Category Archives: Training

Becoming a runner

1000 miles done

If I could summarise this year I would say it’s the year I stopped being a man who runs and became a runner. That may sound a bit odd but despite having run for as long as I can remember I think it’s only this year I’ve truly become a runner.

In the past my running has always been in fits and bursts, picking up either when I’m feeling fat and unfit or when I have a race to target. But this year it’s been truly consistent, week in and week out always running. I’ve only had maybe 2 or 3 periods of 7 days where I haven’t run and they were either through injury or a conscious decision as recover after a big race.

At the beginning of this year I set myself the challenge of running 1000 miles, mainly because it sounded like a nice round number but also when I did the maths of what that meant for weekly mileage it was at a level that would push me to be consistent without needing to go way beyond what I could manage. It’s been amazing the impact running so regularly has had on my fitness, that consistency should never be underestimated. (Incidentally Bracken has done at 95% of those miles with me and probably more given he never runs straight!)

I feel like a completely different person to the one sat this time last year planning the year ahead. I’m a good couple of inches smaller on my waist for a start, but more importantly feel good. I’ve never felt this fit before and it’s a great feeling isn’t it? Feeling lean and strong and mentally healthy too which is potentially even more important.

Traditional Christmas day run!
Traditional Christmas day run!

I’m also feeling fairly satisfied at ticking off a couple of races from my bucket list; finally doing the Scotland coast to coast is awesome, such an amazing race across incredible scenery. Also enjoyable having done it as a pair with my brother, having someone to share it with makes it somehow more real I think. I feel like I learned quite a lot about myself doing that race as well, not least from being able to keep going for over 11 hours and covering such a huge distance under my own steam.

Then of course there was finally popping my marathon cherry and all because I got my London marathon rejection letter through. I decided to just get on with it and do a marathon rather than talking about it and hoping to get into a big city race. Doing the Broadway marathon was more in keeping with me anyway and the stunning Cotswold countryside certainly made for a nice backdrop to the race.

Beyond those 2 big races there was a half marathon PB in the Neolithic half marathon, a race that was an awful lot hotter than I expected but finishing at Stonehenge is a pretty cool experience. There was also the race that started the year; a 10k in Bath in thick snow covering the other extreme temperature wise.

In journalistic terms this was a breakthrough year, one where I learnt an awful lot about running and definitely one that has given me the confidence to take on bigger challenges. As we move into 2014 that’s exactly what I’m starting to think about, what’s the next thing to tick off the bucket list? I know I train better with something to aim for so time to start getting some races in the diary. Plus I hope 2014 will be the year that I manage to get to a Write This Run conference, gutted to have missed the first 2 due to other commitments so the next one is a must do!

Happy new year everyone, I’ll leave you with my running motto.

Winter training plan

I’ve been winding down my running a little since doing my marathon last month, after the intensity and focus on training in the weeks leading up to it’s been quite nice to have a few weeks of just running when I feel like it and not feeling the pressure of needing to do a particular distance.

But now it’s time to spend a bit of time planning my winter training over the next couple of months and I’m thinking of doing things a bit differently. I’ve built up quite a decent base fitness I think and so inspired by the discussions on Talk Ultra in recent weeks I’m going to focus my time on running form and speed work.

How many days like this will we have?
How many days like this will we have?

My intention is to not do any races in December and January and instead use this time to focus on technique and also build some speed. After all I’ve spent most the year doing lots of runs but mostly not particularly fast and a little stop start as I run with the hound 90% of the time. This also has the advantage of adding some variety to my training which is never a bad thing after a long year.

I haven’t quite figured out what working on my running form looks like yet but I may do those sessions at lunch times as they should be shorter in length. I am also tempted to get a session with a professional for some proper coaching and advice. My thinking is that if I want to progress to running ultra’s then good form will go a long way to making that achievable.

The speed work will most likely take a few different forms, today I did a 5 mile tempo run at a decent pace for example. But will also try to do some 6 x 3 minute effort sessions and possibly even some hill reps. All good things to build some speed in the legs which always helps when you hit that last hill in a tough race and of course also means running race pace in an ultra will feel easy!

I’ll still of course be heading out quite a few mornings each week with the hound but those will be short and an easy pace (there’s only so fast you can run off road in the dark without breaking an ankle). They’ll keep me ticking over nicely and leave my legs reasonably fresh for the other sessions.

So that’s my plan, what have you got planned for the next couple of months? Racing or focused on training?

Tempo runs countryside style

Last week I had the rare pleasure of an early evening run in the beautiful autumn sun rather than my usual trudge at 6am in the pitch black. All facilitated by bunking off work early (I had been working hard and deserved an early finish of course) and maybe also persuading my lovely wife to do solo bath time with the little monsters.

Given that I’m marathon training and really should be doing something other than easy runs I thought I’d make use of the daylight to do a tempo run. So me and the hound headed off on one of our usual trails in the Wiltshire countryside at a nice pace which felt great, not sure how much Bracken appreciated the lack of chances to sniff things though.

Continue reading Tempo runs countryside style

The 5 week marathon training plan

Yes, yes I know that post title would probably be at home in the Daily mail, I’m clearly not going from zero running to running a marathon in 5 weeks. In fact I’ve notched up 800 miles this year so far so my legs are fairly used to the occasional run. Think of it more as a fine tuning plan, a few tweaks to my normal weeks running to get me ready for the challenge.

The reality has definitely set in about the whole running a marathon thing, but as a good chunk of finishing these things is mental I’ve chosen to ignore that reality.

But I do have a plan which so far has been going well apart from the nicely bruised ankle I’m currently sporting from what turned out to be a very short run on Tuesday. The idea is to keep going with my normal routine of 4 or 5 morning runs with Bracken but mix them up a little in terms of what I do.

Continue reading The 5 week marathon training plan

One month to go

Exactly one month from today I shall be (hopefully) finishing that little race I’ve signed up for. *whispers* you know the one that involves crossing Scotland from coast to coast. Which means I’m at that point before a big challenge where I’m part excited and part in denial about exactly what I’m going to do.

I’m also having a small panic over whether I’m fit enough, I think I am but the cycling still worries me as I haven’t done as much as I would have liked. Work has limited my plans for evening rides, not to mention the 2 weeks of travel to the USA. But this was also why I found myself setting an alarm for 5.30am today to get out for a 2 hour ride before work. The advantage of working from home 1 day a week is I can be a bit flexible with start times on those days and not worry about commuting to the office.

My legs felt terrible all the way around the ride, but when I got back it was not only my highest average speed (16 MPH) but also the longest at 28 miles. Not even halfway to the distance I’ll do in the race but good to know that even when feeling that my legs have no energy I can do a good pace and one higher than we plan for the race anyway.

Continue reading One month to go