Wythall Hollywood 10k 2014 review

Almost the same shot as last year!

Look at all the Bournville Harriers!

For the 2013 and 2015 races, please click the following:

Continuing my season of races, today took me back to the delightful Wythall Hollywood 10k. Last year’s inaugural running of the 10k race (2x laps of the 5k course) granted a massive 25 seconds PB for me, so read on to find out how I fared in the 2014 outing.


A day-trip to Manchester with Lis, Iain and Elsa probably wasn’t the greatest pre-race prep I could have undertaken. Nor would the immense protein-athon at Red’s True BBQ qualify as adequate pre-race nutrition (it was damn good, mind). Oh yeah, you can also add a random alarm going off in the neighbourhood during the middle of the night for 20 minutes+ to my list of pre-race faux pas. I am currently near my limit in terms of hard, quality training and regular racing. Mentally and physically, I’m fried and really need a true recovery week – something I was much more disciplined about during marathon training but seems to have gone out the window this summer, much like last year.

Going into the race, I decided to make use of my new pair of Adidas Adios Boost I had received as Cannon Hill’s Parkrunner of the month (collected from Manchester, hence why we were there). I’ve broken out new shoes before at races, only to then score PBs and this wasn’t an A-race for me so any risks were fairly low. Before a half marathon or a marathon – no freaking way!

After collecting my bib from registration, a club runner approached me and asked if I was, “the guy with the blog?” I replied with, “I’m a guy with a blog”, to try and sound him out a bit further and just in case he was genuinely referring to somebody else. It turned out he had searched for a report or review of last year’s Wythall Hollywood 10k and ended up here! If you’re a reader and ever see me out training or at a race, do come over and say “hello” – it’s always good to meet fellow runners. Anywho, Darryll Thomas was the mystery runner’s name and he belonged to Bromsgrove & Redditch AC – here’s your shout-out! We had a chat about how the recent London Marathon had really dulled our legs in terms of speed and gave little else back in return. What was rather funny was a reference and connection to last year’s race and review – Darryll was the guy that had “died” crossing the line! Small world or what?

Out in the race HQ yard, I bumped into a fair few of the Kings Heath Running Club contingent, including Sean Whan, Barbara Partridge and Steve Wilson. The club was really out en masse and easily eclipsed the next largest club by 2 to 1. Speaking of which, the next largest club in attendance was Bournville Harriers, including a guest-appearance by Suz West. Lis and I had a catch-up with Suz and her marathon antics including the prestige of securing a GFA place for the 2015 London Marathon. With only 20 minutes or so before we were due to start running, I excused myself for a 1 mile warm-up on the closing stages of the course (felt pretty rubbish, but hey-ho).

Startline of the 2014 Wythall Hollywood 10k

If you look closely, you can see Suz, Paul and me

It was nearly time for the race to begin, so I made my way over to the startline. I love small, local races because it’s less of a bunfight to get closer to the front for a prime PB attempt position. Feeling great? Promote yourself a bit nearer to the line. Feeling shite? Put yourself a bit further back with no fuss. Now if only Wythall Hollywood’s race committee would put chip timing in place, it’d be a near-perfect; even if they had to add a couple of quid on to each entry, I’d pay that for timing accuracy and speed of results turnaround (last year’s week-long wait for results really was too much). Shortly after the briefing, we runners were released into the wild to carve out our 5k and 10k destinies.

The race

The first few hundred metres made for possibly the cleanest race start for me, ever. I saw Darryll shooting off into the distance at a very nice clip; definitely sub-40 target pace since I was hovering around 4:02/km at that point. I also clocked Steve Wilson ahead of me by about 20m, looking very strong, so I tried to keep him in my sights at all times. I felt OK in the first km, but my legs were definitely heavy and lacked that zip that I normally have before a tapered race. The Adios Boosts on my feet also felt pretty good; definitely heavier than my normal Flyknit Racers but there was a nice responsiveness to them – a longer distance race shoe for sure.

