The Blackpool Festival Of Running

Just over 6 months ago I completed my first marathon in York. Entering and training for the marathon was the catalyst for writing this blog. The day itself went pretty well but afterwards I vowed never to attempt the distance again, I even had the words “Never Again” engraved on the back of my medal.

I found the training a slog, the race itself was mentally draining and left me flat for weeks afterwards, I walked and ran the last 5 miles or so and finished in a time of 4 hours 1 minute 58 seconds. Whilst I was proud of that time, it began to niggle me as I knew I was capable of going under 4 hours.

In December the good people of Fylde Coast Runners ran daily competitions on Facebook to win places in their many fantastic events. I blindly commented every day and then received a message from them, I’d won a place in the Blackpool Marathon, part of their Festival Of Running weekend, on 22nd April 2018. Shit!!!!!!

I’d already booked my place on the half marathon which was taking place on the same day, did I really want to go back on my word? I mulled it over for a day or so and then took the plunge, do it, get the sub 4 hour time and then retire from marathons in a blaze of glory. I transferred my half marathon place to the Fleetwood half in August and I was in, no turning back.

Apologies here for the rather long preamble. I would have put all of this in a preview blog last week but I wanted to keep my participation as low key as possible. In the build up to York I’d been shouting about it from the rooftops, I was fund raising, writing my blog and actually I think to a degree I put unnecessary pressure on myself, I didn’t want to let people down and in a way I felt I did. This time though I only shared the news with a close circle of people and only tweeted about running on Sunday morning just hours before the start.

 

 

Before I get to Sunday’s events though a quick word or two about Saturday. The festival was a two day event with 2k, 5k and 10k races on Saturday and then the half and full marathons on Sunday. Saturday was glorious in many ways, the weather, the atmosphere, the apple cider lolly on the seafront bringing back childhood memories!

First up my wife Catherine and our friend Tara ran in the 10k, Tara hurt her calf after about 4k but they ran together and saw the race through in a decent time. Next up I ran with Linda, my mother in law who has been taking part in the Couch To 5k programme. It was 1pm when we started and it was HOT! The plan was that I would just stretch my legs before Sunday’s main event and help to pace Linda round, she wanted to run as much of the 5k as possible and to her huge credit she did apart from a nasty incline up off the front which to be honest everyone else we saw walked too. We crossed the line hand in hand in just under 36 minutes which was a fantastic achievement.

Linda now wants to run a 10k which I think is brilliant. A big well done here to everyone else from Activo in Nelson who took part and are achieving amazing health and fitness goals.

Finally there was the 2k, a large chunk of the field was made up of children either running on their own or with their parents. I think this is a great idea and something that other events should look to incorporate, I know some already do. It was lovely to see the enjoyment on everyone’s faces and my son Isaac even asked if he could race next year, more on him to come.

 

 

 

And so to Sunday. I had been checking the forecast virtually hourly for the week leading up to the race and it had changed from sunny, to cloud, to drizzle and then to rain as the week went on. Given the heat of Saturday and the weather in other parts of the country I was actually glad of the cool, damp conditions, I could have done without the wind but beggars can’t be choosers! I had picked up my bib on Saturday and so arrived in Blackpool about 50 minutes before the start to park up. As soon as I turned along the promenade the first spots of rain hit the windscreen and my prayers had been answered. I sat in the car for a while and then made my way down to the start via the usual loo stop. As seems obligatory for me I happened upon one of my running acquaintances Steve in the loo queue and we walked down to the start together discussing upcoming races and Steve’s amazing fundraising for Jane’s Appeal, find out more here. Just chewing the fat completely took my mind away from any pre-race nerves and before I knew it we were lined up and the gun went.

I shook Steve by the hand and wished him well and then I got my running head on. The plan was to just run by feel, my training had gone well and I’d done two 22 mile runs in around 3 hours so I knew that the ultimate goal of sub 4 hours was possible. I didn’t want to mess with my head by pacing myself too much though and checking my watch every couple of minutes so I just went with the flow and what felt comfortable. About a mile in I passed Caterina who I know from Twitter and have met at a couple of races including York where she had so kindly checked if I was ok at the point when I was really struggling. We had a brief chat and then I carried on, we saw each other again during the race and at the finish, she is a top runner and a thoroughly lovely lady.

The course itself was two laps up and down the promenade passing all the famous Blackpool landmarks. I know that some people find this type of course boring and it was my first time trying it. I have to say that I actually found it helpful, I know Blackpool well as a town anyway but the landmarks helped me mentally as I knew exactly where I was and there were no nasty surprises lurking around a corner.

