Sainsbury’s Sport Relief Mile 2014

Having only been running 8 weeks at the time, and never having done 10K or a race, at the suggestion of a friend I signed up for the 6 mile “Sainsbury’s Sport Relief Mile” race at Leicester Forest RFC, Leicester on March 23rd 2014. Whilst 6 miles is not a 10K race, it is close enough as a 10K is 6.22 miles.

By the time I completed what was basically the “Couch to 5K” training I was already running over 5K so was already making progress towards 10K. I’d then decided that I’d continue with three runs a week which would be split between a 5K, doing a 1 mile run as fast as I could manage, and a longer distance run at a slower pace. Just before Christmas I managed to complete a 10K in training in 45:02 which didn’t seem too bad for my first attempt at that distance, and figured I should be able to do better in an actual race.

However I then had a month off due to the Antarctica Expedition, and following the Braunstone Parkrun had another week off due to an ankle injury. A fortnight before this run I still hadn’t managed to do a second 10K run in training and was ill with a cold that was making it difficult to run at all. Things didn’t seem too promising, and to make matters worse the only money I’d raised for Sport Relief was what I’d donated myself. At this point I thought maybe people either didn’t think I could do it, or weren’t bothered enough to want to sponsor me.

Things soon turned around though – a couple of people sponsored me which did make things seem better, and this was followed by a very generous sponsorship from Jadu, a company specialising in user experience on the web (through CMS, and other products as well as an award winning design agency) and has clients all over the UK (and also in the US and Australia). This put me over my fundraising target for Sport Relief and helped encourage me to keep on pushing towards the 10K goal.

Following this, whilst the cough and cold were still lingering I decided to plan a 10K run for after work one day. This formed part of the running I did as a virtual race (see Virtual Running). Having then completed just over the distance that was required I felt far more confident that I’d be able to do this 6 mile run. I even dared to hope that I’d be able to manage a 45 minute finishing time again like I had back in December. I then started to ease off on the training for the last week before the 10K, just to give me some time to recover. My ankle and knee still weren’t perfect and didn’t want to risk too much agitation to them before the day – especially when it was only another fortnight until the next race.

On the day of the race I spent the morning working on my next book, and at lunch just went for the normal sized meal I would at the weekend. As I got ready to head over to the Rugby Football Club for the race it started to rain. Though it was a very fine mist-like rain that ended before I set off, but had still cooled the air down a bit.

Arriving at the event it seemed very quiet – there weren’t that many people there, though from the checklist I could see there were a lot of names down. It could be that the rain had put some of the people off taking part in the event, or may have backed out for other reasons. It was cold though, very cold; not the sort of weather you’d want to be standing outside in shorts for whilst waiting for the start. On a positive note, we could wait inside for a while until closer to the start time.

At the start of the race they explained that 1 mile would be two laps of the course – though according to the distance recorded by my Garmin each lap was more like 0.45 miles as by the end of the second lap (of twelve) I was further round than I should have been for 1 mile. I felt bad though as I’d said I was going to hold back and go at a slower pace with a friend’s sister, but I lost track and ran at what is pretty much my normal pace. By lap four I’d lapped quite a few of the other runners, but felt really bad about having done it – I wanted to apologise to them, or say “hi” or something as I passed, but thought that may have seemed condescending or big-headed. I genuinely regretted it. I guess usually you don’t have half mile laps so don’t normally have to worry about this sort of thing. In this case there were a number of people that walked, so that counts for a lot.

The lap went around the edge of the rugby pitches, and to try and make sure the distance was closer to the target I made sure every corner was taken as wide as possible. The majority of the course was flat with the exception of one very sharp incline – but I used a quick burst of speed to get up it every lap. There were also a few places where overtaking was a bit questionable as one side you had a ditch, and the other side another slight ditch.

As the laps went on my mind kept wandering to other things, and I continued to pass other people. By the time I’d gotten round onto my twelfth and final lap I’m ashamed to say I’d passed most of the others at least twice, and some three times. I hadn’t meant to push that hard – but was pleased with my lap times as I’d even managed to beat my PR for 1 mile. For the last straight before the final corner and finish line I decided to speed up to a sprint, but misjudged how long I was going to be able to sprint for. I managed to sprint for probably 300 metres, but then had to slow back down not long before crossing the finishing line.

