The Day I Went To Inverness – Inverness Half Marathon 2019

Wow! What a day! This was a truly memorable day, not in the same way as when I last ran this race in 2017 but one I won’t forget anyway. The day had everything – heavy snow on the drive there, strong winds and rain during the race then heavy snow and blue skies on the drive home.

When I ran this race in 2017, I smashed my PB with a time of 1:29:06 and I was looking forward to going back there again this year. Allison decided to stay at home and go for a run from there so I jumped in the car and headed north just after 8am. The journey usually takes 2 hours and with a 12.30pm start, it’s fine for a drive up on the day although for next time, I may just take the train up and look for a cheap hotel to stay overnight like a few guys I’d spoken to.

I wasn’t far out of Perth when the snow started and it didn’t take long to get heavier, not enough to close the road but enough to cause problems. There was one point where I seemed to be the only person driving north and pulled in to the side to check that the race was still on. Curiously, once I got near Aviemore, the snow had stopped and the road was clear the rest of the way. I parked up in the city centre and walked across to the Sports Centre to registration.

Lovely conditions for a drive to a race!

They organisation of this race is very good (same organisers as Loch Ness Marathon) and they’d sent out an email at the end of last week with an update on the weather forecast and advice on what to wear for the cold temperatures. I wore a base layer under my new vest, my new shorts bought after my recent chafing problems and made sure to pack some gloves as my fingers get really bad in the cold.

My new running vest 🙂

It seemed quite nice just before the start apart from the wind. I was getting a sense that this wasn’t going to be the day for PBs! I followed the strategy from 2017 of ignoring everyone else and settling into my own rhythm. I had wanted to try to go sub 1:30 again but my runs over the last week or two suggested that may be unlikely. My ‘A’ goal was sub 1:30, my ‘B’ goal was to get as close to 1:30 as possible and my ‘C’ goal was to go sub 1:35.

The first mile was done in 6:44 and I thought I might be on for my ‘A’ goal but when I went through mile 2 in 7:05, I knew ‘A’ was unlikely and so it would be ‘B’ or ‘C’. The wind started to pick up along with the visit of some rain. As we headed out of Inverness, the incline increased and my pace decreased and I stuck to my plan of feeling in control knowing I could speed up at any time. I was able to pick up the pace in miles 6 and 7, even got a Strava PR on a segment during mile 6!

There was a large turnout from Perth Road Runners for this race as the start of their Championship series and so I tried to pick out some green vests along the way to keep me going. Apart from a couple in the first few hundred yards, I could spot only one ahead of me that I had any realistic chance of catching. Lenny had got out of sight at the start but I managed to spot him in the distance from mile 4. I wanted to try to catch him but wasn’t going to do anything daft to do it and so I was happy go with the flow and see what happened.

I could see the distance getting shorter between miles 6 and 7 but it didn’t help that we seemed to be mostly running into a headwind, especially when we hit downhill sections! I kept things steady as we made our way round a residential area and spotted a glorious opportunity to pass Lenny on the downhill just after mile 9. I leaned forward and went for it, passing a few people along the way. This was a great adrenaline rush!

When we got to the bottom of the hill, we were back on the flat and heading back into Inverness. There would be no more uphills, only downhills and I knew I could speed up even more. I took a gel before we got to the water station. The water was served in cups, which is a great thing for races, but still needs a bit more practice for people like me who still seems to choke when taking a sip! I followed my usual water station strategy of taking a sip to rinse out my mouth, a sip to swallow and pour the rest down the back of my neck. I had a moment where I knew I was a runner as I poured water down the back of my neck even though it was raining!

We were soon into the last couple of miles and onto the riverside in Inverness. This is always the hardest bit of the Loch Ness Marathon for me as when you approach this section, you can hear the announcer at the finish line just the other side of the river but you’ve still got over a mile to go to get there. We crossed the bridge in the centre of Inverness and began the last mile and a bit to the finish. This also coincided with another stretch of running into a headwind. The race is hard enough without that in the closing stages!

