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.]


Cutty Sark (Brighton marathon training, week 8)

Eight weeks of Brighton marathon training plan completed this morning with my regular running partner, Simon, on a long run of just over 26k from our homes, in Beckenham, out to the Cutty Sark in Greenwich and back. This was my second longest run ever which, on the one hand, is an achievement I take some satisfaction from, but on the other, it leaves me a little daunted by the longer runs** remaining in the second eight weeks of my training plan not to mention 42.2k on race day itself …  All the same, since tiredness and stiffness only began to become apparent from around 19k, I guess we did pretty well. This week I didn’t use any nutrition during the run, set out without breakfast and ate a low carb meal the previous evening. I rationalised that this would stimulate my body to use fat as an energy source rather than rely on stored carbohydrates, or those added during the run. I am now thinking that I will save proper “practice of race nutrition” for longer, possibly harder, runs later in my training.

The hardest run this week was Sunday’s interval session. I missed my target pace – fast intervals at 3:40/km – by quite a margin although I think I might have set it too high in the first place. Although I used intuition to come up with this target, it matches the pace suggested by the McMillan Running calculator for 400m sprint work for my ability, but perhaps given the number of sets and that I am in the midst of marathon training this was too optimistic. It didn’t help that I misread my watch during an early fast interval and stopped after 60 seconds instead of 90. After taking the additional 30 seconds of rest I made the next several fast intervals a few seconds longer to compensate which of course made it even harder to hit my target. Ho hum.

The most joyful run of the week was the first. As is my occasional habit, I travelled to my sister’s on Friday evening and, having spent a relaxing evening with her and her family, slept over before running Oak Hill parkrun with her the next morning. This time she had asked me to pace her to a course best 22:30 which fitted in well with my marathon training. As soon as we set off I could see that she was running fast and strong. By the time I moved alongside her, at about 500m, she had settled in to 22:05 pace and I could see no reason to slow her down. Briefly, perhaps during the fourth kilometre, I needed to encourage her to work a little to maintain the pace she had set, but she rallied and was even able to push during the final half kilometre to reel in a runner or two ahead. She finished in 22:00, a 32 second course best and just 10 seconds outside her all time PB!

week 8 – ending Thursday 9 February

day* training
Sat 52 mins including 22:03 parkrun 5k (4:45/km average)
Sun 11 mins easy (warm up)
10 x
90 secs fast
90 secs jog
12 mins easy (warm down)
(4:57/km average)
over all sets:
(3:57/km average)
(5:33/km average)
(5:10/km average)
Mon (swim 1.4k, 41 mins)
Tue 11 mins easy (warm up)
2 x
12 mins tempo
3 mins jog
12 mins easy (warm down)
(5:11/km average)
over all sets:
(4:08/km average)
(5:27/km average)
(5:09/km average)
Thu 130 mins easy (4:57/km average)
total 4 hrs 48 mins (+8 mins versus training plan)
* The plan I’m using has long runs on a Sunday, as is traditional. I currently do mine on a Thursday, hence the shift compared to the snippet below.


Week 8 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.]

** Remaining long runs are: 75 minutes, 150 (which I am swapping for Brighton Half), 160, 170, 205, 90 and 70 followed by the race itself.

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.

The big five oh!

No, no, not my fiftieth birthday; that was on the first day of the month and I celebrated at Bromley parkrun. This morning was my fiftieth parkrun! And fortunately, having anticipated this for some time, I managed to align several significant moments, numerological and otherwise:

  • my 50th parkrun – as I may already have mentioned
  • my 5th consecutive parkrun – the first time I have put such a sequence together
  • the 5th event in my #50at50 challenge
  • the first time my dad has seen me run
  • my runningest sister also ran – although she did forget her barcode and so doesn’t appear in the results

At the start line I had a target of nineteen fifty in mind for obvious reasons, but wasn’t too optimistic. Although I started the month at Bromley comfortably running 20:50 inside a target of 21:30 and ran 20:08 the next week at Dulwich inside a target of 20:30, the subsequent two returns to Dulwich produced 20:17 and 20:08 against a target of 20:00.

I mentioned in my post on Bromley at the beginning of the month that some fluid on my right knee was causing me some concern and this has persisted since becoming more obvious as the weeks pass. As a consequence I hadn’t run at all since last weekend’s parkrun when I arrived at Dulwich Park this morning. The support of friends, and particularly family, makes a difference though. Several friends wished me well on my fiftieth parkrun at, or in one case shortly after, the start and I then had my family – my dad and his wife, my own wife and our daughters of four and six – cheering me as I passed on each of the three laps.

