Well, that’s another year in the books. A year that promised much, failed to deliver in some areas, and in others exceeded what I thought was capable of. A year in which I rode tribulation – namely avoiding the chop at work, then quitting and getting a job closer to home; and celebration – seeing my kids leave infant school with flying colours and progress seamlessly to junior school; and maintained a sense of equilibrium, as far as running goes, skirting across another year pretty much injury free, bar the odd twinge and warning signal here and there. Oh yeah – I finally joined Strava too.

It’s incredible to think I only raced six times in 2019, over a third less than in 2018. And one of those was a club only event, the Summer Handicap 10K, which I do pretty much every year. I ran parkrun a couple of times, achieving good times/results, but I don’t view parkruns as races, more my own effort against the clock. I didn’t enjoy the same success in terms of race results, in terms of podium finishes anyway, as in 2018, but I still achieved much to consider this year as much a success as the previous one. And I don’t really consider podiums as an exact measure of success, more a nice bonus if it comes along.

My year can be summed up against two, maybe three races, which ended up at opposite ends of the spectrum. The Blackpool Marathon, which ended with detonation in both hamstrings 4.5 miles from the finish, and ultimately costing me a sub-3 hour marathon time or at least a PB; and the City of Salford 10K, in which I produced a massive PB that finally brought my 10K time in line with my improvements at 5K and half marathon.

The marathon left me reflecting often on what I need to do to reach that sub-3 goal, whether it’s a matter of pacing, nutrition, whether I’m strong enough, or a combination of all three. The dejection I felt that day was perhaps summed up by the infamous chocolate frog staring up at me from my sweaty club vest, as I sat alone, trying to process what had happened. It wasn’t the outcome I’d hoped for and from a position where I felt everything on the day was right for it. It was enough to dissuade me from running an autumn marathon and to refocus my efforts into practicing a pacing strategy that might work for myself, albeit not until later in the year.

The 10K I produced, however, wasn’t even in my wildest dreams – however much faith people around me believed I would clock over 90 seconds off my previous PB, I never believed them until I simply ran with the flow on race day and it all came together.

The 10K was indeed validation for a rigourous training program I committed to, using the program situated on Running Fastr, and fitting it around my work/family/life balance. Running like a headless chicken around an industrial estate one summer night didn’t make me feel like I was progressing. Nor did a 17:51 at my local parkrun – not a time to be sniffed at – by knowing I could run under 17:30, as evidenced during my earlier 8km relay effort in Birkenhead (a 17:11 5K split at the Northern Athletics Road Relays), I hoped to be much closer to 17:30 and my general feeling halfway through training was that I wasn’t making any inroads.

I had an easier week, and then got back to another four week block of training. And in the final two weeks, it finally came together in the midst of a wondrous late summer. A 5:03 track mile, my fastest ever on track and my second fastest legitimate mile ever; and a day after that, 17:12 at the Leeds 5K Race Series – a new 5K PB by 20 seconds and officially under 17:30 for the first time. That gave me some belief that I was arriving in peak form but I had a setback with some potential discomfort in my heel, less than a week from Salford. I’m just glad I rested it most of the week and when it came to race day, I held nothing back.

35:26 is staggering, a 4.58% improvement on my previous best of 37:08, but I can hold onto that time and say to anyone seeking a 10K PB that such a committed approach, with no distractions like a half marathon, a marathon or some other long distance event, a training regime with track sessions (if you have access), interval/fartlek sessions, threshold/race pace runs, strides and comfortable (not too) long runs of no more than 60-75 minutes, and the foresight to know when to step back a little, absolutely, positively works. As long as you can maintain that life balance, and stay injury free, eat reasonably well and look after yourself, you can really arrive at race day with a real prospect at smashing that PB.

Looking ahead to 2020, the sub-3 marathon is chief in my agenda which I’ll have at least two cracks at, the Sir Titus Trot Marathon from Saltaire on January 4, and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Liverpool Marathon on May 24. Its not necessarily to do more races, although there’s a good few I have my eye on, as I’ve still got to balance things out between work/family/life. My decision to enter a January and a May marathon will upend my usual routine and I can’t deny that depending how the two marathons go might well shape how I approach the second half of the year.

Amongst that, I am searching for my first age group club record (M35-39) at my club, the Halifax Harriers, which means, realistically, I need to run 17:11 for 5K or 29:55 for 5 miles as the other records there are slightly beyond my level. I ought to have plenty of cracks at 5K, but I’m so focused on the marathon it remains to be seen what I end up doing particularly in the second half of the year. I need a good 5 mile race along the line somewhere as well, but they seem hard to come by without taking a fair commute that doesn’t make it cost effective. And of course, that’s assuming that somebody else at my club doesn’t get to it first.

There’s also the Yorkshire Veterans Athletics Association (YVAA) race series, open to senior athletes over 35, which I can now enter and which I’ll certainly be taking a closer look at. And one of my daughters is currently on 27 junior parkruns – maybe I can help her to 50 (for the ultra marathon wristband) by the end of the year?

Statistics of 2019:

  • Total miles run in 2018: 1,244.9
  • Fastest mile: 5:03
  • 5km: 17:12 (PB)
  • 10km: 35:26 (PB)
  • Half Marathon: 1:24:44
  • Marathon: 3:20:48

Races/events entered: 6

Top 3 finishes: One… wait… oh bloody hell. Zero

  • Personal bests broken: 2

Special thanks to:

  • My wife, Laura, my wonderful kids for their enthusiasm and love. All my family and friends for their unwavering support and understanding.
  • My club, the Halifax Harriers, and all those connected with it, particularly those who’ve selected me for club competition and especially those who’ve given me lifts to and from both training and events.
  • My body, for another relatively injury free year!
  • Everyone from the wider running community, be it in person at races, parkruns, and from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
  • Anyone and everyone who reads my blog, follows me on WordPress and the aforementioned social media platforms. I’m happy you visit my blog and continue to read and enjoy my posts, and to my newer followers, thanks for your interest in my journey. I’ll have plenty more to bring in 2020.
  • And anyone else I might have forgotten.

Hope to see you all again in 2020!