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Running the 3 Peaks

The path petered out ahead of me, I’d been following footprints in the snow with the odd check of the route on my watch for the past 15 minutes. In an ideal world a map would’ve been involved but the howling wind made any attempt to get anything out of my bag, let alone something that was a potential sail, almost impossible.

We were heading to the top of Ben Nevis, the first of the three summits that make up the UK 3 Peaks, from about 400m up we’d been firmly surrounded by cloud and the visibility had become increasingly rubbish as we got nearer the top. By now I could see about 5-10 metres in front of me and beyond that everything was enveloped in in edgeless whiteness.

ben-nevis-ashTaken about 15 mins before I decided to turn back…whilst taking a photo was still a viable task

I’d spent most of the previous few days reading about the hills we were running up and it had been difficult to avoid the warnings that kept cropping up about the top of Ben Nevis, with the summit of the mountain enjoying close proximity to some pretty serious gullies and cliffs. The presence of late-winter snow would make it difficult to spot the edges of these hazards, and the terrible visibility further exacerbated this heady mix.

As I stopped to check my compass and was nearly knocked sideways by the wind I decided to turn back, I didn’t want to be one of those people who had pressed on regardless of the elements and for no real reason other than ‘to get to the top’. I’d reached (my watch later told me) 3,862ft, which was more than enough for the day.

About 10 minutes after I’d turned back I caught up with Stu who agreed with the decision, the slippy, wet, windy conditions weren’t enjoyable in any way and the prospect of 2 more hills over the next 20 hours (along with a significant amount of time sitting in the car) didn’t make either of us any more determined to get any wetter than we were.

I clenched my fist as tightly as I could to try and wring some of the water out of my drenched gloves. Then Stu pointed out my lace was undone. Trying to do wet laces up with gloves on is impossible so I took them off; my wet, cold, stiff fingers were almost useless but I eventually managed to fasten them with a sort of cackhanded triple knot.

As we made our way back down the mountain we passed a few other bedraggled groups of walkers heading towards the top. A few of them were woefully underdressed for the conditions (shorts, tshirt and gym shoes) but didn’t really pay any attention to us trying to describe how difficult the conditions were nearer the top. One group seemed to be blasting Jerusalem out of a small, tinny speaker strapped to one of their backpacks. I don’t know if it helped, we didn’t see them again.

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We drove through the night to the Lake District and our next hill, Scafell Pike. Stu and I dozed as much as we could whilst Alex drove non-stop.

We arrived at Seathwaite at about 2am, it was total darkness and as I got out of the car to stretch my already-tired legs I looked up to see a sky spattered with stars, it was beautiful, and silent.

Our plan was to start out for Scafell at dawn which gave us the chance for a few hours sleep. Sleeping in a car is never the most comfortable experience but almost immediately I fell into a deep, dreamless sleep only waking when my alarm went off at 4.45.

I clambered into my running gear feeling strangely awake and energised, given we’d had about 3 hours sleep, and had a breakfast of a slightly squished banana and an energy bar.

It was a clear, still morning and as we looked around us at the sheep and silent fields we stood under mostly cloudless skies. It looked like we had left the terrible weather behind us in Scotland and as dawn began to break over the surrounding hills it looked like it could be an absolutely beautiful day. The only potential problem was that the hill we were heading towards was still wreathed in cloud, the only summit that was. Hoping that the cloud might lift as the sun rose we trotted along the slowly rising path from Seathwaite Farm towards Great End, with Glaramara on our left.

scafell-path-clouds

We were soon run-walking through a cloud (again) and I began to worry that we weren’t going to enjoy any good weather. Much as I love running in the hills it’s far more enjoyable when you’re a bit dry and can see some of the surrounding scenery!

Fortunately it was pretty warm and there wasn’t much of a breeze but going uphill in a cloud means that everything quickly gets totally soaked.

However as we started through the edge of the boulder field at Ill Crag the sun began to stream through the cloud and we were soon striding across the top of the fell, above the clouds under a bright blue sky. It was glorious and there wasn’t another soul in sight (the fact that it was about 6.30am probably helped).

scafell-clouds-01Above the clouds

As we began to clamber the final section towards the top of Scafell Pike a few blokes passed us having come from the opposite direction but as we reached the top we were completely on our own.

On our way back down a Mountain Rescue helicopter buzzed overhead, taking off and landing at the top of Great End. We passed the Rescue team, who looked like they were out on a training exercise, before we left the sunshine and back into the cloud which still wrapped the lower slopes of the mountain in a damp blanket of fog.

