It’s Running Jim, But Not As I Know It

The Beast From The East, snow, ice, wind, sludge etc etc, you all know the score, it’s been quite a week.

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Whilst I am a hardy soul, I ventured out for a swift 5.5 miles on Wednesday in spite of the snow and much to the incredulity of my wife, I drew the line at risking my usual Friday training slot in the midst of the meteorological onslaught. By then I’d already been off work for four days, working in a school does have some benefits, and I was going stir crazy, cabin fever had well and truly set in. I was itching to get out for a run but I didn’t much fancy catching hypothermia. My wife is a member at a local gym, she knows how I need to run, she doesn’t like me risking life and limb in the name of exercise and so with a quick phone call she set me up with a free 7 day pass at her gym.

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The gym is a pretty foreign place to me, apart from a quick session during a hotel stay a few years ago I haven’t set foot in one for well over a decade. Not much has changed, the machines have more bells and whistles, there are still blokes grunting and panting with large weights in a corner, although apparently it is now acceptable to facetime someone whilst you are cross training!?

And so I took a deep breath and put my best foot forward onto the treadmill. Firstly the measurements were in kilometers and kmph and I couldn’t work out how to change them to my preferred miles and mph setting so I was thrown. I had my Garmin on with my usual settings but apart from the time they didn’t seem to tally with the treadmill readings based on my rudimentary conversions. Although I had a window view and didn’t have to look at myself in the mirror I was soon bored. My legs felt like they were spinning at quite a rate but looking at my pace I was slower than normal, this also played with my head.

In the end I managed 50 minutes plus a 5 minute cool down. It wasn’t pretty, I didn’t enjoy it but it was more than necessary to stretch my legs and get some positive chemicals flowing. I finished off the session with a 15 minute cycle and some weights, don’t worry there was no panting or strained expressions!

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As I have a free pass and had some time on my hands today I thought I’d give the gym a second chance. The weather has improved slightly but the snow and ice has turned to horrible slush and I’ll wait until tomorrow to experience that delight. I set my sights a touch lower given Friday’s run and did what felt like a swift 5km, again the feeling and the reality were two very different things and I was considerably slower than I would normally be. A quick cross train later and some weights followed before I finished off with 10 minutes of intervals, at least that bit worked well once I had figured out how to alternate the pace of the machine.

As you may have guessed I am not a fan of treadmills but in the circumstances this was a necessary evil. The pass I have entitles me to use the local running track and so I will try to make the most of that, weather permitting, later in the week, another change of scenery will do me good and I enjoyed my short track outing at the Winter Warmer 10k last month. For now I will chalk this one up to experience, I’m not slating anyone who uses treadmills regularly, I am just saying that they are not for me, I need fresh air, I need a changing view and I need to know that the effort I am putting in actually equates to what I am getting out. Maybe I’ll try again in another 10 years.


NB – If you follow me on Twitter you will have noticed that I am taking a self-imposed break for Lent, I am using the auto post feature on Word Press to share this link so rest easy that I haven’t succumbed to temptation!

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Happy Blog-iversary

Ok, ok, in the words of Monica in my favourite ever episode of Friends, “that’s not even a word!!!”, but today marks one year since I started writing this blog. I read my first post back a few days ago and it was interesting to see how things have changed over the last 12 months.

At the time of first writing I defined myself as an “advanced jogger”, I was already a year into my running adventure but I had very little confidence and knew nothing about what lay ahead, except that I had just signed up to run a marathon and I hadn’t got a clue what I was doing.

 

I decided to start the blog as a way of expressing myself and creating a sort of diary of my training building up to my first marathon in York in October. Initially, I was prolific, writing a couple of posts per week, that wasn’t sustainable but I have tried to blog most weeks and have diversified into race reviewsinterviews with other runners, product reviews and vlogs. This is my 49th post and at the time of writing I have had 5,874 views and 3,851 visitors from all over the world, including such diverse locations as Brunei, The Cayman Islands and Chile. I know that in comparison to some, those numbers are tiny but I am really proud of what I have created and how it has engaged people.

