Race Report: Great Birmingham Run

It’s never a good sign when it takes me almost a week to write a race report. I could have written a ‘woe is me’ race review last Sunday, but I decided to spend a few days reflecting on what happened. The Great Birmingham Run itself was well organised and very well supported, and I didn’t want to write a biased and overly negative race review.

event-day

After managing to complete 16 weeks of training, I was confident that I’d enjoy the Great Birmingham Run. I also hoped that all of the early morning training runs would be rewarded with a respectable half marathon time. I was going for gold.

When I first looked out of my bedroom window at 6am on Sunday morning it was dry. A few minutes later it started to rain. The rain continued until approximately thirty minutes before the race started. I got out of bed at 6:30am, had a shower, got changed into some of my running gear and managed to eat four weetabix and a couple of bananas.

My friend reluctantly dropped me off in the centre of Sutton Coldfield and I spent ten cold and very wet minutes waiting for a bus. Fortunately the bus arrived and 30 minutes later I found myself walking across the centre of Birmingham playing dodge the huge puddles and hunt the race village.

start-areaI would have taken more pre-race photos but I decided against getting my camera soaked. I tracked down some portaloos and had a successful visit. I then located the baggage buses – for some reason I hadn’t expected the baggage buses to be double-decker buses – climbed onto bus number 5 and removed my soggy jeans and fleece and put on the rest of my race day outfit. I squeezed myself into the black bin bag I’d customised the previous evening, and left my bag sitting on the back seat of the baggage bus. I was actually quite jealous of my bag getting to sit inside a warm and dry bus.

I reluctantly headed back out into the rain, found some shelter and spent the next thirty or so minutes people watching and trying to keep warm. I managed to fit in a couple of portaloo visits and after a few attempts tied my laces so that they weren’t likely to get too tight as the race progressed. I was nervous and just wanted the race to start. After what felt like ages, runners wearing orange and white numbers were called to the start area. It was quite windy and I started to feel really cold. In usual Great Run style there was a short organised – and in such a confined space slightly hazardous – warm-up. My warm-up consisted of me removing my bin bag and hoodie and realising that I *really* needed another wee. Unfortunately, there were huge queues for the portaloos in the start area and queuing would have made me miss the start of the race. I tried to convince myself that I didn’t need the toilet. I tried to remember where the first set of portaloos would be located.

The race started, and the elite and faster runners disappeared off into the distance. After a short delay to avoid the course getting too congested, my wave started running and I headed out on my half marathon run. As soon as I started to run I realised that I still *really* needed a wee. I actually weighed up the pros and cons of weeing while I ran. The first miles and a half was pretty bleak and the course seemed to pass through some slightly dodgy backstreets. I didn’t spot any portaloos and was envious of the male runners who were able to go just about anywhere.

After a couple of slightly over ambitiously paced miles – next time I’ll make sure my Garmin is set to miles and not kilometres – I slowed down and settled into a more sensible pace. I still needed a wee.

Unfortunately, even the more sensible pace felt a lot harder than it should have done so early on in the race. I realised that I felt very hungry. I’d eaten breakfast more than three hours before the race started and was now running on empty (sorry, I couldn’t resist!). Judging by the number of discarded gel wrappers I spotted on the floor – there were thousands of the bloody things, why can’t runners make more effort to carry their rcannon-hill-parkubbish? – I was clearly one of the few runners not using energy gels. I won’t make the same mistake next time.

At approximately 5 miles the course went directly past Bournville train station. I thought about the emergency £10 in my back pocket and almost stepped off the course and into the train station. The course then went past Cadbury’s World – another huge temptation and reminder of my hunger – and up a really short but steep hill. Shortly after the 6 mile marker there was a drinks station and more importantly a row of portaloos. I sprinted off the course and into a portaloo. After spending several hours on my feet, sitting down in the warm and escaping the wind and crowds felt like heaven. Unlike most runners I didn’t exactly rush out of the portaloo and back out onto the course. I guess that deep down I already knew that my race goals were out of reach.

I rejoined the race and spent a couple of minutes trying to get going again. My legs and knees were not happy. Between 7 and 8 miles I managed to distract myself by watching the runners from the later waves heading in the opposite direction. Without the wind cooling me down I started to feel warm and wasted more time getting into a tangle with my water bottle and cap. Trying to multitask didn’t work and next time I’ll stop running, remove my cap, tip water on my head, replace my cap and then run.

After what felt like forever, we turned off Pershore Road and headed towards Edgbaston Cricket Ground. We completed a circuit of the cricket ground and then crossed the road and entered Cannon Hill Park. While it was great to escape the roads, the paths in the park were covered in leaves – and the occasional gel wrapper – and I witnessed a couple of runners almost come a cropper. I grabbed a bottle of Lucozade Sport from the drinks station, had a couple of swigs and was almost sick. Yet another running fail!

We left Cannon Hill Park and headed back out onto the roads. Although this at this stage I felt terrible, the support between 9 and 10 miles was incredible and I was smiling as I hobbled along. At 10 miles the course took us onto the far from scenic Belgrave Middleway and it was at this point my right knee finally decided that enough was enough. Thanks knee.

