PB review 2017 & targets for 2018

At last, after two years in the running semi-wilderness, 2017 was a resoundingly successful year. The dip in mileage during November and December, explained in my last post, was not due to injury and the lesser dip in April was simply post marathon recovery.

2017 was a resoundingly successful year.

I participated in 20 parkrun 5k events this year, across 5 different venues, and ran most of them competitively. At Dulwich parkrun in August, I improved my longstanding 2014 5k PB of 18:53 to 18:50. In the next two months, I continued to record excellent times – 18:52, 18:54 and 18:52 – every time I ran a parkrun competitively.

Outside parkrunning, I participated in my first marathon, which was a great experience if not an impressive performance, and I improved my 10000m PB twice such that my track time is now on a par with my road PB and the targets I have set for both now seem genuinely realistic. On my 52nd birthday, 1st October, I ran the Kingston Half marathon with the aim of setting a new PB, faster than the now disqualified 86:29 I set at Brighton in 2015. Coming as it did during the best three months of my year – August to October – I was initially somewhat disappointed to run ‘only’ 86:41. But, since Brighton 2015 was officially 146 metres short, it is clear that this is a better performance by any measure. I will definitely be returning next year and hope to be ready to attempt sub 85 minutes.

So, once again my targets for are unchanged from last year. This year I really want to get on the track and improve my middle distance PBs, but having entered another marathon is not exactly conducive to that! On that note, last year’s Brighton Marathon was hard enough that, at this moment, notwithstanding that I am running strong I think it is unlikely I will commit to my sub 3:10 target time from the gun.

2017 season 2018 season
event opening PB target events improvement target
800m 2:25.9 2:19.9 2:19.9
1500m 5:18.2 4:49.9 4:49.9
mile 5:31.7 4:59.9 4:59.9
3000m 9:59.9 9:59.9
5000m 19:01.53 17:59.99 17:59.99
5k 18:53 17:59 20 August 18:50 17:59
5 mile 31:28 29:59 29:59
10000m 40:41 38:29.99 2 June 40:28.20, September 39:05.53 38:29.99
10k 39:04 38:29 1 38:29
10 mile 66:41 64:59 64:59
half marathon 86:29 84:59 1 October 86:41 84:59
marathon 3:09:59 1 April 3:47:58 3:09:59

I am still in denial about getting older and so I am holding out for absolute PBs – that is improvements in my best times. However, for the sake of completeness shall we say, I have listed my age grade (AG) bests and am particularly hopeful that 2018 will see the achievement of my longstanding goal of an 80% age grade.

event time PB AGe when set AG of time PB when set AG PB age when AG PB set
800m 2:25.9 48 78.32% same
1500m 5:18.2 48 72.77% same
mile 5:31.7 48 75.50% same
5000m 19:01.53 49 72.21% same
5k 18:50 51 78.94% 79.42% (18:52) 52
5 mile 31:28 49 76.91% same
10000m 39:05.53 51 77.64% same
10k 39:04 49 77.94% 78.20% (39:54) 52
10 mile 66:41 48 74.33% same
half marathon 86:41 52 78.58% same
marathon 3:47:58 51 61.73% same

PB review 2016 & targets for 2017

My running in 2016 ended on a relative high. This is probably better phrased as, “My perception of running in 2016 was only saved from being ‘a complete fiasco’ by returning to a decent level of activity in December.” I ran 21 parkrun 5k events this year, but most of those were simply part of the process of recovery from one injury or another. Certainly, none were PB attempts and the fastest, 19:23 at Dulwich in June, was a full 30 seconds outside my 5k PB. Outside parkrunning, I participated in only three events this year. The first two of these were also in June; a 3k team relay and a 10000m PB although the latter was more of a statistical anomaly than a notable performance. By July I was already injured when I participated in the Thunder Run 24 hour team relay which really was such a fiasco that I couldn’t bring myself to write a blog post.


Running in 2016 was only saved from being a complete fiasco by returning to a decent level of activity in December.

