Brighton Half Marathon 2015

HM LogoYesterday was the 25th annual Brighton Half Marathon, and my very first Half Marathon. Ok, so I have run the distance before and taken part in virtual half marathons, but this would be the first time I had ever taken part in an organised event of 13.1 miles with other runners.

Naturally, I was a bit nervous, but very excited about the whole thing. My main concern was getting to the start line on time, but as I live fairly close by, it wasn’t a problem. I had laid everything out the night before, set my alarm for 6:00 am, and checked the bus timetable and weather forecast the night before. All I had to do was get up, get dressed and catch the bus. So far so good.

I arrived at the race village just before 8:00 am, which gave me plenty of time to relax and soak up the atmosphere, drop my bag off, use the toilet and find my start pen. Despite the fact that there were around 12,000 people there, it didn’t feel overcrowded as everything was spread out enough along Madeira Drive to give people space to mill around, stretch and warm up.

The start pens were easy to find with different coloured flags to match the colours on the race bibs according to your estimated finish time. I was in the 2:15:00 to 2:29:00 pen and stayed close to the back. My PB for the distance was around 2:27:18 and, although I was hoping for sub 2:25:00, given my recent bout of flu, I told myself that I would be happy with anything under 2:30:00. After all, it’s a whole different ball game when you’re running in a crowd.

As far as I could tell, the race got underway on time, but being so far back I didn’t cross the start line for another 9-10 minutes. Still, it wasn’t a problem as everything is chip timed, so I started the Garmin as I crossed the line and reminded myself to relax.

BHM7483-1024x683I had planned to use my usual 3:1 run/walk ratio, but as the pace for the first few hundred metres was very slow due to the crowds, I decided to just keep running until things thinned out a bit. I figured that I wouldn’t worry too much about my pace, but I’d try to keep it at around 6:50 – 7:00 minutes per kilometre (including walk breaks) for the first half of the run at least.

Of course, that didn’t happen. I was feeling really good and the weather was much nicer than it has been on any of my long training runs so I decided to not worry about easing off and just run at whatever pace felt comfortable.

I checked my Garmin after the first 5K and noticed that I was around 33 minutes. This was a good sign as it meant that I was well ahead of time for a PB. Nothing to get excited about, of course, as I still had over 16K to go, but it was good to know that I was on track as I ascended the only hill on the course.

To be honest though, the hill was not as bad as I had imagined, so much so that at one point I even skipped a walk break. I wouldn’t normally do this as it doesn’t really do anything for my time overall, but at that point the route was getting crowded again and it would have been more hassle to pull over to the side to slow down and stop than it would have been to keep running – so I kept running.

At 8K I took my first gel. I didn’t feel that I needed it, but I’d planned to take one at 8K and 16K to make sure that I refuelled before I got in to trouble. This meant taking a slightly longer walk break, which did slow my average pace down a little, but I figured I would make up for it later.

As we ran back down the hill and into Brighton, the support was amazing. I never realised before, when I was out there cheering people on last year, just what a difference that makes – especially when you are starting to feel tired, which I was at around 16K.

By that point though, I was on familiar ground, running along Hove promenade past the beach huts as I do pretty much every time I go out for a run – one of the advantages of running in your own city.

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Still, I took a slightly longer walk break for my second gel and reminded myself that I was still on track for a sub 2:30:00, and might even manage to get under 2:25:00 as long as I didn’t let the pace drop too much.

Of course, the pace did drop, but I ignored it. My legs were hurting, so I just tried to focus on the ratio. Three minutes running, one minute walking, nice and easy until I got my second wind, which came just as we turned off the promenade by the Peace Statue and back up to the road.

We had just over 2 kilometres to go and my time was around 2:08:00, so I knew I was in with a really good chance of beating my goal of 2:25:00. All I had to do was keep moving and pick up the pace where I could. And somehow, I did.

HM Medal 02 (2)As we approached Madeira Drive, the crowds gave me another huge lift and I decided to ignore the Garmin, ditch the walk breaks, and try to pass as many people as possible in the final kilometre. I knew by then that I was going to get a PB and it was going to be under 2:25:00, but imagine my surprise when I crossed the finish line, pressed stop on the Garmin and saw that I’d finished in 2:21:27.

My official chip time was 2:21:23 and, although it’s not a fast time by most people’s standards, I couldn’t be happier. And the medal isn’t bad either, even if it is pink!