I was feeling pretty good as we came down so had a nice, mostly unbroken, run back to the car passing a growing number of people heading up the hill we’d just been at the top of. Alex was waiting for us still wearing his slightly ridiculous outfit of fleece everything that he’d slept in.

scafell-alexFleece trousers, fleece fleece (possibly another fleece under his fleece). It’s the fleeceman

2 Peaks down. 1 Peak to go.

As we drove out of the Lake District we passed an endless stream of vehicles, cyclists, walkers and runners heading the other way. It was shaping up to be a beautiful, hot, sunny weekend.

We drove down towards Snowdon, we were going to do the Snowdon Ranger route up from ‘behind’ the mountain (in comparison with most of the more popular routes) which I had hoped would be a little quieter in case it was a nice day (as it turned out to be). It’s also supposed to be one of the easier routes, and after 2 hills in under a day and lots of sitting around in the car an easy route seemed like a really, really good idea.

En route I realised I hadn’t brought enough dry socks with me (pair #1 had become sodden on Nevis and pair #2 hadn’t really stayed dry in the clouds on Scafell). Alex suggested hanging them out of the window and letting the sun and the wind do their thing. If you ever need to dry some socks whilst driving down the motorway I can report that this method is very effective.

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We drove along the north Wales coast with everything looking so green, the countryside seemed to have exploded into Spring. To our right the sea stretched into the distance, flat and waveless. As we passed Llandudno a weird fog enveloped the horizon, it was so thick and localised that we thought it must be smoke but there was no obvious source. It was strange, with the beautiful weather all around us, to stare at this thick smudge on the horizon.

We turned into northern Snowdonia and the landscape changed again, the hills all got bigger and bigger but at the same time seemed softer and more rounded than those in the Highlands and Lake District.

We parked up by Llyn Cwellyn, Alex made plans to go and dip his feet in the water whilst we went to slog up the final hill.

The path zig-zagged up the steep sloper behind the Snowdon Ranger Hostel, it was ace to see so many families out enjoying the good weather. Much like the route we’d taken up Scafell the initial couple of miles (after the first steep bit) of the path was a pretty gradual, forgiving incline and was quite runnable.

However once we hit the slopes of Snowdon proper we slowed to a crawl, partly because of the streams of people coming in the opposite direction but mainly because, by now, our legs had turned to lead and no amount of gels, jelly babies and energy bars could coax our bodies into anything faster than a trudge. In the distance you could see the Snowdon train slowly winching its way up the side of the mountain to the top .

But the views were incredible. You could see for miles, across the rooftop of Wales, in the distance a pointed peak was poking through a nest of clouds, a plane flew overhead, the sun glinted off lakes in every direction. Despite the fact my body felt like it was weighed down and moving through treacle I was grinning to myself, grinning as much as I had as we run up above the clouds on Scafell, grinning in the way that only running up a very big hill on a very nice day can make you grin.

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As we neared the top, the Rangers Path (the route we’d been following) joined the other (much more popular) paths for the last section up to the summit. Suddenly we were surrounded by loads more people, it was noisy, it was crowded, and the glorious isolation we’d been enjoying evaporated as we became just another part of the bank holiday traffic.

It was difficult to feel any real sense of achievement amongst all these people. Although, I’ve often felt this weird…nothing feeling at the end of a big challenge (maybe this says something deeply troubling about me). I guess it’s because I enjoy the planning and the doing more than the finishing and the completing. Maybe it’s a sort of sadness that the thing is finished.

We headed back down the mountain and once we’d left the summit behind us we were once again, more-or-less, on our own.

As we rejoined the flatter, final stretch I tripped over and took a fairly heavy tumble (directly in front of a group of walkers). I hit the dirt, and skidded along on my front. Without thinking too much about it I tried to bounce back onto my feet and carry on running. Fortunately there didn’t be too much complaining from my legs but my hands and forearms (which had taken the brunt of the fall) were really sore. I looked down to see a brown crust of blood and direct smeared across the knuckles of my left hand and my right palm was pink and raw. I’d also chosen this run to wear my white vest which was now similarly filthy and, on closer inspection, my legs hadn’t survived unscathed and there was blood dribbling down my shin.

As I ran past a family a small boy turned, pointed and said “eurgh, what has that man done!? he’s all dirty”. And it’s true, I was all dirty.

