Run to the hills: Greenwich Park 10K

After the race picture

After the race picture

It is amazing how quickly the mind can conveniently forget about something. Having attended University in Greenwich I was well aware of the steepness of the hills which ran throughout the Royal Park of Greenwich; the venue for my second ever 10k race.

I awoke after hardly any sleep to a crisp morning across London. I ate a banana at 6:30 as soon as I was awake and dashed out the door making my train with 3 seconds to spare. Whilst on route rummaging through my bag I also realised I am starting to become a serious runner. I had packed extra plasters, spare blister plasters, toilet roll and bananas for my post run snack.

I was also excited to be running with two of my best friend Pete and John, I have known both of them since the age of 3. We have literally grown up together, John and I pretty much played all of our football in the same team. We even had supporters in the shape of John’s parents (who I know well) and his girlfriend.

Anyway we arrived far too early and spent sometime hanging around on the bench running through all the anxieties runners have before a race. These mainly concerned our choice of clothing, whether the chip will fall off, even whether we would be capable of finishing. I felt like the wise old hand advising John and Pete (Both doing their first race) to be wary of getting caught up in the inevitable lightening pace start. Which was hilarious as I always fly through the first mile.

Beautiful Greenwich

Beautiful Greenwich

It was truly a beautiful setting for the race and the competition looked fierce. Basically everyone looked pretty serious, anyhow I took Durian Rider’s advice and really chilled out whilst we observed the Remberance Day silence before the race trying not to waste my nervous energy. Then Boom!  We were off. As predicted I flew out the traps, the temperature felt perfect for racing and before I knew it I was flying down the hills. At one of the first marshall points I spotted my friend Hannah who was volunteering marshalling the race. This was totally amazing and gave me a real boost- Hannah also writes a brilliant running blog (Red Head On the Run) which is packed full of great training tips.

Hannah took this picture of me on the second lap of the course

Hannah took this picture of me on the second lap of the course

Descending the steep hills I kept thinking of Paula Radcliffe analysis of how Mo Farah didn’t go hard enough on the hill decent at the Great North Run. I was going to repeat the mistake of Mo as I flew down the hill, I could really feel my glutes working but I felt good. I have been practising balancing with my arms out when running down hill and this really helped me.

The course was a 2 lap affair with the finish at the top of the park. Before today I rated myself as a hill runner which was ridiculous because I leave in Hackney, London which is basically the Belgium of London. However believed a childhood growing up on a hill made me a mountain man. Predictably on the first big hill I got dropped by about 5 people. Thankfully I seemed to improve or other people faded as I didn’t really get overtaken again. In fact I picked off a few people on the hill climbs throughout the race. I was especially delighted with how quickly I recovered from what were short but brutal climbs.

Despite the tough hilly course I was able to record a PB with a time of 47:31 knocking 1:17 off my time at the Bushy Park 10k recorded 3 weeks ago. This placed me 73rd in a field of 293 runners I suppose I squeezed in the top 25% 🙂

Race Splits Greenwich Park 10K

John came through in 1:03:27 and Pete in 1:14:46 a great achievement on their first 10k runs of what hopefully will be many.

Only 3 weeks until the Ashford Half Marathon, I am growing in confidence but need a to throw in 4 or 5 of long runs over the next 2 weeks to make sure I get a time somewhere near my 1:45 target.

How was your weekend running? Please let me know in the comments or via Twitter. And any of your tips for tackling hills would be much appreciated.

Damien x

Advertisements

Blown away nearly 10K

ImageSo today we’re expecting a huge storm here in the UK and the media are drawing comparisons with the storm of 1987 that caused huge damage across the country. I was only 3 in 1987, so I can’t really remember the storm but I do remember going to my playgroup and a huge oak tree covering the path we used to walk up. Fingers crossed we don’t lose as many beautiful trees tonight.

But with the stormy and frankly quite grim weather just around the corner, I thought I would get out there this morning and bank some miles. Again I managed to get my layering combination all wrong choosing to wear my winter over layer jacket. I set off fairly quickly but by 18 minutes I was pissed off. I was overheated, I didn’t want to take the jacket off as wearing it around my waist would annoy me. I was breathing heavier than usual, I just wanted to cut my run short and come home. I so nearly stopped but I remember thinking, you don’t do that these days you’re in the best shape you have been in at least 7 years just get on with it.

