‘Leadership in Running Fitness’ Course – my experience

As an active member of Lordshill Road Runners, I’ve been participating in training sessions for several months now and have really enjoyed them. On some weeks, they are the highlight of my training week. It’s great to train with others and it’s also been a great way of making new running friends.

At training, we’re indebted to those that deliver these sessions; the coaches and Run Leaders (also known as a LiRF or Leader in Running Fitness) who often put their training on hold for an evening to help others. They do so voluntarily out of the goodness of their hearts!

For quite some time, I’ve been thinking of training as a Run Leader but never quite committed. However, late last year I decided that I’d stop procrastinating and sign up for the next Leadership in Running Fitness course which was being held at my local sports/leisure centre – Fleming Park in Eastleigh.

As my intention was to help out at club training sessions, I was fortunate enough to have the course paid for by the club. I had offered to self-fund but was grateful that the club’s coffers were bursting at the seams!

As a club with well over 300 members, we’re fortunate to have 2 coaches and several Run Leaders. However, this isn’t really enough as it means that for many sessions a group of 15 or more runners only has one Run Leader. Although this isn’t often an issue, the bigger issue is that it’s difficult to cover sessions when those Run Leaders want to take a holiday or need a break (and believe me, they deserve one). We do have several trained Run Leaders who are currently inactive for a variety of reasons (work, family, injury etc) as well as some that have taken the training course but never led a session. I’m not too sure why that would be the case…

From a club-perspective, I’m sure that the ideal would be to have so many coaches and Run Leaders that they can lead sessions for so many weeks and then take a few weeks off to concentrate on their own training or take some time off and chill out and I hope that this post will help encourage some club members to consider taking a LiRF course to allow this to happen. It would also be great if a few of the more experienced Run Leaders would consider taking the extra steps to become a Coach in Running Fitness.

Of course, there may be lots of great reasons for not wanting to become a Run Leader:

  • I’m too busy training – just because you’re a Run Leader doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from a session. You could lead the pack during a tempo run or long run
  • I need to focus on slower paced runs – drop down a group and help with that group or act as tail runner for your group
  • I’m not confident leading a group – you can simply act as tail runner and offer support to the others in the group
  • I can’t commit to leading every week – the more Run Leaders the club has, the more time Run Leaders can take time off.
  • I don’t have enough technical knowledge to feel confident in the role – next to no technical knowledge is required to be a Run Leader. Most of it is common sense!
  • I’m injured and can’t run – Run Leaders can lead a group from a bike or, in many sessions, from a stationary position!

Anyway, back to the day of the course…

The course started at 9am and when I arrived at the Park Suite at Fleming Park, I was quite surprised to see about 30 chairs set up. I was expecting about 15 to be on the course but this was a big underestimate.

I recognised several faces from various places. There were a handful of club members there from LRR, as well as Henry from WADAC. I also recognised a couple of local parkrunners and parents of children that take part in Southampton junior parkrun.

The course was a mix of theory and practical and was delivered by two experienced coaches; Suzy and Beth. There was also another lady, Peggy, whose primary role appeared to be making sure that the course was delivered correctly and to appraise Suzy and Beth.

The first task we had to do was to call out what we wanted to achieve from the course and these were then written on a board. After that, we had to each write down why we wanted to be a Run Leader on a post-it and affix it to a board. We then had to take someone else’s post-it and then try and find that person. This was a great way of introducing ourselves to each other.

Although the LiRF role was probably introduced as a way of getting Running Groups set up in communities (as part of Run England), many clubs have chosen to get enthusiastic members trained up to help deliver their training sessions in a safe way. I’d say that a majority of those present were going to be providing the latter.

After we’d done our introductions, we discussed the roles of a leader and what being ‘individual centred’ might mean. After that we heard about the ‘Athlete Development Model’ which comprises of 3 stages:

  • fundamentals
  • foundation
  • event group

Next up, we discussed the various stages of planning a training session and the importance of ongoing risk assessments and safety for participants.

Next, We moved out of the conference room for our first practical which was related to the safety and organisation of the warm up for a session.

