Queen Elizabeth parkrun – inaugural event

This morning sees Daniel and I heading to Queen Elizabeth parkrun for their inaugural event. QE parkrun is held at Queen Elizabeth Country Park near Horndean and is about 30 minutes from home.

I’ve been involved with the parkrun since day 1 when the local council’s Sports Development Officer contacted me to find out whether we could hold a parkrun at the park. Kirsty had asked the Park Manager if the park could host the event and they’d given a tentative yes. Funding had also been secured based on the success of Havant parkrun.

Given two hurdles had been mostly overcome, I needed to find a team to manage the event and spoke with Dave Williams, ED at Havant parkrun about it. Before long, Dave had spoken with a keen parkrunner and Run Director at Havant, Kiernan Easton, who expressed an interest in taking on the challenge of bringing a new parkrun event to life.

Within a few hours, Kiernan had confirmed he wanted to drive things forward. Behind the scenes he had spoken to another passionate parkrunner, James Leighton, who coincidentally had contacted me previously to suggest QECP as a potential parkrun venue. James very quickly provides a detailed Word document detailing the venue, possible courses and other really useful information.

By this time, the Park Manager had made more positive noises about hosting the event at the park so I forwarded James’ information on and we subsequently arranged a meeting to discuss things in more detail.

Kiernan, James, Dave and I attended the meeting and met with Tim, the Park Manager, who couldn’t have been much more positive. Kiernan’s enthusiasm for parkrun and bringing a new parkrun into the parkrun family shone through and the rest of us didn’t really have to say much!

We recced James’ suggested course after the event. One word – challenging!! Probably the most challenging course in the south (although Ashton Court might be more tough?) It was beautiful though and *maybe* the scenery would distract runners from the pain the ‘undulating’ terrain would inflict!!

We had the green light and now it was time to step things up a gear. In my Ambassadorial role, I was main point of contact for Kiernan and between James, Kiernan and myself we produced the risk assessment documentation and event information. Once complete and reviewed, I forwarded it into HQ and tentatively suggested a start date of 18th May.

With several weeks to go, there was plenty of time to engage the services of Gareth and Dave to measure the course, order the necessary equipment from HQ and prepare for the arrival of this new parkrun.

Fast forward to today, 18th May. Date of Queen Elizabeth parkrun’s inaugural event. It’s currently 5am and I’ve got just under 2 hours until I need to get up and then make my way with Daniel to the venue…

We’re home!! The first QE parkrun went well. Lots of familiar faces from parkruns around the South. Around 140 runners enjoyed the inaugural event. Most found the course the most challenging they’d done and it’s arguably the most challenging course in the South. Robert Spencer believes it’s more challenging than Ashton Court in Bristol which is famed for its 2.5km up and 2.5km down.

The course has a 250m incline followed by quite a sharp decent. Trail shoes are recommended and the descents could be a challenge in wet or icy conditions. It then has an undulating section that takes you to about 2.8km. There’s then a 1km climb (!) which passes the start area before another 2km of undulation to the finish. The last 400m or so is on a gradual incline so a little energy-sapping as you (attempt to?) sprint for the finish. As usual, Daniel’s self-imposed rules of running on the flat and downhill and walking uphill fell into disarray. We were soon adopting a run/walk strategy regardless of the terrain!

Daniel made a long sprint for the finish, seemingly having forgotten his tired legs and crossed the line ahead of me. Darn!

The cafe was full with parkrunners after the run which was a great sign. Lots of chat, beverages and cake (not to mention some odd-looking bananas which were in fact oranges!)

It was great to catch up with Dave, Joel, Neil, Robert, Colin, Elaine, David, Rex, Kerri, Alison, Louise, Barbara, Ian to name but a few!

Overall, a great parkrun morning.

Next weekend sees the inaugural event for Brockenhurst parkrun which promises to be less challenging but another excellent parkrun.

New Blog Post – Alice Holt parkrun – another inaugural

Today it was an early parkrun start. Up at 6am, breakfast, wash and then out of the door for 7:10am. The reason? Alice Holt’s inaugural parkrun.

Alice Holt is the name of a large country park near Farnham. http://www.parkrun.org.uk/aliceholt is the event website.

My involvement with this parkrun started about 6 months ago when I met with the Sports Development Manager for Havant Borough Council about starting up a parkrun in Havant. The SDM, Richard, brought along his contemporary in the Farnham area and I took along Dave Williams who, at the time was a Run Director at Netley Abbey (and previously Eastleigh).

