Saturday, 1 August 2020

Who needs races anyway?

It’s now exactly 12 months since I last raced (well, not counting three parkruns, but they’re not really races are they?!).  Little did I know when I crossed the line to win the European Corporate Games 10k last August that I wouldn’t race again for at least 12 months, and still counting.

First it was another episode of high hamstring tendinopathy, then two carpal tunnel operations (one on each hand, four months apart) then, of course, the small matter of a global pandemic!  But although I miss racing when I’m injured I haven’t really missed it all during the pandemic.  I think this is partly because the situation has been the same for everyone, with races cancelled worldwide, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out.  I’ve just accepted it and not let myself get frustrated or disappointed about it.  After all, as both my dad and my coach, Les, always tell me, there’s no point in getting stressed or unhappy about things that I have no control over. 

For the past 34 years I’ve always said I train to race, which up to now has been true, but since lockdown began I’ve realised that actually I don’t need races to motivate me to get outdoors and run.  Running is part of me; it’s who I am and is as much a part of my life as eating, sleeping or cleaning my teeth!  I run for lots of reasons; the competitive element and wanting to get the best out of myself being just two of many.

Of course, there are the health benefits.  Lots of research has been done into how running can reduce the risk of preventable diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, mental health and some cancers – all of which put massive pressure on the NHS.  I feel like I’m playing my own small part in trying to help the NHS by looking after my body.  If only all those people who stood on their doorsteps clapping for our key workers felt the same way!  My body is precious to me – after all, it’s the only one I’ll ever have – and so I want to look after it and keep it healthy as best as I can.  And, of course, the benefit of keeping my weight under control through running means I can enjoy the occasional slice of cake or glass of wine!

Running also helps my mental health and wellbeing too, by boosting my mood and making me feel more positive.  Studies have shown that exercise is one of the most effective natural anti-depressants in alleviating mild to moderate depression and anxiety.  It’s all to do with the endorphins and endocannabinoids released in the brain – apparently!  And exercising in nature adds even greater benefits, hence Vitamin G(reen).  Again, research has shown that being outdoors in a natural environment can reduce stress and depression, improve mood, improve sleep, lower blood pressure and boost your immune system.  I can definitely relate to the ‘feel-good factor’ of being in a ‘green’ space.  I think it’s so important to get nature into our towns and cities so that everyone has a chance to access some ‘green’ and re-connect with plants and animals, trees and water as it really does have a positive effect on health and well-being.

I’ve been brought up with a love of the outdoors and natural world right from birth.  As a baby I was carried around various nature reserves in a baby carrier on my dad’s back!  This love has stayed with me all my life and even influenced my choice of career as a landscape architect.  I know I’m very fortunate to live surrounded by the lovely Warwickshire countryside and I especially appreciated this during lockdown.  Just to be able to lace up my Mizuno shoes and set off around the lanes or across the fields made me feel so much calmer, and more able to cope with the uncertainty of everything going on in the world.  I’ve had great fun exploring new routes and footpaths too.  It’s easy to stick to the usual tried-and-tested routes, but it’s been an adventure to discover new paths across the fields, especially as I haven’t needed to run to a certain pace schedule as I would when training for a big race.  And you can cover so much more ground when you’re running, compared to walking!

During lockdown I used my love of nature to give another purpose to my runs, to raise money for Warwickshire Wildlife Trust as part of the 2.6 Challenge.  This was set up to try and help charities fill their funding gap caused by the cancellation of big events such as the London Marathon (hence the theme based around 2.6 or 26 – the number of miles in a marathon).  My challenge was to spot 26 interesting wildlife things whilst out on my daily runs – not as easy as it sounds when you’re running at around 8 minutes per mile and not carrying binoculars!  But I achieved my target (I actually got to 28 and will keep adding to it if I spot anything else that’s noteworthy).  I saw everything from butterflies to fungi (a rather magnificent ‘Chicken of the Woods’ specimen), birds, plants and even some deer.  Several of the birds I saw or heard are sadly on the ‘red list’ of species needing high conservation priority, e.g. yellowhammer, grey wagtail and skylark.  I also had a slightly scary encounter with an angry buzzard who didn’t like the fact that I was obviously too close to its nest!  It was calling and swooping overhead, so I ran away as fast as I could, trying not to twist my ankle on the uneven ground or get stung by the overgrown nettles!     You can read the updates on my JustGiving page if you’re interested in everything I saw – and it’s still open for donations if you’d like to support Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s vital work!

