Sunday Runday

Sunday demands a run. After the hustle and bustle that is Saturday, the air of relaxation of a Sunday morning just demands a nice tootle. I’m not sure a nice tootle would be how you’d describe Dennis Kimetto’s Sunday morning run, seeing he broke the world record for the marathon this morning, in Berlin. 2 hours, 2 minutes and 57 seconds. I make that a smidge over 12 & 3/4 miles per hour sustained for 26.2 miles, or, to put it into pace terms, less than 5 minutes per mile. I can’t do that for one mile, let alone 26 of them! As my husband would point out, even when I was in training, it would take me longer than that to run half as far…

Further details from the BBC site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/athletics/29399623

Anyway, while he was speeding along, I was plodding across the countryside on a cool but clearing morning. I wasn’t the only one out and about; today’s tally of energetic persons passed included some cheery cyclists (not long out on the road?), a less cheery cyclist (he had just ridden up the hill out of town) and a man walking two dogs that I reckon could have dragged him along at a fair old pace if given their head. It looked like he was having a pretty good upper body workout trying to keep them in check. It wasn’t speedy, but it was feeling OK. I’m not certain that I’m going to be able to manage the next step up, to 3 minutes running, but it’s time to give it a go. That will be next time out. Promise.

Getting back on the horse

It’s been a bit quiet in blogland. I’ve run a few times, but have quite enjoyed being freed from the tyranny of the training schedule. Not only can I have a night off, I can have a whole week of and it will matter not a jot – that’s been really refreshing. But I can’t sit around on my backside doing no exercise for long before my backside will be showing this – I’m not designed to be slim and it’s the exercise that helps keep me in some sort of shape. So it’s time to get off the sofa and back out on the road.

I’ve also quite enjoyed reading about everyone else’s experiences at Brighton, London & Milton Keynes (still think I got the best weather!) The time is still bugging me. Although it may be I’m being overly harsh on myself. A while ago a request was put on the RW forum for data to contribute to a real life study of conversion from half to full marathon. This got updated this year and some stats put around the ~ 180 sets of times that had been posted. It turns out that my 5:06 sits dead on the average conversion of 2.25 times my half time of 2:16.  There is that feeling of unfinished business though. I’ve also gone from “never again” to entering the ballot for London in the space of a fortnight. I doubt I’ll get in, but it was sitting there, tempting me…

At the weekend I helped out at the Titchmarsh 10k, a village event on a challenging piece of road. I’ve seen that hill and I didn’t fancy it! Put my walking boots on and walked across the field into the village and arrived only slightly muddy at the clubhouse. Found myself a job in the kitchen, preparing the cake and other goodies. Was then assigned a job of running the results sheets from the finish line to the race secretary. If I’d known I’d be running I’d have put the trainers on! Being a little local race, the race timing is done in a partly automated fashion. There is a PC with a timing programme on it, such that each time a runner crosses the finish, the operator presses return, and the time is entered. Simple but effective. However, assigning the times to runners requires a clip board and a pen and someone to write the runner’s numbers down in order they cross the line. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? In practice it is anything but. Runners are great at not always following instructions. Numbers were not on their front, were flapping over and if you’ve got two people making a dash to the line, it’s a judgement call as to who was first. There were 2 races, a 3k fun run and then 10k. It was the 3k that proved more of a problem, as this had families running it, so potentially 3, 4 and 5 people coming to the line in one go, making getting numbers quite tricky. But it did serve as a practice for the 10k, which would be taken more seriously by the participants. A little bit of a revision of the finish chute and the addition of a third number taker at the end of the finish chute meant that it did actually work fairly well. The two scribes at the finish line had a person to call the numbers to them. Having two allows checking of the order from 2 points of view – and adding numbers obscured from one side or the other. The third taker at the other end of the finish chute was when the runners had slowed to a walk, such that missing numbers were more easily obtained. It got the adrenaline pumping though, I can tell you. It also meant that I got to watch the fast people coming in, which I don’t usually do. They’re usually finished and changed and looking as fresh as a daisy by the time I arrive. I got to see that they look equally as dreadful at the finish as I do. And you can’t but help be impressed at the pace of the front runners. It all seemed to go fairly well, and I had a good day out.