The last bit of this race is entering the athletics stadium through some trees and a trail path where we’d get halfway up one side, hit 13 miles then just get round the final bend to the finish. I was tired but my legs seemed to remember the sessions I used to do on the track late last year and so when I passed mile 13, I started to speed up. I moved away from the guy who was beside me for the last few miles and with 2 guys ahead of me, I stepped up the pace as we hit the home straight and ‘flew’ past them on my way to the finish.

When I say ‘flew’, in my head it was a glorious sprint but I suspect to anyone watching, I was the only one not to slow down even more!

Finished!

The great thing about this race is getting the official time straightaway after crossing the line via text message. We walked round to get our medal, t-shirt and goodies which consisted of shortbread, gels, shot blocks and an apple. There wasn’t the suntan lotion we received in 2017 in the rain!

I went back into the hall, got some photos taken, got changed, spoke to a couple of guys from PRR before heading into town to get a coffee and begin the journey home.

Looking back on the race, I was delighted with my time as I would’ve taken it in a shot had I been offered it before the race. I knew before the race that a PB was unlikely as I’ve felt sluggish the last week or two and while I’m happy with how the race went, I do feel a little disappointment that I wasn’t able to go faster.

A nice wee drive in the snow home

So I entered the Edinburgh Half Marathon in May. Part of the reason for wanting to go sub 1:30 was so I could claim a place in the first corral for the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon in September and be able to race it rather than treat it like a fun run as was the way in 2018.

Souvenir T-Shirt and Medal

On the plus side, my average pace from yesterday was 7:04 min/mile and if I can work on being able to maintain that for longer, I will be bang on target for my sub 3:15 target for Stirling Marathon in 7 weeks. Some easy running this week I think then step it back up again for these final few weeks!

As for the Inverness Half Marathon itself, I would highly recommend this as part of your Spring Marathon training. Weather aside, it’s a great course with all the inclines coming in the first half, good flat sections, a very good downhill section at mile 9 then a gradual descent coming back into Inverness late on as you come back the way you went out. The last mile or two can be a bit challenging along the riverside in the centre of Inverness and on the way to the finish. The finish itself is on a running track at the Athletics Stadium, attached to the Sports Centre.

The organisation for this is very good and while there can be some congestion in the sports centre for registration, this is a small detail compared to the level of support given to the runners throughout the race and the efficient process after the finish line. This is a good race to measure your progress and also a good one to get a PB.

The weather may have been terrible but I’ll definitely be back!

Advertisements

Positives In Every Run – My Week In Review

Have you ever had a run where it feels like you’re wading through treacle in a wind tunnel wearing wellies filled with sand?

Have you ever had a day where it just feels like hard work as soon as you leave the house and doesn’t get any easier?

I’m sure we’ve all had these kind of days, I had mine today. It can be easy to get freaked out by something like this, especially during marathon training when you’ve got one eye on pace. I think it’s important to accept it, enjoy the run and look forward to the next run rather than let it get to us.

My week in numbers:

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 10 x 800m with 60secs recoveries (7.3 miles)
Wednesday: 5.1 miles
Thursday: AM: 4 miles PM: 20 x 250m with 150m recoveries (6.5 miles)
Friday: Rest day with 4 miles with PT client
Saturday: Cycling: 10 miles, parkrun
Sunday: 12 miles

Total: 52 miles

Everything has felt like it’s starting to click together this week and Tuesday’s form drills felt the best I’ve done so far with the pace in each drill getting closer to each other. I ordered a new pair of Adidas Supernova Shorts after last week’s chafing and they arrived on Monday meaning that I was able to wear them for this session. They feel amazing!

The view on my morning run

I added in a run on Wednesday as I look to step up my training with Stirling just 8 weeks away. I just chose the 4 miles route from the house I’ve done for a while now but added in an extra loop to make it up to 5. It’s all about the miles in the legs just now but I may play around with this session to get the most quality out of it. No point in doing this if it isn’t going to add value to what I’m already doing.

Thursday was double session day! I got back to doing 4 miles early morning then speed session in the afternoon. Sandwiched between these two sessions was a trip to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee for an appointment as a follow-up to the procedure I had on my foot back in October. The doc was happy with everything so that’s me signed off now although I will miss the opportunity to treat myself to a fudge doughnut in the cafe on the way out!

Now that’s what I call a fudge doughnut!

