Second Half Report

On Sunday I ran my second half marathon in as many weeks. I set myself the challenge in January, wanting to get decent times and push myself. It ended up just getting both done would be the challenge.

The problem with such a short gap is that your legs were just about at full recovery when the second run came around. It meant I went into the day pretty much not knowing how it was going to feel. My body had also only just shifted that fatigue you get after a big run.

It was much hotter this time round, even at 9am. By mile 2 I felt like I was burning even with factor 50 on and I felt dehydrated by the first water station which is unusual as I can often get round a half with a few sips of water at each station – I could have happily had several bottles of water at each one this time round! I got cramp in the top on my right calf again and I’m pretty sure it was dehydration.

Manchester is flatter than Birmingham which helped a bit, as did the knowledge that I’ve recently done the distance and so could, in one way or another, do it again.

Again I was ok for the first 3, even 6 miles. Hitting the 11 km mark at around 1 hour 20. If I had stayed on pace I could heave finished in 2 hour 30. The lack of training and hang over from Birmingham though meant maintaining that pace just wasn’t going to happen. The cramp kicked in around 14 km in and I couldn’t shake it fully. I managed to walk it off a bit but it kept creeping back in so I had to keep walking it off. I slowed dramatically and introduced a bit of strategic walking, getting in at 2 hour 56 in the end.

That being said, I completed one of my goals set out at the start of the year, not exactly as I planned but I did it nonetheless. Now it’s time to decide what I want to do for the second half of the year. Hopefully now that the cough is starting to ease (it’s there still but much better) I can train properly again and either look to improve my time at this distance later in the year or look to try a different challenge all together.

The Second Half

I’m supposed to be ruining another half marathon on Sunday. I really don’t know if i can do it. I mean I guess I always have this worry but there’s a little bit of me that kind of knows I’ll get round one way or another. This time I genuinely do not think that’s the case.

My legs actually recovered within a couple of days, although for some reason known only to my small little brain I decided to incorporate a lot of calf work into classes this week to the extent i now have DOMs and so now my legs are not ok.

My body really hasn’t recovered in terms of fatigue yet. I’d normally if nothing else make sure I go into something like this relatively well rested if underprepared and I’m not. I can also still vividly remember the feeling at miles 5 and 10 and how depleted I felt, pushing through that once is one thing, doing it again so soon feels like one step too many for me.

Equally though, I set myself the challenge of doing to in one month back in January because it would be hard and so part of me wants to see it through and ignore the low level anxiety I’m feeling about it right now.

Someone said today if it took 6 hours to just get round they wouldn’t tell anyone, but I kind of think even if it took a really really long time, if I did it, it would be an achievement and prove to myself that I can do things even when they’re hard. After recent months I feel like that’s something i need to remind myself in terms o fitness.

So for now I’m going to eat plenty, try to get lots of sleep, rest up and then see if I can do it. Might change my mind before Sunday!

Half Marathon Report

On Sunday I ran the Birmingham Half Marathon. I’ve not been able to train this year really due to an ongoing cough that has really affected my ability to do cardio, so I went into it really very under prepared. In reality, if it had been someone else I’d have suggested they drop out, but I counted on being able to depend on a little muscle memory from my past fitness and training to get me through.

It did, and I had a good first half, albeit by mile 10 I had mentally checked out. My breathing wasn’t controlled and my legs were tired. I’m used to tired legs by that point in a race but my heart rate normally feels steady so it’s fine. Unsteady breathing and tired legs combined is much harder to fight through mentally!

I’d gone out for a few drinks the night before and whilst normally I’d say that’s not the best preparation for an event it probably served me well because I relaxed and wasn’t thinking about how hard it was going to be all night and worrying and fell asleep pretty easily.

Recovery wise now I feel pretty fatigued. In reality though, do I feel worse than if I’d gone in more prepared? Probably not. I’m signed up for another half in two weeks. I am seriously considering whether that’s going to be doable right now. Getting round once underprepared is one thing, doing it twice might be a bit of a push and I might end up risking a injury. What I don’t want is to end up not able to train for parts of the rest of the year because I’ve not been smart about my own health.

For now though I’m just pretty proud of myself that i managed to get round in one piece and not give up!

Project 40- Week 21

As we approach the end of the first quarter of the year, which quite frankly feels like it’s flown by, I feel a bit like I’ve massively underachieved. 

