Blackburn Winter Warmer 10k (05/02/2017)

Training has continued to progress nicely and I banked over 400 miles in January, with lots of quality sessions and decent paced runs. Our group at Blackburn Harriers is the strongest it’s been for a number of years and I’ve been reaping the benefits of being pushed each week by Tim Raynes and Jack Hindle. Going off all this training, I fancied my chances at surpassing my best time set in the Blackburn Winter Warmer from 2010, which stands at 31:23. With Tim also entered in the race, a performance of that level could well be required to win.

This years race was held in memory of local runner and Blackburn Road Runner, Andrew Boardman, who sadly passed away last year. It’s a very demanding 10k course, with some hefty climbing in the first 3k, so my aim was to attack this section and try to establish an early lead. I managed to get a small gap on Tim and Danny Collinge after the first couple of kilometres, reaching 3km in 10:29; which seemed slow given the effort I put in. I made halfway in 16:24, which is where the course gets quite a bit easier, still, my time of 31:23 looked to be out of reach. I pushed on but I knew my record had got away by 7k (22:49). I then just focused on keeping up the pace as best I could, knowing that Tim could still close the gap with a strong finish. I came on to the track for a final lap of 400m and I was satisfied with my time of 32:02. Tim Raynes finished well and was also under 33 minutes, which certainly points towards achieving a sub 31-minute 10k on a flat course. Danny Collinge flew the flag for TeamFish/Up & Running with a fine performance for third and was closely followed by two more Blackburn Harriers runners; the fast finishing Tom Blaney and Jack Hindle, both of whom are progressing really well. It was also good to see old friend and rival, Antony Ford on his way back with another race under his belt and hopefully Michael Hammer will continue his recent progress, training with us on Tuesday nights.

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The next race was on Tuesday evening, which would be a first for me; an indoor track race! It’s strange that I’ve competed for all these years and never done one before, as I used to run quite a lot of outdoor 1500m and 3,000m races when I was a junior. I entered the BMC 1500m at Sheffield and it was quite a daunting prospect, even more so when I noticed Anthony Whiteman knocking around; I was definitely out of my comfort zone here! The event was divided into A and B races and I wasn’t quite quick enough for the A race (3:56), which was a shame, but I suppose I was saved from the fear of coming last! The target pace for the B race was about 4:05, with the pacemaker hitting 200m laps of 32-33 seconds, which would get us to 800m in 2:08-2:09. I stayed on his shoulder and initially it seemed rather easy, but I think this was to do with the psychological effect of doing 200m laps and that early comfort soon started to disappear. 800m was reached in 2:09, but the pace was already starting to burn and over the next few laps I gradually slowed, though I did at least have a decent lead in front. 1,000m was reached in 2:43 and I finished with 4:09; not quite the time I was hoping for, but it was a good experience to learn from and I’m looking forward to doing more in the future. For now though, my attentions will switch back to the road; Bath and Hastings half marathons in March.

Later that week I had the privilege of being interviewed on a local radio station, RibbleFM, where various running topics got covered during an hour slot. Kath is a keen runner, so it was quite easy to talk all things running for that period of time. They also offered to play some songs I liked, so The Smiths and Echo & The Bunnymen got a bit of airtime! Here’s the interview, minus The Smiths and Echo & The Bunnymen, which you’ll have sadly missed out on!

Results for 10k & 1500m.

The past three weeks training…

Sun 22nd Jan

9am – 15 miles to Clitheroe in 1hr 28.

Mon 23rd

6pm – 11.5 miles easy, including run with Running4CF.

Tue 24th

6pm – Session: 12x 600m (90 sec rec). 1:42, 1:40, 1:40, 1:40, 1:40, 1:41, 1:41, 1:41, 1:41, 1:41, 1:42, 1:41

12.5 miles total.

Wed 25th

11:45am – 4 miles hard in 20:47.

5:15pm – Session: 30x 400m (100m jog rec). Averaged 73 seconds.15.5 miles total.

Thur 26th

8:15am – 4.5 miles to Blackburn in 28:50.

5pm – 7 miles in 47:20.

