Race Report: Snake Lane 10


Seven weeks before the Snake Lane 10, I sat down and made myself an eight week training plan, based loosley on a generic plan I found online.

I retro-fitted the runs I had done in the first week of January so they counted as week one. Then I swapped round and substituted some of the sessions for the remaining seven weeks with runs that I’d be doing anyway (such as Parkrun or GoodGym).

I started week 2 with my regular GoodGym group run on Monday (which counts as a recovery run day) and then an interval session on Tuesday. Then I got the flu, which wiped out the rest of week 2 and all of week 3.

Once I was on the mend, I jumped straight into week 4 of the plan. This is, of course contrary to all sensible advice that you should never try to make up for lost time after illness or injury and instead you should drop back and gradually build it up again.  I reckoned I could get away with it. (Spoiler alert – I did).

By week 6, a causal conversation at work resulted in me signing up to run an ultra marathon (actually, two ultra marathons over two days) which will take place at the beginning of May. This is not enough time to train properly to run 65 miles in a weekend, not to mention the fact that I was still recovering from the flu and battling a lingering cough.

I decided to live in denial and continue to focus my efforts on the 10 mile at the end of February. I’d worry about ultra running later. Even so, the terrifying distances involved were still at the back of my mind, so I did add a few extra miles to my planned training, mainly by running to GoodGym missions which were far enough away that I would usually have cycled to them.

In week 7, I went a bit off piste… I had the week off work which somehow resulted in a weekly total of 59 miles, as opposed to the planned 35. On Monday, I decided that I was going to run everywhere that I practically could in the few months leading up to the ultra. The logic behind this is that I will be able to cover lots of miles over the weeks preceding the event, but would be less likely to break myself though doing massive long runs in one go. Though I haven’t done any proper research into it, I’ve certainly read that a few medium length runs in the same day can have the same training effect as one longer run, and is kinder to your body.  As the result of my new ‘run everywhere’ strategy, I covered about 13 miles that day. On Tuesday I’d planned a social trail run with friends which added another 11 miles, this time with mud and hills. The following fatigue led to me skipping the actual sessions on my training plan and taking two much needed rest days. A spontaneous trip to some more trails on Friday added another 10 miles, and a planned trip to parkrun and trail run on Saturday, another 10. The rest of the miles came out of GoodGym missions.


Various trail running adventures

By week 8, I knew that I needed a rest, so other than my usual Monday GoodGym run, I had the week off. On Friday, I went back on plan and ran my weekly visit to my GoodGym coach, with a few 100m strides to stretch the legs.  The day before the race I went to Parkrun. There were lots of us celebrating a friend’s 250th Parkrun, and instead of the recommended easy run, I managed my fastest Parkrun in months.


My 10 mile goal for the first half of this year is sub 85 minutes, but with the rocky start to my training, I decided to make this the goal for my next 10 mile race, on 15th April.  For Snake Lane, I decided on a conservative and confidence-building sub 90 minute goal – something that I should easily be able to achieve and a good baseline for my first 10 mile result.

Race day

Paul had offered to make breakfast so I left nutrition logistics to him. He set his alarm for 7am and I set mine 15 minutes later. When I woke up, Paul was still fast asleep and breakfast was far from being underway. Getting ready and getting food was a slightly rushed affair. We managed to swallow our last mouthful of scrambled eggs just as Nick messaged to say he was waiting outside for us.

Nick had offered us a lift to the start, so I left arrival logistics to him. I thought that 7.45am was a tad early to be setting off for a race with a 10am start time, since it was only a 30 minute drive away, but I assumed Nick knew what he was doing. He didn’t. We arrived at 8.20am to deserted streets and an empty car park. Fortunately, a local café was open to offer us warmth and hot drinks, which actually made a very relaxing start to the day.

Refreshed and well hydrated, we dropped our coats off at the rugby club, pinned on our race numbers and then found our way to the start line.


Still not sure about what shape I was in, I took my starting position just behind the 90 minute pacer, with the intention of starting at 9 minute miles and speeding up in the second half if I felt good.  Though my legs were a little tired from going hard at Parkrun the previous day, I felt that somewhere around 87 minutes might be within the realms of possibility. I hadn’t really done any research on the race so had no idea about the course profile. Nick explained that it was gently undulating, so that you almost don’t feel like you’re going uphill on the inclines; that it feels more down than up in the first half, and that after the hill in the second half, it’s mostly downhill to the end.

Mile 1: 8:38

Becky, in her standard way, said that she wasn’t feeling very fast, and talked about running at my target pace, or slower. We ran the first mile together, out of Pocklington before she started to pull away. It seemed to be going gently downhill, so I wasn’t too concerned that I was slightly faster than planned. Nick had told us that the first half of the course was mostly down so I could expect to be a bit faster here.

Mile 2: 8:28

Becky was disappearing into the distance by now, despite the fact that I’d increased the pace slightly. It still seemed to be going downhill, and I didn’t feel like I was going to run out of steam, so I went with it. As the course snaked through country lanes, I could see the line of high-vis runners meandering their way ahead. The winter sun was shining in the cloud-speckled blue sky, bringing with it a hint of springtime warmth, and casting a warm glow over the spring green hills around us. It was good to be running on such a nice day.

