Hold On To Your Beard!

I’ve been waiting a long time for this, but finally, after all those months days of training, the big day has arrived. It’s time to dust of the beard, climb into a pair of oversized trousers and run/jog/shuffle your arse all the way along Hove seafront and back for a whole 5K of festive fun!

I’d never done a Santa Dash before, or any kind of organised run other than my local Parkrun, so I was pretty excited about the whole thing. I even remembered to borrow some safety pins from the First Aid Box at work so that I could pin my race number onto my Santa suit.

Needless to say, I woke up far too early and completely over hydrated before heading out. Fortunately, however, there are public toilets on route so I knew I wouldn’t be caught short.

I arrived about twenty minutes before the start of the race. I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t have time to collect my Santa suit and get ready before the start, but as most people seemed to be already suited up and ready to go, I didn’t have to queue up or anything.

After wrestling with the trousers for about five minutes, I finally managed to tie the cord tight enough so that they wouldn’t fall down and attached my number to my suit. No one seemed to know if you were supposed to pin the number to the front or the back, but the general consensus was that it didn’t matter. I opted for the back for no other reason than it was easier to attach it before putting the jacket on.

So, with about five minutes to spare, I wandered around for a bit, did some stretches and found myself a spot near the back of the pack. I’m not sure how many Santas there were, but going by the numbers on people’s backs and fronts, I’d guess at least 500.

The atmosphere was very friendly and relaxed, and I was surprised to see that I wasn’t the only one running on my own. I had tried to persuade some friends and colleagues to join me, but no one was really up for it. Still, I didn’t mind. I actually enjoy running on my own and there were plenty of people to chat with before and after the race.

Before long, it was time to set off and we all started jogging slowly towards the start line where a small crowd had gathered to cheer everyone on. We all cheered and waved back as we crossed the start line and headed west along the seafront, passing more supporters and photographers as we made our way past the beach huts and up towards the lagoon.

To be honest, the whole thing was very surreal. Although I run this route every week, it seemed different somehow. It wasn’t just the fact that I was running with a few hundred people dressed as Santa; the whole atmosphere was fun and relaxed, making the route itself feel a lot easier.

Of course, I was probably going a bit faster than usual, and the legs were really starting to feel it by the final kilometre, but getting through the run wasn’t as much of a struggle as it sometimes is towards the end.

As the finish line approached, I was spurred on by the crowd which seemed to have grown larger and redder by the time I got there. I spotted the clock at 32:55, so I knew it wasn’t going to be a PB, but it didn’t matter. I picked up my pace as best I could and got myself across the line, where I was handed a bottle of ice cold water and a lovely shiny medal to wear with pride on the way home.

Of course, I didn’t go home right away. I hung around for a while, cheering on my fellow Santas, chatting to some of the other finishers and enjoying the cool sea air and warm friendly atmosphere.

As for my time, It was 33:15 on the clock, and 32:54 on my RunKeeper app (if I count from when I crossed the start and finish line). Either way though, it was the perfect way to start the weekend, and a great way to start of the Christmas season.

Here’s a little clip of this morning’s event. Look out for me in the red suit! 😉

Have you done a festive fun run? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


Building Speed

Today is Wednesday, which (according to my new training schedule) is speed day! This means that, instead of doing my usual non-stop run along the seafront, I have to do a series of shorter runs (400 metres) with some walking and/or jogging in between.

The trouble with speed training, and indeed any kind of training, is knowing how fast you should go. Most of the training programs that I have looked at tend to give vague instructions about how fast or slow a workout should be. Terms like ‘easy’, ‘hard’, ‘moderate’ on even ‘5K pace’ or ’10K pace’ come up again and again, which, for an inexperienced runner like myself can be difficult to judge.

However, I recently came across a useful website at McMillan Running, which helps to clarify some of this. Basically, you put in your current time for a particular distance, followed by a goal time and distance, and it gives you a general pace or time to focus on for different types of runs.

2013-12-04_SplitsSo, for tonight’s run, rather than running as fast as I could for 400 metres, I tried to pace myself so that I could complete each section without gasping for breath by the end.

This worked quite well as I managed to stay fairly close to my McMillan Running range (for the most part) and was even able to jog for some of the recovery intervals.

