Snake Lane 10, 2017


My low mileage week was even easier than I had intended.  Owing to work and life stuff I managed just three runs before Sunday’s Snake Lane 10 mile race.  At least it meant that I had fresh legs for one of my favourite race distances.

This was to be the fourth time I’ve raced the Snake Lane 10 at Pocklington.  It’s a lovely course – rural and flattish with a few rollers to keep it interesting.  However, a late February race date in the shadow of the Yorkshire Wolds meant that we had to face up to the traditional stiff winds.

I travelled across with team mates Sean and Liz and we topped up our caffeine levels with a coffee before the start.  I had time for a short warm up of a mile or so before I settled in about three rows back in the start pen.

I knew the wind would be against us for most of the second half of the race, so it was tough to know how to approach it.  I decided to try to run around 6 minutes per mile for the first half and then just see how I coped with the wind once we turned into it at Bishop Wilton.

I bumped into old mate James Allinson from New Marske Harriers in the start pen.  I’d run with him at the Locke Park 20 and Manchester Marathon in the past and I follow him on Strava.  He’d being going well recently and I’d noticed that he had just beaten the hour for this race in 2016 – a race I missed through injury.

James hared off at the start, leaving me well behind.  I ran the first few miles as I had planned, all at around 6 minutes, except for the draggy uphill fourth mile. I felt OK, I was working hard, but I kept my breathing and heart rate under control.  I often listen to other runners breathing in the middle part of a race.  A few other competitors were clearly breathing a lot harder than I was, which gave me a little boost.

I had a bit of luck just as we made the left hand turn into the block headwind.  I was running with a lad from Stainland Lions and we were passed by two fellows from East Hull running together.  One was a strapping lad, at least six feet three,  a perfect windbreak, so I jumped right in behind him.

They ran the perfect pace for me through the twisty Snake Lane section – just fast enough so that I had no thought of passing them, but not so fast that I couldn’t sit in behind.  A bunch of about six formed and I told myself to be really patient and just wait behind the pack leaders for as long as I could. Because of the wind, the pace had slowed to around 6:15 per mile, but I was working hard and concentrating to make sure I stayed ‘on it’.

With about two and a half miles to go, we turned left onto a main road for the final stretch back to Pocklington. There were a couple of small climbs on this section and I was struggling on the inclines. I dropped a few metres off the back of the group on each climb, but I gritted my teeth and worked hard to get back on each time the road flattened.

With a mile to go, I could see the village church up ahead and I spotted the light blue vest of James from New Markse – I was gaining on him.

I decided to try and really drill it for the final mile – six minutes of suffering to see if I could make up a few places.  I passed the others in my group and set off in pursuit of James and his group of four or five.  As I passed the sign saying “400M to go” I decided to open up my sprint.

I overtook the backmarkers in James’ group, but he had clocked me and was gunning it to the finish himself.  Around the final bend, I kicked up my sprint again and passed another three in the final straight, finishing about three seconds behind James in a time of 1:00.56. I finished 23rd overall in a field of 959.

I was pleased with my run – in that wind it was probably worth a sub 60 minute time on a still day. I paced it well and managed to dig in a few times when it was feeling really hard in the second half.

I was delighted to learn that I had even managed to bag my first ever age category win – first MV50 and £30 in English cash money!:



This week, I really ought to step the miles up again, but I have a few work things on that may make that difficult. My next target race, the Bath half marathon, is only twelve days away.


LM -8 weeks

30.5 miles longest run 10 miles

parkrun (Roundhay) 20:52 (20th)

Weight 11 St 1.2 lbs

Aerobic efficiency on Sunday run – 951 beats per mile


Enjoy the Good Times

A club teammate made a comment last year that resonated. He said, “Runners tend to focus on what went wrong rather than what went right”.

I have been guilty of this in the past and this time last year I was wallowing in self-pity over a persistent achilles injury.  My pessimistic head voice was chirping at me: you are getting too old for this and you are past your peak, it’s all downhill from here and other similar negative ruminations.

