Carrot and Stick – Week Beginning 26 March

Sunday 1st April 2018

I haven’t broken 15 minutes for 5k yet.

This troubles me greatly; I regularly think about the fact that I have not yet ticked this off my list despite years of trying. (As an aside, this is not even a joke. I literally do have a ‘to do’ list by the front door with a series of tasks crossed off, with a sad, lonely ’14:59′ uncrossed at the bottom of it. It has been sitting there since last July.)

Not realising that I possess ample amounts of intrinsic motivation already, my wife has decided that doubt and provocation are now the best ways to ensure I achieve my goal. Where carrot has failed, stick is its substitute. It started again yesterday:

“I don’t think you’re ever going to break 15 minutes.”

“Yes I am”

“How do you know?”

“Look, I’m going to alright, I just haven’t done it yet”

“I don’t believe you”

And so on.

As it turns out, I need neither carrot nor stick right now. I give myself plenty of stick already. I know I’m going to do it. Those 5.6 remaining seconds are going to be sliced off my PB and one day I will wonder what all the fuss was about. I just hope that day is soon.

My Week

Monday: 15km easy (15)

Tuesday: AM 10km easy / PM hurdle drills + track session – 4*1000,4*600,4*400 off 200 jog – 3:03,00,58,58 1:47,45,46,44 70,68,68,67 (27)

Wednesday: rest (0)

Thursday: AM 10km easy / PM 15km easy, weights (25)

Friday: AM 12km easy / PM 13km easy (25)

Saturday: road session on 12 stage course – 1,2,3,2,1,2,3,2,1,2,3,2,1 minutes, strides (18)

Sunday: AM 16km easy / PM 12km easy (28)

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Getting into Good Habits – Week Beginning 19 March

Monday 26th March 2018

Just over a year ago when having a clear out, I was faced with a decision. My guitar was sitting in the corner, unplayed, unloved and out of tune. I had bought it aged 14 but not played for the best part of a decade. I didn’t want to get rid of it but it felt foolish to leave it gathering dust if I wasn’t going to play. So I did. Badly.

For the last four months I have been playing every day and am now at around the same level I was in my late teens. I am improving with regular practice. I rarely go on a four-hour guitar bender like I did when I was 16 but nor do I go a day without playing. It turns out that if you really want to get good at something you just need to be disciplined; all the stuff I tell my students about practice and hard work might actually be true!

I have no problem getting out for runs but have more trouble forcing myself to carry out the other elements of training that are beneficial like stretching, strength and conditioning exercises, sleep. Last week I did two core sessions and a weights session but nowhere near enough stretching. I am going to take the approach I have tried to take with playing guitar; little and often. Setting myself achievable but regular goals is the way forward.

My Week

Monday: AM 10km easy / PM 12km easy (22)

Tuesday: AM 9km easy / PM road session – 4 sets of 1300,800,500 off 75s (27)

Wednesday: 15km easy (15)

Thursday: AM 10km easy / PM 16km progression run 57:33, weights (28)

Friday: rest (0)

Saturday: AM parkrun in 15:39, 6*45s grass hill reps / PM 9km easy (25)

Sunday: 24km easy (24)

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16 Seconds – Week Beginning 12 March

Sunday 18th March 2018

I took over in the lead, a 59 second cushion separating me from the chasers. No one in sight in front or behind. I ran a controlled effort up the first hill, not wanting to put myself in the red so early in a leg that would last nearly half an hour. The only indication I had that I was actually in a race were the shouts from the odd spectator I knew. It was bitterly cold, by far the coldest I have ever been in a race. Had the snow started falling any earlier I am certain this year’s Midland 12 Stage Road Relay would have been called off.

By the time I reached the flat section after the first hill the snow was coming down heavily; by the time I reached the out and back section I was in the midst of a full blizzard. The motorbike that normally leads the men’s race was nowhere to be seen; this was a surreal experience. This is a desperately quiet part of the course. Being the furthest section from the finish, it is rarely visited by spectators. I started passing runners from the women’s race. The presence of other humans awoke me from the lull of concentration I had found myself lapsing into. I pushed on, struggling to gauge my effort in the presence of athletes running much more slowly. Shortly after the turn I saw one of my competitors for the first time in the race. And another. And another. It occured to me at this point that it was impossible to end the day with a positive number next to my name. There was no one to pass but plenty of people trying to pass me. The gap to second had shrunk significantly and I made it my goal not to relinquish the lead that my team mate had worked so hard to set me up with. I listened for shouts of encouragement behind me that might indicate that I was about to get caught. By the time I started hearing them I was in the last mile. Having raced on it for years I know the Sutton Park course like the back of my hand and knew that if I could get up the short hill before the finish with a few seconds in hand I could probably hang on. Lungs and calves burning, I gave one last big effort over the hill and launched my finishing kick as I rounded the last corner. The gap was not getting any smaller by this point and cheered on by my teammates, I hung on. By two seconds.

