It’s been a very mixed year running wise for me and the first one where injury has compromised a few races during the summer and here’s the story of how it all went down..
An easy 50 mile week to kick off the New Year followed by 3 x 100 mile weeks and mileage accumulation and no races.
The month started with my traditional warm up event of the year, the Thames Trot (report here) and one which I enter every year to keep the streak alive. This year the rain and wind was pretty severe and it was a tough old slog although ground conditions weren’t their worst. I finished in 7.37 in 18th position which wasn’t too bad. There was a good showing from the Reading Joggers with Barry Miller 4th, Paul Beechey 10th, Alex Whearity 15th, Darren Clark 25th and Wendy Shaw 28th (and 2nd Lady). Top effort guys.
A wet and windy Thames Trot
The rest of the month was dominated by the ‘Run Until You Drop’ challenge (report here) which saw participants run the number of miles (or more) equivalent to the day of the month (so 1 mile for the 1st, 2 miles for the 2nd and so on). This quite frankly ridiculous challenge… er… which I helped organise meant mileage weeks of 100, 100, 135 and 177. Yes, a 177 mile training week. It wasn’t much fun when running 4 times a day towards the end to fit in the miles around work. The fact that 2016 was a leap year meant cheeky 29 miles on the last day of the month aswell, nice.
I also took part in a ‘The Good, The Bad & The Ugly’ themed Marathon hosted by Traviss Wilcox on the 21st of the month (so a nice taper of 17, 18, 19 & 20 miles for the event) purely for the medal as a huge fan of the original Clint Eastwood/Eli Wallach/Lee Van Cleef film 40 years earlier. Well, I’m surprised to say the mileage hadn’t quite killed me and I ended up running a 3.09 time despite a nasty cross-wind on the track and 1st place amongst a small field. Best. Marathon. Ever. 543 miles for the month.
Pictured at “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly” Marathon
Another 5 x 100 mile weeks in a row which was becoming fairly routine now. Ah, but it’s all junk miles isn’t it… You would probably be 95% correct but I did want to run a PB at my local Half Marathon in Reading that month so I did run one interval session a week to try and get some speed into the legs. The result was a 3.00 (and 53 second marathon) at the Phoenix Spring Marathon (PB), a 3.04 marathon two weeks later. 411 miles for the month and a great month of running for me. If you’re bored of the blog, basically the rest of the year goes downhill from here..
Well the Reading Half Marathon went well with a 1.25 time (5 min PB) so even a small amount of speed work can pay huge dividends. I’m not sure why I can’t motivate myself to do more of this.. I just like the junk miles far too much. Must try harder here.
Reading Half Marathon
The rest of the month saw a gradual taper of 110 miles, 85 miles, 70 miles, 35 miles until the Centurion Running Thames Path 100 (report here) where I wanted to have a really good run. The Thames Path event didn’t go to plan, whilst I did run a 100 mile PB time finishing in 18.43 it was below what I thought I could achieve (sub 18hr) and I got tired/sleepy and mentally faded in the last 25 miles. Thanks to Shane Benzie, Alex Whearity and Paul Beechey for crewing/pacing duties. The pacers observation was that I didn’t eat enough during the race. I also lost my special hat to Stouty for not achieving my goal so a double whammy. One to note for the next race. 345 miles for the month.
Pictured at the Thames Path 100
After a recovery week, it was a case of ticking over for the next event which was the inaugural Monarchs Way Ultra (hosted by Lindley Chambers of Challenge Running – report here), a 615 mile jaunt following the length of this trail. This was the big event for the year and with something of this size a good opportunity to raise some funds for the Alexander Devine Charity which is a partner charity of my workplace. I was under no illusions about the enormity of the run and with only 3 entrants it was going to be a lonely period of hiking and jogging. I’m sad to say that despite a steady start, I picked up a knee injury on the 3rd day having covered around 135 miles and was forced to retire early as I was struggling to walk properly (Lindley has a comedy video of me hobbling about looking like a tramp knocking about somewhere). Unfortunately, none of the 3 entrants finished which means that the Monarchs Way ‘crown’ (see what I did there) is there to be claimed by someone next time. Whilst there wasn’t much I could do about a knee injury on the day I was disappointed not to finish the run particularly with all the fund raising and promotion. The only good news is that we (thanks to my work colleagues, family and friends) managed to raise over £3k for the charity. Taking part in this event was a big commitment in terms of cost, time off work and time away from the family so whilst I will ‘never say never’ this was a bit of a ‘one-off’ and it’s unlikely that I will return. 335 miles for the month.
