This week’s running – 26th February to 4th March 2018

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Oops! Wrong Beast from the East!

Gah. The Beast from the East left a trail of destruction and calamity in its wake.

Duisburg 5k tempo

It was that time of the year again where work saw me in Germany to exhibit at a retail technology trade show. A ghastly 06:05 Sunday flight from Birmingham to Amsterdam Schipol to Dusseldorf meant I was knackered before I’d even done any work. Whilst on the flight, I was amazed by the number of 400m tracks I could see from the air and reasoned that, like the US, most schools likely have their own on site.

A fun German running fact for you: the founder of Adidas is the brother of Puma’s founder.

At this point in the week (Monday), I had little to no doubt that I would be toeing up on the startline of the Newport Half Marathon; I wanted an easy taper and this 5k tempo around the streets of Duisburg was my only planned dose of speed in the lead up to the race.

Early signs of the Beast from the East struck Duisburg, leaving me wondering what I was doing in sub-zero temperatures. Leaving the hotel, I had the choice of going left or right on my planned loop; I chose badly and went left, straight into the headwind, which persisted for much of the loop… Each time I passed the same guy on the main street, I could see him looking at me in despair! One of the few things that made finishing more bearable was the thought of the hot power shower in my room and the breakfast buffet waiting for me.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5 miles run-commute

Damn. The cold temperatures and biting wind followed me home from Germany…

Running on Pershore Road, I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of anything. On almost any given day, I can expect to be hit by winds from the south; turning east towards Cannon Hill Park – ah, that’s where the wind was hiding!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Snowy 10k – to Cannon Hill Park and back

Shattered from my several days in Germany and then straight back into the office, I opted to take Friday off in a bid to freshen up ahead of Sunday’s Newport Half Marathon. Except the dreaded Beast from the East had other plans and dumped a whole load of snow across the nation. This was enough to cancel not only my target race, but also the Bath Half Marathon and the Warwick Half Marathon. The only races to survive were the Cambridge Half Marathon and the Big Half in London. I was kicking myself because I’d seriously considered the Big Half, and even had a Good For Age place that I’d chosen not to take up. Rubbing salt into my open wound, the Big Half also turned out to be one helluva fast race; my buddy, Ian Saunders, who kept me company for much of the 2017 Yorkshire Marathon, went on to run a blistering breakout performance of 80:39 (congrats!)

Full of energy from a light week, I headed out in the snow to Cannon Hill Park for 10k. The worst of the snow had not dropped just yet, so it was rather odd to see long stretches in the park with no snow at all, and then long stretches, several inches deep. Conditions only worsened as Friday rolled into Saturday…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

8 miles inc Freedom Cannon Hill parkrun

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The two Andy Ys at Cannon Hill Park – photo by Andy Young

With no race for me to attend on Sunday, I was on the lookout for at least a parkrun to visit. No such luck, either, as it was a complete cancellation blanket for the West Midlands. Rather than waste the morning, I still made my way to Cannon Hill Park in the hope that a few die-hards would also be looking to cover a freedom run on the course.

Getting to the park was challenging, as the snow on the pavements had been churned up quite badly. Once I was in the park, things got easier but I still felt like my shoes were at their limit on occasion; they’re just trail race shoes, so feature a lot less traction than something more purpose-built. Completing one lap of the park and with few other souls about, I was about to wrap things up and head for home when I bumped into the other Andy Y – Andy Young! We had the same idea and got right to it.

We discussed the cancellations of the region, both unequivocally agreeing that it was the right thing to do. Whereas we’d both ran in several of the snowed-out Cannon Hill events of 2013, the parkrun landscape was very different back then; anybody who ran in the snow was likely better able to handle themselves and probably had appropriate kit, whereas nowadays, the field is so varied and diverse that a much more holistic view to safety needs considering.

Upon finishing, I declared myself ready to head back for home, whereas Andy Young opted to get another 5k in to work up to half marathon distance for the morning!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

15 snowy-slushy miles – to The Vale and back

Eugh. Now that was hard work! The Beast from the East finally departed our shores and temperatures began returning to normal, meaning I had snow and slush to contend with.

I wore my trail shoes again, but anybody that owns trail shoes will know how jarring they can be for running on the road and pavement. And that was a regular occurrence, as I found myself moving from pavement to snow to slush and back again… Slush turned out to be the most difficult terrain to run through, as it absorbed my energy and soaked my shoes for added weight.

