This week’s running – 27th of March to 2nd of April 2017


Newport Riverfront parkrun’s actually rather scenic!

Remember that stag-do? Well, it hit me harder than I thought to result in yet another incomplete week of training…

I did at least manage to get some parkrun tourism in!

Ill once again


2017 (and the end of 2016) really hasn’t been kind to me.

Monday and Tuesday were plagued by a sore throat and some respiratory system tightness. By Wednesday, symptoms had manifested into a cold, albeit a fairly mild one. Even so, I decided against jumping back into something that resembled a normal training week in terms of frequency, instead saving myself for the weekend’s stint of parkrun tourism.

Newport Riverfront parkrun

parkrun tourism’s a strange beast for me. I’m not particularly interested in straying away from Cannon Hill unless I need to. The event is so close to where I live that it makes little sense to purposely go out of my way, unless absolutely necessary, such as when there’s a cancellation; I know I eventually get around to new local-ish events when the situation calls for it.

The game changes when Lis and I are in Wales and visiting family. With a minimum of 8 events within 30 minutes’ drive, and 3 of those easily less than 15 minutes away, it makes complete sense to visit a variety of events whilst the opportunity is there. Cardiff’s Bute Park event has received a lot of my attention over the years (24 times out of 213 runs) due to its fast and flat nature, though I now tend to reserve visits there for whem I’m feeling in particularly good shape, which simply ain’t the case at the moment…

In January, Newport’s Riverfront event began after an initial false start due to icy conditions postponing its launch by a week. As its name suggests, it follows the River Usk from a fairly central location in Newport city centre for a flat and fast, out and back route. Locals tell me that the event was fast tracked into fruition, with help from Lliswerry Runners and Caerleon Running Club, to remedy the growing attendance at Tredegar Park in an attempt at dispersing the numbers. The frequent 500-strong crowd at Tredegar Park has lessened to the region of 300, whereas Riverfront enjoys some 200 in attendance. It’s regularly cited that new events do not take numbers away from pre-existing neighbouring events, and instead create and cultivate their own communities. Why this appears to have worked with Newport’s two events is simple: Tredegar Park is trail-like in its profile, and for years, had the privilege of being the only parkrun game in town. Tredegar Park loyalists will stay, mud bath or no mud bath, and those that prefer to not need to hose down their kit afterwards can utilise the Riverfront event.

I arranged to meet Nigel Foulkes-Nock, an old buddy of mine, who I’d not seen since October’s Cardiff Half Marathon. Having run the event once before, he was like a sage of tips and advice, going as far to have a predetermined finish time he felt I would be capable of.

With far fewer runners in attendance than what I’m normally used to, reaching the front of the start line pack was an incredibly civilised affair without pointed elbows; there was almost a reluctance from those behind to get too close to the front!

Learning my lesson from last week at Cannon Hill, steady pacing off the line was the order of the morning. I settled quickly into target pace of 3:56 per km/6:20 per mile with several guys around me for company, and just outside of the top 10. The terrain underfoot was always paved, though bricked stretches had the potential to be slick when wet. The rain hit early on into the run, though I was never cold despite wearing a vest. 1km came and went with 3:56 on the clock to be right on the money.

Unavoidably, due to following the river path, a number of hairpin turns were encountered to slow the pace down – something to factor in when making like-for-like comparisons with the fast Cardiff Bute Park course. The turnaround point at halfway was a particularly aggressive pace-killer for others and me; whilst I was able to pick the pace back up, those I’d run with up to that point simply couldn’t reclaim the momentum and drifted backwards.

After picking off two or so ahead of me (one who turned out to be the brother of Cannon Hill regular, Dave Sansom), I was left on my lonesome for the remaining 2km to the finish.

