Week 7 marmalade on toast

One of the most interesting(?!) things about this week has been my realisation that I’ve subliminally re acquainted myself with a past love of marmalade…

I used to love marmalade on toast and I’ve got back on it these last few weeks…

I bought a jar a couple of weeks ago and I’ve already had to buy a new one, overlapping the end of the first so as not to leave myself with none.

I was reading Bruce Tulloh’s book Running over Forty in which he explained typical breakfast options at running training camps.

On the list was marmalade on toast. It awakened something within me so I just had to get some and I must admit I’ve eaten quite a lot since.

Anyway I digress from explaining how Week 7 has gone.

Overall it’s been just OK and this has mainly been due to 2 things –

  1. Ongoing knee troubles;
  2. Chest pains.

Overall I feel like my knee issues are manageable and towards the back end of the week I felt fine. However my knee has been overshadowed by a worsening of chest pain on my left hand side. I first noticed this just before getting home from last Sunday’s long run. It was the run where I had the nasty fall…

Although I didn’t feel any sharp pain at the time of the fall I did go down on my left hand side and I’d protected myself with my left arm.

As I was coming back up the hill to home I could feel a pain and tightness in my chest which I was conscious of for the rest of the day.

To be honest I didn’t think too much of it Monday through to Wednesday but in hindsight it did hamper my training a little.

On Monday I did the usual treadmill run with a 5 minute warm up, 45 minutes easy and 5 minute cool down. Overall I felt OK.

On Tuesday I got back down to Elswick Harriers for the (in)famous Wallbottle bank continuous run. The loop is pretty much bang on 800m round and includes a draggy hill and then downhill. The ratio to uphill / downhill could be 50/50 or maybe 60/40 as we were running clockwise this time. Both other times I had ran anti clockwise. This felt like a more gradual draggy uphill and steeper downhill.

I usually get about 8 laps done in 24 minutes and I try to run in my Lactate Threshold zone.

The jog warm up is also quite uphill and means you’ve already got a decent sweat on before the start of the session proper.

I was aware of my tight chest on the way up.

We got underway and as is normally the case it was Lee Bennett and me out front with Lee’s son Rowan tracking along.

I was able to stay close to Lee for a few laps before he dropped me on the 3rd downhill. Lee is a skilled fell runner and also particularly strong downhill. Whereas I tend to put the brakes on with my languid stride Lee is able to quick his feet and let go.

At that point Rowan was still right behind me. I was noticing that I was having to keep my breathing shallow as I felt some discomfort in my rib area on the left hand side.

I was checking my heart rate regularly and noticed it was between 170-175bpm on the uphill sections. I comforted myself that I was applying the right amount of effort, especially since I was still feeling the XC in my legs from the Saturday. But overall I was finding it a tough session. At about half way I was contemplating the prospect of another 4 hills and laps!

Pleasingly I was able to dig in and coming down a hill to the end of another lap I could see that I only had about 3 or 4 minutes of running left. That helped me dig in and finish off.

I had switched off mile laps and also the pace indicator on my Garmin so I was fully focussed on just running for time and heart rate. So I wasn’t aware of what type of pace I was on. That was good. I feel this is key for my training as it is too easy to get emotional about pace which should not matter in training unless you have set out to do specific paced intervals.

I was pleased to finish the session off and it had felt like I’d paced it fairly even overall. The coaches at Elswick were also measuring our times for 5k which I completed in 18:42.

Overall I completed 4 miles in just over 24 minutes averaging 173bpm. A decent session especially since I felt a little held back by my sub optimal breathing.

On Wednesday I got just over 8 miles in. The rain was absolutely pelting down. Actually I quite enjoy running in the rain and it brings a bit of challenge jumping over and dodging puddles. I ended up averaging 150bpm which is below my true aerobic zone (starting at 153bpm) and the pace was pleasing at 6:47/mile.

Thursday was the toughest run of the week (it is always as its the 6th day of running continuous as Friday is always my planned rest day) both in terms of my knee and chest. The plan was just a 30 minute recovery run with 5 minutes warm up and warm down and then some strides to finish. The whole thing felt laboured so I deliberately didn’t push it. And then on the strides my knee was playing up so I cut those short. Overall I was pleased for the recovery day coming and comforted myself that I could rest up.

But then at work on Friday my chest was particularly tight. It feels like 3 ribs around the left side are bruised although there is no external bruising to be seen. I have been taking Ibuprofen and also rubbing some gel in to no avail so far.

