This week’s running – 27th August to 2nd September 2018


A bit sweaty at Cannon Hill parkrun’s 8th anniversary – photo by Geoff Hughes

Success is a combination of skill, effort and luck. Read on to find out what my cryptic rambling refers to!

5k recovery

09:00 on a bank holiday Monday, so what’s a guy to do? Silly questions deserve silly answers!

It was eye-opening just how many fellow runners I saw out and about at the same time as me. Perhaps it’s entirely normal and it was just me running outside of routine? Or maybe people had deferred their Sunday runs to Monday, instead?

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10 miles with 3 at marathon pace-ish

This was a real challenge due to the unsurprising headwind I ran into. Despite my best intentions, I couldn’t draw any more speed from my legs without significantly ramping up the effort.

Also not helping was the pair of Adidas Adios Boost 3 shoes I wore. In terms of value for money, I’d put over 450 hard miles on them from low-key races and faster training sessions. From about 400 miles onwards, significant portions of the outsole rubber began wearing away to reveal the Boost foam and propulsive plastic shank underneath, only adding to that dead feeling that shoes get towards the end of their useful life. I’ve now since retired the Adios Boost 3, though will look to seek out another pair for I’ve been genuinely very impressed by what Adidas have produced; sure, they’re not as flashy, light or gimmicky as some of Nike’s race shoe offerings, but they’ve been dependable and an utter joy to run in.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5 miles run-commute

This was supposed to be the beginning of a 10 day taper ahead of the upcoming Lake Vyrnwy Half Marathon. Luck, as it so happened, had other plans for me…

Lis had spent much of the bank holiday away from home, visiting her family and friends back in south Wales. She only went and brought a cold back with her to coincide with me finishing the above 10 mile run! Any seasoned runner will tell you that the most critical time to pick up bugs is the 24-48 hour window after a hard run or race, so I didn’t like the look of my odds.

Well, it seemed my fate was preordained for mild-cold symptoms did appear within 48 hours. All the tell-tale signs that I was coming down with something were present, for I felt lethargic and slightly feverish, and my lips became very dry.

The real test was how I would fare on an easy paced run-commute (without bag) from the city centre. Whilst the pace was normal, my heart rate elevated and was easily 5-10% higher than normal by way of comparison. A little fitness test I have for myself is how quickly my heart rate stabilises after the Holders Lane climb from Cannon Hill Park; this outing took a significant chunk of time before my heart settled back down.

I returned home with my t-shirt completely sodden in spite of the not unusual conditions or pace, further cementing that something was wrong…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill parkrun

The literal sweatfest continued on into Saturday’s 8thanniversary of Cannon Hill parkrun.

I declared to Simon that I only wanted an easy run, especially as I had the Wolverhampton 10k the following day planned as one final session before the Lake Vyrnwy Half Marathon. Simon and I became those guysagain, where we spent much of our run hovering at around 24 minute 5k pace, engrossed in conversation, whilst those around us were putting in 5k race pace efforts. We eventually made contact with Dave Sansom, one of the original Cannon Hill parkrunners from 8 years ago, pushing him on to meet his sub-24 minute goal for the morning.

I finished completely sodden in sweat, with my 250 Club t-shirt doing a bad job of hiding this fact!

Whilst I’ve historically missed every previous anniversary celebration, it did get me thinking that I’ve spent almost 7 years as a parkrunner, with 180 runs at Cannon Hill.

Here’s to the next 7 years!

And here’s the Strava data for this run.

Wolverhampton 10k 2018

Needless to say, the race at half marathon pace didn’t happen.

I said at the beginning of this post that success is a combination of skill, effort and luck. I’ve got the first two, but I always seem to run short of the third item, especially this year. As my PBs become harder to come by, so too does the frustration increase as more and more setbacks come my way.

Thankfully, I’m more or less healthy again as I write this entry, so I will be making the 2 hour drive to Lake Vyrnwy to stake my half marathon claim. With a baby due very shortly, I’m no stranger to the fact that my priorities will change, and so I fully intend to adopt a laissez faire approach to running and see where I end up. This summer has sucked all the fun out of running and I’m looking forward to just being able to make it up as I go along for a while, enjoying it simply for what it is and not worrying about what it isn’t.

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


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…

This week’s running – 21st to 27th of August 2017


Why am I doing this again?

Week 16 of the 22 week marathon schedule. Yes, just 6 weeks remain until race day!

5k – aborted 10 miles

After the previous Sunday’s 22 miles that were cut short to 19, I wanted a little bit of redemption and confirmation that it was just a fluke occurrence. Over 48 hours later, I felt a little more with it and concluded I was at least on the mend… Or so I thought!

Setting off from work, everything felt fine as anticipated. 2 miles in, the effort ramped upwards and I began sweating profusely for what should have been an easy pace to hit. Reaching 5k at Brindley Place, I knew the game was up and called it quits before walking through the city centre to commute back home. More recovery needed to shift the bug!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.


So, my suspicions were proven correct when my symptoms manifested into a full on bout of nasal infection. Runny nose, congestion, sneezing fits, fatigue and headaches – reads like the back of a box of cold medication!

The congestion and snot I could deal with, but it was the fatigue and feeling of being packed out with cotton wool that prevented me from even running at an easy pace. I’ve tried many times over the years to run whilst still viral and I’ve concluded I’m actually better off just waiting it out.

Riverfront parkrun

Originally as part of my marathon plan, I had the Severn Bridge Half Marathon down as a glorified marathon pace session. That all went up in smoke when I missed out on the previous week’s 22 miles, so I opted to skip the race in favour of another bash at 22 miles. Lis and I were in Wales anyway to visit family, so a bit of parkrun tourism was in order.

Also, originally as part of my plan, was a visit to the recently launched Caldicot parkrun. Flat and very straight over 2 laps, it was to be my 21st different location – sod’s law, then, that it was cancelled! Lis wanted to get a parkrun in as some race prep ahead of her own 10k debut, so we swapped Caldicot out with the similarly flat Riverfront parkrun, which I’d already recce’d several months ago.