I arrived back at the car slightly ahead of Stu, Alex was sat there basking in the sun. Whilst we had been running he’d been a good samaritan and had shuttled a father and son who had come down the ‘wrong’ side of the mountain back to Llanberis, he’s nice like that.

alex-stu-ash

So that was it, 3 Peaks, in a little over 24 hours. The weather, after a horrendous start, couldn’t have been better. It was really good fun, I’d totally recommend it. We couldn’t have done it without Alex agreeing to do the driving. And I’m not sure it would’ve been much fun on my own, so you need a good running buddy – thanks to Stu for filling that role.

So, what next? I’ve always fancied giving the Yorkshire 3 Peaks a go, and I’m off to the French Alps at the end of May.

If you’d like to donate some money, I was raising cash for Cancer Research: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ashmann 

Reduced visibility

I run without my glasses, this makes people ask “but how do you see!?” and the answer is I don’t really, and it’s great – an intrinsic part of my running experience.

I’m very short-sighted (very). However I can rarely be bothered with contact lenses. What this means is that when I go running, and I run without my glasses (because when you run with your glasses on they eventually bounce down your sweaty nose and fall off your face, which isn’t that great), I can’t really see much of what’s going on around me.

Due to the fact I can’t really see any detail the whole world softens into a pleasing blur, and that just seems to heighten the ‘lose yourself’ feeling that you get when running.

I can see enough that curbs and pedestrians and lamposts and whatnot don’t cause too much of a hazard (although overhanging branches sometimes catch me unawares – I’ve got a few rips in some of my running tops thanks to brambles and rose bushes that I didn’t see in time).

But by reducing my ability to see in any detail what’s going on around me I give myself an excuse to relegate everything around me to the status of obstacles to be navigated. And this allows me to just get on with enjoying the sheer physical joy of running.

Of course if I’m running somewhere very beautiful then I’ll ‘put my eyes in’. But most of the time I’m running around north London, at nighttime. And I know I’m really not missing anything.

Am I alone in this? Would be interested to hear from fellow four-eyes.

 

Thinking about running #1

20th July 2017 – on a train from Birmingham to London

I finally got around to reading Murakami’s ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ this week (whilst on another train to and from Leeds), it’s a really great read, an interesting insight into the man and also articulated a lot of the things I think and feel about running (it was also interesting just how much I didn’t really recognise around his motivations and frustrations, but he is in his 60s, and Japanese, and a different person, so maybe that is to be expected, afterall being ‘a runner’ is not a consistent, universal state of being).

Reading that book also made me think about how I feel about running, and writing. I’ve tried to write about running a bit in the past – some pieces have been more successful than others (this one tries and partly fails to capture a transcendental run I went on in Switzerland in 2012). But I liked the idea of a running-focused diary of sorts, so I’m going to try and do a bit of that. To what end I don’t really know but I think I’m someone who realises what they think and feel about something by talking or writing about it so, if nothing else, it’ll help me work out what my opinions are.

It also made me realise that, more than anything else, I define myself as ‘a runner’. I’m not a husband, or a father, or any of the things that people seem to define themselves as. But I am, most definitely (in my own head at least) a runner. Maybe this desire self-definition is a modern thing, the natural result of a thousand different channels all asking you to summarise yourself in a 100-word bio.

Anyway, last night when I got home from Leeds I went for a run with my brother. We’re both training for a marathon later in the year (the same marathon) but we do a lot of running together, running is the strongest thing we have in common. We own a flat together so we live together, but often the only real time we spend in each other’s company, is on a run. And it’s nice, it’s uncomplicated, we go out for a run, we chat a bit, but mostly we just run.

We’ve run lots of races together, in lots of different countries. It’s a weird unspoken thing that we never really seem to question too much, we both run – a lot –  we are runners, it is something we are both serious about, but not obsessive over. I couldn’t tell you why he runs, and I doubt he has much to say about my motivations. But I know he loves running as much as I do. So it’s nice that we’re once again training to run the same marathon (we’ve run marathons together in Edinburgh, Copenhagen, Berlin, we also went running in the French Alps last year) in York later this year.

Over these longer distances he is better than me, there’s no getting around that fact. I’m not a particularly competitive person but when it comes to running it’s difficult to say that’s still the case. But my brother, over anything longer than a half marathon, is quicker than me. His body just seems to work that way, he starts and can hold a pace for far longer than I can. He has run a few ultra marathons (distances over the 26.2 miles of a ‘traditional’ marathon) and this week finally convinced me to do one, so next January we will be running 48 miles from somewhere in Suffolk to the coast in Norfolk. I fully expect it to be very very difficult. But when I first started running I never imagined that I’d be able to run a marathon, and now I’ve run 5…I think, I can’t quite remember: London, Edinburgh, Chester, Copenhagen, Berlin. Plus some longer things like the time I ran from Salisbury to Southampton carrying a film canister in the cultural olympiad. So really it’s just a case of putting in the training and your body will probably be fine.

