Running, exercise and why we do it

20:50 I have been away for a while but fear not for I am back! I have been feeling rubbish for a good few weeks now with a throat infection, flu symptoms, an atrocious cough and feeling generally run down so….. although I have taken part in a few races including the Cardiff Half Marathon, Great Birmingham run, NICE 10k and Raceways Stratford 10k I probably shouldn’t have done all these races as they probably didn’t add anything positive to my general level of health which is one of the reasons why I have been off blogging about fitness for quite a while now, but I am back on it!! HURRRAAAAAAAY!!!!!

One of the things that prompted this blog was a podcast I listen to on a weekly basis called Marathon Talk which is always excellent listening!  In one particular episode a few weeks ago at 36/37 minutes in ( http://www.marathontalk.com/podcast/episode_355_barry_smyth.php) they have a wee bit of a training  talk on the subject of Self Reflection as to why we run (although this could apply to any form of sport or exercise or any hobby in general). They touched on a point about setting goals and targets. Do you want to let this over take your life? Why are you doing it and what do you want to achieve? Do you want to lose weight, do you want to inspire someone, are you competitive, do you just want to clear your head, are you aiming for a pb? Also why do you want to do these things? Are you trying to achieve something that you can control in running or exercise that you may not be able to achieve elsewhere in life such as work, relationships, money, etc?

Yes, it is great to feel healthier, slimmer, more muscular, more toned and better in yourself and exercise is fantastic for that but if all that time spent in the gym attempting to squat more, curl more or knock minutes or seconds off your personal best is taking away from other parts of your life is it really worth it?

This struck a chord for me as for the past four years I have run a marathon each year and for 16-18 weeks before each marathon my life has been given over to training, recovering and looking after myself to get the best out of myself on race day… That’s a third of my year gone just in training for one day and for what??? Well the first one I did in 2013 was to see if I could achieve a marathon in a decent time and I did, the next one of course was to try and beat 3 hours which I narrowly failed to do so but thought I had it in me so the third attempt had the same target and I absolutely nailed it and was chuffed to bits and the fourth one was the London Marathon so I was aiming for a great time again (it wasn’t too bad) and of course I had the experience of taking part in the London Marathon which was genuinely and truly amazing! After all of these marathons I was well and truly cream crackered for a good two/three/four weeks after which then meant my exercise for anything was not at an optimal level which has me saying every time that no, I won’t be doing that again but again I go and sign up for another marathon which means I will be going through the whole cycle again! This marathon next year may be my last for a while, I only really want to do it again as I messed this particular race (Loch Ness Marathon) up last time round, it is a beautiful course and it is another opportunity to visit the fantastically awesome far north of Scotland as I can’t really think of another reason that I would want to go through that twenty plus week cycle all over again.

In this time frame of training and recovery I didn’t see friends anywhere near as much, my constant running/training may have adversely affected my social life even if health wise it has affected me in a positive manner, I hadn’t gone out drinking anywhere near as much (possibly a good thing) and I put other things like looking for different jobs or taking on other challenges on the back burner purely because of marathon training. Now I don’t know if this was the right or wrong thing to do, I am not a bad runner at all, for my level I am actually half decent but I am certainly never going to set the world alight with my running but I do wonder if I could have spent that time more wisely, done more with the rest of my life and become a more well rounded person.

Running is also something that is measurable, it is quite easy to set realistic goals and work towards them and hey it is something I really enjoy but there is potential that I am putting other things on the backburner as they are not so easily measurable or achievable.

Now I am definitely not the person to tell you what is right or wrong as for all the time I put into those efforts I am proud of my achievements and nobody can take that away from me but I would like people to put some thought in to why they want to aim for certain things and why they want to get faster/bigger/slimmer etc and just to reflect on whether we are using these targets to deflect or hide away from other issues in ones life.  Also do you really need to be going out training at the crack of dawn or would you benefit from more sleep or an improved diet or spending time away from the TV or Facebook and Twitter??

So run, lift, cycle, climb, surf, trek, swim and squat but do it mainly because you enjoy it not because of some target you think you should achieve or aim for because it is popular or trendy or will make you a better person. Like I say there is nothing wrong with aiming high but don’t let it get in the way of the rest of your life!

Thanks to Martin & Tom at marathon talk for the inspiration for this blog and making me think about my own training (I still enjoy it but am mixing it up a bit more at the moment).

Happy training everyone!!

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It’s been a busy few weeks!

