Saturday, 13th January 2007 – Wyken Croft Park, Coventry
I don’t remember much about it, but the records show that I took part in my first ever Birmingham and District Cross Country League race for my university. Aged 19 and competing in division two I managed a lowly finishing position of 87. This was probably no more than I deserved given the half hearted nature of my training at the time. Running was, at the time, vying for space on my schedule with maths lectures, travelling to Birmingham to visit my then girlfriend (now wife), playing football, watching football, seeing bands, working a part time job and going out like any self-respecting undergraduate does.
What I do remember, though, is that it was painful and humiliating. My memory of the day is largely in black and white, though I appreciate that this may be as much due to the passing of time as it is to the fact that most Saturdays in January tend to appear this way when I look back on them. I was unfit and underprepared. Eighty six people beat me and I didn’t make Warwick’s scoring six.
Saturday, 1st December 2018 – Warley Woods, Birmingham
Hoping to make amends for some poor pacing that cost me several places in the field and my club the win on the day three weeks earlier, I set off conservatively, allowing myself to drift back to around 50th at the end of the first lap. Division one in this league is a high standard of competition, but I know that a lot of the athletes ahead of me have overcooked it and will come back. On the second and third laps I move through the field, picking one man off at a time. Ahead of me I can see five other runners from my club occupying positions in the top ten. We are bossing the race at the front and I now need to pick up as many places as I can to keep our team score as low as possible. I continue to move up and into the top twenty. I am starting to run out of room to catch all the guys ahead who are coming back to me. I cross the line in 18th regretting not having taken a few more places in the last mile. Those 18 points contribute to a team total of 48, more than enough to take us to the top of the league. We’re going to be hard to catch now.
Sunday, 9th December 2018 – Telford 10k
I stepped off the road in a race this morning, the first time in many years that I have ended the day with ‘DNF’ next to my name. I never really got going and started to struggle with the pace well before half way. I hadn’t felt right all week and took a gamble on trying to compete. Save it for another day; there are more important races than this one.
When I started running eleven years ago I didn’t realise it was possible to run 15:43 for 5k, let alone go through half way in a 10k with that split whilst feeling terrible. I had no idea I’d be able to get to a stage where I’m making the scoring six for the team at the top of Birmingham League Division One. I didn’t know what steeplechase was, let alone think I could rank in the top 50 in the country for it.
As a teacher, I often encourage my students to reflect on how far they have come in their lives and in their education. Stopping to look down the mountain at everything beneath you gives a great sense of accomplishment as well as the motivation to continue your ascent of it. Now I need to do just that. I had an awful run this morning but I am in great shape and need to remember all the progress I have made. I have improved so much since I started and will continue to do so.
Yesterday I got my arse kicked. Granted, the arse kicking was handed to me in a metaphorical sense, but was no less painful. But then again, sometimes you need to get your buttocks bruised to remind you of your place in the pecking order, and as motivation to get better.
What am I talking about, you ask? Well, yesterday’s race was Leeds Abbey Dash, the deepest 10k in the country. I was beaten to the line by 104 people, roughly enough people to fill a double decker bus, and this whilst running just seconds outside my PB. Believe it or not I was pleased. Only days before I was struggling to walk without pain due to a problem with my heel as well as suffering from a cold. I was pleased just to finish. However, as always, satisfaction soon gave way to realisation that there are still lots of people out there who are better than me at running.
I’m motivated though, and being put in my place yesterday has only served to make me more hungry. I want to get better. Just this evening on my run I was thinking about the training ahead of me not with fear or worry, but with excitement and anticipation. Whether this is foolish or not, I believe that if I keep putting the miles in and training hard but sensibly I will get my big breakthrough race at some point.
Let’s just hope it’s soon.
Took two days off due to fatigue but it paid off as I ran a PB for 10k. Splits of 15:58/16:02. Does my time count as sub 32?
Monday: 14km easy (14)
Tuesday: 1000 – 8×200 off 30s – 1000 – 3×400 off 30s – 1000 – 8×200 off 30s: 3:03 – 33 average – 3:04 – 68 average-3:00 – 33 average (21)
Wednesday: ran home + loop round park, easy pace (17)
Thursday: easy run, 4km barefoot on track (18)
Friday: Rest (0)
Saturday: Rest (0)
Sunday: Bristol 10k, 40th in 32:00 PB (11)
Week total: 81km
Took it easy for a few days after the half marathon. A good session on Thursday. Didn’t feel 100% rested and fresh for the 10k on Sunday but pleased with my time anyway.
Monday: 16km easy (16)
Tuesday: 20km easy (20)
Wednesday: 16km easy (16)
Thursday: 10×100 strides,4×800 off 300, 4×400 off 200: 2:25/26/23/22, 66/66/65/65 (18)
Friday: 16km easy (16)
Saturday: 14km easy (14)
Sunday: Trafford 10k, 35th in 32:35. Windy. (18)
Week total: 118km
I don’t normally make resolutions, but I find that with running, having some clear goals really helps me stay focused.
Here’s what I want to have achieved by the time 2014 comes along:
8:45 for 3000m (1.50% improvement)
My current best is 8:53, set in June this year. A one second per lap improvement will see me achieve this one. Given where I was at the start of 2012 and where I am now I think this is possible. After my spring half marathon I will dedicate time to improving my speed, and do sessions of long reps at target pace (70 per lap) and hopefully this one should fall in June or July.
15:15 for 5000m/5km (1.72%)
I ran 15:32 twice this year, which is one second slower than my best time for the distance. If I beat this it is more likely to happen on the road, as I only get about 2 opportunities for a 5k track race every year. Last summer a friend set us a programme which involved running a high-volume session every week at 3k or 5k target pace, which seemed to really work for me. I plan to do the same sessions again but quicker. It all sounds so simple!
31:59 for 10km (1.18%)
Last week I set a PB of 32:22 after a good block of training. Now I want to run quicker. I can definitely manage this, if not in the spring then in the Autumn. I have a couple of races in mind where I will have a go.
69:59 for half marathon (1.13%)
This one’s more likely to happen later in the year when I hope to run a half on a flat course. Of all the ones listed here it is the one I want the most, mainly because it starts with a different number and therefore automatically sounds more impressive. It’s 5:20 per mile or 3:19 per km. I managed 9 miles at that pace in September; now let’s see if I can do it for the full distance. My current PB is 70:47.
Note: I calculated the percentages after writing the post. It is interesting to see the difference between what I feel is more difficult and what the numbers actually say.