I’m hopeful majority of the remaining snow will have cleared by the middle of next week, returning conditions to normal for March. Unsure of when the postponed Newport Half Marathon will be rescheduled for, I duly entered the Coventry Half Marathon for 18th of March in a desperate bid to try and capture and benchmark some of this newfound fitness. Let this be a lesson for everybody that when you’re feeling good on race day, capitalise on it as you never know what might step in your way!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

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This week’s running – 8th to 21st January 2018

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Apologies for the delay, folks – I’ve rolled two weeks into this one mega edition to compensate.

5k recovery

Holy bejesus was it cold!

Strangely, my legs were both tired and spritely from the previous day’s long distance. I was cautious to keep things feeling incredibly easy due to having been on my feet all day building an exhibition stand at work; now what do they say about not trying anything new the week before a race and keeping labour-intensive activities to a minimum?

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

9 miles from work with strides

I employed strides in most of my non-pace specific runs in a bid to keep my legs revved up without overexherting myself ahead of the Brass Monkey Half Marathon. And do you know what? They’d worked an absolute treat!

My form felt swift and my legs felt nimble; my mind also felt sharper and more connected to the rest of me.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5 mile run-commute with strides

Run-commuting in the winter is especially challenging, mainly due to the sheer amount of kit I have to lug around. In the summer, my holdall looks pathetically empty as I take everything I’ll need for run-commuting into work on Mondays. A couple of t-shirts, vests, pairs of shorts and socks are all I need. In the winter, I’m taking long sleeve tops, t-shirts for layering, gloves and more in. By the end of the working week, I’m currently returning home with several coats, scarves along with work clothes I’ve changed out of at the office! As I said, much easier in the summer, even with the oppressive heat!

Once again, the strides interspersing the slow recovery pace on this run-commute were perfect to keep my legs from getting ploddy.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Brass Monkey Half Marathon 2018 review

For the full write-up on the 2018 Brass Monkey Half Marathon, please click here.

5k recovery

Even with the windier than ideal conditions at the Brass Monkey Half Marathon, I’d say all of us participants were very fortunate, and practically got away with murder, for the conditions rapidly deteriorated only a day later.

In spite of the new PB, my legs felt tremendous and I was clearly still riding that race high. This would eventually end later in the week…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

9 miles from work

What goes up must come down…

My legs finally began to tire and I was in need of some sleep from all the racing shenanigans. Apart from a couple of splits, most for this run were in the high 8 minutes and I dared not push much harder.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Under Armour ColdGear Reactor kit review

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Thanks to Under Armour UK and Synergy for the review kit – photo by Lis Yu

Back in November, I was contacted by Under Armour’s UK representatives at Synergy with a chance to sample and review some of their winter running kit. I jumped at the opportunity and here are my thoughts for your consideration.

For full transparency, the sample kit I’ve reviewed below was supplied for free. My views are mine alone and have not been influenced by either Under Armour’s or Synergy’s generosity.

Under Armour is a brand I’m somewhat familiar with, already owning a number of their HeatGear vests. As a relative new kid on the sportswear block, they’ve taken on the giants, Nike and Adidas, and are winning in some of the battles.

Starting life as a manufacturer of compression tops, they’ve since moved into a much wider variety of sportswear disciplines, including football, rugby, tennis, basketball and golf. We can also add running to that list. Funnily enough, most of the major sportswear manufacturers aped Under Armour’s compression wear and practically all have something akin to the form fitting clothing.

Under Armour ColdGear Reactor fitted long sleeve

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Initial thoughts

Upon first receiving the top, my immediate impression was that it was too much for the task at hand. It felt far too structured and would be too warm for all but the coldest of conditions.

Inspecting it superficially, it’s certainly well made. The fabric is of a high quality with good construction to it. The cut is what I would call semi-fitted, aided by a slight stretch to sit reasonably close, but not constrict like Under Armour’s traditional compression wear.

Size and fit

The sizing is consistent with the three HeatGear vests I already own, that is to say it’s very long… As you can see from the above photo of me, the hem is ridiculously low and seems to bear little relation to the length of the sleeves, which are surprisingly almost perfect for a small size. Whereas I’m short at only 5ft 6, my height and limbs are not wildly out of proportion; I can only assume Under Armour’s sizing is aimed at taller people, because I could easily lose 3-4 inches from the hem before the top no longer looks like a dress on me. I can sort of understand why Under Armour have gone down this path because it allows them to capture a much larger slice of the population; the top still fits me well across the chest and in the arms, whereas I can forgive the silly length or even have it re-hemmed by a tailor. If you’re slender and tall, you should seriously give Under Armour clothing a try as it’ll likely be a perfect fit.