I had prepared a PowerPoint presentation covering what parkrun was, what the benefits are, a case study of Eastleigh parkrun and the steps involved in setting up a parkrun. It was an easy-sell. Both Richard and Kirsty were keen and had already secured a majority of the funding required.

Havant parkrun started shortly after in June with Dave as the Event Director. Due to the location, I wasn’t able to help bring Alice Holt to life so handed the hot prospect back to parkrun HQ to see if they could entice an event team out of the local runners. It wasn’t long before there was some interest and now, 6 months later, it’s the morning of their first event.

The course is described as a 2-lapper which is a little hilly. Oh joy!! Terrain is all off-road on gravel paths and trails. Am not sure which shoes are best so am taking road and trail shoes just in case.

Every parkrun is the best in the eyes of those that work tirelessly to make it happen. Or, at least, that’s what we like to think of our own parkrun offspring. However, as soon as you start to visit other parkruns, you find that isn’t the case. All parkruns are equal. Well organised and friendly. There are differences in them all due to the course, locality and the team that run them but all share the same essence.

What I have found is that it takes a few weeks for a parkrun to gel and start its own community. This is to be expected but inaugural events are always interesting as you get to meet more and more familiar faces and tourists from further afield. Today I’m expecting to see several Lordshill Road Runners as well as several other regular parkrunners from the Solent events.

Neil very kindly offered to drive and so a small contingent from Southampton (Di, Tamsyn, Neil and myself) headed up to Alice Holt. The weather was a little miserable on the journey with drizzle/rain but the conversation was good!!

We arrived at 8:10am with plenty of time to spare. Parking wasn’t particularly cheap but as parkrunners that cost could be offset by 10% off in the cafe. As we sat in the car keeping warm, the event team were setting up the finish funnel.

After some coaxing from fellow Solent parkrunner, David Blackman, who’d travelled up with John Maccines, we got out of the car at about 8:30am and headed to the start area. The start, finish, cafe and car park were all located very close together. Perfect really. Also present was Karen Hazlitt and several familiar parkrun tourists amongst many tourists who looked less familiar!

I had time for a quick chat with the Event Director, Martin, and one of his chief volunteers. I’d emailed them the evening before to offer some assistance but they clearly had everything in hand.

Martin drew the runners together for the pre-run briefing and then we walked the short distance to the start. It was good to see parkrun über-tourist Louise Ayling at the start. Louise had recently run at both Southampton and Netley Abbey.

The first 0.5 km was largely downhill and I ran with Di for most of this before she sped off into the distance. The paths were forest trails and mostly firm underfoot. There were plenty of puddles and I was very glad to be wearing trail shoes in places.

Given the downhill start, it wasn’t too long before a few climbs were needed. These were, as Danny Norman described them, playful. Challenging is another word I’d use!! Fortunately, the climbs were broken up by some flat sections and some gradual drops.

Marshalling on the course was good with marshals at all the key intersections.

As a 2-lapper, having to re-live the hills on the 2nd lap wasn’t particularly appealing but as a T-shirt run ( more interested in getting a run closer to the elusive 50 T-shirt than a PB), I had to cross the finish line. Given I now knew the course, I throttled back a bit further to ensure I got to the finish line.

At about 4km, parkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt passed me with one of his dogs. As I headed for the finish, Di shouted some encouragement (having finished a couple of minutes earlier) and I sped up towards the line.

As I crossed the line, it wasn’t immediately clear where the barcode scanners were and that’s about the only issue I can think of.

Having been scanned, it was time for a post-run beverage and some cake. Briefly chatted with Danny Norman, parkrun’s UK Comminication Manager, and then went in search of food where we were joined by Robert Bryan.

Once cake was duly demolished, it was time to head home.

Overall, a great morning. A lovely park with lots of car parking. A playful course. Definitely one that’s going to thrive in the summer and early autumn but may be more challenging due to conditions in the winter and early spring. Certainly a more challenging course than Havant parkrun too which has a steep drop and a energy-sapping climb.

At home (parkrun) with the Yellings

Week 2 of my 56 week training plan has gone to… er, plan. All workouts completed except for one swim which I missed through poor organisation which I replaced with a short Fartlek-style session on Friday to loosen my legs ready for Saturday’s parkrun.

On Sunday, I was official starter for the Lordshill 10 Mile Road Race. It was a surprise but it was also lovely to be asked. I’ll be honest with you, I’m not sure why I was chosen but I really enjoyed the role.

