31 Mar 2013

March Review (160.87 - 244.81km)

March was another month of records as I set a new personal best in three of the four races I entered. At the Silverstone Half Marathon I set a new PB, two and a half minutes faster than my time at Sleaford and I set a 10k PB in Gainsborough followed by another 10k PB by 1 minute and 44 seconds just two weeks later in Spalding.

In the first weekend in March I headed down to Northamptonshire for the Silverstone Half Marathon, a regular fixture on the race calender for my family. Originally I had intended to run the race at Marathon pace, although curiosity got the better of me and I decided to go for it and see how fast I could run on Silverstone's notoriously flat course. The result? A new PB by two and a half minutes and even beat an Olympic athlete on my way.

I had started to feel a little run down a couple of days before the Silverstone Half Marathon, but by the time of the Newton's Fraction Half Marathon this had turned into a full blown cold with a chesty cough. I was anxious going into the race as I knew overdoing it could have some serious knock on effects for this challenge, so I settled for a steady pace aiming for as close to 8:00 min miles as I could, but being prepared to slow down if necessary and ended up crossing the line at just under 01:47:00 on the clock. If I remember the Newton's Fraction Half Marathon for anything though it will be the two neverending hills that I stubbornly ran up whilst the majority tactically walked.

Next up was the Gainsborough & Morton Striders 10k, another first time event. This year I have set myself the target of running a sub 40 minute 10k and this race was my first true attempt at reaching the time. Whilst I began the race at the necessary pace for the first mile, the lingering effects of the cold I had been suffering from and stiffness in my legs meant that I soon started to slow down. Despite this I crossed the line in just under 44 minutes setting a new PB on my way. 

The freezing, cold grip of winter was reluctant to let go in March and what was scheduled to be my fourth race of the month, the Rother Valley 10k was postponed due to heavy snow fall. So, instead I took the opportunity and more than doubled my planned distance for my solo run by running a Half Marathon. 

My final race in March, the Tulip 10k saw me set another PB in my first of two races on Easter Weekend. I had no real strategy in place for the run, but when the race started I set off running at  06:30 minute mile pace and I decided to go for another PB. The course was probably the most true to the letter 'out and back' route I will run this year, with running round the marshall at the 5km, but it made for a fast, flat run. By the time I got to the water station I was in desperate need of the refreshment and powered on, crossing the line just 12 seconds over 42 minutes. Still a long way off my sub 40 target, but I managed to knock over a minute and a half of my PB set just two weeks ago.

This month was rather uneventful and there was not many things to write about other than my races. I did however, much to Jenny's delight, start baking every week in practice for a fundraising bake sale I am hosting in May. Whilst my decorating skills certainly leave a lot to be desired, the cakes are getting dangerously tastier with each batch and I'm afraid I'm getting slightly addicted to baking.

March Stats:

1000KM Challenge Distance: 83.84km
Time Running Total: 06:37:27
Total Running Distance: 167.12km
Bananas Eaten: 48
Medals: 2

1000km Challenge Stats:

1000KM Challenge Distance: 244.81km 

Time Running Total: 20:48:30
Total Running Distance: 534.60km 
Bananas Eaten: 142
Medals: 4

A look ahead to April

01/04 - Notts Easter 10k
07/04 - Lincoln 10k
21/04 - London Marathon
28/04 - Shakespeare Half Marathon

24 Mar 2013

213.66 - 234.79KM: Solo Run

This weekend I was originally scheduled to take part in the Rother Valley 10k, however despite Wednesday officially being the first day of Spring, Winter decided to return this week and the heavy snow caused the event to be cancelled on Friday evening. As you can see from the photo below, Rother Valley was hit quite badly with snow but thankfully Lincoln had remained for the most part snow free.

I decided to take advantage of the cancelled run to bump up the distance 11.13 km from a 10k to a Half Marathon. This year to reach my 1000km target in 52 weekends I am only allowed to run 20 10ks, with five already ran this year I am keen not to 'waste' any weekends by only running a 10k. As I was feeling fresh following my 20 mile run on Thursday I decided to save a 10k for later in the year when my body might benefit from a shorter run.

