Training: Running in the dark

Dark Days…

It’s hard to go out of the door for a run. Even harder in the winter when it’s cold. Harder still when you’ve been at work all day and can’t get put until 9pm, in the pitch black. So it was summoning all will power possible that I laced up, opened the door and stepped out on the the already ice encrusted grass.

My village only has street lights on the ‘main’ streets, so between these I run with a small headtorch to light up the way (and the pot-holes). I always feel like this leaves me a little exposed, to an observer in the dark I am a light bobbing along at head height.

I am always reminded of this Bat For Lashes video:

The session:

Ran a 10 min slow pace to warm up before upping the pace to 6 minute miles for 10 mins. Then I ran easy for another five minutes. Then I ran up to a road that’s around 400 metres long with a 50 metre steep hill at the end. I ran 4x 400 metres, sprinting up the 50m hill each time and with a 1 min rest between each. Then ran an easy 2 mins before doing 2x more 400 metres. Each of the 400′s was run in 1:15.

So a bit of a combination of things really last night; easy run, hill sprints, faster paced lengths. Well, when you’re running around suburban monotony in the dark, you have to do something to keep it interesting!!

Next Training

Nothing today due to other commitments, so a 6-7 mile run tomorrow, followed by 12-14 miles on Sunday.

Peace out.



Training: Hill Repeats (aka lung destoyers!)

Oh. My. God. I have never felt so lung-achingly, leg wobblingly, head-spinningly exhausted as I did after last night’s hill session!

It went like this:

As usual the club (Purbeck Runners) met outside The Crows Nest pub in Swanage. Such a sight to see 40-50 hi-vis jacketed people gathered on the corner, before the various groups went their separate ways!

Our hill session group ran for 10 minutes to warm up, before gathering at the foot of a quiet residential street for the main session. The chosen hill has a medium incline and is approximately 150 metres long, which appears easy at the beginning of the hour, but soon turns tricky.

Hill repeats on Bay Crescent

The scene of my pain!

Basically, we ran up the hill as fast as we could twenty times. However the 20 lengths were divided (as far as I could tell!) in to 4 sets of differing lengths. For five repeats we’d sprint halfway up the hill. The next five it would be all the way to the top, the next two thirds of the way up, then all the way to the top again. Between each length was a 1 minute ‘rest’ as we walked/jogged back down to the bottom of the hill.

I can tell you, for the first 1-10 runs I was confidently sprinting each repeat at around 90% effort. But by the 15th repeat my breath was catching, my ears had blown (they do that when I’m breathing hard!) and my legs were getting a bit shaky. By repeat number 19, I could barely breathe or move my legs, but in one final effort I forced myself up to the top of the hill, as fast as my now near-useless legs would take me.

After that 2oth was done we warmed down and it took me a good ten minutes to get my breath back – but boy did the beer in the pub afterwards taste good ; )

When it hurts that much it must be doing you some good!

Training: It’s Hard to be Consistent

Missed Runs

Well I should be well in to my sub 38 10k training mission by now however following my fall on Sunday, I decided to have a rest day on

Monday. Then last night I arrived home all ready to go to a track speed session only to find I had a poorly baby girl at home (my 18 month old daughter Neve). As my wife is in the crucial last stages of her marathon training it was important that she went to her training, so I happily stayed at home!

So that’s two days without running when I should have done 45 mins on Monday and a double set  (am and pm) of training yesterday! Nevermind, no sense worrying over these things. Unless you’re a pro athlete, your running has to fit in with your life – sometime you can run sometimes it doesn’t work out, and it’s not the end of the world.

Next Training:

Tonight is club night with Purbeck Runners where our group has been promised a hardcore hill session. Hill sessions are the only things that I really, really feel in my legs for days after – which is good. So I half dread it and half look forward to it!

Running Gear: The Emperor’s New Compression Socks?

Do running compression socks work?

Do running compression socks work?

