4 Miles, 42.18 Minutes

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My last run before Event #2, The Cragside 10k on Saturday morning, and what a struggle. Instead of going for the easy option of the Quayside, I stuck to Scotswood Road to try and get some ups and downs in my legs. My intention was to get 5, maybe 6 miles in if I could, but my frequently-lamented knees had other ideas. I got about two miles in, and I knew I was going to be lucky to do 4, which I just about managed to drag out.

I’ve already had to start making allowances for my knees in my training, ‘cos I’ve been getting a concerning amount of aching from them after runs. Instead of doing three runs a week, which was my preference, I’m having to conserve them by doing one or two (theoretically longer runs, but that wasn’t the case today).

The weird thing is, the pain alternates – One time I’ll get grief from the right, the other it’ll be the left. I’m guessing that’s just a case of me compensating for the painful one, and putting the other one under strain, but it’s pretty annoying.

Whatever happens, I’m getting through Cragside, and I’ve got zero intention of letting my knees curtail my mission for this year.  (Knee chance of that – WHEY!) The pain is frustrating, and a bit worrying, but for now I’m going to try and moderate my training to let my knees rest as well as they can between runs. Quitting isn’t an option.

Music: Los Campesinos! – Hold On Now, Youngster

5 Miles, 54.07 Minutes

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Running has always been a solitary endeavour for me. I’ve done the odd few runs with friends in the past, but if I’m honest I’ve always been happy enough for it to be just me, my headphones and my unfeasibly red face.

There’s been talk at work lately of a loose running social group (hereafter known as ‘Clammy Club’), and I thought it might be a nice change. It helped that nobody was pitching it as some super pumped-up protein-glugging bro thing, so after a week off with a sore knee (I know, those awkward knobbly bastards again), I figured it was a nice way to ease my legs back in with a gentle couple of miles.

Without giving much thought to distance, we ended up accidentally doing 5 miles, which was pretty awesome. People talk about sociable running being good for people spurring each other on, and I’ve never really bought into that, mostly because running has been headspace for me to enjoy a bit of privacy and alone time.

It was actually tons of fun running with company though. I guess there was some aspect of spurring your mates on, but more than that, having a bit of company was more of a distraction from clock-watching or checking your distance every two minutes. We barely noticed when we’d been travelling 20 minutes, and even though I had to pull the last mile out of the depths of my legs, it didn’t feel as much of a slog as it would’ve done alone.

I’ll definitely be revisiting Clammy Club on the regular, although we might need to rename it something like ‘Drenched in Sweat Club’ if we’re planning to keep this kind of momentum up though…

5 Miles, 50.58 Minutes

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I know I’ve been saying that the last few runs have been feeling good, but tonight really did feel like a breakthrough – by far my best run this year.

I’ve been conscious that the first 10k is coming up (two and a half weeks away), so I’ve been really keen to build my distance. Tonight was the first time I set myself a distance target, but I was taking it pretty easy on myself with my timing expectations – I figured if I got through the 5 miles in 55 minutes, I’d be happy enough.

In the end, though, I did it in a shade under 51 minutes, and I was beyond chuffed with that. I’ve been talking about trying to phase out the walking breaks from my runs, and the best I’ve managed up to tonight was 21 minutes last week. It was 35 minutes (3 and a half miles) before I slowed to a walk tonight though, and that three minute block was my only bit of walking of the 5 miles.

All that stuff I’ve been saying recently about worrying about my ability to replicate the amount of running and distances I managed in the summer of 2015 suddenly seems like less of an issue. All it’s taken is one awesome long run, and I’m feeling like I can conquer the world. (Or the Quayside at least).

Worth a sponsor, right?

Music: Manic Street Preachers – National Treasures

4 Miles, 41.37 Minutes

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Man, that was a good run tonight.

After all my worries and fretting about my physical capabilities recently, I needed this – A decent pace over a reasonable distance, and a good strong feeling in my legs.

Even as someone who enjoys running in principle, I’m probably just as likely to find a run to be a chore rather than a pleasure, but this evening’s outing was definitely the latter. The feeling that I’d pushed myself meant a ton of lovely endorphins when I got back in.

My next target is to get out and stretch my distance to five miles when I go out next on Thursday. If I manage it, it’ll probably not be much less than eleven minute miles, but that’s fine by me – With a 10k looming in a couple of weeks, building distance is my priority.

Music: The Futureheads –  The Futureheads

3.19 Miles, 32.01 Minutes

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Another Saturday morning, another Parkrun around Saltwell Park.

I’ve never been one for targets or goals or whatever, because I tend to just be led by what my legs feel in the mood for. However, at the back of my mind, I was hoping to take a minute off last week’s official time of 33.57. In the end, though, I knocked nearly two minutes off it (my official time actually matched my phone’s rough record, so it’s in the books at 32.01).

I’m pretty chuffed with that to be honest. I’ve had a reasonably heavy week of running (by current standards), and I wasn’t sure if I had a big push in me on a Saturday morning. It’s a bit weird that I apparently covered 0.09 miles more than last Saturday’s trek over the same course. Apparently I must have taken a bit more meandering route, or wider corners or whatever, but I guess I can take a bit more care on that in future if I wanna keep taking my time down.

In general at the moment, I’m feeling a lot of positive effects of stepping up my training. I’m already a bit trimmer, my legs feel stronger, and psychologically I’m feeling good. I’m still struggling to shake this nagging doubt about the limits of my physical capabilities though.

