#Breaking3 – The Journey

They say marathon training is often about the journey, not the destination. Rarely did it feel truer than this particular morning.


Tuesday March 27, 2018. I ran my weekly track session with the Halifax Harriers, running two lots of 1000m, then 800, then 600, and finally 400m, with rest intervals in between. I never used to consider myself good at 400m – I once ran 85 seconds for 400m, yet I could smash out quick 10K and half marathon times. That changed once I got regular use of an athletics track and discovered what it was like to run an accurately measured loop, on a surface which gives you that extra zip. In the months since I’ve joined the Harriers, I’ve got my lap times on the track down to just over 70 seconds, with the ability to absolutely sprint from a standing start and hold my pace generally well to the end. Often, the bit lacking is the home straight, where my early effort has me hanging on for dear life. I usually save such a lap for the end of the session, when I’m most tired but when I’m likely to have kept something in reserve.

This particular night, I felt determined. Having just been picked to run for the Harriers in a team relay event later this week, I sensed a chance to work on my speed and prove I could go under 70 seconds. For months, that marker has been elusive. But this night, I was absolutely on it. I kept to the tightest inside line for the most part, hugging the bends if I could and only briefly stepping out to overtake. As I got down the home straight, I felt like I was going to hit for strides again, when I heard fast steps behind me to my right. My competitive urge kicked in. But this wasn’t one of my fellow runners this session – this was a junior member practicing 100 metres. I went into overdrive and found another gear. I gathered another sprint, held it and stopped the watch as I crossed the line. I’d clocked 422 metres overall, and quickly went back into my watch history, checked the last two lap times – and it confirmed it. I’d finally done it! 68.96 seconds. Imagine if I just ran a flat 400 metres with no weaving!

My personal record track lap

Yet in the days that passed, my knee just wasn’t improving. I’d gone back to exercises from my earlier days as a runner. I was on paracetamol and ibuprofen to alleviate the discomfort, and I was using hot and cold therapy. But this dull ache wasn’t shifting.

I woke at 4:10am that Sunday morning, the day of my final 20 mile long run for London Marathon training, and as I busily prepared myself, I realised I wasn’t feeling anything from my knee. As in, no discomfort, no pain, nothing. As in, everything OK. I couldn’t understand it. I still applied ibuprofen gel as a precaution, but otherwise I felt good to go and well, what a timely boost.

My route this day took me into Huddersfield town centre, which at just after 5am on a Sunday morning is still rife with revellers from one of its most popular nightclubs, The Camel Club, from whatever night they’ve hosted beforehand. This clash of two cultures – the early morning runner to the early hours drinker – came to a head when one lass shouted across the road ‘run Forrest run’! I merely gave a wry smile, as banter is probably the best thing for that situation depending on how you look back upon those enjoying the lifestyle you once enjoyed (now and again). Seeing an ambulance outside the nightclub and quite the crowd up ahead, I detoured past the railway station instead and rejoined my route by the somewhat dilapidated New Street, before heading down into Lockwood and onwards.

Huddersfield is a place I was long overdue a run through, in the sense that I spend much of my training days in Calderdale and occasionally Leeds at lunchtimes. Huddersfield holds many great memories for me. I studied at the university (I hold a dust ridden 2:1 BSc in psychology), I found my favourite watering hole (The Parish pub, a historic pub and now a cracking pub/live music venue), met loads of great people, formed a doom metal band which lasted up until parenthood, had a somewhat hedonistic eight months getting smashed every Saturday (all by mid-2011) in the town’s bars. I also enjoyed four brilliant years of employment in the town and in more recent years, have discovered the Wessenden, Holme and Colne Valleys for myself,, run some brilliant, occasionally challenging , but brilliant, races in more recent years too, and some of my favourite routes take in the area. Particularly the occasional jaunt up Castle Hill.

A good few miles from home here!

This particular day, I ran towards Honley village, eventually reaching the smaller and rural Oldfield, running through the main road from end to end before turning back downhill towards Honley. This part of the run was probably the most enjoyable aspect, the quiet surrounding countryside and eventually, the run down Bradshaw Road with Victoria Tower, Castle Hill, standing atop in the distance. I would wind up going past Honley Woods on my left, where I ran the Trail 10K last year, down the road to Netherton, which I once ran in reverse and is absolutely beautiful to run through. I ended up with a jaunt through Beaumont Park before heading home through town for the last five miles. I didn’t half cherry pick my route that day!

Lea Lane in Netherton, Huddersfield, 1/3/2018

Places like this make me want to run. They also make me want to stop and breathe it in. The clean countryside air. The last throes of the night as it turns into day. Barely anybody around, hardly any traffic on the roads, the only sound being my footsteps and my lungs, and the sounds of nature. The discovery and rediscovery of what your local area offers, scenically, and how your two feet took you that far from home. They say marathon training is often about the journey, not the destination. Rarely did it feel truer than this particular morning.