One of the great things about running a lot, in fact doing any endurance exercise that pushes you (I’ve also done some longer distance cycling like riding from John O’Groats to Lands End and cycling across Wales) is you discover a lot about your body and what it’s capable of. These adventures also teach you a lot about who you are, what you’ll tolerate, what your motivations are. I’ve learnt that my body is pretty resilient if I do something approaching the right training and I can be surprisingly bloody-minded – I never used to think of myself as particularly gritty but I’ve put myself in enough difficult situations to know that I will see something through to the bitter end if I can, no matter how much I might not be enjoying it at the time. I suspect the ultra marathon will be one of those times, horrible at the time but a good story to tell once you’ve finished it.

Running in the Alps

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After a couple of years of thinking about it (and probably boring everyone within earshot), last week I finally went running in the Alps. And it was bloody great.

Armed with a few maps and this book, we rented a small “hut thing” (technical term) just outside Chamonix to use as our base for the week. We were blessed with totally great weather and inadvertently arrived just as the summer tourist season in Chamonix ended so everywhere was pretty quiet which added to the general sense of relaxation.

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A few observations:

  • Running up mountains involves almost as much walking as it does running, and that’s ok (everything is, inevitably, quite steep).
  • Running in the alps involves continuous uphill stretches longer than anything you can find in the UK (again, not a surprise but worth noting…living in London means it was almost impossible to do any really appropriate training ahead of the trip)
  • I noticed this last time I was in that part of the world but…all the food involves cheese and potatoes.
  • If you go just outside the summer season that means all of the lifts will be closed which will probably ruin some of your plans and make everything a little bit inconvenient.
  • The book I linked to above is mostly great however one of the routes in particular involved some fairly ridiculous scrambling (that the book made no mention of). It was all fine (/fun) in the end but worth bearing in mind.

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Running above the clouds

switzerland

I was visiting a friend in St Gallen, Switzerland in 2012. St Gallen is situated relatively near the Bodensee (Lake Constance) and seemingly every time I have been there seems to enjoy some pretty apocalyptic fog, whether or not that is actually due to the proximity of the (massive) lake, I’m not sure, but it felt like it might be.

When I visited I was training for the Chester marathon, I was in that point of training where you have become a near-hermit and the entire concept of doing a marathon has turned into something you are beginning to resent, but have spent too much time on it to give up.

I was only going for a short visit, but I had taken my running stuff anyway – more as a prop than with any intention of doing any actual running. However one morning I figured I may as well head out for a few miles, I was feeling slightly nervous that I hadn’t done enough training so any extra miles I could fit in felt like they were probably worth doing.

When I go running I always leave my glasses behind and rarely replace them with contacts, this has the effect of turning the world into the 3 feet immediately surrounding and not much beyond that. I am very short-sighted.

I headed out into the fog, it was really foggy, it was also pretty cold. I don’t know my way around St Gallen so decided to simply head out of town on a road that we had taken the tram up the day before, at least I wouldn’t get lost – my theory being that I could simply follow the tramtracks back into town. The road pretty quickly began to head uphill, “excellent” I thought, this is going to make the most of the few miles I can fit in. I don’t know whether it was because I had gone out particularly early, or maybe it was a public holiday, or simply that people were staying indoors because the weather was pretty rubbish but the streets seemed almost deserted. That, combined with the fog, the lack of glasses and the general sense of not knowing where I was all combined to make this a fairly surreal experience.

I chugged uphill, it was incredibly tiring and I was getting worried that I wasn’t in quite as good shape as I probably should have been…I mean…it was really difficult. It wasn’t even a particularly steep hill, it was just quite long. And I was beginning to get cold. I had assumed my usual running outfit of a vest and shorts which is fine for 90% of the time…I stupidly never make concessions for that other 10% and suffer accordingly (usually with the cold).

The further I ran up the hill, the thicker the fog seemed to get. I had the sense that I was running into a cloud, at least this was what I imagined running into a cloud would probably feel like, I couldn’t see anything, I was wet and cold and – thanks to the hill – knackered.

I began the mental cycle of berating myself into continuing for just a bit longer, I thought at least the return leg would be all downhill but I was feeling thoroughly demoralised, and tired…did I mention I was feeling tired?

