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!

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.

Know Your Enemy

Unless you’re part of the criminal underworld you’ll probably only have one major enemy, yourself. We all know the phrase about being our own worst enemy and I genuinely believe that to be true.

This strange relationship with self-destruction penetrates various elements of our lives; relationships, finances, health and wellbeing can all suffer when we don’t apply reasoned logic and things go wrong.

selfdI’m no Jeremy Kyle or Martin Lewis so I’ll leave relationship and financial advice to the experts but my health and wellbeing has in the past suffered from me hitting that metaphoric big red destruct button and I doubt I’m alone in that.

It isn’t that long since I didn’t even stop to think about what I was eating and why I wasn’t exercising, I’m not here to judge but if you read this and it even makes you think for a second about any part of your life I’ll be happy. Yes I still eat cake, yes I still like a drink but I balance that now with regular exercise and I have found my happy medium.

The last week though in particular has challenged my thinking in terms of when it is good to exercise and when you actually need to step back and listen to your body. I posted a couple of weeks ago about carrying on running with niggling injuries and I think most people if they are honest are not 100% fit, 100% of the time. There are levels of tolerance, there are also levels of bloody mindedness when people really should quit but are that stubborn/determined that they carry on no matter what. I get that, I admire those people but there are occasions when you have to look at the bigger picture.

In a race I did last Saturday we started on a slightly rocky path, 25 yards or so up that path as I was trying not to stumble into the runner in front of me, whilst also avoiding nettles and low hanging tree branches, I inadvertently kicked a large stone with my right foot. It smarted for a couple of seconds but after that I didn’t really give it that much thought. I enjoyed the race, no problem, the following day I went out for a 5 mile walk with my wife, dull pain, and on Monday I got in my 11 mile run as per my marathon training plan, bit more pain in the second toe on my right foot. Tuesday though was a different story, I hobbled around work in agony, a large blister had formed below the nail on the toe in question and it was sore and throbbing.

I know what many of you are thinking here and I had the same thoughts but I was also thinking that my training plan says Wednesday equals a 5 mile run at pace. I am stubborn, ask my wife, I like plans, I love running and it was just my toe. But then my rational brain kicked in, toes are pretty important to a runner, I couldn’t actually walk properly and I had 15 miles planned on Friday. This dialogue went round and round in my head for most of the next 24 hours until Wednesday evening.

IMG_20170719_165258In the end I listened to my body, no run, what would I gain in the long run by doing those 5 miles, would it guarantee me a sub 4 hour marathon in October, and then there was also the bonus that I could stay in for @ukrunchat hour and eat homemade Rocky Road??!

By Friday the toe had improved somewhat and so I dressed it and I plodded out 16 miles, my longest ever run. It’s still not 100% now but I know that giving myself that extra time without a run was beneficial and in future I won’t just carry on regardless. I know my enemy and I know how to defeat it, listen to your body, it is the most amazing thing you will ever own and you need to look after it.

And yes for those of you wondering, I am referencing Rage Against The Machine! 

Man With A Plan

Sunday 8th October 2017, when I look back in years to come this day will either be fondly remembered with a smile and a glowing sense of satisfaction and achievement or there’ll be a grimace, a rueful shake of the head and thoughts of what might have been.

All roads, all thoughts, all the training I have been putting in, even the majority of what I have been writing about on here, ultimately lead to the York marathon and last week I started my marathon training in earnest. I like organisation and structure and wanting to give myself the best shot of making it to the start line in good shape I have put together the obligatory training plan. I’ve seen numerous plans online, a good friend sent me a plan he previously used (65 miles in a week at its peak!), and various people have suggested plans that have worked for them. We are all unique beasts though and so the plan that I have come up with is designed to suit me in terms of my current fitness, where I need to push myself to distance wise and when I am actually able to get out and run.

My aim is to do two longer runs per week along with a shorter, faster run built in too. Depending on how I feel and what I can fit in around life, I may also add some short bits of speed work and some track or field laps too, the plan really though is to build up sensibly to around 40 miles per week which I think is manageable, will give me the chance to spend plenty of time out on my feet but won’t push me beyond what I can reasonably achieve at the moment which would then increase my risk of injury and the whole thing falling apart around my ears.

