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.


10K Hills and Hail

It’s one week until the Chichester 10K, which means it’s time to ease off on the training and taper down to Race Day… but not before one more long(ish) Sunday run!

My last 10K run was a couple of weeks ago and, although my 5Ks over the last week or so have been pretty good, I’ve still been a bit concerned about how I will cope with the distance – especially as I’ve only attempted it twice.

So, today I got up early and headed out for my final 10K run before the big day. The weather was a bit grimy so I decided against the seafront and headed for Hove Recreation Ground and Hove Park instead. The plan was to do a couple of 1K laps of Hove Rec and then head to the park for a bit of variety – that way I could wear my hoody and if the rain eased off I could drop it off on the fence and pick it up again on my way back round.

The other advantage of running this route is that it has plenty of inclines. So far I have only ever done my longer runs on the seafront and, even though I’m told that the route next Sunday is pretty flat, I suspect that what’s flat for some people probably won’t feel quite so flat for me.

The gentle slopes of Hove Rec provided a good warm up and, as I’d hoped, after the first lap the rain stopped and the sun came out. I decided to keep the pace nice and slow and kept going round until I started to get bored with the monotony of running along the same path.

After three 1K laps I headed for the park, which offered some respite with a nice downhill jog before I reached the familiar path that we use for Parkrun on Saturdays.

The park seemed fairly quiet at first, but just as I had completed my first lap, I noticed a group of runners in neon jackets heading my way. Soon, they were joined by another group, and then another and pretty soon I found myself sharing the park with dozens of runners who, judging by the logos on some of their jackets, looked like they were out training for the Brighton Marathon.

It was nice to see so many people out so early as the park can often be pretty quiet on a Sunday morning. But they didn’t stay long. I passed them as they moved down to the grass and by the time I ran back round on my third lap, they were all heading off somewhere. I watched in awe as they jogged off up the road and thought to myself, maybe next year…

By this point I had run about 8K and, even though I knew my pace was all over the place, I was still feeling pretty good. I figured that, if I took it easy enough, I could probably do another full lap, which would take me over the 10K mark.

And then it happened. The sky went dark. The heavens opened. And down it came. Not rain, but hailstones accompanied by a cold icy wind. Luckily I was just approaching the part of the fence where I had left my hoody after the first lap, so I grabbed it, pulled it on and got my hood up before the ice cold pellets froze my ears off!

Of course, at this point, most normal people would have stopped and found shelter. But not me. Not the other runners on the path. Not the man walking his dog and not the boys playing football on the astro pitch. Instead, the whole park seemed to come to life!

The boys on the pitch were laughing, the woman jogging while pushing her young daughter on a bike grinned as they hurried past, I held my hands out to feel the drops of ice on my hands and beamed as I said to the man with the dog, Wow! This is crazy!, to which he replied, It’s just wonderful!

Wonderful as it was, I was glad that the hail only lasted for a few minutes. So much so, that as I approached the point where the path splits, I decided that I’d take the shorter lap and just stick with the 10K for today.


It sounds weird being able to say just stick with the 10K, but it’s a great feeling. I was so happy that I had made this morning’s run. Happy to have changed my route, happy to have taken on the inclines, and strangely happy to have caught the hailstones in the process.

Who’d have thought a year ago that I’d be saying that?

Pre-Birthday Run PB

I had hoped to be able to run a sub-30 5K by the time I hit 40, but as the big day drew nearer I realised that the chances of that happening were slim to none. Still, that wasn’t going to stop me from trying to improve my time!

On Saturday I completed my final Parkrun in my current age category with a time of 32:50. Not a PB unless you take off the 30 seconds logged for starting further back than the start line, but a decent enough time for me, especially considering I stopped and walked for some of it.

Being used to training on the flat route along the seafront, I find the gentle inclines of the Parkrun a bit tricky sometimes. So, as I don’t turn 40 until tomorrow, I decided to go for another run in the park this morning to get some practice in. I don’t usually run in the morning or in the park other than at weekends but I’ve taken a couple of days of annual leave from work so the opportunity was just too good to miss.

I headed out at around 8:00am. The temperature was quite cool but it was dry and there wasn’t much wind, so I figured I would see if I could beat my PB of 32:25. My main strategy was to try to achieve negative splits for each kilometre but I wasn’t going to try any quick bursts as I wanted to make sure that I could cope with the inclines.

The strategy worked well for the first three kilometres but, as usual, my pace dropped a bit in the fourth. I realise that this is probably due to the fourth kilometre being mostly uphill, so I was pleased that my average pace only dropped by a few seconds.

By the final kilometre I was feeling pretty exhausted, but a quick glance at my Garmin confirmed what I had hoped. If I could maintain my pace, I might just about beat my PB. So I pushed on.

It wasn’t easy keeping the momentum going, but with a nice downhill slope about a quarter of the way through the final split, I was able to pick it up a bit. I relaxed, focused on my breathing and let my legs do what they had to do. Then my pace picked up.

I don’t know how it happened. I think the breathing helped, but there was also the fact that this would be my last chance to get a PB before I turned 40. I knew I wasn’t going to get a sub-30, but I needed something. So I pushed on, trying to go faster with every stride until my Garmin finally beeped to let me know I was done.

And boy was I done! I was exhausted. But it was worth it. 5.01K in 32:01 and a new PB for yours truly. And if I take away the extra 4 seconds that it took to press the stop button, that makes it 31:57 for 5K.


