Posts Tagged ‘personal best’


Last night I took part in the Helen Windsor 10k race, a local road race round Greetland in Halifax. The race is tough on an undulating course and if I’m being honest was one race too much for me coming after setting a Personal Best (PB) at the Halifax Half Marathon only three days earlier.

However, I choose to run the race and turned up feeling good. Not brilliant but good enough to run the course and enjoy it. My thighs where still aching and it was clear to me I hadn’t fully recovered yet, but I decided to run and see how things went. The last thing on my mind was setting another PB, tonight I would be happy just to finish.

This of course all changed as soon as I started mixing with the other runners and the competitive switch in my mind went on and I began to think about setting a 10k PB. Could I set another PB so soon after setting one at the Halifax Half?

I chose to wear my new running shoes initially but as soon as I started to warm up I felt pain in both my Achilles tendons and decided to change them for an older pair I had brought with me that I knew would be more comfortable on the night and allow me to run in with less pain.

As we made our way to the start I could feel my Achilles pulling and reminding me that they thought I shouldn’t run. Instead I chose to block out the pain and just do my best on the night. I’ve got used to running in pain and now accept that being a runner means I will be carrying some sort of injury whenever I run.

The course itself is deceptively hilly and a lot more demanding than it appears. You start by doing a small loop before heading back up the main road and beginning the long climb to the high point before descending back to the finish. The climbs are a mixture of long steady inclines with some short, sharp ones thrown in for good measure.

At the start I set off far too fast, a habit I am trying to curb. As soon as I became aware of this I reduced my pace and settled down into a steady rhythm. My Achilles and thighs were aching but nothing I couldn’t cope with and I started to get into a pace I felt comfortable with.

After the small loop I was back onto the main road and the start of the larger loop. I found myself passing people which surprised me considering how I felt, but I decided to keep pushing and see what time I could get. Looking at my watch I was on course for a PB, by how much I didn’t know bit my pace was good and I felt fine.

As the course went on so did the incline. Nice and steady at first and then I could see the short but steep climb to the summit. By now I was beginning to feel the aftereffects of running so much this year and especially the Halifax Half in my legs. I could keep going at this pace but it was hurting, my thighs especially were feeling sore and I realised I was running out of energy. My mind took over and I asked myself how much I wanted this, was it worth putting myself through all this pain just to get PB tonight when I could get a PB at another, easier course some other time? The reply came back that I could do this and it was worth it.

I was already in pain so what would more matter? I was still passing people and I had now crested the summit of the hill although it felt like I was running up hill instead of down and the km markers were getting further and further apart. This was the part of the race where everything seemed to take longer to run, every mile or kilometre seemed to have been stretched as far as it could and this 10k race felt more like a 20k.

I was getting desperate now for the final turn and the knowledge that the finish was just around the corner. I was running on autopilot and concentrating on finishing. I could slow down and still get a PB but that’s not me, not when I’m racing. The desire to push myself to my maximum and see what I am capable of once again took over and so I dug deep yet again and carried on pushing myself.

At last the corner was there and I rounded it knowing that the finish wasn’t far away. Except it wasn’t where I thought it would be. I had further to run than I thought I had so onwards I went doing my best to maintain my pace. This was hard work now and I was finding it tough. All of my body was aching and all I wanted to do was finish and collapse in a heap but right now that wasn’t a choice for me. The only choice I had was to finish as strongly as I could.

And there was the finishing line in front of me at last. I had promised myself I wouldn’t do a sprint finish and the woman who had been on my shoulder for much of the race was now in front of me and I had nothing left. But with the support of the other Queensbury runners who were there and shouting for me I manged a sprint and beat her to the line.

All in all it was a good race. The route is tougher than I expected but so am I. Once again I pushed myself harder than I thought I could and I got my 10k PB in a time of 55:40 knocking 2 minutes off my previous time on a much tougher course. This bodes well for seeing how close I can go to 50 minutes with plenty of rest and a flatter, faster course. I’m on the lookout for a race like this already.


Yesterday I competed in the Halifax Half Marathon for the first time and it was an experience I will never forget.

Having reckied part of the course the day before albeit in my car, I was under no illusion as to how tough this race was. Pretty much from the off you are climbing from the depths of Dean Clough Mill, Halifax to the heights of Soil Hill and Roper Lane, Queensbury before you descend back into Dean Clough Mill and the finish.

