A Little History
Prior to 2015 I was overweight and extremely unfit and would pretty much work up a sweat just walking around. Without much thought I decided to by a bike shortly after Christmas 2014 and within a short period I was starting to lose weight. I continued the cycling for around 5 months whilst introducing swimming, gym sessions and daily lunchtime brisk walks of 2-3 miles.
With healthier eating I was dropping clothes sizes on a regular basis and by August I had lost 3 and a half stone. During gym sessions I had occasionally used the treadmill but only for short interval sessions. The first time I attempted 5K on a treadmill in April 2015 it took me 34:40.
February: Lacing Up for the First Road 5K
I forget the reason why I started running. I can recall seeing people running and thinking that it wasn’t for me so why did I put on a pair of trainers and headed out on the road? Maybe I thought I should at least try it. Through swimming, cycling and regular gym sessions I had built up a good base level of fitness so I should have been able to managed at least a short distance.
On February 25th I challenged myself to see if I could run my first 5K during my lunch hour in work and managed to do it in 24:00. I did it non-stop and can vividly remember lying on the floor being completely knackered, but proud. The next day I was on the treadmill and had knotched up the distance to 8k.
March: Have I Caught the Bug?
March 5th was the inaugural run with the Cardiff chapter of the Mikkeller Beer Running Club in Roath, Cardiff. Beer and running?! I was sold. The idea is that on the first Saturday morning of every month the club would meet up at The Bottle Shop in Roath, run 5 or 10K then have a beer and a chat afterwards
I already knew that I could run 5K but could I run 10K? The run involved two laps of Roath lake so should I tire after the first lap there was always the option to stop. It turned out I had 10K in me! I returned to the Bottle Shop with a time of 56:00 and celebrated with a well-deserved beer. On the run I met an ultra runner and can remember wondering how someone could run for such long distances.
The following week I ran my first parkrun in Newport in a time of 24:45.
Throughout March and April I continued running 5K distances weekly as well as another 10K at the Mikkeller Beer Running Club.
May: Something Happened in May
On May 17th I was sat in the office looking out at Twmbarlwm in the distance and decided that I was going to drive up there after work and run along it. After only a couple of months running I was already making sure that I was always prepared for a run by keeping my running kit in the boot of the car.
I drove up there straight after work and set out on an ad-hoc route around the mountain. As I passed each mile I felt good and as I passed 6 miles I wondered if I could reach 10 so kept going. I was in new territory but I wanted to see what I had in me. The terrain between tracks and grass with some hills thrown in but I was running with a relatively small area so I knew that if I run out of juice I could still walk back to the car.
At mile 10 the inevitable happened and I wondered if I could make it to 13.1 miles. It turned out that I could although climbing a hill at mile 11/12 was a struggle. I got back to the car in 2:20:47 and was stunned that I had actually ran that far. I think that run may have been the point where I decided that I loved running, in particular longer distances. By the end of the month I had signed up to the Cardiff Half Marathon for my first official half marathon race.
June: My First Races
During June I officially started racing with my first race being the 10K Whitebrook Wind-Up trail race (59:46) in the Wye Valley. This was a cracking race to start with with a good variety of terrain. A scenic section along the River Wye and a very fast, but exhilarating, wooded downhill section.
The same month I competed in Caerphilly 10K road race (45:14) and was very pleased with my performance. To date it’s still the only 10K road race that I’ve completed in.
Bath Very Long Half Marathon
The Bath Very Long Half Marathon (15.7 miles) followed in July which was the longest race I’ve completed in and offered road, canal towpaths, fields and some brutal climbs. I loved it! By this point I was craving longer races and I had my eye on the St Bega’s Ultra 35 in the Lake District in August.
August: My First Ultra
It took me a few weeks to convince myself that I should sign up for my first ultra but I knew I would ultimately do it. Before signing up I wanted to make sure I could have a fighting chance so did a few test runs to Cardiff and completed a 31 mile run in a morning (run to Cardiff, Mikkeller Beer Running Club, run to Newport) which well and truly killed my legs. I also completed a test run of part of the route around a month before to see how I coped with the terrain. The only way to truly test if I could actually run the distance was the sign up.
