Yorkshire Marathon 2017 review

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Marathons never get easier. Goals just get loftier!

For the 2016 race, please click the following:

First things first, I promise this year’s write-up of my Yorkshire Marathon experience won’t be nearly as long as last year’s edition! Congratulations to all who ran and I hope this race account inspires those of you yet to run your autumn marathon.

The build-up

3:03:05 from the 2016 Yorkshire Marathon was incredibly satisfying to achieve, especially as my two previous attempts at the 26.2 distance left me feeling cheated. The London Marathon is the marathon for many, but not for me, so Yorkshire Marathon 2017 it was. Of course, being so close to a sub-3 hour marathon meant the next attempt had a very firm finish time in sight. I’ve repeatedly said of late that running more marathons doesn’t mean they get easier – the goals just get loftier!

So, what would it take to run under 3 hours? That’s 26.2 miles at 6:50 to 6:52 pace, give or take a little bit of error either side. I decided last year’s modified P&D Advanced Marathoning 22 week plan would serve me well again, with a few more modifications here and there; a very modest uplift in mileage and more opportunities to run at marathon pace, for example.

Training went incredibly well up until mid-August when Lis and I went away to Crete on holiday. I’d racked up some strong training runs and even broke 60 miles in one week for the first time. Returning from our break, I soon picked up a nasal infection that robbed me of two or so critical weeks in the plan. Once healthy again, it soon became apparent that I’d gone off the boil for too long (three weeks including the holiday and illness); my training paces slowed slightly and I lost some resilience, forcing me to begin dropping easy runs in favour of rest days.

All was not lost, however. I hit my long run goal of breaking 100 miles spread across five runs (103 miles in total) and marathon paced training runs at the Wolverhampton and Robin Hood Half Marathon indicated I was in good aerobic shape, but that I absolutely had to stick to the script of just sitting steady at 6:50 to 6:52 per mile in the main event because my body was unlikely to react well to anything faster.

Maranoia – it’s real!

Leading up to race day, I did what I could to stay healthy and illness-free. Judicious and frequent hand washing, backed up with liberal use of antibacterial gel became the norm. So, imagine my horror when symptoms began manifesting less than 24 hours before the race!

Once more, Lis and I checked into York for a two-night stay in a bid to ensure I at least had a chance to acclimatise to the unfamiliar bed and surroundings. And yes, leaving nothing to chance, I did take my own pillow from home, again.

Unfortunately, I slept dreadfully on Friday night and woke feeling groggy and dazed on Saturday morning. By mid-afternoon, I began to feel weak and flat and was ready to head back to the hotel for a nap. Post-nap, I felt no better and struggled to get food down over dinner with a constant feeling of wanting to throw up. I suffered from cold flashes, where everybody in the restaurant appeared to be fanning themselves to cool down, whereas I was struggling to stay warm!

In a complete reversal of roles, Dave Burton, who I’ve been coaching to run his own marathon, became my mentor. He suggested it was all in my head and was merely the fight versus flight mechanism kicking in. I was in unknown territory, recalling only ever feeling as such the day before Lis and I got married. Races don’t make me break out in a cold sweat, or so I thought! Reading through the Wikipedia article on the subject matter, I had almost all of the textbook symptoms; this did nothing to reassure me of the horror that unfolded and, ashamedly, for somebody that’s normally incredibly positive and upbeat about running and racing, I began re-evaluating my options and jacking the race in suddenly became a very real and inviting prospect. If the symptoms were not psychosomatic and I really was coming down with something (bad luck happens to everyone – just look at Therasa May), attempting to run 26.2 miles whilst ill would be a very bad idea and I could do without another DNF to my name.

Another early night it was in a bid to shake off whatever it was I was going through…

Pre-race

Unhelpfully and unsurprisingly, I had yet another poor night’s sleep due to what played on my mind. Adding to the anxiety was the comparison to the 36 hours before the 2016 Yorkshire Marathon, where everything went according to plan.

But! Many of the symptoms appeared to subside and only the queasy feeling in my stomach remained a concern. I managed to force some breakfast down whilst still contemplating my options. I agreed with Lis that we would rendezvous back at the hotel, whatever happened…

Suited and booted, I made my way over to the race village at the university. I began running through different mantras in my head, but the only ones that seemed appropriate to quell the feeling of nausea were “Keep cool” and “Stay calm”.

Firmly on university grounds, I spotted a runner wearing a sombrero hat, looking lost. I approached him to see if he was looking for the baggage tents, and indeed he was. I immediately began making small talk with David, querying whether he planned to wear the comically large hat for the entire race. He assured me the hat would be discarded shortly after starting the race and that it was more of a prop, where he and another friend would be guide runners for their blind comrade (the Three Amigos, get it?) Chatting with David did me a world of good, calming my nerves. Reaching the baggage tents, we wished each other luck before going our separate ways.

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Yep. I’m that guy from the race guide…

I was on the lookout for one Dave Johnson, whom I only ever tend to see in Yorkshire despite both of us living within a mile of each other. But, no joy on this occasion – he was nowhere to be seen. I did spot a Bournville Harrier and we both joked we were an incredibly long way from home, with neither of us feeling particularly well. Whilst getting my stuff prepared for storage, one chap asked if I was the guy featured in the race guide. Sheepishly, I acknowledged it was me and quickly interjected that I wasn’t feeling in race-form that morning. Incredibly, he too was also from the West Midlands, namely Walsall. Unsure of his ability, Ross did say he was capable of sub-3 pace at up to 11 miles in training and would attempt to keep me in sight for as long as possible. I wished him well and said I would keep an eye out for him on the course.

Bag checked in, one final toilet visit beckoned and I was pleased to see the organisers had once again provided urinals. It’s the little things that make or break races and the Yorkshire Marathon organisers are absolute pros at this – many other larger races could learn a thing or two from them!

In the start pen, I felt like I had a bull’s eye on my back and couldn’t shake the feeling that everybody was staring at me. I felt like a fraud from the interview I gave for the race pack guide. A few people did come over to say “hello” and to thank me for my write-up of the 2016 race, citing it as a useful reference. One such guy, Ian, stuck with me and we continued to chat. He, too, wore the Nike Vaporfly 4% in the same colour as me and also sported a Garmin 935. Behind me, I could see the sub-3 hour pacer a good 20 rows or so back and I wondered just how soon it would be before I was swallowed up by them and left for dust?

I continued to straddle the line between a daze and reality, paying no attention to the countdown. It was only when the hooter fired that I realised it was go-time!

