Month: October 2016

Feeling like a runner again

For the first time in a long time I feel like an actual runner again and it is great!

It has been half term so I have had time to be a bit selfish and focus on getting out running again. My aim for the week was to go and do a few slow runs and see what happened in the hope I could go slow for 30 minutes. The first day of the holidays I went out and because of the slower pace I felt comfortable going longer. Getting to the hour mark and feeling good with it was really satisfying. I thought it best to leave a day between each run but ended up having to wait for a couple of days before my next run.

Over the rest of the week I managed to get out 3 more times doing exactly the same thing and had no pain in my knee. (Check out my training diary here) I was even able to enjoy running because I wasn’t putting my body under stress by pushing hard.

I also returned to my physio again to discuss my tight hips/glutes/lower back. After some prodding and assessment he reached the conclusion that my hip flexors are still tight as is my back, which is not great for my posture. He found some trigger points in my back and glutes (it was not enjoyable) and gave me some exercises to work on as well as advising on foam rolling the glutes and back daily. I am really determined to get this sorted and must do them daily!

As mentioned in a previous blog on Pomprey Hill Parkrun, I enjoyed getting out and being in a community of runners to start the weekend. I was also pleased to get a solid time on a new course that was a decent challenge. Perhaps I should have warmed up a bit better before it – not to go faster but to reduce risk of injury. However, you don’t see lots of warm ups being done so didn’t want to be odd.

Although it might have been a sensible idea to rest today following Parkrun, I was really keen to go out and add some more distance to my week and show myself that I was capable of doing more. Admittedly, I have probably done far too much running this week having previously done very little but it is great to know I have it under my belt.

Next week I return to school so my schedule will probably be busier and running might take a back seat but I think this will be a good thing. Having pushed to get these runs done it will probably benefit my legs to have a week of less running before steadily increasing it again.

My aims for next week is to do a couple 10k/1 hour runs again and a steady Parkrun on Saturday. I’m also looking to get out in the morning before work to fit in a run to free up an evening for some core/yoga style work as well as continuing to work on my physio exercises.

How has your week of running been? Have you started to follow any training plans?

Pomprey Hill Parkrun 

Made another Parkrun debut today with a visit to Pomprey Hill Parkrun in South Gloucestershire, which will soon become my closest Parkrun.

It is only a few weeks until me and Dani move into our first house and we will be moving from living very close to Little Stoke Parkrun to being very near Pomprey Hill. So I wanted to go and check it out before I moved and managed to drag Dani along with me – which I really did not expect to happen.

Before heading down I had a read of the Parkrun page and their Facebook group to get a feel for the course. They recorded a couple of hundred runners recently which was good and showed people like it! The weather was overcast with some moisture in the air which I think is perfect running weather.

As we arrived there was a decent amount of parking and the pavilion looked really cool. They opened it up for everyone to buy teas and bacon rolls! The smell of the bacon rolls was a nice motivator when you ran past it three times but also quite demotovating because it would be so easy to stop and get one.

The course was 3 laps and a bit, which went over paths, wood chippings, grass and some mud and on the route there was the famous ‘Pomprey hill’. The hill was muddy but because there had been a lack of rain it meant it was fine to plod up, if a little narrow! Getting to the top the second and third time, I really felt the effects and had to keep moving at a slower rate to get some breath back. Soon after this there was a short downhill section before a steady rise to the finish line.

I really enjoyed seeing so many people out there doing the parkruns. As I always say, it is a real highlight of these events that they attract all sorts of runners. There were even quite a few youngsters!

At the end I didn’t stay around for a bacon roll but it looked like many were and when I return I will be sure to bring some money to buy one.

Today wasn’t a new PB for me, but managed to push myself round to get 22.07. I’m pretty pleased with that, especially after looking at my watch data. It was a consistent yet rewarding run.

Overall a slightly challenging course with a few ups and downs but there is plenty of scenery to enjoy and positive spectators and marshals to keep encouraging runners all the way round. Visit http://www.parkrun.org.uk/pomphreyhill/ for more information.

Work/Run balance

This past couple of weeks I have found it really hard to find an ideal work/run balance that allows me to get all the teaching work done and still have time and motivation to train.

In the past I have been able to generally leave work at school and not take too much home but recently this seems to have stopped being the case. I have come home and done a couple of runs but when I have done them, I just feel lethargic and the runs are not the best.I can feel myself losing fitness through the lack of motivation and this is something I really need to stomp out.

I have seen advice on how to squeeze sessions in such as doing runs before work, making use of lunchtimes for exercising and doing more interval sessions so that time is maximised and you do not have to work out for as long. However, even some of these are no good such as doing lunchtime exercise. My lunchtime is spent marking books so the only thing exercised is my writing hand.

