This week’s running – 5th to 11th March 2018


How embarassing! Guess we didn’t get the memo… Photo by Dave Duncan Williams

One big over-reaching week before tapering, again…

11 miles from work with 3 at half marathon pace

With the Coventry Half Marathon the following week, and suffering from tapering for a race that didn’t happen, I opted for a few days of over-reaching in a last minute attempt to squeeze the last few drops of training potential from my body.

Conditions turned out to be pretty damn favourable on Tuesday evening with little to get in the way of my planned miles at pace. Whereas I’d packed tights, shorts were the logical choice for the return to March temperature normality. The positive conditions had me feeling good, especially after a faux taper week and no recovery 5k the evening prior; I was surprised to see my pace sitting firmly in the 7s after an equally unexpected, faster than usual, opening mile.

The planned three miles at circa-half marathon pace (6:20 to 6:25) were daunting, to say the least. It’s a pace I frequently cover at parkrun with little difficulty, but that’s with other people around to work off and follow. Once at pace, I almost instantly regretted my decision and the effort quickly escalated to something that felt incredibly unnatural to me. I began willing my Garmin to signal the end of the first mile, but was pleasantly surprised to see 6:26 for the split. Fully warmed up, I anticipated the second mile would drift to 6:18 as it’s historically done over the past few months, but nope – it sat steady at 6:28 and didn’t want to budge. The effort continued climbing and I felt like I was in the second half of a 10k rather than the second split at half marathon pace! I came so close to ending the pace work after 2 miles, but the monkey on my shoulder screeched away at me to keep going for all 3 miles. I reluctantly obeyed my imaginary simian-friend… In spite of giving it everything I had, steady 6:27 pace was all I could muster whilst trying to keep feelings of nausea down. The relief I felt when my Garmin beeped to signal the end was incredible! I slowed to a jog as I gasped for huge lungfuls of air.

Not entirely satisfied with what I’d been through, I then opted to bulk up the route for home by adding on additional distance for 11 miles in total. Guess I wanted to be sure I was genuinely over-reaching!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5 miles run-commute

What a pleasant evening Wednesday was! As the nights grow shorter, I was able to get away with not wearing my headtorch as it only became dark once I was a few streets away from home. I’ll probably be able to do away with it entirely by April.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

11 miles from work

After several weeks of feeling good on runs from the office, I suppose it was only a matter of time before I had one that felt off. Whereas the pace was still one of my faster runs after work, the sensation of running straight into headwind for almost the entire duration kept my spirits low; I cursed every time a strong gust slammed into me! Further adding insult to injury, the wind robbed me of body heat to leave me feeling cold and listless.

Be careful what you wish for, Mr Yu…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill parkrun

Traditionally, I like to fit a fast parkrun into the week before a big target race, where I find the effort helps to wake up any slumbering speed inside me. Equally, I was told recently that I should, “make hay when the sun is shining;” I know full well the disappointment of not seizing the moment when it presents itself, only to then ponder when the next occasion would appear.

Jogging over to Cannon Hill, it was near impossible to believe that the event was cancelled due to snow only a week prior. Adding to the incredulity was the amped up temperature for the morning; I was sweating profusely in my long-sleeve top and jogging bottoms once I’d reached the park bandstand.

From the line, I went out hard. I felt alive and allowed myself to get drawn along by the swift Kings Heath Running Club member that remained just a few steps ahead of me. I did raise an eyebrow periodically as I glanced at my Garmin displaying a pace in the 3:30s… The opening km settled on 3:37.

With a climb in the second km, I lost 10 seconds or so but continued to draft behind the Kings Heath runner. My breathing grew more audible and laboured as the effort ratcheted upwards. 3:47 for 2km.

I began crashing at 3km as we became more exposed to the headwind. The freshness was long gone and I was still only halfway at an experimental effort that I came to realise was unsustainable. The rot made itself known with a 3:57 split.

Reaching the triangle for the turnaround, the brief but not insignificant slow-down killed any chance of recovering any speed I had in mind. Exiting the narrow path, it was not long before I was overtaken by several including Andy Young. He gave me some encouragement to latch on to him, but it was to no avail and I could not generate any more from my lactic acid-saturated legs. At least I managed to steady the ship for a 3:58 4th km!

