My Top 10 Websites for Runners

Recently, I’ve spent far, far too much time researching Plantar Fasciitis on the internet. My nickname could be Professor Plantar. The amount of information about injury rehabilitation is mind-blowing, and in a lot of cases of slightly dubious quality. As I’m sure that I’m not the only runner who spends quite a lot of time perusing the internet, I decided to share my top 10 websites for runners.

So here are my top 10 websites for runners:

1. Fetch Everyone If you want to write a blog, find an obscure local race, get advice from runners, enter competitions and monitor your progress (or lack of progress) as a runner, then visit Fetch Everyone. I’ve been a member since 2005 and have made some great friends through the site.

Awesome features and articles include:

2. Runner’s World Although the recent improvements to the site haven’t been popular, Runner’s World remains one of my favourite running sites. If you need advice and support you’ll find it on the forums. If you need to find a 10K race in April search the extensive race listings. The wide range of articles written by experts and occasional competitions are an added bonus.

Recent articles have included:

3. The Running Bug The running site that I have a bit of an ongoing love hate relationship with. I love the useful articles, competitions and forums. I don’t love my online stalker and the fact that I’ve never, ever won a Running Bug competition. Hopefully 2017 will be my lucky year!

Recent articles have included:

4. Strava Strava allows runners and cyclists to track and analyse their training, measure their performance against other athletes, share their training on social media and much more. I’m too tight to pay for a premium membership, so I’m aware that I’m missing out on most of the awesomeness of Strava. When I find myself a ‘proper’ job and can run I’ll be upgrading my account. On a side note, if you want to read about ‘runners’ setting CRs on bikes,  the twitter account @stravawankers is well worth following.

5. Running Heroes Back in October, the Running Heroes website featured as a ‘rave’ in one of my Rants and raves posts. Such an honour! Running Heroes works with organisations and brands to encourage and reward runners. The site is really easy to use and I’ve collated a lot of points and completed 30 challenges. While I’ve never been selected as a random prize winner, I remain quietly optimistic.

The site also allows runners to exchange their points for a wide range of rewards. I can’t wait for my running clothes ‘ban’ to come to an end so that I can exchange some of my points.

Running Heroes

6. GB Mapometer Although strictly speaking GB Mapometer isn’t a running site, it is a useful resource for runners. I used the site to plot all of my longer runs when I was training for the Great Birmingham Run. The site allows users to accurately plot and measure routes, and provides an indication of the elevation of each route. Useful for avoiding hills in the final few miles of a long training run.

7. parkrun An essential resource for all parkrunners. Although the site can be quite slow during the weekend when a bazillion runners are searching for their latest parkrun result, if you are a new runner and want to take part in your local parkrun, you need to visit the site to register. The site contains an interactive map which illustrates every parkrun event in the UK and links to the individual parkrun event pages, a blog, information on sponsors, results, some information on the parkrun team and a link to the parkrun shop.

parkrun

8. NHS Couch to 5K If I had to recommend one running website to people just starting out as a runner, it would be the NHS Couch to 5K site. The site is free and contains a wealth of information for both beginner and slightly more experienced runners. There are links to download the Couch to 5K app, weekly Couch to 5K podcasts, a simple to use race finder and the dedicated Couch to 5K forums. Finally, the series of guides for runners are a useful invaluable resource.

The most popular articles include:

9. Made with Sisu I’ve been using Made with Sisu to generate data visualisations based on my training runs for quite some time. I almost ordered a print of my 2016 training runs but held back when I realised it would probably end up sitting in a corner somewhere gathering dust. I reckon that this site is probably a must for runners attempting to complete the six World Marathon Major events, the example Tokyo Marathon print looks pretty awesome.

10. The Running Blog – The Guardian The final site to make it into my ‘Top 10’ is the Guardian’s Running Blog. Described as a blog on “…all things running, from jogs around the park to ultra marathons”, there is definitely something for runners of all standards and distances. I love the ‘How was your weekend running?’ and the ‘Friday flyer’ series; some of the comments left by runners and jealous non-runners are highly entertaining.

