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

Doris days (Brighton marathon training, week 10)

Generally, I do my long runs on a Thursday as this is the best fit around my family and work life. However, I had long planned week ten in my marathon training as the point at which I would transition my long runs from Thursdays to Sundays so that I could accustom myself to the routine of running at 9:15 on a Sunday morning as I shall on race day. I chose week ten because moving my long run back three days created the opportunity for a mini taper before Brighton Half Marathon which I raced on Sunday 26 February. (Actually replacing the scheduled long run this week).

So, with the flexibility of a 10 day ‘week’, I decided to mix things up a little whilst still retaining the core of my ongoing marathon training plan.

Racing a parkrun for the first time this year, I returned to my home parkrun (Dulwich) for the 41st time. I set out with an approximate target of 19:30 in mind. Anticipating my run, I wasn’t sure whether I would be struggling to hold on for a sub 20 finish or if I might run something closer to 19:15. Off the start line I was pulled along with the typical exuberance of the front of a parkrun field such that at 500 metres I was I was at sub 19:15 pace. Knowing, and feeling, that this was unsustainable I checked my pace slightly and completed 4k averaging 19:45 pace. Dulwich parkrun is not quite flat, it is run over 3 laps of an oval loop which has a difference of 12 metres in elevation from one end to the other. One of the quirks of running 5k over these 3 laps is that kilometre four is always the slowest, being the most cumulatively uphill, and kilometre five is always the fastest, it being the most cumulatively downhill plus, of course, this is where you deploy your sprint finish! So, as I completed 4k and saw I was on track for 19:45, I knew I would record something significantly faster than that. This positive thought spurred me on and I was feeling good physically too. Pushing throughout the final kilometre and sprinting the final 250 metres, I finished in 19:28. Yay!

The first thing I did when I got home was plug this time into the race prediction calculator at Running For Fitness to gain an indication of what I might reasonably expect to run in Brighton. This produced an age graded prediction of 1:28:26. The second thing I did, for the next couple of days at least, was feel like I had been in a race! This was after all my first hard race effort of the year so far.

Doris …
Some easy running and a swim over the next few days helped me recover and I decided to do the tempo run specified in my marathon training plan as my last significant run before Brighton Half. This happened to fall on the day that Storm Doris passed over the UK which meant that my kilometre splits were all over the place starting, as I did, almost directly into the wind. With a target pace of 4:08/km, I opened with a 4:22 and a 4:26, including jumping over several, mercifully small, fallen branches. Blissfully I then turned and put the wind on my back for the remaining three kilometres which I completed in 4:13, 4:04 and 4:00. 4:13/km overall average and certainly tempo effort if not quite tempo pace!

I finished my pre-race build up the day before Brighton with a carb load stimulus session that I first used, in more approximate form, before Brighton Half, in 2014. I deliberately chose the direction of my mile pace and sprint efforts to avoid fighting Doris’s continuing high spirits and to harness the psychological boost of running quickly relatively effortlessly.

week 10 – ending Sunday 26 February

day training
Sat 55 mins including 19:28 5k parkrun (4:31/km average)
Sun 50 mins easy (5:01/km average)
Mon (swim 1.2k, 32 mins)
Tue 40 mins easy (4:59/km average)
Thu 15 mins easy (warm up)
21 mins tempo
5 mins easy (warm down)
(5:06/km average)
(4:13/km average)
(4:58/km average)
Sat 14 mins easy (warm up)
2 mins 30 secs mile pace
30 secs sprint
9 mins easy (warm down)
(4:49/km average)
(3:20/km average)
(<3:00/km average)
(5:05/km average)
Sun Brighton Half Marathon

[update March 2017, since my original post the race organiser has issued a statement confirming that the 2017, 2016 and 2015 races were all 146 metres short. The following race report remains as originally written before the statement was issued.]

Brighton Half
My regular long run partner Simon and I entered Brighton Half back in April 2016 so keen were we to make up for the disappointment of not running that year’s race. Brighton Half is fast, almost flat and with good weather, as I experienced in both 2014 and 2015, it is certainly a PB course. By the turn of the year running friends Ed and John had also signed up and we were in good spirits driving down to Brighton notwithstanding the weather.

Storm Doris was still venting her issues as we arrived in Brighton and this confirmed my reflections over the preceding few days. I modified my plan to combatting the conditions, seeking shelter in groups and primarily ensuring that I finished inside ninety minutes as a matter of pride! My secondary goal, to be considered during the race once the effect of the conditions became clear, was to run sub 88 minutes without going all out; to avoid the potential of compromising my marathon training.

One of the benefits of travelling with friends was that I inherited their good organisation and so I found my start pen – 1:20 to 1:29 – in good time. I positioned myself towards the rear and, as the start approached, decided I would hang back a little until the 1:30 pacer appeared. I stood aside as the gun went and then jogged up to the line so that the pacer caught me up as I crossed the line. I was probably being over cautious and certainly, I got a little bogged down in the first kilometre or two in the crowds. No matter, at least I was getting plenty of shelter from the wind.

