Category Archives: Review

Ballot luck

Way back in late 2015, I entered my first (and for a long time my only) ballot for a race. The race in question was the 2016 Grizzly, a reasonably well-known 20 (ish) mile trail race in the south west. I don’t know what the odds were in that ballot, but I got a place while plenty of my fellow club members did not. I had 100% success in ballots! As things turned out, I got injured and transferred my place to club-mate Iain.

BALLOT LUCK: 1/1 (100%)

I’ve never been that interested in running the Great North Run (a pretty boring looking half marathon which is bloody miles away) and the London Marathon didn’t really appeal to me either – as I typically run in races with very small fields (often less than 150 people) the scale put me off. That’s not even considering the fact that it’s a marathon, a distance that I’d long been putting off.

I didn’t enter any of the three ballots in 2016; the impending arrival of child #2 in spring 2017 put something of a stop to major racing plans.

Then, earlier this year, I made something of a mistake. After watching the London Marathon on TV, and getting caught up in the excitement, I subsequently entered the ballot. I’d always said that I wouldn’t enter until I could get a ‘Good for age’ (GFA) time. Which is 3:05 for a 18-40 male. Indeed, for some time my (very) long-term plan has been to get a Boston qualifying time (also 3:05 for a 18-40 male). But for some reason, I ignored this, and opted to enter the London Marathon ballot anyway. “I’ll put myself in the hands of the ballot gods.” I said. I didn’t actually really want to do the London Marathon, but the odds seemed so small…

Ballot entry mostly forgotten, I then entered my “first marathon”, the 2018 Snowdonia Trail Marathon, the day before my birthday in July. I told people all about it; that it would be my first marathon. All about my plan to do a tough trail marathon before a road one, as it would take away the time pressure – completing it would genuinely be enough of an achievement.

And then, one Monday at work, I got an excited phone call from Lolly, asking if she could open some of my post. I was a bit confused. Then it became clear. Oh so horribly clear.

Oh Jason…

As I said at the time on social media: Oh. Bollocks.

I still don’t know if I really want to run the London Marathon at the moment, but I don’t think I really have a choice. I put myself in the hands of the ballot gods, and they gave me a clear answer. Also, half of the members of my club seem to have entered the ballot, and as far as I can tell, I’m the only one who got in. (Though quite a few have GFA places.)

BALLOT LUCK: 2/2 (100%)

Push the clock forwards by a week, and my third ballot result came back – for the Grizzly 2018; a race that takes place one month before the London Marathon. And the result? Success, again.

BALLOT LUCK: 3/3 (100%)

So, my ballot luck is pretty good. Of course, as well as a 100% success rate in ballots, I currently hold a 0% success rate in subsequently running the race I got a ballot place for. Given the current state of my ankle means that I’m still not running, I haven’t ruled out the possibility of this trend continuing. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve got over six months until London, and not dramatically less than that for the Grizzly; but coming back from a bad ankle sprain means it’s likely to be a long and slow road back to full running fitness.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I do enter the National Lottery; every week. And my luck is appalling.

Christmas lurgy and getting going again

This post originally appeared on Ben’s old blog, Running From the Physio.

So, like many, I had an unintended lull in my training over Christmas due to a horrible cough/cold combo. I’d always planned to drop the mileage a little, but in the last two weeks, I’ve done 17 miles. That doesn’t sound too bad, you might think, but 13.1 of those miles were done this weekend! I missed two races that I’d been looking forward to over the Christmas period: I hadn’t signed up for the Stoke Stampede, but probably would have done on the day, while the Chard Flyer on New Year’s Day I had paid for. Still, I really didn’t have any choice in the matter, so there is no use getting too annoyed about it. Though it does mean that I probably won’t run a 10k road race for over 6 months: my last was at the end of September, and my next scheduled is the start of April.

Yes Strava… a “rest”.

My focus now switches to my spring half marathons. In the three weeks before Christmas, my long runs were all just over 10 miles, and I was averaging well over 20 miles a week. I set a parkrun PB at the start of November, and a road 5k PB in early December, so I know that despite this little setback, I’m running pretty well. My focus in the next few weeks is making my long runs long, maintaining a good variety of runs, and strengthening work. I don’t know when I’ll fit the last in, because it’s something I’ve never scheduled in, and always the first thing to get dropped if I have other things to do. (And with a 15-month-old daughter, there are always other things to do!)

