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.
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!
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!
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.
Sunday 14th May marks the next stage in my #marathonbore journey as I take on the Leeds half marathon.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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 in 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 imagine 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.
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!
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 films, 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 Spirit – 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 fartlekson 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.
If you know your bae from your bare and your hench from your dench then you my friend are a better man/woman than I am.
Slang and a somewhat confusing use of language though isn’t solely the domain of the under 20s. Since taking up running I’ve entered a whole new world of terminology, so I thought that for other relative newbies like me a blog to explain what on earth some people are talking about may prove useful.
Below is just a small selection of words and acronyms that have now entered my vocabulary on some level, it is by no means a definitive jargon busting glossary but hopefully will point you in the right direction and give you a bit of a laugh at the same time.
Tapering – This was a completely new one on me and has nothing to do with that blue tape that athletes of all shapes and sizes now seem to cover themselves in, in the hope of holding up their dodgy back/hamstring/bicep. I’d started to see the word more frequently and research tells me that you should taper in the period before a long distance race, usually a marathon, when you reduce the length and intensity of your training so that your body can prepare itself properly for the exertions you’re about to put it through on the big day. It’s 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.
Maranoia – No, he wasn’t the one who claimed it was the Hand of God that helped him to punch the ball into the net against England at Mexico ’86. Apparently maranoia often occurs during tapering, I have also seen it referred to as taper tantrums, as people start to doubt their ability, their training, their diet and in some cases their general sanity before a marathon. As we’re now in peak spring marathon season there seems to be a maranoia epidemic breaking out up and down the country as otherwise rational people lose the plot, just what an already overstretched NHS needs!
Carb loading – Whilst I’d heard the term before I wasn’t particularly clear on what it meant and how to do it, basically I just thought you had to get as much pasta down your neck the night before a race as possible. I have become somewhat more enlightened though through a bit of research and find the explanation below clear with the added benefit of some suggested recipes that I’m looking forward to trying out, https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/carb-loading-explained
DOMS – I love Twitter and find it is the starting point for a large proportion of how I gather news and information these days. That said the 140 character tweet limit leads to some confusion and ignorance and DOMS is a case in point, it’s the acronym for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Basically if your muscles are stiff and painful 24-72 hours after exercise, it’s likely to be DOMS. At least I now have something to call those awful toe cramps when it feels like they are tying themselves in knots.
LSR – Another acronym used in the running world and which I’ve been seeing a lot of recently as people build up to marathons is LSR. The Beatles sang about LSD, The Shamen sang about LSI but as far as my musical knowledge goes nobody so far has penned a tune about long slow runs. LSR’s are used to get your body accustomed to running over a longer distance and to teach it how to improve its efficiency in storing and using energy. My running is pretty one paced and metronomic so dialling down the speed as I up the miles is going to be challenging I think.
Rolling – This one really confounded me, I ended up tweeting someone who kept mentioning rolling and received a short video in response to make sure I clearly understood what it actually was. This video I think does a good job of demonstrating the exercise.
Depending on who you believe rolling, or foam rolling, is either a great way of loosening your leg muscles or it is a form of torture that people inflict on themselves. I’m yet to give it a go.
Bonk – I sniggered to myself like a child when I read this word in someone’s blog recently. I think the last time I heard anyone refer to bonking it was probably Victoria Wood at some point in the late 80s on one of her many sketch shows. Bonking, in the running context at least, is probably more widely known by the term hitting the wall. Essentially, it is the point in a run or race where an athlete feels like they suddenly have nothing left to give, their legs are wobblier than Bruce Grobbelaar in a penalty shoot-out and they think they can’t go on. I’m not looking forward to my seemingly inevitable meeting with this legendary piece of civil engineering, although hopefully with the right fuelling and some mental strength it can be overcome.
Gel – Not John Frieda, not Vidal Sassoon, not even the cheap bright blue stuff with bubbles in that was the preserve of the 90s boy band and made your hair look like you’d just walked in from a rain storm despite it being bright sunshine outside, in the world of running, gels are to be swallowed not applied liberally to your barnet. As I’ve been finding out, gels come in handy sachets and various flavours with slightly differing added extras depending on your brand of choice. Lots of runners use gels to boost energy during a workout or run and personally I’m glad I’ve discovered them as they really seem to work for me and give me a lift when I need it most.
