Great North Run – Ordinary people doing extraordinary things

image

Growing up in the North East the Great North Run has always been a big thing.  Whenever people find out that you are a runner the first thing they ask is ‘have you done the Great North Run’ it doesn’t matter if you are a sprinter or a distance runner, you get asked it a lot round here.

For years I’ve went down to the finish line and stood and watched the finishers. The sense of exhaustion and triumph on their faces as they crossed the line is great. The emotion of those runners for great causes, many inspired by personally tragedy shows that this run is much more than just a race of who is fastest. It’s a run for the masses. The elites are really just the sideshow.

My Dad finishing the very first Great North Run

My Dad finishing the very first Great North Run

Those who have ran the GNR always say how fantastic the crowds are and what a brilliant atmosphere the run has – a 13.1mile party.  Until this year my experiences of the race where slightly different to most peoples. In previous years I have ran the GNR starting with the elite women’s field.  As we get a 25minute ‘head start’ on the rest of the runners we get a different experience of the race.  We get bussed in to the start where we have our own special warm up area and toilets. We don’t have to hand our bags over until about 15 minutes before we start and we can get to the start line with just 10 minutes to go and still get a prime position on the front with no standing around in cramped pens for over an hour.

The downside to running with the elites is that the crowds haven’t built up along the route so when most runners report back about fantastic crowds and the party atmosphere, for me as an elite runner; it is more of an everyday half marathon.  Yes, because it is a North East institution, it holds a bit more honour to me.  Being able to tell locals that I once finished 8th in the Great North Run holds a lot more prestige than saying I finished 19th in the World Championships!

Runners playing sardines on the Metro from Sunderland to Newcastle

Runners playing sardines on the Metro from Sunderland to Newcastle

With picking up an injury in Glasgow, I knew that I wasn’t in shape to race the GNR, I hadn’t manage to complete a full week of running since then, so I requested that I could use my number to run in with the ‘masses’ and run around with some of the lads I am coaching.  One of the lads was looking for sub 80 minutes but he has a really bad habit of going off far too fast so I said I would run with him at 6.05 pace for as long as I could manage to help him run a more controlled race.

I was really looking forward to the whole experience. From getting Metro through to the high 5’s and oggy oggy oggys around the course, I knew that if doing this didn’t help me fall back in love with running then nothing would!

Runners streaming through Haymarket Metro station

Runners streaming through Haymarket Metro station

The whole day was amazing. I’ve never seen so many people on one Metro!  Hundreds of runner nervously chatting and laughing discussing time targets and charity fundraising, I sat and soaked it all in.  One advantage of having run in the elite race is knowing where the ‘secret’ toilets are. Andy had also found these in the past once we got to the start area we heading over to a queue less and more pleasant toilet stop!

As soon as we started heading down the central motorway I noticed the difference in the size of the crowds.  I commented to the lads around me that the women normally only have one man and his dog at this point! Coming onto the Tyne Bridge the crowds were huge but my Sweatshop Running Community runner, Jacqui, managed to spot me and give me a massive shout and the first of my many waves and high 5’s!

Start line selfie

Start line selfie

I totally loved the run. I did what I said I would do and kept Andy at the right pace for him to record a massive 8 MINUTE PB!  Apart from struggling a little on the hill between 10.5-11.5 mile I spent my time high 5’ing, clapping and squirting the kids in the crowd with water – it was a warm day after all!  By the time I finished my hands were sorer than my feet. The crowds were so much bigger than any other time I had ran it.  I know fully understand why people describe it as a 13.1mile party.  I finished with a massive grin on my face having loved every step.

Had I ran with the elites and still ran the time I did, I would have won some prize money, nothing life changing but a nice little bit of pocket money.  Yeah, that would have been great, but for me this run wasn’t about winning prizes or seeing how fast I could go. It was about getting out there and soaking up the atmosphere of the day, experiencing what nearly 1,00,00 runners before me had experienced and ENJOYING it! It might sound cheesy but it did remind me why I love running and no amount of money could buy that!