The days have passed by. And now it is almost here. From the day I first ran a marathon, to now, the sub-3 hour marathon remains the one true time target that bears particular significance for myself. Its not strictly about another Good for Age time for London, even if my PB is now no longer GFA standard. The training for this race has run for 18 weeks, but the mental side of training has been there for about 3 years. I fell just short at London in 2016, but having gone in slightly ill prepared I couldn’t possibly complain, only learn. Even as I hoiked myself around Snowdonia and ran two ultra marathons at relatively sedate pace, I knew one day, I would be banking my GFA time from 2016 to head back for London to try and finish the job. I realise if I fail, it’s not the end and there will be other marathons out there to attempt a PB on.

Wellholme Park, Brighouse – once during the Beast from the East in March, and then about five weeks later.

I honestly feel ready for this. My training has gone well about 95% of the time, I cracked my marathon pace runs, my marathon pace intervals during long runs, even as the weather turned really cold and nasty, and my personal best pace over shorter distances became even better. I’ve taken in inspiration wherever I can find it, from my fellow runners and fellow chasers of the sub-3 hour marathon. Of course, there are doubts. The weather forecast has given for record highs on race day – allegedly up to 23C. I don’t feel I cope too well in the heat the longer a race goes on, but what can we all do about the weather? Not much but adapt – slap on the P20, light clothing (Harriers vest and shorts for myself), take advantage of the shower points on course, hydrate well (but not too well, or you might not feel too well), fuel well, and judge my effort carefully. I absolutely believe I’m ready for this, and it will all come down to how I execute my race strategy on the day.

To any of you reading this, and indeed running the marathon, enjoy it. However you made it to London, you earned it, whether through ballot, club, Good for Age, charity or however. Take as much free stuff from the Expo as you can (gratefully). Don’t forget your registration email though. Sleep well. Wake up and get ready to go. Wear your club or charity colours with pride. Take in the feverish atmosphere at the start, the fervent crowds at Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge, lining Embankment and Westminster. Behold the finish line as it awaits you. Pass the Tube queues as you proudly show off your race number/medal to access the underground. If there’s ever a time to feel like royalty, it’s here!

Oh, and try to enjoy the run itself. It’s bloody hard, not least without the potential of the burning hot mass in the sky, but it’s within all of us. Be awesome at what you do. Basically…


Without question, one of the greatest and funniest episodes of television I’ve seen is episode 1.6 of the cult comedy sitcom Spaced, titled ‘Epiphanies’. For the uninitiated (get yourself acquainted now!), Spaced featured Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes (nee Stevenson) as Tim and Daisy, two twenty-somethings who meet following splitting from their significant others, and pose as a ‘professional couple’ to get off the London streets and into a flat run by Marsha, a divorcee landlady with a penchant for alcohol, who doesn’t know they’re not actually a couple. It ran for two series and is a celebration of millennial positivity, bristling with pop culture references while riding on the dynamic between the lead characters. I discovered it 14 years late and its my favourite show ever. The said episode in question basically involves Tim, Daisy and their friends going out clubbing and forgetting their arguments in a night of pure hedonism. The rave scene absolutely has to be experienced, so immensely well executed, funny and true to life in equal measure.

Hold on, what does this have to do with my amateur sports lifestyle, you ask?

Well, I’m deep in training for the Ilkley Aquathlon, which, discounting the Go Tri Yorkshire Aquathlon which was a taster race if anything, will be a bona fide multi sport experience for myself. A race I’ve wanted to do for just over two years, involving a sport I ignored for just as long as I overlooked Spaced, it involves a 400 metre swim and a 3,000 meter run, consisting of 5 laps of 600 metres. And in recent weeks I felt I’d hit a bit of a snag.

See, I’ve absolutely no concerns about the run. Given I spent the best part of three months regularly pushing blistering pace around the Halifax Harriers running track, trying (and successfully managing) to break my 10K PB, I’m fairly confident that if my legs are working when I complete the swim – and they normally do – that I can have a storming run. But lately, its the swim that’s been concerning me. Although I’ve managed as far as 240 metres, swimming in a 20 metre length pool, I’ve lately got back to 25 metres and even once a 50 metre pool and have been finding it a little difficult to adapt back to that slight increase in pool length.

