The Run-Walk-Run Experiment

After yesterday’s unexpected PB, I thought it would be interesting to see how close I could get to the same time using run-walk-run for the whole 5K. The theory is that by using short run/walk ratios, you can actually run faster than if you run the whole way. By allowing your body time to recover between running sections, the idea is that you will be able to run fast enough to compensate for the walking and come out with a better time overall.

Now, I know I’ve been going on about how much I’m enjoying run-walk-run and how it has helped me get back to running again regularly, but on the whole I have found that it tends to give me a slightly slower average pace than when I run the whole way – not by much though, and it is difficult to judge when you’re running different distances each week, so I decided that I would try a little experiment to see how much difference there is between run-walk-run and running the whole way.

Yesterday’s 5K run was a bit of a mish mash, running continuously for the first three kilometres before breaking down into a 3:1 run/walk ratio, but it earned me a PB of 31:16, which was 12 seconds faster than my previous PB. However, it’s difficult to judge whether this would have been faster or slower had I stuck to the same strategy for the entire run. So, curious to find out, I decided to do another 5K this morning using the same 3:1 run/walk ratio for the entire run.

Conscious of the fact that I really wanted to put run-walk-run to the test, I started off at a good strong running pace and trying to keep the average at around 6:20 per kilometre. This can be difficult to judge when you’re switching between running and walking, especially as some splits have more walking than running in them. However, I didn’t do too badly and was averaging 6:16 over the first 4K, which is pretty much in line with yesterday’s run.

By the final kilometre, however, I was starting to feel pretty tired. The walk breaks had helped a lot, but it was tough keeping the pace in the running sections. When I finished the final walk break at 29 minutes though, I realised I only had about half a kilometre to go. So I went for it!

I pushed hard, trying to get my legs turning over as fast as they could. I accelerated, then decelerated, then pushed again, then dropped again. I glanced at my watch. Just another 100 metres and I would be done.

I didn’t feel great. My legs were numb. But I kept going and then, finally, the Garmin beeped. I pressed the stop button, and looked at my time. It was over. I’d done it. A new PB of 30.54! That’s 22 seconds faster than yesterday!

2014-12-28_Splits

The question now though, is how close can I get to that if I run the whole way? Well, I still have one more run to do this year, so I guess I’ll have to try it out if I really want to know what difference run-walk-run really makes.

How’s your training going? Have you experimented with different running and training strategies? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Running On Lemsip

It took longer than usual to get motivated this morning, partly due to waking up late but mostly because I’ve got a bit of a cold and couldn’t decide whether or not it would be ok to run. After a Tesco imitation Lemsip and a couple of mugs of coffee, however, I figured that I really ought to make the effort. Even if I didn’t manage to complete the 5K that I’d planned, getting any kind of run in would be better than festering on the couch in my PJs. So, at about 10:30, I headed to the seafront for a let’s see how it goes  kind of run.

I thought it would have been busier on the promenade, but was pleased that there weren’t too many people around. A few runners, dog walkers and people out for an nice morning stroll in the sunshine, but nothing compared to Christmas Day.

I set off on my usual route, with the wind behind me, towards the Peace Statue and turned around just before the cafe to face the headwind. The wind was a bit stronger than I was comfortable with, but I kept going, knowing that I had already given myself a sick note to finish early if necessary.

Once I returned to the starting point at the 2K mark, however, I didn’t feel too bad. Having the wind in my face was still a bit annoying, but the temperature was fairly mild and the sun was shining so it seemed like a shame to throw in the towel.

So, I kept going, trying to keep a nice steady pace, and then, as with yesterday, dropped down to a 3:1 run/walk ratio at the 3K mark. As I continued on to the 4th kilometre, I realised that my pace had dropped a bit. It was still ok, but I could probably run a bit faster in the running sections, so I pushed a little bit harder. Not too much, just enough to feel it a bit more, and then something unthinkable happened.

I know they say that you can improve your overall time using run-walk-run, and I have found that on the whole my pace doesn’t very too much whether I use run-walk-run or continuous running for the whole distance; but when I came to the end of my walking section at 28 minutes (just under 4.5K), I realised that if I picked up the pace and kept going until the end, I might just be in with the chance of a PB.