Initially, the trainers gave us a warm up session and then described the approach they’d taken to make sure that we as participants understood what we had to do, that we did so safely and that the person leading the warm up was positioned well to keep an eye on those taking part in the session.

As part of the warm up, we were introduced to the Endurance Technical Template which provides a few simple pointers for a good running form (imagine having a helium balloon attached to your head and that will lead to a good running form).

In the warm up, we were reminded that dynamic stretching and flexibility exercises were important and that static stretches prior to activity were not considered best practice. We were also reminded that the warm up should be progressive and build up gradually to ensure that the participants were ready mentally and physically for the main part of the session.

With a fair amount to take in, it was then our turn to split into small groups to deliver a warm up session to the other participants.

In each group, we were given a target group demographic so that we could tailor the warm up to them. These included:

  • a group of children
  • a group of ex-sportsmen and women
  • a group of over 60s
  • a group of beginners

Each time we lead such an exercise, we could add one to our tally of leader activities.

The practical sessions were a great way to make use of what we’d learned and to bond with the other people on the course (they were also a way of keeping warm on a very chilly day!)

After a coffee break, we covered cool down and stretches in the studio. There were about 6 different stretches covered and the method of delivering the demonstrations was interesting. It basically consisted of a brief intro to what the stretch was for, a couple of pointers for what to look out for in the stretch, a silent demo and then some open questions back to the group to make sure they understood the stretch and its benefits.

Our next practical exercise was to then each deliver a stretch demo. After each, we were given feedback from the group and the trainers.

Before long it was lunch-time, a chance to speak with the other participants and to look forward to the rest of the day.

Our next session was a theory session on:

  • performance factors
  • components of fitness
  • FIT factors
  • and Energy Systems

This may sound overwhelming but the reality was that none of the theory was very challenging and, as will the rest of the course, was delivered really well in a fun, engaging and easy-to-understand manner.

The biggest practical session then took us outside. Before we did that though, we were introduced to several example session plans. These included sessions such as:

  • Out and back
  • Fartlek
  • Indian File
  • Raid the Goal
  • Fixed point repetitions
  • Meet and retreat
  • Loop back
  • Relays or pairs running

We were then split into groups of 3 or 4 and each group was given a session to delivery. This meant that in each group, we had to:

  • perform a risk assessment
  • decide on equipment needs (cones, whistle, etc)
  • provide a suitable warmup
  • provide the main session (ours was ‘out and back’)
  • provide cooldown and stretches

As we weren’t quite sure of where we’d be delivering the session, we had to work out the main session once we got to the location where we were delivering it.

Fellow LRR, Ashley, was in my group and we decided to do the main session part with an ERC member, James handling the warm up and Matt providing the cool down and stretches.

Before we could do that though, we had to participate in a couple of the other group’s sessions. These were fun and gave a good opportunity to steal some good ideas and also avoid any mistakes they’d made.

After each session, the groups provided feedback along with the trainer.

When it was our turn to deliver the session, Ash and I quickly organised how we’d do the main set. We decided on a pyramid set of timed runs with the out being at a steady pace with the back being faster. The pyramid was:

  • 10 seconds
  • 15 seconds
  • 20 seconds
  • 15 seconds
  • 10 seconds

We had 2 minutes to deliver the warm up, 4 minutes for the main session and then 2 minutes for the cool down and stretches. Clearly, a very condensed session but more than long enough to get the idea of what worked and what didn’t.

After James had delivered the warm up, it was time for Ash and I to take centre-stage! Eek!

It was amazing how long the 4 minutes took. The group participating in the session were trying really hard. So hard in fact, that I think a couple of the runners almost broke themselves! Result! ūüėČ

Once Matt had delivered the cool down, it was time for some feedback.

Overall, it was very good. I’d forgotten to ask some open questions to allow the participants the chance to demonstrate that they understood what they’d be doing in the main set. However, we got praised highly for running alongside the runners to give them feedback and encouragement (and for us to keep warm!)

That was the last practical of the day and after the last group had delivered their session, we returned to the ‘class room’ to go through a paper exercise of delivering a 6 week programme for participants working towards a 5km run. Ash and I worked together on this and worked out a detailed plan including locations, paces and session types.

