Preston Interclub 2016

Preston interclub buffet

For those who don’t know what interclub is, it is a mini road running series involving small number of running clubs that local to one another.  For me and i am still not quite used to being a club runner, my series involves my club the Preston Harriers and the following clubs :

Each club hosts one race and in most cases an after race buffet (The picture above shows the Harriers preparing a well stocked buffet ahead of Preston Interclub 2016). The races are free for club members to take part in and range from 4 miles to 5 miles in distance.   Each race and the full series is made up of six championship  categories  – Open, Ladies, FV40, Vets, Vet 50s and Vet 60s.  The points system works as follows

Open – First 10 to count, any age, any sex
Ladies – First 5 to count
Vets – First 6 men over 40 or women over 35 to count
Vet 50 – First 4 over 50 to count, either sex
Vet 60 – First 3 over 60 to count, either sex

This Wednesday (May 11th 2016) saw the staging of race two in the 2016 series, with Preston Harriers as the host team.  Now for me, since Boston, i have done very little training. Not due to lost motivation or lack of interested but due a foot injury i am not sure quite what it is, but it has kept me from running to the extent that this race would be just the fifth time i have run since the marathon.  I knew wasn’t in top shape, but at the same time i knew that i could at least get around the 4.2 miles course and at affect the scoring of our rivals. So there was motivation to get out and run, plus it would be good work for me as i try and over come my injury.

The race route is fairly challenging featuring two hill climbs on a two lap route (so four hill climbs) before finishing along a uneven path full of pot holes.

As i expected i found the race tough going, but i surprisingly managed to get around the first mile in a fairly quick pace despite my lack of training, with mile 1 completed in 5:52. Passing a number of runners who had started ahead of me, which in some ways was good as it ensured i didn’t set off too quickly but in others way i had made things harder for myself as i had to weave in and out of runners.

When i came to the first hill i intentionally slowed down, i knew this hill from parkrun Preston and i knew it was a tough one. Featuring a sharp climb followed by turning onto short gradual incline. Go too fast on the sharp climb and you’ll be found out when you find  out what you thought was the top the climb, is in fact another climb.  As expected many runners where caught out by this and on both laps, eomplying this tactic saw me go by several runners. However, the downside of the slowing down tactic and my lack of fitness was that miles 2 and three were completed at slower paces than i am capable of (6:16 and 6:23).  However the upside was that i felt fresh enough to make one final push over the last mile, particularity over the last half mile as i raced to line in a group of four runners, each representing a different club.

I passed two of them fairly early in this move but the third pushed on hard and i didn’t have enough left to close him down, as each time it seemed like i had gain ground on him,he moved further away and then on home straight he took off.  Feeling i had no sprint left in me, due to lack of fitness I deiced to just push on hard for what was left of the race. hearing a member of the crowed shouted “200 to g0”,  I pictured our many track sessions and the many times i have made the last set the hardest of the session. This helped motivate me for one last push, working hard to making it as difficult as possible for those behind to pass me. As i knew, if they caught me, i didnt have it in me to fend them off.

The plan worked, but boy was i exhausted at the end, it was tough going, i had worked hard, completing the final mile in 5:51 pace. Good enough to earn me 29th overall (out of 321) and eight place Harrier, meaning my position would count towards our points tally.  Time wise i completed the race in 24:22 not a personal best but a very respectable time.

After the race buffet was consumed with as much enthusiasm and effort as the race was run and the points were tallied up, with Preston tacking first place in the Open and the Vets categories.  Two great victories on home territory leaving the series tables looking as follows :

league tables after two races

Some race stats :

  • 321 finishers
  • 65% (210) males : 35% (111) female
  • 65% (209) aged 40 +
  • 14% (44) aged 60 +
  • 35% (113) of runners from Red Rose Runners, 5% (17) from Thornton Cleveleys
  • Winning time – 20:31 – male 20:31 , female 23:30
  • Median time (all) – 30:28 – average time (all) 31:22
  • Median time (males) – 28:33  average time (males) 29:42
  • Median time (females) – 33:49 average time (females) 34:30


Boston 2016 : Boston Strong


So on Monday April 18th 2016 i ran the marathon, i never thought i would run. I once said to a friend wouldn’t it be great to be able to say you had run both the London and Boston marathons.  I then ran my first two marathons, one of which was London, they both took me over four hours.  Subsequently i resigned myself to never running the Boston marathon.  But then over the years, as i learn more about running and improved my training, i gradually and sometimes rapidly brought my marathon times down. Going from 4 hours to sub3 at Manchester in 2015 (More about that later). And so it is was that i got into Boston and headed for the US of A.

I found Boston to be a great city, very clean, very green and with plenty of options for eating out.  I also found out that where ever you went to eat, you got as much free water to drink as you wanted. So carbo-loading and hydrating for this marathon seemed fairly straight forward.

Well that was until i released that my bus to the athletes village sets off at 6:30 a.m, the exact time my hotel (the Revere) starts serving breakfast…….brilliant hotel other than that, really comfy beds and a short walk to the expo, bus pick up and finish line. Perfect.

boston hotel

Luckily being a paranoid runner i had smuggled my own breakfast cereal and high protein milk into the US so i had at least something to eat before i headed to the bus. I topped this up with a protein bar which i had also taken across with me, a banana and a porridge pot that i bought from a nearby 7/11. Taking these things with me on the bus to the athletes village.

So the breakfast panic was over and as per my last post, i had trained as hard as last year in regards to running but added in a load of cycle session and increased my core work out.  To top this off, i recently run a 20 mile race at 6:29 pace. I had added hills into my runs and i had done numerous constant incline treadmill sessions. So it was safe to say i was feeling good ahead of this marathon.

But there was one thing, i hadn’t banked on, and it was something i hadn’t really considered until weather forecasts started coming out for marathon day, around a week before i was due to fly out………that’s right the weather.  Spring and Autumn are great times to hold marathon,  as you are more likely to get favorable weather conditions than summer or winter. Hence why most of the marathon majors are held at these times.

