Tag Archives: jogging

Out of adversity comes opportunity and the best week of marathon training ever…

So as I reflect on week 3 of training for Edinburgh Marathon I can’t help but smile. This week has been a week fuelled with emotion from anger to laughter, wide smiles to tears; it has been tough however running has been my salvation. I have been challenged to the point of breaking recently but through support of those closest to me and a bit of mental toughness I have managed to get through the other side. A week that could have potentially sunk me turned out to be the most successful week out on the roads I’ve had training since I started running back in 2014. 

This is the second attempt I’ve had at writing this week’s entry as I’ve decided to change direction from what I initially planned. After a few weeks of fighting off the negatives I’m being positive, I’m celebrating the week’s success.
For this years training cycle I stepped up the impetus I have gone from 4 runs a week for last years training to 5 runs this year as I have a plan, a goal which I feel is reachable. I follow the free marathon plans from Virgin Money for the London Marathon and even though I resent the way the London Marathon is drawn and filled I do find the training plans are a great guide. For Liverpool rock and roll marathon in 2015 I used the beginner plan, my goal was 3:59:59 and I crossed the line in 3:50:24. For Vienna Marathon in 2016 I used the intermediate plan as a guide. My goal for this was to beat my dad’s best ever 26.2 time of 3:39:40 which I not only beat comfortably I also smashed my own previous PB by near enough 25 minutes crossing the finish in 3:25:26. Not one to stand still and rest on achievements I wanted to give myself the best opportunity of breaking my 26.2 PB again this time in Edinburgh, Berlin or both!! With this in mind I decided I was stepping up to using the advanced marathon plan for my 2017 races. 

As I stand just shy of 5 foot 6inches and now weighing around 11 stone 9 I am not built for running long distances fast, I’m built for explosive power over 10/20 yards . This power was beneficial when I was a fresh faced 16 year old lad living the dream and playing football as a YTS apprentice at my home town club, a premier league football club. I was athletic but never a runner, I was determined and left all I had out on the pitch, a trait I have taken into my long distance running. Team mates hated preseason in my football days however I always secretly loved it. In the long distance running sessions I was always in the top 3 finishers, not because I was one of the top 3 runners but because my heart would push me on when everything else gave up, I was determined. I’m not saying others weren’t I’m just saying they weren’t as determined as me! So fast forward to 2017 and 22 years later I am still taking that determination into my running and striving to be the best I can be. Some people run to finish and I have massive respect for anyone who runs but I am now in the realms of running to finish as quick as I can. 

This week started with what should have been a rest day however due to the fact I rested on Sunday I decided I would do my threshold/hill run around the streets of where I work. You don’t have to look too far for hills around Bolton so this made sense. 55 minutes of easy running, threshold running and hill repeats saw me cover 7 miles at an average pace of 7:53 minutes per mile. It hurt as Bolton is not flat but I felt brilliant and it set me up for a tough 4 days without a rest.

Speed work across a bridge 6 x length of the bridge sprints


If I thought the success of Monday couldn’t be topped I was wrong. Tuesday was planned to be a steady 40 minutes. Now the only criticism I have at the moment of my running is my discipline at times however in my defence I think I have broken through a plateau from my last serious training cycle. I am now comfortable at cruising along around 7:20-7:30 minutes per mile and I am running strong which I can’t quite put my finger on. I am slightly heavier than I was in the lead up to Vienna last year but I am more efficient, I’m carting more weight but running quicker, a strange one but I am not complaining. Tuesdays steady saw me cover 5.8 miles at a pace of 6:54 minutes per mile…I found a pace, sat at it and really enjoyed going sub 7 minutes per mile.

Waiting for the green man. A scourge of urban running



Wednesday – Today was a day of high emotion as it was to be the day we laid to rest my grandma. The plan was 50 minutes steady but due to my head space not being great and also time being pushed I managed a reasonably quick 5k around the local streets of home. It gave me a bit of a release and some thinking time on my own to gather my thoughts for what was to be an emotional day. I don’t remember much of the run however one thing that made me smile was my running picture. Throughout my running journey I have taken pictures, I have documented my progress and I have found it has helped to see the pictures back when I have been struggling for motivation. So when I decided to sign up for Instagram in May 2016 I did with the thought of documenting my runs in a public forum and connecting with likeminded people. This has been great for me I’ve have taken enjoyment in taking pictures of my runs, micro blogging about them and seeing others inspirational stories so with that in mind I decided Wednesdays picture would be a bit different. One of my sons favourite tv programmes is Peter Rabbit who Mr McGregor chases through a cabbage patch well in honour of my son, my driving force, Wednesdays picture saw me become Peter Rabbit!!! A bit of fun and a distraction from what was to be a tough afternoon.

I managed to escape Mr McGregor wasn’t happy. Cabbages!!!!!!

Thursday – A workman like performance for a threshold session saw tired legs and me ready for a rest. I enjoyed getting out on the road and releasing some of the frustrations I felt from the previous day. A tired body not helped by a skin full of beer the day before. As my run ended I just so happened to do my stretches to cool down in a no ball games area…I promise there were no ball games being partaken in…I was simply stretching my groins…

I was simply doing my cool down routine officer!! No ball games here



With Friday a designated rest day and to be honest one well received but I had one eye on my weekend long run the day after. I set my alarm for 5:30am on Saturday and got an early night ready for my third 75 minutes long run. I have extended a 17 week training plan to give me some slippage time in case anything unexpected happens.

