Mental tips and strategies for marathon runners

Dr Carla Meijen, Lecturer in Sport Psychology at the University of Kent, has introduced the first psyching team – a team who offer help and support with practical mental strategies before, during and after long distance running events, to the UK.  As a number of spring marathons are fast approaching, I decided to share some of the mental tips and strategies for runners developed by Dr Meijen and her colleagues.

By following the advice of Dr Meijen and her colleagues, runners can use simple techniques to prepare for mental demands such as worries about coping with the pain and discomfort of running a marathon, or about sticking to their race plan. These techniques are split into mental strategies for before the day of the marathon, during the marathon itself and after the marathon.

Before the day of the marathon:

  • Have multiple goals and try not to rely on just one time-based goal. Many runners have a time-based goal in mind; it can be helpful to expand on this and have some flexibility in your goals. One approach is to set different levels of goals, for example setting a dream goal, for when race day conditions are perfect. Next, set a goal you would still be happy with when conditions are less than perfect. I did this before the Great Birmingham Run. Finally, identify a goal that would be the bare minimum if things don’t go to plan. Having three different goals can help you avoid disappointment during the marathon if your dream goal is hard to achieve on the day of the race.
  • Break the race down. Consider splitting the race into different parts. The marathon distance can seem daunting and those 26.2 miles can seem a long way away. Dr Meijen recommends thinking about the marathon as having three different parts and having goals for each part. You can consider using the first 8-10 miles to take in the atmosphere and to get comfortable with your pace. The next 8-10 miles are about trying to intensify the effort. During the final 6 miles you should be totally focused, monitor how you are feeling and if things are going to plan go for a full-out effort to the finish.

Just a parkrun to go[Source]

  • Prepare in order to reduce worries on the day. One of my favourite quotes is “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”, this is true for the marathon. As a first-time marathon runner you may feel concerned about what to expect on the day of the race with so many other runners around. There will always be factors out of your control – for example the mini heat wave during the 2007 London Marathon – but you can prepare for those you can control. Do the necessary preparation beforehand and study the course. How will you get to the start? Where are the water stations? Where are the portaloos? Make a check list to make sure you’ve got everything you need. It’s also important to practice your pre-race and race day fuelling strategies on a longer training run before the marathon.

During the marathon:

  • Run your own race. After three marathons I’m yet to run my own race, the atmosphere at large marathons is inspiring, almost too inspiring! It’s easy to get carried away at large events with the crowds cheering; with so many other runners there is a risk of starting at a much faster pace than normal and being worn out early on. Focus on your own race – at larger events there will be different pace groups – follow the one that is closest to your personal time-based goal.

London Marathon[Source]

  • Recall successful training runs. You should trust your training and if you are struggling during the race, recall all your successful training runs to remember your own ability. Use these positive experiences to give confidence that it can be done. You can recall what helped you through those challenging longer training runs; it may have been an inspiring song or the reason you have for actually running the marathon.
  • Have a mantra. Having a mantra can be really helpful, so choose one that worked for you during your training runs and use that during the race. Some runners write their mantra on their hand as a reminder. Unfortunately, my personal running mantra isn’t publishable, sorry.
  • Focus. Inevitably there will be a time during the marathon when your body starts to feel tired and sore. You might find it helpful to distract yourself when this happens by focusing on the sights or by replaying a song in your mind. Some runners prefer to focus on how their body feels and use breathing as a strategy to remain focused. Marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe used to count to 100 three times in her head and knew that was roughly a mile.  Use whichever approach feels most comfortable for you.

After the marathon:

  • Reward yourself. After the marathon you may experience some post-marathon blues. Ideally, there should be a reward for your achievement – in my case a huge Mc Donald’s immediately after the last year’s London Marathon. You should also take time to reflect on what you’ve achieved.  I was so disappointed with my performance I didn’t do this and regretted it afterwards.

dscf1283

  • Start planning for next time. Finally, it’s back to planning and thinking about setting a new goal to work towards. Your new goal might to run another marathon or something totally different.

I really hope you found this post interesting. If you’re running a spring marathon then good luck! I’m more than a little bit jealous.

Do you have a running mantra? I quite like Paula Radcliffe’s ‘no limits’ mantra.

How do you keep going when the going gets tough? I’m rubbish and tend to walk as soon as I start to struggle.

Decathlon Sports Series 2017 running events

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I’m not a huge fan of expensive races. £25 for a 5.5k fun run? No thanks. Over £250 for a marathon? I’d need to start saving and find myself a better job…

Fortunately, not all races are expensive, an increasing number of races are now free to enter. As my 15 tips for running and racing on a budget blog has rapidly become one of my most read posts, I’ve decided to share some information on a series of free to enter running events organised by Decathlon.