However, once forecasts of 18 degrees started coming out, i knew i might be in for a rough ride. I packed my run cream, but still hoped for a cooler weather front. As the days went by the forecast moved down to 15 and back up to 18 and one time 20 degrees……But on the day, I believe it was 18, whatever it was it was hot and dry.

The hottest day i had run prior to Boston, was 12 degrees and that only happened once. The UK is slow to warm up.  On top of this, the only times i have run a marathon on a hot day, where my first two marathons. Both of which took me over four hours, partly due to my poorer training and partly due to the heat. Which on both occasions melted me, and subsequently had me worried ahead of this marathon.

Temperatures and spirits high for 120th running of Boston marathon

Weather is heating things up for the 2016 Boston marathon

I tried my best to stay in the shade as long as i could, but knew as soon as we started running that things would heat up.

Boston marathon start

So we were off and i downloaded a customized pace plan from RunnersConnect, which was based on the Boston course and it called for a slow start……easier done than said when you’re in the mix and the gun has fired.  Although i did try and hold back, using other runners to slow me down, i still managed to complete the first mile in 6:33 pace, which was seven seconds faster than planned. I admit it, i did print out a 2:50 pace plan……

Things carried on pretty much this way and i covered the first 13 miles of the marathon in an average pace of 6:31. But i was suffering, it was very hot and the water stations, which are every mile at Boston were crowed. Each time you had to slow down or weave around runners to get a drink.  Before the marathon, i had thought that having drink stations every mile, was too much, but during i the marathon i was very grateful for them, as they became the best way to stay cool. I took a sip of water at each station and then threw the rest over my head. It was a nice feeling.

It was the second half the race where things went off track, having made it to 16 miles at 6:33 pace i was still on for my dream time. But with the heat taking it toll, i now entered the toughest section of the marathon featuring eight miles of constant up and down. Initially i managed ok with these, but as the hills continued roll by and sun continued to shine down on me  i slowed down. With miles 16-24 covered in 6:59 pace, i was struggling but i was fighting back with miles 22 and mile 23 covered in 6:35 and 6:45 respectively. I wasn’t going to give up on getting a good time just yet.  I wasn’t going to let nature or the course beat me, but as the below snap shows i was finding it hard going.

boston hard work

I pushed on, as any experienced marathon will tell you, you just keep going, you smash on through the wall, you get to the end anyway you can.

Reaching the last two and bit miles, you find yourself back in Boston and here the crowds rival London. Both sides of the road where packed with loud cheering supports urging the runners home with cries of “You’ve Got this”, “Come on Preston” (i was wearing a Preston harriers top) and “Your almost there” helping to pick me and several runners around me up and on we went to the finish.  Runners left and right tried picking themselves up to fast finish, which i was great for me as i latched on to a few of them and followed them along.  A couple dropped back, a couple went off ahead of me. It didn’t matter as it helping me as i turned the corner for the home straight.

Boston corner turn

At this time point my body was more than happy to stick to the pace i was running, i had slight cramp in my right quad, although no where near as bad as what i had experienced in Manchester in 2015 when quads in both legs where cramping up (my new training system is working) and i was ready to stop running. But my mind said no, go for it, i knew my time was close to my Manchester time (so i thought…..more on this later). So go for it i did, pushing on to the fastest pace i could manage, which turned out to be 6:14, passing several runners as went on to complete the Boston marathon.

boston finished

The stress fracture at the end of 2015 with the race day heat and hills had all conspired against me, but they hadn’t beaten me.  The extra training, the joining a running club and the arriving in Boston three days early had all paid off.

boston finish time

2016 Boston Marathon medals. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

2016 Boston Marathon medals. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

2:57:31, not my dream time, but a great time. Sub3 again and a PB of 23 seconds….or so i thought…………………

…………Whilst i had been in Boston, it had been discovered that the Manchester marathon course of 2015 was short. Now when i ran Manchester, i had recorded it as being short on my Garmin, but i hadn’t thought anything of it.  Smashrun had provided me with a interpolated time of 2:59:14 for the 26.2 distance but I trusted the course to be correct in length i stuck with my Garmin time of 2:57:54.  But now i know its short, i will adjust my time, which means my actual official marathon PB for 2016 should be 1:41.

Although to make things even more confusing i actually ran 26.47 miles in Boston with Smashrun giving me a interpolated time for 26.2 of 2:55:47 , which would be a PB of 3:27.  However as tempting as it is, to use that time until i hear that Boston was also incorrectly measured, I will accept that it was my own fault i ran 26.47 miles and a PB of 1:41 is good enough. It was tough conditions and a far harder marathon route than Manchester. Plus the only thing i did differently this year was to introduce extra cross training and join a running club. Which ever times i use, those two things delivered results. The experiment was a success. Running extra miles, really inst the only way to get quicker and if it hadn’t been so hot and if i had run the right distance i would be looking a bigger PB.

Admittedly i did spend a few days disappointed with my time, but then it sank in that Ive gone sub3 at Boston, that the conditions weren’t favorable and as recent as December i was worried that I wouldn’t be able to race at Boston.  In the end, 2:57:31 is a great time, and i am really pleased with what i achieved. That’s not to say i am not itching to race again, nature may have robbed me of a 2:50 finish this time, but i am not done with the marathon……i will be taking on 26.2 again next year with my additional core work, my additional cross training, my continued membership of a club and quite possibly an increase in training mileage……

One final blurb on Boston, if you get the chance to go this race, do it. Its really well organised, really well supported and it is a very special race. Boston is a really nice city to visit, there is plenty of sight seeing to be done and if you give yourself four days like i did. You will be able to do it all at a causal pace and run the marathon.

