East Lancashire Hospice 10k – Race Review

I’ve set myself various running goals for 2018, some are time related, some are little personal milestones and another is to run more local events. I spotted an advert on social media for this race in aid of a local charity a couple of weeks ago and it ticked plenty of boxes for me so I decided to make it my first race of the year, in fact it was my first non-virtual race since completing the Yorkshire marathon last October.

I hadn’t entered this race before so used a couple of contacts and read a few reviews to find out what to expect. Everything people said was positive, nice course, pretty flat, finisher’s shirt, medal, well organised and so I was looking forward to it.

I arrived in good time and headed over to Gaskell Motor Bodies to collect my bib, this car workshop was actually where the finish line was and on a cold morning it provided some decent shelter, I’d opted for short sleeves, optimistic maybe but not as optimistic as the chap I saw running in what looked to be sunglasses; in January; in East Lancashire. There were plenty of people around as well as brews and bacon sandwiches for spectators.

As the runners gathered I opted to start about halfway back in the pack and I was surrounded by runners from various local clubs who had turned out in force. The first mile or so took us out of the industrial estate and onto a cycle path, this provided some space for the field to fan out before the route narrowed onto a single file trail. It was muddy and passing was possible but you had to very much go off line and dodge some bushes. We crossed over the canal and started on up a wider farm track which presented the opportunity for some overtaking. Part way up the hill the front end of the field came racing back down and it was nice to see Ben who I used to work with was well up there, he eventually finished 5th. Following a quick circuit of a local park it was my turn to start downhill and then hit the canal tow path.

With just over a mile left the route joined back onto the original cycle path and I managed to chase down a couple of runners in front of me. The small hill at the started provided a nice chance to let the legs go towards the finish before a short uphill spurt to the line. Thanks here to David Belshaw for his action snaps at the finish, he’s a great supporter of local races and raises lots of money for charity.

My finish time was quickly confirmed as 44:28, my second fastest 10k and my fastest race time, overall I was 74th out of over 600 finishers which I was thrilled with. Having collected my finisher’s t-shirt when I picked up my bib I looked around for the medal, call me a bling magpie, but only the children who had completed a 2k race had any medals. After a quick enquiry with one of the organisers it transpired that there had been some sort of printing error and despite guarantees the medals hadn’t arrived. A slight disappointment but beyond the control of the organisers and I was assured that they will be posted out when ready.

All in all I really enjoyed the race. The mixture of terrain was a good challenge as I run pretty much exclusively on roads and paths. It was great to see and hear the camaraderie among the club runners, well done to whoever brought along the cow bell, and a special mention to the runners and supporters from Ramsbottom (Rammy) Running Club who were out in force and really got behind their team mates and everyone else.

Whilst the big budget races are good, I am developing a liking for smaller local events and I will certainly be entering more throughout 2018, watch this space.

 

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#REDDecember – Review

If you have read any of my blog over the last month or so then you will be up to speed with my challenge of running every day (RED) in December.

The last update I posted was with 10 days to go. As it is now 3rd January you will be pleased to know that I completed the challenge, I even added a bonus day by running on 1st January to start the New Year on a positive note and because I don’t really like odd numbers and so wanted to end my streak on 32 days.

The final 10 days as predicted were challenging not only because of fatigue setting in but because of the many events happening in my life which meant that the majority of runs were early morning so that I had the rest of the day free. Day 29 also saw the return of snow and ice which made for tricky conditions under foot.

I have never run on Christmas Day before but I have to say that I really enjoyed it. After opening presents with my wife and children and the now traditional bacon and sausage butties with the in-laws I donned my Santa T-shirt and hat and headed out. It was a pleasant day and there were plenty of people out and about, many of whom smiled, laughed, waved and tooted at me, it was nice to help put a smile on people’s faces and the run set me up well for the rest of the day. The Christmas Day run was the last day of the Run Up To Christmas virtual race and along with my team mate Laura we clocked up over 350km for the event, I’m now eagerly awaiting the medal dropping onto the doormat.

