The Come Down

Well that’s it marathon done, it’s been 11 days now and physically I’m doing well. I had an hour long deep sports massage on the Monday after and whilst it was an education in pain it helped to work out the aftermath of 26.2 miles in my legs. I have so far managed four recovery runs and actually getting back out running has done my legs the world of good. I have read various tweets and blogs from people who run a marathon and then do little or nothing often for months after. The way I approached this though it was a bit like having an operation, the sooner you are up and mobile, the sooner your body recovers. Whilst I wouldn’t say I am anywhere near my peak I feel like I have retained a good level of fitness and the plan is to push my distances out again in the next couple of weeks.

Unfortunately the same can’t be said about my mental recovery. I have discovered the hard way that training for and running a marathon takes a huge amount out of you mentally. I feel like the bride who spent months planning a wedding, sorting all the fine details out and now is just left with a nice photo album, a dress that she doesn’t know what to do with and some nice bling, hopefully you understand the parallels I am trying to draw here.

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Essentially I feel like my head is wrecked. Although I have signed up for some races next year and I am going to attempt REDDecember I feel lost and lacking in focus. I have become the old me; short tempered, grumpy, not fun to be around and frankly I don’t like myself. I get that this must be something to do with my body and all the chemicals in it re-balancing themselves or something biological that I wouldn’t understand but can they hurry up please so that I can start to be me again!

I need to bottle the feeling of crossing the finish line, the euphoria, the sense of pride and achievement and to let it out slowly so that I can continue to enjoy it and bask in it a little longer until I am ready to let go and move on. At the moment the sense is very much one of, “after the Lord Mayor’s show”, I need to rediscover some head space and perspective, to get back to enjoying running rather than it being a process and I need to listen to my own advice and find some bouncebackability.

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A quick reminder that 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! Thank you.

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York Marathon – Race Review

I’ve been looking forward to writing this blog almost as much as I’ve been looking forward to running the marathon itself, forgive me if I go on a bit in this post but for a near 40 year old running your first marathon is a bit of a big deal.

Having stayed over with friends near Malton the night before I woke bright and early as expected on Sunday morning, sleeping in a child’s bunk bed wasn’t as bad as I expected and I did actually manage what felt like some decent sleep. I got myself ready, checked I hadn’t left anything, at least twice, then pulled over after I’d set off just to check again. The drive to the park and ride was simple and I was soon on one of the fleet of coaches taking many slightly anxious looking runners and some clearly more relaxed spectators to the start of race at York University. Before the coach had left Elvington Airfield though panic set in, fortunately not for me but for the chap who realised he had left his running shoes in the boot of his car! Cue everyone else on the bus looking down and checking they hadn’t made the same mistake!

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I had arranged to meet various running friends at the bag drop and I soon found some familiar faces which helped to calm the nerves, a couple were with me in the marathon but the majority were doing the popular 10 miler which started slightly later. Group photos and selfies followed and then it was time to head down to the start. If I’m honest the organisation here was disappointing. Signs were limited and despite following the only sign I did see for the zone 2 start area I ended up at zone 5 and had to scramble over a wall and through some undergrowth to get back to where I needed to be.

I reached the zone 2 start area eventually and there was just time for a quick stretch. Then we were almost ready for the off, after a few words of encouragement from starter and legendary Yorkshireman Dickie Bird the field moved forward and it was too late to turn back, I was doing this, it was now or never.

The first couple of miles led us down to and through York city centre. Some of the roads here were narrow and the field almost came to a halt at one point, one runner pulled over to the side and I noticed that his flip flop had come off, yes flip flop!! It wasn’t long before we reached the key photo opportunity at York Minister and still feeling fresh I made sure I smiled for the various cameras, hopefully one will have come out well. The route then took us out of York passing large crowds and into the small villages and country lanes that characterise most of this course.

