8 – 14 October 2018

This is my confession: I cheat at marathons.

I just don’t have the stamina to run them like everyone else. Of the ten I’d ran before last Sunday’s marathon at York, only five I could class as a success. The other five I’d shown that I don’t have the energy to run a long time over a distance which killed the first person who ran it. Anyone who can run the marathon in over 4 hours earns my sincere respect; I to this day still haven’t shown I could keep going for that long. Thus, the only way I can run a marathon is to get it over with as quickly as possible – a candle burning brightly for half as long – or risk burning out to a stop.  This was my concern when pacing my wife at York; that despite running at a slower pace, fatigue would eventually creep in and the marathon would beat me again.

Pre-race

Yorkshire: home of puddings, terriers, Emmerdale, and now a fun marathon!

Following a good night’s sleep at a hotel at a perfect mile-warm-up distance from the start line (props to Andy Yu for the recommendation), I was greeted by a near-torrential downpour of rain that wouldn’t let up for the whole day. With this start, it is how the run will always be remembered!

As is my habit (much like Doc Brown) I had packed prepared for all eventualities. But, I can’t pack what I don’t have; a cap, arm sleeves and calf sleeves I now realise I need to buy for my arsenal. My t-shirt and bandana would have to suffice for extras.

My wife and I arrived at the event just in time to hear a shout-out to us over the tannoy (which we were invited to request via their Facebook page), giving that little extra motivation for the start. Despite my apprehension over whether or not I could go the distance without breaking, I had a calm within me akin to last winter’s Holme Pierrepont marathon, aiming to treat this as just another long run.

The Race

Go!

One thing I hadn’t really appreciated about usually starting right at the front was the relative freedom from the pack; it took about 4 minutes for the crowd we were in to actually cross the start line, and most of the entire run was spent dodging people.

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photo credit; Emma Hawkey, kindly spectating in the rain before her run!

Nonetheless, we were in high spirits and enjoyed the outing. At this juncture, I have to give high praise to the spectators, volunteers, marshals and emergency crew who stayed out in the pouring rain all day for something that doesn’t benefit them directly, but just in support of those giving it their all. Thank you.

Our target pace was 8:30 min/mile, and with a slight downhill start while full of enthusiasm, we were regularly on the faster side of that, needing to forcibly slow down. However, a hill at the 10 mile mark (decorated with a sign, “Come on Mardy Bum, it’s only a hill!”) helped us to take it easy. I tackled it easy enough, but I would have hated to face it at my usual speed!

A gradual downhill greeted us for the following four miles, giving opportunity to recoup energy and time. Another runner jogged up beside me, and like Goku sensing my hidden power asked, “what kind of time do you really run a marathon in?” I highlighted that I hadn’t really trained to run it faster, and wished him the best for his run. Still, I felt happy there must have been something about my form which gave me away!

Unfortunately, my wife began to tire and despite my best efforts to encourage her, she insisted I leave her behind so I could check out of the hotel in time. Yes, I ditched my exhausted wife at 21 miles in the rain, oh the shame!

Free to kick it into gear, I felt euphoria as I ran at a speed I was comfortable with. The thought, this is what I was born to do, was emblazoned on the forefront of my mind. Sailing past everyone, my pace crept faster and faster for the remaining five miles and I never felt better!

With random joyous posing on the finishing straight, there was one final detail to take care of; my kick. Spotting a runner that dared an attempt to finish ahead of me, I pipped him at the post with less than a second between us. I just couldn’t help myself!

Strava data here.

Review

20181014_191201.jpgYorkshire marathon is one of the best organised races I’ve ran, and taking my time with it helped me appreciate it that little bit more. Sufficient water stations (though given the rain, perhaps they weren’t needed!), a good number of portaloos on the course (though admittedly, I don’t think there were enough at the start), and is a relatively flat course with just two sharp hills at 10 and 24 miles, with great support. The goodie bag was average, the usual protein bar and bird seed nuts present. Still, a nice Indian takeout later from Chutney Express hit the spot.

I’d run it again, just a shame about the weather!

As for my wife, she achieved a PB of 9 minutes! Way to go!

Now, I have 6 months until my next marathon. 26 weeks to train for 26 miles anew. I feel a new eagerness for it, and will start to work on a training plan for the whole period, bringing myself beyond what I was capable of before. Paris Marathon, I’m coming for you!

If you’re so interested, my other runs in the week leading up to the marathon:

Wednesday – Intervals: 10x(200m sprints + 200m recovery)

Worked on my form more, in particular the swinging of my arms for propulsion.

Strava data here.