Most of my running is usually done alone so I didn’t find it an issue when we could only exercise alone during lockdown.  Although I must say I’m missing my weekly interval session with my club-mates at Leamington C&AC.  I miss the friendly chat and the support and encouragement everyone gives to each other.  I’ve made so many friends through running, both locally at my club and local races, as well as further afield through competing nationally and internationally.  I might go out running on my own, but I feel part of a much wider community.

I’ve also missed training with my coach, Les, and recovery has been harder not having the benefit of the sports massages that he previously gave me.  I’ve also obviously been unable to see my physio, Mark Buckingham, although I’ve had a couple of sessions with him via Zoom which actually worked surprisingly well.  He was able to diagnose just by asking me what I felt when he got me to do various things.  With the help of diagrams on a shared screen he showed me how to treat any issues myself.  It worked really well and could be a useful way of getting physio advice in the future when away on training camps etc.  

I haven’t felt the need to do any of the virtual races that have sprung up – I’m afraid they just don’t excite me.  To me a race is where everyone stands on the same start line, at the same time, and runs the same course in the same conditions!  Who knows when, or even if, we’ll ever get back to that again!  But at the moment the simple pleasure of running, being outdoors in the fresh air, and the feeling of freedom is enough motivation for me.  For the first time in 34 years I’m not training to compete and am enjoying running without all the pressure of preparing for a specific race.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely looking forward to the day I can race again, and I’ll certainly be raring to go when races eventually return and I feel they’re safe enough.  But for now, with over 1000 miles under my belt so far this year, I’m just happy to enjoy running for its own sake and for all the other benefits it brings.

Sunday, 5 January 2020

A round-up of the last decade

24,865 miles (bringing my lifetime total to 65,889); four Great Britain vests; three England vests; World and European medals; a British record, world masters record and a British championship title.  That just about sums up my last decade!  It was an exciting decade filled with new challenges and opportunities: my first venture into the world of ultra-running; the experience of representing my country in World and European championships; travelling to new places and making new friends.  Yes, I’ve had my fair share of low points too; various set-backs including five episodes of high hamstring tendinopathy which have kept me out of action for several months at a time, but these in themselves are challenges to be overcome and serve to make the high points even sweeter.  The achievements haven’t come without a huge amount of hard work, determination, dedication and perseverance, but I’m incredibly proud of everything I’ve managed to accomplish over the last 10 years.

Here are a few of the highlights:

Finished 24th in the elite women’s race in the Virgin London marathon and narrowly missed out on a place in the Commonwealth Games marathon team.  However, I was instead selected to run for England in the IAU 50km World Trophy Final in Galway, Ireland.  This was the first time I’d run anything further than a marathon and I was both excited and a little apprehensive.  I needn’t have worried as I ended up winning the gold medal and setting a new British record and World Masters record of 3:15:43.  I ended the year ranked number one in the world over 50km.

Virgin London Marathon 2010

Winning the IAU 50km World Trophy Final, Galway

I was invited to run in the world’s most famous road ultra-marathon, the Comrades marathon (87km) in South Africa.  This was the most amazing race I’ve ever done, with an incredible atmosphere from supporters along the route from Durban to Petermaritzburg.  I finished 13th female in 7:11:45.

Comrades Marathon finish

As a result of this run I was selected to run for Great Britain in my first 100km – the World and European championships in Winschoten, Holland.  I had a lot to learn in terms of pacing and nutrition for this distance and I was disappointed with my 21st place in a time of 8:27:33.  We did, however, win team silver in the European Championship.

Great Britain team

The people of Winschoten always go to town decorating the streets for the runners

As part of my build up for the 100km I again ran for England in the 50km World Trophy Final, using it as a training run, and winning the silver medal.