With the final km remaining, I had no appetite left to push any harder because I was certain to go under 19 minutes. Just in case there were any residual hunger pangs left, the final km of the Cannon Hill course is another speed-killer, further dampening any remaining desire to speed up towards that hairpin turn and final climb. 18:49 was my spoil for the morning; conclusion: I’d somehow equalled my fastest 5k in 18 months, set several weeks ago, but with far more effort and less comfort.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

The morning took an unexpected turn as Dave and I jogged over to the Mac to meet Simon for a coffee.

Whilst chatting away, I clocked a dog jumping into the lake in the middle of Cannon Hill Park for a swim. The mother, with her young son on a bike and another dog on a lead, went over to the water’s edge in a bid to coax the rogue dog back to shore. The next thing Dave and I knew, the kid had ridden straight into the water!

We dashed over to help. The mother was in a blind panic, unsure of who or what to rescue first. I calmed her down and helped pull her crying son out of the water, then the bike, with the dog taking care of itself.

The kid was clearly distraught, crying and coughing up water, but otherwise OK. Whereas the dog on the lead remained with us, the other dog had run off into the park; I tasked Dave to retrieve it, whilst I got the mother and son into the Mac’s first aid room. A fellow runner had spotted the incident and alerted the Mac beforehand, so they were prepared for the kid’s arrival with towels, space blankets and heaters. Less encouraging was the jobsworth site manager, who insisted that the dog on a lead be tied up outside irrespective of the situation unfolding! Returning outside with the dog, Dave returned with the other one that triggered all of this only to release him too soon… We gave chase again – all that was missing was some Benny Hill music! Thankfully, we got hold of him again pretty quickly and tied him up before he could cause any more havoc.

Debriefing with Simon, he couldn’t quite believe our tall tale from that morning. Naturally, many references to Baywatch accompanied our coffees.

15 miles including Great Run Local – The Vale

On paper, I’m not so sure a long run with 5k of target half marathon pace work was necessarily the wisest choice the day after a race effort parkrun, but if that’s what I had to do to over-reach, then that’s what I had to do…

Trotting over to The Vale along the canal towpath, I came to regret my clothing choice very quickly for the warmth and sun came out to play. The positive conditions brought many others out, some no doubt making up for the previous week’s white-out.

Reaching The Vale and re-grouping with Dave, we quickly set about identifying who the big dogs of the morning were likely to be. There was one swift looking student, adorned in a Birmingham University track t-shirt. Two other speedy looking students were likely to vie for the podium, so at least I was likely to have company in my pursuit of pace and a sub-20 finish.

As anticipated, the guy in the Birmingham University track t-shirt hared off whilst I remained with the other two guys. As we gave chase, our positions chopped and changed, though I mainly stayed back to take advantage of their draft assistance. Hitting the hill for the first time, I continued to be patient having learned from a previous outing that the best strategy is to drop down a few gears and remain steady on the climb, taking advantage of the steep descent on the other side. Surprising myself, I was able to keep up on the downhill with the other two guys as we entered lap 2. The ground was bone dry, convincing me to give it even more on the next lap’s descent.

The pace continued to feel about right for a sub-20 finish and translated well into my target half marathon pace. Three became two as one member of the group dropped back. Nearing the hill for the second time, I could see we were gradually chipping away at the distance between us and the lead guy. I asked the other chap if he felt we could reel him in; breathing laboured, he gasped, “No”. Moments later, the lead guy stopped and pulled over off the course! My companion changed his tune and gasped, “Yes” for perfect comedic timing. Checking if the lead guy was OK, his breathing was effortless and he ushered us to continue. I took advantage of the situation and upped my cadence ever so slightly to gain a small lead on my companion, who had suddenly become my opponent. Reaching the brow of the hill on Mason Way, I took a quick glance to my right and I’d gained around 10m. I threw myself down the hill on the other side to create an even larger margin between us, bounding from step to step to minimise any slowdown from my high cadence.

Entering lap 3, I began encountering lapped runners from both the 2km and 5km courses. The gap between me and my pursuer had increased again to some 20m and was likely to grow again as I approached the Mason Way hill for the final time. A strained look formed on my face, with the marshal at the top of the climb offering me some relief and encouragement to keep digging to the end. Another glance to my right and I easily had in excess of 30m to my advantage, though I was still not deterred to hurl myself down the hill one last time.

