All posts by running_dan_w

Inspired to tweet (@running_dan_w) about my running by the London Marathon - running 800km for Maggie's ( Love good food, architecture, photography, football & motorsport.

The washout that wasn’t

I was excited this morning, very excited.  Not like that, you dirty-minded people!  I was excited about today’s run.  That was until I heard the rain lashing at the bedroom window of the B&B.

The Wife and I were in a village called Hutton, just outside Weston-Super-Mare in Somerset to celebrate Gemma’s 30th birthday.  The weather for the party on Saturday had been great, especially considering rain had been threatened all day.  It was a chance to catch up with a whole heap of people we hadn’t seen in ages and to meet some new people too.  A great BBQ had been laid on for the afternoon which helped to line our stomachs for the alcohol.

And what party wouldn’t be without an impromptu camp site centred around a campfire, set within the charred stump of an old Oak tree.  We were told of the demise of the great Oak that once stood tall – unfortunately it’s death warrant written, when it was discovered that most of the 4ft wide trunk had rotten away, to ensure a controlled and dignified felling rather than one causing chaos, damage and destruction to the surrounding roads and houses.

There were a few inspiring runners amongst the guests – Gemma’s brother Oli (who completed his first marathon in London earlier this year in just a smidge over 4 hours, 4:02:16), Gemma’s mother-in-law, and host of the party, Margaret (who among other very athletic things had completed this year’s London Marathon in 4:43:53) and Steve Naylor (who, at the age of 32 and in only his second full season of club running, has become somewhat of a local celebrity by pretty much winning every race Oxfordshire has to offer) – so it was no surprise that there were a few running-related conversations.

With Juneathon on, I had taken my kit, looking forward to running somewhere our of Witney for a change.  Steve had brought his kit too and I was excited about the prospect of going for a run with the Steve Naylor.  Oli had also got his kit in the car but wasn’t so enthusiastic about joining us and Margaret was leaving her options open, having described to us a 5 mile loop, as we all headed for some sleep.

When the sound of the rain was accompanied by a text from Steve, who’d been trying to sleep in a tent, saying “Rain check on the run.  Things a bit wet over here + been up since 6am ish” the excitement drained and with it, took any motivation to go out in the wind and rain.  An hour later, and having just used the in-room coffee & tea making facilities to make The Wife a cup of tea I got another text:

“Dan, f*** it. I’m going to pop out for a run. You nearby..fancy it?”

The excitement and motivation couldn’t get back in my body quick enough.  I was like a kid who’d just been told he could play out in the snow!  So I replied, playing it cool:

“Go on then.  I’ll get changed and come to you.  See you in 5.”

We decided, on Rich’s advice (Gemma’s husband, Margaret’s son and birthday boy himself too) not to tackle the 5 miler described by Margaret but instead headed off through the village to see what we could find.  The first couple of k were nice and flat which allowed me to just about keep up with Steve’s toned-down, warm-up pace.  As someone used to running alone, it was a whole new experience for me, trying to maintain a conversation at the same time as gasping for air!

As we left the village at the 3k mark we started to ascend. At first not too steep and I felt good but I could feel myself slowing losing momentum.  I urged myself on past the point where I would have stopped if was on my own to show to Steve that a) I was thankful for his company on a run that must have felt like running on the spot to him and b) that I wasn’t completely rubbish at the thing that he is so amazing at!  I’m glad I did as the undulations allowed me to compose myself again and continued.

We turned right onto Canada Coombe, the ascent and undulations continuing.  The legs were getting tired now.  Steve decided to scout out the summit of the present hill (or rather, do some proper running allowing me to try to recover!) and report back, hopefully with the news that there was a cable car round the corner that would take us to the top or maybe a taxi to take us home!

I plodded on and watched aghast as Steve’s true pace was presented to me.  Now, I know Steve is quick.  I’ve watched him a number of times – from his first ever race where he unexpectedly but comfortably took the win, to the Bupa 10000 last month where he finished 22nd out of 10000 runners and only 90 seconds off GB olympian Mo Farah – but never before have I realised just how quick he is.  Maybe it’s because I had a much clearer reference point: he had just run along with me, round the same corners, up the same hills, and as I was beginning to slow, he had just disappeared into the distance at Warp Speed 9!

