Running Origins : Cross Country


Cross country running, a phrase that strikes fear in some and in others it brings back terrible childhood memories of mud, rain and cold weather. Like me, for most people, this sport is their first introduction to running. In my case, I have fond memories of being told I was the first junior year 3 pupil to ever make the cross country team at primary school and being part of numerous successful primary and high school cross country championships. But like a lot of people, once I left high school not only did I stop running cross country, but I stopped running altogether. A regret, but we move on. Well this week, after an absence of, what must be 20 years, I returned to where it all began.

Representing the Preston Harriers in the Red Rose Cross Country Championship , something that is part of my long-term plan to run yet another marathon PB next year. I think, I could be wrong it was Seb Coe who once said that medals are won in winter, and by that he (or whoever said it….) was referring to runners going off-road in the winter and building up some leg strength, key for running faster.

So that’s my thinking and today (15/10/2016), I ran in race one of the 2016 season, over in Leigh, a place near Wigan. It was a great course for someone like me, as it was fairly flat, all be it a winding twisty turning flat route. Also if like me, you had only completed five weeks of training after some time off, then you very much appreciated the flat nature of the course. I certainly wasnt ready to race 10k, although in true cross country style it turned out the race was 6.7 miles in length in the end, so my splits do show an obvious decline in pace. Had it been a 5k race, I might have got away with my lack of training, but over almost sevens, my lack of preparation hit home and I was very much hanging on it at the end, to finish the race in just over 44 minutes.

That said, I enjoyed the race, it’s very different to road running and you can find other runners either pulling away from you or being closed in on by you, just due to nature of the course. So it was very interesting and quite technical in places. I am already feeling it in my legs, so who knows how I will feel tomorrow. But it is my first race in quite a while and it’s nice to return to grass routes running after 20 years away (pun intended haha). Next up, is Blackburn in two weeks time, for what I am told will be a very hill race…….so more strength training I guess.  And that’s the going to be a great thing about these races, I want to do well. But my focus is still the roads, so I do not need to stress too much over my performance.

Cross Country is very much in, this winter.

Onwards and upwards…..

Twitter : @SJPC14
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A 12 month plan…..


Following the advice of the book “The art of running faster” I have finally come up with a year long training plan….of sorts…its more of a guide but I think it will work. I will stick with using the book “Advanced Marathoning” for my marathon training plans, but will be guided by this second book for the rest of the year.

The book recommends set out your year over six phases as follows :

Phase Intensity Mileage Duration
Active rest Very low Low-medium 4 weeks
Basic conditioning Low-medium Medium-high 4-6 weeks
Endurance base Medium-high High-very high 8-10 weeks
Quality training High-very high Medium-high 6-8 weeks
Race preparation Medium-high Medium-high 4-6 weeks
Competition phase Medium-high Low-medium 10-14 weeks

I am thinking, as I am planning a spring marathon and as i usual take my holidays in September, that September will be my active rest period, which allowed me to build up into my marathon training programme. Which means now, i need to be in the basic conditioning phase. The book refers to this phase, as a period to spend time working on your weaknesses. Including increasing your gym work, core work and speed work.

So I will be working on trying to get stronger and faster. To achieve this, i have had my gym draw up a training programme for me and being a runner they have set me up a twice a week programme. One short session, which i can do in an evening and one longer session, that i will tackle at a weekend. Currently, i am thinking of doing the longer session on a Saturday, after all if anything will ensure i run my long slow run, at a sensible pace. Then running it with heavy legs will do just that.

I have also come up with a plan to improve my speed, on top of the weekly Harriers meetings, I plan to use Thursday, for a second speed work session, but with a difference. This session, will involve a tempo run, mile splits and hill repeats. So for example one week i will do a tempo run and the next i will do mile splits and then the third week will be hill repeats. With the latter two sessions, combining with either a lunch or morning run, depending on what i can fit in.

