Sunday, 21 February 2016


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 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.