Out and back or loops?

How do you decide your run routes? What is the reason you choose to run where you do? 

I often wish I could have more fun on my runs during the weeks and I know there are some people out there who get to run some beautiful scenic routes every run. However, when it comes to training runs I find myself being more pragmatic than creative. With the time constraints I find myself under and the busy roads around where I live I often have to choose locations and routes that allow me to get the sessions done that I need to. 

On one of my runs the other day I had to go out for seven miles but I wanted to just get it done on a decent route that would be fairly flat. As a result of this I chose to go down to the cycle path and do an out and back run. It was on this run that I got thinking about the types of sessions that I do and whether loopy runs or out and back runs are better so I thought I would look at aspects of both. 

Out and back runs

I often use these runs when I have a set distance to do on a run which can include interval style runs too. This is mainly because it is much easier to judge distances and I would also know what I’m going to get in a run. What I get on the way out I get on the way back. It also means that if I choose a traffic free route then I can go at a speed without the worry of having to keep stopping mid interval to let cars out. 

These also suit me better because I have to spend much less time planning routes as I have a few easy options to choose from. Although I’m sure that many people have wonderful route options for their out and backs, I have a few simple run routes. The problem with this is that I end up going on the same routes a little too often which can make these runs a bit more boring. Perhaps I need to find more interesting out and back routes but there are a lot of hills that I don’t always fancy taking on! 

Loop runs

These runs definitely require a bit of planning so that you know how many miles you will be able to get in. You also have to consider the type of route you will be going on. Is it fast and flat or does it have too many hills for that session. I only do these around the local neighbourhood and often to get my recovery runs in as I’d only be going slow anyway. 

I am not very good at pre planning my runs and mapping interesting routes but I do like to go and explore every now and then but I find myself prioritising the outcome of my run rather than the process of enjoying being out on a run. 

Ultimately I prioritise the outcome of the session more often than I probably should to ensure that I regularly gain pleasure from running. I do though gain my most satisfaction from running on new roads, new routes, turning left just because I can and I want to know where it goes. This is what I love about running but maybe having such big race goals gets in the way. Maybe I need to ease off the level of expectation a bit and get more adventurous and take those new turnings a bit more often rather than worrying about being able to run specific mile splits for a specific amount of miles. 

I would encourage anyone getting into running or training for races to find time to explore on runs and find routes that you enjoy and give you pleasure. After all, that’s what we want from being out and running. 


Power of rest

So the training plan I have been following for the last year or so has emphasised the idea of training consistently and regularly. There are 3 different possible levels of plan to choose from with level 3 even suggesting some double run days. This has been working really well for me as I have been running almost daily and the momentum and consistency that has come with that has allowed me to make real improvements. 
However, the plan has two weeks where the training ramps up before lowering on a third week which often starts with a rest day to allow the body to recover a bit more from the intense training. On this rest day I often go for a massage to aid recovery but this is often followed by a bit of a challenging cycle up a hill home. These probably contradict each other a bit but needs must and I have become a big believer in active recovery. 

Unfortunately this week’s recovery week didn’t quite go as planned. It started with a massage but the following day I knocked my knee and began real panic about the fact it might have been my old itb syndrome coming back to haunt me. I was cautious about how much training I should do in this state so I eased off a little bit. After a day or so I decided I could be risking further damage so I took a rest day. 

Now I don’t mean the sort of rest day where I do a cycle to work or go for a recovery jog. I meant a rest day. It was the first day where I did no physical activity at all. I drove to work and when I got home I just chilled out. Felt weird but didn’t want to risk hurting the knee. 

The next day I drove to work again with the plan of running for a session after work. As I walked around work in the morning I noticed a freshness to my legs. I was able to spring up the steps with a little more bounce. I also felt less tired for the first morning in a while as if the running is properly draining. However I know that the tiredness I feel from the running is a good feeling and that it means my body is getting stronger so I do not mind it. 

The run that evening felt different to normal runs and I definitely felt better within my running technique and moved better. Ultimately this has shown me that I really benefited from the rest. I don’t want to have a rest day too often but it has got me thinking about the taper at the end of my plan and also the fact that each of my long runs are not going to be at race pace because of the training  fatigue. But that is okay. 

So, don’t be afraid of rest! 

Now to get back to the running and continuing to build on the consistency and mileage! 

Gloucester Half Marathon -PB

So I have heard a number of people before talk about the benefits of using races as part of the long run aspect of training. With this in mind I’ve looked around to see what is out there for me to use and one of the first ones I found was the Gloucester half. Although it came a bit earlier in my training plan it actually matched up with the planned mileage for that week so I was happy to sign up. 