I arrived at the start and plenty of time and was pleasantly surprised to find plenty of car parking available. Some events I have turned up to and parking has been a nightmare so this time having plenty of space to park was nice. I later found out that the reason for there being so much parking available was more due to the notorious reputation the Halifax Half has and the effect this has on putting people off rather than me being early.

At one point before the start it seemed that most of the other competitors were in the queue for the toilet then preparing themselves to run! And then we got the call to assemble at the start and a couple of hundred runners were off to test themselves on the hills of Halifax.

The start heads up towards Shroggs Park before dropping down and heading towards Brackenbed Lane. This was the first of the hard climbs taking you up to Moor End Road and Mount Tabor. It is one of those typical climbs that we seem to have a lot of in Yorkshire where you think you have reached the top only to be confronted with yet more climbing.

And this is the advantage of doing a reckie. I was prepared for this second climb rather than being taken by surprise and I had set off at a steady pace in anticipation of this. I have been caught out by this in the past at races and suffered later on in the race as a consequence, but this time I was ready and climbed Brackenbed Lane in one go which set me up nicely for the rest of the race. I was feeling good and my confidence was going up.

Onwards and upwards on Moor End Road and towards Mount Tabor a nice village set in the countryside of Calderdale. Four miles soon went by and we headed right on Moor End Road towards the village of Moor End. Going through Moor End we had a bit of respite from all the climbing as we ran downhill towards Mixenden. On this first bit of downhill I decided not to push the pace but relax my body and mind and conserve my energy for the climbing that was yet to come.

We were soon through Mixenden and beginning to find ourselves in our own little races with the other runners. I was running with a lass from the Halifax Harriers and two young lads with charity vests on. At times like this it’s nice to have other runners with you as they keep you going and pull you along and you can maintain your pace easier too.

Through Mixenden the climbing started again. A steep climb on Mill Lane, takes you up to the outskirts of Illingworth and it was on this climb that a man running in sandals passed me! I was surprised at his choice of footwear but each to their own! I decided against racing him as it was obvious he had run in sandals before so I left him to tackle the climb on his own.

Once you have got to the outskirts of Illingworth you assume that you would head to the main road preparing for the last major climb, Soil Hill. However, the organisers of the race had been particularly nasty and instead the route took you left down Lane Head Lane before turning right up Rocks Lane. This route means you are as far down as you can go before you start running up to Soil Hill. Once again I was pleased with myself for having done a reckie of the route the day before. If I hadn’t done the reckie I would have been taken by surprise again and had another heart sinking moment that could have put my hopes of getting a Personal Best (PB) on the course in tatters.

My PB for a half marathon was 2:19:40 set at the Liversedge Half in February. I had run the Huddersfield Half in early June and missed getting a PB by around 40 seconds due mainly to wearing the wrong shoes for the course and stopping at water stations which I don’t normally do. At Halifax I had set myself a time of 2:10:00 to finish and coming off a week of rest after some hard runs I was feeling confident of achieving this.

At the six-mile mark on the main Keighley Road, I was on target to get a new PB in the time I had set myself but I still had the climb up to Soil Hill to contend with which would be the deciding factor in how close I would get to 2:10:00.

Soil Hill has a reputation as being one of the toughest climbs around and it is easy to see why. It starts off reasonable enough before flattening out and then steeply ascending taking in three ninety-degree bends before getting to the top of Ned Hill Road on which Soil Hill is. The first one of these bends is particularly difficult as it is at the steepest and narrowest part and you have to concentrate on just getting up and not worrying about your pace.

I did exactly this and successfully negated the bend and was on the climb up to the second bend. On this short straight I met one of my other Queensbury runners coming down in his van. He had, had a successful day out motorbike racing the day before coming away with a very well deserved third place and was in a good mood. On the way up I gave him a high five and carried on.

Up and up I went cheered on by some supporters from Halifax Harriers who were in their car and giving all the runners a much needed boost. At the top of Soil Hill, I passed the two young runners in their charity vests who to my surprise were now walking. They were younger than me and looked fitter than me but looks can be deceiving… This was the last I saw of them until the finish. The girl from Halifax Harriers was still in front of me so I had a decent marker to aim for and to keep pulling me along.

