I ran a mile the day after giving up smoking (14th January 2007). It took me about 20 minutes. It wasn’t pretty but it was everything I had.
I’d been lucky enough to be a teenager in a sport mad house during the 1980s. I witnessed (on a colour telly no less) the great races between Steve Cram, Steve Ovett and everybody’s favourite posh boy, Sebastian Coe. All three still feature in the all time 25 fastest times by men over the distance.
It inspired me. But not right away…….. 20 years of fags, booze and a shocking lifestyle later, I was setting my 20 minute mile.
When I joined forces with Lewis Keywood to help him with his wonderful run group Keywood Running (see THIS blog post to read all about us), we brain stormed some ideas to inspire the group.
I’m fascinated by the mile as distance to run. We tend to talk about our runs in miles (rather than kilometers) – miles ran and minutes per mile. The process of running a single mile, particularly if you attempt it as fast as possible, is a challenge of both speed and endurance for the body. The mile requires a steely grit to convince yourself to keep going.
“It’s a long way to sprint!” quipped one of our runners the other night.
He’s not wrong.
Since 1970 it has been the only IAAF world record officially recognised over an imperial distance. Whilst it hasn’t featured in the Olympics, there many highly prestigious runs and races over the distance.
The Oslo Dream Mile, The Fifth Avenue Mile and the Westminster Mile all spring to mind.
There’s even The Christmas Day Mile – my beautiful lady wife and I head to the sea front for a flat out timed mile early on the big day before gearing up for an eating marathon.
Whether you’re chasing Mo Farah, or chasing my famous 20 minutes, it is a magical distance.
Well there’s a new magical event to add to that list.
In our New Years’ brainstorming session, we came up with this:
Time our runners over a measured mile. Once they’d recovered, ask them to predict what time they’ll run in 6 months time. Simples
We set the date. We printed some numbers. We did social media (oh yes, we are SO down with the kids). We ignored the rain. We set them on their way. We, er, ‘encouraged’ a couple of cars to “WAIT!”.
We timed all the runners.
My own inspiration comes from my amazing, determined and quite beautiful lady wife, Nicky. Having ridden a 6 hour hilly ride the previous day she was quite happy to don her bobble hat and record the results. Don’t worry though, she’s a steely girl and plans to time a mile another time.
With ‘the boss’, Lewis (Keywood – hence the group’s name) charging around encouraging the runners and several injured and ailing members turning up to shout support, there was a fun, excited atmosphere on the night.
It seemed that everyone who ran gave their all and were keen to predict faster times for the summer. A seemingly simple idea which has captured the imagination.
Lewis and I completed our miles straight afterwards. We love a challenge too. I hope the runners were encouraged by their coaches sinking to the floor at the finish line.
For any new runners reading this, please be assured that we’ve all asked this question.
Back at the start of my own wonderful running journey I didn’t have the confidence I might mistakenly display these days.
Having started to help out at the wonderful Keywood Runners (see this blog), I am now having the pleasure of helping runners who are at the beginning of their own journeys.
Well, when I first started I wasn’t in the rather wonderful place I am now in life (see pretty much any other blog post to see how I embarrass my beautiful, amazing, inspirational lady wife, Nicky, by telling the whole wide world just how I feel about her!) and I didn’t really know anybody that ran.
I just put some old trainers on and went running. It wasn’t pretty. Some say it still isn’t. One well respected local running coach once described me as ‘running like a drunk man herding cats’!
I used to go out late at night. In dark clothes. Puffing and panting around the streets. Several times in those first few weeks I was asked if I was alright by concerned late night dog walkers. 25 years of smoking took some time to cough up!
