Reflections on my build up to the Great North Run 2021 plus race strategy

As I finish Week 13 of 14 in the build up to the GNR it’s a good time to reflect on what I have done and my thought process going into the race.

Some may say it would be better to keep my “eyes on the prize”, i.e. the race to come.

But for me running is a continual learning process and I don’t think self reflection and learning should be paused no matter how close the race is. Capturing my thoughts and mindset pre race will also help me post race as well.

I have been intrigued by the high jumper Nicola McDermott who is meticulous in writing notes after every single jump in competition. It seems very out of the ordinary. But I admire it.

Follow me on Twitter @kevrich1981

Athletes like McDermott are seeking to learn and improve “on the job” and it certainly seems to work for her.

First of all, I am proud that I have got to this point. Even though I’ve only averaged 34 miles per week (442.7 over 13 weeks) in this build up it is still probably one of the best training blocks I have ever done(!). Critically I have stayed healthy and motivated.

Overall running distance in KM since 7th June 2021

I’ve really started to find myself as a runner in this training block. My confidence in my ability has grown and I feel more sure now about what I am capable of than ever before.

I’ve also not shirked races.

I’ve raced 5000m and 3000m on the track (for the very first time) and also two 5km’s on the road.

LGBT+ 5km in July, 2nd place in 17.09

I’m sure that switching to running to Power has helped with that. I don’t want to go into too much detail here but the power meter has helped me execute my training correctly. The benefit of downgrading the importance of heart rate training has been immense.

Having spent the period 2014 to late 2020 believing training to heart rate was the best way, I’ve now come to realise that it is not optimal for me.

For whatever reason I get too emotional about my heart rate, both during and after training. What I mean is, I allow heart rate data to affect me mentally whether monitoring out on the run or in post run analysis.

Don’t get me wrong, I still track heart rate data as accurately as I can as it is powerful information. But now I don’t let it run the show any more. This has been liberating in many ways.

Moving to Power has been the liberation because it has introduced a new metric without the emotional baggage of heart rate, pace etc. And it works really well for me.

I know if I go and run x watts I will get a specific workout and the resultant output of pace and heart rate will be what it is. As it happens the data I am seeing is excellent which helps, but I think that is a result of getting less worked up about heart rates and paces when I am out training.

Training to power provides focused race strategy as well.

For example, going into the Quayside 5km I knew if I put out 397 watts I would run 16.09 +/- 10s. I managed to execute that and ran 16.01. Not only that I pretty much even split the race perfectly (something I have never really been able to do in the past), running 3.12/km pretty much dead on.

This confirmed to me the real power of training to Power.

Running doesn’t need to be a magical and mysterious guessing game if you don’t want it to be. Admittedly I am an analytical person and it suits me to a T. I get that it may not be everyone’s cup of tea but, if like I was, you are a little in the doldrums with your current training I would highly recommend considering trying Power. Full disclaimer: I am not sponsored by Stryd and paid full price for the foot pod and membership of the full features of the app.

I’ve also been able to pinpoint issues in my form, specifically my naturally low cadence. Being 6ft 2in tall (188cm) does mean I have quite long legs and my natural cadence is low (160-170 in normal training). However, I’ve realised this is a strength if deployed correctly. The power meter has allowed me to really focus on cadence, stride length and Leg Spring Stiffness (LSS) so that I can improve and optimise my running dynamics. This is something I am having to try really hard at as my tendency is to revert to type.

I published a YouTube video on my belief in Stryd as a training tool prior to my Quayside 5km race here. This doesn’t cover the running dynamics aspects, more the nuts and bolts of the foot pod, how it calculates Critical Power, training zones and race time predictions. Note: in the video I state that Critical Power as calculated by Stryd is equivalent to Functional Threshold Power (FTP) for 60mins. Unfortunately I have since become aware that this is not correct. Stryd do not disclose the exact formula for Critical Power. At the time of writing my Critical Power is 383w (5.24 watts per kilo) whereas my FTP for 60mins is modelled at 364w (5.0 watts per kilo).

