Pacing Parkrun

November 20, 2017

Pace20bI really enjoy pacing and in particular assisting people at my local Parkrun. I’m approaching my 100th and of the 91 runs around Heaton Park I’ve paced or guided runners at over half of them.

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For the last few years pacing bibs have been available ranging from 19 to 45 minutes and that 20 minute one feels like it’s mine as I’ve hit 20 minutes exactly 16 times and recorded 19 other finishes within a couple of seconds of the target time. The 20 minute kilometre splits are etched in my brain: 3:30, 7:30, 11:30 & 15:45. I ensure I’m no faster than those splits and try to keep within 5 seconds of them. The first kilometre is all downhill and starting from a position near the front of the field of 600+ keeps you out of heavy traffic to run your own race. I also bank some time to deal with our biggest climb in the 4th km as well as keeping a reserve for the final kilometre when we’re all tiring. A 20 minute time can give me a finish anywhere between 15th and 40th place so I have to watch that on the busier and more competitive weeks I’m not swept along too quickly.

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I run other paces too: The first time I ran with my visually impaired mate Danny I guided him to his first sub 30 minute time. Five runs and five PBs later we’re down under 25 minutes. I also helped my daughter a couple of years ago when she was looking for her first sub 30 minutes, she reveled in a quicker start and we took her best to under 28 minutes in one go. I promise I wasn’t dragging her along, I let her dictate the pace but she dug in so deep for the hill climb, refusing to back off, and still had enough for a sprint finish. That’s my girl!

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I’ve run a couple of quicker ones too but without the shackles of a bib, helping teenager Stefan break 19 mins for the first time on his 100th run and a year later he’s now beyond my assistance as his best is 10 seconds better than mine; maybe he could return the favour sometime?  My quickest PB ‘pacing’ was with Chris on his 100th. He smashed it that day leaving me for dead in the last straight, making me wonder whether I was really needed, if felt like he was he just playing with me.

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I’ve run along side Henk, Matt, Hayley, Jamie, Paul and Craig as they have claimed their first sub 20. The run with Paul was particularly successful as 5 people went under 20 minutes for the first time that morning and Paul, who stuck to me like glue throughout, took over a minute off his previous best time. Pacing Hayley was sweet enabling me to return a favour as her mum had paced my son to 30 minutes earlier in the year.

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The better I know the people I’m with, and their recent form, the more I can help them but on any occasion my intimate knowledge of the course (I literally know it backwards!) is worth a few seconds to the newer runners. If those around me have decided they’re up for it, trust my judgement and are happy to attack the first kilometre then anything’s possible.

Last weekend I ran with club mate Mike after pacing him at Lancaster Half. I’ve watched him improve massively at different distances over the last few months and wasn’t surprised when he took 25 seconds off his best. Now I’m plotting how to trim another 50 seconds to take him under 20 as well.

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Obviously I’m not giving anyone a piggy back here, it’s them that’s doing their own running, but I can’t remember a time I’ve failed to improve someone’s Heaton Park PB when we’ve both set out to do that.

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I think I started pacing to duck out of pushing myself as hard as possible on a Saturday morning. I only go for it when I feel on top form which is not very often. I wish I had as much confidence in my own ability as I have in others, some of whom I’m meeting for the first time at 8:58 on a Saturday morning. I love feeding off the energy and delight of Parkrunners setting their own personal bests as the event is about improving yourself rather than racing and battling for positions. I’ve managed to improve my 10k best a couple of times this year and that felt brilliant, especially at my age. Parkrun gives me more regular fixes of that magical buzz even if it’s a bit of a 2nd hand emotion.

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Could I go any faster?

September 19, 2017

I improved my best 10k time by a further 40 seconds last weekend at the Bury 10k. This event was held for the first time last year and since it was popular with runners at our club it was put into the club championship’s calendar for 2017.  Having set my previous best back in April, descending and climbing out of Boggart Hole Clough 3 times in the Manchester Frontrunner’s Piece of Cake race, I knew there was scope for improvement on a flatter course. I was looking forward to Bury.

