18 – 24 June 2018

Monday – 5 mile runcommute

Usually this would be a recovery run, but given that I hadn’t ran since… Thursday (what, really? urgh), this was more a run out of habit. As what could be expected from the period of inactivity, I was full of energy and had to regularly reign myself in. Unexpectedly, it turned into a progression run, with each mile approximately 15 seconds than the one before!

Strava data here.

Tuesday – Intervals: 4*(1k @ 5k pace + 400m rec)

As I’ve alluded to in times past, with both my wife and I as keen runners we have the headache of arranging childcare when we both have runs at the same time we just have to do. With our youngest at my mom’s today, we were nonetheless still stuck with one other to deal with. An idea hit me; I’d be at the track, a small enclosed area with little danger. When the idea of joining me at the track was put to my daughter, she agreed, wanting to practice running faster!

Giving her use of my wife’s watch, I set her up on an interval session of her own, 100m sprints with 100m recovery, as many times as she could. Simple, right? Getting her to focus though… it’s like she has the attention of a 6-year-old!

I’d planned on 8 reps myself, but she was proving to be too much of a distraction. Cutting my session short, I ran a few reps with her so at least one of us got a decent workout…

Strava data here.

Wednesday – 9 mile runcommute

With my daughter’s sports day the following day and being told only yesterday that she had to wear a red t-shirt, I spent a good deal of my lunch break and time after work looking around shops for an elusive girls’ red t-shirt. I couldn’t believe how difficult it was! Don’t girls wear red or something?

In comparison, my run went far smoother, shorter and easier! My only frustration came when a cyclist called out “on your right.” He did NOT just ‘on your right’ me! That’s MY phrase!

As my time to stride coincided with that taunt, I attempted to sprint after him but he was long gone. Oh well, at least I managed to get a red t-shirt. Small victories…

Strava data here.

Friday – 5 mile jog

I really should have gone out for a semi-workout run yesterday, but I’m out of habit with Thursday runs. Furthermore, I hadn’t planned on a run today, thinking instead I’d just put my feet up after a long day of work.

A strange sensation came over me though; the urge to just run. The run was pretty relaxed, and other than firemen dealing with a fiery bus engine, was quiet.

Strava data here.

Saturday – Perry Hall parkrun

I wasn’t too fussed about having a run today, and was on the verge of volunteering when all my usual parkruns announced full rosters. That said, I figured a good fast-paced run would do me good, helping to shake me out of the monotony of training runs.

Perry Hall my default choice, I figured I’d be in with a good chance of placing first unless Mark Ince showed up (he wasn’t there, but placed first at Brueton instead!). As I pulled into the carpark, I spotted Paul Coughlan who’s been running similar times as me lately, and hadn’t seen since he blitzed past me at London Marathon, giving me second wind.

Eyeing up the crowd, I spotted a guy in red who looked familiar, but I couldn’t place where I knew him from (it later turned out to be from Sandwell Valley parkrun). Nonetheless, my spider-sense warned me he’d be one to watch out for.

Go!

Though I was in first for all of a few seconds, as expected guy-in-red took the lead. At the same time, Rich Bayliss casually passed us, his gait remarkable (his heel didn’t touch the ground at all, like he was running on tip-toe!). While I admired his footwork, a shadow crept onto the ground with the silhouette of a familiar quiff; Paul!

We remained neck-and-neck for the rest of the race (yeah, parkrun is a race), neither one of us prepared to relinquish third place. He attempted a surge at about 1.25 miles, but I wasn’t having any of it! Right down to the last third of a mile, we remained level until my kick came into play without me realising, going sub-5 pace! I had a good lead at the end, but he must have kicked it up a few notches himself, almost catching me and finishing a mere one second later!

If Paul hadn’t have been around, I probably would have just ran at 6:15 min/mile instead of 5:56, so it was great to have the motivation to get me around faster. If only every running session could be like that!

Strava data here.

Sunday – Half marathon

Needing to get miles in but not fancying the summer sun radiating on me in the afternoon, I fought my nature and went out in the morning. The run went pretty well, and the strides I threw in every mile felt comfortable. I was worried it would end up short by a couple of miles, but thankfully I only needed to make up a quarter mile at the end.

Thought it’s a route I’m well-accustomed to (although I’ve not ran it for a few months), it was disconcertingly quiet despite being the fairly reasonable hour (by normal people standards) of 8am. In fact, the main sign of activity was at a pub. Was there a sporting event on in the afternoon or something? :p

Strava data here.