I knew it would be close as my PB was 31:28 and I reckoned by average pace was around 6:20 minutes per kilometre, so I went for it. I picked up the pace again, being careful not to go too fast. Then, at 31 minutes, when I should have stopped to walk, I pushed as hard as I could until the Garmin beeped to let me know I was done. 31:16. A new PB!

2014-12-27_Splits

But the best part was that I had run that final kilometre in 5:57 minutes using run-walk-run. Now, I don’t know if I could manage that for the whole 5K, but I reckon it’s worth a go. I have two more runs to do before the end of the year, and I’d love to get that elusive sub-30 nailed down once and for all, so I’ll give it a go and see what happens.

Of course, it could just have been the Lemsip. 😉

This post is part of the Virtual Running UK Blog Hop. To join the fun and share your weekend runs, click here.

Circle Hop

Gone To Pot… But Not In A Bad Way

My training plan seems to have gone to pot over the last week or so, but as I made the whole thing up myself, I’m not too worried. One of the problems is that I find it hard to not treat every run like a race, which means that I generally need more time to recover; and the other problem is that I’m still getting to grips with the whole nutrition thing, which also affects my recovery. The result is that I end up doing fewer sessions than planned because I’m just too tired.

However, it’s not all bad. In fact, despite skipping over a week’s worth of runs in the first three weeks of the plan, I am making some good progress. Last weekend I ran 12 kilometres, which is further than I have ever run before. Even though it left me feeling exhausted for the rest of the week, the psychological difference is huge. If I managed to run 12K, then I can definitely run 10K, right?

With four weeks to go until my next 10K race, I decided that even though I was still feeling pretty tired, I had to get back out and run this weekend. The training plan said I had to do 12K today, but as I did that last week, I figured I’d just do 10K and see how it felt.

My goal for the Brighton Marathon 10K, apart from just being able to complete the course, is to try to beat my PB of 1:08:00. So in order to do this, I would need some kind of race plan. I know from my training that I can easily sustain a pace of 6:45 mins per kilometre over a 5K course, so I reckoned that this would be a good benchmark for the first half of the 10K, hopefully leaving me with enough energy to complete the second half at a similar (and hopefully slightly faster) pace.

But it’s the last part that is the key here. Would I have enough energy left to sustain me for the final stretch? I had no idea, so I decided to use this morning’s run to try it out.

The aim was to keep the pace as close as possible to 6:45 for the first 5 kilometres, and for a while it seemed to be working. I was feeling pretty good. The sun was shining, there was a nice breeze in the air and I was feeling relaxed. So much so, however, that I forgot to keep an eye on my pace and ended up running negative splits.

When I realised this, I eased off again for the 6th kilometre. But it was too little too late. I was already starting to feel tired. The sun was getting hot. I was wearing too many layers. I needed a drink. My legs were hurting. And my pace dropped back to around 6:50. It wasn’t what I had hoped for, but I knew that I was learning an important lesson about pacing. I had chosen 6:45 because I knew I could sustain it; but then I went too fast and couldn’t. I’d proved myself right. That was all.

But then something interesting happened. When my Garmin beeped to tell me that I was on my final kilometre, I looked at my time and realised that I had only been running for a little bit over an hour. That meant that if I could keep my pace just a bit faster than 7:00, I had a good chance of beating my PB of 1:08:00.

I knew that I didn’t have much left in me so it I wasn’t going to push it. There wasn’t going to be a final kick and a sprint to the finish line. But there didn’t need to be. As long as I focused on the breathing, kept the legs turning over and let the momentum carry me on, I could get close.

So I focussed on the breathing: breathe in for three steps, out for two; in for three steps, out for two; in for three steps, out for two… It wasn’t easy and I had to keep glancing at my watch to see how much longer I had, trying to reassure myself that all I had to do was keep moving and I’d get a PB. So I kept at it, breathing, counting, moving forward. And then I finished.

