Category Archives: Trip reports

Unleashing my inner Greg

It wouldn’t just be false modesty to say that a couple of weeks ago I wasn’t expecting much from my two races in April. The Harbour View run last week really surprised me as I’ve written about it before but still going into the Fleet Half Marathon my confidence was not high.

My foot issues earlier in the year had really only started to clear up in February and I wasn’t really running properly until late March. The training sessions I’d put in showed I had some speed but had lost a fair bit of fitness as evidenced by some fairly high heart rate figures.

But in the week or so leading up to the Harbour View 5k training had improved significantly but still I didn’t feel it was at the levels I was at in the middle of last year. The inaugural event last week changed that. If a sub-25 minute 5k was possible then I surely would be in a position to put in an effort I could be proud of at least.

Let’s recap a little. The Fleet Half Marathon was meant to run in March, on the same weekend as the Reading Half, and much like that one fell victim to the snow of the time. However, Fleet said right away they would try and reschedule (Reading said right away they wouldn’t) and Fleet made the decision the day prior to the event and had been pretty negative about it the day before that (Reading strung everyone along until two hours before the run).

So, the sensible organisers of Fleet said early on when they found their reschedule date that they’d allow transfers of entries. A very simple process then followed and with the generous support of my wife I became a runner with a bib and entry of a Fleet & Crookham AC club runner called Greg.

I wasn’t settling for being Greg quietly, lovely though I’m sure Greg is, so I became “Not Greg” for the purpose.

Or “Greg” as most family members seem to think funny.

Or “Not Dave” as shouted to me by my wife during the run….hmmm…

Anyway, for our trip we picked our daughter up in Reading and then went on to Fleet for the night before the run. The route for the run started out in the very pretty Calthorpe Park. The infrastructure for the event was excellent. Most town roads were closed and the country ones were just very very quiet (or possibly closed, but I don’t remember seeing any signs).

The first kilo of the run was mainly uphill and my Garmin seemed to be struggling with detecting my speed at the time. I aimed to start with either of the two hour pacer runners but due to crowding at the start I probably crossed the start line a good 20 seconds behind the second one. I didn’t panic though. I kept the pacers in sight and caught one around the high street and the second not long after.

There was a fab atmosphere along Fleet Road

with people lined up outside the pubs and coffee shops with loads of support. The country parts of the run were much less well supported but they were also quite narrow in places so that wasn’t really a bad thing.

The course was essentially an outward spiral from the park finishing up the same road we started on, so we ran up Fleet Road twice. The second time was about the 7km point and by that time I had been pretty consistent, all of my kilo times apart from the first one being between 5:28 and 5:38. Being with the pacer no doubt helped that steady progress. I felt good during the first two thirds of the run. The pacer, Kelvin, regularly confirming that we were gaining time on the two hour target throughout with me quietly knowing I had more in mind because I started behind the pacers.

Steady progress continued – 5:31, 5:34, 5:32, 5:38, 5:39. I was down on my best ever Half Marathon time but I didn’t feel I was really racing against that. The fatigue started to set in around 13km by the lovely named village of Rotten Green. I decided to head off the front of the pace group just to give myself a clear shot at the following water station so I had one slightly faster kilo then one slightly slower one as I dropped back into the group.

The kilometres continued to tick by. Before long Kelvin pointed out that at the ten mile mark, you more or less just have a parkrun to go. For me that meant less than 30 more minutes of hard work.

Slightly oddly, Kelvin asked for a song request shortly after that. Someone suggested something a bit downbeat – don’t remember what at the moment – he rejected that and started a verse and chorus of Sweet Caroline, joined by one or two people. I joined the chorus only!

I decided earlier in the event that I was going to reconsider whether to stick with the group a couple of miles out. I wasn’t sure I felt fresh enough to confidently run off the front of the pack at the time so delayed my faster finish. On reflection, that might have been wrong and it cost me a faster time. I considered it again at a mile to go and I just didn’t feel happy to go.

At a right turn with about 1,000 metres to go I decided that was the time to cut the strings and go for home. I’d been at the front of the group for much of the second half of the race so I just pushed on away. This was down the hill that bothered me at the start earlier. Then there was a right turn at 500m to go as we entered the park and I then finished strong as I often do. I’m told I looked quite fresh at the finish. I overtook probably half a dozen people, if not more, in that final straight crossing the line at a gun time under two hours for the first time ever and a chip time of 1:57:53, exactly a minute outside my PB but probably ten minutes better than what I’d expected weeks before.