In use

I’ve said already that I was initially sceptical of the ColdGear Reactor long sleeve. I took delivery of it when temperatures sat at around 10°C, which was too warm for its intended purpose. Even on an easy warm-up run, I was sweating after only 10 minutes of wear and deemed the product to be overkill. That suddenly all changed once the thermometer mercury plummeted and that’s when the top really came into its own…

If you’re a runner that typically feels cold, you’ll love the Under Armour ColdGear Reactor top. For everybody else, I’d say this top is right at home in temperatures of 5°C or lower, or when strong cool winds are prevalent. I dislike layering up when I run, so having a single layer that’s just enough has proven to be ideal. There are are some really nice touches that make this top a great cold weather training companion, such as the raised neck line to retain more of the body’s natural warmth and the technical fabric that’s designed to increase surface area and trap heat without overly increasing weight or bulk. The fabric is pleasant against bare skin with no signs of chafing in the half-dozen or so runs I’ve attempted whilst wearing the top. The underarm area and sides are a mesh to allow for some slight heat dissipation, should things get too warm. What would make the top perfect is the addition of a zip for the neck to the chest as a way to shed heat more quickly, especially during more vigorous runs.

Closing thoughts

I’ve grown to really love the Under Armour ColdGear Reactor top, especially as we’ve gone back into a cold snap in the UK. I’ve found myself readily grabbing this top as my default choice of late, especially on easier paced runs where I’m not necessarily out running for long enough or hard enough to even warm up. Only the odd sizing and the lack of a neck zip stop it from being perfect.

Pros

  • Effective single layer warmth
  • Raised neckline
  • Comfortable
  • Little to no added bulk
  • Wind resistant

Cons

  • Size and fit versus length is odd, unless you’re tall
  • Difficult to shed excess heat once too warm
  • Reserved for the coldest of conditions

Available here via underamour.co.uk.

Under Armour ColdGear Reactor fleece tapered trousers

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Initial thoughts

Whereas I was at first doubtful of the ColdGear Reactor top, I was scratching my head even more upon taking delivery of these trousers…

The first thing that struck me when unpacking and handling the trousers is how bulky they are! The waistline and ankle cuffs are incredibly chunky, where a more is more approach seems to have been adopted. The trousers, whilst claiming to be tapered, look sloppy and baggy – I had to double check they were actually intended for running, where something sleeker and more fitted is the norm from most manufacturers, even for trousers.

Size and fit

The length of the trousers, like the ColdGear Reactor top, measures up on the long side. The overall fit as a result makes me look like MC Hammer in the photo at the top of this review section! I may be wrong here, but I would dare say most runners want something more form fitting; they don’t need the solution to always fit like a pair of tights, but something less bulky and closer to the skin than these trousers would be preferable.

In use

Sadly, the ColdGear Reactor trousers are disappointing in action. There’s simply too much trouser than is needed! I’m not sure about others, but my legs are doing most of the hard work when it comes to running, so they generate far more heat than my upper body, where more protection from the elements is needed and welcome – my legs just don’t need this much protection. Whereas I’ve been readily wearing the ColdGear Reactor top as it’s gotten colder, I’ve not once felt the need to wear these trousers beyond for review purposes.

Even as trousers reserved for warming up before races and cooling down afterwards, they’re flawed because of the chunky ankle cuffs. There’s no zip on the ankle, which makes changing out of the trousers impossible without taking my shoes off first, which isn’t always ideal or possible, especially when outdoors.

Sadly, the positives of these trousers are also marred! There are plenty of zipped pockets for things like coins, keys and a phone, but one of the additional pull tabs on the zips somehow came off in my washing machine and almost jammed in the rotating drum mechanism!

Closing thoughts

Can you tell that I’m not a fan of these trousers? I feel like I’ve fought against these trousers each time I’ve worn them, where they should instead be blurring into the background as I run. If you’re on the tall side and feel your legs frequently run cold, these may be for you, but I think most people would be better served by a pair of more traditional running tights from Under Armour.