Shortly after escaping the monotony of yet another Birmingham tourist attraction – the Lee Bank Middleway – the course took us onto Charlotte Road and the start of “The Hill”. When I originally heard the-hillabout “The Hill” I was determined to make it to the top without slowing to a walk. The course was very crowded, and after the third runner had slowed to a walk directly in front of me, I gave in and walked the final few meters of “The Hill”. Later on that day I found some photos that showed just how much I wanted the race to be over.

Just after 12 miles the course took me directly past my ex-boyfriends flat. At least thinking about my ex distracted me from the pain in my right knee and feet for a few minutes. We crossed Harbourne Road – more memories – and then turned onto Hagley Road.

After what felt like an eternity I hobbled through another underpass and eventually reached Broad Street and the approach to the finish.

broad-street-1

I gritted my teeth, powered my way towards the finish, posed for the cameras and stumbled across the finish line.

broad-street-finish

I stopped my Garmin and realised that I’d failed. It wasn’t a great feeling.

The finish area of the race wasgbr-medal chaos. We had to queue for our goody bags and medals. There were families and friends waiting for runners and blocking the way out. The baggage buses were parked on a side street at the bottom of a steep hill. After running(ish) a half marathon the steep downhill wasn’t appreciated by the runners. Security on the baggage buses was variable; let’s just say I could have walked away with someone else’s bag as numbers weren’t checked. I grabbed my bag, got off the bus and started to hobble back up the hill. At this stage I spotted Matt. We had a quick chat about the run, I mentioned that I was heading back towards the train station and Matt very kindly offered to drive me home.

Thanks Matt you really were a lifesaver and I definitely owe you a couple of pints!

We hobbled back to where Matt had parked his car, drove back to Four Oaks where Matt very kindly dropped me off at my local Tesco’s. I’m pretty sure that most runners don’t eat three packets of crisps after a half marathon. I must have really needed the salt. I hobbled back to my friend’s house – down yet another steep hill – located where I’d hidden the front door key, let myself in, removed my trainers and socks and assessed the damage. Although my trainers and socks had been soaked from the start, I’d escaped with just a couple of tiny blisters and a sore little toe. I’d been lucky and my new socks hadn’t shredded my feet to pieces.

Right, I’ll leave this post now as its already far, far too long. Thanks for reading my waffle over the last 16 weeks or so. At some stage I’ll reflect on what I did wrong during my training and on the day of the race and what I’d do differently next time. Although I felt like quitting immediately after the Great Birmingham Run, I’ve already entered the Cambridge Half in March.

Cambridge has to be less undulating than Birmingham…

Have you ever felt like stopping halfway through a race? Had I spotted any of my family out on the course I would have stopped.

I need to start taking gels on longer runs What are your favourite brands and flavours of gels?

Great Birmingham Run training week 16

Week 15 – the penultimate week of my half marathon training – didn’t exactly go to plan. Unfortunately, I came down with a cold and had to miss a couple of my shorter midweek training runs. Although I didn’t feel completely recovered, I was pleased to end week 15 with a really enjoyable 60 minute run on Sunday morning.collage-39The final week of my beginner’s half marathon training plan contained three training runs and ended with the Great Birmingham Run on Sunday. Just looking at the final week made me feel really, really nervous. The training plan recommended that I completed a 20 minute recovery run on Monday, a comfortable 40 minute run on Wednesday and then an easy 10 to 15 minute run on Saturday. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday were my rest, recovery and rebuilding days. Although I was determined to complete all of my training runs, my cold from the previous week was lingering with intent.

Monday – 20 mins easy jog

When my alarm woke me at 05:30 I discovered that my nose was completely blocked-up – sorry – and decided that my run could wait for a couple of hours. After spending the morning working on my Brexit paper, I got changed into some running gear and headed across to Four Oaks Estate. After spending ten minutes warming-up and entertaining a group of workmen with some of my static stretches, I was ready to run.

Predictably the first ten minutes of what should have been an ‘easy jog’ felt anything but easy. My cold meant that my breathing was even more erratic than usual and I sounded really wheezy. Unfortunately, the run didn’t improve after the first ten minutes, and I was really relieved that I only had to run for a total of 20 minutes. When I got home and checked out my run on Strava, it was clear that I’d got my pacing completely wrong. The final week of my half training hadn’t exactly got off to a brilliant start.

Tuesday – Rest

The highlight of my rest day on Tuesday was the realisation that my cold symptoms were finally starting to clear up. At last! The low point was the discovery that my friend was no longer able to drive me into Birmingham on Sunday morning. I spent several hours exploring a range of alternative travel options, and coming to terms with the possibility I might not actually be able to run on Sunday.

Wednesday – 40 mins comfortable

Once again I didn’t feel 100 per cent when I woke up at 05:30, and decided to delay my run until later in the day. I spent most of the morning reading about the Industrial Revolution and the devastating pollution of the headwaters of the River Tame. I then got changed into a slightly strange looking combination of running gear, worked through my effective but after 16 weeks pretty tedious warm-up routine and headed across to Four Oaks Estate. Although I wanted to run for 40 minutes, I felt really unfit and wasn’t confident I’d be able to run for that long without stopping. Don’t you just love taper madness!?

