Time To Step Back And Reflect



run future copy



I have been taking running as a serious activity just over a year now. Running at least 3 times a week (when not injured!) and am now a member of Saffron Striders running club. While i’m resting up with my current injury problem i thought it would be an idea to look back at where i was in March 2012 and how far i have come so far. Back in November 2011 i hadn’t been doing any serious exercise having quit the gym in September 2011. At best i had been running once a week because i had booked to do the Men’s Health Survival Of The Fittest in November of 2011. It was booked as bit of a laugh rather than taking it seriously and wasn’t so worried back then about how fast i could do it. The time came in at 1 hour 6 minutes and 10 seconds, considering this was an obstacle course i was quite happy with that time. It was around that period that i had some friends pass away and was a motivator in the new year to do something positive and channel my energy. So from March 2012 forward i was going to take running as a serious hobby, i had a bench mark over 10k of the 1 hour 6 minute time, let’s see if i could improve on that. I started out running locally 3 times a week and found it a real struggle to start with but slowly the mileage and the the times improved. I now felt i needed to set some targets and entered some 10k’s for later in the year, the first was Stansted in June 2012. my progress Through the year was as follows:

Stansted – 10k – June 2012 – 51m 55s
Clapham – 10k – July 2012 – 47m 59s
BBC – 10k -August 2012 – 45m 59s
Saffron Walden – 10k – September 2012 – 46m 13s
Manuden – 10k – October 2012 – 45m 01s
So through 2012 it can be clearly seen i was doing something right with my running as the times were regularly coming down with every competitive race i was doing. Over the Christmas period i was beginning to increase my mileage and had entered the Bath and Cambridge half marathons. To the present moment my race times are as follows:
Bath – Half Marathon – March 2013 – 1h 40m 42s
Cambridge – Half Marathon – March 2013 – 1h 42m
St Clare – 10k – March 2013 – 43m 27s
The slight drop in time at Cambridge was due to running on an injured ankle, not sensible but i knew the risk i was taking and was willing to drop out if it became to bad during the run. I’m not really sure if the drop in 10k time was partly due to the continued commitment to running regularly or the extra mileage i had been running for the half marathons or possibly a combination of the two. As i write up this reflection of the years events i am still recovering from tendonitis in my Achilles so on my return i am expecting to have a dip in running times. Once back to full fitness i hope it bodes well for the year and i can continue to bring down my times. The St Clare run was also the first time i had a part in winning a trophy for the quickest men’s team. I was the third man home and our cumulative time was quick enough to win the trophy. May be this is where my strength lies going forward through the year. Aim to be the third man for our club in future events, i can here the laughter of some of the club members from here! There are easily a dozen or more runners at the club that are far quicker than myself being able to run a 35 minute 10k. Although i don’t realistically think i could get that fast i do feel that those that run at around the 40/42 minute mark are within my reach, which in some races would give me a chance at that 3rd place team spot. Here is hoping that my current injury hurry’s up and disappears and that the rest of the year is injury free. Happy and healthy running to everyone!

