I can’t believe how fast this year has gone by so far. It seems just like yesterday that I was preparing to head off to Kenya and here I am 6 months later preparing to head off to Font Romeu for another training camp.
Since the beginning of the year I’ve; travelled 29,500 miles,
ran 2024 miles (to the beginning of this week)
raced 15 times,
won 7 of those races and came dead last in one,
recorded 3 PBs (and 1 unofficial PB),
gained 2 GB vests and 1 European vest,
won 1 European gold medal, 2 English championship silver medals and 1 British championship bronze medal!
Not too bad if I do say so myself.
During all of this there have been some great highs and along with the occasional lows. I’ve spoken about my early year lows in earlier blogs so I’m not going to go over that again. Going out to Kenya really changed my year around. I came back full of confidence and it showed in my spring racing. I carried that through to the summer and hit some good races.
Out of everything I’ve done so far this year the performance which means the most to me is finally winning the Blaydon Race. Blaydon is a huge race here in the North East. With 4000 competitors it’s the second biggest race in the region behind the Great North Run but to most of the local club runners it holds more esteem than the GNR. It has a grand tradition and the list of winners on the ‘Chainbridge Rose Bowl’ which now sits proudly on my mantel piece, is amazing and there’s even more legends listed on the men’s trophy.
I first ran Blaydon as a 16 year old back in 1995 where I won the u18 award. I absolutely loved the event and ever since then I have wanted to win the race. In the intervening 20 years I have only missed 4 runnings. I’ve had some nightmare runs but my highest finish before this year was 2nd when I was only 9 seconds behind Justina Heslop back in 2010.
This year I didn’t know what to expect. As usual there was a couple of Africans competing and I was standing on the start-line just 72 hours after a gruelling track 10,000m in 32 degrees heat!! As usual the start was crazy fast. I tried to hold back a bit as I wasn’t sure exactly how my legs were going to react. I knew it was going to be really good or really bad – no in-between! I found myself in the lead after just 400m and I never let it go. Going through 5k in 15.32 (unofficial PB – if only they had a timing mat there!) I did slow a little over the final 2.5 miles as we hit the few drags on the course but I held on for a convincing 31 second win and finally achieved my long time goal of winning Blaydon.
Coming into Blaydon was amazing and reminded me of last year’s Commonwealth Games. The crowd were loud and I had time to enjoy them. One of the best parts was seeing my 6 year old nephew cheering for me and jumping up and down with excitement. He came running over at the end shouting ‘you won, you won’. Mind you, he then spotted an inflatable slide and soon forgot about me! Kids!!!
There have been a lot of other amazing experiences – standing on top of the podium singing God Save the Queen with 3 other amazing team mates having won the European Team 10,000m is something that I’ll remember for a life time. It was a bitter sweet reward for what was a disappointing run for me. A race which we all described as the toughest of our lives, running in 32 degrees, was never going to be pretty. I set off steady with the hope of maintaining my pace rather than slow as the race went on. Unfortunately that didn’t work out and my last 3k was pretty much a death march. The finish area looked like a war zone with bodies sprawled out or curled up in the foetal position everywhere. 3 out of our 4 runners ended up semi-conscious or unconscious at the end. I wasn’t too bad immediately after finishing, I did have a little lie down, Lily helped me up but then I went out cold whilst walking back round to the kit area. I just wanted an early sleep! Everyone gave it their absolute all out on the track and whilst some, including me, where disappointed in their individual performance we all gave it everything for the team, each of us pushing through the pain knowing that every second counted and we were rewarded with the team gold.
Following my PB earlier in the year at Trafford I was very honoured to be selected to represent Team Europe at the AJC Peachtree Cup in Atlanta. This was a really amazing trip. Not many get the opportunity to represent Europe so when I got asked I jumped at it. The Peachtree 10k is the worlds largest 10k with 60,000 participants running the 6.2miles from Buckhead, Atlanta, straight down Peachtree Road to Piedmont Park. The course is pretty unique with only one turn in the whole distance which comes just before 6miles. It’s a tough little course with just under the first 3 miles downhill then a steady climb up to just before 6miles before you take that left-hand turn and a nice downhill finishing 600m. Being held on 4th July the crowds which line the streets are huge, even with the 7.20am start time and crap weather.
I didn’t run particularly well. Solid but not great. Times were down across the board in my race so I’m not too concerned about that, I knew I wasn’t in PB shape as I’ve missed a lot of training due to racing and travel the last month and a bit.
The whole weekend was amazing. I think until you experience it, you don’t really understand how much Americans really LOVE 4th July – it’s massive and it really added to the whole experience. On the Saturday night after the race we were lucky enough to be taken to watch the Atlanta Braves baseball match courtesy of Atlanta Track Club. We were hosted in the ATC suite (box to us Brits) where we had all the free food and drink you could ask for. I don’t think there is anything more American than watch baseball, whilst drinking Bud and eating pizza and hot dogs on 4th July!! I didn’t really understand what was going on on the pitch but I had a great night and met some lovely people and I’m hugely grateful that I was given this opportunity.
Unfortunately my journey home was a bit of a nightmare and I ended up with a 29 hour delay in Orlando!! Yes, a day in the sun in Orlando sounds great, but when you just want to get home it’s not the best. My flight involved a change in Orlando and after circling above the airport for over 30 mins waiting for a break in the weather, we had an aborted landing due to an electrical storm so we got diverted to Fort Myers. By the time the storm cleared and we got back up to Orlando my onward flight to Manchester had departed.
Thankfully Delta put me on the next flight which was the next night but as the diversion had been a result of the weather they did not provide a hotel for the night. Luckily I found a reasonably priced hotel, got some sleep and then spent the day by the pool before returning to the airport for my flight only for the airport to be closed again due to another storm which resulted in another 3 hour delay. Thankfully we eventually got on our way and after a glass of wine and a sleeping tablet the next thing I knew I was back in Manchester!
So, now focus has switched to marathon training again. I love marathon training. My favourite run of the week is the long run and during marathon training these runs really are long – 22-26 miles and I love them. Recently someone said to me that they get bored doing easy long runs. I don’t understand that – I couldn’t do it if it bored me. I totally love running. Yes it can bring some bad days, days when you are in heavy training and all you want to do is lie in bed and sleep for an extra hour but you drag yourself out and get the miles in as on the whole there’s more good days than bad and that’s how we achieve our goals and dreams. It rarely feels a chore or a job.
I would usually do a 12-14 week build up for a marathon but I figured that because I’m going into the build-up in pretty decent shape that I’ll cut this down to 10 weeks so that I don’t overdo things. I’d rather get to the start line slightly undercooked than overcooked or have to miss it because I’m injured.
Most of my training will be done in Font Romeu. I travel out there a week on Monday for 6 weeks. I’ve been very lucky to get the camp mostly funded by UKa, I only have to pay for my flights. I know I respond really well to altitude training so I’m looking forward to it. I will try my best to update more regularly whilst over there but if you want to keep track of my daily training I post it all on Strava https://www.strava.com/athletes/3167729 The hardest part of all will be trying to resist the almond croissants and Nutella crepes!!