Now that the South Coast Challenge is out of the way, I figured it’s time to regroup and think about what I really want to get from running.
While I have, for the most part, enjoyed the challenge of longer races, I really miss that feeling of being able to run continuously without walk breaks – working to improve pace and gain a PB rather than constantly struggling to up the distance. So, I have come to a decision.
For the next few months my focus is going to be on achieving that illusive sub-30 5K. I’ve come close a few times and know that, with the right type of training, it is achievable. I just need to focus, get a training plan in place, and stick to it.
Before coming up with a realistic training plan, however, I need to see where I’m at. Although I have been running on the treadmill a fair bit recently, it has been a while since I’ve run a continuous 5K outside. So, the first step will be to have a bit of a test run this weekend and then from Monday the training begins.
I can’t wait!
How’s your training going? What are you working towards with your running? Are you aiming for a PB or trying to up your distance? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
After months of training, I finally completed The South Coast Challenge 54K from Eastbourne to Hove. This wasn’t my longest race, but given the heat and the hills, I can honestly say that this has been the toughest one so far.
I arrived in Eastbourne on Friday evening and booked in to a nice ‘cheap and cheerful’ hotel on the seafront. Although I had only booked a single room, they gave me a free upgrade to a double with a nice view of the sea.
As I arrived early, I popped down to the the race area to get myself registered. My start time wasn’t until 8:40 on Saturday morning, but I figured it would be one less thing to worry about, so I collected my race number and other bits and pieces and enjoyed a nice stroll along the seafront before heading back to the hotel.
I slept well and got myself up in plenty of time so decided to go and watch some of the other waves of runners head off. There was a safety briefing followed by a zumba warm up to get us in the mood for the hike ahead, and then we were off!
The weather was warm and it was only going to get warmer as the day went on, so I refrained from running along the seafront in order to preserve some energy for the hills. And boy were there hills!
The first 11k before Birling Gap involved a climb of 232 metres, but it wasn’t too bad as it meant that there was the same again in descent. Running downhill on this section was a lot of fun and helped me to get a good pace going to the first rest stop. Not that I stopped for long. Just enough time to grab some more water and an energy bar, and reapply some sun cream before heading off again.
The next section wasn’t so much fun though. While the cliffs of the Seven Sisters may look very pretty, the climbing was brutal at times and I was glad that I’d remembered to order a walking pole from Amazon the weekend before. I’m not sure how I would have coped otherwise!
I had hoped to have been able to enjoy some more downhill running at this point, but the gradient was just too steep and I would probably have gone arse over tit had I attempted anything other than a quick sideways shuffle down the slopes.
Needless to say, the pace slowed down quite a bit and it was 1:00 pm by the time I reached the next rest stop, but I was still feeling pretty good. I took a bit more time at this stop to have some food, check the old feet and change into a fresh pair of socks. No blisters to report, so all good for now.
The next section started with another massive climb that just seemed to go on and on. By this point my back was starting to ache a bit, so I applied a Deep Freeze patch, which helped a lot. There was a nice breeze at times, but the temperature was rising and really slowed me down. Luckily,not too far into the downhill section, we could see the next rest stop, which gave me a bit of a lift and spurred me on a bit more.
Again, I didn’t stop for too long. I ate a little, drank a little and set off again for the final stage. This, I knew, was going to be tough as we had 20K to go without a proper rest stop. There was a flattish section to start with and although the heat from the sun was getting stronger ground underfoot was not pleasant (a hard chalky surface with lots of loose stones) it wasn’t too bad.
The hill that came next, however, almost did me in. I wasn’t even that far into it when I just had to stop. It was a combination of heat and back pain, so I took a couple of pain killers and some water before pushing myself forward a few steps at a time, stopping and starting as needed. To be honest, I really thought about giving up at this point, but knowing that so many people had sponsored me to do this, there was no way I was going to let them down. That and the kind words and encouragement from others kept me going.
One of the things that I like so much about these challenges is the camaraderie. Everyone hits low points along the way, but whether walking alone or in a group, we all help each other through it, whether it’s with a bit of chat along the way, some words of encouragement, offers of help or just holding the gate open with a smile for the next person, even the smallest gesture goes a long way.