Finished first female, in a new course record, at the Cotswold 35m race.  I was subsequently selected for the GB team for the World 100km champs. but unfortunately picked up a calf injury and had to withdraw from the team.

Ran for Great Britain in the European 100km champs. in Belves, France.  Won the bronze medal and lowered my PB to 7:48:12.

Running past a French chateau in the Dordogne Valley

On the podium in a European championship

Won the Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire Sportswoman of the Year.

The second episode of high hamstring tendinopathy and I only managed 5 races all year!

Ran for Great Britain in the World and European champs. 100km, again in Winschoten, Holland.  Finished 10th in one of the strongest 100km fields ever, and set a new PB of 7:39:50 which ranks me 5th on the UK all-time rankings.  Also won silver in the World Masters champs. (W40-45).

100km in Winschoten again

Finished the year by winning my 100th road race, at the Christmas Cracker 20km in Moreton Morrell.

With celebratory '100' balloons!
Another year of hamstring injury, but I did finish 1st W45 in the BUPA Great Birmingham Run half-marathon.

Racing to the finish
British 100km champion!  My first British title came at the age of 45 whilst representing England for the 7th time in my career.  My performance also helped England to win the Anglo-Celtic plate, against Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

British champion!

This led to an invitation to run in the Fuxian Lake 50km in China, where invited athletes from all over the world were accommodated in a luxury 5 star hotel overlooking the lake – a fantastic experience.  The race was hot, humid, hilly and at altitude and I was really pleased to finish 4th female.

Waiting for the start in China

Won the Coventry and Warwickshire Amateur Sportswoman of the Year.

My third 100km World Champs. for Great Britain, this time in Sveti Martin, Croatia.  I struggled with the heat, hills and a disrupted build-up due to injury, but was proud to battle on and finish the race when many didn’t.  Was also super proud to carry the GB flag in the opening ceremony.

Team GB flag bearer

Taking on fluid in the heat of Croatia

The last year of the decade and finally my 50km British and World Masters records were broken!  It was inevitable they would go at some point and I take heart that it took two top class GB marathon runners to break them – many congratulations to them.  I’m really proud that the records stood for 9 years and that I’m still 11th on the world all-time 50km rankings (all ages).

Highlights for me this year were winning the Midland Masters 10 mile title; being part of the Leamington C&AC team that won the Cotswold Hilly 100 and took 23 minutes off the course record and winning double gold at the European Corporate Games.  The second half of my year was again ravaged by injury, but I finished with my first ever parkrun at Warwick Racecourse just before Christmas.

Midland Masters 10 mile champion

I didn't have much time to admire the Cotswold views as I helped LC&AC to victory and a new course record!
Double gold - European Corporate Games

I have many people to thank for helping me to achieve all that I have over the last 10 years (and more!):  my brilliant physio Mark Buckingham; podiatrist Steve Avil; sports med. and nutritionist at QE hospital, Birmingham; sports psychologist Stuart Chambers; friends and family for putting up with me spending time training and racing; ‘Team Les’ training group at Leamington C&AC for their support and encouragement and, of course, my amazing coach of 33 years, Les.  His guidance, positive attitude and practical support with things like massage, accompanying me with drinks on long runs, support at races etc. is invaluable and I simply could not have done it without him. 

Finally, a massive thank you to Mizuno for their continued support over the years and supplying me with their fantastic shoes and kit.  Also to The Warwickshire health & fitness club at Leek Wootton for their support and use of their excellent gym facilities, which is an integral part of my training.

Here’s to the next decade and hoping it will be as enjoyable as the last one.

Sunday, 20 October 2019

I didn't expect it to happen yet!

I debated long and hard about whether to write this blog as menopause can be a bit of a ‘taboo’ subject, but I don’t believe it should be – after all, it’s only a natural process that all women have to go through.  I feel it’s important for women to talk about it and share their experiences - in my case, how it has affected my running and what little information there seems to be regarding the effect of menopause on competitive athletes.

