Testing, testing … 1, 2, Hoka Clifton 3

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Week 12, Day 1

It seems so long since my last run. It’s only been four days, but it has felt much longer although it has been my longest break since Christmas week when I was struck down by the dreaded lurgy.

After the triumph of the weekend I decided to give myself a couple of days off, fully intending to get back at it on Wednesday night. But that didn’t happen, nor did it happen on Thursday.

One, I couldn’t be bothered, my confidence had gone, I felt there was no way I’d be able to reach the heights of Belfast and Hastings and my mood suggested that anything less would be a disappointment. Plus the weather was rubbish. Big wuss.

And, two, my left calf had suddenly and annoying decided to develop a slightly worrying niggle in it so, with it only being a month until the marathon, I didn’t really want to risk anything until it felt better.

Which brings us to tonight, Friday. A fantastic day weather wise, my leg felt better after a walk into town and back, so I didn’t really have any excuses.

Tonight’s run was my first in my new trainers, Hoka Clifton 3’s. I was sorely tempted to use them in my last two races but that wouldn’t have been sensible. I had walked in them every day to break them in, and they felt amazing, so I was content they’d be ok to run in tonight.

I was only planning 5k so what harm could it do? After the first km I wasn’t entirely convinced. Yes, they were soft and I got a good bounce and landing from them but my feet and ankles didn’t seem impressed.

I carried on regardless, putting it down to teething problems and their general new-ness.

My first km split was good, and my second was almost as fast. As ever, that troublesome third kilometre proved to be a bit of an issue (damn my legs!) but I gradually began to settle into them and, as the run progressed, they turned out to be everything I had hoped for. They were light and helped each step flow much better than before.

I felt really comfortable and strong in those final two kilometres and, crucially, confident in my shoes. I was getting an impressively positive response from them and, rather than tire, I actually began to get significantly quicker, eventually recording a new best time for 5k on my Garmin (an improvement of 18 seconds), albeit still frustratingly outside my PB. Some day, some day.

It was pleasing to get back out again. My calf felt fine once I got going and, rather than a loss of performance from the weekend, I actually maintained my form – plus there’s the added bonus of a hugely positive first outing with my new trainers.

If you’ve enjoyed following my progress so far could I be so bold as to ask you if you’d consider making a donation to my chosen London Marathon charity this year – Asthma UK? No amount is too small, and all donations are received with such heartfelt thanks. My fundraising page can be found here. Thank-you so much.

London Marathon Training (204 miles – 41 runs)
Week 1 – 12.2 miles (4 runs; average 3.1 miles per run)
Week 2 – 9.3 miles (2 runs; average 4.7 miles per run)
Week 3 – 17.7 miles (4 runs; average 4.4 miles per run)
Week 4 – 18.8 miles (4 runs; average 4.7 miles per run)
Week 5 – 14.9 miles (4 runs; average 3.7 miles per run)
Week 6 – 18.7 miles (4 runs; average 4.7 miles per run)
Week 7 – 20.3 miles (4 runs; average 5.1 miles per run)
Week 8 – 23.7 miles (4 runs; average 5.9 miles per run)
Week 9 – 18 miles (3 runs; average 6 miles per run)
Week 10 – 21.9 miles (3 runs; average 7.3 miles per run)
Week 11 – 24.6 miles (4 runs; average 6.2 miles per run)
Week 12 – 3.1 miles (1 run; average 3.1 miles per run)

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Hastings Half Marathon 2017

FullSizeRender 55London Marathon Training
Week 11, Day 4

What a difference a year makes! Last year I did the Hastings Half Marathon, it was my first ever big running event, and I was woefully unprepared for it, although it was an important step in my training for London.

At the time I said I’d never do it again. It was just too hilly. Yet, here I was, back again 12 months later about to tackle it once more.

IMG_5599I wanted to prove something to myself. I wasn’t happy with my time last year even though I felt immense pride at having done it. I had a score to settle with it … and today settle it I did.

My time was a cool 32 minutes 26 seconds faster. Bloody fantastic, and so much better than I could have hoped for.

But … there’s more.

Not only did I beat last year, I only went and set another PB, my third half-marathon best in four weeks! That wasn’t meant to happen. Not today, not with those hills.