6:45pm – 4 miles with Run Group.

Fri 27th

9am – 5 miles on the track in 25:58. A bit icy on the surface. 6 miles total.

7pm – 11 miles with Allan Hartley in 78:30.

Sat 28th

4pm – 5 miles in 35 mins. Groin stiff, only a short run today.

TOTAL: 95

Sun 29th Jan

12:30pm – 13 miles around Entwistle Reservior. Ran there and back with Hannah.

Mon 30th

6pm 7.5 miles easy in 49:35.

Tue 31st

8:15am – 4 miles to Blackburn in 25:37.

6pm – Session: 1x 400m, 2x 800m, 3x 1k, 2x 800m, 1x 400m (1 min/2 min/ 2:30 recoveries) 65, 2:18, 2:18, 2:53, 2:53, 2:54. 2:17, 2:17, 63 . 12 miles total

Wed 1st

8am – 7.5 miles to Ramsgreave in 49:30.

6pm – 8.5 miles home from Clayton in 60 mins.

Thur 2nd

8:15am – 4 miles to Blackburn in 25:55.

6:45pm – 3 miles with SRG run group.

8:15pm – Session: 16x 200m (jog 200m rec) All around 32’s. 10.5 miles.

Fri 3rd

1:30pm – 12 miles around Edgworth in 1hr 21.

Sat 4th

6:45pm – 5 miles in 34 mins.

TOTAL: 87

Sun 5th Feb

6:30am – 1 mile easy loosen up. 11 am: Blackburn Winter Warmer 10k: 1st 32:02. 10.5 miles.

Mon 6th

11:30am – 7 miles in 47:45.

6pm – 8 miles including run with Running4CF.

Tue 7th

10am – 5 miles in 34:30.

9:15pm – BMC indoor 1500m (B race) 1st, 4:09. 6 miles total.

Wed 8th

6:15pm – 11 miles in 75 mins.

Thur 9th

7:15pm – 15 miles steady progression run. 1 hr 35.

Fri 10th

6:15pm – 15 miles home from Burnley in 1hr 39. Had managers meeting at Harrogate, squeezed in a run on way back from train station.

Sat 11th

8:15am – 10.5 miles hard to Clitheroe from Blackburn. 10 miles was in 54:55, just under 5:30 pace with an easy half-mile.

4:30pm – Session: 5x 6 min reps (2 min jog rec) at threshold effort. 11 miles total.

TOTAL: 100

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Four Villages Half Marathon (15/01/2017) & Video (This Is Ben Fish)

The year has got off to a great start and my training has been going well since late November, so I was really looking forward to getting in a race, which was the Four Villages Half Marathon in Helsby, near Chester. I was hoping to run around 67 minutes or less, which going off recent sessions and mileage (80.5 and 91 mile weeks), certainly seemed plausible; I ran a 10k effort on the track the week before in 31:36 and on the Tuesday I did 8x 800m (2 min rec) in windy conditions all under 2:20. Perhaps this caused me to be more ambitious than I should have been.

Conditions on the day were far from perfect, as it was quite windy. Mo Abu-Rezeq was the clear favourite and I was determined to go off hard and try to stay close to him, which in turn would mean I’d be running close to a 5-5:05 minute per mile schedule. Once the race was underway, Abu-Rezeq shot off in the lead as expected and I ended up being the only runner going after him; I was able to stay fairly close to him up until three miles (15:09), but by then I knew the tactic was already failing, as the gap ahead was starting to increase and I was conceding about eight seconds. By five miles (25:32) the race was turning into a bit of a struggle, both mentally and physically; Abu-Rezeq was well out of reach, as was my target of sub 67 minutes and I was already being closed down by the others, who I assumed were Ben Gamble and Tom Charles. I decided to stop worrying about time and about being caught, as it was going to happen regardless. I eased off a tad and just focused on running as smoothly and efficiently as possible, with the hope of being ready to respond when they were upon me. The plan seemed to work and by the 8th mile I was starting to feel “slightly” better; I was also still holding my position. As I was reaching the 10th mile (covered in 52:14) I could hear a runner coming up on my shoulder and then he made an effort to pass me, I expected him to be Gamble or Charles, so it was a surprise to see someone I didn’t know (later discovered it was Mark Jenkin from Bideford, Cornwall). The course is mainly downhill from that point, so I made an effort to move back ahead and over the next couple of miles it was a tough battle between us for second spot. My resolve was being tested to the limit, but I was able to keep forcing myself onwards and in the last mile I could sense I got a slight gap, though I didn’t dare look behind to be sure! It was a gruelling finish and with a quarter-mile to go I had a quick glance on a right turn and was relieved to see I had about five seconds on him. It wasn’t pretty and my time of 68:04 was a bit average, but one must always try to take positives and I was certainly happy with how I battled out those last three miles. I’m hoping for a big improvement at Bath in March, where I fully expect those last three miles to feel just as unpleasant, but hopefully I’ll be two minutes or so quicker!