I was thrilled. I ran so well and, being honest with myself, I could have run better with a bit more confidence to leave the pacer group earlier. Could I have found that minute to get a new PB? Probably not actually, but it might have been close. But I look back not with disappointment at a new best getting away but with tremendous pride at what I did do.

Our Jersey flag was flying strongly at the event and I put in an amazing strong run which I really enjoyed. It really couldn’t have been much better. We’ve already talked about coming back next year, although we’ll have plenty of time to think about that.

If he sees the results after the run, I’d like to think Greg would be proud.


The Loneliness of the Long Distance (non-) Runner

Let’s start this post off by noting I’m not lonely – the above title came to me earlier today though and I wanted to go with it. Regardless of the facts.

I’m going to deal with the runs I didn’t get to do later in this post though. I’ll start first with those I did and actually in the month or so since I last posted here I’ve done only five runs, two of which were races.

First up was the Stroke Association Resolution Run, an optional 5 or 10k around Les Quennevais Sports Centre – essentially two times the Parkrun route. Since my foot injury of late January it had continued to be a struggle to get going and at this point my foot certainly had not improved enough in order to get my fitness up enough. My heart rate shot up and showed quite quickly that I wasn’t going to be at my best. A finishing time of 1:02:12 certainly was not what was expected.

I then took a week off before running seven miles the following weekend, followed by an easy 2 miles the day before we flew to the mainland.

Wednesday saw us heading to the mainland and another run around the Olympic Park for the Chase The Moon 5k. With the half marathon coming at the weekend I deliberately took this easy, although allowed myself some acceleration in the last kilometre (timed at 5:12) to come in just under 29 minutes.

So that brings us then to Reading. We had a great time before the run with a day in London (we loved the Ice Bar and don’t understand why everyone else left so early) and a great time with our daughter.

I’m not going to dwell on it here – yet – but let’s just say that for reasons I don’t fully understand the organisers seemed caught out by the weather that had been predicted and ended up cancelling the Reading Half at 6:30 on the morning of the run. The organisers are yet to offer any kind of benefit or compensation for the cancellation – I’d take a significant discount from next year’s entry fee – and generally their efforts seem to have been focused on Reading residents for some reason. I’ve found that disappointing and as of right not I can’t honestly recommend the run to anyone outside the town, which is a shame because I loved it last year. Anyway, I might moan more fully another time.

However, I made the most of the conditions and got out for a good 4km run in the snow.

What the whole debacle has done though is left me wanting a replacement event but without being prepared to pay significantly for it – once bitten, twice shy and all that. And that in turn has left me with very little enthusiasm for running at all, which will need to change.

Hoping to get out tomorrow though which I hope will put a little spark into my running.

February put positively

Ok my last post was a teensy bit negative about February. Probably because I focused on running, and let’s be honest February has not been kind to me running-wise.

However, much of the rest of February has been quite cool. There’s been two trips to the mainland the second of which finished today, and they have been excellent. These are the recommended highlights.

The first trip was around half term and involved the best part of 200 miles of driving and only a little running. Oh and getting very wet.

The first night saw us up in Reading for a post-birthday celebration including cocktails!

We also took a trip to Ikea which can only be fun! The next night took us down to Arundel. We were going to visit Arundel castle but it was closed for some reason.

Following that we went down to Bramber once again to visit the lovely Old Tollgate Hotel. If you follow that link to see the hotel, try and imagine the photo on their front page in black and white. With the wind, rain and cold we suffered there, that was about how the hotel looked, but it was still no less lovely.

When we were there, we were planning to run down to Shoreham but the weather was too miserable and as a result so were we, but we did still have a good run.

Then on the Wednesday – Valentine’s Day – my wife and I went to Stratford to run a brilliant event around the Olympic Park called Chase The Moon. The run was tough again largely down to filthy wet weather but we had a lot of fun. And the medals were cool too.

We ran together and had a great time doing it getting round in about 35 minutes.

So that brings us to this weekend then. We did a bit of traveling around again but probably no more than 100 miles which is evidently quite slack in comparison. The whole family were back together again with the four of us attending a family event.

We stayed near Havant at a Premier Inn with the connected Beefeater pub being elegantly named the Rusty Cutter (or Rusty Gutter as it was delightfully renamed). That was a great base for the weekend actually and we’ll certainly be back.

On Saturday morning, I added a fifth venue to my Parkrun collection. After Jersey 43 times and Southwark, Reading and Old Deer Park (near Richmond) once each, we visited Southsea for their run. I ran on my own on this occasion and found my foot to still be quite sore. The first and last 2 kilometres were pretty good but I had to walk much of the bit in the middle to rest my foot. It’s certainly going to be tough to make Reading although I’m confident I can get round safely if things get no worse.