Luckily for me, as I stopped to catch my breath and give my legs a rest, Steve had quickly managed to work out that this hill just kept on going and returned, just as quickly as he’d left, telling me to turn around and enjoy some downhill running back to the village.

It was brilliant.  I felt the most knackered of any 5km I had ever run but it was great.  I felt like a competition winner who’d won the chance to have a kick about with David Beckham or a sparring session with David Haye.  I was a little star struck.  I knew that our run was nothing like the real thing but at the top of that hill I had got a glimpse of it.

So thank you Steve: for deciding to go out in the rain anyway, for allowing a mere mortal to run with you, for patiently running with me and for stretching me just that bit further than I would have done myself.


Thank You Labi Siffre

Good morning!  Hope you are well?  I feel fantastic.  Not quite sure why, I think it’s the Juneathon effect.  After a downer on Day 9 I am on the high of Day 11 – more than a third of the way through Juneathon now!

Last night The Wife and I had a lovely curry at Raj, our favourite of the many curry houses in Witney, and rolled our selves the short journey back home completely full of delicious delights!  Waking up to a sunny blue sky coming through the velux window only helps when you’ve got to get yourself running.

After a little distraction from The Wife, I grabbed my gear and set off without the help of my pal Nurofen (see the entries for Day 9 and yesterday) on the search for a 5km run.  I decided to try making up the route as I went with the help of my Nike+ running updates and my extensive knowledge of the roads of Witney.  It proved successful and I nearly managed to finish up the 5km bang on the driveway!

Before I set off I had the toe in my mind and was determined to show it who was boss.  My target was to cover the 5km in 27m30, a relatively comfortable pace for me, with a stretch target of 25m, which would be a season’s best.  Given the toe issues I wasn’t expecting much.

The first couple of km were tough but rewardingly quick and my initial target was looking well within grasp.  The middle of 5 kilometres was a little compromised by my choice of route and having to negotiate some town traffic but I felt good as I completed the fourth.  And then the best thing happened.

I have over 1700 songs on my iPhone that accompanies on my run, and on the shorter runs I let the Gods of Shuffle decide my listening fate.  And how!  As the lovely Nike+ woman completed her update at 4km (Does she have a name? Should I give her a name?) a new track was pulled out of the myriad of eclectic tunes I have hoarded over the years by the all-knowing.

Never before have I felt quite the surge of energy, happiness, determination and goose bumps.  All at once.  The timing was impeccable.  Some of you that are of a musical knowledge persuasion may have already guessed the track from my title: it was “(Something Inside) So Strong” by Labi Siffre.  If you don’t think you know it, look it up on You Tube, Google or Wiki – you will.  Used by many a charity telethon over the years the association with greater causes inspires you.  For some reason I hear the words more clearly than ever before which spurs me on even more.  I’m flying now.  “What about the bad toe?” I hear you ask.  What bad toe?

I reach the 5km feeling great.  Out of puff, but feeling great.  Awesome, I’ve definitely cracked the 27 and half minutes.  I check the exact time:

25 minutes 08 seconds

Wow!  As I double-take I am reliably informed by Paula Radcliffe that I’ve just recorded a best time for 5k.  Thank you Labi Siffre!

And thank you for reading.

The Toe Test

Those of you who are following my blog will know that my Juneathon efforts had a cause for concern yesterday.  I am pleased to report that I managed to get through the day with very little discomfort so after work, and Friday Big Shop, it was time to test the toe.

I pondered whether taping it up would assist but in the end tentatively slipped on my trainers without.  It felt ok.  Not too bad at all.  Perhaps the Nurofen Plus I had taken before Big Shop as a “just in case” was already working.

I set off with one target in mind – to successfully cover 3km without sustaining any further pain, damage or discomfort.  I am loving Juneathon and desperately want to complete the 30 days of exercise.  But not at all costs.