Pros

  • Generous length for taller people
  • Lots of pockets
  • Warm for those that need leg insulation

Cons

  • Poor fit that’s distracting
  • Bulky and baggy
  • Zip tabs somehow dislodge in the washing machine
  • Too warm for the majority of people

Available here via underarmour.co.uk.

9 miles from work with strides

I was sure to take in the joy of the simplicity of this route ahead of the planned St James Road tunnel closure. Fewer than 2 miles of the route are covered away from the canal towpath, whereas the detour I have planned from Monday 22nd of January onwards for 3 months will probably double the amount of running on street level to around 4 out of 9 miles.

The strides unfortunately failed to perk my legs up, with race recovery firmly having taken hold…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill parkrun

With temperatures having dropped, treacherous black ice formed in a few spots around Cannon Hill Park. Due to the rain, it became near impossible to tell what was ice and what was simply water glistening on the ground! Nearby Sandwell Valley and Perry Hall parkruns had already cancelled, but it was deemed just about safe enough for Cannon Hill to remain open for business on the normal route.

Whereas I’d had plans to tackle this parkrun hard, my legs had other ideas – they simply didn’t want to turnover any faster and without any more power than around 20 minute 5k pace. My breathing was, however, perfectly fine by comparison…

With about a mile to go, a Birchfield Harrier youngster drifted into contact with me from ahead. He’d held on to a good pace for much of the run, but it was clear it started to get the better of him. I stepped in and gave him some encouragement to get behind and stay close to me. He eventually crossed the line just a few seconds later, having done well to keep the invisible rubber band from snapping.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

I had to hightail it out of Cannon Hill Park to make my over to the next item of this week’s entry…

The National Running Show

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Susie Chan speaking at The National Running Show 2018

What’s this? A running trade show in my backyard? Why, don’t mind if I do!

Taking place at the Birmingham NEC, this was the debut of The National Running Show. It’d been years since I last visited a running trade show that stood independently of a race (The Running Show, Sandown Park back in 2012), and as a frequent visitor and worker of trade shows, I was curious to see how it would play out.

In tow were Lis and Dave, with the guest speakers being the main draw for them. Reaching the NEC at about 11:15, the place was surprisingly very busy, so much so that we spent some 10-15 minutes queuing to get in! Once inside, it was unbearably chaotic due to the small hall utilised and poor placement of certain exhibitors (I’m looking at you, Saucony).

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Steve Edwards at The National Running Show 2018

Kelly Holmes, Jo Pavey and Jenny Meadows had already given their talks, which I was disappointed to have missed out on, but I did get to sit-in on sessions from Steve Edwards (800+ sub-3:30 marathons and counting), Luke Tyburski (ultra-runner with a propeller hat) and Susie Chan (regular person turned serial ultra-runner). The talks were pretty good, but timings were a mess due to the organisers not budgeting enough time between sessions for changeovers. It’ll be interesting to see which guests appear next year, with Paula Radcliffe already announced.

Exhibitor-wise, the variety was OK and perhaps only slightly worse than what you would typically see at a big city pre-race expo. Expectedly, there were none of the big dogs like Garmin or Adidas that you normally see on the expo circuit; presumably, they steered clear having already agreed their budgets and would wait out the first year before making any future considerations.

There were exhibitors selling nutrition, recovery products, clothing, shoes, and so on. Also present were a number of races touting their wares. I spoke with the guys from Run For All – the organisation behind the Yorkshire Marathon – who were pleased as punch to hear I’d run their race twice and have been spreading the good word ever since. My conversation with the Swansea Half Marathon was, however, far less productive. Enquiring about whether they had a show discount of some sort, they looked at me like I was some sort of buffoon that dared ask such a stupid question, but they did offer to sign me up there and then. I declined and said I could do that from the comfort of my own home once having read the T&Cs… They’d obviously exhibited at the show to ply for more participants, so it was entirely bizarre that they didn’t have something to seal the deal with would-be entrants like me. ABC – Always Be Closing!

All in all, it was an entertaining way to while away a couple of hours. If not for the guest speakers, I’d have easily navigated my way through the event twice in an hour or so to give you a sense of the size and scale.

15 snowy-slushy-rainy miles

Back in 2013 when training for my very first marathon – the London Marathon – I was caught out by a freak drop of snow to coincide with my final long run of 22 miles… I needed the run and had no choice but to head out on to the white stuff. I don’t recall much from the run; not how I felt during or after, so I must have wiped it from memory.

