This week’s running – 12th to 18th of October 2015

Great Birmingham Run 2015

Waiting for all those PBs to happen…

This week was about getting back on the training bandwagon, and not running my home town race.

5k from work

Brrr! The first chilly run in a long, long while and boy did I relish it.

Pomphrey Hill Parkrun really did a number on my left hip – it wouldn’t stop creaking during the gentle 5k home from work!

Light levels really dwindled, convincing me to attach my flashing red light to the bag for others to see me from behind, especially cyclists.

I could tell the Great Birmingham Run was just around the corner because there were next to no runners out, with their tapers having begun.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

7 mile fartlek

Due to dropping something off (the wrong sized Flipbelt) for return at a collection point, I was taken onto Ladywood Middleway for the opening 1.5 miles of this fartlek run.

Surprisingly, the first injection of speed wasn’t actually that fast at all and came in slower than half marathon pace. Not a bad thing at all, given I wanted to ease into the fartlek and run through the gears. I was consciously focusing on my stride length in an attempt to gain more power from a more forceful toe-off, and largely, I was able to prove to myself that adding even just 10cm to my stride saw some gains to be had.

It was an odd sensation to be running in the dark again after months of daylight. I’ll have to dig the high-vis out from the back of the wardrobe in anticipation for the next few months.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

5k from work

And as if by magic, there were no runners on the canal again, bar me.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

10 canal miles

After the three recent 40+ mile weeks, I really noticed a difference in my aerobic capacity. With my next fully-fledged race not until mid-January, I decided I would try and make 40 miles per week the norm, rather than the exception, so out rolled this 10 miler on the canal towpath. At the time, this was actually the longest run I’d completed since the Cardiff Half Marathon…

Typically taking around 80 minutes, I knew I would finish well after the sun would set so out rolled the head torch, also.

The first half of the run to Bournville Station wasn’t too bad. There was enough ambient light to see with, so I had the head torch on strobe mode for others to see me. I was caught off-guard by how much more perceived effort was required to hit paces I achieved with relative ease only several weeks ago. A pleasant surprise was the fancy upgraded lighting system in the tunnel immediately below Church Road – no expense spared there!

The return leg was much less forgiving. Night had completely set in, and I don’t know whether I just need to get used to running in the dark again, but my sense of pace was thrown off even more so than before. My head torch was just about up to the task, but there were a few hairy moments where I needed both directional and peripheral light spread to see exactly where I was going, and what was coming up underfoot. Add to this a pair of socks that really should have been thrown away weeks ago that were shredding my feet to pieces…

It was pitch-black on some stretches of the canal and the number of idiotic cyclists I saw that were riding at speed, dressed in black, with no front or rear lighting, or bells to alert others, was astounding. To be fair, there were a few runners and walkers also dressed entirely in black, but the cyclists far outnumbered them.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

I planned to hit this one hard for two reasons. Firstly, to try and claim the sub-19 finish that should have been mine but was denied due to a timing discrepancy from a few weeks ago. Secondly, to try and get a boost to my runbritain ranking handicap that has sat between 5.0 and 5.2 for far too long; with the Great Birmingham Run the next day, most in attendance were taking it easy and any performance from me would be given stronger weighting.

I reached Cannon Hill ridiculously early, so much so that it was only me, Martin Foster and Nigel Beecroft at the bandstand. Nigel and I went for our usual warm-up jog, discussing his half marathon plans; I was confident he would PB at 13.1 miles after his recent 5k PB.

Firmly planted at the very front on the start line, I could see the management team had purchased an air horn in a bid to end complaints from false/unheard starter’s orders. I congratulated the Sparkhill Harrier lad on his recent PB performance and promised myself I would try and keep him in my sights, even if only in the distance. Hooter hooted and off I went…

Despite the race the next day, there were still a few fast folks around me to work with including the lead girl. The pace had some spice to it, but I had actually gone faster two weeks ago and with less effort – this occasion felt like a true blue 5k PB attempt. Unlike last time, I chose to go with it and did not rein myself in to give myself as big a buffer as possible for a 3:42 opening split.

The effort to maintain such a fast pace shot up in the second km, not helped with those around me splintering off into smaller groups. The Sparkhill Harrier was maybe 15m ahead and kept pulling away – the likelihood is that I was actually slowing. My breathing became heavy, so I concentrated on keeping my stride long as a distraction. Conditions weren’t as favourable as two weeks ago either, when there was much less wind on the course.

The third km proved tricky. I was trailing a chap in a football top who’d gone out hard, but began to drop back. “Stay on the pace, no.12. We’ve got this,” I said to him to try and spur him into action. “Can’t. You-go-on” he said, so I overtook. In and out of the triangle, I got a few cheers from the folks coming through on the other side, including Nigel and Simon who were running at a super-easy pace. The aim for this km was to keep it under 4 minutes, which I did by the skin of my teeth for a 3:59 split.

I don’t remember much at all from the fourth km apart from being in my own personal hell, running entirely alone. Thankfully, I managed to keep this one under 4 minutes as well for another 3:59 split.

