Race Report: Great North Run 2021

Race Report: Great North Run 2021

Truth be known the half marathon scares me a little. Or maybe it’s the Great North Run (GNR) that scares me in particular?

As a competitive runner you can mention to anyone (who doesn’t really run) about a race you’ve done and chances are you will get a puzzled, slightly non interested look. Tell them you’ve done the GNR and they’ll ask you what time you ran. Tell them and they’ll instantly form an opinion on your status as a runner…

Quite a few people said to me following my 16.01 5k that it really bodes well for the GNR and Manchester Half but deep down I was fighting an anxiety leading up to the GNR that I simply didn’t feel going into the Quayside 5km.

It could be down to a few things…

1. My mileage is still low, even verging on derogatory for the half marathon. As I explained in the last blog, I have only averaged around 34 miles per week in the 14 weeks leading up to the GNR. Many would argue that is too low to be competitive in the 5k nevermind the half. I am in two minds. Better to do what you can consistently and not get injured. Even in Week 14 I tweaked my left hamstring which worried me until the day before the GNR when it thankfully subsided with ibuprofen and ice. I somewhat accept I am relatively injury prone and try to play the cards I am dealt.

2. The GNR was only my 3rd half and 2nd official half. I’m still inexperienced at this distance. My unofficial HM PB of 1.16.32 in 2019 was done in fine conditions on Newcastle racecourse (7 flat laps) and probably gave me a false sense of what I could do on the tough revised GNR course that still had a large element of the unknown. The Stryd race calculator tool didn’t seem to think the revised undulating course would greatly impact my overall race time, in effect suggesting that the up and downs would cancel each other out. I think all who ran the course would agree there were some particularly tough sections, not least the last few miles when tiredness really kicked in. There was definitely a sting in the tail.

3. I’ve increased my exposure and vulnerability by going more open of late on social media about what I am doing with my running and what I am thinking. Regardless of how few people read my WordPress or watch my YouTube videos I’m out there trumpeting about this and that on the regular. I’m either setting myself up for success or a nasty fall. On balance I enjoy running and writing about it. Doing videos is a new thing and whether I can keep that up remains to be seen but I have to accept it puts me out of my comfort zone. It’s good to have lofty goals and talk about them but if I have widely missed the mark I will call myself out. Manchester will either be a shot over the bow or a sunken ship… Ultimately there are hundreds of very talented Vet 40 male athletes out there who are quietly going about their business waiting for the chance to take the England vest. There are no free dinners in this world and I will have to fight for it and it will depend on how much I really want it, whether I truly have the ability (and a little bit of luck for good measure).

Sunday 12th September

Alarm: 5.45. Up to have 1 banana, 3 slices of soreen and 500ml of water. 2x beetroot shots at 6.15. Purple wee for the rest of the day. Then back for a half hour lie down. Cold shower, ready, more trips to the toilet than I would care to mention. Out of the door at 8am for the 45 minute walk down to Claremont Road…

Bumped into clubmates Sparrow Morley and Chris “Hui” Huitson. Was good to see friendly faces although Sparrow was wearing black leather shoes and I joked, wondering if he was going for some bizarre world record… Luckily he’d packed his running trainers in his bag. He was to be a constant dot on the horizon that was either going too far away or eventually coming back to me. More on that later…

I found the whole walking over the Moor thing to get to the A167 surreal. I felt like I was running late but wasn’t. Just went through with more Orange wavers than fast club runners. Tried very very hard to avoid Alan Robson. Succeeded. Thank Christ.

The warm up was also very surreal. I asked a marshall if there were any toilets on the A167 and he pointed up in the direction of Cowgate. I noticed a handful of people warming up and stretching so I decided to do the same. It was about 9.10. I’d been planning to do my warm up at 9.15 but cracked on. I ended up jogging right up to the fork in the road that leads to Grandstand road. Traffic was still going down there. I can only imagine the drivers were slagging us off… I used to slag Great North Runners off in my partying days.

I got a few little efforts in just trying to get the HR up to the type of intensity I’d be running at the gun. Felt fine. Had a couple of final toilet stops and then headed down to the start. There were a few weird types of number in the pen on the right hand side. Was a bit miffed the Elite men were on the left. Realise now I was stood right next to the Rugby coach who got interviewed on the BBC with Burnham. Dunno what time he ran. Going for a PB apparently.

As always 10 to 20 mins felt longer when you just want to crack on with the run. A lot of nervous energy around.

