East Lancashire Hospice 10k – Race Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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.

Pendle Running Festival 10k – Race Review

A pile of horse manure, plenty of hills, homemade flapjack and the warmest welcome you could hope to receive, it may sound like a rather odd combination but that pretty much sums up my Saturday morning at the Pendle Running Festival 10k.

If you are looking for a big budget event with all the trimmings then this race is probably not for you. What you do get here though is a wonderful running community spirit, some spectacular scenery (albeit shrouded in mist this morning) and a course that asks you plenty of questions.

I arrived around 45 minutes before the start and headed to the registration at Barley village hall to collect my race number, the great and good of the East Lancashire running scene were already in evidence with plenty of runners from Trawden AC and Clayton Le Moors Harriers sporting their club colours. There were also a smattering of runners from other clubs and I passed on a bit of local course knowledge to a few chaps from Holcombe Harriers as they stood inspecting the course map.

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Following the signs down to the start I did wonder for a moment if I was lost, I went down a path, over some cobbles, then down another muddier, rockier path and emerged in a clearing next to a rather large pile of horse manure. I was soon joined by others though and given there was a Start sign here we figured this was it. The race organiser appeared and after a short briefing about the dangers of narrow country lanes and the promise of home baked goods and bacon butties at the finish we were off.

The festival holds a 10k and half marathon on its first day and both groups set off together, 131 runners in total, going back up the path the way we’d come was a bit tricky, thanks to the man holding the low hanging tree branch up out of everyone’s way here! We soon emerged onto the road though and fanned out down towards Roughlee.

The weather was overcast with slight drizzle, perfect in my mind for running and the first mile and a half or so went by pleasantly, we even took in a bit of local history passing the Pendle Witch statue.

 

I knew things were about to change abruptly though as we took a sharp left turn onto Stang Top Road. It felt like a scene from the Tour de France, one minute the peleton is racing along in a bunch on the flat, the next they head uphill and it splinters. Stang Top Road is tough, steep and pretty much unrelenting save for a short downhill section before the final climb, if you do the half marathon you have the pleasure of running this beast twice! Some people started to walk, others seemed to be going backwards, I kept my head down and my legs moving and put my faith in my training and the fact that I actually enjoy hills, weirdo!

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I ignored the drink station at the top and carried on, up more hills, thankfully the gradient was slightly less than vertical this time and there were a few more flat and downhill sections thrown in. What I loved was that everyone was watching out for each other, everyone talked as they passed each other, some were clearly running in pairs or threes, the roads were marshalled but still open and so whenever a car was coming the call went up and along the line of runners from back to front as a warning. I also experienced a first in running on roads with cattle grids, given the rain these were treacherous and navigated with extreme caution.

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After heading across the moor towards Pendle Hill the route took a left back towards the finish at Barley. There was another uphill section into a headwind to negotiate before the final mile or so of pure downhill. I’ve consciously been working on my downhill running and I really saw the benefit, a 6:33 mile after all the climbing my legs had done felt fantastic. I had enough in the tank for a sprint to the finish and was welcomed home by others finishers as I crossed the line in 50:01. As there was no chip timing my Garmin gave me all my times and splits but I didn’t find out until later in the day that I was actually the 17th male finisher and 20th overall in the 10k field of 63.

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I was presented with my medal and a bottle of water and remembering the briefing I went back to the village hall to pick up a brew and some lovely gooey flapjack which I enjoyed whilst cheering more runners home and seeing some of the half marathon field back out on the rest of their race.

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I can genuinely say that I really enjoyed myself. The event was well organised, well marshalled and there was a real feel good factor about everything, this was running at its basic best. Today was never going to be a PB for me, today was about trying a new event, getting more miles in my legs, taking on a challenging course and pushing myself and I ticked all those boxes and met some lovely people too, what better way is there to spend a Saturday morning? I’ll definitely be back next year, I might even give the half marathon a go, I do love them hills!

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Pendle Running Festival 10k – Race Preview

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

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

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

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Sunset over Pendle Hill

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

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

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

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

Born of frustration

When I started blogging just over six weeks ago I did it on a bit of a whim. I’d signed up that week to run my first ever marathon and I was mainly looking for a way to record my traiukrucning and to reach out and get some advice and interaction with more seasoned runners so that the challenge I’d set myself didn’t seem so daunting. I’d been scratching around online and found various hints and tips for first timers but I was totally oblivious to the world of running bloggers and indeed vloggers already out there and at that point I was yet to sample the delights of the @ukrunchat community.