The speed session involved 250m fast with 150m jog recoveries x 20 reps. I kinda made this one up and I’m delighted that it worked quite well. It was hard work, pace was spot on in each rep and my legs felt like jelly afterwards. This month is going to be key towards Stirling so I will need to take a close look at this session to make sure I’m going to get the best out of it.

Friday was rest day although I did run with a PT client. We ran around 4 miles and it was a good recovery run.

Saturday was parkrun day and also pacers day and I donned the 26mins top again for this one. I love doing this and it’s great to be able to help others get fast times. When pacing, I always try to run the whole way at target pace but I often switch to helping those around me as we go into the last km. I will use my coaching skills, give them a focus and as we head into the last 400m, step things up to give them that last push. It’s amazing to see these runners discover a pace they didn’t know they had and smash the last 100m.

The pacers line up at parkrun

I cycled to see clients before parkrun then cycled home again afterwards. It was great to get back out on the bike again. This made a difference to my running training a few years ago and it would be great it I could get that same benefit again.

Pacing at parkrun is a wonderful challenge to be able to maintain the same pace the whole way but when you’re able to make someone’s day by helping them get a PB or a faster time than they’ve done for a while, it’s an amazing feeling. I would highly recommend trying this if they have pacers at your parkrun.

Today’s run was interesting! With Storm Freya making her presence, it was never going to be a classic run! I slept a lot longer than I usually do on a Sunday so felt tired before I went out. When I got 2 miles in at a slower pace than usual in what turned out be a tailwind, I knew it was going to be a long day. The first 2 miles had to be a tailwind as I certainly noticed the headwind going back that way!

View on my run today

My route of choice was going to be an out and back with a challenging hill around halfway but I felt so sluggish that I scrapped it and ran on the flat along the riverside instead. I quickly switched off from trying to run at any kind of pace and just enjoy the run instead. I’m so glad I made the decision to switch my route as the scenery was stunning and blessed with a rainbow. I wouldn’t have seen this if I’d run the way I had planned.

Another positive was that I could easily have run for longer than 12 miles. When you’re in marathon training, we can easily be caught up with trying to get close to target pace or focus on other forms of data and maybe feel a bit down if we get a run where it doesn’t go to plan. These are the days when we can think about other things like the scenery around us, could we keep on going beyond the point we stopped, even if it was hard going?

All it takes, when we have a run that’s not going well, is to shift the focus to the quality of the run, the route you’re running or simply enjoy the fact that you’re running. Not every run needs to be a race. If you can start to think about other things, it no longer becomes a bad run. Besides, it’s better to get these kind of runs done in training and not on race day!

How’s your training going? Did the wind affect your run today? How do you view runs when things aren’t going the way you want them?

Chafing The Dream – My Week In Review

There is nothing worse or painful than chafing felt during or after a run. I suspect there might be but at the time of discovery, it feels like the sorest thing ever! The last time I had it this bad was in London in 2011 when Allison went to run the marathon and I went on a training run before the race started, wearing shorts I had bought at the expo the day before. And didn’t apply vaseline before I went out.

I discovered the chafing only when I went in the shower afterwards and felt the water and shower gel run over it. Ouch! It got even worse as I was wearing jeans while cheering Allison on and they kept sticking to my legs. It was so bad that when we arrived at the airport later that evening and had to run across to get to our gate, everyone thought that I had run the marathon and let Allison wear my medal!

Chafing has pretty much been the most memorable aspect of my training this week!

My Week In Numbers

Monday – Rest
Tuesday – 8x800m, 60secs recoveries (6.3 miles)
Wednesday – 4 miles
Thursday – 10x400m fast, 400m recovery (6.5 miles)
Friday – Rest
Saturday – 9 miles, parkrun (3.1 miles), 3 miles home
Sunday – 10 miles

Total: 41.9 miles

Monday was a nice easy day with plenty of gentle mobility exercises. I try to avoid doing too much although there is a temptation to do a short recovery run so I’m refreshed for Tuesday’s form drills.

I did start to practice some hand balance exercises that I used to do a lot of a few years ago. These are exercises supporting my own body weight and working towards being able to do hand stands and similar kinds of things. I enjoy this style of training more than lifting weights for the challenge it gives me. I’ll keep you posted on the things I’m working on if you want to practice them too!