I was looking forward to the 6 mile point as we reached the village of Stockton on the Forest simply for the fact that this is the home of the high fiving vicar. I remembered that on the videos I’d seen he was on the right hand side of the road and so I made sure I was in position early to get some skin! Beyond the village the route took on a very rural feel and I don’t recall coming across anyone apart from the odd marshal until we arrived at mile 11 where the Macmillan cheering point was based. I received fantastic support from them and the other Macmillan volunteers en route and want to take this opportunity to thank them all for their encouragement, a group of other runners commented to me that it was like I had my own cheer squad. Having passed through half way it wasn’t far before my actual cheer squad of my wife and two children came in to view in Stamford Bridge. It was such a boost to see them and the crowd at this point felt huge and the noise was amazing with so many people cheering, family, friends and strangers.

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Stamford Bridge was just before mile 14 and from then on there was what felt like a very long stretch through the back of beyond up to Dunnington. The course is known for being pretty flat and it was but this section was a long, slow drag and really started to mess with my head. Just after mile 16 I started to see runners coming the other way but knew I still had over 2 miles to go until I hit the top of the road where the loop was. I looked some of these people in the eye and they were flagging, it did make me feel slightly better that one of the runners I saw was former Leeds Rhino and England rugby league star Kevin Sinfield so I tried not to feel too bad about myself.

I was keeping decent time and hitting miles in around 8 mins 30 secs which was in line with my plan, the battle at this point was mental and I was drawing on all my strategies to keep it together. I had been due to see my family again at Dunnington which was miles 17 and 19 on the out and back but the spectator bus hadn’t got them there on time so I made do with another high five this time from the Archbishop of York, small guy, strong arm! Not long after seeing him I glimpsed a vision in pink heading towards me, it was Caterina who I’d met at the start, I made sure I shouted over and high fived her too.

By mile 20 the out and back had ended and I had turned for home but I was struggling, the sun was in my face and cramp was setting in in both my calf muscles and my left foot. I carried on for a mile or so with all sorts of things running through my head. I had been determined to run the whole 26.2 miles but eventually sense prevailed and I joined many others at this point who had decided that alternating running with walking was the best strategy, I knew that if I stopped dead my legs were likely to seize up and I walk pretty fast anyway so decided this was the best course of action to get me to the finish. Caterina came by me not long after I’d started walking and she turned to make sure I was ok, the supportive spirit of the running community summed up in an instant.

At this stage we were back in more residential areas and the support from the crowd who could clearly see me flagging was superb. Eventually I made it to the bottom of the hill that we had run down shortly after the start. It wasn’t long, it wasn’t steep but it felt like Everest. I managed to run half way up and then shuffled to the top and the descent to the finish. People were shouting from every angle and I managed to catch sight of local York residents and fellow runners Luke and Tristan, thanks for the cheers lads. Slightly further down the hill were more friends who’d run the 10 miler, plus injured VIP Caroline, who had all stayed on to cheer me, I bribed them with cake but what the hell you guys were immense, thanks for the support and the video.

A quick pose for the cameras and I was through the line, my wife and kids raced down off the grass bank for hugs and I broke down in tears, I also made the schoolboy error of not stopping my Garmin! I quickly checked my phone and the finish time text was already there waiting, 4 hours 1 minute 58 seconds. I was thrilled, yes sub 4 hours would have been nice but this was my first attempt at a marathon so any thoughts of disappointment were swiftly banished.

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Celebratory drinks, cake and more hugs followed. By now I was starting to flag though and in the queue for the medal engraving I felt rough. I tried to get some chocolate milkshake down me but couldn’t stomach more than a mouthful. This feeling stayed with me until I’d set off on the drive home at which point I had to pull over into a layby on the side of the A64 to puke, sorry to anyone who witnessed it. To be honest it was probably the best chunder of all time, I instantly felt better.

Writing this the day after has given me time to reflect and have a much needed massage. Did I learn much for yesterday? Absolutely. Will I run another marathon? Possibly. Am I proud of myself. Hell yeah!! The whole experience was amazing and one that will live long in the memory for many, many reasons. I have been blessed with amazing support and want to thank anyone and everyone who got behind me in any way whether with a cheer, a donation to my fundraising or a word of encouragement on social media.

