Reading Half

Three days ago now I took part in the Reading Half Marathon, and I’m still feeling a smug after-glow from the event, I have to admit. My first half marathon was the Oxford Half last October, and that was a pretty unpleasant experience as I started off too fast meaning the last few miles were utterly awful. I resolved at the time never to do another half marathon, yet within days I’d signed up for the Edmonton Half Marathon this August (the in-laws live there).

A little later, I figured I’d sign up for Reading too since I work at the university, which is on the route, and over the last six months I’ve started running to work regularly, hence plodding along many of the streets that form the route for the Reading Half.

The contrast between Oxford and Reading halves couldn’t be more stark; there’s a mere 60 seconds between the times in which I completed each 5km segment of the race, which stunned me in terms of consistency of pace. Of course, I was generally very close to the 1:45 pacer throughout which helped, but all throughout the run this felt like it was about the right pace I was hoping to set, and indeed in the final few kms I left the pacer behind.

The other thing that surprised me about this run was how much I enjoyed the road-side support, in particular the bands playing live music throughout. I hadn’t thought I’d be particularly bothered by it, but I found the music really helped give me a boost each time I passed any source of music, even if it was someone blazing music out of their house on a stereo.

50km and 1000m in Dorset

Following closely on from my 6┬ádays in Washington DC was a week in Dorset, near Corfe Castle, on holiday with family. The weather didn’t play ball too much earlier in the week, but nonetheless my brother-in-law is getting himself back into running and hence provided a good running companion for much of the week.

I managed exactly 50km in Washington, without a huge amount of elevation, but in Dorset, and in particular near the Purbeck Way, a ridge-way of a “Way”, I managed to climb over 1000m in elevation. I usually struggle to make Strava’s climbing challenge, and indeed on arriving on holiday I was 400m short with just a few days left, but I managed to pass 1500m for the month of March within the first three days of the holiday.

On the first night we ran with a huge torch as being in the countryside, it’s a bit dark in the night. We were staying in a place called Harman’s Cross, which as the name suggests, it set out in a cross-shape reflecting a cross roads. The main road goes from Corfe Castle to Swanage, and the road crossing it goes into the hills on either side of the valley we were in.

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As you can see if you follow the above link, we ran a cross shape almost perfectly, and we did this on Good Friday, the day that Christians celebrate the death of Jesus on a Cross.

Following on from this, the next morning we went out to run along the coast from Langton Matravers to a lighthouse near Swanage.

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This was an epic run in so many ways, as the weather was foul, with high winds (Storm “Katie” was on its way in), and a very challenging terrain on the best of days, running through fields and up and down narrow pathways along the cliffs. It also involved a huge amount of elevation, over 200m for a 9km run. It was great fun though, really enjoyable and refreshing.

The next morning we headed out up the hill towards the Purbeck Way, the ridgeway above where we were staying, and once we got to the top we turned left to run towards Corfe Castle. The views on the top were fantastic, 360 degree panoramas for many miles around, and as we got nearer to Corfe Castle, a great view of the castle from above.

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We ran down the hill at Corfe Castle and came back along a back road that skirts the Purbeck Way. This road turned out to be probably more hilly than going up the ridge, as it undulates so much. Good challenge though, and running narrow country lanes is great provided cars don’t come along unexpectedly…

The next two runs were on my own, two 6km routes I’d devised to keep myself out of trouble with the wife. I thought the first was quite hilly, going up to the back road mentioned in the last run, but it turned out this was nothing compared to the hill on the second run, up towards Worth Matravers.

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Our last run, on the last evening, was truly the epic run of the week, and one of my most enjoyable runs ever – enjoyable for different reasons than the House of Cards Half Marathon. We ran up to the Purbeck Way again, but turned right rather than left, towards Swanage, and in particular towards our final destination of Studland, via Old Harry, a coastal stack. The run was timed to perfection as the sun was setting as we ran along, and it set just as we finished in Studland, having got some great photos at Old Harry. It was another hilly run, but somehow when you know the view is going to be awesome once you make it, that makes the hill a bit less hard work. In places it was seriously steep, reaching an incline of near 20%.

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So, 51.9km to be precise, and 1018m in elevation gain (that includes an extra short run with the wife one evening). A great week, and I’m increasingly enjoying my running as it gives the opportunity to get out and about when otherwise we might sit around in the house doing nothing. I feel refreshed this week, back at work, even despite not getting as much sleep as I might whilst away due to deciding to go running.

