It's been months since my last post, but I'm pretty sure those four words capture the main developments since May and indeed the rough order in which they happened.
I'll be honest, keeping the blog up to date was becoming an effort. My running, although regular and still enjoyable, wasn't really (if you'll pardon the pun) going anywhere. No major new events or distances to speak of, no real improvement in my times, it has just become part and parcel of my weekly routine.
In addition, I've spent much of the last seven or eight months job hunting. And much like the proverbial buses, when opportunities did come my way they ended up being all at once rather than neatly spaced out. Cue lots of intensive interview prep and beefing up my portfolio. It's been exhausting, but has ultimately proved successful, as I'll explain later.
I left you at the end of the Milton Keynes Marathon Weekend, my tenth full marathon coming just three weeks after Brighton. In hindsight, perhaps too soon, but despite the slow time and 20ish mile wobble, I did really enjoy the event.
My focus after MK then shifted to helping my eight year old daughter get prepared for her first 5k. Izzy had come with me to the famed Buzzer gathering at the HU5k last year and we were spectating. This year I signed us both up to run, plus my brother joined us for good measure.
We started with Junior parkruns around February time and she's taken to those very well, recently getting her best time down to just under 14 minutes for our two kilometre course at Bloxwich. We added in a few extra 'training' runs (I use the term loosely, it really wasn't that serious!) to increase her distance up to two miles before making the roadtrip down to Hawkesbury Upton in Gloucestershire, home to a number of RealBuzz legends who champion this wonderful community event and generously coordinate a social gathering afterwards.
The only thing that let us down that day was the weather, unseasonably chilly and also persistently wet. Still, if she wants to be a proper runner then it can't all be sunshine and smiles! I needn't have worried though, Izzy took everything in her stride, including the mud and puddles on the Cotswold Way, and we completed the run together in a not too shabby 41 minutes.
That'll be the pride then. Bursting with it. A real achievement and something she enjoyed telling her teacher and classmates about in the following weeks as part of a school project on hobbies and interests (whilst wearing her hard-earned bling, naturally!). We'll definitely be doing more events together and parkrun continues to be a regular feature of our weekends.
I'm pleased to say the pain doesn't relate to Izzy and her running. It's the overriding memory of two half marathons I completed over the summer at Leamington Spa and Aintree.
However, it's pain in a good way. With the year up until now being so heavily skewed towards marathon training, it was fun to be able to throw myself into a couple of competitive halves and really try and push for some fast times.
Leamington didn't work out so well in the end as the course proved too hilly and the weather too hot. Still, a 1:46 was perfectly respectable and I knew I'd given it my all. This is a relatively new event (second year I think), but it has a lot going for it with glorious scenery and great support. I'd definitely consider a repeat visit.
Aintree had genuine potential for some speed being a largely flat route made up of four laps weaving in and around the landmark racecourse (jumps not included!). What didn't help so much was a nasty headwind on the more exposed sections, in particular the long start/finish straight.
Laps three and four really hurt, no doubt partly due to me going off too aggressively at the start. But I held on and got within a minute of my PB, clocking 1:42. Better news was to come when brother James carded his first ever sub-2 half (well under – 1:57 in fact), making it a properly rewarding day at the races.
Of course after several years now of regular distance running, half marathons and even full ones hold little fear for me. Not that I don't respect them, but I know I'm capable of getting the job done and that my body is up to the challenge.
What I haven't quite yet managed is committing to taking the next step – upping the distance and tackling an ultra. I know it's something I want to do and the achievements of many other Buzzers, most recently Max and her 100k race in the Peaks and now HD's epic 24 hour battle, have only strengthened that desire.
Over recent months then I procrastinated big time. The Peak District Challenge actually would have been perfect (the 50k variant that is), given it's only about an hour from home and Max and Emelie were both there. I hovered over the entry button several times. Heck I even went out and treated myself to a new pair of trail shoes as I'm spending more of my training runs exploring local off road courses around Cannock Chase and Hednesford Hills.
But in the end I backed down. Head ruled heart and it just so happened that things were picking up again on the job front around then, taking up yet more of the little spare time I have. So not yet. I can see it happening though, just watch this space.
And that neatly brings me full circle to some positive progress, this time away from the roads and trails. The aforementioned job application went well, resulting in three rounds of interviews, an assessment and an eventual offer. I've been in my current role for nine years now, most of which has gone well but more recently some of the bigger decisions and directions have left me feeling undervalued. The position has also become very self contained, which creates an odd feeling of isolation despite being part of a wider team of around 20 people.
For those aware of the back-story, I also think a fresh start will help considerably in my moving on following my marriage breakup. I can build new relationships with people who know me for who I am now, not the person I used to be who has had to adapt to significant change.
Who knows, perhaps this positive outlook will end up being reflected in my running. Training is well underway for the two autumn marathons on my calendar, Chester in early October, closely followed by Buzzers-reunited at the fabled Snowdonia Marathon.
I know I'm going to enjoy both races. And the way things are shaping up, the preparation and build up should be pretty satisfying too.
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