Thinking ahead to Birmingham

The first full year of my life as a committed runner is coming to a close. Although I’ve been running now for just over two years since deciding to get up and do something in my late mother’s memory, this is the first year I have focused on entering several different races, as opposed to just one as I did in 2013. That race, the Great North Run, was a life-changing event. It took me from a charitable runner to becoming a serious runner, someone who would embed this activity into their day-to-day routine, someone who would relish not just one race but several races in quick succession. As I arrive at my last race of the year, the Great Birmingham Run, I consider here what the last year has made of me, and my thoughts and concerns going ahead into Sunday’s race.

While GNR ’13 was no doubt one of the most amazing experiences of my life, it was unquestionable that becoming a committed runner would mean not all my experiences could compare to that one. Initially, I had some incredible achievements – lopping 4:44 off my half marathon PB at Liversedge was unforgettable for leaving me on my knees at the finish in sheer disbelief at what I’d just managed. Going under 40 minutes over the 10K distance at Bradford in March was another achievement, and I was continuing feeling the positive vibes. I could not have imagined, however, the crash I would feel when a wrong turn caused by a marshalling error undermined my race plan at Huddersfield, a feeling not even tempered by my then best ever finish – fourth. That thing called the running ‘mojo’ was seriously not swinging, but it would go from feeling somewhat melancholy to glorious again after unexpectedly bettering that result on the sands of Blackpool Beach over 10,000 metres – third. After falling over on the pavement in June, I resumed running again in early July and worked my way into shape to go for a sub-1:25:00 half marathon goal. Only to be sabotaged by a farmer who allegedly removed a signpost, extinguishing any hope of achieving that goal around the hills of Halifax and along the banks of the Calder Hebble Navigation.

Since then, running has been rather hit and miss. As I turned 30 I was struck down with a cold that kept me out for a week or so, and I lost a bit of momentum prior to taking part in the Stainland Trail – a race which I enjoyed, moreso for not pressuring myself into chasing a time – but I honestly felt like my fitness was down. And as I approached my last long run before Birmingham, I was starting to feel aches in my lower joints again – which the long run would exacerbate. 12.66 miles on Sunday October 5th was what I needed in one sense, but the soreness I felt in the days afterwards through aches and even my susceptible knees was enough to have me feeling a bit conservative as the race approached. I vowed when I won the competition to win entry into Birmingham that I wouldn’t risk injury to jeopardise the biggest running event of my year, and indeed the culminating one. So you can imagine what a spanner in the works this feels like at the minute.

All this has brought to the fore a mix of emotions and feelings as race day approaches. On the one hand, excitement. The day for which I’ve waited so long is almost here, and I can’t wait to feel the buzz of a mass participation event once again. Me, and my comrade for the weekend, heading down to the West Midlands to blitz around the streets of Birmingham. On another, trepidation – are my knees up to an assault on my personal best? And is it really worth it? Following the last week of running, I would tentatively say ‘yes’. I have pledged to ease up on the running for a while after Birmingham as I look to fine tune my condition ahead of my first marathon, the Greater Manchester Marathon, in April next year. I want to work on my swimming and on my all around core fitness, which I believe will set me in greater stead for the rigours of marathon training. I’m sensible enough not to go silly in pursuit of a goal that is realistically achievable beyond this race, and indeed right now what I think is the dreaded illotobial band syndrome is looming large over me. It’s forced me to rest up and recuperate rather than keep fine tuning, and it’s enough to give me reservations about going crazy on Sunday. But the extended break I plan to take after Sunday allows me time to recuperate, rest, recover and on the days that I do run, to simply enjoy it.

One other fillip to this race is my decision to bring my fundraising for the MND Association to a close with this race. My reason is simple enough in that I haven’t been able to dedicate enough time to promote the campaign beyond social media and as one person I saw on Facebook recently describe, I’m seemingly hitting the same people again and again to fund what has largely become a hobby. Fundraising has gone terribly for the most part – £50 raised this year until last week which even with my employers matching represented a meagre £100 a year after raising nearly a dozen times as much. But a generous donation from the family of my brother’s girlfriend boosted my kitty up to £150, which matched will equal a minimum now of £300. That donation rescued it from being a damp squib, and I really feel I can look forward in that regard with a monkey off my back. With it being the last one as a fundraiser, I really want to go out all guns blazing and trying my hardest for the charity. If I could break my PB in the colours of the charity it would make me so happy, and I know my mother will be watching me every step of the way. Indeed, I’m sure she would be proud of each and everyone who has ever supported me in donations, raising awareness and indeed with encouraging words. So thank you everyone who falls into that category, because you’ve all made it an incredible journey. You can still donate by heading here: http://justgiving.com/Peter-Clegg2

Tomorrow I board the train with my mate and former work colleague who is sharing this prize with me. On Sunday we’re going to rock the Midlands and beyond the sweat, the pain, and the banter, the glory awaits at the finish line.

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