Tag Archives: running

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

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!! 

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 

  

The rogue mile over 8 minutes, Mr Pig has friends and going longer…

I am now over the half way mark of my training for this cycle and I’m finding my mind is starting to comprehend the enormity of what I have taken on for this year even more so as I am now less than 9 weeks away from my first marathon of the year. As the miles are increasing I feel I am running stronger than I ever was in my last cycle of training which gives me great encouragement especially with me two weeks away from my first competitive race for a long time. I am really looking forward to it as the course is set up for me to beat my half marathon PB of 1:38:02. I feel I can push my PB close for this race and for that I need to be averaging under 7:30 minutes per mile which won’t be easy but my current form coupled with a flat course I am confident I can at least get close, fingers crossed. Blackpool will also give me more of an idea of where I am with regards race readiness because as we know running alone is completely different as to competing in race conditions when all kinds of different elements come into play. Now don’t get me wrong I am not going to beat all the competition in races and I may not technically win the race however every time I put that number on, lace my shoes and cross the start line of a race I am competing against no one but myself, a onetime fat lad who decided to make a change, every run/race completed is a triumph for me. Having said that I do have goals for every race I compete in and I will talk about them to an extent however for the longer races (Marathons) my goals stay private purely due to the fact running 26.2 miles is pressure enough. For my one and only marathon to date, Liverpool Rock and Roll Marathon, I set myself two targets both sub 4 hours with one at 3:59:59 and the other at 3:45:00 these I felt were realistic but challenging . My pride at crossing the finishing line closer to the quicker of those two times at 3:50:24 was something I’d never expected to feel and I will admit I shed a tear which seems a common occurrence at race finishing lines for me, I’m a fella and we don’t cry however when my wife, my parents and close family are stood at the finishing tape believing in my journey I can’t help but shed a happy tear. 

It’s all too easy to make excuses for not hitting the road and it’s time of year when the new year, new me crowd start to wane and the pavements and gyms become less full of people however the weather recently has tested my mental strength. Here in the North West of England the weather has been changeable and that is putting it kindly however I’ve had to keep telling myself if I can get out and run in the current conditions it will be easier when the weather breaks and spring moves on, difficult but builds character. Having said that I did spend Sunday cocooned on the couch at home only moving when necessary to get supplies which meant I missed a planned 40 minute Fartlek run. The reason behind this was me and the wife had headed for a night away in a hotel spending the night eating fine foods and drinking copious amounts of alcohol on a last date night for a considerable period of time due to circumstance but I’d ran 16 miles before breakfast on Saturday so I felt I’d earnt some down time. This last week has also seen me fighting off some sort of virus which has been trying its best to floor me and put me off my training this has left me with the dilemma of heading out and hopefully banishing the bug or risk making the flu more deep seated and in turn suffering a mental and physical set back due to a bad run. This is a very thin line to walk bit it has been a risk worth taking this week as I can’t afford to let up on the training now .

 

Tuesday 10 minutes easy, 15 minutes steady, 10 minutes easy

 

Again the weather had been threatening and we were in the grip of our 6th named storm of the last few months, Henry! An easy enough run was planned and I felt this had come at the right time due to the fact I wasn’t feeling 100% however as I headed out from work I found the pace I felt I was running at was easy however Strava informed me I was running at 7:35 minutes per mile. This surprised me and over the last few weeks I’ve felt as if I’d been plodding at an easy pace but when I’d finished runs my pacing had been around the 7:40-7:45 min miles, an indication the training I am doing is working for me and I have found a comfortable pace, two things that make me very happy. As I headed out on my first mile I passed Bolton Hospice which is a place close to my heart and somewhere I care a lot about due to the support they showed my family during the final days of my grandads life. The work the hospice does is invaluable it’s for this reason I will be supporting the hospice by raising much needed funds to help other families like mine. I could speak at length about the hospice, and I will in future blogs, but they and my grandad are the driving force for my 2016 journey and I am proud to wear their badge on my training T-Shirts and race vests. The ladies behind the counter are always welcoming and have a smile for you and when I turned up unannounced to take a quick selfie for my twitter feed they were happy to oblige and wish me well on the rest of my run. After this I felt energised and headed off up the road happy eventually completing a reasonably scenic 35 minutes of running covering 4.5 miles. A decent days work however I was aware that 20 minutes of this run should have been ‘Easy’ I noted more discipline is needed in my runs but thought if I can do it why not push that little bit harder?? A plan is to follow and adapt to your needs…exactly what I did today.