11 – 17 June 2018

Monday – 5 miler

There’s a chance I’ve made a terrible mistake.

When I entered my estimated time for my next half marathon, I noticed that it was within the “elite” time category. Me? Elite…? Why not! And promptly confirmed that I’d enter as an elite runner. My delusions being what they are, I fantasized about what it would be like to finish first.

And then the starting list was confirmed… straight away I recognised one of the names as being a sub-16 parkrunner who finished first at Cannon Hill three times in a row! It’s all over, and I’m totally going to embarrass myself! Inadequate. Charlatan. Thoughts of starting with the elite squad before being overtaken by “regular” runners encompassed my thoughts.

I needed to clear my head, the only way I knew how.

Going out for a 5-miler though I hadn’t planned to, it served its purpose well and got my focus back on where I needed it to be; I’m going to perform my best, whatever position I come in.

Strava data here.

Tuesday – Intervals: 5x(1km at 5k pace + 400m recovery)

5:37, 5:29, 5:32, 5:30, 5:32

“Have you ever stood and stared at it? Marvelled at its beauty?” Agent Smith, The Matrix.

Those were my reps in min/mile, targeting 5:30. A surprise performace, particularly as I wasn’t feeling up for going out that evening. I’d been bunged up with a cold for a while, and was so out of it I’d needed a nap beforehand.

I wasn’t alone at the track, but a beginner’s running group were there who kindly allowed me to use the inside line. Focusing on what needed to be done, I was able to slip into speed nicely each rep and maintain the pace. Notably, my running gait had naturally shifted to how I wanted it; kicking back, landing underneath, leaning forward (maybe I just wanted to look like a pro in front of the beginners…)

Strava data here.

Wednesday – runcommute

For this run, I decided to alternate between 6:00 min/mile and 8:00 min/mile, a session type I haven’t done for a while. Piece of cake, I managed all 9 miles with ease, preparing me nicely for the half marathon…

…is what I thought I’d be writing. In actuality…

Oh my life, what is wrong with me?! I thought it would be fun to run an alternating session, and it should have been a piece of cake after comfortably managing kilometre reps significantly faster yesterday. But after the second mile, my stomach was aching something fierce. Worse than a stitch, everything I did to try to alleviate the pain just increased the discomfort. Despite having to drag the pace right down to 8:30 min/mile and cutting the route short by a mile, all I wanted to do was just walk home.

Hopefully this is just a glitch and not a sign of things to come…

(on the plus side, my wife ran the Sphinx Summer 5 tonight and bagged a PB of 38:55! At least someone was able to manage sub-8 min/mile!)

Strava data here.

Thursday – recovery run

After yesterday’s disappointment I’m not sure what run I would have done tonight, but as my wife wanted a recovery run we went out on a short 5k together. Nothing significant about this (apart from gawking kids who acted like they’d never seen runners before), but at least the run felt comfortable and pain was non-existent.

Due to being busy with visiting in-laws and Father’s day stuff, this was my last run of the week. Not my wife’s though; she ran the Arden 9 on Sunday and got yet another PB – 1hr 12 min! (huh… that means that this week her runs have been faster than mine… could competition be looming in the household?)

Strava data here.

4 – 10 June 2018

Monday – recovery run

After a 90-minute half marathon in twenty-odd degree weather yesterday (plus some intense parkruns and long runs), I was eager for just a boring, relaxed run!

I threw in some strides just to help with getting accustomed to it, and the run was thankfully quiet and indeed relaxed for the most part, being an out-and-back.

Until, a strange moment about a quarter mile before the turnaround point where there appeared to be a river crossing ahead. I don’t remember there being a river on the path, I thought. It had been a while since I’d ran this route, but it definitely seemed unfamiliar, figuring there’d be a sharp turn just before and I was in fact viewing the adjacent canal. As I drew closer I found it wasn’t a river, but a puddle so wide, long and deep it may as well have been! Considering how hot it had been lately with rain either non-existent or minimal, it was a bizarre scenario to say the least. I attempted to get past on the narrow grass but that was so sodden – verging on marsh – it wasn’t worth it; I could make up the distance afterwards.

I turned around and headed back, warning a couple of nearby pedestrians on the way of the travail ahead. Reporting back to my wife, her friend also had the same experience a few days prior, so I guess I made the right call. Just another manic Monday!

Strava data here.

Tuesday – hill training

My physio had warned me off hills while recovering. Now I’m back on form and seeing my parkrun times static to slowing, I need to incorporate hill training back into my regular routine.

