Marathon Training – Week 10 CYPRUS HALF MARATHON

This was a run that I have been looking forward to for so long. Sue and I had registered for the half marathon and booked our stay in Cyprus a year ago and decided to make it a mini holiday. Our week in Paphos and running in the event has always been in my mind during the past twelve months. Even during the time after my cycling accident I focused on this event. It helped to keep me going through some very difficult times. I am delighted to say it did not disappoint.

Not having been to Cyprus before I was unsure what to expect. We had been given assurances that it was a lovely place, everyone speaks English, and they drive on the left hand side of the road. Despite this I was still feeling nervous. Having to deal with airports and flying and transfers has never been my idea of fun. It is safe to say I need not have worried. Following our arrival and settling into the villa Sue and I went for a run – three miles in the warmth and the sunshine. I felt at home straight away. This was running for pleasure and I wanted more.

The bonus of being a member of a running club is that there are always familiar faces to see. Katie Tucker, https://cleancoachkatie.com/#StrongerFitterFaster had initially suggested a group of clients take part and then with collaboration the Redway Runners club,http://www.redwayrunners.com/ had made this event a club trip. There were around one hundred members in and around Paphos. We met regularly in the evenings for social get togethers. I felt at home. This is what running is about.

The half marathon was due to take place on Sunday. During the evening on Saturday I started to feel very anxious and nervous. My hands started to shake. What was going on? Thoughts started to appear in my head – “I am going to struggle.” “This is the longest I have run in over six months.” “It is going to be a slow run.” “I will not finish this.” ” Why am I doing it?” “How am I going to cope?”

I had to sit down in the dark and collect my thoughts. Focus on breathing, stop getting frustrated, think of alternatives. This is when after a few minutes positives started to appear – “This is a run for fun, not for speed.” “I can do this, take it easy.” “Friends have offered to help – Daria and Amy will support.” “Take it as a leisurely and social run.” “Enjoy the sunshine and company.” This worked. I started to feel better. My hands had stopped shaking. I felt calm and relaxed.

Sunday morning arrived. Off to the start of the runs. The sun was shinning and the temperature early in the morning was warm. Surprisingly I was not feeling overly nervous or anxious. I was looking forward to the run. I was feeling confident. The atmosphere at the start was buzzing. So many from the club were attending. There were four events. The marathon, the half marathon, a 10km run, and a 5km run. Sue had opted to do the 10km run and this started after the marathon and half marathons had set off. There was a lot of chat, good lucks, and other felicitations.

It was getting very noisy and a great deal of bustle. Sue and I needed a little time to sit and relax. We went and sat on the quay side and dangled our legs over the edge. Just a few moments to collect out thoughts and relax.

Time was ticking on and the start of the half marathon was looming. We had a hug and a kiss and wished each other good luck and off I went to find Daria and Amy, my support team. This was to be Amy’s first half marathon and was running with Daria for support, so for them to offer me support was exceptionally kind. It was obviously very busy at the start line and it was fantastic to see so many familiar faces from the club. I found my support team and we had a chat whilst waiting for the start. After a few years of running I have come to learn that it is always good to have a race strategy. So on this occasion my strategy was – Take it easy, do not push hard, take into consideration the temperature and the hot sun, pause at water stations as required, but above all ENJOY IT!

The race started. Off we went up an incline out of the quay side. I was following Daria and Amy. I was surprised. Normally it takes a little time for my legs to warmed up and for me to get into a comfortable pace but I felt comfortable straight away. Was it the sun? Was it the location? Was it the atmosphere? I do not know but I felt good right from the start. I managed to blow Sue a kiss as we made our way up the incline and then it was down and along Poseidonos (the sea front). There was a lot of cheering and encouragement from the spectators. This run was already feeling good.

