Into the valley of death ran the 700

…so says the title of one of the segments that some wag had created on Strava after yesterday’s Northern Cross Country Championship race at Harewood House.

Boy it was muddy, and as I have mentioned before, I don’t do so well in heavy going.  I was too slow at the manic start, getting stuck too far back. I felt I ran strongly once I had got into it and I quite enjoyed the 12K slog through the mud.

They reckon the Nationals will be held there next year, it would be fab if they were.

Only a short piece this week, I off am on holiday skiing.

Comrades 2018 -20 weeks

11 stone 3.4 lbs

49.4 miles, longest run 9.2 miles.

RunBritain Handicap 2.9


Sliding Doors

A post on Twitter this week about a runner’s ten year anniversary of his first parkrun at Woodhouse Moor caused me to check back on my record.

His first parkrun in January 2008 coincided with my second – I’d made my debut the previous week.

I don’t believe in fate or any kind of pre-ordained life.  We have a good measure of free will and we are exposed to the fundamental randomness of the Universe in my humble view; however, I did muse on how that simple decision to take myself down to Woodhouse Moor to try parkrun has changed my life.

It led me on a path to become a serious runner, I’ve made many new friends, I have travelled to places and done events that I could never have even conceived of and it also led to great happiness in my private life.  Yes, digging out my trainers and dragging myself down to try out a strange new free 5K run over a decade ago is one of the best decisions I ever made.

After two high mileage weeks, I stepped it back this week. It felt the correct thing to do, I have been going OK and I still have 13 weeks until London and 21 until Comrades so there is no need to go mad with miles just yet.

The weather hasn’t been great in the North of the UK this week – with plenty of snow and cold temperatures leaving roads and pavements often ice covered.

I decided to have a crack at the fourth Peco cross country race in the series, a course of 4.8 miles around Middleton Woods in South Leeds.  It was undulating with not many ‘killer’ hills that usually find me out and a couple of twisty technical descents that I can usually run quite well.

In my last cross country I was asleep at the start and got stuck too far back, causing me stress and extra energy trying to work my way through the field.  This time I set off more purposefully, established a reasonable position in the pack and then just battled away for places.

Peco 18.4

A nasty short climb about half a mile from the finish sent my heart rate rocketing and I lost a few of positions.  Back on the huge finishing field, I gathered myself and unleashed my best sprint to take most of them back.  I finished in 63rd position, fourth in my age category, but overall I was satisfied with my effort. I’d kept focussed throughout the race and I don’t feel that I could have done much more.

It’s the Northern Cross Country Championships next Saturday, held at Harewood House, only a few miles from where I live.  I might jog there and back to make it a long run day as well as a Championship race, we’ll see.  A top half finish will be my ambition

Comrades 2018 -2 weeks

11 stone 4.0 lbs

36.3 miles, longest run 7.7 miles. No parkrun (bad weather)

RunBritain Handicap 2.9

Aerobic efficiency 1,087 heartbeats per mile


Mojo Working

Another good week for the mileage log with no injury setbacks…things may be looking up.  For the first time in over nine months I experienced the elusive feeling of it feeling quite easy to run at a decent lick in training.  At last I am making progress rather than incessantly worrying about which bit of me might wear out or fall off next.

Seventy miles is my biggest week in almost a year.  Unsurprisingly I feel tired, but happy to be seemingly recording improvement.  I am hoping to run well at the Dewsbury 10K in three weeks.  I was on for a probable personal best time there last year only to be thwarted by a course that was more 10.2 than 10 kilometres.  I’m sure they will measure and mark it out right this year.

To get the mileage in, I’ve had to do some double days, which I find hard.  On Thursday I ran to work (5.5 miles) and for the return I took a longer route of 13.5 miles.  It was an unappealing run against a constant stream of glaring headlights on a cold, dark night.  However, I get a perverse enjoyment from completing this sort of run.  I wrapped up well, plugged in my headphones and caught up on my podcast backlog and drifted away with my thoughts.  I was home in what felt like no time, though it actually took me an hour and three quarters.

We tried a new parkrun on Saturday – Selby.  The course is around the bumpy perimeter path of an airfield, amazingly one lap of the airfield is exactly five kilometres. It was a chilly day and a brisk old breeze was scuttling through the windsocks.

The course was billiard table flat so I was aiming for a sub 19 minute time, hopefully nearer to 18:30. It’s quite a new parkrun (this only was the fifth event), the field was around two hundred or so.

Soon after the off, I was up in the leading group and after a kilometre I was off the front, running alongside a young lad in leggings and a club vest. I’d gone off hard, so my heart rate was up and I was gasping in the air, he casually turned to me and started chatting as if we were out for an easy walk.  I gasped out a couple of one or two word responses, which I expect were entirely incomprehensible.  He then asked me if I knew the way, “Erm, no, I was following you” I managed to blurt out.

Thankfully, it was hard to go wrong, we stuck to the fairly obvious perimeter path and didn’t head down the runway.

I managed to run the first (partially wind assisted) mile in just under six minutes, but the next was directly into the strong wind, we slowed to 6:30 pace.  Just as we were turning back towards the finish, with the wind again on our backs, another runner breezed past. I tried for a few strides to stick with him, but clearly he had been holding a lot in reserve and he zoomed away easily.

In addition to being bumpy, the path was covered in a couple of centimetres of mucilaginous mud. I had made a bad shoe choice and struggled for traction in the worst of it.

