Target acquired

Posted on: 14 Jan 2019

Well the planned end of year retrospective blog never quite materialised. What with all the festivities, playing taxi service for my daughter, a couple of days in work and the start of a new training programme (yes, I did manage to run through Christmas!) it’s fair to say I never really found the time to sit down and write.

It was a quite a year in 2018, with the highest annual mileage I’ve ever covered (1,248 in total) and new PBs in every distance I monitor except for half marathon (and I still managed to get within 30-or-so seconds of that one).

More than anything it was the year of the marathon in my world, with four completed. I doubled my previous tally and chipped away at my best time. Four hours remains elusive, but I’ve learned so much in the last 12 months, especially around fuelling and what works for my body, that I quite fancy my chances of at least getting closer to that goal in 2019.

It started with Manchester, a late decision to enter as I was still recovering from injury and wasn’t sure I’d be fit enough. Four and a half hours was respectable enough, but I bonked at 22 miles and had a pretty difficult (and slow) run-walk to the finish.

Gloucester was supposed to be next in August, however this event was shelved after planning issues. In its place was the Forest of Dean trail marathon, my first off-road attempt. They promised ‘fast, flat and family friendly’ – it definitely wasn’t! Combine a very hilly lapped route with rough terrain and heatwave temperatures pushing 30 degrees and you have a recipe for a running disaster.

Half distance in just over two hours, walking by mile 16, a monumental crash at 20 miles, an unwanted encounter with the sweeper truck and an eventual finishing time of six hours. I was rapidly losing faith in my ability to run marathon distance.

My outlook changed thanks to a bottle of Coke (other sugary, teeth rotting soft drinks are available!). It got me to the finish line of that forest course, so I invested in some new kit so I could start running 20 mile-plus distances wearing a hydration vest.

With Snowdonia already on the calendar, I upped the ante with my core work and started doing weights at home twice a week. Instead of a final 20 mile training run, I booked in another marathon to test the new fuelling strategy – Chester in early October.  That went well and I beat my previous best by nearly a minute, which is now 4:11.

Snowdon itself was even better, not least because I was disciplined with my pacing and resisted all urges to go off too fast. It ended the year on a quite literal high and restored my confidence massively. 

Running helped me in other ways during 2018 as you know and I’m carrying that forward into the New Year. Those problems aren’t going away, but there are things I can do to make them more bearable. Some are within my power to change and believe me I’m trying hard to drive these changes through quickly. Watch this space, more news when I’m able to share it.

Back to running and what’s coming up this year. Brighton marathon will be my first big challenge in April, while the Leicestershire and Stafford half marathons (February and March respectively) most likely my first events.

I’ve linked them in with marathon training and that programme began on Christmas Eve – how’s that for dedication. One thing I love about the holidays is the chance to participate in some extra-curricular parkrunning and this year didn’t disappoint.

A group from Aldridge Running Club arranged an afternoon freedom parkrun for Christmas Eve at Walsall Arboretum and I paced another runner to joint first in 22 minutes (reality check… only about 30 of us actually ran!).

Christmas Day was an official parkun at my local event – Cannock Chase. So after an early morning visit to see Izzy open her presents, it was trainers on and a drizzly 5k with only a slightly sore head. It can’t have been that bad as I managed a course PB (albeit I didn’t realise that until I got home and read my email).

The volunteers put on a great event, with fancy dress, treats and even a glass of sherry at the finish line. My brother was there too, which means cue the vlog. There’s even a shout-out for team Realbuzz if you make it to the end... #welldonedog

New Year’s Day presented the chance to take on the fabled parkrun double and my two visits were to Sutton Park (my first time for that particular course) and then Perry Hall. Both runs were extremely busy, but I managed to get home in under 22 minutes at Sutton which was really satisfying as it’s hilly for a parkun and almost completely off road.

Since then it’s been the usual marathon routine. Four runs a week with longs now up to eight miles. At the weekend I also resumed core work and weights – one day a week for now and I’ll increase that to two as Brighton gets a bit closer.

My pace is a little sluggish, especially on those early morning grinds before work. Still, I’m getting the job done and those parkrun performances suggest my form hasn’t dipped too much since the autumn.

In a break from training, this Sunday I’ll also be paying a visit to the National Running Show at the NEC near Birmingham for a few hours. Let me know if any of you are planning to go along.

Happy new year everyone and good luck with your plans for 2019. I’ll check in soon with an update on Brighton and a report from the Leicestershire Half, which fingers crossed won’t be as cold and bleak as it was last year!

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