Posts Tagged ‘achieve’


Last Saturday 28th May I got an email for my sprint coach asking if I would like to represent Bradford and District in the Regional Finals of the Special Olympics on June 26th at Sheffield. I qualify for the Special Olympics because I have a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome and have elected to run the 100m, 200m and possibly 400m.

To say I was surprised is an understatement as I have not done any track sessions in the past six weeks and as anyone who has run on the track will know it is very different to running on the road especially if you are running the short sprints as they are all about explosive power in short bursts with no second chances to redeem yourself if you have a bad start.

My shock soon turned into a feeling of pride at being asked and then apprehension at how I would approach the event mentally. I’m quite happy with my physical form at the moment and enter races knowing I won’t place but still with the intention of doing my best and enjoying myself.

With the sprint competition I have a chance of doing well as I will be competing against runners of a similar ability so much of my chances of doing well will rest on how I approach the event mentally.

Where to start though when you are looking for inspiration? Do you look on the net at the thousands of articles written by coaches and champions or do you look for something closer to home written by someone you have met and can relate to?

One person I have met through running is Ben Mounsey. Ben is a rising star on the fell and mountain running scene but someone who is down to earth with it and always willing to share his knowledge and experience of running and competing with everyone. Ben has written several blogs about his running experiences detailing his successes and failures and most importantly his approach to competing.

These blogs are extremely helpful as they give you an insight into the mind of an elite level runner who is a dedicated and determined winner and every runner of any ability can learn much from them if they have a desire to improve their personal performance and push themselves a little bit further.

One article had stuck in my mind that Ben had wrote called, ‘How to Become a Mountain Lion in 10 Easy Steps’. Here Ben details the changes he has made to his life in going from a top club runner to an international star. This includes tips on training, nutrition and equipment but importantly for me mental attitude.

This article is very useful as although it is written from the perspective of a fell runner it can be adopted to any form of running including sprinting.

Equipment is important and sprinters wear special spikes as many of you will know. I’ve never worn spikes so at this stage it is probably too late to change for this competition but in the future spikes will be on my list.

Nutrition is important in all forms of sport and for the next 3 weeks I will be following a high protein diet with plenty of fruit and veg. This is to ensure I have the muscle I need to maximise my explosive power off the line and be able to sustain that power all the way to the finish line. 200m is a long way when you’re going at full speed from the start!

And whilst I have lost a considerable amount of weight through running for this competition I need to strip away as much body fat as I can so all alcohol and fast food is out until after the event. If anyone needs a lift just ask! The leaner I am the faster and more efficient I will be.

How you train is important and as with Ben I will be running up hills to build muscle, power and endurance. I may not do as Ben does and storm up Trooper Lane but living in Queensbury I have plenty of hills to choose from to run up again and again and again.

I will also be on the track practising sprinting but also visualising what I am going to do on my run, where I will put the power down and where I expect to be going at full speed and pushing myself beyond my limits. Visualisation is another technique Ben recommends in order to maximise your run especially when you are competing.

I’m hoping that all this will enable me to perform at my very best on the day and whether I finish first or last I will know that I have done my best in my preparations and performed to the best of my ability and achieved more than I could ever dream about two years ago.

Whilst I will never reach the elite level Ben is at I can apply the techniques Ben has adopted in order to maximise my potential and be the best sprinter and runner I can be. And it is easier to be inspired by someone you have met and can relate to rather than someone who you only see on the TV every now and again.

Here is a link to Ben’s article if you want to read it: https://www.google.co.uk/#q=10+easy+steps+to+becoming+a+mountain+lion

 


As I sit here writing this blog, I am reflecting on a very successful Dewsbury 10k and feeling the pain in my legs which is a constant reminder of how much effort I did put into the race.

The Dewsbury 10k is a flat and fast course. This in running terms at least translates into a gentle incline for the first 5k, followed by a gentle decline for the next 5k back towards the start/finish. Although it is flat it doesn’t mean it is easy to run. As I have learnt in my short time running, many of these terms can have a slightly different meaning in running circles and lull the new runner into a false sense of security. Flat and fast, as I now know means the incline cancels out the decline so overall it’s flat and it’s fast on the decline section!

