Silverstone Take Two

As part of the day job I’m responsible for the PR of an animal charity and have to remind the staff daily to take photos of what they’re doing and share their stories with me. As I am always telling them “if we don’t shout about it, it didn’t happen”. I realised today when I said it to a colleague that I’d done loads of great things in the last few months but had failed to follow my own advice and shout about it. So over the next few weeks I’ll be recapping lots of great runs starting with the recent Silverstone Half Marathon.

295_c57y2nwoekI ran Silverstone back in 2013, it was my first half marathon under 2 hours so the course holds good memories for me. After the disappointment of the Torremolinos Half (which I’m yet to write about!) I was eager to squeeze another half marathon in to my marathon training. A running friend who used to work at Silverstone sealed the deal and so I once again found myself pacing up and down the starting grid of the home of the British Grand Prix.

The glamour of a disabled toilet for changing in!

The glamour of a disabled toilet for changing in!

It was bitterly cold so I was grateful for Greg’s old contacts who welcomed us in to the warm confines of the British Racing Driver’s Club and then the Pit Stop Cafe during the long wait prior to the race. (entry to the car parks is restricted from 10:30am but the race doesn’t go off until noon, as the route takes in some of the access roads.) I was also grateful for the glamorous changing facilities we were able to use!

After a decent warm up (yep, I take that stuff seriously now!) and cheering off the wheelchair athletes (David Weir absolutely smashed the competition, he’ll be exciting to watch in London in a few weeks) it was our turn and with celebratory shouts and the beeping of a thousand GPS watches being started we shuffled over the line.

The course is wide and mostly flat, in perfect conditions I imagine it could be very fast. Unfortunately perfect conditions are rare because it is so open and exposed there’s almost always a wind to contend with! It’s also very difficult to keep the race down to 13.1 miles as the official measure is done on the apex of every corner, the traditional racing line, but with 7,000 runners in the way getting across the tarmac to take the shortest route is impossible. There’s not much to look at while you’re running, although for an F1 fan I’m sure there would be more interest. Me, I was there for one thing only and it wasn’t the views!

I’d set my watch to pace me to a PB. I’d run a quick 12.9 miles in early February, and with the marathon training miles going up and up over the next 10 weeks this was my last chance to go fast. As the miles ticked by I was keeping pace well (all miles but the last were within 10 seconds of each other…I doubt I’ll ever run so consistently again!) and remembered when to put away a gel and not to guzzle every bottle of water that was shoved my way. The running felt good and I felt strong, as I eased in to mile 10 I knew I was on track for a big PB and did the last quarter of the race with a big smile on my face. I’d forgotten the last mile was a long uphill drag and inevitably it was straight in to a headwind, but even with that final obstacle I still got home in an official 1:49:05, a new PB and first half under 1:50. (According to the Garmin I actually covered 13.1 miles in 1:48:04 but there was an extra minute of running to get to the finish line)

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Decent medal, but it really is time adidas shelled out for a tech t-shirt we might actually wear.

 

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Ran it with this guy, who had access to all the warm places and even a free feed after the race!

 

That’s it for racing now, time to start the long runs and as with previous marathons I’ll be trying to get a bit creative with it. There’s no joy in pounding the same old streets for 20 miles on a Sunday morning so watch this space!

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Pacing a parkrun…My New Favourite Thing

On Saturday I ran my slowest parkrun of the year…and I LOVED IT!

With the Silverstone Half Marathon on Sunday I wanted to save my legs but I hate to miss a parkrun so I figured I’d just take it easy over the 3.1 miles of Pittville Park. As we all know though, that is much easier said than done! Once the assembled masses are launched from the start line like confetti from a cannon it’s all too easy to get swept up in the excitement and find yourself pulling far to hard. I’ve done it several times before, twice running completely unintentional PBs the day before big races!

So to counter the natural urge to run fast I offered myself up as a pacer for the first time. I asked around to see if anyone had a target they wanted, but with no takers I opted for the 29 minute pacers vest (all that was left between 26-30) and set up my watch to guide me home. (My trusty old Garmin Forerunner 305 may be the size of a desktop PC but it does have some pretty useful features, including a decent training mode that allows you to set the distance and time and then let’s you know how close you are too it. I use it when I want to beat a time, but it was a new experience trying to keep bang on the pace it set!)

The new pacing bibs at Cheltenham parkrun are just lovely!

The new pacing bibs at Cheltenham parkrun are just lovely!

The run began with the usual mad dash as 364 keen parkrunners all vied for their place on the path, but soon everyone had found their rhythm and it was all about me and the watch. I got ever so slightly ahead of myself but figured that was a good place to stay if I wanted to be certain of getting people home under 29 minutes. As we came to the end of the first lap I was aware of being followed, which I suppose is a good thing for a pacer! I asked behind if anyone was using me for a time and discovered that George (a junior) and Amanda were both aiming to stick with me for new PBs…all of a sudden the pressure was on!

So for the next two laps I was alternating between studying my watch to make sure I wasn’t getting too fast and checking over my shoulder that my shadows were still with me. As we entered the final kilometre I briefed George on when to leave me and kick for home, he was on course to smash his old time. Amanda had faded slightly but again she was primed to take a big chunk off her previous best. I did creep a little ahead of target towards the end, but by that point I hoped I’d done enough. George went off like a rocket in the last 200 metres to finish in 28:21 (a PB by over 2.5 minutes!) and as I crossed the line at 28:34 I looked nervously over my shoulder for Amanda. She came home in a fabulous 28:59 (maybe she should have been the pacer!!) for another new PB by 23 seconds!

I love parkrun, but I especially love how it can keep throwing up new experiences and new joys. I think pacing may just be my new favourite thing and I’ll definitely be helping myself to a brightly coloured bib again soon.

