Week 1 of a new journey – sub 16 dream

This week is what I consider to be Week 1 of my new target – the sub 16 5k.

Someone once said the journey is more important than the end goal and in my case that holds true.

Although in all honesty I didn’t celebrate the sub 17 enough it did not stop me thinking about the “what next”. Having entered the Great North Run already by the time I achieved the sub 17 in May my focus and attention turned to that and any new 5k goal was put on the back burner.

As I’ve said previously I was happy with my performance in the Great North Run but in truth I was really looking for a 1.17 showing based on my 5k PB of 16:44. That didn’t happen mainly due to training not going as well as planned and overall I loved the experience and can’t wait to do it again in future.

In the meantime I have been focussing on my physical and mental health and fitness.

Since the Great North Run I have not been doing a lot of pure running. I gave my body time to heal from the half marathon. So I’ve only been running in the range of 20 to 30 miles per week. That said I have been very pleased with my first two outings in the North East Harrier League cross country.

I have qualified back into the Fast pack and also finished 38th and 37th respectively in the field outright.

I feel I have an excellent platform now. For me 2017 has been an amazing journey in terms of my personal development. Although not perfect I feel on a much more even keel emotionally and mentally. I feel ready to take on more again in my running. Since I feel like I am performing at least as well as I was when I was coached in 2014/15 I feel I can now push on again and surpass my current achievements.

This feeling allows me to set the following goals in the short to medium term –

  1. Run a sub 16 minute 5k;
  2. Run a big 10k PB;
  3. Push into the Top 20 in NEHL XC fixtures;
  4. Strong showing at the North Eastern XC in December 2017;
  5. “A” race aim of Horwich 5k in June 2018 with a view to selection for an England Masters vest.

I cannot do this alone and part of my development this year is to look around me and realise that I need help to achieve my goals.

So this week I finally got down to Elswick Harriers on Tuesday night for a great training session. I need to ensure I attend more sessions as running in a group has nothing but benefits. The session ensures a good warm up and warm down and also ensures I put the required effort into a session, something I would struggle to do alone.

This week it was 5x 4 minutes with 1 minute recovery. To me it should be run as a VO2 max type session, looking to push 5k pace. At the moment I am in a little bit of a grey area and so I am torn between trying to run current 5k type intensity (16:44 say 5:20-25/mile) and an intensity based on my recent half marathon (more like 5:35/mile).

In the end the first 4 reps were ran around 5:30-5:35/mile and felt comfortably hard meaning that I was straining on the leash the last rep. I set off strongly and a quick look at my watch revealed I was cruising at 5:10 pace. Something clicked in my head to push on and I was away from the lads at the front. I felt like I wish I could feel in a race but never have – running hard and strong and breathing well. Granted the last couple of the minutes got tough and I lost a bit of pace finishing the rep averaging 5:17/mile. On analysis I feel like I need to be aiming for at least 5:20-5:25 in this session next time.

Given this “grey zone” I am currently in I felt it was important to get back down Doncaster to meet with Dave Tune of Blizard Physiotherapy who offers an excellent lactate threshold and coaching service. Indeed Dave coached me (as I have mentioned in the Blog) from 2014-2015 – this was my real breakthrough period at the time.

Many amateur runners may think it is a bit serious for a club runner to get Lactate testing, something that may be deemed only for the Elites. Personally I disagree and I feel strongly that the service is completely accessible and can reveal a great deal of vital information for anyone in the pursuit of improvement.

It was great to catch up with Dave as it had been probably a year since I was last down to see him. It was also good to get back on the treadmill and understand how my body was performing. My lactate threshold heart rate was pretty much unchanged at 180-181bpm and a pace of low 6 minute miles. Although I am not in the type of shape I saw in October 2015 that is to be expected because I am simply not running the miles this year following a very quiet 2016. However, as I said earlier I see this as a massive positive and opportunity that I now have the springboard to push on.

