Monday 26 August 2019

#runsub17 - Week 2

I've met a lot of amazing runners over the years and I recently turned to someone for some advice. I didn't really get any guidance or advice back in the 1990s when I was a decent runner. All I used to do was just try and run as quick as I could to the beat of the music on my Walkman. I don't think I'll get away with that approach this time around. I'm therefore handing over this week's blog to someone who knows what it takes to run quicker than 17 minutes and then some. 

Pictured below is Steve Medd who is a Gateshead Harrier and he has also represented England. Steve started to run to lose weight, after piling on the pounds. He found that he enjoyed it and it was so much more interesting than hitting the gym! The rest, as they say, is history as Steve has a very impressive record indeed. According to Strava - Marathon - 02:38:22. Half Marathon - 01:13:31. 10 miles - 00:57:12. 10k - 00:33:33. 5k - 00:16:25. 1 mile - 00:04:53. 1500m - 00:04:27. As I'm writing this blog, I've just heard that Steve grabbed a gold in today's Tartan Games 1 mile event.

What Steve continues to achieve is even more phenomenal when you take into account that he is a secondary school teacher that has a young family! I think I'm right in saying that Steve is well placed to offer me some sound advice on running.

I asked Steve one simple question "What advice would you give me if I'm to have a chance of succeeding at beating 17 minutes for a 3 mile run?". Over to you Steve.

"The pace you need in order to run 3 miles in 17 mins is 5:40/mile. This is equivalent to 17:36 5K pace, which is no mean feat. 

In order to run fast you are going to have to get used to exactly that - running fast. You need a combination of speed and endurance. Depending on your starting point, I would take the approach of building base mileage first, taking 4-6 weeks to get used to running a minimum of 3 times a week of at least 3 or 4 miles each time. Once you have that base, you can start to introduce to at least one of your runs the cornerstone of faster running, what are usually referred to as ‘sessions’. These often consist of repetitions of the same shorter distance/time period efforts, but at a faster-than-normal pace with a set recovery (sometimes jogged) in between. 

You can do sessions on the flat, on a hill, on the track....there are loads of different ways to do it. The key is that you are loading your training in a different way than just running at a standard pace. You need to push the envelope of what seems a comfortable pace. These sessions are much easier when done with other people, which is an advantage of training with a running/athletics club. 

The reps should initially be short and the recoveries in between long and you should aim to be reasonably consistent through the session. As you get fitter, extend the rep length/shorten the recovery/increase the number of reps. 

Longer term, I would be building to a minimum of running 5 days a week. Build to two of these being the sessions described above. The introduction of a tempo session for one run would also be a good idea (this could be a parkrun) where you run harder than normal pace for a few miles, but slower than race-pace. 

A long run once a week is still useful, even when training for a shorter distance - maybe build up to 10 miles. Also you can supplement with one or two easy runs at ‘recovery pace’ - nice and relaxed, just to turn the legs over.".

Thank you Steve for giving me the advice that I'll turn into a structured training plan. Tune in to next week's blog where I'll be putting Steve's initial advice to the test and also talking about the main threats to the success of the #runsub17 project.

Sunday 18 August 2019

#runsub17 - Week 1

You'd think that week one of the #runsub17 campaign would get underway with an actual run. Well, given my current weight and lack of running confidence I opted for a short hilly session on a static Bike on Monday. I wrote on the Run Geordie Run Facebook page "The #runsub17 campaign has started on a Wattbike connected to Zwift. I really stuck in tonight to knock 90 seconds off yesterday’s time for the “hilly loop” route. I’ve always been a fan of the Watt Bike since being introduced to it at David Fairlamb Fitness gym.".

I enjoyed the session and most importantly of all, it reminded me just how short I am of fitness. I intend to fill in the week with more of these low impact types sessions until I build the running mileage up and drop some weight. 

One thing I will say about the Watt Bike Atom and Zwift is that I never feel that I'm simply pedalling away on a static bike. There is plenty to keep my mind focussed on these shorter rides. There's the regular gear changes to think about just like a real bike on various inclines. Every so often there are sprint sections and the temptation to try and beat my last time is always there. There are also many other riders in the same virtual world to try and pass. So far, all that has happened is that they've passed me time after time. 

On Thursday I wrote "I did a short run in Monument Valley last month. I really can’t remember the last time I ran prior to that! That long break from running has been much needed after many years of major trans continental campaigns. It’s a case of back to basics today. I’m going to see how I get in with a 3 mile run which will give me something to work on over the next 12 months.".

The run went well and I reported "The longest journeys start with one step blah blah blah. That was certainly how tonight's first run of the #runsub17 campaign felt. 

There's no doubting that I'm physically in poor shape right now. Running "uphill" out of Bedlington into Nedderton felt like being in the Alps again! The pleasing thing was that I never felt like stopping to walk. I don't feel that I could have gone faster at any point either. There is so much work to do if I'm to have a chance of getting under 17 minutes for 3 miles. 

From a mental point of view, I'm exactly where I need to be. After so much time away from running I'm ready for the challenge again. Back to tonight and I felt well up for the "out and back" 3 mile effort. 

I absolutely tried to run as quick as I could. Speed isn't that important right now, of course, but I did want to put a marker down with a maximum effort session. I'm pleased to report that I managed to run 3 miles in 00:35:48. It's a start!".

