Saturday, 31 December 2016

End of the year


I have to give a big thank you to everyone who has contributed to this fund-raising endeavour. It's been a challenging year, but great to complete it.

I raced for almost 10 hours 40 minutes across the 12 events, climbing over 1,800m / 6,000ft during the 109km / 67.4miles of road, trail and fell (thanks to Saddleworth Rangers for the wine to commemorate my first ever fell race - I feel I earned it, Alderman's Ascent was tough). Within this I was hoping for a 5km sub-25 and a 10km sub-50... I set a new 5km PB, with 24m 33s during a virtual race, and set a new 10km PB, with 51m 7s during the Great Manchester Run (not quite to target, but close - I'll have it in 2017!). Finally, every single race I completed was a course PB! That's quite the year given I only started running with a club a couple of years ago. I hope you've enjoyed watching it unfold :)

Importantly, we have together raised £3,243 - a sum way beyond the £2,400 target, which is amazing.

Thank you to all the individual contributors, both in the UK and overseas. Thank you to my work colleagues for their support and to my employers, Sopra Steria, for providing fund-matching. Thank you to Seen Opticians who generously donated and from where I got my distinctive running specs. Thank you to my fellow runners in the Greenfield Greyhounds and in the other clubs near where I live (Saddleworth Runners, Oldham & Royton Harriers, Royton Road Runners and Hyde Village Striders to name a few), both for organising races and for being great running buddies and competitors.

Finally, a massive thank you to my family for all their support - for those that have come to races and have donated and send words of encouragement; for my mum and dad, who have attended almost all my races this year despite a busy work schedule; and for my lovely daughter and wife, who have put up with me being out training and racing and have also attended almost all my races and given me the support, time and encouragement I needed to get through it all. I love you all so much.

And so the challenge has ended. The races have been run. The money raised, 100% of which goes to the children I'm supporting in Zambia and in Haiti. It's been so important to ensure that these vulnerable children have food and drink, clothing and shelter and to encourage the workers that their efforts are noticed and valued. To ensure that the boys and girls in Zambia have the sustenance they need to learn well. To ensure the boys and girls in Haiti still have an orphanage to call home.

You can continue to donate to these worthy causes up until the end of January 2017 - if you were waiting for me to complete the challenge, now is the time to give!

Sunday, 11 December 2016

RACE 12 - Saddleworth Santa Dash


The race was new onto the calendar last year, when around 100 of us ran a tough uphill 5km race. This year word had spread and there were around 500 running a slightly flatter course round Greenfield and Uppermill. The weather was better too - last year was on the tail of Hurricane Desmond, this year was a pleasantly cloudy 5 degrees. I'd learned from last year's santa suit experience too, safety pinning some key points to stop it flapping about, which worked well.

The sight of so many santa's running down Uppermill High St was great - we initially headed along a flat section of course towards the far end of Greenfield, a mixture of road and playing field. From there we started to turn back towards Uppermill and began the hill climb, working up towards St Mary's church, on towards Boarshurst and still further up from there. I was tired by the time we got to the top and had to walk for 30 seconds to recover. Quite rural now we had some great views and then turned into a short section of trail before heading back down the hill towards where we had started.

The finish line was in the same place as last year, but far too small for so many runners and it was a little crowded and not well managed. As such, I don't have an official time, but my personal time suggests it was about 28 minutes and 15 seconds - not particularly fast, but good enough given the nature of the race and my lack of training in recent months. I was just happy to be able to run it and to do so with many of my fellow Greyhounds (over 50 of us)! A great race to finish with :)

Sunday, 4 December 2016

RACE 11 - Zombies, Run! Autumn Virtual Race


Apologies everyone, I completely forgot to blog about race 11. Back in October, I was on holiday in London with my family and took the opportunity to fit in this race. On arrival in the city I had the pleasure of meeting up with a fellow Runner 5, with whom I had been in touch on the ZRVR forum. Also called Matt, he gave me a great running tour of the city sights over a 10km trot. That was a fab way to see the landmarks (albeit mad busy with tourists to dodge) and gave us both the opportunity to listen to one of the training missions as we ran round.

The following Saturday, Matt had arranged for any interested Runner 5's to meet in Hyde Park to race together. I joined around a dozen others at the Statue of Achilles (very appropriate) in time for an 11am start. Some of the staff from Six to Start (the company that makes Zombies, Run!) also joined us, both to run and to (very kindly) watch the bags. As such, I had the privilege of running with the actor who plays Sam Yao, one of the key and longest-standing characters in the game!

Some were running 5k, most were running 10k, we all ran at different paces. Heading off into the park we managed to keep in sight of one another for a short while, but slowly drifted apart and took slightly different paths. A slightly fast starting pace had us all easing into our regular paces further into the run than we'd all expected. The day was good though - not too warm, but far from cold, and dry. As such, good pace was made although I managed to get lost (it's a very big park), ending up on the wrong side of the Serpentine than I'd intended. No bother, I just invented a different ending path and pushed hard for a good finish.

Having had a rubbish running summer, due to work and art exhibitions taking up all my time, I was off pace in this race. I eventually completed in an ok time of 54m 38s, but it just goes to show... in April I completed it over 3 minutes quicker on a course with over 60m more climbing (Hyde Park is pretty much flat). Still, that placed me 216th on the leaderboard of 845 runners.

Afterwards we all met at the Serpentine Grill for lunch together, race chit-chat and a lovely medal presentation from the team at Six to Start. Everyone was really nice and I had a great morning with them, hoping to return to race together again sometime :)

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Tired


Apologies again for the late post. Still very tired from work and other activities. Still not running very much right now.

I have decided to take a break from racing for a while. As you'll know from the race calendar, there are loads of races available. I had wanted to sign up for a couple in August, but I'm just too worn out to justify it.

I have completed 10 out of my 12 challenge races, so only 2 left. I've got the Zombies, Run! Autumn Race in October already booked and will look for a Santa Dash to finish the year in style. Beyond that I'm just going to get back to running for health, fitness and social interaction, enjoying it for what it is.

No specific race training, no putting myself under pressure to increase mileage. Just getting out there when I can, running with my Greyhounds and enjoying the experience. I need to get back into a rhythm of running again and slowly get back my pace. I fully intend to keep improving myself, just not focussing on that right now.

Also, I will reduce the amount of blogging I do for the remainder of the year. You've all read me waffle on long enough, I'm sure. I'll keep you posted about anything significant, but it will be nice to remove this little bit of weekly pressure to scribe for a while. I hope you understand and thanks for following me so far.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

RACE 10 - Millbrook Monster


The last race in my July Triple mini-challenge, this was another tough run. Work continues to be difficult and the hours long, so I have hardly run at all this month. As such, I was tired before the race had even started and slightly off my form.