I had no real route in mind when I set out other than I planned to run up both Lindum Road and Yarborough Road to get two big hills in. However after a couple of miles in, my legs began to feel quite heavy and whilst Lincoln had missed most of the snow it had all of the wind and the prospect of running up two big hills was somewhat unfavourable. So instead, once I reached the top of Lindum Road I extended the run around the top of Lincoln to avoid having to run up another big hill with the wind against me.

This week's run write up is quite brief, as there wasn't any race experience to talk about. This week I'll be having a fairly relaxing week, there will be no getting up at 4am for a 20 mile training run, ahead of the first of potentially four races in a week with the Tulip 10k on Sunday. I'm still undecided on whether or not to enter the Caythorpe Canter on the 6th, whilst I am unlikely to go all out for a PB the next day in the Lincoln 10k, it may not be wise to run two races back to back just two weeks before the London Marathon.


Distance: 21.13 km | 13.13 miles
Time: 01:47:40
Average Pace: 05:05 min/km | 08:12 min/mi


View my run:

21 Mar 2013

Breaking through the 20 mile barrier

So this morning I woke up at 4am, a time usually reserved for milkmen and repeats of Hollyoaks for the deaf, for a 20 mile run before work. With only a month (today) until the London Marathon I decided that I needed to fit in one final long run before the big day, so opted for a 20 mile run, which is to date the furthest I've ran so far. I thought that reaching 20 miles would be a massive physical and psychological boost before the 21st April as you know after that it is just a 10k and that's easy, I do them all the time ;).

The idea of getting up at 4am was daunting to say the least, however with working a 9 - 5(ish) job it meant that I would fit the run in either before or after work as the weekends were out of the question due to having a race (almost) every weekend. I very much relied on guilt and peer pressure to ensure I got out at bed at 4am. I told everyone I knew my plans for Thursday morning so I felt pressured into making sure I went through with them rather than dealing with the shame on bailing out at the last second. Despite this I still managed to ignore my first three alarms and wake up panicked at half 4.

Thankfully I had gathered together most of my things the previous night so after wolfing down a bowl of porridge I was on my bike and off to work to drop my things off. When I arrived I found some rather 'interesting' words of encouragement from my colleagues. As I was sorting out my things and getting ready to leave I realised that I had left my gels at home, thankfully I had a bag of Jelly Babies on me so it wasn't a complete disaster, but it was far from ideal.

The run itself was surprisingly comfortable given that I barely felt like I had really woken up. I have a crazy dream of running the London Marathon in under 3:30, which given that it will be my first marathon will be a big ask, so today I was aiming to keep my average pace around 8 minute miles. The first 10 miles of the run strangely felt less comfortable than the second 10 miles, whether it was down to my body slowly waking up or the fact that pretty much dead on 10 miles I had to stop for a toilet break I'm not sure. All I know is that my 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th mile were much slower than my 10th, 11th and 12th. For some strange reason I also found a burst of pace around miles 16 - 18. When I arrived back at work I checked my watch and saw that I had run 20.2 miles in 2:42, leaving 48 minutes to run the remaining 6 miles in hopefully better circumstances. My dream is still alive.

When I got back to my office I found the above waiting for me on my desk. One of the guys from work said that he would buy me a cake if I actually went out and ran 20 miles before work but I wasn't quite expecting one this big. Whilst it would have been an interesting way to get back the ~2700 calories I burnt off common sense took over and I only opted for two pieces before sharing it out.

Yesterday I found out that the Nottingham Marathon appears to be going a head thankfully after being cancelled last year and there being a lack of official information around whether it would return. So I now have the London Marathon, North Norfolk Marathon, Spires & Steeples Challenge (Marathon), Nottingham Marathon, Yorkshire Marathon and potentially the first day of the Liverbird Double Marathon lined up this year, meaning I have found the 6 marathons I need to run to reach my 1000km.

For this weekend though it is just the matter of the Rother Valley 10k.

For those interested here is the route from my run today.

