Returning to my Roots.

This blog and let’s be honest has grown and travelled in several directions, a little like my running and that is where this blog was born. For some reason I felt that the internet needed another blog written by some one who wasn’t very good at writing telling the world about his exploits in the hope to one day cross a finish line in a 10K race allowing people a key hole look into the highs and lows of my 10K training and my discovery of running.

Well, to save you the hassle and bother of trawling through the archives I can confirm now that I did cross the finish line and my addiction to running was born. I carried on telling tales of my training, my injuries and of my running adventures and soon the blog snowballed into tales of work, dreams, walking and anything I felt there was to moan about.

Today I return to write about my running experiences. Its been almost a year since my last event and that happened to be in New Zealand. I have yet to get back into a full training session as work (What little there is) and my cycling has got in the way. Plus I have not felt I can enter… But now I am determined to train for a half and to get out there and start running regularly, however for some reason I have started to listen to music on my runs again and I feel this has been what was missing.

I always use to listen to music on runs, it would help me set my pace and some of my Personal Records have been thanks to my playlist, slow medium tempo songs to start me off which slowly build to faster dance or faster tempos – and using the same playlist for each race I would often race myself – I have to get to Stereophonic’s by mile 2 or I must have crossed the line before James comes on.

Now like most people I stopped listening to music because of the races I ran, many were on country roads or smaller events that were run on open roads as it wasn’t worth the cost or hassle to close roads so for safety headphones were banned. One of those very races was the Snowdon Marathon and so I started to train with no music to get use to it and you know what? I found I liked it. Didn’t at first, but I grew to enjoy it, being able to hear your surrounding and your body I found my running improved. I found I enjoyed running a lot more. I enjoyed races a lot more. I enjoyed not having that distraction of music and trying to fumble to skip a track or turn the volume up and off course hitting the accelerator because the beats were at 5 minute pacing.

But for some reason I decided the other night to slip on some headphones and listen to music on my 5K and while it was no quick run (one of my slowest as it was 25 minutes) it felt quick, the music distracted my mind from saying “you’re tired” “This hill is too steep” “Turn left it’ll take us home quicker” instead my head was telling me to turn right as they liked this one . So I tried it again today with a 10K and the same result. The music lifted me it carried me along.

While it was not super fast as I was still listening to my body in terms of pace, the music helped me to keep going and to zone off and be in the moment. Not sure how long it will last as when I ran with no music I felt in the moment but just recently running the same routes with the same scenery and not being able to push myself with times or distance as left me feeling deflated and adding music as some what for now   added a new sparkle into my running.

I’m still not 100% sold if I am a runner with or without music… But these last two runs have been very enjoyable with some musical accompaniment.

Three Weeks Tomorrow.

Tomorrow will be Sunday and in three weeks, I will be racing the Manchester Marathon and I am shitting it.

Training has not been good. But next week I will be doing a nice temp run in Langdale with some good hill walking before I begin to taper and spend those extra hours where I would have been running to concentrate on core and do some cross training.

I need to squeeze one long run in again and maybe doing a 15 miler at speed just to convince myself that I am ready.

Oh well off to what has been distracting me and preventing me training the way I wanted to. Thats right Work.

Breaking 1:40

Under the gaze of a seven hundred year old castle in the winter sun on a cold November morning I ran through the game plan in my head. Along with 200o other runners in the 4th year of this truly wonderful half marathon that would see us run past one of my favourite castles and then along the coastal path to the Victorian town of Llandudno passing the pier before starting the undulating climb of the Great Orme before rapidly descending back to the coastal path to the finish below the castle. This was the Conwy Half and a race I had run before and got a PB and today I was determined to race and race hard to go after another PB and a sub 1:40.

The game plan was simple. I just needed to run 7:37 splits the only trouble was the year before the congestion in the first few miles is horrific you really can’t get into your stride, and then there is the Orme itself. I like hills but I couldn’t run up that in 7:37 pace. The only saving grace was the down hill sections where I could catch up and as long as the down hill parts were in 6 minutes pace then I knew I was on for a winner. I also knew at 10K I would have to be clocking a time of 47 minutes to stand any chance of breaking 1:40.

