Category Archives: Ponderings

#18in18 – nine down, nine to go

I’ve reached the halfway stage in my self set challenge to run 18 half marathons in 2018, so no better time than to throw out a quick recap of my progress so far.

If you’re new to this and are wondering what the point behind it is then you can have a read through the why’s and how’s and so on here.

It all started back in March in London …

1. The Big Half
I couldn’t really have got off to a better start than this, kicking off within sight of Tower Bridge and finishing right beside the Cutty Sark. Iconic.

Big city, big race, big crowds – perfect for me. During the race I set a personal best over every single distance ie: 5k, 5 miles, 10k, 10 miles and Half … I loved this so much I signed up again for 2019 as soon as entries were opened.

2. Larne Half Marathon
The first of the local races in my challenge, and another rip-roaring success. A race that treated us to stunning views along the world famous Antrim Coast on a gloriously sunny day.

Although a little bit slower than the Big Half I was still really pleased with my performance, only being denied a PB by a great big hill halfway through.

3. Reading Half Marathon (Virtual)
A little bit different this time, a virtual run based on the Reading Half Marathon. The actual race was cancelled because of the weather back in March so the organiser, in conjunction with the Virtual Runner website, allowed runners to earn the same medal in their own time and a route of their choosing.

I decided to do it around my hometown of Ballymena. I also used this ‘race’ to experiment with Jeffing (the run/walk method) and hated every minute of it. My legs hurt, it rained, I got soaked. Next please.

4. Not The London Marathon
Held on London Marathon day, this event was organised by the East Antrim Marathon Series over a 10k course with a number of different distances available. I did two laps to bring me up to Half Marathon distance.

I didn’t really enjoy this one either. The route was tough in places, there was a small number of entries, my head wasn’t in it etc. etc. … from the highs of London and Larne these last two runs brought me crashing back down to earth.

5. Lee Valley VeloPark Half Marathon
Back to London at the end of May for a RunThrough event outside the 2012 Olympics Velodrome. The route was 13 laps of a circuit designed for cyclists, which made it very undulating and whilst it wasn’t particularly steep it did get quite trying towards the end.

I almost pulled out at around eight miles. I felt quite ill due to the heat of the day, but after a quick refresh I battled through to finish. If I didn’t already know it, this challenge was going to be tough in places!

6. Lacock Half Marathon
The first of three races in two weeks. This one was in the picturesque Wiltshire village of Lacock, three laps of a 4.4 mile course. A lovely route which took us out into the countryside before returning into the village to great support from locals and tourists alike.

Another really hot day, and the third loop was a real struggle but, on reflection, a great event and a great day out. Things were beginning to look up again!

7. Lisburn Half Marathon
I ran the Lisburn 10k last year and was awful in it, so I wasn’t really looking forward to this one especially since it was double the distance.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I only went and set a PB! The fact that it was a cooler evening undoubtedly helped, but I also got my race tactics spot on. My head was in the right place, I didn’t panic after starting almost at the back and simply and methodically picked off those in front of me one by one.

8. Swansea Half Marathon
It’s not hard to see why this has been voted the UK’s favourite half marathon. An outstanding event featuring a wonderfully scenic Swansea Bay hugging route with a big turnout of both runners and supportive locals.

If it wasn’t for the fact that it was another ridiculously hot day I have no doubt I’d have set another PB. This is one I’ll return to do another day.

9. Bath Two Tunnels
Perhaps the most unique race to date, around five miles or so were run through disused railway tunnels outside Bath. Dark and atmospheric, I really enjoyed them.

The heat has been a bit of a recurring theme lately, but nothing has been as hot as this one. The tunnels themselves were lovely and cooling, but outside the temperature peaked at 29° which simply did not agree with me. It was like running in a sauna, and I did consider dropping out at one point again.

So that’s the first nine done. A mixture of the good, bad and downright ugly but I never expected it to be easy.

I haven’t finalised my schedule for the remaining nine just yet but, at the minute, it’s looking like this (those in bold have already been entered):

10. Dark Hedges Half Marathon – 21st July 2018
11. Rock ‘n’ Roll Dublin Half Marathon – 12th August 2018
12. Dambusters Half Marathon – 18th August 2018
13. The 401 Challenge Festival of Running Half – 25th August 2018
14. Waterside Half Marathon – 2nd September 2018
15. Chippenham Half Marathon – 9th September 2018
Belfast City Half Marathon – 23rd September 2018
17. Great Scottish Run (Glasgow) – 30th September 2018
18. Royal Parks Half (London) – 14th October 2018

A pretty hectic schedule, but I’m feeling so much stronger and fitter now than I did when I started. To be honest, I can’t wait for each one now!