But it started to come together, a mile of non-stop running, then half an hour, 3 miles….. and so it went on. I was starting to enjoy running. If you’re reading this and aren’t sure, trust me, it gets easier. (And please get in touch with Keywood Runners for advice and group hugs)
It was then that I asked the question “It’s a WHAT run!?” after reading my first generic training program in a running magazine. You know the sort of thing Monday – rest Tuesday – 5 miles steady Wednesday 3 miles recovery run
I could not for the life of me imagine a world where the words ‘recovery’ and ‘run’ could be used in the same sentence. I was quite into running by then and even had my eyes on a 10k race (which is another story!). But every single run felt like I was at my maximum. I couldn’t picture there being any other type of run.
And then there’s ‘easy’ runs. EASY!! Were these people pulling my doo dah?
Here I am 12 years later (pretty much to the day) and I can honestly assure all you new runners it IS possible to enjoy running!
I wish they’d been Keywood Runners when I started, I might have learned a bit quicker that varying pace and distance would help me develop into a stronger runner.
5 TIPS FOR A NEW RUNNER
Find A Fun And Friendly Group – there are lots of lovely groups and clubs as well as our own gang at Keywood Runners
Take Regular Walk Breaks – Don’t run until you are gasping, even if this means running for 20 seconds and then walking for a minute. Before you know it those 20 seconds will become 30, 40, a minute….
Don’t Try And Run Every Day – As your muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons get used to the new form of exercise, give them time to heal between runs. They WILL get stronger but avoid over straining, any injury would be demoralising.
Wear some well fitting, comfortable kit and running shoes – most running shops will do a running gait analysis. Poorly fitting kit could result in unfortunate chaffing. I learnt this the hard way.
PARKRUN- Find your local Parkrun, a free weekly timed 5km run/walk. Not a race just a run with a smile on your face. A great way to build up your running without the potentially intimidating atmosphere of a race.
As for those ‘recovery’ and ‘easy’ runs? We’ll talk about them next time……
Whilst I’m sure the development has caused consternation in many quarters, the new houses overlooking the river in Totnes have a feature which has added more traffic free moments to one of my favourite runs. Paradise Walk in Totnes connects the green lanes from Aish to the Long Marsh and Quayside in the town. Nice.
It comes at a price though. It so many ways.
At least the developers haven’t put a huge 40ft long sign in the hillside…….. er…….
Regular blog followers will know that life has been, and continues to be, beyond challenging and relentlessly and unthinkingly sad this year. Sometimes priorities change. The blog has slipped down the pecking order in recent months, as has writing in general. As has running. We’ve missed so many events which we’d entered this year.
I shan’t be blogging about our personal life at this torrid time. BUT, determined not to drop the blog, I felt a little running update was in order. In a vote as to whether or not to leave or remain the world of blogging, I went with REMAIN 😉
So. To the commit blog followers, thank you for standing by patiently! To new readers, errr, WELCOME, please check out previous posts, there are many tales from the world of challenges and adventures I share with my truly wonderful lady wife, Nicky….. (spoiler alert, you WILL find me gushing relentlessly about how this incredible person is my COMPLETE WORLD!)
Also spoiler alert, I ain’t no WordPress pro, guv, so please excuse any layout amateurishness….
Determined to arrive at next year’s BIG CHALLENGE in the best possible shape, I have kept up getting out for a few hours each week for a challenging longish run.
Early last Saturday, with daylight a fair way off and the rains falling, I set out to tackle the afore mentioned route. After a wonderful summer of sunshine and running in vests and 4am daylight, I’ve actually found it comforting to start laying out some kit the night before a big run. Well, these days this IS a big run. With over 20 miles and plenty of off roady, hilly stuff I knew I’d be out a while….. beany, cap, 2 buffs, running back pack, drinks bottles, oat bars, shot blocks, headtorch, base layer, t shirt, jacket……….
Straight down to the beach, passing a guy doing the walk of shame in the pouring rain, dressed in a teddy bear onesie. Past the people who’ve been camping under the pier for weeks, around the harbour and over the headland before heading inland. I really am enjoying getting back to running into the headtorch beam.
