All posts by Martin

Running up that hill

After a week of very little running I was back to club tonight for the regular Monday evening session.

I was supposed to go for a long run on Sunday (16 miles). I was prepared for it, I purchased some gels on Saturday evening, got my kit ready and even woke up on Sunday morning full prepared for it. Then I went back for a little nap and, whatever happened, I awoke in the midst of an anxiety attack.

Even though I would have had company for the run there was absolutely no way I could have done it, or at least it felt that way. So I didn’t do it, and spiralled deeper and deeper into myself throughout the day and night as a consequence. Running really is a mental thing for me.

So it was important I went to club tonight. As usual, it was the 30-minute group. That’s all I really have a desire to do – I always run there and back so I still get at least 45 minutes anyway. It’s a good start to the week. Perhaps once my race schedule eases I’ll step up but, for now, the 30s suits me fine.

Tonight was all about just easing myself back into running so I made a conscious effort to take it gently, deliberately hanging back with the tail runner.

That was, until, we turned onto Princes Street. Regular readers will know this is arguably the steepest short, sharp climb in the town centre and you’ll also know I simply cannot resist running up it as hard as I can.

I even said to the tail runner that if she saw me setting off to haul me back! I didn’t really want to sprint up it, this was meant to be an easy run.

So much for that idea. As soon as the road started to rise ever so slightly I was off like a whippet. Someone else ran with me this time so it was good to have company although she said was using me to pace her up the hill which meant I had to keep going … no pressure then! It was fun, though, even if my legs and lungs didn’t thank me at the end!

After that I took the rest of the run easy again. I had tackled Princes Street to the best of my ability, that was enough for me for one night.

It felt good to be back again, four miles tonight. Hopefully that’ll carry me forward into the rest of the week with the Belfast Half Marathon at the end of it.

Relive my run


Well, Well, Kells

Another two run night. It all began at the launch of the club Cosy Sofa to 5k programme in Kells, a small village about five miles outside Ballymena.

I love these occasions and always try to go along to support the club and the nervous, novice runners taking their first steps on their running journey. I know only too well what that feels like so if I can help I will.

I acted as tail runner for one of the groups, led by John who was organising the entire scheme. It was actually an education watching him in action and the advice he gave taught me something too. Every day is a school day and all that.

That over, my original plan was to run back home but I was advised that the local roads could be a little bit dangerous (no footpaths in places) and, coupled with the fading light, I knocked the idea of a run home on the head.

Instead, I took a lift back into Ballymena and got dropped off a bit from home. The most direct route was just over a mile from my front door but I decided, as an alternative, to take the scenic route which would come in at around 5k.

I set off gently. I was already warmed up after Kells but I didn’t have any great desire to push myself.

Somewhat ominously the skies started to darken quite quickly with black menacing clouds. I knew I was unlikely to make it back without getting soaked, but I hadn’t anticipated quite how wet I would get. It absolutely bucketed down! So much so that I had to stop after a mile and take shelter under a tree … the rain really was that torrential.

I resumed my run once the downpour eased a little but I was so eager to get home I absolutely bolted back, clocking a 10 and then a 9-minute something mile. All that intervals training I’ve been doing lately must have done something good!

Indeed, if you added both parts of my run together I would have set a new 5k PB. I can’t claim it with a clear conscience because of the gap in the middle but it still felt good for it to pop up as an alert on my Garmin. I hadn’t done much running since the Chippenham Half so perhaps the rest was good for me.

It was a far cry from 48 hours earlier when I ran back from circuits class. That was a difficult mile. Yes, I was tired from class, but I’m usually looser and faster than I was … possibly my head still wasn’t quite in the right place.

Relive my run (Kells)
Relive my run (5k)

Chippenham Half Marathon

Number 15 in my #18in18 Half Marathon Challenge took me back to Wiltshire for the Chippenham Half, my second event in the locality following the Lacock Half earlier this summer and third if you count the Two Tunnels in nearby Bath.

I’ve been to Chippenham quite regularly over the last four years, visiting Dawn who puts me up, puts up with me and attends as many of my races as she possibly can. I’ve also taken part in the town parkrun four times this year, just a few less than my home event.

For those reasons I looked upon the half marathon as almost a ‘local’ race, despite being almost 300 miles from home. I knew I might know people, and I knew people might recognise me just through association with Dawn.

