Month: March 2018

Yeovil Half Marathon

As part of my marathon buildup I had been looking to get signed up for a half marathon about 4-6 weeks out from race day. For a number of reasons I was not quite able to find one on the perfect date and in hindsight with all the cancellations due to snowfall, I was quite lucky not to find myself in an unfortunate position of my race schedule being disrupted.

In the end I signed up for Yeovil Half Marathon on March 25th, only 2 weeks before I toe the line at Manchester marathon. Rather to close for me to go chasing a personal best, but close enough for me to tie it in with my last 20 mile long run. It is also near where Dani’s mum lives so we could get a free bed for the night and didn’t have to stress out to much on the day.

I originally planned to run from Sherborne over to Yeovil for the race but with the clocks going forward ( a real pain) and it being 8 miles across, I decided against the super early rise to do this. Instead I opted to get there for 8am, an hour before the start and try to get a 45 minute run in before the start.

I didn’t really have much of a route for this planned and just started running. After a couple of miles I reached a natural turning point and retraced my steps. As I returned near the start I still had plenty of time before the race so I went off winding around some roads near by to keep moving and also keep the miles up. With about 8 minutes to go, I decided to go to the start pen and be ready for the start. Overall, this running before a race thing is a bit weird but I would have struggled if I had to keep running after crossing the finish line.

Onto the event itself. I generally enjoyed the race. It starts in the high street, at 9am but there were still good crowds to cheer us all off. They even organised some pacers for different times and they seemed to have good knowledge of how to pace the slightly hilly course. I went over to introduce myself to the 90 minute pacer as I planned to stay at that consistent pace as best I could. They had also put on a little warm up for those that want to follow it. Not my cup of tea as I like to stick to what I know but I’m sure many people would join in.

Soon we were off and running down a slight hill before looping back up to go through the crowds that were still in the high street. As we went through, there was a brass band playing. I really enjoy hearing brass bands playing something you might not expect them to. I can’t remember what they played but it brought a smile to my face. From there we went out of the town and onto some country paths to reach the first water station at mile 3. I missed it because I was on the left and the water was on the right. Result of being in a pacers group and not preparing for it.

After sometime we went onto a really quiet section of the race with little support but as a training run it was good to just keep my head down and focus on pace. Once we got through that it was on to some hilly sections as we went out to Montacute house. We climbed a hill to reach it, climbed a hill to get out of it and then reached our first proper down hill. I wasn’t sure how long it would last, or what was to come next. Luckily I didn’t push too hard as round the bend was another incline. Then a decline. Then an incline. Then a decline. Then a really long steady incline. A really nice challenge but if you had gone off to fast you would be feeling it here.

At the end of the hills we headed back for town and I was still with the pacer group which was smaller now and on target time wise. We moved through some housing areas (where there were good crowds) and this meant we were asked to run on pavements. These pavements had many drop curbs so when I could I would hop onto the road because the up and down of the pavements really get to my knees. I felt my legs opening up and enjoying the flatter route after the hills and I managed to maintain this into the high street finish.

The brass band were still on the course but as I got there they were in between songs. A shame but didn’t affect my running. The home straight comes after a right hand turn. I really enjoy a finish straight that you don’t see until you turn a bend and can see a finish line not too far away as it gives you a massive boost but enough to carry you to the line. If you see the finish too early it can be demoralising. As I turned the bend I spotted the line, then spotted Dani and may have picked up my pace for a strong finish. That was mostly because the clock was ticking towards 90 minutes.

The medal received at the end was quite cool and I really like the hi vis t shirt we got. Beats all the dark greys and blues we always seem to get.

Ultimately I didn’t get a PB but today was not about that, it was about a final long run and feeling good with the pacing and following a pacer. If you’re looking for a build up Half, I would definitely recommend it.

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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!