My bigger challenge is the 800 kilometres of running I am trying to cover this year to raise money for Maggie’s Centres – the distance between the proposed centres in Oxford and Aberdeen.  I also have a couple of personal goals along the way.  In two weeks I have the Thame 10k in which some friendly rivalry requires me to “hold my own” with members of The Wife’s family – I’m not going to beat the younger members who clocked sub-50 times last year but I’ve maybe got a chance with The Wife’s cousin Steve, just maybe ;-).  I then have the British 10k in London in July, my fourth time round the fabulous course, which is a real chance for a PB.

So as you can see I had a lot on mind as I set out.  I purposely chose to run in a compeltely different direction to my normal 3k lap I use for speedwork and set off at a moderate 6min/km pace.  Surprisingly the toe felt ok but I was very conscious that I was tense (and had obviously been tensely holding my whole leg all day).  Gradually I managed to relax and had a pleasant bimble around the centre of town.

After a super quick shower I logged and have now blogged so The Wife and I are off out for a curry to celebrate.  The toe test was a success so it’s full steam ahead with Juneathon!

Let the arms take the strain

Strangely, thanks to a busy day at work and a night of comedy yesterday, I am writing my second blog entry of the day.  This second installment is for today’s effort – Juneathon Day 9.

Even more strange is the fact that, during the afternoon something has happened to my right big toe and I have no idea what, when or how.  All I can say is that I began to feel my big toe more than I usually do.  I didn’t think any more about it but as the afternoon progressed the feeling turned to discomfort.  So much so that when I came to cross the car park at the end of the day I was walking with a fairly pronounced limp due to the mild pain.  I nervously hurried home so that I could take a proper look – what would I find?  A swollen mess?  A black toe nail?

Just a slightly red left-hand side of the offending toe, that bizarrely didn’t hurt to touch but sent a stab of pain every time I tried to walk on it.

Suddenly Juneathon looked under threat.  I could hardly walk,  let alone run on it.  I’d managed 9 days of running in a row (I ran on the 31 May too!) which is amazing as, until recently, I wouldn’t normally run 9 times in a month!

All was not lost however, as the Juneathon “rules” permit other exercise so, whilst I had secretly hoped to be able to run on every day in June, I took some Nurofen Plus and hit the swimming pool at the gym instead.

Now, I should make this very clear.  I can swim but I am certainly no swimmer.  I still remember securing my second and last swimming badge at secondary school – the coveted 25 metres!  I think it’s my technique – I just seem to swim very inefficiently.  It doesn’t help that my upper body strength is somewhat lacking.  If you want an image, picture the old Mr Muscle adverts – “loves the jobs you hate”.  In that case, can I substitute him in to do my Juneathon Day 9 swimming?  No?  Ok then.

We had planned to head to the gym together tonight so The Wife gallantly changed her plans and joined me in her comfort zone, the pool.  Over time we have noticed that we are polar opposites when it comes to swimming and running.  I can happily get the running shoes on and cover a 10k or more with consummate ease but The Wife has a hard time doing a few minutes on the treadmill.  When it comes to swimming, it’s a different story.  Where as The Wife can slip into her swimming cossie and swim lengths like they are going out of fashion, I’m there out of breath before I’ve even reached the other end of the pool!

It is a relative small pool (only 17m long) and is usually nice and quiet.  Sometimes we have been the only people in it.  Tonight however, it was somewhat busier which made it slightly trickier, as I attempted to politely keep out of everyone else’s way.  I had two benchmarks in my head.  The first was that I wanted to cover at least 10 lengths (a nice round number), the second was that I wanted to do at least 20 minutes of exercise to feel like I wasn’t cheating Juneathon.

With some positive encouragement from The Wife, as she zoomed up and down, I managed to cover 22 lengths in about half an hour.  A grand 374m, which for me is great, and all with virtually no jip from the troublesome toe – the only incident coming where I caught the middle-aged woman next to me with the end of a breaststroke kick.  Oops!

Back at home, and with a good (oven baked) fish and chips inside me, my toe is feeling much better.  Maybe it’s the Nurofen Plus, maybe it was the toe telling me I needed to give it a break but hopefully I can be back on track with running tomorrow.  In the meantime I’ll let the arms take the strain.