Through the lanes towards Stoke Gabriel, trying not to be spooked by sudden rustling of wildlife almost certainly being spooked by me. The rain had intensified by then but daylight was coming. There are so many little lanes and tracks to chose and I took a minor detour as some young cattle were less than impressed that the footpath goes straight across their early morning graze!
Through the hamlet of Aish and onto the green lanes towards Totnes. Despite the daylight I think the weather may have put off any early morning dog walkers meaning I had some lovely extended solitude until I arrived in Totnes.
The new path through the housing development is a welcome addition to this route and I added a further little loop to enjoy the river.
The route back towards Torbay takes in further green lanes, trails, paths, lots of lovely woodland and plenty of little ups and downs. After reaching Marldon, there are trails through Shorton Valley bringing me out withing a mile of home. This really is a fine route. In light of the state of the world around us, both our little world and the great big world, it is quite literally a breath (several in fact) of fresh air.
Anyone who is local or finds themselves in the area looking for some trail running – check out the route HERE.
I left home this morning thinking I’d maybe run a few local loops to trudge out a bunch of miles and tick that ‘long run’ box.
Luckily, I changed my mind as I closed the gate and watched my intrepid, half iron distance training, inspirational and quite beautiful lady wife Nicky, peddle off into the sunrise.
Planning to arrive home to coincide with her ‘transition’ to runner after her ride gave me 3 hours to play with. Regular readers (hello regular readers!) will be familiar with the term ‘dog run’ – a run where the route is determined by spur of the moment decisions or sudden urges to investigate new paths (as introduced by the lovely chaps on the Running Commentary Podcast)
So, to give you guys a break from my words….. 23 pictures (one from each mile) of todays run…
Nicky and I volunteered at Torbay Velopark Parkrun last week. We’ve participated in a couple lately and we found we were able to help this week.
We have an occasionally challenging, always active, FULL life and quite often we need to be exercising earlier than Parkrun’s 9am start in order to shoe horn our plans into a weekend.
Some tweeks to our life combined with a planned evening run meant we could help out for a change.
Anyway, there’s been some debate lately about where Parkrun sits in society, its role in the running community, in the community in general.
Parkrun issued its annual report recently and there has been many opinions shared online. Some issues which people have aired are with Parkrun management and its stated aims and others with individual events and maybe even individual personnel. Some people seem to have issues with the focus on participation rather than performance.
I recommend reading the report and attending a few Parkruns before forming your own opinions, but, despite a few negative vibes, the vast majority of people, in my experience, find Parkrun to be a positive in their lives. Like I say, it is certainly a passionate subject for all who treasure it for whatever reason.
Well I don’t think my role as a blogger is to be deciding who’s right or wrong. We all develop our opinions from somewhere and if someone feels passionately enough about Parkrun to have a strong opinion which they want to share, then surely that shows what a success Parkrun is.
I can only report what I find.
I have seen comments suggesting Parkrun should be all about effort levels and improving. For many people I’ve no doubt that the weekly timed events are purely about emptying the tank and trying to better their times. But for others, it might be simply a reason to get out of the door and be active. Maybe even, a focus to get out and socialise.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy running as fast as I can and comparing my times to previous efforts or to others in my age group.
But not always.
I’ve recently enjoyed more ‘chatty’ efforts and had just as much (if not more) fun in the process. I’ve also had the pleasure of running with my Step-Daughter and Grandson when they made their Parkrun debuts last year. My own Parkrun times range from 19 minutes to 50 minutes and I’ve enjoyed every single one of those minutes.
Personally I feel critics of the ‘easy’ efforts of others are in danger of quantifying their judgements in terms of finishing time rather than the effort levels they talk about.
Again, please don’t think I’m criticising Parkrun participants or volunteers for the way they choose to consume the weekly timed event.
Last week, I witnessed a very good friend, in her, shall we say ‘late middle age’, absolutely rinsing herself, squeezing every lost drop of effort out of her protesting limbs, as she passed my marshaling point, immediately after about 100m of deep squelchy mud.