The theatre from where we all started eventually came back into view, though I was made aware that the finish line was still further beyond. The last few hundred metres seemed to go on forever; unexpectedly, my Garmin fired off a good 60m or so before reaching the line, putting me into a mild state of panic over my pacing for a sub-20 finish. A modest kick ensured I made it back with 19:51 to be the final person to go under 20 minutes.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Oh, and it would appear the event is biased towards vertically gifted runners being faster! The bucket for tokens 1-100 is found at the top, whereas the 300 and higher bucket sits at the bottom of the lamp-post…


In need of the Yellow Pages! Photo by David Philips

Pondering over the additional distance encountered, I’m curious over whether it was a one-off fluke, or whether it’s a regular occurrence. With only Strava’s 1 decimal point measurement, reviewing other people’s historic runs makes it impossible to tell. Nigel also tracked 5.06 km/3.14 miles, using a totally different Garmin to me and probably following a slightly different line. The track underneath the bridges is pretty clean to also rule GPS interference out. A shame because it would be nice to have semi-regular access to another flat and fast course when I’m in Wales to complement Cardiff’s Bute Park event.

10 miles – to Usk and back

My legs felt it from the previous day’s 5k exertions, so a low intensity and slow pace were the order of Sunday morning. The sun came out to play, though there were very few runners out and about due to a 10k race in Cardiff, along with spring marathon season starting up. Unusually, there were dozens of cyclists out on the country lanes, riding in pack formation ahead of some sportive event the following weekend.

I aimed to keep my heart rate at around 70% of max, or lower, apart from when climbing. The effort to output ratio felt about right; I never felt like I was purposely holding back too much, or pushing too hard to stay at such a percentage.

Sadly, my ambitions to reclaim full ownership of the Saint Andrews Walk Climb segment on Strava eluded me once more, deciding to save myself for another day when in better shape.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

This week’s running – 9th to 15th of May 2016


Not quite as bad as above, but close enough!

Week 1 of the 22 week marathon schedule began…

Kit drop time

“No such thing as wrong weather, just the wrong clothing” said someone, somewhere. The prior weekend’s heatwave hit home that I needed some additional lightweight kit to make this marathon campaign as achievable, and therefore as comfortable as possible.

Browsing through the Nike website, they actually had nothing that met my needs and they were pretty much out of stock of the tried and true Miler vest that I’ve worn for years in training. Nike had also seemingly discontinued the Race Day shorts that I’ve relied upon since forever, replacing it instead with a pair that’s almost £20 more expensive at £55!

So, I went off in search of what other brands had to offer. Adidas was a non-starter with designs that I knew would annoy the hell out of me. In the end, Under Armour and Brooks unexpectedly came good. Under Armour had some lightweight vests (Streaker Heatgear) for around £17 each with 15% discount, so I picked up a couple for the collection. Brooks had some race shorts that were uncannily similar in design to Nike’s Race Day version, but with additional gel pockets; I snapped up two pairs and the total came to just a little more than the £55 that Nike wanted for just one.

I rounded off the kit drop by replacing my assortment of knackered socks with some fresh sets of MoreMile’s Moscows at eight pairs for £20, along with two additional pairs of Nike’s Pegasus 32 running shoes that were 20% off.

Marathon campaign in the summer? Bring it on!

4x 1600m at 10k pace

As I’ve said many a time before, I’m not a fan of effort between 10k and half marathon pace; that feeling when you’re running reasonably hard, but not all out. The recent DK10K exposed this and had me sat at nearer half marathon pace, rather than 10k pace.

After the short-lived several days of glorious spring/summer-esque weather, things took a turn for the worse and I ended up completing this session in very wet conditions.

After what was probably an inadequate warm-up in hindsight, I went into the first 1600m rep at around 3:51 per km pace, but was always off target by a couple of seconds. Thoughts immediately turned to what the three remaining reps would look like…

Despite the first rep being an eye-opener, the 3:45 recovery was still probably too generous and 3:30 or even 3:15 would have sufficed.