Trials And Tribulations Of A Long Distance Runner

What lengths would you go to to get yourself to and from a race? Today has felt like a scene straight out of Planes, Trains and Automobiles. I had been online and checked my travel plans. Now, in a perfect world i could have got the train to Harlow Mill and then cycled the 3 miles to the race. As per usual being a Sunday there were engineering works on the railway so a bus replacement service was in place, awkward for the bike. No bother i’ll get the bus to Harlow Mill then jog the 3 miles to the start, it’ll be a good warm up. So i looked on google maps to check the quickest and safest way of jogging there. All my kit was ready and i went through the usual pre race rituals of porridge and honey for breakfast and a good stretch. Waiting for the bus and the first sign of things to come was the bus was late. Mild concern washed over me thinking it wasn’t going to arrive but fortunately a few minutes later it arrived. Continuing merrily along we the left Bishops Stortford and the driver decided to drive down a one way road the wrong way! Cars were tooting and swerving out of the way, great that’s all i need to be involved in a bus crash. We made our way out of the road without incident and after another 15 minutes or so arrived at Harlow Mill. Now to follow my rough map i had drawn out, a gentle jog and i should be there in good time. A short way down the road and i got the feeling google maps isn’t all that up to date as what should have been a cricket pitch appeared to look far more like new Flats and houses. Don’t panic just follow around the outside of the buildings until you get back on track. Further along i came to a bridleway that was going in the right direction, phew! another 20 minutes or so and i should be there. Except i was now lost in an estate that the bridleway cut through. A bit of common sense, ask someone. Pointed back in the general direction i should be going i came to the common i had to cross. What is marked on the map as a common i would have been more inclined to describe as a swamp! Can this get any worse today! with shoes filling up with water and mud i really wasn’t happy. i eventually made my way of the common back on to a road, another mile or so and should be there at last. Sure enough down a country lane, up a hill and i had made it to the start with some time to spare. What a start to the day! With the bag safely stored i met up with the other club members as we all prepared for the start. With the more than adequate warm up and not being in the best of moods i was determined to get it out of my system by having a good run. We were off! i got off to a cracking start and felt good. Once people had spread out i checked my watch, i was running at 6 minute 30 second miles, well inside my PB. At 4km i was with one of our clubs best female runners Fiona Halls and was thinking “either she is having a bad day or i’m going quite fast!”. I made sure i didn’t ease up and kept pushing the pace and my comfort levels. Eventually my pace did start to drop but as long as i stayed inside 7 minutes 30 seconds per mile i would be on for a PB. At kilometer 6 i really started to feel tired and all i was thinking about was getting on to 8km which was slightly more down hill. The 8km mark came around and i used the down hill to relax a little and try and let my legs flow a little more, i was really starting to feel it now. One of our other Female runners cam up along side and gave me some encouragement which was really welcome. Then shortly after that another competitor ran up beside me and asked what time i was trying to achieve, so i told him sub 45 minutes. He then went ahead of me but was really helpful that he kept shouting me on and telling me not to give up. The last kilometer was absolute agony and i was really spent and didn’t have any energy for a final sprint that i would usually manage. I crossed the line in 43 minutes and 27 seconds knocking 1 minute and 33 seconds of my 10k PB. I was so pleased i had really pushed myself and i knew i couldn’t have given any more on the day. After collecting my finishers medal, getting my bag and catching up with the other Saffron Striders i now had to make my way back to Harlow Mill to get the dreaded bus. So i set off on a gentle jog knowing what time the bus was due, 3 miles later i had made it back with 6 minutes to spare. The time for the bus came and went. It was now 10 minutes late, something wasn’t right. i turned my phone on and checked up on the travel detail. The trains were now running and i was standing waiting for a bus that was never going to turn up! The train had long gone and i was faced with having to wait almost an hour for the following train. I checked the bus timetable and there was a local Sunday service running. So i ended up getting on the local bus back to Bishops Stortford making it just in time for a train to Audley End which is 2 miles from home. At least if i got back there if my wife was in i could get a lift if not another 2 mile walk to ad to the 12 miles of running i had clocked up today! Fortunately for me my wife was at home and came out to pick me up. What a day! So what would you do to get to or from race day?


st claire


Having to leave soon after the finish i didn’t wait around for the results. At tonight’s club meeting i found out i helped contribute towards winning the men’s team trophy. My first trophy since taking up running seriously in March 2012. For everyone that reads my blog and has aspirations to better themselves…proof that hard work pays off!


Cambridge Half Mararthon Review


After doing the Bath half I had the week off recovering taking the advice of one of the running club members. I only had slight soreness in my thighs for a couple of days but the main niggle was a very sore Achilles. I made sure I iced and stretched it and had some hot baths to help relax my leg muscles. Cambridge half marathon weekend was here and after recovering from my previous shin splint injury my main worry now was a bruised Achilles. The last thing I wanted to do was completely rupture it and spend the next two months or more recovering. The Bath half had been fairly cold with a frosty start. In comparison Cambridge was absolutely freezing with the wind blowing and a small amount of snow in the air. A bad ankle and bad weather didn’t really make for a good race. My only thought for the day was to take it easy and I would be happy not to drop out part way around and complete the race still able to run. At the off I set of at a sensible easy pace to give my ankle a chance to warm up and stretch a bit. Other running club members had left me behind and others were passing me where I had not set off at my expected original pace. Cambridge has the good advantage of being a very flat course so no hills to put anything under a great strain. Once I was three miles or so into the run I could still feel the ankle aching on every step but it wasn’t as painful as expected so I tried to increase the pace a little. Cambridge is a two lap course of the city so in the early stages my thoughts were to complete the first lap and then start thinking about racing and running a bit harder. There are quite a few twists and turns to the Cambridge course where it winds its way around the city so although flat it could be faster without all the turns involved. The end of the first lap was in sight, I waited until mile nine where I had a powerbar energy gel, blackcurrant with added caffeine. Shortly after I grabbed an isotonic drink from one of the drink stations and was feeling good. The next section I then concentrated on was the out section; I knew that once we arrived at the Fitzwilliam Museum we were getting close to the end. After cramping in Bath I made sure I took on more drink as I ran on and again at mile twelve I started to get a few twitches in my calves. The finish was in view and now was the time to dig in and push on my legs were holding up well and I still had energy to burn. Running around the edge of the common and toward the finish straight I felt good enough to do my usual final push and managed to pass two or three people and all without cramping up. Over the finish line and I had made it in one piece. To my surprise expecting to run a slow race because of my ankle I had done it in 1 hour and 42 minutes which was only 1 minute 18 seconds slower than Bath, a fantastic time. I walked on and received my medal and goodie bag and met up with a couple of other Striders that had finished a few minutes ahead of me. It was still really cold and I was mindful to keep moving not only to keep warm but to stop the legs from cramping as well. I was really pleased with the race but in hindsight I may not run half marathons a week apart in the future. My Achilles is still bruised but healing very slowly. Next race up is St Claire Hospice 10k on 17th March in Hastingwood near Harlow. Let’s hope no new injuries are on the horizon, and a bit of warm weather would be nice too!