Current Critical Power rating in Stryd

So the build up has been good and the 16.01 5km in early August really points to a potential half marathon below 75mins. However, my approach going into the Great North Run has changed as I am now seeking to run all out at the Manchester Half in October with the aim of finishing top 3 in the V40 Age Group. If able to do so I should qualify to represent England Athletics in the Chester Half in 2022.

So the Great North Run now becomes a test run in preparation for Manchester.

With that in mind I will be targeting a time of around 76 to 77 minutes as a good outcome for the Great North Run.

I will be looking to run a negative split.

My strategy will be to run the first 15km in the range of 344 to 352w (avg. 348w) and the last 6.1km in the range of 356 to 364w (avg. 360w). If executed correctly I would expect to average 355w for the full half marathon and would expect a time in the range 1:16:40 to 1:18:32.

Stryd GNR race prediction based on 355w

My current official PB (1:20ish) was set in the Great North Run in 2017 but I have run an unofficial HM of 1:16:32 in 2019. If honest I would like to get as close to the latter as possible feeling like I had more in the tank. Strictly speaking a sub 79min is the minimum qualifying time for the England Athletics representation. Achieving that would be enough to allow me to fully focus on racing at Manchester.

I am planning to take a time split at both 5km and 15km. It will then be a case of dialling in my pick up to the finish. In an ideal world I will have plenty runners who are perhaps fading to pick up as motivation in this approach.

Another thing I am considering is nutrition. I have never considered nutrition for a half but I did try a gel with a small amount of caffeine today (5th September, 7 days out from the GNR) on my final long run of 18.8km. I must say I wasn’t too keen on it and frankly cannot understand how I could ever ingest a full gel. My thought is I will carry one gel and literally take a enough to coat the mouth at around 40-45mins to gently assist the planned pick up at 15 km.

In terms of footwear, it was a choice between Plan A of the Nike Next% 2 or Plan B of Nike Tempo Next%. For the GNR I will wear the Tempos and save the big guns for Manchester.

On a lighter note, a few people suggested if I had had my hair cut for the Quayside 5km I would have broken the 16 minute barrier. Again, I have taken the decision to keep the hair long for the GNR and save any hair cut for the big day out in Manc! I tried to rock a headband on the long run today but I’m not sure it will be getting an outing as I doubt I want to be caught on camera with it on!

Finally in terms of my training in Week 14 (the week of the GNR), this is the plan –

Mon: rest day (stretching, core)

Tue: easy leg loosener (8km max)

Wed: final HM session – 10km total split between power ranging from 345w to 360w

Thu: 4km easy

Fri: rest day (stretching, foam roller)

Sat: optional leg loosener otherwise rest

Sun: GNR, start time 9.45am behind male elites in fast club runner wave

So all that remains is to get on the start line mentally in the right place and healthy.

Thanks for reading! Good luck to anyone reading who is in the race. Enjoy!

P.S. For those that prefer a video, I’m hoping to get something posted on my YouTube channel “KR Runs” in my GNR training series here. Hopefully during next week. If you haven’t subscribed already it would be cool if you did!

Marathon Project 2:34 – thoughts on “Target Pace” and “Comparable Performance Pace”

When I decided that I wanted to debut over the marathon distance I was keen to set myself a challenging target.

There is no doubt that 2:34 is a very challenging target for me but I do not believe it is necessarily “away with the fairies”.

Once the target is set it would be very easy to get obsessed with target race pace. To achieve a 2:34 marathon (for arguments sake 2hr 34m 29s) I would need to run each kilometre at 3:39 pace. I like to use the online tool “Jack Daniels VDOT Calculator” for these types of calculations.

But just as important as target race pace is “comparable performance pace” in my opinion. Again, the VDOT Calculator tool is very useful for this as it gives “equivalent” race times.

To give some examples, below are some comparable performances to a 2:34 marathon over popular distances –

– 1 mile: 4:41 (2:54/km) {PB: 4:49}

– 5km: 16:05 (3:13/km) {PB: 16:44}

– 10km: 33:24 (3:20/km) {PB: 34:49}

– Half Marathon: 1hr 13m 45s (3:30/km) {PB: 1hr 16m 32s}

First and foremost, it is obviously clear that I haven’t achieved any of these performances yet based on official PBs given above. But it’s worth noting that I have ran faster than my official PBs over 5km and 10km in longer races, albeit on fast openings of courses. For example I ran approx 16:30 to go through 5km at the Blaydon race some years ago and 34 low through 10km at the Brampton to Carlisle 10 miler.