The gun went off and as predicted it was a battle to pass those runners who thought they could run at the front, while many of them were giving it a good go and I knew that many would regret it down the line. I really do wish people would know their pace and position themselves accordingly at the start.  My pace was as expected all over the place but after the first mile it averaged 7:44, not bad just a few seconds behind my target pace. For the next 3 miles I hit 7:37 on the nose and then came the hill with 7:50, 8:10 and 7:45. I wasn’t worried as I knew I had two miles of down hill one of which was very steep and then 3 miles of flat road to take me back to where it all began. I was still on course when I crossed 10K in the 47 minutes which reassured me that a PB could well be in sight. My legs still felt strong and I had more energy gels if needed. Any fear of falling behind schedule was soon forgotten as the down hill sure me clock 6:44 and then the flat straight saw me slowly increase pace from the 1:40 as I picked off each runner one by one seeing me clock in at 7:17, 7:25, 7:11.

I looked at my watch and sure I was making good time, and when I saw the finish line and looked to see 1:35:34 beam back at me and dug deep and sprinted to the line to cross in 1:38:32.

All I need to do now is to get it under a sub 1:35 but that will have to wait for next year.

Macclesfield Half

If you had told me ten years that I would be running around Macclesfield I would have laughed at you. While I was young and lived in this urban sprawl surrounded by some of the richest villages in Cheshire I did partake in the activity of running but this was mainly confined to the school field during football or the dreaded cross-country. I can remember one time I decided to go for a run on my own steam when I was fifteen or sixteen to shed the pounds and managed less than a mile before my lungs burnt and my head banged with so much pain.

Roll on the years and I find myself training to complete the Manchester 10K, after discovering that I enjoyed running and enjoyed the benefits far more. The 10K happened followed by several halfs followed by more and more races and soon I was running in my home town when ever I visited and stayed with my old folks. Running in Macclesfield was fun and I often wonder why I was so quick to throw in the towel after my brief affair with the sport all those years ago.

As a warm up for Snowdon Marathon I thought a nice hilly half would help and while Langdale was hilly, Macclesfield was going to seem like a pancake compared to the peaks and troughs of the Langdale valley the week before. The race was staged on the athletics track which was built while I was at school but I never used partly due to lack of interest on my account of  partaking in any physical activity. But here I was lining up at the start of the 400 meter line ready to race. Again not after any PB but on reflection I could have pushed for one as my legs had more than enough in them to carry me over the line, but this was always going to be used as a training run.

Now let be said while I did everything to avoid running at school, I really wished I had discovered this sport a lot earlier than my 29th Birthday, maybe twenty years before that occasion, but after fifteen years of the track being laid I was about to run on it. The weather was due to rain but stayed dry with a strong breeze and while the roads remained open this was not a ‘fun run’ in the typical running sense. The limit to cross the line was 2hr 35 minutes which for some people is in the realms of fantasy but for the majority of the runners we were all capable of a sub 2.

There were still a mix of people who were finding it hard after 4 miles and I was one of them (hard but yet still comfortable). Not because of the level of difficulty of the course or because I set out too fast but because I could not settle. It took me till mile four to settle into my pace and rhythm and even then I felt I was going to quick for a training run (a whole minute quicker than marathon pace which I wanted to practice) After that the run was fun and while the crowds were barely visible probably due the sheer lack of people out on the streets that and the fact that most of the roads were country lanes I was enjoying the run with little distraction and the lack of music was not missed (As the roads were open Ipods were banned). At one point, I had started racing another runner, it was either that or we were keeping pace with one another as we stuck together for a good two mile until I managed to break away and see if he would follow. Come the final two miles I was in my element and the legs lifted up and the stride was in full motion for the home straight as we closed in onto the track for the finish line, I crossed with a rather impressive 1hr 45 which was 260th out of 800 plus. Not bad for some one who was still hobbling on Thursday from my last half and wanted to treat the run as a sheer training run. Only 4 minutes off PB as well so I could have beaten it if I really tried.