My original plan was to have a go at a fast parkrun but waking up on Saturday it didn’t seem like a sensible idea. The old me would have been down in the dumps about another annoying niggle getting in the way and I dare say I would have sacked off the rest of the weekend. But I am determined to not let things get me down and I was able to get out for a long jog just over 11 miles. It didn’t feel amazing but I think the fresh air did me good.

On Sunday I decided to push a little more into my aerobic zone and was surprised with over 7 miles in 45 minutes averaging 6:20 pace at an average heart rate of 155bpm. Also, my knee felt good (as it had for the run on Saturday) which is a bonus. Fitness wise things are definitely looking good and I just need to be patient with myself.

Overall for the week I totalled just under 6hrs of running and just over 49 miles.

I’m still fully focussed on getting myself on the start line of the North Eastern Cross Championships in Redcar on the 9th December 100% fit and confident of a strong performance. Next week I am back on my travels to Athens for a work trip but the running gear is packed to ensure I keep ticking over.

Thanks for reading.


Week 6 back to the country

Week 6 back to the country

“Cross Country runners are a different sub-set of the running population”, Bruce Tulloh inĀ The Complete Distance Runner

Coming out of Week 5 the knee was a concern and the focus was to truly get to the bottom of it and make sure it wasn’t going to grow into a monster. The last thing I want is to have a setback in the way of missed training.

As I’ve mentioned a few times I am feeling very strong aerobically. I am running very easy at sub 7 minute miles and the engine is there to go and run fast. That said my legs feel like a key weakness. Running is about confidence. To fire on all cylinders everything needs to be in place.

On the one hand I could get down in the dumps and complain. But that’s not going to solve the issue. I need to “grab the issue round the neck and choke it”. I am excited by the prospect of two legs beneath me that are working properly. It will come with time.

I let my coach Dave know that things weren’t quite right with the knee so Week 6 was stripped back to basics and just getting some easy runs in. Pretty standard Monday through Wednesday – a staple diet of 5 minute warm up, 45 minutes easy and 5 minutes cool down. Then on Thursday a nice easy 5 WU / 30 Easy / 5 CD with some strides to finish.

On Monday I got to the gym to use the Treadmill to avoid the harder impact of the roads. It wasn’t that comfortable but nothing much to report, getting it done.

On Tuesday I had a nice run out on my usual “Kenton Loop”, managing just shy of 8 miles in 55 minutes which included the Warm Up and Cool Down. Again I’d say everything felt good aerobically and I was able to push it up some of the inclines without feeling compromised with my breathing. I know this is an excellent sign as I have always been a runner that has noticed prominent spiking in heart rate and perceived effort at the hint of a hill. I feel much smoother now. I would liken the feeling to a Duracell bunny bizarrely, the legs are turning over at speed and the hill doesn’t lead to a lowering of that turnover speed. A magic feeling I’ve never really experienced. I felt much better about my knee…

On Wednesday I went on a familiar route around the estate, a route I’ve been using quite a lot of late. If honest the run was a bit ragged and I couldn’t help but feel the right knee issue was affecting my gait to the detriment of my running economy. Indeed when I compared my stats in terms of pace and heart rate from the same route a week earlier my suspicion was confirmed. And ultimately the knee was sticking around to torment.

On Thursday I felt very strong and was surprised to tick off some miles in my easy recovery zone sub 6:30 pace. One mile went by in 6:16 without effort. Funny going “yippee” as you look down at a split, barely breathing. Somethings happening. The strides felt strong and controlled, again not having to breath during or on the jog back.

Friday was in as a rest day pre the 3rd cross country race of the North East Harrier League. I wanted to do something about the legs so I booked in for a sports massage for an hour. It was great to get some of the aches and pains dealt with. Overall a worthwhile experience and something I will be looking to accommodate more often in my schedule.

Going into the race I felt good.

I was pleased with how I had opened my Account at Wrekenton and Druridge Bay in the first two races. Although very early in the season still I was lying 17th in the Individual Grand Prix and I wanted to build on that. I am very keen to improve. I feel I belong in the Top 20 and that’s where I want to be in terms of quickest times on the day as well.

My goal overall was to start confidently. If I want to be Top 20 it means I have to be Top 20 at least in the Fast Pack runners and therefore that was my goal from start to finish.

Aykley Heads in Durham has been a thorn in my side to date. Having run the course twice I have never really excelled. It is 3 laps of about 2 miles so 6ish in total. There are a few draggy hills and at the end of each lap an awkward hill that can get pretty muddy.