Tuesday’s form drills session was a good one! I’m up to doing 8 reps of 800m with 60 second recoveries. I went a bit too fast in the first two but settled in to around 6:38/mile pace for the rest. This feels really good and I’m feeling more in control. The next session will be 10 reps before stepping up to 1km reps and building the reps up to race day. The downside to this session was that I did them from my studio and I forgot to bring a towel with me so had to use my top to dry myself after my shower. Let’s just say tech tops don’t make great towels and I would’ve been quicker standing under the hand dryer!

I got back to my early morning run on Wednesday. I did my 4 mile route from the house that felt a bit strange as I haven’t done that in a while. I treated it as a recovery run although I’ll build on it to create a longer run from next week onwards. The most important thing here was trying out my new shoes from Run4It.

My new go faster Boston 7 Boosts 🙂

I had an idea to do an early morning run on Thursday or do my speed session early but I prefer to do them later in the afternoon and found an excuse not to run early. I was going to change the workout I was going to do but hadn’t quite synchronised my watch right and ended up doing 400m reps with 400m recoveries. I remember a previous session doing these where I had it in mind I was to be doing 8 reps and having to dig in for those last 2 reps and the recoveries feeling really short. This time though, I didn’t feel the same challenge, felt like I was running faster but the recoveries felt too long and 10 reps wasn’t enough. Another sign of progress!

The view from my run. I’m so lucky to live in an area as beautiful as this

Allison and I decided to do our long runs on Saturday as we were to be heading to Edinburgh for lunchtime on Sunday and I’m getting to the age/mileage on long run where I need a nap in the afternoon so best to avoid this when I need to drive! I didn’t have any clients but still got up early thanks to the antics of 2 hungry cats needing breakfast and letting it be known they wanted fed!

I left the house around 8am with the intention of squeezing in 9 miles before parkrun and didn’t want to be hanging around too much so timed it perfectly and finished the run at 9.15. Quick trip to the toilet and I was ready to run at 9.30am. The early miles of the run felt good but I held something back because I wanted to push it a bit faster at parkrun. I started further back so I could pace myself better and it worked a treat.

The first couple of miles felt really good and I was edging the pace up when I felt able to. I kept focusing on people in front of me, let them pace me and then close the gap, pass them and repeat the process. I didn’t look behind me once but I could hear people close behind me so I stepped up the pace little by little as we got closer to the finish and was chuffed that nobody passed me but also that I got a royal flush negative split. Happy Days!

Post parkrun smiles before I discovered the chafing!

Sadly, this run didn’t come without cost and I discovered while waiting for Allison that holes had appeared in my shorts and I now had pretty impressive chafing on my inner thighs. Ouch! Even worse was that I still had to run home, which I did and resembled John Wayne trying to run and not to get chafing on my chafing! Thankfully, I managed to position myself in a certain way to avoid the pain that comes from standing in the shower afterwards! It’s ok, I’m not going to share any photos of my chafing!

This morning came and the sting from the chafing had settled a bit so rubbed generous amounts of vaseline on the affected parts and set off for a run. I wasn’t sure how it would be and jogged rather gingerly to the end of the street. Everything felt fine so I headed off for a longer run. I decided to make it up as I went along and didn’t feel any adverse effect from the chafing so I followed the same route as Saturday morning – along the riverside so far then turn back and follow the same route home.

It was actually really nice to go out and not be bothered by pace and just let my mind wander. I ended up to do 10 miles, which I’m really happy with on top of 15 yesterday. I feel like I’m heading in the right direction and achieving this by the end of February. I’ve still got 2 months until Stirling and next month will be about adding more speed and doing the Inverness Half Marathon. I got a PB there 2 years ago and while I’m not expecting to get anywhere near beating that, I’ll be looking to find my rhythm and run it like I want to run Stirling.

How’s your training going? Have you been able to avoid chafing so far?

Revisiting An Old Friend – Week In Review

Do you have a favourite route that when you go back to it, it almost feels like you’re revisiting an old friend, you remember all the little bits that made it your favourite, no matter how long it is since you last ran it?

