2020 hasn’t been the best of years, for obvious reasons, but for me it was a turning point in getting back on track with my running after a series of ups and downs between 2018 and 2020. I experienced a taste of normality back in May 2019 but this time things have stuck and I’ve managed to achieve things that I’ve been proud of including half marathon and marathon PBs and raising money for Colostomy UK. Here’s my 2020 in running.
May 1st and my first proper run in 2020. I had a tried a couple of treadmill runs earlier in the year but it hadn’t done the wound any favours so held back but my nurse at the time suggested that I should start again in order to keep sane! Armed with new trail running shoes I had picked up at the New Balance factory outlet in Cumbria, I headed for the nearest trails.
I probably should have started with something a bit gentler but it felt so good to be back running and so good to be tackling the technical trails. The distance wasn’t great, I stopped to take many photographs but I had achieved something and I was back doing something I enjoy.
I’m a big fan of the longer trail runs, especially those that involve exploring new areas, new sights and interesting historical places. The plan usually involves taking a train to a town and then then running to another town and stopping along the way whenever I spot something interesting, or get distracted by some cows. These runs are not about getting from A to B in the quickest time rather it’s about time on feet and enjoying being outside.
Despite the lockdown restrictions I managed to tick off quite a few routes including Tewkesbury to Gloucester, Chippenham to Bath and Chepstow to Bristol.
And after running 15-20 miles what better way to reward yourself than a few beers in a pub or two.
Following a Training Plan
After being back running for a few months and seeing some solid improvement I noticed that runner Adam Holland was offering 12 week tailored training plans. I had long known of Adam after following his JOGLE run a few years back and his subsequent crazy challenges (the fastest 10 marathons in 10 days) so decided to sign up to add some structure to my running.
The plan gave me a good structure consisting of hill work, interval training and longer runs plus I had a the support of Adam should I need to tweak the plan. The plan itself was nothing ground-breaking but it gave me something to work with for the Autumn. The early morning runs in the driving rain weren’t pleasant but when you knew that they were helping you move towards your goal it was worth the effort.
Half Marathon PB
A month into Adam Holland’s plan and one of the weekend runs was a 12 mile run at race pace. 12 miles is too close to 13.1 miles so if I was going to attempt 12 miles at race pace, I may as well keep going and see what happens.
I selected a route that was pancake flat and was (just) within the boundaries of Newport (there was a local lockdown at the time) and went for it. I had set what I thought was a realistic pace of around 1:41 on the watch and throughout the run it would provide feedback as to how well I was doing. It turned out I was doing better than I had anticipated and as each mile passed I was knocking off more and more time off my hopeful time.
Halfway through I was confident I would get sub-1:40 and in the last few miles there was a good chance I would beat my 1:36:51 PB from 2018. I finished the 13.1 mile distance over 5 minutes ahead of my PB in a time of 1:34:44.
The aim of the training plan was to get me back on track for participating in ultra marathon and after completing the half marathon it was onwards towards a marathon. The long runs continued and the 21 and 23 mile runs hinted that I would have a good chance of getting a decent PB.
Come marathon day things couldn’t have gone better and with consistent pacing throughout the entirety of the run I knocked a huge 34 minutes of my one and only attempt at a marathon distance (Limassol back in 2018). The finishing time was 3:27:00 and as I struggled in Limassol it was actually the first time running the distance non-stop.
24 Hour Challenge
In early December a challenge appeared on my radar called The Longest Night and I instantly signed up. I had heard of the other challenge that was held back in June called The Longest Day where runners would head out on the hour, every hour for 24 hours during the longest day of the year. The format was going to be the same but most of the runs would be taking part in darkness.
I initially signed up as a challenge to myself now that I was starting to train for longer distance races and was going to simply run a mile from the house on the hour, every hour, but why not make things a bit harder and raise money for my chosen charity Colostomy UK?
To make it more difficult I would run at least one mile in each of the 20 wards in Newport which would mean having to travel across town between them and have less time recovering between runs. But why not making it harder still? So in addition to running at least a mile in each ward I would include at least one hill. And so was born the 24 Miles, 24 Hills, 24 Hours challenge.
The challenge was tough, very tough but I saw it as a great way to test my limits and experience running whilst both physically and mentally tired and along the way over 50 amazing people donated over £800 to Colostomy UK.
City Strides has become somewhat of an addiction for me since restarting running and I can’t get enough of running around the streets of Cardiff and Newport. Sure, you feel a bit awkward being spotted running into dead end streets but running around neighbourhoods is a great way of exploring cities, piecing together the different streets and discovering hidden things along the way such as old buildings and stunning graffiti. To date I’m around 30% of the way through Cardiff so still a couple of thousand streets to tick off!
The Stoma, The Hernia and The Wound
The hernia kept itself to itself throughout the year and the stubborn wound finally healed completely in October and apart from one or two issues with the stoma when running, things have gone extremely well. The only major issue I experienced was when I attempted a 20 mile run without irrigating beforehand. A lesson was learnt!
Colostomy irrigation has been a game changer for me and I’ve ran a half marathon and full marathon at race pace without worrying about any output and have even completed a full 24 hour challenge without even thinking about the bag. I can recall asking fellow ‘gators about whether I should start irrigating and runners said that if I want to start running longer distance races again then it would be ideal and they were right. When the longer races start again, I’m confident I won’t have to worry about having a poop along the way!
My first ultra since 2018 (Brecon to Cardiff) has already been postponed to a TBC date later in the year so at present I have nothing solid planned but I feel that along with continuing to tick off the streets of Newport and Cardiff and running between cities when rules allow I’ll be setting myself more challenges.