Rest day do not disturb


 I have been running 10 miles recently in around 74 minutes so I knew 10 miles was to be the target for my longest run of the week. So as I set out at 5:45am to run another 10 mile I changed my route but one I know from my last training cycle. For the first 2 miles on Saturday the cold weather was biting even for me who was layered up to the eyeballs but I ploughed on and soon I’d found a pace and was enjoying it. The route I’d chosen for saturdays run was by no means flat with a big hill around the 3.5 mile mark and a gradual climb from around 6 to 10 miles. As the run progressed and the miles fell I began to realise I was running well 8.4 miles in an hour and my 10 miles is going to finish well before my 75 minutes allotted time!! Brilliant. So as my Garmin buzzed to symbolise 10 miles ran I was chuffed to see I’d got round in a time of 1:11:39!! Wow!! not one mile under 7:16 minutes and averaging 7:10 minutes per mile. This was pivotal, this was massive as I’d made it into double figures of a training run, feeling strong, feeling as if I could go on and all in a great time. Now I’m not naive to think if I run 10 miles at 7:10 per mile can be sustained over 26.2 however to reach my goal time this year I need to be running around 7:20 minutes per mile. Saturday shows me I have it in me, it’s possible but I mustn’t become complacent. As I sat on a bench at the end of my run at 7am I couldn’t help but smile and be satisfied, a job well done. 

Slow I don’t like slow!! Satisfyingly brilliant today


Sunday – As I head out the door on Sunday morning for the second Threshold/hill repeat run of the week I was sitting at 31.6 miles ran in the week. I knew what I had planned would bank me around 6 miles However this would leave me on 37.6 miles…my OCD senses started to twitch!! I decided I’d extend the threshold parts of my run, still incoprate some hills but I’d get to 8.4 miles so as to take my weeks total to 40 miles. That wasn’t to happen as I ended up banking 9 miles and running 40.6 miles for the week. I enjoyed the leg stretch, I was able to release some frustrations and I also had a chat whilst running side by side with a fellow runner who was out for 3 hours as he was training for a triathlon. My legs were tired at the end of the hill repeats but I was the most satisfied I’ve been after this weeks running than I’ve ever been. 

I LOVE HILLS!!!!


This week has been difficult, I’ve used the adversity to find opportunity but most of all I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time alone out on the road. Bring on week 4 of training…
 
 

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It comes in threes, surprise competition and I love hills…

After what can only be described as a horrendous start to 2017 I entered into my second week of training for Edinburgh Marathon feeling the most down I have felt for a long time I was however determined not to be beaten. The last few days had been a blur and I was struggling to come to terms with the hand I’d been recently dealt. I was uneasy that in the back of my mind I was wondering where the third bit of bad luck was going to come from, as they say it comes in threes! As a family we had rallied, we’ve had some fantastic support from some good friends but my wife has stood by me being the shoulder to cry on when I needed it the most. Through the past few weeks we have both taken strength from our sons exploits. Our happy, loving and generous 19 month old boy was the light in the dark times, for him we are so grateful, he is my driving force when I start to struggle.

With Monday a designated rest day I took advantage of the opportunity to put my feet up but I will admit I was itching to get out on the road. After a decent sleep, which is few and far between for me, I was ready for my first run of the week a steady 40 minute plod around the undulating streets of Bolton. Where I work is close to the place my grandma and grandad lived for 57 years, a house I spent lots of time at when my mum was ill and a place that was a safe haven for a scared little boy…me. As I plotted my run I decided I was going to incorporate a fly past of my grandmas old house.

Grandparents old place. 57 years here and a lace I have fond memories of.

As I set out I was feeling good and running well and confident today was to be a good day. 7:12 for the first mile, 7:29 for the second and 7:25 for the third but then came a sudden spike. I trotted out of the town centre onto a straight road which I was to be on for around 1.5 miles I closed in on a runner on the opposite side of the road who after a glance across the road he saw me coming. I was running strong but he decided he didn’t want me to overtake him so started to match me stride for stride…challenge accepted I thought…bring it on. As we approached a downhill he decided he was to up the pace slightly and a sprint ensued down the hill however knowing the road well I stuck to the pace I was travelling at. Now as basic science dictates what goes up must come down and vice versa so the 400 metres or so climb on the other side of the downhill was inevitable. What my friend hadn’t anticipated was my love of hills, I turned on my afterburners, lifted my knees, lengthened my stride and the 20 yards he’d made on the downhill sprint had been cancelled out, a quick glance over my shoulder he was slowing I was running strong and as we hit the next downhill section he’d given up, he was walking and I plodded on triumphant. Now I always say I compete against no one but myself but that bit of competition on that day did me good, it focused me and made me think of tactics, just like in races, to shake off the competition. That run a random fella helped me more than he’ll ever know and I would like to think his desire of me not getting past him helped him as well. As I finished my run on my grandmas old street and a selfie outside a house I have many memories of I was happy with how I’d ran and most pleasant of all was the fact my Black dog has given over growling…for now.

As I returned home that night I was greeted with a hug and kiss from my wife and son who made a good day better however the good time wasn’t to last due to another phone call, the third of three. To cut a long story short our family cat had been in hospital due to what we initially thought was an infection in his tongue however after tests it was found to be an aggressive tumour they could do nothing about. We had to make a decision, one of the toughest you can make, to let Fluff cross Rainbow Bridge and join his friends, heart breaking. That night again the tears flowed it was roles reversed and I was the one trying to be strong for my wife as she’d been my rock through the recent tough times. As we said our goodbyes I really hoped that would be the run of bad luck ending for us as a family, emotionally we were drained and needed a break.

 

Unfortunately the previous nights down feeling carried over into my Wednesday run. The conditions weren’t the best for running on as the wind had picked up overnight and the 50 minutes steady I had planned was abandoned due to the conditions coupled with my head mash, my discipline when out the window.

Some times you have to stop, take a minute and restock.

With the original plan abandoned that dinner time  run became a mixture of easy running, step work, threshold running and hills! Wednesday wasn’t the most productive of runs but at least I ran.

Abandon the original plan take your anger out on the steps.