When I finished I stood and watched for the millionth finisher to cross the line.  The fact that the run was the first running event in the WORLD to ever record 1,000,000 finishers says great deal about the event. And show what a great event it is (pardon the pun!)  Ok, not everyone will have had a brilliant experience, I know one that didn’t, but 1,000,000 people can’t be wrong!

The 1,000,000th runner crosses the finish line

The 1,000,000th runner crosses the finish line

So, yes, the GNR did what I had hoped it would and it helped me fall back in love with running.  Since then I have managed to put two good weeks of training together.  I’m still doing most of my morning training on the cross trainers but this is slowly getting less and less whilst the miles are building up.  I still nowhere near the fitness I would like to be but I’m going to jump into the deep end and run the Northern Road Relays for my club tomorrow.  There’s nothing like a race to help bring on your fitness.  I am fully expecting to get my butt well and truly kicked but that’s something which I am willing to take at this point to help me move forward and closer to my goals for the rest of the year and early next year.

400m to go and still smiling - not often you say that at this stage in a half marathon!

400m to go and still smiling – not often you say that at this stage in a half marathon!

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Two steps forward, one step back

I can’t believe it’s more than a month since I ran in Glasgow. In some ways its feels like it was just yesterday but in other ways it feels like a lifetime ago.

The 5 weeks since the race have not been the best.  I enjoyed some down time straight after the race and didn’t do a spot of exercise for 2 weeks to make sure that I was fully recovered both mentally and physically.

Two weeks after the race I plodded round my local Parkrun.  I expected to feel a bit achy and unfit and boy was I not wrong!  With regards to the injury, the Achilles was tight and a little uncomfortable but not painful – good news!

The following week I eased my way back into training cross training every morning and doing some short runs (4/5 miles) every evening.  Slowly I started to get my running legs back and by the weekend I was even getting down to a decent pace.

Mind you, my abuse of the 24 hour food hall in Glasgow was really telling so much so that whilst out on a small ‘training run’ with my 5 years old nephew he asked me why my legs and belly wobbled when I ran! What’s the saying? From the mouths of babes…

Eating pizza and cake at midnight very day for a week took its toll!!

Eating pizza and cake at midnight very day for a week took its toll!!

Unfortunately, as training continued to build back up my body started to get more and more unhappy and let me know by developing aches and pains all over.  The injured Achilles wasn’t too bad and seems to be recovering well but the rest of my body – the left Achilles, the right ITB/hip flexor/TFL and most importantly the LUNGS were starting to protest.

I struggled on for a week hoping that things would work their way out and the body would start feeling good again but it never and I made the decision to stop running again and increase the cross training and also get back in the pool for some pool running.  You know it’s bad when you turn to pool running!!

The roller-coaster style road is much more fun than the smooth road...HONEST!!

The roller-coaster style road is much more fun than the smooth road…HONEST!!

So these last few days I have not ran a step but bashed the life out of my cross trainer and ‘ran’ many lengths of the local pool.  Both of these are mind-numbingly boring but are the next best thing to actual running when you are injured.  The one good thing about the cross trainer is that it is in my dining room so I don’t have to travel to the gym to use it and I can just pop on an episode (or 2 or 3) of Breaking Bad on the iPad and get on with it.

Pool running is a little closer to actual running than the cross trainer but it is honestly the most boring activity in the whole world! At least on the cross trainer I can watch things on the iPad, you can’t do that in a pool.  In the pool I always end up playing ‘how long till I look at a clock’.  It’s never very long but feels like a lifetime.  Somehow as soon as you put the pool running float around your waist all concept of time changes and a second turns into a minute, a minute into an hour and an hour into a day.  ‘Running’ for an hour takes what seems a lifetime!

