedule still with the hills to come. But I improved quickly and even on the hills themselves I kept up a good pace.  About this time I saw a guy in a monkey suit and we seemed to trade places with each other for most of the first half of the run before he pulled clear with his running club group.

The second half of the race was just hard work. From about the 7k mark I saw I was on track for a time in the region of 1:57 but knowing I had time in hand didn’t seem to be a positive. My heart rate was under control but still higher than I’d have liked it to be.  Heading for the halfway point I saw the two-hour pacer heading in the opposite direction. I knew from the course route there was a turnaround point but I had no idea exactly where so I initially had no idea how far I was behind the pacer.  I think it must have been 7-10 minutes which, considering my finishing time, is a pretty poor effort I think. I’m glad I couldn’t find the pacer at the start else my race might have been very different.

The final stretch running north alongside the Mersey was long and a little dull, although the dodgy pavements certainly kept everyone alert and interested! I saw one guy nearly fall over with just a mile to go but luckily he didn’t. As is now normal for me, my final km was my fastest at only a touch over five minutes and it brought me a finishing time of 1:56:35 – taking something like over six minutes off my personal best and of course running under two hours for the half marathon for the first time.

I’m really hugely proud of that time which will put me in the top half of all half marathon runners this year. I paid for it though. As I said I’m really tired and a little sore but ultimately I think it was worth it! What a brilliant event though. Certainly hope to return sometime.

Outrunning Superman

The Durrell Challenge 2017

Sunday’s race was one I think I’ll always look back fondly on. It was hot, tiring and very very hilly and of course I absolutely loved it. Eventually.

The build up to the race really couldn’t have gone better as I’ve said previously. Injury free and probably in the form of my running life to date – Jean had been running brilliantly too so we’d really both been looking forward to what was actually Jean’s first race of the year.

The race morning build up went to plan. I had my strategy in mind of keeping my pace under control so as to aim not to blow up like last year. There was clearly a big field, as was shown by the eventual results showing 502 finishers, but it didn’t seem particularly crowded at all. I’d seen a couple of familiar faces before the start and then got chatting to someone who was visiting from California having just come for the race. The race began a little late but we got going and I found it to be slightly heavy going. I’m not sure it was crowded or whether there were just a lot of people who had lined up too far forward for their likely pace. There was certainly someone in the first kilometre or so getting in everyone’s way by walking and causing chaos, but otherwise getting to the foot of Vallee de Vaux was uneventful.

This graph was quite revealing when I’d seen it after the race. I felt like the first long climb of Vallee de Vaux was steady and fairly unremarkable. My heart rate was under control and my pace was fine. The pink trace in the graph is my time before or ahead of last year’s run, which is the black trace. That told me I’d lost a little over 30 secs in the opening of the race but had managed my energy loads better.

About halfway up Vallee de Vaux I’d caught the group around Henry Cavill. Last year he beat me by a couple of minutes but in 2017 I overtook him quite early. To be fair I think he was having fun with his family rather than actually racing. Fair enough really.

My strength this time was primarily on the big hills. There were 4 steeper hills and I probably gained most of my time on these – they are the sharp upticks on the graph where I walked last year.

But the hills wasn’t the whole story. I ran the final 5k in 27 minutes which was four minutes faster than the 2016 running. I’d kept plenty of energy back – my 13th kilometre was run in under 5 minutes which I’d find fairly quick for Parkrun, let alone the 13th kilometre of a hilly race.

In the end I finished in 1:13:17 – about five and a half minutes up on last year. Either the second or third most improved on last year’s times out of all those who’ve done both runs. A brilliant effort really and I loved it.

There was a really good atmosphere up at the Zoo at the finish and I enjoyed chatting with a few people I knew who were running or were waiting for someone else. I was tired and had worked hard but was very happy. I really hope they keep running this in 2018.

The next challenge now is Liverpool in a little under a couple of weeks and once again I can’t wait!

Greenwich, Southend and a new Parkrun best

My last sort of catch up post was reasonably thorough about the number of runs I’d done in the past few weeks since Reading – and boy doesn’t that feel like a long time ago now. But what it did omit was a rather lovely trip to Greenwich and Southend.

We went over on the back of one of my fairly regular trips to London so met up on a Friday evening in our favourite Premier Inn hotel around Gatwick. We headed over to Greenwich in the late morning and aimed to get out pretty quickly for a run. Having been to Greenwich Park last in December we knew it would make a pretty fair site for a hill interval session 

but it was loads tougher but better than we thought. With the hills of the Durrell Challenge in mind we knew it was important but we did well. A nice pint or two was consumed in a sun-trap garden of a pub just down the road but we feel pretty spent at that stage.

