Milton Keynes Marathon 2017

Its taken a while to fully reflect on MK Marathon this year. Crossing the finish line there were mixed emotions, but I think the one that took precedent was relief that there were no more miles to run, and no more hills!

Before Race Start

Arriving early (very early, I hadn’t managed to get a parking ticket before they sold out so wasn’t sure where to try and ditch the car) gave me plenty of time to walk down to the stadium, take in the sites and generally relax (worry, panic, get stressed), particularly taking advantage of the excellent baggage area with plenty of space for the runners.

After getting ready it was time for a quick catch-up with 2 other runners from work- David who started off in the 0-5k group that was started about 18 months ago and now embarking on his 1st half marathon (he’d go on to run 1:50 – a fantastic time!) and Pete who was gunning for holding out for a 1:35 half (and would somehow manage to grab 1:37 – again more fantastic running).

2017-05-01 09.31.44

(The cow behind us doesn’t really stand-out).

The Early Miles

I’ve hinted in my training that I thought I was near 4 hour shape, so I decided to try running with a pace group for the 1st time. Joining the 4 hour ‘bus’, I found myself running next to the wife of someone I used to cycle with – but neither of us were up for too much talking, both conceding fairly early on that we were both ‘ambitiously’ going for 4 hours, and both perhaps knowing we weren’t quite in that shape.

The 1st 6 miles were easy going, and it was around this point that I spotted ‘Marathon Ste’ from Liverpool Running Club and it was a joy to run the next 5 or so miles with him. ‘Marathon Ste’ was someone who I ran with when 1st starting out running back up in Liverpool, so used run with him every Tue and Thurs night round the streets of North Liverpool, and he’d often have a tale or 2 from the many, many, many marathons he’d previously run (hence his nickname). It sounds likely that I’ll be on the same course as him later in the year at Snowdonia.

Mile 7 for no particular reason was pretty tough going, but 8-12 went well enough. I had kept an eye on my heart rate, and this was a little higher than it should have been for this point on the race, but I decided to plough on regardless.

Being Sensible

At Mile 13 though, I decided to be sensible (for the 1st time in my life?!). We went through half way bang on pace time but I’d already mentally decided that after Mile 14 I’d drop back the pace in the hope not to blow up completely and hold out for around 4:10-4:15.

This ‘reduced’ pace worked well until about Mile 19, when I just slowed completely. I went from running sub 10 min/miles to just about holding 11 min/miles. All I could do was resolve to myself to not walk and continue running regardless of how slow that running got. (I should have remembered, but those hills in MK are tough work – its certainly nowhere as flat as I recalled from the year before!).

The Finish

Again a fantastic lap of the stadium (including a kiss and high five from the kids) and sheer relief at crossing the finish line.

A post shared by Greg Bowie (@movingalong79) on

2017-05-01 14.36.03

So crossing the line in 4 hrs 24m to set my 3rd fastest marathon time, just a tiny bit disappointed not to hold out for sub 4:20. This is about 18 minutes faster than my time last year, so certainly some significant progress.

The stand out for me on the day though was the sheer support for Willen Hospice all the way round, from supporters and fellow runners alike.

Another really enjoyable day in MK (although I’m saying that now after 10 days, so maybe the memory of those hills are starting to fade….)

Willen Hospice and MK Marathon 2017

In May 2017 I’m running MK Marathon and Stirling Marathon (and in October, Snowdonia Marathon) to raise funds and awareness for Willen Hospice, an amazing local charity. I’ll be blogging my journey from here to the finish line. If you’re in a position to make a donation, however small, it’d be greatly appreciated. My JustGiving page is here, or alternatively you can text ‘GBMK50 £3’ to 70070 to make a £3 donation.

Many, many thanks to those who have donated so far, it really is appreciated, and really helped out at about Mile 19, Mile 20, Mile 21, Mile 21.5, Mile 22, Mile 22.5…. Smile

Sunday = Runday

Sunday. Or Runday as its becoming known in our house.

Flitwick 10k

For a change, instead of me lacing my trainers and heading off with a race number attached to my t-shirt, it was the turn of my wife to join her club mates at Flitwick 10k.

2017-04-09 10.20.37

My joy of not having to run in the searing heat (and apparently climb a number of hills) soon passed when I realised I would have to entertain 2 kids. Give me running any day of the week. Delighted to say my wife (and her club mates) did incredibly well, each finishing with a smile on their faces – and some with a sprint finish.