Thursdays run became more important to get back on track for me I looked at Wednesdays run, there was nothing to take from it but 5.1 miles in the legs, I gave my head a shake and Thursdays speed session was much better. The easy sections I was disciplined, the threshold sections I hit hard and sustained, the steady section was as the easy, disciplined and in 42:30 minutes I was able to cover 5.7 miles. On a final note todays Instagram running picture was me with a statue of Atlas, a man with the weight of the world on his shoulder, highly appropriate for this moment in time.

I know how you feel cocker

Friday brought a well-received rest day and also with it being Friday 13th and with my current luck it was probably best I didn’t go out on the road, who knows what could have happened!! An early night Friday to close down a hard week was in order however  I did set my alarm for 5:30am Saturday due to the fact it’s Long run day! The plan for Saturday was the same as the week before, same route, 75 minutes but see if I can be a bit quicker. I have a few goals for 2017 and one of them is beating my 26.2 PB that currently stands at 3:25:26. This has played a big part in my choices of marathons this year. I intend to give Edinburgh and Berlin my best shot and to get what I want in my head I need to be averaging between 7:20 and 7:25 minute miles, its more than doable and I am determined to do all I can to get there. As I stepped out the door on Saturday it was a colder morning so with my hat, gloves, tights, base layer and head torch all on I head out down a well-trodden route. 10 miles later and an average minute per mile of 7:25 I was home, showered and sat with a brew all before my wife and son had rose from their pits. Saturday was a good run, I enjoyed it and most of all I felt strong running at that average pace, the question is can I now carry that on to the longer long runs? They say it’s a marathon not a sprint however the reason I run is I get there quicker so will see where my training takes me and as we get a few more weeks into training I’ll have a better idea of my capabilities.

 

To finish the week off I was meant to be out on Sunday hill running however due to me being tired and the lack of hills around home I decided to rest and spend some time with the family. I decided I would run my Sunday session on Monday around the streets of Bolton due to you never being too far from a hill! Off to Matel Play in Liverpool we went to meet Thomas the tank engine, Bob the Builder and Fireman Sam, my son loved it and so did we. To finish the week on a positive note on Sunday night I received an email from mapmyrun, which I used to track my runs when I started running in January 2014. I now however use Strava ( Matt Bowman) on the recommendation of some friends who run triathlons competitively, I only run but it works for me. When I logged on to my mapmyrun account I found a 10 mile run recorded on 11th January 2014, the same run I ran on Saturday 14th January 2017 I was pleasantly surprised. I felt really proud when I compered the two times and splits from the two runs. I knew I had made progress over the last 3 years but seeing it in black and white gave me a massive confidence boost, running is a slow burner and there are no short cuts. With hard work, persistence and determination you will see results, listen to other runners and be true to yourself you’ll improve just don’t expect it overnight. Stick at it and safe running all…Thanks for reading.

Same run 3 years apart. Progress

A Hiatus, a year to remember and staying just on the right side of sane…

So after starting to document my thoughts and running journey religiously for 3/4 months last year I fell out of the habit…life got in the way!! So before I blog about my training for Edinburgh Marathon in May a round up of my previous exploits was needed to fill in the gaps. 
As 2016 came to a close I made it my goal to reignite my musings in the form of this blog. So still as an amateur blogger I will attempt to make a coherent and legible attempt at secreting my thoughts from my brain onto ‘paper’

A bit of background first is that I am a 38 year old fella who has previously struggled with not only my physical health but my mental health as well. I started to run to lose weight but also to keep my thoughts the right side of positive which is a massive task at times for me. After shedding the weight and running my first marathon in 2015 I decided 2016 I was to push on slightly more…slightly more ended up with me running 19 races in 10 months. Every PB was broken, some multiple times, and I ended the year covering a 1039 miles which I am immensely proud of.

2016 in numbers 

19 races

3 marathons

1 ultra marathon 

6 half marathons

6 10ks

2 5ks

1 15k obstacle course

1039 miles covered 

Most importantly for me was that over the course of the 19 races I ran people were kind enough to sponsor me. Together we managed to raise £1250 for  the fabulous charity I hold dear to my heart, Bolton Hospice. This was extremely humbling and a very proud moment for me. 

2016 PBs 

10km (40:49) St Helens 10k

21.1km (1:31:36) Vitality Liverpool Half Marathon

42.1km (3:25:26) Vienna Marathon

86.1km (14:11:20) Race To The King (53.5 miles)

As I think back to last year I managed to achieve things I could never have imagined 2 years ago let alone 5 years ago. This was a time when I was 5 and a half stone overweight, Bordering on clinically obese extremely unhappy in my own skin…A time I have vowed I will never return to. The larger days were extremely dark days for me.


 Running aside 2016 was a year my life changed on a personal note and I became a father to a little boy, a little boy who would be one of my main driving forces in all I achieved last year. He brought purpose, smiles and pride to my life he also became a permanent fixture in my finish to races. None more so when at the end of my home town (Bolton) half marathon. With my wife, my son, a friends wife and his children waiting as I was 200 yards from the finish I turned the corner where my eyes met my wife’s and then a sight a will never forget, my sons excitement at seeing his daddy. I grabbed my excited son off my wife and crossed the line holding him in my arm, much to his and the crowd delight. For a split second time stood still and the official photographer captured the moment perfectly. A proud moment captured in a fabulous picture which now adorns the wall at home in the form of a canvas. 