Therefore the conditions were important but in the back of my mind I went into the race very confident that I had come along way fitness wise since the last race and I just had to believe and be confident…and positive.

On arrival at the course it was clear that it was in excellent condition with no real mud to speak of. I was pleased as it meant the pace in the Fast Pack would be strong which I feel suits me.

I managed a short warm up and felt good. The right leg wasn’t 100% but the rest day and massage had done it some good.

The race was a little late getting off and, being in the fast pack, I waited for the slow and medium pack to get underway. It was pretty cold waiting around and we were finally called over. For some reason the Fast Pack handicap versus the Slow Pack was 5:10 rather than the usual 5:00.

The pace was very hard from the off and I tried to settle in somewhat sensibly. Everything felt smooth and under control and I was keen to get one full lap under my belt to assess things from there.

Coming to the end of the first lap I felt like I was decently positioned. The hills at the end of the lap were tough but I dealt with them well. I was careful to keep my effort fairly level on the hills and felt like I could pick up nicely once at the top.

The course is tough but it does allow space for recovery where needed. The only issue is how to efficiently pass the Slow Pack runners and that was most challenging on the second and third lap. During the second lap I was trading places with Kevin Connolly of Gateshead Harriers and Rob Walker running for Sunderland Harriers. A runner from the Fast Pack for Sedgefield Harriers (I thought South Shields at the time) was always just slightly ahead it seemed.

It was ebb and flow as we negotiated runners. The hill at the end of the second lap was the first point where my legs started to bite. The calves and thighs started to burn and it’s here that the mind starts to wonder how you can keep the high intensity for one more two mile lap.

Actually once I was up the hill and coming round for the start of the third lap I felt good again. But Kevin started to pull away. I decided to maintain my rhythm.


Working through Slow Pack runners


It was around here that I annoyed a Slow Packer by barging through…

The problem was he was glued to another runner and tight against the race ribbon on the right hand side. I knew Rob was going round strongly on the left and in a split moment I felt I had no choice but to go through the middle of the two of them.

“You fucking prick! You’re supposed to run round” came the cry.

I didn’t feel the need to acknowledge that or indeed apologise. Cross country is a tough sport. I wanted to do my best and that meant making some decisions with the aim of getting to the finish as quickly as possible. Basically I would do it again with no apology.


A rare moment alone…


I was well on my way with 2/3s of the race complete.

The business end to come. I’ve learnt that this is where the best runners excel, where every second per mile makes an exponential difference in placings. Very easy to take the foot off the gas here and coast in. Very difficult to dig in or indeed pick it up. I was very keen to never allow myself to settle behind the pace of slower runners. Keep on passing! Keep on passing!

Rob was proving to be a very tough competitor and I was glad to have him there to work with. We ran neck and neck back out into the undulating fields.

Part of me was wishing it to end and the other trying to focus on some key points I had read the night before in Alberto Salazar’s book.

1. Keep a level effort on the hills and work the crests of the hills;

2. RELAX!!!

The first point was actually contrary to how I have always run hills in XC. I always increase my effort. This resonates with me now as I have always felt I have been good at passing runners uphill but then often they would come back afterwards. My plan this time was to maintain effort and attack the very last of the hills on the final lap.

The second point, to focus on staying “relaxed” proved to be dynamite and I was enjoying this. It was all building to the final set of hills.

I knew I had gauged my effort well and I was just setting it up for a kick up the last hill.

The hills leading up to the last were the hardest. Thighs and calves were screaming and undoubtedly this was the slowest I had navigated them. But coming to the bottom of the last hill I had a couple of Fast Pack runners in my sight, one from Sunderland and the other from Sedgefield.

I kicked and was quickly passed them. I also caught a fellow Elswick runner at the top. I also felt like Rob had been dropped but I knew there was a danger he would have more energy if he took it more conservatively.

There was still maybe 200-300m to the finish and it felt a little like wading through treacle.

The thing that kept me pushing was a few runners in front looking around and also some closing hard who I had taken on the hill.

Pleasingly nobody got passed me and I finished strong.

The results are still to be finalised but I think I finished 84th in the field from Fast Pack and also 31st fastest on the day which will be my best ever position if confirmed. Still work to do to get near Top 20 but very pleasing.

What was also pleasing was the fact that I felt quite good afterwards on the Cool down. I had given it a hard effort but I didn’t feel destroyed like I used to. I even looked forward to Sunday’s long run!