We continued running with the masses along the sea front. Then the runners started to thin out as they found their pace. The temperature was getting warmer and there was some concern in my head thinking “Can I continue all the way to the finish line?” Daria and Amy were fantastic. Daria kept checking on me almost every mile. Amy kept going. We passed water stations taking on water without stopping. Both Daria and Amy offered me sweets throughout the run for energy, but I had a stash of fruit pastilles in my pocket which helped. After a while we were running out the back of Paphos on dual carriageways. The surface was good (smooth and very few obstructions).

Half way round and we were all still going at a comfortable pace. The sun was climbing in the sky and the temperature was getting hotter. Some of the stretches on the run were ‘out and back’ so you got to see other runners heading back towards you. This provided excellent opportunities to shout encouragement to each other. I was feeling good. The legs were going well and not aching. Daria was leading our little team with Amy following. I followed Amy.

Little did I know at the time but Sue was heading for the finish in the 10km. All I can say is she was amazing. At the start Sue had a lot of doubts and was feeling negative. This had been brought on by her bad hip and difficulty in running (frequently Sue runs in pain). Despite this she flew across the finish line, and I missed it. Absolutely fantastic. Thankfully others were there to catch it on camera. I am totally in awe. Despite all the problems Sue still did it and with flying feet.

We were now well passed the half way mark and were heading back into Paphos. I was still feeling good and ideas started to pop into my head. “Shall I go for it?” “Shall I push hard?” “Lets speed up.” Ridiculous now that I look back but I was very tempted. All I can say is that I am pleased I stuck with my strategy. Daria was still leading us, Amy was still going strong and had not stopped once, and I was feeling good. “Lets not spoil it. Stick to the plan. It is hot. Don’t be stupid!” I told myself. I offered a few words of encouragement to Amy which also fortified my own thoughts. Daria kept checking on me and all was going well. Soon we were back on the front heading to the harbour and the finish line. The support from spectators was great. There was a lot of applauding and cheering. This was pure enjoyment and this is why I run. Because I enjoy it.

We were on the last half mile with a little incline up and around on to the quay side and the finish line. This was exhilarating. Cheers, shouts, applause, and so many spectating. Around the last corner and down to the finish. Amy in front, Daria closely behind, with me following. I caught a glimpse of Sue and blew her a kiss. With the cheers and applause we crossed the finish line. WOW! That was fantastic. I loved it.

The medals were handed out and congratulations exchanged. We had done it, without stopping once. I was thrilled. My first half marathon for over six months and I kept going without stopping with the support and encouragement from Daria and Amy. And for Amy to complete her first half without stopping on such a hot day is amazing.

One of the perks of the Cyprus Marathon event is the free cold beer for the runners at the finish line. I can assure you that this was greatly appreciated. Running on hot days can cause some serious dehydration. What better way to quench your thirst and rehydrate?

Looking back this run was everything I had hoped for. I am glad I did not push hard. If I had I firmly believe I would have become a cropper. This was not about ‘time’. This was about running for fun. The atmosphere was great, the event very well organised, and the support was excellent. Will I do it again? Definitely YES.

A huge thank you to Daria and Amy for supporting and guiding me around the course. A huge thank you to my wonderful wife for her support and encouragement and a massive WELL DONE for her 10km. This is one run that I have many happy memories and will always look back on with great fondness.

We had a few days in Pafos after the event for sightseeing and relaxing. It is a lovely place and we shall return. During our few days I was mentioned in the Redway Runners club press release for my half marathon. This made me feel very humble yet honoured and very proud.

Why do I run? I run because I enjoy it. I run for fun. This event delivered exactly what I was after. Bring on Pafos March 2020.

Marathon Training – Week 5. Big Decision Time!

I have to be honest with myself and admit that my running is not going to plan. With the poor weather I have found that it has a serious detrimental effect on me when I go running. This past week has been difficult and disappointing, including a sad event that totally upset Sue and I. At the end of week a big decision had to be made.

Monday = Rest Day. No running today. Following yesterdays (Sunday) failure to go out in the ice and snow I was still feeling negative and my mood was definitely on a downward turn. Decided to make the most of not going out for a run. A short workout with the weights at home and this was sufficient.