I can’t exactly pinpoint why this is and it had left me perplexed. Whether its a pacing issue, a technique issue, or something else, swimming in the main pool at my local has been a bit of a conundrum. Add to this no lessons due to summer break, an outbreak of head lice that my kids encountered, enforcing a break from the pool, and one night where I forgot to take my goggles, I went into last week actually questioning my ability to do a 400 metre swim. The question is not whether I can swim 400 metres cumulatively – I can do it in stages at the moment and can keep swimming for an hour. I have no problem swimming 25 metre lengths, per se. But its my competitive streak. I want to at least be competent. I want to be able to complete the majority of the swim in one take, if not all of it. Maybe I’m expecting too much from myself, but I genuinely felt in the last three weeks or so that I’d hit a wall. It frustrated me when I couldn’t go swimming. And when I did go swimming, I wasn’t getting out feeling I’d accomplished anything. Like I’d essentially hit a peak but was now on a plateau.

So this Wednesday, with my wife and kids away for the week with my mother-in-law, I was free to effectively go swimming without worrying about getting back to maybe help with housework or settle the kids if they were unsettled. I’d watched a vid on the newly launched Global Triathlon Network on YouTube, discussing different swim workouts. I picked a threshold session which involved the following:

4×100 metres at 80-90% max effort

100 metres easy

with 10-20 seconds recovery.

I’d never carried out a specific swim workout before – I get instructions in my lessons to do x of one stroke and y of another, and so on – but this was entirely how I would define it.

After a couple of warm up lengths there and back, I embarked. Initially, I had the problem of a crowded lane, meaning my rhythm would be disrupted, or I’d have to wait for a faster swimmer to pass before I could resume. But before long, space began to open up as one or two swimmers left, and the more I built into the session, the better I seemed to feel. I judged my fast efforts better and my easy lengths were working to great effect. For a first time, itI went extremely well, and I finished the workout much stronger than when I started it.

Having now swam 900 metres, I decided to finish by seeing how far I could swim without stopping. I’d had a touch of calf cramp in my right leg but I’d taken time to shake that off before getting back in the pool and resuming. Off I went, and back and forth I went. The longest I’d ever managed was 240 metres, and that was in the shallower, shorter teaching pool. Here, I seemed to be going great guns, reaching 150 metres and barely feeling out of breath. I reached 175 and genuinely felt good. I actually had belief. Real belief. 

And here’s where the post title becomes relevant. I suddenly didn’t just believe I could go beyond 240 metres. I absolutely knew I could. And I was going to do it right now.

I began to swim towards the 200 metre mark, when all of a sudden – yeeeeeeooooooowwwww! The calf cramp had returned with a vengeance. I immediately couldn’t swim further, and I instantly reached for the lane rope to save myself from going under. I assured the lifeguard I was OK. My swim was done. All I needed to do was haul my carcass back towards the shallow end. Only I then realised I’d actually swam half the length and was actually able to stand on one leg in the water. So instead, I sheepishly hobbled to the shallow end, acknowledging the concern of fellow swimmers and simultaneously trying to avoid eye contact – why I felt shame I’ve absolutely no idea, though its hard to be cool when swimmers are having a nosey at my predicament. I sat on the side once out of the water, tried to get some feeling back in the calf muscle, which at this point felt and looked rock solid. Having relieved the vice that was causing the worst of the cramps, I eventually I stood up and walked back to the changing room, to get changed and then to live with the effects of that temporarily excruciating cramp for a couple of days, costing me a second swim that week.

The cramp could be a result of a few things, though on this occasion it can’t have been hydration, and I’m not sure I was severely lacking magnesium – though I hadn’t had much in the day of dairy (for calcium), but I was on a High5 electrolyte drink during the swim. Maybe it was my technique. Maybe I hadn’t warmed up quite correctly. All, according to research, as apparent underlying contributors. Whatever it was, I’ve got time to work out why I occasionally get these cramps and how to stop them. I particularly don’t want that to affect my race, or it’ll be game over, a first ever DNF. Though I’m not thinking that will happen; its something I can control, and I doubt I will be in the water long enough for any cramp to emerge. The race doesn’t start until the afternoon, so I’ve no excuse not to be warmed up, fuelled and well-prepared for the race I’ve only targeted for the last two years, and the only one I could certifiably say at the start of the year as absolutely nailed on, no matter what else.

The cramp episode hasn’t eroded my sudden improvement in my self-confidence. I felt like I’d suddenly cracked how to prepare for the swim part of the aquathlon, a mere four weeks out from the race itself, and suddenly I wasn’t feeling so unsure of myself. All it needed was to change out how I approached my swim. Not to go in full pelt from the off. To actually warm up in the water correctly, build into my swim and to stay relaxed. From there the confidence will flow. And everything will be OK.

And with that, this budding multi-sporter got his swimming groove back.


The Summer of Speed – Progress

I thought it would be a good time to drop back in and discuss how my ongoing preparations are for my big 10km PB attempt this summer. I’m heading down to London for the Royal Parks Series Regent’s Park 10km on Sunday 23rd July, and have my sights set on my long-standing PB of 37:15 from the Epilepsy Action Bradford 10K from March 2014, and have dedicated my spring and summer to chasing down the pursuit of blistering pace.