The second km with the incline hit me. I was able to pass runners but I did feel like I was working too hard for the effort. Unlike last year’s scorcher, I couldn’t use the excuse of a warm day for a poor result. As always, I found myself running on my own to follow the shortest line on the course – all of those extra steps to run wide make a difference when your PBs are down to mere seconds! Upon reaching the peak of the summit, I breathed a sigh of relief at a chance to recover slightly on the downhill. I really should get some downhill training in place some day to really help me take advantage, rather than losing time going up and down.

The next 2km were largely forgettable, with the highlight being a hosepipe offering some mist spray for weary runners.

Entering the Phoenix complex, I could see Darryll was just exiting for a good 50 – 60 second lead on me. Turning the corner, I was pleased to see the race organisers had kept to their word of shortening this stretch of the course to compensate for the movement of the finish line – now situated inside race HQ (about 40-50m further if my man-maths were accurate). Running out of the complex, I sank my Isogel to set me up to do it all again for the second lap.

400m or so before returning to the start area, I had Lis waiting with an ice-cold bottle of Nectar Fuel. I purposely chose to chuck the water offered so far on the course over my head, so the Nectar was a welcome thirst quencher. Approaching lap 2, the group I ran with split up so that those running the 5k race could finish and 10k runners were asked to remain left, leaving me with only one other person to immediately run with.

Steve was still 15m or so ahead of me and served as a good target to try and lock on to. Once we began our second lap climb, I was able to steadily reel him in before I was able to overtake at near enough the exact same spot as last year’s race for an odd sensation of déjà vu. Steve spurred me on with a few words of encouragement, which really pushed me to get the climb over and done with. My next targets were a chap in a black vest and a female Kenilworth Runner. They were maybe 25m away and just slightly too far to try and actively shrink the gap between us, so I continued to just remain steady and bide my time.

I was now running in no-man’s land with nobody behind for 10 seconds or so. Passing by the chap with the hosepipe, he remarked, “You’re still looking good, 552”, which made me look down at my own bib to double check that he was talking about me. Despite his kind words, I felt pretty dreadful. My breathing was all over the place and a recently healed blister had reformed on my right foot. The weight of the Adios Boosts was now definitely more pronounced and I was longing for my light as a feather Flyknit Racers. With all the wrong that was happening, I convinced myself to try and lift the pace with just 2km left to go. I shortened my stride to bring my cadence up and continued my campaign towards the finish.

Entering the Phoenix complex for the second time, I again saw Darryll exiting but I had managed to close the gap slightly by maybe 10 seconds – progress is progress! I was aghast to see that the race organisers had now extended the U-turn part of the course; “I thought this part was shorter” I quizzed the marshall, who jokingly replied with, “Everybody’s asked me that so far”. The U-turn had managed to slow the Kenilworth Runner and bloke down by a touch and both were now within spitting distance. Exiting the complex, I managed to bring them both even closer by running a cleaner line.

Andy Yu at the 2014 Wythall Hollywood 10k

Form went to shit towards the end…

On the approach to the final corner, the Kenilworth girl managed to break away from the bloke she had so diligently followed for the entire race, creating a rough 2 second gap for herself. I saw Lis who was frantically shouting that I was within sight of a PB if I kicked, so that I did to overtake the Kenilworth girl in one swift move. I could hear heavy breathing behind and a guy in a blue t-shirt had followed me with a kick to also overtake the Kenilworth girl. I reacted with another surge of my own to put some distance between us to take me into the final straight towards the finish line.

The road was clear ahead apart from a marshal shouting out orders for 10k runners to stay to the left and 5k runners to go right. Just before the spot where last year’s finish line was, another marshal then said for finishers to go to the right and then follow the funnel towards the line. This was just really messy, I thought; do you want us to go left or right? The first marshal should have just told all finishing runners to stay to the right to enter the funnel. I had to do a quick swerve to the right, then left to enter the funnel. One last 20m sprint took me past one of the remaining 5k runners and the line for a season’s best of 40:57.