The effort was always meant to be just under 20 minutes, but with numbers down due to the half marathon the following day, the opportunity to place highly was on offer.

From the line, a group of four shot off and forged a sizable gap ahead of the chase group and me. Their pace was far too tasty, so I hung back with everybody else, seemingly pacing for around 20 minutes. The first km rolled in at 4:03, which I concluded was too slow and felt too easy, especially as my legs felt incredibly fresh after several days without and also confirmed I was pretty much healthy again.

I pressed on alone and surprised myself with how effortless it felt. Conditions were damn near-perfect for swift times, with low wind and marginally cooler temperatures. Before too long, a member of the group ahead came into view and I moved from fifth to fourth with ease. 2km ticked by with 3:53, which was more like it!

Nearing the halfway switchback, I could see second and third place had been concluded with the two now running solo; third place continued to slow and it was almost certain I would podium that morning. Reaching halfway, I was caught off-guard when the marshal asked me to cut out a bridge that formerly made up part of the course (later revealed due to instability!) 3km came in for 3:51.

The time came to strike. A short surge allowed me to overtake, remaining on the throttle until completely clear; I heard his cadence increase momentarily in an attempt to tuck into my slipstream, though it dropped back down again after a few seconds as I pushed on.

Second place continued to drift in and out of sight on the horizon, but with a sizable gap between us, it was tricky to gauge whether I was closing on him or not. 4km remained steady with 3:50.

As the remaining distance ticked by, it remained dicey whether I would catch the guy ahead, or not. He looked back at me a few times and I knew he was hurting, simply based on how fast he’d gone out and how long he spent running alone. With perhaps 400m remaining, I was within touching distance and with 300m to go, I kicked with purpose and dared not look back. Passing by some windows, I could see there was nobody on the edge of my reflection; nonetheless, I continued kicking all the way for the line, just in case he had a little something in reserve for the final drag ahead of the finish.


Bridesmaid once again…

Turned out I was quite comfortably in second place by some 9 seconds!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.


Lis’ fourth different parkrun venue

After obligatory handshakes and congratulations to the third and fourth place guys (the winner had disappeared, finishing some 90 seconds earlier!), I gathered my things and cheered Lis in as she made her way for the finish.

Interestingly, the volunteer co-ordinator for the event stopped us for a chat and asked if we were keen to volunteer on occasion; we had to rain on his parade and break it to him that we weren’t from the area, but did our part regularly at Cannon Hill. I know Riverfront has difficulty gathering volunteers like many events, but I am curious to see if the casual enquiry approach yields much uptake or not.

22 miles – to Little Mill and back

Ill or not, the enormity of 22 miles in rural south Wales seemed far more palatable than it did in Birmingham a week prior. There was something to the route that made it, mentally, more manageable, having run it once before in its entirety a year ago.

Anticipating a warm one, I loaded up with two flasks of Coca-Cola and stowed two gels away into my ultra vest – I didn’t want to take any chances and needed to ensure the run was a success, identifying that there’s little-to-no margin for error left in my plan.

Expectedly, the first couple of miles were slow, what with my impromptu race at Riverfront parkrun only 24 hours earlier. Gradually, the pace came and I found myself quite happily hovering at 8:00 to 8:10 miles for much of the second half – by pure coincidence, there was even a pub I passed at 10.5 miles, called “The Halfway House”!

The effort markedly increased at around 15 or 16 miles, notably due to the sun reaching its midday peak overhead. A cold garden hose would have worked wonders!

The final 2 miles were a very good simulator for the closing stages of my marathon. Whereas miles flew by earlier, I found myself counting down to trees only 100m ahead to get me through the grind. Thankfully, I’d also rationed my supplies well, leaving just a few sips to keep me company when things felt at their worst.

Standing between me and the end was the vicious Saint Andrews Walk Climb Strava segment, coming in at 800m long and peaking with a 14% gradient. Funnily enough, this particular setup mimics the closing 800m of the Yorkshire Marathon, albeit with less intensity – at least I’ll be well prepared!

Upon finishing, I was spent as the accompanying photo at the top of this post will attest to. I poured 3 or 4 pints of water over myself to cool down, whilst necking a further 3 or 4 pints to rehydrate. Intriguingly, my quads were also smashed – something I don’t recall happening a year ago on exactly the same route. My only explanation is the steep descent at 19 miles must have done a number on them, whereas I may have simply negotiated the downhill section better in 2016. That and my legs had probably lost a bit of resilience from being away on holiday and a further unplanned lower mileage week.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

The road to the Yorkshire Marathon II

A week of two halves, with the second half being completely unrecognisable from the first!

I have just one 20-21 mile run and a 22 mile run remaining in the plan. I’ve always applied the basic goal within a marathon plan of my five longest runs equating to 100 miles or more; all being well from here on out, I should total some 105 miles.

It’s strangely all becoming very real again, with race day creeping and lurking closer and closer!

This week’s running – 2nd to 8th of January 2017


Unlucky or cursed, you decide!

Motivation and an appetite for running are probably at a record low…

14 miles

I had a feeling this run would be challenging, down to having missed a couple of long runs in recent weeks due to illness. In my mind, I needed this run to go off without issue and that all the work towards the Brass Monkey Half Marathon would not be in vain.

Sadly, I was right and a challenge is what I got. From about mile 12 onwards, I somehow hit the metaphorical wall, due to either being under-fuelled, or burning through too much energy due to lack of recent endurance training.

To make matters even worse, an Achilles niggle crept back in and made itself known. Thankfully, the pinching sensation subsided once I was fully warmed up.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

When it rains, it pours

Becoming ill once and DNFing a race is unlucky. Becoming ill again shortly afterwards is unfortunate. Then picking up an injury, no matter how minor, is damn unfathomable, but it’s happened.

I took a few more days off from running in the hope that the Achilles niggle would clear itself up, losing yet more training time.