The key change in my life is that I’ve started training with the Halifax Harriers, an athletic club based just on the outskirts of the town centre, having now freed up my Tuesday nights to be able to train with them. After three trial sessions, I finally handed over my membership fee and now, just over four and a half years after taking up running again, am now proudly wearing the Halifax Harriers race vest.

I’m currently turning up on Tuesdays for training sessions with them, and already I’m seeing improvements to my running. Here are a couple of pace charts – one from a repetition session carried out on a Monday night (01 May 2017) and my first repetition session on the track with the Harriers, less than 24 hours later.

On my own – consistent intervals, but the slight drops are proof of the strain
With the Halifax Harriers, similar session, smoother intervals

As you can see, my pace is much more consistent running with a group, maintaining a steady pace even at my top end speed, where on my own the jagged nature of that pace line shows how hard I was working to keep my level up. I also tended to jog during the recovery phases of my interval training prior to club training, but the recovery here tends to be to stop, rest, stretch, loosen up and lower the heart rate, before setting off again. I’ve managed to get my 400 metre speed down to 70 seconds, which is as quick as I’ve ever managed lapping the track.

My 5K pace seems to have improved as well since joining the Harriers. I ran an 18:22 to take first place at Brighouse parkrun again, albeit I suffered for front running the whole thing – I set off too quickly and the hill at the back of the Brighouse parkrun course basically sapped my top end pace out of me. I had an immediate chance to pursue the sub-18 again the Tuesday after, at a 5K time trial on Harriers night, taking on a two lap, undulating course in Skircoat Green, Halifax. My first three k’s went for 3:50, 3:35, 3:37…and then my watch gave up. Saving myself onto the remaining uphills, I thundered down the flats and the descents, turning right at the end for one more hill towards the finish – absolutely on my toes, I pushed for the line and recorded 18:01 – narrowly close to sub-18, but a brand new PB over the distance by five seconds. It took everything I had, but it was worth it for the result, and gets me tantalizingly close to going under 18 minutes as we head into June.

Just this past Sunday, I ran on my own to test my 10km pace eight weeks out from the Regent’s Park 10km in London, running from Brighouse to Elland Bridge and back along the Calder-Hebble Navigation. I clocked 39:12.5, a couple of minutes down but on a slightly hilly route, and with a pronounced slow down at 9km so as not to needlessly chase the 3 minute km I would have needed to go under 37:15. I needed a marker to lay down and while I was shorn of top end pace later in the run, I know where improvements can be made and there’s plenty time to turn that around.

I’m not finding this without difficulty though. Odd cranks have started to appear, and at the behest of self-diagnosing, what’s going on in my right foot is the ruminations of plantar fasciitis. I haven’t half worked on my eccentric step exercises and calf massages since, and thankfully so far its remained manageable. I’m trying more than ever to get onto trails and away from roads when the opportunity arises, and listening more than ever to when my foot decides its not happy with the stick its getting. Furthermore, I had more than a  hiccup with my Garmin Forerunner 10, which seems to be on its last legs for a little while – its stopped recording runs despite all manner of reset attempts to right it. Not the most important thing but when you’re trying to measure your pace, its a bugbear if you haven’t got the kit.

And I definitely need time to acclimate to potentially hot racing conditions. I recently ran home from Ravensthorpe along the banks of the River Calder, and found it hugely stifling in 24-25C temperatures, with the sun endlessly beating down. Right now the weather is consistently around 17-18C in the UK, occasionally breaking into the 20’s in my area. The warmest I’ve ever raced in is 18C, so I’ve got to prepare for the potential of racing at least in the low 20’s. That shouldn’t prove too big a step, so long as I take the opportunities to run hard in the heat, and key things like staying hydrated. At the end of the day it probably won’t make too much difference, but its best to be prepared for all eventualities weather wise on the day of the race.

Selfie break in the pre-summer sun, on the River Calder, 25/05/2017
The River Calder near Mirfield, 25/05/2017

As you read this, I’ll have taken part in the Hebden Bridge Fell Race – more on that very soon – to kick off a surely busy couple of months packed with races and opportunities. Without question I’m going to have to work hard to keep bringing my time down, but who said chasing times was ever going to be easy? Especially with a watch that may or may not be on its way out. In any event, it’ll be great to keep on this road into the heart of summer, culminiating on July 23rd, when I can hopefully race the 10km of my life in the morning and be inspired by the athletes taking part at the World Parathletics Championships in the evening. The focus here remains resolute, and with the Halifax Harriers I’m feeling great about the remainder of the year going forward.