We were also able to test my body for a couple of minutes at sub 16 5k tempo. It was tough and I was sweating profusely. It reminds me what I need to do and my heart rate was elevated to 195bpm which is something I am currently seemingly unable to do in a race. The key is to unlock that extra gear that I know I have when pushed in a controlled environment. Dave informed me that my body was producing 6.2mmols of lactate at that intensity which I should be able to handle for 5k with the right preparation and training.

With that in mind I will be following a plan for the next 12 weeks set by Dave which will involve cementing more consistency in my running, particularly my threshold sessions (2 per week) and a regular longer run although no more than 75mins.

My next target will be the 3rd Cross Country fixture at Aykley Heads where I will be trying a slightly different tactic as part of my goal to improve my mental toughness in racing. I need to start being prepared to fail in races to improve. I need to discard the “self preservation” tactic which will only allow me to achieve so much. Unless I can let myself go (like I did on the 5th rep at the Elswick session and on the treadmill down Doncaster) I may not achieve my goals…

In other news I am planning on starting a YouTube VLOG to capture my experiences training for the sub 16 5k and leading up to the Horwich 5k in June 2018 so watch this space!

Thanks for reading.

 

 

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North East Harrier League 2017/18 – Race #2 Druridge Bay

Two cross country fixtures in two weeks and I was keen to build on a good showing at Wrekenton.

I was able to qualify to Fast pack from Medium at the first time of asking which was pleasing off a relatively small base of training.

Granted I had the Great North Run in the bank (something I’d never had before a cross country season) and was feeling fresh and fit.

The plan for the week leading up to the second race at Druridge Bay was to get another couple of decent thresholds in the bank also. I wanted to have a toughish weekend of training by doubling up with a parkrun on Saturday and the XC race on the Sunday.

The reason for this is to get a bit stronger both physically and mentally. There is only so much wrapping yourself up in cotton wool you can do. Sometimes you have to tire yourself out and build yourself back up.

The thresholds were just OK to be honest. The first was done on the treadmill. Treadmill thresholds are challenging for the monotony more than anything. It’s difficult to know fully where you are at so it pays to just focus on heart rate and get in a rhythm. I built the speed up to 15-15.5kph and held it there, keeping my HR in the high 170s and not passing the 181bpm mark which is my last measured lactate threshold level. I went for a standard 20min effort.

I was pleased when it was over!

Later in the week I went for a second threshold of 30mins this time looking to hold at around 175bpm. I think I averaged around 6-6.05min miling which is OK. Generally I would say I was feeling over tired this week.

Consequently I decided to take it easy on Friday and drove across to Riverside Parkrun on Saturday morning. In planning I was looking for something like a 5:38-5:41 first mile and then try to wind it up for a 5:32ish second mile and then just dig in for the last mile.

As it happened the first mile felt very easy, the second slightly down on schedule and the 3rd mile very tough as I struggled to pick up and got a little hampered by lapped runners on narrow pavements. I finished in 17:33 and no harm done. I turned my attention to the XC.

The weather was very unseasonal for October in the North East of England. The sun was out and no mud to speak of.

The last time I had ran the course it had been a quagmire. Not this time. Again, like at Wrekenton fast times were possible with no real hills to hamper.

My loose plan was to try to track Elswick super vet Lee Bennett who had finished ahead of me a week earlier. I had gone off quicker so my thinking was to try to work off Lee and his superior pacing experience!

Unfortunately that plan only worked maybe the first mile or so. We went off fairly quick and the first few miles were done in 5:43 and 5:54 – if anything still a little quick.

That said there was no need to panic and I still had Tyne Bridge Harrier Tony Carter to work with. I was aware I had beaten him a week earlier but of course he is a quality runner and could easily have come on for the run.

The 2nd lap still felt strong and I was able to throw in a few fartlek type efforts to negotiate through packs of runners. The challenge of getting passed runners, looking for little openings and taking them is what I enjoy most about XC. You don’t get that in road racing.

That said, about half way around the second lap I got a little bit excitable and tried to steal a march over Tony. In hindsight it wasn’t really necessary at that point in the race and I suffered for it a little bit mentally as well as physically.