When I first started running a few years ago I didn’t even consider what socks to wear, or that this might make an actual difference to my performance. After a while, to avoid blisters, I started using specialist ankle running socks which felt fine but in real terms I probably could have kept on with my regular ‘sports’ socks and nothing would have been any different…

Then I noticed people at races wearing these really high socks… They went up to their knees! At first I thought perhaps this was a fashion thing that I really wasn’t getting but then I heard someone call them ‘compression socks’. Hmmm, I thought… that sounds scientific, maybe people are wearing these things for a reason!

I bought a pair and wore them for a few training runs before trying them out in a half marathon. I noticed no difference apart from blisters in places i’d never got them before. This is my investigation into whether compression socks for running actually work…

Possible benefits of compression socks:

A quick look at the description for some compression socks on sale promotes the benefits as:

  • More energy, greater endurance and enhanced performance thanks to improved blood circulation
  • Activates the flow of blood in the muscles
  • Muscle and joint stabilization for reduced risk of injury
  • Increased coordination by activating the muscles for a sense of stability and security when running

But surely they’re biased?!

During a Run – Maybe, Maybe Not!

Blood can pool in your legs. They’re low down so gravity tries to keep more blood than is necessary there. Your heart then has to work extra hard to get the blood up through your leg veins to be diffused with oxygen again and get rid of the lactic acid build up. It is suggested that wearing compression socks might increase venous blood flow, so flushing out these by -products of muscle exertion and warding off fatigue.

THERE IS NO CONSISTENCY in the results of the various studies done on this field. Ali et al. (2007) found that no performance or changes in physiological parameters occurred during or after a 10k run. In a more recent study,  Spurlich et al (2011) also found that compression “revealed no effects whatsoever”. On the other hand, Kremmier et al. (2009) found improved performance when wearing compression socks while running. The problem is that over all the various studies there were a lot of variables, from the type and length of socks, to the abilities and physiology of the studied athletes.

After a Run (Help the Recovery) – Probably!

There’s a theory that suggests that the vibrations created with every foot strike contributes to post-run muscle soreness. The aforementioned study by Ali et al. (2007)  “did find a reduction in muscle soreness, pointing to the muscle vibration and recovery aspects of socks.” Additionally, a study using full lower body graduated compression tights only after exercise showed improvements in muscle soreness (Byrne & Easton, 2010). so it would seem that compression socks CAN help your muscles recover quicker after a taxing run. As Steve Magness says though, it’s the process of damaging your muscle fibres and rebuilding them better adapted to running that helps improve fitness

Graduated Socks

Graduated compression socks

Graduated compression socks

Apparently the best types of compression socks to get are those that compress more down near the ankle, with compression force decreasing towards the knee. Buy them here (just for your info, I get no commission!)

You can read about this in a far better post by Steve Magness on his ‘Science of Running page (also a great book)

Training: The Sunday Long Run

So called as most running training plans to improve 5k, 10k, 10 mile or half marathon include at least one long run per week. This is a conditioning run, run at a comfortable pace (easily hold a conversation whilst running) lasting approximately 90 minutes.

So whilst in other sessions you may be doing a track session for speed improvements, the long run increases your aerobic base, improves running economy… And boosts confidence. According to Ed Eyestone on Runner’s World

The long run delivers the predictable physiological benefits: increased max VO2 and blood volume (the amount of blood ejected from the heart with every beat), and new capillaries and red blood cells.

He then goes on to say:

…Just as important, the long run teaches your body to spare glycogen and reply more on fat as a fuel source.

Plus it’s just nice to really get out and ‘go some’ on a Sunday morning.

Unfortunately, 11 miles in to my long run yesterday I tripped off the curb and went for a ski down the road on my shoulder and face. VERY sore today!