So I ditched the jacket and suddenly things seemed better my body cooled down and I hit a lovely rhythm. I passed loads of runners today and everyone of them was smiling. Once I got over my little internal fit I was smiling too.

Running in the strong winds was really challenging but kind of fun. At one point I distinctly remember getting blown sideways. I was thinking well it is good conditioning. I know this probably means I have stepped into the territory of crazy runner but I am actually pretty comfortable with this.

Todays run was just under 6 miles and I recorded a decent average pace similar to that of my 10K race at Bushy Park last Sunday. My finish was strong and I felt I had a bit in the tank. I used the Compeed blister plaster today and it did a good job. It was only at the end I started to feel any pain from the blister. In total I have ran 15 miles this week my half marathon in only 5 weeks away now so I need to start throwing in some longer runs which will be a challenge.

Here are my splits from todays run:

Image

Complete training run:

Image

Running is definitely infectious. My friend Sean has just moved to Berlin and I lent him ‘Born to Run’ a few weeks ago. I was delighted earlier this week to receive a message from him saying he ran 10k in the morning and had a vegan lunch. It is pretty sad but my running has definitely inspired some of my good friends to start running again. It is a sad fact of life that as we get older our bodies metabolism slows down and we need to take better care of ourselves. I am delighted that lots of my friends are starting to rediscover exercising regularly as they did in the past.

On this note I am running the Greenwich 10K with two of my oldest friends from school John and Pete on 10th November. I am really looking forward to us all doing this together, our lives have gone in different directions but I care deeply about them both and I am excited we are going to be exercising together and I am sure we will grab a few well deserved pints afterwards.

Did you go running in the wind today? If so, how was it? Do you have any tips for running in windy conditions? Please leave comments and let me know how your training has been this week.

Running with the deers

Damien Clarkson and Aimee Harrison in GoodGym gear

Bushy Park by Hampton Court was to be the venue for my first 10k race. I met my friend and fellow Hackney GoodGym member Aimee bright and early at 7:30 in the morning. The weather for the race was set to be mild if slightly overcast, I decided to stick to my routine of fruit smoothies for breakfast to fuel myself.

For my race fuel I opted for a straightforward banana smoothie Durian Rider would approve of with 4 bananas. Hoping that the potassium would help keep me hydrated and the bananas as always provide plenty of good clean carbhoydates.

I had never been to Hampton Court before and I was delighted to discover the park has wild deers roaming and I found the scenery to be truly stunning. We dodged the pre race shower and set in the blazing sun, in fact it felt hot with temperature at around 17c.

Today was also the first time I wore my new Garmin Forerunner 210, I really enjoyed being able to monitor my average pace throughout the race. It made sure I kept things nice and consistent in previous runs I have been guilty letting my pace drop and not really realising until someone whizzes past me.

I set off pretty briskly with a first mile pace of 7:29 in my head I had my race strategy all planned out. It went something like this ; position somewhere around 50th place, run the first 5k in about 22/23 mins, then negative split and speed round the second half in around 21 mins picking off people as I go.

In fact I went round like this:

Bushy Park 10k splits
My time of 48:53 placed me in 59th place out of 197 finishers. I am fairly pleased with the result, I thought I would place somewhere in that region. The time was slightly slower than I hoped and I am a bit upset I didn’t negative split. There were a couple of factors which definitely contributed to this these were:

  • It was wet and a lot of running was on grass or muddy uneven trails. I definitely was struggling for footing several occasions
  • It was hot, probably the hottest weather we have had in a few weeks and humidity of 88%
  • I am stupidly inexperienced and again should have put the foot down earlier on

However the run was so enjoyable and two really heartwarming things happened during the race which just makes me love running even more. Firstly a part of the course at around 4km and 9km went through a narrow muddy trail surround by fern trees. As I passed through the trail I heard a rustling on my left, I looked over expecting to see a runner who overcooked it being sick instead a massive stagg deer reared his head from the ferns. It gave me and the guy behind me a bit of a shock but wow it was amazing. I don’t think I will forget that moment for as long as I run.