Recent articles have included:

Hopefully some of the websites and running resources I’ve summarised will be useful to some of you. I also hope that my rambling hasn’t bored you all to tears.

What are your favourite running websites? Did I miss out any really awesome sites?

Which website do you use to search for race listings? I’ve always tended to use Runner’s World find the new and improved site quite hard to use.

Changing sports: from football to athletics and other unusual sporting moves

I suspect that due to my fragile feet, my running days may well be over. Although this is frustrating, I’ve been looking at other options. My recent training for Swimathon has demonstrated that my swimming technique is so poor; it’s preventing me from enjoying my sessions in the pool. I therefore doubt I’d enjoy training for a triathlon, the go-to alternative to running for injury-prone runners. Hopefully some swimming lessons will make me consider entering a triathlon in the future.

Former tennis player Martina Hingis walks next to her horse after a fall during a jumping competition – I’ve been there and done that Martina, I feel your pain.

I then started to think about the number of athletes who have switched from running to triathlon. Some switched from running to triathlon due to injury issues, others due to the lack of opportunities to compete as a runner at the highest level. I’m not naming any names but there are several examples.

Although switching from running to triathlon comes with an element of risk, some athletes have made some slightly riskier moves. I found the outcome of some recent research carried out by SBO.net interesting so decided to share it on my blog.

SBO.net created an infographic illustrating some of the athletes who have ventured into new sports in their careers. Some of these moves were successful, some weren’t quite so successful.

  • Martina Hingis, the winner of multiple Grand Slams, took a break from professional tennis at 22 to compete in show-jumping competitions. Martina returned to the court in 2005.
  • Victoria Pendleton, a multiple track sprint Olympic and World Champion, switched from cycling to horseracing, definitely a slightly random career move.
  • Adam Gemili found his fame on the football pitch until he switched to full-time athletics in 2012. I think Adam made the right choice.
  • Rebecca Romero, silver medallist in rowing at the 2004 Olympics, apparently became the first British woman to compete in two sports at the Olympic Games when she switched from rowing to cycling. Rebecca went on to take gold in the individual pursuit in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The research also identified athletes who have decided to downsize when switching sports. Although it’s clear that money isn’t always the deciding influence, I suspect that having enough money to support a career move helps. For example, Michael Jordan took a break from basketball in 1993 and switched to baseball, as a result his earnings dropped substantially. I suspect the majority of athletes wouldn’t be financially secure enough to change sports.

More recently Gwen Jorgensen, the current Olympic triathlon gold medallist ran the 2016 New York Marathon in 2:41:01. Four time Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington is running the London Marathon next month. I can’t wait to see how Chrissie approaches the London Marathon.

If professional athletes can make risky and in some cases rather random career moves, perhaps I’ve still got time to find an alternative to running. Just don’t expect me to enter a triathlon any time soon. It would take me all day to complete the first two phases.

If you had to give up running tomorrow, which sport would you consider as an alternative? I might do a Martina Hingis and return to show-jumping.

15 tips for running and racing on a budget

As I’ve got a reputation for being careful with my money a tight-arse, I’ve decided to share some of my tips for running and racing on a limited budget. Hopefully some will be useful.

1. Buy old models of trainers. When I first started running, I would buy the latest model of my favourite trainers as soon as they were released. It took me far too long to realise that wearing the latest model of trainers wasn’t going to make me a faster runner. Old models of trainers are usually almost the same shoe at a much cheaper price. I now always search for old models of my favourite trainers online, and stock up when they go on sale.

2. Look after your trainers. I need to replace my trainers every 400 miles or so. To make my trainers last longer I avoid wearing them for anything other than running. I used to play tennis in my favourite trainers, now I know this was adding to their wear and tear, just walking in trainers can wear out the cushioning. Finally, if you need to wash your trainers then use mild soap and cold water, never put them in the washing machine.