I set out at a sensible pace and decided to ignore my Garmin and to run by feel. Once I’d got the first ten minutes or so of the run out of the way, I settled into what felt like a comfortable pace and started to enjoy my run. As I was acutely aware that my hill training had been pretty nonexistent, I made sure that the run incorporated several challenging hills. Although my pace definitely slowed as I ran up the final hill, I made it to the top without slowing to a walk.

I walked back to the Tennis Club and then spent a couple of minutes trying to take a decent post-run selfie. Once again the results of my attempts were not exactly brilliant.collage-40I eventually got home, drank a glass of orange nuun and then spent half an hour icing my right knee and left foot. Although the majority of my niggles had disappeared and my run had been virtually pain free, I didn’t want to take any chances so close to the Great Birmingham Run. In the evening I worked my way through some of my knee and bum strengthening exercises and then spent twenty minutes massaging my calf muscles with my foam roller.

Thursday – Rest

Another rest day, tapering is hard work! Mum picked me up at 11:00 and once she’d got me trapped inside her car, informed me that she was “fighting off a cold”… We drove across to the cafe at Packington Moor Farm for a late breakfast/early lunch. Once again I failed as a blogged as I forgot to take an artistic photograph of my sausage sandwich. By the time I thought about taking a photo I’d scoffed half of the sandwich. It was really, really tasty. I spent the afternoon and early evening reading a couple of academic papers and feeling guilty for not running.

Friday – Rest

Another mundane rest day… The highlight of my Friday was finding out that this blog has been nominated for the 2017 Running Awards. If you nominated me then thanks!

Saturday – 10-15 mins very easy jog

As the weather wasn’t exactly amazing, I replaced the 10-15 minute very easy jog in my training plan, with an hour long stroll in Sutton Park. Quite lazy of me, but I didn’t want to pick up an injury the day before the half marathon. As an added bonus my trainers avoided getting soaked in the rain. While on the subject of the weather… I may have spent far, far too long on Saturday morning checking various websites. I looked at four different weather forecasts for Birmingham – all four were slightly different.collage-41I spent the afternoon preparing a selection of three race day outfits, playing a really stressful game of ‘hunt the safety pins’, reading the race day instructions, checking the weather, buying train tickets and generally doing everything at the last minute. However, the large amount of uncertainty surrounding my race day travel plans was the cause of the largest amount of stress. I eventually tracked down a bus that would hopefully be running tomorrow morning although due to road closures and diversions I had no idea where it would stop in Birmingham. Not the best pre-race preparation and a valuable lesson in relying on other people.

Sunday – Great Birmingham Run

I’m not going to write an essay here, but the Great Birmingham Run was a bit of a disaster. Although I completed the run, I failed to achieve any of my time goals and felt like cyring the second I’d crossed the finish line. Not my finest moment. At the moment I’m analysing what went wrong and what I should have done differently. I’m also seriously considering taking a break from running.

Finally, a huge thank-you to everyone who has read and commented on my weekly half marathon training updates. Your support really did help me, probably far more than you realised. I really wanted to end this series of weekly updates on a positive note and I feel that I’ve let everyone down.

Hopefully I’ll feel slightly more positive when my feet have recovered.

Training totals

  • Runs: 52
  • Time: 28 hours 40 mins
  • Distance: 278.94 kms

Races/time trials

  • 5 km: 28:15
  • 10 km: 59:27
  • Half Marathon: 02:29:09 (includes a 10 minute sit down on the most inviting portaloo in the history of portaloos)

Niggleometer

  • Left foot: 2/10
  • Right knee: 4/10
  • Calf muscles: 1/10
  • Shins: 1/10

Great Birmingham Run training week 15

After somehow managing to run for two hours without stopping for a sneaky walking break, I felt ready for week 15 and the start of the taper.collage-36Week 15 of my Great Birmingham Run training plan started with a double rest day. After running for two hours, I knew that my legs and calf muscles would definitely need an extra rest day. The training plan recommended that I completed a 50 minute steady paced run on Wednesday, and an easy 35 minute run on Thursday.  If everything went to plan, Friday’s rest day would be followed by an easy 15 minute jog on Saturday and a 60 minute run on Sunday. Although I was determined to complete all of the training runs, thanks to spending far too much time surrounded by people coughing and sneezing, I ended week 14 feeling slightly lurgified.

Monday – Rest

When I made my first tentative steps on Monday morning I immediately realised why week 15 started with a rest day. My old friend – delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) – had made an unwelcome and inconvenient appearance. Evidently the post-run foam rolling and leg pampering hadn’t been very effective. After spending the morning filling in job application forms and drafting out some ideas for an academic paper, I caught the 13:50 train down to Euston. By the time I reached Coventry I’d already discovered that having long legs and DOMS on a cramped train wasn’t a winning combination.collage-37I reached Euston and then hobbled the short distance to Euston Square station and then from Baker Street to meet my friend at his local pub. Once again I found myself sitting outside the pub drinking beer, people watching and enjoying the sun. After an hour I managed to convince my friend that shopping in Lululemon would be far, far more enjoyable than drinking beer in the sunshine. The shopping trip was successful and my friend bought me an ‘anti-stink’ short sleeved running top. We then headed to a local restaurant for something to eat. I must have been feeling quite peckish as I managed to eat a huge portion of steak, peppercorn sauce and chips.