Training Update – trails, track and parkrun success

Just as I put out my post about my future plans, I decided to get back into the here and now and begin preparing in earnest for the busy spring/summer of racing I have lined up. Indeed, the races are coming thick and fast as I’m eschewing spring marathon season this time in favour of fell racing and chasing a shiny new 10km personal best.

In conjunction with this, I’ve been busily reading Jack Daniels’ training guide ‘Daniels’ Running Formula‘. While the book itself is in the region of 10-20 years old, its still perfectly relevant and has really opened my mind back up to understanding training terms. Easy pace, marathon pace, threshold pace, interval pace. Repetitions, cruise intervals, repeats, and so on. It didn’t take me long to get through the book and I’m a bit clearer now on what exactly I need to do if I’m ever to reach the lofty goal of sub-35 minutes for 10K. Or, at the very least, sub-37:15.

I’ve had a good few weeks since returning to running post-ultra, recently finishing first at my hometown parkrun in Brighouse, and in front of my wife and kids too. That one was for them. My time was 18:41 – pretty good, but I felt a noticeable lack of top end speed endurance. I tried to kick on during the last lap and just didn’t have it in me to sustain anything above my 3:50/km pace for more than 15 seconds a time. Not that I’m complaining – I had a brilliant day and there’s loads of people who would kill for a time like that. I also gave a little back the following day and helped my kids to the best ever junior parkrun experience too. A great weekend for running for my young family!

In full flight at Brighouse parkrun, 01/04/2017

Things picked up last week, when my wife and kids were whisked away by my mother-in-law to a midweek break somewhere outside of York. I got on with mixing up my training. I ran four laps of my local park’s parkrun course on Monday, and threw myself into my swimming on the Tuesday. Wednesday brought on a rare track session, in fact my first for possibly 18 months or so. I did a 1500 metre ‘warm up’, running in 5:28.4 – I definitely held back there – and then a ten minute warm up, followed by 6×400 metre repetitions (400m fast, 400m recovery), and a ten minute cool down. I rarely measure my pace over 400 metres – the last time I did was on grass, hardly flat, and I never got beyond 1:26. I therefore surprised myself when I ran my first two repetitions for 1:14. Sub-5 minute mile pace! I struggled to maintain that level – the remainder clocked 1:16, 1:17, 1:21, and 1:17. I had plenty reasons to be pleased with that – particularly the rarely relenting headwind that seemed to attack on the back straight. I’ve yet to upload and review the charts, but I’ve given myself a good target to aim for. I haven’t run that fast, legitimately, since around the time of the Liversedge Half Marathon in 2015, when I ran a 5:23 in the first mile – and that was partly downhill. So to do that on a track is satisfying.

These haven’t seen much action!

However battered I felt from that track session, I still had one order of business, which was to tackle the Dick Hudson Fell Race course, exactly two weeks from race day. Partly for knowledge, but also to get a good experience of running across this particular stretch of moorland. The initial climb up Ilkley Moor is horrendous – past the White Wells spa house, the footpath snakes all the way up to a steep stone staircase that can’t truly be run (surely). Part of the stairs is basically a large boulder that you’re best hauling yourself up. The path has a few more ups and downs before leveling out into pure racing territory, past Ilkley Crags and the Twelve Apostles Stone Circle. Its onwards at this point Bingley Moor, which has a slight decline before reaching the drop to the gate by the Dick Hudson pub – after which the race is named, if you hadn’t guessed. And then its back again, including that stone staircase, which is just as steep and tricky to descend before the final rush down the snaky path to White Wells. I then had the additional rush to thunder down Wells Road to get to Ilkley Rail Station, 90 seconds before my train to Bradford departed, meaning I had to find a quiet corner of the train to stretch and clean the mud off my legs!

Ilkley Moor, 13/04/2017

After that run, I was absolutely shattered. I wound up falling asleep on the sofa and woke up the next morning convinced that Good Friday would be a rest day. And indeed it was.

Quite irritatingly, I have managed to undo my great start a little by yet again bruising my chest or ribs. This time, I sustained it leaning over a bedframe to give one of my daughters a goodnight kiss. Of all the things! So hard intervals aren’t exactly on the cards at the minute, but I’ll still be ready for the Dick Hudson next week.

This has all served as a reminder that finding these gains in my performance are going to be hard to come by. I’ll need to remain dedicated to my approach and be absolutely committed to the pursuit. My place in the race – the Royal Parks Series Regent’s Park 10km – is now confirmed, so there’s no turning back. The date is set and I’ve got to get together a training plan to chronicle my weekly sessions, and how I’m going to fit those in around the various fell races, the unpredictable race known as The Drop, and of course, the work/life balance. I doubt my diet is going to be perfect, but I’ve got to eat better, sleep well, and look after myself. Its all well and good saying these things – how many of us do? Yet its these little details that must be put into practice if indeed I’m going to shatter a target I seemed to set a long time ago now. I’m in the best shape of my life, but can it be better? I’ll always ask myself that, and the challenge there is to stop being non-committal, or to renege on any wishful promises to myself, like four months without chocolate, for example. It isn’t happening!

