I did it! I joined the marathon club before turning 30

Damien looking shattered

Well that was emotional but I did it. I ran a marathon before turning 30. However it wasn’t to be a glorious 3:45 marathon debut my training had pointed to but a real test of my ability to endure. Before the race my friend Nick told me that no matter what happens on the day remember the journey you have been on and the great experiences you have had whilst out training. I had to cling to words like those during the race as I stumbled across the line in a disappointing 4:26:12.

Edinburgh Marathon Race Report 

We headed up to  Edinburgh by train on Friday, after some drama with the tickets we got there and headed to our Airbnb in Leith to stay with the lovely Janet. Being at Janet’s reminded me of my Mum’s, it was pretty untidy but full of beautiful pictures and interesting books and cats, Janet has great taste.

Kasia and Damien

We failed to consider that Edinburgh might be pretty packed and it was freezing and wet, so after being turned down by our restaurant of choice we spotted a Pizza Express and I finally tried their new vegan pizza which went down brilliantly. Saturday saw plenty of resting and a little trip into town.

In the evening Kasia and I had the pleasure of hanging with Kayleigh and Tim. I met Kayleigh by chance whilst she was watching the London Marathon with her London running club the Mornington Chasers. We have a friend in common Hannah and realised we were running the same marathon, so we agreed to meet up. We went to David Banns and most of us had fantastic vegan food (Kasia’s wasn’t good) and a night of wonderful conversation. Both Kayleigh and Tim are more experienced runners than me and gave me loads of advice. This was just another example of how running has helped me make new brilliant friends.

Race Day

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I woke up to rain after a surprisingly good sleep, slipped into my running kit, ate my 3 Weetabix and drank a pint of water. We headed to the race start with plenty of time to spare and stood around shivering in the rain for a bit. But after starting to warm up I felt the race nerves fade away. I met up with Kayleigh, we had similar target times and agreed to run together for as long as possible.

ready to go

Tim (2:53 PB) had advised us the night before to start really slow: “Think as the first 5k as a warm up”. This made perfect sense and despite the downhill we started really slow, just at a lovely cruising pace. During the first half of the race we made our way out of Edinburgh and along the windswept coast, the sea and coastline looked beautiful, it was definitely rugged and the strong headwind was a challenge, But as we left the city we were met with some beautiful views. Runners were jostling for position on the inside to shield themselves from the battering winds blowing across us. I joined in this game trying to get myself as close to the inside as possible.

In the first half of the race I chatted to a guy called Paul from Birmingham who has ran over 150 marathons. He did his first one when he was also 29 to do one before turning 30 and never stopped. I remember him saying that his first one went badly wrong and he ended up at around 4:30. I remember thinking that is never going to be happening to me as we chatted away merrily till about mile 11. I carried on having lost contact with Kayleigh by this point but I was happy and feeling very much in control.

Then the wheels fell off in a dramatic way…

These were my splits at mile 13:

first half splits

half marathon

All of a sudden at mile 13 my right knee tightened and every step felt like someone was hitting me in the knee with a hammer. Writing this a few days later think it was my IT band that failed me. I have been plagued by flexibility issues and during the race they all flared up all together in one big perfect storm of pain. After dropping my pace by well over a minute a mile between 13 and 14, I was despairing. I called Kasia to tell her my knee had gone and my race was effectively over. At this point I was still on for a 3:40 marathon debut but I just knew and my words were “I will finish but it will be more like 4:30”.

I then proceeded to go through a whole roller coaster of emotions. The injury meant I couldn’t drive my right knee through. I decided to switch to a shuffle essentially, by opening my feet like a duck, I could move so that my knee didn’t kill. The problem was that this started to stress other parts of my body, the walls really came tumbling down.

The running part of this race was over, I had literally gone from gliding to hobbling in the space of a mile. This hadn’t happened in 5 runs over this distance in training. It had been 20 miles in Poland before I slowed down to 10 minutes a mile, but here I was at mile 14 basically struggling to keep it there.

second half

The next phase was all about mental resilience. Paul glided past me, his words “I am going to slow down otherwise I will pay for it later” rattled around my head. I hobbled along until mile 19 then it really fell to pieces. This was the part of the race where there were sparse crowds. My hamstrings had decided to join the pain party and completely tightened up. I was left cursing myself for not stretching more or getting involved in yoga.