The highlight of the running-related week was undoubtedly meeting Tom Williams, parkrun’s UK Country Manager, during the Southampton leg of his UK tour meeting event teams and prospects. At the Southampton meeting, there were 31 of us including teams from Brockenhurst, Eastleigh, Havant, Southampton, Netley Abbey and Poole. Tom, and fellow MarathonTalk podcaster/presenter, Martin Yelling, had some great anecdotes and the meeting was excellent.

Martin announced that he’d be joining us at Southampton parkrun on Saturday along with his wife, Olympic Marathon runner, Liz Yelling and their daughter, Ruby (aka Roo). I’ve met Martin once before at Eastleigh parkrun but not met Liz before.

This brings me to Saturday’s parkrun. Each weekend that I’m available for parkrun (2 in 3 weekends) I have some guilt that I’m not visiting each of ‘my’ events. Clearly that’s not possible without cloning so the guilt then focuses on deciding to run rather than volunteer. However, I do spent several hours during the week dealing with emails, preparing the volunteer rota for Netley Abbey, hanging out on the event Facebook pages and, more than occasionally writing news reports. I also Run Direct at Netley Abbey once every 5 weeks and keep an all seeing eye over the other events. Maybe the guilt should subside a little.

Given the fact I’d decided to run, I chose Southampton mainly because I wanted a fast run but also due to Martin, Liz and Southampton parkrun first-timer (Olympian and GB record-holder) Iwan Thomas being there. Southampton Common offers a fast course and is likely to be the venue where I’ll regain a parkrun PB (unless I visit Poole).

Having arrived, said a few ‘hellos’, I chatted with Martin and Liz (a thoroughly nice couple who run and volunteer regularly at Poole parkrun. Both regularly grace the front cover of running magazines and its not difficult to see why!), it was time to say a brief hello to Iwan before the start. He let me know he had received his parkrun barcode…

…There’s a bit of back story here but I don’t have time to share it other than to say the we’re strictly enforcing the ‘no barcode, no result’ policy common across all parkruns. Why do we do this?

We don’t ask parkrun participants to do much but offer a lot for free in return. All parkruns are run at a local level by volunteers who give up their own free time to help out. The key role of Run Director requires 3-4 hours on, and leading up to the Saturday event, of which runners only really see the 5 minute pre-run briefing.

One of the more time consuming tasks is that of results processing which involves downloading the data from the assorted gadgetry (barcode scanners and timers), uploading the data, processing it and then submitting the results to HQ. On a good day, this can typically take 5-10 minutes but if there are any discrepancies in the data (mismatched times and positions for example), the process can take much longer.

Having to enter manual barcodes slows the whole process down and means the Run Director has to spend more of their time on parkrun than is necessary. Given the time they’ve already given up, this is rather unfair and we, as parkrunners, should be making their lives easier rather than harder. We therefore ask you to bring your barcode with you. You wouldn’t be able to compete in a race without your race number (or having registered and paid your entry fee). We don’t stop you participating but won’t give you a result.

Manually entering a barcode number (or searching for a parkrunner) typically takes 20-30 seconds. Although this may not be much for one barcode, if 10 or more runners forget their barcode, this can (and has) doubled the time to process the results.

And so to my parkrun…

I started a little too far back within the 220 runners attending and had to do some weaving to find my pace. Before I hit the Flats, Martin Yelling floated past pushing Roo, Martin made pushing a 3 1/2 year look far easier than it actually is.

As I got to the Bellemoor entrance, the field was spreading out and it was time to prepare for the hill, er hill, that goes around the northern end of the Common. I’ve run the course several times but the length of the incline seems longer each time. It’s deceiving as you get an incline, a plateau, then another incline. This pattern continues about twice more than expected with the last incline being steeper than the previous ones.

Fortunately, after the first mile, there’s a downhill stretch back to the Bellemoor and then a flat section back through The Flats. I’d tried to keep things strong on the climb but was looking forward to a little respite.

Lots of encouragement as I passed the finish area to start the last ‘lap’ was much appreciated. By now I was beginning to feel a little fatigued and I wondered whether I’d finish (in reality, I do this at every parkrun, dreaming up excuses for why I didn’t finish). I’d said to Kirsty, a fellow LRR, that I wanted to finish in 24 minutes and not finishing would have been an embarrassment after such an announcement.

