A year of achievements

It’s customary to look back at the end of a year at achievements (and what you wish you’d achieved) but with December fast approaching, I haven’t got many more goals for the year so thought I’d look now. It’s probably been my most achievement-laden year to date particularly with regards fitness and related goals.

Here’s a quick list with links to related posts:

March 2013 – Ran the Eastleigh 10K and almost achieved a PB but gained an age-graded PB

April 2013 – Winchester parkrun opened. This was an event I had quite a lot of involvement in behind the scenes until its inaugural event when Tansy and Dave Gill took the reins. Also helped organise the first ever Lordshill Mile Series Event and created the magic-mile.co.uk website to help administer the results for the series

May 2013Swam in the lake in a Lakeside for the first time and continued to swim there regularly through the summer and autumn

June 2013 – Completed my first Triathlon, the Eastleigh Open Water Triathlon. I loved it and went on to complete another 2 triathlons. I was also fairly active behind the scenes on the LRR 10K committee which was held on the same day. A great event. Also, held the 2nd Lordshill Mile Series event.

July 2013 – Ran in the National Lottery Anniversary Run (not once but twice) and got to cross the finishing line in the Olympic Stadium for my 2nd and 3rd time. The 3rd time was extra special because I ran it with Daniel and Denise.

September 2013 – Completed my 2nd Triathlon, the Valley Leisure Tri, and helped organise the 3rd LRR Mile Series event and got a mile PB. BOOM! Also, organised a Magic Mile singlehanded at Southampton Sports Centre and did my 30 day ‘cut the cr@p challenge‘. Also, became Vice Chairman of Lordshill Road Runners and joined a triathlon club, Southampton Tri Club. Finally, I completed my final triathlon of the year, the HOWSC 100 Sprint Triathlon.

October 2013 – Completing my longest cycle ride in the 70 mile New Forest Sportive

November 2013 – Race Director for the Lordshill 10 Mile Road Race, the Southampton Juniors parkrun trial, a PB at the Gosport Half Marathon and Southampton Juniors parkrun opened

Add to all that about 1130km of running, 740km of cycling and 140km of swimming as part of the training for the events above (roughly 200 hours) and also helping to start Winchester, Queen Elizabeth and Brockenhurst parkruns (and now helping with 3 – 4 more in the local area – more about those in early 2014), it’s been a busy year.

I’m pretty proud of all that I’ve achieved to date this year and don’t have any more hard goals for the rest of the year. Time for a month off 😉

A quick look back and forward

It’s almost 9 months through the year and it’s been a good one. I’ve done 2 out of 3 triathlons, multiple lake swims, a handful of aquathlons, got close to PBs at various distances (and PB’d at the mile), upped my game with regards to training, attended RunCamp, got myself a decent training plan and some coaching, joined a triathlon club, helped set up some more parkruns (Queen Elizabeth, Brockenhurst and Winchester), organised (and helped organise) several Mile events and got more involved behind the scenes in Lordshill Road Runners.

The year is by no means over though. I still have several other events to look forward to including the HOWSC Triathlon, a long distance cycling sportive (70 miles 6th October), the Great South Run (23rd October) and the Gosport Half Marathon (17th November). As well as that, I’ll be Race Directing the Lordshill 10 Mile Road Race (3rd November) and (hopefully) getting the Southampton Junior parkrun started.

Who knows what 2014 will bring. Already booked are the Stubbington 10K (19th January), Reading Half (2nd March), Blenheim Triathlon (8th June) and Brighton Marathon (6th April). Hoping to add Eastleigh 10K (23rd March) and another mass participation Triathlon (maybe the Virgin London Triathlon in early August). My plan is to train well to do well (by my standards) in these events.

All those are challenges I’ve set myself which will require a fair amount of training and dedication. Looking forward to it!