The good thing is though, as it is none impact you can work really hard and do a session almost every day.  The last few days I have been doing sessions consisting of a 10-15minute warm up then hard efforts of 20x30seconds with 20seconds recovery then a 10-15minute warm down.  This week I plan on adding some pyramid sessions in, doing things like 4 sets of 30secs/60secs/90secs/180secs/90secs/60secs/30secs all with 30seconds recovery.

Most of you are probably thinking that 20 and 30seconds recovery isn’t very much, especially after a 2minute rep.  But in the pool you need to make sure that your heart rate doesn’t drop too much between reps.  You won’t hit heart rates as high as when training on land as your body is being partially supported by the water so to get the best out of the session you need to keep the recoveries really short and the heart rate as high as possible.

The road to your goal is never smooth.

The road to your goal is never smooth.

As well as doing the pool running and cross trainer sessions I will also be doing some runs on an evening.  I’ve found that running first thing on a morning is not agreeing with my body as it isn’t warmed up enough and still quite stiff.  So delaying my runs until the evening will allow my body to wake up, stretch and iron out any ‘kinks’ and stiffness built up over night. As I slowly build the runs up again I will start to drop the pool running sessions.  I know I said that this is closer to actual running than the cross trainer, but it is costing me a fortune to keep using the local pool every day!  The mixture of physio/massage and using the pool could very quickly have me bankrupt!

Whilst I don’t really have any future race plans as yet, I do hope to run the Great North Run next weekend.  I don’t plan to race it, just run in with the masses and experience the ‘other side’ of the event.  I imagine it will be a completely different experience running with the masses as opposed to running with the elite women where the chances are that I end up running the whole way by myself.  I’m going full hog on the whole experience and getting the Metro through with friends, waiting in the pens and even going to shout a few ‘Oggy, Oggy, Oggy’s’ in the underpasses! I’m even contemplating carrying my phone and taking a few selfies along the way!  I’m really looking forward to it.  It’s good to have some fun and remind myself the true essence of the event and running in general.  If that doesn’t reignite my love for the sport then nothing will.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Commonwealth Games Marathon

Leading the Commonwealth Games Marathon for 15km and feeling awesome whilst doing so is an experience which I will never forget. The next 4 miles are something which I also never want to forget but for completely different reasons.

I watched the mens marathon start 28minutes before us and loved that Steve Way had a 5 meters lead on the field after about 2 minutes of running. I said to my team mates “if I’m in the lead at any point in the first mile please shout at me” little did i know that I would actually end up there for nearly an hour!

The way I want to remember my Commonwealth Games experience

I’d studied the field beforehand and thought if I played things right on the day that I could be in with an outside chance of a medal. From the training I had done I knew I was in PB shape and looking at past results from Commonwealth marathons that would put me in with as good a chance of a medal as anyone.

As we settled into the race I found myself at the front of the group leading it out alongside Susan Partridge. Susan and I have raced against each other on numerous occasions and I knew that she was also in great shape and looking for a medal. We rolled along to the superb cheers of the crowds churning out 5.48minute mile splits and I was honestly feeling like I was jogging. There was a few sections where we hit a little bit of a headwind and on one or two occasion I did look round to the pack to see if anyone wanted to come forward to help at the front. Of course no-on offered, so I happily carried on leading.

Having fun in Glasgow

I had hoped that the people of Glasgow would support the race well and they certainly did. People lined the streets with flags and banners, including at least 3 which I saw with my name on. Going through the City Centre and the parks was amazing. The crowds were so big and loud that they made your ears pop.

Unfortunately for me, Pollok Park is where it all started to go wrong. The amount of training you put your body through to make sure that you are in the best possible shape come a big race always leaves you walking a tightrope of fitness and injury. Entering Pollok Park I overstepped that line.

