28 Apr 2013

328.67 - 349.80KM: To run the full, or not to run the full, that is the question. (Rotary Shakespeare Half Marathon)

Fresh off the back of the highs of last weekend’s London Marathon my 1000km challenge continued in a more reserved manner with the Rotary Shakespeare Half and Full Marathon in Stratford-upon-Avon. Earlier in the week I had contacted the race organisers to see whether it was possible to carry on and run the full Marathon if I felt able to. After they confirmed I was able to it left me with a decision to make as to whether I would run my second Marathon in a week, or run the Half Marathon as originally planned; a decision which would only be made whilst running round the streets of Stratford-upon-Avon.

During the week my body was feeling remarkably fresh despite running the London Marathon on the Sunday, so much so that as the week went on I began to contemplate the potential of running the full Marathon on Sunday. Throughout the week I tried to carb load as much as I could and tried to get my body in as best shape as I could for the weekend to make running another 26.2 miles possible. I went out for a couple of short runs to stretch my legs in the week and to further break in my new trainers. As the morning of the race approached I will still in two minds as to whether to push on and run the full, or stick to the plan and run the Half. I decided that I would only be able to make the decision once I had started running, so I loaded up with enough gels and joined the start of the race.
I'm a little teapot...

The first mile of the course featured a loop around the town centre of Stratford-upon-Avon, running across the start line twice, before then leaving the town to run through nearby villages. I had worked out before the start of the race that if I was to run the full Marathon I would need to settle in to a 9 minute mile pace for the first half and then see what was left in my body for when the split came at 12 miles. I soon however found myself settled in to running 8:10 minute miles for the first couple as I got carried away with the crowd of runners. 

After the first couple of miles my legs began to feel quite heavy as my body finally decided to remind me of the marathon I had ran the previous week. Initially however I felt that I would be able to run this stiffness off, as I had the week before when I started with a tight hamstring in London but after the 6th mile it had gone. This week I was not to be so lucky and by the time I reached the top of the hill at the 8th mile my body made the decision as to whether to run the full or half easier for me. 

It was still a tough decision to make, after last week I had been struck with Marathon fever, the temptation to run another Marathon was very strong and it would allow me to get ahead of my target. At the same time, it was very risky, even if I felt well enough to continue at the split, my body massively slowed down in the last 6 miles last week and I could hit 'The Wall' on the 14th mile and struggle round the remaining 12 miles and put the rest of the challenge in jeopardy. Ultimately my body, the course and common sense made the decision for me and I stopped at half way as originally planned. I have another marathon in the third weekend of May, so I'll save my second marathon for then.

This didn't stop the feeling of regret and jealously as I crossed the line for the Half and then later saw other's walking through the town with their Full Marathon medal. This soon faded though as my legs, hips, knees and feet all started to ache as the day went on and I realised stopping at halfway was for the best.

Now for a rest before the first of 5 races in three weeks and another attack at a sub 40 10k in the Grand East Anglian Run.

Please visit http://www.justgiving.com/shanes1000km and donate what you can.


Distance: 21.13 km | 13.13 miles

Time: 01:47:13
Official Time: 01:47:03
Average Pace: 05:04 min/km | 08:10 min/mi
Playlist: Dark Tranquility
Goody Bag: Water Bottle and Banana.


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22 Apr 2013

285.94 - 328.67KM: Pain for four hours, memories for a lifetime (London Marathon)

Well, that was an absolutely incredible experience. I've always felt it was a bit of a hyperbole when people describe running the London Marathon as the best experience of their life, but after running 26.2 of London's best miles I'm inclined to agree, it was brilliant.

The weekend had begun with a trip down to the ExCel centre to collect my running number and chip and for a look around the Marathon Expo. As I walked round the stalls in amongst all the other runners the reality began to sink in, I made sure to grab as many leaflets advertising other runs as I could to help fill the remaining 36 weeks of this 1000km challenge with.