Quick summary:

2013:

  • HOWSC Sprint Triathlon (29th September)
  • Wiggle New Forest Sportive (70 miles 6th October)
  • Great South Run (23rd October)
  • Lordshill 10 Mile Road Race (3rd November) – Race Directing
  • Gosport Half Marathon (17th November).
  • Southampton Junior parkrun (November)

2014:

  • Stubbington 10K (19th January)
  • Reading Half Marathon (2nd March)
  • Eastleigh 10K (23rd March)
  • Brighton Marathon (6th April)
  • Blenheim Triathlon (8th June)
  • Virgin London Triathlon (2/3rd August)

Quick update – muscle cramps, planks and PSA results

After my muscle cramp issues in yesterday’s Valley Leisure Triathlon, I got some good advice about how to deal with the issue. More hydration and a drink to supplement the lost electrolytics. Thanks to John Grant, I’ve ordered some High 5 Zero tablets which are added to water. Once received, I’ll try these in water and see how I get on.

I’ve also had the results of my PSA test back. It came back normal which means that prostate cancer is very unlikely. That’s obviously great news. Just need to work out what the problem actually is though.

I’ve started a new challenge. This one’s a plank challenge and other than for one day, I’ve been trying it for almost a week.

Here’s how I’m getting on so far:

3/9/2013: 00:50
4/9/2013: 01:05
5/9/2013: 01:25
6/9/2013: 01:35
8/9/2013: 01:30

Nothing much else to report at the moment.

I’m trying to add about 10 seconds per day.

Cutting out the cr@p with a 30-day challenge

At the end of last month, I decided that my intake of crisps, biscuits and sweets was getting a little extreme. I was trying to justify the consumption by offsetting it against the calories burnt during exercise. The issue was that my weight was increasing. Something had to change.

It was then that I was reminded of 30 day challenges. There’s hardly a reason to explain the concept. Basically you set yourself a challenge that you stick to for 30 days. The benefit is that it’s much easier to stick to something if the timescale is quite short. You can see the end of the tunnel.

There are a whole heap of 30 day fitness challenges online. These include the 30 day squat challenge, the 30 day plank challenge, etc, etc.

My challenge is to not eat crisps, sweets, cakes, biscuits or other junk snack food for the whole of September which conveniently has 30 days. Surely a sign!!

I’m keeping the hunger pangs at bay by eating nuts. No, not dry roasted peanuts but almonds and other ‘healthy’ nuts.

I’m now 3 days into the challenge and, in reality, it’s not been plain sailing but I’m managing it and, if my scales are to be believed, it’s already starting to make a positive difference. Fingers crossed for the next 27 days.

There’s definitely scope for different challenges each month. Cycle every day for 30 days, do core work for 30 days etc etc.

Southampton Magic Mile 2013

One event I always look forward to organising each year is the Magic Mile. These are fun and informal events that are open to runners of all ages and abilities who want to run a mile as fast as they can. The first Magic Mile I organised was way back in 2011. This was the first Eastleigh Magic Mile.

Last year, we held the first mile on the track at Southampton Sports Centre and it had proved really popular particularly as many of the runners had never run on a track. I wanted to repeat the experience and as soon as Marathon Talk announced they were setting up the Magic Mile challenge again, I contacted Active Nation in the hope of securing the track. After a few gentle coaxing emails, they replied and we did a deal on the track fees.

At last, I could announce the date, the 2nd September. Last year, we used parkrun barcodes for registration. However, thanks to the Magic-Mile website (very quickly) I’d produced for the LRR Mile Series, we could use that and therefore clearly distinguish that the Magic Mile had nothing to do with parkrun.

Over the weekend, I spent a few hours preparing for the event. This consisted of:

  • charging barcode scanners
  • checking position tokens were all there
  • producing a list of things to remember (surprisingly long)
  • adding the new event and waves to Magic-Mile so that the results could be uploaded at the event
  • and numerous other things that would bore even me if I listed them all!

To ensure that I arrived at the event in time, I left home early and hit a fair amount of traffic. However, I arrived at 5:50pm so plenty of time to prepare before the participants and volunteers turned up from 6-6:30pm.