Plenty of gentle massage, occasionally with ibuprofen gel or Deep Heat, was just the ticket. I was still suffering from a lack of motion range, but crucially, any sensations of pinching or bruising had subsided.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

My 2 mile test jog to Cannon Hill Park confirmed I was able to at least jog, pain-free. My 200m set of strides with Simon and Nigel confirmed I was at least able to cover a short distance at speed, pain-free.

I wanted to see what kind of shape my cardiovascular system was in, and it wasn’t pretty. Going out hard over 5k prior to illness, I was somewhere in the region of 18:30 to 18:40 shape on an average Saturday. I ended up running 19:13 with the following splits:

  • 3:48
  • 3:54
  • 3:57
  • 3:56
  • 3:35

I was pretty much finished at the end and could not have gone any faster. A real contrast to when I could pace somebody to a sub-19 with enough capacity to still be able to speak with snatched sentences! Ever the eternal optimist, I did at least run 5k at what felt like PB effort, pain-free…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Brass Monkey 2017 outlook

I’ve made the difficult decision to treat the upcoming Brass Monkey Half Marathon as a swift training run. A real shame because it’s one of the flattest and fastest half marathons I have access to each year.

With everything that’s happened in the last five or so weeks, I’m in no fit state to be chasing sub-85 over 13.1 miles, and would only be setting myself up for an almighty fall if I did chase it. I’ve recast my objective to simply dip under 90 minutes as a marathon target pace run.

I’m obviously disappointed, though have chalked it up as the recreational hazards of running competitively, even if I am just competing with myself. I will have to get used to disappointment from here on out; somebody recently said to me their 10k PB was more than two years old, yet they’re still as motivated as ever to put the graft in.

The hunt for replacement races begins…



This week’s running – 26th of December 2016 to 1st of January 2017


I was finally on the mend after the misery of being ill! Oh, and welcome to 2017!

The Big Run Commuting Survey


Being interviewed for Simon Cook’s Big Run Commuting Survey

Many months ago, I completed a survey about my experiences as a run-commuter. In fact, it was so long ago that I’d completely forgotten I participated until I received an email from its organiser, Simon Cook, asking if I would participate in an interview to cover my responses in more depth. Despite not formally belonging to any sort of running group affiliation, I do very much identify myself as a member of the running community and feel duty-bound to help where I can.

During the interview, we deep-dived into questions, such as what equipment I utilise when run-commuting, my choice of route, what I think about, and much, much more. Originally stated to last between one and two hours, Simon and I were discussing my thoughts for more than three hours by the very end! I didn’t think there was possibly so much to review, especially for what I still consider is a niche within running, though I was clearly proven wrong.

I promised Simon I would share the link to his survey for further quantitative data, and here it is: The Big Run Commuting Survey. Please complete it, even if you think your experience of run-commuting is limited – Simon wants to also explore why more people don’t run-commute.

6 miles whilst still ill

I grew more and more conscious that with the Brass Monkey Half Marathon looming ever closer, I had missed a few too many long runs as part of this training cycle due to circumstances beyond my control. On this particular day, it was almost two weeks since my previous distance run of any significance; prior to that run, it was another two weeks since the last one… Missing: aerobic and endurance ability. Reward for its safe return.

Grabbing the bull by the horns, I embarked on the long-delayed 15 mile run that was scheduled.

After two miles or so, I very quickly identified I was still unwell, albeit at least coming to the end of my ailments. The perceived effort of running was far greater than anticipated, and empirical feedback from my Garmin and heart rate monitor confirmed as much. Prior to being hit by the lurgy, I was able to run between 7:30 and 8:00 per mile at distance, in exchange for around 70% of maximum heart rate. On this occasion, I was barely clearing 8:40 per mile and clocking in at 75%+ of maximum heart rate! Needless to say, I cut the run dramatically short and turned around for home after just over 3 miles.

Here’s the Strava data for this rather demoralising run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun


Cheeky drafting assistance – photo by Geoff Hughes

This was the first of three Parkruns over the weekend, thanks to the next day’s New Year Double. It was nice to be back at my home event with the familiarity doing my soul a lot of good. The strategy was to keep the effort and pace at around half marathon levels for some specificity, but also to avoid crocking myself before having completed all three planned runs.

Spending much of the run with Huw Jones and Matthew Lewis, I cheekily took shelter in their slipstream to facilitate the need for ease. We even spotted GB triathlete elite, Jodie Stimpson, as we approached the triangle.

Splits were pretty much bang on to pave the way for a 19:44 finish:

  1. 3:57
  2. 3:58
  3. 4:02
  4. 3:59
  5. 3:48

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

New Year’s Day Double

Brueton Parkrun

This was my third New Year’s Day Double, and second specific pairing of Brueton and Perry Hall events. I was joined by Simon Bull, who I had convinced to come along after successfully talking him into also partaking in a Christmas Day Parkrun a week prior.

The challenge of the New Year’s Day Double isn’t so much being able to run both (pace and effort management), but rather simply being able to stay loose and warm between runs – tricky with the 2017 weather of freezing cold rain… There were plenty of familiar faces as mad as Simon and I, taking on their first of two Parkruns.

The organisers opted to move the start and finish a few hundred metres to facilitate swift getaways for those moving on to a second event afterwards. What this meant for runners was an incredibly slow and congested start, not helped by an inaudible “Go”, and the initially narrow path and several turns thrown at us.

With the slow opening, I had some work (14 seconds or so) ahead of me to jump back on-board the sub-20 train. Within just the first 2km, I was pretty much soaked to the bone and struggling to stay warm with the wind also tearing into me. I still wasn’t fully recovered from the previous day’s 5k, and lack of sleep meant I was pretty much running on fumes.

Even with a kick at the end, I still narrowly missed out on a sub-20 finish to land 20:02. Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Once regrouped with Simon, we hightailed it out of Solihull and made our way over to Perry Hall’s event.

