My 2017 Running Awards

It’s that period between Christmas and New Year when if you are lucky you have a bit of time off work and if you are extra lucky you get a bit of time to yourself. I’ve been using all of my me time this month to complete my #REDDecember challenge but having already done my run for the day I’m going to use a spare hour or so now to reflect back on 2017 in the style of an award ceremony. Little disclaimer, if you are mentioned below there are no actual prizes or trophies, just bask in the glory.

2017 Best Medal Award

Despite running lots of miles I don’t actually run in many races but those in which I have competed have on the whole been great in terms of the bling on offer. Whilst there are several contenders vying for the minor placings in this category in my mind there is a clear winner. Before the big reveal notable mentions must go to the Leeds Half Marathon and Yorkshire Marathon, both Run For All events and both had quality medals. The winner though is my medal from the Blackpool Illuminations 10k. It has a great ribbon, it weighs a tonne, it spins, it glows in the dark!! You get it, it is awesome and reminds me of a great event, thank you Fylde Coast Runners.

 

2017 Most Underrated Event

As I said above I don’t race every weekend, as I know many people do, and this year I have tried to run in a mixture of larger and smaller events. The smaller events I have competed in have been good local races put on by people who genuinely love the sport and simply want to do their bit. Again there is a clear winner for me in this category which was the Pendle Running Festival 10k. If you recall my review of the race you’ll remember that we actually started down a random path next to a pile of dung, this was local racing, no chip timing, no big corporate sponsor, this was running in beautiful countryside (albeit shrouded in fog on the day), it was the type of race where most of the field knew each other and people stuck around to cheer their club mates on whilst having a brew and some homemade cake or flapjack from the village hall. The medal wasn’t huge, it didn’t need to be, the event itself warmed my heart and I’m looking forward to 2018’s event already, although maybe not that hill!

 

2017 Best Virtual Race

Before this year I had never even heard of virtual races but in the last 6 months I have ended up competing in three and I can honestly say I have enjoyed them all. As a father of two my weekends are normally spent with my children and so the virtual events have allowed me to take part in “races” as and when I want, to fit in around my life which has been brilliant for me. The virtual races I have taken part in have all been really well organised and have generated a genuine community spirit with people taking part in teams, either by running together in person or miles, sometimes even continents apart. This has helped to keep motivation up and everyone has backed each other even to the extent of donating miles or kms to those who fell short of their target due to injury or personal circumstance. The races have all donated proceeds to charities close to my heart too which have been a big pull for me and I will certainly be looking to take part in more next year. It seems harsh to pick a winner out of Marathon In A Day, Million Moo March and Run Up To Christmas but Marathon In A Day just shades it for me. This was my first virtual race and through it I met some people online, some of whom I have subsequently met in person, who have been unbelievably supportive of me and each other. A bond has formed between us that has extended way beyond this event and for that reason I had to chose it as my winner, oh and I got another cool spinning medal and a drumstick lolly too!

 

2017 Best Bit Of Running Gear

When I took up running it seemed like a cheap way to get fit, no gym fees, no fancy gear needed, just me, my legs and the road. How wrong I was!!! This category has some real contenders and I have deliberately left it quite open by using the word gear. In June my wife sanctioned an early 40th birthday present and I treated myself to a Garmin Forerunner 35, it’s not the fanciest running watch out there but it revolutionised my running by giving me the ability to pace myself and record my progress. I spent what for me was a small fortune on my first “proper” pair of running shoes when I bought my Nike Pegasus 33s, I have run the hell out of them and they are still going, they fit well, they look good and touch wood I have not had one blister in them. Strong mentions in this category too for my Karrimor running socks, they don’t cost the earth and despite this brand being much maligned I can honestly say these socks have really stood up to some punishment and also my Unilite headtorch, a cracking, robust product which helps me to see and importantly be seen, get one. This year I also discovered runr, an independent running brand owned by people who love running and produce some quality products, their hoodies in particular are to die for, don’t just take my word for it, so many runners I have met have them and love them and I pretty much live in mine which is why I have chosen the runr hoodie as the winner of this category.

 

2017 Best Added Benefit Of Running

The benefits of running are well documented and I have waxed lyrical in my posts during 2017 about how running has helped me not only physically but mentally to become healthier. Running has also positively impacted on my life and the lives of those around me in ways that I hadn’t anticipated and that’s why I have included this category. Whilst I have an undisputed winner everything in this section is positive in its own way. I have started writing this blog which has given me a way of expressing myself that I love. I have been told by friends and family that I have inspired them and several have started running or got back into exercise themselves. Because I have been burning so many calories I have needed to replace them and rather than just buy treats I have taken up baking, something I never thought I could do. Thanks to so many generous people I have raised nearly £2,000 for charity this year and whilst away on holiday running allowed me to explore parts of my destinations that I would otherwise not have seen as I embarked on my first experiences of run tourism. The winner or winners in this category though is the running community. I train and run alone and it wasn’t until March 2017 that I discovered the online running world. Since then I have connected with so many amazing people (some of whom you can see below, I didn’t have space for photos of you all so please don’t be offended if you aren’t there, I still love and respect you!) and I honestly feel part of something special. I haven’t met in person nearly as many people as I would have liked but a massive thank you here to everyone I have interacted with in whatever format, your support and encouragement has sustained and inspired me and driven me to things I never dreamed possible, you are a special bunch.