It reminded me that I still had more than a couple of miles left to race and it was shortly after that I felt I had lost a bit of umph.

This is where I need to improve if I want to be the runner I think I can be. I need to toughen up and improve my “self image”. I need to change from “it doesn’t matter if he beats me cos he’s a good runner” to “there is no way he’s beating me today”. I am capable of a tough mindset but as I’ve gotten better I’ve also gotten quite placid. Something I need to work on. I used to be able to get angry in races quite easy, now I just go quite quiet in my mind…

Unfortunately the quiet side of me won over today and I let Tony get about 10-15 yards on me. To my credit I felt like I did tough it out in the last quarter of the race and overall I finished 137th out of 547 runners from Fast pack. Pleasingly I was 37th fastest overall versus 38th last week. In my mind I felt I’d ran a bit softer but the results tell a better story.

There is a bit of a break in the XC fixtures now as I will be unable to do the scratch race Sherman Cup. So I’ll be focussing on the next phase of my training where I feel I’m ready to up the mileage a little and introduce some slightly faster running.

Thanks for reading and enjoy your running!

North East Harrier League 2017/18 – Race #1 Wrekenton

North East Harrier League 2017/18 – Race #1 Wrekenton

My very first memories of running are Cross Country at school.

When I started running again in 2011/2012 I was very keen to join a running club so that I could remind my self of the pleasure and pain of Cross Country.

The mud, the sweat and the tears.

Unfortunately the last couple of seasons have been disappointing and I’m very keen for the 2017/2018 season to be a good one.

With that in mind I turned my attention to the first race following my debut half marathon in the Great North Run. I was pleased with my outing despite a less than satisfactory build up and it gave me confidence that I could get on the start line at Wrekenton in good shape on Saturday 30th September.

The first couple of fixtures can be quite forgiving weather wise and this one was no exception. The weather theatened rain but it stayed away until after the end of the senior men’s race.

I arrived in good time to get to the Elswick Harriers tent whilst the senior women were out on the course.

I had the pleasure of bumping into Jim Alder, running legend and world record holder and still coach to a few at Morpeth Harriers. I was blessed to experience the ongoing passion of a man who has a marathon Commonwealth games gold medal to his name. Very inspiring.

I felt very calm about race 1. I felt good, well rested and raring to go despite a week away in Cyprus with work. I’d only arrived back home late on the Friday but slept well.

The plan was to bank a good hard training run.

Starting in the Medium pack meant I’d give a 2 minute 30s head start to the Slow pack.

Wrekenton was the venue I had last qualified for the Fast pack a couple of years earlier and I felt like I had it in me to do it again.

My plan was to start sensibly and build. No reference to pace, just run hard and try to pass as many people as possible.

As usual with Cross Country the plan quickly goes out of the window as the other runners fly off.

I was probably sitting in the top 10-15 of the Medium pack a quarter mile in and I noticed we passed the first Slow pack runner at the first proper hill.

Wrekenton has a few hills but overall it is benign and almost defenseless with good footing. Indeed there was no mud to speak of and fast times were on the cards.

Lap 1 and most of 2 felt strong and I had made good progress through the field. There was well over 500 runners in the race and I think I heard none other than Jim Alder himself (who was keeping count of runners) shout high 90s as I passed him towards the end of lap 2.

Finishing in the Top 10% of the field from Medium pack would mean a promotion to Fast pack and it was on.

I was currently 3rd team counter for Elswick and I could see super vet Lee Bennett about 20 yards ahead.

I was running well but needed to dig in as things got tough on lap 3. The hills felt harder and the opportunities to pass runners less and less.

I was pleased overall with my attitude and application although I still felt like I was holding something back. I was reminding myself that I was after a hard training run and not a hard race at this point.

I dug in well and getting onto the final straight I was able to summon a strong finish.

Although hard to compare I ran a course PB in around 34 and a half minutes for 5.6-5.7 miles. Overall in the race I finished 49th and qualified for Fast Pack. Ranked on time I was 38th. Looking at my Power of 10 this is my best Harrier League performance which gives me confidence going into the next fixture at Druridge Bay next Sunday.