Some feedback I received raised a really pertinent point for me, “what do you want to get out of this?”. It’s not until the last week or so that I’ve actually stopped to reflect on this and think about it a bit more.

I wasn’t really looking for an audience or dedicated readership and I wasn’t even sure what I could offer to anyone else that would make my blog worth reading, my running experience is limited to say the least, so why on earth was I spending time writing this on top of the time commitments already given over to actually running?

I’ve always enjoyed writing. In my teens I wrote a couple of pieces for the Bradford City fanzine, The City Gent, at university I wrote some sports features and reports for the student newspaper, DARTS (Does Anybody Read This Sh*t) and at work part of my job involves writing quite lengthy, detailed reports on various subjects, I’m not exactly prolific though.

The reality I think is that I am a frustrated writer looking for a more regular outlet and by writing this blog I’m allowing those writing juices to start to flow in a way they never have before. I’m enjoying writing, I’m enjoying the challenge of coming up with content and I love that as someone who is naturally very much an introvert I have found my voice in a way that I am comfortable with. Behind my keyboard I seem to come alive and I am far more effusive in my writing than I normally am in conversation.

Fast forward six weeks and I now feel like a veteran blogger, I’m dabbling with vlogging and hundreds of people have read this blog and interacted with me to provide support, advice and feedback, a massive thank you to you all. I have readers from Norway to India and Switzerland to Mexico and these are people who read each post, this blows my mind and provides me with inspiration to write more but also a certain pressure that it has to be a good read.

I love reading the blogs of other runners out there too, I won’t single anyone out in particular but if you want to get into running there are some real gems worthy of a more professional status. The styles and content vary from blogger to blogger but the one thing that shines through is how much people love their running and how each blogger has their own unique story to tell.

As this is a running blog I’d better actually tell you about my recent running. In the seven days to last Thursday I ran an all time high of 32 miles across three runs through rain, hail, rainbows and glorious spring sunshine. On Sunday we also had a family walk up Pendle Hill which was a good leg stretch and took away some of the guilt of slight over-indulgence across the Mother’s Day weekend. I’ve then run 10.5 miles in just over 1hr 20 mins this evening and as things stand I’m feeling good about my training and that my preparation for the Leeds half marathon in mid-May is going well.

Given the title of this post and my apparent obsession with music I couldn’t leave you dear reader without a quick blast of the excellent James and their version of Born of Frustration.

 

As ever it would be great to hear from anyone out there who has any feedback, writing this blog is a massive learning curve for me. In addition, if you have any questions or even suggestions for future blogs I’d love for you to get in touch and I can try and work out some of my 39 years worth of frustration on putting something together.

The Groove

Does it matter when I run?

Since catching the running/advanced jogging bug, Mondays and Fridays have been my days. Get home, get changed, get out, routine, the groove.

After Friday’s half marathon distance this evening was a bit less intense with 9.5 miles knocked off in 1hr 14mins 56 secs, at a pace of just under 8 minutes per mile I’ll settle for that particularly as half the distance was into a head wind. Why is it that when running into a head wind it feels like a force 10 gale and yet when the wind is supposed to be behind you it’s a powerful as a baby attempting to blow out the candles on their first birthday cake!?

As I live in a small town my routes also have a certain routine, I try to mix it up but inevitably I end up plodding the same streets regularly. Some are pretty, some have great views of the imposing Pendle Hill

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Pendle Hill

and as I discovered tonight some have a rat scampering across them!! On the streets of Nelson, Colne and Burnley I also see other runners, joggers (advanced or otherwise), dog walkers, groups of power walking Asian ladies and kids who think it’s funny to try and run alongside you for a while. Sometimes it’s the same faces, sometimes new people, we smile, we nod, we probably share the same thoughts to a degree, we don’t know each others names and note to the bloke who attempted this on me a few weeks back, we DO NOT high 5!!! Who the hell thinks that’s a good idea or hygienic having blown snot out of your nostrils???!!!???

My routine is very much in a groove and despite being over 7 months out from D-Day (or should that be M-Day?) I’m a tad concerned that the marathon is a morning start whereas I am very much an evening running owl. So my question for anyone out there who would care to lend their thoughts is does this matter? Should I move to more morning runs? Should I try to do my longer runs on a Sunday morning and train my body to peak at that time of day or is it sufficient at this stage that I’m getting in the miles and gradually pushing my body’s tolerance and ability to go further? All thoughts welcome.