2.5 Miles, 26.23 Minutes

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“With a walk that chimes like church bells from all these loose joints in my legs”

There’s a little Los Campesinos! line to start you off. It’s resonated with me for a while, not just because the song it’s pulled from is about how sad football can make you, but also because my legs do genuinely feel like that sometimes – Like they’re rattling and clanking every time I walk, and there’s a risk that one day they’ll just fall apart completely and leave me sprawling on the floor like some kind of amorphous mess.

Okay, that’s a touch dramatic, but my knees in particular have been feeling a bit like there’s a bolt or two which could do with tightening. It’s not exactly hurting me at the moment, but I’m feeling the odd bit of discomfort, and I’ve learned the hard way that when this happens I just need to listen to my ageing body and not push it to silly degrees.

I needed to get some miles in my legs, but I resolved to keep it short and casual when I stepped out (besides, I had way too much to do when I got home to spend too long out there plodding through the puddles separating the Tyne from Scotswood Road). It was challenging enough, and given the messages my legs were sending, 10.33 per minute is decent enough and actually matching the pace I made when I covered a mile more on Sunday night.

I’ll not beat myself up too much for not covering as much distance as I’d like, but instead let’s call this a nice bonus 2.5 miles before I try and head out on Sunday. At that point, there’ll only be a week until the Great North 10k – the GNR is creeping up!

Hey, maybe you just got paid recently and feel charitable? If so, this page will DEFINITELY interest you

Music: The Futureheads – The Futureheads

3.35 Miles, 35.18 Minutes

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I’ve been looking forward to this one. I was itching to get out and run on Friday night but work got in the way, so I had to postpone for a couple of days. I’d been living (relatively) cleanly by my admittedly low standards, laying off the booze and crap food in keeping with my resolution to really ramp this shit up.

Parking up at the Free Trade Inn and hitting up my favourite spot was a key part in my strategy to get some decent miles in my legs. In all honesty, I’d like to have covered more distance, but I guess on a pretty hot night after a day chasing my kids, 3.35 miles at 10.33 per mile is canny enough going.

For some reason, my left knee has felt a bit loose and rattly today, so I played it safe and stuck the well-worn knee brace on for a bit of strength – It held up okay, although I fear it might get its revenge on me for ignoring its signals in the morning.

It was pretty nice to try out my new running shoes too – The old Saucony Guide 9s have finally plodded their last and been replaced by a snazzy pair of New Balances apparently ideal for my big daft lumbering gait (or at least that’s what the lass in the shop told me, and we all know people in shops never lie).

The Great North 10k is creeping up. Better get them broken in…

Music: Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

2.14 Miles, 21.33 Minutes

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After a week of hotel living (which I find not particularly conducive to being a finely-tuned athlete), tonight was never going to be a record-breaking effort. Add to my recent lethargy a heady cocktail of heat and humidity, and you’ve got the ideal scenario for a disappointing run should I choose to see it that way.

However, I went into it with a pretty philosophical mindset. In my head, tonight was simply about getting out and doing a run. Once the old legs got a-pumping, I decided to just get a couple of miles in and to consider it mission accomplished if I could do them in decent time.

Treating that as my goal, I’d have to say it was a pretty successful trip out – A shade over ten minutes a mile isn’t to be sniffed at in this heat. The key now is to build on it. If I’m being brutally honest with myself, I’d have to say I’m not really where I’d like to be from a fitness perspective at this point of the year. The year as a whole has had plenty of steps forward but too many steps back, and I really need to try and eradicate those if I’m going to have a decent crack at the Great North Run and the Morpeth Half in September and October.

Who knew that having two kids and a demanding full time job would make it hard to find the time to run?!

Music: Martha – Courting Strong

2.01 Miles, 21.50 Minutes

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I’d never realised how much I take for granted the familiarity of running close to home.

I’m away with work in Swindon this week, and took my running gear to try and get some miles in my legs, but my run last night felt quite uncomfortable, and I think a big part of that was the fact I didn’t know where I was or where I was going. I’d scoped out a pathway running around a housing estate opposite my hotel, and figured it looked like a simple loop I could run round a couple of times, and indeed it was, but I grasped the route by luck rather than design and it was weirdly tough to hit my usual stride.

