10 Weeks To Go

One of the main reasons for me starting this blog was to allow me to document my ymtraining for the York Marathon on 8th October and give me something to look back on in years to come. Although I have provided training updates as footnotes at the end of several posts this blog has branched out into everything from vlogs, to interviews with other runners and various commentary pieces on running related matters.

This week’s post then is very much about getting back to basics. I have now completed week 6 of my training plan and on the whole I’m pleased with how things are going. So far I have run just over 173 miles of my plan and I am now at the stage where my long run every week will be a new longest ever running distance for me which is exciting but also a touch daunting. Over time I have learned that running, and in particular distance running, is not just about physical but also mental fitness and I am keen to maintain positive mental health as it will sustain me through those inevitable bad runs, the times when I doubt my ability and those moments that I’m anticipating on the actual day when I need to look deep inside me and find some positivity.

Physically I am feeling good. I’ve had a somewhat gammy (yes that is a valid medical term) toe for the past fortnight but that now appears to be just about fully recovered and apart from an odd niggle I am able to run, and importantly, recover well. I deliberately gave myself a longer training plan so that I could increase my mileage gradually in the hope of avoiding injury and touch wood that is working. With the help of various SIS products and some homemade cakes my fuelling and refuelling is also working well and my body is comfortable with what I am giving it.



Although I have yet to absolutely nail down my race pacing I have become much more consistent in pacing myself, helped greatly by regular checking of my Garmin whilst out and about. I am developing my ability to hold myself back and ignore the urge from my legs to stretch out a bit more, people online have commented that I am quick, I am quite a self-effacing person and I genuinely don’t think I am. My aim is to pace at around an 8 minute 30 second mile, to try and avoid getting pulled along too quickly at the start and to conserve as much energy as I can by getting into a rhythm and sticking with it. Whether I can maintain that pace for the full 26.2 miles remains to be seen but I am up to 16 miles so far and that pace is manageable.

As I head into the final 10 weeks of training I do have a couple of concerns. I have tried to mix up my training in terms of adding off plan speed work and hill sessions as well as some general core fitness and this has been enjoyable but actually finding routes for long runs is proving problematic. I have a go to route that is just over 13 miles and I can then add on some extra distance to that to get me up to around 19 miles but this means running the same route time and again. I could run a couple of laps of a shorter route but I enjoy different scenery and get bored with laps, I could stretch out some of my shorter routes but that would mean running round country lanes and whilst there are some great views where I live I find that I don’t relax on these roads as I am conscious of listening out for traffic which distracts my focus from actually running. I may have to put up with the boredom as a means to an end.ym2

My other concern is an impending 8 day holiday to the Netherlands. It was planned into my training spreadsheet, and appropriately coloured in orange, but I need to factor at least a couple of 13 mile plus runs into the holiday and at the moment I have no idea how that will work out. This isn’t your average run of the mill family holiday either, this is 14 children and 10 adults descending on a holiday park for what could be absolute carnage. I need to get some research done on potential routes, I’m assuming in a rather stereotypical view that the roads will be flat which will mimic the route around York nicely but I may need to just grab time to get out when I can which means fuelling could be interesting, has anyone written a nutrition plan based on a diet of raw herring, cheese, chips with mayo and copious amounts of Amstel? Thought not!



All being well this week then should see me plod out a further 33 miles or so. I’m sure the coming weeks will bring more ups and downs but I am determined to enjoy and not just endure the journey and the big day itself. Training this much has for me been life changing and even if this is my first and last marathon I want to mark it as an occasion to remember and be proud of.


Pendle Running Festival 10k – Race Preview

As part of my marathon training I wanted to build in a few races to set myself small targets along the road to York and keep up with running in actual events with other runners rather than just training by myself as I do week in, week out.

This Saturday then it’s the Pendle Running Festival 10k for me. The race makes up one quarter of the festival which also features a half marathon, trail race and orienteering event all based out of the village of Barley at the foot of Pendle Hill. It is a relatively small local event which I chose because it is on my doorstep and it can challenge me.

Pendle Hill is an iconic local landmark and many people will have heard of it in relation to the Pendle Witch Trials of 1612, I also see it every morning when I open my bedroom curtains and it dominates the horizon in East Lancashire. I love the photo below I took a couple of weeks ago with the hill rising out of the surrounding landscape.

Sunset over Pendle Hill

So as not to deter runners the race organisers describe the course as, “challenging yet scenic”. While the 10k is a road race and doesn’t take us up the hill itself, the route has over 800ft of ascent!!! Now I am a self-proclaimed lover of hills but I may have taken things one step too far this time. I’ll let you know if I agree with the organiser’s description or if I use some less flattering adjectives in next week’s review.

In all seriousness though I am looking forward to running. My marathon plan has on the whole started well and I’m banking some good miles but this shorter race with its testing course will give me the opportunity to push my limits and see what my legs can give me when called upon. The early forecast indicates a cool and overcast morning so hopefully it will come down to a test of man v course, rather than man v course v steaming hot weather.

