marathon

Autumn marathon – week 8

First week of the school holidays and my plan to really step up my training didn’t really happen. There is always tomorrow. That’s what I found myself thinking. Even though I know how stupid that is and sounds. I had to rearrange some runs so my long run was on the Monday and I just found it impacted on the rest of the week as a consequence. 

Being the holidays, I like to make a visit home to Kent and the beaches of the Romney Marsh to visit my family. I planned a first week visit to help my dad with his bungalow. Before I could go on my travels I had to squeeze in 13 miles. It was a tough slog and didn’t go as well as hoped. I only managed 12.5! I don’t think I need to say much more about it. It was one of those but I got the miles done. 

Then began a couple of days of driving and a lot of time sat behind the wheel in my car. I don’t mind the idea of driving, but I really do begin to feel discomfort when driving too much. It has been a niggle in my back and legs for quite a few years now which I can cope with when driving but can ache subsequently. I got to my dad’s house later than planned and after and extra hours driving thanks to motorway works. This meant I was tired when I woke up the next day and this continued. It led me to not feel like doing all my runs. 
I did manage to sneak in a 6 miler at decent pace which became a royal flush in the most part. But I skipped My run the next day as I felt fatigue and tiredness catching up. 

I spent the rest of the week out of sync and didn’t do my long run on Sunday either because of a social event on the Saturday. Just got in feeling exhausted so decided to push the 16 miler to Monday. I did want to run and wanted to do more than just a plod but didn’t fancy going too long. In my head I had 8 miles (4 out, 4 back) as a nice challenge but knowing I could stop for 6. I soon got a nice rhythm and began noticing I was comfortable picking up the tempo each mile and I soon had a royal flush in my sight. I got 6 miles in before having to back out of the flush and accept the last two miles would not be counted for it. Still pleased to know I could pick the pace up like that and finish on a good pace. 

As I got to 1.5 miles from home the skies opened and I got drenched. I see that as karma for not doing the long run. A nice change from the sunny runs though. 

Things I will take away from this week are:

Listen to your body and rest if you need to

Being flexible is okay but I feel much happier with a routine 

A Royal flush is a great way to make a run more exciting – make each consecutive mile faster than the previous

My control and consistency of pace is still not quite where I want it

My pace is not quite at my target marathon time and I really need to keep my training focused and commit more

Southampton marathon: The event

After not being fortunate enough to get access to London marathon I looked for an alternative Spring marathon. There were a few possibilities but I plumped for the ABP Southampton Marathon. Part of my reasoning for this was that I went to university in Bournemouth and had some links with Southampton. I also thought it might be close enough to head down in the morning. It wasn’t. 

Before committing I checked the Facebook groups where I worked out that it was the first marathon in the city for quite a few years. They have had a half marathon going for a couple of years and has been growing so they pushed for a marathon. Fair play to the organisers for this as it would have been easy to just settle but I feel for the city it is a better way to show it off. As it was the first year it meant that the course was going to be 2 laps which I was slightly unsure of initially but over time I got used to the idea. 

In the build up to the race I got my information pack well in advance and I found that I had plenty of information to get me organised. We ended up using air B and B to secure somewhere to stay which was only a few miles from the start. As it turned out, I got free bus travel on the day which saved the legs and was really useful for all runners. This meant that getting to the start line was much easier then it may have been. Dani once again showed how valuable she is on these occasions as I get my blinkers on and she is able to just figure out bus time tables and routes. 

In the morning we arrived at the start area which is a short walk from the finish line and baggage drop. We arrived in good time and perched on the steps outside the guildhall which was to be the baggage drop zone for the race. After a bit of waiting around I committed to losing my bag and dropped it in to the drop zone which was reached by marching through a sea of deep heat! I then had the pleasant surprise of being able to use their toilets rather than trying to find the portaloos. So I can’t really comment on that but o know there were none to be seen in the start area.

There was an organised warm up before the marathon for those who want to get involved in those things but there was enough empty street to do your own thing and get some strides in. The starting pen had loose time guides and no barriers along the side of it meant there was no climbing over and squeezing in. They organised for the mayor to do something to start the race – not sure what as I couldn’t see or hear her from where I was. I just know we didn’t start bang on time according to my watch.  As you start you loop back on yourself and begin your race with nice crowds seeing you off as people arrived for the 10k and half marathon being run shortly after we set off. 

The route was clearly marked all the way round and there were good crowds on most of the route although there were some quiet spots, including the first hill that you climb at mile 4 ish. The water stations were well spread and marshalled too. Going through the football stadium was nice but it could be improved by maybe working it so we got to do a lap and if there were crowds aloud in along with music to add to the atmosphere. Still, I’m sure everyone got a nice picture. I really enjoyed Itchen bridge on the first lap as it provides some pretty cool views – particularly on a sunny day like we had. The second visit was a bit tougher and busier but still nice and it is the worse part as the rest is generally flat. 