I’d written my plan on my left inside arm. Basically said “15km @  344-352w / 6.1km @ 356-364w”. Also wrote the word “stoic”. It’s funny I’d seen someone share a piss take on Instagram saying the “Daily Stoic” book by Ryan Holiday is part of the fitness influencers starter kit… I didn’t find it funny on the basis that if more people read the Daily Stoic, understood it and employed the basic ideas the world would 100% be a better place… Just about managed to decide I am definitely not a fitness influencer. Or maybe I am?

Finally the gun went and I struggled to run slow enough whilst seemingly watching 100s of runners (including orange wavers) disappearing off into the distance.

Easy opening miles, me left with Tyne Bridge vest (Official GNR picture)

I will pat myself on the back and say I did a bloody good job holding back. I knew it as I felt like I was jogging and not breathing. Of course down to the Tyne Bridge is very downhill so feels artificially easy. Almost disconcertingly so. Even so my power quickly ticked up to 342, 344, 345, 346w and into my planned target zone sooner than I thought it might…

Was nice to say hello to Patrick Houghton of North Shields Poly. Growing up he lived on the street adjacent to me in Waldridge Park Estate, Chester le Street. Despite our proximity our paths in life didn’t cross that much (mainly because we went to different schools) but still nice to say hello, usually whilst out in a race. We would see-saw back and forth quite a bit in the first 6 miles, mainly because I was deliberately backing off on uphills and slightly working the downhills. This is the essence of trying to maintain constant power. You simply have to slow down on uphills and pick up on the downhills (hitting a power target downhill is very challenging and needs to be practiced cautiously)…

Coming over the Tyne Bridge the support was already amazing. The ramp up after the bridge and my power was already at 354w and higher than plan. I had a choice to make and I couldn’t make it. And so I kept on pretty much at an average of 354 or 355w for the rest of the race…

This intensity had me go through 5km exactly at the sharp end of my plan. I had myself go through 5km in 18.00 or maybe 18.01 (official split 17.59). This was dead on a 1.16 half. Brilliant I thought, this is genius…so comfy.

Suddenly my nerves and anxieties were gone. I was able to just think about getting some water in. I took some sips at the first water station and poured some over my head, arms and legs. I’m not sure why I did the latter. Probably not necessary as it wasn’t warm. I only did this again once. I refused water and also chucked the gel I was carrying at about 7 or 8 miles. The chucking of the gel was over the top. I was almost angry at myself for even considering carrying it. I knew I never had the stomach for it.

Coming to the turn around point at approx 6 miles things started getting very interesting and certainly the race complexion in my mind changed dramatically. This felt like the real start of the race.

I think everyone enjoyed seeing themselves on the big screen here quite a lot. It was my own first loss of concentration and I nearly fluffed the u turn in my desire to big up myself on screen. What a knob…

By this point I was closing on Steven Medd of Gateshead and I was also joined by club mates Tim Kelso and Chris West. Tim said hello and I returned the greeting. It made me think we were both running well within ourselves. I knew I was but, that said, I already noticed more of a head wind going this direction back for Newcastle and we still had 5k to the 15k point where I was due to turn the screws. But unfortunately my 10km split gave me a jolt…

I think I looked down at something like 36m 5xs (official split 36.42)! Dear god, I had ran the 2nd 5k about 50s slower than the first! Although I didn’t panic I started plotting a pick up almost immediately.

The only thing that stopped me was the fact a decent sized group of maybe 5 or 6 or more (including me, Tim and Chris) had formed. I felt a bit of an opportunity to pick up the pace as a group. I perhaps cheekily asked Tim if he had a finishing time in mind. I think he thought I meant what was our current average pace. Chris didn’t know and Tim ventured 5.50s… I didn’t do any mental maths to confirm the 10k split but I knew I was overall down on a 76 minute half marathon. For some reason I didn’t remind myself that a negative split was exactly the original plan! I think I let it get to me. I think I was sensing I was going to struggle to pick up… I had lost trust in the plan because I hadn’t followed it properly!

The course at this point felt generous.

What happened next changed the course of the race for me and maybe others around me too. From what I could gather an Elvet Strider rocketed by our group which seemingly included a club mate of his. He shouted something. That led to his club mate somehow clipping Tim from behind quite badly. I heard the groan but credit to Tim for recovering. The whole thing made me decide I wasn’t hanging around in the group any longer. I immediately took after the Elvet Strider.

