2007: A year in running

Sharon and David Rowe pipped me to the post with a “review of your running year”, which is something I’d been thinking of writing for a while now.

I managed to run about 750 miles over the course of the year, peaking in August ahead of my entry into the Glasgow Half Marathon. 168 kilometres that month, which is 104 miles, so that was peaking at about 25 miles/week. December has shaped up to be another big running month too.

The story of my running ‘career’ to date has, I think, been my own surprise at my perseverance. I’m very pleased that I actually started running in the first place, then kept at it, then found that I was enjoying it. Despite the best of Glasgow’s weather in the winter months: I’m looking out the window now, just before I head out for a run, and it’s grey, drizzling, cold, and overcast. At least I’ve got the benefit of the daylight, which makes a pleasant change. But starting running seems to get rapid progress, which is it’s own reward. That first weezy walk/jog around a small circuit in Pollok Park was a shock.

Of course the first ‘non-stop’ run was every bit as good as my first sub-30 5k, sub-25 5k, sub-50 10k, and finishing my first half marathon. Of course, PB’s are getting a bit harder now: Real effort is required to improve them.

My goals for 2008? Well, I’m not planning on running a marathon, at least, not too seriously. My first marathon – hopefully London – will be in 2009 and I hope to run that for a charity. The time required to train for a marathon, properly, is now apparent to me, and I don’t expect to have the time this coming year. I’ve decided that 2008 is about consolidation and getting my 5k, 10k and half-marathon times down. 5K PB is 23:18, 10K PB is 49:52, and my half marathon 01:52:38. If I can get below 21:00 on 5k, Sub 45:00 on 10k, and sub 01:40:00 on half marathons I’ll be delighted.

But it’s not all about running faster. I

Christmas Eve Hashing with MH4

As mentioned earlier I’d planned to get a bit of running done during the Christmas holidays. Originally this had just been the 4 mile run at Clevedon, and hoped to get a few other runs in as time allowed. I was pleased however to hear that the Mendip Hills Hash House Harriers (MH4) were organising a run from my parents local pub. Which is, quite literally, a stones throw away from their front door.

In fact, it transpired it was co-organised/set by my friend Jake, who’s a regular runner with them. Thankfully for me, this run was taking place during daylight hours. The usual meet time is 7pm, which means torches are required at this time of year.

Hash House Harriers (or H3) is an international running idea that seems to have started with the British in 1938 Malaysia, and spread along with expatriates. Sometimes best described as ‘*drinkers with a running problem*’, it’s a lot of fun. The essence is a ‘hare’ sets a course using (in our case) flour or chalk markers along a course. There are detours and dead-ends. The idea is that the runners wanting more of a run get to work out the dead-ends, with cries of ‘Are you’, ‘On Two’, and ‘On On’, ensuring that folk know how each option is progressing in finding the way forward. Loopbacks (Certain number of runners to run to the back of the group) also help keep the group together.

I’d expected it to be a lot more of a, er, clique, but was completely wrong in that regard (as I was when joining my running club). Runners of all sorts are largely, it seems, thoroughly friendly and welcoming people. Some interesting chats and conversations along the way, and able to get a great run in as well as see a few bits of the Mendip hills I’ve not seen in a long time.

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The route took us out of Priddy, down to Ebbor Gorge (a small gorge in the Mendips, a few miles to the south-east of the more well known Cheddar Gorge). We went all the way to the bottom of the Gorge. Then all the way to the top (165m each way!), where we enjoyed a wonderful view across the Somerset levels. It was then back to Priddy across more muddy fields, back to the Queen Victoria, and back to Jakes’ for mince pies and mulled wine (although by the time I got there, having detoured for a convenient shower, the mulled wine had gone). I may even have been persuaded to join in the Christmas Carols, despite the abject lack of alcohol in my blood stream that’s normally mandatory…

Road running shoes weren’t the best for the event. Some trail shoes would probably have been better. Thankfully the ground wasn’t too soggy, just a little slippery in a few places. We ran 8.97km, and were running for about 1hr 20m, but there was a lot of stopping and hanging about, for chats and regrouping. My Garmin was set to auto-pause because of that, so total time spent moving was 54:50. Giving an average moving pace of 6:06/km, which wasn’t too bad considering.

