Addicted

Hi, my name is Stuart and I’m a run-aholic.

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Hi, my name is Stuart and I’m a run-aholic.

Those are words I never thought I’d utter (forget that run-aholic isn’t actually a word). How my life has changed, not just that I’m quite a different shape to 12 months ago, see last week’s blog Lies, damned lies and statistics , but that my whole mindset has changed and something that started out as a way of getting a bit of much needed exercise is now quite literally taking over my life and many of my waking thoughts. No running dreams yet, they’ll happen soon right? I’m waiting for the one where I nail the sub 2 hour marathon with a second to spare!, I’m obsessed.

I wake up and think about running, I go to work and think about running (if my boss is reading this I do actually still do the work too) and then I come home and either write this blog or think about the next topic for my blog or read another article online about how not to need the toilet whilst running or sometimes I even go out and actually run!

kit
Ready to go on Friday after work, just over 10k in 47:33, new unofficial PB!

Part of the reason I enjoy running is that I’m a massive introvert and putting my headphones in and just getting out there really suits me, I just get in the zone and can be alone with my thoughts, my run and a bit of Bruce Springsteen. I think the fact that running lends itself to something so inate in me only serves to fuel the addiction, I thrive on it.

That said last Wednesday evening I married my new running addiction with my an old favourite of mine, Twitter, and interacted with some new people. And what a joy it was. I asked a question of the lovely people on #ukrunchat and was inundated with advice and support, it sounds corny but I really felt the love and a genuine sense of community from total strangers, how refreshing. Although my running/advanced jogging is a very solitary affair I have somehow found a whole new group of online friends, thanks to everyone who took the time to share their experiences, I’ll be back with more questions no doubt, be patient with me.

A large chunk of my Sunday has been spent on my addiction too and I even managed to involve the wife and kids to make some family time of it. We headed over to Manchester so that I could have a gait analysis and get myself some new wheels, I spent an age trying trainers, on and off the treadmill, moulded insoles in, out, different trainers on different feet, up and down the shop while my son Isaac pulled the arm off one of the mannequins (sssssshhhhh!!! it went back ok!!!!). Eventually I went for these bad boys, feel great, can’t wait to get out in them and break them in, and given my addiction I naturally spent more on them than I’ve ever spent on a pair of trainers in my life, no small thing for a tight and proud Yorkshireman with a Scottish mother (hi mum, she reads this too).

shoes

Given that my marathon isn’t for another 7 months I’m a tad worried about where the addiction will go next. No doubt there’ll be ridiculously early morning runs on a regular basis, mainlining energy gels will become the norm, please someone stop me though if you see me heading for the tattoo artists with that dazed, confused look on my face muttering something about “I ♥ running” and my left bum cheek!!

Lies, damned lies and statistics

What can statistics tell us and how can they be used to help training, my thoughts.

In our lives we are bombarded by a constant stream of information and statistics, some of it fake (#prayforSweden), some of it real, most of it useless, understanding what is useful and more importantly how to make use of it seems to me to be the tricky part in terms of training.

Above all else there is one statistic about a marathon that you can’t escape, isn’t fake and will never change, and that is in order to finish the marathon you have to somehow get yourself around a course of 42.195 kilometres or 26.219 miles. How you do this and how long it takes will in part be down to a combination of various factors and statistics, the temperature on the day, your bodyweight, your level of hydration, training miles in the bank, the number of people in the field (and more importantly the number of people who massively overestimate their ability and start walking after a mile forcing you to slow down or take evasive action to get round them) etc etc etc. I know that some of these factors are totally beyond my control so I’ll forget about them and focus on what I can do something about and then look at how and if I can use the information available to me to improve my performance in any way.

Over the last 12 months I’ve mainly focussed on my weight, I can’t really say that I’ve typically been one to weigh myself regularly but since realising that I wasn’t happy with my weight and that 13st 8lbs (87.6kg) wasn’t healthy or sustainable I’ve weighed myself every week and am currently down to 10st 9lbs (69.6kg), I’ve never been particularly scientific but even I know that dragging 3 stone less around with me can only be good for me and make my running easier and quicker.