Thankfully, so far 2017 has been largely injury free and I am really enjoying running. Inevitably, a few of my friends and clubmates are injured, some chronically, and I feel for them. All I can offer are trite words of empathy and a hope that things will improve, as they have for me.

The Tuesday session this week was our once a month track session at Leeds Met.  We have simplified the structure of the track sessions recently and now we run a straight forward 8 times 800m off 4 minutes 30 seconds. This means that each interval starts exactly 4 and half minutes after the previous one, so the faster you run, the more rest you can enjoy between efforts.

My standard pace for hard 800m intervals is around 2:45 per effort so I would get 1:45 rest.  I find this a very tough session – in fact, I think it is too tough to complete if you are running max pace intervals – the rest just isn’t long enough to reset the heart rate.  I could complete the session at 5K pace (2:55 for 800m for me), however, when I am at the track, I can’t resist wanting to ‘smash’ myself by running intervals about as hard as I can.

There is an alternative 800/400m option (times four) which I elected to run this week, so the rests were longer. I got into it and managed to run around 2:40s for the 800s and sub 70 seconds for the 400s. On the last one lap effort, I was tired but buried myself to see if I could get near 65 seconds.  I failed miserably, wallowing in a vat of lactic acid in running 68 seconds.

There have been discussions in the club about turning out at track meetings this year. I have offered my services and quietly I fancy having a go at the 400 metres.  I wonder if I could get somewhere near 60 seconds if I was fresh and in a race. Although some way inferior to Wayde van Niekerk, I think that would represent a reasonable standard for a fifty-year-old bloke.

I missed two days running midweek because of work commitments, but I still almost hit my weekly mileage goal.

On Saturday morning, I ventured back to my old stamping ground at Woodhouse Moor to have a proper go at a fast parkrun there for the first time in ages. I usually go to Roundhay these days, because it’s not as busy and many of my Strider mates go there.

I bumped into my teammate and fellow MV50 Tim on the start line and immediately knew I was in for a hard race. Tim and I are similar standards, but he has had the edge on me over the last few weeks.

Whilst not quite Coe v. Ovett, we have a healthy but friendly rivalry and it proved to be a right old ding-dong.  I went out fast, running the first (downhill) kilometre in under 3:30. Tim surged past at the end of the first lap.  I latched on and then had a go on lap two to try and break him (it didn’t work).  At the halfway mark, I was blowing hard but knew we were on for a sub 18 if we kept the pace going.

Tim passed me again with around 1km to go. All I wanted to do was hang on to him grimly and try to take him in a sprint over the final 100m. I think Tim sensed this and he was really gunning it up the final drag. Things weren’t made easier by having to weave through a mass of other parkrunners, many three or four abreast and some wearing headphones.

I was a bit miffed to be branded a ‘knob’ by one girl.  Unfortunately, I’d accidently brushed past her – she was wearing full on Beats headphones and had swerved into me at the very last moment, leaving me nowhere to go.  If only the other runners would maintain a straight path, I would be happy to go around them.

With 500m to go, Tim broke me and eventually beat me by 5 seconds in a 5K PB time of 17:53.

Tim is also running London and has been following the Pfitzinger and Douglas training plan fairly strictly.  P & D are great believers in the benefits of marathon paced training runs, especially incorporating MP sections into longer runs.

I have done very few MP efforts in my training, tending to rely on races for my faster efforts. The problem with running at marathon pace in training is that it is very hard to do this on your own over an extended distance.  When Tim said he was going to run 16 miles on Sunday morning, with the final 12 miles at marathon pace, I asked if I could join him.

We ran it along the Leeds-Liverpool canal towpath. It was a perfect running day – about 7 degrees with only a light breeze. I found the 12 miles at MP hard but not ridiculously so, my heart rate remained below 150.

We averaged 6 mins 32 seconds per mile for the MP section (2:51 marathon pace).  I know that I could not have run that quickly on my own, so it was great to run with Tim and I think it will have done us both a lot of good.

I’ve got an easier week ahead, a mini taper ahead of next Sunday’s Snake Lane 10 mile race.