I also decided it was time to get back into routine and get myself back to the club. Turned out it wasn’t the gentle re-entry I’d hoped for, 1 km reps was on the agenda. Ouch. Jog out and warm up before running 4 loops of 1 km, with a few minutes rest between each. I’m always afraid I’ll set out too fast, so took it slightly easy on the first one, but thereafter I knew how far it was and knew I could push it a bit more each time. Times of 5:21, 5:11, 5:06 and 4:57 for the loop.  I’m pleased with that as a progression – got faster each time. Then a slow pootle back and a stretch. I know it’s doing me good, I can still feel it today!

And if I was in any need of some inspiration, I need only take a look at this link: here. Claire Lomas broke her back in a riding accident in 2007, and is paralysed from the chest down. With the help of a bionic suit she covered 26.2 miles on her own two feet, the first person to use the ReWalk suit to perform this feat. That it took 16 days is neither here nor there, it’s the level of determination displayed that means I will take my hat off to her. And will promptly get my lazy self off the sofa. I can run without a second thought, she has to think about every step she takes; there is no excuse.

Brighton – Post game analysis

So, a week after the event, how am I feeling? Physically, I’m now fine. Not yet run, but I will get the shoes back on very soon and get myself out the door again. Different story on Monday. When I woke up and the conversation went a bit like this:
Husband: How are you?
Me: Everything aches.
Husband: What, everywhere?
Me (after considerable pause): I don’t think my nose aches.

It hurt, from the neck down. Now I believe the coaches at the club who tell me I move my upper body too much, as my ribs, chest, back & shoulders all ached most unexpectedly. Stairs were a bit of a challenge. I was reduced to taking them one at a time, and going down sideways (left leg first). Up was better, but slow. And getting from a sitting to standing position hurt quite a lot – the reverse is easier, you just let gravity take over. By Wednesday I was moving freely and was back in shoes (rather than squishy trainers)

Mentally it’s a slightly different issue. This post race analysis wasn’t what I thought I was going to be writing, but it is a true reflection of how I’m feeling about the marathon. I suppose neither the experience nor I quite lived up to expectation. I’d been told that the first marathon is a magical experience, how there would be a massive runner’s high and it would be something I’d never forget. Well it’s certainly not something I’m ever going to forget, but not for the positive reasons it might have been. I crossed the line to tears of relief that it was over, and have yet to experience the high.

Did I set my expectations of the event too high? Yes, I think that’s fair. It was hillier than I was expecting. Not that it is a large elevation change, but it was a long hard drag out to Roedean. It didn’t help that the section into Ovingdean turned north into a strong wind, just at the point the hills dropped away. I did not expect the power station section to be quite as awful as it was either. Imagine running through the dullest industrial estate you can think of. You’ve got that in your mind? Good, now make it even worse, as it appears after 20 miles. Grim as a very very grim thing that was; I can see why the banner proclaimed it “the Road to Hell”. Didn’t help being knocked over by a runner coming the opposite way. He was following a pace group and running the wrong side of the cones, but you could argue that I should have been looking further ahead, rather than concentrating on the 15 feet immediately in front of me. But looking down stopped me from looking at how far I had to go.

Having said that, the support from the crowd was, in places, phenomenal. The sheer number of people on the front was simply amazing, and did make me somewhat emotional running past them all. By the finish, I was just too tired to get the same buzz or boost from it. The residential stretches had the neighbours out in force, with their deckchairs, cups of tea, slices of cake, jellybabies free for the taking and music blaring. I suppose if you’re going to be stuck in the house for some time you may as well make the most of it and have a party.

Did I set expectations of myself too high? Well that’s always possible, but I certainly hadn’t set unrealistic expectations. Based on times in buildup races and training, a time just under 5 hours had to be achievable. Had you asked me this time last year how I’d feel about a low 5:xx time, I’d have turned cartwheels across the floor. When I entered, I honestly thought less than 6 hours would be an achievement. But things change, and expectations shift in line with the improvements that appeared in training.