Sunday came with a crisp frost.

I decided on another run off road on the Town Moor. I was aiming for 1hr 15 – 25. I left the HRM at home and kept the mile splits switched off. I just wanted to run on feel.

The right knee was still giving me some signs that it’s persisting but overall I felt good. I ended with 80mins around 7:18 miling which was pleasing. Only real thing to report was a pretty nasty trip and fall on my way back for home…

I didn’t see a metal spike sticking out of the ground. It caught on the material on my Innov8 left shoe and I went flying. I was able to shield the fall with my left arm and came out OK with just a few grazes…


Not sure how I didn’t see this?



I’m hopeful I can get a few more XC races out of these yet!


Overall about 50 miles for the week.

Onwards and upwards.

Thanks for reading.

Week 5 first challenges

“Being an optimist is a choice” Bjork

Running is a tough sport and you never know what’s round the corner.

As I said last week – consistency is king.

The week started really well with some solid training, especially the session at Elswick Harriers on Tuesday night.

It was a strange session of intervals – 5mins / 5mins / 4mins / 4mins / 3mins / 3mins and all with 1min rest. I’d never done a reducing duration interval session. They say variety is the spice of life…

My interpretation was that the reps should get faster pace wise as duration reduced but I was still scarred by my last weeks session where I’d over egged the early intervals to the detriment of the last.

So I made a conscious effort to even pace at around 5:20-5:25/mile.

I was very pleased with my effort.

I had to try really hard to stick to plan on the first rep as some of the faster lads sped off. But I was rewarded later as I was able to complete the session confidently.

It was only on the way back to the club house that I felt a pain in the top corner of my right knee. To be honest I thought nothing of it.

On Wednesday I was able to get out for the recovery run and again aerobically it was very strong. My aerobic strength still seems to belie my legs which are sore and trying to keep up.

I was aware of the knee issue from the Tuesday but again didn’t worry or think too much about it.

It was only on Thursday that I noticed it much more.

I had a 7am meeting at work which lasted all morning and an afternoon meeting which finished after 6pm. A very long day sat down for far too long. And all day I was in discomfort. My hamstring was sore as was the side of my right leg and knee. These are classic ITB issues. Or at least I believe so. Maybe nerve related also.

I left work exhausted and felt it would be very unwise to force a planned threshold run in that state. So I pulled my rest day from Friday forward.

On Friday I had another busy day at work but I felt able to get out and test the leg. I was out for maybe 40mins total. Not great but not bad. I felt like I could get out on Saturday and do a session.

The plan said 10x 5mins threshold with 1min rest. I had a few options in my mind. Either a cross country session or another session down at the Town Moor. As a third alternative I considered maybe a 5km parkrun effort and then add some extra 5min intervals afterwards.

Part of me wanted to do a parkrun to see where I was at. Despite the leg issues I felt very strong. Assessing my training I estimate that I am in around sub 16:30 5km shape. My VO2 Max rating has increased to 67 on my Garmin and I figure that it is about 3-4 too high for whatever reason. So a 16:19 could be a target in race conditions.

Anyway, I decided on a parkrun but had to ditch the plans as the jog down saw a lot of discomfort in my knee that wouldn’t subside with stretching. I felt it was impacting my gait which meant it unwise to push on regardless.

I’ve learned that succeeding in running is about both discipline and patience and also about making the correct decisions at the right time.

So I headed back for home.

Rather than feel sorry for myself I started to write a new blog for Your Running Potential entitled “Dealing with setbacks”. Hopefully I’ll publish it soon.

I also decided to get my Power Slider out which is good for improving hip strength. I suspect my knee pain is linked to weak hips, particularly my right hip. I completed 10mins as I will have to build up over time to 20 and ensure not to end up with another daft injury.

I then went across to the local gym to complete 45mins of walking on the treadmill. I set it at the maximum incline of 15 degrees and 6kph which is my go-to XT session when I have a lower leg issue such as this. Reason being it gets my heart rate into a similar zone to an easy Run without inflaming the leg issue further. I am a big believer that walking is the safest form of exercise!

I also did some hip abduction exercises which should also help. I notice my legs get tired quickly doing these suggesting I do need to strengthen somewhat.

On Sunday I got the XC shoes on and had a plod around the Town Moor with a view to watching the Memorial 10km. It’s a race I’ve watched quite religiously over the years. The training plan had me down for a 75 minute long run so I got much of that done. The knee wasn’t great, particularly on downhills, but certainly no worse giving me some hope overall.

