Back to the Portway

Portway Tree

Since my fastest ever half marathon, I’ve not done any jogging.

Partly this is the usual break I take after every big long race. Partly it’s because I’ve been very busy. I took on a four-week contract at my old workplace at the same time I was still working on the Android version of Get Running, at the same time as I was having a new kitchen fitted and then decorating it. As you might expect, that didn’t leave me with much time or energy for jogging.

On the plus side, I did cycle to work and back pretty much every day of the four week contract, which was good exercise, and seems to have kept any weight gain at bay, at least.

And now the contact’s over, the kitchen’s finished, and I’m back on the road. I nipped out for a little 3K jog down the Portway yesterday to start getting myself back in the habit — I find it’s best to lower your resistance to getting back into running by going out for laughably short distances to start with.

Speaking of the Bristol Half Marathon — thanks to everyone who chipped in to raise £110 for Children’s Hospice South West. It’s a great cause, and knowing that there were donations depending on my running helped me to get out there to train, and to keep going all the way around the course 😀

Bristol Half Marathon 2012

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? A few weeks ago, I went out for another long training run, and it was horrible. I was hoping to head somewhere near a half-marathon distance. Instead I did a horrible, slogging, slow 10K, and hated every minute of it.

I’m not entirely sure why — I may have been over-training, as I’d done quite a few longer-distance runs in the previous couple of weeks. And it was the evening, and maybe I was tired.

And, possibly, I might have been injured, as well. Because the Monday after that run, I could barely walk. I think I might have trapped a nerve, or something; certainly I was in a pretty poor way. Luckily that extreme didn’t last for long, with the pain gradually fading over the next couple of weeks.

But it wasn’t conducive to getting out and training. So I didn’t. I didn’t run at all, in fact, until yesterday’s Bristol Half Marathon, though I did cycle a fair bit, just geting around town.

So. I was pretty worried that I’d have another experience like my horrible Bath Half in March.

Luckily, that turned out not to be the case. I got a good night’s sleep on Saturday, after having some lovely lasagne cooked for me by my friend Emmeline. Sunday’s weather was great for running — cool and overcast, but dry — and I was feeling fairly optimistic by the time I got to the start line, even though I’d started the day with a bit of a headache. It helped that this was my fifth half-marathon, so I’m starting to feel a bit more blasé about them now.

And, to cut a long, 13-mile story short, I had a good run. As usual, I enjoyed most of the sights and sounds. Special mention to the guy who overtook me in the Portway tunnel whilst juggling three batons (that must take some practice!), and to the person in the ten-foot tall nurse outfit bouncing happily along…

I didn’t enjoy all the sounds, mind. As an introvert with a headache, I could certainly have done without the guy who dogged my heels from around the turnabout point on the Portway all the way to the finish, alternating inane, repetitive encouragement at the top of his hoarse, drunken-tramp voice with blasts on his air-horn, for example. He gets my prize for “most annoying co-runner of any race I’ve ever been in.”

But it didn’t seem to do my race any harm. I went happily through the 10K mark (where I pretty much ran into a wall on the Bath Half) and carried on jogging fine until the last two or three. At that point my legs started feeling a lot heavier, and I had to rely more on will-power and encouragement from the crowd to pull me round. But I carried on plodding, albeit rather less steadily if the RunKeeper track and stats are anything to go by, and crossed the finish line without ever dropping back to a walk.

Emmeline met me and accompanied me slowly up Park Street for my traditional post-race Rocotillos milkshake (strawberry, this time 🙂 ), and then I headed very, very slowly home for a very, very long bath. Hurrah!

The best news of all, apart from the fact I actually survived, was my official time: 2:47:33, which is my fastest half marathon time ever, beating last year’s Bristol half by about a minute and a quarter. Considering how worried I was about my training, I’m extremely pleased with that result…

All that, and I’ve raised a bit of money for Children’s Hospice South West, too. It’s not too late to bump up my total, if you’re inclined. My Just Giving page is here. Thanks!

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Long Time No See

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I had a bit of a break after my walking holiday. I’ve only been for a few runs since, this little 5K, a 6‑and-a-half‑K, and, yesterday, an 8‑and-a-bit‑K. So at least my distance figures are heading in the right direction…

I have been keeping up the exercise momentum in general, though. Most days I’ve been trying to head out for an hour’s exercise at least, whether it’s just a long walk (mostly involving hills, this being Bristol) or getting out on my bike. The cycling’s a fairly recent thing — I was prodded back into it by my green, sustainable friend Emmeline — and it’s been fun to get back into.

