Plymouth 10k – October 7th 2018

I travelled down to Plymouth on the Friday morning, catching a train from High Brooms in order to arrive at Paddington station in good time for the 11:03 departure. I arrived in Plymouth soon after 2.30pm due to a slight delay on the journey and was checked into my hotel room (The Duke of Cornwall) by 3pm. I took a leisurely stroll around the City centre and grabbed a small bite to eat in the evening as I had already consumed a large penne, basil, feta & mange tout meal that I had prepared that morning on the train!

My plan for the Saturday was to pay a visit to PlymValley parkrun and although I did manage this, I experienced one of my worst night’s sleep on the Friday. I went to bed at 10.30pm and could hear a constant bassline from a club in the distance and this continued, without interruption until 4am – during which time I did not get a wink of sleep! I managed to drift off for no more than 2 hours and awoke at 6.30am in order to make it down for breakfast at 7am and then catch a 7:55am bus. I complained about the noise in the morning to the staff on the front desk and they were very good in accommodating my request for a room move as I couldn’t afford to have another bad night’s sleep on the Saturday evening ahead of my 10k race on the Sunday morning.

DSC_0011 DSC_0015

Upon disembarking the bus at 8:15am, I walked the mile and a half along cycle route 27 and alongside the vintage Plym Valley railway line. The forecast for the Saturday was drizzle first thing followed by an hour or so of heavy rain before clearing to an overcast afternoon. However, I was fortunate in that the heavy rain never materialised! Conditions for the parkrun were ideal, cool with very little drizzle. The run itself is in quite a remote but very beautiful location and takes participants through the National Trust owned Plymbridge woods. The course is uneven underfoot with numerous pieces of slate (which were quite slippery in places) scattered alongside some of the paths and although the majority of the route is flat, there is a sharp & steep incline to navigate (twice) which soon flattens out and then takes you steeply back down onto a tarmac surface.

The Plym Valley railway line (no longer in use):
DSC_0017

My plan for the run was to take it easy, especially so as I had such little rest the night before, then push on for a quick final mile. I felt surprisingly good throughout and although the course came up very short of 5k (2.97 miles on my watch), I finished with a time of 19:37 with mile splits of 7:05, 6:45 and 5:47 for the last 0.97 of a mile.

Heading toward the start area (just past the bridge):
DSC_0016

The finish funnel:
DSC_0025

The post-parkrun cafe, I mean, coffee van:
DSC_0014

Despite the relatively remote location, there was a good turnout of 196 walkers, joggers & runners and as with all parkruns there were people of all ages, shapes and sizes. A nice touch after the finish was that there was a tub of home-made fudge – I’m not sure you’ll get too many other events with such a treat (well, certainly not away from the South-West of England) – so I duly helped myself to a piece (or 5).

One of the works of art along the Plym Valley cycle route:
DSC_0034

I returned to the hotel at 11am and was informed of my new room, which was on the 4th floor and more towards the rear of the establishment (my previous room was on the first floor and at the front, directly above the main entrance). Having originally booked a single room (and requested a bath), I was pleasantly surprised upon checking in to my new room to see that I had a twin suite – 2 single beds, a bathroom with separate shower and bath, plus a separate room off to the side with its own television, arm chairs and desk!

My room move led to a rather nice upgrade:
DSC_0052
Why have one tv when you can have two?!
DSC_0051

I had a long soak in a hot bath and immediately relaxed in bed for a couple of hours, trying to catch up on the lost sleep from the previous evening. A quick wander around the City and a small bite to eat followed before I returned to my room in the afternoon for another rest and relax before the hotel dinner which I had booked for 7pm. The AA-rosette awarded restuarant had a limited menu but I was drawn toward the wild mushroom orzo pasta with parmesan – and I wasn’t to be disappointed! The food was very good and I also indulged in a dessert, and iced berry parfait (with almond sponge, honey yogurt dressing and fresh berries). The food was excellent and along with a soft drink, the bill only came in at £21.80 which I felt was very good value for money.