A chilly but still and clear winters day greeted around 1,300 runners and this made it perfect conditions for running and going for a Personal Best (PB) over 10k. As we gathered at the start waiting for the announcer to finish his talk which was threatening to be even longer than the race would take for many, I ran through my race plan, remembering what the other, more experienced runners at my club, Queensbury, had told me.

Steady over the first 5k then go for it. Race against yourself and not other people, don’t try and keep up with someone who you think you should be faster than. You don’t know them or their running background. Listen to your body and save enough for the end and countless others I’ve forgotten. But most importantly I went into the race with a vague plan in my head of what I was going to and when!

So for the first 5k I took it steady, let people pass me and did my own thing. I knew to be in with a chance of getting under the magical hour mark I would need to turn around in under 30 minutes and then go for it and hope I had enough pace and energy to push myself under the hour.

After what seemed an age and the constant thought ‘I’m never doing this again’ whirling around my mind I turned around at the 5k mark in under 30 minutes. This gave me the boost I needed to believe I could achieve my goal and I immediately upped my pace and set off back down the slight decline.

The second 5k was much more enjoyable than the first. I felt good going at pace and was soon passing people who had passed me on the incline. I kept checking my watch to make sure I was going at the pace I needed to. At times I was going too slow so speeded up and at the end of the 5th mile I was well on target to achieve my goal.

The last mile hurt and I had to dig deep to keep up a pace that would see me go under the hour. It would have been easy to ease up and aim to just get under the hour. But that to me, would have made the run meaningless and I’ve seen the agony on other runners faces as they give it everything they have, only to have it snatched away at the last minute, by a second sometimes. And I’ve been in similar situations myself and didn’t want to be in another thinking of what went wrong, where I could have done more, what might have been.

So this time I kept going, kept pushing until the end, went through the pain barrier time and time again because my goal was there in front of me and the only person who could stop me achieving that goal was me.

And I did it. My official chip time came through at 57:40. And all of a sudden the pain in your legs, the long runs in wind and rain, up hill and down dale, the memories of close misses from before are all worth it for that one moment when you have achieved what you set out to do and before you readjust your sights on your next goal in life and set about achieving it.

 


Yesterday was race day!! Finally the biggest day of my short running experience had arrived. Saturday was a good day. I volunteered at Horton Park, parkrun and was very pleasantly surprised to see some running friends turn up who I hadn’t expected. It’s always a good start to the day when you see friendly, smiling faces. After the parkrun I had a chat with some of them and that ended another cracking parkrun.

The rest of Saturday was spent catching up on housework and assignments and generally trying to keep myself busy and focused on anything other than running! By 8:30pm I was shattered and in bed, everything ready for an early start to Leeds and the Eccup10 mile.

Sunday morning I was up bright and early and feeling very, very good physically and mentally. Bag ready and in the car and off I set to Leeds. As usual I had checked the route and as usual I got it wrong. Not as bad as when I went to Copley for the Bolton Brow Burner but still got slightly lost and parking near race HQ was a bit of a nightmare as some of the roads were closed around the HQ but I found a suitable spot and was soon at the start together with some of my fellow Queensbury runners waiting for the gun to go.

And then we were off!! I was mid pack by accident so I just let people pass me and got on with my own race. Quite soon I was into my rhythm and going along nicely. The course is undulating with some long drags and short, sharp climbs. Although I run for Queensbury which is on top of a hill I’m not the best hill climber, but I was determined to climb them and not stop. The strange thing was there seemed to be more uphill than downhill! It’s always a relief to relax on the downhill after a hard climb but on this course there was little respite.

But I kept going. Even the canal side was uphill which was a strange experience as usually the canal side is flat but not this one. The mile markers went by steadily, 1 mile, 2 mile, 3 mile, 4, 5 and 6 mile. Everything was going well and then my inner thigh on my left leg started to ache. It was a dull ache but enough to put me off my stride and give me something to think about.