Friday – 4 miles

A soggy jog, the sign of things to come…

Strava data here.

1 – 7 October 2018

Monday – 5 miler

Feeling good for a run after work, this 5 miler seems to be becoming routine and fits into my day nicely.

Incorporating long strides of a quarter mile, every mile, I felt pretty strong throughout and maintained a reasonably even pace on the whole.

Interestingly, my time at the 5k point was only 30 seconds off my recent parkrun times, which suggests I’m capable of pushing it harder at parkrun.

Strava data here.

Wednesday – runcommute

With a Pokemon battle available on my route not long after I started, I saw some players struggling with the battle who cheered when they saw me. Needless to say, with my help they won!

I thought I’d run this at 7:30 min/mile, but felt comfortable at 6:50s.

The run was fairly laidback, up until I was passing cars stuck in traffic; there was an Audi driver who I swear was trying to race me. Needless to say, against me, he lost!

Strava data here.

Thursday – 3 miles

With a busy day at work with an evening class afterwards, it appeared as though my wife’s suggestion of a joint run wouldn’t come to fruition. Unless we were able to make time…

Unusually (for her and us jointly, less so for me solo), we went out for a night time run! In the still of the dark, it was an enjoyable outing. Weirdly though, the effort felt harder than I would have expected for the 8:30/mile pace.

Or maybe it’s just because my heart always beats faster when I’m around her…

Strava data here.

Friday – 5 miler

With me working from home and my wife starting work late, it was the perfect recipe to have another joint run 12 hours after our last one!

At a relaxed pace and in the hush of post-rush hour, I focused more on my running form, particularly with getting my feet to land under my centre of mass. When I do it right, it feels like it’ll make a difference to my speed and effort overall. Now, if only I could just do it for 26.2 miles…

Strava data here.

Saturday – parkrun

I thought I could get away with t-shirt and shorts for this parkrun. Until, that is, I saw it raining. Not drizzling, not spitting, Raining. With a capital R and bold font. Quickly switching to a long-sleeve and bringing out my bandana for the first time in over 6 months, I was good to go!

With Perry Hall celebrating its 200th parkrun event, it was an opportunity to see people for the first time in ages; Barry, Andy, Jason, John Mince, Lorna, Andrew, and others. With the crowd just shy of an apt 200, the weather wasn’t able to dampen their spirits!

Both Andy and I decided to target 19 minutes, and I didn’t spot anyone that looked as though they’d give Barry much competition, though my spider-sense buzzed slightly at a runner in red.

Go!

Barry, red runner, Andy and I quickly took the lead. Barry and Red broke away from the pack, and I focused on trying to keep them in sight. While dodging puddles.

6 minutes and 4 seconds later, the first mile was over and I felt exhausted. But it would be too embarrassing to slow down. I’ve made a terrible mistake. 

I kept pushing though, but couldn’t muster the speed. Andy was gradually creeping up on me, until in one deft swoop he rushed past me and I knew I’d have to settle for fourth place, my second mile some 20 seconds slower than the first.

While keeping Andy in my sights with my hope of a sub-19 finish, Barry had a look of steel in his eyes on the out-and-back as his run had turned into an all-out race against Red.

I managed to gain some ground on Andy on the final straight, but not enough. Still, I was pleased to have finished in 18:55, almost a minute faster than previous weeks. With more training, it won’t be long before that becomes comfortable again.

A great run overall, with an even better finish: not my time, but the cake on offer afterwards!

Strava data here.

Sunday – 5 miler

Just a short one to finish out the week. Targeting a relaxed pace, it naturally locked in at 7:30/mile without monitoring. On an out-of-the-way cycle path, it was really quiet and devoid of people… until one guy ahead of me – who had casually been walking until I was about 100m away – started running!

Snapped out of my daydream, I was instantly in race mode. Gradually building speed at first, then to sub-6 pace without exerting effort. Casually sailing past him, I maintained it for another tenth of a mile when I was sure he’d given up (or y’know, just decided to stop running, looking just to make up some time rather than race).

One more week to York marathon. The countdown begins…

Strava data here.

24 – 30 September 2018

Monday – 5k jog

My legs felt pretty fresh after yesterday’s 20-miler, and I wasn’t particularly inclined to go out. But I eventually forced myself out at after 8pm, despite having eaten dinner only a couple of hours prior and it being pitch black out.

Taking a familiar 5k route, it’s surprising how unfamiliar it felt when I couldn’t see some of the twists and bends ahead of me – at one point nearly running straight into the river!

Strava data here.