In all honesty I have probably over thought this whole experience but the memories of the Great North Run 2007 when I was woefully under prepared nag me still. I know my running, my fitness and my preparation are already so much better than they were then and if someone held a gun to my head now and told me to run a marathon I could probably do it but I want to enjoy the day and if I do then I will have the confidence to enter future marathons. The battle here is almost entirely in my own mind, as the rational thoughts are shouted down by the self-doubt and the fear of the unknown.

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Looking at the positive though marathon training week one has gone well. First of all my fantastic wife offered to bring forward my 40th birthday present by 5 months and so I have a shiny new Garmin Forerunner 35 to play with and my hope is that this will really help me to nail down my pacing and give me confidence that my legs will last the distance, I’m also a data geek so love looking at all the stats it fires out. My first run of the week was deliberately hilly as I prepare for the challenging course of the Pendle Running Festival 10k on 15th July, a solid 7 miles, followed on Wednesday by a quick 5 miler, as both runs coincided with summer (yes that was it folks, summer came and went last week, we’re on the downhill to Christmas now, if you missed it you missed out) I came home in a rather sweaty state after both. Friday’s 13 miles were a lot cooler though and felt good especially since I haven’t run more than 10 miles since the Leeds half back in mid May, looking at the myriad of stats from my Garmin my pacing was rather wonky but where I live and run is an undulating environment and so I’m never going to get it bang on.

The countdown then is now on, I love it when a plan comes together!

 

Run Tourism

Despite it only being three weeks since I last posted a blog it feels like forever and quite a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. I have been officially discharged from cancer surveillance and given the all clear after 5 years, I’ve been offered a new job (both on the same day), I’ve been to Wembley and experienced the gut wrenching disappointment of playoff final defeat, I had a blog posted by the fantastic people at RUNR and I have experienced run tourism for the first time during a family holiday to the Costa Blanca.

Normally our family holidays include chasing the kids around a pool trying to make sure they are safe whilst attempting some form of sun bathing/relaxation and if we are lucky the odd bit of cultural diversity to take in some of the local sites, sounds and cuisine. This year though Isaac and Hattie are a little bit older, Isaac is already a good swimmer so as long as he stayed in view we were happy for him to go off and throw himself down slides and work on his bombing. Hattie is a little younger but the hotel we stayed at was well geared up for children of her age and so we didn’t have to follow her around 24/7. Consequently we were able to relax a bit more and I was able to take some me time to explore the delights of Albir, Altea and Benidorm with five runs in the eleven nights we were there. This exercise also helped to a degree to stave off the negative impact of chocolate doughnuts for breakfast and my evening tipple of mojitos laced with brown sugar which I became rather fond of! IMG_20170526_210424

Overall despite a few challenges, mostly of my own making, I would say my first foray into the world of run tourism was a success. Notes to self and others who fancy getting out this summer whilst away, mostly blindingly obvious but here goes:

  • Don’t forget to take water
  • If you like to run with music, remember where on earth in all your bags and suitcases you put your headphones
  • Wear a cap/visor/headband/anything to absorb the sweat and stop it running into your eyes and stinging like hell, it’s hot out there
  • Remember that in Europe they drive on the other side of the road, make sure you look the right way at junctions
  • Give any local runners you encounter a big smile, wave or thumbs up, share the love, most return it
  • Take your phone in case you get lost
  • Take a couple of sets of kit, you’ll sweat, a lot, you’ll smell

The majority of my five runs were around 45 minutes long and gave me plenty of chance to discover the local area from the delights of dodging stag and hen parties outside bars in Benidorm to the more sedate promenade that runs from Albir along to Altea with a beautiful backdrop and locals fishing and windsurfing. I surprised myself with how much I genuinely enjoyed the experience and I even had other hotel guests approaching me to ask about my running after they had seen me out and about.

Whilst my run tourism was entirely out of the make it up as you go along handbook, there is an increasing number of companies who offer guided running tours of cities around the world. I’ve no first hand experience of these tours but the feedback on social media seems favourable on the whole and the guided element takes away some of the fear of perhaps getting lost and makes sure that you see what a city or region really has to offer.

If you are due to go away then this summer, wherever that may be, take your running shoes, take your sense of adventure and go and see a bit more of the world.