As per usual, I was incredibly unsteady on my feet and once I’d exited the finish area, I had to lie down on my back for a moment. Darryll came over for a short catch-up, himself only 15 seconds ahead we think. I also caught a few words with the Kenilworth girl and black vest bloke, thanking them for staying so consistent in the second lap. Once I’d completely caught my breath, I went over to the finish funnel just in time to cheer Suz through.

Most people I’d spoken to afterwards were not successful in their PB attempts, which I’m not surprised by. The course is not well suited to PBs, with a beefy stretch of incline and an awkward U-turn that both need to be hit twice. Lis asked me if I would run it again – I most likely will because it’s pretty cheap to enter and convenient to get to. Like independent retailers, small local races also need the support of runners to keep going after all. The Wythall Hollywood 10k also serves as a nice benchmark race to gauge my progress, where I’m now a whole 1.5 minutes faster than this time last year on the same course. If I can pull out a similar performance leap at September’s Cardiff 10k then that highly sought after sub-40 10k will finally be mine.

I’m going to take a few days off from running to give myself a break over the next week. I don’t have another race until the end of the month at the Magor Marsh, which should be a PB if I can crank out an effort like today on the almost pancake flat route (same course as the Race for Wildlife 10k). The journey to a 10k finish time beginning with 39:XX continues…

Click here for the Garmin data for this race.

This week’s running – 23rd to 29th of December

Welcome to this Christmas week edition of the blog. Read on to find out what I got up to over the Christmas break, running-wise. This update was published from a car on the M5 motorway – how’s that for road warrior skills? I’ll follow this entry up with an end of 2013 blog post, so keep your eyes peeled for that in the next day or so.

Christmas Day Brueton Parkrun

Andy, Sean and Mike at Brueton Parkrun

The Three Wise Men at Brueton Parkrun – photo by Sean Whan

It took a lot of explaining to friends and family that I’d be attending Parkrun on Christmas Day. Some were in awe of my dedication. Others were in disbelief. And a few thought it would just be me running around a park on my own…

Cannon Hill opted not to stage a Christmas Day run so the nearest runs to me were either Brueton Parkrun in Solihull or Walsall Arboretum Parkrun. Since I was staying over at my folks’ place in Kings Heath, Brueton made the most sense and Mike from Kings Heath Running Club tagged along.

Leaving at 08:20, this turned out to be plenty of time to get to Solihull on Christmas Day, taking no more than 15 minutes or so. Arriving at the park, we bumped into a fair few of the Cannon Hill Parkrun contingent that had similar thoughts to Mike and me:

  • Suz West
  • Khalid Malik
  • Helen Bloomer
  • Joseph Stone
  • Gillan Stone
  • David Sansom
  • Sean Whan

Unsurprisingly, all of us are in either the 50 or 100 club or are Parkrun management; well and truly addicted.

The organisers took the decision to make a few small detours to the course due to icy patches. This turned what was otherwise a run entirely on tarmac into one that became slightly cross country-esque if the state of my shoes were anything to go by!

A few of us agreed to head out at 7 minute mile pace, so nothing too strenuous. Mike, Sean and I stuck with it for the first mile or so before I started to loosen up and wanted to go a bit faster. Blair from Piston Heads noticed me and said hello – we Parkrunners really do get about! I spent much of the remaining two miles running alone with each split getting progressively faster even with the muddy grass sections. At one stage, I thought I was possibly on for a sub-20 finish so I really picked up the pace with a few hundred metres to go. Sadly, my estimations were wildly off and I finished officially with a time of 20:39.

It was great to bring in Christmas with a Parkrun. Here’s the Garmin data.

Running gifts from Santa

So what running pressies did we all receive?

Lis gave me a pair of Nike Kiger trail shoes and my family got me a Withings WS-50 scale.


The Nike Kiger trail shoe

Whilst in New York, I did actually look at the Kiger trail shoes but for one reason or another, I chose not to get them. Ever since the bad winter we experienced last year, I wanted to try and pro-actively do something to minimise any disruption to my own training which I simply can’t afford to lose in the lead up to my marathon. I have yet to take the Kigers out on a test run (wasted opportunity at Brueton Parkrun!) but will report more on my findings once I do. These babies should be perfect for the muddy and slippery conditions of the canals and I’ve already decided to give these a blast at Forest of Dean Parkrun in the New Year sometime.