I’ll be back on my feet soon enough to get a few miles in prior to the Dick Hudson, and you’ll hear more about how I get on very soon.

Of course, this weekend sees the return of the London Marathon. Loads of people I know through running groups online are taking part, and maybe that includes you, yes, you? I’m going to be there next year but I’m going to enjoy watching the race on telly, tracking a few runners online and taking in the amazing and inspirational stories behind the journey towards running this iconic race. Good luck to all taking part, and I really hope you enjoy the experience.

Snowdonia Marathon Training

14. All Aboard!

Right as you read this, me, myself, and my wife and kids, will be on our way  to Llandudno, train hopping our way down from Brighouse. Its been quite a journey in itself up until this point, from running the 401 with Ben Smith, walking in the Dales, getting lost during (Wo)Man vs Barge, reccing the Pennine Way, getting covered in mud (and more besides) in Hebden Bridge, getting chased by the sun in Barkisland, climbing hills and rocks in Saddleworth and Dovestones, and ascending Holme Moss twice in a day (on foot). But after a Sunday meal with family later today, the focus will turn onto packing my large backpack full of clothes, shoes, and proverbial race science, for the 210 minute journey and the seven night stay in fabulous North Wales.

There was still the winding down of tapering to get on with this week, against the backdrop of going caffeine free for the race. After a good couple of nights over the weekend, a couple more nights later, and a combined total of sleep over two nights into single digits only, caught up quickly. I actually managed to fall asleep on the bus on my way to my Tuesday swimming lesson, waking up just as the bus arrived into Halifax. I still managed to rouse myself into 250 metres in the main pool, where I managed another out and back across 50 metres, and crack on with the lesson, before making the run home. According to the training guide, it was a fartlek. Mad as that sounded, less than two weeks from a marathon, I still injected some 60 seconds on, 60 seconds off and some 45 on, 45 off splits. I arrived home later than if I’d got the bus. But the main thing was a good solid 5 mile run, and I ensured I didn’t go too hard on the intervals.

I spent much of Wednesday battling sleep deprivation and the lack of a caffeine fix. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday tend to be the busiest nights for myself personally right now, and staying up to do basic things like ironing or loading the dishwasher chipped away at my sleep time – as well as kids waking in the middle of the night. I battled through the fifth day without caffeine, and gratefully caught up on my sleep with an early night. And wow, did I catch up, because I slept in past my 3:40am alarm for a whole hour, which meant I had to get up and out of the door quickly if I was to have any chance of squeezing a run in before work.

I decided to keep it to four miles, a flat out and back, and, again as per the training guide, as a tempo run. I was in too much haste to wait for the Garmin to find a signal, so I set the MapMyRide app up (which I use for cycling…now and again), simply as the GPS loads in literally two seconds. Off I went, agreeing with myself not to check my phone too often and just to run roughly 7:30/mile pace. That would give me 30 minutes of even paced running.

Initially my route took me up a hill. Not s steep hill, mind, just the one leading out of Bailiff Bridge towards Wyke. As the Whitehall Road junction, I doubled back. This wasn’t quite two miles but I had to take into account a quick trip to the nearby supermarket afterwards. As it happened, I was slightly below 7:30 mile pace at this point, but what goes up, must come down. Properly warmed up, I took the descent confidently, completed the third mile, and then looked at my phone. I was somewhere below 22:30 at this point, so I knew I was on track. I was really into my running now, noticeably quicker, but staying blind to my actual pace. A quick loop round the block to ensure I didn’t overshoot my finishing spot, and I was done. Total time, 28:51. The fourth mile split was 6:27. Unbelievable! I’m more than capable of a mile that quick, but I felt comfortable doing it too.

The final run before the holiday was held off until Saturday evening, a 7 mile out and back run to Elland and back. I decided on a whim to go out with my new sport earphones and, just for once, listen to music on the run. The soundtrack? Judas Priest. Oh yes.

The earphones seemed like a terrible idea. I bought them cheap, for a couple of quid, and throughout the run they would not sit on my ears correctly. I first surmised that it was my ears perhaps not being the right shape, or that my long, bouffant hair was getting in the way, before realising it was this cheap pair of earphones that probably were just a bit, well, shit. So much faffing around for the first six miles, and not once did they sit right, leaving me feeling like these sport earphones were a massive con, and a waste of money. 