I checked in with the duty manager at the sports centre, paid the agreed amount and headed down to the track where there were already a couple of keen runners! Trevor Ellery arrived shortly after and we set up the laptop outside as the hut we’d been allocated was like a sauna.

I had plenty of time to check the laptop was working and, most importantly, the MiFi dongle which would (hopefully) allow results to be processed between each wave.

As I was expecting some of the Lordshill Road Runner training groups to meet at Tauntons and then join us for the mile, I decided to hold a junior race first. However, at the time it looked like there would be only two in the race (Declan Scarle and Callum Ronnie). Luckily, the Cleeves family arrived in time and therefore a proper race could be held with several competitors!

As 6:30pm arrived, I mounted a high platform to address the assembled runners. It was a great vantage point to get the attention of everyone. So much so that when I stopped talking, no one else did either. The silence was deafening!

Fortunately, it didn’t last too long before we could set the juniors off. We had 4 juniors competing and it was a battle to the finish line for 2nd and 3rd. However, the star of the race (in fact, the star of the whole evening) was Tilly Cleeves who ran amazingly to finish in 10:04. Well done Tilly! The results for the junior wave are available at http://www.magic-mile.co.uk/results.php?eventWaveID=7

Between waves, we had to do several things to prepare for the next wave. These included collecting and collating all the position tokens, downloading the data from the barcode scanners and stopwatches and resetting those. This gave a few minutes between waves for the next to warm up.

The next wave was for the faster runners, those expecting to complete the mile in under 6 minutes. We had 17 participants and some great running. Well done to Paul Ashley for taking first place with Paul Merritt in 2nd and Emyr Morgan in 3rd. The results are available at http://www.magic-mile.co.uk/results.php?eventWaveID=8

The 3rd wave was for those expecting to finish in under 8 minutes and many of the runners in that wave were from Kevin Yates’ training group so they joined in from their session on the football field that overlooked the track. Again there were some great performances with John Grant coming in first, followed by the ever smiling Jeff Scarle who is on top form after coming back from injury. John’s son, Sam Grant, was 3rd finishing in under 6 minutes. The results are available at http://www.magic-mile.co.uk/results.php?eventWaveID=9

We had one final wave with 16 runners. Jeff Scarle decided to run again and lead the field. It was great to see friends Philippa Whaley and Laura Ronnie competing alongside one of Philippa’s friends, Charlotte Yaldren. These ladies are all part of a team I’m going to run Thunder Run with next year (alongside Laura’s husband, Aaron). Everyone made a massive effort and there was a photo finish between Laura and Philippa who both crossed the line in 7:08. Charlotte was unsure what time she’d finish in and had attempted a mile a few days before in a little over 9:30. However, the adrenaline and race conditions meant that she completely smashed this to finish in a 7:22! What a PB improvement!! The results are available at http://www.magic-mile.co.uk/results.php?eventWaveID=10

Once all the waves were complete, it was time to pack up. All the results had been uploaded (and all participants should have received an email with their result) after each wave to the magic-mile website and it was time to head off to the LRR 10 Mile Race Committee meeting. A hectic evening but a great one.

There were quite a few people buzzing from their experience on the track and this was evident from lots of positive posts about the event and personal performances from many that attended. I love these events and especially love organising them. It’s almost second nature and I’d hold them regularly if there was the interest, not just because they’re great events in themselves but due to the positive vibe they give to all that participate.

Many thanks to Ben Pitman for a great set of photos of the event which are available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/69154870@N05/sets/72157635355887356/

Well done all!! Many thanks to all the volunteers including Trevor Ellery, Rob Benham, Lou Gower, Dan Campion, Helen Scarle and several others.

A great long ride and other updates

After Saturday’s inaugural event in Bournemouth, I had a relaxed day and mentally prepared myself for another ‘long’ cycle ride with Neil.