14:52 Well it has been a busy few weeks challenge wise, I have really gone out to push myself in different way’s… well other than just running which is great but also nice to try different things! 🙂

First there was a few weeks ago the Yorkshire Three Peaks trek, 25 miles and lots of rocks, mud, wet patches and rain… This was originally meant to be a charity hike but was re-arranged for a date in September due to inclement weather. Myself, Emma and Maddy went ahead any way and climbed and walked away, yes there was a lot of rain, yes it was a bit windy and at the top of the hills you couldn’t see a thing!! The views we did see though were most excellent and we did complete it, started at 6:50am and done by bang on 4:59pm! Just over 10 hours!!

Mike Yorkshire

See, glorious summer weather in Yorkshire!

Emma & Maddy

See the weather is beautiful

After becoming ill that week (not because of the hike but because I had picked something up off Emma) I still had my longest ever bike ride to do the following Sunday, another charity event which I had raised a fair bit for. I had only ever cycled 20 miles in one go before so the 60 miles of this ride sure was going to be challenging but I pulled it off in 4 hours 40 minutes in quite glorious weather in the Warwickshire countryside. I hoped to finish a bit quicker but I did start off conservatively as didn’t want to blow up really early and I did take time out to stop and chat at each the water stops… note to self, don’t wear such tight shoes when cycling long distances, they still swell just like you are running if not more!

me at bike ride

Feeling pretty please with myself after the ride

 

Then I have just had two races in a week and come 2nd in both! The first a 5 miler at Hanbury Hall and I came 2nd out 110 people over trail, sheep poo and some well-kept gardens in some very warm weather in 31:20 and the second last night in 17:37 over 5km distance at Stourport Sports Club as race 3 of the three-part Fast & Furious 5km series Kidderminster & Stourport AC run. Between the two races I won a £10.00 note, two bottles of wine, a t-shirt and souvenir mug!

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Beers!!! T-shirt!! Mug!!! Hurrah for the DirtRun 5 miler

I believe my improvement in speed has come from a lot of slow and easy running (and cycling) building up my aerobic base which then allows me to hammer out speed sessions as fast as I can whilst not quite throwing up! Also a determination to not let my place slip as I had got myself in to a decent position!

So there we have it, I have got out there and pushed myself at challenges I am not used to and pushed myself harder in running than I ever have.

What have you all been up to?

Happy exercising everyone!!

Keeping yourself on your toes

17:13 Whatever walk of life one is involved in I feel it is essential to keep yourself on ones toes…

Every time I finish marathon training I feel like it has taken so much out of me that it takes me a while to refocus. I really, really, really wanted to take part in the Loch Ness Marathon again this year but financially I don’t think it was going to be viable to go away for another week or two and I would already need to be heavily in to my training again and not sure I fully have it in my legs again just yet, proper recovery is really needed…. however I have as previously mentioned beaten my long run record, now at 27.59 miles and have also beaten my Parkrun / 5km PB a couple of weeks after the London Marathon and knocked that down to 17:47 (woohoo, finally broke 17:61) so I thought although I just like going out to run for the love of  it, it was time refocus….

… I am going shorter, I have entered the Hanbury Hall Summer Sizzler near Droitwich which is 4.8 miles off road and the Fast & the Furious 5km race at Stourport Cycle track at the end of July, therefore I am slowly  working myself in to a 5km plan with plenty of gym and core work to keep me looking good and on form over the next few weeks…. I have also just this minute (hot off the press) entered the Worcester Pitchcroft 10km at Worcester race course next Sunday so that should be a fast and flat one.

It is a nice feeling to shift my focus slightly and target shorter and faster races, there is no making myself going out to run 15/20 miles unless I actually want to but I do have to force some rather uncomfortable speed work in to my training which although sometimes not enjoyable is always immensely satisfying if you nail it.

Away from running, myself and Emma are also going off walking occasionally, more recently up the Shorpshire hills at Carding Mill Valley in Church Stretton, partly because it is a fantastic place to be but also because we are both doing the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Trek in July which will be a challenge and a half.

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The glorious Shropshire countryside

Other than the great outdoors I am sticking with working my core work in pilates (steady and slow wins the day) and also some short and sweet gym sessions to keep my muscles firing and working hard and also keep me on my toes and toned, am currently in the gym for 15-35 minute sessions at a time and seems to be working well for me.

With that, until next time, happy training and keep in touch, let me know what you are up to!!!

 

Global Running Day

22:19 Tomorrow is Global Running Day!!! Woohoo!!! A day of running, and in June rather than November … double woohoo (fingers crossed for better weather)!!! Ok, it appears to be organised in the US of A with most of the official affiliated events recorded on that side of the Atlantic but you could sign up and take part here http://globalrunningday.org/

I am imagining something akin to this:

simpsons

 

But seriously the point is to enjoy running, enjoy exercise and enjoy the great outdoors and some fresh air and how good it all feels… You may end up something like this….