Tuesday – Rest

Luckily Tuesday was another rest day. Unfortunately, the DOMS in my legs had been joined by the start of what would quickly develop into my first cold of the year. I left London at lunchtime and spent the rest of the day working from home and trying to make my slightly fuzzy brain focus.

Wednesday – 50 mins steady

When my alarm woke me at 05:30 I felt far too groggy to attempt a 50 minute run. If I felt better I would run later on in the day. I switched off my alarm and went back to sleep for an hour. After spending the morning trying to perform a Principal component analysis on some river flow data, I was relieved when mum picked me up at 11:30. We headed across to Sutton Park and spent an enjoyable but quite chilly 45 minutes walking around the perimeter Blackroot Pool. Although I had been slightly reluctant to leave the warmth of my study, the walk in the fresh air made left me feeling much better. I was confident that I was well enough to run for 50 minutes.

The combination of not wanting to run when it was really busy, and issues with my statistical assessments meant that I didn’t start my run until almost 20:00. The first ten minutes of the run felt terrible, my breathing was all over the place and I seemed to meet every dog owner in Four Oaks. My obsession with early morning running had meant that I wasn’t used to having to negotiate dog walkers, pedestrians, children on bikes and cars. Things improved once I reached my favourite quieter route, and the remainder of the run was really enjoyable.

Thursday – 35 mins easy

When I woke up at 05:30 I discovered that running the previous evening had made my mild cold symptoms develop into a ‘proper’ cold. Awesome! As an asthmatic runner, I’m aware that missing the occasional run is the most sensible option. I decided that not completing a 35 minute run would make little difference to the outcome of next week’s half marathon and stayed in bed. collage-38My lunchtime walk across Sutton Park and into the centre of Sutton Coldfield meant that I got some exercise and fresh air. The Karrimor running socks and reflective Mondetta running tights I purchased were an added bonus…

Friday – Rest

As my cold hadn’t miraculously disappeared during the night, I was relieved that Friday was a rest day. I don’t like missing training runs. I spent the entire day working on my Brexit and water resources report. In the evening I treated my right knee to a long overdue session with the icepack, and then worked my way through a selection of my arse and knee strengthening exercises. I’m sure that my Friday evenings used to be slightly more interesting!

Saturday – 15 mins easy jog

Unfortunately, I didn’t feel very well when I woke up. My cold appeared to be lingering with intent. After walking the short distance to the local chemists left me feeling breathless, I decided to take another rest day. Although I felt unfit and was convinced that my cold would last forever, I made myself look at the positives. I wasn’t injured and I was taking the start of my half marathon taper seriously. I had a week to recover from my cold. As an added bonus the additional rest days had meant that my troublesome right knee and left foot were feeling virtually pain free. By the evening, I felt so much better I laid out my running gear ready for what would hopefully be the final Sunday morning run of this training cycle.

Sunday – 60 mins comfortable pace

Although – thanks to my cough – I didn’t get the best night’s sleep, when my alarm woke me at 05:30, I decided that I felt well enough to attempt to run for an hour. I went to the loo, got dressed into the slightly warmer running gear I’d laid out the previous evening, drank a couple of glasses of water and headed out into the dark for the final time. It was cold and still, perfect for running in and also ideal for triggering an asthma attack. After a very quick warm-up I set out at a very, very steady and sensible pace.

Once I’d warmed-up I started to enjoy my run. The extra rest days meant that my legs felt fresh, and for the first time in what felt like weeks, my left foot was pain free. The roads were virtually empty, I had the pavements to myself, and I was able to enjoy my final early Sunday morning run. I felt sad that my half marathon training had almost come to an end, and vowed to continue the early Sunday runs after I’d recovered from the half marathon. The run felt easy, and I made it home without breaking anything or injuring myself. I didn’t see any people dressed as clowns.

So that’s the fifteenth and penultimate week of my half marathon training completed, sort of. While I wouldn’t say that it was a successful week, I’m pleased that I managed to complete a 60 minute run without too much difficulty on Sunday. I just need this cold to disappear ASAP.

Next week’s training schedule – the ‘taper and race week’ – contains three training runs and then it’s the GREAT BIRMINGHAM RUN on Sunday!! I can’t wait. I’ve got to complete a 20 minute recovery run at some point on Monday, a comfortable 40 minute run on Wednesday and then an easy 10 to 15 minute run on Saturday. The training plan recommends that I test out my race day outfit on Saturday. As I don’t fancy running in stinky running gear, I’ll be testing out my race day clobber on Wednesday. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday are my rest, recovery and rebuilding days. I’m praying that my fragile body survives the final week and that my cold gets better.

