Sunday, 29 December 2013

London to Berlin A Tale of 2 Cities

There are times when you think things are important, times when things such as doing well in a marathon, getting 3.30, hammering your splits, blasting past your previous PB and smashing through the tape are oh so important.  Then something like Boston happens and you realise that it doesn’t matter at all.  Times are merely numbers, splits are simply something that you use to gauge how quickly you are running and getting a PB ?  Well there’s always another race isn’t there ?  Well maybe not.  When something like Boston happens it makes you realise that we are all so mortal, we could be having a great time running along the road in a race, laughing smiling, waving at the crowds and suddenly,  a bomb goes off and you’re dead.

I was following the Boston Marathon on the internet, watching the typical American crowds going crazy, brilliantly supporting all the runners and suddenly there was chaos, smoke and an explosion. It didn’t take long for a bomb to be confirmed.  My first thought was panic, my brother ran Boston last year and for a few horrible moments, I thought he was there. Took a couple of seconds to dawn on me that he wasn’t and an overwhelming sense of relief took over, which was very swiftly replaced  by concern as quite a few runners from Stockport were taking part.  This is where social media comes into its own, through twitter and facebook, it soon became apparent that all were ok and not harmed. 

No matter how decent a person you are, thoughts always turn to self interest, and this was the case with me, as a week later was the London Marathon. There was talk of it being cancelled, and security concerns, but there is no way Britain and especially London would adhere to terrorists and give up its Jewel in the Crown, the was on.  A race I’ve wanted to do for years but injury has always robbed me of the opportunity.  This year I was injury free and ready, I had trained and was in 3.30 ish shape.  I had ran Trimpell 20 around 3 weeks before in 2.40, bang on 3.30, though I doubt I could have kept that pace for another 6 miles but I was definitely in the 3.30 zone.

We travelled down to London on the Friday with fellow runners from Stockport Harriers very excited and made our way to the EXPO where I met Martin Yelling from Marathon Talk, said a quick hello and let him get on with his day.  Registration was incredibly easy, just turned up with some ID and your registration pack and you were given your number, along with a black ribbon for Boston to put on your number which I thought was a fantastic touch.  We spent a couple of hours wandering around the EXPO, before wandering back to the hotel, chilling out for a bit and went out for some pasta in the evening. 


After taking it easy on the Saturday, being tempted by but not doing Bushy parkrun, we made the early Sunday morning treck to the start of the London Marathon.   The free travel for the runners was another superb touch and we got to the start in plenty of time, we were so lucky in that it was such a beautiful morning which enabled us to have a lie down in the sun and relax before the start.

Before you knew it your bags were loaded onto one of many massive articulated lorries that drove to the end and we made our way to our respective starting zones.  After a very emotional minutes silence for Boston we were off.   The first mile was very slow with people in zones far too quick for them.  It really pees me off that  runners do this, all you are doing is inconveniencing people behind you, and making them having to run around and go further.  The result was that my 1st mile was 8.44,    well over target of 8s I would need to achieve my 3.30 goal.  I had only run one marathon but had listened to enough episodes of MT  to know that I had 25 miles for make up the 44 seconds. Unfortunately, I had my stupid head on and set off way too quickly for what I needed. Going from 3.47 (my only marathon time)  to 3.30 was a hell of a jump but the suicidal pace I was running at  (around the low 7s) placed me in the 3.20 bracket.  Absolutely crazy but I felt great and decided to have crack.  Part of my brain was telling me “slow down you idiot, what are you doing ?” the other part was saying “sod it, let’s try to crack Boston”.  I managed to hold the pace but blew spectacularly at mile 19 developing some severe cramps in both calves rendering me capable of nothing more than alternating between a jog and waddle.  However painful it was, the thought of pulling out never entered my head, after all this was London and I wanted that damn medal, it does sound terribly cliché but the thoughts of Boston did spur me on.  I was cramping up a bit, so what ?  Zip up your mansuit and finish the race.  The Mall did eventually come into sight, ( I missed Buckingham Palace, how did that happen ?) and I stumbled towards the finish line in a very disappointing 4.01.  This is where London comes into it’s own.  I was swaying as I finished and within a second I was grabbed by one of the marshals, stabilised and led over to have my medal put around my neck.  Flipping awesome.