My time of 28:22 was one of my slower Parkruns but it was still good fun. An amazing venue though and again we’ll certainly be back.

Then yesterday we visited Spinaker Tower and Gunwharf Quays and enjoyed ourselves hugely.

All in all, two amazing trips which we’ll look back on very well in the future.

Mud, mud……

Well not exactly glorious mud. In fact, arguably some of the muddy trails we ventured out into on Saturday were no longer mud, but whatever mud turns into when it’s been frozen.

I thought in this post, I’d list a few runs I did and try and say something interesting about them.

Last time I posted Jean and I had been out for a trail run. The following day we were back on solid ground again running for an hour along the seafront. A good 10k achieved.

The next week was the last one before our training programme for the 2018 Reading Half Marathon began. I had a quick run home on Tuesday and then a good interval session around by the marina on the Wednesday.

The next run saw us back on the trails again with a run starting around Grosnez and finishing around Les Landes.

This was a really good run. The terrain was a bit more runner-friendly than our previous trail runs although we did manage to lose our way once running along the path designed for horses, rather than the human one nearby….
The following day I did another long-ish run aiming for a steady 10k, which I did in a very steady 62 minutes. I didn’t feel as good as when I did the hour-long run the week before but it was ok.

Monday the 4th saw the official start of Reading Half training, and it also saw the start of needing to be flexible around the program. I should have had a rest day Monday but needed to move it to Wednesday when I spent a couple of days in London. So Monday saw my first training run, a fast finishing effort with the final half mile at a really good pace.

Tuesday’s session was similar but without the fast finish.

As I was in London with work on Thursday, I thought I’d try and take advantage of my hotel’s location near Greenwich Park for a run there.  Except my map reading skills had clearly let me down and whilst in the grand scheme of things my hotel was quite near the park, it also was the length of Blackheath Common away. And I also ran in sightly the wrong direction for Greenwich Park so that didn’t go to plan but was a good run anyway.

Here’s a link to a picture of where I ran. I didn’t take any pictures though because:-

  • it was dark when I set out
  • it was flat fairly featureless grassland and
  • I forgot to take either of my phones with me. Some may consider this reason to be more important than the others.

Friday was a day off so for a change I did some running! An interval session taking me along the coast to a nasty hill and then the direct route back into town again for a coffee and cheese and mushroom toastie. The nasty hill went well actually as I’ve only been up there once faster.

We were off on our travels again this past weekend to Steyning and Bramber in the South Downs. We stayed at an amazing hotel and will most definitely go back.

On Saturday we went for a lengthy and hilly trail run but here’s where the frozen mud came in. There was actually a fair bit of the wet, squidgy kind as well so we made sure our trainers had a good clean afterwards.

The first couple of miles was essentially uphill and not just a bit uphill but proper 40% gradients all the way, but what it did mean was that there were some amazing views waiting for us at the top.

Which brings us right up to yesterday and we were still in the South Downs. This time we went south and I got as far as the outskirts of Shoreham.

I’d planned to run to this footbridge to the north of Shoreham but discovered when I was there that my trail shoes really don’t work very well on smooth wet surfaces like a wooden footbridge in the rain. At least I didn’t fall over.

Next week (weather and travel permitting) we’ll be heading to Richmond for some more running tourism but hopefully we’ll get in some good training miles too. Hopefully it will be dry too…..

Poppy 10k – the best run so far

As you may have read before, for our last race of the year, we decided we would return to Bexhill-on-Sea – the venue of what was until earlier this year my best ever half marathon. But having not had a solo run under UKA rules at the 10k distance this year, I thought I’d step down a distance and take it on today.

I came into the run wanting a sub-50 minute run, hoping for a PB and imagining what a sub-49 might be like.

Preparation has been mixed over the past month or two in truth. A back injury a few weeks ago had affected training and then holidays came up too which made running harder to arrange. All that said though I had had some excellent training runs since getting back from Grenada a couple of weeks ago.

The trip to first Eastbourne then on to Bexhill went well enough. However we discovered pretty early on that the weather was not brilliant. Rain was definitely in the air and there was a fair bit of wind before the start too, although in fairness that did fade before the race start.

With the way training runs have gone I decided I’d run the race in much the same way I attacked the Jayson Lee 10k a few months ago – aiming for 5-minute-kilos and try and hang on enough so that a final kilometre surge would bring me in under 50 minutes.

It being the 11th of November we had a two minutes silence before the start. Well it was actually longer because most people misheard the PA announcer when they said they’d start the two minutes silence shortly. Everyone fell silent anyway, leaving the PA guy to sheepishly say “right now we’ll have the two minutes silence”.