Or is that just me and being really sad?

I’ll tell you about that in a minute. In case you care, here’s how my week has unfolded:

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Form Drills – 6x800m with 60 secs recoveries
Wednesday: Rest, Exercises, Run with Client
Thursday: Intervals – 10x400m with 400m recoveries
Friday: Rest, Exercises
Saturday: parkrun
Sunday: 16 miles

Monday was my usual rest day but it was a really nice day so instead of driving home at lunchtime, I decided to walk. My studio is roughly 5km from the house and even though I have a VW UP, designed for these kind of short trips, I often think it’s a waste of petrol and now that the weather is getting better, I’ll start using my bike more. If I’d driven on Monday, I would’ve missed this view….

Personal Trainer Perth | Steve Bonthrone Fitness

Hard to believe this is a short distance from a busy road and a few hundred yards from my house

Tuesday is Form Drills day. If you’re wondering what they are, it’s where I work on developing my form over a longer distance. I focus on pulling my knees forward, driving with my arms and feel like my foot strikes are quite springy at a pace where I know I can speed up for a short distance at any time if I wanted to. This has worked very well for me before, narrowly missing out on a PB at the Stirling Marathon last year despite hobbling with cramp the last 10k, and is something I’ve been introducing my running clients too.

I keep meaning to go for a shortish run on Wednesdays but so far this hasn’t happened although I do go out for a short run with a client but I don’t really count that as my own workout.

Thursdays are intervals day. I started going out to do 4 miles in the morning and then going to the track around 5pm when it opened back in December but hasn’t happened so much since the turn of the year, partly because of the weather and also because I was going straight to my 0-5k running group session at 6.15pm and feeling a bit smelly from the workout so been going out earlier. I’m lucky in that I’ve got a fantastic path to run on next to the river that’s close to my studio and the views are always amazing. I’ve been combining the form I’ve been working on with a faster speed.

Personal Trainer Perth | Steve Bonthrone Fitness

This is the view from the path where I do my form drills

Thursday was also Valentines Day and we celebrated it by going to see our financial advisor to discuss new mortgage packages (last of the great romantics, me!) and I could’ve done with a run afterwards as I came out feeling mentally drained. Instead, I settled on my 0-5k group session and it was a great one. It was just Vicki and Graeme and they both did really well despite it being Week 2. I love these sessions as I get to see the improvements they’re making, not just in their running but also in the way they’re talking about it. Almost like completely different people to the ones who started the week before!

Friday was rest day and doing some mobility exercises. I was doing them a bit sporadically to begin with but now I’m doing them more often.

Saturday was parkrun day. It was different this week as Allison wasn’t well so it was just me running. There’s a section at our run where we run on a stretch of grass that runs parallel to the path we came out on. I usually look out for Allison when I’m on this section and we usually wave to each other but this time I was looking but she wasn’t there. I did however, see my client Alasdair, saw how good he was running and gave him the thumbs up. I’m working with him towards the Edinburgh Half Marathon in May but ultimately towards getting him a BQ at Frankfurt in October. I’m looking forward to seeing how his times improve as we go along.

Sunday was long run day and I decided to revisit my old favourite route around the outskirts of Perth, heading out towards a hamlet called Aberdalgie and then cutting across the side of the hill to Craigend. I love this route as it’s got lots of hills and steep descents as well as inclines and also the view is pretty good too! I used to run this route all the time, partly as it would condition me well and I knew that it would be tougher than any race I would normally enter. The last time I ran it though was nearly 5 years ago when I was attacked by a buzzard and it was enough to make me want to change routes as it was pretty vicious.

Personal Trainer Perth | Steve Bonthrone Fitness

One of the views from my run

I discovered from a local running friend that the buzzard wasn’t there when he had run that way a week or two previously so I decided to give it a go. Right enough, there was no sign of the bird as I ran towards the tree it would perch on, protecting its chicks. Perhaps it’s still a bit early and it’ll be back in April? Anyway, as I continued running, I started to remember all the little details of the route, where the inclines were, the descents and it almost felt like being home again, if that makes any sense?