After dinner, I retired to my room where I relaxed before turning in for the night at 9.30pm. I awoke the following morning at 6am having had a much better night’s sleep. As breakfast wasn’t served until 7.30am on the Sunday, I knew that I would need to snack on something small to see me through the run and so ate a blueberry and honey flapjack at 6.30am alongside a cup of tea. Soon after 7am I had a hot bath and then did some foam rolling at 7.30am before making the short walk from the hotel to the start area.

This was to be my 3rd time at the Plymouth 10k, having previously run it in 2014 and 2016, however, the organisers had taken on board feedback from previous entrants and altered the course slightly to make the start and finish areas more central and spectator friendly.

The calm before the storm:
DSC_0037

The bag drop experience was very easy and I was away from the race HQ soon after 8am in order to do my warm-up, dynamic stretches and strides, arriving at the start line at 8.20am ready for the 8.30am start. Conditions for the run couldn’t have been more perfect – dry, bright and cold with no wind. I knew what to expect from the course, being undulating in nature, and set myself a goal of finishing in the top 20. I felt that I might be capable of achieving an overall 10k pb and possibly a time sub-38 minutes.

Throughout the race I felt strong and managed to run a fairly even pace. I overtook runners throughout and was only overtaken by two people in the final 400m or so (clearly runners who had not run as hard as they could earlier in the race). As I approached the finish line, I looked up at the clock to see that it had ticked over 38 minutes and as I checked my watch (for the first time since I started the race) to see my finish time, was very pleased to have run my second fastest 10k ever, with a time of 38:17. Upon checking the results this afternoon, I could see that I had finished in a very respectable 33rd position – not quite the top 20 that I had targeted, but a good result nonetheless.

Finishers congregate at race HQ after crossing the line:
DSC_0041

On reflection of the race, I felt that I performed the best that I could on the day and despite the poor night’s sleep on the Friday night, my preparation leading up to the race was excellent.

Once again, I was very fortunate with the weather, with the Sunday afternoon looking like this:
DSC_0045

I now look forward to getting stuck in to the cross country season, of which my first race is next Saturday (13th October 2018) at a new venue near Canterbury. This will be the first of 4 Kent Cross Country League races. The second fixture comes a fortnight later, at Somerhill school in Tonbridge, with the 3rd race in November and the final one in February 2019. I will also be competing in the Kent Cross Country Championships on the first weekend of January, the South of England Cross Country Championships on the final weekend in January, finishing off with the National Cross Country Championships at the end of February. In amongst the cross country, I have a 10k road race in November (Brighton) a 10 mile road race in December (Staplehurst) and a 10k road race in January (near Chepstow) all of which will lead me up to my second marathon attempt in April 2019.

If you have made it this far in this blog post, then thank you very much for reading and I hope to provide an update before the end of 2018.

Until then, all the best with your running endeavours and, keep on running!

Training & racing update – 6th October 2018

It has been well over 5 months since my last update and whilst I was relatively busy training and racing over the early part of the summer this soon came to an abrupt halt with a house move at the end of July, which also coincided with our year-end at work!

My summer of racing can be summarised as follows:

1,500m (track debut), TonbridgeTuesday 5th June
5:08.9s (6th position)
On a dry, warm & bright Tuesday evening I made my track debut at the Tonbridge AC development meeting. The purpose of these meetings is to encourage Tonbridge AC club member to compete as well as to give them race experience. I was to feature in a race with mostly runners in their early to mid-teens as well as a few veterans. This was an eye-opening entry into racing on the track and a very different experience of racing that I am otherwise used to, due to it being such a short race. It gives me a good marker for next Summer and a time to aim for!

Staplehurst 10kSunday 10th June
38:05 (15th position & 1st male team – 29 points) – new PB
This was a very encouraging result and a big PB for me, having run 38:51 in this race in 2017.

Bewl 15 milerSunday 1st July
01:48.46s (23rd position)
My first time at this popular and well organised race around Bewl Water in what must have been the hottest conditions that I have experienced during a race. With the race starting at 10.30am and the temperature already in the early 20’s at that stage I had to be sensible and take it easy, taking on water at regular intervals and making the most of the shade around the reservoir. Despite the challenging conditions, I was very pleased with my result and debut at this unusual distance.