So that’s the plan, two speed sessions and two gym sessions a week……So by the second week of November I should be moving on to endurance base phase and ideally, i should be fast and stronger…..time will tell.

Twitter : @SJPC14
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The Art of Running Faster

art of running faster

The Art of Running Faster book review

Written by Julian Goater and Don Melvin

Words that sum it up : Training smarter, the five S’s : Speed, suppleness, strength, stamina and skill. Psychology

 What’s it all about : I have long praised the book “Advanced Marathon” for changing the way i train for, plan and run marathons. It is a book, that for me, changed everything and made me the runner i am today. This book, i feel, having read it, will take me up another step. It will improve the training I do, outside of marathon preparation. It will give me, what i have lacked outside of my traditional focused 18 weeks of the week, it will give me structure, guidance and i suspect results. I think this book will, without doubt change my training habits and actually it already has.

Following the books advice i am stretching twice a day, in addition to any stretches i do before and after a workout. I am also planning on developing a year long plan, split up into six distinct phases as per the books advice. As the authors say, it’s not just about the milage, it’s about everything. Its early days but i just have a good feeling about this book and what i will gain by following it as closely as i followed “Advanced Marathoning”.

Now i realise, i am going on a bit about how great this book was for me, rather that listing what its about…..basically it is a guide on, how to adapt your training, to improve your pace as a runner and there is a lot in it, that i am not doing. So you can’t fail but learn something new and ultimately improve your training after reading this book.

For : Runners like me, who want to running faster paces, runners who want to improve their training methods and runners who are seeking that next PB.

Best bits : Without a doubt, the five S’s a simple system, easy to follow.  Also the bits were they use Lance Armstrong as a good example…….tut tut tut come on publisher, let’s get that guy out of this book.

For more book reviews see here [click this folks…..]

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Helena Tipping 10k

Helena Tipping 10k.jpg

Sunday July 31st and having taken the advice of the coaches at Harriers, i found myself down in North Wales,the country of PBs……well I have done three races in Wales prior to this one and all of them have ended in PBs… PB country it is!

Arriving with 30 minutes to go, I was in unusually good time. But having driven an 1 hour 30 to get here, i needed plenty of time to warm up and stretch out ahead of the race, so it was an early start for me and i arrived with enough time to do those things, collect my number, make two bathroom trips and jog the 800 metres or so to the start.

This race promises to be flat and fast….with the course route [race route] having a maximum elevation of just 35 metres. However, whilst the race is relatively flat although it does feature a one mile section of gradual incline which will be a tough section to maintain a fast pace over.

I set myself the task of running 6:05, which would see me sneak a sub 38 minute PB, however having not run a 10K for two years i was confident I would obtain some sort of PB but I wasn’t sure what it would be. My training isn’t currently at the level it was prior to Boston but my mileage and gym trips are slowly increasing.

Mile one; as usual I had set off far too fast and despite slowing down a little i completed the first mile in 5:53 pace. The slight downhill nature of this part of the course and the wide open road helping the faster runners get away and those like me who were running two fast.

Mile two; was much better 6:00 pace, almost on target, helped by finding runners who were running at the pace I wanted to hit and sitting just behind them.

Then over the following three miles I got increasingly slower, the first two miles (miles 3 and 4) i wasn’t too concerned about as I had time in the bank from miles 1 & 2, completing them in 6:13 and 6:18.  Mile five, however, did go completely wrong, I don’t know if it was the effects of the gradual incline or the fact that I was unaccustomed to running the shorter distances but I fell back to what would be a half marathon pace for me. Completing this mile in 6:26 pace. I could still make my sub 38 target, but I would have to work hard for it!!

And work hard I did!! Picking up the pace over mile six I passed a runner of runners who earlier in the race had dropped me off as I tried to pace of them. I was on a section of the race, very familiar to me, a section from the Village Bakery Half Marathon. I knew what to expect, I knew how long there was to go and what it felt like to run this section hard on the back of 12 miles. A big advantage and I think I used it well, covering this mile in 6:09. Fast but not fast enough to get my target time.

Slightly disheartened, I congratulated runner who went past me over the last few hundred metres, but then as he got a metre or so ahead of me and I looked up and saw the finish. I thought you know what, I won’t get my target time, but I could get very close to it and so I picked up to a sprint, in fact, one of the best sprint finish I have ever had. Covering the final 0.2 of the race in 5:23 pace and the final 160 metres in 4:18 pace!! Not only did I easily pass that runner I had congratulated, but I also passed a female runner was heading towards the finish, way ahead of me. This slightly shocked me and I went to slow, but then I heard the commentator say “Come on, all the way to the finish”  he could have been talking to either of us, but I switched back to sprint mode and beat her to the finish and that is what is happening in the picture attached to this post. A picture, which no less appeared in Athletics Weekly and as blurry as I might be in it, its a great honour and pretty cool to have featured in the magazine.

Finishing chip time : 38:17, a new PB by 58 seconds! a great days work!! a fast course and really well organised race. If you can make, i recommend doing this 10k next year.

Race information page here

Race results here

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One week, almost two races


So last week (Mon 18th – Sun 24th) was a week where I almost ran two races in the space of five days…hot on the heels of narrowly missing out on my sub 1:03:00 10 mile target at Elswick.

Wesham Interclub 2016

First up was the Wesham Interclub on Monday, a 4.5 mile run held just outside of Preston [here]. It’s a route that features a couple of up and downs but nothing major and I was feeling good and ready to race.  As were plenty of my Preston Harrier team mates, as the team turned out in force to try to maintain our 100% record in the 2015 interclub series.

Setting off on the first mile, I had decided to set a fast pace then ease back to comfortable face for miles 2 and 3 before finishing strong for mile 4.  Well, that was the plan and the first mile flew by as I recorded my fastest ever time for a mile split of 5:48.  However, not long after the first mile marker, things went wrong and it wasn’t something that happened to just me, it was something which affected the first 110 or so runners…..

Now in some ways, I can see the funny side of it and in other ways, it’s a tad annoying. Someone had switched one of the race arrows and instead of making a right turn, we went straight on, onto a mud and cow dung covered hill climb through a farm. Now I can understand the runners following a tampered with a sign, but the lead marshal, cycling ahead of the race, should have known better. Whilst I was thinking to myself that this route seemed nothing like the map I had studied, I just thought that perhaps the route had changed.  It was only on turning a corner before I had reached mile four and seeing the finish just up ahead.  That I started to be sure that something was not  right.  But by this time my legs were feeling heavy, id just run Elswick and set a very fast first mile in this race, so I headed to the finish tried but still fighting with what energy I had left, crossing the line in 23:00. A great time, however, I then saw on my watch that I had run just 3.8 mile rather than the required 4.5 miles……..come again!!!!

After the race, seeing half the runners covered in mud and the other half clean, confirmed the rumours that were circulating that something had gone very wrong with the route and later that evening it was decided to declare the race dull and void.  Which is a real shame for the 294 runners that turned up and a big shame for the organisers as its unlikely that the race will be re-run.  It is fairly annoying on a personal level, to know that the hard effort I put in counts for nothing and my 22nd place finish is assigned to history. Hey ho…..onwards and upwards.

Lancs Fire 3 Person Relay

So Friday and race two, a 3 person relay run, of sorts……There are no batons exchanges or tagging of the next runners in this relay. Instead, the teams set off in three waves, one minute apart from one another.   So more of a staged start team race, than a relay.  I would be running in wave two, which I thought was a good wave for me, as I wasn’t the fastest in my team and wave three would probably require quite a bit of weaving. The distance, 2.68 miles, a strange one and the shortest race I have run since my school days.

Having run Elswick on the Saturday before, Wesham on the Monday, had a track session on the Wednesday and run 10 miles on the night before race day. It was safe to say I was in no shape to run my best time. However I was determined to do my team mates proud and as with the Wesham Interclub I flew through this first mile, breaking my mile split record for the second time in a week, completing mile one in 5:36 pace. I then intentionally slowed down for the second mile, having slightly shocked myself at covering a mile so quickly .  Although that said, I still completed that mile in 6:01 pace and then there were just 0.6 miles left.  Not only was the race coming to an end, but having done so few races of this distance, I wasn’t quite sure how to run what was left.  In the end, after 2.2 miles, I decided to pick up the pace to try and shave as much time as I could, off the teams total time. I found  soon found myself battling with another runner who went by be me two times in fairly quick succession.

Interestingly…..sort of….as mentioned earlier on in this blog, this race was being run around the perimeter of Blackpool Zoo and having undertaken work experience at the zoo during my college days. I recognised the building through some bushes and trees to my left, this told me we were really close to the finish. I took this as a sign to move into sprint mode and I flew towards, what I hoped would be a turn straight to the finish line, catching and passing another runner in the process. luckily my gamble paid off and the finish was indeed straight ahead.  I covered the final 300 metres or so of the race in 5:31 pace, giving me a finish time of 15:41.

It was a great time, although I do wondering if I had more experience of shorter races, would I have completed the race in a quicker than, braving working hard for the full distance. But that said our collective team time came in at 46:46 minutes earnt us a fourth place finish and a box of chocolate covered truffles each….yummy… all in all a good days work.

Summing up

In both races, I broke my mile split record, in both races I then slowed down all be it intentionally. At Wesham, i eventually ran out of steam, whereas at Blackpool I was able to finish in a sprint. Something that no doubt reflects the different terrains these races covered (pancake flat Vs undulating).

It is becoming more and more common for me to record sub six minute mile times, reminding me of my days of running seven minute mile times and dreaming of being able to consistently run races with an average time of sub 7 mins. This is good to see, as I am still not back to full training since Boston, after a series of annoying injuries. It shows fantastic progress as I approach the end of the first year of being a club runner.

My immediate target is to bring that 10 mile time down to 1:02:?? , small achievable targets are always best. I am not far off that now, just 15 seconds with another opportunity in a couple of weeks time. But if I can achieve that before my next round of marathon training begins (December), I will be very happy with myself. Although the coaches at Harriers have advised me to find a 10k, as it has been two years since I ran one and if I can set a new PB in one, then it will help me with my 10 mile target.

To do these things I think, I need to get back to running strict pace plans and I need to get back to doing all the extra training I was doing ahead of Boston.

Twitter : @SJPC14
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The Elswick 10 mile 2016

Elswick village

Elswick Village Elswick Village the kind of lovely little place, you’d love to go and stick a fracking drill…..well if your the UK government that’s what you want to do.  To runners, it’s a place you go to try and set a fast 10 mile time, over a relatively flat and pleasant route.

I ran this race last year, where I set a 10 mile PB of 1:04:24, although I did face a few moments of heavy wind which took way some of the advantage of what is a fairly flat route.

So here I was again a year later, the weather conditions were overcast, but there was little wind…or so it seemed at this point…and it was still fairly warm.  I am guessing the runners took too long getting into position for this race, as we set off with half the field still walking from the side road, where the pre-race talk was delivered, to the road where the race started. Myself included, as I was in the middle of giving some advice to a fellow harrier.  Race organisers i dont know. a bit of warning and i am sure the runners would of quickly lined up.

Setting off, I knew I was going at a good pace as I was within touching distance of the lead runners. So I took the sensible decision of falling back in line with my race pace plan of 6:15 mins per mile.  A plan I never achieved, although most the miles I ran were around that time.

By mile five I was pretty much out on my own, except for a couple of Wesham runners down the road ahead of me, I couldn’t hear anyone behind me and they looked too far way to catch. This is the kind of situation I hate, there is no one to pace off, it is all down to you and if you are trying to run at an unfamiliar pace it can be hard going.