2017-04-09 11.48.28

Flitwick Fun Run

Next up was Esme (my daughters) turn. They do a 1km fun run after the main race has finished and so I stood on the start line – with strict instructions from Esme not to let go of her hand. We got off to a fantastic start running a surprising 200m or so, before a walk break was requested by little legs. The remaining 800m was very much a walk, but I’m delighted to say she made it round without being carried once. She certainly takes after her dad though, grumbling all the way round with ‘This is hard work’, ‘I need a drink’ and ‘I’m hungry. Can we have a snack when we get back’.

Having a tantrum and refusing a sprint finish wasn’t a highlight of the run, but the smile when getting a medal was.

Final Long Run for MK Marathon

And then in the evening it was my turn to head out.

The training plan asked for 17 miles, but I really wasn’t fancying that at all. Instead I convinced myself to hit the trails and take in some hills on the way. For ages I’d been trying to get onto a countryside trail, but never quite managed to work out where the start was, so headed that way to try again – and managed to find it this time and I wasn’t disappointed by the scenery on offer.

2017-04-09 18.48.22

2017-04-09 18.50.14

2017-04-09 18.50.17

2017-04-09 19.11.20

2017-04-09 20.12.59

At about 14 miles I nearly turned to head for home, but then thought ‘Whats an extra 3 miles?’. Turns out after all the hills and off-road running, 3 miles is quite a bit, so the legs and head gave up at 16 miles!

image

Thats the training done – now time to taper! (And eat the food!).

Willen Hospice and MK Marathon 2017

In May 2017 I’m running MK Marathon and Stirling Marathon (and in October, Snowdonia Marathon) to raise funds and awareness for Willen Hospice, an amazing local charity. I’ll be blogging my journey from here to the finish line. If you’re in a position to make a donation, however small, it’d be greatly appreciated. My JustGiving page is here, or alternatively you can text ‘GBMK50 £3’ to 70070 to make a £3 donation.

When the training gets tough, get some inspiration!

There is no denying it – this point in marathon training sucks. Huge runs at weekends, normally on tired legs due to speedwork and tough sessions during the week. The only saving grace is the longer day light hours, warmer temperatures and that the marathon is almost within touching distance. I’m currently sitting working out how many more actual ‘long’ runs I need to do.

image

Finding Inspiration

When the going gets tough, you need to remind yourself why you’re doing it. So this time last week I was lucky enough to spend the morning with Laura at Willen Hospice to set what an amazing facility and service is being offered. Firstly in the magnificent setting by Willen Lake, but then more importantly seeing and understanding the caring and holistic approach that the Hospice have in place for both residents and non-residents alike. It really was an eye opener, and just highlighted what a great cause I’m running for.

2017-03-24 12.54.31

Suddenly those long runs don’t seem quite as long any more.

The early afternoon was then spent checking out the local playground areas for ‘on the day’ support purposes – think the kids won’t mind if I run quite a slow time. (Although one ‘kid’ seems slightly bigger than the others)

2017-03-24 12.16.53

2017-03-24 12.16.59

2017-03-24 12.35.22

Running

So last Saturday saw my plan of doing my long run and incorporating Stevenage ParkRun into the mix continue. Motivated by the morning at Willen Hospice the day before, and the strength of the 20 mile run the week before I set out at a much faster pace, and rather than getting to ParkRun after everyone had set-off, actually got there with a few minutes to spare.

The ParkRun started and I continued at pretty much marathon pace until I spotted someone I used to run with, so I upped the pace slightly and starting chatting away to them. Pulling away from them slightly I found myself getting a little competitive, which probably wasn’t the best idea mid-way through a long run. I decided at this point to stop overtaking people, but hearing footsteps behind me in the final kilometre, still couldn’t be the more disciplined man and upped my speed to stop someone overtaking me.

Unsurprisingly the next 6 miles home were slightly slower than the opening 11.5 had been! I even stopped to take a photo of the daffodils I’d spotted, but not pictured, the previous week.

2017-03-25 10.52.03

Mid-week speedwork

Tuesday lunchtime was scuppered by work commitments, so an evening run of 5x600m firmly reminded me why I prefer long, steady distance running. Intervals hurt. Lots. And tonight I had no zip in my legs – still I got them done even if the numbers didn’t quite stack up. And the stitch at the end of interval number 3 is still fresh in my mind.