35 mins dinner run  

  

Thursday60 Minutes Steady

 

Thursday was time to talk, mental health awareness day which I found quite appropriate for me to be heading out on a run at dinner time. For me personally these two things are intrinsically linked due to the fact I’ve used, and continue to use, one to combat the other. When I started this journey of fat to fit I did it as I wasn’t happy in my own skin, I was suffering mentally due to a number of personal issues and I wasn’t happy in my work. I’m pleased to say I am no longer fat, I no longer have the personal issues I had and I am on more of an even keel that I was 3-4 years ago however work still is the cause at times of some issues. This is one of the main reasons I head out in my dinner break to mentally fly tip the rubbish I have heard, gathered, experienced in the morning and it also takes me to a place where I’m comfortable. Today was a good run and an enjoyable mix of inclines and descents but it was also a source of slight frustration for me as I look back on the previous weeks running as it was the only run where I ran a mile over 8 minutes!! Of 29 miles ran this last week one was 8:04 minutes…this does my OCD no favours and drives me mad ! I was on reflection glad over all that I headed out for my run today as it helped settle my mind of a few niggles and doubts but that 8 minute + mile has left a nasty taste in my mouth 😉 I am however still running strong and hitting the hills of Bolton has left me excited and quietly confident for my loner run at the weekend around the flatter roads of Merseyside. Bring it on.

 60 minutes steady

Saturday16 Miles Long Run (Practise Hydration and nutrition)

 

As the weeks creep by I am become increasing more nervous as weekends roll around as I know this is when my runs need to be long. I am not a athlete by a long stretch but I can label myself a runner I’m extremely comfortable running 10k distance and thrive at half marathon distance however even after completing a marathon previously along with all its training I still have a certain amount of apprehension when going over 13.1 miles. I certainly felt this as I sat eating my breakfast at 6:30 am on Saturday mentally preparing myself to go the furthest distance I have been since June 2015. Will I last the distance? Will I be able to sustain a reasonable pace? Will my refuel plan work? Will my water bottle still be there after I placed them at 3.5 mile intervals the night before? I planned my nutrition and hydration as follows

 

Every 2 miles A jelly baby and a Dextro tablet

Every 3.5 miles a water stop ( 3.5 miles, 7 miles, 10.5 miles and 14 miles)

Carbohydrate gel before the run and at 7 miles

 

As I headed out in to the dark morning the sun had not started to get its hat on so I headed out with my head torch on this was essential due to the fact the first 3 miles of the run were to be on dimly lit country roads. The road was peaceful and as I passed from Merseyside into Lancashire heading towards Ormskirk I passed or was passed by very few souls, I was enjoying the tranquillity and I found my pace quite quickly. I was comfortable and as I reached my first water drop I was pacing well and feeling strong however some kind hearted white van driver tried to derail this by driving his van at me as I ran through Aughton towards Ormskirk. This annoyed me as it was now light and there was no one else on the road. Unfortunately I was too slow to take my phone out of my pocket to take a photo but needless to say he wasn’t man enough to stop his van when I voiced my obvious disgust. As I reached the 10k mark I was looking at around 45 minutes gone and still feeling good however I also knew that the biggest mental test was to come as I reached 7.5 miles. At this point I turned the corner onto St Helens road to head out of Ormskirk past Edge Hill College. This road is roughly 2.5 miles to my next turning and exposed to the elements (In my previous training cycle I’d tweaked my knee falling off a kerb due to being caught by a cross wind) It was a constant steady climb and I hate it!!! It was at this point I thought my pace had dropped and I was pleasantly surprised when Strava told me that although I had lost a few seconds I still hadn’t gone over 8 minutes for a mile. This spurred me on and as I turned left off the road I resent a wave of confidence washed over me. Last week’s 14 mile run was a good run however the 5th mile had been run in 8:03, this again niggled at me, and I thought today I’m pushing for none over 8 minutes. I got my head down and vocalised my thoughts “The back of its broken now Matt” “ Keep pushing, you know the route, enjoy it” and my favourite as I began to feel a bit of pain “ Stop being soft!”