From this point onwards it was a shuffle/run walk affair with stretching every half a mile and a bit of walking. Cardio wise I felt fine, I was actually a little bit cold once the sun went in as I was moving so much slower than I am accustomed to.

During these dark moments as my ego was taking a crushing my mind wondered to some interesting places. My thoughts drifted to hearing two time Ironman Champion Chris McCormack talk about walking in Ironman races. Rich Roll taking part in his first Ultraman and employing a walk 1 mile, run 1 mile strategy. Dave Scott’s form collapsing and pace dropping from 6 minute miles to 10 minute miles when he was overtaken after 24 miles running neck and neck in the final miles of the 1989 Ironman (The Iron War) but still chased Mark Allen in hope he still might fade..

I felt humbled, I felt like a baby, an arrogant baby having a sulk in my head because my body shut down and taught me to respect the marathon distance. I really felt like my pacing strategy was fine. I was running the same pace as my second longest training run and slightly faster than my Poland run but it was just total collapse. I didn’t feel hungry or thirsty just tight, my movements were totally constricted.

Being passed by thousands of runners was a hard experience for me to take. My second half of the marathon was a whole 1:36 slower than my first half 1:50 with it taking a total of 2:36. Possibly the worst negative split in history, perhaps the hard hill runs I had done to Hampstead hollowed out my legs, perhaps the move, the illness, not getting above 20 miles since my 21.7 (3:15) training run in Poland had done for me.

Whatever it was it hurt, it hurt real bad in my legs and in my head. Perhaps I had delusions of grandeur, just because I can run a 1:50 half marathon with ease doesn’t mean I can do a sub 4 marathon. I don’t know.

I can honestly say that the crowd were amazing on the way back into Musselburgh the last couple of miles saw people shouting great encouragement and anyone who was there cheering us on I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

As we arrived into the finish, I managed to string together a mile of shuffle run heading towards the line I felt a sense of relief wash over me. I couldn’t wait to see Kasia as it had been nearly 3 hours since I had talked to anyone (no one wants to talk to the person they are overtaking).

But I did it, I crossed the line in 4:26:12, I joined the marathon club before I turned 30. At the end of the day, that is what I originally set out to do back when I started this blog in September.

It wasn’t the result I was hoping for but now the dust is settling I am pretty sure I will run another marathon, perhaps in the Autumn if not in 2015 for sure. For now I want to focus on shorter races, I have the Hackney Half Marathon in a months time and I want to start doing some ParkRun’s and focus on completing my first triathlon.

Honestly although the marathon hurt me mentally and physically I can honestly say that journey towards it changed my life for the better. At 29 I am fitter and healthier than I have been since I was 21. I have discovered a way to explore my surroundings and calm my mind.

I have come to realise that sometimes in running like life in general things don’t work out as we planned. However that doesn’t mean they are not worthwhile experiences, every bit of mental and physical anguish I experienced in the Edinburgh Marathon will help me become a better runner and hopefully a better person in the future.

And to you the reader. Thanks for coming here and supporting me on this journey. The blog will continue as will the YouTube channel, I feel drawn towards triathlon at the moment and will be writing about my ventures into that world. You have been the best and anyone who has commented or interacted with me on this blog or on YouTube or Twitter, you have enhanced my life and I will be forever grateful to you for that.

And to all my friends who have supported me throughout this journey especially my girlfriend Kasia Ring for being super supportive and enduring my endless run chat. I also couldn’t have done this without all the following people.