I felt my right achilles start to tighten but I tried my best to ignore it and hoped that it would disappear as quickly as it had came on. Unfortunately it didnt. I pushed on a little through the park and on the rolling hills managed to break our lead group down from 10 to 7 as we left the park. At the 15k feed station the Kenyans put in a burst which instantly dropped myself, Susan, Lanni (Marchant) and Jess (Trengrove). But as the pace picked up, so did the pain in my achilles. I knew I couldn’t sustain the faster pace (it was a 5.23 split) and my achilles wasn’t liking that I was up on my toes that little bit more trying to run faster so I made the conscious decision to ease back down to my own more comfortable pace. The next two miles were much more realistic pace for me but I was still badly aware of my achilles. The pain grew and grew to the point where I was struggling to land the foot without being in extreme pain. This was not in the race plan!!

The agony and realisation that I wasn't going to be able to finish

Approaching 12 miles and all I could think about was the pain in my achilles. I was running in the Commonwealth Games Marathon and failing to finish was becoming more and more of a reality. I spent the next mile and a bit fighting with myself, trying to convince my body that it was ok and the pain wasn’t real. I only had another 13.1 miles to run, I could get through it.

Running through the start/finish area to enter the 2nd lap was one of the worst things ever. The crowds were huge and extremely loud and instead of being able to soak it all in and enjoy it here I was crying my eyes out and visibly limping and in distress.

About 1km into the second lap I stopped to try and stretch the achilles. It gave me slight relief but within 5 strides of starting up again the pain was unbearable. I hobbled for a little longer before it got to the point where I couldn’t actually put my foot down and I knew it was game over.

I went to my knees in floods of tears, my world crashing down around me. I was inconsolable. My dreams of a Commonwealth medal had turned into the nightmare of letting everyone down.m

A volunteer tried to help me up but someone in the crowd stopped them. Through my sobs I heard someone say “Aly, its Mara” It wasn’t until I managed to control the tears enough and get myself off the course that I realised I had stopped right in front of Mara Yamauchi.

Mara helped me into a nearby cafe and rang the England team management to let them know what had happened and request the Dr or Physio to come up and see me. The physio eventually got there and strapped me up before taking me back to the medical centre and then on to the Village. As soon as we got back to the village I was taken into the polyclinic for a scan.

Thankfully the scan didn’t show up any achilles damage but there was a lot of swelling and fluid between the paratendon and the achilles. I was given really strong pain relief and anti-inflammitories and given crutches to use to not over load the achilles.

Enjoying village life

The good news is that we have some of the best medical support here with us so I am getting intensive treatment twice daily which is ensuring a speedy recovery. Ive already been able to ditch the crutches as the pain and swelling has gone down. I’ve been in for another scan to double check everything. The 2nd scan has shown up some tendonopathy in both Achilles with the left one being the worst and showing a 60% thickening of the tendon. Thankfully I can still get back into running again after my planned 2 week break, but it will be a very gradual increase in miles starting with small runs and lots of swimming/cycling.

It’s now been 6 days since the marathon and whilst the Achilles pain has subsided the pain in my heart hasn’t. I will always be happy and proud to have made it this far but I will also be forever gutted with the outcome of the race. I have no plans to stop though and I’ll use the disappointment from this race to fuel future success. I like the sound of racing in China, Brazil and England over the next 3 years and who knows maybe even Australia in 4 years. We’ve got two great athletes in Jo and Helen who are proving that age is just a number so as long as my body behaves itself I’m willing to give the next four years a good old go!

Goofing around in the stadium with the marathon gang

In the meantime, I am loving the rest of the games. I’ve been down to the stadium to watch fellow athletes and it was great on Tuesday night watching the 10,000m where my roomie and fellow North East athlete Kate Avery had an awesome run to finish 4th and another North East athlete Laura Weightman ran excellent to take silver in the 1500m. I couldn’t be more proud of these two having watched them race and improve through the ranks since they were under 13, its great to know that North East distance running is in safe hands for the next championship cycles.

I’ve no immediate race plans just yet, but I will be back out there as soon as I can. I would love to be able to run the GNR in some capacity but I’ll have to wait and see how the Achilles responds once I start running again.