I had a race plan and, for what ever reason, was unable to stick to it through to the finish, as the splits show (I race with manual splits, and occasionally miss a miles, hence some being 2 miles long. It also gets a bit confused around mile 21, as the sign for 22 was the wrong way round). I’ve run further in training with less trouble than I experienced on Sunday. At Ashby I ran 20 miles without walking once – at Brighton I barely got through 16 miles without slowing to a walk. The first half in 2:26 was pretty much spot on plan, a smidge under 11:10 minute miles average was well on course for sub 5. But, for some reason, the wheels sort of drifted away from the wagon. They never fell off – this wasn’t a case of hitting the wall – but the times started to drift and energy and enthusiasm sort of melted away with them. As far as 20 miles I was doing calculations of if I could maintain 12:00 I could still get sub 5, but even that wasn’t possible. I’ve been considering 12:00 my easy “I could run all day” pace, but I couldn’t even summon up 10 miles at that pace.

I walked patches as well – something I wasn’t expecting to do. I’m not sure it helped though, it just made running seem even more difficult. And, mentally, once I start to walk, it’s so much easier to do it again and again, which I did. I made myself run the last mile and even managed to pick up the pace for the last 0.2 miles, but that’s small comfort when the previous miles were such a disaster. It never occurred to me that race day would be less than perfect. At least whenever the family saw me I was running. I also beat a Rhino and a Tiger to the finish, so there’s hope for me yet.

Is it just post marathon blues? Yes, that’s possible. When something that you’ve been focussing your entire attention and effort on has happened, there’s bound to be a reaction. And the blues is not an uncommon reaction to a marathon. After all, training has been focussed towards this goal for 20 weeks. And you could add almost another 18 months in preparing myself to be ready to start the training plan. That’s got to create a hole in your life that will take some time to fill.  

So, the question has to be asked – what’s next? For me, running and this blog. Well the honest answer is that, at the moment, I don’t know. I had planned to spend the summer using the new found fitness to knock out some short race PBs, crack 30 minutes for 5k, get close to an hour for 10k. Both of which I know should be doable, based on times in training and races. I’ve done sections of tempo runs over 5k distance in less than 30 minutes. I beat my 10k PB by 3-4 minutes in the first 6 miles of the Silverstone half. A well run race should see time taken off both those PBs with ease. But there’s that bruised ego and knocked confidence to take into account.

Running wise, I think a week off is not unreasonable, then I shall get my shoes on and get out the door – without the watch. I’ll try running without having to chase time or distance for a while, just going with the flow. Then there’s a local race over May bank holiday, and I’ve offered to help marshal it. I wasn’t sure I’d be up for racing it – and I didn’t fancy racing on some of the hills round here. I figure that nothing will get the feet itching like standing on the wrong side of the fence for a bit. There are plenty of races between 5k and 10 miles to choose from over the summer, so no need to decide now which to enter. In fact, most will accept entries on the day, so no need to commit in advance at all.

In the longer term, I can’t see me trying a marathon again any time soon, the training simply takes too long. It’s also very invasive, turning running from something that can be fitted into life to something that life has to be organised around. A 10 mile training run is ~ 2 hours, plus shower & stretch time, meaning it’s easily a morning; I can go ringing Sunday morning, run home and be human again in time for lunch. A 20 mile run has to be properly spaced from breakfast, then takes 4-plus hours, and I’m good for nothing for the rest of the day – it’s an entire day wiped out. And it’s not like we have that many free days as it is. So I am looking forward to running taking a bit of a back seat for a while.

And for the future of the blog? Well I suspect it will be taking a break. I have had comments from some readers, both here and via other forums (fora, perhaps?), that you like reading it. In some cases that’s as we’re all building up to a marathon, in others I wouldn’t know if it’s the content or style that appeals, but I’ll accept the compliment either way. I’m touched by that, especially as it’s not just friends and family being nice – some of you I’ve never even met, but still have taken the time to comment positively.

I suspect this wasn’t the analysis you were expecting to read either. Like a lot of people, I tend to keep my failures private and only publish the successes, but I felt that would not be honest to either you or me to do that in this case. A marathon training blog with no marathon would be slightly pointless. And not all stories can have happy endings. I am glad I did it, I’ve learnt a lot about myself in this process. And I am pleased I finished. But there is that “but” hovering in the background. I have been heartened by the reaction of colleagues and friends, who are all slightly in awe of my even attempting it – it’s very easy to get sucked into a marathon bubble and not recognise how this is perceived by the rest of the (non running) population. This one has me wondering if I couldn’t do better from the lessons learnt, and there’s that 5 hour barrier tantalizingly close, but a second attempt won’t be any time soon. What ever happens, I’d like to wish you luck in your running and thank you for reading about mine.