 

Leeds Half Marathon Preview

Sunday 14th May marks the next stage in my #marathonbore journey as I take on the Leeds half marathon.

leeds number

In writing this I have mixed emotions about what lies ahead of me. On the most basic level it’s 13.1 miles, a distance I have covered  several times in training in the last few months as I’ve built up to Sunday’s event and to be honest the distance in itself does not faze me. I am excited about the challenge ahead and I’m looking forward to taking in the atmosphere and support of the crowd. I hope to meet a few fellow tweeters in person for the first time at some point on the day which will be great and will add that extra level of encouragement and camaraderie, especially as my family aren’t able to attend. To be honest I’m also eager to get my hands on some nice bling as a tangible reward for putting in the hours and miles needed to get me to this point. I’m using this event and the York marathon to raise money for two great charities as well and in the last couple of weeks my fundraising totals have started to pick up, this has added to my motivation and the generosity of friends, family and complete strangers is genuinely heart-warming.

I am though a little anxious about running in such a large field as this will be the biggest event I have run in since my epic fail at the Great North Run 2007. I am a bit of a lone wolf when it comes to running, I like space to settle into a rhythm, get my head in the right place and enjoy what I am doing, if nothing else space also allows me to clear my airways without the risk of catching anyone else in the crossfire! There are staggered start times on Sunday depending on predicted finish times and I’m in red group which sets off at 9.30am along with blue group. These are the first two groups, I’m pretty sure I entered a realistic finishing time of 1 hour 45 minutes, so I’m expecting a large chunk of the group to be quicker than me, my plan is to start near the tail end of the group and hopefully create some room for myself that way rather than getting caught up in the middle of a pack and pulled along at a pace that’s too fast for me.

leeds

Growing up in Bradford and having spent some time in Leeds as a student back in the day I have a degree of familiarity with the area and know parts of the course in my head. The first section starting on The Headrow gives me no concerns but looking at elevation maps of the course, as we get out beyond the city centre the route climbs steadily for the vast majority of the first half of the course as we wend our merry way up towards Weetwood. My worry here is that although the climb isn’t overly steep it is a constant drag and could prove to be energy sapping on what could be a quite warm today, potentially leaving me with little in the tank for later on, I need to get my fuelling right here so that this doesn’t become a reality. The second half of the course is much flatter and I’m looking forward to heading back into Leeds past the picturesque Kirkstall Abbey and then the final push down Kirkstall Road back to Millennium Square, just visualising this as I type brings a smile to my face.

Sunday will be a great barometer for me of how far I have come and how far I have yet to go, not just physically but mentally, I’ll post a race review next week, wish me luck!

Demons

A belated race review of the Great North Run….2007!

It’s now just under two weeks until I take my running to the next level as I take on the Leeds half marathon, I have a confession to make though, I’ve actually attempted a half marathon before. Rewind nearly 10 years and my life was rather different. I was single, I didn’t have kids, I lived on my own, I had a lot of spare time on my minds, but aside from the usual ties that bind us (family, friends, football teams) there was one similarity, I was training for a half marathon. When I say training I mean half-arsed runs with no plan or structure that somewhere in my head meant I was prepared for what lay ahead, the 2007 Great North Run. IMG_20170405_091821.jpg

A friend from university, thanks Catherine (not my wife!), had talked me into doing it and so in the summer of 2007 I knocked out maybe one run a week at most and went for it.

On the morning of 30th September I woke up early and headed up the A1. My nod to pre-race fuelling on the drive was knocking back a bottle of Lucozade Sport and working my way through a chocolate covered Kendal Mint Cake. Arriving in the North East I parked up near the finish line in South Shields and jumped on the Metro bound for Newcastle. It was still quite early but there were plenty of people around and so I headed over to eye up the start line. I seem to recall there was a stand dishing out free energy drinks and so I downed another bottle. Eventually I needed the loo, that was an experience in itself! I’ve never before used a urinal in the back of a converted HGV trailer, it wasn’t long before there was a steady stream of steaming you know what overflowing across the car park.

I got myself ready, handed my bag in and made my way down to the starting pen. I couldn’t tell you what finish time I’d estimated when I entered but looking around me there were some serious looking athletes, doubts were already creeping in. It wasn’t long until the mass warm-up and then the start gun and we were off down the inner-city motorway. Within a couple of hundred yards people were already stopping for a wee, guess they didn’t fancy the HGV trailer. As we ran under a couple of underpasses a shout of “oggy, oggy, oggy” went up, what had I got myself into? I’d never run in a large group before and it was carnage, people cutting me up, barging into me, a real baptism of fire.