Following on from last year’s success, the Decathlon Sports Series is returning this month. This year it’s set to be even bigger and better featuring several sports including running, cycling, horse riding and hiking. I can’t wait to get involved.

top-banner-runing-series

The Decathlon Sports Series will be staging a series of 5k (and one 10k) running events across the UK. I’ve summarised the dates and locations below:

  • 26th March – Stevenage
  • 1st April – Oxford
  • 2nd April – Reading
  • 9th April – Farnborough
  • 7th May – Southampton
  • 13th May – Glasgow Braehead
  • 14th May – Edinburgh
  • 4th June – Harlow
  • 10th June – Warrington
  • 11th June – Stockport
  • 17th June – Tamworth
  • 2nd July – Poole Redlands
  • 9th July – Huyton
  • 9th August – Bolton
  • 13th August – Wandsworth
  • 19th August – Croydon
  • 20th August – Surrey Quays
  • 3rd September – Sheffield
  • 10th September – Nottingham Giltbrook
  • 1st October – Newcastle Gateshead
  • 7th October – Wednesbury
  • 5th November – Belfast 10k*

*For the 10k event in Belfast participants must be aged 15 and over. For more detailed information on each event please visit the dedicated running event page.

Although participants should be able to complete the route without assistance, marshals will be available to maintain the safety of all participants at all times. Updates will be released regularly in the lead up to each event. Race numbers will be distributed to your selected store, and will be available to collect prior to the event, or on the day of the race.

Decathlon Gateshead 2016

[Source]

All entrants will receive a free t-shirt to run in on the day, and as an added bonus each participant will receive a Sports Series goody bag and medal at the end of the race. Very impressive for a free event!

These events are free and exclusive for Decathlon Card holders. If you are not a Decathlon Card Member you need to sign up here.

Places are limited to a maximum of 500 participants per race so don’t forget to sign up!

I’m hoping that my right heel will recover in time for me to participate in my local event in Tamworth.

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.

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.

FLEXISEQ Active review

For some reason – I can’t imagine why – I’ve developed a bit of a reputation as being an injury-prone runner. I’m guessing that complaining about my painful left foot and right knee in virtually every blog post doesn’t help. One advantage – yes really – of being prone to picking up the occasional *ahem* injury, is being sent products that are specifically designed to combat aches and pains.

So as you can imagine, when the company behind FLEXISEQ Active approached me to review their new joint relief pain product, I said yes almost immediately! My sample of FLEXISEQ Active arrived, and I applied some to my troublesome left foot and right knee.

Now I have been using FLEXISEQ Active on a more or less daily basis for several months, I feel that I’m in a position to review the product.

What is FLEXISEQ Active?

The FLEXISEQ website describes FLEXISEQ Active as an adapted, light formulation specifically developed for the daily needs of joint pain and early-stage arthritis sufferers. While I can cope with joint pain, I really hope that the pain in my right knee isn’t early-stage arthritis.

flexiseq-active-pack2

FLEXISEQ Active lubricates the joints and is proven clinically to relieve pain and to reduce joint stiffness. A lighter formulation than the award-winning original, FLEXISEQ Active is described as the perfect introduction to the benefits of drug-free joint lubrication therapy.

The key benefits of FLEXISEQ Active:

  • Relieves pain
  • Improves mobility
  • Helps lubricate and protect your joints
  • Drug-free
  • Convenient twice daily application

So after several months’ regular usage – thanks running niggles – what did I make of FLEXISEQ Active?

The Verdict

I’ll get the basics out of the way first. I found FLEXISEQ Active really, really easy to use. The gel dried quite quickly, and unlike some of the other gels I’ve used over the years, didn’t leave any stickiness or residue behind. The FLEXISEQ Active gel had a pleasant aroma, and unlike some similar products, didn’t smell too what I call chemically. So far so good.

knee-pain

Although FLEXISEQ Active didn’t instantly eliminate the pain in my right knee, I did start to notice an improvement after only a couple of days of regular, twice-a-day use. Perhaps this was some sort of placebo effect – I genuinely don’t know! What I do know is that the regular application of FLEXISEQ Active corresponded with a reduction in the pain and stiffness I felt in my right knee. Unfortunately, the gel didn’t seem to reduce the pain on the top of my left foot.

FLEXISEQ Active has become a useful addition to my ever-expanding running first aid kit. I’m currently working my way through my third tube. While I do think £12.99 for a 50g tube of FLEXISEQ Active is quite expensive, I would rather manage my right knee niggle with a drug-free gel than with painkillers.