The race changed on the second lap. Due to timings, as I approached the start of my second lap, there people doing the 10k were still setting off and we had to merge. This means that there was a lot of dodging by marathoners and there was a last minute shout by marshals to let us know when to move over to leave them to it. 

Then a bit further round the course I think we started catching the back sections of the half marathon which made the roads quite crowded – but nothing compared to London and it adds to the atmosphere. The only thing is it was clear that people were on different race speeds and therefore marshals had to keep shouting for half marathoners to keep left which I imagine was quite frustrating. 

At the end of the race, the finishing packs were not too far away and you get a little video of you crossing the line. As you got your finisher pack you also got offered a non alcoholic beer. I was not in the right state for that but I know a lot of people enjoyed it. As you exit the pen it gets a bit busy as it seemed some people were trying to come in as runners tried to leave. There was plenty of space to meet family by the guildhall and the steps were useful for those who couldn’t get down to the floor. There was also massages on offer if you wanted to join the long queue. 

I’m sure there was other things that I didn’t see in this area but my brother arrived and I hobbled off to get myself a burger! 

Overall I thought it was an enjoyable event and one I would consider again if I didn’t get into London. I would be interested to see what they do with regard the two lap situation and timings of different races to avoid overlaps. 

Did anyone else do it? What did you make of it?

Plans for 2017

Not been on here for a while as I have been reflecting on what I want to achieve and why I want to run.

Over Christmas 2016, I decided I would start getting back into the habit of running regularly and tried to piece together a little run streak of gentle runs. It felt good to be out running and getting some time on my feet. Over this time it gave me a chance to think about what I wanted to do this year with my running. I also started to make greater use of Instagram and have been using that to record my runs daily as a way to keep myself focused and accountable. Having previously read a book on 8020 running I have decided that I will be following this plan over the next 4 and a half months.The main reason for choosing this plan is the hope that it will allow me to stay stronger towards the end of race.

My targets for the year is to go through a whole training plan without picking up a serious injury that stops my running. If I can do this, then I hope to be able to beat my PB.

Not being confident in my ability to do a whole plan without an injury I will be trying to do 2 marathons this year. To set myself up for this I will see how I go with the build up to my first marathon and then peak again for a second race. Alongside this, I am hoping to go into a number of other races or events without the pressure of running.

I have booked on for Weymouth Half Marathon in March to set me up for the Southampton Marathon on the same day as London Marathon. Hopefully putting in plenty of long, slow miles, I will be ready!

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?

Marathon PB EMF 2016

Edinburgh Marathon 2016 – Marathon Personal Best

This weekend I ran the Edinburgh Marathon and somehow came away with a completely unexpected personal best time of 3h27:07.

Start pen of EMF 2016

Start pen of EMF 2016

Going into the race I had talked about a knee injury and how it had stopped me training properly. This is true and the days after the race I really struggled to walk on it. However, through the race it did not really affect me – apart from a small part as I made my way onto the beach section of the course.

Going into it without many expectations meant I had not really thought about what pace to run it at. The previous night I settled on aiming to stay around 7/7.5mph and see how things go. Stood in the start pen I made a last minute and completely unplanned decision to run without music so I wound up my ear phones and put them into my zip pocket. I thought that I should try and enjoy the atmosphere as much as possible and hear my feet so I could focus on my technique and avoid injury. Another last minute idea I had was to tape my name onto my top. After running London without my name, I spent most of the course hearing the name ‘Tony’ shouted to the person behind me. This time it would be my turn. (I only suggest doing this if you are happy to acknowledge the crowd in some way, even if it is a tired glance/wave). This turned out to be a masterstroke and helped get me round.IMG_4880

My GPS was set on my watch before the start buzzer went to avoid any connection problems and it took 2 minutes before I made my way across the line. As I relaxed into my pace I felt comfortable and the few glances down at my watch told me I was going at around 7.6mph which was pleasing. At the 1 mile marker we approached Hollywood park and saw the front runners heading off out into the distance and then it was time to tackle a roundabout to come back on ourselves and follow them. I managed to find a bit of space so managed to avoid being cut up by other runners who were deciding to cut across rapidly.

Miles 1 to 8 are slightly blurred because I didn’t see any mile markers but was probably because I was too busy soaking up the atmosphere and it meant I was not clock watching. Without my music and lots of people on the streets I was really enjoying myself and running at a comfortable pace. About mile 8 I decided to have my first gel, estimating I had been running for over an hour.

I had planned to see Dani at mile 9 so towards this point I began to edge across to the left – like we had planned. It was a great boost to see her in the distance and because I was feeling alright I think it is the first time I have tried to have any dialogue with her when I’ve run past. Normally I’m struggling for breath!