I’ll sign off with once more saying a HUGE MASSIVE THANK YOU to everyone who has taken the time to send me messages of well wishes and support pre/during/post the race. I honestly thought I had let everyone and my country down on Sunday but you lot have been great in making me realise that I didn’t and that you are all very proud of me for making it to where I am. I know there are trolls and hater out there but at the end of the day this just show that you have successful and these people are more jealous than anything.

 

Escape from the Village into the 'real world'

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Village life

As theres not much to do these last few days before my race I have time to get another quick blog up.

Arriving at the Village

Arriving at the Village

The atheltes village is amazing – its like Disney World for athletes. It has everything you would ever need – a MASSIVE food hall which can seat 2014 people at any one time and caters for every taste and is open 24/7, a gym, a poly clinic which can look after almost everything you may ever need looking after, loads of games/entertainment areas with games consoles, football, tables, pool tables etc, a beauty salon (which is free!), loads of cafes and even a pub.

The main dining hall

The main dining hall

The rooms are basic but comfortable. Our house sleeps about 30 people split over about 12 rooms. Most rooms are twins with some being triples or even 5. The larger rooms have ensuite facilities but the smaller ones have shared facilities.

The Lions Den

The Lions Den

Life in the village is pretty laid back. Standard attire is national kit, at the minute consisting mainly of shorts and tshirts/vests. I cant actually believe how hot is it here in Glasgow just now – hopefully it wont be as hot on Sunday morning though!

Youth drama group in the international plaza

Youth drama group in the international plaza

Last night was the opening ceremony. It involved a lot of waiting around for our turn to march on and we actually watched most of it on iphones at the Lions Den back in the village before starting our march quite late on.

One of the many entertainment areas

One of the many entertainment areas

Iv’e read a lot of criticism about the ceremony, people saying it was cringey and not up to much.  Like I say, we missed most of it, but for me as an athlete, the experience of marching in to the stadium and hearing the roar that the crowd made for us is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I had shivers down my spine and the hairs on my arms were standing up. I wouldn’t swap that for anything in the world.  I think the experience is something that is hard to fully understand unless you experience it yourself.

In the Lions Den ready for the opening ceremony

In the Lions Den ready for the opening ceremony

It a big day in the village today as the Queen is having lunch in the main dinning hall. I’d imagine that it will be quite mental around there as people try to get a cheeky selfie with her!

Opening ceremony march on selfie

Opening ceremony march on selfie

I’m now just 3 days from my race so its time to get my head down and really focus on my performance.  To help with this after today I will be coming off social media so that I am not getting any outside distractions.  Please feel free to continue to send me messages of good luck etc but please don’t think I am being rude if I do not reply to you.  I really truly appreciate all of the support I get from you guys – THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.

Right now its Games time – BRING IT ON!!!!!

Says it all

Says it all

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Team England holding camp

Just a quick one today to give you a little bit of an idea of what a day in the life at the Team England holding camp consists of.

I arrived at the camp in Manchester on Thursday afternoon.  After checking into my room, I went down and checked out all of the facilities available.  We don’t have the hotel to ourselves but there is a large area on the groundfloor which is for exclusive use for the team.  This area has some nice comfy sofas, a large screen to watch TV/movies and a smaller screen linked into a games console.  There is also a table football and table tennis table to keep us entertained.  Snacks such as fruit/nuts and cookies are out for us all day which facilities to make smoothies as well as tea and coffee.  We have quite a large medical room with physios and massage therapists and a a room with an ice bath facility should we need that after training.

Team England holding camp in Manchester

Team England holding camp in Manchester

All of our meals are held in the ‘hub’ area.  Meals have been great so far with a good selection of hot and cold choices plus dessert which i have been very good in avoiding too much of so far!