Somehow, despite the poor pacing and lack of training this week, the plan had worked and I managed to get my PB down to 1:07:22. But the weirdest thing about it was that, in the end, my pace averaged out at 6:44, which was pretty much what I had been aiming for all along!

10K Splits_09-03-14

So, I guess this run has taught me some important lessons: firstly, the training is working, even if (or perhaps because) I skipped some sessions; secondly, I need to stick to what I know is sustainable during the first half of the race; and thirdly, if I can just hold back for that first 5K and preserve some energy, I might have some kick left in me for a good strong finish!

Next week, with the right nutrition and more attention to pacing, I’m hoping that I can get my training back on track. After all, running days are so much more enjoyable than rest days.

How’s your training going? Have you got a race lined up? Do you have a race plan or do you wait and see how you feel on the day? Please share your thoughts 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.

Parkrun PB?

I’d been looking forward all week to today’s Parkrun. So after a rather unsettled night of being woken up by the wind battering on my windows, I was happy when the sun came up and the gusts began to weaken.

There was still a bit more than a breeze when I headed to the park to join the other two hundred or so runners for this morning’s run, so it wasn’t surprising that the turnout was a bit lower than usual – that and the fact that it’s the Brighton Half-Marathon tomorrow!

I was hoping that, after conquering my first 10K race last weekend, I might be on for a 5K PB today, so I’d planned to start more towards the middle of the pack than the back to give myself a better chance. With such a low turnout, however, I was still near the back even though I started closer to the line than usual.

Perhaps it was a fear of coming last, or the fact that many of the slower runners had decided to stay at home today, but I found myself setting off at a much faster pace than usual. I had planned to do the first kilometre in something close to 6:30 and then go for negative splits, but ended up doing 6:13 and then got progressively slower for the first three kilometres.

I could use the excuse that I was running against the wind, but as the Parkrun is a circuit, I found that the wind was actually behind me on the inclines. Although, perhaps that’s why the first kilometre went so quickly? Either way though, I was feeling pretty good.

5K Splits-2014-02-15

I hit my slowest kilometre in the third, at just under 6:30, and tried to maintain that pace until the final stretch to try to recharge some of the energy I had spent by going out too quickly. This seemed to do the trick as I was able to pick up my pace and finish the run in 32:08 for 5.09K, according to my Garmin.

I was feeling pretty excited as, even though Parkrun had recorded my PB incorrectly as 32:12 on a previous run (I emailed them about this but they never sorted it out), my actual Parkrun PB was 32:25. So, not only was I pretty certain that I had a new real PB, but I was also hoping that the incorrect one would be cancelled out at long last!

However, when I received my official time, I was shocked to discover that I had recorded 32:52! Now, I know that’s not right because my watch was pretty much in synch with the timings we were given as we ran round, so I can only assume there was a mix up with the barcodes or something.

I have emailed them and I guess it’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it is kind of annoying to take part in a timed run and then be given the wrong time at the end of it.

Still, the main thing is that I got up this morning and went for my run and, PB or no PB, it was still a lot of fun. And apart from anything else, it will definitely give me some more motivation to run faster next week!

Do you do Parkrun? Have you had any problems with incorrect times? What’s the best way to get it sorted if you do? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.

Chichester Priory 10K Road Race

Sunday was the twenty-third Chichester Priory 10K Road Race and my first ever 10K race. Having only completed the distance three times in training, I was a little bit nervous about the whole thing – not least of all because of the weather forecast. While the prediction was that the rain would ease off for the big day, we were still expecting winds of around 30 mph with gusts of over 50 mph – great if it’s behind you, but the chances were that it would be hitting us head on for the final 3K – not fun!

CH10K_Weather

Still, despite the weather forecast, I was pretty excited about the whole thing as I headed off to Chichester on Saturday evening. I had decided to get the train the day before and stay in a hotel over night as, for some bizarre reason, there were to be no trains between Hove and Chichester on Sunday and I didn’t want to rely on the replacement bus service getting me there on time in the morning. Also though, I kind of liked the idea of being able to relax and chill out in the hotel the night before.

