Five Years is a long time in blogging. When I started this little running blog just over five years ago, it was primarily intended to be a spur to encourage me to get my ass out of the door and put in the work I needed to do to finally bag a sub 3-hour marathon.
Back in late 2013, it was all fields around here, the country was still basking the glowing embers of the glorious summer of 2012 and running blogs were as common as rocking horse manure.
How different life feels now, a polarized country following a bizarre referendum that virtually nobody in the general public either wanted nor cared much about until kettled into opposing corners of the cesspit and force-fed lies by nutters from both sides until they spat blood.
On the positive side, I have run not one but four sub 3 hour marathons, completed Comrades three times and written 109 posts in this blog.
Blogging about running has become apparently very popular. I only follow a few blogs these days, most of the ones I enjoyed back in 2014 have withered on the vine. If writing a blog helps you focus and get on with improving your health then you receive a hearty thumbs up from me.
2018 was not a halcyon year in my running career. For the first time since 2007, I did not set a personal best time at a standard race distance and it was the first year since 2012 that I didn’t manage to record a sub 18 minute parkrun (though I did scrape under 18 minutes in a 5K race in August).
As with most things in running, it isn’t surprising. I’m 52, getting on a bit for a runner, but more significantly, I was hampered quite a bit by my dodgy ankle – posterior tibial tendonitis – which flared up whenever I try to increase the volume of miles. My poor bio-mechanics don’t help. I am trying to improve my running form, but I have a nagging feeling that you simply can’t teach a dog as old as me to change much.
I didn’t write any post-Comrades blog-posts last year, partly down to my poor form (let’s face it blogging is mainly about gloating), but primarily because I couldn’t be arsed.
One of the highlights of the second part of the year was my small involvement in the Tom Williams v Nick Pearson Tattoo Challenge. Tom, a good mate, was partaking in a year-long challenge with fellow parkrun executive Nick Pearson. The challenge was to record the best average monthly parkrun time over the whole of 2018. The loser’s forfeit was to be inked with a tattoo which included the barcode number of victor.
The challenge got a lot of traction on social media, helped by mentions on Radio 2 when Tom was interviewed by Vassos Alexander about parkrun.
Nick led the challenge for much of the year, but Tom produced a late run on the rails and going into December he was just a handful of seconds down and full of confidence. With the challenge ending before the parkrun Christmas party, there were only two opportunities to record a time in December.
I had offered Tom my services as a pacemaker and just before the first December in Saturday he took me up on my offer and asked me to pace him at Heslington parkrun in York.
Secretly, I am very confident about my innate sense of pace. Often on a run I can guess my current running pace with a high degree of accuracy, usually within one or two seconds.
Heslington is potentially a very fast 5K course, it comprises a 1K cycle track, which is completed once, followed by and out and back along the lakeshore bus route, with a final lap of the cycle track to finish.
Tom really needed a time under 19 minutes, but unfortunately the conditions on December 1st were against us; it was breezy, cold and raining. Tom met me during the warm up and gave me a focussed and intense briefing.
Clearly, he was right up for it. He stressed that I mustn’t go off too fast, a first kilometre of no quicker than 3:45 was ordered. He said not to worry if we didn’t run sub 19 – he thought the conditions might even mean he ran something like 19:20.
I can’t imagine that Roger Bannister gave Chattaway and Brasher a more intense pre-race briefing at Iffley Road in 1954.
After the usual preliminaries, we were away. I hit the 1K in 3:44, pretty much right on cue:
Things got tougher when we left the cycle track and put our noses in the wind. We made the halfway mark in 09:58, still on the money. However, Tom was feeling the pace on the return along the lakeshore, the wind was stronger and sensing that he was struggling, I tried to encourage him with aphorisms like “Dig in Tom” and “Only five more minutes to suffer”.
We made it back to the cycle track for the final lap and Tom picked up the pace to around 5 minutes mile for the last 500 metres, I had to dig really deep to stay with him.
He finished in 19:08, having completely rinsed himself inside out and then some. It is hard to imagine we could have gone any quicker than we did.
Unfortunately, Tom’s efforts were all in vain. Despite breaking 19 minutes at Hull parkrun on the following Saturday, Nick smashed out an all time PB of 18:43 at Dulwich to take the win.
My other highlights from 2018 were retaining the MV50 age group prize at the season long Even Splits monthly 5k series at the Brownlee cycle track in Leeds. The event is a series of 10 races with your best 6 times to count. The 2019 series starts at the end of February, though I will be away skiing for the first race.
I still love running, and with optimism in my heart I am making plans for 2019. There won’t be another Comrades for me this year. I love the race, but the toll it takes on my body is something to be avoided for this year at least.
A new Good for Age regime has been implemented at the London Marathon, I still managed to get in, my 2:55 time from 2017 remained relevant. My aim for the first part of the year will be quite simple – to run a personal best time for the marathon at London on April 28. I will use the blog to record my progress and note down my thoughts, just like I did back in 2014.
My two fears for London are that my ankle will not withstand the volume of training miles I will need to run and that the weather is hot again for London.
I can’t run a fast time in the heat and I won’t even try. The late April race date worries me (it’s a week later than usual because of Easter), and if it is over 20 degrees on race day as it was in 2018, then I will just pootle round and look after myself, perhaps saving myself for another race.
LM -16 weeks
11 stone 3 lbs
40.7 miles, longest run 12.7 miles
Parkrun : None (ill)
Aerobic efficiency on long run – 1,015 beats per mile