Although I think he went onto run sub 76mins (and I didn’t catch him), this move did lead me to a sustained advance through the field to the finish. But critically I had ditched my plan of waiting until 15km for the pick up. Actually, 15km was probably the turning point in terms of course difficulty with what seemed like the toughest of the climbs to get back up to Town Moor.

Strava mile splits

Making the move I could still see clubmate Sparrow down the road and he became the challenge to catch. I picked off some other runners in between (9th mile was quickest of the day in 5:31 but also lost most elevation) but I finally caught Sparrow just after 10 miles (10th mile in 5:56 and probably the hardest of the day. For reference Molly Seidel ran 5:5× this mile). I think the 10 mile split was about 58 or 59 minutes which I was pretty disheartened by. Sparrow seemed to be slowing quite markedly. I probably annoyed him somewhat by demanding he pick up, get on my heels and work together to the finish.

We were now on the fast descent back to the Tyne Bridge. One of the on course entertainment stations was blasting James Brown and it really lifted me as I love James Brown.

The crowds were amazing here.

I knew it was going to get very tough again after the Tyne Bridge. Horribly, coming up the hill I considered giving up, stepping off and throwing in the towel. I don’t know where this came from. I don’t think I’d realised the effort I’d put in that 10th mile before the Tyne Bridge. I’d put in a surge and perhaps it had done me in. I just tried to remind myself that everyone would be feeling very similar at this stage of the race.

Stepping off not an option (Pic: Ben Hall)

Luckily I got through the dooms day scenario of giving up as the crowds in the City Centre were giving amazing encouragement.

Coming up to Earls Grey monument I saw good friend Michael Hedley who gave me a huge cheer.

Pushing up to Earl Grey (Official GNR pic)

I picked up down John Dobson Street and passed the Civic Centre. I passed another couple of runners including a young Jarrow runner. Again I asked them to get on my heels and work together til the end. I should have just focused on myself. Just then the Red Arrows flew across. What a boost.

The Red Arrows were about to go over… (Official GNR pic)

I was approaching the last 800m. My mind wandered back to the 2017 Great North Run. I remembered how long that 800m had felt then. And this felt like one hell of a drag again. But I tried to remind myself that I only had a few minutes of running to go.

I don’t think it helped that I didn’t see the 400m sign as it was on the right as opposed to the left where the 800m sign had been. The 200m sign was approaching. The crowds were great here and I saw the Army line the sides of the road.

Final push to the finish! (Official GNR pic)

I heard the tannoy announcer saying something like “these are the fast club runners, these are elite athletes too, give them a huge cheer!”. That was nice but a quick glance at the watch and I couldn’t help but give a sigh to myself as I knew 1.16.x was now gone…

I just tried to maintain my concentration and work the arms. My main aim now was to not let anyone pass me.

Unfortunately I failed in this endeavour. One runner who I had passed just before Earl Grey had stuck to task and beat me by 1s.

Nothing really else to give! (Official GNR pic)
Official chip finishing position and time

Making my way back to the finishers village I was spent. I’m not sure I had much more to give on the day on that course. Although I’d not strictly speaking stuck to plan, the end result in my view was the same. I’d averaged 355w for the run and finished in 1:17:46. The Stryd prediction based on 355w was 1:16:40 +/- 2mins. So my result was well within that range. I now see that the course undulations led to the slower than expected time.

There is a tinge of disappointment (even though it’s an official PB) which is perhaps unwarranted but it does sow the seed of doubt about Manchester. I find it hard to remember I was practicing a sub maximal plan. And although it felt far from sub maximal I will get stronger for this race.

Coming 12th in the v40 age bracket reminds me how hard the challenge is that I have set. But all I can do now is turn my attention to Manchester and focus.

As I finish this blog a week after the GNR I have had far from a good recovery week, ending up in the Walk in centre on Wednesday with a serious allergic reaction to a sting (head to toe in hives) and a trip to the Covid test centre for a PCR test having developed a sore throat and cough on Friday following a particularly busy work week. With only 12km of training completed this week I am indeed panicky about Manchester now. But I have to remind myself life is life. Running with a chesty cough is simply not worth it. My best chance is to rest and recover and see how things go. But it has been frustrating to miss the Northern 6 stage on Saturday and now the opening fixture of the cross country at Wrekenton is also in question.

I’ll finish with a shout out to the Tyne Bridge Harriers mens team for an excellent 11th place in Redcar, qualifying comfortably for the Nationals. Also, well done to Tim Kelso for sticking to task so well – looking forward to meeting up in Manchester! I’d also like to thank my partner Jasmine for supporting me with my running and being there at the end of the GNR when my mind was somewhat scrambled, when I just needed a pint!