The rain which had briefly abated at the start quickly returned and within a couple of miles we were all soaked, thankfully after an hour or so the rain eased and with a stiff wind blowing down the promenade I soon dried off. The miles clicked past nicely each one indicated by my watch vibrating on my wrist. I took gels on board as planned, sipped at my carb drink and sucked a few boiled sweets. Given that the promenade was closed off there was plenty of room to run and after the first lap the half marathon runners split off down the home straight whilst us marathoners turned back up to the main road and headed towards the Pleasure Beach again.

The support on the course was sporadic, it certainly wasn’t helped by the weather. At the start and finish there was a decent, vocal turnout but along the front we mainly passed stag and hen parties heading out for breakfast who looked at us like we had two heads! There were some groups of family and friends of runners huddled together though, mainly in bus and other shelters waving placards for their loved ones and applauding everyone else for their efforts, I made sure to acknowledge everyone as it was a filthy morning to be stood out for any length of time.

At York I began to fall apart mentally at around mile 18 and then physically from mile 20 and I was determined that would not happen again. This time my legs felt strong, I kept my head clear, ticked off the landmarks and before long I had reached the far end of Bispham and had made the final turn for home. As soon as I got down by the sea wall though the head wind hit me, I knew there were only 2.5 miles to go and I was certain that I would just put my head down and plod on.

 

 

 

My wife, my son and my father in law were waiting at the finish and as I eventually came back up to the middle walkway and the finishing straight I could see Catherine waving and cheering. Suddenly Isaac appeared through the crowd at my side and we crossed the line together. It was a really special moment and one I hope we will both look back on with great fondness in years to come. I know Isaac is proud of me but I secretly think he may just have been after the free Freddo I got too! I received my medal, a whopper, and a really nice tech top and then I needed to get warm. One of my mistakes after York was stopping dead and sitting down. After a brief chat with Caterina I walked the long way back to the car to get the legs warmed down and then relaxed as Catherine drove me home while I checked in with friends and family. I had good news to share, a PB by over 13 minutes, I had cracked it, I finished in 3 hours 48 minutes and 38 seconds.

blackpool isaac

Overall the whole weekend was superb. Fylde Coast Runners are a great organisation and the work they put into their events is immense, I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who was involved for their part from the marshals stood out in the wind and rain, to the girls at the registration tent and water stations and the lady who did the finish line commentary. Every single person played a part in making the festival a triumph and something that I will remember for a long time to come.

So that is it, I am officially retired from marathons but I am certainly not retiring from running. Next up is the Leeds half marathon in mid May and then the Endure24 event in Leeds at the end of June which I am running with a right bunch of sausages.

Thanks for reading what feels like a marathon blog, well done if you made it to the end in one piece, until the next time…..

IMG_20180422_160540

Advertisements

Happy Blog-iversary

Ok, ok, in the words of Monica in my favourite ever episode of Friends, “that’s not even a word!!!”, but today marks one year since I started writing this blog. I read my first post back a few days ago and it was interesting to see how things have changed over the last 12 months.

At the time of first writing I defined myself as an “advanced jogger”, I was already a year into my running adventure but I had very little confidence and knew nothing about what lay ahead, except that I had just signed up to run a marathon and I hadn’t got a clue what I was doing.

 

I decided to start the blog as a way of expressing myself and creating a sort of diary of my training building up to my first marathon in York in October. Initially, I was prolific, writing a couple of posts per week, that wasn’t sustainable but I have tried to blog most weeks and have diversified into race reviewsinterviews with other runners, product reviews and vlogs. This is my 49th post and at the time of writing I have had 5,874 views and 3,851 visitors from all over the world, including such diverse locations as Brunei, The Cayman Islands and Chile. I know that in comparison to some, those numbers are tiny but I am really proud of what I have created and how it has engaged people.

I have hugely enjoyed the experience of writing this blog, I am a frustrated writer, only last week I had a comment from a former colleague who I haven’t seen for nine months which referenced a post I wrote last April about motivational music I listen to when running. The mere fact he recalled a particular song I had mentioned staggered me and gave me a really positive feeling. Good luck Phil for London, you will smash it!