There were some thoughts before the race that the bombings would affect the crowds on the day, they couldn’t be more wrong.  A mate of mine who has ran London many times said that he’d never seen support like it.  The crowds were simply incredible, non stop all the way round, no more so than when I was struggling.  Two of my favourite moments were a shout of “move it shrimpy” when I was hobbling and a sweet old lady with a purple rinse who was holding up a sign which said “Dear Boston Bombers, this is our race, this is our city, this is our country, we will not be afraid.” Which was ever so slightly ruined, but made perfect, by the line which followed, “f*** off”. That gave me just the boost I needed and made me giggle as I bumbled like a drunken idiot to the finish.

After a free massage, I sat drinking a well earned beer, reflecting on the race.  Didn’t go well, blew apart and got no where near where I wanted.  But the point is, I could have done, it may have worked, don’t want to be the type of person who thinks “what would happen if I tried this ?” Now I know, not there yet, but one day I will be. 

After London, I chilled out for a good while and decided to get my eyes lasered.  A bit of an over reaction perhaps for screwing up London maybe but I was fed up with wearing contacts and having them slip up into my eye before races and needing to dig around to find them or wearing glasses and getting them splattered with rain.  Plan was to get them done and be free to run and swim with decent eye sight.  All I can say is that I would thoroughly recommend it.  Done in about half an hour, it only takes about 20 seconds per eye, bit of a lie down and you’re  sorted.  Pain free and no more glasses.

The next main race on the agenda was the Berlin Marathon.  The aim at the start of the year was to complete 2 marathon majors. There were a couple of blips to overcome, first one being a completely bizarre swollen left ankle, which made running a bit difficult and an operation 5 weeks before Berlin to remove 6 teeth, (4 wisdom and 2 others which had been impacted) this meant that Julie Fairclough’s marathon plan, she had so kindly written for me had taken a bit of a hammering.  Luckily I was in decent shape and figured I could be in marathon condition in time.  Not PB fit necessarily but enough to have a decent pop at things.

I explained this to Julie and she was really up for the challenge.  My main priority was not falling apart like I did at London and running a strong race.  If I could get a PB, fantastic, but, a sub 4 was the aim bearing in mind the race was only around 5 weeks away.

She came back within a day with a brilliant plan with made things very interesting as it differed from day to day, week to week.  I was quite unnerved when she advised that the maximum weeks’ mileage would be over 50 !  Now considering the maximum amount I had done in my previous plans was around 30, this was a big jump. 

She pointed out (quite patiently as would become the norm for my many, many questions) that as I was going a lot of my runs 1 minute slower than marathon pace, I would be able to do more mileage.  Makes sense, doesn’t it ?  Along with this, she included many sessions that were, for example 2 x 10 minutes at 30 seconds quicker than marathon pace, walk for 3 minutes repeat etc. 

She was also very accommodating in changing the plan to suit me, for example I love parkrun and she was happy to change it to fit the run in my longer session. 

My goal at the 40th Berlin Marathon on the 29th September 2013 was 8.30 pace with an aim of trying to keep it for as long as I could and see what happens.  I was really delighted with the result, Julie’s fantastic plan carried me to 20 miles bang on target pace, with the last 6, slowing down.

I was very happy with my finishing time of 3.52.  I not only battered my London time but was only 5 minutes off my PB.  All on a short training plan.  I’m hoping that on a full plan, next year’s marathons should be smoother.

Even though I enjoyed Berlin, I was part of the race that saw the world record being set by Wilson Kipsang  in an astonishing 2:3:23,  the course was very flat and took in the beautiful sights of Berlin and was organised with stereotypical German efficiency, it couldn’t touch London for atmosphere.  Whilst the crowds in London cheered every runner the crowd in Berlin only seemed to cheer their own nationals, very odd, it did leave you searching for Brits or Americans who were cheering everyone, (much to the bemused looks of the locals) to give you a boost. 