Mile 3: 8:35

I lost sight of Becky in the stream of runners ahead, and it was starting to feel like a bit more of a slog. I told myself that it was just because we were now travelling uphill and that it was alright to slow down – I was already ahead of my planned pace. It was actually getting quite warm under the beaming sun and I realised that I didn’t even know if there were any water stations on the course. I could probably survive without water but a drink would be nice…

Mile 4: 8:57

A bit more of a slog, but there was a water station! I grabbed a cup and took a gulp from it without really stopping. The cold water made me gasp and I could only manage one more gulp before casting it aside.

Mile 5: 8:23

Speeding up now because we were heading back down hill. I checked the time on my watch as I passed the five mile maker – 43 minutes something. It seemed more than possible I’d be able to match that in the second half. The lanes gave way to a long gradual, meandering incline and I wondered if this was ‘the hill’ that Nick had mentioned. It didn’t seem hilly enough to be noteworthy, so I decided it probably wasn’t.

Mile 6: 8:14

More downhill made this one a fast mile.

Mile 7: 8.28

Where was this hill I’d been told about? As I passed the 7 mile marker, I checked the watch again – it was time to predict my finish time. If I could do 8:20 miles for the last 3 miles then I could sneak in under 85 minutes. It would be hard, but seemed possible…

Mile 8: 8:49

I turned a corner and saw ‘the hill’. 8:20 miles no longer seemed doable. I wondered if I’d be able to borrow 10 seconds from each of the last 2 miles but as I tackled the hill, I realised that it probably wasn’t realistic. Even so, my watch was slightly out of sync with the course markers, so it was possible I had a few more seconds than I thought I did. I didn’t ease off… just in case.  I grabbed some more water from the second water station and ran down the other side, looking forward to the promised ‘all downhill until the end’. Instead I found another uphill!

Mile 9: 8:48

I was managing to overtake one or two people on the way up the second hill and feeling more optimistic now that the end was in sight.

Mile 10: 8:12

I ran past the Pocklington sign and back into the town. Nick was out cheering near the final corner to spur me on in the final sprint over the finish line. By now I knew I’d missed sub 85 but it felt worth seeing how close I could get.  The answer? within 28 seconds

Finish Time: 01:25:28

With it being my first official 10 mile race, I make that a personal best!


Finisher’s photo






Race Report: Leeds Abbey Dash

I never really intended to run the Abbey Dash, but Paul had shown an interest in it and then we got drunk at a wedding. Just two weeks before, after several hours of wine drinking, I’d signed us both up to run.

As always, I hoped for a sub 50 minute time, and as always, I knew that I’m really not that fast (yet) – but it’s good to aim high!  In my mind, I need to be able to comfortably run under 25 minutes at parkrun before I’ll even get close to a sub 50 10k. Though I’ve finished in under 25 minutes about four times this year, it’s always been way too hard to even consider sustaining for another 5km.

Race preparation

Two days before the race, I joined some of the GoodGym ladies for a speed session.  My stiff legs the next day confirmed that this wasn’t especially advisable – and neither was Roundhay Parkrun the day before the race.  It’s a hillier course than I’m used to and probably caused some unnecessary fatigue.  Paul joined me for the Parkrun, the morning after a five pint night out.  He hadn’t done any specific training for the Abbey Dash, or even any running in the two weeks prior, so was treating the race like an exam, where you cram all of your training into the last day!

Race Day

It was a bright and sunshiny day – which in November also means it was very cold. I dressed in my full length leggings and a long sleeved top with my GoodGym race vest over the top.  Paul and Becky, who were travelling with me, were both in shorts and t-shirts, so when we arrived in Leeds, I took off my long sleeves in solidarity. In the shade, it was only just above freezing, but when we manoeuvred ourselves into a sunny patch, it was almost warm… Almost.


When we got to the start, we split off into our respective starting pens: Becky in sub 50, me in 50-60 minutes and Paul in 60-70 minutes. I was in the green zone, which meant that I was starting about 15 minutes later than the front runners.

One by one the different pens were opened out and the runners within allowed to make their way to the start line.  I tried to get a bit farther forward, realising that at the back of my pen, I was in amongst a lot of 60 minute runners who would be running slower than I wanted to, and may be difficult to pass at the beginning of a massive event.

Despite my misgivings about being able to get near 50 minutes, I set off at that pace and crossed the first km marker in 4:49. It didn’t feel too bad, and though I doubted that I’d be able to sustain it for the whole race, I needed to stay relatively near that to get a new PB (under 51:08) so decided to see how long I could hold on for.

The second km took us off the main road on a little semi-circular detour in which I started to experience the congestion that I’d been worried about at the start. It was difficult to get past anyone until we were back out on the main road again, and subsequently I lost about 5 seconds in that km.

It was probably in the 3rd km that I started to see the race leaders running back along the other side of the road in the opposite direction. I didn’t feel too bad about them being so far ahead on account of the fact that they must have started about 15 minutes before me! Amongst them, was GoodGym Aron who shouted out my name.  I waved back, but he’d already sprinted off into the distance by the time I reacted.

By the 4th km, the road on this famously flat course had started to slope upwards.  Indeed, Strava tells me that there was a 12m elevation which is obviously almost nothing, but I’m blaming it for slowing me down to my slowest km yet – 5:10. Somewhere along this stretch, I passed the 60 minute pacer (who’d started a good few minutes before me).