 

2017 Highlight Of The Year Award

One thing is certain in this final category, the winner will be me! Despite having this blog and being quite active on social media deep down I am pretty self-effacing and introverted so to big myself up is not my natural style. I started running back in February 2016 and since then I have come a long way, literally! This year has been my first serious year of running I would say and has seen me set personal bests at 1 mile, 5k, 10k, half marathon and marathon so it’s been pretty successful. As I type this I am currently 4 days away from completing my first run streak of running a minimum of 5k every day in December, #REDDecember, my total distance at the moment is 300k run for the month which blows my mind, fingers crossed I make it through to the end of the month. The stand out moment for me in 2017 though has to be completing my first marathon in York in October. It had been my goal since signing up back in February and I had dedicated every run I had done in the interim to being ready for that day. There are many great memories from the day too, meeting some of my online friends for the first time before the start was fantastic (the fact that they ran the 10 mile event and then stayed on for a couple of hours to cheer me at the finish was even better), running past York Minster, the high-fiving vicar and Archbishop, seeing my wife and children supporting me out on the course, the support of the other runners for each other, the crowd and ultimately the sense of achievement crossing the finish line was like nothing I had ever experienced before, the Yorkshire Marathon has to win this category.

 

And there you have it, 2017 in a nutshell. Writing this has brought a lump to my throat at times and I am proud of my year. Running plans for 2018 are taking shape nicely and I hope that this time next year I have as much to look back on with pride.

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#REDDecember – 10 Days To Go

#REDDecember is now approaching the business end of the month in more ways than one. After banking another 12.8km today I am now just 7.7km short of hitting 250km for the month to date.

When I planned this month in my head I set myself the target of a minimum 5km per day, firstly because I wasn’t sure if my legs would take any more than that given this is my first serious run streak and secondly because I knew that some days would only present me with a short running window and so 5km seemed a realistic goal to at least get out and do something. To be averaging over 10km a day as things stand then is I feel a decent achievement in itself.

The 10 runs that now stand between me and putting my feet up for at least a day though are in the busiest period of the month. In those 10 days are my son’s birthday party day, which includes not only his party itself but a two hour round trip to collect my parents who are coming to stay with us. Then it’s my son’s actual birthday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and we are having friends to come and stay on New Year’s Eve. That’s just the planned stuff, at this time of year anyone could appear at any time to potentially scupper running plans so I know I am going to have to plan an “A” run and then a back up “B” run should the need arise. Flexibility and the continuing support of my wife in this attempt are needed to see me through.

With 21 runs in the bank I still haven’t yet run the exact same route twice, naturally there has been some crossover but even when routes have been similar, particularly the shorter ones, I have made sure that I add slightly different sections to keep the variety going. Sadly none of my runs have been planned to produce any fabulous Christmas themed Strava maps that I keep seeing, examples below, well played to anyone has managed one, the closest I unintentionally came was something that if you tilted your head looked like a very wonky elf hat.

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Since my last post the weather has warmed up and the ice and snow has melted away leaving us on the whole with fog and drizzle, although this has made running easier it means I haven’t been able to take photos of some of the stunning views that are normally there on the routes I have run.

Physically the challenge has also started to take its toll on me in the last few days. After runs 19 and 20 I felt really tired and the first doubts crept into my mind as to whether I could keep going. I know I have been hammering the miles and may start to pull things back in a little but there is no way I am not completing this, I have come too far now to quit. I am also being inspired and supported to succeed by so many amazing people, many of whom are taking part in the Run Up To Christmas virtual race which is creating a real buzz on social media.

A special mention this week too for one of my Twitter buddies Si, not satisfied with just sirunning every day in December, he is also blogging every day too, it’s a great read and you can find out more by visiting his #REDBED blog https://farrin.me.uk/

I won’t be posting another update now until after the big day unless something drastic happens so have a fantastic Christmas, eat, drink, be merry, spend time with those you love and spend time doing what you love.

#REDDecember – Halfway

The quick witted among you will note that the title of this week’s blog isn’t strictly accurate. Yes there are 31 days in December and so writing this at the end of day 15 isn’t precisely halfway. Given that I have no intention of pausing tomorrow’s run having completed 50% of it though to write my blog and then finish the rest of the run, this is the best you are going to get, and anyway I never was that good at maths!

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The 8 days since my last blog on my #REDDecember challenge have flown by in a flurries of snow, sheet ice, nativity performances, festive lights and the obligatory Christmas jumpers/t-shirts.

