This week’s running – 19th to 25th of October 2015


Dr Zoidberg didn’t think it was a good idea to enter Berlin

This week was about Berlin and Brass Monkeys.

Berlin Marathon 2016

Berlin Marathon

I find out in December whether I’m in or not…

After a few shaky runs marred by warm conditions throughout the summer, I concluded I did not want to go through the training for an autumn marathon. But then I got thinking and comparatively, my performances in the autumn are usually much stronger in relation to the spring. I was inspired watching a few guys I know at around, or just below, my ability over 5k, 10k and half marathon go on to run sub-3:15 autumn marathons. There had to be something in toughing it out through the summer!

So, my finger accidentally slipped and registered my name for the 2016 Berlin Marathon ballot… Immediately afterwards, thoughts of, “What the hell have you done???” went through my mind, but revisiting the P&D Advanced Marathoning book briefly for a peek at the schedules reassured me that I’m now in a much better place to take on another marathon. I may actually be disappointed if I don’t get in at this rate!

There were a few quirks with the Berlin Marathon ballot versus the London Marathon ballot. Notably, you have to submit payment information upfront to cover the €98 should you be successful, with nothing being taken if you’re not. This contributes to why the odds of getting into Berlin are quite good – London not requiring payment information upfront probably encourages more people applying on a whim who’ll figure it all out later.

The other quirk relates to finishing time submission. A bit like Boston where you have to qualify, Berlin asks you to provide your marathon PB (3:34:02 in my case) to seed you into an appropriate start pen. If you’ve never run a marathon before, you’re automatically seeded into Pen H (reportedly around 25,000 in this year’s race…) It’s a double-edged sword system because on the one hand, it keeps people honest and completely eradicates the problem of people predicting finishing times of complete fantasy/inexperience – “You’re only as good as your marathon PB” is their view. And on the other hand, it unfairly penalises first timers and faster runners that train their guts out and would be perfectly capable of achieving or beating their targets. My marathon PB would likely see me seeded into Pen F, designated for those with PBs of 3:30 to 3:50. My goal is to at least run sub-3:30 and I think I could even go sub-3:15 with almost 10 months of preparation.

Anywho, the above is only something to worry about should I get in!

5k from work

Hip flexibility was still low after the recent weekend’s antics, so I kept this one easy.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

7 mile fartlek

Whilst this wasn’t my fastest overall fartlek run along this route, it did produce the fastest final stretch where I clocked in at 5:53 mile pace over 550m with a stride length of 1.35m (that’s long for me!)

No major issues to report, other than cyclists on pavements with no lights and groups of people walking three abreast.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

5k from work

Not good at all. Felt really low on energy from the off due to a lunch that was probably too light. Even at a slow pace, it was a real grind.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

10 canal miles/Petzl Tikka RXP field test

Petal Tikka RXP

Let there be light with the Petzl Tikka RXP

After last week’s anxiety on the unlit canal, I started looking into headtorch upgrade options. My Black Diamond Spot, whilst perfectly adequate for jogging home from work at low speed, just wasn’t really cutting it on the longer run in the dark at a faster pace. I narrowed my choices down to two from Petzl: the Myo and the Tikka RXP. The Myo is not a pretty thing to look at with a back of head mounted AA battery pack, but it’s insanely bright at 315 lumens on its maximum setting. The Tikka RXP is much more conventional looking, sporting a USB rechargeable battery pack built into the main lamp, but only 215 lumens on its brightest setting. Both eclipse the Black Diamond Spot with its paltry 90 lumens (budget option).

In the end, I went for the Tikka RXP. It was the cheaper of the two by almost £30 online (only £10 difference on the high street) and the USB rechargeability meant I’d be able top it up at work before each run-commute home, rather than having a stash of spare AA batteries in case it ran dry. It also featured an auto-brightness feature, much like on smartphones, where the power output adjusts on the fly to changing situations (can be overridden).

So, how did it go?

I broke out the Tikka RXP on a 10 mile run, once again utilising the unlit canal towpath. I covered a range of paces and the headtorch held up wonderfully, and importantly, required no readjustment of the headband, even at faster speeds. The reactive sensor always gave me just a little more light than I needed in any given situation; if I ran into a tunnel, it dimmed itself due to light bouncing off walls, and if I ran into cyclists with their own lights, it dimmed so as not to blind those oncoming. That last one only holds true if cyclists have lights; one idiot without any wasn’t able to adjust his eyes quickly enough from the darkness and received a face full of maximum brightness.

The available range was fantastic, with it faintly reaching up to 100m away – obviously things got brighter the closer they were to me, but it was more than sufficient to pick up things in the distance that I needed to focus my attention on.

The only negative is the battery life – it’s quoted as only lasting up to 2.5 hours with access to maximum brightness and requires a 5 hour charge from empty. On reduced mode, it can last up to 10 hours, or a balance between the two can be reached by plugging it into a Mac or PC and adjusting the power profile (I deleted this option).

The run itself was great, with 3x miles at just faster than marathon pace. The additional lighting made it easier adjusting to the faster pace compared to last week. Stopping it from scoring a 10/10 was some minor indigestion before I even started and a sudden urge for a toilet visit halfway through…

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Brass Monkey Half Marathon 2016

As my alarm went off at 5:55am, I couldn’t quite believe that it had been a year since I registered for my first Brass Monkey Half Marathon. At £24 for unaffiliated entry, the race provides a stellar field and is superbly organised. Oh, and did I say the route is pancake flat for PB hunters like me?

