Sunday, 31 July 2011

Records Fall at Battersea Park

There were no fewer than 3 course records broken on a sunny Summer’s morning at Battersea Park yesterday. Unfortunately I knew going into this race that the only record I’d be breaking, in fact creating, was a season’s best. Yes, yesterday was my first 10K race since all the way back in August 2010 when I equalled my PB of 34.59. Realistically going by my time in last weekend's 5K, anything around the 36 minute mark would be an achievement.

The race was the Self Transcendence 10K, which consisted of 3 loops of Battersea Park. I am no stranger to this course, as it’s where I did a lot of my training last year - some painful memories! I actually did this very race last year in a time of 35:25. It is as flat as a pancake and on tarmac and therefore prime PB territory.

Joining me in the starting line-up were a couple of familiar faces. The legendary Darren Tanner, who has been in fine form this year with three 10K wins so far. I certainly wasn't planning on trying to keep up with him yesterday. Also competing in his debut 10K race was my good friend Mark Cameron. A fit young fellow who has run half and full marathons before but has never raced the 10K distance. 

Mark, Darren and myself after a succesful morning (before 9am!)

I went into the race aiming to start conservatively as I am sick of making the same old mistake of going out to quickly and flagging in the later stages of races. So I let DT fire ahead of me, I had to run my own race. It seemed to work well as I was able to settle into a pace of around 3:30 a km and I was going past other runners even at the 4K mark. Inevitably with my lack of mileage I wasn't even able to keep up this pace and it hovered around the 3:35 mark until the last K where I pushed the accelerator knowing I was close to home and posted my fastest K of the race in 3:22! When I came onto the final straight, I saw the big clock which was still under 36 mins. As soon as I realised I had a tight chance of getting sub 36 I pressed the extra boost button and absolutely hammered it towards the line. To my delight I crossed the in 35.58. At this point I made a lot of noise which DT had to explain to those in earshot was partly down to my return from injury.

Photo from

The other boys added to the joy with Darren coming in 5th place with a great time of 34:50 and Mark exceeding his expectations with a terrific 42.35. Darren’s 5th place meant we had some interest in the prize giving as trophies were awarded up to 7th position for men under 50s category. Below DT collects another award for his straining trophy cabinet. 

Photo from

Afterwards, we had a deserved breakfast in Battersea with friends.  And yes there were a couple of lagers consumed later on in the day (in my case, after my shift at work).

Now to reflect on the race and a look at where I am now. The good news was that I was only a minute away from last year’s PB, which is no mean feat considering the length of my layout. I did put in a hellova lot of hard training the last 3 weeks though so it just shows you what you can do if you stick religiously to a  challenging training plan. The bad news is that I am still getting various pains in my shin.  I am continuing to try and combat this with a variety of measures. I have been keeping up the yoga, and did my 2nd session in a week today, in a bid to improve my strength and flexibility. I am also investigating getting a proper biomechanical analysis done to try and identity what may be causing my issues and any weaknesses that I can work on. Hopefully it will all become clear one day, until then I’ll try and do as much running as I can without breaking myself.

Next up is the Regent’s Park 10K on 7th August. Then I will have a 3 weeks training cycle before another 10K in Regent’s Park that I came 2nd in last year and equalled my PB. Sub 35 again by the end of August would be nice, although I’ll still have the nagging feeling of not having made any progress for an entire year. As for the course record at Battersea Park, I’m determined to get it before I am no longer a Londoner!

Time: 35:59 (SB)
Position: 12th/221

Sunday, 24 July 2011

On the Comeback Trail (and a 5K PB)

It’s high time this running blog was put back on the road. Thankfully I now have something of worth to write about as I sit supping on a cold bottle of lager, not long after a successful 16 mile run (my longest since October) and the day after achieving 5K PB.

I’ll try and fill in the gap since my last post all the way back in January. I’ve continued to spend 2011 soul searching (dramatically) and trying just about every possible cure and reading just about every article or website every written on shin splints. I’ve also spent a lot of money on physio and trainers. Nothing seemed to work. After yet another failed comeback I decided to just keep going and see what happened as the pain wasn’t actually that bad. I can’t remember why but I just started to try to run more on grass instead of the road all the time. I’ve recently moved to Greenwich and nearby Blackheath provides an excellent chunk of grass! Since this change in tact I usually don’t experience any pain. And when I do it’s usually after a long session on the road and it seems to go away. 