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Whilst this feels like a natural end I really want it to be just the beginning, I already have plans for the rest of this year, some races and events booked for next year and some goals to achieve. I’ve started something and I don’t want it to stop.

If you have enjoyed reading any of my blog then I would love you to vote for me in the 2018 Running Awards, just click here, 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! Thank you.

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Shameless

I’ll apologise up front that this week’s blog isn’t up to my usual standard and actually it is pretty much going to be a series of thank yous and shameless plugs, feel free to dip out now if you want, normal service will resume next week with a preview of a certain race that you might have heard me wittering on about.

Firstly, a massive thank you to every single one of you who has supported my fundraising efforts. At the point of writing this I have received 52 donations totaling over £600 for my two charities, Macmillan Cancer Support and the Plastic Surgery & Burns Research Unit in Bradford. Donations have been received from family, friends, colleagues, former colleagues and complete strangers. You are all wonderful and I cannot thank you enough. If you would like to donate all the details are on my Sponsorship page.

Secondly, I love writing this blog, thank you to everyone who has ever read even a single word of it. I started it as a bit of a diary for myself but it has quickly become much more than that and something I’m really proud of and hope to maintain in the future, it is a labour of love and an opportunity to express myself. If you have enjoyed anything you have read then please can I ask that you take a minute to vote for me in the 2018 Running Awards.

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Finally, there are many, many people to thank for getting me to this stage in my running journey. The York Marathon will most certainly not be the final stage, if anything it might just be the prologue. I am not going to name check everyone here, mainly because I am likely to forget and miss someone out! From simple words of encouragement, to ridiculous banter, to creating time and space for me to actually get out and run, you have all been amazing, you know who you are and you will all be with me either in person or in spirit in 13 days’ time, particularly when my mind and body are asking me what the hell I am doing!

Thank you for indulging me.

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The loneliness of the long distance runner

Last week I posted about taking part in the fantastic Marathon In A Day event which supported Mind and I commented on the importance of people feeling able to talk about any mental health issues they may have. Having read my post back I started to think about mental health and how unique running, and in particular long distance running, is when it comes to having a lot of time to yourself to think.

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I have played team sports in the past (yes one of those handsome young men is me 20 years ago!!) and they are generally pretty fast and furious, you react largely to what is happening around you and you are utterly immersed in the game. Likewise there are individual sports where you compete against someone but your focus is the game in hand. Running is a different beast though. Most people train on their own and even during a race unless you are super fast and chasing a podium you are only really competing against yourself and the clock. This leaves you with a lot of time to think and how you fill that time is I believe really important to keep your mind healthy.

For some people thinking time is fine, you take in the view, a nice hill, some wildlife, maybe the odd dual carriageway or industrial estate but on the whole you switch off and just run. Others, and I include myself to a degree here, need some form of distraction and for most that is listening to music or perhaps a podcast or talking book, these distractions help to pass the time and some people also use them as a means to increase motivation. There are also runners though who use their time on the highways and byways as thinking time and again I fall into this category. Running helps me to clear my head, I work in a school and last Monday was the first day of term, it was hectic to say the least and I came home with what can best be described as head fog. I knew that I needed to run, I spent the first few miles or so going through the events of the day in my head and rationalising them, I then banked that in my brain, the fog cleared and I gave over my thoughts to more pressing matters, what was I having for tea, how would my daughter get on with her first day at primary school the following day and how many chat group messages with goat gifs would I return home to? This run was less than two hours but as I have progressed in my marathon training I have been running for over five hours in total most weeks and so I have a lot of time to think.

On some longer runs when a mixture of delirium and pain set in, mental fatigue can take over and the need to dig deep and find something from within I find really tests my mind. I know I have it in me to push on but sometimes the legs aren’t always as willing, I have used various techniques to overcome this, as I said above the distraction of music is one and a favourite of mine especially in races is to have the names of my wife and children written on my arm along with other motivators so they are right there clear in front of me. I smile, I think of funny things and I do everything I can to keep my mental state as positive as possible, the worst thing I can do is to get down, think negatively and beat myself up.