All in all I would do this again and add it to my race calendar, I would recommend it only for those who are experience runners, and whether you are seasoned half marathoner or a runner stepping up the distance this is truly a god race to run. Not to be taken on my first timers or people use to the ‘Great Run’ series.

Running is Proving to be Stressful

So running is a way to relax and let of steam and de stress. Well while I am stressing out over the Snowdon Marathon and trying to enter as many half’s with lots of hills it seems like the stress of preparing for a marathon has got to me. Yes, it seems like I may have a stress fracture.

So what to do? Stop until it is confirmed? Carry on??? I’m in the middle of training and have not done as much as I should. If I stop and the X-Ray says its fine then thats two weeks of training gone. Or I carry on and the X ray says ‘STRESS FRACTURE’ I could have done more damage and ended my running for longer than 6 weeks.

And they say running is good for you.

What too do?

Sticking to the Game Plan

Let’s face it they are called races for a reason. Even the fun runs which are organised for charity and meant to be for every one are called races like ‘Race for Life’ I realise that the name of that event is a clever pun as it’s all about running to raise money for Cancer research which can save lives, hence the name ‘Race for Life’

But when you are on that start line and hear the gun, depending who you are with you will shoot off like a rocket and before you realise your mistake it’s too late to slow down into you steady pace. Even come the sight of the finish line you spy another runner and your captain shouts down to the engine room ‘Full steam ahead’ and with that you sail past your competitor and over the line with your heart trying to make a bid for freedom.

This Sunday is the Manchester 10K the race that started it all off for me and I want to return and get a new PB and smash my time I achieved last year, however I doubt that I will be able to achieve this. While I was training for my marathon I ran the Liverpool half with the game plan being ‘run marathon pace and see how you feel’ however the gun went off and I went with it, after 1 hour 41 minutes I crossed the line 2o minutes earlier than I’d expected and I had picked up a PB in the process. Last weekend I ran the Port Sunlight 10K on the Wirral and for all those who want to start running or are looking for a friendly nice 10K then this is a must do. I entered the race as a recovery run, just run the 6 miles and make sure my legs work as a warm up for Manchester. However the gun went and I was at the start of the pack and off I went to cross the line with yet another PB. I should also add that this was a quick race. I think the bulk of the runners had crosses the line on the hour and these were a mix of first times, kids, fun runners and the clubs.

So am I able to get another one this weekend, or have I burnt out. I have still not fully recovered from the marathon, as they say it normally takes a day a mile to recover, which works out around a month. While you can still jog and run, training and running hard on tired, worn out muscles is not a good idea and here I am speeding round Port Sunlight at 6.40 mile

The question is why can’t I stick to my game plan? What is it about a race and the adrenalin that spurs me on and gets me so competitive. Does every runner have this? I know training for the 10K last year my friend who also participated often moaned about the runs we did as I ‘was too quick’ and even I have to admit that he was slow. Running with him around Sale water park a cool 9 minute mile would be fast for him, however on the day he crossed the line just two minutes after me. I was injured on the day but was still running pretty fast for a newbie at 8.40, so there was something in the air with having other runners that made my mate pull it out of the hat.

So is there a point to a game plan? or should you just run and enjoy it, after all we all know out limitations if we have done our training correctly and on the day you will be surprised at what your body can do.Maybe the game plan should be to be to cross the line and enjoy yourself and that way you will always keep to the plan.

Good luck to everyone running the Manchester 10K especially to a fellow blogger (Runs like a Penguin) for what I believe is her first time. Her training diary as been a joy to read and I know all the hard work will pay off for her. Good luck to all those others who will be running in this very special event and one that I hold very close to my heart partly because I’m a local lad but also it’s the one that started all this madness off.

