Cor Baby, that’s Relay free

I treated my aching bones to any easier week, so there isn’t very much to share about the last seven days of running.  Although I am trying to compress a 14 week marathon training block into about 7 weeks, even I realise that it would be foolish to completely run myself into the ground, so a bit of rest and easy running is mandatory at my age.

In Iceland, Jock told me about his training philosophy – he has read a book by an author whose name I have forgotten, but the key point was that training runs for older runners should to be easy.  The best way to measure this is by using heart rate, which should never exceed 180 minus one’s age.  Therefore, I have been running to a target heart rate of 130, which feels quite easy, it equates to something between 8:15 to 8:30 mile pace.

It also requires one to run very easily up inclines and a bit harder down them.  As mentioned on Marathon Talk a few weeks ago, for even effort, nearly every one goes much too hard uphill and nowhere near hard enough coming down.  Hard runs should only be done occasionally – ideally not more than once a week.

I like this training philosophy, it accords with the Kenyan way – i.e. you should either by running very easily, or very hard, but hardly ever with medium effort.

Saying all that, I ran hard on both days at the weekend – on Saturday at Roundhay parkrun; and on Sunday for Leg 6 of the Leeds Country Way Relay.

The Roundhay parkrun course is tough, it includes a two+ minute hill which is climbed three and a half times.  I was leading the pack at the top of the hill on the first lap, but I was soon passed by Huw and a young woman whom I didn’t recognise.  I held third place until the finish, the young woman cruised round to finish first overall quite comfortably, pursued by a string of gasping old men like me.

I was reasonably satisfied with my time of 19:11 – on the same weekend last year I ran 18:34, so I am definitely a little way behind my form of 2016. Hopefully, I still have time to sharpen up a little before I start the taper.

The Leeds Country Way is a 6 leg race around a 60 mile footpath that circumnavigates Leeds, contested by most of the local running clubs.  It’s a great event, requiring excellent logistical management and navigation as well as good runners.  The legs are run in pairs.  I ran the final leg for the Vets team with Kevin. We enjoyed a strong run, covering the 9.5 undulating miles of rough paths and roads in just over 69 minutes.


Valley Striders had a good day, winning the Vet’s category and finishing second in the main male and female classifications.

My aim for this week is to cover at least 60 miles, but to front-load the week so that I can be fresh(ish) or the Vale of York Half Marathon next Sunday. I will have to fit in my long run mid-week, probably on Wednesday morning.


CM -5 weeks

41.3 miles, longest run 10.1 miles

Parkrun – Roundhay 19:11 (3rd)

Weight 10 stone 13.4 lbs

Aerobic efficiency (LCW 1048 beats per mile)


The New Forty

Tomorrow, I move into a new age category – MV50.

That sentence gives me away as a runner – every other human being would express that thought as “tomorrow is my 50th birthday”…

In common with most people, when I was a teenager, I thought 50 was old, really old. I actually thought that 30 was old. At University, I remember laughing at my mate Ronnie’s brother-in-law when he came out drinking with us because we thought he was an old man.  He was 25 at the time.

Fifty is past halfway in a normal lifespan, but luckily I am healthy and fit.  In fact, despite having led an active life and always participated in sport, I don’t think I have ever been fitter. I don’t know how that can possibly be, but I’m very grateful and intend to ride the wave for as long as I can.


With a week to go to the marathon, this was the middle week of my taper so there were no long runs, but I still covered 47 miles and did some faster running.

On Tuesday, I went to the Valley Striders session. Somewhat depressingly, it was the first one on our winter urban routes away from the tranquillity of the Eccup reservoir where we run in the summer.

The fourth Tuesday in the month means hills – six times up a longish hill (about two and a half minutes) then a jog back recovery.  I put it in and gave chase to one of our fastest runners – Simon. I didn’t catch him on any of the reps, but at least I made him work a bit I think.

I had earmarked Saturday morning to have a dig at my 5K personal best –officially 17:36, but that was set on the old John Carr course (net downhill), so it’s got an asterisk next to it in my eyes. The true mark to beat was 17:41.

I ran an unofficial 17:25 last week for 5K (according to my Garmin) at the Northern 6 stage road relays so I knew I was in decent nick.

The York parkun course is on the ambulance track at the racecourse. It is almost perfectly flat and comprises one and a half laps of the Knavesmire, so there are no problems with congestion or overtaking. The only issue is that it is exposed and can be very windy.

Luckily, yesterday in York the weather was still and misty, there was barely a zephyr – near perfect conditions.  I did a decent warm-up – as I have to these days, and positioned myself near the front rank at the start.