Anyway, you may now be thinking, why is this person telling me about an unenjoyable run he went on 3 years ago, in the fog, in Switzerland? Which is a perfectly valid question. I am telling you because of what happened when I got to the top of the hill.

Just when I decided I had had enough of being cold and wet and tired and not being able to see anything the road started to curve to the right, I thought I’d just see what was around the corner and then I’d turn around and go back to my friend’s apartment and go to eat Rösti or fondue or something else suitably Swiss. As I turned the corner the road kicked up very slightly and I finally reached the top of the hill, the yellowish glow that had been getting slightly stronger for the last 15 minutes finally turned into actual sunlight and the fog all seemed to melt away. I was no longer cold. I stopped for a breather, because that’s what the top of hills are designed for, and turned around to see if I could see where I’d come from, I hoped that the hill looked something close to as impressive to run up as it had felt whilst I was doing it.

The view…was incredible. I had run through a cloud, or at least I was now stood overlooking what seemed to be clouds, they stretched thick and white and impenetrable for as far as I could see – punctured by the odd hilltop – and the sun shone in a completely clear, blue sky, in the distance I think I could make out the edge of the lake. I felt a sense of elation beyond anything I can put down in words, perhaps it was because I was tired, perhaps it was because I was cold, perhaps it was simply because I hadn’t seen anything apart from a white haze for the past half an hour and had been running, seemingly on my own, up a never-ending hill. Instead of turning around and going back down the hill I ran on, to the next town, in the warm sunlight above the clouds, or fog, or whatever it was, I felt like laughing out loud, I had a huge smile on my face, I ran and I ran and I ran until I was too tired to run any more.

I can’t really remember a single one of the other runs I did in preparation for that marathon, I don’t even remember the actual marathon all that clearly. But what I do remember, with a clarity that surprises me even now (I don’t have a particularly accurate memory), is that run in St Gallen, up the hill, into the clouds.

Berlin Marathon 2014

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3:28:21

I made peace with the fact I definitely hadn’t done anywhere near enough training to try and run a pb (I’d probably managed 6 weeks, and no more than 3 runs a week at best – i.e. not much/enough). So I just took my time and enjoyed it. For the first time ever I didn’t have any “bad bits” and had a massive grin on my face for most of the course (as opposed the usual grimace).

If you’re thinking about doing a marathon I’d totally recommend Berlin, flat, really well-organised, great crowds. Plus Berlin is a really ace city.

Good fun.

In praise of Parkruns

At the beginning of November I did my first ever Parkrun (18:54 since you asked, not spectacular but not as bad as I feared), it was something I’d been meaning to do ever since 2007 when I first heard about the weekly, timed run that went around Hyde Park’s Woodhouse Moor (a quick glance at the website – http://www.parkrun.org.uk/leeds/ – indicates it has been going since October 2007 so I guess that’s about right).

In case you’ve no idea what a parkrun is here’s a description lifted from their site:

parkrun organise free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the world. They are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in.

So basically, they’re organised runs, that are about running, and nothing else. There’s no entry fee, no minimum sponsorship level required, no goody bag. In short there’s none of the paraphernalia that is slowly but surely turning me off mass-participation runs.

I was talking to my brother the other day after we both entered a race, he was commenting on how he’d felt like “a complete bastard” when he didn’t choose to tell the organisers which charity he was raising money for, because…he wasn’t raising money for a charity, neither of us were, we were entering the race because…surprise surprise, we wanted to do a run.

Now I want to be clear, I have no problem with fundraisers, there are some incredible people, doing amazing things in order to raise money for a charity that they believe in, and that is completely brilliant. Fundraising is also a great way into running for a lot of people. My slight problem lies with the fact that it has now become an assumption that if you are doing a race then you must be raising money for charity, people seem unable to understand that maybe you are simply doing a run because you enjoy running.

And that is part of the reason why I love parkruns, there is none of that ‘other stuff’, it’s a straight-forward experience, that’s just about running. I also like the fact that it is staffed by volunteers (who are normally participants giving up the odd Saturday, the rest of the time they’re there taking part with everyone else) and that it is 5k – a distance that more or less everyone can complete. It is incredibly well-organised, and by 9.30 on a Saturday morning you’ve already done something constructive with your weekend.

Long live parkrun.

p.s. I have since done a second parkrun, got my time down to 18:49, aiming ultimately for sub-17.30 but…let’s see.

