A nice evening for a run

Like many, I spent Sunday watching coverage of the London marathon. And this time I knew a couple of people running it. So I’ve been reading blogs and posts on running forums. So many amazing stories, experiences both good and bad. Reading about the training, hopes, fears, celebrations and tiny triumphs has been both inspiring and humbling.

My goals this year are for shorter distances, and right now I’m trying to relax and enjoy my running more. On Tuesday I went out for my first evening run of the year. Cool, still air, just the hint of a breeze, running along beside the blue waves, senses tingling with life.

A couple passed me as I was stretching before I set off, and I soon caught up with them. “How far are you going?” I asked.
“There and back again,” the man replied.
“Sounds good to me.”
The woman shouted, “Have a good run,” as I stretched away. And I did.

Tonight everyone had a smile or a wave as we passed each other along the front. I saw a beautiful black and grey Great Dane out for a stroll and a Border Terrier pup, safely on a tight lead, who just wanted to play. A giant bumblebee buzzed by and the waves kept up a steady round of applause throughout.

I set off with a vague plan to run how I felt – at least 6k, maybe 8, 10 if I felt good. And I did.

Not looking at the watch, just relaxing, keeping up the pace but not pushing it. I ran out, out beyond the 5k point, talking to myself in my head, smiling, just enjoying moving through the evening air.

Playing with my perceptions of distance, I turned back just before 6k, fooling my brain into a shorter return leg. As I changed direction, I felt the pull down my right thigh. My old friend the tib band, making himself known again.

But even a niggle wasn’t going to spoil my run. I focused on my form, sent relaxing vibes down my legs and kept on pushing. At some point, the tightness switched to my left leg and I felt pleased I’d booked myself a sports massage later this week. I’ve been able to run it off on the last couple of runs, but it’s time for some prevention and advice.

I finished with a bit of a push, but definitely not a sprint, then walked down the slope to the beach and refreshed my tired warm feet on the cool sand and icy water. I’m very lucky to have such a beautiful landscape to run in.

So, having not looked at my watch, not stressed the pace, and tackled a couple of inclines, I completed my 10k in 54:12 – a good minute faster than a similar route on Sunday. And that’ll do.

Pigs and primroses

I drove to visit our friend’s farm in deepest, darkest Northumberland this morning for an adventure into the Blackwood – an area of ancient mixed woodland where we’re hoping to raise pigs and turkeys in a joint business venture.


The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but spring is really starting to peep through as the ground is peppered with primroses. We saw a couple of pheasants and a deer bounding through the undergrowth and lots of bumblebees. It felt like spring, despite the rain and the wind.

Then onto the farm to check on the piglets and say hello to the small herd of Dexter cattle. It’s great to see the grass coming through after so much mud and muck and to see the chickens pecking around the fruit trees planted in the walled garden.

But I’d got cold in the woods and was a bit concerned about my right thigh starting to stiffen up beneath my wet jeans, so I’m afraid I was a fair weather farmer and came home to warm up and tidy the house.

Managed a short swim this afternoon, just to keep in practice. 4x100m sets of front crawl focusing on technique, with a couple of rest breaks and a couple of lengths of breast stroke to vary things up a little. I seem to be averaging 100m in just over 2 mins in a 20m pool, and I’m not particularly thrashing the pace.

Sadly I bust the strap on my goggles as I was putting them on. As it was only one ‘arm’, I managed for this session, but they were definitely fogging up more than usual. I’m sure if I focus on my swimming again I can improve the number of consecutive lengths and speed. But I’ve decided to abandon my goal of a sprint triathlon this year.

I still want to try for that sub 50 10k and sub 2 hour Great North Run, so I’ve decided to focus on doing those two things really well, rather than trying to do three things just okay. I might have a go at an aquathon later in the year, but really I should learn from past experience not to put too much pressure on myself and to enjoy everything I do.

Quality run

I know rest is as important as running, and I did say I was feeling tired yesterday and that maybe running early on a Friday morning after training on a Thursday is not the best idea, but honestly did you see it out there? Sun shining, the merest suggestion of a sea breeze…it was far too nice not to go out for a run.

I find it best to have a distance or a time to run in my mind, even when I don’t have it down on a proper training plan. So today I set the target of 5k. I knew once I was off I’d be tempted to do my regular weekend 10k route, but really wanted to try and be sensible.

And it was a lovely run. A little bit of a headwind to start, but soon I was into a nice rhythm and flow. I told myself no time targets, but couldn’t resist a sneaky peak at the Garmin’s first beep to see how close I was to my target 10k pace. Not far off and I felt good, so I kept going.

I deliberately ran the final half kilometre or so on the beach in a bid to slow myself down and produce a time that I wouldn’t measure myself against in future. Sub 50 10k = 2x sub 25 5ks. Even I can do the maths for that one.

But with a downhill slope to the beach and plenty of harder sand to run on, I couldn’t help but pick it up for the last couple of hundred yards to finish feeling out of breath and smiling.

5km 25:49
1. 5.07
2. 5.12
3. 5.16
4. 5.08
5. 5.00

Good luck to all of you running far further this weekend. Lots of halfs and marathons coming up. Hope your preparations pay off, your safety pins stay fast and the weather is kind to you.

Post race thoughts

Just wanted to wrap up a few thoughts about my North Tyneside 10k experience. Not to be overly critical or analytical, just to put things into perspective and learn something from it.