Well done guys!!!

WELL DONE GUYS!!!

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“You’re Doing Bad Jogging”

Here’s a question for you… How would you feel if a stranger stopped you in the street to offer you some unsolicited advice on your running?

I ask because I saw two runners on my way to work this morning, both with significant flaws in their running style that were certainly leading to discomfort if not eventually injury. One was overstriding massively, heel striking horribly and wincing with every stride. I just wanted to stop him and explain the biomechanics of landing over his foot and lifting his heel to avoid all that pain and loss of energy transfer. The second was a girl who was rolling off her shoes with every step. Her right foot especially looked like she was snapping her ankle with each contact and a pair of supportive shoes would have made all the difference to her running.

Now I’m no certified expert (yet) but I do have 5 years of accumulated experience and knowledge. I’ve read, studied, learned and practised running so I know that I was right on these two occasions at least. I also had, thanks to traffic lights, the ideal opportunity to speak to both of these runners but decided to keep my mouth shut and watch with horror as they continued on their way.

So, what’s the verdict? Assuming the advice is given in a friendly and supportive way is it acceptable to approach strangers and give them the benefit of your knowledge or would you be mortally offended if that happened to you?

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28 Ways To Know You’re A Runner

I’ve shamelessly stolen this from my running club Facebook page, where the question was asked and my fabulous club mates answered. Which do you agree with? Anything we missed?

You Know You’re A Runner When…

  1. You check every pair of socks for L or R before putting them on!
  2. Most of the mugs in your kitchen are race mementos.
  3. The majority of your winter wardrobe is luminous.
  4. The boot of your car is like a treasure trove for runners
  5. You can identify fellow runners from a distance by their running style / gait / attire
  6. You have a number of pairs of running shoes which you refer to as ‘retired’.
  7. You hoard safety pins….
  8. You have numbers on your calendar/in your diary that would only make sense to fellow runners.
  9. You would never spend £80+ on a pair of “real” shoes …….but these spanky new running daps…….well what a bargain, bring em on.
  10. You complain how expensive a short taxi journey is but you pay £40 to RUN 26.2 miles.
  11. You have a huge collection of race finisher t shirts that you will never probably wear… but can’t throw them out either!
  12. Open toed sandals are a thing of the long distant past….
  13. You judge people for not wearing much in public on Saturday night, then go out wearing less, much less, on Sunday morning.
  14. When choosing a route home you don’t go for the shortest / most direct route to be sure you don’t come up 0.1 short
  15. You have shoes for every occasion……Road training, road racing, off road dry, off road wet…
  16. You get nearly naked in front of perfect strangers in a tent in a field and no one bats an eyelid!
  17. You are relieved when you do a number 2 before your run
  18. You can walk past runners you know well, but no one recognises you in ‘normal’ clothes with hair and make-up done
  19. You have more wardrobe space dedicated to running / cycling attire than normal attire!
  20. When you’re packing to go on holiday, your running kit is the first thing in the suitcase.
  21. When you’re sat in your car you stare at every runner on the road with jealously and envy…
  22. Your maths has improved since you left school, especially your 8.5 times table and any division by 5, 10, 13.1 or 26.2
  23. You run 0.1 miles past your door just to run 0.1 miles back and get that watch to 6 not 5.8.
  24. You get an invitation to a wedding and the first thing you do is check which race it clashes with.
  25. You discuss greasing your nipples in public.
  26. You hated statistics at school, but now you pore obsessively over the data at Garmin connect, Strava, Power of 10, Run Britain rankings etc.
  27. You have a nemesis, who may well also be a good friend, but for 10km a few times a year they’re your sworn enemy!
  28. You book a holiday then immediately check if there’s a race/parkrun in the locality.

Thanks to members of Almost Athletes for their contributions. What should we add?

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A Public Declaration Of Intent

I don’t think I’ve ever done this before. I may have muttered something vaguely similar to a friend or possibly convinced myself I’d have a go, but here’s the very first time I have ever announced this…

Tomorrow I will run a 5k PB.

At 9am tomorrow I’ll be doing my 50th parkrun. That’s a big deal! My local parkrun here in Cheltenham is only 104 weeks old and was my introduction, so I’ve averaged a parkrun every fortnight for the last two years. I’ve also visited 11 other parkruns around the country in that time, I love parkrun!

So that’s the venue sorted, but why put the pressure on myself to perform when I could just relax and celebrate?

Well in the last few months I’ve been working with my trainer Catherine, and I’ve never felt better prepared physically for running. I’ve lost a stone in that time and been running injury free now for 8 months (please don’t let that be the kiss of death!). I also matched my PB a few weeks ago by mistake, I had no idea I was even close otherwise I could have found a second or two I’m sure! I’m also being joined by a lot of friends tomorrow, some cheering and some running, possibly even pacing me.

So everything combines to suggest I have a PB in me, and for the first time ever I am feeling confident about giving it a go, so let me repeat…

Tomorrow I will run a PB.

Wish me luck, I’ll let you know how it goes!

******************************UPDATE******************************

I'm amazing myself on a regular basis at the moment, with digits like this.

I’m amazing myself on a regular basis at the moment, with digits like this.

On my 50th parkrun this morning I ran a 23:43, which is a PB by 45 seconds!

Thank you to everyone who came down to support, for the applause when my 50th and PB attempt were announced and the cheers as I ran round the course. Thanks to those that offered to pace me, and Danny who sat on my shoulder quietly pushing me on or just ahead making the gaps for me to run in to. Thanks to everyone who came to ask how I’d got on after the run. Thanks to parkrun for being the most amazing community, I really do love you.

Here’s to the next 50 and some more fast times.

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