What I think about running when I’m reading books about what people think about running

I like reading, I’m no great literary mind but I like a good story. I also really like reading about things that I enjoy doing, so recently I’ve been working my way through a few books about runners, running and the like. To start off with I read ‘Born to Run’ which has in part been credited for helping to fuel the barefoot/minimal running argument/craze/fad. I’d been putting off reading it for ages because, well, everyone else was reading it and I’m a contrary twat sometimes. But I bought it for my brother for his birthday and he loved it so I thought I’d give it a go.

It’s a really passionately-written and fascinating book, I suspect you probably have to have an interest in running to enjoy it and there are certain parts of your brain you need to switch off to go with how vociferous the author is about certain things. But on the whole, a good read.

It made me think a bit more about running, and why I run. A few friends have started running recently and it’s interesting to observe how other people approach it, and what they get out of it. Warning, what follows is very introspective and probably quite boring, but I enjoyed writing it.

The first time I went for a ‘proper’ run was with my dad, I was about 9 or 10 and really wanted to go with my dad when he went for one of his ‘jogs’. It was probably only about 2 or 3 miles, from the village where we lived to the nearest town and back, but I remember it really vividly. It was dark, it was misty, I was wearing a gilet (it was the 90s, shut up) and it made my lungs burn a bit (the fun of running in the cold). I remember being quite proud when we got back to the house.

I’m not really sure at what point I went from someone who went for the odd jog to considering myself ‘a runner’ – maybe while I was at uni as a reaction to the hugely unhealthy lifestyle that comes with being a student?

I didn’t really start training properly and regularly until I was training for my first marathon in 2010, I think that was the point when I really ‘got’ running. Before then it had always seemed a bit difficult and something to endure rather than to enjoy. The all-encompassing nature of marathon training made me confront the more meditative aspects of forcing yourself to go for a 2 or 3+ hour-long run. I don’t think at any point up until then I had ever given myself that long alone with my thoughts, certainly not consciously. I quite liked that realisation, from then it felt like I was getting more from running than just the physical health stuff. I realise that is not the most well-articulated epiphany but I think it goes a long way to explain why I have spent more and more time running over the last few years, not only does it feel like you are actually accomplishing something (even if that is as banal as travelling an arbitrary distance that also, normally, means you end up where you started) but it also gives me some time, most days, to sort out my thoughts and work out what I think about things – sort of ‘brain admin’ for want of a better description.

I also love the improvement/achievement aspect of it all, follow a training plan and you will improve. And that’s great. You get out what you put in, there are no shortcuts, you can’t just decide to run faster, or further, you need to work at it, in the simplest possible terms I am completely in love with the honesty of running.

I don’t really like training with anyone, I love racing with lots of people I know for all of the pre and post race stuff but training is my thing, time spent, on my own, where my opponent is myself – this is probably deeply anti-social and misanthropic.

I have an ongoing argument with myself about listening to music when I run. On the one hand it’s quite nice to stick on some music and detach yourself from the entire experience a bit but on the other hand that feels a bit like cheating, and like you’re trying to trick yourself into forgetting that you’re actually running. At the moment I am in a ‘no music’ phase, but sometimes training just gets really difficult and any distraction is welcomed.

Running is great, I love it, I probably spend more time running than I do on most other things other than work and sleep.

PB/PR/KMH/MPH/MPM/etc

So, to reiterate and expand on an earlier post…

Race-plan for this year:

  • 12/05/2013: Leeds Half Marathon
  • 19/05/2013: Copenhagen Marathon
  • 14/07/2013: Leeds 10k
  • 04/08/2013: York 10k
  • 20/10/2013: York Marathon

Current PBs:

  • Marathon: 03:38:13
  • Half-marathon: 01:33:39
  • 10k: 00:37:15

2013 targets:

  • Marathon: 03:10:00
  • Half-marathon: 01:25:00
  • 10k: 00:35:00
  • 5k: set a bloody time

It’s always good to have a plan

So last Sunday was my last race of the year, the Leeds Abbey Dash, I didn’t get the time I was looking for but did get another pb: 00:37:15 so not too bad.

Time to start planning for next year, it’s got a bit more shape than this year:

March – Bradford 10k

May – Leeds Half, Copenhagen Marathon

July – Leeds 10k

August – York 10k

September – Horsforth 10k, maybe the GNR but don’t know if I can face the ballot and paying the ridiculous entry fee.