Oh and the girls of Wellesley are as crazy as everyone says!!! – Had to move away from them because the screaming was too loud to bare! But i guess it wouldnt be Boston with things like that. A fantastic marathon, one of the best i have ever done.

Thank you Boston, i enjoyed your marathon!





Boston 2016 : Training complete

Bost here i come

SO training is complete, what with flying out to the US tomorrow, there will be no more runs. Finished with a runventure mostly off round along the side of the River Ribble, that Ive never run down before.  A nice way to finish training.  Normally i wouldn’t go three days without running before a marathon and in fact if circumstances allow it, id be running the day before.  But this is life, I cant make the trip all about me, but marathon Monday will be all about me as have the last few months. So its a small sacrifice to pay.

I head to to Boston to put the experiment to the test… this i mean, i  was once told that i could get faster without having to increasing my weekly mileage, if I improve both the amount of cross training I do (last time out it was core work and nothing else) and if I improve the quality of my training.  So this time out, for the first time ever, i have repeated the same marathon training plan that i followed last year. The Advanced Marathoning 70-85 miles per week plan with the aim of increasing my cross training and quality work outs.

Going off the rails

Well that was the aim….but sometimes things don’t go to plan

derailed train

In my case… was a stress fracture, the most serious injury i have ever had, which resulted in me missing ten weeks of any kind of training at the end of 2015 and completely disrupted my training plan.  So much so that in December 2015, when training for Boston was supposed to being, i ran just 82 miles whereas in December 2014 i ran 271 miles as training for Manchester began.

Fitter, faster, stronger

However in someways maybe this was a blessing in disguise, as when i could return to training i compensated having to ease off running, by completing intense 30 minute cycle sessions aiming for a minimum of 90 RPM and as it was cycling (in the gym) became my cross training session of choice.  So much so, i have managed to complete at least one session a week throughout 2016, with some weeks seeing me complete three cycle sessions and recently i have been taking part in one 45 minute spinning class session a week. So that side of things has really took off.

In addition to cycling i continued with the core workouts that i started doing last year, where the target was at least one session a week. This year, id say i have done at least two a week, but i haven’t kept a record of this.  Although what i do know, is the number of core workouts in terms number of sit ups and the like completed per session, has tripled compared to last year.

And finally, completed my threat to join a running club, joining the famous Preston Harriers, and so far in 2016 i have only missed one session with them. So i have also consistently doing speed work and thanks to them, I have been doing better quality sessions than i was doing last year.

Running wise, despite the injuries the i have run almost the same number of miles over the past 20 weeks as i did in preparation for Manchester (1065 V 1068). There are two reasons for this, firstly in February 2015 i picked up a knee injury which caused me to miss a number of sessions that months, whereas this time i haven’t picked up one major issue during training. I have had niggles two days lost worrying i had re-fractured my leg, four days lost during taper (a worrying / ok time to miss training) after slightly twisting my ankle but apart from that thinks have gone well.  On top of this, i feel fitter, than ever before and core strength is the strongest its ever been.


The proof is in the pudding as they say and i have put my training to test on three occasions during 2016.  The Wrexham Village Baker half marathon, where i turned up to run my first race since the fracture with a plan to run an even 6:30 per mile and test out my marathon pace. The result an accidental PB of 1:23:06 – a new PB, down from 1:24:25.

The Trimpell 20, which is my usual training race ahead of a spring marathon and this time i stuck to my task of running average of 6:30 per mile, coming home in 2:10:41. A PB of over six minutes!

Finally and recently (April 6th) it was the Blackpool inter club 4 mile race. This was my second ever experience of such an event and this time i was a lot more prepared for how competitive it would be.  I also set myself a target pace of 6 minutes per mile, which would bring home a PB and apart from mile 3, i blew that away completing the race in 23:26 despite not reaching top speed or sprinting for the line. A PB of 1:49.

Now its time to head state side and put this training to the test, months of hard work and at times frustration. Here’s hoping it pays off!!








Boston 2016 : Trimpell & taper

Boston taper time.png

The time has arrived…….the time that all marathon runners look forward to…the time when the weekly mileage finally starts heading in reverse.  That said, its also the time that tells you that you are just weeks away from your marathon challenge and regardless if its your first or like me your seventh marathon, you start to get butterflies. You are at the business end of your training and there isn’t much you can do over the next three weeks that will greatly improve you as a runner.   Everything you have done up to now, will be what dictates your marathon day performance…….well unless you go completely off the rails or get a major injury in the next few weeks or perhaps even opt to take a load of performance enhancing drugs.  Soooo, the training you have completed up to this point will have the greatest influence on your race day performance.  The next three weeks are all about ensuring you arrive at the start line rested and ready to give your best performance over 26.2 miles that you can, at this point in time.

Trimpell 2016

Last Sunday (March 20th 2016), was the big best, the dress rehearsal, the practice run.  Call it what you want, i was running my traditional spring 20 mile race in Lancaster, the Trimepll 20.  I have completed this race three times before.  Having first used it to see what running a marathon would feel like in 2009 and returning in 2014 ahead of the Wales marathon and again in 2015 ahead of Manchester.  Its fairly local to me, well organised, the course is 99% traffic free and its a fairly flat route, which makes it ideal to sneak into your training plan.

Well that’s what i thought…..the race has actually relocated to Lancaster castle this year. So gone was the fast track finish that i used to love and in its place a steep climb all the way up into the Castle itself. A nasty way to finish a 20 mile race, but great practice for heart break hill i thought (There’s always a silver lining).  The race also wasn’t quite well organised as in past years either, as there was some confusion over where the start line was and there wasn’t enough toilets.  Although to be fair, there were more toilets than in previous years, there was just over 200 more runners than last years!  A big turn out and i wonder if that’s the impact of the newly returned Manchester Marathon.  Either way, its still an idea marathon practice race and that’s what i was here to do.  With a plan of running the race in 2:10 achieving an average pace of 6:30.  If i could do that, i could set myself quite a tough target for Boston as i seek a seventh marathon PB in a row.

