Going through the gears

London Fields

After my first Parkrun on Saturday, I decided I would like to add a bit of an extra kick to the end of my runs. So today I decided to do a little training session called ‘gears’. This drill involves finding a 400 metre loop and running it 4 times steadily increasing your pace with each loop.

The drill is explained in this blog by Shaun Dixon who is a trainer at GoodGym and competes in cross country running for England. I find this drill really good fun and a great way to get used to the experience of increasing the tempo of my running. Today I really had form in the centre of mind throughout my run making sure I was powering the arms through in the last 400 metres of the ‘losing control gear’.

I am pretty new to interval training and would love to receive recommendations of relatively simple drills aimed at increasing pace throughout a run.  I am running the Bushy Park 10k on the 20th October, this will be my first 10k race and I would love to make sure I am finishing the race strongly not wilting.

On a slightly different note, it feels like we’re entering the perfect season for running when Summer slowly gives way to Autumn and we can feel the crunch of leaves under our feet and the warmth of the sun on our face. It should make for enjoyable running conditions for us all over the coming weeks.

My first Parkrun

Damien and Kasia post run

Well I didn’t finish in the top 10 but I thoroughly enjoyed my first Hackney Marshes Parkrun this morning. I went along with my friend Kasia and for some reason I was a bag of nerves. So much so that I got a stitch during the 30 minute walk to the park, not ideal to say the least. But once at the run my nerves evaporated the volunteers were super friendly and I bumped into an old colleague Adele who was also running her first Parkrun.

Again I didn’t have a watch to monitor my pace but used RunKeeper without headphones, so throughout I didn’t have an idea how fast I was running. I knew that I was pushing myself so I guessed my time would be reasonable. I started off really strongly in the lead group and settled down into a nice consistent pace.

But today I just seemed to have one gear, throughout the race about 6 people went past me they obviously nailed the negative splits. Which is something I definitely need to work on. I suppose I am just afraid I will not be able to accelerate when the time comes. Does anyone else worry about this? And if so what is the secret to overcoming it? Racing is a new experience to me and I am definitely running with the fear of burning out at the moment. With how far to go should I be sprinting to the finish? 500 metres?

Despite this I was happy with my result. I came in 18th place overall (2nd in the 25-29 age range) with a time of 22:12 which was a race PB. My friend Kasia who is also vegan and has an amazing new food blog called The Pink Vegan ran her PB with a great time of 26:46.

Parkrun time

Before we left Kasia made banana, nectarine smoothies which were delicious and a perfect pre running snack. I would love to hear your pre race smoothies recipes.

Did anyone else take part in Parkrun this weekend? If so how did you get on?

Damien not in the actual race

A runners journey

Stretching before the race

This is a story of a talent lost and a long slow journey to get running fast again.

As a teenager I was quick! I am not talking super quick but the quickest kid in pretty much every football team I played in. Running was just something I did whilst playing football and to a lesser extent cricket. I remember having a real ability to run 400 and 800 metres fast and PE teachers telling me I should start taking athletics seriously and I would be able to run for the county. To cut a long story short I wasn’t interested, I just wanted to chase a football around.

When I moved to London over 4 years ago I quickly realised I was piling on weight and not living a particularly healthy lifestyle. This coupled with my Dad being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease prompted me to sign up for a half marathon. At this point I couldn’t even run 5k without stopping. So I signed up to do the Royal Parks Half Marathon in 2010, I did fair bit of plodding running and definitely achieved an ok level of fitness.

Well the half marathon was a disaster, my knee was in terrible shape and I had terrible shoes and an awful running style. I dragged my arse around in 2:17, fading badly as blisters covered both of my feet. Poor preparation and injuries left me feeling crippled. I just couldn’t face running again. About 6 months later I started cycling and this replaced running as the exercise to keep myself in shape. Around this time I started trying to run again but again I was plagued with injury and couldn’t get into any sort of routine.

In February this year I decided to head out for a run. I plodded around huffing and puffing but I did 3.7 miles. At this point I decided I had to improve this situation and started going out for 4-5k runs a few times a week. Around this time I joined a great running/volunteering project called GoodGym. I found this to be a really inspiring community of likeminded people, who enjoy running and helping their community.

Sadly after 6 weeks came down with an inflamed Achilles. This felt like a disaster. A month went by and I saw the good work of the previous couple of months slip away- around this time I decided to go and see a sports physio called Helen at her clinic Fix. This was eye opening for me; it revealed how I was essentially carrying my left hand side of my body and showed me how much weaker my left hand side of my body was.

I then embarked on a slow recovery that mixed strengthening exercises with gradually starting to run again. Around this time I read a number of books including ‘Born To Run’.  After seeking advice from my physio I purchased a air of Nike Free 5.0 and started to learn to run without my Brooks moonboots. Gradually I have built my fitness back up and I am really starting to see results. I have been running again for 2 months and I am injury free (see a full blog on this here) And I am running faster than I have done in 10 years. Running in neutral/minimal shoes has worked really well for me. I love feeling the ground when I am running it has led to me developing a much stronger technique and slowly I have started to trust my body again.

Highlights in the past couple of weeks have included the GoodGym 5k race along the embankment which despite steps and dodging tourists I managed 23:35 coming 3rd overall in my race and I was the fastest Hackney runner. Then this week running 6.31 miles (just over 10k) in 46:13 followed the next day by 3.91 miles in 24:06.

However yesterday I went out for run and really struggled with an average pace of 8:15 min per mile over 3.39 miles.  I suppose that will happen sometimes. The two really pacey runs this week followed a fruit breakfast and carb light lunch with a 2 hour break before setting out for a run in late afternoon.

I am currently paying really close attention to how I perform at certain times in the day. I have also just started making fruit smoothies for breakfast. I am finding these great for ensuring I am getting enough fruit in my diet. I have found that my increased fruit intake in recent weeks has led to me feeling more hydrated than usual. Has anyone else experimented with fruit only breakfasts when training and if so what have the results been?

I am also doing my first Park Run this week and I will be delighted if I finish in the top 10.

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