Brighton – the full text version

It’s taken a while, but here’s a slightly more comprehensive race report.

Pre-race I was up at 5:30, which is very early, even for me. Wash (although I do wonder why I bother on race days) and into the running kit, which had been carefully laid out the night before. Breakfast was porridge & coffee, as planned, although I did struggle to work Mum’s microwave. Got there in the end and the porridge was edible. One last check I’ve got everything and into the car.

Mum’s not the most morning person you’ve ever met, but she’d volunteered to act as taxi service for the day, so she was driving me there. Not too bad a journey, although the pony trap racers on the Fontwell dual carriage way held us up a bit (and got the blood pressure rising).  Approached Brighton and we managed to take the A23 northbound, not southbound. A rapid exit at the first junction and an about turn got us headed in the right direction. Actually, I think it, inadvertently, helped us at the roundabout the park & ride was off, as we joined the roundabout with very little queueing, whereas off the A27 there was a big tailback. Parked, collected everything and headed down the hill to where the buses were collecting.

Due to the slightly longer than usual gap between breakfast & race start, I ate banana number 1 on the bus. Got dropped off near the start at Preston Park, then left Mum and got myself sorted. I followed the crowd and found the loo (essential). Then it was a case of getting everything I wanted to wear on, eating banana number 2 and texting the rest of the sub 5 thread to see where they were. Soon located Vik & Kim; FlatFoot & Foxy had arrived, although I never found them – but it’s hard enough to find one person in a crowd of almost 10,000! Bag got checked in, then I relocated Vik & Kim, who were now in the queue for the loo. I did a sneaky and joined them, thus circumventing a fair length of queue – how very rude!

Finally it was off towards the start pens. I was green, being a slowcoach, which meant I was the last of the 4 pens. Stood around for quite some time, waiting for the start, and then stood around even longer waiting for the red, blue & pink pens to get out the way so that we could get started. The leaders and, if I’m honest, a fair proportion of the field had done their lap of the park and were off into town before we’d even started to move! I got shot of the sweatshirt I’d worn to keep warm after checking the bag, it must be over 15 years old and was in a rather sorry state, but that didn’t stop me being a little sad to see it go.

Where we went

Then under the start gantry and we’re off. Lap of the park for the first mile or so, then off. Passed a banner saying “0.2 miles done, only 26 to go” and, shortly after, one marking the highest point of the course. I concentrated on trying to not go off like a scalded cat, but the press of numbers meant that was unlikely. Then it was a case of settling down into a rhythm, and just taking each mile as it came. That did include trying to avoid some idiot pedestrians who thought it would be a good idea to try and walk in the road while we were running down it. Several of us gave them a bit of a nudge as we came past and I think they got the message.

Me in action.

According to the course info and this picture, we ran past the Brighton Pavillion – but I never saw it! Have no recollection of running past this at all, and that’s a rather large building to miss!

Anyway, we meandered our way around town for a bit before hitting the seafront and turning left. This stretch saw me overtaken by a rhino but I did overtake a tiger, who’d stopped for a piddle (naughty tiger).  It was a bit of an incline, heading out to Rottingdean, with the detour into Ovingdean. There were a large number of people out spectating, and it was all very friendly and supportive. This stretch was the first significant length where you could see the front end of the field – not the very front, they’d past by before I got here, but the speedy ones at ~3 hours were passing down as I headed up the hill. And it was a hill. Not steep, but a long drag. Then the turn into the north also coincided with a valley in the hills to the north, meaning that it was particularly windy heading out to Ovingdean.

In full flow (and oscilating pony tail!)

As I headed down the hill, I could see the tail of the field, including my first sight of Tref, also in his first marathon. He looked to be doing OK, but was too far away to say anything too. At the very tail of the field was a chap in a suit of armour – didn’t look the easiest thing to travel in! Shortly afterwards, as I approached half way, I could see people looking over the prom onto Marina Drive, from where I could hear the fast men finishing – that did little for my ego, I can tell you!

