This week’s running – 25th of May to 1st of June

Andy Yu meets running celebrities

Running celebrities as far as the legs will run

This week was about rubbing shoulders with the fast and famous.

2x 800m reps at Edgbaston Reservoir

Some folks more learned than me conclude that adaption, periodisation, or whatever you want to call it, takes roughly 3 weeks to occur, i.e. any training you do today will benefit you in 3 weeks’ time. Because of this belief, it’s also common to see athletes take on an easier week after every 3 weeks of training.

I’d been running fairly consistent weekly speedwork sessions for 3 weeks when out of nowhere, Tuesday’s interval sesh went from 4x reps to just 2x. I felt flat, even during the first rep. I simply didn’t have that snap in my legs and truth be told, I probably wasn’t mentally prepared for the session either. I’d had a solid week previously and raced hard the week before that – the body can’t go on indefinitely and whether voluntarily or forcefully, everybody needs a break every once in a while.

Here’s the Garmin data for this woeful session.

10k at Edgbaston Reservoir

I’ll never get my head around Edgbaston Reservoir – each time I run there, everybody seems to be running in the opposite direction to me!

I’ve not run multiple laps at the reservoir for a while and I’d forgotten how mentally disciplined you need to be to not give up partway through. I was nowhere near being adequately fuelled and during the second lap, I started to become lightheaded; all I’d eaten was a small sandwich and a banana for lunch to get me through a day at work. I’m not a particularly fuel-efficient athlete; I know several people that can run a marathon off a bottle of plain water but not me – I needs the carbs!

Anyway… I ploughed on with the remaining two laps and just missed a royal flush by a few seconds. I wasn’t about to cut two runs short this week.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

I’d been waiting for Parkrunday all week. Why? Because it was the Parkrun Ambassadors’ Weekend when various folks (management, run directors etc) come together in Birmingham to discuss all things Parkrun. And because they’re in Birmingham, they naturally come to Cannon Hill for their weekly 5k fix.

I missed last year’s influx of running celebrities because I was in Wales, but not so this time!

I knew Tom Williams, of Marathon Talk fame, would be present after he announced his plans on the show. I also suspected Paul Sinton-Hewitt, the founder of Parkrun, would also be present. Beyond that, I had no idea who else would be about so imagine my delight to find out Liz Yelling, Steve Way and Chrissie Wellington would also be making appearances and running!

On mine and Nige’s warm-up run, we bumped into Liz Yelling and Steve Way, who I waved to. Nige was a bit bemused with why I was going all giddy – it’s not everyday you see running celebrities whilst actually running.

Andy Yu meets Steve Way

Steve Way – far too many achievements to name

Returning to the bandstand, we made our way over to Steve and Liz for a photo and a chat. Steve Way is an absolute machine when it comes to training – his weekly schedules would destroy most mortals! He was the 3rd Brit across the line at this year’s London Marathon, recently represented the nation in a 100k race, and will also be representing us again in the Commonwealth Games marathon. I shook his hand and explained that I knew of him through Marathon Talk, to which he apologised for appearing so often on the show!

Andy Yu meets Liz Yelling

Liz Yelling twice represented Great Britain in the Olympic Games marathon

Steve helped us grab Liz’s attention. We grabbed a photo with her and had a joke about how she was enjoying some time to herself without the family in tow. Liz Yelling represented Great Britain in the marathon at two Olympic games and is now a running coach for the likes of Richard Whitehead et al.

Andy Yu and Nigel Beecroft meet Paul Sinton-Hewitt

Paul Sinton-Hewitt – he came up with Parkrun (Bushy Park Time Trial back then) because he was injured

Nige and I next scooted over to say “hello” to Paul Sinton-Hewitt, the destroyer of Saturday lie-ins. He asked us both about our PBs and Nige queried about the chances of Parkrun launching in France (he got his answer – Bordeaux will be kicking things off). It’s amazing to think that what started off as a time trial for 13 people has exploded into arguably the most successful initiative to get the public running. I tip my imaginary hat off to you, good sir!

I saw Chrissie Wellington off to the side during the pre-run briefing and would try and grab a photo with her after the run.

But I still hadn’t spotted Tom Williams – I wanted a photo with him to complete the set after meeting Martin Yelling at the London Marathon Expo. It was time to head over to the startline so I figured he was marshalling out on the course. We were all ushered into a tighter pack between the MAC and the boating lake; the super-wide start of late has proven a little hairy given how many people seem to fall over themselves during the initial scrum so it’s not a bad move so long as you’re in the first couple of rows (Dave reckoned it took 4 seconds or so to cross the line due to being further back).