Tuesday – 8 reps of 400m at 5k pace + 400m jog

My first visit to the track in a long while! Planning to take it easy, I figured equal recoveries to effort wouldn’t exhaust my legs too much while still providing a good workout. But with such a long recovery, I thought it might be good to try increasing the pace slightly from my usual 3:23 min/km to 3:15 (5:15 min/mile). Y’know, just because. 😉

Aside from a kids football training in the centre, the track was pretty quiet save for one or two joggers. Would have liked some competition to push me slightly, but I made do, chasing them down each rep.

Not paying much attention to my watch but instead focusing on my form, the reps came in nicely at: 5:22; 5:11; 5:13; 5:07; 5:18; 5:17; 5:10; 5:26. I’ll likely make this my new track pace, probably reducing my recoveries next session and then build up distance. Despite my lack of running, I guess the stretches, swimming, etc are paying off!

Strava data here.

Friday – jog

A slight disappointment with this; I’d planned to run to the University of Birmingham swimming pool to try out their facilities, with a view to using their fancy one-of-a-kind-in-the-city 50m length pool.

Imagine my disappointment that upon arriving, to be told pay-as-you-go access was only during the summer, as the pool was now regularly full. Damn students…

Oh well, at least the run was nice, with the likes of Elvis, Hendrix and Clapton making for a Friday feeling!

Strava data here.

Saturday – 8 miler + parkrun

After much indecision as to how to get a long run that wasn’t too long while visiting parkrun as well, I eventually settled on having a 7 miler before Sutton Park parkrun. Not being a morning person, the thought of getting up an hour earlier to run before a run wasn’t pleasant but was significantly more appetizing than dragging my feet after a likely exhausting race.

Jogging a boring but familiar loop on the outskirts of Sutton park would keep me close to where I needed to be for when parkrun started, and wasn’t too taxing in terms of elevation. Bumping into a Strava follower as soon as I started, I momentarily considered whether to ask if they could recommend an easy route. No; you made a plan, stick with it. Besides, you get lost too easily.

The run went well, with no surprises and getting to admire the fancy houses on the route. Well, there was one little surprise; it was actually 8 miles! Fortunately I finished just a few minutes before parkrun’s start, meaning I didn’t cool down too much.

One other little snafu; it hadn’t occurred to me what pace to run the parkrun at! Deciding just to run by feel, I got swept up in the crowd and went at my recent parkrun pace of 6:20 (inwardly smirking at some kid who’d pushed past me at the start but tired out a third of a mile later).

My time was on par with my recent results, clocking in at 19:47 despite putting in hill work lately and more miles. Maybe it’s just a head game now, or I need to try out a flatter parkrun just to check if I am making progress.

Pre-run data here.

parkrun data here.

17 – 23 September 2018

Success, finally forced myself into a four-run week!

Monday – 5k

Hadn’t planned on this one, but decided earlier in the day to run just for the sake of it. I’d intended on 5 miles, but with life happening I had to settle for a 5k.

It went smoothly, and typically for this kind of run, ended up as an accidental progression from 7:28 to 7:05 min/mile.

A quiet run, the only thing of note was an insatiable hunger straight after! Considering my hobby, you’d think I’d eat healthier…

Strava data here.

Wednesday – runcommute

After a busy day at work, this 10 miler really helped me unwind. I’d noted that 24 mph winds were a possibility during the run, but for once it would be in my favour!

Undecided for what music to listen to, I had the theme song from classic 80s movie The Last Dragon playing on repeat. It was so motivating, particularly imagining myself in the final fight scene where… actually I won’t spoil it if you haven’t seen it!

I’d expected to have 7:30 min/mile pacing, but felt comfortable at 7:00 (no doubt due to wind assistance). I felt so good, I figured I’d throw in a marathon-paced mile of 6:15. It nicely turned out to be 5:48, my target half marathon pace (and recently-proven average pace of my nemesis). I’ll probably look to build on that in future runs, to get a head start on my Spring marathons.

Strava data here.

Friday – hill sprints

Continuing with hill training, I worked out on a sharper incline than last week. Despite it being the early afternoon, the quiet backstreet was populated with schoolkids. I tell ya, back in my day…

The reps went well – I certainly felt the struggle this time – and at one point I was even keeping up with a learner driver for half a rep! However, I noticed I was losing quite a bit of time when circling around when my watch beeped, so in the closing metres of the penultimate recovery jog I moonwalked (moonjogged?) so I’d be facing the right way when it was time to sprint again!

Ten reps successfully completed, it wasn’t until then I noticed the wind was against me! Double resistance, double the fun!

Strava data here.

