27 Nov 2013

972.08 - 1003.35KM: The Final Chapter (Nottingham Mo Run 10K & Norwich Half Marathon)

Well it's over, done, finished and it hasn't quite sunk in yet. After 47 weeks and 47 races, travelling all over the country from Newcastle to Portsmouth and Norwich to Liverpool the 1000km was finally reached on Sunday at the City of Norwich Half Marathon. My body would however threaten to spoil the party as it waited until the final weekend to throw an injury shaped spanner in the works, or rather slam a table edge into my knee.

972.08 - 982.08KM: Nottingham Mo Run 10K

When I set out at the beginning of the year I had no idea how the year would pan out and especially how it would end. Week on week I would search for different races to run, trying to enter as many as I could, sometimes two or three a week. In the end it was my own personal hunt to run 52 races in a year that saw me end up running multiple races in a day and bring an end to my 1000KM around a month ahead of schedule.

Earlier in the week what should have been an innocuous knocking of my knee on my desk at work was 'Shanified' and instead I caught the very top of my knee cap on the corner of the desk, that felt like I nearly popped the whole thing off. A day or so later once the intense pain had warn off I had little reason to worry that I had done any permanent damage. After running to and from work a couple of days and not experiencing any pain I felt like I could put the injury behind me, for now.

A return to Wayne Manor
First up was the Nottingham Mo Run and a return to Wollaton Park for the first time since Easter weekend. Earlier in the month it became clear that it was no longer a case of if I reach the 1000KM target, but when. This then afforded me the luxury of being slightly more picky about the races I would enter, so when I stumbled across the MoRun and in particular the moustache shaped medal it made its way to the top of the list. I didn't realise it at the time when I signed up, but by doing so it would enable me to reach the 1000KM back 'home' at Norfolk with the City of Norwich Half Marathon.

I arrived at the start of the race unnaturally early, for me, over 30 minutes before go time, allowing me enough time to grab my race number, orange 'MoRunning' headband and go for my all too traditional pre race pee. Being primarily a fundraiser for Prostate Cancer the race felt like a Race for Life event, missing the air of competitiveness of most races I've entered this year. After posing for a quick photo, looking like a Swedish 70's tennis player, and watching the start of the 5K I joined the crowd of runners at the start line for the race. 

Björn Borg circa 2013
Like most of the races I'll run for the remainder of the year, Saturday wasn't about any time, rather just getting round in one piece. Although when I found myself stuck towards the back of the crowd at the start, I tried my best to squeeze through, what would be for most of the race, a very narrow path. After spending the first half a mile getting round the slower 10K runners, I then reached the back of the 5K group and then found myself having to do it all over again.

Despite having previously run a 10K around the grounds of Wollaton Park earlier in the year I was surprised by how undulating the course was. The MoRun took a slightly different route to the Notts Easter 10K, but I imagine most of it was down to me simply forgetting rather than the earlier race being considerably flatter. Once again though the course would be two, almost identical, laps but whilst the first lap went by without much concern a
s I came round for the second lap the knee injury from earlier week would come back.

My knee was hurting a little bit
It didn't force me to slow down that much, but it was having an noticeable affect on my running. Fortunately I would only have a couple of miles left to run so I focussed on doing these as quickly as I could and bringing the niggling pain to an end as quick as possible. Any kind of elation from crossing the line of my 46th race of the year and moving one step closer to the 1000KM soon made way for worry as I began to think about running Sunday's race with an 

Distance: 10.00km | 6.2 miles
Time: 00:47:07
Official Time: 00:47:03
Average Pace: 04:42 min/km | 07:35 min/mi

Playlist: Hell
Goody Bag: Medal


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982.08 - 1003.35KM: City of Norwich Half Marathon

If I made a list of the races that I would want to complete this challenge at, somewhere near the top would have been the City of Norwich Half Marathon. Not just because it was the biggest home county race, but also because it was one I had a little bit of history with. I had run the race three times before, but only finished twice as injury forced me to pull out half way years ago when I first started running. The same hip injury ravaged one of the other years too, but this time I was able to push on and armed with painkillers I managed to slowly get round to the finish line. So after banishing some demons earlier in the year at the North Norfolk Marathon, it was finally time to do the same again.

One of the main causes for concern going into this year was whether or not I would get through to the end without any illness or injury. For any normal person it would be a tough ask to get through the year, running as much as I would without getting injured. But I'm far from normal and for the past 10+ years if it hasn't been my knees, it was my hips and they've both at some stage stopped me from entering or completing a race. I guess I should be relieved that I saved my first proper, race affecting injury until the last day of the challenge. That didn't stop it being very frustrating as it occurred in such a trivial manner, similarly to when I ran hip first into a bollard earlier in the year.