The provisional plan is to run a decent effort at a parkrun and go into the race slightly tired for another hard training run from Fast pack.

As Jim Alder told me – standard Cross Country fixtures are for training and can be run #2 of a double run training day – “the North Easterns are another story”.

Thanks for reading.

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Great North Run Training Diary #1

Running the Great North Run for the first time seems like a big deal. I haven’t ran a race like the GNR before. The closest I have probably got to a race of this size is The Blaydon Race but I think this will blow that away.

Going into next week there are about 10 weeks to go.

My dream goal for my half marathon debut is something around 1hr 17m, preferably under. This isn’t just a number I plucked out of thin air. Having ran my 16m 44s 5k PB in May I feel with the right training 1h 17m is achievable.

One of the key challenges will be getting the right amount of training at the right intensity. Running is like walking on a knife blade. It is so easy to do too much too soon and come down with illness and injury, especially when you are trying to balance training with having a life.

I have now completed 3 weeks of training. Weeks 1 and 2 were nothing to write home about as I was just trying to get back to some proper running after picking up a niggle.

As I mentioned last week, I don’t usually train with purpose at this time of year. I tend to struggle with hay fever and running outdoors in the summer months is a challenge. This year has been no exception.

I don’t usually find it too much of an issue when I am actually out running. But as soon as I get back in the house I have sneezing fits and often my head is banging and my nose pouring. Its not ideal.

Its one of the reasons I wasn’t whinging this week about the constant rain. Although getting soaked to the bone three nights in a row isn’t joyous its preferable to the hay fever attacks.

So as a brief update, week commencing 12th June I completed only just shy of 3hrs running and about 20 miles. Week commencing 19th June the training was upped to a total of just shy of 4hrs and 33 miles. This week just gone, week commencing 26th June I have completed 4h 39m of running and 39 miles. I wouldn’t recommend these types of increases week on week for new runners but my body is used to around 5hrs per week under normal circumstances and, now that the injury is sorted, I know I can achieve 5hrs next week.

The key runs done this week were a solid 13.4 miles on Monday in 1hr 36, 4x 5mins at Half Marathon pace (5.50 per mile) with 1 minute rest on Thursday and on Saturday I did a total of 8 and a half miles with the middle 5 at predicted full marathon pace (~6.11 per mile).

All in all the week was ok. I will say that I need to get my long run >15 miles at least within a sensible time of the race itself. I also found the 5 minute thresholds challenging, not least because of the windy and rainy conditions. And unfortunately on Saturday nothing felt right. I’m not sure what it is but I never feel good on a Saturday. I suspect it is the result of tiredness from a tough working week. Added to that was the Hay Fever and I had to cut my warm down short as I couldn’t stop sneezing. I then felt terrible all day for the rest of the day.

Writing this on Sunday 2nd July I do feel better.

And I now turn my attention to a fourth week of training in which I will seek to almost replicate week 4. No need for anything special. I will plan a similar long run on Monday. I am deliberately avoiding the traditional Sunday long run for no other reason than the fact I am adopting a “6 days of work, 1 day of rest” approach. Note I am only running 5 days out of 7 (Mon, Tues, Weds, Thurs, Sat) and then doing a strength and conditioning session on a Friday. I take a full days rest now on Sundays which works well for me both physically and mentally.

This week I really want to aim to feel strong on the long run and also further lock down my target half mara threshold pace of 5.50 per mile. That will get me the 1.17 target and I just want to feel nice and relaxed at that pace. At the moment it feels a bit stretching but I know I can lock it down and even make it feel a little comfy. That will be critical and to achieve that I will be increasing the number of reps. Last week it was 4x 5mins and this coming week I will increase to 5. I am not looking too far ahead in terms of how many reps I will advance to.

I will be also looking to increase the medium long run and extend to 6 miles at 6.11/mile, and, critically, I will be looking to getting my hay fever under control with anti histamines and nasal spray.