Thursday lunchtime was meant to be a 10k time trial, but I wasn’t feeling it physically in my legs (and perhaps more so mentally). Between us we decided to have a warm-up and go for a 5k effort instead. Watching Pete disappear into the distance (hes quite a bit faster!) meant for a lonely and painful 5k run – but somehow I clocked 22:47, my 3rd fastest 5k! And on tired legs. Perhaps a second year of setting a 5k PB might be on the cards later this summer.

image

This Weekend

Now… do I really have to do a long run this weekend? Really? No idea what’ll happen this weekend – could be a 20, could be a 17, could end up being a 10. Watch this space…

Willen Hospice and MK Marathon 2017

In May 2017 I’m running MK Marathon and Stirling Marathon (and in October, Snowdonia Marathon) to raise funds and awareness for Willen Hospice, an amazing local charity. I’ll be blogging my journey from here to the finish line. If you’re in a position to make a donation, however small, it’d be greatly appreciated. My JustGiving page is here, or alternatively you can text ‘GBMK50 £3’ to 70070 to make a £3 donation.

MK Marathon–The Final Push

The 20 miler. Its a long run by anyones standards, and I always find the number really quite daunting. No matter which way you split (4×5 miles, 3×6 and a bit) it never seems any shorter or more manageable. However, perhaps the most surprising thing about this past weekends 20 miler was that the plan only asked for 17!!

image

As the final really big weeks come along ahead of MK Marathon (40-something days to go), to save having the long run hanging over my head throughout the weekend, I’ve managed to strike a deal to get it done and dusted on a Saturday morning.

I’ve also had a great idea to try and incorporate Stevenage ParkRun as well. Using all my local knowledge from a misspent youth growing up in Stevenage and the surrounding areas I searched for the shortest route between home and Stevenage ParkRun, heading down various alleyways and footpaths, but could only muster a shortest route of about 8.5 miles. Just a tad too far for the planned 17 miles. Getting Google to plot the route though, stick completely to main roads and 6.95 miles is the distance. So much for that local knowledge!

Setting off from home, it was a beautiful sunny morning, I noticed the daffodils, but my legs felt quite heavy and I thought I was in for a long day. Coasting through the outskirts of Stevenage though, time was going pretty much to plan – passing an Uncle but not having time to stop, so a quick wave, but it would the start of the ‘bumping’ into people for this run.

I was all set for arriving just before the 9am start (with perhaps a minute or 2 to spare). Then my local knowledge really kicked in, and I took a wrong turn! This ultimately meant I got to ParkRun a couple of minutes after the start. In the distance I could just see the tail-runners by the top of the lake. I plodded on regardless and at the 1KM marker I finally caught up with the tail runners, before then awkwardly making my way through the field for the next 2 laps. I think I also raised some eye brows when I took a gel at the start of the 2nd lap (is this a 1st for ParkRun?). I think strange looks were only diminished by the fact I had another 2 gels in my race belt and a bottle of Lucozade (which have strangely become a bit of a comfort blanket for me in recent runs!?!). It was also on this 2nd lap that I bumped into a lad that I used to play football with.

2017-03-18 09.36.19

Finishing ParkRun I had a quick scan of the crowds to try and see the only person I thought I’d actually meet today, but to no avail. I just assumed he wasn’t taking part today and so tried to pluck up the motivation to start the run home.

2017-03-18 09.36.31

Through Stevenage Old Town I bumped into my boss. I could tell I was feeling quite good as I commented I ‘only’ had 3 miles to go, and felt very much on the home straight. A little further up the road, I bumped into the same Uncle from earlier on, and stopped for a quick chat. I was then faced with a choice to take a scenic but slightly longer route or continue on the main road. I was feeling fairly good, so headed out onto Letchworth Greenway when I was overtaken by a work colleague on a bike who also stopped for a quick chat!

2017-03-18 10.25.47

Getting closer to home, I had a quandary. Finish on about 18 miles, or plump for the 20. Feeling good, I headed off on another loop. A few minutes later I wasn’t feeling quite as good though, started to regret that decision, but somehow managed to press on regardless!

20 miles done. Boom!

image

Willen Hospice and MK Marathon 2017

In May 2017 I’m running MK Marathon to raise funds and awareness for Willen Hospice, an amazing local charity. I’ll be blogging my journey from here to the finish line. If you’re in a position to make a donation, however small, it’d be greatly appreciated. My JustGiving page is here, or alternatively you can text ‘GBMK50 £3’ to 70070 to make a £3 donation.

DigitalBanner_728x90_GBMK50_1481546041734

Bath Half 2017

What a difference a week makes. From a bad day out at Cambridge Half last week (with thoughts of giving up this running lark, mainly from Miles 2 to 8!) through to an magnificent day at Bath, and trying to hold off entering more events!