The best part though, and the part that really shocked me, was that I ran that final split in under six minutes – my goal pace for a sub-30 5K! I don’t think I’ll achieve the sub-30 anytime soon, but it’s nice to know that I can achieve the pace that I need and hold onto it for more than just a few seconds.

Photographic Evidence

Ok, so I know I should have better things to do than look at running related stuff on the internet, but yesterday I found some photographic evidence that I can actually run! See if you can spot me. I’m the one in the cap, blue t-shirt and long trousers who always seems to have one foot planted firmly on the ground!


I know this first picture is only the start line, and I was pretty near the back so no one was moving particularly quickly, but I don’t know what my excuse is for the next one.


You’d think that on the downward slope I might have been able to find some air beneath my feet, but no such luck!

Still, it was a lot of fun and a good reminder that I would never have been able to do that a few months ago – I just need to remember to bribe the photographer next time. 😉

A New PB!

I woke up early this morning. It was cold, damp and miserable outside, but that didn’t stop me from tying on my trainers and heading down to the park.

Today was going to be my second Parkrun. I ran my first one last Saturday and have started working on a new training program to try to bring my 5K time to under 30 minutes, so I was keen to see what (if any) progress I had made over the last seven days. I was hoping for something around 32:30, but would have been happy with anything under 33:00.

I decided not to start right at the back this week so that I could find my pace a bit sooner. That definitely helped. The walking and shuffling soon turned into a nice steady jog as the crowd thinned out and I found my rhythm.

Last week’s slower training runs seemed to have helped as I found I was able to keep my pace fairly constant throughout the whole 5K. The main exception to this was the steeper parts of the inclines, where I slowed down to make sure that I didn’t tire myself out too much before the final kilometre.

As I headed down the final slope, I felt pretty confident that I was going to beat my time from last week so I picked up my pace for the final stretch.

Towards the finish line, I was overtaken by two other parkrunners who were sprinting to the finish, but I resisted the temptation to race them and just focussed my own running. I didn’t want to overdo it as I knew I wanted to get to the park tomorrow for some hill training.

So, in the end, my time came out as 32:25. That’s 40 seconds faster than last week and a new PB!

Next week, I’d like to get below 32:00, but we’ll see how the training goes. For now, I’m happy with 32:25.

PB Badge

C25K Graduate

It’s official. I’ve finally done it. I’ve graduated from the C25K program!

It has taken me 15 weeks and 1 day, but I can now run 5K without stopping, and it feels amazing!

Like many others, when I first started the program, I could barely manage to run for sixty seconds. I was puffing and panting and wheezing all the way, but once I got that first run under my belt, there was no stopping me. It felt great to be out there on the street, along the seafront or in the park, knowing that as long as I was doing what the program told me to do, my body would be adapting and strengthening itself to be able to cope with the next step up.

Of course, along the way, there was injury, illness, exhaustion, missed weeks and even repeats, but the one thing that kept me going was that I knew that no run I ever attempted would even come close to being as hard as that first one. And today was no exception.

My final run of C25K should have happened yesterday, in fact, it should have happened months ago, but life gets in the way sometimes, so I’m not going to beat myself up about it.

I had planned to do my first 5K Park Run yesterday, but after a very busy summer at work we decided to hit the pub at 5:30 on Friday. With good company and half-price cocktails, I didn’t get home until 1:00 am, so there was no way I was in any condition to run at 9:00 am. So I went out this morning instead.

Even though I’d missed Saturday’s Park Run, I still wanted to run the route. I’m used to running on the flat so the hills of Hove Park were going to be a challenge. And they were. But it was nothing I couldn’t handle. The C25K program had prepared me well and I completed the run in 33 minutes and 8 seconds. That’s an average pace of 6:37 per km (10:39 per mile), and my best yet!


My next goal is to run 5K in under 30 minutes but I’m not sure how to go about achieving that. If you have any tips, advice or know of any good follow up programs that focus on improving pace, please share in the comments.

And, if you’re doing C25K, keep up the great work. The training doesn’t always go as planned, but you can do it and it will be worth it in the end.

Have a great weekend!

5K Splits-2013-09-29

Spectator Sport

Hove Park SignWith only a week to go until my first Park Run, I thought it might be a good idea to head down to Hove Park for this morning’s race, as a spectator, to see what it is all about.

The sky was overcast and there were a few drops of rain as I made my way to the park, but this didn’t seem to be putting anyone off as I was passed by a number of joggers and runners heading in the same direction.

I knew I was on time so I guessed they might be having a warm up run before the event itself. There were also a few people on bikes and, as I turned into the park, I saw where they were heading – a starting line of a couple of hundred people of all shapes, sizes and ages.

There were people with dogs, people with push chairs, people with their friends, their kids or on their own. It felt great to see them all heading towards the start line, ready to begin their weekend with a timed 5K run in the park. That will be me next week!

Hove Park Run

For me though, today is a rest day. I’m feeling a bit sore after two lots of back to back runs over the last week – Saturday and Sunday, then Wednesday and Thursday.

I plan to get up early tomorrow for my final run of Week 8 though. After that, Week 9 is three miles each day so, even if I haven’t finished the C25K program by next weekend, I can always use the Park Run a one of my Week 9 runs.

I can’t wait!