The next three reps were actually not bad at all and reasonably consistent in pace. It was only in the final 400m of each remaining rep when the effort to stay on target bubbled to the surface to make me wish for it all to be over. Splits below:

  1. 6:14
  2. 6:07
  3. 6:12
  4. 6:14

Here’s the Strava data for the session.

5 miles from city centre

The schedule called for 5 miles on Wednesday, which coincided quite nicely with a run-commute from the city centre.

Conditions weren’t great, with light drizzly showers adding to the already high levels of humidity. I took things easy since this was to be treated as more of a recovery run than anything at a prescribed pace.

I’m leaving the door open on repeating this run-commute on Mondays. The schedule doesn’t ask for it, but they’re undoubtedly handy ways to get easy runs in whilst I would otherwise be sat in traffic anyway.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

9 miles from work

We were now officially in that awkward period of disrupted weather. Thursday was the polar-opposite of Wednesday for 21 degrees to make this second run-commute of the week quite tricky.

Anticipating the warm conditions, I made this my first official training run of the year in a vest. Fellow runners on the canal were wearing all sorts on the spectrum; one bloke I saw wore a jacket and leggings!

As convenient as I found the canal network whilst living in the Jewellery Quarter, I despised it during the warmer seasons due to the floods of fair-weather idiots it tends to bring out. The number of people completely oblivious to their surroundings or other people around them was incredible.

Approaching the tunnel near The Vale, I did the courteous thing and allowed a cyclist to exit the tunnel before I entered, yet I was not given the same courtesy on the other side. I was maybe only 20m from the end when one guy on a road bike came charging in but was forced to stop because he realised he couldn’t get past me. “Thanks for waiting.” was my curt response. “I didn’t see you…” was his sheepish reply. “Kinda hard to miss me.” was my final contribution as I squeezed past him wearing day-glo colours.

Twat Cyclist Thursday© continued as I was nearly mowed down on two separate occasions by cyclists that came tearing around blind bends near bridges without alerting others with bells. One narrowly went past, whilst the other had to come skidding to a stop to avoid clattering right into me.

Even without idiots to contend with, the run was tough in the heat. I was a touch dehydrated going into it and carrying a bag on my shoulders meant I was sweating more than I originally anticipated with no airflow back there. Further evaluation and I concluded I can condense things down further to fit inside my Flipbelt, leaving almost everything else at the office and negate the need for the bag to come along. Anyway, hopefully it won’t be too long before I become better adjusted to the rising mercury readings.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Newport Parkrun

Newport’s event is actually the very first bit of Parkrun tourism I embarked on way back in 2012. I’d not been back to Tredegar Park since early October, when I ran it at a sedate pace the day before the Cardiff Half Marathon. Saturday gone was also an opportunity to catch-up with an old buddy of mine, Nigel Foulkes-Nock, who I’d not seen in absolutely ages.

I took the opportunity to test out some of the new kit from above, so out came the incredibly bright orange Under Armour vest and the Brooks shorts. The vest is ridiculously lightweight and rivals my trademark yellow Nike race vest. It’s also ridiculously long and I could lose 3 inches from the bottom without any worry. The shorts are sublime; the fit is perfect and they stay out of the way. The 5 inch length is ideal for me since I can’t pull off split shorts and become self-conscious flashing too much thigh!

I completed a full lap of the summer route as my warm-up to re-familiarise myself with the conditions underfoot. Newport takes place on a National Trust site and is not a fast course. It’s a trail event ran almost entirely on gravel, wood chips, dirt path and sand; only a wee 100m straight in the middle of each lap is on tarmac. Some work had been completed in the forest section to clear some trees and gave that stretch a totally different feel to the last time I ran it.

All caught up with Nigel, we placed ourselves on the wide start line and off things went.

I wanted a controlled run with the intended outcome of a new course PB around 19:30. Like at most events, people went haring off from the line and I was certain only a small percentage would be able to hold the pace and not drop off. I began overtaking a lot of people after only 400m or so in!