My Mum for being a brilliant person and inspiring me everyday by being a wonderful person. My brother Adam for his words of encouragement and support with whatever I pursue.  My regular training partner Clare Foster and her dog Watson, you both got me through some grim winter runs.  Joe Phillips, especially for that 10 miler,  Nick Jones for wise words and inspiring me the seek challenges. Kate Stewart for the regular words of wisdom and the spin classes. Sam Sparrow for being super solid friend and setting a great example of how to get your training done. Helen at Fix for mending me and Kierra Hautala (old housemate and also at Fix) for the great advice on stretching and impromptu massages. Ade Adoabe for the amazing PT and counselling and inspiration. Ivo Gormley for the words of encouragement and creating GoodGym. Lauren Garland, meeting you in Platform 15 months ago set me on this course and those first difficult runs with you helped set me on the right path for which I am forever grateful. My friend Aimee Harrison for getting me to do that Bushy Park 10k and giving me loads of advice along the way. My old school friends John Rendle and Peter Flexman for running the Greenwich Park 10k, you both will be coming running with me again soon. All the vegan fruit bats for rooting for me and Rich Roll, Durian Rider and Scott Jurek for being an inspiration. And everyone else who supported and inspired me along the way.

My race stats can be found on Strava

I would love to hear from anyone reading this blog. How do I recover from this marathon? My legs are shot to pieces, where did I go wrong with my training? You can find all my training over on Strava, as always your support and advice is massively valued. 

30 miles a week

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Firstly, so sorry for the delay in updating you. After super consistent blogging since September I have fallen off the blogging wagon a little bit.

Life has been interested, I have lots of new projects going on that have been demanding my creative energies and I am starting to reach the peak of my marathon training which thankfully has been going great recently.

The past few weeks have seen me start to string together my long runs, I have only run 13.8 as my longest run thus far which took me 2:01 and I did a 13.5 mile run the previous week in 1:51 before the smog/killer air quality descended on London this week and slowed me down. 

I have switched my long runs to Monday and Tuesday’s, I am lucky that I work remotely and I am able to have a flexible schedule that enables me to train in the week. On Monday I will run for 2:40, I suppose that will mean around 18 miles which I am excited about. I found a tasty vegan Clif gel to take during my run, I will take them at around 1:10 like last week and perhaps 1:45 to see get the energy into me for the last hard couple of miles. 

My total Mileage has been pretty decent since I last updated you, I ran a total of 174km in March and already have clocked up 49km in April and 30.3 miles this week. 

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The next are going to be chaotic. I am going on holiday with my girlfriend to Poland then Berlin. This will mean that my 20/23 mile run will probably be done in Poland or Berlin. Not ideal but it could be worse. I can’t wait to bring you some footage of those runs. I am actually getting quite heavily into YouTube where the Vegan Runner channel has now produced over 50 videos and has over 200 subscribers. I am actually vlogging on this channel everyday in April as part of the crew at #BattenVEDA.

If you haven’t popped by come and watch me go a bit nuts about the air quality in London this week. 

Tomorrow it is 7 weeks until Edinburgh and my legs feel great. My recover has been really amazing, I am sure my vegan wholefoods diet is massively responsible for this. On my rest days this week I did a spin class and a 45 minute swim and I have no muscle pains touch wood. 

My concern is that I seem to either run long or 10k so I need more 8/10 miles, I am going to make that the focus of my running in the next few weeks as I take the mileage up to 35/40 a week.

Experienced marathoners do I look on track? My stats are here on Strava, I would love some feedback. 

Who else is running Edinburgh? I would love to hear how your training is going in the comments below.

 

 

Love Run 10k + marathon training update

Damien Clarkson after the Love Run 10k  (picture by Ivo Gormley)

Damien Clarkson after the Love Run 10k (picture by Ivo Gormley)

Whisper it quietly but I think the pissing wind that has plagued runners for months might have disappeared. Bring on the Spring! Or at the very least some cold and dry weather.

In just 13 weeks and 2 days I will have completed my first marathon. Currently I feel the Edinburgh marathon is looming above my head like a giant zeppelin about to drop a bombardment of ruined feet, shattered hamstrings and chaffed legs.