Cycling’s a bit lower-impact, too, which has been handy over the last week, because I’ve done something to my left ankle that’s left it a bit hurty. Not too sure what, and it’s not that serious, but I’ve eased back on the jogging because of it, and at least the cycling gives me a decent non-pounding alternative… Seems to be on the mend now, albeit gradually.

But. Definitely time to gently pick up the jogging, especially the distance, because it’s only six weeks or so until the Bristol Half Marathon, and I want to be better-prepared for it than I was for Bath…

I’ll head out for a longer jog over the weekend, and we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully my ankle will stand up to it, and I’ll break through the 10K barrier, if only by a bit…

I’ll leave you with an iPhone snap I took at the halfway point of yesterday’s 8K, down near Sea Mills station.

From Sea Mills Bridge

Charity Update

Thank you, everyone who sponsored me for the Bristol Half Marathon. My company were kind enough to match all the donations, too.

So, working it out, with the donations, the matching, the gift aid, and the small fee Just Giving take, I think I raised £272.50 for St. Peter’s Hospice, which is brilliant.

Due to post-half-marathon sore feet, a big long photo walk the following weekend, and being extra-busy in the last few days of my day job, I’ve not actually been running recently. This seems to happen for a while after every half marathon, so I’m not too worried yet.

And on the plus side, having given up the day job to concentrate on learning new stuff (specifically iPhone and Android development) at home for a few months, I should have more time to go running. This should be extra-good over winter, as I’ll have a lot more chance to get out when it’s light. But I’m going to have to work harder on sticking to a schedule without the structure of working days to guide me, I think… We’ll see!

Race Day: Bristol Half Marathon 2011

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Yup! Another day, another medal. I’m getting quite a collection now!

I enjoyed the Bristol Half Marathon on Sunday, despite having had some reservations about my weight and the amount of training I’d been doing. I didn’t think I stood much chance of beating my personal best from the Bath Half.

At least I arrived relaxed and well-prepared for the running. After a couple of half-marathons and 10Ks I’ve got the preparations down quite well now, from pinning my number on to checking the weather forecast before I set out.

The weather was a little too good, as it turned out. The sun was blazing away, and the Portway, which makes up the bulk of the route, is pretty exposed. Once we’d all set off from the Centre, I was glad of the few clouds there were occasionally drifting in front of the sun.

I ran this one on my own — there’s another reason to speed up my running: you have more options for running partners if you have more speeds available than “dead slow”! — so I spent most of the race just enjoying the feeling of running and being part of the general crowd around me.

And people-watching, of course, especially the crazy fancy-dressers. This race didn’t disappoint on that score, with bagpipers piping their way around, a couple of people “wearing” a boat in support of the Marines, a waddle of penguins, several dogs, and Bob the Builder, to name but a few of the sights.

I also got a chance to wave to a few friends — I’d only just set out when Tom snapped me (with a proper old-school film camera, apparently) on my way past, plus I spotted several people coming back down the Portway as I was on my way out, including Jose and other usual suspects.

I kept up a very steady pace all the way around, just plodding along as usual. I felt pretty good up to somewhere around the fourteenth kilometre — that’s the way back into town along Cumberland Road — where my legs started to feel a bit dead, but even that wasn’t so bad.

Trudging around the last bit of town, I was determined just to keep going, mostly because my legs seemed to have got into that fragile momentum which might have been difficult to get back into if I’d slowed down for even a second.

As it turned out, I had just about enough energy to keep going right to the finish line — perked up at the last minute by my friends Emmeline and Arnaud cheering me on — and I came in at an official time of 2:48:15, breaking my previous personal best by just over a minute. Hurrah!

And that — apart from the now-traditional milkshake at Rocotillos (honey and Crunchie bar, thanks for asking) was my Bristol Half Marathon 2011. I guess I can give myself a week off, then start getting back into training. The next long race will be the Bath Half in March, hopefully…

Bristol Half 2011

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Yes, the race pack has arrived 🙂

With two half-marathons under my belt now, I feel fairly confident about this Sunday’s Bristol Half, despite the fact that the belt in question has had to expand by a notch or two in the last few months. A holiday in the Lake District actually saw me lose a couple of pounds last week — clearly I wasn’t drinking enough beer to keep up with the walking — so I’m relaxed and looking forward to the weekend.