I’d initially planned to do this at a hardcore hill near Sutton park, a relentless third of mile with insanely steep gradient. Family scheduling issues meant I’d need use one closer to home which was easier, thankfully unfortunately!

As expected, though the gradient wasn’t as steep or long as my original one, it was still a killer experience and I naturally wanted to cut the session short to 6 or 8 reps instead of the planned 10. Suck it up, this is why you need it.

The 200m reps came in nicely, starting off with a surprising 4:54 min/mile, a slow one at 5:52 halfway through, before kicking back into gear with the remainder between 5:30 and 5:40.

Now I’ve got to tackle the Sutton hill… oh joy…

Strava data here.

Wednesday – runcommute

Do you ever go through phases in music listening? For a time I’ll be obsessed with listening to synthwave, then hearing one different song will get me hooked on 80s pop, before I wear out a movie soundtrack such as Les Mis or Moana. Lately I’ve been listening to New Jack swing, a late 80s-early 90s fusion of hip hop and R&B, evoking images of high-top haircuts, loud-coloured clothes and parachute pants! (for my part, I used to have a flat-top haircut, wore a leather waistcoat and golf glove with shellsuit bottoms!)

Listening to the playlist during the run, I was so caught up in nostalgia that I just felt the urge to the Running Man dance (millennials, this was a dance craze in the time between The Locomotion and The Macarena. Ask your parents). Waiting for a quiet moment, I danced quickly in the middle of a secluded tunnel to get it out of my system… though there was someone halfway in the tunnel! I don’t think he saw me… though to be honest, given the kind of fashion we runners wear and crazy lifestyles we lead, that dance probably isn’t the worst thing I’ve done!

Strava data here.

Saturday – Cannon Hill parkrun

“What are you doing here?!”

Such is how I was greeted by nearly everyone I spoke to when I visited Cannon Hill parkrun for the first time!

My wife had wanted to try out a different parkrun to help improve her PB, and I was curious to see how Birmingham’s first parkrun (currently at 392 events) would fare. And to be honest, I’ve achieved podium finishes quite regularly lately and was in need of a challenge. With about 800 participants and about the top 30 finishing in under 19 minutes, I’d find my challenge there!

I found the atmosphere somewhat refreshing there. In my opinion, it coupled the ethnic diversity and friendliness of Perry Hall with the efficiency of Brueton and Kingsbury, minus the running club attitude. I’m unsure as to whether or not I’d make it my regular, but I feel I could fit in nicely there if I did.

Positioning myself close to the start line, I figured a top 20 position would be ambitious but within the realms of possibility depending on who was there that day. Aiming to place within the top 2.5% rather than 0.5% shows how skewed it is towards faster runners! Of note, I recognised one of the runners just before the start; they’d passed me at a county-level relay race a couple of years back. As she’s a national-level runner, it shows what calibre of runners this parkrun attracts…

Go!

Literally just before the start, the familiar face of Andy Young popped up beside me out of nowhere! With that, the theme of the race was set; it would be me vs him!

Belting out at 5:25 min/mile pace (even hitting 4:17 at one point), a subtle decline urged me into going out faster than I should have, into about 5th or 6th place behind the national-level runners. Watching them naturally hug the inside line and running in a rhythmic manner, I had visions of being on a track at the Commonwealth games amongst elites!

It was short-lived, as my legs got themselves to my more usual pace (if they had their own mind, they would have likely kicked me for my excited start!). Within moments, I heard the horde of runners descend on me, quickly knocking me back several places. I deserved it. Slowing further, I heard Andy’s voice urging me onward; he was right next to me! Refusing to lose, I picked up my pace, matching his. We remained neck-and-neck for another half-mile when one thought found its way above all others:

I’ve missed this.

Not since the days of chasing down Barry Lloyd and targeting PBs of faster runners have I had that sense of competition, that desire to push myself beyond my capability in order to achieve one goal; to be the best. I used that adrenaline to push myself every time Andy surged onwards, whereas if I was by myself I would have let my pace gradually drop thoughtlessly.

He started to make space between us just after the 2nd mile mark. I gave it all I had to keep up, but I had nothing left to match his surges. Coming to the end, I wondered if I could manage a kick to catch him up despite the course finishing on a killer of a hill. Although, I have a secret weapon; my hill training! Though it wasn’t enough to catch Andy up, my hill sprint managed to destroy the runner just in front of me who couldn’t keep up, snagging 16th place in a time of 18:10.