The last couple of sessions were related to the role of the leader in injury prevention and management and the personal development of Run Leaders. Again, these weren’t that detailed or technical and as with the rest of the course, there was a lot of audience participation and discussion.

Before long, the day of training was over. We’d learned a fair amount, put lots of it into practice and had a good amount of fun along the way. The course was really well delivered throughout and a great mix of theory and practical sessions. The theory was never dull or too detailed and there were plenty of opportunities to talk about each subject and for people to share their experiences. Also, there wasn’t any individual assessment so really no pressure at all to perform.

So… Now I’m a Leader In Running Fitness! I’ve already put some of what I learned on the course into practice! This evening, I attended a LRR training session and assisted experienced LiRF, Dave, by tail running in the group and by delivering the post-cool down stretches. I had anticipated that Dave would ask me if I wanted to do those and had been practicing during the day so that I didn’t look like a complete wazzock! I’m not too sure whether I managed that but would like to think that I got away with it.

Overall, the training was excellent. I’d recommend it to any club member who wants to do a little extra for the club. For our club, the more members we can get to help with Run Leading, even if it’s only helping with part of the session, (e.g. the introduction, warm up, main session, cooldown or stretches), the easier it becomes for the rest of the Run Leaders. As Run Leaders become more experienced, they could start to lead the sessions and then provide an opportunity for a couple of Run Leaders per group and/or the ability for RLs to have time off to concentrate on their training. If you’re a LRR member and want to give a little more to the club, why not consider becoming a LiRF! You don’t need to be super-fit (I’m not!), be one of the faster runners (I’m most certainly not!), know all about running technique and optimising perfomance (I don’t!), be the most popular member (I’m not!) or do more than help out in a group. Try it, you might just love it! Take a look at what the course entails and then contact the coach in your club (or any committee member). If you’re a LRR member, it’d be best to contact Ben Pitman. Please let them know that this blog post helped you decide to go that extra mile (if it did!)

I have come away from the course and this evening’s training session feeling really positive. I’m even considering taking the next step and taking the course to become a Coach in Running Fitness! You know me, I love a challenge!! ūüėČ

Lordshill Road Runners Monday night training

After Sunday’s half marathon, I was not sure that I wanted to run any time soon and my Garmin backed me up by suggesting I take up backgammon or gardening or, at the very least, take 72 hours off before training hard again.

Although the garden needs some attention, I really enjoy Lordshill Road Runners’ Monday night training sessions and didn’t want to miss it as I knew I’d not be able to train with the club later in the week due to needing to ferry the boys around for their weekly activities.

With the decision made to go and train, I wasn’t sure whether to join my normal group, E, in one of my favorite sessions,’City Loop’, or drop down to group D and do a session called ‘Catch Me If You Can’. My head said go for the latter. My heart said stick with group E. In all likelihood, I’d regret either decision later.

I decided to follow my heart and chose ‘City Loop’.

Having battled the traffic across town, I got to Hill Lane at about 6:10 pm and then headed over the road to Tauntons College for registration.

There were a lot of members out for training (attendance seems to grow weekly regardless of weather) although notably quite a few regular faces appeared to be missing. Could it be the earlier rain, the chilly breeze, or something exciting on TV? The reality appeared to be that many who’d run the half marathon had wisely chosen to have a rest day. Had I made a mistake?

As group E set off up Hill Lane, I was pleased that my legs were working ok and not screaming at me. I was looking forward to the descent along Winchester Road to the western end of Shirley High Street though.

Within the first 10 minutes my Garmin advised that my Recovery Check was ‘fair’. Far better feedback than I’d expected.

I shalln’t bore you with the details of the session other than to say that we did some Fartleks along Shirley High Street which I enjoyed immensely.

In fact, I loved the whole session. There’s no way I’d have gone out and run 5 miles the day after a half marathon without having the club session to motivate me so my decision was the right one. It felt great to complete the session and that restored my confidence in my running.