And a start is all it was. I've got to follow this first week up with more running sessions, more cycle work, underpinned with some routine and structure next week.

On Saturday morning I received a message from an old ally from the run across Australia days. Darren Miller, who is an exiled Geordie living in Perth, was at the start of the run back in October 2013. He was one of two "locals" who ran the first 13 miles with me out of Perth. Darren is pictured below with me as I prepared to set off from Cottesloe Beach. As well as that company on day one in Oz, Darren has been a key supporter with repeated charitable donations over the previous stages around the world.

Back to Saturday and Darren's message read "Love your new challenge. I can’t wait to see how you get on! Seems impossible at the moment but you have got some willpower so I won’t put it past you. I will donate 5 Aussie dollars for every second you get under 20 minutes, and $1000 bonus if you get under 17:00".

I must admit that I was already formulating plans and schemes to absolutely guarantee getting under 20 minutes when I read the offer of 5 Aussie dollars per second under 20 minutes. When I read on, I soon responded on the Run Geordie Run Facebook page with "The #runsub17 stakes just got raised this morning! I didn’t intend for this near impossible challenge to be a fundraiser. The main aim is to help me get in peak condition for stage 6 of the run around the world. That all changed when I got a message saying that should I beat this challenge (i.e. run a sub 17 minute 3 mile time next August) then £500 would be winging its way to St. Benedict's Hospice. 

I was gobsmacked and totally surprised when I read the message another few times. I didn’t think that I could feel any more motivated right now. How wrong I was. Given that there is charity money at stake, the complexion of #runsub17 has totally changed for me. 

I always knew that there would be little room for error over the next 12 months. Now I know that I’m going to have to excel in everything I do and then some. I was always going to give this challenge 100% effort. Now I’m going to have to do that and find a bit extra from somewhere. 

Regular followers will know that I’m all about the charity money. Therefore, many people will be able to understand exactly what is at stake for me. I’m going to have to do what I reckon very few people have ever done. 

I still think the chances of success are very slim but I absolutely won’t be standing on the start line next August knowing that I couldn’t have done any more in preparation. Thank you to Darren, an exiled Geordie in Perth, for the kind pledge.".

I'll finish the week one update with some stats and a recent front and side profile. Apologies, if you're having your dinner looking at this! I last stood on the body composition scales two weeks ago (04/08/2019) for comparison with today.

Weight: 120.4 kg (-2.3 kg)
Body Water: 46% (+0.5%)
Body Fat: 31.3% (-1%)
Visceral Fat: 16.5 (-0.5)
Muscle Mass: 78.7 kg (-0.3 kg)
Metabolic Age: 63 (-)

To say there is a lot of work to be done is an understatement. Watch out for further updates on the blog next week. Next up, I've managed to get the opinion of someone who has been there and done that in the world of running. They will be giving me a total reality check in terms of the  task ahead and what will need to be done to even stand a remote chance of being successful.

Sunday 11 August 2019

Introducing #runsub17

I'm a forty something year old runner who, despite running almost 20,000 miles over the previous 25 years, has gotten slower and slower over the decades. One of the reasons for this is that I've switched my focus from running the quick times in the 1990s to running considerable distances across various countries of the world. 

You could add age as a reason too but I think the main reason for getting slower, however, is the fact that I spend most of the time being overweight. I tend to gain weight then lose it over a two year period. Each time, though, I gain a little more and lose a little less. 

I simply love food and have very little discipline with it or accountability. A bacon sandwich here and a chocolate bar there all adds up over time. When you're doing that seven days a week it becomes habit and I've often felt like I've been fighting a losing battle. 

The image on the left below was taken on day three of the run across the USA in California. I was 18.5 stones (117.5 kg) and my body fat was a whopping 32%. Fast forward to day 100 in New York and my weight was down to 13.5 stone (87.7 kg) with body fat at 5.8%. To say that I was lean and mean by the time I finished the run across the USA was an understatement. There was similar weight loss when I ran across Australia in 2013 and Europe in 2016.

Running across a continent is not a sustainable way to lose weight and when I get back to normal life the weight soon goes back on as I've already mentioned.

I've often wondered if it would be possible for me to reverse the trend of running slower as I get older. With that in mind, now is the right time to announce my next running "project"; RUNSUB17

The aim of RUNSUB17 is "simply" to try and beat my three mile personal best set in 1994. It was set on a simple loop around Washington where I used to live. The miles were done in 00:05:29, 00:05:31  and 00:06:00 to give a time of exactly 17 minutes.

I'm going to give myself 12 months to try and achieve the target with an attempt to crack 17 minutes to be done on the weekend of 8th/9th August 2020.

At the time of writing, I don't believe it will be possible for me to be successful at this. That might sound really negative but perhaps, I'll gain some belief as the months go on. For now, though, I feel like I don't stand a chance at this.

The real aim of RUNSUB17 is to try and do absolutely everything possible to give myself the best chance of running 3 miles in less than 17 minutes. As long as I do that, I'll consider the project a huge success. I'd be able to start stage six of the run around the world 8 months later in great shape and with a lot of confidence. 

You'll be able to follow a weekly blog on with regular updates on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter using the #runsub17 hash tag. Watch out for the first blog update next weekend.

So that's my focus over the next 12 months. I hope you enjoy following the journey and I'm looking forward to the challenge.