The Long Road Back

Well, gosh. I rather gave up on running. My last run was on September 5th, 2014. I didn’t know I was giving up back then. It just sort of happened.

And so I took five years off. More than five, in fact, because I’m not running again. Yet.

I put on a lot of weight. I’ve also taken some back off, which is good, but I’m still rather heavier than “running weight”. One of the good things about the quantified self is that I normally have some stats look at, and this is no exception. I’m currently about eight kilos heavier than I was back at that last run. My body composition is also rather less good—40.3% fat mass as opposed to 36.5%.

(More of my muscle is in my arms, now, too, which doesn’t help much for jogging. But at least that’s because I’ve kept up a steady dumbbell workout regime for the last year or so.)

All in all, I feel rather too lardy to run. My knees are a bit creaky and I’m not sure I’m ready to put myself “out there” as a runner right now.

But perhaps I can get there in the next six months. I’m doing yoga and weights, but the most important thing, really, is to drop some more fat, so I’m going to start being rather more careful about what I eat and how much of it I eat over the next few months.

I may even blog a little about my progress, because it’s good to blog, and I haven’t been doing any writing anywhere for ages

So, that’s me at the moment. Not sure how long it’ll take, or how often I’ll be blogging about it, but basically, I’m back, baby.

Blistering Height

I won’t be running this week, I think. Shame, as I’d hoped to start building up from my recent 10K practice run towards the Bristol Half Marathon, which is rushing towards me very quickly.

On the plus side, the reason is because I walked up Snowdon for the first time. My friend Chris loves the hills, so for his stag do there was lots of walking, wild camping, and all sorts of outdoor stuff. Because I’m a not-as-fit city boy, I only nipped along for one of the hills, and even then I got the train down from the top. However, Snowdon is the highest peak in England and Wales, second only to Ben Nevis in the UK, so I don’t feel too ashamed of copping out only once I’d walked from the bottom to the top. 1049 metres total climb, according to RunKeeper. I don’t normally do my kilometres upwards

One of the reasons I didn’t join the rest of the gang for the downhill trot was blisters. A post-mortem on my walking shoes shows that I should probably have replaced them six months ago; the insoles were worn through to the underlying rubber in the instep, which is where my blisters appeared. Ah well. Live and learn. Or limp and learn, perhaps.

So, I’ve had some very enjoyable exercise, but now I’m going to have to stick some blister plasters on (these Compeed things are bloody brilliant, by the way) and not do too much walking or running for a few days. Hopefully things will clear up soon…

And Finally…

Not the same as having it hung around your neck on the day—honestly, does anyone ever wear a race medal on any day other than race day?—but my Bristol 10K medal and t‑shirt finally arrived in the post. At least the medal is up to its usual high standard; the Run Bristol medals seem to get better every year…

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Anyway. I’ve taken a short break since the 10K, but I’ve also just signed up for the Bristol Half in September, so I’ll be back on the road this week to start my preparations 🙂

Taking My Time

I’ve taken some time off from running. About a year, in fact. I’m not sure why, really. I just didn’t really feel like it for a while. And it is, after all, voluntary.

But recently I started to feel the urge again, and last month I went out for a few training runs. In fact, I went out for a 2K, a 3K, a 4K, a 5K, a 6K and a 7K. There were various adversities along the way—I won’t bore you with details of the pulled back muscle, the gas leak, the washing machine dying halfway through a cycle with my jogging clothes still inside—but I overcame them, and got ready.

Ready for today’s Bristol 10K, that is. At which I logged my slowest time ever for a 10K: 1:20:13. But hey. At least I did a race. And I jogged all the way around.

I usually post a medal photo to celebrate, but sadly the Bristol 10K ran out of medals today. In fact, they ran out of medals, T‑shirts, goodie bags, and water at the finish line. So all us poor sloggers at the back got was a Mylar blanket for our troubles. Apparently they’re going to organise posting stuff out to the people who missed out.

I wasn’t too bothered, but then it was my fifth 10K, and my eleventh organised race. And I can see why, as a race organiser, you wouldn’t want to have a big surplus of chunks of enamelled metal left over when an inevitable percentage of runners don’t turn up on the day. (Plus, I’m not thin. Race souvenir T‑shirts are normally designed with the more typical runner’s shape in mind, so even when I can squeeze into them they certainly aren’t flattering. Mine normally get saved for decorating in, rather than proudly wearing outdoors.)