How’s your training going? Did you run this weekend? Do you have a race coming up? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Not Every Run Has To End With A PB

The weather was looking quite good this morning, so I decided to do a slightly belated Birthday Half-Marathon – well, it’s only two days late and I’m still on holiday, so I reckon it still counts.

I’d scheduled this run into my training program for two reasons: firstly, I thought it would be a good way to spend my Birthday/ day off; and secondly, I wanted to make sure I could cope with the distance for the Brighton Half Marathon in February.

Of course, I had some goals for this run too. I wanted to see if I could improve my time of 2:28:02 from the Jeff Galloway Virtual 13.1 that I ran in December, but I also wanted to see if I could get under 2:25:00 – a bit of a long shot, I know, but it’s good to have something challenging to aim for.

I figured that I would have to average around 6:50 – 6:55 per kilometre to be in with a chance and was pretty much on track for the first half of the run.

I used my usual route (only slightly altered so that I could start and finish by the public toilets), heading East along Hove lawns to Brighton Marina and along the Undercliff Path towards Saltdean, and then back again. I had considered taking the hilly option on the road above the cliffs, but decided against it as the weather is still very changeable at the moment.

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Once I reached the wall at Saltdean (an actual wall, where the path stops, not the runners wall that makes your legs turn to lead and your brain to mush) I turned around and started making my way back. The wind was strong enough to give a bit of resistance but nothing to cause too many problems and, when I checked the Garmin at half way I was pleased to see that I was on track to achieve my goal time of 02:25:00.

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And then it happened. At 12 kilometres I felt that familiar shooting pain in my left knee. It wasn’t the full on kitchen knife to the outer knee cap pain that I had before; it didn’t go that deep and lasted for less than a second. But it was the same pain, a warning shot, and I knew that I would be in trouble if I didn’t back off.

So, for the next few kilometres I eased off and allowed my pace to drop until I felt that I was out of the danger zone. I wasn’t happy about it and made a mental note to myself to remember to do my ITB stretches every day between now and the Brighton Half, but I kept going and reminded myself that it’s better to slow down now than to create an injury I would be sure to regret later.

At around 16K, however, I realised that I could still be in with a chance of achieving 02:25:00 if I could pick up the pace again and keep it just under 7:00 minutes per kilometre. So I allowed myself to push a little harder on the running sections and reminded myself to walk a bit faster on the walk breaks. But it wasn’t enough. My pace dropped again and, as I approached the final kilometre, I knew it wasn’t going to happen.

2015-01-30_Splits 12-20

But then something else happened. Something good this time. I realised that, even at the reduced pace that I was currently running, not only would I be under 2:30:00, but I could still get a PB! This gave me a much needed boost, so I picked up the pace (still mindful of my ITB of course) and pushed for home, finishing in 02:27:18.

2015-01-30_Splits 21-Finish

Although I was delighted to achieve a new PB, I also realised that PBs aren’t everything. The important thing is to finish the run without injury and, looking back, I realise that I’m pretty lucky that I got a warning signal before my ITB seized up on me.

So, from now on, I promise that I will find time to do my stretches every day, whether I think I need to or not. Prevention is better than a cure, right?

How’s your running going? What injury prevention measures do you take as part of your training program? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Virtual Jeff Galloway 13.1

2014-12-21_SummaryAfter months of training using run-walk-run, today was the day to put Jeff Galloway’s training method to the test. And what better way to do it than by taking part in Jeff Galloway’s own virtual half-marathon?

I set out early-ish and headed for the seafront to revisit the half-marathon route that I had used back in April. Back then, I hadn’t been training for a half-marathon but just wanted to see if I could go the distance. It had been a bit of a struggle but I’d tried to run as much of it as possible and ended up with a time of 2:33:36. Not too bad considering I hadn’t been training for it, but I wanted to see if I could improve on that time having now trained using run-walk-run.

I was hoping for a time of under 2:30:00 so I figured that I needed to try to hit an average pace of 7:00 mins per kilometre. However, one of the problems with run-walk-run is that it can be difficult to gauge your average pace – depending on the ratio that you are using, some of the splits are going to have more walking than running, which will slow things down a bit. So, with that in mind, I decided to try to keep each split under 7:00 minutes where possible.