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The Ugliness Of The Long Distance Runner! Photo courtesy of Mick Hall

I think Mark Jenkin ran a personal best and he’s certainly looking well on for achieving 2hr 23 or faster at Seville Marathon in February. It was good to see Ben Gamble back in fine form, who was just 20 seconds behind me in fourth place and it was another solid performance by Tom Charles in fifth. Mo Abu-Rezeq was the clear victor in 67:24, maintaining what has been an incredibly consistent high level of performances over the past few years. Full results can be found here.

By March I’ll have been running for 20 years and it was pure coincidence that I was contacted by Danny Grear of Retinair; a local filming company he runs that use drones and all sorts of other technical things I know very little about. He approached me a few months ago about the idea of doing a short film on myself whilst capturing iconic shots of Darwen landmarks. I was more than happy to oblige; it’s quite an honour to have people show an interest in what I’ve done, especially whilst linking it in with my town, which is very much part of the fabric of who I am as a person and runner. I had to give him a bit of a background about my running and I dug through my old archives of training and races to give him the information he needed. It was quite therapeutic looking back on all those years of running and I’ll talk more about that in a couple of months. It was filmed in early December and we were lucky to have a cold clear day, but it was very windy up on the moors and filming took up most part of the morning. It was a joy to do and Danny certainly knows his stuff, I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to operate the drone in gale force winds! I think you’ll agree when I say he captured some amazing shots and did justice to the scenery of Darwen, which I think is often underrated. Most will have seen this video on social media, but here’s the youtube link for those who haven’t. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVxmFT8JD9o

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Ribble Valley 10k (27/12/2016)

I decided against doing the Wilmslow 10k and focused on nailing the training. The past six weeks have gone well, only catching a bit of a cold that had no lasting effect, so I was optimistic of getting in a decent run at the Ribble Valley 10k on the 27th December. I’ve been putting in some good sessions, especially the Tuesday evening ones where I’ve been battling it out against Tim Raynes and Jack Hindle; Joe Monk also joined us over the Christmas period. The group has gone from strength to strength, with Tim, Joe and Jack knocking off pb’s in every race and it’s also responsible for my recent upturn in form. I suppose my only concern was whether I’d be a bit race rusty going into this one. It was terrible weather on Boxing Day with gale force winds and if things didn’t improve, I was thinking a sub 31 might be beyond me. Luckily it died down on the day of the race and it was certainly pb conditions.

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We were off at 10am and I got a good start among the leading pack; I was feeling far better than I did at Cheshire 10k last month. 3km was reached in 9:04 and I was just at the back of the leading group. The race really started to take shape after 4km, when a group of four runners forged ahead including eventual winner, Mark Scott (winning time a rapid 29:33!). I was able to stick in with the chasing pack which whittled down to myself, Russ Best, Doug Roberts, Scott Stirling and Rob Samuel. We reached 7km in around 21:20 and by then I could see that Scott had broke away from Chris Farrell, Richard Allen and Peter Huck, but it was unlikely that they’d drop far enough back for us to catch. In the last kilometre the battle for 5th place was down to myself, Best and Roberts; Best managed to clinch it whilst I was just about able to hold off Roberts on the final sprint to the line. I was very happy with my time of 30:18, which incidentally was the exact time I ran to gain 2nd place ten years ago, so I’ve managed a decent level of consistency if nothing else! It has given me the belief, despite approaching 35, that I can put up my best performances going into my twentieth year of running.