It’s now the 29th December, and I’ve been a bit lazy since Berlin.  I’ve done a couple of races and ran my first cross country, which was a load of fun, think it  does you good sometimes to forget about running and just relax.  Good news is that I’ve got into London again through the ballot and I’m determined to be sensible this time and not blow apart.  Training starts properly in January which should give me enough time to hopefully get into shape to give it a proper crack. 

For a completely different challenge, I’m also going to enter the Snowdonia Marathon in October.  Supposed to be Britain’s toughest, also the prettiest.  Should be fun.  See you next year.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Taper Time

Well that's it.  Got through the training injury free and have just come back from work following the Easter holidays.  Am now happy and content that 2 weeks on Sunday is the London Marathon and I'm trained and primed for that bad boy.  I ran Woodbank parkrun on Saturday and planned to do my final 22 miler yesterday but after having a lie down on the settee for an hour I had a sudden urge to do it then so before it left me I got off my backside and onto the road.

The last run before you taper is meant to be hard, its meant to be tough, you are running on tired legs and you are running your longest run of your training.  My philosophy at Chester was to make the last run as hard as possible, hopefully the same as, or if not harder than the marathon itself, and so that's exactly what I did this time, planning a route with 166 metres of climb a couple of hours after a parkrun in the morning.

It went OK, weather alternated from being nice and warm to horrible and cold.  Didn't get anywhere near the splits that I wanted and was struggling by the end finishing in 3.10.  Not great but London is flat and I will have had 3 weeks of taper by then, so my target may well be on.

Talking of which, I do have 3 targets in mind.  The 1st is what I would absolutely be delighted with, the 2nd I'd be chuffred with and the 3rd I do expect to get.  Won't tell you what they are yet, but I have bought a temporary tattoo from Sweatshop, with my hoped for split times on (which are the 2nd target).

My legs are completely fine after Saturday, just had a 20 minute blast on the spin cycle and looking forward to my recovery run tomorrow.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Marathon Majors

Just read my last blog in which I said that I was planning to spend last year building up base mileage before embarking on the big 26.2 this autumn.  I also said that I may well change my mind and go for a spring marathon this year.  Well I was kind of right in that I am going for an autumn marathon this year….and a spring marathon…..oh and I did enter Chester Marathon last year too.

Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how many times people give you good advice, about your training and what you need to do to successfully train for a marathon, the only way you learn is through mistake after mistake. Boy did I make them.  I really enjoyed running the long miles and finding out how hard I can push myself, and because I was running into unknown territory and pushing the boundaries as far as the mileage was concerned I kept on doing it, not realising of course, that you cannot spank out a fast parkrun on the Saturday, do 15 plus miles every Sunday and then beast yourself on the track on the Monday, something had to give and my lower legs were, unfortunately, the something that gave. 

The result was missing 3 planned marathons, but also a realisation that if I wanted to successfully train for and complete a marathon I had to be a bit more professional about it and give it the respect it deserves, including proper rest days and not smashing out every session like a lunatic.  Following a recommendation from my friend Mike Barry at Stockport Harriers,  I looked at the “My Asics” training plan and found it to be incredibly useful.  The basic premise behind it is running 4 days a week.  Starting with a slow 3.5 mile recovery run (following your Sunday long run) on a Wednesday, and fast 8.5 miler on a Thursday, jogged parkrun on a Saturday and your long run on a Sunday. 

Now that I had a plan, I followed it meticulously, the midweek sessions stayed largely the same but was intrigued by the differing  mileage on the Sunday, with the idea being slowly building up your base and dropping back every 3 weeks or so, as opposed to the continuous heavy mileage that I was submitting myself to previously. 

Alongside this I worked out that one of the reasons I kept getting injured (next to the heavy mileage) was my core muscles were not strong enough and therefore started taking a core class with a lady called Julie Fairclough on a Monday night.  Julie has the strange combination of being really nice but being a bit of a psycho the same time, and her classes are tough, but very good, thoroughly enjoyable and a great laugh. 

I seemed to be running well, the new training plan, the core class and the excellent physio Nicky Pickford got me through to the start line of Chester Marathon. 

The day of the Chester Marathon dawned brightly and cool.

