Archives // bristol

Training – Week Beginning 29 April

Monday 6th May 2013

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

Five Hundred and Seventy Five Days in the Making

Sunday 30th September 2012

On March 6th 2011 my wife started a photo project entitled ‘Project 365.’ The idea is simple; take one photo every day for a year. In fact, she got to 365 days and decided to keep going and is now well into the second year of the project (email me if you want the password). By coincidence, this was also the day when I set a personal best for the half marathon, taking roughly 200 seconds off my previous best time. My first feeling was that of complete elation and surprise at the time I had run, but a few weeks later this gave way to a feeling that this particular PB, being so much better than my others at the time, was going to cast a big shadow over my running. Recently I put in a good spell of training and got myself into what I thought was the kind of shape that would allow me to beat this time.

The time in question was 70:57 and the race I was planning to run was the Bristol Half Marathon, a race known for having a fairly quick course and a deep field. No excuses then. I went down the day before to stay with my friends Mark and Holly, who got married the previous week. Mark was also running the race. That’s right; honeymooning in a way that only runners know how. We made our way down to the start and dropped our bags off. The conditions were cool and overcast, ideal for road running. The first 8 miles are an out-and-back along the river Avon and the remainder of the course takes you through the outskirts and centre of the city.

Predictably, about 100 people charged off ahead of me at the start, whilst I tried to ease into the race. I wore a watch, something I rarely do when racing, in order to help me keep myself in check at the start. I passed the first mile marker in 5:30 and found myself on the shoulder of the three leading ladies, all of whom I guessed were from Kenya. The next was slightly downhill and a bit quicker and I got to 3 miles in 16 minutes exactly, which is 70 minute pace. Our group consisted of me, the three Kenyan ladies and a couple of other athletes, one of whom I vaguely recognised from Birmingham. Just ahead was a group of about 8 men, but was diminishing by the minute as some of the runners started to pay for their enthusiastic early pacing. We turned back on ourselves in the 5th mile and passed 6 miles in 32 minutes. Shortly after, the women dropped off the back of our group and the Birmingham athlete and I found ourselves together gradually working our way through the field. Though my ‘A’ goal was to run a PB, I had a vague hope that I could run under 70 minutes, or 5:20 per mile in runner speak. We got to 9 miles bang on pace but I was also aware that my calves were really starting to tie up. “Just focus on the people in front and keep the cadence up,” I told myself.  We got to 10 miles in 53:30.

The next part of the course is rather less appealing than the preceding 10 miles. The combination of cobbled streets, narrow winding roads and wind exposure as a result of the field thinning out meant I really needed to grit my teeth and work much harder. By 11 miles the pace had slipped and sub 70 started to look pretty unrealistic. I was also starting to get dropped by the athlete I had run most of the race with, and for the first time in the race was completely on my own. At 12 miles I turned a corner and got blasted by a gust of wind, which is the kind of thing that would normally make me give up and jog to the finish. I knew that I was still on for a PB so I kept pushing. Shortly after I passed a radio van which was blasting music out and had on board one of those very irritating, overfriendly you-can-do-it-mate presenter types who would normally annoy the hell out of me. He did make me chuckle though by praising me for both my headband and my beard. Hardly textbook motivational speaking but it seemed to do the trick. I pushed on once more until I was on the road towards the finish. I checked my watch as I passed the 400 to go sign and though it was about to tick from the 60s to the 70s I knew the PB was still on.

I stopped my watch at 70:50, which was given as 70:47 in the official results. So I got what I came for 575 days later, a personal best, and was happy that my longest standing one had now been broken. However, I couldn’t help but feel dismayed at the fact that I had worked so hard just to switch a 5 for a 4, rather than smashing it to pieces like I did when I set my previous best. At least it’s progress.

Mark set a PB too. What better way to celebrate his first week of marriage!

Training – Week Beginning 24 September

Six runs, one day off, one PB.

Monday: Rest (0)

Tuesday: 6×800 at 75% effort off 400 jog – 2:34/32/31/30/27/24. Pacing friends. (10)

Wednesday: 8 easy (8)

Thursday: 10 easy (10)

Friday: 6 easy (6)

Saturday: 5 easy (5)

Sunday: Bristol Half Marathon, 28th in 70:47. PB. (15)

Week total: 54 miles

2012 total: 2589 miles


Sunday 26th February 2012

Today, for the first time in a long time my long run started from somewhere that wasn’t my front door. Well, that’s not strictly true as we drove to our start point a few weeks ago, but this morning’s long run was different in that it took place in another city. This weekend we visited some friends in Bristol, one of my favourite cities in Britain. The sun was out all weekend and the weather conditions were more befitting of a day in April than February; the run was spectacular. Fortunately my friend is also a keen runner, well versed in the Sunday ritual of doing a run whose distance in miles begins with the digit 2. No chance of missing my long run this week.

Starting in Clifton, we dropped down the hill for a couple of miles, into and back out of the city centre, before heading towards the suburb of Westbury. The first half of the run was through residential areas but the second half was where it started getting interesting. We came out of Shirehampton and turned left onto a ramp which appeared to just head towards another footpath. I then realised that this ramp took us right alongside the M5, the motorway that connects the south west with the rest of the country. A steady incline for about half a mile was followed by a descent of similar length and we crossed the river Avon with cars and lorries speeding past us. I’ve never run over such a long bridge before and the breathtaking view in both directions distracted us sufficiently from the soreness in our legs.

We passed a couple of small villages and before long we found ourselves on a path along the Avon heading back towards the centre of Bristol. There were no cars, buses, trains or any other vehicle in our way. Just a few hundred other people with exactly the same idea as us. We wound our way along the path, talking about important things, unimportant things, about running, about life in general. It occured to me that this is what running is all about. No watch, no goal, no idea what pace we ran the last mile at; just good company, good scenery and the sun in your face. Whilst we all gain pleasure from bettering our PBs and seeing our hard training pay off in races, running really offers much simpler pleasures than that. The act of running itself, for its own sake, and without any greater purpose, can often be enough to put the biggest smile on your face.

Turning a corner, we saw in front of us one of the most iconic and well-known structures in Bristol, Cifton Suspension Bridge, a stunning piece of engineering that passes right across the Avon Gorge. The sun was streaming through its famous arches as we approached and the bridge looked imposing as we passed underneath it. Nothing puts you in your place and reminds you of how small you really are like a massive bridge hundreds of feet above your head.

We crossed a much lower bridge and prepared for the inevitable, the climb back up to the top. Whilst the view was breathtaking in the metaphorical sense, the road back up to Clifton was breathtaking in a more literal sense. We were gasping for air at the top. From there we took in the view, passing the bridge from above this time, and ran the short distance back to Mark’s house. The rest of the day was spent enjoying Bristol at a rather more sedate pace, sightseeing and taking photos.

Runs like this are why I do it.