Results can be found here.

So that brought an end to my 2016 of running, which certainly had a mixture of ups and downs; I covered 3,623 miles from 388 outings and will certainly be looking at getting back over 4,000 next year. Overall it was far from a vintage year, but in the last few months I have managed to get back to my best level of running in about three years and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into 2017. I got in plenty of racing and here’s some of the key ones:

Three of the best:

Chester Marathon: A turning point in my running this year, a tough battle that I managed to win with a decent time.

Ribble Valley 10k: It’s been a very long time since I’ve ran a decent 10k and I’m hoping this is a springboard for greater things in 2017.

Darwen Half Marathon: I never thought this race would get brought back and it was an honour to win in my home town.

Three of the worst:

Freckleton Half Marathon: The winning streak was bound to end someday, but to lose with such an awful performance was depressing.

Lake Vyrnwy Half Marathon: A race I’ve consistently performed well in, that was until this year!

Bath Half Marathon: Not an awful time, but well down on what I expected.


I got in some solid training in December, which I’ve included below for those that may be curious…

Sunday 4th – 11:30am: 10.5 miles in 68:55.

Monday 5th – 11:30am: 4 miles in 21:09. 6pm: 8.5 miles in 62 mins.

Tuesday 6th – 8am: 4 miles in 23:48. 6pm: 7 miles in 44:45

Wednesday 7th – 2:30pm: 5 miles on the track in 26:24. 4.5 miles there and back. 14 miles total.

Thursday 8th – 2:45pm: 11.5 miles in 78 mins.

Friday 9th – 11am: Track – 26x 400m (jog 100m/ 30 sec rec) Averaged 74’s. 16 miles total.

Saturday 10th – 8pm: 14.5 miles in 1hr 32.

TOTAL: 90

Sunday 11th – 11am: 11.5 miles in 74:10.

Monday 12th – OFF

Tuesday 13th – 11:15am: 6 miles in 38:35. 6pm: Track – 12x 500m (1 min rec) 89, 85, 84, 85, 89, 88, 89, 89, 88, 87, 88, 87. Struggled, felt rough. 9 miles total.

Wednesday 14th – 1:30pm: 12.5 miles in 1hr 28.

Thursday 15th – 8am: 4.5 miles in 29:35. 5:30pm: 6.5 miles in 44:25, followed by 3.5 miles with Run Group.

Friday 16th – 6pm: 17 miles in 2hr 01.

Saturday 17th – 8am: 7 miles in 46:50.

TOTAL: 77.5

Sunday 18th – 9am: Session – 3x 2.5 miles around Entwistle Res (2:30 rec) 13:15, 13:24, 13:26. 17 miles total.

Monday 19th – 12pm: 6.5 miles in 41:50. 6:30pm: 11 miles in 70:25.

Tuesday 20th – 8:15am: 4 miles in 27 mins. 6 pm: Track – 8x 1km (2 min rec) 2:59, 3:01, 2:58, 2:57, 2:58, 2:59, 2:58, 2:59. Okay. 9.5 miles total.

Wednesday 21st – 11am: 12 miles in 1hr 21.

Thursday 22nd – 9:30pm: 9 miles in 57:30.

Friday 23rd – 11am: Session – 10x 2 min reps (1 min rec). 5.5 miles total. 6 pm: 10.5 miles in 70:15.

Saturday 24th – 9am: 4 miles in 25 mins.

TOTAL: 89

Sunday 25th – 10:30am: 11.5 miles in 73 mins.

Monday 26th – 11am: 11 miles in 75:50.

Tuesday 27th – 10am: Ribble Valley 10k, 6th 30:18. 7.5 miles total.

Wednesday 28th – 9:30am: 11 miles in 75:14.

Thursday 29th – 8am: 9 miles in 59:20. 5:30pm: 8 miles in 55 mins.