Withings WS-50

The Withings WS-50 smart body analyser

The Withings WS-50 scale is the very same one that I almost purchased in New York. As an upgrade to Withings’ original model, the WS-30, it adds body fat, heart rate and air quality analysis to the mix along with the online data tracking. We all have a habit of embellishing our weight loss improvements or downplaying any lack of improvement; with the WS-50, there’s no hiding from the cold hard truth when the data is logged automatically for you thanks to it producing a trend line for you to rule out any anomalies.

Cardiff Parkrun

Andy Yu at Cardiff Parkrun

Welsh Pride at Cardiff Parkrun – photo by Paul Stillman

It’d been absolutely ages since I last ran at Cardiff Parkrun where I scored a rewarding 19:23 PB on the last visit. I regret not being able to test myself towards the end of September when I was at my 5k peak and I’m confident I could have hit 19:10 or better.

I had introduced Lis’ cousin, Morgan, to Parkrun a few months ago and he’s really taken a shine to the event, so much so that he and his wife, Kim, decided to come along with me for a Saturday morning 5k.

The weather for the day started out poor with dark clouds, wind and rain battering the terrain. Thankfully, this had largely cleared up by the time we arrived and just in a nick a time for my warm-up. I bumped into Daniel Luffman out on the course who I hadn’t seen since the summer; his 5k PB is coming along nicely with a 19:45 to his name and only narrowly missing out on beating this several times in recent weeks.

I had received a lovely Welsh flag running vest from Yvonne and Philip for Christmas and I was wearing it proudly in Cardiff. Speaking to Daniel, we joked that it may give me the boost I’m after. As ever, we started somewhere in the second row to gain an early positioning advantage.

The opening mile felt superb for me with everything feeling loose and relaxed. I surprised myself when my Garmin beeped to tell me I’d just completed the first mile in 6 minutes flat; my fastest ever recorded mile. To give you some context, pacing calculators estimate that based on my 5k PB of 19:18, I am theoretically capable of a 5:34 mile best. Personally, I think I could go below 5:30 because I seem to have a speed bias with my body composition where the further I go, the slower I seem to become even if it’s only marginal.

I tried to keep a female Serpentine club runner about 5 – 10m ahead of me at all times but this was slipping away from me during mile 2. The fast opening mile was taking its toll on me with a shocking 6:36 second mile split. A few folks began to overtake me and despite my best efforts to hang on to them as they passed by, I simply didn’t have another gear to shift into.

The third mile was tough as it always is. There were very few people to run with given the time of the year but oddly, the distance markers actually proved helpful as indicators to start ramping up the pace for the approach to the finish line. At 200m to go, a 50 Club member and I began to duke it out, pushing each other on. He managed to slip away with 100m left to go, clearly fresher than I was having paced his run better than I had. I shook his hand afterwards and congratulated him on a good race close. Daniel Luffman wasn’t far behind in pursuit and was only a few seconds off a PB again.

Morgan ran well, earning himself a new course PB at Cardiff but still way off from his 20:00 PB set at Hackney Marshes. Kim had committed the cardinal Parkrun sin of forgetting her barcode so we have no idea what time she finished with or what position for that matter.

Here’s my Garmin data for Cardiff Parkrun.

7 miles of Llanhennock Hills

Praise the lord for an easy running week in my schedule!

I had planned to run around the Llanhennock Hills for 7 miles to make up this week’s long run. Morgan wanted to come along so we ventured out into the wilderness.

I donned a long sleeve Nike shirt with a zipped neckline that I had received from Pete and Jo for Christmas. It was exactly what I needed; it’s light enough with coverage and the zip can help with ventilation if things start to heat up.

Neither Morgan or I had estimated how icy and treacherous the roads were. Some of the downhill portions of the route had us sliding downwards and the inclines proved challenging with gravity working against you. My only advice to Morgan was to keep his stride short to better react to any slips. Thankfully, neither of us fell and lived to run another day.