Looking outside today, I let out a long sigh when I saw more snow, albeit just a light dusting of it on the pavements.

Things started off very well, with the fresh snow proving to be no issue at all as would be expected. I regretted not donning my Oakleys with a pair of high contrast lenses; the falling snow would occasionally blow into my eyes, proving to be quite painful. It was good to see so many of my fellow runners out getting the miles in, with everybody proving especially friendly and acknowledging our collective dedication/craziness.

Once on the return leg, things got much tougher. Rain started falling to turn the snow into slush, which proved much more difficult to run on than snow. Each step continually soaked my feet and caused freezing cold water to slosh around in my shoes, adding to my already heavy feeling legs.

Once back at my front door, my hands, despite being gloved, were too cold to rummage for my key from the tiny zipped pocket it lived in! I had to knock for Lis to let me in and duly jumped straight into a hot shower to get some feeling back into my extremities.

No more snow, please!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

This week’s running – 11th to 17th December 2017

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A post-Sandwell Valley parkrun McDonald’s breakfast is now becoming a tradition…

It’s snow joke when training is disrupted! I’ll grab my coat…

5k recovery

The title’s a bit disingenuous because it suggests I had something to recover from! Snow hitting the Midlands hard meant I’d barely even stretched out my legs the previous day.

At least the snow was still pretty fresh, making for a rather enjoyable crunch with each step!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10k from work

Temperatures plummeted once more, glazing the snow over into hazardous ice. As I ran through Brindley Place, an older gentleman stopped in disbelief to ask, “You’re running on this?” I questioned myself, too, as I had to carefully choose where to plant each foot.

Whereas I’d planned to cover the 9 miles from the office for home, I was mentally and physically exhausted by about 5 miles and opted to call it quits at Selly Oak for just 10k. Having to be alert 100% of the time took its toll, and my left bum cheek and Achilles throbbed from the unusual gait I’d adopted. Thankfully, there was a no.11 bus waiting at the stop, which bizarrely had no passengers on-board apart from me and didn’t stop once for the entire journey back to Kings Heath! I felt a bit like Harry Potter on the Knight Bus; all that was missing was a shrunken head, sounding like Lenny Henry…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Sandwell Valley parkrun-ish

Saturday was rather unusual because virtually all parkruns in the West and East Midlands were called off due to lingering ice. One of the few exceptions was Sandwell Valley, where two brilliant volunteers went above and beyond the call of duty, taking it upon themselves to hack up majority of the ice on the course! Car fully loaded with Simon, Nigel, Dave and me, we added to the rabble made up of many familiar parkrun-deprived faces from the region.

An alternative course was utilised, avoiding the worst of the ice that remained and instead sent runners around the lake for two laps.

Wearing trail shoes on this occasion, I had a bit more grip underfoot to help me nail a sub-20 finish; it should have happened back in November, if not for the long course. Unfortunately, I couldn’t sustain the effort, due to a lack of volume and intensity for almost two weeks from tapering and snow. It’s quite remarkable how quickly sharpness can be lost! Rubbing salt into wounds, I also found myself largely running alone to increase the pace versus effort discrepancy.

Frequently checking my Garmin, I could see something didn’t add up as I was partway through the second lap of the lake. Time and distance were way out if we were only to cover two laps, so perhaps the finish had been moved back to its default location? As I neared the turning point to either run another lap or head for the finish, I noticed a runner ahead of me doubling back on to the course after attempting a third lap.

With a little over a km remaining, I was well and truly blown and I wondered how I could possibly hang on at such an effort? It seemed my prayer had been answered, for on the horizon was the finish line, much earlier than anticipated!

I crossed the line, clocking 16:10 and 4km precisely. Many others around me also acknowledged the course was dramatically short and concluded we should have been sent around the lake for a third lap…

Dave and I both reasoned that a simple calculation to add 25% to each finisher’s recorded time would do the trick, but the organisers decided against this, which I’ve since come to agree with. Whereas it wouldn’t make much different to the vast majority of runners, anybody that likes to thrash the first half of 5km would have received a big boost if 25% was added to their time, not reflecting any fade they would perhaps see in the second half. Me, I’m just glad the run has been added to my total, getting me that bit closer to that 250 club.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

15 miles – to Brindley Place and back

The ice had largely receded by Sunday in all but the most secluded of patches. With an A-race half marathon due in mid-January, I needed some distance in my legs to avoid potentially embarrassing myself! I felt like I’d gone back in time by almost a month, losing much of the recent gains I’d worked hard to attain.