Bury was much flatter but with a gentle descent out of the town centre in the first 2km this gradient had to be faced on the return. A steady nagging climb when you’re obviously at your most tired.

Training had gone well though I’d struggled to shift a few pounds in the weeks leading up to the race. In desperation I’d stopped drinking alcohol in the last week and took to chia seeds as well as beetroot daily. I think it’s as much about cutting out snacks and junk food than it is eating superfoods but the dry chia seeds are easy enough to throw over porridge. I’d read that it’s better to soak the seeds first but this resulted in a frogspawn jelly like texture which was less appealing.

My weekly mileage had dropped since earlier in the year and things were generally aching less as a result. I’d run a quick 10k after work just over a week before the race, the fastest I’ve ever run in an evening. I always find it harder than morning running. I knew I was up for a PB but I didn’t know by how much.

The event had a big race feel with barriers through the pedestrianised Bury Rock but wasn’t too big as to seem awkward. There were 1600 runners and not many in the sub 40 minute pen of the graded starting grid.

I had my eye on someone to pace me through the first half of the race. I just wanted to keep him in sight and lift me to 18 minutes at the halfway point, but I’d misjudged how hard he’d trained for the race and within a kilometre I knew I’d be silly to chase him as he charged on to finish in 3rd position. I made the most of the 2km of downhill then settled to a pace that I hoped to sustain for the remainder of the race. A gap between me and a couple of runners ahead opened which it didn’t look like I would ever close again and a cluster of 4 gathered behind me. Some of this cluster were going to finish in the top 10 but not all of us would.

Heading down Dumer’s lane towards Radcliffe I made my first attempt to shake off some of the group but to no avail.  I think the photo below is my 2nd attempt buoyed by some Prestwich AC supporters, but heading back along Bury Road the gap closed again and then a couple drifted past me.

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I lifted my pace again to return to the front of the group but then around 6km I saw the ominous sight of club-mate Dan running along side me. We have both improved this season, I finished ahead of him at Piece of Cake but he beat me a few weeks back at a 5k distance where previously I’d been the quicker whilst Dan is much stronger at Half Marathons. I always start quick and fade, Dan often runs negative splits. This wasn’t looking good.

I re-took the lead from Dan as we crossed the Irwell, showing off to some other Prestwich supporters, and then as I saw the straight steady climb to Parkhills garage ahead I decided I’d gradually up my pace from that point rather than chance a head to head sprint battle. Into the last km I was again leading the pack of 5 but dared not look over my shoulder to seem as concerned as I really was. I had energy left and the legs were not stinging too much but the heart and lungs were feeling laboured. As we arrived at Silver St the first of the chasing group passed me making a strong surge for home, I couldn’t respond with 500m still left to cover. Then a 2nd blue vest passed me as we reached the pedestrianised area. I was speeding up, but not quickly enough. Finally Chris’s turquoise vest flashed past me in the last 10 metres (taking first V45 honours from me!) but I just held off Dan who finished with identical gun time and chip time to me. That’s the closest finish I’d ever been involved in. I’m not sure I could have run it any better so was very satisfied with 11th overall and 37:29. Can I go any faster? I’m not sure I want to find out any time soon.

I might have a little go at improving my Parkrun 5km PB and see if I can break the 80% age grading barrier whilst I’m still in shape but other than that I’m going to back off the forwards speed and increase my off road endurance and my backwards speed in preparation for next year’s Retro World Championships. I’d prefer to try to improve on my 55 minute retro 10k PB instead.

Running 10k

May 7, 2017

I think 10k is now my favourite running distance. Most of my 5ks have been at Heaton Parkun and there’s a feeling that I can just bluff that distance by blasting off through the first km and then hanging on for 15 minutes. I don’t yet know how to handle a half marathon and the hanging on strategy definitely doesn’t work there. I need more patience and the ability to pace myself and maybe even raise my speed, but that’s all alien to me. The 10k sits between the two and at the start of this year it was the distance I had most scope for improving.