On Saturday my wife arranged for me to attend Fitness Evolution in Burnley for an assessment on their Biotrax system. As mentioned in my first blog post I’d previously had a similar health check this time last year which gave me a kick up the backside and started my journey to being a runner/advanced jogger. On that check I was told my metabolic age was 50, on Saturday that metabolic age had dropped to 24, I’m actually 39! I have no idea how that assessment works, it’s a statistic, I think it paints a wider picture of where I started and where I am now, whether it can assist me is a moot point.

 metabolic-ageMore measurable and more telling is my body fat percentage, last February I had 24.8% body fat, on Saturday I had just 8.7%.

body-fat

Whilst it’s obvious what that is telling me about how my body looks and feels I don’t yet know how I can actually use this information to aid my training, is this figure about right, too high, too low, should I add a bit of fat, does it matter? I’d appreciate any thoughts and comments from either seasoned runners or medical people out there on this one.

As my training has now gained a genuine sense of purpose I have also started to pay far greater attention to my pace. Based on my performance in the Burnley 10k last June I was doing a race pace of just under 9 minute miles. Over recent weeks and longer distances I am now hovering around 8 minute miles (tonight’s 11.7 miles for example was rattled off in 1 hour 31 mins 20 secs, 7.77 minutes per mile) which gives me a good measure of progress,  one I’ll be putting to the test in another 10k race in early March, this is also useful information for me to set myself a realistic finish time goal for the big day in October. As I was particularly restless one evening last week I tried to get myself to sleep by doing the maths in my head for various paces and finish times, 8 minute miles across the full distance would bring me home in 3hrs 28mins, is it realistic to keep that pace up across the full distance? Doubtful. Running half the distance at 8 minute miles and the other half at 9 minute miles is probably a more sensible target and would bring me home in 3 hrs 41 mins and even if I did the whole thing at 9 minute mile pace I’d still be over the line inside 4 hours at 3hrs 54 mins. Whilst I’m at this level of pace in training I totally understand that things can change on race day so again I’d really appreciate any feedback on what times others have run on their marathon debuts compared to any targets you’d set yourself and whether my times seem reasonable or overly optimistic?

If used appropriately statistics, assuming they are the right set of statistics, can I believe really add value in training, provide motivation and help us all to improve in one way or other, on the other hand lies and damned lies just leave us looking like some fella with bad hair who just happens to have landed the biggest job in the world!!!

Eyes On The Prize

The idea for my blog this evening came from my 6 year old son Isaac. This week has been half term and he’s been attending a football camp run by the lovely people at Burnley FC In The Community. As Burnley are playing Lincoln in the FA Cup tomorrow live on TV there was a special visitor at training this morning, the actual FA Cup!!

fa-cup

All the children were excited to have their photos taken, some slightly apprehensive after the briefing not to touch the prestigious cup. Isaac was absolutely thrilled to see it and I really hope it has inspired him to keep training hard, practising his skills and dreaming that one day he’ll actually get to hold the trophy. Maybe he’ll make it, maybe he won’t, who knows but I think that having a dream is really important, having your eyes on the prize drives you on at times when you think you have no more to give and motivates you to find that extra something from somewhere.

Until signing up for the Yorkshire Marathon my training was purely about achieving a healthier lifestyle and keeping active. Although I enjoyed my runs/advanced jogs, they lacked somewhat in intensity and real purpose and a friend had planted the seed that having a specific goal to train for would be useful, not sure whether to thank you Rick or curse you, I guess I’ll find out for real in October. Having something to work towards now though has helped to give me an extra push. For the marathon itself I’ve set myself what I think is a realistic time goal but I’ll genuinely be thrilled to just make it round intact.

Tonight’s run, 11.6 miles, 1hr 33mins 13 secs, was tough for a couple of reasons. Firstly it was an almost entirely new route for me and at one point I actually got lost, secondly it was quite an undulating route and I actually find running downhill harder than uphill, don’t seem to be able to get the technique of not letting me legs run away with me and maintaining a steady pace quite right and finally we’d had a buffet lunch celebration for a colleague going on maternity leave and sausage rolls, pakoras and samosas is hardly the greatest pre-run meal I’ve ever had!!! I broke the route down in my mind though and set some goals which pulled me through.