The race

Miles 1 to 3

I was incredibly conscious I had not warmed up, opting to conserve as much energy as possible, and so had to use the first mile to ease myself in. Thankfully, the generous descent from the university to the main road helped to keep the effort relaxed and comfortable whilst cold starting.

“Keep cool,” I repeated to myself as people charged off. Before I knew it, mile 1 came and went in 6:57. Faster than the year prior by a few seconds, so perhaps all was not lost…

Approaching mile 2, the thunderous footsteps of the sub-3 hour pace group roared past. The group was huge, though they somehow managed to navigate around me without so much as a bump or nudge. I latched on to the coat tails of the pack, joined also by Ian, who I spoke with in the start pen. Mile 2 was clearly boosted by the sub-3 group to come in with 6:49! “Keep cool,” I continued to whisper to myself!

Passing York Minster, I completely missed it due to trying to concentrate on those around me during this narrow section. Noticeably, compared to a year ago, there were definitely more runners about, and not just because of my closer proximity to the sub-3 hour goal time. Once the road widened up, I was able to more freely run my own race line and positioned myself to catch Lis shortly after the 3 mile marker. Mile 3 continued to be swift for 6:48.

Miles 4 to 9

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Mile 3 of the Yorkshire Marathon – photo by Lis Yu

Spotting Lis, I soaked up her support until I was due to see her once again at mile 24.

Ian and I came back together and we both remarked how the sub-3 hour pacer was without a doubt going too fast, even factoring the slightly more undulating second half. We agreed that anybody that was on the cusp of running a sub-3 hour marathon would be pushed too hard at such a pace. Mile 4 returned to target pace of 6:51.

Bizarrely, I found miles 5 and 6 slipping from the pace for some unknown reason. Wind was low and both Ian and I commented how spectacular the morning was for racing. Even a high-five from the famous high-fiving vicar was not enough to lift the pace, resulting in 6:55 and 6:57 for miles 5 and 6 respectively.

Looking behind me, a decent sized pack of perhaps 7 or so of us had formed. I took on the role of tour guide, explaining how the course would pan out, where drink stations would appear, and so on. Ian and I remained chatty, helping the miles to fly by. He turned out to be an ultra runner with some impressive multi-day 100 mile events to his name. I commented that 26.2 miles would be a breeze for him, but he was absolutely right to correct me that any distance at race pace would feel difficult. As we conversed more, it quickly became apparent that he had a very similar outlook and mindset to myself when it came to running – it was almost like my personality had been transplanted into another body and I joked we were like brothers in arms! Another member of the group revealed that his only other marathon was dressed as a banana… I don’t want to come across as overly sentimental, but the group I found myself in was exactly what I needed that morning. The positive energy of the pack was practically tangible!

Miles 7, 8 and 9 came in at 6:53, 6:53 and 6:59 respectively. I regularly reassured the group that we were doing just fine, pace-wise, and that we had to remain calm and patient up to halfway.

Miles 10 to 13.1

Entering the heavily tree-lined section of the course, I reasoned that the pace was likely to rise and fall due to fluctuating levels of GPS signal. Also not helping with pace stability was the undulating terrain underfoot; I reassured everyone that there was a high-speed downhill section on the approach and to just let the pace flow at that point, rather than applying the brakes.

By now, we had completely lost sight of the sub-3 hour pace group, with the field ahead and behind growing incredibly sparse. The group remained encouraging and positive, firmly in the knowledge that it was likely to be a lonely race if anybody fell from the pack.

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Me and the less aggressive sub-3 group

Miles 10, 11 and 12 came in at 6:52, 6:58 and 6:50 to still be on the cusp of sub-3 hour pace.

As we neared the halfway point, I reiterated the importance of staying calm and patient. We only needed to skim under 90 minutes to leave ourselves in the best possible shape for the second half. Passing the halfway clock, we registered 6:49 for the mile and 89:56 for a perfectly executed opening half. Nonchalantly, Ross revealed that he’d never gone under 90 minutes for a half marathon before!

Miles 14 to 17

Approaching the first of two switchbacks on the course, the crowd support swelled and was most welcome after a couple of quiet miles. I mentioned to Ian that this was now officially the longest run I had undertaken at such a pace to date; he shared my sentiments and we acknowledged the effort beginning to ratchet upwards.

Unfortunately, the pack we’d spent much of the first half of the race with imploded due to the change of pace from the switchback and the mild headwind we ran into. Only Ian and I remained and he suggested we take turns at blocking the wind for each other. This guy really was reading my mind the entire way!

Some of the fastest runners of the day appeared on the other side. As with last year, there were no African runners, so the winning time would be slower (2:24:13) than at many larger races.

Ian and I found ourselves connecting with another runner going at roughly the same pace. The wind increasingly picked up at this point, so the three of us opted to form a chain gang to take the edge off the gusts that blew. Mark revealed that he was running purely to heart rate, as instructed by his coach. I commended him on the sterling effort, recognising that the effort skyrockets somewhere beyond 18 miles. Mark spotted the Autobot tattoo on my leg, to which I apologised for not being able to transform into a car. “If you could transform, it would only need to be a 2-seater. You’d be the car. One seat for me and one seat for [Ian]!” He shared that he was looking forward to seeing his wife and son somewhere out on the course; I concurred that I was greatly looking forward to some much needed support from Lis at mile 24.

The first of two gel stations appeared and I lucked out when they offered me a caffeinated Isogel – exactly what I was carrying on my person!

Physically and mentally, I was fully aware of needing to graft all the way to the end. For a stark contrast to only several hours earlier that morning, I felt alive for the first time all weekend and was committed to staying on target for as long as my body and mind would allow. I was reminded to stay cautious; on the other side of the road was one of the lead women, convulsing on the floor in the arms of a medic as they comforted her…

Miles 14, 15, 16 and 17 came in at 6:48, 6:53, 6:50 and 6:50 for a modest uptick in pace.

Miles 18 to 20

Approaching the second and final switchback of the route, Ian and I clocked the sub-3 hour group on the other side of the course; they were a good 1.5 to 2 minutes ahead of us and, incredibly, still appeared to be as large in numbers as before.