I’d set a PB on a far from flat Burnley 10k course last October, particularly enjoying the 4k descent to the finish line. This again suited my go off hard and hang on approach. Last weekend the club were competing at Manchester Forerunner’s It’s a piece of cake 10k which was a triple loop course around Boggart Hole Clough. There was a sharp down in the first km, just too steep to be comfortable, taking us to a stream running through the valley. Yet again, with another silly fast start, I found myself 2nd in a field of 300 having completed 10% of the course. That obviously wasn’t going to last but I convinced myself I had to take advantage of the downhill and put my Prestwich AC rivals under some pressure. Club mate Rob came past me soon after that but I’d opened up a good gap between myself and 3rd place and that morning the club points were paramount with a personal best being a secondary objective. I’d been feeling good over the last few weeks, kept the weight off and run a 5k PB about a month earlier so I hoped to do well. I slipped gently back through the field to 11th but at a little out and back section I noticed my lead over the 3rd PAC runner was increasing on each lap. I struggled up the climb out of the valley for the third time (as did everyone else it seems) and on reaching the 9km sign I worked out that with a final push I might even finish under 38 minutes, over 40 seconds faster than my best at Burnley. This spurred me on and I retook 10th position. The place was to be contested though and it changed hands a couple more times before we hit the final straight where sadly I could see the official clock moving toward 38 mins. I wasn’t going to make it, so feeling a little dejected, I let the place slip one final time and crossed the finishing line just one second behind the runner from Altrincham.

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Unfortunately I was later to find that he beat me to the V45 bottle of white wine and the opportunity to get a big hug from the Lord Mayor of Manchester (who ran the course in about 55 minutes). A lesson learned the hard way. Never ever back off!

38:09 on a far from flat course was excellent and should be improved further at the September Bury 10k. That “Piece of Cake” race was the 2nd of 5 events in just 11 days. The first race was a virtual one when I guided Danny through 10k around Heaton Park.

After completing the Wilmslow half Danny got bitten by the distance running bug and fueled by an unquenchable desire for medals he has been firing through to me details of various actual and virtual races to compete in. The 10k we ran in Heaton Park 11 days ago was for Virtual Runthrough who have monthly competition where you submit evidence of having run 5k, 10k, 10 miles or half marathon. They then put you on to a leader-board and send you a medal. The virtual aspect of the event suits us as we can chose a local and familiar route at a convenient time and we don’t have to deal with crowds.

The route I chose was the former UK backwards running championship course in the park which is a triangle of just over a mile. This would mean 6 laps with a significant climb in each so it was a challenging although familiar route. We finished 10k in about 52 minutes which was a PB and put Danny on course for going sub 50 at the big Manchester 10k that he is running to raise money for Henshaws at the end of this month.

The next virtual race was a novelty charity 5k with Virtual Running and we chose to do this 3 legged around the Heaton Parkrun course. I used an old pair of Catriona’s tights and we linked arms finding that after a few initial wobbly strides we hit a rhythm and completed the course in 26 minutes only 90 seconds away from Danny’s PB. We attracted a bit of attention doing this and had half a dozen kids chasing us towards the end like the scene from Rocky on the streets of Philadelphia.

Today’s 10k was the best race of the lot. Back in Heaton Park we did two 5k loops along some familiar sections and some less well known bits of the park. We started quick but took it steady on the first climb, parallel to our beloved ‘Angina Hill’ though not as long. After that we turned right down a long smooth slope towards the entrance to the golf course before turning sharp left to make the longest and steepest climb of the course. Once the climbing was done we looped around the last section of the Parkrun course in reverse and then down the main drive which is the wide, smooth and much loved quick first 1km of the Parkrun. At the halfway point we were around 25 minutes but I expected us to slow and set Danny’s expectations at breaking 51 minutes rather than going below the magical 50.

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He was comfortable and ache free though got a stitch after taking on water at the start of the 2nd lap. Once he’d run the stitch off I had a plan for us to attack the first hill knowing that a downhill followed straight after it giving us time to recover. This worked a dream and we passed 5 people on that climb. We held them off on the down-hill and halfway down the descent I felt Danny’s speed pick up again. The long climb on the second lap was a slog but again we picked off a couple of places from others who were finding it harder. Once into the last km I could see there was a chance of us breaking 50 minutes. Danny accelerated down the main drive putting on an extra spurt when he heard a couple of friends from our club cheering us on. There was a short climb in the last couple of minutes which we attacked again and then a final downhill to the finish. The inflatable finish arch was at the end of a loop and as the clock approached 50 seconds we both put everything into a spectacular sprint finish.  The photos have certainly captured us in full flight!