Reaching the bottom, I was disappointed to learn from the marshal that we had to negotiate the hairpin turn once more. Returning to the lake, my Garmin registered a time in the 17:30s; I was confident I could pick things up to cover one last lap of the lake and still go under 20 minutes with change to spare. Mentally, it was difficult to pass the finish line only to keep going. Thankfully, I had the opportunity of a first place win and a sub-20 finish to keep the pressure applied and coax more out of myself! End in sight, I took one final glance behind me and I had around 50m on the next guy, though I still kicked for the line to finish the job properly.

Hunched over and hands on my knees, I gulped down fresh air. Whereas the previous day’s parkrun provided seemingly little in terms of fitness feedback, checking my Garmin revealed a 19:40 finish and that all my training had come good; my previous best on The Vale course was 20:09, so I absolutely have to take no prisoners at the upcoming Coventry Half Marathon based on this. I cheered the next guy in, who I was surprised to see had come back from fourth place when I last left him. Next back in was Dave, finishing in third place, once again, but pleased with his performance having chosen to race it tactically.

Jogging for home with Dave, we took things nice and slow given what we’d been through on both mornings of the weekend. That and I had another 5.5 miles to cover, feeling quite hungry and tired…

Here’s the Strava data for this Great Run Local.


This week’s running – 20th to 26th November 2017


Great Run Local at The Vale – photo by Great Run Local

Ye gads! A blog post out on time?!

5k recovery

Bizarrely for a cold Monday evening, there were definitely more runners out and about than usual; normally, it’s just me but I counted no fewer than five of us pounding the pavement in the darkness.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

22 minutes at LT pace (14, 4 off, 8)

Whilst I’m most definitely lacking in out and out speed that I get from VO2max runs, I do feel I’m reclaiming some aerobic strength from these lactate threshold sessions; whilst I wouldn’t go as far as saying I enjoy them, I do find myself relishing in the satisfaction of the hard work.

Oddly, I’m finding I can only maintain the same paces in these sessions as they’re being pushed out by 1 or 2 additional minutes each week. I’d have expected my pace to modestly increase, along with going further at the same time as I become stronger each week. The table below better illustrates this quirk.

17 mins @ LT pace (12, 4 off, 5) 6:30 per mile & 6:17 per mile
18 mins @ LT pace (12, 4 off, 6) 6:30 per mile & 6:17 per mile
20 mins @ LT pace (13, 4 off, 7) 6:31 per mile & 6:17 per mile
22 mins @ LT pace (14, 4 off, 8) 6:31 per mile & 6:17 per mile

There’s only minimal pace throttling going on, especially as I’m gasping for air in the final few hundred metres of each section. Averaging the two paces out, looks like I’m targeting the Brass Monkey Half Marathon at around 6:23 per mile!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5 mile run-commute

Eugh. Running from the city centre on the windiest of days in recent memory was pretty unpleasant, even at recovery pace; with a bag on my back acting as a sail, the gusts sent me zig-zagging as I headed for home.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

9 miles from work

Despite me having completed this session for the past 18 months or so from the office, my colleagues seem to regularly forget the near-10 mile distance I cover twice a week. Nonetheless, I still do get a kick each time I reveal my plans to see their eyes bulge with awe!

There was an awful lot of debris on the canal towpath from the strong winds the night before. Making matters worse, many of the fallen branches blended in seamlessly with the leaves that littered the ground, with my headtorch not being able to pick them up. I’d have hated to be a cyclist that evening, with more limited room for movement on the narrow towpath.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill parkrun

Whilst it was bleeding cold on Saturday morning, I don’t think anybody could knock the glorious blue skies and dry conditions we also had on our hands.

Looking at the bigger picture, my P&L half marathon plan commanded I cover 13 miles on Sunday, with three of those miles at half marathon pace; things had to be kept reasonable at parkrun to better give Sunday the most chance of success. Marathon pace felt like the best compromise, where it stopped the morning from becoming just another plod, whilst offering some minor stimulation without over-taxing my body.