Consequently my targets for 2017 are unchanged from last year. In fact, I have removed the 50k target which I optimistically added last year as part of my #50at50 challenge. If I am unable to maintain marathon training this year long enough to line up at the Brighton Marathon in April I will likely acknowledge that the marathon is beyond my physiology and remove it too next year.

2016 season 2017 season
event opening PB target events improvement target
800m 2:25.9 2:19.9 2:19.9
1500m 5:18.2 4:49.9 4:49.9
mile 5:31.7 4:59.9 4:59.9
3000m 9:59.9 9:59.9
5000m 19:01.53 17:59.99 17:59.99
5k 18:53 17:59 21 17:59
5 mile 31:28 29:59 29:59
10000m 44:04 38:29.99 1 June 40:41.00 38:29.99
10k 39:04 38:29 38:29
10 mile 66:41 64:59 64:59
half marathon 86:29 84:59 84:59
marathon 3:09:59 3:09:59

PB review 2015 & targets for 2016

The running year that was 2015 came to a singularly disappointing end for me and was only saved from complete statistical ignominy by February’s half marathon PB at Brighton. Achilles tendonitis, though only diagnosed as such in July, affected my season from February and morphed seamlessly into prepatellar bursitis during September which then accompanied me joylessly to the end of the year. Although I ran ten parkrun 5k events this year only three of these were inside twenty minutes and, of those, I ran only two as PB attempts. Hindsight seems to suggest even those were limited by the then undiagnosed tendonitis. Consequently my targets barely require revision for 2016.

Nonetheless the presentation of data in tabular form always engenders inordinate inner joy and so I have indulged myself to the full. Compared to last year I have set targets in three additional disciplines. The 5000m and 10000m targets are prompted by my participation in a 5000m, in April at a Highgate Harriers open meeting, and my aspiration to run at Highgate Harriers night of the 10000m PBs respectively. Although I had already run once in each discipline, both in 2006, I hadn’t previously noted these PBs separately from my 5k and 10k times; primarily because they were slower than my times in those disciplines anyway. The two track disciplines should of course be faster than their road race twins – the times for a 50 year old male recording an 80% AG performance are:

  • 5000m 18:01.80 / 5k 18:26.25 [ track just over 24 seconds faster ]
  • 10000m 37:37.91 / 10k 38:22.50 [ track nearly 45 seconds faster ]

With these comparisons in mind the targets below for 5000m and 10000m are clearly much kinder than the existing targets for 5k and 10k retained from last year. Personally an 80% Age Grade remains a Holy Grail – most of my PBs equate to an AG of around 75% – and since my strongest times are in shorter events it is unlikely I will ever achieve an 80% AG at 5000m or 10000m. Similarly the targets below for marathon and 50k – the third new discipline – are even kinder; the times equate to Age Grades of 73.41% and 71.90% respectively.

2015 season 2016 season
event opening PB target events improvement target
800m 2:25.9 2:19.9 2:19.9
1500m 5:18.2 4:49.9 4:49.9
mile 5:31.7 4:59.9 4:59.9
3000m 9:59.9 9:59.9
5000m 20:27 1 April 19:01.53 17:59.99
5k 18:53 17:59 10 17:59
5 mile 31:28 29:59 29:59
10000m 44:04 38:29.99
10k 39:04 38:29 38:29
10 mile 66:41 64:59 64:59
half marathon 89:16 87:29 2 February 86:29 84:59
marathon 3:09:59 3:09:59
50k 3:54:59

Well, that is as much joy as I can realise from reflection on statistics alone. Here’s to a happier New Year with some actual running!

PB review 2014 & targets for 2015

Ending 2014 on a high – running over 120 miles and recording a PB in each of the last three months of the year – the middle six months where I didn’t run a competitive event now seem a long time ago. My primary PB focus this year was intended to be on distances of 5k and shorter, but that failed to materialise due to injury*.

