VRUK Blog Hop #1

Circle HopToday is the very first Virtual Running UK Blog Hop, a place where bloggers who run and runners who blog get to take part in a Free Virtual 5K Race once a month, write a blog post about their running and then hop over to visit and comment on each other’s posts.

Each blog hop takes part on the first Saturday of the month, once all the results have been posted on the Virtual Running UK website, so I thought I’d get my post written early so that I can spend more time reading other people’s blog posts… after Parkrun, of course!

Which brings me nicely on to February’s Virtual 5K. I try to run 5K a couple of times a week, one of which is usually at my local Parkrun. I’ve been going to Parkrun pretty much since I first completed C25K back in October.

As well as being a great place to meet up with other runners and get used to running with a large group of people, it’s also a good way to map your progress if you’re running the same course each week while trying to work towards a new PB.


As someone who is still quite new to running it makes sense that my own PB has improved quite a bit over the last few months. However, after being injured shortly after completing C25K, I had to take a few weeks off, which seemed to set me back quite a lot. So much so that throughout December and January I was running much slower than I had been back in October!

But when February came around, something strange happened. Not only did I find myself getting faster again, I also managed to get two PBs in a row at Parkrun, the second of which was the result that I used for February’s 5K Virtual Race.

I know I’m still not very fast and I’ve got a long way to go, but it’s early days yet. For me, the most important thing is that I’m getting fit, having fun and meeting new people, both off and on-line.

The blogging community has been a real inspiration and a great source of support and encouragement, which is one of the reasons that I’m really excited about this Virtual Running Blog Hop.

So, if you’re reading this from the blog hop, please leave a comment and let me know you dropped by; and if you’re already a regular reader, then I hope you’ll leave a comment too and have a think about joining next month’s virtual race and blog hop.

There are some great running blogs out there so go and check them out over at Virtual Running UK. Have a great weekend!

Virtual Running

I decided to take a couple of days off work this week, partly because I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather and don’t want to get sick, but mostly because I’ve got an exciting new project that I needed to do some work on.

It all started back in January when I was fundraising for the Chichester Priory 10K Road Race. I hadn’t really done much to raise money for my chosen charity, The British Heart Foundation, and the race was only a few weeks away, so I felt I had to do something to help me get closer to my fundraising goal.

The problem was that I have this thing about asking people for money – I don’t like doing it! Especially people that I don’t know. So, even though the blog seemed like a good place to mention it, I didn’t feel entirely comfortable with the idea of using it to raise money.


So, I decided that instead of just asking people to sponsor me, I would offer them a medal in exchange for a donation. As this is a running blog and most of the people who read it are runners, they could join me in a Virtual Run and earn their medal at the same time!

I was so excited when Leah and Sam emailed me saying that they wanted to take part. I’ve been following both of their blogs for a while now: Leah and I completed Couch to 5K at around the same time and has always been a great source of encouragement and support; and Sam, who I’ve been following since he started Couch to 5K in August, has also gone on to complete his first 10K race and continues to inspire me with his progress and his enthusiasm for running.

As well as donating to The British Heart Foundation, both Leah and Sam wrote a blog post about their run for the fundraiser (thank you guys!) which you can read here:

Leah’s Post: Virtual Running February 5K

Sam’s Post: My First Virtual 10km Race

Now, if you’ve already read Leah’s post, you probably know what happens next. You see, I started to get thinking about this whole virtual running malarkey and, being a bit of a tech geek, I thought it might be fun to see if I could organise a proper virtual race – you know, one with it’s own website, regular races, maybe some medals and a bit of fundraising and perhaps even a little blog hop to encourage more runners to blog and more bloggers to run and… well, you get the idea.

So that’s what I did.

Circle HopAt the end of January I launched Virtual Running UK and, with the help of a new Twitter account and a few more medals, people started signing up for my very first Free Virtual 5K Race and Blog Hop!

The idea is pretty simple. All you have to do is register with Virtual Running UK, log a 5K run any time during the month, send in your results with your registration number and evidence of your time, and include a link to your blog if you want to hop. Then, on the first Saturday of the month, the results are posted on the site along with links to those taking part in the blog hop.

So, if you’d like to join the fun, go and check it out. There’s still time to register and you can log any 5K run that you’ve done this month. Oh, and did I mention the prizes? There will be prizes. And points. And lots of other good stuff.

Here’s the link: Virtual Running UK

Have fun!