Training totals

  • Runs: 50
  • Time: 27 hours 40 mins
  • Distance: 269.01 kms

Races/time trials

  • 5 km: 28:15
  • 10 km: 59:27

Niggleometer

  • Left foot: 3/10
  • Right knee: 3/10
  • Calf muscles: 2/10
  • Shins: 1/10

Have you got any tips for getting rid of a cold ASAP? I’ve tried several of Boots’ best offerings and I’m now starting to feel slightly concerned it’s not shifting…

Do you test out your race day outfit in advance? I’d never run a race in new trainers, but without knowing what the weather is going to be like on Sunday, I can’t see how I can predict what I’m going to wear.

Great Birmingham Run training week 14

After successfully completing week thirteen of my half marathon training plan, I looked forward to tackling what was described as ‘peak week’.collage-34Week 14 of my Great Birmingham Run training plan consisted of ‘steady’ paced 50 minute runs on Tuesday and Thursday, an ‘easy’ 10 minute jog on Saturday and then the final long training run on Sunday. The training plan recommended that this long run should last between 100 and 120 minutes. Monday, Wednesday and Friday were rest days – at this stage probably the most important element of the training plan. Although Sunday’s long run looked quite challenging, I was determined to run continuously for two hours.

Monday – Rest

It took me approximately five seconds to realise why week 14 started with a rest day – running for almost two hours the previous day had left me with tired legs – running would have been out of the question. Following a lengthy session with the foam roller, I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon working on my Brexit and environmental legislation report. After spending far too long sitting staring at my computer screen, I realised that I was getting a headache and needed to take a break. I got changed into my new yoga outfit – thanks cousin Alice – and worked my way through some of Jasyoga’s excellent five-minute reset videos. Week 14 had got off to a positive start.

Tuesday – 50 mins steady

When my alarm woke me up at 05:30, the first thing I noticed was how windy it was. Great! I got dressed into some running gear, went to the loo, had a drink of water, started my Garmin and then headed outside. I completed a very brief warm-up – it was really mild – and then started to run. At first, an accurate description of my running gait would have been ‘wonky donkey’, however, once I’d warmed up properly, my legs suddenly remembered how to run. After ten minutes of running directly into the wind, I crossed the main road and reached my favourite figure of eight circuit.

For once the weather gods were kind to me, and I found myself only having to run directly into the wind on the downhill sections of my circuit. The uphill sections were most definitely wind assisted. As I reached the final 20 minutes of the run, I started to feel quite nauseous. At one stage I thought that I was going to have to stop running. It wasn’t pleasant, and I have no idea what made me suddenly feel so sick. I was over the moon when I reached the end of my 50 minute run.

I walked back home, managed to drink a glass of water and then sat outside mulling over my run. What had gone wrong? Was I coming down with something? After ten minutes I started to feel really cold and dizzy. I headed back inside, had a long hot shower and then went back to bed. I eventually woke up a second time at 10:00. Although I’d wasted most of the morning, the nausea had disappeared and I felt ready to tackle Tuesday. Luckily, the rest of the day was far more productive.

Wednesday – Rest

The highlight of my rest day on Wednesday was the arrival of my number for the Great Birmingham Run. Say hello to runner ‘5672’. You may wonder why I was so relieved to finally receive my number. Although I was 99.9 per cent certain that I’d entered the event, I won my entry in a competition and never received a confirmation email from the organisers. I’ve been allocated a place in the second wave of runners, so will have to make sure that I don’t get dragged along by faster runners on the morning of the race!

Thursday – 50 mins steady

On Tuesday morning it was windy and mild, first thing on Thursday morning it was windy, mild and very, very wet. Although I’ve always loved running in the rain, accidentally stepping into a puddle and getting my feet soaked as soon as I started running wasn’t ideal. Once again I found myself running like a ‘wonky donkey’ to start with, and the uphill sections of my run were wind assisted. Luckily the nausea had disappeared and I was able to enjoy my run. The second 50 minute run of week 14 felt easier and far more enjoyable than the first. Sometimes the (Strava) statistics apparently do lie.

After spending the rest of the morning and the afternoon working on my Brexit report and drafting out a couple of potential blog posts, I was ready for a break from my computer. I got changed into some gym gear, cleared a space on the office floor, rolled out my yoga mat, spent ten minutes warming-up my muscles and then half an hour rolling my calf muscles and inflicting a lot of pain on myself. My calf muscles were so tight it wasn’t a very enjoyable experience and made me think of the overused expression ‘no pain, no gain’.

Friday – Rest

Another rest day, I really do love my rest and recovery days! Streaking definitely isn’t for me… I spent the morning and afternoon reviewing another couple of unpublished academic manuscripts. I rejected one manuscript – hitting the reject option made me feel really guilty – and the second was accepted pending some minor revisions. In-between the manuscript reviewing I managed to catch up on some washing, all in all a productive rest day. At some point during the afternoon I checked my Outlook account and noticed that I’d received an email from Great Run. The email contained the link for priority entries into the inaugural Birmingham International Marathon. I managed to resist the temptation to enter there and then – 10 years ago I was really impulsive and would have parted with my £55 pretty much instantaneously – and weighed up the pros and cons of committing to training for another marathon. After much deliberation, I decided to hold off entering the marathon until after my long run on Sunday. If I managed to run for two hours on Sunday I would enter the marathon, if I failed I would keep hold of my £55.