Also, yesterday I did 10-ish‑K around Leigh Woods, and I certainly felt like I had some energy left at the end. It was nice to see a fair few other runners obviously practising for the Half — I saw a few people in race tops, plus a few guys in combat fatigues wearing hefty packs, so I guess there’s going to be a services team or two marching round, as usual.

Of course, all this confidence could be completely scuppered on the day itself by a bad night, awful weather or even just a cold, so I’m still going to be crossing my fingers a bit.

And, as usual, asking for a bit of motivation in the form of donations to the charity I’m running for, St. Peter’s Hospice. They’re the official race charity for the Bristol Half Marathon, and a very worthy local cause. I’m collecting donations on my Just Giving page — please give generously!

Thanks! And good luck to anyone else looking forward to the Bristol Half or any other event at the moment!

Bristol Half Marathon 2010

matt_medal.jpgToday’s half marathon — my first — went pretty well all round. I was a bit worried by the amount of rain I could hear before I set out, but it turned into occasional drizzle for the race, which is perfect jogging weather, really — no need to worry about overheating.

I kept jogging from the start line all the way around, with a few-minute interlude queuing for the toilet right at the end of the Portway section — this may be Too Much Information, but frankly I’ve always had a bit of a shy bladder, so weeing in the bushes as 10,000 other people jog past is quite difficult for me. Shame there weren’t more portaloos, really, I could have done without hanging around in a queue for as long as I did…

I felt fine through the whole Portway section, and only really started flagging when we got to around the eighth mile, at the start of Cumberland Road. I grabbed a Lucozade thingy from the helpful army people handing them out around there, though, and also ate half my Mule energy bar thing as I trogged down Cumberland Road and into town. I don’t know if that really helped — frankly I’m not keen to try a control experiment of doing another half marathon without them!

The city section was definitely the hardest. My thighs were starting to become a bid leaden, plus you have to jog within about half a mile of the finish line, but go past it and on a circuitous route around Queen Square, through Redcliffe and around Castle Park and back. That last hill up Wine Street was a bit of a killer.

Still, the good thing about the city section is that there are people here there and everywhere cheering you on, and reminding you that there’s only three miles left to go, then only two miles left to go, then finally you’re on the last mile and you know you’re going to finish.

I kept jogging all the way to the end, though I didn’t have anything left for a final burst of speed. It was all I could do to keep standing up, frankly.

I saw a few familiar faces, mostly from Twitter, on the way around, meeting @jorence on the way to the start, waving at @mikeotaylor on the way past the starting line, and apparently @parryphernalia saw me coming through the finish, though I was too intent on just keeping going without actually dying to notice… Apologies if you saw me and waved and I carried on oblivious; I was trying to stay vaguely aware of my surroundings, but it’s quite easy to descend into “tunnel vision” as you go along.

Looks like my time will be somewhere around three hours; my RunKeeper log suggests 3:03:38, but I did set it off a little in advance of hitting the starting line, so I can’t be sure whether I’ll be over or under 3 hours. But frankly, who cares? I just ran my first half marathon!

EDIT: whoo hoo! Just checked the website, and my official time is now in. I must have set my timer off a fair bit in advance of the start, as it turns out, as my time was… 02:53:43! So, comfortably under three hours, and I’m very happy indeed with that.

Of the non-Twitter people, the ones I was expecting to see didn’t let me down. My friends Mike and Jess were there near the finish to cheer me on, and picked me up afterwards to walk me up to Rocotillos and buy me one of their utterly deadly milkshakes — this time I had a cookie dough milkshake, extra thick, and I think that pretty much replaced all of the 2,362 calories I’d just burned off, according to the RunKeeper log.

So, a success all round! No injuries, no blisters. Some fairly serious aches, though. I’ve just emerged gingerly from a very long Radox bath, and I’ve taken tomorrow off work so I don’t have to do much more than lie around on a sofa watching telly, which is probably all I’ll be good for…

Thanks to everyone who sponsored me. Looks like I’ll end up raising more than £500 for Cancer Research, once my company matches the donations, which is fantastic.

Anyway. I just mentioned a sofa and a telly, didn’t I? Sounds like a good idea right now…