I settled into a nice rhythm and remained steady, producing first and second km splits of 4:03 and 4:01 respectively.

It wasn’t until around halfway through the run when I began to come into contact with the backmarkers. Newport Parkrun’s organisers formally lay on Couch to 5k programmes, which explained the swell of runners towards the rear of the field; the group leaders were thoughtful enough to remind all of their runners to stay to the left of the course to allow myself and others to overtake unimpeded.

Two guys ahead of me slowed and came back towards me. I took shelter behind them briefly before moving on to chase down another chap ahead. Once clear of him, looking ahead did not present any new targets to lock on to and only lapped runners. The third and fourth km clocked in at 4:04 and 3:58 respectively.


Onwards to a new course PB – photo by Nicola Brann

Moving into the final km, I was nervous because I had to navigate my way through the forest section with unpredictable lapped runners all around me. The marshals were top-notch and continued to keep everybody on the left of the course, including on the awkward little bridge, where I was only slowed down very briefly. With the sheer mass of runners around me, I couldn’t see the cones laid out on the floor and went slightly wide rather than cutting the corner as the organisers wanted. This mis-step on my part allowed the guy I overtook to pull level with me before creating a lead that he ran with all the way to the finish. I wanted to stay steady and had no appetite to chase him down again; looking at my Garmin confirmed I’d hit my target of a new course PB of 19:28 in quite a comfortable fashion. I also finished 13th out of 600 runners, though I was slightly disappointed I didn’t finish higher given my previous position best of 10th.

Most enjoyable with a change of scenery and no pressure to perform!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

14 miles – to Usk and back

Stood on my feet for most of Saturday afternoon and evening, I wasn’t entirely sure how my legs would react to a 14 mile long run. Thankfully, the sun’s rays weren’t nearly as warm as one week prior – things could have really become messy!

When I reached Usk, it was time to deploy the extra mileage I’d plotted out. What quickly became obvious was that Usk (and much of the surrounding area) is not particularly pedestrian friendly; the pavement was potholed and cracked to oblivion from countless winters freezing and defrosting, leaving me to tread gingerly for fear of turning over an ankle.

I consciously stepped the pace up for the closing few miles, including on the “Saint Andrews Walk Climb” Strava segment. What came out on the other side was my second fastest ever time on the segment, and second only to my own fastest time on the all-time leader board. Well, it seemed today was the day for records to fall, because several hours later, I’d been dethroned! The guy that took my crown only bested me by a few seconds for the 800m climb, but what’s even more remarkable is he did it during the 13th mile of a 21 mile solo training run, with the whole thing covered at an average of 6:24 per mile! I bowed to his supremacy…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

This week’s running – 1st to 7th of June 2015

The road to recovery

OK, recovery by my standards at least…

This week was all about active recovery.

8 canal miles

I promised myself that after the Bristol 10k, I would lay off some of the harder running for a wee while and get back to a state of feeling fresh again. That began with an 8 mile run that covered my approximate marathon pace range. Not having run a marathon this year, or one to the best of my ability ever, it’s a pretty big range from 7:45 to 7:10 minute miles.

The canal towpath renovation was complete, with all stretches paved over and covered with rather excessive amounts of gravel. Early on in the run and when being smacked by a head wind, the lack of traction made me feel like I was being dragged backwards at times. Nonetheless, I felt great out there and took the opportunity to focus on my breathing, which was rather out of sorts during Sunday’s race.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

5k from work with footpod calibration


I love the ability of my Garmin to utilise the footpod to both measure cadence and distance if the signal ever craps out (newer Garmins have this built in and don’t require a footpod). I don’t believe it needs calibrating for cadence – after all, it just needs to detect when the foot makes contact with the floor – but calibration for distance is of more significance, and was something I hadn’t completed in over a year. Oops… Thankfully, it’s rare that my Garmin loses its signal entirely apart from inside long tunnels.