Marathon pace at circa-6:50 per mile was rather strange to cover, in spite of spending months focusing on it ahead of the Yorkshire Marathon. The effort, whilst perfectly manageable, felt rather alien – guess it doesn’t take long to fall out of favour with a particular pace!

Props to my friend, Iain, who decimated his 5k PB by a few minutes.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Great Run Local – The Vale

Also known as 13 miles with 3 at half marathon pace!

As this week drew out, I discussed my idea with a few others of running to The Vale at the University of Birmingham, participating in Great Run Local, and then running for home afterwards. Everybody agreed it was a logical idea and favourable to completing 3 miles at pace alone. My only reservations were those damn hills… Previously attending Great Run Local in April, I still had vivid memories how challenging they are over 5k!

Leaving with plenty of time to spare unlike last time, I was able to leisurely jog along the canal towpath to the university. It was a stunning morning and everybody I encountered was in high spirits; dog walkers, cyclists and fellow runners either smiled, waved or wished me a good morning! It was bitterly cold, however, so I donned a pair of tights, a long sleeve top and some gloves. I hoped this ensemble wouldn’t come back to haunt me during the 5k…

Reaching The Vale, I chatted with a few familiar faces, including Afshin from Kings Heath Running Club, James from Tipton Harriers (first place at the first Sandwell Valley parkrun) and, of course, Craig who beat me to first place back in April. Third place was the best I could hope for, also factoring in that Craig had brought his speedy daughter with him. The organisers were thrilled to see so many of us after several weeks of very low attendance (only five runners, three weeks ago).

From the line, those expected to take the lead, took the lead. I found myself in what could be considered the chase pack, along with Craig, Rob Dowse from BRAT and a student from BUAC Cool Runnings. We all traded places almost constantly, helping to keep the effort reasonable, especially on the initial climb. I was particularly conscious not to overstretch myself on the climbs, noting that tactic as the downfall of my previous visit.

Working our way up the hill for the final time as a pack of four, I noticed the chap in third place ahead of us gradually coming back. “Third place is fading. We can reel him in!” Everybody agreed and our collective cadence increased a notch to carry us over the hill that bit faster. Reaching the brow of the climb, we noticed the guy in third place turning his neck to look back at us and we all knew we had him.

I charged down the hill on the other side for joint-third place. I couldn’t hear any footsteps immediately behind me, so I took a moment to encourage the other guy on, in the hope that we could work together to increase the gap behind us. “Keep at it, fella. We’ve got three guys chasing us down!” He was spent and began drifting back from me, leaving me to run around the lake alone. I laid on a kick and I was confident I had third place in the bag, until I came to the final corner and became unsure of whether to cross the bridge or not; I couldn’t see an arrow and there was no marshal, so I concluded it was the next corner for the turning. From behind, I could hear Craig calling out to me and I knew instantly that I’d gone off course. Backtracking, I rejoined Craig as we hit the bridge in unison; I urged him to kick on as I’d ballsed things up to give my lead away. Like the original third place guy, Craig was also spent and had nothing more to give, so I kicked on for the second time after the interruption to finish in third place.

Recovery was very swift and I thanked Craig for his sportsmanship, whilst also chastising him for not taking advantage of my wrong-turn. I’d have not lost any sleep over losing third place and I can tell you now the course is well and truly committed to memory! I had a whale of a time racing and it was probably the most fun I’d had running since the Yorkshire Marathon. I have a similar session in store three weeks’ time and me thinks I’ll pay The Vale another visit!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

This week’s running – 10th to 23rd of April 2017


Well, hello Edinburgh!

With a lack of time and connectivity in Scotland, I’ve got a bumper two weeks’ worth of updates into this one edition for you good people!

10k – 1 off, 2k on etc

So nice, I’ve done this twice.

Whilst the first outing of this session was a bit harsh on the system, I did notice it beginning to elicit some positive change. The second outing confirmed as much with lower average and peak heart rates for the same paces (157 versus 162; 180 versus 186).

Here’s the Strava data for this session.