Saturday – 10 mins easy jog

As I only had to run for 10 minutes, I decided to turn off my 05:30 alarm clock, and delayed my run until it was light. For some reason I thought that my training plan said 10 mins fast so after spending five minutes warming-up, I decided to see how far I could run in 10 minutes. The answer – not very far! When I got home and checked my training plan, I realised that the run should have been a jog at a really easy pace. It had taken me until week 14 of 16 to completely mess up one of my training runs.

An hour or so after I returned from my run, I opened my twitter account and discovered that I’d won a CEP compression recovery bundle. I love my CEP compression socks and sleeves, so can’t wait to see what arrives in the post! In the afternoon I treated my calf muscles to another enjoyable (?) session with the foam roller, and then had an epic afternoon nap.  Lazy but I wanted to give myself the best possible chance of completing my long run. In the evening I made myself eat a huge plate of pasta, watched Casualty, laid out my running gear for the morning and had an early night.

Sunday – Minimum 100 mins aim for 120 mins

The prospect of having to run for two hours resulted in me not sleeping very well. Some people function well on limited sleep, I’m not one of those people. When my alarm woke me at 05:30, getting out of bed was a real challenge. I went to the loo, got dressed in my lucky Sunday long run outfit, drank a glass of water and headed out the door into the dark. It was cold and the wind had finally died down, the conditions were perfect. If I failed to run for the full two hours I wouldn’t be able to blame the weather. After a quick warm-up I set off on what I hoped would be a successful long training run.

I set out at a sensible pace, and once my legs had warmed-up started to enjoy my run. The first hour of the run felt easy and was incident free. I had the pavements to myself and for the majority of the first hour managed to avoid any tripping incidents. Once again I managed to run up my nemesis hill without walking, progress. When I reached the top of what felt like the billionth hill, I realised that I ‘only’ had 40 minutes left to run. Predictably, those final 40 minutes were both physically and mentally challenging. After listening to the sound of my breathing, the occasional car and a really irritating stone that got wedged in the sole of one my trainers, I started to get really bored. I needed something to listen to, to take my mind of the monotony. Although I felt great, I wanted to get out of the cold and for the run to be over. When the timer on my Garmin finally reached two hours, I was relieved that it was all over. collage-35Slightly contrasting weather conditions…

As soon as I got home I made myself drink two glasses of water followed by a glass of some slightly dubious tasting nuun. I then spent a painful ten minutes with my legs up the wall. After a quick session with the foam roller, I spent far too long having a hot shower. I then went back to bed again and attempted to sleep for a couple of hours. I spent the remainder of Sunday trying to avoid using the stairs and eating far too much food. I also entered the inaugural Birmingham International Marathon.

So that’s the fourteenth and the most challenging week of my half marathon training completed. I can’t believe there are only two more weeks to go. Next week’s training schedule contains four runs and is described as the ‘start of taper’. Let the taper madness begin! Monday, Tuesday and Friday are my rest, recovery and rebuilding days. My legs definitely need the double rest day! I’ve then got to complete a ‘steady’ paced 50 minute run on Wednesday, a 35 minute ‘easy’ paced run on Thursday and a 60 minute run on Sunday.

Training totals

  • Runs: 48
  • Time: 25 hours 50 mins
  • Distance: 251.74 kms

Races/time trials

  • 5 km: 28:05
  • 10 km: 59:27

Niggleometer

  • Left foot: 4/10
  • Right knee: 4/10
  • Calf muscles: 5/10
  • Shins: 1/10

Can you recommend a lightweight and breathable running jacket? I’ve now tried a selection of so-called breathable running jackets and always end up overheating.

What’s the most useful item you’ve won in a competition? I’m predicting that my CEP recovery gear will be near the top of the list.

September review

September lasted for what felt like five seconds, it was over in a flash. Summer is over, the nights are drawing in and the pavements are covered in natural hazards. Wet leaves, hidden conkers and Brooks trainers are not a great combination! Anyway, moving on from the conker incident… As you know, I’ve been producing monthly summaries of my training since the start of 2016. I’ve also shared some of my experiences as a running blogger currently based outside of London, the blogging capital of the United Kingdom.

What worked well? What – if there were any – were my running related achievements? What would I do differently given the opportunity? I then like to loom ahead to the new month.

Running in the dark

Training for the Great Birmingham Run has been going really, really well. I’m not used to successful training cycles, and as a result I’m living in almost constant fear that something is about to go wrong. It could be an injury, it could be an unexpected illness, I don’t know. I’m already eyeing up a couple of spring half marathons. I don’t want to give up my early morning runs so need a new target event.

The month hasn’t all, however, been positive. At the start of September I completed the Lichfield 10k. Although my race was a bit of a disaster, I finally achieved my goal of running a 10k race in a sub 60-minute time. While I enjoyed the Lichfield 10k, I was reminded of the importance of running my own race at my own pace.septemberAccording to my Strava statistics I completed 18 training runs during September covering a distance of approximately 130 km – a huge increase from the previous month. I successfully completed weeks 11 to 14 of my half marathon training plan, and rediscovered my love (?) of foam rolling.