2017-03-11 22.52.16

The Early Miles

2017-03-12 09.24.59

With Cambridge having not gone to plan, I decided that I’d head out at about 8:40 minutes per mile pace, my confidence for trying to hit sub 1hr 50m well and truly shot to pieces. I’d then try to step up the pace towards the end of the race and just try and see an improvement on my time from last week and see some progress if nothing else.

The Bath course sees you run about 2.5 miles out onto 2 laps of an approximate 4 mile loop. The opening mile appeared to be downhill, and suddenly I was running 8 min miles. Still, go with the flow I thought, good to bag some time and I’ll slow down when the course levels off. Mile 2 seemed to start downhill too. Someone who was more switched on than me questioned whether we’d be running back up all of this on the way back (PS. This is all sounding quite dramatic, but it was almost flat, just slightly downhill overall – the reverse of an ‘upflat’ if you will).

A Downhill Half Marathon?

Mile 3 saw a short sharp climb before it then appeared to go downhill again. At this point my mind wondered if they’d somehow managed to create an overall downhill half marathon! My pace kept around the 8 min / mile mark and by mile 4 I decided that I’d just keep this pace going until half-way and then rethink what shape I was in.

The crowds were fantastic, particularly in and around the city centre – where the supporters were at least a couple deep in places. It had a real feel of a big city event, so hats off to the organisers and the people of Bath for coming out and supporting.

The Tougher 2nd Lap

The pace stayed on, but suddenly on the 2nd lap the short, sharp climbs on lap 1 were turning into slightly longer, slightly sharper climbs and the downhill sections seemed much flatter than before. At Mile 9 the legs really emptied and I struggled to keep them going (Mile 10 was my slowest mile of the day). Despite trying more and more, I just couldn’t speed up for the last couple of miles, and the finish line was hidden around a corner – I think I managed a sprint for about 50 meters, before then giving up and just coasting over the finish line – crossing the line in 1hr 47m 16s, some 7.5 minutes faster than last week (and my fastest half marathon for over 4 years).

2017-03-12 13.45.28

2017-03-12 13.02.07

So What Changed This Week

Hmmm. I didn’t get cold before race which probably counted for a lot. I also ran 3 times in the week before the race, something that always helps.

I also wore my new trainers, so maybe there is something in that. It was also my 1st race in my Willen Hospice top – this could quickly turn into my favourite running top!!

In Summary

An outstanding event, that ran like clockwork. No queues for the baggage (indeed, there was literally no queue at all, either to drop off or pick up), plenty of toilets and the ‘Runners Village’ just reminded me of a festival. The course itself was great, either as a PB hunting ground, or for excellent support.

2017-03-12 09.33.06

The smallest gripe, and nothing to do with the race, was the parking situation. Getting parked was fine, but all the car parks seemed to restricted to 4 hours. Mind boggling really when you think about the number of people who’d happily be drinking coffees and having lunch post-race. Instead, once I’d finished, I jumped straight in the car and headed out-of-town for lunch and some coffee – can’t help but think Bath are missing out on something there.

Willen Hospice and MK Marathon 2017

In May 2017 I’m running MK Marathon to raise funds and awareness for Willen Hospice, an amazing local charity. I’ll be blogging my journey from here to the finish line. If you’re in a position to make a donation, however small, it’d be greatly appreciated. My JustGiving page is here, or alternatively you can text ‘GBMK50 £3’ to 70070 to make a £3 donation.

DigitalBanner_728x90_GBMK50_1481546041734

Cambridge Half Marathon 2017

There is no such thing as a bad race, especially if you can learn something from it. Safe to say, Cambridge didn’t really go to plan and I’ve spent the last 24 hours or so reflecting on why.

Arriving at the Park + Ride in pure sunshine I dug out my sunglasses from my bag, and made the 1st mistake of day – leaving my gloves on the passenger seat of the car (Schoolboy error 1), convincing myself that the sun was coming out and the world would be a happy, sunny place. Once on the double decker bus, the sun disappeared and I took off my sunglasses.