In a complete role reversal, Nige lead the way for the first mile or so. I don’t know what was up with me, but I simply didn’t have the usual zip in my legs. Looking at my warm-up, it did look a tad slow so perhaps I just needed to get all my pistons firing. I also later learned that Suz West had suicidedly followed me for the first km or so – if I wasn’t feeling all there, I dread to think how she was feeling…

After the first mile, I was finally ready to start pressing on. At this point, various marshals started cheering, “Go Tom” and I turned around to see who it was behind me; there was a chap in a Parkrun 100 t-shirt that looked a bit like Tom Williams, and he was also wearing orange Adidas Adios Boost shoes like Tom Williams. I quickly concluded that it must have been Tom Williams and I continued onwards. I couldn’t believe I was taking part in a mini-battle with Tom Williams… (for the record, he’s a stronger runner than me) Up ahead, I could see Paul Sinton-Hewitt as we approached the out and back portion of the course. In the opposite direction was Chrissie Wellington in the lead for the girls, followed a little while later by Liz Yelling and Steve Way.

I was now firmly on the triangle and decided I would overtake a few people to avoid any potential slow-down; Paul Sinton-Hewitt said, “Well done, mate” as I ran past!

Marshals continued to cheer for Tom and this served as a reminder that he was right on my back, only 2 – 3 seconds behind. With 1k left to go, he was still hot on my heels each time I looked over my shoulder which spurred me on – only problem was I had run out of runners ahead of me to chase down.

With 800m left to go, I spotted two Halesowen AC runners maybe 10 seconds ahead of me so I began to try and reel them in. Tom was still behind me with the same gap as before.

400m left and I’d managed to get within maybe 5 seconds of the Halesowen AC guys – they were clearly struggling up the slight incline and I knew I would be able to take them on the final hill before the finish.

200m left to go and I stopped worrying about who was behind me and just wanted to finish, so I began my kick up the final hill. 3 runners were maybe 2 seconds ahead of me, with the gap rapidly closing as we approached the finish line and then boom – that was it for a 19:31 season’s best (official timekeeping had me down as 19:33)!

Andy Yu meets Tom Williams

Tom Williams – 50% of the Marathon Talk podcast

I was short of breath upon finishing but felt like I still had a tiny bit left inside me. I think I’m purposely holding back because I can’t just collapse after the finish line on the new concrete finish unlike the old grass finish. Shortly afterwards, Tom finished and I asked if he was the Tom Williams and he was, shaking my hand. We had a cracking chat and I thanked him for applying the pressure whilst we were out there on the course. We made our way back to the bandstand where we had discussed his marathon plans for Berlin. Tom also quizzed me about my 171 tattoo; I knew he was a big fan of triathlon so I was quick to say it wasn’t a triathlon number and explained its true origin story. It was fantastic to speak with Tom and I thanked him for the work he does on Marathon Talk (seriously folks, check the show out!) and Parkrun (he’s also the UK MD).

Andy Yu meets Chrissie Wellington

Chrissie Wellington – 4 time Ironman world champion (no idea what’s going on with my face)

Before finishing up for the morning, I mozied on over to Chrissie Wellington for a snapshot. I didn’t realise she was actually in mid-interview with Danny Norman for the Parkrun Show podcast and I think I inadvertently made it on to next week’s episode. Oops… Conscious that I was interrupting (they were both very cool with it), I settled for a handshake and a very quick photo, which explains the bizarre expression on my face. Chrissie is an amazing athlete, winning Ironman multiple times; you’d think endurance events would have dulled her speed over 5k, but she still came in first place and looked like she’d only jogged around the course.

I was absolutely buzzing after Parkrun – what other sporting hobby allows you to participate in exactly the same event as your heroes and then have a casual conversation with them afterwards? Running, it’s the sport that keeps on giving.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

9 miles – Weoley Castle and Metchley Fort

Being a relatively new runner (4 years this autumn), I fully admit I have limited knowledge of running routes around Birmingham. This is why I rely on Dave’s know-how of the local area for long runs.

Today, we ventured out towards Weoley Castle and made up the rest of the mileage with a stretch along the canal towards Bournville. The pace was always manageable, with the conversation flowing quite nicely.

It was pretty warm out there and after a few cooler weeks, running in temps around the high teens proved a little taxing. Throw in some hills and undulations and we were better prepared for next week’s 2 Castles 10k.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

And here’s this week’s entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Rest is training, too

It may not feel like it, but kicking back and relaxing is part of training. Ditto for a good night’s sleep. Hard running breaks muscle down; recovery is when that muscle repairs itself. The result is greater strength. Remember this is you’re ever tempted to go hard on back-to-back days.

You might be able to ignore this rule for a while, but it will inevitably catch up with you. Injuries, in a sense, are the body’s way of saying, “Okay, you know what? Enough is enough. Time for a little break.”  (For example, a “little break” in your fifth metatarsal.)

On a personal note: I’ve been biking or running regularly for nearly 25 years, and I can count on one hand the number of weeks I’ve been sidelined with any kind of overuse injury. I have a hunch this is because I was fortunate enough to be born very biomechanically efficient – my flat feet notwithstanding. But this record is due partly, I’m sure, to my habit of taking regular breaks: at least 1 day off per week; 1 easier-than-normal week per month; 1 easier-than-normal month per year.

Eventually, I think, I’ll have earned an entire year to take easier than normal.

But not yet.

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