Through writing my blog and running I have found a whole new community of people. I wasn’t sure if anyone would ever read my ramblings but I have been overwhelmed by the feedback and support from people who were complete strangers. Some of those people have had a really positive impact on my life, they have become genuine friends and although I haven’t met everyone their advice and encouragement has sustained me, we have shared recipes, running tips and some of life’s highs and lows. You know who you are, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

In terms of support my family have also been immense. Whilst running started for me as a way of getting up and active it has become much more than that, my wife Catherine has given me the freedom to run when I want to/need to and having that backing is fantastic. My children have also been to see me run a couple of times and I love having them there, hopefully they are inspired in some way.

 

During the last year I have pushed myself way beyond what I ever thought possible, running a marathon, running every day for a month (amassing a total of over 205 miles in that month), numerous personal bests and simply sustaining a level of fitness and enjoyment that not so long ago seemed unimaginable.

 

The coming year has lots of exciting times ahead which I will no doubt document on this page. Whoever you are, wherever you are reading this, I hope you enjoy it, thank you for being part of my journey, it’s just getting started.

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.

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.

DLs2LmQX0AAZqud

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.

22361167_10154897705655887_1270203897_n

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.

NOMINATED_TRA_2018_(002)_940_940_s_c1

 

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!

ss

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.

22359347_10154897706355887_1506945178_n

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.

22361167_10154897705655887_1270203897_n

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.

DLs2LmQX0AAZqud

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.

NOMINATED_TRA_2018_(002)_940_940_s_c1

 

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.

york bib

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.

13702_ym_magazine_2017_map_aw01-3

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!

ym2

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.

Shameless

I’ll apologise up front that this week’s blog isn’t up to my usual standard and actually it is pretty much going to be a series of thank yous and shameless plugs, feel free to dip out now if you want, normal service will resume next week with a preview of a certain race that you might have heard me wittering on about.

Firstly, a massive thank you to every single one of you who has supported my fundraising efforts. At the point of writing this I have received 52 donations totaling over £600 for my two charities, Macmillan Cancer Support and the Plastic Surgery & Burns Research Unit in Bradford. Donations have been received from family, friends, colleagues, former colleagues and complete strangers. You are all wonderful and I cannot thank you enough. If you would like to donate all the details are on my Sponsorship page.

Secondly, I love writing this blog, thank you to everyone who has ever read even a single word of it. I started it as a bit of a diary for myself but it has quickly become much more than that and something I’m really proud of and hope to maintain in the future, it is a labour of love and an opportunity to express myself. If you have enjoyed anything you have read then please can I ask that you take a minute to vote for me in the 2018 Running Awards.

NOMINATED_TRA_2018_(002)_940_940_s_c1

Finally, there are many, many people to thank for getting me to this stage in my running journey. The York Marathon will most certainly not be the final stage, if anything it might just be the prologue. I am not going to name check everyone here, mainly because I am likely to forget and miss someone out! From simple words of encouragement, to ridiculous banter, to creating time and space for me to actually get out and run, you have all been amazing, you know who you are and you will all be with me either in person or in spirit in 13 days’ time, particularly when my mind and body are asking me what the hell I am doing!

Thank you for indulging me.

ty quote

 

 

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!

tapir
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.

 

 

The loneliness of the long distance runner

Last week I posted about taking part in the fantastic Marathon In A Day event which supported Mind and I commented on the importance of people feeling able to talk about any mental health issues they may have. Having read my post back I started to think about mental health and how unique running, and in particular long distance running, is when it comes to having a lot of time to yourself to think.

FB_IMG_1500805146735

I have played team sports in the past (yes one of those handsome young men is me 20 years ago!!) and they are generally pretty fast and furious, you react largely to what is happening around you and you are utterly immersed in the game. Likewise there are individual sports where you compete against someone but your focus is the game in hand. Running is a different beast though. Most people train on their own and even during a race unless you are super fast and chasing a podium you are only really competing against yourself and the clock. This leaves you with a lot of time to think and how you fill that time is I believe really important to keep your mind healthy.

For some people thinking time is fine, you take in the view, a nice hill, some wildlife, maybe the odd dual carriageway or industrial estate but on the whole you switch off and just run. Others, and I include myself to a degree here, need some form of distraction and for most that is listening to music or perhaps a podcast or talking book, these distractions help to pass the time and some people also use them as a means to increase motivation. There are also runners though who use their time on the highways and byways as thinking time and again I fall into this category. Running helps me to clear my head, I work in a school and last Monday was the first day of term, it was hectic to say the least and I came home with what can best be described as head fog. I knew that I needed to run, I spent the first few miles or so going through the events of the day in my head and rationalising them, I then banked that in my brain, the fog cleared and I gave over my thoughts to more pressing matters, what was I having for tea, how would my daughter get on with her first day at primary school the following day and how many chat group messages with goat gifs would I return home to? This run was less than two hours but as I have progressed in my marathon training I have been running for over five hours in total most weeks and so I have a lot of time to think.