I’ve avoided the temptation of the “review” blog for the most part: suffice to say that I easily hit all of my targets for last year, and my targets for the year going forward aren’t really set. I have a few things in mind, but to be honest, I don’t know how quickly I can improve. My focus is going to be on running well, and racing fun. Yes, I want that 10k PB, I want that half-marathon PB. I definitely want to go sub-20 for 5k. But I want to try more trail races, some odd distances, some hilly races. I’m hoping to get out and do a fair number of races in the Somerset Series: they’re local, and generally pretty reasonably priced. There are generally a few people I know at each, and they offer the variety that I’m after.

Distance vs. Speed

This post originally appeared on Ben’s old blog, Running From the Physio.

In what is quite possibly the most eagerly anticipated contest since the 2009 release of Monsters vs. Aliens, I have been considering the pros and cons of trying to run quickly against trying to run further. Although there is an element of general musing about the question, it is also key to planning out my targets for next year. If what I actually want to do is run really quickly, a marathon probably isn’t the best plan.

First, a little background: I did my first half-marathon in March this year, and am running my second one in October. Other than that all of my races have been at the 10k distance. Before this year, I’d only passed 10 km a handful of times in training runs – including one 10 mile run which crocked me and stopped me running for the next four months.

Me halfway around my fastest parkrun.

My fastest time is currently from Longrun Meadow parkrun, 21:06. Based on this a few formulas tell me that I should be able to run roughly a 1:37:00 half-marathon. My target time in October is 1:45:00: if I achieve that, the corresponding 5k time would be about 22:50. I understand the differences:

  • I’ve run over 30 parkruns, and do so most weeks, while I’ve only done the one half-marathon.
  • All of my runs are 5 km or more, whereas I’ve never trained over 13.1 miles.
  • The predictions are completely different stages of development: parkrun has honed my 5k PB, I’m still learning about HM pacing.
On Twitter, the majority of the @UKRunChat community are aiming to run further and further: lots are signed up for the Brighton Marathon, which I think is the first (and possibly last) marathon for many, while plenty of others are looking at ultras. This has created a lot of peer pressure (not necessarily negatively) to push myself to run further too. To this end, I pencilled the Robin Hood Marathon into my 2015 calendar, despite the fact that I never really planned on running a marathon quite yet.
The thing is, as I’ve mentioned before, I love running fast. Running for ages? Not so much. So, I’m coming to the conclusion that for next year at least, I might enjoy my running more if I just continue to focus on shorter distances, with a few half-marathons thrown in. To reflect this, my training would have much more speed-work: threshold runs, intervals, and any “junk mile” runs would involve fartleks. Hill sprints are difficult in Taunton, although there’s a few places I can go to run them, it’s just a matter of getting there!
All that said, I’m not completely decided yet: is this just an element of laziness or nervousness about stepping up my distances? I think that it’s just making sure then when I do step up I’m prepared and confident at the shorter stuff. I figure that marathon runners peak later in life, so while I’m still (sort of) young I can focus on running as fast as I ruddy can. I’m even considering running on a track, perhaps not racing though; I’ve seen @runmapporun‘s times, and they scare me!
As you might be able to tell though, I’m still a little unsure about it all: part of me says I can do both, but getting the balance of speed and distance, while maintaining a sensible run/life balance seems a bit too much manage.
What are your goals at the moment: speed, distance, or both?
What advice can you offer me, what has worked for you?

2014: The year of the half marathon?

This post originally appeared on Ben’s old blog, Running From the Physio.

For a while now, I’ve wanted to run a half marathon.

  • In 2010, my brother and I signed up for the Bristol half. I got shin splints, and he got lazy.
  • In 2011, I didn’t do a lot of very much.
  • In 2012, having run the Bristol 10 km with my wife, I again targeted the Bristol half, but injuries decimated my training, and I signed up for the Taunton 10 km instead. Which I wasn’t able to run anyway because of flu.
  • In 2013, I was convinced I would do it. I looked up some of the local ones: the Bath half, Taunton half and Bristol half. I noted them in my diary. And then, injury after injury took its toll, and by the end of the year, I had only completed two races, both 10 km.
Okay, maybe I’ll try crocheting.

A normal person would have decided that maybe running wasn’t for them, and taken up something safer, like crochet… or cage fighting. I, on the other hand, signed up for another half-marathon. On 2 March, I will be running the adidas Silverstone half marathon.

Given my previous struggles to step up to this distance, I had to make sure that I did something different this time. I made two decisions to improve my motivation. None of Bath, Bristol or Taunton half marathons particularly excited me. Don’t get me wrong, I may well end up doing all of them at some stage, and my opinion might then change. But none of them made me think “Yeah, I wanna go there and do that!” I figured that the Silverstone race was something a little different, something I can get more excited about. Secondly, just to make sure that I took the training seriously, and didn’t use a small injury niggle as an excuse to slack off, and then not be able to complete the race, or at least not complete it at a pace I’m happy with, I decided to sign up for a charity place. By committing myself to raising a certain amount of money for charity, if I don’t do the race, I’m letting more than just myself down.