As I entered the gravel path that leads towards the paddling pool, the mental battle continued. As I passed Irene who was marshalling at the far side of the paddling pool and headed north along the path that runs almost parallel with the Avenue, I almost stopped. Feeling defeated and told myself not to stop, zipped up my man-suit and slowed (without stopping!) to conserve some energy. At this point, dreams of a 24 minute finish went out of the window and sub 25 looked likely (probably 24:35).

I made it to the top of the incline knowing it was downhill or flat from there.

Before long I was on the flats and with about 300 metres to go, I could hear Kirsty say ‘there’s James’ and start shouting encouragement.

With what seemed like a long way to go, Kirsty stsrted a countdown from 10 and I sped for the line. I crossed it one second past 24 minutes in 24:01. Not bad considering I’d almost lost it at 4km. I’m not sure how I found the energy to cover the distance to the finish so quickly, but it just goes to show what a goal and encouragement to reach that goal can do.

Had it not been for the encouragement from some of the marshals, it would have been an ‘ok’ performance. Instead, it was a course PB at Southampton and my second fastest 5km, 8 seconds away from my PB set over a year ago. Happy with that.

Unfortunately, I was unable to visit the cafe for post-run chat and beverages as I had to look after the boys earlier than expected. Given the athletics royalty in attendance, this was pretty disappointing.

Overall, however, a great parkrun morning.

Wyvern 10k – a quick review

On Saturday, I ran the 2nd Southampton parkrun on Southampton Common. As Event Director, I’d lost some sleep over how well the inaugural event would go and still had worries about the 2nd event. However, as a running participant, I’m pleased to say that those fears have largely dissipated as the potential issues I had really aren’t issues. It was great to run the event and see that the course coped well with almost 200 runners (198 in fact).

I had to rush off straight after my run to go and set up for the mini-parkruns being held at Royal Victoria Country Park. The latter event held some good promise as a means of promoting parkrun but the weather was awful and there was such a poor turnout that we finished up early and went home.

The last race I did was the Olympic Park Run (5 miles) and previous to that it was the Eastleigh 10K.

Yesterday (Sunday 15th) I ran a brand new 10K race, the Wyvern 10K. This race was organised by Eastleigh Running Club and Wyvern College and was held in Fair Oak just 4 miles from

Race Director, Deb Tyler, is a Run Director at Eastleigh parkrun and is also the Race Director for the very popular Marwell 10K. With Deb in charge, you can be sure of a very well organised event.

As the race was only 4 miles away and car parking at Wyvern College reported to be sparse, I decided to cycle. This was the first time I’d ridden for several months and as I cycled there along some of the course, I had chance to see just how non-flat the course was.

I’m not sure cycling was the greatest idea but it served as a warmup and the weather was good. It also reminded me how much I enjoyed cycling and I think I’ll try and include a cycle session once a week once the weather improves.

As I travelled to Wyvern, the marshals for the race were all heading for their positions and I saw a few familiar faces.

On arrival at the College, I was directed to the cycle racks. On the way, I bumped into Team Bryan (Robert, Susan and children) who are Run Directors and regular participants at Eastleigh parkrun.

There were plenty of marshals at the school to help direct people to registration and baggage. The registration area was in a big top. Well organised and quick, I headed out to drop off my baggage and spotted several familiar faces including regular race/run photographer Paul Hammond, Ian Boshier, Chris Brown and Henry Hopkins.

Henry and I dropped off baggage (again) well organised and went for a warmup on the J track which also served as the start area for the race.

It wasn’t immediately clear which way we left the start line (a common enough problem for many races) but that became clear before the start.

Having seen several Lordshill Road Runners (Jim Davies, Lawrence Chen amongst others) warming up, the area became busier about 10 minutes before the start. Deb was busy making sure the marshals and road blocks were in place. Louise Drayton said hello as she headed off to her marshalling position and then the runners congregated for the start.

The airhorn blasted and we were off. The course followed the J track, up a short incline on a Tarmac path and then down a muddy and slippy hill before leaving the school. The latter was a little disconcerting and caused by the recent poor weather.

As we left the school grounds, it was great to see so many locals along the route of the race. They seemed to have embraced the event and I can see it becoming popular largely due to the local support and support from the staff at Wyvern.

The course itself followed the northern end of Allington Lane (half the road was closed allowing car drivers from West End to travel north). We then turned left onto Fir Tree Lane and then onto Burnetts Lane before heading south on Botley Road. The course is an out-and-back with the turnaround point at 5km. Water was available at 4 and 6km. It was quite nice having a race where the 2 and 8km, 3 and 7km markers etc were at the same position. The other advantage was being able to see the front runners as they headed back. I saw Kev Yates from LRR jogging along and then the eventually winner not far behind him. It was great seeing so many regulars from parkrun and to be able to give them a few words of encouragement. After the turnaround point, I spotted Yvonne and Barbara Boshier who looked to be doing well. Barbara went on to PB. Well done Barbara.