I had mapped out a 32 mile route that looked interesting on MapMyRun which took in Hedge End, Botley, Shedfield, Swanmore, Corhampton, Twyford, Fair Oak and then back home. The route was anti-clockwise and mostly involved left turns – a good idea when using clipless pedals.

I didn’t know about 20 miles of the route (the stretch from Botley to Twyford) having never travelled that section. Although I had considered driving the whole route, my time constraints meant it wasn’t possible. As it turns out, that was a good thing!! Had I known about all the inclines, I’d have probably not made it around the full 30+ miles!

Neil rode to my place from Chandlers Ford (about 10km) and we set off at 7am. The weather was good and the route from West End to Botley was relatively flat although quite busy with other traffic. We were riding at between 18 and 22mph and I was hoping that the route would remain flat. The reality was rather different.

Once we got to Botley, I entered virgin territory. As I didn’t know the course, I had set it up as a series of waypoints as a course in my iPhone sat nav app, Navigon. My iPhone was mounted in its Quadlock case with poncho just in case it rained. The sat nav helped a lot on getting us around the route although I’d made a couple of few mistakes which means we did take a couple of slight detours. Fortunately, I was able to rework the route on the move to get us back on track. The only negative was that the iPhone battery was almost flat at the end of the trip.

The last long ride we did was certainly challenging but it transpired that it was playful in comparison to this route. It was hilly. Very hilly!! I’m certainly not good on hills and my speed dropped to 5-6mph on several occasions.

As we reached Fair Oak, the drizzle started. It was quite refreshing and again, I didn’t complain too much.

Neil headed for home once we got back to West End and I headed back home. I got in the bath to defrost and also chill for a bit before having a shower.

Another enjoyable and challenging long ride. I need to get more long rides in but have a few Sunday mornings filled up with other commitments so will need to look at other options.

In other news, midweek I had my second doctors appointment from my urinary problem. I have to say that the doctor really wasn’t very good. It was clear that she hasn’t read the notes so I had to go over everything. She then suggested that I have an appointment with a specialist (a urologist) to help improve my bladder control. It seemed that the doctor thought I had forgotten how to control my bladder. Excuse me!!

She did a dip test and it came back clear so no diabetes or other obvious issues.

As I was leaving, I asked whether the urologist would give me a PSA test. The doc had previously said that prostate cancer was very unlikely as I was ‘well under 50’. However, she then started asking other questions and decided based on my answers that maybe a PSA test would be a good idea after all.

I have to wait a couple of weeks for the test. The main disappointment with the doctor though was the fact that she didn’t go into any details of the things that can lead to the test results being inaccurate. For example, if you google PSA test you’ll easy find the following recommendations:

– don’t undertake rigorous physical activity within 48 hours prior to the test
– don’t have sexual intercourse within 48 hours prior to the test

These activities can give a false positive result for the test indicating a possibility of prostate cancer and therefore the potential need for a biopsy.

In reality, the physical activity one is the main concern. I could easily have gone out for a ride, cycle ride or swim (or all of the above) within a day or two prior to the test. There is also plenty of suggestions that you should avoid cycling in the lead up to the test.

To ensure I don’t get a false positive result, I won’t be cycling for 4-5 days before the test but will have short runs.

My symptoms had reduced quite a lot during the week but returned again on Saturday afternoon. I couldn’t really pinpoint much of a pattern as I hadn’t cycled for a couple of days and had used my prostate-friendly saddle. However, on Saturday I had drunk 3 coffees (an Americano, a ‘cappuccino’ and a Latte). There’s a possibility that the symptoms are caused by caffeine irritating my bowel (not that the docs have mentioned this!) so I’ve gone cold turkey again. Again, the symptoms have reduced gradually over the last couple of days. Fingers crossed.

RunCamp – the first 4 weeks

This is the first of 3 posts about my experience of RunCamp.

RunCamp is a 12-week practical course which aims to improve the running style and efficiency of participants. The courses are run at Southampton Common and Chandlers Ford with new venues being added as demand grows.