9 miles from work

These days, I wouldn’t normally pair hard and long runs back to back with each other, especially during the middle of the week when recovery comes at a premium. Given my travel arrangements, I had no opportunity to get a long run in for the rest of the week, so it was a case of make do, or do without. Whilst I did have just a half day at the office to contend with, this also brought the previous day’s session and this longer run even closer together; I figured I’d tackle the 9 miles at a fairly sedate 8:30 or so pace to avoid tempting fate.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Glasgow runaround


We burnt off the previous night’s deep fried and battered Mars bar…

Ah! Some running tourism!

Dave, Lis and I were in Scotland recently to attend the wedding of our friends, Elsa and Iain. Scotland being Scotland, nowhere is particularly easy to get to unless they’re Glasgow or Edinburgh, so that’s where we began and ended our trip, with a whole load of driving in the middle.

Whilst Lis did less silly things like having a lie-in, Dave and I got better acquainted with Glasgow’s city centre, namely the Glasgow Green. With a planned bit of parkrun tourism the next day, the two of us took this run incredibly easy by keeping it conversational whilst we discussed Dave’s marathon plans and training. We also stopped for the odd photo on what was a very quiet Good Friday morning with few other souls about.

Never having visited Scotland before, let alone Glasgow, I was mightily impressed with the city and took to it quickly. I feel I could have done with an additional day perhaps to get a better feel for it, but I certainly enjoyed what I saw of what is often considered Edinburgh’s poor relation (no offence to any Glaswegian readers!)

I had planned to visit the city’s premier running store, Achilles Heel, to scope out some merchandise I probably didn’t need, but also because it’s where I originally ordered my signature yellow vest from all those years ago! What scuppered it is how spread out Glasgow can be, with a lengthy jaunt not worth the time or effort, especially with Lis and Dave in tow.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Ganavan Sands parkrun


Iain, Dave, me and Eric at Ganavan Sands parkrun

Raise your hands if you’ve ever needed to be somewhere away from home on a Saturday morning and checked to see if there’s a parkrun nearby, or at least within reasonable driving distance? Yep, I thought so – guilty as charged!

It turned out Ganavan Sands parkrun (just on the outskirts of Oban) was a mere 40 or so minutes away from Elsa and Iain’s wedding venue. With the ceremony at 14:00 and Scottish parkrun events kicking off at 09:30 due to lack of light in the winter months (check out some of Ganavan Sands’ photos of runners setting off at dawn), this was plenty of time to get there, run and return to get ready. I rallied several of the runners in the party together and off we went into the wilds of the Scotland’s west coast…

In attendance was Dave, Iain, Eric, Stuart, Ruth and Stuart’s father. Dave and I were positively thrilled by the prospect of an unfamiliar course with unfamiliar faces, whereas Eric was about to pop his parkrun cherry (no parkruns in Hong Kong). Iain just wanted something to do to pass the time before getting hitched.

After driving through all manner of variable weather conditions, we finally arrived at our destination to be warmly welcomed by the run director, Doreen. Exchanging some dialogue earlier in the week, she was expecting us and passed on her knowledge of the event. The course is an out and back configuration, with a few mini switchbacks in the middle to make up the 5k distance. Run entirely on paved but undulating paths, the course is not for the faint of heart because greeting runners from the very beginning is a near 200m uphill stretch, clocking in at around 17%, gradient-wise!

Warmed up and ready, there were plenty of other tourists at the event, including a chap who’d done some 380+ runs. Proving what a small world it is we live in, I even bumped into a Pistonheads forumite I’ve frequently conversed with in the past. Being one of the smallest events I’ve attended, Dave, Stuart and I fancied our chances of placing highly; scouring previous weeks’ results indicated a 1-2-3 finish between us was not unrealistic. Then we saw some swifter looking runners and realigned our outlook to simply sneaking into the top 5…

Starter’s orders and we were off. And I mean like 5k PB pace off, ignoring the sharp climb we were all aware of. That’s what all the amped up adrenaline and unfamiliar surroundings will do you to you!

After a bit of chopping and changing with the 380+ runs guy, I found myself firmly in fourth place. Halfway through the opening climb, I realised the folly of my way and regretted letting the red mist get the better of me so early on. My legs quickly saturated with lactic acid as I began to thrust my arms forwards in a bid to not lose too much momentum.

Beyond the brow of the hill was some opportunity for recovery with flat and downhill sections.