3. Only buy what you actually need. I used to be really gullible when it came to buying running gear and accessories, and would purchase virtually every ‘must have’ running gizmo I saw advertised in Runner’s World. I realised that my spending was slightly out of control when I owned 24 pairs of trainers. It really was a case of ‘all the kit, still shit’. Guess what? You don’t need 24 pairs of trainers and the latest blingy GPS watch. I’ve spent thousands on running gear and I’m still shit at running!

all-the-kit

4. Shop around for running gear. While I’m a huge fan of my local independent running store, my limited budget has forced me to search for cheaper alternatives. One advantage of the current running boom is the ever-increasing availability of running gear both on the high street and online. Over the last four years I’ve purchased most of my running gear from SportPursuit, eBay and TK Maxx. Although I love a good bargain and refuse to spend a fortune on running gear, I also refuse to buy low quality running gear. People don’t need to see my arse cheeks when I’m running.

5. Look after your running gear. Once you’ve purchased technical running gear, make it last longer by looking after it. Apparently air drying running clothes instead of sticking them in the dryer will make them last longer. Also, make sure you read the care label on your running gear. It took me far too long to realise that technical running gear and fabric conditioner aren’t a winning combination!

6. Become a brand ambassador/product tester. The recent Asics FrontRunner campaign was open to runners of all ages and abilities. I’m pleased to see more and more brands giving ordinary runners the chance to become a brand ambassador. Occasionally brands will advertise for new product testers. Why not apply? You have nothing to lose. My friend in the USA gets to test out trainers and clothes for a major brand. I’m only a little bit jealous!

asics-frontrunner

7. Plan races ahead and race selectively. As I don’t have an unlimited race entry budget, I sit down at the beginning of the year and prioritise my races. My ‘A’ races are the races I want to do the most, ‘B’ races are backup races, and ‘C’ races are races that would be awesome to do but are far too expensive. I set myself an annual budget and make sure that I stick to it. I then look out for ‘early bird’ race entry discounts and sign up for any ‘A’ races I can afford and definitely want to run. I’ve stopped letting race FOMO get the better of me and won’t be entering the Tokyo and New York Marathon ballots until I’ve saved up enough money.

8. Race locally. While it’s fun to travel to new cities and countries to race, the cost of train tickets, flights, hotels and meals soon start to add up. I once spent a ridiculous amount of money on train tickets, a central London hotel and food in order to run a not very well organised 10k. I now save time, stress and money by entering races that are closer to home. Thanks to parkrun I’ll never have to pay to enter a 5k race again. Thanks to local running clubs and groups I can enter well organised 10k and half marathon races for the price of a train ticket to London.

9. Volunteer at races. Race organisers are sometimes desperate for volunteers. Some race organisers will offer incentives such as free race entry into the race the following year. Volunteering is also a great way of getting free running gear as some races will give volunteers the same goodie bags as the race participants. You’ll also get to feel pretty awesome.

10. Search for race discounts. Some races have started to offer quite substantial entry discounts on sites like Groupon and Running Heroes and in other online promotions. If I’m registering for a larger event online I’ll always do a quick search for online discount codes. I’ve been lucky a couple of times.

running-heroes

11. Share race day costs. I used to drive to races on my own until some running club friends asked me for a lift to a race. They gave me some fuel money and by car sharing we helped the environment. Another great way of saving money is by sharing a hotel room. I’m not suggesting that you share your twin room with a complete stranger but with your running friends. Consider alternatives to hotels, If a friend lives near the location of your next race, ask if you can stay the night before the race. Don’t, however, make the same mistake I once made and spend all night drinking wine and reminiscing about school. I didn’t actually make it to the race.