The courses are run by fellow LRR member, Ant Gritton. Ant is a runner and triathlete with a very good pedigree of achievements in both.

Each course has about 6 participants and I chose the Friday morning session which runs from 6:30pm until 7:30.

I’m lucky enough to know a few of my fellow students (namely Irene, Jules and Charles) so that helped break the ice.

In the first 4 weeks we’ve focused on one area of running form each week. So far we’ve covered:

  • foot landing under centre of gravity
  • propulsion
  • hip extension and high heel kick
  • arm swing

Each session follows a similar structure:

  • a short warm up
  • a recap of what we learned the previous week
  • a summary of what we’ll be doing
  • some drills focusing on the week’s topic
  • some strength and core exercises (normally quite challenging!!)
  • some intervals where we bring together what we’ve learned
  • cool down and stretches

The course to date has been excellent for many great reasons:

  1. Ant is a great teacher. He is clearly passionate about our sport and wants others to improve
  2. Each week we focus on one element of efficient running form and that ensures it’s not too overwhelmin
  3. The course highlights the importance of a strong core and for post-workout cool down and stretche
  4. The group gel really well. This is probably helped by several of the participants knowing each other already
  5. The sessions are fun, informal and there’s a good degree of banter and encouragemen
  6. Ant never judges anyone. You never are made to feel you’re doing anything wrong. The focus is on improvement for the better rather than dwelling on the bad

I decided to take the course because I felt my running had plateau’d a little. I also tend to run alone quite a lot and the sessions are a great way of socialising.

In my personal opinion, Ant has got RunCamp just right. To date, there’s not been one moment when I’ve felt even slightly negative about something we’ve done, been taught or the manner in which we’ve been taught it. Ant has also cleverly marketed the courses to fellow club runners and, indirectly, to parkrunners via social media and the amazing positive feedback he gets from the ‘students’ each week acts as the main source of his business; word-of-mouth referrals.

I can’t wait to enjoy the next 8 weeks of the course and share that enjoyment with the other students. I’m already finding that my running form is improving and it’ll definitely be interesting to see the improvement in my running performance over the next couple of months.

Ant’s RunCamp is currently focused in the Southampton area but I believe that he also has the business acumen and focus to build a franchise model across a wider geographical region.

If you want to improve your running technique and live in the Southampton area, you really won’t be disappointed if you invest in RunCamp. In fact, there’s no risk as Ant regularly holds trial sessions which are well worth getting up early for!!

Catching up – long runs, rides and a sensitive health issue

It’s been several weeks since I last blogged so I’m feeling guilty about that hence today’s post.

It’s been quite uneventful really. A few excesses have resulted in some extra lbs and I’m now trying to shift those.

I’ve competed in another aquathlon which was good. My swim was awful though and I travelled all over the lake adding extra distance on each of the 2 1/2 laps. As the lake temperature was well over 22 deg C, we weren’t allowed to wear wetsuits so I donned my tri-suit instead. I thought I’d struggle without the wetsuit but it was actually quite nice not having to struggle to put it on and take it off.

The first 100m or so of the swim were a real struggle and I couldn’t control my breathing. I almost gave up and called it a night but decided to relax and get in with it instead. It wasn’t pretty but I eventually got out of the water and had a half decent run (for me) to finish 2nd to last. I could have been more disappointed than I was but I was there, I did it and I finished. I learned some lessons too.

My training has been going fairly well. An improvement in the weather has seen more runs outside. Having the treadmill has meant I had got lazy. I could do a short session with zero degrees elevation and cut it short if I was feeling tired, etc. getting outside meant inclines and the need to commit.

I’ve stepped up my running training and have signed up for RunCamp, a weekly session on improving your running. The sessions are run my fellow Lordshill Road Runners member, Ant Gritton. I’ll blog more about my RunCamp experiences in the next week or so.

Having decided that to complete my forthcoming races and triathlons, I needed to start upping my distances for my run sessions, I needed to try and fit in one long run in a week. However, finding the time for such a session was proving a little difficult. Fortunately, fate intervened with an early morning wake-up call from the dog barking. I decided to grab my run gear as I got out of bed and head out.