It was an event where you picked up the number on the morning and at the same time as the half marathon they were also doing a full marathon and a 50k race so there was a real good buzz about the collection room. The course for the half marathon was a weird sort of figure of 8 2 lap route which wasn’t actually too bad in the end but I’m not sure how the 4 lap marathon would have been. 

Prior to the race I couldn’t decide on a strategy for pacing. I finally settled with not aiming for a PB and treating it like a steady training run. Maybe coming in at just under 1:34 but mostly running by feel and keeping it steady. 

As I made my way the start pen, I found myself right at the front, partly because nobody else was pushing forwards and also because I could still see Dani waiting on the side. We had a chuckle about how silly it was for me to be there. I agreed but the road ahead was clearly wide enough for overtaking if it was needed. 

As we set off, there was clearly a group of faster runners which I knew I would have to let go and not get carried away. I soon found myself in a little group with 2 other runners after the first mile and the pace they were running felt comfortable so I tried to stick with them. My watch was ticking away but I didn’t look in at every split as I was feeling just right but after the first one I did see it was ridiculously quick. 

I stayed with this group and we were soon joined by another runner too. As we completed the first lap we joined back in with some of the marathon runners and also some traffic. Some of the drivers were not the most helpful and one of our group ended up getting stuck by a car and slower runner but I managed to dodge and maintain my pace. After this I was left with one other runner and we were going at what felt like a steady pace. Unfortunately he ended up pulling over but not sure why. With me going solo for the last 5 k I knew it was going to be tough. But as I was feeling okay I decided to try and open up my legs, particularly because there was a downhill. I was feeling good but it was definitely the harder part of the race. 

As I approached the finish line I saw the clock and pushed a little bit harder thinking it would be close to under 1:30 so I was really surprised to see the time on my watch hit 1:27:38. A little bit naughty to run such a PB when it is so early in the training plan but I will definitely take it and it also gives me a codices boost going into the rest of training. 

Time for reflection

After wanting a good break from all things training plan after my Bournemouth Marathon, I decided that I would not look back at my previous blog posts to reflect until I was ready to look forwards.

I feel that I have reached a point where I am ready to begin looking forwards and realigning my running goals. Therefore I thought the first thing I should do is to reflect on the key points I highlighted during each training week/blog post to take forwards into the future. Although at the time of writing each little list at the end of my posts, I know that they did not all get used. Hopefully by going through them, they will give me focus when I make my plan soon and if they help you out, then that is also great!

Here are the things that I should take into my future training.

  • I need to be prepared to listen to my body. If I’m ill, I should not be running and rest will help me long term.
  • If I am going away for a weekend, try to prioritise an early run so that the rest of the day can be enjoyed.
  • I need to do as much as I can to keep myself healthy such as eating fruit and veg, perhaps taking multivitamins too.
  • Do not eat a full English breakfast hours before doing a tough hill session.
  • Do not schedule runs for set nights and be more flexible so that the plan works for me.
  • I can push myself harder than I think I can if I keep training consistently.
  • Strava is such a cool community for running and cycling and I will share my thoughts more soon.
  • It is okay to be flexible with my sessions and fit them around my non running life. This should not make me feel guilty.
  • I really need to get to a running club regularly to push myself harder.
  • I still don’t like hill running but…
  • I need to do more hill running. Both sessions and including them in all run types.
  • Saturday long runs can be really good and useful but must still be flexible.
  • I really enjoy exploring new routes on my long runs and finding new places. This is great for my motivation and something I must do more of.
  • I am not sport specific fit and need to avoid netball!
  • I miss playing football. But I have made the commitment to running and would hate to pick up an injury by playing football.
  • Hills still hurt but they do work.
  • I must consider how to deal with DOMS to recover better. Perhaps regularly foam rolling.
  • Water is essential on a night out to help recovery for running the next day
  • It is important to have a social life during a training programme.
  • I can prioritise the faster specific sessions so that I can do the best with my plan.
  • Listen to your body and rest if you need to or take the run easier.
  • Being flexible is okay but having a routine can still be a good thing.
  • A Royal flush is a great way to make a run more exciting – make each consecutive mile faster than the previous
  • Massages are helpful at being proactive with regards to injuries.
  • I really enjoy exploring trails and finding new routes but I’m not sure if I’m ready to invest in trail shoes.
  • I need to keep working on my hips flexibility and strength and avoid putting it off.
  • A strength programme of some sort is really important and I must get this in my plan regularly.
  • My feet are wide and it makes it tricky to get new shoes. I also must get new shoes before my current ones are completely bust.
  • Cross training can have good benefits and I should do it more
  • Driving seems to make my legs tired
  • Chips for dinner the night before a long run is not really sensible
  • Running with a non running partner has the potential to be enjoyable but it is important to choose a good run
  • Travelling for a whole day can leave your legs restless
  • A long run on a Friday is weird but possible if I’m not working
  • I need to keep myself hydrated and start working out some better strategies for race day
  • I need to find opportunities to just run for the pleasure of running and not focusing on splits, speed and distance
  • I really need to learn to swim better so I can be more confident in the water and use it for cross training
  • I have not learnt that I really need to look after my calves and Achilles.
  • Prevention is better than treatment
  • Sometimes it is fun to run in the rain and not as bad as you might expect
  • Long runs on Sunday afternoon are weird
  • Cream tea is not a great pre run meal
  • Think long term and sacrifice a run for the long term training benefits as it could easily knock you off the consistent plan
  • Stop over worrying and letting maranoia take over. Reflect on why it is silly to think about
  • A slow run the day before the race felt good