I was feeling optimistic...

My preparation for the Marathon was not as good as I would have ideally liked. It was my birthday on the Tuesday (16th) and I spent most of the week eating about five times as much cake as anyone preparing for a Marathon should do. My legs were feeling heavy for most of the week and my hips had begun to tease signs of an old injury. A combination of Jenny's urticaria and difficulty I have getting to sleep means that we often don't share the same bed, in fact there is probably only a handful of times this year when her skin has been good enough to allow us to, but this weekend we did twice. On the Friday night at my parent's we both had a bad nights sleep, Jenny appeared to be reacting to something and I was having difficulties sleeping as I was very aware of my breathing. On the Saturday night at my Brother's, airbed troubles and a random phone call at 2:30am meant that combined over the two days I only got around 8 hours of very broken up sleep.

As I struggled to keep my eyes open on the train to Greenwich I started going through my strategy for the race. I have set myself a target of running a 3 hour 30 Marathon at some stage this year, and yesterday I was planning on running as close to this as my body could manage. On my longest run to date a few weeks ago I managed to run 20 miles in 2:42, leaving me 48 minutes to run the remaining 6.2 miles. Knowing I had to average 8 minute miles yesterday my plan was to try and run the first half at an average of 7:30 minute miles and then see what happens.

Once we got to the Red Start, I had to make a quick dash to the toilet as I had been busting for the duration of the long walk from the train station to the start. I managed to get back to the start in time to say goodbye to Jenny, take a quick photo and then join my pen.

Unfortunately my plan went out of the window very early on as heavy legs meant I couldn't get up to the required pace. I began to experience a strange, difficult to describe, 'full' feeling in my head. It felt similar to the sensation when your ears are about to pop, but it felt like my brain was about to pop instead. Very, very strange, thankfully I managed to shake it off after a couple of miles, but it returned at a couple of points throughout the race. Strange feelings and tiredness aside, the first few miles of the race felt brilliant; after six years of aspiring to do so I was finally running the London Marathon and I ran the first few miles with a massive smile on my face.

Jenny and my family had arranged to watch me initially from the Cutty Sark, and I was pleasantly surprised by how far into the run this was. In reality it was right next to the start line, but I didn't run past them until late on in the sixth mile. Although I didn't see them, the boost from reaching the 10km mark powered me through the next few miles.

One area that I always seem to have trouble with on runs is the management of my water levels. I either drink too much before the race and don't find time to go for a fourth toilet break before the start or need a pee long before the race, refrain from drinking and end up dehydrated as a result. Yesterday I was keen to avoid the trouble I had at the Lincoln 10k and so made sure to drink plenty before the run and after going to the toilet  three times before the start I thought I had finally got it right, I was wrong. As I saw the cubicles around mile 7 I decided to get it over and done with and made a dash across to them, tripping up the curb in the process and nearly flying head first into the door. A quick 20 second pee later and I was back on my way, after taking a quick look at the painfully obvious curb that I had completely missed when entering the toilet.

As expected there were a lot of references to Boston throughout the race. At the registration event every runner was handed a black ribbon to attach to their vest and there was the highly publicised 30 second silence at the start of the race. As the whistle blew to mark the beginning of the tribute, an eerie, deathly silence broke out across the 30,000+ crowd as everyones thoughts went out to those caught up in last Monday's tragic events. I came across a handful of runners who had ran the Boston Marathon wearing their race t-shirts, some who had been there on Monday wearing their race number on the back and many more with their own personal message to Boston attached to their race vest. Large sections of the crowd also brought out their own messages to Boston with signs, one in particular around the middle of the race which read "Run if you can. Walk if you must. But finish for Boston." was particularly touching.