As a result of all that, here I am, leashed to my training plan. In the ten weeks of preparation so far, I have completed all but two of the scheduled runs, which is a far better success rate than previously, when generally I have completed only two of the scheduled runs ten weeks into a plan!

Since I’ve mentioned a fair bit about one of my targets for 2014, I may as well give a bit of rationale for the other two: running a sub-45 minute 10 km, and running 500 miles during the year. They’re both pretty self-explanatory, especially given my targets last year. I’ve been pretty comfortable with running and racing the 10 km distance for a while now, but I think part of that has come because I haven’t really pushed myself hard enough. Doing the parkruns this year has shown me how much faster I can make myself run, and I feel pretty confident that I should be able to transfer this speed to a 10 km race too. Our parkrun course is currently quite muddy, and I’ve brought my PB down to 22:27, so with a few months speed training and a road course, I think I’ve got a fair crack at running a 10 km under 45 minutes. Not the Wellington 10 though, that’s far too hilly!

Running 500 miles should be a doddle: I’ve already done 60 this year, and we’re less than a fifteenth of the way through. In fact, if I kept going at more or less the same rate as I am at the moment, then I have a fair chance of running 500 miles, and 500 more. But then I’d probably fall down at the door.


Where was I? Oh yes, running 500 miles. Essentially, it should be easy, but as much as anything else, it is just there to make sure that I keep running, and it’s set at a number that should still be attainable even if I have to take a while out because of an injury.

And now, a short beg for money. I’m running for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. It’s a horribly complicated neurological condition that can be difficult to diagnose, and has various forms, all of which have a serious impact on people’s lives. Please, please sponsor me: Thank you!

A review, and some resolutions

This post originally appeared on Ben’s old blog, Running From the Physio.

It’s that time of the year when the television is full of rubbish 2013 review programmes. It turns out that you can’t get away from them online either! Hopefully this won’t be too in-depth, but instead just a quick look back at 2013, and an opportunity to set some targets for 2014.

So to start with, I think it would be best to clarify what my goals for last year were:

  1. Run 365 miles in total across the year
  2. Run a sub-50 minute 10 km race
  3. Run a half-marathon

In essence, the first goal was meant to make sure that I got out and trained enough to give me a good chance at the other two, and to turn my running hobby from a casual past-time to a habit. The second was a very achievable goal, but one that I narrowly missed out on during the 2012 Cardiff 10 km, which I finished in 50:43.

The year began poorly; I was carrying a knee injury that I had sustained in October the year before, and was undergoing physiotherapy, which meant that I didn’t run at all in January. My first run of the year was on 4 February, when I managed the gargantuan effort of 1.22 miles – on the treadmill with my physio! That said, I managed to get out reasonably regularly throughout February, and built up the distance, though it was the end of March before I ran 4 miles in one go. By the end of June, half-way through the year, I had only run about 73 miles, putting me a long way behind my goal.

I completed the Wellington 10 km race in the middle of July, on what was quite possibly the hottest day of the year (according to AccuWeather, it was about 26°C.) Due to the weather, and the hilly nature of the course, I fell a long way short of my 50 minute target, finishing in just under 56 minutes. Despite that failure, I felt I was running well, but then at the start of August another injury struck: I tripped over at work and struck my head, suffering a concussion. I eventually felt well enough to run again, and did so at the start of September, but only a few days later, I was injured once more: this time badly spraining my ankle while playing football. This time, the recovery was not so fast.

At the start of November, I began running again, tentatively doing 2 or 3 mile runs, making sure not to strain my ankle too much. I completed my first Parkrun on 9 November, and from there I kicked on. The feeling of community that I gained from running the Parkruns helped me stick to my schedule through the week, and between November and December, I ran over 108 miles: easily the most I have ever ran in two months. At the end of December, I ran the Stoke Stampede, and on a nice course managed to finish in 47:23, well under the 50 minutes I had targeted.

So in summary, I failed to run 365 miles: I finished with 236 for the year, mainly thanks to those last two months. I did manage a sub-50 minute 10 km, but the injuries meant that I couldn’t even consider a half-marathon.

Now, it seems time to pick some targets for the coming year: they will look very similar!

  1. Run 500 miles in total across the year
  2. Run a sub-45 minute 10 km race
  3. Run a half-marathon (I’ve already registered for the Silverstone Half – more about that later)

Wish me luck!