October –  another marathon

November – Leeds Abbey Dash 10k

Aims:

  • 5k: sub 17
  • 10k: sub 35
  • half marathon: sub 1:25
  • marathon: sub 3:10

Current times: 

  • 5k: n/a
  • 10k: 00:37:15
  • half marathon: 01:33:32
  • marathon: 03:38:13

So basically it’s mainly a question of some 5:45 minute miling for 10k, 6 minute (ish) miles for the half and 7 m/m for the marathon(s). Easy peasy…

Marathon training: love/hate

I love the rigid routine that my life has at the moment, with a 6-day-a-week training plan there isn’t a lot of room for much apart from work, running, eating and sleeping. Which is fine by me…at the moment.

However it does leave me tired, grumpy, hungry and can turn running into a complete numbers game. I want to run x time so I need to run this amount of miles, at this pace, this regularly, blah blah blah. It can be a bit joyless. It also completely and utterly takes over your life.

But then, I chose to do this and if I can run the time I’ve been aiming for for the last 5 months then it’ll be worth it.

What’s the saying? Train hard, race easy…or something

Hansel of Film, running, rain etc

Last Thursday I made my way down to Salisbury to take part in the Hansel of Film, a project organised by the Shetland Film Festival (Screenplay) that saw a relay of short films heading down the country from Shetland to Southampton and back. From each venue the films were taken by ‘runners’ to the next venue. I was one of the runners. The only one actually running.

A photo of me getting a ‘runner-sized’ film canister to carry to the venue in Southampton. No idea why my trousers look like that, apparently I have no legs, or knees, or something.
Mark, Linda, Me

So, anyway, a 5 or so hour train journey down to Salisbury during which I managed to make more mess eating a scone than anyone has, ever. I arrived and it was pissing it down. Unfortunate. I had decided to travel light due to the fact that I’d have to carry everything, on my back, for the 35 or so miles I’d be running between Salisbury and Southampton, this meant that I didn’t have a coat, which meant I got wet. Really wet. After some surreptitious drying of myself (and my clothes) with a hair-dryer at the b&b (which looked ridiculous and was completely ineffective), I met up with some relatives who live locally and we went off to Salisbury Arts Centre for the screening.

The Arts Centre is in a beautiful old church, I made my usual clumsy introductions to the Hansel people and then got introduced to Linda Ruth Williams and Mark Kermode who curate the Film Festival in Shetland. I’m not going to lie, meeting Mark Kermode was ace.

The films themselves were a real mixed bag, in a good way. There was everything from surreal comedy, to creepy vampire stuff, to music videos, documentaries and short animations. I was surprised at how good the quality of everything was, for me the standouts were Ted – about a suicidal teddy bear, absolutely perfectly done and an odd animated piece that I can’t remember the title of but that was absolutely inspired in its weirdness.

The following day involved lots of running for the camera (they were filming a documentary about the project) and then I set off with an assortment of OS maps, computer printouts from my uncle (with helpful annotations – seriously, these were invaluable) and Google Maps (which may be the most helpful thing ever in this sort of situation). The route quite quickly left the horrible A36 and I was suddenly in the middle of nowhere, running down beautiful country lanes, yes it was raining but it was still completely brilliant – there was hardly any traffic, any cars that did pass gave me plenty of room and it did feel a bit like I was on an adventure, I had no real idea where I was going and no idea how long it’d take me to get there so I just trotted along with my gps tracker bleeping at me every kilometre (breaking the silence in a horrible, but useful way).

Salisbury Arts Centre in the background, I’m apparently delighted that people are taking photos…twat

When I’d looked at the route the previous evening I had made the remark ‘oh, there aren’t even any hills’. Of course there were hills, and they weren’t fun. I rattled off the first 15 or so miles relatively quickly and easily, meeting up with the filming guys a couple of times to get footage of me striding majestically across southern England (or something).  However the last 5 miles of the day were really not fun, my legs suddenly felt incredibly heavy and I realised I hadn’t had anything to drink or eat for about 3 hours. Idiot. Anyway, I made it to where I was staying on Friday evening with only a minimal amount of fuss, had a shower and almost immediately fell asleep.

The following day I creaked into action – I need to get much, much better at warming down and stretching and the like – and set off through the New Forest. Almost immediately the heavens opened, the rain was torrential. I briefly tried huddling under a tree, which served absolutely no use whatsoever. It wasn’t that cold, it obviously wasn’t going to stop any time soon and I had 15 miles to run so I figured I was about as wet as I was going to get and set off again – I have never been as soaked as I then became, I think I probably looked like I’d just showered wearing all my clothes. I passed a number of New Forest ponies looking completely miserable but really, it wasn’t that bad. I made it to Southampton in incredibly good time (I got to run over a bridge, I bloody love running and cycling over bridges), the route getting markedly less picturesque with each mile – the last few miles into the city centre were about as uninspiring as it could get, an anonymous, grey ring road. But I’d made it in plenty of time and squelched my way over to the hotel to meet up with the lovely Kathy and Roseanne from Hansel. They then had to go off for some meetings about the screening the following day.