Many of you may know that I’ve been struggling with my running for the last 18 months or so.  Slower times are inevitable as we age, but it was more than that.  Every run felt like a struggle, like I was shuffling.  It was as if someone had filled my legs with concrete and told me to run through treacle!  And I was always waking up feeling tired.  I also put on weight which didn’t come off even when running 80-90 miles a week to train for a 100km!  I saw my GP who sent me for blood tests and I also saw a specialist Sport & Exercise Medicine doctor in Birmingham.  The only thing they could put it down to was a slightly underactive thyroid, but not enough to warrant medication or have a detrimental effect on my performance.  I concluded that I must be imagining it, or that I’d just turned into a rubbish runner.

And then, just after I’d struggled through the World 100km champs in Croatia last September, I started noticing changes in my monthly cycle – over the next few months I missed a couple completely, others were closer together and some were much heavier than usual.  That made me start to think about the possibility of menopause – although I had naively thought that my periods would get fewer and stop, not become heavier or more frequent!  And all this started when I was only 46 years old – doesn’t menopause happen when you’re in your fifties?!  Apparently not!

So, another trip to my GP confirmed that yes, I was peri-menopausal.  We discussed the options and I decided to try HRT for a number of reasons, including to see if it would help the heaviness I was experiencing when running.  I also have osteopenia and I know HRT is beneficial for bone density.  Also, at exactly the same time as all this was happening, I started to get numbness, tingling and severe nerve pain in my hands, especially at night.  This was later diagnosed as carpal tunnel syndrome which may be a result of hormone imbalance causing fluid build-up – no one knows for sure, but I was keen to see if HRT would help.

I’ve now been on HRT for about five months.  Unfortunately it didn’t help the carpal tunnel and I’ve just had surgery on one hand and am waiting for a date to have the other one done.  I’m hoping it’s helping my bone density, but won’t know for sure until my next DEXA bone density scan.  As far as the running goes, I think it made some difference to the heaviness, though it’s hard to say for sure as I’ve been unable to run at all for the last 10 weeks due to a hamstring tendon tear!  Which brings me onto another minefield – the relationship between oestrogen and tendons!  I’m no medical expert, but from what I understand HRT has a beneficial effect on muscle and bone, but is less clear-cut when it comes to tendons!  My physio certainly seems to feel there is a possible link between peri-menopause and all my recent injuries.  I’m still trying to find out more information, such as the effect menopause can have on performance, injury risk, how to adjust my training etc., but so far without much joy.  Even the English Institute of Sport told me they only deal with “elite athletes who are still fairly young so they don’t have to delve into the menopause”!  (So, despite representing GB in a world championship only last year, because I’m 48 I don’t count!)

So that’s where I’m at!  I know it’s a natural process that we have no choice about, but I do feel slightly ‘cheated’ that it’s come to me this soon!  I’ll continue with the HRT, at least for the time being, and look forward to getting back running again at the best level my body allows.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Europe Corporate Games 2019

Logging onto my work computer one morning back in May my attention was immediately grabbed by a headline on our intranet page - Warwickshire County Council were looking to enter a team in the Europe Corporate Games!  I signed up immediately!  How could I turn down an opportunity to represent Warwickshire County Council in an international event to be held right on our doorstep at venues in and around Coventry?  I have always received a huge amount of support at work for my running, from immediate colleagues, senior managers and Councillors (I was even presented with a silver clock at a full council meeting back in 2010 in recognition of my World 50km gold medal).  So I thought what a wonderful way to repay that support by representing WCC in the games, as well as it sounding like a really fun thing to do. 

The Europe Corporate Games sees teams from businesses and organisations compete against each other across 24 sports ranging from badminton to dragon boat racing; rugby 7s to volleyball and pretty much everything in between.  Points are awarded to the top eight in each event and added up to find which teams are overall winners.  The WCC team, comprising around 70 athletes, was promoted and managed by our Year of Wellbeing Team as 2019 is ‘Coventry and Warwickshire Year of Wellbeing’.  They did a fantastic job of organising us all, letting us know where we needed to be and when and providing our green WCC team t-shirts.
Warwickshire County Council team

Obviously I entered the running event!  I had the choice of doing either a 5km or 10km so, as I’m more of an endurance runner than a sprinter, I chose the latter.  It then transpired that there were four runners entered from WCC – just enough for a relay team - so we decided we might as well do the mixed relay too (4 x 1 mile).  Might as well go the whole hog, we thought!