I left the house just before 6am and headed west. I didn’t have much of a plan of the route to take but thought that getting to Southampton Common would make for an interesting run. With an out and back, the distance is a little over 7 miles. Incorporating a loop of the Common would add some extra distance. Once I was on my way, I set a goal of running about 14km.

Once I reached the Common, I decided to include the hill that we use for Southampton parkrun. This is a bit of a challenge after 1km of the parkrun and more so after about 6km.

A couple of weekends ago, I went out on a long cycle ride with Neil. In my previous rides, the maximum distance I’ve covered is about 16 miles. The plan was to go out and do 30! For many that won’t be far but for me, it was a reasonable step up. I’m normally time limited and knew the extra distance wouldn’t cause too many issues. The hills, however, were another matter!

We met at Neil’s at 7am. The course took us from Chandlers Ford to Winchester, Stockbridge, Romsey and then back to Chandlers Ford.

Having got our cycle shoes clipped in, we were off. Setting off early meant two things. The roads were quiet and the ride wouldn’t eat too much into the day.

The route was great. A great mix of flat, inclines and descents. Some of the inclines were quite a challenge and a little tougher than either of us had imagined.

I suffered two falls. Both due to the same cause. Jamming the chain whilst peddling uphill, losing any momentum and then not unclipping fast enough as I toppled over. Numpty!!

Freeing the chain was a real challenge the first time this happened and I really struggled. I also got covered in oil and proceeded to cover most of the bike in it!

The second time, I was further into the road and that was dangerous. Luckily, the nearest vehicle was far enough behind that I could drag my bike to the safety of the verge before it got to me.

These incidents taught me a few things:

(a) check and adjust the limiters for the rear derailleur
(b) carry some latex gloves
(c) change to the lowest gear early before the ascent
(d) consider unclipping early
(e) get lots of experience on hills

After the 2nd fall, my confidence was a little knocked and I was struggling to get clipped back in. The combination meant it took a fair time to catch up with Neil.

Once I did, with confidence restored, the rest of the ride was uneventful. Thankfully. Although the forecast was for a dry morning, the rain arrived and gave us a welcomed shower. It was quite refreshing so no complaints.

Overall, I really enjoyed the ride. The distance was manageable but the ascents were a challenge. I hope that we can do a session like that regularly through the rest of the summer and autumn.

In the last few weeks, I’ve also marshalled at an RR10 (Itchen Valley) and run at one (Hursley). The latter was last night. Last year, I didn’t really enjoy the experience but this year I did. I felt stronger and faster and, yet, it turns out I was slower. Hmm! It was still enjoyable though and I’m pleased with my efforts, particularly the last 500m!

Having the issues with my cycle ride proved that my bike gears weren’t optimally set particularly the limiters which stop the chain coming off either end of the cassette. Fortunately, I’d already signed up for a basic cycle maintenance course run by RideRide. I’ll blog about that separately.

I guess I should really mention an issue that’s been plaguing me for a few weeks. It’s a delicate subject and therefore one I’m a little reluctant to share but I will anyway. Frequent urination. About 3 weeks ago, I had a day where I constantly felt the need to urinate. Not the usual few times a day but several times an hour. I’d wee and then feel the need to go again almost immediately. It wasn’t pleasant and meant I could barely concentrate on anything else. I googled and several causes were mentioned:

– urinary infection
– irritated bladder due to caffeine
– diabetes
– enlarged prostate
– prostate cancer

I called the doctor and had to wait a week for an appointment. I’m a positive person and didn’t worry about the latter possibility… until I mentioned it to Denise who was rather upset that the Big C could be the cause.

I immediately stopped drinking coffee and began to worry. Not a lot but every now and again, googling lead me to an article about prostate cancer, its symptoms and outcomes.