The outward leg seemed to be mainly uphill. Definitely not flat and possibly more accurately described as gently undulating. I would have definitely preferred flat. The return leg seemed to be mainly uphill :-S I struggled from 8-9km and ended up walking a little as we went up a hill. I could blame the parkrun the day before, the sun, the lack of any hill sessions in recent months, the cycle ride or the lack of mental toughness to persevere when the going got a little tougher. Must try harder next time.

As I entered the school grounds, Dave Hawkins from ERC and a regular parkrunner, gave lots of words of encouragement (thanks Big Dave!!). With another slippy incline, I slowed down again. Disappointed I started to run again and sped up for the last 300 metres. As I passed Deb, she announced who I was and gave a great spiel on parkrun. Thanks Deb.

Running the last 150 metres on the track was a nice touch. Having crossed the line, it was time to collect the goodie bag (consisting of several flyers, a couple of random sachets and a water bottle from a local running shop and Olympic Torch inspired medal) before collapsing for a sit down and a post race chat with Henry and Chris. Both had found the race tougher than expected. This was really down to the expectation of a flat course and the reality that it wasn’t.

Baggage collection was a breeze and then it was time for the 4 mile cycle home. That definitely felt tougher.

So, in summary, a great new race. Very close to home. Well supported by locals. Very well organised. Most marshals were encouraging, some just going through the motions (marshals are there to ensure health and safety of participants and everyone else a race impacts. However, I think we expect them to give something extra. A clap, a few words of encouragement). Interesting course (the out-and-back offered different challenges in either direction). Accurately measured and signed course. My Garmin read 1km exactly at every marker.

In my view, a couple of minor changes would make the race a great race:

– better description of the course profile, e.g. It’s not flat
– clearer signs at registration for chip collection (the surname letters were a little hidden and that could have caused confusion had it been busier in the Big Top)
– signs to show direction of travel from start
– Clearer description of road closures (particularly Allington Lane)

But those are all very minor issues.

Wyvern 10K has become one of my favourite races and I hope for its return in 2013. Well done again Deb and everyone else involved.

Last week’s runs

At my last parkrun, I was lucky enough to have Rach video me and provide some advice on my running style. It made interesting viewing and last week’s runs were spent trying to resolve some of the issues that were apparent.

The main issues appeared to be above the waist and it’s clear I need to relax a little in my arms and shoulders. As you can see on the video, my arms are quite high and my shoulders look far from relaxed.

My runs this week were a little mundane!

Monday’s run was 10 x 500m interval session with 60 seconds recovery. Although it would have been ideal to have done this on the flat, my chosen location was slightly downhill for the 1st, 3rd, 5th (etc) intervals and slightly uphill and into the wind on the even numbered intervals. Unfortunately, I only managed 9 and a bit intervals!! Better try harder!!

Tuesday’s run was a recovery run where I was supposed to keep my HR below 147bpm. I didn’t manage that! Knuckles wrapped!

Wednesday’s run was a long slow run. Had planned to do 8 miles within the right HR zone but didn’t manage either. A little over 7 miles at 166 AHR. Hmmm…

Thursday’s run was an opportunity to redeem myself with another attempt at a slow run. I went out with the intention of running 6 miles but the weather was so nice that I decided to go long! Running up the Itchen Way was lovely and although I kept meaning to turn back, I kept on running… and running… and running… til I got to Bishopstoke. Then, I realised that I’d have to head back!

Friday’s run was supposed to be a tempo run. To be honest, I think the long runs in the week had taken their toll and I really couldn’t find my running legs. Some days are just like that.

Sunday was the day of the Brighton Marathon. Had originally planned to run it but thought better of it and deferred entry. Am very glad that I did!! No way I’d have been able to make it around 26.2 miles, especially given the very warm weather.

2 days of rest and hoping today’s run goes a little better!

I’ve been getting a few aches and pains in my right ankle/foot for a few days now. Keeping an eye on it just in case!



My week’s running

Rather than post about individual runs, I plan to look back at each week of runs from now on (covering Sunday to Saturday).

The week started very well with the Eastleigh 10K. A 10K PB improvement of 4 minutes.