Tuesday = Easy Run for 4 Miles. No running again. Just do not feel up for it. Enthusiasm has gone and still lacking confidence to go out in the cold. Therefore I wrote a blog piece having a moan about my situation (see Marathon Training – Week 4).

Wednesday = Active Rest Day. Became fed up with my attitude so I went for a run. Decided it was make or break. The weather had improved. It was a warmer temperature, little wind, and the ice and snow had melted. My decision was to go out without any plan for distance or pace – just run for a set time limit (up to 1 hour). As always it was a struggle to get going but once I warmed up found it to be enjoyable. Distance = 5.05miles. Pace = 8:51miles/min. Although there had been no running for a few days my feelings were upbeat and I was happy with the result. Attended Core Session in the evening. This was a good workout and worked up a sweat. Enjoyed the session. Does this mean my enthusiasm is returning?

RIP Sweeny. 07.02.2019
Sweeny. We miss him.

Thursday = Interval Session. No running today. A little workout at home with weights but due to unforeseen reasons unable to get out for a run. Today has been awful. Our adorable pet cat, Sweeny, has been very sick during the past couple of weeks. He has got a viral infection and has not improved in health. He has not been eating and has lost a lot of weight. Today I took him to the vet in the morning but despite being given a drip feed there was no improvement. Advice was he was not going to get better. After much thought and consultation with the vet Sue and I agreed that it would be kinder to have him put to sleep. This was heart breaking and both Sue and I were incredibly upset. Sweeny was put to sleep and we brought him home wrapped up in his old blanket. He is now laid to rest in the garden next to our other old pet cat. We miss him dearly.

Friday = Rest Day. No running. Weather absolutely miserable (raining and very windy). Laid Sweeny to rest in the garden in the pouring rain. To be honest, today has been dreadful.

Saturday = Easy Run 3 miles + Co Lead the BEGINNERS GROUP + CROSS COUNTRY RUN – CAMPBELL PARK. Today was gong to be a busy day. Disaster – Sue and I ran a mile warm up prior to the parkrun without any serious issues. We then started running the parkrun but Sue’s hip started playing up and my head was all over the place. I felt very unsteady on my feet. We managed a mile but some of this was walking. We agreed to abort the parkrun. Walked back to the car with some difficulty and agreed to come straight home. We offered our apologies to the Beginners Group (Annette) and came home. Both of us feeling disappointed and fed up. Distance = 2 miles. Pace = 13mins/mile. Today has been a big failure. Could things get any worse.

Sunday = Run 13 miles at steady pace. OLYMPIC PARK HALF MARATHON. I had previously registered to take part in the Olympic Park Half Marathon in London but following recent events I decided I could not do it. Following yesterdays debacle I decided not to run the half marathon. The weather was cold, windy, and wet and I knew that I just could not manage the distance following my recent history. Apologies were offered to friends along with good luck and best wishes for their running. Sue and I decided to go out for an easy one hour just to move the legs and get fresh air. It was raining a little and cold but we wrapped up and went for it. We achieved a 5.3 miles distance in the planned one hour. NO PRESSURE – just take it easy. Distance = 5.3miles. Pace = 11:28mins/mile.

All in all this week has not been good. I have to be sensible and realistic. For the past two weeks I have struggled on most of the runs for one reason or another. I am not achieving the running distance that is expected with my training plan. During the next few weeks leading up to the marathon there is to be a lot of training runs, but, the weather is not likely to be in our favour. It is BIG DECISION TIME.

Do I run the Milton Keynes Marathon in May knowing that it is unlikely that I will be ready? Obviously the answer is NO. Therefore I am not running the marathon. I will run the half marathon as 13 miles is more achievable than 26 miles. I am disappointed but I have to be realistic. A marathon run can wait. There will be plenty of other opportunities.