So overall I will be looking for 5hrs of training and perhaps just over 40 miles.

Onwards and upwards as they say!

Thanks for reading.

P.S. If interested you can follow all my training on Kevin Richardson STRAVA

Also, you may wish to check out my new running blog “Your Running Potential”. Please sign up to the Newsletter for regular updates and a free “Your Runners CV” which is a one page summary of your current running fitness – this will allow you to fully understand where you stand and the key areas for improvement to reach your full running potential!!!

 

 

Getting back, Radiohead and Durham parkrun…

Since my 5k PB in May I’ve gone a bit quiet!

I was really pleased to finally crack the sub 17 minute 5k. That had been my key goal since 2012/2013. It felt like it might never happen. This year I really focussed, made some subtle changes to routine and mindset and achieved it.

Everyone says the journey is more important than the destination.

I can confirm that is true.

Perhaps its the yearning for wanting something, and to feel like you might not get that keeps you going. And then when you get it, yes there is elation but why not celebration?

With hindsight I didn’t celebrate enough. In fact the very next week I was in Dubai. Another work trip. I tried to keep up the training, even step it up a notch. Even to the point where I was running 50m up and down alongside a motorway in Dubai centre, in 35 degree heat – the locals must have thought I was crazy.

I had Blaydon in my sights and a desire to build on my 2015 performance.

After Dubai it was back to blighty. I was feeling distracted. It feels like the country is going down the pan… I had done well to ignore politics leading up to my 5k but I was getting sucked back in by the election fever. It felt like deja vu from the Brexit debacle a year earlier.

It started to suck my mental energy. But I pushed on to the point where a knee and hip injury suddenly flared up out of nowhere.

I was forced to treadmill walk in the week leading up to Blaydon, still every intention of running.

Waking up on the 9th of June and the deja vu was confirmed. Surely May had to resign!

As the day went on and my mind refused to contemplate Blaydon and my right leg refused to stop being cranky the decision was made to pull out of Blaydon. Very disappointing.

The mind turns now to GNR. This will be the first year since I started running that I will be trying to train with purpose over the summer. I confess to not being a summer runner. I am a winter runner. Couples of reasons – firstly I suffer from Hayfever which doesn’t help what is an already difficult endeavour! Secondly I always have a 2 week holiday where I try to forget everything – including running!

This year is no exception. The difference now is I have 11 or 12 weeks to get on the start line at the GNR in the best shape possible. I have had a few hayfever episodes but my mindset is better than ever before and I will not allow it to bother me. I am also going on holiday for 2 weeks in July. So I will need to navigate through that getting some running in where possible, seeking to maintain fitness so that when I get back I can hit the final 6 weeks preparation and have the confidence to get out and perform.

The last 2 weeks have been a slow build up. The knee and hip injury has subsided and this week is probably the first proper week back training.

Today I got out for a parkrun and the first real leg stretch since a 20 minute threshold run in May, not long after my 5k PB.

It was a reflective day. I had spent Friday evening watching Radiohead at Glastonbury. Very emotional, exciting and amazing – always a band that make my hairs stand up on my arms. So many songs that remind me of different periods of my life.

The Bends and OK Comptuer the real teenage angst of my secondary school years – loner, getting lost in the melancholy.

Kid A and Amnesiac the lost University years… Still angsty, still lonely, still confused but now fuelled by alcohol etc…

Hail to the Thief leaving Uni with a 1st and signing on the dole…

In Rainbows – being in work and hating every minute – nothing but living for the weekend.

So its always emotional to watch them play some important songs that resonate 100% every time.

And so I set off for Riverside, OK Computer the soundtrack to the drive. On arrival at Riverside I noticed that there was another event on. Parkrun was cancelled. So I quickly looked up Durham parkrun which I had never done before and set off with an expected arrival of 8:52.

Luckily the parking facilities were good and I was able to squeeze in a short warm up.

The course is good but challenging. It starts on the Durham Uni running track and then onto grass, over the bridge and more grass, a loop round and back to the bridge and to the finish.