Running into the cinema, desperate not to trip over

I briefly considered how I could celebrate what felt like a bit of an achievement, I had run 35 miles (and not really got lost – well done me), ordering extravagant room service wasn’t really on the cards as I was staying at an Ibis so I wandered around Southampton city centre in search of somewhere to have a steak, then went to the cinema, inadvertently bumping into some Olympic Torch-related celebrations on the way.

Originally I wasn’t going to go to the screening in Southampton as the cinema was on one side of the city and the train station on the other, and I had about 20 minutes to get from one to the other -which disagreed with my desire to be incredibly early for everything, all the time. However I got into the whole idea so ended up running into the cinema, handing over the canister, making some useless remarks to the crowd and then running out. The best thing was that everyone cheered me out of the cinema, which was hilarious and brilliant.

Sweaty and knackered I then sat on a train forever to get back to Leeds.

A great few days, with great people, working on a brilliant project. If you can get along to a screening then I’d urge you to do so, it’s free and fantastic.

More info about the Hansel of Film here: http://www.hansel2012.org/about

Oh and if you ever want to run from Salisbury to Southampton then this is more or less the route I took…Day 1,  Day 2

Hansel of film 2012

Tomorrow I’m getting a really, really, really long train ride down to Salisbury (not quite as long as coming back from Penzance to Leeds, but still about 6 hours or something). On Friday and Saturday I’ll be running from Salisbury to Southampton.

Why? As part of this http://hansel2012.org/about/hansel-of-film

The Hansel of Film is part of the Shetland Film Festival and is essentially a series of screenings of short films taking place from Shetland, to Southampton, and back again. Between each venue the films are being couriered in any number of weird and wonderful ways, motorbikes, horses, dancers, etc. I decided that the most straight-forward way would just be to…y’know, run.

As my French bike ride isn’t happening this year there was a ‘foolish idea’ shaped gap in my summer that I’ve aptly filled with this little jaunt. It’s not too far, between 35-40 miles depending on the route I end up taking (still tbc…), so only 17-20 miles each day.

Also this means I get to run through the New Forest, which should be nice.

So, off I go, to the south, to run about a bit. Hopefully I won’t get lost.

This is my route for the first bit (Friday) http://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/112284719

10k plan

Did some boring/geeky pace maths ahead of trying to run sub-35 mins at the Leeds 10k, I think I will inevitably lose some time over the last km but will try to run a negative split, I’m going to try and run to the following splits

34 minutes

10 km

3:24 minute per km

  • 1 km 03:24
  • 2 km 06:48
  • 3 km 10:12
  • 4 km 13:36
  • 5 km 17:00
  • 6 km 20:24
  • 7 km 23:48
  • 8 km 27:12
  • 9 km 30:36
  • 10 km 34:00

17.65 km per hour

I AM AWARE THIS IS OF INTEREST TO ALMOST NO-ONE!

Back in the saddle (and…in the trainers?)

So after the falling apart of my original plans due to a mixture of injury, misfortune and laziness I have now managed to organise a few things to keep me busy for the next few months.

First: I will be joining the team from the Jane Tomlinson Appeal’s Anniversary Challenge on the 20th and 21st April (Newark – Cambridge then Cambridge – London) as they finish their bike ride from Paris to London. The Challenge is, as usual, a bit ambitious, they are running the Paris Marathon this Sunday (15th), they are then cycling to London via Ze Brugge, Hull, Leeds and Cambridge arriving in London on Saturday 21st, they are then running the London Marathon on the 22nd. Brilliant, amazing and crazy all at the same time. Unsurprisingly they will be joined by people such as Chrissie Wellington (triple women’s ironman world champion). I’ll just be joining them for the last 150 miles so…easy!

Second: I’ll be the ‘runner’ (which will involve actual running) for the Salisbury to Southampton leg of the Hansel of Film 2012 Relay (http://hansel2012.org/about/hansel-of-film) – it’s about 30 miles, which I think I will split over 2 days.

Third: Tris (my brother) and I will be doing the Chester Marathon on Sunday 7th October.

Plans are good.