Perry Hall Parkrun

We first had to make two pit stops: one to pick-up my wallet from home, and two to fuel up the car. Thankfully, we were still lucky enough to bag one of the final spaces in the car park before it filled up shortly after our arrival.

With not enough time to get an adequate second warm-up in, the perishing cold rain hit us hard and then the shivering began… A knowing nod, like a badge of honour, was given to those we identified earlier from Brueton Parkrun.

Out on the course, it became obvious very quickly that I wasn’t going to even come close to sub-20. My legs were fooked, my clothes and shoes were heavy from the rain, and the wind picked up to slam into runners.

I ran Perry Hall’s new course for the first time several weeks ago, though I was unsure of whether I preferred it or not. I’ve now concluded I prefer the former two lap configuration with grass over the new three lap course with multiple switchbacks; I find the turnaround points have a tendency to kill pace and momentum and require a certain skill or finesse to navigate efficiently – talents that I lack.

In the end, I finished with 20:45, though was pleasantly surprised to finish in sixth place, and could have finished fifth with just a little more welly at the end.

A well-deserved rest and a hot shower beckoned! Here’s the Strava data for this run.

This week’s running – 19th to 25th of December 2016


Curse that Ed Miliband…

I hope everybody had a merry Christmas; mine was anything but and I’ve really struggled to find motivation to write this entry up…

4x 1.2km at 10k pace; 800m at 5k pace

As is quite typical of the P&D and P&L training schedules, paces began edging closer to VO2max. I’ve touched upon this before, and I particularly look forward to the final few weeks of faster pace focus; I don’t know whether it’s the strong training stimulus, form efficiency improvements, or both, but I always feel supercharged afterwards, and this occasion was no different.

I pretty much nailed all of the intervals and paces (well done to Dave for spotting I’d left the below blank!):

  • 1.2km – 4:39
  • 1.2km – 4:37
  • 1.2km – 4:37
  • 1.2km – 4:35
  • 800m – 2:55

Here’s the Strava data for this session.

Little did I know my return to form was short-lived and premature…

Illness, part two

Lis and I travelled to Wales to spend several days leading up to Christmas with her family. Not even having spent 24 hours there, I was felled by flu-like symptoms for the next bout of illness in what has been my most disrupted block of training that I’ve endured in years!

I ached all over and experienced hot and cold flashes, writing off the day’s planned 15 miles. My PB attack at the Brass Monkey Half Marathon was disappearing before my eyes in a splutter of phlegm… I now have my suspicions regarding who I picked the bug up from, though the damage by then was already done.

As I write up this entry, I feel like I’ve been ebbing and flowing through recovery; some days I feel pretty much back to full strength, and then several hours later, I’ll feel shitty all over again.

Cardiff Parkrun

Christmas Eve was one of the rare days where I felt decent enough to at least run 5k. Meeting up with Vince at Cardiff Parkrun, we were greeted by wet, windy and miserable conditions.

Cutting a long story short, 19:14 popped out of the other side for my slowest time at Cardiff in several years. Woo…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Newport Parkrun

Since 2013, I’ve been found on Christmas morning at a Parkrun somewhere. This year, Newport’s Tredegar House played host to me and some several hundred of the dedicated.

Conditions didn’t improve from Christmas Eve, and coupled with Newport’s cross-country style course meant everybody was caked in the unavoidable mud.

I felt worse compared to Cardiff 24 hours earlier and only managed to get the heat inside to a simmer rather than a boil; 21:17 was all I could muster, for fear of making things go south even more than they already had.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

This week’s running – 4th to 10th of January 2016


Time for the seasonal cold to strike!

This week was mostly about recovering from a cold…

5k from work

My throat was still kinda sore, and just in time for the much dreaded return to work. I was still in the early signs of a cold, but I’d been able to dodge them in the past through extensive gargling with warm salt water. My head still felt like it was packed with cotton wool and general fatigue lingered on the periphery, but I decided to run home from the office anyway ala my usual “MTFU” attitude when it comes to running; the pace was definitely slower than normal!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.


Dear, oh dear. I felt ropier and ropier as the week progressed; not helped by the incredibly busy schedule at work due to various projects starting and nearing completion. With the Brass Monkey Half Marathon less than a fortnight away, caution was the plan of approach and I reluctantly took an enforced running break from Tuesday through to Friday.

Truth be told, the several days of rest did me a world of good. Not only did my body get a chance to recover, but mentally I was able to recharge as well. I also slept incredibly well, with some nights clocking in with over 10 hours’ worth of ZZZs!

Cannon Hill Parkrun


Time to give my confidence a kick up the arse – photo by Geoff Hughes

My return to running for the week coincided nicely with Cannon Hill Parkrun. I felt much more with it, aided by a lovely cocktail of potions and pills to have me feeling in positive spirits.

History has typically shown the first one or two events at Cannon Hill each New Year draws in vast numbers of runners, new or not – I’m sure it’s the same at other events. Saturday didn’t disappoint with 688 in attendance (second highest attendance), and could have still been higher had there not have been a cross-country fixture that took place later that afternoon.

The warm-up with Nigel felt fantastic. My legs felt incredibly fresh, as one would expect from four days without running, whereas the norm would be only one or even zero rest days and heavy legs. There was a bounce in my step where I couldn’t recall the last time it was experienced. Our 200m effort was equally as good, prompting me to have a good old bash out on the course to see what effect the cold had on me, if anything.

Bizarrely during the run briefing, a large crowd of people suddenly walked off for the start line to leave only more-learned regulars behind. I had to make a beeline for the front to avoid being hemmed in. I’m still scratching my head over what triggered the random mass exodus from the bandstand!

Off the line, I went for it and was surprised to see myself in fifth place, with the Garmin screaming to slow down from the 3:21 per km pace and eventually settled at 3:39 for the split.

I continued to feel strong, but knew it couldn’t possibly last. Several runners came past me to send me down to twelfth place and then eighteenth place. I lacked fellow runners around me to work with, further increasing the effort to maintain pace. 3:46 came out on the other side for my troubles.