Friday 30th – 9am: 3.5 miles in 21:05. 6 pm: Session – 6x 6 min reps at threshold (2 min rec). 10.5 miles total.

Saturday 31st – 11am: 21 miles in 2hr 30.

TOTAL: 93

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Cheshire 10k (12/11/2016)

After a relatively successful October, I decided to have a bit of downtime for 10 days before refocusing on a winter of shorter distances. I won’t be testing my ankle on the cross country, so I’ve decided on 10k’s, as well as some indoor track races (a career first for me!) and then Helsby Four Villages half marathon in January. I don’t plan to do a marathon for at least another 12 months, I’ve been concerned with my speed at shorter distances and this needs to be addressed almost immediately as I’m not getting any younger! It’s debatable whether I can top my old track pb’s, but I’m determined to have a go in 2017, as many have stood for around 10 years.

My first race was Cheshire 10k, which is a very flat and scenic race that starts and finishes at Arley Hall. I hadn’t done this race before, but it’s one I’ve been keeping an eye on for some time and it’s usually a high standard with fast times. The conditions weren’t perfect, the heavy rain had caused some flooding and it was quite muddy around Arley Hall, the organisers did well to keep the race on and we only had a minor delay of a few minutes before setting off.

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The final kilometre: Danson stepping up the pace

The field was strong; pre-race favourite Mo Abu-Rezeq was there, along with sub 2hr 20 marathoner Stuart Spencer, Rob Danson and Russell Bentley. The event has an interesting prize structure of offering £20 for the leader of each kilometre, which is certainly conducive to producing good times with similarly matched athletes. Unfortunately neither myself or the others could get anywhere near Rezeq; who pretty much had the race won after the first km, which was the last I saw of him! In all honesty I felt very sluggish early on and was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to compete amongst the pack fighting for second place, which consisted of Rob Danson, Russell Bentley, Matthew Wigelsworth, Stuart Spencer & Ben Johnson.

The group was quite packed on the narrow sections of road and after 3k I decided move to the back of the pack to have a bit more space, as I wasn’t really able to push the pace as much as I hoped to. We passed 5k in 15:54, which was about what I expected, but I also knew I wouldn’t stand a chance of clinching second place against these guys if I left it late. I knew I was perhaps lacking a bit of speed, so I decided to make my move between the 6th & 7th kilometre and try to grind out a tough pace over the last two miles, which would hopefully drop the others. Danson responded straight away and by 8k it looked like a battle between the two of us for second, so the tactic was working to some extent. I couldn’t shake off Rob though; he was clearly in top form and I could sense I had my work cut out, the closer we got to the finish, the more Rob looked to have the upper hand. By the last kilometre I was the one hanging on and he got away from me in the last quarter-mile to claim second place after a superb effort, bagging a new pb in the process. I lost my legs completely in the final sprint and was some eight seconds behind in 31:20 with Bentley and Spencer close behind. Abu-Rezeq cruised to victory in 30:27. It’s a great event and I’m looking forward to racing there again next year, possibly in both the April and November ones.

I had hoped to run around 31 minutes or under, but overall I was happy with my run. I ran the second half considerably faster, battling with Rob Danson who has improved to another level this year. He certainly has the credentials to break 31 minutes after covering that last 5k in around 15:20.

On the following day I started suffering with severe toothache and have discovered I’ve got an infected tooth, so training has taken a slight hit this week. Thankfully I was able to get the tooth removed on Thursday, so it will be nice to be off painkillers and penicillin at the end of this week! It will have a bearing on whether I decide to race at Wilmslow 10k or not, as I only want to race this if I’m happy with my training leading up to it. Hopefully that will be the only blip before Ribble Valley 10k on 27th December.

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Manchester Half Marathon (16/10/2016)

After the Lake Vyrnwy race I decided to enter the Manchester Half in the hope that I might still manage at least a seasons’ best. It would come two weeks after the marathon, but this has rarely been much of an issue, back in 2009 I set what was then a pb at the EDF Birmingham Half two weeks after doing 2hr 20 in the Toronto Marathon. In 2012, again after a Toronto outing with England, I ran 2hr 21 to win the Preston Guild Marathon. The last time I broke 67 minutes was at Cardiff, a week after a dismal performance at the Nottingham Marathon back in 2014.