When I got to Craigend, I carried on to add in another favourite – The Rhynd Road loop. In years gone by, I would never have tackled this bit as well and opted to for a flatter section for the rest of my run but that day I felt like ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’. The Rhynd Road loop is noted for its hilly route and I used to encourage people to try on the principle that if they could manage that, they could manage any race.

I had thought about running 14 miles but, as usual, my predictions were rubbish and I ended up doing 16. It was one of those days though where you feel so good, you just want to keep running.

How’s your week been?

What’s your favourite route? What is it about it that makes it your favourite?

 

The Story So Far – January Review

First month of the year is over and it’s time to reflect on how well the month has gone, measure it against where I want to be at this stage, consider what I’ve learned and set some goals for February.

When I say measure it against where I want to be at this stage, that would be fine had I actually set proper goals for the month! That’s already a good learning and something I need to change if I’m going to run my target of sub 3 hours at Loch Ness later this year.

In order to review what I have done, I have created some questions to answer. Here goes:

What have I achieved so far?

My biggest successes have been two sub 20 minute parkruns, the first at Kirkcaldy on 5th January in 19:50 then again at my home run in Perth in 19:37 on the 19th.

Post parkrun smiles 🙂 My fastest 5k of 2019 in 19:37

What have I done well?

I’ve been really happy with averaging 14 miles in each of my long runs. Normally it takes me to the end of the month to reach that kind of distance.

What have I not done so well?

I missed a couple of midweek runs and had to reduce a Sunday long run to 11 miles due to a problem in my calf muscle. I did start doing an exercise to help improve the movement I have in my foot/ankle joint and it’s never bothered me since.

What have I learned?

Firstly that I need to set monthly goals so I can keep track of my progress! I know that I have to do more mobility work, especially if I’ve been driving a lot, so I don’t have to miss runs again. I have also learned that my form drills have been working well in terms of improving my parkrun times.

I need to start celebrating all the good runs and the things I did well with. I have realised that in writing this post that it was easier for me to think about what I didn’t do so well with than what I did well. I always believe we either get the outcomes we want or find a better way to do get them. There is also the case for appreciating the good as well as poring over the not so good.

What can I do in February to continue my progress?

Hopefully the weather will be better so that I can get back to running at my preferred times (mornings) and not have to tread carefully because of slippy paths! I had a few runs I had to switch to lunchtime or the afternoon because of poor conditions in the mornings and while those runs were good, I always feel I run better in the mornings.

Increase the range of food options. With the distances and calories burned increasing, so is my hunger and so I need to have some good healthy snacks I can have between meals so I’m not reaching for something unhealthy to keep me going.

The Core Momentum Trainer

Start to do more cross training. By that, I mean starting to work with the Core Momentum Trainer and other exercises to improve my mobility and range of movement. This helps make my runs easier and faster. I’ve formed a good base and now it’s time to step it up.

How was January for you? Answer the questions above and tag me in your post, I’d love to read your answers

Ice Magic!

Even though the weather’s been poor, the quality of my runs has been better. I think this is because you can’t go all out when the paths are slippy, especially when your shoes have no grip left in them and need changed, badly!

Monday was a rest day and had my first coaching session with Alasdair, someone I’ve known for years and excited about working with. We’d met at an event in January, had a chat about running and it was when he was walking, I spotted something about his posture that could affect his running when he tries running at a faster pace so I suggested something to try next time he’s out to help make things easier.

We went for a short run to a car park along the road from my studio so I could film him running and check his form. I’m not convinced that you get as a good an idea of someone’s form when they run on a treadmill compared to running outside. I spotted a couple of things and asked Alasdair to focus on something specific when he ran across the car park again, did an exercise and got him to run again and each time he told me he felt a difference. I didn’t tell him why we did the exercises as I didn’t want to influence him. He told me he felt he had more energy, more of a spring in his run and then I told him why I gave him those exercises and then gave him some more to work on that will help improve his form and his running speed. It gave me a nice feeling that he went away feeling like he was making improvements just from a few simple exercises.