The winner at York usually runs under 17 minutes, sometimes under 16, so I stood behind a small group of young skinny lads, whom I’d guessed would hare off at the start.

My plan was to try to run each kilometre as close to 3 minutes 30 seconds as possible, for an overall 17:30 target.  I hoped to take some shelter from other runners to help me to reach my goal.

We set off and one lad zoomed off way ahead. I found myself just behind a clutch of three, who obviously knew each other and were idly chatting.

The first km was covered in 3:32, which was a little slow, but I felt that I was holding back. The other runners then seemed to slow and I had no option but to go past them and pick up the pace.

I ran kilometre 2 in 3:29 and realised that I was catching the leader quite quickly. I used the old race craft trick of holding back for a few seconds just before I caught him, gathering myself and then surging past him really hard, hoping to prevent him from latching onto me.

I knew that the third and fourth kilometres were the key. It’s this portion of race when one can slip off the pace – the third lap problem for mile runners.

Fighting to overcome the lactic acid and oxygen debt, I dug in as hard as I could – kilometres 3 and 4 were covered in 3:32 and 3:35.  My brain was a little scrambled with the effort but I knew that I was falling off my 17:30 target.  I needed to dig deep and try to find some more speed for a big final kilometre. I got on my toes and drove my arms and tried to endure the agony.

The final 250m included a couple of turns, then a 125m sprint to the finish line, at the final turn I heard people screaming “Come on James!”.

“How the hell do they know my name?” I thought to myself, only to realise that they were cheering a young lad in second place who was gaining rapidly on me.

I stared down the finish line and sprinted for all I was worth, I caught sight of his orange vest alongside me in my peripheral vision. With 40 metres to go I was absolutely all out, but I managed to find another kick and I might have even dipped for the line, just pipping him to cross the line first.

As it was such a desperate finish, I didn’t stop my Garmin for quite a few seconds, so I didn’t know my time until I saw the results a few hours later:


A lifetime PB just two days short of my 50th birthday – I’m pleased with that.

Sunday was the first race of the cross country season at Thornes Park in Wakefield. It was sunny and warm and the course was firm.

I ran OK, maintaining a consistent 6:20ish pace throughout the undulating 9.5K course and was passing other runners for most of the race.


(pic Andy Pagdin)

I finished in 37:58 for 53rd place and 4th in my age category, though if the race had been held just one day later I would have won my new age category…

The standard at the West Yorkshire cross country league is high and Valley Striders did well – the ladies coming 5th and the men 3rd. I was the 6th counter for the team.

Tomorrow, I’ll spend my birthday going for a run around Swinsty and Fewston reservoirs, having lunch with my friend Hannah, then a sports massage and will round off the day with a Thai meal and beers with my family.

Now that’s what I call tapering.


YM -1 week

46.9 miles, longest run 11 miles

Weight 11st 1.6lb

parkrun (York) 17:30, 1st


The Hardest Mile?

A mile up a steep hill? The last mile of a marathon?  A one mile track race? No, the hardest mile is the first mile you ever run.

Sometimes we seasoned runners forget how difficult running a mile is for somebody who is not fit, not trained and not used to physical exertion.  I’ve been told by a very reliable source that only 4% of the UK adult population are even able to run a mile without stopping, be it in 6 minutes or 12 minutes. So runners are rare.

My highlight of the week was seeing my sister finish Woodhouse Moor parkrun, sprinting strongly to the finish, having run every metre of the 5 kilometre course without stopping. She started running only in January and after 10 weeks of training, guided and encouraged by the best mentor and coach that anyone could wish for, Hannah Corne, she crossed the line beaming.  Way to go Sis!

I had a cold mid-week. It was nothing serious – mainly just a runny nose, so my mileage was down.  It probably helped me in that it acted as a bit of a taper for the Locke Park 20 mile race today in Redcar.  This was a super event, really well staged by New Marske Harriers.

The course was 20 laps of a one mile circuit of the park.  I’m pretty pleased with my pacing:

 Locke Park

The Garmin couldn’t cope too well with the lapped course, and my overall average pace was actually around 6:38 per mile.  The flat nature of the course (total elevation 21 feet!) made consistent pacing much easier.  I ran a little harder than I originally intended, but it was only in the last 4 or so laps that I felt I was having to dig in.

Sorry, just a short update this week, no time for any musings on life. It’s the Thirsk 10 next Sunday – now I will be giving that one everything…


CM – 11 weeks (MM -5 weeks)
Weight 11st 0.6lb
54 Miles
parkrun – Woodhouse Moor 19:44 (26th)