As per last year, the second half of this race featured a number of unprotected sections and you felt a strong enough breeze, to make you feel the need to put in an extra shift just to stay on pace. I myself found my face down at 6:40 a couple of times, during the windier sections. Although that is still very fast and it showed that I have become stronger than I was last year. When i dropped to over 7 minute per mile pace during these sections.   However, I was still out in no mans zone and despite following this great “How to run a 10 mile race” plan, I found very difficult to up the pace and maintain a faster pace with no one around me to pace off.

However by mile eight, i started to realise that the two chaps ahead of me were actually getting closer and by mile nine, i decided to would try and catch them.  As i pushed on, they split up with one of them moving on ahead of the other. This changed my focus to just one runner but also meant that they were in a battle and were now picking up the pace themselves.  I did my best to try and close down at least one of them  and despite reaching sub 6 minute pace at times, completing the final mile in 6:05 pace and covering the final 321 metres or so, in 5:35 pace, i narrowly missed out on catching them up.

It was a really good finish, but a shame to have spent so long out on my own and i also missed out on my 10 mile race target of going sub 1:03:00, finishing the race in 01:03:15. Close but not close enough.

Disappointed but in high spirits, is how I will sum my feelings up of this race. It’s a great PB of over a minute, just one year after setting the time. But i still think I have it in me to go under 01:03:00 for the 10 mile, so I have my eye on a couple of other 10 mile races this year. I have my new 10 mile race strategy and I have decied on a new pace plan and that plan is to set a 6:20 pace for the first six miles, as trying to 6:15 for 10 miles clearly didn’t work out for me, as my Garmin Connect splits show [here].

But I have a plan and an aim. Sub 1:03:00 for 10 miles is within reach and reach it I will!!

This race, also saw me try out my new running belt. The Fitletic Double Pouch, that I have bought, as I cannot find my other belt and rather than stress myself out looking for it. I thought it would be easier to get a new one. It fits better than my old one, although one pouch is smaller than the other for some reason. Something that might annoy me when it comes to my  next marathon. But is fine for all distances below that, as you won’t need that many gels. Also, it stayed in place and was very comfortable to wear, so it was a good purchase.

Race stats : Elswick 10 mile : Saturday July 16th 10:30 am start

Distance : 10 miles
Total runners : 113
My position : 10th
My time : 01:03:15

First male : 54:47 | First female : 01:04:34
Last male : 01:46:07 | Last female : 01:54:44
Would i run it again : Yes

Special thanks to @Mrsschoie for tracking down the offical race results for me. The power of twitter!
Twitter : @SJPC14
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Two hours : The quest to run the impossible marathon


Two hours the quest to run the impossible marathon

Two hours : The quest to run the impossible marathon : Book review

So I have read the above named book and my thought’s in a nutshell, are that it is a generally great book for running geeks like me. Who have an interest in running, the marathon and the history of the marathon. You will learn a little about running reading this book, but it is not a book for learning how to run a fast marathon. But it is a really interesting read and gives a good insight into the world of elite marathoning.

Summing it up :

Two hours : The quest to run the impossible marathon : By Ed Caesar

Words that sum it up : History, inspiration, fasinating

 What’s it all about :  This book examings elite marathon performance over time and asks the quetion, we all want to know the answer to. Can someone run a sub-2 hour marathon.

For :  Runners with a genuine interest in the marathon, its history and its future. 

Favorite moment : The inside details of how East African runners see the outside world and how they live their lives, the school motto “Strive for Zenith”, Mutai’s little phrases to motivate himself and as well as the touching note from his wife he had pinned up on his wall “My Darling, i promise to always be there for you in favourable and unfavourable situations, anywhere, anytime. Know that you hold a specail place in my heart”.  And i also liked finding out that Madison Square garden has a pivital place in marathon history, which made staying near it. When I went to New York after Boston, even more special to this running geek.  Oh and you get to find how how exactly the 26.2 mile distance came about……interesting reading.

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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!!