Within seconds of finishing they handed over a medal and a small bottle of water. Having not drunk any liquids for about an hour or two before the run, and none during it I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised about how quickly I’d consumed it!

Sport Relief Games Medal

It was the first time I’d done a run only on grass, and the first time I’d run (close to) 10K with other people. I was very happy with the run, far happier than I expected to be with it – I certainly didn’t expect to come first either, so that was quite a surprise. I just wished I hadn’t felt so bad about having finished when I did, I should have kept to the pace I said I was going to.

I am very thankful to a friend/colleague who go me to start running – I think I owe them a lot for having introduced me to this. Also a big thanks for making sure I got a photo of myself at the end of the race with the medal. I hope one day I can repay the favour.

After the race was over

After the race was over

It was an enjoyable experience, and I’m pleased that I’d raised £240 for Sport Relief. Not a massive amount, but far more than I was expecting to which was pleasing. Now I’m left looking forward to the Lincoln 10K in two weeks time. I know I won’t do as well as the runners will be far more serious, but it’ll be another new running experience to look forward to.

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CANCELLED: Zombie Earth: Run! Leicester

Back in the September of 2013 it was suggested by a friend that I might want to take part in the Zombie Earth: Run event that would take place that November. However I’d not run much for a very long time, not since before University in fact. Even then the only running I’d done that wasn’t a sprint was what I’d done in school.

So to prepare for this night 5K race I decided I’d try out the Couch to 5K application that was available in the Apple Store for iOS devices. I knew it wasn’t a serious run, though I still thought it was worth putting some effort in for.

Zombie Earth: Run!

The Zombie Earth: Run! event is the biggest Zombie night run in England and this one was to raise funds for LOROS, an organisation that provides hospice care in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.

Over the space of the next 8 weeks I then ran three times a week gradually building up to running for the full time it said to, though I’d already passed 5K before the end of the program. By the end I’d managed to get on average to 7 minutes per mile. My personal best however was 06:34 minutes per mile, though one I knew I couldn’t yet manage for a full 5K. To end the program I then did 4 runs in a week with no aches or pains at the end of it.

For the week following the end of the C25K program I went back to 3 runs during the week. The first was a steady pace of 7:12 minutes per mile over a distance of 3.15 miles. The second run was a little slower, only moving at 7:23 minutes per mile but this time over a longer distance, of 4:63 miles. The third run then acted as speed training – a quick 1 mile at an average pace of 06:29 minutes per mile.

For the originally planned week of the race I then scaled back to only two runs, though the second one was cut short due to illness that meant I was out of running for the rest of the week. Depending how you look at it, either fortunately or unfortunately the run then got postponed until April the next year. The organisers provided no explanation for this delay however, and then in February promised they’d announce the date for April the following week. This never happened and by the time April was upon us there was no indication of when it would be.

Eventually the organisers got in touch to say that the Zombie Earth: Run event for Leicester, instead of being postponed again, was now cancelled. This time they explained that the issue was with volunteer numbers, and that this affected their insurance for the event and their ability to come to an agreement with the venue. The way it was worded suggested that this was what the issue was previously as well, which is a real shame as I’m sure a lot more people would have been far more understanding if this was explained openly.

At the start of the day I felt annoyed at the organisers and had decided to not enter one of their events again; however after that email explaining the situation I now felt sorry for the organisers, and now feel it’s possible I’d enter another one in the future. Unfortunately their next event, which they offered to move existing tickets to, is on a day which I knew I wouldn’t be around to take part. Instead I requested for my entry fee to be donated to LOROS.

It’s a shame that what was originally going to be my first running event got cancelled. Though looking at the positives – between this and a friend’s encouragement to try it, it got me running and this next weekend I’ll be doing a 6 mile run for Sport Relief, and then a couple of weeks later a 10K race in Lincoln.

Virtual Running

It’s not always possible to get large numbers of people together on a regular basis to run either a 5K, 10K or Half Marathon race. Each time one of these takes place there has to be organisers agreeing with the local council or land owner that a race will take place on a particular day for a particular duration. If the route includes roads then it can mean closing off roads whilst the run takes place, especially if it’s a larger run. There then has to be a number of officials or marshals to keep an eye on things, and this all adds up. From a participants point of view it can mean travel, and having to be available to run on a specific date.