So I think I’m now just trying to mitigate the pain coming back by doing a higher % of my training on softer surfaces like grass and the track. I was always doing a weekly track session so the main difference to my regime has been ‘offroad’ runs. It’s taken me a while to accept, that pounding the roads for hours a week is just not sustainable. So instead I will skip through the green spaces of London. It looks like it’s something I’m just going to have to manage, and with any luck it might go away as my legs get stronger and more conditioned for long distance running. Maybe I’ve just made that up, but at least it’s hope. Also, I've gone to the lengths of taking up yoga! I feel a bit out of place and must be pretty close to the bottom of the class but I really feel it must be helping improve my flexibility and strength. It certainly causes me a lot of distress during the classes! Anyway, to the comeback trail.

I’ve been flirting with the parkrun the last few weeks to try and get back in the groove of quick running. The parkrun is a fantastic concept and I can’t praise it enough. They are 5K timed runs (as with everything I treat them as races!) every Saturday morning which takes place in locations all over the UK and beyond.  Register on the website, turn up at any course you want with your printed barcode, run with a great bunch of people, get a time, and all that for free – thanks to the generous volunteers who often sacrificing running themselves.  It’s all explained better at but I would urge anyone interested in running for fun or seriously to get involved.  During my latest training I have shoe-horned in a few parkruns to try and get an idea of where my fitness and pace is.
For completeness, the details of the races are below:

02/07/11 – Greenwich parkrun, Avery Hill Park

This was my first race since the start of October, so I didn’t really know how I’d deal with the rigours of a 5K. I always need a target though so I went in with an educated expectation of doing it in around 18 mins. With so many months out with only very irregular training it was always going to be difficult to emulate anywhere near my pace from last year. The course also has a couple of hills and is all on grass, which isn’t conducive with getting a fast time. It was a struggle, but then I find every race a struggle as I push myself to the limit. I should have been happy with 18:12 and even came 2nd! Not bad after about 9 months since my injury problems started. I couldn’t wait until the next week though to improve on this and try and get closer to last year’s pace.

Time: 18:12 (SB) – Target met!
Position: 2nd/52

09/07/11 - Greenwich parkrun, Avery Hill Park

Now that I knew the course and had another week’s training under my belt including a couple of track sessions, I had great expectations that I would knock a bit of time off last week’s effort. I was hoping sub 18 mins at the very least. Somehow I found the pace and energy to knock a whole 15 seconds off. Of course I still wasn’t happy. I knew I had 2 weeks of training until I’d be able to do another parkrun though so was confident that if I kept going at this rate I could make some serious inroads. One of these weeks I was spending in Scotland so had some great training sessions on some hilly routes.

Time: 17:57 (SB) – Target met!
Position: 4th/54

Now for a change of course. After checking out the parkrun courses that London has to offer, it was clear that Hackney Marshes would be a fast course as it’s flat and mainly on tarmac. With this in mind and the fact that I’d just done a couple of weeks of hard training I turned up in confident mood. I wanted to get as close to my 5K time from last year as I could, so anything around 17:30 would be satisfactory. As usual, I started very quickly but struggled to keep up this pace by the time I was starting the 2nd K. However looking back at the km splits I was actually fairly consistent. I often have some sort of calamity the first time I try a course and the marshes was no different. It is a 2.5km out and back course and a few seconds from the start you need to turn off through some bushes on the right –I managed this fine but couldn’t work out where to turn in on the way back. It costs me a few seconds although it did force me into a aprticualry strong sprint finish and I was pleasantly surprised to take 8 seconds off my PB from back last June!

Time: 17:21 (PB) – Target smashed!
Position: 4/61

As a PB, it was slightly misleading. This was definitely a faster course than Finsbury Park and I only did two 5Ks last year, the last one being back in June which was a couple of months before I achieved a sub-10K. So I still feel I’m a bit off my 10K pace and I’ve got a lot of work to do before I’m able to maintain pace at longer distances. But I have started my weekly long run again so that will definitely help.

Next on the radar are a couple of 10Ks. Battersea Park on Saturday and then Regent’s Park on the 7th August. I see this all as build up to my big comeback race, the Great Scottish Run, a half marathon the 4th September. I did this last year in 1:17:08 which is probably my best running performance to date. With only 6 weeks to go it would be a massive ask to match this time again. So instead I’m going to try and beat it by a couple of minutes! A very tough 6 weeks of training ahead!

Thanks for staying with me and thanks also to all those volunteers at parkrun. It’s going to be my turn to volunteer very soon!