My parkrun 50 club shirt. Currently virtual.

My 50th parkrun qualifies me for a 50 club shirt. Mine is currently virtual.

My result of 19:55 was very satisfying and something of a surprise given my non-training. I attribute this to the facets of the day already described and in particular that the first time I passed my family my eldest daughter was crying. I think I ran that second lap more quickly because I wanted to be there for her. It momentarily crossed my mind that I might need to stop and support her, but of course when I completed my second lap she was fine. It transpired that she’d fallen off her bike just before I arrived the first time.

After I had recovered, talked with my family and some friends and cheered other parkrunners over the line, my eldest daughter and I set off on a ‘training run’ once around the park. She is now ready for tomorrow’s junior parkrun 🙂

Different cake

Parkrun cancellations are relatively rare and even when they do occur they are advertised on social media frequently and as far in advance as the decision allows. As a consequence of how rare they are, quite possibly encouraged by my laissez faire optimism, I rarely specifically check that an event is going ahead, and so perhaps I tempt fate a little more than I should. All of which is quite likely an over-elaborate introduction to explaining that my sister and I had arranged the she and her family sleep over on Friday night with a view to joining me at Dulwich parkrun yesterday for my first parkrun at age 50 and the first event in my #50at50 calendar. Fortunately I tweeted my anticipation on Friday night …

tweet 006
tweet 007

All of which is certainly an over-elaborate explanation of my first Bromley parkrun yesterday! The course in Norman Park is close to flat and yesterday we ran the Summer course which I understand contrasts with the Winter variant in that it includes more running on grass and a longer lap repeated just over two times.

It seems the tendonitis in my right ankle is continuing to recover and certainly my gradually increasing running has resulted in my cardiovascular fitness improving. My only concern as I approached the start was that I had some fluid on my right knee. It is only slight and I have concluded that I put my knees under excessive stress whilst running the downhill section of the distinctly hilly Crystal Palace parkrun five weeks ago in 21:55, foolishly repeating the error at the same venue two weeks ago in 21:30. I set out yesterday simply intending to match the latter time on a much kinder course with three further weeks recovery under my belt. My sister hoped to improve her 22:16 5k PB set last year at Weymouth parkrun and my brother in law was aiming to run inside 26:00.

I learned that Bromley parkrun regularly provides pacers on the first Saturday of each month and yesterday there were pacers for most, possibly all, whole minute targets from 18 to 35 minutes. My sister and I set out agreeing to track the 22 minute pacer in the first instance. Quite soon, and as we had anticipated in a field of over 500, we lost contact with each other and I never did see the 22 minute pacer. As my run progressed I felt comfortable and noted I was running just inside 21:30 pace. I was somewhat surprised to hear my watch chime 4k and, finding myself comfortable and so close to home, raised my pace just a little. Shortly after I noticed the 21 minute pacer just ahead and raised my pace a little more to ensure I caught up before the finish.

As soon as I had finished and stopped my watch I turned back to wait at the finishing line for my sister. She seemed to appear very quickly …

I love parkrun! I have said this many times, tweeted the hashtag (#loveparkrun) many, many times and may even have blogged it more than once. As a positive, open, welcoming community it surprises and warms me afresh each time I return. Whether that community is the online social media parkrun community pointing out the cancellation at Dulwich, and also tweeting advice about parking at Norman Park, or the first parkrunner I spoke with who outlined the Summer and Winter courses, or the friend from Dulwich parkrun I met at the start who shared some exciting news relating to a potential new local parkrun or the pacers who contributed so much to so many people*. Not least, lest I forget, my sister …

event statistics

my sister 21:50 PB – 26s improvement!
my brother in law 25:25 – 17s outside PB
me first event of my #50at50 year
100th event across all disciplines 🙂

race data summary

offiical finish time 20:50
target 21:30 – 0:40 inside
splits pace
biometric summary average HR – 155
max HR – 169 (estimated personal maximum – 172)
average cadence – 179
approx start weight – 71.1kg

* Or the friendly faces of the organisers of my running club who were volunteering operating the run timers at the finish line. Or the 23 minute pacer who kindly explained his technique for pacing other runners and how to volunteer myself as a pacer in the future.