My fitbit made me do it

I’ve been the proud owner of several Garmin devices in the past and currently wear a 920XT all the time. It’s a great device that monitors my activity and sleep as well as running, cycling and swimming. In the past, I’ve worn the the Garmin vivoactive  activity wristband but sold it when I got the 920XT as the latter tracked steps and sleep.

I had no reason to consider another activity wristband but recently was given one of the lower-end fitbit devices, the Charge, which tracks:

  • Steps
  • Stairs climbed
  • Calories
  • Distance
  • Sleep

The spec is certainly not extraordinary given that other models in the range introduce heart rate and GPS.

If the fitbit hadn’t been free, I’d not have considered buying it. However, having worn it for 3 weeks, I’m now thinking quite the opposite. It has me hooked. It’s not because of the wristband (which is sleek and very simple to use, haa a battery that lasts a week) but because of the web-based dashboard whIch is a much nicer-looking and user-friendlier UI than Garmin Connect, the simple-to-use and engaging smartphone app but, most appealing, its fun challenges.

It’s true that Garmin and Strava have such a feature but compared to fitbit, they’re a little dull and functional. fitbit challenges are much more fun and that makes them engaging whic,h in turn, and most importantly means that they make you more active.

Let me give you an example. This weekend, I’ve been taking part in a challenge called ‘Weekend Warrior’ with several parkrun friends including founder of parkrun (my boss) Paul Sinton-Hewitt, his wife, Jo, Kerri French and James Kemp. The purpose of the challenge is simply to complete as many steps in the 48 hours of the weekend as possible. This is the Kind of charge that has a much lower barrier to entry against much better runners as steroid can be counted regardless of pace.

With 10 of us in the challenge, all of whom were parkrunners, the weekly parkrun gave many an opportunity to get some steps in. However, as Denise was away, I had the boys to look after and was awaiting some deliveries so had to miss the opportunity. I managed to register some steps by spending most of the morning doing chores but was a long way behind all of my ‘competitors’ by lunchtime.

A visit to the Berry Theatre in Hedge End to see the film Home in the afternoon wasn’t the best opportunity to register some steps either. My challenge wasn’t getting off to the best start. However I had an ace up my sleeve.

I’m training for a marathon and am a couple of weeks into my training plan. The plan calls for 3 runs per week and my long run was 14.5km this week, longer, I hoped, than most of my challenge-ees. As I was at home with the boys, this meant a treadmill run.

Prior to my run, I was long way off the fitbit challenge podium for the day. However, having completed the run in 90 minutes I rocketed to the top of the leaderboard, much to the dismay of Paul who sent me a congratulatory message (‘Damn you James S!’). Hoping that my beating my boss wasn’t a career-limiting move, I knew that I’d have no chance of doing as well on Sunday as I had no run planned. I really was going to be ‘a one day wonder’.

On Sunday, Daniel competed in his 2nd triathlon. It was organised by a local junior triathlon club, Chapel Tri, and was held at Fleming Park.

Daniel was in the 9-10 age group (also known as Tri Star 1) competing against lots of triathlon club members. The distances for his race were:

  • Swim 150m (6 lengths)
  • Cycle 2km
  • Run 1.2 km

We arrived early to register at 8:30am and then proceeded to wait for registration to open for over 20 minutes. Things settled a little disorganised (compounded by the fact that no race instructions were sent out and no one answered emails about the event) but this was partly explained by the fact that on arrival, the organisers had been given twice as many lanes as they’d expected so had to rearrange swimmers into those additional lanes.

Once Daniel’s  bike was racked, we worked out the course and most importantly transition and where run in, run out, cycle in and out were.

As the sun was beaming and I’d not really expected it to be so hot we went and bought some sunscreen and applied it whilst trying not to wipe off Daniel’s  race number. We also checked out the route from the exit from the pool to transition to make sure it was runnable barefoot. It was do-able and so Daniel chose to do that.

Unexpectedly, T1 athletes were called to swim start early so we headed to the pool. In the rush, I forgot to give Daniel his goggles but a few minutes later he came to get them anyway.