The second heartwarming thing was of a more human nature at about 5:40 miles a guy pulled over in front of me and let out some frustration. I had seen him start running again after stopping earlier, he could obviously run as he was ahead of me. I just gave him a pat on the back and a few words of encouragement urging him make it the half a mile to the finish.

At the end of the race he came over to me thanked me for my words of encouragement saying he overcooked and I helped him get through the end of the race. That was really nice and made my day. The more I run the more I discover the running community is filled with wonderful people.  Afterwards I went for a lovely post run coffee with Aimee and her Mum. Aimee who hasn’t eaten meat in a few months and is interested in going vegan, did brilliantly running a time of 50.23 in her first 10k race. We both felt on such a high after the race and are already plotting out next races.

Bushy Park

Winter running is coming

Winter training gear is on

Training this week has been fantastic! although I feel like my 3 runs since Monday have taken place in 3 different seasons with the temperature dropping here in the UK daily. I was up bright and early on Monday morning and did a 10k around Walthamstow Marshes which is simply beautiful. I held a steady pace between 8:30/8:40, I am generally finding I am enjoying the second half of my 10k runs more than the first 5k. It seems to take me a little while to settle into a nice rhythm. I did quite a bit of hill work which in Hackney is a challenge. I felt a real sense of achievement arriving back at the flat before 9:00 already having done 10k.

I then went for a lovely little run with Kasia around Hackney Downs park on Wednesday. This was a much slower run than I would normally do but I found it really useful. We did 3.48 miles at a leisurely average pace of 9:18. This was great for me as I got to try some drills and focus on form. One I drill I tried which recently read about in my book ‘The Cool Impossible’, was tackling hills with your hand behind your head. The drill helps with maintaining good posture and getting you to drive your knees through when powering up those hills.

Hackney Downs Park

We ended our run at the lovely new vegan cafe The Black Cat. The cafe is 100% not for profit and run as a workers co-op. They have a great range of tasty meals which are reasonably priced and they sell some great vegan products. I purchased the Zapatista coffee which I can highly recommend.  If you live in London you should check it out regardless of whether you’re vegan or not, I have already taken several friends there and we all love it.

Then today of a sudden I turned into Mo Farah, well if you believe RunKeeper. Apparently I ran 8.84 miles in 45.54, admittedly I forgot to switch over to my mobile data network before leaving the house which probably explains the crazy stats. When I got home after some initial excitement I mapped out the route of WalkJogRun and the actual distance was the 10k I thought it was. Meaning that I had ran 10k in 45.54 which still is one of my better efforts of late and leaves me feeling really confident going into my Bushy Park 10k on the 20th October. I am now starting to believe it might be possible to duck under 45 mins on the day especially with the adrenaline that comes with competing. The wind today was really strong here in the UK approaching gale force, obviously this may have helped when the wind was at my back but when it was blowing across it felt like hard work. Does anyone have tips for countering strong cross winds?

Whilst writing this blog Runkeeper got back to me about the stats, they actually think my stats were pretty accurate my trip at an accuracy of 10m. Apparently this shouldn’t have been enough to create a 2 mile discrepancy. So perhaps I did just run like the strong wind today. Perhaps the actual result is somewhere in the middle. In a few days I will run the same route and see what kinda stats I turn out then.

Below is the RunKeeper message to me:

Runkeeper reply

I also have some big news in my slightly running obsessed world. Today I signed up to run my first half marathon since 2010. I will be taking part in the Ashford Half Marathon on the 1st December in my home county of Kent. It is a new half marathon which starts and finishes in a stadium and involves a mix of terrains. I am going to be running it with a new friend of mine Nicola who is a good runner quite excitingly her target time is 1:38 to 1:45 which is in the same range as mine. The Runners World time predictor is telling me that I am currently heading for 1:41 but with 6 weeks until the race the chances are that If I keep improving I could do something below 1:40 mark.

I would love to hear how other runners training is going this week? In the UK how have you adapted to the change of seasons? I would love to hear suggestions for how to layer up because my top today made me feel a bit too hot. Also I would love to hear from people who have run half marathons, if you have any training tips or plans I should follow that would be great.

This week I have already ran 16-18 miles and I am not sure what kind of mileage I should be doing for my half marathon training?

Thanks for reading.

Damien x