Over the next 4 or 5 days, the symptoms eased and I was beginning to think the issue was temporary. However, a day before my appointment, they returned.

My doctors appointment was very matter of fact. I had to provide a sample and was told that nothing could really be done until a urinary infection had been ruled out.

A couple of days later, I called in for the results of the test. Negative. Although that ruled out one possible cause, it was probably the one result I didn’t want. However, I was still hopeful. I spoke with the nurse the following day and organised another appointment.

Last Friday, we travelled to Burnham-On-Sea for a weekend under canvas with friends. The journey was very difficult with the symptoms which had become worse again. This was compounded by the expected 2 1/3 hour journey taking twice as long due to traffic.

After 3 or 4 days, the symptoms had eased and over the last day or so I’ve felt almost back to normal. It struck me yesterday that there was a pattern and the pattern was related to my cycle rides. The days when the symptoms were worse were a day or two after a bike ride. Could the cause be those? Or, at least, aggravated by them. I ordered a prostate-friendly saddle just in case.

My next doctors appointment is today. Will report what happens soon.

Crossing the line for a 3rd time – National Lottery Anniversary Family Run

No sooner had I crossed the line and it was time to think about running again.

As we left the stadium to rejoin family and friends, the queues to exit were large. This meant a very warm and humid walk out through the tunnel from the finish line to collect our goody bags. If you weren’t sweating already, this felt like a sauna. We all came out drenched!!

When I got back to the seats where Denise and the boys were sat, I saw Steve and his son Harrison who’d travelled up for the day to enjoy the post-Olympic experience. Denise and Steve were scanning the track to see if they could see me heading for the finish line. They were a little shocked when I said hello!

As I rejoined them, I checked out the contents of the goody bag. An opened and half-eaten bag of crisps (!), some pistachios, flyers and the all-important souvenir medal.

As we watched some finishers cross the line, the female violin group Bond were on stage. Most of the spectators seemed to be largely ignoring the entertainment that had been organised for the day.

I opened the bag of pistachios and grabbed a mouthful. They were mighty-crunchy. It suddenly struck me that you weren’t supposed to eat the shells. D’oh!! Trying to spit out the crunched up shells was a messy affair!

It wasn’t long before Denise, Daniel and I had to assemble for the start of our run with the other 1997-ish runners taking part.

The National Lottery Anniversary Family Run was open to parents and their children aged 5 and over. A maximum of 2 adults were allowed per family group.

We had about 1/2 an hour before the start as we collected some water and entered the assembly pen.

The atmosphere was great and everyone was chatty.

As the last few minutes passed, another amazing Olympian, Victoria Pendleton, was interviewed on the big screen. She had run in the 5 mile run.

To ensure there wasn’t too much congestion, the 2000 of us were let off in small waves of about 400 runners. Before long, we were off.

We started well with Denise and Daniel running at a comfortable pace.

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It wasn’t long until Denise needed to walk though and we adopted a run/walk strategy through the rest of the run. Daniel would have happily run the whole distance and needed reining in to stay back with us.

After about 1.25 miles, we were in the tunnel under the stadium. Even though I’d run it no more than 90 minutes before, the tunnel seemed longer than i remembered. Denise took 2 walk breaks and would have taken more had Daniel and I not started running again.

We soon entered the stadium and Daniel was off. He kept looking around the stadium at the spectators. I’m not sure if he realised just how lucky he was to get the opportunity to run on a track which, a little over a year before, had seen amazing experiences from Team GB and Paralympic GB athletes.

As we ran around the track, I video’d Daniel on my iPhone. The footage is a little unstable but will hopefully be a reminder of a special day.

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Daniel and I made a sprint for the line and our shared family experience was complete. What a day. What an experience.

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Returning to the Olympic Stadium – National Lottery Anniversary Run 2013

Last year, I was lucky to be 1 of about 5000 people to get a place in the National Lottery Run 2012 and become one of the first to cross the finish line in the Olympic Stadium in Stratford. The stadium became the venue for many amazing performances for Team GB later in the year in the 2012 Olympics.

