Beginning a streak

For the first time in a little while my running has been wholly uneventful. I haven’t set any PBs, I haven’t injured myself and I haven’t particularly struggled anywhere.

That’s not to say things have been indifferent either, because I’ve had some really good runs.  Particularly Parkrun #104 where I quite surprised myself with an excellent 24:32. My time is certainly creeping back down towards the 23s again.

It’s taken a couple of weeks to properly get over my back issues but a good gym session tonight including a quick 2km rowing had pretty much confirmed I’m over it. But even before now I’ve been running ok.  I did a really good Fast Finish run last week which felt really good.

A rather nice and welcoming Facebook community, who I first personally encountered at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Liverpool weekend, issued a challenge for October to run (or walk) at least a mile every day so I started that on Sunday running with Jean, then on Monday doing another mile and a half when we were staying over at a hotel near the start/finish for the Jersey Marathon (a rather pleasant by-product of entering the marathon which we’d already paid for so we had a weekend of relative luxury).

By the way – speaking of the marathon – I know there aren’t thousands of readers of this page, but if the person who called out to me while I was watching the start of the Marathon last weekend could make themselves known to me it would be much appreciated. Just because I’ve looked up your name in the entry list and don’t recognise it at all so I’m curious how you know me…. I don’t think I have fans…

Continuing the challenge, Tuesday saw me going back to my training plan for the Poppy 10k for an interval based 5.8km and then tonight another 2km on a treadmill as part of a gym session. Tomorrow should see a more steady paced 45 minute run which should be my longest run since hurting my back so that’s a really good test on the way to the Poppy event in Bexhill-on-Sea.

We’ve been making lots more running plans actually, partly driven by the October challenge. We’re going to Reading next weekend so decided to take in the parkrun there, just next to the wrong Oracle, but we’ll also need to find time to run on a couple of other days as well. So much for traveling light I guess…

Then for when we’re away on holiday later in the month we’ve been thinking about how to fit that mile a day in – there’s a hotel gym so it should be ok, although the two traveling days could be challenging. We’ll probably need to find a route somewhere around the roads around Gatwick airport, which will certainly be different.

For later in the year, we’ve also got plans to do a bit more parkrun tourism, one of two events near Richmond – a destination picked largely for its accessibility to Premier Inn hotels, Gatwick airport and parkrun sites. I think even Christmas shopping might not take priority over running which might make for a cheaper festive season at least.

I’m sure once we did talk about doing less racing in 2017. I’m glad we didn’t really follow through with that…


Finding the next challenge

It’s been a couple of weeks since I decided to withdraw or defer my entry to the Jersey Marathon and I have to say I’ve not missed it. My back is still causing me a little bother so I can only dread to think what four to five hours of pounding the roads next weekend would do to it.

I’ve had reason to have a couple of exchanges with the marathon organisers, but in this respect at least they’ve been very helpful and supportive.

I had to give them a little kick a few weeks ago though. I asked quite a while ago now whether bone conduction headphones were now acceptable. The initial response came back saying that music was distracting regardless and actually represented a competitive advantage over non-music runners. A bizarre angle if there ever was one. I’d say the runners they are inviting over, paying for the travel and accommodation for are probably getting a pretty unfair advantage too.

Wonder if they’ve managed to avoid inviting any Russians this time…. anyway….

My wife and I share a music related irritation and our sense of injustice was flared up at this stage. So, I replied, while UK Athletics rules have changed I fully accept the organisers decision on this, however this being the case I wonder what proactive steps the organisers were taking to prevent and stop runners wearing and using in-ear headphones during the run. It’s always got on my tits that an alarmingly large number of runners will totally ignore the rules of a race and just wear their headphones regardless.

I do recall that the Run Jersey Half Marathon a few years ago had a runner disqualified for ignoring an instruction to remove headphones – quite right too. If they are going to have a rule in place for safety reasons I think it’s a fair question to ask how they are going to police it better than they have in every other year I’ve taken part.

I never got an answer to that question in the end as the organisers had decided a few weeks later that actually yes we would be able to manage the risks of bone conducting headphones and we should allow them in order to comply with UK Athletics rules anyway.  A result of sorts, not that I can benefit from it any more, but I’m still interested what they are going to do about those who are breaking the rules. Probably nothing I suppose. I know it can be a controversial topic but again if it’s safety related then it really should be enforced.