FLEXISEQ Active is available at Lloyds Pharmacy, Boots, Superdrug and independent pharmacies nationwide at a price of £12.99 for 50g and £22.99 for 100g.

Have you heard of or used FLEXISEQ Active gel? I had no idea the FLEXISEQ brand even existed until I was asked to review FLEXISEQ Active!

Do you have a running first aid kit? I’m so injury-prone I’ve now built up quite an (un)impressive collection of gels and potions.

**Full disclosure: I was sent a 50g tube of FLEXISEQ Active for free in return for a review. I did not receive any payment for this review. As always all opinions are my own**

My running goals for 2017

Firstly, I’d like to wish you all a Happy New Year! I hope that you all had a great Christmas and New Year. Here’s to an awesome and hopefully injury-free 2017.

As – like loads of other runners – I’ve already reviewed 2016 in far too much detail  – I think it’s time for me to look ahead to the New Year and to set some goals for 2017.

Although I managed to achieve most of my 2016 running goals, I still eat far too much crap food and tend to ignore the strength and conditioning ‘personal action plan’ I was given 12 months ago. Therefore, if I had to award myself an overall grade for 2016 it would be a ‘B-‘.

I’ve decided to set myself some challenging but hopefully achievable running goals for 2017. Although I love writing out resolutions and goals, I wasn’t originally going to share them. However, as previously putting my running goals into writing appeared to motivate me to get off my arse, I decided to publish this post.

training-journalsPerhaps one of my goals should have been to take better photos…

Enough waffling, here are my running goals for the year ahead…

Run 700 miles – When I first drafted out my running goals I wanted to run 1000 miles this year. However, last year I only ran 700 kilometres or approximately 435 miles. As a result I’ve been sensible and have adjusted my annual mileage target, so that this year I’d like to run 700 miles, still quite an increase on my 2016 mileage. I’ve worked out that I will need to run approximately 58 miles a month or 2 miles a day.

Complete 10 parkruns and 10 races – I set myself the same goal last year and failed miserably. Last week I worked out that due to several ‘DNS’ and a ‘DNF’ I only managed to complete three parkruns and a handful of local races. As I currently have to rely on unreliable friends and public transport to travel to races, I suspect that I’ll find this goal more challenging than it probably should be.

A sub 8 minute mile – my current mile PB of 9:09 is from 2012 when I hobbled around an indoor athletics track with tight bends with a leg injury. I’d like to lower this time at some point this year, hopefully at the Westminster Mile in May.

A Sub 25 minute 5k – I set my current 5k PB of 26:49 last February. If I fail to run a sub 25 minute 5k at some point during 2017 I will retire from running. That is a promise.

parkrun-pbI want to receive a few more ‘Congratulations on setting a new Personal Best’ emails this year

A Sub 55 minute 10k – After it took me several attempts to run a sub 60 minute 10k last year, I suspect that I will find this particular goal the most challenging. I’ve already entered the hopefully flat and fast London 10,000, and will do my best to set out at a sensible pace at the end of May.

A Sub 2:20 half marathon – now that I’ve finally rediscovered my running mojo, training for the Cambridge Half in March is going well. The mistakes I made during the Great Birmingham Run taught me how not to pace a half marathon. I’d love to achieve this particular running goal in March.

Listen to my niggles – I’ve reached the conclusion that I’m quite an injury-prone runner… Some runners hardly even seem to pick up injuries; I’m definitely not one of those runners. As I don’t want to spend another extended period sulking on the injury bench, I’m going to listen to my niggles this year.

Join a new running club – This is quite a tricky one as there is nothing wrong with my current running club, I’m just far too slow to attend the training sessions at the moment. I also have no idea where I’ll be living and working in six months time. Although I’ve researched alternative local running clubs, I’ll probably become an ‘unattached’ runner for the first time in a decade at the end of March.

Be slightly more sociable – At the moment I tend to run on my own and I’ve turned into a bit of a running recluse. This year I’m determined to overcome my anxiety and to attend more social runs. I’m also planning on pushing myself out of my comfort zone by volunteering at a range of local events.

Don’t buy any unessential running gear – I set myself the same goal 12 months ago and failed spectacularly! Last month I sorted through all of my running gear, worked out exactly what bits and pieces of essential running gear I needed to replace and then bought what I needed in the sales. While I’m still on the hunt for a couple of sports bras, I don’t need to buy anything else.  

🙂

Have you set yourself any running goals for 2017? While some of these goals are quite challenging, I hope that they are all achievable…

Are you a member of a running club? If you are, how often do you attend club training sessions? There are now so many different social running groups, I’m starting to question if I actually need to join another running club.

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!