Gosport Half Marathon 2014

On Sunday, I ran the Gosport Half Marathon. This was my 3rd attempt to finish in under 2 hours and I’ll spoil the ending by stating right now that I failed! D’oh! This is your excuse to bail unless you fancy reading the gory details and numerous excuses¬†because as usual I have a multitude of excuses for this and I’ll summarise those later. However, with every race come the lessons learned and the intent (however short lived) to learn from those mistakes and do better next time!

Let’s start with mistake or excuse¬†number 1 – not enough long runs in training. In fact, my longest run since Challenge Weymouth Half was 14km.

I arrived at race HQ at 8am and picked up my race number and timing chip and had just affixed the chip to my shoe laces when Becky Cleeves came out and offered me a free pre-race sports massage. Becky is a few weeks into her course and will complete it in May 2015. The massage took about 15 minutes and warmed my legs up (as well as making them glow like beacons!) Having left a charity donation, I went back out to see who I could find. After a few seconds, I saw Chris who told be that his partner, Ali, who I planned to run with was close by. We wandered into the hall and settled in before being joined by Andy, Robert and Susan amongst others. On my travels, I also bumped into several LRR members and other running friends from other clubs. With almost 60 LRR running, this was quite a well supported event.

My original plan had been to run with Tamsyn and Ali, but, I didn’t find Tamsyn in the start area. However, as I lined up for the start with Andy and Ali, Clare S from LRR and Ian Bowers both stood close by. It was clear we were probably a little too close to the start line given our anticipated pace. Oh well… I looked back and saw Di about 20m behind us! D’oh!

The course this year is new due to building work on the airfield that’s been traditionally used in previous years. This meant 2 loops off the sea front. Although almost pancake flat, this kind of course can be tough although I had enjoyed (in hindsight) Weymouth’s Half Distance Triathlon course which was similar so was unsure whether I’d love or loathe the new Gosport course (it turns out I preferred it to the old course and I hear that was a common view).

Fortunately, the heavy showers that had drenched the area in the 45 minutes prior to the start of the race had subsided and we started in dry conditions. Not too bad at all really.

Within the first km, it was clear our pace was too quick and we didn’t really settle back into our desired pace for the first 3km. However, I felt strong and didn’t want to back off too much (mistake number 2). Unfortunately, Ali got a stitch and had to slow up so Andy and I continued on. At times I thought I was running by myself until Andy reminded me we were ahead of target! Oops! I ran along with Andy Porter for a while and managed to keep up with him as he slowed to get water from the water stops. I didn’t take on water or jelly babies (mistake number 3).

I have to say that the first 7-8 miles felt good. I was on target for a sub-2 hour finish. However, that’s when the wheels came off and I got a stitch. I ran through it the best I could. There was a turn around point and as I headed back along the seafront I spotted Tamsyn, Helena and Paul all close behind. I knew that I’d struggle to keep ahead of them at this point.

It wasn’t long before my fellow club-mates passed, all looking like it was a walk in the park. This was a little demoralising but I tried my best to keep them in my sights. Up until I got to the 10 mile point, a sub-2 looked possible. However, at¬†10 miles, I knew that a sub-2 hour finish was going to be unlikely and this hurt! In sympathy for my pride, my right calf started to spasm. Hey ho!! I then needed to take regular 5-10 second walk breaks. Andy did his best to entice me to run. He said that there was still a chance I could get close to 2 hours so I tried. At the next couple of water stops, I drenched myself in water and took on some jelly babies. These helped but it was too little too late. The last mile was agony, mentally and physically but I was determined to finish. As we hit the last 400m, I tried to open up the throttle. I wanted to finish in under 2:02. That was my new goal! I gave it all I had and went for the line. Crossing the line in 2:01:27, I was pleased that I’d found the energy to get under my revised target.

I was shattered. The simple act of walking was a big struggle. I’d given it my all but paced wrong, fueled and hydrated wrong and messed up my chance of a PB. As I’ve said, I liked the course and think that I can seriously improve my finish time with better training and on-the-day pace management.

Every cloud has a silver lining though. According to Strava, my 10 mile split was a PB! In fact, Strava helped prove how hard I’d worked:

17-11-2014 13-48-31

My HR shows that I was working far harder than my pace analysis does!

