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Entries in long run (7)


It’s nearly that time again

If you’ve put your name down for this year’s Bristol half marathon then you’ve probably just found an email from the organisers in your inbox. It’s a reminder that there are four weeks to go before the race. Only four weeks!

I hope you’re on target to hit the mileage that you need ready for the big day.

I feel like I’ve - finally - got back into half marathon territory for the first time in quite a long time. Yesterday I managed a slow run of over 10 miles. As a result, the legs were a little stiff this morning, but at least no damage was done.

Last year I never managed to get beyond 10 miles in training for the half. I started building up the miles too late. Given that we’ve got a couple more training weekends to go before this year’s race I should hopefully manage at least one 13 mile training run. It would be the first time I’ve managed that for three years. Every year one thing or another seems to get in the way. I’m crossing my fingers that doesn’t happen again!

You don’t need to have run the full distance before the race in order to get round. I know runners who have turned in some fast times for the half without ever running that far in training. But personally I always feel a bit more comfortable if I stand on the start line knowing that I’ve done it.

Race day usually turns out to be quite hot. We’ve had some pretty rotten weather this year so it’s been difficult to do any acclimatisation. At least the race this year is in late September for a change, so maybe it won’t turn out to be sweltering. Who knows?

Whether we’re faced with rain or sun, and whether you’re running the half for the first time or the fifteenth time, I hope you have a great day.


Ready for the off?

We’re now less than two weeks away from the Bristol Half Marathon. If you’re running then I hope your training has gone well and you’ve managed to stay injury free. As Ben mentioned in a post a couple of weeks ago, the conventional wisdom is that if you can run 10 miles then you should be able to manage to get around a Half. I think that’s right, although the last mile or so may present your quads with an interesting challenge.

If your preparations have fallen a bit short of what you had hoped for then it’s a good idea not to try to catch up by cramming in a lot of extra training at the last minute. That’s a good way to get injured. And it’s not really a hugely effective way to increase your fitness – the rest periods between runs are integral to improving endurance. Even if you avoid injury, the chances are you’ll be knackered when race day arrives.

The running magazines and guides typically recommend a period of tapering before a distance race. Do your longest training run two weeks before the race (yesterday!) and then ease back on the training rather than increase it. If you’re new to running that might seem a bit counterintuitive. But it is all about allowing your legs to recover and your muscles to repair so that you are as fresh as possible on the big day.

The year I ran my half marathon personal best I tweaked something in my ankle on a long run late in the training period. As a consequence I didn’t run at all in the ten days leading up to the race. I started the race feeling a bit worried about how it would go. Then I discovered that as a result of the layoff I was full of beans. The ankle was fine and I took something like 7 minutes off my previous best time. I’ve been a great believer in tapering since then.

My training for this year’s race hasn’t gone brilliantly, if I’m honest. That’s for a whole variety of reasons. It’s only in the last three weeks that I’ve been able to extend my long run in any meaningful way. Yesterday I did a – slow - 12 miles for the first time this year. And I’ve not managed to fit in many shorter runs during the week. Usually by now I’ve done a couple of runs of 14 miles, as a minimum. That means I can be confident that I can, at the very least, get round without too much trouble.

So I face the challenge that I’m sure many others are facing. Do I push on next weekend and run the full distance? Or do I avoid the risks of pushing further in training so close to the race? I think I’ll be taking my own advice and not overdo it! I’ll be trusting that I’ve put enough miles into my legs over the years to get me through.

Good luck to everyone on the day. I may see some of you at the start. And, with luck, at the finish!


Keeping it honest on the run

Do you prefer your running solo? Or would you rather a bit of jostling in the pack? They are very different experiences, and both can be enjoyable. But I guess I do most of my running these days with a partner. There are many advantages to running with a partner, the most obvious is having a bit of company on the way round. Even more fundamentally, it creates a sense of mutual obligation to get you both out the door in the first place.

But partnering up for a run can be fraught with difficulty. If you get it wrong then it can be intensely frustrating for one person or the other. If you’re too ill-matched in ability, fitness or aspiration then either someone is going to find him- or herself plodding along at an uncomfortably slow pace or the other is going to feel like they are suffering a heart attack with legs of jelly.

My running partner most of the time is my partner, Deborah. Observing running couples around my part of Bristol over many years suggests that this can be a recipe for training difficulty. Couples often appear rather ill-matched. One partner looks like they’re coasting, while the other is struggling to keep up.

I’m very lucky that things have worked out better in our household. I’ve never been more than an average (at best!) club runner. My partner, on the other hand, is a former vet cross-country champion and female stage winner at the Welsh Castles Relay. Unfortunately she hasn’t been able to train at that level for a while. So in terms of our current training we have ended up aiming for roughly the same distances at roughly the same pace.