The other run of real note as the month drew to a close was on day 30. I had picked up the RED baton from Brian Shaw who had completed his own #REDNovember and finished on a high with his longest run of the month on the last day. With friends coming to stay and the house to get ready for New Year’s Eve I knew that day 31 was going to be a quick get out, get it done kind of run but I wanted to finish the month with a bang and so I decided to attempt a 5km personal best run on day 30. I drove down to a local park where there is a nice flat cycle track, it was dead, I had the track to myself and after a slow sighting lap to warm up I opened up my legs and went for it. The track is an oval of just over 1km length with a couple of dog leg loops at either end, it was raining and a bit blustery so the run down the home stretch was into a head wind which I could have done without. That said I pushed hard and probably ran the first mile a touch fast, my PB was 21:23 and so I needed to keep the pace up, after just under 5 laps I stopped the clock, I knew I had run well and was delighted with a new PB of 20:12, my second PB of the month after a new 10km PB on day 12.

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Excluding my bonus January trot I ended #REDDecember having run 205.1 miles (at the end of my last run the total was actually 204.9 miles which was wholly unsatisfactory and so I had to do a quick few laps of my garden to get rid of the .9!!). For those of you who run in kilometres that converts to just over 330km for the month. My aim at the start was a minimum of 5km per day but to finish with a daily average of 10.6km was way beyond my expectations and something I’m actually really proud of.

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This experience has taught me that I am actually stronger and fitter than I thought, both physically and mentally. Whilst the challenge was tough I embraced it rather than dreaded it and simply running a different route every day helped my focus and kept my motivation up. Run streaking is not easy, the physical demands are obvious but if you are going to attempt one then you need to plan well, you need to be flexible and you need support from everyone around you. Good luck to everyone attempting #REDJanuary and whatever your plans for 2018 I hope you enjoy your running, cheers!

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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 bound 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.

#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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Always Learning

This week’s blog was inspired in part by a cardboard box delivered to my place of work, I kid you not. The box came from a well known publisher and printed on the side of the box were the words I have used as the title for this week’s piece, “always learning”.

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I have spent large parts of my working life in education establishments of various sorts and in various roles and I genuinely value the power of learning. Life has taught me though that learning doesn’t just happen in those formal educational settings, we are constantly surrounded by learning opportunities and filtering them and getting the most of them are really important for how we develop as people. I can learn as much from my children as I do from reading and likewise a casual conversation can really hit the spot and help me to tap into a whole new world of knowledge.

In terms of running I have learned so much this year and I feel like I have only really started to scratch the surface. Earlier in the year I posted a blog about running terminology and whilst some of it was tongue in cheek just getting your head around some of the jargon used in the sport is quite an effort in itself. Apart from a general awareness of what constituted healthy eating I was totally ignorant about proper fuelling, nutrition and hydration too, don’t get me wrong I am still no expert on the subject but just knowing what is out there and when it’s best to consume various things has given me greater energy and helped me to lose weight to the point where my body has now found a happy equilibrium between what is going in and what I am expending with exercise. An added bonus is that my skin feels and looks better and I am happier with my body now as I approach 40 than I have been at any point in my life.

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My learning doesn’t stop there, I have developed my mental and physical stamina through a number of techniques, some simple, some more complex, my understanding of how to pace myself has also grown and the stats I get from my Garmin have helped me to learn about how my body performs and how best to harness that.

I’m not putting myself on a pedestal here as some sort of oracle though. I am more than willing to offer an opinion, share my limited experience and maybe help to plant a seed for others to grow and learn from but I know that I have so far yet to go. My technique is questionable and possibly linked to some of the niggles I suffer from. I know that I need to learn more about where my limits are and how I can safely push them without risking injury and I need to continue to work on pretty much every other aspect of my running as complacency will get me nowhere.

Thanks to everyone who has shared an opinion, some advice or some encouragement with me, I am truly grateful and with your help I have become more than I ever realised I could be.

A quick reminder that you can vote for me in the 2018 Running Awards, just click here to register and find Marathonbore in the blogs section, if you vote in 5 different categories you’ll receive a 10% discount with the top Online Running Retailer of 2017! Thank you.

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The Come Down

Well that’s it marathon done, it’s been 11 days now and physically I’m doing well. I had an hour long deep sports massage on the Monday after and whilst it was an education in pain it helped to work out the aftermath of 26.2 miles in my legs. I have so far managed four recovery runs and actually getting back out running has done my legs the world of good. I have read various tweets and blogs from people who run a marathon and then do little or nothing often for months after. The way I approached this though it was a bit like having an operation, the sooner you are up and mobile, the sooner your body recovers. Whilst I wouldn’t say I am anywhere near my peak I feel like I have retained a good level of fitness and the plan is to push my distances out again in the next couple of weeks.