I have hugely enjoyed the experience of writing this blog, I am a frustrated writer, only last week I had a comment from a former colleague who I haven’t seen for nine months which referenced a post I wrote last April about motivational music I listen to when running. The mere fact he recalled a particular song I had mentioned staggered me and gave me a really positive feeling. Good luck Phil for London, you will smash it!

Through writing my blog and running I have found a whole new community of people. I wasn’t sure if anyone would ever read my ramblings but I have been overwhelmed by the feedback and support from people who were complete strangers. Some of those people have had a really positive impact on my life, they have become genuine friends and although I haven’t met everyone their advice and encouragement has sustained me, we have shared recipes, running tips and some of life’s highs and lows. You know who you are, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

In terms of support my family have also been immense. Whilst running started for me as a way of getting up and active it has become much more than that, my wife Catherine has given me the freedom to run when I want to/need to and having that backing is fantastic. My children have also been to see me run a couple of times and I love having them there, hopefully they are inspired in some way.

 

During the last year I have pushed myself way beyond what I ever thought possible, running a marathon, running every day for a month (amassing a total of over 205 miles in that month), numerous personal bests and simply sustaining a level of fitness and enjoyment that not so long ago seemed unimaginable.

 

The coming year has lots of exciting times ahead which I will no doubt document on this page. Whoever you are, wherever you are reading this, I hope you enjoy it, thank you for being part of my journey, it’s just getting started.

Blackburn Road Runners Winter Warmer 10k – Race Review

The phrase “winter warmer” for most people conjures up images of cosy log fires and hearty bowls of steaming hot, homemade soup but for me last Sunday it was all about taking on a challenging 10k course around the outskirts of Blackburn in anything but warm conditions.

This was my first attempt at the Blackburn Road Runners Winter Warmer 10k and so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect other than the dreaded uphill test that is Buncer Lane. The race started at 11am and as I arrived at Witton Park at 10.15am the junior 2k race was just finishing. The facilities on offer were fantastic. Registration took place inside the Witton Park Arena building, within a minute of arrival I had collected my bib and timing chip and was chatting to other runners about what lay ahead and how long and steep Buncer Lane actually was.

Although there were over 600 runners, plus marshals, spectators, masseurs, the local mayor and a significant cake stall the indoor hall was spacious and allowed plenty of room to get yourself ready, drop off your bag and even do a few warm up sprints if you really wanted. Inside and out there were also plenty of toilets for those last minute pit stops, it has to be said though that some people still preferred a nearby bush, maybe they take the phrase “a call of nature” too literally. By gun time the sun had just managed to break through but it was far from warm and I was glad I’d opted for the long sleeve top and trusty runr snood.

The race started with a lap of the Witton Park athletics track which gave everyone a chance to fan out a little, listen to the band who were playing on the first bend and get warmed up properly before the real work started. Having completed the lap we exited the track out into the park itself and within 20 metres we were already running uphill. A word of recognition at this point should go out to the race organisers who had been out early and given the freezing conditions had gritted at various points on the course where it was sheltered and likely to be treacherous. The first hill led us out of the park and was a mere aperitif for the fun that lay ahead as we turned left onto the infamous Buncer Lane. I found a steady pace that I was comfortable with and kept my legs turning, some runners in front were already struggling and seemed like they were going backwards. I assume as a little tease part way up the lane the course took a left turn down a side street before a sharp incline, another side street and back onto Buncer Lane a little further up. At this point the gradient really went steep for what felt like an eternity but was probably more like 100 metres or so. We weren’t quite done with the climbing yet though as the road again rose up in front of us and so as I crested the next uphill section I asked a handily placed marshal if that was it for the climbing, he laughed and nodded to confirm I was out of my misery. Don’t get me wrong I like a test and I knew it was coming but I’d already done pretty much 3k of uphill running and my legs and lungs were starting to fall out with me.

The next part of the route was fast, straight and largely downhill through some lovely countryside, after enjoying myself along this section and letting the legs go there was a nasty sting as the course kicked up again around a sharp bend for a short burst near the 4 mile mark. I got the legs going and we then turned again and headed into the far end of Witton Park. The paths here were perfect to build up to a fast finish and even a short section over a field wasn’t too muddy as the overnight frost had kept the grass quite firm. I’d managed to keep the same group of runners in sight throughout most of the race and was determined to finish as close to the 45 minute pacer as possible. Having checked my watch he was just ahead of time but given the nature of the course it was impossible to keep an even pace throughout.

