(This covers training between Monday 28th May-Sunday June 10th, 2018).

I was left behind by my wife and kids as they went away on a last minute holiday to the seaside, while I would remain in work after the bank holiday. As far as running was concerned, this would leave a lot of spare time outside of work. With relative freedom, I planned two runs out of Leeds – one to try the Kirkstall Trail Marathon route, and one to try a new run commute home, with no pressure to get home for a particular time in the latter case. First though, came Tuesday night training with my club.

I still had a bit of the Ilkley Trail Race in my legs as we started out on the track, doing 6 x 800 metres. I started out around 90 second pace (per lap) and didn’t get much beyond 80 seconds, maintaining a reasonable but sensible effort. The finale of this session was a mile on the track, something I hadn’t ever run as a measurable distance. I absolutely relished it and I delivered. I caught up each of my team-mates and by the start of the third lap, I had room to run freely at the front. I had to run wide of a few runners which meant my four laps of the track were completed in 5:26.5. But the devil in the detail was how fast I ran an actual mile in – 5:11.01. Basically my second fastest recorded mile ever! I judged it perfectly. The first two laps were run in around 5:20 mile pace and by the very end I had hit 4:44/mi – strewth!

My week took a different turn during the trail run the following day, when I came across a meadow, on the very route, populated by a number of cows, either side of the trail. I opted to slow down and carry on straight through. Calmly I went through when I heard a grumble, a snort behind me. I saw the next gate in front of me and I absolutely bolted. I turned around and a black cow, possibly even a young bull, was staring a hole through me. I got a move on after that, but it did shake me a little. I searched afterwards for advice on navigating a field – the general guidance being to walk around them, not through or between them – but here, there was no option but to either proceed or turn back, it was that narrow. And there were no signs up whatsoever to warn of these livestock – it’s only on a public trail! The rest of the run went fairly well, although I had to end it early to get transport back into Leeds so I could travel home for a reasonable hour.

I normally get transport out so far and then run the remainder. Here I literally became the embodiment of what I normally despise – literally and figuratively running for the bus. Oh well. Its good to see different places and all that.

(Top) The trail from Reins Road, Horsforth towards (middle) Calverley Bridge, overlooking the River Aire, and (bottom) facing eastbound back down the Leeds – Liverpool Canal

The following day, I ran a threshold pace run on the Leeds Liverpool Canal, heading out as far as Rodley before leaving. The first three miles, up to Kirkstall, were fairly easy miles, but the next three were near all out efforts. This included two short but fairly steep inclines, the second of which meant I needed a breather, but I finished strongly upon reaching Rodley Bridge. I now needed to make the uphill journey through Farsley and Pudsey before getting the bus home. I was absolutely spent, trying to make that climb. It was such a weary climb, and afterwards it made me realise I needed to back off a little.

I next ran 13.1 miles on the Sunday, having taken two days off to rest. I opted to run the Liversedge Half Marathon course starting from Thornhills, the steep climb around halfway into the actual race. In all I ran this route a good 17 minutes slower than when I ran my PB back in February. And yet, this turned out to be absolutely punishing in comparison. Perhaps it was the previous intensity of the training I’d undertaken, but I had rested and slept quite well. All in all though, things seemed OK.

I had another two days rest, one accounting for my wedding anniversary – 8 years happily married! – and then ran the same commute I did the previous Thursday, along the canal to Rodley Bridge and into Pudsey, but at a steadier pace. I aimed for 7 minute mile pace and consequently, I coped much better on the hills. Which isn’t exactly rocket science, but I was super happy with how I ran through Farsley and into Pudsey. I managed to maintain good momentum through the climb and didn’t fall too far off my target pace. Here though, things were about to go slightly south again.

The discomfort in my heel returned just a day later, and I immediately canned my next run commute – another threshold session – to allow appropriate rest and recovery. I did manage four miles around Wellholme Park on the Saturday but I remained unsure about whether I would be up to my target session for the week, a 10 mile time trial, with aims of running 6:12 mile pace for the duration. I set my alarm early that Sunday, but despite all the stretching and ibuprofen gel put on my heel, it just wasn’t worth the risk. I opted to cancel the run, and went back off to bed for a couple of hours more.

The most I could extend to after that was to take my kids to junior parkrun. They both recorded course PBs, which is excellent, but their effort more importantly was impressive. Both are working towards their ‘half marathon’ wristbands, which they receive after running eleven junior parkruns (at 2km, the equivalent of the half marathon distance). Not far to go now!

I couldn’t shake my disappointment at not being able to run my time trial. I mean, I could have done, but it wasn’t worth the risk at the time. It was just a great chance to test my speed endurance out. The priority though, is to stay fit. Around six weeks from now, I’ll be in Germany. I will be on the plane. But I must be absolutely feeling confident in my condition when I reach the start line. I’ve no idea what the level of competition might be, but I want to be in the best shape possible to be able to have a serious crack at going under 1:20 for the half, and maybe even medalling. Hopefully, I can get this bother in my foot to ease off, and then I may consider the best way forward for my remaining few weeks of training. Which may well include going back to my methodology I used for London Marathon in 2016 – one day at a time. Its not desperate, it won’t stop me getting on a plane, but I would be well served to use such an approach that not only got me to the start line that day, but got me to it in the best possible condition. And on that day, I ran a PB.

I will not be stopped!