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Taking my own advice was essential on Sunday when I completed my first ever run of over 20 miles, ok it was only 20.03 miles as I lapped the cul de sac to edge the distance over the .00, but for me it was a real milestone in my marathon training. It was a tough three hours, it wasn’t pretty at times but I used all of the above to stay positive as the wind howled, the rain soaked me and my calf muscles screamed at me to stop.

If you are reading this and struggling have a think about what I have written, use your running time as head space time, gain some clarity in whatever way suits you and if you need to, never be afraid to share with someone else.

Marathon In A Day

This past weekend was the first running on the virtual Marathon In A Day (MIAD) event. MIAD was the brainchild of Clare () and Kev () and I must first of all thank Kev for providing me with some great information to help me with my write up. The aims of the event were to support the charity Mind, to make running more accessible and break down the marathon distance into something less scary. Kev and Clare wanted to encourage people to take park in a virtual event that was fun, interesting, different and inclusive, they wanted to get people talking about mental health and supporting each other and boy have they succeeded!!

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Runners from across the globe joined together to support the event and each other and a big shout out must go to Melissa Kahn from the fabulous Run Heifer Run community in the USA who galvanised her herd to participate and put in some stunning performances. Some people took on the full distance themselves either all in one go or by breaking the 26.2 miles down into a number of shorter runs throughout a 24 hour period. Many runners though took up the option of joining together and supporting each other in pairs or small teams, a word of thanks must go here to Antony Hughes who took it upon himself to create a giant spreadsheet so that people and the distances they wanted to run could be matched up. Some of these runners actually met up to run the virtual event in real life as it were which I also think is fabulous as it brought people firmly together who otherwise may never have met, friendships have been formed which hopefully will last.

I was paired with Laura (@ladyseamus) and as I already had 18 miles on my marathon training plan for the weekend I volunteered to bank that for the team with Laura taking on the remainder. It seems like an age passed from signing up until actually taking part but this gave time for a fantastic Twitter group to form, everyone got behind each other, we had plenty of banter, we ribbed Melissa about many things, we created team names and importantly we talked about mental health, everything Kev and Clare wanted to achieve happened and is still carrying on.

I am the first to recognise that I am not good at talking about my mental health. I have experienced some pretty dark times in my life as a result of bullying at school, the loss of relatives in tragic circumstances, the breakdown of a previous marriage and being diagnosed with cancer. I understand when I am low and I have learned to put coping strategies in place, running being one of them, but the group of people I have met through this event have been immensely supportive and I have shared some really personal stuff with them because I felt like they all understood and it was a safe environment for me to express myself, thank you everyone, you have made a real difference for me.

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Anyway back to the running. On Friday last week Laura and I hit the streets of our respective neighbourhoods to do our bit. We ran an impressive 26.5 miles in 3 hours 43 mins 14 secs, in the process I ran the furthest I have ever run and Laura ran a 10k PB, needless to say the rest of the weekend included lots of eating and resting. I also did a couple of vlogs as I ran which I have edited together and you can watch here.

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MIAD has been a huge success, the original 200 places were massively oversubscribed and Kev and Clare will be putting on another event before the end of the year. The working title for the event is The Run Up to Christmas, plans are currently being finalised, it will again support Mind and will be about people racking up miles during the period of 1st – 24th December, with different rewards for covering different total distances. I would really encourage anyone who hasn’t done a virtual event to get involved. This was my first and while there were no cheering crowds at the end I knew that I had the full support of the online running community, not just in my running but in my wellbeing.

As I ran this evening one of the last songs that came on my MP3 player before I arrived home was Time After Time and one of the lyrics really stuck in my head as being particularly pertinent here. Being able to talk about mental health is hugely important, it should not and must not be stigmatised, everyone should have a forum where they feel safe and supported, it is ok to not be ok, if you are feeling down find people you are happy to talk to and comfortable with and they will listen, whenever, wherever, as the song goes; “if you fall I will catch you, I’ll be waiting, time after time”.