Annoyingly it didn’t start well… the new course start involved fairly narrow section of running and this contributed to me reaching the first mile marker in 6:37, so i was seven seconds down, but no need to panic as there were another 19 miles to go. It may also have not helped that i got into conversation with another Harrier as we ran the first mile together…….

Mile 2 was completed in 6:33, better but I was still behind schedule. By mile 3 i had latched onto another runner and he was clearly also aiming for 6:30 pace (The constant watch checking gives a runner with a plan away) and together we passed the third mile point bang on 6:30. Better.

Mile four (6:32) was off pace, but i close enough, then five went in 6:25 pace and 6 in 6:24 so things were going much better and i was gaining time back.   At this point my companion shot off down the road, but i stayed on course knowing i was happy with what i was currently doing and that i didn’t want to over cook it, there was a long way to go after all.

The miles ticked by fairly uneventfully, as i stuck to my task we great determination :

7 – 6:31
8 – 6:28
9 – 6:29

 The around mile 10 another runner had caught up to me, although he stayed on my shoulder and every so often fell back only to return. I could hear his heavy breathing and foot pounding, he was struggling and had another ten miles to go. I was feeling in control and relaxed, hearing his other chap struggling added to that to my confidence. 

Not long after mile 10, I came to one of the only hill of note in the race, which we would run twice of the course of the race. In past years i have had no problem getting up and over this hill the first time around, but struggled on the return.  The toll of having run around 17 mile at that point usually hits me.  So per previously years i was up and over this incline, i think its only around +58 and there is actually a worse climb, which you also do twice a little further on. 

10 – 6:33
11- 6:28

It was at this point, that i could see my companion from earlier in the race.  I tried pacing his movement for a while, which was hard from a distance, but i soon (Thanks to Garmin) found him to be running off pace. So i abandoned that plan i stuck to my task. Mile 12 – 6:30

I decided to as i was near the turn around point, that i wanted to catch him up, for whatever reason so i pushed on.  Mile 13 – 6:22

Having caught him, we reached the hilly sections again, Mile 14 – 6:35, Mile 15 – 6.38. 

But this time on the hill climb that had caused me some issue in the past, i found myself feeling strong.  I then found myself drawing level with my former companion and passing him by, beating him to the stop and using the drop to speed up and push away. For the first time in the race i had gone by him. It was a good moment.

I have thought about, why for the first time, did I not find that hill any trouble as i haven’t been doing hill repeat sessions.  But what i have been doing, is runs with stairs in them and treadmill runs of between 4 & 8 miles on a constant uphill climb of between 4% and 5%.  So i think a combination of these two training tools, had clearly increased my leg strength. it was a great confidence booster, to pass him on that damn hill and onward i pushed. Mile 16 – 6:26

The next runner ahead of me, was maybe 600 metres up the road, it was a big gap. So big i ruled out catching him, but i could see him passing other runners. So i targeted them instead. Mile 17 – 6:20, Mile 18 – 6:22. I was on him!

I hadn’t expected to catch him, but now i had and i was still feeling strong whereas i could tell he was slowing, so i decided to pass him when we reached mile 19 (6:23) and thats what i did. 

Pushing on for the last mile i passed one runner as we reached the turn that took us back onto the narrow start. I knew the steep climb was coming, as i had walked up it ahead of the race to see how tough it was and to ensure i knew what to expect.  

I passed two runners at the bottom of the hill walking up it and for some reason, i powered on. This could of been due to high fiving a man in a superman outfit holding a sign saying touch me for power….i am not sure, further research would be required to prove or disprove that……maybe….. Either way, i powered up the hill passing another runner on my way up the steep climb.  Reaching the end of the steep climb and the up hill cobble section into the castle (its a tough finish!!) i caught up with another runner.  He tried to hold me off as we turned to head into the Castle but i had too much left for him and pushed passed him and headed to the finish.

2:10:41, i run the last mile in 6:27 pace and i run the final section in 6:06 pace……a great finish and a great race time. 

So i got the time i wanted and things are still looking good, another marathon PB could be on the cards.  There’s a few weeks to go and you never know how the race will go, but despite the stress fracture i am where i wanted to be be. Incidentally this performance also represents a 20 mile PB of 6 minutes 17 seconds with an average pace of 6:29 so a timely confidence booster.  I dont know if i could hold this pace for another six miles, but i am starting to think about trying too……

The Trimpell 20 : My performance and race route


 Back to Boston, and its now taper time. My weekly mileage will drop to 70, then 54 and then finally 36 miles. But this this comes on the back of twice breaking my monthly mileage total (February 301 miles, March (to date) 312 miles) and running more long runs (14 miles +) during the run up (Jan-March) to a marathon than ever before (22). I have continued with my cycling gym sessions, my Harriers training and my core strength work.  So i am feeling fitter than ever before, although right now I am a bit stiff after running a tough 22 miler.

Interesting find alert!!

I found this great pace calculator that it designed for the Boston marathon factoring in all the hill climbs and drops.  If you are doing or planning on doing Boston i recommend it.

Boston Marathon Pace Calculator




Boston marathon : 7 weeks to go

Boston 100

There are now just seven weeks between me and the 120th Boston marathon start line and I am in a lot better position than my last post when i was gradually recovering from a stress fracture. A long period of building up my miles, avoiding speed work, hills and weights, nervously wondering i see a re-occurrence of my injury.

Suffice to say it wasn’t a nice period, but training is going well and i just completed the biggest milage week of the my training plan.  Covering a whoping 88 miles over just seven days, taking my February mileage up to 291 miles with one day of the month to go.  It is a great change in fortunes and now i am starting to think less and less about my leg and more and more about Boston.  In fact just yesterday morning i woke up with the London marathon tune in my head :

Although admittedly, i do have the occasional tweak and twinge and not to long ago I missed two days of running as a precaution.  So i am not out of the woods, but those are the only two days i missed this month.  One thing that London marathon tune does, it make me really want to return to that race one day…….its certainly an atmosphere that no other marathon has come close to yet.