Over 200 runners packed into the starting area. The race began and we were immediately into a 5km climb. There was a mixed bag of steepness and some flat sections, but it was essentially half an hour of going up. I thought I managed fairly well, although still had to power-hike parts of the last kilometre. There was also a bit of overtaking and then being overtaken again on this stretch.

Some great views on the way up and a quick pitstop for a drink at the water station just the other side of the crest. The next 4km were downhill, so a welcome change. However, it's easy to run too quick here and tire out. I suspect I had a bit of that and was really feeling it for the last 3km of the race.

With about 1.5km to go the route takes you pretty much to the finish line and then swoops you away for a final climb - cruel. Around the 9km mark there's a long series of steps that just finishes you off. I had to walk those. I knew they were coming, but still had no energy left. Other runners were starting to overtake me during the last quarter hour of running, which is a little hard to take, but I wasn't expecting a good time from this race.

Having finally seen the end of the steps, the course swings round for the last descent to the finish line. The gathered crowd was very loud and encouraging and that helped me put on a sprint finish. My support crew (aka mum, dad, Yvonne & Niamh) gathered round to help this extremely tired runner get me some more water to drink and be with me as I slowly recovered.

It was also another great show of runner camaraderie as racers encouraged each other through the tough sections and thanked the marshals as we passed by. The prize for completing was a free chip butty from the local chip shop, but I just had no stamina or will left to queue for it. So I left my fellow Greyhounds early to get home (passing a much quieter local chippy on the way!). Well done to Allan for winning the VM50 category :)

Monday, 25 July 2016

RACE 9 - Mossley 10k


This race was as local as I could get, running around my village and running past the end of my street. It was a good weather day, slightly sunny and a little too warm in the first 10 minutes of racing, but then clouds gave cover until the finish line. There were over 300 runners and a good atmosphere. New to the field were Mossley Running Club, only started this year - quite a few bright bold orange shirts being easy to spot.

This race is roughly the route I use for my Zombies, Run! course, although I start/finish in a different place. This 10k starts at Mossley AFC at the top of the hill and begins with 1.5km of descent. You might think that's a good thing and I used it to secure a bit of time in the bag to draw on later. However, I wonder if I should have held back and saved energy instead...

I managed to fall into a good pace just behind a fellow Greyhound, but after the fast start comes a long, slow climb. By comparison to other races, it's not that big an elevation (around 100m), but at this pace it still takes it out of you. I've come to the realisation that every race is tough, because you are always pushing yourself - even if that means different paces for different distances, you still get to the end tired (or you should if putting a good effort into it!)

So after 4km or so of climbing I was very tired and had a long, winding flat section to try to recover in. That didn't happen - I just about managed to hold on to a reasonable pace, but was gradually slowing down over that 3.5km stretch. Part way up the climb a spectator was handing out jelly babies - runner fuel. I don't usually eat during my races as I don't feel they're long enough to warrant it. However, I tried one jelly baby to see if it would help. I'm not sure that it did (or didn't enough for me to notice). What I was surprised by was how long it took me to eat it. I just couldn't chomp it down quickly and had to nibble at it over a few minutes. Bizarre what your body can and can't do under pressure.

After the very picturesque, but monotonous flat section the race ends with a climb up through Top Mossley. I wasn't looking forward to this, but it was short enough not to really bother me after all that. A descent into the football ground saw me turn on the gas for a sprint finish. I managed to overtake one runner, but another saw my attempt and also sped up... quite a lot! I couldn't quite catch him - we both found it really funny and were laughing as we crossed the line. A nice end to another tough race.

My aim was to complete in under 55 minutes and I ended up with 54m 32s and in the top half of the field, so pleased with that time (although I secretly wanted to be a few minutes faster). Work is extremely challenging right now and I had only managed one run since Alderman's Ascent. Not ideal. I'm in the same boat again, having only run once since Mossley and facing another tough, hilly trail race later this week. That's the way it goes sometimes.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

RACE 8 - Alderman's Ascent


Apologies again for the missed post last week. Work is crazy busy right now and outside of work there is also a lot going on besides running.

Alderman's Ascent was a tough a race as predicted. The weather was inclement, but not really, really bad (although we had clouds great us at the top for a bit of extra wet). The week preceding the race had been fairly rainy, so the course was nice and muddy. Thanks to my mum and dad who came out to cheer me on in that!

Starting at the local Churchill playing fields, we had a long climb up to the obelisk at the top of the mountain, known as Pots and Pans. It began with a lap of the playing field, then across a few roads to get to the meadows. Through nettles, thistles and cow pats and over several styles to get to the really steep climb. It took me about half an hour to get to the top and required crawling on all fours at some points.

Now suitably worn out (and with a sore back from the climb), I had to run to a point to the left of the obelisk and then back to the right, along the ridge line, to Alderman itself. Through some fairly boggy bits and a few more ups and downs in the terrain I arrived at the race's namesake with a stitch.

I had been running with a fellow Greyhound, who had helped me up the various climbs. It was now my turn to help him down the very steep and slippery slope down the back of Alderman's. Navigating this involved quite a lot of carefull sliding. No sooner were we at the bottom than we had to climb back up again!

Back up at Alderman's we had the pleasure of knowing it was all downhill from there. About an hour into the race now and the next 21 minutes were a lot more enjoyable as a result. Some great support from Greyhounds marshals kept us going and we were very glad to finish. Being a new course it was PBs for everyone - I wasn't last and I won a prize (my first ever prize) for this having been my first fell race - result :)

I'll save it until next week to tell you about today's Mossley race, but I was pleased with the fell result. I'm not sure I'll be volunteering to go up and down big hills very often, but I'm glad I did it.

Monday, 27 June 2016

The FRA


Given Alderman's Ascent is almost upon me I thought I'd give you a quick run down on the FRA, that is the Fell Runners' Association (England). Saddleworth Rangers have secured a race permit and associated UK Athletics insurance from the FRA. As such, participants have to comply with the 'FRA safety requirements and rules for competition'.

FRA races are categorised according to difficulty (A being the hardest, B the middle and C the easiest) and distance (L being long, M being medium and S being short) - Alderman's has a category of AS, so averages at least 50m climb per kilometre, has less than 20% of the race on road and is between 1.5 and 10 kilometres long.

The runners' rules include:
1. Know what you are in for (be confident of being able to complete the race)
2. Comply with the race rules
3. Use appropriate kit for the course and conditions
4. Wear your race number on your chest
5. Inform the race organiser if you retire (don't complete the race for any reason)
6. Behave respectfully
7. Be subject to disciplinary action (be excluded from the race) if you don't observe these rules
8. Be aware of the basics of hypothermia (symptoms, treatment and how to avoid it)

So I've got my kit ready: waterproof whole body cover, hat, gloves, map of the route, compass, whistle, emergency food. I've read up and been up the mountain at least once (and made it back in one piece). It will be a challenge, but there will be bread and soup at the end, so that'll keep me going! Bring it on!