 

As 13.1 miles came and went I knew I wasn’t far from home and also a few little quirky things helped me dig deep. As I head out of Skelmersdale onto the Rainford By Pass there is a farm and when I have passed on previous runs there’s been one Pot Bellied Pig in the field. He seemed happy and was snout deep in a pile of potatoes but when I told my wife about this and she seemed concerned that ‘Mr Pig’ was lonely. Today as I passed the field I was pleased to see that ‘Mr Pig’ had many friends and he wasn’t lonely!!! Jenni will be pleased I thought. 

   

 
  
The final few miles of the run were easy and all the questions I had posed in my head before the run had been answered with positive outcomes, today had been a great day! Onwards and upwards and here’s to another small triumph in my ever evolving journey.

  
 

My mind now moves onto week 10 of my training plan and a longer run of 20 miles to come next weekend. I have had to shuffle my longer runs forward due to my race schedule over the next few months however I am hoping if I can get 2 x 20 miles and 1 x 22 miles in as training runs before Vienna then I will be confident. Vienna is slowly creeping up and I want to be as prepared as I can be to do myself justice. This year promises to be a defining one in my fledgling running career!!   

Spotting wolves in Sheep’s clothing, Fruit bats and Rays…

 When I initially started writing this blog I did so with the sole intention of updating every week but recently I’ve found I’ve become more sporadic in my posting. As I’ve previously mentioned I wanted to use this platform to help me in some ways compartmentalise my runs and thoughts. As someone who suffers from over thinking, not just with running but in life as a whole, I find this medium helps me. If through writing this blog it helps others get new ideas, see that they aren’t the only ones suffering with certain aspects of runs or they generally enjoy just reading the ramblings of a 37 year old trying not to grow up, I’m content with that. 

I used social media whilst training for my first marathon to my advantage. I shared runs, I shared my thoughts and even if people asked i’d share tips! What I was doing was working for me and people were taking notice. This however has it’s draw backs as you find in all successes small or large there will always be a few people who can not handle someone achieving. There’s always people who want to compete however we are now in 2016 and a quick Google search can generally find things, so even if the garmin photo tells people one thing, the race result doesn’t lie…. Competition it’s not a bad thing but ultimately my race, my battle is with me. I want to beat my own PBs, segment times on Strava etc others don’t enter the equation however I do pay attention to those who don’t clap when I win,  I am always aware of the wolf in sheep’s clothes. That negativity is quickly banished from my life as I need people around me who are genuinely pleased for me others can ‘Jog On’ pardon the pun 😃

I am now into week seven of my training and this is suggested I take an easier week. This has been a god send in all honesty we are coming to the conclusion of our holiday and it has been the hottest weather I’ve ever experienced. The heat and humidity has made every step difficult and I have also had to adapt some runs but ultimately I’m happy I’ve ran out here. 

 Two of the my last 4 runs have been inside on a treadmill, not ideal but needs must, this is the sensible option.  On Saturday I was due to do a ten mile run 1:20:00 and decided this was going to be inside so I went early to turn the air conditioning on in the gym. This I thought would keep the room cooler so I’d be able to reach the 10 miles however even after a couple of hours of air conditioning the heat was intolerable. I actually managed 5 miles went through a 1.5 litre bottle of water and I was slightly disappointed however it’s five miles I hadn’t done the day before. From this run I reaffirmed with myself that I genuinely hate treadmills!! 

With the last statement in mind I had to apprehensively head back to the gym as I’m struggling to find hills to do some reps on here on the island!!! I wasn’t looking forward to this run and planned out 10 minutes easy, 25 minutes hill work, 10 minutes easy. Increasing the gradient of the hill 2% every 2 minutes. This worked well and before I knew it I had reached 4 miles in 35 minutes out of a gradual hill climb. I pressed cool down, walked the last ten minutes triumphant for one reason and one reason only…no more treadmill! 

Tuesday I headed out for 35 minutes easy around the island not really thinking and instantly regretting the decision running at 11:45 am!!! Possibly the worst time to run as the sun was virtually at its peak and unforgiving. 3 laps of the island complete with water stops every lap I could think of no better way to cool off than straight into the sea. Lesson learnt but I’m not sure I will experience the heat I have here back in Bolton, even if it is the same sun!! 