Of course, it could be £24 wasted if the race gets cancelled due to inclement weather – more than likely in mid-January as was seen in 2013 due to snow.

Carl also made it in again, as did Dave for the first time, by the skin of his teeth before the cut-off of only 1750 available places.

If I can keep the momentum going until then, there’s a chance I could be in reach of a time in the low 85s. Here’s hoping!

Cannon Hill Parkrun

By 8am, I’d already had two coffees to try and perk up in time for Parkrun due to the pre-6am start to enter the Brass Monkey. Not a good start. And I was going to take a chance and attempt to squeeze out another fast time ala last week, too…

I caught up to Nigel for a joint warm-up lap around the park along with a debrief of his Great Birmingham Run (a splendid effort with a second half full of true grit).

On the start line, I had another pep talk with Zac Minchin of Sparkhill Harriers, now quickly becoming a weekly thing. He’d hoped to hit 18:40, which sounded reasonable enough to me to try and keep on the horizon. Ben Clarke was run director for the morning and had the honour of giving the starter’s orders to send us all off on our way.

The start was very, very fast. As always, some had started too far back and one guy came tearing through a few of us to get ahead – he should have saved him and us the trouble and just started at the very front! By the first corner, my Garmin was registering 3:25 per km, which felt totally unnatural to me. I decided to go with it and just let nature take its course…

The first km clocked in at a swift 3:37. Target average pace for the entire run was 3:45/km, so it certainly gave me a slight bit of breathing space for the inevitable slow-down in the later stages. Confidence was still high, though my breathing was just a smidge faster than I’d have ideally wanted it.

The effort noticeably crept upwards in the second km. I still had a grip on things to produce a 3:43 split to be still ahead of target.

Wheels started to come off the wagon in the third km. The shortened lap around the park didn’t help where the sensation of progress felt like it was missing. Carl in an attempt to shoehorn himself into this week’s entry (it worked!) pulled up in front of me whilst he covered the course in a progressive manner. He told me to drive my arms and elbows more to gain more thrust from each stride; I took shelter in his slipstream to also gain a few hundred metres of recovery, though this was short-lived when he crept away on a slight descent. The split came in at 3:55, but I was still on for average target pace.

The fourth km was a shocker. I was still on the tail of the lead girl, but the effort had already taken its toll on me and mentally, I abandoned the plan and resigned myself to simply finish in a respectable time not too far off target. Zac the Sparkhill Harrier had also sacked his effort off and was walking by the side of the course. I hollered out to him to rejoin the chase and he slotted himself back in just in front of me before moving into my slipstream. The cursed triangle robbed me of a few more precious seconds and even a small surge on the exit wasn’t enough to undo the damage of the tight turns. The split came in as an ugly 4:01…

The lead girl and another chap managed to put 15-20m between them and me. I couldn’t hear anybody behind me, to put me in no man’s land when I needed a fast final km. My teeth were firmly gritted but nothing I threw down got me any closer to the two of them. On the approach to the hill, Ed Barlow’s familiar voice told me to attack the climb as he pulled away from me. “I’m maxed out” I told him, with the knowledge that I was off target by about 10-15 seconds, not providing any inspiration either.

runbritain handicap

I’ll take a runbritain handicap improvement!

I finished in 19:10 for a fourth fastest time on the course. Whilst not the time I wanted, it did bear an unexpected gift in the form of a strong runbritain handicap rating to put me back at 4.9! Much like last week, many were undoubtedly taking it easy after the Great Birmingham Run and other races to give my performance a nice boost up the backside.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

14 canal miles

Sunday was such a contrast to the previous day, with still and bright conditions.

I fancied trying my hand at boosting the long run to 14 miles; the eventual plan is to top out at 15 miles as part of training towards January’s Brass Monkey Half – a race that flat and fast really can’t be squandered!

Gloves were donned after checking the weather report, though in hindsight, I need not have bothered; the sun warmed everything up including me in my black t-shirt…

Ignoring the mile warm-up at the start and mile warm-down at the end, I opted to cover the middle 12 negative split style. The slowest mile came in at 8:07 and the fastest at 6:58; the final 3 had me grimacing, good and proper! I finished feeling slightly broken. Think I’ll take it easier next week…

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Time for the next entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Know when and where it’s okay to wear running apparel


  • During a run or race
  • At a race expo
  • Milling around at the gym
  • In a running store
  • Before, during, or after a sports massage
  • In bed (to save precious seconds the next morning, before an early run)


  • In church
  • At weddings
  • At funerals
  • At court appearances
  • At chamber music recitals
  • For job interviews
  • In a rowboat (don’t ask why; it would just be weird)


  • In hotel lobbies (before or after a run)
  • At work (if you are an elite runner or personal trainer, or if you work at Runner’s World)
  • At picnics (if you have to run to the picnic or plan to run from it, or if other picnic-goers are also wearing running apparel)
  • At the supermarket (depending on amount of sweat and/or aroma you’ve generated)
  • On a date (if your date is also a runner, and the two of you are running, have run, or are about to run)

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