Around 12 degrees centigrade and cloudless skies.  Perfect running conditions.  I had trained properly, tapered properly, fuelled properly and was feeling very good.  Due to my job, my mind works in a kind of logical way in that as I had put the mileage in, there was no reason why I could not complete the marathon.  I had no idea what time I was capable of, thought I should be able to go sub 4, and in an ideal world, was looking at around 3;.45. 

The organisation at the Chester Marathon was incredible, you could tell that it was race organised by runners, as the whole day ran like clockwork.  The week and indeed the summer was a complete wash out which made starting on Chester Race Course a bit of a lottery, but thankfully the Weather God’s were smiling on us and the ground was fine to run on. 

Like I said I did not really know what pace I should go for and simply set off at a speed where I felt comfortable which turned out to be around the 8 minute mark.  Loved running around chatting to people, ticking off the miles and listening to Marathon Talk on my ipad, the local schools had got together and arranged for the school children to sing “We Wish You a Merry Marathon” on the way round which was fantastic.  The course was beautiful taking in the stunning Cheshire and North Wales countryside, the only downside being that the support in parts was quite sparse but this meant that when you hit the villages the noise was incredible.

As we got back into Chester at around mile 21, I started to slow down and the last 5 miles or so was a struggle, with me clocking a nine and a couple of 10 minute miles, with the last mile seemingly going on for ever.  The thrill of crossing the line in 3.46.59 was the highlight of my running career.  I was very happy and proud of myself.  Must admit though, I did not feel as if “my life had been changed forever” and feel the urge to burst into teats and hug the nearest stranger as per “The Spirit of the Marathon” but I guess that’s just the Brit in me.  Another odd feeling, the “I’m not doing this again” at mile 22, was immediately replaced with “Can’t wait to see if I’m successful in the ballot for London”. 


The after support at the race was again 1st class.  The organiser was on hand to shake everyone’s hand at the end, (fantastic touch)  I’m told by the people who had bags that they were handed out immediately upon finishing, they had massive tents for massages and the goody bag, t shirt and medal were all second to none.  For a 1st marathon experience, you could not beat it.  Thank you Chester Marathon.

On the other hand, if Chester was that good, how good could London be ?  After finishing Chester I excitedly looked forward to that point in late October when you found out if you had been successful in the London Ballot.  Sadly that day came and went I did not win a place.  There was always the Manchester Marathon in the spring but that was a long way away so I decided to look concentrate on some old fashioned blood and guts fell races, Conwy Half and Stockport 10 for the rest of the year.

Now, as fantastically well organised as Chester was, the fell races (The Famous Grouse, and the Gravy Pud) were a lot of fun.  Tough, hard, scary running down hill but superb.  Getting my arse kicked by a guy in his 70s who told me he’d be running in the hills for 60 years was an experience in itself.

I also ran the now familiar Conwy Halves and Stockport 10 (1.40 and 1.15) to more or less round off the year.  Well I say that, there was one last race, the 5k Stockport Boxing Day run, which I trotted round with my good mate Mike Thirsk.  The added incentive to this was that there was a club draw for the London Marathon after for the people that were unsuccessful at London.  Incredibly I got in and April 21 was set aside for my 2nd Marathon.   

Running one of the Marathon Majors is pretty exciting but I’ve also entered Berlin at the end of September.  Should be a fun year.

Well we are now under 4 weeks to London and the training has gone very well.  Unlike Chester last year, I’ve entered races, Trimpell 20 (2.40) and Wilmslow Half, (1.45) both at 8 minute mile pace which should give me a good chance of breaking my Chester time.  1 more 22 miler this Sunday and I’m into Tapertime.  