Sunday, 19 June 2016

A little extra

Oops - looks like I forgot to post last week. Sorry about that. On Monday night I got a cold that came on very quickly and left me coughing and sneezing my way through the rest of the week. It's meant that I've not run since last Saturday's parkrun, so I'm now quite eager to get back on the road, but need to be able to breathe properly first! Hopefully tomorrow...

Something I discovered recently was a website called Running Heroes. I've signed up to see what it's like and a few other Greyhounds have as well. You upload runs to their website and get points in exchange that can be used to get discounts on running related products. They also have a variety of challenges that reward you with a prize draw entry e.g. run at least 20 miles in 1 week to be entered into a draw for new puma trainers. It's early days, so I've not actually won anything or purchased anything yet. There's also been a problem with me getting the referral bonuses from my friends (although they have them), but the support staff have been very friendly and are trying to work on it. Seems like a small team behind the site, so they've got a lot of work on their hands developing it.

Whilst doing that, another runner told me about Bounts, which is another website doing much the same things, but without the competitions. Seems to take a long time to accrue points, but again will see what happens after a few months. They both don't cost anything, so nothing to lose really.

The third thing I've signed up to recently is Run Britain. This appears to be a national home for British running athletes and allows you to track progress via a handicap scoring system. Accredited races (and all park runs) are valid to submit to your profile and it allows you to see your progress, which is interesting to follow. Unsurprisingly Mo Farrah is number 1 in the rankings! It tells me that my handicap after last year's Great Run was 22.4 and that today it is 16.7 - a good improvement over the year. I'm not sure I'll use it for much more than tracking that, but knowing your handicap is still interesting info.

Anyway, that's it for this week. Hope my illness subsides soon so I can get back on the training - only 2.5 weeks to go to the first race of the July Triple...

Sunday, 5 June 2016

July Triple

Manchester in the distance, viewed from the top of Saddleworth Moor

Doing two 10k's in one week took more energy than I was expecting. It doesn't seem that far to me, especially as I usually run more than that in training every week. But my calves were aching by the end of the 'double' last week, so I've been gently easing back in to training. I've run more frequently than usual this week, but less distance and less intensity.

That seems to be working and the weather being nice is always a bonus. I did Stamford Parkrun on Saturday and for the first time ever (in my recollection, at least) it was dry - no mud at all! That helped me shave over 30 seconds off my Stamford PB, which is now down to 26m 29s.

Today I had the rare pleasure of being able to run on a Sunday morning. Two Greyhounds and I ran a very tough trail route, eventually climbing up almost 400m to get to the top of the moors. What beautiful views, with not a cloud in the sky over most of the 360 degree panorama, except for some lingering mist in the valley bottom over by Delph. I was worn out by the time I was only half way up, which goes to show how much of the Huddersfield 10k hill training has left me (i.e. most of it).

I need to get that back though, as I've now booked on my next few races. I'm dubbing this the July Triple - three races in one month, each 10 days apart, each involving hills, one race of each terrain type (road, trail, fell)!

We have a late entry to the racing calendar, the Alderman's Ascent, hosted by Saddleworth Rangers A.R.L.F.C. It's a brand new race that takes runners up 400m of climbing to the top of Alderman's Hill, across a bit and back down. A total of 8.5km, but the first half of the race is going to take very much longer than the second half! This is also my very first fell race, so I'm looking forward to getting one of those under my belt.

Ten days after that is the comparatively easy Mossley 10k road race. It's very similar to the course I use for the Zombies, Run! Virtual Race and includes a mere 150m or so of climbing. It starts and finishes at Mossley football club, which means the final kilometre is up hill...

Ten days after that is the Millbrook Monster. Sounds scary. Probably is scary. Almost 300m of climbing in this 10k trail race, then along the hill edges and back down and round. It's popular with the local clubs and there will be a few Greyhounds running all these races, so I'm looking to the camaraderie as a way to offset the hurt!

Ending on a sad note, Little Stoke Parkrun has now permanently closed. Despite valiant attempts to negotiate, the council didn't back down and are enforcing a payment for Parkrun use of the park. Parkrun is free and so this particular run becomes the first to close for this reason. Let's hope it's the last.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

RACE 7 - Dove Stone Diamond


A couple of days resting after the Manchester race and I was ready for the Diamond, a completely different experience. This was a midweek evening race, the temperature was much cooler (so much I had my thermal leggings back on and a t-shirt under my racing vest!) and the Sunday sun was replaced with soggy drizzle. The sold out Diamond had far fewer participants and spectators than the Great Run, with a course capacity of 250 and 207 eventually crossing the finish line. There was no medal or finishers bag - just the opportunity to buy some good pizza, coffee and beer to reward our labour - but that's not why we run this particular race, it's for the love of the sport, the surroundings and racing together.

I swapped my road shoes for tough trail trainers, made for getting traction in mud, flexing with the terrain and protecting from stones. This year the course was slightly longer, at 10.7km ("more race for your money", according to the race director), due to an embankment that we used to run down now needing to be run around.

With the experience of last year's race under my belt, I had been pondering my strategy. I wanted to beat that time of 62m 52s. The course starts with a climb made of three sections, which can easily tire the legs. I determined to take the hill at an easier pace to conserve my energy (hoping I wouldn't loose too much time in the process). Aiming for 5 minutes per section, I successfully reached the forest (also known as the plantation) 15 mins after the start.

Feeling that went to plan, I decided to continue the 5 minute idea. It worked really well for me, breaking the race into manageable chunks and keeping me on track for a target finish. The forest and subsequent moorland was a fun, undulating, muddy set of sections that brought me roughly to the halfway point after half an hour. So far so good even though at one point I'd had both feet in a bog, covered in mud - my trusty Salomons stayed securely on (phew, no lost shoes!).

A fast downhill on a concrete road took me to the two streams that need to be waded through - nice wet feet for the next half, although it does wash a lot of the mud off. I actually find the second half tougher than the first, due to the relative monotony of the reasonably flat bridle path and feeling the tiredness by this point. I continued my 5 minute strategy and ended up running the reservoir with two female runners in order to keep at their good pace.

After the embankment, it was another long downhill that allowed me to pick up the pace. Knowing the end wasn't too far away allowed me to focus on maintaining the increased pace. Some great encouragement by marshals all the way round was topped off near the end with cheers and shouts to run faster. A final sprint and I was over the line in 61m 50s - a full minute quicker than last year and with an extra 0.7km in the bag. Good running from lots of Greyhounds was celebrated with a pint of Silver Owl from the on-site Greenfield Brewery. Lovely :)

Sunday, 22 May 2016

RACE 6 - Great Run Manchester


It's exactly one year since I started racing. Last year's Great Run saw me finish in 54m 26s, which was a great first race time. I was obviously hoping to beat that today, with a year's running under my belt, more experience at running and racing and now knowing that particular course a bit better.