At 10:45am, Daniel started his 6 lengths of the pool. Given that he’s used to swimming many more than this in his swimming lessons, it wasn’t difficult. As he got half way up the first length, I left to jog around the building (and earn some fitbit steps!) to swim exit to take some photos.

Daniel was about half way through the pack coming out of the pool but there weren’t many behind him as he headed for T1.

The cycle course was pancake-flat but windy (necessary to fit a 1km course into a small area) and this slowed Daniel down as he rode the course. He’d lost a few places by the time he got into T2.

As he racked his bike (with the help of a marshal) and took off his cycle helmet, he was off out on the run for the 2 lap course.

Clearly looking tired, he had to walk a few times and was looking shattered and emotional as he crossed the finish line. He wasn’t quick and that didn’t matter. He’d completed a triathlon, sometHing that none of his school mates had done. Well done Daniel. I’m a very proud dad.

Anyway, back to fitbit. It looked like most of those in the challenge had run at races whilst I’d been out and the corresponding step totals were suitably high. Almost out of reach. It didn’t look like I’d get anywhere near of the the top leaderboard and I resigned myself to being a 1 day wonder. However, we had a shopping delivery due which clashed with the boys’ swimming lessons. During the afternoon, I cleared the deck of as many of my chores as I could to Give me the opportunity for a quick treadmill run before the grocery shopping delivery.

I kept an eye on the leaderboard knoWing there was no way I could take first place. However, with some fancy foot work, 2nd was a possibility as long as the rest in the challenge didn’t have any evening activities planned.

Paul and Jo Sinton-Hewitt were in 3rd and 4th places respectively  behind Andrew G and James K. There was the chance to get silver! Based on my cadence and the number of steps I had to run to pass PSH in the leaderboard, I worked out that I’d need to run fit approx 38 minutes and hope no-one else had any step counting activity lined up.

I ran for 50 minutes to give me a good buffer just in case. Took 2nd place and uploaded my data.

2nd place. BOOM! My fitbit made me do it!

ABP Southampton Half Marathon

Yesterday, I ran in the inaugural ABP Southampton Half Marathon. This was the first major mass-participation running event in the city for over 2 decades and was organised by TryTri’s experienced team including Chris Reed and Ben Cook.

I’d known about the event for well over a year and had signed up early knowing it would be a popular event. As there was to be both a 10K and half marathon race on the same day, the event would suit many runners. The only negative was that it fell on the same day as the London Marathon. However, this didn’t stop the event filling up in the weeks and months leading up to the event with 6000 runners.

The course for the half marathon meant an ambitious plan of road closures and interruptions to bus timetables. Fortunately, Southampton City Council were supportive and helped to ease the process. With some big sponsors on board, the event looked like it was going to be a success. Chris and his team has their work to do as it was a big step up from any event they’d put on before.

My preparation hadn’t gone quite to  plan with a weight gain and a reoccurring foot problem that threatened my arrival at the start line. I had managed to run the course a couple of times and tackled the worst of the inclines so knew what to  expect.

Due to a car breakdown on Friday I had to cycle the 5 miles to the event. A good opportunity for a warm-up I guess. Fortunately, the forecast rain had held off and I left home at about 7:45am and arrived at about 8:10am just before the 10k warm-up started.

The race village at Hoglands Park looked great. A big marquee for t-shirt collection, another for baggage and a stage with large screen for the warm-up, footage of the start and a few interviews with celebrities and other runners.

I collected my technical t-shirt and meet a few friends and wandered around the village. Before long I met up with fellow Lordshiller Chris Brown and chatted to him for a while before being accosted by a lady trying to ‘sell’ charity places for another event. She was persistent.

We watched the 10k runners start (a little later than expected) and then more Lordshillers started to arrive. One of my friends, Carlo, was running both the 10K and half marathon for the charity MIND. What a nutter/inspiration.

Once the club had a group photo taken and I’d consumed some flapjack provided by Rob (thanks), chatted with a few more friends, it was time to drop off my bag (pretty painless) and then head to the start area. I was walking along with friends Gary and Lisa but lost them as I got to the hordes of runners.