I have just started my half term with an hour jog this morning and I am hoping to use this as a boost for my training and a chance to start a fresh. I can’t help but feel that I am using my knee issue and worries about injuries as an excuse and this is something only I can do something about. Hopefully a visit to the physio in the next week or so will give me some fresh focus and purpose to my training which has felt slightly lost recently as I do the odd jog to keep me ticking over.

Due to afterschool commitments such as parents evening among other things, I have also not been along to my running groups track sessions which was a nice weekly focus. After what I hope will be a refreshing week of jogging, I hope to make my return to the track very soon. Also, I want to get some marathons booked up so that I can get some focus to my training and this will only help me get out and find time to do more training.

Going forwards, I plan to schedule one night each week for an extended session. To do this I will be looking at the diary for the week ahead. I am going to try and do at least one morning session each week before work to remove stress after school. I am also going to try and do some interval styled training one night a week. Hopefully, this alongside what the physio says will get me back on track.

How do you manage you work/run balance? Any tips to share?

London Marathon Rejection

This week, the London Marathon sent out its rejection magazines and sadly one fell through my letter box.

I was expecting them to arrive like everyone else and was remaining optimistic. But also I had a sense of realism that the odds were very tough. A visit to the gym delayed me finding out and a text from my girlfriend hinted that something had arrived. I didn’t want to find out immediately as I was about to tackle a slow 60 minute treadmill run. It would not have helped motivation if I was rejected and I would have been distracted if I got accepted.

So, as I walked into the flat I instantly saw a package rather than just a magazine and instantly I knew. I had ticked the box that meant I would get a top if I was rejected so the result of my ballot was clear. Luckily I was prepared and although annoyed, understood that it could have happened. Plus the top was quite cosy!

The best thing about it was that I found out early and I could now go and think about which races I want to do in the future. I will talk about this in another blog.

I was very intrigued by the reaction on the London Marathon Facebook pages in the days following rejection announcements. There are some who have accepted the decision with good grace and understand the odds of getting a place. However, there are some who react with a touch more negativity.

Some complaints were that the charities are outrageous for setting such high fundraising targets. My view on this is that the charities are trying to maximise their fundraising and if there is a demand for places and people are willing to raise a large amount of funds in an event then why shouldn’t they set the bar a bit higher.

Some were being negative about the good-for-age slots and believe you have to be fast to get into the marathon. Yes they offer good-for- age places and I think this is a great reward for those who manage to achieve them. I really hope that I am able to achieve the required standard in the future and get into the London Marathon on merit rather than relying on ballots.

There was also lots of comments about how to improve the ballot system. In previous years, there was a rule where if you were rejected for 5 continuous years then you would finally get automatic entry. I am led to believe that as a result of its own success this is no longer possible because it is mathematically possible. One interesting idea was to put make a rule so that once you get a place on the ballot once, you are then unable to enter the ballot for 3 consecutive years to allow other people a chance to gain entry. It could possibly work but the aim of the event is to make money and give charities a chance to raise money and the best way to do this is to keep interest in entering the event as high as possible each year.

Ultimately there are lots of people out there who would love to run the London Marathon but this also means there is not the possibility for everyone to do it when they want. All of us who enter the ballot have equal chance of getting in and when we don’t then we have to make other plans or try again next time. For me, the rejection only makes the desire to run it again stronger. I am thankful that I have had the chance to run it once but would love to make a return one day, but I would love it even more if i was able to earn my place on the starting line, either through good-for-age or through my fundraising efforts. Visit their website here for more information https://www.virginmoneylondonmarathon.com/en-gb/

As always, there are other marathons and this is not the only one. I would definitely recommend Edinburgh Marathon Festival (www.edinburghmarathon.com) and you can read my blog about it here.

Did you get into London Marathon? How did you handle rejection? What are your alternatives this year?

Personal Best – 5K – 21:18

As I shared in a previous blog post I managed to secure a new personal best time for my 5K.

This was down at Ashton Court Park Run and was my second visit there. Both times there were more than 350 people in attendance which shows the popularity of the event. The course is an out and back route with the out section taking you up some lovely challenging hills. However, what goes up must come down and the return leg is all down hill which is a great chance to make up for going slow on the way up. This week, Dani was away with the car which meant I had to cycle to the Park Run. It turned out to be a longer journey than I thought it was and took a bit more out of me than I expected, as I was not sure if I would make it on time so couldn’t ease off the pace. Ultimately I got there in plenty of time and had a bit of a running warm up.

When I came last time, I started in the middle of the crowd as my expectations were lower and I felt that I got slowed down at the start. Now I know Park Runs are not all about chasing PBs but I wanted to give myself a good chance of showing what I could achieve after being surprised by my time in the previous visit. Therefore, I placed myself closer to the start to hopefully gain some space so that I could get into my rhythm. This worked well and I managed to find some space as I made my way towards the start of the incline, whilst still having people in front of me to pace myself against.