I still need to do a lot of work on my pacing in general, but I am gradually starting to get a feel for how fast I am running and how long I can keep going for. I know I am a long way from being able to maintain a Sub 30 5K pace, but it does feel good to be able to run a bit faster for a bit longer.

Here is a pace graph of tonight’s run:


5K To10K Training Schedule

Today is the first day of my new 5K to 10K training schedule. My two main goals at this stage are to improve my 5K time and build up my endurance so that I can run for a whole 10K without stopping.

While I considered doing Couch To 10K, I decided against it because I wanted to experiment with different types of workouts. In the end, I decided to use the Hal Higdon 10K Intermediate Program as a starting point, with a few adjustments to suit my own level of fitness as well as my personal goals.

The plan is to run five days most weeks, with each day having a specific focus. Today, Tuesday, is all about pacing. From what I have read, it seems that the best way to do well in a race is to run negative splits, holding back enough for the first part of the race so that you have enough energy left for a good strong finish.

So, this evening I decided to start with three miles, pacing myself so that each mile would be faster than the next. I started off at a nice slow steady pace, trying to keep it fairly even for the first mile. Although I did have to slow myself down at times, on the whole it worked quite well. My splits per mile came out as follows:


However, the RunKeeper graph, tells a slightly different story, with the pace varying a quite a bit within each split.

2013-12-03_PaceWhile some of this is down to the inaccuracy of the app’s GPS, I know myself that the running wasn’t as even as I’d planned. The main reason for this is that, at the back of my mind, I’m always wanting to achieve a better overall time.

This is something that I need to work on. Every training session has its own purpose. It’s not about getting a PB in training; it’s about getting ready for the race, which means preparing both the body and the mind for race day.

So, for me, Tuesday is about pacing – keeping it nice and even so that, when it comes to race day, I can pick up the pace at the right time for a good strong finish and, hopefully, a new PB.

Speed Training

With less than a week until the Santa Dash and only four weeks left to reach my Sub 30 5K goal, I thought that now would be a good time to start on some speed training. However, I’ve also got the Chichester 10K Road Race at the beginning of February and, since I’ve never run more than 5K without stopping, I’m going to have to work on the stamina too. This leaves me with the difficult dilemma of what to focus on – speed or distance?

In the end, I figured that there’s no reason why I can’t work on both. Every workout has its purpose and variety keeps things interesting, so I’m devising a training schedule to help prepare myself for the 10K and build my 5K speed at the same time.

While I’m fairly comfortable with the idea of building distance, I have been avoiding any form of speed training recently in case it aggravates my injury. However, as long as I don’t push it too hard, I reckon it should be ok to pick up the pace over some shorter distances.

So, this morning I had a go at some 400 metre intervals. The idea is to run fast for 400 metres, then walk to fully recover before doing the next one. The distance is pretty easy to measure if you have a track, but as I don’t have one nearby, I decided to use the seafront as usual and map out a nice flat 400 metre stretch to run back and forwards along.


I decided to use my RunKeeper app as you can set it to 1/4 mile intervals, which is just a bit over 400 metres, and prayed that the GPS would work properly. Otherwise, it would be a case of counting the beach huts!

2013-12-01_SplitsThe first 400 was a warm up jog, followed by a faster 400 to try to get a feel for the pace. This was much harder than I thought it would be. By about 300 metres, I could really feel it in my lungs and had to ease off a bit to make the distance.

I repeated the workout by walking 400 metres (back to where I started running) to get my breath back before setting off again. This worked pretty well and even though I was ready to quit at 300 metres into each running section, by the time I walked back I felt ready to have another go.

In the end, the app worked ok. The GPS readings on the first couple of intervals were a bit off (making me run through some beach huts) but the last two 400s were fairly accurate on the map. I managed to run these in 2:22 and 2:19, which I was very pleased with.

In terms of my training schedule, I plan to do one session of 400s every week for the next three weeks, increasing the workout by one repetition each time. I’m doubtful about whether I’ll reach my Sub 30 5K goal by the end of the year, but hopefully this training will help bring me closer to it.

And apart from anything else, it does make a nice looking graph!