Rounding the turning point, I noticed Ian beginning to slip from the pace by a couple of steps. I slowed on the shallow descents to allow him to regroup with me, but it was never long again before he slipped backwards by a few strides. I pointed at the floor below my feet and urged him on to get back to me. At the same time, I had my other eye on Mark who was powering on in front. Ian urged me on as he drifted backwards…

Somehow, Mark found a boost from seemingly nowhere as he ploughed on ahead. I fixated on keeping the 5m or so between us static, at least until the left turn at mile 20. On the other side of the course approaching the second switchback were various members of my pack from the first half; I cheered them all on in deep appreciation of the company they gave me earlier that morning.

With Mark’s aid, we reeled in an increasing number of runners that had splintered off from the main sub-3 hour group ahead. The effort to hold pace became really quite noticeable and I began questioning how long I could possibly hang on for. Rubbing salt in was the direction of the wind, which had reverted back into a headwind, forcing me to increase my own pace to keep up with Mark and use him for drafting assistance.

Miles 18, 19 and 20 came in at 6:44, 6:48 and 6:58 to still average out as being on target.

Miles 21 to 22

Turning the corner beyond mile 20, Mark somehow slipped from the pace and began going backwards from me. Up ahead, it was very quiet with few other runners to latch on to and work with. A lone Harrogate runner was my closest target, so I worked up to him and sat steady. I began counting to 100; so tired was I from a lack of sleep that I even messed that up and skipped out whole sections of numbers!

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Teeth gritted. Time to dig in!

I’d reached the second and final energy gel station of the course and, quite conveniently, they’d marked out which flavours they were providing on either side of the road. I opted for a banana gel with the knowledge that the flavour change would help perk me up after slurping down nothing but orange and berry flavoured gels all morning. With the sun also making a guest appearance, I grabbed two bottles of water – one for drinking and the other to throw over myself; the shock of the cold water did wonders to wake me up and took my mind off my ever tightening body and limbs.

In the distance on the left, I could see a flag flying in the air. Getting closer, I realised it was the sub-3 hour pacer’s flag and he was walking! I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing. As I neared, I asked if he was OK; he looked defeated and simply replied with, “Yeah. I’m fine.” He looked quite different to the published photo of the 3-hour pacer from several weeks ago and I immediately wondered whether it was the same guy at all, or whether the organisers had to find a backup pacer for whatever reason?

Runners from the 10 mile race began to come into view. Looking for any brief bit of distraction, I began encouraging them, many of which were walking by this point.

Miles 21 and 22 came in at 6:51 and 6:55, respectively, so still on target, but only just.

Miles 23 to 25

Reaching mile 23, I could see my pace was drifting in the wrong direction and for the first time during the race, my Garmin displayed a pace starting with a 7… The average pace ticked over from 6:52 to 6:53 and I knew it was now make or break; did I have the courage, strength and desire to invite the pain and fatigue in and get back on to 6:52 pace? I tried treating the section as a fartlek run with mini injections of pace for a few seconds to try and reverse the damage. The problem, at such a late stage in the race, was that everybody around me had slowed and that messed with my brain’s perception of speed. What felt like a casual jog earlier when everybody else was running at the same pace as me now felt more like a sprint!

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Mile 24? More like mile 24.9! Photo by Lis Yu

As I neared mile 24, I began to look forward to the sight of Lis out supporting. I needed a friendly and familiar face after having lost all of the comrades I’d started the race with at numerous points earlier. The mile 24 marker came and went, but no sign of Lis. Puzzled, I wondered what had happened. We’d spoken about a nearby pub beforehand, which would have made for a good base of operation with toilet facilities and what not. Perhaps she was in the toilet and I’d missed her? A big part of me died when I realised that may have happened, especially after waiting for so long to see her again. Well, readers – fear not! It turned out to be some confusion; Lis was unsure if she was actually at the right pub or not, so relocated further up back on to the route (24.9 miles…) to be certain!

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In my own personal hell of my own making – photo by Lis Yu

Any semblance of a poker face to mask the torture I was going through was long gone. My IT bands and hips were tight, restricting the stride range I had access to. My shoulders and neck were also knotted, and my arms were doing the tyrannosaurus-rex claw thing once more… Not a strong look at all! Running in a straight line became increasingly difficult and I drifted from left to right on occasion; so long as I continued to move forward at the same time, my form mattered not!

On the approach to mile 25, the crowd support began to swell once again. More and more runners also began drifting back into contact with me, giving me interim targets to work towards and jump from one to the other. As I’d remarked on earlier, there were definitely more runners out in the field, especially so close to the 3 hour time, whereas a year ago, I was largely running alone and in between groups going for a London Marathon Good For Age time of 3:05 or sub-3 hours. Unexpectedly, the Harrogate runner found second wind and pulled up alongside me to then move ahead! This was exactly what I needed and I followed him in pursuit.

Miles 23, 24 and 25 came in at 7:07, 7:01 and 7:09. The sub-3 game was up and I knew I couldn’t bust out a 6:20 mile at the end of a marathon. My goal immediately switched to finishing as close to 3:00 as possible. At least I could then say I’m a 3 hour marathoner!

The final mile and a bit

I’ve frequently said before that unless you’ve absolutely rinsed yourself out on the course, the final mile kind of looks after itself.

In the distance, I could see the petrol station that signalled the left turn back towards the university. And that hill. I knew it was going to sting this year, much more so than 2016, due to the more aggressive overall race pace on this occasion. Over 50 feet of elevation spread across 400m at the end of a marathon… To my left was a bloke who just suddenly stopped running and began to walk. Out of nowhere, his two teenaged sons came to his rescue and began spurring him on. “Don’t stop now, Dad! You’re so close! Come on, we’ll run with you up the hill!” Brings a tear to the eye, doesn’t it?

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Once at the brow of the hill, I knew I had a descent all the way to the finish, so I picked up my stride. I could hear the compere announcing names of finishers coming through, but there was no mention of time or the sought after 3 hour cut-off point on the clock. I knew I was outside of target, anyway, and simply sprinted for the line in a bid to finish as strongly as possible. I received a mention over the PA system, prompting me to raise my arms in victory, firm in the knowledge that I still had a generous PB to my name.

Post-race

Here’s the Strava data for this race.

I immediately dropped down to lie on my side, inspired by another chap lying on his back. A marshal rushed over to check I was OK, to which I told him I just needed a breather. Once recovered, I checked my Garmin out and I had finished in 3:00:34. Not the sub-3 hour goal I originally set out for, but it was still a 2 minute and 31 second PB over last year. And yes, I can now legitimately call myself a 3 hour marathoner!