The Monarchs Affair
No running for 3 weeks due to injury and no events meant not much to report. I did start running again towards the end of the month but probably should have rested more as I was running with some discomfort and hardly got into double figures at all. Only 153 miles for the month was a lot of short runs.
I had the chance to have a run in my own Saturday Night Marathon event (thanks to Matt Brown for acting as Race Director on the night) and just ran the Half Marathon so I could still help out at the marathon.
Saturday Night (Half) Marathon – Awesome event!
I was still completing lots of short runs, still running with a bit of discomfort but happy that I was able to run. I entered the local Endure 1250 event (report here) only a few days before it took place (influenced by Stouty who was running the 12 hours). I didn’t think I was fit enough for a fast 50k, not fit enough for a full 12 hours with no long runs in the last month or two and settled on the 50 mile option. Well stranger things have happened and I ended up running a 50 mile PB finishing in 7.06 which was enough for 1st place.. what gives? The last couple of laps were a struggle and my knees were pretty sore after running around on lumpy grass for several hours so despite the good run I hadn’t fully recovered from the injury yet.
Endure 1250 Photo
The rest of the month was short runs (under 10 miles) but generally twice a day and 385 miles for the month.
Several days of short runs led me to the second in the Phoenix Marathon Firebird Series where I ran a 3.19, ok but way off PB. Lots more short runs (and only 1 long run) led me to the T184 event hosted by T-Series Racing (report here). This was an event I had DNF’d a couple of years ago and had planned to return trained, fit, mentally prepared etc etc. I did none of that and whilst everyone and the world was saying DO NOT START THIS RACE, I started it anyway and enjoyed an 80 mile training and a sleep on a random park bench along the Thames at night, before before quitting. I was pretty comfortable with the decision to stop as I probably shouldn’t have started this race but this DNFing was starting to become a habit. I will go back and do this properly one year (which means I actually prepare for it). Well done to Alex Whearity and Paul Beechey for their joint 1st T100 win. 374 miles for the month.
T184 * shakes fist * Note, the knee supports for total sympathy.
With the Centurion Autumn 100 coming up in October and a not so good year so far in the longer races then I really wanted to have a decent run. The knees weren’t 100% and were still sore on the longer runs but I needed to get more long runs banked and so I started doing 2 long runs a week in September which meant a few more high mileage weeks.
At the end of the month I had a planned ‘Boys Weekend Away’ with Stouty which involved us running 2 Rocky Balboa themed marathons on the Saturday and a cheeky Half on the Sunday (events hosted by Enigma Running). This was my ‘fitness’ test for the Autumn 100. The first marathon went ok with a 3.12 finish (and 1st place in a small field) but I struggled with the second marathon on the same day and finished in just over 4 hours with battered knees. I then struggled around the Half Marathon the next day in 1.52. 396 miles for the month and a “Do I, Don’t I” decision for the Autumn 100.
Rocky & Adrian pictured
I (obviously) decided to run the Autumn 100 (report here) but started tapering and resting for the next 3 weeks towards this event. I would rather run an event injury free but not quite at full fitness than carrying a niggle and I played all expectations of the race down (i.e. sandbagging). The day of the Autumn 100 event came along and I started out at a sensible pace running nothing quicker than 8.30-9m/m for the first leg as others charged ahead (a few would hold the pace like Mark Denby) but most wouldn’t. As the race progressed I felt good, strong and had plenty of running in me and moved up the field. There was a little side bet with Nici Griffin who had ended up with ‘The Hat’ which I lost to Stouty earlier in the year and a chance to win it back if I ran a PB (18.43).
Autumn 100, with a ‘new hat’ which looks remarkably like the ‘old hat’.