 Running has given me some fabulous memories and through the power of social media it seems a few people have watched, read about and enjoyed my progress. For this I am extremely humbled and it has kept me going in the dark times when everything hurts. 2017 is set up to be just as epic as I push on with a wild, outlandish dream…I’ll explain in later posts and I’ll again be running 3 marathons in 3 different countries. I always get emotional finishing a race but I suspect I will slightly more so when finishing the year running Chester marathon. I shall be 1/5 of a band of merry men (and one woman) who have all either reignited their running or started from scratch in the last 18 months. I promised one particular member of that group I would get him through his first marathon, I’ll get him round…safely. I’ll get him that awesome feeling I got when I crossed the line if 2015 rock and roll marathon in Liverpool. His and our groups months of hard work, discipline and a final 26.2 miles round Chester will be celebrated however I’ve yet to decide if I let any of them cross the line before me…Will my competitive side allow it?? We will see 

16 of my 19 races of 2016 depicted. Every major distance from 5k to 86.1k 

I saved all my numbers from races in 2016 and after a a bit of DIY I was able to produce a canvas display to place on the stairs. Makes me smile every day I walk down the stairs to head out to work. Great memories 

 Instagram-dwarfmash9

Twitter-angrydwarf9

The worst taper ever, flu and planes, trains and automobiles…(+another PB) Vienna marathon 

 Hello it’s been quite a while…Three weeks from my last post and again I can describe them as frustrating however the quote every cloud has a silver lining has been massively appropriate. As I entered into my taper my home life changed quite dramatically and I found that time was at a premium however this wasn’t the reason I had what can be described as the taper from hell!! That was the cold/flu that decided to take as I started my taper. This disrupted my training and became a source of real frustration for me. I’d spent the last 15 weeks training religiously, in races I had been surpassing expectations and I was quietly confident going into my biggest test of the year so far the Vienna Marathon that I could attack my previous marathon PB of 3:50:24 As Vienna approached I still managed to get the runs in but I was feeling quite ill aches, pains, temperature this was my worst nightmare, all I kept thinking was all my hard work will be for nothing if I get a bad run out of Vienna. I’d built myself up for it and I was ready however I wasn’t ready for something threatening my chances. The week before a big race I begin to ask myself the same questions and become quite anxious however when I start the race all anxiety goes away and I fall into a pace, this is normal however I didn’t help myself googling, self-diagnosis and help via the net is as we all know a no no however I challenge anyone to tell me honestly they haven’t at some point done it…My search history involved such phrases as ‘Can I run with Flu’ ‘Running a marathon with flu’ and after a while I was becoming more worried with what I was reading So I gave up.
  My journey to Vienna, which involved all forms of transport planes, trains and automobiles started on Friday 8th April at Liverpool Lime Street with the 7:40am train down to London Euston station followed by a couple of trains to Stansted Airport eventually landing In Vienna around 6pm to arrive at my hotel via transfer by 7pm. This was a long day however the cost of flying from London than Liverpool/Manchester was much less.

 Upon landing in Vienna it was dark the weather was dull and it was raining I found somewhere for some food and then took myself to bed feeling quite honestly awful!! I awoke the next day feeling slightly better however I wasn’t anywhere near what I would expect to feel the day before I was to run a marathon. With Vienna being my first run abroad and only my second ever marathon I was unsure of what to expect and spent quite a bit of time on google maps planning my Saturday making sure I had everything in place for the run in less than 24 hours’ time. Today was the day I had to head down to the expo to pick up my number and begin to soak up some of the atmosphere I also planned to walk to the start from my hotel as well as finding the finish as I planned to walk back after the run to loosen off. I was leaving nothing to chance however as the I reached the expo and headed to the number pick up I was feeling tightness in my legs but I had a decision to make…do I change my starting pen. My place was based on my previous PB time of 3:50:24 and I knew when fresh I was running closer to 3:30:00 so as I reached the front of the line, signed my health waver and my ‘huge’ bib was printed out I asked how I went about reassigning my start position. Even feeling groggy I felt I could give the route a good go so after a short trip to the help desk and a well placed sticker my starting pen had been changed from 3 to 2. After registering I had 10 minutes wandering around the expo picked up my T-shirt, joined in with graffiti on the running wall and had my photo by the official advertising backdrop.

   
  It was at this point my morning dose of day nurse was fading and I was beginning to feel bad again. I headed back to the hotel for a rest then went about my day of fact finding and carb loading whilst mainly trying to keep my mind from worrying about the enormity of run the next day. The one thing I’d promised myself was an early night and after a busy day I crawled into bed around 8:30 however as my mind was active, worrying on if I’d do myself justice the next day. I didn’t manage to get to sleep till gone 11:30pm…so much for rest!! 

Sunday 10th April 2015 – Race day.

I awoke feeling slightly better but my legs felt like lead. I’d planned my routine bath, deep heat and volterol cream on the legs, down to breakfast for a coffee, back to the room as brought my usual pre race breakfast, more deep heat and volterol, changed then begin my walk to the start as bag drop was to leave the start at 8:15am. This was a problem as the race didn’t start till 9am so psychologically I was worrying on my tight legs if I was to be stood in a pen for 15/20 minutes before the race started. As I set out over the Danube the weather was crisp but thankfully the rain had subsided. 

   
 I had made the decision to run in just shorts and a vest. Even though initially it was cold I figured as I got going I’d be better dressed that way than in tights and base layers, however there was an argument to be had for each outfit. As the nerves were building I managed to find my number specific bag drop, made my last preparations and made my way to find my alocated starting pen. I eventually found my pen and squeezed in but I didn’t realise how close I was to the front. With 42,000 runners ( marathon, half marathon and marathon relay) crammed into a small area it was hard to move, you couldn’t see beyond the mass of people however a positive was it was warm due to the sheer number of people!! This was a bonus as the chill was biting at times especially in just shorts and a vest. As time ticked by slowly the elite runners were eventually set on their way the realisation we were next frightened yet excited me…I readied my stop watch, my starva and my playlist and away we went. 17 weeks hard work would be completed today !!

A sea of runners from numerous backgrounds snaked their way over the Danube river jostling for a position, me I had a plan and wanted to stick to it as much as I could. Find a comfortable pace within the first mile and sit on it. I had given myself two targets before I started but I had kept them private so as to not put more pressure on myself.