Having run the race twice before I knew what to expect as we turned into the town, subsequently returned to the sea front and then headed East to the first turn around point. As I pivoted around the cone there, at approaching 7k race distance, Doris made her presence known. The South Westerly wind was significant and immediately I settled into my plan seeking strong runners and shelter wherever I could, whilst still pressing forward. Several times I began to press only to sense the increased wind effect, reconsider and resume a position of shelter. Running the core straight stretch of the route, 9k West, into the wind I soon felt confident that I would be able to finish within 90 minutes, probably within 89 and tried to carve out another whole minute. As the second turnaround approached the wind really began to take its toll and, frustratingly, I lost contact with a group I had been running with for most of the second half of the stretch. Running without cover the final two kilometres before the turnaround were significantly slower. Nonetheless, I contemplated the possibility that I might run a fast final 5k, with the wind, and lift my time back the right side of 89 minutes.

Frustratingly, having the wind on my back did not initially seem to have much effect. I completed the next kilometre in TBC. However, I then rallied for two or three kilometres before again hitting a difficult patch. I recall this as being caused by fatigue rather than the wind, but my perception may be flawed. Even so, I rallied once more and dug out a sub 4 minute final kilometre.

By the time I had had a post race massage and regrouped with my friends, for well-earned bacon sandwiches and coffee, we had all received our results by text and hence looked pretty pleased with ourselves in our post race photo 🙂


John, Chris, Ed, me and Simon looking pretty pleased with ourselves.

race data summary

official finish time chip 87:58
target 88:00 – 0:02 inside
splits pace
TBC (final full km), TBC (final 97.5 metres)
approx HR
138, 148, 152, 153, 154,
153, 154, 155, 151, 153,
154, 155, 154, 155, 153,
151, 154, 155, 156, 156,
158 (final full km), 162 (final 97.5 metres)
biometric summary average HR – 153
max HR – 163  (estimated personal maximum – 172)
average cadence – 180
approx start weight – 71.0kg
positions by chip time
(gun time)
overall – 290 (318) out of 8049
gender – 273 (298) out of 4283
category VM50-59 – 21 (28) out of 581

Week 10 of the ‘2016 improver plan’ that I am using as a template for my training. [Available via Virgin London Marathon plans, devised by Martin Yelling.]

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

Backing off

Even as I posted “Back on track (metaphorical)”, I was anticipating a 1500m at Norman Park track a few days later and revelling in my wit in titling the accompanying post “Back on track (literal)” thereby confirming my place in the blogging firmament.

The following day I ran an easy 10k, but experienced some knee pain from about 9k.This was frustrating. I concluded the most likely cause was worn out shoes; the pair I wore had covered 475 miles and I typically retire shoes at 500. I switched to a pair with only 100 miles on them and ran another 5k season’s best a couple of days later at Dulwich parkrun on Saturday 11 June . The next morning I set out for another easy 10k. I experienced similar knee pain and again from about 9k. This was annoying.

I had to conclude that I had been overdoing the mileage. Even as I wrote “my mileage has returned to what I consider ‘normal’; around 30 miles a week”, in the masterwork that was “Back on track (metaphorical)”, I had just completed two consecutive weeks of 34 and 32 miles and was about to complete a third of 35. Even though I didn’t include it in my post I had committed myself to maintaining a strict ceiling of 30 miles per week for at least a couple of months before making tentative increments. (Throughout the last four months of 2014, I averaged 30 miles per week and ran fast and injury free. Then in January 2015, I averaged over 38 miles per week; and I now think this precipitated my subsequent injury affected year.) I doubt I am the only one who, when fit and strong, enjoys running so much that it is easy to run too much out of sheer exuberance.


Even as I wrote the masterwork that was “Back on track (metaphorical)”, I had just completed two consecutive weeks of 34 and 32 miles and was about to complete a third of 35.

Trying not to repeat previous mistakes; of continuing to run at the same level and ignoring, rather than treating symptoms, I stopped running after last Sunday’s recurrence. Self-control was particularly hard because my anticipated 1500m was scheduled for the Monday evening. However, doing the right thing was made easier by a viral infection that made me feel nauseous and I did stay at home. I am also treating my symptoms with ice, compression and anti-inflammatories.

I didn’t run again until yesterday rationalising that a parkrun after five rest days definitely constituted backing off. I was pleased to run 19:29, just six seconds outside last week’s season’s best; again at Dulwich. I have race commitments this coming week, but apart from the races themselves I am not going to run. Beyond that, I am going to gradually return to running 3, 4 and then 5 times a week over the next three weeks and again gently increase my mileage. This time genuinely observing the 30 miles a week ceiling.

I am looking forward to my races this week; the inaugural Dino Dash, a 3k trail lap relay, on Wednesday and a 10,000m at Orion Harriers Fast Friday. (On Friday.) The latter, you will notice, is also a track event. Assuming this week’s exuberance doesn’t result in race-ending injury it seems the wit-revelling is not going to have to wait too long.