Then my left hamstring started to ache too followed by my left outer thigh. My mind was a mass of thoughts. Do I keep up the pace and hope it goes? Do I slow down and look after my thigh and hamstring? Do I walk the reminder of the course and finish? The only thought that never crossed my mind was stopping and pulling out. That was never an option. I was wearing the Queensbury Running Club colours and I have too much pride in them to quit.

However this didn’t help my leg which by now was nicely throbbing away and a constant reminder to me that it was there and the pain was not going away anytime soon. I choose to run the flat and downhill sections which there seemed to be more of at last and walk the uphill parts. When I ran faster on the uphill sections the aching seemed to get better. However I was also aware that this may cause more damage and even tear something which would have been a disaster.

This wasn’t how I wanted my first 10 mile race to be but this was the cards I had been dealt with on the day and I had to cope with them as best as I could. Miles 7 and 8 seemed to be the worse where I lost most time and got passed by other runners. Never a good feeling. By miles 9 and 10 I had somehow picked the pace back up. The fear of finishing last had entered my mind and this spurred me on to do better and push my mind and body beyond what I had ever done before.

And it worked. I was keeping pace with a lass and a lad and although the lass did beat me to the finish line the lad did not. I didn’t finish last nor was I the last male finisher. And I even managed a little sprint finish too! The pain was there but in life we all suffer pain at some time. I remember telling myself that pain is temporary but the feeling and emotion of finishing is there forever.

At the end I mentioned that my leg was aching and for some strange reason was directed to the Red Cross. I think they were bored and just wanted something to do! After having a couple of tests and being told my blood pressure was high, surprise, surprise, I had just run 10 miles! I hobbled back out and found my friend whose son was looking after my car keys.

Then in my socks I began the long walk back to my car. This was the first time I had ever walked in my socks on tarmac in my life, but it was easier to walk in socks than my running shoes. And then I saw a familiar, friendly face. One of the lasses I know from running was coming towards me. I recognised her instantly and it was a very pleasant surprise to see her.

And she stopped and talked to me. Even though I couldn’t string two thoughts together let alone two words we tried to have a conversation. It wasn’t the best of circumstances especially as I was still recovering from putting my body through a lot but I tried to chat. And she was kind enough to offer me some jelly babies which were very warmly received by me. Well when I had enough energy to get some! They gave me enough energy to get back to my car and home. It was a lovely gesture and shows just how friendly the running community is.

On the way home I began to wonder if I had done the right thing slowing down? Could I have done more? Should I have done more? Was the injury as bad as I had led myself to believe? With all these thoughts whirring round my mind I got home feeling quite emotional and upset. I chatted with a friend about it but as they said these are questions to which only I know the answers.

And the answer soon came. I went upstairs to get a shower and my leg was still aching and in one part painful. That was all I needed to know that I had done the right thing in slowing down and looking after my leg. Pushing on could have made it a lot, lot worse than it was.

And what have I learnt from this whole experience? Read the large print and realise what you are entering before you do! In hindsight a 10 mile race was a step too much at this stage in my running. I’ve only done 3, 5k and 2, 10k races before so a race of this length was maybe too much?

However I also learnt that I can push myself further than I ever thought I could. I can dig deep when I need to and I do not quit. And I am capable of far more than I ever thought I was mentally and physically. And there is a lot more to come too. A hell of a lot more. And with my renewed confidence and self-belief in myself I can achieve so much more in all areas of my life.

And what now you may ask? Well I’ve entered another race, the Yorkshireman ½ marathon. This is one of the toughest ½ marathons around. It’s all off road around Haworth, Denholme and Oxenhope, not far from where I live. But it’s 14.8 miles not 13.1. 14.8 miles is a Yorkshire ½ marathon. We do things our way in Yorkshire.

But is this really a step too far? Well I prefer off road and I know a lot of the route already so I’m under no illusions about what I’m undertaking. I also realised after the Eccup 10 I need to change my training and my diet too. I need to lose at least ½ stone if not more. But I believe I can do it and deep down I know I can. It won’t be easy and it will be the toughest race of my life but I have the confidence and self-belief now to know I can achieve my goal of finishing the race. I will keep you updated.