Ultra – If you’ve read any of my previous blogs or you follow me on Twitter you’ll have no doubt picked up that aside from running I’m a bit keen on football too, so when I saw the term ultra for the first time my mind instantly jumped to Gazzetta Football Italia, James Richardson supping a latte in front of a fountain and images of blokes with a flare in one hand and a megaphone in the other orchestrating a group of fans in Turin or Genoa to bounce up and down behind their numerous banners proclaiming allegiance to the various wonderfully named Ultra fan groups. Ultra in the running context though is a race that is anything more than a marathon distance, typically 50k plus, fair play to anyone who can do it, I’ll say here and now though I will never be an ultra runner.
Fartlek – Oh my, where to start with this one? Is it some form of renewable energy source generated by the consumption of copious amounts of prunes and mushy peas? This word also took me back to my dark days as a secondary school modern languages teacher. Don’t get me wrong I love words and language, shameless plug for last week’s blog, but it doesn’t half make it hard to teach adolescents when you are using words such as Kunst (art), Fuchs (fox) and Vater (father). Fartlek translates from Swedish as “speed play” and therefore it refers to a type of training in which you play with your speed by running faster for short periods of time in a unstructured way, for example running to the next tree or junction, followed by a slower recovery section.
C25K – For most people with an interest in running this bit of jargon is probably blindingly obvious but it threw me. I read the C as if it was a C. (ie circa) and so when people said they were a C25K runner I thought they meant they ran c.25K. With the amount of new runners using the term though I was baffled, when I started running c.10k was a slog so how come all these other newbies were already smashing more than double that!??! Of course I eventually twigged that it is short for the fantastic couch to 5k programme, face palm!!
Streaking – Growing up it seemed most major sporting events attracted a streaker or two, from Erica Rowe giving the Twickenham crowd a eyeful before her modesty was protected by a well placed St George’s flag to Michael Angelow and his epic jump over the stumps at Lords. I genuinely thought when I first read about streaking in running that it was some form of niche nudist event most likely held on a remote beach somewhere. In fact run streaking is running at least one mile on consecutive days for a sustained period. I’ve seen posts about people doing at least 5k a day which is admirable and this has given me some ideas about what I can do in the future to sustain my running.
And there you have it, hopefully now you’re a bit more enlightened and I’d love to hear from anyone else who has come across more weird and wonderful words in running that to the untrained eye either mean something else or absolutely nothing at all.
Quick update on the training too. Friday last week saw me run 14.7 miles in 1hr 58 mins, a really enjoyable run including a couple of peaceful miles along the Leeds – Liverpool canal, followed up on Monday by 9.25 undulating miles in 1hr 12 mins, I haven’t been rained on either for a couple of weeks which is always a bonus!
Those are words I never thought I’d utter (forget that run-aholic isn’t actually a word). How my life has changed, not just that I’m quite a different shape to 12 months ago, see last week’s blog Lies, damned lies and statistics , but that my whole mindset has changed and something that started out as a way of getting a bit of much needed exercise is now quite literally taking over my life and many of my waking thoughts. No running dreams yet, they’ll happen soon right? I’m waiting for the one where I nail the sub 2 hour marathon with a second to spare!, I’m obsessed.
I wake up and think about running, I go to work and think about running (if my boss is reading this I do actually still do the work too) and then I come home and either write this blog or think about the next topic for my blog or read another article online about how not to need the toilet whilst running or sometimes I even go out and actually run!
Part of the reason I enjoy running is that I’m a massive introvert and putting my headphones in and just getting out there really suits me, I just get in the zone and can be alone with my thoughts, my run and a bit of Bruce Springsteen. I think the fact that running lends itself to something so inate in me only serves to fuel the addiction, I thrive on it.
That said last Wednesday evening I married my new running addiction with my an old favourite of mine, Twitter, and interacted with some new people. And what a joy it was. I asked a question of the lovely people on #ukrunchat and was inundated with advice and support, it sounds corny but I really felt the love and a genuine sense of community from total strangers, how refreshing. Although my running/advanced jogging is a very solitary affair I have somehow found a whole new group of online friends, thanks to everyone who took the time to share their experiences, I’ll be back with more questions no doubt, be patient with me.