But 2016 is all about Boston and unlike last year and partly due to the injury i had. I have set about my mission to do more cross training and speed work with great enthusiasm.  I have only missed one Preston Harriers speed session this year, i have continued with my cycle cross training with ambition of completing a least one intense 30 minute session at 90 RPM per week (This week have completed three session).  I am continuing to do core workouts (i have completed two this week) and i am fitting in not just hills but occasionally stairs into y runs, which if you are lucky can be found in your park or woodlands.  I have also been lucky enough discover i work for the organisation as a chap called Rob Hope who is a three time British Fell Running champion and has represented England and Great Britain at international level.  So i am getting out on at least one run a week with this guy and he certainly makes it tough and fast. I have spent my Saturday runs, partly due to the injury and partly inspired by Kenyan runner and two time Boston marathon champ Moses Tanui running on a treadmill up a none stop incline (4% at the moment).  This is in preparation for the tough Boston run and to limit the impact of the roads on my shin and joins, ahead of the Sunday long run.

I have also managed a faster average past than previously of 7:54 compared is 8:00 in 2015 and 08:09 in 2014. Also despite my injury troubles my total mileage isn’t that far off, what it was last time round as i prepared for Manchester. Where at this point last year (Dec 1st 2014 – Feb 28th 2015) i had run 659.7 miles, this time round i have covered 623.1 a difference of just 36.6 miles.  So with all the extra work i am doing, perhaps i will end up in a better position than last spring.  Which is just as well given Boston is a tougher route than Manchester.


Doing all these things however would be meaningless with out results and on February 14th i found myself once again in north Wales running the Wrexham Village Bakery Half Marathon.  Which I arrived at on the back of two days out worrying about having re-fractured my shin. However a short 4 mile treadmill run the day before re-assured me that i was worried about nothing.   That said, i turned up on the day with a plan of running 6:30 per mile and testing out my marathon pace rather than going for a PB.  This was after all my first real race since the injury

First mile, like a lot of first miles was a fast one, completing it in 6:04, which i thought was great because it takes the pressure trying to run a consistent pace if you know you can miss a mile or two.

I slowed down and found myself running alongside a chap in a yellow top and my Garmin was telling me was on pace once more. But he sped up and i followed him  competing mile two in 6:19.

I slowed down once more and found myself in a group of five runners going along at what felt like a comfortable pace. 6:24, 6:27 on to mile 5 which was run in 6:23 and the group of five was now a group of four.

I starting to forget about my 6:30 pacing strategy and our group was pushing on. Up ahead was another group of runners but not too far ahead that we couldn’t real them in.    And that’s exactly what we did completing mile six in 6:11 and it was me of all people who closed the gap.  Speeding up and pushing away from my small group and catching the back running of the next group.  The chap in yellow.  Before the rest of my small group caught up.

Mile 7 – 6:14 and the group had split again with yellow runner behind left with me and my group.    6:15 on to mile 9, 6:26 and mile 10 was completed in 6:30 as the group slowed down a little after what had been a tough period.

But then one of our group pushed on down the road, I thought about it for a few seconds and then i gave chase catching him and passing him by within the mile.  During our passing he gave me some words of encouragement and we talked briefly about there only being a 5k left. 6:18 mile 11 was gone and so was that chap id left him behind and passed a number of other runners.

Behind me all this time, i could hear a fast moving female runner, ahead of me what i knew was the third placed female runner.  I decided to play pace maker and catch her, but despite this mile 12 was a slower mile – 6:25

Picking up the pace, I closed in on the third placed female passing her by around the 12.5 mile mark, with the chasing female runner continuing to be just behind me.  Together we caught and passed two more runners and at 12.7 miles she drew level with me and i said to her, “You’re 3rd place, and there less than half a mile to go, keep pushing”  and with that she, pushed on.

I was happy enough to leave her to go on, i was on for an accidental PB. But that said there was another runner not to far ahead so i decided to chase him down,passing him before the 13 mile marker went by.  6:14.

Just a few metres to go and runner not to far behind me, big PB achieved.  What do i do………do i push on to sprint or take a fast run finish. This was what was going on in my head.  I knew from my Harrier track sessions, i could get up to fast enough pace without sprinting, that most couldn’t catch.  So i opted for the later plan, unless of course he caught me, in which case i would go for the sprint.  Reaching 5:24 pace i ran home over the line, with out hearing the sounds of any incoming runners, it was a great, comfortable and relaxed way to finish a come back race.

Time 1:23:06 – a new PB, down from 1:24:25.  So i am on track, surprisingly and the next big test is on March 20th at the Trimpell 20 my traditional spring marathon preparation race.  Although it turns out they have changed the route this year, which is a shame as I used to enjoy the race track start and finish.  But at least it keeps things interesting i guess.

On wards and upwards!





A major set back and marathon 7

leg x ray

Back in early October i was dealt a running blow….I had developed a stress fracture in the left shin. I am not sure exactly how it happened, but it resulted in a total of 10 weeks with no running what so ever before i was finally given the all clear.  Although that all clear, came with a warning to take it easy for 4-6 weeks.  And that is where i am, coming towards the end of week 4 of taking it easy.  A period of running, far more frustrating than the 10 weeks i was not allowed to run  at all and one that is now eating into what should be my training for marathon number 7……..

Marathon 7

Boston marathon

That’s right, as the above image indicates.  I have used my sub3 marathon time from Manchester to secure a place in the 2016 Boston Marathon. What is possibly the pinnacle marathon, of the amateur marathoners  career.  A marathon major, that happens to not only be one of the most prestigious marathons in the world, but also one of the few marathons have requires a qualifying time. Which in my case was 3:05:00.