Training: A Saturday run @ParkrunPoole

Parkrun Poole

I cannot say enough good things about Parkrun, there is quite literally nothing bad to say about it. Firstly it’s a free, timed 5k run/race. Secondly, it has the best, most positive atmosphere of any race you’re likely to do. The volunteer marshals, the supporters around the course and of course the 511 runners all make it a special event. We even had a former 5000 metres world record holder in our midst with David Moorcroft taking part!

Enough advertising though!

I did Saturday’s Parkrun at about 90%, knowing that I was planning a long run for the next day. I was pleasantly surprised to finish in 19:03, 19th out of 511. Dad was aiming for sub 18 but came in at 18:12 (still amazing for a 60 year old!) It was a reverse course to usual which I actually preferred as it felt a but shorter, even though it’s not!

Next training:
Long 90 min run on Sunday


Training: Intervals and Hill Repeats

Time To Run

With my wife currently training for the London Marathon and two little kiddiewinks in the equation, finding time for the 10k training regime I’ve set myself is tricky, particularly in these dark winter evenings…

So this is how I found myself pacing up and down our hallway all dressed and ready to run at 8:45pm on a Thursday evening, waiting for the car headlights to appear on our drive. At dead on 9pm, my wife returned (she’d done 8 miles) and in a quick change of shift I ran out of the door in to the brisk night air.

The Interval Session

The problem with our village is that only certain streets have been deemed important enough to have streetlights. It’s for this reason that I was wearing a headtorch, although there’s something about being the only patch of light on a long dark street that makes you feel a bit exposed – it did make me run a bit faster though!

The aim for tonight was to get in some high paced intervals with a few hills chucked in for good measure. Tonight was essentially about making my breathing as laboured as possible, consistently for at least25-30 30 mins. I ran a 1k easy warmup before hitting a nice long flat road which is sprinted down for 2 minutess. At the end of this was a nice steep hill of 200-300 metres or so which I ran down and up and then (after an easy 2 mins recovery) sprinted back the way i’d just come.

This was followed by a series of intervals of increased pace before returning to the hill at the beginning for a sprint up it.

I was well and truly SHATTERED! Job done! Disclaimer: This isn’t how you’re meant to do an interval session – this on Run Britain is how you’re meant to do an interval session. It should be a lot more scientific with a specific pace (often your goal 10k pace) for the faster bits, but hey, it was dark and I couldn’t see my watch so I just did it based on perceived effort.

Next Training:

Easy 30 mins this evening, followed by Poole Parkrun tomorrow morning. Then a 90 minute run on Sunday. I may even join my wife for her 18 miles marathon training run on Sunday morning, eek!

Training: The Easy Run

Dull But Necessary

Not much to write home about from last night’s training! An easy and enjoyable 9.5k jaunt around my hometown of Swanage in the rain. Wore my high-vis jacket and got way too hot – will I never learn?!

Running in the dark of winter

Running in the dark of winter

Well according to the great Greg Mcmillan:

“Not running slow enough on easy days is probably the number-one error runners make”

Slow runs are good for your head as you’re not thinking about pacing or trying to will yourself forward.

They’re also great as a recovery run after a hard race. The muscle movement pumps blood around your stressed muscles, flushing out all the bad stuff as well as reminding your muscles that you’re a runner…

Probably better on a light summers evening, meandering through pastures green than in the lamplit dark of concrete pavements around housing estates. But it does the same job ; )

Training: Track Session with @PooleAthletic

A Positive Place To Be

I began my quest for a sub 38 minute 10k with last night’s track session and it actually felt REALLY BLOODY GOOD! Going down to your local athletics track really is a positive experience. On different sections of the track you have groups of various ages doing sprinting or other speed work. In the middle of the park there are kids throwing the javelin and the hammer and on the other side of the fence, the local hockey team (who I used to play for!) doing their practice session. A hive of activity and certainly beats pounding the dark streets for me!

The Track Speed Session

Arriving at 7:30pm I warmed up with 3×400 slowly, throwing in some dynamic stretches along the way. It’s important to warm up at any time, but especially so before a speed session on a cold winter’s night!