Hastings parkrun7th July
18:06 – new 5k PB
With my local parkrun cancelled due to another event taking place in Dunorlan Park, I decided to make a visit to another local event. My warm-up involved a 2 mile jog down to Tunbridge Wells train station, a 40 minute train journey to West St Leonards and then a gentle stroll (0.3 miles) to the start on Hastings waterfront. I knew that this would be a good opportunity to run a quick time and I was delighted to knock almost 30 seconds off of my previous best over this distance (previously held at Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun).

Mid Kent 5 milesSunday 15th July
30:19 (6th position & 1st male team – 13 points)
It was another hot morning, but the 9am start was most welcome. I set off at the start alongside 2 of my club mates and with them finishing in 3rd and 4th position, we secured a comfortable team win at this well organised race which I have now run on 5 occasions. Although I had hoped to dip under 30 minutes, I was still able to last years’ time by 42 seconds – so another pleasing result.

Hever Half MarathonSunday 23rd September
01:36.09s (3rd male & 4th overall)
This was my first race since the summer and with only 4 proper weeks of training under my belt since an enforced break, I had no plans to run any time in particular. I knew that the course would be challenging with the majority of it being off-road and undulating (as well as it being 2 laps). Each lap of the course starts at Hever Castle grounds and winds its way round toward Chiddingstone Castle before meandering back to Hever.

The conditions on the morning were probably the worst I could have hoped for – pouring rain and colder than it had been in the weeks leading up – what a way to return to racing! Despite wearing trail shoes for the race, conditions were more akin to cross country with ankle-deep puddles in parts and slippery and challenging up and downhill sections.

Despite the conditions and the distance, I felt strong throughout and was able to hold onto 3rd position in my wave from mile 2 all the way to the end of the race. I was asked by the race commentator upon my return across the finish line how I felt in 3 words, my response – “wet, tired & ecstatic” – it’s a funny old sport is running!

Here is my weekly mileage following my final race of the summer and leading up to my next race:

16th July – 3.8 miles
23rd July – 0 miles
30th July – 0 miles
6th August – 8.6 miles
13th August – 9.2 miles
20th August – 29.5 miles
27th August – 26.9 miles
3rd September – 42.7 miles
10th September – 36.4 miles
17th September – 33.9 miles
24th September – 39.3 miles
1st October – 16.8 miles (excludes Plymouth 10k race on Sunday 7th October)

I am currently relaxing in Plymouth, Devon and preparing for the Plymouth 10k tomorrow. My next blog post will focus on my lead up to this race as well as a parkrun tourism visit to PlymValley parkrun.

Thanks for reading and check back soon for my next blog post.

London Vitality 10k, Monday 28th May 2018 – race report

On Monday 28th May 2018 Joe led a group of RTW runners (and supporters) up to London for the Vitality 10k race for the 11th edition of this hugely popular event.

Preparations for the trip started way back in November 2017 when Joe suggested the idea to the group ahead of creating an official “event” on Facebook. Joe has fond memories of the event as it was the first 10k in which he participated, back in 2013 (9 months after having joined Tonbridge AC) and just his second organised road race. He went on to participate in the event for the following 3 years (then known as the Bupa 10k), gaining a place through the club each time.

A group of our runners pose in front of Buckingham Palace:
DSC_0370

Fast forward to 2018 and this time it was Joe who was to be supporting his group of runners in their participation of this popular and well supported race.

The group met up at High Brooms station at 7.30am in order to travel up to London Victoria (via East Croydon) and arrived at Green Park in plenty of time for the 10am start. A quick visit to the baggage drop and toilets and it was soon time for the runners to make their way to their respective start areas. There were 6, colour-coded start “waves” with each wave setting off around 5 minutes after the previous one. The final wave set off at approximately 10.35am, by which time the elites (which included eventual winner Sir Mo Farah) were home and dry.

Winner of the mens British 10k Championships race – Sir Mo Farah:
DSC_0382

Winner of the ladies British 10k Championships race – Stef Twell:
DSC_0389

In the meantime, Joe and the supporting team made their way along Bird Cage Walk (which was to act as the final 800m of the race), past Horse Guards Parade and Admiralty Arch to find a good viewing spot just off The Mall which would allow them to see the runners pass at the 8km mark. It was here that they were able to spot all but one of our runners (sorry Dom) as well as the leaders.