So at the moment I am frustratingly behind in my training, whilst gradually trying to increase my weekly mileage without re-fracturing my shin…..tricky times indeed, but fingers crossed i will be lining up in Boston, in April for marathon 7.

2015 Sign off

My injury also contributed towards me running fewer miles in 2015, than 2014.  The first time i have rerecorded a year on year drop in mileage since 2011.

miles run per year 2015

  • In total i ran 1798 miles in 2015, and thanks to Smashrun i can see that i ran with an average pace of 8 minutes per mile, which is an improvement on 2014 when my average pace was 8:10 per mile.
  • The majority (60%) of my runs where in the PM
  • My longest running streak was 27 days, but longest break was 74 days – Thanks to the stress fracture
  • My average run length was just 6.4 miles and some of that might due to the fact i now do track training
  • Finally on average i ran 3.9 days a week, compared to 4.5 in 2014. Again this is probably due to the injury.


But all the frustration and injury filled end to 2015, cant take away the fact that was the year i ran Sub3.

manchester 3

Lets see what 2016 brings.

My Journey to Sub 3

manchester 3From the surprising heat of Edinburgh in 2010, to the torrential rain of Preston 2012 and the near perfect conditions of Manchester 2015 my journey from a 4:13 marathoner to a 2:58 marathoner has been long, hard, educational, depressing, joyful and worth while.  I found out what a mesocycle was, that a long run isn’t a long run until you’ve passed the 14 mile mark and experienced doing doubles for the first time.  I met the author Andy Holgate, olyimpians Richard Whitehead, and Helen Clitheroe, tri-athlete Tanja Slater and local hero Ben Ashworth. 

It’s been quite a journey and i feel privileged to have met and in some cases run with some amazing people, as well as making lots of running friends both the in real world and online where a vast net work of running communicate through all manor of sites including Garmin Connect, Smashrun, Runners World, Twitter and of course, wordpress.  I usual go by the handle SJPC14, which is also some sort of Japaneses component it would seem………Google a fountain of knowledge

The quickest way to asses my progress is to simply put my training mileage against my times, and in this case i have counted up all the miles i ran in the 20 weeks prior to each marathon.  I chose 20 weeks, because whilst my first training plan last just 16 weeks and most my the plans i have followed have been for 18 weeks.  There have been several occasions when i started training two weeks early to factor in any possible injuries that may and often do, crop up.  This is a training tactic i recommend to all runners as it means you can take up to 14 days out injured without panicking about the affect on your race day…….unless you get injured within the two weeks just prior to your big day that is……..

marathon progressOne of the first things you can take away from the above table is just how unprepared i was for my first two marathons, no wonder they both finished with me staggering over the finish line.  In the case of the Edinburgh marathon i was following a Runners World smart coach plan, whilst for London i followed the beginners plan from the Runners World guide to running.   Both plans proved adequate enough to get me around and at the time i was also supplementing my training with gym sessions and swimming.  As I had a thought that you needed to be doing, that kind of thing on top of your running.  Which actually is correct, but not at the determent of your running, which is what i ended up doing hence i struggled big time.

Additionally in these first two marathons, i reached the half way point very close to my half marathon PB time, in fact in Edinburgh i was just minute off it, so i trained poorly and i raced poorly and when you add in some baking hot race day weather, you guessed it, i had a torrid time.  There were times during both these marathons when i wasn’t sure i would finish the race and in both cases, i wondered afterwards if i should give up on the marathon.  I certainly never thought id one day run a sub 3 marathon!

Advanced MarathoningNext came the Preston Guild marathon, a once every twenty years event, in my adopted home town.  This time i put the miles in, following a training plan from the Advanced marathon book for the first time ever.  I also kept up with my gym and swim sessions and was able to train on parts of the race route beforehand, so i was far better prepared.  On race day, the weather couldn’t of been any more different from my first two marathons torrential rain and cold winds, it was tough going and i even had to break off for a bathroom break.  Which i put down to the coffee energy gels they were giving out and me and me not being a tea or coffee drinker.  After this, i now always take my own gels to races so that i am not taking anything that i am used to.  I also raced smart this time, covering the first half in a comfortable pace before gradually increasing my pace over the second half and finishing with a fast sprint to the line in 3:48, which considering i was aiming for sub 4, was really pleasing.

medalThen there was Dublin and another increase in miles, which sadly resulted in the dropping of my swim sessions.  Something i am only now looking to correct, as low impact training, that touches muscles that running doesn’t play a key role in keeping you injury free.  On the plus i added speed work to my training in the form of interval training. Ensuring that i learned from another of my past mistakes.  As i had found that by simply thrashing out mile after mile, you end up loosing your speed over the shorter distances.  So long slow runs, great for marathons, rubbish for 5ks.  So in came 100, 600 and mile repeats.

Another great lesson i had taken on board, was race day travel, booking a hotel right by the start line, giving me all the time i needed in the morning, a stress free morning is just want you need before the big day.  However i did learn one hard lesson in preparation, as all the nearby Italian restaurants were completely booked up.  Luckily Advanced Marathoning had taught me that actually most elite runners, eat rice before the big race, as its easier to digest and they can take more on board.  So off to the Chinese it was.  The book proved to telling the truth as one race day not only didn’t i feel any ill affects but i came home in 3:31 another huge PB.

TenbyIf i had learned anything from the first four marathons it was that preparation was key to success and this time i was heading to Wales for what is billed as the UK toughest marathon, The Wales marathon in Tenby, as part of the long course weekend.   This race includes something like 12 hill climbs, so i knew, i would have to learn to love the hills.  Not only did i ensure that every run included at least one hill, but i also often took myself off to neighboring areas such as Longridge and Rivington to find and run far harder and tougher hills than i would face in Wales.  This was a brilliant tactic as it not just physically prepared me for anything Tenby could throw my way, but it also physiologically prepared me.  As when i was taking on the worse this marathon had, i knew in my head that i had faced worse in training.   I also ensured that i endured a good few hill repeat sessions, which again are great for strength both physically and mentally.