What struck me most about it was that everybody got the run they wanted out of it, and we all stuck together. Those at the front, chasing the trail, were getting a great run. Those at the back got a sociable chat with some great exercise. The format of the event also meant everybody stayed together.

So thoroughly enjoyable. And after mentioning I was doing this on my running club forum, it seems the coaches have taken the idea on board of setting one sometime in the summer. I’ll certainly be trying to take part in another one (and kinda hoping they’ll re-run the West Mendip way super challenge). There’s also a long-running Glasgow Hash which I might check out sometime if I can’t make it to my running club in time.

Clevedon Boxing Day 4m

I was away from home, visiting family in Somerset over Christmas, and wanted to get a good bit of running in, so was pleased to find that the Clevedon Athletics Club organise a four mile road race on Boxing Day, so made sure i got my entry form posted off nice and early.

My parents and gran accompanied me on the day to lend a bit of support, so after we parked up we walked to the start location, just as the children’s race kicked off. Some determined faces charged past us on the sea front as we walked: Very impressive.

The weather was not exactly cold, but certainly chilly with the wind, and proximity to the sea. I felt shorts would do, but wearing gloves was certainly a mistake. I always find it hard to balance how I feel when I look outside to see what the weather is like, and how I know I’ll heat up along the way.

I managed to complete the four mile (6.44k) race in 00:30:07 (my time), and via the race chip company website, 00:30:36 (official times don’t seem to be on the clubs site, so visit www.triathlonnemesis.com to get them). Placed 345 out of 817 finishers. My pace wasn’t quite what I’d hoped to achieve – I really had hoped to be closer to 29 minutes – but the hill at the 2.5 mile mark put pay to that. But still means that I achieved a good time, on par with my most recent 5k time. And given it was the first time I’d run this particular distance, was guaranteed a PB anyway 🙂

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The race itself seemed well organised, especially given the size of the field, there were certainly plenty of marshals out on the course, and enthusiastic support from the locals who turned out to cheer everybody on, plus a chip timing system I hadn’t expected for a race this size. The route was straight forward and took us right around the town.

I’m afraid I wasn’t very impressed with the start/finish arrangements at the circuit. A poorly placed diesel generator spouting fumes (I find the smell of engines rather nauseating) was my main gripe. A slow start (hence my distrust of the official time, and I don’t recall seeing any chip sensors on the road). The exit route was also a bit poor: A big screen from the chips showing live results is a super idea, but everybody wanted to look and runners soon backed up into the narrow exit path, making getting out rather difficult given the large crowd barriers in place. And no water (that I saw), just the sponsors sports drink.

I sound like I’m moaning. I’m not. I had a great time, and very well organised by the club, for such a big event. It was just let down a little at the high-density start/finish point by the layout, but that may be rather constrained by the limited space available.

Was fun to bump into somebody who recognised my running clubs colours. Transpires he was from Edinburgh – down visiting his family – and recognised the Bella colours from the Scottish cross country circuit, which is something I’m hoping to do more of next year. Nice talking to you fella, and maybe we’ll meet again sometime 🙂

Met up with my parents and gran, who had managed to position themselves close to the start/finish line, and headed back for a Boxing Day party at my Uncle and Aunts. Here’s hoping for a better time in the two 10k’s I’ve got coming up in January, at least one of which I gather is a very flat course along a canal. I’ll soon find out whether I’m talking pish about hills ruining my times 🙂

Fixing a broken Garmin; Running challenges

There is a peril associated with dependency on a gadget. When it misbehaves, or you forget it, you can find yourself at a bit of a loss. My Garmin Forerunner 305 is a case in point: I forgot it on my first Cross Country race, and today I decided to go out for a quick run before the darkness set in only to find it utterly unresponsive: I presumed it was out of juice (sometimes if I don’t switch it off properly or get it charging in the cradle, it sits trying to find a satellite and drains the battery) so I left for a lap of Pollok Park with it on charge.