The closer the finish came the louder I could hear the race host/commentator calling out names as finishers came through. The Arena building finally came into view and I heard my wife and children calling my name as they stood waiting by the side of the track, we looped back round through the gate we had earlier passed through and ran a final lap of the athletics track in reverse to finish off.

The support from the crowd was fantastic, most of them were probably high on cake from the stall inside, but it gave all us runners that last boost as we took the final strides to the finish line.

The organisation at the finish was first class. The track had been divided in two to filter those running the last lap and those who had already come home. Finishers were able to catch their breath down the back straight and then collect the mightily impressive goody bag and medal. The bag, which was a quality fabric drawstring bag itself, included a banana, water, porridge bowl, SIS gel, trolley token and a commemorative mug, the medal too was a really nice bit of bling, all for a bargain entry fee of £15. Some of the larger races who charge an arm and a leg for entry fees could learn a thing or two here. An added bonus too is that nearly 3,000 photos have been shared via the race’s Facebook page, some of which I have included in this post, given the price for some race photo packages I think this is brilliant and I’ve loved scrolling through them and seeing the joy (and at times pain) on everyone’s faces as they went round. There was a also a club member I overtook early on who was running with a Go Pro so I am looking forward to seeing his footage. Before going home I also popped inside to bag myself a cake and it went down a treat that afternoon with my first brew in the new mug.

I didn’t actually check my time across the line until I reached my family as I was busy chatting to other runners about how much they had enjoyed the race. The 45 minute pacer slowed slightly as he came onto the track and I managed to pass him with around 300 metres to go so I knew I would be around that time, in fact I finished in 44 minutes 21 seconds, my fastest 10k race time ever. I was really chuffed with that given the nature of the course and the fact that I’d done a 15 mile training run on Friday night as well. A sub 45 minute 10k race had been an aim for 2018 and I have now achieved it twice already, I’m not far off a sub 44 minute time and realistically if I maintain my fitness and the race conditions fall into place I think I can reasonably hit that time before the end of the year.

Overall Sunday’s event left a fantastic impression on me, and from reading some Race Check reviews I wasn’t the only runner to have a great morning. Thanks once again to everyone at Blackburn Road Runners and their army of volunteers who worked tirelessly to make this event happen, when can I sign up for next year?

Blackburn Road Runners – Winter Warmer 10k Preview

As I mentioned before in a previous blog one of my main aims for the year is to run more local races. Having really enjoyed the buzz of the East Lancashire Hospice 10k a couple of weeks ago, I signed up the following day for the Winter Warmer 10k organised by the Blackburn Road Runners club.

This will be another new race for me and I’m really looking forward to Sunday for a number of reasons.

Firstly the race starts and ends on the running track in Witton Park, I haven’t run on an actual proper track since I was at school, that’s over 20 years ago! Secondly the race is sold out apart from a handful of places the club have saved for on the day entries. I am starting to get to know some of the local running “faces” and despite not being affiliated to any club it is good to feel part of this community, hopefully one or two people I know will be there too to catch up with. The next reason for my pre-race excitement is the challenge the race will present. I have run numerous 10k races on various routes but I have never experienced anything like the infamous Buncer Lane. Blackburn Road Runners handily shared with me a shot of the route profile just so I know what I’m in for, yes it’s that bit below that looks like it’s vertical!!! The course is also on various terrain which again excites me.

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Finally I am excited about the finish, if the weather holds then there should be a decent crowd to cheer us home around the track, then there is the promise of cake stalls (say no more!) and last but not least the goody bag looks immense. Nice bag itself, fancy bling, porridge bowl and a commemorative mug, what more can you ask for?!

My only other decisions are around kit. At this time of year I like to wear long sleeve tops with shorts but I tend to train at night when it is colder anyway. I wore a short sleeve top for my last race and it was rather parky hanging around at the start but once I got going I was glad I didn’t have long sleeves on as it prevented a bit of overheating, I’ll take a check on Sunday morning and see what feels best.