I waited in the funnel to cheer in the various faces that I’d come into contact with over the duration of the race. First back in was Mark, who had dragged me on through the 18 to 20 mile section. Next up was Ross, followed shortly by Eric, both from the pack I belonged to for much of the first half. Finally, there was Ian, my brother from another mother for the day (for his account of the race, check out his blog here). Whilst we’d all PBd (and half marathon PBs for some!) by decent margins, I did have to break it to them that I’d missed sub-3 by just 35 seconds…

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Ross, me and Ian – marathon PBs for all!

A stroll back to the baggage tent with an alcohol-free beer to celebrate the achievement is not a bad way to end a race at all!

Thoughts and conclusions

So, the sub-3 hour marathon remains elusive. But really, I’m not disappointed at all because I did everything within my power to finish in the time that I did. Sure, if training had gone more to plan, or if I hadn’t lost two to three weeks from illness or my holiday, I may have made it, and maybe I wouldn’t have. Equally, if I had a perfect night’s rest before the race with no feelings of nausea or anxiety, I may have been fresher to squeeze out another 1%. With all that had happened in the 24 hours prior, I’m absolutely delighted with my finish time!

Stats-wise, things look very interesting (2017 versus 2016):

  • Total campaign mileage: 894.94 miles vs 843.52 miles
  • Average weekly mileage: 42.12 miles vs 42.14 miles
  • Positive split difference: 38 seconds vs 35 seconds

Total campaign mileage-wise, the ambition was to modestly increase overall volume. I also hoped to increase my average weekly volume; my largest weeks had grown even more compared to a year ago, but conversely, my lightest weeks also became lighter, where I found I was in need of rest instead of recovery. This resulted in the incredibly similar average weekly mileage results above. Finally, I originally assumed I had a larger positive split in 2016, but that’s not so. I’m coming around to thinking that I’m unlikely to run a negative split and that another sub-3 hour attempt will require banking perhaps 30 to 45 seconds in the first half, anticipating such a slowdown in the second half due to fatigue.

Will there be another roll of the dice for the sub-3 hour goal? Not for 2018. My mind is frazzled from the past few weeks of marathon training and I need to recalibrate and get back to baseline. I want to regain some of my speed and revisit shorter distances like 5k, 10k and half marathons, running them in anger once again. Taking the rather crude marathon prediction calculation of doubling your half marathon best, and adding 10 minutes, only gives me an 11 second margin of error; getting my half marathon PB below 84 or even 83 minutes will be time well spent for any future outing at the 26.2 mile distance.

Very few successful marathon outings happen because of one sole runner alone. There’s often an invisible team behind the performance, all playing their part to get the most out of an individual. You all know who you are, even if you don’t think you’ve helped all that much, to which I’m incredibly grateful.

With that, we’re at the end of another marathon campaign. Many of you will be embarking on autumn marathons of your own very soon, which I wish you the best of luck with.

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This week’s running – 25th of September to 1st of October 2017

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Running and sight-seeing? At the same time? Madness!

Week 21 of the 22 week marathon schedule. Some running in that there London town and we’re almost there…

5k easy

Due to the increased warmth of the Robin Hood Half Marathon, my Garmin suggested a lengthier recovery window than a year ago. Heeding its advice, I delayed Tuesday’s run with a sprinkling of marathon pace and rotated in an easy 5k.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

7 miles with 2 at marathon pace

Faster workouts are fraught with danger as one gets closer to race day, so I purposely softened the marathon paced miles by slotting an 800m recovery between them. I wasn’t going to get any fitter and simply needed to not lose touch with how marathon pace should feel.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill parkrun

Traditionally, I’ve always set out to run hard at the final parkrun the week before a big race. Along with the VO2max benefits, blowing off some cobwebs from tapering is rarely a bad thing. Little did I know how badly my 5k pace had deteriorated!

Kings Heath Running Club took over the volunteer duties for the morning and kindly provided pacers, including a 19 minute one. Whilst I was initially able to keep up, the pacer drifted away after 2km and my lack of 5k intensity reared its ugly head. My breathing was still perfectly adequate, but I simply could not coerce more from myself to shift into higher gears, eventually finishing in 19:20 without too much discomfort.

Whilst I would have liked one last fast parkrun ahead of race day, I’m totally on-board that my training has seen me trade in speed for (hopefully) out and out endurance…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Oh, and don’t forget the parking charges for Cannon Hill Park kick-in from the 6th of October onwards. £2 for the first four hours or £3 for the entire day.

14 mile London runaround

Lis and I found ourselves in London, making for a fantastic scenery change from the norm to keep me company on my final long-ish run. Despite London being somewhere I’ve visited many times over the years, this was actually only my fourth run in the capital, with two of the prior occasions being the London Marathon!

Starting and ending on Brick Lane, the route I plotted could be considered quite lazy, straddling both sides of the Thames for much of the duration. Run firmly at an easy pace for the first half and then working up to a typical long run pace for the second half, the entire duration was very much a stop-start affair for any photo opportunities that presented themselves (and there were many).

I adore running in cities when it’s quiet because you see a totally different side from what most other people would. Little details became more apparent and I often felt like I’d stumbled upon a well-kept secret.

It was also positive to see so many different types of people out running on a Sunday morning. All genders, sizes, ages, colours and creeds were covered; as a sport, running is incredibly inclusive because it requires so little to get started, and I felt like London had cracked it.

Oh, and for those wondering, the infamous Yu lack of direction sense did strike occasionally (especially around Monument), though I was able to course correct and only added an extra mile on!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

The road to the Yorkshire Marathon II

A lengthy marathon training plan can be a double-edged sword. One particular benefit is it affords plenty of time for adaptations to take place with no particular rush, resulting in reduced injury risk. My Garmin 935 now frequently suggests to me that I’m peaking and little more can or should be done. One particular pitfall of such a long schedule is it takes its toll, mentally… I’ll be in serious need of a few weeks off afterwards!

I’m ready to give the race my best shot. Why? Because I’ve made it into the Yorkshire Marathon race pack…

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This week’s running – 18th to 24th of September 2017

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Week 20 of the 22 week marathon schedule. And now I taper!

No taper blues this year!

12 months ago, I found myself feeling incredibly agitated as I began tapering, but not so this time. My body has been craving the chance for some recovery to shift fatigue, so I opted to play this particular week quite casual. Volume was knocked right down to circa-50% of a busy week and intensity was used sparingly, ignoring the half marathon on Sunday.

