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Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Port Talbot Half Marathon 2017

This story actually begins a week earlier when I went on the clubs regular long Sunday run, which was 14 miles but with various distance cut offs beginning from 7 miles. I had decided to do the 12 mile distance.

All was going well until I hit 10 miles, when I felt my right calf muscles begin to steadily tighten, and so to try and preserve them I slowed right down to a slow jog, but man were they tight, even after a good stretch. So it was time to get some RICE, (rest, ice, compress, elevate), done once home.

It wasn't looking good for the following Sunday's Port Talbot half marathon, unless I could get that calf running again PDQ. So I sent a text message to Daniela, top lady runner from Griffithstown Harriers who is also a sports therapist, and a damned good one at that. Fortunately for me she had an opening in her busy schedule for a mid week, after work massage. In the meantime, I continued to take ibuprofen for any inflammation, ice packs, stretches and foam rollering, then I rested until Sunday and kept my fingers crossed.

Race Day

I met Paul, Charlotte, Antony and Mike at our usual car share pick up point in Caerleon and I drove us to the venue which was nowhere close to Port Talbot really, but in the very picturesque Afan Valley where, we would be running along 3 metre wide tarmac and dirt track paths, following the course of the river south before heading back north along the opposite side of the river.

The 500 runners were divided into waves for the start, with a one minute gap between each wave, which was really good as if we had all gone at the same time, the congestion in the first 50 metres would have been considerable.

From the left - Paul, Charlotte, Antony, Me & Mike

After about a mile I checked my pace and I had set up the Estimated Finishing Time function on my Polar M430 GPS watch, which was telling me that I was on a 1 hour 49 minute finish time and my pace was just way to fast. I needed to slow down before I burned out. Of course, a sub 2 hour finish time would be great and a new PB but that time was just way to quick. So I did slow down, just a little, and I found myself at a very comfortable pace which was still showing a sub 2 hour finish time and an average of about 08:30 min/ml.

The course was nowhere near as hilly as I was expecting it to be. In fact, the ascents and descents were long but very slight, so much so that at times I couldn't tell whether I was running on the flat or a slight incline. There is a slightly steeper incline in the last half mile though.


With the 6 mile water/gel station in sight I suddenly felt my right calf begin to tighten very quickly and I had to slow down to a walking pace and decide what to do. With this run taking place on such narrow tracks, getting a lift back to the finish in a car was going to be out of the question, so I was going to have to make my own way back, whether that be walking or running. So I began to walk, then accelerated into a slow jog and finding that a 10:30 min/ml pace was comfortable.

Those 7 miles seemed to go by extraordinarily quickly. Maybe because I had to concentrate on not making my injury any worse, I don't know but, I do know that I was actually still overtaking other runners and I wasn't feeling tired.

I could see that I wasn't very far from the finish as I approached the brow of a slightly steeper incline, and then as I headed down the hill, a marshal informed me that I had to run a lap of the pond before heading uphill to the finish line.

I had finished in 2 hours and 8 minutes, which is still a respectable time, but way slower than I had hoped for, and especially knowing that had my calf not acted up, I was definitely on for a sub 2 hour PB. Gutted is the word that comes to mind. However, I was the 5th fastest finisher in the VM55 category, so that did put a little smile on my face.

The post race photo

The course

You can see the sudden change in my pace from mile 7 in this chart

I absolutely loved this course and I will most definitely be taking part again next year. But for now, I'm going to rest for the next three weeks as I have some holiday booked, and then I have the Cardiff 10k followed a week later by the Great North Run, and I want to be fighting fit for both races.

If you have 22 minutes to spare, go and make yourself a cuppa tea and watch the following video of the race. Enjoy.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Why do we run?

This is a very interesting question, and I guess there are many reasons why we do so.

Going back about three years or so, I felt that I needed to do some form of exercise. I work in a busy sales office all day, sat behind a desk and a computer. Then I was going home, cooking and eating my dinner, maybe doing a few chores, and then after dinner I would sit down and watch the television for the rest of the evening. So I wasn't getting any exercise.

I like my food, I enjoy cooking and baking too, so consequently I was piling on the pounds and feeling very sluggish. But not only that, my body was beginning to ache. I would get up out of bed in the morning and my back wouldn't bend far enough for me to bend over so that I could put my socks on. Dressing was a real struggle. Once I'd been up and active for an hour though I was OK.

I would occasionally go for a long walk at weekends but by the time I had reached six or seven miles, my hips were beginning to ache, and by nine miles I was in agony. Something had to be done otherwise in ten years time I would be struggling to do anything, and I didn't want that. So I needed to be able to do some form of activity that I could do on my own or, as part of a group.

C25K & Parkrun

One Saturday morning I was eating my breakfast whilst watching the BBC Breakfast news program, and they featured a story about something called Parkrun, where people met up in parks and other town/city venues at 9 AM every Saturday morning to take part in a FREE 5 km (3 miles) timed run, and I thought to myself that this was maybe what I needed. So I went on line and found the Parkrun website.  I found my local Parkrun, which takes place at Tredegar House in Newport and so I went along on the following Saturday.