We passed the point where the Leeds 10k usually doubles back and I began to wonder just how much farther I’d have to crave being in the second half of the race. Any milestone that meant I was closer to being able to stop running was a good sign. Climbing up something that started to look like a hill, I could see a park coming into sight on my left, which meant that we were nearing Kirkstall Abbey. Sure enough, a sharp turn just after the 5km point meant that I was finally heading back in the right direction. Unfortunately it also meant that I was running directly towards the low hanging sun, which made looking ahead impossible.  I adjusted my line of sight downwards, fixing my eyes on the road… which worked until I passed the water station, when suddenly the road was very wet from all of the discarded bottles and reflecting the glaring sun into my eyes. I chose not to collect any water, as it was still too crowded to be able to catch a bottle without slowing down. Instead I hurdled the hundreds of bottles which rolled back across the road after they’d been thrown away by runners who’d taken a sip.

I continued to weave my way around various runners, now more inclined to breathe out a quick “excuse me” to get past the more frustrating ‘road blocks’.  By now my pace had dropped to more realistic 5:06 – 5:10 where it would stay for the next few kms.  I could see the 55 minute pacer ahead, and kept plugging away gaining ground.  By 7km, the sun had warmed me up to the point that I was glad that I’d shed my extra layer before the start and started to regret not picking up any water.

I’d confirmed earlier on that I would not be running 50 minutes today, but I realised that I hadn’t even established what pace I needed to run at to get a PB. For some reason, I just couldn’t work it out as I ran. I guess the problem with not having clear goals before the beginning of a race is that you haven’t memorised the pacing.  Still, I didn’t think I’d be close enough to a PB time to worry too much about it, so I relaxed a little. km 9 was my slowest at 5:19, as I let myself recover slightly so that I could finish well. I was still weaving around people, passing more and more runners so perhaps they were also slowing a little.

Finally, the corner leading to the finishing straight revealed it’s uphill self and I pushed on through.  As I sprinted towards the finish, I was still having to dodge people and occasionally slow down for an opening to appear where I could get past them. A man behind me obviously didn’t bother with the slowing down part when there wasn’t enough room and almost tripped me up as he tried to sprint past. I shouted out and he looked back, saw I was still upright, apologised and carried on running.  I also carried on sprinting and made it across the finish line in 51:40- which happens to be my second best 10km time. Not bad at all considering it was one I hadn’t trained or properly aimed for.

As I made a beeline for the volunteers brandishing water, Lion bars and souvenir t-shirts, the man who’d nearly tripped me up found me and apologised again.  By now, having got over the surprise of it all, I was a little less testy and told him not to worry about it.

I quickly found Becky who’d finished in under 50 minutes and we waited together for Paul to finish with his PB on his second ever 10k. With that, we walked back to the car to find that we’d just missed out on a sub 2 hour parking ticket and had to pay for 3 hours instead.

Run Report: Yorkshire Marathon 2017

 Race Prep

The day before the marathon I headed down to my local Parkrun for a marathon paced 5km. In the 482 miles that I’d run over the last 16 weeks of training, I hadn’t actually spent much time at that pace so it was good to practice.

After that I went to a GoodGym session where I took care not to do anything too strenuous as we tidied the entrance to St Nicholas’ Fields nature reserve.

GG St Nicks

Then it was home to stay hydrated and fill myself up with food:


Race plan

The plan was to run 9 minute miles for the entire race and finish in under 4 hours, technically I could go as slow as 9:09 miles but I was feeling good, training had gone well, so it felt appropriate and realistic to build in a small buffer.

When racing goes wrong… 

We drove past GoodGym Sean on the way to the race and I stopped to pick him up, then persuaded him to take part in the traditional Y (why oh why?) photo on the walk between the car and the race. This year Paul joined me in a Y picture as he was making his debut in the 10 mile race.

The weather was practically perfect.  It was a calm, cloudy day and the winds of the preceding week had died down to almost nothing.  It was the most nervous and excited I could remember feeling before a race –  perhaps because today it seemed more than possible that I’d be able to run in under 4 hours…

By the time we’d dropped off our bags and used the portaloos, it was time to get into the starting zones.  I headed up towards zone 2 – the furthest forward I’d ever started in this race and immediately felt out of place amongst the fit looking people doing serious-looking warm up exercises.  That feeling passed when I saw Batman rock up to our zone.

I didn’t have long to wait before we were set off on our run:

Miles 1-3: I had a feeling of complete focus as I ran across the start line, through the centre of York and along to the first water station where the GoodGym cheer crew were making a heck of a noise as they handed out water.  At 8:55 miles I was a little ahead of my pace, but I had decided before the race that I would be able to cope with that as the absolute fastest pace.

Miles 3-6:  I was still on pace – and had started to gain on the 4 hour pacer who was  now about 100m ahead of me. I began to wish that I’d started out with him now as the race felt somehow lonely. I was obviously running alongside a lot of people who were aiming for a good time and so there was a definite absence of chat – instead just the constant clatter of trainers on tarmac. Though it would have been possible to add a short burst of speed to catch up, I decided that it wasn’t necessary.  If they were running bang on pace, I’d be gaining 10 seconds on them for every mile, so I’d eventually get to join the group and get to slow down a bit. I was starting to think about slowing down.

6.5 miles:  half way to half way.  It was all feeling a bit laboured, and much harder than it should do at this stage. There didn’t seem to be enough oxygen in the air. I wondered if perhaps it was a particularly humid day.  I’d felt much better than this half way into the Vale of York Half and I’d been running 30s per mile faster. I was losing my focus and negative thoughts were creeping in…

6.5 – 8.5 miles: with each stride I chanted to myself “I. can. do. this.” over and over.  The training had gone like a dream. It was meant to be hard (not this hard) I can do this.

