Sunday Run Fun

With five months to go until my next Ultra, I figured it was time I started getting some miles beneath my feet.

At the moment I am trying to get back into running again but it’s a slow process, so I figured that the least I could do was go for a nice long walk today, and maybe jog a bit if I felt like it – the key was to spend time outdoors and get the old legs moving again.

My plan for today was to go out for an hour and a half, using a route that included a variety of surfaces as well as some decent inclines. Running along the seafront is fine for most of what I do, but as the South Coast Challenge is going to involve some pretty varied terrain, I wanted to get as much variety in to these early runs and walks as possible.

The area that I live in is fairly urban and, although there are some nice parks, most of the paths aren’t that much different from the road or pavement surface. So, I decided to head for a small trail between Woodland Drive and Woodland Avenue that I had used before. It’s only about a kilometre or so, but it does have a nice incline and the surface of the path has a good mixture of mud, stone, shingle and exposed roots to keep things interesting.

Although my plan was to walk this section, I couldn’t resist breaking into a little jog here and there, just warm up the old leg muscles and get them used to running uphill again – well, the less steep sections anyway.

The trail ends at a main road, which is a bit annoying as it means having to stop before crossing the road, but I think my legs were happy for the rest to be fair.

As I headed across the road to the open field that would take me to the next trail, I noticed that the wind was picking up a bit and it was starting to rain. This was good. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed a bit of rain to cool me down mid run, although I was pleased that it didn’t come to much.

The run across the field was nice. I ran the downhill and some of the flat sections until I came to the gate that would take me into Coney Wood, which I had only ever ventured into once before, but remembered that it had some nice narrow trails and plenty of downhill sections to keep things interesting.

This part of the run was a lot of fun, with much more downhill than I remembered, and plenty of hazards like fallen trees and more exposed roots to keep me on my toes – literally! This was really good practice for downhill running and I tried to remember to land mid foot and avoid braking with my heels too much.

It was a bit disappointing when the trail came to an end and I emerged from the wood on to a residential street, but as I had completed over 4K, I decided to keep running and see what my 5K time would be. As it turned out it wasn’t bad at all, considering the uphills and walking, and I ended up with a time of 42:15 for the first half of my run.

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Of course, now I had to turn around and do the whole thing in reverse, which meant a lot of walking to get myself back up the hill. But I did run some of the flatter sections and a bit of the field, before running the whole downhill section of Woodland Ave/Drive. That took me back to the park, so I continued walking and jogging until I had completed my hour and a half, which took me to a bit over 10K.

By the end of it I felt pretty good and was tempted to turn into Hove Rec for an extra couple of kilometres, but in the end I decided just to keep going until I had finished the 11th kilometre and called it a day at that. My final time for 11K was 1:33:11, which was pretty good for what was originally just going to be a walk.

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I think that my 1K a day since Thursday might have helped a little bit as well – if not in terms of fitness, then at least in terms of feeling motivated and ready to get this training started.

Mixing Things Up A Bit

Running the same old route can be useful in terms of motivation and progress as you run past points that you struggled with in the past, but it can also become a little bit tedious after a while. That thought, along with the fact that the Brooks Brighton 10K was taking place on the seafront this morning, prompted me to try something a little bit different.

My goal for today was to do a 13K Run-Walk-Run, using a 3:1 Run:Walk ratio, but instead of running along the promenade and out towards Shoreham Power Station, I decided to mix things up a little bit and get some much needed trail and hill running in.

Knowing that this was going to be a tough run, what with the hills and the muddy trail that I planned on taking, I decided to start off with three laps of Hove Rec. The nice thing about this part of the route is that each lap is about 1 kilometre and has some nice gentle inclines, which would be a great warm up for the rest of the run. I kept the pace nice and slow, enjoying the cool breeze and drizzle, before heading down to Hove Park.

The park was pretty quiet as I jogged along the eastern side of the parkrun loop, sticking to my ratio as I took in the steep incline before descending and heading into the wooded area and the first major challenge of today’s run.

The first part of the trail wasn’t too muddy, but before long I found that the incline was a bit more than I could handle. Still, determined not to give up, I altered my ratio to 30 seconds walking, followed by 30 seconds running. This worked for a while, but proved to be pretty hard going, especially as the trail started to become a bit muddier.