Race the Train, East Lancashire Railway, June 2019
Race the Train 2018

Race the Train. Meanwhile I have consoled myself by registering a place in the Race the Train run in June. It is a ten mile run across country alongside a steam railway. Absolute joy. I ran this last year with Kerry and Chris and thoroughly enjoyed the event. Bring it on!

Marathon Training – Week Four. Where’s My Enthusiasm Gone?

This is not going to be an upbeat or positive account of what has been going on. I will start by stating I am struggling to get out running. I hurts me to say that I am losing my love for running. The past few days have been a struggle to get some enthusiasm and go out. The weather has not been in our favour with the wintry conditions – cold temperatures, snow, ice, and wind – and this plays havoc with me when running.

I will try to explain later in this blog but I have found that following my accident and head injury when running in the cold and windy conditions I am struggling. I must accept that there will be times when the training plan is not going to be followed. There is a need for me to adapt and change the plan depending on the situation and circumstances.

Monday – Rest Day. No running today. After yesterday’s effort need time to rest and recover. I ran 10 miles with the club and ended up feeling light headed and unsteady and needed support from others. Today is about taking it easy therefore it was to be a few chores around the house and write some blog.

Tuesday – Easy Run – Run 6.1km (4 miles). I am disappointed. Not felt the mood for a run today. It is cold out there and there is a breeze blowing which makes it feel colder than it is. Have I lost my enthusiasm for running following the weekend? Where has my confidence gone?

Wednesday – Active Rest Day.Today is sunny but cold. Decided to run for 4 miles. Ended doing 6 miles as I felt good and happy. Very pleasant run. Admittedly my legs felt stiff at first but after the first mile they soon loosened and warmed up. Took it nice and easy with no pressure for time. There was no wind and it was good to see the sunshine. Distance = 6.1 miles. Pace = 9:26mins/miles. I did not attend the Core Session in the evening due to having to collect our cat from the vets (he has not been well during the past two weeks).

Thursday – Intervals. I know the plan said intervals and I sort of did this. Went out with Sue and covered just over 4 miles. There were some inclines to contend with (hill intervals?). It was cold and with a strong breeze. This messed with my head and had an effect with my running. It was a real struggle at times to keep going. Distance = 4.1 miles. Pace = 11:40mins/mile. This was followed with a PT session with Clean Coach Katie. It felt like a good workout with focus on upper body strength and balance. Bonus of working out in a gym – it is warm and there is no wind.

Friday – Rest Day. It snowed overnight. The ground is white, slippery, and wet. Decided not to run as it is not worth the risk. Ended up walking to the doctors surgery for an appointment and found the walk quite enjoyable although it was very cold. Distance = 2.6 miles. Pace = 22mins/mile.

Saturday – Easy 3.1 miles. No parkrun today – cancelled due to ice and snow. Went for a run with Sue to test the paths and found it very difficult in places. Ice and snow do not make good running conditions. The cold air also made my head feel fuzzy. I am beginning to see a pattern – if it is cold and/or windy I struggle to run as it effects my head. I am becoming fearful that I will fall over and bang my head again. This would not be good. It is clearly influencing my confidence. Distance = 2.5 miles. Pace = 13:46mins/mile.

This was followed by the Beginners Session. We ran around the cricket pitch at Campbell Park. This was not easy in the snow, but it provided more grip than running on the paths which were icy. There was a lot of stopping and starting on my part as I was time keeping the intervals and shouting to everyone “run” and “walk”. Distance = 2.5 miles. Pace = 20mins/mile.

Sunday – Long Steady Distance Run, 13 miles. No running. It is cold and breezy and still icy in places. I have lost my confidence to run when the weather is not good. I am fed up running in the cold and wind to feel light headed and unsteady. The best way I can describe it is like running when drunk. Your vision goes blurred, it is difficult to move in a straight line, and your balance is messed up. It is extremely difficult to run when feeling this way. This happens only when running in the cold and wind. Thankfully I do not experience this at any other times. It is strange but it clearly has a negative effect on me. My confidence is disappearing. Overall, I am not feeling happy with the situation. On top of this I have a half marathon to run this coming weekend.