After Chester Marathon I felt perfectly fine and was confident of continuing this tradition of sorts; I did 60 miles in that week afterwards and then did 75 miles going into the race. I thought I’d picked up a bit of a cold, but I managed 8x 1km (2 min rec) in around 3 minutes with the club on Tuesday, and felt comfortable knocking out 5 miles in 26:03 on the track on Thursday, so at least the legs were fine. The race boasted decent prize money and time bonuses, so it was a stacked domestic field and my main aim was to be as competitive as I could with some of the top runners. The conditions were perfect for me, perhaps not to everyone’s liking, but cold drizzle with a bit of wind is just how I like it! We were off at 9-am and it was a fast start, but I felt comfortable enough to get myself in the main group up front, which consisted of nearly 20 runners. After three miles the group trimmed down a little with Ben Riddell and Dave Rigby just starting to drop off. I reckoned we must have been moving along at sub 5 minute pace, as nobody was trying to forge ahead from the group, which was mainly headed by Matt Bond. By 10k (30:55) I was starting to feel it a bit, as was Michael Kallenberg, who drifted a few yards further back; it wasn’t long before I too was dropped and at seven miles I saw the group of eight runners move away from me. I was averaging around 5-minute per-mile pace with 34:59 at this stage, though I was starting to slow down. Impressively, running strongly in that group was Paul Martelletti, who won the Yorkshire Marathon in 2hr 19 the previous week, so I certainly had no excuse if I ended up with a crap run! Once you’re dropped it’s important to keep in a positive frame of mind and try to consolidate your position; I was happy to be where I was at this stage, so it was a case of digging in and hoping one or two others might drop off from that pack. Ten miles was reached in around 50:42, which was still okay and I was looking good for 9th place. I caught a glimpse of two runners starting to drop off the pack up ahead; I wasn’t sure I could catch them, but if I could at least work on closing the gap it would mean that perhaps I could distance myself further from Kallenberg, who probably wasn’t far behind me. By 12 miles I was starting to make up some ground on Toby Spencer; a runner I’ve finished close to on quite a few occasions and I could sniff the opportunity of gaining another place. It was a long straight to the finish and in the last 100 yards I managed to pass Toby, crossing the line in 8th place. I also thought I’d done a 66:58/59 to dip under 67 minutes for the first time in two years, but the official result was 67:01 and I missed out by the smallest of margins. Despite this, I was highly satisfied with my run, the past few weeks have seen a massive turn around in my form and I finally seem to performing at the level my training had been hinting at.

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Left to right: Jacob Watson, myself, Dan Balshaw. Photo courtesy of Bryan Searby

The race was won by Adam Hickey in 64:41, who managed to out-do Matt Bond by a few seconds in the closing stages (despite Bond running 4:42 for the last mile!), Carl Hardman continued his resurgence with a new pb to clinch 3rd in 65:35, just ahead of Alastair Watson. There were some great performances by lots of runners on the day and I would have to rank this as the fastest half marathon course I’ve done. It’s well supported all the way round and once you got off the dual carriage-way in the first couple of miles the course was quite pleasant as you meandered around the Trafford suburbs, it’s definitely one to do if you’re after a fast time. I’ll be taking a year hiatus from the marathon and I’ll definitely be doing this race again next year; hopefully as a faster runner with a chance of getting a pb.

Worth honourable mentions are Jacob Watson & Dan Balshaw who flew the TeamFish flag proudly finishing a few seconds apart in (77:33, a new pb & 77:37). Fellow Blackburn Harrier Jack Hindle ran superbly, bagging a new pb with 74:00.

Results can be found here.