Thanks for reading.

Feeling the squeeze

Yesterday was a strange day.  A longer than expected day at work meant my Juneathon Day 8 run came under threat.  Getting home at 7pm and knowing I had to be out by 8pm to go to my local comedy club put a bit of added pressure on.  I hot footed it into my running gear and out the door for my 3km quick loop.

I wasn’t hoping for much as it had been a long day but there is something that can be said for running being used as a way of de-stressing.  It turns out, with the help of getting the day out of my system and knowing I still needed to stretch, shower, eat and go out I put in a PB not only for my 3km course (13m51, 23 seconds quicker!) but also recording my fastest 1km and 1 mile of this year!

There was no time to revel in the achievements as The Wife and I hot footed it out to Fat Lils for the Lil Fat Comedy Club to see the amazing Craig Murray (you’ll recognise him from the PlusNet broadband ads on TV) and the awesome Rufus Hound, who’s show was both deep and shallow and ultimately brilliant.

Time to squeeze in lunch now before back to work.  Day 9 is scheduled to be a visit to the gym this evening so look out for the second blog installment of the day later this evening.

Thanks for reading.

Gym before work

Last night’s quiz was more successful than first thought, ending up 3rd out of 7 teams, and winning a bottle of wine to boot!  Despite not consuming said bottle of wine it was difficult to get us this morning for an early visit to the gym.

I was accompanied by The Wife who had decided to go for a swim before enjoying a leisurely breakfast at her Mum’s – the joys of being on a career break!  Earlier this year The Wife (and I) decided to realign the work-life balance and she left her high-flying job as Commercial Director to take some time out to consider what it is she really wants to do now.

Amongst doing her good wifely duties she is also doing volunteer work for a local charity called the African Children’s Fund both in their shop but also behind the scenes, adding a commercially astute spin to their operations.  Thanks to her work you are now able to follow them on twitter and like them on Facebook!

I digress, back to the gym.  I started with a 1km cycle to warm-up before trying out the Mens Running 15 minutes treadmill routine (with another tweak to the speeds to push me a little more).  Much happier that the speed is set to push me, although I wasn’t thinking that at the time of doing the 15th minute!  Rounded up to 3km with just 45 seconds of extra running so jobs a good ‘un.

I’d best get back to work – I’m writing this in a late lunch break, having been hijacked by my very own Commercial Director this morning needing urgent reports for a board paper.  Do all Directors always need things at the last-minute, giving you no time to think about what you’re doing?  The Wife would certainly disagree!

Short but sweet

With a pub quiz to attend tonight I had to get home from work sharpish and get out on the roads.  With tired legs from yesterday it was always going to be a quick run tonight so I opted for a swift 3km to try to get some pace in my legs.  Tweaked the course slightly to reduce the twist and turns and came home in a reasonable 14m19s.

Not my quickest but, following my own advice from yesterday, it was my most consistent, with all three kilometres under 5 minutes.

Another positive to focus on is that I have now run for 7 days in a row (I know it’s only day 6 of Juneathon but I ran on the 31 May too) which is something I would never have dreamed of a year or so ago!

Going to have to head off to the pub (woohoo!) but before I go I would like to say thank you for all the positive feedback about yesterday’s blog via your comments and Tweets, especially to Zoe, Rachel and Ian.


Motivation and progress

Much fun was had yesterday with a small shindig at home (a late afternoon BBQ) followed by a short stroll into town for a few weekend beers.  A great time with friends meant a somewhat lazy start to the day and a decision to postpone my normal Sunday morning long run until the afternoon.  This time the decision was not wholly fueled by procrastination, but by the fact that it was probably better to allow a few extra hours of rehydration and detoxification!

The decision to postpone may have been sound but didn’t do anything to make the run any easier.

I’ve taken to listening to podcasts on my long runs in the vain effort to take my mind off the running and for the last few weeks I have been listening to the best bits of Rhod Gilbert’s Saturday morning Radio Wales show.  I love comedy and Rhod’s ramblings are inspired!  A debate about whether, if only one Chuckle Brother is present, do they fail to be recognised (in the same way as the philosophical whimsy that is “if a tree falls with no-one to hear it, does it make a sound”) made the first couple of kilometres easy-going.