Unfortunately the same can’t be said about my mental recovery. I have discovered the hard way that training for and running a marathon takes a huge amount out of you mentally. I feel like the bride who spent months planning a wedding, sorting all the fine details out and now is just left with a nice photo album, a dress that she doesn’t know what to do with and some nice bling, hopefully you understand the parallels I am trying to draw here.

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Essentially I feel like my head is wrecked. Although I have signed up for some races next year and I am going to attempt REDDecember I feel lost and lacking in focus. I have become the old me; short tempered, grumpy, not fun to be around and frankly I don’t like myself. I get that this must be something to do with my body and all the chemicals in it re-balancing themselves or something biological that I wouldn’t understand but can they hurry up please so that I can start to be me again!

I need to bottle the feeling of crossing the finish line, the euphoria, the sense of pride and achievement and to let it out slowly so that I can continue to enjoy it and bask in it a little longer until I am ready to let go and move on. At the moment the sense is very much one of, “after the Lord Mayor’s show”, I need to rediscover some head space and perspective, to get back to enjoying running rather than it being a process and I need to listen to my own advice and find some bouncebackability.

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A quick reminder that you can vote for me in the 2018 Running Awards, just click here to register and find Marathonbore in the blogs section, if you vote in 5 different categories you’ll receive a 10% discount with the top Online Running Retailer of 2017! Thank you.

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York Marathon – Race Review

I’ve been looking forward to writing this blog almost as much as I’ve been looking forward to running the marathon itself, forgive me if I go on a bit in this post but for a near 40 year old running your first marathon is a bit of a big deal.

Having stayed over with friends near Malton the night before I woke bright and early as expected on Sunday morning, sleeping in a child’s bunk bed wasn’t as bad as I expected and I did actually manage what felt like some decent sleep. I got myself ready, checked I hadn’t left anything, at least twice, then pulled over after I’d set off just to check again. The drive to the park and ride was simple and I was soon on one of the fleet of coaches taking many slightly anxious looking runners and some clearly more relaxed spectators to the start of race at York University. Before the coach had left Elvington Airfield though panic set in, fortunately not for me but for the chap who realised he had left his running shoes in the boot of his car! Cue everyone else on the bus looking down and checking they hadn’t made the same mistake!

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I had arranged to meet various running friends at the bag drop and I soon found some familiar faces which helped to calm the nerves, a couple were with me in the marathon but the majority were doing the popular 10 miler which started slightly later. Group photos and selfies followed and then it was time to head down to the start. If I’m honest the organisation here was disappointing. Signs were limited and despite following the only sign I did see for the zone 2 start area I ended up at zone 5 and had to scramble over a wall and through some undergrowth to get back to where I needed to be.

I reached the zone 2 start area eventually and there was just time for a quick stretch. Then we were almost ready for the off, after a few words of encouragement from starter and legendary Yorkshireman Dickie Bird the field moved forward and it was too late to turn back, I was doing this, it was now or never.

The first couple of miles led us down to and through York city centre. Some of the roads here were narrow and the field almost came to a halt at one point, one runner pulled over to the side and I noticed that his flip flop had come off, yes flip flop!! It wasn’t long before we reached the key photo opportunity at York Minister and still feeling fresh I made sure I smiled for the various cameras, hopefully one will have come out well. The route then took us out of York passing large crowds and into the small villages and country lanes that characterise most of this course.

I was looking forward to the 6 mile point as we reached the village of Stockton on the Forest simply for the fact that this is the home of the high fiving vicar. I remembered that on the videos I’d seen he was on the right hand side of the road and so I made sure I was in position early to get some skin! Beyond the village the route took on a very rural feel and I don’t recall coming across anyone apart from the odd marshal until we arrived at mile 11 where the Macmillan cheering point was based. I received fantastic support from them and the other Macmillan volunteers en route and want to take this opportunity to thank them all for their encouragement, a group of other runners commented to me that it was like I had my own cheer squad. Having passed through half way it wasn’t far before my actual cheer squad of my wife and two children came in to view in Stamford Bridge. It was such a boost to see them and the crowd at this point felt huge and the noise was amazing with so many people cheering, family, friends and strangers.