18 Mar 2013

203.63 - 213.66KM: Gainsborough & Morton 10k

Whilst this year is very much about the end game and reaching 1000km by December 31st, I have set myself a few target times for each distance that I desperately hope to achieve at some point this year: a sub 40 10k, sub 1:40 Half Marathon and a sub 3:30 Marathon. With the amount of running my body is going through this year it will be a big ask to keep my body in good shape to have a proper assault on these times, but they are goals that I have set and goals are there to be achieved. I have already reached one of these targets, twice, smashing my Half Marathon PB by 7 minutes at the Sleaford Half Marathon and then by a further two minutes the following week at Silverstone. This week it was the turn of the Gainsborough & Morton 10k and my first attempt at a sub 40 10k.

As with the majority of the events this year, this was another first time event and I had understated how far away Gainsborough was so I was in a bit of a rush to get to the start before the race began. I'm very much someone who leaves things until the last minute but tying my shoe laces as the ten second countdown is in process is cutting it fine even for me.

When the race started I began at the required 6:30 minute mile pace to hit a sub 40 minute 10k, whilst I managed to maintain this pace for the first mile I soon realised that I wouldn't be able to keep this pace up for the remaining 5.2. My legs felt empty and I was struggling to get control of my breathing as I still seem unable to shake of the cold that has been plaguing me for the past couple of weeks. Running with my backpack also slows me down a fair bit, although as I'm running most of these events by myself it is something that I am finding myself doing more often than not.

Despite feeling like I was struggling round for the majority of the race when I crossed the line I saw that I had finished with a new PB by just under a minute at 43:57. I had originally hoped for a time around 42 minutes for this race so I was a little disappointed with my time, but any time that is a PB should in all honesty be considered a good time. There are several races this year where I will be able to have another chance at hitting a sub 40 10k: the York 10k, Grand East Anglian Run and Lincoln 10k all look like good contenders with fast, flat courses. Until then I will keep on including hill sprints in my training which will go a long way.

I have spent the past week redesigning and developing my 1000km Challenge website, so please head over to www.shanes1000km.co.uk and check it out. The last design was implemented whilst I was moving house and without a stable internet connection so I was never really happy with it, however hopefully this one is much easier to use and explains what my 1000km challenge is all about. Since my last post I have also had my story featured in the local village newsletter 'Heathcliff View'.

As a final big training run before the big day, the London Marathon,  I have decided that on Thursday this week I will be going on a 20 mile run to get my body used to the idea. Unfortunately as I work a 9 - 1730 job and I am running a race every weekend this means I either have to run before or after work. So on Wednesday I will be getting an early night as my alarm will be set for 4am Thursday morning. As unattractive as a prospect as that sounds it needs to be done.


Distance: 10.03 km | 6.23 miles
Time: 00:43:57
Official Time: 00:43:58
Average Pace: 04:23 min/km | 07:03 min/mi
Goodie Bag: Gloves, Bottle of Water, Snacksize Mars Bar, Mini Cheddars and pen.


View my run:

10 Mar 2013

182.36 - 203.63KM: A Tale of Two Hills (Newton's Fraction Half Marathon)

I approached today's race with slight caution. After spending the week suffering/overcoming illness and a bad chesty cough, I was aware that my body may not be ready for another 20km and I was very conscious that overdoing it could set me back and jeopardise next weeks run.

My original plan for the race had been to try and run at my optimum Marathon pace (8:00 minute miles) and come in around 1:45:00. However, given the past week I was prepared for things to go badly, so was happy with anything below two hours. Lining up at the start line I was given a harsh reminder that spring isn't quite here yet as the temperature was refreshing to say the least. I had paid little attention to the weather forecast before the race so was shocked to see someone asking on Facebook as to whether the race was still going ahead, but seeing the snow covered hills on the way down to Grantham this morning and the height of the river I wasn't surprised that there was some concern.

Taking it steady

As a result of the sheer number of races that I will have to enter this year to reach my 1000km target, a lot of the races that I will be running will be completely new events. Today was no exception, the Newton's Fraction Half Marathon was voted in the Top 10 Half Marathons of 2012 by Runner's World, so my expectations were high. Personally, I would not have rated it that high, whilst it was a challenging and enjoyable race it didn't have the same appeal to me as runs like Silverstone or the Robin Hood Half Marathon.