17-11-2014 13-48-08

17-11-2014 13-47-18

Spot where my target of a 2 hour finish disintegrated!

Many thanks to Andy for running with me and for putting up with me especially for the last 5km.

My race season for 2014 is now over. The next race on my calendar is Stubbington 10K. Between now and then, I have some work to do!! I want to do well in this race and that means some decent training, some weight loss and trying to get some sleep occasionally!!

Lordshill Road Runners Track session #1

It’s been several weeks since I last trained on the track. I love these sessions and was going weekly as part of Thursday morning Run Camp sessions. However, attempting to focus on training for the half distance triathlon meant that I decided to stop doing Run Camp until late September.

However, Lordshill Road Runners’¬†Club Coach, Ben, had organised a monthly Wednesday night session at Southampton Track and I decided to give that a go. Although less frequently, it has the benefit of being free as the club pay for the exclusive use of the track for an hour.

As I was still recovering from Sunday’s Challenge Weymouth Half Distance Triathlon event, I did briefly contemplate an evening at home but as the DOMS had subsided and my blisters on both insteps were both starting to heal and less sore, I went against better judgement and headed for the track leaving home at 6:20pm to battle the traffic across town.

I arrived at 6:50pm, parked and walked down to the track chatting with Lou along the way.

After a quick toilet break, I was joined by Teri as she jogged by. As she caught up with me, she suggested I might like to jog too to warm up. I did and immediately felt the blisters being rubbed by my shoes. It could be a painful evening.

As we got to the track, Ben was resting after a session he’d just completed so we chatted with him. Before long, other LRR started to join us until there was a group of almost 40 of us. It was going to be a busy and popular session.

As it got to 7pm, Ben described the evening. We’d start with a warmup lap of the track, do some dynamic stretches and then do the intervals.

Once the warmup and stretches were over, we prepared for the first of two identical sets comprising of:

90 seconds fast (e.g. at 5 or 10km pace)
90 seconds recovery
90 seconds fast
75 seconds recovery
90 seconds fast
60 seconds recovery
90 seconds fast
45 seconds recovery
90 seconds fast
30 seconds recovery
90 seconds fast
15 seconds recovery
90 seconds fast

We’d then get 3-4 minutes recovery before repeating this set. The intent was to cover the same distance in each fast interval with less recovery time.

With a range of pacing abilities and 40 of us on the track, it was quite crowded on the track but we coped. We alternated running the fast intervals between anti-clockwise and clockwise with the intent to finish where we’d started.

In the first interval, I covered about 325m which I was very pleased with. In the second, I overdid it a bit and got to 400m! After that I tried to consistently hit 325m each time which I managed.

The sessions definitely got tougher with the shorter recovery intervals. I was really looking forward to the long rest between the sets.

I love the track. STC do a weekly track session on a Tuesday evening as well which I may consider. With the evenings getting darker, the floodlit track offers a safe running surface which also mean that the coach can keep a watchful eye over participants.

I completed the session having run every interval at a good pace. I did overdo the first 200m of the last interval and almost fall apart over the last 100m or so. D’oh!

It was great to see lots of running friends and chat. Running alone really is nowhere near as fun as with a group.

Overall, a great session. Will it replace Run Camp for me? No! The two are quite different.

Run Camp track sessions have a max of 6-8 on the track and are weekly. You pay for that exclusivity and it’s worth it. However, the LRR sessions provide a great opportunity to get on the track in a coached session for free. I do fear the sessions will get busier and busier though.

LRR Training again – Long and Winding Hill

Although I’ll post more later in the week, my bad back, some man flu and other poor excuses have resulted in my training being affected for the last month. However, I’m getting back on schedule this week as I now have 5 weeks to go until the Challenge Weymouth Half Distance Tri.

Last week, I managed the LRR training session on Monday and the STC swim on Wednesday morning which was poor. This week will be different though.

I started the week with my 2nd LRR Monday training session and will cycle today, swim tomorrow and then run on Thursday and cycle again on Friday. With luck I’ll lake swim and parkrun on Saturday and hopefully cycle on Sunday time permitting.