8.5 miles(ish): I saw a hill. I walked up it. I’d never even considered walking this early in the race before. It wasn’t even a big hill! After reaching the top I increased my speed on the way down  trying to make up the seconds I had lost. That mile came in just 10 seconds over where I was aiming – I was still on track.

10 miles: I had now lost sight of the 4 hour pacer, who had crossed the start line a minute or so before me. Looking at my watch, I was still within my overall target but I was struggling to get enough air into my lungs. I wasn’t enjoying myself. I think I’d subconsciously let go of my 4 hour goal when I walked up the hill a few miles back and now I started to wonder how I could make the race more bearable.  If I hung on to this pace for much longer, I was sure I would have a horrible time and crash and burn later.

11 miles: My watch vibrated to let me know that I’d ticked off another mile.  It was a little out of sync with the mile markers on the course, so I decided to walk until I crossed the physical mile marker to help calm my lungs down a bit. I’d adopt that run-walk strategy for the next few miles, and if it worked, I might be able to pick up the pace again later.

13.1 miles: I passed the half way point in 02:00:06.  Sub 4 hours still wasn’t out of the question, but by now very unlikely. I didn’t really have a secondary goal for this race… I supposed that I could aim for a personal best, but in my oxygen deprived state, I couldn’t quite figure out the maths to work out how fast I would need to go to get there in under 4 hours 9, so I didn’t bother trying.

13 – 14 miles took me through Stamford Bridge – fabulous crowds, a wall of noise, people shouting out my name, but it didn’t give me the boost that I’d felt in previous years. I was just running so I could get to my next walk.

Every time I started walking, I felt thirsty, so drank more of the Lucozade I was carrying with me.  Then when I started running again, the liquid sloshed around in my tummy. I got a stitch, so walked a bit more in the middle of that mile.  When I started again, the stitch moved up and spread across the bottom of my rib cage, forcing me to slow again. It wasn’t long before I realised that it wasn’t a stitch, but more of a lung ache. I walked past a first aid tent and considered seeing if I could get them to talk me out of finishing the race.

15 miles: I grabbed a gel from the water station and then swapped it for a better flavour. By now the road was sloping gently upwards, which I didn’t mind because I’d expanded my run-walk strategy to include walking up anything that resembled up hill. During one of my walks, a man dressed in black shorts and tshirt ran past, saying to no one in particular “Is this fucking hill ever going to end?”

“It will eventually” I offered. He laughed and carried on.

17-  18 miles: I started to enjoy myself a bit more.  The walking was working and allowed me to take in the atmosphere. Plus, a lot more people were joining me on the walking bits now! I almost wished I was carrying my phone with me so I could report live from the course.  The 4 hour pacer ran past on the other side of the switchback – he was around the 30km mark, I was about a mile behind by now. It was tempting just to nip across the road and join him… Of course I didn’t.

20 miles: The  the turn off into Holtby, and more importantly back towards York comes just before the 20 mile point.  My watch buzzed in to let me know it was time to walk again, but I didn’t want to waste my walk on a downhill section so I ran through this one, taking my walk a bit later. By now the strategy was less of a strategy and more of a walking and running whenever I felt like it kind of affair!

21 miles: I overtook Batman.

22 miles – a woman nearby was sobbing into her phone,  telling the person on the other end that she still had 4 miles to run and she was absolutely broken. I, on the other hand, felt much more optimistic that there were only 4 more miles to go.  I glanced down at my watch to see that I was about 12 minutes slower than I had been on my 22 mile training run just 4 weeks before. It was a casual and objective observation. No regret, frustration or upset that I knew I could do better.  Today it was just a simple fact that I couldn’t do better and I was weirdly OK with that.

23 miles: By now I was close enough to the end to be able to do some maths and it looked unlikely (and not worth the effort) that I would get a PB. I wondered what my tertiary goal should be and finally settled for ‘not my worst time’, which meant that I needed to do it in under 4 hours 25.

24 miles: There were potentially 3 sets of friends on cheering duty in Osbaldwick which was just the other side of 24 miles. Naturally I made sure I ran through that bit. Maureen was the first to spot me and shouted out that I was looking fantastic. Then around the next corner, on the opposite side of the road were Becky and Jeff.  I swerved over to their side of the road, not caring how many extra metres I was adding to my run and shouted out ‘it’s all going terribly!’, even though I was kind of enjoying myself by now.

25 Miles – out of sight of my friends, I walked again.  GoodGym Rachel came running past, looking good and asked me how I was.  “I’m run-walking’ I replied. I’ll run again when I get to the traffic lights (which were at the end of a road that was sloping mildly upwards – I classed that as a hill.)

26 miles: Back on my running game, set to make it to the end without another walk I passed Rachel and headed towards the final corner where I knew the almightly GoodGym cheering crowd would be.  I had over 10 minutes to get to the finish line before the race would become a personal worst,  so I could take a nice gentle jog up the hill…

As I approached the corner, Nick appeared and started running alongside me, which forced me to pick up pace slightly.  We ran past the amazing GoodGymmers (and Paul) who cheered loudly for me whilst Nick offered words of encouragement to get me up the hill faster.