Whatever you are doing in life, whether you consider it big or small always have a goal to help motivate you, keep your eyes on the prize and dream big, what’s the worst that can happen?

The Groove

Does it matter when I run?

Since catching the running/advanced jogging bug, Mondays and Fridays have been my days. Get home, get changed, get out, routine, the groove.

After Friday’s half marathon distance this evening was a bit less intense with 9.5 miles knocked off in 1hr 14mins 56 secs, at a pace of just under 8 minutes per mile I’ll settle for that particularly as half the distance was into a head wind. Why is it that when running into a head wind it feels like a force 10 gale and yet when the wind is supposed to be behind you it’s a powerful as a baby attempting to blow out the candles on their first birthday cake!?

As I live in a small town my routes also have a certain routine, I try to mix it up but inevitably I end up plodding the same streets regularly. Some are pretty, some have great views of the imposing Pendle Hill

pendle
Pendle Hill

and as I discovered tonight some have a rat scampering across them!! On the streets of Nelson, Colne and Burnley I also see other runners, joggers (advanced or otherwise), dog walkers, groups of power walking Asian ladies and kids who think it’s funny to try and run alongside you for a while. Sometimes it’s the same faces, sometimes new people, we smile, we nod, we probably share the same thoughts to a degree, we don’t know each others names and note to the bloke who attempted this on me a few weeks back, we DO NOT high 5!!! Who the hell thinks that’s a good idea or hygienic having blown snot out of your nostrils???!!!???

My routine is very much in a groove and despite being over 7 months out from D-Day (or should that be M-Day?) I’m a tad concerned that the marathon is a morning start whereas I am very much an evening running owl. So my question for anyone out there who would care to lend their thoughts is does this matter? Should I move to more morning runs? Should I try to do my longer runs on a Sunday morning and train my body to peak at that time of day or is it sufficient at this stage that I’m getting in the miles and gradually pushing my body’s tolerance and ability to go further? All thoughts welcome.

 

 

 

And we’re off….

Running blog of a marathon first timer.

So this is my very first blog entry, I may be the only person to ever read this.

I’ve decided to write this blog to save all my friends from having to read my Facebook posts and me becoming the #marathonbore. Before I get onto running though a quick backstory. I’m a 39 year old Yorkshireman from Bradford, living in exile just over the border in Lancashire. In March 2012 I survived testicular cancer and have been cancer free since, I have a fantastic wife and two great kids. As near as damn it a year ago I went for a health check at work. I weighed in at 13st 8lbs, I had a physical activity rating of 2/10 and was told I had a virtual age of 50. All my motivation is pretty much summed up right there. I needed to get fit, stop making excuses and start eating things that were actually good for me. That weekend my wife and I went out for a Valentine’s meal. I drove to the restaurant (tight Yorkshiremen don’t pay for taxis to a venue) and decided that the following day I’d run the 3.25 miles back to pick the car up. That run took me about 35 minutes and I felt like throwing up, it was the first serious bit of exercise I’d done in a long time.

Fast forward 12 months and I am pretty much a running addict, I’m still not sure if I define myself as a run

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My wife Catherine and I after the Burnley 10km 2016

ner or an advanced jogger. Anyway, I kept the running up and actually started to enjoy it, going pretty much every Monday and Friday evening. The company I work for were one of the sponsors of the Burnley 10km in June so I entered along with my wife and on a baking hot day came in with a respectable time of just over 54 minutes. The next day was the perfect excuse to give up, still hot, still tired from the 10km, goal achieved but I went out and did 4 miles or so and have carried on. I have pretty much stopped eating rubbish and I weigh just on 11st.

Shortly before Christmas I did 10.5 miles, then 12.7 miles and then last week I took the plunge and entered the Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon in York in October. Now things have started to get serious and as a first timer I’ll be honest, I’m bricking it. On Friday I ran 13.25 miles in 1hr 45 mins 59 secs, which I think is ok but how the hell am I going to double that over the next 8 months?

This people is hopefully where you come in. I need, advice, guidance, tips anything to get me across that line in one piece on 8th October. I intend to post most weeks and keep you up to speed (no pun intended I’m not that fast) on how things are going and if you are a marathon first timer or #marathonbore too then maybe you’ll find some inspiration or comfort here too.

Thanks for reading.

Stu