 

Blackpool Illuminations 10k – Race Review

August Bank Holiday Saturday, for once the sun has its hat on and all is good with the world. There’s only one thing to do, head for the coast; sand, slot machines, fish and chips and a 10k race! Ok so that last one isn’t on most people’s list for a typical day at the seaside but my Saturday in Blackpool centred around the Illuminations 10k organised by the lovely people at Fylde Coast Runners (FCR).

I’ve been looking forward to the race for a couple of months, it was a sell out and based on the great reports I’d heard about other FCR races and the reviews from the inaugural running of this event last year it was going to be something to behold.

The race was due to start at 8pm but to make the most of the weather we took the 45 minute drive over to the coast early and arrived in Blackpool at around 3.30pm. When I say we, this was the first time that my wife and two children have attended a race to support me all together so it was a real family affair and added an even more special touch to what was already going to be a pretty unique day.

The kids happily cycled along the promenade as we went in search of the registration tent. Having bumped into several other runners along the way we located the tent near the start line, as per the instructions email, on the middle walkway near the Hilton hotel on the North Shore. For those familiar with Blackpool this is just under a mile from the North Pier and whilst a slight leg stretch out of town it means that the race is able to start away from the madding crowds of Blackpool on a Bank Holiday Saturday night, a wise decision. The registration process was quick and simple and I collected my bib, timing chip, pins and glow sticks (yes glow sticks) without delay. As it was only 5pm we headed back into town, deposited the bikes back in the car and the family polished off a McDonald’s whilst I sat there sipping water. There was also time for my wife to add further to her shoe collection and to take a few selfies before walking back up to the start. Catherine and the kids hung back and went in the arcades, this gave them time to fuel their 2p slider obsessions and find a decent vantage point to see me come down the first stretch of the course.

The start area was already heavily populated half an hour before gun time but I found my Twitter buddy Natalie and her girlfriend snazzily dressed in running gear and tutus and we had a good chat, Nat also helped me to put on my green glow stick bracelet which for a 39 year old man was proving ridiculously difficult. The consensus was we were going to just get round and enjoy the race with the bigger picture of impending marathons and half marathons in mind (spoiler alert, it was PBs all round!). With a minute or two to go the queue for the toilets finally cleared and I skipped out of the start pen and had my customary pre-race pit stop and then we were off.

The opening stretch was along the middle walkway running south towards the North Pier, the field fanned out nicely and I was soon high fiving my children before we dropped down to the lower walkway and turned north again to make the run up to Bispham. Passing the start again, just lower down, the race hosts (sorry I didn’t catch their names but they were fantastic) called out as many runners’ names as they could which was a nice boost right at the start of a race and the crowd at this point was strong and cheered friends, family and strangers into the distance.

The sun had started to set and it was a cool, calm evening, perfect for running, the view out to the Irish Sea was glorious and something that again added to the distinctive feeling of the event. The course itself was pancake flat and the surface was perfect for trotting out a decent, consistent pace. In what seemed like no time I reached the point where the race split and those who had entered the 5k made the climb back up to the promenade whilst us 10k runners continued on. Not much further down the front was the water station, I don’t tend to drink at all during a 10k so left the bottles for others but it was nice of a fellow runner to notice I didn’t have one and he offered me his bottle before he disposed of it, the running family at its supportive best.

Looking up as I neared Bispham I could see the Illuminations lighting up the dusk above me and those at the front of the race who had already made the turn for home, I have to say this spurred me on and having checked my Garmin I knew that a PB was possible. I felt strong despite having already run nearly 43 miles in the week and all those sensible thoughts of just enjoying myself went out of the window.

Back on the promenade I picked up the pace and passed quite a few runners from both the 10k and the tail end of the 5k. I had only spotted a distance marker at 4k and so I was reliant on my Garmin being accurate but as the number of spectators increased I knew I must be approaching the finish although I couldn’t actually see it. Time was ticking on, I knew I was going to be close to 45 minutes but it was nip and tuck. The route then dipped off the promenade back onto the middle walkway, the banks of spectators grew and I could hear the race hosts again. I put my head down and went for it, in doing so I totally missed seeing my family but I was in the zone, I crossed the line and stopped my watch at 45.11, a PB, fantastic.