The closest performance according to the calculator I have is that 10 miler covered in 55:37 in November 2019.

I can compare the 10 mile in 55:37 closely to the 2:34 marathon by looking at the calculated VDOT ratings (read VO2 max ratings). The 10 mile is rated at 63.6 and the marathon at 64.1.

Crucially I think I am capable of the mile time (I’ve ran a 2:42 1km in February 2019, rated 66.5) and I don’t think I necessarily need to go out and do it as such. However, some speed work at 1 mile pace would be beneficial in my opinion. The ability to run fast is inherent in all human beings to some extent but it is also a skill that needs to be nourished.

I ran a 4:49 mile (rated 61.9) on the road in late 2018. To take 8s off to achieve 4:41 would increase the VDOT rating to 64 and equivalent to the 2:34 marathon.

That said, the 5km, 10km and Half Marathon performances are extremely important if I am to have real confidence in achieving my marathon goal.

Not only do I feel that I need to get comfortable running these paces, I also feel I need to prove myself in racing as well.

Obviously the longer the race distance the better in proving my chances over the marathon and so the half marathon will be key.

In the meantime I will be looking to practice race pace as follows –

– 5k pace: for example 2km @ 3:13/km

– 10k pace: for example 3km @ 3:20/km

– HM pace: for example 4.5 miles @ 3:30/km

In terms of practicing marathon pace itself, I feel the best way is to build progressively. Yesterday I completed 3x 1k at 3:39/km with walking rest allowing HR to settle to 120bpm. My HR topped out at 176bpm on the 2nd rep and recoveries were taking in excess of 2 minutes. I would like to see improvement in both aspects. Although I am still not 100% sure on exactly what my optimum marathon HR is, I am considering ~165bpm (note: I held approx. avg. 179bpm for 10 miles and 174-5bpm for Half Marathon for my PB performances and my Lactate Threshold was last measured at 175bpm) as an average or a range of say 160-170bpm.

As and when I see things improving (e.g. HR maxing out <170bpm and recoveries coming in <2 mins) I will start adding reps aiming for maybe as many as 10-12 1km reps. In addition I will consider continuous runs at target marathon pace starting at say 5 miles and building to 9 or 10. This could be a faster paced segment within a long run. I expect I need to build a regular long run in the range 15 to 20 miles. As racing resumes I could also consider low key half marathons up to 20 milers to practice target marathon race pace to see how the body copes.

This brings me on to 2 key gaps in my historical training…

Both my average total weekly mileage and longest run are nowhere near where they need to be to achieve a good result in the marathon. I believe I need to safely increase my weekly mileage to 60-70 per week. This would allow a long run of 15-17.5 miles based on a rule of 25% of total weekly mileage (a rule I try to follow and believe in). For context, leading up to the 10 miler in November 2019 I was probably averaging 50 miles per week. One slight anomaly was that I ran my longest and fastest ever long run in late October 2019, averaging around 6:30/mile pace for 18 miles feeling good.

In addition to building a real aerobic base, I am a big believer in the idea that “speed can kill”. As I approach 40 years old I am all too familiar with the risk (and indeed increasing risk) of injury.

I belive that access to speed work must be earned. I will define speed work as race pace and faster. So for me, I will say anything faster than 3:50 per km is speed work. That must be earned and earned through easy aerobic running.

Access to speedwork can be earned on a ratio of 1 in 20. So for every 20km of aerobic running 1km of speedwork can be performed. It doesn’t take a mathematician to work out a large base of aerobic running will be needed to access a decent proportion of speedwork. For example, a weekly total of 100km (approx 62 miles) will only “release” 5km of speedwork. That would be enough to practice some race pace reps (say 5x 1k) but it wouldn’t be enough to access the aforementioned 4.5 miles at HM pace or 9 miles continuous at MP.

