Where does the road lead to now?

After all the hijinks of a half marathon, it’s easy to feel a little deflated after the runner’s high of achieving a PB or simply experiencing the atmosphere of a big city race. What tends to happen to people is they either enjoy the event, but would never want to do any long distance running again, or they enjoy it so much tat they decide to run more regularly and sign up to loads of other events and races.

As the title asks, where does the road lead to from here? I have a few running goals, all designed to keep me interested in different ways and each geared towards producing a different result.

I read somewhere very recently (it may have been Runners World magazine) that said PBs come in threes and usually within close proximity to each other. You’ve just run the best race of your life and you’re pumped and ready to score your next win. Your mind is psychologically wired to winning and achieving, so the only limitation is the body. I had put this theory to the test last month after beating my target PB at the Cardiff 10k and only 6 days later, I took a massive chunk off my 5k Parkrun PB by over 35 seconds! To give this improvement some context, I’d been striving to beat PBs by mere individual seconds for several months! I was able to beat my PB again the following week by another 10 seconds; a smaller improvement but one nonetheless. The only reason I didn’t PB for a fourth time in a row was due to technical difficulties, namely my GPS watch refusing to link so I had to race by feel rather than immediate data. Having said that, I was only 6 seconds off a new PB so the body was willing.

Today was no different and I hoped to PB again at the Parkrun, albeit a different venue to my usual Saturday mornings. Due to being in Wales and not wanting to lose this momentum, I decided to visit the Newport Parkrun to see if a change of scenery could yield positive results. It’s advertised as a flat, 2 lap course with a few twists and turns and mixed terrain. Having run it now, it’s not flat and it’s more like a trail run with gravel, grass, mud and sand to soak up some of the recent rain. None of these surfaces are ideal for energy rebound so you have to work harder to maintain the same pace. There were just shy of 200 runners and the pre-race briefing was exactly that: brief. There was no mention of safety warnings, thanking volunteers and sponsors etc; ideal if you’re a regular but not when you’re new! All said and done, I still managed to PB with 21:37 and came back in 28th out of 197 runners. I hope I can PB with 21:25 or so at Cannon Hill Park next week, so we’ll wait and see.

Today’s Nike+ data can be found here.

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Tredegar Park Parkrun startline

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My first lap with a Mobot fired off

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Me at the finish, staving off a heart attack

I’m a huge fan of Parkrun and am 100% certain that it has been one of the best things for my running and for many other runners out there, whether they’re looking to improve their fitness and stay active, or have a competitive edge and are looking to become sharper and faster. It’s my guaranteed weekly speedwork session and I know full well that I wouldn’t be where I am without it.

More medium term, I am looking to build on my current fitness and improve upon my half marathon time. Running a hilly route in Birmingham and finishing with 1:45 means that on a flat course, I should be able to get much closer to 1:40, if not come in under it. Dave and I still looked fresh at the end of the Great Birmingham Run so we know we have more in the tank to give. This will mean continuing with my regular weekly routine of:

  • Monday – Rest/strength work
  • Tuesday – 5k steady run
  • Wednesday – Rest/strength work
  • Thursday – Speedwork/hills
  • Friday – Rest
  • Saturday – 5k Parkrun
  • Sunday – Long, steady run

This routine has served me well and will hopefully yield the desired result at the Bath Half Marathon. Bath is a great city to visit and I’ve wanted to run through its streets for the last year or so. It’s an unusual course because it features two laps around the city centre, but the benefit of this is being able to see supporters more regularly and the crowds are more consistent as a result. Being almost flat is also attractive, hopefully helping me smash that 1:40 barrier. Dave is still thinking about entering; I hope he does because it would be totally awesome to conquer another PB with him.

As for my long term goals, I have the big mother of running events to train towards: the London Marathon. I won’t deviate much from my above training routine because it has served me well, though I will increase the Tuesday run to become a 10k run eventually, maybe even a 10 mile run. I need to get my weekly mileage closer to a total of 40 to stand a chance of getting the 3:45 finish time I’ve set myself for the task at hand. Charles from Bordersdown (formerly NTSC-UK) recommended I check out one pacing guide which breaks your desired finish time down into ideal mile split times, again favouring a negative split strategy. In many ways, I’m less anxious about the marathon because it’s an unfamiliar distance and there are no preconceptions or expectations apart from my predicted paces and finishing times. I will readjust my goals again after the Bath Half and hopefully that will build in some extra buffer if things go awry in London.

Finally, I’m looking to join a running club, most likely Kings Heath Running Club.  I’ve been eyeing up this club for a long time and meeting more of their members at the Parkrun has really spurred me on to do something about it. I know that running my speedwork and hill sessions with them will make me faster and having a group to belong to is attractive. They’re not an elite group and are geared towards regular people like me, and whilst they’re of mixed ability, there’s enough variety that I can slot in quite comfortably.

I decided to pop along to one of their training sessions during the week to see what they’re all about. They’re indeed a friendly bunch, all very interested in what I did etc. They seemed quite surprised when I said I wasn’t a new runner and had been doing this for a number of years. They were even more surprised when I said I could run 7 minute miles at 5k distance! We went on a recovery route just short of 5 miles, consisting of hills and some flat stretches. I got to run with a good variety of people and running with others definitely made the perceived effort feel lower, just as it felt at the half marathon running with Dave. One of the slower runners couldn’t keep up with the pace so I slowed down to run with him, not wanting to leave him behind; a rarity in more elite clubs where you have to keep up regardless.

I’ve been invited to their club social in November, where I want to make an appearance and get a better feel for the club’s members. I’m going to attend another one or two training sessions with them to see if I’m entirely happy about joining them. I’m about 75% sold at the moment because they have some faster runners who I’m hoping to run with, being a firm believer that the quality sessions are just as important as the quantity of sessions. Watch this space…

Stay safe out there now that daylight is quickly diminishing. Gaining a second by dodging traffic isn’t worth the risk!

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