On Monday, I was achy. Calf muscles sore and I was struggling to walk normally because of that (goes to show I was pushing it!). However, I ran a 5K recovery run to try and ease those achy calves. It worked a little.

Tuesday was a rest day due to the recovery. Still a little achy.

Wednesday, I did a 9.4km slow run. Nothing to exciting. Still some calf tightness.

Unfortunately, work prevented me running on Thursday and with Friday off, that meant 2 days of rest. Didn’t feel too disappointed by this though as I was trying for a PB at Eastleigh parkrun the following day and rest before that would help. The downside of tapering the previous week and a low mileage week this week was weight gain!!

On Saturday, conditions were good. The rain earlier in the week meant that Wide Lane Sports Field’s ground conditions were dry but not too firm.

It was great to have Rach and Mark at the event although Rach wasn’t running in preparation for the Oulton Park Duathlon the following day.

The good thing was I was reminded to go and warm up. This is something I’ve only done twice before on a ‘race’ day; the last time being the previous weekend. A lesson learned – always warm up before a race. Nothing too much 1km is good for a 5K race. A couple of km for a 10k. Very slow easy pace. I’d always avoided a warm
up before due to thinking I’d be more tired prior to the race start.

I was pushing for a PB and wanted to finish in 23:45. This meant 4:45 mins per km.

As the start ‘gun’ went off, I was running with Mark (who was running slow). We went off at 4:30 mins per km pace. It felt comfortable but I knew I risked fading out too quick at that pace. 2nd lesson learned – stick with your pacing plan no matter what during a race.

I felt ok during the run (the course was ‘a parkrun with a twist’ – clockwise rather than anticlockwise around the field) although I struggled to maintain 4:45 pace and averaged 4:48 instead. I put this down to still recovering from the Eastleigh 10K.

I was convinced that I’d not PB’d and having processed the results in almost record time was very pleased to have finished in 23:52 (4:48 pace); a PB of 29 seconds (and a WAVA improvement of 1.5%) and an increase in my RunBritain Ranking from 18.4 to 17.7! Given my previous PB had been on a short course, I’m suspecting the PB improvement over 5km would have been nearer 1 minute. Very pleased.

Just to summarise WAVA % performances:

  • 100% = Approximate World Record
  • over 90% = World class
  • over 80% = National class
  • over 70% = Regional class
  • over 60% = Local class

Feeling good almost 24 hours later. Hoping for 4 or 5 runs over the course of the next week. Upping the distance of my LSR too.

Ultimate aim being a 5km in under 21 minutes (a 44 minute 10K)!!

However, my main goal at the moment is a WAVA score of 60% – an improvement of over 3% on my highest WAVA score from 22 January 2011 (56.43%). This means a 5K time of 22:55 (4:35 pace) based on a 41 year old or 23:05 (4:37 pace) for a 42 year old. See Running For Fitness for more information.

My fastest non-official 5K was 23:35 (4:42 pace) from 18th March 2011. So, this means shaving about 30 seconds off that or 1 minute from my current official 5K PB. Sounds possible…

Breaking the 50 minute barrier at Eastleigh 10K

In March 2010, I ran the Eastleigh 10K in a little over 57 minutes. Having PB’d at the Stubbington 10K in January on a more difficult course, I knew I had a very good chance of shaving a good few minutes off my Eastleigh 10K PB on Sunday.

In fact, a couple of recent 5K runs of close to 23 minutes proved that getting close to 50 minutes would be possible if I pushed hard.

During one of those 5K runs, my pace averaged at 7:31 minutes per mile, significantly faster than I’d managed to run before.

With this in mind, I set myself the challenge of completing the Eastleigh 10K sub-50! My training advisor/coach, Rachael Elliott, agreed that this was possible and provided lots of advice on ensuring it. Thanks Rach!

Prior to the race, it was great to see lots of Eastleigh parkrunners. When I told some of them of my goal time, they looked uncertain I could knock over 7 minutes off of my previous race time and improve my 10K PB by over 3 minutes (the PB was only 2 months old).

However, over the last few months, my training regime has focused on running slower! I had bought a Garmin Forerunner sports watch to help me train using heart rate zones and was running 4-5 times per week following Rach’s training plan which consisted of:

– Kenyan hill/interval session
– recovery run
– long slow run
– slow run
– tempo run

The idea of running slow to get fast seemed contradictory and running slow really didn’t feel natural for a few weeks and for several slow runs, my Average Heart Rate, AHR, was too high. I gradually learned to control it though.

