Walking The Walk

Now that I’ve taken my first tentative steps into training for the London to Brighton Challenge, I realise that from here on my training is going to have to involve a fair bit of walking as well as running. Not just walk/run intervals to help improve stamina, but actual non-stop walking so that I can learn to get used to moving on my feet for hours at a time.

I’m generally pretty motivated when it comes to walking and prefer it to using public transport when it comes to getting around the city. So much so, that over the last couple of years, my daily commute to work has become a 25-30 minute, 1.6 mile walk each way. That being said though, I’m going to have to start walking a lot more than 5K a day if I’m going to cope with getting myself from London to Brighton in one piece.

My first training walk should have been yesterday. I’d planned to take a 2 hour walk after dinner, but unfortunately I managed to pick up a head cold and was feeling fairly rubbish by the end of the day, so I decided to have an early night and go for a good long walk today.

I still wasn’t feeling great this morning, but decided that I was going to go out anyway. I had scheduled a 4 hour walk with the aim of exploring some off road running routes. I wasn’t really sure about where would be the best place to go, but I mapped myself out a route of sorts and headed out with my backpack.

The weather was warm and sunny, and by the first few kilometres I was down to short sleeves as I made my way along a small woodland path that I’d found. I tried to stay in the shade as much as possible, although the ground was muddier there, and I soon realised that I was going to have to get myself some trail shoes before attempting to do any running on it.

On the whole, the walk was pretty good. I enjoyed the changes of scenery from wide open fields to narrow wooded trails with steep drops, but navigation wasn’t easy.

I got lost a number of times and even found myself in the middle of a golf course trying to find my way back to the path, but I didn’t mind too much. I had four hours of walking to do and it didn’t really matter where I did it.

Walk 2014-03-29

The only downside was that, when I eventually did find my way to a road that would lead somewhere, I realised that it was impossible to walk on – the verges were just too steep and overgrown and the traffic was far too fast and frequent. At that point I ended up walking in a field with some sheep, who I’m pleased to say were too busy grazing on brambles to be bothered by me.

In the end, my search for some off road running routes wasn’t very successful, but it did get the legs working and, with all the hills and the mud and the uneven ground, it has opened my eyes to just how different it’s going to be running cross country compared with the nice flat even paths along the seafront.

Walk Elevation 2014-03-29

Where is your favourite place to run? Do you have good running routes on your doorstep or do you have to travel further afield before you can really get going? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Short and Sweet

My legs were still feeling pretty tired this evening, but I really wanted to go out and get a run in, so I opted for a very short run (3K) along the seafront.

Part of my reason for doing this was that I need to get used to running on tired legs for my first Ultra Marathon, but with my last couple of runs being long and slow, I figured I should also get in some kind of speed work before the BM10K next Sunday.

I wasn’t aiming to set any kind of PB. Just try to get some speed back. So I started off at what felt like a reasonably quick pace for the first half kilometre and then picked it up a bit and tried to hold on for as long as I could. This seemed to work and I didn’t really start to tire until the start of the third kilometre, when I slowed down to what turned out to be pretty close to my average pace for the first two.

3K Splits-2014-03-27

What was really nice about it though, was that unlike the 5K speed sessions that I normally do, it didn’t leave me feeling completely spent at the end. I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps it’s because it was only 3K; or perhaps it’s because my body is expecting to be running for longer now. Maybe it’s a combination of the two. I don’t know.

Whatever the reason though, it felt good to get out there and get some more Ks in for the week.

Speedy or Slow?

I usually like to blog about my run soon after I get in. But as last night’s run was a bit longer than usual, I decided to leave it until today to write about it.

According to my training program for the BM10K, I’m supposed to do speed work on Tuesdays, but after Sunday’s long run my legs were still a bit tired so I decided that I would take it easy and see how it felt once I got going.

It was dark by the time I got down to the seafront but there were still plenty of runners around as I followed my usual 10K route down towards the Peace Statue and up towards the Lagoon and then back again. Surprisingly, my legs felt pretty good once they got moving and by the 8th kilometre I I knew that I didn’t want to stop at 10K. So, instead of doing my usual shorter loop that takes me to 10K, I decided to head back up to the Lagoon a second time and just keep going until I felt that I’d had enough.

By the time I got to the Lagoon again, the place was pretty much deserted, other than a few dog walkers, but I was enjoying the peace and quiet of the dimly lit promenade. Even though I wasn’t paying much attention to my Garmin, my pace felt pretty consistent and I began to wonder if I could get to 15K without stopping for a walk break.

When I returned to my starting point for the second time, I had pretty much covered 12K and my legs were starting to feel tired. I knew that this would be an obvious place to finish the run, but something inside me just wasn’t ready to stop, so I kept going and going until I completed 15K, my longest non-stop run to date.

15K 2013-03-25

I was surprised that I had managed to go that far, but when I checked my Garmin later I discovered that my average pace was just under 7 minutes per kilometre, which is quite a bit slower than I usually run but more in the region of what I am aiming for when I do the London 2 Brighton Challenge at the end of May.