I was all aboard the pain train for the third and fourth km. My breathing was laboured and my body refused to go with the effort due to the lactic acid that was in free flow. I pulled all manner of gurns on my face in the hope of externalising the torture. 3:58 and 4:01 were the third and fourth km splits, respectively.


A one-way ticket on the pain train – photo by Lis Yu

With only a few hundred metres to go, I reached the MAC and was helpfully informed by my Garmin that I’d just ticked past 17:00 minutes by a few seconds. A lady running with a dog, though not with Parkrun, weaved all over the path to cut me up pretty badly. “ON YOUR RIGHT! ON YOUR RIGHT!” I bellowed with only mere steps before I went clattering into her; thankfully, she finally maintained a straight line and a quick evasive sidestep from me prevented an all mighty pile-up. I ratcheted the pace up one notch, though my Garmin confirmed there would be no new PB that morning as I ran past the tearoom; a sub-19 finish was still available to signal one final kick that carried me up that infernal hill, producing 18:58 after being ill for much of the week.

I was in bits at the end and had to kneel down once clear of the finish funnel. A younger runner thanked me for pulling him through to a new PB on much of the course; it was a shame he couldn’t keep up with me where we may have been able to push the pace to another level entirely.

Whilst not a PB, I got the confidence boost I wanted and this run became my tenth sub-19 5k – it’s no longer just a fluke! runbritain rankings enjoyed watching me put myself through hell and has rewarded me with a -1.7 performance handicap, also resulting in a drop from 4.6 to 4.4 on my overall handicap.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Canal half marathon

The weather outside was deceptive on this long run. Whilst the sun shone brilliantly and encouraged me to break out my sunglasses, the temperature was bitterly cold, especially when faced by a headwind.

This was the final long run before next week’s Brass Monkey Half Marathon. Whilst there was little new fitness to be gained from going long, I knew the several days off from running required some attention to get me back on track before things began to feel too alien. In spite of being doped up on all manner of cold remedies, I still had to make liberal use of “snot rockets” to clear myself of all too regular congestion.

There were plenty of runners out on the canal towpaths, with many regular faces including Toby Close and Dave Burton popping up; embarrassingly, I recognised Dave’s Cardiff 10k t-shirt before I realised it was him!

I wanted to slot in two isolated miles at target half marathon pace in a bid to become reacquainted with the effort required. The first mile left me feeling very uneasy, though I’m willing to put that mostly down to the angry headwind that tore into me at the same time. Rather than send my recovery back into a downward spiral, I jettisoned the idea of a second mile at half marathon pace with a view to tackle it again on Tuesday evening’s run.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

And here’s the next batch of shorts from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Running rule shorts – 31 to 40

  1. A long-sleeved shirt and shorts will always look better than a short-sleeved shirt with tights.
  2. Owning your own timing chip is like carrying your own pool cue into a bar.
  3. If an injury is bad enough to keep you from running properly, it’s bad enough to keep you from running, period.
  4. You can never have too many safety pins in or on your gym bag.
  5. Increase your mileage no more than 10 percent per week.
  6. For winter runs, a man never regrets opting for wind briefs.
  7. No one sleeps well the night before a race; the night before the night before your race is the important one.
  8. The first runner to crest a hill is the strongest runner of the group.
  9. The last runner to crest a hill is the funniest of the group.
  10. Don’t wear racing flats unless you can back ‘em up.

This week’s running – 5th to 11th of January 2015

Struck down by cold

Not again… The one thing runners fear before a race!

This week was about being ill and trying to recover…


Almost as if decided by fate, I became ill on the first day back at work. For the last 3 years, I have always managed to pick up a cold either during the Christmas-New Year break, or upon returning to the office. You see, my body functions best on a routine and has a certain rhythm that it likes to go at; disrupting it has some consequences. Of course, my crazily high mileage of last week could have also had some part to play in catching a cold.

Good news is I’m pretty much back to full strength with only some minor congestion as a sign that I was ill at all. And not a moment too soon, which brings us nicely to the next item…

Brass Monkey Half Marathon

A couple of months ago, I made sure I was up stupidly early to make sure I got a place in the Brass Monkey Half Marathon – one of the UK’s flattest half marathons.

The plan is to finish with a very modest PB of only a minute or so. I feel like I’m in better long distance shape than I was at the Cardiff Half last autumn, which I felt I held back in ever so slightly. Aerobic training has been my bread and butter this winter period, with less focus on quality sessions. I’m aiming to get to mile 10 at an average pace of 6:40 per mile; anything left in the tank will be left out there in the final 5k.

Of course, there’s always something in the background conspiring against me and this time, it’s the weather. It’s crazy windy out there up north with the long range forecast reporting a 13mph easterly wind.

Tune in again this time next week for the usual race report.

Jantastic 2015

Jantastic has started and I already know I’m not going to score 100%. I’ve only logged 4 out of 5 runs this week and I’m going to have to play a joker next week to compensate for the race week taper. Normal service should resume soon.

Look me up and add me as a rival if you’d like.

Great Birmingham 10k

Great Birmingham 10k elevation

Not the flattest or the fastest 10k for these parts…

Shortly after last October’s Great Birmingham Run, the organisers announced they would be laying on a 10k race, unimaginatively called the Great Birmingham 10k. The route has just been announced and, like its unimaginative name, does little to inspire. In fact, the eagle-eyed amongst you will even see how remarkably similar the course is to the Great Birmingham Run, sharing much with its older sibling including the exhausting hill towards the end. Discussing the course with Ed, he was the voice of reason and highlighted that there would be few other original route options, starting and finishing in Birmingham City Centre.