She was trying so hard she could barely acknowledge me as she entered the last kilometre or so. I saw her after she finished and she was so spent and so emotional that she just burst into tears. “I’m trying so hard,” she sobbed, “I’m not getting any faster!”
She’s been running for about a year, hoping to compete in triathlons having developed a passion for open water swimming.
I also saw two younger chaps amongst the wonderful mass cross section of the community participating in the early morning sunshine. They were laughing and joking as they negotiated the terrain with ease and skipped passed me.
My thoughts turned to comments made about how, in some people’s opinions, Parkrun should be about trying as hard as possible and measuring improvement. If that truly were the case then these two chaps wouldn’t be classed as trying hard enough!
These speedy boys were first and second across the line on the day, both credited with a time of 18 minutes exactly. They had thoroughly enjoyed their runs and were possibly holding back a little despite their incredible speed.
Our friend finished about 30 minutes later. Spent.
A glance at the results from a purist might lead to the wrong conclusion about who was trying hardest to improve on the day.
As I say, I can only report what I see.
Marathon Talk, the podcast, is co- hosted by Tom Williams, the CEO of Parkrun and his enthusiasm for the rapidly expanding phenomenon is utterly infectious.
Parkrun is now in 17 countries and has started in prisons, South African townships, refugee communities and its self declared quest to be part of a healthier happier world is, to me, great to observe.
But, and here’s my “opinion”, YOUR Parkrun is whatever YOU get out of it. Whether you are tail walker, running 16 minutes, volunteering, writing up event reports, pushing a toddler in a buggy, it’s YOURS!
And who am I to tell you what experience you should get from Parkrun.
A new podcast, Free Weekly Timed, is asking each of its guests to describe what Parkrun means to them, in just three words.
The all time fastest ever Parkrunner and thoroughly lovely bloke, Andy Baddely, answered with “BLOODY GOOD FUN”!
Which is surely just perfect for something we do in our precious leisure time.
So, we’ve been having #baconsandwichfriday for a while now. Well, the best customer ever raised the bar this week….
Which was the perfect set up for a packed long weekend.
Regular readers (hello regular readers!) will know this, but for newcomers (hello newcomers!) the general gist of this blog is to share the tales of adventure of myself and my wonderful lady wife, Nicky. Aside from the many yarns spun about running (and cycling and swimming in Nicky’s case) there are accounts of the tears, frustrations, challenges, occasional comedy and heartbreak of being carers for Nicky’s dad, Frank.
There’s the occasional opinion, but we try and avoid politics, I wax lyrical about my pride and privilege of being a step dad to Nicky’s gorgeous daughters and proud grandad to the three rugrats.
But mostly, though, it is a vehicle for me to tell the world how utterly blessed I am to get to spend my life with the most beautiful, amazing, inspiring lady in the whole wide world.
The Bank Holiday weekend.
Nicky and I made our Parkrun volunteer debuts this week – I got to stand in some long wet grass and cheer close to 300 participants as they rounded the cones about 2.5 miles in to their runs. Nicky had THREE jobs, holding up the ’25 minute’ placard to help the start line organise itself, then directing the runners out into the field after their two laps on the Velopark tarmac before she rushed over to become a barcode scanner to ensure everyone gets allocated their finishing time.
A wonderful thing is that there Parkrun, and the team at Torbay Velopark Parkrun is rightly proud of the fabulous atmosphere they have created. This weeks run director, Roger (and everyone else we have met) was so courteous, informative and clear and it was a real pleasure to become part of their ‘team’.
It won’t be the last time we help out.
Said run director, Roger, was to feature a couple more times on our Saturday…… As I chose a lovely slab chocolate orange cake in a splendid nearby café a bit later, I heard his dulcet tones ordering himself a coffee too. We had another brief chat and then Nicky and I enjoyed our refreshments and sauntered home.
So that was the last we would see of Roger until……. Saturday afternoon…… we went to Pennywell Farm for the Pennywell Pursuit 10k at teatime, a THHN charity event. There was Roger, yet again donning a hi-viz ready to be tail runner for this great race.