Crucially, the fatigue is shifting. I need to be careful not to use up too much new-found free time just because it’s available…

3 x 800m at 5k to 10k-ish pace

Sticking firmly to the cause of not overdoing it, I knocked this session down from the original 5 x reps to just 3 x. The wind was howling and due to the short nature of the intervals on the canal towpath, finding a stable and reproducible pace was difficult, hence ending up somewhere between 5k and 10k pace:

  1. 3:05
  2. 2:55
  3. 3:03

I got the desired effect of some faster running, helping with efficiency and to keep me from getting too sluggish as I recover.

Here’s the Strava data for this session.

5k easy

I said this week was low volume!

In truth, this run was more of necessity than of yearning – I could have very easily skipped out! I knew I needed to keep my legs turning over, so an easy trot it was.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill parkrun

With the Robin Hood Half Marathon the following day and needing to be somewhere sharpish after parkrun, Lis and I opted to volunteer as marshals for the morning. We were paired with the lovely Ginette, who absolutely adored the concept of parkrun.

Robin Hood Half Marathon 2017 review

For the full write-up of how this marathon dress rehearsal went, please click here.

The road to the Yorkshire Marathon II

By the time you read this, I’ll be able to legitimately say race day is just next week… I’m filled with mixed parts excitement and dread; excitement in that I’ll be able to put the 22 weeks of training to the test, and dread because I know whatever result comes out of the other side, it’s going to hurt…

Speaking with Dave Burton recently, he made an interesting observation where, in reality, the goal is not the training, but rather the race itself. Arguably, being consistent and surviving such a long training schedule (over 5 months!) is a major achievement and is not to be overlooked. So many things can go wrong on race day – just look at the elites – and luck plays a bigger part than you would believe across 26.2 miles.

The training is now done and many of us will be setting foot on the biggest running challenge of our lives in a few short weeks, whether it be our first marathon, or a moon-shot time goal. Let’s not forget to congratulate ourselves on what we’ve accomplished so far!

Robin Hood Half Marathon 2017 review

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Marathon pace dress rehearsal at the Robin Hood Half Marathon 2017

For the 2016 race, please click the following:

Darryll Thomas and I took advantage of our golden ticket prizes from last year to once again run this race for free! Read on to find out what happened in Nottingham.

Pre-race

Covering this race at marathon pace in 2016 did wonders for my confidence before going into the Yorkshire Marathon only a fortnight later, so I looked to repeat this strategy in as similar a fashion as possible. This was very much a marathon dress-rehearsal, using all of the clothing and kit that I plan to utilise in the main event. Including the Nike Vaporfly 4% shoes (more on this later).

Arriving in Nottingham, it was immediately apparent that the race organisers had managed to boost numbers. Compared to a year ago, there were now significantly more cars on the road and dramatically more runners in the race village with over an hour before the start time. Everything felt chaotic, especially with the well organised and recent Wolverhampton Half Marathon still in memory.

Due to logistics, Darryll and I got separate warm-ups in. My legs felt incredibly disconnected from a very light week of running; co-ordination was severely lacking, though thankfully began to return as I neared the end of a 1.5 mile jog, with 200m of strides helping significantly.

With more than 20 minutes remaining until the gun, I wondered over to the start pens only to find serenity incredibly lacking. Spectators got in the way of runners trying to make their way into start pens, not helped by the narrow path. A mother with a pushchair repeatedly rammed into the back of my ankles! The organisers really need to cordon off the zone immediately adjacent to the start pens from non-runners, at least until the race has started.

Once in the start pen, I learned my lesson from a year ago and ensured I was positioned far enough ahead of the sub-90 pace group for an unimpeded start and opening 5km. I even spotted Richard Whitehead mingling with the crowd, but no sign of Darryll Thomas. The pen was filling fast and given we’re both short, it made spotting each other difficult. I fretted not as we’d both eventually connect on the course from covering sub-3 hour marathon pace.

Further adding to the mayhem of the morning, there was no countdown or warning before starting – simply, “Go”!

The race

Miles 1 to 3

As anticipated, everybody charged off, including me! The Vaporfly 4% shoes felt sooo good on my feet, I actively had to drop the anchors when I saw I was creeping into 6:20 mile pace territory… I had a decent lead ahead of the sub-90 pace group, which I wanted to maintain all the way to the climb to and from Nottingham Castle; everybody slowed significantly at that point a year ago to make for a massive pinch point so early on in the race.

Storming past me was a chap wearing red cotton jogging bottoms and a thick cotton t-shirt, puffing like a steam train. He continued to pull away and whilst I thought he couldn’t possibly last, I don’t actually recall ever seeing him again for the rest of the race.

Mile 1 came in a touch faster than target at 6:44, but I learned from last year that the Robin Hood course is quite tricky to pace evenly and wasn’t something to get worked up about.

Approaching the castle whilst also climbing, I purposely ran wide of the race line so as not to get caught up in the shenanigans of people slowing. Mile 2 came in a touch slower at 6:54 to factor in the ascent.

Many people will have blown their races during mile 3, almost exclusively made up of climb with several twists and turns to really disrupt pace. Most of the race’s 522 feet of elevation occurs in the first 5k, so it really isn’t a PB chaser’s course. Mile 3 came in for 7:07, which wasn’t too bad considering.

Miles 4 to 6

A very steep descent was most welcome in mile 4. You could almost hear a collective sigh of relief from everyone! Once again like last year, water was served in clear plastic pouches. Whilst I found them quite novel previously on a cool day, I was less enthused at having to use them whilst the sun was beating down on me. Chewing a bigger hole through the packaging ended up wasting half the water, though allowed for more water to flow out, providing much needed immediate relief overhead.

I’d been consciously looking behind me a number of times to try and catch a glimpse of Darryll, but to no avail. With the knowledge that he’s much better at running downhill than me, I estimated he would likely make contact with me before too long; my gut was correct and he made himself known just as the route flattened out again. It turned out Darryll had become caught up in the sub-90 pace group, though shared how good a job the pacer was doing of communicating the plan and strategy to his runners, unlike last year’s pacer who went off like a bull in a china shop to try and outrun the damage from the early climbs. Mile 4 and its near-freefall resulted in 6:28 to recover some damage.

It boded well that we were able to keep up with marathon pace whilst casually chatting away and with the sun above us. Time was flying by and due to our shoulder-to-shoulder formation, quite a few runners dipped in and out of the slipstream we provided. Mile 5 (correcting for the incorrectly placed marker) clocked in right on target of 6:50.

