This week’s running – 28th of December 2015 to 3rd of January 2016

The miles and training are going up

Feeling like a car odometer these days…

A week chock full of running and mileage milestones.

4 miles – Llangibby and back

Flooding was still an issue in rural South Wales, so I ventured on to this non-pedestrian friendly route. There was no pavement or even path at times, which saw me sinking into the grass and mud. Not great for what was just a simple recovery run.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

10 miles – to Usk and back

Finally, the flooding subsided and all was right with the world again. Despite how mild the temperatures have been of late, the sun and blue skies made a guest appearance during this run for a dose of much needed vitamin D. I chucked a couple of marathon-paced miles in to restore some turnover into my legs; they actually felt pretty damn decent towards the end!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Edgbaston Reservoir out and back

Sometimes, waiting a few hours for a break in the rain can help make all the difference between enjoying a run and suffering through it. And sometimes, waiting all day can mean just that – there may never be a lucky break!

These 4 miles were kept incredibly easy with an eye on the rest of the loaded week. Parts of the reservoir had flooded; my choices were to either wade through the ankle deep puddles and get my feet wet, or risk diverting on to slippery mud and falling over. I chose getting my feet wet every time!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

14 canal miles

Whilst browsing through my annual and monthly mileage, I noticed that all I needed to break 200 miles for December was a 14 mile run. With it being the final day of December and 2015, I couldn’t even split the run up. At least the sun was shining!

I’d not had a fasted run in quite a while, but figured the additional calories from the Christmas and New Year break would make up for any deficit. With a headwind on the out, I kept the pace relaxed until the turnaround. The final 3 miles were pretty torturous due to a persistent headwind that hit me no matter which direction I faced. But boy, it was so satisfying to hit 200 miles in a single month!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Brueton New Year’s Day Parkrun

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First Parkrun of New Year’s Day – photo by Louis Satterthwaite

I first participated in a New Year’s Day double Parkrun at the beginning of 2015 when I visited both the Brueton and Cannon Hill events in the space of 90 minutes. Completely normal in the world of Parkrun, but utterly bizarre to those on the outside looking in!

Unlike a year ago, I made sure I reached Brueton Park with plenty of time. The car park was much busier than on Christmas Day, with visitors only minutes after my arrival being forced to park on the street. There was a real sense of déjà vu, bumping into the same faces as only a week prior; Steve Hankinson, Dave Sansom, Kings Heath Running Club et al were all in attendance once again.

My warm-up alerted me to a few icy patches out on the course that had formed from the sudden drop in temperature. The organisers also took note and decided to modify the course at the last minute – the start was moved back and a few diversions were put in place to avoid a catastrophe, so my chances of a time faster than on Christmas Day was unlikely.

Toby Close and his wife, Helen, were also in attendance. Spreading himself evenly, Toby held himself back with a view to do it all over again 90 minutes later at Kingsbury Water Parkrun. Running just marginally faster than me, he proved to be a perfect target to chase out on the course.

I myself was also chased down, with my pursuer gaining a lead on me at around 800m in. The marshals directed us into the wooded area for the first diversion, where I sensed some reluctance from him. Whether it was the infirm and unfamiliar terrain underfoot, or maybe he too was holding back for another Parkrun elsewhere, the opportunity to press on became available, so I briefly surged to regain the lead. A few hundred metres after exiting the diversion, I glanced behind me to see a gap of no more than a couple of metres; thanks to a few twists and turns that I seemed to be able to enter and exit at a faster pace, I was able to add a few more metres between us as the run progressed.

Toby was still ahead by some 10 seconds and provided the perfect target to lock on to as I entered the second lap. There wasn’t much movement at all around me in terms of position, which no doubt influenced the slight slow-down during the third km.

The pace returned for the fourth and fifth km and saw me finish with 19:05. The distance came up about 100m short due to the diversion and approximated new start line, so I really should have been closer to 19:20 or so.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Perry Hall New Year’s Day Parkrun

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And the second Parkrun of New Year’s Day – photo by David Payne

First out of two Parkruns completed, I trotted my way back to the car and wondered how many would also make their way to the Perry Hall New Year’s Day event at 10:30am. Turns out there were quite a few of us, all giving each other a nod of acknowledgement for our favourite past time.

The wind speed picked up on the exposed fields of Perry Hall Park, which meant misery for a course that’s already slower due to its cross-country style terrain. I bumped into Richard Gibbs from Cannon Hill who was about to make his debut on the course; I gave him a few pointers with a focus on casting aside any split comparisons with Cannon Hill. To give you an idea of how much slower the course can be, I would quite readily accept a sub-19 finish at Cannon Hill as a good, honest performance on my part, whereas a sub-20 finish at Perry Hall still eluded me!