Nick Fitzgerald looking strong & on his way to a new PB:
DSC_0407

The supporting team then made their way to the final 800m stretch to cheer the team on once more as the temperature began to soar.

David Harman on his return to running:
DSC_0445

Rose Sawyer at the 8km point:
DSC_0411

There were some excellent results from the group and overall feedback was excellent. Of course, as with any race (or any run for that matter) there are always some disappointments but with these we have to move forward, learn from our mistakes and plan how to overcome these in future.

Amy White enters the final 800m of the race:
DSC_0424

Once everyone had finished the race, the group reassembled at midday and took a short walk along past Victoria Station in order to consume a well-earned, post-race Nando’s!

Gemma Stilliard looking cool on the streets of London:
DSC_0409

All in all, it was a very successful trip and we look forward to arranging the next one. If you have any feedback from this one or have suggestions for a future race then please drop Joe an e-mail at: rtwrunners@zoho.com or mention it at the next session.

Kerry Francis-Watts taking in the electric atmosphere:
DSC_0434

There were a total of 14,475 finishers who crossed the finish line to make this the largest Vitality London 10,000 yet, smashing the 2017 record by more than 2,000 runners!

Britain’s Ocean City Half Marathon – Sunday 20th May 2018

I decided to return to this wonderful event having first taken part last year (see my 2017 blog post).

I signed up for this event in the Autumn of 2017, before I had found out that I would gain entry to the London Marathon which took place just 4 weeks prior to this event. With this in mind, I had no intention of pushing myself hard as my body was still recovering from the marathon. In addition to this I wanted to make up for (and learn from) the mistakes that I made last year and make the most of the atmosphere and the beautiful scenery.

This year I chose to arrive a day earlier in order to settle in and relax and so I travelled down by train on the Friday morning, arriving mid-afternoon.

Upon arrival to Plymouth I made the short walk from the station to my hotel where I checked in and made a quick visit to Sainsbury in order to pick up some supplies for the weekend (bananas, apples, milk, chocolate milk, yoghurts and water).

Having learnt from my pre-race fueling mistake last year, I had decided to invest in a portable induction hob, which, along with an induction milk pan I had packed and brought along with me so that I could prepare my usual pre-race (and pre-long run) meal of jumbo oats, raisins, seeds & honey (of which I had weighed and prepared 3 cups for the 3 mornings that I would be in Plymouth).

Once back in the hotel I unpacked my case then went for a short, easy run (3.5 miles) to stretch my legs.

For the Saturday I had scoped out a couple of local parkruns in advance and decided to run at Mount Edgcumbe parkrun in Cornwall. Although in the neighbouring county, it was in fact a relatively easy and rather enjoyable journey to the event. Firstly, I made the short jog (approx 1.2 miles) to Admiral’s Hard where I was to board a small passenger ferry at 8.15am in order to make the 8 minute crossing into Cornwall. Upon arrival, it was just a 5 minute walk up to Mount Edgcumbe house.

Passengers disembark the ferry and make their way up to Mount Edgcumbe house:
DSC_0294

I had done my research and was aware at just how tough the course was going to be, with 438 feet of elevation (only 3 of the other 518 UK parkruns have more elevation on their course) across the 5km distance. Take a look here to see how the elevation of your local parkrun compares.

With the half marathon the following day I didn’t want to push myself too hard at the parkrun, although I knew that with the amount of elevation it was likely to take a toll on my body! The location for Mount Edgcumbe parkrun is quite truly breathtaking and it is certainly one of the most scenic that I have attended (certainly in the UK). The course starts off on the level but after about 800m you soon commence the ascent to the very top of the course. In fact, the majority of the following mile was uphill!

The flattest part of the course. In fact, the only flat part of the course:
DSC_0314

Unforunately, about half way up, the task was made even more difficult when the 5 or so runners immediately ahead of me decided to turn left up one of the slopes (despite the arrow pointing right – I checked that it was pointing in the correct direction on the return descent) – of course, I was not paying attention and just followed the person ahead! At the end of the run my watch showed that I had run 3.3 miles – well at least I got my money’s worth.

