Stop! you are injured: Ashford Half Marathon report

Race bling

It has taken me a few days to write this report,  the reason being that honestly because I am just a little upset with what happened to me during the Ashford Half Marathon.

Just to give you some context, about a week and a half before the race I went for a 8.6 mile run with my friend Clare. When I returned home my calf started to tighten, I tried some stretches but it knotted up and I proceeded feel it for the next couple of days. Then on Tuesday I decided to do a 4 mile run through a lovely country park by my Mum’s, during this run I managed to fall over as I exited the woodland path. My foot clipped a jagged rock, the result me feeling embarrassed and picking up a  heavily bruised knee and cut ankle; nothing major but still painful.

After breezily finishing my run, I got home and instantly felt my calf pulling, I proceeded to stretch and ice the calf throughout the day but I knew my participation in the half marathon was now in doubt. Luckily for me my housemate works as a sport injury masseur and was able to treat my calf on Wednesday. She worked miracles and the tightness started to loosen. By Saturday it felt nearly there, I could feel it wasn’t 100% but it wasn’t causing me any strong pain. So this is where I went wrong, my body was telling me it wasn’t right I ignored this.

I took part in the race with my friend Nicola and her husband Tom was our mascot for the day driving us and being an epic supporter. After the usual Sunday morning TFL transport fiasco, no oveground and buses, I got to our meeting point in Brixton for 8:00 and we set off. I could feel my nerves building not really because of the race but because I knew my leg was in a pretty shoddy state.

Anyway we got the track where the race was due to start and went through a little warm up around the track and onto the start of the cross country element of the course. The race was advertised as multi terrain and it really was, I totally wasn’t prepared for so much of the race being ran over farmers land. To stay it was sticky was an understatement, my feet were being pulled off my feet fiercely. I also under estimated the hills involved in this race. My training currently rarely goes near hills, I live in an incredibly flat area but this needs to change in the future.

Anyway, I decided to take part in the race we set off and I felt fairly good, I had made a decision to not push the pace and just settle into my training pace. This would get me near where I wanted to be and my logic was that by just running my normal pace I should be able to protect my leg. Wrong! As soon as I started to hit the hills my calf started knotting and there was nothing I could do to stop it, apart from curse under my breath. Unsurprisingly this had little affect on my injury. At around mile 6 my calf pulled and tightened up, I felt so frustrated I really wanted to scream.

So at this point I had a two choices:

1) DNF- I was near the stadium for the start of the second loop I could have easily stopped there, getting the injury treated and running again another day

2) Keep going- Scott Jurek didn’t quit the Great Western States with a broken ankle, you shouldn’t quit now. Dig deep, slow stuff down but keep going.

I chose option 2, this was stupid decision driven by ego and pride, I had trained hard for the race and was in decent physical condition.

So I slowed down but the wheels seriously fell off. I couldn’t put any real power through my right leg so I was doing overtime with my left on the hills this really started have a serious impact. My body was working overtime on 50% capacity trying to haul me around, it was complaining all over. I had planned to be done at around 1:45- 1:50 so my hydration strategy was set for this. Basically go into the race light and not carry extra fluid drink around 1:30 and be done. This was a major mistake it was around 1:45 by the time I reached the last drinks point and I was seriously dehydrated. I had some sugary drink and a minute rest and slowly trotted off to the finish, the last bit over the mud was literally hell.

I finished in 2:03.13 placed 200, given the course and the injury it wasn’t the worst performance ever but still disappointing. Nicola got around in 1:43 which was amazing especially on that course.

Race splits

Race splits


On crossing the line I felt exhausted, Tom was a superstar grabbing my jackets and getting me ice. My calf was already seizing up within a few minutes. On the way home quite disgustingly I had to get Tom to pull over the car to enable me to throw up.  After this unpleasant incident  I ate one of Nicola’s bananas and I felt fine. I was basically in the red and needed sugar desperately.

Today I went to see my favourite physio, Helen at Fix she gave me acupuncture on the injured calf. The good news is that it isn’t torn, just very tight and strained nothing a bit of stretching and a few weeks rest from running won’t mend. I am not exactly sure when I will be running again but it shouldn’t be too long. In the meantime, I will be swimming and spinning and generally trying to stay in good shape. So all in all a bit of a disappointing end to my big race of the year but I have learnt some valuable lessons these are:

1) I am tough
2) I am stupid
3) Running means a lot to me
4) Drink more water on long race days
5) I need to stretch a lot more
6) Running an 3:30 marathon feels far away at the moment


Have you ever gone into a race injured? If so, how did it go? Do you pull out if you have a niggle or grin and bear it. Tips for avoiding calf tightness also welcome.

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