Unfinished business

Posted on: 31 Dec 2019

I was starting to wonder if I'd perhaps left my laptop somewhere up mount Snowdon seeing as that weekend was the last time I managed to get the blog updated. But no, instead it's been gathering dust in the cupboard, save for a few boot-ups to get some online Christmas present shopping done.

I blame a perfect storm of Christmas itself – always busy – coupled with Izzy's birthday less than two weeks earlier, starting the new job in November and a bit of a health scare with Dooley (who is recovering well I'm pleased to say). It's all been a blur, frankly, and I really don't know where the time has gone.

Fortunately my running hasn't been as tardy as my writing and I managed to keep ticking over so that my record of a least one run every week would continue until the end of 2019. That's helped me rack up 1,250 miles this year – a new record for me, albeit only just (2018 was 1,248). How I managed to get the two annual totals so close I'll never know!

In amongst that lot are four race marathons (and a fifth in training just for a bit of extra 'fun'), five half marathons, a decent slug of parkruns, including a new overall 5k PB set at Chasewater, and my first race 10-miler, which I'll talk more about in a bit.

What isn't in there is the ultra I set myself the goal of running this year. I looked at several, I even clicked to enter one, only to find the final few places had sold out, however in the end I just couldn't commit to it. So the year ends with a tinge of regret, but I'll carry that challenge through to 2020 and the job will most definitely get done.

Anyway, rather than dwell on things I didn't do in 2019, let's complete the story of what I have managed to complete since that amazing weekend in the Welsh mountains.

It started with a recovery run that went a bit wrong. Not that it was a bad run, more one that I miscalculated. It was the final week in my old job and I was feeling pretty emotional and sentimental about the whole thing. Part of that was linked to my running since so much of it was fitted in around work, certainly most of the marathon training I've done.

So I went out for one final early morning blast determined after all these years to find a new route, somewhere I hadn't been before. I used the canals to take me out of Sandwell towards Birmingham, ready to then jump off after about three or four miles and make my way back to the office via the roads.

I felt surprisingly strong and comfortable given it was only four days after Snowdon (marathon and summit climb!) and completely lost track of both distance and location. When I realised I was already up to 10k and still on the tow path...well, let's just say I knew I was going to be late for work.

By the time I eventually got back into West Bromwich I'd done nearly 12 miles and the legs were really starting to protest. Nevertheless, it was a great way to draw a line under nine years working in the town and another happy memory to take with me.

The new job started the following week and it's going OK. My confidence has taken a bit of a dent going from being experienced and knowledgeable in a particular market sector, to starting from scratch in a completely new one and forever having to ask questions.

It hasn't always been the most welcoming environment either, but that said the people are decent and it's a nice location in Sutton Coldfield, the town I grew up in and I still have friends and family who live there now.

I'll stick it out and keep trying to learn the ropes. Given time, I think it will work out and I know deep down sticking around in the old job wasn't the right thing to do, however comfortable I may have been.

Other running related highlights from the last few months include Izzy picking up her marathon band at junior parkrun. We were going along nicely until the obligatory Christmas cold hit us both hard and running together had to take a back seat.

I also had a few opportunities to add to my own parkrun tally, with a very satisfying 21:28 at Sutton Park which was a course PB and top 15 finish. Another course-best at Cannock Chase and an enjoyable Freedom parkrun in Walsall on Christmas Eve with friends from Aldridge Running Club.

There was also a festive theme to that 10 mile race I referred to earlier. Sneyd Striders in Walsall stage an annual event called the Christmas Pudding Run (you can probably guess what ends up in the post-race goody bag) and I managed to sneak in an entry on the day after Izzy was invited to a sleepover.

Having not prepped much, I went with low expectations. But something just clicked and I felt strong over the two lap course, making good use of the downhill final mile to keep my average pace at around 7:30 minute miles. I finished in 1hr 15 and well inside the top half.

It was always going to be a PB as I've never raced over this distance before (or paid much attention to times in training), but it's quite a bit up on the pace for my half marathon best, which is about the only realistic comparison I have. Pleasantly surprised and it made the giveaway Christmas pudding taste even sweeter.

More recently, as I mentioned earlier, I've succumbed to the dreaded lurgy – not bad enough to stop me running, however the pace and stamina has certainly suffered. I'm pretty much over it now, which is just as well given I'm planning to do the New Year's Day parkrun double in the morning.

So that was the year that was. Snowdon an absolute highlight, but I also enjoyed discovering a few new events such as the Leek Half Marathon complete with its challenging climbs. Other marathons didn't go according to plan in 2019, so we'll have to see what the New Year brings in that respect.

I've got my eye on Newport in the spring as a way of building up mileage for a 50k ultra around June time, plus Beachy Head in October in place of Snowdon which, as most of you know, has now sadly gone to ballot entry. I'll update you properly when things start getting booked in.

All that remains for now is to wish everyone a belated merry Christmas, a just-in-time happy New Year and, above all, a massive thank you for your friendship and support throughout the last 12 months.

Life continues to throw challenges my way, some of them I haven't coped with all that well, but I still draw strength and comfort from my running and the community that is Realbuzz.

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