It wasn’t too far before we crossed the iconic Tyne Bridge, out of nowhere a wave of emotion crashed over me and I found myself in tears, I was raising money for the British Heart Foundation who had supported my dad in his recovery from a heart attack and I think that combined with the occasion reduced me temporarily to an emotional wreck. Crossing into Gateshead I soon got myself together though and as the field thinned out a bit I plodded away down the dual carriageway. At just before 10k we turned off this road and started down towards South Shields, I remember seeing a large roadside display with the distance and gun time on and for me I was flying, 49:53 according to my race certificate. Even my 10 mile time split was decent.IMG_20170405_091827

Catherine though had warned me about the hill in the second half of the race. Memory tells me it started around mile 8 or so but I can’t be certain, you’ll know if you’ve ever done this event. What I do remember though is the amazing support on that section, it was a hot day and the crowds were out in force, there were bands playing on roundabouts and spectators offering us pints as we passed, welcome to the North East!

As the hill dragged and the heat seemingly intensified my early, frankly ridiculous pace, started to take its toll. My legs first became heavy and then turned to jelly, I sat down at the side of the road, next thing I was flat out on my back and a passing medic was loading me onto a stretcher and taking me to a conveniently close medical tent where I was put on a drip due to dehydration. 45 minutes passed and two saline bags later I felt better, I talked the medics into letting me continue and headed back out, bouncebackability. At the time of flaking out I hadn’t realised how close I was to the top of the hill, from there on it was down to the sea front and along the finishing straight. I was gutted, I’d blown it, how was I going to tell people what had happened? I sought comfort in a 4 pack of chocolate doughnuts and a family size pizza, refuelling at its best! My finisher’s medal and t-shirt from that day are emblazoned with the slogan, “Participate, Enjoy, Succeed”, just the one out of three for me then! After this experience my confidence was shot to pieces and although I did the Manchester 10k in 2009 I hadn’t until last year done any serious running since.

So there you have it, my demons laid bare. 10 years is a long time and I’ve learned a huge amount about myself in the interim. This time around I’ve trained properly, I think 13.1 miles may be my distance, physically I’m ready.

Mentally I have baggage but I’m confident that I’ve done all I can and in taking on this race I am starting to write a new chapter, there’ll no doubt still be setbacks to endure along the way but believe me when I say I won’t let them fester so long this time!

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Bouncebackability

Noun – The capacity to recover quickly from a setback (especially in sport)

Events over the weekend got me thinking about human resilience, powers of recovery or dowiein other words, bouncebackability. As I mentioned before I love words and language, in 2004 the then Crystal Palace manager, now turned Sky Sports talking head, Iain Dowie, first used this word in a post match interview to describe how his side needed to pick themselves up from defeat. Since then it has entered common parlance and even made it into the Collins English Dictionary in 2005.

We’ve all had that bad day at the office, that rejection letter, that awful run which has made us question things we thought were certainties. Some people will shrug it off and never give it a second thought, many though will go over and over it in their heads and this is where bouncebackability is needed.

Setbacks are good, there I’ve said it, trust me they are, don’t let them stagnate though. In every setback there is a lesson, if and how we learn from that lesson is the key. On Easter Monday my playoff chasing favourites Bradford City were handed a harsh 3-0 lesson by runaway League 1 champions Sheffield United. Fast forward to 5pm on Saturday and we had just handed AFC Wimbledon a similar 3-0 schooling. The Bantams had looked at what hadn’t worked, and at what to a certain extent had, and they had applied those lessons to secure a guaranteed place in the end of season playoff lottery. It isn’t always that simple, life never is, but we can all move on and draw on ours strengths to fight back.

On Sunday I watched as thousands of people, some of you included, ran their hearts out on the streets of London. I was genuinely inspired, colleagues I spoke to today who have no interest in running felt the same, but I know that for some people the marathon ended in disappointment, whether that was not achieving a PB, walking more than they wanted to or struggling to achieve their fundraising target.