About to finish the first lap
The morning of the race though I had to put it to the back of my mind, I knew it would come into play at some point during the race, it was just a matter of when. There was nothing I could do to prevent it, so the best thing I could do was ignore it for the time being. Sure enough with almost the first step of the race the injury would flare up, but I wasn't in the mood to have this party spoiled. The Norwich Half Marathon is almost  with bad weather, so I was relieved that it would atleast stay dry and the winds kept to a minimum as I would need all the help I could get.

One of the things that has always annoyed me about the Norwich Half Marathon is that it takes place outside of the city centre around mostly farms. So rather than running past any iconic landmarks the best you can hope for is sighting some slightly bemused sheep. More so than any other race this year Sunday was about finishing, I didn't need to set a good time I just needed to run the remaining 18km of my challenge and then the last 3km of the race in one piece.

Thinking back most of the race is a bit of a blur, the lack of distinguishable landmarks throughout the course didn't help. Neither did the fact that my knee was hurting from the get go, so most has been blocked out. Each mile ended with me in more pain than when I started it, but grit and determination allowed me to tick each mile off as they came.

My knee was hurting a lot
As the finish line came into view it was time to finish this. I could barely bend my leg, but I knew it was a matter of crossing the line and if it needed to be that would be that. So I simply put my head down and Quasimodo'd it across the line, my knee was in pieces, I was in a lot of pain, pain which was etched across my face but after 47 long weeks it was over.

When I crossed the line I just stopped, stuck between knowing how or whether to celebrate I ended up just slumping over a barrier for about 5 minutes trying to catch my breath and summoning up the energy and courage to try walking on my knee. 
It says a lot for how much faster I have been able to run this year that I managed to set what last year would have been on PB on one knee. Eventually I hobbled round to meet up with Jenny and after waiting for my Dad to finish we headed home on the promise of cake. 

It's over....or is it?
So what happens next? Well I've still got another three races left in the year that I've already signed up for; the Turkey Trot Half Marathon, Lincoln Santa Fun Run and Liverbird New Year's Eve Marathon to bring my total to 50. On my quest to reach 52 races this year I also have my eye on the Silkstone Shuffle this Sunday and Gaddesby Gallop on the 14th, as well as a local traditional Christmas Cross Country race, meaning that weather permitting I should be on track to achieve it.

I haven't decided yet whether I will be posting a write up later this week upon completing the 1000KM challenge or wait until the end of the year to include the 3 (or 5) other races I have still to run. I imagine I will have a lot to say as I look back through the 12 months of this challenge and the many, many races. Next year I intend to cherish my Sunday mornings a little more and have another proper crack at a couple of illusive PBs.

Finally, I just want to take the opportunity to thank those that have supported me and sponsored me this year, it is very much appreciated. If you haven't sponsored me but want to, please visit http://www.justgiving.com/shanes1000km and donate what you can and please share news of what I have done with others.

Distance: 21.27km | 13.22 miles
Time: 01:44:16
Official Time: N/A
Average Pace: 04:53 min/km | 07:53 min/mi
Playlist: N/A
Goody Bag: Medal


View my run:

22 Nov 2013

942.87 - 972.08KM: One Step Closer (Lincoln Park Run & Stilton Stumble)

This weekend I am set to reach the 1000KM target after running the Norwich Half Marathon on Sunday (24th). Amidst all the excitement and plans for the weekend I had almost forgotten to write up about last weekend's races. First up was the inaugral Lincoln Parkrun, an event I had been waiting years for and very nearly missed. Then on Sunday I would run my 45th race of the year with the Stilton Stumble in Cropwell Bishop, home of the Stilton cheese.

942.87 - 947.87KM: (Inaugral) Lincoln Parkrun

In 2008 I moved to Lincoln to go to University, after starting running the year before in a drastic attempt to get fit. Around the same time I became aware of the Parkrun and after 5 long years of waiting, this past weekend Lincoln finally got in on the party. A party I would almost miss.

For those familiar with Parkrun you'll know that the 'rules' are simple, turn up at 9am every Saturday with your barcode for a free, timed 5K run. No barcode? No time. So at 8am when I went downstairs to print out my barcode before then leaving everything seemed simple, only with me things never are. 20 minutes and numerous altercations with the printer later I still had no barcode. Eventually I ended up having to manually colour the barcode blue and then print that out instead, before then embarking on my first 3 mile run of the day just to get to the start on time.

Hidden within the masses
As I approached the park through the back entrance, I began to see marshals in the distance, after asking the first couple I came across whether or not I had missed the start, they managed to decipher what I said under much panting and informed me that I still had 4 minutes to go. Before long the start came into sight and I could see there was a big turnout, a very big turnout. The total number of runners would later be confirmed to be 276, meaning there was a bigger field than about half of my races this year, with such a large turnout it's hard to say that the people of Lincoln didn't want a Parkrun. The number of running clubs in the area along with the thousands of people that run the Lincoln 10K each year is again testament to the passion the city has for running, yet it took four long years of negotiations before it came into being. I'm unsure on the specifics, but in the speech beforehand it was mentioned that there were numerous difficulties with the local council, but these no longer matter as now, finally, Lincoln has its own Parkrun.