This was only part of the day’s excitement though. Behind us, Bristol were slowly making their way through the field and setting up one the best races I have seen in Sutton Park. They took the lead on leg 7 and extended their lead to around a minute. We had three strong runners on the last three legs though, and started clawing back at the deficit. At the start of leg 12, they were half a minute ahead. By this point, I was out on the course, running between different points to offer my support. 20 seconds by the top of the hill. The gap was closing. Sadly, however, it didn’t close enough and we ended the day with silver medals for our efforts. After over four hours of racing, the first two teams were separated by a mere 16 seconds. One hundred metres after 47 miles of running.

I was cold, tired, hungry and was losing feeling in my fingers, but I was happy.

My Week

Monday: AM 10km easy / PM 13km easy (23)

Tuesday: AM 10km easy / PM road session 10*500 off 90s, did not complete session (22)

Wednesday: 12km easy (12)

Thursday: 8km easy (8)

Friday: rest (0)

Saturday: Midland 12 Stage, Leg 2 – 28:10, team were 2nd (18)

Sunday: AM 17km easy / PM 8km easy (25)

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Catching Up – Week Beginning 05 March

Sunday 11th March 2018

Yesterday I competed for Warwickshire at the inter counties. Although my relatively poor performance on the mud meant that I did not catch up with many people in the literal sense of the phrase, it was great chance to catch up with friends. Tim and I used to run together several times a week when he lived in Birmingham but see each other infrequently these days. As we were both racing we agreed to meet up afterwards, and in the warmth and comfort of a pizza restaurant in Loughborough, caught up, reminisced and talked about mutual friends. Running a race is a good excuse to get together. In fact, the last three times I have met up with Tim have been in running-related circumstances. Some time soon we should meet up without needing to run or watch athletics before hand, just like normal people do.

Less expected, though, was bumping into a runner I knew at university who I had not seen for ten years. Running together at various stages of the race, we exchanged some knowing glances but did not say anything until we crossed the finish line two seconds and two places apart (he won). “I know you” was the best I could come up with. John replied with “you’re Ed Smith.” He got my first name correct. We chatted, moaned about the course, talked about racing plans and exchanged email addresses. Later that evening I looked at my phone to see an email from John, presumably sent from a coach somewhere between Loughborough and Edinburgh, asking how I was and telling me about his plans.

I don’t just run because it is a good outlet for my spare energy or because of the sense of purpose and achievement it gives me; I like the friendships that are forged on the track, the mud and the road. Runners are just about the only people who understand other runners and I have formed some good friendships through this great sport.

My Week

Monday: rest, unwell (0)

Tuesday: rest, unwell (0)

Wednesday: 15km easy (15)

Thursday: AM 10km easy / PM 10km with 2 miles hard (20)

Friday: 7km easy (7)

Saturday: Inter Counties XC, Loughborough – 115th (16)

Sunday: 22km easy (22)

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An Unexpected PB – Week Beginning 12 February

Sunday 18th February 2018

I have done 51 parkruns now and yesterday was the quickest of the lot. I hadn’t planned a Saturday morning blast but felt good at the start and decided to test myself. Although 15:36 on its own is not a particularly spectacular 5k time and nowhere near my best, I was pleased to run a relatively quick time on tired legs in the middle of a 90 mile week before I had really woken up. My fitness is good at the moment and I am excited for the next couple of races.

My Week

Monday: AM 10km easy / PM 12km easy (22)

Tuesday: AM 10km easy / PM 16km tempo run 56:31 (28)

Wednesday: 17km easy, drills and hurdles (17)

Thursday: AM 9km easy / PM 17km moderate (26)

Friday: rest (0)

Saturday: AM parkrun in 15:36, strides / PM 9km easy (26)

Sunday: 25km easy (25)

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