Target 1 – my dads fastest ever marathon time of 3:39:00

Target 2 – 3:29:59

As 1 mile passed and my Strava notifications told me I was running 7:30 average. This was pleasently surpring as I felt comfortable and more importantly there seemed no repercussions on the bug I’d been fighting. This trend carried on as the route headed out of the city buildings and into a park. This is where I frustrating decided I couldn’t hold the feeling of needing the toilet for 26.2 miles so between mile 3 and 4 I lost 45 seconds having to sort the ‘problem’ out!! Frustrating however I managed to catch up the time in ten next few miles. 

Back home I knew my dad, my wife and a few friends were tracking my  progress on the app and I knew they got updates every 5km so as I passed through the first two check points my consistency was continuing 23:22 for 5km then 23:42 for 10km. The course was enjoyable, wide and flat with decent support along the streets and I could feel around 10km my apprehension had disappeared and I was enjoying the day. I wasn’t nieve to think I could keep this 100% positive thought and feeling going for another 20 miles but I was determined to try!! The miles fell and with water stations every 5km I was able to rehydrate appropriately which was a relief as I’d read stories of water stations in Vienna being a nightmare. This wasn’t the case for me however a couple of friends I met after the run who started in a pen further back did witness a ‘free for all’ at water stations at times which isn’t great as water is essential when putting your body through such gruelling torture. The first test car at 11 miles where the route took a slight incline. Up until that point I was in a pace I was comfortable however this slowed me down slightly and also reminded me that I had 15 miles to go!!! Head down, blinkers on and get on with it!!

   As the course split and the half marathon runners headed to their conclusions I had completed my first half of the run in a respectable 1:39:27. At this the field began to thin out and I had to focus on keeping with my plan, staying consistent and I would get my rewards at the end. The miles continued to fall and I continued to enjoy my run the atmosphere was good spectators and runner and the the weather was holding out however as we hit 30km my thought processes changed. 

30km we ran back into the wooded area we had passed through at 3-5 miles but with an added bit to take us past the stadium in the city. Psychologically I knew I was 12 km off finishing, I knew I was on course for a PB it was just a matter of how big it would be. As the spectators went to zero and the miles became harder on the legs and the mind this was the first point of the race I started to struggle. There was no wall, no niggling doubt of me stopping and walking (that’s never an option) so I had to focus. 32,33,34,35 km fell and this was where my splits began to wobble. 25 minutes between 30km and 35km however the end was in sight if not physically but definitely mentally, I just had to keep pushing. As I dug deep and took my last energy gel which I had planned perfectly, I ploughed through 35-40 km in 26 minutes. At 40km I was notified I had been running for 3:14:00!! Fantastic…This gave me the boost I needed as I knew I had over 35 minutes grace to beat my previous PB I just had to keep going. It was at this point I started to hear the music and spectators at the finishing line but more importantly a poignant song shuffled on to my playlist, the song that reminds me of the reason I started this journey 2 and a half years ago-Creed-with arms wife open, my grandads song. This coincidence alongside the pride I was feeling at knowing I was nearly done as well as knowing that my nearest and dearest were tracking me at home made me extra emotional. As I turned the corner at the Rathaus I could see the finish and a glance at my watch confirmed what I’d hoped my first target was to be smashed. I was now realising the pain but euphoria began to take over. I had a smile to myself  and a double thumbs up to the camera!! I’d made it…

 

The finishing line was crossed and I stopped my watch but didn’t have the vision to be able to see what time I’d recorded and I remember very little about the next few minutes but I obviously scared this fella on the line as he gave out quite a squeal… 

 
I passed through the medal collection to be greeted with a hug from the lady who presented my medal. I grabbed some water and messaged my wife and her response along side the messages I began to receive from my dad made a 37 year old man, balancing on the brink of emotion tip over the edge! They were proud and this meant the world to me, I don’t run for gratification from others however when those you care about most are speechless at your achievements it means a great deal. 

  
I’d completed my second ever marathon, my first abroad, in a personal best time of 3:25:26 which is 24:58 off my last marathon best. Not only that I’d ran it well, avoided the wall and my splits were as consistent as I’ve ever had them and I’d ran my second half just six minutes slower-result!

 
  After changing into warm gear and having a little ‘proud’ cry I began to make my way back to my hotel via a boozer for a well earned pint. News of my success had started to spread and I was beginning to get some lovely and quite humbling messages. It seems my journey had inspired a few people even some people who may not have mentioned it before but have been watching and that made me happy. After a bath and a rest I headed back down the city to meet up with a couple from England who now live in Spain. I’d connected with them through Twitter and specifically the ukrunchat community which has been an invaluable source of motivation and support the last month or so to me. We discussed the run, Vienna and our future running plans. They are running a marathon and 10 triathlons for charity and I tip my hat to them. A great couple loving  life and I thoroughly enjoyed the few hours of beer and chat we had, it rounded off a great day all round. 

I sit here now just about recovered not just from the marathon but the big that threatened to derail my plans and also the travelling. I’m still smiling about the experience as well as deciding how in body art form I celebrate the achievement. I throughly enjoyed my European running experience, it was different to home running timing chips the size of small countries on your lace being one of the differences however it hasn’t put me off. 18 weeks ago I set out on a journey to run a marathon abroad possibly breaking my PB all whilst retaining my love for running. The early mornings layered up through the frost, wind and rain have all been hard but have paid off. A marathon is so much harder than some people realise and running a 20 minute 5km doesn’t mean you’ll run a 3 hour marathon however with dedication, persistence and honesty to yourself you can get close to transferring that drive over 5km into 42km. As a wise man once said to me 

“Fail to prepare, prepare to fail” 

I’m pleased to say in this cycle of training I prepared right and I succeeded! Now onto my next race tomorrow a small matter of a 10km around the scenic village of Port Sunlight on the Wirral but im now keeping one eye on my next big challenge the even smaller matter of 52 miles in a day, an ultra marathon!! Another PB ?? 

  

Inspiring friends, jugling running with life and another huge PB.