Didn’t he know that I didn’t need to be fast up the hill because I was no longer aiming for a time? I was too out of breath to tell him and just went with it. He left me to run over the top and along the last 400m alone, but surrounded by crowds calling my name. By now, I didn’t need or want to slow down again.  If I’d sprinted up the hill, I was certainly going to sprint to the finish.

I crossed the finish line in 4 hours 15 minutes and 53 seconds: my joint third-best and third-worst marathon time.  I liked the symmetry!

There was no staggering or weaving through the finisher’s funnel this year.  All the walking meant that my muscles were happier for me than they’d been in previous years.  A volunteer passed me a really heavy goodie bag, whilst another put a really heavy medal around my neck.

“Thanks for all the heavy stuff” I quipped.

By 8:30pm that evening we’d been for dinner, pudding and a cocktail and joined some other runners in the pub.

I showed Becky how I could sit down and get up without using my arms, and she goaded me into doing single legged sit squats. It hurt, but I could do it!  By 10:30pm I was doing the Time Warp (it was open mic night and the singer seemed quite keen that everyone join in), proving to myself and the world that I could still take a jump to the left, and then a step to the right. I even walked home from the pub.  Best recovery ever!

Before the race I’d already declared my retirement from marathons.  Even though I didn’t make my goal, I was OK with that and don’t really feel the need to do it again… though I admit that I have looked to see if there is a race in mid-November to try out, just to see if I can.  By then, the chest infection that emerged a few days after the race should have cleared, and it would save having to do all the training again!

I also lined up my medals and felt sad that, although I have the full set now, I won’t this time next year…


Race Report: Vale of York Half Marathon 2017

Race Preparation

Since I’d had a relatively hard marathon training week, I decided that I should take the day before the race completely off exercise. While hundreds of thousands of people around the world got up to go to Parkrun, I’d stay in bed and have a lie in…

Then Paul got up for Parkrun.  Since I was awake anyway, I got up and wandered around the house a bit, contemplating whether I should go too.  I said I might drive.  Paul said he was going to run there anyway. And that, my friends, is how peer pressure works, and how I ended up not only running Parkrun, but also a 3.5 mile round trip there and back.

I often find it hard to go easy at Parkrun, so I was pleased to bump into Becky when we got there. She was also there to practice the art of self restraint. Together, we managed a (what she termed) half marathon paced parkrun.  It still seemed a bit fast to me.

To make up for the accidental exercise, I spent the rest of the day in front of Netflix. I finished the day with a steak, potato and vegetable dinner and a bit more than half a bottle of wine. Oops!

Race strategy

About a month ago, I plugged my shiny new York 10k PB into a race predictor website. It gave me 4 different half marathon predictions based on 4 different calculation methods. The average prediction time was 01:52:30.  That seemed pretty fast (8:35 miles) but I knew that if I could do that, I could be confident that a sub 4 marathon was within my reach.  That became my stretch goal.

I spent some more time working out what was the slowest time I could run a half, and still be predicted to do a sub 4 hour marathon.  The answer was just under 1 hour 55. That would mean 8:46 miles – pretty fast, but much more doable. That became the goal that I told people about when they asked me what I was going for.

I was pretty confident that I could beat my half marathon PB for this race (1:56:48), so that was my worse case scenario goal. As long as I stayed on or under 8:53 miles it would be done.

With all the maths done, I was ready to race.

Race Day

It was an overcast day with an autumnal chill in the air. Pretty much perfect racing conditions.



This year I planned to arrive about an hour early in memory of the stressful traffic jam I got stuck in last year, just 20 minutes before the race was due to start.  The traffic was still slow as we neared the airfield where the race would start, but with time to spare, it was a much more enjoyable journey.   By the time we’d collected our numbers and been back to the car to dump our hoodies (and for me to collect my magic bottle of running fuel (Lucozade)) it was nearly time for the start. There were GoodGym buddies and other friends a-plenty around – but since we all had our own agenda, we disappeared into differing sections of the gathering crowd at the start line.  Becky was aiming for sub 1 hour 55 too, so we waited for the claxon to sound together.

My plan was to start conservatively (maybe 8:45 miles) and pick up the pace after the first few miles, if I felt good.  Being quite near to the start, the first half mile was a lot faster than this, so I eased off, and let the masses run past until it felt like I was moving backwards on a conveyor belt through the crowd.  By the time the first mile ticked round I’d managed to slow to 8:32. I took my token sip of Lucozade at the mile marker and ran on into the second mile as a small stitch started nagging on one side.  By the third mile, the stitch had moved onto the other side and by the fourth it had disappeared. I was still clocking in around 8:30 miles, and was still needing to slow myself down slightly. Since I’d managed it this far, I decided I should keep going at that pace until at least half way…

After a short out and back at the start, the course takes a bit of a squashed lollipop shape. In previous years as I ran up the lollipop stick somewhere between miles 4 and 5  I had seen the front runners coming back down the lollipop stick heading towards their mile 9 marker.  It’s a bit of the race that I always look forward to. In a relatively quiet race with only sporadic smatterings of supporters, the cheers that go up amongst the slower runners when they catch sight of the fastest ones leading the race add a nice vibe. Finally, just before I reached the fifth mile, I saw the leader running strong out of the loop and on the home straight. Seconds after that I turned the corner to start my loop. “Oh”, I thought – “I usually see loads more people than that. They must be a lot slower this year.”  I was another half mile down the road, still ploughing on with the 8:30 miles (but no longer needing to slow myself down) when I realised that actually, I’m much faster this year!