In terms of training I’m way out from where I planned to be for my goals, in particular the two half marathons I’m doing in May.  My goal had been not to just run them but actually enjoy running them, feel comfortable and in a position to push for a time rather than just get round.

As much as I’ve tried to keep on top of training, the never ending cough has just prevented me from running or at least doing so for any extended period of time. Most runs have been a mixture of running and walking (with coughing fits in between).

I’m readjusting my goals for these and looking to get in the best place I can (the cough does seem to be improving a little) and then enjoying them rather than thinking about times. In reality I do then have the second half of the year to then push for more performance based goals once (hopefully) I’m healthier.

Adjusting your expectations and not getting despondent is actually quite difficult. There’s so much out there about sticking to plans no matter what, pushing through, no pain no gain and so on, that sometimes it can feel like defeat to adjust goals to something more manageable.

I think that mind set is why a lot of people give up on new training plans and goals after a while. If it doesn’t work out perfectly straight away you can end up feeling like a failure or guilty and it’s almost easier to say maybe it’s not for me or I can’t so it.

From my point of view though, doing these half marathons will still be an achievement. It will still have positive effects on me (both physically, mentally) and I can always try again over the coming months to hit the milestones in terms of performance I originally wanted to.

For most of us, a not perfect change, is still going to be massively beneficial (albeit not quite as Instagram post worthy) and so sometimes we need to just modify things a bit and keep going.

Project 40- Week 11

January is actually pretty well underway, it feels like we’ve only just come back after Christmas but it’s already 16th. It just goes to show that January is a funny month and I do wonder why we think it’s the best idea to start all the ‘new’ stuff in a month where it’s mostly dark, we have financial and literal hangovers from Christmas and every other day someone tells you it’s meant to snow next week.

Nonetheless, I feel like I’ve got some stuff done already this year. I’ve shift a few Christmas pounds, am in a routine training wise (albeit, I do need to ramp this up if I want to do the fitness goals I’ve set myself this year) and I’ve done one thing that scared me already with my other not fitness thing that scares me hopefully sorted for when it’s a bit warmer.

What I know I need to do on pay day is book in some runs. Right now the goals are a bit too abstract for my brain to kick into gear and make me push myself harder in training sessions, once they’re booked I’ll have the fear factor to help me a bit. I, you see, know that I need a deadline to get stuff done. I’ll quite happily amble along thinking ahh yeah I’ll get to that if I don’t have something concrete to focus on.

I think the best piece of fitness advice I could give anyone this year who has set a fitness goal, whether you be new to the gym or a regular who’s set themselves some big ‘thing’ is select your event or milestone and do something to set it in stone (i.e. book the run, the swim, the competition spot) and use the fear that generates to garner a bit of motivation.

Training in Heat

It’s been quite hot the last week and this week it’s set to get hotter with weather warmings and the like. So let’s talk training in heat.

Now schools are being advised to consider letting kids run about in the sun, closing early and so on, but children are more susceptible to struggling in the heat so as adults we really don’t need to avoid training during hot weather. If you’re fit and healthy enough to train anyway the heat, whilst uncomfortable, isn’t going to suddenly make training ridiculously dangerous.

There are of course things you can do to be sensible and look after yourself, ensure you don’t overheat, avoid heat stroke, don’t get dehydrated and quite frankly make training more pleasant.

You might like to train earlier or later in the day when it’s cooler or even switch outdoor sessions to indoor where you can enjoy air conditioning making things a bit cooler. If you are outdoors running or cycling wearing lighter colours, kit with tech that helps absorb sweat might help, and of course make sure you’ve plenty of suncream on.

Hydration is key at anytime but particularly when it’s hot making sure you drink plenty of water is going to be key when exercising (and not exercising folks) to counteract any increased risk of dehydration.

You may want to moderate your expectations for sessions – if the heat affects your energy levels, accepting that you may need to reduce intensity a bit or take a few more or longer breaks will help you complete a session without being annoyed with yourself. To be fair, nows a great time to start learning this lesson if it’s something you struggle with. Our bodies will at various times just have a little less to give, and on those days, whether you be tired, hot, run down or stressed, adjusting your effort levels and intensity and accepting that some days feel better than others can be a key step to training without being yourself up.

But beyond being mindful that it might be wise to take a few precautions when you aren’t used to the heat we don’t need to avoid training or going to the gym.