So, back to the race… Having screwed up some races by over-hydrating and going off too fast, Rach’s advice proved invaluable. In fact, in terms of hydration, I had a coffee and orange juice at breakfast 3 hours before race start and then a couple of sips of water 30 minutes before.

At this point, I should add that I was going to be running in my brand new K-Swiss K-Ona C running shoes. Having never run in them before, this was definitely a gamble. I risked blisters and that could ruin my chance of reaching my target. However, the Newtons that I’d won as Eastleigh parkrunner of the month back in October/November 2010 were looking very worn and had clocked up over 500 miles. K-Onas it was!!

My plan (based on Rach’s advice) was to run even splits at 05:00 mins/km pace.

As the start gun fired and I headed (with the other 1300+ competitors) for the start line), I taped the bezel of my Garmin and then couldn’t press the Start button as it re-located satellites. Grrrrr!

0.2km into the race and I could see my stats. I focused on running 05:00 on average and completely ignored my heart rate (I have a tendency to see a high HR and then ease back but knew that if I did that, I’d risk meeting my target.

At my pace, I calculated that I’d have to cross the finish line in under 49 minutes based on my Garmin. But before that, there were 6 miles to cover.

Having the Garmin proved invaluable. I could see my average pace constantly and could adjust my pace to keep at 05:00.

The first 2-3 km went well. Last year I struggled up the hill past Ham Farm but this year it felt easier. 3-5km went ok. I had to keep check on my average pace at this point as there was still a very gradual incline.

At 7km, I needed some water and grabbed a cup at the water station. 2 sips and it was discarded. My pace had dropped and I had work to do.

Things got tougher but my goal was at the forefront of my mind. I knew I’d made up a few seconds in the first 5-6km so could ease the pace a little but any more and my goal was in jeopardy.

The last 3km went quickly and for the last km along the path on Fleming Park field, I pushed a little harder. Not only did I have a few seconds to make up but also I didn’t really know my pace for the first 0.2 km. The finish line came into sight and I crossed in under 51 minutes. My Garmin showed 48:46. I think I might have done it!! However I wouldn’t know for sure until the results were published.

It was a long wait. Late in the afternoon, the results were available. 49:49!! An Eastleigh 10K PB of over 7:30 and a 10K PB by exactly 4 minutes. I was pleased to say the least.

A sub-45 10K no longer seems an impossible dream!!

So, what can I attribute my performance to? Mainly Rachael! Her training plan and advice was key. Without those things, I’d have probably run too fast in training, over-hydrated and set off to fast during the race. Most importantly, I’d not have believed that I could finish in under 50 seconds.

At the start of the year, I set one of my goals for 2011 to improve my 10K PB from 57:22 to 47:41. I’m now (only!) 2:08 from meeting this goal.

And now to really push the envelope, my goal for Eastleigh 10K 2012 is to finish in under 44 minutes. Will I do it? There’s only one way to find out!

This week’s runs… so far – Lost in music

So far this week, I’ve had 2 good runs. The first was an 4 miler on Monday. It was an interval training run consisting of:

  • 5 minute warmup
  • 1km fast
  • 2 mins slow
  • 1km fast
  • 2 min slow
  • 1km fast
  • 2 min slow
  • 1km fast
  • 2 min slow
  • 1km fast
  • cooldown

Each interval got slower and slower primarily due to overdoing the first one! Overall, went well with little to report. Thanks to Rachael for the training advice!

Wednesday’s run was an 8.5 miler via Eastleigh. This was a route that I’ve done a few times before in recent weeks. It’s great to head off in a different direction and see some new sights (even though I know the area I ran in very well when running you see more than if you’re in a car). I was listening to AudioFuel’s mid intensity long run compilation.

Have to say that the compilation and commentary really helped get through the long run. It’s really great getting coached through a run with reminders to relax, take walk breaks if necessary, etc.

I’m not sure whether it was the upbeat music or a couple of short walk breaks but my average pace for the run was the highest ever for a 7+ mile run. I do find that the beat helps me maintain a good cadence and that helps eat the miles.

Later today, I’m heading out for a 5 mile recovery run. I’ll most likely use the same AudioFuel compilation. However, will take a look at the Push It Up mid intensity fitness pack first as the BPM is a little slower. Don’t want to over do it prior to tomorrow’s parkrun at Eastleigh.

Big thanks to Mark Clay (@MarkRClay on Twitter) for his donation to my 875 mile charity challenge!! Much appreciated.

Where have I been?

Days and weeks slip by without a blog post so here goes. Time to try and catch up.