On my return from the run, and finding that it hadn’t charged at all, I suspected something more was afoot. A spot of googling later, and I discovered this isn’t an entirely uncommon ailment. Because it also wasn’t being detected by the Garmin Software either, it had clearly frozen in some way (or died). So holding down the lap/reset button on the top and the Mode button on the side for a few seconds – then release and press the power key as normal. Much to my relief (the hassle of returning it for repair/exchange was feeling like a distinct possibility) it all came back on as normal. But frustratingly a decent 5.5k loop of Pollok Park at what felt like a good pace was not to be recorded.

No matter – there’s certainly something to be said for ‘running as you feel’, rather than forever trusting to the heart rate monitor, or pace indicators, to let you know how you’re performing. The big benefit I’m feeling from having joined a running club is improved endurance. Knowing that I *can* keep running at a fast pace, even though I know it’s hard work (and my body is telling me that in no uncertain terms), and that I would really rather stop. It’s helpful, but not critical, to know what pace I’m at, and what distance we’ve run. But the gadget has to be a secondary source of information, rather than a primary indicator of behaviour.

The other realisation I’ve come to is that running is just as much of a mental challenge as it is a physical challenge. Keeping a sustained and challenging pace, willing yourself on, ensuring that you don’t fall much further back from the group you’re with. These things aren’t helped by gadgets, and are ultimately more important in keeping you going.

Taking the tough decision to go out in the cold, dark rain, knowing full well it’s going to be hard, but knowing too that you’ll feel a whole lot better having done it, than take the easy option and staying indoors with a cup of tea and a decent TV show, or even just running at an easy pace which is, well, easier. Whilst there are plenty of reasons to do these things (illness and recovery), improvement doesn’t come without pushing your limits. Gadgets don’t really help you do that.

So my “lost run” as a result of an non-functioning gadget is a bit of a shame (as I think it was quite a handy pace), but it’s still useful to have gone for a run simply to see how I feel and how I manage my running, without a gadget giving me accurate pace figures.

The dark and gloomy winter months are almost at their peak, but I’m looking forward to a few events over the next few weeks. The Clevedon Boxing Day 4m road race, to burn off a bit of the Christmas pudding, and a couple of 10k races (Jack Crawford 10K and Nigel Barge Memorial 10k in early January – Doubly good as the 10K’s are both in my running clubs winter handicap competition, and I’m hoping my times should be a lot better than my last 10k (which was the hilly and very very wet barrhead 10k). This time forms the basis of the winter handicap, so fingers crossed the last few months of training and a flatter, hopefully drier, course should help my cause 🙂

Favourite run: The Clyde at night

Since joining the Bellahouston Road Runners, I’ve really enjoyed discovering new routes to run. Normally routes take us around the wide and straight streets of Pollokshields and surrounds. All well and good, but they don’t really have as much to offer in terms of sights and sounds. One in particular jumped out at me before I’d even run it, as it’s the only route that takes the groups right in to town, along the Clyde and around Glasgow Green. It’s easily my favourite of the groups usual routes.

This is what the club calls the ‘green run’, as it takes us all the way in to town, loops around Glasgow Green, and returns. The leg on the north side of the river goes alongside (or under) the various bridges that cross the river in the centre of town. These are usually beautifully lit up (like this, or this. (Embedded picture credit to flickr users swirley (left) and jdw (top right))

It’s also great to see the busy city centre. Whilst stopping at road crossings is always frustrating (we’re there to run not sight see!), I enjoy the chance to see a bit more ‘life going on’, as well as savouring the views. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I miss commuting, but it’s still nice to get in and out again!

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This particular run involved a pyramid speed session, where we ran for 3, 4, 5, 4, and 3 minutes at a faster pace. We’d been encouraged to wear heart rate monitors for this session, and tried to ensure we were at 90-95% of our maximum heart rate in these periods, before a one minute recovery.

Running with a group has lots of advantages, in particular that you’re able to perhaps run routes that you wouldn’t feel entirely comfortable running on your own at night. The encouragement of a group in bad weather too is also incredibly useful. The big detractions are, of course, “street furniture”, which I think every runner lives in perpetual fear of hurting themselves on. Thankfully those ahead point out hazards, but you still need to keep your wits about you just in case. I’m certainly forever cussing those who’s job it is to layout road junctions and pavements these days.

Anyway, this run in particular has become a firm favourite of mine, and I’m looking forward to the next opportunity to give it another go.