As you know, I've been training myself over the last few months, to bring benefits in all my racing, but with a specific focus on speed in order to improve my time today.

The weather predicted 'cloudy with sunny intervals' and 15 degrees feeling like 13 degrees. It turned out to be fully sunny and around 20 degrees! I would have preferred a cooler race, but that's one of the challenges of running and makes each race a very individual experience.

With over 35,000 runners it was really busy. There's a lot of good runners out there and the track was bustling all the way round - I did an extra 200m just weaving around people! I managed to settle into a good pace fairly quickly and hold that without too much bother for the first 5km, but by the 7km mark I was really finding it tough, my breathing now quite heavy.

I didn't know whether to take some water at the next station or not - I probably would have benefitted a little from it, but didn't want the distraction of holding something, drinking while running, trying to get rid of the bottle and having water burbling around my body. Everyone must have been tired by that point, because the number bottles just dropped in the middle of the road (rather than thrown to the verge) was ridiculous, a proper hazard to run around!

Last year I managed to increase my speed in the last kilometre and finish strong. This year it was all I could do to get to the finish. No sprinting for me today! My final time was a course PB and a 10k PB, so really pleased with that. I didn't get my sub-50, which is a shame, but I had to try. I can safely say I put everything I had into that race and couldn't have run it any quicker, so I'm happy with that.

Final time was 51m 7s, well over 3 minutes quicker than last year and a 6% improvement, which I think is quite respectable. Big thanks to all my sponsors - it's a great encouragement to know that I've now passed the halfway mark in terms of number of races run, and almost in terms of months elapsed, but am already over 2/3 of the way to my fundraising target!

Bring on the Diamond on Wednesday - weather forecast is 9 degrees and heavy rain = lots and lots of mud!

Monday, 16 May 2016

The double

Great Run start line

There have been a lot of runners raising money recently, hence I've not been pushing my fundraising as much. However, we are making great progress with just £845 left to raise and plenty of races still to sponsor.

Next up is what I'm dubbing 'The Double' - Great Run Manchester 10k on Sunday May 22 followed by Dovestone Diamond 10k on Wednesday May 25. Please dig deep to sponsor me for this gruelling week! I have set myself a goal of completing the Great Run in under 50 minutes. That's quite the challenge for me (my current 10k personal best is 51m 21s). For the Diamond, I'm just aiming to be better than last year's 62m 52s - it's a tough trail course!

I'm now on my taper week, so just a few short runs to keep reminding my body it's got to race soon, but without tiring it out or injuring it last minute. The two races next week will be my only runs, as the rest of the time will be rest or recovery or party (I'm DJing in Manchester on Friday May 27). Hopefully a race-free June will bring me back some schedule stability as I gear up for more new courses to race in July.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Quick update

Anniversary cake made by Angela, a fellow Greyhound - yum, yum

It's been a busy week, so just a quick update for you. Wonderful weather accompanied my return to parkrun to celebrate Stamford Park Parkrun's 1st anniversary! There were 101 runners, I got a course PB of 27m 1s and there was celebratory cake in the cafe afterwards - all the wins!

I'm also making a concerted effort to run more each week, trying to increase mileage as a strategy to better my running form, efficiency and capacity and therefore make me quicker at the shorter distances I'm currently racing. There's no real science to how far I need to run, just that I need to run more. Finding time for that is difficult, but I've added Monday nights to my run schedule to see how that goes.

10% weekly increase is recommended to avoid injury, so I aimed for 33km last week and fell a bit short with 31.7, but that's close enough for me. This week I'm aiming for 36km. I'll then have a 2 week blip as I taper next week and then race 10k distances twice the week after. But eventually I will get up to around 40km/week mark. An average week for me should then look like this:

Monday - solo run, around 10km
Tuesday - Greenfield Greyhounds club run, around 10km
Thursday - run with subset of Greyhounds, around 12km
Saturday - solo training run, around 7km / parkrun, around 5km

So my new Monday run this week was a hot 10k round Dovestones. But that's good, because the Great Run has a history of being hot and I wanted to see how I would hold up. I was pleased with it. There were a couple of 0.35km climbs that I walked for 4 mins each in order to conserve energy - removing those factors from my end result gave me a 51 minute time for 9.8km. Not a precise race simulation, but good confirmation I'm still around my target sub-50. One more intervals training session this weekend and then taper for the big race!

Monday, 2 May 2016

RACE 5 - Stride Through The Woods


There were muddy woods and there were plenty of Hyde Village Striders, so it lived up to its name! I was looking forward to this relatively short race, being only 5k and on trails (which I prefer to road). What I forgot was how intense a 5k race can be.

Being a little on the minutes getting registered, fellow Greyhound John and I had just enough time for a short warm up. Thankfully the hail stopped before the race started, but that weather blip was a bit unexpected. A cool evening and just under 150 runners all raring to go.

The course was two laps of a velodrome-style loop - we started in the middle, turned right, went up a hill and round a loop that brought us back to the middle. Then along to the other side of the park, up a hill, round a loop and back to the middle again. Over the race that's 4 hills - short hills, but at pace they tire you quickly.

It was a race populated mainly by club runners. That means it's a fast race. We were off like a shot and too fast for my liking really. But it's hard to slow your pace down when everyone around you is whizzing past. As a result, it was a hard race, pushing me to run at my speed limits for most of it. I paid the price for that and found the second loop tough. My Strava split times showed me managing to keep a reasonable pace (averaging 5m10s/km) for the first 4 kilometres, which I was surprised at. But then I died on the last kilometre, slowing down to 5m34s/km pace.

The last straight back to the finish line was fairly short at around 100m, so I went for a sprint finish as is my style. I love that last bit of a race, putting everything that's left into as much speed as you can possibly muster. I shifted up a gear and dropped to a pace of around 4m10s/km. While I'm not bothered too much by final placement (it's more about the personal time challenge for me), it was still good to overtake a couple of runners on that stretch. Apologies to fellow Stamford Parkrunner, Jasmine from Hyde Striders, for beating her to the finish by 0.7 seconds...

So no PB for the distance this time and a tiring race, but it's all good experience. It's good to mix things up, so I'm happy to get some different distances and terrain into the challenge year. Thanks to the Striders for a good race and to John for keeping me company and standing proud for the Greyhounds together :)

Next up is the big one (for me), Great Run Manchester 10k.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Birthdays and slow runs

Happy birthday Sidney and Mark

I've been celebrating in Birmingham with my brother-in-law as he celebrated his 50th and my niece her 18th. I was also 41 on Sunday, so it was a good weekend spent with family and having fun. Some great presents and lovely food too :)

Feeling tired after that though and having just had a few weeks with little running I'm seeing that catch up with me. I was ill for a week with a cold that I'm mostly recovered from now, but it's taken 3 weeks to properly clear up. I was also very busy for a week finalising artwork for my exhibition at Sacred Trinity, which launched last week and looks great. Very happy with the results of that, but it was more effort than expected.