Squashed lollipop. Sort of.

At this point I realised I was gaining on my friend Jo.  I’d long since gone past the stage where everyone was overtaking me – now I was starting to gain some ground on other runners.  I waved hello as I passed.

“Are you going for a time?” I asked.

“Finishing” she replied, “You?”

“I think you can do it” I said (knowing full well that she can do it and much more besides).

“How about you?”

“Sub 1:55.” I shouted out behind me as I pulled away to her good luck wishes. A lady next me said ” I think you can do it too.”

Sure enough, I was still keeping my pace at 7 miles and feeling good. Since I had held on to it for this long, I decided that I may as well keep it up until 10 miles. I felt like I was going even faster now, but a quick glance at my watch showed that I was still running the same pace, it was just starting to feel harder.

I came out of the loop and back to the wonky lollipop stick just before mile 9 – searching the small cluster of people for one of my tango students who’d given me a cheer as I headed into the loop. She was still there, cheering away, so despite the fact that I was tiring, I had to look strong as I passed her. By mile 9 I was getting bored of my regular sips of Lucozade which were making my mouth feel sticky and bleurgh. I decided to dump my half full bottle and grab some water at the next drinks station. When I did, I could only take a few sips before having to throw it away as they were open topped bottles. I figured that I could cope without more hydration for just three more miles. And since I’d made it to 10 miles without slowing down, I may as well keep up the pace for the last three!

It felt oddly light to be running without a bottle in hand and may explain why I started to speed up. But more likely I could smell the finish line and the chance to stop running!. Mile 11 came in at 8:20. By now there were three ladies  who I had noticed running at around the same pace. It seemed we were taking it in turns to pass each other. To be honest, I was more preoccupied with doing maths and working out whether I could get my 1:52:30 time than worrying about who ran past me. In any case I was still passing enough people to feel like I was running strong.  The mile 12 marker was followed by what seemed like an eternally long road back to the finish and it seemed to take much longer than 8 minutes 17 to get to the final two bends where some of my faster friends were already gathered to cheer us on. I mustered up a sprint finish, crossing the line as the official clock just ticked past 01:52:30 meaning that I’d definitely beat my fastest goal! I staggered to a halt and bent over gasping for a few seconds before lifting my head up to find out where to get water.  Instead found Becky who guided me to all the right places, having finished a few minutes earlier than me.  Once rehydrated, we went to join in with cheering our friends over the line – a very apt way to celebrate our new PBs.


After the race

My official finishing time was 01:51:49. Of course, this means that I should be able to do a sub 4 hour marathon in 4 weeks time. Weather, health, freak accident permitting of course!


Recovery food



Rocking my new t-shirt and ‘necklace’ in the pub

Race Report: Race the Train

It all seems like a dim and distant memory now, but a little over a week ago I was getting ready to race a train around some Snowdonian hills in Wales.  Of course, I knew there was no possibility of beating it (given that it covers 14 miles in a faster time than I can run a half marathon on flat roads) but I’m all for taking part – especially since there would be a big group gathering of Goodgymers there to make it extra fun.

When I originally signed up for the race, I signed up for the shorter 10km route. When someone asked me why I wasn’t doing the longer race, my reply was ‘because I’m not an idiot!’.

A few months later, while I was trying to work out how it all fit into my marathon training plan, I realised that it would actually make more sense for me to run the 14 mile route as my long run for that weekend.  My training plan said 16 miles, but the harder, hillier trail terrain would more than make up for the lost 2 miles. I contacted the race organisers and ‘upgraded’ to the 14 mile race.

Race preparation

I spent the afternoon before the race driving to Wales. We arrived at about 7pm and immediately went in search of food in the nearest village pub in Corris.  It was a short drive away from our cottage, so we went straight back after dinner so that I could have a glass of wine and research the nearest parkrun.  Since Race the Train didn’t start until 2pm, there was plenty of time to fit in an easy 5km beforehand.

Saturday morning was a little bit wet to say the least. It had only just started to dawn on me that this race might actually be quite muddy… for some reason, when I had pictured racing the train, I had imagined the tough hills, and perhaps the baking sun making it hard work, but mud hadn’t even crossed my mind. I started to mildly regret my decision to switch up to the longer distance. I’d never run in muddy conditions and it didn’t sound like fun…

We arrived at Dolgellau Parkrun (pronounce that at your peril)  just as the wind started whipping rain around the car park.  Stood in a huddle at the far end were a few fellow Goodgymers from York and Sheffield. Fortunately, by the time 9am rolled round, the rain had mostly stopped and we set off on a pleasant course which took us on a double out and back route, giving plenty of opportunities for high fives from the faster runners in our group as we passed each other.  I had decided that the best way to take it easy was to pace Paul to a PB of sub 30 minutes. As a beginner runner, he wasn’t planning on running in the mud with us that afternoon so was all too happy to push himself a bit harder at the Parkrun. We followed that up with a fry up at a local cafe before heading back to the cottage to regroup.

Race Predictions

I’d originally estimated that I could finish Race the Train in about 2 hours 15 minutes – based on my half marathon times, adding on a mile, and then factoring in some extra time for the hills. Not very scientific, but something to aim for. When I got to Tywyn, reports of the mud bath course filled me with doubt – to the point that I couldn’t even start to estimate what my time might be as I didn’t have anything comparable to work with. 02:30:00 seemed like a nice time to aim for, but I had no idea if I’d be able to manage it.