Forrest Gump

Which is what I was a bit like yesterday with my run from Stirchley to Worcester… but more of that at another time.

So go on, get up and get outside and enjoy yourselves, short runs, long runs, tempo runs, hill repeats, gentle jogs, absolutely nutting it all on road, track or trail!

Happy running everyone 🙂

Virgin Money London Marathon 2016… finally my report of the day!!!

21:57 Yep, again I have been slow off the mark catching up with things and this I should have done earlier as it did involve a PB…. In London!!!! Ok, it was only a personal best by 33 seconds which is only just over one second a mile quicker but hey it is still a PB!!! I must say I was relieved by the end of the marathon to get a PB but I was aiming for under 2:50 so a time of 2:54:19 didn’t fill me with joy but I did miscalculate with about 4/5 miles to go and thought I had more time to get there than I did for a PB so when it dawned on me that I needed to put my foot down with about 5km to go when I was really beginning to flag it was a case of no more trying to get the crowd to cheer us on as my arms were aching and ultimately it led to a sprint finish in front of Buckingham Palace!!

The whole of the London Marathon was a fantastic experience with the sights of London along the route, the enormous amount of runners and of course the amazing crowds, especially at Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf (Canary Wharf was deafening!) I do feel for those who did other marathons on the same day such as Blackpool and the Shakespeare Stratford marathon as they are just as valid marathons in their own right but if you mention that you did a marathon and it wasn’t London to a non running friend or colleague you generally just get a disappointed look back.

I tried to keep an even pace around London to conserve my energy and I think I did well as I managed a sprint finish over the last 800 metres or so but I was exhausted at the end… 26.2 miles does really test you although I have got round to thinking that I could have really put my foot down even more in the last 10k despite my ridiculously aching arms which I could barely swing and my blister covered feet.

My Strava stats (hopefully showing some consistency) can be viewed here https://www.strava.com/activities/556433791 , the two miles which were over 7 minutes for the mile were loo breaks!!

I must say although the experience was fantastic it was entirely exhausting, from traipsing across London on the Friday to the expo and how packed and crowded the expo itself was to trying to get to South London for 8am on the Sunday morning and making sure Emma knew where to go and where to meet after.

Anyway 1181st place out of about 38,000 odd people is pleasing and I am thoroughly glad I was persuaded to take part. I just wish I got Emma to take a photo of me with my medal after as it costs nearly £20.00 for an official photo.

I made sure I had plenty of carbs early in the morning, I woke up about 4.45am to make sure I was eating really early and I didn’t over eat, I took on liquids regularly before I started and through-out the course of the marathon (it is fortunate they have drinks stops pretty much every mile after 5km. I also took on gels when I could feel myself starting to tire rather than leaving my food intake until I was worn out and lacking in glycogen. Also the night before I had pizza at Pizza Express so fairly sensible carbs with a little bit of veg and I ate regularly throughout the day taking on little bits here and there… I also drank water regularly the day before and tried to reduce my caffeine intake.

Hopefully these are all helpful/useful running tips and you can make use of them yourself in the future and I hope you enjoyed reading.

Until next time, happy training, happy running and enjoy the great outdoors!! 🙂

A few days before Landaan Marathon

10:29 London Marathon in just a few days!!! I am going to nail it, no really I am, well may be… according to my dream last night I took part in the marathon with Emma but we finished in 3:06:25 and not sub 2:50 as planned but the last mile did have obstacles to climb through which left me muttering ‘I bet Wilson Kipsang doesn’t have to do this’.

Anyway I did actually wake up thinking I am going to do this, so we will see what the next few days will bring!

The last seven days or so has definitely brought on a tapering frame of mind however I did take part in my first parkrun in 8 months at Perry Hall Park and got a time of 19:04 which is way off my best but it was very cold and windy and had actually snowed heavily in the morning and part of the course was across a rather boggy playing field so pretty happy and it felt weird to cross the line as 1st person. Anyway everyone was very friendly indeed and if you find yourself in north Birmingham on a Saturday morning at 9am and fancy taking part in a run then get yourself to Perry Hall park… don’t forget to register first though so you can get your barcode here..  http://www.parkrun.org.uk/.