One positive of being sidelined was that I took time to focus on weight management and successfully reduced my weight from around 73kg and rising, at the end of March, to around 67kg and stable since June. I am certain that my reduced weight has been a significant factor in the subsequent PB improvements I have made, although I’ve yet to realise all the hypothetical potential I calculated when considering my Stillman running weight.


Around 67kg and relatively stable since June this year, I am certain that my reduced weight has been a significant factor in the subsequent PB improvements I have made.

To minimise the risk of further injury during my extended recovery period, I chose to focus on restoring strength and endurance at the expense of absolute speed and so reverted to historical type and ran exclusively longer distance events. Hence the only targets I’ve needed to revise this year are those at 10k and above. The marathon I’ve only included for fun since my first marathon isn’t due until twenty sixteen anyway.

2014 season 2015 season
event opening PB target events improvement target
800m 2:25.9 2:19.9 2:19.9
1500m 5:18.2 4:49.9 1 4:49.9
mile 4:59.9 1 March 5:31.7 4:59.9
3000m 9:59.9 9:59.9
5k 18:58 17:59 13 March 18:55
October 18:53
5 mile 31:36 29:59 1 December 31:28 29:59
10k 39:33 38:59 2 November 39:04 38:29
10 mile 67:53 1 March 66:41 64:59
half marathon 89:53 88:59 1 March 88:16 87:29
marathon 3:09:59

Whilst the right hand column is optimistically labelled “2015 season target” I’m curious to discover if any of these ever need revising again; it may be that it could more accurately be labelled “lifetime target”. In any event, whether I can achieve these targets or not, I am hopeful that I have at least two or three more seasons where I’ll be able to improve my PBs in as broad a range of distances as I have in the last two. With an eye on 2016’s marathon I shall be doing everything I can to stay injury free next year and hope that this will enable me to run a similar number of events as I did in 2013. If this in turn results in PB achievements as extensive as either 2014 or 2013 I’ll be very satisfied indeed.

end of year summary 2014

I’m hopeful that I have at least two or three more seasons where I’ll be able to record PBs across a broad range of distances as I have in the last two years.

Here’s to a Happy New Running Year. And a good one in all aspects of life for that matter! 🙂

* I have agreed with myself to stop linking back to the posts I made at the time, but am making a final exception as I say farewell to 2014 and re-spraining my right ankle back in March.

Top five runners’ rules of thumb

Rules of thumb, I love them. A little maths, useful and concise. For example, I came across this one recently; “the perfect blog post title references an ordered list, contains six words and at least one prime number.” Very recently. Unfortunately as a rule of thumb this fails because a true rule of thumb is borne out in practice rather than made up on the spur of the blog.

There’s a reason why this definition is on a t-shirt, but I’m not quite sure now what it is.

And talking of the spur of the blog, this post is dedicated to running blogger Boy On The Run. Not that this is an obituary or anything, just that he’s a much less introspective, more disciplined and generally more reliably informative and amusing bloggist than this one. Homage, tribute, pastiche, sycophancy, plagiarism. It’s all here.

Let me see those thumbs …

1 “Calories burned equals distance in kilometres multiplied by weight in kilogrammes”

This is pretty accurate and in fact rather usefully errs on the side of caution so you can be absolutely sure your post run treat won’t outweigh the good you just did. The Runners World calculator multiplies the rule of thumb result by 1.036, though this too is an estimate. The true factor will vary from individual to individual primarily dependent upon metabolic efficiency converting food to energy and running efficiency converting energy to forward motion.

Snickers bar chart

Other brands of post workout recovery nutrition are available.

2 “Every pound of excess weight lost equals a 2 seconds per mile increase in pace.”