On Tuesday afternoon, I got out to do my Form Drills workout. I haven’t done this for a few weeks, had intended to do them that morning but it had been frosty overnight and a light shower of rain early morning had made the paths and pavements like an ice rink so I waited until the afternoon when the sun had melted the ice and made the paths runable. I did 8x600m, which was the session I had done previously before the weather changed and so it made sense to repeat it. I had forgotten how good these sessions are and the first two were hard as the challenge is to run at around 85% of top pace and I had run the first ones at a faster pace. Doing 8 sets was enough as any more would’ve lost the quality I was working on.

My running inspiration on Tuesday

Wednesday was the first of the sub-zero days for us and I had thought about cancelling the session I had in the morning with a client as I thought the paths in the park would be too slippy and too cold to run on but they turned out to be fine and running on the grass was better for her.

I had another morning run session with another client on Thursday and decided to run to the park where I was due to meet her. It was around 3 miles away and it was a nice run, even though it was -6! The paths didn’t seem to be that slippy and I’m not sure if that was the case or that my Adidas Alphabounce shoes had superb grip. We ran about 2 miles and even though the conditions were bad, my client paced the run better than she normally does! By the time I got back to my studio, I had run 8 miles in total. Bonus!

Winter wonderland in Perth

No running Friday so it was onto Saturday and parkrun! Not only was it parkrun but it was the first Saturday of the month and pacers day. Allison had gone for her usual 28 mins and I went for 25 mins. One of the things I love about pacing is being able to help others achieve their target time. It’s a bit of a challenge trying to run at a pace that you don’t normally run at and be able to maintain that for the full distance. We had run down to the North Inch (2 miles) so we’d do parkrun then run home again to get the extra miles in.

The pacer team at parkrun

You never know how many people you end up pacing from start to finish and I always try to look around me, see who’s there, say hello, ask them what time they’re hoping for and give a few simple coaching tips as we go round. It’s usually when we get into the last km that I know who’s around me and I can give specific tips to help them on a particular part of the course or simply to keep them going. I was running with Mark alongside me, Susan and Duncan just behind me as got into the last 400m. I gave them some cues to keep focused but it was Mark I told to focus on a lamppost that’s roughly 100m from the finish then when we got to it, to lift his knees and drive his arms all the way to the finish.

When I was in the line to get my barcode scanned, another guy who’d been running with us came across and thanked me as I had kept him going. I spotted Mark and it seems he beat his previous best by around 30 seconds. I saw a comment on the Facebook page later that Susan had got a PB too. For me, it’s not just about the PB that makes me proud of them, it’s the fact that they had the courage to keep going and go for it.

Happy faces after helping others PBs

We’d had a bit of frost and snow overnight and so today’s run was a bit of a mystery tour as I wasn’t sure where would be great for running or how far I’d go. I went for a run to Quarrymill – a woodland trail – that would take in 8 miles and I could see where I’d be after that. I normally listen to Marathon Talk but today decided to go without as I had a few things I wanted to think over and running helps me think clearer. The route to get there and back was fine and a little bit slippy going through the trail but that may have been down to my road shoes on their last legs, having no grip and needing replaced. The great thing about the run was that I didn’t look at my watch once, have no idea what my mile splits were and still haven’t. It wasn’t important to me today, the run was.

The water flowing across the snow-covered rocks at Quarrymill

What I’ve learned this week is that when the conditions aren’t the best and you can’t manage your normal paced run or speed session, you can go out and either just run at a steady pace or simply run and don’t check your pace at all. Sometimes these are the runs that let you see how much you’re progressing as a runner.

Have you ever tried pacing at parkrun?

Hills, Headwinds & Facebook Friends

Have you ever met up with someone you’re connected with on Facebook and hadn’t previously met? That happened to me when I did a spot of parkrun tourism yesterday! More on that later…..

My week in numbers:

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: Guess what? Rest

Thursday: 4 miles

Friday: 4 miles with PT client

Saturday: Dunfermline parkrun

Sunday: 14 miles

Total: 25.1 miles

This was another cut back week mainly due to the weather as we had a real cold spell for a good chunk of the week with sub-zero temperatures. Monday was a rest day for me anyway and with icy roads on Tuesday, I decided not to risk it. My calf had been a bit achy again after Sunday’s run and so I did a mobility exercise for my ankle throughout the day to help it.