The next day me and Emma struggled to find our way around Herefordshire at the end of the Malvern’s to get to the start line just as they were doing the safety announcements for the Eastnor Castle Magnificent Seven run which was full of delightful scenery and views to look at and bloomin great big hills to climb, along with lots of mud… Strava stats can be found here https://www.strava.com/activities/549527672 . I finished 5th out of 201 people and Emma finished 7th lady in 51st place! Well done us. I know it can be a bit much doing a race a week before a marathon but I did think that it was trail so mainly soft and I mean very soft ground and it was 7 miles so it wasn’t like I was knocking out a half marathon at full pelt.

 

eastnor castle

Me and Emma looking pleased with ourselves after the Eastnor Castle Magnificent Seven

I swam the next day as is my Monday ritual but cross training has now gone out of the window and the run’s are reduced.

So pre-race tips , I think I am prepared, I have planned where I am going to pick up my race pack at the expo, got the hotel booked, know where I am going on public transport, know where I am eating in the evening, planned what time I need to get on trains etc in the morning and what time I need to get to the other side of London.

Think I am good to go!!!

Happy running, racing and training everyone 🙂

World half marathon championships, London is two weeks away and first PT client!!

18:58 Well it truly has been all go since my last post a few weeks ago… firstly even though I nearly exclusively talk about running here this is also a vehicle to talk about my Personal Training ventures which alas has been sadly lacking… well my friend Sean got in touch with me recently and last Sunday morning we had a wee taster PT session at Rowheath playing fields and we can both agree that we thoroughly enjoyed the session and our legs truly ached the next day (mine especially so as I had my lost long, long run of 20 miles to fit in after). Hopefully Sean will be back again and we can work on his fitness together and I can especially dedicate more time to it after the London Marathon in two Sunday’s time (bleurgh)!!!!

Back to running which I know is what you all come here for anyway. Since my last update a few weeks ago my mileage has slightly decreased which is rather annoying but I have had a few days where I felt a bit under the weather and a couple of days where my muscles have been extremely sore or tight so I had erred on the side of caution and chucked in some shorter runs than planned or had a complete rest so I didn’t overdo it and wear myself down completely. Training advice alert right there!!!!

I have one more warm up race which is next Sunday (I know, I know it’s a week before London) but it is a 7 mile trail race so as long as I don’t go over on my ankle I should be fine and can have a 15 minute warm up and cool down either side of that race so I am nice and prepared for the race before, and to help flush out any lactic acid after. I will be wearing my Innov-8 trail shoes for that race which I have only worn on a couple of occasions but seem to fit beautifully and seem a little lighter than my old Adidas Kanadia.

I have good news on the half marathon front, a couple of weeks ago I headed down to Cardiff for the World Half Marathon championships and in some truly torrential rain in the second half of the race (the likes of which I have never raced in) I managed a PB, only by 7 seconds but I will take it! My chip time of 1:21:58 does justice to the fact that I stuck at it even though I felt horrible between 5 & 10km and after the 6mile/10km-ish point I shoved some gels down my gob and powered on actually passing a lot of people that passed me early on. I felt like I ran my last 5km in about 17 minutes but in actual fact it was a little over 19. The rain also helped me push on I think towards the end as I just thought let’s get this over and done with (I was drenched). I may also have finished a little quicker but I did stop at some point after the two mile mark to check if another runner who was holding his chest was ok, he just waved me on though and said he was fine, I hope he is!! I was in general hoping for a slightly quicker time as I knew the course was pretty quick which it was especially as I was only 33 seconds off a PB after the Droitwich half which came after what is for me a high mileage week and of course was pretty darn hilly but a PB is a PB and I am happy! Got home that night and indulged in pizza and beer.

Recent time can be found here (my RunBritain rankings) proving my marathon training is assisting my half marathon times.

My only real worry coming up to London is that I am only enjoying running in my Adidas Boost Adios 2, my Brooks Ghost 7 are knackered and seem to have shrunk immeasurably in the past couple of months and my Newton’s seem quite cumbersome making me feel like I am putting in a lot more effort than I need to go at even long slow distance pace. I could wear the Boost more often but they can be quite a tight fit and don’t want to wear them out too early.

Any suggestions for a relatively light long run road shoe will be much appreciated as it is good to vary the footwear you wear out there!

Other than that I am generally worried about the big day but that appears to be based more towards the logistics of getting down to London, picking up my race pack and getting to the start line, making sure Emma is ok and making sure I meet her ok afterwards. All the training is done now and I can do little to affect it now, I just hope I have done enough quality sessions and eaten enough of the right stuff and rested enough!!!

Until next time, happy running, happy training and enjoy the great outdoors!!!  🙂