Last month I went on a hunt for a possible route for the Parkrun at Boultham Park and I found that the park was too small to not have to run around it multiple times. On Saturday I found that the course would require (almost) three full loops of the park, before coming in to the finish at the bandstand. At 9am the introduction to all the runners began and everyone was welcomed to Lincoln's inaugral Parkrun. 10 minutes later the formalities were out of the way, I had just about caught my breathe back and the crowd made their way to the start line. I say just about as when the run started the frantic dash to make the event was still taking it's toll and I struggled round on the first lap having already used up most of my energy.

99 to go...
I wouldn't exactly find any more energy in the next two laps either, eventually crossing the line of my first ever Parkrun in little over 23 minutes. Earlier in the year I set my 10K PB at the Lincoln 10K and in turn also set my 5K PB of 19 minutes 16 seconds. Saturday's time was almost four minutes slower than that, which given it is only a 3 and a bit mile race, is quite a lot. Whilst there were a lot of factors behind this time, running a flat out 5k to even make the start being the main one, I must still admit to being a little disappointed with my time. Still though it leaves a lot of room for improvement, I imagine I should be able to target knocking a minute or so off at my next one.

The event brought many 'tourists' to Lincoln to celebrate the inaugral Parkrun, many wearing their Parkrun 'clubber' tshirts, celebrating the numerous Parkruns they had clocked up. I have to admit I was eyeing the 100 club ones up, I've still a long way to go (99) but I intend to pop down every spare Saturday. Unfortunately I have races lined up on the next couple of Saturdays, so my next Parkrun will have to wait until the 7th December.

Laying off the cakes for a while should see me get my 5k time comfortably back under 20 minutes, allowing for me to hopefully finally run a sub 40 10k next year. I've since purchased some barcode tags so in a couple of weeks time when I'm free to run my next Parkrun I should be a little more prepared. All I will have to rely on is leaving in plenty of time so I'm not already knackered by the time the run starts.

Distance: 5.00km | 3.1 miles
Time: 00:23:05
Official Time: 00:23:04
Average Pace: 04:36 min/km | 07:24 min/mi


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947.87 - 972.08KM: Stilton Stumble 24K

On Sunday I was originally scheduled to run the Rother Valley Half Marathon, however in the week before I received an email saying that the event had been postponed for 'unforeseen (and undisclosed) circumstances'. Fortunately I had kind of signed up for that race by accident, I had been eyeing up the Stilton Stumble for that weekend instead, but when it came to signing up it had slipped my mind. So after I finished reading the email I jumped across to the Stilton Stumble website and made sure to sign up for my 45th race of the year before the entries closed.


My dad was originally set to be running the Rother Valley Half Marathon with me, but after that was cancelled he offered to join me on the rearranged race, ensuring that I would not only have a lift to the race but I would arrive in plenty of time. Over an hour before the start in fact, allowing me plenty of time to go to the toilet a few times before joining the crowd for the start of the race. As another event in it's inaugural year the field was relatively small, the race had both a 10k and a 24k option, with the majority (myself excluded) opting to choose the former. 

A combined start of both the 10k and 24k runners led to some pacing difficulties early on. Typically I (foolishly) try and settle into a pace based on my impressions of those around me, with runner's running two very different races this, psychologically at least, tricked me into trying to run a little faster than was comfortable. Fortunately the split for both races came within the first few miles and I soon got to see who I was really racing against.

For the first time in a long while my legs felt completely empty, much worse than the Great South Run, and as I'm nearing the end of the year I'm expecting my body to just suddenly start falling apart. I didn't really have time for that to happen though, I still had about 12 miles to run (and then another 7 races still to go this year). One thing I am rubbish for is properly warming up/warming down before and after a race, the fact I've gone this long without injury is more down to luck than anything else.

Possibly the best photo ever taken of me running
If Saturday's run was about looking forward, then Sunday would be about looking back as the race felt like a throwback to races earlier in the year, in particular the Newton's Fraction Half Marathon and St. Valentines 30K. Whilst it certainly wasn't as hilly as either of those, for a race that described itself as 'fairly flat' there was more than enough inclines to see the race as an homage to those previous races. One particular hill around the 12 mile mark did make me laugh, particularly when I thought of what my dad would make of it, I'm sure the answer isn't repeatable on this blog.

