My objectives for 2014 were simple –
1. Complete a marathon
2. Run a bit faster – break my PBs for 5k, 10k and half marathon
3. Do a triathlon
I had joined A&T at the tail end of 2013, having run some parkruns and a few other races as an ‘unattached’ and not really knowing what to do next, so I was a bit vague and was looking for some direction. Joining a club was the right thing to do and 2014 for me turned out to be a year where I learned a lot about running . . .
Lesson 1 was about training, apparently you should have some sort of structure for your training rather than just going out for a jog around the block every now and then when you feel like it. I’d also signed up for the Greater Manchester marathon and had a vague idea that I should follow some sort of training plan. This is where being a member of a club really helps and I talked to a number of people about what to do, to find out that I probably should have already started a training plan a few weeks before! Quickly I googled a plan, printed it off and started off on my 2014 journey.
Lesson 2 was probably the most important lesson of all - Vaseline. I bought myself a new pair of marathon training shoes in the January sales and then immediately did exactly what I shouldn’t have done and ran 13 miles in them, acquiring blisters on every toe and an extremely painful 3 inch blister on my heel that lasted for weeks. I went out and bought the largest tub of Vaseline I could find and ever since have smeared the stuff all over my feet before doing any run longer than 5 miles. Oh Vaseline, I love you! More information on Vaseline can be found at this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVdZldMHtjs
Lesson 3 As a runner you can never have too many safety pins. You know you’re a proper runner if you have a massive stack of safety pins in your bag.
Lesson 4 If you have a training plan then follow it! I went straight into week 6 of a 16 week marathon training plan, then missed a good 50% of the planned long runs due to other commitments and on one of the long runs I actually did, I decided to do the full 26.2 "to see what it was like" rather than stick to the 22 miles I was supposed to be doing. Big mistake, it takes time to recover from a marathon if you’re not called Malcolm. Before this though I did have my first highlight of the year, running in the Inskip half-marathon with an aim of possibly breaking the 1:30 barrier and seriously surprising myself with a time of 1:24:40.
Another highlight came shortly before my first marathon when I took part in my first fell race. Having promised myself that I was just going to take part, I was loving it so after holding myself back for the first 10 minutes I couldn’t help myself competing and paid for that with shredded calf muscles going into the Manchester marathon.
Lessons 5, 6 and 7 Pacing, nutrition and hydration. I didn’t properly respect the marathon distance until I did it for real. A combination of a fell run 4 days before, poor training, going too fast at the start and not really knowing what I was doing about nutrition and hydration during the race meant that my legs completely seized up at about mile 20 and I finished the last 6 miles of the marathon in over an hour – run/walk/hobble, mainly hobble. So I had finished a marathon, but barely, and having walked I didn’t feel like I’d properly achieved my goal of properly completing a marathon and the next day I put my name down for the next available local marathon a few weeks later in Liverpool. This meant missing out on the triathlon I’d entered in April, but I had unfinished business and this time I tried to be sensible in what training time I had left, plus read up on nutrition and hydration and practiced them in training runs. The Liverpool marathon for me was another highlight of the year, it was a tougher course than Manchester, but it felt like I ran the perfect race, keeping a sensible pace, eating and drinking well and never once needing to walk or hobble. And it turned out later that as a major plus point I’d done a time that qualified me as a ‘good for age’ entrant for London 2015 with a time of 3:05. Objective 1 was ticked off the list.
The month that followed was May and off the back of all of the marathon training I got PBs in everything I did, thus achieving Objective 2 of new PBs in 5k, 10k and half marathon before half the year was out. A highlight in May was the Great Manchester Run where I took 1:32 off my 10k PB. Couldn’t believe it!
The road racing season was well underway by this point and I’d earlier done my first ever 5 mile race at Trotters 5 (another PB distance to note and beat later), plus competing in more fell runs, managing to start placing in my age category. It was at about this time that Simon mentioned the Tour of Pendle as being ‘a good one’, more on that and Simon’s definition of ‘good’ later.
Lesson 8 Vaseline is for more than just toes. The next stand-out event of the year came in July with Thunder Run 24 hr relay which I expected to be ‘interesting’ but didn’t anticipate enjoying so much. We quickly learned that lube in unmentionable places was a definite requirement though and the image of Chris ‘John Wayne’ Bennett is one I won’t forget in a hurry! Over the 24 hrs I managed five 10ks, including an unforgettable night run - the twisty bit in the trees was ace! In 2015 we’ve entered 3 teams with several A&Ters in the group.
August was a fairly quiet month, but another first for me was taking part in the inter-club challenge which I really enjoyed as running is normally a solo event and being part of a team was great. I also somehow managed a half marathon PB, although the records will show a certain David Sloan taking the honours.
Lesson 9 If you’re going to do a triathlon then learn to swim first. September was all about taking part in my first triathlon in Wilmslow. I had a bike and how hard can it be to swim 400m? Well after inhaling half of the pool I managed to stagger out to the bike on jelly legs, got around the bike course without falling off and then dragged my carcass around the run course with legs feeling like something more jelly-like than jelly if that's possible. All in all an enjoyable experience, but swimming lessons are a must, along with getting out on my bike a bit more. Can probably shave about 5 minutes off my transition times too! Objective 3 was completed though. In September I also managed to knock another 40 seconds off my 10k time at Wigan which was an unexpected bonus.
The beautiful but tough Snowdonia Marathon followed in October, with Jon Hall obviously the most telegenic of the A&Ters taking part, appearing on screen no less than 3 times!
November saw the Tour of Pendle loom on the horizon like a big loomy thing. Partly a cheese-rolling event without the cheese to chase, part uphill crawl and part bog-snorkelling, I don’t know if anyone else has experienced cramp simultaneously in both calves whilst halfway up a 60 degree climb in the middle of nowhere but I don’t recommend it. That aside though, the Tour was fantastic, I didn’t get (very) lost and so many thanks to the sadist who suggested I do it. Hopefully I'll be able to make another attempt this year now that I know what it’s all about.
Decadent December has seen me do nothing except eat and drink, although the lessons of pacing, hydration and nutrition should have served me well on the A&T December night out. Well I thought about them briefly anyway and then just leathered the ale and finished off with a kebab!
In short though I’ve learned and experienced a lot this year, made a lot of new friends and have really enjoyed it with the support of the Astley and Tyldesley Roadrunners for which I’m grateful.