On the subject of the crowd, I would like to take this moment to thank every single person that was out on the streets of London yesterday to support those running. I've been to three London Marathons previously to watch my Dad and Brother run and I have been part of the same crowd, so I knew what to expect. Everyone that has ever ran the Marathon before always mentions how the crowd get you across the finish line, but I never realised the difference it makes the other side of the barrier when it is your name they are cheering. People you've never met before and are unlikely to ever meet again, cheering your name as if you've been friends for years. One particular moment that stood out was as you turn the corner onto Tower Bridge and the eruption of cheers that rippled down the street from the both the crowd and runners was spine-tingling. The iconic landmark just appears from nowhere and all those around me reacted with the same combination of shock and excitement as you see the bridge towering above you and the lift it gave me was unparalleled.

6 years ago, on the other side of the barrier
I reached the half way mark inside the 1:45 mark meaning that a 3 hour 30 marathon was still possible, but I knew it would be unlikely as I felt my body already beginning to slow down a fair bit. I still managed to reach the 17th mile before my pace dropped below 8 minute miles and my 19th mile dropped dangerously close to 9 minutes. As I came towards the 20th mile and my body began to reach uncharted territory I saw Jenny and my family in the crowd which gave me an, albeit short boost and I managed to temporarily pick the pace up.

My body was not ready

As I entered the last 6 miles, the pain of the previous 20 began to hit and I felt myself hitting 'The Wall' and the weight of all the cake I had eaten this week began to weigh me down. The race soon became about getting to the finish line, I felt that I could probably push harder than I was, but with a Half Marathon the following weekend and a race every week I couldn't afford to do anything stupid and soon settled into running 10 minute miles. The last 10k of the race was probably the hardest 10k I've ever ran, many were stopping and walking for sections around me, but I resisted temptation and made sure that I kept moving, albeit relatively slowly.

I managed to pick the pace up slightly for the final mile as I ran past Westminster and towards Buckingham Palace, the countdown began, 800 metres to go....400 metres to go...365 metres.... The Village People's 'YMCA' came on over the PA, all the runners around me started dancing on their way to the finish line and out of no where my legs found the energy to manage a sprint finish. I'm still not sure how I didn't cross the finish line on my face, but as the photo below shows, I crossed the line in a delirious state and I don't think the smile has left my face since.

6 years in the making
This morning I was feeling remarkably fresh, my little toe is very sore (I have a blood blister that covers about 50% of the toe) and my hips are aching, but remarkably my knees are fine. Most people say 'never again' when they cross the line, however I don't have that benefit, in less than four weeks time I will be running the North Norfolk Marathon and this Sunday I have a half marathon in Stratford Upon Avon.

Unfortunately on the way home I was given a stark reminder of why I'm running this year. Jenny had suffered from the heat, was badly sun burnt, and for about an hour on the car journey back from London her face began to openly weep. Suddenly all the aches and pains that I had diminished.

Please visit http://www.justgiving.com/shanes1000km and donate what you can.


Distance: 42.73 km | 26.56 miles
Time: 03:46:50
Official Time: 03:47:23
Average Pace: 05:19 min/km | 08:34 min/mi
Playlist: Amon Amarth
Goody Bag: Wholegrain rice, Tiger Nuts, Toothpaste, Gluco tabs, Chia shots, Kellogs Nutri-grain bar, Lucozade sport, Shower gek, Eat Natural Bar, So Juicy packet, Apple, Dried, Prunes and Pistachios.


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13 Apr 2013

264.81 - 285.94km: Last Big Run, Birthday and nerves for the big one (Solo Run)

This morning I completed my last double figure run before next weekend’s London Marathon with a comfortable Half Marathon run around the streets of Lincoln. This week my attention had been very much focussed on the London Marathon on the 21st however I still had one final weekend before the big day to fit in another run. The Rother Valley 10k that was called off last month had been rescheduled for tomorrow (14th April), however I am in Blackpool for a family christening so I had to withdraw my entry and fit my 1000km Challenge run in on a Saturday instead.