Racing the train

We arrived in Tywyn in time to cheer the final few 10km runners across the finish line. Some of them were quite muddy.  By now, there were plenty of Goodgymers around who had already experienced the course and confirmed horror stories of mud baths, falls and barbed wire lacerations (where people had grabbed onto the fence to save themselves from falling over). Still, the sun was starting to come out, so that was good news…

2pm came round all too soon and we crowded at the start waiting for the whistle of the train to set us off.


I spent the first few miles running with Lizzie. As always, those first two miles were a little quicker than I’d planned for, but then again, we were still on roads and heading ever so gently downhill.  It was in these two miles that I caught my first glimpse of the train, a plume of steam trailing behind it as it slid gracefully along it’s nice flat, mudless tracks.

By mile 3, we were well onto the trails that would characterise the rest of the race. My left foot was already soaking wet. I quickly realised that, if I didn’t run through muddy puddles, then someone else next to me would, splashing me with mud anyway, so there was no point in resisting. By mile 4, both feet had been fully submerged in muddy puddles.  At the next natural obstacle, most people slowed to a walk as the puddles turned to gloopy, swampy mud. Every step I took slid a good few inches from where I’d placed my foot. It took a fair bit of concentration to get past it, whilst still remaining upright. I realised that this was actually fun! I loved running/ walking through mud.


Photo by Mick Hall

We carried on, running through endless fields, past a campsite and a waterfall. On occasion, I caught a glimpse of the train, steam rising from it’s chimney and the faint sound of the cheering passengers floating just far enough towards me to be able to hear them. Of course, the train was way ahead of me by now – but I was glad that I didn’t completely miss seeing it. Marshalls and water stations seemed to be waiting around every corner, every single one of them doing a sterling job of cheering us along.

As the course wound up hill, we were forced to fall into single file – most people walking the hills, meaning that I had to as well. Not that I would have been able to run them – I was grateful for the rest.  As the track flattened out, most fell into a jog, but the camber of the narrow path which cut into the side of the hill made it hard to get up any pace and was uncomfortable to run on. I had to spend my time staring at the uneven narrow ground to make sure I stayed upright, meaning I didn’t get to appreciate the view – but also that I didn’t get too much time to contemplate the big drop to my right, should I put a foot wrong….

We looped back towards Tywyn on higher ground, meaning that I could now see runners tackling the course behind me. Next came a wooded area where it all became very muddy again.  As I approached one corner I could hear exclamations of surprise (or maybe dismay). “This sounds like it’s going to be fun” I commented to someone running nearby.

As I rounded the corner, I saw one runner helping another pull his leg out from the boggy ground, where he’d sunk up to his thigh. That explained the screams and yelps then! I hesitated briefly, and then just went for it, managing to get away with only going in up to my right knee, my left leg staying above ground. Others, I heard later had lost shoes, or managed to sink up to their thigh, and then their elbow when they put their hand out to save themselves.

Farther on through the woods, a muddy stream marked the centre of the path, with firmer ground around the edges.  I noted the barbed wire fence, and remembered the tales of lacerated hands. I opted to splash through the muddy stream rather than try to avoid it. “You do right” one steward congratulated me.  Around another corner and there was a runner having his hand bandaged up.

After that it was back across endless fields. It was only around the 11 mile mark that I started to feel like I was tiring – but by then I knew there wasn’t far to go (by my watch anyway) and that the rest of the course should be easy by comparison.  The mile markers on the course didn’t seem to be especially accurate, and were confused by the fact that there were several different versions on the course for the numerous different races that had gone on that day.

Once back out onto the open fields, I was able to pick up a bit of pace, and started overtaking people. In no time, I was back on the roads again. With the end in metaphorical sight I upped the effort even more and crossed the finish line with a sprint finish in 02:29:54, and feeling pretty good to boot.


Mega medal

All in all it was an absolutely brilliant race in which I discovered that running on muddy trails is nothing to be afraid of – in fact it’s a lot of fun!

Half way!

The training plan I’ve been following for this year’s marathon is one I’ve tried (and failed) before. It’s a sub-4 hour plan which does fewer long runs, over shorter distances, at faster paces – generally on tired legs from the previous day’s run.  In my previous attempts, I found that I wasn’t able to keep up with the paces the plan suggested, especially when it came to longer runs. As a result I did much of it slower, and missed lots more out due to injury. After three attempts, I admitted to myself that I obviously wasn’t ready for a sub 4 marathon and chose an altogether easier plan for last year – resulting in a PB of 04:09:33.

This year, after joining GoodGym, I started to achieve parkrun and half marathon PBs again, so I decided to give the sub 4 plan another go.  In it’s pure form, it consists of 4 workouts a week for 16 weeks. When I studied it closely, I saw that it didn’t really fit into my current running schedule. I lifted out three key sessions from each week, and combined them with the Parkrun and GoodGym sessions I already do.  I also shifted around some of the weeks to fit in with races I had booked. As a result, I only have one scheduled rest day per week. It’s sometimes tiring, and I have sometimes skipped parkrun, or cycled to a GoodGym activity rather than running because I could tell my body needed the rest.

As well as creating an excel spreadsheet, I wrote the plan out by hand in my bullet journal, so that I could have the satisfaction of ticking things off as I went along. I had some doubts about whether I could hit the suggested paces. They all seemed pretty fast to me…  I only wrote out the first 8 weeks of the plan, so that I could review it at half way and decide if it was worth carrying on with.