At the seven-mile mark halfway on Ned Hill my time was 1:15. I was five minutes behind my schedule and knew that the next six miles were going to hurt. There would be no time to relax and enjoy the scenery this was now me against the clock, me pushing myself once again to my limits and seeing how far I could go. This was now me against me.

Ned Hill Road goes into Perseverance Road some more downhill and flat and I began to pick up the pace knowing I had no time to rest. Going faster was the only way I would achieve my goal.

At the bottom of Perseverance Road is the Raggalds Inn and several from the Queensbury Running Club were there to cheer me and the other runners on and take photographs.

After the Raggalds, Roper Lane takes you around the outskirts of Queensbury. The first part is steady climbing before turning left and going downhill. By now I was visibly catching the lass from Halifax Harriers but remembering the advice I had been given by more experienced runners I reminded myself that this was about me and my own personal race and not racing other people.

I was soon at the bottom of Roper Lane and on the main road where the final water station was at the nine-mile mark. Here I finally caught and passed the lass from Halifax Harriers as she stopped to take on some water and I took some on the run. This gave me the advantage I needed to not only pass her but maintain momentum as there is a small climb before you head back down once again.

By now I had made up around two or three minutes on the time I lost going up Soil Hill but despite the pain in my thighs and my mind telling me I couldn’t do this I knew deep down I could and I knew I had to maintain this pace and I would achieve my goal.

Left onto Swalesmoor Road and a climb that you don’t notice normally became a hill but still I maintained my pace. Down the other side, pass the ski slope and another incline that isn’t there usually is all of a sudden huge. By now I’m catching two runners in front of me and this gives me added impetus to keep my pace up.

At the bottom of the road I am caught out. I assumed, wrongly that the route would take me over the road and down through the area of Claremont before heading into Halifax town centre. However, at the bottom of the small decline the arrows say right onto Claremont Road. I remember wondering where the route was going? We weren’t far from the end now so where were we going? What surprises did the organises have in store for us?

At the end of Claremont Road, I was soon over the main road. I had been lucky today with crossing roads and had not lost too much time. Some more downhill on the outskirts of Halifax town centre and another runner was in sight. I was catching her fast and knew I would soon pass her. This however was inconsequential to me. I had made up all the time I had lost previously and was now on course to achieve 2:10. This was now about me maintaining my pace and pushing myself not about beating anyone.

At the bottom of this road we turned left and I realised that the organisers had put us on a road that runs parallel to the main road but is far quieter. This is where the pain really began to set in. My thighs were on fire and felt like they would drop off at any time, my breathing was heavy and my mind was telling me to take it easy. I knew from looking at my watch that I would set a new PB whatever but now it was about how much I wanted that 2:10 time.

And then it kicked in. All the memories of the hard miles down over the winter. Doing it the hard way through mud, water, rain and snow with no one there to see it, no one to cheer you on, no one at the end to say well done. The winter months spent up on the moors all came into their own now, the climbs, the feet ice cold from being in water for hours, the mud that was still there after a week. This is what is meant by doing the grind.

And people’s voices flashed through my mind reminding me all that I have achieved, how far I have come, the respect I have earned from everybody not just other runners, reminding me that I can do this, willing me on!!

And I ran through the pain, through the hurt. I was passed by a lass but it didn’t matter. I was only bothered about keeping going and finishing now. Giving up would be easy but I don’t do anything the easy way.

Round the edge of Dean Clough, down and up some dangerous stone steps and onto the road that goes through the middle of Dean Clough and one final small climb before turning right into the car park and the finish at last!

The finish was strange to say the least as the organisers had decided to put a couple of turns in before you crossed the line, which in the middle of a car park seemed very odd!

I crossed and looked at my watch, 2:10:28. I had done it! But prior experience of how fickle the organisers can be with their timings meant I knew I would be tempting fate if I was to announce it straight away.

But I had done it. I had achieved something I would have thought impossible a couple of years ago. But more than that I had fought the voices in my head telling me to slow down, accept something less, telling me I could not do this. The last three miles had been the hardest miles I had run all day. All the climbing had taken everything out of me and then for the second time in a week I had to dig deep and then dig deeper to get what I wanted. I had to go through and beyond my pain threshold, my legs felt as if they would fall apart and I would never walk again, mentally I had to switch everything off that said no and focus on my goal and nothing else.