A long, false-flat in mile 6 was the last of the big climbs for the rest of the course, leaving only minor undulations here and there to contend with. Mile 6, thankfully, occurred on a tree-lined street, affording some welcome shade. 6:58 popped out, becoming our second slowest mile of the race.

Miles 7 to 9

A short but sharp climb up to Wollaton Park paved the way for a nice, gentle descent for the remainder of the mile, again under tree cover. Awkwardly, the set of large gates in the middle of the park were once again locked and required runners divert on to grass temporarily to go around! That being said, I recall mile 7 feeling so easy and effortless, with a split of 6:41 confirming as much.

Mile 8 was completely unmemorable, but must have been quite easy to produce 6:43 on the clock.

Reaching the mile 9 switchback, we both recalled the moment we caught glimpses of each other from a year prior, almost like déjà vu. Speakers blaring out Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” pushed us on to our fastest split of 6:40, before slamming on the brakes to regain control…

Miles 10 to 12

With how warm the morning had become, we counted our lucky stars that an impromptu water station had been created, using the remnants of the mile 3-4 water station. Two volunteers handed out what was left of the water pouches, but due to some bad timing, Darryll and I passed just as they’d run out and reached into the box to replenish stocks… Neither of us were willing to stop mid-stride to grab one and I caught sight of the lady’s horrified face as she realised what had happened. It was going to be a very hot and sweaty final 5k, indeed!

Sometime shortly after last year’s race, both Darryll and I were contacted for our feedback concerning the course. We shared our dislike of the two switchbacks occurring in miles 9 and 10 in quick succession, along with our utter dislike of introducing so much climbing in just the first 5k of the race. Well, the organisers sort of listened to us and sort of didn’t. The switchback in mile 9 and the early climbing obviously remained, but they did re-route mile 10 to eradicate the second switchback. Unfortunately, the adage of, “give with one hand, take away with the other” held true, for the replacement featured several jarring undulations instead… Comparing the two splits side by side, the 2016 switchback version was a good 12 seconds faster (6:40) compared to the 2017 non-switchback version (6:52). Be careful what you wish for, folks!

Mile 11 was unmemorable and sat steady at 6:48.

We found ourselves in a small group that had remained consistent for the last couple of miles. Nearing mile 12, I told people to push on as it was almost completely flat from that point to the finish. It turned out all of us were either treating the half marathon as a marathon pace training run, or were in the marathon and wanted to sit steady – a nice bit of camaraderie to wrap up the race. Mile 12 clocked in with 6:46.

Mile 13 and a bit

Returning to base, we continued to sit steady, though I could sense Darryll was beginning to falter by falling behind by just a few steps. Turning right for the start pen area, I slowed a touch to allow him to reconnect with the group, but he opted to hang back, citing an overwhelming sensation to throw up as what was slowing him down. I continued on with Jason, one of the guys from the group covering the race at pace ahead of the Chester Marathon.

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Who wears short shorts? I wear short shorts! Photo by Lis Yu

We saw Lis on photo duty. I think I look even happier than a year ago!

I’d somehow forgotten that the final 200m or so took place on grass, so I was thankful a sprint was not needed, especially in the tall off the ground Vaporfly 4% shoes…

Post-race

Here’s the Strava data for this race.

I knew I would be close to last year’s finish time. Turns out I was officially just one second faster with 89:21!

Jason and I shook hands as I waited for Darryll to come back in. We collected our goodie bag spoils and loitered with intent, hoping that we would get lucky again with this year’s golden ticket promotion for free entry into next year’s race, but no joy.

Recovery-wise, my Garmin quoted 67 hours, whilst Strava concluded with a 300 point suffer score – last year, under much cooler conditions and with nobody to gas to, only came to 189 points!

I’m incredibly pleased with how comfortable and casual marathon pace felt, giving me more confidence that having a crack at a sub-3 hour marathon in Yorkshire won’t be a fool’s errand. With a thorough taper and carbohydrate loaded, I’m optimistic that it can happen, albeit with the finest of margins.

This week’s running – 4th to 10th of September 2017

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So, so, so tired…

Week 19 of the 22 week marathon plan. All long runs completed and now we taper to ditch this fatigue that’s been plaguing me…

5k recovery with Lis

I really appreciated covering this 5k with Lis as it prevented me from pushing over from recovery pace to easy pace. Normally, it wouldn’t matter so much, but I’m carrying so much fatigue at the moment; I just needed to survive one more week and then I can embrace the taper with open arms!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

4 x 1.2km at 10k pace

Rather than suffer through another storm like the previous week, I opted to delay this session by one day for slightly more favourable conditions. I say “slightly more favourable”; as I turned right at Gas Street Basin, I was met with a face full of 13mph headwind…

Not helping the adverse conditions was my Garmin 935 behaving differently than expected. Historically, my Garmins have over-ruled any auto lap behaviour when intervals are in action. In other words, in spite of having 1km auto laps enabled, all of my former Garmins have beeped at 1.2km intervals, which just makes more sense. I was caught off-guard when it beeped at 1km; thinking that I’d finished, I paused for the recovery, but noticed the clock was still ticking and I had another 200m to cover! This happened a second time before I figured out I had to temporarily disable auto laps, which makes no sense at all – hopefully Garmin will fix it in a later update.

Anywho, splits here:

  1. 4:39
  2. 4:44
  3. 4:34
  4. 4:36

The original session called for 5 x 1.2km, but given I was feeling quite nauseous after the fourth, I opted to call it quits and sidestep delaying recovery.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10 miles from work

Losing a day from the postponed session, I had no choice but to cover this 10 mile run at somewhere between recovery and easy pace. Even if my mind was willing (which it wasn’t), my legs did not want to go much faster anyway!

I welcomed the easy pace for 90 minutes, allowing my mind to daydream. Without prompting, I found myself running through how race day at the Yorkshire Marathon would look like if everything went perfectly. I visualised crossing the line with the clock on 2:59:XX and then high-fiving everybody in the vicinity to celebrate. Without realising it, the pace of my run actually escalated by a good chunk when I was spacing out! I’ve heard of many sports psychologists training the elites with similar visualisation techniques; after experiencing a few minutes of it myself, I’m coming around to thinking there’s some value to practicing some visualisation during my taper.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Caldicot parkrun

Sadly, it looks like I’ll probably never run at Caldicot parkrun. Only having started recently, and having missed a couple of opportunities already due to this and that, the event is now cancelled indefinitely. Taking place on a long, flat stretch of what appears to be a service road, a recent incident involving some cars that somehow found themselves on the course has caused the suspension. Refusing to listen to marshals’ instructions to either turnaround or pause temporarily, the drivers ploughed through the live course and narrowly missed a few runners that had to dive onto verges or into bushes!