Conclusion – BE POSITIVE. Look to the future and the summertime with the lovely warm sunny days……………………

Marathon Training – Week Three. What went wrong?

This was my third week into the marathon training plan. I was feeling optimistic after the Fred Hughes 10 miles last weekend, although my legs were feeling stiff.

The week started with a rest day on Monday so I did exactly that. I took the day leisurely and did some chores I the home but felt that I needed to do something. I should not run therefore my decision was to do a little homework. Stretches and some exercises using weights worked well and satisfied my need for activity on a rest day. Legs were still feeling a little stiff but better than first thing in the morning.

Tuesday the plan said an easy 4 miles. Not wanting to disappoint myself I headed out with tight calf muscles. After a little warm up muscles started to feel OK. It was an easy run out and back. The temperature was cold,
3° C, and yet it was a sunny morning. There was still some frost and ice on the paths so I proceeded with care. The final distance was 4.1 miles at a pace of 9:04mins/mile. I was happy with this.

Wednesday was an active rest day. The plan was to attend the evening core training session. Unfortunately I did not attend. For some reason I was just not feeling up for it.

Thursday arrived and today was interval session along with physical training session. Intervals have never been my favourite and my decision was to run to the PT session and then run home. The route was down and up hill so I reassured myself that this would achieve a similar aim of the intervals. So I ran to PT, had a good session focusing on upper body strength and balance, and then ran home. I must admit that ran is a bit of an exaggeration. It was more of a jog. Total distance was 4.3 miles at 10:00mins/miles. Nice and gentle.

Friday was a rest day. Who am I to argue with my training plan. Chill out and take it easy before the weekend running hits me.

As always we ran the local parkrun on Saturday morning. Runners from the running club were doing pacing so if you were eager it was a good opportunity to aim for a personal best. Sue and I, agreed that we would take it easy. My plan stated an easy 3.1 miles. I am not a slave to my training plan, but it sounded like a good idea. After all I had a long run to do the following day. We completed the parkrun in 33:50, distance of 3.1 miles at a pace of 10:40mins/miles. I was content. Sue was also content. Following this we had the Beginners Course to attend so of we went.

The Beginners Course went without a hitch. Plenty turned up, despite it being a cold winters morning, and we headed out for short intervals after the warm up. Annette and I co lead this course and Annette asked me to take the lead this week. I have to say that I did enjoy this. The group are very up beat and chatty and they all seem to be getting along very well. This makes it a positive and pleasing experience leading a course. After the session we went for our compulsory coffee, cake, and debrief (chat).

Along came Sunday. The plan was to run a long steady distance run of eleven miles. It was a cold and windy morning, although the sun was trying to shine in between the clouds. I run with the local club along with many others so I met up with Annette and Simon to run to the Stadium MK where the club run started from. This gave me an early three miles warm up prior to the main run and it went well. Legs were feeling good and I felt warmed up, although the wind was cold. Unfortunately on arrival at the Stadium MK there was a good fifteen minutes of hanging around waiting for everyone to congregate and the run to start. It did not take long for the cold to set in. My fingers soon started to feel numb and regretfully I was wearing shorts so the legs were feeling the cold. A friend very kindly lent me some gloves to help warm up. I took solace with the thought that as soon as we started running I would warm up and all would be OK. Not sure why but once we started the run the warm up never appeared. I was feeling frozen. Although my legs were feeling alright my hands and arms were numb, my face was feeling pretty much the same, me eyes were watering, and my ears were also numb. I persevered. So long as the legs were feeling good I could keep going.