Or the most original of courses…

But anyway… At a cost of £25 to enter, it’s neither cheap nor a guaranteed PB for many. At least with the Cardiff 10k at £25, you get a swift course where you stand some chance of a crack at a PB, along with a warm fuzzy feeling about a proportion of the entry fee going to charity (Kidney Wales). I will most likely give this race a miss, unless I have a sudden change of heart nearer to race day due to peer pressure or some such…

Faster Road Racing – 5k to Half Marathon

Faster Road Racing - 5k to half marathon

From 50% of the team that brought you Advanced Marathoning

During my first marathon training phase, I discovered a handy little book called Advanced Marathoning by Pfitzinger and Douglas. Affectionately referred to as “P&D”, it has developed almost a cult-like following over the years; such is the respect of its schedules and advice contained within.

At the tail-end of 2013, the Marathon Talk podcast released a pretty hefty interview with Pete Pfitzinger, where it was revealed he was also working on a new book with a focus on distances below 26.2 miles. Over a year later, that book has finally seen the light of day, and my copy recently landed as a little belated Christmas present to myself.

10k along Hagley Road

I finally felt fit again to venture out for a run on Thursday. Nothing too strenuous; I only wanted to test the legs and lungs out and need not have worried – everything felt fantastic and simply clicked into place.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

Judging by how ferocious the winds were lashing against my window the night before, I was pretty sure conditions would be far from ideal at Cannon Hill. Newport Parkrun had to cancel their event due to a massive tree branch that had come down right on the course!

I had a rather nice catch-up with Suz West and Fergal Bloomer upon arriving at the bandstand. Fergal was thrilled to hear about my first place finish at Perry Hall Parkrun and confessed to me that he’d often had dreams of leading a race, only to go the wrong way at a crucial turn.

The warm-up lap of the park confirmed the winds were out in full force that morning; my target of a 19:25ish finish was quickly going up in smoke.

There were plenty of new faces at the new runner briefing – lots of New Year’s Resolution chasers no doubt. Simon joked about them being late to the party, having missed the New Year’s Day run and last week’s normal event.

Toeing up at the start line, I could tell how busy it was from all the new faces up at the front. There was a cross-country meet later that afternoon, so imagine how many more runners there could have been with a true-blue full attendance.

I quickly found myself drafting behind Andy Young for the first lap. I figured he must have been taking things easier than normal since he’s usually much faster. I wasn’t complaining since he was shielding me from the onslaught of the wind. The pace for 19:25 felt perfectly fine, with hardly any stress at all.

Going into the second lap, I decided to break out on my own and in retrospect, this was when I lost my opportunity to set a new course PB at Cannon Hill. The wind hit me hard and I tried my best to move ahead into the slipstream of the guy ahead of me, wasting energy in the process. Andy Young came gliding past me, making it look effortless; I needed a moment for recovery and knew I’d blown it.

The rest of the run was pretty much by the numbers, bar the closing stage. In the last 800m, I found myself next to a younger runner and we were both slipping from the pace for a fast finish. I told him we needed to work together to catch the guy in front. He surged for a few seconds and got us halfway there; I picked up the rest of the task and led both of us to the final 400m. Our target still had some fight inside him and continued to lift the pace, with me in pursuit. The final hill hit me but must have hit him harder because he slowed dramatically at the top, allowing me to pip him to the finish by a second or two.

My Garmin threw 19:25 back at me, so right on target and without feeling too uncomfortable. Oddly, the official results bumped me up by two seconds for 19:23. Simon also mentioned a quirk to me where his original finish of 100 had become 101 in the results, so clearly some manual adjustment here or there had occurred.

All in all, rather happy with the performance and it bodes well ahead of next week’s race.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

10 miles of Birmingham canals

Another Sunday, another long run.

The sun was shining with blue skies aplenty. The only fly in the ointment were the lashing winds that continued to strike.

The plan was 10 miles at my typical long run pace, but with miles 6-8 at target half marathon pace of 6:40 per mile. Sadly, by the time I’d reached halfway, the winds had knocked it out of me somewhat and not wanting to overcook things, I opted only to cover mile 6 at 6:40 pace. In hindsight, I probably could have eked out the planned 2 miles, but would have risked making recovery that bit tougher.

Bumped into Alex and Iain a few times out there too, for some friendly faces and high-fives.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

There aren’t too many of these entries left from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book, so enjoy them while they last!

Write off the first mile

The first mile or so of any large race is pandemonium, as folks ride a surge of pent-up adrenaline and try to run half a step in front of everyone else.

You’ll see a lot of frantic people jockeying for position during those first few minutes. Ignore them. Be cool. Run your own race. The people sprinting, weaving, and darting around you are wasting tons of energy, and you’ll likely pass them later. Probably sooner than you think.

This week’s running 20th to 26th of October 2014

This is how I looked

This is how I looked on Monday. Except for the awful bling watch. Don’t have one of those.

This week was about illness and a having new toy to play with.

Struck by illness… For a few hours…

I like to think I’m quite a hardy soul and it’s rare that I pick something up that brings me down completely. Sure, I get pangs of paranoia once I get close to an important race, but that’s only because I’m a competitive person and want to eke out every bit of potential from myself.

After the early start on Sunday for the Great Birmingham Run, I was also up early the next day at 5am to get to a former colleague’s funeral over in Norwich. Despite running the race and fulfilling my filming duties comfortably, sitting as a passenger for almost 4 hours is still not recommended.

To make matters even worse, I then ended up driving said uncomfortable car for almost 4 hours back to Birmingham. When I got out, I somehow went weak at the knees and struggled to walk. Muscles all over my body, not just the ones used for running, were aching. I felt light headed and had a splitting head ache. And most worryingly, I was shivering due to a major chill and couldn’t get warm.

Once back home, I quickly threw myself into a blistering hot shower and whacked the heating to full blast; both of these things helped to bring my temperature up but I still felt cold and weak. Lis had never seen me in such a state and I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I had been felled so badly from whatever it was that I had picked up.

Miraculously, I started to perk up later in the evening and was my normal self again by the following morning. I have no idea why my body reacted the way it did – perhaps it was simply a sign that I’d pushed it too hard in such a small space of time?