Part of me is confused that this wasn’t picked up in the risk assessments and course planning stages. I’m well aware of the work involved in setting up a new event, so it’s a real shame to see one fall by the wayside so soon after starting. I’ve no doubt the course location would not have been allowed if cars were ever identified as a risk.

With our first choice event out of commission and me in need of sleep and a lie-in, Lis and I opted not to attend any parkrun event; we couldn’t remember the last time I skipped parkrun outright!

22 miles – to Little Mill and back

With how tired I’ve felt, my enthusiasm for this second 22 mile run of the schedule waned. There was no appetite or excitement; only the knowledge of the sharp taper coming into action shortly helped perk me up somewhat.

The opening half was slow by necessity if I was to complete the entirety of 22 miles and still be standing! Fatigue was in the driving seat and would not allow me to go any faster; I wasn’t complaining, as the opening miles felt almost too easy and allowed me to coast through.

Warmed up by halfway, I consciously pushed the pace upwards and was pleased to see it develop. Unhelpfully, my right IT band decided to tighten up at around 14 miles, followed by my glutes for much of the remaining distance.

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Final long run in the bag! Photo by Lis Yu

Whilst the first half was a cruise, the closing miles were very much of attrition. Time slowed and my bag of coping mechanisms was called upon, such as counting to 100 and chopping down goals to more manageable chunks. Mile 22 was an anxious one. I reworked my route to avoid the monstrous St Andrew’s Walk Climb segment on Strava; the unfamiliarity caused time to slow even more!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

The road to the Yorkshire Marathon 2017

Well, that’s it now for the long runs and I will not run any further than 13.1 miles until race day. I had a goal of hitting at least 100 miles spread across my five longest runs. So, how did I do?

  • 22 miles
  • 22 miles
  • 20 miles
  • 20 miles
  • 19 miles

I make that 103 miles, so mission accomplished.

In a bid to bring some much-needed instant gratification to my life, I’m going to rotate weeks one and two of my three week taper. Week one is a loose 25 – 30% mileage reduction, whereas week two is circa 50%. Flip the two around and I can enjoy a much lighter week in the run up to Robin Hood Half Marathon (marathon pace). Feeling as tired as I am, believe you me when I say I won’t be tempted to do any more than is necessary!

This week’s running – 4th to 10th of September 2017

maranoia

Who the hell sneezed?!

Week 18 of the 22 week marathon plan. Penultimate long run by marathon standards!

5k recovery

Incredibly, the previous day’s half marathon at marathon pace barely even touched the sides. I felt right as rain on this recovery run with no stiffness or soreness, so all very positive!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5 x 1km at 10k pace

Somebody upstairs didn’t like me. The minute I stepped outside, it began drizzling. As my warm-up progressed, so too did the rain from above; before I’d even completed 5k, I was soaked to the core! 400m from home, the rain stopped…

Having heard all the hooha about runners and cyclists being attacked on the canal towpaths and inside parks, I was particularly nervous as I approached one bridge during the peak of the evening’s downpour. Taking shelter were three hooded characters, also enjoying a few tinnies and smokes. I was in the middle of a rep, so going pretty fast; they’d clocked me approaching and to my surprise, moved well aside to give me space and also began cheering me on! Hearing “Yer smashin’ it, kid,” I was too dumbfounded and too oxygen deprived to respond with anything but a thumbs-up and a “thanks”. Whilst we need to be careful out there, I think we’ll also agree that the adage of not judging books by their covers also holds true.

The reps came out pretty well, what with water physically sloshing about in my shoes and tunnel interference affecting the second effort.

  1. 3:53
  2. 4:11
  3. 3:51
  4. 3:48
  5. 3:50

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5 mile run-commute

The arch of my left foot tightened up unexpectedly on this slow run-commute. Going through the motions, I realised that I neglected to adjust my lacing after returning from Crete. I had originally loosened the support section around my mid-foot to factor in swelling from the warm Greek climes, but without tightening it back up again once returning home, I’ve basically been running in shoes that have basically had little to no support!

Some stretching, massage and lacing corrections seem to have done the trick and all is right with the world and my foot once more.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10 miles from work

I originally intended for this to be 12 miles, but opted to dial it back a notch due to feeling pretty lethargic all day at the office. I doubted 2 miles would make much of a difference to the medium-long run in the grand scheme of things, so being recovered enough to take on the remainder of the week’s runs was the priority.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill parkrun

Despite taking delivery of my Nike Vaporfly 4% several weeks ago, I’d not actually taken a single step outdoors in them. I fully intend to wear them at the Yorkshire Marathon, but also need to break them in; the Robin Hood Half Marathon will also be covered in them, but 13.1 miles cold is also too risky, so Cannon Hill parkrun became their debut.

I was warned beforehand that they have a tendency to encourage the wearer to speed up, regardless of whether the wearer has the cardiovascular credentials to back up the pace… With the following splits, I think we can agree that I didn’t heed said warning!

  1. 3:39
  2. 3:49
  3. 3:58
  4. 3:57
  5. 3:46

Had I have held back by perhaps another 10 seconds in the opening km, I’m fairly confident I could have probably covered the third and fourth km in similar 3:49s for a rough 18:50 finish. I eventually ended up with 19:09, which is my second fastest 5k of the year. I know where my attention needs to return to once I’m recovered post-marathon…

The propulsive sensation from the Vaporfly 4% have to be experienced to be believed. Sadly, this run proved pretty inconclusive, other than confirming to me that they’re not suited to tight twists and turns at 5k pace; the additional midsole height makes cornering in them difficult when I’m at my own limit of pace control. I’m sure some will use them as a race shoe across all distances and paces, but for me, I’ll stick to something much lower to the ground for 5k and 10k distances.

Here’s the Strava data or this run.

20 miles – to Edgbaston Reservoir and back

How refreshing it was to cover 20 miles in overcast and cool conditions! If only the wind would sod off, too!

I overdid it on the coffee this morning, starting this run feeling a wee bit jittery from a bit too much caffeine. With the cool temperatures, I was able to delay taking any liquids on (Coca-Cola) until after 10 miles and didn’t require my caffeinated gel. Phew!