Encouraging his flat mate and fellow Welsh comedian, Lloyd Langford, to apply for vacant Channel 4’s Countdown at the same time as attempting to become the new Honey Monster had me laughing out loud but at 4km my legs were hurting so much that I had to pause for a stretch.  Rhod’s musings of “Celebrity-out-of-context Bingo” unfortunately proved powerless and at 6km I again found myself stationary, thinking I might even struggle to reach 10km.  I was not amused.

I don’t like failing.

I was now oblivious to the podcast.  Instead all my concentration was shared between physically putting one foot in front of the other and mentally trying to find the motivation to continue.  Thankfully, the whole “left-right-left-right” thing comes naturally to me.  And when it comes to motivation I don’t have to look too far.

Firstly, I have my current fundraising challenge – I have to continue to say thank you to my current donors and to hopefully encourage more people to help raise funds for Maggie’s Cancer Centres to enable them to help more people who are touched by cancer.

Secondly, I have my own, slightly selfish, goal of satisfying my competitive spirit in trying to get to a point where I can beat my 10k PB.

And thirdly (and never before has the saying “and last but not least” held more significance), I remind myself that there are far greater things that some people have to endure than a bit of running.

My mind rewinds to just over 2 years ago, just a few months before the date for our planned wedding.  Memories of being asked to join The Fiancee (as she was then) so we could be told together that she had breast cancer, waiting nervously for her return from surgery, watching her having to go through weeks of chemotherapy, trying desperately to dissipate her nerves every time she has a follow-up appointment are all to0 easily recalled.  The Wife (as she is now, following a slightly postponed wedding), had to endure so much more than I can ever imagine that blows my running into insignificance.  Through it all her positivity was inspiring and helped me to remain strong for her.

It is all of this that flooded my body with renewed energy, the determination driving me on, helping me to go from stationary at 6km to completing a respectable 12km training run.

As I write this post I recall a piece of advice we were given two year’s ago by The Wife’s old boss:

“don’t focus on what you fail to achieve, but the things you have achieved”

Which gives me a hearty slap round the face and a wake-up call.  So I had to stop twice while out on my run today, so what.  I tell myself to look at what I have achieved in my latest bout of running:

I’ve clocked up 176km in just over 10 weeks.  I’ve never done that before.

I’ve run three 10k runs in 5 days in Central Park.  I’ve never done that before.

I’ve run 13km without stopping.  I’ve never done that before.

And today, I’ve run for the fifth day in succession.  I’ve never done that before.

It’s all progress.

I have an amazing wife, a lovely house, a good job and a great hobby that is running.  That’s all the motivation I need.  I am truly a very lucky man.

Thanks for reading, it’s been a bit heavier than I had intended my blog to be but just seemed right for today.

The nature of running

The Wife and I went up to a friend’s house for a few Friday night drinks and soon there were seven of us playing a game of Monopoly which turned into a marathon!  It’s the first time that I’ve seen sub-prime lending between players nearly bringing the game down.  It was just like watching the recession all over again,just without the quantitive easing!  Getting home at 1am was not ideal preparation for my planned early morning Juneathon run.

It was surprisingly easy to get up when the alarm went, mostly helped by seeing a tweet (my morning routine now involves checking Twitter as step 1 much to The Wife’s disgust!) from Mo Farah announcing his winning of the British and European 10,000m record and beating a strong field too.  How I wish I could have some of his pace!  It wasn’t until I saw him run at the Bupa 10000 that I realised just how fast he runs.

Another tweet caught my eye, this time from a fellow Juneathon runner @knittingpenguin (aka Travelling Hopefully), who was seemingly suffering from a touch of athletus procrastinatus (a chronic illness with many sufferers that luckily can be cured with a quick dose of NCourageMent™).  I’d got some left in the medicine cupboard so was happy to dispense them although, a few tweets later, I was fortunate to self diagnose the early signs of the illness and rapidly got my trainers on!