Two Weeks

Twitter is filled with posts about the Brighton Marathon and London is next week. Manchester is in two weeks and after a final long run yesterday I am in some kind of strange zone. I feel quietly confident, but at the same time I am concerned for the last six miles after all they do say the race starts on mile 20.

To say I am looking forward to that Sunday evening would be a little bit of an understatement. I am looking forward to the end of the marathon and showing my medal off with pride being the only person amongst my friends who would have achieved this feat of human endurance. But while a lot of my fellow runners will be glad it’s all over and be happy to put their trainers at the back of the cupboard or in the bin I will be happy as I get to drink and a little sad as I won’t get to run while I rest.

Now I have not entire given up the source. Even tho I said after Christmas I would. What can I say I like a bottle of wine as much as the next man if the next man happens to be Keith Floyd. However for April I have been T-Total. I, like my fellow runners might have hung my trainers up if it wasn’t for the month of 10K’s I have in May, clever thinking on my part to book my next races to train for.

I like running, the bug as truly hit me so being happy that I have crossed the line (hopefully in a sub 4) would be very nice, however the real reason why I will be so happy is that I get to drink wine again.  Not any old wine you understand, oh no wine that my best mate got me for my 30th. I have been saving it for this very occasion and to be honest it should make it taste even better. The bottle in question is a 1981 vintage. My mate knows me so well. The wine was bottled the year I was born and came with a posh cork screw, thermometer, cork stopper, basically the works all concealed in a wooden box. I think it is truly the best gift I have got, and if it wasn’t for the fact it had to be drank (shame I know) then I would be keeping it to gather cobwebs.

So as I reach the wall on mile 20 and try to scramble over to get to the finish, the freshly opened bottle that I would have left to decanter will be pulling me across the finish line, and hey after burning 4000 calories I think I will be entitled to a glass or two of the red stuff, after all the antioxidants helps the healing and recovery process.

I did it

Well the other day I reported about a rather rubbish run. 13 miles in a very slow time. Legs that screamed for mercy a brain that wanted to go to sleep and a body and soul that had gone on holiday. My long run turned out to be a very long 13 miles with an even longer walk back home of over a mile when I decided to finally throw in the towel.

Fast forward to saturday, where I woke at 9am, sat around the house scoffing on various sweats and nibbles and treating myself to a dirty tea of Chicken Kiev, Chip and Beans and then off to work to get a new theatre show in. At 8am Sunday morning I finally got back into my bed, only to wake on Sunday evening at 7.30pm. Wow I thought, normally after those fit ups I normally only get about 4 hours sleep, but were talking about 10 -11 here I must have really needed that.

Looking back I probably did. I have been living out of a suitcase for the past three weeks staying in various hotel rooms working on a number shows with not much running to boot and not a healthy food intake (sandwiches for lunch and dinner). Not that, thats an excuse but my first run back on Thursday was hard work and that was just a slow 5 miler.

So today I woke up at 10, after managing to drop off at 1am last night and decided I would go for a 10K, but I thought I would take my three energy gels I had left that were left in my bum bag (secretly thinking I would try a long run again). As I began the run I felt fresh, but my pace was very slow this is how the story remained right up to the 6 mile point when I reevaluated the situation and thought I might as well carry on to mile ten. The tenth mile crept up and I felt fine, maybe go another three miles and I’ll take an energy gel. This is how the whole run shaped up before I knew it I had run 20 miles. Twenty whole miles the very target I had set out to complete two days before. If truth be known then the last 2 miles were tough and my legs were starting to collapse under the sheer weight of my body but I had done it and I had also done it away from my usual prep.

What I hope this means is that if I eat my usual pre-run breaky, drink my sports drink, have my gels earlier on, have a sports drink half way round, have more sleep in the run up, eat more pasta, then I should be able to count those 26.2 miles off easily.

So from the start of the weekend where I began to worry that I would get my first DNF (Did not Finish) to a Monday where once again I feel more confident. The question is do I try to get another 20 mile run in next week before I taper?