Have a look at the Garmin data here.

And as always, here’s this week’s entry from The Runner’s Rule Book by Mark Remy:

Keep unsolicited advice to yourself

If you’re the type of person who enjoys giving others advice, whether they ask for it or not, running offers a world of opportunity.

Before races, during races, after races; on training runs; at the track; at the gym; even in online forums and blogs, you’ll encounter runners who choose to do things differently than you do them. You will want to show each of these people the light. Resist that urge.

Unsolicited advice rarely gets a warm reception no matter how tactfully it’s offered, and you must admit the possibility – as crazy as it may sound – that you do not in fact, have all the answers. Even if you do have all the answers, the advisee may not be in the mood to hear them.

So keep your opinions to yourself unless someone asks for them.

If that person at the gym really is “doing it wrong,” he will figure it out soon enough. And if he doesn’t, maybe he wasn’t so wrong in the first place.

Exception: You see a runner putting himself or others in imminent danger; see “Do not tempt fate” from before.

*By purchasing this book, you implicitly sought my advice. So I’m in the clear. Ha!

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

Spanked by 16 miles

Spanked by the long run, not William Shatner

This week was all about getting back into the marathon training groove.

Tuesday Treadmill Session

I do love a good session and Tuesday’s treadmill intervals were great. I’ve been increasing the speed each week by 0.1kmph, settling on 15.8kmph this week which felt in control. Part of me is thinking that it may be time to push it up to 16kmph.

At the end of the fifth rep, I was tired as always but there was no nausea and had a burrito to recover with later that evening.

Here’s the Garmin data.

Thursday Fail

Due to a boiler mishap at home, I had to abandon the 6 miles I had planned on Thursday. I need to be a bit more consistent with my mileage where my longest run of the week is no more than half the week’s total distance.

Marathon Talk

Marathon Talk t-shirt

Now with added man-suit goodness!

On Friday, I finally managed to bag myself a lovely Marathon Talk t-shirt. I’ve wanted one of the above t-shirts ever since I first started listening to the show a year ago but the only sizes available for a long time were large and above! I was in such a good mood that I thought I’d include a segment here about Marathon Talk and why I love it so.

Marathon Talk is a weekly running podcast in the style of a radio show with two hosts, Martin Yelling and Tom Williams. The enthusiasm of these guys is incredibly infectious where once, the show was criticised for being too positive! Both come from different athletic backgrounds, allowing for different views on the world of running – Martin is a former track runner and is married to GB Olympian, Liz Yelling; Tom is a regular bloke that came to running later in his life and is currently the MD of Parkrun UK. Tom is the straight-laced guy, loving his stats and takes a very methodical approach to his training, coming from a sport science background. Martin is much more care-free, playing the goofball of the two.

Centred around one core interviewee a week, they’ve had all manner of guests from world class athletes like Haile Gebrselassie through to regular folks that have turned their lives around through running.

What started as just a little bit of fun between two running enthusiasts has spawned over 200 episodes since 2010.

One of my favourite segments of the show is Tony’s Trials; similar to a column in a newspaper or magazine, it’s presented by Tony Audenshaw, better known to some as Bob Hope from Emmerdale. Each week, Tony will talk about something running related, sometimes with humourous results. He’s given us race reports, training commentaries, songs, comedy sketches and everything else in between. I remember the first time I ever listened to Tony’s Trials where he was having a conversation with one of his feet – a bizarre introduction to the world of Marathon Talk to say the least!

Another feature on the show that scores highly with me is Training Talk. As its name suggests, Martin and Tom focus on an area of training that becomes part of a wider discussion. Sometimes, the discussion is seasonal such as running through the winter or hydration in the summer. Other times, it may be about a specific session such as speedwork or threshold running. I’ve incorporated some of the featured items before into my own training and is arguably what keeps me coming back to Marathon Talk.