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I collected my water and beautiful spinning medal and found the family to celebrate and cheer others home. It was great to see the same determination in so many runners approaching the finish and the support of the crowd was genuinely heart-warming, there was some fantastic fancy dress too with several runners going full on Christmas tree with the number of fairy lights they’d managed to decorate themselves in.

Once Natalie had made it home we strolled back to town, took a few more selfies and helped out others with their obligatory celebration group shots with the famous Blackpool Tower in all its illuminated glory as the backdrop.

I was thrilled to have felt so good and to have produced a time so close to a target that I had actually set for myself already for next year, to run a sub 45 minute 10k. On reflection I loved everything about the event, if I wasn’t PB chasing I would have probably taken in more of the Illuminations which were actually turned on especially for the event as the actual official switch on isn’t until this Friday, 1st September. I will definitely be entering more FCR events in the future and would recommend this race to everyone whether an experienced runner or not, it caters for all comers and it is a fabulous way to spend a Saturday night.

Run Tourism – Holland

Earlier in the year I ventured into the world of run tourism for the first time on a trip to Spain, I made sure to ask my wife if she minded me taking my kit and I was given the green light so off I went exploring around Albir, Althea and Benidorm.

IMG_20170818_151111Last week we went to the Duinrell holiday park in Wassenaar, Holland, when I say “we”, this wasn’t your average family holiday, this was 10 adults and 14 kids aged 3-13. I didn’t need to ask if I could take my kit this time, being in the middle of full on marathon training at the moment Catherine knew it was coming and that I’d be disappearing a couple of times to explore and get some miles in my legs.

Before travelling I put out a request on Twitter for any recommendations and the very kind Heart Runner Girl suggested a couple of possible runs for me based on her local knowledge. I managed three runs while I was there, all on different routes and all had their own particular features.

After the overnight ferry from Hull to Rotterdam we arrived at Duinrell on the Saturday, the first day was spent acclimatising and finding our way around the park and what it had to offer. I was already itching to get out though and so first thing on Sunday morning I was up and heading for the beach. It was a beautiful morning and after running down a few tree lined avenues the road turned slightly and the dunes that dominate this area of coastline began.

What I immediately noticed too was how everyone appeared to be catered for. There was the road, then a separate cycle path, a separate pavement and also a sand covered bridleway. Part way down to the beach the route forked and the road went off to the right whilst the other paths veered off left. I’m always cautious crossing roads abroad so the knowledge that I was on my own path helped me to relax and enjoy my run. After around 5k the path and road converged again at the main beach car park and then I followed the short path down to the beach itself, having taken a few photos I made the return trip and arrived back just as the rest of the family were waking up. It was a very straight forward run and clearly a popular one as I passed over 20 other runners in the 45 minutes of so that I was out. Without fail, everyone acknowledged me with a nod, a smile, a wave or said good morning (at least that’s what I think they were saying, my Dutch isn’t that great!). The knowledge gained during the run came in handy the next day when we decided on a trip to the beach. There was no way I was going to try and walk down to the beach with the kids given the distance but I knew we could park easily and having seen the bars and snack outlets I also knew that we’d be well catered for.

My second run was very much in the “make it up as you go along” category. This time I headed away from the beach and into the centre of Wassenaar, I came across a beautiful old windmill as I wended my way through the streets and then I discovered the various dykes and waterways that criss-crossed the town so I decided to follow them for a while and see where I ended up. The run was so tranquil, despite it being late afternoon and it was great to take in something so quintessentially Dutch. I did end up at a dyke that I couldn’t cross and so had to do a U-turn but that’s part of the adventure of exploring in this way. Eventually I ended up back at Duinrell after just over 10k and in time to fire up the BBQ for some well earned burgers, bratwurst and beer.