Speed Work

Tonight was the first 30 minute speed session of my new 10K Training Plan. I’ve been deliberately vague about what these sessions will involve as I’m still experimenting a bit with speed workouts and, with the British weather being typically unpredictable for this time of year, it’s just as well.

Before I headed out this evening, I thought it would be fun to try some short sprints along the seafront but, with 26 km/h winds coming in from the south west, I soon changed my mind.

As with last week, the wind was ok for running in, but I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to go very fast running against it; and while I could probably pick up a good pace with the wind behind me, it would kind of feel like cheating if the wind was helping me with my sprints. So I opted for a longer continuous run instead.

I’ve been reading up about tempo runs because, even though runners talk about these a lot, there seems to be a bit of ambiguity about what a tempo run actually is. While some define it as a run where the pace increases steadily and peaks in the middle before tapering down to the finish, others describe it as a continuous run at a steady pace. I’m still not sure what the right definition is, but in reading about tempo runs I did come across some interesting ideas that I thought might be worth trying.

One article that I read suggested that a tempo run should be about twenty minutes of running at a pace slower than your current 5K race pace. With the wind blowing strong, I thought this would be a good one to try out while running against the wind.

My average pace for my last few Parkruns has been around 6:20 to 6:30 minutes per kilometre, so I was aiming for between 6:50 and 7:00 for the first half kilometre with the wind behind me and the next two and half kilometres with the wind in my face.

As I expected, running against the wind kept me from going too fast and I managed to keep the pace fairly consistent throughout, albeit with a few spikes here and there when the wind dropped off. And even though I ran negative splits, I didn’t stray too far outside of the range that I was aiming for.

5K Splits-2014-02-25

After the first three kilometres, it was time to turn around and head back to the starting point with the wind behind me, so I decided to use this part of the run to pick things up a bit and see how long I could maintain a faster pace.

Although I am focusing more on my 10K than 5K training, I still have that goal of running a sub-30 5K in the back of my mind. To do this, I need to be able to run faster than 6:00 mins per kilometre so, with a bit of help from the wind, this seemed like a good opportunity to see what that would feel like.

I managed to pick up the pace to around 5:50 and, judging by the graph from my Garmin, this was fairly consistent throughout the fourth kilometre. Even with the wind helping me along though, it was hard going and I couldn’t keep it up for the final stretch. However, I did still manage to stay pretty close to 6:00 for most of that final kilometre.

5K Pace 2014-02-25

I’m not sure how much benefit any of this will have long term, but I am pleased that I managed to keep my pace a bit more constant than usual. And, most importantly, I learned that running in the wind can be a lot of fun if you don’t mind changing your workout plans!

Do you adapt your training when the weather makes things difficult? What’s your favourite bad weather workout? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.

Mind Games

When it comes to running, I find that I have a bit of a split personality, especially during those longer runs. Not only do I become a master of manipulation and motivation, but I also become incredibly gullible and susceptible to my own mind games. All in a good way of course!

This morning was to be the first long run of my new 10K training plan and I was really looking forward to it. In order to run for more than an hour without stopping, I would have to keep my pace nice and slow which would mean a nice easy run with no pressure – other than the pressure of running 10K that is.

My left calf and ankle were feeling a little bit tight so I used my ankle support in case the old Achilles decided to rear it’s ugly head again. It felt weird wearing the support as hadn’t used it since my race a couple of weeks ago, but there’s no point in taking any chances, right?

It was a bit windy this morning so I avoided the seafront and started off with a few laps of Hove Recreation Ground before heading to the park. I’ve used this route before and, as it involves some inclines, I wanted to find out if I could feel any improvement since last time.

11K Map-2014-02-23

After three laps of Hove rec, I was feeling pretty good, but was becoming a little bit bored with the repetition. Each lap is only about 1K and, while it felt nice to clocking up each kilometre, there was no way I was going to do seven more repetitions. So I headed for the park.

My legs were feeling a little bit tired so I decided to run along the road for a while before going down to the park itself – there are a lot of inclines in the park and, once you’re in there, they are impossible to avoid. Imagine running inside a giant bowl where the path climbs around the sides and that’s what Hove Park is like. Once you’re in there, the only way round is up!

11K Elevation-2014-02-23

As I descended into the park, I noticed a man unloading a van with a British Military Fitness logo on the side of it. I don’t know if you have this where you are, but you’ve probably seen something similar – lots of people running around in different coloured tabards doing crazy painful looking exercises in the open air. At this point they were all just milling around, but I did spot one woman jumping onto a park bench with both feet together. Crazy stuff!

