This week’s running – 23rd to 29th of December

Welcome to this Christmas week edition of the blog. Read on to find out what I got up to over the Christmas break, running-wise. This update was published from a car on the M5 motorway – how’s that for road warrior skills? I’ll follow this entry up with an end of 2013 blog post, so keep your eyes peeled for that in the next day or so.

Christmas Day Brueton Parkrun

Andy, Sean and Mike at Brueton Parkrun

The Three Wise Men at Brueton Parkrun – photo by Sean Whan

It took a lot of explaining to friends and family that I’d be attending Parkrun on Christmas Day. Some were in awe of my dedication. Others were in disbelief. And a few thought it would just be me running around a park on my own…

Cannon Hill opted not to stage a Christmas Day run so the nearest runs to me were either Brueton Parkrun in Solihull or Walsall Arboretum Parkrun. Since I was staying over at my folks’ place in Kings Heath, Brueton made the most sense and Mike from Kings Heath Running Club tagged along.

Leaving at 08:20, this turned out to be plenty of time to get to Solihull on Christmas Day, taking no more than 15 minutes or so. Arriving at the park, we bumped into a fair few of the Cannon Hill Parkrun contingent that had similar thoughts to Mike and me:

  • Suz West
  • Khalid Malik
  • Helen Bloomer
  • Joseph Stone
  • Gillan Stone
  • David Sansom
  • Sean Whan

Unsurprisingly, all of us are in either the 50 or 100 club or are Parkrun management; well and truly addicted.

The organisers took the decision to make a few small detours to the course due to icy patches. This turned what was otherwise a run entirely on tarmac into one that became slightly cross country-esque if the state of my shoes were anything to go by!

A few of us agreed to head out at 7 minute mile pace, so nothing too strenuous. Mike, Sean and I stuck with it for the first mile or so before I started to loosen up and wanted to go a bit faster. Blair from Piston Heads noticed me and said hello – we Parkrunners really do get about! I spent much of the remaining two miles running alone with each split getting progressively faster even with the muddy grass sections. At one stage, I thought I was possibly on for a sub-20 finish so I really picked up the pace with a few hundred metres to go. Sadly, my estimations were wildly off and I finished officially with a time of 20:39.

It was great to bring in Christmas with a Parkrun. Here’s the Garmin data.

Running gifts from Santa

So what running pressies did we all receive?

Lis gave me a pair of Nike Kiger trail shoes and my family got me a Withings WS-50 scale.


The Nike Kiger trail shoe

Whilst in New York, I did actually look at the Kiger trail shoes but for one reason or another, I chose not to get them. Ever since the bad winter we experienced last year, I wanted to try and pro-actively do something to minimise any disruption to my own training which I simply can’t afford to lose in the lead up to my marathon. I have yet to take the Kigers out on a test run (wasted opportunity at Brueton Parkrun!) but will report more on my findings once I do. These babies should be perfect for the muddy and slippery conditions of the canals and I’ve already decided to give these a blast at Forest of Dean Parkrun in the New Year sometime.

Withings WS-50

The Withings WS-50 smart body analyser

The Withings WS-50 scale is the very same one that I almost purchased in New York. As an upgrade to Withings’ original model, the WS-30, it adds body fat, heart rate and air quality analysis to the mix along with the online data tracking. We all have a habit of embellishing our weight loss improvements or downplaying any lack of improvement; with the WS-50, there’s no hiding from the cold hard truth when the data is logged automatically for you thanks to it producing a trend line for you to rule out any anomalies.

Cardiff Parkrun

Andy Yu at Cardiff Parkrun

Welsh Pride at Cardiff Parkrun – photo by Paul Stillman

It’d been absolutely ages since I last ran at Cardiff Parkrun where I scored a rewarding 19:23 PB on the last visit. I regret not being able to test myself towards the end of September when I was at my 5k peak and I’m confident I could have hit 19:10 or better.

I had introduced Lis’ cousin, Morgan, to Parkrun a few months ago and he’s really taken a shine to the event, so much so that he and his wife, Kim, decided to come along with me for a Saturday morning 5k.