I won’t go into the detail of every single run but I have had some genuine highlights and remarkably I am still feeling strong and enjoying my running/ice-skating.

Part of the reason I am enjoying it so much is that I am running without pressure. The beauty of running in long sleeves is that I can’t see my watch and all I have as an indicator is the vibration on my wrist every mile. I’m not worrying about pace or time, I am running for the thrill of the challenge and the enjoyment of being out there and being the best I can be. I have no doubt at all that all my efforts are also releasing some powerful endorphins as I have a really positive approach to life at the moment and as I am taking part in RunUp2Christmas in aid of Mind this can only be a good thing as it highlights the clear link between exercise and improved mental health.

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Narrowing down my highlights of the week I would pick three of my runs out. On Sunday afternoon I had a lovely run, largely along the Leeds-Liverpool canal down from Nelson to Burnley. I have run part of the route before but carried on to a new section for me. The path was dusted with snow from overnight, as I set off from home there was the odd flake floating down, just over an hour later as I arrived back it was more like a blizzard. It was a really peaceful quiet run though away from the usual hub bub of the traffic and I’ll certainly be returning there and running along more of the canal in the future.

On Monday and Tuesday this week my children took part in their nativity plays at school, they were both superb, as were all the other kids to be fair. On Monday I ran after my daughter’s performance but it was getting late and to be honest I ran purely to keep the streak up. I decided then on Tuesday to use the window I had between finishing work and my son’s performance starting to complete my daily run. I knew that there was slight time pressure and so I didn’t hang around. As the vibrations passed by I felt good, and I got that feeling all runners probably experience when you know you are on for a quick time. As the sixth vibration shot through my wrist I took the opportunity to roll my sleeve up and glance at my watch, a 10k PB was there for the taking. And not just any PB. One of my stated aims for 2018 was to run a sub 45 minute 10k as my PB stood at 45.11, well after Tuesday I am going to have to revise that goal as my new 10k PB is 44.06.

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Tonight’s run was my final highlight for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I am completing the RunUp2Christmas virtual race with my running wife Laura. We live nowhere near each other but had planned that for our runs today we would co-ordinate and both go all Home Alone to add some fun, Merry Christmas Ya Filthy Animals!! Secondly, I also decided to run up to a local house which has put on a fantastic Christmas light display (not sure my photo does it justice) in aid of a local stroke charity. I’d been looking forward to my visit and it didn’t disappoint, as well as the lights they had Christmas music playing and even a snack stall for visitors, I chucked a donation in the collection bucket and wended my way home.

At the end of day 15 of #REDDecember then I have completed 101 miles which I am thrilled with. I am being backed by some tremendously supportive people who I can’t thank enough and am determined to keep going even if the conditions are proving somewhat tricky.

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#REDDecember Week 1

The challenge is on, run a minimum of 5k every day in December. This evening I have reached the end of week one and what a week it has been.

If I’m honest I really wasn’t sure how things would go but I can genuinely say that I have loved every second of it to this point.

I have managed to run seven different routes to keep things fresh, I’ve worn a daft hat #Studolph and my legs feel good having covered 42.5 miles. When thinking about how to approach this I knew I had to give some consideration to fuelling and refuelling as well as looking after my body. I’ve been consuming a couple of my trusted SIS energy products every day to keep my protein and carb intake up and I’ve been stretching my legs out to keep a few little niggles in check.

 

The week started with a bang and some fancy dress last Friday evening, followed swiftly by my second run of the month early on Saturday morning. I deliberately kept these runs short just nudging over the 5k mark on both occasions as I had a long run planned for Sunday. I was up at the crack of dawn to take my nearest and dearest to Liverpool airport for their trip to Lapland, maybe they saw #Studolph’s Finnish cousin? Back up the M6, across the M65, home, changed and out. Two hours later and I’d covered 15 miles, my longest run since completing the York marathon in October. My calf muscles were tightening as I ran the final climb but I gritted my teeth and saw it through.

On Monday I ran a completely new route for me along the canal near my work, the dusk was setting in and it was nice to run somewhere different. On Tuesday and Wednesday I managed a couple of slightly longer runs of over 5 miles, fitting them in among my family commitments. Finally tonight I ran while my son was at his football training, a special mention here for my wife who took our daughter with her to an appointment so that I could run at a sensible time, support like that is needed if I’m going to see this thing through. According to Strava I even managed a couple of personal records on a tough uphill section tonight, not sure that will be repeated come week four!!

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I timed this challenge to coincide with the Run Up 2 Christmas virtual race and via Twitter the support of the running community has been inspirational. This event supports the mental health charity Mind and it is great to see so many runners not only in the UK but around the world joining in and raising much needed awareness. Keep it up everyone, together we can do this.

Hopefully week two will go as well as this first week has. The forecast of snow on Sunday may make running interesting but it’s all part of the fun. Bring it on!

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