The first half of the run went really well. Despite the cold and drizzle, I felt pretty comfortable and was surprised to see that I had managed to keep my pace well below the 7 minute target. Which is just as well really, because when I reached the end of the path at Saltdean and had to turn around, I was confronted by a 19 kph headwind (according to my Garmin). This probably explains why I had found the first half so easy, but now it was time to redress the balance.

As I was running on the undercliff path, there was no protection at all from the wind, but I plugged on, sticking to my 3 minutes running and one minute walking ratio, and trying to run as close to the cliff wall as possible to avoid the waves that were starting to crash over the sea wall, soaking the path and anyone on it. Luckily, I didn’t get drenched by any waves, but I did get pretty soaked from the spray. I think it was probably raining too, but it was hard to tell at that point.

Pushing against the wind, it was pretty much impossible for me to sustain my sub-7 minute pace. Even walking was tough! But I decided not to worry about it and just focus on completing each running section. This really helped as I wasn’t thinking about the distance at all. All I had to do was run for three minutes, walk for a minute, wipe the rain/spray from my glasses and then start running again.

Once I was off the undercliff path, things seemed a little easier. The route was still pretty exposed, but being a little bit further from the waves meant I wasn’t getting quite as wet and I knew I would soon be back on the familiar ground of Hove promenade.

As I approached Hove seafront, the wind was starting to get pretty strong again – the kind of strong winds that usually send me back up to the more sheltered streets around central Hove. But with only a couple of kilometres to go, that wasn’t an option. Besides, I knew that when I reached my starting point I would be a little short of the 21.1 kilometres that I needed, which meant I could allow myself to turn around again and take advantage of the wind behind me.

With or without the tailwind for the final half kilometre or so, however, I knew that I was on target to achieve my sub 2:30:00 goal. I even allowed myself to keep going for a bit longer than 21.1K, just to make sure the Garmin hadn’t gone wrong anywhere, and finally crossed the virtual finish line with a PB of 2:28:02.

Ok, so I know it’s not a very fast time by a lot of people’s standards, but by my standards it’s exactly where I wanted to be at this stage in my training. I guess it goes to show that run-walk-run can work after all.

This post is part of the Virtual Running UK weekly blog hop. Have you taken part in a virtual race? Click here to find out more about virtual running or join the blog hop to connect and share your racing adventures with other running bloggers.

Back To Continuous Running

Circle HopUsually on a Saturday morning I’m pretty keen to get out the door and get my run in, but this morning I just wasn’t feeling it. However, as Saturday is now VRUK Blog Hop Day, I decided to spend the day getting my head together and eating well so that I could run this evening and get a blog post in for this week’s blog hop. And I was so glad that I did.

It has taken me a while to get back into a regular running routine and to be able to run without taking walk breaks, but this evening I managed to run my first non-stop 5K in months! It wasn’t particularly fast and I’m still a long way from my Sub 30 5K goal, but that didn’t matter. The important thing was to get the distance in.

Once I had completed the 5K, I was still feeling pretty good so I decided to continue back to my starting point, which would take me up to a bit over 6K. Of course, I had to take a short walk break to get that far, but I still did it and it felt really good.

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As far as run-walk-run is concerned, I’m still going to use the 3:1 ratio for my long Sunday runs as part of my marathon training, but in between I’m hoping to gradually build up my continuous running in the hope that I might be able to run the distance for February’s half-marathon.

I’m also thinking of taking part in the Virtual Jeff Galloway 3.1 in December. According to my training plan, I should be able to complete a half-marathon run-walk-run by the end of the year, so it would be a good benchmark to start from as well as a great opportunity to earn some bling!

How’s your training going? What do you think of run-walk-run? Have you taken part in any virtual races recently? Please share your thoughts in the comments and pop over to Virtual Running UK if you fancy signing up for a weekly running blog hop.

10K Run-Walk-Run

As I didn’t run at all last weekend (naughty, I know), my main objective for today was to catch up on my distance progression in my long slow run. Ideally, I should have been doing 10K, but as my longest run in recent weeks was only 7K, I told myself that as long as I completed 8.5K I would be happy enough – which, of course, was a lie, but whatever gets you out the door, right?

I headed for the seafront at around 8:00 am and was relived that the weather had calmed down a lot since yesterday. No rain, no wind, just a nice cool temperature and a little bit of sunshine peeking through the clouds.

As this was to be a long run, I used the 3:1 run/walk ratio that I have been using for the last few weeks and reminded myself that, even though the walk breaks make it easier to run faster, I would have to take it easy if I wanted to get past 8.5K. That, of course, wasn’t easy as I was feeling pretty good and really just wanted to run at whatever pace felt comfortable, but I tried to rein it in as much as I could.

