This week’s running – 24th to 30th of April 2017


What’s occurring at Barry Island parkrun? Photo by Lis Yu

An unusual week of running is quickly becoming the norm for me…

5k fartlek

Doing the build-up, exhibiting and breakdown at a trade show destroyed my legs and left me incredibly weary. The last thing on my mind was getting a run in, but I knew that I would have to adopt an attitude that runs are non-negotiable if I’m to make the most of the training for autumn’s Yorkshire Marathon.

A 5k fartlek blast around the block did just the trick to stave off any guilt of not running, whist being functional enough to have some small gains.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

9 miles from work

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m officially at that point of the year where I don’t seem to know what to wear anymore, be it for a run, going to work, or casually. Opting to go with a long-sleeve top, sod’s law meant I was inevitably overdressed whilst being near-frozen only a day earlier.

My legs were still completely shot. In the same vain as above regarding non-negotiable runs, I simply went with the 9 miles and reminded myself that I would have to run 14 miles during the middle of the week at some point in the P&D marathon schedule, so should enjoy the luxury of shorter runs from the office whilst they last…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Barry Island parkrun

I have a confession to make… I know I recently discussed that I’m not one to normally go out of my way to get some parkrun tourism in, but I have to admit I’ve developed a taste for it.

Recently visiting Wales’s Riverfront and Scotland’s Ganavan Sands events (and Great Run Local at The Vale), I enjoyed the unfamiliar surroundings and faces, reasoning that now is the time to be exploring other events whilst I’m off peak fitness and without any pressure to perform.

Keeping the tourism theme going, I ventured to Barry Island parkrun with Lis and my mother-in-law, Yvonne, in tow. The three of us are keen Gavin and Stacey fans, with Lis and I particularly fond of the show that mirrored the early years of our own relationship.

Almost at the ripe old age of two years, the event remains typically in the mid to high 100s, with only a single freak 300+ turnout in its history. Like many younger/smaller events, a sub-20 finish is sometimes enough to place first, which got my competitive juices flowing again. Like at Ganavan Sands, the organisers believed that close to half of the day’s runners were new visitors to the event or parkrun.

Just before go-time, there were a few runners that were positively chomping at the bit to start. On the starter’s orders, they flew off from the line in typical 5k fashion with me in cautious tow. The course is unusual for an event that takes place on a coastal promenade. After a few hundred metres of the flat block paving, we made a hairpin turn to the right and began climbing towards the upper levels of Barry Island’s beachfront. Keeping my cool at the beginning paid dividends as I calmly reeled in those that had overdone it too soon. 4:04 for the first uphill km was pretty reasonable in my book for a shot at a sub-20 finish, especially with some downhill stretches later.

The second level of the run dramatically narrowed to clearly demonstrate to me why running with a dog is not welcome at Barry Island. The path also became a gravelly mess with little traction for my racing flat-clad feet. At some point on the upper level of the run, we were sent up a further climb, affectionately called “Heartbreak Hill” by the locals (it even has its own Strava segment). Short, but sharp, it required some proper arm thrusts to propel me upwards.

Descending back downwards at last, 2km came in at 4:04 again for what was shaping up to be a pretty steady run. The course is actually rather compact and with the aid of stairs along the side of the hill, spectators are able to move from level to level with ease to spot runners several times.

Reaching halfway, the course sent participants around a switchback for another lap. With a descent and flat stretch to my advantage, out popped 3:49 for 3km and to move me into fourth place.

Unlike the first lap where I had others to work with and draft behind, I now found myself running solo and faced the full brunt of the coastal winds, exerting more effort than before to maintain the same paces. With a second bash at “Heartbreak Hill”, I was rather impressed that I managed to keep things steady to produce 4:05 for 4km and only a second of slowdown.

Descending once more, third place was within striking distance at one point, but I couldn’t muster enough gusto to chase after him. I felt flat and there was a pronounced heaviness to my legs, no doubt carrying fatigue from the trade show and Thursday’s 9 miles.

Back on the flat block paving of the promenade, I knew I had to produce something in the region of a 3:50 km or faster to be in with a chance of a sub-20 finish. The headwind I faced off against was relentless, with my forward leaning stance having little to no effect. Edging ever closer to 5km, my Garmin fired off some 30m ahead of the finish line to add to the will I-won’t I situation of finishing in less than 20 minutes.

Crossing the line, I clocked 20:05, so probably would have still been off by 1 or 2 seconds even if I’d have recorded 5km exactly. parkrun wins again!