One thing I will give the race is that it has some beautifully difficult hills. For many, this wouldn't be considered a plus point, however the feeling of satisfaction once you've climbed to the top cannot be matched  and this was certainly the case for the two I encountered today. The image below should illustrate the intense gradient these two hills had, whilst nowhere near as unrelenting as the hills at Stamford, these two definitely felt much bigger.

Warning! Sudden never-ending inclines

A good endorsement for the hills is that about 75% of the runners I encountered on the hills had opted to walk up them instead of running. Perhaps though this was a tactical decision as many of these runners came past me again when we had reached the top, as they put the energy they had conserved by not running up the hill into use. 

I mentioned in the opening of this post that I was aiming for 8:00 minute miles and around the 11 mile mark I could see this target slowly slipping away. The hills had slowed my pacing right down and for once I was allowing common sense and my body to dictate how I ran, so I didn't try to hard to chase those lost seconds back.

A pleasing time for a challenging run

With today's race completed and another 20km+ closer to my 1000km target, my 1000km challenge takes a rather relaxed pace for the next few weeks with a string of 10k races. This should hopefully allow me to finally shake off the bug I've been carrying around for the past week or so and if necessary take another week off from training to allow myself to fully recover.

One thing I did seem to notice from today's race was that I was never aware of how much further I had to run, at the 5 1/2 mile mark I remember checking my watch and being surprised that I had almost ran half of the race. There is a lot to be said about the benefits of running at a more relaxed pace occasionally both physically and mentally, something which this year will make me appreciate more than ever.


Distance: 21.17 km | 13.29 miles
Time: 01:46:32
Official Time: 01:46:58
Average Pace: 05:01 min/km | 08:06 min/mi
Goodie Bag: T-Shirt, Bottle of Powerade, Bottle of Water, Banana, Mars Bar, Kit Kat, Eat Natural Bar and Packet of Crisps.


View my run:

7 Mar 2013

Catching that running bug...

Fresh from setting another personal best at the Silverstone Half Marathon this past weekend, my running has come to grinding halt this week. I briefly mentioned in my Silverstone review that I felt very run down after the race, I had been battling with a cold for a few days, and failed to eat enough before and after the run. On Monday this cold had all but gone and was replaced by a bad chesty cough, which I've still be unable to shake off. 

The typical rule for running when you're sick, is that the if the symptoms of the cold are below the neck it is wise to sit the run out, to avoid the condition worsening to pneumonia. If I wasn't dedicated to running 1000km this year I probably would have stubbornly gone out for a run at some point this week and inevitably made the condition worse. So instead I made the wise decision tostop running all together this week and try and get myself ready for the Newton Fraction's Half Marathon on Sunday. Although it has only been four days since my last run it has seemed more like four weeks and I have spent most of my week looking on enviously at other people out running.

In better news, yesterday I received my race pack for the Rother Valley 10k on the 24th March, the race has the honour of being my 10th race of the 1000km challenge. I have already ran round Rother Valley once this year in the Resolution Run in January and am likely to run round it at least once more later on in the year.

10th race of the year and a
return to Rother Valley

The run also falls in the middle of a stretch of six 10k races between this weekend and the London Marathon. Whilst this can be seen as a welcome break from the more physically enduring trail half marathons I've been competing in so far this year, it means I will have to fit in a longer run during the middle of the week somewhere

I am also toying with the idea of running the Caythorpe Canter on the Saturday (6th April) before the Lincoln 10k. I am already running a two 10ks in two days with the Tulip 10k on the 31st March followed by the Notts Easter 10k on the 1st April, so will potentially be running 4 races in a week. Whether or not I enter the Caythorpe Canter very much comes down to how I'm feeling the week before, just two weeks before the London Marathon I'm eager to avoid injury so any sign of a slight niggle will see me sit the Caythorpe Canter out.