I’m starting to write this piece about my experience at the John Carr 5k, the day after the final race, but won’t finish it till later, but it has been such a great experience for me as an introduction to road racing and running competitively that I felt compelled to write about my experience as a first time racer at the age of 47.

I decided to enter the series because my times at the parkruns had started to come down quite dramatically from 45+ minutes to 33 minutes 15 seconds. Spurred on by this improvement I began to think about entering a race and was told about the John Carr 5k series which is held every May on the first three Wednesdays in the month in honour of a runner who died at the age of 30.

The races are held on land owned by Yorkshire Water and the course is fairly flat and fast which makes it appeal to runners of all abilities as the potential is there to set a Personal Best for the 5k and you have three attempts at it too. Add in the reward of a free beer at the end if you enter all three races and you can see the appeal of the series!

Once I had entered the series I decided that I wanted to break the 30 minute barrier at the final race. Whilst for many people 30 minutes is very achievable, for me it was a challenge. In addition to my improvement in running was a massive weight loss going from 18st 3lbs to 15st 10lbs. Whilst this was still quite heavy I was interested to see if my weight loss would also contribute to a new PB and hopefully one under 30 minutes.

The day of the first race came and I was in a mess to be honest. It was held on the first Monday after the bank holiday and stupidly I had decided to do a 7 mile run on the Sunday to collect my car from a golf club and a 7 mile walk around the hills near me on the Monday. This turned out to be a very bad idea. On the Tuesday my hamstrings were reminding me they were there by aching. This made me worried that my performance would be compromised and I would not be able to run at my best. In addition my left Achilles was aching once again, an old injury from many years back, so I approached the first race poorly prepared and with my legs aching.

As it turned out my fears were unfounded and I plodded round the course with the only memory being when I was told to turn right at the end of a short straight and saw the other runners all going at speed down the other side. I assumed it was a short straight only to turn round the corner and be confronted by a long, long straight! All the other runners where going a lot faster than I realised and I was a lot slower than I thought I was!

Near the end of the race is a 4k marker and a drop back down into Esholt. I decided to put a sprint on and managed it for a short while but then gave up, just stopped going at pace and as a consequence I was passed by at least two other runners from memory if not more. I made a vow there and then never to give up near the end of a race and to give it my all. No more giving up near the end, go for it and give it my absolute best. I finished in a time of 31:37, a new PB for me but it didn’t seem worth celebrating, didn’t feel like an achievement for some reason.

The next day my left Achilles was in pain, a lot of pain and I was having difficulty walking so I decided to give my Thursday night club meeting a miss and see how I was on Saturday for the parkrun. Saturday came and my Achilles was still in agony but I decided to do the parkrun anyway. At the parkrun I tried to warm up but I was in a lot of pain and decided not to risk running 5k that day.

At the parkrun however was a guy called Peter May who I had heard about as he is one of the more elite runners at my club Queensbury Running Club and a sports massager too. I had a word with Peter about my injury and booked an appointment to see him the following week. During this week I did no running or walking and it was a very, very difficult week because of this. I never realised before how much I would miss running and not being able to get out in the fresh air and feel free.

So the following week I went to see Peter and this is very relevant to the rest of my story. Peter asked me what was wrong and I told him, left Achilles, what shoes do you wear, support shoes. Wrong shoes, wrong problem. It turns out my problem was really bad tightness in my right calve and I needed neutral, cushioned shoes. For 20+ years I had believed I had the wrong injury and I was wearing the wrong shoes.

Peter sorted me out and gave me very good advice on how to prevent my injury getting any worse. I immediately went down to town and bought a cheap pair of neutral cushioned shoes for the next race. Wearing them was a revelation. My feet felt lighter and had more movement, I felt like I could run.