Hitting the track

After the clocks changed and the evenings got dark so ridiculously early, I immediately lost motivation for running when I got home. Two weeks later and I still feel a bit like that, tired, peckish and just wanting to chill and be cosy. 

However, one aspect of my training that is helping to motivate me to do some hard running is my return to the local track for a weekly session. I made an attempt over a year ago to try and add it to my routine but it didn’t really stick and I only made two visits. This time though I think it will be different. I have been on the last two Thursday’s and found the sessions to be hard and tough but achievable. I also do not think I would have pushed myself consistently hard like I have done at the track. It has also been good to have other people in the group with you, not just to keep up with but for a small chat to break up the session on the short rest sections. 

With my marathon not until early April I am just keen to keep my training fairly relaxed and enjoyable. I have done a few evening runs but I am okay if I miss an opportunity to run after work. Especially with the track session. 

I have also done a couple of park runs recently to add a bit more enjoyment to the weekly training. The first one I ran with a friend for their first ever park run which was really enjoyable just chatting as we ran but also being able to push down the hill. Then the following week I sandwiched parkrun in between a 3 mile jog to and from the venue. I was surprisingly still able to get a decent time which was a shock because my legs felt really tired. 

Hoping to try and get to the track a couple of times a week in the build up to my training plan starting and keeping one visit a week during the plan. Not going to think about marathon until the end of November though. Now is the time to enjoy running. 

Marathon recovery 

It has now been two weeks since I ran the marathon and I have only been out for one very short and slow run since. It has felt bad but I now find myself feeling ready to get back running again. I also went for a hike up Pen Y Fan which I have not managed to do in my training programme. 

The first week I was exhausted and feeling negative about running but this week has seen my mindset change for the better. Although I have not run, I have cycled to work and back every day except one which has been nice to know that I’m actually doing some sort of training or physical activity. Cycling home on Friday was very tough though but I feel that is a result of me not running and my body being uncomfortable from a lack of running. 

On Tuesday I finally got back to Ben for my post marathon massage which was really good. As well as the physical benefits of flushing out the aches, it was really good to have a chat with Ben about my running and also some of his recent experiences. It helped me to reflect and become more positive about my running going forwards. 

I discussed my thoughts about where I went wrong And the whole lack of strengthening in my plan. He had some good advice and talked about how I might have had the wrong perception of a strength programme alongside my running. I always thought it was all about high reps to build strength endurance and not doing heavy weighs as this would bulk up. He pointed out that you start with high weights low reps in the build up phase of running when the low mileage is being done. 

I plan to do more research into this to really improve the legs over those last 6…9…13 miles of the marathon. I may go for a few PT sessions to check my technique to make sure I’m doing it right. 

Autumn marathon – Bournemouth Marathon part 2

So if you read part 1, you know this is a week after my race in the Bournemouth marathon. I want to share my experience for anyone else looking to to run it or wanting to know how my training worked out. 

Pre race

Having been to Uni in Bournemouth I had some friends to see on the Saturday so went down from Bristol in the early afternoon and checked out the beach, saw the finish line and caught the end of some kids races. Really nice experience for children and I hope it motivates them to love sport forever. We avoided hotels and made use of an Air b&b room in someone’s house in Winton. This was the same set up we used for my Southampton Spring marathon. They were happy for my to use pans to make my morning porridge and the house was really quiet. 

On Saturday evening we met up with Luke, who ran it last year, for a drink and some dinner at the local Italian. I may have had a pint which I probably should have avoided, but run, life balance and all that. My pasta was a good portion so I would recommend Bellaggios if you are looking for some food. 

On race morning I woke up feeling fine and got a lift off Dani to the start where she dropped me off. There were some queues to the car park but you can easily drop off outside of the car park. I walked down to where the baggage trucks are and made use of the loo at the athletics stadium before I put my bag in. Not too bad for queues but there is plenty by the start pen. Easy to get bags handed in and I made a short walk from luggage lorries to the start and found some space to go through my warm up routine. 