Holding on to fourth place, I made it all the way to the first switchback whilst witnessing the fella in first place with his massive several hundred metre lead. He appeared to be so calm and controlled, almost like he was simply out on a tempo run. Third place continued to creep away from me, settling my mind that fourth place was now firmly mine to lose.

I began to see faces from the wedding party approach the turnaround, giving them all some encouragement. Eric, Dave, Ruth, Stuart’s father and Iain all looked pretty composed. Stuart looked just like me – we’d both gone out too hard, too soon, and were paying the price for it.

Approaching and exiting the second switchback, my knackered legs gave me a turning circle not dissimilar to a cruise liner. It was at this point that I lost fourth place to the 380+ runs guy, who had clearly paced the first half of the run far more sensibly than I had; I gave him some encouragement to keep pressing in the hope that he may tow me along. Stuart was now perhaps just 10 to 15 seconds behind me based on our relative positions rounding the cone.

Making my way to the final switchback, the guy in first place now had several minutes’ advantage on second place and continued to look as fresh as a daisy – we later learned he’d bagged a new course record, so clearly knew what he was doing unlike the rest of us chumps!

Final switchback navigated, I did what I could to stop my pace from haemorrhaging any further and to keep Stuart at bay. He was still some 10 to 15 seconds behind, but I knew he had far more of an edge on me, thanks to his fell running experience and the largely downhill remainder of the course. With just a couple hundred metres remaining, a few glances behind me confirmed the gap between us remained as I opened up my strides to make it to the bottom of the hill as quickly as possible without stumbling and making a fool of myself.

20:35 recorded and fifth place in hand, I proceeded to hunch over and avoid throwing up from all the pooled lactic acid. Stuart came back in shortly afterwards for 20:47, and Dave for 20:51. Both Stuart and I wished we’d adopted Dave’s approach, where he looked far more comfortable than either of us for a finish time not all that different.

Eric was next with 24:05, followed by Ruth for 25:56, Stuart’s father with 33:04 and Iain for 36:07.

Incredibly, 4 of the top 5 finishers were first timers on the Ganavan Sands course. Taking one step back, the top 7 of 10 finishers were also comprised of first timers to the course. Taking an even more holistic view, 41 of the 73 recorded runners were first timers on the course or to parkrun!

I thanked the organisational team before we high-tailed it out of there to get our man Iain married off. I’m not sure I’ll be in a rush to head back to Ganavan Sands, or that I’ll ever find myself in that part of the world again, but one thing’s for certain – the Scottish hospitality was in full flow that morning and I don’t think I’ve ever felt more welcome at a parkrun.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Edinburgh runaround


A run around Holyrood Park to burn off the Scottish breakfasts…

Before leaving home, I’d mapped out what I hoped would be a scenic route from the hotel on Princes Street to take me around the outer perimeter of Holyrood Park. Well, it certainly didn’t disappoint, what with the imposing sight of Arthur’s Seat to keep me company.

The primary objective of this run was to get my bearings of that part of Edinburgh, along with some photo opportunities whilst most slumbered.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Edinburgh runaround II


Worth getting up early to avoid other tourists!

-3°. -3°! What the hell was I thinking packing just t-shirts, vests and shorts for running in Scotland?! I’d already sacked off the idea of running in a vest at Ganavan Sands parkrun in favour of a t-shirt… I actually had to buy a pair of gloves whilst out and about later on this particular day!

My legs were destroyed from the previous day’s 10k and sightseeing, including Edinburgh Zoo and Holyrood Palace. 3 miles, not even 5k, was more than enough!

Setting off even earlier than Easter Monday, I paid a visit to Edinburgh Castle whilst it was quiet – so quiet in fact, there were just two other souls in front of the castle at circa 07:15!

A detour around the Newtown area added to my growing working knowledge of Edinburgh’s streets – look, no map required!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Edinburgh runaround III


The climb felt a lot longer…

Lis and I previously climbed Arthur’s Seat, unwittingly choosing one of the more challenging hiking routes, and only discovered a far gentler climb when descending back down. Observing a few runners making their way up to the peak via this route, which is still a challenge in its own right, I had the idea to make this the highlight of my final run in Edinburgh…

En route, I stopped off at Calton Hill to grab a few photos of the city from above whilst it was still quiet.