The start area was handily signposted with expected finish times so I headed forward to the sub 2 area. I’d not really set myself a goal time due to the fact that the course was more challenging than Gosport where I have a PB of about 2 hours and not being sure how my right foot would be especially later in the race.

As I walked along, another friend, George, caught me up and we chatted until the start.

By some coincidence, the sub-2 hour pacer ended up stood right next to us as the countdown to the start commenced.

We were off. The first bit of the course was a slight incline before we turned left and left again and then right down the pedestrian high street of Southampton. With no real pacing plan in place, I stuck to sub 2 hour pacer like glue. I felt ok generally at the pace but could feel my foot and knew that things could change at any moment.

The race had started 10 minutes late due to the delay of the 10k race and I hoped this didn’t mean that I’d still be running during the heat of the day.

As we passed through Ocean Village, there was a bottleneck where the path narrowed and we ended up walking for about 20 seconds. Can’t complain. It gave a brief break before the first real challenge of the event; crossing over Itchen Bridge and then turning around before running back over it.
Although this was part of the course I was dreading, I’d run it a few times and knew that the return leg was kinder than the outbound leg. It was also a great opportunity to see lots of other friends and give them and receive some encouragement. It wasn’t long until Paul Eves and I met and we tustled for position a little.

Once safely back to the western side of the bridge, it was time to head north around the back of St Marys stadium before crossing Northam Bridge. Still feeling ok, my pace was steady and things were going pretty well. I knew I was ahead of the sub-2 hour pacer but not by how far.

Once over Northam Bridge there was a small incline before heading towards Bitterne Triangle and Riverside Park.

The first 10k was complete. As we ran along the water’s edge in Riverside Park, my foot started to ache. This was not good news. I knew that the worst of the course was yet to come. To make things worse, the sub-2 pacer passed me and my race started to unravel.

Having got to Woodmill, with 10K to go, the most challenging bit of the course hit me head on. With every stride my right foot ached and I started to have doubts about finishing.

I had to adopt a run/walk strategy to get through the rest of the event and didn’t enjoy the latter half. It was unfortunate that it was the bit of the event where I saw the most friends spectating and for most I gave them plenty of opportunity to give me encouragement as I walked by :-S It was good to see several juniors from Southampton junior parkrun as well as their parents and members of LRR and Southampton Tri Club (Julian and Steve to name but two) on the hill up towards the Common.

It wasn’t long until we reached the Common for the short (but energy-zapping) incline of the top loop before the gradual descent to the finish.

My Garmin was giving me a predicted finish time of between 2 hours 15 minutes and 2 hours 20 minutes Stopping in the Hawrhorns for breakfast crossed my mind as did just walking to collect my bags. Fortunately, I dug a little deeper and carried on as best I could.

It was great that there was so much support on the course. Southampton had come out in force to cheer on its runners.

The finish was about 4km away and it was great to see Kirsty, Tony, Alice and Lou. I took the opportunity to walk and take some jelly beans before setting off again towards London Road.

My Garmin was gradually decreasing my estimated finish time as I walked less but was still showing 2:11 at that point.

The last part of the course wasn’t great for me as my foot ached and the finish line grew closer.

Finally I crossed the line in just under 2 hours and 9 minutes. I don’t feel too happy at this point but was really glad I’d got to the finish.

There was a lot of congestion to collect water, goodie bags and a seriously impressive medal. Fortunately, there were space blankets being handed out so I wrapped one around me. Gas Mark 8 for 15 minutes.

By the time I’d part-shuffled, part-hobbled back to the race village, I was in somewhat of a grumpy mood. Of course, that was when I bumped into many fellow club members looking euphoric about their PB successes. I tried not to sound more disappointed and think I managed it. Just.

The queue for baggage was going nowhere fast and I was almost cooked through thanks to the space blanket. I took it off and immediately felt cold.

After a long wait for baggage, it was time to collect my bike to cycle home. At this point I noticed the 3 serious chafing injuries from my race belt/bag and HRM strap and started to feel the pain from that. Oh happy days.

