Sunday, 15 September 2019

#runsub17 - Week 5

It's been quite a journey so far this #runsub17 project of mine. When I started running again 5 weeks ago after almost a year off from running I felt so very unfit. I still feel a long way off from where I need to be but there are small signs of improvement to be seen. I can feel within myself this improvement. I'm also running a little quicker and feeling quite comfortable. 

I recently noticed that the uploads from my GPS watch had the VO2 Max figures shown in the image below. I'm not normally one to take much notice of this kind of thing. I'm normally all about running from A to B and being able to do that on many consecutive days. That's what my training has been based on for nearly 2 decades now. These figures, however, have sparked my interest. 


Even if the figures from my watch aren't 100% scientifically accurate, I have something tangible to work towards improving. As you can see from the table below, there is much improvement to be had!


As well as improving VO2 Max, this project will be doomed to fail if I don't improve what I'm eating. It's always been a struggle for me and this has to change and soon. I've got so many bad eating habits which go from the ridiculous to the absolutely ridiculous. One example is the amount of bacon sandwiches I eat. If I go to Greggs for breakfast I will order two bacon and sausage sandwiches (it used to be 3 quite regularly). I always ask for one of them with red sauce and one with brown. This is to make the server think that they are for two different people! 

On some days this week I've had a bacon sandwich and some days porridge. I always feel fuller for longer with porridge. However, when the various around the world support teams have served it to me at a very early hour for days, weeks and months on end it is not an easy substance to eat. Donna used to try and spruce the porridge up a bit during the run across Australia in 2013 with a drawing on top made from fruit puree. Perhaps that's the answer to eating it on a  more regular basis!

The association of porridge and difficult times is a one I need to break! The focus on week six of #runsub17 will be to drop the bacon sandwiches and eat my porridge for breakfast. I also have an option of scrambled eggs so it's not all "bad news".


Speaking of Donna, I'll use this week's blog to confess to her a dark secret that I've been keeping for a few weeks. She's had a couple of boxes of birthday chocolates in the fridge for about 3 months. Knowing her, they'll still be there, fully intact, in another 3 months.


Well they would have been fully intact if it wasn't for the little hole that I made in the bottom of one of the boxes. I've had one or two out of the bottom of the box in my most desperate times in need of chocolate! If you thought the bacon sandwich behaviour was shameful then I think this is even worse!


On the back of this confession, the week six focus will be on saying goodbye to chocolate and other sugary snacks and drinks. Once that's part of my natural daily routine, I'll turn my attention to lunches and evening meals. Better breakfasts and cutting out sugary snacks is the immediate focus.

I'll also look to build on this week's haul of 21 miles next week. I managed to ditch my car, for 4 days out of 5 for the daily commute this week. I had to resort to driving in/back on Friday as I had a load of kit that needed bringing home. The logistics of self powered commuting will be a lot easier when my new bike arrives at the end of the month.

I managed six runs this week with the longest being 5.2 miles. I got slower as the working week went on but the main thing right now is trying to increase the volume and make running a regular habit.  

Relive '#runsub17 - week 5 - run 1'

The quickest that I ran was at the Blyth Links Park Run on Saturday. I managed to knock 1 minute and 8 seconds off last week's Park Run time with a time of 00:33:30. I was very pleased with that time. I even managed a quick "sprint" down the final straight. The split times were 00:10:34, 00:10:54, 00:11:04 and a pace of 00:08:23 for the final 10th of a mile. A huge thank you must go to the volunteers around the course for the encouragement dished out. 

Relive '#runsub17 - Week 5 - Run 6'

At the end of the Park Run, I had a chance meeting with a former running ally, Johnn Mallon. I'm beginning to make a habit of this!

John and I ran the newly opened 84 mile Hardian's Wall path dressed as Roman soldiers back in 2003. That's us pictured below back then. As you can see, it wasn't the full ancient military outfit but more the kind of thing that you'd wear on a stag do!

By the time we reached Segedunum 3 days after leaving Bowness-on-Solway a massive £4,140 was raised for St Benedict's Hospice. It was a brilliant 3 days with lots of laughs as well as being a worthwhile fundraising event. 