Sunday will also see the retirement from competitive action of my first proper pair of running trainers. My faithful Nike Pegasus 33s have seen plenty of action in the last 12 months including my first marathon but I can’t ignore the fact that the sole has pretty much worn through at the front of them and they need to go to the great trainer retirement home in the sky (or at least be stashed in the loft just in case!). Not to worry I managed to bag myself another pair, albeit in different colours, in the January sales so I just need to start wearing them in.

Given the route profile I doubt a PB attempt is realistic on Sunday but all being well I’ll push as hard as I can and see what my legs have got, I’ll post a review early next week to let you know how I get on and if the beast that is Buncer Lane, the cake and goody bag live up to my expectations!

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.

 

#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 – Halfway

The quick witted among you will note that the title of this week’s blog isn’t strictly accurate. Yes there are 31 days in December and so writing this at the end of day 15 isn’t precisely halfway. Given that I have no intention of pausing tomorrow’s run having completed 50% of it though to write my blog and then finish the rest of the run, this is the best you are going to get, and anyway I never was that good at maths!

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The 8 days since my last blog on my #REDDecember challenge have flown by in a flurries of snow, sheet ice, nativity performances, festive lights and the obligatory Christmas jumpers/t-shirts.

I won’t go into the detail of every single run but I have had some genuine highlights and remarkably I am still feeling strong and enjoying my running/ice-skating.

Part of the reason I am enjoying it so much is that I am running without pressure. The beauty of running in long sleeves is that I can’t see my watch and all I have as an indicator is the vibration on my wrist every mile. I’m not worrying about pace or time, I am running for the thrill of the challenge and the enjoyment of being out there and being the best I can be. I have no doubt at all that all my efforts are also releasing some powerful endorphins as I have a really positive approach to life at the moment and as I am taking part in RunUp2Christmas in aid of Mind this can only be a good thing as it highlights the clear link between exercise and improved mental health.

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Narrowing down my highlights of the week I would pick three of my runs out. On Sunday afternoon I had a lovely run, largely along the Leeds-Liverpool canal down from Nelson to Burnley. I have run part of the route before but carried on to a new section for me. The path was dusted with snow from overnight, as I set off from home there was the odd flake floating down, just over an hour later as I arrived back it was more like a blizzard. It was a really peaceful quiet run though away from the usual hub bub of the traffic and I’ll certainly be returning there and running along more of the canal in the future.

On Monday and Tuesday this week my children took part in their nativity plays at school, they were both superb, as were all the other kids to be fair. On Monday I ran after my daughter’s performance but it was getting late and to be honest I ran purely to keep the streak up. I decided then on Tuesday to use the window I had between finishing work and my son’s performance starting to complete my daily run. I knew that there was slight time pressure and so I didn’t hang around. As the vibrations passed by I felt good, and I got that feeling all runners probably experience when you know you are on for a quick time. As the sixth vibration shot through my wrist I took the opportunity to roll my sleeve up and glance at my watch, a 10k PB was there for the taking. And not just any PB. One of my stated aims for 2018 was to run a sub 45 minute 10k as my PB stood at 45.11, well after Tuesday I am going to have to revise that goal as my new 10k PB is 44.06.

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Tonight’s run was my final highlight for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I am completing the RunUp2Christmas virtual race with my running wife Laura. We live nowhere near each other but had planned that for our runs today we would co-ordinate and both go all Home Alone to add some fun, Merry Christmas Ya Filthy Animals!! Secondly, I also decided to run up to a local house which has put on a fantastic Christmas light display (not sure my photo does it justice) in aid of a local stroke charity. I’d been looking forward to my visit and it didn’t disappoint, as well as the lights they had Christmas music playing and even a snack stall for visitors, I chucked a donation in the collection bucket and wended my way home.

At the end of day 15 of #REDDecember then I have completed 101 miles which I am thrilled with. I am being backed by some tremendously supportive people who I can’t thank enough and am determined to keep going even if the conditions are proving somewhat tricky.

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#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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