As I cycled back home cycling through parts of the course my mood darkened and I developed a bad case of cursing under my breath.  Fortunately as I cycled past the discarded gel wrappers on Northam Bridge, I started to reflect more positively on the morning. I’d completed the race and enjoyed over half of it. My foot was painful but no worse than it had been in the previous month which meant that with some golf ball massage and some reduced mileage, it would ease.

I got home to an empty house and showered. The pain of the hot water on the chafed patches took my mind off my foot. Every cloud!

Overall, it was a great event. The organisation was excellent. The course was ok given its location. The support from spectators was great. It felt like a much bigger event than it was and could well support 10,000 if the bottleneck  at Ocean Village can be resolved. The only other little niggles were the congestion after the finish and the baggage collection queue. Neither was really too much of an issue though.

Having spent a couple of hours doing chores and massaging my foot, I signed up next year’s event vowing to myself to be injury free and give it my all.

On Monday evening, I was hoping for a chance to relax a little and lead the LRR training session from a fairly static position. Having golf-balled my right foot for most of the day, I guessed I’d be ok for a short warm up run. However, the session morphed into a 8-9 km run through areas of Southampton I’d never seen before. My Garmin reports the route as ‘hilly’ and I’m not going to disagree. My previous day’s bout of cursing returned at about the 7km point where there was quite a hill to climb. I shouted ahead for the rest of the group to carry on as I scaled the mountain ahead of me at a walking pace.

Having got back to Winchester Road, I ran back through the Common and caught up with the group as they were completing their stretches.

As I finish off this blog post at 1:40am on Tuesday morning, I’m stretching  out my right foot and lt doesn’t feel too bad. Hopefully a day of rest today will  help and then I’ll be fit for Monday’s Sprint Triathlon.

Time to get my act together…again!

Well, I had grand plans of getting my act together almost 28 days ago but didn’t and now the Southampton Half is less than a week away and my weight has increased even more and I’ve not been near a pool for weeks. In more positive news, I have been out on the road bike twice in the last fortnight. There’s little point in dwelling on the part though. Time to look forward. 

My biggest challenge this year is about 20 weeks away. I’ve signed up for the New Forest Marathon (I’ve now seen the elevation profile and am having 2nd thoughts!) I had planned to run the Bournemouth marathon but I’ll be away in the USA over that weekend so have deferred my place. My plan is to complete Sunday’s Half and then stay focusing in on the Marathon training. 

Between now and the 13th September, I’ve got a few events including the May Day Tri, Ensure 24 and parkruns but that’s it. I have a training plan which last 16 weeks and will include a couple of 20 mile runs along the way. Given that junior parkrun fills up by Sunday mornings, I’m either going to have to take a few Sunday’s off or choose another day for my long runs. I’m thinking early morning runs on Thursdays might work to make my training week look like:

  • Monday: run (LRR training)
  • Tuesday: cycle
  • Wednesday: swim
  • Thursday: long run
  • Friday:  cycle
  • Saturday: lake swim + run (tempo at parkrun)
  • Sunday: rest

It’s a plan at least and hopefully I can motivate myself to stick to it. 

Solo Run Leading… arghhh!!

This evening I lead my first Lordshill training session as solo Run Leader. It was a little worrying to take full responsibility for the group especially as I didn’t know everyone. However, there were enough friendly faces to reduce the fear. A little. It’s a little daunting leading a session when at least half the runners in the group are far better runners than me. Oh well. There was no turning back now. 

Fortunately, I was asked by Dave what sessions I’d be happy to lead when we discussed the session plan for April and May. There were a few sessions we had done before that I was happy to plagiarise. One of these was a fartlek session that Stuart has led in early February.

As with all sessions, we start with an introduction, check for any injuries, warm-up, have the main session and then cool down and stretch. I spent some time giving some thought to what dynamic stretches I could include in the session as this is one aspect that Dave tends not to do at every session. Having googled some ideas, discussed some suggestions with Club Coach Ben, checked out my books on dynamic stretching and Plyometrics, I had some ideas of what to include. However, my intent was to be creative with what we did once we got to that bit of the session.