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Of all the races over the last couple of weeks that one felt the most special. It was a shared experience, one we had both worked hard towards but above all we had paced it evenly and executed to perfection. Danny does amazing work as an ambassador for Henshaws where he inspires others to live a full and independent life. If you’d like to sponsor his Manchester 10k at the end of this month his just giving page is here.

Guiding Danny around Wilmslow

March 23, 2017

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It felt fabulous to guide Danny through his first half marathon though that feeling wasn’t there instantly as we crossed the finish line at Wilmslow. The race was well organised, routed, marshaled and supported. It was chip timed, with excellent pace runners, it had a bag drop off area, tempting post race food and beer available and a post race massage tent but the only down side was that it finished on a rough, narrow track by the side of a corn field. This wouldn’t normally be such a problem but when you’re responsible for guiding someone who’s tired, wet and cold and you don’t quite know which way is back to somewhere sheltered suddenly you’re on edge and tense among the crowds of finishers and supporters when you’d really like to collapse and relax yourself. Danny was picking up fliers for other half marathons whilst at that point in time I was much less enthused by the prospect of another 13 miles at any time in the future. On finishing I suddenly realised how physically drained I felt as well as being a bit mentally frazzled.

Our training had gone really well and other than getting locked in Heaton Park one evening after dusk, it had passed without incident. Busy weekends with our respective families left us short of daylight for training but as the days lengthened so did our runs with an excellent final run just short of 20k that Danny rounded off with a sprint finish down his street.

We had very welcome and helpful company on the day of the race with me picking up Rob and Sol before Danny. It all felt a bit Ocean’s Eleven as I rounded up a North Manchester posse to do a job on Wilmslow’s streets. Rob worked in Wilmslow and I was grateful that he navigating us there in good time relieving me of some race day stress. Rob is the current quickest guy in our running club and amazingly broke 80 minutes in only his 2nd half marathon. Sol managed a 4 minute PB as well and helpfully lead us off from an elevated position on the graded starting grid halfway between the 1:30 and 1:40 markers.

As we set off Sol opened up a space in front of us and then as the field settled there was a steady succession of people passing us. A block of runners overtook us at the 3 mile point bunched behind the 1:45 pacer and then a 2nd wave behind the 1:50 pacer passed at 6 miles. This was a bit more troublesome as it was on the narrowest section of the course, a country lane riddled with potholes. The body of runners made it harder for me to see the road immediately ahead and I couldn’t stop Danny from stumbling a couple of times. He didn’t want to stop although we could afford to as we’d banked some time against our 2 hour target by running the first 10k in 53:30.

The last 4 miles were tough and I suggested he count them down by ‘visualizing’ the distance remaining in relation to somewhere familiar like Heaton Parkrun. As we passed the 9 mile mark I’d remarked that we had less than one and a half Parkruns to go and explained that as I get into the later stages of the race I busy my mind with conversions between miles, kilometres and percentages to find the figure that makes the distance seem shortest. Having mentioned ‘visaulizing’ I instantly realized that wasn’t going to help Danny, bearing in mind his impairment, but maybe he could relate the last 5k to our Parkrun’s turns and gradients as I compared our actual position to various virtual points on the course which we have run together numerous times over the last few months. I’m not sure if that helped him as Danny had gone a bit quiet and was digging deep to ignore some niggling leg pain caused by an over-excited cross trainer session in the gym. We conquered the most significant climb cruelly positioned just after the 12 mile point but once that was out of the way there was a gradual downhill to the end with crowds building as we returned to Wilmslow. You’ll notice from the photo above that I was struggling as much as Danny and we were both delighted to get to the finish line.