As I’m in full on taper mode now training has been pretty limited.  My first day here I did a little bit of exploring and found a loop about 2.25miles round the hotel and surrounding area so did that twice then added a little extra on to make up my 5 miles.  Some of the other endurance athletes managed to find the local canal which is only about a mile away so even though I don’t have many miles to do here it will be a good alternative to pounding the tarmac.

Saturday I was down for 5k at marathon pace so myself and fellow marathoner Steve Way went across and ran Heaton parkrun.  I was a little worried about the route having read the course description and the mention of  ‘angina hill’.  Luckily it turned out to be nowhere near as bad as I imagined it to be and I survived it, even running a little faster than expected but thankfully without putting in any extra effort – happy days.

Myself and Steve Way after a very wet Heaton parkrun on Saturday

Myself and Steve Way after a very wet Heaton parkrun on Saturday

Sunday was my final longish run, which when you compare it to my long runs the last few weeks was actually not very long at all at just 13 miles.  I set off with the rest of the endurance group and headed for the canal.  The lads soon pulled away from me as we hit a lovely cross section and I slipped and slided my way through the mud with fear of slipping and ending in the canal.  The plan was just to do 6.5 miles out, turn round, and head back but when I got to a pitch black tunnel I was too scaredy cat to run through it and turned round a little early adding on a 1 mile out and back in the other direction.

In between training most of my time has been spent chilling out watching episodes of Breaking Bad or sport on TV.  Apart from relaxing in the spa facilities the only other thing I have done other than train is walk the half mile up to Sainsburys to buy a laundry pen to mark all of my kit.

Holding camps are designed to help the athlete put the final touches to their training and to begin their mental preperations and so far that is what I have been doing.  I fly up to Glasgow on tuesday afternoon and thats when it will all hit that this is actually all real!!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Final preparations.

As I’m now entering my final hard week of training I thought I’d get another blog posted up to let everyone know how things have gone and I’m pleased to report that so far things have gone very well.  I’m not going to sit and say that I have had a perfect build up with no mishaps as I haven’t and to be fair I think I’d be more worried if I had as I’d rather get any issues over and done with before race day.

Good luck Team England signed by 100s of school kids from across the country

Good luck Team England signed by 100s of school kids from across the country

Since having to miss a few days of training with a cold at the beginning of June I’ve put together some great mileage weeks and some very good long tempos and long runs as well as a solid half marathon on what turned out to be a tough course with lots of cobbled sections.

Whilst I’ve had a few days where I have had to ease off on the pace of runs or cut run lengths down due to having tired legs I have been lucky not to have any niggles or injury issues which have forced me to take rest days.  Every runner goes through tired periods and for most we can reduce our pace and plod on through but there are times when you need to listen to what your body is telling you and be sensible and take a rest day/afternoon/morning.  If this does happen it is important not to try and catch up on those miles missed and remember that you missed them for a reason!

I’m really lucky to have a great group of guys from my club who are happy to help me out with training where possible.  This was particularly helpful last week when I did my 15 mile tempo.  As anyone who has done long tempos themselves will know, keeping to pace over that distance on a Thursday night can be hard.  Luckily I had programmed (handy that I write their programmes for them) the lads to do a 5 mile tempo that night so decided to do my tempo as 3 x 5mile loops so that I could get them to run relay fashion round the full distance.  It worked out really well with Steve, Steven and Michael getting me round the first lap bang on the pace I asked for.  I then picked up the pace on the second lap with the help of Andy and Steve.  The 3rd lap we were joined by a talented local young athlete Oliver James for a few miles. Focussing on his tanned legs was a much better sight than Andy’s milk bottles!  Steve also very kindly kept on going right to the end to drag me round the last few difficult miles.

The Sunday after my 15 mile tempo I did my longest run of the programme covering the full marathon distance.  I did this length training run for the first time last year before running Brighton Marathon and felt it was really beneficial not only as a great confidence booster but also for practicing drinks and race day kit.  I had my dad on the bike with me to give me my drinks every 5k which is where you generally get them on race day and I managed them all really well.  The route I used was quite hilly so I started off quite steady and then picked up as I went along.  I was really pleased with my last 10k all being around 6min miles without really trying.