My race changed from mile 11/12ish. From here it got really hard and I was really feeling my lack of training. As we moved through a really busy area for the crowds, it soon became quiet as we went off to do our long out leg before returning to the finish. I was having to try really hard to motivate myself and at 1h50 from the gun starting, the lead runners were coming back past us, which only made me realise how much longer I would be running for.  I was trying to set targets to reach before I even considered a walk but I couldn’t always make them, I had to walk and I hated myself for doing so. On the undulating hills I had to slow down too because I didn’t want to push my knee.

By mile 14 I realised I was going to need a distraction so took out my music. I only had it on quiet but it was something else for me to think about and I was hoping the shuffle would be good for me. The next 4 or 5 miles were tough and interspersed with some small walks. Mostly when taking on water or gels.

At about 4 miles from the finish line I decided to check my clock and see what sort of time I was on for. Here I realised that somehow, a PB might actually be possible. I kept telling myself it was only 5K – At best 22 minutes. At worse 30minutes. I still had 40 minutes to play with so I had to go for it.

Just as I began to feel comfortable with my stride I felt a very painful ‘pop’ at the top of my left calf like a ball of muscle had been pushed out. Disaster! Forget the PB I didn’t know if I could even finish. Pulling to the side with some colourful language I just tried to stretch it off. The pain eased and I got moving again – awkwardly, but moving. Then not long after it went again so I stretched and continued. This happened a couple of times and I found that if I kept my calf tighter it felt safer. I had to just focus on getting to the next mile and I told myself I could have a walk.

IMG_4909At about 25.5 miles Dani was there again cheering me on which helped. Although her shouts of ‘run faster’ were not helpful. The crowds lining the approach to the finish were great and I felt like an idiot when I had to stop before the final bend. Turning into the home straight I decided for some crazy adrenaline filed reason to pick my speed up. My right hamstring immediately told me no – as did my calf!

The main clock was approaching 3:29 and I tried to get under it but missed that by 9 seconds but I knew it was still a PB so that was okay. When I got my text with my actual time it was an even better PB.

Once home,  I had a chance to look at the medal and reflect on the fact I got a PB and also that if I trained better and stayed injury free I could go even faster.

IMG_4938

Enjoying an ice bath

EMF Race review 2016

Edinburgh Marathon Festival Review

On Sunday May 29th 2016 I was one of 6000 runners lining up to tackle the Edinburgh marathon.

Earlier that morning, those doing the half had already set off. I will talk about my performance in another blog (here) but I wanted to share my experiences of the event for those who may be considering adding it to their race calendar.

Pre-race

In the build up to the race I received my race information via email with a nice goody bag attached which entitled me to some discounts. They also sent out my race number in advance along with some safety pins which was great if I hadn’t already bought a big pack for my last race.

On the day I was grateful for the pre-race communications as I learned there was two start zones but knew mine was on London Road so headed in that direction and picked up the signs directing me to the start. Here I found the baggage lorries and all that I needed to do was look for my number range hanging off the top of the lorry and head there. I passed them my bag, with my baggage label that had been sent through attached, and that was done.

Going for an early loo break there were very few queues and there was some trough style toilets to ease the queuing at the portaloos. However, as you moved closer to the start line there was less troughs and then a reduced number of portaloos. So make sure you plan your loo breaks.

Nearer the start time people began to ditch the queues in favour of the trees, even though tannoy announcements advised against it. It was good to see some marshalls attempting to move those people on because it is ultimately going to be actions like these that get events cancelled. I did chuckle at the runners’ sheepish faces as they got told off by the marshalls! A few minutes before the start, the queues were empty so I’d suggest leaving it til late and then jumping into the start pen as the runners took time to cross the start (unless you are aiming for a quick time and have been put in the first couple of pens).

On course

The crowds were out in good numbers for most of the course and where they could be found, the atmosphere was fantastic. There was a lovely atmosphere up to mile 11 ish around where the finish line is on the return leg. There were a number of houses playing music with one putting on Killers – Mr Brightside. I let them know it was a tune and it perked me up even more. There were other bands and music throughout the course with lots of drumming groups and there was even a chap playing the sax by a church at one point – justifying my reasons for not wearing headphones.

The miles from about 13/14 were quiet as the large crowds didn’t venture that far – I assume for ease of transport. But on the way back there were good crowds from mile 22 ish. The finishing mile was busy and the approach to the last few bends were also packed which was great for that final push as you chase those personal bests!

Although the course is good for personal bests it is worth bearing in mind that even though there is no IMG_4899real hills on the route – which is a great coup in a city like Edinburgh – the course has to be described as undulating in some parts, which was more noticeable on the lonely miles. The road surface you run on is not perfect either, with much of the road surface being pot holey and on the final return leg you enter Gosford House which has a trail style surface.