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Locked and Loaded

Isn't it odd that sometimes, the things that are meant to help us, quite often as those that end of causing more harm ? There's not been a posty for a while as I am, once again coming back from an injury. After finishing last year on a high, having fun up in the Lakes trail running, running Conwy Half, Stockport 10, I got into London. Unfortunately, I tore my soleus muscle in February giving me a 10 week lay off ending my ambition to run London. It turns out, upon speaking to a local physio that the orthotics I paid quite handsomely for last year were the cause of my recent problems as, apparantly I did not not need them as they over compensated pushing my feet too far the other way hence tearing the muscle ! Peed off is the nicest way of explaining my frustrations. Still you live and learn, back running now, fit and well, I've ran two halves this year, 4 villages in January in a gale force wind (in 1.40.02) and a hilly Sheffield last week in 1.45. Plan this year is to concentrate on half marathons and trail/fell running before looking to do the 26.2 next autumn. I have entered the draw for London, and hope to get into that but if I don't its Oct 2013 for me. Polan is to build a long base of around 15 miles of long runs on quite a regular basis and see where I go from there. However, that's not to say come November, I won't chnage my mind and go for a spring marathon. Loving my running at the moment, got some really good trail and fell races lined up, Wincle Trout, Whalley Waltz, Wizard, all really good fun, low key events, where you end up (in one) jumping into a river near the end and wading your way through. Can't wait. Got the Great Manchester Run tomorrow which should be fun, not done it for a couple of years, hoping to beat my PB at that event which is something like 49.10. Still having fun at parkrun, got my 50 t-shirt and looking forward to doing loads of the new events that are springing up in the North West. Very lucky in that this area is such a great place to run in that everywhere you go you see runners, helps that we are on the doorstep of the Peak District and have some beautiful places to run

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

I'm back

Thankfully, I’m back running again. It’s taken some time but I’ve taken it easy, running gradually working down the gym, building up the miles andI really enjoying myself. I’ve been down the Park doing Parkruns most Saturdays and have been building towards Rivington Half Marathon last Saturday.
This was the race I did last year (just coming back from a tear in my thigh) and loved it. Therefore even though I pulled out of Chester marathon, I was determined to run Rivington.
I woke up on Saturday morning to be greeted with the hottest October day on record with the temperatures touching 30 degrees c. and got to the race in plenty of time and enjoyed the pre-race atmosphere. I got chatting to a couple of lads who were running their 1st half marathon. They stated that they wanted to do Rivi as their 1st one as “it was flat”. Oh dear, when they said this, I laughed and about 3 people turned around and looked at them in a really odd way. They didn’t believe me when I told them that there was a 350 metre climb in the 1st mile and then continued to climb and climb for more or less the entire race. When I saw them at the end, collapsed on the grass, think they realised I wasn’t lying.
My time last year was 2.07, so my aim this year was to break 2 hours. Very chuffed with my performance as I managed to come home in 1.57 (winning time was 1.20). Also entered Conwy Half Marathon in November and am hoping to break 1.37, my half PB. Before that I have 2 trail races in 2 days up in the Lake Districts, which is doubling up as a weekend away for me and Sue. Can’t wait

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

....and back off again

Not good, leg flared up again after my run the other day and had the follow up physio from the guy who fitted my orthortics. Spent a very painfull hour being treated (if thats the right word) to trigger point needling, which is said to reduce the swelling in the muscle. Have booked in for a sports massage next week and will not run for about a month to six weeks and hopefully, will be in a better state then. Meanwhile will continue with the exercises and swimming/cycling to keep the fitness up. Arse

Monday, 25 April 2011

Back in the Saddle Again

After seriously over training for a May marathon (my 1st one) throughout the winter I suffered an injury (tibilias posterior tendonosis) in February which has meant that I’ve not been able to run since then, a couple of false starts aside, buggering up myself up again by “taking it steady” (yeah right, stupid competitive nature) on the Woodbank Park Run I finally ran my first run this morning. 1.5 miles in 12 minutes.
Considering when I was running in Jan/Feb I was doing 18-20 miles most Sundays, I have a long way to get back, but it was probably the best and most enjoyable run I’ve ever done. Just to be back with no pain and being able to run free is such a fantastic feeling.

My main problem is getting over-excited, trying to push too far and injuring myself again. I’ve spent too much money on physio very painful exercises to strengthen my glutes and orthotics to arse it up by doing too much now. Got to remind myself I've got till early to mid June to get myself in shape for building up again. Made sure that I’ve been doing a lot of swimming and cycling to keep myself in shape. Hopefully, Chester is back on.
I was aiming, in an ideal world for 3.45 but now, may have to re-adjust and just say, “I want to get to the start line in good shape and see what happens”