My favourite type of complex carbs

Finally, I would like to thank Bunty's Team Room in Lincoln for their generous sponsorship this week. Matt and Jenny have been very supportive of my challenge so far this year and not only are they great guys, but they also make delicious cake. So if you are in the area and willing to tackle Steep Hill be sure to pop in and try a slice of one of their cakes, you won't regret it.


Since writing my review of the Silverstone Half Marathon on Sunday I stumbled across the fact that I finished 30 seconds ahead of Olympic Silver Medalist, reigning British 400m record holder Ewan Thomas, a fact I'm still coming to terms with. I had no idea he was taking part in the race, even though as the photo below clearly shows I overtook him at some stage in the race. I have since found out that he is also running the London Marathon in April and is hoping to finish in under 4 hours, so I'm hoping to make it 2 for 2.

Olympic athlete and me

4 Mar 2013

160.97 - 182.36KM: Faster than a bullet (Silverstone Half Marathon)

I was in two minds at the beginning of this race as to how I was going to run it. Last week I ran my worst race of the 1000km challenge so far, but still managed to knock a massive seven minutes off my PB and finish in under 1:40:00. I was also aware that the majority of my races from now until the London Marathon are 10ks, so I would benefit from running today's race at Marathon pace. Ultimately I let curiosity get the better of me, if I could run as fast as I could last week despite all the issues, how fast would I be able to run on a course almost designed for PBs?

Silverstone Half Marathon 2012
The Silverstone Half Marathon is becoming is familiar ground for me and my family, this year was my fourth time running the race but my 6th time there in total, having missed two years due to injury but going along to support family members who were running. At one point or another my Mum, Dad, both my brothers, my brother's girlfriend and myself have all ran the 13.1 miles around the famous Silverstone track. This year however, I had just my Dad for company.

It was an early start on Sunday morning despite the 12 o'clock race time, organisers warned that all cars should be in the Car Park by 10:30, so alarms were set for 6am, porridge eaten and by half 7 we were on our way. I foolishly didn't fuel my body sufficiently before the race, only eating a banana between my bowl of porridge at half 6 and the start of the race at 12. Aside from a handful of jelly babies and some gels this was to be all I ate until 6pm, which was to have its effects on me later on.

Last year I had tried and failed to achieve a sub 1:45 Half Marathon time at Silverstone. My preparation leading in the race last year wasn't the best, I was running through a hip and knee injury and was attempting to knock almost 10 minutes off my current PB. A couple of days before the race this year I found an old playlist I had created for the Silverstone Half Marathon last year, I had hand picked songs which would help me keep the required pace and chose Accept's 'Fast as a Shark' as my song to cross the finishing line to. However, last year it didn't go to plan and with a mile and a half to go to the finish I heard this song play and felt defeated.

Last year's misery was this year's victory
This year however, things were different. I had decided before the race that if I felt fresh enough I would go all out, take advantage of the flat course and see how fast I could run. I was able to keep my average pace down to 7:00 min miles for the first 5/6 miles so knew I was on target for another PB. Unfortunately around this time I also started to need the toilet and had to make the decision whether to stop and hope that any time lost would be made up, or keep running and hope any discomfort wouldn't slow me down. I opted for the latter. This decision had an effect on my average pace, although probably less than time that would have been lost if I stopped.

As I entered the last mile Judas Priest's 'Painkiller' started playing on my MP3 player, not only an awesome song to run to but a song that has a big personal attachment to this challenge as it is one of Jenny's favourites. The euphoria I felt crossing this finishing line to the sound of Rob Halford screaming in my ears may explain the massive smile on my face, that and the two and half minutes I knocked of my PB that I had set only last week.

How fast? That fast!

Distance: 21.39 km | 13.29 miles
Time: 01:37:06
Official Time: 01:37:03
Average Pace: 04:32 min/km | 07:18 min/mi
Goodie Bag: T-Shirt, Medal, Eat Natural Bar, Bottle of Water and Bottle of Lucozade.


