#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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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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Unilite Head Torch Review

I recently saw a post on Twitter asking if any bloggers who also run would be interested in testing out the Unilite head torch; blogger tick, runner tick, lover of freebies tick tick tick.

A couple of quick emails later and the head torch arrived all securely boxed up and ready to go, the model I received is a PS-HDL2, you can find the full spec here. First off it’s well packaged and just looking at the unit you get a sense that it is a quality product which retails for around £30. In the packaging there is a clear, simple instruction guide and the reverse of the product label shows the different light settings and an approximate battery life for having the torch on each setting constantly.

 

I found it very easy to set the torch up, it runs on normal AAA batteries and three Energizer batteries were supplied with the unit, I always appreciate it when a manufacturer provides batteries along with a product so that you can use it straight away.

The torch unit I received came in high vis yellow colour and has a rotational setting so that you can angle the beam, it fits onto the headband through a clip at the back and the headband itself is fully adjustable to fit your head size and has a silicone lining running right the way around it which prevents the band from slipping during use and as it weighs in at just 88g it is super light.

 

Given the nights are rather short at the moment I delayed my evening run last Wednesday until just before 10pm so that I could give the head torch a test run. The street lights were just coming on as I set out, it was by no means pitch dark but the conditions allowed me a good understanding of what the product can do. As a runner I want to feel safe in the dark, I want to be able to see and be seen and the Unilite certainly gives you that, the beam on all settings provided ample illumination and personally I like the flashing/strobe modes as they stand out to other road and pavement users. Despite the late start time it was still rather muggy and it wasn’t long before I had worked up a decent sweat, the headband though didn’t move a millimetre. I also made sure I included both uphill and downhill sections in my route to test for any bounce on the product, again it delivered perfectly staying exactly as I had set off. By the time I got home dusk was turning to darkness and where I live looks out over a large unlit field, I stood on the step at the side of the house and with the torch on full beam I was able to see quite a distance into the trees and bushes beyond.

 

I would say overall that my impressions of the Unilite are really positive and I look forward to using it more in my running later in the year as the nights close in. It is a flexible product though and can be put to many other uses including camping, fishing, dog walking and going down to the shed in the dark to draw off a pint or two of homebrew, a favourite pastime of mine!

One thing that Unilite may want to consider is bringing out a red head torch so that people can also be seen from behind, I know this would be useful for me as a runner, whether it could also fit onto the headband without feeling too uncomfortable I don’t know but if they ever want someone to be a guinea pig and trial something like this for them then I’m the man.