#REDDecember – Review

If you have read any of my blog over the last month or so then you will be up to speed with my challenge of running every day (RED) in December.

The last update I posted was with 10 days to go. As it is now 3rd January you will be pleased to know that I completed the challenge, I even added a bonus day by running on 1st January to start the New Year on a positive note and because I don’t really like odd numbers and so wanted to end my streak on 32 days.

The final 10 days as predicted were challenging not only because of fatigue setting in but because of the many events happening in my life which meant that the majority of runs were early morning so that I had the rest of the day free. Day 29 also saw the return of snow and ice which made for tricky conditions under foot.

I have never run on Christmas Day before but I have to say that I really enjoyed it. After opening presents with my wife and children and the now traditional bacon and sausage butties with the in-laws I donned my Santa T-shirt and hat and headed out. It was a pleasant day and there were plenty of people out and about, many of whom smiled, laughed, waved and tooted at me, it was nice to help put a smile on people’s faces and the run set me up well for the rest of the day. The Christmas Day run was the last day of the Run Up To Christmas virtual race and along with my team mate Laura we clocked up over 350km for the event, I’m now eagerly awaiting the medal dropping onto the doormat.

The other run of real note as the month drew to a close was on day 30. I had picked up the RED baton from Brian Shaw who had completed his own #REDNovember and finished on a high with his longest run of the month on the last day. With friends coming to stay and the house to get ready for New Year’s Eve I knew that day 31 was going to be a quick get out, get it done kind of run but I wanted to finish the month with a bang and so I decided to attempt a 5km personal best run on day 30. I drove down to a local park where there is a nice flat cycle track, it was dead, I had the track to myself and after a slow sighting lap to warm up I opened up my legs and went for it. The track is an oval of just over 1km length with a couple of dog leg loops at either end, it was raining and a bit blustery so the run down the home stretch was into a head wind which I could have done without. That said I pushed hard and probably ran the first mile a touch fast, my PB was 21:23 and so I needed to keep the pace up, after just under 5 laps I stopped the clock, I knew I had run well and was delighted with a new PB of 20:12, my second PB of the month after a new 10km PB on day 12.

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Excluding my bonus January trot I ended #REDDecember having run 205.1 miles (at the end of my last run the total was actually 204.9 miles which was wholly unsatisfactory and so I had to do a quick few laps of my garden to get rid of the .9!!). For those of you who run in kilometres that converts to just over 330km for the month. My aim at the start was a minimum of 5km per day but to finish with a daily average of 10.6km was way beyond my expectations and something I’m actually really proud of.

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This experience has taught me that I am actually stronger and fitter than I thought, both physically and mentally. Whilst the challenge was tough I embraced it rather than dreaded it and simply running a different route every day helped my focus and kept my motivation up. Run streaking is not easy, the physical demands are obvious but if you are going to attempt one then you need to plan well, you need to be flexible and you need support from everyone around you. Good luck to everyone attempting #REDJanuary and whatever your plans for 2018 I hope you enjoy your running, cheers!

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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.

#REDDecember – 10 Days To Go

#REDDecember is now approaching the business end of the month in more ways than one. After banking another 12.8km today I am now just 7.7km short of hitting 250km for the month to date.

When I planned this month in my head I set myself the target of a minimum 5km per day, firstly because I wasn’t sure if my legs would take any more than that given this is my first serious run streak and secondly because I knew that some days would only present me with a short running window and so 5km seemed a realistic goal to at least get out and do something. To be averaging over 10km a day as things stand then is I feel a decent achievement in itself.

The 10 runs that now stand between me and putting my feet up for at least a day though are in the busiest period of the month. In those 10 days are my son’s birthday party day, which includes not only his party itself but a two hour round trip to collect my parents who are coming to stay with us. Then it’s my son’s actual birthday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and we are having friends to come and stay on New Year’s Eve. That’s just the planned stuff, at this time of year anyone could appear at any time to potentially scupper running plans so I know I am going to have to plan an “A” run and then a back up “B” run should the need arise. Flexibility and the continuing support of my wife in this attempt are needed to see me through.

With 21 runs in the bank I still haven’t yet run the exact same route twice, naturally there has been some crossover but even when routes have been similar, particularly the shorter ones, I have made sure that I add slightly different sections to keep the variety going. Sadly none of my runs have been planned to produce any fabulous Christmas themed Strava maps that I keep seeing, examples below, well played to anyone has managed one, the closest I unintentionally came was something that if you tilted your head looked like a very wonky elf hat.

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Since my last post the weather has warmed up and the ice and snow has melted away leaving us on the whole with fog and drizzle, although this has made running easier it means I haven’t been able to take photos of some of the stunning views that are normally there on the routes I have run.

