Tag Archives: weight loss

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

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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!! 

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 

  

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!!   

Fighting jet lag, the smell of sprouts but I’m a beast…

It’s been a week since we returned to the U.K. From our honeymoon in paradise in the Maldives and to say I was dreading this weeks running is an understatement. I’d spent 10 nights on holiday drinking much, much more than I usually do with the same applying to gorging on food. This, however offset with some running, I still left me feeling bloated and a few pounds heavier. Even with the few pounds added I hoped the running to keep me ticking over would stand me in good stead for week 8 of my training and the inevitable step up in miles that brings. 

The week didn’t start too well as we landed early Saturday morning after around 24 hours travelling, 3 flights and a car journey we were on our knees tired and there was no chance I was going out for my Saturday 50 minute long run!! I went out Saturday night and after a few beers I ended up staying on a friends couch, waking early on Sunday morning after 5 hours sleep and walking 7 miles back home. I told myself this would replace my run for the day…I was kidding myself and ultimately just delaying the inevitable. I was letting my mind cheat me and this needed to be nipped in the bud before it began to poison my routine. My first real test mentally of my training had arrived and it was going to be a tough one. I had to rid myself of the lay on a sunbed, drinking beer under a Maldivian sun attitude and focus on the here and now, I’m no longer on holiday and my first race is 4 weeks away, I must knuckle down. However it seems I found an ideal motivator in the form of this… 

I’ve now adopted this as my theme tune and my motivator. This song was to form the base of my marathon playlist. Tunnel vision and blinkers on I was ready for Tuesday’s run.

Tuesday 40 minutes easy. 

Although apprehensive I was glad the first run back in reality was an easy one. The weather on Tuesday wasn’t the best and a complete contrast to the previous weeks excursions however no excuses I was heading out back on to the streets of Bolton. Mentally I was in the right place for a run however this was tested within an hour of being back in work. Work can be a cause of frustration for me due to circumstances out of my control so running during my dinner hour helps me massively and today was going to be a massive help. For the days run I plotted a different route ive not done before but still incorporating a few parts of routes I’d ran previously. A steady climb for around 3 miles across town then down hill for 2 to finish giving me a 5 mile loop in 40 minutes. Through out the run I felt strong and again my apprehension began to fade, I should be more confident in myself at times but insecurities do creep in. My worries that I’d lost my strength and strong running whilst I’d been away were quashed can I carry this into my next runs that is the question.

40 minutes easy 
Thursday54 minutes threshold run 10 minutes easy (2 x 15 minutes threshold 2 minutes easy) 10 minutes easy. 

Bouyed by the success of the previous run I actually woke up looking forward to going out for Thursday’s run even if it involved threshold running!! This has been a more familiar feeling over the last few weeks and something I need to keep hold of without a doubt. To keep the confidence high I adapted my route from the previous run but extended it by 2 miles as I had an extra 14 minutes to run. This incorporated a slightly longer incline run of around 3.5 miles but then generally the rest was down hill, when running the hills I repeatedly remind myself of the fact what goes up must come down, it helps me battle the inevitable pain inclines bring. Again the weather was threatening and the first two miles of the run was through wind and rain however it suddenly broke and the blue sky’s appeared and I had to question if I was actually in Bolton or back in the Maldives!! As I completed the 54 minutes covering 7.2 miles with an average pace of 7:26 and a King of a segment on Strava, I was happy. The minutes per mile at the moment are consistent, when I finish I feel I can continue and most importantly I’m throughly enjoying myself! This however could all come crashing down on my 14 mile long run this Saturday, fingers crossed it doesn’t especially as I’m still suffering jet lag!!! 

54 minute threshold run
Saturday14 miles long run.

After waking at 6am there was a certain amount of apprehension due to the fact I was due to run the furthest I’ve ran so far in this current training programme. I am back round Merseyside, I’ve ran the planned route before and I’d also driven the route the previous night hiding small amounts of water to help with my hydration. I went through the breakfast routine, packed my jelly babies and extra gels and headed out into the cold Merseyside morning.

My route was to take me cross county out of Rainford on a steady climb towards Billinge. The beauty about running around where I live is the quietness of the country, you can be on your own, no distractions however you do get some strange smells!! Cabbages, slurry and today’s favourite sprouts-Thousands of them!! 

 
I don’t even like to eat them let alone smell them so it’s no surprise as I ran miles 4-5 today, past fields upon fields of sprout plants, I lost some time. This frustrated me as all my miles pacing, apart from mile five today, was below 8 minutes…bloody sprouts.
I was however enjoying this run, I was feeling strong and as the miles passed I decided record a usual idiotic video of myself and post it to Facebook  for my still sleeping friends. The only time I struggled today was on the long exposed run down the east Lancashire road towards Liverpool as I headed for the Rainford bypass. The wind was biting and I had no choice but to get my head down, eyeballs to the floor and push through till I turned the corner onto the long 5 mile hike back home however here in lies another problem! I don’t like running this road, it’s tedious and a climb, not a big climb but constant. As the miles fell I started to feel some doubt creeping in which I could do without however as I approached my final water drop my phone played a blinder and shuffled in one of my go to songs  

 
This song is usually my start song my intense, adrenalin pumping race song however when it came on at 12 miles it gave me the boost to begin to push thorough the final few miles. I was a re-energised and even more so when my current go to song shuffled in-beast! this caused me to hit repeat 1 and run the last mile and a half listening to just that one song. As I turned the corner of the final few hundred meters of my run I was still feeling strong and I won’t lie was feeling rather pleased with myself. I’d conquered today, I’d won the battle and earnt a rest however I will say part of my mind wandered to next weeks 16 miles outing. I’m currently running well, pleased with my output and riding the preverbial crest of a wave however I’m also aware that can change very very quickly, a Recovery run tomorrow so that’s my focus is no further.