I guess it’s ironic that what should have been a speed session turned into a slow session, but being able to keep going for 15K gave me a real boost in confidence as far as my ultra marathon training is concerned.

It was good to get a longer run under my belt, but for the rest of this week and next I need to focus making sure I’m ready for the BM10K.

How’s your training going? Do you prefer speed sessions or slow runs? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Couch to Ultra… WHAT!?

If you read my last post, then you’ll know that I was feeling a little bit out of sorts on my last run. I’d been feeling a bit low and had hoped that the run would have given me the lift that I needed, but it didn’t. So, I decided that maybe what I needed was to find myself a new challenge.

Now that I can run 10K, the next logical step would be to train for a half-marathon or maybe even a marathon. But as the Brighton Half has been and gone, entries have closed for the Brighton Marathon and I’m running 10K on marathon day anyway, I decided to opt for the next obvious alternative – a 100K ultra marathon from London to Brighton.


Ok, I know. It sounds crazy. I’ve not been running for all that long and the furthest I’ve ever run is 12K, but it’s not as crazy as it sounds.You see, the London 2 Brighton Challenge isn’t really a race; it’s more like an incredibly long sponsored walk that people can choose to run, or jog, or walk, or some kind of combination of the three.

Either way, it doesn’t matter now. I’ve paid my entrance fee, and since it’s only nine weeks away, I figured I’d better get on with some training.

The route itself will be divided into four stages, so I figured that rather than attempting to run a whole 100K, I should start training to run/walk each stage and then take it from there.

So, this morning I decided that I would try to up my distance by running 15K at a very slow pace, something in the region of 7:30 to 8:30 minutes per kilometre. This, however, wasn’t easy and the average pace for the first 5K was coming out at around 6:45, which is fine for 10K but I knew I wouldn’t be able to sustain it for 15K nevermind 100K.

In the end, I decided that I would try some walk/run intervals since that’s what I planned to do for the race anyway. I started my 6th kilometre by walking for 250 metres and then jogging for 750. This seemed to work quite well and I soon realised that I could probably keep this up for a bit more than 15K if I wanted to. So I kept going.

I felt relaxed and in control, and the walk breaks were helping me to recharge my energy. Round about kilometre 18, however, I noticed that the ache in my calf muscles was becoming more intense. Normally they don’t hurt until I stop running but, with the walk breaks, the pain had been there for a while.

Still, with only 2.5 kilometres to go until I was back at my starting point, it would have been a shame to stop. I was feeling pretty strong apart from the legs, so I took a couple of extra walk breaks and kept going until I reached 21K. Well, I was hardly going to stop at 20.5 was I?

21K Map 2014-03-23

Of course, had I realised that another 100 metres would have made it a Half Marathon, I might have kept going for that too. But I can’t complain. It was a lovely run and just what was needed to lift my spirits.

As for the London 2 Brighton Challenge? I guess, we’ll see what happens!

Happy running!

Around The World Blogging Relay

atwbrA couple of weeks ago, I signed up for the Around The World Blogging Relay, a two month blog hop hosted by Kyla at Motivation, where participants log their miles or kilometres every week to see how far around the world they can go. At the moment, there are forty participants, so I’ll be surprised if we make it all the way around the globe, but that’s not really the point. The important thing is that it is a great way to discover new blogs while motivating yourself to get running.

When I signed up, I think I set myself a goal of running 140km over the two months, although I’m not entirely sure. I remember being in a pretty optimistic mood at the time, so whatever it was, it was pretty high for me. Needless to say, by the end of Week 2 reality had set in and I found that I had only clocked up 27km.

The truth is, I haven’t been running as much as I had planned to when I started my training plan for the BM10K. I guess it’s that over optimistic thing that happens when I forget that I didn’t run at all between the ages of about 14 and 39 (except perhaps for the occasional bus and I usually missed them anyway), and stupidly assume that my 40 year old body can adapt to exercise in the same way that it could 25 years ago.

So, with increased mileage, speed training and the stresses, strains and sometimes cold reality of adult life and work, I have found myself unable to keep up with my training plan over the last few weeks.

Don’t get me wrong though. The training is going well and I have even managed to get a couple of PBs over the last few weeks; it’s just that I barely have the energy at the moment to run two times a week, never mind three or four!

However, this evening I decided that I had to go out and get some Ks in for the Blogging Relay. I was feeling pretty tired after work and a little bit fed up, so I figured that a good run along the seafront would help with that too.

According to the training plan, I was supposed to run 5K at my goal 10K pace. This seemed like a good idea. Nothing too strenuous. Just a nice easy run to practise my pacing, leaving myself enough energy to get another run in on Saturday.

Unfortunately, when I got to the seafront, the rain started and the wind picked up, making it very difficult to keep the pace constant. So, instead of working on my pacing, I just decided to relax and run nice and slowly against the wind and then pick it up a bit when the wind was behind me.