I arrived at Tredegar House and there seemed to be hundreds of people there, of all ages, shapes and sizes, wearing T shirts, shorts and trainers. I spotted a hand made sign on a post saying, Beginners Here and so I went over to join the small group of people stood there. A grey haired chap, who was very lean and looked like a seasoned runner spoke to me and told me this was week five of a nine week couch to 5 km course, (C25K), to get people into running from having never run, to be able to run the 5 km Parkrun course, non stop, but I was welcome to join them, and that is exactly what I did.

Me being a Parkrun tourist at Crawley, W Sussex

I completed the rest of the course and I was going to Parkrun on every Saturday that I could, but I now needed another challenge. That same grey haired man mentioned to me that the running club he belonged to, Caerleon Running Club, was running a follow on course to the C25K course, designed to take us from 5 km up to 10 km, as he said that most running clubs require their members to be able to run a 10 km distance in roughly one hour. This felt like a good next step, and I had made a few friends already, so I went along each week, my distance increased until I had reached 10 km, and by which time I had decided to join the club.

Caerleon Running Club on a Parkrun tourist away day at Porthcawl

So my reasons for taking up running were to get more exercise and to aid weight loss. And I think this is probably the motivation for most people. The new January intake of C25K ers is always much larger than the new courses that begin at other times of the year, as people make New Year resolutions to lose weight and get fit, just the same as gym membership rockets in January. I guess others begin running because they know someone else who runs, or they want to raise money for a charity and so they enter something like the cancer charity, Race for Life.

One thing is certain, and that is for many people, running, (especially once a member of a club), can be addictive. We enter a couple of 10 km races and become absorbed in the atmosphere of the event, with the crowds lining the streets, clapping and cheering, the camaraderie of your fellow club mates, and the competitive spirit between them. We hear the stories of more experienced runners who have just completed the latest half or full marathon and are proudly wearing the finishers brightly coloured T shirt. And that spurs us on to push our own boundaries and distances and enter that next, longer race.

Myself and fellow club mates wearing our brightly coloured finishers T Shirts after the Swansea Half Marathon

But it isn't just the distances that we wish to conquer, it is our race finishing times also. For example. When I first completed a full Parkrun, I was doing it in around 35 minutes. By the following autumn, a year later,  I had got it down to 27 minutes, and now it is a few seconds over 26 minutes, and I'm sure that will come down further. My 10 km times started out at 1 hour 9 minutes, and I have now have a personal best of 53 minutes. We all seem to feel the need to improve speed and distance, to a point anyway.

Now, I still have a few aches and pains, (which I'm putting down to my age), but I get very little hip pain and, most importantly, I can easily put my socks on in the morning. Keeping ourselves reasonably fit, (you don't have to run a marathon every month), is very beneficial to our physical and mental health and overall well being. And although we may well complain during a run, (what, another hill?), we all feel better for it afterwards.

Running is cheap, (as long as you don't go overboard registering for lots of races), and it's a great way to meet new people and make new friends, especially if you join a club.

Happy running 😄

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

GLCL Road Race # 5 - Cwmbran

Yesterday was the 5th and final race in the GLCL Road Race League for 2017 and hosted jointly between Fairwater Runners and Griffithstown Harriers, both clubs being located in Cwmbran.

The atmosphere at these events is always buzzing, with 548 runners from ten local clubs chit chatting away before the race, and club photo's taken.

Caerleon Running Club ready for action

The call came from the organisers and we had a short, 5 minute walk to the start position where we were told the do's and don'ts of this race. Ear phones not allowed, keep to the pavements and do not run on the road sections, etc.

The course begins on a quiet section of road before we have to get onto the pavement for a few hundred metres before turning into the park.

The start

Me in the white cap

Just after the start with new girl Lowena in the pink on the right. She's going to be a fast runner I think

The path is followed to the far end of the park where we then crossed a small bridge spanning the river, then we followed the path again back in the opposite direction and heading back to the road. This then heads along a shallow hill for some way before turning left and heading back down to the park and along the paths following both sides of the river again to the finish line.

Approaching the top of the hill

Running through the park the first time

From my perspective there isn't much to say about my race, other than all went well and I had a good pace on. As I was approaching the finish line with about 100 metres to go, I could hear someone behind me and a quick glance behind confirmed that someone was right on my heels, although I couldn't make out who it was. He came level with my shoulder and I hit the gas pedal, but this guy was a good 10 years younger than me and I couldn't match his pace in the last 20 metres and with my energy levels now well and truly sapped, I just couldn't keep the pace up and he finished just before me. I then realised it was Tony Derrick from my own club. We did have a good laugh about that just beyond the finish line.

The usual thing we do after one of these races is to all get together for cake and tea/coffee and a chat, and yesterday was no different.

The route and my pace details.

So that is the end of the summer GLCL road race league season. However, the GLCL cross country season begins in October, hosted by Bryn Bach Parc running club. I'm looking forward to this as I haven't done a cross country before and it'll be a good introduction to trail running, which I'm going to get into next year.

Autumn Catch Up

Hi all, it's been a little while since I posted so I thought I ought to tell you about what has been happening in my purple running worl...