Unfortunately the symptoms started to play havoc with my head. Following the serious head injury I received some months ago my sense of balance can be upset in extreme conditions. This I have found when running in the cold. With the cold, the wind, and the exertion my head started to get a little out of sorts. I noticed that I was starting to weave across the paths and in front of other runners. The only way I can describe this is “running when drunk”. It is not easy. The only way I found I could keep going was to focus on the person directly in front of me and hope that they kept going in a straight line. This worked for a while but it was noticed by some others that I was clearly struggling. Meera kept an eye on me and raised the alarm. Annette and Simon guided me back to the finish. At the finish I struggled to stand up. My head was spinning and I was all over the place. Annette and Sam carried me into McDonalds where finally I could sit down, relax, rest, and warm up. I never want to experience this again.

On reflection I have learnt some valuable lessons from this run. I also owe many thanks to friends who looked after me and helped me get to the end.

When it is cold – wrap up. Keep warm. It is easy to strip of layers when you get hot rather than try and keep warm by running. When it is cold wear long leggings and gloves. Wear a suitable hat and buff. Dress suitably for the weather conditions and temperature.

This run has knocked me back. I ended with a 10 miles distance at 10:08 pace, but it was a real struggle and battle to keep going. I gratefully appreciate the help and reassuring comments I have received since, but, I should not have put myself in that situation. Lesson learnt.

Bring on week four of marathon training. I hope it is more positive….

MARATHON TRAINING – WEEK TWO

As time passes by the training continues. At the time of writing this there are 104 days to go until the Milton Keynes Marathon takes place. Sounds like a lot of time. This is over three months or fourteen weeks to go. It is, however, surprising how quickly time seems to pass. I have several events to take part in during this period and I am looking forward to each of them. Everyone will be an adventure.

Meanwhile reflecting on the past week I can say it has been interesting and ended in excitement.

Monday – Rest Day. The first day of the week is planned to be a rest day. Having just ran a long distance on the Sunday I firmly believe that both the body and the mind need time to recover and relax. Therefore the plan is to put your feet up, sit back, and relax. REST = NO RUNNING. This is an excellent opportunity to sit at the computer and do “homework”, e.g. write the blog and chill out. This week it did not entirely go according to plan. Not sure what happened but did not write my blog. Did some “unofficial (top secret – shush, don’t tell anyone) work” from home along with other things.

Tuesday – Easy Run. First day of the week to put on the trainers and run. Target on the plan is for an easy three miles run. It was a nice day, cold but not raining and with sunny spells. I went up and around the boundary of a local golf course (the Windmill Hill Golf Course) and got a bit carried away. I ended up doing 4 miles and a bit too speedy. It felt good but a lesson I keep learning is that I have got to be more disciplned with my running. Distance = 4.2 miles. Pace = 8:32 mins/mile.

Wednesday – Active Rest Day. Every Wednesday evening I attend a core training session led by Clean Coach Katie. I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoy these. They are good exercise focusing on the core and we tend to have a good laugh whilst working out. This week, however, there was no core session for me due to a run meeting that evening (Redway Runners Move on up to Half Marathon). Along with other runners from the club I am co leading a planned course to help and assist runners to move up to a half marathon. The target event is the Milton keynes Half Marathon that occurs on the same date as the marathon. Other activity for the day involved some stretching (whilst doing the ironing), some weight training, and working up a sweat cleaning the oven (and replacing the oven light). Surprising how hot you get with your head in an oven.

Thursday – Intervals. This week was hill repeats. Intervals are my least favourite type of run. I cannot explain why but they just seem like a chore and take the enjoyment out of running. Perhaps it is because they are a disciplined run (a set time, pace, distance, etc). Or is it because they are hard work? Anyway the day was a nice sunny day although a cold temperature (approximately 3°C). I went out late in the morning and started with a short warm up. Then the hard work started. It was four repeats up and down Wincanton Hill (a local road on the estate I live on with a ½ mile distance with a climb of 80 feet). Admittedly it was a struggle at first but got into it and (dare I say it) I enjoyed the run. Followed by a short cool down run. Distance = 4.2 miles. Pace =  9:05mins/mile.