I decided Wednesday would be the last run of the holiday and I’d agreed to head out early one morning before the heat well and truly hit on a jog round the island with my wife. We’d heard reports of Rays, sharks and turtles out before the sun rises. I was determined to enjoy this last run even if I’d over indulged the night before (this will be cut out completely on our return to the UK, no beer!!) As we headed past the water bungalows Mrs Marthonman9 was excited!! The heat was tolerable and the sun was just thinking about making an appearance. I was enjoying it even more so as it was a run with the wife. She can always now answer the Maldieves when someone asks her the most exotic place she’s ran!! 

   
 
We headed down onto the jetty as part of our 1.5 mile loop of the island we were greeted by not one but two rather large rays enjoying the peace and quiet, that was until we arrived. With my heavy feet and the wife excited chatter, I could see what they were thinking…Bloody Brits abroad!! I must admit it was an awesome sight and not something I usually see running round the streets of home. 

   
 
As the Rays went on their way so did we and round the island we kept our eyes out for sharks patrolling the water edge or a fruit bat flying between the palm trees. One bat and a fully risen sun to finish we managed 2 laps of the island in 30 minutes which works out around 3 miles. The wife was chuffed, I was too, however it was tinged with slight sadness that my next run would be on the Tarmac roads of Merseyside and not the perfect white sands of a Maldivian island.

I will take a lot from this experience and I feel privileged to have been able to run in such a beautiful place. It has been paradise and I am ready to head back to running in the uk in my running tights, base layers, bobble hat and gloves!!! Running creates some memories and feelings that last for a lifetime and this last 10 days has given me them in abundance. The serious mileage hike starts next week and I turn my focus to clean living, shedding some weight and getting up to racing speed with an eye on the great North western half marathon in Blackpool at the end of February. I’m after a PB there!! 

  

Spreading Christmas cheer, a shocking phone battery and running into the hills. 

When you don’t have children Christmas isn’t quite the same however when you have a wife like mine you don’t need kids!! Excited isn’t the word. Christmas for us is spent alternating between My parents house in Bolton and my in laws in Liverpool which has its downsides as you end up spending lots of time travelling however this Christmas worked out brilliantly. Run wise I’d made my decision to run Christmas Day so as I drove home from work on Christmas Eve I stopped by the shops to buy a Santa hat and beard! If I was going out running I was entering into the Christmas spirit and doing it dressed as Santa! 

After opening our presents at home we headed out to the in laws the plan was to open more presents, spend some time and when the presents had been opened and before our Christmas dinner I was going to head out on the road. I was prepared for the run both mentally and physically and the few days rest had done me the world of good. I was also to have a running partner for a while during the run. My brother in law who recently started running to get fit and in the summer ran tough mudder was to head out with me. He’s decided 2016 is his year, he’s going to sign up for a marathon and complete the 26.2 miles of pain that Invareiably brings. We don’t run at the same pace however as we know it’s not how fast you get there it’s the getting there that counts. We sorted ourselves and much to the wife’s surprise I emerged from getting changed in by Santa hat and beard. I was ready!!! 

  
Christmas Day 1 hour 20 minutes long run.

As we headed out onto the streets of Litherland the weather was reasonable slight drizzle but still quite warm, us in the north of England found out Christmas Day the weather was to deteriorate and the region would be battered by rain that caused terrible floods and misery for a huge number of people. 

Using a route I’d planned on strava we set off on the flat roads that surround Liverpool and the first mile passed at around 8:30 min per mile, I felt comfortable and, Dan, the brother in law was hanging in following my lead. Our biggest surprise as we hit the main road was the reaction we was getting from the locals going about their journeys. As we ran, me in a Santa hat and beard, Dan in a Santa hat, each car that passed beeped their horns, waved vigorously or put  thumbs up. We were making people smile the Christmas cheer was spreading!! 