As I entered into week 13 of my marathon training I am now fighting a slight dip in motivation. After the previous weekends long run I seem to have fallen into some sort of downwards rut. I have found that life has gotten in the way the last 10 days which unfortunately the knock on effect being my timing of writing this entry being later than normal. This has caused me a problem as using this blog to help clear my running angst has been invaluable on this first cycle of training for a massive year personally. In my recent training a problem I’ve found is with me 5 weeks out from running Vienna marathon is me questioning have I/will I have done enough due to my race commitments. In training the last 13 weeks I have done the following distances as long runs – 10, 12, 13.1 (x2), 14, 16, 20 and 22 

However due to me having 3 races in my final 6 weeks I’m going to struggle to get a final 20 mile+ training run in. With that in mind my 7 week count down I’ve worked to look like this 

7 weeks to go – Great north western half marathon 13.1 (race conditions)

6 weeks to go – 22 miles long training run

5 weeks to go – St. Helens 10k (race conditions)

4 weeks to go – Liverpool half marathon 13.1 miles (race conditions)

3 weeks to go – 16/18 miles training long run

2 weeks to go – 11 miles long run

1 week to go – easy 8 mile long run. 

This I feel will give me a fighting chance of threatening my marathon PB (3:50:24) in Vienna. Also I feel this will put me in a good place physically and mentally knowing I’ve done all I can however I still worry that I’ve missed a longish run in the mix. I’m planning on the hard miles ran in the 10k and 2 half marathons can go somewhat to being just as beneficial as going longer! It’s a gamble I’m going to have to take as I’m losing days rapidly. Also shoehorning extra runs makes me wary of injuries/fatigue which I can do without so close to the main event. 

The training has been going well this week and I’ve started to see the toils of me trying to be disciplined paying off as my body is now getting more comfortable running at a slower easier pace, this has taken me a long time to get comfortable with. 
  
As this week has progressed I’ve focussed my attentions on my second race of the year, the St. Helens 10k race in Merseyside, UK. However I’ve found planning for these types of races has become second nature to me and no longer the daunting prospect they were a couple of years ago, I enjoy these races more and more now. The day of the race arrived and i was flying solo, my support crew of the wife was at work so I headed to a friends who was taking part in what was to be his first ever race. I’d resigned myself to no PB on this run due to the terrain on the run, the undulation of miles 2.5-4.5 and the huge North road to be ran up and down twice. I’d spoken to my wife, discussed what I was going to do, pace I was aiming for (45 minutes) and that the Spring 10k in Sefton park in May would be my best chance of beating 43:03 set last year. However as is the general rule with me things didn’t quite go to plan. 

  
The starting pens were set up starting at 44 minutes, for the elite runners apparently. I’m comfortable running around 44 minutes and I won’t lie being classed as an elite  quite appealing. As an ex fat lad, built for power and not distance I’d earnt that accolade with hard work and my times agreed. Even so I resisted the strong temptation of joining this pen as I didn’t want to put unnecessary pressure on myself. I’m running a 45 minute race, get some discipline and get in the 44-47 pen! It was at this point the snow started to fall, cold wasn’t the word!!  

Luckily being the second pen along the race started quickly and I was able to get the legs going however frustrating it was stuck behind a giant alien and teddy bear who in all seriousness should have been back in the later pens to avoid causing a blockage. Weaving past these inconsiderates I found myself heading away from the rugby ground in st Helens and into the town as my first Strava half mile notification came through, I was fair trapping 3.20 split and on for under 7 minute miles. This made me take notice!! I’d found a pace early and in all honesty I was comfortable, I knew the hill climbs of 2.5-4.5 were coming but knew if I could hit 5k around 20 minutes my PB was to be smashed. 1st mile passed – 6:46, 2nd mile passed just as I started my ascent up north road but I again surprised myself it was quicker -6:41. 

  
As I decsended north road and headed into Victoria Park in St. Helens I passed 5k around 20:30!! This PB is on…one more push up North road from the other end and then the route back to the rugby ground was downhill. Miles 4 and 5 fell as I toyed with a couple of other runners for position me taking them on the hills, them me on the flats but what I’d realised is I was consistent. As we hit 9k and the end not quite in sight I had the lady I’d been yoyoing positions with in front of me and I also felt a presence on my shoulder, someone was trying to come down my inside but I wasn’t moving from my path. I was now in my beast mode, not far from home and more importantly I knew what ever he had wasn’t what I had. I finish strong, there’s always something left, I knew this as I turned the corner into the stadium the after burner switch was flicked and the last 300 yards were quick!  my stalker on my shoulder was banished and I managed to pick off the lady I’d been vying for position with throughout the race. As I crossed the line a glimpse over to the clock and I knew there and then that my second race of the year had brought my second PB . This was confirmed later with my official time of 40:49 over 2 minutes 10 seconds off my previous PB and this one on a course where I expected nothing! A massive result physically and mentally for me, another good day at the office. 

  
There and then my apprehension had vanished and more importantly I felt great, I felt I had more in me, I wasn’t too breathless and my legs were strong…is this training paying off??? Certainly seems like it! My focus now turns to Sunday 13th March and the vitality Liverpool half marathon. A race I’ve done before, a race I’ve PBd before however this year is about testing marathon pace (8-8:10 minute miles) I must stay disciplined. 

I can’t write about race success without a big shout out to a my very good friend and his wife who ran St. Helens with me, Mr and Mrs Bez. Both smashing the run Mrs Bez in 57 minutes and Mr Bez, in his first race ever in around 1:00:40 which he was slightly disappointed with but for his first race it’s a great achievement and definitely something to build on. YES BEZs!!

  

To finish a big thank you needs to go to a good friend of mine from our time as youngsters playing football together in Bolton. He is currently living over seas and has been quietly watching my progress from fat to fit. He’s always been supportive and recently got in touch for some advice on how I found things, what I did to get focused and how I managed this.His kind words resonated with me and unknowing to him helped me push though a difficult few weeks in training and life. Thank you Mr G and good luck in your journey, you’ll smash it!! 