The show has also developed its own lexicon, a collection of words and phrases where understanding their meaning makes you a regular listener. Below is a non-exhaustive list:

  • A Gingerbread Man – the need to or action of pooping whilst out on a run
  • Martin Yelling inverse taper – increasing your training load as race day gets closer
  • Zipping up one’s man-suit – to man-up and stop being a girl
  • Zipping up the Yuki-suit – to be more like legendary Japanese runner, Yuki Kawauchi
  • Foosing your legs – to push your legs even harder

Any fan of running should give the podcast a listen. It’s easily downloaded either directly from the website or through a regular subscription through iTunes or similar. Each episode varies in length but is typically 90 minutes or so; easily listened to whilst commuting to and from work. There’s a real community of Marathon Talk listeners out there, easily identified by the above 26.2 t-shirt; I remember a Parkrun where I was racing against a Marathon Talk listener, telling him to “zip up the Yuki-suit” and being told to “foos my legs”!

By reading this running blog, you clearly have some sort of fascination with running so do yourself a favour and listen to the best running podcast out there.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

I was at odds over how to run Saturday’s Parkrun. I’d arranged with Mike Green to try and complete a Strava challenge afterwards, so I didn’t want to go all out. Equally, I didn’t want to go too easy given my recent progress with speed.

On my way to Cannon Hill Park, I drove past Jonny Costello and pulled over to offer him a lift.

Fergal Bloomer won the Parkrunner of the month award which received rapturous applause and cheers. Before Fergal began running again, he used to volunteer on the final corner and really gave runners that last bit of encouragement to spur them on to that elusive PB. I’m just amazed it took this long for him to receive the award given all the work he’s done over the years!

Dave also made a reappearance after telling me the previous evening that he wouldn’t be out running.

Once we started running, I saw Dave take off into the distance and pretty much remained about 15 seconds ahead of me at all times. I decided to run with Neil Muir who seemed to be going at a decent pace. After a mile of running, I asked him if he was going for a time only for him to tell me he was taking it easy due to a race the following day – d’oh!

I decided to merely hang on to the pace and take it steady, running very even splits and finishing in 20:12. I’ve tried running even splits over 5k before and it just doesn’t suit my style. I find it much harder to hold myself back early on when I’m feeling good, knowing that I’ll end up in oxygen debt and will go lactic anyway later on. My usual manner of going out hard and then hanging on for dear life has produced some very favourable results in the past and has scientific evidence to support it as the optimal method for races up to 5k but no further. Have a gander at the Garmin data here.

Dave put on a good performance with 19:55 – a nice come-back PB as its known in these circles.

Mike’s 1k Strava Challenge

You’ll have to forgive me if I have some of these facts wrong – I’m not on Strava and only have a passing knowledge of how it works.

Several weeks ago, Mike asked if I was tempted to help him achieve a particular challenge on Strava by running a rep session with him. The challenge in question is 900m – 1k from Cartland Road to Fordhouse Lane at a particular pace. We both agreed that second place on the leaderboard was easily within reach whereas first place would require running at roughly 5:14 mile pace for the distance. Of course, I agreed to give it a shot and we made our way to Cartland Road after Parkrun.

We decided to give ourselves a running start to maximise our chances and shot off like bats out of hell; at one stage, my watch registered 4:59 per mile pace!

Our opening pace was a little too enthusiastic and we gradually slowed as we got closer to the end of the target finish. Originally giving ourselves 3 attempts to hit the mark, we’d only gone and done it on the first go! We jogged back to the start to give it another shot, this time with a more controlled, steady pace throughout. I don’t know about Mike but my second attempt was considerably slower than my first, again supporting my go out hard style for shorter distances truly does work out better for me. Take a look at the Garmin data here.

Mike invited me along for a coffee with a few members of Kings Heath Running Club at a really nice little cafe on York Road in Kings Heath. Despite being a resident of Kings Heath for over 20 years, I had no idea the place we went to ever existed!

16 miles of north Birmingham canals

Boy, oh boy! I have no idea what happened – today’s 16 miles were like running the gauntlet and I hope the rest of my marathon training is more positive.