12. Look out for free training groups. Although running clubs can be quite expensive, don’t assume that you have to pay for training sessions with a qualified coach. Many running stores now offer free coached runs and workouts. Examples in Birmingham include the supervised runs organised by Up & Running and Good Gym. In addition, many races have started to offer free or very cheap training runs to registered runners. It’s always worth checking.

up-running

13. Stay injury free. I’m not very good at staying injury free, and dread to think how much money I’ve spent on physio sessions. The recovery from running injuries can be both emotionally and financially draining. The majority of my injuries have been self-inflicted and caused by me either ignoring niggles or trying to increase my mileage too quickly. Although it’s probably almost impossible to totally avoid injuries, always listen to your body, warm-up and cool-down, avoid doing all of your training on hard surfaces, and invest in a cheap foam roller.

14. Gifts. I was quite cheeky and published a ‘Christmas gifts for runners’ blog just before Christmas. My unsubtle approach worked and I unwrapped some trainers and a gorgeous running skirt on Christmas Day. Let your family and partner know that you’ll always appreciate running related Christmas and birthday presents. If you don’t want to end up having to return unwanted running gear, ask for something simple like entry into one a race or gift vouchers.

15. Start a running blog. Finally, start a successful running blog. Although there are now far too many running influencers bloggers, your running related thoughts might catch the attention of race directors and brands. If that happens then congratulations and think of all the money you’ll save on entry fees and running gear.

I hope that you’ve found a least one of my tips useful.

Do you have any tips for running and racing on a budget?

Do you have an annual race entry budget?

Rants and raves #10

**Disclaimer: this post was written while the author was experiencing heel pain and race envy. As always, all rants, raves and opinions represent my own views. Other (far superior) less opinionated and negative running blogs are available**

It’s been a few weeks since I wrote my last Rants and raves post. Now that it’s nearly the end of February, I feel the need to have a good old rant. However, before I start my Moaning Myrtle impression – yes I’m a huge fan of Harry Potter – I’ll start with rave.

Rave: Marathon Talk podcast

I have a bit of a confession to make…. Although I’ve been an active member of a range of online running communities since about 2005, I only discovered the Marathon Talk weekly podcasts last month. In my defence I’ve never listened to music or podcasts when I’m out running.marathon-talk

The two main presenters Martin Yelling and Tom Williams both talk a huge amount of sense about running. I’ve started to listen to the weekly podcasts while I’m doing tasks that don’t require me to concentrate. Listening while filling in a job application form wasn’t my most sensible move. There are currently 372 episodes so I’ve got some serious catching up to do. If I was able to run at the moment, I’d probably break the habit of a lifetime and listen to Marathon Talk during my long runs.

Rant: My right heel

Guess what? I’ve got another injury. Training for the Cambridge Half was going really well until a month ago when I got out of bed and found that I could hardly walk. My right heel felt really sore, and the pain was almost unbearable (yes I am a wimp!). After suffering in silence complaining about my heel for a couple of weeks, a trip to the sports physio confirmed that I’ve probably got the injury all runners dread, Plantar fasciitis. I’m blaming the heavy safety boots I had to wear for 11 weeks.

I’ve been avoiding walking barefoot as much as possible, making sure I only wear supportive shoes, icing my heel, stretching several times a day, wearing a sexy night splint (it’s a good job I’m single) taking supplements and sulking. I spent a bit of time researching Plantar fasciitis, and overloading my brain with information.

While being injured and unable to run sucks, I feel extremely lucky that I’m not living in constant pain and that my heel only really hurts first thing in the morning.

Rave: parkrun tracking

I recently joined the ‘parkrun analogue trackers’ group on Facebook, made a donation to my local parkrun, downloaded a copy of the blank analogue tracker created by Hannah and started colouring.  While I’ve only managed to complete 15 runs, all at my home parkrun, the slightly more dedicated members of the parkrun community have created some impressive looking designs. If you enjoy colouring and are a regular parkrunner and parkrun volunteer then this group is probably for you.