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Chester Marathon (02/10/2016)

September carried on in a similar fashion to August as far as training goes, though I was certainly hoping for some considerable improvement after my run at Lake Vyrnwy. On the 25th September it was the Northern Road Relays at Sportcity in Manchester. I was determined to put in a good run for my team, which was the strongest we’ve fielded for some time; all six of us had recent times for 5km ranging from high 14’s up to 16 minutes. I was confident we’d spring a few surprises and break into the top 10, I even dared to think we might even make top 5! In hindsight that was wishful thinking given the standard of the competition that day. The course was a bit of a strange one, perhaps lacking clear markings and having a few more switch-back turns than I’d like, but there was a great atmosphere all around the route with each leg starting and finishing on the track, so that made up for the repetitive nature of the course. The distance of about 5.5km for the two laps was peculiar too, instead of being around the usual 6-7km

Rob Warner got us off to a great start and ran well in 17:40, which was backed up by Jack Hindle in 18:00 and Zach Howe in 17:58, despite these quality runs we were still outside the top 20, which gives you some idea of the quality of competition that was out there, perhaps the highest I’ve seen. We crept into the top 20 on the fourth leg with Tim Raynes flying along in 17:19, it was then on to myself. I was really keyed up and probably ran out from the track a bit quick, but I settled down and seemed to be moving along well, catching quite a few of the other clubs. I spotted Ian Livesey from our local rivals Barlick just ahead, he was running well, but I managed to pass him on the second lap. Joe Monk anchored our last leg and ran brilliantly to get us up to 10th place with 17:54, with Barlick Fell Runners just behind (for a change!) in 11th. I didn’t time my run, so I was really happy to find out afterwards that I ran 16:44, a huge improvement from my recent form. I felt in a much better frame of mind and I really enjoyed being the “old head” in a very young and talented team, which helped take my mind off my own poor running form up to that point. It was a great day for our club all-round, as we fielded teams in all disciplines and even had four senior male teams out.

Finally I was starting to run well again after a long consistent spell of training, I could only hope it came in time for the Chester Marathon, which was on the following Sunday, 2nd October. I was still a little apprehensive, but I knew I had prepared for it in the best possible way; I reduced my training in the final week by 20% and had a day off on Thursday. I’ve started to experiment with carbo-loading and had some success with it last year before the Potteries Marathon, so I followed this plan again with two days of low-carbs on Wednesday & Thursday and high-carbs on Friday & Saturday. I enjoy having routine in my preparation, so I decided to do a half-day at the shop on Saturday, helping John during the busy spells. Complete rest just doesn’t work for me, believe me, I’ve tried it!

The night before the race, I changed my mind on what race shoes to wear; my Saucony Fastwitch 7’s were gone and I was having doubts about running 26.2 miles in my Puma Faas 300’s, which served me well in the relays. I decided to dig out my old Fastwitch 3’s and after stomping around on the tiled floor in my kitchen, I opted for those, which I used for marathons between 2008 & 2009! Still, it proved to be the right call!

I was up at 5:30am on the morning of the race and felt pretty good. Despite finishing work late the previous night, Hannah was happy to drive me to the race and by 6:15am we were on our way. I was confident of implementing my plan of running roughly 27:30 for each 5 miles, which is around 5:30 pace. Whilst I train with a GPS watch and have done for 10 years, I never race with one, as I like to stay focused on “effort” without the obsession of clock-watching every few minutes. I like to use a good old Timex stopwatch for races, which means they never go on Strava…such a shame.

