Tag Archives: run

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

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.