Two summers ago, I absolutely hammered my training for the Great North Run, to the point I was running 100 miles a month heading in to the event, and doing 10 minute miles over 7-8 mile distances. I know I’m still a fair distance off being able to get to that level, but in my head I’m wondering if my legs are capable of it any more. (The nagging ache in my right knee is probably why I’m thinking like this to be honest).

I imagine I’ll have a clearer idea of what my limits are going to be in the next month or so once I’ve got my first couple of 10k events out of the way. It’d be nice if I can surprise myself, but even if I can, then I guess it’s just a case of accepting my limitations. Regardless, as long as I can move my legs, there’s no way I’m backing out of what I’ve got planned for this year.

Music: Sleater-Kinney – All Hands on the Bad One

4.5 Miles, 48.11 Minutes

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I think it’s because I’m from a town close to the coast and a family with a shipbuilding heritage, but I’ve always loved being near to a body of water.

I always look forward to the light nights coming because it means I can head down to the Quayside for a nice long leg-stretcher along the Tyne. Tonight was my first trip down to my summer route of choice this year, and it was a lovely run.

There’s always the scope to do a bit more distance on the Quayside because it’s mostly flat, but there’s still the challenge of the wind which can get pretty hefty along the river to keep you on your toes.

It’s great to have recorded my longest run of the year so far, and to feel like I pushed myself pretty hard for it. The old knees are having a minor grumble (general dull ache in the left one mainly), but it’s pretty low level, and bearable. I suspect (hope) that this is just something I’m going to need to monitor and put up with – Maybe once I build up more strength in my legs it’ll be a bit easier on my knees.

Or maybe I’m being a bit too optimistic there…

Music: Johnny Foreigner – Waited Up ’til It Was Light

4.04 Miles, 44 Minutes

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For probably the first time this year, I’m feeling like I’m really starting to build a bit of momentum with my training – I’m consistently getting reasonable distances (for this stage of my training) under my belt, and in general, it’s feeling a bit more comfortable.

The one slight physical concern I have right now is about my knees. I’ve jokingly described this year as a last hurrah for them, but at the back of my mind is the fear that they’re gonna hold me back from doing the things I want to this year.

They’ve always been a bit dodgy, mostly ‘cos of constant football injuries and being a bit overweight definitely doesn’t help. In fact, I was on crutches about 8 weeks before last year’s GNR after a tweak playing football.

Just lately, I’ve noticed the odd twinge and ache. Nothing huge, but it just sets the alarm bells ringing a little. I guess all I can do is not over-do things – It’s difficult to set the balance, though, because as far as training and preparation goes I need to increase the distance over the coming months.

Let’s just hope for the best eh…?

Music: Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

3.12 Miles, 34.01 Minutes

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Apparently it’s two years since I last did a Parkrun. As someone who considers themselves something of an advocate of the events, that’s shameful. It’s even worse when you consider I live five minutes drive from Saltwell Park, a beautiful place we’re lucky to have in Gateshead.

As a course, it’s pretty challenging – You might be in a gorgeous setting, but Christ, there’s some killer, leg-sapping hills. At my peak, I’ve managed a shade over 30 mins, but at the outset today I said I’d be happy enough with 34-35 minutes, and that’s how it turned out. (My official time as per my barcode was 33.57).

More than anything else, I’m just pleased to have got myself out and running on a Saturday morning. I don’t wanna be preachy, but it really is a nice start to the weekend. I’ve never been a morning runner, but maybe there’s something to be said for it. I might give it a go before work one morning (says the man with two young children who cherishes every last ounce of sleep he can wring out of his night).

I’m definitely going to try and get more Parkruns in the coming weeks. I’ve done the Newcastle one (I’m not a huge fan if I’m honest), but perhaps I’ll branch out to the exotic settings of Chester-le-Street. As my witness, dear readers (am I being optimistic pluralising you?) make sure I stick to it, will you?

By the way, thanks a ton to those of you who’ve sponsored me lately. If you’re interested in learning more about why I’m doing this to my body (aside from getting one last push out of my knees before they conk out), then you can find out here.

Music: Sleater-Kinney – One Beat 

4.12 Miles, 45.03 Minutes

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After another slack week (my last run was last Friday), I really needed a good leg-stretch tonight. My second event of 2017, the Cragside 10k, is exactly a month from today, and I’m struggling to get much beyond 3.5 miles.

I was keen to at least break 4 miles tonight, and managed it reasonably comfortably. My legs felt pretty good. It was a fairly windy night too, so I’m pleased with how it turned out in the end. I could possibly have strung it out another few minutes, but I want to recover in time for a Park Run On Saturday morning.

In spite of the wind, it feels like a good time of year to be getting out there. It’s still light, so I’m dropping down to a really nice path right alongside the river. It’s  a bit of a secret treasure, tucked away right behind a pretty drab industrial estate, and I always like running it.

With a view to maxing out my events for this year, I’ve booked in two more runs as well – I was always planning on doing the Great North 10k on July 9th, so that’s finally in the bag. I’ve also booked in the Durham City 10k on July 19th. Durham’s an amazing place, so I’m looking forward to seeing what the course is like.

All the more reason to pick up the training eh? I’m hoping to break 5 miles in the next couple of weeks, and be able to do the 10k in a month with a decent bit of comfort.

Music: Martha – Courting Strong