The main reason I’ve not been posting to the blog as often as in the past is that I’ve been incredibly busy this year. Between wedding planning, work (something that sadly gets in the way of fun all too often) and various other commitments I haven’t been able to find the time to come up with interesting blog posts. One thing that’s been taking up a huge amount of my time this year is running.
Now I’ve posted about fitness and running before but I thought I’d go into a bit more with this post and go over some of the training and events I’ve done this year.
At the start of the year I set myself a few goals for running. 1) Run a sub 50 minute 10k 2) Run a half marathon and 3) Have a good crack at the club’s handicap championship. So how am I getting on with those goals? Well the sub 50 minute 10k hasn’t gone well. I ran the Baker Hughes City of Aberdeen 10k in 53 mins 30 seconds. Again. A cold in the week before the race meant I couldn’t get going and felt sick through the first half of the race. One of those things I guess and can’t be helped.
Strangely that’s not been the lowest point in my racing year. That came on the cold, snow-covered slopes of Clachnaben in April. I decided that I was fit enough to be a proper Deeside Runner and try a hill race. Clachnaben is local and the date coincided with the Petrofac Challenge 15 mile race at Balmoral that some colleagues were doing so we could train up together and egg each other on. Training went well and I felt good on the day of the race. Then I turned up and had a look around.
Normally before the start of a race you can look around and you’ll be able to pick out a few people who you think you can beat, others you think will be around your time and a third group that will roar off ahead never to be seen again until the finish line. Well this year Clachnaben was back on the Scottish Hill Running Championship calendar. Instead of the usual fifty to seventy entrants there was around two hundred. I looked in dismay for the runners I would be confident of beating. There weren’t any. Once the race started everyone hared off at a hell of a pace. By the time we got to the top of a brutally steep fire break I was last. By the time I’d ascended Mount Shade, descended and started up Clachnaben itself the sweepers had caught me up. Oops.
In the end I finished second last after picking up a bit of speed once the course left the boggy heather of the hills and returned to the forest track. Despite that sad fact I now think the race was good experience. At leat I finished it and it was definitely an achievement for me.
On to goal number two. Run a half marathon. I turned up at the start line of the Stonehaven Half Marathon quite optimistic. Everyone said this was a tough half – very hilly. But I’m from the town so thought I knew the route well enough. The first half would be mostly uphill but there would be the reward of a long downhill finish. I started well, running a wee bit faster than my planned pace but took the first couple of uphill miles feeling comfortable and running easy. By the time I got to the top of the steepest climb I was very happy. I bumped into Donna, a fellow Deeside Runner and we decided to run the rest of the race together as we were aiming for similar times. This proved to be a good decision as by mile 10 I was struggling. The hills, road surface and race pace were taking their toll on my legs. Donna dragged me round the last 3 miles with lots of encouragement and instead of powering down the last mile through the town I stumbled and swore my way towards Mineralwell Park before managing to summon the strength for a bit of a sprint finish. We crossed the line at 2:05 and I was absolutely ecstatic with my time. Before the start I’d planned for 2:10 – 2:15.
Goal number 3 is a little trickier. Every month in the summer Deeside Runners (the club which I run with) holds a series of handicap races for members. Everyone is given a handicap time at the start of the season – which is calculated on their best 10k time for newbies and last years final handicap time plus a bit extra for returning members. We all set off at staggered intervals; slowest first then all the way through ending with the fastest runner. The idea being that if everyone runs to their handicap time everyone will reach the finish line together and there’ll be a sprint to the line. The fiendish bit is that if you run faster than your handicap time that is then your new handicap.
In practice this means that over the 6 months of the summer it should favour the runners that improve the most and not just the speed merchants in the club. Points are dished out according to finishing position each month (15 for 1st, 14 for 2nd etc) and then at the end of the season we take the best 4 results out of 6 and declare a winner.
Last season I was pretty bad at this. It’s a short 2.6 mile route round Cambus O’May and there’s some tough small hills that on a long run you’d barely notice but on a short sprint like this they really make a difference. This year has been a bit different. I’m not sure if it’s because of the extra miles I’ve been doing for the half marathons or just because I’ve made an effort to improve my running and do more hill training and intervals to build speed but something has worked. In April I started with a 4th place finish a few seconds off my handicap. A good enough start. I missed May then turned up to the June race and took almost a minute and a half off my time! That’s a huge amount in a 20 minute race. While I was chuffed at the improvement I realised that I’d just made the job even harder for myself in subsequent months. Still June turned out to be a fast month for everyone (which probably spurred me on) and while I was fast it was only a 3rd place finish. So 25 points overall after two races.
Another fourth place followed in July. Then in August I dug deep and grabbed another 3rd, missing out on a 1st place finish by just 6 seconds and setting a new PB and handicap for myself. Which means with the last race of the season just around the corner I’m sitting on top of the league table with 50 points! I’ve since worked it out if I’d finished 1st in the last race I’d have won the whole thing. Which is a bit irritating but I won’t dwell on it. Frankly I’m in shock about the situation. I’ve never been good at any sports, just enthusiastic. I’ve certainly never been in contention to win anything. Ever. Not even at a primary school sports day.
I’ve crunched the numbers for the league table and there’s only three other runners in contention. One of them can only equal my 50 points and the other two can only get 51. The best I can get (as it’s 4 out of 6 results) is 52 points. Which means I can finish one place behind my nearest challenger and still win. It’s going to be an exciting finish anyway!
Unfortunately as I type this I’m still recovering from the effects of my stag weekend. Not the best timing but even if I don’t have the puff at the end of the month to win the race series I’m hugely proud of myself to have improved so much this year and just be in contention.
I took all this positive feelings about my running and decided to try to set another landmark for myself. There’s a weekly timed 5K race at Aberdeen Beach (part of the parkrun series). My 5K times in training on an unmeasured, hilly route have been coming down so I decided to try to see if I could get under 24 mins on a proper route. On a breezy summer morning I bombed round and was suprised to see 23:50 on my watch at the end! I guess the only problem with all this improvement is keeping it goin. Looking out the window it seems the sun’s came out again. Might go put the trainers on and go for a quick run…