Waving - again

I saw Mum at half way, just as I rounded a corner onto the front, there she was. She took this one. I’m waving. It could be worse, a few seconds later and I had both hands down the front of my top, fishing my gloves out of the bra for her to hang on to (talking of which, Mum, you’ve still got my gloves – can I have them back sometime?) That would have made a good photo, now wouldn’t it!

It was then that we faced the bulk of the crowds. The stretch along the seafront was packed with people, all yelling & shouting & clapping for all they were worth. I got very slightly emotional at that point. Half way came up along the prom, and I made that in 2:26. All going to plan at this stage.

From here it all got a bit more difficult. We headed away from the front onto a long straight section of up and back. This got dispiriting, I think because it shows you how far you’ve got to go and how slowly you’re going, especially compared to those going back the other way. However, it does give you a chance to see people you know, on the way back down I saw Tref again and was able to high five him as we passed. He was looking happier than I felt by then. Also saw my kid brother & wife, they’d come to support and were walking their way into Brighton along the route. A loud “Hey Sis” got my attention. The locals were out in force in this section, with music, bowls of jelly babies and vocal support. Quite a party atmosphere going on. Around here I managed to re-pass the rhino, and felt a certain amount of pride at stake in staying ahead of him. He was certainly earning his massive crowd support, it must have been an incredibly hot & heavy costume to run in. Here I also slowed for the first time into a walk, but tried to limit walk breaks to short intervals, and not too often.

It got increasingly more difficult from here. Nothing in particular hurt, but my entire being ached. At approaching 20 miles the route turns towards the power station and a big banner proclaims it “The road to hell”. They weren’t kidding. This was just so dull, and there was no support along the way. It was another straight out and back section, with a loop round the power station – scenic it is not! There were cones down the centre of the road, indicating the up & back sides. I always run on the left of a path, it’s habit. The railway trail I run is treated by most users in this way, ride/walk/run on the left, overtake on the right. So I naturally gravitate to the left of any route. I wasn’t looking too far ahead, just trying to focus on covering the next 10 meters at a time; the end of a long stretch never seems to come any closer, but don’t look at it and it will arrive. Coming the other way was one of the pacers, with a group following them. They’d spilled out and some of the runners were the wrong side of the cones. One chap ran straight into me and I was suddenly heading towards the floor on the right hand side of the road. Managed to stay upright, but that hurt. Left side now felt like it was going to be one enormous bruise.  Probably shocked more than physically hurt, I took a few deep breaths and carried on.

After rounding the power station, it was back the way we’d come. At 23 miles I actually stopped and have a bit of a stretch, but I’m not sure it helped any. I wasn’t suffering from cramping or anything, I just ached. A lovely chap asked me if I was OK, but I maybe wasn’t the most fluent in response. He went on with some more encouragement and I set off again, with a bit of a thumbs up. This may have been an encounter with Brighton’s own Fatboy Slim, but I was far too addled to recognise either him or his wife – apparently they were out spectating at that point. I doubt it’s going to go down in his mind as a sparkling conversation! But it was only 3 to go, and I was going to finish this, come what may. The last 3 miles are back along the promenade and then down Maderia Drive. The crowd levels were building back up, people walking on the prom, or sitting at their beach huts made for quite a holiday feel – or would have done had I been in the mood to enjoy it. With periodic walk breaks, I made it along the prom. At 25 miles I determined I was going to run all the way in, and so I lurched into something that doesn’t really merit the description of a run and set off one last time. At 26 miles I dug deep and found a final flourish from somewhere (I know not where).

Almost there

Mum took this one at about 26, and I’m proud to say that I was ahead of Big Dave by the finish. I wasn’t looking my best at this stage, but I summoned up an effort to look good for the cameras. Not sure it worked, the thumbs up look good, but the face is a bit drawn and pasty white.

So nearly there...