LM -9 weeks

58.6 miles longest run 18 miles

Parkrun 17:58 (8th, Woodhouse Moor)

Weight 10 St 12.8 lbs

Aerobic-efficiency on LR 956 beats per mile


The shrinking man…

Only a short update this week.

I ran almost 75 miles,  well over my 60-mile weekly target. The only thing of note is that I weighed the lightest since I started writing the blog over three years ago.

Unsurprisingly, given the volume of miles and the fact that I still had last Sunday’s 10K race in my legs, I felt sluggish during the early part of the week.  Previous marathon campaigns have told me that running miles on tired legs is an aspect of the training that you have to put up with. If you run 70 miles per week and include a few races and hard efforts, you are bound to feel tired.

The race was certainly still in my legs during the Tuesday evening club session and I was off the pace during the 3 x 10-minute intervals.

By Saturday, I felt fresher and gave it a go at Roundhay parkrun for the first time this year.  I led for part of the first lap before a much stronger lad surged past me. I conceded second place on the third ascent of the hill of doom before the finish but was satisfied with a time of 18:53 on a bracing winter morning.

On Sunday morning, a hardy band of Striders ventured up to the Fewston reservoir trails for the Sunday long run. It was a rare old morning with a biting breeze and flecks of snow in the air.


It was really satisfying to tick off this 20-mile progression run.  We ran the first 6.5 miles lap as a group at a steady 8 minute per mile pace. We accelerated on laps 2 and 3 and Tim and I ran the final 6 miles at close to marathon pace (well under 7-minute miling).  On a biting morning, over the undulating trails, I found that tough.  Tim was definitely the strong one – I was always half a stride behind, hanging on a bit.  Efforts like that are done so much more easily with someone else.

Whisper it quietly, but everything feels nicely on track for London.  I am looking after my body a bit better this year, with no consecutive hard days and more restorative yoga sessions and the occasional sports massage

Next week will be another standard mileage week, with a track session to look forward to on Valentine’s night. I will step the miles back a little during the following week, in preparation for the Snake Lane 10 mile race.

LM -10 weeks

74.6 miles, longest run 20 miles

Parkrun 18.53 (3rd, Roundhay)

Weight 10 st 12.4 lbs

Aerobic-efficiency 1027 beats per mile


The Curse of the Course

As I mentioned in the blog last week, I’d earmarked this as a week to drop the mileage and up the speed, hoping for a good time at the Dewsbury 10K today.

Part of the plan was to run really hard at the Tuesday night club speed session.  It was a rare pyramid session this week (we only run them if there’s a fifth Tuesday in the month). The structure was two sets of 2 mins / 3 mins / 5 mins / 3 mins / 2 mins with a 25% rest between efforts (e.g. 30 seconds after 2 minutes) and 3 minutes rest between the sets.

I was fit enough to really get into it and fortunately a few of our swifter lads put in an appearance. It helps to have someone to race against in sessions. I ran most of the reps at well under 6 minute mile pace, some of the shorter ones nearer to 5 minute mile pace. It felt good to running fast again.

For the remainder of the week, the running was easy with just a medium run of 11 miles – a mini Tour de Roundhay and Alwoodley on Wednesday afternoon.  I started that run just before 5 p.m. and encouragingly, in daylight, which tickled my spirits a tad.

I did some thinking about how I should approach the race on Sunday.  In the past, I have been guilty of not preparing as well as I could.  I’m usually good at summoning effort during the race, but I’m sure other aspects of preparation, the so-called ‘marginal gains’, have been overlooked or not executed particularly well.

I did some snuffling around on the internet, reading about the mental approaches of great runners.  I found an article about Emil Zatopek, the only ever winner of the 5,000m, 10,000m and marathon at the same Olympics (1952) (and he only ran the marathon as an afterthought).

A legendary hard man, during a race he would say to himself “When it hurts, you must go faster”. I thought I would remember that one and maybe see if I could use it on Sunday.