On some longer runs when a mixture of delirium and pain set in, mental fatigue can take over and the need to dig deep and find something from within I find really tests my mind. I know I have it in me to push on but sometimes the legs aren’t always as willing, I have used various techniques to overcome this, as I said above the distraction of music is one and a favourite of mine especially in races is to have the names of my wife and children written on my arm along with other motivators so they are right there clear in front of me. I smile, I think of funny things and I do everything I can to keep my mental state as positive as possible, the worst thing I can do is to get down, think negatively and beat myself up.

IMG_20170910_123226

Taking my own advice was essential on Sunday when I completed my first ever run of over 20 miles, ok it was only 20.03 miles as I lapped the cul de sac to edge the distance over the .00, but for me it was a real milestone in my marathon training. It was a tough three hours, it wasn’t pretty at times but I used all of the above to stay positive as the wind howled, the rain soaked me and my calf muscles screamed at me to stop.

If you are reading this and struggling have a think about what I have written, use your running time as head space time, gain some clarity in whatever way suits you and if you need to, never be afraid to share with someone else.

What Next?

I like structure, I like organisation, I like having a plan. There’s still nine weeks of my current marathon plan to go but I have already started to look ahead and think about what I will do after Sunday 8th October. Firstly I will take the day off work and most likely eat as much as is humanly possible, I once put on 6lbs in an afternoon at a family barbeque so I have form for high level eating achievements.

In terms of running though my plans are to a certain extent up in the air. I am not Marty McFly, 

I don’t have a crystal ball and I have no idea if I will ever want to run another marathon or not. I genuinely hope that York won’t destroy me like the 2007 Great North Run did and that I will want to take the challenge of 26.2 miles on again in the future but I know that training properly takes a huge commitment in terms of time and this also has a knock on effect on the amount of time I spend with my family who mean the world to me.

I have entered the ballot for the 2018 London Marathon vlm18and if I am lucky enough to gain a place then there is no question of turning that down. I have also considered the 2018 Manchester Marathon mainly due to the various running friends having already entered and this may be a target for next spring. I would love to do the Manchester Half Marathon the Sunday after York but I think I need to be sensible as walking may still be a struggle for me at that point.

One plan that is in place is REDNovember. Having been inspired by the one and only Luke Zwalf and his REDJuly exploits, I have committed to running every day in November (REDNovember).  A group of @ukrunchat pals have also nailed their colours to the mast and we are going to run a minimum of 5k a day, whilst we won’t physically be running together the theory is that by going through the same struggles together we will be able to support and motivate each other, one of the traits I love about the running community. Towards the end of November I will turn 40 so it seemed appropriate to mark the occasion by doing something memorable.

I only currently have one race booked for next year which is the Leeds Half Marathon in May. I loved my first time at the event this year and signed up straight away to run it again. I think that half marathons will feature more for me in 2018 and there are a couple of small, challenging local events that I want to take on.

endure24A bigger challenge is the Endure 24 hour event. As a relative running newbie I wasn’t aware until earlier in the year that such events even existed and when I saw people taking this on I was in awe but it also sparked an idea in me to get together a team of like minded individuals to enter in 2018 and see what we can achieve, whether this comes off remains to be seen, I certainly won’t be running it on my own!

My major goal after the York marathon though is to step down in distance and to try and run a sub 45 minute 10k. My current 10k PB is 46:28 set earlier this year in Accrington so there is work to do and I know that will mean a different focus and style of training, I feel the need, the need for speed sessions!

There is a plethora of 10k events that I can take on both locally and further afield so there is no lack of opportunity, I have heard very positive reports about the events organised by Fylde Coast Runners, one of which I am running on August Bank Holiday Saturday and the Run For All events are very well organised in my experience and feature several which are within an hour or so of where I live so I hope to be able to take on a couple of new courses and work my way towards my target.

Whilst unpredictable, the future holds great excitement and opportunity, I want to continue to challenge myself but also to enjoy my running and hopefully inspire and encourage others to do the same, I’ll try to keep this blog going too although a change in name may be necessary, 10kbore doesn’t quite have the same ring to it though!