It was still cold on Wednesday and had a client session on the North Inch where we go for a run. My ears and face felt bitter as soon as we started running but that would be down to the fact that it was -5!

I was due to have a client session early on Thursday morning and while it was cold, it wasn’t as icy as it was on Tuesday and Wednesday. My client wasn’t able to make it and so I went for a run myself. I did 4 miles after running a few hundred yards first to warm up then started my watch. It felt pretty good and was a change to do that kind of run on the flat as I’m used to having to tackle an incline of some description, the norm when you stay in Perth.

The sky after I finished my run

Photo taken by Marian Coburn and posted on Facebook

I’ve got a client in training for a Half Marathon so we went out for a run on Friday. I don’t normally time it or look at the distance but I did on this occasion as he’s been running roughly 3 miles in his own runs and wasn’t sure whether he was ready to step things up but having checked the tracker on my watch, it seems we ran around 4.5 miles, which gave him a huge boost and the confidence he can run the longer distance now.

We decided to do some parkrun tourism on Saturday and headed to Dunfermline. I’ve been doing a challenge through Perth Road Runners that involves some of our local parkruns and needs to be completed by the end of February. It’s not every week that we’re able to travel anywhere else because of my work but I had a free morning and so we decided on the furthest away one. The challenge also involves Camperdown, Loch Leven, Lochore and Kirkcaldy and with Camperdown and Kirkcaldy already done, I wanted to get this box ticked and just leaves the 2 closest ones to go.

The one thing I love about parkrun is that each course offers its own little challenge and Dunfermline is no different. With a slight uphill at the start, the course offers a good downhill section before ‘the hill’. It’s a shortish, sharp climb as part of a loop you run 3 times before heading to the finish. I don’t mind hills at all and was in my element. I felt I had run pretty well, smashed the 3 hilly loops but as we were running to the finish line, I was overtaken by a couple of guys in the last 20 metres and I didn’t have anything left to respond. I was happy with my 6th place finish and my time of 20:02 although I would’ve loved to have gone sub 20. That’s for next time!

The best bit was bumping into Mags, a friend of ours on Facebook that I’d first met a few years ago, saw again last year when she visited Perth parkrun and we knew that this was her local run so looked out for her and had a good catch up. The other interesting bit was discovering on the Friday night that there were to be a couple of runners from Carnegie Harriers who were to be getting married on the Saturday and were starting the day with parkrun. They were fairly easy to spot and in the process of lining up and getting a photo before the start, the groom said hello like we knew each other.

Mags, Allison and I. I hadn’t realised I had tucked my vest into my shorts #cringe

This had me wracking my brains as I wondered how I knew him and where I’d met him at. I’ve gone to many a networking event and met many people but couldn’t recall meeting him at any of the events I’d been to. I discovered that his name was Colin and he proceeded to introduce to his friend and mentioned Strava and Facebook. It was then I sussed that we follow each other on social media in the way that you do when you connect with fellow runners, especially ones who are friends with a lot of runners you are friends with. We chatted again at the finish and Colin said that we’d run almost the same races but hadn’t actually met properly until now! I was delighted to have finally met and chatted with Colin and also relieved that I hadn’t known him already and forgot who he was!

The happy couple – Colin and Lesley

Today’s run was an ‘interesting’ one or ‘character-building’ as I like to call it! I decided that I would run 14 miles and had planned the route the night before. I had planned it with a few hills in it as I like the challenge they present, partly for the reminder at parkrun the day before. The temperatures looked favourable for running until I stepped out the door and felt the cold wind. Not just cold but one of those swirling ones that mean you’re constantly running into a headwind no matter which direction you run in! This meant that my faster miles were either run into a headwind, uphill or a combination of both which seemed to be the case for the second of them!

This was the toughest of the runs I’ve done so far and I’m pleased with my progress. Having the low mileage week has been great as the quality of the runs have improved and I now feel ready to return to the form drills and track session next week.

Having a cut-back week, either enforced because of work/weather or deliberate, is a good thing and is usually recommended by the top athletes. There is the temptation to keep going regardless but rest is important, especially when you have a demanding period at work or in life, as you carry a greater risk of losing the quality and getting fed up or worse still, injured.

Do you ease back from time to time in your training or carry on regardless?