When asked by people how long it would take me to complete I would reply that I hoped to complete it in 8 hours and despite struggling from around 20 miles on, I crossed the line in 08:06:02 and finished in the top 50 out of 180+ runners. This gave me a huge boost and showed that with good training and self-belief I could run what I thought just 6 months before was unachievable.
October: My First Half Marathon Road Race
In the weeks leading up to the Cardiff Half Marathon I read about Jeff Galloway’s Magic Mile Calculation where you run a mile as fast as you can then using his formula you can estimate your time at 5K, 10K, half and full marathons.
It had accurately calculated my 5K and 10K race times and estimated that my half marathon race time would be 1:37:16. In test runs I had managed around 1:45:00 and I would need to maintain a pace of 7:20-7:25/mi to get that time.
It transpired that the half marathon time was accurate too! I crossed the line in 1:36:51, just 25 seconds outside the estimated time.
October: Joined a Running Club
Throughout August and September I had been going on long runs with Parc Bryan Bach in Tredegar and got on well with everyone. Despite being around 40 minutes away from where I live, and being unsure about whether I should join a club, I signed up. I wasn’t going to be able to attend evening training sessions but I would be able to compete with them which I’ve found to be a great help. Speaking to people with a range of experience and ability is great for bot learning and motivation.
Through the club I also rediscovered cross country. Like many people that join running clubs, the last time I took part in a cross country race was in school. I can’t remember it being that tough in school! I’ve competed four times in two different leagues and boy are they ‘character building’.
October: Ghost Run
With Halloween approaching I noticed a night run organised by Run Walk Crawl, an company that runs ultras in South Wales. It’s a short 5 mile night race through fields, trails and woods and this would be the first time that I would be running at night with a head torch. It was a fun race and I only got lost twice!
November: My Second Ultra
After completing SBU35 I had clearly caught the ultra running bug and within 5 days I had already signed up for the EnduranceLife Coastal Series ultra in the Gower which weighed in at the same distance as SBU35. I had about 9 weeks or so until the race in November which I figured would be enough time to prepare and train for another race.
By the time I had signed up my weekly mileage was consistently at 40+ miles with a good mix of longer runs and speed sessions in addition to gym work.
I entered the race confident that I completed sufficient training and whilst it was tough, I completed the race in under 7h 20m. I could probably save around 10 minutes if I didn’t take photographs but where is the fun in that?
November: Night Racing
5 days after completing the Gower ultra, Rogue Runs were holding a night race in the Forest of Dean. I had learned of the race prior to completing the ultra and was keen to run it but wasn’t sure if I would be ready so soon after.
Fortunately they accepted entries on the night and by race night I was feeling good enough to enter. What a fun race! It was well attended and extremely well organised and I truly loved every minute of it. It was so much fun running through the woods at night and I even enjoyed have to run through the knee deep water obstacle! When’s the next race?
December: Another Ultra Booked
The problem with following runners on Twitter is that they end up posting races that interest you, and there are only so many races that you can book.
One such race that was posted was the inaugural St Illtyds 50 and 100K in west Wales. With a new trail to run and 6 aid stations advertised as picnics I was keen to book it.
I had already signed up to the Race to the Stones 100K in July 2017 but had opted for the 50K per day option so that I could enjoy the overnight camp. So when I signed up for St Illtyds rather than going for the sensible option of booking the 50K, I went all in and booked the 100K. I guess there’s only one way to find out whether I can make the distance! Goals that make you work hard are good, right?
What Will 2017 Bring
The race calendar is already filling up fast as I’m discovering so many different races. This is what I’ve got to look forward to so far:-
- My first double parkrun on New Year’s Day (Cardiff at 0900 followed by Newport at 1030).
- Lliswerry 8 (an extremely popular 8 mile race in Newport that sold out within around 7 hours)
- Brecon to Cardiff 70K
- St Illtyds 100K
- Limassol Marathon
- Race to the Stones 100K (opted for 50K per day)
- 2 more Rogue Runs night races
Plus plenty more that I’ve got my eye on. My plan is to make sure I don’t overdo things and lose the enjoyment that running is currently bringing.