Anyway, as I completed my first lap, I noticed that my right leg didn’t too great. I wasn’t sure what it was. Probably just over-compensating for the left one, so I started to focus on my breathing (three steps in two steps out) to make sure I landed on a different foot for each out breath. This seemed to work as the pain faded on the next lap and I had forgotten about it completely by the third.

As I reached the end of the ninth kilometre, I knew that I only had to do a half lap to finish, but I began to wonder if I could handle doing a bit more. I only had to do 10K to complete the workout, but I was having a lot of fun so I decided against taking the path that cuts through the middle of the park and stuck to the perimeter instead. After all, it was a circuit so if I was done by 10K I could just walk back round.

Of course, when I hit the 10K point, I knew I would keep going. I had just completed the longest incline and descended back down to the flat, so I could easily keep going, if only to complete the lap. The only problem was that when I did complete the lap, my distance was 10.5K and my time was around 1 hour 13 minutes. Now I don’t have anything against half kilometres or the number thirteen, but it would feel better to run either the eleventh kilometre or end on a more even time, like 1 hour 15 minutes.

At this point, I couldn’t really see myself doing 11K, so I decided to just keep going for another two minutes. It reminded me of doing Couch to 5K all those months ago and I realised that, nine months ago when I started all this I couldn’t have imagined myself running 5K or even five minutes for that matter.

These thoughts kept me going for the next minute or so until my watch showed that I had been running for almost 1 hour 15 minutes. I could stop! Oh, no, hang on a sec. I only have to do another 100 metres to get to 11k! There was no way I could stop short of that! So, I kept going until I reached 11.01 kilometres and then stopped my timer at 1:15:34.

One of the things that was really nice about this run though, was that I only used my Garmin to check my distance and make sure I wasn’t going too fast at any point. I wasn’t thinking about beating my 10K time or achieving negative splits; I just wanted to take it easy, enjoy the run and make sure I could run the distance. But somehow, the splits turned out pretty good too.

11K Splits-2014-02-23

This is my longest run so far and it felt great, but it did mean that I ended up sleeping for most of the afternoon. I know that as I build up the distance, I’m going to have to think more about nutrition and make sure that I fuel up properly after these longer runs. This is going to be a bit of a challenge as I’m pretty lazy when it comes to food, so any suggestions or advice would be very much appreciated.

How do you motivate yourself to run longer distances? Do you play mind games with yourself to keep you going? What’s your favourite post-run food? Please share your thoughts, ideas and advice in the comments.

Much Ado About Parkrun

Weekends never seem to come round quickly enough, especially when there’s a Parkrun on the cards. And this weekend was no exception.

After last week’s disappointment with being given the wrong result, I had missed out on that feeling of achievement that you get when you check the website to find that your imagined PB is in fact a reality. Of course, the good people of Parkrun were quick to correct last week’s error and the result was updated, but seeing it a few days after the event wasn’t quite the same. So I was keen to get a good result for this morning’s run.

When I got up and headed out to the park, I wasn’t really thinking about PBs though. I’ve just started training for my next 10K race and was still feeling a little bit tired after my two mid-week runs. So I figured I would just go out and enjoy being in the park with a few hundred other runners.

It was a beautiful morning. The sun was shining and the wind was behaving itself for once as I joined the three hundred and seventy or so runners at the start line. Well, not at the start line exactly. More like a few metres behind, along with the slower runners, children and first timers.

Even then though, I started off much faster than I knew I should have done. I tried to rein it in a little bit to preserve enough energy for the final couple of kilometres, but I wasn’t overly bothered about it as long as I could complete the run without walking. After all, today was just about having fun.

Well, that’s what I kept telling myself as I tried to ignore my Garmin and judge my pace by feel. To be fair, I didn’t check it nearly as much as I usually do – just once or twice to make sure I was doing ok. And I was doing ok.

For the first four kilometres I was running pretty much by feel, but when the marshall called out the time at the 4K point, I realised that I could probably go for a PB if I wanted to.

Now, normally this would be a no brainer. I would start to pick up the pace slowly, checking myself to make sure that I could sustain it, and then try to pick it up a little more and so on until the final push to the finish line.

But this week I am training. To push to hard on Saturday could jeopardise my long run on Sunday. And, since I’m training for my second 10K, getting those long runs in is a bit more important than getting a PB at Parkrun.