So, what happened? Most of the climbs came in the first five miles and some of them were brutal. I tackled them as best I could but I was also mindful that I needed to conserve some energy for the latter part of the race, so I decided not to be a hero and took them as easy as I wanted. I did run them as best I could but once I started to feel the burn in my thighs I eased off again.

I was slightly disappointed with my time after 10k, not massively so, but I knew if I repeated that in the second half then my overall time would be nearer 3 hours.

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As with last year, Queensway was a real challenge. It steadily rises for around 3 miles, almost bereft of spectators and comes after the Harley Shute Road which itself is considerably steep.

Then, from nowhere, I went into full-on beast mode! Something kicked in.

I completed the second half of the race around ten minutes quicker than the first. Yes, it wasn’t as hilly but that’s not to say it wasn’t without it’s climbs, it was, and some of them quite nasty too but I charged up them.

I was passing people that had passed me earlier in the race, and made it a personal goal not to be passed by anyone else for the remainder, and I don’t think I was. If they did I caught them again.

For a mile or so from around 8.5 miles the course is a steady drop and I sprinted past so many other runners … and even on the flat sections I wasn’t letting up. I just found all this energy from somewhere.

Then the course drops down onto the seafront and it’s a straight three mile run to the finish, more or less. By this stage I was recording faster kilometre splits than I had on Friday in Belfast and that was only a 10k race. I had no idea what was happening, but it was happening and I was making the most of it.

IMG_5600Being a seaside town, the wind naturally comes off the water and this made it quite challenging at times to run. So, rather than compete against that, I walked when the wind got too strong, hoping to make up the time when it eased.

I knew I was in with a chance of a PB by now and that kept driving me forward. I was darting in and around the other runners, again not allowing anyone to pass me.

My friend Dawn, the ninja-like heroine who seemed to pop up at every point on Friday, was standing between the 12-13 mile point and when I saw her I shouted “How badly do I want this?”. She didn’t hear a word because of the wind (!) but it was enough to spur me on to try and claim my PB.

Then I saw my daughter, Michelle, in the finishing strait. She is my reason for coming to Hastings – there are much easier half’s out there – and, again, that gave me the boost to dredge up some more energy from somewhere.

I wanted to do this for Dawn. I wanted to do this for Michelle. The hugs from each of them at the end suggest I did.

I had nothing left as I crossed the finish line. The sheer exhilaration of smashing last year’s time and recording that new PB left me drained. I was so bloody chuffed with myself. I didn’t expect this, not in the slightest.

As special word, too, for my friend Leslie. He moved to Hastings in the last couple of years so came to support me last year too. I spotted him at the same point today as he stood twelve months ago and I thought that was brilliant, it was good to see a friendly and familiar face out on the course.

However, much to my surprise, he then popped up on Queensway, one of the few spectators up there … and then again on the seafront. All this support meant so much, thanks Leslie.

There’s so much more I could write, about the people I met out on the course, about the support from the general public – and maybe I will in a future blog.

But, for now, I just want to say I did it. I bloody well did it!!!!!

If you’ve enjoyed following my progress so far could I be so bold as to ask you if you’d consider making a donation to my chosen London Marathon charity this year – Asthma UK? No amount is too small, and all donations are received with such heartfelt thanks. My fundraising page can be found here. Thank-you so much.

London Marathon Training (200.1 miles – 40 runs)
Week 1 – 12.2 miles (4 runs; average 3.1 miles per run)
Week 2 – 9.3 miles (2 runs; average 4.7 miles per run)
Week 3 – 17.7 miles (4 runs; average 4.4 miles per run)
Week 4 – 18.8 miles (4 runs; average 4.7 miles per run)
Week 5 – 14.9 miles (4 runs; average 3.7 miles per run)
Week 6 – 18.7 miles (4 runs; average 4.7 miles per run)
Week 7 – 20.3 miles (4 runs; average 5.1 miles per run)
Week 8 – 23.7 miles (4 runs; average 5.9 miles per run)
Week 9 – 18 miles (3 runs; average 6 miles per run)
Week 10 – 21.9 miles (3 runs; average 7.3 miles per run)
Week 11 – 24.6 miles (4 runs; average 6.2 miles per run)

Spar Craic 10k

FullSizeRender 51London Marathon Training
Week 11, Day 3

I’m sitting writing this blog in Belfast International Airport feeling extremely smug. And why am I feeling so pleased with myself? Because I set a new 10k PB this morning competing in the Spar Craic 10k, my second race of three this week.