As with my many of my Solo Runs so far this year I opted to run a Half Marathon distance and take advantage of not being restricted by the distance of the race. I set out with the intention of running at my target Marathon pace of 8 minute miles, but taking it very steady and adapting, even shortening the run to a 10k if necessary.

I was a little bit anxious before this run about whether 21.13km was too much the week before m first Marathon, but fortunately my run was competed without any issues. A couple of miles in I stopped chasing the 8 minute miles and just let my body run at whichever pace it wanted to do. There would be very little I could do in today’s run to make my time at next week’s marathon faster, but there was a hell of a lot I could do to make it slower. On the whole the combination of a bit of tiredness, hills and cautiousness took my run a minute and a half over the time I wanted, but I finished without rolling my ankle or injuring myself in any silly way which was the main thing.

My attention recently has been very much on the London Marathon that I’d almost forgotten that my birthday is next Tuesday (16th). I have been so busy this year with running and raising awareness of my fundraising and the cause behind it that it has completely snuck up on me. April is a very busy month in my family with four birthdays (my Sister’s, Brother’s, Dad’s and mine) and an almost annual trip to the London Marathon to watch one of us run. As mentioned previously, tomorrow I will be in Blackpool for a family christening, and birthday present exchange, hopefully the rest of my family are better at remembering that it is my birthday than I was. I already know I have a new pair of trainers from my parents; my current pair are beginning to show signs of being on their last legs but should just about get me through the Marathon next weekend.

So that’s it for me for a week, I might fit in a couple of short 5k runs in during the week so my body doesn’t forget how to run come next Sunday. However for the most part I will be resting and reading up on all the last minute tips I can find.

Eating Birthday cake counts as carb loading, right?


Distance: 21.13 km | 13.13 miles
Time: 01:46:28
Average Pace: 04:06 min/km | 06:37 min/mi


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7 Apr 2013

254.81 - 264.81KM: 5 Years, 5 Stone and 5:00 minutes a mile faster (Lincoln 10k)

Five years (and one week) ago I ran my first ever race, the 2008 Lincoln 10k. I had started running when I was 17 after being inspired by my brother running the London Marathon and as I was dangerously approaching 17 stone and knew I needed to take action to lose weight. That race remains one of the hardest runs I have ever completed and when I crossed the line 1 hour, 12 minutes and 17 seconds after the race had started I had no idea what it was the beginning of. Today I sit here five years later and five stone lighter having set another PB at this morning's Lincoln 10k, knocking 31 minutes 18 seconds off my time from 5 years ago and having ran over 5 minutes a mile faster.

Lincoln 10k 2008

Despite living only three miles from the start of the race the preparation for the run this morning was far from ideal. Road closures and heavy traffic meant that it took over an hour to get from my house to the designated car park and it left me little time to quickly visit the toilet before lining up with a couple of minutes to spare. Typically I would have had a couple of drinks by the start of the race, although stuck in traffic and needing a pee I had refrained from sipping on the bottle I had to hand, so when the race started the only thing I had had to drink was a cup of tea with my porridge for breakfast.

Unlucky 13?

Having selected my projected time as being under 40 minutes I was given a special 'yellow' running number to highlight me as an 'elite' runner. I must have been feeling very optimistic on the day I signed up for the race as at the time it would have meant knocking 5 minutes of my PB. Neverless I enjoyed the perks of being an 'elite' runner by lining up in the pen at the front ahead of 5000+ other runners. For my first mile I shot off and without intending to or realising at the time I was running much faster than normal and ran a 6 minute mile.

After this first mile though I started to feel very dehydrated. I mentioned previously that I had barely anything to drink before the start of the race and on what probably was the hottest day of the year so far this was not a wise move. I could feel my pace slowing considerably as I struggled to cope with a very dry mouth and no way of fixing it with the water station 2 and a bit miles away. As I got to the 3 and a 1/2 kilometre mark I saw Jenny and my mum in the crowd and ran across to them asking for a drink, after a couple of seconds of panic and confusion I carried on running as I didn't want to lose to much time. Although only about a mile away the wait for the water station seemed like an eternity, when it came I grabbed two bottles, drank from one and poured the other over me.