Well, my running has dwindled off a little in the last month (until this week at least) due to a combination of:

  • a couple of long weekends away
  • some aches and pains

However, I’m now back into the swing of things and heading back up to 20 miles per week which is the target I need to maintain for the rest of the year.

Due to the aches and pains, I took a break for the week of the 28 June and eased back in slowly the following week. In terms of the aches, I’m pretty confident that they were due to doing too much in the VFFs. The aches were across the top of my foot (right predominantly) and ankles. I was beginning to think that I’d caused a stress fracture from racking up the miles too quickly and running the Lordshill 10K in my KSOs. Better to ease back to make things right rather than continue to push it and cause more damage.

In terms of easing back, I’ve gone back to my normal running shoes. This might appear to be a backward step but I’ve found the cushioning to have eased the aches and pain and my improved running form has helped me to avoid heel-striking. That means that I’ve been experiencing the best of both worlds. I’ve not even felt the compulsion to revert to heel-striking which is pleasing!

On the subject of VFFs, minimalist running, barefoot, etc, MarathonTalk devoted a complete podcast to it this week with an interview with Barefoot Ted. It was pretty interesting and at 1:05 into the podcast, they raise my question regarding foot/ankle ache. The response (although a little longer than I’ll depict here!) was to transition more slowly. I also read into the response that a more transitional shoe may be more appropriate. To be honest, although I’d love to try that approach, the cost is off-putting. Also, being able to run in my existing Saucony’s and keep a good form is fine for me for now.

In terms of working back into wearing my VFFs, I’m going to ease back into them slowly with a couple of short/slow runs per week.

Next run – tomorrow’s Eastleigh parkrun!

Yesterday’s run – Lordshill 10K

Yesterday’s run was the Lordshill 10K in Southampton, UK.

Although I signed up for the race several months ago, I hadn’t really thought that I’d be running on the hottest day of the year so far. As the mid-weekend of the Wimbledon fortnight, rain was likely. However, in the UK, we’ve not seen rain for several weeks.

As I arrived at the race HQ, the temperature was 26 dec C. While sitting in the car, attaching my race number (111), the lack of air/breeze was apparent. This was going to be a tough race.

There was a 5 minute walk from race HQ to the start line. One thing I like about races is that you get to see new areas. On this occasion, 2 parks I’d not been to before.

I arrive at the starting area about 30 minutes before the gun. Used the baggage store for my first time. Will definitely use that again in future races.

From looking at race numbers, it was clear that there were about 250 runners. A mix of ages and ability.

The start was delayed by 5 minutes due to some late entrants having to be sent back to race HQ.

On the start line, a couple showed an interest in my Vibram FiveFingers. I received several strange looks and a few others commented to spouses/partners about my ‘funny’ footwear.

As the start approached, I set up Runkeeper and waited for the’ gun’.

And we were off.

Gawd, it was hot. The race took us through Lordshill, Rownhams and surrounding areas. A nice mix of village, country lanes, modern housing estates and wooded trails.

There were brief and infrequent areas of shade and these proved very popular.

During the course, there were a few undulations. The beating sun made these a struggle though.

Having got to 5K, my energy was sapping fast. Like several others, walk breaks were becoming popular as the temperature and humidity level rose. By now, it was about 30 deg C.

Fortunately, at 5.5K, there was the first water station. 2 cups. One to pour over my head and one to drink.

The next 3K were tough. I managed to keep going and at 7K spoke with a number of other runners who were also struggling. They all said that they weren’t going to complete in less than an hour, their first time of not reaching that milestone.

Around the course, Lordshill Runners marshalls were doing an excellent job of showing the way, directing traffic and, most importantly, shouting words of encouragement. They were the best bunch of marshalls I’ve encountered in my brief race career to date!

At 8.8K, another water station had been added. Bliss. This was followed by some locals with a hose pipe. They deserved a medal!!

At just before 9K, following a brief 10K, I took my final, brief walk break. I knew my finish time was likely to be 63 minutes. No PB for me today.

As the line approached, I saw 3 of the runners ahead that I’d been running with a couple of km before. I decided to increase the pace and sprinted for the line. Making up 3 places felt good.

Another water station and a finishers medal signalled the end of my first, and probably last, Lordshill 10K. The race was great, organisation excellent. Location local. Nothing to fault apart from the weather. June/July/August races are to be avoided by me in future.

Race route and stats available at http://runkeeper.com/user/sitereport/activity/11898129

Next race, September 4th. Dorney half marathon.