Much love x

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!

BUPA Great North 5k – race report

I’d put myself under quite a lot of pressure for this one. I’d ran an 18.05 in July and I was happy but a little disappointed I’d missed the opportunity to post the sub 18 5k which was planned for May. I’ll not dwell again on the reasons for missing that target, suffice it to say the BUPA Great North 5k was selected to get it done. The only problem was I had a fortnight away on holiday leaving only 2-3 weeks to get tuned back up.

In terms of this week I had a great run out at the Jesmond Joggers Anniversary Champs (see Week 3 training diary) and it was a great over distance effort for a timely confidence boost. I felt in shape. Problem was I had a nasty reaction in my shins and had to have Tuesday and Wednesday off. On Thursday, still feeling a little discomfort, I put in an easy 35mins. The legs felt better as the run went on but on Friday were really sore again! Not to worry, a bit of foam rollering would loosen off the calves and relieve some of the tension.

Even so it was fueling some doubts. Have I done enough training? Do I feel fit enough? How should I pace it? Should I go off hard? What if I blow up etc? What can I say, I’m an over thinker. I made the decision to leave the Garmin at home and promised myself to just run with the mantra “keep pushing, keep pushing, keep pushing”.

Alarm was set for 7.30. I was lying awake at 6.30 which is when I get up for work. Felt ok, very nervous. Nerves make you feel bad but you have to tell yourself it’s good. Your ready to try, to really make an effort.

As is my new preferred routine I had a small glass of water, a few sips of beetroot juice and a few bites of a nectarine. This is key! You do not need a proper breakfast for an early 5k. You want to feel pretty empty on the stomach. You will burn yesterdays energy. I made sure to eat very well in the week leading up to the race. That said I still felt a bit sick on the way down. I cycled the 4 miles from home. Again, this is a new routine. It is my preference to the other options which would be jog down (waste of energy in my opinion) or bus (would only fuel the nerves).

As I cycled down I thought to myself what would I do when it gets tough (all 5ks will get tough, to try to not accept or ignore that is to not face up to the challenge of giving your all). Tell yourself “keep pushing, keep pushing, keep pushing” I thought.

It was quite busy, more busy than I imagined. I deliberately avoided the mass warm up. Its just not my thing. It is the opposite of what I need to get in the mood. I found a quiet side street and jogged backwards and forwards. The sickly feeling subsided which I was somewhat relieved about.

I got on the start line about 3 or 4 rows from the front. I noticed a few people ahead who looked a bit far forward. Politely asked a lady what sort of time she expected. Getting a quizzical look in return I decided a polite excuse me was better and I squeezed past.

The gun went off and I quickly decided on a 100m spurt to get in good position. I quickly found myself next to Danielle Hodgkinson who I knew was capable of sub 17. I had no intention of trying to get anywhere near that sort of time but I decided to go with it, no need to deliberately slow down, just relax. Actually I was running ahead of her at least until 2k, at which point she showed me what strong, controlled running is all about and showed me a clean pair of heels. She went on to win the ladies race.

The great thing about not wearing the Garmin was no distractions. No “oh no, I’m going to fast” or “oh no I’m going to slow”. I was fairly settled. There wasn’t streams of people passing, I was holding my own. The course was a little undulating with a few full turn arounds which disrupt your rhythm.

As always I started feeling it around 3k. I could hear maybe 3 runners on my heels. A Gateshead Harrier past on my right just before a small incline. I took the decision to put in an effort right to the top of that incline. I probably stole 5 metres or so but couldn’t maintain the effort at the top. I was running on grit now and was aware my foot falls were getting heavy, slower and inefficient. The 4k sign was a welcome sight. I got over the section of running track and turned onto the millennium bridge for one last push. At this point the Gateshead Harrier went past me. Coming onto the Newcastle side I gritted my teeth for one last flourish. It wasn’t enough to reel the Harrier in and my focus turned to the ticking clock. I could see 17.32 in the distance. I kept closing my eyes then opening them again. I knew the sub 18 was on, just needed to finish the job.

I had it in my mind throughout this week that I was in shape for a 17.52 or 17.53. Sure enough 17.53 was my time. Who needs a Garmin!

I was pretty spent and not really aware of my position. It wasn’t about that for me. I’d researched the race and knew it wouldn’t be highly competitive as the region’s best runners will be in the HM. But still I’m very happy with 13th place and I can now focus on the cross country.