Back on track (metaphorical)

So, here I am, back on track. My optimistic hope, expressed in my post at the beginning of March; that it would be the last I would need to tag ‘recovery’ for some time, has proved well-founded to date. The relief is palpable.

Since my return to running at the end of January, I have increased my mileage reasonably gradually; though I’ve not observed the 10% week on week rule since I’m returning to previous levels rather than starting anew. All the same, I have listened to my body and eased off when I have felt niggles develop; most often these have been general tightness or knots in my calves or, less often, discomfort in my knees or right Achilles. These niggles have become less frequent and less and less significant, through February, March and April, and from around the middle of May I have felt fully recovered from injury and that I am running niggle free. From about the same time, my mileage has returned to what I consider ‘normal’; around 30 miles a week.

Learning, at last, from my experience, I have continued to use a foam roller, as often as I can convince myself to, to look after my muscles and I have also started to observe a four week training cycle; three weeks of increasing distance and intensity followed by an easier rest week. As of the end of February I now also swim once a week; the first time I have ever consistently incorporated cross training. I have built up to 1.1k (in a 25m pool) in 30 minutes.

fortnightly mileaeg

I have increased my mileage reasonably gradually and have now returned to what I consider ‘normal’; around 30 miles a week. [Bars are fortnightly, values read from y axis, labels express this value as a weekly average.]

My return to fitness is particularly satisfyingly reflected in the series formed by my ten parkrun performances this year. My personal measure for being truly ‘back on track’ being that the last three are within a minute of my 2014 5k PB and rank within the top 20 of my sixty-one 5k events to date.

date parkrun target result average HR rank
12 March Oak Hill 21:50 22:00 158 53
19 March Dulwich 21:50 21:30 159 46
26 March Dulwich 21:20 21:18 161 45
16 April Dulwich 21:00 20:49 157 41
23 April Dulwich 20:30 20:29 160 37
7 May Dulwich 20:10 20:21 158 35
14 May Dulwich 20:10 20:00 157 25
21 May Bromley 19:50 19:40 158 17
28 May Dulwich 19:30 19:41 158 18
4 June Poole 19:30 19:32 14

I am also pleased that my return to running is reflected in my weight dipping below 70kg; my self-imposed ceiling as an active runner although I would like to reduce my weight further, to at most 68kg, if not to my ultimate goal of 66kg. The balance between the two primary drivers behind this weight loss – increased requirement for fuel for my metabolism and less indulgent eating due to my heightened mood – is tipped toward the former, I think.

weight jkfdas

My return to running is reflected in my weight dipping below 70kg; my self-imposed ceiling as an active runner.

Now if I could just commit to a strength training regime, I might consider myself truly reformed rather than just back on track.


This morning started with a plan to walk to Dulwich parkrun; this being a change from my recent habit of catching a train there and running home. The plan lasted about 30 minutes from its inception when I was still in bed, where I had woken early enough for it to be a possibility, to its demise when I realised I had taken just a little too long to get my person in gear to make it practical. At this point, the Cyclist suggested that I cycle instead of reverting to public transport which, I thought, seemed reasonable. A little more faffing – with water, raisins, nuts (edible) and a pannier – prior to departure meant I arrived only just in time to fit in a warm up before parkrun started.

After parkrunning myself, cheering home many of the other runners and momentarily swapping shirts with another parkrunner – to check the sizing of his new parkrun apricot/orange t-shirt – I decided to meander a little on my cycle home. The continued combination of weather and activity enlivened me so much that I meandered further and wider taking in Crystal Palace, Addiscombe and Sydenham before taking a break in Ladywell Park. I enjoyed my water, raisins and nuts (edible) before returning much more directly home; primarily along the footpath that runs beside the railway line, and river Beck, from Ladywell to Beckenham.

Further invigorated by cereal topped with banana and sweet British strawberries, I have tried to capture the moment …

start time distance duration
ride 8:13 8.1km 32:41 home to Dulwich Park
run 8:47 2.0km 9:06 warm up
run 9:08 5.0km 20:21 Dulwich parkrun
ride 9:57 23.0km 1:14:38 Dulwich park to Ladywell Park
ride 11:23 7.4km 27:26 Ladywell Park to home

Sensually thrilled – by the combination of glorious weather, physical activity, parkrun competition and community, food and hydration – I am now feeling quite blissfully alive! 🙂

And wearing my own, bespoke, unoffical, parkrun t-shirt in celebration!

tshirt - unofficial parkrun

My own, bespoke, unofficial, parkrun t-shirt.

map - ride meander

I meandered further and wider taking in Crystal Palace, Addiscombe and Sydenham before taking a break in Ladywell Park

map - ride home

Directly home; primarily along the footpath that runs beside the railway line, and river Beck, from Ladywell to Beckenham.

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!