Monday, 14 August 2017

Guest Post - The best laid plans of mice and men... MR. M'S JOURNEY TO THE 2017 GREAT NORTH RUN

In January Mr M wrote his first blog in a 4 part mini series all about his journey to the BIG Great North Run in September. Here is his 2nd instalment including a number of different experiences at a variety of races over the past 6 months. Keep reading to see how he is getting on. 

Remember the chest infection I was suffering from at the time of writing my first blog post? Well that lingered on for ages, to the extent that I didn't feel well enough to go out for my first run of 2017 until February 18th (a park run). Eight days later I completed the 5k Stroke Association Resolution Run with a still recovering chest and an ankle I'd rolled in footy training earlier that week. I was just relieved to cross the line.

Tara, Michael, Oscar (the dog), Emma and Sarah
That was the feeling when I crossed the line of the Freeman Fun Run in April. I'd only managed to run 20km total since the Resolution Run and this was a last minute entry when Melissa had to withdraw. Suffice to say going out for an Italian and drinking plenty of house wine the night before, combined with the temperature on the day and a sadistic route which climbed out of Jesmond Dene did not make it the most fun of runs. I did, however, cross the line in 7th place overall which is quite an achievement and one I doubt I'll ever match!
Freeman Run - Alison, Ay, Sarah, Emma, Michael + Oscar (the dog)
As April went on I built up the combined running/cycling distance (111.6 km) cycling to my new job or running in the lighter evenings after work. The regular footy season got under way with weekly training and matches to and with my first 10k  (Sunderland 10k) of the year on May 7th things were looking good, with the slight exception I was going to spend the first 3 days of that week in Amsterdam with some of the lads from footy...

Suffice to say the beer to exercise ratio of that week swayed wholly to the former. Despite my lack of preparation it still felt good to assemble on the start line of a major, mass participation running event again and when we set off it was pure fun swarming through the streets of my home city and crossing the Wearmouth Bridge (twice!) The week caught up with me pretty quickly though and I was suffering before I'd run 3km. Fortunately, and unusually for a 10k, there were 4 water stations along the route so that helped in some respects.

Since I started running I've found I always have something left for the finishing straight and this was no exception. I'd pulled out my headphones after crossing the Wearmouth Bridge on the return so I could take in the atmosphere and this combined with seeing the race clock approaching the 50 minute mark prompted me to kick extremely hard to get over the line before it. I had forgotten I hadn't crossed the start line for a good minute at the start and so was very, very happy with my chip time of 48:55, a mere 19 seconds slower than my personal best!

The following  weeks were a bit of a whirlwind as Melissa and me moved into our new flat and then jetted of to Vienna for a week (keep your eyes peeled for her posts on our holiday - here & here). Whilst I didn't clock up many km running before my next 10k I did get out on the bike a lot more, especially with the HSBC UK City Ride Newcastle taking place at the beginning of July. I clocked up a combined total of 163 km between the Sunderland 10k and arriving at the start of the Great North 10k.

 I felt much better prepared for the Great North 10k than the Sunderland City 10k, even if I had played a game of Aussie Rules the day before. As with the Freeman Fun Run it was another warm day and had there not been a water station at the start line I would definitely have struggled more than I did.
Michael, Tara, Emma, Tracey, Sarah and Kat
I got off to a good start and where I normally find I have to overtake several people within the first few km as I find a comfortable pace I had managed to position myself so that I didn't have to weave around slower runners.

As with the Sunderland 10k I seemed to be blowing quite early on and so the water at 4.5 km was a relief. IT's reassuring when on a route like this you hit the point it turns back on itself and it allowed me to take the SIS gel I had been saving for the second half of the course. I could've done with saving some of the water as it left my mouth surprisingly dry!

By the time I hit the base of the 'Slog of the Tyne' I didn't feel like I had much left in the legs and it took a lot of willpower to not slow to a walk at any point in the last 2 km, especially when climbing the 'Slog on the Tyne' itself. Once we were back onto the roads I realised it wasn't far at all to the finish line in Gateshead Stadium, and it was an incredible experience running through the gates and onto the track of the stadium with the crowds in the stand cheering runners on towards that finish line. As I rounded the track onto the finishing straight I opened up the taps even if it left me feeling like I was close to collapsing after crossing the line. I think I finished the bottle of water in the finisher's pack before putting the hard earned medal around my neck!

I hadn't given much thought to my finishing time as I knew how much I felt I was struggling. Melissa had been tracking my run using the official app and when she told me I had crossed the line in 48:33 I was delighted: it was a new PB by 3 seconds!

I'd been putting off any proper training for the Great North Run until after the Great North 10k so where do I go from here?

On Wednesday I've got the Durham City Run 10k (a last minute sign up) and then a two month break until the Gateshead Trail 10k. I've also signed up for the Great North 5k this year to accompany  Melissa. The pace will be slower for me so it'll be a nice warm-up for the GNR the following day. It'll be the first time we'll run the full course and cross the line of a run together so I'm looking forward to that.

The footy season draws to a close in a fortnight (with us playing in the Plate Final for a second year running!) which frees up my Saturdays and I can realistically can start doing weekly 'long' runs of 10 km building up to half marathon distance and maybe a bit more. I will also try run from work a couple of nights a week which is a distance just over 6 km and the majority of which is uphill. Hopefully all of this should leave me sufficiently prepared when I come to assemble on the central motorway on September 10th.

My next blog post should come in late August as I reach the final weeks of training for the GNR.

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