Slaying demons

Two months ago I had reached the level of fitness to be confident enough to run from home to my local parkrun (Temple Newsam), do the parkrun and then run home again.  This is a total distance of around 11 miles with a fast 5K in the middle.  Unfortunately after about one mile I had to turn round and go back due to a pain in my foot that wouldn’t go away.

Two months later, and after visits to the physiotherapist and two different chiropodists, I can finally run pain free again and therefore I resolved to attempt the parkrun trip again.  When you have to try again for something like that after such an unfortunate experience, it takes on a special significance; it looms large, becomes a demon that must be slain.  Last night I even had various nightmares about it and didn’t really sleep soundly.

I needn’t have worried because it was a good morning.  I even managed to do the parkrun in my best time this year by a few seconds.  I encountered a former “sparing partner” the extremely able runner, Debbie Bland who used to race me years ago at Woodhouse Moor parkrun.  True to form she pushed me all the way today, hence the best time this year!

Onwards and upwards; I now have a training programme building up to the Yorkshire Marathon in October.  Next stop: the Leeds Half in a couple of weeks.

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” Luke 10:17 ESV


The Sub Two

In May, a group of runners sponsored by Nike, are going to attempt to run a marathon in under two hours.  This will not only be a world record but be a significant milestone in human running achievement, something akin to the 4 minute mile but over a rather longer distance.  To put this into perspective, to do 26.2 miles in 2 hours means an average pace of 4 minutes 38 seconds per mile.  Now if you understand running pace you will realise that’s absolutely flying!  In my running club we do a “timed mile” several times a year and in the last two years we haven’t recorded a single sub 6 minute mile.  I think some of our members are capable of breaking through the 6 minute mile barrier but to keep up a much faster pace for two hours is simply astonishing.

To perform this record attempt the day and hour will be selected by the team for optimal conditions, a luxury not afforded to us amateur runners who have to accept whatever conditions prevail on race day.  You have to think this arrangement is a bit of a fix but it doesn’t take away from the impressiveness of these athletes’ ability.

For most of us, the thing we might be able to do in under two hours is half that distance and sub-two hours for a half marathon is a great goal for the amateur runner.   Some experienced  and able athletes might scoff at this but set your fitness back a peg or two and you realise that running that distance in under two hours is some challenge.  A week ago I was considering “not running” the Ackworth Half because I was concerned my legs wouldn’t last the distance at any speed.  However I made myself do it because firstly I had paid for it and secondly, I told myself I could treat it as a training run and run-walk if necessary (yeah, right).

I had driven round the route a few days before and convinced myself that it was going to be some approximation to hell on earth (due to the hilliness).  On the day, I felt like I was looking forward to it in a way but also a bit worried I might come a cropper with both knee and foot concerns.   It felt a little chilly in my running t-shirt at the start and there was very little wind, making it pretty much “Goldilocks” running weather so that was a good start and made me feel a little better.  When we set off I didn’t exactly do the run-walk thing but did try and pace myself knowing that I had not tested myself beyond 6 miles since the Snake Lane 10 about two months ago.

Result? Well, better than I could ever have hoped since not only did I get round without injury to either my knee or foot but broke that 2 hour barrier with a time of 1:56:48.  My wife put this into perspective for me by reminding me that I effectively hadn’t trained for the race.  This therefore,  is a much needed boost to my running confidence and makes me hopeful of a good performance at the Leeds Half in May.  For the record, the Ackworth half is a great race, it is well organised and the route isn’t so bad after all; I shall certainly do it again.

What made the day even better was that the two fellow members of my running club also did pretty well too.  Jo-Anne, who was also in an “I’ll jest get round” mood also did under two hours and John pipped me at the post even though I caught him walking on the last hill.

“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” Philippians 1:20


Pace Mann

When wanting to do a parkrun, but not “flat out” I sometimes volunteer to be a pacer.  if you want to do this, you firstly need to choose a time that you can run comfortably and second, have the means to judge it so that you finish in either exactly, or slightly better than, that time.  This is by no means easy and requires concentration and unless you have an uncanny ability, a GPS running watch.  There is also the matter of GPS inaccuracy; my watch always measures the 5K Temple Newsam route at fractionally over (3.15 miles) so I need to make an adjustment to my pace.

The next matter is how you vary the pace.  Now, I imagine you might think that “even splits” is the way to go and maybe it is on a flat course but this isn’t so easy on an “undulating” course like Temple Newsam.  I like to run at a pace so that someone to whom that time is the fastest they have ever run, can keep up with me all the way round.  So it’s no good me going steady down the hill and then maintaining the same pace up, because to the runners following, it will feel like i’m powering up the hill.  I therefore need to get ahead on the downhill and lose that time on the ups, just like I would do if I were running to my PB.  The art is to choose how much to get ahead, because if you lose someone on the downhill you might lose them completely because there is nothing more demotivating than lagging behind your pacer, it’s possible you may give up!

Finally, I encourage everyone to try their hand at pacing; it’s very rewarding when someone comes up to you and thanks you because you helped them get a PB, but one word of advice.  Please don’t finish the time slower than the target,  no one wants to beat the pacer and then find they were too slow.

“but test everything; hold fast what is good.”

‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:21‬ ‭ESV‬‬