Coach Tim announced the session for that night which consisted of 800 x 1200 x 800 x 1200 x 800 x 1200. I was initially disappointed as I love to throw myself into a few all out 400 meter sprints but as the session progressed, I felt really strong and managed to (nearly) keep up with the guys at the front! It occurred to me that the reason I felt so good was that I wasn’t just tiring myself out on a 400, then taking it easy on the longer circuits.

The most important thing in these sessions is to maintain a constantly pace throughout. so you’re running the 1200 at the same pace as your 800. The 2 minute breaks in between each round gave just enough time to get my breath back but I could certainly feel the burn in my legs on the final 1200 as the lactic acid started to make its presence known! I ignored it.

Next Training

Club night tonight with Purbeck Runners. Hoping to get in either intervals or ideally a hill session. Will report back on this tomorrow!

The Search For a Sub-38m 10k

The Quest

Me running in the recent Lytchett 10

Me running in the recent Lytchett 10

OK search isn’t quite the right word. It’s not something I’m actually on a search for; I know where it is. It’s the other side of around 3-4 months hard training, following a very specific routine!

Looking at my race calendar, I have almost exactly six weeks until the next biggy which is the Bournemouth Bay 10k. The last 10k I ran was in 39:52 at the Boscombe 10k in November last year. I’m definitely a little less fit than I was then and think it will take at least two weeks to get back to where I was back in November. So that leaves 4 weeks to improve my fitness by enough to knock a whole minute off my PB! It’s not fun if it’s not hard!

Lots of Schedules

A quick search on Google brings up all manor of schedules for achieving a sub 38 10k:

1) Here’s a good one by ‘Run Midlesborough’

2) And another good one on the CoolRunning website

3) This is a good schedule By Run Britain to run 10k in under 40 minutes too

DIY Schedule Required!

But I know what I’m like with these rigid schedules, I just don’t stick to them. With two young children, a wife training for the London marathon and dark, unlit village streets in the evening I just have to do the best I can.

I know that I need to do more speed work and I also know that I need to up my mileage to around 40 miles per week, plus a hill session or two.

So here’s my own plan (I can let you know if it works or not  in 6 weeks!) Creating my own might not be scientific but at least it allows me to make the best use of the time I have available:

Week 1 – 16/2/14 (this week) = Around 32 miles inc swimming

Sunday – Long run 10 mile race
Monday – Break
Tuesday – Swimming, 1 hour/80 lengths ( 4 miles equiv)
Wednesday – Club night –5 miles with hills and intervals at 100% effort with warm up and cool down either side.
Thursday – Easy 7 miles
Friday3 miles
Saturday – Poole Parkrun 5k (3 miles)

Week 2 – 23/2/14 = 35 miles

Sunday – Long run 13 miles
Monday – Swimming, 1 hour 80 lengths (4 miles equiv)
Tuesday – Speed session. 5k (3 miles) broken down in to 400, 800 and 1k circuits with 2 min rests.
Wednesday – Club night – 5 miles with hills and intervals at 100% effort with warm up and cool down either side.
Thursday – Easy 7 miles
Friday – Rest
Saturday – Poole Parkrun 5k (3 miles)

Week 3 – 2/3/14 = 37 miles

Sunday – Long run 14 miles
Monday – Swimming, 1 hour 80 lengths (4 miles equiv)
Tuesday – Speed session. 5k (3 miles) broken down in to 400, 800 and 1k circuits with 2 min rests.
Wednesday – Club night – 5 miles with hills and intervals at 100% effort with warm up and cool down either side.
Thursday –  8 miles with 4 miles at 10k pace
Friday – Rest
Saturday – Poole Parkrun 5k (3 miles)

Weeks 4 and 5 as per week 3 pushing harder on speed, hill and Thurs session.

Week 6 as per week 3 with rest on Sat.

Here goes… wish me luck!