At the finish, all I felt was a huge relief that I’d finished. 5:06:29. I was awarded my medal, then wrapped in a big foil blanket to keep warm. Then collected a goodie bag and a finisher’s T-shirt – surprisingly, I was offered a choice of size, so have a wearable small. Then I waddled along to the baggage trucks and collected my bag. At this point I had my hands rather full, so found a patch of kerb to fall down onto to sort myself out. Never have I been so pleased to see a bottle of chocolate milkshake. That disappeared quite quickly. Took my shoes & socks off before putting my calf guards and long socks on, then added trackie trousers and fleecy top to keep warm. Phoned Hubby (and swore I’d never do that again) then phoned Mum. They were standing on the top of the Esplanade, so I had a nice big flight of steps to climb to find them. That was a bit of a challenge, as I found myself unable to get up off the floor. I had to hail a passing volunteer to give me a hand up. Actually walking and stairs weren’t as bad as I thought it would be, I hadn’t yet set solid.

That's one shiny piece of bling!

Another thing that had set solid appeared to be the leaky gel in my pocket. I took 6 gel packs with me, one for each 5 miles plus a spare. They obviously didn’t like being squeezed into the pocket. Whenever I took a gel, I felt I had sticky fingers, and it appears that at least one packet had leaked. This left a big sugery splodge which had crystallised. I didn’t notice while running, but when I tried to move the shorts, the set sugary mess had set and joined itself efficiently to my lower back/bum. Ouch. That removed some skin when I finally de-stuck myself. I have an interesting set of chafe marks in that region to prove it.

From here it was into the queue for the park & ride bus, which took a while to arrive and then took a rather circuitous route back out – at one point we actually passed Preston Park, where I’d started from! The bus driver stopped at the bottom of the park&ride, but then said he’s also stop at the top. We stayed on, thinking that a level or downhill walk would be better than up the hill. All was going well until Mum decided to take a trip on the uneven path and landed on the floor. I wasn’t terribly helpful, but some passing runners & supporters helped her up. We made it to the car without further incident, (discarding the leaflet for the 3 forts marathon that was on the windscreen – far too soon to consider that!) but Mum had a sore wrist and opposite hand, and I drove home. Her car and no glasses made for an interesting journey! We scooted through one set of lights at the last moment, as I saw the lights change but wasn’t sure that I’d be able to stop in time! But we made it home without any incident.

Once in, the family rallied round and sorted her out. Then the husband got the bottle of chilled champers out and I took my glass upstairs to have in a nice relaxing bath. Not an ice bath – I’m not that much of a masochist. We’d bought pizzas for tea, not being sure what state I’d be in (certainly in no state to go out to eat!) and they cooked while I soaked. It wasn’t until I eaten the first slice that I realised quite how hungry I was. From there, nothing much was left but to head, rather slowly, up the stairs to bed at the end of a long, long day.

Brighton Marathon report (in brief)

This will be the summary version – full version to be produced when the brain can concentrate on producing something you’d want to read.

In summary – I finished. I’m very relieved about that fact.

Distance – 26.34 miles. Also known as a bliddy long way.
Time – 5:06:29.

I have a big bling medal and a T-shirt.

Aftermath – I’m very very tired and can’t think of a single part of me that doesn’t ache. This may well be a once in a lifetime experience!

Last but one done

Penultimate run has been ticked off. 5 easy paced miles round town done. nothing particularly eventful to report. The weather’s been nice all day, just a few clouds have bubbled up during the day, so I’ve quite enjoyed being off. Certainly enabled me to get some washing dry on the line, which is always a bonus.

Facts & Figures:
Distance – 5.4 miles
Time – 1:03:27
Average pace – 11:44 minute miles

As I said, nothing really to write home about. Nice to get out and run in the evening, but still in daylight. I am looking forward to running over the summer again, the dark runs are real soul sappers. Much easier and nicer to run in the light. Although hotter – and I don’t deal with heat too well. Having said that, how often is it we get a good hot summer? See, I’ll be fine.  

I’m currently trying to gather everything I need to take with me for this marathon and the few days either side. So I have pre-race stuff; race stuff (including number, safety pins, socks, capris, sweat band, 3 different tops, 2 hats, Garmin and shoes) and post race stuff which is basically warm layers to put on over the top and compression calf things. As well as normal clothes – seeing we’re going out for a not-a-birthday meal at the local Italian on friday night, I need something relatively respectable. And, just to add to the pile, there’s another set of running gear, in case I do decide to got for the last run on the schedule, which should be 4 miles on Thursday. Might bring that forward, Thursday is due to be birthday outing day. It’s worth noting that I’m not at all worried about being 40. The husband had a major wobble over his and this marathon lark is slightly his fault – he was on about a party and I’m not really a party person. But I did feel the conclusion of my 40th year on the planet shouldn’t pass unmarked, hence a marathon. It made sense at the time…

I’ve been obsessively making lists of things, putting things into piles, moving the piles about and then starting again. Oh well, it’ll all be in the bag soon and thence into the car before heading to Mum’s to stay.