Rather dehydrated and slightly frustrated
By this stage the damage had been done, although my fourth mile saw the pace pick up slightly, my pace was erratic for the remainder of the race and I was unable to get anywhere close to the 6:30 minute mile mark. Despite all this I was still on track for another PB and I ended up crossing the line in 40:59, 73 seconds faster than the PB I set just the past week. Today's run was a significant milestone in this 1000km challenge for the reasons mentioned in my opening paragraph and has also made me that little bit more confident of running sub 40 this year.

All smiles and hydrated

When I returned home after a minor detour to Bunty's for some delicious post run cake I completed a quick 50 metre run around the block to bring my total up to the full 10km. Next weekend I do not have a race as I am attending a family Christening on the Sunday, I'll still be out running either a 10k or Half Marathon on the Saturday however, so today was my last race until the big one on the 21st.

Am I prepared? Maybe.
Am I nervous? Definitely.


Distance: 9.95 km | 6.18 miles
Time: 00:40:56
Official Time: 00:40:59
Average Pace: 04:59 min/km | 06:37 min/mi
Playlist: Anaal Nathrakh

Goody Bag: Water Bottle.


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3 Apr 2013

234.79 - 254.81KM: Easter Weekend Double (Tulip 10k & Easter 10k)

Easter Weekend, a long four day weekend which for many marks the end of lent, spending time with family, tourist trips or eating lots of chocolate. For me it was the first back to back races of this 1000km challenge with the Tulip 10k in Spalding on the Sunday followed by the Notts Easter 10k around Wollaton Park in Nottingham on the Monday.

Going into these races the main thought going through my mind was the fact that the biggest race so far in this 1000km Challenge, the London Marathon, was just three weeks away. With this in mind, I was keen to maintain a disciplined approach to these races. This year I've been doing a lot more running than my body is typically used to, running almost every day and sometimes twice a day. This has allowed my body to build up a certain level of tolerance to the workload that this past weekend had in store, although I was aware that I would have to be prepared to adapt my plan suddenly.

Despite this, I had no real strategy in place for the run, but when the race started I set off running at a 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.


Distance: 10.02 km | 6.23 miles
Time: 00:42:12
Official Time: 00:42:18
Average Pace: 03:44 min/km | 06:46 min/miPlaylist: Strapping Young Lad
Goodie Bag: Water Bottle, Bottle of Water and Freddo.


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Following on from my run on Sunday and crossing the line just 12 seconds over the 42 minute mark I was desperate to have another go at finishing in under 42 minutes. Common sense told me that today's run should be about recovery, given the course and how hard I pushed myself the day before, and that it should be ran at a steady pace. Unfortunately my common sense was not talking to the rest of me that day.

I spent the majority of the first mile overtaking people as I had started quite far back in the pack which resulted in my first mile being completed in 6:36 minutes, a pace very similar to my run the day before. After the first mile my body then woke up to the fact that I had ran a hard, fast 10k less than 24 hours ago and the undulating, off-road course I was running on and my pace began to drop.

As my pace dropped I started to enjoy the race more and I ended up crossing the line just over 44 minutes. When I checked my watch I saw that it had measured 250 metres short of the 10km distance, so once I collected my goodie bag, I dropped it off with Jenny and my brother and then continued running the remaining 250 metres, much to their bemusement.

When I got home on Monday I realised that I had left my watch on which explains the strange end point on the map below. I had to go through and delete 50+ laps too and the elapsed time had to be edited but should be accurate.


Distance: 10.00 km | 6.2 miles
Time: 00:44:06
Official Time: 00:43:15
Average Pace: 04:21 min/km | 07:09 min/mi
Playlist: Gama Bomb & Municipal Waste

Goodie Bag: Commemorative Mug and Banana.


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