More often than not failure to take any kind of strategy with me into races comes back to bite me in the arse, thankfully though in this instance my legs were too tired to even run particularly fast. I had set myself a rough target of finishing inside the 2 hour mark before the race and before I knew of the hills and how I'd be having to drag myself round most of the course. So to finish just outside this was pleasing, maybe next year I'll come back and enjoy it more.

Aside from a potentially better and more enjoyable race, the main advantage of having to swap Sunday's race was the inclusion of having to run an extra few KM. These few extra KM now mean that this Sunday (24th) I will reach the 1000KM at the Norwich Half Marathon, in my homeland of Norfolk. Every week in this blog I've tried to calculate when the big milestone will come, but after having impromptu races thrown at me every week it has come much earlier than anticipated. I haven't really got anything planned for the big occasion, but to do it back in Norfolk at a race I have a fair bit of history with will mean a lot more than most of the other ways it could have happened.

Finally a quick update on Jenny's health, for the most part she has been well, she recently celebrated her sixth month of topical steroid withdrawal but doing so seemed to then prompt an eighth bout of Eczema Herpeticum earlier in the week. Thankfully the warning signs were spotted early on so the appropriate treatment was able to be taken and now she seems to be on the mend again, until the next time.

As always, please visit http://www.justgiving.com/shanes1000km and donate what you can and please share news of what I am doing with others.

Distance: 24.2km | 15.04 miles
Time: 02:00:55
Official Time: N/A
Average Pace: 04:59 min/km | 08:00 min/mi
Playlist: N/A
Goody Bag: Stilton Cheese


View my run:

16 Nov 2013

A Brief History of Eczema and Romance

A couple of weeks ago Jenny and myself celebrated our four year anniversary, and celebrate it we did in the only way we knew how, with copious amounts of cake and pizza. Whilst it was naturally a happy occasion, it was also seen as an opportunity to look back on these past four years and the impact Jenny's condition has helped in shaping, and ultimately defining, our relationship.

We met online on a forum for a Heavy Metal festival after discovering that we both went to the same University and had both expressed an interest in setting up a Rock Society at the Uni. I can barely recall the early conversations but it was evident from an early stage that eczema was a major point in Jenny's life, it felt at times like she was warning me about her condition to ease any awkwardness when we met up. She had spent the majority of the summer housebound because of a really bad flare, before it managed to almost clear up in time for her to go to University.

'White' Jenny and me with 'short' hair
My memory is terrible at best, so much of this may be completely misremembered or completely made up. The first experience I had of Jenny's post-shower routine was completely accidental. Apparently I stayed over the night before and didn't take the hint to leave the next morning, or so I'm told, I'm not sure whether this is Jenny just taking advantage of my terrible memory or if I was that stupid. Knowing now that it can take her hours before she's able to get dressed I don't know how she coped with a presumably creepy relative stranger refusing to leave her room. She must have been OK with it though as four years later we're still together.

In retrospect in the early days I wasn't relied on that heavily by Jenny with regards to her condition; simply to help apply cream to the areas of her back that she couldn't reach, help keep the patch test stuck to her back, or when she was particularly itchy cook dinner for her. Whilst we were both at University I often went with her to hospital for her fortnightly Dermatology appointments, something I now kind of miss, just as it at least meant I knew/could remember what was going on. In hindsight we never realised how easy it was back then, we were both in a reasonably normal relationship.

I remember the first time I saw Jenny had an Asthma attack I was just frozen with fear. Whilst it was all fairly familiar to Jenny and her mum, I had no idea what was going on, so the sight of her panicking and then being treated by paramedics and carried downstairs in her mum's house into an Ambulance was pretty distressing. It felt like an eternity whilst the paramedics were doing their necessary procedures in the Ambulance outside, especially when I had no idea what was going on. All in all it was just a routine severe asthma attack, Jenny was more embarrassed than anything else, but at the time 100s of thoughts were flooding through my mind as to what was or could be happening. Compared to some of the things we have been through since, such as the Eczema Herpeticum or the Minor Stroke, it really seems insignificant, but it helped prepare me for what was to come.

'Slightly White' Jenny and Me
It's depressing to mention, but there are more times than I care to think where I feel much more like Jenny's carer than her partner. Her condition has been a defining feature of our relationship for a long time, not a day goes by without it having some effect on either of us. I learnt early on that I would have to sacrifice a lot for the sake of Jenny's health. One of the more trivial examples of this is when I foolishly offered up my face, or rather the blackheads and stray eyebrow hairs on it, to Jenny in an attempt to get her to stop scratching hers to pieces. This one time offer to try and save her from herself has now been taken as an all access pass and at any moment when Jenny is feeling particularly irritable I can sense that my face is in danger of being pounced on. Of course however much this may 'hurt' me or be of general annoyance, it's far better than the alternative, even if it does feel a little bit weird, although perhaps there is an explanation behind it all.