Luckily there was a water station at around 44K, so again I took a few minutes to sit down and air the old feet before continuing on down to Brighton. This part of the route wasn’t bad at all but by that point I’d probably had more than enough heat as I was starting to feel a bit nauseous. Still, I was encouraged by more conversation, some bottles of ‘water for the walkers’ that some kind person had left on a wall and some ‘well dones’ from some random people on Hove seafront.
Finally, just after 9:20 pm, I reached the finish line at Hove Park, where I collected my medal, t-shirt and glass of fizz before throwing up outside the medical tent! Again, I was touched by the kindness of strangers as someone went and got me some water while another took me into the tent to make sure I was ok. Thankfully, it was just a case of too much sun as the paramedic took my blood pressure and checked my blood glucose levels (all of which were fine). The doctor gave me an energy gel and a sickness tablet and I was soon on my way home, happy to have completed the challenge in one piece.
So, the verdict? Well, I can honestly say that this is the toughest challenge that I have done. Even though it was the heat that finished me off in the end, the relentless ups and downs of the hills are not my thing – so I won’t be back for another go. However, if you like hills and want to take part in a brilliantly organised ultra event as either a walker or a runner, then I wouldn’t want to put anyone off. The camaraderie on route, support at the rest stops, the stunning views and the sense of accomplishment when finished make it all worth while in the end.
As for me, I think I’ll go for something a bit less hilly next time.
How’s your running going? What gets you through the low points in a race? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
With only eight days to go until race day, it’s a bit late for last minute training, but I figured it would be good to take a short turn on the treadmill to keep things ticking over.
It has been a while since I’ve done a non-stop run, so I thought I’d try a steady 5K this evening at 6.0 mph to see how I felt. After the first 2K, I felt pretty good, so started increasing the speed by 0.1 mph every now and then to see if I could get a 5K time of under 31 minutes.
My PB is 30.03, which I haven’t even come close to in the last year. Of course, running on the treadmill is much easier than outside with the wind, hills and human obstacles, so it wouldn’t really count if I managed it, but I reckoned it was worth a shot nonetheless.
I was pretty tired by the time I hit the final kilometre, but I still kept increasing the speed and was pleased to finish with a time of 30:38. Not bad at all after a hard day at work, and definitely good for fending off the pre-race doubts.
I know I’m nowhere near as ready for this as I would like to be, so I’ll probably do some more short runs over the next few days to get my head in the right place. But the main focus now needs to be about getting some good walks in and making sure that I eat enough to keep my energy levels up.
Only eight days to go! How the heck did that happen?
How’s your training going? Have you got a race coming up this month? Please feel free to leave a comment.
I realise I haven’t posted for a while, but I’m still here, so thought it was time to check in with a quick update.
The training hasn’t been going too well over the last few weeks. There hasn’t been much running lately, although I did manage an out and back 30K walk/run along the coast a couple of weeks ago.
I won’t go into a blow by blow account, but let’s just say that I learned a few useful lessons for the 50K that’s coming up:
Trim toenails a couple of days before the race
Don’t forget the sunscreen, even when it’s cloudy.
Prep feet with zinc oxide tape before going out.
Check that running socks don’t have holes in them.
Remember to pack the blister kit
In short, I got sunburn, blisters and almost lost a toenail, but apart from that it was kind of fun. And I got at least one good photograph.
The photograph was taken on the way out, at about 10K, looking back towards Saltdean. Brighton is further back beyond the cliffs in the distance, so I was feeling pretty good that I’d managed to tackle those hills that you can see.
Even though it was mostly walking, with some downhill running, it was good practice for the 50K as the first part of the race will be pretty much like this. Not that it’s going to be much of a race for me now, but it will still be fun running down all the hills.
How’s your training going? How do you prepare for long runs in the heat? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
My name is Neil, an average runner, founding member of Clair parkrun in Haywards Heath, enthusiastic member of Burgess Hill Runners, 45 marathons so far including 14 over marathon distance and two 100 milers, Leader in Running Fitness since mid 2014, all things animal welfare and avid vegetarian, now vegan since February 2016. Hoping my knees don't give up on me too soon.