Quality Street, quality running

On Monday night a friend came to visit and brought us a small tin of Quality Street chocolates as a gift. It was only a small tin. It still is only a small tin. It’s just that it is now a small, empty tin*. I have blogged about binge eating in the past and whilst it is not an overwhelming problem for me, it remains a recurring theme. Based on the product’s nutritional information, slightly ameliorated by the Cyclist and our friend eating a polite number of chocolates during the evening, it seems I wantonly consumed around 1000 junk calories after our friend had left and the Cyclist had gone to bed. Extended nutritional highlights; 42g of fat (20%) and 123g sugar (58%)!

Unfortunately such an occurrence remains ‘normal’ for me; although it cycles through periods of higher and lower frequency I would estimate an average of once a week … Fortunately I am currently running so much, and enjoying it so much, that such a binge is all but cancelled out by the combination of running and the good eating habits which I maintain the rest of the time. Since my weight has remained constant, at around 67kg since June, the calories themselves are clearly fully consumed by my metabolic furnace; averaging 30 miles a week as I have for the last four months burns an additional 3,300 calories a week. I am aware that, although the furnace seems indiscriminate about its fuel, the flaws in the quality of my nutrition will have an effect on my running performance.

My youngest daughter woke me up at around 4:40am on Tuesday morning and, despite insistently remaining in bed for a further 40 minutes, I failed to convince myself that sleep was still an option. Influenced by the excesses of the night before I decided to bring my long run forward from its regular Thursday morning slot. A long run for me is currently 10 miles / 16 kilometres or a little more and when not tapering for a race I do one most weeks. Consequently my previous long run, of 18km, was towards the end of November before my efforts of the last two weekends at Oak Hill and Perivale.

Just before 6:00am I set out from Beckenham, South West toward Croydon, on a route of approximately 10 miles that I’ve run several times before. As I’d not done a long run for a few weeks I planned to limit my pace to around 5:20/km for the opening kilometres so that I would get the most training and fat burning benefit from my run and simply so that I could ease along and enjoy the morning. It was cold enough that running tights, two top layers, gloves and a hat were necessary.

My Garmin Connect activity shows that at least I kept my pace over 5:00/km for the first four kilometres – 5:14, 5:12, 5:06, 5:08. After that I remained at or slightly under 5:00km for the next few kilometres which is the pace I naturally fall into when I’m running at my most relaxed. The most significant feature of the route starts 8 kilometres in; a 70 metre climb spread over 2.3km, 50 metres of which is within the tenth kilometre. This felt significantly easier than I remember it and my splits for kilometres 9 and 10 were 5:00 and 5:11 respectively. Moreover my HR averaged 133 and 140 in those kilometres in contrast to the 124 I’d maintained up until that point. I ran at under 5:00/km for the remainder of the run.

Activity map from my Garmin Connect activity record.

Running along the North East side of Crystal Palace Park was the high point of my run both literally and metaphorically. I felt strong, light and fresh and completed kilometre 12 in 4:34. The endorphins which fuelled that also inspired me to not to cash in my elevation immediately and run down the North West side of the park towards Penge, and home, as I normally do on this route. Instead I continued past Dulwich/Sydenham Woods and only then turned downhill into Sydenham where I joined another route I know well, one I learned when out running with my club: I turned into Venner Road and then onto Lennard Road towards Cator Park. By now I had run just over 17km and I was little more than a kilometre from home. I was heading in that general direction mentally as well as geographically. However at the junction of Lennard Road and Kent House Road the traffic lights and traffic flow were against me and so I turned right rather than continuing straight on as I otherwise would have done. At the next junction I did the same, again influenced by heavy traffic.

track in fields

Running along the North East side of Crystal Palace Park … doesn’t look like this, but during my run it felt like this.
And I believe it is compulsory for every runner’s blog to include a version of this image anyway.

Passing through Penge I completed 19km and arrived at Lidl at the North end of Elmers End Road. I definitely had it in mind to continue straight ahead down Elmers End Road, to the station, and then turn left home; a further distance of a little over 2km. Instead, in a state of heightened euphoria, I turned right and headed directly away from home. Reflecting on my Garmin data now I can see that for five of the preceding six kilometres I had been running downhill and had lost 80 metres of elevation in the first five of those. Notwithstanding that the final sixth kilometre actually climbed 20 metres the net effect was that I felt very strong and, more significantly, very excited at feeling so good such a long way into a run. As I continued my run I began to think about writing a blog post. I came up with the title and contemplated how far I might run in total. I knew that my longest single runs ever were around 22km and that I’d once run a little over 23km with two short breaks whilst on a group run with my club. With my recent Advent Running experience in mind I thought 25km, or perhaps 25.25km, would be appropriate. Feeling all but invincible I started thinking that maybe my first marathon won’t be such a big deal … quite pleasant even. And that my sometime fantasy of running the Sri Chimnoy 24 hour race wasn’t something from an alternate universe after all …

My route home was essentially dictated by the limitations of my geographic knowledge; as I passed Norwood Junction station, at around 20.5km, I rejoined my outward route and simply re-traced the opening kilometres of my run as I didn’t want to risk getting lost exploring possible alternatives. I did use the one cut through I know in the area, past Blackhorse Lane tram stop, to shorten my return slightly. Which was a relief because as I completed 21km I quite quickly went from feeling fine to my right ankle feeling sore/painful and shortly after that both legs became heavy and tired and I felt sore and stiff in various unusual locations. My run was no longer the stuff of fantasy. Reality kicked back in and it occurred to me to check the time for the first time since I’d left home: 7:45 and I realised I needed to get home promptly so that the Cyclist could go to work! We passed on the doorstep as I arrived home and it didn’t seem to be a good time to share my new running milestone and hope that she’d be enthusiastic …

DISCLAIMER: The author in no way advocates the use of Quality Street or any other confectionery items to enhance running performance. Any persons using confectionery items to enhance running performance do so entirely at their own risk. Any loss or injury caused directly or indirectly by confectionery items in a running context remain the sole liability of the individual(s) administering the confectionery and/or doing the running.

* Well except for two coconut eclairs, but nobody knowingly eats those. I did eat one in the low illumination of the TV screen and reminded myself why I don’t.


2 thoughts on “Quality Street, quality running

  1. The Cyclist was supposed to leave the house at 7.20 and by 8.05 was having various alternating thoughts: “He’s lost”, “He’s in a ditch”, “He’s in big trouble.” Not sure all those references to being close to home then deciding to go in the opposite direction are going to get you in my good books!


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