5k around Edgbaston Reservoir

Black Diamond Spot 90

Let there be light!

I decided to take the plunge into winter training and bought myself a Black Diamond head torch. It’s not particularly fancy or powerful, but does have the following features:

  • 90 lumens
  • Spot, wide, strobe and red modes
  • 3 degrees of tilt

The perfect field trial for the head torch was Edgbaston Reservoir once dusk had kicked in. I originally wanted to run 4x laps but I ended up with a stitch I couldn’t shift – the point where this happened is quite clear from my cadence chart on Garmin Connect (click here).

Anywho, the head torch worked a treat. It offered enough light to brightly illuminate roughly 5m in front of me (and up to 10m reasonably) – more than enough to see any upcoming hazards on the ground. Crucially, the beam of light was also steady, though I suspect this probably has a lot to do with one’s own running style (I tend not to bounce). Comfort-wise, it was stable on my head without being too tight or heavy. I will try it again whilst running at threshold pace and 800m reps, which should be really put it to the test.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

Attendance was expectedly light at Cannon Hill, given it was less than a week since the Great Birmingham Run and half term had begun. The weather was cool and crisp; perfect running weather and the first outing in months for my arm warmers since the winter.

I managed to pull off a 19:43 finish without feeling too uncomfortable and had I have really stepped down on the gas, I think I could have finished nearer 19:30. I was rather pleased with the splits, all looking rather steady bar the final km when I kicked things up a notch. Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Jort and Andy at Cannon Hill Parkrun

“You ran 2 minute mile splits during the race???” – photo by Geoff Hughes

Having a bit of a catch-up with Jort, we had a chuckle about his performance at the Great Birmingham Run (screen grab from Ed Barlow). All joking aside, I also learned that over 80% of his 60+ miles a week are run at around 8 minute mile pace. If it’s good enough for Jort, it’s gotta be good enough for the rest of us, right?

11 miles out and back to Stirchley

After a busy week, I was waiting for my long Sunday run with bated breath. Many have asked why I don’t train with others more often. Truth be told, the long Sunday run (and other runs to a lesser degree) is in many ways a great form of therapy for me. It gives me some time to myself on my terms and allows me to review the week that’s just happened, along with the week that’s yet to come. It’s also a chance to review my training and how my body is feeling while at ease; something that’s much harder to get an accurate picture of when you’re blowing hard during 800m reps!

I headed out towards Stirchley along the canal. Bar some short un-tarmac’d sections, the repaving project was more or less complete. Sadly, the sections of towpath immediately underneath tree cover were accumulating dead leaves and mulch at an alarming rate, so much so, the ground below no longer even looked paved!

Expectedly, just like Cannon Hill Parkrun, there were few runners out and about. The Great Birmingham Run was done and dusted and people were either resting up, or had no purpose to run anymore. I did however bump into Sean and Laura from Kings Heath Running Club, and also nearly had a massive pile-up with Iain on his bike when we inadvertently met around a blind turn.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

To make up for the light week of running, here’s a beefier entry than normal from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Imagine the worst

I hate to sound pessimistic. Really, I do. But thinking in terms of worst-case scenarios can make you a happier, healthier runner. This rule holds true across a variety of everyday situations, in decisions large and small. For instance:


“I bet I can make it through this intersection before that RV does.”

BEST CASE: You sprint across the road and save a few moments.

WORST CASE: You sprint into the road and die.



“I probably won’t need a hat in the race this weekend.”

BEST CASE: You leave the hat at home, do not in fact need it, and your suitcase is 2 ounces lighter.

WORST CASE: You leave the hat at home, wake up on race day to record-low temperatures, drop out at mile 9 with hypothermia, and find yourself being “warmed up” by a race volunteer who smells like garlic.

FINAL CALL: Pack the hat.

“You know, I usually eat oatmeal before a long run, but those leftover chalupas are looking pretty good.”

BEST CASE: You consume the leftover chalupas and complete your long run as planned.

WORST CASE: You consume the leftover chalupas, begin your long run as planned, and end it 2 miles later, doubled over and feeling as if Satan himself is travelling through your lower intestine with a pitchfork made of fire and dipped in taco sauce.

FINAL CALL: Boil some water because you’re taking the whole grain train to Quaker-town.

The list goes on and on. But you get the idea: prepare for the worst; hope for the best. And stick to oatmeal.

This week’s running – 13th to 19th of January

Andy Yu's been taken down by a cold

The cold continued to take me down with it…

Illness strikes

My cold from the previous weekend was worse than ever and left me struggling. My nose was constantly blocked, my head fuzzy and I was frustrated. The last time I suffered from a cold this badly was several years ago when I was (over) training for an autumn half marathon. I don’t think I’m overtraining as part of the marathon schedule I have designed for myself, rather it’s my immune system deciding to flee rather than fight as a response to a particularly busy Christmas and New Year, not helped by throwing myself right back into training immediately after.

The second week of Jantastic was almost a complete write-off; not a great start to a running initiative all about consistency!

All said and done, this week of recovery and down time has had some positive impact where the pressure of getting out to run was completely absent. I decided not to take another step until I was at least feeling recovered so there were no thoughts of guilt passing through my mind. I’ve not had a complete week off from running in years; not whilst I’ve been on holiday or even after last year’s London Marathon where I was back on my feet after only three days. This impromptu week off from running has been most refreshing and has renewed my vigour to continue with my marathon schedule.

Volunteering at Parkrun

As part of my week of no running, I volunteered as a marshal at Cannon Hill Parkrun. I’ve always said if I was ever unable to run then I would volunteer at Parkrun, for example last year when I sustained some weird foot injury in February. I can’t sleep-in much anymore these days anyway, so what else am I going to do with myself on a Saturday morning?