It was brilliant to catch up with John who, to my surprise, knew all about my #runsub17 project. Amongst other things, he talked about some of the recent changes that he'd made to his diet which had seen an improvement in running speed over the summer.

While the #runsub17 project was never intended to be a fundraiser you may remember from week 1 of the blog updates that Darren in Perth "...will donate 5 Aussie dollars for every second you get under 20 minutes, and $1000 bonus if you get under 17:00".

I received another message last week from David (pictured below with a strategically placed bottle of Cherry Active), who has been a brilliant member of Team Run Geordie Run over the last few years.


David's message read "...I’ve set up a £25 (plus gift aid) monthly Standing Order to St Benedict's which will give them £300 over the course of the year. Here’s the incentive. If by the end of your challenge you’ve gone sub 24 mins (easy :-) ) I’ll keep the Standing Order going for another 12 months. If you go sub 20 it’s 5 years and sub 17 is ten years. 

Hopefully I’ve pitched it well enough to keep you focused right up until the final day of the challenge whatever happens along the way.".

I was absolutely gobsmacked when I read the message from David. What an incredibly kind gesture! In fact, those words don't really describe how I feel about David's support or anyone else's over the years for that matter. 

This is the 26th year of my fundraising. The generosity shown from thousands of people over those years has been amazing. If it continues during the remaining miles around the world then my dream of raising half a million pounds for local good causes stands a good chance of becoming a reality. 


I often wonder what my Mam and Dad (in the pictures below) would have made of my running and fundraising. It's been very fulfilling to be able to fundraise in their memory thanks to the kindness of so many people like David. Most importantly, it continues to be a privilege to be able to repay the debt of gratitude that I feel towards St Benedict's Hospice for the care they gave my Mam.



Back to #runsub17 and in terms of next week's plan, I'll be looking to increase the volume of running but with little emphasis on speed (until the Newbiggin-by-the-Sea Park Run). As I mentioned earlier, there will a focus on what I eat for breakfast and also sugary snacks. It's all set up to be an important week. Thanks for reading my blog. I hope you're enjoying the early stages of this journey as much as I am.


Sunday, 8 September 2019

#runsub17 - Week 4

The following is from day 29 of stage one of the Run Around The World from John O'Groats to Lands End in 2007 "At the 9 mile point and just as the boredom was at it's worst again I felt a tap on my left shoulder. It was none other than my regular training partner John Brettell (pictured). I nearly jumped out of my skin because during all of the 660 miles done so far I'd not once been tapped on the shoulder! John and his wife Annie had been down to Plymouth the previous day to watch their son at his passing out parade. So while they were in the vicinity John decided to join me for a few miles".


Fast forward 12 years, 1 month and 3 days to the Whitley Bay Park Run on Saturday and imagine my surprise when I received a tap on my right shoulder. It was none other than John Brettell. I haven't seen John (of North Shields Poly) for many a year and it was brilliant to run the first mile with him before he took off to get a respectable time. John was recovering from last week's Northumberland Coastal Marathon and looked as fresh as a daisy. Thanks to John (pictured in blue below) for helping me get my quickest mile so far in 2019 (00:10:55). 


The second and third miles in 00:11:02 and 00:11:41 together with a final tenth of a mile in 00:00:59 gave me a total time of 00:34:37. That's a huge improvement on last week's time at the South Shields Park Run. Surely, I'll be on for a sub 30 minute time next week. That's how it works isn't it?

I can't finish the Park Run banter without mentioning Chris Checkley (pictured below) and his family who I spoke to before the race started. As is the case with John, I've ran many a mile with Chris over the years. I even remember when he was slow! Not now though as his running over the years has gone from strength to strength representing Heaton Harriers. 

Chris was part of Team Run Geordie Run last year and has always taken time out to be part of the welcoming committee at Newcastle Airport whenever I've returned from a stage of the run around the world. 


I've no doubt that Chris' words of encouragement at the start of the run helped put a spring in my step. I also think that seeing Chris' Dad, who is still running very well at the age of 82 years young, serves as inspiration to many people.

Relive 'Whitley Bay Park Run'

The last 7 days have seen me run 3 times totalling 8 miles. It's not a vast amount but I've come through it uninjured and my desire to do well is very much there. I'm confident that over the next 4 weeks I can continue to build on that in terms of frequency, distance and intensity. I'll also be adding a few weight lifting sessions in the gym which will complement what I'm doing out on the road.