If the weather does pick up though then I can always refresh and refuel myself post race with a new found favourite, gin and tonic cake, with a G&T on the side! I found the recipe on a friend’s blog, thanks Sophie, and I can highly endorse it, as can my wife and her friend, and my mother-in-law, who all sampled the cake and gave it a resounding thumbs up. The recipe is very simple to follow and the cake was super moist and really tasty.

Fingers crossed then that I survive Saturday, that I enjoy rather than endure the race and that the hills don’t get the better of me. One of the aforementioned Pendle Witches, Elizabeth Southerns, had a son, Christopher Holgate, and Holgate happens to be my wife’s maiden name, maybe I can ask to borrow her broomstick to fly up the climbs!

Fuelling / Refuelling – Part 2

Following my previous blog I received various pieces of advice on the subject of fuelling / refuelling from friends and those in the online running community. Jelly babies s8830621253662eem to be a mid-run favourite for many and according to a good friend I should consume a family bag of onion rings to stave off cramp, top tip Chris!

My plan was to try my longest run ever, 15.2 miles, in my usual slot after work on Friday and for it to be the first test of my fuelling / refuelling strategy ahead of the Leeds half marathon in May and the York marathon in October.


From my SIS kit, see Fuelling / Refuelling – Part 1 , I had the lemon flavour GO Energy powder as directed 2 hours before running. The powder is a 50g sachet and the instructions
on the back are to add 500ml of water. The free bottle you get from SIS is a 400ml bottle IMG_20170317_150618which I found rather odd as all the sachets supplied are 50g and need 500ml of water adding, the bottle does have a 40g powder indicator so you could stop there but it seems a bit of a waste to throw away some of the powder. Minor gripe but supplying a 500ml bottle would seem to make more sense to me.

Now the taste, the colleague who sits next to me verbalised my fear, “does it taste like Lemsip?” (other medicinal hot lemon cold and flu drinks are available). Thankfully no it didn’t, I can best describe it as sherbert lemon flavour and it was very easy to drink and I didn’t feel like it was sitting on my stomach at all. I also had my usual chocolate bar with the drink and within half an hour or so I got that slight tingly feeling in my body that you get when you have energy that needs to be burnt off.

The Run

Although the main thrust of this post is about fuelling / refuelling I have to give you some context for my run on Friday. The 15.2 mile route was a combination of a couple of my regular shorter routes so I knew where I was going and could focus on the distance and what I was doing. The problem was it was heaving down and blowing gusts of over 40mph. Not one to back down though I had planned this run all week and come hell or actual high water I was going out and doing it. There were several places on my route where the pavement disappeared and became a stream, I gave up trying to avoid puddles and just hoped in the end that I wouldn’t have trench foot by the time I got home; and of course there was THAT driver, we all know the one, who seemed to take great delight in going as fast as possible through the largest puddle known to man which drenched me, on top of the drenching I’d already endured for the previous hour and a half, it was all I could do at that point to muster a V sign at him.


Last week I’d also bought myself a Nike running belt for the bargainous sum of £6.25. I’ve been getting a bit dehydrated on my longer runs and so thought this was a good investment. The bottles slot in very neatly to their clips and there is a decent size split pouch with a zip for all your bits and pieces. I’d run up and down the living room with it on but like a wazzock hadn’t filled the bottles to test it until I actually went out. The consequence was that for the first 2 miles or so on Friday I was more bothered with getting the belt comfortable than I was with my running. Should I have it on my back, my side, slung over my shoulder? Eventually I found the most comfortable place was on my front and once I’d taken on some water the bounce reduced and I didn’t really notice it was there.

By mile 9 of the run my nipples were stinging (I so should have vazzed up!!) and thanks to the wind and rain I couldn’t actually feel my thighs or my hands. At just after mile 10 I had the option to cut the run short and take an early turn for home, the thought seriously crossed my mind but I knew I’d regret it later and so I ploughed on into the head wind and driving rain. sisre

Mile 11 was the trigger for me to get my gel on board, from the SIS pack I’d taken with me the raspberry flavour GO electrolyte gel. I knew that just after mile 13 I had a pretty sharp climb of about 0.75 miles and so I wanted to give the gel time to kick in and give me a boost. It was the first time I’ve had this flavour and it was pleasant enough. As with the other SIS gels I’ve tried so far it was very easy to swallow and I certainly felt the benefit when I needed it. I did feel a bit of cramp at the very end of my run but I put that down to the cold more than anything.

By this time I had also gone slightly do-lally and started singing out loud to the songs I was listening to, and when I say loud I mean LOUD, given the conditions there was nobody else about and I just needed to do something to channel my mind away from the pain I had started to feel both from the running and the cold.