It’s annoying that it’s the third time I’ve gotten that exact time this year; particularly given the flat nature of the course and the race I had (kudos to Andy for his win by 7 seconds), but I imagine I would have likely had about 18:30-40 without those factors. Perhaps continued racing will help bring my fitness back to where it needs to be. And I’m glad Andy won; I needed a new nemesis!

(oh, and Kerry got her PB; by 28 seconds, her first sub-23!)

Strava data here.

Sunday – “long” run

With church starting a bit later today, it offered the opportunity to have a regular Sunday morning long run rather than a runcommute to or from church. However, as it didn’t leave a great deal of time, I decided on just a ten-miler but with the middle miles at marathon pace to provide a good workout.

I forced myself to 8:00 min/miles for the first 4 miles, distracting myself with Pokémon to slow me down. Time was I would have targeted about 7:30 min/mile, but my focus was on the marathon miles, so that’s where my energy needed to be.

It was still more of a struggle maintaining that pace than I would have thought, the miles coming in at 6:19, 6:21 and 6:14 (the last one I had to close my eyes and really push myself). Oh well, I look forward to the time when I can run at that pace while playing Pokémon!

Strava data here.

28 May – 3 June 2018

Monday – long run

Ah, Bank Holidays. Traditionally the time of James Bond movies on ITV, wet weather, and the satisfaction of 3 days of rest. No more!

Needing to get some decent miles in, I chose to run to Solihull which I wouldn’t normally do, but wanted to mix things up a bit (plus I wanted to play Pokemon in the town centre). Not able to make use of any nearby canals or cycle paths, the run was packed with dodging pedestrians, cars dodging me, and the occasional getting lost. Of note, I discovered the large and spacious Elmdon Park, which looks perfect for running around – whether on its own or as part of a route – and my wife later noted it would make a good venue for parkrun (fingers crossed!).

With all my adventuring, I’d been out for a large part of the day, setting out before 11am but not returning until 3pm, having had no water or breakfast that whole day in the baking heat. Mental note: plan better in future (you know I won’t!)

Strava data here.

Tuesday – Intervals: 6x(800m at 5k pace with 400m recovery)

Busy at the track tonight! As well as my wife accompanying me, there were two of the speedier members of my running club and a couple of teenagers I hadn’t seen before, but seemed to handle themselves well.

As is my habit through my desire to improve, I looked at the running form of everyone around me. I’ve noticed younger runners seem to have better form; fore-foot striking, landing under their centre of gravity, lifting their legs. Whereas I’m a heel-striker (though not for lack of trying to change), tend to shuffle, and photos regularly show me stretching my leg far in front like Michael Jordan’s arm at the end of Space Jam! So when the older runners around me displayed the traits of younger runners, it made me more determined to fix my running style. Yes, there’s probably a reason why I run the way I do (i.e. intuitively avoiding injury), but if I’m aiming for semi-elite standard, something’s got to change.

As for my running session, I gave it a bit more effort what with having club members around, determined not to let them catch me when our sprint reps coincided. I could do with more of that, having others around to push me. I wonder if other runners are aware of how much of an impact they have on my running?

Strava data here.

Wednesday – 5 mile recovery

A run with my wife in the middle of the week? With it being half term, the kids were shipped off to grandma’s for a few days to give us a break variety in their week.

I used it as a recovery run while my wife used it as practice for increasing her speed, so we both got something out of it. Apart from a random runner giving a compliment on our pace while he passed us, there wasn’t much else of note. Other than finding a £5 note during the 5 mile run! (the first time my wife moved as fast I did!)

Strava data here.

Thursday – 4 mile jog

Ah, the much-awaited re-opening of the canal tunnel, which once caused so much fuss with trying to pass others and/or be stuck waiting for pedestrians and cyclists coming the other way. With such expectation on the widened path, disappointment was going to be a given. Runblogger Andy Yu made the same observation I did, in that it felt temporary and not particularly stable. Nonetheless, it should serve its purpose in allowing free-flowing pedestrian traffic in both directions.

And with my typical luck, a mile later the route was blocked off, forcing an abrupt 180 degree turn!

Strava data here.

Saturday – Kingsbury Water parkrun

With running club Badgers holding a pacing event at Kingsbury parkrun, we visited there so my wife could take advantage. Me? Though I would have preferred a different parkrun, I have an unsettled score with needing to place higher…

Go!