So I continued with my usual training and ran a 10k race in Worcester at the end of May which I used as a benchmark of my fitness.  I ran 40.08, so I decided my goal for the Games would be to try and break 40 minutes.  However, things rarely go to plan and I’ve hardly ever had a smooth build-up to a main race!  Around the beginning of July I developed a pain in my left buttock and hamstring.  It was diagnosed as a jammed-up sacroiliac joint – something that seems to plague me a lot.  Unfortunately it didn’t respond to treatment and I hobbled my way through the next month’s ‘training’, which was actually just some short easy runs with no speedwork whatsoever and was, quite literally, a pain in the backside!  All hope of a quick time went out of the window and my goal became just to get round and finish, and do the best I could.

And so the long-anticipated Games weekend eventually arrived.  Friday evening saw everyone assemble at the NAEC at Stoneleigh to register and take part in the athletes’ parade and opening ceremony.  It was great that we had the support from our Chief Executive, Monica Fogarty, and Councillor Caborn, one of whose responsibilities is Health.  And of course we flew the WCC flag with pride!

Left:  Athlete registration    Right:  with the WCC flag

Left:  Getting ready for the athletes' parade    Right: the Games 'opening ceremony'

Saturday morning dawned sunny and warm at the War Memorial Park in Coventry and the parkrunners were just leaving as the Corporate Games athletes assembled to collect race bibs, timing chips and have a pre-race briefing.  
Pre-race briefing
Team WCC ready to run!
5k and 10k runners all started together, with 5k runners completing two laps of the park and 10k runners completing four (which actually worked out over-distance as the 10k was about 10.8k!).  Apart from a 15-minute delay at the start the race was really well organised, with the Coventry Ambassadors doing a brilliant job marshalling and handing out water and encouragement to the runners.  A huge thank you to them for volunteering their time so that we could run.  

So, after four very warm laps of the park I was over the moon to finish not only first in my age category, but first woman overall and 9th in the combined men and women’s race.  My time was 44.58 which wasn’t bad considering the extra distance and disrupted training!
Left:  Running for Warwickshire!   Right:  My team-mates cheering me across the finish line
Gold medal number one
My team-mates ran brilliantly in the 5k too, with a silver for Kirk, bronze for Ben and bronze for Sian.  As team captain I was chuffed to bits that every member of the team came away with a medal.  But more was to come!

Ben handing over to me on last leg
Next was the relay!  I was on last leg to give me a bit more recovery time from the 10k!  Each leg consisted of two laps of approx. 800m and involved dodging a few pedestrians, dogs, children on scooters, pushchairs etc. too, just to add to the interest (or frustration!!!).  Again my team-mates were awesome – Kirk led us off and ran a brilliantly paced run to hand over to Sian in the lead.  Sian ran her socks off and lost just one place, but that was OK as we were still first mixed team.  Ben got his head down and worked really hard to hold onto that position as he handed over to me on last leg.  A mile is a bit short for me these days, and my legs were definitely feeling the 10k, but I managed to hold on to our position and we were delighted to take gold in the mixed teams.  We might have been a small team, but what we lacked in quantity we definitely made up for in quality!

Gold medal-winning relay team!

A lovely touch at the medal ceremonies was that, in the spirit of the Games, the winner was presented with their medal by a VIP and then the winner presented the silver and bronze medals to their fellow competitors (see photo right).

The whole event was a fabulous experience and I loved being part of Team Warwickshire County Council.  It was great to mix with people from other areas of the council who I wouldn’t otherwise come across in my day-to-day work.  I felt we had a great team spirit, especially our small running team, and I came away from the event buzzing!  I think sport has an amazing ability to do that – to bring people together and foster a team spirit.  I’m proud to work for WCC and was proud to represent them at the Games.  It was also great to see so many people of all abilities, across all the teams, getting involved in sport, having a go and having fun.