The final km was upon me and I had no idea how far or close I was to target – I didn’t bother to check the virtual pacer on my Garmin. Unhelpfully, I was still alone. I passed the MAC and I switched over to the stopwatch to see I’d just ticked over to 17:30. Caught by surprise, it took a few takes before I realised I was still in with a very real chance of going under 19 minutes for the coveted course PB! I pressed on and did my best to shut off the pain that ravaged my body. Reaching the final hill, it was fully laden with marshals and volunteers to cheer me on my way. I kicked with whatever remained inside and pumped my arms to drive up the hill. At the top, I sprinted on my toes to put my fast cadence to work. My Garmin said I had a couple of seconds left – it was touch and go whether it would happen or not…


BOOM! That is all.

I crossed the line and it was finally over. I stumbled my way through the funnel and a quick peek at my Garmin was all the confirmation I needed – boy done good with an 18:57 finish! I collected my token (15th) and hunched over, unsure of whether to throw up or not.

For clarity, it’s a course PB i.e. the fastest I have ever run around  the Cannon Hill course; my fastest 5k ever still belongs to Cardiff Parkrun at 18:51. It bodes well that I’m back in 5k PB contention, despite not having focused on any 5k training since July.

And the runbritain handicap result? The run was ranked as a 1.5 in terms of difficulty and I achieved a -1.3 handicap; annoyingly, it’s moved me from 5.2 to just 5.0 again! I’ll have to wait that bit longer before that 4.9 is mine once more…

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

The Great Birmingham Run

The EDF Energy Birmingham Half Marathon back in 2010 is the race that got me into long distance running in the first place. I’d run the local half marathon for five years straight and finally decided to take a break from it, opting instead to be a spectator this year.

Living in the Jewellery Quarter, I had a couple of spots on the route to choose from and of course, I went for that hill at mile 11. Tactically, it would be the best place to give friends support when they would most likely be feeling at their worst.

Walking along Broad Street, it was shocking to see plenty of runners that were still nowhere near the start area when the race had already begun. I overheard some that hadn’t read their race packs and even assumed the start was still on Sand Pits like previous years! The 20 minute walk there would at least get them warmed up.

Walking down St James Road, I decided to plant myself a little further up from the church – arguably the steepest point on the course. I got speaking to two security guards sent in from Leeds (yeah, figure that one out) who only realised they were working a half marathon once they arrived on the scene.

Some 20 minutes later, the front-runners came through – Helen Clitheroe followed a short while afterwards. The fun really began once I started spotting people I actually knew, below in order of appearance (click to enlarge). There were many others I saw and cheered on – apologies if I didn’t get a photo of you.

At times, mile 11 didn’t make for pleasant viewing and there were different magnitudes of detonation I had to witness. Some slowed to a walk to make it up the hill. Others stopped completely to stretch out cramped muscles. A few dropped out entirely. One guy I saw was deathly pale, with his eyes darting around, unable to focus on anything…

All said and done, I had a great time as a spectator. Lis was especially curious to see how I would take to it; it was relatively easy to spot people up to around the 1:50 mark and only Ben had to grab my attention first. After that point, it became increasingly difficult due to the wall-to-wall flow of runners coming through.

Congrats to everyone that ran – there are some very nice PBs and times that were produced on a very difficult course!

Not the Great Birmingham Run

AKA my 13.1 miles I covered on the canal.

A few people after the race asked me if I’d have preferred to run versus spectate. I have no regrets with my decision, apart from having to run my own solo half marathon on the canal towpaths later in the afternoon. I could have participated and run it as a fast, catered training run with others…

Running through Brindley Place, a few people shouted out things like, “The race is over! You can stop now!” Comedians, eh. I was surprised to find a handful of runners out on the canals – and there I was thinking everybody was racing.

I kept things easy and under control, having smashed myself to pieces the day prior. My hips were a little tight and my stomach was a little unsettled from the monumental effort along with something I’d eaten that wasn’t agreeing with me.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

The only other thing of note about this long run was the second field test for the Flipbelt. I finally received the small size and the fit was like night and day in comparison to before; there was no bounce at all and only required minor readjustment from time to time. If like me, you find you’re in between sizes, go for the smaller option – a tight fit is crucial to it doing its job by staying out of the way. A capacity test saw me pack it with an iPhone 6 (wrapped in a freezer bag), 6x Isogels (bulky), and some keys with room to spare. Reportedly, it can even stretch to accommodate the ginormous iPhone 6 Plus, but you’d have to be really desperate to want to take one of those out on a run with you. I can finally retire my years old gel belt, which required anchoring down with safety pins for the right fit.

Time for this week’s entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

When elastic is gone, man, it’s gone

Men. This one is for you.

You paid good money for those shorts. You love those shorts. You have worn those shorts in the heat and the cold, sun and rain, over hill and dale. You’ve raced in those shorts – maybe even set a personal record in them.

But, my brother, listen carefully: Sooner or later, there will come a day when you pull those shorts on and feel roomy gaping where once there was a snug liner. This means that the elastic down there has gone slack.

You will be tempted to shrug this off and wear them running anyway.

Don’t. Trust us on this one.

You know what? Let’s just move on.


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