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Stamford Bridge was just before mile 14 and from then on there was what felt like a very long stretch through the back of beyond up to Dunnington. The course is known for being pretty flat and it was but this section was a long, slow drag and really started to mess with my head. Just after mile 16 I started to see runners coming the other way but knew I still had over 2 miles to go until I hit the top of the road where the loop was. I looked some of these people in the eye and they were flagging, it did make me feel slightly better that one of the runners I saw was former Leeds Rhino and England rugby league star Kevin Sinfield so I tried not to feel too bad about myself.

I was keeping decent time and hitting miles in around 8 mins 30 secs which was in line with my plan, the battle at this point was mental and I was drawing on all my strategies to keep it together. I had been due to see my family again at Dunnington which was miles 17 and 19 on the out and back but the spectator bus hadn’t got them there on time so I made do with another high five this time from the Archbishop of York, small guy, strong arm! Not long after seeing him I glimpsed a vision in pink heading towards me, it was Caterina who I’d met at the start, I made sure I shouted over and high fived her too.

By mile 20 the out and back had ended and I had turned for home but I was struggling, the sun was in my face and cramp was setting in in both my calf muscles and my left foot. I carried on for a mile or so with all sorts of things running through my head. I had been determined to run the whole 26.2 miles but eventually sense prevailed and I joined many others at this point who had decided that alternating running with walking was the best strategy, I knew that if I stopped dead my legs were likely to seize up and I walk pretty fast anyway so decided this was the best course of action to get me to the finish. Caterina came by me not long after I’d started walking and she turned to make sure I was ok, the supportive spirit of the running community summed up in an instant.

At this stage we were back in more residential areas and the support from the crowd who could clearly see me flagging was superb. Eventually I made it to the bottom of the hill that we had run down shortly after the start. It wasn’t long, it wasn’t steep but it felt like Everest. I managed to run half way up and then shuffled to the top and the descent to the finish. People were shouting from every angle and I managed to catch sight of local York residents and fellow runners Luke and Tristan, thanks for the cheers lads. Slightly further down the hill were more friends who’d run the 10 miler, plus injured VIP Caroline, who had all stayed on to cheer me, I bribed them with cake but what the hell you guys were immense, thanks for the support and the video.

A quick pose for the cameras and I was through the line, my wife and kids raced down off the grass bank for hugs and I broke down in tears, I also made the schoolboy error of not stopping my Garmin! I quickly checked my phone and the finish time text was already there waiting, 4 hours 1 minute 58 seconds. I was thrilled, yes sub 4 hours would have been nice but this was my first attempt at a marathon so any thoughts of disappointment were swiftly banished.

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Celebratory drinks, cake and more hugs followed. By now I was starting to flag though and in the queue for the medal engraving I felt rough. I tried to get some chocolate milkshake down me but couldn’t stomach more than a mouthful. This feeling stayed with me until I’d set off on the drive home at which point I had to pull over into a layby on the side of the A64 to puke, sorry to anyone who witnessed it. To be honest it was probably the best chunder of all time, I instantly felt better.

Writing this the day after has given me time to reflect and have a much needed massage. Did I learn much for yesterday? Absolutely. Will I run another marathon? Possibly. Am I proud of myself. Hell yeah!! The whole experience was amazing and one that will live long in the memory for many, many reasons. I have been blessed with amazing support and want to thank anyone and everyone who got behind me in any way whether with a cheer, a donation to my fundraising or a word of encouragement on social media.

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Whilst this feels like a natural end I really want it to be just the beginning, I already have plans for the rest of this year, some races and events booked for next year and some goals to achieve. I’ve started something and I don’t want it to stop.

If you have enjoyed reading any of my blog then I would love you to vote for me in the 2018 Running Awards, just click here, register and find Marathonbore in the blogs section, if you vote in 5 different categories you’ll receive a 10% discount with the top Online Running Retailer of 2017! Thank you.

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And so it has come to this…

Wednesday 8th February 2017, for most a pretty unremarkable day, for me it was the day that I signed up for the York Marathon, a day that has shaped the last 8 months of my life, dominated my thoughts and inspired me to write this blog.