More than that, we have, pretty much by accident, complementary strengths. While I’m not too bad up and down the hills Deb doesn’t always approach them with enthusiasm, in part due to recurrent tight hamstrings. On the other hand, once we get to the top of that hill Deb has a faster recovery rate and generally pushes along on the flat at a faster pace than I would choose if running on my own. So whereas when I’m on my own I’d be tempted to slack off for a breather once I’ve hit the crest of a hill, Deb will be motoring off into the distance if I don’t look lively.

Today we did an eight(ish) miler taking in the towpath and Leigh Woods. West of the river is always a great run, and today it was a bit more slippery and squelchy to add a bit more fun. The complementarity hit me quite forcefully once we reached the final stretch through the woods. Having taken the lead up the hills, I was having to put in a fair bit of effort to hang on once we reached the flatter terrain on the way to North Road. I felt terrible at the time. But once it was over I was glad I’d struck to it. Overall, a good workout.

I guess I’m lucky to have a running partner so close to home to keep me honest on the run. I hope you’re as lucky hooking up with a running partner that complements what you’re seeking from your running.


To hill and back ...

I’ve been out and about this weekend, visiting the in-laws in south Wales. Managed to squeeze in a run this morning.

We ran north out of Beaufort on the road to Llangynidr. Within five minutes you’re into Powys and the Brecon Beacons National Park. You’ve got moorland, babbling streams, free roaming sheep and horses, and fantastic views from one of the highest points around. And given you’re tracing the (not particularly busy) B4560 you don’t have to go off-road to enjoy it - unless you want to.

An hour’s run basically involves running uphill for 30mins. Then turning around and running back down again. A pretty good workout.

That got me thinking about runners and hills. Anyone who runs any distance in Bristol can’t go far without finding themselves on terrain that’s less than flat. But do you love it or hate it?

Running hills is often considered to be strength and interval training in disguise. I always think that hills I’m including in my regular runs tells me a lot about how the training’s going. Whether I approach them with enthusiasm or trepidation tells me even more!

So I composed my personal top 10 list of ‘uphill bits’ of north Bristol as they feature in my training runs - in order of increasing difficulty. Here’s what I came up with:

  1. Redland Hill
  2. The Promenade (plus the Observatory)
  3. Jacobs Wells Road
  4. Parrys Lane
  5. The zigzag path in Ashton Court
  6. Stoke Hill
  7. Bridge Valley Road (Clifton Down and on to the top of Blackboy Hill)
  8. From towpath near Paradise Bottom, through Leigh Woods to North Road
  9. Nightingale Valley
  10. Offroad up Castle Hill to Blaise Castle

At the moment I’m feeling pretty positive about tackling Stoke Hill regularly. So things aren’t going too badly. But I know that I’m going to have to step up to something a little more challenging to move the training on. Something to look forward to!

Would any of my regular uphill routes make it into your top 10? Anywhere else you think I should be venturing for a change?


The fellowship of the run

One of the joys of running in the summer is that the half marathon brings lots more people out on to the streets around my area. It’s brilliant to see so many others sharing the pleasures (and pains) of the long run. But it always strikes me that many of my fellow summer runners seem rather uncomfortable with running etiquette. Earlier this month I can recall running up past the zoo and at least six people ran past me in the opposite direction. Three stared resolutely at the ground as they passed, two stared upwards, one stared in fascination at the outer wall of what I believe is the reptile house. It was all a little furtive. Not one of them acknowledged me coming the other way with a nod or a smile. Perhaps there is a sense of embarrassment at being involved in such a bizarre activity as long distance running!

I find that things change as the weather starts to turn. We’re starting to ask whether it is time to switch to longs and dig out the hi-viz bib as the nights draw in. Those who are pounding the streets now may be preparing for the Sodbury Slog, the Christmas Cracker or perhaps tuning up for the cross country season – or simply enjoying the freedom of running - but we all know that as the weather deteriorates it takes commitment to keep getting out the front door and turning the legs over. The fellowship of the run returns. I get a much greater sense that we’re a community: running strangers are ready and willing to acknowledge the commitment that others are putting in as they pass.

So if you’ve run the half and decided to keep running through the winter – fantastic! As you pass a fellow runner in the declining light, the wind, the rain – perhaps the fog, ice and snow of winter – then give them a nod or a smile to acknowledge the effort and commitment involved. It could be the recognition they need to keep going with a spring in their step. And if someone coming the other way tries to catch your eye then meet it and reciprocate their greeting. It could make you both feel better about life. It might be me! That is the fellowship of the run.