50km in DC

I’ve just got back from a work trip to Washington DC. It’s the second time I’ve been on a work trip since starting to run, and I ran on five of the six days I was there. The photo above this post I took towards the end of my last run, on Monday morning, when I passed by the Capitol for the final time. As the friends I stayed with lived just a couple of kilometres from the Capitol, all of my runs ended up taking me past this iconic of buildings. I was a bit spoilt!

In total, I ran exactly 50km, which is highly satisfying. On my first evening, I decided it might be a good idea to prolong my bedtime after the flight from the UK by going for a 5km run, and my host joined me, showing me a route he takes that goes by Union Station and the Capital, then back out along East Capitol Street.

 

https://www.strava.com/activities/519004553/embed/6d63524ef2c3aee64d1dd0d431c3753c42c6d61e

 

What surprised me? The lack of Strava segments! Strava can’t be that popular amongst DC’s runner as there were plenty out and about whenever I ran (with the exception of Sunday morning).

Next morning I pretty much ran the same route, expanding it a little in a couple of places rather than stop to wait to cross a street.

 

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Friday morning or evening didn’t really work out for a run, but I did walk the best part of 15km at such a furious pace that Google Fit thought I ran quite a bit that day anyhow…

All of this, however, was the prelude to Saturday’s run. With the Reading Half now just two weeks away, this was my last weekend to get in full distance, and as a big House of Cards fan, with my host we plotted out all the scenes on the opening credits of the show, linked them up minus a couple, and had a half-marathon length run to get on with!

 

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The House of Cards Half Marathon was seriously satisfying, despite taking place on a pretty miserable day overall – got drenched, and quite cold particularly running over the Potomac River twice. My host Nick ran half of it with me, stopping at the Jefferson Memorial.

On Sunday morning pre-church I decided to run to the Washington Monument since that had to be about 10km, and it would be my last opportunity to head down the Mall.

 

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Sunday morning was, at first, very quiet indeed, I barely saw a moving vehicle before getting to the Capitol.

Monday morning was my last run, and I returned to the same route, roughly speaking, as the first two runs, with the addition of going around the Capitol rather than just up to and past it.

 

https://www.strava.com/activities/522835476/embed/99f0cb3f266d0f01d905bd459f0e7f37dde4f73d

 

Overall, a monumentally satisfying set of runs, and a set that’ll take some living up to. Running on American streets had its ups (ease of adding a few extra meters to the run if need be, ease of creating a run, fewer unexpected things around corners), but also its downs – having to wait to cross at busy intersections, although I’m sure the latter could be avoided if one tried hard enough. Overall though, more than just the change from running around Didcot and Reading (!), the amount of iconic sights to run past was hugely enjoyable.

Reading 5

Yesterday I ran a 5 mile race – my first, mainly because it’s a race at my workplace, running around the very pleasant University of Reading campus: The Reading 5 Mile Race 2016.

Here’s the view from the “start line”:

2016-02-14 10.56.49

Though perhaps not the most polished finish line or race organisation, nonetheless this was far from the worst race I’ve run (Coventry 10k gets that vote). The race began on time, the organisers were friendly and they sent out numbers in the post ahead of the day.

Here’s a very serious looking photo of me just before the start:2016-02-14 10.57.22

I took a less serious one, as my wife moaned that this one looked way too serious. But I looked quite scary in that one, so I’m not posting it.

 

Here’s post race – a time of just over 40 minutes (but less than 5 minutes per km which was pleasing) for the 8.4km, plus a medal, made me reasonably happy:ArE-o0hfJsHOl1wlwwcKsl6cDR9heH_7fQB412kEwmNC

In addition, post-race jaffa cakes along with the distinctive medal, bumps this race up significantly in my own personal rankings of running events.

On (not) running every day

The biggest thing, I think, that running  has forced me to think about is how I use my day.

A constant moan I make is that there aren’t enough hours in the day for all the things I’d like to do (work, family, checking Facebook), but then I manage to make time to go running.

The reality is it’s all about priorities. And also everything in moderation. There simply are days when even going out for 15 minutes is not the right thing when one has a number of other responsibilities – to do otherwise is to be very selfish.

Not running for one day will bring to an end a streak of consecutive days ran, but will that matter, in the grand scheme of things? Who am I trying to impress with my streak of consecutive days of running? Few, if any, of my friends would really care, and would probably actually conclude I’m a little obsessed.

On the other hand, will not running one particular day help reduce the stress levels of other important people in your life? Or will it simply improve their levels of happiness (to put things more positively)? If not, great – go do that epic run. But if so, I think prioritising running every day over everything else is, as I said above, selfish.