Running a new course is always a bit of an unknown. I didn’t really have a plan other than to not look at pace and just see what happened. Deep down I knew I wasn’t looking for a hard effort. Although it wasn’t too hot there was a slight breeze.

Starting off I didn’t feel like the pace was strong. Mark Snowball of Morpeth Harriers (who I met at the Clive Cookson 10k in 2016 where I was DQ’d for not wearing my race chip) came alongside and we had a small chat. He said he was just jogging which made me push on.

I was shocked to go through the first mile in 5:22 which is around PB pace (16:44). That didn’t help me as I felt I’d been rash and overcooked it as I was probably looking for something sub 17:50 given I hadn’t done any harder running since May.

The second mile slowed considerably and Mark was back with me. We exchanged some more chat and I’d accepted I wouldn’t be pushing any harder. Actually Mark held pace and I dropped off. The second mile was 5:50ish and the 3rd mile slowed to >6:00 minute miling.

I didn’t feel good at all. I was able to finish off in just over 18 minutes. The Garmin had the course as slightly long and I’d averaged 5:46 miling.

Given that I’m looking for a target of 5:45-5:50 miling for the Great North Run this is a gentle reminder that I need to get back to some proper training and just start getting some confidence building runs in the bag.

On to the next step…

Thanks for reading.

What’s next?

Now that I have completed my sub seventeen running dream I’m excited to give an update on what I am planning next with both my running and blogging.

As I’ve mentioned a few times my immediate goal is a strong showing at the Blaydon Race. I’m looking to build on my 16:44 5k. Ideally I would also have completed a decent 10k race but, with the race being a week on Friday, time is now limited. 

Following the Temple Park 5k I had a work trip to Dubai and a bank holiday weekend in the UK. Training was completed more as and when and overall I’ve ticked over and muddled through a tad. That said I’m confident I can get things in order. After that I’ll be planning for the Great North Run and trying to put in place the best possible training to peak for that.

I’ve decided to keep the sub seventeen dream blog going as a vehicle to write about my experiences training for and racing the Blaydon and the GNR. 

Quest for a Vest!

After that I’ll be looking to start a new blog with a working title of “Quest for a Vest!” This will chronicle my new dream of representing my country as a Veteran athlete. I’ve long been inspired by local athletes such as Kev Jeffress and Terry Scott who have achieved the accolade of representing England on the roads and at XC.

This is a huge goal for me but I feel it is the type of goal that will inspire me to keep working at my running. I realise the standard is high and I will need to improve a good deal. The sub seventeen will need to become a sub 16 at the very least. These next few years will be critical in my development, to ensure I stay fit and healthy and motivated throughout.

But I feel a good half marathon debut and a return to form over the cross country in the 2017/18 season will lay the foundations.

So the plan will be to start the new blog in September 2017.

Your Running Potential

In addition to that I have also set up another running website titled Your Running Potential

This will cover my thoughts on how all runners can strive to improve and reach their goals and dreams. 

This is in the very early stages but my goal is to help as many people as possible who want to improve. 

Ultimately I have been able to improve my 5k time by over 25% up to this point and I feel all runners can achieve similar improvements (if not more) relative to themselves. So this website will be my outlet for that.

I hope to write blogs, post recordings and videos. I may also look to get a podcast going and some other interactive features as I seek to build up readers. I would also finally like to write and publish some e-books. So watch this space and if you’d like to keep up to date please subscribe here.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading and happy running! As always if you’d like to get in touch my email is kevin.richardson3910@hotmail.co.uk

RACE REPORT – Temple Park 5k

RACE REPORT – Temple Park 5k

I’d like to dedicate this Blog post to Jasmine x

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Before writing this post I wanted to re-read my first ever Blog from back in June 2013 (you can read it here – first blog), just to remind myself why I started writing about my running and also how far I’ve come.

My goal was always to run the sub seventeen 5k before my 35th birthday on 10th March 2016. Of course I missed that goal, and it’s been a long journey – over 5 years since I first ran Newcastle parkrun in 2012 in 22:39.