Eventually I made it home in 2hr 6mins, my wife had towels at the ready, as I stood in the hall peeling clothes off reality and self-doubt crept in and I had a little cry to myself, how the hell am I going to add another 11 miles to that? I know the conditions were very much against me and I have time on my side to build on this but I was hurting.


regoMy post-run SIS selection was the REGO recovery sachet, again a 50g sachet which I made up 400ml of before I hit the shower. It is billed as chocolate flavour, maybe I was expecting too much, but it didn’t really hit the chocolate spot for me and tasted more of a mix between a malt drink and chocolate. Again though I did feel a boost but the morning after would be key here as this product should replace key nutrients and aid recovery.

I did get my chocolate fix later though with a nice big slab of chocolate and banana cake. I’d made this earlier in the week with the help of my mini sous-chef Hattie, and very nice it is too.

The day after

Given my efforts I was naturally tired on Friday evening but Saturday morning brought a pleasant surprise, not only did the kids stay in bed until after 7am, but I felt human, I could get out of bed without a hoist, I could walk without pain and I felt normal. Certainly my body has accustomed itself more to the aftermath of running but I’ve never felt that good and given that I’ve never run so far and never used any recovery fuel in the past I can only put my condition, at least in part, down to the SIS products putting me in a good place.

All in all whilst I certainly wouldn’t say I enjoyed Friday’s run/squelch around East Lancashire I most definitely learned a thing or two and it will stand me in good stead for future efforts. I’m going to stick with the SIS products and play around a bit with some other options to see what works best, maybe jelly babies, possibly some protein bars, sadly though Chris I think the onion rings won’t make it into my race day nutrition plan.

Fuelling / Refuelling – Part 1

Until recently these two words were not part of my everyday vocabulary. The only time I’d really come across either was when the erstwhile England manager Graham Taylor made reference to Paul Gascoigne having “refuelling problems” back in the early 90s. Loosely translated this meant that between games Gazza liked to sink too many beers and preferred a large donner kebab or KFC to a nice bowl of pasta. beer

Whilst I enjoy a pint or two of my homebrew beer and cider, it’s good stuff, verging on rocket fuel at times, I have in the last year or so radically changed my diet. Out with the processed foods and a drawer full of snacks in my desk at work; in with fruit, veg and fresh meat. This has helped me to lose nearly 3 stone and a lot of body fat to the point where according to a doctor I contacted via a post on #ukrunchat last week my body fat level is that of a Premier League footballer and really I need to actually put a bit back on.

How to balance the right day to day nutrition, plus pre-run fuelling and post-run refuelling has become a regular question in my head. I normally run after work and so have a day’s worth of fuel inside me. I make sure I have a chocolate bar mid-afternoon on running days for some extra energy but that token gesture aside I haven’t really done anything else and my post-run regime is non-existent. This lack of preparation came into sharp focus though after a recent 10k race which was at a different time to my normal runs and after which I felt terrible, read about it here Accrington 10k – Race Review. I needed to start taking this aspect of my training more seriously.

I’ve dabbled with some energy gels on a couple of my longer evening runs but I’d like to start to nail down a regular routine now and so have bought a mixed starter nutrition pack from Science In Sport (SIS) to find out if any of these products can work for me and in business speak add some value.


Firstly the pack was a bargain at £7.80 from Amazon, box ticked for tight Yorkshireman! The pack contains two GO Energy sachets of powder to mix up in the bottle which comes with the pack and drink around 2 hours before I go out to help me get enough carbohydrates on board ready for my run, in addition there’s two GO Electrolyte powder sachets to again mix up and drink whilst running. Also included are five GO gels for a boost mid-run, one of these is a an electrolyte energy gel which is of particular interest to me as on the two recent 13 mile runs I’ve done I’ve started to cramp up a couple of miles from home and I’m keen to find out if this gel will prevent that. The final product is a chocolate flavour REGO rapid recovery powder sachet to mix up and drink in order to get vital nutrients back in my system straight after I’ve finished.

As well as fuel, hydration is also now on my mind as Spring brings higher temperatures and I actually start to sweat a bit during my runs. Whilst I can do a 10k or so without taking on water the longer runs I’m now embarking on will definitely need me to drink during my runs and so I’ve bagged another bargain and bought a Nike Running belt with two small bottles. I know Sports Direct are derided by many, and with some of their practices rightly so, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to get something I’ve had my eye on for the princely sum of £6.25.

After a decent 10.8 miles in 1hr 23 mins on Monday night fuelled by my normal day’s food and a rather soft Werther’s Original which I found in my bag and sucked on for a couple of miles mid-run, I’m going to put the SIS pack and water belt to the test on Friday when I plan to run just over 15 miles, the longest I’ve ever run.

Before then if anyone has any advice on fuelling/refuelling/hydration or any experience of using these specific products I’d love to have your feedback and I’ll post a full review in part two over the coming weekend. That is if my fingers will type coherently through the additional refuelling haze of gallons of homebrew and enough Nutella and banana cake (thanks to fellow blogger Sophie for the recipe) to feed a small country!! Just taking the doctor’s advice to add a bit of body fat!