On the day of the second race I was looking forward to it excitedly. I decided to wear my old support shoes for the race simply because I had not run yet in my new ones. This time I got there early and proceeded to warm up doing around 1.5 miles. My legs felt good, still aching but a lot more movement and flexibility in them. Off I went at the start and my legs felt like lead. I went 100 yards and wanted to stop. My Achilles was killing me. My legs felt like lead, I didn’t feel like running at all.

But then something in mind clicked and I decided to see how I felt after a mile. The first mile went by and I was running at a good pace so decided to do another mile. After the second mile I was still going at a good pace so decided to keep going. My pace slowed over the last mile but I had enough left to kick for the finishing line and this time I did not give up. I went for it, giving it my all and crossed the line in a breathless and slightly dizzy 31:06. Another PB but still way off my target of sub 30 minutes.

I was in pain though. My neck was aching, I had a headache and I was struggling to catch my breath too. This was all too apparent to a good friend of mine who tried to talk to me but only got a load of incoherent nonsense and after quickly making their excuses I was left to try and work out where I was and how to get home!

But this week was different to the week before. This week I went to my Thursday night running club and I went out on my own. Running felt different, it felt fluid and natural, it felt right. I was doing non-stop runs and most importantly for me running up hills, something I had not done before. Mentally and physically I had changed for the better and my running was proof of this.

On the day of the third and final race I had another session with Peter and my legs felt better than ever. I had been running in the cheap shoes but felt far more comfortable in these than in the expensive support ones which felt like a pair of hiking boots in comparison. I was starting to believe I could go under the magic 30 minute barrier.

I got to the race in plenty of time and proceeded to warm up. My legs felt good but I was also aware of not overdoing things and leaving something in the tank for the race. And then there I was once again at the start line, ready to go for the third and final time this year. I set off and once again 100 yards in my legs felt like lead and I felt like stopping. I remember wondering to myself whether I should just stop there and then and go home.

But I didn’t. I carried on and my running freed up, I was moving smoothly, I felt good. The first mile went past in under 9 minutes, very fast for me, but I was enjoying myself. I saw people in front of me and I moved out and passed them and they didn’t come back at me. This was a new feeling, I was passing people and moving away from them. This felt good.

And this continued into the second mile too. This feeling of running and not just going through the motions was still here and I was enjoying it. after two miles my watch said just over 18 minutes. It was now I realised that my dream of a sub 30 minute 5k was on. All I had to do was keep going and believe.

Inevitably I slowed up, my watch showing my pace at 10:30 minutes a mile. But I knew I could still do it so I dug deep and kept going. I remember thinking if I didn’t do it today I would have to wait a year and that was something I was not prepared to do.

Back up over the start  line and I could see the village of Esholt coming into view. I knew the finish line wasn’t far away and put a bit more pace into my run. Downhill into the village and seemingly the roads were lined with people cheering for me, ‘keep going’, ‘you’re doing great’, ‘you can do it’, everything just a blur.

And my mind was blank, nothing there at all, no thoughts just a deep intense concentration, focusing on not just finishing but on breaking the 30 minute barrier. And then it was over. I had finished. I ran for the nearest wall in order to try and get some air into my lungs. I was gasping for air but had to queue with everybody else in order to register my time. And I looked at my watch and it said 29:26. According to my watch I had done it, I had broken the 30 minute barrier and achieved my dream. But would the organisers find 30 seconds from somewhere and take everything away from me? I didn’t dare celebrate just yet, although I told friends what my time was. I was sure something would go wrong somewhere and my dream would remain just that.

In the bar I stood with my friends waiting for the official results to come out, still thinking I was dreaming, still trying to get my breath back and return to reality. And then the results were out and I looked for my name and there it was officially in black and white, Andrew Smith 29:26. I had done it, I had done what I set out to achieve and I had proved to myself that I can achieve so much more when I want to.

But I didn’t feel like celebrating. I was so tired, in a sporting sense this was the hardest I had ever worked physically and mentally to achieve a goal, a dream. But I did it and went home to a nice glass of red wine to relax and unwind with feeling satisfied and feeling like a runner for the first time ever in my life.