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I was cautious at the start, letting Daniel Kestrel go off ahead and I hit 5 miles in about 27:50, running alongside Iraitz Arrospide and Andrew Davies. I wasn’t sure how fast Davies was aiming to run; he has the fastest pb, but with an international ultra race next month he was wisely running in preparation for that and we were starting to go a bit ahead him. I next checked my watch at 11 miles (missed the 10 mile marker) and was roughly on target in 60:28, but I was still a bit off the lead and some 200 yards behind.  I was still feeling good at halfway (72:00) and at around 15 miles (1hr 22:14) I was starting to move away from Arrospide in third, but Daniel Kestrel was still some way ahead and he looked full of running. I was regularly taking on water and pouring it over myself to keep cool and had a gel at 12 miles and 19 miles, which thankfully caused no adverse reactions this time! By 20 miles (1hr 49:25) I was picking up the pace slightly and gradually starting to close the gap. Time was now irrelevant, it was eyeballs-out to try and get closer to him. He was still running strong and was easily going to beat his previous best, so I decided to make a big effort at 21 miles to try and get myself in contention. I caught him at 23 miles and for the next mile or so we battled it out for the lead. I gradually pulled away in those last two miles and even though I was starting to feel rough, that wave of adrenaline kicked in and I pushed on towards the finish at the Racecourse. It was a brilliant feeling to come into the venue for those last 300 metres and enjoy the victory; which seemed a very distant reality three weeks ago. It was also great to have so many people cheering me on along the way, there was certainly a strong contingent of Blackburn Road Runners (our neighbour club) out on the course giving me encouragement too, which was much appreciated! Daniel Kestrel still kept a strong pace and broke 2hr 25, with Andrew Davies putting in some great preparation for his ultra, taking third with 2hr 26.

I would highly recommend the Chester Marathon, I’ve done this four times and the organisation is terrific, as is the course, which is very scenic and fairly flat (I suppose that perception depends on where you’re from!). The support along the way is brilliant and it’s a real buzz finishing at the Chester Racecourse in front of a big crowd.

Results can be found here

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Lake Vyrnwy Half Marathon (11/09/2016)

Well, the Summer didn’t really go as planned, the foot trouble gradually eased off eventually, but it meant that I had to scale back the racing and focus on training. Still, by the start of September I had managed over 2,500 miles of running, which is okay after a dodgy June/July. In August I just ran in a 5,000m track race, finishing well behind Gary Priestley and then had a better outing at the Sale Sizzler 5k, coming 5th in 15:07. Mileage has been good over the past two months and recently the speed sessions have started to click into place, which is what makes my performance at Lake Vyrnwy half marathon so disappointing.

I’ve averaged 80-90 miles with the exception of one (66) since late July, even getting in some 100+ weeks on occasion. Over the past few weeks I’ve started to see the back of the plantar fasciitis and have been nailing some decent sessions, such as 24x 400m (30 sec rec) in 72/73’s and on the Tuesday last week I was happy with 10x 600m (90 sec rec) in 1:41/42’s. I certainly felt in better form than this stage last year and was aiming to run under 67:30 and hopefully retain my title.

It was a warm breezy afternoon and at 1pm we were on our way around this scenic and fast course in mid-Wales. All seemed to be quite well in the early stages; the first three miles were covered at a good pace in 15:10 and by this point it was just myself and Ryan Holroyd battling it out slightly ahead of the others. The race carried on in this fashion over the next couple of miles, but it was around this part where I was surprisingly starting to struggle and having to work hard to contest the lead. Holroyd certainly seemed to be moving a lot better than I was and I knew it would only be a matter of time before the inevitable happened. By the seventh mile (35:5o-ish) I was still hanging on, but after another ten minutes of running I lost contact and was barely able to hold together any sort of respectable pace; I got slower and slower and slower – I think I ran the 11th – 12th mile close to six minutes! The gap behind me had closed almost as drastically as the one opened up ahead of me; I was 30 seconds ahead of third place, but nearly two minutes behind Ryan Holroyd, who ran superbly to bag the victory and a new pb in 67:59. My time of 69:56 was far from impressive and totally at odds with what I “thought” was my current form. It also didn’t stack well against other runs I had here, my previous times have been 66:55, 67:43, 66:50, 68:04, 67:53.14291771_10210037053658580_5801384322776450223_n

I have plenty of racing planned over the Autumn, so that will be the test to figure out if it’s a blip or whether I’m struggling to compete at the level I used to these days. I’m confident of a much better performance in my next race, the hard work will continue and also increase and hopefully there’s still some decent races before the year’s out. Perhaps a change of approach is required; compared to my days living in Manchester, I’m doing lots of hillier runs but at slower paces and it’s no coincidence that my best races this year have been on hilly courses.

Results can be found here:

http://www.ukresults.net/2016/vyrnwy.html

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