I charged off from the start line and felt surprisingly swift. I recall feeling suitably warmed up last year at Cannon Hill, only having run at Brueton 90 minutes prior.

I settled quickly into a three-man chain gang, moving at a nice clip. Unbeknownst to me at the time, it was led by Simon Rhodes, who I originally befriended back in July. The three of us stuck together, though I cheekily hid at the back of the pack to take full advantage of the slipstream and shelter from the prevailing winds.

After the first lap of the course, Simon began to tire and drifted behind me and the other guy. Out of nowhere, a Tipton Harrier came storming through from behind. I wondered how he was capable of such a speed that made us look like we were stood still, and then it dawned that he wasn’t around on the start line and must have arrived late to start from the back. My comrade and I worked together to try and bridge the gap, but it was no use; the Tipton Harrier’s runbritain handicap is listed as 1.0 versus my current 4.6 to give you some idea of the difference in ability!

Running into the headwind took its toll on my partner in crime. I took over pacing duties and encouraged him to keep going, with the knowledge that we would soon be out of the wind’s gusts. He stuck with me until the grass section, but had little left to stay with me. I too had little left in reserve, with each step sinking into the churned up mud and costing me valuable seconds on the clock. I purposely went wide of the racing line to find some firm footing, believing additional distance to be the lesser of two evils.

Once clear of the grass, I turned right on to a paved path and I took a quick glance behind me and there he was, the same chap that had chased me down for much of Brueton Parkrun earlier that morning! A fire was lit beneath me and I consciously began to raise my cadence, both to flee from my pursuer but also to recover some much needed time from the clock if I was to make it home in under 20 minutes.

With 1km remaining, I knew I had it inside me to run a sub-4 minute split. I could hear the footsteps behind me closing in to really lay on the pressure from all angles.

Only 400m remained and whilst I dodged and weaved my way around puddles on the first lap, I decided to simply run through them all as I stalked the clock.

With fewer than 200m to go until the finish, a peek at my Garmin showed I had around 35 seconds to make sub-20 happen. I kicked hard, knowing it would be down to mere seconds between victory and utter defeat. I sprinted for the line and was able to finally put the Perry Hall demon to rest with a 19:56 finish and a top 5 finish.

Here’s the Garmin data for the run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

I was feeling it by Saturday’s regularly scheduled Cannon Hill Parkrun, so dialled it back to just sub-20 5k pace, which now conveniently coincides with my new target half marathon pace.

Everybody around me shot off from the start line at an incredible pace; slowly but surely, I reeled quite a few people in by holding a steady pace.

By halfway, I had almost caught up to Dave and finally made contact with him once we re-entered the main perimeter of the park. I tried coaxing him to stay with me, slowing down just a touch to allow him to close the gap. With one eye on Dave and the other on my Garmin, I knew I was cutting it very fine for a sub-20 finish, so I pressed on and hoped Dave would follow suit. I crossed the line with 19:54 in hand, whereas Dave made it back home with 19:59 by the skin of his teeth!

Job jobbed and in fewer than 25 hours, I’d completed 3x sub-20 Parkruns, with one at almost sub-19!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Self-inflicted recovery

I thought I’d managed to dodge the annual end of December/beginning of January illness that struck me down in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Have an excess of spare time and will run after all! Come Sunday, I began to feel a bit ropey and under the weather; a sore throat, fuzzy head and general lethargy were tell-tale signs that I’d pushed too hard.

I opted to duck out on a 14 mile run I had pencilled in. If completed, it would have taken me to over 60 miles for the week, but instead, I had to settle for just 47.

Maybe I should just accept that I’m going to become ill at the end of every December and be done with it?

The Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon

And so it’s done – I’ve entered the Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon. If after the third marathon attempt and I still can’t make it work for me, then I’ll just have to accept I’m not cut out for 26.2 miles.

With some 7,000 places versus London’s circa 38,000, I’m sure it will be a very different experience, but one I’m thoroughly looking forward to. Training through the summer will be a very interesting process with its own challenges to overcome.

Time for the next batch of running rule shorts from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Running rule shorts – 21 to 30

  1. You almost never regret the runs you do; you almost always regret the runs you skip.
  2. Sick? If the symptoms are above the neck, you can still run.
  3. If you can remove your running shoes while they’re tied, they are not tied tightly enough.
  4. Recover 1 day for every mile in the race you’ve just finished.
  5. If both your feet are off the ground simultaneously, you are running.
  6. Stretch after your run – not before.
  7. Not everyone who looks fast really is, and not everyone who looks slow really is.
  8. Buying a piece of running gear just because it’s on sale is always a bad idea.
  9. Buzzing your hair with clippers before a race will make you feel 8 percent faster.
  10. Watching a marathon in person is the easiest way to motivate yourself to sign up for a marathon.
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