I can't finish this week's blog without a well deserved mention for Team Run Geordie Run's participation in the Great North Run today. This is the 10th time that there has been a team presence at the Great North Run. Before today's outing, £58,294.22 has been raised for local good causes (£14,061.62 for St Benedict's Hospice and £44,232.60).


I'm very proud and pleased to report that the team of David, Steve, Jeff, Sarah, James and Craig have so far raised £1762.58 this year. This means that in its 10 years of existence Team Run Geordie Run have raised over £60,000 for local good causes. That's an absolutely tremendous amount and all those who have been involved since 2010 should be as proud as I am.

That's all for this week. I'm looking forward to getting stuck in to week five of the #runsub17 project. Check back next week for hopefully more good news. 

Monday, 2 September 2019

#runsub17 - Week 3

I was determined to put Gateshead Harrier Steve Medd's advice into action during week three of #runsub17 with a minimum of running "3 times a week of at least 3 or 4 miles each time". It's may seem like a very small amount of running compared to what I've done in the past but I've always been a great believer of starting small when building up the miles. Steve Medd calls it "building a base" and that's exactly how the week's mileage felt. I wasn't bothered in the slightest at the lack of quality. Getting the running shoes on and putting one foot in front of the other is what it's all about at the moment.

The running week got underway on Wednesday with a 5 mile run to work. Donna dropped me off near her office and I ran the rest of the way. With Donna having previously been part of the Australia and Europe support teams I thought for a moment that I had 30-40 miles to run. Thankfully, Wednesday route was just from Dudley to Longbenton.

My legs were very sore right from the start with cramp being felt all over. It's the type of mild pain I've felt on many returns to running over the years. There are no concerns there for me.

The 5 miles took me a whopping 01:07:59 to run. To say there's room for improvement is an understatement!

Relive 'Run to work'



The second run of the week took place on Thursday and was my first lunchtime run in a long while. It was a 3 mile effort around Longbenton which took 00:38:11. A marginal improvement on the previous day. More importantly, I was able to suss out the shower facilities at the office. There appears to be a lot of off road options nearby and Jesmond Dene isn't too far away. I expect to increase the number of lunchtime runs greatly over the coming months. 

On Thursday night, Donna and I attended the wedding of Michael and Yuliana. Regular readers will remember that Michael was my "fixer" in Ukraine. He was responsible for putting me in touch with some very kind folk in Kalush, Turnopil, Starokostyantyniv, Zhytomyr and Kiev during stage 5 of the run around the world last year. He was a game changer last year and we were really honoured to help them celebrate their wedding. 

This is the second "around the world" wedding we've attended with Mel and John's wedding in Perth Australia being the other one back in 2015.

Congratulations to Michael and Yuliana. 


The final run of the week was done at South Shields Park Run on Saturday morning. I found the course very challenging compared to the other Park Runs I've done but I really enjoyed it. There were the usual wide range of abilities in attendance and I put myself at the back of the crowd. Michael said he would keep me company but I don't think he realised how slow I would actually run. It's always "good for morale" when the running company jogs ahead, comes back, starts running backwards alongside you and doesn't break a sweat. Support man Carlton has done this many a time over the years! I'm used to it thankfully.


The pleasing thing for me is that Michael said that he only started running after meeting me in Kiev last year. That's always a great thing to hear. I'm sure that won't be the last I see of Michael during the #runsub17 campaign and he is currently on his way back to the Canary Islands where he teaches English. 

Before he left, I heard that he took Yuliana to the Newcastle match on Saturday afternoon. Now that sounds like a perfect honeymoon to me!

I intend to try a number of different Park Runs over the next 12 months. I hope to return to South Shields in October to see if I can improve on my time of 00:39:50. That included a very discreet toilet stop which cost me 30 seconds!

Thanks to the South Shields Park Run volunteers for some enthusiastic encouragement on the way round. I always appreciate that.

Relive 'South Shields Park Run'

Tune in next week for the week 4 #runsub17 blog and hopefully a greater number of miles at a slightly faster pace.