In fact, for generally healthy people, it’s been shown that training in hot conditions can actually be beneficial to your fitness.

Whilst it might feel harder to train in heat training in the warm weather encourages your body to sweat more (keeping you cool), increases your blood-plasma volume (benefiting cardiovascular fitness), and lowers your core body temperature. These things are all beneficial to helping you perform better in any weather.

When you add heat to exercise, you increases the stress load on your body. This stress can play a role in current and future performance. For example, as a runner you might find you have an easier time at a race if your body is already used to adapting to and training through different conditions. More than that there can be mental benefits to training in heat, from an increased sense of achievement of getting through a tough session and also feeling more capable of getting through future challenging workouts.

So the upshot is if you would normally train don’t let the upcoming weather put you off, just take some precautions to look after yourself and stay safe.

I did it…

I did it! 2 hours 34 mins and 52 seconds officially (one second faster than my Garmin said). Not only was that about an hour quicker than I expected (and to be fair it was only 15-25 minutes slower than my previous seven half matahon times) I also didn’t even need to complete it by ‘wogging’, I ran unbroken until the 16km mark and only walked a couple of times in the last 5km.  My first 5km and 10km were actually my fastest 5km and 10km post Pandemic.

I’ve honestly never been so nervous beforehand, I didn’t sleep much and must have had about 25 nervous wees before the race even started (oh and one portaloo stop on the way round – if I hadn’t maybe I’d have been under 2 hours 30!). Once I started running though I felt suprisingly good and relaxed.  In fact for the  first 10km I felt like I was almost coasting and it really wasn’t until I was closer to 15km that I felt my legs start to feel heavy. I always find with longer distances that it isn’t my breathing that I struggle with, it’s the legs feeling tired and as I’d been ill during the last few weeks my energy levels didn’t feel great to begin with. I also felt my knee start to twinge around 7km, which concerned me at the time, but it held out quite well.

Here’s my thoughts post run:

  1. Splitting the run down into sections helps me mentally tackle a long run.  I broke it down into 4 5km runs with a 1km finisher and focused on that one 5km at a time.  Each section I told myself I could walk for a bit if I ran that 5km section, it pushed me to keep moving with something to aim for and in the end for most of it I didn’t need to walk and just kept going.
  2. I started this run faster than I meant to – I was thinking of aiming for 13-14 minutes miles at least to start with and my first three miles all came in under 11 minutes each. I purposefully had to slow myself down because I knew I’d gass myself out if I kept that up but in the end I averaged an 11.4 minute mile. Normally I’m really careful to pace myself early on and speed up if I can rather than go out too quick, but this time I was nervous and that made me go hard early on, in the end that start meant I felt like I had wiggle room in the second half of the run which calmed me down so it worked out ok but isn’t the ideal race tactic.
  3. Strategic walking can actually help your time, I find it better to plan when and how far to walk if needed though to avoid getting into that stop start pattern.  If you do needto stop running though keep moving, stopping to stretch or breath half way through a half does nothing for your legs. 
  4. Manchester has some nice sites to run past but a lot of dull industrial parts too, the atmosphere is great but it isn’t always the most scenic.
  5. Strategic energy gels are useful. Not waiting until you feel like your flagging but taking at pre -planned times keeps you feeling steady throughout.  I’m also always pretty careful on water intake, a few sips at each station otherwise I find I often get a stitch.
  6. Airpod battery life is not sufficient for the slower runner.

All in all I was actually really chuffed with my finishing time and also the actual run itself, which was probably stronger than the time suggests. I’m looking a the next Manchester Half in October now, with perhaps the aim to get back to a 2 hour 10 minute finishing time.


Tomorrow I’m running the Manchester Half Marathon.

Well I say run, to be honest i think it will be more of a ‘wog’.

That’s a bit of running / jogging and a bit of walking in case you didn’t already know.

I really don’t feel prepared. I’m fine with endurance but I’ve seriously met snails that move faster than me and my build up has been affected by being poorly and my knee injuries playing up. As it stands today my knee is actually quite painful to run on at all, let alone for 13 miles.

I considered dropping down to run 10km, which in itself would be tough, largely because I didn’t want to be the person who took four hours to finish or come last, but then someone said to just do it for myself and forget what anyone else does it in or thinks of me and so that’s what I’m going to do.

Full report to follow next week.