Mount Edgcumbe house and runners gathered at the finish area post-run:
DSC_0313

After the run I took a leisurely stroll back to catch the ferry and then gently jogged the mile back to the hotel.

That evening I decided to dine in at the hotel restaurant, which had recently been refurbished, and I decided to opt for a dish similar to that of something I would eat at home, so as not to cause any problems with digestion ahead of the race. I ordered tagliatelle with a mushroom sauce and a salmon fillet but skipped desert!

On the morning of the half marathon I awoke before 6am in order to make my porridge (topped with banana) and consume this 2 hours ahead of the race, which was to start at 8.30am. I departed my hotel at 7.45am in the knowledge that I would only need to make the short walk to the start area and drop my bag.

A message for the half marathon runners on the big screen in the City Centre:
DSC_0343

The weather for the race was perfect – dry, blue skies & a comfortable running temperature (certainly a fair few degrees cooler than it had been for the London marathon 4 weeks ago). I made my way into the starting pen and squeezed my way through toward the area which had been marked out for the sub 1:30 runners.

Not a cloud in the sky. Runners make their way toward the race headquarters:
DSC_0345

Plymouth Hoe looking splendid in the sun:
DSC_0352

My plan for the race was just to take it easy and see how I felt. I decided to run close to the 1:30 pacer for the first mile or so and decided to push on a bit as we made our way out of the Barbican and City Centre. I felt comfortable and was able to maintain a good rhythm. As I had no plans of “gunning for a PB”, there was no need for me to look at my watch during the race. I used my breathing technique to run easy for the first 3 miles, before moving up a gear for the next 4 miles. Once I reached mile 7 I moved up one more gear and maintained this effort all the way to the finish line.

I felt surprisingly strong and comfortable throughout and was able to really take in the atmosphere, thanking supporters and volunteers along the way. The final half mile was incredible with the amount of support and despite being mostly uphill, I was able to showboat a little and encouraged the crowd to give me a bit more of a roar towards the finish! I looked around to see no one behind me and therefore resisted the urge to break into any kind of a sprint as I cruised across the line, pulling off a mo-bot in homage to my running hero.

Crossing the finish line and feeling strong:
ocean city half 2018 finish line

I was very surprised and somewhat delighted when I looked at my watch after crossing the line to see that I had finished just 11 seconds away from my existing half marathon personal best (which I set at the Royal Parks half marathon in October of last year), finishing with a time of 1:27.53. I guess it just goes to show what you are capable of if you just listen to your body.

I have a few races scheduled over the next few weeks, including my track debut on Tuesday 5th June, where I shall be racing 1500m. After this I have the Staplehurst 10km on the 10th June followed by the Bewl 15 miler on Sunday 1st July.

Thanks for reading and please check back soon as I shall be writing a blog post following the RTW runners trip to the London Vitality 10km race on Monday 28th May 2018.

Vitality 10km, Monday 28th May 2018 – travel & group instructions

**UPDATED on Saturday 26th May 2018**

The plan for the day is as follows:

07:30 – meet at High Broom train station and purchase tickets.

Return ticket (with a valid railcard) costs £12.75, therefore if you have a Network railcard or similar, please bring this along as this is valid for up to 4 adults travelling together (both Joe & Kerry have one each and so this should cover us all).

07:42 – train departs High Brooms (with 1 change at East Croydon) & arrives at London Victoria 08:48.

St James’ Park is within walking distance (approx 15 minutes) of London Victoria or 1 stop on the circle and district lines.

10:00 – race start.

11-11:30 – All meet up at the “Runner meet & great area” (area M in Green Park as shown on the runner information map).

11:45 – walk to Nando’s (1 mile away); SW1V 1DZ and in close proximity of London Victoria station.

12:15 – sit down for meal.

We then have a choice of return trains, which depart London Victoria every half an hour (at 6 minutes past and 36 minutes past the hour):

13:36 – London Victoria (Platform 19) to High Brooms (Platform 2), arrives 14:35.

14:06 – London Victoria (Platform 19) to High Brooms (Platform 2), arrives 15:05.

If you are interested in coming up in a supporting capacity (and to join us for the post-race meal) then please feel free to do so as Joe will also be supporting on the day.