Anyway, back to last night. I had a decision to make, swim or run. Although the weather had been abysmal for most of the day with heavy rainfall, the forecast showed an improvement with a dry sunny evening. The decision wouldn’t be made due to weather. It was made due to the fact that in less than 5 weeks, I need to run a half marathon and therefore need to make sure I’m run fit.

The evening’s session was called ‘Long and Winding Hill’ and consisted of that and another 7km. We met at Tauntons College and the group included a couple of new faces as well as a couple of the runners from last week’s session. Alison and Becky weren’t there though so other than Run Leader, Dave, I only knew Alice in the group. I know that Alice is much quicker than me. Gulp!

We headed across the Common up the incline we’d used in many Run Camp sessions and then cut through onto Burgess Road, past all the fast food outlets and down the hill to McDonalds. From there, it was the steady climb back to the Chilworth roundabout at the top of the Avenue. It’s a section which is certainly challenging and is about 1.5 miles long. I’ve run it once or twice and cycled it several more times and wasn’t really looking forward to it but by not looking up too much, I made it in one piece without stopping. As we stopped at the top to wait for the tail runners, I caught my breath before we headed down the gradual descent down the Avenue.

The weather was lovely. Sunny and not too warm.

As we entered the Common, I knew it was all downhill and made my way into 2nd place within the group. There were certainly quicker runners in the group and it was good to push myself.

A majority of my run training over the last 5 years or so has been solo and it’s been great to run in company as part of the training sessions.

With less than a km to go, the heavens opened and we got soaked to the skin. Completely drenched. It was really refreshing though and it was welcome although I’m really glad it happened at the end of the run.

Another great session and invaluable!

My first ever Lordshill Monday night training session

After being a member of Lordshill Road Runners for a couple of years, I finally made it to my first Monday night training session last night. Why was it my first? Well, the session is from 6:30 ’til 7:30pm and tends to clash with the boy’s bedtime. It also clashes with the STC swim sessions which run from 7 ’til 9pm so I’ve tended to try to do the 8 – 9pm swim session.

However, with Denise and the boys at Legoland for the day and not expecting to get home until late, I decided to give Monday night training a go.

The sessions are aimed at runners of all abilities and the participants are split into different groups based on their pace. That’s worked out based on recent 5K or 10K race times, Run Britain rankings and/or training goals.

I checked out the extensive information on the LRR training pages and decided that I was able to get myself into Group E (group A is the beginners group, Group G is for the balls-out super-fast runners who travel on foot at break-neck speeds without breaking into a sweat. I break into a sweat putting my running shoes on.

The groups meet on the ‘lawn’ in front of Tauntons College on Hill Lane and shortly after I arrived, it was clear that it was going to be popular with lots of members and new faces too.

Fellow Thunder Run team member Laura had decided to try out the session and was in group D. We spoke briefly before I introduced her to Lynda who explained the session to her.

Meanwhile, our group was growing in size as more people turned up. It was good to see lots of familiar faces and chat with many of them. parkrun regulars Becky Cleeves and Alison Crooks were also members of the group which was led by Run Leader Dave Johnston.

Before long, it was time to head out for our session which consisted of progressive intervals along Cemetery Road. However, we had to get there first and that means a warm up around the top of the Common. Southampton parkrunners will know this as the most challenging but of the course. It was no less challenging on the warm up!

I ran alongside Becky Cleeves and we chatted most of the way to Cemetery Road although, in honesty, my chatting was gradually subsiding as the warmup continued! At that point I was wondering whether I should have joined Group A!

After a few moments (too few!) it was time to start the intervals. With about 10 of us in the group, the range of abilities meant I was about 3/4 of the way back in the group which I was absolutely fine with.

The session consisted of:

3 x 15 seconds fast pace with jog back
3 x 30 seconds fast pace
3 x 45 seconds fast pace
3 x 1 minute fast pace
1 x 90 seconds fast pace

With the heat and humidity, it was more challenging that it should have been but overall it was a great session.

On the last effort, Becky was cruising at a great speed. By this point, I was feeling a little too lethargic but tried to catch them up. It wasn’t to be though and I burned out about 20 seconds before the end of the interval.