Rant: the Royal Parks Half Marathon ballot

The Royal Parks Half Marathon has been on my ‘races bucket list’ for several years. While the race is somewhat over-priced, the course looks amazing, and I’d love the opportunity to run through four of London’s eight Royal Parks. I’d been unsuccessful in the ballot for the 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 and really felt that it would be a case of sixth time lucky.

2017

The successful/congratulations you’ve got a ballot place emails were sent out before the ‘sorry’ emails. Once again I received a ‘sorry’ email and was then bombarded on twitter by charities offering me places. I’m sorry but there is no way I could raise the amount of money charities are asking for. I’ve now accepted that I’ll probably never get the opportunity to complete the Royal Parks Half Marathon and have moved on. Hopefully I’ll manage to get a place in a new event: the London Landmarks Half Marathon.

Rave: Fitness Blender

While I can’t run at the moment I can still swim (I’ll discuss Swimathon in a future blog) and work up a sweat by attempting to complete online workout videos. I read about Fitness Blender on another blog, took a look at the website, and was seriously impressed with what I found.

fitness-blender

Fitness Blender – for some reason I keep accidentally typing Fitness Bender – offers hundreds of free workout videos with new workouts released each week. Workouts range from 10 minutes to over an hour long (not a chance!) and from beginner to elite. As I can’t afford gym membership at the moment, I’m a huge fan of their bodyweight-only low impact workouts that can be done at home.

Rant: my fear of failure

A slightly random subject to end on, but I want to talk about my complete lack of self-esteem and fear of failure. When I was trying to find my GCSE certificates I found my school report from when I was 14. Although I’ve always been a boffin and that particular school report was full of A-grades, my form tutor wrote:

“Emma has shown a rather negative attitude over the last few months – she seems to lack self-confidence and a belief in herself. She has ability – it would be a great pity not to achieve her potential. Show us what you can do next year, Emma”.

Those comments are still relevant today. I’ve got a PhD and more than enough relevant work experience, but for some reason I’m too scared to apply for my dream job as a hydrology technical specialist. I know that I need to ‘woman up’ and to hit submit on the online application, but something is stopping me. I guess I should stop procrastinating and send in my application.

If you’ve reached the end of my latest random selection of rants, raves and moans then I’m impressed.

Apologies for the really, really random blog, hopefully my next post will be more positive.

Rants and raves #9

**Disclaimer: this post was written while the author was experiencing both race and sexy looking running kit envy. As always, all rants, raves and opinions represent my own views. Other (far superior) less opinionated and negative running blogs are available**

It’s been a few months since I wrote my last Rants and raves post. Now that the Christmas festivities feel like a distant dream and we are halfway through January, I feel the need to get a few things off my chest. As always I’ll start with a race rave.

Rave: Christmas and the New Year

Although my temporary retail job meant that I worked right up until 19:15 on Christmas Eve and between Christmas and the New Year, I actually had a great Christmas. I attended a couple of Christmas parties and managed to avoid getting drunk and acting like a plonker. I met up with some old school friends for the first time in ages, and actually contributed to their adult conversations. Most importantly I managed to avoid getting ill and infecting my family for the third consecutive year.

If I ignore the trauma of having to spend hours and hours watching rubbish on the TV and accidentally eating a parsnip – Christmas Day was awesome. Everyone seemed to love the presents I’d bought them, and there were no nasty surprise presents. I ate far too much Christmas dinner – I love turkey – and drank far too much Prosecco and wine. There were no family arguments and the cats didn’t trash the Christmas tree. As an added bonus, I got to scoff a second Christmas dinner the following week when my brother and his family returned from Spain.