I acknowledge that this is a conservative approach. I should also add this philosophy comes from Ernst Van Aaken if you wish to learn more. However, I believe in undertraining being better than overtraining especially if the latter means being sidelined with injury and/or illness. It may be possible to increase the ratio to 1 in 10 if things are going well. But this leads me on to the final point I want to make…

The fact of the matter is, a marathon of 2:34 is a big challenge for me. But it is one that excites me. I do not expect to enter a marathon (whenever they become available again) and run 2:34 first time of asking. My aim is to run 3 or 4 marathons in the next few years (as a 40-45 year old). For example, target a sub-3hr marathon in my debut, get a feel for the distance and go from there.

Wish me luck!

I hope this blog has been interesting and would welcome any comments.

If you haven’t had a look yet check out my YouTube Channel (K R Runs) and subscribe here.

Thanks for reading!

Project 2:34

It’s been a while since I posted so I thought I’d give a quick update and introduce a new running VLOG I’m starting on YouTube named “Project 2:34”.

It would be amiss of me not to mention the pandemic that we have all been experiencing – it was certainly a different world when I last posted in early February.

I’ll stay away from general points and stay focused on my running since this is a running blog!

Generally I’ve struggled with my running since late March. Not because of lack of motivation. Without exercise I’m not sure I would have gotten through lockdown in one piece mentally. But I was pretty much forced to rely on cycling to get my aerobic fix.

Basically I couldn’t shake a hip injury which appeared in mid March. This time it was the left hip which was really frustrating as I’d only just gotten back to full flight after a right hip injury stemming from the 10 mile race in November 2019. I probably struggled to process what to do and continued to train hard when really the lockdown meant the wisest choice would have been to back off, especially given all competition would be cancelled (I was training for 3 races – Great North 10k in June, Bridges of the Tyne 5 mile in July and the Great North Run in September).

Despite feeling very frustrated I was able to get some good cross training in. And I was really grateful for the freedom cycling gave me during lockdown. I was able to really appreciate the local countryside and scenery we are blessed with in the North East. It only takes a short while to get out on the country roads and feel away from the city.

But my running has now started to come back and take precedence again as the hip injury subsided with rest and recuperation. Sometimes you need to accept when continuing to push through pain isn’t the answer. And I know I can now come back stronger.

I have now built back up the mileage to around 40-45 per week which is my usual sweet spot. The time off has allowed me to reconsider my goals. Although there is no real signs of races and competition as we know it or knew it, I do want to feel like I have an overall purpose to my training. I have hinted before in this blog to a softening view towards the marathon, having said a few times in the past that I would never do one.

I’ve always believed in “never say never” and I have decided that it is something I simply must do! Not only that, I would like to see what I can do. I don’t just want to complete the distance. I really surprised myself with 55:37 for 10 miles at the Brampton to Carlisle and that performance gave me confidence that I could translate it to a PB over the half marathon distance and also a stab at a full marathon.

I’ve also always wanted to have a go at a running VLOG. So I have decided to start one called Project 2:34.

The VLOG will track my progress towards a debut over the marathon distance and, ultimately, an attempt to complete one in 2hrs and 34 minutes.

I am under no illusions about how tough a challenge this will be. It also doesn’t mean I am abandoning the sub sixteen 5k dream! I will need to have confidence to run 16 minutes low for 5k to have some faith in my ability to run 2:34 for the marathon.

In terms of the VLOG, I would like it to be 1) Serious (2:34 is a serious goal!), 2) Entertaining and 3) Funny. As you will see my first attempt is pretty amateurish but I hope it can maybe provide some motivation to others to set a goal and go for it. Also it may (hopefully) make you laugh!

The link to the first VLOG is here, following my Monday Long Run.

Give it a like (if you like it) and please subscribe for more!

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.

 

 

Running Goals 2016

#1 Elswick Harriers Senior Men’s Club Championship 2016

#2 – 5k – run a sub 16.45

#3 -10k – based on 5k performance run an equivalent 10K performance (at least PB versus current 35.37)

#4 – 10 miles – sub 60mins

#5 – Blaydon Race 2015 – top 40

Cross Country –

#1 – NEHL 2015/16 – Individual Grand Prix – top 20

I also turn 35 next year so will need to look into some Vet 35 targets to be confirmed. Maybe track or XC.