At the time, I thought that it would be a once-in-lifetime opportunity; to run around the Olympic Park and then about 300m of the track within the Olympic Stadium. It turns out, I’d be crossing that finish line at least twice more.

Earlier this year, National Lottery announced they’d be holding the National Lottery Anniversary Run and the National Lottery Anniversary Family Run at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The main event was a 5-mile run open to adults and the latter was a 2.5km (1.5 mile) run which parents and their children (over 5s) could run together.

I won’t bore the readers with the details of the less-than-perfect entry process, the missing spectator wristbands or the travel arrangements for the weekend but will instead cut straight-to-the-chase.

Denise, Daniel, Connor and I arrived at Stratford at about 8am and then walked to the park. As we’d stayed overnight locally, we had a fair amount of baggage with us so getting through security took some time as each bag was inspected.

Once inside the park, we had the opportunity for a photowith (a cardboard cutout of) one of the greatest GB Olympians of 2012, Mo Farah.

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As we made our way to the stadium, we had about an hour until I needed to head to the assembly area of the first run so found some seats overlooking the finish straight. Perfect.

The plan was I’d run in the 5 mile run and then rejoin Denise and Daniel before heading out to do the family run together.

The weather was warm but overcast as I headed to the assembly area for the start of the run with the other 12,499 runners who were taking part. Given the number of participants, we were allocated waves and I was in the white wave (2nd wave to set off).

The route of the course was different to the pre-Olympic event and that was good as there were bad memories of parts of the course (mostly involving incline-climbing) which I hoped wouldn’t be repeated this year.

After a warmup and some words of encouragement and support from none other than the legend, Chris Hoy, the first wave was on their way. About 10 minutes later, the white wave were underway. My run had started.

The course took us through various areas of the Olympic Park which again resembled a building site. In places, the paths we had to follow were narrow, there were sections of gravel and even some straw. The narrow sections led to some bunching but the event wasn’t about PBs for many, myself included. It was about enjoying the experience with lots of others who wanted to make their own history.

I didn’t race and was pleased to see that my pace was roughly 9 minute miling. Not too slow but not anywhere near race pace. My plan was to enjoy the run, run every step and have enough left in the tank to make the most of my experience once I got into the stadium.

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The course weaved around the park and it looked like part of it was normally open to traffic (Not sure if that’s the case).

In the latter miles of the run, there were a few mildly challenging inclines. I really didn’t think I’d enjoy these but, as it turned out, they were absolutely fine. I’m sure my recent RR10 at Marwell helped these feel seem easy in comparison.

With a mile to go, it was time to head back to the stadium. I knew that there was a section through tunnels under the stadium of about 300m that would feel like much further. However, to ease that, as well as playing the theme from Chariots of Fire, there were snippets of Steve Cram’s commentary of Mo Farah winning gold at the Olympics. Inspiring stuff.

Before long, there was literally ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. The moment had come to enter the Olympic Stadium for my 2nd time.

The bright sunshine beat down on the runners and I raised my arms revelling in the experience…

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I was drenched in sweat at this point (in fact, soon after the start!)

The track was so springy!! I had little choice but to step things up a notch. This could be the last time I could sprint across the finish line of the Olympic Stadium.

The graph below show the step change in my pace!

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An opportunity not to be missed…

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I weaved in and out of the runners and hit the 100m to go sign at full speed (not physically you understand!)

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I kept looking up to try and spot Denise and the boys. It was impossible so waved in the general direction instead.

What a finish. I crossed the line with a chip time of 43:46. This felt a lot faster than the Olympic Park Run in 2012 where I’d resorted to walking for some bits of the course. However, it transpires that I was only 13 seconds quicker. I could have been disappointed in the lack of any real improvement but given the fact I wasn’t pushing it and the hot weather conditions, I was more than happy with my whole experience.

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However, the experience wasn’t over. I had one more opportunity to cross the finish line which I’ll share in my next post.