As I’ve explained in previous blogs my key races this year are the Blaydon in June and the Great North Run in September. My goal for Blaydon is a top 40 and the Great North Run around 1hr 17 for my debut over the distance.

It would be wrong to say that the sub 17 5k target was put to one side.

Indeed, to achieve either of my goals I knew I needed the sub 17. One of the things about running is that there is a correlation between what you can do over short and longer distances. To run a 1.17 half I knew I needed something like a 16:48 5k.

So I planned to get a 5k done in May and have a real crack at getting the monkey off my back. Unfortunately, missing my original goal of March 2016 had made this goal (and at times this Blog) feel like a monkey on my back!

That said, deep down, I knew I could do the sub 17 as far back as 2014. It was just a matter of when. I’d gotten close…

At the Blaydon Race in June 2015 I had gone though the 1st 5k in 16:3- (though downhill) and I’d ran a few 17.10s at parkrun and a parkrun pb of 17:05 at Newcastle. I just needed a race as I hadn’t done a 5k properly since September 2014 where I ran 17:53.

So the Temple Park Friday night 5k on 19th May seemed ideal. It seemed fitting also to me that the race was organised by Luke Adams. I have a lot of respect for Luke. Having ran 1hr 10 some years ago at the Great North Run firstly Luke is a class runner. Secondly he played a part in my running journey having coached me at the back end of 2013. It was unfortunate that I wasn’t to know that I was actually on my way to becoming anaemic at that time due to an unrelated illness. So, as a result I wasn’t coached for very long by Luke but I have kept a close interest in his running and his RUN EAT SLEEP coaching and events management business.

I knew the course was fast and a Friday night gives me a good chance to fit the race into my work schedule. One of the reasons I have been so lightly raced over the years is my work travel schedule which makes it difficult to commit in advance to races.

Anyway I decided to enter this race and in my mind I felt confident I could finally break my target at the race.

Training was going well.

As mentioned in previous Blogs I have adopted a much more positive mindset in my life. Still not perfect but improvement is improvement. Although I wasn’t running as many miles as my peak in 2015 I was feeling good. A few key points I would highlight –

  1. I adopted the “plan your training” at least a week before discipline – both the what and when – this helps simply getting it done;
  2. I was completing a light early morning daily exercise regime – just simple, star jumps, Burpees, push ups etc. Over time this daily routine compounds;
  3. I joined SMART FITNESS for a weekly strength and conditioning class. Again, I think this seems subtle but before joining I could barely do 1 pull up. I can now do pull ups with extra weight!;
  4. I train using the 80/20 rule. I’m a big believer in Pareto as its a universal law. It means I do 80% of my training easy and 20% hard. It helps keep me healthy and it works! My harder sessions were giving me confidence that I was in sub 17 shape.

At this point I want to give a special thanks to my other previous coach Dave Tune down in Doncaster. I first met Dave at the height of my health issues with anaemia. In fact I had to cancel my first meeting with Dave as I literally got the phone call from the hospital a couple of days before I was due to drive down. Without wanting to be over dramatic, I might not be writing this blog if it wasn’t for Dave as I can’t be certain I would have kept the running going if I hadn’t had his friendly and calm advice. I felt ashamed to be cancelling the meeting due to anaemia but Dave was very understanding and gave excellent advice. He helped me feel normal after all.

Dave was the first to tell me that I wasn’t dreaming, that I definitely had a sub 17 (and more) in me. That was dynamite and gave me so much confidence. He also taught me the type of hard work that was required and the importance of lactate threshold training, good nutrition, hydration and sleep. One of my slight regrets is not seeing through my coaching with Dave but I decided to go it alone in Oct/Nov 2015. I was struggling mentally with work travel and fitting in training. I felt like I was pushing myself too hard. I know now it was me who wasn’t dealing with the planning and dedication that was required.

Anyway, back to the race!

Coming up to race week I was getting nervous. I told myself that was a good sign. I planned two key sessions – a 20 minute threshold run on the Monday and a speed play session on the Wednesday.

In terms of numbers both sessions were excellent.