All of this isn’t always possible, and this is where the idea of Virtual Running comes in. On a regular basis (in the case of “Virtual Runner UK” each month) there are virtual events that take place all over the world where you can complete the distance of 5K, 10K, or a Half Marathon either on your own or as part of a group at any time you like, anywhere you like, on any day between two fixed dates. This means if you need to take a few days or even a week off running due to injury or illness you don’t have to forfeit the race, just do it on another day. When you’ve done your race you send evidence of your run and time to the organiser along with your race number so that you can be added to the results table. As with other races, a lot of these virtual runs also give you a medal for taking part.

In the days leading up to my first Parkrun I’d had the occasional niggle from my right ankle, from what I later presumed to have been from pushing too hard too soon after taking a month off for the Antarctica Expedition. After both training runs the following week I found my ankle to be uncomfortable, bad enough to mean I had to have a week of rest days to allow my ankle to heal properly. By this time I’d got less than 4 weeks to go until the 6 mile run for Sport Relief, but I wanted to make sure I would get at least one 10K in before then. When I found that there was such a thing as a Virtual Race it seemed like it would be a good idea to combine at least one of these with my training.

I was far from confident of being able to complete a Half Marathon anytime soon so opted to compete in both the 5K and the 10K for Virtual Runner UK; I just had to make sure these were between the 5th and 25th of March. I also entered the 5K race for Virtual Running UK who did medals for the race in support of The British Heart Foundation.

My first attempt at doing the 5K was my first run with the Garmin Forerunner 220 and was taking a different route around a housing estate near Leicester Forest East (the usual route was blocked due to works). Unfortunately, even though I ran further than 5K I stopped my watch recording at 3.1 miles – thinking that was the distance for 5K. However when I came to review this run I noticed it said 4.99K instead of 5K – this is when I realised that 5K is actually 3.11 miles.

My second attempt at doing the 5K almost didn’t happen. The night before I’d been started to get a cold which resulted in a sleepless night from not being able to breathe. Despite being tired and barely able to breathe I thought I’d go ahead and do a run anyway – to see if I could manage 5K whilst ill. It was harder work than normal, but with the help of my new watch was able to gradually increase pace over each 1K distance until I had a brief period of running at a pace of 5.40 min/mile. Once my watch vibrated to indicate I’d done 3 miles I then kept a close eye on it so I could stop it when it reached 3.11 miles. It was one of the most difficult runs I’ve done, even more so than the parkrun despite having a better finishing time on that occasion – but I was very pleased to have managed it.

For the 10K this felt like more of a challenge – I’d only ran 6.22 miles once before and that was before the expedition. I’d had a few attempts at building my distance back up during lunch time runs but on one occasion had injured my ankle, and then on the other felt that my knee was going to have issues. Whilst the final remnants of the cough/cold combo were lingering I decided that I’d plan an afterwork run to try and take advantage of some of the Spring sunshine we were getting. Unusually I’d be running from home so I headed to Google Maps and started plotting a route trying to avoid as many major junctions as I could.

The next day the sun was out as hoped so I put on my running shoes and headed out. My intention was to maintain a slow 9min/mile pace so that I could take this run easy to avoid injury and make sure I could get the full distance in. Even with my watch though I found I was average 8:30min/mile instead but that didn’t bother me too much. The route I took unfortunately was crowded in places as there’s quite a few schools in the area, though once passed the first mile the number of obstacles dropped considerably.

At around the 4 mile point I encountered the first junction I had to actually stop running at. I stood around for what seemed like ages before making a dash across the road in a more than suitable gap in the traffic. Initially I picked up the pace a little to try and make up for the stopping, but then decided that was silly and slowed back down. At the point I turned off my watch I’d done a lap of South Wigston, Glen Parva and Blaby in a big circle and had stopped my watch more or less at the point where I’d started it 50 minutes previously.

It was an enjoyable run and I was glad to have finally managed my first 10K this year (which is actually only my second 10K run overall). Now I felt ready for the 6 mile run that was coming up in a little over a week.