Perhaps one of the strangest affects Jenny's condition has had on our relationship is how I now mostly associate Jenny being naked/mostly unclothed with being ill. This is not because of some deep lying exhibitionist tendencies, but rather because of how long her skin could take to absorb all the moisturiser after showering, or if her skin is particularly irritable. So when I come home from work I can find out instantly what type of day she has had by how fully clothed she is. It's to the point where a few weeks ago when Jenny was able to get both fully dressed and her skin was unnaturally pale that it confused me and I almost didn't recognise her. That rather confusing moment just goes to show how long it has been since she's been a shade other than pink.

At times we can struggle to sit on the same couch when Jenny is really bad and sleeping in the same bed has become something of a distant memory. It used to be an occasional thing, reserved only for the times when Jenny's skin was bad enough for my presence in the same bed to be an irritant. At university when all this was new on particularly bad nights if I didn't go back to my own flat, I used to get Jenny's sleeping bag out to sleep at the foot of her bed. Sometimes my decision making on whether to stay at her's when her skin was bad was helped along the way by a mixture of the weather, my own tiredness and laziness, but also whether or not I felt she would need me in the morning. I must say I don't miss sleeping on the floor, I know my back certainly doesn't.

'Red' Jenny and Me
Since moving into the new house last year sleeping in separate beds has just become the norm, partly because Jenny's health has demanded it but also because on the rare occasions she is well enough to share the bed I'm so conscious of making her worse that I often decide not to. It's upsetting, and it means that on some days I won't see her until much later in the evening and I'm often left waiting in the morning for her to wake up and text me so I know what state her skin is in. There is little I can do if it is bad in truth, but otherwise it gives me peace of mind and helps prepare me for the day ahead. 'Our' bedroom is referred to as Jenny's bedroom, simply out of habit and honesty, but it doesn't make it any less upsetting to hear. One of the deciding factors behind moving into the three bedroom house that we did was because we knew I would essentially need my own bedroom for the times when Jenny's health was bad. We never thought it would become a permanent thing though. 'My' bedroom is currently mostly just used as a dumping ground for all the washing we find ourselves doing and 90% of the time I can be found sleeping on the sofa bed downstairs.

It also means I have lost track of the medication she is on. Every night (and morning) used to be the same routine of me making sure Jenny has taken the required medicine and always had a drink, inhaler and cream to hand. Now, partly because of my terrible memory but also because I'm no longer part of this routine I can often completely forget the medication she is on, something which has been highlighted too often recently when I've been required by doctors/paramedics to grab things. It doesn't help matters when over the four years she has been on such a wide range of medication, with different combinations, but I do feel guilty for not being able to remember it all. I put it down mostly to the stress of the situation, combined with the fact that I'm very rarely part of that routine.

This heightened level of irritibleness naturally takes any kind of intimacy off the table, weeks or months can go by before I'm even able to kiss her. You can often get a decent insight into Jenny's health by how hairy my face is. Jenny's sensitive skin complains if there is even a hint of stubble on my face and as someone who always struggles for spare time, shaving becomes an afterthought. It just so happens that the longer I go without shaving the more I apparently slowly transform into Phil Mitchell, or a battered sausage as Jenny so affectionately calls him, so I guess it's rather fortunate that I only let my beard grow out when Jenny's ill.

The missing Mitchell?
I have been drafting this post for a couple of months now, mainly because I haven't had the time to, but also because I was having difficulty wording the following section. Without realising, through being Jenny's caregiver I have become part of the chronically ill community and this has opened my eyes to the difficulties those with chronic illnesses have getting into and maintaining relationships. Some of the things I've seen, heard and my imagination allows me to muster are pretty heartbreaking with regards to those out there suffering by themselves.

Ever since the first day I met Jenny she has been 'sick'. Whilst her skin was reasonably stable when we met, she had only recently recovered from a very rough patch. The cards were very much on the table health wise, that said the past four years have taken us both by surprise. If you were to have shown me what the next four years would have been like at the beginning it would've been hard to have not run a mile, without having the benefit of having fallen in love with each other. In some ways Jenny's health has helped strengthen our relationship from the start. There was no opportunity to fall into the trivial relationship issues that might befall couples our age, things got pretty serious fast and I just had to be there for her. This isn't an excuse to blow my own horn, as it were, Jenny's already done that, or even to rub it in the faces of those out there suffering with chronic illness alone, but rather an acknowledgement of the fact that we are both lucky.

Meeting Jenny has undeniably changed my life. It's certainly made it more 'challenging' as we both at times struggle to cope with her condition, but I wouldn't change it. The idea of her fighting this battle on her own terrifies me, and I do worry about those out there that have to, but as useless as I can be sometimes I like to think I'm better than nothing.