Yesterday marked the half way mark. So far, things seem to be going suspiciously well. I’ve recently managed to get my fourth ever sub-25 minute parkrun time (third this year), and hit a 10km PB. I’m managing to complete most of my runs at the prescribed paces, without too much difficulty. In general, I’ve been flexible about moving sessions around if I’m too tired or achey. I have averaged about 30 miles a week, with the longest week being 39.8 miles and the shortest 17 miles (I fell down the stairs and bruised my coccyx, so skipped my long run that week as it was too painful). I’m definitely more aware of my limitations nowadays and even chose to miss a session last week, rather than push it and risk injury.

Sunday’s long run was 15 miles and I was aiming for between 9:19 and 9:40 pace. I averaged 09:21 for the whole distance (which was a surprise to me) and even felt pretty good afterwards. Could it be that my target sub- 4 hour time is actually possible?!

Today I’ve been playing around with this little race time predictor.  When I use my recent 10km PB, it says that I should be on for a sub 4 hour marathon – with an average time prediction of 03:55:00. Though that sounds far fetched, I have found these race predictors to be relatively accurate for me in the past…

The same race predictor suggests that I should be able to achieve a 01:52:30 half marathon time – which is 4 minutes faster than I managed in May…  Again, it sounds a bit fast to me, but maybe I’ll set that as a target for the Vale of York Half Marathon in September.

Race Report: York 10k 2017

Race prep

This year I seem to have been making a habit of going out and running a fast parkrun the day before a race. The day before the York 10km was no exception. I’ve been getting into a bit of parkrun tourism and so ventured out to Fountain’s Abbey where I smashed out my third sub 25 minute parkrun of the year and my third fastest time ever. Running an all out 5km the day before a race is perhaps not great prep for a fast 10k, but perfect in the context of my marathon training plan which generally aims to start the long run on Sunday morning with tired legs. That’s my excuse anyway…

That evening, we invited another 10k running friend round for dinner (sausage, pasta and a few glasses of wine). We watched Mo Farah’s 10k win in the World Athletics Championships for inspiration.

Race predictions

I really didn’t know!  I was pretty sure that the elusive sub 50 minute 10k was still out of my reach, and will remain so until a sub 25 minute parkrun comes more easily to me. Still, I toyed with starting with the 50 minute pacer and hanging on for as long as I could. My previous PB was 51:51, so of course I wanted to beat that. I told my friends that I was aiming for something between 50 and 53 minutes.

Race Day

Paul was running his first ever 10k as part of a team with his work mates, so he left the house early (after feeding me pancakes with bacon and maple syrup) to meet for a team photo at the start.  I wandered down at a more leisurely pace, jogging almost a km to the start as a warm up.  It felt a bit slow and hard going…

Soon I found Alex and Steve – strangers to each other before this morning, but had managed to meet up by virtue of the fact that they were both wearing GoodGym reds. It wasn’t long before most of us were gathered in one place, and even less time before we split up again to get into our starting positions.  I ended up standing way behind the 60 minute pacer in the pens which were too crowded to fight my way forwards. I decided that it might be good for me to be slowed down a bit at the start of the race, so stayed put, with the intention of chasing the 60 and 55 minute pacers down during the race.

The clock had ticked round to 7 minutes before I got across the starting line and, as expected I spent my first km weaving around slower runners, trying to find the most direct route possible. As we ran round onto Bishopthorpe Road, the GoodGym cheerleading crew were out in force, cheering loudly for me when I ran past. Shortly after the 1km marker, I overtook the 60 minute pacer. It was early in the race, but things seemed to be going well…

There were pipers piping on Nunnery Lane and bells ringing outside York Minster as we ran through town and hit the 5km mark. Half the race had taken me just over 25 minutes. Still feeling good, I wondered if I’d be able to swing a PB this time round? As we joined the narrow river footpath, I could see the 55 minute pacer up ahead.  A small bottle neck over the Blue Bridge, and a wedge of runners ballooning out around the pacer meant that this 7th km was my slowest yet.  I dived onto the trail next to the main footpath and sprinted past the pacing group to find my space. Over Millennium bridge, I nearly tripped on a speed bump whilst trying to get the attention of a spectating friend. On the other side of the bridge, the GoodGym cheerleading crew were now multitasking and handing out water at the second water station. I grabbed a bottle, but couldn’t drink much – the open topped bottle and lack of lid meant that I couldn’t carry it with me either. With less than 3km to go, it wasn’t a big deal.

Back onto Bishopthorpe Road and into the first switchback. My legs and lungs noticed the gentle incline of the road and for the first time all race, I noticed someone overtake me.  Even so, I was still overtaking others so it wasn’t too demoralising! A quick glance at my watch suggested that if I tried hard enough, I might be able to beat my PB. It was enough to keep me going. Out of that switchback and onto the final corner which isn’t really the final corner because there’s another switchback with another gentle incline. That one took us past 9km and onto the final straight. I sped up as soon as I saw the 400m sign, knowing that I’ve never managed to maintain a finishing sprint for that long, but also knowing by now that a PB might just be possible…  GoodGymmers who’d already finished the race shouted out my name. I sprinted on, my breathing ragged, the finish line coming closer, but not fast enough. I sprinted some more. I acknowledged that the race photos would, once again, be terrible because there was no way I could manage a smile at this point. I resisted looking at my watch.

I crossed the finish line in 51:08.  A solid PB!