Front-and-centre of the start line, my start was much smoother and unhindered than in previous weeks. Within a couple of hundred metres the cacophony of the crowd dissipated, leaving an eerie silence as I chased down the leader, me immediately in second place. The leader placed second last week; as soon as I saw him I knew he’d be the guy to beat.

Though he was regularly in view, on the odd occasion bends in the path caused him to disappear, leaving me to fend for myself with navigating the route. It’s picturesque, a loop instead of laps, but my, it’s easy to get lost in!

Before the first mile was over, third place had reeled me in and we remained level for about a mile. Disaster nearly struck when the path wasn’t clearly marked, forcing a guessing-game as to whether to make a sharp left or carry straight on! Third place was running there for the first time, and was pretty much following me! We guessed at making the sharp left, but worry began to set in when the path didn’t seem particularly running-like, with no marshals or guides around. He quipped that we’d taken a short-cut and would finish first, but that made me panic about the kerfuffle that would ensue as a result (cheater! removed from results!)

Thankfully a marshal appeared about 30 seconds later, leaving me to focus on making some distance between me and third place. Gradually I made it happen, and though first place was within sight on the finishing straight, he was just outside of my kick’s capability.

Though I’m happy with the second place finish, I had a disappointing time of 18:38, some 28 seconds slower than last week and in spite of a fast 5:46 first mile. If I’d had the same time as last week, I’d have won it (though from stalking analysing first place’s capability, it’s likely he would have left me for dust if I’d gotten close, being a sub-17 runner).

Strava data here.

Sunday – 13 mile churchcommute

Just a steady 7:00 min/mile pace, I told myself repeatedly as I consistently went faster than target! Worried about what the weather would bring – forecasted to be 22 degrees, no breeze, no rain – it was thankfully cloudy as I set out, providing a bit of cool.

That was the first half.

Almost dead on the halfway point, the clouds unfurled and the unrelenting sun beat down on me. Rather than let it drain me, I imagined myself absorbing the sun’s rays like Superman, powering me on for the remainder of the run. Along with adapting my gait slightly to land under my centre of gravity, the run felt pretty smooth, sticking to the same pace without monitoring my pace (even when swapping my phone’s battery!)

Annoyingly, it was seconds over a sub-90 time. But, it was an enjoyable run nonetheless, and hopefully my gait adjustment will propel me to faster speeds!

Strava data here.

21 – 27 May 2018

Monday – Recovery jog

Unable to find a decent running route at the manor house, I had a recovery run from yesterday’s race back in my neighbourhood. Weirdly, my back was in absolute agony!

It’s somewhat bizarre that despite being able to run marathons and podium finish races quite often, that gentle swimming in the manor’s small pool puts my body under stress unheard of!

The run otherwise was nice, a good opportunity not only to run with wifey, but also get pointers on improving my running form; she’s naturally a forefoot striker, something I’ve tried to achieve for years!

Strava data here.

Tuesday – intervals (10 x (400m @ 5k pace with 200m recovery)

Getting back into the habit of a weekly track session – though without a plan yet directing what my workouts should look like – I decided on shorter, more intense reps than last week. Typically, I’d mixed up my mental mile to kilometre calculations, making me think I was running Sir Roger Bannister pace at first!

The first few reps came in well (the second a little too well at 5:10 pace where I was aiming for 5:30!). Though I tired notably in the latter half, I finished off at a nice 5:11 pace, even touching 3:05 min/km for a while at one point (a 15:25 5k? That would be amazing!)

Strava data here.

Wednesday – runch

Another routine I’m getting back into is a regular weekly run with a friend, once again using the Winson Green loop while we await the improvement to the other canal route.

Avoiding the shame of a couple of runners passing us (it was notably busy again) we improvised and took the route in reverse. Though the run was nice, to my shame I left my friend a quarter mile before the finish when I noticed a Pokémon battle going on that I could join in!

Strava data here.

Friday – runch

Working from home, I was able to have a relaxed run around my neighbourhood without the stress that comes afterwards at the office (little things like having to shower).

Though it was quite rainy just before I left, it wasn’t going to stop me and had even slowed to a drizzle by the time I left. It’s a shame; it’s been a while since I had a rain-run!

Strava data here.

Saturday – Kingsbury Water parkrun

Surprisingly meeting a fellow club member at the parkrun, the first thing he asked was if I was going to win it! Though it’s something I’d imagined, in reality Kingsbury parkrun is one of the harder ones to place high at due to the sheer volume of club runners there. My best position was 9th a few years back, but that was when I regularly ran this course.