Rant: Emails and unrealistic goals

This year, I’ve set myself a really challenging New Year’s Resolution. After failing spectacularly last year, in 2017 I’m determined to avoid buying any unessential running gear. I don’t need any more running tops, shorts, socks, tights, capris, jackets, gloves or accessories. It’s only January and I’m already struggling thanks to the huge number of emails I receive from running brands on a daily basis. Although I unsubscribed from dozens of running brands’ mailing lists during ‘Black Friday’, their emails keep on appearing in my inbox. I’ve now resorted to blocking running related emails, probably not ideal as a so-called running blogger.

Does anyone know why it’s apparently impossible to block some email addresses on Outlook? I swear that I’ve blocked emails from Elite Property Network, Cheap Flights and a fake Match dating site dozens of times. For some reason they keep on appearing in my inbox on an almost daily basis. Really frustrating.

Rave: GoodGym Birmingham

One email I was thrilled to receive – yes I am pretty fickle – was from the guys at GoodGym. Although, like most runners I’d read about the awesome work of GoodGym, there wasn’t a GoodGym in Birmingham.

There is now!! GoodGym Birmingham is GO!!

I’ve registered here and am looking forward to attending the launch event. I just hope that I can navigate my way to the meeting point. The centre of Birmingham is a million times more difficult to navigate than the centre of London!

Rant: My new trainers

After more than 500 miles of generally pain and incident free running, I retired my first pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 16s immediately after the Great Birmingham Run. While, like a lot of runners, I was quite reluctant to retire a pair of trainers, I was looking forward to running in a pair of new trainers.

New AdrenalinesI’d assumed that my second pair of GTS 16s would be identical to the first pair. After all both pairs of trainers are exactly the same model, width and size, only the colour is different. My assumption was wrong! For some reason my new trainers are really bloody uncomfortable, the support feels non-existent.  My feet have been shredded to pieces and I’ve got blisters in some slightly random places. It looks like I’ll be buying another pair of trainers.

Rave: Long Tall Sally #TALLERANDSTRONGER

While I love Long Tall Sally’s #TALLERANDSTRONGER campaign, I’m slightly gutted that their collaboration with one of my all-time favourite running brands – MPG – was launched after my running gear buying ban had started. Not treating myself to these capri leggings has been really challenging.

Anyway, back to the #TALLERANDSTRONGER campaign.

taller-and-strongerLong Tall Sally’s research showed that 63% of tall women slouch and 76% experience backache. While I don’t really *touches wood* have any issues with my back at the moment, I’ll make sure that I have a look at the ‘groundbreaking videos’ that are designed to target and strengthen tall ‘hotspots’. You never know, the leg workout might help to strengthen my dodgy right knee.

I’m definitely one of the 63% of tall women who have knee pain…

Rant: Niggles

Guess what? After being sensible and reducing my running mileage during November and December, my left foot and right knee niggles have made an unwelcome reappearance. I’m blaming the safety boots I had to wear at work. At the end of every shift, my foot and knee were more painful than at the end of the Great Birmingham Run.

After one eight hour shift, my left foot was so sore I thought I’d somehow managed to fracture another metatarsal. Hopefully, now that I’ve binned the safety boots, my foot and knee will start to recover. I don’t want to spend another lengthy period of time sitting on the virtual injury bench.

If you’ve reached the end of my latest random selection of rants, raves and moans then I’m impressed.

Apologies for the really, really random blog, hopefully my next post will be slightly more positive.

2016 review: running highlights & lessons learned

As 2016 is nearly over, I’ve decided to write a review of my running highlights and lessons learned throughout the year. If you don’t enjoy reading review posts then please leave my blog now, I promise that I won’t be offended. I’m nosey and really, really enjoy reading about other runner’s progress, so please do get writing and sharing.

January

Following a slightly disappointing 2015 – stupid injuries – at the start of January I was working my way through the Couch to 5k training plan. I was also nursing a slightly niggly right knee. Rather unexpectedly I equalled my parkrun PB of 27:33 at my local parkrun – Walsall Arboretum – towards the end of the month. I still have no idea where that sub-30 minute time came from. However, the main running highlight of January was winning a place in the London Marathon. While I knew that whatever happened in April I would complete the marathon distance, I quickly discovered that I lacked both the mileage base and fitness required to run long distances. I decided to adopt a run-walk-run training strategy.