The course was two laps of an out and back route along the seafront and the first run out to the far end of the course was fine and steady. The first four kilometres were all timed within a second of each other around 4:54 each.

Around the 5k mark I was overtaken, possibly for the only time in the race by a lady who eventually was the second fastest woman in the race. Shortly afterwards I noticed some soreness in my hip and I was increasingly finding breathing to be hard work. I wasn’t feeling optimistic at the time but my watch still indicated I was heading for a low 49s time, but I did resolve to allow myself to ease the speed a fraction.

At around the 3km and 8km mark there was a steep hill, followed by a right turn and then a demoralising longer steadier climb. On the second lap I found this particularly tough and my predicted time dropped to over 50 minutes.

When I reached the top of the hill I felt like I accelerated very nicely, without really even noticing it because at one stage in the last kilometre I glanced down at my watch and saw I was running an excellent 13km/h and my predicted time was down in the 49s again.

I just put my head down ignored the time and speed after that, ignored the pain in my legs and ignored my wheezy breathing and just got on with running. The finish seemed to take ages but it probably didn’t. A bit of a fast finish coming in towards the De La Warr Pavilion brought me over the line in a gun timed 49:14 and chip timed 49:06, setting a new PB for the distance plus beating those also for 5 and 6 miles.

I was delighted. The time so was much better than I’d expected, especially given the bad the patch I had experienced around 7k. I picked up my unofficial time print and was amazed to discover that I was 26th overall out of 218. Just a brilliant effort and something I’ve never really done before. We’ll certainly be back.

These two ran the race in about 56 minutes. Nice

After the race I felt quite tired and sore. I’d definitely taken a lot out of my legs, and I had a sore right foot too. So the two hours on trains to come up here to Reading weren’t really wanted, but the trip was worth it.

Tonight we met up with our daughter and enjoyed celebrating the weekend via cocktails and steak and very nice they were too. We go home tomorrow and at the moment I’m expecting to have a lighter training schedule for a few weeks before Reading Half Marathon training builds again.

Miles and holiday smiles

After today’s run I decided it was about time I posted here, but thought I’d focus on my recent running exploits, rather than whatever we’d been up to on holiday recently. I’m going to hold to that save for some running we did in Greece, but suffice to say our holiday in Greece was absolutely fantastic. A brilliant week and we’d certainly love to go back to the same place sometime.

So about that running then. Well our first run was on the way out for our holiday. Sort of. We had an extra day in the UK before our flight to Greece and we decided, on a recommendation, to visit Reigate and go for a run.

I’m struggling to remember now but I think I’d planned to do 12 miles around Reigate Park and its neighbouring Priory Park. It was a hot day and the terrain was decidedly lumpy, as well as more unstable and trail-like than what I’m used to, and in the end I was pretty much spent after 6 and a half. But I hadn’t run very much in the immediate period prior so I had to be happy really.

While we were away we took the opportunity for lots of swimming and a bit of kayaking. Some football too which reminded me that I probably can’t run up and down a football pitch for the full length of a game like I used to be able to.  But we did also make some time for running. Firstly a two miler, which was enough to run to the nearest town and back then towards the end of the holiday an early morning 4.5km around the same sort of route but extending one end of it as far as I could without crossing any main roads. Those runs were tough but fun.

The proper distance training has kicked in since we’ve got home. Last week I completed a scheduled half marathon in exactly 2 hours 10 minutes. I was really happy with that and it made me think I was slightly ahead of schedule in terms of my marathon training.

Which pretty much brings us to today. Today’s run was designed to be 16 miles although it was eventually a little bit more than that. I wanted to explore a new running route and to do that I decided I would start with the course of the Durrell Challenge and then return home.

The day before I’d done Parkrun #96 and I think that despite lots of signs of good fitness including a run of 24:14, there was still a great deal of tiredness in my legs. I walked up the steepest hills and had a couple of other walks but it didn’t do any harm to the ultimate pace and performance.

Today’s run was solid. Only my 8th fastest half marathon, but it was, of course a training run so it didn’t really matter. That being said it was also my fastest 15 miles ever. A brilliant run really.

During the course of the week we decided to register for the Jayson Lee 10k here and now that’s only two weeks away. I haven’t raced over that distance since last December so it is about due. The last time, though, still stands as my second best 10k ever. What with my current 5k form, i don’t really know how well it might go, but i do know however that I’m looking forward to it.

I’m taking this week as a recovery week so I’m hoping to have a little more rest before building up to my final couple of long runs in the run up to the full Marathon. 

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.