As soon as I got off the train though, the heavens opened. The short walk to the hotel was wet, windy and downright miserable. And, to top it all off, I managed to do something to my ankle while trying to open the door while juggling my key card and an arm full of snacks from the vending machine. It wasn’t good, but at least I’d brought my ankle support that I’d been using since my Achilles injury.

Despite the wind and rain, I had a really good night’s sleep and woke up early feeling refreshed and excited (although still nervous) about the race ahead. I occupied myself with a light breakfast, some stretching and tried not to think too much about my race plan.Yes, I had a race plan! Well, sort of. The idea was to go out slow, keep my pace over 7 minutes per kilometre for the first half of the race and then go for negative splits for the final 5K. But, of course, it didn’t quite work out like that.

The meeting point for the start of the race was only about a five minute walk from the hotel, so I arrived slightly earlier than the recommended hour before the race. It was nice just milling around for a while, but in hindsight an hour was way too much time to be hanging around in the cold. Luckily, I did bring an old hoody with me, which I was able to get rid of before the start of the race.

At about 10:15, people were starting to get in line for the race itself. There were local cadets holding signs to show you where to line up according to your predicted race time. I knew I was going to be slower than most so it wasn’t hard to find the sign that read over 50 minutes. It would have been nice if they’d had one that read over 60 minutes or under one hour ten minutes, as this didn’t do much for my confidence, but there did seem to be rather a lot of people like myself who were trying to get as far back as possible so as not to slow down or trip up the faster runners.

Once in line, we all made our way to the start line. I didn’t actually see the start of the race, being amongst the last fifty runners out of around 1,600, so as soon as I saw people ahead start running, I guessed that we had started and turned on my Garmin. As it turned out, I was about a minute and a half early as we hadn’t actually crossed the start line, which was marked by two bright blue mats which I assume were used to read our timing chips.

Once we got going, the crowd started to thin out a bit and I overtook a few runners until I found myself running at a nice comfortable pace. The route itself was very flat and I did laugh when one of the marshals kept calling out, with more than a hint of irony in her voice, watch the speed bumps!

CH10K_Map

As we ran through the Chichester countryside, I realised that I was glad in a way that I wasn’t going very fast. It was nice just jogging along enjoying the view and the fresh country air. Even the sun had decided to make an appearance and the wind wasn’t causing too many problems – in fact, it was quite nice having some cold air blowing to cool me down a little bit.

Most of the roads had been closed off for the first few kilometres and drivers were very considerate as they slowed down and gave way to us as we jogged along trying to keep close to the kerb while avoiding the puddles from the recent downpours.

As we found ourselves running in single file along these stretches, I decided to pick up the pace a little bit and try to overtake a few people in front of me. It was a lot of fun trying to pass people, especially on the inclines (I love inclines now – as long as they’re not too long or steep!), and didn’t mind when they whizzed past me on the flatter sections. Well, it was a race after all!

As my competitive edge had started to kick in, I decided to forego 5K water stop and just keep going. To be honest, I never bothered with water during my training runs so I didn’t see the point. I knew I could do 10K without it and I kind of needed to pee a little bit so I figured I had enough water in my system to keep me going.

The second half of the race went pretty much like the first half. I tried to keep the pace going and I thought back to my fartlek training as I used short bursts to kick it up a notch and get past other runners, and even though by the eighth kilometre I was starting to feel pretty tired, I kept pushing on.

By the final 100 metres or so though, I was feeling pretty much done and I really struggled to keep the pace going on the final part of the descent to the car park. But, as I turned the corner and saw the finish line was within reach, I gave it one more final effort, picked it up as much as I could and got myself across the line. I was completely exhausted but very happy knowing that I had given it everything and, as I found out later, my chip time gave me a new PB of 1:08:00.

CH10K_Splits

CH10K_Data

If you live in the area and haven’t done the Chichester 10K Road Race, I’d definitely recommend it. As my first 10K race, it was a great experience and, despite the absence of a medal at the finish line (we got a mug!), it was well worth the effort!

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.

Splits_2014-01-27

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.