Thanks for reading! Good luck to those running the “proper race” tomorrow!

image

Milestone achieved! Onto the next!

BUPA Great North 5k – Race Preview

This Saturday I’m racing the BUPA Great North 5k which I’m really excited about. It’s the first time I’ll have gotten involved in what is undoubtedly the busiest running weekend in the North East. It’ll make a change to the usual runners envy experienced on the Sunday whilst watching the Half Marathon!

For me this race is an out and out time trial. I want to register a 5k pb before getting stuck properly into cross country training. More specifically I want to get a sub 18 minute clocking which gets me back on schedule for my longer term aim of sub 17.

I feel in shape for it. On Monday I ran the Jesmond Joggers Anniversary Championships (I’ll write more in my week 3 training diary), covering over 3.8 miles in just under 22mins 30s. That gives me confidence that I can run the pace required and this week is all about ticking over and keeping loose for Saturday.

In terms of thought process for the race, this will be an all out effort but I’ll be looking to clock around 5.35 for the first mile. This is a deliberate plan to get ahead of schedule. I know miles 2 and 3 will hurt from there but the over distance run on Monday was a reminder that I can dig in. So I’ll pace myself through the first mile and then just get stuck into running as hard and as controlled as possible and get my breathing in a sustainable rhythm.

So all going to plan I’ll have a new pb to share at the weekend. After this race I’ll put the 5k on the back burner and focus on Farringdon XC relays the week after. I’m really excited about this one having last run the race in 2012 and I love the course. The distance gives a really good opportunity to just let yourself go, but then the sting in the tail with the hill towards the end – a proper XC course. We have high hopes of a strong team this year and hopefully we can show that at Farringdon.

A key focus for me over the coming weeks will be technique as I’m still not getting my stride rate anywhere near high enough leading to overstriding and I’m convinced I need to improve here to advance beyond my current level. Anyway, that’s the subject of another blog.

If you are running the Great North Run – good luck! I’ll be posting my 5k race report and week 3 training diary at some point over the weekend.

Week 2 training diary

The plan for Week 2 was to pretty much repeat week 1 but with slightly increased running mileage. Having zero bike maintenance skills the cycles out of action this week. Hoping to get it back on the road for some light cross training soon.

Week 2 diary

Monday
Plan – 35mins Easy (grass)

Notes – change of plan here what with it being a Bank Holiday. Got out early and hit the pavements. Was feeling the weekend exertions and ended up running over 6 miles in around 50 odd minutes. Took in Cow Hill on the route which got the heart rate up.

Tuesday
Plan – 3 miles threshold

Notes – decided to run 20 minutes threshold on Kenton Dene which is a flat XC type course. I’m looking to see my heart rate controlled at 175-185bpm and for average pace to improve week on week. I was really happy with the session and felt full of running. It turned into an acceleration type session with each mile getting slightly faster from 6.33 in mile 1 to 6.18 mile 3 and although I was working harder towards the end I was at or around lactate threshold throughout.

This will be a key session each week and I’ll be looking to increase time up to around 40mins (average length of XC races). In terms of pace, if I can operate at around 6 – 6.15 minute miles at lactate threshold I’ll feel in shape to really challenge to qualify for the medium pack in the North East Harrier League which is a key objective this season. So I’m really pleased with where I’m at given its only August.

Friday
Plan – 35mins Easy (grass)

Notes – felt like a run on the pavements so just had a look round the streets of Kenton. Annoyingly my HRM has been playing up and I don’t feel like I can trust it so just tried to run on feel, monitoring my breathing. Felt great, as if I didn’t need to breath. Ended up with 4.5 miles in the time allotted, so sub 8 min miling.

Saturday
Plan – 30mins threshold

Notes – got up and pottered around the house. Got a few social things to do so didn’t want to do a full 30min threshold so broke it up into 5min on 5min off, 15mins total at pace. Very windy on Kenton Dene but felt fine, again running on feel and each 5 minute effort got faster from 6.34 average to 6.01 so happy overall with the session.

Weekly totals

Running ~20 miles
Cycling zero

Busy week next week with the Jesmond Joggers club champs on Monday and GN 5k on Saturday. Haven’t quite worked out how I’m going to structure my training between the two but I’ll work it out on feel. I might even restrict my running to the two races and 1 other easy run midweek as I want to feel fresh for the 5k. Looking forward to giving it my all.