Having completed the intervals, we just had to jog back to the Bellemoor triangle. I say ‘just’ but that jog was more of a shuffle for me!!

At the ‘triangle’ we did some cool down stretches before heading off in different directions. I spoke briefly with Laura who had found her ‘hills’ session fun but tough.

So, that was it. My first LRR training session. Really enjoyed it. Will I go again? I hope to!!

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 РCompleted 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 РRan 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 РRace 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 ūüėČ

Lordshill Road Runners Mile #1

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been involved with organising a handful of mile events. These have proved very popular.

This year, the future of such events looked uncertain as I wanted to distance them from parkrun. In previous events, we’d used parkrun equipment (with agreement from HQ) including parkrun barcodes and that made the fact that the mile events weren’t parkrun events a little confusing.

As I love these events, I suggested that the running club I belong to, Lordshill Road Runners, might want to hold the mile events but open them up to runners from other clubs and unaffiliated runners. This would ensure that the event would be covered by PLI etc. The committee agreed and I had a meeting with Chris Brown who’s on the committee to discuss how to get the event up and running.

Chris is really organised (possibly more so than myself) and took control of moving things forward. We decided to create a series of mile timed runs with the first event being a trial for LRR only. This would give us the opportunity to ensure the event and related processes worked. Having had several mile events before, we didn’t anticipate any issues though.

Having set some dates, I contacted Southampton City Council (SCC) to obtain permission to use the Common (where Southampton parkrun is held). We’d held one Magic Mile there and it had been well supported. When the parkrun courses were officially measured, Colin Goater, had also measured a N-shaped 1 mile course with Gareth Jones.

SCC were happy for us to use the Common but wanted to charge a per event fee. We hoped to get participants to make small donations to the RNLI (LRR’s nominated charity) and used that as a means of getting SCC to waive the charge. That approach worked. I also set about creating the necessary Risk Assessment and a document describing how, from my previous experience, the event should operate.

At about this time, we expanded the event team to include Irene Moreno Millan, Clare Satterly and Gary Painting.

Irene got busy organising volunteers for the first event and, as usual, several members came forward to offer their help.

Originally, we had discussed paper registration on the night and for the first event this would have probably been fine. However, as we expanded the number of participants, that would become difficult. About 10 days before the first event, I decided to have barcode pre-registration and started work on a website to allow participants to register and receive a link to a printable barcode similar to the one used for parkrun.

It has been a few years since I’d dabbled in PHP development and had to quickly find a free barcode library to allow me to programmatically generate individual barcodes. Fortunately, there are several. The one I chose was an extension to a PDF generation library.

I had already registered the magic-mile.co.uk domain name and set to work. Within a couple of hours one evening, I’d created the embryo of the site along with registration, barcode generation (with emailed notification) and a couple of informational pages.

I tentatively announced the website’s availability and registrations began to come in.

In order to hold the event, we needed some gadgets so I ordered some Junsd stopwatches and found a 2nd hand Opticon OPN2001 barcode scanner on eBay.

As we were using barcodes, I needed to generate position tokens too. Again, this proved easy with the PDF/barcode library. I created a couple of sets. The only complexity was cutting the all out and laminating each one. This was a slow process!!

I then started work on the file upload functionality of the website and results processing. This was pretty straightforward in PHP and I did a fair amount of testing of different scenarios. Results presentation came next. Again, this was simple enough.

I put together a document on the organisation of the first event and circulated to the team. A few minor amendments were made and we were ready for our first event. Well, almost. I had to purchase a first aid kit and create manual entry forms as well as put together a folder containing course maps, manual entry forms, spare position tokens, spare copies of runner barcodes as well as temporary barcodes for those that hadn’t registered. These barcodes included a ‘token’ which the runner could enter into a form on the website after the event to ‘post-register’ which would tie their result to them once they’d registered. I’d spent about 20 hours working on the website in total during the evenings and lunchtimes and although simple and little clunky and unattractive, it did the job.

The day of the first event arrived and Daniel and I made our way to the Common. It was unclear whether I’d get to run. However, Irene had suggested that Jim Davies would be happy to run with Daniel so I could try to beat my usual 7 minute finish time (I had finished in this time on every previous occasion we’d held a Magic Mile!) At first, Daniel was a little reluctant to run with someone but I talked him around fairly easily.