I got into the start pen with about ten minutes to go and bumped into James off Instagram! (@shoulderrunner). It was nice to have a chat and settle my nerves but as the start got nearer I began to focus more. My aim for the race was 3:05 but accepting that I might blow up a bit and get 3:15 (all the time really only thinking about 3:05). 

The race started and off I went. I managed to get my pace to where I wanted it fairly quickly which was helped by being in the front white pen. Before I knew it we were heading on a slight decline so I used that to up my pace but focusing on maintaining effort levels. This worked and I was feeling good by the 5k point and felt I was being controlled with my pacing. By increasing slightly on the downs it would compensate for when I would go up! 

At about mile 4 when we turned at Hengitsbury Head, I took on some water and this was when my race began to change. For some reason it did not sit well with my belly and I began to get discomfort in my belly. Nothing so serious I should stop but not what it should be like after a few miles. I continued on and soon went on a slight incline but was holding my pace and feeling capable, even if my belly was not. 

After an hour I took on board my first gel about mile 9 and near a water station but this just made the belly funny again. By the time we got to the beach I was on the time targets I had set myself. Even if the race mile markers did not match up with my garmin. This was frustrating as I didn’t know what to believe. I decided that if the mile was the time it said, it didn’t matter if it was the correct mile as long as for that mile I did it at that speed. 

From about mile 5 I felt like I was running rather solo. There was a group of about 6-8 up ahead but I could not get to them or keep with them so I made the decision to let them go and stay focused. This solo running continued until I got onto the beach for the first time when I picked up a small group. This helped keep me going but I was trying to focus on my pace and if I felt they were too slow I would go past or if they were too fast let them go. It was all about my pace. 

I did weirdly feel a bit selfish about the race as I had my own goals. I didn’t even interact too much with the kids because I wanted to hold my line. I had my head down and I was trying to do what I had to do. 

We finally came to the first incline in Boscombe gardens and it was tough. Fairly short but still tough and then you do a small little loop which was more of a chance to get the legs back to normal before continuing onwards. As we got to the top of the decline to Bournemouth pier just past half way, I made the decision to open the legs up going down. All the time not using more effort. I didn’t take the bend too well and it was hard to then re accelerate. I just managed to spot Dani in the crowd which was a nice surprise. 

The next part was out to Boscombe pier and back to Bournemouth pier. This is where my race began to unravel. After getting through half way in 1:31 I was feeling good but only a mile later I was really struggling. The first pier was tough, my legs were telling e they were tired. Then on the way back I spotted James who was looking comfortable and that helped motivate me more. Round Bournemouth pier and I was finding it tough. My pace had slowed. 

At this marathon they do this wonderfully motivating thing of making you run through  the finish line at mile 17, just before the massive hill. As I ran under, feeling awful, the clocked hit 2:00:00, I can still picture it now. It crushed me. I would have to run 9 miles in an hour, including up this big hilly section. If I was feeling more positive I would have thought about how I could make to up on the flat last 6 miles and the down hill. But I wasn’t and all I could think about was how much it sucked. 

I approached the hill with the best intentions of running up it, getting the race back on track and maybe getting 3:10 instead. The hill beat me and I had to run walk up it. The route at the top then became very lonely as I was struggling and solo for pretty much all of it.  By this point my belly was really suffering and I tried an energy cube I had but had no energy to even chew it and didn’t want to risk more issues with a gel. 

As I finally headed down to the beach I saw Dani on the bend as planned. She thought she would’ve handing me a gel but was flashing a W with my hand for water. Luckily she got it. I stopped for a big drink telling her I felt sick. Then jogged 20 steps before bending over and wretching. This was ridiculous. I felt awful and my legs were useless. My pace was really slowing and I needed up doing a lot of run walking just to make it back. 

The part of the course out to Poole was tough because I knew I would be coming back but I though once I turned around it would be okay but the run walk co rubies. I managed to find a couple of good paced stints but not enough to get me home under 3:15. A surge in speed need the end as I approached the funnel nearly cause some cramp but that stayed away and I finished in 3:15:38. 

At the finish line I didnt want to move. I got my medal and badge went to the grass, saw Dani and then lay down on the grass to get some energy back. Luke had made it to the finish too and offered to collect my luggage which was really kind and helpful of him. 

My first thoughts were how I should be happy after feeling so bad and struggling but I knew for sure that I did not want to do Bournemouth again. Those hills were horrible and the heat just drained me! I would however, suggest to anyone else that it is worth doing as the views are great. It just might not be a real PB course. 

Post race

After the race I went for a dip in the sea to mirror my ice baths. My body was so hot it did not feel as cold as it maybe should have but I’m glad I did it. 

Then we went to a burger bar called Monty’s and indulged in a burger, two types of fries and a freak shake. It was awesome!