A couple of weeks ago I read about Kevin Howarth’s attempt to set a world record at London for running the fastest marathon whilst dribbling two basketballs, just stop and bbkevimagine that for a second, or just look at this photo! Kevin came home in 4 hours 48 mins, the record held by an American is 4 hours 10 mins. On Twitter he expressed his disappointment and I totally understand that but most of us can only dream of completing a marathon in that time, throw in two basketballs and anything could happen! No pun intended but I really hope Kevin finds some bouncebackability and the desire to give it another go so that this time it is his day. He wouldn’t have to look far, well maybe several miles down the road, for inspiration. Setbacks happen even to seasoned elite athletes when they least want or expect it. Approaching the last  few miles along The Embankment Tirunesh Dibaba in second place in the women’s race was clearly in discomfort and television pictures showed her holding her side, she then stopped, doubled over and appeared to vomit or at the very least have what my dad would call, “a good clear out”! She somehow found it in herself though to get going again and retain her second place, bouncebackability in all its glory.

I’m not particularly good at committing quotes to memory, unless they are lines from Wayne’s World or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, so I’ve had to do some research to find a suitably punchy line to end this post on. There are some good quotes, and conversely some awful quotes about resilience and our ability to bounce back, the one I have chosen though I think is succinct and gets my point across perfectly;

“Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.” – Lyndon B. Johnson

The next time you have a blip take a step back, have a look at the bigger picture, find your own bouncebackability and win tomorrow.


Training update – My training runs this week have been quite contrasting, on Thursday I did a quick 5.5 miles in just over 40 minutes. It was good to get back to a shorter distance and to push myself a bit in terms of speed. I then used Sunday morning as a half marathon dry run ahead of the Leeds half in May to test my fuelling, the 13.1 miles were done in 1 hour 39 mins and it felt really good, I think half marathons may become my favourite distance, not words I thought I’d ever say that long ago.

Championship Vinyl – Part 2

Thanks to everyone who replied to last week’s post either on here or via Twitter, it was great to read all your thoughts on the songs which motivate you the most whilst putting the miles in.

For most of the last week my top 5 has actually been a top 6. On my runs last Thursday and yesterday (Monday) I managed to listen to all six songs which helped to chrystalise my thoughts and finally firm up the top 5, so here we go.

5.01 Knock You Out – Bingo Players. Firstly though a nod to a song that I have never even heard before this week and certainly don’t have on my MP3 player. I asked my wife, Catherine, for her number one motivational song as she enjoys various classes at the gym which are accompanied by pounding baselines. It’s not really my thing but she gives me unbelievable support and so this one is for her, thank you x

5. Take Me Home Midland Road – The Good Citizens. What? Who? Yes that’s right I’m starting with a curve ball, stick with me you will know the rest! Unless you’ve ever had the pleasure of venturing to Valley Parade this will be a new one on you. As well as running I love football and if you have read my sponsorship page you will know that I have a deep affinity with my club, Bradford City, which goes way beyond that experienced by most fans. This song, to the tune of the John Denver classic, is the song the team walks out to, it gets everyone going and when it comes on during a run my mind immediately jumps from the tiredness and the pain to a place where I am happy and I belong.

4. Yes – McAlmont & Butler. Again not a particularly well known song but one you may have heard from time to time on the radio. It’s a beautiful piece of music and from the very first note it lifts my mood. The fact that the title is the most positive word in the English vocabulary tops it off and when the doubts creep into my mind I just need to remind myself, “Yes”, I can do this!.

3. St Elmo’s Fire (Man In Motion) – John Parr. This film, and its title song, scream 1980’s at you, Demi Moore, Rob Lowe and Emilio Estevez star as friends struggling with adulthood. In the video John Parr sports a tremendous mullet as he sings away in what appears to be a disused warehouse. I find the song really uplifting and many of the lyrics strike a chord with me, give it a listen, a real listen and I’m sure there’ll be something in there you identify with.

2. Not Giving In – Rudimental. This choice is unusual for me in that it’s a pretty new song. I don’t really think I need to explain why I chose this or why it motivates me, the clue is in the title!

And at number one, in with a bullet, drum roll please.

1. Imagine – Emeli Sandé. The original song itself has been a long standing favourite of mine but not one necessarily that provides me with particular motivation. This version though for me and many others will forever be linked with the London 2012 Olympics. Not much beats a good sporting montage and the BBC chose the song to play over their closing take on the games. Wow! It’s basically three minutes of pure motivation from the great household names that brought the games to life, to lesser known athletes who in their own way made those few glorious weeks special. I can’t watch this video without filling up though, at 1:20 in Gemma Gibbons looks up to the heavens after her judo semi-final win and whispers, “I love you mum”, having lost her mum to leukaemia as a teenager, her motivation is laid bare right there in front of millions. So whenever I hear this song now I see this video, I share the motivation and I am inspired to be the best that I can be and make my loved ones proud.