View my run:

1 Mar 2013

February Review (74.26km - 160.87km)

After a relatively slow start to the year with only two races, February saw me run a 14k, two Half Marathons and a 30k. In the second month of my 1000km challenge I broke the 100km barrier, ran in four new races, ran my longest race so far and broke my Half Marathon PB by 7 minutes.

My first race in February, the Rauceby Ripper, was a difficult one as I was running on empty before the race even began. Although only a 14km race, a month of running to and from work most days on snow and ice had taken it's toll on my legs and before the race began my legs were already feeling heavy. Once I got going my legs seemed to loosen up and I came in just over 68 minutes and received my first medal of this 1000km challenge.

74.26 - 88.36km: Rauceby Ripper

The hill at 10 miles on the Caythorpe Dash still fills me with fear, a 100ft sharp incline up chewed up farmland after a few days of rain defeated anyone attempting to run up it, with it's victims' having to resort to walking instead. What surprised me most about this race was my ability to have stayed on my feet throughout, I was witness to more than a couple of competitor's losing their trainers in the boggier parts of the run and heard of how a runner slipped off a bridge into a stream towards the end of the race.

88.36 - 109.84km: Caythorpe Dash

The St. Valentines 30k by all accounts should have been the most challenging race of this month, being both the longest distance I have ran for sometime and a being home to a notoriously gruelling  undulating course. Instead, it turned out to be my most enjoyable. I went into the race with the idea of surviving and trying to keep a constant pace throughout and came out with a massive smile on my face and my dream of a 03:30:00 marathon still in my hands.

109.84 - 139.89km: St. Valentines 30k

I smashed by previous PB by about seven minutes and came in safely under 01:40:00, so by all accounts the Sleaford Half Marathon should be considered a good race. Except it wasn't, I almost fell apart mentally and physically, my pacing was extremely erratic and everything that could go wrong pretty much did. So how did I record such a good time? I still don't know.

139.89 - 160.97km: Sleaford Half Marathon

Alongside a lot of running I have also been doing my bit to get my fundraising challenge noticed, putting posters up in shops and arranging interviews with local news outlets. I was interviewed by David Wriglesworth from 'The Linc' on the 8th February, with the interview also being played on [Siren FM]. It what was my most impressive feat so far this year, I managed to avoid mentioning both the name of the charity and eczema throughout the entire duration of the interview. 

Because she is a lot less useless than myself in talking about the condition, this month Jenny started up a blog to openly discuss her condition, how she deals with it on a day to day basis and the types of treatments she has tried over the years. This blog managed to achieve over 2,000 views in under two weeks which astonished the pair of us. When I remember to I try and include here posts on this blog too to help raise awareness, but you can check out here blog here.

Finally, I was interviewed on Tuesday (26th February) by Josh Francis from The Lincolnite about the motivation behind my 1000km challenge and how I see the year ahead panning out. Josh's article 'Lincoln man goes beyond the finish line in 1000km charity challenge' can be seen here.

In the past couple of weeks I have reintroduced strength training back into my routine, to help maintain my strength and build core strength. Last year I was a regular down the gym with three sessions a week, however with my running taking the forefront this year I've taken advantage of my gym membership running out and given myself a well needed rest.

Next month I intend to clean up my diet a lot more, although with Jenny winning a Treatbox from Pattiserie Valerie this week, it looks like it will start on Monday. She has recently mentioned about how she intends to improve her diet with the hope of it having a positive affect on her skin and with my focus now turning towards the London Marathon keep your eyes peeled for upcoming posts on 101 things to do with a Sweet Potato.

February Stats:

1000KM Challenge Distance: 74.26km
Time Running Total: 07:12:28
Total Running Distance: 173.87km
Bananas Eaten: 43
Medals: 2

1000km Challenge Stats:

1000KM Challenge Distance: 160.97km

Time Running Total: 14:11:03
Total Running Distance: 367.48km
Bananas Eaten: 94
Medals: 2

A look ahead to March

03/03 - Silverstone Half Marathon (21.13km)
10/03 - Newton Fracton's Half Marathon (21.13km)
17/03 - Gainsborough & Morton Striders 10k
24/03 - Rother Valley 10k
31/03 - Tulip 10k