All in all, it was an ok run. Nothing special, no PBs but no disasters either. Part of me feels a little bit disappointed because the run didn’t really give me the lift that I’d hoped it would, but on the other hand, maybe that will help me get myself up and running for another 5K on Saturday to end the week on a high note.

How’s your training going? Are you taking part in the Around The World Blogging Relay? How do you keep yourself motivated when your training isn’t going to plan? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.

The Hydration Thing

With only three weeks to go until my next 10K race, I figured it was time I started thinking more seriously about the whole hydration thing.

Having only ever run 10K during the winter months, this hasn’t really been much of an issue for me so far. I completed my first 10K race on a cool, windy February morning and skipped the water station without causing myself any problems.

But now that Spring is in the air, and the temperature is warm enough to run in single layers, I know that I’m going to have to start taking in a bit of fluid during my longer runs if I don’t want to collapse in a heap at the finish line.

So, this morning, for the first time ever, I took a drink out with me for my 10K run. I didn’t have any sports drinks and, since the shops weren’t open at 7:00 am, I decided to fill a bottle with water and a tiny bit of fruit squash to make it taste nice.

When I headed to the seafront, the sun was bright and it was already quite warm outside, so I decided that I would take a sip of my drink every kilometre to keep myself hydrated.

I didn’t really like carrying the bottle as it made me feel a little off balance, and drinking while running wasn’t easy. However, after the first couple of kilometres I soon got used to it and found that, as long as I was running at a steady pace, I could manage to take a sip without slowing down too much, spilling my drink or choking myself in the process.

It’s hard to say how much of a difference it made, but on the whole I did feel that I had a bit more energy than usual when I finished and I even managed to get a new 10K PB.

The only downside was that my stomach started cramping a little bit on the walk home, although I’m not sure if that was due to the drink or not. I’ve still got another two long runs to do before race day, so I’ll probably try water without the squash next time, just to see if it makes a difference.

All in all though, I’m pretty pleased with today’s run and, while I still wouldn’t bother taking a drink with me on a 5K run, I can see that it’s going to have it’s advantages for the longer runs, especially as the temperature starts to pick up.

Do you take a drink with you on your runs? What do you think of sports drinks? Are they worth the money or is water just as good? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


Kicking It Up A Notch

After last week’s rest and recovery, I’m starting to feel a lot better. The main difference is that I’m thinking more about nutrition, not in some crazy obsessive food fascist kind of way, just in terms of making sure that I’m getting enough calories so that I don’t feel like I’ve been hit by a bus after every run.

This was particularly important for this evening’s run as I was scheduled to do a 30 minute speed session. I love these sessions because as well as allowing myself to run faster (which is so much more fun than running slowly), I’m not too strict about the specifics of the workout. Sometimes I might try a structured tempo run or a few sets of 400 metre sprints, and other times I might just have some fun with fartleks. But however I decide to do them, these sessions are all about pushing myself harder and teaching my body to run faster.

Tonight though, I wasn’t really sure about what I was going to do, so I decided just to run and see what happened. I started off nice and slowly for the first kilometre and tried to get negative splits for the next two. I was feeling pretty good and each kilometre was about eight seconds faster than the last, which isn’t difficult when you’re starting off so slowly. So, when I turned to head back to my starting point at the 3K mark, I figured that it was time test my pace and give it a bit of a kick for another kilometre or two.

As I have mentioned in many previous posts, my main goal for the 5K is to achieve a sub-30 time. This means being able to run faster than 6:00 minutes per kilometre. So, with two kilometres to go and just under 20 minutes into my workout, I decided to try get myself to a 6:00 pace and see how long I could hold it for.

As it was fairly dark along the seafront, I couldn’t keep a very close eye on my Garmin without using the light, so once I knew that I was at the right pace, I tried to focus on my breathing to make sure that I didn’t slip back. The breathing itself was pretty heavy by this point and must have been really off putting to anyone that could hear it, but for me it was like a tribal drum urging me on as I fell into an almost trance like state and let my legs move in time.

At 4K, however, my Garmin beeped and brought me back to reality and the fact that I was starting to feel tired. But I didn’t want to stop. So I kept going and tried to relax back into the breathing again.

Even though when I glanced at the Garmin it said that I was going faster, I could feel myself getting more and more tired as my breathing became even harder. I needed to slow down, so I let myself back off just a little bit to get me to the 5k mark.

5K Pace 2014-03-11

I knew that I had run faster in those last two kilometres than I had ever managed before, so I was really pleased to see that I’d achieved a new PB of 31:32, beating my old PB by almost 30 seconds! But the best part was that when I got home and uploaded the data, I realised that I had not only managed to achieve negative splits, but that the last two kilometres were well under 6:00.

5K Splits-2014-03-11

I don’t know if it was the rest days, or the nutrition, or the last few weeks’ training starting to pay off, but whatever it was, it felt pretty damn good to know that my goal pace is starting to become more sustainable than I ever really believed it could be.

5K Map 2014-03-11

How do you use speed sessions in your training? What’s your favourite speed workout? How long does it take before you start to see the result? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.