The third and final run was another early morning start this time in the direction of Den Haag. I followed the cycle path signs which indicated 10k to the city which is the official seat of Dutch government, home to the Netherlands’ monarch, parliament, ​and supreme court. The cycle path and pavement are away from the main roads and there were some gorgeous views of mist lingering across the fields as the sun came up. The cycle path signs made this a very easy route to follow and nearing the outskirts of Den Haag the signs changed to point you in the direction of various local landmarks. I decided to follow signs for the World Forum and this route took my through a beautiful park. I’d deliberately not checked my Garmin during my run but I felt like I maintained a decent pace assisted in no small part by the flat landscape which was in stark contrast to many of my normal routes. Just after 11 miles I checked my time and it looked like I could be on for an unofficial half marathon PB if I kept the pace up (I say unofficial as to me official PBs are set during races, I know people have different opinions on this but that’s my view). I felt good at this point and so I worked hard to keep going. My total distance for the run was 14.1 miles but when I saved the run I got that lovely “new record” message saying my new half marathon best time was 1:42.13, my official best time set at the Leeds Half Marathon earlier in the year is 1:44.55, let’s just say the two landscapes are rather different and I’m hoping that the flat lands around York can bring me an equally speedy time in a couple of weeks on my marathon debut.

All in all this was another great run tourism experience, I loved finding my way around a new place and taking in some of the local sights, next time you are away somewhere new why not take your kit and give it a try, don’t forget to put your feet up too though!

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What Next?

I like structure, I like organisation, I like having a plan. There’s still nine weeks of my current marathon plan to go but I have already started to look ahead and think about what I will do after Sunday 8th October. Firstly I will take the day off work and most likely eat as much as is humanly possible, I once put on 6lbs in an afternoon at a family barbeque so I have form for high level eating achievements.

In terms of running though my plans are to a certain extent up in the air. I am not Marty McFly, 

I don’t have a crystal ball and I have no idea if I will ever want to run another marathon or not. I genuinely hope that York won’t destroy me like the 2007 Great North Run did and that I will want to take the challenge of 26.2 miles on again in the future but I know that training properly takes a huge commitment in terms of time and this also has a knock on effect on the amount of time I spend with my family who mean the world to me.

I have entered the ballot for the 2018 London Marathon vlm18and if I am lucky enough to gain a place then there is no question of turning that down. I have also considered the 2018 Manchester Marathon mainly due to the various running friends having already entered and this may be a target for next spring. I would love to do the Manchester Half Marathon the Sunday after York but I think I need to be sensible as walking may still be a struggle for me at that point.

One plan that is in place is REDNovember. Having been inspired by the one and only Luke Zwalf and his REDJuly exploits, I have committed to running every day in November (REDNovember).  A group of @ukrunchat pals have also nailed their colours to the mast and we are going to run a minimum of 5k a day, whilst we won’t physically be running together the theory is that by going through the same struggles together we will be able to support and motivate each other, one of the traits I love about the running community. Towards the end of November I will turn 40 so it seemed appropriate to mark the occasion by doing something memorable.

I only currently have one race booked for next year which is the Leeds Half Marathon in May. I loved my first time at the event this year and signed up straight away to run it again. I think that half marathons will feature more for me in 2018 and there are a couple of small, challenging local events that I want to take on.

endure24A bigger challenge is the Endure 24 hour event. As a relative running newbie I wasn’t aware until earlier in the year that such events even existed and when I saw people taking this on I was in awe but it also sparked an idea in me to get together a team of like minded individuals to enter in 2018 and see what we can achieve, whether this comes off remains to be seen, I certainly won’t be running it on my own!

My major goal after the York marathon though is to step down in distance and to try and run a sub 45 minute 10k. My current 10k PB is 46:28 set earlier this year in Accrington so there is work to do and I know that will mean a different focus and style of training, I feel the need, the need for speed sessions!

There is a plethora of 10k events that I can take on both locally and further afield so there is no lack of opportunity, I have heard very positive reports about the events organised by Fylde Coast Runners, one of which I am running on August Bank Holiday Saturday and the Run For All events are very well organised in my experience and feature several which are within an hour or so of where I live so I hope to be able to take on a couple of new courses and work my way towards my target.