A few days later I’m feeling more satisfied with what we’ve done. Danny smashed his target time and is keen to run again. We’ve learned loads along the way to make sure the next race is easier although knowing Danny he’ll be pushing even harder next time.

 

Nevous?

February 26, 2017

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I didn’t think today mattered that much so when I woke up feeling bobbins I was annoyed and disappointed rather than putting it down to nerves. I hadn’t drunk to excess the previous evening (though I had drunk obviously) and felt like I’d slept well but I’d woken up with a hang-over like sickly feeling in the stomach and the head. Had I picked up a cold at just the wrong time?

Today did matter though, my first Prestwich AC club run of the year after ducking a half marathon in Cheshire which wouldn’t have been in my comfort zone so soon after Christmas. The Radcliffe AC Terry Nortley 10 mile trail race had given a pleasant and useful focus to my winter training taking me out of Prestwich into the Irwell valley and although I hadn’t spotted any deer this year during my Sunday training runs I’d enjoyed those runs and the resulting improvement in my fitness levels. I’d worked hard to lose some weight and noticed the benefit of this in my climbing and a quick Parkrun last weekend confirmed I was in the best February form of my life.

This morning the stomach was churning and my head had a cold like fogginess. I really didn’t want to get out of bed. A couple of miles early doors before a bit of porridge was the plan but no, not today. No running early this morning despite decent weather for February. I couldn’t stomach the instant porridge either so skipped it and went straight to the pre-race energy gels and to be fair lack of energy wasn’t a problem today.

As soon as I started running all the fears and worries evaporated. As usual I started too quick and being at the sharp end I was swept along in the top 10 where I was never going to stay. I felt comfortable at the time and thought I was running within myself but those first 5k were a bit too quick. I swapped places with about 4 other guys through that first period and when my club companion Dan pushed past me I tried to stick with him, trusting in his dependable pace and strength in the second half of a race. I couldn’t keep with him and finished over a minute behind consolidating a solid 3rd position within the club but there’s no doubt he helped me along for a while before I knew the gap was never to be reduced.

I’ve spoken to my kids about nerves a few times (before pushing them into a performance in front of their school mates or Church congregation) and I’ve told them that they should view it as ‘excitement’; a sign that what they are about to do matters and they care about it, which is obviously a good thing. It might be semantics but excitement is a positive term whereas nervousness is less so. I should have been telling myself this today. It might not have gained me any positions but changed my whole attitude to an event which was executed to perfection by Radcliffe AC. I love the Terry Nortley 10 mile trail race and next year I vow to look forward to it and revel in the joy of such an excellent race on my doorstep.

Let them eat cake

February 15, 2017

cakeThe photo above represents my 2017 weight loss in assorted baking materials. I’ve done well so far and I’m definitely feeling the benefits with quicker runs coming easily without pushing myself any harder than I’ve done before.

I’m the lightest I’ve been in my adult life and some cheap scales from Aldi are ensuring that my loss is fat and not muscle mass. I’m pretty sure I’m lighter than Ricky Hatton and well on my way to dropping down another weight division.

Exercise wise I’m doing plenty but no more than in previous years. All my runs have a purpose with a 10 mile trail race at the end of this month looming. Training with Danny is upping the mileage a bit but there’s only 1 other social/recovery run in the week all the others are stretching my endurance, speed or strength. I’ve cycle commuted every day this year so far (weather has been kind) but there’s been no additional cycling for pleasure.

I’ve lost weight mostly through improving my diet and watching the quantities I eat. I hadn’t completely blown out over Christmas and hadn’t drunk too much either but with a new year and the annual resolve to improve myself, I finally managed to quit the office vending machine which I’d visit 2 or 3 times a day. A timely desk move has put me at a healthier end of the office where we have a fruit club and I’m now a short walk from the designated office cake and sweet sharing area. I didn’t go dry for January but cut back and even had to lie at a recent health checkup when I could only count up 8 units consumed that week. It seemed a bit pathetic and atypical so I rounded up my weekly estimate to 15 units (still a healthy reduction from 25 that had been put on record some time in the distant past).

