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

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.

Help I’m running a half in 6 weeks!

Have you realised you’re just a few weeks out from your run and you haven’t really started training?

In my latest podcast I talk about my current situation, factors to help you decide what to do and how to approach the situation if you decide you’re still going to run.

You can listen here:

Run Forest Run

I used to run a lot, I’ve only done one marathon but I’ve done a lot of half marathons and 10Ks in recent years.  Now I was never massively fast (I’d definitely describe myself as the tortoise rather than the hare) but I could complete 5km within 25 minutes, 10km within an hour and so on so was comfortable signing up for runs and knowing I’d get around in one piece.

During the initial Lockdown when gyms were closed I ran most days and so was in a pretty good place running wise.  Repeated Lockdowns, back and forth changes, injuries and personal issues just made me stop running for a while.  Added to not being able to train at all, weight gain and general not feeling 100% my running ability is not where it was.  I hadn’t run as much as 5km unbroken for a long time and the addition of more than 10kg of bodyweight in a short period of time made running for ten minutes plus really hard work.

I’ve signed up for a half marathon in May so now is the time that I need to get myself back to a point where it’s doable to run 13.1 miles.  I’ve started running short periods (like 15/20 minutes) unbroken and last weekend ran 5km without walking.  It took me about 38 minutes, but this weekend I got that down to 36 minutes.  I’ve been meaning to try Park Run to help keep up a routine of running but my times have been putting me off.  Realistically I know they’ll be other people running at my pace but my brain keeps telling me I’ll be last and so I keep chickening out.

The  thing is if I was talking to a client I’d be reassuring them that they can do it, they won’t find themselves last and even if they did it wouldn’t matter and I’d mean it, but we’re always harsher towards ourselves aren’t we.

So this weekend I’m going to make myself go and give Park Run a go with the aim of doing it in less than 36 minutes.  At no point am I under any illusion that this half marathon is going to be easy but I’m determined to get myself to the point where I can do it and run the whole thing.  Zero ego, I might be slow and the next month or so will not be pretty but I know I’ll feel good if I get myself to this point.

Running and Snow

It may have escaped your attention but in many parts of the UK currently it’s pretty snowy.

Snow and ice is all well and good but if you’ve got running goals to work towards it can be a right pain in the bum. I personally have 50km left to complete before 31st December as part of a running challenge so not being able to run for multiple days is not ideal.

But the good news is you can run in snow and ice with a few adaptions and some preparation:

  1. Be prepared to adjust your route. Think about staying closer to home so if conditions change you can get back easily. Also consider finding a park or some roads that have been cleared and completing loops – boring yes but you’ll get a clearer run and if you complete laps you’ll get used to where is safe and where is slippy pretty quickly. If you lie near a gold course these are often used for sledging on snowy days (no golf) and can be good run routes too – less likely to slip on grass!
  2. Forget a PB. You’ll need to take it a bit slower, shorter stride, keep and eye out for ice patches. Focus on getting a run in instead of stats, and maybe consider reducing the mileage a bit. It might be slower but it can actually feel like hard work running in icy conditions so think of it as a different type of run, you might find you ache in different places to normal.
  3. If the snow is deep you’re less likely to slip but you’ll need to think about lifting the knees higher. It will slow you down and might make your running feel less efficient but think of it as a different type of workout. Bit like running on sand.
  4. Dress for the weather. Layers, long sleeve running tops, hats, gloves. Especially as you might be going a bit slower make sure you are warm. Of course you’ll warm up once you start moving but don’t go out in shorts and a vest! Pick the most appropriate shoes you have. Running spikes / grippers if you’ve got them would be ideal as would fell running shoes but in this country many of us won’t have spikes to hand and unless you’re a running buff likely you won’t have specific fell shoes, so trail shoes might be the next best option – something with a bit of grip! Oh, and good socks – believe me, they make the difference.
  5. Be prepared. Have your phone and cash / cards. If you slip and hurt yourself in bad weather or it suddenly worsens you’ll thank yourself. Oh and take a bloody headtorch if you’re out in the afternoon. Me and a friend went for a run the other afternoon and it went from day to pitch black in minutes- hard enough running when you can’t see normally, add in ice and ouch!
  6. Walk when you find icy patches. Turn your route into a walk / run if need be. Much better than being out for months with a broken leg.
  7. Accept you might fall over though – just don’t go hell for leather across ice and make it inevitable!
  8. Enjoy the view. Things are prettier in the snow, take time to look instead of just bombing round. It can make a run feel so much more pleasant and counteract the I hate running in these conditions feelings.
  9. If outdoor running in this weather really isn’t for you switch to a treadmill. If like me you hate treadmills with a passion try a spin class or the rower and think of it as a bit of enforced cross training.

LEJOG

I’m doing a running challenge this year.  Lands End to John O’Groats (virtually), that’s 874 miles between 1st January and 31st December.  I’m currently around the Yorkshire Peaks, just over 400 miles run.

The challenge is set up so you record your own miles on an onlien map, it allows you to decide how to do the challenge; you can record just runs, runs and long walks or to record all of your steps every day.  I have chosen to only record my runs because I wanted to use it as accountability to run more.  However, that is because I tend to walk a lot anyway so if I included my steps it would not be a genuine challenge. But for anyone who is quite sedentary who wanted to move more counting steps every day would be a great challenge.

There is a Facebook group for people doingt he challenge and it’s a very supportive, nice group and people post their wins and also when they are struggling and everyone is always qick to cheer or offer moral support.  What these posts often raise however is how everyone is approaching the challenge differently in terms of what they include as mileage.  This often creatse confusion, with people askign am I doing this wrong?  Should I be counting that?  Of course people always reassure and remind the OP that the challenge is unique to them and tehre is no right or wrong.

This confusion is common not only in this group however but throughout the fitness industry.  How often do you see someone on Facebook or Instagram doing a certain plan that is polar opposite to the way you train, eating a certain diet, eating more than you, less than you, training 3 days a week when you train 5, training for a marathon in a different way to you, running 10km in the time it takes you to run 5km, training in body part splits when you don’t, spending 2 hours in the gym when your session takes 45 minutes.

It’s really easy to think you must be doing it wrong.  That if that person who looks fit is doing the opposite to you you should do that too.  We are all different however.  Our bodies, fitness levels, experience goals, time pressures, tastes, willingness to cut cake for breakfast out of our diet, likes and dislikes, mental health, shift patterns, hobbies – all these things will (or should) affect how you eat and train.  Therefore unless you find an absolute carbon copy of you out there, your training or nutrition won’t look like someone elses, and nor should it.

Yes, there is lots of generic advice that works for specific groups of people.  Group exercise instructors will face common obstacles so advice tailored to them as a group can work- but even then they will need to tweak that to sit their precise circumstances.  You sit at a desk all day, I could predict your pain points and suggest some advice that would probably help lots of people, again it would need a bit of tweaking by people and not every piece of advice would be releveant to every person who works in an office.

The key is taking in the advice, the suggestions, the tips and knowing what is and isn’t relevant to you, what will ad won’t work for you.  Then being able to look at other people doing different things and not get triggered by it, or feel bad, or superior or like you must be doing something wrong, because if it is working for you and Isn’t unsafe you do you.

Have you met Jeff?

Are you someone who’d like to run more but always feel like you have to stop after a while so have given up? The Jeff Galloway Walk Run method could be game changer for you.

Jeff was training non runners to start running back in the 1970s and through initial training sessions and courses where he took non runners to 5k distances and more he concluded that a mix of running and walking could both improve times and reduce injury.

Now it’s generally accepted that when someone first starts running a mixture of walking for a bit running for a bit is a great starting point. Most people have the mind set however that as you progress the goal should be to run all distances continuously without walking breaks. and that to get a PB you must just run faster and never walk

The Galloway Run Walk method argues that by walking and running in set ratios you can speed up your half marathon time by around 7 minutes on average. The method is quite specific and advises set run to walk ratios (and consists of paid plans to advise you), but even if you wanted to just use the principle of planning some walks into your runs to strategically improve your times I believe you can see the benefits.

The idea is that Run Walk Run as a method is essentially a form of interval training (think Fartlek training but with planning) and building in walks reduces fatigue by allowing better conservation of energy, reducing stress on the body and reducing body temperature during the walks. By planning a walk in at a set point as opposed to running until you have to stop and walk it can allow you to run further and faster once you go back into a running segment because you have spent some time recovering before the point of absolute exhaustion. It can mean you are less sore after a run which allows you to carry on with every day life and can make motivating yourself to start easier and you are able to enjoy runs more (especially if you hate the pushing through the pain idea). It is argued it can dramatically reduce the risk of injury.

So how can you use this idea in your runs to see if it makes a difference? Instead of running until you can no longer run then walking for a bit and then starting back up as soon as you feel able think about planning your walks ahead of time. For instance I will run for 15 minutes then walk for 5 minutes then repeat until i reach my distance. Think about how long you can normally run until you start to struggle. If that is 25 minutes, plan you walk in around 20 minutes so you are not yet needing the walk when you stop. If that’s 10 minutes plan you walk at 5 minutes. The idea is to take that active recovery before you really need it, allowing you to recharge and then run at a faster pace in your next running segment. You are still covering distance whilst you are walking and you are covering the distance quicker in the run sections and therefore may well find you shave time off your normal ‘just run’ run.

Of course sometimes you may want to run a whole distance to see where you are at but you don’t need to feel like you must only ever run to be a runner. A bit of walking could actually ultimately make you a faster runner!

Tired Legs

As I’ve mentioned I’m doing a challenge of 874 miles in 2021- that’s around an average of 120km a month across the year. A combination of my fitness, the weather and the dark nights meant I didn’t hit that in January and was a bit under in February. I’m also aware I could get injured or have to take time off at some point if I am ill later in the year so my plan is to increase my mileage in the months where I’m feeling fitter and the weather is nicer to allow myself an emergency buffer. As such I’m aiming for 200km in March – I’m currently on 64km eleven days in. What this means is running on tired legs some days. I always do a long run with my friend Hollie on a Wednesday night. She is faster than me so it is always a run that pushes me and I normally feel it in the legs the next day so often don’t run on a Thursday, but this month I need to to reach my goal so today I did 5km (3 miles) after last nights 13km (8 mile run).

Running on tired legs is a challenge but it’s also something you can teach yourself to do and if you re training for a marathon or endurance event it’s a good idea to consider doing some training on tired legs. Obviously it’s a balancing act of not over doing it (you want to increase mileage by no more than 10/20% a week), risking injury or making yourself run down by affecting your sleep, recovery etc. and building your endurance. Below are some tips I find useful to run on tired legs.

  • Fuel well, don’t try and massively cut calories at the same time as increasing miles- this will make runs even harder. Carbs 30 minutes before a run always gives me a boost on tired days.
  • Stretch- often. Legs may still feel tired but stiff tired legs are even less fun to run on.
  • On long runs hydrate or take a gel before you feel like you need to. Waiting until you feel like you need it can make it much harder to keep going.
  • Slow your pace on tired leg days. If you aim is endurance and getting the legs used to doing the miles you do not have to hit your best pace on every single run.
  • Listen to your body, if you are tired, go slower. Running on tired legs can help you on race day as when you know you can run even tired it gives you the confidence to push past any fatigue on race day. The speed you run at in training on those tired days is irrelevant.
  • Control your pace and don’t print down hills – a steady pace is much easier to maintain when tired than stop / start sprint / slow is.
  • When your legs start to feel heavy think about lifting your foot a little higher, landing slightly softer with a heel to toe motion, this can help boost circulation and reduce impact making your legs feel better.
  • Think about something else. I like to listen to audio books- mainly murder mysteries as I run, whatever distracts you from the fatigue.
  • Of course if you start running and the legs feel pain instead of fatigue- stop. Learning your body and the difference between when you need to rest and when you ca challenge yourself is key to building up your own endurance when running.