Of course, part of the issue might have been that I hadn’t recovered properly from Friday’s exertions in the Blaydon Race, but I do feel like the unfamiliarity was the biggest factor here.

Either way, I’m not too worried. I’m staying in a hotel for the week, and that never makes for the healthiest lifestyle, which of course will have an impact on my ability to do miles.

I guess the best way to view this short run is as a bonus, and to focus on getting some decent sessions in next week when I’m home.

Music: The Spook School – Dress Up

Event #4 – The Blaydon Race

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5.7 Miles, 58 Minutes, 52 Seconds

You’re probably aware that I’m from Newcastle, and am a staunch afficionado of all things Novocastrian. If you’re familiar with the city, you’re also likely to know that the song The Blaydon Races is woven into its fabric.

As such, as a keen(ish) runner and adorer of my place of birth, it’s a bit of an anomaly that I have never previously sampled the event which follows the path mapped out in the words to The Blaydon Races. Of course, this year’s extravaganza of events felt like the perfect chance to rectify that, so after much huffing and puffing over the stressful online queuing system, I secured a place a couple of months ago and have been looking forward to it ever since.

Unusually for an event, I purposely arrived early. This was partly because of a paranoia about the apparently enhanced security (which merely meant a few more smiling coppers with massive guns), and partly to soak up a bit of atmosphere. It was lovely – It felt a bit like a mini Great North Run, a theme which continued throughout with the bands and applauding spectators (who were much appreciated).

The whole good vibe carried me through an improbably quick first three miles – My times were 9.30, 9.38 and 9.32, which for me is incredibly quick, especially on hills – I’m normally happy with a ten minute mile. It probably helped that I ran the first mile with my unfeasibly swift mate Andy who set a good pace for me (before he went on to finish inside 48 minutes – the man’s a machine). I’m also reasonably familiar with the course because I’ve run Scotswood Road plenty of times on previous training runs, but I think most of the motivation stemmed from the good feeling in the air.

Naturally I slowed a little as the course progressed – I’m very familiar with the incline onto Scotswood Bridge from my runs from work, but I don’t normally have three and a half fast miles in my legs when I get there, so it was heavy going. I still had enough in the tank to power through though, and even coped pretty well with the moderately soul-destroying bit off the bridge where you’ve got to come back on yourself, a section which feels like it lasts forever.

I ended up completing the run in 58.32 (according to my timing), which I’m absolutely delighted with. The Blaydon Race has firmly taken its place as my favourite event so far this year, and I 100% want to do it again.

By the way, thanks for all the sponsorship of late. Your kindness really is pushing my legs on during those last couple of miles these days. Anyone else who fancies donating, you can chuck something in the pot here.

‘Oohhhh, me lads….’

Music: Ash – 1977 & Meltdown

3.31 Miles, 35.02 Minutes

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To be honest, I did this run two nights ago but didn’t get round to blogging it, so this entry is really just for completeness’ sake.

Things to note: It was ludicrously wet, pretty windy, and two nights later my trainers still aren’t completely dry. It felt pretty good and left me in a decent fettle for tomorrow’s Blaydon Race.

Music: Ash – Meltdown

3 Miles, 31.04 Minutes

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I should know better by now. After feeling fantastic following my last run, I typed those fateful, triumphant words, ‘I’m on a roll’. And what followed? Nearly two weeks devoid of running activity. How grimly inevitable.

Still, no point getting too hung up on the too-long gap between runs. Real life has been genuinely hectic, but I’ve got the Blaydon Race to focus on this Friday, so it’s time I get my old legs pumping again.

To be honest, tonight’s run was a bit of a whim. I knew I couldn’t get out tomorrow, so I figured I might as well head out in the sunshine to get a few miles under my belt, because at least that leaves me with enough time to fit another run in before I’m gannin’ along the Scotswood Road.

I knew from experience that tonight was going to be hard going due to the heat and my lack of recent activity, but it was still pretty fun.

I hit the picturesque stretch between the Free Trade Inn and the Redheugh, and just tried to switch off from the creaks of my knees (which were having a little moan but nothing too disruptive). I had it in my head that if I could get a decent, reasonably quick 3 miles in, then that was a nice little bonus, and that’s what I managed.