Whilst unpredictable, the future holds great excitement and opportunity, I want to continue to challenge myself but also to enjoy my running and hopefully inspire and encourage others to do the same, I’ll try to keep this blog going too although a change in name may be necessary, 10kbore doesn’t quite have the same ring to it though!

10 Weeks To Go

One of the main reasons for me starting this blog was to allow me to document my ymtraining for the York Marathon on 8th October and give me something to look back on in years to come. Although I have provided training updates as footnotes at the end of several posts this blog has branched out into everything from vlogs, to interviews with other runners and various commentary pieces on running related matters.

This week’s post then is very much about getting back to basics. I have now completed week 6 of my training plan and on the whole I’m pleased with how things are going. So far I have run just over 173 miles of my plan and I am now at the stage where my long run every week will be a new longest ever running distance for me which is exciting but also a touch daunting. Over time I have learned that running, and in particular distance running, is not just about physical but also mental fitness and I am keen to maintain positive mental health as it will sustain me through those inevitable bad runs, the times when I doubt my ability and those moments that I’m anticipating on the actual day when I need to look deep inside me and find some positivity.

Physically I am feeling good. I’ve had a somewhat gammy (yes that is a valid medical term) toe for the past fortnight but that now appears to be just about fully recovered and apart from an odd niggle I am able to run, and importantly, recover well. I deliberately gave myself a longer training plan so that I could increase my mileage gradually in the hope of avoiding injury and touch wood that is working. With the help of various SIS products and some homemade cakes my fuelling and refuelling is also working well and my body is comfortable with what I am giving it.

 

 

Although I have yet to absolutely nail down my race pacing I have become much more consistent in pacing myself, helped greatly by regular checking of my Garmin whilst out and about. I am developing my ability to hold myself back and ignore the urge from my legs to stretch out a bit more, people online have commented that I am quick, I am quite a self-effacing person and I genuinely don’t think I am. My aim is to pace at around an 8 minute 30 second mile, to try and avoid getting pulled along too quickly at the start and to conserve as much energy as I can by getting into a rhythm and sticking with it. Whether I can maintain that pace for the full 26.2 miles remains to be seen but I am up to 16 miles so far and that pace is manageable.

As I head into the final 10 weeks of training I do have a couple of concerns. I have tried to mix up my training in terms of adding off plan speed work and hill sessions as well as some general core fitness and this has been enjoyable but actually finding routes for long runs is proving problematic. I have a go to route that is just over 13 miles and I can then add on some extra distance to that to get me up to around 19 miles but this means running the same route time and again. I could run a couple of laps of a shorter route but I enjoy different scenery and get bored with laps, I could stretch out some of my shorter routes but that would mean running round country lanes and whilst there are some great views where I live I find that I don’t relax on these roads as I am conscious of listening out for traffic which distracts my focus from actually running. I may have to put up with the boredom as a means to an end.ym2

My other concern is an impending 8 day holiday to the Netherlands. It was planned into my training spreadsheet, and appropriately coloured in orange, but I need to factor at least a couple of 13 mile plus runs into the holiday and at the moment I have no idea how that will work out. This isn’t your average run of the mill family holiday either, this is 14 children and 10 adults descending on a holiday park for what could be absolute carnage. I need to get some research done on potential routes, I’m assuming in a rather stereotypical view that the roads will be flat which will mimic the route around York nicely but I may need to just grab time to get out when I can which means fuelling could be interesting, has anyone written a nutrition plan based on a diet of raw herring, cheese, chips with mayo and copious amounts of Amstel? Thought not!

 

 

All being well this week then should see me plod out a further 33 miles or so. I’m sure the coming weeks will bring more ups and downs but I am determined to enjoy and not just endure the journey and the big day itself. Training this much has for me been life changing and even if this is my first and last marathon I want to mark it as an occasion to remember and be proud of.

Know Your Enemy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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