Happy 2016!!!

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Running Goals 2015 review

Running Goals 2015 review

Around this time last year I posted the following running goals for 2015 and in bold italics I make a comment on how I did  –

#1 – 5k – run a sub 17 minute 5k by the end of April 2015

Inexplicably I didn’t run a true 5k race in 2015 even though this was my #1 target.

The closest I came was running 17.10 on no less than 3 occasions at parkruns. I ran 17.10 twice at Riverside parkrun and once at Newcastle parkrun.

Arguably the 17.10 at the Riverside in April was a great run and just a little regrettably did I overcook the first mile (5.11) and I was hanging on for dear life after that. The 17.10 at Newcastle was also a strong run. The 3rd 17.10 on Boxing Day at the Riverside can be discounted.

Other than that I went through 5k in 16.34 at The Blaydon Race but that’s net downhill and also doesn’t count.

IT WILL COME!

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Finishing off in 17.10 at Riverside parkrun in April

 

#2 -10k – based on the 5k time, run a comparable performance 10k by the end of May 2015

One of my races of 2015 was the Blyth Valley 10k in which I completed my debut over the distance in 35.37. A very strong run in windy conditions.

I plan to return in 2016!

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Battling through windy conditions in the first 5k at the Blyth 10k in April (this is one of my favourite pics of me running!)

 

#3 – Half Marathon – debut before NEHL 2015/2016 season. Target time to be confirmed

Didn’t complete this goal but completed a sub 1hr 25m HM in training recently. I think I have a decent HM in me. I’ve always said I would never run a Great North but never say never… I plan to step up to 10 miles in 2016 and take it from there.

#4 – Blaydon Race 2015 – to be confirmed

The highlight of my 2015. Having not trained that well in the few weeks leading up to the race I managed to put everything to the back of mind and just went for it. The wheels came off somewhat in miles 4 and 5 but a 62nd place finish was pleasing and this, my favourite race of the year, will remain a key target again in 2016. I want another big break through.

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A tough section at Blaydon, but managed to win a prize as one of the leading Unattached runners in the race

Cross Country –

#1 – NEHL 2014/15 – assist Jesmond Joggers with winning Division 3

Achieved – won runner of the season and Chairmans award for outstanding achievement from Jesmond Joggers for my contribution which was very pleasing.

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My strongest season in the NEHL and achieved my goal of qualifying for the Fast Pack at Wrekenton in the last of the 6. This pic was at Cramlington (race #1)

 

#2 – NEHL 2014/15 – Individual Grand Prix – top 50

Achieved – 29th place finish and qualified for the Fast Pack in 2015/16 season.

#3 – North East Champs 2015 – to be confirmed

Missed the race due to Work commitments.

SUMMARY

Overall I’m pleased with my 2015. Undoubtedly I’ve built a stronger aerobic base upon which I can grow further in 2016.

I’m still “under raced” in the grand scheme and still consider myself as “learning the ropes”. More to come.

I’d like to thank Dave Tune and Jenny Blizard (and others at Blizard Physio) for supporting me in 2015.

I’d also like to thank Scott Armstrong for all his support whilst at Jesmond.

Finally I’d like to thank Frank Watson and all my new team mates at Elswick Harriers for making me feel so welcome at my new club.

I’m going for more improvement in 2016 and I’ll be posting soon on my targets and how I plan to train and race to achieve them.

Happy New Year and all the best for 2016!

Running Goals 2015

#1 – 5k – run a sub 17 minute 5k by the end of April 2015

#2 -10k – based on the 5k time, run a comparable performance 10k by the end of May 2015

#3 – Half Marathon – debut before NEHL 2015/2016 season. Target time to be confirmed

#4 – Blaydon Race 2015 – to be confirmed

Cross Country –

#1 – NEHL 2014/15 – assist Jesmond Joggers with winning Division 3

#2 – NEHL 2014/15 – Individual Grand Prix – top 50

#3 – North East Champs 2015 – to be confirmed

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Bring on 2015!