On race day, the weather was sunny, but with a cool breeze, perfect for running.  I tackled the course with a plan, of easing up the hills and flying back down them to make up for lost time, then taking the flats at a good pace.  Hard work over the course of 26.2 miles, but the result was another sprint finish, coming home in 20th place in 3:12 and for first time ever i felt that a marathon had gone how i wanted it to go.  I taken back control of the distance and afterwards i knew, if i could i do Tenby i could do 26.2, i had mentally conquered the distance.  A key moment, for any runner wanting to succeed at this distance, losing the fear of running non-stop for 26.2 miles.

manchester 2015 finish timeSo then came Manchester, which in itself it perfect for running a PB, not only is it the flatted marathon in the UK, but also it features numerous long straight sections, it was right for take on and aiming for sub 3 and i was ready to go for it.

But to go sub 3, i knew that i would again needed to increase my mileage, which resulted in me dropping my gym sessions to make time. Something i regretted over the last few miles as my quads became so sore, i had to numb them with water to keep going.  I had also made the mistake of limiting my hill work, so effectively i turned up on race day weaker than i should of been.  But i had increased the amount of speed work i had been doing, and added core sessions to my training.  The latter of which i added, as i had began to notice that over the longer races, my stomach would start to hurt and i would be forced to slow down.  By bringing in core work, i no longer had this problem and i could hold a higher pace for much longer.  The result, a sprint finish and a fantastic 2:58, but it could of been quicker if my quads hadn’t failed me, resulting in a positive marathon split, when i was aiming for a negative (a faster second half) and this was the first time since London, this had happened.  So the big lesson here is strength work and hills must play a part in your training even if the race is held on a flat course.

Summing up, the key eliminates to achieving my sub 3 marathon were high mileage (you should probably aim for at least 50 miles a week), speed work, hill work, strength work, know the course you are to run and practice it.  If you cannot practice it, perhaps its a marathon aboard, then try and re-create running routes locally that replicate the course profile.  Pasta is not king for runners, rice is actually better and gives you a far more options the night before, as your competitors pack out the local Italians.  Start your training plan two weeks early, that way if you get injured its no big deal, you’ve 14 days to heal up, which for a lot of running injuries is all you need.

Other lessons learned include :

  • Your mid-week long runs are just as, maybe even more important than the long slow run, do not neglect these.
  • Keep track of your the miles you have covered in your trainers, so that way you can change them before they become warn out and that you can change them in time to run the marathon in a fairly new, but warn in, pair.
  • Doing doubles (Running both A.M and P.M) is a great way to fit in extra runs and increase your mileage
  • Know exactly when the water and energy stops are coming, write it on your arm if you need to.  As this helps you physiologically, as you will know exactly when your next drink is coming and you can be prepared for it.  Similarly make a lot of where the portaloos are along the route…….
  • Pick a hotel near to the start (walking distances is ideal) and find out what they serve for breakfast beforehand so you can get in a an order for your pre-race favorite.  Oh find out about parking.
  • Research local restaurants and book a table for the night before the race
  • Plan your race in stages and no matter how good you feel do not push on till you’ve least passed the half way point
  • Speak to and learn from as many runners as you can, even if they are slower than you they might still have one or two tricks up their sleeves that could make all the difference on the day.
  • Oh and mesocycles are stages of training. Usually there are five, with the fifth stage being a five week recovery period after your marathon.
  • Always use your taper, as a taper.  Do not try and throw in extra miles, you are ready, take it easy and make sure you line up on race day refreshed.

Learn from my mistakes and you too will achieve a great marathon time.



The Greater Manchester Marathon 2015

Manchester marathon in numbers2So Manchester lived up to its reputation as the UK fastest marathon, with 6% of competitors managing to duck under the three hour marker, an extraordinary achievement.

So how did my face go…..

Well as ever i was running late…..making it to the start line, via climbing over a barrier, with around 3 minutes till the off.  Learning from my mistake at Trimpell , i had already found my signal and set my Garmin.  I also had my gel belt in place and five minutes prior to this, had downed a bottle of Lucozade sport, i was ready to go.  What could go wrong….

What did go wrong, was that i didn’t start my Garmin on the start line, or before it, in fact i started at the first chip time mat.  Which for some reason it turned was not at the start line itself.  In fact the organisers had decided it would be a couple of metres down to the road, and It was only after i reached and passed that first mile marker and then noticed my watch beeping out a pace time around 20 seconds later that i released this mistake….i mean who puts a chip time mat just down the road from the start line…… to be fair the real start line was probably the temporary bridge they had built for us to run under, but arriving late, i hadn’t released that or had any time to think about my surroundings.

Hey ho, not to worry,  i had my trusty Asic pace band, so i knew what time i had to reach various markers at and I had my watch set on 6:50 as a warning that i had slowed too much.  So between the two, i would still be able to monitor my progress, particularity as I had set my watch to display the total race time and average pace time.  The result however does mean that the limited split times provided by the oranisers are probably a more accurate picture of my race but looking at both still adds value.

So i set off too fast,  reaching what i believed to by my first mile in 6:24,  the second in 6:34 and the third in 6:43.  I knew this was too quick and i knew that if i was not careful i could blow up later in the race.  So i pulled myself back letting a number of runners go by me as i started to recorded times around the 6:50 which is more what i wanted to be doing.