I got a good shot of Elland Bridge, which I discussed a couple of weeks back, at night, and then began to run back the remaining 3.5 miles, trying, and failing, to ignore the ridiculous earphones. I ought to have just given up and concentrated on the run. Maybe I was too determined to enjoy myself. It wasn’t until the final mile, after finally changing the music to a mix containing Rammstein and Sepultura, among others, that they actually sat pretty. 
Then during the final tenth of a mile, just to get up to 7 miles, I noticed a man stumble across the road, on his own, completely inebriated. And then he started yelling at me. Whatever he was jabbering, I couldn’t tell what he was saying, more that there wasn’t anyone else around, so he must have been talking to me. I had one riposte:

“I can’t fucking hear you!”

He continued to yell as I disappeared around the corner, and still I couldn’t hear him. I felt in no way intimidated and all in all, the earphones had actually seemed a worthwhile investment all along!
Not quite the way I wanted my pre-holiday running to finish, but in any event, no real trouble encountered and no post-run issues, meaning I can go on holiday looking fully forward to the race.

Elsewhere, I’ve had another successful week of swimming lessons, clocking another 50 metre out and back on Tuesday, and during my Stroke Skills lesson, which takes place in a 20 metre ‘teaching pool’, I managed 60 metres! My swimming is absolutely in the ascendancy at the minute, and I’m actually truly enjoying it. Almost seems a shame to lose out on a week!

There’s not much left to say now. I have to busily tidy my house, clean my race vest, pack my supplies, the remainder of my clothes and toiletries, and try and get some sleep. I’ve come through all of this training fairly unscathed, despite a few false warnings, usually in the soles of my feet, and the only thing I need to be careful is a slight hoarseness in my throat that needs clearing now and again. A cold would be the last thing I need going into this race, but I’m not thinking too much about illness. The last 4 months have been perhaps the best phase of my life as a marathon runner, stripped back to consider only the quality, not the quantity of my runs. In some weeks, my mileage was in the low twenties, and never did it once reach the forties. But each and every run seems to have provided me with the preparation I need without butchering my feet or my knees.

So tonight, I shall get some much needed rest for tomorrow, for the final countdown begins in earnest now.

Marathon training – Week One: Alive and in one piece

Hi all and welcome to my latest blog series, which this time is going to focus on the build up to my very first marathon, the Asics Greater Manchester Marathon, which takes place in less than 15 weeks time on Sunday April 19th. Here I will be discussing every aspect of my training, which will mainly focus on my training program, as well as other factors to contribute to my overall performance, which will hopefully include eating healthier and the continuation of my battle to get enough sleep, as well as other training sessions I might go through.

When I got my London Marathon rejection magazine, I debated whether to throw it out. In the end I didn’t – despite counting at least 26 mentions of the words ‘sorry’ or ‘join us’ or ‘Its not too late!’, I decided the exercise advice and Martin Yelling’s 16-Week training guides were going to be valuable tools. So I counted back from the 19th April and arrived on Monday 29th December as the day I would start my training. I opted for the Advanced training guide – I coped well enough on Runner’s World’s sub 1:30 and sub 1:25 half marathon plans so I saw no reason why the rigours of hard intervals and large mileage should deter me. So it was decided upon, and I cobbled together a Word-based chart to monitor my progress whether on my phone or at work, to look back and look forwards.

The first four days of Christmas passed and I began on an undoubtedly cold evening on Monday December 29th, 2014. It was extremely icy, with travel reports advising only to venture out if necessary. Whether this run was necessary is open to interpretation – indeed not from a safety standpoint, but given how bull-headed I can be towards running, I decided I was at least going to give it a shot. I’d be counting down to this day for a long time and I wasn’t going to let the ice stop me. I had a walk down to Huddersfield town centre along my run route and at the time it seemed the ice was clearing. Come 5:00pm it was forming again and it was treacherous. I set off but everything felt stop start. My first mile went in 9:12 – far slower than what I’m used to – and I had to remain so focused. My jacket and watch were causing some sort of weird jolting sensation in my wrist. I took my eyes off what I was doing just once to try and sort it out, when I slipped and very nearly went down. I stayed upright, narrowly avoiding twisting my back, and at that point I decided enough was enough. I actually managed to find a section of road in a layby that allowed me to continue running at a reasonable speed but at 16 minutes and only 1.74 miles in, I stopped at a bus stop and boarded a few minutes later. The amount of ice on the uphill section of the run was enough to convince me I’d made the right decision, if I hadn’t already done so.

I was pleased to have attempted this run, but ultimately I’m glad I didn’t come a cropper. And hence this record over on Garmin Connect is entitled ‘Alive and in one piece’.