There’s been no sweets, chocolate or crisps over the last 6 weeks but I’ve not cut out cake. Cake is the food of love, it shows you care whether that’s for a charity cause, your co-workers, friends or family.  We have plenty of office bake excuses for charity, product releases and birthdays as well as chocolaty treats from colleagues in the Polish office and there’s no escape at home either. One of Catriona’s colleagues lavishes her office with Friday cakey/deserty treats that she struggles to consume so it’s often brought back to me. Maria, a long time cake lover, has recently taken to baking; she had cakes to make as food tech homework at the start of the week, is currently making iced buns for friends to celebrate her 12th birthday tomorrow and will be taking orders for cakes over the next couple of weeks as she raises money for her Scout troop. There’s always bits of stuff that need me to perform a Quality Assurance role. But it’s about quality and not quantity and my Jamaica ginger cake scoffing days will remain in the past.

So rather than just letting them eat cake, let’s all eat cake, but share the cakey love wide and far, making sure our portions are moderate and that we savour every mouthful and morsel.

Training for the Wilmslow Half

February 11, 2017

dannyDanny and I are booked in for the Wilmslow Half Marathon next month, which will be his first half, and up until Thursday evening I was concerned that our preparation was a little off track. We’ve run together at least once a week over the last couple of months but haven’t fallen into a particularly strict routine. Our 5k Parkrun times are tumbling even though we’re still struggling with the congested start and losing about 50 places that we retake in the first kilometre. It would be good to keep ahead of the main body of the field and as we get closer to 25 minutes we should find it easier at the start even if we’re blowing a bit at the end.

I was aware that we only have 6 weeks to the race and due to one reason or another hadn’t even covered half distance yet. Midweek running has to be done on pavement as Heaton Park closes too early for us. In 2 or 3 week’s time we might be able to go back in the park before sunset but for now we’ve been contending with tree-root distorted pavements and kerbs around the streets close to Danny’s house.

This week I told Danny we’d try to run 10k which is 4k longer than our previous longest run and he wasn’t fazed by this. Danny’s fitness has improved with cardio sessions in the gym in addition to our runs and since buying new trainers hasn’t felt any niggles in his legs. Thursday evening was fresh without being freezing, it was dry and windless too. I took a while to settle and relax as we covered some pavements new to us. Danny could sense the tension in my voice especially as I met him after cycling straight from work, but the stresses and frustrations of the day melted away as the miles ticked by. As usual we chatted as straight uninterrupted pavements allowed and despite going beyond what we’d done before I realised that our pace was not dropping. We ended up covering 13 kilometres and he finished with a sprint down the middle of his road resulting in his last kilometre being his quickest. I was delighted! If only my own training runs could be so successful!

Danny has a steely determination that makes you feel like nothing is impossible. It’s inspirational. I can’t wait until we run midweek in the park again and without the Parkrun crowds around us we can push hard along the familiar wide paths and who knows what he can do!

Back in the groove

January 15, 2017

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After the last race of 2016 I backed off a bit, still running fairly frequently but reducing speed and distance. The only constant was my Saturday morning Parkrun where I’ve paced 20 minutes pretty much to the second over the last couple of months. My first Prestwich AC race of the season will be a 10 mile trail race at the end of February which I’m starting to build to now.

With a new year the usual resolutions are made and I’m proud to say I haven’t visited the office vending machine yet in 2017. I’ve cycle commuted every day and added a quick midweek evening 10k into my week. The house is finally clear of Christmas treats, we’re eating more vegetables and drinking a bit less and as a consequence a few pounds have slipped away and I’m feeling less sluggish.

The retro-running has returned too! Just a bit of it and probably more of a retro-jog than a run. It’s convenient to squeeze in a mile lap of the old UK Championship course prior to Parkrun-ing and as the Heaton Parkrun was cancelled this weekend due to ice I had time to do a couple of laps. As I was running I spotted the quickest 5k runner I know who was doing some mile intervals in the same part of the park as me. I finished my 2nd lap just as Joe was finishing his session and I felt like I had to explain what I was up to. I pointed out we’d raced against each other when I’d finished a few places (and a good few minutes!) behind him at a 5k race in September and then explained the significance of the route I’d been running. He was interested in the times that were possible so I moved on from my own ability to quoting some of the current retro world records to him.