After the first few kilometres, instead of getting tired and wanting to give up, I actually found myself getting faster. The three minute running segments, which had me checking my watch at least once a minute during the first half of the run, seemed to speed up towards the end, and before I knew it I was done. 10K in 1:06:21, which is just over a minute short of my 10K PB. Not bad for my first 10K since July and my first ever 10K using run-walk-run.

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I also downloaded the Runzi app to track my cadence, which probably wasn’t a great idea as cadence decreases during walk breaks. However, I was encouraged to see that it recorded my average cadence for the run as 152 steps per minute. Again, not bad considering there was a bit of walking in there, so it will be interesting to see what it comes out with when I use it for my next continuous run.

How’s your training going? Do you track your cadence as well as your distance and pace? What tools, techniques or apps do you use to help improve your running form? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

No Excuses

Last week was a rest week. I know. Most people have rest days not whole weeks off, but I find I need them from time to time. It’s not something I generally plan for, and they usually happen because I’ve been over-doing the training and need to take a break. But not this time. This time I was just being a bit lazy, and a bit of a wimp, if I’m honest about it.

You see, the weather is a bit rubbish at the moment. It’s cold and wet and very windy, probably too windy to run on the seafront (for me at least), but I’ve never really been a fair weather runner. OK, so there have been times when I’ve re-scheduled, re-routed or shortened my run due to bad weather, but generally I get it done. So what’s going wrong this time?

I think the problem is that I haven’t really got myself into a proper running routine since I started training again. I’m only running once a week, which was absolutely the right thing to do on my return from injury, but now it feels like I need to take things up a notch and try to get back to two or three runs a week.

So, despite the howling winds that have been waking me up at stupid o’clock over the last few days, I decided to stop making excuses and get myself a run in. I thought about staying away from the seafront and doing parkrun instead, but as I was up and ready by 7:30 it seemed silly to wait around. Besides, it wasn’t raining and who knew what the weather might bring later in the morning.

My Garmin took a while to find a satellite as I made my way down towards Hove Lawns. That and the fact that the closer I got to the seafront, the windier it became, made me wonder if this was really such a good idea after all. But as I was up and out I figured I might as well at least give it a go. No excuses, right?

The plan, as far as plans go at the moment, was to run 4 kilometres or 25-30 minutes, depending on how bad the wind got. I figured that if I ran into the wind on the long stretch out, I could take advantage of it on the way back. Unfortunately, this didn’t quite work as the wind was more southerly than south westerly, so I took a good battering for pretty much the whole run.

Still, once I got going I was determined to go the distance and, even though I had to take a short walk break when the wind became a bit too much, I managed to complete 4K in 25:34. That works out at an average pace of 6:23 minutes per kilometre, which is pretty good for me at the moment.

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Tomorrow, I plan to do a longer run to build up my endurance for the Brighton Half-Marathon in February and the full Brighton Marathon in April. I’m a bit behind with this but the way I see it is that it’s better to go out and get soaked and blown around for an hour than to have to endure hours of misery in a race that I haven’t prepared for.

No excuses!

How does the weather affect your training? How bad does it have to get before you skip, adapt or re-schedule your run? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

More Cross Training

Tonight was a non-running night, which meant more cross training on the exercise bike.

I did the same 20 minute routine as Tuesday’s workout, except that I tried to get my heart rate a bit higher. This wasn’t easy as, even though my heart and lungs felt more than capable of working a lot harder than they were, my legs didn’t; and what’s more, I didn’t want to take any chances.

Listen to your body. That’s the number one rule, right? Well, it is for me. For the moment at least.

Don’t get me wrong. I am more than happy (quite literally!) to push myself as hard as I can when my fitness is good and I’m injury free, but now isn’t the time for that. I’m using the exercise bike to keep the pressure off the ankle and achilles while building up my strength and endurance, and so far it seems to be working. So there’s no point in risking more damage elsewhere in the process.

Tomorrow, I plan to have a rest day. The first rest day this week.  That means no running and no exercise bike; just the usual mile and a half walk to and from work, which doesn’t really count as training any more. Then, hopefully, I’ll have the strength in my legs to up the distance on my long run this weekend.

How’s your training going? Are you getting enough rest days into your training program? Please share your thoughts in the comments.