I had plenty of carbs last night in the form of macaroni and cheese. I had plenty of sleep last night and almost slept all the way through to this morning, getting 9.5 hours which is almost unheard of for me these days. The temperature was quite mild outdoors so I opted to wear a t-shirt rather than a long-sleeve top but still took gloves and my shades – function over fashion. My CamelBak had been loaded up with 1 litre of Lucozade for fuel, along with one energy gel for the run.

The first 10 miles rolled by without issue. I did forget to revert to auto miles on my Garmin, so I only had overall average pace to go by without mile splits. Then, out of nowhere, I was hit with cramp in my legs. All of sudden, they felt as heavy as lead and the range of motion available to me was greatly reduced. My pace nose-dived to slower than 9 minute miles, yet my lungs and heart weren’t taxed at all. The sensation was incredibly similar to that of the final 6 miles from the London Marathon earlier this year when fatigue kicked in. I wasn’t hungry but I seemed to lack energy despite the steady stream of carbs from the Lucozade on tap.

What happened? I can only guess that it was a combination of too much weight from my CamelBak and the rolling hills. The flat sections felt great and the pace was nice and steady, but the up and down portions seemed to take their toll on me. I’ll head out with 750ml of liquid again in future until I’m getting closer to 20 miles.

I also have an inkling that I may be running my long runs a touch too fast, given my target marathon pace is somewhere between 7:50 and 8 minute miles. During this base building phase, I just need to get the distance in my legs by hook or by crook and at whatever pace gets the job done. No need to kill myself at this stage of the marathon training cycle.

Take a peek at the Garmin data here.

Another Rule from The Runner’s Rule Book

As is customary, here’s another entry from The Runner’s Rule Book by Mark Remy:

Get to Know Pre

Steve Prefontaine

Movember would be proud of Pre

Pre is Steve Prefontaine, an Oregon native and legendary middle and long distance track star who died in a car accident in 1975 at age 24. Apart from holding the American record, at one point, everything from the 2,000 to the 10,000 metres on the track, Pre inspired two major motion pictures (Prefontaine and Without Limits) and had an outstanding mustache. Also, the following quote is widely attributed to Pre: “A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts.”

Not a bad quote to remember when things get tough.

Where does the road lead to now?

After all the hijinks of a half marathon, it’s easy to feel a little deflated after the runner’s high of achieving a PB or simply experiencing the atmosphere of a big city race. What tends to happen to people is they either enjoy the event, but would never want to do any long distance running again, or they enjoy it so much tat they decide to run more regularly and sign up to loads of other events and races.

As the title asks, where does the road lead to from here? I have a few running goals, all designed to keep me interested in different ways and each geared towards producing a different result.

I read somewhere very recently (it may have been Runners World magazine) that said PBs come in threes and usually within close proximity to each other. You’ve just run the best race of your life and you’re pumped and ready to score your next win. Your mind is psychologically wired to winning and achieving, so the only limitation is the body. I had put this theory to the test last month after beating my target PB at the Cardiff 10k and only 6 days later, I took a massive chunk off my 5k Parkrun PB by over 35 seconds! To give this improvement some context, I’d been striving to beat PBs by mere individual seconds for several months! I was able to beat my PB again the following week by another 10 seconds; a smaller improvement but one nonetheless. The only reason I didn’t PB for a fourth time in a row was due to technical difficulties, namely my GPS watch refusing to link so I had to race by feel rather than immediate data. Having said that, I was only 6 seconds off a new PB so the body was willing.

Today was no different and I hoped to PB again at the Parkrun, albeit a different venue to my usual Saturday mornings. Due to being in Wales and not wanting to lose this momentum, I decided to visit the Newport Parkrun to see if a change of scenery could yield positive results. It’s advertised as a flat, 2 lap course with a few twists and turns and mixed terrain. Having run it now, it’s not flat and it’s more like a trail run with gravel, grass, mud and sand to soak up some of the recent rain. None of these surfaces are ideal for energy rebound so you have to work harder to maintain the same pace. There were just shy of 200 runners and the pre-race briefing was exactly that: brief. There was no mention of safety warnings, thanking volunteers and sponsors etc; ideal if you’re a regular but not when you’re new! All said and done, I still managed to PB with 21:37 and came back in 28th out of 197 runners. I hope I can PB with 21:25 or so at Cannon Hill Park next week, so we’ll wait and see.