Physically the challenge has also started to take its toll on me in the last few days. After runs 19 and 20 I felt really tired and the first doubts crept into my mind as to whether I could keep going. I know I have been hammering the miles and may start to pull things back in a little but there is no way I am not completing this, I have come too far now to quit. I am also being inspired and supported to succeed by so many amazing people, many of whom are taking part in the Run Up To Christmas virtual race which is creating a real buzz on social media.

A special mention this week too for one of my Twitter buddies Si, not satisfied with just sirunning every day in December, he is also blogging every day too, it’s a great read and you can find out more by visiting his #REDBED blog https://farrin.me.uk/

I won’t be posting another update now until after the big day unless something drastic happens so have a fantastic Christmas, eat, drink, be merry, spend time with those you love and spend time doing what you love.

#REDDecember Week 1

The challenge is on, run a minimum of 5k every day in December. This evening I have reached the end of week one and what a week it has been.

If I’m honest I really wasn’t sure how things would go but I can genuinely say that I have loved every second of it to this point.

I have managed to run seven different routes to keep things fresh, I’ve worn a daft hat #Studolph and my legs feel good having covered 42.5 miles. When thinking about how to approach this I knew I had to give some consideration to fuelling and refuelling as well as looking after my body. I’ve been consuming a couple of my trusted SIS energy products every day to keep my protein and carb intake up and I’ve been stretching my legs out to keep a few little niggles in check.

 

The week started with a bang and some fancy dress last Friday evening, followed swiftly by my second run of the month early on Saturday morning. I deliberately kept these runs short just nudging over the 5k mark on both occasions as I had a long run planned for Sunday. I was up at the crack of dawn to take my nearest and dearest to Liverpool airport for their trip to Lapland, maybe they saw #Studolph’s Finnish cousin? Back up the M6, across the M65, home, changed and out. Two hours later and I’d covered 15 miles, my longest run since completing the York marathon in October. My calf muscles were tightening as I ran the final climb but I gritted my teeth and saw it through.

On Monday I ran a completely new route for me along the canal near my work, the dusk was setting in and it was nice to run somewhere different. On Tuesday and Wednesday I managed a couple of slightly longer runs of over 5 miles, fitting them in among my family commitments. Finally tonight I ran while my son was at his football training, a special mention here for my wife who took our daughter with her to an appointment so that I could run at a sensible time, support like that is needed if I’m going to see this thing through. According to Strava I even managed a couple of personal records on a tough uphill section tonight, not sure that will be repeated come week four!!

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I timed this challenge to coincide with the Run Up 2 Christmas virtual race and via Twitter the support of the running community has been inspirational. This event supports the mental health charity Mind and it is great to see so many runners not only in the UK but around the world joining in and raising much needed awareness. Keep it up everyone, together we can do this.

Hopefully week two will go as well as this first week has. The forecast of snow on Sunday may make running interesting but it’s all part of the fun. Bring it on!

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REDDecember – The Preview

RED (Run Every Day) or run streaking was a concept that I first came across this summer when one of my running pals Luke Zwalf announced that he was attempting REDJuly. I’ve met Luke a couple of times and he is a top guy so I was keen to support him in this testing challenge.

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Despite some struggles early on Luke got into the zone and saw the month through with plenty of encouragement from the running community. Sheer grit and determination got him over the line, which in his case was actually in northern France, and he celebrated in style by running part of the last day with his family. You can read more about his efforts here.

Inspired by Luke, and others, I decided I wanted to take on this challenge myself. Having recovered from my marathon exploits I needed a new challenge and this seemed like the perfect way to end an amazing year for me and my running.

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Friday 1st December will therefore see the start of my 31 day RED efforts. I have set myself the target of running a minimum of 5k per day and every step will go towards my other December test, the Run Up To Christmas virtual race. Despite running plenty of miles my longest ever run streak is 4 days so I’ll quickly be in uncharted territory.

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I genuinely can’t wait to get started and to pick up the virtual baton from Brian Shaw who has been smashing REDNovember in various outfits (see photo below). I have a couple of new routes planned to make sure I keep things fresh and there will be some festive running gear worn along the way to get in the mood.

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I’ll be posting a weekly update which hopefully will give you an insight into my progress, my mindset and maybe even some inspiration to take something similar on yourself.

A quick reminder that if you enjoy my blog you can vote for me in the 2018 Running Awards, just click here to register and find Marathonbore in the blogs section, if you vote in 5 different categories you’ll receive a 10% discount with the top Online Running Retailer of 2017! Voting closes soon so please use your vote as soon as possible.

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