We went back to the park the next day to have a look around the Royal Observatory, a really lovely walk around the park and a wonder down to the Cutty Sark to get the river bus across to North Greenwich by the O2. From there we took a ride on the cable cars which was something we’ve wanted to do for a little while. I was quite surprised how close City Airport is to them really.

On Sunday afternoon we went down to Southend and discovered a pretty fantastic Chinese on that first night which I’d seen good reviews for but which if I’m honest didn’t look up to much from outside. It was really well worth it though.

Monday morning saw us go out for our long runs. Mine was 8 miles and I enjoyed it. The fog was pretty thick so the views weren’t what they could be but it was fun – and even better it was followed by a great breakfast. We had a great relaxing break, had some fun and did a bit of running too.

So bang up to date then and today saw us going up to Parkrun. We weren’t definitely planning to but this morning we felt good so got on with it. On the first lap I went out strong but felt fresh. I faded a little over the second half of the run but still came in in a PB time of 23:55 – my first sub-24 race ever, although my Strava time had me down as low as 23:37. I set three other records on the way round so it’s fair to say it was a great run.

Tomorrow morning brings us another 10 mile run, with the Boat Show in the way of where we’d normally run to but I’m sure it will still be fun.

Reading Half Marathon 2017… and ’18?

The story of my Reading Half Marathon 2017 on Sunday is one of both great success and achievement but also missed opportunity and a little disappointment.

Let’s deal with the last of those first. Disappointment because I really could have probably achieved so much more had it not been for my poxy irritating illness from a few weeks ago. Training had been going pretty well, apart from going over on an ankle one time, and I’d felt confident. Being ill knocked much of that confidence out of me but I’d certainly felt ready as I could have been.

The trip to Reading had been a good one. The flight to London was fine. Our meal in London was lovely. The train to Reading dragged on a bit but it all ran to time. Meeting up with our daughter was fab and we shared a nice meal at our hotel in the Madejski Stadium – it was a fairly good hotel but quite expensive really.

The morning of the race was as full of anxiousness and anticipation as ever. I enjoyed the atmosphere of the race village although from my very quick visit back there after the race there probably wasn’t very much there other than retail stalls. The racing started with an earlier 5k event and then a bit before our event with a wheelchair event – sort of. I believe there was one self-propelled chair plus another being pushed by someone else. The self-propelled one didn’t finish as she came off on a bend after around 4 miles. Maybe I’d expected too much from the wheelchair event. Last year’s one had one finisher – only a slight fall then. Maybe that’s the wrong phrase actually…

Anyway, my race started well, stopped again about 20 metres short of the actual start line then started again – don’t know why. There wasn’t a narrowing of the road anywhere near there. The initial phase around the Green Park area was good aside from speed bumps every so often to navigate.

Before long we’d reached the first hills. A steady one up Hartland Road then the nasty one up Whitley Wood Road. I’d decided to set out with the 2-hour pacer group despite my poor recent training and see how I got on. I’d more or less kept up through the big hills but used the downhills on the other side to recover and actually pull slightly clear of the pacer again, although I made sure I didn’t go too far ahead.

My cheering section of Lauren and Jean saw me around the 4 or 5 mile mark as we turned off the road back to the town centre to have a couple of loop sections around the university. I enjoyed seeing them but otherwise didn’t enjoy the university section very much. Lots of short straights and corners and all breaking the running rhythm up a bit.

The run down to town was enjoyable and the run around town was excellent with some fantastic crowds and brilliant drumming, music and DJs. Special mention to the DJ around the halfway point on Friar Street who put on the most Excellent “Sandstorm” as I ran past. Nice choice.

I am told that on the corner before the hill coming out of town that a group were offering beers to runners. I seemed to miss all of that. How disappointing really. It might have made the rest of the run more pleasant. You see that was about 8 miles and from around 10 miles I thought my heart rate indicated that I wasn’t reacting well to the speed / distance so I dropped a little off the 2-hour group. Then a little later still I had stomach cramps which made me stop running a couple of times. 

For the final section running into the stadium proper I found the energy to finish off strong. The welcome from the crowd was brilliant, although one of my lasting memories of the stadium was how small it was – I wonder what running into the London Stadium will be like in July.

So after it all I finished in my second fastest half marathon time ever of 2:06:57. Yes it was a good seven minutes slower than what I wanted but at the end of the day I can look back at my training and conclude that I ran so much better than my training really justified. Yes, I’ll be looking forward to Liverpool when I’ll be going for two hours again.

Oh and along with my wife, I’ve signed up – on the day that 2018 entries opened – to do it again next year. The university bit aside it was a fantastic, largely flat course and I highly recommend it to anyone interested. It just so happens we love Reading too which definitely helps.

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.