Hello everyone and a Happy New Year to you all. Hope all you fellow runners reading this enjoy a prosperous and injury-free 2014, and to those of you who don’t run, maybe you’ll be joining us this year? 😀
2013 was a transformative year in my life. My decision to get back into running follow my mother’s death from motor neurone disease and subsequently the legacy effect of the London Olympics and Paralympics kicked up a gear thanks to one event – The 2013 Great North Run. I don’t need to go into how much that race meant – there’s several posts dedicated to that if you want to reminisce with me! But it truly confirmed to me that running is now in my blood. It courses through my veins and I want to savour it as long as I remain fit, healthy, and alive. This means that 2014 now becomes a more important year, as it now marks my first full year as a serious amateur runner.
Although still limited financially, I will seek to profit from being wise with my money in terms of gear, and carefully selective of which races I enter. I will seek to maximise any opportunity I can get and to make this as progressive a year as possible. Particularly as I’m heading towards the big 3-0 this year.
In order to make good on that last sentence, my New Year resolutions are built around athletic pursuits, some directly, some indirectly. They are not graded particularly in terms of importance although the very first one to me is critical.
The last two or three years have not been kind to me in terms of my sleep patterns. Although this began by the odd late night of gaming – including one ridiculous pursuit to complete Gears of War 3 which finished with me at awe at its finale at 3:30am, while the little ones were only a few months old too – it couldn’t have been a precursor for what was to follow. Last year, I’d be lucky to remember aside from the excursions to Cardiff and Aldbrough, where my kids slept remarkably well for their age, at to Newcastle, where I got a good near seven hours on a really hard bed in Newcastle University’s Sports Hall. Other than that, most of my good nights of sleep will have come unquestionably when I’ve slept in, or the odd occasion I’ve had nothing to get up for. No work, or no run.
My kids and subsequently the level of housework to maintain are factors in this. Lately the kids’ bedtimes have reached new extremes – they take a while to get to sleep, only being two and full of excitement. By the time they’re asleep, its already very late and there’s the washing up to do, or some other chores to do. I cannot stand just to leave it be in the hope my wife will find a spare half hour to whip through it, and especially so when I’m on an 8:00am or 9:00am start at work. So some of the housework gets done, and more often than not, I’m in bed by about 1:00am or 2:00am. It shouldn’t take that long, but my decreasing energy on an evening means it does take longer. Common sense says I should leave it now and again but I want to ensure my family have reasonable conditions to live in.
So until they snap out of that I’m stuck, and balancing my level of sleep and getting up early for work and running is a tightrope I’ve walked a long time. So 2014 means it is time to try and put a stop to that. I’ve already downloaded a free sleep app on my phone and am now using it to track my sleep. The first two nights of the year yielded less than, then just over five hours sleep. I want this to reach at least six hours a night, that would mark a significant improvement. There’s only so many times I can get up with four hours sleep and bust out a fast and productive training run, and I don’t want to shuffle about like a zombie every morning. Things must change, not just for my running, but for the good of my health. Becoming an insomniac is a fear stalking me at the moment.
2. Learn to swim again
On a more positive note, swimming is something I would like to get into. Undoubtedly for me the Brownlee brothers, Alistair and Jonathan, were two of the athletes who got me inspired to run again, even though running is just one of the three disciplines of triathlon they do. They have got me inspired to want to do a triathlon one day. There’s just a couple of small catches to that. One is that I currently don’t own a road bike. The other is that I can’t swim. That second one is definitely a real kicker.
My reasons for wanting to take up swimming again are threefold. The biggest one really is that I want to do it for my kids and my family. They enjoy swimming and I do not. Hence why I didn’t swim at all between the ages of 15 and 28 and it was a skill I lost. I didn’t have much to begin with but I was of adequate ability and could have improved a lot. But it was lost along with the running while a teenager. And my detestment of it meant I never give it a second thought. I must shirk this irritance for the sake of my children, and be an inspiration to them to become excellent swimmers themselves. I also want to have as full an experience as I can with them. Secondly, it would allow me to crosstrain. I currently don’t possess a gym membership and swimming again is a good reason to do so. It also means I can crosstrain or use the treadmill or do weight training and these are all alternatives to running out on the road to get my exercise, and of course upper body training is very much required to working towards my third reason, which is of course, to prepare for triathlon. I won’t enter one this year, I don’t reckon so anyway – far too early – but it’s an aim I will meet.
2.5 would be to get a road bike. Now they’re quite expensive. But if I get one, I can work on cycling, something else I do little of, and maybe even prepare for a duathlon, which would be a nice way to prepare for the rigours of triathlon.
3. More races
I’ve set 2015 as the year I would like to do a marathon, and due to my lack of race experience, that’s a daunting goal at the moment. And training for one is a logistical headache because of the kid’s age and current routine. It might get easier when they’re a little older. And also, I love running! The buzz I got from the Great North Run means I want to do more races. I’ve decided I will aim for half marathons and possibly some 10K races this year, as these are my favourite distances now and will give me an excellent chance of understanding and perfecting my pace, my cadence, strategy and most importantly, my overall fitness and experience. By the end of the year not only should I have a number of medals and t-shirts – I’m in three races at the time of this post – but I should have a lot more experience, which should leave me clearer on whether I want to make the big step up next year.
4. Go faster
Being fast isn’t the be all and end all, but I’m of the age where it’s still possible for me to improve on my times. I do wonder if part of me does this out of slight regret for not following up my teenage interest in running, but I ran such a good race at GNR that the only thing I can do now is try to beat that time. So there are three goals I’ve set for myself within this particular resolution.
The least important of these, but by no means a minor achievement, would be to run a six minute mile. I did the Magic Mile in 6:09 and the closest I’ve got to that in a training run is 6:13. I can’t be far off. The 6:13 was a real slog but I also did a 6:15 in October for which I slowed down because of my ankles. Had I kept going I may have already broken the barrier. Well, it’s a nice little subgoal of sorts. The next on the list is a 40 minute 10K. This is undoubtedly the hardest as my current PB as a standalone 10K is 43:20. Within the GNR I managed to do a section in 40:47. It will be tough getting to this point but I’m determined. And although Blackpool Beach 10K will be my first beach race, if I can get a time of sub-40 I might sneak into top 10 territory for that race. So I can see myself putting in some speedwork training for that.
The big one though, and the one that means most from these targets, is the sub-1:30:00 half marathon. I believe I’m not far off this, as evidenced by my GNR performance, and plenty of people believe in me to be able to do it. If I can stay fit, train correctly and put in the shift on race day, anything is possible.
How much of a success my year is will depend on how well and how far I succeed with these targets. Therefore, I shall be publishing progress reports quarterly if not monthly to hopefully help keep to them. I won’t be shirking the last two but the first two are really something I must commit to. One thing is for sure though – 2014 will be a bonanza year, at the end of which I will have made progress in one way or another.