Running costs

Although I spent £45.00 on running related purchases during September, for the second consecutive month I avoided buying running gear I don’t need. If I give in to temptation and enter the inaugural Birmingham International Marathon then I’ll update this post.

I spent £45.00 on a pair of customised inserts. The inserts I’m using at the moment are almost two years old and are starting to fall to pieces. I definitely needed a replacement pair.

I also listed loads more of my unwanted running gear and competition prizes on eBay. Everything sold and I caused some long Monday morning queues in the local Post Office. Sorry!

Blogging experiences

Throughout September, my blogging mojo was intermittent. Although I continued to write my weekly half marathon training updates, it took me ages to write what should have been a simple race review. I’m seriously considering taking a break from blogging and will see how I feel when I’ve completed the Great Birmingham Run. I guess I might feel more positive if I felt that I actually had something interesting to blog about.

Looking forward to October

Last month I confessed that I was slightly nervous about the prospect of running continuously for over an hour. In the end, last Sunday I found running for almost two hours enjoyable and relatively easy. Tomorrow morning I’ll complete my final long run and then its taper madness time.final-weeksI’m now really looking forward to the Great Birmingham Run. For once I’ve been sensible, have listened to my niggles and have trained consistently. Hopefully I won’t let myself down on October 16th!

I’m already looking at potential spring half marathons. Can you recommend any flat and fast spring half marathons? At the moment I’ve only got Stafford and Cambridge on my short-list.

Should I enter the Birmingham International Marathon? Entry costs £55 and I’ve got over a year to train. I’m rubbish at making decisions so please help!

 

 

Going for half marathon gold

During my most recent long run on Sunday, I spent quite a lot of time thinking about my goals for the Great Birmingham Run. What time should I be aiming for? Should I just aim to enjoy the experience? Why hadn’t I set myself goals before I started training?

After about an hour of pavement pounding, my brain got tired, and my thoughts turned to a slightly less mentally challenging subject – food.

dscf1283In a reflective mood after a rubbish run earlier this summer. 

I spend far, far too much time on social media, and from what I’ve been reading, for a lot of first time half marathoners the goal is usually to finish, rather than achieving a specific finishing time. My reading also informed me that the average times for half marathons in the USA in 2015 were 2:04:00 for male and 2:22:21 for female runners [Source]. For some reason I had assumed the average times would have been faster.

Although the Great Birmingham Run will be the first half marathon I’ve trained properly for in over a decade, I completed the London Marathon in April this year and reached the half-way point in 2:39:30.

This leaves me with a dilemma. My most recent long runs have suggested that I’m more than capable of completing the distance in less than 2 hours and 30 minutes. So do I think of myself as a first timer and simply aim to get around and enjoy my half marathon experience, or do I set myself a slightly more challenging goal? I’ve been training for this event for over 13 weeks now, and feel it would be slightly feeble of me to make my only goal to finish.

So I’ve decided to set myself three goals – gold, silver and bronze. If I achieve my gold goal on race day I’ll be absolutely over the moon. I’ll still be happy if I end up with either a silver or a bronze time.

4puvv_im[Source]

  • Gold – Anything under 2 hours 10 minutes
  • Silver – Anything under 2 hours 20 minutes
  • Bronze – Anything under 2 hours 25 minutes

I’m aware that anything could happen on the day, and that my right knee could finally decide that enough is enough. I’m also aware that the Great Birmingham Run course is challenging and not particularly fast…

2015-09-29-morrisons-great-birmingham-run-course-map-2015-v4[Source]

What I do know is that unless I really do fall apart on the day, I’ll award myself a wooden spoon if it takes me longer than 2:39:30 to complete the half marathon.

I’ll also hang up my running shoes!

Great Birmingham Run training week 12

I ended the eleventh week of my Great Birmingham Run training with a slightly disastrous run at the Lichfield 10k. My confidence was low and I seriously considered quitting running.collage-29Week 12 of my Great Birmingham Run training plan consisted of a short 20 minute recovery jog on Monday, a 55 minute steady paced run on Wednesday, another 20 minute jog on Saturday and finally, an 85 minute long run on Sunday. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday were rest days. Although the long run on Sunday looked challenging, I was determined to run continuously for 85 minutes.

Monday – 20 mins recovery jog

When I got out of bed first thing on Monday morning I could hardly walk. The 10m walk to the bathroom was a challenge. The Lichfield 10k had destroyed my legs more than I’d realised. I decided to postpone my 20 minute recovery jog until later in the day. After spending the morning packaging up my latest eBay sales and then causing an impressive queue in the local Post Office, I walked the couple of miles to the local shops to get some lunch. As the walking seemed to help to ease the stiffness in my legs, I decided to head out for my run later in the afternoon.

Once again I failed to run at a sensible pace. What should have been a ‘recovery jog’ turned into a speedy (for me) run. In my defence, by the time I headed out on my run it was so humid I felt better when I ran faster and generated some breeze. I also speeded up to get away from a lady walking a slightly scary dog. The humid conditions were energy sapping – as soon as I got home I made myself drink a couple of large glasses of water. I then spent 30 minutes icing my right knee and left foot. Week 12 of my half marathon training was off to a positive start.