This run was proof that whatever your level you can achieve something if you’re prepared to put in the hard work, go through the bad runs hoping for a good run when it matters, put yourself through the pain barrier again and again and again, seemingly for no reason, push yourself to your limits only to push them back again the next time. And the only competitor you have is you. It doesn’t matter where you finish, first, last in the middle, it means nothing. All that matters is that you have done your best, you have achieved your goal and you have nothing more to give.

And my official time yesterday? 2:10:34. For once the timing gods were on my side too!


This Wednesday 18th May saw the final race of the 2016 John Carr series for this year. This is the second time I have taken part and it is a series of 5k races that I look forward to more than enjoy taking part in!

The first race was more of a recce than a full blown, all out run. I was coming off some very good runs where I had been showing good pace on the flat and my climbing was improving to the point where I was passing people on the hills! This filled me with confidence and I decided to set a target of going under 25 minutes for the 5k at one of the races.

This may sound overly ambitious but the John Carr races have gained a reputation as races where you can set personal bests due to the course being set at Esholt Water Works and it is relatively flat which means fast times.

At the first race I was feeling good. My legs were a bit tired but nothing I wasn’t used to. I had a good warmup for the race although this was due to the fact that we parked about 2 miles away from the start which meant I had no choice but to run to the start and warmup.

The race went well. I felt good throughout the race and felt strong at the finish able to put in a sprint and beat some other runners to the line. My official time was 26:11, a new personal best, and I was happy with this. I felt it was a good indicator of my form and that a sub 25 was on.

The second race was a very different affair and brought me crashing back down to earth. I had, had a very stressful day at university finishing my final essay and then got back to my car to find my back window had dropped which meant a trip to the garage and no rest. This all added to the stress.

At the race I didn’t warmup as I should have done and set off far too fast passing one of my rivals within ½ k and continuing to pile on the speed. And then people started passing me and I had nothing left to respond with. My legs were moving but I felt I had no power or strength in them and I was going backwards. I looked at my watch and my pace had dropped to training pace and still I couldn’t go any faster. I wanted to stop there and then but pride and determination kept me going. The end couldn’t come quick enough and I managed to pick up speed and hold off some other runners but for me it had been a disaster. I still finished in a respectable 27:05 but everything that could go wrong had gone wrong and much of it was down to myself and how I approached the race.

For the final race I took a different approach. No stressing, it was only a race after all and do a warmup. I find a 5k difficult and you have to be on race pace from the off and for a well-built man like me it takes a while to warmup and get up to race pace. For distances such as 10k and ½ marathon this isn’t a problem, but for a 5k it is as you can soon find yourself being left behind and have nothing left to respond with as I did in race 2. You have to be on the pace from the off in a 5k and this is where the hard work comes in.

I set off at a comfortable pace, reminding myself to run my race and not someone else’s. I saw one of my rivals up ahead and decided to keep him in my sights rather than go after him and pass him early. I let myself get into the race and find my pace and soon I was steadily catching up to him and passed him around the 1mile mark.

I felt good, not my best by a long way but good enough to keep up the pace I was going and add a bit more if I needed to. My next rival was now up ahead and I was coming up on him fast. I passed him just after the ½ way mark and injected a bit more pace into my run as I wanted to make sure my move stuck and I didn’t have to race him again.

Then I began to struggle. My legs were on fire and my breathing was heavy and once again the thought of stopping briefly crossed my mind. But I dug deep and kept going. Although the course is described as flat the small hills that were on the course felt like mountains at this point as I tried to go faster and leave the runner who had decided to keep me company behind!

I crested the final small hill and saw the bright yellow finish which seemed a lot further away than in the other races. I was running at my maximum and I had nothing left to put in a sprint. All I could do was to keep my pace up and not give in.

I crossed the line a second in front of the runner who had tried to beat me. Another couple of feet and she would have done. The time was 25:43 a new personal best if not the sub 25 I was aiming for. I felt good. I had nothing left in me to run anymore so I was happy in the knowledge that I had done my best and giving everything I had on the night.

Overall I enjoyed my second John Carr series and I learnt a lot from it too. Preparation is key to these races and a good warmup is essential. Pacing yourself is all important too so you can finish strongly and I know that I can go sub 25 one day. But the most important thing is to enjoy your running and make the most of it while you can.