The advice given regarding calibration was to find a relatively straight course with good GPS coverage. Given I was running home from the office along the canal towpath, I incorporated this task into the mix and hence why I don’t have a data track for it on Garmin Connect.

The calibration took roughly 0.8 miles to complete and gave the footpod a correction factor of 1,083 from a default value of 1,000. Rather pleasingly, the previous calibrated factor was 1,082 for almost no change in over a year.

Panorama: Catch me if you can

With little to no warning, a Panorama feature aired on BBC One with a focus on doping within athletics and shared many parallels with the Lance Armstrong investigations from years past. A main draw of the feature concerned the Nike Oregon Project, namely its coach and one of its stars.

In the feature, a journalist set out to dope himself with EPO to see just what the effects would be on his performance, but also to better gauge just how much or little EPO it would take to trigger a positive test. All that was required were a few micro-doses to improve his VO2 max by tangible levels and crucially, still avoid detection by the biological passport system. Due to the low amounts of EPO used, it simply wasn’t significant enough to cause a dramatic change in his blood samples. Of course, one could argue that had he have been tested specifically for EPO use or over a longer period to amplify the changes, he may have been caught. But what the experiment did highlight was just how little it took for a performance increase and for elite athletes, that’s possibly all it would take to beat your rivals for the win. Worryingly, it appeared incredibly easy to obtain vials of EPO for personal use. There have been a number of reports of late citing increased doping amongst amateur athletes, and I can only see this increasing.

At the centre of the feature were Alberto Salazar, possibly the world’s most famous athletics coach of recent times, and Galen Rupp, one of the USA’s most famous long-distance athletes of recent times and Mo Farah’s training partner. Numerous witnesses, including the high-profile Kara Goucher, came forward to discuss cases of Salazar pushing the boundaries of what it would take to trigger positive doping tests, and also unethical behaviour by bending rules when it came to non-banned substances. Galen Rupp was targeted as his project of sorts, though the programme was quick to add that Mo Farah was not accused of doping, though was inevitably caught in the cross-fire.

I’ve been a fan of both Alberto Salazar and Galen Rupp for a number of years. As a geek that’s into running, I’ve found Salazar’s approaches to training to be most fascinating, and Rupp is one of the few Americans to give the east-Africans a run for their money. Like a lot of Lance Armstrong fans back in the day, I’m naively still holding out for some hope that these allegations are just allegations, but I can’t ignore the accounts of those that did come forward. It’ll be a dark, dark day for athletics if all this proves to be true; this is just what the sport doesn’t need right now, what with the controversial Justin Gatlin who has twice been banned from competition due to positive tests, yet is somehow running faster than ever before, whilst also older and supposedly clean.

The airing of the feature appeared to have been timed for maximum disruption, at least to Mo Farah, who decided not to race at Sunday’s Birmingham Diamond League meet. Can’t blame the guy really; I know how mental stress can affect your mojo before a race, so what’s the point of him going in to lose at a distance that isn’t one of his strengths anyway?

If you haven’t caught the programme yet, it can be found on BBC iPlayer if your territory is supported.

8 canal miles

Returning to the canals, I kept to my promise of not running anything faster than marathon pace at least during the week temporarily. I also opted to make this out and back run steadier and less progressive, with most of the miles between the warm-up and warm-down coming in at around 7:30 to 7:40.

I dusted off and donned my heart rate monitor for a peek at what the ticker was up to. I was pretty tired from work, and the warmer temperature coupled with the beginnings of hay fever meant I wasn’t expecting to be impressed. The strap of the monitor managed to chafe my chest to bits where there’s now a nice chunk of skin missing. Downside out of the way, I was pleasantly surprised by the heart rate data where I’m now approximately 15 – 30 seconds faster per mile at the same heart rate compared to seven weeks ago.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Newport Parkrun

It had been so long since the last time I was at Newport Parkrun that I had to remind myself of how many laps the route entailed! I also probably left for the Newport event a touch on the late side and arrived with about 15 minutes remaining to visit the toilet, get my warm-up done and have a natter with Nigel. Father Time must have been on my side because I managed to do all three with two minutes to spare before the start line scramble!