A few weeks ago I was asked to speak to Warwickshire’s School Sports Ambassadors – a group of Year 5 pupils whose role is to promote sport within their school and local community.  I told them to enjoy their sport; to try their hardest – it doesn’t matter if you’re first or last if you’ve tried your best; to keep on trying if you don’t succeed at first; to have ambitions and to try new things and take opportunities when they’re offered to you.  I think all of the WCC team at this weekend’s Corporate Games displayed those characteristics.  We are the ones who grabbed the opportunity and took up the challenge.  I know everyone will have tried their hardest and I hope all the others enjoyed it as much as I certainly did.  Well done to everyone who took part and a huge thank you to our Team Managers – Neesha, Jane, Aaron and Alison – who made it all possible for us.

The fab four!

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Racing through 2019

I decided at the beginning of this year that, as there is no international 100km championship this year, I would spend some time trying to get a bit of speed back into my old legs and try to do a few more races.  I run for lots of reasons, but my main motivation for training is to race.  However I’ve felt over the last few years that, due to preparing for ultras, recovering from ultras or being injured, I’ve not raced nearly as much as I would have liked.  I felt it was time to put that right this year and to just have some fun racing over shorter distances.  This has been the first year for some time (possibly even since moving from the track to road racing in 2000) that I’ve not had a major target race to aim for.  Normally I would have one, possibly two, ‘A’ races – the main goal(s) of the year – and other races would be carefully chosen to fit in with these, with a specific purpose in the build-up for those ‘A’ races.  This year, however, I’ve raced when and where I want to, with no pressure to peak for a specific event.  This has meant that the races have mostly been more like quality tempo training runs.  I haven’t tapered my training before them and so I’ve often been racing on tired rather than fresh legs.  I find it can be useful to use races in this way – it’s certainly easier to run at a quicker pace in a group with other people rather than on my own.  It also means a change of scenery, running somewhere different to my usual routes that I use week in, week out.  If you use races like this though, it’s important to remember that you’re not going to run a PB every time you run – that’s not the objective and would quickly lead to burn-out.  That’s not to say that I don’t put in the effort though – I still give 100% and run to the best of my ability on the day.

So, in the first half of the year up to the end of June I’ve managed 13 races, ranging from 6km cross-countries to half-marathons on the roads.  I’m not sure I’ve really managed to get that much speed back though!

Warwickshire XC Champs. team gold
The year started with the Warwickshire cross-country championships.  This was always going to be my one and only cross-country outing this year; I was just doing it to help our club’s masters’ team which paid off as we won the team gold (it was also my 26th Warwickshire cross-country medal - team or individual).  Despite the distance being way too short for me I actually quite enjoyed it and ended up doing the last two Midland Cross-Country League races, again for Leamington C&AC’s masters’ team – and helping us win the overall masters league title.

Midland League XC, Burton Dassett

I followed these with a series of half-marathons during February, March and April.  These varied from a flat but very windy one near Loughborough, to my local one in Warwick which passed about 200m from my front door and a very hilly one at Droitwich (who knew Droitwich was so hilly!).  My fastest one was another local race, the Shakespeare Half-Marathon in Stratford-upon-Avon, although it was a far cry from the course record of 75.09 I set there in 2007!  But the one I enjoyed most was in Faro during my warm-weather training trip to Portugal (you can read all about that in my previous blog).

Left: the end of a hilly half in Droitwich.   Right: 4th place medal and cheque, Faro Half-Marathon

I then dropped down distance with a couple of 10-milers.  The first of these was a leg for my club in the Cotswold Hilly 100 mile relay.  Leamington have fielded teams in this race for many years, but due to other race commitments, injuries etc. this was the first year that I’d actually managed to run it!  I was on leg 9 – the penultimate leg – from Chipping Campden, past Ilmington to Crimscote.  It included a big uphill, followed by the biggest, steepest, longest downhill I think I’ve ever run!  In fact it was so steep in places it was quite hard to run, especially for someone like me who isn’t great on downhills!  Needless to say it wrecked my quads for days afterwards, although the views over the valley below were amazing and did momentarily take my mind off the discomfort!  It was worth the pain though, as we were first ladies team by 40 minutes and smashed the previous women’s course record by 22 minutes!  I loved the race and the team spirit.