To me this was one of the biggest events on my calendar.

Dawn lives about a mile-and-a-half from the start so, on the morning of the race, we took a gentle walk rather than drive down. This was good because it got me nicely limbered up and saved me needing to do a warm-up run which I wasn’t really in the mood for this time. It was a pleasant morning as well which always helps.

After chatting with Dawn, and to some of her friends, I made my way down the hill to get in line for the start, near the back as normal.

The first mile or so goes straight through the town centre so I was quite familiar with the surroundings. There was a sizeable crowd of spectators around the start, and it was good to get a little cheer from Dawn just after I began my race to set me on my way. That might not seem like much but I’ve been known to miss her before despite being told where she was standing – thankfully not on this occasion!

As I said, the race goes into the town centre at the beginning. A few hundred yards in I heard someone calling my name but I couldn’t see anyone familiar.

An explanation quickly followed “Friend of Dawn” came the shout … I thought that was lovely. Indeed, it happened again at mile two, and not long after that as well as the route went into the countryside. Three different people too, not just the same person stalking me!!!! I might as well have been back home. People ‘knew’ me!

I was keeping to my target pace up until this point, actually going a reasonable bit slower than I knew I could but I had a bigger goal in mind. I was trying to maintain a regular pace throughout so thought if I held back a bit in the beginning then I’d be stronger at the end.

Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.

After four miles I began to feel myself struggle. This shouldn’t be happening. My pace wasn’t too far off what I was aiming for, but it was still slower and I guess that started to mess with my head.

I’m sorry to say that the little seed of doubt that was planted then began to grow and grow and grow.

It wasn’t a particularly hilly route. Yes, it undulated a bit but it’s nothing I wasn’t used to and nothing I couldn’t handle.

Regular visitors to my blog will only be too aware that, for me, running is a huge mental battle. If my head goes then my race goes. The pain in my legs becomes magnified, my determination evaporates and I begin question myself as well as forgetting why I’m doing this in the first place.

That has been happening far too much lately and it happened again in Chippenham. It frustrates the life out of me. I know I’m not the fastest runner by any stretch of the imagination, but I also know what I’m capable of.

Sadly, I fell a long long way short of that. The longer the race went on, the less I wanted to be there. In fact, at around ten miles, I might as well have given up.

My speed then dropped to what it was at miles 22/23 in my last London Marathon. It’s not that I couldn’t have picked it up, I just didn’t want to.

I realise I’m painting a very negative picture. This has absolutely nothing to do with the race, the route or the organisation. It was very friendly throughout. Each water station was well manned, the marshals very encouraging and the smattering of locals spectating out on the rural roads were great.

As much as I was protesting every step I was also canny enough to make sure I’d finished inside three hours. That’s how I know my ‘bad’ performance was mostly mental, or me throwing a strop. I’ve had a few like that recently and I always manage to dip below three hours.

But, back to the race. It was a largely ‘flat’ course although I had been warned that it’d climb for a couple of miles before the end before being almost downhill right at the finish.

Looking at the route profile on Strava afterwards it did indeed show a steady rise but, here’s the strange thing, I didn’t really notice it in real life even though I was in a ‘mood’ when I usually make mountains out of molehills.

Another thing I liked about Chippenham was that there were still enough people around at the end to create a wee bit of buzz at the finish line. I knew I was near the back but it didn’t feel that way. There were still around 30 runners behind me, and I hoped they received a similar reception when they finished. I’ve finished faster in bigger races and witnessed virtually no-one around so it’s a real credit to Chippenham.

I was very disappointed in my own performance, but I also felt I’d let Dawn down. I know that’s silly but I really wanted to do well for her in her hometown. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be and she mildly admonished me for even thinking that way.

This one race I want to run again, even if only to do myself justice next time. Maybe in 2019?

I only have another three races left now. It’s hard to believe the end is almost in sight. Even though the stubborn part of me is finding it difficult to accept, but this has been one hell of an undertaking and it has taken it’s toll on me. I’m just …. tired.

I need to get that into my head, focus on finishing as opposed to my race times and acknowledge just what I’ve done.

Part of my challenge is to help raise funds for Diabetes UK. If you’ve been following my journey so far I’d be grateful if you would consider donating a little to the charity to help them fund research and provide information for people, like me, who have diabetes. My fundraising page can be reached here.

Relive my run