I found out recently that Aaron, the American I raced against in Germany, had just broken the mile record taking it down to 5:54. I pointed out that in his prime Aaron could run it forwards in just over 4 minutes so some decent athletes were taking it seriously.

The date has been set for the next World Championship meeting in Dublin and I’m hoping that there might be a UK Championship held this year down near London. I’m not training for either of those just yet but that little bit of retro-running should be helping my fitness and complementing some longer and quicker forward runs over the next 6 weeks.

If anyone fancies giving Retro-running or Retro-jogging a go I’ll be down by the boating lake around 8:30 on Saturday mornings.

My running year 2016

December 29, 2016

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It’s been an awesome year of running. I’ve clocked up over 1,000 miles, improved my 10k PB and enjoyed both guide running and pacing at the local Parkrun. Trophy wise I claimed the Prestwich AC V40 Championship title and become a (veteran) World Champion Retro-runner.

I enjoyed Prestwich AC’s inaugural off road championship which I lead for a while until the longer and tougher runs played to the advantage of our more experienced fell runners. Next year I’ll look to challenge myself with longer events further from my comfort zone and will finally use in anger some of the waterproof kit I’ve amassed over the last year. There will be less worrying about speed and positions and I’ll hope to enjoy more of the scenery together with that post run sense of achievement when you might not have been smiling too much during the race.

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Soon to be overtaken at the Lee Mill fell race

In the main Prestwich AC championship I missed a few races early in the season including a couple which would’ve suited me well. I was playing catch up on the points table and although I was disappointed not to have improved on my half marathon time at Lancaster on a course flatter than the previous year I did enough to claim the newly created V40 title at this last race of the season.

The 6th World Retro-Running Championships held at Essen in July have probably provided me with a pinnacle to my athletic career. Standing on a podium to claim the veteran’s bronze in the 3km justified my trip Germany. The next day I topped this by taking the veteran’s silver for 5km in front of my family who had come out to join me on the Saturday.

The gold medal and chance to sing the National Anthem whilst holding a flag aloft was as amazing as it was unexpected. I hadn’t specifically trained for that half marathon race and had covered that distance 12 minutes quicker previously but on the day with the conditions and competitive field as they were I found that I had what was required to win. The date of the next Championship meet in Dublin has just been announced and I’ll be keen to defend my title. That’s still 18 months away so next year I’ll be able to concentrate on the forwards running and maybe do a bit of cycling and a triathlon too.

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My gold medal that gets taken out around Prestwich village all too often

Pacing has been fun this year. I love running the Heaton Parkrun and have paced a few people to PBs around the course that I know and love. I’ve worn the 20 vest for the last 7 weeks and can now hit that target time to the second. When I haven’t been in the vest I’ve guided a visually impaired runner to his best and also claimed first runner home on the 7th birthday run. This was my fastest 5km of the year, 10 seconds slower than in 2015 but I hadn’t really looked to improve my best times other than my 10k.

At the start of the year my fastest 10k was a trail run so I knew that could be improved upon. Our club championship race at Burnley gave me a chance to reduce it and as 4 runners from my club set off together at a similar pace if felt like we were initially supporting each other. It was far from flat but the climbs being early in the course left 4km of gentle downhill to help me when normally I’d be fading. I took my PB below 39 minutes and I’d hope to improve that further in 2017 on a flatter course.

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When in Burnley: Post 10k recovery including a Bene-bomb in the Miner’s Social Club

Guiding a visually impaired runner called Danny has been the most rewarding bit of the year. We met at Parkrun and on the first outing I was determined to take him under 30 minutes for the first time. We have since improved that by a couple of minutes and enjoyed meeting in the Park at other times. We tried a street run together for the first time earlier in the month and although it was incident free I think we’d both rather be back in the familiar and safe surroundings of Heaton Park. We’ve mentioned doing a half marathon together and I’m due to meet with Danny for a pint so we’ll get a date fixed and put it into my 2017 calendar which might not be as spectacular as 2016 but looks to be even busier.