As for the 10km Peter Newton of Morpeth destroyed the field. It was great to see my mate Michael Hedley start to fulfil some of his potential with an excellent PB well inside the Top 6 and despite difficult windy conditions.

Meanwhile I turn my attention to a new week where I want to put this knee issue behind me and seek to run well at the next XC fixture at Aykley Heads.

After all – I’m an optimist.

Thanks for reading.

Week 4 “consistency is king” plus Episode 2 of my “TRAINING FOR A SUB 16:00 5KM” VLOG on YouTube

The message came load and clear from coach Dave on Monday morning – the key for the week was consistency, i.e. more of the same!

It takes at least 6-8 weeks of a new training programme to really notice the differences and although I am feeling fit cardio wise I need to keep focused on the task at hand and just take one training run at a time.

On Monday I had a 45 minute recovery run and I decided on the gym to keep off the roads and give my legs a bit of a break. Nothing special but afterwards I was noticing left leg shin pain which was odd as the run itself had been fine.

At work the next day I was still conscious of it and I knew the plan for Tuesday was an Elswick Harrier club session. I decided to wear my calf sleeves, long socks and running tights to give the legs some protection and the plan was 4x 5 minutes with 1 minute rest.

I wanted to run each rep around 5k PB pace so 5:20-5:22/mile.

I was kicking myself at the end of the session as I paced it all wrong and then fluffed the last rep. Reason being the first rep was too quick in approx 5:08/mile pace and then I struggled the 2nd rep back up an incline and into the wind – pace fell off to maybe 5:27/mile.

I managed to maintain pace the 3rd leg versus 2nd albeit with more favourable conditions in that direction.

Unfortunately the wheels fell off mentally on the recovery prior to the 4th rep and I struggled at around 5:49/mile and allowing my heart rate to fall off.

I felt tired and sore and a little annoyed at myself. But I put it down to poor execution and resolved to learn from it. I need to learn to even pace a session such as this one.

I was happy to have another recovery run on Wednesday night and also happy that there were no ill effects from the under par session. Just under 8 miles were ticked off in 55 minutes with an average heart rate of only 144bpm (deliberately not pushing >153bpm).

On Thursday it was back to Threshold running and I was able to run 7 miles in just under 43 minutes averaging 164bpm. Running strong.

I must say I was ready for the full day rest on Friday although I did get out for my normal morning walk. I bought some 1kg ankle weights to add some extra stimulus for leg strength. I was expecting this to be quite tough but haven’t really noticed any muscle pain or reaction to it…

The plan was to run another Threshold rep session on Saturday and a long run on Sunday but I decided to switch it around as I have more spare time on a Saturday.

I decided on my old favourite long run route which takes me down the Quayside in Newcastle and back up through Byker, Heaton, Jesmond and Gosforth. So the first 6 miles are favourable and then the 2nd half more of a drag.

Again, I felt quite strong and was able to cruise in the middle of my easy zone (153-169bpm) completing miles in the range 6:20-6:50ish. The plan was to only run 1hr 25m (including 5 minutes warm up and cool down) but I’d forgotten that the route was more like 13-14 miles so I ended up finishing the run over a mile from home.

Actually I was feeling tired and the legs were dead by the end of the time allotted so I had a very gentle jog up Kenton Lane to home. Overall on the main run >12.5 miles were completed with an average HR of 156bpm. My average pace was 6:43/mile.

By this point I’d already done almost 46 miles for the week with 1 session remaining on Sunday.

On Sunday I was torn between a cross country session or a road session. I ended up going down the Town Moor not realising there were some special events getting in the way of the gravel loop track I would normally use. So I moved onto Great North road and completed 5x 8mins threshold with 3 minutes rest.

The first 6 minutes of each rep were favourable before turning back into a headwind the last two minutes. I was typically running 5:45-5:55/mile pace and then working to hold 6:00-6:10 after the turn back.

Overall I was pleased to complete the session as I was feeling a bit irritable and thinking I’d pull the session short midway through the 2nd rep. I’m pleased that my overall mental strength and application to the task at hand is improving and I managed to work through it.

I hope this translates into my racing as well.

So all in all a very solid training week and probably a record weekly mileage of 55.5 miles.

Onto next week and more of the same to cement these fitness gains before turning my attention to the next cross country fixture at Aykley Heads.

I’ve also published Episode #2 of my training for a sub 16:00 5km here –

VLOG episode #2

Check it out!

Thanks for reading!