Monday, 18 September 2017

Mic Morris Torfaen 10k

I wasn't intending on running in this race, but on the CRC Facebook page on Friday a place was up for grabs by someone who could no longer take part, so I thought, what the hell, let's go for it.

Mic Morris was a police officer and brilliant British international middle distance runner from Pontypool who died aged just 24 years during a training run in 1983. A trust fund was set up between Gwent Police and Torfaen Borough Council to raise money for Torfaen’s talented young sports people.

The race begins in the centre of Blaenavon, an old iron and coal town in SE Wales, and it finishes in Pontypool Park. It was a chilly but clear Sunday morning after a night of torrential rain as around 1000 runners lined up at the start line.

CRC members ready for the race

The race begins on a slight incline and then the rest of the course is either flat or a slight down hill, which is perfect for those looking to improve their PB.

Waiting to start

And they're off

I arrived at the finish line having completed the course in 49:27 minutes, an improvement of 4 minutes on my previous best time. But one thing is for sure, you wouldn't usually see me running sub 8 minute miles.

Tomorrow evening I shall be going out for a long run, in preparation for the Cardiff half marathon on the 1st October, then another longish run on Sunday. The club has a relay night planned but I'm not sure that I want to chance an injury doing this so I may just do a easy 10k run instead. I shall then rest and not run at all until race day, as I find this works for me.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Simplyhealth Great North Run

The Great North Run is the biggest half marathon in the world! It's bigger than the London marathon and sees runners from all over the UK and overseas taking part.

It begins in the city centre of Newcastle Upon Tyne and finishes on the coast road in South Shields. The run was devised by former 10,000 metre bronze medallist and BBC Sport commentator, Brendon Foster.

It was first staged on 28th June 1981 when 12,000 runners participated. By 2011 that figure had increased to 54,000, and last Sunday that was up to 57,000.

My journey to taking part began at the beginning of the year when I spotted a post on Facebook by The Sunday Times who were offering ballot places, which were to be drawn before the main Simplyhealth ballot, and amazingly, I got a place. So I was then forced to get down to some serious training, and I had only completed one half marathon this year, in my home town of Newport, which was back in early March I think. So I devised a simple but effective plan to get myself fit and up to the distance, and that was to register to take part in a few more half marathons. A little unorthodox, but I need something like that to motivate me, to give me that kick up the backside that I need.

I took Samantha's place at the Swansea half in June, and then in July I did the half marathon part of the Long Course Weekend in Tenby, which I covered in an earlier post. Then finally the Port Talbot half marathon in August.

My accommodation was booked at the South Shields and Westoe RFC, camping on the rugby pitch and using the club bar and bathroom facilities. I have to say that they were very well organised and made everyone feel particularly welcome. They also offered me very useful information regarding where to get my Metro ticket from, as I would need this the next day to get to the start line in Newcastle. They also advised me to collect my ticket the evening before the run as the queues on the day would be huge. They also advised me to leave as early as I could as well, because although there were extra trains laid on, they would all be very busy. A map had also been given to me so that I could find my way back to the rugby club once I'd passed through the finish line in South Shields. Fortunately it was only a 15 minute walk away.

Tent set up at Westoe RFC

At the finish line the evening before the race

So I arrived on the Saturday, mid afternoon after a six hour drive and was shown where to pitch my tent and given a tour of the club and given all the info listed above. That evening dinner was to be served in the club house at 8 PM and we had the choice of BBQ, (burger and sausage), or pasta bolognese, which I opted for. Entertainment in the form of a quiz was also held and I allowed myself one cheeky Guinness.

Breakfast was served from 6AM on Sunday morning with the choice of a full English or a "runners" breakfast of porridge, cereal, toast, bananas etc. I opted for the runners breakfast, then I made my final preparations before walking the five minutes down the road to Chichester Metro station. I only had to wait about five minutes for a train to come along, but already there was standing room only, and Chichester was only the second stop. By the time I reached the Haymarket station in central Newcastle, we were crammed in like Sardines.

It was then only a short walk from the station to the start line, and I just followed everyone else, like a sheep. It was only when I reached the big, illuminated sign saying, START LINE, that the full scale of this event hit me, for in front of me were long banks of portaloos and baggage buses which must have lined the road for about half a mile.

Just part of the line of baggage busses

I met up with Peter, a fellow CRC runner who had taken someone else's place and we had a quick chat and had a photo taken before he went to drop off his bag and I headed off to my starting pen where I bumped into a few runners from rival club Lliswerry.

Peter & me

I had quite a wait in the pen, which rapidly filled up the four lanes of road leading up to the start line. The music was banging out and huge screens broadcast pictures from the start line.

The wheelchair racers set off first, followed by the elite ladies. Then, at 10:40, the elite men headed the pack of 57,000 runners to the sound of the starting pistol.

I stood there waiting, then waited some more, then the pack moved forward about four paces and stopped. I waited some more and then once again the pack moved forward another four paces and stopped. After another wait we began a slow, steady walk, until 35 minutes after that starting pistol had signaled the start of the race, I finally crossed the starting line and my race began.