I had planned to use the Flats on the Common but the fair is due to start on Thursday and lots of the rides have already started arriving. Ben had kindly posted some pictures on the Run Leader Facebook group and several of us had chipped in with suggestions. Again, I had given some thought to a few alternative paths we could use in the event that the Flats wasn’t usable.

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I typed up a cribsheet and laminated it just as a back up which summarised the session just in case stage-fright kicked in and I was left dazed and confused.

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I felt prepared. However, that didn’t stop the worry that something might go wrong… Not enough to give sleepless nights though.

I was as prepared as I could be and headed off to the Common with a quick detour via Lynda’s to collect the club gazebo.

When I got to Tauntons, it was clear that numbers were down. There must have been about 60% of the usual turnout. It’s not clear why that was but I suspected the strong wind and drizzly rain played a big part.

After registration was complete, Ben did his speeches and it was time for me to step up. Gulp!

I started off by welcoming everyone and asking if anyone had any injuries. I then explained the composition of the session. Everyone appeared to understand it. So far, so good.

We then headed onto the Common where I led the group for the warm-up. It’s always a little difficult getting the pacing right and I was hoping for slightly quicker than 6 mins per km. My Garmin was giving all sorts of pace values so I tried to keep things steady. While I could hear chatting, things can’t have been too fast.

Once we got to Cemetery Road, I started with the dynamic stretches. Some high knees, heel flicks and arm circles. By this point, I’d not lost anyone. As we left the car park area on the road, there was a good spot to do some leg swings so that’s what we did. 12 on each leg and then some lateral leg swings.

At this point I was tempted to add some walking lunges but chose not to. It was good to have an arsenal of possibly things to do and then pick and choose on the night.

Having run past the Hawthorns Centre towards the Flats, it was clear that the location wasn’t going to work for the session so I decided to relocate to my plan B and use Coronation Avenue South which runs north from the Cowherds Pub.

Once we got there, I explained the structure of the main session – the Fartleks – and set the group off.

The path has an incline in one direction which made it tougher than the Flats. Also, there aren’t regularly spaced lamp posts to use so I decided that trees could be used instead. In hindsight, I should have chosen a longer gap for the efforts and instead introduced this half way through the session to mix things up.

The path section we used was about 500m long compared to about 750m from the Bellemoor Triangle to the Hawthorns. Given the session we were doing, this wasn’t a problem and meant I could position myself halfway along the path and see everyone taking part.

I’d decided not to run the main Fartlek bit so that I could oversee the group, provide some encouragement, provide instructions as necessary and rest from my 9 mile run the day before.

After about 20-25 minutes, I gave the participants notice of how much longer they had. As there were 2 whippets in the group who were half a lap ahead, I decided to cut the loop in half to bring the runners closer together so that there wasn’t so much waiting around one we finished the main session. This appeared to work well although I think I could have been a bit career with explaining this at the time.

Once we regrouped, I handed out some jelly babies before we headed off for our cool down. My brain was a little frazzled by this point and I was getting’cool and warm muddled up. I decided to let Jonathan and Teri lead the cool down so I could act as tail runner as we headed down to the Bellemoor Triangle.

Once we got there, there was time for a few more jelly babies, a few stretches and a couple of announcements before we completed the session.

Overall, I was happy with how things had gone. As suggestions to myself for improvements, I think I should:

  • Slow the pace of the warm-up a little
  • Make sure instructions are even clearer
  • Always remember jelly babies

All  feedback from  those that took part grateful received.

28 days until the inaugural Southampton Half Marathon

With only 28 days until the inaugural Southampton Half Marathon, I’m a long way from the fitness I had hoped for but turning things around it’s still possible. 

I’m on the wrong side of 13 stone by several lbs and am not looking forward to getting on the scales later. I need to lose at least 6kg to be at a weight I’d be reasonably happy to run at on the 26th April. 

I need to kick start things and keep on track if I stand a hope of completing the Half Marathon in under 2 hours. My recent 10K finish time at Eastleigh implies that I should be able to run a half in 1 hour 50 minutes. That really doesn’t seem attainable though. Especially on a course that’s not pancake flat. 