All I want to do is make Jenny happy, it's the sole reason why my 1000KM Challenge exists, but it is an ongoing battle against everything her condition throws at her. I hope that one day, however far away that might be, we will be able to live a 'normal' life, share the same bed, generally do things that couples do and allow her condition to drift away as a distant memory of a former life. In the meantime I'll just keep doing what I can to try and make life as comfortable as I can, to bring a smile to her face and on some days make life worth living.

12 Nov 2013

924.77 - 942.87KM: Into The Mighty Forest (Robin Hood 10K & Boston Poppy Run)

With only 7 weekends left in 2013 (8 as of last Friday), the end of my challenge is drawing nearer and the number of races left to run becoming fewer. This past weekend was another busy one with two races, the first the Robin Hood Trail 10K on Saturday, followed by the Boston Poppy Run on Sunday and saw me take another step closer to 1000KM.

924.77 - 934.77KM: Robin Hood 10K

First up was the One Step Beyond's Robin Hood Trail 10K, as part of their Robin Hood Adventure Challenge weekend. If anything is to stick in my mind from this race it is how bitterly cold it was waiting around at the start, supposedly around 2 - 3c. After spending several months earlier in the year complaining about how hot it was, followed by moaning about the wind for the past couple of weeks I'm now set to thoroughly complain that it's too cold every week until Spring, or at least until I find my gloves.

After getting up stupidly early to drop Jenny off at the train station I was able to drive home, lay down and watch TV for an hour, before then setting off for the race, get lost and still arrive nearly two hours before the start. Set to start at 12:00, the 10K was the last event of the day, following the Duathlon and Kid's Fun Run. Whilst it was absolutely freezing, there were benefits to arriving as early as I did as it allowed me to watch the tail end of the Duathletes come across the finish line, as well as being able to visit the toilet a record breaking four times before the start.

After a short delay waiting for the final competitor from the Duathlon to cross the line, the race started at quarter past 12. As I have too often this year I found myself (or everyone else) way out of position at the start, so spent the first half a mile trying to overtake people until I settled into a more natural pace. As the first of two races this weekend I had no intention of running at a pace anywhere beyond comfortable, coupled with the temperature and my failure to even try and warm up beforehand, I knew I had once again already made it unnecessarily difficult for myself.

The first lap went by without much hassle, but after having to stop on the second lap to go for a pee (again!) any hope of running sub 45 had gone. The second lap was just a formality and a case of ticking the miles off without exerting myself too much. 

The day was nearly significant for the fact that I intended to try and met up with someone who had already been through topical steroid withdrawal and was now enjoying the freedom of a 'normal' life. I'm still remaining healthily pessimistic about the whole thing and the fact that Jenny seems to have had it relatively easy so far isn't helping matters. However the fact that they have been able to recover fully from the withdrawal and are to compete in races such as this without any signs of regressing gives me some hope for the future. Unfortunately though I missed them as they crossed the line and was oblivious to their partner finishing just 12 seconds behind me.

The race was one of a handful that I've ran this year that I'm wanting to have another go at, only with much fresher legs. The course was reasonably flat, and a few areas of soft ground aside, it was a stable course with trail PB potential. 

Distance: 10.00km | 6.21 miles
Time: 00:45:38
Official Time: 00:46:08
Average Pace: 04:33 min/km | 07:19 min/mi
Playlist: Carcass
Goody Bag: T-Shirt, Isotonic Drink & Bottle of Water


View my run:

934.77 - 942.87KM: Boston Poppy Run

(Remembrance) Sunday's race, the Boston Poppy Run, was another late entry, granted not as late as last week's, after only stumbling across it at midnight on Thursday. As another local race it had a smallish turnout, but was full with lots of familiar faces.

Learning nothing from the day before, I again forgot my gloves and tights and suffered in the bitterly cold winds on the walk to the start line. Celebrating its 11th anniversary, the race held every year on Remembrance Sunday, boasted a fast, flat, if a little uninspiring 5 mile course. Mild head winds and general fatigue again forced me to run a little slower than I'd normally wish to, but still managed a similar pace to the day before, crossing the line just over 37 minutes.

Whilst I expect to be running more next year, I must admit I'm looking forward to getting my weekends back. I'm also keen to start getting into a proper training plan tailored around races so I can go in feeling fresh and ready to attack a PB rather than feeling like I'm pushing myself too hard and struggling to get round.

After getting home from the race I saw I had an email to say that this weekend's race, the Rother Valley Half Marathon had been cancelled due unforeseen circumstances. Fortunately I already had a backup race, one I had originally planned to enter instead, the Stilton Stumble. In a rather fortunate twist of fate this change now means that I will be running 24K this weekend, instead of 21K and it brings my 1000KM reaching run forward a week. More importantly than that it means that I will be reaching the target at the Norwich Half Marathon, a 'home' county race and one I have a little bit of history with, so it looks to be a great occasion.