The hilly section of miles 11-13 arrived and with time in hand, i didn’t have to worry about pushing on up over any inclines, even if it wasn’t these weren’t exactly challenging hills.  covering mile 11 in 6:53 , mile 12 in 07:01 and mile 13 in 6:47

For some reason i found miles 15 and 16 really hard going passing them in 6:56 and 07:02 , i wasn’t sure if my fast start was catching up with me or if i hadn’t eaten enough the day before.  But i kept telling myself not to worry about it, just get back to 6:50 you achieved that in Trimpell over 20 miles, you can do this.  So i tried to pick up the pace a little and when i heard someone in the crowd mention here comes the flag…. i knew it could only mean one thing.  And a quick look over my shoulder confirmed this.  About 40 seconds back down the road was the 3 hour pace runner.  I had no choice but to pick up the pace and put some more day light between me and him covering mile 17 in 6:40 and mile 18 in 6:47 with my top speed each sub 6:30 pace at times.

Mile 19 was another tough mile, not only had i just been pushing on for two miles but i was starting to feel a blister come through.  I have never had a blister appear mid-race before.  And one reason for that is that i usual Vaseline up my feet before a long races, this time i had forgotten, my left toe was in pain and it was slowing me down.

Eventually, i was able to ignore that pain and get back tracking and passing miles 20 – 23 between 6:43 and 6:52 pace.  Then came mile 24 and more pain, this time my quads and here is where my lack of speed or strength work came crashing home.  Every move caused me pain, but i knew i had passed the 20 mile mark in 02:15 , a PB, i was on for sub3.  Surely this wouldn’t be my undoing…..

Various phrases of encouragement came into my mine such as ‘when the tough get going……’  , ‘hope in your heart, wings on your heel.….’ ,  ‘Berlin 1989…..’ , ‘think of those who have come to watch you or are watching online.…’ , ‘ think of those you could inspire….’ and ‘fight for every inch.…’ these random phrases combined with shouts of encouragement from the crowd such as ‘come on simon’ , ‘you’re almost there‘ , ‘not long to go now’ , ‘ sub3 is around the corner‘  and making use of each water station to cover my legs in cold water to numb the pain, kept me going through some tough miles. 07:04 and  07:12 pace.

Then i could see it, i could see the stadium, raising above the houses and neighboring buildings.  As a Liverpool fan, I cannot stand Manchester United, but i so pleased to see their stadium appearing ahead of me.  I looked down at my watch and it read 02:54:12.  I could do this, if i could just pull something out of the bag, i thought to myself, i am too close to fail now, i have to go for it.

And go for it i did, pushing on as hard as i could, turning into the home stretch, the streets now three-four thick in crowds cheering the runners home.  I remembered my measurements, less than 200 metres to go.  I could see the clock up ahead 02:57:?? it read……. i moved into what seemed like a sprint passing a number of runners 02:58:?? the clock read, and up i went, jumping as i crossed the finish line, replicating my Wales finish from the previous year and bringing laughter to the crowd in the process.   But i didn’t care about that, i just broke what some call an arbitrary measure, and others a milestone.  I had run a marathon in sub3.  Joy , shock and amazement, I couldn’t believe what i had done it,  my greatest running achievement to date and still now i cannot believe i managed it.

When i crossed the finish line in Edinburgh in 4:13:05 , i though there is no way i would ever run a sub3 marathon and now here i am, with a net time (i assume that means chip time) finish of 02:57:54 and a gun time of 02:58:23, which ever way you look at it, i am a sub3 marathoner……..and i am so pleased about it!  A PB of 14:52 meaning i have maintained my average marathon PB of 15 minutes , recording six PBs in a row now. Marvelous stuff, if i dont say so myself!!

manchester 2015 finish timeIt gets even better looking at the splits, as it would seem despite the pain and struggles i went through, i actually managed to stay fairly consistent

event splitsNow for a couple of days off and , working up my training stats and plan my next move…..Ive i year or so to beat better this result, so no time to waste.

And finally here are those out of sink Garmin stats manchester garmin splits@SJPC14

Manchester 2015 : Training complete

Well almost……i am supposed to run 4 mile tomorrow but with my traditional pre-race day lay in and traveling it might be tricky to fit that in. So bar that, I have completed every run of taper week three.  So that is almost four complete weeks in a row! Which is fantastic on whats been my most injury interrupted marathon training to date.

So how has it gone…..well the simple stats are as follows :

Runs : 1068 miles out of a target of 1292 (83% of target)
(This works out as an average of 59 miles per week and does not include the runs              completed during the two weeks when things were really bad, injury hit hard this year)

Core sessions : I completed 41 core work outs – which is a huge improvement for me and a massive step in the right direction.

Speed work : I completed 10 speed sessions, which nowhere near enough.
A lot more work needs to be done here.

Walking : I walked to and/or from work a total of 83 times since training began, covering    212 miles, which is a fantastic effort and great work on a low impact exercise method often overlooked (see here)

There is nothing more i can do now, but write up a to pack list, pack, print out anything i need to print and then off to bed ahead of tomorrows journey to Manchester.


Some inspiration

There lots of great inspirational speeches, quotes and videos there. Some like to read Rudyard Kipling’s ‘IF’ (see here) others enjoy watching Al Pacino’s speech from ‘Any given sunday‘ and others love the London Marathon theme tune.  I recommend all three by the way, they are all fantastic.  Personally, i love the quote ‘With hope in our hearts and Wings on our heels‘ from Chariots of Fire, two things all runners need particularly if you are running the marathon.

But the best source of inspiration is yourself,  IF you have been wise and completed your training, you are true runner.  And with hope in your heart, determination in your mind and wings on your heels……you will conquer those  1,660,032 inches that make up the marathon.   You’ve made your sacrifices, giving up time with loved ones, time with friends and put running ahead of work and study.  Now it is time for you pay them back, to line up at that start zone and give everything you’ve got until you’ve crossed that finished line.  And when you do that, with nothing felt, having giving your all, you’ll know you’ve paid them back and you’ll be a marathoner my friend!

Run smart, race well and finish strong! –  Its time to go and take on Manchester!


Twitter – @SJPC14

SmashRun and Runners World – SJPC14

Interesting reads :

Athletics Weekly :Expect domestic battles at ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon

Manchester Evening News : Everything you need to know about the race