Saturday night impacts on Sunday morning

Although no, I haven’t been running with a hangover. Christmas party Saturday night, but I’d drawn the driving straw. Good night. Driving home meant I was in bed, but wide awake, at 1 am.  Sunday’s alarm went off at 8, having had what felt like not a lot of sleep. Breakfast, then down to ringing before home, change and out for a run.

Schedule this week was a long, slow 10 miles. Once I’d woken up and got my head in gear, it felt really good out there. Cold, and the wind was icy, but not as bad as it has been recently. Only really chilly in the exposed spots. Lots of walkers out, all wrapped up to the nines in hats, scarfs, boots, gloves etc. And I received pretty much the same look from all of them as I ran past wearing a beanie hat, capris and a single long sleeved layer. The trouble with this time of year is judging how much to wear – you don’t want to be cold most of the way, but you don’t want to overheat immediately. I tend to work on the theory that I’ll be cold for the first 20 – 30 minutes, then it’ll be OK.

Facts & Figures:
Distance – 10 miles
Time – 2:02:48
Average Pace – 12:17 min/miles

Bang on for pace and distance. Please imagine a little smug grin and a tick on the plan.

I was delayed at one point reading a notice at the nature reserve. There were a load of great big fence poles put in, some of them obviously cutting across the path. The nature reserve has sheep to graze the grassland around the lake, and it seems that these have been harassed and, in some cases injured or killed, by dogs that are off the lead. They have, therefore, had to take the decision to fence off the paths in order to prevent this. Such a shame that the minority has spoiled it for the many people that walk (and run) around this place. They’ll continue to mow the paths, but it will obviously take a while for the new lengths of path to be quite as flat & smooth as the existing stretches.

It starts getting real now!

In 20 weeks time, I will have (hopefully) just about finished the Brighton marathon, and training starts tomorrow. I like plans, and I’m happy with this one. I think it suits me. A lot of beginner’s plans start with very low mileage for the longest run, then have to ramp the distance quite quickly to give enough mileage towards the end. Those intended for runners after a time (sub 4, for example) have lots of strict pace based session, intervals and the like. Not only am I not at that pace, I know that I would almost certainly not run sessions like this very well on my own. So I’ve opted for the plan put together by Shades, on the Runner’s World Forum. It’s 4 runs a week, which are all at an easy or tempo pace, with a mid-week run that starts to include work at marathon pace. Long run starts at 10 miles, which is where I’m already comfortable, and it ramps up to 5 runs over 20 miles. I think it will suit me, and it is certainly tried and tested.

But that starts Monday, what about today? Well today was just an easy run out. “Just” 9.5 miles. OK, I know that’s not actually very far, when you look at a plan that runs up to 22 mile long runs, but I’m struck by the way that 10 ish miles is now seeming routine. This time last year I had run 10 miles a few times, but had usually spent the rest of the afternoon asleep as a reaction. Today I’ve got back, had lunch and am about to start being domestic. Ironing in front of the Grand prix later. Today I feel like I’ve run, but not actually all that far. In fact, I feel grand!

Facts & Figures
Distance – 9.5 miles
Time – 1:55:04
Average Pace – 12:07 min/miles

It was lovely out there today. After a few weeks, it was the usual sunday routine; porridge for breakfast, coffee & squash, then off to ringing. On the way home, Hubby then drops me off at the local nature reserve and goes home in the car, while I run home. Means I get to run A-B, rather than in loops, which is always more interesting. Today I set off going away from home, as I wanted to see what the path was like from the previous location he could drop me. Seemed perfectly run-able, and I think I know where he’d need to drive to and how to get back to the road, so we might try it next week.