The weather for the day started out poor with dark clouds, wind and rain battering the terrain. Thankfully, this had largely cleared up by the time we arrived and just in a nick a time for my warm-up. I bumped into Daniel Luffman out on the course who I hadn’t seen since the summer; his 5k PB is coming along nicely with a 19:45 to his name and only narrowly missing out on beating this several times in recent weeks.

I had received a lovely Welsh flag running vest from Yvonne and Philip for Christmas and I was wearing it proudly in Cardiff. Speaking to Daniel, we joked that it may give me the boost I’m after. As ever, we started somewhere in the second row to gain an early positioning advantage.

The opening mile felt superb for me with everything feeling loose and relaxed. I surprised myself when my Garmin beeped to tell me I’d just completed the first mile in 6 minutes flat; my fastest ever recorded mile. To give you some context, pacing calculators estimate that based on my 5k PB of 19:18, I am theoretically capable of a 5:34 mile best. Personally, I think I could go below 5:30 because I seem to have a speed bias with my body composition where the further I go, the slower I seem to become even if it’s only marginal.

I tried to keep a female Serpentine club runner about 5 – 10m ahead of me at all times but this was slipping away from me during mile 2. The fast opening mile was taking its toll on me with a shocking 6:36 second mile split. A few folks began to overtake me and despite my best efforts to hang on to them as they passed by, I simply didn’t have another gear to shift into.

The third mile was tough as it always is. There were very few people to run with given the time of the year but oddly, the distance markers actually proved helpful as indicators to start ramping up the pace for the approach to the finish line. At 200m to go, a 50 Club member and I began to duke it out, pushing each other on. He managed to slip away with 100m left to go, clearly fresher than I was having paced his run better than I had. I shook his hand afterwards and congratulated him on a good race close. Daniel Luffman wasn’t far behind in pursuit and was only a few seconds off a PB again.

Morgan ran well, earning himself a new course PB at Cardiff but still way off from his 20:00 PB set at Hackney Marshes. Kim had committed the cardinal Parkrun sin of forgetting her barcode so we have no idea what time she finished with or what position for that matter.

Here’s my Garmin data for Cardiff Parkrun.

7 miles of Llanhennock Hills

Praise the lord for an easy running week in my schedule!

I had planned to run around the Llanhennock Hills for 7 miles to make up this week’s long run. Morgan wanted to come along so we ventured out into the wilderness.

I donned a long sleeve Nike shirt with a zipped neckline that I had received from Pete and Jo for Christmas. It was exactly what I needed; it’s light enough with coverage and the zip can help with ventilation if things start to heat up.

Neither Morgan or I had estimated how icy and treacherous the roads were. Some of the downhill portions of the route had us sliding downwards and the inclines proved challenging with gravity working against you. My only advice to Morgan was to keep his stride short to better react to any slips. Thankfully, neither of us fell and lived to run another day.

Have a look at the Garmin data here.

And as always, here’s this week’s entry from The Runner’s Rule Book by Mark Remy:

Keep unsolicited advice to yourself

If you’re the type of person who enjoys giving others advice, whether they ask for it or not, running offers a world of opportunity.

Before races, during races, after races; on training runs; at the track; at the gym; even in online forums and blogs, you’ll encounter runners who choose to do things differently than you do them. You will want to show each of these people the light. Resist that urge.

Unsolicited advice rarely gets a warm reception no matter how tactfully it’s offered, and you must admit the possibility – as crazy as it may sound – that you do not in fact, have all the answers. Even if you do have all the answers, the advisee may not be in the mood to hear them.

So keep your opinions to yourself unless someone asks for them.

If that person at the gym really is “doing it wrong,” he will figure it out soon enough. And if he doesn’t, maybe he wasn’t so wrong in the first place.

Exception: You see a runner putting himself or others in imminent danger; see “Do not tempt fate” from before.

*By purchasing this book, you implicitly sought my advice. So I’m in the clear. Ha!


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