View from Hare Park Lane, Hightown, 31/12/14

The next run was scheduled for Tuesday but I moved it over to Wednesday – New Year’s Eve – as Wednesday was my day off. It was my key run of the week, an interval session with 12 minutes easy to start and to finish, with 5 blocks of 5 minutes steady, 60 seconds tempo. The decision to switch days paid dividends. As I ran up Clifton Common to arrive to ascend to the trail section of my run, the ice didn’t seem as bad as on Monday and in most places it actually seemed thicker. I was into the trail section when the intervals started, and at first it was slightly interrupted due to the occasional crackling of frozen puddles of mud, of which I narrowly avoided plunging my foot into. Once I was out of the trail and into Hartshead, I was able to find a rhythm. I continued on to Hightown and turned right at Hare Park Lane to head back towards Clifton. The sun was rising by now and the scenery looked beautiful. I got in sub-7:00 mile territory as I neared Clifton and I was able to complete the journey back into Brighouse as planned. I went up to 55 minutes – owing to some jiggery pokery between the watch and the phone app timing my intervals – and arrived back near enough my usual finishing spot. I was very happy now – my interval route was perfectly measured, my times more than satisfactory, and I was almost in a Zen-like state – it was an amazing session and it was a brilliant way to end 2014.

Interval Session data from 31/12/14

A run was scheduled on New Year’s Day – whether I would attempt this depended on how late my night was going to be on New Year’s Eve. In the end it was a quiet night in and my wife and kids were all asleep when midnight arrived. I had spent most of the night on Twitter and finishing my Resolutions post when I decided to go downstairs and tidy up the table from mealtime. I marked New Year with a herbal tea. I was in bed by 12:45am and up again at 7:10am – though not before one of the twins could be heard asking where I was, prompting an extra hour in bed just in case she stirred herself awake. In the end I got up and out for 8:15am and I did 30 minutes steady, lapping the local park and hitting a negative split in 4.13 miles. Another good morning’s work and marathon training really was in full swing now!

After the rest day on Friday, things ended with a bit of a low ebb over the weekend. I had a 40 minute run on the Saturday, of which the middle 20 minutes were to be steady. I planned to do this in the morning to ensure I hit the steady middle near the top of a large hill. However, circumstances conspired that meant I couldn’t run to work that morning, so instead I ran home, which resulted in trying to maintain a steady pace uphill. I didn’t tire but I almost ended up with a positive split! The Sunday run was again slow progress, but deliberately so. I had a 6 mile run pencilled in and so made it a lap up through Thornhills and around Clifton, towards Hartshead and back into Brighouse via Bailiff Bridge. It took me 47:16 – a few minutes down on my standard – but it was billed as an easy run and I was very happy in this regard. It was very icy again and I had to be careful. I maintained my discipline well and resisted the temptation to thunder down Birkby Lane into Bailiff Bridge.

Overall this was a positive first week after a shaky start, and pretty much meat and potatoes to me. It will get much harder than this as the weeks progress, particularly as I try to fit runs around shifts at work and around family plans, but to get up to five runs per week successfully appears to show I have maintained my overall fitness over the autumn and I look forward even more to the rigours of marathon training.


This training program marks the first time I’ve used my new Brooks Pureflow shoes that I got late in the summer. To date I’ve had issues making sure they’re tight around my feet, but after doing three runs this week in them (the New Year’s runs were in my Saucony trail shoes), it seems they’re comfy and hopefully by the end of the month they’ll begin to feel lived in. I’ve also used money given to me over Christmas to boost my running wardrobe with shorts, tights and soon, compression socks.

I’m not doing too bad with getting the right food down before, after and between running, although there is still an excess of biscuits left over from Christmas that my grandmother gave to us. I used to be a right biscuit fiend as a kid and even now I have an excessively sweet tooth. I can’t wait to be rid of them because I really want to kick them out of my diet to a large degree – it’s not enjoyable to constantly have to face them and I had controlled this habit quite well before Christmas! Let’s hope for the sake of my teeth, if nothing else, that they’re gone soon. I’m lucky to have a great metabolism, which means I still don’t put on a great deal of weight even if I fill up with junk. This is all against the backdrop of currently having no working oven or cooker at home – it conked in October and were trying to pick one up in the sale, in the hope of getting it on finance, installed, hardwired, everything, for as reasonably little as possible. So for quite a while now, I’ve been without pasta or boiled rice for carbs, though stuff like jacket potatoes and couscous are providing nice and healthy alternatives. Once it’s back up to speed I may explore making my own oaty flapjacks or something, a reasonably nutritious snack created from home rather than the shops – though time will tell whether I get onto that.

Week 2 begins tomorrow alongside Jantastic, with an 8-mile run scheduled on Sunday and with the midweek intervals moving up to tempo pace. Until then, happy running everyone, and let’s hope the ice goes away!