Older, wiser and faster, I skipped the briefing to ensure a good spot at the front. Positioned in the second row, I observed how many would likely prove a challenge; I counted 6 total. One directly in front of me, I predicted, would start out too hard and be an obstacle as he slowed.

Go!

My prediction spot on, the guy blocked my path, slowing my pace within the first 100m before I broke away from the pack. There were two other runners I didn’t expect to have proved a challenge; a lady approximately my age, and a girl who couldn’t have been much older than eleven! The girl was actually holding third place for about the first quarter mile, causing me to panic and almost sprint to pass her (bear in mind we were all doing about 5:30 min/mile pace at this point!).

Eventually (thankfully) passing the girl, it wasn’t too much longer before the lady caught up and matched my pace. I was actually a little grateful; I’d lost sight of the second place runner and was on the verge of getting lost with the course’s twists, turns, and not-entirely-clearly blocked-off paths. She passed me but remained comfortably about 5 seconds ahead when a male caught up. I attempted to pick up my speed but could sense that I would tire out if I pushed too much at the relatively early stage of the 1 mile mark.

Interestingly, I found myself focusing on the kilometre markers placed on the course more than the mileage displayed on my watch. For the first couple of markers, I was averaging about 3:30 min/km, enough for a sub-18 if I could maintain it. I couldn’t.

Oddly, throughout the second mile I’d slowed down and couldn’t build up my speed. The runners around me hadn’t changed position, suggesting they were struggling as well despite the course remaining flat. Nonetheless, I gradually broke away from the male runner though the first female still hadn’t drawn any closer. Third male* (*was actually fourth place). That thought haunted me!

However; the 400m sign came into view. And with it, my kick. It was less of a slipping into it and more of an all-out lurch, and much earlier than it normally would come into play. I embraced it nonetheless, though I regretted it as I tired 200m later, concerned that first female would have a kick of her own. I pushed on regardless, crossing the line without battle in third place, time of 18:10!

Any other parkrun I’d probably be frustrated at third place, but considering a) first place was sub-16 and b) when I first came to Kingsbury parkrun two years ago, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and looking just to go sub-20, achieving an 18-minute time with podium finish was a laughable thought. You know what thought makes me smile now? Going sub-17 and placing first; I know it’s possible!

Strava data here.

 

14 – 20 May 2018

Monday – 5k jog

Just a jog today, as I have a half marathon this weekend as a wedding anniversary celebration. Last year, Kerry achieved a PB; will lightning strike twice? For me, I’m currently undecided what pace I’ll aim for. I don’t feel confident enough to replicate my Brass Monkey success of 1:18, but would still like to make an effort to judge how my training should go for the next 5 months.

With the sun out, my route was filled with park visitors and dog walkers. I’d opted to wear the comfortable t-shirt I was given for pacing duty; bright orange not being an ideal choice for wanting to be inconspicuous among the bystanders!

Nonetheless, it was an uneventful run. Right up until one of the aforementioned bystanders – wanting to show off in front of his mates – thought he’d try his luck at racing me. I picked up the pace instantly, casually slipping into 5k speed. As he began to tire, I smirked and wagged my finger at him like Sonic the Hedgehog before zipping off even faster!

Strava data here.

Tuesday – intervals of 8x (800m at 5k pace with 400m recovery)

For the first time in a long time, I finally paid the track a visit. Missing the ground where I used to run laps every week, I felt the gravel as though I was Maximus from Gladiator. It’s been a long time, my old friend.

Aiming for 5:30 min/mile pace, the first few reps came in well, though I began to tire quickly in the second half. Just finish it now, no one will know. Just write on the blog you’d always planned to run 5 reps, not 6.

No. Win or lose, I would complete all 6 reps, achieving that which I set out to do. Though I was nearly at 6:00 min/mile by the end, I pushed on to the end without any injury flare ups. Though I did begin to feel dizzy from running in circles… need to get used to it again!

Strava data here.

Wednesday – runcommute

As I set out on my runcommute, I saw an acquaintance who was apparently unaware I’m a runner. Noticing my “I’ve completed a marathon!” Birmingham marathon t-shirt, he inquired as to my running habits. When I mentioned I’d ran 10 marathons, he mentioned his friend had done a Tough Mudder. As though they’re remotely the same!

With that thought plaguing my mind for the first part of the run, I played the Moana soundtrack to distract me. Bearing in mind advice a Strava follower gave me to go slower on my jogs, I attempted to slow down to 7:30 min/mile from 6:45. The key word being “attempted”; try as I might, I couldn’t get below 7:00! 