Having fun at the kitting out day at St George's Park

Having fun at the kitting out day at St George’s Park

Of course it’s not been all training the last few weeks.  I’ve had a lovely trip down to St Georges Park to pick up all of my kit for the Games.  It’s the first time I have been to St Georges Park and the FA certainly has a brilliant facility there.  The long driving day was certainly worth it for all the great kit I got.  Usually with your GB kit you get a form emailed to you, you tick your size boxes, send it back and a box of kit arrives a few days later.  For the Games we had to go to a kitting out day so that we could try on each individual item of kit to make sure it all fitted correctly.  They had seamstresses on hand to make any alterations, which being 5 foot and size 6, I needed on most items!!

As well as collecting all of your kit the day also allowed us to go through some familiarisation about what will be happening in Glasgow.  We got to see pictures of the athlete village and watched a video by Beth Tweddle telling us what to expect.  This was great as it helped answer a few questions and put some nerves to rest.  We also got some more information on anti-doping and went through a few more arrangements for the holding camp to be held in Manchester.

With fellow runners and some of the Gateshead FC players at BUPA Great North 10k launch

With fellow runners and some of the Gateshead FC players at BUPA Great North 10k launch

I’ve also done a few promo events.  The first one was the launch of the BUPA Great North 10k at Gateshead Stadium.  I did this race for the first time last year and really enjoyed it despite the hill in the last 1km! I’m doing it again this year but I’ll not be racing it flat out as it is only 2 weeks before the marathon and I plan on running through to the start as part of my long run.

The other promo event I did was the launch of the Go the Extra Mile Day as part of the Go Smarter to Work campaign.  Basically this project encourages youngsters to ditch the car or bus and walk/cycle/run/scoot to school on July 9th.  You can register your trip online and the school who clocks the highest miles that day wins a prize along with youngsters also getting individual prizes.

Launching the 'Go the extra mile' cycle/rub/walk/scoot to school day with local school kids

Launching the ‘Go the extra mile’ cycle/rub/walk/scoot to school day with local school kids

The next 10 days will be spent getting final little bits and pieces sorted before heading down to Manchester for the holding camp on 17th July.  That’s when the reality of it all will really kick in and the nerves will start to build.  Thankfully everyone there will be going through the same and the staff know and understand exactly how the athletes will be feeling.  We will have a full medical back up team so any last minute phantom niggles can be sorted straight away and basically all we will have to worry about is training, recovering and eating.  Of course when in a situation like that you have to be careful that you don’t just eat for the sake of it and over do things.  That can wait until July 28th when I will be taking full advantage of the FREE 24 hour food hall – I can’t wait!!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Glasgow here I come!!!!

19 years ago I was sat in a classroom at Thornhill School writing my ambitions page for my end of school record of achievement.  On that page I wrote that I would like to become a physiotherapist or a PE teacher or if I stuck in with my athletics and train really hard become a full time athlete and one day represent my country at the Olympic or Commonwealth Games at the marathon.

The PE teaching went out of the window after a couple of weeks work experience in a local senior school during college showed that I would probably be up on an assault charge if the kids gave me as much cheek as they did their teachers in that school!  A few years later the physio dream followed the same path out of the window when I didn’t gain a place on degree course.

Instead I studied sport and exercise development at uni, graduated and got a job in sports development followed by a job in running retail.  Throughout all of this though I did stick in with my athletics and trained damn hard and over the years I’ve been rewarded for this work with some good results and the honour of representing my country on 6 occasions.

Now, 19 years on from writing that ambitions page I have eventually achieved one of the things I set out to back then.  I am very honoured, proud and extremely excited to finally be able to announce that I have been selected to represent England at this summer’s Commonwealth Games in the marathon.