Part of the reason I’m doing this is to raise a little something for Diabetes UK. I’m Type 2, and have received great encouragement and advice from #TeamDUK over the years.

If you’ve enjoyed my journey so far and would like to support me in running towards a world where diabetes can do no harm then I would be so appreciative if you could make a small donation via my JustGiving page.


Chippenham parkrun 07.07.18

Back at Chippenham parkrun for the fourth time this year, I’m almost a regular at this rate!

Indeed, I didn’t attend the visitors briefing because I know the course well by now, although that meant missing out on a shout out when the RD was giving his pre-run instructions.

It was a wonderfully hot morning, and with my training plan instructing me to take this easy I wasn’t expecting to improve my PB for this course for the fourth time in a row.

In addition, I have the small matter of another half marathon tomorrow, so this was always going to be a ‘gentle’ run.

I had a plan beforehand of doing each mile in around 11:20, which would give me a finish of 35-minutes something.

And that was basically how it worked out.

As with my last run here I tucked in behind a couple of runners for the first mile, basically using them to pace me.

Despite that I was still around 20 seconds faster than I had intended, so I made the conscious decision to slow it right down for the second mile.

It helped that this took us into the trail part of the route, a section that always slows me anyway.

I actually found the trail more testing this time, possibly because the record heatwave made the surface harder and bumpier. Previously it felt softer but today it seemed like running on an extremely uneven road with each foot strike reverberating up my legs.

After that second mile I had got back onto my target pace, all that remained now was to bring it home.

By now, however, I was beginning to suffer from the effects of the heat and so, with tomorrow very much in mind, decided there was no point hammering myself.

Electing to just coast to the finish I then thought I’d try lengthening my stride for the last 500m or so.

There were a couple of runners in front of me, both very catchable. Putting the longer stride in practice, I duly passed the first one without an awful lot of effort.

It didn’t feel natural but nothing does when you’re trying it out at the start, so I kept at it and went past the second runner with relative ease as well.

I was pleased with my strong-ish finish, and with how the stride lengthening experiment went.

Initially I thought my time was two minutes down on my last visit here, which would have disappointed me, but it turned out to be just sixty seconds which wasn’t too bad considering I did deliberately ease off.

Bye for now, Chippenham, see you again in September!

Relive my run

Striding out

Another day, another run.

This time it was an early evening intervals session with Bronagh. The thoughts of these sessions are always worse than the reality, so it was good to have company.

My plan for tonight was a one mile warm-up, followed by 12 sets of 200m all out run/200m jog and then a one mile cool down. Different from before, but I enjoy the variety of each session.

Having run it so many times before I knew there was exactly a mile from a certain point on the Antrim Road to the entrance of the industrial estate along the dual carriageway, so that’s where we headed for our warm up.

Once there we had an almost secluded ‘track’ in the form of a now unused section of the M2 Bypass. It was around 300m long, so perfectly suited for our purposes.

I wasn’t quite sure how to approach the first split so was a little cautious, completing it in 55.5 seconds which, apart from a little bit in the middle, was my slowest.

My next two came in it 50 and 48 seconds respectively which, my Garmin tells me, is 6:42min/mi and 6:27min/mi … usually unobtainable speeds for me so it was nice to experience it for a change! The rest of the splits (apart from a 57.4 and 58) came in at around 52 seconds or just over 7 minute mile pace. Again, usually out of reach for me but nice all the same.

I’ve been having a slight issue with my left knee so was a bit concerned about how it’d cope with a high intensity session such as this but, generally, it felt ok. Yes, the first few steps/seconds were a little uncomfortable/stiff but once I got going it was fine.

What was also pleasing that as each split progressed I began to lengthen my stride which caused me to go faster without working harder. It’ll take a bit of work and a great deal of confidence to maintain it but I’d quite like to experiment with it further. It’s not my natural running style but, being of limited stature (ok, I’m a short ass!), lengthening my stride might well improve my times whilst also cutting down on the amount of energy expended. Who knows? I likely have that all wrong but at least I could give it a go.

To recap, it was a successful intervals session, I was pleased with how I coped, went faster than I thought I would and got a little insight into another aspect of running that might improve my overall performance. Win win.

Next up is a four miles easy run, before I head back over to England for the Bath Two Tunnels Half Marathon on Sunday morning, a race which brings me to the halfway point in my #18in18 Challenge.