Sunday, 21 December 2014

35 for 35

Last year I decided that I would try and run my age for my birthday, 34 miles for my 34th year on this little rock we call home. So any guesses at what I did this year? You got it! Another year, another mile!

Hmm where to run.....

I`ve recently started getting into Parkrun which for those that don't know are 5k events that are completely FREE and a bucket load of fun. I have been really enjoying them and the atmosphere is just great!

With my new found love in the forefront of my mind I decided it would be a good idea to try and end my birthday run by running Parkrun. One small hiccup is that it starts at 9am meaning that at my pace I would need to leave at 2am! Oh well, in for a penny....
I had a good think about a route and worked out that an "out and back" would be best for a few reasons.....
  1. If I was really struggling at any point I could just bin it and head home
  2. Due to the time I was leaving, water might be hard to come by
  3. If I was struggling for time to get to Parkrun I could cut it short, make the start line and then make up the rest of the distance after

I set my alarm for 1am (eew!) and tried to get some sleep, finally managing it at around 10pm. *note to self, 3 hours of sleep is maybe not enough* I got up and pottered around the house a bit trying to wake up. The house was freezing, the bed was warm, it was a tough decision.
My trusty Ultimate Direction AK vest packed with 2x 500ml soft flasks of water, 4x fun size snickers, 3x strange pineapple biscuity, cakey somethings that I picked up in a Oriental supermarket that taste flippin amazing, spare hat, gloves and socks.
Right that's the bag packed, time to gear up!

Feet - Injini trail socks with Luna Mono sandals
Legs - Skins quad compression shorts, cheap double layer dryfit shorts and Montane Terra pants
Body - Hind thermal base layer, Centurion NDW50 finishers t-shirt (gentle reminder that I can do this) Montane Atomic jacket
Head - Cheap wool beanie, Petzl Tikka 2 headtorch
Neck - Cheap buff style neck wear
Hands - Cold Killers gloves
Wrist - Garmin Forrunner 110
Now fully geared up I need to get outside before I catch fire!!
Opening the door at 1:55am in December is an experience that makes you want to head back to bed, it did however cure the feeling that I was too hot!
As I waited for my Garmin to scan the entire universe looking for a GPS signal I tried to clear my head and not get overwhelmed by what I was doing.
Don`t think, run.

March 2047....the GPS signal was finally found.... 
Just kidding!
Eventually my watch was ready to go, it was now just before 2am perfectly on schedule.
I set off at a nice comfy pace with the idea of trying to get 5 miles an hour done for the first 15 miles so that it would give me a little buffer of time as I slowed a bit later.
Coming into the 5k point I was feeling a lot of pressure around my belly and was starting to feel a little sick. I wasn't sure if it was the early morning or maybe I simply had to many layers on. Around a mile later I found a nice convenient bench to sit on and take the Terra pants off. It was freezing out here but given the option of slightly cold legs or feeling sick I will let you do the maths.
I stuffed them into my bag and got moving again. I instantly felt so much better and within the next mile felt just as warm as I did with them on.
5 miles in, just under an hour done it was time to spin around to finish of the first leg. Brilliant!
The journey back home went exactly like I hoped, nothing really to report. I cruised along feeling very comfy and quite surprised at how good I was feeling considering my lack of long training lately. I took a quick look at my watch and was just under 2 hours as I reached my house and the 10 mile point. I had a quick check on my water and I still had loads as I had only been sipping. Time for a pineapple cake thingy and the start of leg 2!! It went down a treat as I bopped my way back the way I came.
The temperature now was really starting to drop and the puddle that I ran past just over 2 hours ago was now starting to freeze around the edge. The birds were starting to sing as I approached the 15 mile point and I was bang on target at a little under 3 hours. The tranquility was briefly disturbed by the noise of the M25 below me as I ran across the bridge. Ah, back to the quiet streets and the tweets.
It was a beautiful distraction and I tuned into their morning chatter for a while.
I came over the top of the hill and could see the turn around point that would end leg 2. Along downhill was wonderful and well needed. The unfortunate part was turning around at the bottom and running back up it!!
16.5 miles done, it was a little over 5am and I was starting to do the maths to keep me going. If I can just hang on to 4.5 miles an hour for a bit I should just about do this in time.
Autopilot went on for a little while as I made my way back over the hills, trying not to get caught up in the fact that I had done this bit already.
I tried to just keep smiling that this was the last time I would have to run back home. I tried to eat a fun size snickers, it was like a rock and just snapped the moment I tried to bite it! Man it must be pretty cold out here, glad I`m not walking too much. Why do they call the small one "fun" size?! It makes no sense to me, surly more chocolate = more fun?!
Any who.....
Just over 20 miles in and I started to have doubts about making it in time. I had slowed down a little, nothing major but I figured if I slowed anymore I would literally arrive at the start line as they shouted "GO!". This coupled with the fact that I was worried that if I saw my house again I might want to stay in it, I decided that instead of turning around at 23 miles I would spin around at around 22 and make it up at the other end.
21.7 miles ticked over and for some reason (probably hungry) my mind just gave up. I couldn't run that way anymore. Without getting too hung up on it I spun around and started leg 3. About a mile later I was all smiles again as I realised this was it, this was the final leg!
I nibbled away on another pineapple thing and kept moving. It was getting lighter but so much colder and I begged the sun to show its little face. The half frozen puddles that I had already passed twice were now solid. The grass was crunchy, it was defiantly a winters morning.
Back over the M25 again and below me was a very different looking scene from earlier. It was now back to its normal packed self with folks hurtling around.