Sunday – 20 miles

Me: I’m going to run 20 miles after church.

Pastor: We’re going to have Krispy Kreme donuts, chocolates and muffins after church.

Me: obama door

My fear of missing out aside, I’d actually dreaded this run somewhat. Not that I didn’t think I couldn’t manage it (a triple negative? Tut tut), but it’s just the sheer length of time I knew it would take, and the admitted boredom of running for 2 and half hours solo.

Armed with a couple of preaching podcasts and the Rocky IV soundtrack (I’d watched it last night, and felt new motivation!), I set out on my route of two laps of Edgbaston Reservoir, two laps of the Winson Green canal loop and my usual runcommute. This was pretty much improvised, and came out to a nicely distanced 19.1 miles, the final 0.9 easy enough to make up with a lap around my block.

Though the wind was against me this time, and a significant downpour made me consider if I’d need to be picked up (only momentarily, then I imagined myself like Rocky training in the Russian weather), the run was comfortable. Really comfortable; 15 miles in, it felt like I’d only just started!

(oh, and I snuck a Krispy Kreme into my bag just before I left, scoffing it as soon as I got home!)

Strava data here.

10 – 16 September 2018

Monday – runcommute

Running feels instinctively natural to me. Swimming, not so much! From the trepidation of first hitting the freezing water to forcing myself repeatedly not to drown (which, let’s face it, is all that swimming is), it’s an exercise in survival rather than fitness. But, I am getting better at it, having managed 50 lengths each time on 2 consecutive visits, the latest including front crawl rather than just breaststroke.

And following that, came my 9 mile runcommute! I wasn’t as drained as I thought I’d be, but do find it incredible to think of those who can go treble the distance of each discipline I’d just done, plus a 100+ mile cycle!

Strava data here.

Thursday – 5 miles

Until I’m back on a training plan, this is the kind of run I have to force my miles up. Such as it was, I was about a tenth of a mile in when it occurred to me I had no idea what pace to go at! I seemed to be heading to 7:30 min/mile, and after momentarily considering sticking to that, I decided to push it to 6:45, my old marathon pace.

“Push it” is a bit of an exaggeration; it felt more like just slipping into a higher gear rather than revving the engine. I felt comfortable throughout, sweaty but not strenuous. My splits came in nicely, with slightly faster increments each mile.

It felt like I turned a corner with this run, truly back to my old self. No more whining about my previous injuries; now, I just need to get into a routine and fully get my mojo back.

Strava data here.

Sunday – hill sprints

I should have done a 20 miler today, but you know what those are like with organising and the sheer amount of time it takes up! Instead, I headed for the hills for some good old fashioned sprinting.

Motivation came in the form of visualising Eliud Kipchoge’s 2:01 marathon that day, what it must be like to run at 4:38 min/mile for that long, and how I could be the one to take mankind to a sub-2 marathon for the first time (my imagination is a powerful thing!)

Aside from the taunts of teenagers, it was a quiet and enjoyable workout which passed quickly. Which means – to borrow a phrase from Jaws which I’ve recently watched for the first time – I’m gonna need a bigger hill.

Strava data here.

3 – 9 September 2018

Tuesday – 9 miles

A pretty relaxed runcommute. I’d targeted 8 min/mile for this, but was quite comfortable going faster – so much so, I played Pokémon throughout! I can’t remember much else about the run, aside from pedestrian traffic around Brindleyplace (always an annoyance). Perhaps I’ll see it as a good thing that running is so second nature, I don’t give much thought to it!

Strava data here.

Thursday – 4 miles

I ran this one simply because I’m mindful of the need to increase my number of outings. So with no target pace planned, no intent on including strides, I went out merely enjoying the experience (though people are likely to call the police if I keep running with a smile on my face!)

Strava data here.

Sunday – long run

I’ve been looking forward to this for a few weeks, building my mileage up in preparation for the marathon next month. While finding decent long routes in the city tend to be tricky, an errand I had to run made a good diversion and created the exact distance needed.

Once again I’d targeted 8 min/mile, but instinctively gravitated towards 7:30. Perhaps it’s time to revisit my jogging pace? My pace remained pretty steady throughout without much monitoring, and the time went quickly listening to a few preaching podcasts (using recent movies as a jumping point into scripture. Jesus as an Avenger? The Apostles as The Incredibles? Made for interesting listening!)