Whoops that was a bit long.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Injury Battle


First of all I must apologise for the lack of blogging over the last 3 months! Unfortunately I’ve not been doing a lot of running due to injury so there’s not been a lot to blog about. You may remember I realised I had an issue a couple of weeks before the Loch Ness Marathon in October with pain on the inside of my shin. It was probably a result of overtraining during 2010 and because I packed so much into my first year of running my body has not had time to adjust. I doubt running a sub-3 hour marathon through the injury helped it. I did hope that with a short rest this would relent but it has persisted over the Autumn and Winter months and forced me into a frustrating spell on the side lines. At least premiership footballers have a massive wage packet to keep their chins up. Running has become a big part of my life and it had cruelly been taken away from me. It’s been an extremely frustrating time for me but I have been trying to make the best of the situation in a number of ways. I believe with my persistence I will come back stronger and faster and less likely to suffer injuries again.


Diagnosis Shin Splints

My physio quickly diagnosed my injury as shin splints. Shin splints is a common complaint among runners and is quite a generic term for problems at the front of the lower leg. I’ve had it explained to me numerous times by different people but still don’t understand it! But anyway, it’s often caused by overtraining, especially on hard surfaces because of the impact. If you're really interested, don't ask me, look it up in Wiki.

The physio advised me to do a lot of calf and hamstring stretches and to ice the affected area as many times a day as I could manage! And most importantly to rest completely from any activities involving impact for at least 6 weeks.  I stretched and iced religiously and went to spinning classes to keep up my fitness. 6 weeks passed and I tried running again. I managed 3 days running in a row without any pain but then a couple of days later my shin started aching. After all the hard work this was pretty demoralising and it felt like I was back to square one.


I have seriously been doubting whether I’ll be able to get fit in time for the London Marathon as it is creeping up fast. The problem is that even if the injury has healed, I can’t just start training again at the same level as I was a few months ago. I need to gradually build up again or I risk the injury just coming straight back. The last thing I want is for my first London Marathon to be a half-hearted attempt, I must do myself justice or it's not worth turning up. The good news is that this month I've managed a few pain-free runs and so far there has not been pain the day after either. Long may this continue if I am to have any hope of being for London.

The Morals

So what have I changed in my approach?

  • I’ve introduced some serious stretching to my regime as I reckon this may well have prevented the problem in the first place. I have focussed particularly on calf and hamstring stretches.
  • To compliment the stretching I have been getting some sports massages (when money allows!) which includes deep tissue massage - very painful!
  • I am also going to use the time that I am doing less running to work on strength and conditioning as this is something I’ve neglected due to the amount of pure running training I’ve been doing. This includes core strength work and weights.
  • I have been running more on grass as this results in less impact on my shin.

Here are 4 things I have learnt the hard way, so you don’t have to make the same mistakes:

1)      Stretch, stretch and stretch! Don’t make the same mistake as me and think you’re invincible. Taking 10-15 minutes to stretch after your run could save you months of frustration!
2)      Follow RICE. Rest Ice Compression Elevation. Most importantly ice your injury as soon as you can after feeling the pain. Rubbing ice cubes up and down for 10-15 mins is a very effective way if doing this.
3)      Don’t just run on roads if you’re doing a lot of mileage – do at least one run a week on a soft surface like grass or trail.
4)      Sports massage. If you’re doing a lot of mileage try and get some sports massage – expensive but priceless as it keeps all your bits from tightening to the point that you are prime for injury at any moment!


As a runner who doesn’t attend a running club or employ a coach, I have to rely on a number of other sources for information and advice on my injury.

As with most things these days I have gained most of my running knowledge online:

Time-to-Run – a global free online running magazine that contains a wealth of info on everything from training programs, advice on injury prevention. 

Runnersworld – the website for the magazine of the same name that contains. It is particularly useful for beginner training programs, finding events and equipment reviews.

As for the treatment of my injury, I can highly recommend Mark Green (Physio) and Timo Dahlstedt (Sports Massueur), if you are in the London area.

London Physio  Mark Green is a running injury specialist physiotherapist who I first used when I was struggling with an injury in the build-up to the Edinburgh Marathon last May. He has run a 2:33 marathon so understands the needs of runners.

Sports Massage – Timo Dahlstedt was recommended to me by Mark Green and has given me some very painful, but I’m sure very effective massages. He is based at Pineapple Dance Studios (oo err!)  in Covent Garden, London.

Sweatshop - The best running shop I have come across to date. I am basing this on my experiences at the Clapham branch where the staff are knowledgeable and helpful.

And finally, thank you to all my friends and family who have kept me positive. I will be back blogging about PBs in no time!