So, after a few weeks of PBs on the back of good training, I'm now feeling sluggish from a couple of weeks of poor training... Race simulation (10k) on Saturday morning was under 54 minutes, but I had to walk for a minute a couple of times and generally didn't feel it. I forced myself out last night and was totally knackered - managed 4.8k in 28 minutes so not atrocious, but I plodded all the way round.

Still these are the variable factors that impact runners. Can't be getting PBs every week. I'm happy I got out (took a lot of willpower) and really need to make sure I keep going out and don't slacken off now. Stride Through The Woods 5k trail race is tomorrow night. I've no idea what the course is like and while I will put effort into it, I'm not pushing for any PBs so will just enjoy the experience and supporting a fellow running club :)

One month to go until Manchester 10k, my race pack arrived on Saturday! I'm in the White wave (wave 2 of 5), which starts at 11.55am. I will have to be careful about food and drink during the morning and when the race is ended will definitely be ready for lunch! I'll also have to be careful about warming up - the warm up at the start line is 11.23, which seems quite early... not sure I want to keep warmed up for half an hour! But getting to the start line too late will be difficult to get into position. All part of the race strategy to try and work out...

Also, half an hour after a gorgeous run up the hills around Dovestones on Thursday night there was a fire! It took 10 fire engines most for he night to control and extinguish and has burned around 3 square miles of hillside. I've not heard about what started it and hope most of the animals in the area got away unscathed - there are a lot of sheep and lambs around at the moment. An unpleasant reminder to be careful in the countryside - small issues very quickly escalate.

So there we go - time to rectify the training balance before the Great Run & enjoy being hosted by the Hyde Striders this week for race number 5. And some great inspiring runs from the Greyhounds this week in the Blackpool Marathon and Half Marathon, the London Marathon, the new unofficial Dovestones Marathon & also a Triathlon!

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Appropriate response


In the last week or so there have been a couple of instances of things not going quite right for UK runners. While both have been very disappointing in different ways, it has been interesting and encouraging to see the measured level of response from those affected. Not that those impacted are any less outraged, but proving that there are ways to move forward with grace and humility.

The first is very close to home, where one of the Greyhounds that was due to run the London Marathon next weekend for a national charity found out that the charity had forgotten to complete the registration. As a result, the Greyhound can't take part, despite months of hard training and months of fund-raising for the charity. Virgin Money run a very tight ship when it comes to the marathon, which includes no swapping numbers with other runners and no late entries.

Despite a swift social media campaign, it was clear that the situation could not be changed. So, rather than kick up a fuss, get all grumpy, rail against the charity or rail against VMLM, the runner saw a different way through. They will instead run the marathon at the same time, just up here in Saddleworth. Ten laps of Dovestones reservoir is roughly the same distance, so our Greyhound will prevail, complete the distance and make sure that the fund-raising challenge is still completed. Fellow runners will now be able to join in the endeavour, supporting both from the sidelines and by running alongside for a lap or two! What a great way through a problem.

The second instance relates to Parkrun, which as some of you will know is a free weekly 5k timed run held in parks up and down the country (and some abroad as well). Park run brings huge benefits to the health and social wellbeing of the nation - last weekend there were 86,779 parkrunners (6,663 of whom were first timers) and 8,453 volunteers taking part in 487 UK events.

This week, Stoke Gifford Parish Council (in South Gloucestershire) decided to charge Parkrun for their use of Little Stoke Park, citing that it was "unfair" to expect non-running residents to pay for path upkeep. As a result, for the 300 adults and children who take part in the Little Stoke Parkrun, their event was cancelled this weekend. This council decision comes despite the Little Stoke parkrunners volunteering to undertake any perceived maintenance and litter picking duties required to compensate for their activity. Since this news story broke, another 14,000+ have signed up! 

Parkrun have been trying to work with the council towards a resolution and have encouraged disgruntled runners to avoid the route of antagonistic protest and instead to "act with respect and dignity". However, they have encouraged everyone to share their love of parkrun and of Little Stoke parkrun on social media by way of support to those affected. There have been concerns about the decision to charge voiced by several prominent UK athletes. There has been the inevitable online derision targeted at the council e.g. suggesting they next introduce a subscription service for use of the children's playground (after all, it would be unfair for residents without children to pay for playground upkeep). There is also a petition, for the council to revoke the decision, that to date has attracted over 55,000 signatures.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

RACE 4 (again) - Spring 2016 ZRVR (5k)


I wasn't going to do this, but I decided to race again with the zombies. Given that my race packet hadn't arrived for last weekend's 10k race, when it arrived on Friday morning I was excited to do the whole thing again as it was intended. But I've had a rotten cold all week and been coughing and spluttering. That means I've not been running mid week like I usually do, so I was desperate to get out even though not fully recovered. The arrival of my race packet was the only incentive I needed, so I put on the race t-shirt and racing bib and off I went!

The ZRVR has two leaderboards, so I decided to get my name on the 5k board this time. I worked out a loop around Greenfield that started at the border again (same as the 10k route) and ended about 0.5km back into Mossley. I accepted that I may need to slow down and possibly even walk should my coughing get too bad, but was happy to give it a go.

Not wanting to do things by halves, I set myself a 5m/km pace and got the Well-i-hole climb out of the way at the start of the race and waved to a fellow Greyhound as I passed Tesco. It wasn't easy, but I managed to keep roughly to my pace, slightly slowing throughout the race, but finishing with a downhill towards Mossley's Fire Station Nursery meant a fast finish as usual.

Chuffed to bits with another PB over 5k distance and a time of 24 mins 33 secs (although Strava said 24m 25s). That placed me 141st out of 1875 racers on the 5k leaderboard, so very pleased to be in the top 10%. The race window is still open until end of Monday April 11th, so that's not the final position. I will update this post on Tuesday with final positions on both leaderboards.

Thinking of my fellow Greyhounds today, with a good number of them racing the Manchester Marathon (and some doing the London Marathon next weekend!).

UPDATE 11/04: Due to the issue of late delivery of race packets, Six to Start have extended the race window by one week, so I will upload final positions on Tuesday 19/04 instead.