In the afternoon there was a little extra run. I arranged to meet Sue (my wife) in central Bletchley. I initially thought about getting a bus into the centre of town but decided against it. It was still a nice sunny day. Therefore I ran into Bletchley centre to meet Sue. Again I enjoyed the run and got some starnge looks from people who were walking around the high street when they saw me running in shorts on a cold sunny winters day. I wondered if people from Bletchley had ever seen someone running before? Distance = 2.4 miles. Pace = 8:51mins/mile.

Physical Training – My wonderful wife had gifted me for my birthday last year a course of physical training with Clean Coach Katie –
https://cleancoachkatie.com – I had attended one session at the end of August 2018. Then there was a nasty cycling accident at the beginning of September which resulted with me receiving a fractured skull (another story for the blog). This was to be my first PT session following the accident. My nerves were kicking in – I was feeling apprehensive and was concerned how the session would progress and how would I cope. I need not have worried. Katie was very understanding and the session was good. A couple of times I struggled with my balance due to the nature of the exercise at the time but overall I felt good and there were no adverse effects. So I can safely say that I am looking forward to the next workout. Katie also provided some advice regarding my training plan. Did you know that recovery runs should take place within twenty four hours of a long run? I was not aware. All mine were two days after. My plan has been amended. Recovery runs have now become “easy runs”.

Friday – Rest Day. Easy does it. Rest up and get ready for running at the weekend.

Saturday – Easy Run. As always we ran the local parkrun in Milton Keynes. This was an easy going parkrun with Sue. I was saving the legs for the following day (Sunday) as there was a 10 miles distance to run. The parkrun took us 36 minutes to finish. Nice and gentle without any pressure. Distance = 3.1 miles. Pace = 11:25mins/mile. The parkrun was followed by the Beginners Group, which I am co-leading with Annette. We appear to have recruited a great bunch of enthusiastic runners. It has been noticed that they are very lively and good humoured. This week was about running for a minute with a minutes rest for six repeats. Not a moan or a grumble was received. We started with the compulsory warm up and ended with the cool down. The last interval was for one and a half minutes and eveyone did it. This was all about just starting to run – easy going, no pressure for speed or distance. Distance =  0.7 miles. Pace = 9:08mins/mile.

Sunday – Fred Hughes 10 miles run in St Albans. This as my first event for this year and also my first event following the nasty cycling accident. It was a cold day, 1°C, a sunny frosty morning with very little wind.

I was feeling nervous, and excited. I had run nine miles last weekend but for some reason when it is an event my nerves still start playing up. I have been running for over three years and have taken part in many events but it is always the same. Then there is the excitement. Any event I take part in excitement kicks in. I see it as my body and mind getting ready for the run. The course is a tough and hilly route around the country lanes around St Albans.

Fortunately there were several of us from the running club taking part so there was plenty of support and encouragement. We made our way to the start line, a good ten mnute walk. It was a very congested start to the race. There was a narrow path to follow with many runners jostling for space. It took a good mile before runners started to space out and it took a while for me to get into the run. My head was a bit out of focus for a while but after a few minutes it settled and I got into the run and enjoyed it. It was hard work to keep running up hills but felt good coming down hill. Running up hill my thoughts were “take it easy, don’t push too hard, maintain and even cadence, shorten the stride”. Down hill was “lengthen the stride, use gravity to assist, keep my arms low and wide to help with balance, don’t get carried away”.  The unexpected bonus for me was that I attained a new personal best for 10 miles = 01:30:09 (three minutes quicker than my last PB). This was not my intention as I had viewed this purely as a training run but I am delighted. I was worn out at the end and took a little time to focus and recover but gladly and proudly received my new T Shirt for the Fred Hughes 10 Miles 2019.

Distance = 10 miles. Average pace = 8:55 mins/mile. Very pleased with the result.

I now wonder – what if it was a relatively flat course? Could I have gone quicker? I paused for thirty seconds at the water stations to take on hydration. If I kept running what time would I have achieved?

Questions pop ino your head when you analyse a run. Again, this is a problem I have. I am my own worst critic……

Target distance for the week was 19 miles. Actual distance for the week was 24 miles.