On the other hand, it’s mostly the first-timers and the charity runners who come in last. I crossed the line with a very weary bloke who’d just run his first ever 10K, only to find something of a wasteland where he was expecting a cheery volunteer to drape a medal over his head and to pick up a bottle of water. And there were hundreds of people behind us.

While they’ll send out medals in the post, apparently nearly 400 people missed out on the chance of that just-finished photo in the Runners’ Village, medal around their neck and a backdrop of other happy runners. Seems like a real shame.

Anyway. In lieu of my normal finishing photo with the medal, here’s a snap from the start. See you soon! Think I might sign up for the Bristol Half to make sure I keep my training going…

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Start Me Up

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve been a teensy bit busy over the last little while. Not only did I nip off to the Islay Festival for a week, I also came straight back into a three-month nine-to-five contract that I’m doing on top of my usual work-from-home career.

I’m not quite sure what convinced me to nip out for a jog today, at long last. It might have had something to do with watching The Rolling Stones at Glastonbury yesterday evening.

I knew when they came on stage through Twitter, which seemed to be improbably full of people gobsmacked by the prospect of some old people looking old. (“But! But! They have wrinkles and everything! How can they be allowed to play music!?”)

Personally, I think it’s rather cool that the Stones were playing Glastonbury, entertaining people whose grandparents probably enjoyed them when they were young. There was only one thing that irritated me, and that was how clearly bloody fit Mick Jagger is. There he was, strutting around on stage with endless energy, bouncing up and down, albeit with lips wobbling independently of his body. This, from a man who looks like he was around when Jesus Christ had his moment of doubt and pain.

Mick Jagger is clearly both fitter and thinner at age 69 than I’ve ever been at any point in my life. So perhaps it’s that that shamed me into trying to get a little bit thinner, and a little bit fitter, by tromping up Bridge Valley Road to Clifton Village and around a very small bit of the Downs. If I can get back into doing it regularly, maybe I’ll at least make it to Mick Jagger’s age. Though I’ve never been that much of a dancer…

Anyway. I’ll leave you with something I’d probably not have seen without going for a jog, which is one of the new Gromit Unleashed sculptures, this one outside Bristol Zoo…


Bristol 10K 2013

Back on the 5th of May, I ran the Bristol 10K. And then had a really busy week where I was out of the house a lot, so I’m afraid this race report is a little late. Sorry!

This year’s 10K was a mixed bag for me. It was my slowest ever 10K race (though only by about half a minute — see my results page to look at all my race results.) It was also one of my most enjoyable.

I’d expected to be slow this year. I’ve mostly been concentrating on distances, and my noble plan to lose some weight and gets lots of practice before the race was somewhat undermined by a couple of weeks of illness that put me off running for a while. So I figured I’d just take it fairly easy.

Not only that, but my fastest 10K, last year’s, was mostly produced by running with my erstwhile boss Mike, who’s a bit faster than me. It was only because I had him as a pace-setter that I managed to drag myself around in record time. And Mike didn’t run the 10K this year, damn it.

But this year, I may still have benefited from Mike’s help. The bulk of the Bristol 10K runners start off in two batches, one earlier, one fifteen minutes later. I’ve always been in the later start, with the slower runners. When I opened my race pack this year, though, I saw a strange and alien colour on my race number. It was yellow. They’d put me in the earlier start!

I’m guessing that last year’s time may have crossed some borderline between the slower stream and the faster, so I had the chance of setting off fifteen minutes earlier, in the first batch of runners.

I was in two minds about whether to take advantage of this — if you’ve been assigned to one of the faster starting streams, you’re allowed to drop back into a slower one — but in the end I decided that I probably wouldn’t get in anyone’s way as long as I lined up towards the back. I made my way through the bustling start area to line up with the other yellows.

Start of the Bristol 10K

That turned out to be a great choice, because it meant I had lots of company all the way around the 10K.

For starters, I got to see all the front runners, from the elite athletes on, on their way back down the Portway as I was on my way up. Normally, the people with actual names rather than numbers pinned to their shirts are long gone by the time I get there.

Also, in previous years, by the time I got to Cumberland Road on the way back into town, it felt pretty lonely. Most of the runners have pulled away from my slow pace, so it really thins out.

This year, at the first hint of that thinning, on the way back down the Portway, I saw the second stream — the Red and Green starters — coming down the other side of the road, and knew that the faster ones would soon catch up with me.

And so it was. Instead of the loneliness of the slow runner on the Cumberland Road, I ended up in the middle of the second stream of thousands of runners, and managed to stay with the bulk of them all the way around to the finish line.