I’ve seen it argued that this rule is simply unsubstantiated running lore and elsewhere that whilst it is research based the paper only looked at performance over 5k. (It may even have been this piece of research, but I can’t even read all the long words let alone follow the maths.) Even so it is very appealing to extrapolate to various race distances and I have found it highly motivating when contemplating weight loss in the light of my target running weight.

weight loss race time improvement
5k 10k half marathon marathon
1 lb 0:06 0:12 0:26 0:52
2 lbs 0:12 0:24 0:52 1:44
5 lbs 0:31 1:02 2:11 4:22
10 lbs 1:02 2:04 4:22 8:44
1 kg 0:13 0:27 0:57 1:55
2 kg 0:27 0:54 1:55 3:51
5 kg 1:08 2:16 4:49 9:38
10 kg 2:16 4:33 9:38 19:16
3 “A change in pace of 10 seconds per kilometre equals 15 seconds per mile.”

Starting from the premise that a pace of 5 minutes per kilometre is equivalent to 8 minutes per mile this rule enables fairly easy mental estimation of equivalent paces starting from either unit. Despite my age I’ve come to think primarily in pace per kilometre, probably because most of my early races were over 10k where the link between goal time and metric race pace is so straightforward. However joining my first running club, Beckenham RC in January 2013, introduced me to a culture where mile pace was the norm. I find this rule useful to convert club night run paces as they are announced; “8:30 miles … so that’s 2 fifteens over 8 minute miles, so 2 tens over 5 minute kilometres … 5:20. OK, that suits me.” It’s also helpful when chatting with other runners to be able to converse in whichever unit system they prefer.

15s per mile, 10s per km

If this was a post by Boy On The Run this image would feature a donkey wearing a Spiderman costume in a Greek island idyll. But it isn’t and it doesn’t. It’s tabulated data. I can’t help myself.

It’s clear that this rule becomes less accurate the further from the original premise the desired pace lies. Fortunately for me my range of easy paces is centred exactly around the 5 minutes per km / 8 minutes per mile pair of values and so a faster or slower easy run will still lie well within the range illustrated above and hence will be accurate enough in most contexts. A simple corollary of “10 seconds per kilometre equals 15 seconds per mile” is of course “20 seconds per kilometre equals 30 seconds per mile” and using this to illustrate the results even further from the original premise does reveal the limitations.

30s per mile, 20s per km

“To infinity and beyond!” OK, not Spiderman. And not desperately relevant to the image, but that doesn’t deter Boy On The Run either.

4 “Multiply race time by 2.1 to predict race time over twice the original distance.”

This can be used to predict, or at least set realistic goals for, different race distances based on existing race times. It’s usefulness is slightly limited by the fact that race distances are not all inter-related in terms of being double, or half, of another; the mix of metric and imperial race distances doesn’t help. Nonetheless 1500m/3000m, 5k/10k, 5 mile/10 mile and half marathon/marathon are all such pairs. Trying to apply the rule to shorter distances doesn’t work so well which is a shame since 100m/200m/400m/800m/mile (1609m) makes a great related set. My intuition is that this is because the transition from entirely anaerobic to predominantly aerobic events occurs over this range of distances.

Certainly over the distances for which I have PB pairs the relationship is very close to this rule; 5k/10k 18:55 PB/predicts 39:44 (39:33 actual), 5 mile/10 mile 31:36 PB/predicts 66:22 (66:41 actual).The corollary of the rule, used to work from a longer race distance to a shorter one, is of course to “divide race time by 2.1 to predict race time over half the original distance.” This is the hardest do mentally, but it is worth digging out a calculator for if necessary. Personally I’ve whiled away many minutes during longer runs calculating and recalculating my predicted marathon time from my current half marathon PB. Calculating the km pace required to achieve this can easily keep me occupied for the rest of the run.

As with all calculations of this type the rule takes no account of natural ability favouring longer or shorter race distances, rather it assumes absolutely equal ability and quality of preparation over all distances.

5 “Racing over middle and long distance hurts in inverse proportion to the distance.”

This is probably as good a time as any to note that this rule is casually plagiarised and paraphrased from Boy On The Run’s original in his post “the different types of runner – part 5” where it appears as “Running hurts. If you are a marathon runner it hurts a fair amount for a long time. If you are a mile runner it hurts A LOT for a short while.” You may be pleased to read that it involves no maths whatsoever and so probably doesn’t qualify as a true rule of thumb. I’m not even sure what my personal relationship is to this rule just yet.

