This week’s running – 28th of July to 3rd of August

£50 for Andy Yu

£50 for simply turning up to Parkrun – thanks William Yu!

This week was all about trying to recover, winning and refocusing on the half marathon.

2x 800m reps

There I was with the dust having barely settled from Sunday’s 10k race and I was doing an 800m interval session – I really don’t know what was going through my mind.

I had suggested to Dave that we hit the track after work but there was one hitch – Sparkhill Harriers were booked to use it according to the leisure centre. Checking their training schedule, they were down to use it on Thursday and to avoid any potential issues, we opted to head to the canals instead.

After a warm-up jog, we went straight to it with our respective 5k paces. Dave went ahead and I followed about 10 seconds later with the hope that we would more or less finish the rep together. Starting the rep, I felt bloody awful; it was like running with lead weights attached to my feet. I still wasn’t a fan of the slightly loose surface under my feet either, and a feeling of light-headedness took over towards the end of the rep. Dave looked great and I was anything but.

We headed off for another rep and that was me done for the day. Dave felt so good, he went on to do another 4x reps for 6x in total.

Clearly, an easy recovery run should have been the order of the day which is what I prescribed for myself for the rest of the week until the weekend.

Here’s the Garmin data for this lame session…

Sub-90 minute half marathon ambitions

With two of my three summer goals achieved, I moved on to my final target of a sub-90 minute half marathon. Despite the longer distance, it’s actually lower in difficulty compared to a sub-40 minute 10k according to the various pacing calculators out there. Some people have even said to me that a 1:27 finish or better should be within my ability!

A very kind Pistonheads forumite supplied me with a training schedule he previously used to get down to a 1:17 half marathon and whilst I’m not capable of that (who knows, maybe one day I will be!), the sessions to really focus on the requirements of a faster half marathon are still applicable.

One immediate recommendation from him was to add a fifth run to my week in the form of something shorter and easier eg a run home from work. This I liked and was something Dave suggested to me before to help boost my overall training volume. The next suggestion I didn’t like so much, and that was to start running Parkrun at threshold pace rather than having a bash at it so regularly. Granted my days of weekly PB attempts are long behind me, but it’s still nice to have a pop at a faster run if I’m feeling good one Saturday.

A session that I’ve concocted for myself consists of 3x 2 mile reps at half marathon pace (6:45/mile). Initially, 3x reps might be too much so I’ll have a stab at 2x reps to see how I get on.

Jog home from work

I was rather looking forward to my run home from work. I used to run home from a previous job on Hagley Road to Kings Heath (4 miles or so), but that was in place of going to the gym rather than adding additional mileage to the week.

I had forgotten how difficult it is to run with a backpack, even if it is a running specific one and I had purposely left non-essential items at the office. Thankfully, it was nothing more than a slow plod to serve as a recovery run with no thoughts of pace or performance.

Thoughts very quickly progressed to how I could keep the mid-week run going through the darker evenings of the winter – a headtorch would be perfect.

Click here for the Garmin data for this run.

10k along Hagley Road

Thursday was another one of those runs where nothing seemed to go well. It had rained earlier and so the air was incredibly humid. Due to bad timing on my part, I also managed to hit every single traffic light up and down Broad Street and Hagley Road. And to add insult to injury, the heavens opened up again to drench me completely – at least the rain got rid of all the pedestrians that are completely oblivious to others.

Click here for the Garmin data for this run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

This was supposed to be the greatest race of the century, but due to complications/idiocy on the part of my opponent, the face-off never happened.