It was important to me that I had a good run and enjoyed it – which I did. The fact that I found my best ever sprint finish and recovered pretty quickly makes me even more confident that I can push it a bit more.

I’ve been asked for my advice on running twice this week. That feels nice. I’d like to be able to give more of that and share some of the encouragement and support that’s benefited me with other.

Be prepared – someone always needs your spare safety pins.

The relax and enjoy mantra works.

I’d like to be more confident about feeling the right pace and sticking with it. So I might try out the virtual partner on my Garmin on my training runs to get used to that.

Visualising the race and knowing when I might start to fade, worked and I found a way back into the run at every point.

I think my fuelling may have been a bit off. I didn’t try anything different, but I don’t think I ate enough the day before the race. My nerves put paid to any hunger, so rather than regular snacks I had to make myself eat at mealtimes (not like me).

I also didn’t have anything after 5pm, other than a few non-alcoholic drinks at a birthday party. But on reflection, coca cola wasn’t a good choice, as I was still on a sugar and caffeine high and found it hard to get to sleep.

The party was good as it took my mind off the race. I relaxed and had a good time. So that’s good too. That I can walk into a room where I only know three people and make some new friends and enjoy seeing those I already know having a great time.

So future race notes – try and have some kind of distraction planned before race day. I spend a lot of time in my own head. It’s good to get out sometimes.

A sprint finish and a smile – North Tyneside 10k

Cool, bright, just the merest hint of a breeze. It’s a great day for a run. First race of the season, first repeat race. Home race and this time I’m not alone.

This year I feel like I’m really part of it. Like I’m a runner. Meeting the gang from work for a group photo, all wearing our running vests. Some new faces trying this one for the first time, mingling with the more experienced runners. I’m somewhere in the middle.

I scan the crowds for Ian but can’t see him. Jog a little and stretch to warm up. Ten minutes to go and I’m on the start line with Kathryn who’s nervous and focused and pushing herself for a good time. I have a good feeling about today.

And we’re off. Picking my way through the narrow start, trying to focus ahead, keep it steady, find my pace. Relax and enjoy.

Down the hill, pick up some speed round the corner onto the fishquay, settle and find yourself. Still a little anxious, nervous. I feel curiously empty, strangely detached.

Running along beside the water, the welcome sound of the waves. The hill is not far ahead. Push on, push on and up. I over take a couple of runners on the first slope, but struggle more on the second. I look up and there’s still hill ahead of me.

Two mile marker and a glance at the watch 15.25 – we’re on. Keep pushing, pushing at the top of the crest. That’s the hard bit done. It’s downhill now, even though it doesn’t look it and then flat all the way. Relax and enjoy.

Breathing, check, that’s good. Pace, kind of feels right. Legs are strong. This is your race now. Your run. Run it how you want to. Nothing else matters. There is no plan.

Past the surf shop, the three mile marker, just about halfway and feeling fine. And just as I think that my chest tightens and the curious empty feeling becomes a wave of rising nausea. I look around me. Am I going to throw up? That’ll be a new one. Relax, ease up a little, breathe…there’s no pressure.

At the next beep I sneak a glance at the Garmin. 5.25 for that kilometre. Means the sub 50 is probably off. But no matter, not matter, that’s not what it’s about today. Keep going, keep going, you’ve fought off the sick feeling. Eat a little mango, get a sugar boost.

I see a work runner I know is aiming for sub 50 too go past. But I can’t keep him in my sights for long. Lost in the crowd. The sugar kicks in and I’m back in the zone again, passing familiar landmarks unnoticed, seeing the white of the lighthouse in the distance.

Why do we run? Because we can. Because we love it. This is your race, your run.

Along the top somewhere John from the gym calls out from his car and I wave and smile. Can I pick it up a bit again? Yeah, why not? Stretch out the legs smooth and easy. Down the slope and up again by the war memorial. My legs want to take the coastal path, but the route takes us past the fairground closer to the road.

Through 7km and I know I can do this, just 15 minutes more, and the finish is in sight. Familiar checkpoints pass by in a blur. I’m just running, in my own space. Let those who are faster come past you.

The last little rise by the Links has people, clapping and cheering from the car parks. A smile and a push. I’ve tried little bursts of speed along the way, but they wouldn’t come. Now they rush to explode and I’m picking up the pace at last.

When to sprint? When to go? My legs are already racing before I turn the corner to the finish line. A wave and a smile for Ken and I’m turbo charged, chasing down finishers along the final straight. Blimey, where did that come from?

I cross the line and stop the watch – saying please, please. Then stumble jelly legged through the funnels. A couple of guys I passed on the sprint go ahead of me as I struggle to stop feeling so wibbly.

It’s a couple of minutes before I can take in my time – 52:15. Within one second of my last 10k on a flat course. A course PB and 4 mins off last year’s race. Close, close, but still elusively out of reach.

But after all the pressure, all the build up, all the focus, you know I have to be happy with that. It’s the first race of the season. There will be other opportunities if I want them.

I was more nervous than I can remember yesterday. In my mind I was okay, but my stomach and hands were full of the shakes. I didn’t feel like eating. I was burning up with adrenaline. I didn’t want to be. I just was. Today I was calmer, excited, ready.

And more importantly I enjoyed that run. Felt good. Feel there’s probably a bit more, if I’m brave enough and can keep the focus 100%.


10k 52.15
1. 04.32
2. 04.54
3. 05.09
4. 05.33
5. 05.22
6. 05.21
7. 05.19
8. 05.26
9. 05.26
10. 05.06