Strava data here

Thursday – jog

Friend: “Let’s go along the canal to the vale”

Me: “It’s closed until the 25th [to widen the path]”

Friend: “Maybe they’ve finished”

Me: “They won’t have”

When I was proven right almost instantly, we took a detour and ran half a lap of the reservoir. It actually turned out to be a decent route, one that with a bit of fine tuning could become a regular. As an added bonus, having my friend in tow forced me to finally slow my jog down. Though at 9 minute miles, perhaps a bit too much!

Strava data here.

Sunday – Draycote half marathon

Happy anniversary to my athletic wife, ever chasing a new PB (she doesn’t need to chase my love, she captured it over a decade ago!)

Akin to last year when we ran the Chester half as a gift to each other, we decided to run the Draycote half marathon, from the same organisers of the Draycote 20 miler we ran last summer.

Well organised again, there was no queue at the toilet and collecting our bibs was quick and easy. If only some of the big name organisers could be as efficient! With the course being 2.5 laps of the lake (or is it a reservoir? I’m nautically challenged), we had a mile walk to get to the start line which served us well as a warm up jog.

As we positioned ourselves at the start, it was weird that no one but a few of us actually sought to get right on the start line; usually I’m having to jostle for a place! Kerry was targeting a PB of 1:45 to capitalize on her recent sub-50 10k success, and so was positioned further forward than she had done so before. Welcome to the club!

Go!

For all of a few seconds, I was leading! My imagination being what it is, I often picture myself winning races, whether by ability or dumb luck of faster runners dropping out (which isn’t so farfetched, considering the recent Boston marathon). Could this be the day?

Nope, I dropped to third pretty quickly, though second place was clearly unprepared for the sub-6 pace we’d started out at. He dropped back, another claimed his spot, and a group of 7 guys and one female formed around me. I’d overheard the female say before the start that she would target 6:10 pace. Though that shot down my thoughts of Kerry being first female finisher, it would give me a focus during the run. I’d decided on targeting 6:15 pace to see how far I could sustain it with a view to it being my new marathon pace.

We group of 9 ran together for quite some time (I didn’t mean for that to rhyme!), changing leadership frequently like geese. The Jungle Book phrase, “The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack” ran through my head a lot and was apt. Though the course was pretty flat apart from two short hills, it was a hot day with large areas unshaded. Thus, we silently supported each other until the time came when three of us broke away.

And eventually, I broke away from them. In all the commotion, I lost track of positions and figured I was probably 5th or so, first place being long gone. Quiet for some time, soon came Return of the Pack! My pace had slowed to about 6:25 while with them the first time, and I couldn’t break myself out of the momentum to go faster. As I wasn’t targeting a PB or to beat them, the silent company was welcome (aside from the odd hocking and spluttering from all the flies about).

In time, I noticed I was taking the hills far easier and faster than my allies, who kept trailing back but caught up on downhills or eventually on the straights. My racing instinct kicking in, I predicted that the next hill I took I’d lose them for good. Of a surety, I naturally sprinted up the hill as though on a training run and I didn’t see my allies again!

Alone for another mile and sucking down my only energy gel of the run at the nine mile mark, a hocking noise behind me served as a sonar to show how far ahead I was of the guy behind, about 10 seconds. Out of nowhere, he sprinted past as though at 10k pace! I asked if he planned to maintain it, but he was just going to see what he could manage. I kept him in my sights, providing a useful distraction for the remainder of the race.

With the finish line in sight at just over 12 miles, my kick started to come into play. I allowed the uptick in speed, but tempered it from being an all-out sprint. Nonetheless, my energy started to drop 0.3 miles from the end. Suddenly a guy I’d just lapped started singing loudly, “Que cera cera!” In response I loudly sang back, “Woah! You’re over halfway there! Woah! Living on a prayer!”

That provided a surge in adrenaline, propelling me to the finish. A kid handed me a card: 3rd place male! 😲

What?! My highest position finish for a half marathon, and a podium finish at that! Dreams can come true!

Congratulating the other recent finishers around, two of the allies commented on how well I’d taken the hills. Remember way back when I hated them with a passion? Nothing like a bit of training, I guess!

Though my time of 1:24 was significantly off from what I’d targeted, I’m pleased I didn’t feel too exerted from it and felt I could have gone to at least 20 miles at the same pace. My only lament was that I got caught up with running the pack’s pace; I should have had the courage to break out early on and dictate my own speed.