February

February was a mixed month. Although I successfully completed the Couch to 5k training plan and achieved a parkrun PB of 26:49, a foot niggle meant that my marathon training was extremely limited.

walsall-parkrun-pbHeading towards a parkrun PB

Once again I was reminded that my left foot and right knee could not cope with running longer distances. I started to feel concerned that any attempt to complete the London Marathon would cause another long-term injury. While I was unable to run, I did my best to maintain my fitness levels by swimming five days a week in preparation for Swimathon.

March 

The swimming, break from running and expensive physio sessions seemed to temporarily cure my knee niggle, and I was able to successfully complete 10 and 11 mile training runs at the beginning of the month. Although I missed the Mash March Madness 10k trail run in Cannock Chase due to a lack of transport, a week later I completed the 7 Pools Run, a challenging cross country run in Sutton Park, without taking a walking break. Unfortunately, I ended March with elbow and knee injuries. Evidently running a challenging 10k cross country event wasn’t very sensible. At the grand old age of 36, I was finally starting to fall to pieces. I accepted that the London Marathon would be a painful and not very positive race experience.

April 

The main focus of April was the London Marathon. My niggly left foot and right knee meant that my training in the lead up to the marathon was virtually nonexistent. Not ideal. Some mornings my niggles disappeared, other mornings I woke up and was barely able to walk. I started to suspect that the ‘niggles’ were all in my mind. Despite my negativity and lack of training, I somehow managed to complete the marathon distance.

london-marathon-selfieOne of my more successful running selfie attempts

I made the fatal error of thinking I could keep up with the Runner’s World ‘run-walk-run’ pacer. I managed to power walk and run to the half-way point. Shortly after running across Tower Bridge – the atmosphere was bloody amazing – I was clipped from behind and jarred my injury-prone right knee. The second half of the marathon was miserable, cold and painful, and as I hobbled towards the finish line in the less than impressive time of 5 hours 59 minutes and 45 seconds, I accepted that my marathon running days were over. I shared my honest review of the London Marathon on social media and the subsequent surge in traffic temporarily broke my blog.

May 

A week after the London Marathon I felt ready to run again. I guess that walking the majority of the 26.2 miles had some advantages… Not following a training plan for the first time in 2016 was great, and in an attempt to rediscover my running mojo I decided to focus on running shorter distances.

hill-west-runPosing with the smallest medal in the world after completing the Hill West 10k

The highlights of May were running consistently and completing the Hill West 10k in the not too shabby time of 62:18. I met Matt for the first time; it was great to put a face to the twitter name! Looking back, if I ignore the fact I celebrated (?) my 37th birthday, May was a great month.

June

June was a month of running ups and downs. At the start of the month I had a really enjoyable 8.5 mile run around Sutton Coldfield, and completed the Great Midlands Fun Run in a respectable (for me) time. When the official results were published I discovered that I’d somehow knocked 30 minutes off my 2015 time! Unfortunately, due to a slightly forgetful friend I didn’t make it to the start line of the Aldridge 10k and wasted more money on race entry fees. The following Saturday evening I enjoyed a few too many beers, and the next morning had to drop out of the Race for Life at the end of the first lap. Recording my first ever ‘DNF’ made me briefly question my commitment to running.

July

July saw the start of my Great Birmingham Run training and my progression towards feeling more like a ‘real’ runner; the walking breaks were finally eliminated from my training runs! I decided to write weekly Great Birmingham Run training updates – apologies if I bored you to tears – in an attempt to make myself more accountable. Although I didn’t complete any organised races during July, I successfully negotiated the first few weeks of my half marathon training and managed to remain injury free.