A mental and physical battle but if Rocky can do it so can I…

After a successful first run of the calendar year I entered into week 12 of my marathon training feeling positive and full of confidence. This was a massive positive for me due to the fact I have in some ways been struggling quite badly recently mentally. When you’re feeling low it’s very easy to focus on the negative things around you which In turn compounds the negativity dropping you into a deeper circle of depression. I personally know my triggers but I also know my coping strategies  and when I’m at low points there is nothing better for me than to hit the road. I know it’s a life time battle to stay on the straight and narrow but reminding myself just how far I’ve come helps put me back on an even keel.

I’m 5 foot 5, stocky build (built for power not endurance) and not so long ago I weighed 16.5 stone. My body consisted of 33% fat and couldn’t see my feet to put my trainers on let alone run a mile. After a concerted effort, which was only meant to be 3 months, I now weigh 11 stone, my body consists of 11% fat and I can see not only my feet but also my …. Knees (filthy minds some people!!) since I hit my fitness trail not only has my physical fitness improved so has my mental fitness however there are times that that inevitably dips. Running has kept me sane, given me a release and also given me goals to better myself. A PB in Blackpool gave me the confidence to attack week 12 which was to end with my biggest test yet…22 miles. There’s really  no hiding place now, less than 6 weeks left, so I made a decision to slow myself down to a pace I felt was more sustainable over 26.2 miles.

The first two runs of the week again were to be nice runs but not much to write about. The one thing I will say however was the weather this week around home has been fantastic to run in crisp, sunny and calm-perfect. The first run of the week on Tuesday was to be 40 minutes easy which was welcome after the intensity of my pace in Blackpool. I managed 5.1 miles in 40 minutes through the village and back with an average pace of 7.50 per mile. I’m targeting around 8-8:10 minutes per mile for Vienna so this was a bit better from me and enjoyable.


After core work on Wednesday, Thursday’s run consisted of the following

5 mins easy, 5 mins steady, 10 mins threshold, 15 mins steady, 10 mins easy 

What pleased me most about today was I was disciplined. Easy was easy, steady was steady and threshold I hit it hard! 45 minutes later and 5.7 miles covered I completed my run happy plus the added bonus of a course record on a segment on Strava. A bath, rest and recouperation for my long run on Saturday was all that was planned for the rest of the week.

As Friday progress I started to feel quite nervous and at times I started to question if I could complete the 22 miles I’d plotted. That night I drove the route dropping my water bottles every 3 miles and 2 bottles of lucozade sport at 7 and 14 miles. I hoped this would settle my apprehension but driving the constant climb from 11-17 miles did little to settle the nerves. The reality is the miles need to be done, this is my furthest run before Vienna, everything after it will be down hill till I begin my taper so I had to as they say ‘Suck it up!’

After a reasonable night sleep I woke early had the usual breakfast and I was out in the road by 6:36am. The sun was just beginning to rise, I set Strava on to go, started my watch and Staryed my marathon playlist on shuffle.Instantly  when I heard the first few bars of ‘Eye of the tiger’ I smiled and I began to relax, If Rocky can do it…so can I! Following a route I generally know from my previous 20 mile run a few weeks before I headed down the country lanes towards Bickerstaffe lucky enough to witness a beautiful sunrise (The sun reflecting off the puddle is awesome)


My plan for this run was to average around 8-8:10 minute miles which I figured if I can sustain that over 22 miles I would give myself a fighting chance of beating my previous marathon PB of 3:50:24.

The miles fell and I was feeling strong and as I passed through 11 miles, half way, I was happy, I was dancing at times and  I messaged my wife, who was asleep when I left

‘Good Morning, half way, back in hour and half, run that bath xxxxx’

This very quickly changed as I hit 11.5 miles as this part of my route I hadn’t ran before. It was a gradual climb and that coupled with an unknown route I began to battle my mind. It’s always a good job I’m alone when this happens as I become vocal, I demand things of myself and the air turns blue

“you ain’t stopping now”…”you’ve come too far”…”you ain’t a quitter!! ” 

Eventually as I climbed my final hill at around 16.5 miles I was shot I felt my pace was dropping and I went for the carbohydrate gel to give me a quick boost. The final 10k felt slow but at 19.5 miles when things started to hurt more the boost I got from this was priceless…rocky saves the day again!


For today’s run I had set a goal of 22 miles in under 3 hours so I had no choice but to get my head down and power on through the pain. Surprisingly my pace didn’t drop as much as I thought and as I turned the corner on to our estate 22 miles had been conquered and ultimately under my target time of under 3 Hours.

This was an achievement and more importantly I felt I had another 4.2 miles in the legs. I’d refuelled well during the run taking gels/Jelly babies and dextro tablets when I felt it was needed.  With an 8-8:10 minute pace in mind and a decent start in Vienna my marathon PB is looking threatened however for now I take plenty of positives from this week both physically and mentally. I ended the week feeling much better than I did starting it which is a result!  Back out on the road tomorrow and plan for my second race of the year a small 10k round ST Helens. I will see how I feel about attacking that PB of 43.03 closer to the day and let’s be honest I’m not doing to bad for a mental ex fat lad.

Netty the inspiration, the worst conditions I’ve ever ran in with a PB and the annoyance of dog dirt

As the weeks pass by the reality that Vienna Marathon is now less than 7 weeks away is exciting and slightly daunting. Another week at home meant 3 of this weeks 4  runs had been all around the realative flatness of The village where I live which was a nice change. This was made even more appealing due to the fact I found a new route, through a park, dissecting the village in two. This really helped as I was at the risk of becoming stale running the same routes regularly however as with everything there is a down side. Recently I have become increasing more frustrated during my runs in the playing the game of dodging the dog dirt, even unknowingly trailing some in the house after a 16 mile run. This is even more frustrating as you don’t really want to be bending down cleaning floors of dog dirt after such a distance, inconsiderate and hugely frustrating but less of the negativity. 3 runs through the week with not much to write about other than I have been very disciplined and when easy runs were planned I’ve consciously made an effort to slow down. 