Well, the race went well… no it went absolutely brilliantly and I ended up running 17.04 in 8th position which was an absolutely huge new Personal Best time (about 1hr 40mins) despite a bit of a fade on the last 25 miles (which seems a bit churlish to moan about). As is the current trend on twitter, Boom! Delighted with that and for the first time in 4-5 months there was no knee discomfort, finally (yes.. yes… more rest = quicker recovery). Only 293 miles for the month (including the 100 mile) so I did take my taper and rest seriously this time. Oh yes… the Hat is now back with me. It just won’t die.
There were two events on the calendar this month, the 3rd of the Phoenix Marathon Firebird Series which resulted in a 3.12 finish so the marathon times were moving in the right direction and the Wendover Woods 50 (report here) which was due to be my last ultra of the year before I entered the Barcelona Track 24 event in December quite late and so Wendover was ‘downgraded’ to a training run. This ‘training run’ went quite well as I took it steady and ran fairly consistent laps throughout the race and I finished in 9.27 in 18th position. 426 miles for the month.
Wendover 50 and return of ‘The Hat’.
A couple of weeks of tapering and then it was time for the last ultra of the year with my first 24 hour track run (report here). I had run a few 3-4 hour sessions on my local track in preparation (more for the mental side than physical) and also had some company as I had persuaded Alex Whearity (who in turn persuaded Wendy Shaw) to participate along with about a dozen other British and Irish runners so there was a good crowd abroad. My sole aim was to try and achieve a Spartathlon auto-qualifier which meant running 135 miles in 24 hours. I rated my chances at 50/50. The advice I had been given on the track event was about saving yourself for the last 4-6 hours and so I took (what I thought) was a steady start just like the Autumn 100 with nothing quicker than 8.30-9m/m. The first half of the race went pretty well, steady running throughout, plenty of eating and enjoying the events and lap format but my quads were taking an absolute battering and I realised my legs weren’t conditioned enough for this race. As a result I slowed, took walk breaks when needed and saw my distance/pace fall about an hour behind where I needed it to be (a sleepy phase didn’t help either) and so after covering 106 miles in 19hrs decided to bail early and watch/support the other runners. I was relaxed at the time about stopping early, I could have walked (primarily)/jogged for another 5 hours and still failed my target.. there just didn’t seem much point. I thoroughly enjoyed the event and weekend and will probably do a track event again but this time just go in with the intention of sticking out the full 24 hours and seeing how it goes.
Barca 24 with Natasha. The blue track makes the race look more exciting than it was in reality.
On the downside, my quads were absolutely battered and probably the second worst they have felt after a race. 2013 Spartathlon was the worst and I spent 2 months running road races in preparation for 2015 Spartathlon which went better so a lesson learned about conditioning yourself for a specific event. December saw 245 miles for the month.
10 days later I plodded rather uncomfortably around the Phoenix Marathon in an unremarkable time of 3.35 but I did earn the biggest medal you have ever seen to complete my races for the year. I’m going to need a bigger shoe box for it.
Can you spot the medal?
As you will have seen a very mixed year overall. The biggest disappointment was not completing the Monarchs Way although this was an injury DNF. Less excuses for bailing on the T184 and Barcelona. DNF a couple of times and it can start to became a bad habit. Too many junk miles, injury, not enough rest, not enough quality training, too many races (although many of these were training races to be fair).. so a normal year really!
If I wanted to try and put a bit of gloss on the year I could mention Personal Bests at Half Marathon, Marathon, 50k and 100 mile (by some margin). There were a few race ‘wins’ but all in events with a small field to be honest but it’s nice to be in that position occasionally.
I didn’t run enough miles with Stouty😦
Finally… the yearly total was 4,275 miles although I sometimes go out for a late night jog on New Years Eve to watch the fireworks so it may creep up slightly.
What have I got planned in 2017? The Thames Trot (obviously) to keep the streak alive (well until Drew Sheffield stops his similar Country to Capital streak) and the main ultra events will be the GUCR, Kennet & Avon and hopefully the Liverpool to Leeds making up the Canal Slam with a few training marathons in and around these.
I will put in for the Spartathlon ballot and that will be a bonus if I’m fortunate enough in the draw. If not, I may look for another event towards the end of the year.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the read. Happy New Year everyone!