Back to today, blue skies but a breeze. Quite warm out of the breeze, but certainly chilly in it. It was strong enough to ruffle the lakes at the nature reserve into white-capped wavelets. Mostly a cross wind, so not dreadful. Being an old railway track, the route is partly in cuttings, so it was very nice then, in the sun & out of the wind. However on the more exposed spots it was clear that wind had been strong, loads of leaves, twigs and even small branches on the ground.

The world and his wife appeared to be out today! Can’t remember seeing so many people out running. Due to the way I went down then back up, I seemed to see a lot of them twice. Lots of cheery greetings. What a lovely way to spend the morning.

Time is relative

And not just in Physics, it seems.

Since saying I’m going to run a marathon, people have asked me how long I think it’ll take. I don’t have a target time in mind – for this the aim is simply to finish. If I can finish in a time faster than I could theoretically walk the distance in (about 6.5 hours) I’ll be happy. It’s also a question that is asked when you signup for a larger marathon, in order to allocate you an appropriate start pen. I went for 5:30 to 6:00 as a conservative estimate.

But for training it’s important to have a time in mind, in order to know what pace to train at. It becomes a bit of a circular argument; in order to know what pace to train at, you need to know what time you’re capable of, but knowing that before having completed is always going to be open to a bit of guesswork. So there are a number of race time calculators available, all of which use a recent race time and then produce an estimate of your likely time for another distance. They will tend to be more accurate when using distances that are closer – calculating a marathon time from 5 k is open to larger distortion than using a half marathon time. To that end I used my recent half marathon PB of 2:27:28 to see what range of marathon times were produced.

Runworks   5:02:06
Runner’s World UK     5:07:27
McMillan    5:11:00
Running Times 5:13:24
Liebreich 5:21:18
Running Free – anything from 5:01 to 5:33

All of which leaves me really none the wiser than I was before! 30 minute spread in marathon times is a minute per mile difference, which is not inconsiderable. I may as well work on the simple half to full converter of “double it and add 20 mins”, which comes in at 5:15. That has the advantage of being in the middle of the spread and a nice round number, it works out as a smidge over 12 min/miles. Easy to remember at least.

I’m slightly surprised to see that all bar one of the predictions are under 5:30; which seems to suggest that 5:30 should be achievable. Let’s not get carried away though, finish is the goal. You never know, I could leave going for a good time for the next one…

One year and six months

Thursday’s club run marked a significant milestone in my running career – it’s a year since I joined the club. In that year I’ve run over the winter for the first time and have decreased my 5 and 10k PB, as well as run a half for the first time. All worthy of mention.

It’s not so much a calendar year, as Thursday’s session was the 3k challenge, which the club do annually, just to check group allocations and so on. It was the first session I ran when I came to the club for the first time last year, and I felt like I was going to die! I seriously considered never going again afterwards. I’m glad I did give them another chance, as it’s been the best thing for my running. The challenge is administered by Alan, one of the elder statesmen of the club, a gentleman who disguises his wish to kill us all annually beneath his mild-mannered exterior. It involves a series of shuttle runs, 100, 200, 300 and 400 m, without break, pushing hard the entire way. The return of each leg is uphill – just to make it that bit more difficult. The you get a break, then one last run to 500 m and back. It hurts. Quite a lot. The first block is 2k, the second block 1k, making 3 in total. The cumulative time for the 3k is used to divide group, move people up and generally even things up a bit.

I saw this was scheduled on the training calendar, and nearly didn’t go along. I ran a half on Sunday, you can’t expect me to push that hard on Thursday, can you? I knew full well what the answer would be.

Facts & Figures:
Total run, inc warm up & cool down – 5:40 in 1:12:49
2k in 10:53, average pace of 8:55 min/miles
1k in 5:37, average pace of 8:58.
3k cumulative time of 16:30 or thereabouts.

Which I’m impressed with. Although I’ve not long moved up a group, I was nowhere near last. I also seem to remember last year’s time was at or over 20 minutes, so that’s definitely some improvement!

As I sit and type this, it’s a beautifully sunny morning, with friends in Norfolk. I’m about to watch Wales beat France in the rugby world cup (fingers crossed) before heading out for a run. But one thing does sneak into my consciousness – today’s date. It’s the 15th October. In exactly 6 months time, I’ll be on my way to a start line for a marathon. That does attract the attention – seems so close!