  

As the week progressed I started to focus on the fact my long run on Sunday was my first race of the year the Great North West half marathon in Blackpool. This is when the talking stops and I begin to find out how my training has been going. I’ve been running consistently in training and producing strong times however training and races as we know are different animals. As Sunday grew closer and the weather in Merseyside deteriorated I allowed myself to look at the predicted weather for Blackpool…big mistake. 50mph winds and heavy rain!! Awful, I can handle rain but running through gale force winds is soul destroying. It didn’t matter though, however the weather I was committed to the race and with a mixture of excitement and nerves I went through my pre race routine the night before. 

1) Spaghetti Bolognaise for tea

2) Layout my clothes like the first day of school. Including my new Bolton Hospice Running Vest the charity I’m supporting this next 12 months.

3) Organise breakfast for the morning on the race

4) Reasonably early night.

After a decent night sleep, a pre race bath to loosen the legs and a final check on the predicted weather we headed off up the M6 to Blackpool…it wasn’t looking good

  
I put this to the back of my mind and we arrived in Good time and headed to registration. It was mild and off the promenade front and behind the buildings the wind wasn’t too bad however upon reaching registration this changed. Registration was located on the lower prom and I realised quickly there was going to be no hiding from the fact today’s race would be heavily influenced by the wind. This disappointed me slightly due to the fact of earmarked this race as a potential PB run and secretly I’d harboured hopes of beating my previous 1:38:05 which I’d set at Liverpool half marathon in March 2015. 

I went through my final preparations, said goodbye to my wife And I lined up ready to attck what ever Blackpool had to throw at me. As I was finishing my final stretches and preparations I met a guy I went to university with and had not seen for 16 years stood across from me, bizarre!  After a few minutes catching up on 16 years the race apparently started but I was confused…no real start line…just a mass ‘Off you go’ this left me thinking where do I start my watch?? Where do I start Strava?? Before I’d even started my planning was going belly up and rather quickly!! So I started both my watch and Strava and began to weave my way through the mass of runners where I could. This added more to my frustrations and I’d decided my slight hopes of a PB had definitely gone now for sure! 

The first 3 miles were two smaller loops of the promenade towards North Pier. After  1 mile I’d found my pace and thankfully some space so down went my head and my focus was on the mile I was in. The main body of the race was 2 loops of the promenade up to little Bispam and from approx miles 3-6 the wind was behind us. At this point I was as I say, fair trapping, under 7 minute miles and comfortable. It was at this point I also realised I’d started my watch and Strava around the correct time as my starva notifications and the mile markers I passed were roughly in sync. As I grew into the race I was gaining in confidence as my minutes per  mile were consistent until I turned off the sea front onto the upper promenade! Bang… Here all of a sudden I was hit by a gust of wind that nearly floored me. This was a sign of what the next 2.5 miles had in store, a real eye opener!! The next 2.5 miles were undulating and through the worst winds I’ve ever experienced. People were tucking in behind each other and plodding however I’d eyes on a PB so couldn’t be held back. Now rightly or wrongly I became ill-Disciplined, I left the pack, went head on with the wind and pushed though on my own. Some may say silly however for me to get close to my PB needs must!  

The winds at times were that bad I felt I was going backwards however as I hit 15km at 1:06:30 I knew I was on for a PB. This was helped with my wife encouraging me on and as I battled through the wind past her and another group of fantastic spectators I exclaimed “I’ve paid for this privilege”They found its funny…I didn’t!   
As the corner was turned back onto the lower promenade I knew I had a couple of miles to gain back some ground. So as the waves hammered the sea wall which made the sea spray inevitable I foucssed on the mile in hand and pushed on. It was here I drew inspiration from what I saw in from of me a lady who according to her T-Shirt is called Netty. Netty is 47 and had lost 60lbs of which she was quite rightly proud. As I passed her I shouted well done and high fived her, she may not have been the fastest there but she did it and ultimately it’s not how fast you get there it’s the getting there that counts. People like Netty are an inspiration and she inspired me to push on. Again I turned off the lower prom at little Bispam, up to the upper prom, on my second loop I knew the finish was close if not quite in sight, my battle was nearly won. Battered by the winds, miles 11 and 12 fell by the wayside and all of a sudden the end was in sight, I could see my goal. Every step now was beginning to hurt but my PB was close to being smashed so I had to push on. As I finally crossed the finish line into the funnels a quick glance to my left and I became emotional, again!! I’d done it, through the worst conditions I’d ever ran,I’d broken my half marathon PB. 

 
As I struggled to get my breath and my wife rushed over to greet me I was emotional the announcer congratulated runner 88 Matt Bowman running for Bolton hospice and all I could say was “I’ve bloody done, I’ve beaten it, I’ve done it!” 1:37:39 a good 29 seconds off my last best, absolutely chuffed to bits!! Made sweeter with the fact I finished the 107th runner out of a starting field of 1600 runners.  After collecting my goodie bag, with a great medal, me and the wife made the decision to head straight home. We were both cold and tired, Blackpool had taken it out of us! but we were both proud of what I’d achieved. There was however time to stop at a rock shop on the way home…the wife was even happier then!! 

Blackpool was my first big test this year and with 7 weeks till my first marathon of the year I was hoping for a positive result. There are things I’d probably do slightly different if I race that route again however it’s left me thinking I’m going in the right direction to achieve my goals on 10th April in Vienna. So roll on next weeks runs and 20/22 miles next Saturday however for now I will enjoy the moment and my medal from my fastest half marathon yet!! Happy days