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Parkrun guide running with Danny

 

 

2016 Results:

Ashurst Beacon fell run 39/167

Terry Nortley 10 mile trail run 25/263

Rivington Pike fell race 39/264

Mount Famine fell race 34/141

Eddie’s Revenge fell race 21/132

7th Birthday Heaton Parkrun 18:03 1/621

Royton Trail race 22/171

World Retrorunning Championships 3k 14:27 Bronze M1 (Vet 40)

World Retrorunning Championships 5k 24:10 Silver M1 (Vet 40)

World Retrorunning Championships Half Marathon 2:09:58 Gold M1 (Vet 40)

Lee Mill fell run 21/97

Stan Curran birthday 5k 10/108

Burnley Fire 10k 7/200 PB of 38:46

Lancaster half marathon 21/442

 

Guide Running

December 20, 2016

I’ve really enjoyed guiding Danny, a visually impaired runner over the last few months and on Friday evening we finally stepped out from the safety of Heaton Park to run along streets for the first time.

Danny is a regular and improving runner, over the years he’s played football, cricket and more recently goalball. He ran the Manchester 10k last year and I’d love to do the Half Marathon with him next year if he’s willing to give it a crack. We met at Heaton Park’s Parkrun after they put out a request for a guide around the 5km course. Obviously I knew the route very well, some might say backwards and I think that particular experience gives me empathy towards VI runners as retro-runners become more sensitive than most to changes in terrain, inclines, camber, potholes and dogs. Danny and I got along well, dealt with the usual crowd of over 500 runners and set a respectable time which obviously I was keen to smash the next time we ran together.

The Run England group I meet with on Monday evenings booked me onto a Visually Impaired guide runner course at the athletics facility next to the Ethiad. It was interesting, practical and good fun too. I was paired with a Chorlton runner and we took it in turns to put on an eye mask and help each other to negotiate an obstacle course and laps of the indoor 200m track before moving outside to deal with the 400 metre track together with the steps and grassy areas around the small stadium. It was a pity I didn’t have Strava switched on to capture a pacy 400m lap when I dragged my poor sighted guide partner around the track towards the end of our session when my blind confidence was sky high.

After the course we were to get a DBS check and then register on a pairing website to match up guides with people who would like to be guided. However, I already had a partner and although I’d be happy to run with others on Monday evenings in Heaton Park my commitment to Danny means that wouldn’t want to find another regular partner. The course taught me that communication and mutual trust were the keys to safe and successful guide running. Danny and I have got that in abundance.

And so to our first street run, which was completely unplanned and in the dark to boot. I was to meet Danny at 5pm on my way home from work at the Middleton Road entrance to Heaton Park. As I was locking my bike a security guard was driving out and closing up for the night so I had to move it to the other side of the gate. We normally run 6 or 7 km around the park taking in parts of the Parkrun course, but it wasn’t to be this time. The hastily assembled plan B would be some pavement running avoiding street lights, bus shelters, road signs, bollards and dealing with kerbs. The obvious route was towards Middleton following the wall of the park, across the M60 and then turning left up Heywood Old Road which was a bit of a climb but had no left turns along it for over 1 kilometre.

Danny has some vision and can make out shapes due to differences in light and dark but on coming headlights and the sudden changes in contrast meant that our run in the dark was to be far more challenging than normal. He was putting a lot of trust in me and we just about got through the 35 minutes without incident. We developed a countdown strategy for going up and down kerbs and we adapted to me switching to run on Danny’s unfamiliar left hand side. We both like to chat as we run but without the relaxed and familiar surroundings of the park there were times when we needed to shut up and concentrate. At the end of the 5k run Danny had only clipped one lamp post with an elbow though immediately after finishing I forgot to warn him about a kerb I let him step off. No tumbles but room for improvement and I’d definitely run that route again. In the new year I hope we can go to the Prestwich AC monthly track nights and safely inject a bit more pace into our running and then maybe increase the distance as the evenings come lighter and we can return to the safety of the park where our only concern is for dogs running free.

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