UPDATE 20/04: The race window has now closed and the final results are in. The 10km was run 1,112 times and I came 153rd, placing me in the top 13.8%. The 5km was run 3,288 times and I came 204th, placing me in the top 6.2%. I'm very pleased with those results.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

RACE 4 - Spring 2016 ZRVR (10k)


The idea of a virtual race is still odd to me - running on my own, on a course set by myself, with no crowds. Still, I know there are thousands of others across the world doing the same thing.

The experience was slightly marred by my race packet not yet having arrived in the post. It obviously hasn't stopped me racing, as the race mission is still available in the app, but it lessens the experience somewhat. I should have been able to wear a race t-shirt specially made for the experience and been able to hold high a finishers medal afterwards. Never mind. It'll arrive eventually. The race organisers were let down by the t-shirt manufacturers, so I understand that some things are out of their control.

Anyway, the race mission itself was good. Set back in a time when the zombie outbreak had only recently happened, I was running as part of a team tasked with taking down a rogue general who wanted to cleanse the plague by nuking an outbreak site (irradiating the country in the process). Team members lost their lives, civilians need rescuing & time was critical. Fun drama :)

Back in the real world the Met Office weather app said it would be cloudy and feel like 5 degrees, so I dressed for a cool run. That was wrong. It turned into a lovely sunny morning that certainly felt a lot warmer - thermal leggings and long socks were not required! I felt the effects of that in the second half of the race where recovery from a hill climb was difficult.

I used the same race route as last autumn's ZRVR, which takes me round Greenfield and Mossley. Half a km into the race I passed some fellow Greyhounds - couldn't stop, but it was nice to see other runners I knew. I had good pace down to the Clarence and back up to Tesco, at around 5m/km. Then slowed down to around 5m40s/km over the next few km climb, up Chapel Hill and onwards to the Farrars.

Halfway into the race and the big climb behind me I faced a few km of flat running. Despite the beautiful scenery, the blazing sun didn't help my recovery much and I struggled to work my way back to target pace. I clawed back a bit, to around 5m20s/km, but thankfully the first few km had put me in good stead. Top Mossley was great to reach - downhill from here on - so pace picked up on the way to Mossley train station, well under 5m/km now. From there back to the Fire Station Nursery 'finish line' was a gentle downhill where I would usually increase my pace for the last km, but just didn't have it in me today. That said, I managed to keep sub-5m/km pace to the end.

Overall very happy with the finish time of 51m 21s - a 10km PB and more than 3 minutes off the last ZRVR, which is fab. Strava says I did it even quicker (51m 12s), illustrating how apps interpret GPS data in different ways. The training seems to be working, so I'm now more hopeful for a sub-50 Great Manchester Run (7 weeks to go).

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Beginners


The Greenfield Greyhounds have a series of beginner sessions at least once a year, possibly more depending on demand. This is a really good way of getting started with running, because of the added benefit of learning in a group - encouraging each other rather than trying to go it alone, having a regular time to run and effectively a commitment to others to run. The group doesn't work if people don't turn up, so it helps you get out in inclement weather when you don't want to let others down.

There are many ways to start to learn to run and there is no defined best method. Whether you find a guide on a website like runnersworld.com or find a 'Couch to 5k' training plan or join a group, there are plenty of ways to take those first steps in a new healthy hobby.

The Greyhounds beginner classes start with short 2k runs and use a variety of routes and types of runs to slowly build up the group to 5k. The current class is reaching it's end and there are some enthusiastic new runners eager for the final challenge.

The beginners will be going to one of the local park runs (Oldham's Alexandra Park) to run a timed 5k. I'm confident they will all complete it and getting to the end will be a great achievement. It's a chance for those new runners to see just how far they've come in a relatively short period of time. Myself and several other experienced Greyhounds will join them in support and it promises to be a great morning, no doubt with a celebratory coffee and sausage butty afterwards somewhere :)

If you've considered running, but not quite got out there yet or tried and not made it very far, may be search out your local running club and see what they have on offer.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Ultra


There are obviously a whole variety of race distances available to run - I prefer the shorter distance 5k and 10k races (3.1 and 6.2 miles respectively, for those working in imperial). Many take on a half marathon (13.1 miles / 21 km) and quite a few even run a full marathon (26.2 miles / 42 km). These are very long distances that take several hours to complete and push the body hard. The physical strain of moving that long, the practicalities of giving your body enough fuel and liquid as you run, and so on.

Rapidly gaining popularity and renown is something called an Ultra. That is, any race of longer distance than a marathon. It's taking endurance running to a whole different place for body and mind. It most definitely should not undermine the shorter distance races, which test us in different ways. Nor should it go unnoticed that still comparatively few people ever run as far as a marathon. But I have to give massive respect to people who run Ultra's. And those like Eddie Izzard who undertake endurance running in all types of terrain and in all manner of distance configurations.

So it is with great pride that I can tell you the following Greenfield Greyhounds (some of whom also run for other clubs like Saddleworth Runners and Royton Road Runners) completed the very hilly 40 mile (64.4 km) Oldham Way Ultra yesterday, Sunday March 20th:

Simon Jump (8:00:00), Colin Green (8:25:10), Paul Simpson (9:22:25), Jason Wilks (9:27:44), Billy Hughes (9:55:58), Stephen Lee (9:57:38), Allan Parkin (9:57:38), Mark Crossland (10:20:30), Ian Taylor (10:20:30), Mike Marn (10:20:30), Phil Craven (10:20:30)

And of those, special mention to Paul Simpson, Stephen Lee and Allan Parkin who ran the 55 miles (88.5 km) Hardmoors 55 the day before!

That's a lot of running. I don't want to run that far.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Zombies, Run!


There is an air of excitement among my fellow runners that lighter nights are almost here (and trepidation that London and Manchester marathons are also almost here). March 27th will jump our clocks forward an hour and mean we can put our head torches away and enjoy the scenery. Hooray!

This week I'll tell you a little about one of the tools in my training arsenal - a smartphone app that keeps me company on solo runs. A number of you will have heard me waffle on about this already, but it was key to getting me into running so is important to me (I know, it's just an app). It's obviously Zombies, Run!

The app tracks your running, whether on treadmill or out on the trails. During the run you play through a mission, which is a bit like hearing a personalised radio show - it plays you story segments and in between those plays you music from your own playlist. The story is told from the perspective of your character and items are picked up during the course of the mission to be used later in other areas of the app.

The premise is that there has been a zombie outbreak and we are in a fictional area of England during the apocalypse. Our character is sent to help a group of survivors holed up in a small settlement. We are dubbed 'Runner 5' and are based in 'Abel Township'. The app gives you a map of Abel and you use the mission collectibles to improve the base, expanding its boundaries, adding better quality housing, gardens, play areas, security measures, etc over time.

The creators have built an amazing world - each season contains a series of missions, season 4 bringing the total to 200! So there's plenty to keep you entertained on those solo runs. There's a whole cast of characters to meet, rival settlements, the need to gather items to survive, find ways to combat the zombies and plenty more besides. It's very entertaining, the quality of the app having improved loads over the years and the number of people using it has grown massively to over 1 million players!