So, it’s time for a 28-day challenge. I’ve come up with the following which is going to be tough to stick to (especially in the first 2 weeks):

  • No crisps 
  • No biscuits
  • Only WW chocolate bars (max 1 per day)
  • 3 hours running per week
  • 1 x 45+ minutes cycle ride per week 
  • 1 x 45+ minutes swim per week 
  • 1 x 30 mins S&C session per week
  • 1 x 15+ minutes skipping session per week
  • Daily hamstring stretches
  • Daily calorie tracking via myfitnesspal 
The S&C session will be home-based and likely consist of a few sets of:
  • – kettlebell swings
  • – KB upward row 
  • – tricep dips
  • – push ups
  • – pull ups
  • – squats
  • – lunges
  • – lateral lunges
  • – bicep curls
  • – plank
I’ll post a blog regularly of what I’ve done and stay accountable.

A wreck on the Southampton Half Marathon course recce

Things have been a little hectic this year and my training has suffered. As I come to the end of my time with my employer of over 10 years, I’m hoping that my new job will give me the opportunity to get back on the bike and in the pool a little more than I’ve managed over the last 3 or so months.

Where possible, I’ve tried to keep up with my running and get at least 3 runs in per week. With the Southampton Half looming less than 5 weeks away, this is important and my focus has definitely been on getting miles under my feet.

After Sunday’s Eastleigh 10K my Garmin advised that I’d need 72 hours to recover. Approximately 31 hours later, Lordshill Road Runners group E was recce-ing the Southampton Half Marathon course. Nuts. I was pleased that I wasn’t the only one that had lost their mind as the group included friends Ellie, Lauren, Jonathan, Angela, Rosie and Martin Wood ask Dive the 10k.

We didn’t start at the official start area at Hoglands Park but instead started at the Common where we normally meet for the Monday night sessions. This would mean that we’d meet the challenging parts of the course after a couple more miles of running than we would on race day.

The course is a little complicated and we didn’t have the benefit of signage or marshals so we made a few mistakes along the way.

The first challenge on the course is the out and back over the Itchen Bridge. This was always the bit of the course I was dreading and our Run Leader, Dave, gave us the choice of whether to miss out this section in the recce. I’m sure several of us hoped the consensus would be to avoid the bridge but we did it. It was the first point of the recce where I was starting to think about opportunities to take a shortcut back to my car.

I was tail running which I was pleased about as our pace was higher than we’d agreed amongst the group.

We made it safely over and back across the bridge and then weaved our way around St Mary’s Stadium where we saw a runing group lead by John Grant. I was running along with Ellie whose calves were screaming.

We then headed towards Bitterne Triangle before following the river through the aptly-named Riverside Park. Fortunately, that section of the course is flat but the most challenging section of the course still lay ahead – the long incline along Burgess Road. Eek!

By that point, I was feeling it and resorted to a few walk breaks as we scaled the ascent. Fortunately I was at the back so managed to get away with it. I don’t think the rest of the group will ever know ;)

Having made it to the top of the hill, we then followed University Road and roads in that area before heading onto the Common where we were again given the opportunity to cut out part of the course. A few did but not all. I’ll not name and shame because those that cut across the Common were the sane ones. I decided to follow the course. How I then regretted that decision.

As the rest of the group sped off, I plodded along at a snail’s pace (a very slow snail at that) back towards the Bellemoor Triangle. My snail’s pace grew slower still until forward motion was almost non-existent and I’d taken root.

I eventually caught up with Ellie and we then made the most of the descent and increased our pace as we rejoined the group at the Bellemoor to muted applause.

In total, we covered about 19.7km so not quite the full Half Marathon distance of 21km but close enough for me.

Although there were times where I seriously doubted my decision to run the course the day after a 10K race, in hindsight, I’m glad I did. It was a good opportunity to experience the course and to do so while fatigued which should make race day seem slightly less of a challenge. We’ll see.

In other news, my role as Race Director for the Lordshill 10K is going well with good progress being made to clear of the several pages of tasks. There are only a handful of things I need to do before other Committee members ramp up their involvement.