This Saturday is the first ever Lincoln Park Run, after waiting 5 years for it to finally happen I'll be sure to be down there at 9am. I also finally got round to booking the Travelodge for the Liverbird New Year's Eve Marathon last night, so plans for the big finale can start in earnest. All I can guarantee is that there will be cake and maybe the burning of a very worn pair of race pants.

As always, please visit http://www.justgiving.com/shanes1000km and donate what you can and please share news of what I am doing with others.

Distance: 8.10km | 5.03 miles
Time: 00:37:16
Official Time: 00:37:22
Average Pace: 04:36 min/km | 07:24 min/mi
Playlist: N/A
Goody Bag: Medal


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6 Nov 2013

October Review (790.53 - 900.92KM)

So it's 10pm on Wednesday the 6th November and I've just realised that I still haven't written my review of last month, so without further ado here it is. October heralded the end of Summer, the midweek races, nice weather and 10ks. The miserable weather would have an impact on a couple of my races this month as I travelled up to York and down to Portsmouth, run two marathons, got soaked and caked in mud and St. Jude threatened to knock me off my feet.

Parkrun coming soon  
Once again the month started with a Solo Run and again it wasn't my intention. In the four weeks at end of September/beginning of October I was originally planning to run 4 Marathons, but as I sat on the train to Nottingham for the Robin Hood Marathon I found out that entry had already closed for the Mablethorpe Marathon at the beginning of the month. So instead I opted to check out the site of Lincoln's upcoming Park Run.

The Spires & Steeples Challenge 26
Next up was the Spires & Steeples Challenge, marathon number 4 of the year (ever) and possibly the hardest race of my life. The 'Challenge' would see me run 26+ miles across Lincolnshire countryside, from Lincoln Castle on the top of Steel Hill down the Sleaford, via a handful of villages. Only it wasn't that simple, the weather had torn up most of the fields we ran across, making some parts of the course almost impassable and when I crossed the line it felt like I'd run 40 miles, rather than 26. The race would also stick in the memory for me attempting to walk the 14+ miles home after being stuck in 20th century Sleaford.

The Yorkshire Marathon
Race three of the month was the inaugural Yorkshire Marathon and the third, and last marathon, of the four weeks. After the exhausting race the previous week, I was looking forward to a flat, road marathon. Again, the forecast before the race looked bad, with heavy showers expected, but fortunately, despite teasing a couple of times it stayed mostly dry. After running both the Robin Hood Marathon and Spires & Steeples Challenge at a slower pace I planned on picking it up for the 5th marathon of the year. Whilst I didn't manage to run much faster, I did manage to sneak under the 4 hour mark, if only just, for the second time this year.

The Great (Windy) South Run
After running the 3 marathons in 4 weeks I was looking forward to a much shorter, and easier, race, which is what I was expecting when I headed down to Portsmouth for the Great South Run. What I found instead was Britain on the brink of over reacting to an impending 'mega storm' and a race I was neither physically or mentally ready for. It would be a battle to reach the 900km milestone, a headlong battle into 40mph winds for the last couple of miles, but one I eventually won.

So I enter the last 100km slightly ahead of schedule with two months left and another 8 races to go. I said a couple of months back that I'm going to rue the cancelled races earlier in the year as I come agonisingly close to running 52 races in 2013. As it stands my total will be 49 races, and as much as I hate to admit it I'm obsessing a little over the fact. There's nothing I can really do now to make up those extra 3 races, even though I'm very aware of the fact that I have 3 race free weekends. 

Finally just a quick update on Jenny's health. Once again it's been a good month, the horrible few months earlier in the year seem to be behind us but I'm still very, very anxious. Many people who are going through the withdrawal always state that the first three months are the worst and that many subsequent rebounds follow. Though despite a rough couple of months at the beginning, admittedly for seemingly unrelated issues, it hasn't been THAT bad, particularly when compared to what other people go through. I guess the pessimist in me is just waiting for shit to hit the fan and until it does I'm not going to relax.

As always, please visit my JustGiving page and donate what you can. If you can't donate then please share my JustGiving page and news of what I'm doing with others, in case they can. The only way we can end the suffering that Jenny and millions of others go through on a daily basis is with your help.

October Stats:

1000KM Challenge Distance: 110.39KM

Time Running Total: 10:41:50
Total Running Distance: 160.63KM
Bananas Eaten: 77
Races: 3
T-Shirts: 2
Medals: 2

1000km Challenge Stats:

1000KM Challenge Distance: 900.92KM
Time Running Total: 78:07:49
Total Running Distance: 1858.30KM
Bananas Eaten: 423
Races: 41
T-Shirts: 22
Medals: 20


A look ahead to November

Confirmed Races
03/11 - The 3 River Challenge
08/11 - Robin Hood Trail Run

17/11 - Rother Valley Half Marathon
23/11 - Nottingham Mo Run
24/11 - Norwich Half Marathon

5 Nov 2013

900.92 - 924.77KM: Follow The Blind (The 3 River Challenge)

As of 6pm Saturday the weekend was going to be a rare, race free weekend. There was a shortage of local races and after the hundreds of miles I had racked up over the past couple of weeks I was reluctant to drive hours to one. Then I found a flyer for a race barely 20 minutes away and all my plans changed. The bat signal went up and it became a case of whether I could find a lift to a small Lincolnshire village by 10am.