Once at the opposite side of Holyrood Park, I began my climb towards Edinburgh’s highest point. Even with the easier to navigate route, I was still blowing at times and opted to cover a slightly less direct path to give me a few short opportunities for recovery – a slight run-walk strategy was certainly necessary at times!


What a view! And all to myself!

At the peak, I had Arthur’s Seat entirely to myself for a few minutes. Lactic acid cleared, the tranquillity and views were worth the effort. Then came the challenge of descending… Wearing only road shoes, I wasn’t confident at all navigating the rocky paths and even considered if it would have been easier to descend backwards temporarily. A sideways shuffle gave me the stability and braking effect I needed until I was back on grass.

If you’re heading to Edinburgh, certainly consider taking your running shoes with you – you won’t regret the extra space they take up in your bag after getting out there.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Great Run Local sandwich


No barcodes to lose, get soggy, or steal at Great Run Local!

Despite a weeklong break in Scotland, I returned to work more tired than ever; meetings and preparations for a trade show meant there was little time or desire to run until the very tail end of the week.

Several weeks ago, Dave, Simon and I had planned to incorporate the Great Run Local event at Birmingham University’s The Vale into a long run. In principle, Great Run Local is just like parkrun, and here’s a list of similarities and differences for those curious:


  • 5k distance
  • Free to register and enter
  • Volunteer organised
  • Timed


  • 2k option offered
  • Times recorded via RF wristband (free; not technically chip timed, since finishers are still manually timed)
  • 10:30am start on Sundays – events appear to be free to choose a time and day of their liking

I’ve seen a lot of heat thrown at Great Run Local online, and whilst some of it is of their own making (their website originally claimed they were “like parkrun, but better” – thankfully, this has been taken down), we need to remember that the local teams are entirely volunteer led. Yes, it may be a doppelganger of parkrun from the Great Run behemoth, but I’m of the belief that anything that gets more people running can only be a good thing – and there were faces at the event that I’d not seen at Cannon Hill parkrun before, despite both events being relatively close to each other in terms of travel time.

Right. Enough soapboxing…

I arranged to meet Dave at The Vale ahead of the 10:30am start. Due to misjudging the distance from Kings Heath to The Vale, I definitely did not give myself enough time to run to the venue. What originally started out as a jog gradually became a progressive run as I realised I was likely to miss the start! I really didn’t need the pre-run anxiety; my heart rate was already amped up by some 5bpm before setting off due to just feeling a bit run down of late, and the -4 condition score from my Garmin confirmed as much despite not having run for 3 days.

Arriving at 10:29, I was at least already warmed up and anticipated a rolling start to keep the momentum going. Thankfully, the organisers were running a few minutes late to give me a short breather beforehand. Talk about cutting it close!

From the line, it was incredibly civilised with none of the crazy sprint antics from parkrun. I found myself in a group of five, letting others set the pace whilst I followed. The first of three climbs split the pack apart, leaving just an older chap and me leading the field. His breathing on the hill was far heavier than mine and it was obvious he was putting in more effort to maintain pace. Unfamiliar with the route, I drafted behind him; he began zig-zagging to shake me off and that’s when I knew he probably had some race experience in him.

Descending the other side, Dave unexpectedly joined us; originally only wanting to jog around the course, he was fed up of running alone to join the fray. Dave and I continued to let the third member of our group pave the way, though reaching the hill for the second time, he fell back by a couple of steps and settled in behind me to run with Dave. I only caught snippets of their conversation, but it seemed the guy knew of me. Was he a blog reader? Or perhaps a Strava follower? Or maybe I’d pissed him off previously in a race and he’d done some sleuthing? Anyway, Dave began spilling the beans and shared that I was completing the 5k event as part of a 14 mile run. Never give away more than you have to!

Opting not to look backwards (sign of weakness), I continued to pull away on the hill to play to my strength. The gap increased to the point where I could no longer hear footsteps or breathing behind me for much of that km.

Third lap and final run of the hill, I continued to press on and maintain my lead. Descending on the other side, I was suddenly able to hear breathing and footsteps again. I reasoned it wasn’t Dave and must’ve been my pursuer.