You would think that following a 16 week plan would leave me brimming with confidence. But boy would you be wrong. I have realised marathon training is hardcore, the sheer amount of miles, the tight muscles, the lack of sleep and destruction of your social life. These are all key elements of marathon training. And I have just taken a work contract at Government Digital Services. And although this is a superbly flexible forward thinking workplace, I am going to be spending more of my time tied to a desk not able to just drop my work and go running when the mood takes me. Scary!

So you would be right in thinking that I am struggling to hit my target miles at the moment. Last week I completed just 16 miles but this did include recording a new PB in the Finsbury Park Love Run 10k. Powered by a 8 banana smoothie, I kept my record of recording a PB in every race since I started writing this blog back in September. I recorded a chip time of 46:13 coming in 53rd out of 293 runners.

Damien Clarkson running the Love Run 10k  (picture by Ivo Gormley)

If you went out running last Saturday you will know how crazy the wind was. Everyone who took part in that race last Saturday or just went for a run anywhere deserves huge credit. It was literally insane, so much so that I got blown to a literal stop running for the finish line.

I was running with team GoodGym last Saturday. Everyone of us put in a wholehearted performance and super speedy Shaun Dixon won the race at a canter. GoodGym Founder, Ivo Gormley took some wonderful pictures I have shamefully borrowed for the site (thanks Ivo) and in other exciting news GoodGym is now an affiliated UK athletics running club. As if you needed another reason to come along and take a look if you live in London. I am already dreaming of the wicking t-shirt I am going to be able to buy with my cumulative £2 pound race entry savings.

I also made a video of the race below. Please give it a watch and perhaps give it a like and subscribe.


What else happened in the last 2 weeks. Well my Garmin 210 decided to stop working, meaning I lost 3 very average miles on Strava. Luckily I was able to exchange it for a new watch today, hopefully this Garmin lasts more than 4 months.

I am also just about the enter the Hackney Half Marathon at the end of June. I am so excited about running the streets of the area I have lived in for the past 4 years. I would love it if you came and ran this race with me.

Screenshot 2014-02-21 19.20.25

If you are training for a marathon how is it going? How do you squeeze the miles in? Also does anyone have an April half marathon they would recommend?

Tomorrow I will be running for 1:20 hr taking my weekly mileage up to around 18 miles. 13 weeks to go, I am nervous but still just about optimistic.

Damien

Beautiful Hackney running

Another week where I achieved my Jantastic run target.

Another week where I achieved my Jantastic run target.

Consistency matters! I am generally ok at getting my weekly mileage in but this week boy did I not want to run. Most of my runs this week came after hours of sitting around in my running gear, only the embarrassment of having to change out of it got me out the door.

Luckily being my own boss means I can pick when I run, which generally is when the weather is at its mildest and driest. And as always I was rewarded with stunning scenery. East London was recently described in a survey of Londoners as ‘grimy’ but the East London I see has everything you could want. Culture, marsh land, huge parks, independent shops, canals, great places to socialise. I also think it is pretty darn good for running; a couple of extra hills wouldn’t go amiss but when you get treated to views like this when you’re running you can’t complain.

Clissold Park on Monday afternoon as the sun was coming down.

Clissold Park on Monday afternoon as the sun was coming down.

Leyton Marsh taken on my Saturday 7 miler.

Leyton Marsh taken on my Saturday 7 miler.

Like pretty much every week, I did my Monday run, this week a 4 and half miler to Clissold Park. I then ended up not  running again until Friday when I ran to and from my personal training session with Ade. This week we again focused on core work and running posture and form. I was back on the treadmill again and things are lining up quite nicely with my running. She has given me more exercises to work on improving my core strength and posture.

Saturday saw me embark on another epic episode of procrastination before heading off on a lovely run to Hackney Marsh, it was 7 miles my longest since my injury and simply beautiful weather and thoroughly enjoyable.

My Saturday run

My Saturday run

My mind is starting to turn to marathon training which I start on the first Monday in February. I am feeling nervous but excited, so if you’re in London and training for a marathon and want a running partner please give me a shout.

Thanks for being amazing and reading my blog. Your comments and support always inspires me.