Tuesday – Rest

The highlight of my rest day on Tuesday was getting caught outside in a thunderstorm in the afternoon. It suddenly went dark and then the rain made an unwelcome appearance. I got soaked to the skin because I was a muppet and was too scared to use my umbrella. Once I’d recovered from my traumatic experience, I spent an hour working through several of the slightly less challenging Jasyoga reset videos.

Wednesday – Rest

I should have completed a 55 minute steady paced run on Wednesday morning. Unfortunately, when my alarm woke me at 05:30, I discovered that I’d got a migraine. Not being able to see properly was not ideal, and I accepted that running would be out of the question. Luckily I felt a lot better by the evening, and was confident I’d be able to at least attempt a 55 minute run on Thursday.

Thursday – 55 mins steady

After spending the majority of Wednesday trying to sleep through my migraine, I was dressed and ready to run before my alarm went off at 05:30. Unfortunately, when I looked out the window I discovered that it was dark and very, very foggy. Not an ideal combination. As I didn’t want to run later on in the day when it was forecast to get very warm, I decided to risk heading out for a run. Running in dense fog and not being able to see more than 10 metres in front of me was an interesting experience. I decided to be careful and ran at a slow but sensible pace. Although I found running up the same stretch of road several times slightly tedious, the run was incident free. At the end of the 55 minutes I felt as if I could have carried on running.

After lunch I spent a couple of hours listing more of my unwanted running related paraphernalia on eBay. Hopefully some of it will sell. I then spent the rest of the afternoon preparing for a meeting I’ve been asked to attend on Monday. Reading about the potential implications of Brexit on the water sector was pretty disheartening.

Friday – Rest

I was really relieved that Friday was a rest day. Once again my right knee was quite painful and had clearly not reacted well to running for 55 minutes. In addition, the location of the previous stress fracture in my left foot was also quite tender. As a result I spent most of the morning sitting at my computer with icepacks balanced on my right knee and left foot. In the afternoon I dug out my foam roller and spent 30 minutes or so trying to massage out some of the knots in my calf muscles. Although, by the evening both my dodgy knee and calf muscles felt a million times better, my left foot still felt sore. I didn’t think what I was experiencing were just ‘phantom pains’ and for the first time I wondered if I’d make it to the start line in October.

Saturday – 20 mins very easy jog

As I decided to give myself a bit of a lie in, I didn’t head out on my 20 minute run until it was almost 08:00. What should have been a ‘very easy jog’ turned into quite a fast run when I noticed that there was a group of people running behind me. For some reason my competitive instinct kicked in and I was determined not to be overtaken. I wasn’t overtaken and I made it home without inuring myself.

Sunday – 85 mins easy pace

When I mapped out the route for my final training session of week 12, I made sure that I gave myself the best chance of running continuously for 85 minutes. At 05:30 on Sunday morning it was dark outside and so quiet it was quite creepy. Every footstep I made seemed to echo around the neighbourhood, I was concerned that my plodding would wake up half of Four Oaks. Although it was cold enough for me to regret opting to wear a short sleeved running top, I found running in the cooler conditions really enjoyable. I set off at a sensible pace and made sure that I didn’t inadvertently start to speed up, I told myself that I could increase my pace when I’d been running for an hour. This new and more sensible approach undoubtedly worked as the 85 minute run felt easy.

I got home, drank two pints of strawberry milkshake and then sat in the garden analysing what I’d just achieved. Although I had wanted to run for 85 minutes, I had questioned whether I was capable of running for over an hour without stopping. The Lichfield 10k had dented my confidence quite a lot and had made me question myself as a runner. After chilling out – literally as it was still cold – outside for a few minutes I spent 30 minutes icing my right knee and left foot. I then had a shower and headed back to bed in an attempt to get some more sleep.

So that’s the twelfth week of my half marathon training successfully completed. I’m thrilled that I’ve managed to nurse my fragile body through 75 per cent of my training plan. There are only four weeks of training to go, two of those weeks are cutback weeks.

Next week’s training schedule contains another four runs and looks pretty challenging. Once again I’ve got to drag myself around a 20 minute run on Monday morning. I’ve then got to complete a 60 minute ‘brisk’ run on Wednesday, a 45 minute ‘easy’ run on Friday and then a longer 100 minute jog on Sunday. After this morning’s successful run I’m feeling quite confident I can run for 100 minutes. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday are what I like to think of as rest, recovery and rebuilding days.

Training totals

  • Runs: 40
  • Time: 18 hours 15 mins
  • Distance: 180.78 kms

 Races/time trials

  • 5k: 28:05
  • 10k: 59:27

Niggleometer

  • Left foot: 6/10
  • Right knee: 4/10
  • Calf muscles: 4/10
  • Shins: 1/10

Do you find yourself speeding up when you see other runners? With my injury-prone body and lack of fitness I need to learn how to let other runners overtake me!

Do you have any links to foam rolling exercises you are willing to share? My calf muscles are really, really tight at the moment, so I know that I need to make more effort to torture myself.