It was really hard on the way up and spent most of the time regretting my cycle and just trying to keep myself from slowing, or even worse stopping. I kept telling myself that if I get to the top it will level out and then I can chase the time down on the descent. I had to let a few people go past me on the gravel path at the top of the hill but come the turning point I had recovered enough to get into a smooth rhythm. I find that this point of the race requires my greatest attention as the gravel path has a mixture of stones that could easily turn an ankle, or twinge my knee.

On the last part of the downhill, I find that I can easily go faster than I want and have to focus on controlling my speed to keep my body from being too erratic. The last bend took a lot longer than I thought it would as I hoped it was just round a little corner but the corner went on for a bit more than I really wanted it to. Getting towards the finish line I held off a super fast sprint finish because I looked at my watch and saw 21 minutes just ticking over. I stayed strong towards the line and then crossed the line.

Later in the day when I got notified of my finish time I was really delighted because of the limited running I had been doing. It has made me feel really positive about what I can achieve when I get back to training and it makes me more determined to stay injury free.

Bournemouth Marathon: A Spectator’s View

This weekend I visited Bournemouth to support a friend as he ran the Bournemouth Marathon.

I spent 4 years at Bournemouth University studying for my degree and loved my time there. Unlike many of my university friends, I then hung around and really enjoyed living there after finishing the course. Ultimately I moved to Bristol but still hold Bournemouth in high regard and enjoy finding excuses to return – especially when it is sunny. The Bournemouth Marathon Festival has been running since 2013 and I was there for the first one, but at that point in time a marathon seemed a long way from my capabilities so I stuck to the half marathon. In 2016 I had hoped to compete in the marathon alongside my good friend Luke. However, injuries made this impossible and although disheartened I was glad that I could go down and support Luke’s attempts, which meant I was taking on a different role for this weekend.

Getting to Luke’s on Saturday we met Duncan who was also staying at Luke’s and running the race with him on the Sunday. He was suffering with an allergy to the dogs which was not ideal preparation, making his speedy performance on Sunday even more impressive! On the morning of the race Dani and I headed down to Boscombe, taking on the role of spectator, to try and catch up with Luke and Duncan’s partners who had planned to be at mile 7. Parking was quite a pain if you wanted to get near to the finish line which is at Bournemouth pier. We parked up near Bournemouth College and had to pay over the phone, but meant we could add more time later in the day. From here we took a 30 minute walk to Boscombe and got to our location just in time to miss the super fast runners. Soon Luke and Duncan came through not too far apart and looking strong.

As spectators, it was really good for us to be able to catch the runners at a number of points across the course. From mile 7 we made our way back towards Bournemouth to catch them at mile 13 on the cliff top, just before they headed back down towards the promenade. After waving them through here, we were able to follow them down and as they headed off back towards Boscombe pier, we perched ourselves just by the finishing line which they would have to run past to go up a steep incline. Once they had gone past we had to power walk to mile 20 as they once again came back onto the promenade to head towards Sandbanks. At this point, one of the dogs got very tired and required me to carry it the rest of the way to make sure we got there on time. Unfortunately we missed Duncan but stayed long enough to see Luke come down.

With the weather being really sunny and delightful it meant that the beach was quite busy and also the promenade too. This frustrated me as there was no barrier for the runners, so the early runners were left to try and fend for themselves between the sparse marshals with one poor chap being nearly taken out by a dog running off the beach. As the flow of runners became more steady, this was less of an issue as they were more visible but it was a bit unfair. I must say that the marshals did their best but this is something that could and maybe should be looked at. Either by having more marshals or sections of railing spread along the course just to remind everyone that something was happening. There was also very little signage along the promenade to warn beach goers of runners coming and suggesting they keep to certain side.

After seeing Luke off for his final out leg, we were able to make it back down to the finishing straight to catch them both coming into finish. The atmosphere here was really good and plenty of people trying to catch a glimpse of their friends and family members running through. After this we headed down to the finishing area in Bournemouth Gardens which had a lovely relaxing feel to it even with the large crowds trying to reunite with each other.

Dani and I headed down to Bournemouth on the Saturday so that we could go and reminisce about our times in Bournemouth and go to check out the beach. There was plenty of time for us to kill before we went to catch up with Luke. Whilst we were down the beach we were lucky enough to catch some of the junior races which I had not witnessed before. There was such a great mix of abilities in these races but as they came into the finishing straight they all flashed the biggest of grins. Having an interest in sport development like I do, it is really great to see children being part of big events like this and I hope that it only inspires them to stay interested in sport and physical activity. Hopefully the Olympics will have helped this.

Ultimately, for spectators the course is a really good one for catching glimpses of runners as shown by the fact we saw them 5 times on the course. Doing this by walking was also unusual. In Edinburgh, Dani had to catch a train to get into the mix of being able to see me only a couple of times. The last couple of years the weather has been really good with the sun shining which made it a really good experience for spectators.

How did everyone else find the race? Would love to hear the views of runners and spectators!