This is the second race I’ve run of the group “theraceorganisers”, and I have been satisfied both times with their running of this low-key event (though the prizes leave much to be desired; running socks for the first five female/male finishers).

All in all, a satisfying run. Right now I’m chilling at a manor house, having a sauna, swim and afternoon tea! A great way to recover, gotta love anniversaries!

7 – 13 May 2018

Monday

On a high from successfully pacing the Birmingham 10k and watching the elites on TV (especially the women’s, which had an epic last kilometre!), I set out on a steady run at 6:45 min/mile.

Bounding out the house feeling like an elite myself (not least of all because I’d managed to spot myself on TV for a second time!), I felt full of energy. Despite the continued hot weather, I felt fairly comfortable and it was one of those “man alive, I love running!” runs! Maybe I should watch running on TV more often!

Strava data here.

Wednesday

I wasn’t able to use my shower this morning due to repairs.

Normal people: “Guess I’ll have a bath instead.”

Me: “Guess I’ll have to run to work to use the showers there!”

I’m still not accustomed to morning runcommutes. Morning races are bad enough, but with those there’s usually at least a couple of hours between waking up and racing. Runcommutes however, I’m dressed and out the house within ten minutes of waking up. My body screams at me for the first three miles, “what are you playing at?!”

Though I didn’t have a particular pace in mind for this run, I’d expected about 8 min/mile. Surprisingly, I’d averaged about 7:25, each mile yo-yoing between 7:15 and 7:30.

As much as my body didn’t like the run, at least the shower felt refreshing afterwards!

(oh, and a shout out to my wife for bagging her first sub-50 10k at the Kingsbury Classic!)

Strava data here.

Thursday

I met up with an old colleague for this run, our first joint run for quite a few months. As per the nature of the run, I didn’t pay attention to my watch on this one, just using the run as a leg-stretcher and letting my colleague dictate the pace.

He’d initially suggested running on the canal towards the university, but it turns out it’s still out of action until the 25th due to widening the notoriously tight path under the bridge. There were a good number of runners out, whether due to good weather or that we were all forced onto this particular route.

It was an enjoyable run, not particularly exerting. Looking forward to the new path though, only a couple more weeks to wait!

Strava data here.

Saturday

Needing to get out car repaired in Tipton, it offered a good excuse to visit Sandwell Valley parkrun which I haven’t been able to get to as much as I’d like lately. It’s going well as an event, with a strong group of volunteers and organised well; no mean feat considering it’s only in it’s 24th week!

Running slightly late, the briefing had already started by the time we arrived and I had to go through the awkward rigmarole of moving through the crowd to get to the start line. Yeah, despite being one of the regular first finishers (at one time, being the only person to have been a first finisher more than once), I still find it show-offy to place myself at the front!

Deciding beforehand just to run it at my targeted marathon pace (6:15 min/mile), I was nonetheless leading immediately, and was so for about the first half mile. Am I really going to lead from start to finish? However, second and third took the lead despite breathing heavily, and I chose not to pursue them.

I slowly gained on second place, it appearing as though the hills took it out of him. Weirdly, it felt like there were more uphills than down, and I spent most of the run trying to calculate how a course that finishes where it started didn’t balance out its elevation! Looking at my watch, it turned out he hadn’t slowed down; I had sped up despite the hills!

I passed second just past the second mile, and I coaxed him onward. Immediately, I felt show-offy again! Tackling the final hill, it was reminiscent of the Travelator on Gladiator! Thankfully, it ended sooner than I recalled and I casually strolled across the finish line at 19:33, average 6:13 min/mile. Admittedly, it felt slightly tougher than it should have; perhaps a sign that I need to get back to a structured training regime.

Of note though, my wife finished a shade over 24 minutes; my first thought was that there were no other women around. She placed first female! (kind of wish I’d pushed it now, we could have been husband-and-wife first-finishers!)

Strava data here.

Sunday

Bad planning meant that a 9-miler I’d intended to run today didn’t happen. I ended up short of time in the morning, and having stuffed my face at a friend’s birthday party just a few hours ago, my stomach was in no shape for a long run.

But just as I was getting ready to settle down for the evening, my wife and daughter were busy with homework. And I was feeling envious of all those who’d raced today, my Strava feed taunting me. There was only one thing to do!

Lacing up immediately, I jogged a 5k, throwing in strides just for good measure. It felt good, and although I got a stitched every time I strided, I enjoyed them.

Now, I’ll settle down for the evening!

Strava data here.