I also bought my customary supply of pre-race nitro-glycerin (aka a carton of organic Beetroot Juice).   I resisted the temptation to run much towards the end of the week, forcing myself to jog around Roundhay parkrun on Saturday by donning the 24 minute pacer bib.

I hoped for chilly and still day for Dewsbury and that’s exactly what we got. I may have overindulged a tad on the Beetroot juice, resulting a few nervous moments in the long queue for the toilets.  Annoyingly this meant I could only fit in a short 1 mile warm up, I’d planned to do at least twice that.

Another mental approach I thought I would try was to break the race down into three blocks of 3 K. The first should feel fairly easy when it is important to relax. The second 3K starts to hurt and it’s important to concentrate and the third 3K is when it hurts like hell and it’s about suffering. Oh, and that leaves the 1K bit at the end when you just give it everything and empty the tanks.

I wriggled towards the front of the starting pen and after the off I was across the start line in fewer than 2 seconds. I spotted a few of my regular rivals in the first mile – Duncan from Abbey Runners, Michelle from Gatehead (fellow England age-grouper), with whom I ran for a long way at the Yorkshire marathon, and John Robson from St Theresa’s.

Annoyingly, the easy first 3K section didn’t feel as easy as I’d hoped. I pride myself on pacing – I often play a game with myself by trying to guess the pace I am running before looking down at the Garmin (I’m usually spot on). During the second K, I thought I was running at maybe 3:36 per km pace, yet the watch showed 3:42 – not good.

The outbound 5K of the simple out and back course is slightly uphill, so I anticipated running a negative split. By halfway, it was more than a little disconcerting that I was heading for a grand slam positive split – my km times were deteriorating progressively – 3.39, 3.40, 3.42,3.44 and 3.46.

I remember seeing a sign saying “50 m to the turnaround”, then I ran past the 5K sign and I still had about 100m metres to the turnaround. Strange, I thought – the race starts and finishes at the same point, surely the 5 K point should be at the turnaround…

At the 5K marker, John Robson came bounding past me. Michelle was ahead, with a 12 second lead on me (I’d measured it as she ran past a road sign); she was going very well, clearly engaged in a race with another leading lady.

By the turnaround, John had taken a few metres out of me.  I had a stern word with myself and regained some focus. I upped the cadence and gradually reeled him in and then went past strongly.

We were running slightly downhill on the return 5K and running felt freer. Aerobically, it felt really hard, but that’s what 10K racing is all about.

I was definitely moving more quickly – kilometre 6 was run in 3.31, 7 in 3.28 and 8 in 3.30.  I realised that I was catching Michelle. As she passed another street sign, I measured the gap again – down to 6 seconds. However, my agony was mounting.  It was time to summon up the spirit of Zatopek. I started playing his mantra over in my head when it hurts, go faster.

With 1 km to go I was grunting and gasping with every breath – I was on Michelle’s shoulder. It was very tempting to sit in and just try to beat her in a sprint, but I decided to go past her strongly and really suffer for last three minutes of effort.

I finished in 36:39 (official chip time), but in common with many other runners I clocked the course at well over distance – 6.34 miles – or 209 metres long.

Strava record

From Strava gossip and other social media, many other runners clocked the course long. My running pace was 5:47 per mile, faster than the pace I ran when I set my 10K PB (36:06 at Salford in 2015 – 5:50 per mile). I think the Salford course was found to be a tiny bit short and my Garmin says I ran my fastest ever 10K today with a 36:01.

Oh well, whatever – it was the same for everyone, but it is a little frustrating to miss out on a PB.

I was delighted with my run, I went deep and finished absolutely exhausted (for a few seconds I thought I may see my breakfast again). It augurs well for my upcoming target races – the Snake Lane 10 miler, the Bath Half Marathon and the Salford 10K.If I stay fit, I’d love to go sub 80mins at Bath and sub 36 at Salford.

It’s time to up the mileage again next week – hopefully another 70+ week.

LM -11 weeks

46.8 miles, longest run 11.1 miles

Parkrun 23.54 (pacing, Roundhay)

Weight 11 St 1.0 lbs

Aerobic efficiency 989 beats per mile