Arriving at Midsummer Common I bumped into some FreedomTri club mates (and a work colleague who was also running) and started to regret leaving those gloves behind (note everyone the picture below with gloves, hats, warm clothes!). The wind had picked up, it was cold and the queue for the coffee stall was getting longer and longer. Leaving it as late as possible I stripped down to my running kit, and stood for the next half hour in shorts and t-shirt, bemoaning not bringing anything to wear before the start (Schoolboy error 2)

.2017-03-05 08.49.53

The race got going and I felt pretty good. The first couple of miles were pretty busy and it took a while for the runners to thin out. But I was running a reasonable pace (I had no idea what shape I was in, and was hoping (ambitiously!) for a sub 1:45. I was working for a 1:48 and was hitting about these numbers for the 1st couple of miles). At Mile 3 I had a quick stop for a toilet break. Miles 4 to 8 though resulted in both my calves feeling really tight and my right foot suffering from pins and needles. These miles were really hard going, and the thought of giving up did cross my mind on a few occasions. It was during this period that my times tailed off quite badly and I made the mental decision to ease off, be disappointed in myself and just effectively turn this run into a training run.

By Mile 8 though the pins and needles suddenly disappeared, my calves felt better and I got talking to a couple of other runners and we managed to talk each other into pressing on (helped further by a nice tailwind for a couple of miles). These were an enjoyable few miles (well, except Mile 11 which seemed to drag on forever!). In the final mile another club mate overtook me, and so I jumped behind them and used them to pull me through the field (and ran the fasted mile of the day!- thanks John!!).

2017-03-05 12.32.56

 

Reflecting

So some silly mistakes:

  • These mistakes started in the week running up to the race. I only managed a single run and I know I run much better when running ‘regularly’.
  • Being cold before the start, complete lack of warm-up – very silly mistakes and a timely reminder to be better prepared – I wonder how much that contributed to the pins and needles and calves.
  • With lack of running, there was also a lack of stretching in the week of the race – another contribution to the calves?

The good bits – well, Mile 8 onwards saw me post 5 of my 6 fastest miles of the day, so I’ve evidently got some kind of fitness (although perhaps not 1:48 fitness! And what idiot was thinking of 1:45!!!). The medal is excellent and I had a great day chatting away to other runners, even if the race itself wasn’t quite what I had planned.

2017-03-05 12.33.22

I do feel a little like a Premiership football manager though, I’ve got the opportunity to bounce right back with Bath Half Marathon next week. I’m going back to basics and will be pacing for anything better than 1:54 and start to see improvements (hopefully!).

Oh, and I’ve got some new, go faster shoes for MK Marathon Smile

2017-03-06 21.05.05

Willen Hospice and MK Marathon 2017

In May 2017 I’m running MK Marathon to raise funds and awareness for Willen Hospice, an amazing local charity. I’ll be blogging my journey from here to the finish line. If you’re in a position to make a donation, however small, it’d be greatly appreciated. My JustGiving page is here, or alternatively you can text ‘GBMK50 £3’ to 70070 to make a £3 donation.

DigitalBanner_728x90_GBMK50_1481546041734

MK Marathon Week 6

This week ends on a cracker.

In all my marathons, this weeks long run is always a key training run – mentally, as much as physically, providing some proof that I’ll be capable of running the 26.2 miles come the big day. (Or, being able walk / crawl the last 10 miles if needs be).

This evening I’ve just completed a 16 mile run. Once I’ve got 16 miles under my belt in training, psychologically I feel capable of completing the marathon distance. I mentally work on the notion that I should now be able to run 18 to 20 miles in the worse case scenario and be able to walk/run the rest. I’m obviously hoping it doesn’t come to that – but this always marks a turning point in the training.

image

The other reason this is a key session is because 10 miles are done at ‘marathon pace’. Getting in tonight and looking at the numbers this looks to have been about 9:20 minute miles pace. With some speed work and another 10 weeks of training, it looks like I might be getting close to a sub 4 hour marathon (indeed the last time I did this session with a sub 4 hour marathon, my splits were about 9:15 min / miles).

With all this good news though, I’m not going to lie – I wasn’t able to run another step once the 16 miles clocked over and ended up walking the last 0.5 mile home!!!

You also know marathon training is getting into serious distances when you have to leave a stash of nutrition on the drive. Which reminds me, I’ve left a gel out there…

2017-02-19 17.57.27

Willen Hospice and MK Marathon 2017

In May 2017 I’m running MK Marathon to raise funds and awareness for Willen Hospice, an amazing local charity. I’ll be blogging my journey from here to the finish line. If you’re in a position to make a donation, however small, it’d be greatly appreciated. My JustGiving page is here, or alternatively you can text ‘GBMK50 £3’ to 70070 to make a £3 donation.

DigitalBanner_728x90_GBMK50_1481546041734