With around 400m metres to go I decided to have a dig to try to steal second place from the young lad.   I opened up my ‘sprint’.  I am pretty good at reading other runners body language in races and as he floated effortlessly past me, his body language was saying “don’t be ridiculous, you have no chance of beating me”.  He was right.

I finished third in 18:56, given the wind and the mud, I was satisfied with that. On a dry still day I am fairly sure I could have maintained sub six minute mile pace the whole way.

Next week – hopefully more of the same.


Comrades 2018 -21 weeks

11 stone 1.6 lbs

70.3 miles, longest run 17 miles. Parkrun (Selby, 3rd 18:56)

RunBritain Handicap 2.9

Aerobic efficiency on Long run 1,047 heartbeats per mile


Ponte Carlo or Bust

A new year and new plans for the year of running ahead, the deluded narcissistic coiffured lunatic on the other side of the Atlantic permitting.

It doesn’t bear worrying about, so I won’t.  Somehow, we’ll all muddle through and even if we don’t, worrying about it will not do you nor me any good.

Since my last post, after the aborted Chester marathon, my running has been decidedly lacklustre and my performances mediocre.  I’ve turned  51 years old,  advancing age is undoubtedly dulling my speed and it has taken me ages to shake off some niggly injuries.

The stiffness in my right ankle, specifically posterior tibial tendonitis is better; however, I still feel it on every run.  Since October, I have sought help and treatment from physios at the Coach House in Leeds and, on the advice of my podiatrist neighbour, an excellent running-specialist podiatrist on Street Lane, Lee.

Lee diagnosed me quickly.  He is also a runner and after filming me shirtless  running  on his treadmill (I was shirtless, not him, I hasten to add), it was easy to see how problems with my gait and running form were manifested in lower leg pain.

It is difficult to analyse oneself objectively, but even allowing for this, I looked poor – shoulders slumped, hips weak and falling inwards leading to the right knee collapsing inwards, pressurising the tendons on the inside of the ankle.

If David Rudisha resembles a gazelle when running, then I looked like a hyena – a hyena that was constipated and had been knee-capped.

Despite my awful running style, Lee thought that I didn’t look too bad.  He stressed that I needed to engage my core muscles and lift everything up by a couple of centimetres.  I should try to look forward and not down and work my arms backwards and forwards rather than across my body.  He said it was amazing I could run as quickly as I do because I was wasting lots of energy working across my body rather than propelling myself forwards.

To my detriment, I have never been especially dedicated to physio’s exercises, but I did try to take his advice.  During my easier runs I have been focussing on holding my core firmly and lifting up.

To be frank, I hadn’t felt much had changed, but when I went back for my last visit, Lee said that my form was much better. He filmed me again and I could see that my hips were more stable and different muscles in my back were firing.

Since Chester, my level has dropped significantly.  During one of those slow days between Christmas and New Year, I took some time to trawl through my weekly mileage records on Strava from the previous three years.  It was easy to deduce that my best race performances came after blocks of heavy mileage.  When the weekly training mileage dropped, so did the subsequent race performances.

It ain’t brain surgery – you get out what you put in.

Feeling better, I have set some plans for 2018.  The highlight will be a return visit to South Africa in June to run the Comrades marathon for the third time.  As I missed last year, I will be partaking in another down run.  I won’t be setting any time goals this year.  I already possess a Bill Rowan medal (sub 9-hours), the next best medal is the silver – however the required standard of under 7 hours 30 minutes is well beyond me.

I’m blogging again for selfish reasons – just writing the blog provides focus and makes me train harder.  Since I began writing the blog I have managed at least two personal bests each year.  I would be delighted to keep this streak going, but that will be very tough,  I might well be over the top of the bell curve, we’ll see.

The first day of the year saw me attempt (and fail) the now customary Valley Striders parkrun double.  In a change from the usual format, we ran Woodhouse Moor followed by Rothwell (rather than Temple Newsam).  After the second parkrun, my ankle was sore so I ducked out of the slow 6 mile trudge back, opting for a lift in a nice warm Citroen C1 instead.  Much Kudos to my hardy teammates who completed the challenge.

Yesterday, I gave it a dig at a new parkrun for me – Pontefract.  It’s a great course, basically a lap of the bumpy ambulance track inside the longest flat horse-racing course in Europe, bookended by two laps of a boating lake.

It was a teeth-clenchingly chilly day – a glacial northerly wind nipped into our faces for the first half of the big lap.  I was soon isolated – a small pack of speedies zoomed off and I spent most of the race vainly chasing the lad in fourth place. I was disappointed not to duck under 19 minutes, but I gave it a fair effort, which is all you can control.

Sunday morning saw us side-step the Peco cross country race at Roundhay Park and head up to the reservoirs for the first long training run of the year.  It was a divine midwinter day – a clear blue sky illuminated by a blinding low sun.

I wrapped up and ground out three laps and 20 miles, not made any easier by fatigue and ever-increasing throngs of dog walkers that I had to manoeuvre around.

I finished with an 11-minute mile, shuffling around the car park willing my Garmin to tick over to 20 miles. I have a long way to go and many miles to run.



Comrades 2018 -22 weeks

11 stone 3.8 lbs

65.1 miles, longest run 20 miles. Parkrun (Pontefract, 5th 19:02)

RunBritain Handicap 2.9

Aerobic efficiency on Long run 1,080 heartbeats per mile