Damien xx

I am running the Edinburgh Marathon

Edinburgh Marathon

I have finally taken the plunge and it is settled; in 2014 I am to become a marathon runner. I decided the location for my first marathon will be the historical city of Edinburgh, Scotland, on the 25th May 2014. I will be aged 29 years, 9 months and 5 days old.

I have never been to Edinburgh and I frankly know very little about it. Several friends studied there or have been up to act in or watch the fringe festival. The historical streets of Edinburgh are unknown to me, this will be a run on away turf. When I started thinking about my first marathon in my mind I had settled on London or Brighton and their familiar streets. Obviously I hadn’t taken to account not getting a ballot place and missing the Brighton deadline and generally being useless and non-committal in choosing my race.

Other reasons to choose Edinburgh include it being the last of the spring marathons, I won’t have to fundraise to take part, I get to explore a new city and it is flat, flat, flat, after my last half marathon a easier terrain was definitely on my agenda.

Weirdly I don’t feel daunted, the past 9 months of running has seen me make great strides forward including recording a 21.04 5K and completing a half marathon. I may still be the worlds least flexible person and managing a calf injury but I am running again and excited for January which is going to consist of some personal trainer sessions and lots of cross training, including stretching, spinning, cycling, swimming.

This is where I need your help! What do I need to do to smash the race? What books should I read, what training plans should I look at? What gear should I investigate, what training runs should I do? I am thinking the 10 mile Dartford race will be my first training race, I actually grew up in the town and my Mum still lives there, so it should be fun to run the streets I know well. Reading and Brighton are February half marathon considerations, anyone else running these races? It is going to be a tough journey I know that. I am lucky I have found such a supportive community of other runners online and through GoodGym I have met lots of other great runners to inspire me.

I know lots of people will also be gearing up for spring marathons, if you live in London and want someone to train with let me know, I always love running with new people.

The Edinburgh Marathon is 20 weeks,  6 days and 16 hours away. Time to dig deep, lets do this!

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

Damien

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

Questions:

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.

Hackney GoodGym go to Parkrun

Hackney Marsh ParkRun

Hackney Marsh ParkRun

It was a crisp but beautiful Winter morning which was for the setting of my latest Hackney Marsh ParkRun. I had only previously ran one ParkRun 7 weeks earlier and recorded a time of 22:12. This week I cycled along to the race with a bunch of friends from Hackney GoodGym (Aimee, Lauren, Phil and Shaun).

Running has been great for expanding my social circle and I have found the organisers/volunteers of all of the races I attend brilliant and friendly. It really is a great way to get to know people living active healthy lives in your area.

I was definitely attending this weeks race expecting to run a PB. I decided that my tactics would be to start fast and hang in there. I haven’t really been running 5K’s in the past 6 weeks with training being more geared towards the 10K races of the previous couple of weeks and my upcoming half marathon. Therefore I wasn’t confident of being able to consistently put down 7 minute miles.

ParkRun Splits

ParkRun Splits

The pace at the start of the race was blistering I wasn’t surprised when I peaked at my Garmin to see my 1 mile split was 6:30. The cold air was tearing through my lungs and my legs felt heavy; the fear had set in at this point. All sorts of crazy notions flashed into my head, including getting overtaken by everyone and dropping out. Race confidence is definitely something I need to work on.

Anyway that didn’t happen and despite a slight dropping in my pace I was still able to put in some fairly decent miles and end up with a PB of 21:04 with a placing on 17th and knocking 1:08 off my previous 5K PB. I finished with a strong sprint going past two other runners and was slightly aggrieved to not have gone under 21:00 minutes but I am confident of doing this in the not too distant future.

ParkRun results

My GoodGym friends and I had a fun time and I think ParkRuns are going to become a more regular fixture in our running diaries.

Lauren (on the right) goes head to head with another runner

Lauren (on the right) goes head to head with another runner

Afterwards Aimee and I went for breakfast, I had some tasty avocado on sourdough bread and decaff coffee. All in all it was the perfect way to start the day.

Aimee gliding along

Aimee gliding along

Did you run a ParkRun this weekend? If so, how did you get on? Leave your comments below.

Until the next time…

Damien x