7:30am and I smiled as I said "bye, bye Marathon!" This was the first time I had properly run through the night and it felt so good to be coming out the other side of it. It also made me laugh a little at the thought of finishing a marathon before most people have had breakfast, myself included!
That reminds me, eat.

The hills now were a bit more of a challenge but I had to keep the pace up. Down below me was the petrol station that marked the turn around on leg 2. Brilliant not much more to go!!
I made my way down the hill and past the petrol station then it was time to tackle the hardest of the hills. Don`t ask me why the hell I thought it was a good idea to do this one at the end! It wasn't.

Walking up the hill I looked at my watch and with my foggy head, figured that I had actually made up some time somewhere but couldn't really work out where. Oh well, keep moving!
Finally at the top of the hill it was all down hill on the other side as I made my way to the entrance of the park for Parkrun.
Jogging through the park, feeling pretty tired now it suddenly dawned on me why I was half and hour early and missing some miles. When I spun around earlier I had only taken into account the journey in ONE direction!!!!! GAAAAHH!! I now needed to make up around 3 miles BEFORE Parkrun!!
I`m not going to lie, this was a pretty dark time. I was tired and thought I was nearly done. I ran up and down the path. Then round part of the lake. Back down the path, anything to make up some extra distance without getting to far away from the start line.
8:30am and I could see my Mum and my Sister drive into the car park at the end of the path. I started making my way towards them so happy but hurting. I had hit my wall.
30 miles for me is a pretty dark time and it tends to last a couple of miles. I gave them both hugs and explained that I was "going down the rabbit hole" and needed to keep moving. I jogged off to try and shake off the fuzz.
I made my way back up the path at 31 miles to see my sister holding a sign that read "Happy Birthday Mark! #35for35" and had our running group name "Monkey Tag Running" down one side. She had the sign in one hand and a stuffed monkey in the other! It started to make me smile and as I did my Mum jumped out of the bush next to her in a monkey onsie!!! HA HA HA HA I LOVE you guys so much!!

We headed back to the car where switched my bag for my monkey onsie and then headed back to the path to try and make up a little more distance. My sister ran behind me with the sign as people were arriving and wishing me happy birthday. The fog in my head lifting with each persons smile.
We headed back to the start line with about 10 minutes to go and 31.75 on my watch.
As we stood around people were wishing me as asking what the #35for35 meant. I explained my journey this morning to looks of disbelief and confused faces.
My Mum, sister and I lined up at the back as the Parkrun announcer did his bit. He then also said we have a birthday today and everyone sang happy birthday to me!! I LOVE Parkrun!! :D