In spite of running what felt like a pretty intense 4km only 24 hours prior, my slumbering legs had somehow been awoken. They felt fresh and snappy, and I was pleased to see my glutes also firing correctly for that extra bit of oomph.

Shortly after Bournville train station on the canal towpath was a fallen tree that had likely come down due to carrying extra load from the snow. It was just slightly too high to vault over, so I opted to stop and cautiously climb over it and avoid catastrophe.

Much of the towpath was perfectly fine for running, but a few spots were almost entirely covered in treacherous sheet ice, making for pretty hairy conditions! There was perhaps just a foot’s width of clear path, which was largely fine as me and oncoming walkers stopped to give way for each other; this approach was all well and good until I encountered somebody with a massive golf umbrella, completely oblivious to those heading towards her…

Even with the stop-start nature of the route, I was surprised to see how much pep I had to my pace from how fresh my legs were. Another 15 miler or two of a similar nature would go down an absolute treat ahead of the Brass Monkey Half Marathon!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

This week’s running – 4th November to 10th December 2017

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Overdressed? No chance! Photo by Lis Yu

So, muggins here only went and fell over whilst running… But not in the snow!

9 miles with 2 at marathon pace

With a 10 mile race scheduled for the end of the week (obviously, didn’t happen!), I reduced the number of runs for a mini-taper, whilst maximising the potency of the times I did run. Sadly, Mother Nature had other plans for me…

Originally, this session should have been at half marathon pace; with the wind howling towards me, the best I could manage was marathon pace without pushing too hard ahead of the upcoming race that wasn’t to be.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

9 miles from work

Remember last week’s initial thoughts on the Nike Vomero 12? As I ran home from the office, I concluded after 3 miles or so that the shoes were definitely around ½ a size too big, which was frustrating as I’m normally a UK 7.5 in all Nike shoes; it’s only this pair and a recent other that appear to have been sized with different lasts.

As comfortable as the Vomero 12 were, I grew increasingly aware that I felt disconnected from my feet, due to the sizing. Then, with just a mile to go until I reached home, horror struck – I tripped going over a low kerb due to the oversized shoes!

Everything went into slow motion, but my flailing hands weren’t enough to regain balance. I hit the deck with a thud, and my left knee, wrists and chin took the brunt of the fall. I lay there for perhaps 10 to 15 seconds as I tried to work out whether anything was broken… My thoughts quickly moved to whether anybody had seen my moment of embarrassment; this was the first time I’d fallen in over seven years of running! Dusting myself off, I’d torn a hole in my tights and badly scraped my knee underneath. I’d also torn two holes in my practically new gloves, whilst also taking chunks out of my wrists and knuckles on both hands. Luckily, whilst my chin had also come into contact with the floor, you’d never know, as there was no visible damage. Oh well, skin will regrow and things can be replaced – there’s no detectable injury and my running gait has not been affected at all.

And the shoes? I boxed them straight up as I got home and sent them packing!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cancelled Cannon Hill parkrun

Much of the UK received a dusting of snow overnight on Friday, causing many a parkrun and race director to cancel or postpone events. Cannon Hill parkrun and the Sneyd Christmas Pudding Run were called off, leaving me with a very low volume week and little to show for it.

A few others and me caught up over coffee, with the topic of discussion revolving around the rather poor organisation of the fairly recent Birmingham International Marathon and Great Birmingham Run. Their return having been announced (£58 for the marathon!), I asked my cohorts of the morning if anybody would consider running the marathon again. There was only one possible taker, and only if he didn’t get a club place for the 2018 London Marathon. The overriding feedback was there are plenty of better organised and cheaper marathons around the UK, increasingly with the autumn options now rivalling the spring.

Here and here is the Strava data for the runs to and from Cannon Hill Park.

6 miles in the snow

With Sunday’s race postponed until January, I wasn’t prepared to be defeated and go without a run, so I covered up as much skin as possible to head out. Rounding out my ensemble was a hat (I never wear hats!) and a neck gaiter, along with my Oakleys with special contrast enhancing lenses popped in.