Anyway given what I titled this post I should probably move on to talking about future challenges. I have probably one main aim now for the remainder of 2017 – getting a sub 50 minute 10k in UK Athletics rules event. I’m still so proud of what I achieved in the Jayson Lee Memorial 10k a few weeks back but to do it in a recognised and Run Britain counting event will be so special. We’ve tentatively picked out the Poppy 10k in Bexhill-on-Sea. We ran at this multi-distance event in 2015 at which I set what was then my Half Marathon PB but knowing the course reasonably well I think it’ll be a really quick 10k course. That’s the plan for now.

I’d also quite like to get under 24 minutes for Parkrun regularly, and maybe take my PB a fair bit nearer 23 minutes.

Then at the back end of the year, training begins again for the Reading Half. I know that’s a fairly quick course so with a more healthy build up, a time well under two hours is certainly very possible.  For the time being though I think I’ll just settle for all back issues going away for now.

Not this year…

I’ll open this post with my last running event of the past couple of weeks. Yesterday, I should have completed my final long run before the Jersey Marathon but due to a nothing-y sort of injury giving rise to problems elsewhere I’ve decided not to do the marathon this year.

I hurt my back doing nothing any more sinister than reaching down to my desk drawer at work and a week later it’s not sufficiently better to be able to train properly so rather than struggle through the final bit of marathon training, probably complete the marathon itself in five-hours-something and generally feel dissatisfied about the whole thing (again) I’ve decided to just withdraw.

Perhaps surprisingly it’s not a hard decision. On one hand I’ve gone so far with my training such that I ran 20 miles only a couple of weeks ago, but essentially I’ve just got no appetite to take part at anything less than approaching 100%. I’m prepared to say it’s possible I may never do another marathon – all my previous comments about really not enjoying the training for it still hold true, although at the moment I’ll probably try and defer my entry to next year and then worry about it then.

I had most of the past week off of running entirely hoping I could rest my back enough to try a long run this past weekend. I tentatively took part in Parkrun and that went as well as I could have hoped so I faced Sunday’s 22 miler with reasonable confidence, however within the first couple of miles I realised very quickly that my back wasn’t much better and what’s more I’d probably been running in an unbalanced manner the day before as my left ankle had started acting up too. Today my back is a bit worse again so I’m going to listen to my body and rest further.

Instead of thinking about the marathon I’ll now devote my running energies to more enjoyable distances, and particularly a 10k. I want to see how much more I can improve on the Jayson Lee event from a few weeks back, and I’ll probably work on my 5k / parkrun times too. I’ve had a succession of low-24s at parkrun including the very busy 100th event so I do think there’s a mid-23 out there somewhere sometime soon.

So, in running terms I get to look to the future, rather than worrying about the next couple of weeks and I’m very happy with that decision. Not happy with the end result maybe and the circumstances, but I can’t be upset at making the right decision rather than running just for the heck of it. Onwards and upwards…

I don’t like marathon training

Ok let’s be quite clear about this. If you’re looking for inspirational tales of someone preparing to run a marathon, this is not the post, or indeed the blog for you.

I don’t like marathon training. I don’t mind racing the marathon distance, having done it once. Sort of. But the training and preparation required in order to safely and hopefully effectively run the 42km distance is just more than I care to do. I’ve said it before – I’ve got three marathons in me – and while I suppose it’s not impossible that if I find a spring marathon and end up training for it over the winter I might enjoy it more, at the moment I can’t imagine that.

Anyway, I have my second ever marathon in the diary so here I am in the latter stages of a marathon training programme. A couple of weeks ago, I ran 16 miles and did pretty well doing so. Judging by last week’s 10km effort, my running is in ok form at the moment but today it just didn’t translate. Whether that’s poor preparation and nutrition, or a reaction to the hotter weather today I don’t know but it wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be.

I set off this morning hoping to run 30km in around three and a quarter hours and in the end it was about 3:27 which in fairness isn’t terrible but I think it was just how I suffered and faded over the second half of the run that I didn’t enjoy.

It was the fastest 30km I’d ever run by about four minutes so that’s positive and I can justifiably say I’ve never run that distance better but it wasn’t quite enough for me. I’ve felt pretty tired ever since too so I’m glad that tomorrow is a bank holiday so I can relax properly.

The slightly irritating thing today was that the uphill run through St Peter’s Valley went better than the nice downhill run down the Railway Walk, but that was just a function of how much I’d run before hitting the railway walk. Today during the second half of the session a lot of walking was necessary, but unusually I allowed myself to do that and I think it made for a better session as a result.

One more long run to come now. A 22 miler the week after next. Not looking forward to that session either!

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.

Running and other mad pursuits