If you’ve never volunteered at your local Parkrun event before, then I highly recommend you take the opportunity to do so. Viewing the event from the eyes of somebody not participating can really be an eye-opener, especially if you’re a mid-pack runner or beyond. There is some real running talent to be seen at every Parkrun and to be able to witness these speedy guys and gals in action is something to be marvelled at. If you care about the annual points table, volunteering also allows you to achieve 100 points for that particular week which has now helped me to get into the top 10 at Cannon Hill (maintaining this will be much harder).

Sadly, volunteering does come with its own downfalls as well. On Saturday, I had my ear chewed off by some disgruntled dog walker out on a mission to have a moan. I love dogs and I fully believe that the park is there for everybody to use. She was having none of this, though, citing that she had been pushed (bumped, more like) before and her dog had also been kicked (unintentionally, I’m sure). I’m sorry but if you choose to go against a gauntlet of several hundred runners then what do you expect to happen? We as Parkrunners use the park for no more than an hour one day of the week; she was probably retired and could walk her dog at any time each and every day, but purposely chooses to do so each Saturday when Parkrun is on. It’s like intentionally driving during rush-hour traffic and then getting upset at all the congestion. When she asked who she could complain to, I told her the run directors could be found at the bandstand; her reply was “I’m not walking all the way there!” and stormed off in a huff. She can’t have been that annoyed and I guess she was just looking to antagonise somebody that morning.

Make that 10 miles, no, 14 miles, no 18 miles!

Sunday was the first time that week where I felt at least close to my normal self. My sinuses were in much better shape and my legs felt positively fresh and ready to go.

The initial plan was to head out and back via the southern canals towards Bournville station, which is just over 10 miles in total. I would then play it by ear as to how I was feeling, having the option to continue down the canal towards Redditch and then turnaround and head home for over 14 miles. The third option was to tack on a visit to Edgbaston Reservoir for two laps, bringing the total to the schedule prescribed 18 miles.

Nutrition-wise, I decided to load up with 750ml of Nectar Fuel and an energy gel; better to have it if I decided to literally go the distance.

I laced up my Nike Kiger trail shoes and took those first few steps, which were a rather odd sensation after not having run for a week. But I felt great; I was out doing what I enjoy and there was no pressure to perform on said run. My Garmin had been set to 8:55 minutes per mile, which I knew was easily achievable whatever the distance would end up being.

There were plenty of fellow runners out and about, taking advantage of the pleasant weather and no doubt fulfilling their New Year’s resolution campaigns. I was trailing behind two other runners for maybe 10 minutes or so before I decided to over-take; one of them jokingly said he wasn’t intending to keep up with me and would let me go.

The condition of the canal towpath varied from decent to outright poor. Mud was thick at its worst but the bigger issue for me were the puddles to contend with. Some were almost as wide as the path, requiring nimble feet to navigate around or longer jumps to avoid entirely. Sadly, my feet did get quite wet and there are few things that can sour a long run more than wet feet.

I reached Bournville station and still felt great, so I ploughed on with my aim to complete 14 miles. The stretch of canal from Cotteridge onwards was a complete mud bath, with a family foolishly trying to take their kid’s pushchair on the less than stable surface.

The return leg of the journey was less pleasant. Mile 8 felt incredibly tough from my recollection where my right knee began to ache; this was most likely an IT band issue where I’ve been neglecting use of my foam roller for several weeks, on top of a week’s worth of sedentary. The exaggerated motion of puddle dodging was also likely taking its toll.

But just like in any long distance race, this bad patch disappeared entirely several miles later. By the time I returned to Brindley Place with 14 miles under my feet, I opted to really sink my teeth in and went ahead with the full 18 miles scheduled for that day.

Venturing out towards the Soho Loop, I exited the canal via a route that Dave had once taken me. Back on street level, I couldn’t actually remember how to get back to Edgbaston Reservoir! I ended up running back towards Spring Hill and taking the long but familiar route to Edgbaston Reservoir, which had the unplanned benefit of bulking up the total distance to only require one lap around the water.

Like with the canal, there were plenty of fellow runners at the reservoir. I started to reach my limit with each step requiring immensely more effort than before. My Nectar Fuel had now run empty and my breathing was becoming laboured. Couple this together with an attempt to run a sub-8 minute mile, making for not a whole lot of fun. Hearing my Garmin beep once I’d reached 18 miles was absolute bliss and I felt like I had really achieved something that day. Only problem now was I did not want to run back home, so I ended up calling Lis to pick me up in the car…

Returning to the flat, I wasn’t as ravenous as I usually am after a long run where in the past, I’ve disgustingly started gorging myself due to hunger. My week’s abstinence from running probably doubled up as a carbo loading session, ensuring I was fully energised to go long. My legs did tighten up later in the day for a funny walk of sorts, though this should remedy itself with some rest and hopefully won’t turn into the dreaded Tuesday legs…

Pacing wise, I’m incredibly pleased with the run where I felt I got it just right. There were a few small blips in the form of miles slower than 9 minutes and miles faster than 8:30, but these can be forgiven in the grand scheme of things. Like my most recent 17 mile long run, this 18 miler is over a minute faster per mile than this time last year so I’m in the right place, training-wise. The upcoming Bramley 20 will really help me to hone race pace and should act as a big confidence booster, or as a whack from the reality hammer that my time target of 3:25 to 3:30 is a fool’s errand.

Here’s the Garmin data for the run.

As ever, here is this week’s entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Learn to use the farmer’s blow

Farmer’s blow

A process by which one clears a nostril of mucus by pinching shut the opposing nostril and exhaling forcefully .

Mastering the farmer’s blow is a must for any runner. A good farmer’s blow is a wonder to behold, satisfying, efficient, and brilliant in its simplicity. A bad farmer’s blow will leave you with a real mess on your hands. Literally.

Here’s how to do it right.

  1. Breathe in through your mouth, like you’re gasping.
  2. Lay a forefinger against one nostril and compress firmly.
  3. Purse your lips.
  4. Cock your hand slightly in the direction of the open nostril and exhale forcefully through your nose.
  5. Repeat with opposite nostril, if needed.

Farmers blow