The hardest part, however, was yet to come. Once I emerged from the trees, I was faced with a lovely grassy slope which, although not particularly muddy or slippery under my trail shoes, proved to be difficult to run on. The problem was that as well as running up the slope, I was also running across it, with one foot always slightly more ‘uphill’ than the other. I knew right away that any attempt to run in this way wasn’t going to do my dodgy ankle any good, so I did the sensible thing and walked until I got to the top.

After that though, the rest of the run was great. I crossed the road and ran on some nice open grassy trails, made friends with some dogs and got back into my stride. I stuck to the 3:1 ratio as much as possible, stopping only for mud, dogs and gates, before crossing back over the road and returning to reap my rewards on the run down the hill.

Funnily enough, the run back down was a breeze and didn’t feel half as muddy as on the way up. I still took it fairly slowly though as the rain on my glasses meant that I couldn’t see as well as I would have liked, but I emerged unscathed and feeling very happy having completed 9.5 kilometres of the 13 that I’d planned.

Of course, I wasn’t going to give up there, so I headed back to the park to complete a lap and two thirds before heading for the pavements and a nice jog along the roadside to bring my distance up to 13K.

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In the end, it was a very slow run, what with all the extra walk breaks and having to stop to cross some roads, but it was good to do something different for a change. And, with 13K in the bag, I’m feeling pretty good about getting myself ready for my first half-marathon and marathon next year.

How’s your training going? What do you do to mix things up a bit? Have you tried something new to help pull yourself out of a slump? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Race For Life 10K

Race-For-Life_0Today was the day of Brighton’s Race For Life 10K – a fundraiser in support of Cancer Research UK.

I signed up for it months ago and was originally hoping that by the time race day came around, I would be getting pretty close to the 60 minute mark for my 10K time.

Of course, over the months that followed, my plans changed. I signed up for other events and other priorities took over. I was still training hard, but just not for a 10K race; so by the time I should have been ready to refocus on Race For Life, my body just wasn’t up to it.

Still, I wasn’t going to back out of the chance to run a race, so I adjusted my focus and decided that Race For Life would be a training run, an experience and an opportunity to enjoy a different type of race – and I certainly wasn’t disappointed on that score!

The event was to take place in Stanmer Park, next to Sussex University. Race For Life didn’t publish the route beforehand so, after checking out Google maps and seeing that there weren’t any paths on the map, I figured it might be a good idea to wear my trail shoes, just in case. And I was glad that I did.

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It turned out that the route was all grass and trails, which was a lot of fun, especially on the downhill sections. The uphill, on the other hand, wasn’t so much fun, particularly as the first hill was right at the start. This caused a bottle neck which pretty much brought everyone to a halt and meant that we all had to walk for at least half a kilometre until it thinned out a bit.

The first couple of kilometres were a bit frustrating as, even when things did thin out, a lot of people were blocking the path by walking in the middle of it instead of keeping to the left to allow people to pass. That, and the fact that I forgot to start my Garmin as I crossed the start line, meant that my pacing went completely to pot.

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After the second kilometre, however, things started to get more interesting. There was a good downhill stretch which enabled me to pick up my pace quite a bit to try to make up for the slow start, which gave my spirits a huge lift.

There was another small hill just before the water stop at the half way point, so I took a walk break and got some water. Again, this slowed things down more than it should have as the water station was basically a table with a load of two litre bottles of water and about a dozen plastic cups which we had to fill ourselves.

After stopping for water though, it was kind of hard to get going again. The course was two laps of 5K which meant climbing the hill again and, after my speedy descent over the last couple of kilometres, my legs were starting to feel it.

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Even though I did my best to keep running, I eventually realised that I would have to walk most of the sixth kilometre to preserve some energy for the finish.

I knew it wasn’t going to be a great time, but I didn’t mind. I picked up the pace for the downhill and, with only a couple of short walk breaks after that, I was able to pick it up again for a strong finish and a high five for the guy with the giant hand at the finish line.

Despite the bottle neck at the top of the hill and the poorly organised water station, on the whole it was a lot of fun; and even though I’m rubbish at running uphill, the trails did make it much more fun than running on flat roads and paths.

As for my finish time? Well, the clock said 1:14:00 and my Garmin said 1:12:59, so given the fact that I started the Garmin late then I’d guess that 1:14:00 is probably closer, which isn’t too bad all things considered.

Have you done Race For Life or other events organised by charities? What did you think of the overall organisation? Please share your thoughts in the comments.