The threshold was done averaging 5.45 miling (I’d need to run 5.27-28 for the sub 17) and my heart rate average was relatively low. That said it had felt like I’d had to push. Maybe too hard. The speed play was great all round. 5 times 1 minute hard (by feel) with 2 minutes rest. Most of them were completed 5 minute miling. And I had a Eureka moment on the last rep as I’d been tightening in the shoulders reps 2, 3 and 4. On rep 5 I decided to just relax the arms. I almost imagined I was legendary Aussie marathon runner Rob de Castella! Felt great. Confidence was there and I was ready.

Come Friday I was keen to get work done without too much stress. Didn’t work out that way but I’d managed to get my nutrition spot on and felt good as I got in the car to drive down to South Shields. I was keen to get in the zone so I turned to my old friend Iggy Pop and the title track from the seminal album Fun House. I literally played it on repeat pretty loud all the way down. Its such a great tune and the guitar and drums and horns are just amazing. Iggy’s vocals are so cool. A real motivational tune for me.

My good mate and all round running pal Michael Hedley had kindly offered to meet me at Temple Park to give me a course recce before (he had ran the race a couple of months prior) and also cheer me round. I was very appreciative. I felt good on the jog round. I had a couple of little doubts about the course – the grass start as it had been raining all day and there were maybe 3 or 4 fairly sharp corners that would need to be navigated effectively. But other than that the conditions were perfect.

I managed to get a few strides in about 10 minutes before the off and got a decent starting position on the line. My key focus was to get a decent position on the path and off the grass quickly. As we got underway that happened ok but then I felt a little boxed in until we navigated the first sharp left hander. I was then able to open up a little bit and settle.

An absolutely vital decision I had made earlier in the week was to not wear my Garmin GPS watch. I strongly believe the Garmin is a training device and not a racing device. Perhaps for Half Marathon and Marathons they become again valuable but not for 5ks. I had decided I would race and, as I have mentioned in previous blogs, use my internal GPS.

I had also primed myself with some mental self talk. Simple two or three word statements I could repeat when I needed.

It was great having Michael there at various points with the type of positivity I needed from the sidelines. I had started well and I was aware I was in good company. I was also aware that I was running amongst sub 17 runners. But I was unaware of what pace I was sitting on, and knew I couldn’t allow any let up.

I would say the first 2-3 kms took what felt like an age. I felt very strong, and I felt like I was travelling well but it wasn’t flying over. Just before the end of the first big lap there were a few little inclines which, although not difficult, just required a bit of something. And coming round the first sharp left hander again I was conscious there was still 2kms to go, what I would call the business end.

I focussed on keeping the shoulders relaxed as I had done in training. Only difference this time was the arms were starting to ache and get heavy. Around 3.5k the legs started to feel the effort. I think a couple of runners did pass me between here and 4.5k. My main focus was not letting a Jarrow & Hebburn runner get away as we negotiated the last 600m. Although I was desperate for the race to end at this point the course was actually enjoyable with a slightly favourable downhill section. I wasn’t losing ground on the J&H lad but I wasn’t making it up either. Coming to the last bend I received the final shouts of encouragement from Michael – asking for a sprint finish. I managed to pick up slightly but nothing like the sprint finish I am capable of.

Crossing the line I felt the job was done but I couldn’t be 100% sure. I overheard a runner who was just behind mention 16:46 which gave me real hope I had ran something under 16:45.

On the warm down jog with Michael the world felt like a better place. I was knackered but in a good way. And driving home it was great to get some celebratory fish and chips to enjoy with Jasmine.

The provisional results were out and the sub 17 was confirmed – I finished in 12th place with a finishing time of 16:44… Absolutely delighted!

The final results are posted here – results

My next (and final) blog post on sub seventeen dream will detail my plans for the future with my running and blogging! This is the end of the sub 17 chapter but certainly not the end of my running and blogging journey!

Thanks to anybody that has read this blog over the years and it would be great to hear from you. My email is kevin.richardson3910@hotmail.co.uk