Back in February, my brother was spouting out plenty of smack-talk. You know the sort – lines like, “I could beat you if I tried” and the classic, “I could complete a marathon in 5 hours or less by just walking”. Will has always been more naturally athletically gifted than me. As kids, I would sit on my arse and just eat (I still do that, but amongst other pursuits!) whilst he was on his school’s rugby, cricket and basketball team. Crucially, he was also on the athletics team as a short distance sprinter and fairly competitive too from memory. But he’s not 16-18 anymore and 10 years have passed since he last did any faster running. I wanted to serve him a slice of humble pie where a less naturally talented person that works hard could out-perform a talented individual that didn’t train, or trained inconsistently. This had the makings of a challenge, so I gave him 6 months to get himself fighting fit with a show-down at Cannon Hill – first Yu to cross the line would win with an additional £50 at stake.

It was a very soggy race morning, which immediately made me wander whether Will would turn up or not. I had told him to get there for 08:30 to minimise any excuses like, “I was running late so it wasn’t a fair race” etc. 08:45 and there was still no sign of him and a small crowd had started to build (OK, just Lis, Iain and Elsa) and other runners began asking where Will was. Where was William Yu, indeed? 08:50 and I’d noticed a missed call on my phone from him; apparently he would be late due to arriving earlier and then noticing he’d forgotten his shorts… We were all quite puzzled by this because if you were coming from home (which he was), you’d simply leave fully dressed to run wouldn’t you?

Cutting a long story short, Will was a no-show and lost automatically. The run itself was pretty good, if a tad wet in the rain. I had a rough target of 19:45 and finished in 19:47, pulling David Brayne through with me, even through my 10 second “African surge” as Dave Burton put it.

So, what’s the moral of this story? Make sure you’re wearing all of your race gear prior to the startline!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

12 miles out and back via the Birmingham Canal Old Line

With the temporary closure of the canal towpath towards Bournville, I sought out a new route to complete some distance runs ahead of my upcoming half marathons. Iain had suggested to me on more than one occasion to give the Birmingham Black Country Half Marathon route a try – in the interests of time, I opted for a simple out and back route to the rough halfway point.

It was incredibly quiet out with only two runners and one cyclist on the out portion of the run. Generally, the terrain underfoot was of good quality with only a few puddles from the previous day’s downpour.

The stretch between Smethwick and the M5 was simply stunning to run through, with plenty of greenery and flowering plants around to remind me we were firmly in summer.

Sadly, this pleasant run was cut short when two fair-weather cyclists approached me on the return portion of the route. How do I know they were fair-weather? The woman was wearing a maxi dress, flip-flops and had no helmet on and the bloke was in a casual wear, also wearing flip-flops and no helmet. They were both cycling towards me, two abreast on the narrow towpath with the woman slightly ahead. I was on the left of the towpath, on the inside and held my position because I didn’t know what their next move was; the bloke simply had to tuck in behind the woman and I would have moved over to the right for a simple pass. But no, they continued towards me without any change in position and then the woman started hurling abuse at me to move out of the way! If she had looked over her shoulder, she’d have seen that her companion had taken up the entire right of the path leaving me nowhere to go! In the end, I stood my ground and they ended up going around me on both sides. It could have been so simple if one of them had decided to tuck in behind the other…

The rest of the run was less aggravating, thankfully! Pace-wise, it was pretty easy to simply build endurance for the coming weeks. Speed will come from the specific half marathon pace sessions I have in store, hopefully making me rather than breaking me.

Click here for the Garmin data for this run.

And here’s your weekly dose from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

The hardest part about running in the rain is getting wet

Running jackets are so last year!

Running jackets are so last year!

In other words: Once you’re soaked, you’re set.

Running in the rain can be downright enjoyable, assuming you’re dressed for it. (Hypothermia is a very real threat if you’re wet – even if the ambient temperature isn’t all that low.) After a certain point, it’s not like you’re going to get any wetter.

Some of my favourite runs have been done in the rain, from a light drizzle to a downpour. Showers tend to surround you with that earthy, rainy smell, which is always nice. The drops feel good on your skin. And the looks you get from non-runners, peeking out from car windows or dashing across streets, are priceless.

That said, you are entirely within your rights to throttle any fellow runner who, in the middle of a down-pour, chirps, “Oh well, the human body is two-thirds water anyway!”

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