And there you have it, everyone will have their own top 5, everyone will have their own motivators but what matters is that we all have something we are aiming for that for us will represent a genuine achievement. Good luck with whatever that is for you, keep going when times get hard and remember you are amazing and you can do this!

Championship Vinyl – Part 1

Musical motivation, my top 5, part 1.

In Nick Hornby’s fantastic book, High Fidelity, the lead character Rob Gordon and his friends spend a large proportion of their time coming up with their all time top five favourite lists on a variety of topics. There’s the usual top five filmshf, top five books, top five dream jobs and then there’s some with a slightly more unique take, top
five most memorable break-ups and top five songs about death! If you haven’t read it I’d highly recommend it, if you’re not a reader at least give the film starring John Cusack and Jack Black a watch, it stays pretty faithful to the book aside from being set in Chicago rather than London.

If you have read any of my previous blogs you’ll know I love listening to music while I’m out running*. I come from quite a musical family, in particular on my dad’s side, but that gene seemed to skip me. Music was a big part of my childhood though and I always remember mum having the radio on singing away whilst in the kitchen.

I’d go as far as saying that I’m open to pretty much any kind of music but my halcyon days were in the mid to late 90s through the tail end of school and into my undergraduate career. They were the heady days of indie and Britpop as well as the emergence of dance  and house music into the mainstream.

In terms of running I exploit music in a number of ways. It provides a distraction and helps to give me some headspace. I use it to pace myself and break my runs down, for example trying to get to the next checkpoint in my mind within two or three songs and some songs provide motivation to push me on with the rhythm and beat used to help maintain a good pace and stride pattern.

Putting myself in the shoes of Rob Gordon I thought I’d try and produce a #marathonbore top five all time motivational running songs list. Easier said than done! I’ve been contemplating writing this blog for a couple of weeks but as soon as I started to note down songs it quickly spawned a list of nearly 30 which I then added to in my head during the day as I listened to the brilliant Absolute Radio 90s.

I’ve had to be very strict and stick purely to songs that motivate me and not just songs that are on my all time favourite playlist. That means nothing from The Stereophonics, The Bluetones, Oasis, Blur, Embrace, REM, Bruce Springsteen, Stephen Fretwell, I Am Kloot, never mind PJ & Duncan, B*Witched or Daphné & Celeste (Ooh stick you!!).

I haven’t yet fully firmed up the top five but a couple of noteworthy tunes which didn’t make the cut are below:

Smells Like Teen Spiri– Nirvana. The song that signaled the arrival of grunge in the mainstream and one that no doubt gets the blood pumping, it just doesn’t tick the inspiring box for me.

Space Cowboy (Classic Radio mix) Remix – David Morales – Jamiroquai. This one really takes me back to my student days and queuing up outside the Music Factory and other venues in Sheffield. I love the beat but it doesn’t quite hit the motivational spot.

Sproston Green – The Charlatans. This would definitely make my all time top five and the eight minute plus live version I listen to normally sees me through a mile, the way the layers of music build up is ace but with so many songs to choose from I had to make some tough calls, sorry Tim.

Wake Me Up – Avicci. Far more recent than my other selections but this song reminds me of a great family holiday in Ibiza a couple of years ago and part of my reason to run is to set a positive example for my children. As well as being a great tune there are also some really pertinent lyrics for me but I’d have to crowbar it into my list.

And there you have it, for now, I could add plenty more YouTube links but you’d no doubt get bored of my self indulgence at some point. The top five will be revealed next week. If you’d like to let me know your top five or even just your number one motivational running song I’d love to hear from you, although that may just add to the confusion!

Quick running update, I’ve tried to push beyond my comfort zone and did a five lap hill circuit which included some fartleks on Friday, a total of just over 10 miles. On Monday I went out and about, up and down some local country lanes with beautiful views, the undulations and largely unknown route were testing but I managed 9.25 miles in 1hr 14 mins. Just a month now until the Leeds half marathon and under six months until the York marathon, exciting!

*NB. Whilst I train wearing earphones I’m aware of the UKA regulation about the use of them during races, you can find out more here, if you are new to running and train in earphones it’s worth checking when you sign up for a race if they are permitted or not.