The bad news is that I’ve realised my running shoes have pretty much reached the end of their useful lives. They’ve only done about 225 miles, but the backs on the inside have nearly completely worn away. I’m not really feeling any discomfort, but I’m probably only a few runs away from giving myself some pretty major blisters, so I’ll not take that risk.

So long Saucony Guide 9s, you lived slowly and died middle-aged.

Music: The Long Blondes – Someone to Drive You Home

5 Miles, 52.11 Minutes

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It’s been a strange old day. Last night’s dreadful news has hung heavy in the air, occasionally punctuating the general feeling of gloom with sharp shocks as more sad developments emerged, to the point where anything else feels a bit trivial.

I was in two minds as to whether it might be a bit crass to post an update on something so banal as how my run went and how I’m feeling about my running progress. In the end the idea that we should carry on living our lives as normal, no matter how much other people want us to live in fear is what won out.

So I’ll go no deeper than that into what has happened in Manchester other than to offer my unwavering empathy and solidarity to its people, because I’m not clever enough or sensitive enough to say any more. Besides, you’re obviously here to read about a fat bloke and his battle with ropey knees rather than nuanced insights into the human condition.

For what it’s worth, I guess we can officially say I’m on a roll with my running now. I’d been looking forward to getting out again for the first time since Friday, and tonight was enjoyable. It’s looking unlikely I’ll do the three runs I’d hoped for this week, but if I can get out on Friday and do another 4 to 5 mile stretch, that’ll still be a decent outcome.

My legs have been feeling really strong this week, and I’m putting it down to being a bit more disciplined with my protein intake. I’ve been meticulously troughing two shakes a day, and I think it’s making a difference – I could definitely feel the benefit as I was striding out.

I got to three miles in less than half an hour (which is very quick indeed by my standards), and while I took two short walking breaks, 52 minutes is still a really good time for five miles for me. I realised when I was done that I’ve surpassed 1000 miles of running since I took it up three and  half years ago, which is a nice milestone. As such, I finished the run with a hell of a feeling of well-being, which was a timely reminder of why I do this.

Do what you love and be kind to people.

Music: Manic Street Preachers – National Treasures

2 Miles, 20.06 Minutes

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Following on from the posi vibes of last night’s good strong run, I thought I might as well get myself out for a nice short leg-stretcher from work to the Scotswood Bridge and back.

I never intended to get beyond two miles, but my aim was to do it at a good swift pace, and ideally (if possible) without any walking breaks.

Mission accomplished! I did a pretty good job of zoning my brain out from my legs (the fact I was listening to one of my go-to power albums definitely helped). I couldn’t quite complete the distance inside 20 minutes which would’ve been nice but my pace was reasonably consistent throughout.

This feels like it might be the start of a bit of much-needed momentum but next week will be key. Between now and next Friday I want to do at least three runs, with at least one of those a five miler. Wish me luck, pals.

Music: Sleater-Kinney – Dig Me Out

4 Miles, 43.01 Minutes

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With my momentum having resolutely slowed since the fun of the North Tyneside 10k a few weeks ago, and an event which is really important to me (the Blaydon Race) creeping up soon, I really need to up my game.

Motivation has been in fairly short supply since my slog of a run last week, so in spite of my running kit having been in my bag under my desk since Tuesday, it was only tonight that I was able to haul my old bones out.

Knowing I really need to get a decent session under my belt, I resorted to my go-to running spot down on the Newcastle Quayside, a spot I find as pleasing on the eye as I do on the legs. It didn’t bode well when the heavens opened just as I stepped out of my car, but to be honest the rain was quite refreshing and it didn’t feel like too much of a hardship once I get myself moving.

As it turns out, it was a pretty fun work-out. I accidentally slipped into a reasonably swift pace from the off, in spite of having told myself I was going to take it really leisurely. I didn’t really feel myself burn out though – I naturally slowed a bit as it went on, but even though I was mega-sweaty and my legs felt weary, there was a strange degree of comfort to tonight’s run.

I feel so good after tonight, in fact, that I’m actually considering heading out again tomorrow (I hardly EVER do two nights in a row).

That’s worth a sponsor, right?

Music: Pulp – Different Class