Where WOULD local running be without Roger?
Wow what a lovely event. Nearly 6 miles of quite brutal terrain on what is normally private land. Everybody arriving back at the finish line concurred “THAT WAS REALLY HARD”
With a dead phone and dead running watch I enjoyed toeing the start line ‘naked’ of technology. Feeling strong, I lined up near the front for a change and catapulted myself into the first bend on the gravel path with the leaders.
I reckon I was with them for, oooo, 10, maybe even 11 meters before my gasping for air gave me the clue I needed to realise I was probably going too fast.
The route is relentlessly up and down, across hoof ravaged fields and gorgeous woodland trails. The beauty took my mind of the constant battle for footing and breath. I absolutely love this sort of running.
With the lead group gone I just ran as hard as I could and was only overtaken by 2 or 3 more athletic chaps before getting back to the farm for the ‘sprint’ to the finish.
It turns out I was 12th!!
Nicky charged in shortly afterwards and we enjoyed a lovely burger before firing up the mini for home.
A truly smashing event with about 150 runners. It was very well supported, in particular, by Torbay Athletic Club, it was good to catch up with Steve, a good trail running mate who was their mascot for the day….
Whilst Nicky took herself off for a million miles on the bike, I set off across my local park and through the sleeping BMAD festival to get on Paignton beach and join the coast path to Brixham. I was holding back the effort level with creaky legs from the previous night’s trials on the trails and half an eye on next week’s ‘long’ marathon (Pure Trail’s Race The Tide, check it out HERE) which meant I could simply enjoy this glorious route.
Once in Brixham I ran through the setting of their Pirate Festival as it recovered from its Saturday excesses and past a visiting Spanish galleon.
I enjoy the coast path so much I simply ran to the end of Brixham breakwater then turned around and ran home again the same way. Check out the run HERE
So I’d had my long run, showered and was busy cutting the grass when Nicky arrived back from her epic cycle declaring “I’m bricking it, are you coming?”
Well I could hardly decline and whipped off my gardening shorts, whipped on my running kicks and we whipped out for a 3 mile run. Check it out HERE
Nicky’s a month or so away from her Cotswold 113 half iron-distance triathlon you see, hence the Brick sessions.
Not satisfied with our exercise for the day we headed off to Stoke Gabriel with Charlie (the Border Terrier, another regular in the blog) and found a little hidey place by the river to sun ourselves. Charlie mostly preferred the shade though….
Amyway – on to Bank Holiday Monday.
We haven’t done an epic walk together for so long. We certainly put that right.
Roughly based on a loop I’d ran the previous week, we indulged ourselves in a 20 mile hike in the belting sunshine around the glorious South Devon countryside. The trails and quiet lanes were sparsely populated meaning we got to enjoy the wonderful landscapes on offer without the Bank Holiday masses.
I’d taken Charlie for a 3 mile jog before we went as the forecast temperatures and length of the walk wouldn’t have been much fun for the little fella. Check out Charlie’s run HERE
We were out for 9 hours. One of the billion reasons I love and cherish every second of my blessed life with Nicky is that time simply becomes irrelevant when we are together. We never tire of each others’ company and Nicky never fails to amuse me, entertain me, inspire me and challenge me and I am humbly devoted to being everything I possibly an be for her too.
We didn’t even fight over the Jelly Babies. Saying that, I have to prove I’ve only taken 3 after I’ve double checked how many she has in her hand! We’ve been known to chase each other across fields for a bite of a Cadbury’s Crème Egg if we feel we’re owed it!
Check out the walk HERE
Anyway. There’s my Big Blog for the Big Weekend
Something lovely from the internet you say?