We arrived at the Common and were greeted by Chris, Irene, Gary and Gareth outside the Hawthorns. Before long, the LRR gazebo was up, volunteers and runners were arriving and Chris, as Run Director, was giving his briefing. Unfortunately, Chris was unable to run which meant our battle to the finish line was off!! ūüė¶

There was lots of chat before the event officially started at 6:30pm and it was great to catch up with lots of people.

We’d decided to hold two ‘waves’; one for runners expecting to finish in 7 minutes and under and one for those expecting to finish in over 7 minutes.

Chris lead the first group of 19 runners to the start line (just north of the Cowherds pub) while we got ready for them to cross the finish line. My role was to hand out position tokens in the funnel and to then process the results.

Irene stationed herself so that she could see the runners as they approached the finish. After a little over 4 and a half minutes, she called out that they were approaching and that Jim was in first place.

Jim crossed the line in 5:01. A great effort there. The rest of the runners in the first wave crossed the line and I moved to the gazebo to process the results. All went well with the results download until I tried to process the results via the website. My Mifi dongle was out of juice. I’d accidentally left it switched on. I was a little gutted as it would have been great to have had the results on the website and emailed to the runners during the event.

Whilst the results were processed, the position tokens were collected and sorted ready for wave 2.

We were ready for wave 2 at 7pm and the runners headed for the start area. Daniel stuck close to Jim. It was funny to see him shadowing someone else!

We got to the start line and I positioned myself at the front, wished Daniel and Jim good luck and we were off.

The start of the mile course is uphill. Just before the start Jim had offered done great advice. You have to hit the hill hard as there’s no real opportunity to recover ground in the latter stages of the run. I took his advice and started picking off runner. I was soon in 2nd place and not far behind Steve Robinson in first place. After the first corner, you head across the Common downhill towards the Bellemoor entrance. I was still close to Steve and looked back to see Jim and Daniel.

By the time I got to the Bellemoor entrance I was beginning to flag a little. I was giving it my all and was unsure whether I could sustain it until the finish. We headed south towards the finish. It’s a 600m drag through the open area called The Flats and that 600m seemed a long way and far from flat! In fact, it’s not. There’s a very, very slight hint of an incline. No, really.

I still wasn’t too far behind Steve but there was no way I could close the gap. Just before I rounded the bend to the finish I saw Gary who shouted some encouragement about a sprint finish. More encouragement was received as I headed for the finish line. It was over. Thankfully!

I was shattered. I knew I couldn’t have given any more but forgot to stop my Garmin. I know I was sub 6:40 but not quite sure of my actual finish time. Going sub-7 was my target and I’d done it. My actual finish time was 6:38. An improvement of 22 seconds over my previous PB.

After a few minutes, I heard shouts for Daniel and he sprinted for the line and finished in 10:01!! An excellent effort. Many thanks to Jim for running with him and for giving me the opportunity to run fast. I was busy preparing for the results processing and watched Daniel’s finish from the gazebo

I downloaded all the data and we were ready to pack away. The event had run smoothly and we were ready to go. Chris as RD received a round of applause and the volunteers were all thanked.

When I got home, I quickly processed the results at just after 9:20pm and everyone should have received their result email at that time.

The results for the event are available at http://www.magic-mile.co.uk/results.php

It probably took close to 35 hours of my time to prepare for the event and yet, for all the runners, the event was over in 10 minutes or under. I love organising these events though!!

The feedback on the LRR page on FB was all pretty positive. Our first event had been a success. There are a few minor improvements to make before our next mile event where we open the event to other runners. 69 days to add capabilities to the magic-mile website. We have 2 more events this year (18th June and 13th August). Maybe next year we’ll have more events and add a league similar to the RR10 or CC6.

Manly thanks to the LRR Committee for agreeing to adopt the mile series, to Chris Brown for helping to organise it, to Irene for ensuring we had all volunteer roles covered and to the rest of the event team (Clare and Gary) for their hard work on the night. A great team delivered a great event.

I can’t wait for the next one!!