August 

My half marathon training continued and I somehow managed to run continuously for over an hour. Both my fitness and my confidence levels were increasing, the half marathon training plan was working. I discovered my love of early morning, and will never forget watching the sunrise during some of my long Sunday morning runs.

parkrun-20-08-2016I’d probably run faster if I actually opened my eyes…

Although I didn’t enter any official races, I finally made it back to Walsall Arboretum parkrun and completed the 5k distance in 28:05. Although I enjoyed running with others, I had got used to my early morning runs and running at my own pace. All in all, August was great!

September 

At the start of the month I completed the more challenging than I had remembered Lichfield 10k. Although I finally managed to bag myself a sub-60 minute 10k, I ran like a plonker and was reminded of the importance of running my own race at my own pace.

lichfield-10kBefore the wheels fell off at the Lichfield 10k

My half marathon training progressed well and I found running for almost two hours both enjoyable and relatively easy. I set out a series of gold, silver and bronze half marathon time goals, and after running 130 kilometres during September, looked forward to the start of my half marathon taper.

October 

One event – the Great Birmingham Run – dominated my thoughts and training during the first half of October. I successfully completed a two hour training run and then caught Freshers’ Flu. Fortunately, my dose of the lurgy coincided with the beginning of my half marathon taper, and I felt more or less fully recovered as I stood shivering in the rain waiting for the Great Birmingham Run to start. The race itself didn’t exactly go to plan… I set out far too fast, ran out of steam at 8 miles, walked more than I ran, was unable to run down any of the numerous hills and hobbled across the finish line in tears.

great-birmingham-runRun a half marathon they said, it will be fun they said…

The highlight of the day was bumping into Matt in the chaos at the finish and getting a lift home. Matt’s kindness meant that I avoided travelling home on an overcrowded train. Thanks again Matt. I got home, had a shower, ate three packets of crisps, drank far too much Diet Coke, sulked and wrote a detailed race review. I sulked some more, reflected on what went wrong, hid my trainers and made myself take a break from running. A couple of weeks later I entered the Cambridge Half Marathon. Cambridge has to be less undulating and more knee friendly than Birmingham.

November

Although November has always been my least favourite month – I’m not a fan of the dark afternoons and evenings – I was determined to adopt a positive attitude. After finally drawing a line under the Great Birmingham Run, I was looking forward to getting back into some sort of routine and starting my Cambridge Half training. I completed a short run at the start of the month and felt like I could have carried on running for hours. Unfortunately, later on that day I started to feel unwell and the toilet became my best friend. Thanks to norovirus I was unable to run for a couple of weeks due to a complete lack of energy, the Birmingham MoRun was yet another ‘DNS’. At least I started my Cambridge Half marathon training feeling very well rested and niggle-free!

December

I’ve just worked out that I’ve run the not so impressive total of 5 kilometres so far during December. The combination of a niggly right knee, the lurgy and working 40+ hours a week in retail has resulted in me completely losing my running mojo. I’ve treated myself to colourful running gear I don’t really need, entered a couple of 10k races, looked at my medals from this year and charged my Garmin. For some reason I just don’t want to run at the moment. I’m starting to think that I should listen to my body and hide my trainers for the remainder of the year.

Perhaps it’s time for me to think about my running goals for 2017? One should be to reduce the amount of times I wear purple running gear.

monthly-distancePerhaps I should just ignore November and December!?

After all, if I ignore the last couple of months, 2016 has been my most consistent year of running in almost a decade. According to Strava I’ve run exactly 700 kilometres during the year, I’ve decided I quite like the number 700.

Do you have any running or health and fitness goals for 2017? At the moment my running goals are to run more consistently, to manage my knee and foot niggles and to hopefully run 1000 miles. As for health and fitness goals, I’m planning on cutting down on the amount of Diet Coke I consume.

Finally, a slightly random question… do you have a favourite colour? Purple isn’t actually my favourite colour!

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.