Entering the final and short lap, he was nipping at my heels and I easily lost a few steps due to my unfamiliarity with the course. In the blink of an eye, he drew level with me and gapped me by a few strides. Whilst I fully expected him to increase the distance between us, I was able to hang on and prevent any more rot from setting in; that being said, the 15 second or so deficit was too much for me to make up. He would have been running on adrenaline in the firm knowledge that 1st place was his to lose from that point.

I finished in 20:36 and second place, whereas the chap in first place clocked 20:22. He revealed that he wanted to get a fast final km in the bag of around 3:30 or so, regardless of our race, which undoubtedly pushed him on for the win. Whereas I didn’t set out to be in contention, I’m kicking myself that I didn’t hold back on the second climb to instead take him on the third run of the hill. Silver ain’t to be sniffed at, mind, and Dave made it on to the podium, also, for bronze.

Impromptu race finished with, I had 5 slow miles to chew through for home… Yay.

Here’s the Strava data for this run, along with the ‘warm up’ and ‘warm down’.

This week’s running – 20th to 26th of March 2017



Know just how you feel!

The previous week’s stag-do hit me harder than I thought to result in yet another incomplete week of training…

General malaise and feeling out of it

I’m a lightweight when it comes to drinking (almost exclusively teetotal) and I’m a lightweight when it comes to sleep. Saturday night/Sunday morning’s stag-do shenanigans from the previous week ensured I was suitably sleep deprived, netting only 3 crappy hours to leave me feeling pretty rotten for the days that followed – God help me when/if I become a parent…

Tuesday and Thursday hit me hardest, with low-level cold-like symptoms and lethargy. Wednesday was really the only day where I felt like I could handle a run, so I made the most of the already narrow window of time available to me, which leads us neatly on to…

5k fartlek

I’m really digging the 5k fartleks of late. Short enough to be back at home within 25 minutes, and taxing enough to keep the system ticking over, if not eliciting some small gains from my current low volume situation.

I am aware that at some stage, soon, I do really need to pull my finger out and stop accepting this as being satisfactory…

Here’s there Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill parkrun

After the 19:35 from two weeks ago, I quite fancied stretching myself a little more. Lis volunteered as a marshal again, setting herself the soft-goal of attaining a 25 volunteer t-shirt.

My warm-up jog to the park was a touch too exuberant and I feared I’d left it all out there before even toeing up on the start line. In reality, this was anything but! Due to how amped up I felt from the fast warm-up and strides beforehand, I charged off with my Garmin registering sub-6:00 mile pace a few times during the opening km! For comparison, that’s basically PB pace for me over 5k…

In the past, I’ve read interesting pieces about “crash and burn” workouts, where the uncertainty and anxiety from not knowing the outcome when at your limit can prove to be a useful training aid. Well, I was certainly crashing and burning, with my splits looking somewhat ghastly:

  1. 3:47
  2. 3:54
  3. 4:01
  4. 4:00
  5. 3:42

That final split is a bit of a red herring, due to it measuring shorter than normal. I still finished in 19:23, which is my fastest 5k since early January; with tighter pacing, I’m pretty certain I would have hit 19:15 or so.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

12 miles – to Brindley Place and back

This was supposed to be my inaugural visit to Great Run Local’s 5k event at The Vale, near the University of Birmingham. It was to be called The Great Run Local sandwich, with the plan to gently jog to that part of the campus along the canal for approximately 5 miles, run the 5k distance, and then jog back home for something in the region of 13 miles.

After getting everything prepared in the days preceding, such as finding my registered RF wristband and studying the route layout, the event was sadly cancelled beforehand due to lack of available first aiders in attendance. Dave and I reasoned that majority, if not all, of the volunteers for the event must be students to coincide with the end of term exodus. My calendar’s pretty full until the end of April, so Great Run Local will have to wait a little while longer – expect a full debrief of my experience, along with how it compares to parkrun.

Rather than deviate from plan too much, I headed out towards Brindley Place for almost 13 miles. As commented on previously, I found my legs constantly wanted to go faster – such is how fresh I felt, even factoring in the 5k sufferfest only 24 hours prior. First run of the year in sunglasses, too!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.