Nigel’s very much a facilitator at Newport Parkrun. He knows most regulars that run there and will frequently try to pair runners with pacers to make PBs happen. He introduced me to a young lad, Lloyd, who had previously broken 20 minutes when the sun, moon and stars aligned in his favour, but not again since. I was pretty confident I had what it took to go under 20 minutes, though had also only ever done it once before at Newport on the winter-route, which has a reputation for being faster, yet more prone to congestion. We agreed to stay close and as luck would have it, the event also laid on pacemakers for the day with the talented Emma Wookey (first Welsh lady in the Cardiff Half) leading the way for us.

The start at Newport was fast – it always is – and you really need to watch your footing on the trail-like terrain made up loose gravel and stray tree roots. A nasty headwind introduced itself from an awkward angle that couldn’t be avoided without going out of one’s way. Emma the pacer zoomed right past me and Lloyd, with him taking immediate chase; I took a peek at my Garmin and I was pretty much bang on target for sub-20 pace and remained faithful to it, guessing that there was some GPS discrepancy at play (there always is at Newport).

After 2km, I was dead cert that Emma was going too fast to simply dip under 20 minutes and assertively shared this with the couple of guys I was running with; one chap agreed that she was at around 10 seconds too fast for the target.

Inevitably, the pack thinned. Emma was still way ahead but Lloyd had dropped off the pace due to his enthusiastic start. I encouraged him to stay in front of me, but he was drifting backwards at an alarming rate.

With 1km to go, I found myself pairing up with a guy in a cycling jersey and a Fairwater club runner to keep the pace going. As we moved into the forested portion of the course, congestion became rife due to the lapped runners. The cyclist jersey guy suddenly kicked to storm ahead; puzzled, I wasn’t entirely sure why he threw in a sudden injection of pace and then remembered there was a small single file bridge rapidly approaching. I second guessed he was trying to put himself into a gap to avoid being boxed in by slower runners, which was enough to convince me to join him in pursuit along with the Fairwater runner.

Safely through on the other side, we wound things up and began a final surge on the home straight with a tailwind for assistance. The cycling jersey guy managed to put significant daylight between us for a massive lead of almost 10 seconds. I urged the Fairwater runner to stay with me, but he was spent and had nothing left to give, so I had to reel a guy in a 50 Club t-shirt in to keep me ticking along until the end.

Crossing the line, I paused my Garmin for 19:46; a PB on the summer course but 8 seconds shy of an all-time course PB at Newport set in much cooler conditions. I felt pretty good; tired but not completely shagged with something left in the tank. I thanked the cycling jersey guy for predicting the congestion with precision, and for pulling me through it in the process.

I stopped to watch Nigel come through just before the 23 minute mark, annoyed with himself that his PB was almost a year ago via our collective efforts.

Unexpectedly, I bumped into Brian Dias from Cardiff Parkrun who partook in some tourism along with the Nike Store Running Club. Lately, we’ve been facing off against each other at the Cardiff event, but I was dead impressed by his 19:10 that would be out of reach for me even on the best of days. Clearly, he’s been holding himself back when we’ve met, whereas I habitually go hell for leather at the Welsh capital.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Dave and Elsa ran their 50th Parkruns

About bloody time, too!

Oh, and congrats to both Dave and Elsa for finally reaching the 50 Club! They now join the long, long wait to get their t-shirts…

Rest for the wicked

Shattered. Knackered. Destroyed. Whatever colloquialism you can think of for tired. I couldn’t bear the thought of a long, Sunday run to cap off the week; clearly, I love running and for it to get that bad, I knew to back it off.

The hope is to freshen up before the fast approaching Two Castles 10k. I’m unsure how I want to tackle the race, either to treat it as a glorified training run, or to hit it all guns blazing. The more I think about it, the more I want to do the latter. I’ve decided to not run at Caerphilly to give myself some much needed recovery and to knuckle back down with some semblance of undisturbed training.