The journey to success will never be smooth, but it would be no fun if it was!

The journey to success will never be smooth, but it would be no fun if it was!

Whilst I’ve already represented GB at three World Championships, to finally get the chance to compete at a big multi-sport championships is very exciting.  The last 20 odd years of running has never been a smooth journey, in fact it’s had more ups and downs than the biggest rollercoaster at Alton Towers, but to be honest, I wouldn’t want it any other way.  I’ve never had anything handed to me on a plate; I’ve had to work damn hard for everything I’ve ever achieved.  I’ve spent time in both Ethiopia and Kenya living in what most Westerners would call poverty, but it’s toughened me up, it’s made me the athlete and most importantly the person I am today.  These trips opened my eyes to the fact that if you want something bad enough and you are willing to put the hard work in then you will achieve it.

Tweet from editor of Athletics Weekly after this years World Half Marathon Championships.

Tweet from editor of Athletics Weekly after this years World Half Marathon Championships.

Two of the toughest weeks of this journey have been the last two. Anyone who may have ever doubted my ability to keep a secret should never doubt again. I was given the good news of my selection nearly two weeks ago but I was told I had to keep it secret for a week until the team was officially announced.  However,  due to unforeseen circumstances the week turned into two and just as I thought I was going to burst keeping it all in they finally made the announcement just short of two weeks after letting the athletes know. This has seriously been one of the toughest two weeks of my life!!  Keeping this quiet for the last two week has been horrendous.  All I’ve wanted to do is shout it from the rooftops.  I’ve had friends, family and strangers asking me if I’ve heard anything and all I could tell them were that the team would be announced on Monday and then that there had been a delay and it would be announced in due course.

A lot of people saw my selection as a formality but until you get that phone call and then the email confirming everything you never let yourself get sucked into these ‘formalities’ as anything can happen to make things change.  Now I know for definite I can fully concentrate on my training and make sure that I get to the start line in the best possible shape.

I’ve already had people asking me what I’m aiming for at the Games and the honest truth is I don’t know.  This is a major championship marathon and as any marathon geek will know, anything can happen at these events.  You can go into the race ranked outside the top 20 and come away with a medal just the same as someone ranked highly can come near the back of the field.  All I can say is that I will be doing everything possible under my control to make sure that I get to the start line fit and healthy and then I will give it my absolute all on the day.  I plan to leave every part of me out on the roads of Glasgow on July 27th.  If that is good enough to earn me a medal then that would be fantastic, if it’s not then it’s not the end of the world.  As long as I walk(or crawl) away from Glasgow Green and can honestly say that I couldn’t have possibly given any more then whether that places me 3rd, 13th or 33rd  that is all what I can ask from myself and I will be happy and proud.

Needless to say, I am very excited about everything that is happening but right now.  There is all the exciting bits (not that training isn’t exciting!) like going to the kitting out day and receiving all of your kit, but I need to remember that there is still a lot of hard training to be done between now and July 27th and this has to be my priority and not let anything jeopardise this otherwise there could be tears come race day!

Commonwealth Games logo sculpture in Glasgow George Square.

Commonwealth Games logo sculpture in Glasgow George Square.

With confirmation of my place at Glasgow I can now also confirm my race schedule up until the Games.  On Wednesday night I will run the local Newburn River Run as my weekly tempo session.  It’s a shorter tempo as this weekend I am over in the Czech Republic racing the Olomouc Half Marathon.  I’m not looking for any earth shattering run at this race and I think a PB will probably be just out of reach at this point of training but I am looking for a good strong run.  After this I will be running the Tyne Bridge Harriers 5 mile road race, again as a tempo session and then my final tune up race will be the Great North 10k at Gateshead two weeks before the marathon.  The Gateshead 10k will most likely be one of my crazy ‘run 14 miles to the start’ races to prepare the body for running hard and hopefully fast, on tired legs.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment