First Run In 11 Days

Wednesday was my first run since the Magna Carta Marathon.

How did I let it get to this point?

Well, obviously I took a few days off after the race to recover. My legs were aching for a few days.

And then in the week I went to massage, which was good but kind of left my calves in a bit of a state. So that was another couple of days off, and that pretty much ended my ambition to get a recovery run in before going away for the weekend.

I went to York, my university town, which was great fun, especially catching up with old friends; nevertheless, it was also nearly three days of beers and meals out…and NO RUNNING.

My first day back at work should have been the day I got back out running but I was hit with such a tsunami of crap when I went back in that I couldn’t do much besides getting home and slumping in front of the television.

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It was a great evening for a leisurely run, being the hottest day of the year so far (which for England isn’t actually that hot – still perfectly ambient weather for running a short distance!) I was basically just “stretching my legs”, getting back into training. I stopped here and there to take a photo, and got held up at the canal. (The bridge comes apart when a boat comes through and you have to wait to be able to cross.)

Overall, that left me with a time of 34:31 for a 5k.

As you can see, my stats were all over the place as well:

KM 1:          7:09

KM 2:          6:13

KM 3:          8:05

KM 4:          5:46

KM 5:          7:18

I busted out my new headphones for this run. They are the same as my old headphones apart from the colour since I replaced like with like. The reason they needed replacing at all was that the other ones stopped working properly after the day we got soaked for over four hours on a 21 miler.

I took the opportunity to get the new ones in green, but as I ran I seemed to be having issues with the blue tooth connection: it was cutting out whenever I started going fast – not great!

running headphones

I finished up sweaty, with that pleasant post-run feeling.

Happy days – it’s been a while!

 

 

More Things I Like

Continuing in the same vein as my other “things I like” posts, here are some things that I have liked recently…

The Joe Rogan Experience #1027

Joe Rogan interviews Courtney Dauwalter, who won a 238 mile race by a considerable distance, and what’s more, she seems to have done it with more than a bit of the half arsed spirit about her, shunning diet plans and not really being able to give much explanation of how she managed it. Joe jokes throughout that her diet plan appears to be beer and nachos.

But the flip side is that she has some serious, serious grit. Think of the baddest bad-arse you know and then add some extra bad-arse on top of that. I won’t go into detail as it would ruin some of the surprises in the podcast but Joe pretty much nails it in his description of her as “savage”.

 

Breaking2

This is a National Geographic documentary that has made it onto YouTube. It covers the attempt made by Nike last year to see whether it was humanly possible to run in a marathon in less than two hours.

Taking the concept of marginal gains to a whole other level, we see the efforts of three of the greatest marathon runners in the world. Especially impressive is Kenyan runner, Eliud Kipchoge, who did manage a time of two hours and twenty five seconds. He trains well, he eats well, and he has good form. But the thing that got me was his complete air of stoicism as he runs. This was a timely reminder to someone like myself (who isn’t always as positive as I could be on the longer runs) that mindset is incredibly important in big events.

 

Worst Training Run Ever

We knew and accepted that we had to prepare for a marathon. We knew we had to get a long distance run in, and we have enjoyed the canal path that runs from Newbury to Reading before.

On this occasion, it was just unfortunate that it happened to rain on us THE ENTIRE TIME.

 

Here’s what it looked like:

If this looks grim to you, it’s because it was.

It was absolutely horrible.

We were even given every chance to bail as Lil’ Sis’ dropped us off at Newbury station and, seeing the downpour that was going on, offered to pick us up at any point along the route.

But we carried on…

…and on…

…and on…

…for the entire twenty one miles. The paths were so muddy we were forced to walk several sections, simply for our own safety. It was sometimes a case of putting your foot down and watching it slide away from under you.

It ended up taking us four hours and twenty minutes. We were also soaked to the skin and pretty cold by the time we finished.

Was all this just to get extra man points, extra grit, extra hardcore runner credentials?

Here’s the point where the post is supposed to take a turn and I tell you about some profound realisation that came to me whilst I was out in the elements. I then end on an inspirational quotation. But unfortunately that didn’t happen. We got the mileage done and considered ourselves lucky not to have come down with colds afterwards.

Don’t get me wrong, a run like this does help your training and does show you, once again, that you can always do more than you think you can. It builds character, but sometimes character building is a slow burn; it happens without any fireworks, and in a very low key way. It plays itself out against the grey, rain-drenched backdrop of the Newbury canal path.

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The Magna Carta Marathon

This was the first Magna Carta Marathon and we knew from early on that this was going to be a small scale event as we collected our race numbers, which were in the single digits.

By “we”, I mean me and my Running Buddy, to whom I was a bit of a let-down by wanting to walk parts of the course, having only prepared with a single twenty one mile run, and prior to that not running any distance farther than a half marathon this year.

This was taking half-arsing it to another level!

To be fair, this wasn’t a deliberate refusal to train, but I keep getting issues with my knees, hamstrings, ankles – basically every part of my legs – whenever I try to increase my mileage. This is something that has been gradually getting better since replacing my trainers, which I’m guessing were long overdue to be changed.

On top of my poor preparation for the race, I had a mini-meltdown before the event, because I forgot my music player. 26.2 miles seemed to become instantly longer without any tunes, and to make matters worse, this was a race that allowed – even encouraged – headphones. The director even told us during his health and safety talk, if you want to listen to music on this course, there’s no road running, so fill your boots.

Those were his exact words: fill your boots. I was not impressed with myself.

But there was semi-good news – my Lil’ Sis’ would be coming to support and she said she would bring her mp3 for me to listen to during the last loop. I say “semi-good” because our musical tastes aren’t exactly what you would call aligned but you take what you can get when you’re a muppet and FORGET YOUR MUSIC PLAYER!

The race was five loops along the side of the river in Egham, taking it’s name because it was the site where the Magna Carta was signed. The first two loops were only a couple of miles each and then there were three or four six mile loops, which obviously became increasingly more difficult.

Not everyone likes loops, as it can be quite depressing to be covering the same piece of ground for a third or fourth time, except being more exhausted each time you get there. However, for me, I find that they help me to calibrate my run, and pace myself.

At the aid stations, I discovered a thing called Tailwind, which the race director apparently swears by. I thought it tasted disgusting to be honest. It’s hard to say whether it helped me, but taking that, combined with generally hydrating at every aid station, meant I managed to avoid the headache I sometimes get after running really long distances.

We met a lady who was wearing a one hundred club T-shirt. (The one hundred club members have run at least one hundred official marathons.) She said that she had actually run 281 marathons, but unfortunately they only give you a T shirt after the first 100. She also told us that she would be running another marathon the very next day. (Yes, these people really do exist! She makes my Running Buddy look sane, and he can’t wait to enter a one hundred mile race next year – he has already asked me to be his pacer for the last thirty miles.)

Strangely, the lack of music didn’t affect me as badly as I thought it would and I returned a marathon PB of 5h17m50s, which is still really slow – a fact that can be easily explained away by the consideration that I was never really that good in the first place! On top of that, this was only my second actual marathon (third if you consider the one I dropped out of). I crossed the finish line in quite an upbeat mood and then it was off to the nearby Harvester for a pulled pork BBQ burger.

 

 

 

Some Of My Favourite Running Photos

Since starting this blog (and upgrading to a better phone that can my camera app and running app at the same time) I have been more conscious about taking photos when the light is good, or when something interesting pops up on my runs.

Here are a few that stand out for me:

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I took a photo of this glove on a stick because it scared the crap out of me for a split second.

I have an active imagination. Put that together with listening to Zombies, Run! and only seeing it in my peripheral vision, and of course I didn’t see a glove, but a severed hand on a stick!

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This photo really captures the sense of adventure when setting out on a really long run. It was taken during Race To The Stones 2017 and it just turned out right; to me it looks like a still from one of those artsy documentaries about ultra-running.

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This photo is the backdrop to my blog and it just shows what can be done on a phone camera if you are willing to get up early enough and catch a time of day when the light is perfect.

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This photo is taken in the same location as the one above, at a different time of day and incorporating the man-made, industrial side of the landscape. This appeals to me for some reason I can’t explain, but whatever it is, it would probably also explain why I’m so drawn to video games that take place in stark, post-apocalyptic settings.

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This photo is another case of being in the right place at the right time. The local football goals in the park took on a very different feel as shapes emerging out of the mist.

Bolt Round The Holt

A week ago, I woke up early on a Saturday morning and drove a considerable distance to support my lil’ sis’ in her first post-pregnancy race event.

What follows are her thoughts on the race…

Half-arsed runner: How did you feel about doing your first post-pregnancy event?

Lil’ Sis’: I felt anxious about whether I was really fit and ready to compete but also excited and eager to get back into races.

HAR: How did you train?

LS: I started training a few months ago after my six week post-natal check with the doctor. First of all, I just went out and ran to see what I could achieve. I managed a slightly slower pace than I did before Lucy was born and ran a mile. I started upping the runs to two a week and increased the distance by half a mile each week until I was running 5k. I managed three 5ks before the race started with some hill work.

HAR: It was a long way to go for a 5k. Why did you choose this particular event?

LS: I love this forest and have raced here on other occasions. One of them was a 5k whilst I was about five months pregnant and they were very supportive. The other was the same event last year. This was the last official race I did before finding out I was pregnant, and it seemed fitting to start my races again with it this year.

It was a challenging and rewarding course that I would recommend to others. AAT events are well organised too.

HAR: Were you happy with your time?

LS: At first, no. Upon reflection, yes.

I was two minutes slower than last year but this year had to walk/fight woodlands through the path for a good quarter of a mile because the track was so muddy that I was afraid of falling over! I know this cost me those valuable minutes that I would have needed to beat or equal my previous time. Having said that, I feel I am already back to my previous fitness levels and that feels amazing so soon after giving birth!

 

Swimming

I am really bad at swimming.

What’s more, I really meant that sentence. It wasn’t just the set-up to a humble brag where I reveal that I’m actually quite decent at swimming.

No, I really suck.

I’ve only recently stopped getting out of breath after one length due to poor technique.

But I really want to persevere with this activity as it’s the perfect cross training to offset a lot of running: it uses different muscle groups and gives the joints a break from pavement pounding.

My gym buddy has been helping me to develop my breast stroke. The first thing he told me was to close my fingers so that the the water isn’t getting through them. That should have been obvious, but somehow it wasn’t.

I have also been watching YouTube tutorials. The trouble is that I sort out my breathing, and my legs go to crap; I sort out my legs, and my arms stop doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

I have noticed some improvement to my breast stroke though. I did five lengths the other day and wasn’t out of breath. I think this is an activity that all runners should try to do if they have any kind of access to a pool.

(For obvious reasons, like not getting arrested for being the “creepy man at the poolside taking photos”, I haven’t got a picture of my pool, so I opted for one taken on a coastal run instead.)

The Unofficial Reading Half Marathon

This is the last post I will do about the cancelled Reading Half Marathon this year.

One of the stories that came out about it was that 100 or so runners decided to do it anyway, icy conditions and all.

I didn’t do that but when I was chatting about the cancellation with some work colleagues this week, it was proposed that we run the route ourselves.

And so on an otherwise unremarkable Wednesday evening, I found myself running 13.1 miles.

The Official Reading Half had fifteen thousand entries. Our event was admittedly a bit smaller with only three participants.

We followed roughly the route of the Half but couldn’t run across Reading University or through Madjeski stadium. We also didn’t benefit from road closures so we had to run alongside all the traffic on the dual carriageway.

The guy in the orange top is a lot faster than me and I will admit that I struggled. I said in my last post that I’ve been having trouble with my knees but I decided that after seven full days of rest, I was good to go again. Nevertheless it wasn’t too long before both my knees and hamstrings started causing me considerable pain. I’m afraid that I had to ask the guys to slow down a couple of times and I needed three walking breaks, especially on the big hill in Whitley. (I impacted their times considerably but they are both stand-up guys and very supportive.)

This was also hopefully my last run in my old running shoes, which I replaced last week with new ones that need breaking in over shorter distances. (The prompt was when Zombies, Run emailed to say I had completed 500k with the app. I realised that I must have done a lot of mileage in my shoes overall, and that may have been contributing to all the little pains and niggles I’ve been experiencing this year. I over-pronate and my shoes supposedly correct that. Project minimalist shoes has been shelved for now; I don’t have time to re-learn my gait before Race to the King.)

On the way over to meet them, I dropped by Sweatshop in Reading and asked if I could collect my medal for the cancelled race. I said I didn’t want a medal unless I earnt it but today I feel that I did.

The featured photo for the post shows the sun setting as we were running.