A large chunk of my Sunday has been spent on my addiction too and I even managed to involve the wife and kids to make some family time of it. We headed over to Manchester so that I could have a gait analysis and get myself some new wheels, I spent an age trying trainers, on and off the treadmill, moulded insoles in, out, different trainers on different feet, up and down the shop while my son Isaac pulled the arm off one of the mannequins (sssssshhhhh!!! it went back ok!!!!). Eventually I went for these bad boys, feel great, can’t wait to get out in them and break them in, and given my addiction I naturally spent more on them than I’ve ever spent on a pair of trainers in my life, no small thing for a tight and proud Yorkshireman with a Scottish mother (hi mum, she reads this too).
Given that my marathon isn’t for another 7 months I’m a tad worried about where the addiction will go next. No doubt there’ll be ridiculously early morning runs on a regular basis, mainlining energy gels will become the norm, please someone stop me though if you see me heading for the tattoo artists with that dazed, confused look on my face muttering something about “I ♥ running” and my left bum cheek!!
In our lives we are bombarded by a constant stream of information and statistics, some of it fake (#prayforSweden), some of it real, most of it useless, understanding what is useful and more importantly how to make use of it seems to me to be the tricky part in terms of training.
Above all else there is one statistic about a marathon that you can’t escape, isn’t fake and will never change, and that is in order to finish the marathon you have to somehow get yourself around a course of 42.195 kilometres or 26.219 miles. How you do this and how long it takes will in part be down to a combination of various factors and statistics, the temperature on the day, your bodyweight, your level of hydration, training miles in the bank, the number of people in the field (and more importantly the number of people who massively overestimate their ability and start walking after a mile forcing you to slow down or take evasive action to get round them) etc etc etc. I know that some of these factors are totally beyond my control so I’ll forget about them and focus on what I can do something about and then look at how and if I can use the information available to me to improve my performance in any way.
Over the last 12 months I’ve mainly focussed on my weight, I can’t really say that I’ve typically been one to weigh myself regularly but since realising that I wasn’t happy with my weight and that 13st 8lbs (87.6kg) wasn’t healthy or sustainable I’ve weighed myself every week and am currently down to 10st 9lbs (69.6kg), I’ve never been particularly scientific but even I know that dragging 3 stone less around with me can only be good for me and make my running easier and quicker.
On Saturday my wife arranged for me to attend Fitness Evolution in Burnley for an assessment on their Biotrax system. As mentioned in my first blog post I’d previously had a similar health check this time last year which gave me a kick up the backside and started my journey to being a runner/advanced jogger. On that check I was told my metabolic age was 50, on Saturday that metabolic age had dropped to 24, I’m actually 39! I have no idea how that assessment works, it’s a statistic, I think it paints a wider picture of where I started and where I am now, whether it can assist me is a moot point.
More measurable and more telling is my body fat percentage, last February I had 24.8% body fat, on Saturday I had just 8.7%.
Whilst it’s obvious what that is telling me about how my body looks and feels I don’t yet know how I can actually use this information to aid my training, is this figure about right, too high, too low, should I add a bit of fat, does it matter? I’d appreciate any thoughts and comments from either seasoned runners or medical people out there on this one.
As my training has now gained a genuine sense of purpose I have also started to pay far greater attention to my pace. Based on my performance in the Burnley 10k last June I was doing a race pace of just under 9 minute miles. Over recent weeks and longer distances I am now hovering around 8 minute miles (tonight’s 11.7 miles for example was rattled off in 1 hour 31 mins 20 secs, 7.77 minutes per mile) which gives me a good measure of progress, one I’ll be putting to the test in another 10k race in early March, this is also useful information for me to set myself a realistic finish time goal for the big day in October. As I was particularly restless one evening last week I tried to get myself to sleep by doing the maths in my head for various paces and finish times, 8 minute miles across the full distance would bring me home in 3hrs 28mins, is it realistic to keep that pace up across the full distance? Doubtful. Running half the distance at 8 minute miles and the other half at 9 minute miles is probably a more sensible target and would bring me home in 3 hrs 41 mins and even if I did the whole thing at 9 minute mile pace I’d still be over the line inside 4 hours at 3hrs 54 mins. Whilst I’m at this level of pace in training I totally understand that things can change on race day so again I’d really appreciate any feedback on what times others have run on their marathon debuts compared to any targets you’d set yourself and whether my times seem reasonable or overly optimistic?
If used appropriately statistics, assuming they are the right set of statistics, can I believe really add value in training, provide motivation and help us all to improve in one way or other, on the other hand lies and damned lies just leave us looking like some fella with bad hair who just happens to have landed the biggest job in the world!!!