Only having covered a mile, I came across my first casualty of the snow. A nurse who was heading home from a night shift had gotten her Citroen C1 stuck as she tried to climb a shallow hill. She slowed too much exiting a roundabout and then lacked the oomph to get back up to speed, without traction and fighting gravity. I tried giving her car a push whilst she drove, but it wasn’t happening, so I offered to drive instead. She made the mistake of trying to drive in first gear, throwing down too much power; I shifted into second and gently applied some throttle, which managed to slowly move the car on to a patch with more traction available. Good deed number 1, done!

Some 2 miles later, I encountered another car attempting to climb the hill on Salisbury Road near Cannon Hill Park, and getting in the way of traffic trying to descend the hill. Three guys and me worked together to push and steer the car to get it on its way, though the worst of the hill was yet to hit him…

My third and final car that needed help was found on Holders Lane, where the snow had been churned up just enough to greatly reduce traction, even on the flat. All the car needed was a few nudges from me to get going.

Full of the warm and fuzzies, and not having fallen once, I called it a morning – quite enough excitement for one day!

Here’s the vague Strava data for this run. My Garmin wasn’t playing ball, either from the low temperature, or due to knocking the start-stop button when pushing cars, so I’ve had to approximate the distance and pace.

Running – it’s snow joke

As is typical of the UK, we’re woefully underprepared for extremes of weather be it flooding, heat wave or snow. The recent snow has proven incredibly challenging, with everything grinding to a halt.

After my longest run ever recorded of 18 miles, I did not want to lose the momentum that I had built up because of the white stuff that had decided to suddenly invade. The ever-reliable Parkrun at Cannon Hill Park was open for business and several of us dedicated (or mad) runners turned up for our weekly gallivant. Numbers were expectedly low due to many people driving to get there, though 75 out of a usual strong 300+ made it, including Dave after a short layoff due to injury rehab. He was particularly annoyed because he was due a PB but the snow had other plans. I was just going to treat it as a speedwork session, neither having the right shoes nor the fight in me after a botched training run only days earlier.

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The usual course proved tricky in road shoes with little to no traction. The top flight runners ran with their usual speed and despite the snow, they still completed the 5km faster than I’m capable of in dry conditions. For vast stretches of the course, Dave and I were alone with nobody visible ahead or behind us. Our finishing times were roughly 4 minutes slower than our PBs achieved in optimal conditions, showing how much of a difference the snow can make.

I’m going to be in Wales again this weekend, which means another crack at the Cardiff Parkrun. Recalling past faults, I’m going to position myself much closer to the front runners, though leftover snow is likely to still be a problem so I may give up any chances of a PB – I don’t think I could face the defeat!

My long run on Sunday still happened, though not in terms of distance nor intensity. My usual haunt of the North Birmingham canals looked gorgeous in the snow, with  few souls out and about. I wore my sunglasses to help give the terrain some contrast and set off at a pace that was more than comfortable, conscious that all of my stabiliser muscles would be getting a workout.

I don’t have long before the London Marathon and my goal of accomplishing at least 5x 20 mile runs is getting very, very tight with virtually no room for adjustments.

The Bath Half Marathon is also quickly creeping up on us and sitting down to work out my plan of attack, I have devised the below:

  • Miles 1 – 3: 8 minute pace = 24 minutes
  • Miles 4 – 6: 7:45 minute pace = 23:15 minutes
  • Miles 7 – 9: 7:30 minute pace = 22:30 minutes
  • Miles 10 – 12: 7:15 minute pace = 21:45 minutes
  • Mile 13: 7:00 minute pace = 7:00 minutes
  • Grand total of 1:38:30

Based on my current 5k PB of 20:53, pacing calculators predict that I should be capable of a 1:36:41 finish so we’re getting much closer to my theoretical maximum. Dave and I are going to have to be much stricter with our pacing and time keeping on this next adventure, with only 1.5 minutes to spare for error. I’m hopeful that we can at least come back with a sub 1:40 finish based on our current abilities and 5 weeks left to hone our training.

Finally, I’ve started doing regular strength work again to help burn off a bit of additional weight, but also to primarily strengthen my arms, shoulders, neck and glutes. My glutes have been misfiring due to little use (joys of a job where you sit down all day) and after only one session of weighted squats, I could feel them working again and aiding me in my most recent mid-week run.

Stay safe out there and run to win!