How about the YouTube channel of a very old friend, Clint, still making lovely acoustic covers of lovely songs………
But you are a motor mechanics garage, I mean, you have ramps and spanners and overalls and things. AND you did the MOT test. AND you did the last MOT test. Interestingly, even though the car has barely moved between the two tests, it has failed on DIFFERENT ITEMS. None of which, apparently, are within your remit to repair. For money. I mean, if, for example, you asked me to fit a patio, you’d be surprised if I said “Yes, I can see you need some hard-core compacting, a blinding of sand, some paving slabs and a mix or two of mortar. That’ll be £50 please, give me a ring when you’ve laid it and if it still isn’t laid probably, I’ll have another look at it and that’ll be another £50 please. And you still won’t have a patio. Because, and let’s see if we can define our roles here, I’M A BUILDER AND YOU’RE A CAR MECHANIC!!!”
I thought giving the business to a local independent outfit, in the village where I am, amongst other things, laying a patio (that’s what I do, you see), I could avoid missing time off work and if the car had any apparently minor faults, I would give them the trade and employ them to carry out the repairs.
I’ve been told I’ve got to let it go now…….. AND burrreeeeeeve….
So that’s something I’m not loving this week.
Something I am into this week? How about the fantastic blog by speedy Welsh runner Russell Bentley. Check it out HERE. Russell is a super quick runner with a great story and a fantastic writer to boot. We’re very similar – we’re both builders, we both own SH!TE cars, we both write and keep blogs and we both love a bit of running……. Ok his best marathon time is an hour quicker than mine and he is a mere child by comparison. Finishing 2nd in The Chester Half a week after running 2.29 in The London Marathon, he is a proper old school gutsy performer.
And my own running, well, really happy and enjoying lacing up the pumps. I cajoled my aching, aging limbs (the sand barrowing has taken its toll this week, along with the usual erratic sleep patterns!) from the warm snuggly duvet den and headed off to try and squeeze in our ‘go to’ 10 mile route in before work.
I decided to try and average about 8 minutes per mile and set my watch to just show me average pace and time. I do find that when I set off intending to run at a ‘tempo’ I need to put a bit more effort in to start with to get my heart and lungs working and then they are less likely to object to the effort level as the run goes on.
A bit like in last week’s Parkrun (Blog HERE), I was surprised as I admired the reflection my gangly, random running gait in the shiny windows of the newly converted Tesco Express and then glanced at my watch, to discover I was averaging 7m15s per mile, and I know this is about a mile into the run.
“I wonder how long I can keep this up?” my sleepy brain asked, sending a challenge to my creaking joints. About 9 miles was the rather surprising reply. And I did. Easing off for the last mile but still returning home in time to steal a kiss from my beautiful lady wife before she headed out for her day of adventure. Yup. Winning this morning.
So our weekend is looking lovely and full, we’ve both put our names down to volunteer at Parkrun on Saturday morning. Then at tea time on Saturday we’re off to have a crack at the Pennywell Pursuit 10k. Hoping for a longish trail run on Sunday and I also need to try and mend the NEW faults for my jalopy’s latest attempt at getting an M. O. feckin’ T.
Oh, and I’ll tell you what else Nicky and I did this week. We went to a running group. I know!! With other people and everything! We’re becoming quite the gregarious social animals…..
There’s a new 24 hour gym opening soon, literally down the road from us. Whilst we’re not really ‘gym’ people, they have started a running group. So we jogged down there on Monday after work and enjoyed a really good session incorporating a warm up, some drills and core work, some short fast efforts, some easy running and longer efforts. A bit of stretching too. Trainer, Lewis, has gathered a lovely friendly and varied group together and made the hour work for everyone and it felt lovely and inclusive. If anyone is local to us and wants to try it out it’s free – check out their Facebook stuff HERE.
We’re planning an epic Bank Holiday walk on Monday so will probably miss next week’s running group and will try and hobble there the following week. We’re doing the RACE THE TIDE the previous day (Nicky doing the 16 mile ‘half’ whilst I attempt the 29 mile ‘marathon’). We did the half last year and had a fabulous time – read all about it HERE.