I'm very happy to count myself as one of the first to play it. ZR has all my run data, so I can see that my first run was just 4 days after my 37th birthday, at 9.50am on the morning of Saturday 28th April 2012, a mere 2 months after launch! That marks my starting point as a serious runner and therefore a personal landmark date. I was on the gym treadmill making exceedingly slow progress and needing to take a walking break every 5-10 mins just to get through a 5k. I've used it less over the last couple of years due to running in a group, but I've still racked up 130 completed missions and still bring it out for solo training runs.

My next race is the Spring Zombies, Run! Virtual Race (ZRVR). I ran their first ever last autumn, so am very much looking forward to this. The race pack is in the post, including a t-shirt that relates to the race mission. To set the scene for the main race story they've started releasing training missions to play and blogging snippets of background story. It's a great build up, a very supportive community and a fabulous, inspirational app (even if you don't really like zombies).

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Introducing a new project - Haiti


I am truly amazed by your generosity. In just 2 months you have donated over £1200, which already puts us half way to the challenge total!

I was expecting the fund raising to be slower and had planned to promote a different project every quarter to keep things fresh for supporters. But in response to this incredible start I am changing the approach. I hope you don't mind.

Everyone so far has donated in response to the Zambian project, so rather than the planned £600 Horizons will send them the £1200 raised to date - well done everyone, that's fantastic!

I will now introduce a second project and will champion that for the remaining £1200 target. You can find out more on the Supported Projects page, but I am going to run the remaining races to raise funds for an orphanage in Haiti.

There was a large earthquake in 2010 that killed hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses. Out of that, the Loving Hearts Children's Home has taken in 28 now-orphaned children. They are a small organisation and often overlooked by charities, but we managed to find them.

They are desperate for the means to buy food and to keep their kids clothed. They struggle just to provide one main meal a day and 'sometimes' a small breakfast. What a travesty! Please continue to give generously to help these children have access to the basic necessities of life.

Think of them when you consider what you eat on an average day - how would it feel knowing you will only eat once today, may be a small breakfast if you're lucky?

Think of them when you open your wardrobe in the morning and wonder what to pick to wear that day - how would it feel to see just two t-shirts and two shorts/dresses?

What luxury we have!

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

RACE 3 - Huddersfield 10k


This was a good day, cloudy and cool with the occasional burst of sunlight. I arrived on site with plenty of time to spare, so having not run the course before I decided to drive it - I'm glad I did as that let me strategise the race, gauge how much recovery time I might have between hills and see what the finish was going to be like.

On my return I registered, picked up a competitors t-shirt and pinned the race number to my Greenfield Greyhounds running vest. My wife and daughter, mum and dad all came to see me off and welcome me back at the end - Niamh had made a big poster saying "Run Dad Run", which was great to see!

There were 572 runners in total, all eager at the start line. The event was chip timed - a chip stuck to the running number registers as we run over special mats. A gun was fired to start the race officially at 11am, meaning everyone had two times recorded - one from the gun to the finish chip time and another from starting chip time to finishing chip time. My gun time was 56m 21s and my chip time was 56m 2s, so it took me 19 seconds just to cross the start line (and I was near the front).

The race began with a long hill climb, rising 100m over 3km. On a public main road, the runners filled the pavement and half the road, holding up traffic for the duration. There were pockets of crowds cheering us on from outside houses and shops all through the race, which was great. After the rise was crested, a good recovery downhill eventually took us off onto side roads and a steep descent that thinned out the pack. Approaching the 5km watering station meant running up the second hill, a short steep rise of around 50m.

That hill was an effort, but I felt ok and carried on without a water break. A nice recovery straight, a small switchback and another downhill. Hill three was steep and long, at around 60m climb over only 1km, this had quite a few runners struggling, but I managed to keep a rhythm going. I was pleased to have kept running to that point and didn't want to disappoint myself or my Greyhounds by stopping now. A shout out from a fellow runner "Well done, Greenfield!" was great encouragement to get me to the top.

A long straight downhill for another kilometre or so was then necessary for recovery, which was now taking me several minutes to get back to pace. I was overtaken by a few runners on this section, but just happy to keep moving. It was a good view, with Castle Hill looming large in the near distance. The descent got steeper and steeper - these downhills were tricky as it felt too fast to let my legs just run away with themselves (didn't want to slip or land awkwardly at that speed), but it was also difficult to run slow (I was leaning back and trying to take smaller steps, but landing hard and very aware of not running efficiently).

A fourth and final hill climb was thankfully short-lived and we were back onto the main road heading back to the rugby club. Thinned out enough now that most runners were on the pavement, one or two abreast. I found myself having run with roughly the same pack of 15 or so runners for the last half an hour. This pack slowly started to increase pace, sensing the finish line only 2km away, so I naturally had to increase pace with them.

The rugby club approached, with its driveway being around 200m long (or so I guessed). I was recovered by now, feeling good and knew I was going to finish under 60 minutes, which was a great feeling (personal target met). What I hadn't figured out until that last stretch was that I wasn't too far off my finish time for last year's Manchester 10k (my first race and a flat race, 54m 26s) - that gave me incentive to push hard.

I turned into the driveway and decided I had enough energy to last the distance with an increased turn of speed. So I started to lengthen my stride and overtake runners, picking up pace more and more. I saw the main building block approach and the crowds lining the side of the driveway - somewhere in the middle of that I heard my family shouting encouragement, but daren't shift my focus. Guessing there was around 50-75m left to go, I moved up another gear into full on sprint, entered the finishing funnel, turned the corner, saw the finish mat and just ran hell for leather, giving it every bit of speed I could find. I crossed the finish line absolutely flying and having loved that final stretch!

Huddersfield 10k conquered! Almost £700 donated online, over £400 raised by my work colleagues on top of that and hopefully some corporate fund matching to put me over the halfway point in raising money! Next week I will introduce the next project to sponsor. A big thank you to everyone who has donated to date :)

NB You can see some pictures and a brief video of the start from the Huddersfield Examiner write-up

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Tapering


I've now completed my training for Huddersfield, short though it was. With one week to go, I've started "tapering". This is something usually done before a competition or race, to varying degrees depending on the distance. Usually a marathon warrants 3 weeks taper, half marathon 2 weeks and 5-10k is 5-7 days. Tapering is where a runner still runs in the week(s) before a race, but starts reducing distance and pace and increasing rests. This conserves their energy, while still keeping them active.

For example, tomorrow (Monday) I will run for 30 minutes at an easy pace, Wednesday I will run for 20 minutes at an easy pace and Friday for only 10 minutes. This is completely out of step with my usual running days (Tues, Thurs, Sat), but totally in sync with my 'couch to 2k' training with Niamh, which I will continue to do.