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At that time I considered myself an “advanced jogger”, I wanted to give my training a focus and during a run the previous Friday night I had started to think about what to do next, a marathon seemed like a logical aim but the how and when was the quandary. Initially I had the idea of running from my home in East Lancashire to West Yorkshire, and more particularly to Valley Parade, home of my team Bradford City and handily just over 26 miles away. I casually floated this idea to my wife that weekend, thankfully she quickly talked me out of it, doing an unsupported first marathon distance was really not a good idea, although it is still an ambition I harbour. I searched for northern marathons on Google but all the Spring ones came up and there was no way I’d be ready.  The following day though good old internet cookies played a blinder and an advert popped up on my Facebook feed for the York Marathon 2017. Yorkshire tick, scenic flat course tick, time to train tick, booked it, packed it, trained my arse off.

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The rest is history, well recent history, which if you have been keeping up I have detailed in my posts up to now. And now the big day is nearly here. “Are you ready?”; “how are you feeling?” and “when is your run again?”, questions which have pretty much been in every conversation over the last couple of weeks. For the record, yes I am; nervously excited and it’s a fricking marathon it’s not a run! (that’s the answer in my head), it’s Sunday 8th October thanks for asking, is the polite response.

I genuinely can’t wait for Sunday for so many reasons. I am really looking forward to running past the iconic York Minster, high fiving a vicar and hopefully the Archbishop of York en route, if there isn’t enough divine intervention there for me then I really have been a bad boy!

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The course itself is pretty circular starting and ending at the University. There are a couple of out and back sections in the second half of the race and the sentiment from those who have entered the race previously is that mentally they are the hardest part. The finish has also been described as a hill, now I run hills all the time and can handle them but I’m hoping the finish line is on an incline as I’m not sure my calf muscles will ever forgive me if I try to push them up a hill after 26 miles!!

I have done the hard miles, I have prepared myself as well as I can, I know that I need to relax physically and mentally and let the race take care of itself, easier said than done but by this time next week I hope, no I am determined, to be part of the 1% club.

I’ll see you on the other side.

Taper Time

Tick tock, tick tock, countdown is progressing. It’s now under three weeks until my first marathon and over the weekend I completed my last long slow run (LSR) and now it is time for the taper.

As I have progressed along this literal and figurative road towards York I have experienced new things, met some amazing people, pushed myself to new limits and started to talk a different language. If you’d asked me 9 months ago what a taper was I would have thought it was something to do with the foot end of your trousers or those animals with the long noses!

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Tapir Not Taper

In April I blogged about running terminology and back then my uneducated summary of tapering read as follows, “kind of guilt free putting your feet up and doing not very much in the knowledge that you’re not going to become a sloth and you will soon be getting yourself back in gear to do something amazing”. When that blog was posted I received feeback from those more experienced than me that there was nothing guilt free about it and that the period between your last LSR and the marathon start gun was a time of tantrums, self doubt and the dreaded maranoia.

IMG_20170918_183336I am currently only on my third day of tapering and I am already understanding what they mean. I’ve meticulously built up my training to this point and I’m now already sitting here typing this and almost feeling the fitness oozing out of my muscles and the devil on my shoulder jabbing me and telling me to get out and run some more miles.

Rationally I know the reality is very different. In the 6 days up to and including my last LSR I ran just shy of 55 miles. I stopped writing this then for a second to let that sink in as for me that is an achievement in itself. I have a friend, Rick, who I’ve mentioned before who is a seasoned runner. He ran at school under the guidance of Mr Kingham, “who’s he?”, I hear you ask, he’s the man who trained the Brownlee brothers when they attended the same school, that’s who! When I was fathoming out my marathon training plan Rick sent me one he used previously and towards the end of his plan he ran a 62 mile week. I scoffed that I would never get anywhere near that and my mind boggled at just how you would actually get that mileage in and yet a couple of months later and I was just 7 miles short of matching him.Screenshot_20170915-193831

What I am trying to say is that I have put the work in, people have said to me, “you’re marathon ready”, and mentally and physically I think I am. I’ve still got some miles on my plan to get through to keep my legs ticking over but the bulk of my work here is done, I just need to survive now until I reach the start line and if I bite your head off between now and then please forgive me, it’s not me it’s the taper.