  
As we hit around 2.5 miles I had started to lose my partner, I’d got a comfy pace and was enjoying the run people were smiling, I was smiling and feeling strong. Around 3 miles I turned on my heals to find Dan however I realised quickly he’d headed home, I was now on my own. I continued my journey and I was running sub 8 minute miles whilst thinking back to the previous run I’d done with my work gear on my back – did that help me for today? Should I do it more often? Questions I didn’t really answer but they occupied my mind for a short while. As I hit 3.5 miles I was in full flow leaving the main roads behind and now heading in to more tricky country roads with very little pavement on a road called Virgins lane…I did stop to see if Mary and Joseph were in however they’d taken Jesus out for a walk so I continued on my journey. 

  
When strava hit five miles the roads become more water logged and pavementless So I decided it was safer for me to retrace my route back home. 

Unfortunately  as I clocked 7 miles my music suddenly stopped and as I checked my phone the battery had died. This frustrated me to a point but it meant I could hear the people on the pavements passing on wishes as well as people shouting from cars. Normally it’s abuse however today people were happy, comments were happy, I was happy and as I arrived back home I was strong and felt I could have gone further but that’s can wait. 

All in all a strong, enjoyable run for not just me but a few residents of the fantastic city of Liverpool, they made my day. I could enjoy my Christmas dinner without any guilt !! 

https://www.strava.com/activities/455999837

On Boxing Day a quick trip home from the in laws and clean clothes replenished we headed over to my parents house in Bolton. As I previously mentioned the weather had turned nasty and roads flooded all over the region so I made the decision I was to run on Sunday. This was ideal as I had to incorporate a 25 minute hill run and after my Christmas Day run I was confident. As I was awoke early on Sunday and I looked out the window the conditions were perfect, I was heading out this chance wasn’t going to be lost!! 

Sunday10 minutes easy, 25 minute hill run, 10 minutes easy.

45 minutes was the time running which isn’t a problem however with a hill run planned today was going to be tough. My parents have lived on the outskirts of Bolton for 34 years just off a road which heads out onto the moors called Smithills Dean road. This is a constant incline which has been a nemisis of mine over the years however today’s run would not just incorporate the Dean it would also take in some of winter hill. 

I headed out from the parents down the Dean as I had plotted my 10 minutes easy to take me away from Smithills Dean road. This meant I could attack the full climb that the Dean brings, awesome! After me easing into my run I hit 10 minutes and I started my assent of Smithills Dean at 1.5 miles. At this point I was feeling ok, not as strong as previous runs but I put that down to the amount of chocolate is consumed the previous two days!! The sun was out, I shortened my stride and got my head down focussing on a few feet ahead of me. This climb was going to take all my strength mentally and physically. 

 
Smithills Dean seems to go on for ever and when you reach a peak you see there’s still more to go and that can be soul destroying however it will never beat me!! I kept my focus on my breathing and the few feet of road ahead. Strong arms, deep breaths “you ain’t beating me” I kept repeating, glad the road was quiet as my language did turn blue for a while!   

    

  

  

  
As the hill progressed I saw a runner I front of me he appeared at the right time, doubt was creeping in, I decided I was catching him. I was challenging myself, stimulating my mind and keeping the thoughts off what was hurting, which was everything!! As the steps passed I gained ground on my competitor and after what seemed an age I caught up, a nod of the head and a simple morning was exchanged. I’d made the top and caught my target I was euphoric however I soon crashed back to earth realising I still had an ascent of 1 mile up a road onto winter hill, gutted!! Head back down, focus back on and final push. Frustratingly just at this point my phone battery died again!!! (iPhones battery is awful and I’m off to upgrade next week as a matter of urgency-1st world problems I know but mentally my music helps me when running, I need it!) 

I reached the end of the road where I knew this was 3 miles home so I turned back on myself again euphoric as I knew what goes up must come down!! My last push home was a descent, brilliant. It also meant I was able to take in the stunning views I had as I plodded home. The sun was out I could see the Peak District, the Welsh hills from the road I was on but more importantly I could see the top of my parents house through the trees. I won’t deny the climb was a slog, it took all I had and I didn’t really enjoy it but the descent home was brilliant and the sense of achievement I was feeling was overwhelming. Alongside this view and more miles in the legs today was a success and something to definitely build on after a few days rest. 

   
 https://www.strava.com/activities/457045481

In conclusion an enjoyable Christmas period with a few runs added for good measure but more importantly for me NO ALCOHOL…result!!!