While it did feel a bit of a cheat, especially when I found out my sloooow time, it was a really pleasant change to be in amongst a whole bunch of runners from start to finish, rather than just at the start. And I don’t think I got in anyone’s way. As it turned out, checking the 10K site afterwards, “…very high numbers of runners in the Yellow and Red zones have the same predicted race time — which is why they are split between the 2 waves…” So perhaps it was both a faster time last year and a bit of luck on top that got me in the faster stream.

Apart from being in the earlier set-off, there wasn’t really anything too thrilling or terrible about the 10K this year for me. The weather was decent — clouds but no rain, so it wasn’t too hot — and the race well-organised and the other runners friendly, as usual.

Sadly, I’d guess I’ll be back in the generally-slower pack next year. But if I pick back up my weight-loss plans and my training, maybe I can find a way of keeping up with the pack without starting fifteen minutes ahead of half the runners… Seeing how the other half lives — with company all the way around — is quite a good incentive.

[separate charity update to follow, but in the meantime, big thanks to my parents and to Dave & Arline :D]

View Bristol 10K 2013 in a larger map

Rattling That Tin Again

It’s the Bristol 10K on Sunday. It’s looking like it might be a bit of a scorcher, too, which will probably slow me down a bit — I tend to overheat easily on the 10K. Still, it’s not going to stop me, so please can you help give me some encouragement? Knowing that I’m raising a bit of money for Children’s Hospice South West will definitely keep me putting one foot in front of the other. All donations, big or little, very welcome on my Just Giving page. Thanks!

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Obligatory New Shoe Post

A couple of posts back I was surprised to find my running shoes were more than a year old. Last week, I hit up Moti on Whiteladies Road to upgrade my Mizuno Wave Inspire 8s to a Wave Inspire 9.

I also bought some new Mizuno running shoes. At City Sports in Cambridge I tried on all kinds of models, but ended up buying the same Mizunos I’ve been practicing in. They’re light, and the cushioning of the sole is a little hard. As always, they take a while to get used to. I like the fact that this brand of shoes doesn’t have any extra bells and whistles. This is just my personal preference, nothing more. Each person has his own likes. Once when I had a chance to talk with a sales rep from Mizuno, he admitted, “Our shoes are kind of plain and don’t stand out. We stand by our quality, but they aren’t that attractive.”

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami

I’d have agreed with that assessment up until I bought my new Wave Inspire 9s. They look like this:

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…which, frankly, stands out. But it was the only colour that Moti had in my size (I could have got the far more reserved white-and-red in a 9½, apparently) so I went for them anyway.

I did 5K down the towpath with them yesterday — having learned my lesson the hard way by hobbling back through Leigh Woods with a blister that time I got new shoes and went for a long run, first time out. So far, though, these shoes are pretty good, garishness notwithstanding, and certainly don’t seem likely to provoke any blisters.

It was quite a revelation to put the new shoes on in the shop and remember what new running shoes are like. They felt light, and cushioned, and I could feel the support — I have a tendency to overpronate, so I need a bit of stability from my shoe. The old shoes were so worn that all of that had disappeared, but shoes die so gradually that I’d not really noticed. The new shoes definitely add a bit of cheery “bounce” to yesterday’s run.

So, I think I’m going to put a reminder in my calendar for six months’ time to buy new shoes. It’s not like running, as a hobby, is exactly pricey. Even buying two pairs of shoes a year works out at less that £15/month, which is pretty good for a hobby (I don’t buy much extra gear; it’s probably £20/month in total tops, including clothing and water bottles and race entry fees.)

Oh — and if you’re into reading as well as running, Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a good read. Recommended.

5 Miles

This morning I did a little work, then nipped out to run 8‑and-a-bit kilometres, mostly through Leigh Woods. I was particularly happy to have kept going all the way, including up the damn steep part where I normally rest at a picnic bench about halfway up to get my breath back for a while.

It was a lovely day for running, not too hot, but nice a clear and non-rainy, and it all went well. At the end of my run, I bumped into this little fella. Apparently a Red Devon cow. Mooooo!


Keeping Running

There’s very little I can say about the events at yesterday’s Boston Marathon finishing line. I can’t do much either, apart from to shudder at what it must have been like. And mostly avoid the news, as it’s now solidly locked into that frantic pedalling-in-thin-air it does when it quickly runs off the edge of the facts.

About the only thing I can do is keep running, so I made sure to get out today.