There were many, many runners out (only recognised Liz Dexter and her gang) and about and I barely went a few hundred metres between encountering somebody else pounding the pavement or towpath. I even witnessed my female equivalent, wearing pretty much the exact same getup and covering a similar distance and pace as me, judging from the two occasions we crossed paths from opposing directions.

Nearing home, I felt pretty decent still and considered extending the distance to 21 miles. I saw sense and stuck to the script, ending the run at 20 miles and feeling comfortable without much required recovery.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

The road to the Yorkshire Marathon II

“Maranoia” is a very real condition and I think many of you training for an autumn race will be going through similar feelings. Everything’s seemingly out to get us! Problem is, the truth actually isn’t too far from this. Peak fatigue will be landing right about now, with injury and illness becoming very real prospects. Now is the time to be doing just enough to be ready, and not more; arriving at the start line slightly underdone is better than arriving overcooked or not arriving at all. Also, whilst I haven’t quite hit Howard Hughes levels of hygiene OCD, I am finding myself washing my hands far more thoroughly and frequently than normal – prevention is better than cure, after all!

This week’s running – 28th of August to 3rd of September 2017

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Me and Dave at the Wolverhampton Half Marathon 2017 – photo by Lis Yu

Week 17 of the 22 week plan. Things didn’t quite go according to plan, but lead up to the Wolverhampton Half Marathon, anyway.

5k recovery with Lis

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

The previous day’s 22 miles left me in bits and suffering from DOMS, along with a creaky left hip. Physically, I could not have covered this recovery run much faster.

Lis wanted to get 6 or so miles in as her final long run ahead of her 10k debut at Wolverhampton, so I ended up driving to the outskirts of Cannon Hill Park to join her partway. Expectedly for a sunny bank holiday Monday, the place was heaving with visitors; of course, many of the numbers were made of runners in training for the spate of local races due to hit shortly.

It was not a particularly good run for either of us. My range of motion was limited and Lis went around a minute per mile too fast in the first half of her run, making for a rather unpleasant second half that had to be cut short. The humidity was also pretty jacked up to further rub salt into wounds.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

4 mile run-commute

This was actually closer to 5 miles, but had to be rounded down to due to a brief stop at the Bullring.

My legs still felt battered and the arch of my left foot also cramped up to confirm just how taxed I was from the 22 miles. At least the temperature dropped by about 10 degrees for a distinct chill in the air, so clearly the warm weather acclimation was still inside me – it just needs to stick around until race day!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10 miles from work

Sadly, a planned session of speed the day before this run did not materialise. I was carrying a bit of fatigue that made me feel lethargic all day in the office, and the possibility of pushing myself over the edge suddenly became very real. Opting that less is more, I sacked the session off, rested for a day, and skipped ahead to this here 10 miler.

Autumn had truly arrived with much cooler conditions and even the beginning of leaves changing colour or even starting to fall on to the towpath.

The intention was simply to cover 10 miles at an easy pace (circa-70% of maximum heart rate) with the odd set of strides thrown in every 0.5 miles. There were dozens of runners and cyclists out and about; I give it about 6 weeks before most disappear and only those desperate or dedicated enough remain with lights and headtorches accompanying their workouts.

There was a touch of anxiety towards the end of this run as I neared my normal peel-off point by Lifford Lane. Reportedly, a group of youths had recently been loitering on the towpath, attempting to push passers-by in. Thankfully, they were nowhere to be seen and there were probably too many people about for them to have tried anything, anyway. Sadly, a similar theme was said to emerge at Cannon Hill Park, where a masked group attempted to wrest a cyclist from their bike. I have been running in Birmingham unphased for a good number of years and often believed the worst that could happen was some heckling; now I’m not so sure…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill parkrun

With the Wolverhampton Half Marathon the following day, I opted to volunteer as a marshal in a bid to stay fresh and to give my planned pace session every chance of success.

Unexpectedly, we were told that the emergency 3-lap course was to be used, due to the disruption from the neighbouring cricket event. Cue ensuing chaos from many of the marshals and runners being unfamiliar with the course; stood by the bridge, I gave as much notice as possible to the latecomers to ease some of the strain.

Cannon Hill is regularly the second largest event in the UK, so converting to the 3-lap course is never going to be easy. The fastest on lap-3 will be overtaking those on lap-2, who in turn will be overtaking those on lap-1. Congestion will be severe and times won’t be fast – the moaners I encountered on Saturday will need to deal with it! Having said that, plenty of people seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves and I’ve never before received so many high-fives in all the times I’ve marshalled.

Simon (who was barcode scanning) and I noticed a few pay and display machines had been installed in the main carpark, and reportedly, in the Russell Road carpark, too. At a rate of £2 for up to 4 hours and £3 all day, so ends an era of free parking at Cannon Hill Park and I wonder what the outcome will look like. However, I do believe the Holders Lane carpark will remain free of charge, though I’m not sure for how long. I do think there needs to be a lower tier of £1 for 2 hours, which would cover most people attending parkrun, or for charging to commence only during peak hours, like at Brueton Park.

Will runner numbers drop at Cannon Hill? Probably. For those where attendance is now habitually ingrained, they will continue to attend and will either suck up the cost, car-share, or will simply run to and from the park like I do to get a warm-up and warm-down in. Those who aren’t particularly precious or loyal to Cannon Hill will most likely defect to another nearby event where parking is free – another 10 minutes of driving in a car is nothing. It’s those who are just beginning to run at Cannon Hill who I think will be put-off, which is a shame. Equally, I dread what effect the charges will have on volunteer numbers. It’s hard enough convincing people to come forward, let alone also charging them £2 to not run… There absolutely needs to be some sort of exemption for the last point, which I’m aware is in practice and works well at other events where parking charges are the norm.

Wolverhampton Half Marathon 2017 review

For the full write-up, please click here.

The road to the Yorkshire Marathon II

Just five weeks to go. After a rocky fortnight or so dealing with my nasal infection, I am now hopefully recovered and ready to hit the remaining two weeks of loaded training before the taper begins. I have such beauties as a 20 mile and a 22 mile run still to be covered, along with a smattering of VO2max and threshold work. Oh, and the medium-long mid-week runs continue…

Yesterday’s Wolverhampton Half Marathon as a pace workout went perfectly to plan. The Robin Hood Half Marathon in three weeks will, hopefully, go just as well for another powerful confidence and training boost. Throw in the power of recovery, carbo-loading, motivation and a shared goal of an official sub-3 pace group, and maybe, just maybe, I can pull this off…