 


On Sunday 21st June I ran my second 10k race the Pudsey 10k. As a child I grew up near Pudsey and always remember it as being flat. However in the intervening years not only is my memory failing me but someone has been and trampled over Pudsey and given it hills, quite a few challenging hills at that! A good friend of mine from the running community Nic, did warn me about the hills and not to underestimate the course, so I approached the race with an open mind and ready for some steep climbs!

Training had been going well, a nice 7.7 miles over the moors in the rain and a good club run around some of the local trails had prepared me nicely for Sunday. I didn’t do my normal parkrun on the Saturday deciding instead to save my legs for the race. I’m learning quickly that recovery is important and this proved to be a good plan.

On the Saturday I volunteered at the Lister Park, parkrun in Bradford as a marshal. I believe in giving something back if you use and enjoy a sport or pastime. I’m sure that when I have run there have been others in my position helping out and giving me the opportunity to run so it’s only fair to support them too.

In the afternoon I went to my village’s 1940s day and met one of the elite runners from my club Martin. We had a good chat about the 1940s day and running and he gave me some very good advice, don’t go out and drink the night before a race. I have done it in the past and I’ve managed to get round but this time I took the advice on-board and didn’t have a beer that night.

On the day of the race I woke up feeling a bit rough, probably due to lack of beer the night before and actually felt like giving it a miss. But I managed to drag my lazy backside out of my pit and was soon on my way to Pudsey. Luckily for me I know where Pudsey is and so this time I managed to not get lost and even got a really good parking spot next to the park where the event was being held.

I saw a couple of other runners from my club there and some others had come to support us which was nice of them. I spotted some other runners I know but as is often the case before a race everybody is getting themselves psyched up for the big event and we just nodded and mumbled a ‘hello’ to each other under our breath.

And then it was time to go. It had started to rain but I don’t mind the rain so it didn’t bother me. We did a loop of the square in Pudsey and then we were off on the roads heading for the trails. As is becoming the norm for me I felt like stopping and going home, but I just told my legs to shut up and get on with it and as soon as we hit the trails I was feeling ready to race.

The course was very tough and challenging with some tricky downhills to negotiate and some steep climbs to conquer. The first climb was a long, long drag out of some woods. This climb seemed to go on forever and then we hit a bit of flat where we could catch our breath before the next climb.

The next climb came again after a similar route to the first climb, downhill and then there it is and it was a steep one no question about that! I decided to walk up this as there were still a couple of miles to go after and I wanted to leave some energy in the tank so I had enough to get home with.

After this climb we entered roads and housing and were soon weaving our way round Pudsey. From the last climb though I had picked up a couple of runners who seemed content to sit on my tail and use me as a pacer. I wasn’t too happy about this but there wasn’t a lot I could about it either. I could slow down and let them pass me or just get on with. I decided to just get on with it and see what happened at the end.

On one of the roads however my race nearly came to an end. A woman was getting in a van and she waved one runner through with a smile and then opened her car door on me! I thought at one point she was only going to open it half-way but she opened it fully just as I was going past. Luckily I hit it with my thigh which left a nice red mark but if it had hit my knee it would have been a lot worse.

After uttering something under my breath I carried on and soon the 1km mark was upon me. And then the 400m and 200m mark. These seemed to make it harder and drag the race out so I envisaged in my mind what distance I had left and this got me round. And soon we were back in the park and on the home straight. It was at this point that one of the runners who had been tailing me shouted ‘come on you t**t’. I wasn’t sure if it was aimed at me or not but I took it personally and sprinted off away from him and the other runner who had been tailing me. I don’t know who was more shocked, them or me. I was surprised I had this amount of pace left in me!

One of my friends who had come to support me filmed my sprint and whilst it is definitely not the most elegant running style by a long way it is effective and it did the job which is what mattered most.

And my time? 1:05:21 a new Personal Best knocking 9:25 off my previous PB! It would have been nice to have gone under 1:05 but I couldn’t complain getting a new PB on a very tough course. Overall it had been a very good experience. The course is wider than Bolton Brow which gives you a margin for error but not much. This extra width makes it faster and you have to have your wits about you or you will come a cropper.

It was really nice to get some lovely comments when I got home too from a couple of very nice runners who I think are very talented, telling me how proud they were of me showing the guts and determination I did in giving it everything I had and a bit more on a challenging course. All in all a very good day and now I feel more prepared for the Eccup 10 than did before.