The event in question was the 3 River Challenge in South Kyme, a race I had completely forgotten about after finding a flyer pinned to the windscreen of the car a month or so ago. After asking around on Twitter on Sunday evening I got a text message at 1am from a friend asking if I wanted a lift. Some frantic texting the next morning, followed by a nervous wait for a reply and the race to the erm.....race was on.

I joked on the way down that I wasn't even sure this race existed. The only trace I could find of it on the internet was a copy of the same flyer I had been handed, so I was unsure whether the race was still taking place and then even if it was I wasn't expecting a large turnout. A 10am start outside a church on a Sunday seemed like an odd starting place. An elaborate plan by the Church of England to 'recruit' a group who religiously spend their Sunday mornings on the road? Perhaps. I was slightly relieved to see other runners, particularly some familiar faces, as we arrived at the venue, so I knew I wouldn't be the only one running. 

10am on a Sunday....Race Time
I wasn't surprised to hear that the race was in its inaugural year given its lack of advertising, even less so when handed a sticky label at the registration to act as the race bib. A traditional visit to the toilet later and we were beckoned over by the race organiser for the pre race instructions and 'rough' directions. I say rough as seeing the organiser get confused about the route didn't fill me with confidence. All I knew was that there was something about running along the bank of three different rivers, before the home straight across the field currently occupied by 20 something bulls. Given the overdramatized, but still damn scary to me damn it, showdown with a couple of cows last month it's safe to say I wasn't particularly looking forward to the finish.

With little time to pick the useful bits out of the instructions we were lined up and ready to go. In most races like this I typically ensure that I keep pace behind another runner, regardless of how difficult this is, for no reason other than having someone to follow on the inevitable badly signed sections. Almost immediately as soon as the race started there was confusion whether to carry straight on or to follow the path round, it felt like it was going to be a long race. The majority of the race was along riverbank, but the first few miles through long grass and stinging nettles was particularly tough. After frivolously treading carefully, trying to avoid getting stung it ultimately felt like a waste of time and energy, so I gave up and made a mental note to grab some Aloe Vera on the way home.

Some unenthusiastic support
The lack of preparation before the race was felt early on. With the amount of running I'm doing this year, no race is really a struggle, but only knowing I would be doing the race less than 90 minutes from the start left little time for any proper preparation. After a tough run last week in Portsmouth and still very much in the recovery stage of my three marathons last month, my legs felt very heavy from the start. In most races when I've started off bad it's taken a couple of miles to loosen up, but Sunday was different, my running legs had definitely been left in York.

Unfortunately the same could not be said for the wind, which had definitely been brought up with me from the South Coast. For the first time this year I felt like I really didn't want to be out there and it felt like one of the tougher races of the year. The race was advertised as 14(ish) miles, but as the 14th mile ticked over on my watch with no finish line in sight I wondered how big this 'ish' would be. The race clocked in much closer to 15 miles and I crossed the line in around 2 hours 10. When I tend to average 1 hour 40 minute Half Marathons, taking an extra 30 minutes for the 1 and a bit extra miles is testament to how much the conditions (mine, the weather and course's) slowed me down.

Wait...is that cake?
News soon reached me when I crossed the line of Banana Cake waiting inside, a very welcome treat after a horrible run. This was soon demolished alongside a cup of tea. Was it a race I would do again? Probably not. With 40+ other races to compare it to this one is likely to get forgotten about. The wind and complete spontaneousness of it didn't help, but long stretches of easily replaceable scenery made the race feel much longer than it was.

On Halloween I finally bit the bullet and entered the Liverbird New Years Eve marathon. Whilst I wouldn't have needed to enter the race to reach the 1000km target, particularly after Sundays impromptu race, it will make for a nice finale for this year's challenge. Last week I spoke about how it was a case of when, not if I reached the target, and after running my 42nd race in 44 weeks on Sunday it looks like this celebration may have been brought forward.

As always, please visit http://www.justgiving.com/shanes1000km and donate what you can and please share news of what I am doing with others.

Distance: 23.85km | 14.82 miles
Time: 01:21:37
Official Time: 02:11:10
Average Pace: 05:31 min/km | 08:53 min/mi
Playlist: Alter Bridge
Goody Bag: Tea & Cake

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