Silver Linings

Some people may have read my post yesterday and thought I was defending the race organisers of the cancelled Reading Half Marathon. To some extent, I was doing that –  because I do not think it is their fault that we were hit so badly with the snow.

However, as time goes on and they still haven’t put any new information up on their website, I am feeling less and less sympathy for them. People were able to collect race packs from the venue yesterday but again, this was only for a limited time and wasn’t communicated out very well. (I could have driven over but decided it wasn’t worth my time to collect a medal and finishers T-shirt for a race I didn’t finish. The medal needs to represent an achievement, really; otherwise it just becomes a piece of kitsch.)

It doesn’t look likely that there will be any refunds or that the race will be reorganised. I sincerely doubt that there will be free entries offered for next year either. Another, smaller, event was cancelled on the same day and it was said that it would bankrupt the organisers to issue refunds after all the money spent. (Which does make you wonder whether these events get insurance.)

However, I suspect that none of the above considerations are going to stop the participation numbers from dropping next year. It seems that most people aren’t angry at the cancellation but at the lacklustre response. The weather forecast was in place from Monday last week and there should have been time to plan out a goodwill gesture or something, rather than the sponsors having to step in (Sports Direct are offering £40 vouchers to all would-be participants).

This is a shame, because it will damage an event that I really like, on top of the disappointment of not being able to run in it yesterday.

And so on to the silver lining bit mentioned in the title…

My brother came from London to support myself and my running buddy so we played Mario Kart yesterday instead. Whilst I was talking with Running Buddy, I mentioned a specific pain I had been feeling below my left knee and he said that was a classic warning sign of runner’s knee. I said I had been resting up for my taper since last week’s ten miler on Sunday but he said I should rest some more.

So, who knows? Given that I would have been swept up in the atmosphere yesterday, I would have run hard, and maybe damaged it further. Maybe I’ve sidestepped an injury!

I am not detracting from anyone else’s disappointment or feeling that they were ripped off yesterday. I am just trying to keep myself positive by believing that some good may have come out of it for me personally.

In the meantime, this is me in my 2017 finisher’s T-shirt (notice how the sun is shining brightly now that we’re back into the working week!)

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All Revved Up With No Place To Go

I was due to leave my house forty five minutes ago. I was going to go and pick up my running buddy and drive down to the start line of the Reading Half Marathon. But as I was eating my pre-race porridge, he called me to tell me that the race was cancelled due to the snow.

No big shocker there as rumours have been circulating all week that this might happen, and this was the view from my bedroom window this morning…

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It was a bit of a late announcement though as I checked my phone first thing at 06:45 and there was nothing on the website to indicate cancellation at that stage.

I felt a weird mixture of relief (following on from the Farnborough Winter Half I knew that my feet would get soaked through in the first ten minutes and that’s how it would be for the rest of the run) and feeling a bit deflated: I had actually been getting psyched for this race, watching documentaries like the one about the sub-two marathon attempt all week.

So, like any good millennial, I took to social media to see what others were saying: it was the usual mix of unnecessary abuse, whingeing and general hilarity. There were also some genuine and heartfelt comments.

Corey0695 deserves to go viral for his video showing his reaction to the race cancellation. He’s in the hotel room by the dressing table, and he basically does a backwards flip back into the bed!

I was also amused by all the people talking about having a non-alocoholic St Patrick’s day for nothing.

As for the rest, it’s a sad state of affairs when you have two strangers arguing about the cancellation decision and descending into hurling abuse at each other – not the best use of this miraculous technological network we have invented to bring humanity together and share knowledge is it?

(“You’re a dickhead” “No, you’re a dickhead.” “NO, YOU’RE A DICKHEAD” etc. etc. etc. – yawn!)

A lot of people also want to blame the organisers for the late decision. Yes, I was just about to head out of the door when my Running Buddy rang me to tell me about the cancellation but I can understand that this is a drastic action to take (they have closed half of Reading’s roads and have set up a mini “race village” – a lot goes into this event.) It is therefore also understandable that they wanted to be sure.

I would be gutted if I was already on a train from another city or had paid to stay in a hotel, but why are people so eager to assign blame? Ultimately, it was the weather which has let us down, and until the New World Order develops a machine that can manipulate the weather, that’s not really anyone’s fault is it? (Hopefully I don’t need to clarify the less-than-serious tone of that last sentence.)