I didn’t just shave a second or two (although that would have been good too), I smashed it, a full 1 minute 11 seconds, a record that had stood since December 2015.

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The Spar Craic 10k is a relatively new race, I think it’s only in it’s third or fourth year, but is establishing itself as a St. Patrick’s Day staple in the local running calendar.

Well organised, the numbers are growing steadily, with 1300-odd competing today.

I started off at a very brisk pace and I didn’t think I would be able to maintain that all the way round but, apart from a brief rest around the two mile mark, I did – and that surprised me greatly.

IMG_5584Perhaps its because I knew where I was and could visualise how long I had to go, and that spurred me on – or perhaps I’m just getting faster and stronger. Maybe I’m simply growing in confidence.

It was heartening to receive the encouragement of people I knew on the way round, both runners and spectators. It was surprising just how many faces I recognised and, at one stage, I even had my very own impromptu cheering point.

My friend Dawn, in Belfast for entirely different reasons, not only took time out of her trip to support me but also fell in with some total strangers and had them shouting and cajoling me as I ran past! It was a really lovely moment.

In fact, if I didn’t know better I would swear Dawn had run the thing herself because that was the second place she spotted me, and she still managed to pop up at two further points after that! She either has good route management skills or possesses hitherto undiscovered ninja-like super powers!

Dawn next appeared at the bottom of the footbridge over the Lagan, near to where the big fish is. The bridge rises and then drops on the other side, but because Dawn was standing there I simply had to run up the slope. I couldn’t be seen walking!

Back to the race, I knew I was onto a good thing when I set a new best time over five miles, again by a minute or so. Knowing that, barring disaster, I would beat my 10k PB too I eased off a little, or tried to, I was feeling so good at this point that I couldn’t. I felt strong and had more to give.

There was a slightly demoralising moment as we approached the iconic Titanic building and could see the finish line, only to be diverted onto a largely deserted and desolated industrial area, but that only served to spur me on to get back to where all the activity was as quickly as possible.

Approaching the final kilometre, I heard someone shouting my name, “C’mon Mr. Harris, c’mon the man from Ballymena!”, it turned out to be the former mayor of Belfast Miartin O’Muilleor. I knew he was running today, and whilst I wouldn’t agree with his politics it was decent of him to support others as they finished.

Then, about one hundred metres further along there was Dawn again! As I ran past I babbled something about beating my time, it was probably indecipherable but I was a man on a mission by now so I imagine I made less sense than normal!

Crossing the finishing line, it was a nice touch to have my medal placed around my neck, rather than simply have it handed to me or included within the goody bag. I might have felt a bit emotional, a PB in training is one thing, to do it in a race makes it all the more special.

So why am I typing this from the airport (actually I’m on one of Ryanair’s finest right now)? Simply because I’m on my way to Hastings for the half-marathon on Sunday.

It’s an absolute beast of a course, and will be hard work, but I’m approaching it full of confidence that I’ll be able to give a good account of myself, or at least record a time that’ll please me. Watch this space.

If you’ve enjoyed following my progress so far could I be so bold as to ask you if you’d consider making a donation to my chosen London Marathon charity this year – Asthma UK? No amount is too small, and all donations are received with such heartfelt thanks. My fundraising page can be found here. Thank-you so much.

London Marathon Training (187 miles – 39 runs)
Week 1 – 12.2 miles (4 runs; average 3.1 miles per run)
Week 2 – 9.3 miles (2 runs; average 4.7 miles per run)
Week 3 – 17.7 miles (4 runs; average 4.4 miles per run)
Week 4 – 18.8 miles (4 runs; average 4.7 miles per run)
Week 5 – 14.9 miles (4 runs; average 3.7 miles per run)
Week 6 – 18.7 miles (4 runs; average 4.7 miles per run)
Week 7 – 20.3 miles (4 runs; average 5.1 miles per run)
Week 8 – 23.7 miles (4 runs; average 5.9 miles per run)
Week 9 – 18 miles (3 runs; average 6 miles per run)
Week 10 – 21.9 miles (3 runs; average 7.3 miles per run)
Week 11 – 11.5 miles (3 runs; average 3.8 miles per run)