2017 may have been my most successful year so far, especially at this stage of my career now that I’m on the wrong side of 35! The low points of 2016 were banished and I continued the upward trajectory from the end of that year where my running finally started to show signs of life at Chester Marathon.
Like any year, it hasn’t been without the odd set-back; missing out on the first half of the track season due to a knee injury perhaps cost be a potential pb or two on the track. Untimely illnesses in October cost me any ambitions of running a sub 65 half marathon. Still, the fact I was able to have these as realistic aims only proves how much progress I have made. Deciding against doing a marathon and focusing on speed certainly paid off. Despite this my mileage was still pretty good and had it not been for the May and October months being a write off, I would have run well over 4,000 miles for the year. I ended up on 3,895.5 from 448 runs to be exact.
I’ve recently become an ambassador for On Running as part of a team of athletes targeting London Marathon this spring. It’s a perfect fit in many ways, I love the light-weight and responsive feel of the shoes, which I’ve been testing out since the summer when we started stocking them at Up & Running. The company also have a focus on competitive running at a national and regional level, with other sponsored runners including the likes of Chris Thompson and Andy Vernon, then a group of marathon runners on a lower-tier national level, such as myself and Kojo Kyereme on the men’s team. The focus on the marathon also ties in with what I want to achieve this year, as I feel I’m ready to make a return to the distance after a year hiatus. I will also be doing blog updates for Fast Running each month, again, quite a contrast to the has-been athlete I felt like over a year ago. 2018 should be a very interesting year indeed and I’m sure I can build on the recent upturn I’ve had in my running.
I didn’t quite finish off 2017 in the way I wanted. After a promising result at Wilmslow 10k in late November, where I finished a solid 2nd in 30:37 behind a dominant run by Matt Clowes, I expected to be close to 30 minutes at Ribble Valley 10k on New Year’s Eve. Training had continued to go well leading into it, so I was determined to be as competitive at the front as I could… perhaps too determined as it turned out. Matt Crehan (though I wasn’t sure who he was at the time) set off at a blistering pace and I attempted to go with him, leaving behind the group of runners including the most likely winners, such as Marc Scott and Jonathan Brownlee. Yes, it was a big mistake! After a fast 3k, I settled in with the group and we caught the leader just after 4km. The race really took shape around this point and as the lead group of six runners kicked on I was unable to respond; probably paying for my fast start. Halfway was reached in 15:22, which was disappointing, as was watching the gap to the top six runners increase. Rob Danson soon passed me, but I was able to respond and forge ahead. I was making solid progress between 6-9km, with Danson on my tail and managed to make up a place. As we came into that final kilometre, Danson made his move and I was struggling to match his pace, by the final 300m he pulled clear by a few seconds, knocking a huge chunk off his pb with a great run. I came in with 30:31 in 7th, which was well below my expectations. Perhaps sub 30 was never on the cards for me in those breezy conditions, but it felt like an underwhelming end to a mostly successful year.
So, in a similar fashion to Match of the Day, here’s my personal 2017 highlights;
Bath Half Marathon, 1st, 65:16 (March) – After a terrible performance in 2016, I was determined to come back the following year in my best form. I certainly managed that, running three minutes faster than my previous attempt whilst bagging a pb in the process, my first in four years. To win the race though, was well beyond my expectations.
Stretford 3,000m, 1st, 8:27 (August) – Not quite a pb, but it was my fastest time in nearly ten years. It was also only the second time I had won this race (in a very close sprint finish), the previous occasion being 16 years ago back in August 2001!
Darwen Half Marathon, 1st, 69:17 (April) – I was thrilled to win this race in it’s inaugural year, but felt that I could run faster on it. I wasn’t sure sub 70 would be possible, so to achieve this so comfortably was a terrific feeling, especially on home soil.
Three bad (thankfully this list was hard to make for once!):
Cardiff Half Marathon, 22nd, 68:38 (October) – One of those occasions when you race when you really shouldn’t! I certainly realised my error three miles in, on the plus side, it might be my fastest half marathon run when ill!
BMC 10,000m, 10th, 30:14 (August) – Not a disaster as such and in other years it could have qualified as a positive highlight. Having missed the Highgate one in May, this was my last chance at a pb, but unfortunately I hadn’t quite reached my best form, which came a few weeks later, right at the end of the track season.
Ribble Valley 10k, 30:31 (December) – I was hoping this might have sneaked into the top three prior completing this write up. Although it was my fastest time of the year for 10k road, I wouldn’t rate it as high as my result at Accrington 10k in March, nor Wilmslow 10k in November. A decent 10k is something that eluded me in 2017.