TRAINING PLANS FOR RUNNING – WHY?

Why have a training plan? This is a question that has been asked on many occasions. It was a question that I asked in the early days of my running.

I asked the question to my oracle (advisor and run and social manager, loving, supportive, and adoring wife) and her response was quick and decisive – “You can’t just rock up to a race and run it well without one”.

This made me think… How many times have I competed in an event and not been happy with my result? Why did this happen? What went wrong? On numerous occasions I did not have a training plan. I just turned up assuming I was fit, prepared, and ready. Why did I think this way? Because I did a lot of running.

Liverpool Rock n Roll Marathon May 2017

I used to think that if you were going to take part in an event you just went out running and gradually built your strength to complete the distance. But how often do you run? How do you keep track of what you have done? How do you know how far and how often you run? Do you run different types of running? Can you see any progress in your running? Is it just about running or are there other activities you should do? How do I fit it in with my family, work, and social life?

There are many questions we ask when registering for an event. Whether it is a 5km parkrun, or 26.2 miles marathon, or 100 miles ultra. Many questions come into our minds.

Bournemouth Marathon October 2017

This is when a training plan comes into good effect. It helps by answering many of our questions. It informs us about what we should be aiming for when training for an event. It provides structure to our training. It helps and supports us when we have an event to compete in. A good training plan provides variety to your runs. It makes us accountable. It enables us to plan our lives around our running (or should it be to plan our running around our lives?).

Something to bear in mind – we are all individual, we are all different. There are so many training plans available it is tempting to go with a general plan for the distance you are running. These are readily accessible on the internet and in books and magazines. I am not knocking them and have used them myself in the past. What they fail to deliver is individualism. They usually assume we are all the same and capable of running the same distances on the same days. Last year I followed a generic online Asics marathon training plan and I must admit it took the fun out of running for me.

Milton Keynes Marathon May 2018

Most of the training in the preceding weeks occurred during miserable and very cold weather. I had followed a nutrition and hydration plan to get me ready. The marathon took place on an unusually very hot day in May and half way round I was ready to quit. At the end my legs were like jelly and I could hardly stand up. I swore I would never run a marathon again. At the time I just thought that I had done everything expected and required but still could not run a marathon. This was going to be my third and my last marathon (or so I thought at the time).

This is where a tailored made individual plan comes into great use. It is designed for you, not for everyone else. It considers your lifestyle, running experience, your pace. It helps with your routine and structures your training runs. A structured training plan will ensure that every run you do has a purpose, whether it’s a hard workout or simply an easy recovery run. It will also encourage us to do runs working on our weakness that we do not enjoy (in my case this is interval running and speed runs). This also adds the variety to your running.

Current Training Plan for the 2019 Milton Keynes Marathon

My own current training plan is one which has been designed for me by me. I am not an expert, but I have sought guidance and researched training plans in some depth. It is a plan that has been developed overtime with the knowledge and experiences that I have acquired. I am currently waiting on some feedback from a very trusted friend, but I am confident it delivers what I need for the training for the Milton Keynes Marathon in May this year (after I had sworn never to run another marathon).

A few friends have asked me for some help and advice, and I have felt honoured and privileged to create training plans for them to prepare for events. To date there has been no moans or complaints and they have completed the events. It makes me feel proud and appreciative that they trust me for help and advice, but I am prouder for my friends who worked hard and have crossed the finish line. I feel this will be the subject of a future blog…. mentoring.

My biggest problem is probably being too ambitious in my own training runs by entering several events en route to the marathon. On top of this I may need to re think the planned interval runs – make them more varied to help build speed and strength.

The three marathons that I have run have their own stories. The first in Liverpool was fun, the second in Bournemouth I hit the wall and my legs gave way, and the third in Milton Keynes I just wanted to quit half way round. I look back and analyse my training and the runs and just pull them apart and criticize them.

Maybe this is a problem I have. I am my own worst critic…..