Bath Half Marathon Review

I had taken a gamble that my Basics Foundation 11’s would last until I had done the Bath half marathon and the forthcoming Cambridge half marathon and then retire them. That gamble didn’t work out and as mentioned in my last post I was hit with a severe case of shin splints due to wearing them out. That took me two and a half weeks to recover from, eventually running 2 gentle miles on Sunday 23rd February, 5 miles on Tuesday 25th and cycling 10 miles home from work on Wednesday 26th.

Bath half weekend had come around and i wasn’t anywhere as near ready as i could have been. I knew i was capable of completing the distance, it would be a case of how mentally strong i was to push myself on for a good time. I set out for my sisters early on Saturday morning, having to travel from North Essex on Greater Anglia into London, then across town to Paddington to get on the First Great Western service to Bath Spa. I had been keeping an eye on the weather forecast and it had Sunday 3rd in Bath as 8 degrees with broken cloud and sunshine. Sounded good for running, but currently on the Saturday the weather was freezing! With no wifi on First Great Western trains i had to make do with some music and made it into Bath at 14.30. My sister made a fantastic cottage pie with sweet potato topping with bananas and custard for desert, a perfect pre race dinner in my book!. With an early and chaotic morning to look forward to an early night was had getting to bed at 21.30

We put a plan together as to what time to set off, where to park etc. We had pre booked breakfast at cafe retro on york street (@caferetro on twitter), this was fairly close to the runners village and start area. Everyone got up around 7 a.m. Time enough to have a small amount to eat befor leaving, myself having porridge and honey. Once all packed and into the car and we were off to Bath town centre, we were early enough and easily got parked in Victoria Park. So far the weather forecast had got it wrong and it was frosty and absolutely freezing! we made our way to the cafe to warm up and once there i had a croissant with honey and some water. The time had come to make my way to the runners village and get ready. Once in the village the weather hadn’t made any attempts to warm up so i had to continually jog around and stretch to keep some warmth in my body. Eventually they allowed us up to the starting area where BBC radio Bristol were broadcasting from and had my few minutes of fame talking to Steve Le Fevre on air. Dermot O’Leary was just ahead of me running for the coppafeel cancer charity and at 11 a.m. when the starting horn was sounded i quickly overtook and left him behind. The first mile down towards the train station is down hill and gives you a chance to get off to a good bit of speed and to warm up as well. The course then swings to the right along an uphill section and towards Upper Bristol road. Then downhill slightly and onto a long flat section towards the far end of Newbridge road and back across the river Avon, there was another slight hill at this point as well. Then a nice long flat section back towards the railway station before covering another loop of the same route. I felt very comfortable and was running a good pace, i completely missed my sister and family on the first loop but managed to see them on the second lap. It was also a nice surprise to see a work colleague who was in the town as well. I had an energy gel at about mile 8 and then made do with lucozade sport and water that was available on the course. I felt good all the way up to mile 12 when i started to feel my calf starting to tense a little…a then it got slightly worse still! I was far to close to home now to pull out and charged on regardless even tho i felt i had now reduced from a graceful runner to more of a galloping pony! To top it all Dermot O’Leary now came passed me…nnnoooooo! The last mile was all up hill and i pushed on as hard as i could really sucking in the air trying to psyche myself up for a final sprint! at the final corner i could here the screams of my sister and brother-in-law and gave it every ounce i had. Hurtling down the outside sprinting for all my worth i must have passed about 30 or more people..it felt absolutely epic! I had done it and finished in 1 hour 40 minutes and 42 seconds. Not bad coming back from injury and being my first half marathon. Unfortunately i didn’t catch Dermot and he beat me by a measly 40 seconds! I made my way down to get a drink and my goody bag. As i was having my timing chip removed my leg completely locked with cramp and all i could do was drop to the ground gritting my teeth and it felt like a massive task in its self just to get my leg in a position where i could stretch it out and relax it a bit. After a few minutes it eased off enough that i could walk again and made sure i had some more to drink and kept walking a mile or so back to the same cafe where we planned on meeting for lunch. After meeting up again and having a lunch of carrot cake, strawberry milkshake and more water it was time to say goodbye and jump on the train back home again. It was an amazing race and my sister asked if i would come back and do it again next year. I have just signed up for 2014 so it looks like that’s a yes!

For some more disturbing photos please follow the link below entering my race number if necessary.