My training has been good - I've not injured myself (hooray) and I've proved to myself that I can do the hills over that distance. More than that, I've proved to myself that I can do the hills with a reasonable ability - I've seen myself get better at them and had great encouragement from my running buddies to affirm that. In the race I obviously hope to avoid taking a rest at the top of conquered hills, relying on adrenaline to keep me moving.

In my training, I've run longer distances (11-12km, sometimes 13km) and climbed higher hills (well over 300m in one particular run and some pretty steep gradients), so I now know that I can cope with the race. Even though I don't know what to expect from the course terrain, I'm as prepared as I can be and feel good for having made the effort.

So here's hoping for a sub-60 minute finish time. But even if I don't get that, I will still complete it. And that will be an achievement in itself.

Today some of my fellow Greyhounds ran the Blackpool Half Marathon. Weather conditions made that a brutal race. But they persevered and they conquered. Whether they felt great or felt lousy and however they perceive their finish times. They all got to the end. They all ran. That's such a success - I'm very proud of them and they set me a great example!

Sunday, 14 February 2016

The hills are alive...


...with the sound of my pounding feet. Apparently this isn't a good thing and I should be treading lightly, my foot rolling through the motion and leaving the ground with a spring. Ah well, can't do everything.

I never realised that there were so many different aspects to running and 'good form': breathing, foot fall, leg rotation, strength, endurance, posture, arm movement, head position, technology, measuring progress, training methods, warming up and down, stretching, flexibility, nutrition, hydration... the list goes on!

Of the thousands of inspirational quotes on social media, one jumped out at me this week:
Athletes eat and train, they don't diet and exercise
I quite liked that, because I like to eat (definitely don't diet) and feel I'm moving more from exercising into training. It may seem silly to others and sounds silly when I refer to myself this way, but it does actually help me mentally to think of myself as an athlete. When Greyhounds socialise it amuses me to think of this bunch of athletes eating curry and drinking pints. But we all run hard and most run far or fast and some gifted hounds run far and fast.

So I'm half way through my (very) short training stint for Huddersfield - 2 weeks in and 2 to go. I've proved to myself that not only can I run the distance (and a bit more), but I can do that with some serious hills in the mix. In the first week of February I did two hill runs, both around 250m and both over 11km.

In the second week I did another hill run, this time well over 330m climbing and 13km distance...in the same run! My second training run for that week was my first intervals session. I found that very difficult to pace myself correctly, as my Apple Watch was taking time to adjust to a new pace, meaning I would think I was running too quick and slow down to then have to speed up a bit and find the right balance. This is all because I struggle to pace myself correctly and need to find the right rhythm and learn it so I don't need to look at a watch to know my pace.

Anyway, it's been a good couple of weeks under my belt. I have increased confidence in my ability to meet the challenge ahead. But it still can't come soon enough - I want to get it run, get it beaten and move on!

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Actually planning some training


Over the last year I've tried a couple of different training plans - one from the Manchester 10k website and one from a dedicated ASICS training app. Neither worked for me, partly because they seem to under-pitch the effort required for my skill level, but more so because I find it difficult to fit their routines into my schedule. What they did do was get me into a pattern of recording and tracking my runs, allowing me to see progress over time.

I have two goals related to my upcoming races that I think require a bit of a concerted effort in preparation:

  1. Survive the Huddersfield 10k and if possible get a half-decent time for my skill level i.e. a sub-60 min finish
  2. Knock 10% off my previous Manchester 10k time i.e. a sub-50 min finish

I've taken a bit of inspiration from the Mcr 10k training website to come up with my very own training plan. Inspiration or folly, we'll see soon enough.

I have a regular Tuesday evening run with the Greyhounds, a moderate 5-10k. I also have a regular Thursday evening run with a sub-set of the Greyhounds, a hard 11-13k that I may need to miss a few of to get the diary to work. Finally, I've decided to switch Saturday morning park runs for a while and introduce some dedicated training runs.

For February, my focus is on Hudds 10k. As such, I will be undertaking a weekly hill training session where I run a local route that gets close to matching the race levels of climbing and distance.

In February I will also experiment with some interval training. This involves running fast for a few minutes then recovering for a few minutes, then repeat a few times.

Then from March I will switch focus to Mcr 10k. That will mean I can drop the hill training (there will be enough hills with the regular Greyhounds runs) and start some race simulations instead. In these I will run for a time at 'yellow zone' level (e.g. 6km at slower than goal pace), run a bit at 'orange zone' level (e.g. 3km at goal pace), and finish with a little bit at 'red zone' level (e.g. 1km at faster than goal pace). Over time I intend to spend less time in the yellow zone and more time in the orange zone.

All the above is fine on paper, but it will get interrupted by obviously having to race - to make sure I run well I will taper off my training in the week before a 10k. There will also be some personal diary clashes to contend with, but I think I've managed to work out a plan that gets me where I want to be (or at least near). I will try not to be a slave to it - I can already run at a speed I'm fairly happy with (although it's in my nature to always want to be faster). I will miss park run, but hope to volunteer on tapering weeks and get back into it properly in summer.

I've found the Huddersfield 10k to be a mental challenge - I don't know the course, so I don't know whether the hills will be long and gentle or short and steep. This training will help prove to myself that not only can I complete the challenge, but do it justice. I don't know if it will work, but I'm going to give it a go. It still doesn't include any cross training (cycling, swimming, pilates, HIIT classes, etc), but I just can't fit it all in.

Monday, 1 February 2016

One month in


As we start February, the weather has given us a taste of something cold, but I assume there's more to come. Your encouragement gives me the soul-warmth to keep going out there. Both Horizons and I are very blessed by all the support to date - every donation is significant, no matter how much it is and no matter whether it comes from individuals, companies or anonymous donors.

As January closes we have together raised £545 - thank you all! This means we will hit the target of £600 for the first project and be able to move on to the second project with our spirits high. That gives me great motivation to race well and race hard! I'd like to thank my parents for managing to get to every race so far to cheer me on - it's great to have friendly faces cheer you across the finish line.

Keen observers will notice I've now booked on two more races, taking my total to six. I will be racing as part of a works team in the Manchester 10k in May. I'm really looking forward to that - the event last year was my first ever race and means I've now got a time to beat (54m 26s).

In addition to that I've also booked on to the Mossley 10k. That's my home town, but I wasn't able to run it last year so I'm looking forward to getting that opportunity. Hopefully a few of the local running clubs will open some more of their races soon.

I'm definitely in the racing mode at the moment and feel like I could race more frequently. But I'm conscious not to overdo things and to give myself time to recover and keep improving through training. That said... April, May and July are all looking fairly busy months.