Anyway, it was good to see so many runners out; autumn being a popular time for races, it’s hardly surprising. Wearing my blue Birmingham 10k t-shirt, I gave a fellow runner a quip when I saw she wore the same. I didn’t give her a second thought, but she then caught up a minute later. Racing instincts kicked in. As tempted as I was to sprint, I’m mindful how a strange guy in proximity can give others concern and instead slowed my pace (frustratingly, as it was steady as aforementioned) to give her privacy. My mind drifted to where my pace should have been had I not been injured, the knowledge that my nemesis Barry hadn’t yet beaten my half marathon PB providing some minor comfort. As it turned out, he’d just beaten it that day by a whopping 2 minutes!

Other than that, it was a quiet and successful run, tiring only because of a hill at 16 miles. Now I’m considering whether to target a 20 miler next week, or start tapering.

Shout out to Pamela and all others who ran 8.5 parkruns on Saturday!

Strava data here.

27 August – 2 September 2018

Only three runs this week? I’m going to have force myself into a routine…

Wednesday – 15 miles

This was my long run which I’d originally planned for last Sunday, which the weather put a stop to. Then I just didn’t get around to it on Monday or Tuesday, so decided on a runcommute to make time for it. As it would have been Michael Jackson’s 60th birthday, his music was the soundtrack of choice!

Darting through the city centre like a Smooth Criminal, I opted for a canal route, less Dangerous than the roads. I was aiming for about 7:30-8:00 min/mile (pretty Bad, but I’m still improving my pace), but as I’m still without my watch I couldn’t monitor my pace, much less Remember The Time. I was also without my backpack to avoid excess weight for the long journey (sorry, bag; that’s just The Way You Make Me Feel.)

As expected, the canal route was quiet; it’s great when others just Leave Me Alone. In fact, the only annoyance came when was back on the paths and a couple of cyclists blocked a narrow bridge forcing me to a walk. When it typically comes to other path users, They Don’t Really Care About Us.

Coming to the end of the run, the app said I was at 14.8 miles, taking forever to reach 14.9. As frustrating as it was just running randomly around to make up the distance, I had to tell myself, “Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough.” The time was good at least; though I’d targeted a slow pace, I’d Beat It with a pace of 7:02 min/mile!

Oh, and my favorite song? Billie Jean, an absolute classic! To be honest though, I could dance to any of his songs!

Strava data here.

Friday – 5k

My wife saying “Why don’t you go for a run?” was the only reason I set out today. There was a time when running was my default activity and I’d need to find a reason not to. So, I’m mindful of trying to force runs in now until it becomes a habit again.

I threw strides in just to mix it up, which felt good. Though I hadn’t set a target pace or monitored it, each mile came in pretty even at about 7:03, despite the havok strides can cause to pacing.

Strava data here.

Saturday – parkrun

With our car out of action (again. Mankind should have just stuck with horses), I was forced to cycle if I was to get to parkrun. Running the 7 miles there and back might have been an option had I not already had a long run just a few days ago, but there was also the sheer drain that comes with that 5k run; I just can’t hold myself back on it!

Sutton Park parkrun (btw, it feels weird typing “park” twice consecutively. Just thought I’d throw that in) was well attended again; 230 runners, of which a whopping 154 were running the course for the first time, evident by the massive crowd at the First Timers’ brief! Strangely, there wasn’t such a congregation at the start line; it was just me and two others right on the line, with ample space for more but most appearing hesitant.

Go!

Once again, I found myself overtaken a lot quite quickly, knocking me back from first to a position in the teens early on. I’d aimed for a low 19 minute finish, but my pace was barely that of 20, once again unable to muster the necessary speed.

44403750551_ba9f27e083_zThe racing that pervaded the first mile quickly dissipated at the Hill of Doom. Though slowing down is a necessity, everyone immediately ahead of me slowed more than I’d expected, nearly forcing me to a stop. One runner walked for a moment up the hill, but managed to resume. Just as I was about to joke “I saw that,” he slowed again to a complete walk. I instead shouted an encouragement, that there wasn’t another hill like it (though I was mindful another hill would nonetheless appear less than a mile later!) In the meantime, I passed at least 4 other runners in one fell swoop, and was quickly gaining on a 5th. I reeled him in nicely, and easily started to catch up to another, all apparently drained by the Hill. If nothing else, it’s nice to know that I can handle hills better than others!

The rest of the run was pretty quiet, except for one moment when a sub-17 runner breezed past me out of nowhere, late to the start. Much deserved props were given.

Despite my best efforts towards the finish, I was a few seconds slower than last week, 19:48. Clearly regaining my speed isn’t going to come by wishful thinking. But as tempting as it is to hit the track to work on my speed again, my focus has to remain on next month’s marathon at jog pace.

Strava data here.