We hurtled off down the path like bats out of, that was everyone else!
We sprinted off the line like tortoises wearing scuba gear in a lake of porridge. As everyone else stormed off down the path I couldn't have cared less. The darkness had lifted from my brain and I was exactly where I wanted to be, running along side my family having a chat. We started to sing "king of the swingers" as we got to the first corner and were just trying to have as much fun as we could.
We had just made it to the lake when the guys in first and second where starting their 2nd lap!! It must have looked so funny at that point as they caught up with 2 monkeys and a sign bearer!! HA HA HA!
Everyone passing us was wishing me happy birthday or cheering and it really pushed me along.
We walked and ran, walked and ran, anything to keep moving really.
A lap later however and I was starting to wobble a little. That sneaky little wall was still trying to get a grip on me. Lap 2 saw it crumble as the beautiful ball of fire warmed my face. 1 more to go.
As we started our final lap the lake was now pretty empty so we made the most of it by running side by side when we could. My sister every now and then getting hit in the face with her homemade sign! My Mum encouraging me along really helped as we made our way to the turn and onto the home straight.
What a journey. It was nearly done, I could see the finish.
Amazing bling for my #35for35
We made our way across the grass and joked about doing a conga line through the finishing to be done right?!
As we got a little closer we could here people shouting and cheering us in. Just before the sticks we got into formation and did a conga line across the finish to the sound of people singing "Happy Birthday" what....a....finish eh?! We are not finished.
My Mum asks how much I have left to do.......DOH! Forgot about that bit!!! My watch read 34.75 miles and I really wasn't that bothered by this point about 250 meters but she pointed out that later I might be.
I scanned my code and headed off down the path.....again.
Finally, mercifully, my watch ticked over to 35 miles right next to the cafe. High fives all round we headed inside for some much needed coffee and cake.
As we got inside people were congratulating me and wishing me happy birthday. The support was just amazing. We sat down and I sipped my coffee then my Mum presented me with my new tag!

       #35for35 bling added to the collection
#35for35 bling added to the collection

It was an incredible experience finishing it like that and would like to thank each and every one of you for your support along the way. Its been a crazy year!
Big thanks, hugs and bananas to all my cheeky chimps at Monkey Tag Running for your friendship and smiles. My sister and my Mum, wow you guys just blow me away with your support!! Thank you so much for being a part of this!!

Hmm I wonder what I should do next year? ;) 

Till next time folks!

Friday, 5 December 2014

The best running advice I can give

"What`s the best running advice you can give?"

I have been running for a couple of years and have stumbled across this question a lot. I have seen so many answers, from the really useful to the downright silly.
The useful stuff normally falls into a few categories....
  • Training and racing
  • Gear
  • Technique
  • Nutrition
  • Best bit of kit to sacrifice when "caught short" on an long run (....remember buffs are expensive, do you really need two socks?)
OK so the last one does also fall into the silly category but lets see how silly it is when you need to poop with no toilet in sight for the next 20 miles.......*clears throat* where were we?

The discussions on shoes, bags, bottles, food and the like are endless and I don't really feel like I have much to add that hasn't already been said a million
It did get me thinking though.

The advice that is given out seems to be mostly focused on things. The best shoes to shave another 0.005 seconds off of your personal best. The best bag to cram your wardrobe into on your next long run. Even the training advice seems to focus on things. The best timetable, best book, blog, video.....

Now don't get me wrong, everyone of these things can be amazing and can potentially completely change your running. The information that is available is mind boggling! But what if the thing you are missing isn't a thing? What if its deeper than that? 

So what can I add if I`m not going to add a thing? Whats my best bit of running advice?

It is so simple I almost feel silly sharing it. Its the most powerful thing I have in my running arsenal that isn't really anything at all. It has helped me finish some really tough runs and never, ever fails to work. I have used it to conquer the sticky mud, the howling wind, the driving rain and the scorching sun. It cost me nothing, weighs nothing and is so easy to use its ridiculous.

So are you ready? Drum roll please......


When everything hurts, when its cold and you're tired, smile.
For a brief moment nothing seems so bad. The pain fades just long enough to keep going. The situation that could have made you quit a minute a go is now just a funny story to tell when you get home.
I'm not going to claim to know the science behind it, only that it works.

So there we have it. Yeah maybe its not that mind blowing but after thinking about it for a while its the best I have. Humour and positivity.

Give it a go and let me know how you get on with your new piece of running kit.
Train hard, run relaxed and don`t forget to smile! :D

Thanks for reading