It was good to add Barry Island to the collection, though I won’t be in any rush to return to the venue, considering it took almost an hour to drive there from Lis’ folks place. Next tourism spot will be Cardiff’s second event, Grangemoor parkrun, in a few weeks’ time.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

12 miles with 2 at marathon pace

I’m sure my pal, Shaun, won’t mind me sharing his London Marathon Strava data with you all, but his race is akin to a piece of art. The pacing, the sub-2:55 finish from a goal of sub-3 hours – all marvellous stuff. Asking him what he felt contributed to such a breakout performance, he cited plenty of marathon-paced miles, which is hardly surprising. Whilst I felt the build-up to my 2016 Yorkshire Marathon featured ample pace practice, I’m firmly of the belief that I could have included more with little to no detriment to the rest of the training or recovery.

Watching several peers of similar ability go sub-3 at London, I’m confident that with the right training focus and a bit of luck on race day, such a goal is not out of reach for me. The sub-3 performance that’s given me the most confidence belongs to comedian and Running Commentary podcaster, Paul Tonkinson. Finishing almost a minute behind me in Yorkshire last October, he’s gone on to finish London in 2:59:21. Factoring in that London is far more congested and will inevitably measure a touch longer than Yorkshire (I ran exactly 26.22 miles!) further bolsters that my goal has potential.

Anywho, back to this 12 mile run. I’ve been so out of touch with marathon pace that opting to run two isolated miles at circa 6:50 each was like venturing into the unknown. Reassuringly, and even with strong winds to contend with, I managed to hit 6:47 and 6:48 respectively, and probably could have continued going for 2 x 2 miles at pace. Promising stuff!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

My modified P&D marathon plan is almost complete and just needs a few more adjustments before I’ll share it with you all. I will let you in on a little tidbit ahead of next week – my wallet is now considerably lighter, and my calendar is considerably busier than before. Interpret that how you will for the moment…


This week’s running – 16th to 21st of February 2015

Not my best week of running, no sir-ee! And apologies for the late entry – a business trip to Germany got in the way…

10k with 5 miles steady

It’s been a real grind at work, project-wise. Tuesday should have been a fartlek sesh, but I wasn’t in the right place for it, mentally, so I re-jigged it into a steady run at what I guess could be classed as my marathon pace.

I was pleasantly surprised by how smooth it all felt, considering I rarely ever run in the 7:20s to 7:30s these days. I’m a huge believer in running my hard runs hard and my easy runs easy, which normally sees my long runs in the 8:XXs and the harder runs in the 6:XXs.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

5k from work

Remarkably, the head torch wasn’t needed at all as I ran home from Smethwick along the canal. I look forward to the day when I can complete a few evening sessions at Edgbaston Reservoir in natural light!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

Due to my early doors flight to Germany on Sunday, I chose to move my long run to Saturday as a priority – the Silverstone Half looms ever closer. Conscious that I’d not volunteered much of late, I offered up my services and became funnel manager for the morning. It always makes me smile when I volunteer because people automatically assume I’m injured!

The role was one I had never acted out before; I normally settled on simple marshalling, barcode scanning or the data junkie’s favourite of result processor. All I had to do was make sure people stayed in the correct finish order as they moved their way through the funnel – simples, or so I thought…

Where I was stood offered a cracking view of all the runners coming through. Some made it look effortless and others were on the brink of collapse as they crossed the line.

On the whole, most people followed the instructions to stay in the correct order. A select few were less obedient and wanted to jump the funnel queue, clearly not understanding how the finish tokens pair up with their own barcodes to produce times and finish positions.

11 miles with 2x miles at half marathon pace

Bar the occasions when I’ve tapered for a race, I’m not usually all that fresh ahead of my long runs. With no Parkrun or speed work prior to the 11 miles, my legs were feeling very fresh with a certain spring and bounce to each step.

The plan was to head out towards Bournville/Stirchley and back via the canal. I knew I definitely wanted to run 2x isolated miles at my target half marathon pace of 6:35 per mile as a gauge of effort. 13.1 miles of these bad boys and a 1:26 half marathon will be mine!

As hinted at earlier, I wasn’t expecting my legs to feel as good as they did and it wasn’t long before I found myself regularly covering splits of 7:20 to 7:30 per mile on a training run. Even the splits immediately after the 6:35 miles remained in-line and felt comfortable!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

And here’s this week’s delayed entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Have a mantra

“Nothing worthwhile is easy.”… “Do it for [insert name here].”… “One more mile.”… “Loose and strong.”

No matter what phrase you choose, it’s always nice to have a mantra to fall back on when the going gets tough. Repeating the same few words to yourself can serve as a focal point – or as a distraction, depending on how you look at it. This works even better if you use the same mantra during hard workouts and long runs during training. (Some folks – myself included – will tell you that finding and using a good mantra should, in fact, be part of your training.)

A single word can be just as effective, by the way. Smooth, for example. Or light. Or beer. (But not lite beer. That’s just weak.)