Looking at last year’s performance, I finished right about where I thought I would be both in terms of time and position in the field. Dave and I reasoned the climbs had cost us in the region of 20 to 30 seconds in 2014, though we’d neglected to factor in the 8mph tailwind that must have also minimised some of the damage. Scoping out the weather for Sunday, an 11mph tailwind has been forecast, which is a massive boost on the point to point course. Oh what the hell, I’m gonna give sub-40 a bash and see what comes out the other side!

Here’s this week’s excerpt from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Do whatever it takes to finish ahead of a costumed runner

Because being outkicked by Elmo is too much to bear.

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

Running didn't go well this at the start of the week

The week didn’t start well at all…

Tuesday was my normally scheduled speedwork session at Cannon Hill Park. After an extended warm-up, I went into the first 800m rep and everything felt normal. Going into the second rep, I felt faster but I also felt flat at the same time like I didn’t have the mojo to continue. I called it quits after that and went for my warm-down. I can only put the odd sensation down to two things; one is that I was still recovering from my hard long run on Sunday. The second reason is that due to the strong breeze, I had cooled down too much after my warm-up stretches. Anyway, here’s the Garmin data for the interval session of shame.

After Tuesday’s shocker I decided to do a cut down session on Thursday, being mindful that I should be tapering slightly for the Cardiff 10k on Sunday. I headed out to Edgbaston Reservoir for 2 laps to make 5k. I felt good and covered the distance at a decent pace for a mid-week run. Here’s the data for the run.

The wheels started to come off on Friday morning when I woke up with a sore throat, realising that I had seriously overcooked it. I wasn’t bunged up but I wasn’t taking any chances so I popped into Boots on the way to work and picked up some Lockets and some Day Nurse capsules.

Andy and Nigel at Newport Parkrun

Andy and Nigel at Tredegar Park, Newport Parkrun

I had been looking forward to Saturday’s Parkrun for a while because I had arranged to meet Nigel from Lliswerry Runners at Newport Parkrun. Nigel and I have been exchanging a number of emails over the last few months ever since he got in touch with me via this very blog about the Caerphilly 10k route. Nigel is also the man responsible for a segment on Marathon Talk previously where Martin and Tom discussed the various types of PB out there.

Morgan joined me on Saturday morning and came along for Newport Parkrun despite having completed the crazy 7 mile Llanhennock Hill route the day before. We had an easy 1 mile warm-up before rejoining the masses at the start line. I wasn’t looking to go all out, treating it as a 10k race pace run for the Cardiff 10k. I do enjoy the Newport route, but I rarely run it because I like to use Cardiff Parkrun as measurement of my ability. I felt steady and fresh for the entire run, finishing in 20:33; I’m more than confident that I can nail sub-20 at Newport if I needed to. The time and pace I ran at confirmed to me that I would be OK at the Cardiff 10k the next day. Morgan finished in a very commendable 24:30ish time and still looked pretty fresh, so he could most likely do 24:00 minutes if he pushed it. My Garmin data for Newport Parkrun can be found here.

We caught up with Nigel after the run and went for a coffee at the Tredegar House café. Here, he introduced me to some of the Newport Parkrun team where Morgan and I were able to spectate how the results are processed and uploaded, along with the sorting of the finish tokens. It was all fascinating stuff and I now have even more respect for the efforts that the Parkrun organisers put in each week to give us all a free and timed 5k run. We had a great chat with Nigel, discussing injuries and various races we had participated in and had coming up. He’ll be at the Cardiff Half Marathon next month so hopefully I can arrange to meet up with him before or after in some way.

Sunday finally came and rather than bore you with an abridged version of my Cardiff 10k report, I’ll send you to the full fat edition instead. It was a great race and one that I know I’ll look back on fondly for years to come.

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!