Cotswold Hilly 100 - fabulous views made up for the pain!

Finishing the Burton 10 to become Midland Masters Champion
I followed this up with the Midland Masters 10 mile championships in Burton-on-Trent a week later.  My legs still weren’t recovered from the hills of the previous weekend, but I increased my dose of CurraNZ – a blackcurrant extract which has many benefits including combatting muscle soreness - and I’m sure this helped me to be able to race again so soon.  I managed to win the Midland Masters gold medal – my third Midland Masters 10 mile title - which I was really chuffed about.  Check out the CurraNZ website to read about the many benefits it can offer For a 20% discount on your first order please use the code HARRISON.

Lapping a runner in the Worcester Pitchcroft 10k -
in my go-faster Wave Ronin shoes!  
Since then I’ve dropped right down in distance to 10k and 5 mile races – a real shock to the system, but I’ve enjoyed the challenge of racing other people rather than just the clock.  I even dug out my old Mizuno Wave Ronin shoes – a lovely comfortable lightweight racing shoe that certainly helps me to run quicker.  I haven’t had much call for these in recent years, with racing all my ultras in my more cushioned Wave Riders, but with the Ronin I hardly feel like I’m wearing shoes at all!  It’s probably time, though, that I updated them to Mizuno’s latest racing shoe, the Wave Emperor.  For my half-marathons I’ve been wearing my Wave Shadow – very slightly heavier and more cushioned, but still a lightweight responsive shoe.

Shakespeare Half-Marathon, Stratford
On the one hand it’s been fun racing these shorter distances and I’ve really enjoyed running without any pressure.  On the other hand it’s quite frustrating that my times are a million years away from where they used to be.  I know I’m never going to get back to anywhere near my PBs, but I was hoping to have run a little bit quicker than I’ve managed so far!  I realise that there are age-related reasons for that, but it’s still really hard to accept and come to terms with – I guess I’m in denial about getting old(er)!  I can’t help comparing myself to how I was and to other people that I used to beat.  But I’m trying and am gradually coming to terms with it.  I’m very thankful that I am, at least, still able to run and compete.  I’ve started to compare myself to my ‘age PBs’ and I try to judge my performance against others in my age group rather than those who are half my age!  In my nine individual road races this year I’ve finished 1st in the W45-49 category in eight.  The only one I didn’t was in an international field in Faro when I was 2nd W45 to a Portuguese Olympian – so I reckon that’s not bad going!

As I’ve got older I’ve adjusted my training as I find I definitely take longer to recover from a hard session than I used to.  Several years ago I cut out my morning runs and now only run once a day instead of twice.  I now also make sure I have one complete rest day each week and am also prepared to cut a run short, or run at a slower pace, if I need to.  One thing I have kept up, though, are my strength and conditioning sessions in the gym at ‘The Warwickshire’.  It’s important to try and retain my muscle strength and core stability and the excellent facilities at The Warwickshire allow me to work on these aspects.

So I’m taking the positives – the pure enjoyment of racing, still being competitive in my age-group and the friendship and support of my Leamington team-mates.  I've now run a total of 282 road races in my career (with 104 wins) and I'm looking forward to seeing what the second half of the year has to bring.

2019 races up to end of June:
05.01.19               Warwickshire XC champs. - 8th Master
12.01.19               Midland League XC - 25th Master
09.02.19               Midland League XC - 6th Master
17.02.19               Leicestershire half-marathon - 6th (1st W45)
03.03.19               Warwick half-marathon - 2nd (1st Master)
30.03.19               Faro half-marathon - 5th (2nd W45)
14.04.19               Droitwich half-marathon - 2nd (1st Master)
28.04.19               Shakespeare half-marathon - 5th (1st Master)
12.05.19               Cotswold Hilly 100 - 1st team
19.05.19               Burton 10m - 2nd (1st Master)
23.05.19               Ryton 5m - 13th (1st W45)
26.05.19               Worcester Pitchcroft 10k - 2nd (1st W45)
04.06.19               Banbury 5m - 3rd (1st Master)