Even why at the start of the weekend I have gone from feeling scared and worried and a little concerned of the task I have taken on to sitting down writing a blog entry felling a little more confident that I would be able to count of each mile as easy as 1, 2, 3.

Running In a Pack

Now I’m not talking running with mates (but hopefully I’ll be calling them friends) or running in a race with others. No what I’m talking about is joining a kind of running club.

Sweatshops all round the UK have their customers come of an evening to their stores and go on a run. For the first time I went to the Arndale store in Manchester and joined the crowd that was slowly mingling. As we were instructed to move outside to the various groups of 5K or 5 Milers, no sooner had I selected my pool than the staff member over seeing the whole operation bellowed “5 Milers Go” and with that we were off, and I mean off barely enough time for my Garmin to hook on to its satellites and for me to press ‘Start’.

It was like we were running for our lives down Cross street  almost like we were a pack of wolves. No stopping for the traffic, the traffic stopped for us. Pedestrian crossings seemed to expect our arrival at junctions and the lights changed red and the green man gave us the go ahead to cross. We were hungry to run and had numbers to take on anyone or anything down that may have prevented our rhythm as we strode the streets of Manchester.

The thrill of hunt pumped through my blood as I checked my garmin to read 6:56. Jesus this was quick, could I keep it up?. All I could see was the yellow jerseys of some of the longer standing members who’d enjoyed this activity since it’s creation and pushed on forward, my legs pumping, my lungs filling with enjoyment and exhaling the stresses of the day. This was a hard run, but it was good. I was ready for it and enjoying the fight. A battle of wills, my legs echoing my hearts pleas of ‘Slow down’ while my head burnt to go on.

I had no stereo, just like-minded people enjoying and sharing the passion of running and running in a group triggered a primeval sense of belonging. A real community, a pride, a family. This was different from running in race this was a group run. The important fact was we all finished and enjoyed it if that meant doubling back to help someone then so be it. the point was we were running, all be it quick leaving fellow members to eat your dust or being the ones running behind the dust cloud watching the pack fade into the distance. The simple fact was everyone was running and enjoying the opportunity.

I was in my element, I steamed ahead changing gear and putting my foot to the pedal, soon we were on Oldham Road and I was cruising at what I would normally describe as an uncomfortable pace, maybe one I would use for speed work but after a compromise between legs, lungs, heart, head my body was in tune and was working in harmony, like I didn’t need to think about my breathing, pace, balance, arms, my body was just running like a machine it was operating with Swiss precision.

Running with others, running in this ‘primitive’ pack I found myself feeling confident feeling fresh almost like we were on the hunt for a ‘Wooly Mammoth’, with every step and breath new energy flowed into my muscles. I was reaching a runners high, this was like the first time I ran in a race, with other people this is what running is all about. Yes it keeps you fit, it helps lose weight, it’s got so many health factors but the one that becomes an addiction is the one that I felt at mile 2, the exhilaration the sheer fun factor the feel good factor. I’m on top of the world and no one can push me off. The runners high… It’s hard to explain but it wakens a dormant feeling that’s been buried in your chemical make up. It’s a completely naturally sense of well-being and belonging a sense of life that rushes through your veins and invigorates every part of your body.

As I ran into the home straight back into Manchester I found 6th gear, I didn’t want to land but as I passed the printworks the runway was in sight and this flight of the best run I have had in a long time finally had to touch down.

I really enjoyed this. More so than running with friends (tho I still love it when I can ), or in races. I felt such highs and a real buzz from everyone running I would recommend anyone in the UK who has a Sweatshop store to ask about the SRC. It’s a great activity and the store staff and members take it in turn to be a front-runner, a middle runner and back runner, so no one is left behind or left wondering which way to go.

I know this much, I will be looking for a local running club as if it gives me the same sense of well-being and runners high that SRC injected into my stale running mentality then I’m there first in the queue.

Just want a needed to pump some new life into my tired running legs for my Marathon training.