I wanted an easy run this morning, with one eye on my long run day tomorrow and the other on the creeping paranoia about running every day (given by a spell of shin splints some 8 years ago), so I headed for the local lake at a comfortable pace.

Duck Lake, named after the village of Ducklington it nestles next to, is a wonderful place to run.  The gentle hum of the A40 that provides the backing track soon continues unnoticed thanks to the harmony & melody that is the sights and sounds, respectively.  Today’s jaunt was fairly plain with the normal local inhabitants (ducks, swans, blackbirds, sparrows and the odd person walking a dog) going about their daily business.  It’s a few weeks since I’d been round the lake so it was nice to see the Cogges Farm lambs looking more grown up – was it wrong for me to lick my lips?  There were no surprise visits from the Heron and Deer that I have occasionally had the pleasure of running with but it didn’t matter – the lake and it’s surroundings had helped me get to 3km without even noticing.

It was at the 3km mark that the sights and sounds of Duck Lake gave way to the tantalisingly tempting smells emanating from the Fabulous Bakin’ Boys bakery.  Why do I do it to myself?  I know that I have a ridiculously rampant sweet tooth.  I also know that the Boys have been Bakin’ their Fabulous cakes, muffins and flapjacks for many a year just the other side of the A40 underpass that I have chosen to run through.  I can’t decide if it is fortunate or not that the smell soon disappears and allows my focus to return to running!

My very own Springwatch continued after a quick shower with some gardening – 7 shrubs needed planting into the new border where the great Leylandii once stood and the front hedge was not going to cut itself and let’s not forget the courgette plants that needed to join their vegetable cousins in the patch – and whilst their was no sign of Ratty, the water vole living in the stream at the bottom of the garden, I was under the very watchful eye of Mr & Mrs Blackbird, who were busy collecting worms for their brood nesting in one end of the front hedge (at least it meant I only had to trim half the hedge – I wouldn’t want to disturb the young family!) whilst a Pigeon tried his best to impress his very unimpressed partner.

I’ve written for far too long today and need to get some meat marinating for the BBQ we have planned this afternoon to follow the football.  Come on England!

Thanks for reading.

Day off but still running

Thanks to our flexible working scheme, I could enjoy a day off today having covered more than my 37.5 hours in the previous 9 working days.  So no excuses when it came to exercising for Day 3 of Juneathon.

Except for having a lay in.

And then going to the garden centre with The Wife to get some plants for the new border at the bottom of the garden, replacing a ridiculously overbearing leylandii.

Or going to our local pub for a late lunch (no alcohol though – I’m an athlete don’t you know!!).

Oh yeah, and then heading down to the corner shop, aka Waitrose, for the Friday Big Shop.

And the sun is still beaming down (the car thermometer said 26°C on the way back from shopping).

But these small suggestions of procrastination weren’t going to get in the way of Juneathon.  I can’t let the surprisingly-motivating bunch of people, who I’ve started to hang around with on the cyberspace street corners of the town called Twitter, down.  Certainly not after just 2 jogs, logs and blogs!

So at half 4 this afternoon, dragging The Wife along (she is always reluctant pre-workout but thankful afterwards), I headed to the gym.

I started with a quick warm up on the bike (to get the legs going and give me a chance to strap into the iPhone – at least that way I can listen to something half decent) before the short walk to the treadmill.  I’ve struggled with treadmill running as I get bored easily and cannot stop myself from continually checking my progress: “How far?  1.1km, cool.  What about now?  1.2km, oh.  Now?  1.3km.  Bored now”.

That was, until I read an article in the June issue of Mens Running (unfortunately not available online yet): it sets out a programme of fifteen 1 minute chunks.  Just right to keep my short attention span occupied.  I’m still tailoring it for my speed levels so I had to run a little longer to get to 3km.  After some stretches I then said “hello” to a distant acquaintance: the rowing machine!

I’d thought I’d go for a quick 10 minutes but after 5 minutes and 1000m my puny little arms were burning from the inside out so it was time to stretch, shower and meet up with The Wife after her swim.

Three days into Juneathon and I’m feeling really good.  Now it’s time to relax with a beer or two, apparently it’s good for – Runners World says so!