The start was like any other race, with so many people around and in front of you it's difficult to immediately get up to full race speed. The competitor in me came out and very quickly my eyes were darting about, looking for gaps appearing that I could run into, and I found myself weaving in and out of slower people. Little did I think at that point that I would need to keep doing that for 13 miles.

We crossed the Tyne over that iconic bridge into Gateshead, with people whooping and shouting Oggy, oggy, oggy etc, and all I could do was try not to run into the back of anyone. But eventually we left the city for the open road, but it was still busy but a little more strung out, and I was still having to weave to get past people.

There were rock bands, samba drum bands, even an Elvis singing and playing to the runners. I'm glad I didn't wear headphones because I think they would have detracted from the overall atmosphere and excitement of the event. There were also hills! Not hills like I know them back home in Wales, just very long, steady inclines that seemed to go on forever, and once you got to the top there didn't appear to be a down hill section to follow, the road just leveled out, then there would be another long hill.

In a couple of places there were cooling showers to run through, though it wasn't a warm enough day for me to take advantage of that. And at 10 miles there were people handing out small glasses of beer! Can you believe that? Only in Newcastle eh.

By 10 miles my calf muscles were feeling tired as well as my joints where my thighs meet my pelvis, probably due to all the weaving and jinking I'd had to do. And many other people were beginning to flag too and they began to walk. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, and most runners would move over to the side of the road so that they didn't become a hazard to everyone else, but these people were walking three and four abreast in the middle of the road, which was becoming quite frustrating to me.

One mile left to run and there is quite a steep but short down hill section leading to a sharp left hand turn taking you onto the coast road and that final stretch to the finish line. The competitor in me kicked in again, and although my legs were very tired, I kicked into another gear for a strong finish in the final 500 metres, then passed through the finish line for a time of 02:08:30 , which I was quite happy with considering the conditions.

My legs just seized up at the end, something they hadn't done at Swansea, Tenby or Port Talbot, but I knew I had to keep moving or I wouldn't move again. So I collected my goody bag and began the walk back to the rugby club.

Proudly wearing my finishers medal & T shirt

Whilst I was running, I had my GoPro Session in my pocket and I took video in various places. Here is the finished result.

 Just to finish, I'd like to tell you about a lady I met. She is from Doncaster, is 74 years old, and she took up running in her 40's. She completed her first full marathon in her first year of running and since then she has run in 46 marathons, including Tokyo and Boston, and she still runs in at least one marathon a year. She completed the GNR in 02:15 , which is a great time considering her age, and a lot better than some people a third of her age. There is a morale to this tale which I'm sure is fairly obvious, but if you can keep yourself both physically and mentally fit and active, then there is no reason why you can't do just about anything in later life.

So what is left for me to do this year? Well the Cardiff half marathon is on the 1st October, then the first of this seasons cross country league races on the 8th October. The multi terrain, 11 mile Ponty Plod on the 15th October, followed by the last half marathon of the road race season on the 22nd October in Stroud. Then I deserve a short rest before beginning marathon training.

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.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Forthcoming Races

I've just been going through my calendar to see what races I've registered for, as I seem to have booked so many that I've forgotten what I am and am not doing.

So here is the list.

Tuesday 1st August - Championship GLCL Road - Cwmbran
Saturday 5th August - Championship - Best Newport Parkrun (Tredegar House)
Sunday 13th August - Port Talbot Half Marathon
Sunday 3rd September - Cardiff 10k
Sunday 10th September - Simplyhealth Great North Run (Half Marathon) - Newcastle upon Tyne
Sunday 1st October - Championship - Cardiff Half Marathon
Sunday 15th October - Championship - Ponty Plod - Llandegfedd Reservoir (11 miles of multi terrain and hills)
Sunday 22nd October - Stroud Half Marathon
Sunday 5th November - Poppy Run

Have I overstretched myself? Mmm, we shall see.

December - Manchester Marathon training begins 😱

Monday, 24 July 2017

CRC Parkrun away day

Saturday morning can only mean one thing in the world of running, and that is Parkrun. And so on Saturday, a few of us from CRC headed off on an away day to try out the Parkrun course at Porthcawl.

The weather forecast was for showers but fortunately, it didn't rain until the journey home again but, for a mid July day, it wasn't particularly warm.

After parking the cars, we walked to the sea front where a crowd of the regular Portcawl Parkrunners were mingling before listening to the briefing given to those who had never run the course before.

The course began flat and we ran for a few hundred metres before coming back on ourselves and heading in the opposite direction. Then the path began to climb steadily up to the next turn around point where we headed back down hill to the finish line, against the wind. A simple, out and back course.

Me coming in to the finish line with a new 5k PB of 26:14

Fern pushing Sam to the finish line

New girl Suzanne looking strong and happy

Yangi always looks happy

Gritted teeth and sheer determination from Steve

Tania looking to overtake

And then goes flying past the guys

CRC Parkrun complete and the compulsory post run photo

 Andrew had just completed his 100th Parkrun, so a call for celebration 

Hungry runners awaiting breakfast

I'm sure there will be another CRC Parkrun away day very soon, possibly Barry of Caldicot. What this space.

Mic Morris Torfaen 10k

I wasn't intending on running in this race, but on the CRC Facebook page on Friday a place was up for grabs by someone who could no long...