I’ve signed up to the Good Friday Triathlon near Oxford. I’m hoping several triathlon friends will be doing it too.

Finally, on Monday, I get to lead my first LRR training session solo as Run Leader. Eek!

That’s all for now.

Eastleigh 10K 2015

My first proper race way back in 2010 was the Eastleigh 10K. As a local race, this event is right on my doorstep which makes it an attractive option. I’ve run it every year since 2010 and this year, although it fell on my 46th Birthday, that wasn’t going to stop me. 

Due to some concerns from local retailers about the impact the 10am start had on their businesses, the start time had been changed to 9am. This meant an earlier than usual start to my day with my alarm set for 6:10am with the intent of leaving home for 7am to secure a good parking place. 

I was feeling more confident about the event than the last few years as I’d been training more and was hoping to get close to the PB I’d set way back in 2011 with a finish time of 49:49. 

With breakfast consumed, it was time to head out to Fleming Park. The journey took 7 minutes which meant I was rather early. 

On arrival, I headed for the main hall to collect my race t-shirt and see if I could spot any fellow Lordshillers. I wasn’t disappointed to find a small group just inside the door including Lauren (who’s like a rocket and running really well), Paul and a few others. 

After saying hello, I went off to collect my T-shirt and speak to Race Director, Steve, and his trusty sidekick, David Blackman. David had very kindly managed to wangle race number 1 for me for which I was very grateful. 

Once I had my (very good quality) technical t-shirt, I caught up with several other Lordshillers before noticing that the queue for T-shirts was getting longer and longer. I spoke to David and asked if I could help, grabbed a pen to mark the race numbers of the runners who’d collected a T-shirt and set to work. 

I really enjoyed helping out as it meant that I could wish the other runners a good race. It also gave me the opportunity to see a few running friends as they collected their T-shirts. 

Almost an hour later with the time approaching 8:40am, David thanked me and let me go to warm-up. I’d missed the Lordshill photo but I had enough time for some dynamic stretches and a light warm up. As I warmed up I spoke to Jonathan Smith who was looking to finish sub-50 so we decided to run together. Great!

At about 8:45am, we walked to the start with several other LRRs. We found what looked like a good position to start and waited the 8 or so minutes for the gun. 

Before we knew it, we were off. It was perfect running weather. Clear, dry with a gentle-ish breeze. 

  

I won’t go into any real detail about the race other than to say that it went well for me for the first 7km. John and I were running together, occasionally checking each of us was ok. At about 7km, the course heads away from the finish again and I always find the 7-8.5km section of the race a struggle. 

Until that point, my km splits were roughly 5 mins per km and I knew I had to hold it together to get close to a PB. Unfortunately the mental struggle got the better of me and I started to lag behind John and shouted for him to keep going. 

I’d lost it at this point last year and finished in about 53 minutes. I didn’t want that to happen again so knuckled down and tried to up my pace to get back on track. Fortunately, the last 3 km are flat so there was no reason why I couldn’t get close to my PB. 

At about 8km, the course starts heading back towards the finish. I tried to keep my pace knowing that once I got to 9km, I’d be almost finished. 

I kept Jonathan in my sights as best I could. The last 600m is on an uneven path which is well lined with spectators. I had to up my pace to get closer to 50 minutes. At about 9km, my Garmin was giving a predicted finish time of 50:20. I still had some work to do. 

As I ran the last 600m, my predicted finish time kept doing down. As I got closer to the finish, it shows 49:57. There was still hope!

With a couple of 100m to go I heard Chris Stocks shout some encouragement. Thanks Chris. One last chance for a PB. 

I crossed the finish line with my Garmin showing 49:51. 2 seconds slower than my PB. However, I was happy to get so close after 4 years. I also knew it was an age-grade PB. That’d do for me. 

Here are my finish times over the years:

  • 2010: 57:22
  • 2011: 49:49
  • 2012: 52:41
  • 2013: 50:03
  • 2014: 53:13
  • 2015: 49:51

Thanks to everyone that gave encouragement around the course and for the team that organised the event. Here’s to the 2016’s event.