However, I wasn’t convinced. Not completely anyway. So I decided to compromise and hold off until the final half kilometre before picking up the pace to the finish line.

It wasn’t exactly a sprint and I resisted the temptation to race the group of kids that were coming up behind me, but I kept it going until I crossed the line and stopped my Garmin at 32:04. A new Parkrun PB?

5K Map 2014-02-22

Well, I know I don’t always manage to start the timer quickly enough but, as it usually takes me an extra couple of seconds after the finish line before I remember to stop it, the few seconds here or there generally balance out.

This time though, when I checked the results, I was delighted to see that it was my own watch that was a couple of seconds over, giving me a new Parkrun PB of 32:02 – that’s 6 whole seconds off last week’s time and only 1 second away from my Garmin PB of 32:01.

I guess it just goes to show that sometimes our best results come when we least expect them.

How was your running this week? Did you do Parkrun? Are you aiming for a new PB, training for a race or just running for the love of it? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Negative Splits

This evening I completed the second run in my new 10K training plan. The aim was to run 5K at something close to my 10K pace, which going by my one and only 10K race performance is about 6:49 mins per kilometre. But of course it didn’t quite work out like that.

As I approached the seafront, the wind seemed to be picking up, but I figured it would be ok to run in. So I set off at a conservative pace with the wind behind me for the first half kilometre.

When I turned to head west, however, I realised that the wind was a bit stronger than I had first thought. It was ok to run against, but I knew that there was no way I could sustain a pace of less that 7:00 mins per kilometre until my turning point at the 3K mark. So I changed my plan.

Instead of aiming for a consistent pace, I decided to use the wind to my advantage and try to run negative splits. There was no way I was going to go out too fast against 29 mph gusts; and I figured I could easily pick up my pace for the final 2K with the wind at my heels. And for once the plan actually worked!

With the wind against me, I was careful not to push too hard but gave it enough effort to increase the pace slightly as I went, checking my watch occasionally to make sure that I stayed on track; then, when I turned around to head back to the starting point, I picked it up even more and and gained a good momentum with the wind behind me.

5K Splits-2014-02-20

Even with a good tail wind, it wasn’t always easy to maintain the pace, but somehow I managed to run the final kilometre in under 6 minutes! I know, it’s way too fast for what I was aiming for this evening, but on balance, I think the effort level was probably about right as I finished with and average pace of 6:40 mins per kilometre, which is pretty close to my 10K pace.

So, all in all, it was a good run and the graph doesn’t look too bad either!

5K Pace 2014-02-20I guess even bad weather can be useful after all.

Another Day, Another Training Plan

What does a blog runner do after completing their first 10K race? Why, sign up for another one, of course!

Now that I’ve got the first 10K under my belt, I’ve decided to sign up for not one but two more 10K races. The first is the Brighton Marathon 10K, which takes place before the main Marathon event on Sunday 6th April; and the second is the Race For Life 10K on Saturday 5th July. This gives me just under seven weeks to train for my next race and try to get myself moving a bit faster to beat my current 10K time of 1:08:00.

So, in order to get things moving, I’ve designed myself a new training plan with the aim of building on both my speed and endurance for the big day, and this evening’s run was the first session.

Although I have done some speed training over the last few months in the form of fartlek sessions, I felt that this time round I needed to do something a bit more structured to help with pacing and stamina. So, every other Tuesday, the plan is to practise tempo runs. According to Hal Higdon, a tempo run is a continuous run with a buildup in the middle to near race pace…and then easy towards the end.

Unfortunately, I didn’t quite get the concept right as I was trying to build up to around 6 mins per kilometre, my goal 5K pace. However, I still think that this approach could be useful in terms of improving pace and stamina as I still want to work on my 5K times while training for the 10K race in April.

So, my aim for this evening was to do a short 3K run, with the first kilometre building up from my 10K pace (6.45) to my 5K target pace (6.00) in the second kilometre and back down again for the final third kilometre.

3K Splits-2014-02-18

While the splits would indicate that this was fairly successful, the graph that shows my pace throughout the duration of the run tells a very different story.


Still, it is early days for me and the whole tempo run thing, so hopefully I’ll do better next time. For now though, I’m happy to be trying out some new workouts again and looking forward to seeing how they affect my overall time.

Do you use tempo runs in your training? What sort of pace and distance do you aim for? How have these workouts benefited your overall pace and endurance? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.