Today’s Nike+ data can be found here.


Tredegar Park Parkrun startline


My first lap with a Mobot fired off


Me at the finish, staving off a heart attack

I’m a huge fan of Parkrun and am 100% certain that it has been one of the best things for my running and for many other runners out there, whether they’re looking to improve their fitness and stay active, or have a competitive edge and are looking to become sharper and faster. It’s my guaranteed weekly speedwork session and I know full well that I wouldn’t be where I am without it.

More medium term, I am looking to build on my current fitness and improve upon my half marathon time. Running a hilly route in Birmingham and finishing with 1:45 means that on a flat course, I should be able to get much closer to 1:40, if not come in under it. Dave and I still looked fresh at the end of the Great Birmingham Run so we know we have more in the tank to give. This will mean continuing with my regular weekly routine of:

  • Monday – Rest/strength work
  • Tuesday – 5k steady run
  • Wednesday – Rest/strength work
  • Thursday – Speedwork/hills
  • Friday – Rest
  • Saturday – 5k Parkrun
  • Sunday – Long, steady run

This routine has served me well and will hopefully yield the desired result at the Bath Half Marathon. Bath is a great city to visit and I’ve wanted to run through its streets for the last year or so. It’s an unusual course because it features two laps around the city centre, but the benefit of this is being able to see supporters more regularly and the crowds are more consistent as a result. Being almost flat is also attractive, hopefully helping me smash that 1:40 barrier. Dave is still thinking about entering; I hope he does because it would be totally awesome to conquer another PB with him.

As for my long term goals, I have the big mother of running events to train towards: the London Marathon. I won’t deviate much from my above training routine because it has served me well, though I will increase the Tuesday run to become a 10k run eventually, maybe even a 10 mile run. I need to get my weekly mileage closer to a total of 40 to stand a chance of getting the 3:45 finish time I’ve set myself for the task at hand. Charles from Bordersdown (formerly NTSC-UK) recommended I check out one pacing guide which breaks your desired finish time down into ideal mile split times, again favouring a negative split strategy. In many ways, I’m less anxious about the marathon because it’s an unfamiliar distance and there are no preconceptions or expectations apart from my predicted paces and finishing times. I will readjust my goals again after the Bath Half and hopefully that will build in some extra buffer if things go awry in London.

Finally, I’m looking to join a running club, most likely Kings Heath Running Club.  I’ve been eyeing up this club for a long time and meeting more of their members at the Parkrun has really spurred me on to do something about it. I know that running my speedwork and hill sessions with them will make me faster and having a group to belong to is attractive. They’re not an elite group and are geared towards regular people like me, and whilst they’re of mixed ability, there’s enough variety that I can slot in quite comfortably.

I decided to pop along to one of their training sessions during the week to see what they’re all about. They’re indeed a friendly bunch, all very interested in what I did etc. They seemed quite surprised when I said I wasn’t a new runner and had been doing this for a number of years. They were even more surprised when I said I could run 7 minute miles at 5k distance! We went on a recovery route just short of 5 miles, consisting of hills and some flat stretches. I got to run with a good variety of people and running with others definitely made the perceived effort feel lower, just as it felt at the half marathon running with Dave. One of the slower runners couldn’t keep up with the pace so I slowed down to run with him, not wanting to leave him behind; a rarity in more elite clubs where you have to keep up regardless.

I’ve been invited to their club social in November, where I want to make an appearance and get a better feel for the club’s members. I’m going to attend another one or two training sessions with them to see if I’m entirely happy about joining them. I’m about 75% sold at the moment because they have some faster runners who I’m hoping to run with, being a firm believer that the quality sessions are just as important as the quantity of sessions. Watch this space…

Stay safe out there now that daylight is quickly diminishing. Gaining a second by dodging traffic isn’t worth the risk!