The volunteers were brilliant and all those I encountered at water stops or in the finish zone were positive and helpful. They were always ready with water and gels along with some encouraging words. At the end of the race I must give a special mention to the young lads doing the baggage. They were so on it that even before I got to my section and asked for my bag, they had seen me coming and had it ready on arrival. A small thing but I very much appreciated it!

Edinburgh Marathon Festival goody bag

Edinburgh Marathon goody bag

Post-race

Crossing the finish line you enter the runners zone where you get your medal, bag and have a chance for a finishers photo. I won’t be purchasing them as it isn’t long since I already shelled out a lot of money for my London Marathon photos. I think a digital download of all my Edinburgh photos would be £30, or £9 for one photo.

By the time I exited the runners finishing zone I had received a very prompt text from EMF to inform me of my provisional finishing time. A very easy but quick and effective thing for them to do.

We decided against the shuttle bus that EMF organised as it was really quite expensive, and planned to get a train. We went on a slow 25 minute walk to Wallyford train station – which happened to be right next to the shuttle bus station anyway – and got a train for £3.50 back to Waverley Station in Edinburgh city centre near the start.

Edinburgh MArathon transport plans on train from Wallyford to Waverly

The steps that I had to tackle to get to the correct platform at Wallyford

Resting at the train station after Edinburgh Marathon

Resting at the train station

They came hourly but the rest was fine and it was a good time to reveal the surprise treat Dani said she would get me. (It was a tasty donut from Baba Budan. Perhaps not the best post race meal, but it was delicious) Dani managed to get a return from Waverley for £3.80 so worked out really well for her spectating! From Waverley it was just a short bus from Princes Street back to our flat. I was lucky to get a seat as I was in no mood for standing.

In summary I would definitely come back and recommend it to anyone looking for a marathon a bit further afield!

Ashford Half Marathon race personal best medal finish time

Half Marathon Personal Best – Ashford and District

On my yearly trip back home to the seaside paradise of Dymchurch in Kent over Easter I went to visit some good friends for a game of Pointless and drinks. My friend Becca is new to running but has signed up to the London to Brighton Ultra Marathon in May and is smashing her training. She has been signing up to a number of races to help keep her motivated and prepared. Discussions soon moved onto this and I was told of the 2nd Pod Plus Ashford and District Half Marathon that was taking place on the Sunday. She was doing the Full Marathon, as her first ever marathon. I was tempted, but also peer pressured, so I signed up.

As it turned out, I was glad I did because I managed to get a PB. After a last minute location change for the start of the race I felt they were really organised and had thought about parking for all as we found a space at the local doctors 2 minutes away. On arrival at the local primary school they were using, it was quick and easy to get my race number and there was a nice buzz in the hall. One issue was the amount of toilets as there was quite a queue – even though I thought I would be proactive and go early. That was my only gripe – and that is only a small one! There was a good briefing with plenty of information where those doing the marathon were told about the plans for their second lap. At this point I was relieved I was only doing half.

Shortly after, we made our way out the school and down to the start of the race. As we got together in the ‘start pen’  on a T-junction outside some peoples houses, the starter shouted ‘go’. No horn – but then it was a Sunday morning and some people love a lay in. I started off well and got into my own target pace which was 8:30 minute miles. It was an undulating course but some of the climbs were pushing what some might describe as hilly. That was how it was billed online so I can’t complain about it. It slowed me down on the way up but meant I was able to push on the way down.

Ashford Half Marathon

Reaching one downhill section, I found myself going to fast and almost struggling to slow myself down. In hindsight, I feel this may have been where I agitated my left knee/IT Band. The course included a lovely trail section which they did warn us about. It lasted about a mile or so, but the previous days rain meant it was quite muddy and this made me realise why people need specific trail shoes. I had zero grip so had to work hard to find my foot placing. It was a nice change and added to the experience.

After about mile 6 I tagged along to a runner (cheers Trevor) who has obviously been doing more training than I have and he was going to be going round twice to do the marathon. His pace was just what I needed and having him there gave me a target. Even after I took a couple of walking steps, his few words of encouragement made me get going again and I worked to catch him up.

As we approached the end of my lap, we parted ways. He turned right to go round again, I turned left to complete a strong finish with a nice number of people there to cheer me home. It was a nice touch having a big screen with each runner’s names and times coming up. I also enjoyed the treats right at the finish line and being able to move away at my own leisure. At this point I may have rewarded myself with some chocolate treats. I was also able to grab a quick little massage as the hall was quiet, but I think their intentions were that people booked before the race so I was quite fortunate.

When leaving, the Sat Nav took us along some of the running route, which turned out to be quite awkward when we accidentally drove past Becca on her marathon route! A lovely organised event and I may go back next year.

Half Marathon PB – Ashford and District Half Marathon – 1h34:45