As mentioned previously I started out racing predominantly over 10k; my first event was in 2006. Since my 2012 return to running I have raced predominantly over 5k, thanks to parkrun, and have only very recently run my first handful of races of less than 5k and hence “middle distance”. Reviewing my performances in those I think I subconsciously adopted my long standing, long distance habits; starting out carefully, settling in to goal pace after a few hundred metres and then containing effort to ensure I was able to maintain my goal pace to the end.

On reflection I realise that optimal middle distance performance requires a sharp start, adopting goal pace with a few tens of metres and then pushing the limit hard throughout. I think that racing in that way is much more likely to bring me into contact with the intensity of lactic acid pain that middle distance racing is famous for. To date I think I’ve experienced greater mental and emotional discomfort in races, typically in longer races like half marathons, than I have lactate running pain. And certainly nothing approaching the levels described by true middle distance runners.

I am perversely looking forward to pushing myself further towards it.

running targets for 2014

My primary PB focus for 2014 is going to be on distances of 5k and shorter. I’d like to improve my 800m, 1500m and 5k PBs and, if the opportunity arises, set PBs at 1 mile and 3000m too. In addition I hope to improve my 5 mile, 10k and half marathon bests and, having failed to set a PB for 10 miles in 2013 as planned, I hope to complete an event at that distance too.

All my current PBs, bar one, were set in the final quarter of 2013 and hence at age 48. The exception, the half marathon, was set just a few days before my birthday and hence the AG was calculated at age 47. The AGs shown for the target times below are all calculated at age 48.

800m target 2:19.9 / AG 81.68%
current PB 2:25.9 / AG 78.32%
Measured by AG this looks to be a hard target, but having run a better AG in only my second 800m than at any other event distance to date, I’m confident.

1500m target 4:49.9 / AG 79.87%
current PB 5:18.2 / AG 72.77%
Since both events to date were run at the same meetings as my first two 800m events, and within 15 minutes or so of the finish of those, I’m confident that a significant improvement is possible.

mile target 4:59.9 / AG 83.51%
current PB <none>
My target time is chosen simply because I’d love to run a mile within 5 minutes. The AG suggests it’s going to require a performance significantly beyond all my achievements to date.

3000m target 9:59.9 / AG 82.52%
current PB <none>
Again the target time is chosen simply because I’d love to run 3000m within 10 minutes. AG suggests it’s likely to be about as hard as the mile target taking into account the extra distance.

5k target 17:59 / 80.72%
current PB 18:58 / AG 76.54%
Towards the end of 2012 I dipped under 20 minutes for 5k and set my target for 2013 at 19:30. Having gone well beyond that target this year I don’t want to make the same mistake again and so have chosen sub 18 minutes rather than sub 18:30 for 2014 🙂

5 mile target 29:59 / AG 80.04%
current PB 31:36 / AG 75.95%
Having reduced my PB significantly in 2013 sub 30 minutes does not now seem unreasonable although, given my focus on shorter distances this year, whether that is achievable in 2014 remains to be seen.

10k target 38:59 / AG 77.51%
current PB 39:33 / AG 76.40%
Having achieved my longest standing running target – to run 10k in less than 40 minutes – last year it seems reasonable to set less than 39 minutes as the next milestone.

10 mile target 1:07:53 / AG 73.02%
current PB <none>
My target time is directly dictated by my half marathon target since both require 6:47 mile pace or 4:13 km pace. My return to fitness permitting I hope to find a 10 mile race a suitable interval before the Brighton half marathon as part of my preparation for that race and to try out the pace required.

half marathon target 1:28:59 / AG 73.98%
current PB 1:29:53 / AG 73.24%
I have entered the Brighton half marathon on 16 February 2014 and am hoping that if I am fully fit the relatively flat course will enable me to achieve my target.